Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-One : Fand and Manannan

Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-one

Fand and Manannan

The hall fell silent as Queen Fand wept. The tiny sprites let out a mewing sound and the fairies around them seemed to grieve as well. Jacob looked up when a drop of water fell on his face. A light rain fell from the ceiling.

The Cleopatra fairy stepped forward.

“We lived in peace until the first human crossed our shore.” The fairy closed and opened her large dark eyes, giving her words a kind of elegant emphasis. “We do not know how he was able to find us. We were cloaked in fairy magic, but Manannán . . . Those of us who met him on the shore, loved him immediately. He had a way about him unlike any other.

“He came with a group of settlers, men and women,” the Cleopatra fairy said. “He came with many wives, and children.”

“He was a king,” Gilfand said. “He was tall, strong, and dark. He had an infectious energy. We believe this energy slipped past our fairy magic, and allowed them to land. His tribe set up dwellings along the shore. Fish was plentiful. They prospered, and we . . .”

“We ignored them,” Queen Fand said, recovering herself and her story. “We agreed that there was no reason to interact with these interlopers.”

“Of course, once they were on the island, they were protected by the fog from invading armies,” Gilfand said. “No one could enter, and they could not leave.”

“All was right with them,” the Cleopatra fairy said. “They had been looking for a home; they found one on our island.”

As if the next part of the story could be told only by Queen Fand, the fairies turned to look at her. She was lost in memory. Noticing their attention, she smiled and the room brightened.

“Do you believe in destiny, my son?” Queen Fand asked.

“Sort of,” Jacob replied.

“Yes, for fairy-kind, it’s hard to imagine that anyone besides us can create our destiny,” Queen Fand smiled at Jacob. “Early in the morning, on the edge of dawn itself, I used to walk our shores. Those journeys allowed me to feel the needs of our kind, and any shift in the world’s winds.

“I was out one morning, near the south end of the island, when I saw Manannán for the first time. We . . .” Queen Fand gestured to Gilfand and the Cleopatra fairy, “ . . . were laughing, flying, walking . . . It was a gorgeous morning.”

Queen Fand gave a soft smile.

“There he was,” Queen Fand said.

“He was waiting for us,” the Cleopatra fairy said. “Of course, we called our battalions of . . . what is it that they call you?”

“Gargoyles,” Gilfand said. “We are male fairies, warriors.”

“His children were ill,” Queen Fand said. “He had seen our light, heard our laughter, for years. He came to ask for our help.”

“They were stricken by a stomach ailment,” the Cleopatra fairy said. “They would surely die without our help.”

“We told them that we don’t interfere in the affairs of other beings,” Gilfand said.

“He was desperate,” Queen Fand said. “We conferred and agreed to look.”

“In the end, our queen sent our symphony to play fairy songs for the children,” Gilfand said. “The music restored balance and cured their illness.”

“The courtship of Queen Fand and Manannán began.” The Cleopatra fairy smiled.

“Not at first,” Queen Fand said. “Love snuck up on me.”

“And on him,” Gilfand said. “He had wives and many children. He knew nothing of love.”

“Our queen chose to take human form,” the Cleopatra fairy said. “As her second, I took her place on the throne to give her a chance to live in human form. They had four boys.”

“We lived together for . . . a few hundred of your human years,” Queen Fand said. “We saw our children grow and flourish. Fairy-kind and humankind joined together, and we were very happy.”

“Manannán’s human body died of old age,” the Cleopatra fairy said.

“I left my human body with his,” Queen Fand said.

“We rejoiced, because once out of human form, our queen could live with her lover forever,” the Cleopatra fairy said.

“They were buried together here,” Gilfand said.

“Here. In Castletown?” James asked. “Under this castle?”

“That’s correct,” Gilfand said. “Why?”

“Fits the story of the black lady ghost of Castle Rushen,” James shrugged.

Gilfand gave him a thoughtful nod.

“Bound by love, Manannán’s spirit joined us in the fairy world,” Queen Fand said. “Together, we were the queen and king of all fairy kind. Our tribes flourished. Manannán’s human tribe set out to Ireland and Scotland. Within the next thousand human years, fairy-humankind populated Ireland, Scotland, parts of Britain, and the isles between.”

“We lived here, on our island, for time uncounted,” Queen Fand said. “The fairy fog kept prying eyes from our shores. The Celts came and they left. They came again, but our magic made them uncomfortable; they left to conquer other lands.”

“We did not hate them then,” the Cleopatra fairy said. “They were pests who came with the tides. They didn’t break our happy queendom. Until . . .”

The Cleopatra fairy turned to look at Queen Fand. The fairies looked at each other.

“We don’t know what happened,” Gilfand said.

“We were cursed,” Queen Fand said. “I was trapped, unable to move from my location, and Manannán disappeared.”

Queen Fand swallowed hard.

“He was here with us one moment,” the Cleopatra fairy said. “And gone the next.”

The fairies let out a sorrowful sigh in unison.

“We looked . . .” the Cleopatra fairy said. “We looked for him for . . . years. We never found him.”

“The Celts killed all fairy-humankind they could find,” Gilfand said. “Something called ‘Patrick’ tortured and killed fairy-humankind throughout the British Isles. The Celts took over this land.”

“Fairies scattered to a few pockets of safety in the human world,” the Cleopatra fairy said.

“The Aran Islands are still home to fairy-humankind,” Queen Fand said. “Many escaped to the new world.”

“And, of course, Faroe Island,” Gilfand said.

“We’ve been able to survive, but . . .” Queen Fand said.

“The curse has bound most of our power,” Gilfand said. “And immobilized our queen.”

Queen Fand looked down at the floor.

“Do you mind if I ask a few questions?” James stood up.

Queen Fand scowled at him.

“Maybe it takes a Celt to figure out what the Celts did,” Jacob said. “Let him try.”

Queen Fand gave Jacob a long look before giving an acquiescing nod.

“How was your human body buried?” James asked.

“What do you mean?” Queen Fand asked.

James smiled.

“Of course, it makes perfect sense,” James said. “You don’t know anything about human burials, do you?”

“No,” Queen Fand said. She looked out across her fairies, and asked, “Do any of you?”

A general murmur of “no” went through the fairies.

“Fair enough,” James said. “Were you cremated? Uh, burned?”

“I don’t think so,” Queen Fand said. “I lay down next to my Manannán.”

The queen shrugged as if the rest was self-explanatory.

“And your Manannán,” James said. “He had a lot of human children? Wives?”

“By that time, his wives had preceded him in death,” Queen Fand said. “I was able to extend his human life for many centuries.”

“You must have had villages full of grandchildren, great-grandchildren,” James said. “Human and what you’re calling fairy-humankind.”

“That’s right,” Queen Fand said.

“There must have been much ceremony around his passing, and yours,” James said.

“I suppose so,” Queen Fand shrugged.

“What happened to your body?” James asked.

“You asked this before,” Queen Fand said. “I don’t know.”

“I think I know what he’s getting at,” Jacob said. “What happened to Manannán’s body?”

“I washed it in clean water and the purest oils,” Queen Fand said. “My son’s daughters, Manannán’s granddaughters, and I wrapped him in layers of cotton. They had a feast to celebrate his long life. When they were done, I left my human body beside him.”

“We can assume they buried you together,” James said.

“Buried?” Queen Fand shook her head. “They dug an enormous hole, and placed tall stones to support each side.”

“They placed another large rock over the top.” Gilfand nodded. “I was there. Manannán’s body was laid at the bottom of the hole. After the celebration, when everyone went home, Queen Fand climbed down and lay down with him. She expired. Much to my distress, they closed her inside the next morning.”

“I returned to my fairy-form again.” Queen Fand shrugged.

“I couldn’t stand to see you trapped down there,” Gilfand said.

Queen Fand gave him a loving look, and he seemed to blush.

“That’s a megalith monument,” James said. “There was supposed to have been a large one on the spot where Castle Rushen was created.”

James gave a broad grin. He nodded as if everyone should know what he was talking about.

“What are you saying?” Jacob asked.

“I know how they created the curse,” James said.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night — 9:45 p.m. MST

Construction site near the airport

Rodney stood on top of a mound of mud. According the gargoyles, the initial earthquake had opened a sink hole in the construction trailer area. Wide concrete pillars from the highway overpass had fallen over when the earth moved. The pillars had effectively hidden at least one construction trailer from initial search and rescue crews. Rodney watched as the Lipson heavy equipment crew moved one of the pillars.

An underground river carried murky water laced with methane from nearby fracking. The water caught fire near the end of the field. While the warmth and light were welcome, the heat would effectively cook anyone inside the construction trailers. The Army Corps of Engineers was working on a plan. In the meantime, Rodney’s team was working to shore up the area.

“You’re sure there are people under there?” the Army Corps chief had asked Rodney when they had started working over the area.

Rodney nodded his head to where a police K-9 was barking his head off.

“Shit,” the Army Corps chief had said.

Shit was right, and they were in it up to their eyebrows. If they could put out the fire, they still had to stabilize the area to get people out. If they were able to stabilize the area, they had to make sure they didn’t light the water on fire again. That was if they found the trailers.

At least the National Guard had gotten a walkie-talkie system to work out in the snow, water, and muck. Rodney listened to the equipment operators work.

The young boy, Solomon, ran over and gave him a Styrofoam cup of coffee and a sweet smile. Because the kid was a suspect in the East High rapes, Solomon’s time had to be one hundred percent accounted for. That meant he had to be at work, even if work was death and destruction. Rodney smiled at the simple boy.

“I can make him whole,” the gargoyle said.

“Solomon!” Christy from the sign team yelled and waved. “Solomon!”

“But it would kill him,” the gargoyle said. “Disease lingers inside. Fix the brain, it will grow.”

Solomon brightened when he saw Christy. He ran to where she was standing. She took his hand and led him back across the site.

“He loves her,” Rodney said against the coffee mug at his lips.

“Do you trust me?” the gargoyle asked.

Rodney gave him a dark look, and the gargoyle laughed.

“He will live a full, good life,” the gargoyle said.

“She’s kinda old for him,” Rodney said.

“Twenty-two is only four years older than eighteen,” the gargoyle said.

Rodney scowled.

“Bitter old men like you don’t realize that she loves him too,” the gargoyle said. “Consider it done.”

Rodney grinned, and the gargoyle disappeared.

“Holy crap,” the excavator operator yelled over the intercom. “Rodney, you got to see this.”

Rodney threw his cup on the ground and ran toward the excavator.

“Aden, you on the line?” another excavator operator asked.

“On my way,” Aden said.

“Better get Blane, and Bambi, and Honey, and  . . .” the first excavator operator fumbled. “ . . . all the bosses.”

Rodney reached the rim of the sink hole about the time Blane arrived with Honey on his back. Aden and Jerry Siegle were standing on the excavator talking to the operator. Bambi was not far behind Blane. Pete, Jason, and DeShawn came up behind him.

“Wow,” Aden said what they were all thinking.

The Lipson heavy equipment team had uncovered three construction trailers. One trailer was on its side and surrounded by fire. Another trailer appeared to have rolled. They could only see that trailer’s underside. Only one end of the third trailer poked out above the mud and water. The trailers had slipped deep into the sinkhole.

“We’ve got movement,” a woman from the National Guard said over the feed. “There’s people in there.”

“Any ideas how we’re going to get them out?” Rodney asked over the feed.

Only silence came back.

“Jerry, your team is experienced with the ropes, right?” Honey asked.

Jerry nodded.

“Take some guys and get set up. Use our equipment as anchors,” Honey said. “Whatever the army puts together, we’ll be ready to lower people down on support ropes. That work for you?”

“Done,” Jerry said. He called the men and women who had been working with him and they got to work.

“Rodney?” Honey asked. “What do you think?”

“I think we got to get those army guys to shore up the water,” Rodney said. “Anybody down there could drown or die of hypothermia . . .”

“Or catch on fire,” Aden said.

“Exactly right,” Rodney said. “We have to deal with the water before we get there.”

“Do it,” Honey said. “Bambi?”

“We’ll create a staging area.” Her boss looked at her, and Honey nodded. “So we can be ready when they pull people out.”

“We’ll get MJ, Colin, and the other medics,” Honey said. “They’ll want to be right there when the people come out.”

“I hear shouting!” a voice came over the feed. “Someone’s alive down there.”

“We’d better get everyone in from the farm,” Rodney said. “This isn’t going to be . . . good.”

“I’ll get everyone here,” Aden said. “I’ll get the sign team to bring hot food.”

“You’ll direct those soldiers?” Rodney asked.

“Or find someone who will,” Aden said.

Rodney gave Aden a long look. He nodded to Honey before turning to his assistants. Honey and Blane moved back to the medical tents.

“Pete, I want a list of who we think might be down there,” Rodney said. “Those are Kissack Construction trailers. Who are they missing? I need it fast.”

Pete gave a curt nod and ran across the dirt.

“DeShawn, Jason, you’re with me,” Rodney said. “We’re going to scare those engineers into coming up with a plan, or do it ourselves. You ready?”

They set out toward the group of army engineers.

~~~~~~~~

I know how they created the curse,” James said.

“What?” Queen Fand leaned forward. The room became very still.

“James?” Jacob asked.

“I have more questions first,” James said.

“Then you’ll explain what you mean?” Queen Fand asked.

“I will,” James said.

“Go ahead,” Queen Fand said.

“Is this Liban?” James gestured to the Cleopatra fairy.

“I am Liban.” The Cleopatra fairy curtsied.

“You don’t look like twins,” James said.

“Not all twins look alike,” Queen Fand said. “We can change our looks.”

In the blink of an eye, Liban looked like Queen Fand, and Queen Fand looked like Liban. They switched back.

“Fair enough,” James said. “Have you ever heard of a bloke named Cúchulainn?”

“No,” Queen Fand said. “Why?”

“Queen Fand is supposed to have been mad about him,” James said. “Manannán intervened.”

“With a relationship between me and a human?” Queen Fand chuckled. The host of fairies tittered with laughter.

“How ’bout a bloke named, Mongán mac Fiachnai?” James asked.

“He’s one of Manannán’s human grandchildren,” Queen Fand said. “His mother set out for Ireland with a group of fairy-humankind. She married there. Why?”

“What’s this about?” Jacob asked.

“One last question,” James said.

“Proceed,” Queen Fand said.

James glanced at Jacob, and Jacob shrugged.

“Did Manannán have any powers of his own?” James asked.

“Not especially,” Liban said.

“He is humankind,” Queen Fand said.

“My mother loved these stories,” James said. “She died when I was not quite four. When my father died, I went to a Catholic orphanage. I used to read her books whenever I missed her. I must have missed her a lot, because I know them by heart.”

“Your mother, Brigid?” Queen Fand nodded her head toward the side of the room.

A small woman with dark black hair and large deep-blue eyes stepped out from behind the fairies near the back. She wore the green dress of the Irish fairies. James gasped at the sight of her.

“Mum?” James’s eyes filled with tears.

“We are fairy-humankind.” She beamed at him.

“Johnny sees the blue fairy.” When James said the words, the blue fairy appeared. “I . . .”

James nodded. He took a breath to control his emotions.

“Mum, will you tell her?” James asked.

Brigid walked to James’s side. He was so taken aback that he wept.

“My lady, Manannán is supposed to be a god,” Brigid said.

“A god?” Queen Fand smiled. “He cannot be a god.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Brigid said. “He is attributed with powers of the sea and mist — my lady’s powers.”

“My powers?” Queen Fand gave a confused shake of her head. “Why would he have my powers?”

“I believe the Celts took your powers and gave them to Manannán,” James said. “Quite possibly forced him to use your powers.”

“It happened in an instant,” Gilfand said. “Manannán was with us, and then he wasn’t. What magic could do that?”

“Not magic,” James said. “Human cunning.”

“How did they do such a thing?” Brigid asked.

“They stole her human body,” James said. “Queen Fand would have naturally imbued her human body with her fairy self. By stealing her body, they tied Queen Fand to the site of the original monolith and stole her power. I bet Manannán himself doesn’t know where you are — fairy self or human body. That would keep him in line.”

Brigid gave James a proud smile. James hugged his mother.

“I’m not sure what you’re saying,” Queen Fand said.

“What he’s saying makes sense. The Celts needed power and wanted control,” Jacob said. “They had to eliminate any old magic. That’s why they got rid of the fairy-humankind. In order to be in control, they would have to destroy the power of Queen Fand and Manannán.”

“And cursed us,” Celia said. “They have to kill the male babies because they . . .”

“Have the power stolen from Queen Fand.” James nodded.

“Or they’re trying to prevent the creation of a human with Queen Fand’s powers,” Celia said. “A human like my granddaughters, Katy and Jackie.”

Jacob swallowed hard.

“How do we fix this?” Valerie asked.

“We must return Queen Fand’s human body to her grave,” Sam said.

“If we can find it,” Jacob said.

“I bet James has an idea,” Sam said. James nodded.

“I’m pretty sure I know where they hid Queen Fand’s body,” James said.

“Does the monolith still exist?” Valerie asked.

“It is under this castle,” Gilfand said. “And he’s right. Queen Fand’s human body is not there.”

“How to we find this Manannán?” Sam asked. “That seems tricky.”

“We will return Queen Fand’s body to its rightful place.” Jacob used his booming, powerful voice. He turned to look at the host of fairies. “Will you help us find Manannán?”

“If my son is correct, finding Manannán will return power to the fairies,” Brigid said. “And break the curse.”

The fairies seemed to agree at once.

“We will scour the earth for our king,” Liban said.

“Where do we start?” Jacob asked.

“Anyone here good with a shovel?” James asked.

Jacob laughed.

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