Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and Thirty-one : Guts

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ONE

“Yes, but is it the right thing to do?” Heather asked.

Heather went to their chest of drawers and changed into her nightshirt. When she turned around, Blane was sitting on the end of bed in his pajamas. He held out his hand and she took it. His other hand covered hers.

“What is it?” Heather asked.

“Just feels good to hold on tight,” Blane said with a smile.

She grinned at him.

“If you want my advice, I’d tell you to follow your gut,” Blane said. “As Sam always says, there’s no manual to life. We’re all just plugging away trying to figure it out. As long as we’re not hurting other people, we’re probably doing the right thing.”

“That’s what I worry about,” Heather said. “Hurting other people.”

“It’s bound to happen,” Blane said. “Our wisdom is sometimes someone else’s greatest injury. I think you just have to do your best and let the rest go.”

“But…”

“There’s certainly no manual to being a Goddess,” Blane said.

“There are guidelines,” Heather said. “But they’re stupid.”

“Stupid?

“Like — ‘Don’t interfere when non-interfering is best.’ Or ‘Leave every situation better than when you left.’”

“Better for whom?” Blane asked.

“That’s what I said,” Heather said with a smile.

“What does your gut say now?” Blane asked.

“The whole thing reeks of hubris and Olympia,” Heather said. “My gut says to strip the magic off and see what’s underneath. That’s a first step.”

“Why not do that?” Blane asked.

“It’s risky,” Heather said. “We don’t know what or who Abi and Gilfand are.”

Blane nodded.

“The magic may be some kind of protection for Abi or even for all of the fairies,” Heather said with a shrug. “One thing…”

“What?”

“A lot of people hate the fairies,” Heather said. “I mean, they aren’t my favorite either but I can’t say that I hate them or want to obliterate their entire race.”

“Perses,” Blane said with a nod.

“What if messing with Queen Fand leaves them vulnerable to being destroyed?” Heather asked.

“What if messing with them saves them from being obliterated?” Blane asked.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” Heather said. “Either one could be true – both as well.”

Blane nodded.

“There’ s no way to know,” Blane said.

“Exactly,” Heather said..

“Strip the magic away and who knows what’s underneath,” Blane said.

“That’s exactly right,” Heather said. “Do nothing and I fail. Do something and I fail. Doing something over here could easily mean that I am doing nothing over there.”

She shrugged and looked away from him. After a moment, she looked back.

“How do you feel about … everything?” Heather asked, to buy time before making a decision.

“You mean my mother and father?” Blane asked. He fell silent for a moment before taking a breath. “Mostly, I feel grateful — to you, to Eros for being such an ass, for my own parents.”

“But?” Heather asked.

“No ‘but’s,’” Blane said. “At least not right now.”

“Then what’s the hold up?” Heather asked.

“What if everything that happened to me was an act of grace?” Blane asked. “Not Satan or evil or anything other than grace. What if all the crap that happened wasn’t tragedy at all? What if it was actually lucky?”

Heather watched his face.

“I mean, take the foster father,” Blane said. “Let’s say he was a nice closet case who cheated with men. It didn’t have anything to do with me. I would have stayed there for most of my life. I would have missed meeting Jake in the parking lot and getting rescued by Celia and everything that happened after that. What do you think?”

“I think it’s complicated,” Heather said. “You may have met Jake on some better circumstances. Celia could have found you some other way and …”

Heather shrugged.

“I guess I don’t think life is so fixed in stone with everything laid out from birth to death,” Heather said. “I think we are born, we live, we die. What we do in between has to do with us, how we are put together. And, you might be different if all of these hard things hadn’t happened. Or you might be the same.”

Heather shrugged. Nodding, he shrugged.

“That’s how it feels,” Blane said. “It feels like outrageous luck that you would be there to save me as a child. It feels like unbelievable grace to have been assaulted, even, because if that jack ass foster father …”

“You wouldn’t have met Jake,” Heather said.

Blane nodded.

“I feel like I owe someone a thank you note, but I’m not sure how to pay it back,” Blane said.

Heather nodded.

“Is there a way to thank those that saved me?” Blane asked.

“Of course,” Heather said.

“How?” Blane asked.

“By serving others,” Heather said. “Which you do with your acupuncture.”

Blane nodded.

“We should figure out how to do that more,” Blane said. “How to give more.”

“We can certainly build toward that,” Heather said. “Right now, I think you’re doing enough. You haven’t been out of the hospital even a month.”

“I don’t want to lose this feeling of absolute gratitude,” Blane said.

“Then you won’t.” Heather said with a smile. “Listen, I had wanted to do this Queen Fand thing after the wedding, but Abi needs help now, before they give the child a name.”

“Where do we start?” Blane asked.

Heather gave him a long look.

“You didn’t want to be involved in any more fairy drama,” Heather said.

“I’m not involved in fairy drama,” Blane said. “I’m involved in my wife and best friend’s life, and that means helping with stuff like this.”

Heather grinned at him.

“Thanks, but …” Heather said.

“I’ll be careful not to do too much,” Blane said.

Heather smiled.

“Do you have a plan?” Blane asked.

“I was going to speak with Fand,” Heather said. “It seems to me that she is acting very strangely and may need some help, herself. Which means …”

“I’ll stay here and man the fort,” Blane said. “You head off to see if you can sort out what’s going on with Queen Fand. How does that sound?”

“Thanks,” Heather said.

“I know you’re worried about doing the right thing,” Blane said. “I believe in you. I believe that whatever you do or say, it will be the right thing.”

Heather threw her arms around him and they held each other tight. After a moment, she got up and changed into a long skirt and a blouse. She touched Wyn and Mack before heading downstairs to Tink. The girl was so exhausted that she didn’t move when Heather came in to say good bye. Heather gave Blane a tight hug and set out for the Isle of Man and Queen Fand’s court.

“I believe in you,” Blane whispered to where Heather had been standing.

With a sigh, he went back upstairs.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday afternoon — 10:23 a.m.

The early morning sun streamed through the stained glass windows making the chapel a wash of color and shadow. Fulfilling her role in the dress rehearsal, Tanesha stood in the middle of the chapel. Tanesha’s grandmother, Ne Ne, stood to Tanesha’s left and Yvonne stood to Tanesha’s right. Abi and Fin stood facing the alter with their infant daughter. Standing in front of them, Delphie’s head was bowed as she read from the sheet in front of her.

“Okay,” Delphie said. “Now, we walk over to the … Tanesha? Did you bring the bowl?”

“Bowl?” Tanesha asked.

“Of moon water,” Delphie said.

“It’s on the table next to the entrance,” Abi said.

Tanesha jogged back to the entrance. A medium sized bowl made from a red stone sat on the table next to the door. Tanesha picked it up and turned fast. The water edged its way toward the rim of the bowl.

“Careful,” Delphie said. “Moon charged water can have a mind of its own.”

Tanesha carried the bowl down the aisle to stand behind Fin and Abi. Delphie pointed to a ceremonial standing stone. Tanesha set the water down and jogged back to her position in the middle aisle.

“Okay, we move over here,” Delphie said.

Abi and Fin followed Delphie to the ceremonial standing stone carved out of white crystal.

“This is beautiful,” Finn said. He touched the stone. “Where did you get it?”

“Isle of Man,” Delphie said. “It was a gift from Gilfand and Abi.”

Fin smiled at Abi and she nodded.

“It has its own power,” Delphie said. “It creates a protective shield against violence. Keeps our chapel peaceful and safe.”

“It’s from the kingdom he ruled after he left Queen Fand’s court,” Abi said.

“I’m glad you have it,” Fin said with a nod.

“Perfect for our ceremony,” Delphie said with a smile. “Now, in usual ceremonies, I talk about the importance of water — how we are made of water and when life is over, we return to dust and water. Would you like me to say that here?”

“Sounds lovely,” Abi said.

Fin nodded.

“Do we have a name?” Delphie asked.

“Yes, Oracle,” Abi said. She looked at Fin and he smiled.

“Good,” Delphie said. She fell silent for a moment while she read. “Now, we’ll …”

Heather ran in through the door of the chapel. She slammed and locked the outer door before doing the same thing to the inner door.

“Good, you’re all here,” Heather said.

“What’s going on?” Tanesha asked.

“Queen Fand,” Heather said. “She’s on her way here.”

“Why?” Abi asked.

“She’s issued a decree,” Heather said. “This is a royal birth month. Any children that are not royal will be killed.”

“What?” Delphie asked before anyone could respond.

Abi shot an angry look at Fin and he shrugged.

“I’ve spent most of the night and day with her,” Heather said. “She’s not herself.”

“But our child would be safe,” Fin said. “Mother promised me that our child was safe because she is a royal. She’s my child. I’m her eldest son, heir to the throne.”

“Not according to Fand is saying today,” Heather said. “I … I’ve tried everything I could think of. She said she was coming here to kill your child herself.”

“She won’t be able to get in here,” Abi said.

“We lowered the barrier so that Fin could join us,” Delphie said. “She’s …”

The sounds of someone pounding on the door came from the outer chamber. The chamber shook. Fin drew his sword out of thin air. Yvonne moved closer to Ne Ne.

“What’s wrong with her?” Tanesha asked Heather.

“No one seems to know,” Heather said over the pounding on the doors. She glanced at Tanesha, “I tried everything I could think of.”

“What do you think is wrong with her?” Tanesha asked again.

“The baby she is carrying has strong magic power,” Heather said. “It’s magic is interfering with Fand’s sense of reality. She’s banished Manannán. Her closest friends won’t speak to her. She’s raised a protective barrier so high that nothing gets in. Gilfand is with her but she won’t listen to him. She acts as if she cannot hear him.”

“Do you have any sense of what’s going on?” Delphie asked Heather.

“I think she’s in labor,” Heather said. “Or that was my initial thought before we got caught up in nonsense.”

Tanesha nodded. She stepped forward.

“Heather?” Tanesha asked. Heather walked to Tanesha’s side. “We’ll fix this.”

“The baby will come fast once we clear her mind,” Heather said. “Fand is terrified of having the baby. She fears it will kill her.”

Tanesha nodded.

“Ready?” Tanesha asked Heather.

“Ready,” Heather said. “Lock the door as soon as we go through.”

They went out the inner doors to the small area between the outer and inner chamber. Ne Ne locked the door

“Any idea of what to do?” Heather asked.

“None,” Tanesha said. “You?”

“Nope,” Heather said.

Tanesha grinned at Heather and they reached forward to open the outer doors.

“Wait,” Abi said.

She entered the chamber with Tanesha and Heather.

“Abi! You cannot …” Tanesha started.

Abi held up a hand for her to stop talking. Abi looked at Heather and then back at Tanesha.

“I am going to show you something that you must never tell another living soul,” Abi said.

“What is it?” Tanesha’s brow furrowed with concern for her friend.

“You must promise,” Abi said.

“Anything,” Tanesha said.

Abi turned to Heather.

“Goddess,” Abi said.

“Eve,” Heather said.

Abi held out her right hand with its palm up toward the ceiling. Heather lay her hand over Abi’s.

“Child of Uriel,” Abi said.

“Place your hand over ours,” Heather instructed Tanesha.

Tanesha did what she was told.

“Squeeze,” Heather said.

Tanesha squeezed their hands together. The furor on the other side of the door increased. The door vibrated with Queen Fand’s rage.

Abi’s head dropped back. She gasped a breath and then another. Abi’s jeans faded as did her modern clothing. Her clothing was replaced with a leather bodysuit that covered her breasts as well as her hips.

“Goddess,” Abi gasped.

Heather reached into the air with her free hand and plucked a cloak made of colorful feathers. Heather held it near Abi. The cloak moved of its own accord until it draped over Abi’s shoulders.

“Child,” Abi said.

“That’s you,” Heather said to Tanesha.

“What do I do?” Tanesha’s voice rose with panic.

“Hold out your free hand,” Heather said. “Call to your grandfather.”

Tanesha held out her hand to the air. A heavy knife in a leather scabbard dropped into her hand and a headpiece fell on her head. Tanesha held the weapon out to Abi. The scabbard attached itself to Abi’s leg. The headdress moved to cover her head. Tanesha looked at Abi and gasped.

“What happened?” Tanesha

Abi’s skin had darkened and a thin layer of sparse fur covered her head to toe. Her legs and arms were less straight and her hips shifted. Her jaw widened and dropped. Her eyes narrowed. The hair on her head fell in thick dreadlocks down to her navel. Abi looked like she should be on display at the Museum of Nature and Science. Abi’s eyes flicked to Tanesha’s face.

“Guh,” Abi grunted.

Tanesha’s eyes shifted to Heather. Heather had dropped down on one knee and bowed her head.

“Mother,” Heather said.

Heather tugged on Tanesha’s hand. Tanesha mimicked Heather’s posture. The door vibrated with a particularly violent blow. Abi bowed her head to Heather and Heather returned to standing. She bowed her head to Tanesha and Tanesha stood.

“When we let go, we must move behind Abi,” Heather said.

“That’s Abi?” Tanesha asked.

The creature seemed amused by Tanesha. Heather nodded.

“This is what she looked like when she and Gilfand found Fand,” Heather said.

“When Fand was a baby?” Tanesha asked.

Heather looked at Abi to see if that was the truth. Abi nodded.

“Ready?” Heather asked. “One … two … three …”

Heather and Tanesha let go of Abi’s hand and stepped behind her. Heather undid the lock. The doors blew open. They were hit by a tornado of wind, rain, and chaos which surrounded Queen Fand. The queen’s usually carefully managed hair stuck straight out. Her mouth twisted grotesquely as she howled.

Abi knelt down on one knee and grunted.

The tornado stopped spinning. The room became unnaturally still.

“Mama?” Queen Fand whispered.

The Queen shifted from her adult self to a young child of six or seven. Abi held out her arms and the child rushed into her. As Abi held the child, Queen Fand began to age. She had just reached her adult age when she grunted with pain.

“Tanesha!” Heather said.

“What now?” Tanesha looked at Heather.

Heather pointed to Queen Fand and Tanesha realized the queen was having her baby. With Abi’s help, they rolled Queen Fand onto her back. Abi crouched with Queen Fand’s shoulders over her knees and her head against Abi’s stomach. Tanesha took a look between Queen Fand’s legs.

“You weren’t kidding,” Tanesha said. “The baby’s crowning.”

Tanesha encouraged the Queen to breathe.

“One last push,” Tanesha said.

Abi put her hands on Queen Fand’s shoulders and the queen gave her all. The child entered the world wailing. Tanesha pulled off her long sleeved T-shirt and wrapped the baby in the cloth.

“You have a girl,” Tanesha said.

Queen Fand looked away from Tanesha and her child, but Tanesha insisted.

“This is your child,” Tanesha said. “Created out of your great love for Manannán, brought into the world with the magic of the earth mother herself. You will not abandon her.”

Queen Fand’s eyes flicked to Tanesha’s face. Tanesha saw the young child inside the woman.

“Why?” Queen Fand asked.

“The missing piece inside of you will only grow through caring for an infant,” Tanesha said. “Your infant. She needs you.”

Abi grunted encouragingly and the Queen reached for the child. Tanesha set the child in Queen Fand’s arms but the queen didn’t look at her child. Abi moved the queen’s head so that the queen’s eyes fell upon her own child.

There was a sound like the clang of a gong, and the room vibrated with the magic of the world. As repeated mother to child and child to mother all over the world, love united this child with her mother.

“So beautiful,” the Queen said. “Mine?”

“Your child,” Tanesha said. “Created through your intense love of your Manannán.”

“Manannán?” Queen Fand whispered.

King Manannán appeared by her side. He took in Abi and dropped to a knee.

“Mother,” King Manannán whispered to Abi.

Abi acknowledged Manannán before pointing to Queen Fand. Heather clapped her hands. The mother and father were encapsulated in love with their child.

Tanesha gestured to the entry way to the chapel. Heather and Abi followed. Heather and Tanesha stood beside Abi as she went through the horrific transformation back to her modern self. Once she’d caught her breath, she dress in some of Jill’s clothing.

“Shall we?” Abi asked Heather and Tanesha.

“Why not?” Tanesha asked.

They went into the chapel to greet the happy mother and baby.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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