Right Between the Eyes

 Jameson and Water, Killearny

My family has balls so big they need to be carried around in a wheelbarrow. I could have even said the same thing about my mother, Sinead, but she would need something bigger than a wheelbarrow. My brother, Aed, is guarding, cough, cough, oral sex, hand sex, pregnant sex, my son Mer’lyn has already called me Poppa, cough cough, a princess of the realm and here comes my father, walking into my pub, like it is a Spring day. A bounce in his step and glad tidings in his eyes and a smile on his lips. It has been three weeks Greenwich Mean Time that Jorja has been missing. Yes, Father, here I stand, behind my bar, still. Surprise, surprise, surprise. I wonder how many times you have walked past and looked in, wondering if it was too early to put in an appearance.

“Son,” he smiled and pulls out a bar stool. “It is good to see you. The fjords were lovely.”

“Excellent,” I counter. “I am glad to see you healed. You look well,” I add for general good measure. He does look well. I wonder just what he has been feeding on. I am willing to bet it is not fish. Probably something that can fight back or plead for its life.

“Something to drink?” I asked.

“Oh,” his eyes lit up. “Well, what are you having?”

Jameson,” I replied. “I do not vary much off that path,” as I raised my glass and sipped.   “Here, take mine,” I slid it over to him and then poured myself one from the bottle that was behind me.

Raising our glasses in a silent salute, we both took a drink.

“Nice,” he smiled as he took another sip. “I have missed this. While healing, I have stayed away from stimulants.”

“I can see the wisdom in that, no matter how bad it is for my business,” I countered with a grin.

He drained the glass and then I refilled it. Then I drained mine and did the same.

“Solitude brings reflection,” he said to me. “The last war…” he stopped. He had not done jack-shit in the last war. Sent his son out, instead. Showed up when it was safe to take a side. I hope he does not try his heroic I-lead-the-way shit on me.

“Perhaps I should have done things differently,” he began softly. “But you can only go forward,” he sighed. “Anyone approach you about picking a side in the war?” he queried.

Well, right to it.   “No,” I shrugged. “I think the realm knows where I stand.   Here in the neutral position behind my bar. Let them wage war, I am content to live out my days here.”

“Any one else of your staff feel that way?” he asked.

“I would not know,” I was most serious. “Well, except for Jorja. I believe her intent is to join in the fighting. On whose side I know not. But she has gone to secure her wine cellar and to put back a few more vintages. So I am believing that she plans to be standing on the winning side.”

“M-m-m-m,” was all he said with a nod.   “Has she a favorite?”

He is referring to which side do I believe Jorja is going to stand with. He wants to know if what she has been telling him matches with what she has been telling him she has been telling me. Watch me side step this. My father is very arrogant and believes himself to be the smartest of all dragons to walk the earth. Being older, he thinks he is so much more than myself. And perhaps he is. But I doubt it.

“She was off to purchase vineyards. She is worried about a lack of grapes for making port. So, she is looking at France, Italy, Germany, and maybe California. Then she was going to Portugal to purchase as much port as possible. Apparently her stock is about depleted. And she fears with the war that the aged sherry barrels will become a thing of the past. I had no idea that the pohm-pohm fruit could be stored in them and not spoil. She says thumb-bellas are buying up every barrel and even stealing a few.”

“So, helping themselves to more than a few,” the older man laughed.

“Well yes, for beings so small, they can heft a lot of weight.” I shifted my weight from foot to foot. Something I used to do as a child when I had a big question. Those tells still came in handy. Time to roll the dice. “Father, I heard,” I paused, “I heard that the librarians were purging what was left of our dragon histories. You hear anything about that?”

“That would be illegal,” Albie replied thoughtfully.

Oh-h, I think perhaps the librarians are and he and Rowan have had a few unpleasant words about this. Father may want to rule but he is proud of his dragon heritage.

“The librarians are neutral,” he countered with.

“Yes, and I am a male dragon,” I replied. “I eat meat. Librarians like rare artifacts. There are those in fae that have one or two. I believe deals have been made.

I stopped by the other day, requesting to see our lineage. I was told that things were being readied for instant containment in case of war and for now that it was inaccessible.”

“Instant containment,” Albie replied, shocked. “So they are prepping the protection spells, already.”

“Yes,” I nodded, “or perhaps our papers have been destroyed and that is just their cover story. Everyone that walks in here has a new rumor. But that one I can believe. They have over the ages been eradicating bits of our history.”

I shifted my feet, again.

“What is it son?” Albie smiled at him. “Something weighs on you.”

“Now that Aed passes his time with Lady Gael,” I began slowly, “they discuss whatever comes to mind. Lady Gael asked him if it was true that there had once upon a time been dragon riders.”

“What?” Albie said. I honestly believe I have shocked him.

“Queen Engl would go to the library researching spells. In one of the caverns below the library…”

“What?” Albie interrupted me again. Interesting that he knows about them and yet I have never heard him discuss it. He must not have been in one personally.

“Yes,” I gave him a tight smile and continued. “In one of the caverns, there was a tapestry of a…” I shrugged, “of a something that appeared human riding a dragon. The tapestry had been spelled so it could not tell her its history. But worked into the stitchery was Wynd Ryder.

Of course, Aed asked me if it was true and so I am asking you. Have you heard of such a thing?   A wynd ryder?” If you wrap a lie in a truth, it makes it much easier to swallow.

“I heard a lot of things when I was a lad,” he patted me on the face. I hate it when he does that. I always have. But it makes him feel superior. “I cannot imagine any dragon allowing a human to ride on their back, let alone into battle. Of course, the world then was full of legends and make-believe and stories that never ended—but spiraled out into the star-filled night.” Albie made a face. “My favorite one was that the first dragon war was won by the House of the Heart of the Sun. We sent into battle from our house, twins.   These two were able to steal the air from under the other dragons. When the traitors plummeted to earth, they were killed out of hand.   Mostly to put them out of their misery.”

“Twin dragons,” I smiled and laughed a little. “A double blessing to a family but twins have never been recorded. And that they should be placed in our family.” I laughed a little more. “We are indeed the stuff of legends.” How wrong would it be if I cursed every ancestor in my family’s long history! The things people do not tell you!  These are things I would like to have known, not Pigg’s recipe for bacon on bacon.

Twins…there were, I knew, several references to twin dragons in ancient Celtic poetry and some sagas and in drawings. Bee Bee had pointed them out to me to emphasize her point. Repeatedly. Like explaining something to a small child who is distracted by the pretty light and not interested in the truth. From this point on, I am the brawn, she is the brain. Which is good because it just so happened I knew someone who specialized in translating ancient sagas. Well just damn, turns out I am married to her. Well just damn, those twins— that was a dragon and his wynd ryder.   My wife, she really is all that.

“Yes,” Albie smiled absent-mindedly. “The ancient days were full of wonder and mystery. That a tapestry from this time would have survived…” he shrugged. “Perhaps, but I think just the fact that it does not speak does not mean it is spelled.   Perhaps it just contains no magic.”

“Yes, I thought of that but Queen Engl would have known the difference.” See, continue the lie that would be a truth if it had happened.

“Good point,” Father smiled at me.

“How is your brother?” he asked.

“Well…” I shrugged. “He misses the concept of a mother that cared for him from time to time and Aunt Pigg’s bacon extravaganzas.   He says Lady Gael is extremely uncomplicated for a royal.”

Albie laughed.   “Not very demanding?”

“Correct,” I laughed. “Other wise, I think he would have taken her to the Master Assassin and locked her in his tower and drank poison.”

“Good thing he does not have to produce the heir,” the old vermin winked at me. He needs a grandchild so he can control me. The grandchildren spend time with the elders so they can learn our histories. Very formative years, being with an elder. My granny was my elder and she told me to watch out for and love my little brother that would some day be and she gave me her charms. For a dragon, my father’s mother rocked on all levels.

“Good thing,” I winked back.

“I always did approve of Jorja.”

There it is, that dazzling Hollywood smile.   Yes indeed he approves. He approves that Jorja will get him into bed with Rowan and Jorja will produce his next heir since he believes the one standing before him will be dead. Probably by his hand.

“Myself as well,” I nodded. I do believe that round goes to me. Touché.

“Son,” and I could hear the excitement in his voice. “Is there perchance a chance of an heir?”

“Father,” I smiled. “There is a war brewing. Jorja, I think, is looking forward to it. I am neutral. We shall see who walks away with what. If nothing else, we shall have the port.”

“And so we shall,” he grinned and clasped me on the shoulder. “I must away. I will let you know if I hear anything.”

“Thank you, Father,” I grinned as I watched one of the most accomplished liars I know walk out the door.

“Madame L’sióg,” I turned and talked to the beer stein that was sitting on the shelf with several of its friends.

A small green orb hovered out and there on the shelf stood the monarch of the thumb-bella sized fae, dressed in her to-war clothing.

“He cannot shift for the next three hours. Take him and do what you will. Contact me for the deathblow. As his heir, it is my right. I sorrow in my heart for what he has done to you and your kin.”

“Heart of the Sun,” she bowed her head, “we are honored to call you friend. And that you call us friend.” The air above me shimmered with a million colors for a second, then they were gone.

Am I vested in this war?   Absolutely. My brother, a noble, is mated to Lady Gael, a royal. Illegal in a burn the witch and her mate sort of way. I am married to a Wynd Ryder. There are not any dragons who are going to approve of that. They think I am an arrogant enough bastard the way I am. To quote my wife, “They ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Aed and I, we are brothers to the bloody end.  And anyone who doubts that can just step on up.

Two hours later, there was a small buzzing in my ear. “Sandra, I am needed elsewhere,” was all I said.

All my comrades-in-arms watch me leave. “Brothers to the bloody end,” they shout and they all raise their glass in a salute.

“To the bloody end,” resonates through out me. Father, whatever is left of him, is going to be bloody.

Because I also have been drinking the Liqueur of Pansy I cannot shift. That does not matter. My ride is waiting for me on the rooftop. There are several dozen thumb-bellas who are offering me a lift, literally. With a heave and a ho off we go.

Arriving on the mountainside, I bow my head to Madame L’sióg. They all stood aside and gave us privacy for these final words. Walking over, I kneel down next to the mutilated man. We are coming up on the third hour. They have made sure that if he can shift, he can do no harm.

Kneeling down beside his head, his eyes fasten on mine.

“I was wondering if you would be here for the death-blow. As my heir, it is your right.”

“Which one of you hated Aed the most?” I asked.

There was a smile. “Aed, “ his voice held a soft note, “such a sweet lad…”

“Spare me,” I hissed.   “If mother did not want the child, why not just abort it? Why the Liqueur of Pansy? It took both of you in agreement about this.   You could have never slipped that past her on your own. Nor she, you.”

“My son,” he smiled, all of his teeth missing, “Sinead’s mother, Neava, wanted us to have another child. An heir and a spare she would laugh and say. So we devised a plan involving The Pansy. We were not laughing until after Aed was born and he could not shift.   It was poetry. Sinead would rail at Neava about our deformed child that she insisted that we have until her mother gave her whatever it was she wanted. It was actually a very good plan. We inherited your grandfather’s treasure horde. Sadly, that has all been spent. Jorja needed it to finance her,” he gave me a wicked smile, “vineyards,” he managed a laugh, blood and all.

“Jorja will come looking for me,” there was genuine pleasure in his voice. “And she shall destroy you, piece by piece. No matter how long it takes because she now has the funding to do so.”

“Jorja…” I sighed. I let my grin say it all. Humor, laughter, pride, arrogance, pity and mostly nanny-nanny-boo-boo…

“When?” he choked out.

“Three weeks ago,” my nostrils flared.

“Aed will avenge me,” he said with surety. “Your death at his hands will be the sweetest revenge.”

“Aed,” I became thoughtful. “He is mated to Lady Gael. Their son Mer’lyn , it was he who alerted them to your desperate cries that night.   Bad ones are coming, he told his mother, who is a 7th of a 7th. Wake Poppa. Bad ones,” I stressed. “And then there…you…were. Bad ones…oh,” I patted him on the face, “Rowan is not her father. And she carries Aed’s heir.   I have found for myself, a mate. Human, Wynd Ryder,” I lingered over the words and made them sound like a caress. “Oh, they really do exist. And her name, Merlynn, yes,” I laughed out loud, “yes, Merlynn, she wants my child,” I leaned down closer.  With all that blood on his face, I did not want him to miss my happiness. “And I shall do my very best to bless her in that capacity. She likes the human me well enough, the dragon,” I let out a small sigh, “she can’t get enough,” I smirked and patted him on the cheek, again.

“Let me live,” his voice was once more virtuous, “and I shall tell you what lies in your future.”

I am genuinely amused and laugh out loud. “Father, you made deals with Trudy. Dark deals. Water and Wood. I like it. You could not very well have her invoke an old one that you could not destroy if the need, arose.

You did a horrible job of spying on me while I was at Trudy’s cottage. Jorja was dead at that point. It just took me a couple of nights to get the job done to my satisfaction. And I want you to know I was most pleased. She begged me to let her die as dragon.” There was horror now in Father’s eyes. Good. I can give him a foretaste of his future as well.

“You did leave Trudy’s other wise neat home in somewhat of a mess looking for the Heart of the Sun’s egg. Trudy thought to trade it to you in hopes of what? That if you managed to kill Rowan she could rule with you and put dragon on the throne?”

Smiling, Albie spit blood from his mouth. “My son, what a very fine mind you have. Always so clever. Ready to believe. That egg is a myth. One started by King Ryland to keep us forever hopeful it would return to us.”

“It has returned,” I smiled at him. “No myth. It dances and shimmers with the colors of our house. It greets the morning sun in my bed chamber along with my mate that is reposing on my bed.”

“Would you lie to me even as I greet death?” he asked.

“Lie? Father, it is there, in the words we have written on our door.

Mer’lyn speaks to the wind and sees the fire of night.

In her hand, the lights gather and takes shape, our house becomes one of long continuance and life abundant.

Around her neck she wears the stars and calls home all those that walked our path.

Our heart pulses with the clouds and our king rules all.

Not myth, not legend. None of it. My Merlynn, she wears the necklace, bracelet and earrings.”

“Are you going to rule?” he asked me, hope in his voice. Yes, he would love to be remembered as a father to kings.

“No, that is not my intent. I shall cook, love my mate and our children. On their ears shall always fall the truth. That is the greatest legacy I will tell them that their grandfather left for them, because from your lips has only come lies.”

There is a chuckle that escapes from him as he says,

“In human form she walks,

Upon the wind, the jewel of his house around her neck

As he rules as their king.

You, my heir, shall be king and my name will live on, whether you will it or not.”

“I do not will it,” I replied. “be damned and greet Mother for me,” I blew him a kiss.

The thumb-bella fae are splendid creatures. They have left me a sword and a shovel. Hefting the sword I grinned at him and saw his joy. “Oh, no. It will not be that easy for you,” I smiled as I shoved the sword back into the ground and picked up the shovel and began digging.

“No! No!” his voice continued to get louder until he was screaming the word, “No!”

“Yes,” was all I said as I surveyed my work. All I needed was a trench deep enough to hold his body.

“Son, please, you cannot cover me in dirt. I will never be able to take flight, again.” Tears were mingling with the blood on his face. “I am your father. You would deny me flight for eternity? They even allow traitors to burn and float. Please…”

“Traitors,” I hissed at him. “You are not a traitor, you are a perverted monster.” Righting myself from my labors, I smiled at him. “You denied my brother flight. May your eternity be damned,” were my last words above his screams as I pushed him into the hole. It was a nice sword, I noticed as I picked it up. It had very good balance. Good for killing. The warrior in me admired it. With a single stroke I removed his head. Then shifting to dragon, I turned him to ash. As human, the shovel made short work of covering his ashes.

When all was as I liked it, I walked over to the fairies.

“Madame L’sióg, I thank you for your patience in dealing with this foul creature.”

“We thank you, Heart of the Sun, for this opportunity to even old scores. We feasted on his body parts just as he did on ours. With pleasure, we shall lock his ashes into the ground with rocks and then cover all with more soil. Soon the nature of this place shall take over and cover the mound and green things grow and none shall know that such evil lies here.”

“I am glad you have had some justice,” I replied with a bow.”

“Is The Gate now a place of Sanctuary?” she asked.

‪”Sanctuarium,” I smiled at her. “And all that it implies.” I bowed and shifting, I took to the air.