The Truth of Shadowed Time
Aed found his brother checking the stock in the walk in fridge. Just another day at The Gate, he thought. It was the aftermath of the lunch crowd and the prepping for the tea crowd. Normal. But then, the beginning of all things ending probably started on such days. Business as usual. Life taking care of life until death rolled around.
But now it was time for war! For truth! The fae had lived in the shadows of what once had been. The truth kept from them. History re-written by those who wished to rule along with all the other corrupt.
For long moments, Aed admired those things that Eitilt took comfort in. Would it be the same afterwards? Probably not. Aed knew things that Eitilt would never admit. His brother was going to be king. He would perhaps rule and settle disputes from behind his steel beast where he cooked, working for his next Michelin star, but he would be king. Restored to his rightful place.
King Keevan had been brought back as Eitilt, to be the child of Albie and Sinead so that he would know the smell and look of treachery and recognize the taste of deception and trickery. It was his brother’s time to fulfill his destiny and standing by his side would be his Queen, Bee Bee and his son, Arthur.
The darkness had kept Keevan and Dichtire, apart; the darkness was now standing on its last legs. The fae would battle, he could not imagine them not shedding blood and warring to scar the land. But this would be, he hoped, the final battle. They had all learned. Complacency was to be feared. Vigilance was to be rewarded.
“It has started, Eitilt,” he said as he pushed aside the plastic strips and entered. “The Tower and Trudy’s continue to be under siege. Engl and Gael have dropped the wards a bit and the witches have advanced the war machines. They continue destroying all the vegetation and the sea is red and the sky in flames. They know they have poisoned the land. Some regret it. Others do not.
A witch by the name of Dowth figured out that the wards were a self actualization. That if you wished for death, it would be granted to you. They curse Trudy for standing…well…not with them and are demanding that she be brought forth.
The covens are there now calling vocally on Laguz. His name sounds throughout the hills and hollows. They grieve for the loss of those that they destroyed, but they continue to push on. They have now turned their attention towards the bone yard. Hoping to bind the old ones in their bones. This can not be allowed.”
Sandra stuck her head in. “Rowan’s contingent is here,” was all she said.
Both brothers shrugged and smiled. “So it has begun,” they said. Making their way through the pub, outside stood Rob-Roy, the king’s ambassador to the dragons.
“His majesty, Rowan of the House of Ryland, wishes to Parlay with Eitilt, The House of the Sun, at the Portal of the Rising Sun in the Old One’s Bone Yard. We ask that all of fae be in attendance,” his voice sincere, as he looked through the windows. There were faces with bared teeth and raised weapons looking back.
“Agreed,” Eitilt replied. “With the setting of the moon and before the rising of the sun.”
“Agreed,” Rob-Roy replied. “I am away with the news. Until then.”
Eitilt had sketched out the ancient bone yard for Bee Bee. “It is surrounded by portals,” he said as he sketched each one in. “They are all reputed to do different things.
This portal has steps leading up to it and is set at an angle, the pathway parallel to this rock outcropping. If you run through it, it will take you wherever you want to go. You can only use it once. My grandmother wanted to find her father’s treasure hoard. Zipped her right there. When she tried to use it again, she just walked through and admired the view of the bone yard.
“Good to know,” she nodded.
“It will be easily identified,” Eitilt assured her. “You’ll see. It is in these rocks I plan to leave you.”
“What?” her eyes sought out his.
“Before and after the battle, this is your place of safety. I always have a back-up plan Bee Bee. If it all goes wrong, you take your ass back to Oklahoma to your Granny.”
“No,” she shook her head. “No, nothing…”
“I mean it,” his voice was firm. “You know my lawyer. You call him from your granny’s and put your inheritance in motion. Promise me.” He could see the tears forming in her eyes. “Promise me, my beloved,” he whispered against her cheek as he held her close.
“I don’t like it but I promise,” she whispered back as she felt the tears slip from her eyes.
Eventually the moon would give way to the sun. Rowan could feel it pushing through the cloud cover. His eyes went upwards when he heard the dragons calling. So they were floating on the thermals at the ready. Most good. Or perhaps that was bad as he could not tell if they were friendlies or if they were the foe. Not that it mattered at this point.
With malice and forethought, he had set things in motion. This Parlay would start the war.
The old ones’ bone yard…he admired and hated this place. The power the old ones had wielded! Absolute! And then they had pushed it aside. For what? Peace? There were several portals that surrounded the gravesites. It looked like all the old ones had laid down to sleep within the site of a portal that would take them, Rowan knew not where. Nor did he care. It was not ever his desire to step through one of the unknowns.
But there was one portal that was special. Its name was The Sky Vault and it was the only one that was not down on the ground with the bones, themselves. But was perched up on a rocky outcropping like a dragon about to take flight. There were steps that led up to it and the portal itself sat at an angle, parallel to the slope of the rock outcropping that it sat, upon. When the time came, if he must, he would portal out to a more friendly place.
For now, he stood atop a smaller rocky outcropping on the edge of the bone yard. All of fae were spread out before him. Most good. There were those with weapons that would strike down those that thought to stand against him. It would be a blood bath if things did not go his way. The covens were in the library, calling up and out for Laguz. Berkano would be standing behind him. Not claiming first rights, but not waiting to be asked to the slaughter, either. There would be enough blood shed that the old ones would not be able to find fault with Rowan, no matter what the outcome.
Good, here came the dragon houses that had not declared themselves for him. Oh, and well yes, the reason for the Parlay, Eitilt had arrived.
“I am Rowan of the House of Ryland,” he began as the grounds became quiet. “And I have called this Parlay with Eitilt, House of Heart the Sun.”
Eitilt walked up out of the crowd. “No my king,” he answered, “you have called this Parlay not with Croí na Sun. But with Teach an Chroí an Mhic, Heart of the Son.”
Albie had warned him about Eitilt. Smart and fast and dangerous. Quick of tongue. And so it began! Rowan wanted to cut out Eitilt’s heart right here. “Your father Albie, would take an exception to you changing your family name,” Rowan replied.
“I was not the one that changed it, House of Ryland,” Eitilt said with pride, his voice carrying to all those present. “That was done by the librarians, at the request of Ryland when he came to power. Your ancestor thought to end an old and noble house. So what was not changed was destroyed.”
Rowan hoped he had not blinked while Padd took a step back. That fucking coward!
So Eitilt knew the truth. That was dangerous. “There are no librarians here to refute that,” Rowan answered.
“None are needed,” Eitilt spit out, “for the witches the librarians have become would lie, anyway. Where is Stammy, your truth monger?”
“I am here,” the voice called out as the small fae began his way forward.
“Stammy,” Eitilt bowed to him. “We thank you for your presence. My king,” Eitilt bowed to him, “I trust you do not mind that he is in attendance?”
“Of course not,” Rowan replied as he edged closer to the side of the outcropping. One mighty leap and he would be on his way to the Sky Vault. If needed, he could run and launch himself out of it.
“You have called for this Parlay, my king, how may I be of service?”
“I want my daughter,” Rowan answered him. “I want you to tell Aed and the Master Assassin to return my rightful property to me. All here bear witness. I am asking nicely before I have to use force.”
“Which daughter?” Eitilt asked.
“Which…daughter…?” Rowan stuttered. “Lady Gael, of course.”
“Stammy,” Eitilt raised an eyebrow at him. “Speak.”
The wind had stopped and the clouds gave way to the moon as it was dipping beneath the horizon, for a moment, casting shadows, everywhere.
“Gael is not your daughter,” the words came tumbling out of Stammy’s mouth before he could clamp his hand across it, trying to deny the words purchase or exit.
“What?” Rowan stepped closer.
“Not your daughter,” Eitilt replied calmly. “So she cannot be returned to you, no matter how many laws you think to break. She is mated to my brother Aed, and carries his child. Dragon. My brother’s son Mer’lyn stands with the House of the Heart of Son and none shall trespass there.”
“Of course she is my daughter!” Rowan hissed and then howled. “Engl was my wife. She bore me fruit.”
Stammy was shaking his head no, a pained look on his face.
Eitilt’s eyes blazed. “Think on this, Rowan. Engl was a good and righteous woman. True in her heart and deeds. Why would she bear a child for the likes of you? She would only welcome a child into this world whose father was of a like mind. A good and just man that she would be proud to tell her daughter was her father. That out of all the realm, she had picked the very best so that her daughter would be proud of the decision she made to lie with this man and bring her, Gael, into being.”
“Give her to me,” Rowan spit out. “Give her to me now…” he took another step forward as the sound of blades being drawn were heard by all.
“No,” Gay’el, stepped forward, blades in both hands. “I would never hand over my daughter to you.”
Stammy was shaking all over. “Yes,” he sobbed. “Yes, The Master Assassin, he is Lady Gael’s father. Oh yes. May I be excused now? Please…” he was sobbing as he watched the Master Assassin approach, deliberate in his step and death in his eyes. “Please, may I go?”
“Go,” Eitilt nodded to Stammy, who backed quickly away, Eitilt’s eyes never leaving Rowan. “You think you will win against me, my king? That your fifteen dragon houses will stand with you? That perhaps the other fourteen dragon houses will just stand down and watch you slaughter me?”
“Was a thought,” Rowan nodded at him and smiled. “A very good thought. One I think I would like to see come to fruition.”
Eitilt looked out into the crowd. “Those dragon houses that think to make your females drink The Pansy, your death is mine.”
“Perfect,” Rowan chuckled to himself. “He will fucking kill himself.”
All ears perked up.
“It’s true,” Yarborough took flight above the crowd. “Rowan thinks to bring the dragons to heal by using the head of the dragon houses to force the females to drink The Pansy. Their feminine power is to diminish as the male roars above them in station.”
The rumbles of dragon voices were beginning to be heard. Those that lived now in the pub were talking loud about what they had heard and witnessed and knew to be fact.
All the old lies were coming to light as the sun began its trek over the horizon. “Raise the old one, Boinne,” he called to the witch that was watching the crowd. “Boinne!” The bitch looked right at him and arched both eyebrows. “Boinne, raise Laguz now,” Rowan was screeching on the rising wind. “Knock on his door and send him forth. Send Laguz and Berkano, forth!” He was shouting, waving his arms in wild atonement for the wrong that he was going to commit and for the glory that it would bring.
That was when he knew. In her eyes were laughter and a defiant no! “It’s a rat fuck,” he heard her whisper on the wind. “Trudy has betrayed us all. Your house is finished.” With a bow of her head and blowing him a kiss, she started fading back into the crowd.
Below him he could see two women, spinning on the air and singing the ancient charms. Their hair and their dresses cascading around them like the raging waters from a high dropping waterfall. Faster and faster until they were up in the air, clouds gathering to them and the clouds were caught up in their whirling, creating two tornadoes of small but mighty magnitude singing the songs of the old ones!
Rowan stood there with his mouth open! Was that Engl? Really! Engl? And Gael? Was that beautiful creature Gael? Who was not his daughter and was now his for the bedding!
“Trudy has betrayed us all,” he wept, openly. “Her love for the dragon outweighs the love for her king.” There was not much left he could do except lie. In his greatest time of need, this had to be believable. “I am king,” he shouted out his voice rising with the wind. “And you will declare King’s Law or I shall unleash Laguz and his partner, Berkano and you shall be their dining pleasure. Bow down and worship me!” he screamed. “Now, do it now! For the old and terrible blood gods are coming and if you want to ever rule the skies again, all of you winged creatures will take to the air and defeat The House of the Heart of the Son,” he roared as he pointed his finger at Eitilt.
Eitlit smiled and bowed his head and shifted. With one push he was airborne.
Bee Bee was hidden in the rocks up above and with a dash past the portal she was over the side of the rock face and on his back. With a thought, they shot straight up into the air.
“What was that?” those on the ground asked. “Was it a shooting star?”
There was a roar that shook the ground, the old bones and the bones of those standing. With a great flame Eitilt was thundering through the clouds and his fire rested on and lit up the old bone yard. A crackling sound was heard as the flame and heat made contact with bones who had harvested and held the moisture of the land of the fae throughout the ages. Their history recorded in the rain that fell and nourished the plants and filled the lakes, streams and oceans. And collected in the old ones’ bones and nourished them, as well. Steam rose from the bones, creating a visual of the old ones rising from where they had laid down to take up their rest.
Those dragons on the ground that thought to follow their king to riches and power, shifted and began their upward ascent.
“He is but one and we are many,” was their cry. “Death to Eitilt, death to the House of the Heart of the Son!”
The battle lines on the ground were forming. Skirmishes had started, the winged fae at the ready to kill! Those with the most to lose drew the first blood.
Aed and Gay’el both stood back to back with their blades drawn, taking on any and all. The thumb-bellas hovered above them with their teeth needle sharp and their blades. Blood dripping from both. The two tornadoes twisting in the air, was flitting to the earth, picking up those on the ground and throwing them against the rocks as the battle pushed forward!
In the air above them came the cry of war from frenzied dragons and blood fell like rain as the songs of the ancient ones spun about the sky. Those dragons that were on the ground cheered until they realized their brothers were dropping from the clouds.
Those from the pub rushed forward and the small fae with their swords brought death to those dragons who had fallen and had not perished outright.
The killing field continued on, pushing into the resting place of the old ones. Dragons were gasping out their last as hands of mists unfurled from the bones and dragged them down into the ground, their light forever extinguished, their bones lost to the ages.
The clouds gave way to sunlight and shadows were being cast upon the ground and you could watch the flight of dragons chasing across the ground and watch the shadow grow closer as a dragon in its death-fall crashed into the earth. Displacing the shadow with meat and blood and sometimes the screams of agony!
Those on the ground were busy as well. Those that stood with Rowan were diminishing in number and gathered to their king to protect him. Those who thought he should not be king came with killing urges and wielding blades bigger then themselves and disposed of all that stood that ground except for the king, himself.
The clouds had disappeared and there remained in the air only one dragon with a shimmering star upon his back. Gliding in, he stopped on top of The Sky Portal, resting on the slope and surveying those that were left standing.
“King Keevan and his Queen Dechtire, they ruled the dragons only, before the rise of the House of Ryland. Because of their wisdom, all the fae sought them out for advice.
Ryland became jealous and wanted the throne for himself. So he devised and planned and sought help of Devan, a soul washer and gave feeding rights to the old one Laguz. With his lies and treachery, Ryland killed King Keevan and his Queen. But not their son.”
Those from the pub were smiling and nodding and elbowing each other. “Their son Arthur, they fostered with a family on the 18th century Earth time line. He immigrated to America where he fathered children and passed on the jewelry of his mother to his wife and she to her oldest. My wife, Bee Bee is descended from Arthur, Teach an Chroí an Mhic.”
Cheers went up in the crowd and there was the banging of swords on shields.
Cecil was watching the crowd. Somewhere in this press was a traitor. And Devan…and perhaps they were one in the same.
“He speaks truth,” Stammy stuttered. “This is truth. I cannot speak to the lies of the others, but from Eitilt comes truth.”
Rowan had his back still pressed against the stonewall. Watching. How was it possible that Eitilt was able to slay so many? There were fifteen dragon houses that had warred against Eitilt. This battle should belong to the king! How was it possible that he had lost? Blood ran at his feet and the stench of death filled his nostrils. How was it possible that he even still lived?
And Eitilt was married? To a human? Really?
The wind began to die down as the tornadoes dissipated along with the words from the past and the ladies began a gentle and graceful return to the surface.
They joined their husbands on the bloody battlefield and saluted Eitilt and left.
“Where are they going?” Rowan asked.
“To deal with the covens in the library,” Eitilt responded. “It is time that the stacks were reopened. The ladies will remove the protection spells right along with the covens that placed them there. And clean out anything foul that has taken up residence.”
Oh-h-h, well. So Eitilt knew about that as well. “How is that possible?” Rowan was bewildered as he watched the ladies walk away. “It takes two 7s to break a coven.”
“Yes,” Eitilt nodded in agreement, “it does. Lady Gael is a 7 as well. Her mother had six daughters from her first marriage. They were grown and long gone before she even met Gay’el and gave her heart to him.”
“Who?” Rowan asked, his focus back on Eitilt.
“Gay’el, The Master Assassin.”
“His name is Gay’el?” Rowan looked confused and then a quiet, “Oh, Gael and Gay’el. Named for her father.”
Eitilt smiled at him. “Nicely put together. Glad to see you can connect the dots and that you are not nearly as stupid as I think you are.”
There it was. The words actually said out loud. Perhaps he was not smart, but he was alive and could still plot. “Insult me all you like, Eitilt, but you cannot prove physically what you say about Keevan and Dichtire.”
Eitilt laughed. “I do not need to. Nor do I desire to do so. My wish is not to be king. But you shall not destroy us in an effort to rule supremely. Sit on your throne and consider yourself lucky that you yet live.”
“Oh,” Rowan took a step back. “Truly?”
“I am married. I am working for my next Michelin Star. I shall be an uncle and in time, a father. My wife and my business take up my time. I do not have time nor the patience or attitude for the elegance of never-ending shit that is attached to the throne. Nor am I going to fuck a crow. My wife would slaughter me for the meat to feed the thumb-bellas and sell my hide to my enemies.”
“I…I can continue. Well then,” Rowan smiled at him, “I think I like her and no hard feelings! Most excellent! However,” he winked, “if you ever wish to deviate from the old ball and chain, consider a crow…most satisfying. Now,” he turned out to the crowd, “find your king and Eitilt some ale and then a toast, to peace.”
Bee Bee was watching the crowd from up in the rocks. “We humans could learn something from this,” she laughed as she watched the proceedings between her husband and Rowan. “You start with some posturing; then a fifteen minute war; death in the ranks to those that disagree with you. Then—this is yours, this is mine, have a beer and business as usual.
But we are missing one. Where oh where is Devan?” as she scanned the crowd.
It was funny to watch Eitilt refuse the mug Rowan offered him. There was no way in hell Eitilt was drinking anything. She did not give one rat’s ass if she was the one offering and if she had pumped it from her own breasts. Not this time. No lingering spell, no lingering infected half-cast ward….no bacteria…she did not care what they called it. Nothing! And no to everything!
And especially not drinking from any public place…where only God knew what lurked there… she pushed her way down from the rocks where Eitilt had left her. She was running down the steps when her husband shifted to dragon. “Oh shit,” she whispered, then she was back up and running through the Sky Portal and yelled, “Take me to Eitilt,” as she thumped onto his back and screeched, “No! Stay out of the river!” as he began his dive to wash the blood off. Breaking off at the last moment he was pulling up into a straight combat 0 degree stovepipe.
“It’s Devan,” she clung to him, “she’s poisoned the river and who knows what else.”
Cecil had been watching his Queen. It was with wonder as she bolted through the portal and disappeared to wind up on the back of his King. Something was not right. His King had broken off his dive into the water to rinse off and shot straight up into the air.
“Into the water…” Cecil’s felt his soul turn to ice. “Of course, after a bloody battle, the dragons always made a run or two through the river or ocean to wash off. That bitch is close by…come to me, my darling evil one and let me pound on you with my sword.”
Cecil was on the move. Searching the crowd, making his way to the river. With his sword raised, in his heart, he knew he would find the traitor.
“Sara, Mistress Sara,” he kept calling as he made his way forward. He did not think he could defeat Devan, but he knew someone who would at least know what to do with her to contain her. “Mistress Sara,” he kept calling.
The last of the moonlight was reflecting off the water and he could see Devan there, kneeling in ankle-deep water as the sun cast shadows under the trees. She was not pounding out a soul on the rock, but instead had a thumb-bella who was fighting back as Devan tried to drown her in the river.
With a warrior’s battle cry, he charged the river bank, his sword raised in a high arc. Would her flesh split in two, he knew not, but she was finished here!
“Let me finish!” she screeched at him. “Her soul needs to be pounded! But gladly, I will take yours instead,” she laughed as she let go of Gerty and rising, Devan tackled him low on the legs and drug him down into the water. “You live in my world now,” she laughed as she picked him up and slammed him down onto the bottom of the river as she removed his sword from his hand. “Your soul is mine to wash!” she laughed gleefully, as she pulled him to the surface. “I should have pounded you ages ago, instead I left you be. You should be grateful for that,” she smiled at him as she pushed him face down into the water and then pulled him back up. “You remind me of my Keevan,” she grinned, her eyes smiling at him. “He shall be around shortly. He shall drink The Pansy and be mine. Now, twice more,” she sang, “and you shall be the song of lore,” she pushed him under the water.
Each time she pushed him under, he could feel himself diminish. This time when she pulled him up, he thought perhaps, he had taken an actual breath under water and was sputtering when he was pulled up and felt himself standing upright, no longer being held.
“We are here, Friend Cecil,” he heard Mistress Sara’s voice as she helped him out of the water and onto the bank. “Do not worry, we have her,” she reassured him.
“Your bravery will be recorded in our legends,” she smiled at him and patted his cheek. “No one follows a soul pounder into her domain. You are a foolish lad, but you have love in your heart.”
There were several women out in the river, all holding hands in a circle with Devan in the middle. With each step, the circle became smaller until they had her surrounded.
“What happens to her now?” he asked.
“They will take hold of her and her soul will be pounded,” came her gentle reply.
“But, she is not dead,” came his shocked voice.
“Yes,” Sara nodded, “not yet. When she is, her soul will be pounded.”
“Oh,” Cecil responded as he sat down next to his blade. “I feel a bit odd. Light-headed. I think I shall rest here for a moment in time.”
“Good,” Sara smiled at him. “You are going to feel a bit odder, Friend Cecil. She did not finish pounding your soul, so she has returned you to your former self.”
“What?” he gasped out.
“You are fae, once more,” she grinned. “So forget your ghostly ways and settle into you flesh and bones.” Sitting down next to him she took his hand in hers. “Soul pounders, we are…” she hesitated. “Blessed. Blessed to help the dead to return home. But only the dead,” her voice was far, away. “We are not to pound the living. We are to wait until the flame of life is gone.”
“That is why she was trying to drown the thumb-bella. She could not pound her soul until she was dead. And I was…am…” he shrugged. “Already dead.”
“Yes,” Sara smiled. “She did not know that because you manifest as whole. So she thought to drown you and realized her mistake. But it was too late. So instead of sending you home, she righted what was your ills and made you whole.”
“Oh,” he picked up his sword and could feel its weight in his hand.
“Like I said, Friend Cecil, a soul pounder must be respectful of her position. If we are not, we can set loose back into the world, horrific beings.
Now, if you will pardon us. We shall finish with Devan so that we may bring those to the river whose souls deserve to be pounded so that they shall return to the bosom of home.”
From his advantage point, Rowan was watching. So, Eitilt did not want to be king, but the dragon was not going to be dead, either. The day had gone to shit!
“Fucking Trudy,” he seethed. You could not count on the old dark ones or apparently the witches, either. Where were they today during the battle? Nowhere! And what was that on Eitilt’s back? Listening to the chatter, it appeared that there really was such a thing as a Wynd Rydr and Eitilt, dragon that he was, had found himself one. “Well of course he did,” he kicked at the ground as he started walking back to his residence. “Eitilt gets to increase his dragon-ness and I get to throw shit and fuck crows. Oh no,” he sat down on the grass and thought about what was going to happen. “Padd is now my mate. And he is the jealous sort. I shall be bound to him for the rest of my days and only him.
And Engl is not dead and has birthed a seven that is not my daughter. She was mated to The Master Assassin long before I grew enamored of her. She just used me to protect her daughter.
How is any of this, fair? I have been played, used, and manipulated. From the very beginning. Boinne, blowing me a kiss as she faded away. That was probably her plan all along. Well good, unpleasant things are in store for her!
And just where did Eitilt find a Wynd Rydr? Probably from that fucking Trudy! “Just you wait, Mistress Trudy,” he laughed gleefully. “I will settle with you for providing for everyone but me!”
The tears wanted to form in his eyes. “Oh look, I still hold the throne that no one wants…with Padd as my mate…” he sobbed. “And…and Eitilt is married! His wife the direct descendent from Keevan and Dichtire…and all here know that to be truth! They do not wish to rule, so my reign is secure,” he heaved out a big sigh. “Well…until she bears for Eitilt. Perhaps he does not want the throne, but a child from that union, could. I killed all my siblings so I could proclaim myself king!”
“I cannot not fucking trust anyone! My father was right, the self-righteous old bastard. If you want anything at all done properly, you must do it yourself.” The death smell was lingering on the air. Soon the dragons would move in and turn all to ash. “Well, Eitilt can live,” he shrugged. “But the wife…she has got to be a lot easier to kill. After all, you destroy the mother vessel and the line ends.”