Othila - Inheritance
Captain Sean Nelson of the S.S.R.N. Harriman Nelson stood in the foyer of the Nelson family home in Boston, Massachusetts. The large old house seemed even emptier, now that his Aunt Edith had passed away. He remembered the times spent here as a child and young boy, and the fascination he had had with the many rooms, passageways, and the old furnishings and toys in the attic and throughout the house. He smiled to himself as he ran a hand over the highly polished newel post and wondered if his father had ever slid down the two story banister. He shook his head.
Probably… He probably did, knowing Dad. I wouldn't have put it past him have done something like that.
There was something in Harriman Nelson’s nature that led Sean to believe that his father probably pushed the limits of his family’s patience many times in his growing years, though he never admitted it…at least to his son.
Sean was suddenly saddened when he realized that with the passing of Edith Nelson, the old line had ended. The stories of the house would be silent, and the secrets it held, it would keep forever. He now regretted not asking the many questions he’d always wanted to ask but never seemed to remember…until now, not to his son. And now, it was too late.
He turned, and Dennis Keogh, the family’s attorney, gestured him to the Library. Without speaking a word to his client, the arrogant little man gestured to the chair on the far side of the large desk. He walked to the other side and sat, running a hand over the papers spread out in front of him.
He looked at Sean over his glasses and peered at him. When the officer failed to be cowed by the lawyer’s attitude, the man cleared his throat and spoke, “You are somewhat late, Captain. Our appointment was for…”
“Apparently you didn’t get my message. My plane got caught in some turbulence. My pilot didn’t want to take any chances, so we landed outside Pittsburgh until the air calmed. I tried calling your office from the plane once we were back in the air and I left word with your secretary,” Sean pointedly explained, not allowing himself to be chastised. “Besides, I didn’t realize I would be holding you up, Dennis. It’s my understanding that we’re your only client, and as I recall, your father was a bit more understanding, given the nature of our work and the fact that your only business is the Nelson’s and their interests, for which you’re quite amply compensated...that is, if the monthly statements are any indication.”
The attorney stiffened with the quiet criticism and then picked up a document, several pages in length. “There are several things in your Aunt’s will that need your attention, Captain. And there are several bequests that you must authorize before they’re dispensed.” He then reached into the packet on the desk. “There is this letter as well. It was in your father’s papers, and was to be given to you after your mother and aunt’s passing.” He handed Sean a thin packet. “I am under explicit instructions to leave you to read it at your leisure, as well as to inform you that there will be a meeting tomorrow at 1000 for you to sign the paperwork that will establish the Harriman and Edith Nelson Trust for the Environment. Once you read through the rest of the paperwork, you’ll see that your aunt left her shares in the Nelson Institute, as well as all remaining interests in the Nelson patents and related material, to your children, Brendan and Ceara. The interests she held in the family financial holdings, she left to establish the trust. The remainder of the estate, including this house and surrounding properties, was left to you.”
Sean held his hand up, “Before you go any further, I’m directing you to add this house to the Trust. That way, the Trust will always have a place to meet and do business. In the same vein, I also want to make it so that any existing family members and their offspring have total and unlimited access to the property for the rest of their lives. I want you to take my father’s patent for Herculite, as well as all of its subsequent patents, and use the monies from them to maintain the house for the Trust. Right now, I’m tired and I’ll sign any papers that you draw up tomorrow at the first meeting of the Board of the Trust.”
The lawyer protested, “But Captain, perhaps you don’t know
what a valuable property this house is… Why, just the market value alone….”
”I said add it to the Trust! And that’s the end of the discussion, Mr. Keogh. Now, I’ve had a long flight and I’m tired, so I’ll take these papers and read them, sign what I must tonight, then you can meet me here tomorrow, at say, 0900. Wait for me here, in the study… Now, good night, Dennis.” Sean then rose, picked up the documents, and in a few long strides, left the lawyer and the room, seeking the solace of the room he called his and that had been his father’s before him. He dropped his cover and khaki jacket into the nearest chair, and went to the large old armoire that was now a combination bar and entertainment center. He turned on the CD player, poured a glass of scotch, and snatched the envelope that had been left for him. He settled into the large, overstuffed chair, and opened the envelope. A thin leather-bound ledger came out and a letter was attached to it. Also, taped to the ledger was a small square manila envelope with a slight bulge. Sean recognized his father’s handwriting on the letter. It was dated a number of years earlier.
I’ve written this letter, not knowing exactly when you will be reading it. I can only hope it will be a very long time from the events recorded here.
I love you, son. You are, without doubt, the greatest gift that I’ve ever been given, and I would never, in all my born days, have ever put you, your mother, or any of our family and friends in danger. Yet, you were in danger from the moment you were conceived, from a force that I had no control over, and no input to. I never even realized it until years later, and it was later still when all the events recorded here took place. I had always known what a gift you were in my life, and when I came as close as I did to almost losing you, well, I am very sorry. I deeply, deeply regret what happened in that summer.
You don’t remember any of it because your mother and I saw to it you wouldn’t. I don’t know how I know so much of it, but what I do know, I have recorded here. I hope that the memories this ledger stirs are not all bad ones.
All that I can say is that I love you, Sean.
You have become quite a man and I am very proud of you.
Sean then took the ledger and opened it, slowly reading the first page that his father had written…
Thurisaz – The Seeing of Things to Pass
The tall, red-headed youth paced in front of the antiquated storefront. Lugh’s Celtic Traditions. Niamh told him to wait here for her. The sun was gradually beginning to rise, and the color of the early morning sky was pink tinged grey. It was cold, but Sean Nelson didn’t feel the cold. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. He’d met the girl of his dreams, quite by accident as he had been exploring the back streets of this part of Boston…
He had discovered the ancient book store and found himself compelled to go in. It was dark and it smelled, well, old. The 17-year-old was intrigued by the mystery of the place and he began to carefully explore. He walked slowly around the small, overcrowded space, coming upon an old man sitting at a desk. The man had a long flowing beard and hair that was pure white. His face was wrinkled with time and eyes, rheumy blue peered at him over a small pair of glasses.
“Yes, Lad? Kin I be helpin’ ya?”
Sean started at the question. “Uh…no… no, sir. Thank you …”
“I didn’t mean ta startle ya, lad.” The old man smiled and Sean smiled back at him.
“I just saw the shop, sir. I thought it looked…”
“Old an’ interestin’? Aye, it’s that!” he chuckled. He moved about in his chair behind the counter and Sean saw he was wearing layers of clothing, all of which looked older and coarser than the old man himself.
“I, uh…I was just…” he stopped speaking as a young girl came into the small store from the back. Sean was mesmerized, surprised that he was as taken by her as he was. There was an aura about her that was, well, almost magical…
“Ahhh…” the old man spoke to Sean, “My gran’daughter, Niamh. She helps me…”
The girl nodded demurely. Her reddish-brown hair flowed in soft curls to well below her waist. She wore an old-fashioned Irish Leine of palest beige, with an overdress of softest light brown fabric. Her skin was fair, her lips soft pink, her eyes a golden flecked black. She smiled at Sean, and at that moment, she took his heart…or so he told himself. That he was enchanted with her, by her, he had no doubt. He believed from that very moment, he was in love.
“Niamh,” he stuttered, “That…that’s a beautiful name… I’ve never heard it before!”
“Ye’ve ne’er heard it, lad fer it’s a Celtic name an’ an old one at that… older than ye can even imagine. It means ‘brightness’. She’s named fer a princess of the Tir na Nog, she is.”
“Well, it’s a beautiful name, miss. And I am pleased to meet you…” His young face was red with embarrassment and more.
The girl smiled back at him, and to the boy, the room glowed with the warmth and radiance of her smile.
“Well,” she said softly, “Ye’ve been given my name… what’s yourn?”
Sean’s face reddened further…”S.. S.. Sean… Sean Nelson.”
“‘Tis a fine Irish name, Sean! A strong one…Yer name means ‘gracious gift’. Were ye aware of that, lad?” the old man behind the desk asked.
“No, sir. I wasn’t. I didn’t know that names had meanings.”
“Well, they do…ye’d best be careful when you name yer children that the names are good, strong ones.”
Raido – Journeys
Boston,: the Nelson's Boston House, several days after Sean met Niamh…
Karen Nelson’s hand shook as she held the note out to her
husband. “I can’t believe this, Harriman. I can’t!” They had come back to the
house from a meeting and found a sealed envelope, bearing their names,
lying on top of one of the pillows of their bed.
Admiral Harriman Nelson took the note from his wife. It was written on family stationary, and in the bold script of his son…
Mom and Dad,
I want you to know that I'm leaving Boston with Niamh. I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I love you both and hope that you understand. We will be meeting her family and getting married at her home. I don’t want to tell you any more. I don’t want you coming after me. Once we’re married, I’ll come home and you can meet her. She is the most wonderful person in the world. I want you to love her like I do.
I really do love the both of you and hope that you’ll understand.
“Married?! Harriman, he can’t get married! He’s too young! Has he lost his ever lovin’ mind?! No respectable minister would even consider marrying two children!!” she raged as she looked at her equally confused husband. “Harriman, tell me he can’t get married!”
Woefully, Nelson turned to his distraught wife, “I can’t tell you that, Karen. He’s seventeen, remember? He can get married in some states.”
A horrific look came over her. “But, he wouldn’t… he couldn’t … My God, Harriman, he hasn’t known the girl that long. A few days…only a few days for God’s sake! And that name - what kind of a name is Niamh?”
Nelson answered her quietly as he sat down on the bed, the note still grasped in his hand, “I don’t know. It sounds ‘old’…very old…” A thrill of fear tickled his spine, with the mention of the girls’ name. There was a vague, uneasy familiarity with the name that for now, he chose to ignore.
Karen stood in front of her husband, an eerie calmness transcending her, tho she was frantic for her child. “Well, one thing’s for sure…either you call the police or I will. And then we’ve got to call Lee and the Institute…we’ve got to find him before he makes a horrible mistake! That child’s lost his ever lovin' mind if he thinks he can pull this and get away with it.”
Kenaz – An Opening
Sean smiled as Niamh came out of the bookstore. She looked beautiful. She was wearing the same dress as when he’d met her, but had a shawl wrapped around her shoulders, pinned with large broach in an intricate design, with small garnets cut carefully in the center. She carried a cloth wrapped parcel. When she smiled, Sean thought the sun was shining at its brightest. She extended a hand to him, and kissed him gently on the lips.
“Come. We must hurry. If we want to marry we must go to a place that will perform the ceremony before your parents find us. Come…Hurry Sean.” When he hesitated, she grabbed his hand with a gentle tug, pulled him to her. “We must go…”
Sean Nelson had never felt like this before. He couldn’t get enough of Niamh. Her presence in his life, sudden and unexpected had made him come to decisions he never would have thought of, even a few days ago. But Niamh was everything he wanted and wished for as a partner, friend, and soon to be wife and lover. He found he didn’t want to be separated from her, ever again. It would mean changes in his life, in his plans, but he wanted her, wanted her now, wanted to be with her for the rest of his life. They were running away to be married, it would break his parents hearts, but he didn’t care if it meant Niamh would be his forever.
He looked at her, asking, “Where are we going? I don’t know where or how… I have money when we need it, what do we need?”
She smiled an enigmatic smile, lifting her long skirts in one hand. “Keep yer money, me darlin’. Where we’re goin’, it’s not needed. Now, come. We go down several streets and there’ll be someone willin’ to help us. I have some ale and bread for us to eat. We’ve far to travel to the safe house.”
Sean felt as if her words were wrapping him in a soft cocoon of warmth. All he could hear was her voice, all he could see was her face. She tugged at his hand again, and he followed her willingly.
“Come, Sean…we must leave now…” He didn’t detect the underlying tone of urgency in her voice, for he was too entranced with this beautiful, gentle creature.
She tugged his arm, and he wrapped it around hers, going with her down the dark alley.
At the door, a wizened face watched the young people leave…Turlough, the ancient druid, watched, and waited. A journey, seen years ago, was beginning…
Perthro – Things unexplainable
Sean didn’t remember the journey. When he and Niamh had reached the back alley that she’d led him to, they’d found a friend of Niamh's waiting for them in an old pickup truck. The rear of the truck was piled high with hay, and getting in, the young couple made themselves comfortable as the truck slowly moved down the street.
Sean pulled Niamh into a gentle embrace, holding her slight form close to his. “I love you,” he whispered in her ear.
She smiled softly at him, “Sean, Mo rún. Tá grá agam duit.” (Sean, my love, I love you.)
He smiled at her, pulling her face gently to him. “I don’t know what you said, but I hope it was ‘I love you’,” and he kissed her gently on the forehead.
“Yes, it was.”
She sat up slightly, and took the sack she had carried, unwrapping the knot, and taking out an earthen jug and a loaf of coarse bread.
“‘Tis early morn’, an’ I’m thinkin’ yer a bit hungry.”
He nodded, the wonderful fragrance of the bread mixing with the sweetness of the fresh hay. His stomach growled as if in answer to her question, and he nodded. “Yes, I am. I left without getting something to eat. The bread smells good. Did you make it?”
“Aye, I did. Ye’ll be seein’ there’s many things that I can do. I’ve not formal learnin’ but I’ve much of another kind. I’ll not be a bad wife fer ye, Sean.”
Wrapped in the warmth of her words, and what he felt was her love, he eagerly replied, “I know… I know, Niamh.”
She offered him a chunk of the bread, and he took it and bit into it. The sweetness of the dark, yeasty food was heady. He took a second bite, and smiled at her. “It’s good. Sweet. I’ve never had anything like it.”
“Nor this, either, I’ll wager.” She took a sip of the ale, and then offered the jug to him. “‘Tis me granda’s brew. Slakes yer thirst in but a few sips.”
He lifted the jug to his lips, and sipped somewhat cautiously. He was again surprised at the taste of the carbonated drink. It was sweet, he tasted honey. He looked at her, a question on his face.
“‘Tis called mead. Turlough makes it fer us. Have a bit more… ye’ll find it relieves the thirst.”
He drank more of it, liking the taste, and finding it easy to take. In a few minutes, he found himself sleepy. He dug deeper into the hay, pulling Niamh into his arms. “I’m feeling a little tired. Is it far to where we’re going?”
“A bit.” She shifted her position so that his head was resting on her shoulder. Stroking his hair, she said softly, “Sleep, Sean… Sleep now, Mo mhíle grá, (My thousand loves ) sleep. Tomorrow will bring many things.” She held him close as the old truck rambled down the streets to the road, and the future.
Teiwaz – Spiritual Warrior
The phone in Lee Crane’s office rang loudly. The two-star Admiral looked angrily at the phone, swearing softly at the interruption. He picked up the phone with a vengeance, wondering why Jenny hadn’t announced the call. A quick smile crossed his face, his heart hoping it was Caitlin. He picked up the receiver. “Yes?”
There was a great deal of static on the other end, and a voice, soft said some things he couldn’t understand.
“This is a very bad connection, whoever you are….”
“Would this be Captain Crane?” The voice was decidedly female, rather young and soft, with a gentle lilt. It was vaguely familiar, yet completely alien. The static had cleared suddenly.
Lee looked at the phone, and then put it back to his ear. “I haven’t been a Captain for several years, Miss. Who are you? How did you get this number?”
“There’s a need fer yer presence, fer yer bound ta this by fate. Ye’ll be informed. ‘Tis time, sir…‘tis time...” And the phone went dead.
Lee looked again at the phone, put the receiver in the cradle, and then hit his intercom. “Jenny?”
“Who was that on the phone?”
“I’m sorry, sir, there wasn’t anyone on the phone.”
“Jenny, I just spoke to someone, they were looking for Captain Crane… A female voice. Young…some kind of an accent…”
“I’m sorry, sir. There was no one on the phone.”
“Thanks, Jenny.” Lee turned off the intercom and put down the receiver, puzzled and vaguely ill at ease. Idly his hand went to the stars on his collar and he fingered them thoughtfully, wondering at the voice, and the message.
The phone at Jenny Alden’s desk rang urgently. She picked it up, “Admiral Crane’s office. May I help you?”
“Jenny,” Harriman Nelson barked, “Lee! Now!”
Without answering, she put him on hold, and buzzed Crane, “Sir, Admiral Nelson. He’s, um, agitated!”
“Thanks!” Lee responded curtly, as he punched the blinking button. "Yessir?”
“Sean’s run off to get married, I need you here to help me find him. Don’t tell Caitlin, until we know what’s going on, and get Chip to come out here too. I need the both of you! We’re at the house in Boston. Just get here, Lee.”
"Married? What in the hell..."
"All I can say is that I'm afraid there may be more here than it seems. I can't explain it, but for some reason...I've got a bad feeling about this. He'd never have done something this insane on his own. I need...we need...your help."
“Aye, sir. I’ll be there ASAP.”
The phone on the other end clicked, and Crane sat staring at the phone, used to Nelson’s abruptness in time so of stress, but still surprised at the total lack of interaction, and the dire tone of the news.
'Sean run off to marry?! Dear God, what in hell
was that boy thinking? He’s got his whole future ahead of him… To
put himself in this position!! Oh, dear God!' He rose and went through
his door to Jenny’s office. She looked up just as he announced, ”Jenny, I’m leaving. I have to meet the Admiral in Boston
and I don’t want
Caitlin to know. If she asks, just tell her I’ll contact her when I can. I want
you to get Chip
and have him meet me at the airstrip. Then tell young Foley to get the jet ready. I’m
heading to the house and then the strip. Have a driver downstairs in ten and get
Chip transport to meet me there.”
Using years of familiarity and a close, informal working relationship, Jenny asked, “Lee, is everything all right? I mean…the Admiral? Mrs. Nelson?”
“I don’t know, Jenny, I just don’t know. Please….just do as I asked, okay?” He turned, and went back into his office, as she picked up the phone. When he left, several minutes later, she was still trying to get Greg Foley to the jet, and didn’t have the time to tell him that his car would be there in twenty, not ten, minutes.
In front of the Admin building, a car sat waiting. The driver was young, clean cut, and not unlike many of the young people in the driver pool, who waited for the call to pick up whoever needed driving from the Institute’s many offices. Lee Crane saw the car, and hurried down the steps to it. The young driver got out of the car, and got the door for the Admiral, closing it behind him, and then getting into the car himself.
Lee didn’t recognize the face, “You’re new to the pool?” he asked, in interest as much as curiosity.
“Aye, sir. I’m new ta this place…”
“‘Tis an old one, sir. No doubt, ye’ve heard it afore.” He looked into the mirror, and Lee saw eyes that looked familiar, realizing that the face, too, had an air of familiarity. Suddenly, he doubled over in pain, agonizing, throbbing jolts of fire in his groin shooting throughout his body, paralyzing him with its intensity. He clutched at his groin, suddenly bathed in sweat, moaning softly as he passed out, falling onto his side.
The young man at the wheel glanced back once, and seeing him unconscious, smiled slightly, murmuring strange words, and as the car turned the corner, it simply, vanished.
Lee Crane found reality fading as the pain in his groin increased. There were voices, with a different accent, and soft, hypnotic music, and faces. Many faces… there was one, terribly familiar, and a voice, cold and unemotional…
“Hello, Da!…’tis time… ‘tis time for all to be finished… I couldn’t finish me place in either world, fer yer friend, Harry, prevented that…but… ‘tis time fer me ma’s curse to finish. His son, Sean, his heir… he’ll be payin’ fer his father’s interference…Ye’ll all be payin’!! Ye’ll be seein’ me face in all that takes place. Turlough may have softened the curse, but curse it is nevertheless…Me brothers and sisters are all part of this…but he’s not knowin’ that I’ve some power still…Silve’s spirit an’ mine are still strong… we’ll be fixin’ ‘this test of the heart’ the old man is playin’ with… ye’ll see… Ye’ll surely see… he’s not knowin’ that ye’re arrivin’ at the place. Harry and his wife will be there…and yer son… me brother… the brother of the heart of Harry’s son. Ye’ll all be tested…
Kenaz – An Opening
Sean woke slowly, his mind fuzzy. He stretched, feeling soft beneath him, not the hard rolling bed of the truck. He reached beneath and found fabric, not the hay they had landed in. The fabric was soft but coarse, and beneath he felt a wooden frame, a bed… He rolled onto his side, feeling for the presence of Niamh, and aware that she wasn’t there. He opened his eyes, and looked around, the white-washed walls of the hut becoming clear, as he focused. He stretched, and felt the soft fabric of the clothes he was wearing rub against his skin. The fabric was coarse and unfamiliar to him. He reached for Niamh, and still not finding her next to him, he pulled himself to a sit, and looked further around the hut. It was small, a cheery fire burning in the fireplace, assorted, if unfamiliar things lying about. He stood, and looked down, finding that he was wearing soft leather boots, with wrappings up his legs, covering the coarse leggings he was wearing. He had on a flowing short tunic, with full sleeves, belted at his waist, and the collar open to the middle of his chest.. the clothes felt strange, yet comfortable. He looked about again, wondering where Niamh was. He ran his fingers through his hair, and found it strangely longer than it had been when they left Boston. He brushed at his ear, and found he was wearing an earring, felt his neck, and found a heavy torc. This was too much… Too many unexplainable things… He sat hard on the bed, and as he sat, the door creaked open and Niamh entered. She moved towards him, arms extended to gather him into a passionate kiss.
“Sean, Mo rún. (My love) Today we wed. I can’t believe it, Mo mhíle grá!(My thousand loves).”
He held her tightly, returning the kiss warmly. “Yes,” he replied huskily. He kissed her lips, her neck and shoulders as he held her “Today...and then, tonight, tonight we will be together forever. No one and nothing can separate us...Nothing....”
She pulled slightly away, still smiling, but the smile had taken on a sadder cast. “No, nothing in this world shall, Mo rún.” She ran a gentle finger down his face, and pulled him to the doorway.
“Come, you must meet my brothers and sisters, those that will be standing with us in the Handfasting. And we both must be prepared. Grandfather is going to conduct the ceremony.” She tugged at his arm, feeling his reluctance. “What’s wrong? Do you not want to marry me?”
He pulled her to him, kissing her lightly, “No...I mean, of course I want to marry you! It’s just... I don’t understand...how did I get like this... these clothes, my hair, the earring? How, Niamh?”
She smiled softly, “‘Tis my gift to you, an enchantment of sorts. So you won’t feel out of place. So you’ll feel as one of us...” she stroked his face again, “I love you, Sean. And from today, you’re mine...” This kiss was a lingering one, promising more, much more. “And now we must go and meet the family, and we must begin the preparations.”
She opened the door, and the wood slats creaked as they moved. Brightness flooded the small space, and they stepped out into a wooded forest, bright with light. It was as a dream, birds chirping, and fluttering, the minions of the forest scurrying about. Sean saw that the hut was at the end of a circle of huts, surrounding a large circle of stones in the center. In the center of the circle stood Turlough, and around him five young people. Niamh led Sean into the circle, to stand in front of Turlough.
“Grandfather, we are here.”
The old man placed his hand on the girl’s head. “Are you sure, child? That this be the man yer ta be handfasted to?”
“Aye, grandfather, I am sure...”
“And you, Lad. Is this the woman that ye chose to spend the rest of yer life with. It’s a long one, lad. Are ye sure?”
Sean stepped forward. “Yes, sir. I am very sure!” He pulled Niamh close. “I want to spend the rest of my life with her.”
Turlough placed his hand on Sean’s head. “Mo sheacht mbeannacht ort! (My seven blessings on you ) Then, meet yer new brothers and sisters and prepare for the ceremony. Ye have my blessing, Niamh... and ye do to, lad.”
“Thank you, sir,” Sean replied as Niamh stood on tiptoe to kiss the older man on the cheek.
“Thank you, Grandfather. We will prepare.”
“The ceremony will be at sunset. Ye’ve time ta be prepared...” She nodded, and stepped back, turning to the young people standing there. They were all dressed in the old style, the women in Leines with overdresses, the men in tunics and leggings. Their hair was long, the men wore earrings and torcs, the women earrings and chains. They all shared hair that was curly, and dark with reddish highlights, eyes that were shades of gold, and tall, lean bodies. That they were all siblings there was no doubt. They all seemed about the same age, which Sean was surprised at, yet he didn’t feel the need to question. Holding tightly to his hand, Niamh went to each of the young people, introducing them to him in turn, “My sisters, Ula and Muirin, and my brothers, Meryl, Morgan, and Innis . My sisters and brothers, my pledged one, Sean.”
The young people gathered round them, looking closely at Sean. Finally, Morgan questioned, “Are ye willin’ ta take care of our sister, fer the rest of yer lives? ‘Tis a marriage of the old ways, a handfast is, but ‘tis no less bindin’ than yer own ceremonies.”
“I want to take care of Niamh for the rest of my life,
Morgan. I will protect her and love her. Believe me.”
He clapped Sean on the shoulder, smiling for the first time. “Well, then, ‘brother’, ‘tis time ta begin the preparations…Ula, Muirin, take Niamh to the bath, while we take Sean.” A small person, Sean couldn’t tell if they were a child or an adult, suddenly appeared with a tray bearing seven cups. Morgan passed the cups around the group, till they all had one, then he raised it high.
“Ta our sister, and her betrothed, fertility, health and love. Slainte!” The seven cups met high in the air, clanking together, and the seven young people quickly drained them. The young men then turned to Sean, “Come, Brother! ‘tis time fer the rituals to begin!”
Sean found himself being led away from Niamh to a fairly large hut, that had large amounts of steam pouring from the circular hole in the roof. His head was fuzzy with the drink, and when he tried to speak, he found his words slightly slurred. He stopped and pointed, trying to ask a question, but unable to verbalize. He stood, wavering slightly, and Innis laughingly took his arm.
“The mead is a bit too much fer yer, eh, brother? Well, ye’ll be getting’ used ta it…Me sister has Granda’s receipt memorized. 'Tis a strong brew the old one makes! Come, lad!"
Innis clapped an arm over Sean’s shoulder, Morgan came up on the other side and slid an arm around his waist, lending further support to the shaky youth.
“Yer not one fer much drink, are ya lad?” asked Meryl, as he held the door for the trio. Sean shook his head slightly, very aware that too much movement would make him lose the contents of his stomach, something he did not want to do in front of his soon-to-be brothers-in-law..
“No…’ he squeaked, then cleared his throat. “I don’t… I mean, I haven’t…. Not yet…I…”
"'Tis fine, Sean. Just showin’ us what a youngster ya are!” He clapped him on the shoulder again, and gently pushed him through the door with his brothers. The warmth and steam of the cleansing hut was too much, and turning to the nearest pail, Sean lost most of the mead he’d just drunk. Now weak-kneed, and embarrassed, he turned to the three men.
“I…I’m sorry… I hope that I didn’t spoil anything… I just…
just don’t drink.”
”Don’t worry yerself, Sean. We’ve all done just what you did. ‘Tis a lot fer ya an’ then the strong drink, well… not ta be worryin’. ‘Tis fine.” Innis reached for him, helping him stand straight. “I’m thinkin’ that this here steam will be makin’ ya feel better in a while. Off with yer shirt and trousers! Come on now!”
Sean stood, bewildered. Laughing, the three took off the shirt, none too easily, and helped him out of his boots and trousers. Just as quickly, they stripped off their own clothes, and led him into the pool in the center of the hut. On four sides, there were indentations in the stone of the pool, that served as seats, as they eased themselves into the warm water. Sean leaned his head back, allowing himself the release of just sitting and letting his body relax. The three brothers talked quietly amongst themselves for a while, until Sean felt hands pulling at him. He realized that he had fallen asleep in the water, and looking at the men, saw them standing, and pulling him to his feet.
“Come on, Lad. ‘Tis time fer yer ta be bathed. The women are waiting.”
“Women?!” His hands immediately went to cover his groin and the brothers laughed again. “There’s no need fer that kind of modesty here. We’re all a family. We’ve seen the others’ bodies often enough. Men and women. We’re aware of it all.”
“Lad, the body’s a beautiful thing. There’s nay a need to be embarrassed by it. Look at us!” The three of them stood off, “Do we seem any different ta ya than when we had clothes on?”
“’Tis part of the ritual. The women come and bathe ya. While we watch…now, ‘tis a time fer the bathin’.” Morgan clapped his hands, and Muirin and Ula entered the chamber. They carried towels and a basket of things and were as naked as the men.
Sean flushed red, totally embarrassed, and not knowing what to do. The two young women looked carefully at him, and then moved toward him. He took several steps backward, and backed right into Meryl. Meryl gave him a slight shove forward. He stumbled and almost fell into the women. They giggled, and then each took an arm, and led him into the center of the pool. Each took a soft cloth, and what looked like soap and began to lather the cloths, then touched it to him, and began to wash and lather his body. In a small part of his mind, he realized that he could do nothing but allow this to go on, so he relaxed, and listened to the men and women, as he was bathed.
At one point, Muirin touched a spot on his hip and he jumped, crying out in some pain.
“Oh! Brother! I’m sorry. I didna realize the place was sore!”
He touched her head slightly, “It’s okay! I didn’t know I’d
hurt myself!” He leaned to look at his hip and was surprised at what he saw
where the girl had touched. He had a tattoo! He didn’t remember ever getting it,
and wondered. “I… I don’t remember…what is that?”
"'Tis a tattoo, brother, one that matches Niamh’s. Ye’ve the symbol of fertility and love worn there. ‘tis part of the ritual…” She touched it lightly with a fine oil, “There, that’s a balm to make it feel better.”
He was surprised, for it did suddenly feel better… the pain quickly went away, and he smiled his gratitude at his soon-to-be sister. “Thank you…Sister.”
Muirin smiled back at him. “Yer welcome, Brother.” She stood, and together with Ula, reached into the basket, each taking a flask. They poured the contents into their hands, and began to massage his body with it. They both smiled as he began to show signs of a growing erection, and quickly finished their ministrations.
Standing, each one kissed him and left. Befuddled by the remains of the mead in his system, the warmth of the steamy hut, and the bath, he looked at Morgan. “I… don’t understand…”
“That’s not what ya need ta do, Sean. Ya just need to follow what yer told ta do… now, here, ‘tis time fer us all ta be getting ready. I’m sure our sister is anxious for the ceremony ta begin,” he elbowed Meryl and Innis, “She’ll not be disappointed, eh, lads?”
Sean reddened with the implication, suddenly conscious of his nudity and that of the other men. Meryl stepped next to him, and draped an arm around his shoulder. “Sean, there’s nothin’ secret in a family such as ours. And we just want ya ta know, we do approve. Now, let’s get ya dressed, laddie. ‘tis a big moment comin’ in a bit!”
He nodded and the three men moved to a pile of fabric robes, taking a white robe, and handing it to Sean. For a moment, the young man fingered the fabric, then he watched as the other men took theirs and slid them over their heads. He noted that the other men’s were soft heather colors, while the one handed him was soft white. He looked at the other men, and Meryl smiled at him, a sly, conspiratorial smile. “Yer the bridegroom, lad… Ye’ve got ta wear the white. There’s many reasons. Don’t worry yer head. Just go along with us, we’ll not desert ya, will we, brothers?”
Sean sighed, suddenly aware of the step he was taking, and just as suddenly aware of the absence of his parents.
“What is it, Sean?” Morgan and Innis moved toward him, wrapping belts of cord about the waists of their robes.
“I… I was just thinking of my parents…How they should be …”
“Be here, lad? Well, if they were here, now, would you be about ta be wed ta our sister? Would they be here ta celebrate?”
Sean shook his head woefully, “No, they wouldn’t
understand. I love her but…they’ll think that I’m too young and they wouldn’t
”Well, brother Sean, we are yer family then, and we do want you to be with our sister. So, put yer robe on, and let’s get ya and our sister wed!” He found Meryl pressing a goblet into his hand and looked, remembering his recent experience with the mead. “It’s a light wine, Lad. Some herbs and fruit. Twill steady the stomach, not rile it…”
Cautiously, Sean sniffed the wine, and then sipped it.
“See? ‘Tis mild, and sweet…”
“Yes, yes it is…” he sipped a bit more, and then took two healthy swigs, finishing it.
“Yes, it’s really quite good!” He handed the goblet to Innis, and Morgan and Meryl stood smiling back at him, waiting, it seemed for something. Finally, Morgan asked, “Are ya not goin’ ta put the robe on? I know that Niamh is anxious fer the beddin’, but ye’d best put the robe on fer the ceremony, I’m thinkin’.” The others laughed, and once again, Sean reddened, hastily pulling the robe over his head and getting caught in the sleeves. Once he pulled them straight, he looked at the others.
“Better, Lad…much better.” Meryl handed him silken cord of seven colors for a belt, and they handed him soft, white leather slippers and a wreath of myrtle. Once again, he looked at them, questioning.
“I know what to do with the shoes and belt, but this?” He held the wreath out.
“‘Tis fer yer head, yer dunce! Don’t ye and yours know the blessings that Myrtle brings fer the male? ‘tis a blessing!!! Yer ta wear it fer the ceremony.” Morgan took it and placed it on Sean’s head. He took several steps back, and looked at the young man, and smiled. “Well, yer as ready as we kin get ya, Sean mac Muir. We toast ya, brother!”
They handed him another goblet, and then raising their own to their lips, the four drank quickly of the sweetened wine. Taking him by the arm, they led him out of the hut.
Sean looked about, the woods around taking on a blurred softness, from the wine and herbs. Everything looked softer, and he barely heard the soft hum of the sudden crowd of people that surrounded the path and the circle in the center of the compound. The brothers led him to the center of the circle, where Turlough, the Druid stood, waiting. He looked at the young man, and nodded, gesturing him to the center, on his right. The three brothers stood beside him, as they turned and waited for Niamh to come…
Niamh, daughter of the dark and of the sea stood at the doorway to hut, waiting for her sisters to lead her. She had been born for this time - not for the last one, that time on the island that she had met the mortal that was her father. That had truly been a time of the dark, and she knew, when it was over, that there was another path for her to follow. Turlough had promised her that. She was a princess, her mother had been a princess and follower of the old ones. The path her mother had chosen was not Niamh’s and she wanted the light, to follow the old ones to another plane, to the one with the light. Turlough had promised that this was the way. She smiled. Sean was a fine lad. They would bed well, she was sure. He was good and handsome, and they would be good together, for however long it was to be.
Ula placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, “Are you ready, sister?”
Niamh smiled and nodded while Ula and Muirin fussed at the sheer white gown that she was wearing. It hid none of her body, only serving to frame her gentle beauty. The neckline, slightly gathered, hung low to the breasts, the rosy tips of her nipples standing clearly thru the fabric, the darkness of her womanhood also clearly visible thru the folds of the material. Her long hair hung in waves to below her knees, a wreath of anise, damiana, lotus, roses and myrtle on her head. The tattoo on her hip, signs of the god and goddess, that matched the one on Sean, seemed to shine and pulse in the fading light of the afternoon. The women tied a belt of multicolored cord around her waist, each of them murmuring soft blessings as they wrapped it three times around her waist. The seven colors of the cord were blended for their meaning in the ceremony; dark blue for a safe journey and longevity; light blue for understanding and patience; pink for romance, honor and happiness; green for health, luck and fertility; red for courage, passion and strength; yellow for wisdom and harmony, and white for peace, sincerity, and devotion; the knot was tied in a special pattern, again to bring love and fertility.
“Yes, Ula, I am ready. It is time I take a husband.”
”Yes, Sister, that and more…”
She nodded. “He waits at the circle.”
Muirin smiled, “He will not disappoint you, Sister. He is a fine specimen. Very fine…”
“Aye, he is that! Yer a lucky one, Sister,” Ula added, smiling at the young woman. “‘Tis fittin’ that you be the one ta have him. Yer well matched, tho’ he knows none of it. Turlough was right about that, ya know. Yer well matched indeed.”
“As much as I desire him, I know that my desires are not what is important. It is what is predicted. Nothing more or less. We will have what we will have in the time we are given. It makes me happy, and I do care for him, sisters. He is a sweet boy…” She smiled a knowing smile, “Soon to be a man, I think.” Suddenly, her face reflected her age, tho her form did not change, “I will teach him much in the time we will share. ‘Tis learnin’ he’ll carry with him fer the rest of his life.” She looked at her sisters, “I may never have been a bride, but in the years we have been here, I have learned much, as we all have. Soon your turns will come and you will find your partners and share a handfast.” Her smile turned sweet once again, “Let us go… my future partner waits.”
The women nodded and they each took an arm, leading her from the hut. The chanting of the assemblage grew stronger and louder as Niamh was led to the circle. Turlough was standing in the center, with Sean at his right, and her brothers behind him. The altar that stood in back of Turlough was covered with items that were part of the ritual.
Sean looked at Niamh, a smile spreading across his face as she approached. She returned his smile with one of her own, looking at his body, as clear as hers beneath his own transparent robe. She smiled at the evidence of his growing desire for her beneath the robe.
He took Niamh’s hand as she entered the circle, and holding hands they stood before the old druid. He raised his hands high over the couple in front of him, and in a gesture of blessing, took the sacred athame, and holding it high, cast a circle. He dropped his hands and reached to the altar, taking the incense and blessed the four points, and the couple in front of him.
“In this sacred circle of Light, the blessings of the God and Goddess be on all of you and on the couple that stands before us here. We gather in the presence of this company, and the presence the God and Goddess to begin the blessings of this man and woman, who desire to commit to one another in the old ways of our people. We ask the God and Goddess to see them bound in love, joy, and fertility. Blessed be the powers that bring them here, and begin their journey as one, together, bound by blood and more.”
The druid turned to the altar and took a bowl from it, turning back to Sean and Niamh. He let each of them place their hands over it, and intoned, “ Here is salt and soil, the elements of life. Blessed be these elements of the earth.”
Turning Sean and Niamh to face the east, he rang the bell three times, and smudged their foreheads with incense. “Blessed are you by these elements of air.”
He then turned them to face the south and handed each of them a candle, in their right hands. He lit the candles, and holding the ceremonial wand above their hands, he said, "Blessed are you by the ancient element of fire.” He then faced them west and sprinkled water from the goblet over them. “Blessed are you by the holy elements of water.” He took the candles from them and finally faced them to the west. He anointed their foreheads with rose oil and then held the sacred crystal above them. “May the goddess and her horned consort bring ye both together in honest and love, for as long as ye shall choose to live in this sacred union, with love and respect for the all that is sacred in the male and the female.”
He then took two rings from the altar and blessed them with salt and water, handing them to each to place on the other’s fingers. Slowly and carefully, they placed the rings on the ring finger of the left hand of each other, then turned back to face the druid. Turlough took the athame from the altar, sprinkled it with salt and water, and blessed it, then looked to Sean and Niamh, “Your left arms, to the Goddess.”
They each raised their left arms to him, and he lightly cut each wrist, and turned and held the cut arms to each other. He was handed the silken cord of seven colors, and bound their wrists tightly together, blessing them with, “By the blood of your bodies, now blended and one, and by the power of the Goddess and her consort, I pronounce that ye are bound and blessed as long as ye shall choose to live together in love. Blessed be ye…”
He took their left arms, raised them high, and declared, “Niamh and Sean mac Muir, blessed and bound, now for all to bless.”
The assembled witnesses, led by Niamh’s brothers and sisters, cried aloud, “Blessed be ye, blessed be ye!!” and then began applauding as the couple was led to a flower covered hut, at the other end of the compound. In front of the door, their gowns were removed, and they were then led into the hut…
Ehwaz – the Sacred Horse – Fertility
Inside the hut, Sean looked around. His mind was fuzzy, and while he knew that he and Niamh had been wed, he still couldn’t focus on the details. It was if it all was a dream. A dream in which he now stood naked and bound to a beautiful woman, who was also naked, in the midst of a group of people. They were handed goblets of wine, three of them, and urged to drink and then drink again. Amidst much laughing and joking, they were then led to a large feather bed, and urged into it. As he touched Niamh in order to help her down, he became very aware that all he wanted to do was to make love to her, and that he wanted to do it...now.
“Sean, Mo mhíle stór, Tá áthas orm. (My darling, I am happy), she murmured in his ear, then clamped her lips on his in a deep, passionate kiss. He readily returned the kiss, quickly becoming aroused, and wanting only to roll her onto her back and take her. Somehow, however, he let her guide him, and their lovemaking was sweet and gentle, an exploration of one another, a learning, which, though passionate, remained something sweet, and when they had both climaxed and then slept, the witnesses left the hut, greeting Turlough as he waited outside.
“It is done, they are one in all ways, Grandfather. The curse of love is now to be fulfilled...”
“Well done, my children. Now go and rest, for the tests will begin with the new day, as the parents and the others will be here on the morrow. Much will happen... Go with my blessing...” he touched the head of each of the young people, and watched as they went off. Then he entered the hut, and bending low over the sleeping couple, gestured a blessing, and then removed the linen that they were laying on, the remains of their lovemaking staining the fabric. He took it and, casting a look back at them, left the hut.
He went to the altar and made a fire with birch wood and incense in the small cauldron that rested there. Intent with what he was doing, he waved his hands over the fire, then held the fabric over the flame. Chanting, he murmured the prayers and then continued to chant as the fire hungrily ate the linen. Standing back on platform, he watched as the last bits of fabric were consumed by the flames and waved his hands once more, then quenched the fire.
Hagalaz – Destructive Forces
Sean Nelson sat, staring at the page in front of him. His anger with his parents, especially his father, was beyond bounds.
How could he?! How did he know what had happened? How could he have allowed all this to happen and then kept it from me for all these years? How could Mom have gone along with it?
He rose from the chair, throwing the book to the floor, and kicking it, so that he saw it slide under the footboard of the bed. He stormed over to the fireplace, the large wooden mantle dark and gleaming as he leaned against it, looking angrily at the portrait of his father, rolling the glass of scotch in his other hand.
The portrait had been painted after Harriman Nelson had received the Nobel Peace Prize and pictured Sean’s father in his dress blues in front of the main entrance to the Nelson Institute. It was a Nelson that Sean had not known, younger and more active, more involved in all of his activities than Sean remembered him. By the time that he was aware of his father, Harriman Nelson had slowed down somewhat, his age not reflecting all of his energy he still had stored, but was a different man than the one in the portrait.
In a classic gesture of anger and disbelief, he raised the glass to his father’s portrait.
“You’re a bastard, Dad, you know that? A goddamned, sonofabitch bastard. I was married!!! Married! To a girl I don’t remember! In a place I don’t remember. I don’t remember any of it. Any of it at all!! What the hell happened to her? To me? Dammit!! You’re not here and I can’t ask you. Who the hell were you? What the hell were you thinking? What the bloody fucking hell happened, you bastard?!”
He started to shake, his anger and fear of what had happened back then beginning to take its toll. The glass slid from his hand, and he found his frame folding into itself as he sank to the floor. A flash darted across his consciousness, fleeting and soft, a gentle touch, that momentarily calmed him…
‘Niamh!!’ he heard a light laugh, more like the soft tinkle of glass crystals, and his eyes scanned the room… He remembered!! He remembered her!! The loving eyes, the smile, young and old all at one time… He remembered her!!
He suddenly remembered it all!!!
Thurisaz – The Seeing of Things to Pass
Sean shifted on the feather bed, feeling warm and strange. His arms were wrapped around a warm, soft body that lay pressed against his. He lay there, aware for the first time of what it was like to hold a woman truly close, to be one with another. He felt the softness of her breasts pressing into his chest, the softness of her womanhood against which his member began to stir .
How many times can a couple make love in one night?
This had to be the third or fourth time he had wakened, and Niamh had, within a short time, wakened with him. They had explored each others bodies again and again, hampered in a way by the way their wrists remained bound, but challenged as well. They could not remove the cord themselves, or they would break the blessing of the handfast. In the morning, one of Niamh’s sisters and one of her brothers had to remove it.
She sighed and drew even closer to him, and he began to kiss her forehead, face and neck as he became more and more aroused. He gently rolled her onto her back, and sleepily, she stroked his chest with her right hand as she spread her legs and he entered her. She shifted slightly and he penetrated deeper then before, long slow strokes unhurriedly bringing her closer and closer to her peak, as he also approached his. She wrapped her legs around his body pulling him deeper inside, and he exploded within her, flooding her with his seed. He moaned in release, and she cried out softly as she also peaked. He lowered himself, pulling her to him, and settling on top of her, taking deep breaths to bring him closer to reality, from where he had just been.
“Mo rún” she murmured, kissing him passionately and allowing the kiss to linger.
She moved against him and he found himself getting aroused yet again. While showering her with kisses, he murmured in her hair, “You’re going to kill me, Niamh.” He crushed her lips with another kiss, and moved his lips to her neck, “But it’s been a wonderful night…”
She locked her fingers from her right hand into his hair, as his mouth began to nibble and suck at her breasts, her belly and her mons. As his tongue licked and his mouth nibbled at that most private of places, she writhed, moaning softly, “Mo rún! Oh, Goddess!!” Minutes later, she climaxed, crying out softly, then he mounted her again, pacing himself to bring her to yet another crest. As he felt her grip and seize him from within, he gave in to his baser instincts and found his own relief as he collasped on top of her. Shifting their bodies, so they remained tightly pressed to one another, yet on their sides, they wrapped arms and legs around one another and slept a dreamless sleep, until the agents of the gods again woke them to insatiable love.
Hagalaz – Destructive Forces
Lee Crane woke slowly, trying to bring himself into awareness.
Where is this? What the hell is going on? Shit! I’m getting way too old for all of this…
He moved slowly, body and mind gradually recognizing orders to various parts. With slow wariness, he opened his eyes. For a moment, he had the fear that he was, once again, blind. It was then that he realized that he was wrapped in a deep, grey, viscous fog. He reached out with one arm and found it was almost something he could touch and feel, yet the feeling was not something he was unfamiliar with. He had felt this kind of fog before, long ago… his memories of that time, tho vague, rushing back at him with such force that he cried out, only to have the cry muffled by the thickness around him. He rolled onto his side, years of training coming into use almost automatically. He placed his hands beneath him, and slowly pushed up, first to a sit, then to a crouch. Bending one knee, he began to take an assessment of his surroundings. There was very little he could see thru the grey, heavy, clogging thickness. He looked down, and realized that he no longer wore the uniform he’d left the office in. Instead, he was clad in soft, light brown breeches, high, soft brushed leather, boots, and a long, soft, linen shirt that was tied at the waist with a thin, woven leather belt. He sat, trying to take in all around him, and the clothing as well. Slow realization came to him, of memories of that time long ago, of a son, so evil that he didn’t care that he’d died; Of a place and time with the edges blurred, and of a time that had brought the Admiral and his friends so much pain, and himself, so much grief. He remembered the pain he’d felt in the cab, before he’d passed out, realizing that the pain was now gone, but also realizing what had caused it and the connection to here and now.
He heard a rustling of the leaves on the forest floor and looked up, seeing a form come out of the fog toward him. For some reason he wasn’t afraid of this apparition in the fog. Instead, he rose to his feet to greet it.
Turlough looked as he did on the island, a long flowing beard, and flowing robes. He carried a walking stick. Lee looked him up and down and said little.
Finally, the man, older than time itself, spoke in his slow and measured speech. “Greetings, sir. ‘Tis a long time since I’ve seen ya. From the looks of yer, the years have treated ya well.”
Lee nodded, waiting for the explanation he knew would be forthcoming.
“Sure and ye’ve questions fer this old bard. Go on, ask away….”
“All right. Where is this? How did I get here? And why the devil am I here?”
Turlough laughed, “Well, yer not one ta mince yer words. Harry isn’t either.”
“The Admiral’s here?!”
“Nay, but he’ll be arrivin’ shortly. I kin but guarantee it!”
“I… feel like I know you… but I don’t. We’ve never spoken…yet…”
“Ye do know me. We’ve met before. A long time ago. In another world...and with other purposes. Yer son, his mother, and yer other children were all there. As yer sons and daughters are here now. Yer daughter, Niamh, has wed the son of yer friend. ‘Tis part of the tale that began so long ago. Part of the easin’ of the curse of the evil Silve and her offspring,.”
Lee’s body shuddered with the onrush of memories and looked at the old man, his amber gold eyes filling with the pain and heartache if that time long ago. “You’re the druid. The one who started it all!”
“Nay, I dinna start it. It had been started long before. Long before...when we were driven from the world by the newcomers… Yer presence was merely to enable us to move on, to reclaim what had been taken from Us.”
Lee’s face was infinitely sad. “What about…” he asked in a voice that was barely above a whisper, “What about what was taken from me? My dignity, my self-esteem, my sense of who I was at the time? Didn’t that matter to you…to any of you?”
In a voice of no remorse or apology, the old druid stated, “Ye were merely to be the instrument. Ye weren’t supposed to live…jest give us the new leader and then seal the deed with yer death at the hand of yer friend. ‘Twas simple enough. And no, yer were only important in what ye could give us. And ye gave us many. Unfortunately the one who was to lead was a bad seed. His mother, so full of her power over him, and you, once you had escaped, which ye weren’t supposed to do, turned him to the darker side. But they are gone, so is their evil. And yer offspring, those that remained, are here. “
“They aren’t mine. I may have been forced to contribute the seed, but they aren’t my children. They’re yours. I have and want nothing to do with them. I have but one child, and he's safe, far from here, wherever this is.”
“Yer wrong, sir. He is also on his way here. He is the brother of the six here, and the brother of the heart of your friend’s son. That is a stronger pull than his blood tie to them. His presence is needed.”
“No! Leave him out of this. This is no concern of his!!”
Turlough shook his head. “Ye’ve nothing to say about it at all. This is to be what was started long ago. The lad will have a test of the heart and he’ll be needin’ all those that he loves to help him.”
“I don’t remember… What in hell are you talking about?”
Turlough moved towards him, walking slowly. He extended his hand to Lee.
Lee was confused. He knew he should hate this man, who had been at the center of the long ago ceremony that had created such havoc in all their lives, the time and circumstances that were continuing to do so, but he couldn’t. There were other more evil men to hate, and for some reason, this ‘man’ wasn’t evil. Lee knew that as intuitively as he had realized on some level that Lani wasn’t evil. Turlough caught Lee’s hand and arm in a welcoming grip, and as he did, he murmured some words in a tongue at once foreign and at the same time familiar.
“What did you say?”
“Twas a blessing, sir. Now sit and rest, and ease yer body. Twill be a long day and a longer night. Ye’ll be needin’ yer wits and needin’ em to be sharp about ye…” he waved his hand over Lee, and Crane began to feel strangely tired.
He rubbed at his eyes. “What… what did you do?”
“A bit of help to ease ya to sleep. Otherwise, ye’d be worryin’ yerself, and there’s nothing ye can do ta stop the chain of things…Rest, sir. Yer time is near…”
The fog thickened and surrounded Turlough and he seemed to become one with the thick greyness. Lee sat down, leaning back against the tree behind him. He closed his eyes, and soon fell into a deep sleep.
As he slept, the druid returned, and shook his head, “Aye, yer gonna be the one we need ta see that we are the winners here. Yer a good man, and badly used by my own hand, but ye’ve children here and that bond of blood is strong. We’ll see. There’s ta be great sorrow here. And I’ve no idea which among ye will be sorrowin’ an’ who’ll be rejoicin’, but the test will happen, and all that are needed will be here. Yer son, the one of yer mortal wife has a strong gift. I’m hopin’ it’s that strength that will give young Sean the power ta get through it all.”
He raised the blackthorn walking stick and moved it in the air in an intricate pattern, murmuring soft words all along. Then he drew it back, and holding it close, slowly melted into the fog…
Perthro – Things unexplainable
Chip Morton looked around. He was standing in a circle of stone, similar to the one he had been in years ago. The time on the Island in The Irish Sea. This time, however, it looked empty, cold… abandoned. Unlike the last two times. He shivered as the memories flooded back at him.
The memories… Of Lee Crane tied to the altar, of the women circling him, of the beings and creatures, and the ceremony… He shuddered again with the memories, then jumped as a hand fell onto his shoulder.
He turned, looking into a pair of old eyes, eyes that reflected events older than time itself.
A soft, low chuckle rolled towards him from the weathered face. “Easy, Lad. There’s no reason fer ya ta jump. I’ll not be hurtin’ ya. “
Chip turned around, facing the older man, “You’re the druid from the Island!”
Turlough took two steps backward, his robes flowing about him. “Aye, that I am, Lad. And yer the faithful friend. Yer the one person that Harry and Lee kin be leanin’ on. And the lad of Harry’s as well. Yer there, fer all of them, all the time. Yer a good man, and yer here because of that. Harry’s lad has wed, and the curse of the Island is about to completed. Yer needed here, as yer were years ago. ‘Tis not my wish, but the curse is to be concluded soon. Harry will be sorely tested, as will all of yer friends. Ye’ll be needed.”
“If you don’t want it to happen, then stop it. I’ve seen your powers, on the island. I know what you can do, with your magic. Make it stop. Now! Don’t let it go any further. Stop it!”
“Tis a nice wish, Lad, but that’s not the way of our world. Things set in motion must come ta their conclusion. They must end when they must. We’ve no power ta stop or change ‘em. Just know that ye’re needed here, and yer strength of love and friendship will help all of yer friends get thru this…”
"I don’t believe that you can’t stop this!! I’ve seen your power, what you can do!”
“Even I have limits, Lad. Once set in motion, a curse can’t be stopped, it can only be softened, as this one was long ago. Now it will end. And all, no matter who they are, or what they do, will have this pass from their memories, tucked away deep and forgotten, ne’er ta be called to the front of memory again.” He raised his stick, and Chip found himself feeling tired. He had questions, he wanted answers, but he slowly sank to the ground, fighting sleep, but ultimately succumbing to it.
Turlough waved his stick, and said to no one in particular, “This time, tis the endin’ that will make them all wonder, and wonder at it they will…”
He turned around twice, acknowledging the four winds, and slowly melted into the mists.
Raido – Journeys
Karen Nelson stood, confused and befuddled, and not liking the feeling in the least. She was used to complete awareness, cognizance of what was going on around her. Not so this time. The last thing she remembered was leaving the house with Harriman and getting into a car that he had called for. The driver had been a seemingly nice young man with a slight touch of an accent that she couldn’t place. They had gotten into the car, and Nelson had told the driver their destination. They sat back in the seats, each alone with their thoughts of their son, and the next thing that she knew, she was awakening here in this gray, murky forest. She had found herself curled on a soft, mossy mound, and her return to awareness was as slow as Lee Crane’s had been, although she wasn’t aware of that. Perception of her surroundings came in bits and pieces until she became fully aware of everything. Not that there was much to be aware of. Mossy mounds, large looming trees, and a grayness that enveloped everything filled her vision. She reached down to brush off her clothes as she stood, and found she was no longer wearing her own clothes. Instead, she wore a long soft gown of light brown and an overdress of lighter brown. Shaking her head in an attempt to clear it further, she looked around once more and saw a man materializing out of the fog. He was an old man, wrapped in old clothes from another time. He approached her with measured steps, and she waited, until he was but several feet from her. Somewhere in her mind, she knew that she should be afraid of this, of the unknown, but she had no fear for herself. She wanted to know where she was, where her husband and son were, and so many more things, but somehow she also knew she would finally get some answers from this man.
He stood in front of her, quietly appraising her, she doing the same to him. He stroked at his long beard, and then spoke to her. “Harry chose well. Yer strength flows from ye, madam.”
“You know my husband?! Where is he?” Her tone was soft and demanding.
“And yer full of spirit, too. Aye, young Sean has yer nature.”
“Sean! He’s here? Where?”
“Ye’ll have all the information ye need in good time, madam. Now be patient, tho’ I know that ‘s not yer nature, an’ I’ll tell ye what ye need to know. Nothin’ more or less.”
Her tone, cautious and still soft, was now steely and determined. “No, you will answer my questions...and you will do it now!”
Turlough laughed, “Aye, Harry’s met his match in ye, I’m wagerin’.” He laughed again, this time softer. “An’ ta answer yer questions, as best I can, yes, yer husband and son are both here. ‘Tis a day an’ a place a long time in coming. Yer husband knew long ago that this day would come. He knew and put the knowledge aside.”
“Harriman knew about all of this? What in God's name are you talking about?”
Turlough smiled a smile of ancient knowledge. “Madam, yer husband knew that the curse would be called to be completed, but he had no knowledge of when or where or how. He put it all from his mind…and in yer world, I canna blame him fer that. Nor canna I blame him fer not sharing with you that yer son was the one bearing it. It was something best forgotten and held aside until it was necessary ta deal with it.”
“A curse? But how and why was there…?” A look of remembrance suddenly crossed her face… “My God! The Island… Lee… That creature, that ‘son’ of the other world… there was a curse from then?”
“Aye, Madam. I see Harry did share with ye some of the events but not all. Therefore, ‘tis time ye knew. Ye see, the sidhe, Silve, cursed Harry and all his offspring, and said they would never have peace, happiness, or love. Silve was evil and I cast her from all worlds in all form. She no longer exists, be assured of that. But the curse remains until it comes to its end. I could soften it, but could not remove it. Therefore, yer son will face the fate that he has been promised. Ye and yers are here ta give him the conflict and support...and help him decide what path he will travel from here. He is married - handfast - to Niamh, the daughter of yer friend. They were wed yesterday and have shared this night. They are one, together in all ways, bound to each other, just as ye are to Harry. By Love. ‘Tis this love, and his love fer ye, that will face the tests when all are assembled. And that will be soon.”
Karen moved toward him and determined, stood before him. “You will take me to see my son and you will do it now. I want him to know what’s going on….”
“Nay. This cannot be undone, Madam. It was set in motion long ago, longer than you even can imagine. As fer your son, Sean is, and will continue to be, a worthy young man. Ye and yer husband have done right by him. He has given his heart to Niamh. She will always be a part of him, regardless of what transpires here and he will need yer guidance to live with the outcome.” A look of sadness flew across his face. “Madam, I am truly sorry for this. If I’d had my way, this would ne’er have been. Sean is a fine young man. A fine young man…”
“I still don’t understand this…” Karen stiffened and again, in an unwavering tone, “Regardless, take me to my son.”
“Yer understandin’ isn’t necessary, only yer presence. And now, ye must rest, fer I’ve a great deal more ta be doin’ afore the tests begin.” He reached for her hand and took it in his, “Rest now, Madam. When ye awake, ye’ll know a lot more…Rest.”
He waved his stick above her and she felt suddenly bone tired. She had more questions but not the energy to ask them. Turlough guided her to the mound she woke on and eased her down. Her eyes were refusing to remain open, her body felt leaden, and she sank gratefully to the ground. Her mind tried to protest, but to no avail, and she soon sank into deep slumber.
Turlough watched closely, and seeing her safe, shook his head sadly, then dissolved into the mist…
Perthro – Things unexplainable
One by one, the young people stepped forward saying their names. When they had finished introducing themselves, Turlough turned to them, “This be yer brother, Robert. Ye share the same Da, his mother was of their world, but he comes here because of the bond of love with yer ‘brother’, Sean. They don’t share the blood, but they have grown together as brothers and the bond is strong. At the time of the test, he will be needed.” To Robert, “Since last night, Sean is truly a brother, since he is now wed by handfast to yer sister, Niamh. She will meet ya later.”
Robert was in shock.
Brothers and sisters!!! How? Why didn’t Dad tell me? Sean married? What in all that’s holy is going on? I don’t believe him… I don’t believe him.. but…
Turlough watched the play of emotions on Robert Crane’s face. The young people were regarding him warily. “Here, Lad, come and meet yer kin.”
“No! I don't have any brothers and sisters! I don’t know what you’re talking about, but these …these people aren’t my family!”
“Lad, but they are. They are yer brothers and sisters, made in a night of ceremony, that yer Da has little recollection of. Now, look at these here, and tell me that you don’t see the face of family there."
Robert looked at the young people there. They were familiar, yet he knew he’d never met them, never knew any of them. They stood, as relaxed and confident with their place, as he was unsure of his at that moment.
“I do…see…the eyes, their hair…like mine, but not like mine… they, well, they resemble me… My father… ? Does he… did he know?”
“He knew, and the knowledge was removed soon after it all happened many years ago. He needed to forget it, forget this…forget the offspring and the way they were conceived. Harry saw to that. But yer Da remembered when we talked, so I’m thinkin’ the memories, buried tho they were, came back.”
“Yyyyeessss…” Robert stammered, remembering the day at the Nelsons' home many years before and the Admiral’s story of the island, and the tale that involved the Senior Staff years earlier than the time that the story was told. He remembered the haunted look on his father’s face for days after. “Yes, he remembered some time back. Something triggered the memory.. I don’t know what. But how…” He looked at the young people, so physically similar to him, “How could he not know…not want to know…”
“Lad, the way yer kin were brought about was through great pain fer yer father, and there was a second time, when he met some of them, the memories of that time, something that he will have to be sharin’ with ye.”
“You said he’s here… He’s nearby?”
“Aye… he is, and he is waitin’ fer the time to be for ye ta all be together.”
“I need to see him, to talk to him, now!”
The young people turned and retreated into the mist and Robert moved to follow. Turlough dropped his staff in front of him, “No, Lad, yer not leavin’ yet… ‘'Tis not the time.” He touched Robert’s forehead. Robert felt light-headed, suddenly dizzy and tired. “Rest, Lad. They’ll be time fer reunions… time to be with yer Da and yer friend…”
Robert took two steps and collapsed into a heap on the ground. Turlough waved the stick over him a second time, murmuring words, that the young man was unable to hear. He waved the stick again and then he, too, melted into the mist.
Thurisaz – The Seeing of Things to Pass
Harriman Nelson was, at the very least, confused. He and Karen had gotten into a car service car at their Boston house, and now he found himself here in what seemed only a matter of minutes. Karen was nowhere to be found. He had probed around the area. finding dead end after dead end. Every where he turned, it was as if he hit invisible walls. He could get no further than a seemingly invisible circle. Doggedly, he tried to get further from the center, and frustratingly found himself unable to. Exhausted, he finally sat in the center of the circle, and rested his head on his arms, which he supported by drawing his knees close to his chest. Breathing deeply, he finally lifted his head to find Turlough standing off from him, simply watching. Nelson rose to his feet, brushing at his pants, which he now noticed were coarse linen, as was his shirt.
“Aye, Harry… ‘Tis good ta be seein’ ya.”
“I wish I could say the same…” A sudden realization came and his face saddened. “It’s the curse, isn’t it??”
“Aye, ‘tis time fer the portents to fill their place. We’re about ta see the curse fulfilled.”
“Why here and now?”
“The omens are in their place… ‘tis time.” He paused. “Ye’ve a fine lad in Sean. A fine lad indeed. Niamh is content to be his wife. She will be a fine one to him, as he will be husband to her. “
“He’s far too young…”
“Nay, yer son is a man…in every way. The proof of it was on their wedding sheet.”
Harry charged toward the old druid, “Why you sonofa…!!!” He was forcibly stopped by the invisible barrier that stood between the druid and him. “I could...I could kill you… That’s my son!”
“Aye, Harry, and a fine lad he is. Ye’ve a fine wife, too. She’s a good match fer ya. Strong in spirit…and full of deep love fer you and yer son. Ye’ve done well, Harry. Very well. Just as I knew ye would.”
“Sean… You knew. You knew all those years ago on the Island. That he would be… But how…?”
“There are things that we see, things that we know without knowing how or why. I canna explain that to you… we just know. The ways are strong. The knowledge is there. I was just a conduit fer it.” He shook his head, “And now, now the time is come fer his test… a test of love. He’s already passed the first part. He’s freely given his heart ta Niamh. Now, he has to make the choices that the love forces upon him. Because of Silve and the curse.”
In a soft voice, Nelson asked, “Will he be harmed? Will you hurt him?”
“Nay, Harry, I will not do hurting … None of us will. Any hurt that will come will be from the decisions of the heart… and ye all will be a part of them. There will be three tests. He will make the decisions. He will find how strong love is, and how painful it 'tis also.”
“Turlough,” Nelson strongly protested, “He’s too young… he doesn’t need the hurt!! There’ll be enough hurt in his life.”
“‘Tis time he learns what it means to love with yer heart and soul. You know what that 'tis. You know that part of life well, Harry. And ye know the pain it can also bring. Now‘tis the lad’s turn.”
“You got him here and married him to that girl, and now…now what? You said they were married, man and wife…”
“Aye, that they are.” The Druid waved his stick around the circle and the fog began to lift. “Ye’ll see them and yours in a while, Harry. Til then, ‘tis better that ye rest. I’m thinking ye’ll need yer strength.”
Suddenly sleepy…”No, wait! Karen!! Where is…Kar…en…?” He could fight the onrush of the dark no longer, and collapsed onto the small rise on near what was the center of the copse of trees that were slowly becoming visible in as the fog melted away.
Isa - Ice and Freezing
Caitlin Crane was perplexed. She had followed Chip Morton off the plane, stepped to the tarmac, and now found herself surrounded by woods and fog. The change was sudden, abrupt, and she had no idea what had happened. She could barely see for the fog, and now she thought for sure she heard voices and the sounds of animals in a forest.
No, it can’t be!! This is the private landing strip at Logan…Forest animals!! Okay, you’re losing it, Caitlin!
She took several steps, and looked down. Instead of blacktop, her shoes were resting on dirt, grass, leaves and the debris one would find on the forest floor.
All right, girl, now it’s really getting weird. Where the hell am I?
She looked around, then called aloud, “Chip!!! Chip!! Where are you?” She waited, hoping for an answer, and got nothing but the soft sounds of the forest, and the accompanying lack of a response from the man she had seen not five minutes before. “Chip!!” she called more sharply, and waited. She called his name a third time, stifling the unease that was building inside. She didn’t like not to know what was going on. She turned around once, completing a circle, completely lost . as she began to turn again a soft voice broke through the surrounding quietl
“Ye’ll nay find him here, madame.”
She jumped. “Who are you? Where did you come from?... And
where in the hell is this?"
The old man smiled. The wrinkles on his face were layered, the old blue eyes smiling as much as the face. ”Aye, yer are yer mother’s daughter, I’ve no doubt of that.”
“How do you know who I am? I asked you, where the hell am I?”
“Aye, like her, the questions don’t stop. I’ll tell
ye what ye have ta know… Tis only fair since yer not here by choice, but
design… It has ta do with yer brother and his handfast wife.”
”Wife!! He has no wife. He’s seventeen.”
“Well, there ye’re wrong, madame. He’s a wife, a fine one, handfast but a night ago, in a ceremony here. So’s some of yer questions will be answered, I am Turlough, of the Island. Grandsire of the handfast wife of your brother. The daughter of yer husband.”
“Sean married one of those creatures? One from that time that you…you used Lee?” She stood, balling her fists in anger. "How could you do this to him, to us?”
“I’ve done nothing, madame, but allow all to pass as it must. This must be, yer brother must be wed to make the tests valid. He’s nay a boy, but a man, and yer all about ta witness that. He’s a fine man, too. An’ he’ll be carryin’ the lessons he learns here ta his future, makin’ him a leader ye’ll all be proud of.”
“I don’t want to be proud of him, I want him to be safe!! Let us all get out of here, Turlough of the Island,” she demanded.
“Nay, Madame. Yer wishin’ fer somethin’ that yer not able ta have. The curse has to work its’ way ta the end. Tis the way it was meant ta be. Ye’re here fer yer mother and brother and husband. Yer’re here for the love of the child of yer heart. They’re needin’ yer strength and faith. Yer the one that will carry this event ta its conclusion with a clearer head than the others. Tis yer way..”
“I don’t understand…”
”Ye don’t need to. Just be who you are, Madame. Follow your heart, in spite of its pain. Know that those that love you have given it to you to hold and care for. And know that in spite of what went on on the island years ago, yer husband holds you, and only you, in his heart.” He waved his stick high. “Now rest, Madame. Yer time is soon.”
Caitlin felt suddenly tired, “No. Wait… I … want….” She folded into the soft mound that she had been standing on as Turlough walked off into the forest, the fog and mists swirling about him, aiding in his slow disappearance.
Mannaz- the Nature of Humankind
Sean stretched out slowly. He ached. Not in a bad way, but he was sore. It wasn’t painful, just different. He sighed slowly and moved, feeling the soft warmth of Niamh as she had folded herself into his body. It felt good, right. He pulled her closer, drawing his finger down the curve of her body. She sighed sleepily, relaxed in his embrace. He was content to lie here and hold her. He’d be happy to do this the rest of his life. He would be content to stay here forever.
The image of his father, charging across the foyer of the Admin building at home suddenly flashed across his consciousness. He suddenly coughed and shook the bed. A wave of guilt rushed over him, the many layers of unhappiness within himself slowly unfolding. He wished that his parents could have been at his wedding. He loved his parents more than anything in the world, except now for Niamh. He wished RC, Lee and Caitlin, Chip… all his family could have been with him. He wanted them to know the happiness he felt. He wanted to share that with them all. But they weren’t here, and he didn’t know when he would see them again.
He pulled Niamh closer still and she began to awake, smiling at him with the drowsy warmth of first awareness…He placed the dishes back on the small table. “Okay, I will. It just seems strange. I’m used to helping…”
“Not fer now, Sean. Sit, I’ll be done in a few minutes.”He lowered his youthful frame onto a stool, next to the fireplace, and watched her as she collected the crockery, and the utensils. She placed them in a large bucket and went to the fireplace, taking the smaller pot still on the fire and pouring the hot water over it. Finished, she went to Sean and sat on his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck, and kissing him lightly.
He sighed. “I mean it, you know. I could stay here all my life. Just you and me, like this…it’s contentment. With you in my arms, I’m content.”She laid her head on his shoulder, “And I am, too,
He kissed the top of her head and lightly drew his fingers down her arm. She snuggled closer, her eyes closing.Outside the tiny hut, the birds chirped lightly, the sun shone brightly and a soft, vaporous mist lay on the ground. Slowly, the area that had been last night’s altar began to fill with people and beings. Quietly they assembled, waiting. From the center, Turlough moved to the door of the hut, surrounded by Niamh’s siblings. He nodded solemnly. “It is time,” he addressed no one in particular, but the five young men and women opened the door to the hut and entered.
Gazing for a moment at the couple resting at the fireplace, the five paused. This was what they all desired, now that they had seen the light, so far from the evil of that day on the island years ago. They also knew that it was something they were not destined to share until the final episode from long ago was resolved. This was the time of resolution. What the end would be was, for now, anyone’s guess.
"Sister,” Ula called. “Sister, Sean… ‘Tis time. Turlough awaits ya.”Niamh started and Sean sat up. Both of them rose, embarrassed at the sudden intrusion.
“‘Tis time fer it to begin, Niamh," Ula repeated.
Sean looked at her, puzzled at her comment.Niamh turned and explained, “‘Tis what we were brought together for, Mo rún. But ne’er doubt, in what is to come, that I have nothing but love in my heart fer ya.” She kissed him, long, hard and somewhat sadly. “Now, heart of my heart, we must go…”
Still not understanding, he followed her out the door, into the sunlight, and to Turlough…
A face in a memory…
Lee cried out and then his body went slack. Midhir stood, looked at those around him, and smiled yet again. He signaled one of the young women to come to the altar. She came carrying a goblet and raised Lee’s head, then held the goblet to his lips, pouring a small bit into his mouth. He coughed, and opened his mouth, and she slowly poured the liquid into his mouth, making sure he swallowed it all.
Lee looked at her, eyes glazed with pain. “Why?” he croaked. “Why are you doing this?!”
She ran a soft hand over his face. “Ta keep ya aware, so’s ya kin feel it all…ya need ta be aware … Da! And the potion assures ya will be…Da…” and then she leaned forward, and kissed him gently on the cheek. “I look forward ta meetin’ ya on the other side!”
“That night, the girl with the potion… it was you!”
Niamh flushed deep red, and dropped her head. Then she lifted it, and looked into Lee Crane’s eyes. “Aye, Da. It was me. I am forever sorry, and am askin’ yer forgiveness. We all did things that we should’na done that night. Will ya forgive me, Da?”
“No,” Crane softly replied, “I can’t. You knew what you were doing to me, and to my friends.” He looked at the young people, his ‘children’, “You all knew, and you also knew what Midhir was. Yet you all went along with what he was doing. You all participated in what he was trying to do. I won’t forgive you, any of you. I can’t. I don’t have that kind of forgiveness in me.” He looked back at Sean Nelson, who was still holding Niamh’s hand. “Sean, even though you’re my wife’s brother, you’re like a son to me. But you’re going to have to choose between this woman, and the family that you have at the Institute, your parents, Caitlin, Robert, Chip, myself… What happened to me, to all of us, and that even includes your own father, Sean…is something that can’t be forgiven. You heard part of the story when you were small, and saw the rainbow on the deck, and the Admiral told you the story. What really happened was very different from his story. It was…very horrible, and very, very evil. This man,” he gestured to Turlough, “was at the center of it all. And whatever comes of this, whatever is meant to come of it, he is the root of incredible pain and grief. And whatever happiness you’ve found with this girl, you should know that it comes from that!”
Sean had never seen Lee Crane this angry and hurting and it shot fear through his heart. Yet, he pulled Niamh closer to him, enfolding her in his arms to protect her.
“Sir…Lee, I… I can’t choose…Niamh… I love her…I’ve have loved her!… she is my wife.” He looked over toward a horrified Karen and Harriman Nelson, “Mom and Dad, all of you, you… you’re going to have to accept her…us… together. Or…or I’ll stay here with her and them.” He saw the pain and sorrow in the eyes of Crane and Robert, of his parents, and Caitlin and Chip. Robert reached out to him.
“Sean, for God's sake, think this through! You surely can’t mean this. You’ve only known her for what, a week… You’ve been part of our family for all of your life. This, what we all have is love, Sean! The love of a family for one another. Parent for child, sister and brother for one another. We’re family, Sean…family!!! Think about it!” Crane looked over at Karen and Harry, both in obvious pain at not being able to get to their son. “Look at them, Sean! Look at your mother and your father! Don’t you realize what you’re doing? Think about what you’re doing to them!”
Angrily, Sean replied, “Don’t you think I have?! Ever since Niamh and I met, ever since we decided to come here, its one of the only things I have been thinking about. But you know… this is my decision. Mine and mine alone!!! I’m the only one who had any input, because I knew how you all would be. That you’d be small and close-minded, and not want this for me…Well, you know what? I don’t care what you want for me! This is what I want! I want Niamh as my wife, and I have her. And that’s all, all that matters. You can all go home now, and live your lives. We have our own here, where I want to be, with my wife!” He pulled Niamh into his arms, lifting her, and carrying her back to the hut. He turned in the doorway, looking straight at Turlough, “And I mean that for all of you!!” He ducked, entered the hut, and slammed the door behind him.
Robert Crane looked sad, Lee Crane, defeated. Karen and Harriman Nelson, crushed. Chip Morton, totally confused.
The only one of the Institute ‘family’ rising against the seemingly incoming tide was Caitlin Davis Crane.
Caitlin was angry. Angry with her brother, angry with this old man who seemed to have so much control over all of them, and angry at the entire situation. Realizing that this was the being that caused Lee all the pain so long ago, and also realizing that there were indeed children of his, that straddled both worlds, she resolved to do something quickly, to get them all back on track, herself included.
This had been a huge blow, to see the evidence of Lee’s ability to father children, long before she knew him, before she had been intimate with him, long before she had even known him. The old sorcerer talked of seven children, one dead. From where she stood, they were handsome adults, much like RC, but with an aura that she couldn’t explain. One of them had married her brother…
She was seething inside as she looked at her husband and his look of anger, sadness, and confusion, all rolled into one. Then she looked over at her mother and the look on her face and in her eyes tore into her heart just as if a knife had been plunged into it.
Married!! There was no way on God’s green earth that Sean could be married. Hell, he’s not old enough to get married. He doesn’t know anything about marriage and love between husband and wife. He’s young, way too damn young, and if someone else didn’t stop this insanity, looks like I’m going to do it myself!
She was angry, frustrated and scared to death. When none of the others were able to make a move to stop this, ignoring the creatures and beings around her, Caitlin Davis Crane charged through the gathering, pushed past the Druid, and Lee’s children and marched to the door of the hut. She banged on it three times, with the third strike, shouting, “Sean Pearce Nelson, get your sorry ass out here right now! Married or not, I’m telling you to show your sorry face. Get the hell out here. Now!”
Sean pulled the door of the hut open and stepped out into the sunlight. Under his protective arm, Niamh stood close. In a voice that was soft, belying his own anger, but with an attitude of youthful arrogance, he responded with, “Hello, Caitlin. You knocked? I’d like you to take a moment to meet my wife… Niamh, this is my sister, Caitlin, who, if what Turlough said is true, also makes her your step-mother. Caitlin, this is my wife, Niamh, whose mother was a princess, and that makes her a princess as well. …Understand that. My wife! Now you had something that you wanted to say?”
Caitlin looked at the young woman, briefly, seeing the cascading, long curly reddish brown hair, and the golden hazel eyes flecked with green. She was, suddenly, quite jealous. Knowing how the girl had been conceived did not stop the jealousy at the fact that another woman, many women, had borne Lee’s children.
Stop this, Caitlin! Get on with the matters at hand, and you can deal with your feelings later…Right now, there's more important things to be done here...
Nodding to Niamh, she turned her attention to Sean. “Look, I really don’t care if I hurt your feelings or not. We all have to leave here, now. All of us…including Niamh, if she wants to go. But we have to leave. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t know how I got here, or even where here is. But I know we have to go now. You and I and Mom and HN can argue later, but something is telling me that we all have to leave now!! Niamh, you come with us, too!” She pulled on Sean’s arm, tugging to get him moving with her. She turned to Lee and Robert, “RC! Lee! Come on, let’s get moving!”
Turlough moved towards them, reaching for Caitlin’s arm. “Nay, Madame, ya must take yer place with the others. It is not time for any of you ta leave.”
“Well, sir…whatever, or whoever, you are… it is time for us to leave, and we’re going now… I don’t know where we’re going, but we are leaving.”
“Nay, Madame, ye are not! Now, be silent, and return to your place, or ye will nay be happy with the result.”
Mustering every bit of courage she could, she attempted to stand Turlough down, but with a wave of his staff, she suddenly felt herself compelled to move toward Lee and Robert, stopping next to her husband, and finding herself rooted there. Lee slid an arm around her waist, in an attempt to calm her, but she would not be calmed down. Someone had to do something to stop this…whatever it was that was going on!!! She tried to speak, but suddenly found her voice gone, as if she had laryngitis. She wanted to move toward her brother, but was unable to leave her husband’s side.
Fighting the internal panic, she turned to see her mother and Nelson, behind them and to her left. Both looked stricken, totally devastated by Sean’s words. But there was more. Karen’s color had paled and she seemed to be leaning on Nelson for support. She looked… weakened. And that frightened Caitlin even more. She touched Lee’s arm and he turned to look.
At that moment, Turlough spoke, “There’s nay a thing that ye can do fer now, Madame. Ye’ve other things that need yer attention. Yer Ma and her husband have their own battles ta fight. They’ve lost the first round, as yer brother chose his wife over all of ya. He knew jest what he was doing and he made his stand.” He nodded at Sean and Niamh. “They have chosen each other and made a handfast. They are one. Now ye all must see where the path takes ya.” He raised his staff, and Sean and Niamh were engulfed in a swirling mist. From the woods surrounding the circle, the mists flowed and eddied, beginning to surround the people and beings in the circle. Turlough spoke again, “All of ye, the time has come… The tests begin. We will watch and see what the results are. The goddess is watching…”
The entire circle was engulfed in the mists, no one visible unless they were standing next to one another. Caitlin reached for Lee and Robert, holding tightly to their hands. Nelson held tightly to Karen, and Chip watched, and waited, knowing that somehow, he would find the others and do what he could to help end this horror.
Shortly afterward, a clearing….
The tendrils of the mists slowly pulled away, and left dappled sunlight in a pattern on the ground in the small clearing. Nelson found himself holding his wife tightly to his chest. A soft sigh, and Karen’s head suddenly lolled forward, onto his chest. He knelt down, gently lowering her with him. Not knowing what caused her sudden loss of consciousness, he held her, easing the both of them to the ground. He found a large rock behind him, and leaned into it, pillowing Karen’s head on his shoulder, and just holding her close. Her steady, even breathing reassured him somewhat, but he was puzzled and, yes, frightened by this sudden turn of events. Karen was the strong one, the one who, even when she was hurt, was full of piss and vinegar. Her collapse and unconsciousness for no apparent reason had appalling implications to him, especially considering where they were and what was going on.
Sean! His son was married. Married to some female, one of Lee’s ‘daughters’ from that time so long ago…that time that caused his friend so very much pain. The horror of that time washed over him yet again… the horror and the secret that he had kept from Karen, the secret that Sean was ‘cursed’ from before he’d been conceived. He, like the other men, had filed the incident away…pushed it far from conscious and unconscious memory of that time. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the ‘Rainbow’ story on the deck, when Sean was five years old. It was then that the Sidhe’s curse, and the Druid’s ‘softening’ of it, came rushing back to his consciousness. It was a moment of one of his deepest regrets, as he brushed the curls of his son, knowing that somewhere, somehow in his future was a time of trial and difficulty that he, ‘the Great Harriman Nelson,’ could do nothing about.
Harry shook his head wearily. This was the time and the place. He just hadn’t counted on Karen being part of it. He should have, knowing his wife, but he hadn’t thought much about it…Until Sean had disappeared, and then he knew, he knew with all the certainty that his years had given him, that this was the time. His son was paying for his father’s involvement in yet one more ‘incident’.
He looked at Karen. Her face was pale, the pulse in her neck slow. He had no idea what was wrong, what had happened. And he had no way to fix it. There was nothing he could do. Helplessness washed over him. No! He wasn’t going to let this happen. Not without fighting. For his wife, for his son. He had to do something!!!
Then, in front of his eyes, Turlough appeared in the center of a cloud of mist. He nodded slightly towards Harry. Instinctively, Nelson pulled Karen into a tighter embrace, to protect her.
“I’m sorry, Harry, but there’s na a thing ya ken do. By
choosin’ his handfast wife over his parents, yer son has begun the slow death of
his ma. There’s nothin’ that can be done about it. Each time he chooses Niamh
over yer wife, she will weaken more. At some point, she will, simply, die. And
then you will follow. His choice will cause yer deaths. And if he should change
his mind and chose ye instead of Niamh, then she will perish. ‘Tis the test of
love, and the choices that he makes will determine who lives or dies.”
Nelson looked up angrily, "Lives or dies!!! What the hell kind of a choice is that? What kind of a test if you know what the outcome will be…?”
"Harry, it’s not the outcome that’s important… It’s how he fares in the test. The test of love, of family… that’s what matters.”
“You’re telling me it doesn’t matter whether my wife or that girl lives or dies? That all that matters is the decision that Sean makes. Nothing more or less?”
“Aye, ‘tis the decisions in love that are the test. Decisions he will remember the rest of his life. Ye’ve made them yerself, did ye not, Harry?”
“And what in the hell gives you that right to decide for him? Or for us?”
Turlough looked down at Nelson. “The love of a child for his mother is beyond measure, the love of a parent for that child is unconditional. And yet, at some point, when the child finds their life companion, they begin ta make decisions that alters the way they look at their parents. At some point, others supersede the parents place in the child’s heart.”
“No, Turlough. There you are wrong. There you don’t know humans and human love. The love of parent and child, each for the other is different than the love that a person has for their soulmate. I know that too well. It took me many years to find mine. I love my son beyond measure, but I love my wife beyond reason. I would rather die myself than chose between them. To my mind, that isn’t even a choice. My wife or my son? No, there is no choice. Therefore, I will take his place. He shouldn’t have to choose. I will make that choice, so he doesn’t have to.”
The old Druid shook his head and stood steadfast. “It isn’t yer choice ta make. He has to make it. His wife or his family. That’s what he will have to do. Fer now, hold her close. I don’t know how he will choose. Ye may not have much time left in yer mortal shells. Rest and wait, ‘tis all ye can do.”
“No!” but Nelson’s cry echoed on an empty space, the druid long gone. He held Karen close and, for the first time in a long time, he prayed for them all.
In another part of the forest…
Lee, Caitlin and Robert Crane watched the mist around them dissolve and evaporate. They found themselves in the middle of a deep forest, the green so dark and thick that there was very little sunlight that filtered through.
Robert and Lee, long trained in defensive stance, checked the growth around them for anything suspicious and untoward. Finding nothing at the moment, they moved back to the center, and to Caitlin. She still was unable to speak, as Turlough’s orders to be silent had taken on a real variant. Lee looked at his son and saw the hurt and anger in his face. He could say nothing to him about the others, for it was truly something he was also having a hard time becoming accustomed to. He saw the pain in his wife’s eyes as well.
“I… I don’t know what to say to the two of you. I’m
sorry for the hurt and pain, and the strangeness of the news. All I can tell you
is that I never thought that either one of you would ever, ever meet any of
them… I never wanted to see them again… I thought they were gone with the
island. And now, one of them is married to Sean. I still can’t believe he’d go
and hurt Karen and the Admiral like that. I just can’t believe it.”
”Until now, I never really believed any of that tale of the Admiral’s. I really thought it was something that he made up, something to entertain us that night. I never thought…Dad, what really did happen? The old man, the Druid, told me it was a ceremony… that you weren’t a willing participant. That they forced you to do things. Maybe he didn’t have a choice, Dad. Any more than you say you did. Maybe, just maybe, that’s the way we can get him out of this… if he didn’t have a choice. If he was ‘forced’ in whatever way they use magic in this place. He’s not that stupid, not that spontaneous. Sean wouldn’t do this, he just wouldn’t.”
Lee sighed as he stopped for a moment. “As to what happened, when we get out of here, I’ll tell you what I remember, which isn’t much. The Admiral and Chip can actually tell you more. All I can tell you right now is that I wasn’t a willing participant, and thinking of what happened to me chills me to the bone. As for Sean, apparently he did do it, Robert. And just as apparently, he’s happy with his decision.”
“Then we have no choice. We’ve got to make him unhappy with it.”
Caitlin was frustrated in that she couldn’t add anything to the conversation. Just as she agreed with some of what Lee and Robert were saying, she also disagreed. She didn’t believe that Sean had freely entered into the relationship with Niamh, without some sort of influence. She also believed, like Robert, that it had to do with magic and enchantments, more than ‘love’ but she didn’t completely discount love. She was, after all, only 17 herself when she first met Lee Crane and fell ‘in love’. She knew that it was possible, but also she knew her brother. And she honestly believed that he felt he was truly in love with the girl.
The girl. From what Lee had told her about the incident when Sean was five and RC was nine, the ‘children of the ceremony’ were teens long before the time of the story. They would be in their 40’s at least, if they aged as normal people did. But they had aged from birth to 18 or so in a year, so how old were they really? They looked to be in their early twenties, still too old for Sean…once again, the enchantments… or maybe some mortal/immortal offspring just didn’t age…
She pulled at her husband’s arm, mouthing the words, “let’s go” and moving her head in the direction of the forest. As she pulled, the reality that he wasn’t in uniform, but was rather in completely alien style of clothes struck her. The soft fabric and colors, along with the easy style made both of the Crane men look very different than they usually did. She couldn’t help but wonder, in spite of the seriousness of the situation, just how they felt in the clothes.
Lee took her hand in his, and they began to walk to the edge of the clearing, and then into the woods, with Robert following them a few feet behind, a ‘rear guard’ so to speak. They walked in silence, the men by choice, Caitlin’s forced on her, until they reached deep into the woods…
Chip Morton looked glumly around the tiny clearing he found himself in. It was a rocky area, near a cliff, and surrounded by boulders. Nearby was the sea, he could hear and smell it, and the familiar forms of seagulls in the distance reassured him he was indeed near one of his ‘first loves’. No matter what the circumstances, if he was near the sea, he was infinitely surer of himself than if he wasn’t.
He shuddered, wondering what he would do if he were in the Admiral and Karen’s shoes. He reasoned that, like he was sure they were, that he would be terrified beyond belief. He and Drew weren’t close like the Admiral and Sean, but they had as good a relationship as any father could have with a 15 year old son, when the father was at sea a good part of the year. He couldn’t imagine what he would feel or go through if Drew did something like Sean did.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts and did a reconnoiter of the site
Does the word ‘desolate’ apply here, Morton? Looks like a pretty desolate place. Only me and the seagulls.
He gazed inland towards the forested area, and made some mental calculations…
Looks like a good five mile hike over rocky terrain, if I intend to try and get back to where I was… at least five miles… Well, looks like you’ve a hike ahead of you, Chip, ‘ol boy! Not too bad, if the light holds and you’re careful. Damn…not a bit of shade to be found for a while… Oh well, let’s see what else that old man can throw at us. I’m keeping my eyes and my mind open with this. I've got to get back to the others. There's no telling what that old man has in store for them. And if it's anything like the last time, I've got to get there... Wherever 'there' is...and hope like hell I get there in time...
With a shrug of his shoulders, and a determined attitude, he began to climb towards the forest.
The Nelsons, later that afternoon…
It seemed to Harriman Nelson that hours had passed since the Druid had appeared to him. Yet, from what he could ascertain, the sun never seemed to move in the sky.
He shifted his position for at least the hundredth time. If the circumstances had been different, he wouldn’t have minded sitting in these woods, holding his wife in his arms. But his wife was unconscious and he didn’t know what was wrong with her. She wouldn’t come around no matter what he did. So he had to wait, and that was the hardest part of all of this… the waiting. He longed for Karen to open her eyes, to talk to him, even to get angry with him, but she remained lifeless. What was equally disturbing was that, according to the Druid, she could continue to grow weaker, and he would never know how or when. If only he could get to Sean to tell him what was happening… if only… if only, all those years ago, he hadn’t accepted the mission to that damned Island!!
He had to stop thinking of ‘if only’ and start thinking of what he was going to do to save the life of his wife and son. He had to think!!
He held Karen closer still, waiting, thinking, praying…and he began to grow tired as the mist began to swirl around and engulf them…
Hagalaz – Destructive Forces
On another plane, two spirits watched and celebrated the pain and hurt they were observing. Midhir Cillian and Silve, the Sidhe, watched the events that had been carefully planned by Turlough, the Druid, as they unfolded. And they were overjoyed at the sights they observed.
Banned by Turlough, their spirits sent beyond, the old man thought they had been done away with. However, the strength of the evil within them was so strong that their spirits remained on another plane, and with the awareness of few but the very beings that they were attuned to. Their evil, and the joint evil they shared, allowed for some influence on the proceedings in the ‘other’ world.
The power of the shared evil was also strong, and the two conspired to wreak havoc on Turlough’s careful plans. To make the things he planned go just enough awry to cause more pain. And the old druid would never know the influence they had. Never know, and never understand where his plans went wrong. The perfect plans for sweet and evil revenge. On Turlough and on all of them.
“Silve,” Midhir called for her attention. “Watch now… the boy’s final test…”
Perthro – Things unexplainable
The mists cleared and suddenly everyone stood in a circle of stone and trees. The circle was appointed with trees, at least four tall ones that stood at the four points of the compass, and a smaller post in the center of the four. The entire group materialized in the center of the trees. Nelson staggered momentarily with Karen’s dead weight suddenly in his arms, but then he steadied himself. The others all were standing. The only ones absent were Sean and Niamh…and Chip Morton.
Along the circumference of the circle, at points opposite the trees, stood several large boulders. Those boulders, grey and stained, held decades worth of moss and dark material to them. With Turlough, the children of the Ceremony also appeared, and with them a number of men, all dressed as the group.
With a nod from the druid, the men accompanied Turlough as he moved to the women. None of the Institute family was able to move, all seemed frozen in place, unable to move, to resist, to stop what was happening next. Two men moved to Caitlin, grasping her hands, and two more took Karen from Harry’s arms. They took them each to a tree. Caitlin willed her body to fight them, to struggle to be free, but to no avail. Lee tried to reach out, trying to stop them, but he and Harry, as well as Robert, were unable to prevent the women from being taken. All three had leaden limbs, and were unable to move or speak, much less fight.
And so, Lee watched, helpless as Caitlin’s wrists were tied high above her head to the tree, to a metal ring that seemed to have been there for centuries. Her ankles were bound as well, and then, tied in a similar manner, Karen, still unconscious, was bound tightly to the tree next to her daughter. Nelson watched his wife, anxious to see any sign at all that she was coming around. When there was still none, he looked back at the Druid.
Turlough’s face showed him nothing. Impassive, he watched as the women were bound to the trees, and then with a slight nod yet again, the children took each of the men, tying Lee and Robert to the same tree, and Nelson to a separate one.
Satisfied, Turlough then waited until the Children of the Ceremony stood about him.
Suddenly able to speak, once again, “Now what?” Nelson managed to spit out. “What the hell do you have planned now?”
“The second of the tests, Harry. Yer knowin’ that it’s all up ta the lad. His choices. Yer wife is already weakened by his first one, and fer that I am truly sorry. She’s a fine woman and worthy to be the lad’s ma. An’ you,” he addressed his remarks now to Crane, “Yer wife, the lad’s sister, she’s now part of this test. Like her Ma, if the lad should choose his wife o’er ye, she’ll weaken, and if in the final test, he chooses Niamh yet again, she, like her ma, will pass over.”
Appalled, Lee shouted, “You can’t!! You can’t play God with the lives of people.”
Turlough smiled a smile that was wise and knowing, “Ye, sir, have no knowledge of what goes on on other planes. Whose ta say whose god is the greater? The old ones, the Da Dannan help and guide us. Play god? Nay, ‘tis testing the worth of soul, who he is on this plane, and on others. You know what this is. T’was foretold at yer ceremony, twas softened ta this … fer yer own offspring and Harry’s had ta finish what was begun then. The evil is still here and love has ta make it die a final death.”
“Don’t be blaming the evil on others, old man. The evil is you, here and now, using two young people to justify taking the lives of others!” Robert cried out.
“Their lives were forfeit long ago, young one, on an altar, on a day all would like to have pass into the mists. But the day will not, nor will the events that followed. And for that reason, ye’re all here now… The lad is a fine one, as Niamh is a fine woman. His life looms great before him. He will do great things. But he must pass the test first. And if he does, he will be a stronger man for it, when the time comes that he’s needin’ the strength. And the time will come...”
With a voice suddenly soft, yet strong, “And if he doesn’t pass it? Then what?” Nelson did not want to know the answer, but he had to .
“If he fails the test, his life will not be forfeit. But others will. All those connected to him by blood will be forfeit. ‘Tis a high price, but one that the god and Goddess demands. The old ones are seeking justice. It may or may not come wi’ the lad. As it comes, it comes. Therefore, Harry, yer silence is required.” He looked at Lee, Robert and Caitlin, “As are all of yours. Fer he shall not know the price of winning or losing. He must follow his heart. None of ye kin help him in any way.”
He raised his hands to the sky and began to chant in a language as old as the earth itself. The clouds began to quickly gather, lightening shooting in it. Thunder began to rumble. The earth began to shake with the wind that began to howl. The Children of the Ceremony stood beside Turlough, their faces reflecting the unearthly light that burst around them…
Hagalaz – Destructive Forces
“Silve, watch. The Druid thinks he can stay the course. The boy and the woman come now… look. He doesn’t know what this will cost him. He doesn’t know the pain… Ah, but he will, and so will those mortals… they will pay for what they did to us… they will pay dearly…more than a life will be forfeit here…more than a life…”
Thurisaz – The Seeing of Things to Pass
In the midst of Turlough and the Children of the Ceremony, Sean and Niamh appeared. Sean looked stunned, whereas Niamh’s face was surreally calm. She wore the expression of someone who knew what was about to take place and had resolved to accept it. They held each other’s hands, and for all her serene appearance, Niamh’s hold on Sean tightened slightly. She knew what lay ahead for the both of them. He did not, but to her surprise, he did not question. He waited, for the Druid to speak to what was unfolding about them. If he saw his family and friends, he did not acknowledge them in any way; he just waited, holding more tightly to Niamh’s hand than before.
“Yer here, so’s the next of the tests are ta begin…”
Sean nodded, Niamh murmured, softly, “Aye”
Behind them, between the group from the Island and Sean’s family and friends, a ball of bright light began to form. In the midst of the ball, the colors began to coalesce, the colors growing deeper, the orange and reds, brighter, the entire ball of light, glowing fire-hot. All eyes, save Karen Nelson’s, were fixed on the ball, as it grew and expanded.
Karen came slowly around, finding herself bound to the tree, finding the others in her family and friends in the same circumstances. She looked about, saw Nelson and Caitlin, Lee and Robert. She noted that Chip was nowhere to be seen. She did all this quickly and then looked for the one person, so close to her heart, that she had not yet seen. Seeing the group clustered around the Druid, she tried to see if he was there, when a white light had burst in the center and from it, Sean and the girl, Niamh, appeared. Then, just as quickly, the ball of red-hot light began to form, and she watched as all eyes focused on the ball, all eyes except hers.
She watched her son. He, at 17, stood as tall as the other men, but he had a bearing that set him apart from the others. His hair looked longer than it ever had, his body, youthfully strong. He had an aura of maturity about him that she had never seen before and she saw he held the girl.
His wife! He married the girl… that’s the difference in him. He is a man, in all ways now.
A tear slid down her cheek, all of a sudden aware of the fact that he would never be her ‘little boy’ ever again. That scared her more than their present predicament.
He’s a man, with all the realization and control that goes with it. My son, a married man… But to what?
Watching him, she also began to accept the situation they were now in. She realized that it had something to do with the incident on the Island so long ago, and with the children that Lee had been forced to ‘father’. There was a sudden burst of heat, and an explosion of flame. Her attention was drawn to the center of the circle. From the flames, slowly, with almost painful movement, a glowing being began to unfold. Larger and larger it grew until it towered over the entire clearing, majestic, magnificent and totally terrifying.
The dragon drew itself into its full size, towering over the tallest of the trees, stories high. He flexed his red, leathery wings and flicked his tail, which, when impacted with a boulder, shattered it. Finding its voice, the creature reared its long head, its mouth opening and a long, flame issuing from it, along with its voice.
“Druid!!!!!! You dare to call me here!!!!”
Fearlessly, facing the mythic
creature with all the power that he controlled, Turlough responded, “Aye, my
Lord Drach, I have. Ye’ve been held til this day. An’ now, the time is here. ‘Tis time fer ye ta set the path ta rights.
The dragon rose to its full height, opened its mouth, spewing fire once again. As the last of the flames licked at his jaws, he looked down at Turlough. Although there was no way in which he could smile, his face took on a look that seemed dangerously close to an evil smile.
“Aye, Druid, I know the path, ye and yours set it movin’ years ago. That one…” he moved his head slowly toward Lee Crane, “That one was supposed ta be the one who would set our freedom from this plane in motion.” He swung his head low towards Lee, so close that Crane could smell the sulphur on his maw. He opened his mouth and Lee could see deep inside, the red, pointed teeth, the long, forked tongue, and Lee Crane shivered. There was something here that he had never dreamed of facing, and the momentary fear of it all washed over him. Then, he took hold of himself, and the amber-hazel eyes returned the gaze of the creature that peered at him, and he faced it, just as he had faced so many other beings in his life.
The dragon ran his tongue around his long jaw, and slowly, excruciatingly slowly, measured the human in front of him. “Ye’ve had fear of me, human, but yer not afeared anymore.”
“You’re wrong…I am afraid. If I said I had no fear, I’d be lying to you and to myself. If I wasn’t afraid, I’d be the most ridiculous of men.”
The dragon hissed. “Aye, that’s a truth yer sayin’.” He swung his head slowly around the circle of humans bound to the trees, and then swung back to face the druid. “So, where is the being that is the reason fer this?”
From the small group around Turlough, Sean Nelson stepped forward. “I believe it’s me you want.”
The dragon lowered its head, peering at Sean, “Yer nay but a boy…” he raised his head to Turlough, “This mortal can’t be the one ye ordained, 'tis too young he is…”
“He is the one. His youth is belied by the age of his soul. He is an old one, tho he knows it not. Nor do the parents.” He nodded toward Nelson and Karen, “ And after this, none will remember that. But in time, if he has his time, he will remember, and then he will know.”
“And for now?” the dragon hissed.
“Fer now, the lad is to take this second test, with ye, Lord Drach, bein’ the judge. As ye see it, it will be done.”
The dragon sat back on its
haunches, and its huge wings collapsed into themselves. He seemed to shrink in
size, and when done The Dragon dropped his head to look at the young man,
swinging his head back and forth in front of Sean.
“Yer nay afraid…are ye, lad?” the dragon rumbled, softly, heard only by Sean.
Calmly, “Frankly, I’m terrified. Denying it would do me no good, however, because I think that you'd know I'd be lying!”
The dragon raised his head, snorting, and spewing flames. After several moments, he dropped his head, with smoke still slowly dribbling from his nostrils and mouth, drew his head close to Sean. “Then yer smarter than most of yer kind. All of ye here seem ta be, if’n they’re smart, and yer knowin’ it." He then raised his head slightly and looked toward Turlough. "Then why am I here, Druid? Frightenin’ them I’m not!! What else are ye wantin’ me ta do if’n’ they already be afraid?”
Nearly choking on the smoke, Sean stood his ground. As the dragon turned his
attention back to Turlough, Niamh slid beside Sean, grabbing his hand and
holding it tightly. She bent her head to his and whispered, “Sean, Mo rún. Tá
grá agam duit.” (Sean, my love. I love you. I will always love you.)”
“And I you, Niamh. You are my love, my life. I understand now what my father and mother mean to one another. I now understand the love.”
She smiled at him, a smile that told him everything at once. And he pulled her close, and held her tighter, and they waited for whatever the fates would present them.
Their exchange was not lost on the Druid nor on the Dragon.
“Well, Old One, what is the meaning of the call? Why am I here?”
“Lord Drach, you know, it is to fulfill the test. The final one. To free us and them from that which binds us all here...”
The dragon moved his head in what could only be called a lazy nod… “Very well… they will all be used to finish the test. When it is o’er, then ye all will be free, fer in one way or another, it will be done.” He turned around slowly, gazing at all that were assembled. He returned his attention one more time to the Druid. “Very well, old man, it will be done as it is ordained.”
The dragon shrunk down in size one more time, now no taller than Sean. He sat on his haunches, and simply stared at the young couple. He then turned to the family members tied to the trees. The five had had their voices silenced by the druid, so they could say nothing or make no noise. He moved, slowly, toward the trees, passing each, checking each one out. He stopped, before Karen, and unhurriedly examined her. His great head moved up and down her form, with smoke occasionally drifting from his nostrils… He moved, somewhat awkwardly, around the tree, occasionally looking at Nelson or Robert, Lee or Caitlin. He finally shuffled back toward Sean and Niamh.
He carefully examined them, as he had Karen, then, nodding to Turlough, raised himself to his full height. He raised his head, as he now stood far higher than the trees, and fire spewed from his mouth as he spoke. “Do the deed, old man… I am ready! Ye’d best pray these mortals be!” And with that, he disappeared into a column of smoke and fire.
Turlough raised his hands to the sky, the children of the ceremony imitating his gesture. He began to chant in old Gaelic, the young people echoing his words. The earth began to shudder and groan, the sky darkening with clouds roiling and lightening flashing.
"Is é an rud is mó a fhoghlaimeoidh tú riamh ná grá a thabhairt agus grá a ghlacadh." (The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and to be loved in return.)
Teiwaz – Spiritual Warrior
He shot up in size, raised his head to, and then above, the blazing canopy. The fire had been burning but the trees did not. He slowly circled the area, eyes searching, his wings occasionally raising and lowering. Then, his head stopped circling and he seemed to focus in one direction. After staring there for a while, he shrunk down, addressing his comments to no one in particular.
“Aye, he comes. Now all I’ve ta do is decide if I want to wait for him to come or to begin without him.”
Looks were exchanged among those beneath him. Sean held to Niamh, as she now sat, leaning against him. The dragon let his large head droop around, looking at each of the humans beneath him. He slowly shook his head back and forth.
“Methinks, by the time he reaches here, I’ll be fair finished with ye.” He scanned them all again, and then he sighed, “Aye, I’ll be done. An he’s not needed here fer now. His need is for later...” He turned his attention back to Robert, who was still kneeling, cradling his arm, “Stand, human.”
Robert looked at the creature and slowly stood. He looked at his father and Caitlin, seeing that they had moved closer to one another.
“Go stand next ta yer Da and his woman.”
Robert slowly eased his way to Lee and Caitlin’s side, as Lee slowly stood, taking his arm, looking at it, and catching the look from his son that it could wait until later.
“Good, Ye’ve learned yer lesson,
even if it was a hard one.” He then turned to Nelson, who had inched his way to
his wife. “You, father of this lad, stand next ta yer wife. Woman, you stay
Nelson rose to his feet and walked the few feet to Karen’s side. He rested a hand gently on her shoulder and she covered it with one of her own. “What do you want of us? Of him?” he asked the creature.
“’Tis not what I want, little man. ‘Tis what is pre-ordained. The Old One warned ye years ago, when the ceremony failed, and ye were cursed. Ye were warned. Now ‘tis the time fer it to be.”
Karen clasped Harry’s hand tighter. In a weak but controlled voice, “You knew?”
He shook his head numbly, “Not how you think. And certainly not about this.”
He squeezed her hand tighter.
“Not now. I will tell you all I know, but not now.”
The Dragon turned to Sean and Niamh. “Princess of the Tir na Nog, go to the side of yer father and brother.” Sean helped her to her feet, and began to walk her towards Lee, when the Dragon bellowed, “No!!!”
Both stopped in their tracks.
Both sets of parents watched mutely.
“She must go to him alone, mortal. She must go alone!”
Niamh turned to Sean, whispered, “Mo ruin, my love, always and forever.” She kissed him lightly on his cheek, and went to Lee, Robert and Caitlin. Addressing Lee, “Da, I must stand with ye. It is ordained such. I beg yer forgiveness fer what I was an’ what I did, but that too was ordained. For me, there was no choice.”
Lee gritted teeth, and murmured, simply, “There are always choices. No matter what.”
“Nay, Da. There are times that there are none but what must be. That was a time, this is yet another. The decisions are made… there are always consequences, but not always choices.”
Lee shook his head, saddened by the circumstances, and uncertain of what was going to happen. Niamh smiled slightly at him, Caitlin and RC, and moved into the little group. That left Sean standing alone with his parents on one side of the Dragon, and the Cranes and Niamh on the other. If a dragon was capable of smiling, this one smiled. The reds and orange of his scales seemed to glow brighter in the flickering light of the overhead flames. He drew himself to a larger height, and spread his formidable wings to half open. Smoke spewed from his nostrils and mouth, and he remained in that position, for immeasurable moments, seeking to increase fear and intimidation.
Finally, he spoke, the smoke and small flames issuing from his mouth with each word. “So ye’ll know why ye’ve been brought here, so’s the word of the Old One, and the ways of the Old ones be known ta ya that have no idea, this is the final test of the young one. In times past, the Old Ones sought the power to return to this world, and drive the mortals from it. The Sidhe, Silve, birthed a son, begat on her during ‘the Ceremony of the Ages’, Midir Cillian. There were six others begat in the same way. The mortal provided the seed and was supposed to supply the power by his death at the hand of his closest friend. But the power of the friendship was stronger than the power of the old ones, and our leader was killed by this one…” he bent his head toward Nelson, “with the help of the one who is seeking this place as we speak. Silve cursed him. Turlough softened the curse, to one of a test of Love. ‘Tis the time fer the final part of the test. What love is stronger, love fer a parent, or love or love between man and woman? ‘Tis an age old question, one that each of us has ta answer in his own way, and live with the consequences of it.”
He swung his head around again, the small licks of flame. “Ye’re all here because of love. Now we’ll see the strength and level of the love.” He lowered his head to Niamh, “Princess, you are here because of what was destined in the ceremony. Ye’re here freely, are you not?”
“I’m here because of my love for my handfast mate...and because it is ordained.”
He lowered his head to Sean, “And you, human, you are here because of your handfast wife?”
“Yessir, I stand by her. For love of her.”
“And of those from which you came, human, what of them?”
Sean stammered, unsure of his answer, unsure of how the Dragon would take his answer. “Why, I love them, sir. I stand by them.”
“And your brother of the heart, his father and mate?”
“His mate is my sister. I stand by them, sir.”
“Then…ye must choose.” The
Dragon’s voice was a low rumble, his face, obscured by the smoke coming from his
nose and mouth. “One or the other, ye can nay have both. Fer the choice is what
will make more or less of a man of ye.”
There was a stunned silence. Sean shook his head. “I can’t choose. I want the both. Niamh and my family.”
“Tis not ta be…” the dragon growled. To Niamh, “Princess, step forth.” Niamh took several steps away from Lee. Then he looked at Nelson, “Human, take your woman, and set her apart from you, next to the Princess.”
Nelson started to protest, but Karen held his hand, as he helped her slowly stand, and she nodded to him as he walked her next to Niamh. She squeezed his hand again and he stepped back.
The Dragon nodded and then turned his head to Sean. “There, mortal. The women in yer life. Tis time to make yer choice.” He nodded again, “Ye need ta choose one or the other. Tis the test, as ye can’t have both.”
Sean stared at the women, noticing that Lee, Caitlin, RC and his father seemed to be behind some kind of iridescent wall, that prevented them from moving and if they were speaking, from being heard. Once again, they could only watch, helplessly, as Sean faced the Dragon and the decisions.
“I…I can’t, Dragon. I can’t
choose! I won’t.”
The Dragon raised his head and roared, “Address me with my title, mortal!!” and he sent a stream of flame at Sean’s feet.
Sean jumped back as the flame hit the grass in front of him, frying it to blackness. Sean pulled on his inner reserves, and stepped to the edge of the smoking grass. “Lord Drach, I can’t choose between my mother and my wife. That’s not a fair choice!”
“Mortal, there is no such thing as fair. Life, as ye see, as death, is never fair. And a test is never fair. And, mortal, this be a test.”
“I can’t choose!” The tone of Sean’s voice told all his anguish. “I can’t do it! I won’t!”
“Then, I’ll make ya choose, mortal!” He raised himself to his full height, his head high above the canopy of trees, and raised his head to spew a line of flame directly between the two women. On the other side of the ‘wall’, four people rushed forward, only to be prevented from moving further by the wall. Both Niamh and Karen screamed as the flame burst between them, both trying to move out of the way. As she moved, Karen caught her foot on the hem of her dress and tripped, stumbling toward the flame, rather than away from it. At the same time, as Niamh moved away from the flames, the dragon aimed another stream at her. She cried out as her leine caught fire, and she threw herself on the ground, rolling to try and put it out.
Sean saw the flame move toward the two women, and stood, momentarily frozen into inaction. Seeing Karen falling toward the flame, he moved toward her, distracted just long enough not to see Niamh be attacked the second time. He grabbed Karen, pulling her away from the flame, and landing on his side, pulling her to the ground with him. Both had the wind momentarily knocked from them. Only when he recovered his breath, did he realize he didn’t see Niamh, and he also realized that between them was now, a wall of flame. He jumped up and attempted to rush through the flame, only to be pushed back by the intense heat.
He couldn’t see her, couldn’t
hear her, and didn’t know where she’d disappeared to. Then he heard a scream.
Through the flames, he saw her struggling to put out the flaming dress.
“Gods!!! Niamh!!!” He hunched into a ball as best as he could and charged through the flame, feeling the intense heat, and hitting the ground in a roll as he passed through the flames. He came to his knees, slapping at the small bits of flame charring his shirt and pants, and ran for the body lying on the bed of moss.
The flames that had eaten at her dress had gone out and now smoldered. She lay still, unmoving, save for the light shallow movement of her chest. Sean skidded to his knees next to her, taking her into his arms and cradling her close. Murmuring her name, he looked carefully at her, and could see no injuries, no serious damage to her from the flames, yet she lay as if dying in his arms. His voice, calling her name more urgently seemed to pull her from wherever she was. Her eyes opened and she looked at him with love and more. Her slight frame shuddered, and he pulled her closer.
“I… I don’t understand. You aren’t hurt, just your dress. What… What’s wrong? Please, get up, please! Niamh! Get up!”
Her hand weakly brushed one of his, “No, Mo rún, it was not the fire of the Dragon. It is my path. Your choice is made, and I must now pass to the other plane.”
“No! You can’t die, we… we just were married. I love you… We promised to spend our lives together!”
“Mo rún, I’ve known, since we met, where my destiny was, and what I was destined to do. Have no doubt that in all that has gone on, my destiny was to be your wife, to love you, for however short this time together of ours was. Mo rún, you may not remember me, but when and if you do, please, remember me with love…”
The Nelson Home, present day…
Captain Sean Pearce Nelson sat huddled on the floor of the bedroom in his ancestral home. He felt betrayed and overwhelmed by the revelations and rediscovered memories the journal had swamped him with. He was a man who commanded ships and boats, held men and women’s lives in his hands on a daily basis, ran an international Institute, and at that moment, he couldn’t rise off the floor. Tears of loss, anger, fear, love were streaming down his face. He had the desire to hide it all, to drown the memories and feelings in the bottle of scotch that sat on his dresser. He knew he couldn’t do that. He knew that he needed to deal with what was flooding his memory.
At that very moment, he hated his parents, Lee and Caitlin, Robert, Chip Morton and everyone that knew and was there at that time years ago. He wanted to go to the phone and scream and yell at Lee, Caitlin and RC, for knowing this all these years and keeping silent. He couldn’t fathom how he was going to tell Rachel about this. He shifted slightly, and the scar on his leg throbbed again. Rubbing against his pant leg, it felt raw and fresh, not over 30 years old.
"Dear God, what happened to me? Why didn’t I remember this? Why didn’t you all want me to? Were you afraid of it? Of the power it might have over all of us? I love Rachel, have loved her, I think, since the Egg Hunt, but Niamh… That was an incredible passion. Why did it have to end like that? Why did she have to die?"
He crawled to the bed, and using it for leverage, pulled himself to a standing position, then leaned heavily against the heavy mahogany canopy, stared at his father’s portrait.
“You knew!! All those years before, and all the years after, you knew this was going to happen and you didn’t try to stop it? And to top it off…you made sure that I’d never remember it, remember her… You bastard! Did you think it would hurt me to know what had happened? Or was it just that it didn’t fit into your plans for me, your only son and heir?” There was pure anguish in his voice as he glared back at his father. “God, right now, I hate you more than you can ever imagine.” He reached out and grabbed a picture frame from the nightstand next to the bed and hurled it at the portrait
“I hate the fact that you were my father! Mr. ‘Only Do the Right Thing’! Well, what was so goddamn right about what you did to me after this happened, huh? That hospital wasn’t a real hospital at all, was it? And I’m willing to bet that there never any car accident, no shattered window handle. It was all a farce, a story you all made up to hide the truth. To hide something that would get in my way, in the way of the plans that you made for your son… I hate you, you son of a bitch!”
The grove… years earlier –
He took two steps to the center of the clearing, and a high wind suddenly sprang up, circling him. He wrapped his wings around his body and the wind began to swirl, as he began to glow brightly, orange and red blending and brightening. Then, in a flash, he was gone, as was the fire in the forest canopy.
The stillness of the forest became immediately apparent, as did the sudden freedom of the group, once held behind the force field, now free to move forward. At that same instant, Chip Morton made his way into the far side of the clearing. He stood for a moment watching the tableau before him. He saw the Seaview family ringing two people on the ground and saw immediately that they were surrounding Sean and Niamh. He recognized the girl from the brief encounter they had in the circle earlier in the day. He forced himself to move more quickly towards them..
He saw all the heads bent toward the young people, saw the set of shoulders and knew, before he arrived at their sides, that whatever had happened, the results had indeed been tragic. Coming to a halt at his best friend’s side, he touched Crane on the shoulder.
Without even really realizing who he was speaking to, Crane said, dazed, “She’s dead. Not from…the dragon, I… we don’t know… she’s dead…”
He turned, and blue eyes met amber-hazel ones. Chip saw the depth of pain and sadness in Lee’s eyes.
“She was a child of that time… I didn’t know her… But Sean… loved her… He…he’s too young to know this kind of pain, Chip. It’s not right!!! It’s just not right!!!”
“It’s not your fault, Lee… it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s because of that time on the island. Because of that and only that.”
“The wrong place to be at the wrong time…”
“That’s what the Admiral said a long time ago. A very long time ago…”
While they were talking, Karen and Nelson had approached their son and Karen bent over, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Sean Pearce Nelson looked up into
his mother’s eyes and saw there the same grief that he was feeling. He had never
asked her about Caitlin’s father, had never been curious enough to ask about
that part of his mother’s life. Like all young people, he was concerned with the
here and now, not the past, no matter whose past it was. But somehow, now, he
knew she understood.
Karen had no words to share with her son. Neither did his father, although he too knew the particular grief of losing one that close to him. He began to resolve some things in his mind, even as he bent over his son, his hand covering Karen’s.
Very softly, he reached out and touched his head. “Sean… son…”
“I love her, Dad. She can’t be
dead. I love her…” He looked up at his parents and both saw the little boy as
well as the young man in the face that stared at them. “I want you to know her.
To love her, like I do, like you love me and Caitlin…she can’t be dead.” He
picked at her arm, bending his head close to her face and starting to gently
rock, “Niamh…Niamh… wake up…please…wake up…”
Robert Crane moved to his friend’s side. He knew the shock had rocked his friend, but they had to get out of there and do it now. “C’mon, Sean. We… we should get back to…to your…the place where we were before. You know…you have to…let her family know…”
Sean nodded, confused… “That’s right, we have to let her family know. Her grandfather will fix it. Turlough said she was a princess of the Tir na Nog. That she was part of two worlds. He’ll fix it. He’ll make her well!!”
Robert shook his head slowly, “I don’t think he can do that, Sean. I don’t think…”
”Don’t say it!!! Turlough will fix it. He’ll make her better, and then you will all get to know her and love her like I do.” He looked at his best friend, “RC, please…help me lift her up.” Sean stood and he and Robert gently lifted Niamh’s limp form, placing her gently in Sean’s arms. Only then did Sean see that Robert’s arm was burned. Seriously, he said, “You can have Turlough look at your arm…he’ll fix it too, I’m sure.” He started walking, and said to no one in particular, “Yes… I’m sure he will!”
Slowly the group began to move out of the clearing and down a path that seemed to lead out of the deep forest. Sean led the way, and seemed to know where he was going. The rest of the group followed. Nelson and Karen walked behind him, Robert Crane was to his right, and behind them were Chip, with Lee and Caitlin. The forest seemed to get lighter and lighter, the brightness akin to early morning light, and after a period of time that no one could measure, they came upon the circle where a short time before, Niamh and Sean had been handfast. Smoke lazily drifted from two or three of the small huts. Animals scurried about, and the sun through the trees created a dappled look to the clearing. It was a peaceful scene.
Sean headed straight for the
small hut that he and Niamh had shared for such a brief time. He kicked open the
door, and thrust himself inside, laying Niamh’s body on the bed that they had
recently left. He leaned over her, smoothed the ruined Leine, pulling the light
cover up to her waist, laying her hands crossed at her waist. He smoothed her
long hair and bent and kissed her lips, then turned to face those behind him.
Karen and Harriman Nelson had been watching him from inside the small doorway. Lee and Caitlin had been just outside with Robert and Chip. Sean moved toward the doorway, as Robert stepped inside. Sean reached to move him from the doorway. Robert stood fast.
“Get out of my way, RC. I need to find Turlough. He has to help Niamh wake up. He has to make her better.”
Robert grabbed Sean’s arm, spinning him slightly to the side. “Sean, he isn’t going to be able to help. Him and his kind are the reason she’s dead. They all caused it. He isn’t going to change anything at all.”
Sean pulled away angrily. “No! He’ll restore her life. He has to! He blessed us! He told us we were made to be together. He said we’d be happy. Happy… he didn’t say anything about this. He couldn’t have known. But he can make it right, I know he can.”
At that point, seeing his son’s grief, listening to all he was saying, Harriman Nelson took the bereft young man by the arms. Older, far more mature blue eyes bore into the younger ones. “Sean, I’m afraid that Robert’s right. Turlough isn’t going to change the things that took place. He isn’t going to give Niamh her life back. It wasn’t meant to be that way and he knew that. He knew what was going to happen before you were born. He knew that you were going to be born, long before I even knew your mother. He knew what was going to take place here and how it was going to end. He knew it all. And he’s not about to change the outcome.”
“No, Dad, he couldn’t have known. You’re lying to me….you’re lying!!!!! You just don’t want it to work out! You don’t want to know her! You don’t want to love her! Fine! Go home! Don’t love her! Leave me here! I’ll get him to give her back to me!!”
Holding his famous temper in check, his anger at his son’s pain and heartache nearly bursting to the surface, he again tried to talk to him, “Sean, we’ll find Turlough. You can ask him, son. Ask him yourself.”
Nelson no sooner finished saying that then Turlough appeared in the hut, materializing quietly, next to the bed where Niamh lay. The old Druid looked older, his very venerable age telling now, at this time. He looked at the form lying in the bed.
“Tá sí go hálainn, Sean.” (She is beautiful, Sean). But, lad, her time in this form, in this plane is over. Ye will have ta leave her form to our keeping and her spirit is now on another plane. Yer test, yer father’s legacy as it was, is over. We will move on from this place. All of us here. Ye’ll ne’er be hearin’ from us again.”
“No!” Sean tore himself from his father’s hold and charged at the Druid, his hands outstretched, reaching for the older man’s neck. Turlough raised his blackthorne stick and an invisible wall surrounded him. Try as he might, he could not get to the Druid.
“Sean, eistigi liom! (listen to me). Yer love fer Niamh was true and pure. ‘Tis something that ye’ll ne’er know again, as it is now. But, lad, ye will love again. She is already known ta ya. She will be true and faithful, and ye will share babes and a long life together. An’ it will be a good one, tho not without its pitfalls. That much I kin promise ye. Ye will not be rememberin’much o’ this, I’m thinking, until yer’ much older.”
“No!! I want her, I want to be with her now!”
buachaill, tá sé ní do cad é atá tú a
dhéanamh! (Lad, it is not to be!)
This was not the time for ya, but fer the endings of things begun long ago. Yer
time to know long and true love is in yer future. At some time, this will be
but a bittersweet memory. Nothing more, nothing less. All of ye, as humans,
will or will know the pain, but ye also have the sweetness to remember.”
He waved the blackthorne stick, and around him Niamh’s siblings appeared in shafts of soft light. Morgan and Innis moved to the bed, and between them picked up Niamh, holding her close to them.
“We go now. Ye’ll not be seein’ nor hearin’ from us again. Fer this time it is over. Harry, yer debt has been paid to the powers of the other world. I’m knowin’ that the lad will be fine in yer and yer wife’s care. I’ve known him but a short time, but he is a fine lad, an’ will be a good and great man.” He waved the stick again, and the hut disappeared, leaving all of them standing in the center of the grove of trees. All evidence of people living there had disappeared, and it was as untouched as it could be. Lee, Chip and Caitlin could now clearly see the druid, and the other young people. Turlough now addressed himself to Lee. “You, sir, have found the mate of your heart. And in spite of the sadness ye’ve known, ye now have great joy wi’ her. These offspring of your’n will nay bother ye again. Yer godson will be a better man for all of this, tho he will not know it. Yer son is as close a kin ta him as if he was of the blood. They will be good friends, and live long lives, sharing much happiness and sorrow. Ye were used by our people once. These who sprung from that time will remember the mortal but live with their own kind. The memory of them will fade. Ye and yours will ne’er be troubled by them again.”
He looked at Chip. “You, sir, are a true friend to Harry and his people. They owe ye their lives on more than one occasion. Yer presence here is to help bring this to an ending. I leave it to ye, as ye’ve done in past encounters, ta help all here to move from here, and end this time with our folk. Yer good at what yer do, sir. Yer loyalty ta these, yer friends, is a rare thing, and I’m sure they know it.”
He looked at Sean again, “Buachaill, Ba mhaith liom tá me cead cainte a fháil do dol pian, tinneas ( Lad, I want to say I’m sorry fer yer pain) I know that your heart aches, as does mine. But those that love ye, will tell ye that it will heal in time. Keep her close ta yer heart. Think of her as light and beauty, and the pain will lessen. Yer family loves ye. Depend on them, Buachaill, and ye will get thru it.”
Tears streaming down his young face, Sean begged, “Turlough, please, bring her back, give her back to me! I’ll do anything... Anything to get her back!”
“Nay, Buachaill, never make such a promise. Yer Da and his friend know what havoc such words can bring. A promise as that can only cause more pain.” He reached through the force field and placed a hand on Sean’s head, “Mo sheacht mbeannacht ort, Sean mac Muir!” To Nelson and the others, “Go now, take care to love and be happy. Ye’ll ne’er hear from us or our kind again!” The figures shimmered in the sunlight, and then were gone.
Sean collapsed in a heap, his body shaking, in absolute grief and despair. Nelson, Karen and the rest gathered around him.
Chip Morton gently took his arm and pulled him slowly to his feet. Sean said nothing, did not react or interact. He moved along with Chip’s gentle guidance, as the rest of the family remained in the tight circle around the both men. They made their way to the edge of what was the clearing, and amazingly found themselves on the private airstrip at the small airport outside of Boston where Gil Foley waited with the private jet. CPO Francis Sharkey, also present, paced nervously, the Flying Sub visible a short distance behind the plane.
As the group appeared, Sharkey and Foley rushed toward them. Sharkey began to splutter as he approached. “Sir, where’d you all come from? We got a call on the boat to have the FS1 here. Gil was here, waiting after bringing Mrs. Crane and Mr. Morton. What happened, sir? What’s wrong with Sean? What...?”
Nelson’s look silenced the voluable Chief. Before the Admiral could say anything, Chip Morton took on his usual role as Exec and began to issue orders. He gently handed Sean over to Karen, as he, Lee and Nelson exchanged a few brief words, and then he spoke to the two men who were waiting.
“Gil, you’re going to take Caitlin and RC back to the Institute. I’ll be going with you. Once the FS1 is under way, we’ll leave.” He turned to Sharkey, “Chief, Admiral and Mrs. Nelson and Admiral Crane are going with you. You are going to be taking Sean to the hospital. Once we’re all in flight, we’ll confirm the arrangements. In the meantime, help Mrs. Nelson with getting Sean settled in the bunk, and both the Admirals will be along shortly. Admiral Crane will be your co-pilot.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Morton. The FS1 is ready to go. I ran all the pre-flight checks, so we can lift off when the Admirals are ready.” He turned and hustled off to where Karen and Nelson were holding Sean and talking softly. Very gently, Sharkey took Sean’s arm, Karen took his other and they led him into the FS1.
Chip turned to Nelson and Crane. “Are you taking him to Oceanview?”
“Yes,” said Nelson, suddenly wearier than he had ever been in his life. “I’m calling Bricker when we’re airborne. I know that he can help him.” He faltered, and both men reached out to the older man. He smiled at the both of them, grateful for their support and friendship.
Nelson merely nodded. “Chip, when you get back to the Institute, have Frank take
a look at Robert’s arm. He was burned by the dragon. I’ll call the
Superintendent at the Academy and see that he gets back there in a day or two.
He... we all need a little time to deal with this.” He looked at Crane, and
smiled a slight, wry smile, “Looks like our sons have the same penchant for
being in the wrong place...:
“Um, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, sir, I know.”
“I’ll call you when we get to Oceanview, Chip. And let you know what the prognosis is.”
“Aye, sir. We’ll be waiting to hear from you.” Chip turned, and entered the plane, Caitlin and RC having boarded already. Nelson and Crane walked the short distance to the FS1. They boarded her, and within minutes both vehicles were headed toward the West.
– Destructive Forces
Silve and Midhir watched the event and their spirits laughed for the sorrow and pain of the humans involved. To them it was a small victory over the humans and the Druid. While it did not have the outcome that would have made them completely jubiliant, to see the pain in the young man, his parents and friends gave them no small measure of pleasure…perhaps they had not won, but they had not been completely defeated. Turlough had no more to say as to the how and why of their existence on this plane, and they could and would do as they pleased… there were always other fields to exercise their powers on… and they would, at sometime, they would…
Algiz - Protective Sanctuary
Two Weeks later, Oceanview Sanitarium...
Harriman Nelson paced the floor of his son’s room. He and Karen were waiting for Sean to wake up. The last two weeks of treatment had been extremely difficult for the four-star Admiral and his wife to work through. What Dr. Bricker had recommended, and the Nelsons agreed to, was a form of brainwashing, for lack of a better word. They buried the memory of Sean’s days with Niamh, and planted the idea that he’d been in an accident and hurt and hospitalized for two weeks. The tattoo that had been on his hip had been removed by laser surgery and the faint scar that it left behind was attributed to the accident.
Karen had been deeply opposed to the entire treatment, and remained opposed. However, she let Nelson’s judgment carry them through, believing that his wider experience would give him a better handle on it than she had. She worried deeply about how Sean would react at some later day, when he found out what had been done, and what had transpired. She deeply hoped that he would not find out until he was long an adult with many life experiences to soften the blow of his parent’s deception.
Harriman Nelson had similar thoughts to his wife, but he chose to ignore the emotional reasons not to have Sean treated, and take Bricker’s advice on the subject. When they had arrived, Sean had been non-responsive, and both parents worried that he would never recover. Bricker had drawn him out and brought him to a point where he was able to tell the Doctor all that he had experienced, and something of what he was feeling. It was at that point that the doctor had begun the chemical treatment that would erase and alter the young man’s memory. He assured the parents that it would be decades, if at all, before the memory returned, and that it would require a trigger of some type, to bring all the memories back.
Karen Nelson sat next to her son’s hospital bed, holding his hand, and watching her husband pace. Finally she said, “Harriman, all the pacing in the world isn’t going to help. Why not sit down and relax a bit? Dr. Bricker did say Sean would be waking up in an hour or less.”
“Sorry, Karen, but I can’t sit. I need to do something…something, somehow… If
“If only years ago we didn’t go to the Island. If only a year later we didn’t return…Harry, you’ve said that over and over again for the last two weeks. You did it all then, you thought you were doing the right thing, and it’s over. You didn’t have any idea that your son would be in the middle of something like he was. You didn’t know, and quite frankly, I don’t think you could have stopped it even if you wanted to. And even if I don’t agree 100% with this, I know that you are doing what you think is best for him. We’re in this together, Harriman. We will get through it, and so will Sean.”
The hand she was holding squeezed hers slightly, and she turned to see the young man in the bed begin to stir. Sean’s face was pale, against the pillows. An IV line was attached to his left hand. Karen called her husband to the bedside, and Nelson’s hand automatically went to her shoulder, to rest there as he stood at her side. Both waited with anxious expectation, not knowing if the treatment had been successful.
Slowly, Sean opened his eyes, groggily recognizing his parents. He licked at his lips, and Karen released his hand, reaching for the pitcher and glass on the bedside stand. She poured some water into a glass, and held it to his lips. He drank a bit, then stopped. She brushed her hand across his forehead.
“Mom…Dad… what happened? Where is this? Why am I here?”
Nelson spoke first, “You were in an accident, Sean. You were driving to the swim meet, in the rain. Apparently, the rear tire was weak, and it gave out, and you slid off the road. The way that you slid off, the passenger side of the car hit a tree. Really knocked it in. The door handle shattered, and sent some fragments into your hip. You had a bleed. We had real concerns. But the Trauma team did a great job. You’re going to be okay,” and she patted Sean’s hand.
Karen remained silent, watching and listening to what was being exchanged between father and son. She felt the less she had to say, the better off they all would be. She hated this, this lying to her son, their son. But Harriman was right. This whole thing, if he remembered it would affect him in ways that they couldn’t imagine right now. No, Harriman and Dr. Bricker were right, this was the best option, as much as she personally didn’t like it.
“Mom…Dad…” Sean said, “I’m sorry, I guess I scared you guys.”
Karen brushed his forehead again, and kissed it gently. “It’s alright now, Sean. It’s over, you’re okay, and we’ll be taking you home in a day or two.”
Nelson cleared his throat, “Yes,
in a day or two, son. As soon as the Doctors here say you can travel, it's home
with you, to Frank and Jamie’s care.”
”Dad, where is this? Isn’t it the Institute Med Bay?”
Reluctantly, “No, its not. You see, where it happened, they transported you to the best possible place, because of the leg injury. A public ambulance can’t just drive onto the Institute grounds…” he smiled a half-smile, “Security, you know.”
Sean smiled back at him. “Yeah, Dad, I know. I’m sorry, really sorry to put you and Mom through this.”
Nelson clapped his son on the shoulder. “It was an accident, Sean. That’s all. An accident, plain and simple.” As Sean’s eyes began to close, Nelson continued, “You sleep now. You need your rest. We’ll get you home in a day or so, and you can put this all behind you. It will be fine.”
Sleepily, “Thanks, Dad…Mom… I love you both.”
Karen leaned over and kissed him again. “And we love you, Sean. More than you’ll ever know.” Nelson took her gently by the arm, and they left the sleeping young man in the hospital room, going to confer with the doctors about bringing him home.
Raido – Journeys
The Nelson Home, present time, the day after the revelations…
Sean Nelson was awakened by the shrill ringing of the phone next to the bed. He rolled towards it, shaking the feeling of cotton in his head, and the taste of sawdust from his mouth.
“Captain, this is Waters, the butler. You requested a 6:30 wake up. Do you wish breakfast in the dining room or in your room?
“Waters, just bring a tray up here, coffee, toast, some kind of juice. That’s all. Bring it up in twenty minutes, will you? And if I’m in the shower, leave it on the desk. Make sure that the Study is ready for my meeting with Keogh. And see that a car is waiting for me when the meeting is over. I'll be returning to California as soon as I’m done here.”
“Yes, Captain. Will there be anything else?”
“No, Waters. At least not for now. Thank you.” Sean hung up the phone, letting the handset hit the cradle a little too loudly, and he silently cursed himself for it. His mind was still overwhelmed by what he had learned last night, but he also had to go over papers before this meeting with the lawyer, and try to get his head, and heart settled so he could make the appropriate decisions regarding the family and the trust. One thing he did know, when he got back to the Institute, he would talk with Lee Crane about replacing Dennis Keogh. The pompous man was a constant annoyance and Sean was worried that he wasn’t doing all he should be for the family and the trust. He sighed… talk to Lee. He would have to do that too, in reference to what he had discovered last night. Lee and Caitlin knew what had happened, according to the journal, had been part of it. So had RC!
Why in the hell had his best friend not told him about it? About what had happened? He rolled off the bed and shook his head in disgust at the condition of his clothes. As he stood, he looked around the room. He went to the foot of the bed, picked up the glass, took the bottle of scotch and replaced it in the cabinet, then hoisted his bag onto the bed.
He opened it, taking out fresh Khakis and underclothes, then headed to the bathroom, shedding the offending clothes from the night before as he went.
He turned the shower on full force, as hot as he could stand, and stepped into the stream, hoping to wash last night away. Instead, his mind was filled with flashes of Niamh, he could hear her soft voice, see her sweet face, feel her touch. He began to realize that whatever it was had been over thirty years ago, and while the memories were fresh, the time had long passed for the anger that he had felt last night. He had questions… lots of questions, but they could wait until he got back to California, and he had the time to talk to Lee, Caitlin and Robert, and talk to Rachel… He really needed to talk to her, to tell her about all of this. He loved her, of that he had not doubt at all. And he had loved her since he had met her so very long ago.
The old Druid had known that. He had told him he would find his love. He had told him that he knew her, even when all of this was going on…
But… what about Niamh? What about how he had felt about her? Was it love, or an enchantment. He had loved her, he knew that, but was it of his own choosing, or was it magic, because of the ‘Curse’?
He had to sort this out. He needed to figure out all that had happened and try and determine how this new knowledge was going to impact the rest of his life…
‘The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and to be loved in return.’
Niamh- Luster, sheen, brightness, radiance. Princess of the Tir-na-Nog
Muirin – Old Irish name ‘muir’ meaning sea, and‘ gein’ ‘birth or born of the sea’
Ula – ‘sea jewel’ or ‘gem of the sea’
Meryl – ‘Bright sea’
Innis – ‘From the Island’
This is a link for a Rune page, to perhaps better explain the use of the Runes in the story…http://village.fortunecity.com/bernhard/864/runes.html
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