Autumn – Chapter 12 – 03

                He bowed his head, eyes sliding shut and fingers loosening their grip on mine.
                “Blood takes care of blood,” he whispered again.
                The pain in his voice was almost unbearable.
                He belongs to us.  We belong to him.
                “I don’t understand,” I said in a choked whisper.  I was beginning to, though.  I just didn’t want to.
                Phelan laughed.  It was a quiet, almost bitter sound.  “Yes you do,” he said as he shook his head.  “You have all the pieces, you just don’t want to put them together.”
                “You’re trying to tell me that we’re—that all of us are—“  I shut my mouth, unable to say the words.
                We’re all from the same blood and bone back through the centuries.  We share common ancestry, and it’s ancestry that we share with you.
                “That’s why the Shadow Man showed up before you came,” I said.  “Not because of the nexi or the power or the lines.  It was because of us.”
                Phelan didn’t have to say anything for me to know it was true.
                I sat back against my heels, shaking my head slowly.  “Unbelievable.”
                “Is it?” he murmured.  “Is it really?”
                “No,” I said.  “Yes.  Why didn’t you say something?”
                “How could I?”  He shook his head again, brows knit, eyes tired.  His shoulders slumped as he leaned back again.  “What words could I have used to make everything all right, to make it not sound crazy and terrifying and utterly disturbing?  What could I have said?  Tell me you don’t suddenly feel strangely awkward knowing that you and your future husband come from the same Otherworldly bloodline, that you and almost everyone else here can be traced back to one line or another.”
                One line or another.  Where do they cross?  How?  I shook my head slowly.  “We’re you’re family.”
                He closed his eyes.  Tears glittered amidst copper lashes, sparkling in the light.  “Yes,” he said hoarsely.  “And I would die to protect you.  Any one of you.  All of you.”
                I reached out and squeezed his uninjured shoulder.  “What did this cost you, Phelan?”  I wasn’t sure what I was asking about—coming to us, surviving whatever he’d done to Vammatar, all of it.
                One diamond tear trickled down his cheek as he opened his eyes and stared at me.  “Nothing I wasn’t willing to give up.”  He looked away, staring beyond the shelter of the tent, watching the work going on within the camp for a few long seconds.  “I can’t go back to the Tír, that’s all.  Not that I ever wanted to, but you asked and that’s what I gave up.”  A fleeting, rueful smile touched his lips.  “I had thousands of years by your reckoning to find someone.  Immortality, agelessness—that’s a small price to pay for people who love you, people you love in return.”
                Eyes stinging, I pulled him into a tight hug.  He stroked my hair lightly and sighed.
                “Don’t cry, leannán.  Nothing’s changed.  Everything’s the way it was before.”  His arm tightened for a moment and then he let me go, gently pushing me back so he could hold me at arms’ length.
                “You have every ounce of her strength,” he murmured, “and more than her share of compassion.”
                “Brighid,” I whispered, lending the name the unconscious lilt I’d heard in J.T.’s voice when he said it.
                A puzzled expression flickered across his features before he smiled faintly.  “Aye.”
                Phelan smiled.  “A legend.  Pour the tea.  I’ll tell you the story if you want.”
                I’d almost forgotten the kettle on the fire, but apparently he hadn’t.  I got up and brewed a pot of tea, then poured two mugs of it before I sat down with him again.  He smiled as he accepted one of the mugs, then raked his hand through sweat-damp hair, leaving it standing in unruly spikes.
                “Brighid iníon Dúbhshláine was the chieftain of the Imbolg after her father passed.  Her brother Ciar was a druid-born, like Angie, though I imagine her life will be much less tragic.  The Imbolg—her clan—was reluctant to accept a woman as heir apparent to her father, but she proved herself in a great hunt when she was just fifteen.  Before he died, Dúbhshláine also made arrangements for her to marry the chieftain of another clan, and that put all murmurs of discontent to rest.  He died a year after the great hunt and his daughter took his place as leader of the Imbolg.
                “She was without a doubt the greatest hunter and warrior I have ever known.”  Phelan smiled wistfully.  “And I don’t say that because of the legends that made her into a goddess, I say it because it was true.  There was so much of her life that I only knew of through stories—like how she reclaimed her brother after he was kidnapped so far south that her tribe feared that she would fall off the edge of the world seeking him.  She made herself a legend and a hero from Egypt to the Caribbean to Ireland and back again.”  Phelan looked at me sidelong, smirking at my aghast expression as I struggled to process how someone back in the time he was talking about would have had any occasion to show up in the Carribbean.  “It’s best not to ask, leannán.  It’s sufficient to say that you remind me of her greatly.  You have her fire and her stubbornness and her dedication and that—someday, Marin leannán, that will make you a hero as great as Brighid was, if the fates allow it to be so.”
                He put his arm around me and kissed the top of my head.
                “What happened to her?”  I managed to ask.  “After the battle when you slew…whoever you slew.”
                “Thom told you, then?  I’m not surprised.”  He stretched a little and stared at the tent’s ceiling.  “She married her intended, Finn, and they had children—many children.  Eíre was their first, though they adopted her.  She washed up on the seacoast and they found her while they were out hunting.  The child had no one else and they took her in.”  The corner of his mouth twitched in a smile.  “And she birthed a nation.”
                I shook my head slightly.  “Sometimes I think you’re just making all of this up, you know.”
                “Of course,” he said, smiling now.  “And then what?”
                I sighed, smiling lopsidedly.  “Then I realize that it’s just crazy enough to be true.”
                “There’s my girl.”  Phelan patted my knee.  “Someday, you’ll know all my stories.  I imagine that your son will cut his teeth on them and more.”
                My stomach flip-flopped.  That’s the second time he’s mentioned something along those lines.  “Then it’s—”
                “Set in stone?”  Phelan asked softly.  “Oh, yes, leannán.  Fate doesn’t take chances with some things.  Some things are simply meant to be.”

Liked it? Take a second to support Erin on Patreon!
This entry was posted in Autumn, Book 2 and 3, Chapter 12, Story, Year One. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Autumn – Chapter 12 – 03

  1. Antonious says:

    I guess when Marin gets to thinking about the past generations and the future based on Phelan’s talk, she might feel like she is looking into legion mirrors. Where mirrors are set up so that when you look into them, the image seems to continue into infinity. Only in this case the images are of her ancestors on one side and descendants on the other.

Got thoughts?