Rules to live by. Never grocery shop hungry. You shouldn't write hungry, either. I did. (Sigh) It was tasty, but... My favorite is Nacho Cheese. No, Daniel, I didn't wipe my fingers on the sofa!! I love you!
As with Deena, Darius, and Arthur, death did not really have a sense of closure. Loss was the only feeling I had about this. All Wahkooha had was his power? Was that all he was? He thought so.
“It’s cold,” Seth said, taking my hand and walked back in.
Seth and I had forbad Toby from seeing the execution. Death is a part of life and he would learn about it eventually, but not today. Val had said he would stay with Toby and keep him interested. Thomas had gone with us and he was apparently not letting it go.
I nodded in Thomas’ direction and said to Seth, “I think he needs a little help.”
Seth nodded and let go of my hand. I went over to Thomas who was thinking and pacing in a small circle.
“I’m glad you’re having trouble dealing with this,” I said, making Thomas spin around startled. “Death should never be easy.”
Thomas nodded, “How many deaths have you seen? Does it ever get easier?”
“Not really,” I said. “I’ve seen quite a few deaths on the battlefield. Those sort of blend. This is the third I’ve seen up close.” I shrugged a nod. “I was there when my father died. I was there when Seth’s father died, but this was the second execution.” I touched his arm. “My hope is that all manner death be sensitive to you.”
“He was evil!” Thomas attempted to get that fact into his head as he pounded on his own forehead. “The enemy.”
I chuckled, pulling his arm and hand down, “And still, you’re struggling with it. He didn’t shed a tear for anybody he’s responsible for killing and wouldn’t have given another thought if we died.” I grinned at him, “And if you repeat this, I will, of course, deny it.”
Thomas’ eyebrows rose in curiosity, “About what?” His voice held suspicion.
“Out of all my nieces and nephews,” I grinned and whispered to him. “You’re my favorite. You were first. You always will be!”
Thomas’ eyes grew and his eyebrows almost receding under his loose forehead hair. Then he suddenly burst into laughter and hugged me.
“I told you,” I reminded him. “I didn’t say that.”
“I heard.” Thomas assured me, “I wrote that letter to Mom and Dad,” Thomas said as he still chuckled.
I nodded, “I’ll send it today.” I cocked my head as I looked at him. There was a lot of his father in his face, so therefore my own. There was still a lot of that little boy in him. “You’re a good man, Thomas. One day you’ll be a wise and very great king.” I was busy the past few days! I hadn’t finished my own letters!
The fact that he was so bothered by the death I was scared this would really be the end of any childhood left in Thomas.
I returned to Seth who smiled as he munched on a large bowl of this white stuff. They were small and looked fluffy. Seth was putting a few in his mouth at a time. There was a pleasant odor coming from the bowl. He, Chitto, Toby, and Val were all eating from the bowl.
“What’s this?” I asked as I sat down.
“Popped corn!” Chitto answered as he crunched happily. “Popcorn!!”
“May I have some?” I asked, pointing at the bowl.
“They could run out!” Toby managed in a garble as he was also stuffing his mouth, “It’s delicious!”
Seth waved at a fireplace where a woman was pouring the white contents into a large bowl. “They’re making more.”
It was crunchy, but also had a buttery and salty taste. Toby was right. It was delicious!
I looked around quickly and Seth held stein for me. He smiled and got up and got another stein from a table and poured something from a pitcher. “Thank you!” I said to Seth.
Seth looked at Thomas as he came back. He was sitting and asked. “Is he alright?”
I shrugged a nod, “When can wrap his mind around it. It was his first execution. It takes time.”
Seth frowned, “You took it well.”
My eyes widened and I moved back a little, looking at him, “I did?”
“You seemed fine,” Seth said. “Weren’t you?”
“We were busy,” I shrugged. “Darius and Arthur killed themselves being clumsy. Deena was executed and your father collapsed and died. I didn’t have time to think. The idea of death making Thomas uncomfortable is good.” I looked as Thomas stopped pacing and appeared to calm down. “He needs to let it sink in. He will. He’s smart.”
“He wanted to come,” Seth shrugged.
“Have you finished a letter to Sam and Terry?” I asked.
“Not yet,” Seth said.
“I haven’t either,” I took his hand. “I’ll write one for Christian and Ella and we,” I motioned between us, “will write one for Yannick and Delta.”
“We will?” Seth asked and then nodded, “I guess we will.” He looked at the women popping the corn. “May we have a bowl for our room?”
The girl smiled at him, “Yes.” She held up a finger. “A minute, please.” She poured a yellow liquid on it and then dusted something on it. “You like cheese?”
“Cheese on popcorn!?” Seth asked.
“While hot,” She nodded. “You want?”
“Sure!” Seth nodded, “What kind of cheese?”
“You say it...cheddar?” She asked. She held up a bowl of small cuts of yellow. She sprinkled and then shook the bowl vigorously and did it again.
“You came up with this?” I asked.
She shook her head, “No.” She was having to think. “Iroquois east...here.” She pointed away and held the bowl up to us. “My English bad.”
“Nonsense!” I shook my head, “We understand you! You’re doing very well!”
She smiled, “Thank you.”
I turned, but stopped putting some popcorn in my mouth. I loved the burst of cheese flavor, “This is delicious!!” The cheese was a sharp cheddar.
Seth took some and nodded, “This has to be a sin. It’s too good.” He stopped and looked at her again. “Oh, is there paper, ink, and a quill in our room?”
She shook her head, “I get for you.”
“No!” I stopped her quickly. “Just tell us.”
She looked confused, “But, I…” searching for the correct words in her head, “...and you…”
Seth threw an arm over my shoulder, nodding even if she hadn’t said about her or me, “Isn’t he, though? He’s very independent.” He shrugged, “He hates it when people do for him what he can do for himself! Most of the time he makes up the bed. At home in Royal Valley or even in Blethos and A’Dore!”
“Which if left for you to do would still be unmade!” I shot back poking him lightly on the chest. “Make up the bed and the rooms half clean!” I held my arms out, then each leg. “Do you see anything broken? I’ve done just fine for twenty-five years! Without any assistance.” I leaned closer to her, “I was too short to make it up until then.” I patted Seth’s arm. “Get us drinks, Seth. The Sea Salt will make us thirsty.”
We made it back to our room about the same time. I held some paper, a sealed inkwell, and a couple of quills. Seth came in with the bowl of popcorn, and two of those steins. He held the bowl up with his arms on either side of the bowl and tried to not spill the steins’ contents. I relieved Seth of the two steins and he put the bowl down on the bed.
“You could have made two trips,” I reminded him.
“Whew!” Seth stood up straight again and arched his back behind him to relieve a kink that formed during the ordeal. “Why? Nothing spilled! Not wine or popcorn!” The wine was preferred when water was used. There was just enough alcohol to any parasite. He reached in the bowl and shoved a handful of popcorn in his mouth. “If for no other reason, we should defend these people for this alone!”
The truth is, that this wonderful snack had been known by some tribes as far back as ten-thousand years! Preparing the popping corn had evolved as did everything in society. They used to just toss the corn into the fire and grabbed it, if you were lucky, when it flew out with that “pop.” I think in ten-thousand years, Humans learned how to do it better. They kept the desired effects and got rid of the older ones such as burnt kernels and the stubborn ones that just would NOT pop! Certain corn did better than others. Keeping the pot in motion helped as it was being made. We added flavors! Why I even...no, if I say more and that rabbit will grow and...nevermind.
At the small table, we both wrote to let everyone know the one crisis was over. We faced another crisis and had committed to stay until these Puritans were dealt with. I had asked Thomas, Toby, or any others NOT to tell what exactly happened. How do you do that in a letter?
“The weather is cold and damp. I was able to use magic on Wahkooha. How are you doing?”
I did tell both Ella and Christian that Thomas was healthy and just fine. We even put in something for Dennis and told him we loved him.
I got the letter from Thomas and folded it unread. It wasn’t to me or Seth. I touched one stack of letters, “A’Dore, please.” I touched another, “Blethos,” I touched the remaining letters, “And Creid.” I smiled as each stack just disappeared in the order I said loudly. “Thank you!”
“You’re always shouting,” Demetrius’ voice could be heard faintly. “You don’t have to shout. I hear just fine.”
I grinned and whispered, “Sorry.”
“Thatsallright,” Demetrius’ voice said in a long single word that had faded even more. “You can’t help it.”
The days that passed fell into a routine. We got up, ate, we would spar, and met with the Children of Lilith.
Martha rolled out a very detailed map. I had never seen one with as much detail.
Martha shook her head, “This group of men are determined, but not very smart.” She moved her finger across the map. “They had to go south and around the Salish Tribe here and take the natural pass through the Lolo Mountains. And below the Siksika Tribe and the Kinksu Mountians.”
I had to bite my cheek as Seth just hung his head and shook it because of the name thing again. I put my hand on his back and rubbed him little. He let out a weary sigh. It was supposed to be a gesture of sympathy on my part, but his eyes darted to me and said otherwise.
“They need to be careful with the Salish,” Martha smirked. “Speak to them in a condescending manner, they won’t take it too kindly to that.”
“Can we hope they do?” Max muttered as he asked.
Martha chuckled and shook her head, “I just don’t see that.”
I had to laugh, but tried to conceal my smile.
Max showed us the new armor. It was in typical Creid style which was in predatory animal shaped helmets. It lacked the effect of the black leather covered metal. The image could be seen, but…
“What?” Max asked me.
I sighed, “I remember my encounter with you guys that first time.” I chuckled, “I remember them all. They all lined up facing me. That shining oiled black. Bears and wolves in leather armor were scary.”
Max grinned and nodded, “That’s what it was made to be.”
“Nonetheless!” I almost shouted, “Causing these men a little fear should be okay.” I picked up a helmet shaped as a bear’s angry snarl. “Whoever did this is an artist. It’s so...lifelike!”
Max chuckled, “You need to tell her that.” And then he grinned, “We do have two that hadn’t been redone yet.” He dug in the supplies and pulled a helmet up. It was black and shaped like a wolf’s head. He kept digging and brought another helmet out. This was a great roaring cat. That predator was pretty much everywhere. Cougars, or Mountain Lions on this continent. Fortunately, they were not as heavily populated in A’Dore or Blethos. I only heard about some around some outlying areas. “This is a black panther. Really, the only thing that’s different in the armor is the helmet.”
I nodded hearing that, “The armor is exchangeable.”
“For everyone but Reese,” Max grinned. “He has a much thinner waist,” the space between his hands was only a few feet, “And his shoulders are…” He tried to spread his hands as far as they could go. “With the chainmail on, the armor is fitted over it.” He picked up a piece of armor then would fit around a man and fastened into place. “Again vulnerable areas are covered with steel. The neck, head, arms, shoulders, thighs...a lot is covered. You won’t feel tied up or restricted.”
Reese had to have all of his clothes made for him exclusively with the smaller waist and wide shoulders. Small wrists and large biceps. Thinner ankles and waist allowing room for tree-trunk sized thighs! The idea of these extra coverings was appealing now with the weather as cold as it was. Then again, leather was no protection from dampness. Protection from the Witch-hunting Puritans was more important.
I hoped I was the only one to greet these before they cleared that final pass. One man verses a dozen against one hundred...there was no real difference. With the armor on I could avoid arrows, spears, and other projectile weapons. The thought of potentially endangering anyone made me uncomfortable. However, if I could choose, I would pick Seth, but only in the armor. Max would also insist on backing us up. We needed to be sure escape was available.
I wasn’t a teenager anymore. It could have been my imagination, but I worked harder to get my fighting form BACK than I did to get in that form in the first place! No more muscle cramps, though. I made sure of that by eating correctly. Oh, and hot water soaks! That was a major important event that happened daily. Seth was coming in a minute. At the moment, I was alone in the big bathroom with the tubs.
“You’re not using the correct part of your anatomy,” Demetrius said.
The days I was startled by his sudden appearances were long gone. “Hello, Demetrius.” I greeted him wearily with my eyes still closed. “Right now, my muscles are sore,” I said, loving the hot water that was forcing those sore muscles to loosen. “I say it is the right part of my anatomy.”
“No,” Demetrius verbally waved the idea off. “Not that.” Then he did what Lukus had done. Demetrius grinned in triumph. “Hey! I didn’t land on my ass!!”
I glanced over and saw him sitting in that invisible chair, “Congratulations.”
Demetrius was happy, “I should have said, not these muscles, but this muscle.” He tapped his chest over his heart.
“That’s the pump for the blood in the body,” I said. “Modern medicine tells it’s in the brain.”
“Oh, who am I to argue with modern medicine?” Demetrius sarcastically shot back. “So, when Seth does something romantic for you, where do you feel it?” He shrugged, “When the Egyptians mummify a body, they also preserve all the organs in jars for the Afterlife, except the brain. The center of thought is here,” he patted his chest again. “They didn’t think the brain did anything important and threw it away.” He grinned at whatever crossed his mind, “When you say, I love you with all of my…” he grinned, “brain or…”
Yes, I was hurting and sore, but he did what he always does. He made me laugh, “Yes, but…”
“When you get the sensation of patriotic pride,” Demetrius continued, “or when Toby and or Dennis does something that makes you proud…”
I shook my head, “That’s a physical reaction to thoughts.”
Demetrius nodded, “Yes.” He held a finger to drive home a point, “I have one more. When you confronted Wahkooha…”
“I was angry,” I nodded.
“You only got angry when the safety of Toby was threatened,” Demetrius pointed out. “Which normally would happen. Toby is your son.”
The door to the bathroom where the tubs were opened. Seth didn’t react badly, but he had only seen that suspension once. It was a little unnerving. Even when seeing what seemed was what you KNEW couldn’t happen. You had to keep looking to confirm what you WERE seeing it correctly.
“Hi, Demetrius,” Seth greeted quietly as he stared.
“Hi, Seth!” Demetrius said back. “I asked you about your training with the sword. You were a good student. I asked you whether your teacher, Jason, taught you to control your emotions.” He pointed at me, “You did and still do.”
“My pulse was elevated!” I objected loudly.
“From adrenaline!” Demetrius said logically, nodding. “You need that to keep fighting!” He began to point at me again, “Maybe keeping Toby and Tom from the fight ISN’T a good idea.”
That did cause me to react emotionally. Seth most certainly did!
“What!?” Seth bellowed coming at Demetrius quickly. “Are you out of your MIND!?”
Demetrius grinned up at Seth and pointed at him, but looked at me, “See!? That’s what I’m talking about!!” He shook his head at Seth. “I will keep Toby from any violence or fighting.” Demetrius chuckled, “I said that on purpose, knowing Erik would emotionally react to what I said.”
“And giving me a heart attack!?” Seth shouted.
“I swear!” He crossed his chest over his heart, “See what I just did? I didn’t cross my brain. I made an oath on...”
“You’re saying it’s the heart,” I said in doubt.
“I’m saying,” Demetrius said in a serious voice and waved all over his own body, “it’s all connected! It’s you!!” He smiled. “All of us,” he did the circular motion, “the Children of Lilith, control the magic by emotion.” He pointed AGAIN at me. “I’m going to help you unlearn what you’ve been trained to do.” He grinned. “Starting tomorrow.”
“I am training with the armor!” I stated.
“And you will again,” Demetrius nodded, “but not tomorrow.”
Seth’s left eye squinted a little, “You said the Children of Eve use the magic differently. How do you know?”
Demetrius’ eyes widened in shock, “Evidence!” He waved at Seth, “You were cured. Remember?” He shook his head, “We can’t do that. Even with Candor, Arthur’s thief? I scared him, but I never hurt him.”
Seth nodded, “Yeah, I remember.”
“But you did!” Demetrius said to me.
I chuckled, “I guess after the first murder, harming someone is easy.” I saw Seth’s eyes grow. “Cain and Abel?” I hinted.
“Oh, yes,” Seth nodded and grinned, ashamed. “It slipped my mind a second.”
“Maybe you need some elementary Sunday School,” I suggested.
“My POINT is,” Demetrius said in a loud voice, “Fighting is important, but you need to grasp that you have access to the magic all the time.”
Seth did look at me, “You could do with some rest.” He then huffed a little proudly, “Even God took the day off after six days of creation.”
I laughed, “THAT you remember?”
“Yep,” Seth nodded.
“One more thing before I go,” Demetrius held a hand over the bathwater. I felt the water heat up as I sat in it. “Maybe tomorrow, I can show you how to do that.” He looked at Seth. “It’s just out of the pipe for you, so you’re on your own.”
It was in the morning when Seth and I woke up and cleaned up for breakfast.
Demetrius sat with us. All of the Children of Lilith we knew were there, but we spoke quietly.
“Why me again?” I asked Demetrius quietly. “You said it was because I have been exposed to a lot of magic.” I shrugged, “So was Ella. Can she do it?”
Demetrius gave a slow grudging nod. “She could…” he said long and slowly. “But she doesn’t KNOW she can.”
“What!?” Seth looked at me, then looked at Demetrius again, “Are you saying he knew he could?”
Demetrius looked uncomfortable and slowly answered, “He was open to the possibility to ask Ella about it in the first place!” He waved at Seth, “You could, if you believed it, but you don’t! That’s why you can’t.” He raised his hands helplessly, “Even a small child playing pretend KNOWS it’s pretend. They don’t really believe it!” He pointed at me. “HE does!”
“That’s why Druid Children can do it?” Seth asked. “And Native children?”
“Even they are limited by what they know,” Demetrius said simply. “So are the children of the Fae!”
Suddenly, a strong gust of fast moving air blew in the room. It wasn’t a cold wind, but it threatened to turn things over around the room. Even the Children of Lilith looked a little unsettled because they didn’t know what was happening.
There were a few flashes of what looked like lightning and bursts of billowing...smoke? I was clued in as there wasn’t a smell. Smoke or even steam had an element of heat that would have a smell. It had as much reality as Demetrius’ performance in Seth’s and my room ten years ago with Candor.
Maybe Demetrius was right. He was usually. My heart rate hardly changed. In fact, I even relaxed. All of Lilith’s Children were relaxing.
The non-smoky smoke cleared and a lovely woman in her late forties stood there. She was...regal! A billowing silvery-white gown flowed to the floor. She had perfect skin, if you know what I mean. She was very fair skinned. Her hair was...blonde? Or just plain white, thick, and flowed past her shoulders and held back from her face by white flowers on either side. She bowed her head and said, “Beannachtaí.”
I stood up and clapped, surprising many startled people at our table, “Bravo!” I said in a loud voice, “That was the most exciting entrance I’ve ever seen!” I looked at Demetrius, “You hitting your shin the first night, that was good, but this was so...theatric!” I waved at the new woman. “Are there any Children of Lilith that are...ugly or maybe homely?”
The woman frowned and swore in a language I never heard of. She swore softly. She looked up at me. “You must be the Child of Eve that can access the magic. Prince Erik?” She came toward me and extended her hand to me.
“I am,” I confirmed, “It doesn’t seem that many here know who you are.”
She chuckled, “It’s Eabha.” She replied and said (ee-va). “Not many not from the area known as Great Britain know the name. You’ve mentioned my father’s name a few times, so I took a few moments to look in on you.”
“You’re father?” Seth asked. “Why would we know him?”
“Well,” Eabha smiled. “He died a couple of centuries ago.” She chuckled, “He used many names, Merdinus or Merlinus, but I think you’ll all remember one in particular.” She smiled. “That name was Merlin.”