The Banshee's Tale
A Whateley Academy Story
The Banshee’s Tale
E. E. Nalley
Who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows, only time
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose, only time
Who can say why your heart sighs
As your love flies, only time
And who can say why your heart cries
When your love lies, only time
Enya, Only Time
October 1st, 2007
Jennifer Stevens Playhouse, Whateley Academy
The Playhouse was nearly to capacity with enough tweed and corduroy suits for the seventies to try to make a comeback. But then, historians were never known for their fashion sense. It was a classic stage theater with a small pit in front for an orchestra and red velvet was the fabric of choice for the seats and walls. Despite the somewhat dated look, hidden about the theater was a state of the art sound and light system that would be the envy of any touring stadium rock band.
At precisely ten o'clock a remarkably beautiful blonde in an expensive looking charcoal skirt suit that showed off her magnificent legs and a matching pair of Prada pumps walked out to the lectern at one side of the stage, the heels clicking on the lovingly polished hardwood boards. “Good morning,” she greeted the assembled professors and the murmuring of private conversations died down. “Welcome to Whateley Academy in what we are certain to be the highlight of your academic year. I am Doctor Elizabeth Carson and I will be your mistress of ceremonies for our presentation. First allow me to give the non-technical of you a bit of context.”
The heavy, luxurious curtain rose to reveal a motion picture screen and a slide of a power point presentation appeared on it. “As you may know the legitimate existence of magic was first legally recognized by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne in his Codice Iuris, establishing laws governing the use of magic, consequences for the misuses of magic and a set of proscribed and court sanctioned magical applications. What had been a patchwork of common law and folk practice became one of the first sciences. These laws, with some addition or subtle alteration have been handed down through the Western Occult Tradition to us here in the United States. I bring this up because as scholars it is our instictive first reaction to be skeptical of fantastic claims, so to dissuade you of such notions and to save our question and answer time for the most productive it can be, I present to you my Sorcerors License, as issued by the Department of Paranormal Affairs...Oh, I didn't realize it expires next year! Note to myself!”
A chuckle rippled through the audience as Dr. Carson favored them with a warm smile. “That said, I certify the authenticity and voracity of our speaker and her provinance. If you have any questions concerning that, I will be happy to address them after the lecture.”
The slide changed to a picture of a fierce looking young woman, blood red hair in a braid and electric blue woad smeared, mask-like over her eyes. She wore leather britches and boots that came to her knees which were held up by a broad leather belt. From the belt hung a quiver of arrows at her right hip and a dagger that was practically a short sword at her left. Her breasts, which were ample, were contained in a leather and fur halter for lack of a better word that protected the breasts with beaten metal cups and from them hung a tube of chain mail that otherwise left her midrift bare. A pair of knotwork tattoos encircled each arm at the bicep and another encircled her navel.
“Our guest speaker is a native Pict Archer, reincarnated in the body of one of my students. She was born originally in 757 CE in a village on the North Sea at a site now occupied by the town of Montrose, in the Pictish Kingdom of Circinn to the village Chieftain and his Wife who was a sorceress of no small power as I understand it. A member of a Sorority of Warriors known as the Bean Sith from which we take the word Banshee, our speaker fought for five seperate Pictish Kings and lived under two others. She was murdered during a viking raid on her village in 784 CE at the age of twenty seven. Please welcome Laneth, Lady mac Óengusa.”
A polite round of applause heralded the girl in the picture coming out from backstage. She wore a stealth lecturer's microphone over one ear with a flesh colored tiny boom microphone that was connected to a battery pack and transmitter combo unit that hung off her belt in the small of her back. She didn't carry the bow or the quiver, but the dagger hung from the belt. Bowing to the crowd, she stood up and said, “Salve!” with a smile and continued, “Deum benedicite omnis hic! Meum nomen est...”
Shaking her head with a smile, Mrs Carson interrupted, “Laneth? You can speak English.”
The girl looked genuinely puzzled. “Is this not a gathering of scholars? Wouldn't Latin be more appropriate...?”
“You speak Latin?” some one shouted from the crowd.
“Aye,” Laneth replied. “Also Pictish, Celtic, Welsh, and Gaelic. Those were the predominate languages around my nation, and Latin of the Romans generally worked with foreigners.”
“Celtic is a concept that wasn't created until the 18th century...!” shouted someone else. The girl frowned, obviously cross at being called a liar.
“Aye, but if I said I spoke dunebroche which is the Pictish word for Low Speech, the common basis for the tongues of the clans and tribes in and around Pictland you would not have any idea what I was talking about! I am...er, what was that word, Mrs. Carson?”
The Headmistress smiled from the Lectern. “Reincarnated...?”
“Yes! Reincarnated, not picked up whole from my time to now, and my host is well read and understands the concept of what you call Celt, and the basic tongue, as I said we called dunebroche.”
“You're remarkably well educated for an Iron Age girl.” A portly man in a denim jacket with patches on the elbows declared. “I suppose next you'll tell us you can read and write?”
“Of course I can read and write,” Laneth shot back. “I'm attenting high school in the twenty first century, what did you expect?” A ripple of laughter ran through the hall much to the annoyance of elbow patches. “However if you mean Laneth the Iron Age Banshee, yes, my father paid for a monk from the monastary of Obar Dheathain who taught my brother and myself to read and write Latin, I learned dunebroche from my mother who was Irish and Welch from my husband whose father traded extensively with them. More to the point I was the Chieftain's First Born and war could not be my sole profession...”
“I am supposed to believe this little slip of a girl is a hardened warrior?”
While it was obvious Laneth was getting frustrated by the constant string of interruptions, the grin on her face was predatory. “Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!”
"Laneth," warned Dr. Carson softly. The girl looked at her over her shoulder, acquiesced with a soft gesture, and stood up a bit straighter. Turning to the audience, Mrs. Carson declared, “Ladies and gentlemen, if I can request order please, this is the kind of skepticism I was attempting to avoid. As I have asserted, Laneth is who she claims to be and I have validation of this through magical means. So you have a chance this morning of speaking with a historical figure plucked from her time to now, an opportunity that is quite rare.”
Mrs. Carson's request only changed the nature of the questions being shouted. “What is the purpose of the standing stones and rings throughout Scotland?”
“Why did the Picts carve so many stones and what does the circle and zed symbol mean?”
“What was your original religion? You said a monk from a monastery, so the Christian faith was well seated in Pictland by 784?”
The Headmistress tapped on her microphone sharply bringing order and silence once again. “Ladies and gentlemen, please! I must insist on order. Thank you. Laneth?”
The girl sighed deeply and nodded. “Well, to be fair, the Standing Stones helped collect and direct the flow of mana, or so my mother said. She also said there was nae much mana as the highlands are almost entirely moors and there is nae much life to generate mana. Some of the carvings are magic based to aid in the flow of mana, or set a boundary for a spell. These tattoos on my arms increase my strength to make me the equal of a man. The draw on my bow is ten stone...”
“That's roughly a hundred and fifty pounds,” Mrs Carson added.
“eh, flow and boundaries, oh! Yes, the symbol. The circle and zed is the alliance of the old faith of Ash and Oak and the joining of Christ. The two circles are the natural and spirit worlds and the zed is how they were created and joined by The Lord and yes, I was baptized a Christian woman, and my aunt was a priestess of Ash and Oak, the understanding of the creation and the reverence of the Creator. In our country The Old Faith and the Monks of Christ got along well.”
Before the scholars could begin to shout a new series of questions, she rubbed her chin and thought out loud, “Maybe if I explain how I earned the right of bean sith would help a bit...”
September 21st, 2007
Psychiatry Department, Doyle Medical Center
The nameplate on the door proudly displayed Dr. Betty Markham, as Tansy raised her hand and knocked on the hard wooden surface. She found the door not fully closed and it swung open with her knocks. Inside she found a full-figured, oval faced woman with long dark hair in ringlets. She favored a young Yvonne De Carlo when she was Charlton Heston's wife in the Ten Commandments more than the vampric Lily Munster. She was in her late thirties and a doctorate from Stanford that was framed hung on the wall.
On her desk was a little plastic coin bank that was fashioned in the shape of Lucy van Pelt's Psychiatric Help Stand and the little sign read 'the doctor was in'. She looked up from her laptop screen and smiled. “You must be Tansy,” she greeted, standing to offer her hand. Walcutt entered, shook the offered hand and sank into the leather chair opposite to the desk she indicated. “Come in, dear, have a seat.”
Tansy opened up her purse, dug out a nickel and dropped it into the bank much to the delight of the doctor. “So,” Tansy asked with a smile, “Should I start with 'I was born a poor black child in the ghetto?'”
Markham's eyebrows ascended her forehead. “If you do, you'll probably need a roll of nickels.” The two women shared a chuckle, then Doctor Markham indicated her screen. “I was just reading some of your file, Tansy, why do you think Mrs Carson and Ms Hartford asked you to see me?”
Tansy pursed her lips for a moment, obviously fighting with herself, then nodded and made a decision. “Let me ask you something, Dr, Markham.”
“Of course,” she replied.
“I'll do my best not to be rude, but for a moment, I would like you to consider things from my perspective. I don't know you; I'm here because Ms Hartford and Mrs Carson asked me to come here. But other than the diploma on the wall, I really have no reason to trust you, yet you expect me to share secrets with you on the flimsy patch work of doctor patient confidentiality. Why should I?”
Dr. Markham smiled and stood before she came around the desk to a little dorm fridge that was humming away against the wall. “That's a fair question,” she said as she opened the device and removed a pair of sodas and set them down on her desk, one before the other chair she settled into, the other in Tansy's reach. “Above and beyond everything else, you should trust me because I can and will help you, to the very best of my ability and every thing we discuss will be held in the strictest of confidence. No one at this school has the power to compel me to disclose anything you tell me and should I volunteer it I will rightly and justly loose my license to practice. Whatever secrets you have are absolutely safe with me.”
“Do you believe trust is something you have to earn?”
After a long moment, the psychologist nodded. “Yes, I do. So, what can I do to earn your trust?”
“Tell me what causes Munchhausen Syndrome and how to cure it.”
Betty frowned for a moment as she took a sip of her soda. “Munchhausen isn't very well understood, Tansy. It appears to have two dissimilar causes, the first is a desire for attention the patient feels he or she is entitled to and not receiving and so begins to lie about symptoms in order to get that attention. Psychotherapy has had some success with these patients as the need for attention is being satisfied.”
“What is the other cause?”
“A fixation on the body, either by fear of death, or an obsession with being healthy or some combination of the two. The patient manifests symptoms out of a fear of being sick, not from a desire for attention. There is some overlap with clinical hypochondria These cases are much harder to treat because the patient isn't just seeking attention, they are acting out of fear.”
Tansy took a sip of her soda and sighed, nothing was ever easy. “Ok, how do you treat the second cause?”
Dr. Markham blinked. “You can't, Tansy. You can help the person with counseling, but until they see their fear is unwarranted, there is no drug or therapy to make someone brave.”
“Nothing?” Tansy demanded. “Nothing at all?”
Betty shrugged. “Oh, we can talk about cognitive behavior modification and there have been a couple of clinical trials with selective serotonin uptake inhibitors that are promising, but nowhere near a treatment that I would call anything other than experimental and in any case, they both depend on the patient understanding they have a mental disorder and are actively trying to over come it.”
“Bullshit,” the blonde retorted. “Every problem has a solution.”
“That's Galahad Syndrome talking,” the psychologist replied.
Tansy set her arms across her chest in an angry gesture. “Then get ready to go on a quest, Doctor, because I am not going to give up on my mother!”
Early Spring, 773CE
Mead Hall of Galan Son of Alba, Morlock
The Village Chief of Morlock sat at his table and stared into his cup. In the firelight the pewter tankard made the mead opaque and dark to match the chief's mood. He drained off the dregs and held out the tankard to be refilled by his son who was serving as his cup bearer. From a clay pitcher the boy filled the tankard halfway with mead, then splashed water in to fill the tankard.
Across from him, Brother Calvert from the Monastery of Obar Dheathain sat in the chair one of the maids had brought him as he took a drink from his own tankard to wet his dry throat from the message he had just repeated from memory. It wasn't a bad missive, indeed to most it would have seemed welcome news indeed, once the details of the offer were thrashed out, but then most were not the father of his daughter. The door outside opened, breathing in a bitter gust of wind that had the dogs mutter and whining as they rose and resettled a bit closer to the fire. In the door stood his wife, her ravens' wing hair held back by a gold diadem he'd given her as a wedding present looking lovely in a woolen dress dyed a mustard yellow and a cloak of bear and fox fur against the chill that was still in the air even in mid spring. Their daughter was with her, wearing her favorite cotehardie of green with it's yellow trim.
Galan sighed, there was nothing for it now.
He let his wife and daughter cross the hall and settle into their places at his left hand, kissing his wife as she passed. “Of your courtesy, Brother Calvert, trouble me to repeat your message.”
The monk stood from his seat and gave his tankard to the boy serving as his own bearer before bowing to the chieftain's wife. “My Lord, My Lady, and all present, know that I come to you from the cell of my monastery at the favor and bidding of my master, Drest, mac Talorgan, duke of Loch Linn Garan, that intrusting to Almighty God and His Holy Son Our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, to find all is well with the King's worthy Steward and Chief of Morlock and to know the mind of Galan, son of Alba on how he may be disposed towards a suite of matramony for the hand of his daughter, Laneth daughter of Joan. That my lord Duke is deprived of sleep and prayers freverent for the release of his burning love of the fair maid have been thus far unanswered by Our Lord, his Grace is moved by the hand of your humble servant to safeguard these gifts of affection that he might find favor in the eyes of the fabled Maid of Morlock in his love suite and the blessing of her father for her hand.” The monk bowed and waved forth the other boy with him, holding a small chest that he respectfully set on the table before the Chief, opened it and withdrew.
“This, the Duke, my master, Speaks.”
“What gifts, husband?” Joan asked, keeping an eye on her daughter as she did so.
Galan leaned forward to root through the little chest. “A silver comb and broach, three large garnets and two gold marks,” he replied, suitibly impressed. It was clear the Duke was very serious in his offer. Of course sailing the North Sea was serious and the silence streching out from his left told Galan a storm was coming. Still, a man didn't allow his fears to rule him, so he turned his head and took in the face of his daughter that was turning red with suppressed anger. “How now is it with you, daughter? What think you of the Duke's gracious offer?”
Laneth stood and slowly walked around the table so that she could see the items, gazed daggers at her father, then with great care sketched a curtsy to him, then turned to Brother Calvert and repeated the gesture. “This you may tell your master, Brother Calvert, that his present and your pains in bringing it, we thank you for. And that while the bards sing that the passage of time makes memory pleasant the Maid of Morlock has not forgotten that Drest, mac Talorgan, duke of Loch Linn Garan, is better than double her sixteen winters and is nae so capricious in her affections that they may be bought and sold with bobbles like a common tavern whore!” She shouted, cowing the monk a bit, then with great difficulty mastered her temper and lowered her voice.
“Drest, mac Talorgan, duke of Loch Linn Garan may burn with his affections and ambitions to use me as his brood mare, but tell the Duke that if he so desires Laneth daughter of Joan to pass his foals into history then Drest, mac Talorgan, duke of Loch Linn Garan must get off the pillowed chair groaning under the weight of his fat arse and high himself to Morlock and win my hand himself! I am not a brood mare or a barn pig to be bought through messengers no matter how gentle and gracious in the sight of Our Lord!”
“Laneth, that is enough!” growled Galan, to find his daughter whirling to face him, her temper fully off the leash now.
“I won't do it! You can't make me!” she thundered, shaking dust from the thatching over head and stormed out of the hall. Galan sighed and drained his cup.
“Oh, that went well...” he muttered as his wife picked up the broach from the chest and admired it.
“Do nae complain to me, husband mine,” she told him in a resigned tone. “How many nights have I warned you your coddling of her would return to haunt you? Your missplaced pride in watching your daughter make fools of every Pictish archer in ten leagues is come home now to roost! I warned you nothing good would come of letting her mix and mingle with the Sisters of Bean Sith! That in addition to martial skill they would fill her rebellious head full of freedoms that have no place in a chieftains daughter!”
“Leave off, woman,” Galan told her with a glare. “There's no good to come from muttering over could be or might have been, now is there? You know full well we are the bulwark of the Southern Border and no matter who our daughter marries, she'll likely fight more than one battle defending it!”
With considerable bravery for a man of the cloth, Brother Calvert stood and bowed to the Chieftain and his wife. “My lord, am I to carry back young mistress Laneth's response as given?”
Galan stood and came round the table to clap a hand on the monk's shoulder. “Take your rest, Brother Calvert, feast at my table and sleep soundly under my roof free of the worries of the road. I will speak to my daughter and tomorrow we shall break our fast and you will know our minds at full.”
The Monk bowed his tonsured head. “You are most generous, my lord.”
Galan turned to his son, “Gede, see the comforts of our guest that his plate and cup are not in want and that a table near the fire is held for Brother Calvert to sleep on.”
“Yes, father,” the boy replied setting his pitchers of water and mead down on the table. Galan nodded, satisfied his orders would be carried out, then left the hall and traced his daughter's steps. Were the sun up still she would be at the range the Sisters had set up to maintain their skill at archery, but as it was night there were only two places she would be. Finding her chamber empty when he arrived back at his long house, the Chief turned his steps to the stables and, as expected, found his daughter muttering angrily to herself as she mucked out her horse's stall.
Stomper was a yearling now, a strong black charger with a white star on his forehead and white feathering at his hooves and even though only a yearling was already fifteen hands high at his whithers. The Chief of Morlock came around the animal and his daughter caught sight of him. “Father I...” she started, stepping forward, but could not continue as Galan had slapped her sharply across the mouth.
Not a cruel strike, for Galan was not a cruel man, but a sharp sting so his daughter knew she was in disgrace. “That was for shaming me under my own roof,” he told her sternly as her hand came up to her cheek and she dropped her eyes. “Before you sleep you will make amends to your mother, who you shamed just as rankly as I and Brother Calvert for the abuse of a Herald in the preformance of his station.”
“Yes, father,” she replied meekly, bravely holding back tears. “I am sorry I allowed my temper to slip it's leash.”
“How many times have I told you to master it?” he demanded. “There is no offense a Herald can give for merely speaking the words of his master! Save your anger for his lord and give him the comfort and welcome due to so dangerous an occupation!”
“I will make things right by Brother Calvert, you hae mae word.”
“You will,” he commanded, wagging his finger at her. “Or you'll find you're not so big for me to take over my knee like a spoiled child.” She nodded and he sighed and made a vague gesture at the stall. “Finish caring for Stomper, tis not his fault you're in disgrace.” She set to raking the old hay and the dung the horse had passed into a pile as he leaned against the post of the stall and crossed his arms over his thick chest. “So, let's talk about Duke Drest,” he declared calmly to let her know he had accepted her apology. “You know is likely as not he will be king one day, and your children would be placed in the royal house. Laneth, Queen of the Picts has a fine ring to it.”
“What would I do with being Queen?” she demanded from her work. “Other than shame my husband because I'd rather muck my horses' stall myself to see it's done right than order the royal stable master?”
“For a girl so determined to have her own way, you're terribly reluctant to pursue the easiest path to it.” he observed with a chuckle. She got a shovel and began to move the pile of hay and dung into buckets to be taken to the compost heap.
“I'm angry because he thinks his wealth and his title can buy him whatever he wants,” she fired back. “If he is so enflamed with passion for me why send a herald with a bribe to buy good will he's too lazy to earn?”
Galan sighed noisily. “Aine's notions of romance aside,” he replied, rolling his eyes at the thought of the most senior of the Bean Sith sisters. “The Duke sent a fine, generous offer. Drest is an able fighter and a canny politician, and you know full well there's not a pound of fat on him.”
Laneth angrily set the now full buckets in the cubby for the stable boy to come collect them. “It's nae the point as you know,” she replied taking out a pair of brushes and beginning to brush the glossy flanks of the charger. “I want to stay in Morlock, father! I want my children to know their grandfather and...”
Galan allowed a frown to pull at the corners of his mouth. “We do nae always get the fancies of our hearts, girl,” he told her firmly. “You have a choice, either accept the Duke's suit, give me suitable grounds why it can be refused or...” He sighed. “Or swear the Oaths and become a full Sister of the Blade with all that entails. But know that even if you swear the Oaths you are still the Chieftains' Daughter and you have expectations that supersede them!” Laneth stopped brushing her horse and turned to look at her father who refused to meet her eyes.
He sighed again and stood straight. “I'll have your answer in the morning so sleep on it well.”
September 22nd, 2007
Nations Club House, behind Holbrook Arena
Kayda paused, the leather thread in her hand suspended in the air from pulling it through the shoulder strap for the medicine bag she was crafting. “You want, what?” she asked not believing her ears. Tansy rolled her eyes then threw her legs over the bench and sat down at the table she'd been leaning on over Kayda.
“Come on, Kayda, don't yank me around!” she pleaded as she leaned in earnestly. “There has to be some kind of...of...” she faltered, trying to find the right words. “Revealed truth spell,” she managed finally. “Some kind of mini-Hembleciya...?”
Kayda put the needle through its leather strap and pulled it around once more, “Ok, first a Hembleciya is a ritual, not a spell and...”
“Kayda, please!” Tansy interrupted, a hint of desperation in her tone. “Dr Markham is yanking me around, hell everybody is yanking me around! I have to help my mother!”
“Whoa, slow down,” Kayda pleaded, laying the needle and thread down so she could reach across the table to take Tansy's hands. “I'm coming in late and the middle here, help me get up to speed! What's going on?”
Tansy squeezed Kayda's hands, then slipped them free so she could clasp her hands together as if in prayer and laid her forehead against them in frustration. After a deep, calming breath, she looked up at the young Lakota girl, her eyes on fire with conviction. “You remember in my Hembleciva that Eagle showed me that because her best friend died young of a heart attack because she didn't take care of herself, my mother became obsessed with illness that turned into hypochondria and Munchhausen Syndrome?”
Kayda nodded guardedly as she pushed the medicine bag she was working on aside to give the blonde her complete attention. “Yes, I remember, but what does that have to do with...?”
“Ms Hartford worked her computer magic and got my mom transferred from the dump my father had her committed to to ARC. She's there now and I'm trying to get anybody to help me go into her mind and fix her...”
“Slow down, girl!” Kayda replied, horrified. “Tansy, you're good, hun, but you are not a trained psychologist! Mental illness is a serious thing! What has Professor Geintz or Dr Markham said?”
Tansy grabbed her hair with both hands in what Kayda was beginning to see was a tell that she was just shy of losing control of her emotions. “They keep giving me this bullshit song and dance about how you can't make someone brave and Munchhausen isn't understood and I can't stand it! All someone has to do is make her see she isn't sick! The same way you made me see I was sabotaging myself!”
Kayda chewed on that for a moment. “Well, I'm not a psychologist either, but what you're saying seems like it might work to me. What did Dr. Markham say when...?”
Tansy made a rude noise and a ruder dismissive gesture. “She doesn't believe me!” Tansy snapped. “She gives me some crap about I didn't really see Eagle and it was all just images in my mind...”
The Lakota shaman frowned in deep disapproval. “Well, I can certainly disabuse her of that notion!”
Walcutt bounced from despair to joy with the speed of a bipolar manic on an upper. “Kayda, you're the best...!”
Franks quickly raised a cautioning hand. “Slow down, kemosabe, convincing a doctor of the fifth world is not the same as curing your mother.”
Tansy crossed her arms over her bust and cocked her head to one side. “Indians really talk that way?” she demanded. “Should I start calling you Tonto?”
Kayda made a face. “Ok, first, I'm not an 'Indian', I'm Native American, second if you want my help you better not start insulting me...”
The blonde leaned forward, obviously teasing her friend. “Anyone born in this country is 'Native' American, so stop playing word games yourself, Tonto, and you started with the Lone Ranger gags, I'm just following your lead!”
“It's not a gag, it's Comanche,” Kayda informed her with great mock dignity. “That's my story and I'm sticking to it!” The girls shared a giggle, then Franks became serious. “Kidding aside, Tansy, you knew you had an issue and the ritual helped you find your way through it, but I don't know that that would work with your mother...!”
With a conciliatory gesture, Tansy sighed. “I don't ask for miracles, just a chance to try.”
“I'll always try,” Kayda told her. The blonde nodded her thanks and stood. “Text me when you talk with her next and I'll come with you.” Tansy gave her a thumbs up, sighed and made her way out of the club house. Kayda watched her go until Hard Sell leaned over.
“Kemosabe? Way to not play into the stereotypes, Chief.”
“Hush, you!” Kayda snapped with only slight annoyance. “Or I'll stick you out front with a handful of cigars.”
Hard Sell arched an eyebrow in a fair imitation of The Rock. “How?” he demanded, his tone dripping innuendo.
Tansy walked back towards Dickenson with her thoughts in a jumble. A part of her wanted to go see Elaine, but Mrs. Horton had been very emphatic that they were not to indulge in their affaires de l'amour under her roof again. Or at least, not for a while. Which honestly surprised Tansy something fierce and she couldn't resist lowering her shields a bit to 'eves drop' on what the House Parent had been thinking. While it was true that her powers worked best when she could touch someone, it wasn't in fact, required.
And what she had heard the house parent thinking shocked her.
Not figment of speach shocked, either, but real, stunned surprise. Mrs Horton approved of Tansy and Elaine's relationship. She thought that the blonde and the redhead were a lovely couple and the kind of photogenic simply normal relationship that would show people love didn't neccessarily follow a one plus one equals three pattern and there was nothing wrong with that. More shockingly, she also suspected Elaine and her of shairing Wyatt and she approved of that too!
Mind blown, Tansy had thought at the time.
She saw the fantasies Mrs Horton had of Mrs Savage, of all people(!), and a wistful regret she wasn't younger and still had Mr. Horton that she could have possably tempted Mrs Savage with! And suddenly Tansy had a sharp mental picture of herself and Elaine and Wyatt, all middle aged and still together, slowly tenderly making love still.
And the thought made her so warm in the ways she had longed for her own family and not had. Later that night she had explored the fantasy in her mind, seeing a brood of children happily playing together, blonde, brunette and red headed all watched over with her and her lovers. It had made her wake up in the middle of the night with the strangest kind of feelings.
Her thoughts were still spinning when a voice cut through them and a touch on her shoulder made her realize she had been neglecting her surroundings. “Tansy!” the girl gasped, a bit breathless. “I've been looking all over for you!”
The blonde smiled and subconsciously sent out a wave of welcome feelings. “Hey, Prue! Sorry to be hard to get a hold of. What's going on?”
Prudence had been thrilled with the make over Tansy had given her. Her new, trimmed and sculpted eyebrows enhanced her eyes and took the attention away from her nose. She had followed Tansy's recommendation by being a bit more dramatic with her eye makeup to enhance that distraction and the girls face had gone from 'unfortunate' to a very comely girl next door look that flattered her. “Adam,” she admitted with a groan.
“What now?” Tansy asked as she guided the other girl to a handy bench and sat down.
Prue played with her fingers, obviously embarrassed. “Oh, the new stuff you did for me, it worked great! The first time he saw me his mouth fell open in shock and he couldn't talk, but he's gotten so shy again! It's like I'm back to square one!”
Tansy smiled indulgently. “Prue, honey, new you, new problems! However, I think we can counter Mr. Lambert's shyness and give him a boost of confidence. Have...well, Prue, not to pry, dear, but have you thought about how far you want to go with him?”
A jumble of images flowed out of the girls mind, making love, heavy petting, and a nearly prudish image of just holding hands. “I...well...what...what do you think I should do, Tansy?”
“Prue,” she said softly, “you may or may not be aware of my reputation on campus...”
“I know people whisper terrible things about you, but...”
“Prue, honey,” Tansy sighed. “I am a slut, with a capital S. Ironically, Adam is one of the few boys I haven't fucked, so take it from me, honey, if you start shopping the buffet, word will get around.”
Pruedence Tavori's eyes filled with tears. “That's...terrible! You are a good person, Tansy! Don't let some clown tell you otherwise!”
“Prue,” the blonde replied with a smile and a pat of the others hand. “Like it or not, that is the way the world works. I slept around, and I'm paying the price for it. If you think Adam is 'Mr Right' or just 'Mr Right Now' is none of my business. If you want him, take him, but just know if you change your mind enough times, people start getting jealous and ugly. Now, while you think about how far you want to let him get, I'll go have a discrete conversation with a gentleman I know and get him to have a conversation with Master Adam, and we'll see what we can see.”
Tavori's smile was radiant. “Thanks, so much, Tansy!”
For once, Tansy Walcutt said exactly what she felt. “It's my pleasure, hun.”
Early Spring, 773CE
Long House of the Sisters of Bean Sith, Morlock
The door of the long house of the Banshees was heavy oak, reinforced with iron bands and heavy iron hinges. It was a stone long house, the redoubt of the town and meant to withstand heavy battery. On the other side, he heard the heavy brace bar being lifted and the door pulled open enough to show a long, drawn woman's face which was pretty in a carefree kind of way with blue eyes and a pair of eagles tattooed wheeling from the corner of each eye up to her reddish brown eyebrows. She smirked when she saw who was at her doorstep and pulled the door open wider. “Come in, Galan,” she greeted in her full voice. My door and knees always open for you!”
The chief of Morlock felt his cheeks burn and cursed the ability of Aine daughter of Ingrid to so easily get under his skin. He none the less entered the long house and paused while she re-secured the door with her own hands and took his cloak from him to hang nearest the fire to dry out from the constant damp of a coastal town. “Have you finally come to your senses and my bed?”
“Your courage is well known without tempting the ire of a witch, Aine,” he told her as the Ceann of the Banshees.
She smirked as she gestured one of her girls over with a pitcher of mead and a cup for the village Chief. “I can handle Joan,” she boasted as she poured the mead herself and presented it un-watered. “If that is all that keeps you from the joys of my chamber!”
A cheer of the banshees still up and drinking rose from the room causing Galan to roll his eyes. “I've come begging favors, and if you need my virtue and wedding vows sacrificed to grant them so be it.”
At once the Banshee's face drew into an angry frown. “If you want to plow between my knees you'll do it because you desire me, not for debt blackmailed from you!” she snarled.
“Lower your voice and be civil or you'll kiss the back of my hand!” the chieftain growled. “I humor your bravado enough without having to stomach your harridan too!”
The banshee's face was livid as she drew the dagger from her belt and began to clean her nails with it. “Did you come to prove your manhood by shaming me under my own roof?” she demanded coldly. “If so why should I bequeath to do you favors while you drink my mead and insult me?”
“You loudly proclaim to lust for me, does your caring stop there or is your heart inflamed as well as your loins?” he demanded. She snarled and sank the dagger into her table. “Peace,” the chieftain ordered. “Sheath your dagger and your temper, Ceann, and have mercy on an old fool. Tomorrow my daughter will come to you to face the trials and swear the oaths and if you love me you'll turn her away.” he said urgently and softly so only she could hear.
Aine chewed on her lower lip for a moment, then looked up at her banshees and the young men of the town hoping to be chosen for a night of bliss. “Sisters! The kegs are closed! To bed, the lot of you and home for the rest! The Chief and I will speak alone.” Most of the Banshees cat called their leaders on their way to their rooms, ironically alone. A few picked a strapping lad to lead by his horn to her chambers, but most of the men filed out muttering poor fortune.
With in minutes, the hall held only Galan, Aine and her dogs. “So...” she drawled finally as she picked up her cup and drank, “at long last young Laneth has told you what to go do with yourself, has she?”
Galan sighed and drank himself. Into his tankard, he admitted, “Drest, mac Talorgan, has offered up a bride price for her by the hand of Brother Calvert as his herald.”
Aine's frown deepened. “Should I be insulted?”
“He sent a silver comb and broach, both master works, three garnets the size of my thumb and two gold marks.” That seemed to please Aine and she smiled and sat back, unconsciously spreading her knees.
“A respectfull offer. Still, if she wants to take the oaths and face the trials, why should I turn her away? It's her right.”
“She's the Chieftain's daughter, Aine...” he started and instantly regretted it. She shot to her feet and flung her tankard across the hall to bounce to a stop with a clatter off the stone and boards.
“Hellfire and Damnation!” she shouted, “don't you dare bring up her lineage to me, Galan mac Alba! She that should have been my daughter! Mine! Not that Irish whore your father bought only to have her traitorous father live up to his two faced ways!”
“Sit...down...” Galan growled, his voice deep with threat.
Her hands balled into fists. “Do nae think yer self so full to order me, Chieftain! Put your fists where your mouth is if you're man enough to have a go at me!”
Slowly the chief stood, staring eye to eye with the enraged banshee. “I was man enough to deflower you, so you'll keep a respectful tongue if not a civil one!” She glared, but finally opened her fists and sank into her chair. “How long will you hold over me doing what was right, Aine? Would you have had me defy my father, us run off, clanless, pennyless?”
“I would have born your children and been happy!” She snarled, looking away. “And God take me as a liar if I would not have made you happy doing it!” She smiled a cruel smile. “And the Chief of Morlock would have more than two voices calling him father if he had but plowed my field!”
Galan flung his tankard to find hers and towered over her, looming in her face as his hands held her wrists to her chair. “Are you so without shame that you would delight in another's misfortune?” He hissed, his breath sour with the mead on it. “Is that how low you've stooped, Aine?”
She looked up, her eyes both wet with tears and burning with anger at her stolen future. “Is the eagle boasting when he wheels high over head?” she demanded. “Is the mare a braggart for running swiftly? Six bastards are the fruit of my womb! Six! And all living! Four loyal spear men, a midwife and an acolyte of ash and oak and all six would have called you father if I had my way of it! Do nae dare to shame me for what I gifted to this village! If your Irish whore is barren it's no fault of mine!”
His eyes were hard for a long moment, then he stood and stepped back. “It was a mistake coming here, your pardon, Ceann.”
“Don't go,” she whispered. “Galan...” She stood and caught his arm before guiding him down onto the bench again. He opened his mouth to speak, but she covered it as she strode to her cabinet and returned with two new tankards and a fresh pitcher to fill them from. Once his cup was full, she presented it on one knee and bowed her head. “Speak, Chief of Morlock what ye desire from bean sith.”
He took the cup, placed it on the table and then pulled her into his lap. She was a big woman, strong and big boned, but he was a bear of a man in his own right and held her even though his lap was filled. Looking into her eyes, he whispered, “If you need to know the bottom of my soul, yes, Aine there are nights, many nights, I wish you were beside me. And I see Laneth humilate every archer and ride as though she was one with that charger and yes, God save me, there are times I wish she were yours. But Laneth daughter of Aine is but a will o the wisp, and I have no grudge to bear as you have trained her. Now I see a way for her free of the battle field safe in stone walls and one day, perhaps, one day for all of Pictland to bow a knee to Laneth, Queen of the Picts. For the love of God, Aine, for the love of me, I know she'll defy me and come to you. It's the spitfire in her blood but as you love her, turn her away! Let me see her wed to a strong, rich man safe and treasured. Promise me.”
Aine turned, and pressed her lips to the lips of her first love, her breasts soft and full against his chest as she poured out her love of what could have been, and wasn't. Then she withdrew from the kiss, stood and looked down on him. Her eyes filled with tears as heavily she said, “'The bonds of duty and tradition tie my hands and for the eyes of our ancestors watching I must do what is right.'”
Galan flinched as his own words came back to haunt him. “Revenge is a bitter, heavy dreg,” he whispered.
But Aine was not done and she raised her chin to declare, “If Laneth, daughter of Joan, comes to me to swear the Oaths and face the trials, it is her right no matter whose blood flows in her veins, nor what price must be paid down the road and be damned to hell if I will break tradition on your whim to save your dreams when you used it to shatter mine, Galan mac Alba. Now go home to your wife you ingracious bastard and never let your shadow darken my door again.”
September 22nd, 2007
Melville Cottage, Room 803, Whateley Academy
Tansy sighed as she basked in the afterglow, covered in sweat and feeling immensely happy and cared for. Wyatt's hand squeezed her arm as he kissed her shoulder and it felt good. It was a good sign, and something she wasn’t used to. when she looked over at the body next to her, the instinctive shudder of revulsion was mercifully absent. She snuggled into the hollow of Wyatt's arm and basked in the emotions rolling off the sated senior emeritus. If nothing else, she was glad that Elaine and Mustang had gotten her to relax and enjoy this. If she was going to be known as the Campus slut, it was only fair she get to enjoy it. Smiling up at him she whispered, “I wish Elaine was here too,” and giggled as he flinched from having his expression read.
“Why do you say that?” he asked, trying valiantly to preserve his macho image.
“Because we both love the little whine you make when you realize we aren't done with you,” she purred, her finger drawing little designs in the perspiration on his chest.
“I don't whine,” he declared loftily.
“You do when you're two for two and you've just realized two more at bats are expected,” she said around a laugh and his expression became pained as he relived a painful memory. Walking had been a chore the next day from that little get together. Completely worth it, but a chore.
“You two are evil when you get together,” he declared kissing her nose. She playfully licked the tip of his nose, causing him to scowl as she regretfully rose from the bed and stretched.
“Goodness, has nothing to do with it,” she told him coyly, quoting Mae West and practically strutting into his bathroom to towel off. “Do me a favor?” she asked from her rubbing.
He stood and walked to the bathroom door to watch her, leaning against the frame with a smile on his face. “What do you need?”
“I was hoping you could talk to a boy...” He frowned and she quickly made a gesture of calm. “No, it's nothing like that. Adam Lambert, Greasy, I'm trying to get him set up with Prue Tavori, you know, Chemtrail? And he's so shy he's missing her signals.”
“You know,” he told her offhandedly. “There's a lot of speculation that Greasy has a thing for Peeper, God knows why, but it is possible he's, well, what's the nice way of putting it these days? A Liberace fan?”
“Freddy Mercury would be a bit more up to date, dear,” she told him with a smile and threw the towel into his face. Her scent was on it, and a hint of Elaine as well, and he was really beginning to enjoy the way their scents intermingled. She squeezed by, goosing him as she did and the relaxed intimacy in her was night and day different than their first, aborted affair. Wyatt smiled, glad that Tansy was finally finding herself.
She began to dress and looked at him watching her. “Fantasizing?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.
Wyatt grinned. “I've always said you'd look great in a mink coat and a smile. Ok, I'll give him the pep talk, but I can't guarantee results.” She got her bra settled and pulled on her top before coming over and giving him another kiss.
“That's all I ask,” she said. “Sorry to well, enjoy and run, but I have some other things on my plate to take care of before curfew and now technically so do you.”
He playfully slapped her ass. “I'm going,” he chuckled as he headed into the shower.
She paused as she let herself out, considering. A mink coat and a smile, eh? Oh I can do better...
September 22nd, 2007
Twain Cottage, Room 308, Whateley Academy
Adam opened the door and found it full with the practically hulking form of Wyatt Cody. Behind him, John 'Peeper' Martin squealed out, “I didn't make the poster of Loophole in the shower!”
Wyatt's face clouded over and he ducked his shoulder to crowd his way into the room and collect a handful of the chubby young man and effortlessly lift him up to eye level. “What poster of Lanie in the shower?” he growled. Adam actually chuckled and shook his head as he tapped the big senior on the arm.
“Wyatt?” he asked, pointing with this thumb at the wall. On it was a one sheet style poster that had been the fund raiser spring term final project for Venus, Inc. last year. On it, Elaine, dressed as a plumber heavily inspired by a certain Italian practitioner of the trade, shrugging into the camera as the models, all in towels clustered around her with mock scowls at being forced to wait to come clean, in a shower under heavy remodeling. It was even labeled, Venus, Inc. 2006-2007.
“Do you have a death wish?” the senior growled, dropping the pudgy boy back on his bed. Peeper stared and his mouth fell open. Realizing where his eye line was, Wyatt drawled, “You want to take a picture? It will last longer.”
Peeper actually shuddered in a full body convulsion and turned away to face the wall. “I'm not looking! I'm not! I can't control it! Argh! Brain bleach!”
“What's his problem?” asked a confused Adam. Wyat adjusted his jeans to be a bit more comfortable.
“Envy,” he replied nonchalantly. “Everybody has their Sin. You busy, Adam?” The other boy shook his head and Wyatt clapped him good naturedly on the shoulder. “Excellent, walk with me.” Despite the worried expression on his face, Adam fell in behind the big man with the air of a man going to the gallows. Wyatt shook his head and squeezed the boys shoulder in encouragement. “Relax, you're not in any kind of trouble and I'm not taking you 'out behind the wood shed'. I'm trying to do you a good turn.”
“People don't normally do me favors,” the other boy said quietly.
The two men went downstairs and out into the early evening air. On a trail heading roughly to the Crystal Hall, and with just them on it, Wyatt asked, “Look, Adam, this is a touchy kind of a question, and normally it'd be none of my business, but like I said, I'm trying to do you a solid. Not to put too fine a point on it, son, you bat left or right handed?”
Adam blinked. “I...I never really played baseball...”
Wyatt chuckled and shook his head. “Ok, let me be blunt, which way do you swing, Adam? Guys or Gals?”
Lamberts face was impossible to read. “I..uh...sexually?” he squeaked. “Are, are you asking if I'm gay?!” He looked around, incredulous, “But...but...I thought you and Lanie...”
Most guys would have been threatened by where the boys innocent confusion went, but Wyatt was very secure in himself and actually laughed a full belly laugh he was so amused. “I'm flattered, Adam, but no, I swing with the ladies. Reason I ask is a...a good friend of mine is trying to set you up with a young lady and...”
“Prue,” he whispered. Adam sat down and buried his face in his hands. “I don't have anything to offer her, Wyatt or anybody else. Which way do I swing? Who cares?”
“Don't sell yourself short, Adam...” Wyatt started, but the boy just reached up and dug his fingers into his neck, then like pulling off a Halloween mask, he pulled off his face and hair until the entire skin was off his head. Underneath was the same face, though it was impossible to determine his race, or even most of his features. Free of the mask all of his pores began to ooze a thick, greyish black mucus that had the consistency of thick body lotion. Within seconds his head was covered in it, giving him a molten, misshapen appearance that looked less and less human with each passing second. The mucus began to seep into his shirt and soak it.
“I'm sorry, did I break your concentration?” the young man snarled. “You were saying something about selling myself short? Oh, you were finished? Well, do I fucking need to retort, pretty boy?” he shouted. “Who wants to wake up to this? Huh? Tell me that, Mr Big Fucking Man on Campus!”
Wyatt sank down to one knee and unflinchingly looked Adam in the eyes. “Adam, you got dealt a raw hand, brother and I'm not going to sugar coat that. But you also got the smarts to deal with it pretty damn well. So, from where I'm sitting, you've got two choices, son, you can throw the worlds biggest pity party and sit on this fucking bench until doomsday, or you can man up, solve your problems and live some life. The way Tansy tells it, Prue has the hots for you pretty well, so, how much of this does she know about?”
The molten face shrugged and looked away. “I...the chemistry teacher makes me take my hand off so the...stuff...can be analyzed in class. She's seen that. I say my whole body does it, but I think you're the only person that's seen this much, other... Other than my folks, and they... I...I shower at night, so...” Adam began to sob and heedless of his clothing, Wyatt reached out and took the boy into a hug. The simple, human gesture was one of the first Adam had ever known since he had manifested and he wept for twenty minutes.
“Come on,” the senior said after Adam collected himself. “I'll have Baloo take a look, maybe Atlantis magic can help.”
“Wyatt,” the young man whispered. “I...I don't know what I am...”
“I won't take advantage, Adam, even if I did swing that way. Don't think you owe anybody just because they are kind to you. You're not anybody's slave. Come on, we'll walk to Doyle and I'll have Baloo take a look. Maybe we can do something.”
Early Spring, 773CE
Oath Hill, overlooking the village of Morlock
The drone of a bag pipe drifted on the wind as the village came to a halt in shock and disbelief. From the long house the Sisters of the Bean Sith spilled forth, bows held in salute as the entire order filed out, forming a guard of sorts around a young maiden in a simple linen smock. Her wild red hair was loose as she walked, a drum marking time with the lonely piper as the women of the martial order marched through the town and out, walking towards the hill. From his own Hall, the Chief and his wife, stone-faced walked with a Christian Monk in his robes to follow the procession.
The order arrived at a crucifix, permanently erected for the ceremony. The town formed a rough circle as the girl knelt before the furred and armored Ceann of the Bean Sith. “Who are you and why are you come?” Aine demanded.
“I am Laneth, Daughter of Joan, Chieftain's Daughter of Morlock, here to swear the Oaths of Sisterhood and join the daughters of the blade.”
Aine balled a fist and landed a crushing blow on the girls mouth, splitting her lip and sending blood and spittle flying. “What worth have you that I should call you sister and trust my life to yours in battle?”
Although tears welled up in the red heads eyes, they burned with determination. She spat the blood from her mouth and raised her chin in defiance of the Ceann. “I will face any trial you name and prove by my body, heart and soul to have worth and earn my place in the sisterhood.”
“Let her be tried!” Aine shouted and at once two Banshees came forward and drew their daggers. They roughly hauled the girl to her feet and cut the shift from her body until she stood nude on the hill top.
The crowd murmured, but Galan strode forward and shouted, “Avert not your eyes! Do nae shame my daughter so! It is her right to face the trials and all it entails!”
Aine nodded at the Chieftain, then at a gesture, Laneth was born to the crucifix and strapped to it, spreadeagled and without modesty. The Ceann raised her voice and shouted, “At any point, cry 'mercy' and you shall have it for only in your silence do you win these trials.” A brazier was laid out and lit, iron brands placed in the fire to begin to glow. Laneth breathed heavily, obviously in fear, with her eyes on the fire.
“As we were nourished in the womb,” Aine, intoned, selecting one of the brands that glowed red hot and held it out to the priestess. The spell was woven onto the metal and even though quenched in a bucket of a sorcerous mixture, the brand emerged still glowing. “So magic nourishes the land and can be poisoned. Speak your defense of magic.”
Laneths eyes were on the poker as it approached but her voice rang high and true. “I, who was nourished of this land, swear on my blood to defend it, to supple those obedient to our king, to tend the stones which guide the mana and be protected by those who would misuse magic against me!”
“Then know and feel always the kiss of magic!” Aine declared and pressed the brand against her stomach, framing her navel. The hiss of the flesh burning to the heat was drown out by the scream of the girl that wailed off as the brand was removed, leaving not a burned scar, but a dark, knot work tattoo that glowed softly with magic as it burned into her skin, flesh and soul. “Say it,” taunted Aine. “I do this not from cruelty. Speak the word, cry Mercy and it all ends.”
“Taunt me not,” wailed Laneth through the tears streaming down her face. “Do not mock me for I will not be turned aside!”
The Ceann threw down the brand and picked up a second, larger one. It was a flowing, liquid like shaping of metal and its mirror was picked up by Aine's second and brought before the Priestess, Laneth's aunt and once more the spells were woven on it, The brands were a foot long and withdrew again from the water quenched, but still glowing, “To speak your oaths and last the entire battle requires wind beyond youth. For when the king calls age cannot be the answer! There is battle and there is death! How answer you?”
Aine and her second settled themselves, left and right on the girl, the irons held close enough that she could feel the heat on her naked flesh. Through her tears, Laneth cried, “Let my lungs be filled so always have I wind to answer the call of my king to battle and the fulfillment of the oaths I make today!” Simultaneously, two feet of red hot iron were pressed into the girls sides. The brands framed her breasts, leaving them untouched but it framed them like filigree. Laneth strained up against her bonds and screamed beyond what any man or woman should have wind for and at last the brands were pulled away, leaving glowing dark knot worked tattoos that ran from breast to hip.
Laneths head hung and she wept, her hands clenched in fists so tightly the nails drew blood in her palms. Aine leaned in to whisper in her ear. “A word, dear heart, a single word, give in, cry out Mercy my daughter and I will give...”
In a rage, Laneth drew back her head as far as she could and sent it crashing into the side of Aine's face. The Ceann was staggered by the blow and stumbled back, while a cheer rose up from the sisters and villagers alike. At the ragged edge of her sanity, Laneth screamed, “Come again to me with Mercy and see what else I have for you! I...will...not...be...denied!”
Aine rubbed the side of her face as she looked upon the wild eyed red head and felt such an upwelling of pride she nearly burst with love of her student, rage at being denied as her mother and a wild panoply of emotions as she had not felt since she gave her last child up to be fostered. With that pride ringing in her voice she cried out, “Scourges!”
A pair of chained straps with wicked teeth were brought from the chest and strapped over each bicep and thigh. At each pause in Aine's speech a cord was pulled, releasing a cam and the strap ratcheted down one gear tooth and the teeth, pointed in, bit into her flesh. “Strength!” she shouted and a grunt came from Laneth as the teeth pierced her skin. “Strength of limb.” Blood began to flow as Laneth raised her head, her teeth bared and she glared death at her tormentor. “Strength of weapon! Of leg! Of arm! Only the strong join the sisters of the blade! Only the Banshee are the equal of a man on the battle field! Show us your strength, Laneth, daughter of Joan!”
As the sweat dampened her hair and the blood poured down her arms and legs she raised her head and shouted, “Hear my Oath, O God of Abraham and Issac Father of my Savior, hear me and warn all those who would take of my hearth, kith and kin for Laneth, daughter of Joan is Bean Sith! And where my gaze falls shall death follow! My Tooth will tear out the throat of those who would take that which is ours and my wail shall announce Death to those that defy my king! THIS WILL I DEFEND!” Finally, four curved irons were removed from the coals and carefully rolled into the passage, through the scourges, left for them.
For a final time Laneth pulled at her restraints and screamed as her flesh burned. Joan buried her face into her husband's shoulder and beat against his chest with a fist as he watched, unable to look away as his daughter suffered. Finally the brands came away revealing their magical tattoos about her arms and thighs. The scourges fell away and revealed her arms and legs unharmed, even though covered in blood. Stone faced, the banshees freed their new sister and helped her down from the cross. She was wrapped in a linen gown and stood shakily before Aine. She removed the diadem from her head and laid it on Laneths head. “Let all hear see and know that Laneth, Daughter of Joan is Bean Sith and of our order my own daughter.” She leaned down and kissed the girls forehead.
She held out her hand and the village blacksmith and tanner came forward, one with a belt, the other with a dagger that he had labored over with love. The belt was tied round the gown and Aine held up the dagger. “Here is the proof of your oaths, may it drink deeply of the blood of all who would deny what you have done here today.”
September 22nd, 2007
Doyle Medical Center, Urgent Care Ward, Whateley Academy
The doors slid open of their own accord to admit Wyatt and Adam, who was still carrying his face mask and cringing every time someone looked in his direction. Wyatt, on the other hand, walked as if he owned the center, leading the other boy past the nurses' station only remarking as he passed one of the preoccupied Nurses, “Be so kind as to pull Adam Lamberts file and bring it to exam three.”
The Nurse was far too used to obeying requests in that tone of voice. “Certainly, Doctor,” she said without looking up as Wyatt went by, opened the door to the exam room for Adam, and flipped the marker by the door to 'Occupied'.
“On the table young man,” Wyatt ordered in the deeper, gruffer voice of his spirit. Adam climbed up, somewhat in awe as he pulled off his ruined T-shirt. He watched Wyatt make a gesture over the left of the two pearlescent silver vambraces he was wearing and his fingertip started to glow. “Open your mouth and swallow this.”
“What is it?” asked Lambert in an uneasy tone of voice.
“Essence,” replied the Kodiak through his host. “First it's a probe spell that will send what your current health status is, there is also a stabilizing agent, if needed, as well as a mild sedative to keep you calm, now open your mouth.” Reluctantly, Adam did so and Wyatt placed the glowing dot on his tongue.
Adam got a vague, sweet taste, then a warm, nurturing feeling swept over him and he felt as safe as in his mother's arms. Every muscle in his body relaxed, releasing tension he didn't realize he had been carrying around and for once he felt as carefree as before he manifested. He watched with a vague detached interest as glowing symbols in a language he didn't recognize and an alphabet he didn't know began to appear in the air. Most were a soothing, emerald green but one or two were a mustard yellow and he felt he probably should be concerned, but couldn't be bothered.
Wyatt cupped his chin in his hand as he read the flowing symbols. There came a knock on the door, then it opened, revealing the male Dr Tenant, an expression between amused and annoyed on his face, and a folder in his hand. “Doctor Cody, my congratulations on your speed record run through medical school!”
“Dr Tenant,” The Kodiak replied, manifesting around his host. “I was practicing medicine while your ancestors were picking fleas off each other on the savanna.”
The Doctor became cross. “That may be, Kodiak, but you do not have privileges to practice at this facility!”
The bear turned from his displays and gave his full, terrifying attention to the physician. “Oh, so you have Young Master Lamberts condition sorted and you're withholding the cure for spite then? Well, Doctor, my congratulations on your creative bending of your oath! Can I see the boy's chart or do you want to step up to physical torture from simple psychological?” The bear faded away as Wyatt reasserted himself and he turned to the wall.
“That's enough, Kodiak,” he warned the open air, then turned to Dr. Tenant with a contrite expression on his face. “Sorry about that, Doc, Old Baloo gets testy when his expertise dick gets stepped on.”
The doctors swarthy face sketched a sardonic grin. “Well, if he would pick it up off the floor,” he deadpanned and shared a chuckle with the boys at the dirty joke. Seeing the floating images he became intrigued. “What are these?” he asked.
Wyatt made a gesture and the writing became English. “Kodiak has a kind of medical probe spell that Adam already swallowed, its reporting his condition, based on the flow of his own energy and that energies interaction with the background mana.” He began to point at the screens. “Heart rate, blood pressure, vascular status...”
“What?” Raul asked. “Vascular status?”
“The probe interacts with the blood pressure and can detect bleeding anywhere in the system and isolate it. Blood Chemistry and metabolic panel here, lung function, Kidneys, liver, hormone system and levels, pretty much everything he's doing now.”
“Amazing,” Tenant whispered, obviously envious.
“Adam, your testicles are reporting they're over heating a bit. Boxers, not briefs, brother.”
In a somewhat dreamy tone of voice, Adam replied, “Ok, Kody.”
Wyatt held out his hand. “Can I see what all you have?”
Tenant held out the file. “Nothing as complete as this, I'm sure,” he admitted sadly.
Wyatt flipped through the documents. “Never hurts to be thorough,” he muttered from his scanning. Seeing nothing of interest, he put the file down and with his left hand he made a gesture over the right bracer and a ghostly Adam rose up from his body. A few manipulations of the floating symbols stripped off the ghosts skin revealing the interface of his muscles and skin. Not satisfied, Wyatt made a hooking gesture and from the skin rose up the gland that was busily secreting mucus then next to it he pulled out the individual cells, then from that removed the DNA helix and watched it light up with which genes were firing.
“I...hate...you,” breathed the doctor as he looked, astounded.
The Kodiak chuckled through Wyatt. “Don't feel inadequate, I'm sure a cave dwelling shaman would curl up and die with envy of what you have made here. There is just that much of a gulf separating you and I as you and that cave man.” He cupped his chin for a moment and examined the genes as they lit up and changes were made. “I was afraid of this,” he muttered.
“What?” Tenant asked.
The Kodiak manifested again and began to point out each item in the displays as he spoke. Adam is missing the interface linkage between the power his Meta Gene Complex has manifested, and the needed connections between his pores, his nervous system, and his brain to control it. So the pores are defaulted 'on' and just keep generating his mucus.”
“So, it's nerve damage?” Raul asked, but the Kodiak shook his head.
“Not strictly speaking,” he replied. “The nerves weren't damaged, his MGC is missing the neurons to have built the link in the first place. This kind of unexpected mutation of the MGC is one of many reasons why I argued so vehemently against it...”
“What?” shouted Tenant in disbelief. “Are you saying Atlantis created the MGC?”
“Among other things,” the Kodiak replied. “We were desperate, but obviously not infallible.” The Kodiak made a series of sweeping gestures and a molecular model appeared and floated in the air. “Is your chemistry department able to synthesize this? There is no magic component, simply a selective hormone uptake inhibitor.”
“This will generate the missing control?”
Kodiak sadly shook his head. “No, that would require genetic surgery and honestly I am not skilled enough to attempt it for one, and I have ethical reservations for two. This won't affect Adam's gadgeteering talent, but it will quiet these genes here and that will stop the cells from producing the mucus.”
Adam sat up, sitting through his ghostly projection and even around the mucus covering his face his eyes glistened. “Really?”
“There may be some side effects, but it should work,” the Kodiak assured him. “You'll have to take this for the rest of your life, I'm afraid...”
“Ask me if I care!” Adam said fervently.
Dr Tenant quickly sketched out the model and its notes. “I'll get right on this.”
September 22nd, 2007
Rm 502, Dickenson Cottage, Whateley Academy
The light of her laptop played on Tansy's face as she browsed around. She already had found what she wanted for herself, now was the time for a little something special for Elaine. Sort of a thank you and a small token of affection for everything the red head had done for her. She settled on a choice, grateful that she and Elaine were the same size and while she had a twinge at buying off the rack in certain circumstances, the immediate gratification was worth the price paid in gauche. She would of course rather have custom made, but that would take weeks she didn't want to wait. Once she verified the stock, she dug out her phone and dialed the designer's private cell number.
Of course she had his private cell number, what did you expect?
“Stephan, darling it's Tansy,” she purred into the phone. “Not too late to call, I hope?” She looked at her clock. It was curfew here, but he was in L.A. “Splendid, darling, yes don't think bad of me, but I've just bought a pair off your website. Yes, I know, terribly middle class of me, but I'm in a rush, darling. The blue is for me, the red for my friend Elaine. Can I have a teleport courier pop over to pick them up for me tomorrow? Oh you are the best, Stephan. Kisses!”
Tansy smiled a wicked smile and put her phone on the desk. Standing, she stretched and yawned. “Well, that's as much damage as I can do, today,” she told herself. As she snuggled under her comforter she wondered if Mrs. Nelson would let her get away with a sleep over with Elaine. That brought a smile to her face and she drifted off to the March of Dreams.
September 23rd, 2007
Room 210, Poe cottage, Whateley Academy
Tansy had sat through another of Reverend Englunds sermons, surprised that this year the old priest seemed positively subdued from his usual fire and brimstone fare of last year, even after the New Year when he'd started on a forgiveness track, perhaps a peek into his conscience after the disaster that had been Halloween. Tansy didn't dwell on it as she had plenty to atone for the last few years herself. So as she sat and tried very hard find a place in her heart where true repentance might be and to seize hold of it.
She had sat alone and sang the hymns and tried to look at God through her new eyes. Yes, she admitted to herself, a great big chunk of what I feel for Lanie is lust, but from that I found out what love was and that can't be bad, can it?
So, her mind thinking deep thoughts she attended the service and took communion not for the first time wished God was a bit closer than He seemed content with being. Afterward, she was walking back to Dickinson when she got a text of a courier with a delivery for her signing in at the front desk. Grinning at the thought of retail therapy, she diverted to Schuster Hall and took delivery of a pair of boxes in bags, Her VISA was run through a gadget on his iPhone and now thoroughly excited, she practically skipped to Poe.
Signing in with Mrs. Horton she got the gimlet eye, but gave her a 'scouts honor' salute in return, then took the packages upstairs. She knocked and was startled by the look of Elaine's face when she opened the door, it was pale and drawn. “Lanie, are you alright?” she asked, concerned.
The redhead forced a smile and stepped aside to let Tansy in. The fan in her bathroom was running, but the smell of sickness was still in the air. “Ah ate something that disagreed with me, or something,” she said, closing the door and picking up the can of ginger ale to take another sip. “Ah'll be alright in a bit. You look lovely! Just come from church?”
“Yes, and bearing gifts!” the blonde enthused as she held up the bags. “Happy birthday to me, she said, putting one box on Elaine's bed. The other she held out. “This, this is for you. There are not words for how grateful I am to you, Elaine Nalley. You took a chance on me when anyone with sense would have told me to reap what I'd sowed, and you would have been right to! You...you are the light of my life guiding me back from the forest I was lost in! This isn't enough, a lifetime won't be enough, but I promise you baby, I will not let that stop me from trying!”
Elaine's eyes boggled as she saw the logo on the bag. “Stephans of Beverly Hills? Tansy, you shouldn't, oh Ah can't...”
“I should, you can and you will!” the blonde retorted, forcing the box into Elaine's hands. The color had come back to her face now and she was blushing. Excited, she carefully took the box from the bag and squealed in surprise. Taped to the box was a sheet of paper with a hand written note:
So looking forward to designing something special just for you! In the meantime, I've hand picked this one from my stock so I know you have the very best. Be sure to give Tansy a kiss for me and I must have a photo of you in it for the website! All the best:
“Oh mah gawd!” she drawled, her hands shaking. “Stephan of Beverly Hills hand picked for me...”
“Open it,” whispered Tansy with glee.
Elaine carefully separated the note, muttering about having it framed. With a quick search of her drawer she removed an X-Acto knife and opened the box with the care of a surgeon. Finally the tissue paper gave way and she gasped as her eyes fell on a magnificent Red Fox Fur coat. Her hands began to shake as she carefully pulled the coat from its box. She buried her face in the fur and breathed in the delicate aroma as Tansy leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Fur-gasm!”
“Oh, Tansy, baby, it's too much...”
“Look, open the coat and look inside!” she encouraged and when Elaine complied she found the coat was fur on both sides so it would be against her skin and out in this breathtaking beauty. Sliding into the coat she found it fell just to her knee with a wide lapel that was actually a hood to encompass her head. The orange tinted fur didn't clash with her hair, but brought out the highlights of the scarlet and made her complexion rosy.
“Ah got to change mah pants...” she whispered, basking in the incredible softness whispering against her skin. “Tansy Ah can't,” she protested weakly, “This must have been an awful price...” but the blonde would hear none of it.
“It's done!” she declared firmly. “It's my birthday and my rules!”
Elaine cocked her head to one side. “Is it? Happy birthday!”
Tansy blushed and giggled. “Well, technically Tuesday is my birthday, but close enough! No arguments, that is your coat!” She giggled again and took her box from its bag. “Let me see that knife...?”
The X-Acto handed over, Tansy opened her box and pulled the tissue aside. “What is it?” Elaine asked, breathless. Tansy pulled out the coat which wasn't a pure white, but a white on top with darker undertones to the fur that made the fur seem whiter oddly enough.
“Blue fox,” the blonde told her, burying her face in the fur. “Don't ask me why, you can see it's white, but...” and she slipped the coat on and showed that cut and fit wise it was an exact duplicate of Elaines' only in white. The fur lightened Tansy's complexion to alabaster and she took on the look of some Nordic goddess stepping from the pages of an epic poem or a Wagner opera. “How do I look?”
Elaine couldn't answer from her mouth hanging open.
Tansy grinned and give her lover a kiss. “I'm so glad you like it.” she said, and the warm, indescribable feeling spread throughout her chest and was almost overpowering as she felt the joy in giving to someone special to her for the first time. She gathered up the box and tissue paper, showing Elaine the special broad shouldered hanger that had come with the coat and put it in her closet. “Come on,” she said with a smile. “Are you busy? Good, come to the Venus, Inc club house. Stephan needs his picture and I have an idea you are going to love.”
September 23rd, 2007
Doyle Medical Center, Urgent Care Ward, Whateley Academy
Doctor Tenant had insisted on full staff as Adam tried the drug for the first time. The young man felt terribly exposed as he sat on an exam table that had been covered in a protective tarp. For the first time since he had invented his skin coating, he was naked, save for a pair of swimming trunks of a wet suit like material to keep his modesty. His skin was covered in his secretions and dripping down onto the floor.
Kodiak was also present, if a bit grumpy about what was excessive caution to his line of thinking, but that was the order of the day. A fascinated Mrs. Carson was also present as the ancient healer once more gave his probe spell to his patient and brought up the displays. Making them large enough to be seen by the assembled notables, he activated the imaging from the probe and called up the pore and the cell DNA once more. A gasp went through the crowd causing him to chuckle. “Good morning.” the bear spirit greeted gruffly. “To recap for our new visitors, the patient exhibits an active Meta Gene Complex which has manifested through these DNA here. They direct the dermis cells of his body to produce a mucus roughly analogous to light petroleum jelly. The reason for the defective lack of control is a mutation in the MGC which failed to generate a neural linkage between the cells and the patients MGC control center in the brain. As the default from manifestation is 'on' this presents as a constant production of the mucus in an uncontrollable manner.
“Lacking adequate gene surgery options, a chemical suppressant treatment is indicated through a selective hormone uptake inhibitor, demonstrated here. The chemical will deactivate the indicated firing genes and default the production of the mucus to off.”
A voice from the assembled doctors asked, “Can this be used to, well I hate to use the word 'cure' but it fits, a patient from being a mutant?”
“No,” the Kodiak replied quickly. “This inhibitor only affects these genes, so anyone else with the patients issue can be treated, but that is all. As the chemical is so targeted, it should be well tolerated by the patent, however it is a water-soluble chemical and thus will be purged from the body within twenty-four hours, requiring new treatment every day for the patient's life.” The spirit turned to the white coated physician beside him.
“Dr Tenant, would you care to do the honors?”
The swarthy doctor nodded and handed a cup of water to Adam. “Er, I better put this in your mouth for you,” he said with a smile and dropped it into the boys mouth. He drank the water and tossed his head back.
For several tense minutes, Adam held his breath, hyper aware of his body. Then, he said, “There...there's kind of a tingling feeling on my skin,” he said.
Noting the boys elevated heart rate, Kodiak said, “Calm down, Adam. Just relax.”
Adam nodded and closed his eyes, taking several deep, calming breaths. After a moment, Wyatt nodded at something he saw on the display, picked up a towel off a cart of them and came over, unfolding it. He laid it over Adam's head and wiped for a bit, before pulling the towel away to a gasp from the audience. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Adam Lambert,” Wyatt declared handing the young man a mirror.
Fearfully Adam held up the mirror and saw something he had not seen in two years, his own face. He had no hair at all on his scalp nor even eyebrows, everything had fallen out from the mucus, and his skin was greyish colored from grease staining his skin, but he saw his own face and began to weep. The assembled Doctors began to applaud even as Dr Tenant checked all of Adam's vitals the old fashioned way. “How do you feel, Adam? Nausea? Palpitations?”
“I...I really want a shower,” the boy said with a shaky smile.
“I think that can be arranged,” Dr. Tenant assured him.
Early Spring, 773CE
Mead Hall of Galan Son of Alba, Morlock
Brother Calvert started to rise as Laneth entered the hall, walking slowly and carefully, but she gestured emphatically for him to remain seated. She was wearing the green and yellow cotehardie again, though as he looked on the comely young maid he couldn't help but think of the trial she had undergone the day before and the monk chastised himself for thinking of her beautiful young body before the trial had become serious.
The monk averted his eyes to the floor, but she finally came before him and knelt down on the floor despite his cries to stop. Bowing her head she spoke clearly, “Brother Calvert, I am in disgrace for my shameful abuse of you under my father's roof. Please accept my most humble and heartfelt apologies for the breach of tradition in my ill use of a herald performing his station. I am at your bidding, sir, how may I make amends to you?”
“Please, my lady,” the monk stammered, “any ire of yours I have sense to know was not directed at me, and I consider myself well hosteled from so generous a host. That you should care so deeply to offer up such apology is more than I could ask. Please, for love of your dress, abase yourself no more.”
The young woman rose carefully to her feet and sketched a deep curtsey to the monk for his humble manner before she stood and clasped her hands before her with her head still bowed. “How now are you to carry my answer back to your master?”
“I am at my lady's service.”
Laneth nodded and took several breaths as she ordered her thoughts and waited until the Monk nodded that he was ready to receive her message. “Salve, to his grace, Drest, mac Talorgan, duke of Loch Linn Garan, and intrusting to the providence of Almighty God for a safe and speedy return of this gentle and most excellent herald, hope we, Laneth, Daughter of Joan to find all well with the Duke. While I and my father are deeply honored by the generosity of the Duke's, we must inform his grace that Laneth, Daughter of Joan is Bean sith, having so given the oath under the very eyes of this worthy Herald who may testify to our endurance and triumph. As such, though in honor of our father, the faithful steward of our king and chief of Morlock do we reside still in his house, we are our own woman and by right of oath and custom of sister of the blade no longer bound to the desires of our father in matters matrimonial and we pride ourselves in defense of our own virtue.
“In such this has changed it is only right and proper to return the generous gifts of the duke by the hand of Brother Calvert so his grace shall not think himself ill used and have no grievance of honor between Loch Lin Garan and Morlock. So we intrust this token of our good will, should his grace wish to press his suite with us directly, with Brother Calvert knowing it to be delivered so.”
The monk softly chanted to himself several times until he was certain he had committed the missive to memory. Looking up, he declared, “I shall deliver so, my lady. What token shall I take to the Duke?”
Laneth smiled coyly, leaned forward and kissed the monk full on the mouth.
September 28th, 2007
Psychiatry Department, Doyle Medical Center
“Come in, Tansy,” Dr. Markham invited as the young woman waved from the door. Tansy shut the door and took the seat while Dr. Markham came around her desk and sat in the chair next to her. “I must say your proposal is very interesting reading. I had to have Mr. Lodgeman explain a few of the concepts to me, and while I have some reservations, I am intrigued.”
“I am going to help my mother,” the blonde declared flatly. “I would like very much to do it with the school's blessing, but not having that won't stop me.”
Dr Markham raised her hands. “Slow down, young lady, I'm not the enemy, I'm actually on your side. I agree with Mr. Lodgeman, I don't think at this stage a ritual is needed, but as Professor Geintz is also intrigued, that allows for proper supervision and speaking directly to Mrs. Walcutts mind may be exactly what is needed to shock her into seeing she has nothing truly to fear. Professor Geintz will go with you and if he says stop, the attempt will stop, do we have your word, Tansy?”
“When?” the blonde demanded. “When do we go?”
“We've tentatively scheduled the first attempt on October first...”
October 1st, 2007
Mental Health Ward, Room 15, Arkham Research Consortium
Tansy hadn't been listening to the newly minted Dr Chris Summers, who had just earned his Ph.D. over the summer, as he prattled on about the difficulty in treating Munchhausen Syndrome, her mind focused with laser-like intensity on what she was about to do. The projection of Mr. Geintz was talking to Dr Summers, probably discussing tactics or strategies they would attempt. Tansy didn't care about tactics, she didn't care how hard what they were going to attempt was. Tansy Walcutt was on a mission. For ten years her life had been hell, she'd suffered and lashed out, been villain and hero and now she had the ability to save the only person who truly had loved her, had given her life and had first needed her help.
Tansy Walcutt was going to save her mother and God Himself help anyone who got in her way.
She opened the door and paused in shock. Neither the beautiful woman just at the end of her youth she had seen in Eagle's vision, nor the dimly remembered personification of love her own mind whispered of from her childhood lay on the bed. The woman there was almost unrecognizable. Her once beautiful corn stalk blonde hair was dirty and matted and wild about the pillow. She was plump from lack of exercise and laying in the bed all day, her eyes were hollow and her complexion was pallid and sickly. She was hooked up to a dozen different diagnostic machines as the deep set blue eyes looked up from her stupor. “Put on a mask!” her reedy voice commanded. “You'll contaminate...”
Released from her stunned shock at the sight before her, Tansy frowned and redoubled her resolve. She focused a wave of confidence and surety with an undertone of love and understanding with a hint of regret at doing what had to be done. “Stop it, Mother!” she commanded. “There is nothing wrong with you and I am going to prove it to you!”
A faint glow of recognition lit behind her eyes. “Tansy?” she whispered. “No...it can't be...I'm not, I haven't been...”
Tansy walked forward slowly, battering the sudden wall of disbelief her mind threw up as a defense. “I love you, mommy!” she cried as she fought her way through the palpable resistance of the strongest non-psychic mind she had ever encountered. “Don't fight me, Mother!”
“Stay away!” the woman on the bed wailed, suddenly terrified like a parasite of losing the host it was feasting on. “You're not my little flower! You're here to infect me!”
Tansy raised her hands slowly, wading through air as thick and unyielding as concrete. She couldn't hear Dr. Summers or Mr. Geintz, in the whole world the only thing was the prison of the mind of her mother in front of her and getting inside it to free her. “I'm going to save you, Mommy!” She shouted, reaching, pushing with all her strength until at last her fingertips touched the terrified face of her mother and reality washed away as she dove deeply into her mind. “I'm coming to save you, Mommy!”
October 1st, 2007
Mind Space of Marissa Abigail Walcutt
Tansy fell through the darkness letting her own sense of self be stripped away, but the mind of her mother didn't seem to want to cast her as anything, perhaps it was the confusion of their first meeting in ten years, or the shortness of it, either way with a thought she took a breath and let herself be encased in her combat armor and felt the mask settle around her eyes. No sooner had she done that, than she arrived in an ornate marbled hall. It must be a real place somewhere her mother had been because the details were too exact and precise. Tansy walked towards the edge of a balcony under a rotunda, but she was seized by two burly-looking faceless men wearing vaguely police uniforms.
“Let go,” Tansy snarled, but despite unleashing her full strength, the faceless policemen got a hold of her arms and drug her away from the balcony. A door was opened and Tansy was thrown through it.
Inside was a surreal mockery of a courtroom. It had the furniture and the bench, but they seemed to have been set up in the middle of a cactus and tumbleweed desert. The door she had been thrust through stood minus a wall, and in every direction was rocky mountains and tumble weeds. Windows and a clock floated in mid-air as though hanging on transparent walls. At the Judge's bench sat Blind Justice herself, banging her gavel with one hand and calling for order while the other held up her scales, badly tipped to one side. There was a riot of caricatures in the Jury box, the New York cabbie, the Boston Tough Guy, the Little Old Jewish Lady knitting, it was like something out of a Salvador Dali painting. At the prosecutors bench, suavely dressed was her father from ten years ago she'd guess, loudly calling for the book to be thrown at everyone, and at the defendants desk the Defense attorney was covered in chains and gagged, but through it all, she thought it was her mother as Eagle had shown her.
“Mom!” Tansy shouted and started forward, but a hand on her arm stopped her.
“Oh I wouldn't,” someone with a thick Boston accent declared. Tansy turned to behold her mother, or rather what she had probably looked like when she had been Tansy's age. She was dressed rather like a cross between Madonna's Like A Virgin phase and a She's So Unusual Cyndi Lauper. “Teddy up there can do anything with the Judge blinded.”
“Who are you?” Tansy asked.
The 80s bad girl leaned against the doors and blew a massive bubble from the gum she was chewing. “I'm Rebellion,” she replied, taking out a nail file and beginning to work on her nails. “Little Miss Goody Two Shoes,” and she indicated the chained Defense Attorney, “Never let me out much, funny cause shoe's on the other foot now. She's locked up and the inmates are running the asylum.”
Rebellion blew another bubble and looked Tansy up and down a bit more critically. “Who are you supposed to be, Lady Astarte?”
Tansy looked at the room full of personality fragments and archetypes before she made a choice and turned back to Rebellion. “I'm the SWAT team come to put the inmates back in their cages,” she declared with more confidence than she felt. “Where is Fear of Being Sick?”
The bad girl with the big hair's eyes turned into saucers and she became afraid. “Are you suicidal?” she hissed. “Look what she did to Drive over there! And that was back when she wasn't playing hard ball! Nobody has seen Self-Respect for years!”
Tansy scowled and collected a handful of mesh top and hauled the girl eye to eye. “I thought you were Rebellion! You like this? Maybe you should change your name to Status Quo!”
“You think I like this?!” Rebellion snarled, snatching herself free of Tansy's grip. “At least with Drive over there in charge I got a girls night out bar crawl every now and then! But Fear is Queen! Even if you could get to the Throne, which you can't, she's unstoppable! She...”
“She'll never see me coming,” she snarled. Tansy drew her pistol and with great flourish took aim at her father. “Sorry dad,” she muttered, then the pistol barked and Teddy's head exploded and he faded away. Silence fell like a thunderclap on the room as Justice put down her scale and drew up her blindfold to peak. “Court's Adjourned,” Tansy shouted. “Anybody who gets between me and Drive gets shot like a dog!”
The courtroom emptied as people ran off through the non-existent walls, except Boston Tough Guy who dove through the window first. Rebellion and Tansy walked over to Drive as Tansy fished her ring of skeleton keys out and began to free the chained woman. When Rebellion removed her gag the lawyer smiled at her then turned to Tansy. “Thanks, Belle, I owe you a bar crawl.”
“Don't thank me,” Belle replied with a gesture at Tansy.
“Who are you?” she asked as the chains were unlocked and she was freed.
Tansy couldn't resist and with a smirk replied, “I'm no one to be trifled with, that's all you need know.”
Drive, who appeared to be Marissa in her late twenties in a smart, if dated, power skirt suit cocked her head to one side and blinked. “You're the Dread Pirate Roberta?”
Tansy stood up and glared at the two women. “I'm here to put Fear back in her cage, but I'll need help.”
“She'll never let you anywhere near the Throne of Self,” Drive told her. “And you can't defeat her by shooting her, that's playing into her hand!”
Solange reached out and took the arms of Drive and Rebellion. “I'm not going to defeat her,” she told the two aspects of her mother. “You two are. You have to realize these fears of being sick are unfounded! And by giving into them you're wasting your life! You've spent ten years in a hospital bed afraid of nothing! You abandoned...”
“I didn't abandon you,” a new voice said from behind her. Tansy turned to see her mother on her worst bad hair day, frumpy sweater, badly fitting jeans and hair in an unflattering pony tail. “Teddy took you away and locked me up.”
Drive rolled her eyes. “Guilt, we don't have time for this...”
“No, you never have time for anything or anyone but your career,” Guilt told her with a sneer. “Look what it's gotten us! You don't even recognize our own daughter when she stands in front of you!”
Drive's face paled. “What? No, it can't be! Little Tansy is...”
“Eighteen,” Guilt told her triumphantly. Turning to Tansy, the frumpy woman said, “Look what a beautiful woman you've become! And I was never there for you because of Fear...”
“Far out,” Belle said with a smile. “I was just thinking how cool it would be to have a kick-ass daughter like you!”
Tansy rolled her eyes. “Spoiler alert,” she said with a grin. Drive sank down in her chair and put her head in her hands.
“What have I done?” she lamented. “I...I should have kept control of Fear, I just...Amy died and...”
Kneeling down, Tansy took her mother by her shoulders and forced her to look at her. “Mom, the past doesn't matter. It's the present that's important! I need you now and I know you can do this! You are not sick...”
“I am sick!” thundered a voice from the heavens. “I'm fat and my cholesterol is...”
Tansy squeezed Drive's shoulders harder. “Stop it, Mother! You have to come back! You have to!” Drive opened and closed her mouth several times as her eyes filled with tears. Turning, Tansy stood and seized Guilt.
“Mommy, I've done horrible things! I've hurt people because I was hurt! Because you weren't there and Daddy...”
Her fathers voice drifted from the heavens. “You think you can manipulate her guilt in five minutes?” he laughed a cruel, echoing laugh. “You little whore! I've been playing her guilt like a violin for decades!” Tansy squeezed her arms until Guilt cried out.
“Daddy made me do things, Mommy! Awful things so he could take other peoples money! And I did them Mommy and I'm trying to be good but I don't know how! I need your help, Mommy! Come back! Come back to me, please!”
The doors at the back of the courtroom were kicked open and a barbarian strode through them, she was half Red Sonja, half Grace Jones, seven feet tall, with bulging muscles and, oddly a bulging bosom as well, with a faceless guard in each hand. “Theodore!” she shouted. “What have you done?”
“Oh, shit,” Rebellion muttered. “I wondered where Maternal Rage got to...”
“Now...calm down, dear...” the voice from the heavens stammered.
Guilt squeezed Tansy's arm. “I'm sorry, baby, this will hurt. Look! See the marble and the rotunda? That's the Throne of Self...” Tansy kissed Guilt on the Forehead and ran, ducking past Maternal Rage and without a second thought diving over the balcony. The marble swirled and faded into a blackness that finally solidified in a beam of light from above. It shone down on a hospital bed with monitors and IV lines all connected to a bloated, distorted caricature of Marissa Walcutt.
“That's enough, Mother,” she declared, striding forward. But the light was somehow solid and she could not step into it. “Stop it, Mother!” she shouted, banging her fist against the cone of light.
“Stay away,” Fear muttered, unable to meet her daughter's gaze. “You'll infect me!”
“You infected yourself!” Tansy screamed. “You're not sick, Mommy, can't you see that?”
“But...but I could get sick, I have to be well, for my little flower...”
From the darkness strode Maternal Rage. “Coward!” she shouted. “Look at what you have done! What you allowed! Our Daughter is a grown woman and the twisted masterpiece of a man you knew you should not have married!”
“Mommy said it was a good match,” Fear muttered. “That I would grow to love him like she did daddy...”
“I don't care about the past!” Tansy shouted. “Mommy I need you in my future! Please!”
Fear looked up from the bed, and her eyes finally started to focus. “Tansy? Tansy is that you, sweet heart?”
Tansy beat on the light as Drive, Guilt and Rebellion walked from the darkness and effortlessly into the light. “Come back, Mommy! Come back!” she shouted.
“Oh, baby, I'm...I'm afraid...” The various fragments of her personality touched Fear and pulled the medical devices from her.
Maternal Rage gathered all of them in a hug and declared, “The time to be afraid is over...”
The light swelled and became blinding. Tansy buried her face in her arms to shield her eyes, then felt a hand gently stroking her hair. She looked up and realized she was back in her own body, kneeling by the bed and her mother was smiling at her and running her hand through her hair. “My brave little flower,” she said with love and pride. “How did you do that?”
Tansy flung herself into her mothers arms and held her tight lest she slip away and sobbed out ten years of abuse and loneliness.
Early Spring, 773CE
The Mead Hall of Drest, mac Talorgan, duke of Loch Linn Garan
“In such this has changed it is only right and proper to return the generous gifts of the duke by the hand of Brother Calvert so his grace shall not think himself ill used and have no grievance of honor between Loch Lin Garan and Morlock. So we intrust this token of our good will, should his grace wish to press his suite with us directly, with Brother Calvert knowing it to be delivered so. This, Laneth, Daughter of Joan, Bean Sith, speaks.” The Monk took a deep breath and bowed to indicate the message was complete and took a drink from the cup one of the pages held for him.
The Duke scratched his bearded chin and blew air between his lips. “And you saw this with your own eyes?” he asked and the monk bowed again. “Whit's fur ye'll no go past ye,” the Duke muttered to himself. “Tell me, brother Calvert to your mind what thought the Maid of my gifts?”
“Her anger was not in the gifts themselves, if I may be so bold, your grace, but that she felt you to be taking advantage of your station and dealing with her father rather than wooing her.”
Drest rolled his eyes and threw his hands in the air. “She's up to high doh!” he swore loudly. “Of bloody well course I aim to use my station, why fight for status otherwise if it's no use to a man! Daft women and their larks of romance! Woo her first, as if I'm some love sick farm boy? I'm a fine looking man, aren't I? A rich, propertied man!”
“As well she knows, your grace,” the monk assured him.
The Duke paced back and forth for a moment then turned back to the monk. “Never mind her why, Brother, did she like what I sent?”
“Er,” the monk hedged. “I am no judge of the moods of a female, being a man of God, your Grace, but there seemed a certain reluctance to part with them. She was very exact that it was a point of honor, not dissatisfaction.”
The Duke snorted. “Honor is it? Well, likely as not that's the key to our fine young Bean Sith. Tell me, Brother, how well did she face the trials? Need she to bite her lip when offered Mercy?”
The Monk blinked. “Your grace, the Ceann of the Banshees made the mistake of coming too close to taunt the Maid with mercy and Laneth struck her with her own head and cursed her with more to follow should she offer mercy again.”
“Och! Did she? Hah! I'll pluck this bonnie birdy yet! Brother Calvert, Suffer me to play herald a wee bit longer?”
“I am at my lord's service,” the monk replied hesitantly.
“Be at ease, man, I'll not send ye out till the morning. This missive will take thought.” He scratched his head and frowned. “What token did she send with ye?”
The monk grimaced, then stood, bowed again, then seized the Duke and kissed him. His shout of startled anger turned into peels of laughter and he couldn't restrain himself from dancing a jig.
October 1st, 2007
Dining Room, Whateley House
Marissa carefully put her fork down and wiped her mouth with a napkin before taking a sip of her coffee. She was still very weak and none of her old clothes would fit, but she had been able to buy a suitible skirt suit from the campus book store when she had arrived from ARC with her daughter. As she put the cup down, a little shakily, she smiled at her hostess and said, “Mrs. Carson, this is an incredible school you've made here.”
The blonde made a dismissive gesture. “Wiser heads than mine founded this school, Mrs Walcutt...”
“Dawson,” Marissa corrected softly. “I think I've had quite enough of Theodore Walcutt.”
Mrs Carson's smile was consoling. “Of course, my apologies. But as I was saying, I am merely a caretaker here, and I like to think I'm leaving a good mark,” she said with a wink and a significant glance at Tansy. The senior blushed and pushed her peas around her plate. “So, Ms Dawson, what are your plans?”
Marissa sighed and put a hand on her daughter's arm. “My highest priority is getting to know the magnificent young lady my daughter has become. And I still have my trust fund from my parents, who I suppose I should visit. Perhaps Tansy would like to meet her grand parents?”
“I'd like that,” Tansy agreed.
“And somewhere I have a divorce settlement and alimony which I'm sure my malicious ex-husband has tied up with more red tape than a christmas present I'll have to unravel. But sticking it to him will be something of a mission of good will to Earth as far as I'm concerned.” She looked up at the headmistress who was running a fingertip over the lip of her wine glass. “Why do you ask?”
“You're admitted to the State Bar of New Hampshire,” Elizabeth declared.
“Yes, my parents have a summer home in Concord.”
“I know,” Mrs. Carson replied with a coy smile. “I checked. It just came up not too long ago that I had to expell two students over a criminal matter, and last year we had a full-on extradition hearing and a murder on campus. It occurs to me that having a criminal lawyer on the school's staff would not be amiss.”
Marissa blinked. “Are you offering me a job?” she demanded.
“I am,” Mrs Carson replied. “Unless you would rather not have your daughter underfoot by working at her school...?”
“I...it's flattering that the State Bar of New Hampshire never voided my credentials when I was committed, but I can't in good conscience accept a position! Never mind the ten years of legal prescidents I have to catch up on...”
“This, is a school, you know,” Mrs. Carson replied with a smile.
“Be that as it may, I have not been completely released from psychiatric care, and I must be careful of a relaspe...”
“You're welcome to do the research yourself, but I think you'll find it hard to come up with a better facility than Doyle Medical Center. And of course, we do have access to the most powerful psychic on the planet.”
Marissa blinked and turned to her daughter. “Is she always this way?”
Tansy turned her gaze between the two women then shrugged. “If by that do you mean she always gets what she wants? The answer is yes.”
“Gunnery Sergeant Bardue kept me waiting for five years before he took my offer. You'll find I'm a very patient woman, Ms. Dawson.”
Marissa considered that for some time, finally she said, “My Ex pays my daughters tuition, yes?” Mrs Carson nodded. “Then I will accept your offer, with two conditions: first that not only is he not given any discount on that tuition, but he is be charged the absolute maximum, including any and all possible fees and charges that might in any way be applicable to Tansy's schooling.”
Lady Astarte's Smile Of Justice To Be Served was terrifying. “I think that can be arranged. What is your second condition?”
“During the tour you were so kind as to give me, I met a, um, large ... teacher ... in your engineering department. I think cars were his speciality ...? ”
Mrs. Carson and Tansy jerked in surprise. “Mr. Donner?” Tansy demanded.
“Melvin Donner?” Mrs. Carson corrected. “What about him?
“Is he seeing anyone?”
“I don't believe Melvin is romantically involved, why?” Mrs. Carson asked with a gimlet eye.
“My second condition is I want his phone number,” Marrisa replied with a smile.
* Finis *
October 1st, 2007
Melville Cottage, Room 803, Whateley Academy
Wyatt opened the door to his room to find a minilla envelope had been shoved under his door. Frowning, he sniffed and found the scent of both his fiancee and his mistress (he noted to himself he needed a better term for Tansy) on the mailer strong enough that she must have been holding it not more than a few minutes ago. He looked back out in the hall, but of course it had been empty when he'd walked here from the elevator.
Closing the door he picked it up and saw Tansy's penmanship on the side that had been face down. Intrigued he read...
I told you I could do better...
xoxo Your future wives
Frowning and curious, he unthreaded the mailer and raised the flap. Inside was a single eight and a half by eleven inch, glossy color photograph. In it were Elaine and Tansy laying next to each other and locked in a passionate kiss. Elaine in a reddish orange fur coat and Tansy in a grayish white one.
Neither wore anything else.
Wyatt grunted as his jeans became uncomfortably tight and he began thinking about how he would have this photograph framed so he could put it where he would see it every day.