“Honey it’s always good ta see ya. Ya wanna play ya guitar tonight?”
“Yes ma’am. If that’d be alright with ye, aye.” Conor flashed a smile at one of his favorite people in Dallas; Theresa Williams, owner of Joe Mama’s BBQ in Deep Ellum.
It was a Friday night in Dallas. Conor was down a bit of cash; actually he was broke. As usual, the solution was a little busking in Deep Ellum. That would set him right up. The advantage of basing his efforts out of Joe Mama’s was the free dinner – amazing ribs, peach cobbler, and Dr. Pepper.
“Ya want ya usual honey?” Theresa Williams was larger than life. A southern woman of deep faith and incredible cooking, Theresa paid all her bills via her cooking; and was putting her son through El Centro to boot. Conor wasn’t entirely sure what Joe intended to be when he was done.
“Yes ma’am, I’d love it. Now if ye don’t mind, the crowds are startin’ to show up an’ I better get out there.” Guitar in hand, he set out to sing songs and invite wandering twenty-somethings to his session at the restaurant.
He was through his sixth baudy Irish tune out standing on Elm street proper when a female voice behind him sang out; “Conor? Oh my gosh is that you?”
He turned to see a somewhat familiar face, after a brief moment of panic, the name came rushing forth “McKayla?”
After a brief exchange of pleasantries and an invitation, they headed back to Joe Mama’s BBQ.
Conor strummed his last note, thanked everyone for coming, and went up to the counter to get his dinner.
"Uh huh, I remember that lil redhead from one of them other times. Here’s ya dinner, double cobbler jus’ like ya like." Theresa had a huge smile on her face as she handed Conor his food.
He set his guitar aside and sat down at the table nearest the counter, there was one other person there. “Well McKayla, I’m done with the gig, you’ve got me the rest of the evening!”
She smiled prettily “Oh I wish that were true. I have to go… and I know that’s horrible.” The pretty smile turned into an over-exaggerated pout.
Conor chuckled, “Well at least ye liked the music then.”
McKayla shook her head, “No no, I would totally stay if there was any way I could… look… um… can we reschedule to tomorrow?”
Conor set down his rib and wiped his fingers with a paper towel. “Ok, ye’ve got me intrigued now. Where an’ when?”
“I’m so glad you came!” The pretty girl standing in front of him looked like something out of a movie. McKayla was wearing a fitted navy blue double-breasted coat, knee high custom leather boots, and skin tight white riding pants. Under her left arm was a riding crop and equestrian helmet. Her radiant red hair was pinned, sprayed, and clipped into submission; even the stiff morning breeze was barely affecting it.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world! I haven’t been aroun’ horses this close since the Galway Races back home.” Conor looked around the facility situated just north of White Rock Lake. It was a dozen acre or so private equestrian facility; big money.
“So, I’ve got a really important lesson first, I have an event coming up and this is my last chance to practice a couple of things… it’ll be horribly boring unlike your wonderful gig last night… but I want to spend the afternoon with you if you want… so, until then, if you like, you can ride one of my family’s horses?” McKayla’s words came out in a torrent.
Conor grinned, “Actually, that’d be grand, but I never learned! I’ve been in Texas all these years never ridden a horse, if you can believe.”
“Really?” McKayla laughed, “Ok Conor, we can fix this today but I’m about to be late for my dressage lesson.” She pointed over to a nearby stable. “I’m going to go talk to a friend that’s a teacher. If you wait at the stable she’ll come and get you all set? Sound fun?”
Despite an incredulous expression in his eyes, Conor couldn’t help but grin at the whole thing. It was shaping up to be an interesting morning. “Sure, that’d be grand.”
“You must be Conor.” A melodious Southern accent glided over from the direction of the barn entrance.
He turned to see the most absolutely beautiful woman he had ever beheld. Her hair was like a waterfall of red gold satin, milk white skin, eyes an intense bluebonnet blue, her makeup was lightly applied, but the lipstick was an intense berry red. She wore a green silk blouse over the tight white riding pants and black custom knee-high boots that seemed to be the norm around here.
For several long moments, Conor was speechless, then his brain finally re-engaged his tongue once he saw the small crooked grin appear on the lady’s face. “Aye, that I am. Who might ye be?”
“A friend. McKayla went to find someone that could give you riding lessons so here I am. You can call me Edie.” She walked over and extended her hand.
“Charmed.” Conor, took her hand, giving the back of it a slight kiss. An electric shiver went through his body as he did.
Edie laughed, “A gentleman! Those are so rare these days. So, shall we begin? I’ll show you the basics of your saddle and tack; then we’ll mount up and take a ride.”
A while later, he was riding a well-mannered mare on a trail through the acreage of the surrounding parks; comprising some 350 acres in all. He was following Edie, watching the wind cause her hair to flutter like a shimmering silk flag. Thoughts were racing through his mind.
“Edie? Have ye ever been to Ireland?”
“Actually I have! I loved it. Is that where your accent is from?” She brought her horse to a halt on the trail and turned to face him. Her shining blue eyes bored into his own, like spotlights.
Conor watched as, now that she was no longer moving, late summer butterflies – Monarchs – fluttered around her. Two of them even going so far as to land on her hair. So much beauty, all of it seemed surreal… just a bit too good to be real… everything clicked.
“Mathair?” He’d switched back to Irish. “Mother?” had been the question of both his soul and mouth.
<I am she.>
<Etain the Horse Rider.> Conor’s heart was pounding in his chest.
<Your heart has called for me all your life, but recently you’ve called me by name. And today, today you called out to me on a windy summer day amidst horses and butterflies… how could I not answer?>
<Why didn’t you answer before? Why did you leave me with my father to raise? Why weren’t you there? > Conor’s questions tumbled out.
<My son, the spells and geasa that bind our kind are ancient; so too are the rivalries, hatreds, and petty jealousies. I wanted you to have a chance at Free Will, as a mortal has, rather than to be bound up by our society from your first breath. Your mortal heart is wounded, and for that there is sorrow on me as it is my doing. Your Sidhe soul, I hope, in time will help you understand. >
Conor said nothing, speechless for long moments. The world around him shimmered slightly; they were surrounded by a Veil of Glamour now.
<Yeah, about that Sidhe Soul bit… why does Nuada the Silverhand come to me in my dreams and control the greater portion of my powers? >
<… what?> There was something inherently comical about a seemingly powerful ancient Fae being completely gobsmacked.
Conor held up his right hand, and allowed the world to go silver.
Etain’s sapphire eyes grew to the size of saucers. <My Lord?> She spurred her horse to come closer. <Grandfather?>
He shook his head, <Well I guess that answers that. No, it’s still mostly me, Conor, at least for now.> The silvery world resumed all its color.
<How is this possible?> Etain had brought her horse close enough for her to reach out and touch his cheek.
Conor let out a soft chuckle, <That’s wonderful indeed. I had hoped you could answer that question.> A crooked grin, similar to his mother’s, split his face. <It was the reason I sought you out.>
<I have no answer for you my son.>
<So it was not your intent?> Eyes met, blue to blue. <I wasn’t intended a chrysalis for Nuada?>
<You would suspect your own mother of such?>
He didn’t break his gaze, but the crooked smile remained. <A second time I ask thee, was I intended as a chrysalis for Lord Nuada?>
Etain let out a sigh that caused the leaves to scatter, <Ask it thrice and gain what answer I can give.>
Heart beating in his chest like a drum, he spoke the words. <A third time I ask of thee, was I intended as a chrysalis for Lord Nuada?>
She shook her red-gold locks, dislodging the two Monarch butterflies that had been resting thereon <Thrice asked and done. I tell thee true my son, I meant for no such thing. Lord Nuada’s intentions are unknown to me.>
Conor nodded. <Have you time to talk? I’ve so many other questions.>
<The game must be played my son and thou art still mortal; questions three.> Though Etain’s words were firm, her eyes seemed sad.
<I understand. Then perhaps can we simply enjoy the rest of this pleasant ride?>
<I would like that of all things.>
I’m going to use one of my banked Minors to swap out Intimidation for Survival as at this time I think it’s more important for Conor’s character development. Plus this sets up my next Refresh point, where I get rid of my Item of Power.