“Mr Conor, we there yet?” a small voice pipped up from behind him.
Conor smiled at the humor… ah stereotypes. Children are so wonderfully pure. "Not yet boyo we’ve a bit further yet. I’ve had te step aroun’ a few places that wouldn’t be pleasant fer either yourself or Ms. Juno here. We’ll be there by an’ by."
Conor stood at the edge of a great chasm that smelled of old musty clothes, dust, and rotten pizza. It was dark within the chasm and nothing moved save the wind. To pass through this area would save a tremendous amount of time, time passed favorably within… however the owner, if awake, could possibly make the trip fairly unpleasant for Jake… but really, how much worse could his nightmares be after all this?
“Jake, Ms Juno needs us to move quickly and we need to cross this chasm to save time. But it’s the home of a creature.” Conor looked down at the woman he’d been holding in his arms for … he couldn’t remember how long now. She was still asleep, thanks be to God.
“You mean … like a monster?” Jake looked up at Conor with his big eyes.
Conor grinned. “Well, some people might call him that. He’s a creature of some renown, once of under-bed and closet fame… but I just call him Lee. It’s easier to say than his whole name.” Conor gently knelt down to be at his level.
“I’m going to teach you a silly song, but it’s powerful. It’s the monster’s lullabye.”
Jake looked up, “What? For really?”
Conor nodded sagely, remembering a movie he’d seen recently, “really really. Now this lullabye doesn’t work with all monsters, but with Lee it’ll work fine. He likes te sleep, so if he wakes up, a silly song tends to be the only fee he charges for passage across his lands. If it’s sung by a brave bold boy like yerself, he’ll probably be quite pleased. So, ready to learn the words?”
“Sure… I guess… " Jake looked supremely suspicious.
Conor chuckled, ah modern kids. So cynical these days at so young an age.
A few minutes later they were passing across the inner edges of the chasm when the clattering of rocks from within a deeper shadowy cleft heralded the presence of something… else.
A deep basso voice rumbled… “Who trespasses?”
Conor spoke up, “Three travellers meaning neither harm nor offense, we sought to not wake ye. We come with a gift for the lord of this rift.”
The shadow shifted again and two gleaming green orbs opened. “Gift? Where is thy gift?”
Conor nudged Jake, who was nearly stiff with fear. He began to hum the tune for him. “Go on bucko, courage, you’ll do fine.”
Nyah, nyah, your mother eats toads
May it grow a fine wart on the tip of your nose
Ding dong, the cat’s in the well
So run and fetch another one. . .
He had sung hesitantly, quietly, with some help with words here and there. However, upon hearing a soft chuckle from the shadows it seemed to embolden the young boy’s voice.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Hold the horse ’till I get on
Hold it fast, and hold it sure
’Till I get across the misty moor
Last night, and the night before
A lemon and a pickle came knocking at my door
I went down to let them in
And they hit me with a rolling pin.
Roses are red, violets are blue
Carnations are sweet and so are you
And so are they that send you this
And when we meet we’ll have a kiss.
There was a long silence, then finally a sound… a snore… deep and resonant.
Conor nodded, mostly to himself. Sometimes classics still worked. The pure song of a mortal child, sung sweet. It had lulled Fae for centuries … guess it still works. Of course in the old days, the children were kidnapped and taken to the lairs of the Fae – songs, story, servitude, worse… best not mention that… Jake’s friend Kaely was likely taken for something very similar.
To the little boy he whispered, “Well done boyo, well done. Now let’s get us all home… but just to be sure, no talking till we get to the other side.”
The rest of the passage back to The Metroplex was uneventful save for the cheerful chattering and singing of a young boy that had experienced quite a day of adventure. Conor allowed him to chatter about any topic he wished and when he opened the final portal to Jamie’s neighborhood…
“We’re here! We’re home!” Jake started off at a flat run.
Conor, arms full with Juno could only try and keep up. “Yes child, we are indeed… let’s get to your house as fast as we can ok?” Conor looked around the streets, searching for any other signs of danger. They moved quickly under his Glamour veil and knocked at the door a few minutes later.
Alice scooped up Jake in a fierce hug, then “Where’s Kaely? Where’s Jaime?” She was beside herself with fear and worry.
“Don’t worry, Jaime and the rest are going after her. The goblin took her to a different place.” He could tell that was no comfort to the mother, but it was the best he could do.
“Oh my God,” she clung close to Jake, who, in boy fashion, was done with the mushy stuff and was wriggling to get away (probably to head and go get some toys, food, or both).
“Alice, don’t worry. Jaime and the rest are going after your girl. He’ll get her back come hell or high water. Go inside, see to Jake for now.” Conor motioned to the critically injured girl in his arms, “I must go, Alice. Juno still needs medical attention and the sooner I get her someplace safe the better.”
Alice protested slightly but there was little she could do to stop him. He turned to go but stopped; standing in the doorway. "Alice. I don’ know what’s coming, but… em… when Jaime comes back… go get your little girl blessed, baptized, or both. Talk te Matthew if ya don’t know where te start. He’s a pretty good fella… wouldn’t hurt you none either."
He disappeared beneath another veil; leaving a mother sobbing from a jumble of emotions – holding her boss’s son in a hug of iron.
Conor approached Belle’s beat up old pickup truck, he could hear the conversation from the cab.
“Belle, for the love of all things holy, turn that $#!% off! There are laws against cruel and unusual punishment you know…” That would be Pallas, thought Conor.
“My car, my music you know the rules,” a soft voice with just the faintest hint of a twang replied. “And another thing you call King George’s music that word again you can just walk home.”
“Walk. Ha! As if.”
The pickup was parked in a fairly sheltered and secluded area, Conor stepped from beneath his Glamour. “Idunno Pallas, I’d have to agree with the lady, George Strait has always been something of a favorite of mine as well.”
The two in the truck started at the sudden voice and appearance, but quickly recovered and got into motion. Juno was deposited on a mattress that had been placed the bed of the truck. Pallas lay down with her; helping minimize any movement or jolts. A thin tarp was thrown over both and secured with bungee cords to keep away prying eyes. Conor had been given some wet wipes to try and reduce the amount of dried blood caked on him. Frankly he hadn’t even thought about the fact that he was covered in it until this moment. Juno’s blood.
“Assuming Juno recovers fully, I doubt she’ll be wanting this much of her in circulation eh?” Conor asked Belle when she had finished tucking the passengers in the bed of the truck.
The redhead paused for a moment to consider, “No of course not, but I think we’ll burn that bridge when we get there.”
Conor nodded, “By any chance have ye a spare change of clothes?”
Pallas quipped up from the bed of the truck “%&#&$(@$ BELLE NO! Don’t you give him my spare sweats!”
Belle motioned to the glove box. “I wouldn’t dream of it, Pallas!”
Pallas clearly didn’t believe her from the string of expletives that could be heard mumbled from beneath the tarp. Conor opened the glovebox and drew out a pair of black sweats clearly meant for a skinny computer programmer… or a girl. He got into the truck and stripped as they hit the road. He rubbed down the blood as best he could. After he had pulled on the sweats, which were more like tights on him, he rummaged around the cab and turned up an old grocery store bag. Into it he shoved his old clothing as well as the used wet wipes. He tied a knot in the top of the bag, and set the bundle in his lap. After he slipped on his trusty Redwings (minus socks), Conor just looked out the window at the passing buildings. His arms tingled what would be – by tomorrow – muscle fatigue. Though she wasn’t heavy, he’d carryied Juno for an unknown number of miles and what seemed like hours.
After a long silence Belle spoke up, “Well, that was … distracting.”
Conor looked over at the functional “leader” of The Freakshow. She, like Conor, was an old heathen of far different mores from the southern bible belt girls that Conor knew. Aside from a slight grin, she was focused on driving. “I’ve had bad luck recently with people stealing my clothes. Don’t worry these’ll be burned first chance.”
Belle nodded, “Figured.”
“Where we headed lass?” Conor recognized the neighborhood but couldn’t remember the name.
“Coppell, we’ve a… friend… with some medical skills there.” Belle replied as they stopped at a red light, turn signal flashing.
He said nothing further until the pulled into the parking lot of a light medical building with the text “Body Image of Coppell, Dr. James Martin, MD, FACS” upon the wall in fancy brushed steel art deco text. The neon “Open” sign in the front window was off, and a hand written note on the door “Closed for today. Please call to schedule an appointment with Dr. Martin.”
“A plastic surgeon?” Conor inquired somewhat incredulously.
"Santiago wears a lot of hats. Let’s go."
Conor threw up another veil and they quickly got everyone unloaded. It went smoothly aside from Pallas’s look of “death” when he saw Conor in his spare sweats. However, it was clear that once he noticed how tight the sweats were on Conor’s physique… and how little was left to the imagination… he became much more accepting of the situation. Conor had simply rolled his eyes.
Conor carried Juno into the back entrance of the medical office, Belle held the door open for him. Pallas stayed at the truck to clean up anything that might be left behind that would attract unwanted attention.
Belle guided Conor to a room that looked like the bizarre lovechild of the kind of surgical room seen in television shows and a well furnished kitchen in a really nice suburban house. The surgical table was clearly awaiting the patient, and a man wearing scrubs was waiting. He appeared to be hispanic, but the scrubs made it difficult to ascertain. “Please, put her on the bed.” No accent.
Conor did as he was asked and stepped aside to watch. The doctor set up some medical equipment and then grabbed a… hula hoop? He placed it around the electronics and then did a movement with which Conor was well familiar as he empowered his “circle.”
Then he stepped away and hooked up additional equipment on Juno.
Belle asked, “How is that stuff going to continue to function? What with… you know?”
The doctor smiled, “Well, with the very very powerful talents, it still fails. But it seems that wireless medical monitoring equipment gets me closer to what I need so long as I can protect the main console; hence the circle.”
He continued to hook up strange technological bits and bobs that Conor had no idea what in the world its purpose could be. “Wifi energy appears to still count as mundane, much like sound or light, and doesn’t appear to be blocked by the circle itself.” Conor could now detect just the slightest hint of a Hispanic accent.
He stepped back and went to a nearby cabinet, “I tried it with wired equipment, the leads broke the circle… so that idea failed completely.” He stepped away from the cabinet with an armful of candles, picture frames, and strings of beads.
He began setting them up all around the room. The pictures were of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and other assorted Catholic iconography. The beads were rosaries that were placed in various places and then the candles lit. The whole time the doctor mumbled the “Our Father” in latin. Now the room added another parent to its strange hybrid nature… church, suburban kitchen, and surgery room.
Then he went to a sink and washed his hands and forearms like Conor had never seen anyone do before. Conor didn’t hear much, but he heard the last bit clearly “Et tenebit iustus viam suam, et mundis manibus addet fortitudinem.” … Conor didn’t speak a lick of Latin, but Holy Writ just has a certain meter and power to it. Conor could feel it, just like when Matthew was around, the Doc’s prayers had some power to them.
Then he pulled on a pair of latex gloves and returned to the table. “Well my friends, if you wish to stay you may do so, but I have work to do. Mi casa es su casa.”
Some hours later, Conor was lightly napping in a side room. He was clean and smelled of hand soap (having “showered” in a bathroom sink after finding the scrubs in a drawer). The scrubs one size smaller than strictly comfortable but they were better than a pair of sweats. Belle and Pallas were there as well (Pallas had informed him that he could keep the sweats).
The doctor came in, looking tired but pleased.
"Whoever performed the biomancy was quite powerful. I did what I could for the tissue trauma. Her life is preserved… though I am unsure what to do about her legs. There was enough skin and tissue remaining for me to seal everything back up. Her internal musculature and vascular systems are no longer exposed. Her motor skills in her lower limbs will be severely reduced. However between the biomancy and the restoration of what musculature remains, it is possible she may technically stand again with assistance. There may be enough remaining muscle to even take a step or two… however, I don’t know for sure, but with faith anythi… sorry. Nevermind."
He then sat down. “So, anyway, she’s safe for now. Since this is a solo practice she can stay here so long as I get some help taking care of her or I’d be happy to set her up somewhere else with some of my spare equipment.”
Belle spoke up, “I’ll get on that. Don’t worry doc, we’ll find a place for her. Thank you for everything.”
The doctor leaned back, seeming to deflate as fatigue caught up with him, “Well my friends… now I must ask… what the hell is going on?”
Ní bhíonn chuile fhánaí ar strae… not every wanderer is lost.