This is a short story about a “Knight Scientist of the Celtic Royal Order” who must undertake a quest from his King.
The machine wasn’t working. It chugged and spluttered before coughing out thick dark smoke. The knight scientist leapt back from his contraption. He picked up a nearby wrench and made to smash the chugging box but held himself.
”Trying to fix the coffee machine?” A sarcastic voice spoke. A young man of some importance had entered the over packed lab. His so straight suit made sharp crisp noises as he walked. His hands seemed tied behind his back and his hair was wet and slicked back. In such contrast to the knight scientist’s brown leather cape and ruffled dark hair.
”I don’t think it’ll ever work.” The knight scientist lent his chin on his soot-covered hand. “The trans-dimensional multiplexed circuit keeps jamming up?. ”
The young man picked up an egg shaped device that was completely reflective.
”Don’t touch that!” The knight scientist yelled grabbing the device from the young man and placing it back on the counter. “Who are you anyway? What do you want?”
The young man grinned. It wasn’t that he was much younger then the knight scientist only that he brimmed with the arrogance of youth while the knight scientist seemed heavy with the breath of youth. “I’m a royal messenger and I bring a message of some import.” He bowed sharply and thrust out a cylindrical message box to the knight scientist.
“Who is it from?” He said taking the exquisitely carved cylinder from the royal messenger. He carried it like a new-born baby to an empty corner of some workspace.
“I’m afraid I can’t say. But you are to hear it and arrange to travel to the court. I’m to arrange your accommodation and travel.” He bowed again.
“What? Go to court? I’m not a diplomat or a courtier. I’ve no head for politics?”
“Please sir. The message box has your answers.”
The knight scientist found the symbol for play and pressed it.
“We’re to go to court? Are you serious?” His wife, who was an inch taller then he, hugged him tight.
“Yes but I’m still not sure why?” The knight scientist replied.
“Michael, it’s your turn to be great, you’ve always left in the shadows of others?” her soft hand rubbed her husbands cheeks, “and now you’ll be in the limelight!” Her smile was radiant. He in turned pulled his fingers through her full-bodied red hair. They kissed and embraced.
Margaret pulled down dresses and Michael’s suits from the dusty cupboard. She grabbed a makeup bag and stuffed with what ever she could find. Michael on the other hand typed furiously away on his light scan computer, filling it with all the data he could find. He had always dreamt about visiting the Royal Court City but to be actually invited at the request of the King himself, well at least at the approval of the king himself. Michael works in the local royal research lab of the Irish main city. It was a largish facility and it’s most famous output was the a circuit that solved the interrupt hover problem. Not world changing but significant. Michael hadn’t been involved in that project. He didn’t know how long he was going to be away, the Royal Messenger had said it was all dealt with, including Margaret’s own place of work where she was the head of a Managerial department of the Celtic Administration. He always thought that Margaret would be invited to court not him self.
He closed the light scan computer and grabbed a few small devices and put them in his satchel, which he hung from his shoulder. He wandered into the bedroom and saw the mess that had descended apon his bed. “Clothes! Damnit. Never thought of that.”
Margaret kissed him on the cheek, “That’s what I’m here for, to remember what you forget!”
The craft floated outside the house platform. It was grand and ornate as it floated among the tree branches. It’s deep red and yellow in contrast to the light browns and greens of the trees. A walkway glided down to the house platform. Michael studied it. The non-intrusive jets constantly adjusting to give the impression of stillness, the glass front to give the impression of a cockpit, a? Margaret wrapped her arms around Michael’s. The messenger descended the extending walkway even before it had stopped.
“How did you get permission to bring a craft like that through the tree complex?” Michael asked. The messenger was not embarrassed by Michael’s rudeness and only smiled and bowed once to Michael and then once to his wife.
“It is the latest royal craft. No pilot. It flew itself through the trees so it did not accidentally damage one. And it’s got the latest propulsion tech, but I would think that yourself, Knight Scientist, would know more about that.”
Michael peered over the edge of the house platform and looked down through the dizzying heights of the tree city. It seemed true, not one branch or leaf had been disturbed, as it must have travelled through the many neighbourhoods and complexes that lived on the great tree.
“Ah you must be Margaret.”
The messenger would not allow Michael or Margaret to help carry the bags on board.
It was Margaret who finally got the royal messenger’s name, Anthony McGuire. His family had been royal messengers as far back as the reboot revolution; he had only recently entered the Celtic Service of Messengers not more then two years ago. Anthony spoke elegantly of his military service prior to his current calling. He had never fought but had been present on the moon base Tir na Nog and had travelled to red planet. Michael sometimes interrupted his descriptions about what it was like to travel through “Dark Ireland” the void that was used for inter-special travel. Anthony refused to be drawn into the topic.
The craft was silent. If Michael strained he could hear the wind or even occasionally high-flying bird. The craft had rose gently above the clouds and moved at a leisurely pace allowing for a magnificent view that engrossed Michael. The sea twinkled of white and blue and occasionally he spotted a boat or some sea animal.
During the journey he had the time also to reflect on the message the royal messenger had brought.
“Knight Scientist. Honoured Warrior of Enlightenment and Supporter of the Celtic Order. Michael R. Waite.
The Order of the Dark in the Light Druids has foreseen your potential on a potent mission.”
A Druid whose face languished in the darkness of his hood replaced the hologram of a colourful Duke (which was the size of one of Michael’s hands).
“Your Father fought against the rising of the Tuatha De Danna from The Void Whose Origins Still Escape Us. Remember your Father.”
The Duke reappeared. “You and your spouse’s presence is requested at the Royal City at your leisure. There the details of this potent mission will be revealed to you by the Royal He himself where you may volunteer your accordance.
On a personal note, young Michael, I knew your father and look forward to your company.”
The seal of the duke, a griffin fighting a dragon, Duke Armance and then the seal of the Royal He, the King of all New Ireland, glowed gold and bright.
He knew his father had fought in the war against those who came from The Void, he also knew that his Father had despised the Royal He and everything associated with it. Michael had not inherited his Father’s hatred. His Father had been honest and proud of Michael and the memory of his Father was still strong in him.
The Void, “Dark Ireland” as it was called in common parlance, was a dimension, a reality that hides inside our reality. It was the holes and proverbially shadows of reality yet divorced and empty. It was used for travelling great distances, as distance seemed malleable there. Yet from nothing, they had come, creatures half formed, monster warriors, armoured beasts and human-like Generals. The war had lasted one hundred years but we had won. How was a dark mystery. Everyone who fought in the war never spoken of how, just that we had won. And now the Void was safe to travel they said. The thing that had always disturbed Michael was the rumour. The Tuatha De Danna had been us; our ancestors or our descendants, forced out by us aeons ago and that we were the invaders not them. He had not told Margaret of his fears the message brought. Perhaps he had inherited his Father’s hatred because now he felt afraid of what lay in store for him in the Royal City.
The city was built on an artificially raised island on the spot of humankind’s victory against the Void. Nearly every kind of animal lived free except for snakes and serpents, which are forbidden inside the city. A huge colony of dolphins lived around the city and worked for the water tenders for beads and special kind of fish not found in this region of the sea.
It too had a giant tree like the one where Michael and Margaret lived, yet no one lived on it. Instead it was filled with every conceivable amusement, from dancing to the celebration of sex, to costumes, to games, to food places and to dreams. The stories told of dream minstrels on the top branches that sprinkled wonderful dreams on the populace of the city.
It was populated with all royal courts, courtiers, generals and retired folk. Everyone who had worked a full life had the right to retire to the Royal City, but had to leave the rest of the world behind, divorcing themselves from family and friends and daily life of the world. It was meant to be a little piece of heaven before we moved onto the next cycle of existence, be it the after-life or reincarnation or oblivion.
People came here on holidays and spiritual journeys as it had the greatest, or at least the most glorious, temples and churches to all religions. The Druid Order of The Dark in the Light was the official Royal Tenders of all the other religions on the island.
It also had the greatest library. A huge data store of millions of databases around the world and the greatest collection of Old World paper books and articles that existed. This library gave existence to some of the Celtic world’s greatest Universities and Medical Facilities. But this did not mean it was perfect, Michael had been saddened by rumours of retired folk not getting even normal medical treatment and being left to die. These rumours were never official endorsed by any media or even investigated.
Still, a flutter of excitement bounced around Michael’s chest at the possibility of seeing the Royal City for the first time. Margaret had been many times as a child on family holidays but she was even more excited this time. Her husband, the large-hearted bumbling scientist she adored, had been called to Court. It will be an honour that their children will remember with delight as adults (when they have children. She was ready but Michael was still apprehensive).
Anthony made the front portion of the hull transparent so Michael and Margaret could get a view of the Royal City as they approached.
And there it was. From a distance it looked like a huge oak tree growing from the sea and covered with ornate jewellery and model buildings. Small dots buzzed around it and floated on the sea. Theses were the many thousands of crafts around the island.
As they got closer, the detail became more pronounced. Huge buildings stood between the roots of the great tree. Ship Ports clambered between the roots and sea ships of many types sailed and floated on the deep blue sea and waters around the island. Craft Ports were abound on the outlying branches of the tree and a multitude of personal crafts, military ships, commercial transports and sport ships were dock or floating around. There was a great feeling of buzzing life. A few birds flew around their own craft chirping something that sounded like a welcome and then flying off again.
But the buildings were the most glorious. From what looked like carved from hand buildings to hanging glass balls many times as large as Michael and Margaret’s home. The variety was breath taking. Margaret enjoyed more Michael’s reactions then the sight before them. His eyes were wide. He couldn’t take it all in and it left his mind open to just viewing it in all it’s human beauty.
The craft moved on autopilot towards a predestined port on the south side. The course had not been programmed with fuel efficiency in mind but with knowledge of the most spectacular sights.
It brought them over the Taoist monastery that stood alone on a lonely branch, monks practised in the open air, then down across sport fields where many sports both new and old were being played and slowly around a huge garden of gaudy but delightful coloured flowers. Eventually the craft followed a thin river along a branch into the leafy cover of the tree and then from the river’s dramatic cumulating of a waterfall, the craft rose slowly to small port.
Michael wanted to say so much and talk about all the things he had seen and what he might have seen along the way but the only words to leave his lips were “my”. Margaret pulled him out onto the craft’s landing platform while Anthony saw to the bags. A hooded Druid and the colourful Duke from the message stood at the edge of the platform. The Duke’s smile seemed to beam joy and humour towards Michael and Margaret.
“Welcome!” boomed the Duke, “to the Royal City!” He walked over towards them followed by the Druid and gripped Michael in fierce hug. Michael tried not to do anything in the grip, unsure of the man who was a stranger. He held Michael by the shoulders and said, “Your father must have been proud!”. And then he grabbed Margaret’s hand and shook it with violence, “you must be Margaret. Come, come, I’ll show you to your rooms and then I’ll take you to the best place to have some lunch.”
The Druid bowed once to Michael and twice to Margaret, as was the custom of the Druid Orders but the Druid said nothing. Perhaps he had made a vow of silence.
“Our bags?” Michael began.
“Oh don’t worry about them, they’ll make it to your room before you do.”
Michael glanced back at Anthony as Anthony was hauling the bags onto the platform and then onto some carrying device. Anthony scowled at the Duke’s comments.
“Do you we think could have been built all this if capitalism still ruled?” The Duke said, raised to the argument. Margaret smiled. “Why do you think our modern ways are better? We just have better technology, medicine and religion. It has improved our way of life and made the world comfortable.”
The Dukes laughter was warm. He pulled at his fine moustache and replied. “I like you. But, I have studied the Reboot Revolution and the associated violence was only due to the prolonged existence of capitalism when it should have fallen over like a diseased dog long ago. Its only defence was the appearance of security and comfort to the powerful minority of the world?”
Michael walked someway behind. He eyes were scanning the walls of the corridor they were walking through. They were extravagant and luxuries beyond measure. Antique paintings hung behind protective shields, hidden lights gave the impression that candles lighted the corridor as shadows crawled across the plaster ceiling sculptures.
The corridor was intersected with other corridors and halls. Most of theses halls held great collections of Art, Books, Idols and or Antiques. They had spent a good ten minutes in the hall of Science at the persistence of Michael. The Duke seemed to know so much about each hall they passed through and was only too willing to offer it.
Michael could hear something, somebody weeping. “Can you hear that?” He said. The Duke stopped talking. “What do you hear?”
”Sounds like someone weeping.”
”You’re hearing things. Definitely. I think we should hurry on or you’ll spend your entire trip walking the corridors of the Palace.” Margaret looked at Michael with serious concern.
”There. Can you not hear it?”
Margaret shook her head. Michael strode forward and entered the next intersecting hall. It was lined with statues of people weeping or shouting or in great pain. There was terrifying realism in their grey marble detail.
“What is this place Duke?”
Duke was suddenly lost for words. His face had become flushed. “I? rather we left.”
Michael couldn’t hear the weeping anymore. He noticed that there were several empty spots between the statues as if waiting for new commissions.
“It is the Hall of Sorrow and Weeping.” It was a woman’s voice. Sweet and serious. The Druid had pulled back her hood to reveal a pretty face with tided up blood hair. A piece of gold jewellery hung from the top of her ear to the lob. “They say those with powerful heart can hear the weeping of the statues. You must have a powerful heart Michael Waite.”
“I don’t understand. That does not explain this place, what I heard.”
The Druid did not answer the question but rather said, “It best we leave this for it is not for us to dwell here.”
“Yes, yes. We should hurry on.” The Duke declared.
”How did you know my Father Duke?” There had been a lull in the conversation. Michael had decided to change the topic of the conversation to something else that had been bothering him.
“I served under him in the war. He was the best sergeant, no, the best leader of men, that I served under in the war.” The Duke wiped something from his face.
“You know he was very bitter to the Royal Court afterwards.”
“I know. But I could not blame him for that, yet I can not change my blood.”
“You know why he was bitter?”
He smiled at the young Michael and said, “It is better to leave the past sleep as is, eh?”
The Druid cocked her head to the Duke’s words.
After getting to the considerable apartment, where Anthony had just finished unpacking their bags and gave Michael a sarcastic grin as he left, they went to a meal at one of the huge eateries on the upper levels of the tree. The Duke knew the cook and made sure they were more then well fed except for the Druid who dined only on salad. There was great entertainment that went on all night. Fire-eaters and dancing androids and assortment of things. They retreated late to bed.
At nine in the morning, the call came. Anthony arrived with two of the Royal Guards. They were to see the Royal He now.
Michael dressed as quickly as he could.
“Why so early? I thought we’d have a few days before any ceremonies?” Margaret asked Anthony.
“The matter IS of great import, Margaret.”
“And he is to met the King?”
Michael tripped over his other shoe in his rush.
They walked for a while before entering a huge red room. It held no seats or windows but only low sofas, beds and pillows. Men and woman, half-naked, slept everywhere. Anthony picked their route through the room, the Guards behind Michael.
They came out into a private courtyard. The light through the tree branches was heavenly and danced off the fountain that bubbled in the centre. A tall man stood with his back to them. He wore nothing except a silk gown and a gold crown.
Anthony bowed and left with the Guards.
“Michael R Waite.” His voice was strong. The man gazed longing out through the trees.
Michael had never seen the King or even pictures of him. He didn’t know if he was meant to bow or address him with certain terms.
“Michael R Waite.” The King repeated.
“Yes, yes that is my name? Sir, em, Your Majesty.”
The King turned to face Michael. He indeed was naked except for the gown. His body was masculine and muscular. Only his face and head bore any hair and it was a deep blond and thick. His eyes were dark.
“Michael R Waite.” He repeated for the third time.
Michael felt his cheeks turn red. The King was not embarrassed by his nakedness.
“How is your wife and child?” He asked.
“My wife is good but we don’t have any children? Your Majesty.”
“Drop the ‘Your Majesty”, Michael. I abhor formalities in business.”
“You do not know then, about the child?”
“I’m sorry?” The King smiled as if it was a private joke.
“Your beautiful wife is pregnant. She probably doesn’t even know herself yet, but all who come to the Royal City are scanned for security and medical reasons.”
Michael didn’t know how to take the news especially as it was delivered from the King, the Royal He himself.
“It is good that you have Family, that you have Ties to this world, to this Life. It is why the Druids picked you.” The Kings gazed slowly rose up to stare at the world about Michael.
“I’m sorry but I don’t even know why I was really called.”
The King grinned. “There is something I want. Something only you can get, something you have been predestined to get.
It resides not in this world or universe or even in Dark Ireland but something beyond both. The secret orders of the Druids studied its realm and ways to get there. They have sent many there and none have returned. The Druids say only you can, it is your fate.”
“I still don’t understand?”
“A box. A box that grants immortality. Existence with out end. That is what I want. You will get it for me or your wife and unborn child will be killed.” The King turned his back to Michael and stared outwards. “This conversation is at an end.”
Michael and Margaret walked through the gardens. Michael had been deathly silent since his return from the King. She held his arm tight as they walked. The Sun glistened through the branches and birds chirruped in the trees. A rustle of branches and a deer jumped out of the bush in front of them. It looked at them with its delicate head and then made through the bush on the other side of the path. Margaret turned to see Michael’s face but Michael had been looking at here all the time. His expressive face was blank.
“What? Pregnant. No way. You know I use birth control?”
“They scanned us as we arrived in the Royal City. You’re pregnant. We have a child.”
Margaret touched her belly. A smile crossed her face. Michael’s face was still a blank.
“There’s more isn’t there Michael?. Tell me.”
“The King wants me to go on a quest for him, a dangerous one. I might not come back.”
“You can refuse?”
“I have no choice, if I don’t? I love you.” He kissed here and held her close to him.
Two days later, the female Druid had returned for him. Margaret had been to a doctor who confirmed they had a child and nothing was wrong. The Duke had set about great entertainment for them in celebration. Michael never left his wife’s side during that time.
They were to go that very day. Margaret was in tears and the Duke hugged him and promised he’d take good care of Margaret. He took nothing with him besides his working clothes and his leather cape.
The lab was huge. At one far wall there was a large circular ring. Devices of all kinds dangled from it. Druids of all descriptions were scrambling around, tinkering with boxes, monitoring others, and adjusting devices.
“Hey that’s my design!” Michael went over to a box that chugged away in the corner. The female Druid said, “yes it is but we completed it.”
“How did you prevent trans-dimensional multiplexed circuit from jamming up?”
A young male Druid wearing circular glasses said “We didn’t. The problem was in the dimensional shifter. We upgraded it and the flow to the circuit was regulated so no jamming.”
“Are you ready Michael R. Waite?”
“Ready for what? Where am I going? Do you have any notes on where I’m going?” The female Druid bowed her head, “I apologise but our knowledge is lacking. The realm you are to go to is not part of the normal spectrum of our existence; it is not like this world or the Void but beyond it. An alternative Universe perhaps but that’s pure speculation. But it is one that was close to our world but became more separated over time. All we know is that the things we call ‘daemons’ come from it.”
“Yes and no. Hell as the home of all the dark things of myth yes, Hell as eternal punishment no.”
“What do I have to get? And how do I get it? What about protection?”
“We do not know what it looks like and how do you get it.”
“Then why are you sending me?”
The Druid with the glasses pulled open ancient book. It must have weighed a ton. “This book is older then the Reboot Revolution, older then the First World Wars.”
“We believe it is the details of inquiry of a wizard during the Renaissance who studied the same realm we studied.” The female Druid continued.
Drawn in delicate ink was Michael walking into a sort of Portal. Margaret was also drawn. She was weeping on her knees and she held a sword in one hand and a crown in the other.
“What does it say?”
“You must get ready. There isn’t much time. The portal will open when the stars roll into conjunction?”
Michael was swept back by a group of Druids onto a chair. They rolled up his arm and injected him. The placed a set of goggles on his head, put into his satchel paper, camera, beads and other things.
The female Druid opened her robe and took out an ornate knife. “Take this Michael.” Michael grabbed the outstretched hand, “I’m coming back to my wife and child but if they are not safe I’m going to bring hell back with me.” The knife dropped on the ground where it clanged.
The large circular ring started to rotate. Light filled it and started to swirl until it became black and murky. The Druids were running around, pulling levers and pressing buttons. Some stood at the base with measuring instruments scanning it.
Right at that moment Michael missed most his lab, where he would be tinkering with his boxes oblivious to the world. He missed his wife’s red hair and her smile. He missed their house that was always messy but felt lived in.
He took a breath, closed his eyes and walked into the milky darkness.
Michael stepped through. And found he was falling.
The red sand of the ground rising up towards him. Michael inhaled and hit the ground. Darkness.
Michael opened his eyes. The goggles were smashed so he threw them away. The air was hot but breathable. It was the middle of a red desert and the sky filled with violent red clouds with lightning arcing between them and in the distance ancient mountains peeked over the horizon. The portal was several hundred feet above him and at that moment it shrunk to a dot and disappeared.
In his satchel he had a scanner to scan the environment. It was dead, inanimate. No power. It was the same for all the equipment so he dumped it all out. That left him with some small food packets.
The horizon was the same in all directions and with no sun, moon or stars in the sky, one direction was as good as another. So the Knight Scientist set out on his quest, not to find the secret of immortality but to save his wife and protect his unborn child.
Time was unmeasurable. His watch did not work so after what seemed like hours he stopped and set down to eat. It was hot but not uncomfortable and the red didn’t strain his eyes as he expected. But fatigue was dragging his bones. It was then that the dust cloud moving along the horizon was visible. Something large was moving through the red sand and at great speed. It seemed to turn and head towards where Michael sat and ate. Michael saw no point in running; there was no where to hide and he had no weapons or skills to fight, so he sat and finished his first meal in Hell One as he felt like calling it.
The cloud was getting larger and it was pretty obvious it was heading for him. Michael was lying on his back regretting he hadn’t brought any books to read.
As it got closer, the sound was deafening. Roaring tearing sound as if the air was being churned by some huge organic machine. Michael sat up but had to cover his eyes from it.
The cloud of dust stopped a few feet away from him and started to dissipate. But the sound was still as violent, some large shadow moved towards him. Tentacles quivered, hundreds of mouths seemed to move and yell. Michael backed backwards, as it’s roaring echoed of some appetite for fresh human meat.
There was a pop. Like a paper bag full of air bursting. The shadow was no more. A human shaped shadow replaced the monstrous previous shadow. As the dust settled the person was revealed.
Margaret, dressed in rather provocative red dress, smiled at him and said “Hi there!”
“So let me get this straight, your not really Margaret just what I most desire.” Michael asked as they walked. Margaret smiled at him and said “Something like that. That other form is my Guardian form and normally I’d just eat you and that’s it. But seeing I’m the acting Oracle for the moment I knew it’d be rather stupid to just eat you.”
“Ok? I’m following so far.”
“Well most of us now have to double or triple job. Since the Changelings disappeared they’re power has been floating around so I picked it up. So I’m the resident Guardian, Oracle and Shape shifter. At your service.”
“Ok. Triple jobs?”
“Yea, since the advent of science and the dwindling of Myth, you have to take what you get.” Her smile was perfect. Michael nearly kissed her but then remembered that it wasn’t Margaret but some thing else.
“Ok. So you’re an Oracle and so you knew I was coming? right.”
“You’re getting the picture?”
“So you, as the Guardian, were going to stop me and kill me?.”
“But being the Oracle, you knew I was meant to be here?”
“So you didn’t kill me but appear as my perfect desire.”
She smiled again. “Well actually, it’s more complicated then that – I’m meant to guide you, being the Oracle and all.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not meant to make sense to you.”
“Another question. Where are we?”
“Are you asking for a lesson in Geography or in relation to where you’ve come from?”
“Where I’ve come from?”
“Your aware of the Void. I know that. Well it’s not like that but?”
“No? not that either. That’s a completely different can of worms? lets forget you even mentioned that. No. This is a reflection of your world. The Void exists here too.”
“Ah okay? fashioned by imagination?”
“Eh. No. Your world is also a reflection of this. What happens here effects your world, what happens in your world effects my world and all the other Shards like a stone in a puddle.”
“You’ll see things here that you might think are symbolical, archetypes of things in your world, metaphorically rather then real. Likewise, if I go to your world, I’ll see things that are symbolical of things here.”
“That seems a bit ridiculous. Things in my world as symbols of this world?”
“You live in a huge tree for Christ sake Michael. Do you know how much I could infer from that?” The Margaret look-alike stopped and placed her hand on hip.
“All theses Shards are they so fundamentally different?”
“No. Some are very similar and then again some are so different.”
“So what I do here will effect my world?”
“To an extent. In a way that’s why you’re here. Somebody in one the Shards set about to change things, in your world you were forced to travel to a different Shard to perform a quest, your actions here will bring about a change that will ripple through the Shards.”
“Ok. I always wondered what Fate is.”
“Will you stop with that. Fate is a completely different topic. Next you’re going to ask about Love and I don’t have any answers on that. Anyway, we’re here.”
Michael looked around the spot where Margaret-look a like stopped. She smiled at him. “I don’t see any entrance here?”
“You wont’ find any entrances or exits by looking up in the Blue Desert.”
“Blue? Don’t you mean Red Desert?”
“It was once a blue sea.” She kneeled down and started to brush the sand away. Under the sand a wooden door was revealed. She pulled it open and hopped in while saying “Close it after you?”
The light in the cavern fascinated Michael. It seemed to have no source yet everywhere was lit in this red glow that cast normal light. The floor was smooth and well walked and their voices pitched in echoes around as they walked. The Margaret look-alike was doing the leading and Michael was content to follow.
“Where are we going?”
“The end of the journey is never as important as the journey.”
“That’s cryptic enough.”
The sounds of clashing and fighting could be heard up ahead. The Margaret look-alike appeared not to be worried about so Michael asked, “What’s that sound?”
“The Monk and The Apathy. They’ve been fighting for centuries.”
Michael could now make out the two fighting. It was a cavern off to one side lit by dark shadows and hidden in violent red and white glow. A huge shadow seemed to change forms from a figure to a shapeless mass and strike with what seemed to temporarily formed hands at a punitive figure in an orange robe. As they got closer, the small figure seemed to be a Taoist monk like the ones Michael had seen practising on the tree branch.
The two opponents stopped and faced each other. The shadow now stood in something close to a human form. They bowed and the shadow disappeared.
“The fight is over?” Michael asked.
Margaret look alike smiled “No. They take breaks so each can recuperate their strengths.”
The monk waved them over. “Hello!” he shouted.
They crossed the short distance and sat on large boulders that resembled chairs. The monk was a man like himself or so it appeared. “Hello.” The monk grinned at Michael. “It is a while since I’ve seen anyone come this way. What brings you here.”
“I’m on a quest from a different Shard.”
“A quest? Can you tell me for what?” The monk’s eyes gleamed with interest.
“To be honest, I don’t really know. My King sent me to find something that will grant him immortal life at the threat of my wife and our unborn child’s lives. But I have no idea how.”
“Immortal life. How intriguing. Why would anyone want that?”
“It is not necessarily immortal life that Michael seeks here, he is from a different Shard.” The Margaret look alike offered.
“Perhaps, my friend, it is not necessarily the secret of immortal life you seek. Things differ in each Shard realm.” The monk said to Michael.
Michael looks at the Margaret look alike but she shrugged his shoulders.
“Would you mind if I accompanied you?”
“I don’t see any problem if my Guide here doesn’t mind.” Michael replied.
“Your Guide? You are alone, my Friend.”
“You don’t see me?” Margaret asked and waved her hands in front of his face. The Monk did not respond.
“You don’t see her? The woman in a red dress beside me.”
“No. I’m afraid I don’t. I’m Monk Alrye.” He offered his hand to Michael.
“Michael, Knight Scientist.”
“Surely you must continue your fight?”
“Yes that is true. But I do not need to be here to fight.” The monk produces a teapot filled with Chinese tea and small cups to drink from. He places a third set for the Guide but is unsure where to place it on the make shift table.
“I think I understand why our monk ‘friend’ can not see me.” The Margaret look alike ponders as she sips the tea. Michael finds the tea refreshing and it makes him think of the coffee machine he built when he was in college. That particular small disaster from his younger years makes him chuckle to himself. “His desire is nothing, so he sees nothing. Obvious really.” Margaret continues much to herself as to Michael. “I’m really not used to be ignored completely like this. People come to me for knowledge of the future and are begging for divine inspiration or I’m going to eat them because they’ve entered the Blue Desert and they’re completely terrified you know. ‘Don’t kill me I didn’t know’ as if that’s an excuse I haven’t heard before. It’s rather much an ego burst?”
“Your Guide, did she come with you?” The Monk asks oblivious to the Margaret look a like’s diatribe.
“No. I met her here. She’s the Guardian of the Blue Desert and an oracle.”
“Interesting. I had heard something about people doing double jobs. I hear so little of the outside world. Someday I intend to stop fighting and return to my own Shard. But the fight is eternal.”
“I mean, I’ve eaten all kinds of people, kings and queens, dogs, lawyers, priests?”
“What is down in these caverns?” Michael asked Alrye.
“The City of Demons. I assume you’ll head to the Shrine of the Box and there your answer will be.”
“The City of Demons? Like big red horn demons who trade souls?”
“And I’ve eaten a few demons myself. Their horns scratch the inside of most of my mouths but there edible. They could see me you know?”
“Yes. Nothing to be afraid of. They are like? Kittens.” Alrye grinned at him.
From the edge the city seemed huge. Its immensity was as intense as the Royal City. The Cavern they were in now was as vast as any cityscape. The Monk, the Margaret look-alike and Michael paused upon entering. The Cavern was lit as if it was day and the shadows were red not black. The buildings were carved out of stone but new work seemed to have begun in certain sections, as wood structures were half constructed leaned out of the dense city. They were still a distance away and from their vantage-point they could see the city was alive. Things moved in the street, nothing more than dots and shapes from here, but there was life. A gentle din of the city could be heard. Michael could make out small but flourishing gardens around. It was not how he expected a “City of Demons”.
“Magnificent isn’t it.” The Margaret look alike spoke proudly. “This is what I protect, love and dream. The City of Demons.”
“Is it here I will find the gift of immortality for my King?” Michael asked.
The Monk answered this time, “You will find truth here, be it immortality or death.”
As they got closer to the City, Michael slowed down somewhat. From here he could see that the City was not populated by people but things; creatures was the only word to describe it. Mostly human shaped excepted for the tails or the third eye or the horns. Then there were the tall or huge ones and the ones with extra limbs or tentacles or the few that were closer to insects than humans. They were all dressed though and their costumes were as varied as how humans would dress in a city. Michael took a deep breath. They were just a different race, Michael told himself, completely normal here.
As they approached, a hush fell on the assembled crowd. Some froze and just stared. Some hid their children. “I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable?” Michael whispered.
“Well what do you expect, Humans are just myths here. How would your people react if one of my folk just walked up to your city?” The Margaret look-alike offered.
There was a guard that appeared to be a troll by the entrance. He didn’t attempt to stop them but his mouth was hanging limp as they walked by.
As they walked through the city, people stopped talking, stared, watched or looked away. The Monk pointed out the Shrine of the Box in the distance, a huge cathedral that stood overlooking the entrance. It wasn’t a far walk but a walk that Michael didn’t wish to do. The Monk and the Margaret look-alike seemed not at all embarrassed.
As they walked up a rather busy street, a group of demons bared their way. A rather huge horned creature (twice as tall as Michael) was the obvious leader.
“Human.” It bellowed.
Michael’s voice was a little whisper, “Yes?”
“Prepare to be squashed.”
The Margaret look-alike stepped forward, “Goltar, what do you think your doing? Do you not recognise the Guardian?” She meant herself. She winked at Michael and then started to change, her form extending out in to some sort of scaly messy monstrosity. Tentacles leaned out of her with mouths and eyes on the end of them.
The Monk looked at Michael. “I fear I must act or our lives are forfeit.” The Monk jumped in front of the Guardian. “Do not obstruct us Demons. We are on a quest.” The Monk took an aggressive fighting stance.
Goltar backed away from the still growing Guardian. Some of her tentacles snapped at Goltar as he back away.
The Monk grinned. “Look Michael, Knight Scientist, they run away.”
There was a pop and Guardian looked like Margaret again. “That wasn’t hard now was it.”
No one else disturbed them as they approached the Shrine of the Box. People hide rather than incur the wrath of the Guardian.
The Monk grinned. “My reputation proceeds me. I feel honoured.”
The Margaret look-alike said, “Remind me to eat him after all this is finished.”
“What is the Shrine of the Box?”
“Ah, the Box. It is the symbol of undiscovered truth. Open the box and you let what ever is inside out be it good or bad.” The Monk said.
“And there I will find what I’m looking for?”
“Yes and no. You will find what you need, but it maybe not what you want or look for.”
“Don’t worry. This is why you are here, Knight Scientist.” The Margaret look-alike smiled at him, “it is why you travelled the Shards and what you discover here will change your own Shard. It is the way of things.”
Michael had time to admire the city as they passed. The houses were carved out of stone and had been artistic in the detail. Some houses and shops contained elaborate motifs or were painted in delicate colours. It had a feeling of openness. The houses and shops had wide doors and windows or some shops had no real fronts.
The smell was pleasant too, a mixture of animals and spice that gave the place an exotic feel.
The Margaret look-alike spoke about the streets they passed as fond childhood memories. Well at least to her. One corner she talked about the first time she ate another young demon that had tried to rob someone and the laughter of her mother when she heard. Michael tried to imagine the mother of the Guardian laughing with all those floating mouths. It made him feel sick.
They arrived at the entrance of the cathedral. Druids stood on the steps. Their hoods hid their features in shadows. “Welcome Knight Scientist we have waited for you.”
“Is this some sort of trick? A Druid set up?” Michael was ready to fight this time.
The first one pulled back its hood to reveal a head of a toad and said, “Don’t be afraid. We mean you no harm.”
The Margaret look-alike touched Michael’s arm and whispered, “They are not the Druids from your Shard, they are our Protectors of the Box. Relax.”
“The one you seek is waiting, Knight Scientist. He does not have long to live.”
Michael cautiously started to ascend the steps but stopped when he realised that the Margaret look-alike and the Monk were not following.
“This is your quest, Michael, Knight Scientist. I have no part in it but I’m glad I met you. It has been a nice diversion. Perhaps I will go on a new quest now.” The Monk bowed.
“Yes, Michael, I must return to my duties. I wish you the best.” The Margaret look-alike smiled and blew a kiss.
Michael followed the druids in to the Cathedral, just looking back once at his new found friends before entering.
“Leave me alone!” The voice cried out in anguish. It bellowed its pain out loud. The Druids were to-ing and fro-ing in the room. Michael bent entering the low ceiling room. A rank smell assaulted his senses and Michael had to keep a hand to his mouth. It was of decay and piling of human filthy.
The light was low here and it flickered maddeningly, revealing the bed in gulps and splashes of pain. It was a four poster bed, a thin veil hung around it, hiding the occupant who’s shadow was constantly moving in anguish and fevered activity.
“Leave me alone? leave me alone.” The Druids backed away from the bed. A hand escape the veil, it was blackened and thin, covered in cancerous growths.
“You have finally come. I’ve waiting for you for so long?” it rasped. The shadow behind the veil seemed to relax.
A Druid shoved Michael into the room as the other Druids left.
“Please? Please come closer. I must see you.”
Michael approached the bed. The sick hand parted the veil and Michael caught a view of the creature there. It looked human shaped, but it’s skin was black as if it was burnt and it was peeling all over, no weight hung to its visible bones. Its head was a jet-black skull and its eyes were dead white. “No, not you, not you, go away, go away?” The veil fell back in place.
“I was told I would find answers here, that you are what I really came for?”
“I owe you nothing, murderer. I am the last of my kind and will not submit to you?” It then roared in pain.
“I’m sorry to have disturbed you?. but I did nothing against you?”
“You may not have, but your fathers did, invaded our settlements, killed and murdered children, woman and men alike. I survived only because?” It paused.
The realisation hit Michael like a freight train. “You’re the Tuatha De Danna from The Void Whose Origins Still Escape Us?”
“Is that how you sleep at night? By making us out to be the monsters?”
Michael didn’t respond. The dying creature on the bed seemed so pitiful and pained; how could it be one of the monsters that threatened to destroy everything.
“You don’t know do you? You have no idea.” The thing said as it pulled open the veil. “Let me look at you Knight Scientist.” Michael looked away but the thing was angered “Look at me.”
Michael watched the thing pulled back the veil and revealed its humanoid shape. Its weakness was obvious and its death was soon.
“I’m am your cousin, Knight Scientist. We came from the same ancestors. I am human. Damn you.”
“No. That’s not possible?”
“Is it not? After the Reboot Revolution and that nuclear disaster, we escaped into the void. We were dying, radiation sickness, genetic code all fucked up. In the void the effects of radiation sickness were abetted. We built settlements and lived. We thought earth was destroyed that it was a lost cause. So we lived our lives there like scavengers on the refuse of Shard Realms.”
Michael said nothing. The silence felt long with only the flickering light of the candle to fill it.
But the thing, the man, on the bed continued “We had only one problem. Each generation inherited the sickness in increasing degrees. Our science and medicine fought to deal with it and near the end we had a solution. The only thing we needed, the only thing we asked for, was some of your genetic code. We needed to mix with pure clean original genetics. So we decided to return to Earth where we expected to find desolation.
“Instead we found it blossomed. We were filled with hope, hope that we would be accepted back into humanity, back to Earth are home realm.
“But you thought we were monsters because of the changes the void and the sickness had done to us. You slaughtered those that had arrived.
“Then you sent a diplomatic team into the void to meet with us and to prevent further hostilities. Your team learned the truth and discovered that our science and medicine far outweighed yours. So much in fact that we could promise you life into the hundreds of years. We offered you close to immortal life for your help. The team seemed to agree it was a win-win situation for them so they went back home to start preparations.
“Next thing you know, our families are being slaughter, armies are invaded and destroying our settlements, killing us like animals. We fought back, made a good stand but we are dying and so you won and you killed us all. My Parents and Friends, my Family and my Sweetheart?”
The man attempted to hide his tears by turned his head away. Michael wanted to say, “I’m sorry” but refrained. Anything he could say felt horribly inappropriate. This was the secret that made his father bitter to the King, made the previous generation tight-lipped. And the King still searched for their destruction.
“Why did you come Knight Scientist? To know the secret of your fathers?” There was poison in his voice.
“No.” Better to be truthful in everything in this situation felt Michael. “I came to save my wife and unborn child. The King said he would kill them if I did not come here.”
“So they will die now?” grinned the dying man.
Michael ignored the remark but felt he had to say something, “I never knew, they never told us the truth. They said you were monsters from the deepest darkness of the void. It must have been the King who ordered them to destroy you just as he sent me to get the secret of immortal life?”
The man stared at him, his white eyes piercing and stopping Michael in his tracks. The hope fled from Michael.
The man reached under the pillow and retrieved a small crystal box. The candlelight reflected through it and danced rainbows on the veils.
“This is it. This is what you came for. It is everything we were. All our culture and stories, dreams and trials, sciences, magic and history. That’s why I’m alive, I was sent to preserve my people through memory. I want to hate you. I want to hate you so that I can enjoy the idea of you losing your family. But I lost mine and I can not wish that on anyone, even you. But it seems you are my messenger. Take it and make sure everyone on your world knows the truth and knows and remembers my people.” The black thin hand clasped Michael’s hand with an intense grip and placed the small crystal box on Michael’s palm.
“Leave me. I can die now.” The man closed his eyes and turned away from Michael.
They lined the streets. The demons just stood and watched as Michael made his progress back. They all stood facing him, clear of the road and watching him. It felt like there was something in the air that something major had changed.
Michael walked quickly out of the city, heading back the way he came, leaving behind the silent city of watching demons.
He found it easy going through the caverns, remembering little marks or familiar stones. Eventually he passed the place where he had met the monk. The monk was not there.
The door opened easily, the Blue Desert had not changed. It was still red not blue. The clouds clashed violently overhead. Michael waited for the Guardian. It did not come.
After a few hours of idle boredom, Michael noticed a flash in the sky some distance away. Even after the brilliance of the illumination faded, a black disk hung in the sky. The portal had reopened. Michael started to run.
As Michael got close, he saw what looked like a man in a space suit and a pipe connecting the man to the portal. He moved slowly and awkwardly. “Hi there! I assume you’re my lift back?” Michael said as he slowed to a jog towards the spaceman.
The spaceman apon seeing that Michael had no need of a spacesuit, he removed his helmet and youthful red haired face greeted Michael.
“Father?” he said.
“How can you be my son? You weren’t even born when I left and I haven’t been here more then two or three days?”
“You’ve been gone twenty two years, father. Time must move slower here somehow. I didn’t even know if you’d be here but I hoped, Mum hoped.”
The hug from Michael was spontaneous and his son returned it with vigour. Margaret was alive and so was his son. It saddened him to have missed his son’s youth but at least he was alive and doing well. “So what did Margaret call you?”
“Michael.” He grinned.
“Where is my Margaret? I can’t wait to see her?”
“Let’s talk about Mum when we get back?”
“What do you mean, lets talk about Mum when we get back? What happened to her?” Young Michael refused to answer. “Let us return Father, much has happened in my lifetime that you know nothing about.”
The Druid lab had been opened up to windows and was filled with warm light. A circle of official looking people stood at the base of the Portal to greet Michael. They wore colourful suits and had small insignias on their shoulders. Michael junior explained they were Senators of the New Republic, Representatives of the Celtic Civil Order and a Representative from the Druids.
A tall man, with a huge flock of grey hair grinned at Michael as he walked down the steps. There was a familiar sarcastic tinge to his grin. “Did you manage to find out how to fix your coffee machine?” The man said as he greeted Michael.
“Anthony. My god, you’ve changed.”
“Glad of you to notice. You haven’t.”
“What are you now? No longer carrying bags?”
“I’m Acting Senate President. We’ll talk later?”
Michael junior introduced the rest of the assorted senators, none that Michael knew or even recognised from before. Everything seemed to have changed. The Druid bowed and pulled back her hood. It was the female Druid that had meet them apon arriving at the Royal City. Her eyes were lined with wrinkles and her hair was a little lighter but other then that she had not changed.
“I’m glad you’re well, Knight Scientist.”
Michael didn’t respond. Anger swelled inside him.
“Father, this is my Order Head, Lelo?”
Michael’s mouth nearly hit the floor. “You joined the Druid order?”
“Yes. The Druid order was instrumental in the Rebellion and Margaret used them in her campaign?”
“What? What are you talking about Rebellion?”
“The King was over thrown and replaced with a republic?”
The shock shook Michael and suddenly his stomach wretched in pain. “I need food.” Michael gasped out. Spots appeared in front of him and he fainted.
Michael woke to the smell of hot soup. Anthony was seated beside his bed as a nurse brought in the soup on a tray.
“You fainted. Not eating for twenty two years will probably do that to you.”
“I had no appetite there, never felt hungry or tired?”
“You must tell me what it was like there on that other world but first you must have some hot soup. It seems you’ll be eating fluids for a little while.”
The soup was warm and invigorating but Michael could only stomach a little of it.
“I’ll tell you what it’s like when you tell what has happened here. To me, I’ve only been gone for two or three days. My son didn’t tell me what happened to Margaret? I want? I need to know?”
“Well your mission caused quite a stir when you left. Your wife is extremely stubborn and strong-headed. she pestered the Royal Courts and Druids for information and eventually started a campaign for the truth. She felt that you had been sent on a suicide mission for no real reason. In itself it wasn’t very important, but it caused people to ask questions about other things. Secrets and rumours, all the things that we weren’t meant to know.
“It brought your wife and your son great attention, there were two assassinations attempts. The Duke protected them and they entered the Underground?”
“A resistance was building, the secret that the Tuatha De Danna were actually helpless and that the Celtic armies were ordered to do genocide was unofficially confirmed. An Underground resistance was building as the Royal Courts attempted to squash information and rebellion?”
Michael bowed his head and quoted “Your world is also a reflection of this. What happens here effects your world, what happens in your world effects my world and all the other Shards like a stone in a puddle?”
“What was that?”
“Please finish Anthony.”
“Your wife was caught and tried for treason. She was imprisoned.”
“So she is not dead?”
“We don’t know. The King had access to powers and technologies way beyond what was known. She is in the Hall of Sorrow and Weeping as one of the statues.”
“I don’t understand?”
“The King imprisoned her in the statue. That’s what the hall is, a prison. Nobody, besides the King, had known this before.”
“It provoked a sort of revolution but the King got scared. He had weapons ready to destroy the entire world and he intended it to use them. I had been loyal to the King till that moment. It was my hand that stopped him?” Anthony seemed not willing to continue.
“You killed him didn’t you.” Anthony’s smile faded.
“Yes. I had no choice. I had believed him and remained loyal but when I saw what he had planned, I could not stand idle. It haunts me every night to remember that.”
“And now you’re?”
“Acting Senate President. Long story but to keep it short, I fought, politically of course, for the creation of the Republic and a choice for everyone after the Kings death. Somehow I became an Icon. Funny how things turn out.” Somehow Anthony’s new grin looked like a frown.
“Where is my bag?” Michael looked around the bed.
“Here?” Anthony picked up from the floor. Michael placed it on his lap and removed the crystal box that the dying man had given him.
“Take it Anthony to the people. They should know their cousins.”
“What is it?”
“Some sort of Data storage. It contains the history and the science of the Tuatha De Danna, our brothers.” Anthony looked perplexed so Michael explained. “The Tuatha De Danna were our brothers, they came for our help. They need some of our genetic code to save them selves and they offered everything they had for it, which included for us, extensions to our lives. But we slaughtered them instead, planning to take it by force.
“Well here it is. Everything about them, science, culture, dreams, everything.”
“I don’t believe it?”
“We can never be forgiven for what we did, but we can remember them. Now, help me get out of this bed. I want to see my wife.”
The corridor was as he remembered. Lined with statues of weeping people. The air in the corridor felt heavy and oppressive and the walk down the corridor felt longer for it.
Eventually they found Margaret. She had a look of grim determination on her face, but it was a face etched in marble. Michael reached out to touch her face, but it felt cold and lifeless.
He felt to his knees in front of it. He couldn’t contain the sobs any more and he cried.
Anthony could only watch Michael’s pain, feeling in someway responsible for it.
“Bring me my tools, Anthony.” Michael had stopped cried.
“My lab, my tools and inventions.”
“I intend to save her.”
“You can’t stay here Michael, it is no longer permitted. The Royal City is now a memorial to the Tuatha De Danna massacre.”
Michael’s stare made Anthony step back.
“I’ll see what I can do?” Anthony crept away.
Michael started to look all around the statue for a crack or for a device, anything. He felt her close to him just as yet out of reach.
A few hours later Michael junior arrived, dressed in his robe and hood, pulling behind him a large crate on a floating mobile platform. The father and son greeted each other and started to unpack. Michael started mentally doing an inventory and started trying to figure out where to start.
“You don’t plan to leave until she is free do you?” Michael junior said.
“No.” Michael answered as he counted on his fingers the number of small pen like devices he arranged on the floor.
“Then I better find us some food and such. The Acting President has given us special disposition to stay here as long as we want?”
“The Acting President will not stand in my way? I appreciate your presence son, but I’m sure you have other duties to perform?” Michael implored his son.
“You don’t like the Druid Orders. You don’t like what they did to you. I’m sorry father that it was you but the Druids just see to things. We are not a religious order as such. We make sure things happen as they are meant to. That the cycle is not perverted or broken?”
“In the other realm, the Druids were the Protectors of the Box which I think stood for truth and revelation. Such a different task but apt I suppose. What is truth and revelation except a continuing cycle of change? The ending of one journey with the truth and the beginning of another with revelation. I met a Monk who fought Apathy. Our world had become apathetic in our peace. The world has changed. Find some food and something for us to sleep on.”
The coming days and nights, Michael probed the statue with devices of every nature and purpose trying to understand how Margaret was placed here. The material felt like marble but it was alive. Nothing could pierce it not that it would make a difference seeing that it was solid all the way through. There was a missing essence that Michael could not fathom.
During the days, people came to the Hall. They were pilgrims to the Memorial but as the days wound into weeks, a few viewers became hundreds and Michael junior had to organise with the Memorial Guards strict access to the Hall. Michael’s story was becoming a legend, his determination to free his wife (who was already a martyr), his journey to a realm filled with demons and the crystal box of the Tuatha De Danna which was transforming science just in the processing of trying to understand how to read it.
Nobody stayed on the Tree at night except for Michael and son and most nights Michael worked until dawn. Michael junior made his father stop for rest and sleep and made sure he was well fed and dealt with the Guards and Visitors.
But it was not appearing to be successful. Anthony arrived a few weeks later with all the previously collected data on the Hall. The greatest scientists of the realm had tried to figure how the King had done it. It didn’t help Michael at all.
Something was missing, there was gap, a hole in his research. There was some element that had effected the transformation, not chemical or energy or void dimensional or electrical or atomic?
A few weeks later Michael fell into a deep sleep. He had run himself into a terrible state. He slept straight for two days. Michael junior called for a doctor but nothing physical was wrong, Michael was just tired. He needed to sleep.
But Michael dreamed.
It was a green lush land. Heavy warm jungle grew nearly everywhere except for a small plateau. Monk Alrye was there, tending to a pile of hot ashes.
“Ah, it is good to see you again Knight Scientist. Are you on another quest?”
Michael didn’t speak, he didn’t even really seem to have a body here but he communicated with the Monk expressing his desire to save his wife.
“Ah so your quest is not finished.” The Monk was coaxing a red feathered bird towards the ashes. It was a large bird, half the size of Alrye. It’s feathers were streaked in places with all the colours of the rainbow. Somehow Michael could tell the bird mourned over the ashes.
“It does not know that the it’s mate is not dead or lost. All it requires to return is love.” Alrye plucked a feather from the bird and dropped in the ashes. The ashes seemed to react and bubble around the feather. Sparkles appeared and the ashes seemed to pull together, changing colours and shapes. And in a blaze of light a bird rose from the pile. It’s red and rainbow feathers a blaze of glory. The other bird started to fly and the two flew off into the azure sky.
When Michael woke, it was to the sound of excitement. Michael junior and some of the guards were helping someone down of one of the statue pedestals. A doctor was running from the assembled crowd of visitors to help.
“What’s going on?” Michael asked. But something was happening to all the statues, the marble was changing colours, the spell had been broken.
It was Margaret they were helping down. Michael clambered from the bed and helped the guards. The doctor directed them to place her on the bed. The guards went to help the others as they escaped their statue prisons.
She seemed confused, her eyes were defocused and her body was limp but jerking. Michael grabbed her hand and she seemed to focus for a few seconds on Michael. She was trying to word something but the doctor injected her and her body instantly relaxed and she closed her eyes.
“It’s okay. She was in some sort of shock but it’s mild. By morning she’ll be fine, the statue prison doesn’t seemed to have done any damage at all. I don’t know what you did sir but you’ve performed a miracle here.” The doctor shook Michael’s hand.
“I don’t know what I did?”
“I better go and tend to the others?” The doctor left.
Margaret had changed only a little, not much. Her eyes and face were the same except for some lines around her eyes and a bit of grey in her hair. Michael kissed her on the forehead and held her hand tight.
Michael and his son waited by Margaret’s bed. She slept until the following morning and when she open her eyes a smile stretched across her face. She was finding it difficult to move but the doctor said it would pass quickly enough. Michael hugged and kissed her.
She whispered “I hear you calling me Michael, it was like a dream, a phoenix and ashes?”
Over the next few weeks Margaret was soon out of bed. Michael spent every moment he could with her. Margaret was glad that the two people she loved the most were well and were with her. Michael junior took a sabbatical from his Order and the three of them travelled the world, everywhere they went they were greeted as heroes and idols and everywhere they went, Michael tried to dissuade them otherwise only making himself seem more noble.
But changes had been set in motion. The doorway to Hell One started to open of it’s own accord. Brief rifts opened in random shifting location. Demons arrived on Earth, accidentally caught up in an opening portal. Likewise many people were lost to Hell One.
Fear and panic threatened but the memory of the fate of the Tuatha De Danna remained firm in their minds. Michael started to speak out not to be afraid of the visitors and that they were lost here. He helped console and calm several visitors from Hell One and convince the people that they were harmless (as long as not provoked). It was not easy, faced with a 10 foot high horned creature anyone would think it was going to kill them all.
The portals started to stabilise and Michael, Margaret and the Druids set out to reconcile the demon world with their own. They were met by a group of demons with similar intentions including the Guardian.
War did not break out. In fact it became quite fashionable, on both sides, to go on holidays or pilgrims to the other side. The time differential seemed to decrease as more and more people from both sides crossed till time seemed to pass equally on both sides. Michael himself gave Anthony the first tour of the City of Demons. After that, hundreds of people travelled to the City of Demons, to visit the Box, or taste the particular beer that made you see the future (or so it was said, more often than not it gave a resounding headache and memory of a good time). It developed a thriving tourist industry. Likewise, Demons in the hundreds enjoyed the sites of the great city Trees that Michael’s people lived on.
With the help of Michael junior, the Druids of Hell One, or Demonica, meet with the Druids from the Celtic realm and formed several unique orders and shared their wisdom. They helped ease integration of the people and provided those on pilgrims the right access to the Box.
Michael was also instrumental in solving the Tuatha De Danna crystal box problem. He claimed it was locked with an “emotional trigger” and he opened the floodgates of the Tuatha De Danna knowledge. People got to explore the culture and history of their lost cousins who were avid artists and poets. It became a time of discovery for everyone.
Michael fought to have the Tuatha De Danna Memorial (once the Royal City) to be converted into a “living” museum of the Tuatha De Danna. But too many were bitter and had repressed guilt for the terrible genocide. The Memorial still stands as is. A huge Tree visited by day and empty by night.
After a few years, Michael and Margaret retired to a small house where they had two more children, Mary and Alrye.
Michael junior would come to see them often and considered the small house as his true home.
Occasionally the Guardian would visit from Demonica (the Guardian appeared, most often, as a young man rather than look like Margaret) and Anthony would steal away from the Republic Parliament to spend time with his godchildren. Michael and Margaret’s lives became uneventful and peaceful. For the most part, they were content and they were happy.
Sadly Michael outlived Margaret by nearly ten years. In that time he watched over his grand children and wrote his memoirs. After he died, his small inventions and gadgets that littered the small house and his children’s houses were collected and placed in a museum. His memoirs were published in both Demonica and his home world.