First Fridays: Chapter Four

20141207_140911~2D: I still think we should skip ahead.

A: . . .

D: It’s just, I didn’t mean—

A: I know you didn’t mean to leave them there, all by themselves, with no one to turn to. . . poor orphans, at the cusp of adulthood, chasing a phantom.

D: You can stop at any time, you know.

A: (Grin). No, really, I know you had no idea that headstrong and ridiculously bright Maureen would decide to break curfew and chase after you. I mean, she’s only your—

D: SPOILERS!!!!

A: Wow.

D: Ahem. I mean, please don’t continue, A. Those are spoilers, and we wouldn’t want to ruin the story, would we?

A: Uh, no. Of course not. Sorry.

D: As well you should be. Good gods, woman – I’m almost happy to let you deconstruct the first page of Chapter Four if it will keep you from divulging information vital to the denouement.

A: Then that is exactly what we will do – hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because this is Chapter Four of Changelings: Into the Mist.

Chapter One | Two | Three | Want to read along? Get your copy here!

Four

 

What does the hill look like? Maybe like this - in an abstract, totally denuded sort of way!

What does the hill look like? Maybe like this – in an abstract, totally denuded sort of way!

“Oh my God, Sr. Theresa was right, you are a Changeling,” Sean muttered. He did not know how long they had been lying in the tall grass, staring up at the starry sky. Long enough to realize that this was not a dream.

The church had vanished, and there were no sounds but those belonging to the night.

No, not a dream, but a huge, hideous mistake. The world started to tilt at funny angles and he dug his hands into the thick, matted earth.

“Me?” Maureen sat up. He winced at her speed. “It wasn’t until you touched my hand that anything happened.” She gave him a half-hearted glare as she attempted to smooth the back the riot of curls that had escaped her braids.

“And what did happen? In case you hadn’t noticed—”

“I know, I know. No church. Nothing.”

Yet, that was not completely true. She turned away and scanned the darkened countryside. Sean followed her gaze and tried to ignore the prickling unease that danced up his spine.

The church itself was gone, but the tumbledown remains of a stone structure, overgrown with weeds, sat in the middle of where the building had once been. Surrounding them was a great ring of oaks, or rather, what was left of them. Someone had been at them with an axe; a few raw stumps gleamed in the light of a moon that had just crested the hill. Beyond the oaks, with their twisted branches, were other stands of broad leafy trees that extended down into shadow.

The abbey, its collection of buildings and the modern trappings of their tiny world, had disappeared – either because they had not yet been built, or because they had fallen to ruin long ago.

* * *

Word of the Day

Changeling: A changeling is often described as the offspring of the Fae, a troll, elf or other legendary creature, who has been secretly left in the place of a human child. The switch is often made to strengthen faerie bloodlines, or out of malice. In Ireland specifically, if one doted on one’s child too much, one was at risk for inviting the wrath of the Fae – and almost daring them to steal the doted-upon child (ref. Wikipedia).*

Use of the term changeling – particularly in medieval times – may have been a psychological need to explain mundane horrors. In a world where infant mortality was ridiculously high, and what we consider common illnesses were ascribed to some sort of devilish defect, bringing the Fae to bear when something is “off” about a child (or in the case of doting, in preventing heartbreak should the child die) is as good a way as any. The repercussions of such a “switch” depended on the religious temperament of the community and their general fear of – or abhorrence for – the old beliefs. As Sr. Theresa is evidence, there were still those in the 50s who referred to the Fae as the Good Folk and left crusts of bread and milk out for them to avoid incurring their wrath.

Devil’s in the Details

I love this chapter, because unlike the first three, it shows just how close Sean and Maureen are – they finish each other’s sentences. They draw strength from each other’s reaction to what happened. Sean is almost catatonic with terror until Maureen just brushes it all aside. Maureen, having no clue what happened but knowing she is the one who did it, knows she has the responsibility to remain cool – even joke about it to a certain extent later in the chapter.

I said in Chapter Three that time travel is easier without parents around, and it is true. Not having parents from such a young age also meant Sean and Maureen learned to rely almost exclusively on one another – and themselves. This independence from the outside world is their greatest coping mechanism, and it is what allows them to handle the fear and terror of traveling through the vortex within the church.

It is also my contention that as children growing up in the wake of WWII – orphans of war heroes whose war record was considered treason by their own government – they would have grown a tougher skin, and built up their own self-sufficiency. That self-sufficiency gives them the emotional and mental elasticity to deal with extraordinary circumstances (like traveling through time, meeting pirates and making war with Fae kings . . . you know, every day, mundane stuff!).

Historical Footnotes

I’m afraid to say there is nothing particularly historically accurate about this chapter – except that if there had been a chapel or religious hermitage on the hill, it likely would have been torn down during the height of King Henry VIII’s Reformation of the Catholic Church.

While a few Catholic religious communities survived the Reformation (the Friary at Burrishoole being one of them – see Chapter One), many others did not. It is my contention, in the alternate history of the area, that the hermitage, surrounded by Oak trees (long held sacred by the Old Religion – especially in the generalized/idealized version in Changelings) would have been just too much for the reformers. Keep in mind, there were many pagan overtones to the Catholic Church before the Reformation (and an interesting study of this is the Lancaster Witch Trials of 1612), but even acknowledging the arcane aspect of religion, asking them to accept a grove of sacred oaks, atop a known sidhe mound, encircling a hermitage that may or may not house an ancient mystic? Saint/Goddess Bridget might have survived the Reformation, but that hermitage did not.

*Note on my reference material – no one has called me out on it, but I am well aware that Wikipedia is not the world’s greatest source, particularly for proper historical research. However, as a quick reference guide, it works well, and it’s a great starting point. I’ve noticed that, in general, its information has corresponded with many of my other source material (all of which are outlined in the Changelings appendix… get your copy today!).

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Life in the fast lane

“Why didn’t you stop her?”

The words touched the dread clawing at Sean’s throat. He couldn’t stop the tide of angry, panicky words. “I couldn’t! She clubbed Sir Nathan in the head! She’s helping them and she’s refusing to leave – she’s so deeply enmeshed in this that there is no talking to her, no reasoning with her.”

“Because you insist on using reason.” Dubh grabbed him by the shoulders. “This is not a reasonable war. These men and women are full of emotion and passion. They sing about martyrs and blood sacrifice. This is danger and love and Maureen is throwing all that she has at it. Use it; speak to her. You are stronger than this, boy.”

Sean spread his hands out in front of him, wishing they held some answer. Emotion? He had that, but Maureen was past listening. He’d lost his chance.

“No, you haven’t. You haven’t even begun to fight for her. I can’t do this, Sean. None of us belong here.”

Sean felt a finger of foreboding slide down his neck. All the questions he wanted to ask, like where Dubh had been the last two months, dried in his throat. Dubh was scared; even amidst Bingham’s men, Dubh had not shown fear.

D: 2 months? You let 2 months go by?

A: I let? You’re the one calling the shots, D.

D: I know, but 2 months?! No wonder.

A: They’re 15 – well, Sean is 16 now, but still, what did you expect?

D: (Bloody teenagers). Okay, so I may have allowed things to get out of hand, but how do you reckon it was 2 months?

A: Simple math that made my head kind of hurt because I took it too far. Did you know that because you spent a generation away from the hill that you spent 60 days in Tír na nÓg?

D: Wait, A. Slow down. You used math?

A: Yes. It hurt.

D: I can see that. Back to the two months . . . ?

A: Oh, yeah. 24 hours in Tír na nÓg equals about 6 months for us. I’d say you spent about six hours chatting and travelling when you visited Niamh. That puts you at 1.5 months, but then you still had to integrate yourself with the uprising and get your bearings. It’s an approximation.

D: I did not spend that much time chatting.

A: Then what were you up to, D?

D: You’ll find out.

A: I am not going to like this at all, am I?

D: You might. You seem to have an appreciation for the epic. You may even enjoy yourself.

A: That’s pushing it, Druid, and you know it.

D: Yes, but I can always hope, A.

A: You keep hoping and I’ll keep writing, how about that?

D: Can’t argue with you.

A&D: For once.
A’s telling the tale today, baby!

Slow down a little with Kate Shrewsday and vote for her to be a Penguin Wayfarer – then she gets to wander on foot across Britain. I recently discovered Kate’s page, thanks to Andra at the Accidental Cootchie Mama. Kate’s musings on her world make me smile. In order to help her realize her dream, click on the following link and vote for Kate (the only Kate on the page): http://www.ajourneyonfoot.com/  (Can we come, too? Not our journey, D. But I—I’m working on it, D. Between you and TC, if we don’t get over there eventually, I’m toast!).

D: Thunder stealer.

A: Do you have anything better, Druid?

D: No. I’m going to go mope in my corner.

A: You could always lurk back to your corner.

D: I refuse to dignify that with a response.

A: Cheer up, D. There’s always tomorrow.

Stealing the spotlight

. . . There was no moon, no sun, no point of reference. Only the mist was alive with light and movement, revealing his way even as it sought to disorient him.

Dubh walked faster, slicing a path through the haze. Although more than five hundred years had gone since he had passed this way, he remembered. He remembered the hut – a mere speck on the horizon – and he remembered the girl.

She was waiting. Niamh had grown to womanhood in his absence and she was waiting for him.

“Dubh an Súile,” she announced lightly. At the chime of her voice, the mists – the all-pervading mists that shrouded this world, that softened that which was not soft – bloomed with color. Golden yellow, blue and green danced within the current . . .

D: Oh, A. I knew you could do it!

A: Do what? Wait, do I want to know?

D: That scene – it’s new! I like it.

A: Gee, thanks, D. I think.

D: No, I really do. Finally!

A: You seem rather more excited than I would have expected. What’s up?

D: The sky. Birds. Is that a plane?

A: Helicopter. They’ve finally found me.

D: What?

A: You get to be obtuse and I get to be random. It’s a thing.

D: I thank the gods that you write better than you speak.

A:  You and me both! I repeat, what has you so excited, D?

D:  It’s a scene. About me. I mean, being a “god impersonator” is all well and good, but I’m looking for a little depth, A. Some substance. Gravitas!

A: Does personality count?

D: . . . Not as much as you’d like it to.

A: Believe me, D. You have gravitas. Even a little panache. But this scene is to introduce a smidge of background. I couldn’t have you showing up as Commander Declan—

D: Still hate that name.

A: You don’t have it for long; Maureen will recognize you.

D: Thank heaven for small mercies.

A: Can I continue? I couldn’t have you showing up as Commander Declan without a little bit of history – not real history, your history. You were a bit too mysterious to me, so you were an enigma to the story.

D: Well, enigma no more, I have a back-story!

A: Oh, that was bad, D. Even for you. It’s not funny, and I don’t think it makes sense.

D: I know; I picked it out of your brain. You’re welcome.

A: That’s just swell.

“. . . But first you must find them,” Niamh repeated, taking her hand away and rising. Her insistence struck a deep chord in Dubh’s belly. “You must bring them home, before–”

“Niamh, since when are you concerned with the fate of mortals? I know my duty, and I will do it, but this urgency . . .”

“They must be tucked up in their little convent school before he acts. They are a risk – your history is not safe with them blundering about out there. You led them through, Dubh; it is your duty to finish it.”

“You know where they are, don’t you?”

“I do, and I wonder at how they got there. . .” 

Out of Time: The Race

A: Hey, D – Look at what we did!

D: And this is. . . ?

A: Our short story on The Community Storyboard! It’s a deleted scene from my book.

D: Am I in it?

A: Well . . . you’re mentioned.

D: . . .

A: It totally counts, Druid. This Community Storyboard is a great place, D. I’m glad we’re part of it. They even have a Thursday prompt. It’s a lot of fun!

D: I still think I should be mentioned more.

A: (Eye roll) I’m not going to win with you today, am I?

D: Nope.

Living in interesting times

Interesting Blog Award

Interesting Blog Award

D: Confucius never said that.

A: Um . . . what?

D: That {pointing}. Your title – it’s not Chinese. It’s not old. And Confucius had nothing to do with it.

A: I didn’t—

D: In fact, he didn’t say half the malarkey you all like to heap on his head.

A: D? Calm down, D. First, malarkey?

D: You get flibbertigibbet, I get malarkey.

A: Oh, D, you do tempt me with tangents and random obscurities.

D: That’s not–

A: I know, D. We made up the curse – some ambassador thought it sounded neat and attributed it to an ancient Chinese philosopher. I know. And I get it: you and Confucius were buds way back when in your time-travelling days, and you take exception to the malarkey. But D, this has nothing to do with whether or not the curse was real or if Confucius said it.

D: It doesn’t?

A: Nope, it has to do with me.

D: You? (Snicker)

A: Don’t laugh too hard, D. To be honest, it’s related to this blog, which we technically share. We were nominated for an award.

D: I think I’m going to refrain from my normal diatribe on the lengths to which your society goes to make itself feel good.

A: Thank you, D. It is a first-world problem, and I’m happy to have it.

D: (Grumble, grumble) So, the award . . .

A: It’s called the Interesting Blog Award. I was nominated by the very lovely Kira at Writing Snapshots  and Wrestling Life. The rules are simple: First, thank the person who nominated you.

D&A: Thank you Kira!!

A: Then, list five random facts about yourself, nominate five other blogs, answer five questions and ask five questions of our own to our nominees.

D: Who gets to answer the questions and the random facts?

A: I think we both can.

D: All right, but then who gets to ask the questions?

A: (Eye roll) We’ll split them – I’ll even let you ask the most, if you promise to keep them fairly straightforward.

D: Are you insinuating—

A: I think we’ll begin. First, our random facts:

A: I gave up Diet Coke for my 32nd birthday, and we think the stock went down because of it.

D: My name means “Black Eyes” even though they’re actually bright blue.

A: The finale of MI-5 made me cry. Fictional British spies made me sob for nearly 5 minutes. I fear for my sanity.

D: (Now she fears for her sanity?!): I was born in 670 AD in what is now the area around Inverness.

A: My son has classier tastes in literature than I do. He loves Shakespeare and has a pet name for Charles Dickens (it’s “Chickens” by the way, and it makes me giggle every single time).

D: I have several tattoos. My favorite is the stylized snake that wraps around my sword arm, but I’m also fond of the raven on the left side of my face. It was never completed because I disappeared into a sidhe mound in Ireland during my training there. When I returned, there was no one to complete it – all those who remembered me had died a generation earlier.

A: I didn’t realize that Han Solo and Indiana Jones were the same man until I was 5. And I was in love with them both.

D: I had only one love of my life, but I lost her when I left to fight a war.

A: Before this foray into the interwebs, I had a website (waaaay back when) called “Letters to Conan O’Brien.” Instead of a restraining order, NBC sent me a contract that made me promise I wouldn’t put up nude pictures, and linked it to the old old old Conan/NBC site in the fan pages section. The site died when I moved to Ireland, but I live in hope that it’s floating around somewehere in the electronic ether.

D: I fought beside fabled kings, warriors and tacticians, including Cu Chulainn, Fionn mac Cumhaill, Brian Boru, William Wallace, and Arthur.

A: Our nominees (They are all awesome people – go visit!):

  1. The Accidental Cootchie Mama http://andrawatkins.com/about-andra-watkins/
  2. Readful Things Blog http://readfulthingsblog.com/about/
  3. The Baggage Handler http://thebaggagehandler.me/about/
  4. The Eye-Dancers http://eyedancers.wordpress.com/about/
  5. Written Words Never Die http://ericalagan.net/ericalagan/

A: Now for our answers:

What’s your all-time favorite movie?

A: I have five – Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Wizard of Oz and Braveheart. . . there are more but those are the ones I’ll watch indefinitely.

D: I’ll go with The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Granted, it was also the last film I saw in person.

Who is your favorite author?

A: Depends on the genre, the day, my mood . . . today I’ll pick Frank Herbert, particularly the Pandora Sequence.

D: I always found the Venerable Bede to be amusing.

A: D, you do realize that Bede wasn’t trying to be funny, right?

D: Yes, A – and that’s why I laugh.

Who is your favorite character (can be from a book, movie, or tv)

A: Right now, Tuppence and Tommy Beresford (both the TV and book versions). They are so charming – I love them.

D: I’m tempted to say myself, but that may appear self-serving. I do rather enjoy William Wallace, however. Book, movie or real life, he had such a good way of rousing the troops. He was really quite useful…

A: D… enough.

White Chocolate or Dark Chocolate?

A: Dark! The darker the better!

D: I was always fond of the cocoa bean; I prefer it as prepared by the Aztec mystics, but dark chocolate is quite satisfactory.

If you could do one thing without any repercussions, what would it be?

A: I try to live life pretty close to my desires, but I can’t eat gluten, so. . . eating a Pizza Hut pizza, deep dish (I dream about this some nights – so sad) and second (one is just so hard!), taking the curb during a traffic jam and just leaving all the cars behind.

D: She’s crazy. I can’t compete with that.

A: Finally, our questions:

D: What is your favorite moment in history?

A: If you could eat one food item for the rest of your days, what would it be?

D: What is your fondest childhood memory?

A: If a mad man in a box whisked you away and said you could go anywhere and anytime in the universe, what would you choose?

D: If training, ability and money were not an issue, what would you like to be when you grow up?

A: And we’re done! Many thanks again to Kira for nominating The D/A Dialogues. It’s a giddy moment for us.

D: It looks like I rather overreacted at the beginning of this. It certainly did not go where I expected it to.

A: Well, D, you certainly made it interesting.

D: Nice.

Storm warning

. . . Sean put his hand out, staying Maureen when she made to rise, whether it was to flee or face the noise, he wasn’t sure. Maureen grabbed his arm and jerked her head towards the altar. Behind it, he knew, was the sacristy where Father Rathborne and Sean’s fellow servers prepared for the mass. From that room was a door to the outside, and freedom. . .

A: You know, I was an altar girl once.

D: You? Ha! (Howling laughter . . . minutes pass . . . still more laughter).

A: D. D, you can stop that now. . . Oi, D!

D: I’m sorry, A. I am. I needed that. Thank you. That felt good.

A: I’m so glad.

D: Wait, no, not done . . . (more laughter).

A: D? Come back, D.

D: Okay, okay, I’m better. I am. Or n–

A: Knock it off, D.

D: I’m sorry, A. It’s just . . . well . . . do they allow people like you up there?

A: . . .

D: You’re a heathen, A. I was at least born to apostates and a learned Druid, but you . . . well, I think there was a lightning risk allowing you up there.

A: But I was nine. I think that’s before you’re lightning-fodder.

D: Seven is the age of accountability, A.

A: Oh.

D: You put the entire congregation at risk from a conflagration of God’s wrath.

A: You’re at risk from a conflagration, Druid.

D: Oh, come on, A, laugh with me. You’ll have fun. I promise.

A: Sigh.

. . . Sean realized that once he would have been aghast at using the sacristy as a means of escape, just as he had been horrified when Maureen suggested they search the tabernacle. But, considering they were sprawled in front of the altar, having just careened through time using some sort of supernatural gateway, Sean’s notion of sanctified was experiencing a radical shift. . .

Every day is a holiday

D: I see you’d rather look at Brownielocks’ Official Holidays than write today, hm?

A: Uh huh . . .

D: A . . . ? Come back, A . . .

A: At least I’m not lost on Go Fug Yourself. There’s a chance I might come back from all the interesting daily holidays . . .

D: A . . .

A: Did you know that today is Blah! Blah! Blah! Day?

D: No, I wasn’t aware.

A: D! It’s a day devoted to you when you get on your high horse! You should feel honored.

D: . . .

A: Just kidding, D! Oh, look – it’s also National Bookmobile Day and Nothing Like a Dame Day.

D: What does that even mean? My god, has civilization has become so complacent as to make up daily holidays? Your lives are obviously far too easy. I think I need to go back to the Renaissance. (Sigh) Those were good times.

A: Welcome to progress, D. . . oh, hey, tomorrow is National wear your PJs to Work Day – yes!

D: I give up.

“. . . Did you know that the church had been built on a fairy hill?” Sean asked absently as they walked in a rut of the narrow path.

Maureen glanced at her friend, his hands shoved in his pockets and shoulders hunched. “I didn’t know that, no. Are you telling me you think fairies grabbed us and sent us hurtling through time, Sean?”

“No… although it’s as good a theory as any, at the moment.” Sean looked up and winked at Maureen, who was rolling her eyes at him. “I was reading that book – you know, the one you smuggled in with the rest of your packages last weekend?”

Sean grinned. Maureen acquired information – usually the forbidden kind – with an almost avaricious glee. “That book on the old religions? It had something about the Tuatha dé Danann, and how the Celts, having defeated them, led them into the earth through the sidhe mounds – fairy hills.”

“So, the Celts, being the invaders in this scenario, took over and assigned their own meaning to already-sacred sites?” Maureen had read the book, too. Suddenly Sean’s meaning became clear.

“And the Anglo-Irish priests completed the circle by sealing the deamons inside forever with their church,” she finished, triumphant. “Just like Patrick trying to drive the snakes out of Ireland!”

Sean rubbed the bridge of his nose, not sure whether he felt shocked or amused. “I wasn’t going to go that far, but it is the general idea. Why do you think the oaks were being cut? Lucky for us they were, though; it gives me an idea of when we might be. . .