Chapter 3: Margreth
I really don’t like this part, the thought flitted through Rowan’s mind as she pulled herself up from the cold floor. Could these landings be a little less jolting? It was dark and cold and she was about to speak when a hand went over her mouth.
“Quite,” Brannoc whispered in her ear.
“Where are we?” she whispered back.
“I don’t know,” said Brannoc, “and I can’t find Sukh.”
The next noise was not what Rowan expected, somewhere close by a baby began to cry.
The floor they were sprawled on felt like smooth damp stone and as Rowan’s eyes began to adjust she saw a small crack of light through what appeared to be heavy curtains. The cry of an infant broke the silence again. A woman’s voice cried the words, “mo chuisle mo chuisle, Margreth, Margreth.” Rowan felt Brannoc’s body flinch at the words.
“Not today, we cannot be here, not today,” he mumbled and then he said more in the language Rowan could not understand but even so it sounded like cursing.
The baby began to cry in earnest. Rowan could hear several ladies talking low in what she believed to be Gaelic. Brannoc stood up slowly. He pulled the dark curtain back just a crack and Rowan could see a little bit of the room.
They were in some sort of stone building; Rowan guessed it was a castle, but having never been in a castle, it was just a guess. There was a small bed near the extremely large fireplace. A woman in a long dress and a white apron covered with blood leaned over the bed and as she moved back Rowan gasped so loud that Brannoc turned to glare at her with his lavender eyes.
Rowan saw the woman in the bed and it was her….or someone who looked just like her and the girl was as pale as snow and Rowan knew immediately she was bleeding to death. The baby cried again and the woman by the bed took it and placed it next to the dying girl. Her eyes opened; she smiled. The baby was so beautiful. It already had such a full head of jet black hair. Rowan glanced up suspiciously at Brannoc but he gestured for her to be still as he turned back to watch the scene that was playing out in the bed chamber.
The two women who had been talking turned to the lady by the bed. They seemed frantic but not just about the dying girl. Rowan caught a few words, something about the baby being taken. The lady nodded and leaned over the bed, gently picking up the child and wrapping it in a soft fur. She handed the baby over to the smaller of the two women and whispered something in the other’s ear. The two left by a door on the far side of the room leaving the lady by the bed alone in the room with the dying girl.
Brannoc looked down at Rowan. He leaned down and whispered.
“I do not know how you brought me here but we are in the gravest of danger. To pass back in time is strictly forbidden. Much planning must be done before hand. Scenarios must be established, probabilities run. We simply should not be here and today of all days; my guilt will be unquestionable.”
He seemed honestly frantic.
Rowan looked up at him and whispered.
“This is where your mind brought us. I couldn’t help it. I saw it on the surface of the water.”
She knew that she wasn’t making much sense but it was the only way she could explain it. Brannoc looked at her in surprise as if he understood what she had just said, and then he sighed.
“You look so much like her it was all I could think about,” he whispered.
At that moment the woman in the room began to cry aloud. Brannoc turned and to Rowans surprise he walked through the curtains into the room.
The woman by the bed looked up and wiped the tears from her eyes. She did not seem surprised at all. She bowed slightly, looked straight at Brannoc and said, “Uachdaran, you are back, not in time I am afraid however, Margreth is dying. The birth of your daughter has killed her.”
If looks could kill Brannoc would have died on the spot but he waved the glaring woman aside and walked to the bed side. When Brannoc took the dying girls hand she opened her eyes and smiled. Brannoc dropped to his knees beside the bed. Rowan could see tears running down his face.
Margreth began to speak. Rowan couldn’t hear what she was saying but Brannoc leaned his face close to hers so he could hear. He shook his head as Margreth spoke. He whispered in her ear and laid his head upon her breast. She put her pale white hand on his head, stroking his head as he sobbed. Her hand looked so white against his jet black hair. Brannoc raised his head and held Margreth’s face in his hands and kissed her. He laid her head down on the pillow and she did not open her eyes. Brannoc slowly straightened himself up and wiped his face. He turned to face the other woman.
“Where is my child?” He asked as he looked down at her.
The woman looked at the floor as if some of her bravado had faded.
She mumbled, “I am so sorry my Lord but the babe was born dead.”
Brannoc did not seem surprised even though he knew she was lying.
“I will see the body,” he commanded.
The young woman answered still looking at the floor, “she has already been taken away to be prepared for burial. I am sure that the Lord does not want to see the poor thing. She was not fully formed, quite pitiful and hideous.”
“Bury them with the greatest honor. The heaven’s morn their death and I will morn Margreth for a thousand years,” Brannoc said his voice still shaking.
The woman gave a slight curtsy and said,” yes, Uachdaran.”
Brannoc turned on his heels and walked straight towards where Rowan was hiding. He walked through the curtains as Rowan pressed herself against the wall to stay out of sight. Brannoc reached out and opened a large door that Rowan now realized she had been leaning against in a small curtained alcove. The door opened into another room larger than the bed chamber where another enormous fireplace roared. There was a heavy table covered in books and maps, several chests and two large chairs. Brannoc locked the door behind them.
He went to one of the large chairs by the fire and sat down hard. His head was in his hands.
Rowan stepped towards him; she could tell he was in real pain, “I am so sorry. Somehow I think this is my fault and I don’t know what to say or do.”
Brannoc looked up. His purple eyes shone brighter than ever.
“Never be sorry for what you have given me today. A thousand years ago I was not here by her side. My people were at war on the other side of the galaxy. I had been called home. She died without me there to say how much I loved her. I did not return until twenty years after her death. I have always believed that my child had died and now I know that was not true. My child lived, and you my dear are undoubtedly the descendant of my daughter which makes us family.”
Now it was Rowans turn to sit down hard. She sat in a chair by the fire and tried to take in this newest revelation. She had no family in the world. No cousins, aunts, uncles. Her grandparents had been dead for years and her parents had died when she was almost eighteen. Now this crazy man who had kidnapped her might be her relative.
“What do you mean we are family?” Rowan asked.
“Do I need to show you a mirror girl?” Brannoc retorted, “You bear too strong a resemblance to Margreth not to be her descendant.”
Rowan thought about the dead girl and how she could have been her twin.
“I couldn’t really catch much of what was happening in there. My grandmother spoke some Gaelic so I caught a few words but not much. Where did they take the baby?” she asked with some hesitation, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
“I suppose they are preparing to take her from the castle by now.” Brannoc sighed. “That sister of Margreth’s has probably had their escape planned for months. When this happened before, I came back years from now and I was told that she and Margreth had died. I never questioned it. Women died so often in childbirth it was nothing to be suspicious about. Our kind and earthlings do not mix easily, most offspring do die.”
“Why don’t you go after her now?” Rowan asked.
“Don’t you see I cannot? Brannoc said and his voice betrayed his frustration, “I cannot change what happened before. If I were to go and demand my child it is quite likely that you would no longer exist.”
“I don’t buy that,” said Rowan. “I think that if you are back in time now then this is what was supposed to have happened. Nothing will be changed.”
“Oh so I suppose you have a better grasp of time than our scientists that have studied time travel for thousands of years.” Brannoc sneered.
“Maybe I do!” snapped Rowan. “I think about time a lot.”
“So if I go get that baby you have no problem with that?” Brannoc asked.
“But you won’t,” Rowan answered,” so nothing has changed only you have some information that you didn’t have before. I see time as sort of happening all at once. It is not as if we move through time but time moves around us like water past a rock in a stream. All things are happening at once we are simply tuned into a certain moment. That does not mean that we cannot tune into a different moment. I have always though our minds or more precisely our memories are like time machines. We can relive moments within our mind so in a very real way we can move back in time using our consciousness.”
Brannoc’s mouth dropped open slightly.
“You have an odd way of looking at it but your take on the mind being tied to time is correct as you will learn when I get you home. In fact that is the very thing that got us into this predicament. In the meantime I can take care of the language problem so you can understand what is going on around you. Normally this would not be done until your arrival on Availon but under the circumstances…”
He began to touch the surface of his wrist device. The small screen appeared and he touched it several more times until a small strand of fiber no thicker than thin fishing line appeared on the surface of the screen.
Brannoc gingerly lifted it up. “Tilt your head,” he said.
“What is that and what do you mean tilt my head?” Rowan asked incredulously.
“I am going to place this in your ear.” Brannoc snapped back.
“Like hell you are,” she said as she backed away from him.
Brannoc dropped his shoulders and sighed. “Must I explain everything to you?”
“Yes,” Rowan replied, “you must, especially before you put it in my ear.”
Brannoc sighed again and began to explain in a tone as if he were talking to a child. “This is a strand of nanocytes programmed to attach to your auditory nerve and translate all incoming languages into your native tongue. They are perfectly harmless and can be inactivated at any time at which point your body will simply absorb them into the blood stream and pass them out with waste products. They are microscopic machines….”
“I know what nanocytes are,” Rowan interrupted, “I am just not sure about this.”
“It is very simply technology,” Brannoc assured her, “really…we all have them.”
Rowan looked surprised, “Do you have them in your ear?”
“Of course I do,” he nodded, “and many others are in my system doing all sorts of things. They are quite harmless and I for one am tired of speaking English which I find to be a very tedious language. You do want to understand the people around you, don’t you?” Brannoc tried to sound convincing.
“Well, yes that would be good I suppose.” Rowan took a deep breath and tilted her head. “Go ahead do it.”
She closed her eyes and held her breath as Brannoc dropped the thin strand into her ear. First she felt a slight tingle almost a pain but not quite, then there was a slight ringing but the next sensation was not one she expected.
Rowan suddenly became aware of the sparks of intelligence in the nanocytes. It was as if a thousand little voices were chattering in her head. Surprisingly it was not an unpleasant sensation; in fact it gave her the most comforting feeling of not being alone. She felt them slide along the nerve bundles; some stopped and anchored others moved on deeper. Others entered her blood stream.
She thought to herself, where are they going, and instantly the answer came. They thought back to her.
We are going to the brains language center. In order to translate properly we must have a complete working knowledge of your native language.
Rowan looked up at Brannoc. “You didn’t tell me that some were going to my brain.”
Brannoc looked shocked, “how could you possibly know that?”
“They just told me,” Rowan answered.
Brannoc gently put his hand on Rowans shoulder, “honestly I didn’t say anything about the brain because I thought it would scare you but what do you mean they told you?”
Rowan looked puzzled, “I can talk to them. Isn’t that normal?”
“No,” Brannoc insisted. “They are not programmed to communicate, I honestly don’t understand.”
Brannoc looked at Rowan; she had a far off look in her eyes as if she was hearing something from a great distance.
“I don’t think it is about programming,” she murmured dreamily. “They contain a spark of life. I can feel the little bits of life. I know that makes no sense but that is what I feel.”
“Can you understand me?” Brannoc asked.
“Well of course I can.” Rowan answered as she snapped out of her trance like state.
“Good,” Brannoc replied, “that means they are working because I said that in Fadian so I think everything is alright. Perhaps this is just a temporary effect. It had been over fifteen hundred years since mine were implanted perhaps I just don’t recall the feeling.”
Rowan smiled, “well it is not unpleasant. I can’t really describe it but I like it in some strange way. It is like I am in better contact with my own body.”
Brannoc just shook his head.
“You are a strange one Rowan Ross.”
He looked at her thick red hair and her deep green eyes. So lovely he thought…what a shame.
Suddenly there was a knock on the thick wooden door. A muffled voice came from the other side.
“My Lord is there anything you desire?”
Margreth’s sister had undoubtedly informed the staff that Brannoc was in the castle.
“No,” yelled Brannoc,” go away now, leave me.”
He turned to Rowan and spoke in a low voice in case the person in the hall was still within ear shot, “we must get out of the castle soon. I cannot avoid speaking to someone forever and the less contact we make with anyone the better. You must destroy everything you have on you. Nothing from your time can be found here; now empty your pockets and take off your clothes.”
Rowan understood his logic. It was possible that something she had on could influence the future but she really believed that if it did it would have already happened so it didn’t really matter but she also figured that Brannoc wasn’t going to budge on the matter.
“What about you” she pointed at him, “with your fancy devices, nanocytes, glowing blue bracelets and obviously not one thousand year old clothes; are you going to destroy yours?”
Brannoc looked frustrated, “no of course not. These are basically the same type of clothes I wore when I was here before. The devices are not obviously different and these people certainly cannot tell the difference. They believe I am a supernatural being. My behavior and appearance will not affect the future any more than they already have but even a zipper from your clothes could change the course of history. It must all be destroyed. Sorry.”
“A supernatural being?” Rowan raised an eyebrow. “Seriously? That bloody nose of yours didn’t look too supernatural and by the way what should I call you, and don’t say Lord because that is not going to happen.”
Brannoc couldn’t help but laugh. He took a slight bow.
“Brannoc Tong Durai of the Fae at your service.”
“Oh you are a fairy,” Rowan laughed, “that explains so much.”
Brannoc looked offended.
“I will have you know the fae were powerful beings to these people. Those silly little winged creatures were dreamed up many years later. We were creatures to be loved and feared. Some believed we were a race of the dead, some believed we were between man and god. We can step in and out of time. We have great power over animals and the natural world. You can leave with one of us and only be gone for minutes and when you return years have passed. We do not grow old. We are very beautiful …”
“And obviously modest,” added Rowan with as much sarcasm as she could muster. “I find it reprehensible that you and your kind passed yourselves off as gods. Why didn’t you help us? Why didn’t you cure illnesses, teach, and share your technology?”
Brannoc went on the defensive.
“First we were not the only ones to pass ourselves off as gods as you put it. There are many others and some were here long, long before us. I am afraid there is much you don’t understand about the way things work. It is not as simple as it would seem. Some did try to help Earthlings. Many were benevolent beings, names you would recognize, Isis, Bes, Morrigan, Ra, Shiva, Lilith, Vishnu, Odin, Anu, I could go on and on but it never worked. Humans are hard to help; their path is their own.”
Brannoc stared into the huge fire a moment before he continued.
“Humanity is a young race, perhaps the last race made by the Annunaki but you may be their most interesting creation. Your unconscious mind is so strong it often overwhelms your conscious mind. Your race has spent ten thousand years arguing about the gods that they cannot remember because the Annunaki tried so hard to make a race that would always love them. In their quest to create their perfect children they created a race obsessed with the divine. Humans can understand and develop advanced science but still believe a god lives in sky. You think this because you were designed that way but your creators weren’t gods any more than I am. They were just very advanced beings who designed life forms with the same ease that you design those automobiles you love so much.”
Brannoc paused as if to let Rowan take in a great revelation and then he continued.
“I know this because we too are one of their creations. The Fadian race was made long before you but our story is not so different. It is said that we are the first race. The Annunaki took the most advanced life form on our planet and altered it until they achieved the creature they wanted for the task they needed. When they were finished they moved on leaving behind a life form created to seek knowledge, build, create, and never stop learning. But you, earthlings are different, you simply could not forget your gods. You wait for their return like loyal dogs lying on a dead master’s grave.”
Rowan wasn’t sure what to say. She was not religious. She did not believe in a god in the sky but she did have an undeniable belief in something beyond herself. What Brannoc had said really didn’t surprise her…in some way she had always suspected as much but he was missing something really important. She just couldn’t quite get a grip on it, not yet but she would.
“I think there might be more to what they instilled in us than just the overwhelming need to love them. I think there is something more to it.”
Brannoc nodded, “well whether they intended it or not indeed there was something more. Your incredibly powerful connection to the subconscious mind is the very power that allows you to step in and out of the void, the space between matter, unfortunately it also seems to make most of you into superstitious idiots.”
Rowan couldn’t really argue with that either.
Brannoc looked at her, “So young lady, off with your clothes.”