Chapter 4: The Golden Egg
Rowan began to empty her pockets. She wistfully held on to her cell phone thinking about her last trip to the mall. I am sure glad I didn’t waste all that money on a new smart phone.
“Oh well the battery will be dead soon anyway.”
She laid it on the table. She had a pocket knife and a set of keys, eight dollars and some change, a movie ticket stub and a pack of sweet tarts.
“Can I just eat the candy?”
Brannoc laughed. “Sure, if you want to but destroy the wrapper.”
Rowan suddenly realized her purse was still on the table at the Cellar in Pittsburgh. She wondered what the others had thought when she disappeared. How long would they look for her?
“Is that all you have? “ Brannoc asked suspiciously.
Rowan glared at him.
“When you kidnapped me I left my purse at the bar so yes this is it. Someone is probably charging up beers on my debit card as we speak.”
Brannoc rolled his eyes and pointed at her throat.
“The necklace too,” he added.
Rowan reached up and grabbed the gold locket at her throat.
“The necklace stays with me and that is not negotiable. My mother said I was to never part with this until I gave it to my own child.”
Brannoc looked at Rowan and seemed to realize that this was going to be a fight.
“May I see it.” he asked?
“Do you promise to give it back?”
“On my honor,” Brannoc said with a slight bow.
Rowan hesitated but finally she handed him the small gold object. He rolled it around in the light of a large candle. It did not look so much like a locket as it did a small golden egg with a tiny round glass window.
“This is a strange little thing,” he said half under his breath. “I think it is more than it appears.”
He held it over his wrist device and then handed it back to Rowan.
“Analyze,” he said to the thin air.
A small hologram of the golden egg appeared over the screen of his wrist device. The shape turned in the air showing the object from every angle. A lovely female voice emanated from the device,
“Analysis complete, object is 90% gold, 8% krullium and 2% solarin. Interior is shielded by nano-enhanced krullium magnetic fields, unable to scan. Function is unknown. Culture of origin is Annunaki. The age of the casing is 11600 earth years. Highly recommend more invasive analysis.”
Brannoc looked suspiciously at Rowan.
“Well it a bit older than you thought. Exactly what are you doing with an Annunaki device?”
Rowan was more than stunned.
“I don’t know. It has simply always been in our family. It is passed from generation to generation. I think maybe your machine is broken.”
Brannoc looked incredulous, “I can assure you there is nothing wrong with my analysis but seeing how the object is so old I don’t think it can do any harm…at least not to the time line. We will have to figure out what it is though at some future date.”
Rowan looked relieved.
“I am glad you can be reasonable. I would have hated to have had to give you another bloody nose.”
Brannoc laughed and flashed another one of those incredible smiles that made her lower her eyes.
“Now,” he said, “the clothes.”
Rowan blushed, “you look away first and what do you intend for me to put on. I think I might do more future changing walking around naked than I would in a pair of jeans and a cable knit sweater.”
Brannoc smiled again this time a bit less innocently.
“I won’t argue with you on that account,” he added with a crooked grin.
He walked to the far side of the room and threw open a large chest. Brannoc pulled out a fancy pale blue dress with gold piping and long dark blue sleeves. It looked heavy.
“How about this one,” he asked, holding up the long gown.
“I hope you have something a little more practical in there,” Rowan said, even though the dress was lovely.
“I think I do.” He mumbled as he rummaged down into the chest.
Brannoc dug around a bit and pulled out a beautiful pair of doeskin trousers and a felt tunic. The tunic was covered in intricate embroidered designs and felt appliqués in the shapes of leopards, deer and horses. He also found a linen blouse, a pair of felt leggings and an incredible pair of leather boots covered in embroidery, small shells and tiny silver bells.
Rowan ran her hands down the tunic admiring the dancing images and the skill of the work.
“Oh those are beautiful,” she said as she examined the delicate workmanship.
“Yes Margreth was quite an artist,” Brannoc said as he ran his finger along the embroidery. “She painted pictures with a needle and thread that had lives of their own. She was Scythian: her people live in what you now call Russia. I brought her here to Stornoway Castle almost six earth years ago. I had, shall we say business, in her part of the world, a small problem in the form of a Thracian mining site. From the first time I saw her I thought only of her.” He paused. “Had I left her there she would probably be alive today.” Brannoc looked away.
Rowan could feel his sorrow, honest sorrow.
“I can’t wear her things. It wouldn’t be right.” She held them up for Brannoc to take back.
Brannoc straightened up, “No she would have wanted you to have them; I am sure. Please put them on.”
“You turn around first,” she reminded him again.
Rowan stripped down to nothing in front of the great fire. She tossed her clothes into the flames; watching them disappear as she knew her old life was disappearing. Rowan felt reborn before the roaring fire, like a phoenix rising.
She pulled the soft doeskin leggings on marveling at their suppleness. The linen blouse was beautifully woven and it fit as if it was made for her. Rowan felt a connection to Margreth. The images she had woven onto the tunic were like spells, conjured images of her home and the things she loved. Margreth’s spirit was alive in the designs as if she had woven a bit of her life force into the fabric. Rowan looked down and on the tunic over her heart was a beautiful black horse and its rider had lavender eyes.
“You can turn around now,” she finally said.
Brannoc turned and looked as if he had been punched in the gut.
“You are the living image of her,” he said softly.
“I’m sorry,” Rowan said as she looked down; ashamed of being so enthralled with the clothes, forgetting that he had just lost someone so dear to him.
“Don’t be,” he said, “I have never seen anyone more beautiful.”
Rowan still looked down but now it was so Brannoc couldn’t see her blush.
There was a small cast iron kettle on a bracket arm by the fireplace. Brannoc took all the contents of her pockets, put them in the kettle and swung it out over the enormous fire.
“It will all be melted into an unrecognizable lump soon,” he said with some degree of satisfaction.
Again there was a knock on the thick door.
“The Lady Suri sent up food for my Lord. Shall I bring it in?” said a male voice from the other side of the door.
“No, leave it. I wish to see no one,” Brannoc snapped.
Rowan heard some shuffling and the soft clanging of metal and then silence.
Brannoc half whispered, “Well I don’t know about you but I’m hungry. Stand behind the door so no one can see you when I open it.”
Rowan pressed herself against the wall behind the door. Brannoc undid the latch and swung open the heavy door. He returned with a large tray and kicked the door closed with his foot.
“Latch it back and let’s eat.”
Rowan latched the heavy door as Brannoc carried the tray over to the table by the fire. Rowan came to the table and immediately reached for the large pitcher of water. Brannoc grabbed her wrist and shook his head.
He pressed the screen on his wrist device. Just as the strand of nanocytes appeared so did a small white pill. Brannoc dropped it in the pitcher.
“There you won’t die of some nasty tiny organism, at least not tonight anyway and hopefully Suri has not tried to poison me.”
“Thank you,” Rowan said, “I forgot the first rule of travel, don’t drink the water.”
“Excellent rule,” Brannoc said with a smile, “especially on this filthy planet.”
Rowan decided not to take that personally and she checked out the medieval fare.
There was a beautifully roasted bird that smelled delicious, a large loaf of bread, some apples and pears, a bowl of purple sauce and a round of cheese.
“Try the pheasant.” Brannoc said as he pointed the drumstick he had torn off at the roasted bird. “I brought them here from China. They are my favorite.”
Brannoc could barely get the words out as he stuffed golden brown pieces of the bird in his mouth.
Rowan tore off the other leg. She tasted it.
“Delicious. Thank you.”
“Put some of the plum sauce on it.” he said as he spread it on the crispy skin of the roasted bird.
Rowan watched as he ate wondering if men were ever not hungry. She tried the bread and cheese and then settled back to enjoy a pear by the fire.
“Where is your home world Brannoc?”
This was not a question she would have ever thought she was going to ask someone but there she said it.
Brannoc looked up. “You know the constellation Orion?”
“Well my home world orbits the double star you would call Mintaka in the belt of Orion. We call the stars Dyesegei and my planet is Availon.”
“Avalon like from the legends of Arthur?” Rowan laughed.
Brannoc nodded, quite serious, “yes the magic isle where the fae go when they leave this world. That’s home.”
“Is Arthur there?” Rowans asked jokingly.
Brannoc tore off another piece of pheasant. “Yes as a matter of fact he is.”
Rowan sat and stared at the fire for what seemed like an hour. Brannoc was rooting around the room scanning maps with his wrist device and rummaging through cases and drawers.
“What are you looking for?” Rowan asked.
“Anything we can use to get us out of here of course. My database has not had these old coordinates for many cycles. I am updating the data so hopefully we can get to a nexus point without incident and get out of here.”
“What will happen to me when we get there?” Rowan asked almost not wanted to hear the answer.
Brannoc stopped suddenly. “Well …you will be trained of course.”
“Trained in what?” Rowan replied.
“You will be taught how to use your ability. You are called a sender. There are different kinds of senders.”
“What kind am I?”
“I really don’t know yet,” Brannoc answered her, “your training will tell. Senders are able to move solid matter through the void and reassemble it at a new coordinate. Some senders are never really more than cargo transporters sending inanimate materials to destinations. Others can transport living beings. These senders travel with the living cargo attaching to it in the void and pulling it through at the desired coordinate. There is a third kind of sender, the rarest type, they can move many people and objects at one time. They are basically the uhh… navigators for our great ships that move through the galaxy. This is a very simplified explanation but basically that’s it.”
“So there are three kinds,” Rowan said as she was trying to get it all straight.
“Well yes,” Brannoc answered, “but legend has it that there is a fourth kind that can travel without a collar and bilocate but no one like that has ever been found. Sukh believed you to be a very powerful sender so I suspect you are a level three. When you moved your first object through subspace you were detected and I was dispatched to retrieve you.”
“My thesis folder?” Rowan interrupted him.
“I suppose that was it,” answered Brannoc,” I didn’t really know what you sent but when you did it caused a ripple in the void, that disturbance was detected and then you were found. You are a very valuable individual Rowan.”
Rowan didn’t really like the way he said valuable nor did she think he was telling her the whole truth but at least she knew more than she had before.
“Are only humans senders?”
“Yes or at least an individual must have some human ancestry to be a sender. We believe it has something to do with what the Annunaki did when they developed your race. It seems to be connected to your irrational belief in some greater power. The part of your brain that can open the hole in space-time is the same part that creates these gods. Believe me we have tried to unravel it. Many races have studied your kind for eons. Those Annunaki created such an intricate design when they came up with humanity.”
“Are you not human? You had a child with a human did you not?” Rowan asked.
Brannoc looked almost insulted.
“We are extremely similar. It seems that our creators used a basic format when designing all the humanoid races. They changed some things added something here, took away something there. It was as if they were working towards a goal but if they were we have never figured it out. If your race is truly their last attempt I think they must have given up. Obviously they didn’t create the perfect creature.”
“Well thanks,” Rowan interrupted, “I will try not to take that personally but do any other races have abilities like sending?”
Brannoc looked thoughtful.
“Yes, some races have telepathic abilities and differing degrees of telekinesis. Fadians can control most creatures with their minds to some extent; your people used to call it glamouring. We have immense control over so called lower animals and nature in general. Many Thracians can converse freely using telepathy although the ability varies greatly and some can even move objects with their thoughts but that ability is very uncommon. The Moche insist that they can see the future but they are a secretive bunch and this has never been proven. The very ancient race called the Anu are said to be able to walk through solid objects but they are so rare few have ever seen one.”
Rowan looked at Brannoc.
“You tried to glamour me when you walked into the bar didn’t you?”
“Yes, a willing captive is so much easier to handle and less painful,” he said as he rubbed his ribs. “I wondered why it didn’t work and now I know why. You are part Fadian. It won’t work on a Fadian.”
“What do the Thracians look like?” Rowan asked.
Brannoc seemed surprised.
“Why do you ask?”
“Just curious I guess,” answered Rowan.
She had not mentioned the cat guy in the parking lot to Brannoc. She wasn’t sure why but he had warned her about the Fades and Brannoc, she had decided, was definitely a Fade.
“I guess I was wondering if they are as beautiful as the Fadians.” She tried to lure him in with his obvious vanity and it worked.
Brannoc seemed pleased by this answer. What a ham, thought Rowan.
“The Thracians are beasts,” he said in a hushed tone as if he was telling a ghost story to a child. “They have the eyes and fangs of lions. Your people called them demons, devils, vampyr, and rakshasa, although one named Bastet was worshiped by many in ancient Egypt; I never did understand that. They are a bit sensitive to light since their home world is darker than most. The females are more telepathic than the males and some are telekinetic as well. A very powerful female Thracian can cause quite a bit of damage with just a thought and they are held in high esteem by Thracian society; oddly enough many more males are born than females. Many female Thracians die in utero or at birth even with their high level of technology. The telepathic and telekinetic traits are sex linked so that when combined are often linked to deadly genetic abnormalities.”
Interesting, thought Rowan as things began to start making some sense.
“If a Thracian and Fadian were to have an offspring would it have the traits of both?”
Brannoc looked shocked and disgusted.
“A Fadian would never mate with a Thracian. As I said they are beasts, disgusting beasts.”
“I don’t understand what makes them so disgusting?” Rowan asked.
Brannoc made a huffing noise, “where do I start…their food, their appearance, and their habits?”
Rowan looked appalled. “You know on my planet we would call you a racist.”
“Well,” Brannoc huffed again,” you deal with them for a couple of thousand years and tell me how you feel. As a matter of fact one is at this very moment in time leading a revolt that has split the entire Union of Planets. Her name is Mongke Nasan, her son Niurgun Bootur is a major thorn in my side. She is a half breed Thracian-human and though it pains me to say so she is also one of the most powerful senders to ever be born. Stories are told of how in her youth she could send entire battle groups of soldiers at one time. Her actions have changed the course of several great battles.”
Rowan remembered the cat guy’s words. My mother is the most powerful sender in the whole Division. She can protect you. His name is Niurgun, Rowan thought, I know his name. She felt like she had learned Rumpelstiltskin’s name, as if the name gave her power over him.
Brannoc was still talking.
“It was this revolt that took me away from here, away from Margreth and my daughter.”
Rowan interrupted “What was or is the revolt about?”
Brannoc looked annoyed and Rowan got the distinct feeling that the question and answer session was over.
“I could not possibly explain interstellar politics to you right now. When we reach Availon you will be completely updated. Now we both need to rest. We should sleep a few hours and get up right before dawn and leave the castle under darkness. We must get to the stones at Callinish.”
Rowan curled up in the big chair by the fire. She didn’t really think she could sleep and she was quite sure her last question had upset Brannoc in some way. If anyone should be upset she felt like it should be her. Her world had been turned on end and quite frankly she thought she was handling it pretty well. Maybe she should close her eyes just for a few moments.
Rowan felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Wake up we must go, it’s almost dawn.”
She slowly opened her eyes afraid it had not been a dream and afraid it had been. The first things she saw were those beautiful purple eyes.
“You are real!” Rowan whispered.
“Indeed I am and we have a long ride in front of us so get up.”
Brannoc looked anxious.
Rowan sat up and rubbed her eyes.
“Put the rest of the bread, fruit and cheese in this bag.”
Brannoc said as he tossed her a smooth leather satchel.
“Put this on and cover your head”
He handed her a dark wool cape with a fur trimmed hood.
“The last thing I need is someone seeing you and starting some rumor that I raised Margreth from the dead. Your kind tends to let those stories get way out of hand.”
Brannoc walked over to a heavy looking shelf and slide it to one side. Behind the shelf was an opening to a very steep set of stairs.
“This stairway leads down to the stables.”
He pressed on the wrist device and two small globes of light about the size of softballs appeared in the air. One positioned itself over Brannoc’s head the other moved towards Rowan; she stepped back.
“It’s just a light. You don’t want to fall down these stairs.”
He led the way into the stair well. It was very narrow and extremely steep. The wind whistled by them as the stairwell seemed to be acting as a chimney or ventilation shaft. Rowan could smell the stables below. The sweet smell of hay and horses mixed with the pungent odor of manure grew stronger as they descended. Rowan could see a dim light as they reached the bottom of the stairs... Brannoc tapped his wrist and the balls of light disappeared. Slowly he pushed open a wooden door.
“Kept your face covered,” he whispered.
They walked out into the stable. Rowan could make out the shapes of two young boys asleep in the hay.
Brannoc gently poked one with his boot.
“Saddle the two best horses.”
The young boy rubbed his eyes and jumped up.
“Yes my Lord.”
He grabbed the shirt of the other boy who looked a couple of years younger and pulled him to his feet. They ran off down the middle of the stable and opened two stalls.
Rowan stood back in the shadows. She felt as if she was watching a movie. The low light from the oil lamps flittered around the stable. The quite furtive movements of the animals in their stalls made the whole room seem alive. The smell of hay, feed, manure, leather and horses filled her nose. How had her world changed so much in the last twelve hours?
She thought about her life. Her family was gone. She sure wasn’t going to miss her tiny apartment in the North Hills. She felt changed inside as if something had shifted in her very being. What was that saying? The worm has turned. Indeed the worm had turned and landed her in medieval Europe with a fairy from space but there was more to this feeling than just her bizarre situation; she felt different inside. Something was awakening and she was not sure how to control it. It was if a switch had been turned on in her head and she felt something building and growing in strength.
Rowan heard the jingle of the tack and the soft muttering of the stable boys as they soothed the mounts.
“Can you ride?”
Brannoc’s voice jolted her back to reality.
“I can,” Rowan answered softly, “but it has been many years and I am not sure if horseback lessons at summer camp have truly prepared me for this moment.”
She realized that many years to her must seem like nothing to him.
“Well you take the dapple. She is spirited but extremely well trained and not prone to spooking. She was a gift to Margreth from her father. Margreth’s people are horsemen and she was a very skilled rider.”
Rowan walked towards the large mare.
“What’s her name?” she asked
“Her name is Dove,” Brannoc answered softly.
Rowan rubbed Dove’s forehead and whispered in her ear.
“Well Dove, I don’t know what I am doing, please be gentle.”
The mare tossed her head and nickered. Rowan took that as a good sign. Brannoc held the horse as the younger stable boy got down on his hands and knees acting as a human footstool for Rowan to step up onto the horse. She felt terrible for stepping on him. She was glad she was wearing the soft doe skin boots. She swung up into the saddle and Brannoc handed her the reins before he swung up onto a huge sorrel gelding.
“Open the doors,” he ordered and the two boys scrambled for the heavy wooden doors. Slowly they pulled them open and both lowered their heads as Rowan and Brannoc headed out into the predawn twilight.