As Maerre has suggested, and much to James’ continued amazement, the thing had gone by the early afternoon. He was not sure whether it was a gradual disappearance or a poof or what. But, as sure as eggs, it was not there. Now he understood why both Maerre and Susan were not that fussed about doing anything scientific with it, they both knew it would not last.
The day weaved its web around things. Maerre left, James a little amazed at the attitude that they would just have to see what happens. He wasn’t sure he knew what he expected. But he knew he expected something. Susan spent the afternoon with James. They talked, walked by the green, James not really worrying about too much of much at all.
He held her close and just kept doing so. They fitted like a puzzle, and its solution so logical both just wondered at the simplicity of it all. That evening they made love; this time in the lounge on the couch, James holding Susan, no urgency, no time, just that there and then. She below him, and just lost in the love for him she felt; their afterglow together, nude, attached, words, whispers in the dark room.
They slept together in the bed, not made from the morning and as comfortable as any James remembered. Sunday came, the time was just lazily moving. In the morning Susan made breakfast and they ate it watching the Sunday Magazine. Talk was not of anything except the now.
James understood why and he was engineering his thoughts so he could turn out the end result. It was obvious. To be with Susan would cost him his current life. She had never asked anything. He pondered his preparedness to acquiesce. He knew he should, could and would, he just felt that complete reliance one feels on things that have been for twenty years.
The afternoon was spent back to Susan’s flat. James would need his car for school in the morning and they decided that they would spend the Wednesday together given James’ pre-term exams over the Monday and Tuesday. He was not sure he could be without her for longer than he had known her and to make sure the memory would stay strong for both of them they made love once more.
She turned to him afterwards, the softness of her face a beacon to James in a sea of time past, and he knew then that he was lost to her and would honour his words exactly. That evening as he lay in his bed alone, as the early hours fed that day, his eyes heavy, he felt for Susan in his bed and sighed at the emptiness there, they way it had been for so many years.
* * * * * *
The cottage was made of rocks fitted with a patience that could only be found in eternity. Its roof thatched with heather and it was a gray highlight against a gray land.
James floated towards the building that had held his thoughts, the smoke sitting heavy on the ground, full of the aromatic peat used to fuel it. The door opened and the black man stood in the doorway beckoning.
James floated towards it and felt a need undeniable to be there. He heard the man; the words were a language of such beauty and music it sounded like a choir of angels.
Then the thoughts filled with the meaning of the sounds being heard.
“Come, friend, come. I have been waiting”
James next found himself inside the hut, it was filled with plants and roots drying and hanging, flasks and bottles and all manner of containers. A bed of timber and white linen in the corner and by the hearth a wooden bench and table, cooking utensils and food stuffs located away and above most other things.
The black man was tall, strong and handsome. His hair dark with eyes of piercing blue, this man was a warrior, a fighter, but with gentleness James could feel. He knew his friendship was absolute, eternal.
James now found he had form in this world and the tall man smiled. James noted he was his height, he extended his arm and as James went to shake, the other man seized his forearm and shook it vigorously.
“Sit, my friend there are things you must know. Things I have spent for ever wishing I had and did.”
James sat and the man poured a honey-coloured liquid onto two wooden mugs. It was meed; James had tasted it at an Olde English Village near Sheffield last year.
“My friend, you have given me back my life and my love.” He smiled to James who must have appeared dumbfounded because his new friend smiled knowingly.
“I am sorry, I have not introduced myself.” He stood and announced “I am Cu Chulainn leader of my people, warrior lord and protector of Fend.”
James remembered; the story of Fend, of course, the spell, the thing; no it was no longer a thing, the Dolman.
“But it is” James started
“Friend; James; there is much you do not keen, but will. Legend you were going to say, well legend is always there and thus it is. Its being is its body. I am here, you are here and you have allowed me to remember. I have not for so long and now I do.”
“James, the spell could only be changed. Not lifted. It is locked away and the Fey have taken it to hide it again. You see, you have given much to free me and my love. For this I am forever in your debt.”
James didn’t really understand but imagined he did so he supposed, given that he could reason that this was a dream and with the enlightenment of the past few days, that it was so.
“There is nothing I can give you to repay you. But there is one thing I can arrange.”
With that the man moved to a box over the hearth, black wood and engraved with symbols that were reminiscent of some he had seen at Maerre’s. He took from the box a charm on a leather thong. It was a Crescent Moon.
“James, the charm stands for the divine feminine principle of fertility. It is the strongest magic I can offer to afford you your memory of all of this.” The man handed it to James. “I am sure the mantle is covering you as we speak, you must fight for your time my friend.”
* * * * * *
The next morning James awoke and remembered hazy instances of the occurrence. Feeling like he was still in a dream he needed to reconcile events. After breakfast he walked to the hole, now empty; absurd in its emptiness.
He turned to walk away, a strange feeling of foreboding filling his soul, knowing that something was missing; a gap bigger than the hole behind. As his head turned something caught his eye. In the corner of the hole something was shining. James turned back and jumped down, feeling in the wet clay for the offending article. He pulled it gently from the mud and the Crescent Moon was in his hands.
His head spun, images and feelings, sensual feelings flooding, a voice, the man, “you must fight for your time” and then he realized that he had forgotten about Susan, completely. Now her image was before him, his mind’s eye completely focused on his angel, princess; lover. Christ she had gone, completely. Holding the charm James climbed out of the hole. He turned quickly; sure he had heard music coming from the woods over the creek; sweet, soft music, as loving as any he had heard and then it was gone.
The man in his dreams, the prisoner he had freed had returned in kind, and ten fold, the gift. To think he had almost lost the truest love he had ever felt. The magic now accepted for what it was. James decided there and then to go to Susan and take her as his; damn the consequences of it all.
* * * * * *
He tried Susan’s flat but it was empty. At the university her office was locked with a note to the effect that she would be gone for a week during the end of terms. James was distraught. She had to have had no memory of him. It had to be that way for she would never have gone without telling him. No, she would not have done so. He was sure.
His world was pressing in on him; compressing him to the size of an ant. His heart felt like lead and the feeling went to his gut, pressing it like a vice. “God no” he thought “no; not Susan, not now!”
She must be at Maerre’s, had to be. James drove far too quickly and arrived at the cottage in the early afternoon. As he pulled up he realized he had completely forgotten about his classes and the exams, but he thought damn it all. This was a quest Parcival would have considered greater than the Grail.
He was dedicated to all in front now. Like nothing else in his life. The cottage was locked up tight. The old Morris was in the shed with the doors held closed with a chain that may have held the Queen Mary to dock if needed.
James just hunched to his knees and rocked. “For fuck’s sake no; I am not giving up without a fight you bastards” he yelled out load “not by a long shot.”
Where the bloody hell would they be? He was sure that Maerre and Susan were together; they had to be. Surely Maerre would know about the spell. It’s attachment power. Christ, he felt like a sin-eater. Damn the “thing” to hell then his frustration allowed reason. Without it there would be no Susan.
“Think, James, will you” he said to himself. He walked back to his car looking down in a pose that may have looked dejected, but it was his way of concentrating, looking at his feet.
* * * * * *
Maerre’s garden was full of herbs and plants of strange extraction. Its border was terra-cotta shapes arranged in a pattern that James was sure meant something. He was not looking at them in particular, just looking down. He almost missed the ring-in. In the centre of the border to his left was one tile that didn’t run in the pattern. It was larger than the others and was burning a hole in his mind. The Crescent Moon shape was in relief, almost a perfect copy of the charm he now held loosely in his left hand.
A quick scan of the rest of the borders showed that no other tiles of this kind existed. He kneeled and studied it. Touching it, it moved, and James could see it was loose. He lifted it and was surprised at its weight. Putting it to one side he noticed there was a silver charm the same as the one he held in his hand and a piece of paper. It was parchment, not modern paper and it had one word written on it.
“Damn, this will be all right.” He said to no one in particular, smiling as he did.
* * * * * *
The drive to Salisbury was reasonably direct. It was to the south so he was traveling against the traffic and decided to stay off the motorway. He was not sure why he did that, just that it felt right. Situated on the River Avon, Salisbury is located southwest of London, Stonehenge about another twelve miles further, on the Salisbury plains. James pondered what he knew of the place on his drive into the early evening.
The site was believed to date back as far as twenty-eight hundred BC. The pre-historic inhabitants of the region used it as a religious or ceremonial center. It was originally encircled by a ditch and had an entrance on the northeast side. Inside the ditch were a ring of fifty-six pits that were eventually used to bury cremated remains. Outside of the entrance were a huge, upright Heel Stone and a wooden gate. It was deemed to be a Druid temple, God how much he’d learnt in the past three days.
Where would they be? Shit, Salisbury had a population of on hundred thousand. Driving through the town he decided to go on to the place. At least the solitude would help him to get all there was to get into perspective.
Three days ago his life was incredibly different; boring, but different. Now, he was on a quest. A quest so desperate that he was sure he would die heart-broken if he lost his love. Susan would be made to remember him. That was absolute. Then, well then, time would out. Whatever; it would.
The evening was now established. The headlights lit the road and James could see the plains were just that, flat and uninviting. He saw the shapes on the horizon; the uprights reaching into the air like the fingers on an old cricket glove, the moonlight filling them with a ghostly reality.
He pulled off the road and drove up the path. The Citroen was parked alongside about eight other vehicles. James was beyond any hope of words when he saw it.
He pulled in beside the other cars and was in such a hurry to get out of the car his foot slipped off the clutch and he stalled it as it rocked its front wheels into the drainage ditch that ran along the fence. He ran along the path towards the monument and the people gathered by the site of the wooden gate.
Immediately James could make out Maerre’s figure, Susan standing beside her. He ran up, his breath exhausted. Not able to speak, doubled at the waste gulping air.
Maerre smiled “Thank the Gods you are here” she touched James’ shoulder and he fell his breath swell back into him. The crowd and Susan had moved on, oblivious to James’ arrival. Well perhaps not oblivious, but not interested in recognizing it.
“Susan” James called but Maerre held his arm and stopped in cold.
“James, listen to me. We need to talk right now.”
He nodded, knowing full well that Maerre’s talk would be honest and informed.
“Yes we do; I suppose.”
Now he felt crestfallen and followed Maerre to a tourist seat by the side of the track.
“We are here to thank the full moon James” she said and smiled. “Don’t worry, no sacrifices or virgins my love”
James just nodded, the joke not even registering. His eyes were on Susan in the dark distance, a shape against the infinity of the black.
“Do you love her James?” she asked “I mean, really love her; love her enough to give everything for?”
He nodded, was about to speak and Maerre put her finger against his lips to silence him.
“Listen to me carefully.” She moved so she could look in his eyes.
“We both know about the spell transferring. I knew it would happen. Mind you, it had to happen. The very premise of its creation is as real today as it was then.”
“What, to keep mortals and faeries apart” James mentioned with a little of what sounded like sarcasm in his voice.
“Yes James, to do just that” she smiled “think about the spell, what was it doing.”
He pondered and then repeated to her that it was designed to make the lovers of legend forget so that he, a mortal, would not become entwined with the faery princess, the fear being that the match would be too destructive. Notwithstanding, James asked Maerre whether one agenda might have been jealousy.
She laughed and said, “You are very perceptive James. Yes, that is a question I have asked often. Anyway, the reason is not important, the spell has bound.”
“Right now, Susan has no recollection, as tight in the spell as you would and should have been” she looked at him “you remember, the man in your dreams helped you didn’t he?”
James nodded, explaining to Maerre his dream and the charm; asking her about her use of the crescent moon tile. She just smiled and said “There is a lot you will get to understand if you choose to James, but now you have a very, no two, very important decisions to make.”
He sat forward a little. The group had disappeared in the gloom that was this summer’s night on Salisbury Plains. He nodded. “I have made the decisions Maerre; can you get Susan back for me?”
“No James, only you can do that” Maerre tapped his leg “the cost is large, more so than you possibly realize at this point.”
“But surely you can reverse this spell, aren’t you a magician, a; damn, what’s the word; mage? Yes, mage.”
“I am sort of those things James, but you have got to understand that there is a limit to what I can do. The spell’s reasons are sound, you” she then stopped, looked at him, a look of realization spreading across her face “My Gods, you haven’t realized yet have you…”
James looked at the lady, her years softened in the moonlight, seeing a beautiful person and seeing a truly lovely lady that youth would have presented.
“James, think about the legend” Maerre smiled “think of the elements of it, why were you and Susan chosen. No, not choose, why did you and Susan fit the spell?”
“I don’t know; we touched it I suppose.”
She shook her head. “No, think James, Toby touched the thing, he has not been out making love to the first lady he saw has he?”
James laughed, “Well, any road, it would not be a lady he would be chasing, Maerre.”
Maerre laughed at that “Oh, I see. Then think why you two have taken the burden of the mantle.”
“Damn it Maerre, I haven’t got a clue, I am sick to my heart that I will lose Susan and you are playing twenty questions with me. God I don’t know, I’m tall, she’s short; we’re fantastic in bed; we both love Led Zeppelin” he gave a look to the stars as if seeking some divine intervention “God I don’t know; I mortal, she’s a faery queen”
Maerre smiled at this point; just smiled. James stopped mid word from his frustrated diatribe. Looked at the lady, she nodded.
“Yes James, that’s the one.”
“You’re; no your not are you; joking I mean?”
“James, I would never joke about this, it is too important for you both; too wonderful and far too sad at the same time. This sweet child is doomed to be with you James. She is at this time locked to you in a way that only the two of you know. The magic has stolen that from her and I can sense that she will wither and die without it.” She touched his cheek and made him look up to her eyes.
“You have to decide James. You see, she will never be allowed to be with you living as one here. There is no way a mortal could be accepted and the spell knew that. Jealousy may have been an element of the spell but its common sense is not questioned by the Fay, never has been.”
He looked at her with a look that said “shit shit shit”.
“Know something James, for you and Susan to be, you have to make the decision and the sacrifice. There is nothing she can do about this. It is not possible for her to change do you see. She is what she is; in her world a lady born to rule. She is visiting here, to learn the way of we mortals. I have been trusted her care for this cycle.”
Maerre smiled and stood, “Come walk with me unless we lose the others.” They stood and walked on.
“Maerre, can I do something, what do I have to do?”
“Oh James you can do something for sure, and what you have to do is; no let me explain. During history, the Faeries have had a perchance to truck mortals at times. To accept special individuals to their fold and use what the mortals have to offer to them.”
She pondered for a moment. “Use is the wrong word, for both parties benefited, perhaps utilize is better. Any road, the greatest Faery leaders have always been of Faery and mortal parents. It is known that the mortal brings something of the mortality of their race to the equation that offers the faery an understanding beyond the Fey”
“Why Fend and Cu Chulainn were never offered the choice is beyond me, truly that must have been jealousy for there is rarely any problem with the faeries accepting any mortal that has been chosen, either sex.”
“Chosen?” James asked, just a hint of irritation in his voice.
Maerre smiled “Forget whether Susan has fallen for you and is panting after you like a love sick puppy James, her people will see it as she choosing you, no time for male libido and sensibilities in this.”
“Your choice is simple, you have to decide whether you want to be her mortal and, she, your faery. The cost is simple; you have to leave your world. The Charm of Making evoked and you moved to their plane; to live under their lore and laws and to be at one with their world.”
James nodded, understanding the weight of the questions Maerre had asked before.
“Now, you will still be able to travel this world with Susan but you will not be mortal. You become a sort of honorary Fey, beyond mortal in many ways. You and Susan would be free to live and love and be as man and wife and I do mean wife for the Fey will accept you only if you are betrothed.
“And James, do not do this if you are not prepared to be so. It will destroy Susan if it is not absolute. Prior to the spell she asked me of whether you were the one. As we took you into yourself the other night I saw a power and goodness in you that made me say yes. You have to either prove or disprove me now.”
James stopped and stood perfectly still. His mind spinning, then a single thought filled it. Susan’s nude form, her hips locked against his; her orgasm like the songs of a thousand minstrels sounding in his ears. The softness he felt as she moved gently milking it for all its worth, the warmth as her moisture covered him, then the look she gave as she stared into his eyes “I love you James; oh how I do.”
He turned to Maerre “God woman, there is no choice, what do I have to do?”
The old lady took James’ face in her hands. “You have done most of it right now. Do you have the pouches I gave you?”
James rooted around in the pocket of his jacket and removed them. Inside were two rings, hearts held in hands; and a crown over, the gold soft and real.
“James, these are Claddagh Rings. The two hands represent friendship, the crown, loyalty and the heart, love. Wearing the Claddagh Ring, for someone who is spoken for, the heart should be closest to the heart and therefore points up the arm. For those seeking their one true love and want the world to know they are available the crown should point up the arm, showing that the heart is available for that special someone.”
“Put one on James, the heart up the arm.” He slipped the bigger of the two over his ring finger and it fitted perfectly. Absentmindedly he removed his wedding band. The old woman spoke a word or two in a tongue James did not understand.
His hand felt hot and then the ring glowed bright in the night. A sensation flew through him and all around the world was aflame with all manner of pyrotechnics. A ball of pure white light appeared and sat on his palm. Maerre told James to place the other ring into the centre of it and the ring floated above his palm in a sea of white fire.
The sheer brilliance of it all filled his eyes and James lost all night vision. As the display reduced and dimmed, he made out the shapes of the group standing in a circle around him. Maerre at the top, or north quarter and the rest around, hands held and arms spread. Susan was to the South and watching with a smile, yet one detached, interested but not applied to any of it.
Finally the lights dropped, and, as his rods and cones fought to find focus, the darkness appeared stronger. All around the music was as light as a breeze, the voices grew and a throng gathered. Until the press was heads as far as the eye could see.
James focused and realized that many hundreds of faces all watched him now. Susan’s eyes burnt with a far away look, the look of memories trying to fight with the conscious mind to be given time.
Maerre whispered a few words and a silence descended so rapidly that the wind could be heard blowing around the portals of the monument. The moon shone now with an unnatural brightness that was giving an air to it all that was ghostly yet alive beyond words.
Maerre touched James gently “The ring James.”
James walked toward Susan, her eyes wider now, a shine that he had glimpsed once before, as he came back from the meditation in the room. He stood before her.
“Susan” he whispered in a voice so soft that only she would have heard it and took her right hand, her slender fingers held open and across his upturned palm. She watched him now with an eagerness that was born of the sub-conscious love she felt albeit with out conscious reason.
He took the ring and slipped it onto her ring finger. Not a word was said, not a sound made.
The same light was cast upon proceedings, immediately filling the space with a brilliance that was unworldly; Susan’s face shone from it, her eyes wide with expectation then completely wide with recognition.
“James. Oh my love” she yelled moving forward to take him into her arms. He reciprocated holding her so tight to him they felt like they were melting together.
“Susan, I can never ever let you go, I love you with all my heart” He whispered in her ear.
At that moment a great whoop filled the gathering and from all around strains of Celtic music lifted into the air. The lovers stayed together for an eternity. Time was now still, not moving, except the now which stayed and went and was and was to be.
“I too my prince” Susan said to him, a love so real on her face it made his heart ache to think it was for him “will you be my king?” He agreed and they kissed with a passion that was now beyond that he felt in a mortal sense. Now, James was no longer that. The Fey had accepted his presence and from this time on he was one.
The night went on and on until the singing and dancing was done. A feast appeared but James didn’t even wonder where from or why, it was, so be it. Susan introduced James to so many of the Fey he ended up loosing track of it all and fell asleep to the sounds of music that would never be heard by you and I.
* * * * * *
When he awoke, the sun was shining through the window of the bedroom. The drapes open and the bedclothes a mess. He sat bolt upright, in the bed; alone, back in his house, his empty, lonely, boring bed.
“No” he yelled with a voice he never knew he had “God no, no it is not a dream.”
* * * * * *
He sat in the kitchen, head on his hands; a cup of black instant coffee steaming up. Disheveled and crest fallen, a silent tear hitting the lip of the cup and finding its way into the coffee and spreading like a spiral web.
The telephone rang, its shrill voice thumping him on the back like some school yard bully at the tuck shop. It rang and rang. James was loath to answer the thing. He stood, went to the wall phone and took the receiver to his ear.
“Hello?” he said.
“James?” the voice asked softly.
“Oh God Susan?”
“Yes darling” she said urgently, as if she sensed his souls pain “I’m so sorry, I was to be back before you awoke, I got caught up with some organizations and am with Maerre, Darling, please forgive me; you must have thought. No, James, never I promise never; now.”
He sighed with a relief that he had never felt before in his life. They made small talk for a few minutes, Susan explained that the ceremony would need to be held at the next crescent moon and that she would, no, had to be with him today, her need for his touch was filling her thought as every minute continued. She told him that her love was her focus and she was ready to give herself to him totally.
He hung up the receiver…
* * * * * *
Sitting there, humming “Cross Town Traffic”, he knew it was the way it should be.
“James my boy, it’s fine, really” he said to no-one in particular “its fine.”
Cross Town Traffic so hard to get through to you
Cross Town Traffic I don’t need to run over you
Cross Town Traffic
He picked up the telephone and dialed. The phone rang and then was answered. James nodded at the sound of the voice, good he thought.
“Sarah, its James” his wife sighed at the mention of his name “I need to talk to you; about us.”
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