Tears and Blue and Dreaming, Too
"Hiya," I said, my hand going up to cover Kenny's on my chest. The morning stillness felt very quiet, even the birds hadn't woken up yet on this summer day. The eastern hills were pinking light around the corners of the window shade, casting a rosy glow throughout Kenny's bedroom.
"Sleep well?" he asked snuggling down beside me, his warm skin matching up against my cool flesh.
"Not really, but I'm glad I woke up to see you here. I really could use a friend right now." And I could. I didn't have morning wood, probably for the first time since I was 10, but what I did have felt like stone, and it wasn't between my legs, but in my stomach. Last night, I had killed a fae, one of my own people, although not my own kith.
Let me back up a bit and explain a few things. First, before all this business about me being the reincarnated soul of a great Satyr warrior and champion came upon me, and I learned not only about my deep and unending love of Kenny/Kay Neth the Steel Eyed, fencing or all of it, I had been a simple kid. A geek, come to think of it, but one who had his own toy driven day dreams, his Cartoon Network fantasies and more than a few wet nights alone. My computer was going to be my best friend. These are a few of the things that defined me. I considered them the bedrock of my life, you know? Things that don't shift.
Then the whole Earth shook and I broke out of my chrysalis and now I'm not just Robby French, future 8th grader and potential slacker nation soldier, but now I'm also Robyn the Blue, a free roaming Satyr with the title of Knight and the skills of countless lifetimes of armed combat. And somewhere along the way I picked up my lover from across time, had forged a weapon of hideous power from the very potent stuff of my own powerful dreams, and been reunited with a commoner warrior who was sworn into my service. All of this existing simultaneously within the reality I grew up in, but submerged beneath it, like a dream. Like The Dream, more to the point.
Last night, I met the local lord of this territory, an insanely beautiful and apparently not so nice female Sidhe (pronounced Shee) named Countess Donna Trag. She wanted to see me fight, which was her right, since I was claiming a title from another age. I had to prove who I was.
That's when I found out that a kid I knew from school and now from the class we both took at the Y was also a changeling like me, although our kiths were totally different. He was a murderous, browbeating eating machine/engine of death called a Redcap. We fought, and during that battle I first cut off his right hand and then watched as his fearsome and indestructible teeth bit down on the blade of Sky Fire, my heavily enchanted sword. The resulting release of elemental lighting combined with starlight nearly killed both of us. But it sent his fae soul into something called the Mists, which I understood to be a form of pseudo death.
Now, the morning after, my fae soul fully clothed in my mortal shell again, I was feeling fairly awful. I had only wanted to defeat Croaker/Juan. I never intended to do him serious harm, much less kill part of him, even if he did try to murder me outright by throwing a dagger of Cold Iron at my back. He might be a killer at heart, but I wasn't. I was only discovering all the things that I was, but a cold hearted, cold blooded slayer wasn't one of them.
Tough image to deal with, huh? Try waking up in the morning with the person you love most in the world and still feeling like dog shit. No matter the form I wear, I was beginning to understand, there would be a constant sense of danger in my life now. All because part of me, the older, more eternal part, had a history that I didn't understand yet, and here I was making the next future even worse, increasing my enemies. I felt certain that the other Redcaps were now looking at me with lunch on their minds, and they don't mind eating raw human flesh (which according to popular myth tastes like chicken).
"Still thinking about last night?" Kenny asked, lacing his fingers through mine on my chest. He was the one true thing I could depend on. We had met only two days ago and everything clicked so fast my head was still spinning, especially since he had stabbed my through the heart yesterday. But I don't want to go into that just now. You want to figure it out, go back and read a few chapters up.
"Yeah. I can't get over how I killed Croaker. It doesn't feel right."
"You didn't kill him, you just banished him to the Mists for a while. As long as Juan lives, part of Croaker will always be here. Even after Juan reaches his own natural end, Croaker will return one day. We are immortal, Robby. Our life cycles through that of our mortal kin, but we do not die unless Undone."
"By Cold Iron," I said, sighing. That lesson I had nearly learned the hard way last night.
"Among other things, but yes, that's a primary cause." I turned my head and disappeared into his deep, penetrating gray eyes, letting myself get lost in the twin mirrors of his soul. "What?" he asked, giggling slightly.
"Just realizing how close I came last night to losing everything. To losing you for god knows how long."
"We have today," he said, placing his head beside mine and we both leaned in towards each other at the same time, bumping painfully.
"Good thing that wasn't your forehead, milord. I'd hate to be impaled on those horns."
"You just want to be impaled on the other horn?"
"Welllllll, you talked me into it," he grinned, but we both remained still, just holding, being held, being together. Neither of us was excited enough to do anything raunchy at the moment, but we still needed to be close.
"Kenny? You and Mitch both were worried about losing my pendant last night. Why?" I asked, moving our interwoven hands up to the faceted teardrop of blue crystal that hung at my throat, which right now was lying in the hollow of my collarbones and neck muscles.
"It's a treasure," he said. "One beyond the scope of many things."
"Okay, that doesn't help me much. Why is it so important?"
He paused before answering, and I could almost hear the wheels in his head clicking away. I looked over to see him biting his upper lip, his eyes searching the acoustic tiles of the ceiling for something.
"Okay, imagine if you would that there were a realm of pure dreams, where literally anything that humanity has ever conjured up in its most fevered imagination were possible. Where even things that aren't physically likely given the nature of science, logic and reason were real. Where the magical is not only a reality altering truth, but the law of the land."
"O-kay?" I said, trying to picture it. "Sounds a lot like the internet."
"Alright, that's about as close a physical analogy as you'll get this year. Imagine the many millions of places on the internet that you can get to. The sites, the servers, all of it."
"Yeah, okay," I said, closing my eyes and imagining it all in my head.
"Now take that and imagine if all of it were happening in real time in a place called Arcadia. Another world, in fact the world that we changelings originate from."
"So we're aliens?"
"Of a sort."
"Now, here's the big problem, and the reason we are stuck on Earth. Something happened long ago that shut down all the paths that lead through the Dreaming to Arcadia. We're exiles."
"Basically. There was a group that came to Earth from Arcadia several years ago and there was a war when these new nobles, the Sidhe, decided to just take over. The commoners rebelled. That war saw the Undoing of many of our kith and kin," Kenny said, his eyes going sad. "Among them my true sibling, Kor Neth."
"Kenny," I said, not sure what was needed to be said, but certain that he needed to know I cared.
"Well, in that great war, called the Accordance War, many of the great treasures of our people were lost, destroyed or stolen. Most have never been seen or even rumored about since. It was a great loss for us all, especially since some of those treasures supposedly could be used to re-open the trods to Arcadia. They were our last hope at a way home."
"I'm with you so far."
"Your crystal is one such treasure. It is the Tear of Cerulean."
"What does that mean?"
"Cerulean is a Sovereignty in Arcadia. A paradise. It is rumored that trods directly to Cerulean may still exist, if one is only brave enough to travel the Deep Dreaming to find them. The Tear is a powerful link directly to that realm."
"So this is a primal connection to our homeland?" I asked in awe. Together we clutched the crystal, our fingers still locked together.
"Yes and no. It is also a powerful talisman in its own right, Robby. It is the pure essence of the last known road to Cerulean, yes, but it is also a powerful font and filter of raw Glamour at times. I think that because of your chrysalis and the Tear you were able to pull Sky Fire."
"So the Tear allows me to mold Glamour to my liking?"
"Its total powers are uncharted. But any changeling with any Greymayre ability at all will be able to sense the basics of what it can do. In its purest form, my love, that crystal you wear is an extension of the Dreaming itself. What you can do with it is limited only by your imagination and the Glamour available."
"So simply by my having it, I'm a noble?" This was a question I had just formed in my mind, but it felt like something that defined who I was. Just because I had a treasure I was a knight, not because of any great service or because of my skills. I didn't know how to take it if that were the case.
"No! A million times, no! You earned the right to bear arms and mete out justice on your own. During the Accordance War, you were one of the Thanes that brought the criminals of the Night of Iron Knives to justice. You are a knight because of your actions. You carry that treasure because you are the rightful heir of Cerulean."
Kenny sat up and I sat up with him, turning slightly so that I put my bare legs behind his back. I rubbed his shoulder gently and he smiled, sadly. "Those of us who were cast out of Arcadia, so long ago, we were part of a war of succession. Not many of us have memories of that time, and even then, they are so watered down by the millennia… Some of us were cast down nobles from that time. You were the son of the king of Cerulean. I was betrothed to you as a girl. We had a bond even then."
"You don't have to talk about this now if you don't want to," I said, rubbing Kenny's shoulder.
"No, this is something I've wanted to say for a while now." He took a deep breath and looked at me. "Robby, when the time for the revolt came, your father was slain, and my parents were imprisoned. They were forced to betray us through dark cantrips. We tried to take back our lost lands, but… but the invaders were simply too strong, too powerful. We were both still so young. We were forced from Arcadia and had to adopt the changeling way in order to survive."
There were tears rolling down his cheeks, these memories were nearly fresh for him, while to me they seemed to be a distant past, something that you read about and understand as happening in ancient times, but for Kenny, it was almost like yesterday. And he grieved for what I couldn't remember but what should have been ours.
I took him into my arms and held him against me. His tears were soon wet on my chest as he let out centuries of frustration and anguish. I felt myself tearing up as well, just because he was in such pain. After some time, both of us just taking comfort from each other, I was able to look back in his eyes.
He smiled weakly at me, and I felt my smile come back as well, which brought his true smile out in all its glory.
"So," I said, coughing briefly through the build up of my tears. "So if my father was a king, that makes me a prince?"
"After a fashion. If your brother had not perished, that would have made you a duke of Cerulean's Seabourne province. As it is, you're unofficially the crown prince."
"I had a brother?"
"Several, but only one ahead of you."
"I don't remember any of this. Was he a good person?"
"He was. My older sister had married him years before we were betrothed. He was honest and wise. His name was Sherwyn." I felt a pang in my heart at the mention of his name. And an image that flew into my head only made me feel worse. The shock was such that the autopilot again took hold and let words spill from my face.
"He looked like me, only his hair was more blonde, but his fur was darker," I said, closing my eyes to hold the image as long as I could. "He was much older, nearly adult when I was born. He taught me how to use a bow and gave me my first sword."
"Oh, I can see him now! He was bold, strong, and he liked to dance. Oh, Kenny, he was wise and funny, and he cared so deeply for me… He took me hunting with him, and to festivals. He never left me out of the fun."
"Yes! Robyn, you're remembering!"
"It took hearing his name to remember…" but then another image happened. Sherwyn screaming at me, invoking me to run, his own body torn and bloody. His final words to me were… "Run, brother!" He was fighting… something. Something huge and horrid. I cried out wordlessly as someone pulled me away. "Tell Father the Dauntain are coming!" I felt as if some powerful spirit had just rode me, bringing out the memory. "Oh, God, Kenny! He was killed protecting me! He didn't have a chance!"
"I know, Robyn."
And now the tears were mine originally, mourning a brother who had died farther ago in the past than mortal man can consciously or easily understand. Kenny comforted me, his own tears dripping against me. Now, I partially understood the importance and power of the Tear. This was not only the only link back to our legacy, but it was here, with me now. It was as much a part of my soul as anything else since my chrysalis had broken. When I had become both Robby and Robyn, it was there, with me. My heritage, my birthright, my claim to a throne I cannot reach, and now lost to us. It was the last vestige of my true family's magic, their Glamour, left. And it endured.
I would too.
Something stirred in the back of my mind as Kenny and I held each other, even as the tears faded and we simply held and petted and occasionally kissed. A sense of impending dread, of doom, of the marching, rolling wheel of time. I realized that we would have to be prepared for a great challenge ahead. Something monstrous, something ancient, and more importantly, something far too familiar to be easily discerned with casual glances. Evil stalked, and Robyn the Blue was hero enough to know that he (yeah, me, too) would have to take steps to stop it.
A sharp rap on the wall of the stairway echoed into the room. I looked to Kenny and saw him lay back from me, his eyes going to the ceiling. The look on his face was the same one I see when I look at the mirror before getting out of bed on school days. Submissive resignation.
"Yeah, Dad?" he called up to the ceiling.
"Breakfast time, boys. We've got class today, and I want to talk to the both of you. Shower up and come upstairs."
"What's for breakfast?"
"Whatever you want, we're going to Joe's." Joe's was a well known breakfast only restaurant down on Primrose Street. Most of my family's long road trips started out there because is wasn't very far from home, gas stations, the highway and it had the best coffee in town (or so Dad claimed, apparently while my Mom is great shakes in the kitchen for meals, her coffee skills are somewhat lacking, I think it's some kind of running joke between them). Kenny grinned at me and passed a quick peck to my nose.
"And don't take too long in the shower."
"Okay!" we chorused back.
We looked to each other for a minute and then smiled, giggled and rolled out of bed. Kenny's bathroom was downstairs adjacent to his bedroom, fairly large as bathrooms go, and we could both fit easily into the glass shroud of the shower surround. It probably doesn't take a genius on your part to figure out that we showered together. And while we were tempted to do more than shower and wash each other, we were under the constraint of time. We'd save that kind of more detailed exploration for later. We had nothing if not time. Besides, it was kinky enough just rubbing soap all over each other, and occasionally snatching a kiss.
Rinsed, mostly dried, hair still damp, and clothed, we ascended the stairs to the upper floor of the split level. Mitch was going over some papers at the huge desk near the kitchen. Come to think of it, all the furniture up here was huge. Heavy, almost gothic cathedral style chairs, a broad, planked kitchen table, the desk a massive oaken structure that could have supported a side of beef, easily. Everything about the upstairs decorations, furnishings and colors said troll to me, now. Tall, solid, heavy. Not in an oppressive way, but more in a practical and time worn fashion, like this was the way he wanted it and not one piece of furniture had changed places since they had moved in.
See that's another thing I don't share with my Mom. She can't stand to leave things the way they are for too long. I came home from school one day and she had rearranged my bedroom. I was mad at her for about a week. Why can't some people just realize that if it's not a problem, why go and make one up to fix. I still hadn't found some of the things she had "tidied up."
Anyways, Kenny took me over to one of the back rooms, where he had a sort of workshop going on. Several lightsaber handles were in the middle of being made, and there was a section of the room, in a far corner, set up as a spraying area. Several wooden dowels, in various states of preparation, were kept there. This was where my Kenny made the lightsaber handles and blades we used in the Jedi fencing class. Mostly he mass produced them, cranking out several similar handles all at once. The dowels were easy enough to do. Some simple sanding, some wood work when necessary, some spray painting (okay, a lot of spray painting, wood soaks up paint really quick) and you're done. Just takes a lot of time to dry.
The handles, too, seemed to be almost assembly line things. He had parts pre-cut, bins arranged with brass bits and plumbing fittings, and of course the tubes of cast pipe stacked beside his work bench. Most of them looked very similar to each other, formulaic. But a few were like works of art. Some had cast metal that was cut with a Dremel tool, giving the saber handle a more elegant look. Some were equipped with light up buttons and wires hanging out of the unfinished assembly. I stared at it all in awe and wonder.
"Been working on a special one," he said, walking over to another workbench, this one covered with a plain white sheet that had obviously seen the business end of a spray paint can on a number of close calls. He whipped the sheet off and underneath, on a set of slide-lock clamps, was a long tube of heavily ornamented steel about 60 centimeters in length (about two feet for you Neanderthals who can't convert to metric on the fly). Both ends were capped in reverse flaring bells, the wider ends tucking back down the handle length. The shaft was studded with LCD lights and buttons poking from the crafted metal projections and the soft rubber ribs that ran along opposite sides of the tube, one half on the right and facing up, the left half facing down. It was obviously still not finished yet, dirty in places, showing the marks of some sort of welding torch here, the passing of a soldering iron there, and places still had marks drawn on with some kind of white china marker. But I could tell right away that this was something special, something that was a labor of love.
"Walkin, talkin' mad wicked awesome!" I breathed out, reverently. "This looks just like the one in the movie," I said, reaching tentatively for it before pulling my hand back. If this was just a dream, I didn't want to shatter it. I suddenly had too much respect for the difference between true dreams and fragile ones. Glamour was still running high in me and I didn't know if touching this work of art would harm it or not in my present state.
"Not quite like Lord Maul's Sith saber, but I like how it looks. This is my third one with two blades. The first one I built as a challenge. I might take it to class today to show off… or to let you show it off."
"What about the second one," I said, my eyes traveling over the handle, marveling that my Kenny had built such a wondrous toy.
"I made the second one really thick and heavy for Dad. He spars with me from time to time." He walked over to the closet and opened the door. He reached in quickly and handed me his first double blader. The thing was nearly 2.5 meters long (roughly 8 feet) and was so easily balanced that I nearly didn't have to use both hands to hold it. It was built more along the lines of the ones we used at the Jedi class, functional and somewhat plain. But it still looked awfully good to me. After all, Kenny had built it.
His talents and resourcefulness went up a notch in my mind, further reinforcing the fact that while I loved him immensely, there was still so much about him, and about Kay, that I didn't know. It was gonna be fun finding out, though. At the very least, I was certain it would never be boring.
As Kenny took his hand off the handle, I was awestruck again, but this time to how natural the weapon felt in my hand. Clearly, Robyn the Blue was a formidable swordsman, no matter the type of blade I/he held. "Give it a test drive," Kenny said, grinning. I smiled back at Kenny and took a step backwards to the middle of the room. The blade suddenly was whirling about me, making evil cutting noises through the air, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!
"Well, there goes any doubts I had left," Mitch said from the doorway. I could barely make out the aspect of Caspian as he leaned against the opposing lentil post. I grinned back at him, planting one end of the double blader on the ground, the other end still far from the ceiling. "We'll have to test you out on that weapon later, milord," he said, nodding his head briefly. "Get you back up to speed with that. For now, boys, let's get some grub."
My stomach rumbled, answered a moment later by Kenny's. Yep, the bottomless pit club was calling for a meeting and an eating. For a moment, we all looked at each other, before Kenny started laughing. You know that laugh where at first you can't breathe, you have to double over and catch your breath before you can laugh and then it comes out too loud and almost sounding forced, but the expression on your face is too tight, too funny and too ridiculous to be easily faked. That was Kenny's laugh just then. God, even his laughter is infectious.
The drive to Joe's wasn't long, since most of the morning rush hour traffic had already left. It was nearing 9 in the morning when we pulled up to the restaurant, Kenny and me sitting in the back, unconsciously holding hands. I need to say this before we get any further into the story. We weren't naïve or girly or even limp-wristed in how we were expressing ourselves in private. I mean, we were boys and damned proud that we were boys. Neither of us had a sudden urge to dress up in skirts or go flapping about at the wrist. I know for certain that I wasn't about to go join some baton twirling league or race out to see what the latest Barbie looked like. Actually, I wanted to show Kenny the various parts of my Lego collection, all laid out on the floor and then have a simulated monster attack or something. Kid stuff. I wanted to get our bikes and go chasing down the river, maybe hop over the other side and ride out to Castle Hill or run to Swayze's Field and take our bikes down the sled hill ruts. We were in love, had done some fairly nasty things in the darkness of his bedroom (and boy did I want to do some more of that some time soon!), but we were both proud boys.
Which means, we had to get in little moments together while we could. Once school started up, we'd never be able to just walk up and give each other a kiss in the hallway, or do anything more than high five in passing. As liberal as some schools were these days, it still wasn't a wise thing to do. Liberal or not, a kid's fist pummeling a couple of fags was still just as brutal a thing, and to be avoided. And unfortunately, the kids that would pummel us, well, let's just say they'd definitely outnumber those who wouldn't give a damn as long as we kept to ourselves. Sadly, that number isn't growing fast enough for my tastes. Would that we could make it happen faster!
I was becoming very much adept at walking the line between the enchanted world, where Kay and I could be together and it was not only expected, but heralded in song (let's save that part for another day, though), and the mortal world, where two thirteen year old boys aren't allowed to show how much they love one another in public, let alone aren't supposed to experience more than a few times in private, during the much talked about "experimental phase."
But between Kenny/Kay and me (both of me) it wasn't just a phase, and I knew it, soul deep.
So you see, we knew what we were doing. In the SUV, with Mitch there, we could hold hands. I don't think Mitch had any illusions about what Kenny and I had done that night. Nor did that knowledge seem to bother him. But when we were around other people, we were just friends. Suddenly very close friends that didn't mind horsing around with each other, or even just standing very close together, but friends. With all the pride and power and self-assurance of a boy, not some stereotyped flamer or dancing nancy-boy. I might still be a geek in this real world, but I was a geek that suddenly could hold my own.
And all this wasn't just some front to show the world, neither. I mean, loving Kenny didn't change who I was. I didn't suddenly develop, uh, wait, hold that thought. I was about to say something about sprouting horns from my head, but, eh, hehhe, seems I did. Let me get back on point here. I was still Robby French, if you know what I'm talking about. Loving Kenny didn't turn me into something odd or wrong. At least, I didn't feel wrong. In many ways it felt very right. And to be honest, I was finally feeling whole, even if before I didn't know I wasn't whole. So while Kenny and I were expressing to each other in secret, we were also expressing to each other in public, just choosing different expressions for that expression. We knew what the penalties were for kids caught acting gay in this banal world. We knew and we feared and we took necessary precautions. I know it all sounds like a front, but in all actuality, it was more like a series of precautions.
Besides, we could publicly tease the hell out of each other and let it build up for later. But that's another story for a different time, and we need to talk about what happened at breakfast.
We walked into Joe's getting a nice booth seat in a corner, near the windows that line the front of the restaurant. This is a nice place, done up in true diner style. Checkerboard tablecloths, plants in the corners, hooks at the booths for hats and coats (well it is New England, we get some snow here at times) and a small, unpretentious jukebox in the corner. Some old timers were finishing the morning paper on the one side, nearer the restrooms, sipping at coffee cups and juice. A young couple was helping a very young kid with breakfast, lost in the wonder of young parenthood. Other than that, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Had we been here an hour earlier, we'd have seen the mass exodus of people heading to work after their morning pick me up.
Kenny ditched for a second to put some quarters in the sound machine. He spent several minutes pouring over the selection while Mitch and I poured over the menu's, Kenny telling his father to pick out his usual if the waitress got over before he got back. Mitch sipped at his ice water while I looked the menu over. I got that distinct impression of eyes on me and I looked up to see Mitch staring.
"Something I said?" I asked, wondering.
"No, just seeing how deep into Robyn Robby is. How deep Kay and Kenny are bringing you."
"Very deep," I replied, flattening my lips against my teeth. "I kinda know what you might be asking me next."
"Oh really," he said, glancing into the menu. His voice seemed distractedly interested in what I had to say, in that "I'm amused at the simplicity of this game, bring me your best meats and cheeses," kinda way. His van dyke was hiding a curious smile, I'm certain.
"Yes, and the answer is yes."
"You aren't even going to give me the benefit of asking the question?"
"Oh come on, Caspian," I said, suddenly taking the dominant role. He was my best friend/lover's father and here I was pulling changeling rank on him. The crossing of the worlds should be so easy as this, the way the separate languages of the worlds crosses. "It's not like we made any effort to hide the noises last night. I bet there were dogs howling along with us at one point."
"Oh, you thought I was going to ask about that? Forgive me, Robby. I give you more privacy than that. No matter what noises I did or didn't hear, until it becomes an issue that needs Mitch's attention, Mitch wont mention it."
"So it's okay if we are, oh, shall we say, knocking the bottom off the bedroom?"
"Do you want to hear about my sex life, young man?" he said in a suddenly dark tone, one that said the answers weren't what I might want to really know details about.
"Then I don't want to know about yours, or my son's, until you have something you both think needs my attention."
"Thanks, Mitch," I said, reaching out to squeeze his hand briefly and then pulling my hand back to look over the menu. "So I guess you had something else to talk to me about?"
"Yep. Kenny's going to the National Fencing Championships this year. He wants to join the Olympic team. Now both he and I have seen you fight. And we both know that not only are you a natural, for less than obvious reasons, but that it's something you love, almost as much as Kenny and I do."
"Yeah, I do," I replied, letting my full Yankee accent carry through.
"So, we were wondering if you'd like to try traditional sport fencing as well. Make a run at the Nationals and maybe the Olympics."
"I had a feeling you might ask me about sport fencing, but the Olympics?" I said, my voice sounding pitifully small. "I mean, that would mean going up against the best in the world."
"Sure does, doesn't it." Some things are a family trait. Mitch and Kenny share the same infectious smile. And it was working magic on me just then. I mean, I was in awe that they thought I could be good enough to fence in competitions in the first place, but never had I dreamt of going after titles or medals or, wow, Olympic glory.
"I'm that good?"
"You let Robyn out of the box a little more, and I wouldn't be surprised if you and Kenny end up squaring off for gold."
"But it's a totally different kind of fencing from single stick, right?"
"You'd have to be trained in more traditional forms, yes. But in essence, you already have the reflexes, the agility and the savvy to beat almost anyone. That time you took Kenny, yesterday at your house, was not a fluke. I saw the move you used. I'd never seen you do that before, and I've known you for a long time now."
Kenny bounded back up just as opening beats of an old 70's song, Magnet and Steel. Now I'm a kid of the modern age, okay. But something about old music, it just gets me. I guess I'm missing the point of some modern stuff. Then again, my parent's practically have every piece of good music from that era on CD and they run through the list fairly a lot. Still, I like that song a lot, and for some reason, it fit the way that both Kenny and I were still feeling. Especially that line: "With you I'm not shy, to show the way I feel. With you I'm not shy, my secrets to reveal, for you are a magnet and I am steel." It just fits too well to ignore.
"Been looking down the list again, I see," Mitch chided as Kenny bounced into the booth seat beside me. We were both wearing shorts and our legs were riding each other under the table cloth, just laying side by side, trading skin and heat without moving. Without saying too much more, plumped!
"Just wanted something other than Conway Twitty."
"And what's wrong with Conway Twitty?" Mitch replied. Before the argument could be launched into full bore, our waitress came over and took our orders. I wanted the blueberry pancake stack with extra bacon and sausage links, with a tall OJ to wash it down. Kenny choose the pecan waffles and hash browns with bacon and juice. Mitch ordered himself a breakfast steak and egg special and milk, along with more coffee.
"Comments on country music aside, what exactly would we have to do for this National Championships."
"You told him?"
"He asked me, so I told him," Mitch replied.
"Da-aaad! I wanted to ask him!"
"It's done now, son. Just answer his questions, I'll chime in if you need me."
Kenny looked slightly miffed, but he'd get over it. He turned a little in the booth to face me more directly, this brought his shin up against my thigh, and put his hand near my shoulder as he was now leaning on the back of the booth. And I could see into his now opened lap that he was practicing putting up a tent as well. I shook my head and made it a point to look at his eyes. I wanted to back away, turn and face him a little, but the skin was hungry for skin, so I let it feast on what little Kenny could give me in so public a place.
Okay, screw you if you think I'm being a horny fuck all the time! It's my nature! Besides, if you had a Kenny, you'd feel the same way; that enough is never enough.
"Nationals are in August, so you still have two months to qualify. All you have to do to get in at the nationals is be in the top twenty in two competitions and place in the top ten at regionals, which is in late July."
"So, I've got to get into the top twenty in two local events in order to get into regionals, right?"
"Yes. Which wont be as hard as it sound. The district competition at our age group isn't that deep a field. Regionals will be the harder test. Our region covers from New York up. Seven states."
"That's a lot of fencers."
"Yeah, and only ten from each region get to go to nationals."
"Wow, that pares it down fast."
"That's the idea. World Championships are the next big event, and the Olympics, next year."
"You're really serious about wanting to go there, huh?"
"It's what a fencer does, Robby. Fences."
"Okay, if I can convince the folks that it's a good idea, then I'm in. When do we start?"
"We already have," Mitch said, grinning.
"Dad jumped the gun a bit. He thought you'd agree so he's arranging for you to join the advanced class at the college, with me."
"Oh, you did, did you?"
"Guilty as charged!"
"So all you have to do now, aside from figure out the folks, is decide which weapon style you like best," Kenny grinned. "Saber, foil or epee."
"I take it making Sky Fire appear in the mortal world would be out of the question," I said, sarcastically. First off, I had no clue what an epee was, thought of foil as being made of aluminum and coming in rolled form, and when I think of saber I either think of some old cavalry sword or Star Wars. I was in the dark, searching for a switch again.
"Big time, Kay."
"I'll show you later on. For now, just think of foil and epee as the same thing, basically. Those whippy kinda swords in old Zorro movies, those are mostly foils and epees. Saber is more of a slashing weapon."
"Then make mine saber."
"It's heavier, too," Mitch supplied.
"Hey, I'd rather slash someone for points than tap them above the heart. If I'm gonna fight then I want to smash, not tap."
"And you said he wouldn't be blood thirsty this time around," Kenny said to his father, all smug satisfaction.
"I said he might not. I've been wrong before, though."
"The two of you know I'm sitting right here as you talk about me, right?"
"Here we go boys!" the waitress said, walking over with our plates. "Eat up! Oh my, so many cute guys at one table. My horoscope was right, it is a good day for being at work."
As she waddled off, Kenny and I noticed Mitch giving the waitress' backside a long look as she retreated.
"Uh, Dad, if it's okay, can I spend the night over at Robby's tonight?"
"One step at a time, boys. We still have to convince Robby's parents that he's not going to get killed. And we have to deal with Juan's situation at class."
"I almost forgot about that. Is he really kicked out?"
"I don't see why I should penalize him for being as underhanded as his mentor. In fact, I'd rather he was around."
"What?" Kenny and I said together.
"He's not going to learn unless he gets shown properly."
"Well, that's one way to look at it," Kenny said grinning. "Heck of a challenge, converting Juan over to our side."
"I don't get the whole sides thing. I know that in Arcadia we had troubles, but what are we squabbling over here?"
"The very stuff of dreams, Robby. The very stuff of dreams," Mitch said, solemnly.
"Glamour," I breathed out. "We fight over Glamour?"
"Well, it's a little more complex than that. But that is a primary source of the intrigue." Kenny had a look like he was about to launch into a story, but the beeping of my wrist watch interrupted him.
"We better chow down if we're gonna be on time for class," I said, picking up a fork. "Tell me about it on the way."
Kenny grinned and reached for the syrup. This put his thigh back solidly on mine again, and we kinda let our ankles wrap each other under the table. We were both hungry for more than breakfast, but had other things to take care of first. Still, the feel of his leg skin so tight against mine, both of us applying pressure to and through the contact… I know for certain I was having sweaty, muscular thoughts, and I could almost glimpse a taste of his along a similar vein.
Breakfast was a quick matter after we decided to get serious about it, though. Seems a universal thing among changelings is to take care of the mundane aspects of reality as fast as possible so that you can deal with the enchanted more often. And while the food at Joe's was just about spectacular, as always (I'm a sucker for really good orange juice), the bottomless pit club meetings hold back for nothing once begun. I never felt so hungry in my whole life. Then again, I'd never quite spent as much energy at once as I had in the past twenty-four hours. Fencing, fighting and fucking take a lot out of a guy, especially when you add in the fact that my whole world just split in half about 18 hours back. Better add in crying too, because that takes a lot out of you as well, and I'd done more than my share in the last day. I only hoped that Mom and Dad wouldn't notice too many changes.
The trip to the Y wasn't all that far. Joe's is only about a mile away from Winter Street, and Primrose Street actually dead-ends on Winter right next to St. John's Catholic Church, a massive Gothic structure of lovingly crafted stone. For those of you who see the awesome stained windows and the copper roof from the outside and just from the mortal realm, you are missing a treat. In the enchanted world, that church practically glows. Most places of worship do, although each one has it's own look and feel. At St. John's, though, what caught my attention was that the spirit guardians around the church actually had both angelic and demonic features. Gargoyles, I guess, would be the best comparison, but gargoyles that seemed to embody a stoic sort of devotion, love and faith. One that understood the power of time and the honor of sacrifice in the name of love and honor.
Okay, so I'm getting poetic again… just another sure sign that I must be living in both worlds at once. The things and places and people that I had known my whole life suddenly had aspects and attributes that my changeling senses were finally letting me in on. My sleepy old New England town was suddenly a place rife with the kind of wonder that visitors usually only have, and young visitors at that.
Anyways, we showed up at the Y, parked across the street and went in, about forty minutes early. Mitch had to go set up the downstairs gym, so Kenny and I went into the locker room and geared up. My new grieves and chest protector fit like a dream and the helmet wasn't constantly dragging my skull forwards. Naturally Kenny and I also strapped on cups, but since we weren't sure exactly when the other kids would be arriving, we avoided any attempts at messing around as we changed. Besides, I wanted to make sure I was well protected this time.
We were about to walk out of the locker room when I put my hand on Kenny's forearm. No, you perv, not in a sexual way. Just a touch to get his attention. "Hey, I wanna try something."
"Watch this!" I said, dragging him along with me into the toilet area of the changing rooms. There was a large mirror in there, stretching the length of the sink basin. I stood on the step-up that marked the urinals and turned to face the mirror. "Here goes nuthin'," I said, taking a deep breath.
I focused my own inner Glamour and enacted the Wyrd. Light cascaded around me and I felt my Satyr self, Robyn the Blue, fully deployed in the mortal world. I looked down at my armor bits and saw that they were now crafted to my goat legs as well, that the chest protector was like a glittery mail shirt with lightweight armor caps flying off of my shoulders a short distance. My grieves were like silver plates, overlapping, lined in traces of inlaid lapis. The loin cloth was still the white suede from before, but now it had thick bands of leather hanging down, embedded circles of copper and silver embedded into the leather, like a roman legionnaire's protective leather skirt. Even my helmet now had more a more dramatic look, like cast silver, forming the wide open jaws of a wolf's head, the teeth artfully leading out to the protective face cage. Sky Fire was with me, hanging in his traditional place, waiting. The Tear was also there, resplendent, glittering in the mirror.
"Walkin' talkin', awesome!" I said, flexing my still thin arms at the sight of my fae armor.
"You are truly back now, my lord," Kenny said. I could catch glimpses of Kay and Kay's armor bleeding through as he looked at me.
"Just had to see it for myself, I guess. Damn! I look good!"
"And so modest!" Kenny said, grinning with a closed mouth to keep from giggling.
"As I recall, Kay, you stabbed me into all this," I said with sardonic backspin.
"Your pardon, my lord. Just an observation. You may torture me later for having said it."
"Oh, I think I can find a way to do that," I said, grinning mischievously. My goatish lower anatomy was hoping that I would apply that threat now, but, once again, the immediacy of the moment required other actions. I let the Glamour fade and Robby resurfaced, cloaking Robyn's soul again.
"Thought I'd find you here," came a voice from out in the main changing room. A voice I and Kenny/Kay knew all too well. One we weren't entirely happy to be hearing at all.
It was Juan.
He strode into the toilet side, his gym bag strapped over his shoulder, slung under his arm. He looked first at Kenny, who made to block access to me, interposing his sweet body between us.
"Peace, Eshu. I mean your lord no harm." Kenny looked back to me and I kinda raised an eyebrow and then lifted my shoulders. What the hell, two on one we could take him if it got violent. And I could always just bring up Sky Fire, more than enough deterrent, I felt sure. Especially since last night.
"What do you mean, then, Croaker?" I asked, acknowledging his fae soul as well as his mortal presence.
"I mean to ask of you a boon."
"After last night, I'd think you and I would be mortal enemies, much as that thought saddens me."
"After last night, I have no place left to turn. My motley has abandoned me." The look in his eyes was one of total loss, of a rejection that at once was achingly familiar and wholly touching. "I am without friends, even among my own kith."
"And you would seek his forgiveness for drawing Iron?" Kenny insisted, getting a look of near murderous anger on his face. "You ask too much, Redcap!"
"My lord!" Juan said, dropping to his knees in front of me, tears streaking down his face. "I was ordered by my mentor to slay you, to Undo you, to take the Tear if I could. I was told that if I did not take your pendant at the very least, and make a fair stab at taking your life, I would be hunted and unwelcome among my own kind."
"You took an oath before the fight. Using Iron violates that oath. You are a creature to be pitied." I hadn't heard Kenny this angry before. He was a stiff breeze away from launching himself on Juan, fire in his eyes.
"Which is why I can only come to Sir Robyn to ask forgiveness. If you will intercede on my behalf to the Countess, I'm sure she will have leniency on me. Please, my lord, I beg you!"
"And why should I ask that she forgive you? Will that not simply let you free to try and take my life again?"
"Whatever oath you demand of me, I shall make. Whatever deed you need me do, I shall do. I beg you with my life and my soul, Sir Robyn. With my soul."
Kenny walked up to me "Um, can I talk to you a minute over here," he said, tugging at my t-shirt. He took me to the back of the bathroom, to the last stall and stepped just inside, keeping an eye on Juan, who remained on his knees, weeping openly.
"Okay, first," I said, before Kenny could say anything, "he seems sincere. Something's got him worried, wicked. Second, what the hell is a motley and why is it so important to him. And third, chill out a little, there's two of us and one of him, and we both know all his moves already." I paused staring into Kenny's eyes a moment. "What?"
"A motley is a band of kithain, er, changelings that stick together, do things together. A pack, a band, a, well, for lack of a better word, a family."
"So he's been ostracized?"
"Basically. It also means that whatever sway Sir Korbesh holds with the Countess isn't going to help him when he is brought before her in court. She can have him Undone for carrying Iron and using it in an honorable duel." Kenny's expression went from anger to a hard sort of pity. "No one will stand with, by or for him. And that means that he is likely doomed."
"I'll not see him killed," I said, my voice low but strong. "But can we trust him?"
"Trust is earned, not traded," Kenny said, but in such a way that I knew it was the wisdom of Kay Neth that produced the words. Kenny's lips twitched into a brief frown. "Poor bugger was set up and left to the wolves, m'love. He's desperate. He's lost."
"Like I was, only I didn't have you looking to find me."
"I see what you are wanting to do, but if you do, bind him in an oath for it. Make him prove his loyalty, as well."
"Okay. Back me up on this, I'm gonna talk to him."
"Always, my lord."
We stepped back to Juan, who was now laying prostrate from the kneeling position, sobbing. I stopped about a foot from him, gazing down. Three days ago I'd have had such fear and respect for this boy's skills. I'd have killed, traded body parts or even my first born child to have his awesome athletic skills and his power among other kids. What a difference three days makes.
"Croaker," I began, which brought his head up, craning his neck back far to look at me. "I will make a deal with you, one we will forge in an oath at court. I will speak for you to the Countess. I will do my best to see you spared. You are too fine a warrior to be lost to the mists forever."
"Thank you, my lord!" Juan said, reaching up to take my hand.
"Under one condition." He stopped, about halfway to kissing my hand (which had me more than a little nervous. He could suddenly decide to just bite it off instead of kiss it). "You will bind your soul to mine, permanently, as a thane in my service. Your sword and your soul you will swear in fealty unto me. I shall accept nothing less than this as a sign of your sincerity."
"Then my sword to your service, my lord, Robyn the Blue! My life, my soul, my enchanted eternity to your will!"
"With every fiber of what I am," Juan said, and somewhere off in the distance of the Dreaming, a blast of trumpets sounded, a twice repeating three note phrase, signaling that what Juan had just said, while lacking the formality of an oath at court, was the truth of his heart.
It was enough for me. I enacted the Wyrd again, Key and Croaker also appearing before me in their true forms. Sky Fire was in my hand, and I watched as Croaker cringed at the sight of the swooping, carved crystal handle. The blade sprang to life, casting an eerie blue luminosity against the glossy tiles of the bathroom.
"By my blade, by my life and by my lost Cerulean, I claim this Redcap as thane in my service, under the protection of my will and a friend to my heart. Arise, thane Croaker," I said, and I swept the blade length completely through him, right down the middle, crown of the head through the center of his backbone. But this time, Sky Fire did no harm, merely washed Croaker in blue light. He seemed to shudder, as if in ecstasy at the stroke, but when the glow faded and I let Sky Fire go back to sleep, he looked up to me and smiled. He stood, his arms crossed over his chest, and bowed.
"My lord, I am your servant. What is thy will?"
"Return to your mortal seeming, Juan. When next the Countess holds court we shall enact a formal oath for her and for the entire court. You will be spared. For now, your duties are to be loyal and friendly with the rest of my family. Kay Neth and thane Caspian chief among them. We will talk later of the circumstances that led to this point. But know that I welcome you to our motley." And I embraced him. Yeah, I know, probably the stupidest move. He could have gone Mike Tyson on me, decided to chew on my entire head while we were body to body like that. But he didn't. It was a chance I took. It was a trust that I both gave and tested.
And Juan passed the test, fully.
"Now, get your gear on, buddy. We've got Jedi class to deal with, and I want you to show me that spinning kick from the first pass last night. That was a killer move!"
"Okay," Juan said, smiling, wiping at his tears as we separated. I nodded towards the door and Kenny moved to follow me. He stopped in front of Juan and extended a hand. At first they simply knocked fists together. Then Kenny held his arm out in more of a warrior's handclasp, presenting the whole forearm. They clasped, shook and smiled, and then Kenny came up to join me.
"We okay with this?"
"I'd almost rather you simply tossed him to the wolves as well, it would have been expected."
"But since when have we ever done what's expected?" I returned, grinning.
"Not often, milord. But I think you are right. Sparing him was not only the right thing to do, it was a good step for your own power base. It takes something out from under Korbesh's feet. It shows that you have more honor than he aspires to show, and it will earn you the respect of not only the Redcaps, for sparing one of their own, albeit an outcast, as well as the trolls, who will reflect that destroying dishonor only ends one cycle of it. Turning dishonor onto the honorable path is noble in their eyes. It will be a big feather in your cap."
"I don't wear feathers," I grinned. We walked out to the gym and went through our warm-ups, preparing for the class ahead.
Now, while all of this is perhaps more than a little foreshadowing, I mean, here we are building a group of very well trained and skilled warriors, right, looking at how to curry favor and how much we already had, this was just the beginning. The prospect of true sport fencing in reality as well as some sort of nebulous need to prepare for a war from the enchanted side of my life were dominating the background of my thinking. I had no idea that I was so socially or martially adept just days ago. Nor did I know that I'd need every wit and gram of support I could muster for the threat I barely felt approaching on the horizon.
But that's a story for another day.