An Empty Grave: Part 3

Lorcan arose late the next morning, feeling somewhat nauseous. His encounter with Deirdre last night had left him feeling sick with worry, and per normal, he hadn’t slept well because of it. He would have liked to have been one of those people that couldn’t eat when worried, or paced nervously, or some other similar thing; alas, he had the misfortune to be one who couldn’t sleep when stressed. He now worried more than ever for the welfare of his family. The deep mourning in the banshee’s eyes had confirmed his suspicions; someone in his family, perhaps himself, was fated to die. He didn’t know what to tell his brother- or indeed, whether or not to tell him at all. A fine conversation that would be. ‘Oh, hello brother! I haven’t seen you in years! Oh. look at that, you have a happy family. Be careful, one of them will likely die soon.’ Lorcan grimaced, sitting up in bed, brooding over the events of the last few weeks. Brooding seemed to be the only thing he could do nowadays.

Finally, sick of having to think, Lorcan threw off his covers, got dressed, and left the room. He wanted answers, but had no idea where he could find them. Deirdre, for some reason, refused to tell him, and who knew where Munin was? Altogether, the frustration, hopelessness, and creeping sense of panic made him feel as if he were to go mad. Closing the door to his room, Lorcan began trudging grumpily down the hall, when a voice behind him called, “Uncle Lorcan! Wait!” Lorcan turned to see little Lysander running after him, his short legs pumping as fast as they could. He caught up to Lorcan, panting, but excited.

Lorcan forced a smile for the boy. “Hello Lysander. Goodness, you run quickly. I bet you could easily outrun a horse in a footrace.”

Lysander beamed. “Father says so too!” Immediately, without any seeming connections in his thoughts, he blurted out, “The crying woman is gone! I didn’t hear her all night! Did you scare her off like the other monsters?”

Lorcan began walking down the hall slowly, Lysander doing his best to keep pace with Lorcan’s long strides. “Not quite,” said Lorcan. “The crying woman was no monster; she was just very sad, that’s all.” He smiled at Lysander, and picked him up. “Besides, this is your house. You have nothing to be afraid of in your house. You have a mother and father to protect you; they’ll scare away the rest of the monsters.”

Lysander considered this for a moment, then laughed happily. “When I get big, I’m going to fight monsters, just like you!” He pointed at Lorcan’s face, poking him in the cheek in the process. Then, a curious look came over his face. “Uncle Lorcan,” he asked, “do you have a mother and father too?”

Lorcan’s smile faded slightly. “I…did. When I was smaller, yes, but not anymore. They…went away.” He made an effort to brighten his face; he didn’t want Lysander to have to think about such things as losing one’s parents. He was a child, and he needed to believe that the world was a safe place, and that his parents would always be there for him. Lorcan changed the subject slightly. “But,” he said, “I have many friends! They fight monsters too.”

The boy’s eyes widened, awestruck by the notion of numerous monster hunters. “Really?” he asked. “Tell me about them Uncle Lorcan, pleeeeaaase?” He made the pleading face that was the special ability that seemed to be granted universally to all 2 year olds, to which Lorcan was powerless.

He chuckled, considering. “Alright then. Let me see…first, there’s Ul’vade. He’s from the North, where it gets so cold, it can freeze fire solid. Ul’vade is big and strong; strong enough to stop a bull with his bare hands, and throw it over his shoulder. But he isn’t just strong, he’s also very wise, from all the books he’s read, and a nicer man you’ll never meet. And…there’s Shay as well. She works as a baker most days, but don’t let that fool you; she’s as skilled with a sword as a bird is with wings. She’s like a mother bear, powerful and fierce, but very protective of the people she loves. There’s Veron, who has chain mail on his helmet, Tilly the dragon lady, Laddy, who…well, he’s Irish, and we’ll leave it at that. And last but not least…” Lorcan paused for dramatic effect. “There’s Captain Kane Driscol. Fierce as ten men, and ten times as crafty. He fights with two swords, though oftentimes he doesn’t even need to use them. He helps defend all these isles from monsters, thieves, and ruffians alike. The fae know and respect him, and demons are scared to come out of their caves when he’s near.” Lorcan nodded seriously to the child, pleased with himself.

Lysander’s mouth had fallen open, eyes wide with wonder. He was so astonished that he couldn’t say anything more until they reached the dining room. Lucan and Adeline sat eating and talking in low voices as they came in, looking up sharply as the two late sleepers pushed open the door. Lucan hurriedly put on a warm smile. “There you two are, finally!” He stood up and walked over, clapping Lorcan on the shoulder. “I was starting to think you’d kidnapped my boy in order to make him your apprentice!” He took Lysander from Lorcan’s arms, and sat him down at a small chair between him and Adeline.

Lorcan held up his hands innocently. “Don’t worry, I’m not the kidnapping type. Perhaps when he’s older, I’ll teach him how to fight monsters. But for now, he’ll have to learn to be a good boy, and focus on that.”

Lucan smiled. “Fine advice. Here, I’ll get you something to eat.” He ripped a large chunk of bread from a loaf on the table, and handed it to Lorcan, following it up with a few apples. “It’s not much,” he apologized,” but it’s what we have on hand.”

“No, no this is fine, thank you very much,” said Lorcan. He sat down, eating the small breakfast quietly. He wanted to tell Lucan something about what had happened last night, about why he had come, but he couldn’t seem to find the words. His thoughts were interrupted however, by Lucan clearing his throat.

“So,” he began, clasping his hands on the table, “how long do you plan to stay with us? I mean, you can stay as long as you like of course, but how long until you have to go back to England?”

Lorcan considered his words as he swallowed a bite of apple. “Well, I was actually meaning to leave today, I-“

“Today!?” cried Adeline. “You’ve hardly gotten here, and with no horse or supplies, and you’re just leaving!” She looked incredulously at him, while Lucan just looked confused.

“NO!” yelled Lysander, slamming his small hands on the table. “You have to stay! You have-” the boy’s demands were interrupted by a violent coughing fit, which made him double over and begin hacking horribly. His parents immediately switched their attention over to him. They held him still, rubbing his back, until the coughing subsided.

Lucan smiled sadly up at Lorcan, who looked very concerned. “It’s quite the cough, isn’t it? He’s been like this for about two weeks. It’s prbably all the dust in the air; it can’t be healthy for youngsters. All the more reason to leave, am I right?”

Lorcan nodded hesitantly. “Yes…I suppose so.” He suddenly remembered what they’d just been talking about. “Right, so, I really do have to go. Some things have come up, and I need answers. I can’t explain a great deal, but it concerns you three. I don’t know if I can explain any of this until I understand more, but know that I’ll be return as soon as I can.” Lucan and Adeline looked at him in the same confused way they had a moment ago. Lorcan quickly held up his hand, stopping them from asking questions as their mouths opened. “Look, I don’t have time to explain; I’ll just have to show you.”

They finished breakfast, and they all stood to wish Lorcan farewell. Lorcan hugged Lysander first. “I’ll be back soon; faster than you know it. You be good, and remember what I told you about why people cry.” The boy nodded, and Lorcan tousled his hair. Leaving Lysander in the dining room to finish eating, the three adults stepped out, and walked to the entrance hall. Lorcan breathed deeply, bracing himself, and turned to face Lucan and Adeline. He slipped off the Yggdrasil ring, and held it up to them. “Lucan,” he said, “do you recognize this ring?”

Lucan squinted at the ring, then widened his eyes in recognition. “That’s father’s ring!” he exclaimed. “How did you…how did you get that? Father was buried with that.” Suspicion crept into Lucan’s eyes. “You didn’t…”

Lorcan shook his head vigorously. “No, nothing like that. Though, it might’ve been better that way, considering how I did come by this.” He looked seriously at the pair in front of him. “Listen, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you where this ring comes from, or how I got it. Suffice it to say…” he braced himself again, “this ring has magic.”

Suspicion fled from Lucan’s eyes, replaced by mirth. “Oh, come now Lorcan! You had me worried! But, you’re only joking aren’t you? Adeline, he’s-” Lucan looked at his wife, who was staring intently at Lorcan. “Adeline?”

“He’s not lying,” she said simply.

Now, Lucan looked concerned for the both of them. “You can’t be serious!” he exclaimed. “Magic? Lorcan, you’ve always been one for stories, but-“

“Oh, hush,” said Lorcan. “Let me show you.” he turned to face the wall, slipped on the ring, and held his fist up to the wall. “Sylvanus,” he said loudly, “I’m ready to go home. Please grant me a door to Woodland.”

Almost immediately, the ring shone brightly, and white light appeared on the wall, tracing out the shape of a door. Lucan’s draw dropped, while Adeline, though visibly shocked, merely raised her eyebrows in surprise. After a few moments, the door opened, revealing the graveyard behind the Woodland chapel, snow-topped trees visible in the distance. Lorcan turned back around. “There, you see?” He grinned at their shocked expressions. “I have to go, but I promise I’ll be back soon.” He hugged Lucan and Adeline in turn, and, waving farewell, stepped through the portal, letting it close behind him.

He hated the abrupt departure, but Lorcan felt that he would at least be able to return as he wished, so he hoped Lucan and Adeline would forgive him. He wanted so badly to tell his family of what he had seen, the omens he had witnessed, but he couldn’t see them being ready for it. If the ring had been too much for them, the true story behind what he had been doing with his life would likely kill them from shock. No, for now, he needed to break the world of magic to them slowly, and would tell them everything in time. If only, he hoped, the horrible things he had envisioned didn’t come before he had time. It was a vain hope perhaps, but it was all he could do. In the meantime, he needed answers, and he had a few lines he could throw in the water meanwhile.

And…Lorcan smiled to himself. He had a heathen to catch. “Oh, Dyn Hysbys,” Lorcan said, loudly and slowly. “I have something fun we could do. And…I need a favor.”

Silently, and near instantaneously, Dyn Hysbys sidled up to Lorcan. “I like that look in your eyes m’boy,” said the old man, grinning from ear to ear. “What did you have in mind?”

“A little righteous vengeance,” said Lorcan. “Shay, it seems, has gone heathen. I feel that it’s only right that the village be made aware. I’m going to need some wanted posters, a few false accusations, and a large stake, such as the kind you’d burn a witch at. We’re not going to use it of course, but theatricality is everything here.” He considered a moment. “And, I think we ought to brighten up the Captain’s day. I’ll also need his chair.”

Dyn Hysbys’ eyes flashed wickedly. “I know just the place to put it. There’s a lovely frozen pond nearby, and I’ve always thought a piece of furniture sitting in the center of it would really give the ambience a special something.” He looked at Lorcan, who’s smile had faded as he stared into the distance. “What is it boy? Titania got your tongue? She’s been known to do that.”

Lorcan hesitated. “That’s why I need that favor. And it’s something far more malicious than Titania’s mischief.” He turned to the old man, a dark look in his eyes. “I need you to teach me all you can about magic.”