They’d been sitting around the Fire of Hell all night. At one point, Sam had gotten up to make sure that Maresol and Delphie were warm enough. Otherwise, they sat and waited. An hour or so ago, Gilfand had fallen into a trance. The man-creature’s eyes were open but he was clearly not there.
“Should we get up?” Sam asked.
He reached to touch Delphie’s shoulder. She opened her eyes and gave him a soft smile.
“Can I get you some breakfast?” Sam asked.
“Do not move!”
A strong male voice came from Gilfand’s body. Sam stopped moving. The voice was not the heavily accented voice of Gilfand but something other. Delphie, Maresol, and Sam gawked at Gilfand.
“What the hell?” Maresol whispered.
Sam nodded. He glanced at Delphie and saw her scowling at Gilfand.
“What is it?” Sam whispered to Delphie.
“Olympia,” Delphie said. “He seems to be channeling an Olympian God.”
Sam scowled and looked at Gilfand.
“What do we think that means?” Maresol asked.
“It means you, humans, will shut up, stay seated, and do what you’re told,” the male voice said.
“That’s enough,” Sam said. “I will not tolerate you speaking to Maresol or anyone that way.”
“No one speaks to me like that,” Maresol said with a shake of her head.
“Sam? Maresol?” a woman’s voice came through Gilfand. “It’s Hedone. We’re here trying to keep the fairies from going to war. If they go to war, the entire world is at stake. In their rage, they think nothing of destroying entire civilizations.”
“You know how fairies are,” Delphie said to Sam, and he nodded.
“Gilfand is here fighting for peace as is Jill’s father …” Hedone continued.
“Perses,” Sam said in a low tone.
“We need you to stay there,” Hedone said. “The entire struggle revolves around the Fire of Hell that you happen to be sitting around.”
“There are no accidents,” Delphie said with certainly.
“Right now, Jacob and Abi are below you trying to divert a war,” Hedone added.
“Why us?” Clearly irritated, Maresol snarled out the question.
“Because you are the only ones who can save the planet,” Hedone said.
“What can we do?” Sam asked. “We’re just stupid humans.”
“Yes, my grandfather can be a real jerk,” Hedone said, with a familiar laugh. “You’ve met his son, my father, right?”
They gave a nervous laugh. The last time they’d “seen” Hedone’s father, he’d sent a shade to curse them.
“Who is Heather’s grandfather?” Sam whispered to Delphie. “I get all of those Gods and Goddesses confused.”
“Ares, the God of War,” Delphie whispered back.
Sam and Maresol nodded as if it made sense that he was a jerk.
“We need you, your humanity, to be right there when Abi and Jacob make their move for peace,” Hedone said. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but there’s a lot on the line. Do you trust me?”
“I do,” Sam said in a strong voice.
“Please don’t leave your spot until you see me,” Hedone said. “Can you do that for me?”
“Of course,” Delphie said.
“I can,” Maresol said.
“I’ll be here,” Sam said. “I’m worried about food. Delphie needs to eat regularly at this altitude and …”
“Yes,” Hedone said.
There was a slam of a car door and a young man ran up carrying bags of food. He gave each of the adults a cup of coffee and a bag. He was about to run back when he turned and ran back.
“Whacha doing?” the young man asked.
“Trying to save the world,” Maresol said under her breath.
“Cool,” the young man said. “Need some help with that?”
Sam glanced at Gilfand and his head was nodding.
“Sure,” Sam said. “I’d be happy to pay you for your assistance.”
“Not necessary, man,” the boy said. “I’m happy to help. In fact, I’ll call home and get my brothers to join us. We’re not doing anything today. This is right up our alley.”
Sam held out his hand and the boy shook it.
“Sam Lipson,” Sam said.
“That’s funny,” the boy said. “That’s my last name, too.”
Sam and the boy gawked at each other. The boy had Sam’s dark hair but had dark eyes, not hazel like Valerie and Jacob. For all of the differences, this boy looked enough like Sam to be family.
“My dad’s dead so you might not know about us.” The boy looked uncomfortable. “My mom’s awesome. She’s a doctor. She’s always saying that she thought my dad had more family but we don’t really leave Leadville. My youngest brother says he’s going to find out when he goes to college next year. He got into Boulder.”
“He is Blane’s younger brother,” Hedone said from Gilfand’s body.
Sam hopped up and hugged the boy. Overwhelmed by the gesture, the boy walked away to dial his phone.
“Abi loves you, Sam,” Gilfand’s voice came from his body. “She asked if there were any more like Sam Lipson. Hedone found these boys. We need your humanity and you, Sam, are the best human we know.”
Sam blushed. He was about to say something when Gilfand’s body went blank again. Before long, the delivery man had returned with his two younger brothers and more coffee. The young men joined their efforts around the Fire of Hell. Sam grinned at them and they gave him similar smiles back.
“I have heard that there is an Oracle in this time,” Queen Shanti said. She gave Abi a sly look. “Will we get to meet her?”
“Yes, but that’s not why you’re here,” Abi said.
The Queens gave each other broad grins and turned back to Abi.
“The Oracle had some trouble in this area of the world,” Abi said. Modifying the story for a simpler version, she continued. “Jacob and I came to sort it out. We found a creature that lived off souls. He was guarding this monument.”
“The fairy has been living on human souls?” Queen Shanti gasped.
“I am afraid so,” Abi said. “Jacob?”
“I have a theory,” Jacob said.
“Go ahead,” Queen Áthas said.
“You and Queen Shanti balance each other out,” Jacob said.
Queen Áthas turned to look at Queen Shanti.
“It is true,” Queen Shanti said. “You were very angry before we met.”
“I was?” Queen Áthas asked.
“Pirate Queen?” Queen Shanti asked.
“That was fun,” Queen Áthas said with a grin.
“We are stronger together,” Queen Shanti said.
“Balanced,” Queen Áthas said. “Yes. And your point?”
“We believe that this fairy queen is the counterpart to Queen Fand,” Jacob said.
The fairy Queens looked at Jacob and blinked.
“You’re willing to trade the technology to save our fairy corps for assistance with introducing Fand to her counterpart,” Queen Shanti said.
“That’s correct,” Abi said.
The Queens looked at each other.
“We need to discuss this,” Queen Áthas said.
“Don’t wait too long,” Abi said. “I must release this new queen from her prison.”
In agreement, Queen Áthas and Queen Shanti lowered their heads to Abi. They were gone in a flash.
“What do you think?” Jacob asked.
“Now we wait,” Abi said.
Jacob nodded. He went to the Altar of Life and put his hands on the top of the altar.
“Is this where she is?” Mari asked.
She walked to the Altar of Life. Mimicking Jacob, she put her hands on top of the altar.
“She knows we are here,” Jacob said.
There was a “swooping” sound behind him. He spun around to see Queen Athas and Queen Shanty. Each fairy queen had a rough grip on one of Queen Fand’s arms. Queen Fand struggled to get away from the queens. Abi was hidden behind the fairy queens.
“Mari!” Queen Fand said. “You have to help me! These hostile fairies have …”
“I’m the designated dead child,” Mari said. She lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “I won’t be able to take care of you after you kill me. Why should I care now?”
“Marigold!” Queen Fand scolded. She turned to Jacob. “Jacob, please dear boy. Help your Queen.”
“Enough,” Abi commanded. Abi walked out from behind the queens. “We have work to do.”
“You’re telling me that a human can make clothing that is impervious to fairy warfare?” Queen Áthas raised a doubtful eyebrow.
“Human design,” Jacob said.
“Fairy made,” Abi said.
“If this were true, why would you tell us?” Queen Shanti asked. “Why not give it to your fairy corps and send them out to slaughter ours?”
“I want no part of slaughter,” Abi said. “There was a time when I had a taste for it, but that time is long past. As I age, I ache for peace — between the fairy realms, between humans.”
“Why would you care?” Queen Shanti asked. “You have lived long before we arrived to this planet. You will live until the sun burns out. Why do you care?”
“That’s a good question,” Abi said. “I’m not sure. I just know that I care. Gilfand, too. We wish to cling to the peace we have and expand it throughout the planet.”
“How can we trust you?” Queen Shanti asked. “You are the general in Fand’s army.”
“Are you saying you don’t trust me?” Abi asked.
“She’s wondering if she should,” Queen Áthas said.
“I don’t think this is about trust,” Mari said. “This is about practicality. I went to see the designer. She gave me some great ideas. I went back home and spoke with our weaving and seamstresses. They are making our garments right now.”
Mari snapped her fingers. She was wearing skin tight black military armor. She had a hard hat on her head. The hat had a kind of veil which she pulled over her face.
“Go ahead,” Mari said.
Queen Áthas glanced at Abi and Abi nodded. The Queens looked at each other and shrugged. They shock a spike of magic to Mari. The magic bounced off Mari’s suit. It hit the wall with a “pop” leaving a scorched black mark.
Jacob threw his knife at Mari’s chest. The knife bounced off the fabric.
“Impressive,” Queen Shanti said, softly.
“You may touch it,” Mari said.
The Queens moved forward to touch Mari’s outfit.
“It’s comfortable, breathable,” Mari said.
“Wands?” Queen Áthas asked. “My fairy corps loves their wands.”
“They can use them,” Abi said. “You’ve never needed them.”
Queen Áthas gave Abi a long look before turning back to Mari.
“What will we have to do in return for this assistance?” Queen Áthas asked.
“We have a matter of much delicacy,” Abi said.
“There’s a fairy in there,” Queen Shanti said, pointing to the Altar of Life.
Jacob and Queen Áthas turned to look at the Altar of Life.
“We believe that she is your fourth sister,” Abi said.
The fairy Queens gasped and took a step back. Noting their reaction, Abi pressed on.
“As you know, Gilfand and I had no idea that there was more than one fairy queen,” Abi said. “After we met Queen Athas, we searched the world over.”
“You found me,” Queen Shanti said.
“That’s correct,” Abi said. “We always believed that there were four fairy queens. But we could never find the fourth.”
Jacob took her hand and stood. The Fairy Queens’ dark eyes scanned him. After a moment, the Queens smiled.
“Thank you for bringing an end to the Sea of Amber,” Queen Shanti said.
“That was my cousin, Blane,” Jacob said.
“Yes, yes, and Hedone,” Queen Shanti said. “They did it in service of you.”
“You inspire greatness in the people around you,” Queen Áthas said.
“I put Queen Fand back together,” Jacob said with a shrug.
The Queens’ faces soured.
“Sorry?” Jacob asked.
Abi laughed. The Queens looked at her and grinned.
“Don’t take us too seriously,” Queen Áthas said. “Our sister, Fand, is a handful.”
“But we love her,” Queen Shanti said. “It is better that she is whole.”
Queen Áthas nodded.
“Who is the mother of her sister, Liban?” Jacob asked.
“That would be me,” Queen Shanti said. “She is the only child I have not raised myself.”
“I have raised all of my children,” Queen Áthas said. “Shanti was simply too young to care for her beloved daughter.”
“True,” Abi said with a grin.
“Abi has always stepped in when we needed assistance,” Queen Shanti said. “She is our queen. How ever did you know about Liban?”
“I just figured that had to be true,” Jacob said.
“How can we help you, Master Marlowe?” Queen Áthas asked.
“We’ve brought you here to discuss something that might turn the tide in the war,” Abi said.
“We want no part in any war,” Queen Shanti said adamantly. “But is one is brought against us, we will fight to the death to protect our fairies.”
Queen Shanti glanced at her sister and Queen Áthas nodded.
“If war is started, you will have no choice but to respond,” Abi said. “Your troops are already forming. Princess Edie has met with each of your envoys. They are prepared for war.”
When neither queen responded, Abi added, “You remember what happened last time?”
The queens looked embarrassed and turned away from them. Curious, Queen Áthas went to the altar. She ran her hand over the top and looked at Queen Shanti. They shared a long look. After a moment, Queen Áthas spun in place.
“Why have you called us here?” Queen Áthas asked. “We have many preparations to make. Our fairies are in an uproar.”
“First, we have a peace offering for you,” Abi said.
“Mari?” Abi asked.
Mari appeared in the small cavern. She wore her maroon silk skirt with matching heels.
“You know, Princess Marigold,” Jacob said.
Mari curtsied to the queens.
“Princess,” the Queens said in unison.
“I asked Mari if she would consult with fashion designer that is a friend of my sister’s,” Jacob said. The Queens turned to look at Jacob. “The fashion designer designs a variety of clothing for elite military units, US and France.”
“We can create clothing that is impervious to fairy spells as well as standard military weapons — guns, knives, and the like,” Abi said.
“You’re telling me that a human can make clothing that is impervious to fairy warfare?” Queen Áthas raised a doubtful eyebrow.
“You’re sure,” Abi said, more as a statement than a question.
“It’s worth a try,” Jacob said.
Abi scowled. Jacob raised his eyebrows in challenge. Abi looked up at the ceiling of the Altar of Life chamber. They were standing near the closed entrance of the chamber. After a moment, she squinted and looked at Jacob again.
“And what does Gilfand say?” Jacob asked.
“Do something,” Abi said.
As if to say, “Go,” Jacob held out a hand to Abi.
“Áthas,” Abi said in an even voice.
A female fairy appeared. She wasn’t as tall as Fin or as dark as Queen Fand. She wore a large dress that made her look like a Disney Princess. Abi gave Jacob a hard look, and Jacob dropped to one knee.
“Mother,” Áthas said as an out breath.
With complete disregard for her royal outfit, Queen Áthas fell forward onto the ground in an act of deference to Abi.
“Shanti,” Abi said in the same even voice.
A dark skinned fairy wearing priceless robes in the style of the Indian Royalty of old. She looked at Abi for a moment, gave Jacob an intelligent look, before falling to the floor as her sister did.
Abi put her hands on the back of the two fairy Queens heads. Abi was the apex of love and compassion of the triangle of three figures. After a moment, Abi pulled back.
“Please,” Abi said. “We’ve called you on a matter of great importance.”
In a flash, the two fairy queens were standing upright. Their outfits showed no damage from their time on the rock floor. The only evidence of the last moment was a slight flush on the face of Queen Áthas. The fairy Queens turned to look at Jacob.
“This is my friend, Jacob Marlowe,” Abi said.
Jacob kept his eyes focused on the floor. He saw Queen Áthas’s and Queen Shanti’s feet move to him. He felt himself scanned from head to toe.
“He is the father of the young girl,” Queen Shanti said, in a thick South Asian accent
“He is a descendant of Gilfand,” Abi said.
“I’ve heard of you, Jacob Marlowe,” Queen Áthas said, in a nearly unintelligible Irish accent. “He’s married to a healer.”
“Lord Perses daughter,” Queen Shanti said.
“Is she really?” Queen Áthas said in such a way as to indicate that the idea was absurd. “I hadn’t heard that he had other children.”
“Three, I believe,” Queen Shanti said. “The actress, Valerie Lipson, is married to his eldest son.”
“Really?” Queen Áthas asked “I always like her.”
“She’s my sister,” Jacob said. “My wife is Lord … uh, I can’t say his name or he’ll appear.”
“Understood,” Queen Áthas said. “Your wife?”
“His youngest child,” Jacob said.
“And where is she?” Queen Shanti asked.
“Yes, where is your wife?” Queen Áthas asked.
The fairy Queens turned their eyes on Jacob to scrutinize his words and actions.
“She needed time to work on school,” Jacob said. “She sent me to help Abi.”
He cleared his throat. The air in the room was dense with something Jacob couldn’t define.