Jonah and the Fairy Ch. 03bymarkelly©
(My thanks go to BONNIEBREA, for her editing. I've had a great deal of fun with all three chapters. I hope you all enjoy your read of this final chapter.)
The folks had decided to return home. I wished I had some sort of news to tell them, but I couldn't reassure them: if I only knew as much as they did. It still took me a few days in my 'wondering what's happening' state to realize my supplies were running low. Feeding three when the plan was to feed one sure put a dent in that theory. Pulling up outside the store I couldn't help but smile. Henry didn't look like he had moved since the last time I had come here.
"Howdy son, it's sure been awhile."
I couldn't resist sparring with him, so I sat on the porch watching the same dust cloud that seemed to hold his interest.
"Why, Henry, how can you say that? I distinctly remember being here not two months ago."
Henry gave a chuckle, set his chair onto all four legs, and tapped his pipe against the railings.
"And how's that pretty lady of yours? Why I thought you two where joined at the hip. I seemed to recall seeing you two together that much."
'That man sure knows how to hit home with his comments, even if he isn't sure just how close he really is.' Henry got up and I followed him into the store, and between banter at the store counter it started to look like I would be on the mountain for another two months.
"I see you're going to be hold up on the mountain for a while son. Is everything alright?"
Perhaps for the first time since I knew him I looked long and hard at Henry. Too many times he had hit home, or was close enough to the mark with an off the cuff remark, that I began to think that there maybe is more to him than meets the eye.
"Everything's fine Henry. The folks are swinging by again next week and you know how I can never get them to go home once they get here."
Henry just smiled and nodded his head. We eventually loaded the truck and made it ready for the journey back. I sat with him on the porch for a while still watching what seemed to be that same dust cloud do nothing but swirl around.
Mom arrived the day before my birthday, and even though I recognized the car it was still a surprise to see her. My confusion was compounded when I noticed that Mom had come alone. We hugged on the porch and she told me that the birds had asked her to come, but she had no idea why. We exchanged pleasantries and I tried desperately to keep the conversation up beat. Even though we hovered around the conversation of Robin neither of us wanted to start it, knowing full well it would hurt us both.
I could hear Mom moving about the cabin until the early hours. It seemed we were both due a restless night. I awoke early the next morning, with a nagging feeling that something was wrong. Mom heard me rise and followed me to the window. She gasped as she looked out to see all the Bodyguards coming towards the cabin, closely followed by Marise. Mom rushed out and I followed onto the porch. Marise and Mom held each other, both spoke at the same time, and laughed at the humor of it.
With Marise still holding onto Mom's hands she turned to me and said, "As it is your birthday, Keeper, we all thought you deserved a gift."
As if on an invisible signal the bodyguards moved to surround the cabin and sat crossed legged facing inwards. Slowly a blue glow emanated from each of them and spread from one to another. Once the blue glow was complete and surrounded the cabin, the glow started to rise until it met above the cabin, encasing it in its own cocoon, Marise's own aura, now a darker blue.
"We must go into the cabin. We do not have much time,"
Both Mom and I looked at each other. Mom shrugged her shoulders and I knew she wasn't holding anything from me. The inside of the cabin now had its own glow about it, both from the cocoon outside and the aura getting stronger by the second from Marise. Marise pointed to one end of the cabin and then stood in the middle before turning toward the other wall. Marise took one more deep breath and held her arms out, palms towards the wall.
One corner of the cabin started to turn a dark blue, almost looking like it burned with blue flames, I had to blink and blink again unsure what I was seeing. A hole appeared in the wall, and became steadily bigger, revealing more and more detail: Yet instead of seeing daylight and the clearing outside a small bed followed by more detail of the room beyond. Small wooden furniture adorned the room, and a crib came into view.
My heart missed a beat and tears suddenly obscured my view. Mom gasped as the same realization came to her. Robin's smile was so big on her face, she flew out through the hole and Marise stopped making it any bigger. Now holding her hand out, my Robin flew onto it. Even Robin's voice cracked with the emotions that had started to build within the room.
Then she said, "You are my mate and my true love. This is the only gift that my Queen and I could think to give you."
Robin looked at all three of us before she found it within herself to speak again.
"Please understand Jonah. I am going back so I can bring our daughter to you so you can hold her on your birthday. But the Healer has insisted that she is in a sleep cycle when we do this."
Robin bowed to her Queen and flew back through the hole. My own thoughts were a mess, yet I could hear Mom ask Marise why the Healer would be so cruel. Marise explained that the Healer had come to her with just one concern when all three had first discussed this gift that the whole fairy community wanted the Keeper to have. She had to be in a sleep cycle, as she felt it is too dangerous for her to be here awake. She would feel like she was in the land of the giants.
Seconds later my Robin emerges holding our daughter in her arms and flew onto Marise's hands once again. She knelt and placed our daughter down, unwrapped her cover, and held her once again to her chest. Robin's own aura now wrapped itself protectively around our daughter. Her wings expanded and my Robin gently flew across the distance between Marise and myself. Holding out my hands Robin landed and knelt on one hand, placing our daughter on my other.
A little pink bundle, no bigger than an inch long, now rested in the palm of my hand. The warmth that emanated from her as she slept kept me in awe. She had her mother's red hair and every now and then her little legs would kick out. I watched with bated breath as she turned and curled into a fetal position, the same as Robin had done when I first found her and brought her to the cabin so long ago. Slowly the little wonder that I held in my palm moved her hand and her tiny thumb went into her mouth and a content little gurgle emanated from her.
I could have sworn I saw her smile. My vision blurred again. Tears stung my eyes as I looked both at our daughter and Robin, and my heart felt like it would burst from my chest with pride. Mom came closer. Both Robin and I looked at each other and nodded. She gently lifted our daughter and flew across to Mom who hurriedly rubbed her hands against her hips and then held them together just in time for Robin to land and place our sleeping daughter in her palm.
Between emotional sobs Mom said, "She has your father's nose, the poor child."
All three of us laughed. I took the opportunity to wipe a tear from my eye. I needed to sit down, my legs felt so weak, and my emotions were everywhere. I couldn't hold a coherent thought in my head if my life depended on it. I had held our child in my hand. Robin and I had made this beautiful little pink person, and it seemed that every second I held her in my hand I loved her more than the second before.
How could that be possible? And yet that's how I felt. I was unashamedly crying. I just didn't care that Marise and the others could see. Mom was so enthralled with her new charge she never noticed as Robin's wings once again expanded and she flew across to me and landed on my shoulder.
"My love I need you to agree. If you say no then nothing more will be said of this conversation. I swore I would hold no secret from you so I come to you now for your blessing or refusal."
Marise was now engaging Mom in tearful conversation and gently guiding her a step or two out of earshot of our conversation. It was obvious to me they had planned this much. Robin took the opportunity and flew off of my shoulder and land on my lap, looking up at me so we could be face to face. Then she asked whatever it was she needed to ask.
"The Healer has offered to sit with our child as has every single fairy on the mountain. This is your birthday and I want this day to be more and more special as the day continues. With your permission I would like to ask your Mom to sit with our child so I can return to you."
So many questions flashed across my mind, and even as I pondered one, another would run it over demanding an answer. So much needed to be discussed between us that even when Robin was with me all the way up until her birth we believed there would be time. I needed answers and soon. Robin's voice interrupted my thoughts, and when I looked at her she smiled, shook her head slightly, and repeated herself.
"I said the birth went well. The great Mother may have made things difficult for me to begin with, but she blessed me with a simple birth. The healer has examined me and all is well. I am undamaged, my love, and I bring to you the gift of this body as my mate has every right to."
Not even realizing I had done it, my hand now rested by her legs. In return, Robin had knelt and placed both of hers on mine. For such a long time I watched Mom with our child. She was talking a hundred words a minute to Marise, and I'm sure Marise just nodded in the appropriate places when she could. A thought struck me, and almost as soon as it grew to fruition I dismissed it, but not before I noticed Marise shift uncomfortably and look toward me.
Looking down at Robin I nodded in agreement, and her smile once again lit up the room. Marise pointed out that time was against us and our daughter's sleep cycle would soon come to an end. Robin once again flew past Marise, who in turn tossed our child's cover into the air; she caught it mid-flight and landed on Mom's hand, wrapping our daughter and holding her close. She waved once more and dashed through the hole before Marise sealed it.
The blue cocoon slowly receded and some very exhausted Bodyguards joined Marise by the porch. One by one, they shimmered away. Soon only two remained, waiting at a discreet distance while Marise asked Mom if she would like to care for the child while Robin came and spent the evening with her mate. The look on Mom's face said so much. Her smile meant everything to me, and I was glad that Marise and Robin had made the suggestion.
Mom turned it into a hug fest before she realized that hugging a Queen, even one with whom you're very friendly is simply not a good idea. Her shock, once she realized, made me stifle a laugh. Mom dropped to her knees in front of Marise who in turn knelt next to her holding out her hands. Mom held her hands and closed her eyes. For a full minute they stayed where they were before both opened there eyes and stood together, Marise letting go as they were standing I noticed the quick look in my direction from Mom, her cheeks flushed, and then I looked back at Marise.
All three then shimmered away. I made us something to eat and brought it out to the porch. Mom was already sitting, watching the sun warm the clearing and nature sing its day. This was my birthday and to be honest it took my own Mother driving onto the mountain yesterday to remind me of that fact. I was given a gift that I wouldn't have believed possible, at least not for another few years yet anyway.
I also see that it took all of the Bodyguards and Marise to bring me even those few minutes with my daughter, and someday I would repay them all for their kindness and thought. Later Robin would be here. That thought made me smile. She had said once she would come back and claim what's hers. I could see this evening being quite interesting indeed. But it still left me with an uneasy feeling about Mom.
"Dad will never know from me, and please remember he has always been the innocent in this. If he ever suspects then you stop. He's the one I don't ever want hurt in this." My heart screamed at me to stop, yet my mouth got the better of me and I added, "You're the one that seems to be going into this with your eyes wide open."
Mom never looked away from the clearing. She just said one single word on the matter. "Yes."
To me the subject was closed, although I suspected there would be a time when someone else would bring it up. I couldn't sit any longer on the porch. Mom was already mentally with my daughter and I desperately didn't want jealousy to creep in between us. I had held my little girl in my hand and for now I had to resign myself to hanging onto those precious few minutes with both hands. Try as I might I simply couldn't sit with her as she fidgeted and looked at the sun, waiting for the evening.
The walk up to the river was a great distraction. This mountain always managed to keep my mind at peace. I could never be angry with anyone for long here. I didn't even remember taking my clothes off and sitting in the river or even how long I'd sat there. My mind replayed the events of this morning and the discovery of something I should never have known.
I heard the hiss just before I sensed it, I had nowhere to run. The hiss was coming from the branch directly above me, and looking up at the snake would have only brought on the inevitable more quickly. It was the faint whistle and thud that took me more by surprise than anything. When I managed to control my breathing and allow my fear to subside a little I looked over to the bank.
She lowered her bow just long enough to place another arrow into it to be ready. It was the scar across her cheek that caught my attention first. Her eyes defiant, she never seemed to blink. Those brown eyes simply picked their spot and zeroed in. I stood and walked to the tree pulling her arrow out of it, the dead snake still stuck to the arrow.
"This is yours since you killed it. Thank you."
Her hand left the bow and I placed the arrow into it and then went back to the middle of the river and sat down. By now she had squatted by the bank and with a few cuts had already placed bits of the snake into her bag.
"You know who I am, Keeper?"
"I don't know who you are, only that you are a Hunter. You took a great risk to show yourself to me."
She shrugged her shoulders before standing. Just before she turned to leave she looked at me once again, a smile on her lips, and I thought in her eyes as well.
"I see now why you are Crystal's mate."
My cheeks flushed yet I held her gaze.
"Is it you I have been sensing these last few weeks?"
Again she shrugged, her shoulders not willing to admit to anything unless I shared more. She was a typical hunter, and although I had never seen one before this one showed herself, Robin had told me of them, or at least as much as she was willing to share. She believed it was their attitude that made them Hunters.
"You were given a name, Hunter, what is it?"
She had now squatted by the edge of the river washing the blood off of her hands. She knew she had time. By fairy law I owed her. She had saved my life, and as the Keeper it would be up to me to honor that debt.
"The great Mother gave me the name of Shunda."
She shook her hands once more before running them along her legs to finish drying them. Then she stood again. Many fairies, when they assume human form, all seem to be skinny. Shunda seemed to contrast that for some reason, her shoulders where broad, and the tops of her arms muscular, and I wondered if other hunters where the same. She seemed to curve in the right places, and I could see Shunda certainly had hips that you could hang onto in the dark and enjoy.
It was strange to see Shunda wearing the same type of animal skin clothes that Jacob used to wear. She looked at me and then at her clothes before saying, "What interests you, Keeper, what I wear or what's inside it? I know you humans look on our form differently than we do."
"Your clothes reminded me of Jacob."
What she said next held my attention.
"That's because he was a hunter. We wear this for comfort when in human form. Jacob was one of us before our Queen asked him to step down as a hunter. He never lost the way."
Shunda shouldered her bow and turned to leave.
"You have a debt to pay, Keeper. We will meet again."
Her parting words, just before she shimmered away, left me wondering what she had in store for me. The sun had started on its downturn when I returned to the cabin. A bodyguard stood waiting by the cabin steps. Mom walked back and forth along the porch until she spotted me. Her step faltered and stopped. She looked long and hard at me and then said, "Are you ok? You look like you've seen a ghost."
I suppose in a sense I had. Hunters were the invisible fairies and, other than the Queen's Bodyguard, there was no higher honor than being a hunter, and those that became hunters died being hunters. I walked towards the Bodyguard and she visibly tensed in anticipation.
"There is a hunter called Shunda. What do you know of her?"
Instantly the Bodyguard took a step back. The look on her face told me more than she would ever tell me.
"I am here to bring the keepers Mother to our nursery that is all, Keeper."
I was impressed how she sidestepped the question, so I let it be. I wasn't dumb. I knew where she would go once her task had been completed. Mom went to say something, paused for a second, and then decided better of it. She was standing alongside the Bodyguard, who then took her hand and shimmered away.
She was here; I could feel her. There seemed no point in looking for her: she was a hunter. I could be standing next to her and I wouldn't realize it unless she let me. Just as quickly I could no longer sense her. Inwardly I smiled and started counting to three. By the time I got to two Robin shimmered into the clearing, her face so angry.
"What have you done?"
"Why do you assume I have done anything?"
"The hunters are left in peace. You know this because I explained it to you. No one interferes with them. How do you know of Shunda?"
It was easy to counter every question with another question. The trouble was that it simply achieved nothing. So I told her everything that happened at the river. By now Robin was sitting next to me as she listened intently to my tale. Her agitation grew when she asked some questions. I'm not sure she was comfortable with the answers. By now I was becoming annoyed with the whole thing.
"Tell me about Shunda. Why is she held in such high regard amongst you?"
Robin frantically shook her head.
"No, it's not our way to talk of the Hunters."
"Tell him, Bodyguard. He is your mate, and in a way he has a right to know."
Robin instantly stood looking out into the clearing as Shunda shimmered into view. The tension between them was obvious to see.
"You have no right to be here Shunda. The laws state you cannot be near the Keeper's cabin."
Shunda was in the middle of placing her bow on the clearing floor when Robin spoke. She paused and a smile passed her lips, yet in contrast her eyes narrowed slightly. Her arrows and her bag were now alongside her bow.
"Just as you had no right to be here the night of the storm, Bodyguard."
These two clearly didn't get on, and I didn't mean on a Bodyguard and Hunter level either. This was personal and, knowing the lifespan of these fairies, it could go back a lot of years. Robin's shoulders slumped. It was clear that Shunda had struck home with her accusation, yet I was still struggling to figure anything out. Someone real soon had better start explaining to me what the heck was going on, both in general and between these two.