Aoife, the Queen MakerbyThe_Technician©
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
The arrow falls; the door opens; the Queen is made.
This story explores the connection between the Orionid meteor shower, the ancient Celtic myths which surround Samhain, and the great warrior Queens of ancient Ireland.
"Aoife, the Queen Maker" is the story the pixies told me when I wanted to write something else. Sometimes I write a story with a theme and plot that I have created; sometimes I just tell a story as it unfolds in my mind. The story I originally intended to create was a scary story with lots of wild, kinky sex, but evidently the spirits of the glen had a different idea, and they spoke a totally different story in my head. It is a sweet, poignant story of true love intertwined with ancient Irish myths that gave birth to the holiday we call Halloween.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
It was dark and cold and rainy and lonely as I drove north on a little used two lane highway that wound its twisted way through the timbered foothills. The reason I was in my car driving 90 miles in the middle of an October night was because a man whom I had never met, Doctor Nathaniel L. Sorensen, had summoned me to his death bed.
That may sound like an odd way of putting it, but it is exactly what his grandson, Earl, told me when he called me just before ten o'clock tonight. "W," he began, "I have a very strange favor to ask of you. My grandfather has asked me to call you. He says to tell you that he is dying tonight and he is summoning you to his death bed because you are the only one who can understand the story he has to tell. Is there any way you can come up here?"
Earl was a rather famous astronomer and professor. Like his grandfather, he spent his nights staring at the heavens - well, actually, in Earl's case, he was usually looking at monitors that gave him a numeric or visual representation of what his giant array of radio telescopes were seeing as they gathered information from the skies. His grandfather, affectionately known by his peers as "Night Sky Nate," had actually spent many, many nights staring through the eyepiece of giant telescopes located on distant mountaintops all over the world.
What the elder Dr. Sorensen had to tell me, and why he thought I was the only one who would understand, was a complete mystery to me. I had never met the man. I had never spoken with him. I had never communicated with him in any way in my entire life. I knew of him only as Earl's grandfather.
Earl and I had become friends when we met on-line in an electronics discussion forum. We were both interested in remote electronic control circuits. He was, of course, interested in better ways to control his telescopes. I was interested in better ways to control... shall we say, more interesting aspects of human behavior. One of my sidelines is various electronic devices that stimulate the body for the purpose of pain, pleasure, or control.
One session, Earl asked me outright what I actually did with some of the control circuits we discussed. I told him, "You would be shocked... pun intended."
He answered, "You would be surprised what it takes to shock me." And then added "... pun understood."
He then asked me to meet him in a private chat room and gave me a link to a room on a different web site - a site that I knew well. The chat room location was on a very private BDSM site that catered to the tastes of those who liked mechanical overtones to their bondage and discipline
In answer to my un-asked question, he typed, "I spend my life looking for patterns in the sky. I recognized the pattern of your posts - what abbreviations you use and don't use, things like that. The same pattern shows up on several sites under several different login names."
I made a mental note to myself to look into ways of masking that weakness in the future, and met him on the new site. It turned out we had more in common that just an interest in control circuits. Earl became one of my very discreet customers. He was also a big fan, and sometimes helpful editor, of many of my stories. Evidently he must have said something about me to his grandfather, because now the dying doctor was summoning me to his death bed to hear, and perhaps write his story.
What a super-intelligent, apparently straight-laced astronomer who spent most of his life staring at the stars might have to say that I hadn't heard many times before was a mystery to me, but deep in my gut I had a feeling that this mystery was well worth exploring.
When I got to the hospice building next to the hospital, Earl met me at the door. He said flatly, "Nate says he is going to die tonight." Then he shrugged and added, as if in explanation, "It's his birthday. The doctors don't think so, but his father predicted his own death, and so he thinks that he knows when he is going to die also. He says tonight is the night."
Since I was entering a hospice area, I was expecting to find a very frail and decrepit old man, but when I stepped into to the room, Dr. Sorensen was sitting up in his bed reading an old field journal. "Come in W," he greeted me. "You are probably wondering why you are here."
"That is more than an understatement," I replied.
He motioned me to a chair that had been placed at his bedside, closed the notebook, and folded his hands over the cover as it lay on his lap. "Let's begin at the beginning, shall we."
He looked and sounded just like a college professor about to start a lecture. I shouldn't have been surprised at that. He had, at one time, been a very prominent professor as well as a renowned astronomer.
"Actually, let's start before the beginning," he corrected himself. "My father was born on April 20, 1909. In case the significance of that date escapes you, that was the day that Haley's Comet passed closest to the earth. He died on February 9, 1986, again as Haley passed closest to the earth. He always said that he was going to follow Mark Twain's example and 'come in with the comet and go out with the comet.' He did."
I must have looked somewhat confused, because he looked up at me and added, "It's all part of the story. Be patient. I'm getting to it... I'm getting to it."
He smiled, took a deep breath, and started anew. "I was born on October 21, 1930. The significance of that date, of which I am sure you are unaware, is that..."
I interrupted him and finished his sentence with "it is the peak of the Orionid meteor showers."
It was his turn to look surprised. "A student of the stars, are we?"
"No," I answered, "but Earl is never available from October 19 through 23 because chucks of old comet are falling out of the sky."
"All comets are old," instructed the good doctor, "they are the left-over debris from creation. And the chucks don't fall out of the sky, the earth merely passes through the comet's trail of debris. The particular comet that causes the Orionids is none other than my father's old friend, Haley, itself." He laughed as he added, "That means that I am a chip off my father's comet."
His laugh soon dissolved into a coughing fit. When it subsided he continued, "I came in with the chips and I am planning to go out with the chips. The cancer doctors say I have another few weeks or even months, but tonight is as good a night to die as any other, and I might as well keep up the family tradition - - - but first I have to tell you my story."
He paused. But this time he didn't laugh..., and he didn't cough. Instead he went very quiet with his eyes taking on a very, very far away look. I had seen that look before - usually in combat veterans. Psychiatrists call it "the thousand mile stare." Whatever memory was flashing through his mind was very powerful and highly traumatic. It was very quite in that room as we all waited for him to break the silence.
After a few moments, he sighed, took a deep breath, and continued, "I need to tell you some things about the arrows from Orion's bow that I have never written down for anyone except myself..." He held up the notebook. "... and I have never shown anyone this field journal - not even Earl. No one would have believed me, and if I had ever published any of this, I would have been laughed out of academia."
"Earl has shown me some of the things that you write." He looked at me over the top of his glasses. His eyes were now a very bright blue. "I think you will understand... and I am sure that you can tell my story to the world. I no longer care what my fellow professors think of me. They can put it down to death-bed lunacy..... but it is the truth..... the absolute, god-awful, source-of-myth-and-mysteries truth."
He paused to open the field journal that was again resting beneath his hands. "W, I want you to have this when we are through here. Everything is written down in it... even the original Gaelic. Maybe you can pass it on to someone who might be around in 2025, or even 2063."
He again looked at me over the top of his glasses and raised his eyebrows as if to ask if I was ready. I nodded and he began, "On my nineteenth birthday, October 21, 1949, I was stationed overseas with the navy as - what else - a weatherman. My interest was astronomy, not meteorology, but the Navy had enough navigators and as the recruiter told me, 'Stars don't affect ships at sea, storms do.' They wanted storm watchers, not star gazers and my enlistment choices boiled down to being a weatherman or a ship's cook."
He gave me a very wry smile. "I have always been a terrible cook, but I can read a thermometer with the best of them. A hitch in the Navy would pay for college, and besides, it was right after the war and the draft was still in place. They hadn't drafted anybody since '47, but I figured it was better to eat Navy chow for a few years than risk being drafted into an infantry squad if things heated up with the Russians or someone else."
"In any case, everything worked out pretty well. I ended up with a cushy post on a hillside in Ireland near Birr Castle. The Earl's great observatory had been dismantled during 'The Great War,' but it was still a place rich in history for someone like me who was interested in the stars."
He looked down a bit sheepishly. "I've never told Earl where his name came from. I wanted him to be named after the man who designed and built the great Birr Castle telescope and first saw proof of spiral galaxies. But I couldn't remember the proper name of the third Earl of Rosse. So, when my daughter was considering what to name her first son, I suggested 'Earl.'"
He looked up at the ceiling as though he was watching the distant galaxies in his mind. Then he shook his head as if to clear his thoughts and bring himself back to the present. "Anyway, there I was smack dab in the middle of the Emerald Isle with not a whole lot to do except take temperature and barometric readings a couple of times a day - and there were four of us stationed there to do that. I made a lot of short day trips around Demesne to kill time and learn more about the Celts."
"In a little, local museum in a nearby town, I came upon some Gaelic manuscripts that the proprietor said talked about the Orionid meteor showers, or as the Celts called them, 'The Arrows of Orion.' I took it into my head to translate those documents and spent most of a month's pay to buy high quality copies of the originals."
"Gaelic is a god-awful language with too many letters and not enough words to really make sense in English, but I did my best with a lot of help from a couple of local Irish scholars. What intrigued me most was a warning I found buried in the text that said not to go walking on the fen during the meteor shower because 'when an arrow from Orion's bow falls to the ground at mid-darkness on 'Dark Night' the doorway of the King Makers will open.'"
"At least, that's what I thought it said. A local scholar, who had been teaching me Gaelic, told me that 'King Makers' should be 'Queen Makers' because the Celts didn't have Kings. They had Queens - Queens known for their beauty and their daring and their physical ability. Brave generals who had won great battles would be rewarded with a night or two in bed with the Queen. That not only served to provide incentive to the generals, it also provided brave breeding stock for future Queens to rule over the Celtic tribes."
"This same scholar assured me that 'Dark Night' was a reference to Shavnah. If you transliterate the word from Gaelic into English letters, you end up with Samhain, but he was adamant it was pronounced, 'Shavnah.' He was especially adamant that Gerald Gardiner had gotten it wrong when he pronounced it 'Soween.'"
"Shavnah is the original basis for what eventually became Halloween. It is the night of the first dark of the moon following the Autumnal Equinox. My tutor noted that the Romans took the holiday back with them after they ALMOST conquered Ireland around 45 CE. They moved it to November 1, and the night before became known as 'All Hallows Eve,' or 'Halloween.' In today's calendar, Shavnah is somewhere in the first 21 days of October, not on October 31."
Dr. Sorensen paused to let all that information sink into my very confused skull. "In 1949, my birthday..., and the peak of the Orionid meteor showers, fell on Shavnah, as it did in 1968 and 1979, and will again in 2025 and 2063." He gave me a very mysterious smile and went on, "I was back on those hillsides in '68 and '79, but I will have to miss 2025."
Another shake of the head brought him back to his story. "In '49 it was a very clear, very dark night, and the meteor display was phenomenal. Looking up at stars that you would never see in the light pollution that exists today, I could clearly see the full outline of the mighty hunter and watch as arrow after arrow seemed to leave his bow and flash across the night sky. Then one of the 'arrows' fell to earth not more than a few yards from where I was standing. I'm sure that it was nothing more than a speck of dust or a very small pebble by the time it hit the ground, but that close, the flash was nearly blinding."
"As my eyes began to readjust to the darkness, I thought at first that the flash had damaged my retinas. I was sure that something was wrong with my vision because I could not believe what my eyes showed me. Standing there before me was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was tall, with a body any Olympic athlete would die for. Her deep-copper-colored hair wound around her body nearly to her feet. Her nipples were bright pink, and stood stiff and erect in the cold, night air. The hair between her legs was a brighter shade of copper-orange and curled tightly against her cleft."
"I shook my head as if to clear an odd hallucination, but the nude woman remained standing before me and began to approach me. As she walked slowly toward me, she said softy, 'There is not much time. The door remains open only for a short while. We must make a Queen before the energy dissipates.' At least, that's what I think she said. She was speaking a very strange form of Gaelic, and I had enough trouble trying to understand the local version."
"She pulled me into her arms and began tugging at my clothing. Soon we were both lying naked on the spongy soil of the Irish fen. Our love making was frantic, she, from a need only she could understand, and I from my lust for her nearly perfect body. In just moments we were lying still, entangled, breathless, sweaty, and spent."
"'We have made a Queen,' she said to me. 'Now we can take our time and truly enjoy each other. You may call me Eve.' I didn't learn until later that Eve was spelled A-o-i-f-e"
"We made love all night. I was 19, and that was possible for me then. In the morning, we returned to my apartment together. I was shirtless, she was wearing nothing but my shirt and coat. It was scandalously short for that day, but would not even be noticed today. I wasn't sure how I was going to explain her to my roommates, let alone to Mrs. O'Malley."
"Mrs. O'Malley, our landlord, was an extremely fastidious, little old Irish lady who 'didn't put up with any shenanigans in her place.' She was sitting on the front porch as we came walking up the path."
"I was still trying to figure out what to say when Eve spoke to her in Gaelic. Mrs. O'Malley's eyes went wide and she crossed herself rapidly several times. 'Of course, dearie,' she answered. 'I will put you up in the spare room until we can make the arrangements for the wedding.'"
"As Eve walked up the steps and went into the house, Mrs. O'Malley pulled me aside and said to me in her heavily lilted English, 'So, Nate, me boy, you just had to go wandering on the fen on Dark Night when the arrows were shooting, did ye? Well, the door opened for ye, and you were chosen. Now you've gotten yourself a Queen Maker for a wife. Aoife tells me that the Queen has been made, but understand this: You be good to her, and the leprechauns will envy your luck. You treat her wrong, and you will envy those in the deepest pit of hell.'"
"I was deeply in lust, if not love for Eve. Mrs. O'Malley's words overcame any hesitancy on my part, and I answered her, 'I love Eve. Of course I will marry her, and I would never treat her wrong.'"
"Mrs. O'Malley answered, 'Aye, you will marry Eve. She will wait for you and you will wait for her. That is foretold in the stars and written in the stones. But I was speaking about the Queen. You love her and raise her right or my spirit will track you down when I've gone beneath the sod..., and you will see a side of me that no one above the green has ever seen.'"
"I married Eve about six weeks later. A very aged priest conducted the ceremony far out in the countryside in a very old church that seemed to be almost in ruins. I expected something close to the church's standard wedding ceremony, but instead of the regular book, he used a very, very old leather bound volume that appeared to be written totally in ancient Gaelic with elaborate calligraphy on every page. He spoke most of the service in that same, strange form of Gaelic that Eve had spoken and I had trouble following a lot of it. When we got to the vows, he repeated each statement in English for my benefit."
"'Eve,' he said, 'you have come through the door and chosen this mortal man. Will you love him in the time you have together and wait for him until the arrows call him home?'"
"She answered, 'Aye.'"
"'Nathaniel,' he said to me, 'you have been chosen. Do you accept your chosenness? Do you promise to carry the Queen to her throne and love and protect her for as long as you live? And do you promise to wait for Eve until the night on which the arrows call you back so that you may be together forever?'"
"I answered, 'Yes, I do,' but I really had no idea what in the hell he was talking about. None of it made sense. I just assumed that they used some strange, ancient marriage ritual in that area."
"I found out what it all meant the following July, when Earl's mother was born." Dr. Sorensen's eyes clouded as he continued. "Roisin was to be our only child. Eve died in childbirth. Or at least that's what the doctors said. Eve had told me a few days before, with tears in her eyes, that after the child was born, she would have to be going home, but she would wait for me there as she had promised. Her grave is on that hillside where I first met her. By her request, it is marked only by the shamrocks and wild flowers of the heath."
His voice was thick as he continued, "I raised Rose on my own - not easy for a man going through eight or so years of college to get a doctorate. She had a fiery spirit that matched the color of her hair, and in another age, in another place, could very well have become a true Queen."
"Instead, I made sure that she was properly educated at the best colleges and universities in the world. She lives out east and is now the head of one of the top Fortune 500 companies. The chair in her office is a design based on the throne of the Celtic Queen, Medb, a mythical warrior Queen of ancient Ireland. A portrait of Medb in full battle armor hangs behind her desk. I don't know where she got that painting, but the artist painted Medb to look very much like Eve."