That’s when I met my first werewolf. Yeah, that’s right, first, as in there are more of them out there. He was too late to do anything about the battle itself, but he claimed he had a way to heal me. All we had to do was follow him into the third stall of the Men’s bathroom, right there at the Black Rock Jetty parking lot of Salisbury Beach. Now, at the time, neither Kenny or myself knew that Yoseph was a werewolf. Heck, I was still waiting for Kenny to get around to telling me about werewolves in general. I’d only been a changeling for 3 days now, myself. Most of the other supernaturals that share this Earth were still a mystery to me.
And, yes, children, there are more than just changelings and werewolves out there. But all this is beside the point, which at this moment is waiting for me in stall three.
Kenny had to actually support me under my good arm and lift me partway up. I’m weak as a kitten by this point and even just shuffling my feet through the sand is a major project in and of itself. Only an insanely well developed force of will and my determination to live, to stay with Kenny, kept me going.
That and the fact that I don’t like to lose. Someone was trying to take my life, and right now I was playing everything very close to the chest, taking nothing for granted. Well, actually, at that point in time, I was barely conscious. Kenny kept me at it though, swearing at me, trying to get me to laugh, generally pushing me on. I would never have made it without Kenny there. They say that the first time you feel Iron’s black kiss is the worst. That your body just isn’t ready for that kind of shock and you are more likely to die from a casual brushing than a full piercing.
Fuck, but it sure felt like it!
We managed to get to the third stall and Kenny hauled me inside, panting heavily. He was more the trained athlete than I was, but having to lug about a mass that is roughly equal to your own weight at our age is a major expenditure. And anyone who’s had to carry stuff in sand knows what a pain in the ass that can be. The fact that the summer sun was beating up and down, reflected off the sand, and we had just been fighting for our lives didn’t help any.
Stall three was empty. Kenny leaned me back against the toilet, catching his breath. I looked up and was able to see fierce tears running down his face. He was very worried. Got to admit, I wasn’t all blasé about it all myself.
That’s when a hand reached out through the mirror itself, grabbed both Kenny and myself by the shirt, in turn, and hauled us through the mirror’s limpid surface. That’s when we got to experience the Umbra.
Picture if you will everything that exists around you. Now only picture the things that are more constant, the things that have been in exactly the same place for decades. Buildings, trees, geological features, that sort of thing. Now cast it all in a continuous gleam of moonlight. Anything natural is there as its ultimate, purest form. Anything man made, has all these cobwebs all over it. Not sure what that means, but the building we found ourselves in from stall three was more like an old Victorian manor house. We had just been pulled through into what would likely be called the parlor room.
Yoseph was there, smiling. “Glad you could make it. Let’s take him into the dining room so we can perform the ceremony.”
“Ceremony?” Kenny asked, helping me. Yoseph reached under my other arm and lifted me out of Kenny’s arms, his body shifting under me. He seemed to be a cave man now, well, at least that’s the way he looked. My recollection of those few minutes is not exactly lucid.
Now, what I do remember is that there was an elaborately performed ritual, that at various parts of the ritual, Kenny was instructed to hold me still while a glowing hot ember was pressed into the wound and into the soles of my feet, the palms of my hands and the center of my forehead (always things are going between my horns, I wonder if there’s some kind of target painted there?). Then Yoseph spread a fine powder of some sort into the air over me and…
And almost instantly, the pain left me. It was so sudden that I nearly passed out from the lack of pain. Glamour flooded into me and I instantly recharged up to about half of what I had been before the attack. That’s when Kenny called out to me, using my own new pet name for him. I let the light flood back into my eyes and stared up at him. I felt groggy, like too much Satyr wine had passed my lips again.
“He will be weak for a few moments more. Let him have some water.” The voice was deep, booming and sounded slightly edgy, but it was saying things I wanted to hear. Kenny pressed a bowl to my lips and I took a few cautious sips. Not cautious because I doubted what was in the bowl, but because I doubted whether or not I could handle drinking while leaning back against Kenny. He was under me again, his knees forming an incline for my shoulders and head, the crown of my hair rubbing against his tight navel.
I got the impression that we weren’t alone. Glancing around I saw many things that are rather difficult to explain. First of all, everything looked simultaneously glorious and dark. Like the world at night under a cloudless sky and a full moon raining down silvery light on everything. It was warm as daylight, but had a cool aspect as well, like bathwater, or summer air blown through a fan. There were faces that seemed to be composed of transparent silk all around, floating, trailing hair and tendrils of mildly glowing energy. Some of the faces were human, many were animal. Only one of them seemed to be fully integrated with a body, that being a large bird that would have done the cover of a Harry Potter book justice (sue me, I like Harry Potter). The faces floated about, glancing at me and Kenny, watching us, talking to each other, although I heard no words. Like with me and Kenny at times, communication isn’t always heard, just felt.
Yoseph came back into my view, gently brushing the spirits aside. How I suddenly knew they were spirits I couldn’t say, but the description fits perfectly. He leaned over my shoulder, peering with deeply intense green eyes. His fur was thoroughly black, and sleek, and although he was still about a meter taller than me, he seemed a little short for the werewolf title. I can’t help it if when I think werewolf I picture something from a movie or a Scooby-Doo cartoon. Yoseph’s werewolf form seemed more like an Egyptian jackal than a wolf to me, but I wasn’t going to argue the point. He didn’t have to help us, but he did.
“Seems to be healing nicely,” Yoseph said, and this time I was certain that the raspy, deep booming voice was his. He looked down into my eyes and I swear to god, he shifted from furry-faced wolfman to human in the space of a heartbeat. He smiled at me and nodded. “Strange, no?”
“Strange, yes!” I replied, barely hearing my own voice. “Thank you.”
“You are quite welcome, Lord Robyn the Blue.”
“You know me?”
“I know of you. You might say a little bird told me you were coming,” he said, gesturing to the large bird spirit behind himself. “When the spirits deign to let you in on the future, you take it seriously. When Phoenix said that one of his children needed my help, I at first assumed that he meant one of my kind. Now I see that he has children in other ways as well.”
The bird hopped over to the bed, looked down on me and then uttered a single trilling note. The phoenix turned and flew off, trailing silvery fire in its wake. I stared in open mouthed wonder. Kay, behind me, gasped and muttered something in Arabic. Well, at least it sounded like Arabic. I’m not a scholar of languages, you know.
“Yes, he is a most impressive spirit. And he rarely takes matters into his own claws. You two should rest here for a moment and then return to the physical world.”
“Um, how?” Kenny asked, voicing my question. My eyes were still locked onto the retreating figure of the Phoenix. It was nearly enough to stimulate a Glamour surge through me. But weak as I was, it wasn’t going to happen. You might say that I couldn’t get it up, the Glamour that is.
“The passage back to your world will remain open to you. The same mirror will allow you two through anytime.”
“Forgive me for being so… so curious, Yoseph, but why are you helping us. Like you say, we aren’t werewolves.”
“You may not be Garou, little changeling lord,” he said, turning to me with a smile and infinite patience, “but we both strive for the same end. You wish to return to your home and make this temporary home of yours worth living in. My goals are the same. Besides, it has been a long time since I had any children to teach. Those of my kind are far too often lost in the battles against the dark to take time to learn.”
“Kenny, help me stand.”
“You aren’t ready yet. Let the healing work more.”
“I’ll be fine,” I reassured him, gripping his shoulder with my right hand to show I still had strength in me.
“He will be alright, little Eshu. His strength returns. Phoenix was right about him.”
Kenny reluctantly helped me to my feet, keeping an arm under my right shoulder to support me. I didn’t shrug him off, either. He felt too good next to me, and to be honest, I wasn’t entirely too steady on my hooves.
“Are you accepting us as students, then?”
“If that is what you wish, little lordling.” He stood and opened the door, letting himself out onto the old Victorian front porch that faced the ocean. Kay and I followed, at a limping pace. The ocean was rife with spirits and gathering storms, and sea birds whirled in the wispy streamers of ethereal fog that seemed almost as much a part of the place as the sand and the sky.
“This is a Garou caern. One that is defended only by spirits and myself. But because it has so little attention directed at it, Black Rock caern has not attracted enemies yet. If you wish to make this a place of learning, so that you can deal with your enemies properly, then I will allow you to stay, to help me guard it.”
“I can have help for you in that regard,” I said. “There’s Satyr’s everywhere around here. They would gladly help defend your caern, should I ask them to.” Kenny/Kay squeezed my side as I said this, reassuring me. This was a good play, he thought. I picked up his intention loud and clear.
“I would enjoy that, I think. Our kind and yours have often been allies. And with the dark times approaching, we all could use allies.”
“I will talk with them, then Yoseph. They will appreciate the efforts you take on my behalf.”
“And I for yours on mine, Phoenix childe.”
“We should be getting back, Robyn. Your mortal parents will be wondering where we are.”
“Yes. Thank you again, Yoseph. Will you be here later tonight?”
“I can always be found here.”
“We may come visit you tonight then.”
“May Gaia protect you,” he said, staring out over the ocean. He suddenly transformed into full wolf shape, just shifting right in front of me, and he bolted down the porch steps, playing with a seagull, chasing each other. I was fully weirded out, but I have to admit, I kinda liked the guy. He was not all too well packed, if you know what I mean, but he was cool in a way. I’m reminded of an old saying that most people only know the first part of. Genius is closer to madness than to conventional wisdom. Yoseph apparently filled that out, wicked.
Kenny and I jumped back through the mirror into the bathroom stall, first sticking our heads out to make sure that no one was having a personal moment there. I still felt like a puppy on the wrong end of a tug of war, but Kenny helped steady me. We left the stall one at a time, so that no one would think we were just where we were, together. See, secrets must still be kept.
Now all of this took a bit more than two hours, and Mom and Dad were rippin’ mad when they came upon us at the beach. They had found the broken double saber and assumed the worst. Then someone mentioned that we had been in a fight and that the boys we had fought against all climbed into a black mini van and drove off an hour ago, all with minor hurts. They feared the worst. Parents are like that sometimes.
Fortunately, a little known aspect of changeling powers is something called the Mists, and that covered the more magical things Kenny and I had done in that fight, and the fact that I had been smoking from that shoulder hit. I still had the shirt with the massive burn hole over the left shoulder, but I wasn’t about to put that thing on again, ever.
Mom and Dad were mad, yeah, but they were also glad we were okay. They’d been searching up and down the beach for the better part of an hour and were more worried than pissed. We explained that we had been banged up a little in the fight and hid out in the bathroom while we recovered. And you know what… they bought it! I mean, clearly Dad had searched the bathroom for us, probably shouting our names at the top of his lungs. But they still thought we had been frightened enough to hide out.
“We didn’t want to get jumped again,” Kenny said. “Robby already broke one blade against those jokers. They were tough!”
“And they had metal sticks,” I put in. Well, it was true, one of them was carrying metal. A very special metal, but still. It was the truth.
“I’m just glad you boys are safe,” Mom said, bringing us both against her in a hug. Kenny and I kind of took that opportunity to hug each other as well as Mom. See, we take what we can get, even in normal situations.
“Perhaps we should head back home. Seems this is a violent enough place.”
“No!” Kenny and I shouted as one. “Uh, I mean, those guys are probably long gone by now. We shouldn’t cut the trip short because of five assholes.”
“Besides, we beat them fairly soundly. I doubt they’ll be back,” Kenny chimed in.
“I dunno,” Mom said, her voice raising in that mother thing they do when contemplating something that’s on the cusp of better judgment and folly.
“We’re tough, Mom,” I said, suddenly sounding like I might actually be. Who’da thunk it?
“Okay, but you two are on probation. And keep those sabers close at hand. Apparently no one in their right minds will attack you while the both of you have those.”
Dad held the broken blade in his hand, casually waving it back and forth in slow, long sweeps from fore to back. He looked at me while holding it and I could almost feel his eyes piercing into my soul. Whatever he was doing, I could sorta feel it, and it worried me. His eyes were suddenly very cold as he stared at me. The kind of cold that one associates with snipers in war movies, or the guy that gets to throw the switch on the electric chair in prison dramas.
“Let’s get back to camp, boys,” Mom said, getting anxious herself. We gathered up our gear and headed for the campground trail around the parking lot of the beach area. Something was up, and apparently Mom and Dad had reached a decision. My time was getting tighter, I knew. Something had to give, and soon. I just wasn’t sure which way to turn.
Kenny and I dumped the sabers and grabbed some fresh clothes. We picked up our bikes and sped down to the camp bathroom, showers on our minds. The sun had kissed us a bit, and I was hoping that I didn’t turn into a lobster-back. Plus, Kenny and I needed to talk alone, and sharing a shower stall seemed a good place as any to do that.
You know, it’s funny, showers seem to be a place where the deepest thinking goes on, at least for us. Maybe it’s something to do with the water washing the bad thoughts away and leaving things with a clean perspective. Then again, it could just be that water running through my hair stimulates thinking, gets my senses alive and dulled down at the same time.
Or maybe it’s just that seeing Kenny naked gets both of my heads thinking. Whatever. I had just switched places with him, letting the shampoo sit in my hair for at least a few minutes. Hey, I like my hair done right, okay? Geeze, get a grip! He was getting fully wet under the shower head while I sat on the small bench in the changing part of the shower stall.
“Kay, I got some news. Something I should have told you yesterday but we didn’t have the chance. Well, that’s not true either, we just didn’t have any time with what all else we were doing.”
“Is this the part where you tell me your parents are mages?”
Okay, now I was stunned into silence. “How did you know… no wait, that’s not the question I should be asking. How long have you known?”
“Since the first day I met you. Your Mom’s aura is a dead knock over giveaway. Your Dad’s too. Caspian told me about it. He can see it, but I can’t, not yet.”
“Oh,” I said, realizing that Caspian would probably know more about all this than me anyways. He hadn’t said anything to me about it yet because he didn’t think there was any danger. That was at least reassuring.
“Is there a problem with them being mages?”
“Uh, well, I kinda overheard them talking about me before you and Mitch came back, before we left. They’re all worried about something in their world. They know I’m magical now, they just don’t understand how, or in what way.”
“They think you’re an awakened mage.”
“Yeah, partially, at least.”
“You gonna tell them?”
“What, that I’m a reborn supernatural creature, ageless and timeless, trying to reclaim an ancient heritage along with my betrothed lover from across time, who just happens to be my best friend and sparring partner in this lifetime. Oh sure, that’ll go over well. It’ll be enough of a blow to them that I’m a changeling. Throw in that I’m gay too and they’ll really be in a spin, wicked.”
“That’s not entirely what I meant,” Kenny said, stepping out of the shower stall end lathering up his hair as well. “But I see your point. We have to handle this delicately.”
“Yeah,” I said, sounding and feeling utterly at a loss. I still wasn’t a hundred percent since the close call at water’s edge. I guess it was all wearing on me. And to top it all off, we still had to deal with Court in two nights and saving Croaker.
“Well, let’s look at what we are facing,” Kenny said, his hands folding across his chest. He leaned back against the tiled wall and let out a long, protracted, smiling sigh. “Fencing tournaments in two weeks, the group battle in one week, assassins with Cold Iron, saving Croaker, nabbing Korbesh in the act of sedition and telling your parents that we are both supernatural and lovers. I leave anything out?”
“Only the Olympic trials, and going back to school in August.”
“Oh, those are secondary.”
“Well what about Donna Trag? She’s not likely to look kindly on things if she finds out I’m making alliances with werewolves and that my parents are mages.”
“True. Beloved, I know you don’t always do things the easy way, but did you have to bite off so much at once?”
“Let’s not have that discussion,” I said, standing and walking under the shower stream. The water flowed through my hair and I had to close my eyes and breathe through my mouth as the shampoo rinsed down my body. It felt kinda tender over my shoulder.
Suddenly, Kenny was there, up against me, our breath mixing against each others faces. He was holding me lightly, his hands just brushing over the crests of my hips, brushing, holding. I looked into his awesome eyes and was just plain swept away. The gray depths swallowed me, and I plummeted into them as readily as a sky diver leapt from the back of a plane, as a lemming charging over a cliff into the sea.
His lips brushed against my neck and I lifted my arms up over my head, grabbing on to the wall behind us for support as he pushed into me. The stream splashed against his head, breaking into splatters of droplets, rinsing the shampoo from his hair as well, filling the air with a sent of strawberries and kiwi. I pushed back into him, feeling myself going over a fall of a different kind. We were both hard and slick against each other now, panting as we held on, lips meeting for fleeting seconds, skin smooth and smothering against skin.
“I want you, Robyn, now!” Kenny/Kay said, his hands reaching and gasping and holding. “I need to feel that you’re still alive. That you still care.”
“As you command, milord,” I said playfully as he nibbled at my throat. My hands slid up his back, massaging deeply under his shoulder blades, feeling the small muscles there bunch and relax as I touched him. His firm, tight shoulders and back were alive with rippling muscles, small movements that seemed to react to my hands like the strings of a harp, quivering from the slightest brush of my finger tips. He sighed loudly against my ear as he kneaded my sack, sliding my balls around with his strong, supple hands. I brought my hand down to his waiting cock and ran a finger along the soft run of flesh that rode the underside, from his testicles to his tippy. He groaned against my cheek and I managed to capture his mouth for a deep probing kiss.
It wasn’t long before we were ready. I don’t know how other couples do it, but when we are both in the mood, it doesn’t take us long. This time I happened to be the one doing the back door diving, but it could just as easily have been the other way around. Kenny and I don’t spread the wealth with other people, but we don’t mind taking turns with each other either.
I pushed him against a wall as I entered him, slowly at first, but we both knew what we were doing. It didn’t take long for him to be ready. Me either, for that matter. In a few moments he was leaning back against me, directing the water stream from the shower onto us and arching his neck back so that we could kiss as I rammed into him. One hand was on his belly, holding him tight against me, the other was giving his sword a good polish, keeping strokes with my own timing.
He needed this far more than I did. Apparently he feared the worst from the fight at the beach. In my Kenny’s eyes, I had nearly been lost to him again. That gave my lovemaking an added urgency as well. We might have nothing but time, but every moment suddenly became utterly precious to me. Every touch, every glance, every exquisite pleasure we shared might very well be the last.
Danger and sex make for some pretty intense orgasms, and I have the feeling that Kenny got the better end of that deal than I did. I know he came at least three times while we were at it. I only got one, but I felt myself get so close, so many times and then stopped myself, wanting it to last. Wanting just being with him like that to last. Wanting just us.
When I finally did let it go, I erupted inside him hard enough that I thought I was going to shoot him across the whole of the campgrounds, out over the Merrimack and into down town Newburyport. But my body wasn’t ready for it. I felt so weak that I nearly collapsed and fell out of him. Instead he shoved me back, hard, and pushed me against the other wall of the shower stall. He kept the pressure on me as I finished, using muscles I never figured could be used like that to stretch my orgasm for endless seconds. Even as I was shrinking and softening inside him, he kept on me, kept using those sweet muscles to milk pleasure into me, keeping my overly sensitive prick squarely on the point of pleasure and pain, and tickling me to the pleasure side.
He turned as I slid out of him and held me against the wall, capturing my face with his own and supporting my weight, his hands on either side of my chest, pressing against the wall from under my arm pits. I felt totally exhausted, but in a good way. And he sensed that weakness. Truth be told, I needed that rush of sex as much as he had. It was probably the hardest, most animal fuck we’d had, and I still felt the passion of it in Kenny’s kiss. I just didn’t have any energy after cumming so hard.
“Thank you,” I said to him, between kisses. He looked back at me and smiled, and I had to smile back, just captivated by his grin.
“That wasn’t just for you that time,” he said, blushing slightly.
“I know. Just don’t forget that you need to be rough like that too, you know. Neither of us is gonna break. I like it slow and hot most times, but I like it when we just get all sweaty and grunty and rough, too.”
“Next time, let’s make sure we’ve eaten first. I’m so hungry I could eat sand.”
“Let’s finish showering and go grab some chow then,” he said, taking a wash cloth and, with the gentleness of a mother with her child, he bathed me. Holding my up against the wall, he bathed me. I know that I had no energy to go into another round of serious sex just yet, but he was stimulating me something fierce.
“Tease!” I said as he finished cleaning my chest, paying particular attention to the slick muscles on the side of my hips, under my ribs. I looked down to notice that a slight ripping was developing there. I was developing a six pack!
“Your turn,” he said, offering me the cloth. I lathered it up and pushed him up against the other wall, again, this time facing me, and began to slowly wash his body, making sure I got the parts that he oohed over the most several times. He has really sensitive skin around his collarbones and in that middle line from his waist north to his navel. He also likes the long, strong muscles behind his knees and the supple ripples of sinew across his back. This was exploratory fun as well, and we both enjoyed getting to know each other better.
And somewhere in between all of that, we got clean as well.
We got dried, dressed and went back outside. Strangely, no one had come into the bathroom while Kenny and I had been so, shall we say, engaged. Not that I’d have cared at that point, so long as it wasn’t my father. I was beginning to come to the conclusion that we’d only ever know peace in this lifetime if we were honest about our relationship, at least with the other people in our life (well this time around, anyways). I just worried about whether or not my folks could take it.
And I started thinking about the future. Not just the Kenny and Robby future, but the Kay Neth and Robyn future. What happens if we do get back to Arcadia, and reclaim my father’s throne in Cerulean? What then? Does the immortality of the changeling way end once we get home? Will we age rapidly amidst the crush of centuries and just crumble into dust like in some Indiana Jones movie?
What about children? As things stood, it was biologically impossible for Kenny and I to have a child. Back in Arcadia, would Kay Neth be a girl again? If so, would I love her the same way I love Kenny?
My mind was a whirl of questions, and none of them had answers that could be glimpsed easily. Some of them had answers that I knew I didn’t want to know, despite my curiosity and my growing fear. Sometimes you just don’t ask what’s beyond the next horizon. You just settle with the slice of paradise you’re stuck with.
We rode back to the RV, cautiously. Neither of us wanted to get into a fight right now, not as drained and wasted as we both were. Sex takes a lot of energy, especially if done right. My stomach growled as we got within spitting distance of the camp, and we both hopped into the RV’s open door, nearly giggling. And you know, I can’t even say why we were giggling. I mean, we hadn’t said anything funny, nor seen anything remotely humorous on the way over. I guess we were just so happy to be together, to be alive and in love that we needed to giggle.
Inside the RV was a different situation, however. Mom and Dad and Mitch were there. I hadn’t seen Mitch’s SUV anywhere when we drove up, but seeing him in the RV made me suddenly stop being giddy. Something was up. All of the adult’s expressions said so. Kenny sensed it at once as well. He moved past me and put his arms around his father’s waist. Mitch patted Kenny’s shoulders reassuringly.
“You aren’t hurt?”
“No, Poppa,” Kenny said, seeming suddenly to be very young indeed. I wondered what was going on.
“I was worried, little one. When Ann and Dennis called to tell me that both of you had been in a fight, and that you were missing, I came here straight from work.”
“I’m sorry we scared you, Poppa,” Kenny said. “We were hiding. Robby was sure we were in trouble and we hid. He got hurt in that fight, too.”
“You did?” my father said, standing and coming over to examine me. He put his hands to my shoulders and kneelt down to look me over. I couldn’t help it. As gentle and concerned as his hands were, he had one of them right over the place where the Iron had wounded me. I winced in pain, hissing a breath inwards. I’ve never seen my father move his hands so fast in all my life, as he took his hands from my shoulders. I automatically let my hand stray up to the hurt deltoid muscle and turned slightly from him. The look in his eyes was pure hurt. I let go of my shoulder and did something I haven’t done in a long time. I embraced Dad. Just held around his head while he was kneeling down next to me. He wrapped his arms around my back and held on, and I let my head flop down against his.
“I’m sorry, Robby,” he whispered. What can I say, he loves me. He had no idea. And perhaps that was something that was the root cause of so many problems. And time to set them to rights.
“Mom, Dad, Mitch, we have some things to talk about. But can we do it after we eat something? I’m so hungry, suddenly.”
“Why don’t we go into Newburyport and have lunch?” Mitch said, both of his hands on Kenny’s shoulders. “My treat.”
“That would be lovely, Mitch,” Mom said, placing her hand on my head, and brushing my bangs back. Right over my horns! If she was a sensitive mage of some kind, she should have been able to feel them, or at least their ghost. I was half afraid she would and half afraid she wouldn’t.
“We’ll take my truck. It’s got enough seating space. We’ll wait outside while you get ready,” Mitch said, taking Kenny out. My eyes followed him and he smiled back at me. But this wasn’t the infectious smile. This was the brave, “I trust you,” smile. I was making decisions for both of us, but he stood with me. He was ready to back me all the way. We weren’t two people anymore, not in the sense that two changelings in love, who have fought time itself to be together are two people. Kenny and me had become an Us, a We.
We were each other as much as we were ourselves, and in that, we had found our greatest strength. Now that strength was about to be tested by the only force that might be able to separate us. Our mortal families, and their immortal secrets.
Scared? Do I look stupid? Of course I was scared. But when you are fighting for love, for life itself and the acceptance of everything that you hold dear, well, you have to be bold some times. Just not stupid bold. Kenny and I were about to take a chance, but it was one we were both prepared to fight for. One we were prepared to do terrible things in order to win. See, hate may be powerful and dangerous and can cause all kinds of evil, but what is more terrible is the power of love denied, turned in on itself, forced away from love’s own gentle path. The Trojan War was fought over love and its lack. If you want to analyze it down to what it really was, Hitler’s war was motivated by a lack of love as well, and look how many people suffered for his own problems with his Jewish father.
As Kenny and Mitch left, Mom sat down and motioned for me, calling my name. Dad seemed to understand and released me. She removed my shirt and looked at my shoulder. The pink scar was slowly turning back into my normal skin color, but it was apparent that something had happened there. She gasped, and I guess I would have too, had I seen the size of the wound. Good thing I had covered it at the beach when the folks found us.
I could look at it now, over Mom’s shoulder. There was a large mirror mounted on that wall of the RV and it was just in the right position. Looking at it partially healed, I could only imagine what Kenny had seen. And unfortunately, I have a very vivid imagination.
I’m a shrimpy kid. Scrawny. And while I was getting to be toned and tight like Kenny, I was still thin as a rail. The wound on my shoulder was easily as big as my hand, no, as big as my father’s hand, narrow, yes, but long. It wrapped around the top of my shoulder from my collarbone and ended just at the top of my scapular crest. The outer edges of the scar had the bubbly look that some burn wounds get, and the flaky aspect of peeling skin. It wasn’t leaking any fluid, but it still looked angry and puckery at the edges.
“Robby?” she asked, gasping. “What did this?”
“Mom, I’ll explain everything, I swear. Even the bits I don’t want you to know about yet. But let’s get some food before I pass out. Mitch needs to hear everything I have to say as well.” Somewhere deep in the distance, a long peel of thunder rolled off and I knew that I had just inadvertently made another oath, and one that the Dreaming reacted to almost instantly. Oh well, I thought. Better to get it over with soonest.
She helped me back into my shirt and then brought me against her chest, tightly. I felt so loved just then. My Kenny loved me, my father loved me and my mother adored me. With that kind of love, I felt that I could conquer the world. Worlds, actually, since I was beginning to understand there was more than one at work here. Just where it all was leading, well, I’d have to trust my intuition and Kenny’s for that. We were in this together now. More so than before.
We all clambered into the SUV. Kenny sat up front with his father and Mom, Dad and me sat in the back seat. We took off, out of the Res and headed back towards Salisbury, away from Salisbury Beach Center. The trip didn’t take all that long and we quickly picked up Route 1 and headed south. The bridge across the Merrimack wasn’t far and we’d soon be in the heart of Newburyport’s downtown shopping district. Seems we all knew the restaurant we were headed to. One of my all time favorites, this little Italian and seafood place called the Firehouse. If ever in Newburyport, do stop in for something, the place has awesome food.
Speaking of which, we got down to brass tacks, ordering huge amounts of food, especially Kenny and me. We waited for the salads to be brought over, but Kenny and I couldn’t take the uncomfortable silence that existed at the table. We both kicked out and went over to the juke box in the back corner of the restaurant, looking for something to listen too while we contemplated the fate of the universe we had come to know.
“What about this one?” I said, pointing to a song by Cheap Trick, The Flame. Kenny quickly keyed that one up, and moved to the one that he had spotted. Broken Wings, by Mister Mister. Both songs were keyed up, but the first one that Kenny had found began clearing the speakers almost at once, a really old Elton John song, Tiny Dancer. Kenny nodded and but kept his back turned on the parents, halfway across the dining room from us.
“What are we gonna tell them?”
“The truth, I hope. Kenny, we don’t have time to be trying to fight them and then our own battles as well. Don’t worry, I’ll only tell them what they need to know for now. You and me, well, that’s a sacred cow for another time, unless we feel the time is right. But they need to know about what we really are. They also need to know that we know what they really are. I don’t want to live split up, Kay, but I can’t live without them and you.”
“I know. Caspian will back whatever you want to do. I know that.”
“Me too. He’s good people, your Pops.”
“You’re folks are good people too, Robby. No matter what, though, we are here for you. And I will always be at your side.” He grabbed my hand and gave me a little squeeze. I wanted so much to just take him into a tight hug right then and there. But I daren’t even try. Too much rode on us making things right all around with my parents. And I felt like I was walking on broken glass and eggshells.
We got back to the table just as the drinks and salads were being presented. The waiter said that the meals were just a few minutes from being done. We had gotten to the restaurant between the lunch and supper rushes, and basically had the place to ourselves. The cook would have no trouble getting things done quickly.
Kenny and I dug into the salads with the reckless abandon of our age. The bottomless pit club was open for business. After finishing my salad, and about six breadsticks between us, the serious food arrived. I got the distinct impression that the adults had had a private pow-wow while Kenny and I had been at the juke box. He occasionally would shoot me a look, part worried, part smile. He was keeping my spirits up.
He also had taken off his Reeboks and had a foot in my lap. Thank god for table cloths! More than just my spirits were up!
We more or less finished dinner, the adults having a long discussion about tournaments, equipment costs, skill levels, tournament rules and the Olympics that Mitch had nearly gone to. Kenny and I were communicating on a different level. His foot was out of my lap, if that’s what you were thinking, but we were now into the “what next” part of what I had planned. Come to think of it, what exactly did I have planned? I knew that I wanted to tell them, but I knew also that it might require proof.
“So, Boys!” Mitch said, turning to put an arm around his son. “What is it you feel you need to tell us all?”
“Yes, I’d like to hear it myself,” my father said. Mom said nothing, which spoke volumes all by itself.
“Batter up?” Kenny said, glancing over at me. I nodded and sighed loudly. This wasn’t going to be easy.
“Mom, Dad,” I began, looking up at them. “This is gonna sound totally left field, but when we got into that fight today, down by the shore, that wasn’t a fight.”
“Then what caused that mark on your shoulder?” Mom asked, suddenly worried and angry at the same time.
“It was a fight, but it was more than that. Mom, it was an assassination attempt.” Okay, there, I’d said it. Now the chips would fall. It was all a matter of figuring out how and where that was left to me and Kenny. It only takes one snowflake to start an avalanche, but that one flake may determine which way the whole thing rolls.
“Assassination?” Dad said, looking somewhat uneasy. He traded nervous glances with Mom and Mitch, although Mitch’s face was a little more passive.
“Yeah, they were trying to kill me and Kenny.”
“Why?” Mom asked, not sure if I was even serious or if this was some really twisted game.
“Because he’s not a mage like the two of you, but because he’s a changeling like me and my father,” Kenny said, keeping his voice calm and even. “He only found out on Tuesday. I’ve known for a long time now.”
“Changeling?” My father looked at me and again he got his piercing stare.
“Oh Dad, let me save you the effort!” I cried out, grabbing up a fork. I infused it with Glamour and stabbed him in the chest. Instantly, the enchanted world opened up for him. All of it.
He saw me as my true fae self, my Satyr mein. He saw Kenny for his true essence as Kay Neth and Mitch became transparent to him, replaced by the solidity of Caspian. The look that passed over his face was half shock & awe, half wonderment, and half amused (again that three halves thing?). Mom stared in disbelief. After all, I had just punched a dinner fork into my own father’s chest. I imagine that Kenny was probably covering his mouth to suppress a grin.
“You too Mom?” I said, raising the fork towards her hand. She looked at Dad, who showed no wound, but was still gaping about like a kid in a toy store at Christmas time. She looked back and I just pumped another spot of Glamour into the fork and stabbed the thick part of her hand, right near the base of the thumb. Her eyes opened much the same as Dad’s.
I let them gaze around for several minutes before they could speak. Mom actually put her hand on my forehead, and brushed my hair back from my horns. And yes, she did pause to touch both of them, and rub in between them to see if it were some kind of Halloween costume thing. She looked down and saw my goat legs and that pretty much did it for her.
All in all, I think they handled it well. The Glamour didn’t last long and soon enough the temporary fae sight of the Enchanted Stroke wore off. They were mages, though and they could now believe. They wouldn’t have their memories clouded by the Mists. They knew now, and so did I, and everyone in my tight little family.
“I guess this explains quite a bit,” Mom said, looking over at Mitch. “So, how long have you been, um…”
“Trollish? All my life. I was awakened to it quite young in this incarnation, back when I was 8 years old. I have remembered much of my previous life. As a Troll, I am known as Caspian, reeve and thane to Lord Robyn the Blue of Cerulean. It was just odd luck that my wife in physical reality bore me a son that was also a changeling, and in this instance also a soul I already knew. My son is Kay Neth, and he is Lord Robyn’s herald.”
“Hi,” Kenny waved.
“So, you’re Robyn?” my father asked.
“Yeah, Dad. I am. Knight of a thousand years and all that, crown prince of Cerulean and a titled knight in this territory.”
“And you only found out about it…..what, three days ago?”
“Yeah, Mom. Just like I stabbed you and Dad into the enchanted world, Kenny stabbed me, before we even left for his house that night.”
“How long have you known about us?” Dad asked, taking a sip of water to calm down.
“Since yesterday. I heard you and Mom talking on the RV. Joy and Light, remember?”
“I know this comes as a bit of a shock,” I said, uncertain where I was gonna take it. I guess I waited too long before finishing that thought, because Mom stepped into the void of words.
“Well, we were actually afraid that you were going to tell us something else,” Mom said. “We were afraid that you were going to start telling us that you were in some sort of cult or something, or that Kenny actually had built a lightsaber and that was what caused your wound.”
“No, the lightsaber is still on his hip,” Kenny said, winking at me. “Wait til you see what he made, all on his own.”
“Let’s leave Sky Fire for another day, Kay.”
“Now, it makes a little more sense. Dear,” my father said, “if Robby is a prince, the assassination thing makes more sense. But, I still don’t know what could cause a wound like that.”
“Cold Iron,” the three changelings at the table said as one. And it was pretty much a three stooges moment after we all said it. “The kids that attacked us had a bar of recently forged Cold Iron with them. It’s like wrought iron. He got a lucky tag on me when I was playing Fancy Dan with the double-blader. I got cocky and careless and I paid for it.”
“But we met a werewolf in the bathroom and he healed Robby’s shoulder up nicely.” Everyone at the table stared at Kenny suddenly, as if he had sprouted demonic wings and was belching fire. “Well, he did.”
“Let’s leave Yoseph out of this for the moment,” I said under my breath to Kenny.
“Son, it’s been a hell of a week for you hasn’t it?”
“You have no idea, Dad. I’ve already had to fight for my life twice, turned one enemy into an ally and I’m in the middle of trying to convict a criminal and free a kid who doesn’t deserve the fate awaiting him.”
“What I don’t understand is how we didn’t know this was going on under our own roof,” my mother said.
“Don’t be so surprised. Canturbury is a virtual supernatural nexus. That’s the problem with being on the line between the Salems.” Mitch sighed heavily and took a strong, deep drink from his iced tea. “So much Glamour rolling about that the spirits, the vampires, the werewolves, the mages and the changelings are all in competition for it in that narrow band of towns.”
“Um, excuse me, Vampires?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Kenny said, “don’t let them nibble on you. They get addicted to changeling blood.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I deadpanned.
“Well!” Dad said. “This is certainly a revelation. Where does that leave all of us?”
“I’m still your son. I’m still Robby French. I’m just Robyn too.” I didn’t know how to put it any plainer. “I do want to try for the Olympics. Mitch wasn’t kidding about that or about how good I am. Now we know why, but… It’s still something I want to try, that I want to do. And no one can know about who I am.”
“There is a dichotomy here,” Mitch spoke up. “As mages you live in two worlds at once. The mystical underworld of the traditions, as I understand it, and the mundane universe of static reality. We changelings can relate to that. We live simultaneously in the real world and in the chimerical universe of the Dreaming, in the enchanted world. We are not so dissimilar.”
“And in that enchanted world, Robby is in grave danger,” Kenny said, his worried look overcoming his smiles. “He’s a nobleborn, and keeper of a treasure so potent that entire kingdoms would war over it were it not in his possession. He’s a legend among the Satyrs, and a rarity among other changelings. Like Caspian and myself, he is eternal, constantly being reborn among humans, hiding our souls in your mortal shells. Most changelings don’t remember their immortal pasts. Robby’s is coming back to him, in bits and pieces.”
“And that knowledge threatens someone in the enchanted world,” I finished. “Someone wants me dead because they think they can get this,” I said, pulling the Tear of Cerulean out from under my shirt. Mom gazed at it in awe. “This is a powerful talisman, the essence of the last known road to our home world. It can forge Glamour into whatever I dream, whatever anyone dreams.”
The folks were silent for a moment. I gottah admit that I didn’t know what else to say either. “I know this isn’t what you wanted for me. I know that you wanted me to join your world, but I can’t. I hope you understand.”
“Robby, of course we understand. It’s just going to take some getting used to. I mean… my son’s a Satyr!”
“And he’s learning the old powers really quick. He’s already got Hopscotch down, Dad. And I taught him the Dragon’s Ire.”
“Splendid! Useful talents, both.”
“Hopscotch?” Dad asked.
“Um, gimme a quarter Dad,” I said. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a New Hampshire quarter, the Old Man in the Mountain looking back at me. “Okay, now hold out your hand.” He did as asked and I lay the quarter in the center of his palm. “Call it in the air!” I said, doing the three stooges triple snap/clap thing and then pointed right at the coin. A faint tracing of Glamour motes leapt from my hand and straight to the coin, which hopped up about three feet, and landed in my Mom’s water glass with a loud kerplunk.
Mom and Dad stared at that glass for a solid minute, no joke. It was like they were analyzing every aspect of the coin, the water, the path it took through the water, whether of not the water was actually there, the slight impression of the coin in my father’s hand, the air, the way that light reflected off of every shiny surface in the room. Anything that might be a logical, science based explanation for why the coin did what it did.
And since they couldn’t, they had to concede that it was true magic, but of a kind they’d never seen before. Mom smiled first, looking at me like I had just performed some difficult acrobatic stunt instead of a simple hopscotch cantrip. Dad’s smile was more a Proud Papa thing. I had done something so magical after only three days of knowing my own true nature.
Then we got down to some serious looks as something else dawned on both Mom and Dad at the same time. They couldn’t tell their mage allies about me. I’d be on a table some where getting magically experimented on in no time. And worst of all, it meant that they would have to allow for a lot of things that were outside of their normal (as if any of this was normal) experiences. It meant that my changeling life would have a good strong say in my mortal schedule from now on. A huge part of my life had just hopscotched past their ken and authority, and they could only share in it at the periphery.
“Okay, let’s deal with this one step at a time. The Olympics thing is still a go, if you can make it in, Robby. That means a lot of work on your part.”
“We’re not finished, young man!” Mom warned. Uh oh!
“We expect you to keep your grades up in school. We want you to remember to live in the mortal world as well as your enchanted world. We also expect you to keep things at home they way they are. No wild Satyr parties, no bringing girls in through the windows and such, you got me?”
“Yes sir,” I said, submissively. “I wouldn’t do anything to make things difficult on all of us. We all have secrets to keep, don’t we?”
“And it’s good to see you learn quickly to keep those secrets. Well, now that that’s all on the table, I have a few questions.” There she goes. This is the full on Uber Mom mode I was afraid of. Now I was going to be on the hot seat to the one person in the universe who knew me at least as well as Kenny. The one who could usually tell when I was lying.
“I can’t answer all of your questions, Mom. Partly because I’m still learning the answers myself, partly because I’m not sure whose toes it might step on and partly because I just don’t want you to know.” Okay, there. I’d said it, almost.
“Fair enough, Robyn,” Mom said, letting me know right away that she understood and wasn’t about to take it too personally. Which, considering she was my Mom, was a lie. Mom’s always take it personally. They can’t help it, it’s in their nature to do so.
“Would you consider a fair exchange, son?”
“What, Glamour secrets for mage secrets?”
“If you want to put it that way. I was thinking more along the lines of just family secrets.”
“Well, I’ve told you a bunch of mine. What’ve you got?” I was about to go a bit mental. Mom must have realized it because she let Dad do the talking.
“Robby, we aren’t even from this century.” Okay, now I was the one on the receiving end of a double-blink look of total confusion.
“Uh, you wanna run that by us again?” Kenny said, coming to my rescue. He even reached across and pushed my jaw back up from where it hung slack.
“The era we are from is a utopia where all mortals are awakened to the supernatural in one way or another. It was deemed necessary to help our own future by sending individuals to the past to help awaken the sleepers of humanity. We time traveled here from what by the current calendar would be the year 2195. And our superiors have discovered that you are a major part of helping the world achieve mystic understanding, my son.”