"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

28. A Tale That Needs Telling

    As Lily waited for Katy to answer her phone, she glared at Daniel until he took the hint and walked a few feet away to give her some privacy.  She eyed Taurin as he closed in, and overheard him say something to Daniel about…a dog?  Just as they began to argue, Katy answered, panic in her voice at the call.  She had just finished telling Katy not to call the police, when her front door slammed open, crashing loudly into the back wall. 

Daniel spun away from Taurin, grabbed Lily off the sofa and wrenched her behind him before the reverberation of the door’s rebound had faded.  As the phone flew out of her hand, Lily had shrieked, more from the dizzying abruptness of Daniel’s movements then the shock of her door being bashed open twice in one night.  In the startling silence, she tried to edge around Daniel’s back, but the hand clutching her wrist tightened as he drew her closer, shielding her with his body from whatever had just come thundering through the door.

The huge figure of a man filled the doorway.  His deep auburn hair was wildly tangled and just settling across broad shoulders from his sudden entrance.  Cold, hard eyes, the green of moss encased in ice, scanned the room in one quick sweep, and Daniel knew, without a doubt, the man had just noted every detail in that short glance.  A kernel of fear twisted through his belly.  This wasn’t just a man, this was someone else entirely.  An image rose in his mind of a drawing in a book Sister Mary Margaret had given him as a boy.  This fierce man--standing with tensed muscles and massive fists, anger rolling off him in waves of barely contained violence--could have posed for that sketch of the legendary Tuatha De Danann, the warrior gods of Celtic mythology.

He didn’t even consider taking on the guy himself, but with Taurin’s help, between them they might stand a chance.  He risked taking his eyes off the man for an instant as he flicked his gaze at Taurin, standing to his left.  And was amazed to see the Warden seemed more curious than threatened, his head cocked as he stared intently at the outraged giant looming in front of them.

When Lily again made an attempt to get around him, he yanked her sharply back and hissed, “Stay behind me!”

At his words, the frozen silence was broken. The man took a long stride into the room, heading straight for Daniel.  Their gazes locked, piercing green ice meeting resolute green jade.  “If you’re fond of that hand, boyo, you’ll be letting go of the lass,” the man growled.  Daniel had a moment to wonder if he’d fallen into an alternate universe.  The accent was Irish?  And he’d just been thinking about—

His thoughts scrambled when Lily yanked her arm from his grasp, elbowed him aside and flew into the giant’s arms.  “Granddad!” she cried.  The giant enfolded her in a tight embrace and glowering at Daniel with a lethal promise, backed away until he could face both men squarely.  “You the one brought a Hell-spawned dog to my granddaughter’s door?” he snarled at Daniel.

Taurin appeared outwardly calm, though as he stared at the man who had just claimed to be Lily's grandfather, there was an uncertainty in his mind.  He was looking at a man changed, and yet familiar.

Daniel felt like his head was going to explode.  Suddenly, everything was too much to comprehend.  This giant Celtic warrior was Lily’s grandfather?  How was that even possible?  And what was wrong with Taurin, shouldn’t he be acting all Warden-like?  And for Christ’s sake, why did everyone keep harping on about some damn dog?  Too tired to keep standing, he dropped to the coffee table and stared at Lily in the massive arms of her grandfather before turning his head toward Taurin, but as he opened his mouth to say…something, though he wasn’t sure what, the Warden suddenly smiled.  “Micah?  Is it really you?”

“Wondered if you’d remember me.  Been gone nearly a century.”  The giant grinned.  “And nowadays I’m known as Mickey Donovan.”  Lily frowned in confusion as she looked up at her grandfather, but then Taurin was there and the two men clasped forearms, their smiles broad and easy.

“Where have you been?” Taurin asked.  “What happened?  One day you were there, second only to Syrus—”  He stopped, then narrowed his eyes as he stared at one of oldest Wardens in the Ethereal.  “You,” he said, “you’re the one Syrus contacted, the one who insisted on lending a hand.”

“Aye.  Syrus and I have stayed in touch over the years and once he knew who belonged to the stolen book, he had to tell me.”  His voice hardened as he glared at Daniel.  “It’s good you caught the thief so quickly.  Not so good you caught him before I did.”

Daniel had dropped his head into his hands as the conversation swirled around him.  Nothing was making any sense.  The giant was apparently another Warden, and friends with Taurin, but also Lily’s grandfather, who wanted to kill him at the first opportunity—and that was the only thing that actually did make sense.  Raising his head, Daniel saw that all three people were looking at him with varying degrees of intensity.  Sighing, he stood.  “Does anyone care that I have an explanation?  That I didn’t just steal Lily’s book for fun?”  He met the Irishman’s glare with one of his own. “Don’t you get it?  What it means that I’m the only one who could have done it?  The only one who can truly protect her?”

Ignoring her grandfather’s snort of disbelief, Daniel approached Lily and reached for her hand, turning it palm up.  He kissed the tender, soft skin of her wrist.  “I know you, I have always known you.”   Falling into the deep brown haven of her eyes, he kept his eyes locked on hers as he kissed her palm, then gently curled her fingers as if to capture the kiss in her hand.  “And you have always known me.”

“Stand away, thief.”  Mickey Donovan put his hands on Lily’s shoulders, tugging her away from Daniel.

“Granddad,” Lily said softly, “he’s right.  There’s more between us than you’re aware of.”

“You can't know that!  He’s nothing but a swindler, my girl, turning your head for some wicked purpose of his own.”

Lily moved to stand in front of Daniel.  She gave him a questioning look, and at his brief nod, lifted one side of his burned and tattered shirt, exposing his chest.  “Here’s how I know.”

Both Taurin and Mickey stepped close, bending closer to peer at the barely discernible shadow of a book under his skin.  “Daniel has already told me what led to borrowing my book,” she emphasized the word, “and he’s paid a steep price for it.  Twice now he’s been put through agony, once when the book was taken, and then just a few minutes ago when he gave it back.”  Lily swallowed audibly. “I was here for the last part and believe me, it was terrifying and excruciatingly painful.  But I saw my stories.  And he was there.”

 Taurin reached out and gently touched a finger to an edge of the outline.  Both Daniel and Taurin felt the slight tingle that rippled over his skin.  “That didn’t feel so bad,” Taurin murmured.  Daniel grunted.  “Trust me, you wouldn’t be saying that if the book was still inside me.  This,” he pointed to the shadow,” is nothing more than a fading echo of the real thing.”

The two Wardens straightened.  “But, where is it now?” Taurin asked, looking at Lily.

“Don’t ask me, I was unconscious.” Lily said.

When all eyes settled on Daniel, he sighed, then went to the sofa and carefully lifted one of the seat cushions.  The emerald green book, with “Lilith” written in a florid, golden script, lay deceptively innocuous next to a set of fireplace tongs.  “I came to before you did,” he said to Lily.  “You were sprawled across my lap with the book in your hand.  I didn’t want to touch it, but I had to make sure you were…weren’t…” he faltered and had to clear his throat before he could speak. “I shifted you enough that I could get up, grab the fireplace tongs and pull the book out of your hand.”  He took a deep, shuddering breath.  “But when I was shoving it under the cushion, you sort of convulsed and jerked off the sofa to the floor.”  Raking a hand through his hair, he whispered hoarsely, “I thought I’d killed you.”

Walking behind the sofa, Mickey leaned over the back for a closer look.  “So many people never see their books, not in all their many lives.”  He smiled at Lily.  “Yours is beautiful, lass.”  He raised furious eyes to Daniel.  “And you stole it from my precious granddaughter for an evil demon’s endgame.”

Shocked, Lily stared openmouthed at her grandfather.  Demons?  Seriously?  Had everyone gone crazy?  “Granddad,” she said slowly, “what are you talking about?  Daniel told me the whole story—a story you and Taurin need to hear before any judgments are made—and believe me, a demon wasn’t mentioned.”

“Sit Lily, Warden, you too, thief, and let me tell you a grim little story.”

Striding to a tall oak cabinet, Mickey opened the doors, selecting a whiskey from an assortment of bottles on the top shelf.  As he quickly poured a measure into four glasses, Daniel refreshed the fire, then replaced the cushion, covering the book.  He pulled Lily down next to him at the opposite end, ignoring the scowl from her grandfather as the drinks were handed around.  Taurin sat on the facing sofa, across from Daniel and Lily, and Mickey chose to stand with his back to the hearth.

      Slaintè,” the Irishman said, taking a deep swallow, as if to fortify himself. And with the fire crackling, the whiskey’s heat seeping through cold misgivings, they waited to hear Mickey Donovan’s tale.

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