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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Unexpected - Part 4 - Surprise!

My facebook friends might remember me mentioning recently that I came across a short story that I had written a while ago, that I had basically left hanging and didn't know where I was going with it. Well, I got inspired to finish it, and while I am doing that, I am going to post what I had already written but didn't post back then (hence part 4). THAT said, if you don't know or remember the story, you can read it here: Unexpected - Part 1
HINT: You do actually need to read the story from the beginning to know what is going on here in part 4. Happy Reading!

Part 4

“James!” Justina called out angrily. “I'm telling on you unless you come out of hiding right now!”
Well you're no fun!” James pouted as he came out of hiding. Branches rustled noisily as he climbed down the tree. When he was able to drop to the ground, he poked his sister lightly on the nose. “What are you bugging me for? I thought you were practicing magic.”
Mama said that I could take a break,” Justina informed him with a shrug. “More importantly, what are you doing out here? I thought you were supposed to be practicing your skills with a sword.”
James growled in frustration, flopping to the ground to tear at the grass. “I hate it! I'm just not as good as you are with a sword! I'd rather do magic!”
Justina shrugged again, sitting at the foot of the tree so that she could pluck some flowers to make a crown. “So do magic,” she stated as if this was the simplest and easiest solution in the world.
Argh!” James roared, obviously upset. “Don't you think I tried that! Dad said that because I was his only son, he needed me to be a good swordsman. He doesn't think that magic is important to practice when I'm already so good at it! He wants me to fight or hunt, so I told him that I was hunting.”
Mama and papa both have magic,” Justina murmured, biting her lip in thought. “I wonder why they don't just tell dad to let you do magic if that's what you want?”
I wish I knew...” James said with a sigh.
Justina continued to look up at the sky for a few more moments before she abruptly erupted in giggles. “It's funny, isn't it?”
What?” James asked, his brow furrowed in confusion.
That you're a boy who's not so good at fighting with a sword, and I'm a girl who's not so good at using magic! By rights, shouldn't it be the other way around?” Justina asked, still giggling.
Ah! There you are!” Cedric stated with a warm smile. “I've been looking for you everywhere.”
James had been softly chuckling, but now he growled in frustration again. “I'm not done hunting yet! I refuse to go back and practice with a sword some more until I've caught something!”
Cedric continued to smile as he slowly shook his head. “I wasn't here to ask you to go back. I thought it might be a good time to practice your magic.”
James sat up as straight as possible. “You mean that?!”
Cedric laughed, nodding in confirmation. He sat on the ground with them. “Of course I do. You're only ten after all; you have plenty of time to grow up and get better with a sword.”
But why must I learn to use a sword at all?” James cried out, dearly wanting to understand.
Because Gavin is the son of a well respected Lord, and as such, it's a point of pride for him to teach his only son how to use a sword. Besides, you never know, it may come in handy some day,” Cedric explained the best he could.
James sighed. “But I'm better at magic. You don't use a sword because you can use magic, so why can't I?”
Cedric didn't have the heart to tell his son that it was because he loved Gavin so much that he simply couldn't deny him anything. Especially not when Gavin wasn't hurting their son, he was simply frustrating him and challenging him to learn what could potentially be an important skill.
Instead, he simply shrugged. “You are both positively brimming with magic, so I can understand why you would prefer to do something that comes easily to you, but that doesn't mean that swords are unimportant.”
Justina bounced excitedly, especially now that she had her crown finished and atop her head. “Of course they aren't! I love swords! I could pretend to fight off a horde of bandits all day if mother would let me!” She proved this by jumping to her feet and unsheathing the sword that she had on her at all times. With a nearly expert flick of her wrist, she invited an invisible opponent to attack her.
Cedric boomed with laughter. “You are the only 8 year old girl I have ever known that probably could fight off a bandit horde!”
Justina nodded as if this was a common fact, then she stopped short to look at her father. “But you are wrong about one thing, papa; I don't have much magic.”
Yes you do,” Cedric assured her with a loving smile. “You just don't realize it.”
Justina resumed her pretend fight. “Dad says that I should focus on being a healer like mama, but memorizing herbs is so boring!
Don't be so hard on him,” Cedric ordered softly. “Gavin simply believes that a man should protect a woman. He still has a hard time with the concept that a woman might be able to protect a man.”
James had heard this before, so he simply ignored it and continued to practice his magic by making all the grass and flowers grow bigger. Justina, on the other hand, frowned at her father. She was offended by this, but didn't really know why.
But papa... why does it matter who is protecting who? There's really nothing to protect anyone from, just wolves and the occasional bandit. Only when we go to visit either of our grandparents do we run into trouble, but...” She frowned even deeper, unsure of the point she was trying to make. She tried anyway. “But even when we run into a large group of bandits, they usually just leave us alone. I understand the desire to protect, but protect from what?”
Cedric chuckled, a strange smile crossing his face. “Those bandits all leave us alone because they well remember what we've done to them in the past. They know it's not worth their trouble to attack us... But who's to say that won't change in the future? If it happens, you'd both better be prepared to defend yourselves!”
James snorted in amusement. “You must be joking! Why would bandits be afraid of you, dad, and mama?” He simply couldn't imagine why his parents were considered too much trouble to attack.
Cedric tilted his head to the side as he thought about how to answer this. “Hmm... I think that's because you have lived with us your whole lives; you are simply too close too see how strong we are. Your father is one of the best swordsmen in the world, and I am fairly good at magic...” He paused and a small secretive smile stole across his lips as he looked at the ground. “And then there's your mother...”
James rolled his eyes. “Mama never does anything! I mean I know she has magic because she tries to teach it to me and Justina, but it's mostly little things like herbs and cooking. Sometimes she uses her magic to grow plants... Certainly nothing to fear!”
Cedric laughed. “You know what? Your mother has a very deep and hidden well inside her. If you ever saw her truly angry, you'd wet yourself before you ran to hide!”
James stared at his father with an incredulous look. Even Justina paused her epic battle in order to snort in disbelief as she stared at him. He saw their looks and chuckled heartily.
I only hope I get to see the looks on your faces if it ever happens!”
A branch on the forest floor snapped not too far away from them, alerting them that their mother was coming towards them. She muttered a silly expletive as she fell the ground, then picked herself up and continued on as if nothing had happened. Her face lit up with joy when she saw them.
Cedric, my love! I thought you were in the house making dinner!” She informed him as she straddled his lap and then gave him a thorough kiss. Both her son and daughter looked away in annoyance. They saw their parents kiss all the time, and it was starting to gross them out.
Once he was able, Cedric smiled at Failina and explained what was going on. “I decided that my time would be better spent reassuring our children that the world is not as unfair as they think it is.”
Of course not!” Failina drawled happily. “We rarely get snow here, much less an eternal blizzard!”
Cedric hummed in thought a moment. “You know, perhaps we should take them to visit my parents during the winter this year. They might like to see the snow and learn to go sledding or skating.”
Hmm...” Failina nearly whispered, obviously not liking the idea. Then she smiled. “Actually, that might be fun after all! We should see what Gavin thinks about it.”
Cedric laughed huskily, nibbling on Failina's ear. “If the two of us are in agreement when we ask him, you know he'll do anything.”
True...” Failina agreed, her voice also husky from the desire that Cedric was creating.
Ugh! We right here!” James reminded them.
I know,” Failina stated with a smirk at her son.
Our son and daughter just reminded me a few moments ago that they've never seen the scary Fai,” Cedric told her, changing the subject.
They haven't?!” Failina asked in surprise. “I was sure they had...”
Nope,” Cedric confirmed. “Apparently they only ever see you use your magic for little things. Lighting candles is what comes to my mind.”
A mischievous look crossed Failina's face that plainly told her lover that she was about to do something shocking. She looked around until she saw a fox that would make an excellent dinner, then she pointed at it and shouted: “Lightning!” A long line of lightning shot out from her fingertip to strike the fox, who shook for a moment before falling to the ground.
Whoa!” Both her children exhaled in awe. They had no idea that anyone could do such a thing!
I guess I'd better go skin that,” Failina stated, pushing on Cedric's shoulders to help herself stand up. She kissed him one last time. “I'll make dinner too.”
And while you're at it, talk to Gav,” Cedric suggested with a smile. “He's probably still upset.”
Will do!” Failina assured him with a grin. She waved and blew kisses to her children as she walked over to the fox and picked him up. Carrying him carefully in both arms, she walked home.
Gavin, my love, where are you?” Failina called. A steady thudding noise told her that he was probably near the barn, which was exactly where she needed to go. She waited until she got close enough to see him whacking a tree with one of his dull practice swords. “Gav?”
He looked up to see her walking towards him. She tried her hardest not to trip on anything, but almost inevitably, she did anyway. Gavin rushed to catch her just in time. He shook his head with a wry smile.
Here, let me carry that for you,” he offered, taking the fox from her.
I'm bringing it to the slaughter room to skin and hang up,” Failina told him needlessly.
That might help me take my mind off things,” Gavin murmured.
Failina purred in sympathy and threw her arms around his neck so that she could kiss him. “Why are you so upset?”
James practically refuses to touch a sword, and you know how important this is to me!” Gavin roared in frustration.
Failina sighed, shook her head, and then smiled at him lovingly. “I do know... but maybe it might be time to consider letting him take a break for a couple of months or a year or two. Then – when he's ready – you can teach him everything you know.”
Gavin pursed his lips in disapproval and lightly shook her off. “No! What if...” He looked to the ground and then decided to resume walking towards the barn. “What if something terrible happens to all three of us and James and Justina have to make their way to my family lands? Who would protect them? No one! They'd have to protect themselves! How can they do that if James knows nothing about a sword?!”
By magic, I would guess,” Failina murmured cheerfully. She clapped her hands happily. “I saw Cedric teach James how to cast a shield the other day, and he did an excellent job!”
Gavin sighed in defeat. “Maybe you're right, but...” he shrugged as he set the fox on a counter so he could gather up a few knives and other supplies. “The more he knows, the better!”
Failina nodded as she shrugged. Then she pulled him close and kissed him again. “I love you!” Gavin rolled his eyes, still rather gruff and stingy when it came to expressing his feelings.
I love you too,” he admitted.
Good! Now, since you're going to take care of my fox, I'll go in and concentrate on making dinner.”
Gavin nodded in agreement, smacking her on the rear as she walked away. “Can you make those biscuits I love?”
Anything for you, my love!” Failina promised with a flirty smile over her shoulder.
About an hour later – just as Failina was setting dinner on the table – Cedric returned with their children and bid them to wash up. They rushed to the water pump to do so, which allowed Cedric a few minutes alone with his beloved. He wrapped his arms around Gavin and simply held him tight for a long moment.
Are you feeling better now?” Cedric asked.
Gavin shrugged and then nodded. “I guess I am.”
Raising children is hard!” Cedric said with a laugh. “My parents say that the trick is to try to give them enough love to motivate them to be good, and enough encouragement to do the things that make them happy.”
So you've said,” Gavin remarked dryly, then shook his head. “I was raised to honor tradition. My family may have disinherited me, but I am still the son of a Lord, and my children have the potential to use that fact to their advantage someday – If they want to. All I ask in return is that they learn about my heritage and family traditions!”
Cedric nodded, still holding his lover tight. “I understand. The problem is that they don't.”
Gavin sighed in frustration, then kissed his beloved as deeply as possible considering that Gavin was covered in blood and bits of flesh. He didn't want to dirty Cedric, but Cedric didn't care.
Ugh!” James and Justina groaned in unison. James continued their complaint. “Everywhere we look, some combination of the three of you are always kissing!”
Gavin and Cedric chuckled but didn't stop.
It's time to wash up!” Justina commanded. “Mama said that if you don't come in to eat, she'll come out here and stab you with something sharp and pointy!”
I wonder if her lightning counts?” James asked no one in particular, still amazed that his mother had such a deadly magic.
Go on,” Gavin ordered his children with a smile and a tilt of his head. “We'll be in shortly.”
James nodded, his silvery-blond hair falling into his sapphire eyes. He tugged on his sister's arm, knowing that she was still picturing herself in an epic battle with who knew how many opponents. He was just grateful that she didn't have her sword out at the moment.
Justina followed him, her black hair blowing in the wind. She squinted her golden amber eyes in annoyance as she wished yet again that her parents would let her cut it as short as possible. She gathered all her hair into one hand, and then softened into a smile as she looked at it. “It's too pretty to cut...” she muttered.
It took a good ten minutes, but finally, everyone was ready to sit to to eat. Relative silence reigned for a few minutes as everyone dug in, but eventually, the moans of pleasure stopped and light conversation started.
Hey Gav,” Failina murmured, staring at him adoringly. “Cedric and I were wondering what you thought about going to his parents for winter this year.
Winter?!” Gavin asked in astonishment. One of the things they had agreed on when they first settled down was that they would try to avoid excessive cold and snow in the winter by staying home, and then do their traveling and visiting in the spring or fall.
Cedric nodded with a grin. “Yeah, I think that James and Justina might like learning to play in the snow. Especially since they have magic!”
And aren't too sick to get out of bed,” Failina added with a grin.
A shadow passed over Cedric's face as memories of his childhood leapt to mind. Gavin squeezed his hand comfortingly. With a grateful smile, Cedric returned the squeeze. “That's true,” he agreed with a slight smile.
I suppose that it could be interesting,” Gavin murmured.
But...” Justina protested. “What if we don't like the snow?”
Yeah,” James agreed. “I don't really like the cold.”
Cedric took a breath to prepare for a heated argument, but was preempted when someone knocked at the door. Failina got to her feet.
It's probably a neighbor in need of some healing,” she murmured, rushing to help out. She tripped once, but managed to catch herself before falling to the ground.
Gavin shook his head, still amused by her clumsiness. “I know you can be graceful, so why are you always tripping over things?”
Failina paused before opening the door. She cast him a beautiful grin. “Because grace is actually one of my magic powers. It's not my natural state!”
Oh,” Gavin murmured with a nod of understanding. “Makes sense.”
I'd wondered about that,” Cedric added. They had long ago accepted that their beloved was strange, but never once thought that she might know exactly why.
Failina opened the door, and then smiled at the strangers standing there. “May I help you?”
The three men looked her up and down with a puzzled frown. “We're looking for someone,” the most richly dressed of the three explained. “Would you happen to be Failina No Alahar Y Ukale Dun Falhalla?”
Gavin and Cedric exchanged puzzled glances. After all this time, they thought they'd known everything about their lover, but apparently not. Their eyes returned to her so that they wouldn't miss her response.
Failina giggled, stepping back to invite them into her home. “Why yes, but no one ever calls me that! Around here, I'm simply known as Failina of Foreston. I take it you are from my father's world.”
The three men entered her home, the best dressed in front of the other two – who seemed to be his guards. As one, they all dropped to one knee and bowed to her. Everyone was astonished by this, even Failina, who had been raised on the world they probably came from.
Majesty! It has taken us a long time to find you! I am Lord Oren and I have come to beg for your help!” The leader of the three insisted urgently. “Our world desperately needs you if we are ever to –”
Failina cut him short, showing an emotion other than cheerfulness for the first time in a very long time. “Our world is dead! I don't know how you survived or how you found me, but I will not go back there!” She stamped her foot and turned her back on them. She saw her children gaping at her incredulously.
But... Majesty... You are the rightful Queen, and we need you...” Lord Oren murmured, sounding hurt by her words. “Only you can bring life back to our world.”
Failina stamped her foot again. “Our world blew itself up! Why would I want to bring life back to it?!?!”
Majesty, you misunderstand...” Lord Oren nearly whispered so that he wouldn't offend her. “There is still life there, and always has been, it's simply in storage. We need your help to wake everyone up.”
What?” Failina asked in a near whisper herself, this was too confusing to wrap her head around. “What life? I saw everything destroyed!”
That's true, you did,” Lord Oren agreed. “But those of us who saw the destruction coming prepared. Your father – our most beloved King James No Alahar Y Ukale Dun Falhalla, bless his immortal soul – he knew that there was a large possibility that things would turn out like they did, so he instituted a program in which volunteers such as scientists and their families went into a state of cryogenic suspension. In the event that nuclear missiles destroyed all life on the planet, those volunteers would be safely hidden underground until sensors indicated that the conditions were right for life to begin again. I myself am one of those volunteers – the guardian of the program. Sensors detected that conditions were right and woke me up to verify the information, but I literally cannot wake everyone else up without you!”
Failina had tears in her eyes, but she adamantly stood her ground. “You still haven't given me any reason to help you. I watched everyone and everything die, and I have no wish to go through that ever again! As far as I am concerned, that world is far better off with everyone asleep. If – as you say – the world is suitable for life again, then let life live without our kind to mess it up!”
But You're Majesty! My daughter is in one of those cryogenic containers!” Lord Oren protested, his eyes full of tears that refused to fall.
Failina couldn't prevent a small sob from escaping her. Both of her children leapt up to get between her and the strangers so they could glare at them. James created a small barrier as Justina withdrew her sword.
You made our mother cry!” Justina growled threateningly.
Gavin and Cedric both wrapped their arms around Failina to comfort her, honestly impressed with their children's actions. They had once been told that Failina came from a world that had destroyed itself, but they had never truly believed her until now. Only this truth could ever make Failina cling to them and cry like this.
Gavin stroked her hair as Cedric let her forehead rest on his shoulder.
Don't worry, everything will be fine,” Cedric promised.
Gavin nodded in agreement. “We'll be right with you every step of the way.”
Failina sniffed and abruptly stopped crying. She turned around in Cedric's arms to glare at Gavin. “What is that supposed to mean?!”
Just that you should help your people, and we'll help you,” Gavin explained, holding onto her arms so that she would know he was serious.
You don't understand!” Failina burst out angrily. “There's nothing that could ever make me go back there! Our life is here!”
Cedric cradled her lovingly in his arms. “Failina... Gavin is right, and you know it. What if it was our daughter stuck in some sort of magical sleep? Wouldn't you want someone to help her?”
Or our son,” Gavin added softly. “We would do anything for them, wouldn't we?”
These men have come a long way to ask for your help,” Cedric pointed out. “How could you just say no to them?”
You once said that your father raised you to protect your people,” Gavin reminded her. “Don't you owe it to them to do whatever it takes to give them back their lives?”
Failina rested her head on Gavin's chest for a moment, and then sighed in defeat. Taking a deep breath in, she wiped away her tears. Squaring her shoulders, a big and friendly grin settled onto her face.
I guess you're right,” she admitted. “James, Justina, don't threaten our poor guests. We should make them feel welcome.”
Her children looked at her in confusion. Seeing that she was cheerful once more, they slowly nodded in understanding. Keeping a wary eye on their guests, they let go of their defensive stances and Justina sheathed her sword. James let his shield evaporate, secretly relieved that the drain on his magic was done.
Please,” Failina addressed her guests with a smile. “Come in and sit down. We're just now eating dinner and there's plenty left to share.”
No, Majesty...” Lord Oren murmured hesitantly. “We'd prefer to simply return to your Palace, or rather, what's left of it.”
And we will, as soon as I am ready. First, I'd like to hear about how you found me. Why don't you tell your tale while I finish eating?” Failina suggested, not really giving them any other choice. She and her family returned to their seats.
Lord Oren and his guards stood up and came closer to the table, but did not sit and join them. The three of them studied James and Justina very carefully before curiously glancing at Gavin and Cedric. None of them could figure out which man was the father of the Prince and Princess.
Lord Oren shrugged. “There's not much to tell. After we were woken up to verify that our world was indeed habitable again, we obtained a device that your father had created a long time ago. It tracks your blood. So long as you were alive anywhere in the universe, we could eventually find you. It took us almost three years, but finally...” He pulled a large pendant out of his pocket and held it up for everyone to see.
I remember that,” Failina whispered, holding out a hand. Lord Oren gave it to her so that she could examine it more closely. “Father once stabbed me with this...” It took her a long moment to finish studying the pendant, but then she looked up at Oren.
And how is it that you speak this language so fluently?”
Oren smiled at her. “That's part of my magic. I was one of King James' most trusted diplomats... not that I helped much in the end...”
Failina tilted her head side to side as she squinted her eyes at Lord Oren. “I think I vaguely remember you...”
I'm pleased to hear that, my Queen. I was only ever in your presence two or three times. Even so, I was always impressed by your strength and dedication to winning the war. A fair Princess of only 10, the last I saw you... and yet already a powerful warrior.”
Hrmph!” Failina scoffed softly. “You knew my father; of course I was a powerful warrior! He would accept nothing less!”
Lord Oren bowed his head sadly. “Do not be so hard on your father. He had five children fight and die in the war before you were born. I don't think his heart could bear the thought that you would die too. He did everything he could to insure that you would know how to protect yourself.”
I know,” Failina murmured. She formed a fist with her right hand and cupped it in her left as if she was praying, but then rested her head on her hands, which were supported by her elbows resting on the table. “I honestly thought that I would never have to think about my world ever again...”
Mama, don't cry!” Justina urged her.
You never cry!” James added. “You never get mad or upset or sad or anything!
Only when the ones I love are in danger,” Failina informed them with a smile. Looking around at the faces of her family gave her the strength to do what she had to. With a purposeful nod, she stood up. “I'm ready!”
Lord Oren heaved a great sigh of relief. “Thank the Gods! There's just one small problem.” He pulled a device out of his pocket and held it up. “This isn't powerful enough to bring us all. It honestly has trouble transporting the three of us across the worlds. I think even just bringing you with us might cause it to overload and possibly explode. But I can leave one of my guards here to prevent that from happening!”
Failina chuckled softly. “Don't worry. I'm certain that I can get us all there. Just give me a moment... Everyone hold hands,” she ordered, her arms outstretched even though she closed her eyes to concentrate. She continued to focus until she felt everyone join the circle, and then focused some more until she could see the palace she grew up in clearly in her mind.
Cedric stared at the massive golden magic circle that formed on the floor under them. It was bigger and more intricate than anything he had ever seen! Even knowing that Failina had an ocean of power hidden inside her, he hadn't been prepared to see it with his own eyes.
He looked to Gavin, who was also gaping incredulously. Gavin had seen Cedric cast magic circles thousands of times over the years, but this one made them seem like child's play! Failina never ceased to amaze him.
James and Justina were utterly agog in astonishment. Never in their whole lives had they suspected that their mother possessed this kind of magic! They exchanged nervous glances that plainly said: If she's so powerful, no wonder papa thinks we are too...
As soon as Failina felt confident that it would work out perfectly, she chanted the magic words to complete the spell and transport them to another world. One of their neighbors stopped by for a visit just in time to witness them all vanish. With a shudder of disbelief, the neighbor left to spread the news.

Go To Part 5 

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