Chapter 25 The Torch Is Passed
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"Name her place, lad!" Mickey called excitedly. "Send her away before it's too late." Gary was mesmerized by it all, by the so sudden shift in the events about him. He gawked at Ceridwen, her form becoming an insubstantial shadow, fading around the spear (which was stuck fast into the wall behind her).
"Name her place!" Mickey cried again. "If ye do not, then she'll be bound again to Ynis Gwydrin, bound again to this very castle, and the fighting will begin anew!"
That grim possibility shook Gary from his daze. He thought for just a moment. "Giant's Thumb," he announced in a loud and clear voice. "I banish you to Giant's Thumb, evil witch, where you shall remain for a hundred years!"
Mickey nodded, but his cherubic smile was short-lived. There was a hoard of treasure in Giant's Thumb, the leprechaun realized, a hoard that, with Robert dead and the lava newts away to Penllyn, was all but unguarded. The leprechaun gave a resigned sigh, admitting to himself that Gary, with his limited knowledge of Faerie, had chosen well. The lad had indeed beaten the witch again, stuck her with the only weapon in all the world that could hurt her.
But whatever feelings of victory Gary, Diane, and Mickey might have felt were washed away as soon as they considered the room about them. Two of the five soldiers lay still in pools of blood, one of them obviously dead and the other three, even the one who had stood to fight beside Gary in the final moments, grievously wounded.
So was King Kinnemore, his face burned, one arm broken, and a deep wound in his chest.
The defeat of the witch also returned the door to the strange room, and Gary ran off to gather the other soldiers together, to find help for the wounded, and to find news of the fight in the mountains. Diane and Mickey remained behind, and Diane knew enough about first aid to realize that King Kinnemore was in a very bad way.
Prince Geldion bit back tears and bravely firmed his jaw as he knelt beside the cot, staring at his father. Kinnemore managed a weak smile and lifted a hand to gently stroke his son's cheek.
" 'Tis not fair," Geldion whispered. "I have only recently found you."
"What is fair?" Kinnemore replied between shallow breaths. "Better this fate than what I was presented. Better that I have lived to see my kingdom restored and to see what a fine man my son has become."
Geldion's eyes misted at that. "I wish to know you," the Prince protested. "I wish to know your joys and your sorrows. To learn from you."
Kinnemore slowly shook his head. "You do, my son," he whispered.
"I am not ready . . ."
"You are," the King interrupted forcefully, and the exertion cost him his strength. He fell deeper into the cot, his muscles relaxing for a final time. "You are," he whispered, barely audible, "my son."
Gary and Diane, Mickey and Kelsey and Geno, and all the leaders, dwarf, elf, gnome, and human, gathered in the anteroom to the King's chambers (in what had been Cerid-wen's chambers when the witch ruled Ynis Gwydrin) when Geldion came out.
"The King is dead," the Prince said quietly, though his expression had told all before he ever uttered the words.
Gary looked all around, not knowing what to expect. Would Geldion become King? Would Badenoch and Duncan Drochit, and particularly the Tylwyth Teg, accept this man who had been so complete an enemy? "A fine man was your father," Kelsey offered, and he privately nodded to Gary. "Let none question his wisdom or his courage."
"To King Kinnemore," Lord Badenoch said, drawing his sword and lifting it high in salute, a movement that was repeated all about the room.
Diane saw her opportunity and did not let it pass. She wasn't sure of Faerie's customs in this regard, but guessed that it was pretty much along the lines her own world in ages past. She moved beside Geldion, took his hand and lifted it high. "The King is dead," she proclaimed. "Long live the King!"
There ensued a moment of the most uncomfortable silence, even Geldion seeming confused as to how he should proceed, as to whether anyone would second Diane's bold claim.
Gary put a stare over Kelsey, green eyes matching gold, the man silently reminding the elf how crucial-this moment might be for all the land. Whatever Kelsey's feelings for Geldion, whether or not the elf was convinced that this man should rule, the Connacht army would surely remain loyal to Kinnemore's son.
Kelsey returned Gary's stare for a long moment. "Long live the King!" he said loudly, shattering the silence, and more than one person in that room, new King Geldion included, breathed an honest sigh of relief.
The first days of the new King's rule met, and even exceeded, the hopes and expectations of the leaders of the other towns and races. Geldion proclaimed that Ynis Gwy-drin, and not Connacht, would become the new seat of power, and that the island, and all of Penllyn, would be open and welcoming to any of Faerie's men, elfs, dwarfs, and gnomes.
To Lord Badenoch, who had been perhaps Geldion's staunchest detractor, the new King offered the Dukedom of Connacht, and when the Lord, loyal to his dear Braemar, politely declined, and when Duncan Drochit, equally loyal to his own town, also declined, Geldion begged that both men provide a list of candidates who might properly fill the most important position. It was an offer that surely brought the confidence of many camped in Penllyn, including the Tylwyth Teg, all glad to know that the new King would not put a puppet in Connacht's seat.
That only left one position open, and Gary Leger alone was surprised by Geldion's next offer.
"Your friend, Baron Pwyll, died a hero," Geldion said to Gary one night on the quiet beach of Ynis Gwydrin. The lights of a hundred campfires flickered in the distance, on the shore across the still water.
"Aye," agreed Mickey, the leprechaun standing at Gary's side and doodling in the sand with his curly-toed shoe.
When Gary did not reply, Diane hooked her arm in his, offering him support.
"The people of Dilnamarra have come to expect excellence from their leader," Geldion went on. "The good Baron . . ."
Gary's skeptical stare stopped Geldion momentarily, reminded the new King that he and Pwyll had not been the best of friends while Pwyll was alive.
But Geldion nodded in the face of that doubting expression, and silently admitted the truth. Things had changed, so it seemed, and Geldion pressed on. "Perhaps Baron Pwyll's detractors were misinformed," he admitted. "No man has known a finer moment than Baron Pwyll. He stood on the platform in Dilnamarra, surrounded by enemies, and spoke the truth, though he knew the words would bring about his death. I pray that I might find such courage should the occasion arise. I pray that I might be as much a hero as Baron Pwyll of Dilnamarra."
The sentiments seemed honest enough, and Gary found himself placed in the middle of a test, much as Kelsey and the others had been placed when Diane had first proclaimed Geldion as King. Gary let go his anger then, completely, and put aside his judgments. Through all the turmoil, Geldion had been loyal to his father, or to the monster he had believed to be his father; in remembering his own dad, how could Gary honestly claim that he would have done differently? And now Geldion had lost his father, as Gary had lost his, and the new King was standing strong and honestly trying to do what was right.
Gary's glower faded away.
"I am in need of a Baron," Geldion went on, seeming to understand that he had gained Gary's confidence. "A man who will command the loyalty of the beleaguered people of Dilnamarra. A man who will guide the rebuilding of the town after the grave injustices they have suffered."
For the first time, Gary understood what was coming.
"I offer Dilnamarra to you, spearwielder," Geldion said firmly. "To the slayer of Robert, the man who has acted on behalf of Faerie's goodly folk in all his days in the land. I offer it to you and to Diane, your wife, she who solved the riddle of the haggis and saved Faerie from a darkness more terrible than any the land has ever seen." Gary and Diane looked to each other for a long, long while.
"They'll be needing some time," Mickey whispered to Geldion, and the two slipped away, leaving the couple alone on the dark and quiet beach.
He thought of the good he might do, the improvements to the political system and the general welfare of the common people. He felt like an American colonial, who might bring the idea of democracy to a world full of kings, who might draft a document based on his own Constitution. He and Diane could stay for a few years, perhaps, then return to their own world, where by that world's reckoning they would only have been gone a few days.
How tempting was Geldion's offer, to Gary and to Diane.
Then why? Gary wondered when they were back in a glade in Tir na n'Og just a couple of weeks later, waiting with Mickey and Kelsey for the pixies to come and begin their world-crossing dance. Why were they going back?
Both Gary and Diane had come to the same conclusion, separately, that they could not, should not, remain in Faerie. For all the thrills it might offer, this was not their world, not their place, and they both had families back home. And they had been summoned by an even more insistent call, a call that emanated from their own hearts. Gary had come to terms with the loss of his father now. In the fight for Faerie, in what he had seen pass between Geldion and Kinnemore, the young man had come to remember and dwell on not his father's death, but his father's life. He had come to terms with mortality, and knew then how to beat the inevitable. His answers would not be found in Faerie, but in his family.
Gary and Diane had decided that the time had come for them to have a child, and they could not do that in Faerie - how could they go back to their own world and possibly explain the new addition?
So it was not with heavy hearts that Gary and Diane said their goodbyes to Geno and Gerbil and Tommy at the border of Dvergamal. And it was not with heavy hearts that they stood now in Tir na n'Og, waiting to go home.
"Ye're sure, lad?" Mickey asked, drawing the man from his private contemplations.
Gary could tell from Mickey's tone that the sprite approved of the decision. The leprechaun had hinted several times during their journey back to Tir na n'Og that too much needed to be done in Gary's own world for him to even think of staying to help with Faerie's problems. Indeed, Gary got the distinct impression that if he remarked that he had changed his mind now, Mickey would likely try to steer him back towards his original choice. Kelsey seemed in full agreement. As much as the elf had come to trust and love Gary, and as much as he had already come to respect Diane, Kelsey still thought of them as outsiders, as people who belonged to another place.
"It's been an amazing few . . ." Gary stopped before he said "years," remembering that, by Mickey's terms, all of this incredible adventuring had occurred in just a few short months. "It's been an amazing few months," he corrected with a private chuckle. "So how many others have come over for a similar experience?"
"Faerie's always wanting another hero," Mickey explained cryptically.
"So is my own world," Gary replied. He looked at Diane and shrugged. "Not that I'm anything special back there."
"It's a tough place to get noticed," Diane agreed with a resigned smile.
"But we have to go back," Gary asserted to Diane and to Mickey. "I'd be willing to return - we both would - but let's keep it one adventure at a time."
"It's more mysterious that way," Diane explained. "If we stuck around long enough for the people to get to know us, they'd probably become a bit disenchanted."
Gary, Diane, and Mickey shared a chuckle at the self-deprecating humor.
"I do not believe that," Kelsey interrupted, the elf's tone even and serious. "Their respect would not lessen with familiarity."
Gary, who knew Kelsey so very well, understood how great a compliment the elf had just given to him and his wife. He turned to Diane and she was nodding, fully comprehending.
That satisfying moment was lost when the melodic call of pixie-song wafted through the night air. As one, the companions turned to see the ring of glowing lights, Gary and Diane's ride home.
With a nod to Mickey and Kelsey, and not another word, for they both knew that if they dragged this out, they would not have the strength to continue, the two walked over and stepped in.
"Remember, lad and lass," they heard Mickey call, his voice already sounding distant, "the bridges to Faerie are in yer mind's eye!"
Then they heard the surf pounding below them, and awoke in the early morning hours amid the ruins of a castle in a lonely place on the Isle of Skye known as Duntulme.