"Oh, God," spoke Ruth as she pressed her face deep into Doon's sleeve. "Doon, you know how in the bathroom a minute ago you said that your were surprised by how well we were taking to this magic business? Well, I think you spoke too soon." She wrapped her arms around his arm and squeezed as hard as she could. "This place is giving me vertigo and.…and…I think I am slipping into a panic attack."
"What?" Doon answered. "But you've been here before only a few hours ago."
Her breathing became rapid as tears lined her eyes. "I know! But I can't get over that this place has no bottom. My brain is telling me that I won't fall but my heart is calling my mind a liar. It's too confusing. I want out. I want out now. Please, Doon."
"Okay, okay," Doon put his chin on top her head. He wanted to hold her but she had one arm and Lupe had the other. "Just breathe slowly. I don't want you to pass out on me. Remember Lupe and I are here for you. I won't let you fall."
He squeezed Lupe's hand, throwing a nod her way in a plea for help.
A frown grew across her face. Doon noticed that she too was looking rather pale. Her eyes were staring up past him and into the emptiness that hung above her head.
"You too, Lupe?"
The girl closed her eyes. "I'm okay, really." Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes and strained to give Doon a half smile. "I think the shock of our initial meeting has worn off and now we are realizing this is happening. Especially, after seeing those bodies in the kitchen and that Sidhe getting shot."
"Christ," piped up Ruth. She had her face buried in Doon's sleeve. Despite this her words managed to come out clean. "A goddess is chasing us. An actual mythological goddess."
"And in panic situations," explained Lupe, "I am usually the cool headed one who can figure out what exactly is the right thing to say. But here?" She shook head. "I haven't got a clue. This made me face the fact that I am not a shrink. I don't even want to go to school for psychiatry. I just want to study to be scientist in the field of quantum mechanics."
"Really?" Ruth had lifted her head and was now leaning over for a better view of Lupe. Doon edged back between the two. "I didn't know that."
"Didn't know that? You've been to my room. It's all books on black holes, interdimensions and the Casmir's Effect. I am always watching science programs on PBS. Remember that time I was all gleeful that the Naro was playing a midnight showing of 'A Brief History of Time'? I mean, fan girl gleeful. How could you not know?"
Ruth shrugged her shoulders. "I thought it was a hobby. Besides back in the dining area you said you thought you should go into the medical profession."
"One; the dining area bit was a joke. Two: A hobby?"
"Well, yeah. Look at how I am with field hockey. I practically eat, drink and sleep it but I don't want to make a career out of it."
Lupe scrunched up her face, "Wait, you don't?"
"No, I don't. I want to be archeologist who specializes in world mythology."
"I would have never guessed."
Ruth's face twisted mimicking her friend's, "Now, you've been to my room. What are the books you usually find me reading?"
"Mythol-oh," Lupe face palmed herself, "I should have seen it."
Laughing, Ruth motioned at Doon, "And now with all that is happening, especially with this guy, I want to study the myths even more."
Grinning, Lupe nodded, "I completely understand you. I mean, when he turned into a crow and back to a person all I could think of was 'where did the mass go and how did it come back?' There has to be a scientific explanation for this."
"There has to be!"
"Okay," Doon interrupted. He rolled his eyes upwards, "I am glad you girls are feeling better even if it means making me feel like I am a bug under glass."
"We didn't mean that, Doon," protested Ruth as Lupe moved her head in agreement.
Sighing, Doon wished he could run his hands through his hair to ease his frustration, "I know you don't. I'm sorry. It's just you aren't the only ones who are feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything."
"You're feeling overwhelmed as well?"
"Like you said, we are being chased by a goddess. Do you think these things happen to me every day? Oh, look, it's Saturday. Time to get hounded by Thor. Look, my day to day routine is basically get up, shower, get dress, go downstairs and across the street to the quick shop, buy the morning paper and some breakfast, return to my bookstore, open for business, do some paperwork, close at the end of the day, go back upstairs to my flat above the shop, eat some dinner, watch some telly, surf the net a bit and then sleep. Exciting, I know."
Doon shrugged his shoulders. Despite having drank the water from Grail, he still felt mentally exhausted. "In all honesty," he sighed, "I barely use the magic I know at all anymore. Why would I when using modern technology is so much easier? Why cast a calling spell that would leave me in need of a nap afterwards when I can simply use the phone and ring the wanted person up? Why cast a fire spell when I can flip a switch for light and warmth? Despite modern fantasy, with wizards and witches casting spells for everything and anything, that's not how it is done in real life. Think about the old fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm stories. The witches and the Others in those tales would cast one or two spells per story. That is the truth. The reason why magic isn't everywhere now in this realm is because it is extremely hard to start, control and maintain. If you are not careful, magic will very easily feed on you like a parasite. Taking your very life to keep itself going. Like Newton's first and third law but applied to magic."
"Then how do the Others do it?" asked Ruth. "Maintain their magic, I mean."
"You find sources in which to tap energy from. Mostly from the Earth. Again, think of the old myths, the Norse gods kept young by eating golden apples. For the Olympians, it was ambrosia and nectar."
"And for the Sidhe?"
"The trees. We take energy from the very trees themselves."
"You smell like trees," spoke Lupe as she echoed what Iggy had said to Doon.
"Yeah." Doon's face became somber as he thought of Iggy. "He is right. I do smell like trees."
"If you smell like trees and the Fey smell like clovers, what do we, Humans, smell like to you?"
Biting his lip, he felt his cheeks begin to burn. "Your smell keeps on changing over the passing eras."
"But now?" prodded Ruth.
"You smell like rust."
The girls did not say a word. Thoughts of iron poisoning were running around in their heads.
Doon motioned with his head towards the roaming mirrors. "C'mon, we have to pick a mirror. Which one looks good? Remember, slowest mirror."
Lupe smiled. "Because it's the easiest to catch. I haven't forgotten."
His heart drifted down to his feet. 'Yeah," he said maintaining the lie, "Very good."
A tall oval mirror with a wooden frame crawling away from his right side caught Doon's attention. It reminded him of Ruth's bedroom mirror. A modern mirror? "Girls, how does that one feel? The round number standing right there with the cherry wood frame."
Ruth grinned slyly, "It looks like the one in my room."
"Exactly," Doon grinned back.
The three of them floated towards it. Behind the glass lied a small bedroom. The dwelling was drab with striped yellow wallpaper and slightly dirty hardwood floors. Several different footprints made paths in the grime and dust across the floor. A single bed with cream colored sheets and an end table to keep it company rested on one side of the room with a wardrobe standing watch at the other end. A dresser near the door sat pressed against the wall between the two.
Lupe studied the place. "The room's empty, the door is closed and there's sunlight streaming through that open window. So, it's daytime. That's a good sign, right?"
Doon placed the amulet against the mirror. "Fine. This is the one we are taking then."
A buzzing as thick as wool began to fill the back of his head. The warmth in his stomach was starting to march up his chest and burn his throat. He wanted to pull the amulet away from the glass. He had only felt this same agony a few minutes ago. His body did not want to go through it again so soon. Dry your arse. His eyes turned black. You're a Sidhe.
"YaMai kutsch ti Shevolah!"
The glass vanished.
"Lupe, you first." Doon pushed the girl gently. She hopped on over to other side and reached out for Ruth's hand. Ruth took it and leaped across. The girls then turned back and helped Doon across. The glass reappeared behind them. Doon inspected his reflection. His black eyes looked frightening to him. Almost rabid. He blinked forcing them back to brown and white. With a swift kick, he smashed the mirror.
The girls were taken back.
"Now no one can follow us through that mirror," he assured them. He shook off a shard of glass that had fallen on his boot. "And mind the open windows. Stay clear from them. We don't want anyone on the outside seeing us roaming about in here."
Slipping the amulet back into his pocket, Doon eyed the room only to find Lupe staring back at him. A frown was painting her face. Doon stepped back. "What is it, Lupe?"
"Your hand was clammy and you've become suddenly pale."
Ruth examined the Sidhe as well. "She's right."
Sweeping a hand through the air, Doon brushed them off. "Alright, alright. Let's -"
"That amulet is devouring you, isn't it?"
Shoving his hands on his hips, he rolled his eyes. "We don't have time for this now, Ruth."
"And we won't have time at all if that thing kills you."
"It's not going to kill me. You don't even know how the amulet works."
"Oh, please, don't even go down that route." Ruth planted her hands on her hips as well. "Because as you have told us several times before, you don't know how it works either. And, what, two minutes ago you said, and I quote, if you are not careful, magic will very easily feed on you like a parasite. So, I ask you. Are you a host to that -?"
"Enough!" growled Doon as his face flushed. He turned his back to the girls. "We have to figure out where and when we are. That's the most important thing at hand. The amulet," he ran his hands through his hair, "The amulet we will deal with later."
He felt tapping on his shoulder. He turned around to see Lupe holding up a banana.
"Eat. Keep your strength up."
Looking at the fruit and then back at the stone faced girl who barely met at his chest, he gave a half smile. "Thank you." He took the fruit and unpeeled it. The first bite felt good sliding down his throat.
"You should also drink from the Grail." She took the vessel out of her open duffle. The cup was still swaddled in his sash. With another hand she slipped out a bottle of water.
Doon pushed the water back down into the bag. "Don't waste the bottles. We may need the water for later and, trust me, Lupe. I'm fine." He took another bite of his banana and this time gave her a full, warm smile. "Bananas are more powerful then you realize, you know."
Lupe did not smile back. A worried expression was all she could carry. Doon averted his gaze and took another bite. Putting everything back in order, Lupe drifted towards the other side of the room to where Ruth had sulked off to.
Feeling the shabby wallpaper for outlet bumps underneath, Ruth's eyes run up the wall's height from floor to ceiling. "This place isn't wired for anything. There are no phone or cable jacks."
"It could be one of those old restored houses," said Lupe. She opened the wardrobe. It was empty except for a few slips and padded hangers that had been thrown onto the bottom.
"If it is restored then it seems like a waste." Ruth stared at her feet and traced the shoeprints she had made in the floor dust all the way back to the mirror with her eyes. "No one has been around here for a while to live in it." Something about the dirt caught her eye. It was too grainy for regular dust. She bent over and wiped a finger across the floor. She smelled the dirt. "Cement?"
The two girls turned around to see Doon grinning and squatting down at the side of the bed. He was holding up an electric cord that belonged to a lamp that was perched on the end table. The plug at the end of the cord had an odd circle shape that neither girl had ever seen before. Doon tapped the outlet that he had free the plug from. It had the same strange shape. "We're in Europe." He plugged the lamp back in. "And by the looks of the outlet I say we are on the continent. Somewhere around France or Belgium."
"And us without our passports," grinned back Ruth. "Question is now, when are we?"
"I don't know about the year but the season has to be either Summer or Spring." Lupe pointed at the open window. "That's open and the temperature is pretty warm in here."
Doon still had a little bit of banana with the peel attached to it. He swallowed the fruit. With the room lacking a rubbish bin, Doon settled the peel next to the lamp. "Well," he said, wiping his hands on his black pants. "I say we sneak out of here and find out. What do you gi-"
The room began to rumble. All three of them found their footing. Ruth flattened against the wall. Lupe leaned against the wardrobe. Doon stood up straight in his place.
"An earthquake?" yelled Ruth.
Lupe shook her head. "No, this has a machine soundtrack to it. This is man made. Something big is tearing through. Doon."
Doon did not answer. His skin had lost all color. But not from battle instinct. Fear had drained him.
"Doon." called out Lupe again. "Your face. You know this sound, don't you?"
"Yes." He was trembling. "I don't want to know it but I do."
"Then what is it?"
Outside a machine gun went off. Another one followed in firing. A bullet flew into the room, sliced across Lupe's right cheek and lodged in the wall behind her.
"GET DOWN!" screamed Doon as hit the floor.
The girls followed.
More gun fire went off outside. The sound reminded of Ruth of old typewriters being used in tin cans. The noise was unnerving because it would not stop.
Another bullet raced into the room and hit the wall.
Lupe let out a cry. She slapped her hands over her mouth and balled up her body. Her heart was rushing so much adrenaline through her system that she did not feel the pain of her cheek, only the wetness that she thought were her own tears. However, she found it strange that her face could be so dampened by a few tears. She examined her hands. They were cupping a small pool of her own blood. Her mind snapped shut, unwilling to make sense of the sight. Her body froze in stare.
A grenade went off barely a few feet below the window. The floor trembled. A cloud of building debris wafted into the room. Grey dust covered everyone and everything. The scent of cement drowned out every other smells. A massive explosion went off across the street. A tank had fired its gun taking down an entire wall of some unknown building.
Ruth crawled on her belly to where Doon had flattened himself out on his back. His eyes were darting back and forth as if they were trying to follow the speed of the thoughts that were storming through his head.
"Doon!" Her voice tried to fight over the thunder of the gun fire and the tanks. The battle below won. The Sidhe did not stir.
Reaching out, she brushed his shoulder. The Sidhe startled in a jerk. Eyes rolled up and focused on the girl.
Shuffling up to Doon's side. she put her mouth next his ear, "What are we going to do?"
He looked at her. His face wore a helpless expression that left an unsettling stone in her heart. He flipped over to his stomach. "Ruth, I'm sorry."
Doon's voice came muffled to her ears. "What?"
"I said, 'I'm sorry'. I am an idiot. I thought I was being clever by destroying the mirror."
Shaking her head, she still could not make out what he was saying over the bombardment of noise. She put her mouth next Doon's left ear again, "We have to find another mirror!"
The firing stopped. Shaking his head, Doon felt his ears. They were ringing. Ruth did the same.
"Why did they stop?" she shouted not realizing her voice was going to come out harsh. She cleared her throat.
"It's like that," Doon answered as he eyed the mattress on the bed. Reaching up, he wrapped his hand around the bedspread and yanked the covers off. He dug into the mattress as hard as could and pulled. Ruth slid out of the way as the mattress hit the floor. Sitting up, Doon struggled to prop the mattress up. Slowly, he rose to his feet. Using it as a shield, he shuffled along the floor and pushed the mattress against the open window. He scurried across the room to where Lupe was balled up and sat by her side. Ruth scampered on all fours to the two of them.
"Lupe." Doon touched the girl's shoulders. She jolted, bolting up so fast that her head hit the dresser behind her. She did not even wince in pain. Her face was smeared red with her flowing blood.
"Oh, my god." Ruth grabbed the girl's chin to examine it better, "What happened to you?"
The girl did not answer. Her eyes were staring blankly at nothing.
Ruth's hands went from Lupe's chin to feeling her all over. "Doon, she's cold. She's really cold."
Clearing the few stray hairs from Lupe's face, Doon inspected Lupe's pupils. They were dilated to the point that her irises were nothing more than rings of green around pools of black. "She's in shock." He titled her face revealing the open wound. "She has been shot."
"Guadalupe," Ruth snapped her fingers in Lupe's face. The girl did not respond. She simply stared on.
Doon took her Ruth's hands and told her to hush for a moment. Ruth was not helping. "Here," he took the duffle from Lupe and unzipped it. He unwrapped the Grail. "Hold this." Ruth took the cup.
Unscrewing the cap of a water bottle, he filled the cup half way. Settling the bottle down, he took the cup back. "Tilt her head back."
Gently, Ruth cupped the girl's head in her hands. Lupe jerked away in a whimper. Ruth turned to Doon, hurt and confused. Doon did not return her look. He was focused on Lupe. "Tilt her head back," he repeated.
"Lupe," whispered Ruth. "It's going to be okay. Remember, like what we did with Doon back in the kitchen and cup."
Lupe's eyes came into focus. They fixed upwards to Ruth's.
Ruth forced a smile through her worry. "You need to drink from the cup. You've been hurt."
The small girl turned her attention to the vessel in Doon's hands. A memory clicked into place in her mind. "The Holy Grail," she whispered. She remembered how she felt after she drank from it. Her hands snatched the Grail from Doon's grasp. She swallowed the contents in one gulp. Closing her eyes, she allowed the feeling of comfort wash over her and heal her.
Grabbing the edge of his shirt, Doon poured a little bit of water on it. "Lupe, darlin', look up for me, please?"
The girl peered up over the edge of the cup. She lifted her face towards the ceiling. Doon wiped her bloody cheek with his damp shirt. He took another dry part of the fabric and finished the job.
"There." He sat back and tilted her face for show. "Not even a mark."
The girl felt her own cheek. There was nothing unusual to touch. "My head feels fuzzy."
"Still?" asked Ruth as retrieved the cup from Lupe. She held it up in Doon's view. "Do you think we should give her another shot from the Grail?"
"No, no." Lupe put her hand up in protest. "I remember now. There was a loud pop and my face hurt."
"You were shot," said Doon.
Lupe lowered her head. Her mind was piecing her past together forming a working picture that she could make sense of. "I remember you saying, 'panzer tanks'. Wait, we're in World War II?"
He gave a quiet nod. Ruth placed the bottle and the cup back in the bag. She slipped it over Lupe's shoulders and hung the duffle around her own. Lupe glanced at the bag and then over at the mattress covering the window.
"I lost it, didn't I?" She bit her lip.
"Lupe," Doon began.
The girl shook her head. "No, I'm sorry." Her face twisted trying to hold back the sobbing that wanted to burst forth. "I need to hold it together. You can't have me falling apart right now."
Doon thumped the girl on her crown.
She winced rubbing the sore spot. "What was that for?"
"You needed it," growled Ruth.
Doon pointed at Ruth in agreement. "I think I have to remind you that one; you are still a kid. Two; you were shot at. And three; you are in the middle of the biggest war to date. You have my permission to freak out a little. If you didn't. If you thought this was all a laugh, I would think you were a bit wrong in the head."
Lupe turned to Ruth, "Then how come you haven't freaked out yet?"
"I am a bit wrong in the head."
Doon snorted a laugh.
There was a noise outside in the hallway. Someone was coming up a flight of stairs and towards the door. Ruth huddled up to Lupe and pushed the small girl behind her.
"Stay behind the dresser." Doon rose to his feet as quiet as a stalking cat and padded to the front of the closed door. Taking in every ounce of breathe he could, he cleared his mind and formed a spell in the vacant space. His body tensed up feeling a single word build up in him. He hissed it out, "Sgáth."
The door swung open with a single kick. In the exposed hallway a man in filthy British army fatigues with dried blood caked across his face held his Lee Enfield rifle up ready to fire.
"Who is here?" His gray-blue eyes tried to focus straight ahead but a agonizing pressure behind them forced him to look away. He shook his head thinking that he could have sworn he saw someone standing in front of him. A man in a wool coat. For a second time he tried to concentrate on the space in front of him only for the pain to push him elsewhere. "I heard you speaking. Wer ist hier?"
Doon's mouth fell open in shock. He knew this man.
The soldier slinked into the room with his rifle still raised. Like a totem, Doon remained unmoved. The barrel slipped past Doon's cheek without touching him. The man was so close to him that Doon could feel his hot breath on his own face. Even at that distance the soldier could still not make out the Sidhe.
Doon snatched up the barrel with one hand and twisted the rifle free. Gasping, the soldier tumbled back but caught himself before he hit the floor. His hands fumbled for his pistol from his side holster.
Barjavel seized up at the call of his name. His gaze channeled to where a moment ago was an empty space. A shaggy haired man in a gray coat and a dirty shirt stood in the spot. He was holding the soldier's rifle away from himself like he had deemed the weapon vile.
Blinking in amazement, the sergeant straightened up, commanding his presence. "Who the devil are you? Where did you come from and how the devil did-" He paused as his mind shook a memory free. That face. That stranger's face, he knew it. "Lance Corporal O'Connor?"
Doon handed back his commanding officer's rifle.
From their hiding spot Ruth and Lupe exchanged surprised looks.
"Lance Corporal?" Ruth mouthed. She remembered Doon telling her in the kitchen that he was in the British Army but she was still taken back by the revelation.
Barjavel received his rifle, squeezing it to make sure the weapon was solid. Everything had suddenly become surreal to him. "Y-you are not supposed to be here. You're walled up in the 42nd with Yankee nurses taking care of your wounds. What are you doing here? What are you wearing?" He felt his forehead to make sure he was not burning with fever. Cool, dry skin was all he touched. However, he was not convinced about his sanity.
I am in the hospital. Doon thought. Then this would make the year 1944. First it was falling back days, then years and now decades? What about this next mirror jump? Will we go back centuries? Marcus, how can I find you?
"What is going on, O'Connor?" The panic in Barjavel voice shook the Sidhe out of his daze. "Am I hallucinating?"
Hallucinating? A wave of déjà vu swam over Doon. Something about this is so familiar. I feel like I've been through this before. Hold on, yes, I have been through this before.
A memory took form in Doon's mind. He was sitting up in a cot in a large crowded field hospital tent. His wounds were being unwrapped for the last time by a pretty French volunteer. She kept on making eyes at him. He smiled back as she carefully stroked the new skin that sealed shut a bullet hole. A doctor, who had an American accent that Doon could not place the region origin from, explained to the soldier that he would be sent back into the lines in seventy-two hours. For now, Doon needed to rest up as much as he could.
Someone shouted out his name. He turned to see Sergeant Barjavel fighting his way through the mess of medical people. His commanding officer was actually beaming. Doon had never seen the man smile before.
"Oh, thank the heavens that you are still here, O'Connor. You have no idea what I have been through to get back to you." Taking off his cover, he ran a hand through the little bit of blonde hair that he had. Sweat marked his brow. He caught his breath and placed his cover back on. "No idea indeed."
Doon was puzzled. "Sir?"
Sergeant Barjavel addressed the doctor and the volunteer. "Pardon me, but may we have some privacy?"
The Doctor scanned the tent. Every cot was filled. A small mob of doctors, nurses, volunteers and able body soldiers scurried around in working madness. A wall of voices demanding everything from water to morphine to a priest made it difficult to even hear one's own thoughts. "Privacy is something we are out of here, sir. But I will allow you ten minutes with the patient then he must rest."
He motioned to the volunteer and told her in French to follow him to another patient. The woman rose to her feet, gathered her bandages and tailed the Doctor. She glanced over her shoulder as she did so, giving Doon one last flirty smile.
Doon winked. Turning to his commanding office he offered an empty wooden chair that sat next to his cot.
Taking it, Barjavel cupped his own face in his hands and steadied his thoughts. His heart was pounding with excitement. Drawing in a breath, he looked at the soldier before him. His body leaned in until he was barely a foot away from Doon's face. "What I am about to say to you, I am not saying this as your commanding officer but as one man to another. Now I want you to listen to every word and don't resist, do you understand?"
Quietly, with complete seriousness, Doon nodded.
"Less than three days ago, I had a vision of you. Or at least a being that had your face. That vision saved my life." He grasped Doon's unharmed shoulder, "More important he told me to tell you exactly what happened in this vision and to make absolutely certain that I gave you this one word."
"What is that word?"
Standing in the room, Doon knew exactly what he had to do. "Hallucinating isn't entirely correct, Sergeant Barjavel. You are having a vision."
Barjavel shook his head in protest. "If this is a vision then how come I am seeing you? How come not my wife? How come not my second in command, Liddel? Why you, Bram?"
Doon had the answer. The words had been revealed to him many decades before. "Because, sir, you have told me that I am the most superstitious man you have ever met. Believing in what you have called silly trinkets of backward Irish beliefs and the words of mad men who have claimed to have heard the whispers of God. Who but I is better to come to you in an other worldly vision?"
Spreading his arms, Doon closed his eyes. He opened them revealing solid black. Gold symbols scrolled across his flesh. Each one a name of an Archangel. Three enormous sets of Golden Eagle wings broke through the back of his coat. The top set spread out like a canopy over the Sidhe casting his face in stark shadow. The second reached past his wide open arms. The last pair wrapped around his lower torso and blanketed his legs. A halo of gold light crowned the Sidhe's head.
Ruth and Lupe stared in awe. Neither one dared to turn away out of fear that they would miss the next amazing sight.
"No. No! No!" Barjavel threw down his rifle and clutched his chest. His feet clomped backwards towards the door. "This can't be happening." His voice was becoming shrill. "I've gone mad. I've gone mad!"
"David Barjavel" breathed Doon in a solemn voice.
"No!" shrieked Barjavel as he bared his teeth. He turned on his heel and bolted for the hallway.
"Shite," Doon muttered under his breath. His wings faded instantly. His skin lost the gold writing and his eyes became cinnamon and white again. He raced after the man. Grabbing his jacket, Doon pulled Barjavel back and down.
The soldier slammed against the floor. He let out a yelp of pain.
Doon glowered over him, "Pull yourself together, man. You're English."
Barjavel's mouth thinned out in anger. His hands balled up in tight fists.
Stepping back, Doon held up his hands. "Do not fight, David Barjavel. You need to hear me out."
Climbing to his feet, Barjavel straightened out his jacket. He sniffed the air and adjusted his helmet in an attempt to make himself presentable. "I am not going mad, am I?"
"Not here, you are not."
"This is actually happening."
"Like with so many prophets before."
Snorting a sarcastic laugh, the soldier gave Doon a clear once over. "Are you saying you are an angel? With those wings and halo that you presented to me a moment ago?"
Doon's face held no humor. His eyes were straight and sober. "What I am saying, Sergeant David Barjavel of Leeds, is that Bram O'Connor of Cork is indeed in a cot right now recovering. And what I am about to reveal to you and what is happening here between you and I, you must find him and tell him."
"Why don't you tell him yourself? Why don't you give him this vision and haunt me no more?"
Closing his eyes, Doon took a deep breath. "All the world's stage. And all the men and women merely players-"
Barjavel shook his head. He knew the quote. "They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts," he finished. "So, today's part I will be playing the messenger?"
Doon snuck a smile. "Deliver this and you will be saved."
"My soul does not need any saving, Angel."
'But your hide does."
Silence over came the sergeant. His face became concerned.
"You have lost your men, have you not?" Doon pointed upward, "You came into this house in hopes of climbing to the roof."
"I would be able to survey the entire town from that height."
"Do not do this," He swept his hand across his face. His eyes turned grayish white as did his skin. He was a corpse. "You will be spotted and killed."
"Then what should I do?" Barjavel's voice was steady and calm.
Doon shook his head. Color returned to his flesh. "There is a back entrance to this house through the kitchen. Take it and turn left. You will see a restaurant with a white door. Go through it and out back. You will find your men there. They are searching for you."
Barjavel's eyes became distant. "White door," he mumbled. His mind tried to grasp the false Bram's words.
In the distance a rifle went off starting another round of battle. Gun fire began to ramble on like gossip. Doon glanced over his shoulder at the mattress, wondering how far the fire fight was. He returned to the sergeant. "Now, David Barjavel," Doon maintained a detached demeanor despite his heart pounding heavy in his chest in fear, "After this you will find Bram in the medical tent. I possess a word that he must know. He will not understand the meaning of it now but in the future the word will be dire to him. The word is paradox."
"What does it mean? Why is it necessary for him to know this?"
"That information is only for him. But know this, if you fail to do this, the fate of many will end horribly."
Bending over, the sergeant picked up his rifle. "Paradox," he repeated. He felt his forehead once more. Still cool and dry. "And I am to tell everything that has happened here? Including I having a fit?"
"This is how it must be." A thought occurred to Doon. "David Barjavel. I have one more question for you."
He shouldered his rifle. "As if I could resist answering."
Doon waved away the man's snark. "Have you come across a mirror in any of the neighboring buildings? A large one, the size of a man?" He gestured to the standing mirror. Shards of glass littered the floor around it. "This one as you see has been shattered."
Barjavel scrunched up his brow. "Why do you need a mirror?"
A cold, unfeeling stare from Doon answered him.
"That is not for me to know, is it?" Barjavel scratched his chin in thought. "So, let me presume that this is a test of some sort."
The gun fire outside was becoming louder. The fight was inching closer.
Barjavel looked past his false Bram and eyed the mattress leaning against what he assumed was a window. He wondered what soldier did that. He twisted his face, concentrating on the question. Time was not here to be wasted. "Across the street," he said pointing at the mattress. "There is a ballet studio on the top floor. A mirror, a wall's length and height, can be found there." He faced false Bram, "Is that what you want?"
Doon's face did not betray the joy of having the answer. "Yes," he said coolly.
"Now I have question for you." His shoulders dropped in submission, "I know it is not my place but seeing how you know the future."
"You will survive this war, David Barjavel of Leeds. You will survive and marry a nurse. You will have children and they will love you."
Covering his gaping mouth, Barjavel shut his eyes. A knot that he had been carrying within him since the start of the war loosened. He wanted to cry but held himself. "Thank you, whatever you truly are."
Doon's eyes began to mist up. He understood exactly what the man was feeling right then for he had gone through it as well when he had been a soldier during the war. The relief of knowing that the nightmare would end without swallowing him was so sweet. However, Doon tightened his jaw and remained composed. "You must leave now. Again, take the kitchen entrance, turn left and go through the restaurant . Then find Bram O'Connor."
Barjavel nodded slightly. Slowly, he turned around and headed out the door.
Sucking a large breath, Doon spoke. "Sgáth."
A shiver of electricity spiked up Barjavel's spine. He spun around and gazed into the room. The place was empty once more. Grasping his rifle in both hands he ran towards the stairs and made his way to the kitchen.
"Doon," whispered Ruth.
The Sidhe held out his hand signaling her to stay silent.
She tightly pressed her lips together.
Doon listened as Barjavel opened the creaking kitchen door and venture out into the open war. Sinking to his feet, Doon balled up. He wrapped his arms over his head as he buried his face between his knees.
Ruth stood up quickly while Lupe clumsily found her feet.
"He called you 'Bram'," started Ruth as she padded softly over to the rolled up Sidhe. "Is that your actual name?"
Doon remained folded. "No, Doon's my real name. Doon: Protectorate of the O'Connor clan." His left hand gestured in the air, "Hence, Doon O'Connor."
Squatting down, Ruth tilted her head trying to get Doon to look at her. "Then where does 'Bram' come from?"
Under his wavy hair, Doon's eyes peered up. He threw back his head. His mouth wore a tired frown. "Every twenty years or so I move to a new town or city, change my name and start a new life. You have to do these things when you age like I do. This here," he tapped the floor boards. "was my Bram phase."
He dropped his head back down but not completely. His eyes were still staring at the girl. "My names come from three sources." He held up his hand and marked off one finger, "Saints," he marked off a second finger, "Authors," he marked off the last finger, "And the Bible."
"So, Bram is short of Abraham, the Biblical patriarch?"
Doon shook his head. "Bram is short for Bram Stoker. The writer of 'Dracula'. I like the book."
"And those wings and that halo?"
"Fake. Fake. Fake." His hand danced in illustration. "Illusions of glamour."
"What does paradox mean to you?" Lupe spoke. She was standing at the edge of the bed. Her face held a worried look that puzzled Ruth.
"Yeah, what does paradox mean?" said Ruth as she sat down on the floor. "I heard it once in a movie but I wasn't paying attention."
Doon rolled his head and looked up to Lupe. Her dower face made him want find a hole and crawl into it. "She knows completely what it means. Anyone who follows Hawking knows the definition of that word."
"I do," agreed Lupe softly, "But I don't know what it means to you."
Turning away, Doon stared at the broken mirror. "The amulet I use to open the mirror doors was given to me by Marcus. When he handed it to me I was about to leave for Tir Na Nog for about a month. He warned me that something was going to happen to me there. He said he knew this because a mutual acquaintance of ours had a terrible dream about me being in danger. It was a surreal dream with a harpy eating my heart and me trying to save a dove. But that is all he told me."
"That's everything he told you. Every last detail?"
Doon buried his head and wrapped his arms over himself once more. "Yes. He didn't speak to me about a pair of American children or a cross dressing Fey. Or me returning to the War. And he definitely did not utter one word of the Holy Grail and the trouble it would cause me." He stopped. His eyes were tearing up as his emotions were flooding his body. Biting his lower lip, he held up his head. "Marcus is many things but sloppy and ill prepared is not one of them."
"No," Lupe whispered as she staggered over to the Sidhe and dropped to her knees aside him. "No, no…"
Masking his eyes with his hands, Doon allowed his tears to fall. He could not hold them back any longer.
Lupe cradled her head in her hands, "Oh, Doon."
"I DON'T," shouted Ruth as she shook her balled up fists. Her face flushed red with frustration. "Will someone explain to this idiot sitting before you what the hell is going on? Please?"
Lupe placed her hands down. "Ruth, what just happened now?"
She shrugged, "I have no idea. Uhm…Doon's CO made a special guest appearance in our quest?"
'Yes. But what did Doon tell him?"
"To go find Bram-Doon and to tell him what happened here." Ruth threw her hands in the air, "And I am still not following."
"Present day Doon told Barjavel to go back to past day Doon and tell him everything that happened here so that past day Doon would be able to have this information for now. Here. In this room." She sighed shaking her head at what was to come next. "However, Marcus told nothing of the Grail or the amulet to past day Doon."
"Because it never happened," finished Doon. "We never meet up with Marcus in the past."
Ruth slapped her hands against her forehead. "Oh, Christ."
With the sound of gunfire rattling off in the distance, the three of them sat in silence. None of them were thinking, only feeling the pain the situation was feeding them.
Lupe shut her eyes and found her courage to speak. "What are we going to do next, Doon?"
He wiped his eyes and composed himself. "We still have to find a place to hide the Grail. No matter what, that is our true goal here."
"That amulet that opens the mirrors," Ruth held out her hands, "May I see it, please?"
Doon pulled it out of his coat pocket. He reached over to the girl only to hesitate at the last second. "Be careful with it."
"I am not going to drop it," she said softly.
"It's not that. I am not sure how it will react to non-Mage Humans. If you feel sick in any way, hand it back."
Ruth nodded. Gently, Doon placed it in her hands. The amulet was much heavier than it appeared to be as well as being unusually warm. She peered into the ruby glass and saw nothing but her own reflection.
When Ruth said nothing of the eyes, Doon raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "You don't see them?"
The girl raised her gaze, "'See' what?"
"Never mind." He buried his head back between his knees.
"Alright, we know that this thing can take us backward in time. Can it take us forward as well?"
Doon looked up again. "Yes. That's what Marcus told me."
"How does he know?"
"Knowing Marcus, he probably committed the manual to memory."
"So, there's a manual to this thing?"
"Well, probably a scroll or a book bound in some sort of odd animal leather. Most likely Human."
"Human?" Lupe was aghast.
"All flesh has magical potential properties to it, therefore, most books of magic are bound in leather. And with your people being the most populating higher functioning species in this realm…"
"I get it," Ruth turned away and stuck out her tongue. "But that doesn't make it any less disgusting."
Doon held up his hands, "Hey, I don't make the rules."
Ruth cut the air with her hand trying to clear the room of any more Human leather talk. "Anyway, what I was saying is, where are the instructions?"
"With Marcus. How else would he be able to commit them to memory?"
"Of course they would be with Marcus." Her shoulders dropped as she stared at the amulet. "Another question. Is this the only amulet of its kind?"
"Actually there are two more."
Ruth smiled as hope bloomed within her. "Two?"
"Yes, one is with Cathal, the Sidhe that is following us. Well, I did not see him holding it but I am sure he has one. It's the only way he could be trailing us through the mirrors. Plus, I remember seeing Morrigan having one. She must have given hers to him."
"Fine. And the other?"
Doon shrugged his shoulders.
"But would each amulet have its own set of instructions?"
"I would presume or how else would you know how to work….it….?" He unfolded his body and stretched out his long legs. The toe of his right boot tapped the girl's knee. "You are not proposing what I think you are proposing?"
"That we find the this amulet and its instructions, right?" Lupe finished the thought.
A smile slid across Ruth's face. "Think about it. If we find those instructions then we can go back to our time. Then we can find Marcus. This whole time whatchamacallit-."
"Paradox," said Lupe.
Ruth snapped her fingers, "Paradox, would be a mute issue."
Lupe folded her arms, "She has a point."
Doon shook his head, "No, no, no. There has to be another way."
"Why are you so quick to dismiss it?"
"Charm hunting?" scoffed Doon. "In the middle of World War II? Yes, let's trample across the continent while the Allies and Axis powers continue their slug match and hope that we come out unscratched with the amulet instructions intact."
"Then," Ruth threw her arms in the air, "What do you suggest?"
Two streets down, a tank fired its gun. The building quaked. Everyone in the room covered their heads for a moment.
"We do another jump." Doon folded up his legs again. "We get out of the World War II era."
"Ruth, I've lived through this time. I fought through this time. Once is enough for this nightmare. Especially now that I have you two with me."
"But we can go to the Allies' camp. We would be safe there."
"Yes, but we wouldn't be able to go looking for the amulet instructions anyway even if that turns out to be our only option in the end."
Ruth held up the amulet, "So, this is here on the mainland?"
Doon bit his lip. He ran his hands through his hair. "Marcus said he kept that one there in a violin case for almost two hundred years. Almost two hundred years ago from our time Marcus was in Prague. I am hoping he found it there and not another country without me knowing about it. If we go back far enough we can find the instructions before Marcus does, copy them, leave the original for Marcus to find and use the duplicate to get back to present day."
Ruth and Lupe exchanged looks. Ruth's mouth twisted in doubt. Lupe shrugged her shoulder.
"Look," Doon cut into their silent conversation. "Let's get out of here. Once we fine a quiet spot back in time all of us can sit down and work out the bugs in the plan. Can we at least agree on that? Let's get away from the Nazi tanks and the Allie planes."
The tank outside fired another shot. The machine was now a single street away.
"Agreed," answered the girls.
Rising to their feet, all three dusted themselves off. Ruth handed back the amulet. Doon placed it back in his coat pocket and motioned to the door. Out they all went.
The corridor was narrower than the ones the girls had been used to back home. Black and white photographs lines the walls. Some of them were scattered along the floor. They had been shaken off by the ongoing blasting of tank guns. Down the stairs they slowly tipped toed not sure if there were soldiers outside listening in for sounds of movement. Doon did not care even if the soldiers were British. He simply did not want to be spotted and dragged into the war more than he already had.
The front entrance was opened wide. A white door lied on the floor coming into the house. A boot print was painted on its back. The poor thing had been kicked in. Another victim of the war. Carefully, Doon picked it up and rested against the wall next to entrance. He squatted next to the door frame and motioned for the girls to stay back. Leaning into the outside, he peeked up and down the street. The path was empty. He scanned the buildings that rested across from him. On the top floor of a building off to the right slowly swayed a sign shaped and painted to resemble a of pair ballet slippers.
He turned to the girls and beckoned his hand at them. Quietly, they stepped over. Doon pointed at the sign, then pointed at the girls and himself and jerked his hand forward indicating that they were about to run. The girls nodded.
Straightening out his legs but still remained hunched over, Doon ran into the open air. The girls followed. Across the street they sprinted to the entrance way that housed the ballet studio. The door was locked. With two strong kicks from Doon's boot the door gave way. The girls ran inside. Doon was about to go in when something off to his left caught his eye. He stepped into the entrance way, squatted again and peered out.
Down two blocks away, a dozen Nazi soldiers scampered across the street from where the three of them had just ventured from. They ducked behind a pile of rubble and a couple of overturned vendor stands that had not been tidied away in the city exodus.
Leaning back into the hallway, Doon gently banged his head against the wall. "Oh, feck me."
"What is it?" Ruth took a glimpse out into the street before Doon yanked her back into the building.
"Don't," he barked quietly.
"Those were Nazis!" whispered Ruth. She wanted take another look but knew that it would suicidal to do so.
"They're heading for Barjavel's direction."
'But he'll be with his platoon. You said he would be if he followed your instructions."
Ruth scrunched up her face in puzzlement. "That word again."
"That word again." He sunk to his seat. "We know that Barjavel followed my instructions and was able to find his platoon. What we don't know is if it worked because of something I did. That is, those Nazis are heading his way. What if I am supposed to stop those soldiers to give him more time to search for his men?"
Ruth smacked her head. "Christ, why does time travel have to be some damn confusing?"
Lupe stepped in front of the Sidhe. "You are going to go back out there aren't you?"
Lazily, Doon bobbed his head in a nod, "Yeah…"
"Well," the girl offered her hand to him. "At least you can go knowing that you succeeded."
Doon embraced her grasp and climbed to his feet. "How do you figure that?"
"Barjavel was able to give you the message."
Doon grinned. He had not realized that part. No matter what now, he was not going to screw up. Tenderly, he pushed the girls out of his way, clearing a path out the door.
"You are just going to run out there like that?" Ruth gasped in panic. "Without any weapons?"
Doon climbed out of his coat and handed it to Ruth. He stretched out his limbs. "Uh-huh. Like I did in the Vegas kitchen," He leaned over to a sprinter's position.
"Oh, yeah." A grin marked Ruth's face as well. "Poor, poor Nazis. They don't have a chance."
He focused his gaze in front of him. I can do this because I've done this before. His leg muscles began to twitch with excitement. Alright, one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to -
The city building blurred around him as he raced down the street. His mind worked on which soldier he was going to attack first and who to go on from there. Like the kitchen. his minded repeated, only without the limiting space made from the walls, ceiling and the island.
The sound of approaching foot steps made a soldier look up from his map. All he could make out was a gray blob that was speeding towards him and the kicked up cloud of dirt behind it.
"Was?" He threw down his map and went for his rifle. "Achtung!"
Doon was on him before the soldier had a firm grasp on his weapon.
With the smell of lavender in his face, down the Nazi went. Four more followed before they could realize that something was amiss. An additional six fell before they were able to take to their weapons. The last one stood up straight. His body trembled as he held his rifle in front of him. Doon tapped his shoulder. The soldier spun around. Doon seized the weapon and pulled it free out of the man's hands.
The Sidhe sighed with a troubled frown, "Tut mir leid." He clocked the man with the butt of the rifle.
The soldier collapsed to the dirt out cold.
Using the rifle like a cane, Doon hunched over, gasping for breath. A stitch formed in his side.
Clapping arose from the ballet studio building. Doon raised his head to see Ruth and Lupe leaning out of the door frame, giving him a modest applause. His eyes widened at their ridiculousness. Dropping the rifle, he waved his hands, "Go upstairs already!"
The streets began to roar and shake. Two blocks down from where Doon stood, a Panzer's gun poke through the buildings followed by the rest of the machine.
Ruth and Lupe squeaked in fear and ducked back into the building. Doon started to dash down the street. He knew he was no match for a tank. He leapt into the air and turned into a crow. Up he went over the building. Past the house they had originally come from, he made his way to the next street over and perched on the eave. He spotted Barjavel. The soldier was not with his platoon. He was instead pacing in a panic.
"Where are you? Where are you?" he cried as he went back and forth. He was wringing his rifle, turning his hands a raw red.
Why haven't you found your platoon, Sergeant? Doon scanned the street and understood the problem. There were only two restaurants on the entire length of the street. One had a red door and the other was missing a door altogether. Shite. Doon racked his memory of the field hospital meeting between him and the Sergeant. Maybe there's something I am forgetting. I don't remember him telling me that he was lost in the a street. The whole scene played in his mind once more. No, he never told me about this part. And he never told me about his fit either. Feck it all, Sergeant, why did you not tell me?
For a moment the Sidhe wished that he was Fey. Unlike his kind, Fey could change the look of their environment with glamour and not only their own appearance. He even lacked a spell that could convince his commanding office that the red door was actually white. A sinking feeling pulled Doon deeper in despair. Even if I could convince him, I left out one important factor. His men. Where are his men?
Jumping off the eave, Doon soared past Barjavel. Flying over the rooftops, he searched for the soldier's men, hoping that they were near by. He found them. They were only two streets over but all the way down on the end of it. He landed on the roof of a building overlooking where the soldiers lied hidden. Encircling a single man who had a map laid out on the ground, they were trying to figure out what was the best way to search for their missing leader.
Alright, here are the men. Good. Good. Now if I can convince them to head north and Sergeant to head south, they are bound to run into each other. But that door is going to be a problem. A memory ticked into place. The house. The kicked in entrance door was white.
He had a plan.
Hopping over a bit, he searched the other side of the street for an open door. When he saw one he glided down and into it. He found himself in a bookstore that was still intact. Turning back into his Human form, he giggled for a moment in utter glee. His hands swept across the shelves, stroking the spines of books. He wished that they carried his favorite book but knew that the timing was wrong. Lord of the Flies was not due to come out for another year.
He smacked his head. What are you doing? Books can wait. Move! Ignoring the siren song of the printed word, he ran to the front of the shop. The door was unlocked. The merchant had fled the oncoming war without securing the place. Doon opened the door and peeked around. The street empty. He took a running start and leapt. His form changed back to a crow. Heading back to the building he and the girls had first traveled to, he checked to see if Barjavel was still in the street behind it. The soldier was. Having given up on pacing, he was simply staring at his boots.
No. I am mistaken. He's not staring. His eyes are closed. He's praying. That right bastard is actually praying!
Doon could not believe it. However; he did not allow his amazement waver him. With Barjavel not looking at him, Doon soared down and flew straight into the restaurant that was missing a door. He landed on a table and hopped off. His body went back to its Humanoid form. Quietly, not to alert the attention of the Sergeant outside, he examined the room. The front door looked straight through into the swinging kitchen doors. Doon scampered through them and into the kitchen. The back door, which was closed lined up in sight with the kitchen doors and the front doors. He tried the door only to find it locked. He squatted and examined the lock. It was an old number. The type where a key was needed whether someone was coming or going.
"Feck it all," he swore out loud. No, you can't catch me a break, can you, Almighty? The door was weak looking. Two hard kicks was all that was needed to bring it down but to also bring Barjavel in running or even worse, shooting.
B and E it is then. Okay, more like breaking and escaping. Still, the principal is the same. Now I need something flat and long. With his hands on his hips, he scanned the room for something, anything to help him grabbed a butter knife off a counter and jimmied the lock. The door swung inward and remained open. Sneaking back into the tiny dining room, he grabbed to chairs and propped the swinging doors opened with them. Now there was a clear line of sight leading from the front entrance to the back.
He peeked out the back entrance. The street was still empty. Taking a few steps back, he sprinted and jumped. His body changed back to a crow. Flying over the restaurant, he made his way back to the original building. He landed in the street in front of the entrance that was facing the ballet studio wanting to spy on the Nazis for a moment.
The tank that he saw rattling into the street was heading away from him. A dozen soldiers were marching behind it like ducklings following their mother.
That's it. Go away. Far away. He walked towards the doorless entrance.
In the marching formation, a soldier stumbled over his undone laces. Three other soldiers stopped to help him to his feet. Embarassed, he mumbled a thanks as something captured his attention.
A hooded crow was strolling towards a building. The soldier had seen such birds before. Especially in the forests of his town. But never one in this part of the continent. Everyone turned to see what had captured the soldier's attention.
The crow hopped into the building.
"Would you look at that," said one soldier with a bandage on his cheek in German. "I wonder why he went in there?"
"Probably left the stove on," smirked another in the same language.
The first soldier frowned, not paying any mind to his brotheren. There was something off about the crow to him. Something he could not define.
"No," whispered another soldier still. As he walked past the first soldier to a pile of German's lying on the street. "Baeker, Wirth, Lehrer…everyone. They're dead."
Another soldier came to his side. His face drained in color. "My God in heaven, Weber, happened?" He raised his head and scanned the windows trying to figure out if they had been shot from above.
"There isn't any blood," said a third a soldier who had dropped to his knees to examine the bodies.
"What do you mean 'there isn't any blood'? They're dead, Hahn. How can there not be-"
In his sleep, Lehrer turned and let out a snort of a snore.
Startled, all three soldiers fell back.
"Are they asleep?"
Swinging his rifle around him, Hahn dropped to his knees. He drew close to the lying bodies. He poked Wirth in the stomach. Wirth swatted away the soldier's hand and curled up.
Hahn sat back on his legs. "They are asleep! Did the British do this to them?" He looked up at his fellow solider. "Are the British using tranquilizers in combat now?"
"Look!" cried the first soldier as he pointed at the direction where the crow was. His eyes never left the bird as the other men attended to their sleep friends.
The bottom part of a white door slipped out from the entrance. Everyone shut up and its sudden appearance. The door bobbed up and down for a few seconds as if a unseen person inside the building was trying to get a good grip on it. The door dashed back into entrance way, disappearing as fast as it had came.
"What in the name of God?" asked Hahn. "The crow went into that building and now that."
Weber rubbed his eyes in disbelief. "This is weird. Very weird. I don't like this at all."
The first soldier threw his hand in the air.
Silence and then attention came.
"We are going to find out what is going on," he said without looking at anyone. "That crow had something to do with this, I know it. Fuchs, try to wake up these men."
Fuchs kicked a sleeping body. The man barely stirred.
"I don't think they are going wake up, Lange." He kicked one again. "No. They're not going to wake up."
"Then go catch up with the others and return with some extra hands. We are not going to leave people behind."
The soldier nodded and ran off to complete his duty.
"Weber, Hahn, you are with me." He pressed himself against the wall. "Come on."
Much to their delight, Ruth and Lupe had found that the ballet studio had a bathroom with a working toilet and sink. However, both of them agreed not to drink for the tap. The water may have been clear but neither were not to sure about the sanitation of it. Still, the water was perfect for washing up. With both girls not positive on the next chance they might come across a working bathroom, they took turns cleaning themselves as best as they could.
With her hair still dripping wet and her sports bra still damp from a wash, Ruth opened the door and walked out of the bathroom. She sighed happily while twirling her field hockey shirt.. "The place is all yours, Ramirez."
Lupe stood up. She had been sitting outside the bathroom with the bag, keeping guard. "Oh, thank God, I've got to pee."
Ruth took the duffle from the girl. "The Holy Water ran through you?"
"In more ways than one." She closed the door behind her. "Where's the soap?"
"On the sink, next to the left handle." Ruth searched the floor. "Where's that shirt that I found in the cloak room?"
"I draped it over the balance bar so it would not get wrinkled."
Ruth spotted it. "Thanks."
Placing the old one over the balance bar, she slipped on her new shirt. The cotton felt stiff as if who ever wore it last baptized the garment in starch. However, it was clean. When they entered the ballet studio, after giving the locked door almost half a dozen hard kicks, Ruth raided the place for its worth. Lupe simply sighed but kept her mouth shut. Raiding, she feared, was turning into a habit. A habit she knew that was necessary given all three of their futures were uncertain.
Ruth found the cloak room hiding behind the wall length mirror first. A white shirt, a silk scarf and a black pea coat hung on separate holding pegs. She left empty handed. Next was the discovery of the bathroom. She was so grateful to see a bar of soap that she nearly cried. Though she had only taken a shower that morning, her time, she felt ages had passed since she last cleaned up. Her discomfort only double once she was able to check herself out in the wall sized mirror that was used for practice. The past two times she had been in front of a mirror was for a brief moment before jumping into it. Now with free time ahead of her, she discovered that when she raised her arms, two deep sweat stain circles marked her. They had been there since the end of practice. She groaned wondering why Lupe had not mentioned this horror to her. She went back to the cloak room and grabbed the shirt.
Now with herself clean and a crisp fresh shirt wrapped around her, she felt she could breath for the first time she ran to her brother's room.
She took a seat outside of the bathroom next to Doon's neatly folded coat. Her feet wiggled, sockless in their shoes. She ditched her socks behind, leaving them in the bathroom. Eyeing her reflection from across her room, a pondering came to her.
"Hey, Lupe, what time do you think it is?"
"The sun is still out. So-"
"No, I mean, our time, from the time we left Joshua's room."
A toilet flushed. The sound of running tap water came next. "I haven't the foggiest, Ruthie. For all I know it could be anywhere between nine and midnight. Why? Are you feeling sleepy?"
"A little." She unzipped the duffle bag and rummaged through the fruit. She picked a couple of grapes and popped them in her mouth. "Though I doubt we will be sleeping in beds tonight. If we get any sleep at all."
"What do you mean?"
Ruth chewed on another grape. "We keep on going from bad to worse. I hate to see what this next jump is like."
Lupe opened the door and stuck her head out. Her hair was dripping wet. "Please, don't even joke like that."
Ruth tried to feign innocence. "Who's joking?"
Groaning, Lupe stepped back into the bathroom and closed the door.
Another grape slid down Ruth's throat. She slipped the amulet out of Doon's coat. Holding it in one hand and popping grape with the other, she stared deeply into the ruby glass. Her reflection in the glass look completely lost in the fact of such magic. She wondered how the charm work. She wondered how many mirrors there were exactly in the realm it opened to. So many choices in time and place. All randomly running about.
The sound of water splashing stopped for a moment. "Yes?"
"Back in the casino hallway. You said that you believed in fate and free will. I didn't know you believed that. How does it work?"
"We already talked about this, Ruthie."
"In Religion class last year. We were studying the St. Augustine. Sister Ebba opened the discussion to the class. Remember? Richard went on that hot air rant about how we were all pawns of God. Like we were all chess pieces only to be played out by the Almighty. And then Jennifer called him an idiot because, 'What about free will then?' You have to remember it. Even calm as a Buddhist, Anthony got into the debate."
Ruth closed her eyes and racked her brain.
A pair of eyes drifted up to the surface of the amulet and examined her. They dropped back down and disappeared as the girl opened her own once again. "I am burning brain cells here, Lupe, and I still don't remember. What month was this?"
"March. Wait…my mistake. You were sick at home with the chicken pox. I remember now because I was thinking at the time, 'Ruthie, has no idea what she is missing.'"
"It was that epic?"
"It was that epic."
Ruth placed the amulet back into Doon's coat pocket. She then zipped up the duffle bag. "So, are you going to explain to me the whole fate and free will thing? You know, how it works. If it fits here. Because I am trying to wrap my brains around what is happening to us. Magic. The Holy Grail. Time Travel. Nazis a-go-go. There has to be some sort of reasoning behind this insanity."
"Alright…uhm, you know that old saying 'All roads lead to Rome'?"
Ruth rose to her feet and stretched her back. "Yeah."
"It's like that. Like Rome is the our fate. No matter what, we are going to end up in that city. However, the choice of roads given to us is our free will. We don't get a say where we end up but we do have one on how we get there. Understand?"
"Sort of." The girl wondered over to mirror. At the end on of on side stood a staff leaning against the wall. Ruth picked it up and felt the weight of the wood in her hands. The thing was about the size of her field hockey stick and almost as heavy. Tapping the floor twice with one end, she imagine that who ever ran the studio used the staff to keep time. She shouldered it and returned to her sitting spot. "Us meeting Doon could be considered fate?"
"And us deciding to go with him is our free will," finished Lupe.
"But," Ruth rested the staff across her lap, "if we had stayed we would have probably lost our heads."
The bathroom door opened up. Lupe's head peaked out once more. "None the less. We could have stayed and chose to be murdered. All the paths given to us aren't always going to be pleasant." She looked down at the staff. Her face twisted in puzzlement. "Where did you get that?"
"In the corner over there. I think I am going to take it since we are down a pan."
Lupe shut her eyes. More stealing. She slinked back into the bathroom and shut the door behind her.
Ruth paid no mind. "And us going to Vegas and then coming here, is that fate or free will?"
"I am not sure. I can see how it could work both ways."
Closing her eyes, Ruth felt a horrible thought bubble to her surface as she pondered further on free will and fate. A knot slowly formed in her stomach. One of her very own. Her hands began to wring the staff.
"Ruthie," called Lupe. "You've gone quiet. Are you okay?"
Ruth bit her lip. "Guadalupe, is it ethical what we are doing? Taking the Grail and hiding it to save our kind. Because I remember what Iggy said back in the kitchen. Everyone is dying. The Others, that is. And we go on. Are we the ones who are committing genocide? I can't help but think of the Neanderthal. They were here once and they went extinct. Is it the Others' fate to fade away or is it our free will to put an end to them?"
Her head hit the back of the wall with a thud. "And what of Doon? The poor guy is caught in the middle. He wants to do the right thing but what is it?"
The faucet turned off. Silence spread across the rooms.
"Lupe, please tell me what you think."
The bathroom door opened. Lupe was redressed in her clothes. Her undergarments were slightly damp. They left an a moisture imprint on her dry shorts and shirt. "Today we met two people of magic. A Sidhe and a Fey. One died trying to protect this realm and if it wasn't for us returning back to the kitchen in time, the other one would have been murdered as well. If they were willing to give up their lives for us talking apes, we should be fighting just as hard. Yes, Ruthie, yes, it's not fair that some people must die. I would love for everyone to live in harmony. But we can't." She sighed. The knot twisted in her stomach. "I love my mom. I love my dad. I love the rest of my family and friends. But most of all I love Humanity. And I am going to fight for them like Iggy did. I am not going to allow him to die for nothing."
She bent over and took the duffle bag. Slipping it around her small shoulders, she leaned against the bathroom doorframe. "Your brothers; Joshua, Thomas, Peter, Luke, Matthew and Adam. Your mom and dad. That huge extended family of yours. Your friends. You're not willing to fight for them because you are having a moral dilemma?"
Ruth stood up. A flush of burning red painted her cheek. "It's not a dilemma." She stopped as she went over her thoughts. "Christ, it is a dilemma. Look, individuals who threaten my family I have no problem taking down. But this is different. These people, the Sidhe, don't want to die as much as I do."
"And I am sure the Neanderthals did not want to die as well." Lupe dropped her gazed. "But it happens. That last Neanderthal, he or she must have realized that she was it. If she did she probably fought with the Cromagnums trying to bring her people back. In the end she failed and you know why? Because this is our world, Ruthie. Please, tell me you are willing to fight for it."
Dropping her head, she wrung the staff in her hands. She nodded. "This sucks."
The foot of booted footsteps came from downstairs. The girls looked at each other.
'Doon?" mouthed Lupe.
The footsteps started to go up the stairs.
"He would have said something by now," whispered Ruth back.
Giving Lupe the duffle bag, Ruth whispered for her to get in the bathroom. Lupe ducked inside but left the door opened. Carefully, Ruth tip toed over to the entrance and flattened herself against the the side wall of the entrance. She raised the staff and gripped it like bat.
A rifle barrel poked into the room, followed by the rest of gun. It did not look like the Lee Enfield that Ruth saw Barjavel carry. The girl held her breath and her muscles tensed up. Hands holding the rifle came next, then arms and finally the rest of the body. Ruth dug her foot into the floor and swung. The staff bashed into the soldier's unprotected face. His body slammed backwards against the corridor wall. The Gewehr rifle fell to the ground. Ruth kicked the weapon into the room.
The soldier sat slumped on the floor out cold. Ruth had missed the nose but hit the side of the soldier's face. However that was enough to put him down. A trickle of blood ran out the side of his mouth. Ruth had knocked out two teeth. But that was the worst she did to him.
The girl stood quiet for a moment. No other footsteps came. There was only one Nazi.
Putting her staff aside, she grabbed the soldier by the boots and dragged him into the studio.
"Lupe!" she called in a hush.
Lupe stuck her head out of the bathroom.
"Get his rifle and toss it out the bathroom window." Ruth rummaged through the soldier's uniform. She found a Luger and a regulation boot knife. "And chuck these as well."
Taking the two weapons, Lupe went for the rifle as Ruth undid the helmet.
"Oh, good God."
Shouldering the rifle, Lupe turned to Ruth. "What is it?"
Ruth sat back to give the girl a good look at the soldier's face, "He's just a kid."
Doon had rest the door against the kitchen stove. He squatted down right before the back entrance and edged over for a glimpse of the outside. Barjavel was now walking down the other side of the road. With his back hugging against the walls and his rifle pulled up. The soldier seemed to have given up on finding the white door. He had convinced himself that he indeed had a hallucination brought on by battle fatigue. With that behind him, he was determined to find his men on his own once again.
With his attention away from Doon's direction, the Sergeant was in the exact position that the Sidhe wanted him to be. Picking up the door, Doon sprinted in Sidhe's speed towards the restaurant he had gone through. He leaned the door against inside wall of the front entrance without making a sound.
Right, the door is set up. Now the men. He went to the back entrance, made sure the street was clear and ran to the bookshop. Going to the back entrance, he checked to see if Barjavel's men were still there. They were. However, they had their gear packed up and were marching their way down the street. Doon pulled back. I need to do this quickly. He held his face in his hands and shut his eyes tightly. Concentrate. Remember what Sergeant looks like. His face is like a bruised peach with a pinched nose. I don't have to be perfect. I simply have to fool the men enough to get them to follow me. Doon's body shrunk a few inches. His shoulders became wider as his skinny frame grew thick with muscles. Hair retreated back into his scalp and turned summer bleached blonde. A mist crowned his head and formed into a regulation helmet. Another mist coating him twisted into a sergeant's uniform. His cheeks puffed up and turned sunburnt red. Brown eyes turned to grey. Lips thinned out and became serious. Finally, his small nose stretched away from his face into a point, like a slope.
Doon's fingers ran across the map of his face. He had not mimicked anyone since before his exile. Even then he only did the copying twice. I hope I did this right.
He stepped out to the edge of the back entrance only to step back. His eyes gazed upwards. "I know you can hear me," he whispered. "Give me this, please. This is the only plan I have." Raising his right hand he hesitated for a moment and then did the sign of the cross. The last time he did that act was when he was a soldier in the War the first time around. Now the gesture seemed fitting again.
Crossing the thresh hold, he faced the soldiers who had their backs turned to him.
"Oi!" he bellowed.
All the soldiers spun on their feet, with their rifle drawn. A tall lanky soldier with a two day beard growth broke out on a grin, "Sergeant?"
"Oh, thanks heavens!" cried another one as he approached Doon.
Doon turned around and swung his arm in a beconing gesture. "Follow me!" The voice was not quite right but it was close enough. He ran into the bookstore.
"Sergeant, wait!" yelled the tall soldier as he began to run after his commander.
Doon could hear them scrambling towards the bookstore. That was exactly what he wanted to hear. He ran to the other side of the store and peeked out. The streets were still clear. In Sidhe speed, he ran to the restaurant and through it. Grabbing the door, he glanced outside the entrance. Barjavel stood with his back to him. Doon smiled ear to ear. Shutting his eyes, his body image turned back into his scruffy haired, brown eyed form. He added back his Sidhe dress coat since Barjavel saw him last in it.
With the door in hand, Doon padded outside and set up the white door against the entrance.
Barjavel swung around with his rifle raised. He almost dropped it at the sight of the Sidhe.
"Are you almost blind?" Doon smirked. "Why haven't you gone through the door yet, sir?"
The sergeant shook his head. "That door wasn't there a second ago. I know this for a fact. You are a figment of my imagination. You don't exist."
Doon bent down and picked up a small bit of debris. Aiming, he threw it at the soldier. The tiny cement chunk hit Barjavel right under his helmet brim on his brow.
Barjavel let out a yelp of pain as he rubbed the sore spot. He glared at Doon.
"Will you just go through doorway already?" Doon pointed into the restaurant, "Your men are on other street."
Looking over his shoulder at the open street and then back at Doon, Barjavel weighed his options. He could continue to run blindly down the road in hopes that he would some how stumble on his men. Or he could follow something that look like his Lance Corporal in gray undershirt with some an odd name printed across the chest. He wondered if "The Buzzcocks" was a religious term that he was not fimilar with.
"Come on, please!" begged Doon. "Timing is everything."
The soldier stood his ground for a moment. Slowly, his head bobbed in a nod of agreement and he started to run towards the door.
Doon breath a sigh of relief as Barjavel stopped in front of him. "If you are nothing more than a trickery of my mind again-"
"I am not." Doon took hold of the soldier's arm. "I never was." He gently pushed Barjavel into the restaurant. "Now go. Through the dining room and then kitchen and make a right as you go out the door. Don't forget Bram."
Barjavel walked carefully into the dining room. Making his way through the area, he paused and looked back at the entrance. Doon was gone and the white door was leaning against the door frame. Barjavel squatted down at the back entrance and peered out. Up the street was empty. However down the street he saw the several British army soldiers hugging the walls as they made their way towards him.
The sergeant recognized all of their faces, each and everyone.
A world of emotions almost drowned him. He wanted to cry but held himself together. "Watson, Foley, Baker!"
"Sergeant?" yelled back Watson.
"Yes. I am coming out. Do not fire." He eased out from the doorway.
His men had their rifles held down. They broke out in civilized grins and sighed in relief. No one noticed the hooded crow sitting on the bookshop's eave spying down on them.
Doon watched the reunion carry on smoothly. Baker unfolded the map on the street and told the Sergeant how headquarters radioed them to fall back. He traced a path with his fingertip along the parchment, showing the sergeant the way of least resistance.
Bent over, Sergeant examined the map. "Where's the 42nd?"
Baker looked up. "The American medical tent? Why would you want to go there? Are you hurt, sir?"
"No, I am perfectly sound. I simply have a debt to pay. So, show me where it is."
The young soldier marked the bath Barjavel and then folded up the map. Everyone fell into formation and made there way through the bookshop, taking the planned path.
Raising his head, Doon felt the sun on his face. Thank you.
Still out cold, the girls had propped up the young soldier in a sitting position against the wall right next to the bathroom.
"Would you look at these gangly things." Standing over the boy, Ruth picked up one of the his hands and flopped it around. "And his ears are too big for his head. This kid is due for a growth spurt any moment now."
She let go of his hand and it dropped back down on his lap. Sinking to her seat, she folded her legs. Her staff laid across her lap. Lupe returned from the bathroom with the Holy Grail filled with tap water. She reasoned that what ever impurities the tap water held the Holy Grail would remove them. The bottle water they had was too precious to waste in order to wake up the kid.
She handed the Grail to Ruth. "How old do you think he is?"
"Well, growing up with so many brothers, I should be an expert on male adolescent development. My guess is fifteen. Sixteen tops." She reached over to the open duffle bag next to her. Taking out a skillet, she handed it over to Lupe. "At least we know how far into the war we are."
Lupe took hold of the skillet. "How do you figure?"
"Towards the end of the war, the Germans were so desperate for fighters, they were putting any man who could stand up on his own into a uniform and then shoving them out into the field. Including men such as this boy here." She smirked as she gazed up at Lupe. "Amazing the little tidbits of information that float around in your head when you come from a family of World War II buffs."
She held up the Grail. "Okay, are you ready?"
Spreading her feet to ground herself, Lupe held a tight grasp on her pan. "Ready."
Leaning over, Ruth clutched the boy's chin and tilted his head back. She poured the water down his throat. The boy began to choke and sputter. Half the water came back up. The other half his body absorbed. The bruise on his cheek immediately faded. The two teeth that Ruth had knocked out grew back. Coughing, the boy opened his eyes and tried to steady himself. He seized up. The throbbing pain that plagued his feet due to a large family of blisters on his soles and toes was gone. He pressed his feet against the bottom of his boots hard. Not only was the pain gone but the blisters felt they had vanished as well. His body did not feel fatigue either. He laughed. A miracle had happened to him. Who or what was the cause for this?
Someone in front of him cleared her throat.
His eyes glanced upward to see a serious faced Ruth holding tightly onto her staff.
The boy sprung upright. His back hit the wall as he stared at the girl up and down. He jerked forward with his arms out in attack. Ruth was ready. She shoved the boy back with the staff pressing against the chest and pinning his arms to his side. The boy tried to squirm to his gun to find the holster empty. Lupe cleared her own throat. She held up her skillet in the boy's sight in a gesture of warning. She was not afraid to use it to conk him out cold.
"Wer sind ihr?" cried the soldier.
Slowly, Ruth leaned away from him and placed her staff once more in her lap. Her eyesight never left the boy's own.
"Ruth, I don't speak German. I've got three years of Latin classes under my belt. You're in French this year and were in Spanish for last two. We have a language gap here."
"I know a few words in German. Picked them up from watching World War II movies and German art house flicks. He asked us, 'Who are we?'"
"Entschuldigen Sie," The boy searched for the little English he knew, "You…English?"
"Nein, Wir sind American," answered Ruth.
Color poured out of the boy's face as he began to gulp air in panic.
"What is he doing?" gasped Lupe as she held down her pan in worry. "He's hyperventilating! Why?"
"It's the German propaghanda machine at work. They called us, Americans, savages. If you were caught by us we going to hand you over to our doctors so they could do experiments on you. Especially if you were injured."
Spinning her staff, Ruth poked the boy in the chest with it. "Stop."
The boy held his breath. He started to tremble.
Ruth did not like this. "He's like a scared puppy."
"Can you ask him how old he is?"
"Hold on, I think I know the words." She closed her eyes trying to rake through her memory. "What did they sound like? Come on, brain. Okay, I remember now. Apple stew." She opened her eyes. Oi, wie alt bist du?"
"Christ." Ruth wrung her staff with her hands until they were white knuckled. "He's fourteen."
"Fourteen!" Lupe dropped to her knees in shock. She held her pan close to her chest. "He is so much younger than us."
"He was in the single digits when Hitler began his campaign. To grow up your entire life under that mindset. I wonder if this boy even knows that somewhere at this moment hundreds of Jews are being gassed and burned. Or is he another soldier simply following orders? Right now back in America, punks his age are doing metal drives and planting victory gardens. Even then they are still able to be kids. To go to school and to sleep at night in their own beds with having gun fire outside their window. This kid knows nothing but the battlefield. "
"What are going to do with him?"
Ruth gazed deep into the boy's terrified eyes. They were rimmed with tears. The sight of them turned the girl's stomach. "He's a guppy. As soon as Doon comes back we'll shove this beanpole back out into the streets. Without his weapons, he won't be hurting anyone."
"Without his weapons, he'll be vulnerable."
Lupe faced the young soldier. "What's your name?"
The boy's brow scrunched up. He did not understand her. "Was, b-bitte?"
"I want know his name," the girl reached out and squeezed her friend's shoulder. "Ruth. Please, ask him."
Closing her eyes, Ruth sighed deeply. The knot in her stomach tightened. "Wie heisst du?"
The shaking boy's eyes went from on girl to the other, trying to figure out what they wanted from him beside his name. He could not read their stone faces. "J-Joshua."
Groaning, Ruth dropped her head into her hands in frustration.
"He has your brother's name."
"I am not deaf, Guadalupe."
"He's a child with your brother's name."
Ruth's gazed shot up at Lupe. "And?" A hot blush burned her cheeks. She hated barking at her friend. Her eyes went back to staring at the boy who look more confused now than ever. "How is this any different from the Sidhe, Lupe? Both are trying to taking over the world and are willing to kill whole races to do so. But you don't have a problem fighting the Sidhe."
Lupe did not say anything. She knew that Ruth was right.
Balling up her body, the Ruth settled her staff across her knees and rested her chin on the wood. Her eyes refused to leave the boy who was studying her with tired, scared eyes. "Fate couldn't give us a simple evil villain. Someone who tied dames to train tracks while twirling his moustache. No, that would have been too kind. Instead we are given the Sidhe who was are only trying to stave off their own extinction and him.." Her eyes closed halfway in mental exhaustion. "A fetus in fatigues. Joshua, will you this even make it to the end of this war or will you be killed before then?"
The boy did not answer. He did not understand her.
The girl fell silent. Lupe remained as such. Joshua searched both of their faces trying to figure out what was going on. All he could see was the sadness and pity in their eyes. He did not know what to think. He wished they would do what ever they planned on doing with him. Hurt him. Kill him. Anything that would stop them from staring at him with those eyes. They reminded him of the way his mother looked at him as he marched off to war. A knot that he had been carrying since he left that day twisted in his stomach.
A hooded crow flew through one of the open windows and landed on the studio floor. Its body stretched like pulled taffy into a Humanoid shape.
"Doon!" cried Lupe as she jumped to her feet.
Ruth did not drop her guard on the boy. She raised her hand in greeting. "Welcome back."
The Sidhe twisted his body, cracking his back and working his sore muscles. "The paradox has been taken care of. You, girls, have no idea of the mad cap adventures I have been thro-you have a prisoner…" He scratched his head at the scene. "Apparently, I have no idea of the mad cap adventures you've been through either."
"Sie!" screamed Joshua as his face went pale with fright. He tried to crawl backwards even though his back was already press against the wall. "Sie! Die Nebelkrähe! Der weiss Schlag!"
Ruth shoved her staff across his chest and pushed it down on his legs to get him to stop kicking. The boy began to tremble again with even more force. He was panting hard. The girl was almost afraid to lean back because she was sure the youth would make a bolt for the door.
"Do you understand German, Doon? If so, what did he say?" Her eyes tried to meet the boy's but he shut them tight. "All I understood was 'You! You!' and 'the white' something."
Walking over, Doon lowered to his knees besides Ruth. "He said 'You. You. The hooded crow. The white door." He must have seen me picking up the white door in the other building."
"The white door?" Lupe asked puzzled.
A knowing smirk crossed the Sidhe's face. "I am glad I went back. Turned I had some footwork to do in order to get the sergeant back to his men. I had to plant the white kicked in door we came across on a doorless restaurant. And then herd Barjavel and his men towards each other. It was harder than it sounds."
"So where did you get him?"
"He came up stairs while we were waiting for you." Ruth finally leaned back. She tapped the staff. "I was ready for him."
"I have no doubt of that." He drew close to the Joshua. The boy's skin was covered with the same layer of dirt that was gracing the floors. A clear line made by the cement dust marked where his helmet had ended and his face began. The ghostly grayness of the dirt gave him the appearance of an old man. However, examining his face up close, Doon saw clear the signs of adolescent acne. "This ankle biter barely looks old enough to be in the Hitler Youth."
The young soldier snapped at the Sidhe with his teeth and hissed like a feral cat. Doon dropped backward and stumbled onto the floor in shock. Ruth was on the boy once more. He did not struggle. His eyes were boring disgust and anger into Doon. The glare was so intense that the hairs on the back of the Sidhe's neck stood on end. This was the look Cathal gave him before the General tried to run him through with a sword.
"Du bist ein Elf. Ich weiss das Legende." He spat at Doon.
The gob hit him across his cheek.
"Oi!" bellowed Ruth as she twirled the staff around and shoved one end under the boy's chin. "Behave. Now."
Doon did not say anything. The light in his eyes went off. A cold, detached expression swept across his face. He wiped off the salvia from his face.
Embarassed for the Sidhe, Lupe gestured to the bathroom. "There's a sink in there that works."
Rising to his feet, Doon walked into bathroom. He cleaned himself up.
"That's the second time today I have been called an Elf." He returned to Ruth's side. "I do not care for it."
The boy was breathing as hard as ever. His lips thinned over his teeth in a snarl of warning. Fists, so tight his nails were digging into the meat of his palms, stayed at his side, trembling.
Doon's eyes locked with the boy's. He bent over at the waist, inching closer to the Joshua's face.
"Männeken, Ich bin klein Elf." His hair grew black and his eyes drowned in jet. Color drained from his skin. He seized the boy's face with his hand and held him steady. "ICH BIN SIDHE!"
The roar of Doon's voice made the boy squeak with fear. Even Ruth and Lupe inched back slightly. Letting go, the Sidhe stood straight and went back to normal. Joshua balled up and covered his face. He began to sob. Smacking his head, Doon moaned in disgust with himself. He had allowed his temper to get the best of him. Old war memories marched forth in his head and demanded his attention. He ignored them by shaking his head and focusing on the fact that he was not a soldier in this war any more.
Folding his arms, he jerked his head in the boy's direction. "What do you have planned for this…" A bitter taste like his teeth had raked the skin of a lemon filled his mouth. "Prisoner of war?"
"He's only fourteen." Ruth climbed to her feet. "Lupe threw away all his weapons out of the bathroom window. I figure it would be best if we let him go."
Lupe rose to her feet as well. "Cast him back into battle with nothing more than a prayer to protect him."
Retrieving his coat, the Sidhe poured himself into it. "Fine by me. You bagged him. It's your choice to release him."
He picked up the Grail that was still sitting on top of the duffle. Carefully, he wrapped his sash around it. Placing the bundle back in the bag, he handed the duffle to Lupe. She put her pan in the bag as well and zipped it up. The bag's strap went around her shoulders once more.
His hands dug into his lining pocket and took out the living amulet. Doon turned on his heel and made his way towards the mirror. Without saying a word, the girls followed. Ruth grabbed her shirt off of the bars. She handed the garment to Lupe who shoved it into the bag with everything else.
"Everyone ready?" Doon placed the amulet against the mirror.
Each girl grabbed an arm. Ruth turned to look at the young soldier.
The boy was on his feet. He was watching the trio with quiet curiosity laced with fear. His hands were wringing the front of his uniform out of nervousness making him look even more like the child he was. His eyes were raw red with tears. Ruth wanted to yell to him to go home but she understood that he was a soldier. If he did, he would be caught and then shot as a deserter. She reminded herself that despite his childish face still thickened with baby fat, he would return to his men, get another gun and go off to kill Allies. Her people. The knot in her stomach twisted. She clinched her teeth determined not to allow the feeling to take control of her. The knot loosened.
"YaMai noch ni Shevolah!"
The mirror vanished as did the balance bar that was connected to it.
"Girls, we are all going to jump together, alright?" The trio leaned into the cavern. "Now!"
They were swallowed by the darkness. A moment later the mirror and the bar returned.
Stunned, the boy stared at the mirror until he realized that the only thing staring back was his own reflection. For the first time in days, he examined himself. Standing in his dirty uniform, his sunburnt face peaking beneath the thin layer of dust that cover his skin saving for the streaks down his chin where he choked up the water and the tracks of tears. He could not believe that he was actually staring at himself.
The youth spun to the entrance to see Lange glaring at him.
"What the hell are you doing, soldier?" Lange scooped up the youth's helmet that was resting at the thresh hold. "You weren't supposed to go into this building. You were supposed to go to the next one over." He threw the helmet.
Hahn caught it. "I saw the crow." His voice was barely above a whisper.
Lange's eyes widen as he walked into the room. "You did?"
"He turned into a man." He pointed to the mirror. "Then he went into there like it was door."
The other soldier reached out and felt the boy's forehead. It was cold and dry. He then turned his attention to the mirror. His reflection stared back at him with an expression of worry.
"I called him an Elf." He broke in a uneasy laugh that made his own stomach feel queasy with nerves. "I don't know why but I did. He became mad with me and said he was a Sidhe. What is a Sidhe? Is it a demon? Did I see the devil?"
Lange did not know. Nor did he care anymore. He wanted to get out of this town as soon as possible. He was starting to believe it to be cursed. He went back to Hahn. "Where's your rifle?"
"I don't know."
"You don't-" He shook his head. This was nonsense. "Weber is waiting downstairs. Don't say a word about this to him, alright? We did not find anything over the other building and you did not see anything here? We are simply going to say that the sleeping soldiers were indeed shot by Allie tranquilizers. Understand?"
The young soldier nodded.
"There are plenty of bodies out there to grab another rifle from." He placed his hand on the Hahn's helmet. "Again, not a word."
Hahn nodded again.
Giving the mirror one more glance wondering what he had seen, he followed Lange out of the room.