Friday, May 2, 2014

Fortune's Knight: A Thaelia's World Story

March modern time

“Kathy, I’m leaving.  Dr Singh is in the on-call room

Kathy smiled, “Doesn’t he play for the Diamondbacks?”

“Yes, he does.”

“March is a great time to visit Phoenix. The weather is great and there’s so much to see. There’s even a RenFair going on and I know how much you love going to those. Have fun!”

“Thanks Kathy.”  Christopher hefted his backpack, waved to the staff and walked to the staff parking garage. His suitcase was already packed and secured in the trunk of his car. It would be a short ride from the County trauma hospital to Sacramento airport. As exhausted as Chris was, he was eager to see his brother and start his break.
“I think you resemble a brother of mine, only my sibling is alive. Damn, bro, doesn’t that hospital give you a chance to eat and sleep once in a while? You look like a corpse!” David said, wrapping Christopher in a bear hug.

“Ha-ha, that’s funny coming from a skinny guy with a bad tan. I almost mistook you for a piece of road kill. Haven’t you ever heard of sunscreen?” Chris quipped back.

David grabbed one of Chris’ two bags. “Everyone in Phoenix has a bad tan and I’m not skinny. I am wiry. No matter what I do, I can’t pack on the muscles like some guys.”

The two brothers traded family notes and ‘war-stories’ on the drive to David’s home. On arrival, Christopher unpacked and set aside a special package for David: a costume for their annual pilgrimage to the Arizona Renaissance Fair.

“Where did you come up with this surcoat? A rearing black horse holding a branch in its mouth is unusual. I’ve never seen it in any of the catalogs. I do like the dark green color of the cloth.” David asked Chris.

“And you won’t. They are custom made. I came up with it after a dream I had.” Chris adjusted the belt, sliding the scabbard with the replica sword until it rested over his left hip and placed his belt pouch to hand from the right. He then undid the belt. It was easier to travel without wearing the weapons. As a final touch, he tied a piece of brown string over the sword, peace-tying the weapon. He snapped some leather holders on the belt, to hang his goblet from. Chris threw his ID, a credit card, and some cash in his pouch. As a final touch, he pulled out the ‘jewelry’ of his rank: a heavy faux golden chain, put on some rings, and clipped on cloak held in place with a golden horse split in two pieces.

“Hey, are you ready yet?” he yelled to David.

“Almost..I’m .just having a little trouble getting the spurs on my boots.” David called back.

It was a warm day and the sky was clear. The brothers joined the crowd waiting the the gate to open. Christopher never failed to be amused by the variety of outfits worn by those who decided to dress for the fair in anything form Renaissance period to fantasy gear. David pointed out a man wearing Civil War grey standing next to a woman in a fairy costume complete with a pair of wings. People in regular clothes were snapping photos of folks in costumes, and in some cases asking to pose with a couple of stand-out persons.

Soon the doors opened.

David and Chris wandered around, taking in the sights. They watched as many shows as they could, making certain to get center row seats for the joust. They stood in front when the queen walked through the village. As the day began to wind down, David saw a gypsy fortune teller. He pulled Chris over to her booth.

“C’mon, I want to get our fortunes told. I’ll pay for it.”

“It’s a load of bunk, Dave.”

“Really? Look at us, Chris, we’re dressed up as knights in costumes with swords. Talk about being kids for a day. Go along with it.”

Chris huffed and sighed before he gave in. “Okay, I give.” He followed big brother.
An assistant wearing a peasant dress with a headscarf took their money. She directed Dave inside first. Chris sat on a folding chair. After twenty minutes David stepped outside and Christopher went in for his turn.

The room was small, with a tiny cloth covered table. The older woman wore a typical Renaissance outfit, nothing special. She motioned Christopher to sit.

“Give me your hands, but don’t speak.”

He did as she asked, opening his hands palm side up.

As soon as the woman touched him, he felt electricity spark between them. The woman stiffened. She began to speak:

“Your time upon this land is almost done, but your life will continue. She has need of your wisdom, Christopher. Gael found her place, her blade tasted blood but that was not her destiny. You must find her. Seek the man who wears the hawk as his symbol. He will take you to her. Find Faucione.”

“What?!” He was shocked. “How do you know about my dead sister?”

“She is not dead. Gael lives in another place, another time. The Goddess will see to it.”
The woman gasped. She fell face forward, her hand releasing his.

Christopher stared at the woman. She sat up and gazed at him. “Shall we get started my lord? May I have your hand, please?”
“It was crazy, David, she talked about Gaelynn. She went in to a trance of some sort. How could she have known about Gael? I never said a word!”

“I don’t know, bro. That’s weird. All she told me was that I’d have a great season.” David said sipping his brew.

They walked about the vendor area still talking about the gypsy. Christopher was wigged out over the reading. He swigged down another beer, finishing off brew. “I need to find a bathroom.”

He spotted the port-potties. “I’m hitting the port-potties.”

“I’ll be here.” David said, as he picked through t-shirts.

Christopher found a line. The combination sun and alcohol was making tempers flare. Two men with biker leathers and tats starting arguing about who was ahead of the other. They began shoving and that progressed to all-out fighting. Before Christopher knew what was going on, knives were pulled. He was in the way and tried to shove one of the combatants away. He felt a quick jab in his left side followed by a rapid difficulty in breathing. The combatants continued to fight while people started screaming. Christopher staggered off tot he side and dropped to his knees.

“Ah man, you’ve been stabbed! Hey somebody, call 9-1-1!” the bystander called out.

Christopher couldn’t breathe; he fell to the ground. Oh my God, where is David? He doesn’t know I’ve been hurt! His last thought before he became unconscious was of his parents.
Christopher stood in a grassy meadow bordered by flowers on two sides, a bubbly creek on one and a forest on the other. He could hear birds, bees, and other insects but no sounds of mankind. It seemed out of place.

“That is because it is My meadow”

He turned to the direction of the voice; Christopher couldn’t see who spoke.

The voice laughed. “You are not dreaming, Dr. Blackwood. This is a special place. My meadow is a place of transition, of choices. You are here for that reason.” A woman appeared out of thin air.

“What happened  to me? Why am I here?”

“Did you not listen to the fortune-teller? You have your own destiny to fulfill. Your time in your world was at an end. You died of a stab wound. I brought you here. You have to make a decision.

Move on to a new life or go on to your reward: your choice.”

“How can I be here if I am dead?”

“I am a Goddess. I can substitute bodies and send people through time if I wish.”

“You sent my sister Gaelynn to another place, didn’t you? She’s not dead.”

The Goddess smiled. “Yes, but not back in time. I sent her to an alternate time. The world is different.”

“Is that why she needs me? Is she in trouble?” Christopher asked. “Is she alone?”

“No, she’s not alone. She needs people she can trust around her. She misses her family. Should you decide to go to where she is now, I will give you the knowledge and some skills to help you survive. I will create the background and memories to legitimize you in people’s eyes. I will give you some basic supplies and point you in the right direction but in the end, it will be up to you, Christopher, to do the legwork. I have rules to follow.”

Chris though about his baby sister in a strange land all by herself. He considered his skills as a physician. I can do some good. I can make a difference.

“Let’s do it.”

10th day Thaelia’s Moon, 1192

“Sir Kevin, there is a knight wearing Queen Gaelynn’s colors at the gate asking to speak with the man in charge.”

Kevin raised his eyebrow. “The man in charge?” He glanced at Sir Aumery, Faucione Keep’s Seneschal, and Kevin’s lifetime partner. “Sir Morris, bring the man in to my solar, along with Sir Edward.”

“Gaelynn hasn’t sent any letters informing us to expect any men.” Aumery mused. “I wonder who this is.”

Kevin stood up.”It is a mystery. It could be about the boys. Why else would one of her men be here?”

The two knights left the Seneschal’s room and made their way to Kevin’s solar. Sir Edward was waiting. Sir Morris brought the stranger inside. The man stood tall, with an athletic build, deep brown eyes and curly blond hair. He wore Gaelynn’s colors and a nobleman’s jewelry with a top quality sword hanging fro his belt.

“Good day, sirs. I hope I’m at the right place. I’m looking for Faucione Castle. I’m Christopher Blackwood. I'm a doctor. I don't suppose your heraldic symbol is a hawk?”

“Your sound just like her!” Edward stammered. “She said her family was all dead!”

Aumery’s jaw dropped open. “He has her facial features.”

Kevin stood up. “This is Faucione Keep, and I am Sir Kevin Faucione. May I ask why you sought us out?”

Christopher let out a huge sigh of relief. “Oh thank God! You don’t know how many castle doors I’ve knocked countless doors on looking for this place. I was hoping you would help me find my sister, Gaelynn. She thinks I’m dead. I almost died, but a villager saved my life.  I heard she married a guy called Braeden? I’d like to meet him.”

“Christopher, I’m Kevin, your brother-in-law by marriage.” He pointed to Edward and Aumery, “That’s Sir Edward my cousin, and this is Sir Aumery, our keep’s Seneschal.  I have quite a tale for you. Why don’t you take a seat? I think we need to have a long talk.”

Christopher listened in shock as Kevin told him about his sister's life, starting with her journey with his brother Braeden from Livanya up to her marriage to King Arken after Braeden's death. 

"She's expecting another child. The King has send her to Wilwich until she has the baby. We'll escort you there starting tomorrow."

Aumery's eyes lit up. "She'll be so excited. I'll go get the supplies together." Aumery left the men discussing the trip.

Chris leaned forward. "Are my nephews here?"

Kevin grinned. "Your namesake is: Edward, would you mind fetching Christopher? Phillip is fostering with Ranulf's brother, Arthur, at Orgryt Keep. The two brothers could be twins but for the difference in their ages."

It didn't take long for Edward to return with a young boy. Christopher Braeden du Faucione was six years old, with a freckled face, close cropped brown hair, and dark brown eyes. He wore a plain tunic over hose. He bounced in the room greeting his uncle respectfully when he noticed the stranger, "Good day Uncle, you called for me?"

Kevin motioned the boy over. "I did Christopher. I have happy news to share. Meet your Uncle Christopher, your mother's brother, whom we have discovered is alive. Tomorrow we ride to Wilwich with him to surprise her. You will go with us. Come say hello to him."

Young Christopher stared at Chris. He hesitated before he made up his mind. He took the four steps and enveloped the modern man in a hug. "Uncle, we have the same name!"

Chris let the tears spill. "Yes, we do. Do you prefer Christopher or Chris?"

The boy answered, "Christopher."

"Then everyone must call me Chris so no one mixes us up."

"I'll be sure to pass the word around." Kevin replied.
Chris shifted on the saddle. I'm gong to miss some modern conveniences such as cars and plumbing. darn, my butt is sore. What will Gael say when she sees me?

They had been traveling for a week and the gates of Wilwich Keep was finally in sight. Sir Kevin had donned the formal Faucione surcoat that morning, as had all of the men. Chris stared at the costume in shock remembering the words of the gypsy. A hawk was prominent on the front of the Faucione heraldry. Chris was wearing his own outfit, complete with the now real jewelry (thanks to the Goddess). She had even filled his pouch with a voucher certifying a hoard of gold and silver that would cover his living expenses for a lifetime.

The group was granted entry. Chris forgot his sore muscles. Stopping in the courtyard, he let experienced hands take his horse. He followed the Fauciones to the front door of the castle. They didn't bother knocking.

Chris' heart was pounding. Would Gaelynn remember him?

A knight wearing a terrifying scowl met their party on the second level.

"Your presence without warning means trouble. She can't take any shocks. What is wrong?"

Kevin held up his hand. "This news warranted the telling in person Ranulf. It is good news, I promise. I have her brother with me."

Ranulf sneered, "Impossible! Her family was all killed. This was confirmed by both kings and her former betrothed."

"They were wrong." Kevin pointed at Christopher, "Look at him Ranulf and tell me he's not Gaelynn's relative. They could be twins! Let him bring young Christopher to her without saying a word. She'll know who he is."

Ranulf growled. The sound was enough to take off two years from Christopher's life. the knight would have scared the meanest gang member with just a glance. "My men will be with him and he must be searched first."

"Do you think I would put her at risk? I brought her son with us. I believe him, Ranulf." Kevin said firmly.

Aumery placed his hand on Kevin's shoulder. "I know he speaks the truth, Ranulf; Gaelynn will want to see her brother."

"I will have all of your heads should this go badly!" He walked over to Christopher. Without waiting for permission, Ranulf undid the doctor's sword belt and let it drop to the stone floor. He patted down Chris. Once he was satisfied there were no hidden weapons, he glared at Christopher. "You will say nothing to her until she speaks to you first. That will be the test to see if you are who you claim to be. Stay behind her son and follow me." Chris started to follow the knight until Ranulf stopped and turned around with one more warning: "Remember, NOT A WORD!"

They walked and turned until they came to a hallway guarded by two men. The men turned aside to allow the group entry. Down the hall lit by thick candles in sconces, they continued walking until Ranulf stopped in front of a door guarded by two more men. One opened the door.

"Your Grace, I have a surprise for you. Your son, Christopher, here for a visit."

Chris heard his sister's voice reply, "Christopher is here?" He followed the boy inside. Gaelynn was drawn and haggard. She looked pale sitting by large fireplace. Another woman was nearby in a chair doing embroidery on a shirt. Gaelynn opened her arms to hug her son.

"Mama, I brought you a present." Christopher said after he gave her a kiss.

"What is that dear? You've already given me the best one by being here."

Her son twisted to point to his uncle. "Him!"

Gaelynn turned to look at Christopher. The color drained from her face. She let go of her son and stood up. "Om my God! Is it really you? Am I dreaming? Christopher?" Her eyes rolled back and she fainted.

All hell broke loose. Ranulf drew his sword and ordered Chris bound while Sophie screamed and ran to her mistress. Young Christopher burst in tears. Kevin called to Ranulf to release Gaelynn's brother as Aumery left to find Gaelynn's Knight of the Silver Serpent, Sir Anselm.
"I'm fine! It was just a shock seeing my brother after all this time. Quit fussing!" Gaelynn demanded when Sophie tried to tuck a blanket around her shoulders. "God, Chris, what happened? I thought you were dead."

"It had to be divine intervention. You know how that goes."

Gaelynn gave him a knowing wink. "Yes I do."

the end

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