What do you think about this old beauty? No, it’s not from the era of The Guitar Mancer. However, it is relevant to this installment. It’s the kind of car Luci’s dad drove in his younger days.
As you know, I’ve been trying to work “things” left by readers into this story. That also allows me to promote the people who leave those things. Meanwhile (and I promise this goes together) several bloggers are taking a break. One of them is Lord David Prosser of the Barsetshire Diaries. I’m honored that David is still taking time during his break to visit and comment here. Back at Episode 16 David left some “things.”One of those things was druid, which I was able to add to this installment.
David has a number of delightful books available. Be sure to check out his blog — he’s on a break, but the blog is still there for us to enjoy back issues. You can also learn more about his books there.
About This Episode
Last time you finally met The Mother. Goddess, spirit entity, faery queen, or unidentified mystical creature, whatever else she may be the Mother is the Spirit of Route 66. Oh, and I had a little brainstorm about “casting” her. If only I had the PhotoShop skills to give her red hair. So use your imagination. It’s Ally Sheedy in a more sane version of how she was on the Psych television show.
While the characters knew obtaining the Mother’s help — that is to say getting her to force Luci’s mancer powers to blossom, might put Luci’s life at grave risk, it never occurred to our mancers that the Mother would flatly refuse to help at all. However, that is exactly what she did when we left our heroes!
What could possibly happen next? Well, just get in the car! Let’s find out.
Episode 22 — Darla
“How can you refuse us?” Bodaway asked in a voice that rang of pained astonishment.
“Such indignation,” the Mother chided. “It’s not as if it’s personal,” she said and made an exasperated noise that reminded Luci of a sound a horse might make.
The line of her mouth tightened and she looked at each of them in turn. “If I do anything to bring out the girl’s powers, I would be breaking the pact I made with her father.”
Luci gasped. “You know my father?” Luci exclaimed, so shocked that her words came out with a hiccup.
The Mother casually turned to her as if she had forgotten Luci’s presence. Luci thought in fact she probably had. The Spirit of Route 66 gave her a small sad smile.
“Yes, Carolina Lucille Harper. I know Grover Harper. I knew his parents well, and I knew his wife — your mother, Darla, quite well,” she told Luci.
At the mention of Luci’s mother, her tone of voice shifted and her words stretched in an odd way. For an instant her mouth twisted in an expression of contempt.
Luci’s brows knitted in confusion. The thought flashed through her mind that deer caught in the headlights of a vehicle must feel the way she did upon hearing that admission.
“My mom?” Luci whispered.
Tam nodded and smirked in a scornful way. He looked like his suspicions had just been confirmed. Luci looked from him to Bodaway. The shaman’s face showed no emotion, except perhaps vague confusion. Luci opened her mouth, but she didn’t know what question to ask because she was too stunned.
(Since it’s been so many weeks, I’ll refer you back to Episode 4 — Message in regard to Tam’s smirk.)
“Your family tree has produced a number of great mancers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you that they were aware of me,” the Mother said in a rather impatient voice that suggested her dumbfounding revelation should have been obvious.
She twisted one of her gray streaked red curls as she gave a contemplative glance to Tam and Bodaway. Then the Mother’s appraising gaze fell on Luci again. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously and she clicked her tongue inside her mouth, making a derisive sound.
The whirlwind of different reactions, expressions, and sound effects from the Mother was more than Luci could absorb. If the Spirit of Route 66 had been human, Luci would have been sure she was insane.
“I suppose you didn’t know that your progenitors had great aspirations?” the Mother commented to Luci. “No. Of course you wouldn’t. You only knew Grover and he was the only one who wanted to live a normal life, as he described it,” she added, eyes softening just a little.
Luci slowly shook her head. She had a bad feeling that she was about to learn something she’d rather have never known.
“My dad never speaks of the past. He rarely talks about my grandparents, and never mentions my mom at all,” Luci said to no one in particular.
A faraway look came to Luci’s eyes and a small bemused smile settled on her lips. She shrugged, encouraged that the Mother seemed somewhat less confrontational. However, she was a very strange, mercurial, and downright frightening entity. Luci was unsure of how to react to her, let alone convince her to unblock her mancer abilities. Then her quiet inner voice reminded her that keeping that power inhibited might well be the best thing for her. It could be the safest thing, even if she spent the rest of her life hiding from the rogue mancer.
She thought of her father. Her emotions warred between anger and admiration. Grover Harper had given up a lot to try and keep his daughter safe. Luci realized that, even if a big part of her resented it. She resented the life he had kept her from having and the fact that he kept so many secrets from her. She took a deep breath and her dad’s bright smile flashed through her memory.
“The closest he’s ever come to talking about mom was when he saw an old car with wooden sides. Dad called it a Chevrolet Fleetmaster Woody. He said that was what he drove when they were ‘courting.’ That’s what he called dating. Men seem to get so fond of their cars,” Luci commented with an involuntary glance at Tam. “I think that was the only reason why he mentioned anything related to my mom at all. Oh my God, I’m babbling now,” Luci said and put her hands over her face, and briefly wondered if the Mother’s craziness was contagious.
Lychnis moved away from his place next to Freyja, near the Mother. He pushed himself against Luci where she sat on the ground. The big kitten head butted his way under her arm and started purring again. Luci put her fingers into his plush fur and absently scratched his neck.
“Yes, your mother particularly wanted to rise in standing with the others of her kind. However, her mancer power was mediocre at best,” the spirit commented dryly.
Then she gave Luci a long considering look as if she contemplated whether to tell more of the story. She played absently with a curly strand of her hair, but finally continued.
“Darla persuaded Grover Harper to bring her to me, in hope that I could amplify her power,” said the Spirit of Route 66.
Tam’s eyes narrowed as if he had new suspicions. She thought Tam had an idea where the Mother’s story was going, but Luci couldn’t begin to guess. She looked back to the spirit apprehensively.
“Against my better judgment I agreed to let her walk the path,” the Mother said, placing emphasis on the phrase. “I didn’t realize that she had already gone to others, in vain hope of make herself stronger. If I had known…” the Mother paused thoughtfully. “Things might have turned out differently.”
Luci’s eyes widened as foreboding settled like a shroud on her shoulders.
“However, I granted her request, and she was lost on the Reflected Mother Road,” the Mother continued in a manner that was surprisingly gentle compared to her uncaring beginning.
“After it was clear that Darla was beyond help,” she said but paused seeing the confused look on the faces of her audience. She made a broad, sharp, frustrated gesture with her arms before continuing in a voice that one might use for six year-olds. “After all the openings through which we might have brought her back had closed, after enough time had gone by that we knew she could not be retrieved — that is the greatest danger of what you would ask me to do,” she said as if that clarified anything. “Grover Harper brought you to me.”
“I’ve seen you before?” Luci asked. “I’m afraid I don’t remember, and I don’t think I would forget you.”
The Mother murmured something about “flattering,” and briefly placed her hand on Luci’s head as if she was a small child. It should have seemed like a gesture of affection or kindness, but Luci didn’t feel anything of the sort at her touch.
“You were only a baby,” she told Luci. “You would not remember. Your father was grief stricken. While he and your mother were with me, trying to enhance her powers,” the Mother spoke, but then hesitated. “His parents were killed.”
“My grandparents, you mean?” Luci asked.
Luci began to wonder how stable the Spirit of Route 66 was. It was as if her mind barely made the connection between the relationships. She seemed to not understand the grief that would be involved. She certainly didn’t seem to grasp the fact that Luci would care about the grandparents she had never known. Luci wondered if human concepts of relationships and the emotional aspects of them were alien to the Mother.
The Mother tilted her head to one side and blinked. Her face held an odd expression that Luci didn’t know how to interpret. Then she nodded and continued.
“They went to some foreign land about some kind of mancer trouble. They weren’t just killed — their power was drained away,” the spirit told them in a disturbingly nonchalant tone. “Grover Harper believed his family would have been intact if not for the mancer power they possessed,” she said.
“Drained?” Bodaway Thunder repeated the word with a glance at Tam, but the Spirit of Route 66 merely nodded.
Luci remembered what her companions had told her about Yamata Orochi draining the power from mancers. She shuddered, remembering the devastating effect they had described it as having on a mancer. Was that what happened to her grandparents? Had they fought Yamata Orochi and been killed in that horrible way? Luci felt a sick hollowness in the pit of her stomach.
Tam made a grunt that sounded both satisfied and contemptuous, as if he knew what the Mother would say next. Luci looked at him, only half aware that unshed tears stood in her eyes. His attitude relaxed when he looked into her brimming eyes, and his expression softened.
“That is when your father made a pact with me. I blocked your mancer power from emerging,” the Mother said coolly. “I will not break my promise to Grover Harper, any more than I would break any other pact. Not unless he came to me personally and asked me to remove the block,” she added in a tone that was childlike and almost petulant.
“This is my fault,” Tam said surprising them all. “Grover can’t be here. I convinced him to go away! Grover’s powers had lain dormant for so long, I took it for suppression of his ability. I kept forgetting that he had a child!” Tam said as if shocked at himself.
He paced in his frustration. Luci was taken aback by his strong reaction. Tam stopped and shook his head. The Mother looked at him with a bemused smile.
“Oh tsk-tsk. Tammarand Ben Taliesin, of course you forgot about her,” she told Tam. “In blocking Luci’s mancer ability, I also inhibited her glow.”
“That’s actually possible?” Bodaway asked sounding surprised.
Luci had no idea what they were talking about. It was also maddening that they kept talking over her head.
“What do you mean by my glow? Those hippies were glowing when they left! What kind of glow?” Luci knew she hadn’t expressed her confused thoughts very well even as she spoke.
“You shouldn’t have been able to see the sprites glow with your mancer ability blocked,” Tam said in a pondering tone .
“Indeed,” the Mother murmured, momentarily propping her chin on her fist. “Child, the glow is what makes a mancer memorable. Without it people tend to forget you exist. You probably weren’t terribly popular, not a lot of suitors. Am I right?” she spoke the harsh seeming questions in an offhanded way.
Luci’s face heated in a blush. She looked down at the ground, unable to answer. Her shyness responded in full force to what felt like a belittling accusation.
“Think of it as charisma, but more deeply rooted,” Tam told Luci in an unexpectedly kind voice.
When Luci looked up at him she noticed he shot the Spirit of Route 66 a glare for the inconsiderate way she had spoken. However, he wasn’t in a mood of such kindness that he was willing to forgive himself for what he saw as a mistake. He looked at Luci and his face was painted with self-recrimination.
“I’m sorry Wee Mouse. I don’t know how I could have been that stupid. I didn’t mean to overlook you, to dismiss you,” he added with a sidelong glance at the Mother.
“Don’t call me that,” Luci mumbled, but there was no fire in her voice.
“I can’t believe I sent Grover away because I thought he must be the emerging mancer that Yamata Orochi was tracking!” Tam practically spat the words. “Maybe I really do jump to conclusions,” he muttered.
“Yamata Orochi?” the Mother asked in a hiss and they all nodded in mute wonder at her intense reaction.
The sky darkened and her eyes flashed as brightly as lightning. Luci jumped when she heard a sharp crack of thunder. However, she realized it was not thunder at all when the crazily painted Volkswagen van appeared with another backfire.
The same group of hippies poured out of the van. That time the third man, Dip, came out with them. He wore a tie dyed tunic-length caftan, exposing skinny, hairy legs. Apparently, Luci thought, he never found his missing pants. The hippies stood, ranked behind the Mother in a semicircle. They were not playful as they had been before. They were silent and reserved. Bump stood feet apart and arms akimbo. He looked particularly forceful, despite his chartreuse jumpsuit and rainbow colored afro.
“Yamata Orochi, you say?” the Mother repeated to gasps from Sunshine, Dip, and Bump, while the other three whispered among themselves with apprehensive faces.
“Please,” Luci said amid the murmurs the rogue mancer’s name elicited. “My dad isn’t here, but I am. I’m asking you to remove the block.”
Bump’s eyes widened as if in realization. He nodded slowly causing his afro to sway like a multicolored cloud. “This is the daughter of Grover Harper?” he asked in his resonate bass voice.
The other Route 66 faeries continued to murmur among themselves. Midnight took the opportunity to glide gracefully over to Tam. A long finger traced the line of his jaw before she touched the love beads she previously hung around his neck. She gave a sidelong taunting glance at Luci.
Luci might have been glad to see it when Tam pushed the faery away, but the girl was too stunned by the things the Mother had revealed to notice the raven haired sprite.
“Poor sad thing,” Sunshine murmured and her long blond braids fell forward as she bent over Luci. “I’m honored to meet the child of the Grove Dweller,” she stated with a warm smile that suited her name. “I always wondered, is he a druid since he’s a grove dweller?”
“It’s Grover, sweetness. Grove dweller is just what the name means in their native language. It has nothing to do with being a druid,” Dip told his wife in a voice that suggested he also thought it odd that Grover was not a druid.
“Such odd customs,” Sunshine murmured.
“You know my father too?” Luci asked Sunshine in amazement.
“We all know Grover Harper,” Bump’s voice rumbled in reply and the other faeries nodded eagerly.
“Grover Harper has the Mother’s favor,” Sunshine added with a beaming smile.
“He has the Mother’s protection,” the bald one named Crook said, and his long caftan billowed as he plopped onto the ground beside Luci. “She gave him her rowan staff to safeguard him in the mortal world.”
“We are bound to protect and guide him any time he travels the Mother Road,” silver-haired Mist told them, and a fierce gleam in her eyes belied her gentle voice and manner.
Luci’s mouth dropped open. She was reeling from all the secrets her father had been keeping from her. However, a mer-raw from Lychnis brought her mind back to the problem at hand.
“Please. My dad would want you to remove the block, I’m sure of it. Yes, my dad would do anything to keep me from harm. But he would also want me to be able to protect myself, and the intention in blocking my powers — Well, wasn’t it meant to keep me safe?” Luci implored the Mother.
“Isn’t the fact that I’m asking you to remove it just as good as my dad asking? Please. I just want to be able to defend myself. I don’t want anyone to get hurt trying to protect me!” Luci exclaimed with a frightened look at Tam and Bodaway.
Luci didn’t think she could bear it if either of them, or God forbid, her dad were hurt trying to protect her. “I will do anything to keep them safe!” she whispered intensely to the Mother.
End Episode 22
They haven’t gotten very far with convincing the Mother to force Luci’s mancer power to emerge. However, the fact that the carved rowan staff actually belonged to the Mother explains how Luci was able to sock it to Yamata Orochi that night. And what a revelation about Luci’s dad, Grover! So he has “the Mother’s protection,” huh? I guess the Mother likes the dad better than the daughter. You’d think she would want to help Luci for Grover’s sake… I wonder if she could be a little bit jealous? The Mother is so mercurial, who can say?
Recipe: Sunshine Juice
Once again, I’m scratching my head about relating a food or drink to this installment. So I started searching the WordPress countryside for recipes that included the name of one of the characters. Guess what I found! A recipe for sunshine — sort of anyway.
Until next time, stay tuned and stay groovy! Mega hugs.
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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