Authors: alexia purdy
Sometimes it was much better to be human.
“I hope she doesn’t lead us into any kind of weird mumbo jumbo journey or quest. I doubt it’ll help. Besides…we have better things to do here as it is. Portland is infested. It’ll take forever to get all the escaped Unseelie at this rate. Especially if Hank keeps getting in our way.”
Soap tossed another log on the fire before settling down across from them.
“No sense in worrying about Dulci and Hank. I’m sure when the time comes, we’ll find out what we’re all supposed to do.”
“I know what I’m supposed to do and I’m not letting some crazy oracle woman tell me my role in all this.” Benton slid over to his sleeping bag, ready to get some rest. “I don’t really care what she has to say as long as it gets us to the end of this mission faster, that’s fine. If not, I’m not doing anything any old faery tells me to do.”
He settled back and dropped his arm on top of his eyes. Letting the fire heat his skin instead of spending extra energy keeping his inner fire burning for heat, he dozed off in no time at all.
“Benton has a lot to learn.” Soap said quietly, knowing Nautilus could hear him.
“I agree. He is but a child in our years of experience. He’ll find out sooner or later what he’s dealing with. The forces of Faerie are strongly influencing his life. Especially since Shade is his sister.”
“He wants nothing more than to finish this mission and return to a quiet human life.” Soap grinned, watching the young human fire elemental sleeping soundly. Unlike Benton, they did not need to sleep but would rest along with Benton nonetheless.
“How little does he realize that he’ll never be free of Faerie now. Even that Hank guy is forever tied to the magic. No one is ever left the same after walking in the Land of Faerie.”
Soap nodded as he settled down for the evening. Such somber words were never truer.
Four hours later, Hank and Luci were pulling into a long gravel drive, the stones clicking loudly under the tires of the rented car.
Looking at the little house before him, he noticed that it was in need of a little TLC. Although the small yard around the cottage was still well maintained, the building itself was in desperate need of a coat of paint and a few repairs.
Overall, however, it was still the cozy little farmstead of his childhood.
It had been a couple of years since they had visited, and Hank felt plenty guilty about that. He could of course rationalize that his work kept him exceedingly busy, but he knew that it was mostly the long drive that kept him away.
He didn’t own a car, and he hated driving.
Luckily, she would visit him in the city a couple of times a year. But that was still no excuse, and he was determined to rectify that situation in the future,
Exiting the car, Hank and Luci made their way to the front door. Knocking twice, they waited as they heard some movement from inside. He shook his head at how short the doorway was. Although he was only 5’10”, he would have to duck through the doorway to enter the house.
The door suddenly opened before them, the wisp of a short, older woman staring up at him from behind thick glasses.
“Oh my word…Hank! This is indeed a surprise! Come in, come in! I wish I had known you were coming,” she smiled as she moved aside to let him enter.
“And you brought Luci!” she exclaimed as she bent down to pet the red dog. “How’s my favorite demon, Lucifer?”
Luci pushed into the old woman’s legs, sitting on her feet as she looked up with what reminded him of a grin, her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth.
“You are the only one she is ever that happy to see Nana.” Hank grinned as he leaned over to give his grandmother a hug.
“You are a sight for sore eyes,” his grandmother Ariel replied as she patted him happily on the back. Pulling away from him, she spent a few moments looking over her grandson.
“It looks like you are keeping fit, although you are a little thin. Are you eating enough?”
Hank grinned. “Not really, but we were kind of hoping that you could fix that!”
Ariel grinned, “I most certainly can! How about some coffee?”
Grabbing his hand, she led him over to the small kitchen table before making her way to the counter to whip up a batch of coffee.
“I had a feeling something different was going to happen when I woke up this morning,” she exclaimed as she poured the water into the coffee maker.
“Oh yeah?” he replied cautiously, “So did I actually. In fact, it was the most
morning that I have ever had.”
Hank’s parents had both died years ago in a car accident, the same accident that had crushed his foot. Being only ten at the time, he moved in with his grandparents until he’d eventually gone off to college. When his grandfather had died ten years before, it had left just Hank and his Nana. She was the only family he had left.
Ariel nodded at his response as she pulled some cinnamon rolls out of the oven.
“I just happen to have a large batch of cinnamon rolls ready to eat for breakfast,” she smiled as she set the pan on the table. Turning toward the counter again, she pulled open the lid of a crock and pulled out a dog biscuit.
“And here’s a goody for you too Luci,” she said with a smile as Luci sat on her hind legs to receive the treat.”
“Since when do you keep dog biscuits in the house?” Hank asked suspiciously as he bit into the hot cinnamon roll.
“Since I went to the store early this morning,” Ariel smiled as she sat a steaming cup of coffee in front of him.
He stopped chewing as he stared at his grandmother. She just returned his smile as she sat down next to him with her own cup of coffee. Placing her hand on his arm, “Finish chewing Hank, chewing your food properly is one of the hallmarks to a long life.”
In spite of his curiosity, he finished chewing before he spoke next.
“Did you…know we were coming?” he asked quietly.
“I had a good idea,” his grandmother replied cryptically. “Please, have another roll, I made plenty.”
Hank placed his hand on hers instead, looking at her thoughtfully before saying, “Nana?”
“How could you know that we would be coming here today?”
Ariel shrugged her shoulders. “Well you know it is long overdue. I guess I was just hopeful!”
She smiled at him then, seeming confident that this reasoning would put an end to his doubts.
He grabbed another cinnamon roll, taking a bite and chewing it slowly as he stared at his grandmother suspiciously.
“I don’t buy it,” he finally replied when he finished chewing. “I’m sure you don’t do this
weekend…why this particular one?”
Ariel was by then staring at her coffee cup, running her fingernail around the rim distractedly. Finally sighing, she replied just above a whisper.
“Dulci told me.”
Hank jumped up and away from the table, glaring at his grandmother like she was a demon.
“Oh my God!” he literally screamed. “Wait! You know Dulci?”
“Oh my God!” he repeated then. “I mean…do you know who she was? I mean…with Tamaki?”
Hank had always called his Grandfather by his first name. Tamaki had insisted on it.
Ariel nodded. “Sit down son; you will ruin your digestion.”
Still staring at Ariel like she was from a different world, Hank nevertheless made his way back to his chair and sat down.
“I’m sorry for exploding like that Nana...but…what the hell?”
Ariel placed her hand calmly on his.
“I knew someday that this may come up. I was hoping it would miss you of course, with the curse and all. But with Howie’s passing…”
Hank felt so lightheaded that he crossed his arms on the table in front of him and lowered his head as he let out a moan.
be happening to me!”
Feeling a little better in a few moments, he again raised his head and locked his eyes on hers.
“Have you always known?” he asked, unsure of where to start.
Ariel nodded. “Not at first of course, but once your Grandfather and I had become engaged, he told me. He wanted no secrets between us, even though he risked losing me with such a farfetched story.”
“I must admit,” she continued while moving her eyes back to her coffee, “It was quite a lot to swallow, not to mention their past relationship and all.”
She was quiet for a few moments as she seemed to reflect on the past.
“I didn’t talk to him for two weeks after he told me. At first, I was appalled, as well as more than a little worried about his sanity.”
Her eyes again met Hank’s. “His story must have replayed in my mind a thousand times in those weeks that followed. But I finally realized that I had never trusted anyone more than I had Tamaki, and trust was a two-way street. He trusted me enough to tell me, when he could have easily kept that part of his life to himself.”
“I would have been fine with not knowing I suppose,” she continued, “And we would have still had a beautiful life together. But the fact that he risked it all to tell me an extremely unbelievable story…”
Ariel reached over and firmly gripped his hand.
“It took the ultimate courage to tell me that, Hank. Once I got over the shock, I loved him all the more
he told me. Our life together was
, and it couldn’t have been if he hadn’t revealed that to me.”
He nodded quietly.
“How long have you been talking to Dulci?” he questioned then.
Ariel smiled, “After Tamaki passed. When she found out that he was gone, she came to me one night in a dream. That first night we just hugged each other and cried for our loss. After that she started coming more frequently…and we got to know each other. I came to find that I really liked her, and I now love her like a sister.”
“You have to understand, Hank,” Ariel continued, “She is the closest thing to family that I have now, besides you of course. But she is a woman, and we have shared the love of the same man. It is a relationship that I could
have with you; no matter
much I love you.”
A single tear made her way down her face as she got up to get a tissue.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled before blowing her nose. “I didn’t mean to come off as such a sissy.”
Hank couldn’t help but laugh at her categorization of herself. Rising from his seat, he moved over to Ariel and gave her a hug.
“You are far from a sissy Nana. You are an even
amazing person than I thought…and that’s saying a
As he wrapped his arms around his grandmother, he had a sudden thought…a very
Not only was he having untold feeling toward a woman that was not of this world, she had also been his grandfather’s lover…and she was now his grandmother’s best friend!
Hank felt like he might get sick.
Hank had a lot to digest and asked if they could take a walk. Ariel nodded, blowing her nose one more time before she gave him a smile.
“Would you rather go alone? I have given you a lot to think about I’m afraid.”
He gave this some thought. “Luci really needs to run, but I still have many questions…if you are up to it.”
Ariel smiled and nodded. “I would
to, although I’m much slower than I used to be.”
He shook his head, “My head is spinning so much right now. I don’t think I could muster much more than a slow stroll anyway.”
By the time Hank went to the car to retrieve his staff, Ariel was ready. Moving down a small hill on the side of the cottage, they then moved through what had once been an orchard. Not used as such in years, the few trees remaining were large and twisted remnants of apple and pear. He used to play there when he was younger, climbing high in the trees and pretending to be a pirate or soldier.
Luci took off almost immediately after a squirrel but soon returned. To Hank, it seemed that she too wanted to hear the rest of the story. Remembering her apparent communications with Dulci, he wasn’t surprised.
Turning his eyes forward once again, he noticed Ariel glancing at his staff.
“That was your grandfather’s most prized possession you know,” she mentioned when she noticed him watching her.
know that,” he admitted as he remembered its magical transformation earlier. Or was that yesterday?
“I realize now that it must have come from Faerie,” he continued when his head stopped spinning from the thought of time travel.
Ariel nodded. “It did indeed. He was awarded it by the queen of the Summer Court for his bravery. It was a
honor, the equivalent to being knighted on
side of the barrier.”
Finding a nearby stump, Ariel made her way to it and sat down. “You’ll have to excuse an old woman’s need for frequent rests, Hank.”
“No problem Nana,” he replied as he kneeled beside her. Doing the math in his head, he suddenly realized that Ariel would be eighty-six in a month.
“We can go back if you’d like Nana,” Hank offered. “This may be too strenuous for you.”
Ariel waved off his concerns. “I walk every day, Hank. I
being vertical, and I exercise every day to keep myself that way!”
He grinned at his Nana’s pluck. She and Tamaki had been his anchor in this world for so long, he wasn’t sure what he would do without her. Although he hadn’t been on the farm in quite awhile, he called her at least twice a week to see how she was and if she needed anything.
Many times, he just called to hear her voice. She was an inspiration to him, especially if he was down about anything.
“Your grandfather studied Kobudo his whole life.” Ariel continued then. “After he received that staff, he concentrated his efforts almost exclusively on Hanbō Jutsu due to the length of that staff. He loved that old piece of wood.”