Liam and Lili sat at the Bar at the Flat Planet Café, laughing about one of Augur's silly jokes, when Liam's global beeped.
“Da'an, what is it?”
“I want you and Captain Marquette to join me at the embassy.”
“We are on our way, Da'an.”
Augur made a face.
“Hey, don't you have any spare time from your jobs?”
Lili shrugged and gave him a smile. “Sorry, Augur, but we will come back as soon as possible. Can't let you stay here alone for too long, some pretty girl might come and bite you!”
“Ha, ha. Very funny. See ya in a while!”
* * *
Ten minutes later the shuttle landed at the embassy's shuttle bay. Da'an and Agent Sandoval were already waiting for them.
“Uh, something big is going to get us”, Liam muttered under his breath.
“Major, Captain, we will leave immediately to Ireland. Da'an wishes to visit the Taelonists and Ma'el's laboratory.” Agent Sandoval commanded.
“The lab we found during the bliss epidemic?”
Lili shuttered at the thought of that.
Da'an had entered the shuttle and waited for the humans to follow.
“Well, let's go then”, Lili sighed, taking her seat and starting the shuttle.
* * *
Some time later the shuttle landed near the Taelonist's camp. Da'an's unannounced presence there caused what one could nearly call a full-grown panic.
“We..Welcome to our camp, uhm, Sir!” The leader, Remmy, managed to greet the Taelon. He tried the Taelon greeting gesture but mixed up left and right.
Sandoval looked like having major trouble with his stomach.
Da'an displayed all his abilities to calm the crowd, then asked Remmy for a tour.
Lili could do nothing but shake her head in unbelief.
* * *
‘That's the perfect chance to ask him. He has to do this for us. He has to!’
* * *
After the short tour through the camp Da'an decided to move on to the lab. Remmy seemed to be glad about Da'an's decision. The camp was in a major turmoil.
A man called Daniel was chosen to lead the small group to Ma'el's laboratory. Remmy nearly rushed at Liam.
“I have to talk to you, it's urgent!”
“Ok, Remmy. Da'an, I know the way to the lab. I'll follow you as soon as possible.”
Daniel lead the small group towards their goal. Remmy darted some glances in all directions, then led Liam to a small corner, where nobody could hear them talking.
“This seems to be some secret, hm? What's up, Remmy?”
“Well, I don't know how to put this right. I've encountered a splinter group inside the Taelonist religion. They want to live exactly like the old Celts have lived with Ma'el. I'm afraid there are some very fanatic people among them.”
“A traditional sect? Well, and what's the problem?”
“I have heard them talking about asking a Taelon to act as a replacement for Ma'el. Da'an looks very similar to Ma'el. I fear that they...”
“That they what?”
“That they could try to force Da'an to join them.”
“How would they do this?”
“I have no idea.”
A this moment a young woman came searching for Remmy. She seemed to be rather distracted.
“There you are! I have bad news. Daniel, the man who's leading Da'an to the lab... he's one of the traditionalists, too! And he seems to be a fanatic!”
“Oh, my! “
“I heard him and Jack talking about it being the right time to start. About Da'an having to help them!”
“You think this is so serious, Remmy?”
“Yes, we have to hurry!”
All three of them started running towards the woods, trying to catch up with Daniel and his group.
* * *
The entrance to Ma'el's lab had been cleared and the group, Lili, Sandoval, Da'an and Daniel entered without hesitating.
Daniel explained the contents of the lab to Lili, trying to gather them all in the place the forcefield was marking off.
“We can't decipher the writing back at the wall there. Perhaps you can...?” Da'an moved over to the wall, bending down to read the letters at the wall, Sandoval and Lili followed him slowly. Spinning around Daniel grabbed the device and activated the forcefield. Sandoval turned around, Lili thought she heard him muttering “Not again!”. Da'an gracefully walked over to the edge of the field, fixing the Taelonist with his eyes.
“What is the meaning of this?” he asked.
“I want you to do me a favor”, Daniel answered. “I want you to live with us here in Strandhill, like Ma'el has done. We want you to be our teacher, to cut yourself off of the commonality, to revive Ma'el's spirit.”
“This is an impossible task.”
“You can make it possible. It is your decision. If you don't cooperate your fellow prisoners will suffer. I can decide whether they will live or not, whether they will die slowly or without much pain.”
Daniel pointed at the weapons he had put on the table. “The forcefield can be set to being pervious from one side but impermeable from the other. It's your choice, Da'an.”
“Liam is our chance to get out of here”, whispered Lili.
“I heard that. And you're wrong. The entrance is locked. Nobody can get in. You have, let's say 15 minutes.”
With that Daniel turned around and disappeared through one of the other doors.
“What next?”, Sandoval looked like exploding in rage the next minute.
Da'an seemed to be calm. He examined the space they were trapped in and the walls and controls he could reach from there.
“Will Liam be able to enter the lab, Da'an?” Lili wanted to know.
“I fear not.”
“What was that?”
“What was what, Agent?”
“I thought I heard something.”
They stand frozen for a time, but heard nothing.
Then Da'an spoke.
“I will never give in to Daniel's demands. The letters he could not decipher are some verses of an old Taelon legend Ma'el narrated to me when I was a child.”
Lili shot him a look.
“You knew Ma'el?”
“Of course I did. He was my parent. Even if Daniel had been able to decipher the verses he would not have been able to act on them. They are a code only another Taelon could read.”
That portal there can be activated from here if you know how. I do not know if this works and to what location the portal will lead us. But I don't see another chance here.”
Lili and Sandoval could do nothing than agree to that.
Da'an started trying to activate the portal when Daniel reappeared. Sandoval and Lili started scolding him, yelling at him to distract him from Da'an.
Some seconds later the portal started to glow in an eerie swirl of colors. A grumbling sound indicated the starting up of some machines below the floor.
Daniel started screaming and grabbed the energy weapons on the table. When Da'an, Lili and Sandoval jumped through the portal Daniel shot at them, but hit the wall and portal more than his aims.
The fugitives felt like being torn apart, them all went black around them.
* * *
Liam and Remmy reached Ma'el's lab in time to feel the machines start and Daniel yelling and shooting at someone. They tried to enter the lab but were thrown back by the field Daniel had installed. Remmy hit his head and laid dazed on the ground.
Cursing Liam stood up, trying again to enter the lab, with a similar effect. Inside it went quiet, then a sound like something overloading hissed in the air.
With a desperate cry Liam shot his shaquarava at the field. It broke down with sparks and lightning. Liam ran into the cave, unconsciously noticing that the overloading-sound had stopped. Inside the lab he was greeted with a sight that made his jaw hit the ground.
* * *
The lonely figure looked up when the portal started humming and lighting up. Three figures stumbled out, breaking down on the floor. Something like energy shots raced through the open portal and crashed into the wall, activating the forcefield. With a loud bang and lots of sparks the portal imploded. The figure started checking up the systems and scanning the room inside the forcefield for toxic substances before deactivating the field and approaching the three unconscious persons, two strangely clad humans and one Taelon.
The Taelon couldn't be...
* * *
Sandoval woke up with a groan. His skull felt like someone forging a sword inside. Looking around he saw Lili lying on a bench similar to the one he was lying on. The ceiling seemed to be made of thatch, the room itself being round. The floor was made of stamped loam.
‘Oh God, we're in the hands of Daniel's sect’, he thought.
A small woman clad in a strange kind of tunic entered the room, babbling in what seemed to be Gaelic.
When he shrugged and shook his head she left. Lili started to stir on her bench.
“Sandoval? Where are we? Oh, my head hurts.”
“I don't know where we are and Da'an is not here.” Sandoval tried to get up but failed when his head seemed to triple in size.
Just then the door was opened and Da'an entered the room. Behind him another Taelon appeared. It was... Da'an.
“What the...” Sandoval rubbed his eyes. “Da'an?”
The first Da'an smiled at him. “I see you are confused. My name is Ma'el.”
* * *
Half an hour later.
“We have jumped through a time portal that was destroyed by the shots Daniel send after us. That means we are stranded in ancient Strandhill. Did I get this right?” Lili wanted to know.
“You are right, Captain”, Ma'el answered. “The shots that destroyed the portal have caused some disturbances in the interdimensional space you were traveling through. You arrived here unconscious. That is not normal while traveling through the portal. Some shots came through, too, and activated the forcefield on this side of the portal. When I noticed that the portal had closed on the other side and no harm was coming from you, I released the field and sent you to the village to be cared for. Da'an I took in my own care.”
“But we're stranded here.”
“I am afraid, yes. I do not know how much of the portal was destroyed and if there is a possibility to repair it. But I will try to do what I can. Da'an has briefed me about what happened.”
“Stranded at Strandhill...” Lili started giggling and couldn't stop. “I have told my friends that I'm back soon. I guess I can forget that.” She started laughing again, then started to cry.
“I'm sorry, this is too much, it was a long day. Oh boy, I'm bushed.”
Sandoval sat there, staring at her. He had not said a word since Ma'el had started his explanations. Da'an and Ma'el exchanged a knowing look. Ma'el turned to the small woman: “Sara, would you please bring us some of your tea?”
Sara disappeared and came back soon with two bowls of steaming tea.
Ma'el handed Lili and Sandoval the bowls and ordered them to drink. “This will help you sleep. You are to exhausted to grasp all this now.”
With his last words Lili was asleep again.
* * *
When Da'an and Ma'el left the small house they were surrounded by the villagers who stared at Da'an with respect, but not in awe. What appeared to be the druid and the chieftain stepped forward and greeted him with the Taelon gesture which Da'an returned gracefully. Then the people returned to their work even if they could stop glancing at him.
Ma'el lead Da'an to a small but nicely decorated house at the edge of the village.
“This is my house. You can live here, too. Your friends can stay at Sara's house. She has lost her husband a few months ago and has space enough for them.”
“You live among the humans?”
“Yes, they treat me like one of them. Well, like someone of very high rank and they seek my advice like the one of the druids and priestesses, but I am not treated like a God or something like that. But now tell me, my child, how did you come to this planet?”
They talked until the dawn came, bathing the land in the peaceful light of a new day.
* * *
“What is this?!”
Sandoval stared unbelieving at the pile of clothes Sara had left on a stool next to his bench.
“Ahm, clothes?” Lili grinned. Then she unfolded her own pile of clothes: a peplon with two beautifully worked fibulas and a belt and a pair of sandals. Sandoval unsuccessfully tried to make friends with breeches and a long-sleeved tunic.
When the two timetravelers left Sara's house they were greeted by a bunch of kids, gabbling without a stop. The only thing Lili and Sandoval could manage to understand was ‘Ma'el’. The children lead them to Ma'el's lab where they urged them with gestures to enter. Inside they found Da'an and Ma'el examining the damage to the portal.
“How bad is it?” Sandoval asked. Da'an darted a second look at Sandoval who was visibly feeling very uneasy in his new clothes.
“It does not look good. We will be able to repair the portal but it will take a lot of time. We have to produce some parts from the sketch.”
Sandoval sat down on the floor, burying his head in his hands. “Oh great!”
Lili stifled a laugh.
“Allrighty then. Is there somebody among the villagers who speaks English? I can't understand a word they say.”
“I am afraid there isn't. I will teach you, if that is your wish”, Ma'el offered. “Agent Sandoval's CVI will help him to learn Gaelic by himself.”
“Thank you, Ma'el.”
“I can teach you, too”, Da'an mentioned. “I shared with Ma'el and have, well, ‘copied’ his knowledge of the Gaeliclanguage.
“Is it difficult to learn?”
“Idon't know how difficult it will be for you. Repeat: Lili tá orm. That means ‘My name is Lili’”
“Lili the arm.”
“I guess it will be difficult.”
* * *
The next days were filled with examining the fragments of the portal and sorting out the useable pieces.
Despite the language difficulties Lili made friends with the villagers. Sandoval had more difficulties with that. Lili remained glued to him, using him as a translator when Da'an or Ma'el weren't around and he had made contact to the people for himself but his cold behavior closed the doors to befriending them. They were polite to him but nobody searched closeness.
The evenings were filled with storytelling and drinking beer. Da'an and Ma'el took turns in translating the stories to Lili, Sandoval just listened, looking bored.
Then came the day when everything changed.
* * *
“Hey, Sandoval, can you hand me the ... whateveritis over there?”
Lili walked over to him, softly shaking his shoulder. “Hey, you asleep?” Then she noticed the blood that was trickling from his left ear. “Uh, oh. Da'an, Ma'el, we have a big problem over here!”
After examining the unconscious Sandoval, Da'an and Ma'el decided to deactivate the still working fragments of his CVI and then trying to remove it completely.
It wasn't an easy task since Ma'el's lab wasn't equipped with the necessary machinery, but with Lili's help and much improvisation they managed to remove the CVI.
“Sandoval will need some time to recover from this operation. His brain will have major difficulties to get used to the now again restricted functions. Lili, please keep an eye on him. Da'an and I will check on him every hour, but we cannot be there all the time.”
“Ok. We should bring him to Sara's house. It's easier for me to care for him when other humans are around who can help me, in case his condition is getting worse. But I can't talk to them!” Lili remembered.
“This will help you”, Da'an said with a nervous glance at Ma'el. Then he offered Lili his hands for a sharing.
After the experience both of them turned a bit flustered to Ma'el. He watched them with a big smile on his face. “I knew you would develop an affection for humanity, Da'an. You're too much like me to resist.”
Da'an started to smile. “I was not sure of your reaction. But I should have known this!”
* * *
That night Sandoval began to hallucinate. Lili who sat next to his bed with a wet cloth for his forehead, startled when he suddenly sat up, looking at her.
“Dee Dee, you're back! I'm so sorry...”
“Sandoval, I am not...oh, what the heck... Yes, I'm back.” Lili was not feeling well, but if this could calm him down, she'd do what was necessary.
Sandoval held out his hand, carefully touching Lili's cheek, as if she could vanish if he dared to come near. But she didn't. Lili began to feel very uneasy when Sandoval seized her head with both hands. Then he bent forward and tenderly kissed her on the mouth. Lili stiffened completely. He drewback.
“You're mad at me, Dee Dee. But believe me, I never meant to harm you. Please, forgive me, please...” Sandoval's voice cracked.
Lili noticed with embarrassment the tears that were rolling down his cheeks. ‘Oh, h*ll!’
“I forgive you, Ron, believe me, I forgive you.” And she kissed him back.
The kiss deepened and after some time Lili felt Sandoval's hands roam over her body.
“Stop! This is... stop this immediately!”
Sandoval stared at her with a look like a slapped puppy on his face.
‘Oh, no’, Lili thought. “Uhm, you're ill, honey. You should sleep now. I'll be here when you wake up, I promise.”
Calmed down Sandoval crawled back under his blankets and was snoring only seconds later.
‘Danger averted !’
* * *
The fever went down during the next hours, but Lili kept playing the role of Dee Dee Sandoval, just in case. When he was mumbling something indefinable in his sleep, Lili bent down to kiss Sandoval's forehead, soothing him with the words:
“It's okay, honey, I'll watch over you.”
When she looked at him again, Sandoval stared at her with a funny expression on his face. “What are you doing, Captain?”
“Uhm, nothing, you... you mistook me for Dee Dee. You were hallucinating and I thought it would help to play along...” Lili stammered. ‘He's not buying it!’
Sandoval darted her a doubting look.
“I don't remember mistaking you for my wife, Captain. How is that possible?”
“Don't you remember? We had to remove your CVI!”
“No, I don't remember.”
Lili started to panic, this was too embarrassing. She was rescued by Da'an and Ma'el who chose exactly that moment to enter the room.
“I see you have recovered from the operation, Agent Sandoval.” Ma'el greeted the Agent.
Da'an darted a questioning look at the blushed Lili.
“Later”, she whispered, nearly running from out of the room.
* * *
The villagers were amazed about Sandoval's change. Some of the men tried to befriend him and challenged him with humorous tasks. The young girls now dared to chase after him, giving him little presents and giggling whenever he came into sight.
The old Sandoval would have reacted with cold arrogance, this Sandoval played along, visibly enjoying his new freedom.
Lili was now independent of his translating skills. She was able to understand the people around her and if she did not think about what she was going to say she could make herself understood, too.
She used this to give Sandoval a wide berth, even if that means making a detour. Da'an had watched this for two days, then he decided to took Lili to task.
“What is going on between you and Sandoval, Lili?”
“Uhm, he thinks that I am hot for him.”
“Hot’ for him?”
Lili blushed. “When he was ill, he thought I was Dee Dee and I thought playing her role could help him. But he misunderstood me when he woke up and now... This is too embarrassing!”
“Have you talked with him about that?”
“I've tried to, but he looks at me with this amused smile and I know that he doesn't buy it.”
“I see your problem. Perhaps I should talk to him?”
“No! I mean that will convince him only more of his opinion. I guess I have to live with it.”
* * *
The following day was characterized by excitement. The highpriestess and her student were expected to return from their journey to the highking.
When the two travellers reached the marketplace all the villages’ inhabitants came together to welcome them. The highpriestess had difficulties to dismount her horse, being pestered by a dozen people at the same time. Not until all the villagers have greeted her properly she was able to force her way to Ma'el and his guests, who were waiting at the edge of the crowd.
“Ma'el, I'm glad to see you again.”
“Deirdre, it is good to have you back.”
For a moment both just looked at each other, then Deirdre hugged the Taelon.
“I've missed you so much!”
“I've missed you, too.”
Lili darted Da'an a meaningful look.
“What did he say about affection to humans?”
“I have suspected something like that”, Da'an answered with a smile. “Why else should Ma'el destroy his notes and vanish without a trace? He knew that the synod would condemn his behaviour.”
Ma'el and Deirdre slowly let go of each other, both blushing, one red, one blue. A little frightened Deirdre looked at Da'an.
“It is all right. Da'an understands, what is going on between us.”
“You look alike!”
“Da'an is my child. I never thought it being possible to see him again or to see him here. But as it often appeared: Nothing is impossible.”
Deirdre approachend Da'an and lifted her hands to the Taelon greeting. “I'm honoured to meet you, Da'an.”
Da'an returned the greeting. “The honor is on my side, Highpriestess.
Deirdre's student had reached the group.
“This is Bríd, my student.”
Bríd knew the Taelon greeting, too.
“Be welcome in our village.”
Now Sara joined the converstion.
“Everybody listen to me. This evening we will celebrate. We will meet by sunset in the main hall. Bríd and Deirdre will tell us their adventures then and there. Until then you two will rest from your journey. No argument! I'll bring you something good to eat. Your luggage was carried to your house and the horses are cared for.”
“I will accompany the two”, Ma'el cut her off. “Don't panic, I just want to tell them about Da'an and his companions. Then I'll leave them alone, I promise!”
Sara darted him a doubtful look and then surrendered to her fate.
* * *
In the evening all gathered in the main hall. The women had produced a fabulous meal and everybody was cheerful.
Deirdre was seated between Ma'el and Sandoval, Bríd between Lili and Da'an.
Under the expectant looks of the audience the two now reported the news they had gathered on their way.
“The Highking has heard from merchants from Alba, that the Romans there are trying to spread themselves out. Everybody is concerned that they may ferry over to Eirinn, but the druids say that will not happen. Nevertheless are the tribes at the eastern coast preparing for the worst.”
Among these news there was much gossiping, about offspring and alliances, about feuds and adventures.
It was getting late and Da'an noticed Bríd falling asleep next to him.
“I suggest we should put this off to tomorrow, before Bríd really falls asleep here.”
Bríd woke with a start and looked around. “Did I miss something?”
“No, no, but I think you should go to bed now”, Deirdre calmed her down.
“Tomorrow's gonna be a long day”, Sara joined in. “Now you're back we can finally begin with the preparations for the Beltane festival.”
“Beltane! Only one week left! And there's still so much to do.”
* * *
Early on the next morning everybody was up and out.
The women were collecting the special clothing for the rituals to wash them and mend them if necessary. The men were send to collect wood for the fires.
The village seemed to be humming in anticipation.
Ma'el and Da'an were helping Deirdre and Bríd with the religious preparations.
Lili wasn't enthusiastic about mending clothes. She had preferred to collect wood with Sandoval and the other men, but Sara did not give in.
“That's traditionally mens’ work. Even unusual guests like you won't change that.”
Lili gave in, knowing she had not the slightest chance in changing the resolute Sara's opinion.
It wasn't that bad in the end, the women were telling stories from the past festivals and she warmed to the thought of participating instead of only watching the rituals.
With Bríds help she learned the necessary texts and songs, while the other women racticed their own parts of the ritual.
Da'an was prepared by Ma'el and Sandoval by Sara's son, Donncha.
When the day of the festival had come two big piles of wood had been built on one of the fields south of the village. The cattle were going to be driven through the burning fires to protect them during the coming year.
Then the villages would follow them to cleanse themselves for disharmonies and to draw good luck.
* * *
Punctually to the festival Da'an and Ma'el succeed in bringing the portal back online. A test, consisting of sending a bunch of flowers two hour into the future had been completed successfully.
For the travelers Beltane would be a farewell celebrity, too.
Then the anticipated evening began.
* * *
All men and women were gathered north of the two piles of wood, eagerly awaiting the ritual of Beltane.
Da'an appeared first, clad in a Bard's attire. Accompanied by a man with a harp he started to recite.
“This is the air, oh people; these are the creatures:
Owl who knows;
Raven who talks;
Crane who dances;
Thrush who sings;
Quail the humble;
Wren the king;
Lark who revels;
Loon who weeps;
Jay who scatters;
This is the air I conjure, and this is the birth of the world. This is the fire, oh people; these are the creatures:
Drake who hoards;
Kirin who gives;
Coal the slow;
lightning the quick;
Salamander, power's wick;
Soul who praises;
Phoenix dies and is reborn.
This is the fire I conjure, and this is the birth of the world. This is the sea, oh people; these are the creatures:
Whale who chants;
Dolphin who speaks;
Salmon who seeks;
Pike who rages;
Shark who mourns;
Seal who gathers;
Crab the lone;
Eel in stone;
This is the sea I conjure, and this is the birth of the world. This is the earth, oh people; these are the creatures:
Deer who worries;
Boar who schemes;
Cat who conjures;
Sheep who dreams;
Hare the playful;
Brock the stern;
Mouse who teaches;
Horse who learns;
Wolf who wanders;
Bear who stays;
Stag who guards;
Puma who preys.
This is the earth I conjure, and this is the birth of the world.
Now is the darkness. Now is the pain. Now is the fear. Now is the danger. Now is the hate. Now are the tears. Call on our mother! She is the one! Hers is the way! She will bring comfort. She will bring life. She will bring day.”
The Druid took up the thread.
“Earth Mother, Birth Mother, Birch Mother, Sea Mother, Stone Mother, Star Mother!
Queen of night and death and birth,
Womb of deep and fertile earth,
Dame of heaven's silver wheel,
Lady of the greening field,
Keeper of the apple grove,
Mistress of the arts of love,
Shine out in the fearsome dark -
Teach us how to strike the spark.
People, we can feel Her near!
She is coming! She is here!”
Deirdre appeared from nowhere, dressed in a wonderful green tunic, embroidered with amber and copper, representing the Goddess.
“Now the veils of worlds are thin;
To move out you must move in.
Let the Balefires now be made,
Mine the spark within them laid.
This My gift: that people meet
In peace and plenty made complete.
This I give: the Sacred Way,
The strength, the soul, the sight, the say.
Move beyond the fiery screen
Between the seen and the unseen;
Shed your anger and your fear,
Live anew in a new year!”
Donncha, as the firemaker, stood next to a small bundle of twigs. With each tree he named he held up a twig, then tied them together into a torch.
“The Nine I sing, the Nine blessed trees Which were empowered of old:
Oak, thou druid's door, open the way for us.
Apple, thou knowledge-giver, break our circle of blindness.
Ash, thou world-supporter, drive away ill powers.
Birch, thou tree-mother, help in our healing.
Hawthorn, thou branch of May, give us light and hope.
Willow, thou soul-leader, grant us safe passage.
Holly, thou forest king, be our safe refuge.
Hazel, thou wise-one's branch, give us true vision.
Alder, thou river's love, let us flow outward.
In peace let us flow outward; in power let us flow outward; in beauty let us flow outward.”
With his last words Deirdre lighted the torch and Donncha went over to the two piles of wood, lightening them under the awestruck attention of the people.
The cattle was forced to go through the path between the two fires. When they were gone the people followed them.
Once they all had passed the fires they sang to the sound of some drums.
“Dark to light, night to day, Through the fires lies the way; Old to new, death to birth, Between the worlds to our rebirth.”
Then Bríd stepped forward, calling the God.
“Sky's Father, Wise Father, Wine Father, Sun Father, Sap Father, Song Father!
Lord of forest, field and beast,
Lord of harvest, hunt and feast,
King of heaven's golden fire,
Dancer of the soul's desire,
Master of the drum and flute,
Keeper of the vineyard's fruit,
Shine on us and warm our souls -
Teach us how to make us whole!
People, we can feel Him near! He is coming! He is here!
Ma'el emerged from his hiding, dressed in green, his attire embroidered with leaves and horns.
“Let the light of living blaze!
Dance within the spiral maze;
Cry of pipe and thump of drum;
Out you go and in you come!
This I give: the Joyous Dance,
Music, song, the vine, the chance!
Now do fear and anger cease:
Dance the healing and release!”
A triple spiral had been traced on the ground in flour, to give the people guidelines for dancing. The people started dancing along the line singing with joy and delight.
After the dance the food was blessed and then the party began.
When the night had advanced most of the celebrators had split up in couples. Ma'el and Deirdre had left the party about two hours ago, as had Da'an and Bríd. Lili and Sandoval had tried to split up but well-meaning villagers had brought them back together for the third time now.
“I think they just won't give up on us, hm?”
“Think you're right, Sandoval.”
“Why don't you call me Ron?”
“Why don't you call me Lili, Ron?”
“Alright. Then, what do you thing we should talk about, Lili?”
“Hm. Did I really mistook you for Dee Dee?”
“Yes, you did. I swear.”
“Okay, okay. I believe you. What did I say?”
“You said that you were sorry and that she should forgive you.”
“You sure? Then why did you kiss me?”
“Uhm, you started that.”
“You kissed me first.”
“I did what?”
“You thought I was Dee Dee and you kissed me on the mouth.”
“What did you do?”
“The first time...”
“Don't interrupt me! The first time I was totally stunned. You thought Dee Dee hated you. You looked so sad and desperate I felt bad about it, so I ...”
“I kissed you back.”
“Oha. What was the kiss like?”
“We are curious today, aren't we?”
“Hey, I just want to close the gaps in my memory. Now tell me.”
Lili blushed. “Won't tell.”
“Well, was it like this?” Sandoval leaned forward and kissed her softly.
Lili was too shocked to respond.
“Or more like this?” The kiss deepened.
This time Lili kissed back.
“And enjoying it.”
“I see that. But the kiss was more like this.”
With that Lili clung her harms around Sandoval's neck and kissed him for a whole life's worth.
“I knew about that kiss before”, confessed Sandoval when they came up for air.
“Don't you know how sweet you are when you blush?”
* * *
Normally the Beltane celebrity would last from sunset to sunset, but this time it was turned into an farewell party for Da'an, Lili and Sandoval.
Ma'el and Deirdre seemed to be a very happy couple, as were Sandoval and Lili. Da'an and Bríd seemed to be very good friends by now, but nothing more.
Sara had tears in her eyes as she hugged them goodbye. She handed them small pendants on a leather cord.
“Don't forget us.”
“We won't, Sara, we won't.”
When they entered the lab, Ma'el gave Da'an a small package of letters.
“Give this to your so called Taelonists. Some of the villagers and I have written these letters to show them how we have lived here. They should took it as a guidance.”
“I will miss you, parent.” Da'an's voice was shaking.
“I will miss you, too, my child.”
Then they entered the portal.
* * *
“Where are we?”
“You mean ‘when’ are we?”
“Okay, when are we?”
“I have no idea. Shh! Someone's coming!”
The three hurried over to a dark corner and saw themselves enter the cave with Daniel.
They witnessed their captivity and Daniel's words again.
Sandoval couldn't suppress a snort when he witnessed his former coldness.
“What was that?”
“What was what, Agent?”
“I thought I heard something.”
Both parties stood still for a time, one to listen and one not to be heard.
Then they saw themselves vanish through the portal.
With that Sandoval attacked Daniel from behind, wrested the weapon from his hands and pointed it at him.
Daniel's eyes grew wide. “But you...” he pointed to the portal and then back to Sandoval.
“Yes, we...”, he answered grimly.
Da'an's head suddenly jerked up. “He has damaged the portal! It will explode, if we can't shut the machines down!”
Sandoval knocked Daniel down and ran up to Da'an, who was crawling into the guts of the portals energy core to deactivate it. Lili was pulling out cables out of the portal's side to help him.
The piercing sound of the overloading machines slowly decreased when an explosion was heard from the entrance. Seconds later Liam stumbled into the cave.
He stopped hard, not believing his eyes
Da'an clad in a colorful cape, slowly crawling out of the guts of a strange looking machine, Lili wearing a deep red peplon with silver fibulas and embroidery and Sandoval, grinning at him, clad in a dark blue tunic and breeches.
Both humans had longer hair than Liam remembered them to have and Sandoval was still grinning (!) at him.
“A little late, aren't we, Major?”
The look on Liam's face was so priceless, that all three of them started laughing. A little confused, Liam joined in. His confusion faded when Remmy entered the cave, looking like he'd just seen three ghosts.
“That's a loooong story, Remmy, Liam. We'll tell you later. But first, let's get rid of this... Daniel here.”