Thanks to Eric for assisting with several memories and playing the role of Boomer and Alea.
The shimmering fragments of reality go unnoticed by Deaglan as a door formed before him. It was the door to Coach Boomer’s office, and he was waiting for a response to his knock. A familiar face greeted him when the door opened. “What’s up son? Shouldn’t you be enjoying your time off for the holiday? Spending time with family and friends?”
Deaglan kicked the floor, unsure of how to answer. “Well, they’re all here, so I am? I wanted to thank you though, for helping with my permit!”
“You did all the work, and earned it,” He says with a smile. “I’m just glad I could help.” Boomer reached out, giving Deaglan a pat on the shoulder.
“I suppose. The rules and stop lights are strange, but I guess it makes sense the more I think about it.” Deaglan was holding the permit, fidgeting. “I- uh- who do I need to let know I’m leaving campus for a while? Can’t I just tell you?”
“Depends on where you are going, and for how long, but it’s always a good idea to let the faculty know. Primarily Principal Summers or Vice Principal Dugan would be who you need to ask.” The coach paused briefly, adding “If you’d like, I can go with you, so they seem a bit more approachable, but that’s your call.”
“I would like that. I already upset Principal Summers recently, I’m sure…” Deaglan paused, clearly being secretive about… something. “I was intending on visiting my mother, in Amherst.”
“It’s nice that you want to visit your mother… Amherst, eh? I’m afraid Summers will require that someone go with you after all a two-hour drive is quite the undertaking for a new driver.” Boomer lofted a brow quizzically. “Also, why would Summers be angry at you?”
“Uh, well. I-“ Deaglan’s face scrunched up. Did he play himself? “Some Next Gen Plus and I went on an unsanctioned mission. And, uh…” Deaglan was starting to understand the metaphor for putting one’s foot in one’s mouth.
“Unsanctioned mission? This have anything to do with when Angel got hurt?”
“No!” Deaglan blurted out. “I mean, I’m not supposed to do ritual magics without Kuzkin, but I wasn’t conducting it? So I technically didn’t break that rule? But this wasn’t related to Angel! Though, I told Professor Kuzkin before we left. And Simone told Principal Summers.” Deaglan panicked as Boomer gave him a deadpan expression. “Someone tricked a former student into almost doing something that could have done, uh, ‘bad things’ to our reality, and our homeland.” Dealgan used air quotes unironically.
“I see, and you went to help them, or stop them?”
“To help them.” Deaglan scrunched his brow together, adding more to clarify. “-to not marry a dead king. They trapped her, caught trying to do a heroic thing. Whatever was happening, it was going to start a war with The Fomorians. And I guess the Unseelie Court. Which, my Parent-Teacher Conference substitute tried killing her too… Which-“ Deaglan held back the urge to speak on and on about how awful the Fomorians were, and his training to fight them, and so much more! Alas, he curtailed his tongue and exhaled, reaching an important fact.
“Also, she’s like, eighteen, and he’s ridiculously old. And that’s weird.”
“Easy son, I didn’t mean to pry too much, just trying to get a gauge on just how upset Principal Summers might be is all.” Coach Boomer looks around while he tries to help Deaglan calm down a bit. “I didn’t mean for you to get worked up. With that said, it sounds like you were doing what Next Gen Plus is supposed to do…help people. Summers can’t be too angry about that…”
Deaglan nodded with a sigh. “Alright… Thank you for going to talk to him with me.”
“I’m here to help.”
Coach Boomer smiled, offering him a pat on the back. Reality distorted, and a scowling face replaced the smiling one: His father’s.
Deaglan was smaller. Younger. He had just fallen at the hands of his sparring partner. The training grounds of Magh Meall Garrison were full; various younglings trained under the guidance of the experienced warriors serving the Unseelie Court and its nobles. The fields and garrison architecture bore a grotesque beauty that seemed to match its dark inhabitants, contrasted only by the shining spires that lie Joyward in the City of Silver.
“Get up, Child!” A whip audibly snapped, encouraging the boy to leap to his feet. “You want to serve the Court and fulfill your duty, then you’ll need to do better than letting a Lubber Fiend knock you around!”
Deaglan gritted his teeth as he snapped forward towards his opponent. Step left, strike higher. The fae was close in age to himself, but much, much bigger. Tripping him should do the trick, though. He would impress his father!
Deaglan’s own whip curled about the fiend’s wrist as he rolled behind him. With that little bit of leverage, and a foot planted behind the knee, he should tumble and Deaglan would be fine… Or so he thought.
His opponent did indeed come crashing down, right on top of the smaller boy. Knocked to the ground, he head tumbled away. He was looking straight up at his father. Deaglan swallowed his panic, and the figure knelt down, picking him up.
“Your form is sloppy, and you aren’t thinking. Get up!” Deaglan felt the weight of his opponent lift from him, though he could not see where he went; his father’s disappointed look held his shamed gaze.
The older Dullahan’s expression softened slightly, as he cradled the boy’s head. He spoke quietly, resting a hand on Deaglan’s cheek. “You may think I am hard on you, my Child, but it is only because I love you. I want you to succeed; You will serve a great purpose!” His father’s smile widened eerily. “You mother would certainly be proud of you… Now, will you get up, and show me what you’ve learned?”
Deaglan furrowed his little brow, uncertain of the defiance that was welling within him. He was going to say “Yes, Father,” but he did not.
“No,” he whispered, watching his father’s expression turn to shock. Where once a smile was, a grimace formed, and Deaglan winced as the world spun. He was being carried over to his body.
“You can’t change this, boy. Don’t disappoint me.”
Reality morphed yet again as Deaglan’s head tumbled through white-space, unaware.
Angel adjusted his head onto his neck, and reached up, wiping away a tear. “Deaglan, what’s wrong? Surely this mission doesn’t have you that scared?” He was in Angel’s room, and he needed to be in Kuzkin’s office in about twenty minutes. He had just told Angel that something postponed their date night and that he was Next-Gen Plus. He was unsure why his eyes watered, but it didn’t matter right now. He had fifteen minutes to spend with Angel before he found out what secretive mission Summer’s had planned; he already had a bad feeling about it.
The boy laughed, shrugging. “Ah, I only got two hours of sleep. It’s a little bit less than normal.”
Angel smirked. “Uh-huh.”
The two sat, speaking of plans for the winter formal, and Deaglan giving assurances he would make sure nothing would interfere with their first dance. He learned that she loved Chicago-style pizza, though she lamented it prevented her from going vegan. She learned he loved to race Ciara along the outskirts of the City of Silver where he grew up. They both learned they liked performances and didn’t quite have the singing voice they wanted. Despite that, she was happy with life, though Deaglan expressed interest in finding a voice coach.
Before they knew it, it was time for Deaglan to go. Noah was already knocking on the door, ready to whisk Deaglan away to the theater building as agreed upon. As he stood up, Angel grabbed his hand.
“Hey, don’t forget our deal. Dinner and a movie whenever I choose?”
Deaglan grinned happily. “Yeah! As often and whenever you’d like! I promise!”
His smile faded as reality assimilated a new form, and he was now standing before Alea. They had just finished talking with Twilight and Cybersoul, and he had questions. She was busy packing some of her things from the ritual they had just prepared. She seemed distracted and in a hurry.
“Alea, do you have a moment?”
The distracted half-elf took a moment to respond, at first, not comprehending the question directed at her. “Wha, Oh yeah, certainly. Sorry, I was just thinking about everything that just happened.”
“You mentioned you were going home, to Avalon… I was hoping I could ask a favor of you while you were there.” Deaglan tapped a foot nervously. He was uncertain if he should ask more favors of a Seelie noble.
Alea didn’t seem to notice his nervousness. “Of course, unless it’s to meet with your ’substitute parent’” She barely contained The venom in her voice. “Does she still want to kill me?”
Deaglan turned bright red and looked away. “She already left, apparently with information for my Father… And… Not her, but someone in the Unseelie Court…” His tone was a little indignant, but mostly ashamed.
He exhaled, and he turned back to her before continuing. “I saw parts of my history- past, and future- that I know were true… Like you did before you got caught by Bres. I saw my mother. I saw the deal she made, and how I became what I am. I saw a seam form around her neck, like mine. But it stopped there. I’ve got a million questions, but after asking Kathryn about her, if she was really dead, she was cagey about it.”
Alea just stood there as Deaglan unleashed a torrent of information and emotion. A few moments after, Deaglan composed himself as Alea questioned him. “_’If she was really dead’_ was the biggest part of that statement, wasn’t it?”.
Deaglan jammed his hands into pockets and nodded. “Ah, basically… Yeah. You’ve already done us a favor, and you’ve got your own problems to deal with, but if you ever find anything out about ‘Emily Dickinson’ in Avalon, I would be… extremely grateful.”
“Wait…THE Emily Dickinson? Of whom I had to read in English class?” Alea cocked her head in thought, trying to recall what she knew of Emily Dickinson. “Wouldn’t she be like, 200 now?”
Deaglan rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah. Closer to 180, but yeah. Father told me much about her, and that he took me to Avalon as soon as he could after Mother died. I only ever saw pictures of her until recently…”
“In your vision of the past, present, and future…” Alea smiled. “That means you might get to see your mother again! That’s awesome. Of course, I’ll look for any signs of her in Avalon!”
“Well, I didn’t see the other vision. Not completely. Just the one of my past.”
“Hopefully this mother won’t want to kill me,” she jokingly quipped.
He shuffled nervously after her joke. “The other vision looked… unpleasant.” His sullen look faded as an idea struck him. He fished around his pocket, producing a few gold coins in his palm. He held them out to her with a barely concealed grimace as smoke sizzled and seeped from his palm where the coins made contact.
“For any Dullahan’s, on your travels.”
She took the coins, giving him a reassuring smile that there would be good news. At least she hoped. “You have my word, if your mother or any information on your mother is in Avalon, I will find it.”
“Is there something I could help you with? Here?” Deaglan offered hopefully.
The implication of his question brought forth a steely expression. “I would appreciate all the help I can get on finding my father, but I don’t know where to begin.”
“Perhaps you can find something I haven’t even thought of, but be careful. You and the rest of Claremont’s still in danger. You need to keep your focus on that. Promise that you won’t lose sight of your current predicament to focus on finding my father. Your help is appreciated, but not at the expense of your life!”
“Certainly, but every day at Claremont isn’t fraught with peril. I will have time to look, but certainly not at the expense of others. You have my word, for what it’s worth.”
“Thank you Deaglan. Truly, thank you.” Her features soften a little after realizing that she would not be alone in her quest. Somehow it seems a little less insurmountable.
The boy smiled. “I should be thanking you. It should be easier to focus on what’s ahead.”
Alea crumbled away with the rest of reality, and the stale scent of the theater yielded to fresh air. The West Cemetery in Amherst was quiet, however, the occasional tourist walking through disturbed the silence. Coach Boomer had let Deaglan wonder into the graveyard alone, mentioning that he had someone near he meant to visit. He wasn’t sure if he believed the coach, but he was grateful nonetheless.
He stared at the gravestone, wrought iron bars creating a barrier between him and it. He supposed it was to protect the site, but it made viewing an inconvenience. He wanted to reach out and touch it, sit against it, hope for some insight, another vision, but that was wishful thinking. Besides, clamoring over the bars would draw attention; right now, he just wanted to be alone.
Being here was surreal for the boy. Only a couple weeks ago, he had seen his mother- what she really looked like!- for the first time. And now, he was standing at the place of her burial. It was proof of her absence or her death, but it didn’t feel right. Not after what he saw. Not after what Kathryn the Red told him.
Deaglan recalled bits of the memory he could remember. It was 1885. He was naught but a babe, feverish from typhoid and unable to breathe. The shadow. The fly. The deal. She had made a deal for his own wellbeing. He was unsure of what exactly the deal was, but he knew it cured him… and changed him. Was he only human at the time? Was his Father even his true father? He touched his neck, recalling the shadowy line that formed along his mother’s neck when she took the deal.
There were more questions than answers, and he wanted to be held. He wanted to forget the warmest memory he didn’t know he had.
Reality surged around Deaglan, leaving the lost boy standing in a hall of mirrors. It was a couple weeks ago, and Deaglan’s friends and himself were on a mission to save Alea from the worst possible wedding ever. To his left was the reflection of his mother, holding her sick child and preparing to bargain; To his right was his future, a dark reflection of what he would become. Deaglan felt himself reach out to the left, but he resisted. It would be different this time; he would look at what he was expected to transform into, and deny it. He couldn’t change the past, but he could decide his own future.