X Marks The Heart Part IV
The Heart Of Trial In Error
Rating: PG-13 (Profanity and some mature themes)
Characters: Armand DeVoe, Wren Summers, Lord Oberon, Puck, Coyote, Queen Titania, Queen Mab, Skylaris, Gabriel the Gargoyle
Note: [BRACKETED WORDS INDICATE THOUGHT OR PSIONIC COMMUNICATION]
SUMMARY THUS FAR: This latest story arc "X Marks The Heart" is a look into Wren's mysterious past. Wren and her Gargoyle lover, Demetrius were enjoying a quiet evening at home when a conversation and a book triggered severe flashbacks. Our young Mutant, Wren, spiraled into a maelstrom of memory and turmoil. Demetrius, endowed with empathy (another story arc) has descended with Wren into her trouble mind to help heal the wounds of years past.
He has found out that many of her teenage years were spent in relocation/reeducation camps meant to be the "final solution" for Mutants. Demetrius learned that a young mutant named Remy LeBeau rescued her from those camps (accompanied by the X-Men) and captured her heart.
At this point in this ongoing epic, Demetrius is learning that Wren paid a high price for that love. To learn more, gentle reader, read on! Here is a snippit from the story prior to this...
From the last installment: X Marks The Heart "Truth Of The Heart"
Wren saw a figure floating midair that illuminated the darkest night. With flowing white tresses and garbed in crimson and azure, he carried the stern demeanor of a jealous god. His face revealed his obvious displeasure at Wren's use of power against his winged minions. As they approached him, she noticed his lips move.
She aimed all of her energies toward the imposing figure in front of her. He became another victim surrounded by the potent aura of her probability manipulation. He quirked his head and she swore he laughed. She drew back in her seat as the emerald radiance made a path toward her. She felt a violent lurch as the plane once more hit air turbulence. She crashed forward and her brow found the sturdy, ungiving edge of the dash. Blackness claimed her as she heard Armand's fateful answer to her last question.
"That is Oberon."
A discordant amalgamation of clamor and pain caused Wren to mewl softly. She slowly opened her eyes to find herself staring into crystalline blues that reached beyond human beauty. She saw a mix of merriment, mischief, and melancholy dancing in that concerned expression. Instead of the short cropped locks and rimmed glasses of Armand DeVoe, long straight tresses of jet fell about his shoulders. Each ear came to a delicate point. Gone was the severe and conservative business suit. Now, the male above her wore mint tunic delicately ornated with the finest silver embroidery.
Wren allowed her eyes to focus to the brightness of the room. She felt the cool smooth stone floor against her skin. She saw that stone and mortal walls surrounded her. She noticed that two winged creatures with talons and tails stood vigilant a few yards away from her and Armand. [He called those bat-winged things 'Gargoyles.' Demons would be more like it.]
[What happened? Everything is just one big blur.] She forced herself backwards in her memories. It came to her as the last fading vapors of an elusive dream. [I remember Armand talking about Puck actually being Robin. I remember the attack by the Gargoyles. Then, there was the blue-skinned creature that appeared in front of us... then everything is hazy. Damn! Why can't I remember?]
Wren stared fully into the eyes of Armand, Child of Oberon. The harsh brightness of the light burned into Wren's brain. She hastily covered her eyes and turned away. "Can you turn down the wattage, you're glowing like a nuclear power plant!"
"Lass, we're home." He murmured quietly. "I cannae help it. The closer to Avalon we venture, the truest of our natures comes forth."
"So, elves glow like light bulbs." She rolled her eyes. "Wonderful."
"Lass, you're a fine one to talk." He sniffed. He nodded knowingly in her direction. "Look at your hands."
Wren's eyes fell to her lap where she noticed a pale emerald radiance emanating from her. She saw that surrounded her like a favorite winter blanket. Her eyes widened perceptively at this startling revelation. She looked at Armand and he merely gave her a small smile. She mouthed words that had to do with religious fornicating waste products.
"My Dear, green is definitely your color."
Her throat felt raw and dry. She slowly brought herself into a sitting position. "Ohhh, I need some water, Armand."
"Not a problem." A cheerful voice answered her. She turned to see that it wasn't Armand who spoke. Beside her friend levitated a delicate creature with silver locks and twinkling blue eyes. She thought how much he resembled Armand aside from this particular Child wore a crimson tunic and a wine-hued toga.
With an intricate gesture and a dash of sparkle, a crystalline goblet appeared in front of Wren. She looked uncertainly at Armand. He nodded in the direction of the Goblet. She turned to the argent-hair fellow holding the chalice. "Drink up, Wren. It's the finest waters from the underground springs of Avalon."
Wren reached for the chalice and let her fingers grasp the smooth, pristine crystal. She trembled as she brought the water to her lips. The first sips washed away the acrid bitterness in her mouth. The following sips quenched her thirst and soothed her throat. The final sips refreshed her and she found that she could sit upright without effort. She looked at the mischievous elf watching her intently. She returned the goblet to him. "Thank you."
"Ah, you look much better!" The nasal upper crust British lilt was a familiar melody to her. This creature had neither the white hair nor the distinguished goatee of her grandfather, Robin. The lines of living a long life no longer graced his face. Yet, those twinkling baby blues Wren recognized in a millisecond. She felt her brows crease in anger. She felt her hands clench into tight fists as she watched the Child of Oberon dancing in front of them.
"Are you Robin?" The words flew from her mouth of their own volition. "Is it really you after all these years?"
"I was." He drawled. "You've grown up."
"You've changed. You've REALLY changed." She let her eyes travel Puck's full length. "Are you truly...well, you know ...my?" She choked on the final words and couldn't bring herself to say them. The pain of losing Robin had been one that had followed her from youth into adulthood.
"The apple doesn't fall far from Avalon, Wren." He seemed to give her a ghost of a smile. "Do you really need me to confirm what you already know?"
"I missed you." Her voice sounded small and trembling. "I was so alone without you. Mom needed you and you weren't there for her." The argent-haired Fae drew back in surprise when he heard the venom in her voice.
"My time there was done. Your grandmother, Elizabeth was gone. Your mother was grown. It was time for me to move on in life."
"I needed you." Wren closed her eyes to stem the stinging tears threatening to fall. "I loved you. I never felt more alone than when you died. In truth, you left."
"Well, we can be together now." Puck answered quickly. He knelt beside the weak mutant. "We're on Avalon. You and I can begin anew, Wren. It can be wonderful opportunity for us both."
"I needed you years ago when my father turned me over to the Bureau of Mutant affairs for reeducation and relocation. I needed you when I didn't know if I would be the next to die." The tears fell freely on her flushed skin. By the end of her oratory, her voice had risen from a small whisper to a bellowing accusation.
"Oh, poor girl! Wren's throwing a pity party and we're all invited. You bring the whine (and dear, you whine so well) and we'll cut through the cheese." Puck snapped his fingers three times in a classic zigzag motion.
Wren wiped them and gave one ragged sob. "450,000 mutants dead or missing from those camps and you could have saved them. You could have saved me! You deserted my family when we needed you most."
Puck's face went ashen as Wren buried her face in her glowing hands and sobbed. Armand and Puck stared at one another. Puck looked down at the young woman. He used his ability to see the holographic barcode laser-burned upon her brow. He saw how her life had almost broken her psyche. It didn't take much to realize that this young woman was quite the mental mess.
"Had I known, Wren." He told her in the quietest voice. "I would have brought you to Avalon. I never knew that you were...special until you were out of the camps."
"Lass," Armand laid a hand on her shoulder. "Donnae be so hard on Puck. He loved you and spoke of you often. He left because it was his time."
She turned to him in a flurry of rage. "You buy that line of crap?"
Wren noticed a finely wrought chain and manacles secured Armand's wrists. She looked at him and noticed that his complexion seemed less vibrant and rather pallid. She grabbed the manacles in her hands and motioned in exasperation. "Why the hell are you wearing these?"
"I am standing trial before Lord Oberon and he feels that I might be a risk. Thus, lass, he's weakened me with iron shackles." Armand slumped to his knees and looked away. Wren knew that the proud Child of Oberon didn't wear his shame well.
She turned to Puck. She weighed the iron chains in her hands. "Can you do anything about these?"
"I'll not go against Lord Oberon's will." The finality in Puck's tone made it obvious that there was no room for debate on the subject.
"Wait a minute." She held a hand to stop him. "I don't understand. Armand told me that you were banned from Avalon and that you were locked in human form as some form of punishment. Why are you here and why are you... Elvin?"
"You've been unconscious for a few hours and much has happened." Puck shrugged. "Armand saw fit to reveal our blood ties to Lord Oberon. When Lord Oberon learned of our particular association. He thought it best that I be allowed back on Avalon to help you adjust to the situation. The banishment from Avalon was lifted and I'm now allowed my true form to tend to you.
"Well, bully for you! Really, so did you have any say in this?" Wren's sardonic brow indicated her obvious skepticism. "Did you want to help me or was I a 'get-out-jail-free' card?"
"Indeed, I had a say and yes, I wanted to be here." Puck twirled about her in a few inches from the air. "Wren, now I am free from my human guise and I've been able to return home on your behalf. We can be together again."
"It doesn't matter now anyway." She concentrated her attention on the Armand's shackles. She jingled the chain her hands "We need to do something these damned handcuffs. He didn't do anything wrong. Like you said, they're only iron. Easily taken off, Armand."
"Nae, lass. Iron is bane of the fae." Armand warned her. "No simple magick will remove Oberon's will from my wrists. It wouldn't be wise to test Oberon's decree."
"Really?" Wren studied the shackles turning each wrist carefully in her hand. To her dismay, she found no seems or keyholes. The shackles seemed one continuing fluid unit of flawless iron. She concentrated her luckmagick solely on the left shackle. It glowed for a few seconds, but flickered away into nothingness. Undaunted by this, Wren tapped the iron. Nothing happened.
"It's worked before." Desperation rose in her voice. "I've removed manacles this way like this. Usually, there's a jammed lock or a spring mechanism that can be affected. Why not now?"
"No simple magick can undo Oberon's will." Armand shook his head. "Lass, he approaches. I beg you, for all our sakes, show some decorum."
One of the Gargoyles walked toward them. She draped her wings about her and glanced briefly in Armand's direction. "Puck, its time for Armand to face Oberon."
"So it is, so it is." He pursed his lips together in a pout.
Armand quietly rose to his feet and dusted the silt from his robes. He drew himself to full height and straightened his shoulder. With a preening shake of his head, his ebony mane flowed down his back. With a tilted nose and an aristocratic sniff he defiantly stared straight in front of him. "I am ready."
Wren watched stunned as the Gargoyles led Armand from the room. When he was gone, Wren turned with jaw agape to Puck. She motioned toward the heavy wood door now closed. "How could you just let them take him?"
"He knows the ways of Oberon and he'll face them with air and dignity. Armand wouldn't have it any other way." Puck hushed her. "Now, let's you and I find our way to the court of Lord Oberon. Hopefully, Armand will play it humble and Oberon will be lenient."
"Or he'll have an X-Man to deal with, Puck, I promise you." Wren growled.
"You won't be more than a gnat bothering an elephant." Puck chuckled. "If you're wise, you'll remain quiet and watch the proceedings. If you lash out, it may only make it worse for Armand."
"Fine." Wren's monotone sounded gruff even to her ears.
"That's my girl." Puck clapped his hands in sheer delight. He took Wren's hand in his. "Hang on, Wren! This is going to be the ride of your life."
"How can you be so nonchalant about this?" She snarled at the flitting fae hovering near her. "He was your lover, for God's sake! What is he to you now? Some fast fling that you can discard like an old dishrag?"
"Wren!" A collective gasp came from both fae and both Gargoyles in the holding room. Armand's choked response left his jaw flapping. Puck's eyes gleamed brilliantly in unbridled rage.
"You, little girl, need your mouth washed out with soap." The sneer in his voice rose in volume as a tiny golden sphere of energy appeared in his palm. "You never spoke so crudely as a child."
"Well, at least I don't leave someone I love at the mercy of Oberon. At least, I don't betray his trust by cheating on him. And at least I don't abandon my family because they no longer amuse me. At least I'm not like you!" She glared at the hovering elf before her. "So, are you going to strike me down because I speak the truth? What, Puck? Can't face it?"
"Ach! You're not worth the wasted energy." He waved his hand in dismissal. "Talk to the hand, baby, because the face ain't listenin'."
"You never listened anyway." She sneered as the male Gargoyle led her gently by the arm from the room. She looked over her shoulder at the glowering imp. "Take some responsibility, Puck. Help us."
She watched the female Gargoyle lead Armand down the corridor. The male Gargoyle whom she learned was Gabriel escorted her into a separate entrance to the same room. The walls weren't like those of a castle. She thought she had stumbled into Fort Knox as the sheer wealth of the room boggled her mind.
Walls of clear, pristine crystal refracted light filling the room with a multihued luminescence. Wren half-expected a laser light show and disco ball to fall from the ceiling. The floors were polished marble. Gabriel led her to the side where a row of seats ran along the west wall. She noticed that they sported cerise velvet cushions. The heavy floral scent of an exotic, unnamed incense filled the air. The strumming of harps faintly played in the background.
[This entire place wreaks 70's chic.] Wren smirked to herself.
"Wren Summers, Oberon wishes for you to sit here with the other Children." Gabriel pointed to a seat on the end. "If you're thirsty, water is yours. You need only page Ophelia or myself."
"Thank you, Gabriel." She eyed the Gargoyle warily. He seemed unlike the goblins that had attacked Armand's private jet. This one seemed well mannered and articulate unlike some of the ones sitting across the room from her. "If I need anything, I'll let you know."
"Of course." He gave a quick nod and took his place at the chamber doors.
Wren glanced sideways to take in the others staring at her. She noticed that the one sitting next to her looked quite attractive. Dressed in blue jeans, a white tee shirt and a leather jacket, he appeared as any human male. [Armand and Puck have assumed human form. I doubt this one is any different?"]
"So, which child of Oberon are you?" She asked casually.
"Some call me Coyote." He flashed her a flawless smile.
"Coyote, let me guess? Trickster of Native American lore?" She bit her lip to stem her cynicism.
"Hey, you're quick." He gave her a knowing wink. "Funny, you don't look like Puck."
"Thank God for that." Wren gave a wry laugh. "The elf has no fashion sense."
"You definitely have his humor." Coyote leaned forward. "Didn't see you at the Gathering."
"Gathering?" She asked. Wren remembered how Armand had vanished for a while. Upon his return he had informed her that his lord had summoned him. "Not me, I'm not a Child Of Oberon."
"That isn't the gossip I've heard." Skepticism laced his voice.
"Rumor has it that you gave Oberon a very nasty headache when you used your magick on him. I also heard that you tumbled several of the Gargoyles."
"I'm a mutant, NOT an elf." She spoke sharply.
"You don't have to have pointed ears and run around in a toga to be a Child of Oberon." Coyote motioned to his leather jacket.
"So, who's the rest of the bunch?" She glanced past him in the direction of the other Fae talking amongst them.
"Well, next to me here is Grandmother." He pointed to the old woman setting next to him.
The old woman didn't resemble what Wren considered a child of Oberon. Her face bore several deep lines of age. Her hair was long and white from decades of living. He skin reminded Wren of tanned leather. The only hints of Elvin heritage were the delicate points of her ears. Garbed in a simple western shirt and flowing skirt, she seemed more like a tribal wise woman than a Child of Oberon.
She leaned forward and took Wren's hands in hers. "Don't worry, Child. Oberon is fair and just. Armand has served our Lord well these many centuries. He will take that into account. You aren't alone in your love for him. There are many here who adore our dear brother."
"Thank you for your kind thoughts." Wren didn't know what else to say to the elderly lady.
"Don't worry now, all will be well." The beldam remarked.
Wren turned her attention to Coyote. "So, who are the rest of these folks?"
"There are too many to name them all." Coyote shrugged. He nodded in the direction of a black-haired Child of Oberon garbed in light and dark blue garb. "That's Raven. He's bad news. He's malicious. Give him a wide berth."
"Gotcha." Wren assured him. "Who is the lady with the metal plate over her mouth?"
"Banshee." Coyote chuckled. "She and Odin decided to have a free for all at the Gathering. Make a long story short, she mouthed off one too many times and Oberon got pissed. So, he made her silent until he hears humility in her silent plea."
"I'll remember to keep my mouth shut.'
"I hear you have a few good one-liners." Coyote laid a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, what's your story?"
"You don't want to know." She grimaced. The last thing she wanted to do was tell her life story to a complete stranger. She asked several more questions and found out several of the Fae were truly mythical creatures from History.
She saw Odin and several of the Norse gods. She recognized one face that stunned her into silence. Sitting at the end of the row was a woman with deep azure complexion and titian hair. Her eyes gleamed amber in the dancing lights. "I know that woman. That's Mystique."
"You do know her." Coyote replied with a smirk. "You're right. Here's she just another Child of Oberon."
"What about Kurt?" She asked. "Do you know him?"
"I do." Coyote said. "Really somber, brooding one moment and swashbuckling and dashing the next. Major mood swings. Deep thinker."
"That's Kurt." Wren smiled. A hopeful look crossed her face as she dared voice her quiet hope. "Is he here, Coyote?"
"Sorry, babe." The Trickster's voice seemed genuine in its remorse. "He couldn't make it."
"I haven't seen him in awhile." Wren shifted her seat. "I've been so busy."
"Don't worry, Wren." Coyote gave her chin a playful punch. "Armand has a lot of friends and Puck has put out the word to take good care of you. Oberon isn't going to be some ass-hole that's gonna turn Armand into a toad. But, I'll warn you, he was harsh on Puck for defying his will a few years back. He probably won't be lenient with Armand."
"But, he lifted Puck's banishment from Avalon and I've heard that Puck can be Puck whenever he pleases!" She exclaimed.
"That's out of courtesy for Armand and you." Coyote shook his head. "If you weren't here, Puck wouldn't be either."
An abrupt stillness fell over the assembly. Everyone hushed and Coyote whispered. "It begins."
In walked the same Elf that Wren had seen attacking Armand's jet. He was a stunning male with skin of the fairest summer sky and hair the shade of silvery clouds at sunset. Garbed in crimson he was an imposing figure towering head and shoulders above the rest of the Fae. On his arm walked a lithe, slender lady wearing fine burgundy silks and delicate satins. He skin was more akin to the color of mint. Long, straight blonde hair fell to her waist. She was also tall and striking beside her escort.
"Is the male Oberon?" Wren whispered to Coyote.
"Oh, yeah! That's him."
"Who's the lady?"
"That's his consort Queen Titania."
Behind them sauntered in a woman with raven tresses and pale, fair skin. Her gown seemed as though it were spun entirely of spiders' webs. It's blackness stood in stark contrast to the woman's pale skin. The gowns' shimmering fabric refracted the dancing lights that luminated the chamber. She appeared to be a woman in her early forties Wren guessed. She seemed very gothic to the young Mutant. [She's somewhat of a cross between Mortitia Adams and Elvira.]
"Who's the tall, dark one?" Wren fought the urge to point.
"That's Queen Mab, Oberon's mother. She's also on the council to hear Armand's case." He gave a low whistle of dismay. "She never cared much for him. She abhors Puck."
"That's not good, is it?"
"Oh,no. She's before Oberon's time. She isn't Fae. She's KIARI."
"Kiari?" Wren mimicked not understanding Coyote's emphasis on the words.
"Kiari, the ones who came from Thubin along with the Children of Stone?" He asked. Wren shook her head not comprehending a word that he said. "Kiari, the ancient race that are the ancestors of the Fae?"
Again, Wren mutely nodded in confusion.
"Kiari....titans...NEPHILIM." He whispered.
"Oh!" Wren whispered in a small voice. "Like Cronos...Rhea...Prometheus...Lady Of The Lake..."
"Now, you're catching on." Coyote tapped his temple. "Not many are left. They tend to keep to themselves, but Mab's the exception. She wanted to hear this case."
A final figure walked in behind Queen Mab. This one appeared different from the rest. She reminded Wren of a Nubian Queen of the Nile. Her hair was braided into small strands that fell to her waist. Her dark skin was the color of mahogany. The most extraordinary feature about her were her eyes. They were brilliantly lavender. Not a shade of blue like most eyes, these were the color of lilacs and amethysts.
"Who's she?" Wren found her voice.
"That's Skylaris, Mab's sister and Oberon's aunt." Coyote explained. "I don't know much about her. I know she's the patron goddess of the Gargoyles. Rumor has it that she and Oberon worked out a deal so that the Gargoyles could remain on Avalon. Don't mess with her children of stone or she'll kick your butt. They call her the Dragon Lady. My guess is she's not happy with you right now because you hurt her precious children."
"They were attacking the plane!" Wren hissed loudly. Several of the Children of Oberon turned to stare sharply at her. She cringed and slumped in her seat.
"On Oberon's orders."
She watched the four walk up the dais at the front of the room. They moved respectively to the four thrones that awaited them. Oberon was on the right and Queen Titania sat at his immediate left. Queen Mab took her place beside him and Skylaris took her place to the left of niece. Wren thought that there was little family resemblance amongst the motley crew.
"All rise." Gabriel's baritone echoed loudly in the chamber. All in the room immediate came to their feet. "Hear ye, hear ye! This court is now in session. All those who have cause to come before Lord Oberon and his royal court may do so and be heard. Bright Blessings upon Lord Oberon and Lady Titania. May his mercy and fairness be evident to all in this court."
Oberon raised his arms and motioned for all to sit. Once settled, he motioned to Gabriel.
"Lord Oberon, Armand; child of Oberon is charged with breaking your royal decree. He has blatantly meddled in human affairs by aiding a mortal with his magick to venture from one place to another."
Oberon leaned on one arm of his throne. He rested his chin on his hand and intently studied Armand. "What have you to say for yourself, Armand?"
"My Lord, if I may approach and present my case?" Armand seemed shaken by the formality of the court.
"You may." Oberon beckoned him forth.
Armand left the Plaintiff's table and walked to the edge of the dais. "My Lord and great ladies, I am Armand. It is true that I chose to bend the laws of Oberon and aid a mortal in her travels. Yet, I did not do so for amusement or gain. A young lady beseeched me to aid her in saving her beloved's life."
"Really?" The Nubian goddess's rich deep voice reverberated in the room. Skylaris felt warm waves of awe wash over her as she heard Oberon's aunt speak. "Tell us more."
"With pleasure, Lady Skylaris." Armand eagerly agreed. "Wren Summers is a mutant that has suffered a tragic past. She almost died a horrible and tragic death had it not been for her rescue by a group of talented, gifted mortals called the X-Men. The one who saved her is a thief named Remy LeBeau."
"What does the mortal girl's life have to do with your transgression?" Mab rasped. "You broke Oberon's law and intervened by taking her to places beyond her capacity to travel. You interfered."
"Hush, Mab." Skylaris chided her sister. "I wish to hear more. Continue, Armand."
"Thank you, Milady." He bowed deeply to Skylaris. "Remy LeBeau captured Wren's heart. She became utterly devoted to him. Because of bad judgment and unsavory elements in his past, the X-Men abandoned him in hostile conditions. Left alone in sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic, he would have perished had it not been for Wren's intervention."
"So, you did not save his life and alter his fate?" Skylaris asked. "Is this right?"
"Aye, Milady, it is." He nodded.
"However, you did aid the mortal Wren Summers in her quest?" Mab accused him.
"I did, Queen Mab." He scowled at the Gothic witch that sat to the right of his Lord. "Wren asked me to take her to the Arctic. I did so with use of my powers. She gathered Remy into her arms and we returned to my estate in Linoma. She used scientific means to restore his good health."
"Is there anything else you wish to share with us?" Titania spoke for the first time.
"Nay, Milady. That is all." Armand cast his eyes to the floor.
"Have you anyone you wish to testify on your behalf?"
"Nay, Milady-" He began.
"Wait a minute!" A voice came from the gathering. All eyes turned to a plain young mutant with chestnut hair standing up and waving her hand.
"Sit down or you shall be removed." Mab glared at Wren. "You are a mortal and have no business here."
"No mortal can testify on behalf of a Child of Oberon." Skylaris agreed sadly.
"Wait, I'm a direct descendant of Puck!" Wren offered. A quiet gasp fell through the crowd. "I have unusual abilities that may be indicative of my Fae heritage."
Titania turned to her husband. "She may well be one of us. Before we preclude her from testifying, let us test her and see if she is mortal or fae?"
"She wasn't at the Gathering." Mab hissed. "She's mortal."
"No, Mother." Oberon held up his hand to stay his mother's tirade. "I would like to know if Puck's loins are indeed fruitful." He motioned to Wren. "Step forward, girl."
"Yes, Sir." She made her way from the where she sat and stood at Armand's side.
"Wren Summers, we wish to know if you are indeed one of our children. Should you be, you will be allowed to testify on behalf of Armand. Should you be one of the fae, you will also be subject to our laws. Thus the same punishment shall befall you that will befall Armand. Do you wish to accept this just so you can speak for him?"
She looked at Armand. He shook his head vehemently. "Wren, no! Don't do this! You don't know what you're doing."
"Yes, I do, Armand. X-Men don't abandon their friends in need at the first sign of trouble." She fixed her gaze upon Oberon. "I understand the consequences of my actions and I am ready to take your test. Proceed at your convenience, Lord Oberon."
"Very well." Oberon stepped from his throne and walked slowly down the dais until he stood in front of Wren Summers. "Give me your hand."
Wren offered her hand to him. He took a ring hanging at his side the size of a dinner plate and held it in his hand. He took hold of her fingers and brought the circlet's sharp blade across her open palm. Wren bit her lip and flinched, but held her hand fast. Her hazel eyes never moved away from Oberon's scrutinizing gaze.
A bright line of sanguine formed across her palm. He brought his lips to the inside of her palm and let his tongue lap a few drops of the warm crimson life-force from her skin. He closed his eyes and held still. It appeared to Wren that he almost savored her blood as if it were a fine wine of old vintage. The room was silent with mounting anticipation. She glanced over to Puck who let his fear show on his face. She looked at Armand and found him to be trembling.
Lord Oberon slowly opened his eyes. "You are Fae."
She felt her entire world collapse around her. "I understand."
"You may testify on Armand's behalf." He said. Oberon simply turned around and took back his throne.
"Thank you, Lord Oberon." Wren felt as though her knees would buckle. [I'll deal with the repercussions later. Get a grip.]
"Lord Oberon," She began. She drew in several deep breaths to calm her churning stomach. "I ask humbly that you have compassion and mercy for Armand. He aided me only after I begged him. He knew that I could not travel to Remy under my own power. I know it's your law that forbids the Fae from meddling in human affairs. Yet, had it not been for his intervention on my behalf, a life would have perished due to human callousness."
She walked forward and to the edge of the dais. "I live in a world that fears and hates mutants. We students at the Xavier Institute strive to make the world a better place by promoting peaceful co-existence between Mutants and humans. We're taught honor, valor and courage. It would have been murder had my teammates allowed Remy to freeze to death. It was treachery they committed. They almost murdered him."
"Dear, can you give hard evidence instead of this quaint little sob story?" Mab filed her nails as she coyly addressed Wren. "I haven't seen this much melodrama since Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet."
Wren fought the growing urge to call Mab a string of unflattering names. The Gothic witch quirked a brow at the young woman in silent challenge. [She's testing me... she has to be! No one call be such a cold-hearted bitch.]
"Come on, girl! Don't just stand there like a simpering idiot." Mab raspy voice reminded Wren of fingernails on a blackboard. The young mutant wanted nothing more that to rip out those hoarse vocal cords and shove them up her-
"Mother, still your tongue or I shall do it for you." Oberon austerely glanced sideways in Mab's direction. "Please continue, Wren Summers."
"Thank you, Lord Oberon. Armand didn't assist me for kicks. He didn't help me for personal gain. He did so because he felt compassion. If more humans were like Armand, then there would be no need for X-Men." Wren turned to her friend. "Yes, let's be honest. He broke the law by taking me to places beyond my capacity to travel. This wasn't a capricious whim for him. He did it to help save a life. Had he not done so, he would have committed murder. It's just that simple. What's more important to you, the sanctity of the law or the sanctity of life?
He helped prevent murder being committed that day. My teammates abandoned Remy LeBeau. Had it not been for Armand, I would not have had the means to save my friend. I ask you, Lord Oberon, Lady Titania, Queen Mab, and Lady Skylaris, to find it in your hearts not to commit the same treachery committed by my teammates against Remy LeBeau."
"If you punish Armand, then you commit betrayal by turning your back on him." Wren felt passion rising in her bosom. She took two strides up the dais. "I always thought the Children of Oberon were a noble race of beings. If you find him guilty because he saved a life, then I know that the fae are capable of human failings and frailties. Remy learned mercy and experienced kindness from a Child Of Oberon. I humbly ask that you take these factors into consideration before passing judgment on him."
"We shall indeed take your words into consideration." Oberon steepled his hands in contemplation. "We shall recess and reconvene in one hour."
The quartet on the dais rose in unison and vanished in four columns of smoke. Wren stared at Armand in silence. He shrugged. She looked at Puck in desperation. He brought his hands together in silent applause and mouthed "Bravo."
Now, the long wait began.
Wren paced franticly in the stone corridor outside Oberon's court. Her nails were jagged and short from her incessant biting. Her stomach felt tight and fluttery as she anxiously awaited Oberon's decision. She noticed Armand and Puck hovering over in the corner holding hands and whispering to one another.
Coyote sauntered over and leaned casually against the wall. "Hey, Wren, don't wear a hole in the floor."
"Hey, it's not your ass on the line."
"Girl, com on! You've faced worse than this." He reminded her. "When you made your way through the camps alive, that was something. You've fought sentinels and you've went up against people like Toad and Avalanche."
"That's different. It was battle. This is real." She reminded him. "Now, it's personal."
"Find the courage you need in those feats."
"For you this is amusement. For me, this is what I call life.
"Then let me tell you something, Wren. It took courage to stand by Armand when you know that everything may not come out all right." He gave her a playful punch in the arm. "You're alright, kid. Don't sweat the small stuff."
"Easy for you to say."
Gabriel entered the corridor. "Court is ready to reconvene."
Everyone milled in and found their seats. Wren sat down and clasped her hands tightly in her lap. She fought the urge to wretch where she sat. She watched Armand walk to the dais with slumped shoulders and bowed head. She had an innate feeling that things weren't going well for any of them.
Oberon stilled everyone with a motion of his hand. "Armand, you have been charged with meddling in human affairs. How do you plead?"
"Guilty." Came the reply.
"So noted." Oberon nodded in agreement. "We shall shortly pass sentence."
"Oh, shit." Wren gave into the urge to wretch and promptly colored the marble floor with yesterday's dinner.
"Wren Summers." The stern voice called to her. She wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her jacket. She abruptly sat upright. "Come forward."
She rose to her feet and walked forward. She took her place stoically beside Armand. [What's it going to be? You can't do anything to me that I haven't already considered my own private hell. You can't do shit to me, Obee. Bring it on.]
"Armand, we have found you guilty of meddling." Oberon spoke. "The sanctity of the law must be upheld. No one is above the law. However, Wren Summer's defense of you compelled us to consider certain states of affairs. Things must be set right. Do you understand?"
"Yes, My Lord." Came the soft reply.
"You will return to the world of men and wipe the true nature of the rescue from Remy LeBeau's memory. Use your magick at your disposal, but let him never know the true nature of his rescue. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Lord Oberon." Armand barely hid the smile formed on his lips.
"You have been of great aid, it seems, to these mortals in your subtle fashion. Given light to Ms. Summer's experiences as a Mutant. We find it necessary to make exceptions to our laws. Return to their realm. You will continue your life their as aid and benefactor to the mortal X-Men as a representative of Avalon. You shall also remain in your human form for one decade."
"Yes, My Lord." Armand answered contritely.
"Wren Summers, because you have been found to be a Child of Oberon, you have also been charged in meddling in human affairs. How do you plead?"
"NOT GUILTY." She spoke loudly.
"WHAT?" Queen Mab bellowed. "How dare you say this?"
"At the time that I saved Remy's life. I assumed that I was human. I knew nothing of Puck's true nature or his being a Child Of Oberon. I acted on the presumption that I was human and that I wanted to help the man I love."
"My husband, Wren Summers speaks truth." Titania laid a gentle hand on her husband's arms. "Had she known the ways of our people, had she known her true status, I believe she would have complied."
"We will consider your words, my wife." Oberon nodded in agreement. He gathered his entourage about him. They huddled amongst themselves and spoke in hushed tones. He once again stared at Wren. "Wren Summers, your plea has been noted. We find you guilty as charged. Nevertheless, your proper heritage remained unknown to us. Because no one knew, we shall not treat previous actions as transgressions against Avalon's law."
"Thank you, Milord." Wren let herself breathe for the first time in almost thirty seconds. She silently thanked the Powers-That-Be for watching over her that day.
"You have embraced Avalon on behalf of one of its Children. You are now known to us a Child Of Avalon and subject to our laws. You must stand accountable for your actions."
"I understand, Milord." [Damn it, I knew it wasn't that easy!]
"First, Remy Lebeau shall not know of his love for you. Armand shall make it so that his memories will be different that what you know. You will maintain that facade for the rest of his days. You will not reveal your love for him. He may know your friendship and your team camaraderie. Never reveal the romantic aspects of your relationship. You are a child of the Fae and this added complication will be the undoing of any relationship."
"Milord, please!" She took a step up the dais. "I understand that you wish for Fae not to meddle in human affairs. Please remember that I'm mostly human. To take away from the man I loved just because I save his life is cruel. You can't do that."
"We can and we shall." Oberon warned her. "You agreed to the test of your blood and we have found you to be fae. You are now subject to our laws. Do not defy me."
"Yes, Lord Oberon." Hate burned in Wren's heart when she saw Queen Mab give a gloating smile. [BITCH]
"You shall remain here six months of your time and study under Puck and Titania. They have lived in the human world and will see to the education and futherment of your powers. You will study diligently and learn the ways of magick. Then, with this knowledge you will no longer be an endangerment to innocents around you. Because of your human blood, we shall allow you to return to your mortal world and continue your life there as such for as long as it pleases us. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Lord Oberon." She said through clenched teeth.
"There will come a time when we shall call you into our service to repay the debt that you owe us for your transgression. You will enter into service on behalf of this court to see to matters pertaining to us. We will decide the time and place."
"Yes, Lord Oberon." Wren nodded.
"Puck, show Wren around the island. You are to be her personal escort, tutor and guardian. Once she returns to the world of humans, you will see to her education in all its aspects. You will act as her guardian until she marks her first century. In return for this service, you shall be allowed to assume either human or Elvin form as it pleases you. You may venture to and from Avalon as you need."
"Thank you, Lord Oberon." The merry elf exclaimed.
"This court is dismissed." Oberon took his lady's arm and left the dais.
The iron manacles fell from Armand's wrists to the ground. Puck drew Armand into his arms. "Beloved, we can be together at last."
Wren watched stupefied as Puck brought his lips to Armand's in a tender and passionate kiss. She blushed and turned to find Coyote. "It seems that Oberon was fair and just after all."
"You got the sweetest deal of all, kid." Coyote quipped. "Six months of your time there is just a week here. You get to study under Titania and Puck. Not too shabby at all. Your granddaddy gets his freedom back and Armand gets off scott-free."
"It's not a sweet deal." Wren wiped a solitary tear from her cheek. "When I get back, Remy won't remember the love we share and I can never tell him. That isn't right."
"Oberon makes the laws. I don't pretend to understand them." Coyote shrugged. "Hey, don't take it so hard. I'm single. What do you say we go out sometime?"
"Thanks, but you'll understand if I say no thanks."
"Hey kid, it's your loss."
"The little princess has managed to win the day." A caustic voice said from behind her. Wren turned to see the dark presence of Queen Mah hovering a few inches from her. "Listen to me. Your very existence is an abomination to me. The blood of beasts mixing with the Fae is a violation of the Natural Order. If I had my way, you wouldn't exist."
"I heard words like that before, Mab." Wren stepped forward. "Now, you listen to me you cold-hearted bitch, you so much as come near me-"
"Wren!" Coyote warned her. He chuckled nervously. "Sorry, Mab. You know how people get... She's just under stress."
"Watch yourself, Wren Summers."
"Watch YOURSELF, Mab or I'll have the pleasure of-"
"ENOUGH." A rich, velvety voice cut through the posturing and the threats. The Nubian beauty, Skylaris, towered over both of them. "I like this one, Mab. She has spirit. You'll leave this one alone."
"Skylaris, you have no say-" She spat.
"To quote my dear nephew, we can and we will." The lavender stare that met Mab gave enough warning not to cross the Dragon goddess.
"This isn't over."
"Go!" Skylaris' command thundered throughout the corridor. Wren swore that she saw fire come from the goddess' open mouth. She giggled as Mab disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Skylaris smiled at the diminutive mutant standing before her. "You have the heart of an eagle, but remember that you have the strength of only a wren. You have made a powerful enemy this day because of your presence and your passionate defense of Armand."
"You've also caught the attention of powerful allies." Skylaris winked. She pressed a kiss to Wren's cheek. "And you've made some friends. We'll meet again. Bright Blessings upon you, Daughter Gaia."
Wren remained silent and stunned as a dash of sparkle danced around Skylaris. There was a blinding burst of light and fire. A radiant orb appeared and engulfed the Dragon Goddess and just as suddenly, the orb and she vanished. Wren felt warmth and hope build inside her as final words from Skylaris echoed in her mind. [Merry Meet and merry part, Child and merry meet again.]
[Maybe, being here won't be so horrific after all.] Wren mused as she let Coyote lead her to Titania for a personal introduction.
Wren and Demetrius' Kitchen
Linoma Bluffs Estate
The empathic link to those distant and forgotten memories were abruptly severed when Wren forced herself back to present reality. She looked into the eyes of her ebony warrior and found herself back in the here and now, in her kitchen, and looking into the lavender eyes of her Gargoyle lover. She inhaled deeply to find her focus. "And now you know the full story."
"You paid a high price for Armand's freedom. You gave up your love for one man." Demetrius wiped away the flowing stream of tears streaking down her cheeks. "Have you regrets, Milady?"
"For awhile, I did." She studied her manicured nails with great interest. "It broke my heart to know that Remy didn't remember the true happenings of his rescue. Maybe it's better that he didn't. To this day, he thinks his old group the Marauders rescued him. He's married to Rogue now and they have a wonderful little girl, Aimee."
"Do you still love him?"
"A part of me always will." Wren admitted. "Oberon made good on his word. I never knew the love again of a mortal man. However, I'm glad he didn't exclude he left room for a loophole. I learned much from Queen Titania and Puck. When I was done there, I had more control over my powers than I ever had known. My knowledge of ancient languages increased tenfold. When everything was said and done, I returned to the Xavier Institute. I thought that I had healed from the heartache of losing Remy but I was wrong. I returned to Linoma for the final two years of my education."
"How did you survive alone with neither friends nor clan for strength?"
"Remember, Puck and Titania taught me well. Remy had also shown me the finer arts of gambling. Luck manipulation and casinos are a great wait to raise revenue. I worked at one casino and gambled at another. I made a good living and graduated from Star City University." She smiled.
"How did you come to work for Xanatos?" Demetrius seemed like a lost child in a fog.
"Puck upheld the edicts of Oberon. Once I graduated, Owen Burnett approached me. I went to work for Xanatos Enterprises in Owen's department a year after I graduated. I still work for him to this day. I never have forgotten my days with the X-Men."
"I never knew you were Fae." Demetrius shook his head in disbelief.
"Demetrius, I don't consider myself a Child Of Oberon. I have the heritage, the bloodlines, but not the culture. I was born and raised in a Human world. Besides, as far as abilities go, I'm considered the bottom of the barrel. I'm more like an infant of Oberon." Wren shrugged. "I'm never going to be as powerful as a true Child Of Oberon.
"Woman, these complexities of yours vex me thus!" The Gargoyle growled in exasperation.
"Good. That means that I haven't lost my touch." Wren snuggled into that sweet embrace of wing, tail, and strong arms. The duo said nothing as they simply basked in their love for one another. Their empathic bond communicated depths of feeling and commitment that went beyond the concepts of words.
As the last vestiges of night died away, the morning sun rose brightly in the autumn sky. As winter's rest came upon them, so did the closure that Wren so desperately needed. With new resolve and strengthened love, she vowed to never let the past be a burden. Instead, she promised herself that she would see it as a lesson and a guidepost for her journey ahead in life.
Such is the burden of the Heart Of Trial In Error.