14.4 Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

by Matt P.

Tania screamed. Morgan screamed. For that matter, Oberon screamed. The goidte dubh did exactly what it was supposed to, and the magic began to pour out of Tania. It had never claimed that it would be pleasant for either party, after all.

The magic coming out of Tania blazed white-hot, but the white of heat—of yellow fire grown far too intense to look at. Morgan had to look away, but even so she could still feel it. That much concentrated magic, all the magic of a Queen of Faerie, could be felt even by mortals. It crackled with intensity, like an atom bomb held at the moment of explosion, and it lashed out around them. The Border P.D. cars that had come in were pushed back by it for a moment until it pulsed again. Then they stopped moving, but every single window within sight exploded in a deafening and discordant symphony. The shards fell to the ground and another horrible crush of sound rolled over the area, followed by a silence made all the more shocking by the violent sound that had preceded it.

The pulse of power was so strong that it sent all of the soldiers and the police officers sprawling, and then trying to cover themselves from the falling shards of glass. If they were able to take the time to consider it, they would have been thankful that whatever it was had shattered the glass so finely.

The light continued at supernova strength for long, pulse pounding seconds, and neither Tania nor Oberon stopped screaming. When the power stopped Morgan gasped, and blinked her eyes quickly to clear away the after-images. Dark circles danced in her eyes before slowly resolving to the figure of Oberon standing tall…and Tania laying on the ground.

Morgan rolled to her knees and then stumbled to her feet, crossing the distance to her sister in a lurching hitch. The force of the magic pulse had left her knees weak and legs filled with pins and needles like they had fallen asleep, and when she made it to Tania’s side she dropped down to her knees heavily. Shit, shit…oh thank God she’s breathing, Morgan thought as she checked her sister’s pulse. Finally, she looked up at her father with wide eyes.

“What have you done…” She was unable to keep herself from asking as she looked at him. His whole body pulsed with energy that she swore she could almost see; it vibrated underneath her skin with the same power that had just blown out all those windows.

Oberon stared for a moment like he was mustering his thoughts, or he was trying to focus through the world’s most powerful high. And then he snorted, his lip curling a bit. “I have re-ordered some of the fundamental powers of the universe, and that is what you say to me? Cliches?” He chuckled. “We will have to rewrite that response for the history books.”

**** ****

No one seemed terribly interested in fighting any longer, once they had stood up from the massive sonic pulse and checked themselves for cuts from the glass. Almost ignoring the fact that they had been ready to fight to the death a moment ago, both men and Faeries began to move toward Oberon. Walter spared a glance for the school, but couldn’t hear fighting—and whatever happened with Oberon had just changed things so significantly that they all might be dead anyway.

He made his way over to the seated woman, and put his hand on her shoulder. “Morgan, what the hell happened?”

Morgan continued to stare at her father in horror. “He took her power. He stole the power of the Summer Queen, and added it to his own,” she said, with her voice hollow. “I don’t know how…” her voice trailed off after a moment.

Oberon’s voice was almost gentle, confirming what had apparently come to her. “She had two items in your little armory, her spear and her helmet. Either one would have not been enough, but together they formed a black knife of sufficient power. And once I have your power, then I will fuse the worlds together and break the Border, and Faerie will be one with these lands.”

Walter raised an eyebrow and looked at Morgan at Oberon’s words, and she nodded slowly. “Normally the power of a Faerie Queen would destroy anyone who wasn’t worthy, but he must have used the rest of the artifacts he stole to do…something. Even I can’t imagine what.” Walter continued to eye Oberon, hands on the shotgun.

“And the bit about stealing your power?” He asked.

Morgan looked at her unconscious sister. She hadn’t noticed in her haste, but Tania’s features and hair had lost all of their magical disguise—she was back to being completely Niamh. The hair that flowed across Morgan’s lap as she cradled her sister was the fiery red of their birth. “Tania—Niamh—and I both have a large amount of power that is ours, that cannot be stolen except with the creation of a goidte dubh or some very rare rituals. But we also have the power of the Queens, and that is shared between us. As the year grows darkest I gain power from her in a growing wave until I am strongest; but the wave breaks and the flow reverses at the very moment of the equinox, and then my power begins to flow back in to her.” She stroked her sister’s hair softly.

“And now…” Walter began.

Morgan finished. “It will flow in to him. And with his power, Tania’s power, and the full power of the Faerie Queens, he can pretty much screw up reality any way he wants.”

Oberon nodded. “And then Faerie and this realm will merge, and there is no one in the world who can stop me.” He looked at Walter. “I may have underestimated you, warrior. I saw your fight with my child, and have heard those who observe you. You have the heart of a Knight, and with your victory over him you may claim that title. If you kneel to me, then I will let you serve in my court.”

Walter looked at him for a long moment, and then shook his head. He even laughed after a moment, although it was more of a shocked expulsion than it was filled with mirth or joy. “You want to kill tens of thousands of people, and make yourself king. I’ve got exactly zero interest in helping any of that, and I’m pretty sure I’ve sworn a couple of oaths against it.”

Oberon gave a grave nod, and shrugged. “I offered. Look at your would-be Queen then, mortals, and see the fight left in her. She knows what hope you have.”

Walter looked at Morgan, and a part of his heart broke. The normally forceful and commanding woman looked broken herself, holding her sister gently and staring at her father in horror. She looked like a woman who had been tested and found wanting, and did not know how to recover from it.

“We’re not looking for kings here,” William Alexander said in a tone that was almost conversational. “You see, we had a war about that, and—” he continued. He cut himself off by whipping his arm around his body and hurling it at the man. It lanced through the air straight and true, and no magic rose to stop it. Oberon’s head simply seemed to phase out of existence for a moment, as it moved so quickly out of the way and back in to place that mortal eyes could only process it as becoming a momentary phantom.

“That will grow tiresome soon, Mortal…” Oberon said, and flicked his fingers. Alexander was launched off his feet by what seemed to be a gust of wind, but he reacted like he had been struck incredibly hard in the chest. He landed in a sprawling heap, gasping for air, and Walter reached out to grab Andre to keep him from throwing himself at the man. And probably throwing his life away, Walter thought grimly.

“You son of a bitch!” Andre shouted, struggling out of Walter’s arms and blasting at Oberon with his own shotgun. Walter winced at the explosive sound so close to him, and stumbled a step away. It gave him a view of the pellets of the shotgun as they stopped in front of Oberon, and then slowly fused in to one lump, which fell to the ground.

“Dad!” Siobhan’s voice cried out from the school, and Walter turned to look back at her quickly. She seemed mostly unharmed, although she was also splattered with blood. She came with Antigone, Antigone’s crazy dog, Ryan Aquino, and the people they had apparently been fighting. Whatever melee had been happening inside the school seemed to him to have dissolved as suddenly as his own had. The Faeries were speaking in excitedly hushed murmurs, and began to speak quietly to their comrades. “What the hell just happened!” Siobhan exclaimed more than asked.

Antigone moved over to her father’s side, biting her lower lip as she looked at the Faeries. “Oh God, whatever he was going to do he did, didn’t he?” She asked.

The arrival of so many more people had apparently distracted Oberon as well, and he scowled at being talked around in his moment of triumph. “I have always been a fan of mortal music, children, and I must confess one verse comes to mind now: LET ALL MORTAL FLESH KEEP SILENCE!” His voice bellowed and echoed with the power of a command, and all voices in the courtyard of the school obeyed. Unbidden and unwilling, Walter found he not only was not responding, but that he did not desire to respond; and he began to work his jaw to try to speak out of sheer spinal reflex stubbornness.

“And with fear and trembling stand;” Oberon continued, “Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in His hand, your God to earth descending, comes your homage to demand.” He gave a lupine grin. “For though I may have modified the prayer to suit my needs, it surely stands truer now than it ever has for your mortal faiths. I stand before you a God, and I will have your obedience now or your death.”

Almost as one the Faeries who had come with Oberon fell to their knees and lowered their heads. Walter felt the strength of magical command still in his voice, and his knees quivered with a desire to drop down and do fealty. He gritted his teeth, swallowing deeply and focusing on the spark of anger in his chest at being commanded so by any man or being—and on the hopelessness in Morgan’s eyes. He knew why she didn’t suggest they try to grab the goidte dubh out of Tania’s shoulder where he could see it, and the answer was that how could they even get close enough to him to try?

Hopelessness rolled over him in waves, and he saw Andre Alexander and even Ryan Aquino falling unwillingly to their knees. The pure, raw power that crashed at his mind and battered his soul drove him to try to beg forgiveness for his very existence. Antigone began to cry, and stumbled back, and Siobhan began to let loose a long stream of expletives as she braced herself on her swords.

What is a man to a God? He asked himself, as he tried to stop from falling and surrendering.

“Rank on rank the host of heaven, spreads its vanguard on the way, as the Light of light descendeth, from the realms of endless day…” Oberon continued to quote, stepping between the kneeling Faeries like a messiah, and his power crashed among them even more strongly.

What is a God to a non-believer? Walter found himself asking. A song lyric, of all things, but the music seemed to push a bit of the commandment away from his psyche. What is a God to YOU, Walter Richards? It was his voice but different, and it had the same resonance of power as Oberon’s did. He didn’t know where it came from, but he grabbed on to it for all he was worth. Siobhan and Antigone fell to their knees, sobbing, and Walter stood alone.

“…Comes the powers of—”

“Oh…shut…up!” Walter shouted, staggering a step forward toward the would be god and interrupting his intonation. “You pompous, false idol…asshole!” His words came out in grunts that took a toll of exhaustion on his body, but he kept speaking. “You say…I am a knight of Faerie, oh you…jumped up fascist?”

Oberon glowered, but he nodded. “By our laws any citizen who challenges a Knight and proves victorious is themselves made a Knight. Do you wish to change your mind and save yourself and your whelps?” He asked, with a sneer towards the kneeling Siobhan and Antigone.

If there had been any chance of Walter withdrawing, the contempt on Oberon’s face for his daughters hardened his will into an iron blade. “No, asshole…I challenge you to a duel.”