2. Chapter 2 - The Visitation
The morning began with the promise of a great day. The bright sun almost sang in the nearly cloudless sky. The city of Berkeley, California was bathed in a clear golden light as a soft wind rode the air current in from the coast. It was a time for fun, for playing around, no matter what your age. On a day like this, anything was possible.
The young woman dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt stopped pacing the empty hallway of her family home, a cordless phone glued to her ear. Although she seemed to be listening, her attention was elsewhere. A small beveled glass window at the top of the front door angled golden fingers of sunlight into the hall. The rays touched a small patch of the wooden floor near her booted feet. Ailsa Kincade's hazel eyes glowed with childlike wonder as she raised her hand to play with the shaft of light; a childhood ritual, barely remembered, but never forgotten. There was always something about the "feel" of sunbeams that made her imagine she was holding something solid…something magical. A secret smile curled the corners of her mouth as her fingers danced within the gleaming light.
Suddenly, she remembered the phone at her ear. "I'm sorry, what did you say? I didn't hear you."
"Listen Ailsa, don't try to be clever." The male voice softly cautioned on the other end. "I know you've got your heart set on riding today. And we'll go, I promise. I just can't ride all afternoon. You know how busy I am. There's a lot of prep work I still have to do for the dig." Kyle's attempt at being reasonable couldn't hide the frustration that was coming through loud and clear. His voice always deepened when his emotions came into play.
Ailsa ran her hand through her shoulder length auburn hair, a clear sign she was frustrated as well. Really...You'd think he was the first archaeologist who ever had to prepare for a field assignment.
"Fine. I just thought you might enjoy a break." Her eyes darkened as her displeasure slowly began to turn to annoyance. "It's a beautiful morning and it's going to be a glorious afternoon. It's so clear you can actually see the Golden Gate. We can't waste a day like this." There was silence on the other end of the phone. "Besides, you've been working night and day getting ready for your trip and I haven't ridden in ages. Come on, let's have some fun." She hoped her argument would win him over.
She heard a low sigh of resignation. "Okay, you win." Wahoo!…her mind cheered as she bounced on the balls of her feet. It's great to win!
"Besides, it'll give me a chance to help you make up your mind about the dig." Kyle had suddenly yanked the win from her.
Not again, she thought. "Dammit Kyle, can't you just let it drop. I don't want to talk about it anymore." She was adamant and hoped he realized it.
"But it would be a perfect place to work together," Kyle tried to reason once again. "And who knows, maybe once you make up your mind about working with me, you just might want to make it a permanent job."
Oh great, she sighed. "Can we just enjoy the afternoon, and leave it at that?" Ailsa waited for another barrage from Kyle, but to her relief, it didn't come. Just a small pause while he thought about it.
"Can you be ready in an hour or so?" He finally asked.
"It's all good. I've got a great bottle of Chardonnay cooling in the fridge. We can drink it at The Point if you want," she said triumphantly. After all, she was doing this for his own good.
"God, you can be so stubborn at times. All right, I'll let you drag me away this time. But, I have to be back at my office by 4:30. Okay?" Kyle tried to sound serious, but failed miserably.
"Yes, dear." She smiled, bowing in mock submission.
"And stop bowing like that." She froze in mid bow.
"How did you know I…"
"I know YOU," he said and laughed. "Now hang up."
"Bye." She quickly replied, and placed the phone back in its holder. Her hand lingered on the phone for a moment as her brows came together in a deep frown. Kyle was special to her, and she would miss him when his team left for Turkey. But would she miss him enough to drop everything and follow him? That's a laugh. What do I have to keep me here? Ailsa stood quietly musing on that thought when Earl, her cat, began to waltz around her legs.
A smile tugged at her mouth as she bent down and lifted the orange tabby, tucking him into the crook of her arm. His topaz eyes stared up, demanding her complete attention. She tickled the goatee of fur on his chin. "But we would miss him, wouldn't we Earl," she cooed. As usual, Earl refused to answer. Ailsa smiled at the stubborn cat and walked toward the kitchen, cradling him in her arms.
As Kyle's departure date neared, the stress had begun to wear on her. How many more times is he going ask me to go, she thought. Better still, why aren't I jumping at the chance to be with him? She realized she needed this ride as much as Kyle did. A good ride, on a fast horse cleared away a lot of muddled thoughts.
She walked into her mother's newly remodeled kitchen and saw her preparing something on the marble topped work island. She said a quick "Hi" as she walked over to the island and pulled out one of the stools. Her mother gave her a quick smile and turned her attention back to her work on the marble top. Ailsa sat down and attempted to place Earl on the counter.
"No filthy cats near my canapés, please." Her mom firmly announced without looking up from her task. Ailsa knew she meant it too. She gently put Earl on the kitchen floor. With his usual dignified grace, he walked to the back door and plopped down in front of it with an arrogant "mew." Ailsa eyes crinkled with amusement as she enjoyed Earl's "I don't care" attitude. An attitude she wished she could mimic better.
Patrice Errington Kincade was making "the" famous and expensive Kincade Salmon Mousse canapés. Her mother was famous for them and the imported smoked salmon made them shamefully expensive. The canapés were only made for very special brunches or for very important visitors. Her mother's face was set in deep concentration as she put small sprigs of cilantro garnish on each pink mound of mousse. Ailsa reached for the one closest to her, and received a lightning quick slap on her hand. "Ow!" she cried as she quickly retracted her hand.
"Ailsa Margaret Kincade don't you dare touch that," her mother admonished with a raised eyebrow. "You know we're expecting company."
Ailsa rubbed her hand. "Jeez mom," she said in mock indignation. "You'd think we were expecting royalty, the way you're acting."
"Well, I've been breaking my back trying to get this house in some kind of order. Your father gives me less than 48 hours notice to welcome a representative of some unknown relative in England. You'd think there would be more notice. We don't even know what time he'll arrive; just some vague reference to late-morning." Her mother was obviously not impressed with all the intrigue. "Why is he coming all this way to speak to your father anyway?" She shook her head. "It better be good news."
"It's got to be something important don't you think?" Ailsa started to laugh. "Do you think we'll find out dad's a duke or something? Who knows, maybe he's next in line to inherit a great fortune." The moment she said it, she regretted it.
"Let's hope so. Lord knows, he'll never have one otherwise." A cold resentment filled her mother's brown eyes as she looked past Ailsa towards the hallway leading to her husband's study.
Ailsa tried to change the subject. "Well, let's hope he shows up soon. Kyle and I are going to Tilden Park and ride the Ridge Trail." Her mother quickly turned her icy attention back to her daughter.
"Do you mean to say you won't be here when our guest arrives?" Her mother didn't wait for a reply. "It's bad manners for you not to be here. I'm sure he'll want to meet the whole family."
Ailsa could feel the defiance rising. "Well, unless he gets here soon, you'll just have to apologize for my lack of manners. You can let me know if something exciting happens."
Her mother just rolled her eyes and released one of her dramatic sighs. "I just don't know what I'm going to do with you." Her mother didn't actually expect an answer. "This could be important to the family, and I think it's only right that you be here to at least greet our guest."
"Really, mother, I could care less."
"That's your problem." Ailsa's mother put her hands on her hips for emphasis. Ailsa sat frozen in her seat as she steeled herself for the latest What are we going to do with Ailsa? speech.
"You care less and less about everything. Your father and I have tried to be patient, but you just seem to be dragging your heels. We want to know when are you going to make up your mind and decide on something…anything?" Patrice raised her hands for effect.
"Don't bring dad into this," Ailsa cautioned. How she hated it when her mother tried to use her father like this!
"Why not?" Her mother seemed surprised.
"Because, it's not fair. You're the one with all the big plans for me. I'm sorry if I'm not living up to the grand design you have for me. And I'm sorry I won't let you dictate to me what I should do." Ailsa's eyes narrowed as she spoke. "Let's just say I'm sorry, period!"
"I just don't know what I'm going to do." Her mother leaned against the counter top shaking her head. "So you decide that a teaching degree in history is what you want. Fine, I say. You feel a Masters degree will help you get a better position. Fine, okay! But you haven't even selected the subject for your Masters' thesis yet, and now it looks like you're going to pass up this Ankara thing with Kyle for God knows what reason."
Ailsa felt her cheeks heating up. "Whatever," she said sarcastically as she waved her hand dismissively. A gesture she knew her mother hated. "Why is it so damn important that I make up my mind this very minute?"
"It's important because you're passing up an excellent opportunity for both Kyle and you to distinguish yourselves in Turkey. Don't you want to be part of that?"
It was Ailsa's turn to roll her eyes. "I know the dig in Ankara is a great opportunity, mom. But it's Kyle's opportunity, not mine. I'd only be his assistant…his volunteer assistant, I might add. Besides," her voice dropped as she started to run her fingers along the edge of the marble top, "this trip has too many strings attached." She waited, hoping her mother would finally understand.
She didn't, and continued her lecture as she began to rearrange the canapés on the silver tray lying between them. "I just don't get it. He has more ambition in one finger than your father ever had."
Oh, here it comes…Ailsa thought; she didn't have to wait long.
"Your father has ended up a little known history professor in a minor department at Berkeley. Oh, he'll occasionally publish a paper or some little book that nobody reads on some stupid theory that nobody can possibly accept." Her voice was thick with a resentment that Ailsa hadn't heard before.
"He's not even tenured for God's sake. I just don't want you to be stuck like that." Her mother paused to see if Ailsa was listening. She was, but with anger written all over her face. Ailsa felt she had to defend her father the more her mother criticized him. Lately, it was her mother's favorite pastime.
"Can't you leave dad alone?" Ailsa raised her voice. "Every time you want to make a point, you use him as your best argument for failure. God, I'm sick of it." She hated being in the middle of her parents' problems. "He loves teaching. The rest of it doesn't interest him. He just has different priorities, that's all."
"Ha," her mother snorted sarcastically. "As far as I can see, his priorities don't include success. I don't want you to end up like him. Not a girl with your background. You should aspire to greater things."
"Wait just a minute! What background, mom?" She asked sarcastically. "You're the one with the background. You're the one with a great big fat silver spoon in her mouth." Ailsa's eyes blazed defiantly as she spoke. "You're the one from the privileged lifestyle. Papa Errington's money was pretty handy to get whatever you've wanted, right?"
"And you can see how much good that did me."
"I can truthfully say that it's abundantly clear how you feel, mom." Ailsa stood up. Mother and daughter stood glaring at each other. Ailsa took a deep breath, and tried to calm herself. "I don't want to keep arguing about this. I just need more time."
A kind of resignation crossed her mother's face. "I only want what's best for you. I don't want you to make my mistakes," her mother conceded. There was a strained silence between the women. "So, are you going to be here to a least greet our guest?" Mom was back to business.
Ailsa smiled wearily at her mother. "Isn't that the question that started all this?"
Ailsa's anger began to calm as she realized that she wasn't going to win this particular argument. She took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Okay, I'll stick around for a while. Maybe Kyle would like to meet the man who's going to change our lives." Her voice dripped with sarcasm as she turned and headed toward the hallway. She always marveled at the way her family's little blossoms of anger bloomed, but then quickly faded. Unfortunately, nothing ever seemed to get resolved. She was now more concerned that her father had heard their raised voices.
"Dad!" she called with a smile knowing her mother hated the "unladylike" way she tended to yell around the house.
"In here," her father called back through the open door of his study.
Ailsa entered her father's study with the same anticipation she always felt each time she walked into it…she was entering Dad's room. Ewan Kincade's presence could be felt everywhere. From the opened tomes on the table near the window, to the overstuffed bookcases against the walls as well as the habitually cluttered desk he sat behind. The opened volumes and stacks of text on the desktop were gradually creating a higher and higher wall around him. His laptop was positioned in front of him and he was quickly typing as he intently stared at the screen.
Post-it notes of various colors and sizes were stuck everywhere…even the desk lamp couldn't escape a trimming of the small pastel squares hanging from the bottom of its shade. The Weatherman multi tool he always carried on his belt lay open on some papers. Ailsa always referred to it as her father's "weapon." Heaven only knew what needed to be tightened, cut, clipped, or pried.
Her father's study was also a room filled with pictures. Pictures of family camping trips, parties held at the house and elsewhere. Frozen slices of this and that from their lives casually arranged on the walls or propped up on bookshelves. There were even one or two pieces of Ailsa's childhood art still floating around. One such painting was still taped to a framed diploma on the wall. As best as she could remember, it was supposed to be a picture of a blue giraffe standing under a green sun. Ailsa didn't understand why he still had the ugly thing.
Her father hadn't noticed her yet, and she smiled as she watched him click away on the keyboard. The new wave of forensic history fascinated him and he was in the middle of writing a paper on it. He always kept up with the latest archaeological finds and the new theories that enhanced or changed the way we could look at historical events. Unfortunately, although Ewan Kincade was a gifted academic, many of the new theories he embraced didn't always make him popular with his colleagues.
Teaching, however, was his true passion. A passion that continued to breathe new life into the sometimes dry subject of dates and places for his students. His popularity with the student body filled his classes with minds expecting to be questioned, to search, and discuss every possibility. A semester in Professor Kincade's class gave you more than an ability to practice memorization, and his students loved him for it.
She watched the scowl on his face as he concentrated on his subject matter. Still tall and lean, he looked younger than his 52 years; even his auburn hair hadn't grayed much. People said that he resembled his mother. Both Ailsa's Kincade grandparents were dead; some car accident that happened before her parents met. But she had seen the photos and agreed, he did have his mother's kind grey eyes. He looked up from the keyboard with them now and smiled at her. "Has our guest arrived?" he asked expectantly.
Ailsa's smile widened with relief, he hadn't heard them in the kitchen. "No, he hasn't shown up yet." She moved to the leather wingback chair facing the window. She sat down, her left leg curled under her, and stared out into the street as she continued to hear the clicking behind her.
"You know, you shouldn't argue with your mother on such a golden morning." Her father's gentle voice admonished. Ailsa closed her eyes. Oh no, he did hear us. She stood up and slowly faced him.
"I'm sorry," she tried to apologize unconvincingly. She decided the truth was better. "But she makes me so damn mad," Ailsa admitted. "She's always bugging me about my thesis, or the dig… but especially about Kyle." Ailsa chose to skip commenting on her mother's remarks about him.
"Well, she is your mother and it's her job to bug you." He looked at her from under raised eyebrows, but his shining eyes were filled with loving indulgence.
"Well, what she's doing is driving me crazy. She's putting so much pressure on me to go to Turkey with him, I can't think. And Kyle's no better; he's pressuring me too. But not just about the trip. He keeps hinting about marriage." She paused and turned towards the window.
She heard her dad get up from his chair and walk over to her. His arm reached around her shoulders drawing her close. "Well…that shouldn't be too hard to figure out. Do you love him?"
Ailsa stiffened a little. "That seems like such a simple question doesn't it?" She looked up into her father's face. "You'd think there would be a simple answer," she finally admitted.
Her father smiled back. "You know what's wrong? You're just being pulled in too many directions." He squeezed her shoulder. "You're young. You take your time, and don't rush into anything. These are important decisions that shouldn't be made hastily." Placing his curled fingers under her chin, he tilted her head so she looked him in the eye. "And they should only be made by you."
She laid her head on his shoulder. She loved how he could always make her feel better. "Actually, I think my problem is I've always had it too easy," she finally confessed.
"Don't say that, you've worked very hard for everything you've achieved," her father countered.
"Look, I'm 23 years old and I still live at home. My father's a professor at Berkeley. And where do I go to school? Berkeley. I need a job for extra money. Poof! I'm a research assistant for one of my grandfather's old cronies. Mom's family is rich…riding lessons, fencing lessons, piano lessons…the list goes on and on. Did I work for any of it? No. I don't even know if I ever wanted any of it really. And then there's Kyle." Ailsa paused and took in a deep breath. She slowly released it, as she shook her head.
"He's a great guy, dad. And he's starting a career in Archaeology with all the enthusiasm of someone fulfilling a lifelong dream. And now he wants me to be part of that dream. If I choose to commit to him, I'll have an easy future in front of me. My problem is I just don't know if I want it that way." As she spoke the words, she regretted saying them out loud. She didn't like them; they left a stale taste in her mouth.
Her dad dropped his arm and turned Ailsa to face him. "Aren't you being a little hard on yourself?"
"Not really," she admitted. "I feel as if I'm lost. As much as I hate to admit it, mom's right in one sense. I am floating without much direction. I keep feeling like I'm waiting for something. Oh, whatever…" Frustration filled her voice. "I don't know what to do. I can't make up my mind and I feel lousy, because I can't make everybody happy."
Her father looked hard into her eyes. "Any decisions that need to be made, need to be made by you alone. And the only person you need to make happy is yourself. No one else. You do that and you'll pass the happiness on to others. You'll see." His face softened into a smile.
"Thanks. I really needed to hear that right now." Ailsa hugged him. "You know, you're a pretty good dad," she said meaning every word. "I think I'll keep you around for a while." She quickly kissed his cheek and walked toward the study's open door.
She could hear her father chuckle behind her as he sat back down at the desk. "Come in anytime. My office hours are very flexible. And there's no charge for words of wisdom to family members."
Ailsa shook her head at his lame attempt at humor. As she entered the hallway, she was startled as the doorbell began to ring. "I'll get it," she yelled to no one in particular. She opened the front door and quickly blocked her eyes with her hand as the bright sunshine nearly blinded her. "Whoa," she said as she stepped onto the porch.
- 0 –
As Maedhros stood silently outside the house, he wasn't surprised that it was a pleasant dwelling. His research had correctly indicated that the heir was living a rather normal life in this world of continued learning. In fact, it was a life as ordinary as all the others were who had come before.
Once again, he would keep the promise he made so long ago. But somewhere deep inside, Maedhros always regretted this part. During the countless times he had performed this changeless ritual, there was always a moment of hesitation just before he intruded into each one of those ordinary lives; changing their world…forever. And now, Ewan Kincade was to be next.
Standing on the porch step of the heir's pleasant house, he waited patiently for the young woman to notice him.
- 0 -
Ailsa couldn't see much, but knew there was someone standing on the step below.
"Is this the home of Professor Ewan Kincade?" A male voice asked. She heard just a hint of an English accent running through the richness of the man's tone.
Ailsa tried to see the face of the silhouetted figure in front of her, but the sun only framed the figure in a blinding aura of light. The figure slowly stepped up to the porch and the dazzling sunlight was blocked. Without thinking, Ailsa took a step back.
She figured the stranger was well over six feet tall, because she had to look up to see his face.
See his face? She couldn't help but stare at the face of the stranger. His patrician features were very masculine, but with a delicate quality to them as well. Flawless skin was gently pulled taut over the elegant ridge of his cheekbones. His high smooth forehead as well as his generous mouth came together in an extremely handsome face. He's more than just handsome, she marveled, this guy's beautiful!
Finally, she stopped herself from gawking at the man and cleared her throat. "Yes, this is Professor Kincade's house." Thankfully she was able to reply without stammering.
"I am Maedhros. I believe the professor is expecting me." He smiled, and Ailsa swore that he gave her a slight bow. He was dressed in a midnight blue silk suit, but in a style she had never seen before. The fitted coat was long and reached mid-thigh and had carved buttons of the same midnight blue color down the front. The collar was mandarin in style, but not separately attached. The whole suit coat seemed to be in one piece. His long dark auburn hair was pulled back smoothly, covering his ears. It seemed to be fastened at the nape of his neck with something, but she couldn't tell with what. She noticed his unusual silver grey eyes. Although he smiled, it never reached his eyes. She realized that she was looking at him too intently again and she suddenly felt embarrassed.
"I'm sorry. I'm Ailsa, Professor Kincade's daughter." Mr. Maedhros smiled again and actually seemed amused. "Ailsa…" he said, "That is a very old and noble name." She smiled back and offered her hand to shake. She couldn't help noticing he stood with his right hand in his pocket. He made no attempt to remove it, but reached gracefully with his left hand, and took her hand in his.
As Ailsa touched the firm warm flesh of his hand, she felt a sudden rush pass through her body as a deep overwhelming sadness filled her heart. She looked into the stranger's beautiful face and saw that he had felt something too. But there was something entirely different in his eyes. There was a strange look of recognition.
- 0 -
Maedhros felt it as he took Ailsa Kincade's hand. A moment of connection that swept through him with the force of a crashing ocean wave. As he gazed deeper into the young woman's bright hazel eyes, he remembered a similar pair filled with the same kind of light. Elizabeth's eyes looked back at him once again, in almost the same questioning way as they had on that summer morning when she discovered him in the cave room so long ago. The memories he thought he had safely buried deep inside him came rushing back releasing the bitter sadness and grief that still made his heart ache. How he missed those eyes...
- 0 -
The sensation was quickly over and Ailsa jerked her hand out of Maedhros' grasp. Maedhros took a deep breath as he tried to focus his thoughts again. Certainly the mere touch of their hands couldn't possibly trigger such a reaction. Concern filled his eyes as he waited to see if Ailsa was all right.
Ailsa blinked her eyes several times as if waking from a trance. What was that? For a moment, she had felt such a feeling of sorrow it almost made her cry. It faded quickly though, leaving her just a little disoriented. Even that feeling passed quickly enough, and she was able to compose herself.
Absently pointing to the open front door, she tried not to stumble over her words. "My father's expecting you. Please follow me." She turned and walked into the house hoping her voice hadn't betrayed her confusion. She still felt a little…strange. After closing the front door, she motioned to the living room and entered with Mr. Maedhros behind her. She offered him a seat.
"Excuse me while I tell my parents you're here," she said and stepped into the hallway. Although she felt herself again, she was relieved to put some distance between them. Her father was just coming out of his study. Her mother was coming down the hallway at the same time. "He's here," she whispered to them. Her father waited for her mother and they walked into the living room with Ailsa in tow. Their guest rose as her parents entered the room. "Mr. Maedhros, this is my father and mother, Ewan and Patrice Kincade."
"May the light of The Eleni shine on our meeting. It is an honor to meet you," he said and bowed, taking his right hand out of his pocket and placing it on his chest. They all watched and realized that he would have placed his right hand on his chest if he had had a right hand. At the end of the beautifully tailored sleeve was only a black leather caplet covering what was left of his wrist. There was just a hint of discomfort in his eyes as he acknowledged their inquiring stares. "I lost my hand in a mountain climbing accident," was all he said.
Ailsa waited as the slightly awkward handshaking ceremony was repeated with each parent. There was, as far as she could tell, no repeat of what she had experienced. Both parents tried to make Mr. Maedhros comfortable. Ailsa's father spoke first. "My apologies for our bad manners just now."
Mr. Maedhros raised his remaining hand in gentle protest. "No need to apologize Professor Kincade. Curiosity is only natural."
"Well, Mr. Maedhros…." Her father began.
"Please, Professor," their guest gently interrupted. Turning his attention to Ailsa and her mother, "I would prefer just to be called Maedhros." Her parents smiled, and Ailsa could see that although her father was completely unaware of it, her mother had "noticed" Maedhros' beautiful face.
"And you must call us Patrice and Ewan." Ailsa was certain she was able to hear the purr in her mother's voice as she spoke. Ailsa's mother gestured for Maedhros to return to his chair. He waited for Patrice to sit first…a formality she obviously approved of.
"Did you have a good trip?" Patrice politely inquired. Without waiting for Maedhros' reply, she continued…."We don't travel much now, but when I was in my teens, my father would send me to Europe every summer. I had so much fun traveling the Continent with…"
Oh great, Ailsa's mind cringed, Mom's in her "Lady of the Manor" mode. Ailsa tuned her mother out, and glanced at Maedhros to see how glazed over his eyes must be by now. To her surprise, she found he was looking at her. There was a conspiratorial smile on his mouth that made her wonder. She couldn't get over the feeling that he knew what she was thinking. Did he know what she was thinking? Her eyes widened as he gave her a slight acknowledging nod, he turned his attention back to her mother.
"I had a very pleasant journey." He said, smoothly interrupting her. "I like flying. It is a very soothing way to travel."
Patrice smiled back at him. "Would you like some refreshments," she asked. "Ailsa, go get the tea and canapés in the kitchen."
Ailsa started to rise from her chair, but Maedhros put up his hand to stop her. "Please do not go to any trouble." Ailsa quietly sat down again.
"It's no trouble at all." Her mother tried to counter.
"I am afraid my visit must be short so I will not be able to enjoy any refreshments."
Ailsa watched as her mother tried to cover the fact she felt rather put out. But her smile was just a little bit too wide.
"Maybe we should get down to your business," her father had finally entered the conversation. Ailsa was glad.
"Have you had an opportunity to discuss with your family the contents of the letter I sent you?"
Ewan smiled in a most guilty way. "No, I haven't. I thought that I'd wait and give them all the information while you were here. You could then answer any questions they might have." Ailsa's mother pursed her lips slightly, a clear indication that she wasn't pleased.
Maedhros leaned forward in his chair. "As I stated in my letter, Ewan, through your mother's side of the family, you are the next in line to inherit the estate of Egla Tir. Richard Matthews, the current guardian of the Egla Tir inheritance, is very ill and will not live much longer. He is both unmarried and childless, so the inheritance passes on to you." Maedhros paused so his statement could sink in.
"What exactly is this Ega…Elg…Egla Tair?" Patrice tried to ask.
"Egla Tir," Maedhros offered. Ailsa liked the way Egla Tir sounded when Maedhros spoke it. There was a kind of Celtic ring to it.
"Ewan's family claim to the land of Egla Tir goes back many hundreds of years. The estate is located in Cornwall at the end of the peninsula known as Land's End. There is a small country house on the estate where you will live. And since this is a working estate and pays for itself, you and your family will not be bothered with the day to day running of it. You will be given a generous allowance from the profits to take care of your needs." Maedhros turned to Ewan, "You will be the trustee of the legacy. You will inherit it all upon the death of Richard Matthews." They all couldn't help noticing the sad tone in Maedhros' voice as he spoke of Richard Matthews' impending death.
"Does this mean my father is going to be a lord or something?" Ailsa couldn't believe she had just asked that question.
Maedhros looked at her in a kind of tolerant amusement that made her feel like an idiot child. "I am sorry Ailsa, there is no title that comes with this inheritance. It is a trust that a chosen few have been lucky enough to protect." Protect…Ailsa thought, that's a strange word. Protect what, from what?
"I still don't understand, what is it that you want from me?" Ewan's eyes were full of unasked questions.
"The only stipulation is once you have agreed to the inheritance, you can never give it back…you can never choose anyone else to take it over…and you can never share it with anyone outside of the family." There was no emotion in Maedhros' face as he spoke.
Ailsa's mother now stared at the powerfully handsome man sitting in her living room with suspicion. "Has anyone ever given it back or…anything?"
"No," Maedhros answered rather flatly.
Ailsa joined her mother in her suspicions. "Where do you fit in all this?" Ailsa inquired. "Are you the family lawyer in England?"
Maedhros smiled again. "I am not a lawyer. I take care of the estate. You could say, I will be taking care of all three of you."
"That's if, my father chooses to accept this inheritance," Ailsa interjected.
Maedhros looked into Ailsa's questioning eyes and nodded. "If your father accepts this inheritance, I will protect your family." There's that word "protect" again, Ailsa noted.
"That is," Maedhros continued, "financially, of course."
"Well," her father mused. "Seems we have a decision to make."
"I am sorry Ewan, but I have one more thing to say. Before you can make your decision, you and only you must accompany me to Cornwall. As the legal heir, you must come to the estate yourself and learn what the inheritance entails. If you do not do this, you can not inherit. You will only be gone for a few days."
"Oh dear," her father mumbled.
"Oh dear, my foot," Patrice snapped. "And just when is he supposed to accompany you to Cornwall?" Her mother's face grew pink with anger.
"I have tickets for a flight tomorrow afternoon. I presume your passport is in order."
"We have to decide about this trip…right now?" Ewan asked his eyes wide with disbelief.
"Unfortunately…yes. Richard Matthews' health is failing quickly and I do not wish to be away from the estate any longer than I have to."
As Patrice stood up, Maedhros also rose. She wasn't as impressed with the gesture as she had been. She just looked up at him and said, "You must excuse Ewan and me. We need to talk about this." She motioned with her head to her husband to follow and she was out the door. Ewan got up and shrugged his shoulders. Maedhros nodded his head slightly and sat again.
Suddenly, Ailsa was aware that she was alone with this rather strange man. She searched her brain for something clever to say, but the result of the past announcements had left her speechless. The door to the study was closed, but raised voices could be heard. She could only guess what was being said. How she wished she could be in there to referee. She felt uncomfortable and gave Maedhros a shy smile as if to say, "Parents, whatcha' going to do?"
- 0 -
Maedhros could sense Ailsa's discomfort. He could hear the voices in the other room more clearly than she could. Heated words were being exchanged, but not just about Professor Kincade's impending trip. Somehow Ailsa knew this, and he could tell she wanted to be in there with her parents.
He also knew that she was still wondering what had happened between them on the porch. Maedhros wondered as well. Although, this may have been a random episode, he would have to be on his guard and make sure that it did not happen again. If she was to be part of Egla Tir, he would have to make sure she did not find out too much too soon. He would have to try to find a way to reassure her.
- 0 -
"I understand that all this must seem rather mysterious to you, but your father's family has done it this way for many years." Maedhros regarded Ailsa rather intently. "It is a great responsibility and will change the lives of you all."
Ailsa felt the uncomfortable feeling returning. It was just at that moment Earl decided to see what was happening. Ailsa didn't notice the cat's entrance, but when he made a beeline for Maedhros, she tried to dissuade him. "No, Earl. Get away," she scolded. As usual, Earl ignored his mistress and leaped onto Maedhros lap. He placed his front paws on Maedhros chest and looked into the face of the new human in the house.
Ailsa rose to retrieve Earl, but Maedhros raised his hand to stop her. "No, no. Do not bother him. He is only curious." Ailsa watched with fascination as Earl gazed into the man's clear grey eyes while standing motionless on his chest. Maedhros, staring back, started to stroke the cat behind the ear. Ailsa could swear she heard a low humming coming from deep inside Maedhros. A little tune, something that she couldn't quite make out. Earl's long tail gently swayed back and forth to the rhythm of it. The cat seemed transfixed and started to purr loudly, drowning out any other sound. She watched for several minutes, fascinated by the exchange between Earl and Maedhros. Finally, Maedhros grabbed some of Earl's chin fur and tugged gently, "That will be enough for you. I suggest you go play somewhere."
To Ailsa's astonishment, Earl simply jumped off Maedhros' lap and left the room. Normally, it took several times for Earl to "obey" any command even from her, let alone a "suggestion" from a stranger. She looked back at Maedhros with eyes filled with awe. She swallowed. "How'd you do that," she asked.
"I have a way with animals." He replied.
That's an understatement. Ailsa wanted to ask Maedhros more questions, but she realized the conversation in the study had stopped.
Suddenly, the study door opened and her parents came out. Her father came into the living room, but her mother turned abruptly and quickly went down the hallway towards the staircase leading to the upper bedrooms.
The three, looking in the direction of the hallway, heard her footsteps climbing the stairs rather quickly. There was a loud slam as her mother closed the door to the bedroom.
Ewan looked at Maedhros almost sheepishly. "My wife has a headache and asks you to excuse her." Ailsa knew better, her mother had obviously lost the argument.
Maedhros graciously played along. "Let us hope she will feel better soon." He sat down and waited.
Ewan walked over to the empty fireplace and placed his arm on the mantle to help support him. "My wife and I," he lied, "have decided that I should go to England with you. My passport is current and I can easily make arrangements for my classes."
Maedhros seemed pleased. "I am glad that you have decided to come. I will call for you tomorrow."
"I can take you to the airport." Ailsa offered. She knew it would be easier to let them take a taxi, but she wanted to send her father off properly. She instinctively knew her mother wouldn't offer to take them.
"Good," her father smiled at her gratefully. Turning to Maedhros he announced. "That's settled."
Maedhros bowed again. "I look forward to our journey," he said.
He looked at Ailsa. "And it has been a pleasure meeting you, Ailsa. Until we meet again."
Ailsa could only smile back and wonder.
- 0 -
Night surrounded the airplane as it made its way under the star filled sky. The Atlantic Ocean remained hidden beneath thick clouds that lay over it like a vast down blanket. Ewan sat glancing out at the stars through the window next to Maedhros' first class seat. Countless thousands of tiny pinpoints of cold light dotted the blackness. More stars that could ever be seen from the ground by just the naked eye. Turning his attention back to the first class cabin, he tried to focus on the book that lay open on his lap. The light above his seat spotlighted the unread pages. He had tried many times to read them, but to no avail. All thoughts of concentrating on anything were useless.
The only reason he was still awake was the shear excitement of this strange adventure. Had it been just hours since he had consented to travel with a complete stranger to a far off destination in another country? And was he actually supposed to decide if he wanted to accept an unknown inheritance in an equally short period of time? He must be insane to be even making this trip? He knew there were others who would think him mad. Patrice had said as much.
Ewan sighed as he thought of his wife. How he wished she could understand the reasons he was making this trip. There was a dissatisfaction that had been steadily growing between them in the last few years. Things about each other that used to bring them together, now seemed to be pulling them apart. He felt helpless because he couldn't figure out why and it was getting harder to ignore the problem. Even Ailsa knew something was wrong.
Poor Ailsa, it wasn't fair she had to be in the middle of all the unpleasantness. And although she would deny it, he knew one of the reasons she still hesitated leaving home was her need to try to help the situation. With Ailsa to focus on, they didn't have to focus so much on their growing problems. Ewan quietly sighed again. If this inheritance worked out, it could be a new beginning for them all. He could only be hopeful.
Glancing down at his book again, he tried once more to tackle the latest theory regarding the Punic Wars. Minutes passed…it was no use. Tilting his head back he tried to relax. Most of the other passengers were quietly asleep as the soft pitched purr of the jet engines hummed through the cabin. Even Maedhros sitting next to him in the shadows, had his eyes closed. His chest rose and fell in slow even movements indicating slumber.
As Ewan watched the sleeping figure next to him, he found himself liking this rather odd fellow. Maedhros had been the model of efficiency as he explained the arrangements that had been made and what their itinerary would be. But there was something else lying beneath his façade of cool detachment. Ewan couldn't help but sense that Maedhros was actually pleased he was accompanying him to Egla Tir. If he had to, Ewan would have to admit that he was pleased to be going as well. It was an adventure after all. He slowly closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on the soft mechanical hum around him.
- 0 -
Maedhros could feel Ewan's eyes on him as he pretended to sleep. It was the only way he could escape from the man's continuous questions. Poor Ewan…his nervousness radiated from him like waves of heat. Maedhros could not fault him though for his honest reaction to everything. But he had too many questions that could not be answered right away. So Maedhros closed his eyes and feigned sleep. Feigned because he knew he would not find rest any time soon. The excitement of finding the next heir did not obscure the fact that Richard Matthews was going to die soon. Powerless to prevent it, Maedhros would once again have to face the mortal reality of all the heirs of Egla Tir.
Earlier, Maedhros had tried to take Ewan's mind off his inquiries by asking him about his family. However, it was more than a ruse; Maedhros was very interested in the subject. His encounter with Ailsa Kincade had awoken memories long buried. Memories that still brought him great pain and longing. She indeed had Elizabeth's eyes. Not just the color…no…he had also recognized the same flash of intelligence and independence of spirit that had also belonged to Elizabeth. Maedhros smiled as he remembered that spirit.
- 0 -
The cave had been used by the old religion. An ancient goddess had laid claim to the pool and waterfall in times so long ago, folk could no longer remember. Worshipers regularly left offerings and prayers around the pool in hopes of her blessings or counsel. Sadly, the cave was eventually deserted when the new religion spread throughout the county and began to frown on such heathen practices. Abandoned and forgotten, it eventually became a wonderful private sanctuary for a lonely young girl to come with her lantern and book scrolls to dream away her time.
At ten years of age, Elizabeth was the last surviving child and heiress of the House of Bramford. Surviving both her father and older brothers after they were slain in the last battles of what would be called "The War of the Roses." She was the last child of her mother, Margaret, an heiress in her own right. Elizabeth lived with her mother in a place called Cornwall, in the reign of the English king called Edward, the fourth of that name.
In the mystical cave, Elizabeth was able to envision the tales her mother had told her of faerie folk and such. Imagining tales of legendary knights and their ladies. However, even her imagination could not have prepared her for the sight she beheld one bright summer's morning.
And what a sight he must have presented to the frightened girl. His dirty face bloodied and bruised. A man who was both strangely dressed and strangely spoken, shouting at a patch of brilliant light over the cave pool. Much later, she would tell him how she had run from the cave, and had taken refuge in the nearby wood. Watching him from the safety of the trees, she saw him collapse on the ground as if struck by some unseen hand. She wanted to go to him, because he was obviously injured and needed help. The strength of her compassion had overcome her fear and she left the trees, quietly walking over to the damaged warrior.
Maedhros' heart swelled with the memories. Remembering the comfort of those tiny hands as they offered what help they could. She had bound his wounds as best she could and would not leave him until she was sure he would rest in the safety of the cave. She came back every day bringing him food and medicines to help him heal. Always taking him out into the sunshine as if instinctively knowing it would aid in his recovery.
Maedhros remembered very little of those first visits. The pain he was going through was more than just physical. A deep depression darkened his soul, clouding his mind with untold misery. Much of the time, he sat staring off with unseeing eyes. He tried to understand what had happened to him, but he could find no relief. Without instruction or insight, he could not fathom what he was supposed to do. The lack of any answers made him sink deeper into his own silent prison. The only sound penetrating the thick black walls of his lost hope was the occasional faint song of a small bird. As his mind fought the madness living inside his head, something made him hold on to that sound…trying desperately to salvage his reason.
Many days passed until one morning his senses began to awake once more, and he found himself being lead out into the sunshine. He realized the song of the little bird penetrating his despair was very much like the voice of the young human girl leading him. As she chattered away, he knew it was the sound of her voice that was taking his mind into the light as well. Her words were still unknown to him, but something made him cling to each one of them as they soothed his tortured thoughts.
It was she who made him realize he could not wallow in his self-pity. If he was indeed being punished, why was this child allowed to continue to give him such comfort? He decided he would have to seek answers through her; and with that, he came to rely on her visits more and more. He began to speak again, but she was still unable to understand him. Finally, one day, she brought teaching scrolls and began to slowly introduce him to her language. With her compassion equal to his need and the establishment of understood words between them, there formed the beginnings of friendship…and the renewed promise of hope.
- 0 -
Maedhros shook his head. NO! No more walks amongst his memories tonight. None of the memories could be trusted not to touch on old scars. He finally silenced his thoughts, and glanced at Ewan. The man was asleep, glasses perched on the end of his nose; his unread book was still open on his lap. Maedhros stealthily took the book and retrieved Ewan's glasses from his nose, putting them both in the seat pouch in front of the sleeping man. He reached up and turned off the overhead light. Still watching the sleeping figure in the dimness of the cabin, Maedhros sighed. What will Ewan Kincade do when he finally has all his answers?
- 0 -
- 0 -
FOUR DAYS LATER –
With Earl curled up on her lap, Ailsa sat in her favorite chair in her father's study. As she rubbed the cat behind each ear, she mused on the last several days. They could only be classified as surreal. Had her father actually flown off with a mysterious man to Cornwall, England? When she left Maedhros and her father at the airport, she wanted to force them to let her come along. She couldn't help feeling that something wasn't right. Maedhros knew more than he led on. But Maedhros was firm, her father was the current heir and only he was to accompany him.
Her father tried to reassure her, but she could tell he wasn't so sure himself. None of it seemed real. Even the call her father made to the house when he arrived in England seemed artificial. He told her everything was fine, and they would be traveling to the estate the next day. A very normal thing to say, but it still sounded off somehow.
She had felt foolish after her father called from the estate enthusiastically describing the grounds, and the beautiful library in the house. He sounded normal and very excited. After lunch, he was going to meet Richard Matthews, and Maedhros was going to go over more of the details of the inheritance at that time. That was two days ago; Ailsa hadn't heard from him since. When she called the number he had given her; she was told that both Maedhros and her father were unavailable. She was becoming very concerned.
She couldn't talk to her mother about her concerns. Her mother was acting as if nothing was wrong, except she was also acting as if her father didn't exist. When Ailsa tried to say anything about the situation, all her mother would say was "That's your father's affair. I'm not involved." She even refused to talk to him when he called.
The only person her mother seemed to want to talk to these days was Ailsa's grandfather in Santa Cruz. Charles Jamison Errington, or "Papa" as Ailsa called him, was a millionaire many times over. Obscene amounts of money were made developing land along the West Coast in the 60's and 70's, and Charles Errington received the king's share. Ailsa loved the old man very much and knew that there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for "his girls." Now, Ailsa's mother talked, sobbed, and complained to him on the phone…in the study, with the door closed…for what seemed like hours on end.
Even Kyle was useless. When she told him about her concerns, he called her a "worrywart." Was she worrying over nothing? Ailsa could only hope he was right.
It was great to finally have the study to herself. She felt closer to her father here amongst his stuff. She'd give anything for the phone to ring. Anything to hear that he was coming home. She absently stroked Earl's fur as he purred on her lap. How she wished she had brothers and sisters. This was too damn much for one daughter.
Suddenly, a taxi pulled up to the house. She lurched from the chair and dashed to the window, ignoring Earl's protests as she dumped him to the floor. She gave a sigh of relief as she saw her father get out of the cab, pay the driver, and walk towards the porch. "Thank God," she said and hurried to the hallway reaching it just as the front door opened.
Her father walked into the house and found Ailsa waiting for him in the middle of the hallway. He put down his small suitcase and raised his arms indicating he wanted a hug. Ailsa happily complied. He held her tightly in his arms, not saying a word. He held her like that for a while, she squeezing him back. Releasing him finally, she looked into his face to see if everything was all right. But before she could ask what the hell he'd been up to, she noticed how tired he looked. In fact he looked as if he hadn't slept for days. His face was drawn and his eyes looked distracted. Ailsa frowned, he actually looked older.
"Where's your mother," he asked.
"Up stairs in your bedroom," she replied. Her father walked past her heading for the stairs.
"I'm so glad you're home," she called after him. He stopped and looked at her. "I'm glad to be home." He smiled, but his voice sounded flat, emotionless.
Just then, her mother came down the stairs, stopping halfway down. "I see you're back," she said, her face emotionless as stone. There was ice in her words and left no doubt in anyone's mind that she was still angry.
Her father drew himself to his full height and stared back at his wife. "Will you and Ailsa please join me in the living room? I have something to say." He didn't wait for a reaction; he turned and walked into the living room.
Ailsa and her mother went into the living room and sat side by side on the dark brown leather sofa. Ailsa's father stood before them. Ewan looked down at the invisible message written on the tops of his shoes. This was a habit of his when he had something difficult to say. No one spoke. Suddenly, Ewan looked at his wife and daughter.
"When the time comes, we'll be moving to England. I've accepted the Egla Tir inheritance."
The only sounds in the room were two sharp intakes of breath from the sofa.
To be continued.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.