Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fiction: "Nict For Ure Selfe" (Not For Ourselves)--a Celtic Tale of Karmic Justice

"Nict For Ure Selfe" (Not For Ourselves) a brief excerpt

"Nict For Ure Selfe."
(Not For Ourselves)
Theresa Chaze

Alyssa struck the match. Instantly, the end burst into flame. She held it to the wick of the white candle until it ignited. Pinching off the match head, she placed on the table. Taking a deep breath, she flipped her long chestnut color braid back over her shoulder; it bounced and swung around her waist. Focusing on her intent, she started the ritual. "Goddesses--Maiden, Mother, Crone I call to thee and ask that you appear to me." Picking up the candle, she held it above the surface of the water. Its glow illuminated just beyond the rim of the black bowl and reflected off the clear surface. "On this darkest of night, grant me the portal to make things right. Let me see clearly the moments of the past, so that I may understand what is happening at last." Tapping the edge with the candlestick, the glass on glass echoed throughout the dark room. The vibration rippled through the water. "As I created a wave in the glass, so I ask you help me with my task." She set the candlestick next to the bowl and placed her hands on either side palms down. "Let me see where his hatred of me had begun, so that his vengeance can be undone. Why he stalks me I know not why, yet I know the answer lies in times gone by. Take me back to the time and place, so that I may end the conflict with haste and grace." Picking up the four raven feathers, she held them above the candle. "Goddesses of the raven and night, who left these feathers as a symbol of your might. I call you now to come me, to create a justice that even the blind may see. I call your forth to this land to guide the karmic hand. For those who have done harm to me, let their reckoning begin now--so mote it be." Placing the feathers equal distance around the bowl, Alyssa paused for a moment to let their energy settle around her.

Stretching her neck side to side, she took a deep breath and allowed her Priestess training to relax her body into a meditative state. The outer world fell away as she sank deeper within her self and started climbing the stairs to her own soul. Into the darkness, the staircase spiraled upward, until she reached the iridescent platform where her Akashic record was held. Suspended in the darkness of endless time, Alyssa looked for a guide to help her. But she was alone. In the past, there had always been someone there to act as a guide to help her face the challenge. Uncertain, she stepped up to the pedestal. If she was to atone for a past error, she would be give direction. However, if she was merely a player as another strutted and fretted through a karmic lesson, than she could do little more than watch. The book lay open before her. On it, fate continued to write. "Book of all my lives, show me karmic tie that echoes into this life." The pages flipped, stopping twice before it came to rest on the life named Shannon Marie Cullen.

The image of a auburn haired young woman lifted up off the page and hovered above. Her heart shaped face still had the softness of youth. Yet the hazel eyes sparkled with old wisdom. She wore her hair pulled back into a long, single braid. Although she seemed familiar, Alyssa felt no emotional connection to her. There was no bond or sense of being between them. Only a faint familiarity like a tune whose melody echoes in the back of your mind, yet you cannot remember the words or the context in which you heard it. She reached out to touch the image; it reached back. Yet before their fingertips touched, Shannon Marie vanished only to be replaced by a three dimensional screening of wooded forest. Rich and lush it sported multiple shades of green, tans and browns as the forest became fields and forest once again. As her perspective changed, Alyssa felt herself zooming to focus on the scene that was most important. Yet it was more than just pictures and sounds. The smell of the fields and rushing of the river below sparked memories and long sleeping emotions. No matter where her life led her, she could never find the safe sense of home. Fear always kept her from letting her roots grow too deep. She had never understood. Her childhood was no better or worse than anyone else's. Yet as her spirit drew closer, the familiarity once again made her crave the comfort of home.
Through breaks in the leaves, she saw two girls running quickly. She knew who they were, yet she didn't feel connected. Instead, like a moderated film, she watched them from above. Instead recalling her own memories, the information flowed to her in unspoken words and images as if someone was narrating their story to catch her up with the story.

Shannon Marie ran breathlessly up the glen, quickly followed by her younger sister, Rachael. Although a year and two months younger, Rachael looked more like Shannon Marie's twin. Both girls favored their Scottish heritage with their flaming hair and outspoken temperaments. Their two older sisters, Elizabeth Marie and Katherine Anne favored their mother's French heritage both physically and in temperament. Fair-haired beauties they openly used their feminine assets to manipulate others to get what they wanted. The plain spoken mannerism of the patriarch of the family along with his two youngest daughters frequently came into conflict with the matriarch and the eldest sisters' elitism as they boasted of their unclaimable link to the French throne. They refused to see that no matter which man laid down with the mother, the child could lay no claim to parentage unless they were acknowledged by both the father and family. Jacqueline Marie Katherine de Medici may have lay with the King of France, but the daughter they created was conceived above the sheets--not beneath them. Jacqueline refused to be silenced at court about the parentage of her growing child within her. It was the reason Marie marked her for death. But instead of a curse, the midnight escaped to Scotland became a blessing as the people's revolution sought out the privileged nobles.

In the highlands, Abigail Marie Katherine de Medici was born without a father; the fortune and power of the de Medici family hid the stain, but was never washed away. Having valuable connections in the English and Italian courts, Jacqueline was received as her family station required. Eventually she attained a small estate and fitted herself into the region. Unlike the women born in Scotland, Jacqueline, followed her de Medici heritage, keeping control over her assets and her life. But it was her wit and cleverness, which turned the small estate into one of the most prosperous in the Parish. It was the second reason Abigail was never considered a suitable match for any of the legitimate Clan heir. The heads of clans refused to allow a match unless the son would take total control of the estate and fortunes. Jacqueline refused to relinquish her power. Abigail resent her mother for it. Richard Connell had approach her with an offer of marriage; he was the second largest estate holder in the Parish and under consideration to become the next Parish Chief. Jacqueline refused and arranged a match with Shawn Jacob Michael Cullen. Only he was willing to break with tradition. Instead of insisting on control, he offered himself as steward to Jacqueline, claiming nothing for himself and agreeing to allow her to chose who inherited the de Medici affluence. The eldest son of Michael James Cullen he saw Abigail as an opportunity to restore his clan's fortunes. Reluctantly Abigail agreed; his family estate was not as large as the Connell, but his clan connection opened the path to gain legitimacy and a title. The match was made for the benefit of both families.

Shannon never thought of Seanhair as a woman of wealth and power, only as her Grandmother. None of that interested her, no matter how Seanhair attempted to entice her. She loved hearing stories about France before the revolution, but for some reason, both she and Papa were more concerned about her to becoming more aware of estate business. The month before she officially starting attending to estate business independently. Her decisions carried nearly as much weight as her father's.

Alyssa felt the connection Shannon Marie had with her father. It drew her closer to the young woman for it was something she had always wanted and never had for reasons that were beyond her control. The richness of their love bond awakened her own sadness and sense of loss. He had died before she was born. The only things she knew of him was what her older sister told her. Their mother had stubbornly refused to talk about him. Without warning, Alyssa reached out to more fully connect with the young red head. Suddenly she felt the grass beneath her feet and the breeze on her face. She was no longer an observer, but part of the drama and seeing through Shannon's eyes.

The strange feeling again crept up on Shannon Marie and she stopped half way up the hill. The strange awareness seemed to be happening more often. At first, it was only in her dreams that she could sense spirits around her. The feelings kept getting more intense and harder to ignore. But this time it was different. In a way familiar. Papa had told her that her Aunt Margaret had the same gift. She could see the Earth Folk and the spirits who had not yet crossed over. She asked Bridget to bless her with the same gift; the night of the next full moon, she had her first dream. Since then, the encounters with the dead had become nightly. Sighing, Shannon shook her head, trying to clear the thoughts. But instead of vanishing the image of an older woman with reddish hair reached for her. Her greenish eyes were so familiar, yet she had never seen them before. She was not afraid, yet she was reluctant to take her hand. The spirit of the raven flew between them and the woman backed away, but did not leave.

Suddenly Alyssa felt herself being pulled away. She remained connected, yet she was no longer in direct contact with Shannon Marie. The emotional bond that had started to form had been thinned, but not broken.

The raven circle and flew back towards them. Shannon followed its flight and it brought her attention back to the hillside. She did not know why her mind filled itself with such things. It was almost as if someone was trying to give her wisdom she was not ready to understand. Each time the feeling passed, she felt that something important had happened, yet she was unable to see how it in fit in her life. She slowly started to climb the hill again. It was like the lessons Seanhair was teaching her about the lands and court. It did not interest her, but her grandmother's behavior told her that the lessons were important. None of the information was new. It was all old. Yet, it seemed so essential the closer she got to her seventeen birthday. Suddenly there were no more stories or gossip about the other clans' secrets or stories about the French court, but a constant testing of what she had learned about the estate.

Reaching the crest, she caught up with Rachael. Shannon Marie pointed to the gathering at the bottom. "I told you Papa would make them wait for us!" She readjusted her crossbow, freeing it from the fold of her breeches. Her attire was another point of contention between their parents. Breeches, boots and wool shirts were not proper dress for ladies. Father always snapped back that if she had provided him with a son, he would have left the girls to her raising. But she had not, so she needed to be content with the two older girls. The two younger were his to raise as he saw fit. Shannon Marie was grateful he had always won. The thought of being turned into court pony turned her stomach. She disappear into the marshes first.

"Hot damn!" Diverting from the path, Rachael leaped a fallen log for no other reason that it was there and ran down towards the gathering at the bottom.

Shannon Marie stopped for a moment. The sun was warm on her face. The lush greenery of early summer was old enough to be fully developed, yet young enough to still have a multitude of shades of green. For a moment, she felt homesick as if she had been away for a long time. She blinked and the feeling vanished as quickly as it had come.

As with the island and their people, the greenery was young and old at the same time. She did not regret stopping to honor the forest peoples and her ancestry even if had made them late. It was part of her tradition. Leaving them bits of food and coins every full moon in their circle was such a small thing, but it was enough to honor all those who had gone before. She was happy and at peace.

Below, parish men and youths were preparing for May Day. It was their time to boast and show off their skills with bow, horse and sword. Only the best could chase the spring maiden in hopes of marrying her. Last year, Papa had persuaded the Parish Chief to allow her represent the family in some of the events for the younger boys. She had done well coming in second with her cross bow and third with her sword. This year she planned to be first. She still missed working with her bow. But she was never able to compensate for the budding impediments as she grew older. It hurt terribly when she released the bowstring and it hit her chest. She switched to the crossbow. Michael had teased her so she pushed him face first into the river. He jumped up sputtering. Rachael and Scott had laughed at them both when he eventually caught her and paid her back in kind. Rachael was going to be able to compete this year with her staff. It would be her first time.

Scott had been sent to the monastery, not for religious reasons, but to get him the education he would need to properly represent the Parish and his clan. No longer did the English court respect the old ways. In order to gain the regard of the English, they needed a representative that spoke their language and understood their customs, while still being linked to the Parish. Scott was chosen for his instinctive good nature and quick mind. He knew how to get around the monks, while still being able to keep his faith and learning everything he could from them.

Shannon Marie sighed. They all missed him; Rachael had not been the same since he rode off. The two of them had a soul connection. Although it had been stretched, it had not been broken. At night, they visited each other in their dreams. Once Shannon had been awakened by Rachael talking in her sleep; at the foot of Rachael's bed, Scott stood, watching her sleep. When he saw her, he smiled and vanished like a ghostly apparition.
Shaking her head, she cleared the gloomy thoughts from her mind. It was going to be a glorious day. In the afternoon, she would compete; that night, she was going to be presented to court. Seanhair was going to announce she was naming her legal heir to the de Medici titles and estates. Even with her little knowledge of court, she knew it was going to be a rude surprise to many.

From below, Papa called her name and waved her to come join them. For a moment, she stood there looking at him as if she was seeing him for the first time. He could not be considered tall, yet he as not short. His posture was that a proud man, who knew the meaning of work and warfare. Held back in a silver clasp, his chestnut color hair hung just past his shoulders. A full beard partially covered his oval face. Across the distance, she could not see the bluish-green of his eyes, yet she knew they held an equal amount of love and impatience. Shawn Jacob Cullen liked order; she never managed to meet his standards, but he loved her anyway. Smiling, she treaded down the path. The bushes gently brushed against her like angel wings as she quickly joined them on the field. Each of the clans were separated in a semi circle around the field of combat. Although it was called combat, the only event which permitted physical contact was the for the young men who had earned enough points to compete for the spring maiden. But that was not for the younger competitors; only those who had been invited by respect or by winning the challenge ever learned what happened deep with in the forest. But Shannon had no interested what the rutting beasts, as Papa called them, did in the forest on Beltane night; her only concern was making Cullen clan proud.

"You were late my little Elf." Papa chided loud enough for the others to hear.

"Tonight is the full moon." Shannon looked up into his bluish green eyes. "I needed to honor our ancestors and tonight I won't be able to."

He winked. "The Clan Elders are doing you a great courtesy. You need to honor them by arriving on time. You dishonor our clan by making us all wait."

"Yes, Papa." Shannon nodded and walked to the judging table where the other elders were gathered. She stood before them and slightly bowed. "I have dishonored my family by my tardiness. I was honoring my ancestors. That isn't an excuse. How may I make amends?"

"Heathen! We waited for nothing." Richard Connell grumbled. "She should be back with the rest preparing the feast!"

Shawn Michael clenched his fists and marched to stand beside her, squaring off with the slightly older man. "My daughter was paying respects. As she was taught."

Shannon Marie turned to face the Parish Elder, hoping that the wind would not change and she remained up wind of him. His particular branch of the Connell family had only a passing familiarity with water and soap. If he had not left the old ways, he would have not complained so loudly about her honoring them. Her eyes drifted down to the scar on his right hand and arm where he had scraped off the tattoo of the horned snake. Feeling him staring, she met his hard hazel eyes again; only this time she refused to look away. "I meant no disrespect to the Parish council." She kept her voice even, but her fear made her voice quiver.

"Many of us still follow the old ways." Shawn stepped between them, pushing his daughter behind him. "Both religions are honored. Both are accepted equally."
"That will soon change." His short hair glistened in the sunshine as he jutted his chin forward in defiance.

Rumor had it that he cut his hair short to please the Christos; through them, he intended to steal control over the Parish. Shannon Marie heard her father and Seanhair talking. But they never seem to finish the conversation once they knew she was listening.

"Silence!" The Parish Chieftain's voice ran clear among the trees. Laird George Francis Macdonald was the eldest member of the Clan council; a man of age, yet he retained the aura of strength and distinction. The passage of time had settled on his shoulders. No longer was he the young warrior who fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Nearly twenty years before, he became chief when his uncle, Ronald Connell died without an heir. Laird Malcolm Michael Howard Connell's choice was much debated before his death, but afterwards his wishes were not challenge by anyone besides his nephew, Richard. Fifteen years younger than George, he had to settle for being second in line for both the Parish Chieftain and head of his clan. Laird Macdonald focused on his shorter kinsman and continued, his voice unwavering; time had not begun to touch his dynamic spirit "Your objection was noted and dismissed. I am still head of our clan and this parish. You will be silent!"

Even through she knew the Connell clan was a close cousin to the Macdonald--George and Richard were blood cousins, Shannon Marie could see little resemblance. Although they had the same black hair and angular features., the Macdonalds were lean and strong, being used to hard work both with the plow and sword. Many members became courtiers in the British court and in times past, the French. Although the Connells were still lanky, their cousins towered over them both in statue and breeding. Whereas the Macdonalds and the other cousin clans valued learning, the Connells recognized nothing but brute force. Last year, there was more than a little teasing of Keith Connell. He was nearly two years her senior, yet she still had the height to look him in the eyes. She had not heard what was said, but laughter caught her attention. Suddenly Keith spun around, his white knuckled fist flying towards her face. Michael had jumped in front of her and took the punch. He was knocked backward a step, but did not fall. His exposed shoulder redden at the point of impact, but did not bruise. His cousins laughed harder. Keith sulked away, rejoining the elders members of his family clan. That next morning several of the Macdonald's horses were found with their throats cut.

Richard Connell bowed his head but there was no respect in his posture. He bushed the white carnation and turned to speak quietly with his many sons. There were rumors that his branch of the clan had tried several attempts to reawaken the old feuds by inciting the passions of the younger, members of his clans and others. He promised them power and rewards beyond their imaginings. Several younger men left their clans and joined in the private discussion. Their voices rumbled together, becoming a single unintelligentable protest. Squaring his shoulders, Laird Macdonald stared at them. His green-gray eyes stared silently at them. One by one most discreetly separated themselves and returned to stand behind their family elders. Those that remained did not seem to notice their ranks had diminished.

"Child, rejoin your clan." With wave of his slender fingers, he carelessly dismissed her and walked to the center of the semi-circle. "Greetings Kinsman and Clans. We have a glorious day!"

"Eye, Laird Macdonald." Quickly, Shannon bowed and looked up at her father. "Did I do it right Papa?"

He nodded as he led her back to the Cullen clan. "Stay away from Connell and his brood. He is--is unpredictable."

"He's a horse's ass" Seanair grumbled, brushed back his graying red hair and looked over his shoulder at the Connell family talking in a tight bunch. Unlike Laird Macdonald, age had weighed heavily upon her father's father. A blacksmith by necessity, his hands were scared and roughened by decades labor. Although Shannon Marie had never seen him work the anvil, she heard stories. It was said that the people of the forest once came to him late one evening, asking him to repair one of the rune blades of old; it was said to be one of same family of runic swords as Excalibur. For his service, they blessed him and his line with special gifts of sight.

"Why do they hate us so?" Shannon looked from Papa to his father. "And if they do, why are you letting Elizabeth Marie marry William Connell? They don't really like each other."

The men looked between one another and Papa shook his head. Kneeling down, to her eye level, he tilted her head up to further focus her attention on him. "There are reasons, child. Reasons you cannot understand. But it is necessary to make peace. Your sister understands and she is willing. All you need to know is she will receive the title, but you, my little elf, will keep the land because it belongs to your Seanhair. Not to me. "

"Shawn Jacob, it's a terrible thing to do the child." Seanair continued to grumble. "It will only make it worse--for everyone."

"It is her Seanhair's wishes. I am keeping my word to her." Shawn stood. "Besides the Laird Macdonald gave his word--"

"The man is dying and that ass Connell intends to usurp Parish leadership. We all know it--but the words never seem to be spoke."

"Shannon Marie," Papa cut him off and turned to her, "they are getting ready for the archer competition."

"I'm not entered. Only the crossbow."

"Go watch them any way."


"Go child." Gentle Shawn Jacob pushed her toward the other contestants. "For now you needn't hear these things. There will be time enough later."

Shannon Marie slowly walked away, trying to hear what they did not want her to know. But they said no more until she was out of earshot. She did not understand what they meant. How was Papa making it worse? Seanair said he was doing something terrible. Papa would never. And never to a child, especially his own. Tossing her braid over her shoulder, she dismissed the conversation as her misunderstanding.

The connection between them was suddenly severed. No longer in the spiritual realms, Alyssa snapped awake. The phone rang in the other room. She ignored it. This late, it could only be one person and she had no wish to listen to his abuse.

The candle had burned itself out. The room was dark except for the light shining in through the window. She wasn't sure if it was the sliver of the moon or the streetlight at the corner. It didn't matter. Awkwardly, she stood and stretched the kinks out of her limbs. She wondered how late it was. Not that it mattered. It's not like she had to worry about being at work the next morning. No longer satisfied with following and harassing her, Deputy Nevel's intimidating tactics spread to her employer and co-workers. Alyssa complained verbally and in writing, as did her co-workers. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. After nearly a month of reasonless traffic stops and searches, she found herself suddenly no longer welcome at the clinic. Officially, she was laid off, but she had no expectation of returning. Too many had been frightened; too many blamed her for it. Alyssa understood. If she could magically escape the torment she would--that was the purpose of the ritual.

Walking back into the living room, the bright lights temporarily blinded her. She blinked until her eyes adjusted to the light level. The clock read 1 am. She had been away for almost an hour. Her stomach growled. On her way to the kitchen, she checked the answering machine. She had missed three calls. She checked the caller Id. All three had been blocked. Reluctantly she picked up the micro-recorder and pushed record. "August 1, 2007." She pushed play on her answering machine.

The computerized voice responded. "Three new messages. First message receive 12:20 am."

The familiar male voice followed. "I know your there. Answer the phone bitch!" He paused. "Not answering the phone won't help you. I'll burn your house down around you! Thou shall not suffer a witch to live!" He hung up.

"Message received 12:30 am."

"Are you going to call your devils to torment me. It won't work. You'll be dead and they'll be gone. Just one bullet." The call ended.

"Message received 12:55 am."

"You can't hide--"

Suddenly another voice spoke in the background. "One adam six--"

The phone call abruptly ended.

Alyssa shook her head and turned off the micro-recorder, putting in the drawer. Calling the police and reporting the threats would do no good. The blue wall protects its own, especially when it's the sheriff's nephew. But there are other ways of getting justice. Every one of the calls had been combined with pictures of the six deputies involved and put up on YouTube complete with the full names, ranks and departments. The codes to the videos had been shared not only in the Wiccan communities but well beyond into individuals' blogs and new articles. No matter what happened to her, their names would be forever tagged with the details of the festival and the telephone messages.

No longer hungry, she continued into the kitchen and turned on the small light over the stove. She might not want to eat, but she needed to. The harassment and threats did have a bright side; she did loose twenty pounds in the last month and a half since her first encounter with Nevel at the yearly SCA sponsored Renaissance Festival.

It had been mid afternoon when a half dozen stubble headed men forced their way into the festival. Ranging in age from mid to late twenties, they screamed how evil they were and started destroying the displays. On their own, none of them could be considered imposing or threatening, but as a pack, their furor was magnified. They were lanky without much to distinguish them either in the way of looks or personality. The tallest had the darkest hair; the rest ranged from dark brown to blonde. The one of the six came to where she had been reading Tarot cards. Although he was the shortest one of his group, he had the biggest attitude. Walking like a John Wayne wanna-be, he reached over to upturn her table. Alyssa jumped between him and it. He shoved her. She pushed back. He pulled his deputy badge out of the back pocket of his jeans and flashed it in her face, screaming he was going to arrest her for assaulting an officer. Stunned she stepped to the side, but did not give ground. Changing her position brought her downwind of him and she could smell the alcohol, which seem to seep from his pores. Brown haired and hazel-brown eyed, he stared at her with contempt. On the collar of his brown shirt, he wore a confederate flag with blue cross encircle in the center. The rage in his eyes made her flinch. It seemed so personal to him, yet Alyssa had never met him before. How could he hate her without knowing her? He grabbed at her and she stepped out of his reach.

A crowd gathered, heckling, surrounding the six and interceding between Alyssa and her attacker. Two of the uniformed city police, who had been keeping the fundamentalist from harassing the festival goers, arrived and quickly separated them. Nevel screamed that she had attacked him. The crowd shouted him down. Alyssa had marched across the distance and informed the officers she wanted to press charges. The one turned and pointed at the one who attacked her, saying that he was the sheriff's nephew and it wouldn't be happening. The uniformed officers briefly argued with the six before escorting them out. Another city officer, pointed at her and said, "You weren't hurt. Don't push it or you will be." Many sleepless nights those words echoed in the darkness. She hadn't dropped it. They had no right to harass them. Monday morning she had filed an official complaint. Sheriff Nevel had dismissed her grievance and threatened to arrest her for filing a false report. That night the phone calls began. That morning she contacted the newspaper and the prosecutor. She wasn't going to let the matter just simply drop; she had been threatened for no reason and she wanted justice. Two weeks later, she was interviewed by a Detective. On the way home, she was stopped and ticketed for illegal beeping. The harassment escalated.

Opening the refrigerator, she pulled out the bag of cheese and took out a handful of the squares. Zipping the bag closed, she put it back on the shelf and closed the door. It had been almost a month, since the interview. Each time she was harassed, she informed the detective in charge of her case. Although he seemed to be sympathetic, he did nothing. She turned off the light and walked back to her bedroom. Finishing the cheese, she slipped into bed. Trying to find a comfortable position, she tossed and turned. She missed Pixie and Dixie. They would curl up next to her and purr as she fell asleep. She missed them, but she loved them too much to keep putting them at risk. They would stay with her sister until things blew over or she was able to move. Lying alone in the dark, the idea of dropping the complaint seemed real attractive; but she knew that no matter what she did, Nevel wouldn't just let it drop. It was simply going to have to play out until to the end. Spiritually, she reached out to her furkids. Sensing they were safe, she relaxed enough for sleep to over take her.

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