“What do you mean you’re not Eoin of the Fyskar?” Corbin yelled. The hell. Who was this man? White hair hung limply to the man’s thighs. A massive gold torc circled his thick neck. The kilt had been changed for a pair of jeans, and very little else remained to cover the bulk of him. Bands of red tattoos circled his arms. Cold blue flames lit his eyes. His face was long and smooth, his age a confusion.
“Ah mean that ya got the wrong eejit, ya eejit!” the man snarled. He crossed his arms across his chest, his biceps making the bands much larger than was utterly necessary.
“Then who are you?” Corbin pressed, trying to recivilize his voice but knowing he was failing. That was his one good chance at getting the man he needed to communicate with. Corbin paced away and came back to the man. He had lost his timeline. He glanced away and gritted his teeth. “So you aren’t Fyskar, then?” Corbin muttered, not really believing the man would actually treat that as anything to answer to.
“Din’nae say Ah were’nae Fyskar, just nae me lad,” the man conceded. Corbin turned to the man, thoroughly surprised. “Righ Eoin Impundulu Niloofar Fyskar is your son. You’re Bernard?” Corbin tried to pull his brain back into his head.
“Righ…Impundulu Niloofar…? Nah, nae me bairn. He’s White Horse to Osla and Bercilack. Bercilack is clan head…now.” The man looked away, fighting a sudden stretch of emotion that Corbin could easily identify as off-topic.
Corbin drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes. He thought for a moment and grimaced. This was always the fun part, wasn’t it? He turned from the man and opened up the door. “Gonna le’ me out now?” The man looked at the hall with disgust.
“Let’s get breaking your brain outta the way early, shall we, pal?” Corbin left the room, hoping the man would follow him. The man emerged, his footsteps light on the linoleum floor of the warehouse. He looked about the hallways. Plaster, baseboards, the blinding electric light, the smell of cleaner, they could easily overwhelm the senses. The man walked through the hallway, showing complete indifference to his surroundings. He remained silent as he followed Corbin down the stairs to the main floor of the house. They continued into the cafeteria, where Sophia was working hurriedly on her laptop.
She glanced up at Corbin and at the man following him. “Up and about?”
“Ye’r lass has a remarkable shade of red hair,” the man muttered to Corbin.
“And yours is remarkably long for a guy,” she countered.
He fingered the edges of its length that rested at his hand. “I am sorry for your loss.” He bowed modestly.
She looked up at him, confused. “What loss?” she asked, not quite following.
“Ye’ve cut your hair short. Ye must have lost someone very dear to ye in the last year.” He pointed out.
“Ah, na, man, I just like havin’ it short.” She smiled up at him and then turned back to her work. He blinked at her, quite befuddled.
“Come on, I’ve got something you’ll want to see.” Corbin motioned the man through the dining room into a room containing a wide variety of large machines. The man looked around in an utter state of confusion. He had never seen such monstrosities before. He spun slowly to look at the variety of instruments. Then his eyes fell on the table off to one side of the room. “Why is this…” He walked over to inspect the horde. Bern picked up the torc, expecting it to weigh more than it did. He turned it this way and that. “What type of magic…” he looked up at Corbin, his brows furrowed.
“Plastic replica of a torc found in a tomb in Persia,” Corbin supplied, watching the man. “But this…” the man traced the lines of the waves that radiated across the terminals of the torc. “Persia?” The man turned to Corbin.
“Are you really Bernard, sir?” Corbin asked. The man descended on him, fast. Corbin tried to duck out of his reach but found himself thrust suddenly into deep, cold darkness. It smelled of fish and seafoam. The gritty taste of sand invaded his sinuses. He was pushed out onto a beach, the sky a burning red.
“I am the White Horse Bern of the Fyskar, Eoin’s father,” the man stated plainly. Upon his head rested a gold crown of red deer antler, beryl beads, and freshwater pearls. Formal white kilt and robe clung to his form.
“That robe!” Corbin pointed, approaching the man to look at it. “But the one from the tomb was embroidered here!” Corbin pointed to the hemline.
“What tomb, you mad man! The last I saw of my son, his wife was expectin’ a bairn, and he was content with his apothecary,” the man growled. “Where are we and what are ye? Are ye a sorcerer?”
“Nothing of the sort, Bern. I am a scientist from the 31st century. You’re from the 17th. So, there are going to be discrepancies here,” Corbin offered. “Now, how are we here?” Corbin motioned to the scene around him.
“Talent of the Fyskar. Ye’re up here.” The man tapped his head.
“Surely not. Telepathy?” It shouldn’t have been possible.
“Now what’s this ‘bout my son bein’ dead.” The man pushed the tension of his question around Corbin, lacing him with barely concealed rage.
“Can you look into my mind?” Corbin asked, curious. He seemed almost impervious to the man’s emotional state.
“Ye lookin’ f’r pain?” the white-haired man threatened, descending on the man once more. This was going to hurt. Corbin stilled his squirming and ducked his head, squaring his shoulders. He had expected a slug across the jaw, honest enough. Instead, the man pressed his hand on Corbin’s forehead. Corbin almost buckled under the sharp blade that stripped his neurons. His memories pulled and pushed as a wave; his eyes felt too large for his skull. Bern dropped his hold on Corbin who subsequently sank into the sand, pushing his head into his hands, laying himself prone on the beach. He felt like he had burs stuck inside his frontal lobe and razors at the medulla oblongata. Death was a close second to this pain, he figured.
“He had children, three that looked to be Bercilack’s and twins of his own. I don’t know about the other three,” the man smiled, sitting down next to the writhing blond. “It wears off af’er a bit,” he reassured.
“That’s kind of you to say,” Corbin hissed.
“He ended up workin’ f’r a prince in some place you call Persia and was buried in old age?” the man asked.
Corbin could do no more than lie at the man’s feet and look at the scuffed leather. He closed his eyes against the brilliant sky, willing his temples to stop throbbing. “How do you know it was old age? And kids?” he finally was able to push the thought past a tongue that felt too thick, too dry in his mouth.
“Cause he was buried painted in blue, not ochre. Those jars at the end of his workbench that held hair?” Bern pointed out the spot in Corbin’s memory of the tomb. Corbin nodded, confused. “The ones with baby teeth were from his children. The ones without were from adults that he cared for. Blond was Osla; I’d recognize it anywhere. The mousy brown had to be Bercilack. It’s the same colour as his father’s. I don’t know about the deeper brown, the red braid, or the two bottles of black locks, but they were from adults. One of the black hair locks and the twins had not died before Eoin passed on. They didn’t have spirals of blue traced up the bottles. Eoin must have suffered horribly to have buried his husband and wife and three of his children before himself. I understand his sorrow.”
“We were able to obtain DNA records from each of the strands. The black hair was from two of the royal line, half brothers. The dark brown was a woman from a McCloude clan line and the red was a male from the McKinnon clan line. The brunette children were two boys and a girl. What’s the difference between blue and ocher,” Corbin breathed through the pain. It raged across his shoulders and down his spine.
“Cause ochre and blue are f’r the brutal ‘n violent ends when the soul needs a latch ta take them over. Blue is ta send the spirit off on the river to the edge of The Forest that they came to already.” The man leaned back into the sand and looked up at the gulls winging their way across a cloudless sky. “Ye went af’er my son ’cause you needed someone ta talk for ye,” the man contemplated the concept. He rolled the idea around, not sure what to do with the information.
“Apparently, you can do the same thing he did.” Corbin swallowed as the pain abated.
“White Horses could always do this. Why’d you nae seek out one a’ my future bairns?” The man asked, amused.
“Because it seems that Eoin and his sons were the last of your generations. The sons married into the Persian royal house and produced quite a buttload of kids, but none of those still alive shows the same thing you do.” He was just at the point of thinking he might be able to sit up without his stomach turning itself inside out.
“Last…” the man pinned him down with his cold blue eyes.
“The deed of the Fyskar and a signet ring were found in an old city that had been slated to be deconstructed and turned into a tourist resort in the 1970’s. No one has ever heard of your clan, at least, not in recent times,” Corbin supplied as he forced his gut to stop rebelling and his ears to stop ringing.
“We’re small and few, but I cannae believe we’d die out that easily. We’re a quiet, non-combative clan. There should’ve been no reason…” Bern looked away out to sea.
“Not sure what to tell you. Documents have been lost. It’s been quite a few years.” Corbin dragging in a steady breath.
“Why do you need a communicator, Corbin?” Bern pinned the man with a look just bordering on contempt.
“A war the likes of which you’ve never experienced, I can guarantee that, is accelerating toward a destination that’s looking more and more like we need to get off planet soon. I’m collecting people,” he blinked, knowing that this elaboration was going to take too much time, but resigning himself to the task. He liked it better, the last few people Sophia and he had collected, when they spoke English and took a tranq in the first five seconds of meeting. They were the first ones to be put in stasis.
“Some of those people don’t speak your language…” the man surmised. Corbin nodded. Bern had a fast wit about him.
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