A Tinkerer's Aspect
For two weeks running, Ryley has had dreams of the desert. Not the Sahara Desert, but rather the cactus and rocky deserts of North America. Maybe it was watching a couple of American Westerns recently. Maybe it was the tourists from Texas, a whole gaggle of them, who roamed through Dublin and tried to speak with faux accents. Any road, the desert has been calling him, incessantly.
Dreams of the American desert have haunted him. Too weird to talk about, of course. That is what makes the next bit all the more weird.
"Hey, Ryley. Got an odd question for you, lad," Peter, the senior of the four Ferrell brothers, says, one late April day, having called Ryley into the small Ferrell Construction company's offices.
"You ever get a desire to see America? Got a subcontracting gig lined up for some rich American type who wants to renovate an authentic Irish pub someplace in America in a city called Scottsdale. It's in the desert, so I wouldn't expect Scottsdale to have a lick of green within a hundred miles of it."
Ryley sits down opposite Peter and the old battered office desk, crammed with orderly little piles of paper, envelopes and ancient rotary dial phone. "An Irish pub in America? It seems to me if it's an Irish pub in America isn't it probably already a few shades past authentic?" he says with a grin.
"I seem to remember something about Scottsdale in some old blues song or maybe that's Rosedale. Arizona is it? What sort of rich American is this guy? Is he some sort of Howard Hughes fella with more money than God who feels that he needs some Guinness right out his front door? Is this just a paint job and he wants a few signs from down at Shelly's on the wall by a dart board?"
Peter shakes his head. "The American is the son of a son of Ireland, lad. Even if he has the bad sense to live in the desert. So, it is likely that there is some piece of this that is authentic."
He leans back in the chair again taking a breath, "Ireland in the Desert? Maybe it's the beginnings of a theme park for wanna-be footballers and soccer players. Maybe you should show me what you have on this. How big of a project is this after all? And just how much money are we talking about?"
"Here, let me show you, Ryley." Peter starts pulling out quotes and papers. To Ryley's eye, without deep study, it seems that Kyle O'Bannon does have at least a superficial desire to get the details right. There is a bar on the site already, but he wants to radically expand and transform it into a pub that could be found in Dublin.
"As far as the money, this character is willing to pay for room, board, air fare and double-time for you. He's serious about having someone 'authentic' to do the work. Word on the street, Ryley, is that he's contacted a few other firms here in Dublin with the same offer. I don't think any of them are going to wait long before someone takes him up on this offer before he changes his mind. Or maybe that's what the desert does to your brain out there."
Ryley looks over the figures that Peter has handed him. "Well it's not so terrible an idea I suppose. There might be something to do for the guy to give him that hometown pub feel all the way across the pond. I still might have to pinch a dart board from Shelly's on my way out of Dublin though," he says with a grin.
"Just don't get caught," Peter cautions Ryley.
"Well Peter, the money is fine sure enough and if he's shopping around we had best bite before the others. I suppose it's a good opportunity for us so we might as well. It'll take me a day to rip down my bike to ship it with me. I'll cover that end if I have to, so don't worry about that cash if he won't pay it. It seems a shame to not have my bike in a place that's warm all the time and mostly flat besides. Go ahead and ring him that we'll take the job and let him know I'm shipping a big heavy box with me that's not my tools. I'm curious why you're sending me and not one of the other lads?"
"A weird feeling, Ryley," Peter says. "Sometimes, I just get the feeling that one of the lads is right for a job, or is absolutely wrong. Remember how you were pissed I didn't send you to work on Council member Joan Collins' house? I just didn't think you were right for the job."
He stabs the paperwork with a fat finger. "This, though, you're my first and really my only choice. If you had said no, I'd let one of the other firms grab the business and call it a day. I just have the feeling that you belong on this, Ryley."
Ryley flips through the papers again, "It's gonna be a nice place when it's done I have to admit." He puts the papers back on Peter's desk. "Yeah I remember that job. I wanted that job bad. My dad had built part of the place and was hoping to look around at it and do some work. Ya, steamin' mad even when I was piss drunk at Shelly's throwing darts with some of the boys. The hell of it was that you were right, of course. Yeah, ever since then I never asked a question about who does what on a job. You got a feel for folks and the right tool for the right job."
Ryley stands up from the old chair, "Well, I better get home pack and get my bike taken apart. I'm not sure how all this works. Are you going to call him and our patron will take care of the flights and all of the sundry details? If I need to book my own flight and the like then ring me on my cell."
"I'll have my niece, Paul's daughter Julia take care of all that," Peter says. "She likes to make all those arrangements on the Internet. She's very American that way. I'd send her with you, since she's America-mad, but her fiancé might not take too kindly to that idea."
Ryley heads to his apartment, but on the way he stops off at Shelly's. Shelly's is a decent-sized pub where there is whiskey, darts and often an open mike where there is frequently music and some damn fine poets and songwriters. Ryley is always ready to help play with some one if they need an extra guitar or harmonica. He has a pint and inquires whether Shelly, the aging pub owner and old college literature teacher, will actually sell him a dart board and some darts to take with him on the project.
Over a pint, Shelly looks hard-eyed at Ryley.
"You want to buy my only dartboard. The one that's been in Shelly's since the War? If I didn't think you were a good kid, Ryley Coyne, I would think you were daft, especially since you can get a dartboard in any store in the city."
"Tell me why you want mine," Shelly says.
Ryley sucks in air through his teeth, “I’ll grant you, Shelly, it’s got a lot of character but you’re the real character of this place. I know it’s a rare thing but I have this job, in the States no less, to help build this,” he gestures around widely with his pint. “I was thinking this guy doesn’t want a copy of an Irish bar he’s lonely for home and he wants to build something that has the charm and old world grace of this place. I figured since it was unlikely a bloke like you would be movin’ to the States that to give him a chance at success I’d try the next best thing. If there is something you have an eye on for a trade I’d do the best I can to make it happen. It’s the best I can offer since money won’t do for something like this.”
"Hunh." Shelly is clearly charmed by Ryley's explanation. He scratches his chin as he regards Ryley. "The States. Almost sounds like you're movin' there yourself, Ryley. You know what they say. You stay in Dublin or you emigrate. Ya don't go anywhere else. Is this true? You emigrating to the States?"
Ryley leans back from Shelly with a blank look on his face as if the idea is entirely foriegn one to him. He laughs and takes a healthy draught off of his pint, "Move away from Dublin? Shelly you're kiddin' me of course. I am the part of the heart of Ireland and Dublin besides. To emigrate anywhere that isn't Ireland is like moving one step from the glow of heaven itself."
"Yeah, but the glow of heaven doesn't always pay the bills, Ryley," Shelly replies. "Lots of men with your talents and skills emigrate, sad it is to say."
"It's true enough I'm going to the States but it's for a job. And a fine one too. It should net the Ferrell boys and me some fine cash and maybe a bit of local regard. No matter where I am my feet are in Ireland, Shelly." Ryley's voice and expression become passionate for a moment.
Shelly looks mollified and grins.
"I should get home and get things done for this trip. I'm going to take the dart board with me, by your leave." Ryley scribbles down a phone number on some wrinkled paper. "That's my cell phone. You call me when it strikes you what you want for the dart board. I won't be thought of as stealin' from you."
"All right, lad." Shelly takes the piece of paper. "I'll give you a call."
Ryley finishes his pint is a sudden series of gulps and it seems its bring a gleam to his eye. "You keep an eye on those Ferrell boys while I'm gone too. They're solid fellas with a fair desire to drink here. I'll be here for a pint for myself when I get back."
Barring anything else Ryley will head to his small flat and garage and wheel his bike in. He will lay out some tools and then turn on some music. After that it's up the stairs to pack clothes and grab another beer. After that it's time to start working on taking apart the old Indian motorcycle and packaging it up. He isn't concerned for the time it will take and enjoys the simple joy working with tools and deconstructing the old warhorse of a machine. A labor of love to be sure. After that a shower and some sleep.
An hour into working, Ryley gets a message from Shelly. The amount he wants for the dartboard is about twice what he would pay for a new one from a store, which might be considered a bargain given what Shelly could charge.
Ryley makes sure to have the money promptly to Shelly by the morning business hour. No sense in leaving anything to chance on the matter.
After all of the work with the motorcycle, the offer from the Farrell brothers, he has another dream of the desert. In this one, he is riding his motorcycle in the desert again. This time, bizarrely, he is driving right toward an oversized version of the dartboard he has bought.
And then Ryley wakes up.
Ryley sits up in bed with a start and takes a lap around his flat too, scrubbing his eyes with his hands to make sure he is awake. He will go over everything again to make sure he's pretty much prepared and ready to go when he gets the time and the flight information. It occurs to him that he had best call his father as well and let him know that he will be gone. More likely than not he'll be to busy too take the call but best to call anyway.
The dream persists in his mind's eye for a while as he picks up his guitar for a bit. His mind wandering, he is playing errant pieces of old BB King songs. To his four walls he announces, "Well I hope that the dream is just confirmation that this is what I should be doin' and not that some one is aiming at something."
In several days' time, Ryley is waking up, again. This time, however, two things are different. First, no dreams of the desert, dartboards or anything of that nature. And the other thing is, he is waking up from a nap on the last leg of his flight to Arizona. It was a pair of long flights, from Ireland to the city of Atlanta, and from Atlanta across the continent to Arizona. The redness of the desert outside the window as the plane heads toward a landing in Phoenix is proof positive, to Ryley, he is in a different world.
Ryley stands up, stiff from the airplane seats, and tries to move around a little bit while waiting to disembark the plane. He grabs his carry-on bag with his few essentials that he's not willing to be without, mostly his ID, passport, a change of clothes, a beat-up old leather jacket, cell phone and an Ipod, his keys and wallet. Peering out the window to the landscape, he mutters to himself aloud, "Cheer up, I can't be as foreign as all that, right? It's only that it looks like Mars in comparison."
Once landed, and disembarked at the airport, amongst the crush of people looking for luggage, Ryley spots a tall man, dressed in white, holding up a sign. "Farrell Brothers Construction."
Really a stranger to airports, Ryley does his best to avoid the crush and is quite relieved to see someone with a sign. He walks over to the tall man with his hand extended and a smile. "I'm Ryley Coyne. I work for Farrell Brothers Construction."
"Ah, you are the person I am waiting for. I represent Mr. O'Bannon. My name is James Gates." He looks at the sign. "I think my sign is misspelled," he adds dryly, tucking it under his arm.
Ryley will attempt to shake hands with Mr. Gates. "It looks right to me. Besides it did the job which is what matters in this case."
James shakes the offered hand thoroughly.
Ryley looks around the airport a little bewildered. "A whole lot of people used to a different pace than me that's for sure. All I have is this," he holds up his carry-on. "The other boxes I'm hoping are shipped to wherever you're taking me. Or if we are picking them up then I hope you know what you're about in this place. I have to say honestly I'm a stranger to airports. Though I suppose they aren't all that different to train stations."
"Many people are using shipping these days, with the baggage fees being so expensive," James says. "You probably had the stuff shipped to the pub, so that is where I will take you first, before getting you to your hotel." He gestures for Ryley to follow him and he starts following signs that promise parking garages.
"Much appreciated givin' me rides all around. It'll be a great help until I can get my bike put together. What is that you do for Mr. O'Bannon, James? If I'm not being too forward with the first name and all." It occurs to Ryley that perhaps he might have to pay better attention to the details of things - not remembering the first or last name of his employer. He will chide himself that he has become a little insulated and just used to the same old, same old. "You're in a different country now old son, best to pay attention."
"You can call me James. I work for a living," James replies. "I do various errands for Mr. O'Bannon. There is a lot that a man like Mr. O'Bannon needs to get done, and I am one of those people who gets paid to make sure that they're done."
Ryley grins at James. He can't really help it and part of him knows he is stepping over one of those social lines; he has a grin on his face the whole time he says it, "Well, since I'm working for another Irishman and you are clearly a man of action yourself is this like the Irish mob?"
James shakes his head. "No mob out here, except for the occasional FBI witness."
He pauses a beat and then continues.
"I hope you have a change of clothes or three in that, you're not dressed for being out in the desert heat for long," James says. "Fortunately, Mr. O'Bannon is not so cheap as to have me park in the uncovered lots, or else I would suggest a change of clothes right now, Mr. Coyne."
Ryley nods, "A change of clothes and a few of those things that you never want to have to far from hand."
Even so, without going out into the sunshine, the parking garage is like a blast furnace when Ryley and James leave the air conditioning of the airport. James steers Ryley toward a glossy black SUV, but slows his pace.
"There's cold water and soda in the car," James says.
Ryley would get into the (from his impression) big SUV and look around at the interior of the vehicle. The soda comment would likely be a bit strange until he sees that it's Coca Cola or whatever brand it might be. He'll err on the side of water after his walk from the parking lot. "You weren't kidding that's for sure. I'd thought it would be hot but I guess hot in Ireland and hot here in Arizona are two different things."
"Actually, it looks like it is going to be a relatively mild day here," James says. "Only going to get into the low 90s. But you get used to it. It may not be the green hills of Ireland, but I bet you'll love some of our open spaces."
"Mild my ass, my good friend James. As you say I'm hoping to adjust. On the other hand those open spaces that you talk about is exactly why I shipped my bike out here. Dry and relatively flat roads. O brother, I'm lookin' forward to open space to be sure. Different from the Emerald Isle for sure."
James soon starts driving, giving Ryley a ground-eye view of a modern city, much more modern and new than home, sitting in the improbable desert. After a half hour of traveling on freeways and some ground level streets, a distinctly out of place looking pub comes into view, in a stretch of street with an unexpectedly large number of green shade trees.
Ryley tries to pay relative attention where they are going, and tries to track of street names when they leave the airport.
"There's the Green Eyed Girl. Mr O'Bannon told me that when he is finished with the renovations, he'll give it the gaelic name, Cailín na súile glasa," James says.
Ryley shrugs. "A nice name in either case. Hard to say how Americans are gonna take to the Gaelic."
Ryley gets out of the vehicle and looks around the area a bit, and he has to admit to being excited to see the place and the nature of the work that he'll be doing. He follows James' lead to the door and into the place.
The pub, from the outside, looks relatively ordinary. This must be what passes for a pub in America. Inside, the air conditioning hits, so the actual amount of time that Ryley spends in the light and heat is a minimum.
The interior of the Green Eyed Girl looks like a half-remembered vision of an Irish pub. To Ryley, it looks like a good first attempt, but it's not real. There is no age, no history. The bar is too polished, the interior too refined. There are a few patrons enjoying a beer and grill items here and there, but the place is relatively empty.
"I'll go find Mr. O'Bannon, and your stuff. Make yourself comfortable, order a beer and something off of the grill menu. I will be back shortly," James promises, and disappears into the back.
Ryley, ever able to take instruction, sits down at the bar. He takes a look at the beers that are on tap and the other sorts of alcohol that might be on the back wall. His stomach is reminding him that he was on a long flight.
The list of beers are mostly American domestics, and thus perhaps a step or two above water. There are a few European draughts, including Guinness and Harp, but nothing else that is familiar. He does note that there appears to be room for more taps, for an expanded list.
Similarly, the hard liquors are in a relatively limited supply. Again, mostly American varieties, with a smattering of other ones.
He orders a beer, a whiskey with just two ice cubes, that the bartender recommends. For food, a hearty sandwich and some sort of potato, of course.
While waiting, Ryley has a couple of beers and just keeps looking around the place trying to get a real feel for it without any sort of judgement.
Ryley turns out to get about three quarters of an hour of time before Kyle O'Bannon comes out to meet him. This allows him to polish off the lunch, the whiskey (Jameson's, but they didn't have any of the Reserves), and two Harps.
In that time, he has had a chance to look over the lunch crowd come in and out. The place swells and falls in population as people come in, order from the grill, eat, and then leave. Lots of relatively affluent clientele, ties and suits rather than, say, blue collar workers.
As Ryley looks around he begins to wonder. What is it that the heretofore egnigmatic Mr. O'Bannon up to? While it is a far cry from the smaller, close feel of of an Irish pub this seems to be a fine little place turning at least a consistent lunch crowd and selling some drinks besides. What is it he is looking for from the place? At least on the surface there isn't anything that wrong with the place that calls for flying in another son of Ireland.
"You must be Ryley," comes the voice of a large silver-haired man with a accent that has softened from Irish to a more American one. James stands slightly behind him, at his elbow. He offers a meaty hand. "Kyle O'Bannon."
Ryley, as always, is quick to shake a hand and smiles at the big man. "Well sir, it's nice to meet you. Seems like a nice place you got here and I have to say I like the name to be sure.
"If you've flown me all this way you must have somethin' special in mind for the place. I'm ready to talk about what you need and how to make it happen for you whenever you're ready to get started. Your man James here said he would check to make sure my tools and everything has arrived. I even brought something special with me from Ireland to help out aside from any other work I might have to do. A little something from Dublin itself."
His eyes light up at Ryley's last words.
"All of your equipment is here," Kyle says, after a confirming nod from James. "As far as what I have in mind, perhaps we might decamp to my office now and I can show you just what that is. It's a good site, a special site that I have my little bar on here, but it could be so much more.
"There are reasons, Mr. Coyne, why I built a bar in the middle of Arizona, and why I want to make it a real Irish bar here," he says enigmatically.
Ryley can't help but smile at Kyle's enthusiasm and curiosity. "You and I seem to have some things in common. I like your passion and curiosity about things. Let's hope we're not too alike that we drive each other crazy while I'm working for you.
"If you're of a mind I'd love to see the plans that you have for the place and I do have to wonder about what's so special about this desert that you see Ireland in it. Of course, even though James says it's not so warm today I'd like to think that its not the heat that's gotten to you. I'm a curious bugger I suppose and like to be on the inside of how things work."
"I think those answers should be given back in my office, Mr. Coyne," Kyle says. Without a further word, he heads back into the depths of the bar, trusting Kyle to follow him. Beyond is a nondescript office, with a rather ordinary desk, a high-backed chair behind it, and a smaller chair without the high back in front of it. There is a sidebar with a selection of the bar's harder products, some glasses, and a bucket of ice. It looks like an ordinary office, like any he has seen in Ireland.
"Now, then," he says, walking to the side bar, and pouring two glasses of whiskey. He adds a helping of ice to both. He sets them both on the desk, one on his side and the other on what presumably is Ryley's side of the desk.
"You might want to drink that before I tell you the real reason I want to have a piece of Ireland here, Mr. Coyne," Kyle says, sitting down. "Some days I don't believe it m'self."
Ryley looks around the office, then sits in the shorter chair. He takes the proferred whiskey from Kyle O'Bannon and raises his glass for a toast. "Well it seems appropriate, To Ireland, its green hills, winsome songs and brave souls."
Ryley drinks down all of the whiskey and sets his glass on the edge of the desk. "All right, I have to admit that you have me curious as hell about what's going on here. With a good shot of fine whiskey in me I'm hoping that I can handle whatever it is you have to show me. I'm ready for the big reveal."
"Right," Kyle says. "This is why I gave you a drink myself. It turns out, Ryley, that I've had some unusual business partners, who helped me make the money I have, although they are nothing like the stories.
"We call 'em fairies, but they call themselves the Sidhe." Kyle picks up the bottle and offers to pour Ryley another drink.
"And they asked me to make this a real Irish bar, a real home away from home for them," Kyle says. "This place sits on some intersection of power, I don't pretend to understand the half of it. It makes them feel comfortable to come here, even if one of them has a place of his own over in Sedona.
"And here's the real kicker, Ryley. He's the one who gave me your name."
Kyle unlocks a drawer in his desk and pulls out a gold coin. He flips it so that it lands on the desk in front of Ryley. It looks like one of the old coins from a museum in Ireland, but brand new, as if it were newly minted.
For the first time in a long time Ryley has nothing to say, no derisive comment, no inappropriate joke, no silly remark, nothing. His mouth is half hanging open and the empty glass of whiskey is held loosely in his hand. He slowly extends his glass to Kyle, his eyes locked on the coin.
Kyle refills the glass without hesitation or question.
He leans closer to the desk and touches the coin as if it might burn him, but doesn't pick it up. He pushes it around on the desk briefly and then finally seems to remember that there are others in the room. "While it's a good whiskey you can't have had that much of it to make you talk so crazy. Mr. O'Bannon. It leads me in a hurry to think that this is real or you think that these people who say they're Sidhe have convinced you of it. I'm not callin' you a liar mind you, just trying to keep my mind open."
"I understand," Kyle says. "Believe me."
"I have a ton of wisecracks in my head but all I can remember is that it's not wise to mock the Fey. I have a million questions but let's start with this 'guy' who gave you my name and I'm supposing the coin. You say he's a customer of yours? Is there any way that we could meet him? I guess if he lives in Sedona, wherever the hell that is, that means he's not a nightly customer at your bar. Did he give you a name of any sort?"
"He's an infrequent customer to the bar, every time he comes down this way from up north," Kyle says. "I think he prefers the cooler altitude of northern Arizona. Can't quite say I blame him, this heat takes some serious getting used to, especially those of us from the Emerald Isle.
"As far as a name, yeah, he gave me a name. Aenghus."
Ryley muses for a moment. "Aenghus Og, as I learned it. He's the trickster god of the Tuatha, dangerous for his charisma and cunning not as much his strength of arm. If he wants to call himself one of the Sidhe it's not wrong either. The more I think about this and maybe it's the whiskey, the more I questions I have. I'm going to try and list them out with them fresh in my head."
"I'm not as much up on that lore as I should be," Kyle says. "A trickster God." He looks thoughtful as Ryley continues to think.
Running his hands through his hair to clear his head, Ryley says, "What does Aenghus want with both of us and how does he know about me? You said that this place is on some sort of special confluence. Have you noticed anything about that? You said he was one of your business partners,what does that mean, exactly? Are there are other 'unusual' business partners you have? I'm not trying to say anything bad here mind you, just tryin' to put things on the table. You hired me for a job and I intend to complete it; when should I start? Lastly, I'd like to count you as a friend when this is all over, will you shake on that?"
"I'll shake on you starting immediately, as a friend and employee," Kyle says immediately. "And no, I have no other unusual business partners. Just a few people who have invested in the bar, and before ye ask, lad, they are the normal sort, people who have been here for decades in the community.
"As far as the confluence, I've got no skill with that, lad," Kyle says. "They say that sometimes odd things happen in the bar, but nothing that I've ever seen. Nothin' that ever happens around me. Who knows, maybe you will see stuff when you are doing your work. I just know what Aenghus told me."
He pauses a beat.
"And even if Aenghus is a trickster God as you say, his money has been good, and I'm well off enough that improving the bar has been a winning proposition thus far."
Ryley shakes hands with Kyle and nods at him. "All right then. Well I'm glad enough to keep my end up and do the work. I'm guessing that you have some plans of how you want this place to look when I'm done. We can go over 'em and then talk about the time line of when you want things done by. I guess we'll have to keep an eye out for Aenghus and see what he really wants."
"Yes. We'll start in the morning," Kyle says. "Wouldn't be proper to have a man work after such a long trip here," he adds with a grin.
Ryley also grins, sheepishly. "I guess you're right. I'm excited about the work and I suppose the mystery that Aenghus has for us. Thanks for setting me right. I'm sure once I actually settle down some I'll be tired enough after all."
Kyle pauses a beat. "You probably will want to see about getting a stateside license while you are here. In the meantime, you'll get picked up at the hotel every morning, and sent back every evening. 'Sides, heat or not, there is some pretty country 'round here that you'll want to get your eyeballs on, lad. You'll swear the earth was split in two, some places."
"Well you're right, of course. A lot of details to take care of and what you're saying is true. I brought my bike along for just what you're saying. To see some of the sights and enjoy the differences from home. I'll get it together in the next couple of days as we go over your plans for the place. Once I have a good idea of what you want there'll be supplies and the like to pull together too."
"There are plenty of places to go mountain biking around here," Kyle says. "Just remember to take more water than you would have, back in Ireland. Oh, and you will likely want to invest in a good pair of sunglasses.
"Thanks again, Ryley," he says. "I've got high hopes."
Ryley nods. "I have to admit this is a strange duck of a situation but I am excited for the work and I have high hopes as well."
Two weeks later, Ryley has gotten his motorcycle working and has started to explore the immediate area around Phoenix. It is indeed hot here, and the full heat of summer is not in flower yet. The natives seem to just deal with it as best they can, and thus so must Ryley. Lotion, hydration and sunglasses are the order of every day, here.
Then Kyle calls Ryley into the office. At this point, Ryley has been working on redesigning the interior, giving a far less American and more Irish feel to the layout of the bar and tables. The dartboard is already up, and has been used by some of the patrons (mostly, drunk, it must be said). At least the television showing "soccer" games from Ireland and England is a constant reminder of home.
"Old Aenghus sent me a message, Ryley," Kyle says. As it is toward the end of the shift, Kyle doesn't even ask, but pours two glasses of whiskey. "He hasn't been to the bar yet, as well you'd know, but he sent me a letter, all formal like. He'd like you to come visit at his home. He has someone he wants to introduce to you, but the letter doesn't say whom.
"Sedona is a two-hour drive from here. Want a chance to really test out that motorcycle of yours?"
Ryley takes the whiskey from Kyle with a nod of thanks. "Hmm, all formal like? That makes a man curious what an Irish trickster god might be up to. It's possible he's just an eccentric wealthy guy with an old-fashioned name. I'm sure enough curious to meet your business partner since you mentioned him. I'd like to see the letter if you still have it. If mentions a time or date it probably wouldn't do to be late. Two hours on the bike doesn't sound too bad, it should be a good stretch for the bike and myself."
"Sure, I can show you the letter," Kyle says. He opens up a drawer and pulls out an envelope, neatly opened along its major side. He pulls out the yellowish sheet of paper and offers it to Ryley.
I am very glad to see that your establishment has been prospering as of late. It is truly a blessing that you are making it into a piece of the Old Country. My only regret is that commitments and concerns have kept me from visiting as of late. I've been tied up with business that you probably don't even care to understand.
I do want to formally meet the boy, though, Ryley. I'm pleased by your reports that he has been fitting in very well there, even if this is a desert with little of the green hills to remind him of home. I have a relative that is most anxious to meet Ryley, and she would rather meet him here, at my house, than come to the bar. Strangers turning up at the bar to meet him might spook him, you see? And it would be good for me to see the lad as well.
Have him come soon, say, at noon, next weekend? I'm certain you can steer him straight and give him the correct directions to find my holdings here.
Talk to you soon,
Ryley reads the letter twice and hands it back to Kyle. "I have to say it's interesting that he has a relative that wants to meet me. Or maybe he means that it's a relative of mine that wants me to meet."
"Tricky Fae," Kyle says. "You can take it a number of ways. As he no doubt intended for me to do. I wonder if he expected me to show you the letter and have you confused as to what relative he means," he adds.
"That's funny to me because I have a missing relative, you see. It'd be interesting if Aenghus knows my relative or has been 'sequestering' them."
"You have a missing relative?" Kyle says. "Tell me more."
Ryley is a bit sheepish at first but realizes there is nothing to be embarrassed about. "Well, it's my Mom you see. I never really knew her. I know she's alive though," he says, running his hand through his blond hair. "My dad, he's a good guy really, an architect, sculptor and even a bit of a philanthropist. He raised me well enough and put a lot of value in being educated and having a trade that's of value. He's busy a lot and I suppose Americans might call him a distant father but like I said he's a good man."
"There's no shame in any of that, especially not here in America," Kyle says.
"We only ever fought about one thing: my mom. I never knew her at all. He never talked about her. When I would bring her up he would get sad and upset and then we would always argue. He told me it was pointless to look for her and then we would just storm to opposite ends of the house. I did ask him once if she was dead. He gave me a strange smile and said he was sure she wasn't dead. Even though he told me not to, I spent most of my early weekends in college traveling around and searching old town courthouses and hospitals for records that would tell me anything about her. It never came to anything and I guess at this point I have rather given up on finding her.
I have to admit it's a bit confusing to me as well, but I know that some of my family travels so it might be just an aunt or uncle on holiday. He's tricky enough though for such a thing. We'll have to see what he has to say. And well, it's still good for business right?" he adds with a grin.
"It's good for business," Kyle says firmly. "I would appreciate you doing this. Keeping on the good side of the Fair folk is good for you and me both. And maybe this aunt or uncle of yours will be worth talking to. I could use more customers, too, Ryley," he adds with a grin.
Ryley grins at Kyle. "Well of course it's good for business, he's a wealthy patron and customer. Actually you have a good point really. It's not a bad thing to meet up with some of my un-met relatives. I'm pretty sure it's all fine and good and the guy is just one of those wealthy American eccentrics like Howard Hughes. It's nice to believe that maybe there is a little something extra to him though. It's like when you're in certain parts of Ireland and you can just feel you're close to something old or otherworldly. I used to like it when the feeling would stick to me for a couple of days back in Dublin. It made me wicked good at the guitar and darts for a few days anyway."
"And you have been closer to that than I have. Though I am trying ta make a piece here."
Ryley shakes his head. "I'm makin' myself all misty. I'm actually looking forward to the ride and I'm sure it'll be a good meal and some drinks and a ride home. I'm happy to do it really."
Ryley works on the bar, and in his spare time spends some effort and a bit of his resources to buy some copper and tin to make some good-quality bronze. From a jeweler he buys two emerald chips. He makes an old-fashioned cloak clasp of bronze in the stylized shape of a bird.
"Just be careful, though in going to this meeting, Ryley." Kyle pauses a beat, regards Ryley and continues.
"The roads can be winding up there once you get into the hills in Sedona."
Ryley smiles. "I hear you, my friend. The roads are winding and once I start this path things sure to be winding. I'll be careful."
Ryley works on the bar and in his spare time he spends some effort and a bit of his resources to buy some copper and tin to make some good quality bronze. From a jeweler he buys two emerald chips. He makes a old-fashioned cloak clasp of bronze in the stylized shape of a bird.
What Ryley makes, after some time and effort, is truly an exceptional work of art. Was he inspired by the chance to meet Aenghus? Is it the time he has been working in the bar? Is it the Sidhe? Whatever it is, the bronze cloak clasp is painfully beautiful, and perhaps one of the best things he has ever made. It will be noticed.
The drive up to Sedona is an interesting trip for Ryley. It's pretty country, although it's very different from the green hills he is used to. America is much more of a virgin country, though, not like Ireland where there is likely a ruin, or former village, or something else behind every bend in the road. Here, if life is a highway, then, like the song, you could drive it all night long, alone if you were on the right highway.
The highway from Phoenix up to Sedona isn't quite that lonely; Interstate 17 has plenty of semis for Ryley to dodge, bob and weave around. Once he is off of the interstate and heading along a state highway for the last leg, he gets a little more peace, in between the towns. Everywhere, the hills rise up around him, and as he approaches Sedona itself, the fabled red rock appears everywhere.
The address Aenghus gave is on one of the ridge roads overlooking the valley Sedona sits in, and the house, as Ryley approaches it, looks like the same "Spanish colonial mission" style as any of the other houses on this street. Nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever.
Ryley parks and locks up his bike. He looks around at the front of the house; while it may be standard for the area, it's something that Ryley has probably only seen in imported westerns. It's impressive in its fashion, and Ryley pauses for a moment to look at the architecture.
Once he has the feel of the place and has stretched his legs from the ride, he sheds his jacket and checks to make sure that Aenghus' gift is secure in the inside pocket. Once assured, he puts his phone on vibrate and walks to the door to knock. He is dressed in khakis, brown leather boots and a dark maroon button-down shirt. Casual, but still presentable to most people. Time to see how much rich patron and how much ancient Irish god he is about to deal with.
There is the sound of footsteps, and the door is flung open, as if in a grand gesture. The man on the other side of the door is a tall and red-haired, with an impressive beard that Brian Blessed in his prime might have been proud of. Despite this, he is dressed in a t-shirt emblazoned with a cactus planted in the middle of a mandala, and a silver buckle in the shape of a boar on the belt holding up light-colored pants. He looks Ryley up and down.
"You must be Ryley Coyne," the man says with a grin, sticking out a hand. "I'm Aenghus. I'm glad Kyle got you to come up here. Come, in, you are most welcome in my house.
"He has come," he calls over his shoulder at someone unseen.
Beyond the man is a room done in oranges and reds, with artwork everywhere.
Ryley smiles at Aenghus and shakes his hand firmly without being domineering. "I am Ryley, sure enough. I'm glad to come. Kyle's a good man and it seemed like a good idea when he mentioned coming to see you. You're his patron after all, and I am working for him to give his place a touch of Ireland. An interesting ride sure enough either way."
"Good, good," Aenghus says, releasing his hand. "It's not the green hills of Ireland, but really, Ryley, what is? Come on in."
In short order Aenghus has steered Ryley into the living room. A red-haired woman, maybe 40 years of age, is standing in the living room and smiles when Aenghus and Ryley enter.
"Ryley, this is my cousin Bridget. Bridget, this is Ryley," Aenghus says. "I'll get us some black and tans and give you the chance to talk. And check on the corned beef and cabbage." Come to think of it, there is the smell of Irish cooking coming from somewhere.
"I didn't think this was going to be quite this awkward," the woman says with a smile. "But I made a promise, and a promise I shall keep, lest I draw ill omens upon me.
"Tell me about yourself, Ryley," Bridget says, sitting down in a wooden chair carved with knotwork. "Tell me about your family."
Ryley does a mental check against his mythology education; if this is Aenghus' cousin, then this is Brigid, goddess of Smiths, Poets and Fire. He throws the idea into the back of his head, chiding himself. C'monnow boy, settle down. These are just normal people it seems.
Suddenly nervous and a bit confused by her statement, Ryley looks for a place to put his jacket and pulls out the box with Aenghus' gift in it. He sets it nearby so as to not forget it, then crosses the room and shakes her hand, for at least some semblance of courtesy on his side. She seems familiar only in a general sort of way. One thing Ryley does note -- there is more than a little resemblance between himself and Bridget. Maybe her flame-colored hair and her smoke-colored eyes are not exactly Ryley’s, but other features are reminiscent of what he sees in the mirror.
He can't help but grin at her, "Is this awkward because you promised someone that you'd interrogate me when we met or because it hotter here than in Ireland?"
“Yes,” Bridget says with a smile. “And for an additional reason as well.”
He presses on, perching on the edge of a chair to be comfortable. "Well, I don't know that I'm all that exciting really. I'm more well known as the son of Justin Coyne, owner of Restoration Architects. My Dad's an architect, construction foreman and actually turned into quite a sculptor in the last fifteen years or so. I haven't made much of a mark myself. Not focused enough, Dad says. I like building things but I favor the beauty of the everyday sorts of things, like a bar or house, instead of a hospital or rail station.
"I like music and play some as well. For the rest, well, I'm educated as a mechanical engineer and in literature. I also learned some of the 'old craft' of blacksmithing and forging. Since college I have lived in Dublin and worked with a local construction company, playing some guitar and some rugby."
It does occur to Ryley that Aenghus introduced her as his cousin. From the letter that Kyle let him read this woman is some relative of Ryley's. Does this mean he and Aenghus are relatives as well? And who is this woman?
He takes a breath, "Well now you know about me. How about you, Bridget? Hanging out with Aenghus says that you must be interesting all on your own."
“I’ve done a number of things over the years,” Bridget says. “Like you, and your father, I like to make things, create things. One of the things about this land that I like, even if the weather is not the green of Ireland, is here there is room to create things, build things, make things.
“The thing that you are probably most interested in is that I knew your father, Ryley. Met him on a job he was doing at the time. I was hired to do a modern art piece as an installation for the building he was doing in Edinburgh.” She pauses a measured beat. “This was about a year or so before you were born.”
Bridget's statement just hangs in the air for a moment as emotions flash across Ryley's face. There are so many conflicting thoughts and memories of searching for her. Surprise, anger, abandonment, resentment ... and finally confusion settles there.
"Well, out of the clear blue," he rocks back on the arm of the chair he's sitting on, "I know Dad's not the easiest man in the world but what happened? He's never told me a thing about it or you. Did you have me and just leave in the night? Was I so terrible a baby then?"
He breathes out raggedly with heavy emotion. "I suppose it's all water under the bridge for the moment. I've crossed an ocean and come to a desert. How is that you have come into my life here and now? I can't see this a raw coincidence."
"There are precious few coincidences in this world at least. There are worlds out there where coincidences are the lifeblood of all that happens ..." Bridget waves a hand.
"No, Ryley, it was not because you were a terrible baby, or your father anything but the gentlest of men. But I could not and do not stay too long in one place."
She looks at Ryley kindly. "For, you see, I am not of woman born. I generally call myself Bridget, or some name similar, but I have had many names in many different lands over the years, decades, centuries.
"If your father has seen to your education properly, you would better know me as Brigid."
Ryley shakes his head with a grin. "This seems a bit out of the ordinary but I'm gonna defend Dad, which I'm usually not a fan of. He's a tough one but he did the best he could and made sure I got through college. While he's always been distant, I understand why he wouldn't tell me about you. How do you explain that 'your dear mom is a goddess boy.' I have your eyes as I look at you and I'm sure he saw them in me too. Much as I am not a fan of it I may have to tell him I'm sorry about how I was when I was younger.
"I did some digging when I started working with O'Bannon and he said Aenghus had given my name to him to hire. I did some digging into my history and legends and if he's Aenghus Og then that makes you Brigid sure enough. Goddess to smiths, poets and healers. You my dear mother are the goddess of Poetry and the Inspirational Fire.
"I always wanted to know why I felt a little different. Why I loved the old legends of the Tuatha so much. You know, like if I could see or say the right thing the magic in things might show me a bigger world? I can't tell you how many times I have imagined meeting you just to try and understand things but I never thought it would be like this. Thousands of miles from Ireland in the home of an uncle I never knew."
"Times dictate such strange things, Ryley," Brigid says. "I would not have arranged matters to have you come to America, and work in Arizona, far from the green hills of Ireland, if the need was not great. Nor would I have revealed myself to you, yet.
"Tell me this, Ryley. You do repair work, you ride motorcycles. But do you follow in my footsteps. Are you a maker?" she asks. Her eyes are almost like twin flames, looking at him intently.
Ryley is startled by the intensity and the fire of her gaze. He doesn't look away from her but he slides over the small box that he has brought with him. "This is a patron gift for Aenghus. I thought, that if I was going to meet the man who got me to come America and was patron of the project I am on, perhaps a gift was in order."
To his own surprise, Ryley finds that he is intensely nervous and his mouth is dry as he waits for Brigid to look the gift he has made.
Brigid does not lift the box from the table, instead flicking it open with a touch of her fingernail, as if the box opened up for her, rather than she opening the box. She studies the bronze clasp for a long moment, and finally lifts it out of the box and studies it with that same intensity.
"Aenghus, dear," she says aloud. "My boy has talent. And you can come out now."
Aenghus does come back into the room. The look on his face is wariness that is melting away. She dangles the bronze clasp.
"My son was educated right. A patron gift, for you, not me. Made with his own hands. I can feel it is so."
Aenghus takes the clasp and places a hand on Ryley's shoulder. "You've done well, lad. It may not yet be one of the Treasures of the Danann, but that will come in time. Speaking of which ..." he looks at Brigid. "Have you given it to him, and told him why we've brought him to Arizona?"
"Not yet," she says. "I think he could use the beer. I know I could."
"Right." Aenghus ducks back into the kitchen and quickly returns with three glasses of foamy beer. "Dinner is almost ready, too."
Ryley smiles weakly at Aenghus. "I'm glad that you like it ..."
He gratefully takes the beer from Aenghus when he returns from the kitchen and takes a healthy drink. "Obviously, there is more to tell. To say that you have my attention is an understatement. Maybe you could just plow through it all and I'll hold my questions until you're done. I'm a bit embarrassed but I'm sure enough stunned by seeing you, and you claiming me. That you are also the goddess of fire is bit numbing. I don't want to turn away from what you've brought me all this way for."
Brigid nods after taking a long sip of beer herself.
"I think it's safe to say that your education is good enough that you are familiar with the Fomorians and the Fir Bolg. As Aenghus, and I are real, so are and were they. Most of the Pantheons follow the Hellenes and call them the Titans. They are the forerunners, the origins of the Gods like Aenghus, me, and all of the others in this world.
"A great battle was fought millennia ago, a battle where the Titans were overthrown by the Gods, and we grew to take their place. But in their imprisonment, they wrought a geas upon us, Ryley dear. For a Goddess to walk too long at one time on Earth causes trouble and tribulations to follow her. We find it troublesome to stay on Earth for long, now. And so we mostly stay in the realms beyond Earth. And with only our occasional visits, and the, ah, existence of children like yourself, the Titans have long labored to free themselves.
"With the help of children of their own, and mortals suborned to their cause, they are nearing their goal of doing just that, and resuming their war. A group of goddesses and gods, including myself, have pledged to unite our Scions across pantheons to stop, or delay, the Return of the Titans.
"I have chosen you, Ryley, for my part."
It's hard for Ryley not to be choked up a little to be acknowledged and chosen, with even a little expression of pride by one's parent being heady stuff indeed. Ryley nods, indicating he has heard and understood what Brigid - his mother - has said. "Well it seems clear enough now why you left and why you haven't been around yourself to see to my learning and growing up. Is it fair to say that this return of the Titans as you have said has some urgency to it? I mean otherwise why would you or Aenghus or any god reveal themselves to their progeny, right? What happens now? Is it that you have to be gone after dinner and I get instruction, advice and motherly affection all through portents in the sky, omens and oracles?"
Brigid holds her tongue and lets Ryley continue uninterrupted.
He takes a breath to push forward. "I don't say the last bit to be difficult or petualant but I am curious as to what happens with us now? There are clearly other gods, and their kids like me in this, then. How do we know each other and how do we wage war against Titans who themselves were so powerful as to rival yourselves? I've handled a few weapons just to learn the of making them but I'm not sure what you need of me from here."
He pauses. "Sorry, I might've interrupted you there and you were just pausing for breath or impact. Is there more? And can I have some of the food, please, I'm powerful hungry all of the sudden and could use another beer, if I'm not too out of line." He holds out a hastily emptied beer glass.
"Aenghus. I think we need to eat and drink before I fill Ryley's head to bursting," Brigid calls.
In short order, there is more beer, and what's more, food: meat, and cabbage and potatoes. It's not haute cuisine, but it is filling, nourishing, even. And eating such food takes away the worst of the buzz of the beer, including the refill of the glass. Neither Aenghus nor Brigid say much during the meal, letting the consumption of the food do the talking.
"Now, to answer your questions and concerns," Brigid says, upon returning from, ostensibly, the facilities. She carries something in her hand. A cane?
"When one of the Scions meets their divine parent, some of the potential within them is unlocked. Just as we influence the world around us, we influence our children in similar fashion. You will find that you are more than you were, and if you grow and survive, you may even one day become a demigod." She smiles.
"It is traditional, across all the pantheons, to give a Scion a gift upon first meeting, especially in these dark and dangerous times." She offers the cane, which now appears to be a spear, right out of legend, toward Ryley.
"Bear this. She is newly forged, and does not yet have a name. A creator such as you can come up with a name, preferably not later than shortly after her first blooding. Wield her in fighting the titanspawn.
"As far as knowing other Scions, fate and destiny draw our kind toward each other, in the mortal world." Brigid pauses. "I also know where the other Scions chosen by my counterparts live. Seeking one or more of the others out is the first step in stopping the Titanspawn and their masters."
Ryley takes the spear from his mother and holds it, feeling its weight and balance. He bows slightly to her. "Thank you, mother this is the perfect gift and stylish in either form," he grins. "With this I already feel a little more like some of the old heroes. I'll do the best I can to represent you in the Alliance of Scions."
He turns the weapon over in his hands, trying to figure out the trick of its transformation, "How do I turn it back? Does it turn into anything else?" He grins with curiosity.
"For the moment, it only has the two forms," Aenghus says. "As your Legend grows, Ryley, so too will its legend."
Brigid nods in agreement.
Ryley pauses for a bit to try and organize his thoughts. Once he has some ideas falling into some form he can work with, he sits so he can see both Brigid and Aenghus. "You said that I would be more than I was. What does that mean exactly? What kind of change will happen to me? If there are others that have been appointed the task of stopping the Titans, their progeny, and servants, what has caused you all to align and talk to us all at this point? Once we are assembled, who will lead us, or is it up to us to decide among our own members? Do we have any idea what we are trying to stop from coming into the world?
"I suppose with the last few questions, this one seems sort of strange beside the others, but what am I suppose to do about finishing the bar for Kyle? He seems a good fellow and I have other people in this that I don't want to let down, aside from you and Aenghus."
"You are my child, and now we have supped together," Brigid says. "It may be an unfortunate metaphor, but when the child of a goddess meets their parent, changes take place. You are now on a path that, should you survive and prosper, will lead you to demigodhood and beyond. Your abilities and powers will develop, as your Legend does."
Aenghus nods. "As we told you, the Titans and their children are what you were born to face. They wear many forms, hide behind many masks, but you will know them by their acts. And they will know you, too. As far as your counterparts, it is not the place of your mother, or Hecate, or Frigg, or any of the others to control you as puppets. That was tried, once ..." He looks away. "The results were a catastrophe."
Ryley is intrigued by Aenghus' statement but he files it away for another day.
Brigid picks up the thread of conversation. "I will be here to give you guidance, and you have a life beyond fighting the Titans, Ryley. Fighting the Titans does not, as these Americans say, pay the bills. But none of the Gods can stay on Earth for long, lest the rules of story and our power warp the world. That is why we need you, to fight the war on Earth, while we act in realms you and the other Scions cannot reach. Yet."
Ryley nods to Brigid's statement. "Well it's simple enough then, as to paying the bills, I'll finish the job for O'Bannon. It lets me keep my word and make some money for myself and the boys back in Ireland. After that's over it'll free me up to help you out where I can. I suppose in a way it's the 'family work.'"
Brigid gives an approving nod.
"Thank you for explaining that you and the other gods are under certain rules and strictures as far as 'scions' and the effect of your presence in the world and how it changes things around you. It makes it easier to understand the past and not having a parent. I'm guessing some of the 'strangeness' that you are talking about will make it easier to find the 'titanspawn' that you mentioned?"
"The titanspawn," Brigid replies. "will find you. Now even more so that we have met. Conversely, Ryley, it will be easier to see them and their work, now that your eyes have been opened to the wider world. There is no special sight to that, no vision. But to merely know something exists makes it easier to find."
(Continued in A Tinker's Aspect II)