From Rogue Mutt’s Easter Basket…
I can’t remember a scene I wrote taking place on Easter. But Easter is celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, so I thought a resurrection scene would be appropriate. So from The Hazards of Love (Tales of the Scarlet Knight, Volume 3) we have Dr. Emma Earl rising from the dead with a little help from a familiar face after sacrificing her heart to an evil goddess.
If you want something about bunnies, earlier in the same story a character eats a rabbit and then gets the runs from it…
She awoke to a something soft tickling her cheek. She reached out with a hand only to feel a flower of some sort. Running her hand along its stem, she decided it must be a daisy. Opening her eyes, she saw she was right.
She sat in a field of daisies that stretched as far as she could see. Daisies had always been her mother’s favorite flower and hers as well. They were so soft and gentle and beautiful without the harsh thorns of roses. And strangely they were the only flower she wasn’t allergic to. Emma bent down enough so that she could smell the flower. As she did, she ran the last moments of her life through her mind.
She was dead. And this must be Heaven. She had never been brought up in organized religion and as a scientist she had never really bought into the notion of some paradise with clouds and people playing harps. But maybe Heaven was a field of daisies for her to run through, their sweet aroma in her nose.
This romantic notion was spoiled when something wet and cold touched the back of her neck. Rolling over, she found herself looking up at a sheep. The creature bleated at her, apparently annoyed that she wasn’t food. “I’m sorry,” she said. Sitting up she saw a full flock of sheep gathered around the first one. The daisies made sense, but she had never liked sheep, not even to count when she was tired.
Emma got unsteadily to her feet to find that instead of the red armor she wore a simple white gown, thankfully made of silk instead of wool. Putting a hand to her chest, she felt her heart beating, though she knew Isis had taken it. Taken it and then swallowed it and then—
Something had happened and Isis had exploded. Emma had much more quietly expired only to wake up here. Wherever here was. She ran a hand through her hair as she tried to think of what to do next. She finally supposed she might as well have a look around.
The sheep followed her as she walked through the field of daisies. When she stopped and turned to face them, they stopped. “Are you following me? What are you, guardian angels? I thought you were supposed to have wings.”
The sheep bleated, clearly not amused. “Sorry. I guess you can come along if you want. I just hope we don’t run into any butchers.” Again the sheep bleated, but continued to follow.
The field of daisies went for what seemed like miles until she saw a forest ahead. From the edge of this forest came a wispy trail of smoke. A fire? That meant there were other people here, unless the sheep here knew how to make a fire.
Emma took off running towards the fire, the sheep struggling to keep up. As she came closer, she saw a lean-to made of sticks and bits of grass. Two people sat in the lean-to, facing the fire. Emma’s face brightened with joy as she recognized one of them. “Mr. Graves!” she shouted. His head snapped up, his face breaking into a wide grin.
She raced into his outstretched arms, letting him fold her against him for a hug. His body felt warm, as if he were still alive. “I never expected to see you here, lass,” Percival said. He kissed the top of her head like a parent. “What are you doing here?”
Emma faced turned warm at this. “Well, I guess I’m dead,” she said.
“Oh no. Why don’t you come over here and talk about it?” He led her towards a log next to the fire. A blonde woman wearing only a sheep pelt sat on a different log, keeping her eyes on the fire. “Emma Earl, this is Beaux. Beaux, this is my good friend Emma Earl.”
Beaux nodded to Emma without looking up. “You’re the one Marlin talked about.”
“I guess so,” Emma said. “What did he say about me?”
“That you were a bright girl. Though I suppose not so bright if you ended up here.”
“Beaux, be civil,” Percival said. He gave Emma’s shoulder a squeeze. “Come now, lass, how did it happen?” She told him of the battle in the pyramid as she remembered it until those final moments when Isis had taken her heart. Percival shook his head. “I don’t believe it. You killed her.”
“You gave her a bad case of indigestion.”
“I guess I did.” She chuckled at this. “So what is this place? Is it Heaven?”
Beaux snorted at this. “Not exactly,” she said. “It’s more like another plane of existence.”
“Like the fourth dimension in one of those Twilight Zone episodes,” Percival said.
“Do all Scarlet Knights end up here?”
“Just you and I. I suppose we’re the lucky ones.”
“I suppose so.” Emma stared at the fire, feeling anything but lucky at the moment as a horrible thought struck her. “Who else is here?”
“I’m not rightly sure, lass. A few old-timers like that fellow Belt.”
“But not my parents? Not Aunt Gladys?”
“I don’t think so.” He squeezed her shoulder again. “But at least you have me. We have each other. That’s something.”
She forced a smile. Percival was like a father to her, but the thought that she couldn’t see her parents or Aunt Gladys for the rest of eternity was too much to bear. She buried her head into his chest and cried.
“Oh, there now, lass. It’s not so bad. This is a very nice place. Isn’t it, Beaux?”
“It was a nice place,” Beaux said.
“Don’t be like that, Beaux. The girl’s been through enough already.”
“Fine.” Beaux snorted while Emma continued to cry. Then Beaux said, “There may be someone who can help you.”
“There is?” Emma lifted her head from Percival’s chest. “Who?”
“Merlin. He lives up on that mountain. If anyone can find your parents, he can.”
Emma looked up—and up—at the mountain rising in the distance. Then she looked down at her flimsy white dress and bare feet. “How am I supposed to get up there?”
“I know a way, if you’re not adverse to dying again.”
“Beaux, I don’t think that would work for Emma. Don’t you have some climbing equipment around here?”
“If I had any I’d have given it to Marlin already.”
“There has to be something we can do to get her up there.”
A loud neighing interrupted their discussion. Emma looked up, her jaw going slack. Descending from the sky was a flying horse, its bird-like wings silhouetted against the sun. The Pegasus skidded to a stop next to the flock of sheep. It tossed its head towards Emma and neighed again. Though she didn’t know horsespeak, its message seemed obvious. “I think it wants me to go with it.”
“Are you sure it’s safe?” Percival asked.
“What’s the worst that could happen? I’m already dead,” Emma said with a slight smile.
“Good point, lass.” He clapped her on the shoulder and then pulled her into another hug. “That’s in case I don’t see you again. Good luck, lass. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“Maybe you could come with me.”
“I’m already where I want to be,” Percival nodded towards Beaux. Emma’s face reddened at this, as it became clear why the other woman had been so hostile to her presence. She hadn’t wanted to share Percival with anyone else.
“Oh. Well, I’m glad.” She gave him a daughterly kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for everything.” Then she jogged over to where the Pegasus was digging its hooves impatiently into the ground. Hiking up her skirt, she hopped onto the horse’s back, onto a golden saddle. The horse barely gave her time to position herself before it began flapping its wings. A moment later, Emma was airborne, looking down at Percival, who continued to wave until she disappeared into the clouds.
Even in her fantasies, Emma had never imagined actually riding a Pegasus. The experience was less than she might have hoped for, as the horse seemed perturbed to have to carry her. The way it tossed its head as it flew, she expected it to try bucking her at any moment.
“Easy now,” she said into its white mane. “I’m a friend.”
The Pegasus snorted at this to indicate its opinion. It flapped its feathery wings harder, continuing to climb into the air. Ahead, Emma could finally see the top of the mountain. As at the edge of the forest, a thin plume of smoke rose from the mountaintop. This she suspected was her destination. “Are you taking me to Merlin?” she asked. The horse nodded its head emphatically.
The mountaintop came closer so that Emma could make out a tiny cottage. It wasn’t a very impressive home for supposedly the greatest wizard ever, the one who had created the Scarlet Knight’s armor. She would have expected a castle made of gold or some kind of Greek temple with impressive marble columns.
The Pegasus made little attempt to slow as it closed in on the mountain. Sensing an imminent crash, Emma wrapped her arms around the Pegasus’s neck. She buried her face in the flying horse’s mane so she wouldn’t have to witness the impact.
The horse didn’t crash. It simply stopped in midair. When Emma realized this, she took her head from the Pegasus’s mane. The flying horse was suspended two feet in the air, seeming to hover like a helicopter. “I guess this is my stop?” The Pegasus nodded. She patted its neck gently. “Thanks for the ride.”
She dropped off the saddle, into a snow bank. The snow melted beneath her bare feet, leaving only bare grass. Emma stared in wonderment at this and then took another step only to find the snow again melting away. “Amazing,” she mumbled. Almost as amazing as a flying horse. The Pegasus neighed loudly and then streaked away, performing a wide bank to disappear into the clouds.
Emma made her way across the snow to the door flap of the cottage. She didn’t have to knock on the frame, the flap opening before she could tap the wood. With a sense of dread, she stuck her head inside the cottage. “Hello?”
“Come in, dear girl. No one will hurt you,” a man said.
Emma stepped across the threshold, into the cottage. A man not much older than her sat by the fire on a simple wooden stool. He motioned to a stool across from him. “Go on, sit down,” he said. She did so gingerly, expecting the stool to disappear or turn into something before she did.
“You must be Merlin,” she said.
“That’s right. I suppose you were expecting someone older. A gray beard and pointy hat and all that? They all do.”
“Well, yes, I suppose so. I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize. That’s what people expect of a proper wizard.” He waved his hand in the air, a silver tray appearing from nowhere. On the tray was a china cup with something steaming inside it. “Cup of tea? Just the way you like it.”
“Sure.” Emma took the cup off the tray. She took a cautious sip and found it was just the way she liked it: Earl Grey with no sugar or cream. “That’s very good.”
“You’re very kind.” Merlin did not summon any sort of beverages for himself. “Now, I suppose we should get to business. You did a marvelous job with the dark one. I knew I could count on you.”
“Thanks.” Emma looked down into her teacup. “Could you have stopped her if you wanted?”
“Of course, dear girl. But in the process many more lives would have been lost.”
“More than myself, the witches, and all the people the Dragoon killed?”
“Many more. Millions, if not billions.” Merlin folded his hands as if praying. “It’s difficult for most people to understand how devastating a war between magic can be. Not even Marlin understood. The last one laid waste to a third of a continent and killed thousands. That’s why I couldn’t risk intervening if I didn’t need to.”
“But if I had failed you would have intervened?”
“At that point, yes. I hoped that point would not come and I was right.”
The tea suddenly tasted bitter in her mouth. She supposed Merlin’s reasons made sense, but the thought that he had allowed so many people to die chafed at her sense of morality. “Can you bring those people back to life?”
“Do you think I should?”
Emma thought of what Mrs. Chiostro had always said about not using magic to correct every problem in the world, to not become dependent on it. “I guess not.”
“Very good. Marlin was right about you.”
“What did he say?”
“That you’re destined to be the greatest of the Order. You already are. No one else could have defeated that creature. No one else’s heart was pure enough.”
“Thanks.” She finished her tea, the cup vanishing from her hand. “But that’s over now.” She cleared her throat before she continued, “I was hoping that you could tell me how to find my parents. Are they around here somewhere?”
The roof disappeared from the cottage to reveal a blue sky lined with streaks of white clouds. Merlin pointed up at the sky. “They’re up there. Your aunt as well. The Pegasus will take you there—if that’s what you want.”
“What do you mean, ‘if that’s what I want?’ What else can I do, stay here?”
“You could, but I don’t think you want to do that.” He nodded his head, the roof reappearing over the cottage. “I may not bring all those other people back, but I could bring you back to life.”
“Because you’re the greatest of the Order. Because your heart is pure. That makes you too important to lose.”
She shook her head. “You can’t bring just me back to life. It isn’t fair.”
“The world isn’t fair, as I’m sure Marlin has told you.”
“What if I don’t want to go back?”
“Then you can go up there, be reunited with your parents. You’ve certainly deserved it.”
“What about the Order? What about the Scarlet Knight?”
“The Call will go out. Someone will take your place. That’s how it always goes.”
Emma considered this for a moment. “But you’re saying not someone as good.”
“Certainly he or she will be good, like your friend Percival. Perhaps not great, though.”
“I don’t think I can make a decision like that.”
“No one else is going to make it for you.”
Emma thought about her options. On one hand, she could go to Paradise and finally be reunited with her parents and with Aunt Gladys. They could be a happy family again, only this time she didn’t have to worry about gunmen killing her parents or Alzheimer’s stealing Aunt Gladys away. They could be happy forever. On the other hand, even with the fall of Isis and the Black Dragoon, there was so much Emma had not accomplished. Don Vendetta remained as potent as ever, like a virus infecting the city with violence and crime. And there was Becky, who had so recently lost her husband and now her best friend. Becky would be alone now, in dire need of a friend. She was still needed down there; she could still make a difference.
“I want to go back,” she said.
“You’re certain? I have to warn you that it’s not going to be all sunshine and roses. Difficult times lie ahead, as difficult as anything you’ve encountered.”
“I have to go back. There’s more I can do.”
Merlin nodded. “I thought you would say that.” Another silver tray appeared in the air with a cup of tea. “Drink that and your journey will begin.”
Emma took the cup from the tray and drank.
Mrs. Chiostro was the first one to wake up. When she had passed out, she had been certain she would wind up in the Great Beyond with Mama, Sophie, Alejandro, her children, and her grandbabies. Looking around, though, she realized she was still in the temple of Isis. She was still alive.
Sylvia was alive as well, though her hand was still severed. Mrs. Chiostro crawled over to her sister, putting a hand to Sylvia’s cheek to make certain she was still alive. At this her sister’s green eyes flickered open. With a groan Sylvia tried to sit up, but Mrs. Chiostro pressed her back down. “Stay still. You’re hurt,” she said.
Sylvia shook her head. She held up the stump of her left forearm. Mrs. Chiostro would have begun screaming and sobbing, but her sister only shook her head. “It’s not that bad,” she said. “It’s just a hand.”
“Sylvia—” Mrs. Chiostro couldn’t keep herself from crying.
“Hey, come on. It’s not your hand.” With her good hand, Sylvia touched Mrs. Chiostro’s hair. “Look at you. You’re practically pubescent.”
Mrs. Chiostro smiled at this. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. Seeing you on the floor, I just felt so angry—”
“It’s your true self,” Sylvia said. “No need to explain it.”
That her true self was a beautiful young woman was something Mrs. Chiostro didn’t want to contemplate at the moment. There were more important things to worry about. She helped Sylvia to her feet; as she did, she heard someone cry out.
Turning, Mrs. Chiostro saw a baby lying on the floor of the temple. At first she worried this might be Emma or Rebecca, but the infant had tan skin and black hair. “Oh my,” Mrs. Chiostro said. She ran over to the girl, scooping the baby up in her arms. She studied the baby’s face, the child’s innocent brown eyes. “It’s Isis.”
Sylvia reached into a pocket, pulling out yet another knife. “Let’s finish the job.”
“It’s not that Isis. This is the original. The innocent girl Emma wanted to save.” Mrs. Chiostro patted the baby’s back until the girl stopped crying and began to coo. “It’s all that’s left of her.”
“Bullshit. You should let me slit the little brat’s throat now.”
“We can’t do that. Emma’s right: we wouldn’t be better than her if we did something like that.”
“I don’t care. That bitch took my hand. She killed Tabitha.”
“She didn’t. The dark one did.” Mrs. Chiostro stroked the baby’s dark hair. “She’s just an innocent baby.”
Sylvia shook her head, but she put the knife away. “This is going to be on your head.”
There was another groan and Mrs. Chiostro turned to see Rebecca lying on the floor. In her case she was unchanged, except now the Black Dragoon’s armor was merely a pile of ashes around her. Mrs. Chiostro hurried over to the girl’s side, bending down just as Rebecca opened her eyes. “Mrs. Chiostro?”
“Don’t move, dear.”
“Where am I?”
“I’m not sure. It’s your dream.”
“That’s right, dear.” Mrs. Chiostro put a hand to the girl’s cheek. “Go back to sleep now. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
“Yes, you will.”
“OK.” Rebecca closed her eyes, drifting back to sleep.
Mrs. Chiostro turned to her sister. “Can you take Rebecca home and get her in bed?”
“I lost a hand, I’m not crippled,” Sylvia grumbled. Despite this, she needed some help in arranging Rebecca into a fireman’s carry. “I’ll see you back at the house.”
“Go down to the vault and find a Restoration potion. It might at least help with your burns.”
“Let’s hope so.” With a flash Sylvia disappeared, leaving Mrs. Chiostro with the baby Isis and one final grim task to attend to.
She knew Emma was dead. She had felt it even before she saw the girl lying on the temple floor with her chest cut open. Mrs. Chiostro kept Isis’s head turned so the infant couldn’t see. Then she bent down to stroke Emma’s cheek, the skin so icy that Mrs. Chiostro shivered. “I’m so sorry, dear. I wish I could do something for you.”
She began to cry, which prompted little Isis to cry as well. It didn’t seem right that such a special girl had died so young. The universe wasn’t fair, as Glenda would have been quick to point out. Emma was dead, Sylvia had lost a hand, and here Mrs. Chiostro was in one piece, looking young and beautiful. If only she could give her own life, she would gladly trade it for Emma’s life—
As she thought this, a flash of white light blinded her. She cried out in pain, wondering if perhaps some deity had struck her blind for her sins. Then she felt something warm in her free hand. It took her a moment to realize it was Emma’s cheek, the skin no longer cold like that of a corpse. Her vision cleared enough so that she could see the hole in her friend’s chest had repaired itself. Putting a hand to the area, Mrs. Chiostro felt a weak heartbeat. The heartbeat grew stronger until it thumped like a bass drum. Emma’s breath came back in a similar fashion, as first a slight wheeze and then a rush of air. Her chest, which had been still moments ago, moved up and down rhythmically.
Emma’s eyes fluttered open. They fixed on Mrs. Chiostro’s, a smile spreading across her pale face. “Hi,” Emma said. “Can we go home now?”
There you go. Happy Easter if you believe in that. I believe in it as an excuse to eat Reese’s peanut butter eggs.
Monday is Plan B…