The Called: Prologue

Prologue

1991-2012, Here and There

Previously in these universes . . .

October 31 1991, The Devil’s Tramping Ground Gate, Chatham County, NC

. . . Malachi lifted the star over his head.  He held it in both of his hands for a moment and then, gently, swinging the star on its chain, he tossed it into the heart of the blue fire.

For a long moment, nothing happened.  They all could see the star, a brighter blue, then a blue-white, then white, then the fire exploded, flames shooting out in spirals and tongues, caroming off the light barrier.  The blue fire raced around the circle, around them, through them, and the white where the star had been began to distend, as if it was being pulled into a line. When the line was seven or eight feet tall, it began to expand until a door stood in the middle of the circle, a door of blue and white fire.

“You go first, Mal,” Hazel said.

Then, Malachi, holding Russell’s left hand, and Russell, holding Jeff’s left, and Jeff, holding Hazel’s left, and Hazel, holding Ben’s left, Alex right beside her, then Ben—one by one—they went through the door.

#

In the White City, Tir Mar, Faerie, the next morning

No one could tell, later, just whose idea it was, perhaps, it was the idea of all four—something Larissa told them would happen more and more.  But it was Malachi who first floated a few feet up from the wall’s stones, the others drifting up with him, until they were just above the wall.  Then, as if blown by a sudden wind, they dropped, then dove down and out, out, and out, and down again, swooping down the grey rock face that grew into the white walls, and out, over the rocks at the bottom, and out again, over the white sand, over the waves, over the sea.

#

After Malachi opened the gate with his mother’s—Valeria’s—star, and after leading the others into Faerie, and after the Fomorii were banished back into their own universe, things were, for a time, peaceful.  The tetrad—Hazel and Malachi, Russell and Jeff—lived first in Valeria’s old house.  When Ben married Larissa, the tetrad moved into the city center, near the university, into an airy and light-filled apartment overlooking the sea.  Most of their tutors in personal elemental magics also taught at the university and Ben and Larissa were only a short walk away.

The tutors helped the four of them learn and use and control what their bodies were telling them they could do.  They learned what any fairy child knew almost instinctually; they learned what it meant to be an Air, a Water, a Fire, an Earth.   And the tetrad grew up, sort of.  As Larissa explained, aging was fluid in Faerie. It was personal, and adjusted to how fast one matured, and to how much one needed to be a certain age and to learn what that age had to teach. Aging also adjusted to the rhythms of one’s significant others: a primary partner within the secondary partnerships of the tetrad; or to all four.  How this happened was a mystery.  Time itself, as Earth fairy tales suggested, flowed at different rates.

Russell and Jeff matured more slowly than Hazel and Malachi.  They needed to be in a slower current of Time.  And Hazel first, then Malachi, felt the tetradic bond become quiescent, as if the bond itself had found another current, another river.   Then they heard, felt, and dreamed of Earth.

They dreamed.  Not all changelings had left; not all changelings had actually changed before Malachi opened the gate.  Magical energy—mana—percolated in the air, in the water, the ground, in fits and starts, erupting, oozing.  The rock had fallen into the water, and it had sunk to the bottom; but the rings in the water continued to form and spread.  The grace of the stunned years was brief.  The fear and hatred of differences were not.

The Earth called.  Those left behind needed help.

The Earth called.

Hazel and Malachi heard, felt, dreamed this call, and finally answered it.  Ben went with them when they left; Larissa went with Ben.  Father Jamey met them in the scraggly trees surrounding the Devil’s Tramping Ground Gate.  For him ten Earth years had passed.

Russell, hurt, betrayed, and Jeff, shaking his head, stayed in Faerie.  So did Alex, Hazel’s part-Siamese cat.  His dreams were dark with danger: cages, laboratories, men and women in masks.

The Fomorii finished their waiting and planning and their darker dreams and returned.  On Earth, the black witches welcomed the dark, reptilian, red-eyed creatures.  They welcomed them at midnight, in the shadows, in the light of black candles.  The Fomorii welcomed those who feared and hated and those who taught the fear and the hatred.  Promises were made, oaths sworn.

Hazel and Malachi, their rhythms adjusted to Earth, grew up, went to school, married, had three children, and with Ben and sometimes Larissa, made the Triangle region of North Carolina the center of the magical rights movement.  Around them, in North Carolina, in America, all over the Earth, the Fomorii and their sometimes unsuspecting human allies did their work.

Then, one March morning in 2012, Malachi left his home to meet a reporter in a restaurant parking lot on Six Forks Road in Raleigh and . . .