Battle Queen

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Battle Queen
Coldwater Elementary School, Coldwater, N.M.

“You need to quit dropping these little bombs on me,” Morgan said. She wanted to protest, to argue that she couldn’t be a goddess, that this was all madness, a joke someone was playing on her, and she didn’t appreciate it, but she couldn’t muster the words or the will to speak them, because she knew they weren’t true.

She closed her eyes, and the battle was below her again, men and horses and blood and violence. She saw a man below her, tied to a stone. A spear protruded from his belly. Morgan watched in horror as he pulled it out, his entrails spilling out of the gash. It was the worst thing Morgan had ever seen, and she thought she might throw up.

No, she thought. I’m a bird. Birds can’t throw up. I read that somewhere. The wave of nausea passed, and she turned her eyes away from the horrific scene to focus on the man’s face. His eyes pleaded with her, and she glided down, through the smoke and the blood and the shouting, to light on his shoulder. 

Dimly, through the sounds of the battle, she heard Dr. Kavanaugh’s voice coming to her from somewhere over her head, and with an effort, she clawed her way back up out of the memory to find herself crumpled on the carpet in front of the big desk. 

“Morgan!” Dr. Kavanaugh was slapping her cheeks lightly. She opened her eyes.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. “Not sure what happened there. I just closed my eyes for a second, and I think I fell asleep again.”

“You didn’t fall asleep. You fainted.” Dr. Kavanaugh helped her back up into her seat. “I take it the vision came back?”

Morgan nodded. “But it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “I don’t like fighting. I hate it. I hate it so much, it almost makes me throw up to see it. How could I be some ancient goddess of war if I hate blood and guts and violence?”

Dr. Kavanaugh studied Morgan’s face. “What would you do if somebody in your class tried to hurt your mom or Joey?”

Morgan’s response was instant: “I’d fight them.” 

“And what would you like to do to the monster that killed your Daddy?”

Morgan’s eyes flashed. “I want to slit its throat and watch it bleed out. I want to tie it to a stake above a fire-ant hill and watch them eat all the flesh off its bones, and then I want to set it on fire and burn its bones until they’re nothing but ash, and then I want to put the ashes in the litterbox and let the cats –” she stopped suddenly. “Oh.”

“There you go. That protective streak has been part of your identity forever. Men aren’t always comfortable with it, and they’re usually the ones writing the history books, so of course they make it sound like something terrible. The sidhe know better. We’ve preserved the truth and handed it down through the centuries.” 

Morgan took a shaky breath. What had come over her? “I’m not mean,” she said. “Not usually. I don’t even like action movies, because people always get hurt in them. But that thing killed Daddy, and it killed Maria and her family, and — I didn’t even like Maria, you know? But she didn’t deserve that, and it’s just –”

“It’s just that you have a mama-bear streak a mile wide. You might not like fights, but when you get dragged into one, your instinct is to protect the people you love and make whoever attacked them sorry.”

“Yeah.” Morgan thought for a minute. “Let’s say you’re right, and I am this violent battle-goddess who kills anybody who messes with people she cares about. You said my connections should have tipped you off. What connections?”

“The Morrígan is one of us — an extraordinarily powerful bean sidhe. She’s also revered as a dark sovereignty goddess, like the Cailleach. If your grandfather’s family stories are true, you aren’t just a descendant of the Milesians. You’re a descendant of Christianity’s versions of the bean sidhe and the Cailleach.” Dr. Kavanaugh smiled. “If the Morrígan were going to choose a family to be born into, yours would be ideal, don’t you think?”

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