CHAPTER 20, continued
“Glad we got that settled.” Jimbo had been intently watching the interaction. He grinned, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “Can we move on now?”
Owen looked deeply into Kian’s eyes. “No more secrets, I swear,” he said. “Just tell me what you know already, Kian, then I want to hear about your friend’s boss.”
“No, we start with my boss,” Aidan growled as he grabbed the two fat folders from the coffee table and slammed them down in front of Owen. “This is what my boss got while he was stalking Kian. Oh, and he was stalking Jacob Steiner, too. It’s all in there.”
While Owen looked through the folders, Aidan explained about Power and how he had blackmailed the fake Stephen, how Stephen’s fake wife was really called Raven, not Mary. Aidan was animated but Owen just listened, eyes shifting between Aidan, Kian, and the folders.
After Aidan finished talking, there was a long awkward silence. Owen continued to scan the information in the folders, face stony.
Finally, Jimbo jumped in. “What we don’t know is how this Raven broad fits in. She’s much too clever to be just one of Power’s jackasses. Not the type to be blackmailed into pretending to be fake Stephen’s wife.”
Owen remained silent, now staring ahead but still stone-faced, and probably seething inside, Jimbo figured. Aidan looked rather smug.
It was Kian who broke the stand-off. “Owen, we have the Ark. My mother sent it.”
“You have it, you have the Ark? Kian, you should have told me.”
“And you should have told me you knew about it. A long time ago.”
“Point taken,” Owen said. “But do you know Jacob has the wings that open it?”
“We do now and we got them,” Aidan said. “And we opened the Ark.”
Owen continued to focus on Kian. “Oh my god, you opened it?”
“Yes, we found some pipes to call up the Elemental Kings and some sheets of soft metal with lines and writing on them. But we don’t know what they are.”
Owen crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back, now focusing on Aidan. “Those are the maps to the other Arks.”
“One other thing, my parents are alive. They sent me the Ark.”
“That’s great news,” Owen said leaning forward. There was genuine softness and caring in his tone. Kian did not pull away.
Jimbo looked at Aidan, but his face was inscrutable.
“So, now tell us what else you know about the Ark,” Kian said.
“First the history of the Ark,” Owen replied. “Here’s the thing. Ten thousand years ago, a fleet of ships set sail from what is now the Orkneys and Scotland. On board were four families of the old blood. They had the Ark with them. One woman, a Priestess of the Old Ways, she was the Keeper. The three other families were Guardians. My family was one of the Guardians. We were the Gryffuds back then. The Bucknuns, your father’s ancestors, were also Guardians and one of the Bucknun sons was married to the Priestess. These four families were our ancestors, Kian, yours and mine. They settled here with people from an earlier migration, one just after the floods and the earth upheavals that sank the ancient homeland.”
“So, when Mom and Dad married, they knew they were Keeper and Guardian? But doesn’t that get confusing. I mean, what does that make me, Keeper or Guardian? Or Both?”
“Not confusing at all. Keepers and Guardians marry all the time. One of the girls, usually the oldest, would be the next Keeper. The boys in the family take the role of Guardian.” Owen caught Kian’s eye and smiled, “Marriage between sacred families is quite common. It happens all the time.”
Jimbo watched as Aidan’s neck tightened and bulged, a sure sign his buddy was not happy with that news. He needed to break this up fast. “So, what are you thinking, Scotty? Is this guy legit?”
“Seems so,” Aidan replied. He eyed Owen closely, “So far anyway.”
“Agreed,” replied Jimbo, still leaning against the kitchen counter.
Owen turned to face him. “Good, maybe you’ll stop probing me. It’s annoying as hell.”
Jimbo withdrew his senses and slapped his thigh. “Scotty, we may have found us a genuine ally here.” Looking at Owen, he continued, “Trooper, the odds are now at least eleven against three. Four if you count Kian.”
“We don’t count Kian,” Owen snapped. “Haven’t you guys been listening? She’s got the old blood from her mother. She’s the Keeper now.”
Kian stood and crossed her arms over her chest. “No, you count me in. Counting me out is what got us into this mess in the first place.”
“Kian, that’s against everything I know.” Owen was pleading now, but at least Aidan’s neck had relaxed. “Keepers are to be protected,” Owen continued. “They are never to be put in harm’s way. That is my job now, to protect you.” He looked over at Aidan, “Mine alone.”
Aidan’s neck tightened again. Jimbo had all he could do to keep from reaching out and shaking his friend. Distractions cost us, buddy. Remember that.
Aidan, seething inside, pushed himself away from the table. “Like hell, its yours alone,” he told Owen as he marched over to his computer on the coffee table.
“Distractions, buddy, distractions. I’m making that rule number five,” Jimbo said. “I’m heading out. Touch base later.”
Distraction, my ass, Aidan wanted to call out as Jimbo left through the kitchen door. But he knew Jimbo was right. Distractions cost.
Ignoring Owen and Kian talking softly at the table, Aidan checked his tablet. The cars seemed to be gathering again, this time in the horse pasture at the cut off. He texted Jimbo, then did a quick Internet search on the name Griffiths. Their history went back as far as the Buchanan’s. Like Kian’s family, the land had been deeded to them in the early 1600s based on a “prior claim.”
Next he did a quick search of the name, Gruffudd. Literally translated from ancient Welsh, it meant “Chief with a strong grip.” Handy for a Guardian, Aidan mused.
Aidan got up and returned to the table. “Look, we need to work together. Are there any more Guardians we should know about?”
“My brother, but he’s only fourteen. I don’t want to drag him in. My dad died a year ago. Kian was an only child and so was her father. She may have some cousins, but I’m sure they don’t follow the ancient ways.”
The old grandfather clock struck eleven.
“It’s late,” Aidan said as he stood, drawing himself to his full height.
Owen rose and feigned a yawn. “I’m going back to town,” he announced. “I’ll let it be known Kian took off for the city. My partner has spread that Bigfoot story all over anyway so I’ll just say she got spooked or something.” Aidan nodded and Owen continued, “You may get some yahoos looking for Sasquatch tonight. Bet there will even be a video on YouTube by tomorrow.” He chuckled and then added, “I’ll text if I know anything. We all better get some sleep.”
“Thanks,” Aidan said as he moved to shake Owen’s hand.
“No problem. Look, about what I said earlier…. I’m glad to know I got some help. Aren’t many Guardians left, you know.”
“What about that third family? You never said.”
“Their name was Cameron,” Owen replied half way out the front door. “Forget them. They’re gone, too.” He closed the door, calling through the glass panels, “Don’t forget to lock up.”
Jimbo spent the next two hours dodging Bigfoot hunters. For him, it was like a game, first exposing his bulky blanket-wrapped frame, then leading them along before disappearing up a tall tree or under some dense brush. At first he led them away from the stone chambers where they might do some damage and then toward the forest surrounding the overgrown horse pasture where Power and his coven were bedded down for the night. Satisfied that the twenty-odd men and women stalking the legendary beast would keep Power’s minions pinned down, Jimbo crept unnoticed onto the front porch and rapped at the window. “Hey, lover boy, let me in.”
Aidan opened the door and Jimbo strode into the room. “I gave those Bigfoot aficionados some good YouTube footage, and I checked on our friends. They won’t be going anywhere tonight, not with all those crypto-zoo-whatever type people out there. Cheez, how do those baboons expect to find that ape with all that commotion?”
Jimbo plopped down into the overstuffed armchair, his exhausted body sinking into the tattered green velvet. “I tagged two more cars. We now have eight.” Jimbo entered the new codes into Aidan’s tablet. “Power’s people won’t be going anywhere tonight.” He set the alarm. “And if they do, we’ll know about it.”
Aidan chuckled and took the tablet from him. “Good. We both need some shut-eye.”
“True that. And besides, someone has to chaperone you and the pretty lady upstairs. Shit, a blind man can see how you two feel about each other! She’s pretty smitten, ya’ know.”
“With me or with that Owen guy? I saw how he kept looking at her.”
“Jealous are we, lover boy?”
“No, I’m just saying….”
“Scotty, you two belong together. That one’s a ‘Keeper,’so to speak.” Jimbo laughed at his own joke.
“No argument with that,” Aidan replied. “You sleeping on the sofa or am I?”
“You are. There’s a spare room upstairs with a squeaky old cot and smelly sheets. I’ll take that.”
By Francesco Pizzigano (Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons