“That noise,” Bran said, stepping into the church. The door shut out most of the music from the parade, but not all. “Gods, it’s annoying.”
“I’d rather spend the day in a firefight,” Louis said. “Artillery is musical compared to that. At least the drunken fools didn’t call you a leprechaun.”
Bran grunted and watched as the minister approached the three men and bid them good day. Bran, Lugh, and Odin, introduced themselves by their human names (Brian, Oliver and Louis), and Bran’s sheer size seemed to take the minister aback. He wondered which bothered the man more: his sheer 7’5” height — or the eye patch covering one of Odin’s eyes.
The man studied the patch on Bran’s jacket. “You’re in the military, Bran?” the minister asked.
“Brian,” he corrected, though maybe the minister wasn’t so dense. Far too few saw the correct spelling.
Odin nodded. “I gave my eye to work for military intelligence in the Middle East.”
“We were lucky,” Brian supposed. “Our time in the Middle East cost us far less.”
“I should hope your time here with us today has helped you somewhat,” the minister said. The three men looked at one another and nodded kindly, listening politely as he went on to expound upon the virtues of the Church and the healing to be found in Christian doctrine. The minister smiled. “Are you students of such things?”
“To a point,” Bran said. “I suppose you could say that of us all.” He frowned thoughtfully. “It’s made quite an impact on us, I think.”
“Conversation on the topic is rather sparse, in the areas we’ve been in,” Odin said. “Certainly among the troops, particularly of a Sunday. But we tended to keep more in-depth discussions, among we three.”
The minister cocked a dark brow. “Have you? And your conclusions?”
Lugh shrugged. “What would you have me say? Men may argue whatever point they like about the gods. There’s only one way they’ll ever know the truth.”
The man’s shoulders twitched ever so slightly as if he seemed to suddenly feel an itch or something creeping up his spine. Bran wondered if he heard Lugh’s sarcasm.
“God is God, is God,” Bran agreed. “That should be the point made.”
Surely only his companions heard the lament, and Bran was sure the man would not have agreed with his statement. But concur he did, if for only a moment.
He frowned finally and said, “Don’t let your time away, or anything you have seen, change your mind about God’s love.”
“Anything I’ve seen,” Bran muttered. “You don’t want to know what we’ve seen. This is the thing that troubles me.” He waved a hand around to indicate the whole of the little church. “By that little book —” He tapped the Bible in the minister’s hands. “— we should be condemned for what we’ve done, and that’s what’s wrong with —”
Odin laid a hand on Bran’s shoulder. “So you see why my cousins have come home. We’re over-tired of military life.”
The minister looked sadly to Bran. “Son, you have no need to worry. You have the forgiveness you seek, just in professing that need, here.”
Bran scoffed. “Forgiveness is not what I seek here. It was … knowledge, I suppose.”
“My door is always open to you, boys,” the minister offered brightly. “I hope to see you all again.” He blessed them, pondering them quietly as they turned to leave.
Bran glanced at Odin and Lugh. “That’s not at all what I wanted to say.”
“We know,” Odin said, nudging him toward the door. “But it’s time to leave it be, isn’t it?”
Bran raised a deep red eyebrow. “Is it?”
Lugh pondered his cousin for a moment, and scanned the painted church elders decorating the white walls. “It will do no good.”
“It has done no good to remain quiet,” Bran pointed out.
“True,” Odin agreed. “But if you argue the subject further, he’ll talk you into … at least a headache. Do you need another one?”
Bran rubbed his neck. “What else will he do? Condemn me to Hell? I’ve seen it already, and more than he has. More than you — .” The frown Odin gave him cut him short. “Well, more than most.”
“Is there a problem, gentlemen?” The minister’s question caused the three men to whip their attention back to him, like boys caught at mischief. The minister blinked, reiterated his offer, “Something I can help you with?”
Bran smiled. “It’s just a question — one that’s bothered me for … a long time. I understand, from what I’ve read, that the church, in its infancy, appropriated the people’s gods into its sainthood — at least some. But I’ve run across many saints whose stories were downright bad storytelling, mere footnotes. If they’re mentioned at all. How can they decide who to keep and who to throw away? Like this Patrick you swill green beer for yearly. How do you know most of their deeds aren’t just a spin-doctor’s fantasies?” he muttered under his breath.
“Bran,” Lugh said, laying a hand on his cousin’s arm, “come. We’re expected elsewhere.” He gave the minister an apologetic look. “Do forgive him, Father. He gets testy when he’s famished.”
“The question is an interesting one,” the minister mused. “The choosing of such grace isn’t my area of expertise.”
“So you would send me to Rome,” Bran chuckled sadly. “Been there, done that.
“It’s a sickness,” Odin said. “He sympathizes, more than most, with the forgotten, I fear.”
The minister smiled. “An admirable endeavor.”
Bran thought better of continuing the argument, but couldn’t help but add, “There are many — too many — deserving the sympathy.”
“Forgive him, Father. It’s just his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder flaring up, you understand,” Lugh offered in a softer voice. He pushed Bran toward the door.
“Stop shoving!” Bran hissed. “Are you mad?”
“No,” Odin said. “But I’m afraid you’re going to be seen so. Did you have to go on a tirade?”
“We have to start somewhere,” Bran said.
“We are,” Lugh said. “Remember what we’ve agreed to: small steps.”
“That will take eons,” Bran huffed. “Small steps will do nothing but cause us even more losses.” He nodded to Odin. “He might even be lost, even given all their best efforts to preserve that knowledge. I know you certainly will be.” Lugh scoffed at his words. “Come on, admit it. They barely remember you, now, as it is.”
“Would you like them all to have parades like this?” Lugh said, as they came out onto the chilly, early spring street. He waved his hand to the crowd and bright green streamered floats in the street. “I hate this day,” he grumbled.
Brian scanned the crowd lining the sidewalk. “I would have them know the truth. How many died at his —” He waved to the parade moving along the street. “— ‘peaceful conversion’s’ hands?”
“You’ve hardly seen that treatment, yourself,” Odin argued.
Bran gestured to Lugh. “He has. Or at least he’s been turned into a beer swilling leprechaun.” He snorted. “Tell me that’s fair.”
Bran spotted a woman approaching. He sighed, shook unruly red locks out of his green eyes.
Lugh laid a light hand on Bran’s arm, sympathetically. “Dear boy, you know the argument will accomplish nothing.”
“Aye, we’ve waited too long to defend ourselves.”
Lugh looked around, studying the people enjoying the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Bran snorted and watched them, flowing around he and his companions as if they were mere unnoticed rocks in a stream.
There, a little park, nearby the chapel and he nonchalantly strolled towards it, as if compelled by the kind, tall oaks and the shade they offered.
Bran’s companions sighed but he was more intent on the crowd, in particular, one young woman had caught his eye; she had passed right by them, without so much as a side-glance, and taken a bench not far away from the noisy crowd and the tree against which her observer leaned.
“I see now,” Odin chuckled bring Bran’s attention away from the young woman. “He must’ve got another rejection letter.”
Lugh sighed. “They’ll get there, eventually. Until then, shall we have something more substantial for lunch than depressing talk? I’m starving!”
Bran smiled. “That’s what I need.” He paused, distracted by the high-pitched curse. The young woman on the park bench was clearly angry about something. She jumped to her feet, cursing under her breath, as she gathered her purse and backpack, shoving things inside, notebooks, or other books of some kind, Bran thought as he watched. She wrapped her arms across the bundle, rather than tossing the backpack over her shoulder, and stalked away from the bench, heading towards the sidewalk. Bran stepped aside, at the same moment as the young woman moved to step around him from the same direction. They collided; everything the young woman held in her arms went flying, and she sprawled to the ground with a heavy thump. Her backpack flopped open, and various brick-a-brack joined the papers in their messy design across the sidewalk.
Bran cursed himself for being clumsy, and helped the young woman to her feet.
“No, no,” she said; “it’s my fault. I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
Bran smiled at the young woman, as she looked him over, and blushed at the absurdity of her statement. “I don’t think anything’s broken,” he chuckled. “You?”
The young woman knelt down to retrieve her things. “I suppose not. If I’d been paying attention —”
“Then you would not have brightened my day, my lady,” he said. He handed a small stack of papers to her, even as the young woman blushed at his words, and set the papers just so into her backpack.
“And it was total darkness, until now.”
She blinked and settled the backpack’s straps over her arms, studying Bran curiously. “Thank you. I —” She glanced to his companions, looked back to Bran, and gave him a brief smile, repeated, “Thank you,” and walked away.
“Well,” Lugh said, “you’re not as totally invisible as you seem to think.”
Bran sniffed, watching the retreating girl. “No, I don’t suppose I am. What if we go to … I don’t know. Hooters or some such place?”
Lugh snorted. “No. You don’t need a place like that.”
“Agreed,” Odin said. “Come. Dine with me. My kitchen’s the best anywhere.”
Lugh raised an eyebrow. “Sounds perfect. Those mead flavored Shirley Temples you gave us last time fooled even me —almost.”
Odin wrinkled his nose mischievously. “What do you mean they almost fooled you?”
“You all sound,” Bran argued, ignoring Odin and Lugh’s snickers, “like you think I’ll succumb easily to human fare. I promise you, I will not lose my head.”
The young woman’s voice came again in a curse, and the click of her heels grew louder, even as Bran voiced the joke. “Excuse me,” she interrupted sheepishly. Bran studied her curiously. “Do you see a pen, anywhere? I seem to have lost mine, in our —”
“Pen?” he said, looking to his companions, each looking to the street, peering in search of the wanted item. “No,” he said, “I’m sorry.” Bran flipped out his fatigue jacket dramatically and dug into the pocket. “Here, take mine,” he said, pulling forth a pen. Emerald sparkles bounced off the marbled surface of the pen as he offered it to her.
The young woman blinked, and accepted graciously, as she stared hard, curiously at him. She was smaller by far than he, but he knew her eyes were locked on his.
“Write me well, my lady.”
“Write —” She swallowed, lowered her eyelids just slightly, and after a moment looked back, focusing more fully on Bran. She smiled. “I’ll try.”
Lugh cleared his throat and the girl nodded her thanks to Bran, and turned away.
“Flirt,” Lugh accused.
Bran wiggled his red brows mischievously.
“Come,” Odin said. “We’ll go home, for now.”
“Excuse me,” a voice called.
Bran turned back to see the same girl, watching them. He nodded regally to her. “My lady? Is there a problem?”
“No. I just … I was curious — are you Irish, perchance? You sound Irish — your accent, I mean.”
Bran looked at his cousins and answered, “Yes; I’m Irish, and so is my friend.” He nodded to Odin. “Not him.”
He introduced Louis and Oliver. “Why do you ask?”
The young woman studied them, and finally turned back to Bran. “I’m working on something about Ireland,” she said. “But I’ve never had a chance to actually visit, yet.” She hesitated, waved a hand dismissively. “Forgive me; forget I said anything. I won’t trouble you.”
“It’s no trouble,” Bran said. “We were discussing lunch,” he admitted, giving her a mischievous, charming grin. “We don’t promise something for nothing, though. If you want our story, you must share our lunch, agreed?” Bran was actually asking his cousins’ approval, far more than for the young woman’s agreement. “Tell us your story, in exchange for ours.”
The young woman studied them a moment more, and agreed, with only a little hesitation in her voice. “I don’t have much money. Where were you considering?”
“A little place of which we’re fond,” Bran said. “Have you ever had real Irish cuisine? No green beer; I promise. But perhaps if you wanted a little mead and poetry? We can give you that.”
“All right,” she said. “Sounds like fun.”
Bran smiled and offered the young woman his arm.
[Juli D. Revezzo has long been in love with writing, a love built by devouring everything from the Arthurian legends, to the works of Michael Moorcock, and the classics and has a soft spot for classic the “Goths” of the 19th century. Her short fiction has been published in Dark Things II: Cat Crimes, The Scribing Ibis, Eternal Haunted Summer, Twisted Dreams Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly, and Crossed Genres‘ “Posted stories for Haiti relief” project, while her non-fiction has been included in The Scarlet Letter. She has also, on occasion, edited the popular e-zine Nolan’s Pop Culture Review… But her heart lies in the storytelling. She is a member of the Indie Author Network. Her debut novel, The Artist’s Inheritance was recently released. Visit her here.]