"Spoiler! Spoiler!! Spoilers!!!
I love Dwayne and I want to tell his story so badly, but he's only a secondary character in Athol. This explains a lot about his motivations and spoils a bit about what he might be up to in the confines of his own story, but I just want to put it out there anyway.
Just remember that I warned you of spoilers!"
Dwayne’s fingers had become red and sore from drumming them so much against the seat in front of him on the bus, but he kept up that practice all the same. He had to get home. He’d explain everything to his Dad; how he’d been disobeying his teachers, what he’d learned about the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, and how Fiona had threatened him. Classes would be out in five minutes. He continued the drum his fingers against the seat.
The young man darted from the vehicle as soon as the door was partially open. He sprinted down the block as fast as he could, but stopped short once his front porch finally came into view. A broom was leaning beside the front door.
He ran up to the door, hopelessly calling upon whatever “one true power” the Seelie recognized to protect his father from the opposing power that was now lingering in his house.
The door was unlocked and when he stepped inside he could clearly make out the sound of his father and Fiona conversing pleasantly in the living room. He sighed with relief; Fiona hadn’t done anything yet.
“I’ve never seen a student put so much effort into the language portion of their studies,” the witch was saying. “He probably speaks Gaelic better than some of graduates by now.”
“Well, he is brilliant,” he heard his father agreeing. “He practically taught himself to read when he was four-years-old.”
“I don’t doubt it. He’s an extremely resourceful young man.”
Dwayne quietly made his way towards the two voices, mentally going over the many water spells he’d learned in his studies. The only problem with that plan of action was that Fiona could easily turn the magic he’d learned against him. She was his teacher after all.
“Hey! Look who’s home!” his father announced as the boy turned the corner into the living room. The man got up from his seat and went to hug his son. Although Dwayne hugged his father back his eyes were fixed on the witch sitting across from him on his sofa. She gave a little wave to him with her fingers, wearing her best parent-teacher-conference-smile.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Dwayne asked as the man pulled away from him again.
“Well, Mistress Fiona and I were just talking about a job offer for you,” the man said with a proud nod.
Fiona stood up as she added, “One that’d give you a break on your tuition. We want you to teach Gaelic to the first year students. It’d mean more hours at school, but it’d also mean saving your father a lot of trouble.”
As she said this, Dwayne’s father went back to sitting beside Fiona on the sofa. He didn’t like them being so close to each other. It conjured up the image of her stabbing him through the neck with some hidden knife. Dwayne felt his blood boiling as it rushed through his veins. Fiona wanted to keep him a prisoner in that school. The calm air between his father and the witch was making him sick to his stomach.
“He’s never been any trouble at all,” Dwayne’s father assured them both. “I’d give anything and everything for this kid.”
“I understand,” Fiona nodded as she looked at Dwayne with such admiration. “What parent wouldn’t give their very life for their children?” Fiona put her hand on the man’s leg in a gentle and soothing manner.
A switch flipped in Dwayne’s mind. His father really would give his life to protect him. If he attacked Fiona right now he wouldn’t be able to protect his father. He wasn’t strong enough.
“Of course, you don’t have to take the job if you don’t want to,” Dwayne heard his father saying, though his mind was still trying to calculate a way out of this mess.
“Yes, there’s no pressure,” Fiona agreed. “But I really do think this would be the best thing for you both.”
The rest of the conversation past in a blur, but Dwayne could recall saying something like “let me think about it” before the witch finally left. They were still watching him. He could almost see the mysterious phantom in the basement of the school lingering over him.
“Well, you don’t seem very excited,” his father said at last.
Dwayne looked up at his father and found that he was still at a loss for an explanation or any plan of action. He had to say something. He had to get them both out of danger.
“Can we go for a drive, Dad?” was what finally slipped from his mouth.
“A drive?” the man asked. “To where?”
“Anywhere really,” Dwayne replied as he went to grab his father’s car keys off the hook where they always dangled. “I just want some time to clear my head.”
“Well, sure,” his father replied with a shrug. “I’ll go and grab my wallet.”
Dwayne shouted some mixture of the phrases “Meet you outside” and “I’ll start the car” as he went out the front door. There was no plan here. He knew that leaving town would get them attacked. He just had to get out from under that gaze. He couldn’t think straight while imagining a demon lurking over his shoulder. Would his counter spells even work against their own source? What other source was there?
As his father stepped outside Dwayne insisted on driving. He’d go stark raving mad if he had to sit quietly in the passenger seat like he had on the bus. His father asked him about his learner’s permit, which Dwayne assured him was in his pocket.
They took off down the road and cringed as his father reached to turn off the radio. He wanted to talk and Dwayne still didn’t have anything to say. They made small talk about the weather and about his father’s work at the garage. He asked if Dwayne really would want to be a teacher. He did want to be a teacher, but he wouldn’t want to teach other people Fiona’s lies.
They were getting pretty close to the edge of the city now. If they kept heading north, they’d be seeing a sign for the next county soon. Had they really been driving for almost an hour?
“Where are you going, Dwayne?” his father asked, sounding frustrated at last.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he replied simply.
“We need to get back home now,” the man insisted. “We still have to make dinner and you have school tomorrow whether you take the teaching job or not.”
“Just a bit further.”
“You wouldn’t want to break that perfect attendance record of yours.”
Dwayne eased off the gas pedal a bit, his blood going cold. “What?”
“That sort of thing speaks volumes about your future with the academy,” his father replied, but those weren’t his words. His father never used the word “academy” even though the Sages used it all the time. His father only ever called it a school because that’s all that he thought it was.
His father grabbed a hold of the wheel and wrenched it downwards with such force that Dwayne couldn’t have stopped him even if he had seen it coming. The car swerved off the smooth road and plunged though the uneven rocks and bushes that surrounded them. It all happened in one blur of motion. They narrowly missed hitting the trees that now stood on either side of them. Dwayne had hit the break, though he didn’t remember doing so. They hadn’t crashed into anything.
“You okay?! Dwayne? Are you alright?!” his father was shouting from beside him as he put his hand on his son’s shoulder.
Dwayne lurched out of his grasp and turned to the man in astonishment. “What was that?!” he demanded.
“Did you see a deer or something?” his father asked, glancing out the back window back towards the road.
Dwayne didn’t answer. Instead he got out of the car and away from his father. He pulled at his long red hair as he went over every incantation, every curse, and every potion that could influence another person. There were too many. His mind was racing and his heart felt like it was rising up in his throat. There were too many.
The lingering glare of the thing in the basement was there. Dwayne could almost imagine her shaking her head at him. He could almost hear her taunt rising up in unison with Fiona, saying “You want to protect him, but who’s going to protect you from him?”
“I’ll be right back! I promise!” he yelled as he darted further from the road, from the car, and everything else. He wasn’t heading out of town anymore, just deeper into the unknown parts of it. Into the lightly wooded areas that still lingered at the edge of shopping malls and suburban neighborhoods.
He could hear his dad calling for him, but it would take him a while to follow. The passenger side door was too close to the tree they had nearly hit.
Dwayne found a sort of path in the tall grass and weeds where someone must have trampled it all underfoot. He followed it until he finally saw something that he’d never expected to see within the confines of the city; a sprite.
The creature was glowing with a faint light and it was perched almost weightlessly on a blade of grass. It looked up at him with a small tilt of its head, though Dwayne couldn’t make out it’s expression under the glow of its pale pink skin. Sprites hadn’t been seen in the city for decades.
She leap from her perch and flew off through the trees, her wings only visible now that they were fluttering in the light. Dwayne chased after the fairy, hardly watching where he was going as he eyes stayed fixated on the girl. Chasing sprites was dangerous because you never know where you might end up. At the moment he didn’t care.
He’d only been following it for a few seconds when a building of white bricks came into view; a small modest building with a little bell tower on the roof, three stained glass windows, and a very gothic structured entryway.
He assumed that it had to be some sort of church, but he’d never seen such a small one before, let alone one that didn’t look like a re-purposed movie theater. He’d lost track of the sprite now. It had vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
“Well, you’re a bit early for Sunday Mass,” a voice called from behind him. Dwayne turned to find an old man dressed all in black walking up to him with a basket of vegetables. “But if you’re looking for a more modest spread, we’ll have dinner ready shortly.”
The old man walked right past Dwayne and into the white brick building without slowing down once or asking him what he was doing in the middle of nowhere. Dwayne followed the man into the building.
The old man went about his business as if he didn’t notice Dwayne. Once they were inside, he unlocked a door that had a staircase descending into a sort of sub level to the building. It was very narrow and made of stone. He waved for Dwayne to follow and then disappeared down the spiraling steps.
The boy glanced around at the grand hall just behind yet another door with stained glass windows in it. Dwayne swallowed the lump that was rising up in his throat. He wasn’t sure he should be in a place like this.
“Are you coming or should I turn the light off?” the old man called from below.
Dwayne quickly followed after him, thinking that he might feel more comfortable downstairs anyway. “Sister Brigid, we have company for dinner,” the old man announced as Dwayne walked into what looked like a cafeteria with the kitchen behind a sort of bar. There was a young woman dressed in a long black robe with a strange veil over her head. She was chopping some meat on the counter. She looked up at the boy that had entered with concern in her eyes.
“Who is he?” she asked.
“That’s a good question,” the old man nodded as he dropped his basket of vegetables on the bar. “What is your name?”
“Father! Didn’t you ask that earlier?” the woman practically squeaked.
“My name’s Dwayne,” the boy offered, trying to puzzle together how the girl could be a sister to the man she’d just called father.
“There we go!” the old man smiled. “Dwayne! Lovely to meet you, Dwayne. I’m Father Hubley and this is Sister Brigid.”
The next few minutes were probably the most bizarre experience of Dwayne’s life. Another two “Sisters” showed up as they got dinner preparations underway. Dwayne helped by chopping some potatoes. He asked questions about what their different titles meant learned that Father Hubley was a what they called a Priest and the three Sisters were called Nuns. They were indeed in a church and was called Saint Patrick’s. They’d been around for decades now and never locked their doors.
“Don’t you worry about the sages finding you here?” Dwayne asked. “They don’t exactly approve of religious institutions.”
“No sage has stepped onto these grounds yet,” one of the sisters assured him. “I think the sprites lead them away.”
“But a sprite lead me right to your door,” Dwayne warned.
“Well, are you a sage?” Father Hubley asked.
Dwayne swallowed another lump in his throat. Technically he wasn’t a sage yet. He had practiced magic and had worked for years against the sprites and all other Seelie types of fairies.
Sister Brigid accidently knocked over her glass of water, sending it spilling over the table. Dwayne reacted by jumping back and calling out for the water to disperse. It sputtered into a mist and the table was dried instantly.
There was a stunned silence as the others stared at him. Brigid pulled a string of beads from her pocket and began fidgeting with them frantically. Father Hubley approached and Dwayne found himself backing away from the man.
“Dwayne, come with me,” the Priest ordered firmly, though there was no sign of anger in his voice.
He followed Father Hubley back up the stairs, expecting to be shown the door, but the man opened the door into the main chamber of the building instead.
“Will you sit and pray with me for a moment?” the man asked.
“Pray? To God?” Dwayne asked, a bit startled by the notion. “I really don’t know him that well.”
“No better time for introductions,” Father nodded. “Come in.”
The man lead him down the row of pews until they were about mid way to the altar and then sat down and waited for Dwayne to join him.
As the boy finally sat down the man pulled down a kneeler from the seat in front of them and proceeded to kneel on it like it was the most natural thing in the world. Dwayne stayed seated awkwardly as he tried to figure out if he should kneel down as well. What was he bowing to exactly? The altar? Besides a golden casing sitting behind it, there wasn’t much there that he could see.
“Heavenly Father,” the Priest began suddenly. “We thank you from bringing Dwayne here on this beautiful Wednesday evening. You are the way the truth and the light, Lord; the one true God. Please hear the prayers of this young man, which he now offers to You.”
Father Hubley turned to Dwayne here and then nodded towards the altar and the golden case. Dwayne dropped to his knees and put his hands together in the same way Father Hubley had done, but he really didn’t know where to go from there. What was he supposed to say?
Dwayne thought back to everything he’d learned in the past year. He thought about how all magic had a source and that source was usually found in nature. The sages claimed that they had such power over nature because they were strong and commanding. Then in his extra studies as a water mage he had learned that no sage, no matter how powerful, could command “holy water” which had been anointed in some way.
That was because their power was actually tied to a Wind Demon named Aoifa, who was known for mercilessly cursing children. Everything they had taught him only dragged him deeper and deeper into Aoifa’s grasp. He could almost imagine her hovering over him like the mist he had dispersed at the dinner table.
A demon couldn’t control what had been anointed, but why? All the books Dwayne read excused it by saying it was nothing more than a trick of the Seelie fairies. If that was true, if the Seelie could in fact oppose the Unseelie in such a way, why couldn’t the Unseelie banish each other the same way?
The answer was that the Unseelie were a broken race that answered to no one, but the Seelie were all united as one under “one true power.” Was that power God? Father Hubley had called him “the one true God” after all. If that was the case, what was a fifteen-year-old boy even supposed to say to such a deity? He had no right to ask for help. He’d been opposing this god without even knowing it.
Then it occurred to him. He knew exactly what to ask or rather what to pray. “Please save my father from my mistakes,” Dwayne said.
Father Hubley closed the prayer with a sort of hand sign and then sat back down in the pew. Dwayne sat down as well and waited.
“I can’t tell you where to go from here, Dwayne,” Father explained. “My advice would be for you to get as far away from the sages as possible.”
“I can’t leave,” Dwayne said in defeat. “I don’t know why they want me to stay at the school. They’ve been trying to make me quit since day one and now that I know their secret they won’t let me go. I never should have confronted Fiona.”
“Well, confronting that woman always leads to hardship,” Father Hubley nodded. “But I’ve known many people to do it all the same.”
“Why don’t you come back on Sunday morning? You might find that you’re not as alone as you think.”
With that, Father Hubley got to his feet and after kneeling before the altar he headed back to the front of the church. Dwayne sat alone in the pew.
Dwayne made his way back to the side of the road where he had left his father and their truck. To his surprise, his father was just getting out of the car and heading in his direction.
“Where are you going?” the man was shouting. “You just wrecked the car! This is no time for a jog through the woods!”
“Just wrecked---But I already went and came back,” the boy replied.
“So you jumped out of the car to run ten feet?”
Dwayne hadn’t thought about it until this moment, but he must have been at Saint Patrick’s Church for an awfully long time. He’d helped them to make dinner and then sat down to eat with them. That would have taken an hour at least.
Suddenly a passage from one of Fiona’s books came to his mind. She had stated that sprites could open gates through dimensions that people could accidentally step through. Had he been in the fairy realm? Had he just stepped through it and somehow been displaced from normal time?
Either way, it made it seem all the more impossible that he’d ever see the church again.
Story and Characters (C) SuperheroGeek13