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by Randall Morgan

Here it is. Leaving town, so.....

Chapter 31: Brian's POV

I can't look over my shoulder at Justin as we leave our room at the inn. I know if I do, I won't be able to go. I'll see the expression of pain and terror on his face and I won't be able to hurt him. But Gus…how could we have any happiness if I failed to do everything within my power to save Gus?

Leaving our room is the hardest thing I've ever done, because I honestly don't know whether I'll ever be back. I don't fear for myself, but I do fear a life without Justin. What's the point? Eternal youth without the one man I love sounds like a long, long time to be miserable, and alone. I remember how that felt before he came into my life, and I don't want to go back. Better to get old and decrepit with him, than stay as I am now, without him. Even my vast load of vanity has its limits.

Ariel slips his fingers through mine and holds tightly to my hand because I'm suddenly blinded by a flash of light when the door to our room opens. We don't walk into the hall. We walk into the center of the sun, or so it seems, the brightness is so extreme. I'm sure I've been blinded. But there's no heat, just cold, pure white light. Is this what they mean by telling dying people to walk into the light? Am I dying? Is this how it ends for Brian Kinney?

No such luck.

I'm not dead, I'm not even hurt. I'm just in a very strange place, like something out of an LSD trip from back in the acid sixties, when LSD was good, or so I've been told. Colors are Maxfield Parrish bright, and the landscape is an enchantment of mythical creatures and impossible vistas. I stand there on the start of my own yellow brick road, holding hands with a fairy who is now wearing white velvet leggings, and nothing else other than a circlet of diamonds in his flowing blond hair and a series of bracelets adorning his arms. There are hills rolling into lakes where mermaids sun on rocks, their mossy hair stringing over bare breasts, while sirens practice their deadly musical scales.

A family of unicorns graze in the distance, pure white, with golden spirals of bone protruding from between their liquid eyes. A little girl with golden ringlets, who is dressed in elf shoes and peasant costume, carries a basket as she scampers over to us. "Want to see?" She asks, and pulls back the gossamer cloth to reveal a pair of baby dragons, hissing at each other like kittens and stretching wings too wobbly yet to fly. "Finnius and Finnian," she says with a beguiling smile. "They hatched just this morning. They're mine, now."

"Put them back in their nest before their ma finds them gone and torches you with her breath," Ariel demands. He certainly has a casual interest in her fate at the fiery breath of a dragon. "But Da…." she pouts. Da? He's her father?

"Do it now, Siobhan."

She whistles for a small blue dog with piercing yellow eyes, and off they go. A big lumbering creature comes out of nowhere to follow her. Ariel calls out to him, "See that she stays away from that dragon's lair. The old girl gets cranky when she has new bairn."

"Aye," the monster grumps and Ariel glances at me.

"He's a firbolg. Useless creature. We defeated their kind eons ago, now they serve as minders for our children, because they're as strong as they are dumb."

A pair of centaurs clip-clop past us. I recognize the face of one as being a bouncer from the fairy clubs. But he's in his true form now, with the body of a horse. He nods at me, and says, "Welcome home."

I grab Ariel's arm, suddenly feeling woozy. He smiles. "Breathe deeply, it'll pass."

"I thought I've tripped before, but this is tripping."

We pass cottages, small, like doll houses where the "little people" are sweeping the walks and minding gardens; alongside normal-sized cottages where the bigger fairies live. We board a ferry, pulled across a channel by a pair of sea monsters he calls 'murdhurchas'. On the island that looms in the distance is a huge castle, surrounded by a wall and watch towers. It beats anything Disney or Mad King Ludwig were able to conceive on their most imaginative day. Spires stretch into the clouds, like high rise buildings in San Francisco, and the building material is snow white marble, that gleams in the bright light of the day.

As we cross, I see all manner of creatures under the surface of the waters, including a band of beautiful mermaids who seem to be flirting with me, and fish that resemble no species I've seen on earth. Their rainbow-colored scales emit a natural light so that they turn the water into a neon paradise beneath the surface.

"Duck," Ariel warns, and I automatically do so as a huge shadow crosses over us, bearing a faint reptilian scent. I look up and see a dragon the size of a house fly away, having dropped a rock at Ariel's feet. I stare after the creature until it disappears into the clouds and Ariel laughs and tosses the rock into the water.

"Don't worry, it's only Shain, the old dragon cow who is showing me her displeasure over Siobhan's interference with her bairn. Shain is one of the last breeders of her kind, so we all treasure her. She means me no harm, it was merely a warning. But she might have injured you by accident. Her aim isn't what it used to be."

I stare at him. This is just not happening. I can't take it in. He smiles. He is so incredibly beautiful to begin with, and in this place, his beauty is even more intense. I feel it in my groin. Get a grip, Brian. Not only would that be unfair to Justin, but he scares the shit out of me, and I'm not giving him that power. "So you have a wife? A mate?"

"Many wives, many mates, why?"

"The girl."

"Oh. Siobhan is my little brat. I have a slew of them."


"Yes, of course."

"With different women?"

"Some with women."

"What else?"

Ariel smiles. "Don't be so provincial. Ah, here we are, mind your step."

I walk onto a dock that is guarded by the scariest looking centurions I've ever seen, but they defer to Ariel, who takes my arm and leads me past them to the path that winds uphill to the castle.

"Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you to meet your people, Brian."

"How come it was night when we left my room, but it's day time here?"

"It's always day time somewhere, isn't it? We aren't on your plane anymore, don't try to normalize it in your head. Won't work."

I pause, suddenly short of breath. There's a constant scent of clover and fresh flowers in the atmosphere, and it has a narcotic effect on me. I see past this castle to another island, where the dark shadow of another castle sprawls across the horizon. There are heavy clouds hovering over the blackened walls and turrets of the structure that is built on a denuded promontory of steep rock cliffs pocked with caves.

"The home seat of the Unseelie Court," Ariel reads my mind. "A place to be avoided."

I glance at his perfect profile and shake my head. Why would he even have to add that warning? How dumb does he think I am? I don't want to go into the "nice" castle, let alone the "evil" one. I never was a genius at math, but I understood the basic concepts of physics. I can't work out in my mind how the earth can have the world I know so well and also this crazy place. With seas and mountains and time out of mind. The earth is a finite space, a round sphere, bound by gravity. There's no room for an alternative universe within that space. Ariel glares at me.

"Why ponder the imponderable, Brian? Does it matter, really? What is, is. That's all ye need to know."

I hate that he can read my thoughts so easily. As we near the gates of the castle, the ugly centurions give way to beautiful elves, much like Ariel, with delicate faces and tall, lithe bodies. But they're armed with primitive weapons, the joys of modern means of mass destruction not yet infiltrating this kingdom. Pixies are everywhere, a blizzard of the little pests. They drop that gold sand and hover among the brilliant flowers in the gardens just beyond the gates.

"The twelve sacred trees," Ariel points out an arbor, thick with pixies. Two giggling children, one quite human looking, the other with the legs, horns and tail of a goat, chase the little beings with butterfly nets, catching not a one. One of those hideous firbolgs watches over their play. Ariel leads me into a corridor, nodding at the guards, and I enter a foyer with floors made from solid gold bricks, and walls with huge mirrors reflecting the light of a crystal chandelier that has to be twelve feet long and laden with a thousand burning candles. I stare down at my feet on this priceless floor and Ariel smiles.

"In our world, we treasure other things above gold."

"You don't have a problem with guests prying up your floor tiles?"

Ariel laughed at such an idea, even though I was half-serious. I hear a string quartet playing beautiful, winsome music from a distant vista and it calms me. We follow this golden trail to the inner sanctum of the castle, where the gold gives way to marble and an enormous sweeping staircase curves from both sides of the room. In the center is a vast round table with pie wedges inlaid on the top, each wedge bearing a name in gold script. A huge urn of fresh flowers decorates it and fills the space with scent. I pause to read a name, Lancelot, another reads "Arthur, Rex". Rex is king. I glance at Ariel who smiles.

"We borrowed it when Camelot failed. We always liked Arthur. He understood our kind, thanks to Merlin, who is still living among us, of course."

"It's a fable."

"Don't be naive, Brian."

We're walking up a set of stairs, and I walk slowly, admiring the swagger portraits on the walls. Fairies, beautiful, heroic, graceful women, and warrior men. The Seelie Court, he tells me. I recognize Fiachna, my relative, and my grandmother. We reach the first landing and I hesitate. "Where are you taking me?"

"To the Seanmhaithair, of course."

"This is her palace?"

"This is the palace of our king and queen, but all of the Seelie Court is quartered here. My rooms are at the top, as I like to be near the elements."

"What am I supposed to say to her?"

"Don't fret about that, Brian. She'll be the one doing the talking. You'll be the one doing the listening."

We enter a corridor marked with banners on the wall of a heraldic crest showing a gold mace and sword against a green background with a black raven hovering overhead, the mark of Fiachna. Above the crest is a crown, signifying he's a king in this realm. Guards mind the entrance to the corridor, and nod at Ariel as he leads me past them. Tall vases under mullioned windows overflow with flowers, and a silk carpet is woven to show a battle scene that cushions our footsteps. On the walls are paintings of Fiachna and my grandmother and a man who looks like me, followed by a man who was my grandfather, although in the painting he is still young, followed by a portrait of... Jack. I stop to stare at the rendering of my son of a bitching father. And then... a portrait of me. How I look now. Dressed in a Prada suit, staring straight at the painter as if I had posed for it.

"A good likeness, wouldn't you say?" Ariel observes.

"The style looks familiar."

"John Singer Sargent painted it. Perhaps you've heard of him."

"Yes, he died long before I was born."

"Not quite, Brian, not quite. He's one of us. Here we are."

He pauses before twenty-foot double doors and knocks. A lovely blonde woman responds. She's dressed in gossamer silk that leaves nothing on her body unseen. Damn, the straight fairies must have it made around here. We're led to an inner chamber with silk wall coverings and gracious furnishings where we sit, and wait. Soon, an inner door that's decorated to blend into the wall covering opens. A woman walks in.

My grandmother.

"Welcome home, Brian," she says and I just stare, suddenly unable to move.

She's definitely not what I expected.

Go to Chapter 32

Disclaimer: The television show Queer As Folk and its characters are the property of Showtime and CowLip Productions. No money is being made. Stories and discussion are intended purely for the entertainment of fans of Queer as Folk, the Brian and Justin characters, and Randall's writings.
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July 25, 2004