“I am not certain Mater will accept that, she will no doubt demand the cumulative deficit be presented,” Diana said. “She has always been known as a ‘stickler’ as you would call it.”
“We truly didn’t know, we kind of ended up in this place by accident or chance, we weren’t trained or initiated,” Sam said, knowing in his heart that this wasn’t going to come down to what they knew, but who they were.
“Are you not descendants of this group?” Diana asked.
Sam nodded. “Yes, our grandfather was being initiated into the group the night they were all murdered. We think his father was a Man of Letters also.”
“Then you are part of them, you must bear their debts, that is how this works,” Diana said.
“Yes, we know that we’re legacies, but for most of our lives we’ve mostly just been hunters. We’ve never been initiated into the organization officially,” Sam said.
“Yes, I do remember this about you. In the brief encounter we shared when my father as well as my lover died, I recognized the difference between you and your grandfather.”
“So, can we use that somehow to make our case to Mater Matuta? Would you help me explain it to her?” Sam asked.
“I will be happy to attempt it, although, I do not think it will do much good in changing her mind. However, if we are able to appease or destroy the lutin as well, it may work to satisfy her as she seems to be expending her energy in battling the thing.”
“How do we deal with the lutin? What do you think he wants? All I know is, he hangs out here as a white cat and is obsessed with my hair.”
“I can see why,” Diana said, eyeing Sam’s hair with an undisguised and very covetous glance.
Sam ran his hand through his hair, unconsciously making sure it was all still there. What was it with deities and his hair anyway?
“Is he here right now, Sam?” Diana asked.
“Yeah, I’ve got him locked up in my room, because I thought he was just a cat and I didn’t want him interrupting when I contacted you,” Sam said.
“You summoned me, Sam, that is quite a bit different,” Diana corrected, her face turning stern and dark at the reminder.
“I didn’t know any other way to get a chance to talk to you, I’m sorry,” Sam said.
“Remember the difference between an invitation and a demand, that is important. I accept your apology and will now view this visit as an invitation extended by you that I chose to accept. Now show me to this cat.”
Sam nodded in thanks, not able to come up with anything coherent. He led Diana down the hall and briefly hoped that his room was tidy enough for a goddess to see. The door was still closed, and he could see movement through the grating at the bottom, the cat (no the lutin) was pacing. Diana silently drew a hunting knife out of a sheath on her calf and nodded for him to open the door. A streak of white hurtled through the opening but she was faster, grabbing the creature around its middle and hoisting it up into the air. The cat writhed and slashed, hissing loud and frantic.
“We meet again, my old foe,” Diana said with a grin.
The cat transformed into the lutin, Sam recognized him from the first time he’d seen Mater Matuta in the other realm. His red hat with the two feathers was barely staying on his head as Diana shook him roughly.
“Stop! Please, Diana!” the lutin cried.
“Why should I you, rough beast, after what you did on the Isle?” Diana shouted.
“I didn’t mean it, really I didn’t, it was an accident I swear it,” the lutin said in a rush.
Sam could see that he was terrified, his small features were drawn up into a worried crumple.
Diana lowered him to the ground, he gained his footing and stood as tall as he was able to, which was only just under three feet high. He readjusted his roughly woven clothing and set his red woolen hat more firmly on his head. The lutin glared up at Diana with a challenge in his eyes.
“You owe me,” Diana said. “The Isle was never the same after you invaded our solitude. There was a very good reason no men were allowed. You broke the sacred compact and all of our art and science was taken.”
“You know that I did it for love. The princess and I were very happy, for a very long time.”
“That did not give you the right to invade and demolish our sacred solitude ,” Diana said.
“Have you never done something for love that wasn’t yours by right, Diana?” the lutin challenged, his hands on his hips and his chin raised in defiance.
Diana’s eyes flashed with pain. Sam imagined she was remembering firing the arrow that killed both her lover, Prometheus as well as her father, Zeus. It had been a horrible thing to witness, he couldn’t imagine how it had felt to make the choice to do something so drastic.
“I have, but then I have borne the consequences. You however, fled the lands where you would have been held to account, like the gutless knave that you are,” Diana growled down at him.
The lutin cringed at her words and then stood tall once again. “It is true, I did flee, and if it will make you happy to know, I continue my fruitless search for lands where I can settle.”
“It does make me happy that you are rootless and still wander. But it doesn’t bring me joy to know that you are intruding on my friend’s life here.” Diana looked over at Sam expectantly.
Sam felt a little pride bloom in his chest at being called Diana’s friend. He focused on the issues at hand and spoke to the lutin. “I don’t like it that you ripped my hair out. And I don’t want you here bothering Mater Matuta. We have our own issues with her. You need to move on, this isn’t the place for you, we don’t want you here, you’re not welcome here,” Sam said.
“Sam, your hair…I am sorry if it pained you, but it is—how to explain, it is irresistible,” the lutin said with a shrug.
Sam scowled at the lutin and then at Diana when she burst out laughing.
“Sam, what he says, it is true, you have the hair of a god, I’m sure you don’t realize its worth.”
“Well, you can take the elflock that you made and just go, how about that?” Sam asked holding out the plait of his hair to the creature.
“I can do that,” the lutin said with a small bow, taking the bundle of hair from Sam.
“No,” Diana said. “He cannot.” Her knife laid upon the lutin’s hand holding Sam’s hair. “If he holds your hair, Sam, he will always have a claim to you.”
The lutin moved, feinting left then right, but Diana was faster, he was stuck through with her knife, and dead in the next moment. The plait of Sam’s hair was still clenched in his little fist. Diana leaned down and snagged it, tossing it to Sam. “My advice is to keep track of your hair from here on out. Let’s take his body to visit Mater, you lead the way.”
Sam checked his watch, while she scooped up the lutin’s body, there was still some time left before dawn. He didn’t want to have to hand over this situation to Dean because he didn’t know how he would handle it. He hadn’t even told Dean about summoning Diana, not wanting to get his hopes up. He was seeing now that choice might have been a mistake.
He led Diana to the garage and opened the trunk of the Impala, laying out one of their old blankets. Diana placed the lutin’s body on the blanket and wrapped him up neatly. Sam shut the trunk lid and opened the passenger door for her. It just seemed like the right way to show deference to a goddess. She slid into the seat with an approving smile.
Sam drove them quickly to the spot where this had all started, the engine growled and strained when he mashed on the accelerator, the twelve mile marker was soon glowing in the headlights. Sam stopped on the edge of the road and turned to Diana to see what to do first. She was grinning from ear to ear with a slightly manic twinkle to her eye.
“I like this vehicle very much!” Diana proclaimed with charming enthusiasm.
“I’ll be sure to let my brother know,” Sam said with a smile. “Do we have to dig her statue up again, or can you just call her somehow?”
“No digging will be required, we will lay the body down and she will come,” Diana said.
They did just that, and in a roar of light and no sound, Mater Matuta appeared, for once in their realm, she seemed very insubstantial at first in the darkness, all the light from the car’s headlights seemed to coalesce around her, giving her a vague solidity. “Who calls me into the darkness?”
“Greetings, Mater Matuta, it is I, Diana. I come to visit you, and honor you with a gift,” Diana said, pointing at the body of the lutin on the snowy ground.
“Is that the creature? Why it is—thank you, Diana,” Mater Matuta said.
“You are welcome, he will trouble you no more. The reason he is dead is my friend Sam asked me to come here and help. I would ask that you release he and his brother from the hold of the dawn.”
“I cannot, they have not made the sacrifice,” she said.
“What sacrifice is required?” Diana asked.
“Because of your help with the lutin, Diana, I will now only require one human life to be sacrificed instead of two. Just one offered freely, without reservation, to make up for the years of neglect and abandonment.”
“These men truly did not know of their obligations, and all of the others in the group you made treaty with were murdered sixty years ago,” Diana argued.
“It is of no matter to me, who has or has not died, what these men knew or did not, what is due, is still due. They have benefitted from my protection whether they acknowledge that or not,” Mater Matuta said.
“Can the sacrifice be a calf or several calves?” Sam asked.
“No, Sam, an animal’s life is no longer adequate to pay the debt. That would be an adequate substitute if it had been given as agreed, yearly and with the proper prayers.”
“We thank you for your halving of the debt,” Diana said with a small bow. Sam bowed also, just in case that was expected of him.
Mater Matuta nodded to her, and turned to Sam. “I expect the life to be given to me no later than the date of my festival.” Before he could respond, she disappeared in a whoosh of light that seemed to be sucked into a pinpoint and then released in a nearly soundless sigh to the beams of the Impala’s headlights.
“I am sorry, Sam,” Diana said.
“Is there anything else we can do?” Sam asked, desperate with the weight of what he’d just learned they owed.
“No, that is the problem with invoking the deities of old for any reason, they hold true to the old ways. Your Men of Letters have left you and your brother with a terrible legacy to uphold.”
“Thank you for coming and helping, Diana. I am very grateful,” Sam said, bowing his head.
Diana ran her hand through his hair and sighed with true regret. “If only you were not another’s. It has been a pleasure being summoned, but next time, just ask.” She disappeared, leaving behind the arrow Sam had tried to return to her. He picked it up and held it in the darkness and thought about how to tell his brother the bad news. A glance at his watch told him he had a minute or two to get his story straight.
Sam sat in the Impala with the motor running, the heater on, trying to get some feeling back in his cold hands. Diana’s arrow was on the dashboard, gleaming in the light of the instrument panel. Dean solidified in the passenger seat.
“Hey,” Dean said, gesturing at the dashboard. “Nice arrow.”
“Yeah—uh, it’s the one I got from Diana, again.”
“She came, well, I uh—summoned her, Rowena gave me a tip that she might be enemies with the lutin.”
“The fae dude that stole your hair?”
“Yeah, we tried to reason with him, get him to move on, but he wouldn’t give my hair back. So she killed him when he tried to run.”
“Good,” Dean said.
“That was the good news, we talked to Mater Matuta, gave her the lutin as an appeasement, but it wasn’t enough, it only got us halfway.”
“Halfway to getting out of this dusk to dawn situation?” Dean asked.
“Yeah, according to Diana, Mater Matuta is basically an ancient hard-ass. She had wanted two human lives sacrificed, but now she’s only asking for one human life to be sacrificed, no—willingly given, by her festival date, which is the eleventh of June.”
“Oh, only just the one life, that’s just peachy,” Dean snarled.
“I know, it’s not what I’d hoped for,” Sam said. “In other news, Diana really loved having a ride in the Impala last night.”
“You’re giving joyrides to goddesses in my baby while I’m gone, huh?” Dean teased.
“Pretty much, all the time, yeah,” Sam teased right back.
Dean growled, and then laughed when Sam did. It felt good to share a laugh after such dark news, but both of them knew the laughter couldn’t last.
“And that cat, the one you’ve been complaining about leaving hair everywhere?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, like all over my pillow, had me sneezing all morning,” Dean said.
“That was the lutin, so that won’t keep happening,” Sam said.
“You can still sleep in there…you know, on my bed. I know it’s more comfortable than yours.”
“That’s not why I was—uh, okay, thanks,” Sam said, feeling his heart beat faster at being called out about sleeping in his brother’s bed.
“I tried sleeping in yours the first few times, but then I noticed mine smelled like you.”
“You didn’t say anything,” Sam said.
“I didn’t want to make you stop,” Dean said. “If it helps you, then keep doing it. I like smelling you when I’m sleeping there. It helps me actually get some sleep.”
“It does?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, smells more like home or something,” Dean said, knowing that probably was admitting way too much at this point, but it was true and maybe Sam needed to know stuff like that.
“How much longer do you think we have until I fade?” Sam asked.
“I looked it up, I’d say we’ve got just under an hour more to go,” Dean said.
“What do you mean you looked it up?” Sam asked.
****To Part 5