Morgan’s jaw fell open and his mouth went dry. When he tried to speak, the words stuck in his throat. He shot a helpless glance at Eny, but she paid no attention to his mute appeal. Her eyes were fixed on Simon.
“Don’t be afraid!” laughed the old man as she dropped to her knees. “I’m not a ghost!”
Morgan stared. “How can you not be?” he stammered. “You died!”
With a wink, Simon reached down and helped Eny to her feet. “I’m glad to see you again, missy!” he said. “It’s a long time since we rosined the bow together.”
“But Madame Medea—the Morrigu,” pressed Morgan. “She picked you up and threw you off the tower! I saw it happen!”
Even as he said this, Morgan became aware that Baxter ’s eyes were on him. The other boy had roused himself from his nap and was sitting up on the bench, yawning and stretching. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he stared dully at the three figures in front of him and frowned.
“What’s the janitor doing here?” he mumbled.
“He’s not a janitor!” said Morgan.
“Not just a janitor,” corrected Eny, her blue eye twinkling.
“Well, he looks like that old janitor to me,” observed Baxter, glancing over his shoulder at the empty table. “The one from your church. What happened to the food?”
“His name is Simon Brach,” Eny persisted, grasping Simon’s waist. “In this world they call him Ollamh Folla. He’s a Danaan prince of great power and majesty.”
Baxter regarded her with a look of bored distaste. “I’m going to see if I can find something to drink,” he said, getting up and scanning the hall. “The service isn’t very good around here.”
“I still don’t understand,” said Morgan as Baxter shuffled off in the direction of the kitchen. “Power and majesty or not, I saw you fall. It was horrible. It’s burned into my memory!”
“Really?” said Simon, peering into his eyes. “And why is that?”
Morgan’s neck and ears grew suddenly hot. For some reason, the sword at his side seemed to be burning his skin through its flannel wrappings. With a discreet motion he loosened his belt and let it drop to the floor.
“Because I’ve always felt as if I was to blame,” he answered in a low voice. “At least partly. I distracted you—just at the moment when she was trying to catch you off guard.” He swallowed hard and looked away.
“Is that all?” said Simon, “Because if that’s the case you can rest easy. This isn’t all about you.”
Eny turned to Morgan with a smirk. He answered with a scowl. Then he reached back with his toe and shoved the sword a little further under the table.
“You were the one, weren’t you?” said Eny looking up at Simon. “The man on the bus?”
“Ah!” he laughed. “I thought you knew! Yes, I was that man indeed—and a score of others as well. I’ve been watching you a long time, missy. Wasn’t about to let you out of my sight.”
They all turned at the sound of this new voice—a raspy, reedy voice—and saw the whole tribe of the Fir Bolg come trooping into the hall with Eochy at their head.
“Me it was that served as his eyes and hands and feet,” the little man added, stepping up to the table. “The legwork, as some might be saying, was mainly mine.”
Simon laughed and clapped Eochy on the shoulder. “And an excellent pair of eyes and hands you were!” he exclaimed. “Congratulations, my friend, on your fine work in keeping the crow at bay!”
“But you still haven’t answered my question,” said Morgan. “What about that fall from the tower?”
Simon sat down beside him on the bench. “A fall is nothing in itself,” he said. “Getting up is what counts. Have you forgotten what I told you? I’ve been in your world times unnumbered. I’ve played my part on a hundred stages and under as many different names. The Morrigu has cast me down again and again, but she can’t destroy me. I’ve been beaten, baffled, cornered, caught, and stymied, but I always manage to get back in the game somehow. My destiny is tied up with the Stone’s, you see.”
“But how is that possible?”
“It’s the how that interests you, is it? Should I tell you the way it was this time around?”
“You must!” said Eny
“All right, then,” said Simon, as Eny squeezed in beside him and the Fir Bolg made themselves comfortable on the rush-strewn floor. “Near as I can recall, it went something like this …
(To be continued …)