CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FOUR
Sometime in the future
New York, New York
Katy Roper Marlowe woke up with a start.
She had no idea where she was. The only thing that she knew is that she was naked.
And there was someone else in her bed!
She looked over and saw a tuft of white blond hair sticking out of covers tightly around the person’s head. That was just like how Paddie slept. But this person was big, really big.
“Paddie?” Katy asked.
The person didn’t stir.
Embarrassed by her own nakedness, she got out of bed.
She was big! She might even be taller than her own mother!
Her hands went over her body. She had breasts — not too big, not too small! Nice, strong legs. Her feet seemed really big! And her hands!
She reached out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared. With her gigantic size, the Vanquisher looked more like a knife than a sword. Clearly, the sword still belonged to her still. At least that hadn’t changed! She made the sword disappear.
Spying a silken bathrobe on a chair, Katy grabbed the robe and put it on. She went into the bathroom.
It was a lot nicer than her functional, practical bathroom in the Castle.
For the first time, Katy wondered where she was.
And who was the person in her bed?
Should she feel bad? She didn’t.
Shrugging to herself, she followed her feet out into the living area.
She floated toward the pictures on the wall. There was one of big her in a gorgeous lace white dress and. . .
“That’s got to be Paddie,” Katy said, softly to herself.
Whoever it was, he was wearing a black tuxedo. He was tall and handsome. White hair sticking straight up and sparkling blue eyes. Seeing him, Katy felt her heart warm.
There were pictures of her parents and even her brothers all grown up. Her mother’s friends were there and their husbands. There was a picture of Noelle and Teddy with a little baby and even a picture of a boy who had to be Jabari standing on a stage with a guitar.
Everyone was smiling and laughing. It made Katy so happy to see everyone so happy.
She went back to the bed.
“Paddie?” Katy asked. She was surprised because her voice sounded like her six year old voice.
“Katy?” Paddie moved the covers off his face. “You got big!”
“I know,” Katy said. “So did you!”
Paddie jumped up to look at himself.
“I’m huge!” Paddie said looking down at his naked body. Realizing that Katy could see him he said, “Turn around!”
“It’s okay, Paddie,” Katy said. “We’re married.”
“We are?” Paddie asked. He looked at his hand and saw that he was wearing a ring. “Look Katy!”
Paddie pointed to his wedding ring.
“I have one, too,” Katy said, pointing to hers.
Paddie’s face broke into a big, white toothed smile.
“My dream came true!” Paddie said.
“That makes me so happy,” Paddie said.
“You are very beautiful,” Paddie said, pulling on a T-shirt and sweatpants.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” Katy said.
“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.
“I don’t know,” Katy said. “The last thing I remember is that you were staying with me because your mom was sick. But you don’t have to worry, there’s a picture of her on the wall outside. She must have gotten better. Connor’s there too.”
“And my dad?” Paddie asked, walking out to look at the photos.
“And your dad,” Katy said.
“I don’t know why, but I feel very relieved,” Paddie said.
“Your dad’s in the military,” Katy said. “You always talk about how worried you are that he’ll be hurt or die while he’s out on mission.”
Paddie nodded and looked at the pictures.
“Do you think we have our own food?” Paddie asked.
“There’s a kitchen,” Katy said.
They walked together into the kitchen. Paddie opened the door. Without thinking, he pulled out eggs, cheese and spinach. There was some vegan sausage so he added that. In a few minutes, he’d made them a breakfast burrito.
“How’d you learn to do that?” Katy asked.
“I don’t know,” Paddie said. “I just knew I could.”
Katy smiled at him. Standing in the kitchen, they wolfed down their breakfast burritos.
“What do you think is going on?” Paddie asked.
“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I woke up here too. Do you still have the Sword of Truth?”
Paddie reached into his pocket and was holding the sword.
“It fits you better now that you’re big,” Katy said.
“I’m really big,” Paddie said. He smiled broadly. “I like being big. Do you think when we go back that I can stay this big?”
Katy shook her head, and Paddie laughed.
“What do we do?” Paddie asked.
“I’ve been thinking,” Katy said.
“Did you call for your mom?” Paddie asked.
“I really wanted to,” Katy said, looking sad. “I really miss her. Do you think she’s okay?”
“She looks okay in this picture,” Paddie said.
“Do you think that this is a dream?” Paddie asked.
“I don’t know,” Katy said. “I think. . .”
Katy stopped talking for a moment and looked at Paddie.
“This is about that prophecy,” Paddie said. “The one about you and me.”
“Do you think I should call my grandpa or my Auntie Heather?” Katy asked.
“Your grandpa makes everything really intense,” Paddie said.
“Let’s call Auntie Heather,” Paddie said. “She’s always nice.”
“Is that Jabari on the wall?” Paddie asked.
“It looks like him,” Katy said. “See this red head in the front? That looks like Maggie.”
“Cool. They’re big too!” Paddie said with a grin. “Do you think we have jobs and stuff?”
“We pay for this nice place,” Katy said with a shrug.
“Where are we?” Paddie asked.
“I don’t know,” Katy said.
She went to the windows and opened the blinds. For a moment, they stood there in shock. They were looking out over the city. Central Park was a block or two away but they could see people playing and walking.
“What a view!” Paddie said.
“We must be rich,” Paddie said.
“Cool,” Paddie said. “You’re sure this isn’t a dream?”
“It’s not a dream,” Katy said. “We can check with the sword.”
“No, you’re right,” Paddie said. “I’m just happy that everything is so good for us!”
“Me too,” Katy said.
Katy watched Paddie watch people in the park.
“Should I call my Auntie?” Katy asked.
“Auntie Heather?” Katy asked into the air.
Nothing happened. Katy thought for a moment.
“She probably doesn’t recognize my voice now,” Katy said.
“Use her Goddess name,” Paddie said. “Use the Vanquisher.”
Katy nodded. She held out her hand and the Vanquisher appeared.
“Hedone, the Goddess of Love,” Katy called.
The air around them glistened with light. Shrouded by the light, a figure appeared and gradually became clearer.
Timeless and shockingly beautiful, Hedone appeared in her gorgeous gold dress. Katy and Paddie stepped back.
“Auntie Heather,” Katy said. She jumped up and down a bit.
“Katy?” Hedone asked. “Katy, what’s wrong?”
“We went to bed last night at home with Mommy and Daddy and the twins,” Katy said.
“We woke up big!” Paddie said.
Surprised, Hedone blinked at them. She looked around the apartment and then walked to the window. She turned around and looked at them.
“When were you married?” Hedone asked.
Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.
“What do you do for a living?” Hedone asked.
Katy shrugged, and Paddie shook his head.
“Interesting,” Hedone said. “Do you still have your swords?”
Katy held up the Vanquisher and Paddie took the Sword of Truth out of his pocket.
“Huh,” Hedone said. “Someone must have thought that you would be more vulnerable in the future than you are in the Castle.”
“Are we rich?” Paddie asked.
“Well, you’re an MD PhD,” Hedone said. “You specialize in infectious disease. Katy is a museum curator.”
“That sounds fun,” Katy said.
“Ivan and Sissy gave you this apartment as a wedding present,” Hedone said. “It’s a part of their floor in New York. Your mom and dad refurbished it for you, Katy.”
“It’s beautiful,” Katy said.
“You are both very loved,” Hedone said. “Katy, you control the entire collection of art from the Polish mine and the Templar Hoard, not to mention all of the items you and Paddie found under that church in the Isle of Man and other places you’ve adventured.”
“The white eyed guy?” Paddie asked.
“Maughold gave you everything,” Hedone said. “Fin and the fairies, too. You are both fairly famous. As far as I know, you’re very happy.”
“Mack and Wyn?” Paddie asked.
“Mack just got a job as a Greek antiquities professor at UCLA,” Hedone said. “Wyn is a lawyer. He has an internship at the Supreme Court.”
“Wow,” Katy said. “Does he like it?”
“Not in the slightest,” Hedone said. “He wants to be a Supreme Court justice and this is the way.”
Katy nodded. It was weird to her that the kids who were younger than her had grown up too.
“Nash and Nadia live here too,” Hedone said.
“Are you sure that you were in Denver at the Castle when you went to bed?” Hedone asked.
Katy and Paddie nodded.
“Listen to our voices,” Paddie said.
“Good point,” Hedone said. “You do sound like the little kids you were and not your adult selves.”
Hedone gave Katy a soft smile.
“We think it’s to steal our swords,” Paddie said.
“What do you know about the search for the Templar Hoard?” Hedone asked.
“Nothing,” Katy said. “Did we go?”
Hedone nodded. The goddess looked away for a long moment.
“This is about the prophecy,” Hedone said.
“Can I see my Mommy?” Katy asked. “I really miss her.”
“Why didn’t you call your grandfather or your aunt?” Hedone asked.
“Because he’s all ‘Hello, I’m Perses,’” Paddie said mimicking Perses’ accent.
“‘I’m big and violent,’” Katy mimicked her grandfather.
“‘Shall I kill everyone just for fun?’” Paddie asked.
“Fair point,” Hedone said. “Hecate.”
Hecate appeared out of thin air.
“What. . .?” Hecate turned to look from Katy to Paddie. “This is impressive magic. Yours?”
Because Hecate was looking at her, Katy shook her head. Hecate turned to Hedone, who shook her head.
“You don’t know how this happened?” Hecate asked.
Katy and Paddie nodded their heads in unison.
“That’s not good,” Hecate said.
“Do you remember them going missing in 2021?” Heather asked.
Hecate shook her head.
“So it was done out of time,” Hedone said.
“Or I put the children back before anything happened,” Hecate said.
“Can we go home?” Paddie asked. “My mommy is really sick. I can’t be here!”
Katy reached out to hold Paddie’s hand.
“I’ll put you back,” Hecate said.
There was a whooshing sound and child Paddie and Katy were gone along with Hecate.
“Auntie Heather?” adult Katy asked. “What are you doing here?”
“Do you remember waking up in adult bodies when you were kids?” Hedone asked.
Katy and Paddie nodded.
“You do?” Hedone asked.
“We put the pictures on the wall just like they were when we were here,” Katy said.
“It was just before the fight for the swords,” Paddie said.
“Hasn’t happened yet?” Paddie asked.
“It hasn’t,” Hedone said. “Any tips?”
Shaking his head, Paddie reached his hand out, and Katy moved closer to him. His arm went over her shoulder. Hedone nodded. She kissed Katy on the cheek and disappeared.
Katy looked at Paddie and he smiled.
“It made me so happy to wake up as your husband,” Paddie said. “I’m so glad to be your husband.”
“I’m glad to be your wife,” Katy said.
They kissed and hugged each other.
“You look worried,” Paddie said.
“Just telling younger me that it’s all going to work out,” Katy said.
Paddie smiled at Katy and she kissed him.
“Coffee?” Paddie asked.
Katy nodded, and they went into the kitchen.
Thursday early morning — 4:12 a.m.
Katy Roper Marlowe woke up in her own bed in the Castle. Sitting straight up, she looked around the room. There was a little boy’s tufted of white hair sticking out of his blankets in the bed next to hers.
“Paddie?” Katy asked.
Paddie’s head moved up and down causing the blankets to move.
“I’m ’fraid to get up,” Paddie said. “In case, we’re somewhere scary.”
“We’re not,” Katy said. “We’re in my room at home.”
“Are you little again?” Paddie asked.
“Yes,” Katy said. “You look like you are too.”
“Okay,” Paddie said.
“I’m going to see my Mommy,” Katy said.
“I’m going with you,” Paddie said.
Katy ran out of the bedroom with Paddie on her heels. They ran across the loft to Katy’s parents room.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Katy said.
Wide awake, Jill and Jacob sat straight up. Katy crawled across the bed toward her mother. Paddie stood on the side of the bed until Jacob grabbed him and pulled him onto the bed too. Jacob lay back down.
“What’s happened?” Jill asked.
“We grew up!” Katy said. “Me and Paddie were married and living in New York.”
“I was a doctor,” Paddie said.
“I was a museum curate,” Katy said. “But I don’t know what that is.”
“We were very happy,” Paddie said.
“Sounds like a beautiful dream,” Jill said with a yawn. “Shall we cuddle a bit before we have to get up?”
“It wasn’t a dream!” Katy said. “We were really there.”
Jill shook the sleep from her head.
“What?” Jill asked. She reached across and shook Jacob’s shoulder. “Jake?”
Jacob’s eyes popped open.
“What’s up?” Jacob asked.
Jill nodded to Katy.
“The kids were taken out of their beds and moved into the future,” Jill said. “What did you do?”
“We called Auntie Heather,” Katy said.
“But she didn’t come as Auntie Heather so we called Hedone and she. . .” Paddie said.
The Goddess of Love, Hedone, was standing at the foot of the bed. No matter what she actually looked like, Jill always saw her good friend Heather under the glow and the gold dress and perfect hair. Jill smiled at her friend. Of course, her friend would come to help Katy.
“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Hedone said.
“Is what they are saying true?” Jacob asked. “Not a dream.”
“No dream,” Hedone said. “In fact, if I had to wager a guess, Katy and Paddie had prepared for their younger selves to come visit them. They put a bunch of cheesy photographs of everyone on their walls so that when Katy and Paddie arrived they would see them.”
“We looked at those!” Katy said.
“Katy was very beautiful,” Paddie said, shyly.
“Paddie was huge,” Katy said.
“I was handsome,” Paddie said.
Jill shot Jacob a worried look.
“What do we need to do?” Jacob asked.
“The truth is that we cannot wait any longer to go find this stupid hoard,” Hedone said. “The longer we wait, the more risk for the children.”
“Who would have done such a thing?” Jill asked.
“I think the question is when did someone do this thing?” Hedone asked. “This hoard has been missing for a long time. The prophecy has been told a long time ago. Someone, anyone really, could have sent their child selves to their older selves anytime between when the prophecy was made and now.”
“Why would they do that?” Jacob asked.
“They may have thought that the children were more vulnerable in the future,” Hedone said. “Get them out of this house, away from those who defend them, and then. . .”
“And then?” Jill asked.
“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Hedone asked. “I’ve been speaking with Nelson and Blane. It seems that we need to get this thing going in the next few days. No one wants to risk Katy and Paddie’s lives but we think now that they need to come with us.”
Jill nodded and Jacob looked worried.
“Do you think that this is some fairy bullshit?” Jacob asked. “Should I speak with Fin and Edie?”
“It’s a fair question,” Hedone said. “I won’t dismiss it out of hand. Talking with Edie and Fin is a good idea. That said, I think it’s unlikely.”
“Then who?” Jill asked.
“The Templars,” Hedone said. “Or someone who is loyal to the Templars.”
No one said anything for a moment.
“If you know anything else, I’d appreciate it if you’d tell us,” Jacob said.
“There is one thing,” Hedone said. “We don’t know what the Vatican knows or thinks about this Templar crap. They have archives — documents, books, objects. . . just so much — that likely contain information about our situation. There may be someone pulling the strings from the Vatican. Nelson says that there’s a contact there at the Vatican that is loyal to the Templars. He’s calling him right now.”
“Lumiati?” Jacob asked.
“Those assholes?” Hedone asked. “No. The worrisome ones are gone and those left worship themselves too much to actually manifest anything upon the world.”
“Then who?” Jill asked.
“I don’t know,” Hedone said.
“How can we find out?” Jill asked.
“It’s definitely something we need to look into,” Hedone said.
“The only thing that’s going to end this is to find the hoard and bring it to the light of day,” Jacob said.
“Exactly,” Hedone said.
“What can I do?” Jill asked.
“Call your grandfather,” Hedone said. “His beloved has connections to the Vatican.”
“Mari?” Jacob said. “Princess Marigold?”
“She does seem ridiculous, doesn’t she?” Hedone asked. “She does that so that she’s underestimated. She is an incredible being — knows people everywhere. She loves Katy and, my guess is, that she’d be delighted to help.”
“I’ll talk to her,” Jill said.
Jill looked down to see that Paddie and Katy were following the entire conversation closely.
“What can we do to protect the kids?” Jacob asked.
“I’m not sure,” Hedone said. “Give me a few hours and I’ll see what I can find out.”
Hedone turned to walk out of the room. She stopped at the door.
“So you know, it was Hecate who put this right,” Hedone said. “I tell you that so that you know the level of power and ability required to have pulled Katy and Paddie into the future. It must be someone powerful without remourse.”
“A Titan?” Jill asked.
“I was thinking Zeus,” Hedone said. “But, I’ll find out.”
“Thanks,” Jill said.
Hedone nodded and disappeared.
“Can we snuggle for a while?” Katy asked. “We feel scared.”
“Of course,” Jacob said.
The little children and Katy’s parents snuggled down in the warm bed. They lay there together until Jacob’s alarm dragged him out of bed.
“I’ll call you,” Jacob said before he left the bedroom.
Jill nodded. Looking at the children, she decided to lay in bed for a while more. They were so little and so brave. She tried to will her strength into them, because no matter what happens now — they were going to need it.
Denver Cereal continues next week...