Midnight Queen

And on a night like this
You’ll find her burning kiss
Her hair all wrapped around you
Your dreams are here to drown you
*

 

I am no mortal man, or so I was told last night, by one who calls me a warrior poet. Is that what I have become? Given that circumstances have dictated that I have had to gain some proficiency at arms, I cannot argue the former, but I am not so sure of the latter. While I will admit that words are my medium of choice, such words as have flowed from my pen have rarely ventured into the realms of poesy, even if I am prone to reading such things voraciously. Certainly, I cannot argue that I am nothing but a mortal man. That is no longer my fate. What fate there might be, I do not know, only that I am marked by fate, and many paths lie ahead of me to choose. This, I have learned, in that other world of dream. Or was it a dream? Or did I really go to that other place?

A voice called me; sensuous, soft as a summer breeze, a caress that called me to that other place. That other place that exists, in my dreams, and outside of them, within me and without. That place where dreams and the faerie realms come together. Reality or dream, I do not know for sure, save that it is real to me, and maybe that is as real as real can be.

It was Faermorn who called me; that most beauteous queen of my dreams, if no longer queen of the fae. While Gwyn is my first and most constant love, I can no longer deny that Faermorn holds a part of me, even from beyond the mortal realms, and that she has done so for a long time, even before she gave part of herself to me in the Quickening. She called to me, and from my dreams, I went, to that place they call the Summerlands, where life and death are one and the same. She called me to a crystal pool, wreathed in fountains and mist. Her aspect was bright, goddess-like, as if she were all woman-kind, including, for a moment, my mother, but the shapes of light resolved into human-seeming form, and it was the queen I had known, even if she seemed more the woman than the queen. Nathaniel, she named me, in a voice that breathed across my sense, and warrior poet.

I knelt, that seeming the only reaction I could muster while I gathered my senses, reeling from the shock of seeing her again. For a moment, I could not bring her name to my lips, calling her only, Majesty. She urged me to my feet, telling me she was no longer Majesty. She was always here, she told me, and she had heard my heart calling. Her touch was wondrous, as was her voice; for all that she seemed more the mortal woman in form. Gone was the sadness and regret that had tinged her soul before. Now, here was nothing but joy and completion.

I regained my feet, knowing now where I was, and had to reassure myself with a touch to my own breast, that I yet lived, that my heartbeat had not left me. “Majesty,” I called her, then corrected myself, the sound of her name a thrill that ran through my heart, “Faermorn, then, if I may so call you.” I asked why I was there, what call she had heard from my heart. Her smile lit up, brighter and softer than the sun, all that love could be. This place was within me, she told me, it was within everyone if they knew where to look. Her smile focussed on me, just for me. Dear heart, she called me, telling me that she was always with me, as was my mother, or so I interpreted the other she referred to. She told me that it was good to speak with me, face to face. My heart, she said, held the legacy of both dark and light within me. She offered her hands, so soft and delicate, yet strong, to me, and for all that she wore a mortal form, she seemed one with the sunlight that glowed within her.

I took those hands, and did not want to release them, kissing each one and holding them in mine, idly stroking the backs with my thumbs. I told her that I often regretted that we had not spent more time in each other’s company, face to face, before… before she came to this realm. But that time was gone. I spoke of the dark and light, speculating that one could not be without the other, even of there were those that would say that you could only choose one side. All I knew was that sometimes, it seemed there was too much of both. I spoke briefly of what had assailed the land since she had gone. I spoke of what Gwyn and Janus had wrought since then, and finally spoke of what had been foremost in my mind of late, that Gwyneth was with child.

I would not have thought it possible, but the radiance of her smile grew, as she leaned forward and kissed me on the lips, tangling her fingers with mine. She told me, with great joy, that she knew. I supposed that this should not surprise me, being outside of time, or so I assumed. This was a new beginning, she told me, to celebrate the reunion of the dark and light, by which, I thought she meant the courts. Or perhaps not, since she also said that there was a balance in me, between the two forces. Was that another reunion? I know I have being trying to integrate those aspects of my nature, but one is partly innate and partly gifted, whereas the other was imposed upon me, so I do not know how that can be a reunion.

Her next words were more worrying. She told me that I was marked by fate and had many paths ahead of me. I wasn’t so sure I liked that. I was minded of the old quote about those the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. While I am fairly sure that there aren’t any gods out to get me, Nemaine notwithstanding, I was not sure I liked the idea of being marked for particular attention. That, I said, could lead to what the old curse called ‘interesting times’. I accepted that it was long past the time when I could expect to live an ordinary life, but it would be nice to do so sometimes. One other question came to my mind. Since I had mentioned Gwyn’s pregnancy, there was a question still to be answered, concerning myself and Janus.

She was leaning towards me, offering a kiss, and that I could no longer resist. The radiance of her, the scent of her, and the temptation of her was too strong, and here, it did not seem to be glamour, but just herself. Surprisingly, she seemed to desire it equally. The touch of her lips was electric, and I could feel the Wyld rising. She spoke of Gwyn, even as we kissed, telling me that I had already gifted my energy to her, and that my energy would be carried forward, as would the king’s. Could we both be fathers with one mother? I had heard that such things were possible, albeit rare, among humans, but who knows with the fae? She shifted closer, her body leaning against mine, and I could not help but be aware of the woman, this embodiment of sensuality, so close and in my arms. The very epitome of desire was in my arms, and yet I could not help but remember the poems and stories I knew so well, and that gave me pause for a moment.

“Our poetry and folklore are full of dire warnings of what happens when a faerie queen takes a mortal lover,” I said to her, smiling, and making no move to retreat, “but this is just a dream, right?” She moulded herself against me, and sealed my fate with her words, telling me that everything was a dream and told me that I, her warrior poet, was no mortal man. That made me smile and I kissed her fingers as I replied. “Then thrice-doomed I am, is that not so? … A warrior turns not from peril … rather he seeks it out and faces it… with joy in his heart… A poet pays no heed to reason… rather he listens to his heart… he lets passion rule over sense… and he follows his muse wherever she leads… And if I am no mortal man… then there can be no surcease to my torment… Thrice-doomed I am indeed.”

What passed thereafter, I can not recall. I think we kissed, and again, and there was that dizzying desire that comes of the faerie queen, but what occurred after that, my memory does not serve me. Memory fades, is it is wont to do in dreams, if it was a dream. Or perhaps she sent me back from the Summerlands with just the taste of her lips on mine, a small favour bestowed by a queen on her subject. Which it was, I do not know for sure. Perhaps, as she said to me, everything is a dream. Dream or not, some things I take away as truth, however those truths came to me. One concerns the paths ahead of me, but all I know is that there are many of them. The other concerns my dearest love, my living queen, and what we may have wrought. Perhaps I am a father after all. That, only time will tell.

 

 * Midnight Queen – By Inkubus Sukkubus, go check them out.

 

Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?

Our agreement with Vedis continues to dog us, and require of us some men. Fortunately, this time, we escaped with no deaths. Galyanna was still trying to retrieve shards of the mirror in order to aid the recovery of Vedis. I sent Radek along, since the Lazarević brothers were not yet healed. They went along with Galyanna, and, for some inexplicable reason, Helene decided to go along with them. The party, for even less comprehensible reasons, included the al’miraj – the horned rabbit that has occasionally been seen about the place.They met up with Medea, who is somehow related to Vedis, and various of the Sisters of the Void. From what Radek told me, I am glad we did not opt to take refuge there, as it sounds a dismal place.

The encounter included a few of the hell-guards, former colleagues, I later learned, of Galyanna’s, who were promptly dealt with, and a creature that, from Radek’s description, must have looked like a cross between a giant lobster and our one-time insectoidal alien friend, the Kzzz. Despite its fearsome appearance, it was swiftly dealt with, even if two of Radek’s team were badly injured. He got a few good stabs at it, Galyanna managed to get it in the back, and Medea, somewhat unconventionally, ran it through… with the al’miraj. You have to admire the inventiveness, if nothing else. This was seemingly sufficient to dispatch the creature. A shard was recovered, and the party made it back to the castle, mostly in one piece, even Helene, although she was somewhat injured.

I know this latter because I found her in my bed. I had been working in the office and had fallen asleep there, so had not returned to my chambers. I did so after reading Radek’s report and for some reason, the returning party had bandaged her up and placed her in my bed. While, under other circumstances, this might have been fine, I was semi-expecting Gwyn to visit, so this might have been a little awkward. I fetched some medicine for her and told her to rest for the moment, as I had other visitors to deal with. I did pause to ask why she had decided to go to hell. She said that she had gone there to overcome her fear of Raziel. I couldn’t argue with that.

Downstairs, I found that Gwyn had indeed arrived, along with Dorina. When I got down there, and had made appropriate greetings, Dorina asked if she could speak with me. I was going to take her to the office, but Aoibheann said that wasn’t necessary, as the plan involved her too. I wasn’t sure quite what plan they had in mind, but I got the sense that it was something to do with dealing with Dorina’s inner demons, and that I would probably not like the idea. From what Aoibheann said, it also involved a locked room and guards. That much would be easy to achieve, but how this would help Dorina control her beast, I could not speculate.

What that idea was, I did not find out, because Helene came downstairs in search of food. For some reason, this alarmed Dorina. From the way she looked at her, I was afraid that something in Helene was appealing to her beast. This was confirmed when she said that she ought to leave, that it was safer if she did so. She said that she was going to slake her thirst with whisky over at the tavern. I did suggest that she ask Hal for one of Maric’s special bottles, and tell him that I said it was ok to give her some, but she would not have it. She left, telling Aoibheann to explain the plan.

Aoibheann did not feel up to explaining the plan, especially with Helene and Gwyn around, so we decided to postpone it for now. I made sure Helene had something to eat and drink, and made arrangements for her to be returned to her normal bed. Since Gwyn was feeling somewhat sleepy, we retired to my rooms then, now thankfully free of Helene, there to spend some quality time together.

 

The following day, I encountered Galyanna in the graveyard. From her I learned a little more of the situation in Hell. With Vedis gone, a demon by the name of Asmodeus had taken over, executed or otherwise disposed of most of Vedis’ Talons, and placed somebody called Kitori, a former apprentice of Galyanna’s, in charge. Galyanna, herself, had been declared a traitor and outlaw. She was out of allies, and the odds were against her, but she seemed not unduly intimidated and surprisingly upbeat about her chances of completing her mission and rescuing her queen. The more I work with her, the more I discover that we are kindred spirits in many ways, with her loyalty and steadfastness. I offered what help I could, subject to the limitations placed on me, and suggested that I might be able to help by providing diplomatic contact. She declined for now, but, it might prove useful in the future.

 Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?

Take My Hunger

(The handwriting for this entry is somewhat shaky, with more blots and smudges than normal. There are also rather a lot of stains that could be blood…)

Take my hunger
Break my anger
Steal all madness
Slake my thirst…

The awakening has begun, but there is a long way to go yet. There is a lot of healing yet to be achieved, and not just for Lord Maric. It took the combined efforts of myself and the brothers Lazarević to get things started, and we did not escape unscathed. I suspect we were lucky to escape with our lives.

I had prepared as best I could. I consulted with Kustav, who reluctantly admitted to having been present at a previous occasion when Maric had been in torpor. That time, they had waited for him to stir on his own, which had taken a year or more. He admitted that we did not have the luxury to wait that long, and could only advise extreme caution. His thinking accorded well with mine, including the suggestion that he and his brothers he present.

I had raided Maric’s laboratory for flasks and retorts, tubes and valves and assembled an apparatus for feeding blood and healing potions down a tube, and for keeping the contents fresh. It looked like something a mad scientist would put together and I wondered what Dai Jones, my old science teacher at school would have made of it. I prepared myself as best I could as well, donning a mail shirt with long sleeves, a gorget, vambraces etc. I was not entirely sure that it would withstand Maric’s strength, but it had to be better than nothing.

Thus prepared, I headed down to the vaults, gathering the brothers as I went. Other guards, I positioned at the various exits from the vaults, from the cellar, from the castle. The rest, I sent with the castle staff out of the castle, and had them prepared to evacuate the villagers and others into the tavern cellars for safety if necessary. Gwyn was waiting for me in the main hall as I came down. I explained what I was planning and asked her to assist with evacuations if necessary. We kissed, after I had wrapped my cloak around the mail shirt, and then I went on my way.

The coffin room behind Maric’s bedchamber was spotless. Aoibheann had been true to her word, and cleaned it meticulously. I could only hope it would remain so, but somehow I doubted that. I set up my feeding apparatus as close as I could to the sarcophagus, needing only the tubes to be routed to the best position. Vuk and Davor stood by with the nets and chains ready, just in case Maric tried to make a run for it, and Kustav stood by ready to open the lid. One last thing remained, and that was the brothers shifting into their were forms – half man, half wolf – which they presumably felt was the most suitable. Certainly it was the most fearsome. I should have thought of that myself, but I was awfully glad they did. I nodded to Kustav and he began to haul at the lid. It resisted far more than I would have expected from the sheer weight of the stone lid against Kustav’s werewolf strength, but then, suddenly, some mechanism reacted and the lid flew open, knocking Kustav flying.

I was very, very glad that I had forbidden Aoibheann from this part. What was inside the coffin would have turned the stomach of the strongest of constitutions. In among the charred remains of what might have been a luxurious silk lining lay the remains of Maric. Not quite skeletal remains, but not much more than that. Little remained of his clothes or skin, and such flesh as there was, charred to ash and cinders, gaunt and shrunken against the bones. His eye sockets gazed lifelessly at the ceiling, and his fangs were a shocking white against the blackness. Even though I had not eaten, I almost heaved at the sight, and once again, I was glad that Aoibheann was not here to see this. The brothers were equally aghast, once they had recovered their feet. I gestured to them to stand by as I positioned the tube, fastening it in position and placing a few small slivers of stone to protect the tube once the lid was replaced. Now all that remained was to check that it all worked.

I turned the tap, and allowed just a few drops of the blood to drip gently into what remained of Maric’s mouth. The droplets fell into the ruins of his mouth, kicking up little clouds of ash and dust, until enough had fallen to wet the surface, soaking into the charred remains, beading up like mud, but the colour of tar. It was most disquieting as the drops of blood seemed to flow, almost as though they were themselves alive, soaking into the cinders, filling them out, reshaping them. As they started to flow, I could feel the stirrings of Maric’s mind, base and animalistic, naked, uncontrolled hunger, reaching out to consume us all. I urged the brothers to stop staring at their master and to get the lid down, all the while, projecting calm back at Maric.

The power of his mind was a dizzying vortex, sucking us all in, pure instinct, pure mindless hunger, caring not that we were friend or foe, only that we were food. The brothers howled as they fought their own battles against that pull, as they too were drawn in, towards the coffin. It took every iota of my will to resist, to maintain my own control, so much so, that I was totally unprepared for the attack. His body looked like a tar figure now, and without warning, he struck, faster than a snake, faster than even I could see, grabbing me by the neck and dragging me back into the coffin. My mental commands, my presence were powerless against the rising tide of Maric’s will, and it was all I could do to brace my feet against the side of the coffin and try to force myself away. All that saved me was the sudden intervention of a powerful, hairy arm, as Kustav thrust himself between us, getting his forearm between Maric’s mouth and my neck. I had barely time to register this before I managed to get enough purchase to rip myself from his grip, leaving behind bits of my skin and clothes. I heard a sickening snap as Maric bit hard into Kustav’s arm, breaking the bone. The brothers were all howling in pain and I didn’t dare think what else was happening around the castle. The servants were safely away, but who knew how far Maric’s influence could be felt? So far, there seemed to be no sign of the other guards coming, but I had no idea how long that will last.

Vuk and Davor were clawing at their own flesh, spilling their own blood, reacting to their lord’s hunger, torn between that and their brother’s pain. They barely had enough will to reach out to try to rescue their brother before he was drained, but between them, they managed to pull him away, losing a good chunk of his flesh in the process as they landed in a painful and bloody heap on the floor. Unfortunately, in dragging their brother away, they had dragged Maric’s body partly out of the coffin. There was blood everywhere, and I could see his body rebuilding itself, flesh and sinew, skin. He was clawing blindly at the coffin, around him, unseeing, but sensing food, screaming silently into the night.

I fought against the flood of his mindless hunger, and struggled to my feet, hoping I could pull the lid down, but with Maric’s body in the way, I did not have that option. I grabbed one of the flasks of blood and approached. This time I had the foresight to harden my skin as he had taught me before I attempted to pour the blood into him, hoping that I could get him to move, so I could get the lid down again. His face turned towards the offered vitae, allowing me to pour it into him. His flesh was reforming around the bones as he grabbed for me, but this time I was able to evade him, giving me a chance to grab a second flask. I called for help from the brothers and it was Vuk this time, who left Kustav in his brother’s care. I do not know if it was my call he heeded or the power that Maric was broadcasting. I suspect the latter as he approached on all fours, as submissive as any non-alpha could be. He offered his neck and Maric struck, again with lightning speed, sucking greedily on that powerful vitae. This seemed to pull his mental focus away from me and I was able to step back. I could see that Kustav was out of action, but I called to Davor to get the chains, to try to restrain his lord while he was distracted. Perhaps my blood would help, I thought, so I grabbed one of the empty flasks and bit into my own arm, letting my own vitae flow into the flask.

Davor reached the coffin, but then dropped the chains, seeing the state of Vuk, helpless in Maric’s arms, and possibly being drained dry. I could feel nothing through the link of Maric’s rational mind, only the hunger. Davor reached for his brother, trying to pull him away, but then he too fell victim to his lord’s will, falling to his knees and offering his own throat. I took the flask of my own blood and held it ready, reaching into my own will, calling up the power of my own presence, feeding it with the blood magic and the power of the Wyld in me, projecting calm, projecting sanity as best I could.

This time, I succeeded. Maric turned towards me and there was a flicker of awareness on the ravaged remains of his face, the eyes that were slowly reforming seemed to register some recognition. I could feel his suffering, his confusion and over it all, the hunger and thirst, but for the first time, I got a sense of the rational, his soundless voice asking what he had done, and insisting he must feed.

I concentrated on my own sense of calm, however little of it I felt on the surface. I concentrated on everything that made me what I am, my rock-solid centre, my own sanity, my sense of duty, forcing this to the surface. “You have survived, you live, and that is all. We will recover,” I told him. I could feel him focussing on me, on our bond, grasping towards sanity. “Now feed, and be well again,” I told him, offering the flask of my own blood.

This was a mistake. I had forgotten his thirst for fae blood, and more so, I had forgotten that my most recent experiences with Faermorn had likely left me with the power of the Wyld in my own blood. The sense of sanity vanished into a greater and more insatiable hunger, a wild, exhilarated hunger that I recognised; the same hunger I had felt in him when he was near Isabella or Gwyn, only this time unfettered by his iron will. He lunged once again for my throat, to drink from that source he craved so much. The air turned blue with my cursing as I realised what I had done, and I barely had enough time to strengthen the blood magic to harden my skin further as I once again tried to command him to sanity. His fangs skittered across my neck, sliding harmlessly across the stone-like skin, and he fell, gasping with pain at my side, and once again, I felt the rational in him take control, barely.

“Forgive me, Nathaniel,” he said, clearly struggling with the need for control and the fear of what he might have done in his madness. Other memories came through the link, of other awakenings, that had perhaps not gone very well. He asked if he had killed anybody before telling me to chain him, because he was not yet in full control. He was slipping in and out of rationality, the hunger overwhelming him time and again as he fought for that control.

I gritted my teeth, calling on every reserve I had, the resolute and solid nature of my family and my friends, dragging myself slowly back to my feet, doggedly winding the chains around Maric’s arms and torso. I called out through the link to the rational part of him, assuring that he had not killed anybody. The sardonic part of me could not help but add a silent “so far” to that assurance. I told him there was nothing to forgive; all we had done was our duty. Rest, I told him as I wrapped the last of the chains around him and started to lift him back into the coffin. He looked at me as I laid him back into the coffin, speaking aloud for the first time, as sufficient of his body had reformed for this.

“Good,” he said as he lay back, telling me I had his eternal gratitude. He tested himself against the chains and seemed satisfied. He told me that I should not release him, whatever else he might say, until his eyes were no longer red. He would need lots of blood, he said, to recover, before slipping away into the darkness that consumed him. Davor had recovered himself, and leaving his unconscious brothers on the floor for now, came to me and helped me with getting Maric comfortable. I told Maric, whether or not he could hear me now, that gratitude was not necessary, we were just doing what needed to be done. Rest now, I told him, before finally getting the feeding tube in place and the lid back down again. Davor and I were wearied and bloodied and not without our own injuries, yet we persevered, getting a few heavy crates onto the coffin lid to weigh it down. With my last reserves of strength, I reset the feeding apparatus with such full flasks of blood were left, and left it providing a steady trickle.

Davor and I managed, between us, to get Kustav and Vuk back to their own quarters, where I left them in his care. They were werewolves, and I knew they would heal quickly. The castle was in some disarray, as some of the other guards had also succumbed to Maric’s call and injured themselves trying to get to him. Fortunately, enough retained their sanity that too much damage was avoided. Once I deemed it safe, I sent one of them to retrieve the staff from the tavern to clear up. What passed after that, I do not know, as I barely made it to my own bed before collapsing. With my duty done, I too was dead to the world.

Take My Hunger

(Take My Hunger lyrics belong to Inkubus Sukkubus - go check them out)

Crow Party

The crows are back, many of them, just sitting in the trees and watching. That damned Darkest Crow is behind it, I am sure, and I know that I need to meet with her to discuss our leaving of this place. But where to go, I do not know. I do not know what lies beyond the mysts, what has happened to the land outside the Shadow Roads. I know only what is here in the village, what I have seen of the Summerlands, and what Galyanna and such guards as have been there have told me of the Realms of Hell. Of those alternatives, I think I like the Summerlands the best. I shall have to speak with Janus and Gwyn about that. These people need their land, open spaces, space to breathe and run and grow food. If the island were still there, I would return to that place, but I know nothing of the fate of that land.

The day after our discussion in the Summerlands, I found Aoibheann out in the grounds of the castle, seemingly attempting to scare the crows with a spear. One of the guards wisely took it away from her and gave her a quarterstaff instead. I am not entirely sure that this was a much safer option in Aoibheann’s hands, but then, she could quite probably wreak havoc with a bag of candyfloss, so maybe it didn’t make a difference. She seemed to be intent on protecting the village with it under the misapprehension that I was going to be taking all the guards away on various missions. The guard, showing admirable cunning, distracted her by telling her she was holding it incorrectly. I have not had much experience in the use of a staff yet, but the guard was quite correct. More to the point, it made her pause in her attempts to scare the crows.

Aoibheann greeted me with a slightly manic smile, experimentally waving the staff in the direction of the crows. I suggested that this might take a little while, as there were rather a lot of them and they would most likely just come back. Instead, I turned and addressed the crows, telling them that if their lady wished a meeting, she need only ask.

Aoibheann waved the staff at the crows again and opined that perhaps Nemaine had not responded because my invitations were boring. With typical Aoibheann logic, she suddenly switched to the idea of having a party, something she had mentioned to me a while ago. We should have a party, she said, with dancing, to celebrate Maric’s awakening, or possibly to cheer up the villagers, or maybe both. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant, and the former was somewhat premature. Even after all these years, I have a problem following her train of thought. I ventured that a party was possibly a good idea, though I had my doubts if it was going to be like the one she had held for the Huntsman. I also suggested that inviting the Crow might not be the best idea, in case she wanted more than a piece of cake and a party streamer to take away.

Aoibheann was not to be dissuaded. She would already know, she said, pointing at the crows. Would I rather she turned up unannounced, instead of being our honoured guest and bound by the rules of hospitality? Somehow, I had my doubts about the latter. The Crow would do what she wanted, regardless. But, maybe she had a point. I sighed and assented to the party, asking only that she wait until I had met with the Crow to discuss business matters.

She turned towards the crows, curtsied, and then delivered, in what she most likely fondly imagined was formal language, a very flowery invitation, asking that the crows deliver it to Nemaine. I could not help but smile at her worthy attempt at courtly speech. While her phrasing may have been a little clumsy, she had the essence of it right. I relaxed and told her that I couldn’t have put it better myself, however, perhaps I should make a formal invitation in writing as well. She seemed happy with this and headed into the castle, no doubt to start making party preparations.

I followed her inside as I still had preparations to make regarding Maric, but before that, I wrote a formal note requesting a meeting with Nemaine and inviting her to a party on an as yet unspecified date. I attached the note to a piece of meat from the kitchens and took it out and tossed it to one of the crows. The meat was swallowed in a single gulp and then it flew off with the note in its beak. I can only hope that it got to its destination. That done, I retreated to the lab, ignoring the oppressive presence of the mirror portal, and returned to my research.

Crow Party

Bits and Pieces

Gwyn’s majordomo, Bran, makes a good cup of coffee. I woke up in the residence the night after Gwyn told us about the baby, on my own. Bran made me coffee, and when I asked where Gwyn was, told me she was off with that strange woman who is always hanging around. I think he meant Aoibheann, but he got it wrong and called her Airedale. For some reason, that amused me, but I doubt it will become a regular nickname. Aoibheann does not seem to understand teasing.

I found Gwyn with Aoibheann by the throne, explaining about Siansa being her mother and about the pregnancy. Aoibheann seemed remarkably unfazed, despite Gywn’s fear that she would freak out. They seemed largely to have been talking about trying to scry to find Siansa to tell her the news, but I never really found out as Gwyn promptly fell asleep again.

This gave me a chance to talk to Aoibheann about other news. She thought I wanted to talk about the crows that had been infesting the village, but that was not it. Those, I assumed were a subtle hint from Nemaine, something I would have to deal with. No, I had other news for her. In the night, I had felt the first stirrings of Maric’s mind. It had been very faint, and, it has to be said, somewhat primeval, animalistic. This, I suppose I should have expected, as I would imagine that he would be near frenzy when emerging from his torpor. I explained as best I could about torpor, and the recovery process, so far as I had been able to discern it from Maric’s notes.

It took some explaining. She was somewhat excited, and it took a while to persuade her that it would not be a good idea for her to see him just yet. Given that both she and Gwyn had been in comas, she understood that bit, but had a harder time grasping the concept of frenzy. She seemed to think that she could calm Maric down. I told her about how Katharina had almost killed me in a frenzy, even though we were lovers. I think I got the idea across in the end. She was also not best pleased with my explanation of how I would be providing the blood to him. She found the idea of the blood cocktail somewhat distasteful and wasn’t even sure if he would like werewolf blood, much less mine or faerie blood. Since I knew, through the link and the times he had fed from me, how much he craved fae blood, I assured her that he did like that and I assumed that since he had bonded with Kustav and the brothers, he must therefore have fed from them.

My general idea was to start with human blood, and then ramp up to werewolf, mine and fae blood. I did suggest that Aoibheann might want to contribute, but, after some discussion, decided that it wouldn’t be fair for his first taste of her to be down a rubber tube. That, we decided should be a special occasion, just like it will be for Gwyn and I. Complete with the red dress, at least in Aoibheann’s case. I don’t know what Gwyn will be wearing if we ever get to our cottage by the sea.

Aoibheann had some things she wanted to do. She wanted to make sure Maric’s room was tidy and welcoming for him when he awoke. And maybe she could write him one last letter. I told her that was fine, because I still needed to get all the ingredients and equipment together before I could start feeding him. She also suggested that I run him a bath and have a glass of wine ready. Good ideas both, but somehow I don’t think this awakening is going to be like emerging from an afternoon nap.

She returned to the village to make preparations, as did I, after taking the sleeping Gwyn back to her bed in the official residence. I am always careful when I carry her, but this time, even more so. I can’t take any chances, not now. Not with children on the way, whether they are mine or not.

Bits and Pieces

Sweet Child of Mine

Sometimes, I just don’t have the time to write my diary. Sometimes, I am just too lazy, or unmotivated. Occasionally, I suffer, as I am sure most writers do, from a fear of the blank page. And sometimes, like now, I am struggling to put my thoughts into words. Even now, some days after the fact, am still going through it in my head.

I am to be a father again.

Perhaps I should qualify that. I am potentially to be a father again.

That is to say that my lover, Gwyn, is with child.

Under normal circumstances, that would be necessary and sufficient condition for me to say that I am to be a father, but then, since when has my life been normal? There is the matter, in recent months, of her other lover, King Janus. And so the question remains somewhat open.

Which of us is the father?

I had always thought that, as a vampire, I was infertile, and so Gwyn and I never took any precautions. But, after the revived heartbeat from Isabella and the Quickening from Faermorn, now I am not so sure. Janus, on the other hand, is presumably fertile, even if, as I understand it, the fae conceive rarely. So, I do not know, and, I do not know how that could be determined. Perhaps in Gwyn’s time, they have the means to find out such things, but given the nature of the three of us, perhaps that is a question best not asked. Who knows what modern technology would make of us?

Which of us is the father?

I love Gwyn. It does not matter to me who the father is. It does not seem to matter to Janus either, which surprised me a little, but pleased me more. A child is precious, he said, no matter who the father was. For both of us, what was important was how Gwyn was feeling. She was excited, nervous, confused, bewildered, scared. She did not feel she was ready to be a mother. She did not feel she knew how to be a mother. She did not want to be a mother. She did not what to be queen. She wanted to run away to normality, to our cottage by the sea. Even as she said this, she admitted that if she were to run away, she would soon want to come back and be queen again. Most of all, she was not sure she wanted to carry the children, there was so much she needed to do, so much travelling, so many things to take care of, and she was not sure she could do all that while carrying children. I can understand that. Alexandra hated the restrictions that being pregnant placed upon her, even though, in her case, she very much wanted to be pregnant. Was there some way, Gywn wanted to know, that she could be spared the burden of the pregnancy itself? Janus opined that there might be a way, but I was not so sure. A wet nurse is one thing, but somebody else carrying the children? Was that even possible? There, I had no answer, for much of how things work in faerie are a mystery to me.

Janus and I held her, comforted her, and re-assured her. We were there for her, to love her, support her, to be with her through all that was to come. For that, she was grateful, surprised, and supremely happy. We held her and kissed her and comforted her and told her we loved her. Not him, not me, not her, but US. No questions about fatherhood, parenting or anything else, just the three of us together. And that was how we spent the rest of the night, together.

Which of us is the father?

Afterwards, I thought long and hard about that question. While it might not matter to Janus and me, or to Gwyn, it will matter. Gwyn is Faerie Queen. She is mother to the land, to her people. Any children will be seen as heirs to the land. And there, the question of fatherhood could be very important indeed. While I know that the fae have very different views regarding morality and social mores, and care not who sleeps with whom, I somehow suspect they will be less… forgiving… when it comes to the provenance of the children. I know my Arthurian stories, and others, too well. Any question regarding the parentage of the heirs is likely to be a problem, and I would not want that for my children, even if they aren’t mine. I need to talk to Janus about this. Whatever our personal feelings might be, whatever I might feel about being a father again, it might be best if the world thought them to be his offspring. And we can only hope that they are born with pointy ears and not pointy teeth (though I know the latter is not an inherited trait). I must have this talk with Janus, and soon.

As for myself, I do not know how I feel. My love is with child. That is enough for me to be delighted, for I missed out on my own child’s upbringing. I love her for that. And yet, I cannot but help to be apprehensive. I cannot say this to Gwyn; indeed, I do not know who I could say it to, but I am scared. I lost my wife to childbirth. We lost four potential children before that to miscarriages. And I cannot help but think also of what happened to Aislyn. These fears I cannot express to Gwyn and probably not to Janus, and yet they are there. And I do not know what to do about that. It is at times like this that I really miss Mother. She would know what to do. Perhaps, perhaps, I can dream of her again and ask.

 Sweet Child of Mine

 

Not in My house

It should come as no surprise to any who read these pages, that I will not tolerate threats to those I consider mine. Not from friends, not from enemies, not from supposed allies, and definitely not in my house. We had two visitors a few evenings back, one a supposed ally, at least by affiliation, the other, I do yet know her affiliation if any, but I had to warn both against bringing any danger here.

I was just sitting down to dine with Aoibheann, even if I was only having a simple snack of bread and cheese while she had a proper dinner. She told me that a woman had turned up wounded the previous evening and that Ket’Lyn and Galyanna had taken her somewhere. She seemed quite distressed by this and the fact that I did not know about it. Even more so that I did not know, even though I had this intimate mental connection with the castle. I declined to explain that the link to the castle was somewhat dependent on Maric, as I did not want to distress her further with reminders of his state. Before I could explain any further, there was some noise from the door. What little sense I could pick up from the building, and from the guards made me suspicious, so I told Aoibheann to stand back, in case our visitor was dangerous.

Our visitor was of the demonic persuasion, and seemed to be largely concerned with discovering where he was. I introduced myself and told him that he was in Mysthaven and asked who he was and what his business was here. He seemed to find my name familiar, and he introduced himself as Kael Seid, a prince of hell and the son of the queen of hell, Vedis. After the introduction, I realised that I had almost certainly seen him before around Fiendish Pleasures. I explained the possible connection and that there was an alliance between Mysthaven and Clan Seid, provided they abided by the terms of the agreement.

Aoibheann overheard this and interjected, saying that I should tell him the news of Vedis. When I suggested she did so, she got exasperated and told him that Vedis was dead, that Galyanna was trying to resurrect her, and that she may well be sacrificing a poor woman that nobody seemed to care about or would notice was going missing.

Kael seemed to be unperturbed by this, saying that Vedis had been dead before, and wondered why Galyanna was having difficulty this time. He also made some comment to Aoibheann about what made her so sure she was suitable for sacrifice, adding that if I had not told him that he should honour the terms of his mother’s alliance, he would have eaten her.

I stepped between them, hand on my sword, reminding him in no uncertain terms that I would tolerate any threat, implied or actual, and would he please refrain from doing so. Having made my warning, I explained how Vedis had gone up against the Morning Star, so this demise was perhaps a little more, final that previous ones. I also tried to reassure Aoibheann that I found it highly unlikely that Galyanna would attempt a human sacrifice, and certainly not on any resident of visitor to the village.

One of the guards, Casimir came up and explained how there was a young lady who was somehow trapped in the laboratory and was desperate to get out. Galyanna and Ket’Lyn had apparently taken her there fore safety. I did not want to leave Aoibheann there with Kael, even though he had promised to behave, especially as he had qualified it with ‘for now’. I was going to leave Casimir there to protect Aoibheann, but when I reminded Kael that there was no ‘for now’, he decided to leave, claiming that Aoibheann had irritated him. Having made sure that he had left, I left Casimir there, just in case, and descended to the vaults.

There, I found a young woman, apparently from the modern era, well, Gwyn’s modern era, anyway, judging by the shiny gadget she was trying to get to work, by the name of Tammi Wilson. I disabled the wards and let her out of the laboratory. Her first concern was the use of the lavatory. I directed her to the latrines that were still down there from when we had been protecting the village here, not thinking that she might find them somewhat primitive. On the other hand, she was hopping from foot to foot in desperation, so maybe she wouldn’t mind that much. I also found a Ket’Lyn, who had arrived by her own means. While Tammi was using the latrines, I asked Ket’Lyn if she would do me a favour and try to explain to Aoibheann what she was doing before making off with visitors, so that Aoibheann would not worry so much.

Upstairs, I offered Tammi some food and whatever she needed in the matter of protection. She was apparently starving from the way she snatched at the food, but also clearly in a hurry. She did react rather strangely when I told Ket’Lyn about Kael Seid, making some comment about him only being a baby. Ket’Lyn was less surprised. She had not seen Kael for some time, but thought he might be of use in helping to bring Vedis back. Tammi, meanwhile, was desperate to get back to somebody called Katy, before somebody called Mac found her.

I offered sanctuary again, and asked what manner of threat this Mac might present. She and Ket’Lyn spoke of portals and magic, and Ket’Lyn offered to help this Tammi get back to where she was going, using a portal. I did not get any answer as to the nature of this Mac, and before I could ask any further questions, she gathered up some food and left, Ket’Lyn close behind.

I really do need to sit and talk with Ket’Lyn and Galyanna about using the laboratory and the access thereto. There seems to be altogether too much to and fro going through there without my knowledge, and that, I cannot help but feel, is a threat to the safety of the castle and the village. Next time I see Galyanna, I must discuss it with her and establish some ground rules. As to this new person, and this persons he called Mac, I have to wait and see what, if any, threat this poses.

 Not in My house