Wait For Me

These coming days are going to be hard for all. The villagers, save those who normally work in the castle are deprived of their normal activities, which is especially hard on those who are used to being outdoors and able to roam free. I am doing my best to keep people occupied and to deal with problems, but it can be hard. The longer we are confined, the harder it is going to be. Of course there is going to be some discontent, and I lack Maric’s long history with them. Still the stewards and the guards have come to trust me, and know that Maric would not have invested me as his deputy and heir without good reason. I can rely on them to help me keep things in order. So far, things are going well, but I fear that young Orie has been making grumbling noises, and perhaps influencing people who should know better. I am going to have to deal with him at some point. I only hope I can do so peacefully.

The waiting is hardest of all on Aoibheann, who is like a soul lost without Maric. I see her doing her best to be the charming hostess, as she might think Maric would want her to be, but it is hard on her, and I do not know what I can do for her other than what I have always done, been her friend.

While doing my rounds, I came across Lucis. I was glad to do so, since I had seen her name on the lists that my fellow stewards had checked off as the evacuation was in progress, but had not seen her myself. She seemed to be well, but kept asking about the Shadow Roads. She was remarkably keen to go visiting in the Roads, but would not explain why. I tried my best to explain the dangers involved in exploring the roads, and the conditions under which we were guests there, but she kept asking. I told her that if she came to me with a proposal, where she wanted to go and why, I would speak with Valene and/or Nemaine to see if it could be arranged. The best I could get from her was that she would think about it.

Aoibheann turned up, looking somewhat out of sorts and carrying some wine. She did not look as though she had slept much of late, and, as ever when she is stressed, also looked as though she had not eaten. She clearly wanted to discuss something, so we retired to Maric’s chambers for privacy. From the look of things, she had been spending most of her time here, waiting on Maric.

And it was Maric of whom she wished to speak. I had been expecting this, and already had some idea of what I was going to say. I explained about what being in torpor meant and reminded her of the time that Gwyn had been in a coma after her first encounter with the Huntsman. It was like that, I told her, and it was the state we went into when we needed to heal. I did not know how long it would take, but he would heal. I mentioned that I was looking through his library for any information on how we could help, e.g. by feeding him to help him heal, but I had not found anything yet. That was the main thing she wanted to hear – that he would wake up.

She then asked about the obligation we had to wage war on behalf of the Seids and wanted to know what we were going to do. She said that she knew I had history with the Seids, and was friends with their queen, but she still felt that they would serve their own interests first whereas we had to serve our own. Without Maric, it was up to us to protect Mysthaven. This, or course, I knew, for this was the duty that Maric had charged me with, and she should know that well enough.

I told her that I would be doing whatever I could to help bring Maric back, for I would far rather have his hand on the tiller than mine, since I was not the warrior he was. So far as the war with the Seids was concerned, I had rather thought that was over. She and I were excluded from that obligation anyway, and I was waiting news from Galyanna on how the demons fared. I reminded her that Maric had entrusted the village to me, and she should know me well enough to know that I would do that to the very limits of my ability, even unto my death. Nothing, not even my friendship with the Seids, was going to get in the way of that duty.

She agreed with my hope that the war was over, but then burst into tears, saying that Maric had always been so strong, and so good at convincing you that things would be fine, but she couldn’t do that and she couldn’t stop crying. She only left his room because she figured that he would be attending to the guests. I hugged her and agreed with her regarding his optimism. I reminded her how much he cared for her and how he loved her. It was my job to take care of the village, there was no need to treat it as a social gathering. I concentrated for a moment on the mental link with Maric, knowing only that he was not gone. I told Aoibheann this and told her to hang on to that. We vampires were hard to kill, especially one as old and strong as Maric. Keep that in mind, I said, and be strong, because that would be what he wanted, for us to be strong, so that we could be ready to greet him with a smile when he returned. She pulled herself together, saying that it was always a social occasion in the castle. We should have a ball, she said, when he wakes.

I hugged her again and told her that was the spirit. That was the spirit of the Tenacious Trinity, and no bugger was going to defeat us. I had told Gwythyr that, I said. I had told the Huntsman that, I would tell Vedis that, I had even told Alec that when he dragged me off to some place called Cranberry Cove without asking. Nobody was going to defeat us if I had to shove my sword up the arse of every single demon they had in hell. I raised the glass of wine and toasted the Tenacious Trinity, Maric and all of Mysthaven. That managed to get a smile out of her, albeit a slightly surprised one. I guess she isn’t used to my saltier language. She acknowledged the toast and then asked why I hadn’t brought back any cranberries. I had to tell her I didn’t even know what a cranberry was, and I was fairly sure I hadn’t seen one, just Alec, who had been too busy telling me things were made of wavy lines.

I hesitated a moment and then broached another subject, that of her protection, which Maric had also charged me with. I told her that he had taught me how to make that bond, the same one she had made with Maric, so that he could know how she was and where she was. I could make that same bond, if she wanted, but only if she wanted, and I wouldn’t be offended if she didn’t. The offer was there, if she wanted. She went quiet for a moment, and then said that the last thing Maric had said to her was to stay safe. She thought about it some more and said that she would do it, but for the moment, she was in no danger in the Vaults, and anyway, Maric might wakeup soon. I hugged her again and told her I understood. The offer was still there, if and when she wanted to take it. We parted then, with her promising to eat something, and I went on my rounds, to make sure everything was running as it should be.

 

Later, in the storage area of the vaults, I heard movement, and Helene emerged from the shadows. I was mightily pleased to see her. Although she had been on the list, I hadn’t seen her for myself, and so I had been worried. I told her this, but she seemed distant, grumpy even, wondering where else she could have been. Then she said she had not seen me in many days and asked if everything was all right.

I opined that we seemed to have come through the various battles; that most of the villagers were safe, and we were well provisioned for the foreseeable future. I apologised for being relatively absent, but I had been busy, being in charge of everything. I asked what was bothering her.

She did not understand what was happening here. She feared that I had changed, that something in Maric’s influence had made me somebody she did not recognise. I was perturbed, for, so far as I knew, I was the same person I had always been. I said that I had been training with him, gaining better use of my powers, but I was otherwise unchanged, I hoped. However, since she was expressing the fear, there must be something. I told her briefly why we were here, and why we had taken the options we had to save the village. I asked her to explain. What was it she feared?

She could not understand how I could have faith in this man; how I could know that he had the best interests of everybody here, when he acted as though everything was secondary to the maiden in his bed? Perhaps she was the cause of all this and we should offer her to the devils and be done with it.

I was genuinely surprised and not a little disturbed. I guessed she meant Aoibheann, but something was not right, and I wondered if Orie had been stirring the pot. I asked what gave her these ideas. So far as I knew, Aoibheann was still a maiden and Maric had not bedded her. I knew Aoibheann well enough to know she would not go easily to any man’s bed. I told Helene that it was true that Maric loved her, but that he was even more old-fashioned than me in such matters. I explained that I too had distrusted him at first, but had since seen him put his life on the line for everybody, not just Aoibheann. That he had given up everything to protect his people. I then told her that he had taught me to communicate telepathically, so I had seen inside his head. I told her how it was very difficult to keep such communications down to single thoughts, and so had learned a lot more about him, how he was even more obsessively honourable than me, even more willing to sacrifice himself for those he cared for. Yes, he could seem a bit creepy, but that was just the way he was.

Look, I said, you know me, you know I do not trust easily, and you know I would not lie to you. I explained that Maric had agreed to go to battle, against Lucifer himself, to protect his own, leaving behind even Aoibheann. I asked her then, what made her thing otherwise, what questions did she have?

She started to speak, but began to cry. She told me she was too tired, too tired to leave a place that had become home to this black void. And she was worried about Raziel. I moved closer and drew her to me. I reminded her that I had already promised that Raziel would receive no welcome here. I reminded her again that I had never lied to her. I did not know what was going to be happening over the next few days, but whatever it was, I would be working for everybody’s benefit. She had my promise on that. I held her close while she sobbed some more, barely able to stand, crying that she couldn’t do this any more, in French. I continued to hug her, reassuring her in the same language that she could, that she was strong, and that I would always be there for her. I called up the blood energy, mixing in a little of the fae joy in life and project some strength and happiness to her.

Perhaps she took some comfort from it, because she stopped crying, apologising for acting like this. She did not like it here, and she did not trust the Roads. I told her she was right to not do so. They were not nice, but better than the alternative. Yes, it wasn’t nice here, but we just had to make the best of things. In the meanwhile, I was there for her and would never harm her or anybody I cared about. And I would smack anybody who said otherwise. That got a giggle out of her, saying she would never expect anything less from me. She asked what she would have done had we never met, kissing me on the cheek. I returned the kiss, on her lips. I did not know that. I also did not know what might have happened had I been less old-fashioned with her when there were things she wanted to know. But, there was no point in speculating. We had to get on with what we had. She didn’t have to like or trust Maric, I told her, but for now, I was in charge, and she had better damn well trust me, or I would apply my hands to her backside. I told her to go and get some food and then some sleep, in a proper bunk. She accepted the kiss without protest, smiling again finally, and blushing a little at my threat. She agreed that she needed some sleep and departed for the sleeping areas.

I felt a little heavy in the heart, that one of my oldest friends should doubt me, even if it seemed I had talked her around. Perhaps, from what she said, somebody had been stirring things against Maric, and the only person I could think of who might do that was Orie. I am going to have to have words with him.

Wait For Me 

Wavy Lines

The world is made up of wavy lines. Everything is made up of wavy lines. I have often thought this, especially when I have over-indulged in the special rum, or been hanging around opium bars too long. But now it is official, apparently. Alec said so, so it must be true. On the other hand, when did I start believing everything Alec says?

The man really needs to learn some manners, and maybe a little tact. I was minding my own business in Maric’s chambers, going through some paperwork in the hope of keeping at least a weather eye on the state of things in the castle, when I felt something, something that made the hairs on my neck stand up. I turned and saw a disturbance in the air, a rippling, a shimmering, a heat haze that tugged at the edges of vision. I knew it to be a portal of some sort and readied my sword, in case something unwanted were to come through. Nothing did, so I poked it with the tip of the sword.

Which was, perhaps silly of me, as the portal opened and swallowed me up, depositing me on a green and pleasant bank, by a glittering body of water. And there before me was the instigator of the portal, Alec, looking much less than his glamorous self, being clad like some country gamekeeper. I complained at him about not knocking or sending a note, saying I had been all ready to behead the nearest demon or whatever had come through the portal. And, since I was still a bit irritated, I asked him why he was dressed like a gamekeeper. Since he did not appear to be an immediate threat, I sheathed the sword.

He just gave me that maddening half-smile and asked why he had not crossed my mind more often. He had grown tired of waiting to teach me how to use my new powers. He then looked at my clothing – I had my grey, working clothes on – and snapped his fingers. In a moment, my clothing was gone, and instead I was wearing a shirt of some soft, tartan patterned material, strange in fit and design, but not so dissimilar from clothing I knew as to be unrecognisable. The trousers too, we were a soft, sturdy cotton material, a fabric not unlike the jeans I had seen Gwyn wearing, only in a light tan colour. They were quite unremarkable, really, but I guessed they would pass muster in wherever this place was without arousing undue comment.

I told him that he had crossed my mind often, but what with trying to master blood magic, reuniting a Cait Queen with the Unseelie Queen, being Quickened by said Unseelie Queen, oh, and trying to save an entire village while the angels and demons were battling it out, I had been a little on the busy side of late. However, I had been planning to come and see him soon, to continue my education. I then asked where, and when, I was. Here, he said, was Cranberry Cove, Maine, and it was the year 2014. Gwyn had mentioned the cove, and had mentioned it was her present, so that made sense. He frowned at my mention of angels and demons and asked what was going on that they should be running amok in Ashmourne Wylds as well as how Aoibheann and Gwyn were.

I explained briefly, saying that Vedis had a lot of chickens coming home to roost, which was why the village was hiding in the Shadow Roads, why Gwyn had been anointed as leader of the Seelie and why Aoibheann was in love with Maric and currently cuddled around his coffin, where he was in torpor. He did not seem overly pleased with the latter news, expressing his distrust of Maric, though, perhaps uncharitably, I wondered if he resented Maric’s growing influence over Aoibheann while his own influence was diminishing. That, perhaps, could apply to myself and Gwyn too. He made a comment about needing to visit with Vedis soon and then moved on to the subject of teaching me about my powers. Had I found myself anywhere unusual lately, he asked, other than being in a faerie realm besieged by angels and demons?

I had to laugh at that, mentioning the Huntsman’s forest and Faermorn’s bedchamber as possibly unusual places, though I was fairly sure that I had gotten to the latter by conventional means. I felt I should speak up for Maric, saying that I had been distrustful myself, but now knew him to be a good man, very much like to myself. He was not pleased that I had shared blood, warning me of the consequences, as if I didn’t know those only too well. He cautioned me to be wary of Maric, and watch over Aoibheann – an unnecessary injunction – since he feared that the business with Llwyd and the Huntsman was not over. Again, he returned to the matter of the powers he had given me. He was pleased that I seemed to have more control than he might have expected.

Hah! Control! He might well be pleasantly surprised by that, but then, he doesn’t know about the years of not reacting to bullies at school. He doesn’t know about overcoming my addiction to whoring and drinking in my early days at sea, nor the several years I spent not being found out as a vampire in the closed environment of a merchant ship. I did tell him about having to cope with the infusion of blood magic from Maric, Wyld from Faermorn, and resisting her charms during the Quickening. So, yes, I thought I knew something of control.

He continued his explanation. The magic we were using was fuelled by energy, as with most magic. Energy was the basis of all things and everything was made from it. My soul, my body, the ground we were sitting on, were all forms of energy. I wasn’t entirely sure I bought that, but then, I thought, a piece of wood can turn into energy – heat – if you burn it. Space and time are just a physical concept. This much I remembered from the Dee journal. All matter was made up of tiny molecules, he told me, which were, in turn, made up of smaller atoms, which themselves were made of smaller particles that ultimately break down into an infinite number of wavy lines. The only difference between things was in the way those wavy lines arranged themselves.

So far, so good. I told him that I was aware of atomic theory, and was prepared to accept that future, from my point of view, developments might discover that atoms themselves could be broken into smaller particles. I wasn’t entirely sure about everything being a bunch if squiggly lines, but based on the ideas I had read in Dee’s journal, I was prepared to go along with everything being able to be described in terms of mathematical principles, with the squiggles being a convenient model to work from.

He went on to explain how we could move our bodies by our will, by thinking of a place or person we knew, visualising them, and we would be able to go there. Fair enough, I thought. I had vague memories of learning about translations in maths, so it made sense that I could translate this bunch of wavy lines to somewhere else by changing the values of the origin, or something. And since he had mentioned being able to go back or forward in time, I had to assume that time was just another axis on which we could do these translations. Gods, did I take maths too seriously at school and university? He mentioned being able to visit his own parents, although there were problems associated with that. The other thing was that he needed to keep control, by absorbing where and when he was, so that he could keep himself in any one place or time. I could appreciate that. Given how much my own mind wanders, it would be terribly inconvenient if my body wandered as much.

I told him about the rules that Gwyn and I had been speculating about and the potential problems with travelling elsewhen, especially into my past. I had been formulating my own rules, which I planned on sticking to until I had a better idea of what I was doing. For now, I would confine myself to things like visiting him, Isabella, the kids etc. If I used my powers sparingly, I had less chance of fucking up. He was pleased with that, and also that I was making my own anchors, in the people I liked and places I liked. Those could be the difference between reality and nowhere. He did warn me that I was being mistaken in thinking of time as linear – the now could affect the then, past and future were one and the same.

I told him that I had long given up on time being linear, given that my lover will not be born for another 100 years from my perspective. However, I did try to keep my personal experience as linear as possible. My diary records that. This day, although it takes place in 2014, will be a period I remember, between the day before and the day after, during which I aged 24 hours, even if, in absolute terms, that day is a long time in my future. I told him then that I had to return to the castle, where a bunch of wavy lines were very scared and concerned about their futures, which, despite what he said, were very much futures to them. I think he misunderstood me, since he claimed he would not belittle anybody’s experience, so I had to explain that all I meant was that, from their perspective, the future was tomorrow, so I had to go and help them deal with that. We parted then, with a promise I would come and see them and the kids soon. To my surprise, the return journey was easy. I visualised the room in Maric’s chambers and I was there, blessedly without the dizziness and disorientation that I usually get from portal travel. But, that was magic. This was maths.

 Wavy Lines

 

What Comes After

The journal has a number of pages that are scribbled on, crossed out, torn, and what remains is badly stained with soot, blood and who knows what. Here and here, a few phrases and words are visible..

…sounded the alarm at four rings… sluagh at the gate… evacuate the villagers … Faermorn! … call to arms … Shadowroads… Maric! … tally of villagers… Sophia… Galyanna and the mirror… where is Aoibheann… get everybody safe… so many dead… the cait! … Gwyneth… Where are the guards?…

 

As a recorder of the minutiae of an ordinary life, I think I do an adequate job, although I am aware that I am somewhat stretching the concept of ordinary in my case. As a recorder of tumultuous events, I find myself lacking. Of course, there was no time or leisure to record things during the events of the last few nights, and for all my tired and scribbled notes afterwards, I cannot get my brain to resolve them into a sensible narrative. As if any narrative with demons, vampires, sluagh, fae and a carrion crow can make any sense anyway. Perhaps, in time, I shall return to these notes and at least try to attempt to record these events in more detail.

For now, it will have to suffice that the people of Mysthaven plus assorted guests are ensconced in the bowels of the castle. Most are scared and tired, a few are injured, but most were accounted for, even if I had not yet seen them myself. Helene, for example, is listed as accounted for, but I have not found her yet. Sophia, I have seen, but a few others, Dori, for example, I haven’t. Of the castle guard, I do not yet have a final tally. Maric, I know, through our mental link, was badly injured and is in torpor. That is better than dead, I guess, and some comfort for Aoibheann.

There was too much to do, just looking after people and making sure everybody was safe. Even with all this going on, there were still things I had to do as steward. I also had to take Galyanna to the laboratory so that she could await Vedis at the mirror. Gwyn and I stayed a while with her, to offer comfort and support. In a remarkable show of trust, or perhaps just being too tired to care, Galyanna removed her mask, and we saw, for the first time, the woman underneath. I consider this an honour and privilege, while being slightly bemused that, for all the times we have fought alongside each other, this is the first time I have seen her face.

Gwyn and I retired to Maric’s chambers to talk. We had not had any time together since we returned from the Huntsman’s forest, and I did not know quite what had passed with her in that time. I told her about the Quickening and the visitation from Gwythyr. I even confessed how much I had wanted Faermorn, how she had said that I could partake of her any way I wanted, and how I chose the blood. I told how Gwythyr had tried to bully me and had eventually forced me to feed from him, and begged her to stop me if I ever started behaving like him.

Her tale was grimmer than mine. She too had been visited by Gwythyr. She too had resisted him; she too had tried to give, so that he could not take. But he took her anyway. He took her blood and called her a royal bastard, saying she tasted of Saone. And then he took her. And for all that she tried to think of me, he forced her to see him, after taking on the shapes of her former lovers as well as me, but he couldn’t get them quite right. And so she could still think of the real me. She was my princess still, but a broken one.

No, I told her. Not to me. All the things that had passed, the taking of the castle, the fight with the Unseelie Raven Captain, the business with Rachel, her encounters with the Huntsman… those did not break her and neither would this. “No, you are not broken, not in my eyes, not in my head, not in my heart, and you never will be.” I held her close, knowing only that I loved her more. I then looked at her, noting the change in appearance yet again and asked if she had been promoted.

She told me then of being taken to the sithen, how she had been anointed as the leader of the Seelie, and would one day be Queen. Then, Faermorn called Saone forth from the Mallorn tree, and for a while, they were all bound together until it was time for the Queens to set forth for the Summerlands. I had known this. I had known, even in the chaos that had been the night of the battles, that Faermorn was gone. I had felt it and known it, had already known from the first time I visited with her after the rescue. Even so, the words brought forth a tear. Gwyn continued, saying that she had been broken, in a way that remade her. Gwythyr was gone from this world, she hoped, and she was different now.

I nodded, saying that it was good that he was gone, and perhaps we could take comfort that he had learned nothing, achieved nothing, gained nothing. I would not weep for him. For Llwyd, yes, though I had met him but once. For Saone, yes, for she had been gracious to me, and for Faermorn most of all, because we had been able to be friends, unbound by oaths, as well as for the reconnection to my heritage she had given me. Her I would miss most of all. I agreed that we were all different, I told her. Yes, I was different, Aoibheann was different, and she was different, and this was not a bad thing. Trying to lighten the mood, talking of differences, I asked if she had liked the pointy ears.

Those she had liked very much, and she would have jumped on me, had we not had other business to attend to. We spoke a while of personal things before turning our thoughts to Aoibheann, and wondering how she was. I communed with the castle for a moment, and could tell she was nearby. We got up from the sofa and looked around the rest of the chamber. There was ash on the floor, leading to the bed area, and here and there, blood, that I knew to be Maric’s. We followed the trail past the bed, on which there lay an unstrung bow, possibly the one Aoibheann had been cuddling the previous evening. This seemed likely, as we then found Aoibheann in the chamber behind the bed, curled up on the floor next to the casket that I knew then to be Maric’s resting place. We made her comfortable with a few extra blankets and a pillow before leaving her.

We returned to the sitting room and took a seat. We were both very aware of our own desires, our need for each other, and I could feel the Wyld in me, responding even more to hers. However, we did not feel able to slake our thirsts here, not with Aoibheann sleeping so close by, and our options were limited elsewhere in the castle. I asked if she knew anywhere we could go.

She did suggest that we could go realm-hopping, maybe go see Alec, or a place she had been visiting in Maine in the year 2014. Of course, that would require both of us changing, both in clothing and appearance. Appealing though the idea was, I decided I could not leave the castle, not the way things were. Perhaps nobody would mind if we took a nap here on the sofa. And that is what ended up happening. It had been a long day; surely nobody could fault us for that.

 What Comes After

 

 

 

 

Forest Dreams

Dreams and visions are very strange things. They don’t always make a lot of sense, and are very open to interpretation. And sometimes, they are very, very real…

After leaving the far too appealing warmth and softness of the Queen’s presence, I was too drunk with the new powers, the new energy, to consider sleeping any more. I went by the tavern for a restorative drink. Royce wandered in, giving me a look, and I wondered if he was privy to what had passed the previous evening. He told me it was no business of his, what I got up to with his queen, provided it pleased her. I asked if he knew where Nualla was, and if Gwyn was with her. He told me they were somewhere about the castle, talking to it. It sounded pretty implausible, but since I had come to learn how to listen to the castle, I wasn’t about to argue. Since I was feeling rather like I had drunk too much coffee, I decided to finish the rum and go and see what Gwyn was up to.

As I came out of the tavern, I saw Gwyn and Aoibheann over by the castle. I trotted over, but tripped and ended up flying, actual flying, that is, which wasn’t exactly dignified, but better than just landing in a heap, I suppose. As I landed, Aoibheann was saying something about being able to take Gwyn as a guest, because the laws of hospitality would apply, especially as she was fae. She then put a damper on it by saying that we were going to die. Gwyn shrugged and decided that she would be a doomed houseguest then, before turning me and asking for a kiss for the doomed.

I had no idea what they were talking about, but wasn’t going to refuse a kiss, though I wasn’t sure if I dared, given what had and had not happened the night before. Even as I kissed her, I felt the energies rise, somewhat wilder, more reckless than I was used to, exhilarating, but also a little frightening. I put her down again, apologising and saying how I may have gotten a little too much fae energy in me. I then responded to Aoibheann’s comment about having to be fae, telling her I had a lot of fae in me. It occurred to met that all this Wyld energy could be put to some use, and without really knowing how, managed to glamour some pointy ears. At least, I think it was glamour. It could have been the shape-shifting that Maric had said I could probably do. I then realised I had no idea what they were on about and asked.

Aoibheann looked a little shocked by the display of affection, but collected herself and said she was going to the Huntsman’s forest. Why, she didn’t say. There was a certain amount of discussion about HOW we were supposed to get there. Aoibheann didn’t know, because the Huntsman usually took her there. We weren’t entirely sure either, but reckoned that Nualla and Royce could get us there through the roads. We held hands and stepped forth, without even knowing why, other than Aoibheann needed to go there and we were going there with her.

This turned out to be a bad idea. There are few things that would be worse than the Huntsman, and this was definitely one of them. The Huntsman was not there, instead, we found His Unseelie Majesty!

First, we were attacked by a large were-beast of sorts. It looked not unlike the larger cŵn that we had encountered at the start of the battle with the sluagh, only more silver. It lunged at us, causing Aoibheann to fall over and Gwyn to throw up her protective shield around us. Then Gwythyr stepped out of the shadows, calling the cŵn to heel. He just glared at us in that terrifying manner he has, commenting on having visitors and wondering why and how we had gotten there. Then he looked, chillingly at me and said that he scented his Queen on me, which he described as unfortunate.

I reached behind me, trying to help Aoibheann up, but she was not yet ready to stand. Gwyn answered him first. She explained that Aoibheann had brought us here, as a place she called ‘home’. I assumed she meant that in the sense it did to the Huntsman, since that is where I had thought we were going. She told him that we were as surprised as he was and that if we were trespassing, we would leave and we intended no harm.

I tried my best not to give him the satisfaction of scaring me. I bowed and told him it was an honour to meet him, as always, echoing Gwyn’s assertion that we were harmless visitors. I could not let the comment about his Queen go unremarked. I told him that there was nothing unfortunate about the scent of a queen, since I bore her scent, as well as those of Vedis and Valene, who I knew held him in high regard. It was my lot to attend upon the queen, as it was my lot to be among those who rescued her. It was my honour to serve, I told him. He looked at me, his eyes narrowed, almost looking through me. “Hence you live,” he said, but added that I might lose myself in the service if I was not careful. He turned his attention to Gwyn, addressing her by the full name that she had once revealed, presumably not knowing it was no longer her true name. She had almost bloomed to her full potential, he said. Time would tell, unless she wished to know now. He looked at Aoibheann, his mouth opening, as though he could taste her fear. He said that He, presumably the Huntsman had marked her is his. He then looked at all of us, spreading the fear around like an icy blanket and asked why he should not take all of us in the time remaining to him.

Gwyn answered first. Much as she would like to know, now was not the time. There would be other seasons, other cycles, so why take her now, when he could be patient, and wait, for she would be much sweeter when she did reach her full potential. We were no sport now, as we were but children. Aoibheann finally managed to get up, shivering and trembling, almost paralysed with fear, yet she managed to answer him. “Because you cannot take what is mine,” she said, quietly. For myself, I told him that if I did lose myself, it would be because of my choice. I told him that would be because I chose, not through fear or power. Likewise we had come here by choice and we would leave by choice. I remembered previous conversations with him and tried a similar approach. Any one of us, I said, might come to him by choice. If he took us, he would never know that. I took Gwyn’s hand and Aoibheann’s hand. We three were companions by choice, not through fear or love of power, and nothing could take that away from us. He had his companions, he had his queen back and he should be content with that.

I do not think he was overly impressed. The air just got colder and colder, the shadows darker, until he was almost obscured by them. His last words, so very chilling, were that he would visit our dreams, and tell us if we had given the right answer. And then he was gone.

 

The next night, he was true to his word. I do not know if he had visited Gwyn and Aoibheann yet, or had come to me first. All I knew was that I felt his ice-cold power reaching out to me. I threw everything I had into the shields I had once learned back in London, and the ones I had been learning with Maric, but it was in vain. I rolled out of bed, or so it seemed to me, and then he was there, all thorns and antlers and ice-cold shadows. “Choice? Content? You know nothing,” he snarled at me, before threatening to take back everything the queen had given me, because it wasn’t mine to keep. I was to stop him if I could, he said, calling me a servant of many.

His comments, and his manner annoyed me, but I tried to not show it. I could hear Mother’s voice so clearly, so many years ago, advising me how to deal with the bullies at school, how I should not give them what they wanted, not let them see me scared or upset. I bowed and smiled, event told him how nice it was to see him and expressed the hope that the time remaining to him would be long. I suggested that he had mistaken me for somebody else. I was no servant, I said, but I chose to serve those that I loved and admired. The other, I said, was not his to take. I reminded him of the importance of gifts among the fae, and what I had was gifted by the Queen, and only she could chose to take it away. What was it Aoibheann had said? You cannot take what is mine.

My answer did not please him. Neither was it sufficient to save me, he said. He could take whatever he wanted and tonight, he would take me. With that, he flew at me, grabbing me around the throat. Choice would mean nothing, if I could not save myself from him. Again, I did not give him what he wanted. I did not flinch, nor did I move to deflect him, save that I used the blood to harden my skin so that he would not damage me as he gripped. “Take me? What was there to take? And would that help save his people?”

He gripped me harder, claws just beginning to bite, and the vines that surrounded him extended themselves around me, the thorns just piercing the skin. His touch was like ice, burning at my skin, his breath was worse than ice, colder than any place I had ever imagined. His touch was painful, but not yet fatal, as though he was not done with me yet. He demanded that I show him my powers, the powers I had gained from my service; else all I had done would have been in vain.

Mother’s voice was so clear in my head – don’t give them what they want. I smiled as best I could. I told him that I had never sought power, for I saw no sense in power for its own sake. What powers did he want to see anyway? I could probably talk to the roses, or maybe do a bit of shape-shifting, neither of which was particularly spectacular. I could probably run quite fast, if he were to let me go, or throw a decent punch, but what would be the point. He would only be faster than me or stronger. The only things I was good at really were accountancy and trading. Oh, and being a friend. I asked if he would like to see the latter.

Clearly I was not endearing myself with my attitude. He laughed cruelly at me, while trying to squeeze the thorns and claws into me. He asked if he should break me in two and feed on my essence, or hang me form hooks and make sport with me until I could scream no longer. Maybe then I would learn why power was necessary to survive. Again he commanded me to fight him; else he would find out if my blood was as red as my hair. And with that, he struck at my neck, fangs extended. Once again, I called on the blood to harden the skin further, evidently succeeding as I could feel the thorns being forced out and his fangs did no more than slide off the skin. Bless you, Maric, I thought for a moment. I told Gwythyr that I did not have any other attitude, a fact that my teachers at school had often bemoaned. Sure, he could do those things to me, but he could whether or not I fought him, so what was the point?

The fact that I resisted his fangs actually got a reaction. “Well, you do have a trick or two, maybe there is potential. If only I had time to test you more,” he said, giving me a curious look. “But this would have to do for now.” He released his grip with one claw and slashed himself across the chest, bringing forth his evil-looking, black, almost metallic-looking blood. With his other claw, he forced my face towards the wound, demanding that I partake of it. There was little I could do to resist, much as I hated to even taste him. Even so, I refused to be cowed, commenting on the bouquet as though I was just tasting some wine. His blood was cold and hot at the same time; so much like Faermorn’s, yet so different, dark to her light, ice to her fire, and yet, it was the same Wyld that powered both. I took as little as I could manage, fearing the corruption it might cause, until he released me with a smile that was entirely disturbing. This was not over, he told me, and that I had much to learn, and then he was gone.

I woke curled up in a ball on the floor of the hut. I do not know how much later it was, but I knew I was frozen to the core. I could not even say if it had been a dream, or if it had been real. Perhaps here, and in his world, there is no difference. Certainly the black stain on my lips was real. I washed my face and rinsed my mouth as much as I could, but still the foul taste of him lingered. Eventually, after a few glasses of rum, I recovered myself enough to sleep, and it was not a restful sleep.

When I partook of the queen, it was one of the most joyous things I knew, and for all that the king was of the same breed, what I partook from him was not something I wanted. The queen gave me the Wyld, connected me to what my mother had been. I do not yet know what he has given me, what corruption he has wrought in me. I can only hope that whatever it is, I will be able to see it and control it, for I would hope that I will never be any of the things that he was.
Forest Dreams

 

Between Two Worlds

I have never liked to take sides, save for always being on the side of my friends. I have tried so hard to not do so, especially since the fall of Cristof’s castle, when it seemed that the Unseelie and the Seelie were demanding that we all choose sides. Gwyn chose, and that was right for her. I did not, which was right for me, even with all the attendant problems with His Unseelie Majesty. Instead, I chose to be a bridge, an envoy, an emissary, able to move between the Seelie and Unseelie courts while being a part of neither, and representing the humans and vampires to both. I walk between the worlds of the fae and the worlds of the humans. I include the vampires in the latter, since all of us were once human.

In time, I have found that I am actually a part of both worlds now, fae-blooded through my mother, vampire by Katharina, and the longer I remain here, the deeper I seem to get into both those worlds. The accident with Isabella and my relationship with Gwyn, both bringing out more and more of the fae; and Maric’s training and vitae, making me more a vampire than I was before. And now, I have partaken of more of the fae, of the Unseelie Queen herself, and I am pulled deeper again into that world. As I said above, I chose to be a bridge, and I realise that a bridge cannot be a bridge, unless it is firmly anchored at both ends, in both the worlds it connects. Thus, given what has passed, I suppose it was inevitable that I should become part of both. And thus I find myself, a bridge between two worlds.

As requested, I waited until the sun was on the horizon, and then made my way down the hill, to the bridge, where I presented myself to the ravens, ready to be taken to Her Majesty. I did not know quite what to expect, so went with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. Her Majesty had promised to Quicken me, which she said was her gift to me, to awaken my heritage. On the surface, that sounded like a good thing, but yet I wasn’t sure. I had some inkling of what the Unseelie considered a good thing, from my dealings with Gwythyr and I was not so sure I liked that. But then, I had often gotten the impression from Faermorn that she did not much like those things either. So, it was in a decidedly mixed frame of mind that I presented myself at the bridge, to be taken to the Queen’s chambers.

I was not surprised to find Valene there, already curled up with Faermorn. I had been there for their re-binding, so her being there for my Quickening made sense. She, however, did not seem entirely pleased to see me, as if she did not know who I was. From her reaction, perhaps she perceived me only as a possible threat to Faermorn. I accessed the bond between us, sending a calm I was not entirely sure I felt myself, and as always, my deep love for her.

Faermorn was sleeping, dreaming, and she seemed cold, lying on the furs instead of under them. Valene’s growls were enough to disturb her, struggling back to wakefulness. She looked at me and then beyond me with some surprise, saying “I dreamed of you.” I looked behind to see that Vedis was also there. In what capacity, I could not guess, since I knew nothing of relations between the demons and the Unseelie Court. Faermorn smiled at both of us and beckoned us both closer, her other hand trying to soothe Valene’s aggression. She asked that we join her for a while because she needed to say our goodbyes while she could. As ever, I took off my sword before approaching and giving her my now customary greeting of a kiss on the hand. I could feel the sadness in her and tried to counter it with they joy I had felt on seeing Cernunnos. Rather than goodbyes, I told her, I preferred the French words – “Au Revoir.”

Vedis hoped that Faermorn’s dreams had been good ones without her there to influence them. There was a moment of regret on her face when Faermorn mentioned goodbyes. She didn’t say goodbyes, she told Faermorn, but she had come anyway. She came forward slowly, and I could see sorrow in her face, much as there would have been in mine, had I not been trying to hide it.

Valene seemed to relax a little at Faermorn’s touch, and perhaps at what I was sending through the bond. She settled slightly and curled herself into Faermorn’s larger form. When she saw Vedis, she seemed to curl up even smaller, ears flattened against her head, and for a moment, looking much more catlike than normal. I did not know why. I knew they had history, and that Valene had been a part of the Seid clan, but of course, I did not know what had passed in the many years, for her, that we had been apart. Faermorn’s reaction to Vedis, I could not quite work out, the cold and heat meeting that seemed to cool the room somehow. She was glad that Vedis had come to her. To my greeting, she reacted as she had before, that flurry of warmth and almost impossible desire beneath the skin. A charming poet, she called me, reacting to my speaking French. Oddly, that had seemed to provoke a reaction in Vedis too. “Mon plaisir, ma reine, vous êtes belle comme toujours.” I told her, keeping hold of her hand as I reached across with the other to touch Valene, calling on my blood to give her strength and warmth. I questioned the idea of more gifts; since it seemed to me that I had nearly all I loved here, save for Gwyn, who I could sense was not far away. I would not deny her, though.

Vedis came closer, remaining standing. She told Faermorn that she owed her no gifts, as all her debts had been paid in full. She had come to see if she could help, as she held a part of Faermorn’s power, which she would return if it helped her to regain her health. She told us that meeting fate upon your feet was the demon way as she came a little closer. Valene seemed to perk up a little, agreeing that they didn’t give up without a fight. The Seids fight until the end. They met death head on with a bloody smile on their faces. I had to chuckle a little as she said this, reaching for my hand, our energies touching. She was sure that Vedis could help Faermorn, that much she said.

Faermorn looked upon the three of us, weakened, but still very much the Faerie Queen. All the various energies; hers, mine, Valene’s, Vedis’ swirling together, raising the tension in the air, like a coming thunderstorm, a growing tide. The veils fell aside as she dropped the glamour, showing all that she was and could be; the very essence of all desire and beauty, her voice pure fire and moonlight. Come to me, she bade us, so that she might give, as she was wished, as she was made, as she was to the end. The sight brought a gasp and a sigh from me, but a contented one. At last, I could see beyond the glamour, see what was real, which was, in a way, all that I had ever wanted. I was there, I told her, and we all were, all here for her as she had wished. I shifted slightly so that Vedis could get closer, while still stroking on Valene’s and Faermorn’s hands. Then, in an attempt to lighten the mood a little, I chuckled and admitted that I did not know what a Quickening was.

Vedis laughed and told me I was about to find out. She said that family was strength, kneeling between us and caressing Faermorn’s leg, sending new jolts of energy into the gathering. “Betwixt and between, his desire for you is manifest,” she said, brushing my back with her tentacles and Valene’s hand with others. The energy in the room was palpable, the swirling of power, the strange melange of demonic and fae, human and vampire, dizzying desire, desire that had me on the precipice, and for a moment, I was almost afraid, trapped here between one of my greatest loves, the promise of everything that was this Faerie Queen, who I realised I had come to love as well, and the frightening allure of the Queen of Lust. Valene spoke as well, her own glamour falling away as her own desires joined the whirlpool. “Here and there and everywhere, we reside. Our power is thrice-fold, true and tried.” Her words, like Vedis’ sounding formal, ritualistic, their power pulling me in. Strong magic was afoot, and I was the centre of it. Faermorn’s own power burst forth into us all, rushing over us, caressing and tingling our skins, our very beings, clinging to us as her inner desires flared, desire for her Cait, desire for Vedis, desire for me, a rush of feeling that shuddered her body, her arms pulling at mine, pulling me down onto her soft, yielding flesh. My breath was ragged now, and in my surprise, I barely managed to catch my weight on my arms, either side of her, suddenly face to face, almost lip to lip, very aware that my lower body was lying on hers, soft, warm, inviting. I breathed hard, composing myself as best I could. “My lady,” I asked, “what would you have of me?” Her face was too beautiful and my desire so strong, that I had to fight to keep my composure. I smiled, letting her see my love and friendship, lowering myself to kiss her forehead, for that was all I could trust myself with at that moment.

There was a weight on my back, soft, supple flesh, and burning lust. It was Vedis, leaning against me, pressing me harder against Faermorn. She told me that Faermorn was offering me a Quickening, and saying I should do my research – as if I hadn’t been scouring the libraries at Maric’s for clues. She pressed herself against me, her lips brushing my neck, the fangs grazing the skin, pulling my hair aside with a tentacle, while others caressed Valene and Faermorn. Lust and desire was burning the air around us. Valene joined the press of bodies, her own lips and teeth finding the spot on my neck where we had bonded so long ago. She agreed with Vedis, saying I really, really should do my research, she called me her handsome poet and told me this was going to be the most intense night of my life. I could feel her own desires being added to that which surrounded us, until I could no longer tell what was what, whose energies were whose, whose lust and desire was what, only that we four were somehow melded together.

Faermorn’s body was writhing against mine, against the press of all three of us, glowing brighter with the rush of feeling. I was only too aware of her very inviting flesh pressed against mine, soft and hard, only a few layers of fabric between us being joined in an entirely other way. The light, the warmth, the desire, the beauty that had drawn a fae king to her, and I understood more of the story Valene had told me. The energy flowed around and in me, energy other than that of lust and desire, the energy that was calling to the fae part of my being, that which I had from Mother, and I could hear her voice, see her face in among the sensations that were taking me over. Faermorn’s face and voice recaptured my attention. “Partake of me,” she said, “Take of me what you will, my body, my blood, and my fire will Quicken you.” She pressed herself against me. “I am Sidhe, and that which is fae will always come to my call.”

My body was reacting without me, making its own desires felt, my hardness pressing against her. I struggled to resist its desires, uncertain how where this was going. I could only barely manage to mutter “my lady” a few times, looking down at her, her face, her lovely face, so close to mine. I called upon all my will, to remain in control, to not give in to my primal needs. I kissed her, gently, on each cheek, her eyes, her ears, and the pulse on her neck, that, itself yet another desire. “What would you?” I asked, not knowing my own feelings well enough to choose. I could hear Vedis chuckling and saying I was strong. I guess I impressed her, but she did not know how hard it was for me to resist. A tentacle appeared, pulling Faermorn’s head back slightly, so I could see the pulse point clearly. “You could take of her blood,” she said, “though her delights are hardly limited to that.” She started caressing Faermorn, me, Valene, with her tentacles. “She is desire,” she said, “I am lust, and hunger you already know.” Valene pressed herself against me too, whispering in my ear. “Feed upon her, handsome drinker of blood… Feast and be your true self.” I could see her shadows moving, undoing Faermorn’s clothing as she teased me with her tongue on my neck. “Hunger for her,” she said, “Take from her and know pleasure beyond compare. We are primordial desires and you are ours.” She started pressing herself against my back, ordering me to take, and to give.

I barely heard them as Faermorn trembled beneath me, her body pressed against mine, every fibre of her tugging every fibre of me, lost, it seemed, in desire and lust, spurred on by Valene and Vedis, yet looking at me, her hands grasping my shoulders, pulling me to her. Each kiss I had given, bringing yet another shiver. Each touch of her skin against mine was dizzying, scent and taste and pure sensation, everything in her a maelstrom of lust and desire that would take me, and I would be lost forever in that in that deep well, never wanting to climb out. The desires in me, in her, the desires and lusts from Valene and Vedis filled me, surrounded me, almost drowning me. I covered her face in kisses again, my love, my lust, my appreciation for what she was, kissing down to her sweet, alabaster neck, lust and hunger breaking like the sea over my head as I kissed against the pulse. For the sake of sanity, for the sake of my love for Gwyn, and for the sake of not losing myself, I chose hunger, readying my fangs to strike and hoping I was making the right choice. I bit, and that beautiful, bright, burning blood flowed into my mouth and took me. I had partaken of elven blood before, served by Borris at the London Café, but this was that magnified a thousand or more times. This was life; this was the very essence of being. This was ecstasy and more, much more, filling me, permeating me, awakening every cell, every fibre of me that came from Mother. In that moment, I was fae, I was FAE, more than I could ever imagine. The Wyld filled me, turned me, surrounded me until I could take no more and the blackness took me.

When I awoke, my face was resting on Faermorn’s breast, a soft, pliable, temptation, so close to my mouth, but still covered in her silks and that strange, silver chain mail she wears. Valene was cuddled with her from the other side, her arm across Faermorn’s body and entwined with mine. She, like me, was mostly fully clothed. Of Vedis, there was no sign, save for the lingering atmosphere of lust and desire. Faermorn and Valene slept, deeply, insensible to me moving. The fae energy in me sparkled and swirled, and the very sight of them renewed my desires, almost too much for me to bear. I slid my arm from under Faermorn, and disentangled my other arm from Valene. Neither of them woke, or showed any reaction. I kissed them both gently and took my leave, sleep long gone from me and likely very far away for some time.

And so, I have been Quickened. I still do not entirely know what that is, save that I can feel, and I know my fae side much more than I had before. What other aspects of the fae I have taken on, I do not know. It is going to take me some time to integrate all of this, and I do not know how much time I have. I am left with a sense of wonder, and a lingering sense of vague regret. I think I chose wisely to partake by the blood, but part of me will always wonder what might have been, had I chosen other. What I am now, I do not know. Am I fae? Am I vampire? Or am I something in between? Between two worlds, but a part of both? Only time will tell.

Between Two Worlds 

Faerie Queen Revisited

And once again, I have been to the Queen’s chambers. Once again, we have shared our energies, and now she has offered me something new and wonderful, to quicken the Wyld in me, so that I might gain the full benefit of my heritage. Quite what this means, I do not know, but if it is my mother’s heritage that she meant, then that is something I would gladly embrace.

I was in the main hall of the castle, grumbling and muttering to myself as I tried to work out what the hell I was. While Maric might have an extensive library, I doubted there was anything to help me work out my own peculiar situation, my own peculiar mix of vampire, fae, and whatever the hell Alec was. I was so frustrated that I actually picked up the largest volume I could find and banged myself on the head with it, hoping maybe it would dislodge something and help things fall into place. As I was putting it back, I heard Aoibheann asking me if I could have a word, and, presumably referring to the head-banging, if I could read things like that. I chuckled and said I wished it were that simple, as it would save me a great deal of time. She asked me if I had seen Valene since before she went to see Faermorn, and had I heard anything since. She was pouring a glass of wine, so I asked her to pour me one too, before going over to relate my tale.

I told her that I had taken Valene to Faermorn and had ended up staying the night there, but I hadn’t been there since. This was clearly news to her, then she mentioned that Rhys and Ianto had cried out in pain, saying something about Valene being in mourning. That did not surprise me, as I had thought at the moment that Valene screamed, that the rest of the Cait would feel it. Aoibheann looked worried and started to ask – was Faermorn…

I told her not to worry, Faermorn had been alive when I left her. I proceeded to tell her of what had happened, starting with reminding her about the time that Valene had said that she could no longer sense Faermorn, that their bond had been broken. Faermorn had said the same thing to me, which is why she had asked me to bring Valene to her, so that they could renew their bond. I told her how excited Valene had been and how happy Faermorn was to be reunited with her. I explained how they had needed me to steady them while they renewed the bond, and how Faermorn had put a lot of her essence into Valene to do the renewal, plus how I had caught some of that essence too. I told her about Faermorn saying that she would soon have to go to the Mother, and how both of us had thought for a moment that she was dying there and then, which is why Valene screamed out. I did say how Faermorn had been weakened by the process, although she had been alive when I left, and how she had spoken of going to join the Mother. Aoibheann looked a little upset, and I could not blame her, I still felt a little sad myself. She said that she would miss Faermorn, and wondered who, if anybody, could replace her.

I agreed that we would all miss her, especially as I was just getting to know her, the woman as well as the Queen. I took Aoibheann’s hand and placed it over my heart. I explained how Faermorn had placed a part of herself in me, and a lot more in Valene, so she could never be truly gone from us, not while Valene and I were alive, as part of her would always be here. I didn’t know what, if anything, Faermorn had given to Aoibheann when she and Gwyn had visited, but even so, Faermorn would always be here, and here, I said, touching her on the head and above the heart. While we continued to be a part of this land, Faermorn would always be with us.

I had meant it to be comforting, but Aoibheann burst into tears, saying that she wanted to see Faermorn again, and she wanted to get something from her box before she did. I held her until she managed to stop crying, wiping her eyes with a cloth that one of the servants brought her. I reminded her that Faermorn was not gone yet, and if she wanted to see her, I would gladly take her there as I would like to see her again too.

We walked down to the bridge, where she put her hands inside Ardan somehow, bringing out something small, wrapped in a piece of cloth. I waited discreetly, not watching. I guessed this was where she kept her box of treasures, but allowed her some privacy. We walked further into the Unseelie side of the bridge and waited until the ravens came and took us to Faermorn’s grove. We let ourselves into the chamber, watched by the ravens, who now seemed a little more accepting of our presence, and announced ourselves quietly.

Faermorn invited us in, her voice barely a whisper, and we went through to the bed chamber. Aoibheann came in hesitantly, not wanting to come too close, and keeping her eyes lowered as if she feared to look upon Faermorn. I was less shy and walked straight over, after taking off my sword, and knelt and kissed her hand as I had previously, again, retaining hold of it. She managed a warm smile for us, and I was sure that she had perked up when I kissed her, as if she had gained some energy from it. She told us we were always welcome, then noticed that Aoibheann was hanging back and bade her come closer. I told her it was an honour to be received, explaining that Aoibheann had been concerned when the Cait got agitated, which is why we had come. Then, recognising, perhaps, a need in her, I summoned up once again that wild energy I had felt in the presence of Cernunnos, ready to give it to the queen, if she would have it.

Aoibheann moved forward and settled down by Faermorn’s offered hand, seeming to overcome her shyness and fear of protocol. She unwrapped whatever it was from the piece of cloth and offered it to Faermorn. I recognised it as the phoenix feather she had been given so long ago in Jasper Cove, for I had one very similar in my own possessions. “You can have this,” she said, shyly, “if you want,” trying so hard not to make it sound like a gift. Faermorn took it with great interest, stroking it gently, raising tiny sparks along the edge. It was a very rare and precious thing, she said, a symbol of destruction and rebirth, that could be used for so many things. Was Aoibheann sure she wanted to give up such a rare thing, to be lost forever, she asked.

That was the moment I released the energies into her. She gasped as it hit her and light played over her skin. Her eyes burned into me, promising so, so much, and much more than I could imagine. The glamour slipped away and suddenly she was a bright, burning flame, the essence of everything I could possibly desire and anything I could imagine desiring, something so primal it almost stripped away my very being. I had to fight to maintain my composure, forcing my own fae energies to settle down. This was not what I had expected behind the glamour, having thought I might perhaps see the woman she had been, but this was something else, the essence, the origin of everything. It flared for just a moment, and then she regained her control, curling up on herself for a moment. “I am too weak to stop myself entirely,” she murmured, before regaining her normal voice, perhaps a bit richer than it had been. She looked at Aoibheann and said how sweet her innocence was, and then her hand tightened on mine, saying how my essence tasted so sweet to her. She closed her eyes for a moment, gathering her strength. She had gifts for us, before she went.

Aoibheann was clearly surprised and sorely tempted, it seemed, when the glamour dropped, and strangely disappointed when it was regained. She told the queen that few things were lost forever, but did concede that some things were lost for a long time. She looked at the feather again and I wondered if she was thinking of the cycle of rebirth that the phoenix went through and hoping the same could apply to Faermorn. Certainly that idea seemed to occur to Faermorn, who thanked her, saying that maybe she was right, maybe it could rekindle her enough, along with her consort, so that she could rise and do what must be done. She thanked Aoibheann for the thought and then placed her hand over Aoibheann’s. A wisp of shadow appeared, like an insubstantial bracelet. It had once been a gift to her from the Cait King and now she wanted to give it to Aoibheann. It would open the Roads to her at will, without having the Cait there to guide her, and it would give her air to breathe.

Having taken a few moments to regain myself while Aoibheann spoke, I placed my other hand over Faermorn’s. I said that I did not quite understand what she had given to me the other night, when we were together with Valene, but I would treasure it. As to her offer of gifts, I did not know what she had in mind, but I did ask one small favour. I told her that although I had taken oath to her, everything I had said, or not said, everything I had done, I would have done anyway, without the need for magical oaths, and asked if I could be released, if it would please her to do so, so that I could continue to serve willingly. I also told her that I would always treasure that small glimpse beyond the glamour. She gripped my hand, and again there was that flow of something between us. She spoke formally, her voice, her tone sounding almost as though she were speaking in the fae tongue rather than my own. Perhaps she was, but I understood her anyway, that she was releasing me from my oaths. Then she continued in a more normal tone, smiling as she told me that she wished to Quicken the Wyld in me, the way she said it seemed to carry the implication of the capitalisation, so that my heritage could be given full bloom. If I wanted to know what the gift of fae was within me, I could partake of her to spark it alive.

I chuckled, commenting on the release by saying I was still there, even as I felt myself less burdened. For I had felt those oaths a burden, when to me, there were not needed. I told her that I did not really know what this Wyld was, much less what it would do, but if it linked me to my mother’s heritage, then I would embrace it gladly. Aoibheann, meanwhile, took the bracelet, or at least, she touched it and it flowed from Faermorn’s wrist to her own. Faermorn smiled at her and wished her good fortune on her travels and hoped that she would find her happiness. She slumped slightly then, as though wearied, and shivered, despite the warmth in the chamber. She turned to me and asked me to come to her again, when night next fell, and she would Quicken me. She shivered again and gave my hand one last squeeze before releasing it, curling up on herself. She whispered that her dark king was waiting for her and told us to be safe and well. With that, she fell into a deep sleep, much as she had done before, after the reunion.

I let her hand go, reluctantly, and then made sure that she was well covered by the blankets and furs, and had a pillow for her head. I thought for a moment what I could give to her and remembered the volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets that I had read to her from a few evenings ago. I took that out of my bag and tucked it under the pillow, telling her to sleep well, and dream well. I kissed her on the forehead, checked the blankets again and stood up. Aoibheann added her own admonition to dream safely. I told her that we should get back before Maric started worrying unduly. And so we left, with many glances over our shoulders and returned to the village.

So, I am to be Quickened. I do not know what this might mean, save that it will be something to do with that part of me that was fae, from my mother. I also do not know what she might mean by partaking of her. Could she mean her blood, or could she mean something more, given the flashes of desire that came when she dropped her glamour. If it is the latter, then I might well be afraid, but some small part of me hopes that is so. I know that it is the glamour and more, so maybe that is what I want. I should not, for I have my own fae princess, but part of me will always wonder.

Faerie Queen – Heather Alexander

Having You Around

For all that we strive to ensure our survival through this forthcoming doom, it seems as though some may not make it. First we have Faermorn saying that she will go to the arms of the Mother, and now, I have Galyanna being most pessimistic about her chances of coming through the forthcoming troubles alive. And again, as with Faermorn, I am saddened by this, for I have only recently begun to get to know Galyanna. I have the very greatest respect for her, and we have fought side by side on several occasions now, somehow understanding each other, even though she is a warrior, and I have always claimed I am not, though I do not know if I can still truthfully make that claim. And, I have come to like her a lot, even if I do not know her well. I do not even know what manner of being is behind that mask, save that she is female of her kind. I regret that I do not know her, and I hope that she will survive, and that I can get to know her better. I’ve gotten used to having her around.

I was in the tavern, taking a well-earned drink after the tedious business of distributing and explaining the addition to the emergency procedures regarding the Shadow Roads. Given how hard it was to explain, perhaps I should have just left it as “Do not go outside the village, by order.” I was bemoaning this to Hal when he told me that the “small woman in all the armour who never drinks” had been looking for me. I guessed that he meant Galyanna, as I had been expecting her to come and find me about the access to the vaults. I told him that I was sure that she would find me soon enough.

And sure enough, she soon did. I was forewarned by this strange link I have, through Maric, to the castle, that she had been there, and had been directed to the tavern to find me. She came in, as silently as ever, and waited until I turned around. Which I did, slowly, not wishing to give away how I knew she was there. I told her that the good news was that I could now take her to the vaults, and to the mirror, if she still wished to polish it, or whatever it was that she had wanted to do. She said that she wanted to see it, and be able to tend to it, as did Patch if she wasn’t available.

I told her that I could take her there, but I could not yet set things up for her to go on her own. Lord Maric would have to deal with doing that and it would require samples of blood. She seemed a little bemused by that until I explained that we were vampires, so naturally, we would use blood magic. I promised her that the blood would not be used for any other purpose and neither would we be drinking it. She accepted that with a nod and asked to be taken to see it so that she could know where it was and asked that I do the same for Patch if necessary. I told her that I was not sure if Maric would agree to them having access on their own, as he was not overly trusting. With that, I finished my drink and took her to the castle.

I took her into the cellar and then into the vaults, explaining how the entrance to the vaults was controlled by a special key that only myself, Maric and Kustav had access to. I must admit, I did get a little lost in the vaults, before I managed to find my way to the laboratory. I will get the hang of those corridors some day. I went into the lab and deactivated the ward before inviting her down. She looked around, ever the tactician, no doubt working out how best to get in and out. She wanted to know if we could arrange things so that she and Patch could have access to get in here. I said I would ask Maric about it, but again, pointed out that he might not be too keen. I also pointed out that if we did need to activate it, we would most likely be all sheltering in the cellars anyway, so would not have far to come, and I would be there to make the arrangements.

While she thought about that, I had a brief conversation with Maric mentally. Mostly I wanted to check what I could talk about, since I didn’t know if Vedis or Galyanna knew about the arrangement with Nemaine, and also, to ask his opinion on the idea of giving Galyanna or Patch the access they wanted. He said to keep quiet about all the arrangements, it was up to Vedis to tell her people, and as far as access was concerned, he preferred to keep the gate-keeping to ourselves. I had to agree with him on that, much as I felt I could trust Galyanna. There was something else going on as well, something very happy. I could only guess that things were going well with Aoibheann.

I carried on talking to Galyanna, with only brief pauses to speak with Maric. We talked about the escape plan through the mirror and I told her that Aoibheann and I had apparently been excluded from taking part in the battle, by agreement with Vedis. I told her that I didn’t like to stand idly by while others battled, even if I was no warrior, but I supposed that somebody needed to organise things down here on the ground. Galyanna decried my claims to not be a warrior, telling me that I fought well enough. I suppose I could not argue with her there, even if I did not know how I came to be so. I was trained as an accountant, I told her. I indicated the sword and said that it was as alien to me as a double-entry ledger might be to her. But, I agreed with her, I didn’t seem to have done too badly. Maybe, I told her, I had learned something from reading all those books about Arthurian knights and such like. Unlike her, I had not had the benefit of training, aside from the time I had spent with Alec’s and Maric’s guards. I did say that in recent battles, I had the enormous advantage of having her at my side. Maybe I had learned something from her.

Or you have something to protect, she said, sounding like she was smiling, adding that I obviously cared for her. I assumed that she meant Gwyn, but it could also apply to Aoibheann, Helene and others, including now, I supposed, Faermorn. We will be protecting you as best we can, she told me, no matter what people might think of them. She assessed the room again, saying she would have to make sure that Patch knew what needed to be done. He could move swiftly when he needed to, and would be well able to protect Vedis when he replaced her. I caught a sense of sadness, or perhaps resignation from her, as though she were sure she would not survive the battle. Protecting people had always been my driving force, I told her. Even before I took up the sword, I would have died to protect my own. But, I said, I hoped that it would not be necessary for Patch to replace her. While I was sure that Patch was perfectly able to do the job, I rather liked having her around, and liked to consider her as a friend that I would miss were she gone.

You are too kind, she told me. Given that she was going to be battling with the Morning Star himself, it made sense to ensure that her apprentice was able to take her place. I could trust Patch, she told me, as much as I trusted her. Again, there was that sense of resignation. Or perhaps, realism, assessing her chances against Old Nick. Tell him everything you say is a lie, I said to her, remembering the Epimenides Paradox, and wait for his head to explode trying to work it out. I mentioned that my old vicar at home had some specific ideas about dealing with that particular person, but I doubted, somehow that they would work for either of us.

There was little more we could do here, so I made moves to go back up to the main part of the castle, saying I couldn’t leave her here as I needed to reset the ward and didn’t want her to be the one to try out its effectiveness. “Maybe I could trust Patch,” I said, “but I’ve gotten kind of used to having you around. I’ve gotten kind of used to having me around, so let’s keep our spirits up, and let’s hope we are both still around afterwards.” She chuckled at that, saying that perhaps it would be so, but, if she did die, she would at least know she had done so helping her queen regain her home.

We had no more words for each other as we made her way out of the castle. We made our farewells at the main door and then she faded off into the shadows, presumably reporting back to Vedis. I stood and watched her go, feeling a little sad. It was true, I did not know her well, this enigmatic warrior whose face I had not even seen, but somehow I felt a kindred spirit there, a bond forged in the heat of battle, and I knew that I would indeed miss her. Perhaps she was being realistic about her chances, but I could only hope that she would come through. I could only hope that we would all come through. What our chances are, I do not know, given the quality of our enemies, but I have to hope. With everything else going on, I have to have hope.

 

Having You Around – July Talk