Chocolate Mead

It seems that I have not been the only one affected by the fae wellspring. Aoibheann has also got horns now. Rather fetching ones, they are, almost like tree limbs. She is not happy about this, which is only to be expected, but she is defensive too, arguing that they are prettier than mine. I don’t quite know how it happened, but it has, and I doubt she will ever tell me.

I had been down in the lab, trying to work out what I could do about the sword shard, when one of the guards reported there was some screaming going on. When I got back to the castle, I found Wren and Aoibheann there, the latter wearing the aforementioned horns. My first reaction was to say “You too?” and demonstrated that I had some too. She took offence, of course, claiming that they were not a fashion statement, and anyway, hers were prettier, which I could not dispute.

We managed to get up to the breakfast table and ordered bread rolls, honey etc. Aoibheann was going on about wanting chocolate mead, and seemed to think that it could be obtained by feeding bees with chocolate and then making mead from their honey. I opined that this would not work, although I suspected that such a thing could be made by using chocolate as well as honey in the brewing process. In the meantime, I said, we could put some mead in hot chocolate, which might be an acceptable substitute. I asked the servants to bring us hot chocolate and a bottle of mead.

I explained that I hadn’t been trying to one-up her on the matter of the horns, just that it was something that seemed to be happening.  I told her the circumstances by which I had gained the horns, during the healing of Gwrgi. Sadly, that set her off again, for not having told her that Gwrgi was alive. She calmed down a little when I said that I had not seen her since. Wren backed me up on this by commenting that Aoibheann had been missing.

What she did say that was interesting was something about the Huntsman’s influence leaving Gwrgi when he was dying. That would explain Gwrgi’s behaviour and all the “she’s mine” stuff. She also said something about him now being able to be free, but that he might want to kill her. I was intrigued by this, but felt it better to leave it for a minute. The servants brought breakfast up, including the mead, which seemed a bit decadent for breakfast.

We sat and ate and Wren asked why people were chasing Aoibheann and why they would want to kill her. A question I would also have asked, but Wren, in her innocence, perhaps framed it better.

The explanation was somewhat confusing and rambling, taking in Horace’s adventures, Llwyd’s madness, Gwrgi’s mad desire to kill.  Aoibheann admitted that Gwrgi hated her for something she had, and Llwyd wanted to kill her because she had something she wanted. She didn’t say outright that it was the essence of the Huntsman, but I knew that already.

Gwrgi was looking for something at the wellspring, and Ardan had sent Horace to stop him, because something dark was lying in wait there, which was Llwyd. Horace, however, shot Gwrgi, which, it seemed was the point at which the Huntsman was forced out of him. He also apparently shot Llwyd, but that didn’t seem to slow him down. Quite how Horace survived was not entirely clear, but I must have come in, finding Valene, soon after this happened. Aoibheann was worried that Horace’s mission with regard to Faermorn had become an obsession. I was able to confirm from my own experiences with Faermorn that she did indeed wish to return, opining that perhaps she wished to be what she had been before she became queen. She was also concerned that Horace was not rational, as he seemed intent on destroying everything. I had my own opinions on that, but offered only that I would speak to Dyisi to see if she could rein him in, and if not, I would have to place him in custody should he return to the village, so that he could not inflame any more problems between us and faerie.

Llwyd, now there was a different problem, since he was quite clearly beyond the reach of sanity. I expressed the hope that perhaps the new Huntsman would catch up with him and that would settle the matter. I also said that this should be something that was a fae matter and that I hoped to meet with Janus and Gwyn soon to see if there was some way we could resolve the matter. I suggested that Aoibheann should stay within the village for now, which Wren agreed with, being worried that Aoibheann might come to harm. This was possibly the wrong thing to say, as Aoibheann yelled at us for saying she was going to die and promptly stormed off in the direction of her room. Not that this is unusual for her lately. I love her dearly, but lately, it seems I can do nothing right with her.

I explained a little more about Faermorn’s situation to Wren, remembering the tale that Valene had told, and what I suspected that Faermorn wanted. I would have told her more about it, but I was already late for my meeting with the staff, so I had to leave her to it.

Chocolate mead? I don’t know where she got that idea. The chocolate part must surely have come later, from being in Jasper Cove, because she could not have come across it before then, unless the Scotland she knew in her time had contact with South America, which is unlikely. But then, the Scotland she knew also had dragons, so anything is possible.

 

[OOC] Catching up

Real life, screwed up sleep patterns and occasional anxiety attacks provoked by the sight of a blank Word document have kept me away from recording Nathaniel’s diary.

I am trying to catch up, but please bear with me while I do so.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your patience.

Nathaniel’s typist

 

Shards

Nothing, it seems, is ever really gone from us. The old Huntsman and the old Unseelie King still plague us, in spirit, if not in person. I do not yet know what we can do about either.

I went down to the training area, where I found Galyanna practicing with more than her usual ferocity. The sword destroying the targets and, it seemed, carrying some corruption, since what was left of the targets fell quickly to decay. She greeted me in her normal fashion and told me that the shard had disappeared that way, pointing to the wall of the castle by the weapons racks.

I did not know what she meant, so asked her – what shard was this?

She hesitated for a moment and then told me the story, a story that began back in London. Padishar had come to their home, having been attacked by Gwythyr. There was a shard of a sword still embedded in him and it was corrupting and consuming him from inside. She had performed an extraction to save Padishar. Since corruption was her specialist power, she kept the shard to study it. She had had it since then, thinking it contained and secure, but something here, something had resonated with it and woken it from dormancy, and it had escaped from her and burrowed into the walls of the castle. She had intended no harm, she said, and had repeatedly tried to destroy it.

I moved to where the shard had entered the stonework. There was a wound, blackened and glassy. I scratched at it with a loose stone lying around, and then, gently, carefully, placed my hand on the stone nearby and opened myself to the castle senses. I moved carefully, expanding my sense slowly, ready to draw back at the first sign of trouble. I was reminded of chemistry lessons at school, where we had been taught to smell things by opening bottles and wafting air towards us above the opening, rather than sticking our noses in and taking a deep breath. Even that cautious approach was not cautious enough, for I sensed, smelled, and tasted the very nature of Gwythyr himself, his unmistakable taint and chill. I stepped away sharply, shaking my hand as if I had spilled something highly unpleasant on it, wiping it on the grass even, anything to wipe away that sensation. I don’t know quite what I said, other than I swore like a trooper. The taint was definitely there in the stonework, and I was able to trace it back to the vaults. There, I could not trace it further, since it seemed to have come to rest somewhere close to the discontinuity, that place where the fabric of the castle was somewhat disjointed through some unknown dimension. That discontinuity being the result of us moving the castle back to the faerie realms while part of the vaults was still connected to Hell.

I advised Galyanna of my findings and assured her that I attached no blame to her. So far as I was concerned, it was all down to the bastard former king. As I was talking, I realised I had not seen her since the demise of Vedis and offered my condolences. I said I would have offered a hug, but understood that was not her thing. She seemed quite stoic about it, as I would expect, saying she would not be deterred, even by Lucifer himself, and would burn heaven itself to the ground to bring her back. She then moved on to ask about training and about working with Kitori.

I told her I was fine with her continuing the training in our training area, but given what she was doing to the targets, asked if she could perhaps provide her own. I asked about Kitori and she assured me that Kitori would obey her, and thus, would obey the law within Mysthaven.

I said I would need to go and investigate further in the vaults and asked if there was anything else I could do for her. She asked only that I would take care of the children. I told her they were always in my care, as if they were my own children. She said they were family to her too, as Vedis had claimed them as nieces. I wondered about that for a moment, as I had some doubts about Vedis’ relationship to Alec, but let it pass.

I left her then and went to the vaults, trying to trace the shard further. I had the rough location, but it was difficult to tell, almost as if it was trying to hide from me. Plus, it was an unpleasant experience, letting myself be open to his bastardness’ influence again. I was about to give up when Maric contacted me through the link. He relayed the news that Janus had said that the girls, Hadley and Wren would some day have to choose their allegiance, to the Seelie or Unseelie Courts. I suggested that this might be a while off yet, as they were not of an age, and anyway, at the moment, Wren was not yet ready to acknowledge her fae heritage. I then updated him on the matter of the shard and what I had learned so far. He seemed annoyed by this, and much perturbed. He was already perturbed by the situation with Aoibheann. He was worried that somehow, the Huntsman had his influence on her somehow, and he was trying to persuade her to go with him to Janus to see if they could sort it out. He asked me to join him in his chambers as soon as I was able.

I wasn’t getting anywhere chasing the shard, so I headed over to his chambers. Aoibheann was there with him, looking a little uncomfortable or possibly a little self-conscious maybe because of being in Maric’s room with me there too. Maric offered wine and we spoke of the accords and the village defences. Aoibheann was not entirely convinced about the accords, since only Janus and Gwyn were party to them. At least I was able to tell her that the minor courts were sworn to Janus, so he would answer for them. I told her he had given me a list of the other courts, so that I would be able to open negotiations with them, such as they were. Meanwhile, Maric was asking me through the link to sense Aoibheann, to see if I could tell if there was any Huntsman influence. I tried, but it was hard, what with the taint of Gwythyr on me still, from sensing the shard. I told Maric that something was definitely odd, but couldn’t tell exactly what.

I mentioned that I had offered to include the new Huntsman in the accords, if he so wished, which got an odd reaction from Aoibheann. She had been talking about the guards on the perimeter and how they should be challenging visitors. Maric asked if Llwyd should be on that list. Aoibheann was not convinced that the Huntsman would be interested, and that it could be a bad idea. I admitted it was tricky, since he was part of the fae hierarchy. I moved on to talk about re-educating the populace on fae behaviour and how to deal with them, so that we could avoid some of the more likely issues, and suggested that a refresher on dealing with the Huntsman would be in order.

I also brought up the idea of having a system of flags to advise the villagers of the expected state of readiness. This would be intended as a general status rather than a specific alert, e.g. if the amber flag was flying, people should be a little more cautious. It did not mean there was an actual alert, so much as a warning that situations were such that there could be – e.g. around full moon, when the Huntsman was more likely to be on the prowl. Maric liked the idea, but it took some explaining to get Aoibheann to appreciate the concept.

I noticed she had avoided Maric’s question about Llwyd, and so had he, for he asked it again. She merely answered in the affirmative and made some comment about him being different. I asked what she meant by that, and, having had a few moments to gather myself, opened my fae senses to her again. This time, I could definitely sense the Huntsman within her. I explained this to Maric through the link, and further explained how Llwyd had once been joined with the Huntsman and maybe that was why he pursued her, to get it back. I finally realised what had been meant when Aoibheann had said yes to the Huntsman’s request about a home. I explained this to Maric and said that it was unlikely that Aoibheann would assist in getting him out of her, as she had agreed to it. Naturally, he was very annoyed by this and wondered how we could get rid of it. The only thing I could think of was talking to Janus. He would have the most experience of the Huntsman. The other thing I thought was that perhaps we could make another vessel for him – such as he had done for Vedis’ memories – and somehow get him into that and out of Aoibheann. This was possible, he agreed, but like me, was not sure how we could tempt the Huntsman out of his ‘home’. He needed to speak to Aoibheann, and somehow persuade her to go with him to Janus. He noticed that she was a little riled by me at present and suggested that I leave, so that she might better listen to him.

I had no problem with that. I finished my wine and made my excuses, claiming I had a headache, and left them to it. I wanted out of there anyway, needing time to settle myself, and somehow cleanse myself of the taint of Gwythyr. I was not sure how, but I returned to my room and took a bath. That, and the relaxation helped somewhat, but I am still perturbed by the taint being in the fabric of the castle.

 

Shards

Signed, sealed, delivered

The Accords are finally agreed. And, as soon as I make a fresh, final copy, they will be signed and sealed.  Something else was sealed too. Something that Gwyn once thought erroneously of me, when she first knew me, but now, is no longer erroneous. What began with confused feelings concerning a young economics student in London came to fruition in the arms of the Unseelie King. I am now a lover of men as well as women. Such a thing would have seemed unthinkable, illegal, even, in my old life, before I became what I am. Yet, for all that the society that I grew up in would have me think otherwise, I feel no shame in setting that thought down. If future generations ever read this diary, perhaps they will wonder that this is was even an issue. I know from what Gwyn has told me that such a thing is considered acceptable and normal in her time. So, I shall not worry about it in this time, whenever this is.

Maric contacted me though our link, as I was waking, and asked if I might set up a meeting with Their Majesties, Gwyneth and Janus, to discuss the accords and get them sorted out. I updated him quickly, on Aoibheann’s request to deliver a letter to Their Majesties, on the ‘curing’of Gwrgi, the bad dreams people had been having in the aftermath of Vedis’ passing and such like. He told me that he could sense the Huntsman on Aoibheann, somehow. Not the one who had visited us recently, but the old one, the one with the obsession about his little lost rabbit. He was hoping to persuade Aoibheann to go along with him to meet with Janus to see if there was anything that could be done about that. He was also concerned about the reappearance of Llwyd and the possible effect that might have on power in the faerie realms. This was why he wanted to get the accords sorted.

Some time later, I took myself to Ardan, where a demi-fae advised me that Janus would meet with us there. Gwyneth, it seems, is in repose for the winter season. That, I found distressing, but, I have to accept that this is a consequence of her nature, much as I miss her presence, and more. I advised Maric of this meeting and sat to wait. Maric told me that he had spoken with Aoibheann and that he could sense the presence of the Huntsman in her. He would be there shortly. He seemed worried that I was in over my head, being alone with the King, but I assured him I was not in fear. I was consort to the Queen, and he was lover to my lover, so I was no further in over my head than I ever was.

Janus appeared from the tree, greeting me formally, but with some familiarity, as he played with a lock of my hair. The heat and sensuality that surrounds him seemed stronger than ever, and almost distracted me from my formal reasons for being there.

I took a moment to regain my resolve and greeted him in turn, stating my business. I took the opportunity to apprise him of the suggested amendment that Maric had made, concerning the tribunal. Janus took offence at first, saying it was rude to start the discussions without the other party. I explained that the amendment had come up as a result of Maric reading the draft, and I would have told Their Majesties sooner, but, things had been somewhat busy of late. He stepped closer, saying that I tasted of the Wyld, of lust, of hunger, his face very close to mine. I explained about the incident with Gwrgi and Valene, and how I had found myself at the Heart of the Wyld, and how that had filled me. I tasted of blood, and Wyld, Almost fae, but not quite. I was more akin to him than Valene, he said, yet the Queen of the Cait had claimed me. She would just have to share; he told me, before pulling me closer still, and kissing me, hard, but swiftly. Once again, felt the pull of him, the power, the desire, his as well as my own. I did not resist him. I told him that this had always been the case. Valene knew this, Gwyneth knew it and I knew it. All knew that we would have to share.

He stepped back a pace and turned, formal once more, as he greeted Maric, who had just arrived. He had clearly seen the kiss, but made no mention of it, choosing instead to greet the King formally, as I would have expected of him. After suitable greetings and compliments, he got on with business and asked if the terms of the Accords were acceptable.

Janus looked at me again; his intent clear in his eyes, then dragged his attention away to Maric. He spoke of one who had been causing trouble, running around, meddling, almost killing several of his people, and coercing a creature that would likely eat him. That aside, he stated that the Accords seemed fair to him and his Queen. He could not swear that all the fae courts would follow the agreements, since they could stubborn, but he would do his best to keep them in check, if we would do the same with ours.

I suspected that he spoke of Horace. I said that I regretted Horace’s actions as much as anybody, and said that I had given orders that he be detained, should be venture again into the town. I said that I suspected his actions were occasioned by his feeling of loss regarding the late queen, which I said might explain, if not excuse, his actions. Maric agreed, though he did state that Horace was not formally attached to Mysthaven, since he claimed to serve Faermorn now.

The mention of Faermorn got a strong reaction from Janus, an understandable one, given their previous situation. Leaves fell from the trees and burst into flame, and the hovering demi fae disappeared with frightened squeaks.  Faermorn was worthy of grief, he said, but she would not have wanted, nor approved of, Horace’s actions.

Maric pressed the point regarding the Accords, wanting that matter resolved so that we then had a basis for dealing with any transgressions. He also raised the matter of Aoibheann, fearing that what afflicted her was fae in nature, and thus wished Janus’ better knowledge on such things. Before he did so, he wished to know that the courts bore no ill will towards her. Janus said there was none such. The Huntsman had not taken Aoibheann, for she had broken no oaths, and other matters he was prepared to let lie. We spoke a little of Llwyd, and the new Huntsman, and I speculated if that was what was happening to Aoibheann. That it was Llwyd bothering her. Maric was not so sure. He very much feared that the old Huntsman had found a new host in her. He left us then, saying he would return with Aoibheann when she felt able to visit. I could tell that he was having difficulty controlling his urges, his desires for the fae energies, so it was best he went. Janus sent an escort party of demi-fae to see him safely home.

I spoke more with Janus, saying I would make a final version of the Accords for signing and sealing. I asked if there were other courts that might want to be party to them, other than the Cait. He said that there were only the demi-fae, the goblins and the sluagh, all of whom were much diminished and had merged themselves into the Unseelie Court, thus, his agreement spoke for all.

With Maric gone, and the demi-fae busy elsewhere, Janus had no more time for business and neither did I. There was no more denial and it was time to acknowledge and act upon the things we both felt. If it was real desire, or just the skin-hunger, I could not tell, nor did I care.  All that mattered was my hand on him, and his hands on mine, his lips and mine, and more besides. Nothing else mattered.

Signed, sealed, delivered

Wake me Up

Reviving Maric from torpor is beginning to become a habit. Well, If twice can be regarded as a habit anyway. I must be learning, since this time, it was achieved without anybody getting their limbs ripped off.

I went to the Vaults, and ordered then closed to all and any visitors. Nobody was to come in without permission. I had already dressed in my best mail armour, just in case, and for additional safety, gathered the chains we had used last time.

Down in the vaults, I cleared a space, and working very carefully, bound the monstrous form that was Maric as best I could, enough, I hoped to hobble his limbs and maybe secure him to the fabric of the castle.

As I was preparing a flask of my blood to feed him, using a pipette, an idea occurred to me. I had other options, another shape I could use. The bat might be more manoeuvrable and better able to evade Maric’s grasp, should he frenzy. I shifted shape and experimented with my hind limbs to see if I could operate the pipette with reasonably good aim. That seemed to work, so I filled it and flew up, positioning myself above Maric’s jaw as best I could and squeezing the bulb of the pipette. The first drops landed on his face, sitting there, beading on his stone-like skin for a few moments before soaking in and disappearing.

He came to with a roar and scream that rattled the very walls of the castle, sending me skittering upwards out of reach, the sound nearly rupturing my ears. Below me, I could see his body wrenching and writhing in pain and anger. His eyes were as red as I had ever seen them and again and again, he roared his anger. His claws dug into the very stonework and all my efforts with the chain seemed in vain as they snapped like twigs under the strain of his monstrous limbs. I flew higher, relying on distance to keep me out of reach of those enormous claws. I directed more blood onto his face, again, watching it soak in as soon as it touched. I did not have much left and did not dare risk flying lower to refill it. I should have put the flask up high on one of the beams, but it was too late now.

Another idea occurred to me – perhaps I could steer him towards the flask. I stayed up high, but directed my aim to one side, trying to lead him towards where the flask was. To my relief, and considerable surprise, it worked. He followed the trail of blood droplets, grabbed the flask and gulped it down in one go. I felt the power run through him and the mental link flared to life, but it was a white-hot ball of pain at Vedis’ destruction that almost stunned me and I fell, desperately clinging on to one of the wooden beams until the pain passed. I tried to project peace at him, to no avail. He roared again, fighting for control and he looked up, his eyes locking onto mind. I felt his pain flaring out, shaking the castle, and that gave me an idea. I projected the idea of the castle as shelter against the weather, his pain beating at it like rain in a storm, running down the roof, the guttering and safely into the ground.

Between that and his own efforts, somehow he regained control. He fell to the ground, shifting into his more human form as he did so, but as he fell, his gaze fell on the space where the mirror portal had been, and I felt his shock, the realisation of what had happened to Vedis. “What have I done?” he asked before collapsing to the floor.

I judged it safe to return to my human form, remembering to land on the ground first. I told him that he had done what he needed to do to protect the castle and his people. I said the Dyisi had given her essence to complete what needed to be done to drive away the corruption. There was nothing else we could have done.

He sat up; gathering himself together and I felt the shields go up as if trying to protect me and the rest of the castle inhabitants from his emotional turmoil. “Was there?” he asked. “Was there no other way?” He was clearly trying to rebuild himself into the person we knew. He thanked me for reviving him yet again, being thankful that this time, I was in one piece and his men were not half-dead. It was not normal for him, he said, to be in such situations this many occasions in such a short time, but we did live in interesting times. What must I think of him, he asked.

I answered his question about the alternatives first, being a little surprised at his reaction. I may have been a little harsh on him, telling him that he, of all people, who had been a warrior for many more years than I had even existed, should know that there are not always any easy choices. Somebody who had warred as much as he had should know that sometimes, there were going to be casualties. Much as I regretted the loss of Vedis – I had known her a long time and considered her a friend – we had to concentrate on the here and now. I couldn’t quite believe I was the one giving the war is hell pep talk, but fortunately, I was interrupted. I sensed a disturbance at the vaults entrance, possibly Aoibheann. Just as I was saying that, a guard called down from the laboratory door, asking if it was ok for Aoibheann to go to her chambers. She was apparently somewhat agitated and, I found out later, concerned that the whole village might be destroyed if they didn’t let her in.

For myself, I felt the immediate danger was past, but checked with Maric, since he was now awake, and therefore in command. He looked at me a little uncertainly at first, and then seemed to regain himself. Yes, he said, Vedis and I had been good friends. He had picked up her memories and emotions and she had considered me a dear friend. He considered me a dear friend too, and was forever grateful for my loyalty, even having seen him at his worst. He stood up and finally seemed to notice that he was naked, grabbing the blanket I had thrown over him on the night of the ritual. He said that Aoibheann could go to the chambers, escorted, but he was in no fit state to see her. I realised that I had worn my cloak over my armour when I came down here, so I passed that over to him as extra covering and said I would send some of his clothes down. He bade me leave him then, so he could rest. I needed to go anyway, to stand down the alert on the vaults and to deal with any aftermath from his emotional outbursts. Fortunately, at least, there was little of this. Either they did not reach the upper levels, or the castle staff are used to such things.

Wake me Up

Without Wings

I am getting better used to the castle senses, learning how to ignore it most of the time, and yet notice when something unusual happens. On a less happy note, what it told me about was the arrival of Lucis.

I was in my chambers, when I heard, faintly, the sound of something scrabbling on the roof and falling. At least, I think I heard it, or maybe it could have been the castle senses, or a combination of both. Certainly, it was the castle sense that directed me to the balcony outside my room. There, I found Lucis in a crumpled heap on the mat, apparently having fallen from the roof.

I asked her what she was doing here, and, after the previous evening’s activities, what she had been doing with Dorina. She gave me a guilty look and said that she had just been watching, but it wasn’t as easy as it used to be. I said that I had heard she had lost her wings and asked again what had happened with Dorina, suggesting we go inside to talk.

She got very defensive. If I was going to take the side of that vile creature, she said, she would rather stay outside. She may not be able to fly, but she could still run. I reminded her that I was steward of the village and that it wasn’t about taking sides, it was about resolving disputes, especially any that escalated to violence. That was my business. I asked her to sit and tell me her side. She said that she had been in the vaults and Dorina had attacked her there. For some reason, she had been unable to draw on any life force down there, so had had to absorb her wings to survive. It was later that she had gotten into an argument with Dorina, and she had to do something, for appearance’s sake, because of the wings.

I explained about Dorina’s darker side, something that Lucis should know only too well, having had that problem herself. I was not sure what to believe about their dispute, and decided that I wanted no more of it. I told her that I wanted it ended, now – no more arguments, to let it drop, and that I would say the same to Dorina. She argued somewhat, claiming she was an elf, far older than me and wasn’t to be ordered around by the likes of me. I told her that her race, and her age, were irrelevant. While she was here in the village, Maric’s word, or mine in his absence, was the law and if either of them started fighting again, I would lock them in a cell together until they resolved things peacefully.

Eventually, she reluctantly agreed to regard the dispute as over. She declined my offer of breakfast, having already had some apples from the orchard and said she was back off to the fae realms. With that, she jumped over the balcony and disappeared off towards faerie.

I am not sure how much I trust her, so I will have to keep an eye on things. I should probably alert the faerie authorities just in case. If she does not respect my authority, she might at least accept theirs. If not, then we have a problem.

Without Wings

Darker Half

The winter season approaches, and with it, all the influences of that darker half of the year, of the darker courts. I have had bad dreams of late. Some, driven by the memories of Vedis that flooded out when she was taken, but others are from the season, and perhaps from that taint that the old Unseelie King left in me. My darker needs, my darker desires are becoming harder to control and I do not like it. I almost lost control of it last evening, and that I like even less.

I had gone to do my rounds of the village, when I found Wren talking to the Al-miraj, the unicorn-horned rabbit. I had not seen, nor heard anything of this creature since Radek told me how it had been used to skewer a lobster-like demon on one of the missions to recover one of the mirror shards from hell. It was, as ever, hungry. It was digging holes in the green and eating roots, twigs and such like. I remembered that there were some vegetables that had gotten bruised during all the recent moves, which I had earmarked for compost. From memory, the Al-miraj did not have a fussy appetite, so I sent Wren to ask Mirko to bring up a sack of turnips and a crate of cabbages from the cellars.

While we were waiting, I was delighted to see that Dyisi was back. From what she had said beforehand, and from what Wren told me she had said, I sort of knew that she would be, but there was always that lingering doubt. I greeted her with delight and welcomed her back to the Wylds. I thanked her for her sacrifice on behalf of the village and updated her on the current situation – Maric being out cold and Vedis being gone.

She said she could not stay long, because she had only recently returned to whatever thread she was on, and was taking a moment to come and visit while Horace was sleeping. She was sorry to hear about Vedis although she had not known her and said that we did not need to thank her. Maric had done a lot of the work.

I assured her that thanks were due. For Maric, saving the village was an obligation, a duty, but that was not so for her. To this she replied that she had a general obligation to correct imbalances, which this one was. I asked about Horace and told her of the situation he had caused, saying that there might be a problem with him returning because of him discharging weapons in Faerie. While I understood his desire to help Faermorn, I had to put the interests of the village first. She said that he was recovering in her sanctum. He felt remorse for killing the cŵn, but would want to apologise in person. I told her that the cŵn was recovered if that would help, but there would still likely be consequences from his actions. I would do my best to minimise those, but if the rulers of faerie took exception, then my hands might be tied.

Wren and Mirko brought the vegetables back, which were enthusiastically received by the al-miraj. I think Mirko may have made a friend there. I gave him a couple of coins and told him to get himself a drink or two on me, once his shift was over. He did not seem over-enthused about having a new friend, possibly because he was afraid it might eat him, especially when it looked as if the al-miraj was intent on joining him for a drink.

While we were talking, Helene appeared, apparently wishing to speak with me. She did not look at all happy and did not look as though she had slept much. I wondered if she had been experiencing the same sort of dreams as I had. Before I could talk to her, though, Hadley came rushing up, screaming for me that there was something wrong with her mama, with Dorina. She was obviously very worried. I made my apologies to Helene and asked Wren to attend to Hadley while I went to see what was wrong.

I had a very good idea of what it might be wrong, and I was right. When I found her between the tavern and the cottages, her hair was white and she was speaking in Gaelic. Her other half had gained dominance. She was also partly pinned to a tree by an arrow, and it was not one I recognised from our practice range. I asked her what was wrong and then remembered that she did not speak English in this form. I struggled to remember the Irish that had gotten impressed on me from the mind-link with Maric when he had spoken to her. I asked, as best I could, for her to look at me and asked if she was unwell. She seemed to understand me, at least in part, but all she would reply was that she would not do something, and asking why somebody would not leave her alone. Possibly somebody called Cabhan. I asked what she meant and if she needed to feed. I was not so sure if she understood me. She said something about having an agreement, something about having to be good, and, expressed fear for her daughter. That at least gave me hope that there was some rationality there. There was something different, something less wild and something more childlike about her. I bit at my wrist to draw blood and offered it to her.

She fed, and as she did so, I felt the mental link come alive. She felt it too, as I could feel her reacting to it, seeking something from me. When I withdrew my arm, she started to speak, but this time in broken English. Could she have learned that from me through the link? It was possible, I had to suppose. I had picked up some of the Irish from Maric, but then, he had been consciously translating for me. Anyway, she asked if she could show me her dreams. I said that we had all been having bad dreams, possibly because of Vedis, and asked her to tell me hers.

She said she wanted to show me, not tell me, and offered her wrist, which was already wounded. That saved me the bother of trying to persuade her to let me feed, which would help cement the mental link. I drank, and as she did so, she shared her dreams with me.

She had dreamed of the past, a younger self at a grand ball, her father, Lorcan, him leaving her for some reason, her meeting a beautiful young man, a vampire by the name of Sébastien and dancing with him all night, her father explaining who the young man was, something high up in the French vampire court, about him not being trustworthy… Another dream – her father wanting her to go on some mission with this Sébastien and her being reluctant… her naked, kissing with the boy… a dream within a dream – her stabbing the boy, blood pouring over her and then somebody waking her… Another dream, seen from outside – the French boy, being stabbed and tortured, the boy calling his assailant Cabhan and calling him a bastard, this Cabhan then calling out that he would be coming for Dorina…

That much I got before my own dream flared up, of that night with Astrid and Ilyana in Fiendish Pleasures. The erotic part of her dream triggered my own desires, fed by my dreams of that lust-filled night and for a moment, I lost control, leaning forward and kissing her hard before coming to me senses. I stuttered an apology and flew, it being the quickest way to get away from there before I did something I might regret. I flew for a long time, and then went down to the river to swim, until the cool water dampened my ardour. I stayed there a long time, cursing that darker taint, that residue of Gwythyr and then, not wanting to face anybody, took bat form to fly back to the castle, to my chambers, there to skulk, ashamed, until morning.

I worry now. Self-control has always been so important to me, even more so now, as my strength and powers grow. I thought I was over that time, in my younger days, whoring my way around Europe. While it is true that I have not had much chance to spend intimate time with Gwyn or Valene of late, I should not be feeling like this. And while it is possible that Dorina might not have minded – she has seemed fairly amenable to me – I should not have succumbed, and certainly not while she was not quite herself. I shall have to be wary, and maybe avoid potentially risky situations until I get a handle on what is happening to me.

Darker Half