It seems strange that, for all that I have had an adventurous love life; I have only once had to have a serious talk with the parent of my beloved. That was 12 or 13 years ago, by my reckoning anyway, whatever the absolute time might be now, when I finally persuaded that crusty old codger, Major Fergus O’Connor (retd.) to consent to me marrying his eldest daughter, my beloved Alexandra. My credentials, then, were, in no particular order, a good family, a senior position within the Haskins Shipping Company with good career prospects, and, it has to be said, my ability to procure the finest brandies known in that time. Now, I suppose I have to add a second time, though the circumstances of this talk would have been inconceivable to me then. I can barely believe them even now. The reasons for this talk were much grimmer than the first, but like the first, the result was a handshake and hope.
There was, later, another meeting, of bodies and hearts and souls, the like of which was way beyond what any man could hope for or deserve, let alone a man such as me; and yet it happened, lighting a brightness in my heart that can never be doused.
I was sitting in the tavern, as so often seems to be the way these days, writing in my diary. A slight movement caught my eye and when I looked up, I found Valene, having evidently crept up on me to watch me write. Given that my friends mean more to me than a few pages of ink and paper, I closed the book and made room for Valene to sit on my lap, which she did, snuggling into my arms with a slightly weary expression. She had, she told me, been cleaning up the mess left in the Roads by her mother’s activities, and trying to make sure that said mother didn’t peck Padishar to death too much while he was mapping the Roads. I hugged her and said that such were the burdens of the crown, while pondering on Padishar’s task. Given that the Roads supposedly went everywhere, mapping them seemed to me to be somewhat of a Sisyphean task. He must have really pissed off Nemaine.
Gwyn arrived, looking like she hadn’t slept much and demanded a chicken sandwich with gherkins and a cup of tea from the barman. She complained about the lack of diet Coke. While I knew this to be a soft drink, I could not help but comment that roasted coal was not much of a diet unless you were a furnace. I asked if she had gotten in trouble over her disagreement with Aislyn the previous night. Apparently, she had spent a long part of the night studying, being warded and having a fight with Aislyn which Gwyn claimed she won, even if Aislyn thinks otherwise. The wards are pretty heavy, since she couldn’t feel the sithen from here, even though it was not that far away. Val kissed her, and even I could feel that healing energy that Val has, being sent through the kiss.
I complained that they were hard on her, but Gwyn said they were as hard as they needed to be. Perhaps so, but I wished they would treat her like an adult. Come to that, I wished that the fae liked me more, Aislyn was a least civil to me, but Blaise hadn’t responded to my attempts to get to know him, when I asked his advice on using a sword. Even Saone had not yet “spoken to me later”. Admittedly, as Gwyn agreed, time has a different meaning to the fae. She kissed me and her kiss tasted of Val as well as herself. I held the two of them in my arms for a moment, remarking that this felt like heaven, even if my old vicar would not have approved of my definition of heaven. I did ask if the kissing would set off any alarm bells, but apparently, she had been quite insistent that nothing they did would fetter her relationship with me.
Val meanwhile had picked up my diary and was reading it, which is not normally something I would let people do, but I trusted her. She had opened it at the entry after that night in the sithen when she had argued with Rachel and then been called off to war. She put it down then and curled up to sleep in my lap. Gwyn’s sandwich arrived, and she attacked it with gusto in her usual less than dainty fashion, commenting that she would miss food. I told her she should try going 10 years without and how I missed things like steak. I told her about the early days in Jasper Cove and wondered how I had gotten away with fooling Aoibheann for so long, pretending I had already eaten and such like, because I didn’t know how people in Jasper Cove would react to vampires. Gwyn thought that it must be lonely, being thought of like that. I told her that it was different for me; I had concealed my identity for six years after my embrace, and when I had been in London, nobody had cared a whit what I was, to the extent that I could openly order blood in the café.
Gwyn kissed me again and told me I made her heart do funny things. She asked if I could tell that and could I tell her from others by it? I managed to not give her ‘that look’. I just told her that my senses were particularly attuned to blood, and thus to the heart and the pulse. It was hard to describe it as she doesn’t have those senses, but I did put it in terms of a scent, like the one I liked to wake up to even when she had gone. Apparently, I was not the only one – she could tell my scent too and had even hidden the pillow I slept on last time I was in the sithen, so it wouldn’t be laundered. The conversation, and mood had turned quite personal when suddenly, she slid off my lap, almost guiltily, and started being a little more decorous. The reason became obvious a moment later – Prince Blaise.
He greeted us cordially enough and then told Gwyn that he needed to have a word with me. I told her not to go too far as I was sure this wouldn’t take long. To Blaise’ surprise, she went without argument. I excused myself for a moment and carried Valene upstairs and deposited her in the bed there so we could talk undisturbed.
I think I could get to like Blaise. He was straightforward, non-confrontational and brutally honest. He told me he was rallying the troops to protect Gwyn as he had no intention of losing her to the Unseelie King. I told him I was well aware of the dangers, as I was there at the time she gave her name, and knew how my heart had plummeted when I heard her do so. Also, I knew because I was being stalked by him in my dreams. I had no intention of losing her, if it cost me my own life.
He told me he was counting on me. Gwyn may not have the wisest choice in friends, he said, being too trusting, but he did not think she was wrong about me. He described her as being 22 going on 500, still a child, even if she wouldn’t admit it, who cared fiercely for me and took risks because of that.
I told him I appreciated his opinion of me and tried to explain how, to me, Gwyn was an adult, and how, having been brought up as human, by humans, she could not help but think of herself as adult. I told him that she and I were in much the same place, as I was young in vampire terms and knew little of my kind. I told him that I knew she was aware of the dangers, having comforted her fears, but that she would regard being kept in the sithen as a cage, even without wanting to come and see me, and since I could not go and see her there, she would try to come outside. I told him I did not like that she put herself in danger, but that I had to let her make her own decisions.
Blaise explicated the dangers in no uncertain terms. The King was ancient and known for his cruelty. He would enslave her, rape her physically and mentally, torment her until there was nothing but a crazed husk that could not even escape into death. He did not want to prevent her from seeing me, but wanted to make her safe. His words were stark, and I suspect intended to scare me, but there was no need.
I was very aware, I told him, as the King had invaded my dreams, so I needed no words to appreciate the danger. Even in my dreams, he had been enough of a terror to make my heart beat like a wild thing, which was not normal for my kind. I told him how important my friends, the ones I love were to me and asked what we needed to do.
He told me that she was heavily warded, to make it hard for the King to find her. Coming to the tavern was too risky, as it was too open, but he knew too well that if he forbade her to leave the sithen, she would sneak out anyway. Since the King no doubt knew that we were lovers, I would have to be warded so that he could not find her through me. Since we spent time together in one of the cottages, that would have to be warded too, and, of course, I could come and visit her in the sithen, which was the only truly safe place for her. This latter, I had not expected, even if it was the logical thing to do.
I told him I would be delighted to visit the sithen, provided I didn’t have to do so under the same strictures as Aoibheann. I gave him my word that would not be needed as I would not reveal any secrets. He said that was only necessary for Aoibheann because she was compelled to tell the Huntsman anything she knew. He gave me a wry grin and said that he could not believe he was making arrangements to let his underage daughter meet her lover. I agreed it was a somewhat bizarre situation. He told me that Gwyn was the daughter of his heart and would give anything for this for the King to not have learned her name.
I shook his hand. “You and me both,” I said. “You cannot imagine how much my heart sank when I heard her give her full name. Unfortunately, she was not experienced in courtly matters as I was. But, wishes are wishes and I don’t think those happen, not even here. Prince Blaise, I am glad that you care for her. I don’t know if you could love her as much as I do, but it speaks well of you if you do. You do me much honour and I will do my best to continue to deserve that. As they say in my world, you are an officer and a gentleman. I will do my best to keep her safe, as I always do. Trust me that I will continue to look for a way out of this situation, if at all possible.” I grimaced internally; the verbal gymnastics required to thank a sidhe without thanking them sometimes make me dizzy. He returned the compliment and said he would return to ward the cottage soon. He told me that if there was need, just to speak his name three times and that would be enough to summon him. I had to chuckle at that, since it sounded so much like a spell I remembered from a children’s book of my youth. We spoke briefly of ways I could communicate with Gwyn at a distance and he also agreed to teach me some swordsmanship some time, so I could better protect her. He left me then, disappearing into the mists.
I came out into the village, hoping that Gwyn was still around. I saw her over near the cottage in conversation with Valene. I approached, ready to tell them that things had gone better than expected, when Valene stormed past me saying something about Gwyn being free to love whom she wished and spend her nights where she wished and no flame man was going to tell her otherwise. She stalked off into the tavern. When I asked, Gwyn said it was because she had been told she had to sleep in the sithen and not at Val’s den, and that had upset Valene. I explained briefly what Blaise and I had agreed, and then we went to find Valene.
She was in the tavern, sitting, fuming at the table. I knelt by her in my best loyal Sigil pose and asked her what was wrong. She sat there for a moment, still frozen in anger, almost snarling her words. She was bitter because she was not allowed in the sithen, that she could not be with the ones she loved because they did not trust her. She also spoke of not being able to be with her queen either, because of the energies involved. She was angry at Blaise because Gwyn could not be with us in her den, which she knew was safe. Gwyn looked a little fearful, having not seen Valene in angry mood before and said that she would sneak out. She was used to breaking rules.
I told Valene what had passed with me and Blaise and said that I would try to get him to include the den in the safe places. I told her that we would do whatever we could to keep her included, because we loved her. Valene turned to Gwyn and said that breaking the rules would not make the Seelies think any more highly of her. She stroked Gwyn’s cheek and told her not to be afraid, she could never hurt her. She told me she would speak with Blaise herself. She was a monarch in this land too and said something about it was high time the high sidhe remembered that without the lesser fae, they would have died out years ago.
Gwyn reminded us that she had once said she didn’t want to be a sidhe and asked if, just for tonight, she could be a normal girl, albeit one who sometimes glowed in the dark. I agreed; suggesting that for now, we were just Gwyn, Val and Nate with no titles and no rules, save for the rule of love. Val wrapped herself around us, calling us her duo, the people she loves, who care for her, no matter how cranky she got. We made ready to go to the cottage, but Val insisted on a kiss from her pale rose first, in apology for frightening her. They kissed, and the love shone so brightly it was almost dazzling as I held them, my own little piece of heaven.
Back in the cabin, we made a nest for ourselves from the blankets and pillows from the bunk beds. Cautiously at first, and then with an intense love and passion, we gave ourselves to each other in ways I had not dreamed possible. Our bodies, hearts and souls blended together in ways that I could not even begin to describe, even if I were one that would commit something so personal, so intimate to paper, for words are inadequate to the task. And I will not say more, for these are memories of the soul, and this paper and this ink, and any words of mine are not worthy vessels to convey the feelings, the intensity or the joy. If this did not feel like heaven, I don’t know what would.