I am alive! Three words I had not expected to have to write. I have a pulse, I have a heartbeat, I have breath… I can even eat food, though I am being cautious with that, as I am not used to so doing. This is not the temporary burst of heartbeat I have experienced when Gwyn and I make love, but the real thing. I do not know how long it will last, but I intend to savour every moment.
After Ose departed, I struggled with the cosmology of Jasper Cove a little while longer, but found I was getting nowhere. Even after writing up the events of the evening in my diary and returning to it, I was still no wiser. I decided that a break would be in order and took myself for a walk with the vague intention of finding Valene, to discuss what trade the Cait could offer, and also to get her to arrange a meeting with Faermorn. I could have sent Royce, but I thought the exercise would be good for me.
I did not get as far as Val’s den.
I got as far as the bridge, where I came across Isabella, which I considered a fortunate accident, since I needed to speak to her about the HUM situation. She seemed distracted though, as well she might. There was a strange mist about the trunk of Ardan, and she was leaning into it. I was almost as though she was kissing the mist, which I thought was an odd thing to do.
That’s when everything went crazy. There was a searing bright light that scorched my eyes. I flung my arm up to shield myself. The light burned through me, like ice and fire at the same time, like an electric shock, like a needle through every single fibre of my being, an exquisite agony and delirious pleasure all mixed together. As I fell to my knees, I saw the mist burn away and there stood Alec, briefly stepping away from the kiss. He glanced briefly at me and then disappeared inside the tree, inside Ardan! At least, I think it was Alec. The light had seared my eyes and everything was slightly out of focus, haloed. I found myself gasping for breath, unable to articulate and the pulse, my own pulse, was thudding in my ears. I was breathing, my heart was beating! This was more than the feeling I had before when Gywn and I made love, this was different, as if every cell in my body were actually alive. I hardly dared look up, but when I did, Isabella was changed, winged like an angel, glowing like the two fae queens I had met, but more so. I could barely manage to look at her through the light, let alone articulate any sensible questions.
“Go to the tavern, Nathaniel,” she told me. “I will come to you soon and answer any questions.” She offered me her hand to help me stand. I hardly dared touch her, fearing she would burn or something. I managed to get to my feet, afraid to look at her, yet afraid not to. Her eyes held so much life, her gaze so intense I feared for my sanity. “If anybody asks, tell them we are still here and we will protect those who walked with us in the only place we called home, Jasper Cove.” With that, she smiled and then stepped… away and was gone. A portal perhaps, but I could not be certain, as my mind was still dealing with the shock, and the thousands of long forgotten sensations from my living, breathing body.
I stood there, mouth agape; staring at the space where she had been, unable to form any coherent thought, save for getting back to the tavern and wrapping myself around a large amount of rum. A sudden snort behind me nearly scared the recently acquired life out of me again, but when I turned, it was another beautiful sight, my beloved Gwyn in unicorn shape. I wrapped myself around her neck and told her we needed to talk, preferably over a large amount of rum. She whickered at me, nudging at me with her nose and I eventually realised she was offering to let me mount her. I looked at her doubtfully. I had not ridden a horse since my youth, on the horses that Father used for his business, and that was with proper tack. I was not sure I could manage bareback. Nevertheless, I cautiously climbed aboard and in the absence of anything else, wrapped my hands in her mane. I tried to remember what the carter had taught me way back then and gently kicked with my heels, asking her to move on.
I don’t think I can adequately describe the next few minutes. I think my already fragile mind edited out the details to preserve what little sanity I had left. My previous riding experience had been limited to solid, staid, workaday carthorses that would rarely break into a dignified trot. Gwyn, by comparison was the finest of thoroughbreds and she did not trot. She galloped. Or possibly it was only a canter, I was never around horses long enough to learn the difference. All I remember is screaming and flinging my arms around her neck, holding on for dear life, as the woods, the hillside and the trees around the village went by in a rapid blur. When we stopped, I stayed where I was for a few minutes until the world stopped spinning and then slid slowly off, somehow managing to stay upright, and then walked, very gingerly, to the tavern, where I ordered a rum, a large rum.
Gwyn followed me in a few moments later, having shifted back to her more accustomed form. I have yet to see the transformation happen. It is probably one of those private things. Even my beloved Alex, who had no problems with me seeing her naked, would always change behind the screen. Maybe it is one of those feminine secret things, lest I accidentally learn the mysteries of the corset.
She came up to me by the fireside and I took her hand, placing it on the pulse in my neck. Her eyes widened, but she leaned down and kissed me, telling me she had felt something. The touch of her kiss was even more electric than normal. I grabbed her and kissed her back, feeling the passion and life energy surging through me even more than normal. That surprised her and she asked me to tell her what happened. Clearly I was not the only one feeling better than normal as Royce leaped off my shoulder, claiming he felt 100 years younger and disappeared off into the night, presumable to take full advantage of it.
I told her what had happened, in as best detail as I could. It was hard to make my mind work. I was giddy with the new sensations, with the life energy still coursing through me, making it hard to think straight. I told her it felt a little like being drunk, although that could have been the rum. She decided that she would take charge and do the thinking for me. We would have steak for dinner, she told me, although I should probably share hers rather than trying to eat a whole one on my own, and then I could have her for dessert.
And that is what we did. Strange that something as normal as having dinner and wine with my lover and then going home to make love should seem so exotic. But then, my life has not been normal for a long time.