Well, that was something of an interesting day. There had been a demon attack overnight, I had a visit from three demons, and a visit from a fourth demon under the direction of an angel. On the plus side, I am reunited with my beloved Queen of the Cait.
My morning report from the guards and the stewards rather disturbingly included an attack by Kitori overnight. The purpose of the attack was unknown, but fortunately, Galyanna had been on hand, and assisted by others, had contained the fight and taken it outside the village boundaries.
I heard that Galyanna had returned, so I left the castle and went to thank her, finding her near the tavern with Karl Seid. The latter was just visiting, he said, and departed for the tavern soon after. It seemed a peaceful enough day, the main noise being Wren and Hadley playing and talking about climbing trees.
Galyanna told me some more about the attack. Hal had taken charge of the children and sheltered them in the tavern with the help of the guards. The other guards had assisted her and respected her decision to take the fight elsewhere. I nodded and thanked her; pleased that all had gone according to the standard procedures that Maric, Kustav and I had worked out. I told her that there were standing orders that the guard follow her guidance when it came to demonic attacks. While we were talking, a fiery-red-headed figure approached, almost dwarfed by the huge sword on her back. It was Senna. Galyanna told me that she had arrived last night and that she had thought her to be working for Kitori at first; however, she had assisted in the defence of the village. Senna was her usual jovial and irreverent self, calling me Natey and being highly delighted to have had the chance to use her sword almost as soon as we had arrived. I welcomed her back and thanked her for her assistance.
My senses picked up that I was being watched, and I realised that many of the Cait were lurking in the undergrowth, including Royce. He approached and told me, rather cryptically, that SHE wished my presence. My heart skipped a beat. Maric had told me that he had spoken with Valene and Sebastios, so I assumed that SHE was Valene, hoping desperately that it wasn’t that other female ruler of that domain. Before I could answer him, there was a loud whooshing sound as something plummeted at high speed, landing near the castle, sending out a gust of wind that rattled the trees all around. I asked Royce to despatch one of the younger Cait to tell Valene that I would be honoured to attend upon HER, just as soon as I ascertained that this latest happening was no threat.
By the time I got to the castle, the guards had formed a defensive ring, surrounding the figure that stood there, but seemed a little uncertain as to what to do. It was a strange figure, radiating a curious sense of peace. In appearance, it looked to be of angelic origin, to my limited experience of such beings, yet there was something familiar. It regarded us calmly, telling us that it meant us no harm. I recognised something about the voice and the face. It was Galyanna’s apprentice, Patch.
I told the guard to stand down, saying this one was known to us, and asked what he wanted. Beside me, Galyanna was not so sure; muttering something about what had Patch done to himself.
When it spoke, its manner was strange. “This one,” it said, “had been sent here to observe this realm.” He apparently heard Galyanna’s remark, for he addressed her, saying that this one had been corrected and reformed, to come here and make a note of the balance of this realm on behalf of somebody called the Grand Metatron. I had no idea what kind of name Metatron was, but there appeared to be no immediate danger. I decided to leave it in Galyanna’s hands, since she was much more familiar with Patch and his… eccentricities. Perhaps I should have stayed, but there did not appear to be any immediate threat. It was Patch, albeit in the arms of an angel. I had to trust that no danger was forthcoming. Besides, I was eager to go with Royce and see my beloved Cait Queen. I told the children to stay well away and to do what Galyanna told them. I left her to deal with this new visitor, saying that I would leave some of the Cait to observe and that she should send one of them for me if there was any danger.
I observed for a moment. Galyanna seemed to be less than pleased, but it did not look as if there was going to be any immediate dangerous activity. I went back to Royce and let him part the ways for me, through to the Roads and Valene’s abode.
She was there, seated on her throne, surrounded by the Cait, all trailing by the throne, each eager for a little attention. She looked much as she ever did, but perhaps with some more white in her hair. I paid it no heed, for to me she was always lovely. I smiled and approached gently, asking who I should greet first, my Queen or my Love. Mindful that there might be members of her court present, I knelt and gave her formal greeting from a kneeling position.
She asked if they were different, for surely she was both. I got up again, teasing her slightly, saying that she was indeed both, but that protocols should be observed. I then said that now I could greet my Love and drew her into a warm embrace and longing kiss. I told her I had missed her greatly, and that the Cait had sometimes let me come and watch her sleeping, but that wasn’t quite the same thing.
She wrapped herself up in my embrace, pulling me down so I could share the throne with her, there being plenty of room for her slight body next to mine. We snuggled for a few moments and she said she had noticed my scent in the room. She said that the Cait had been bringing her up to date, but asked me to tell her what she had missed.
I scarcely knew where to begin. I pulled her closer, if that were possible, into my embrace, sharing my warmth with her since I had it to spare. I told her of the battles with the demons, of our sheltering in the Roads, and the price we had paid for that. I told her of the passing of the old rulers of Faerie and the rise of Gwyneth and Janus, of the rebuilding of the Summerlands and the joining of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. I told her that we now dwelt in the Summerlands. I told her what had become of Vedis and how we were trying to restore her. I told her of the arrival of Patch just before I had come to her. Finally, wanting to give her some cheer, I told her of the children that Gwyn, Janus and I were going to have.
She took a while, taking the news in, nuzzling against me and trailing her fingers through my hair. Up close, I could see that there was more white in hers, but again, it mattered not to me. She made comment about how life changed while sleepers sleep. She was not surprised that Nemaine had taken the bodies and taken one who had not been dead. She had warned me that she was treacherous even before we thought of taking the village there. She herself had slumbered long, she told me, for her power had ebbed. But now the change of seasons had come, and winter’s approach had woken her. She said that He was whispering through the trees, presumably the spirit of Winter, and how he still owned a part of her, just as her Queen had. I was a little chilled by that, wondering if the He she spoke of was Gwythr.
Perhaps sensing her mood, one of the kittens braved the leap into her lap and curled up there, asking and offering comfort. She stroked it as we spoke. She gave her blessing to the new King and Queen. She had not known Janus well, but he and she shared a sorrow. She also proffered blessing on the children we were going to have. There was a touch of melancholy there as she told me that she had long known she was barren, as half-blood fae often were. She said that I would have to let her visit them often, saying that they would be guarded by her and her people because we were beloved by her kind and especially her. She had missed me, even in her slumbers, as one who had seen her through good times and bad. She had dreamed, she said, of the past, and of Home.
I kissed her and said it was a shame, because she would have had beautiful children. I told her I was surprised to be a father, having thought myself to be sterile as a vampire and having only a small portion of fae blood by birth. I could only assume that the life-giver energy from Isabella and the Quickening from Faermorn were what had allowed me to have issue. The thought of Faermorn brought the start of a tear to my eyes, as had the longing in Valene’s voice when she spoke of her. I told her that I missed Faermorn too, but knew that she was not truly gone, for she had come to me in dreams, had come to her warrior-poet.
I held her close again and kissed her over and over. I did not know where home was any more, I told her, but being with her felt like home. And, wherever I was, she would always be welcome with me, wherever I was was her home too. I kissed her again and told her how much I had missed her.
She plucked the young Cait from her lap and set it down, standing and drawing me up too. Nothing ever dies, she told me, but sometimes things were too far from sight and mind. She looked to make a decision to forget melancholy thoughts for the now and asked if I would stay the night with her. She knew I had duties, as did she, but for now, she wanted just one night of togetherness – not Queen and Sigil or Steward, just Nathaniel and Valene. She looked up at me and the longing in her eyes almost broke my heart. There was no way I was going to refuse her, come hell or high water. “Always,” I told her, “always, my love, always.” I lifted her then, for another kiss and then let her lead me to her chambers, to a place of privacy, where we could lie together as old friends, old lovers, regardless of rank and title, to enjoy each other for as long as the night would let us.