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


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