Nobody ever said parenting was going to be easy. And it has proved not to be, but then, my circumstances were, and are, to say the least, unusual. I hope I have always tried my best, emulating, so far as I can, my own parents, but it hasn’t always worked out as planned. As I said, my circumstances are unusual.
I lost my dear wife, Alexandra, to the throes of childbirth, bringing my only biological son into the world. And then, my experience of parenting ended almost before it was begun, since we, as a family, agreed that my brother Gilbert and his wife would adopt Arthur and bring him up as their own. That seemed the best way forward at the time, and, while I might sometimes regret that I did not get to be a father to him, I still believe that it was for the best.
Some ten years later, at least, so far as I am able to judge based on my experience of time, I was delighted to be able to adopt Wren. A matter of political expediency, perhaps, but also born of genuine love. I hope I did a better job with her. At least, so it seemed to me. But even so, I was unable to keep her safe here in Mysthaven, and so she has gone. Dyisi tells me that she is somewhere safe, and is happy, but I have yet to have a chance to visit to find out for myself.
And then, there are my three children with Gwyn. I do not know if all three are mine alone, if some are Janus’ alone or they are somehow the issue of all three of us. Not that it matters to me. They are my children, no matter what. Here I have had little chance of doing any parenting as they were born adult. For two of them, I have little fear. Drysi and Eilian are well-disposed with extended family, learning their way among fae kind. But Bronwyn, ethereal and other-worldly as she is, she is another matter. Drifting here and there, hopping realms at random, I worried for her, until Dyisi assured me that she had temporarily anchored her to a safe place.
That is no longer the case.
Something spooked her, so far as we can tell, and she slipped those bonds before I was able to go and bring her home. Where she was, I did not know, save that I heard her calling to me, as I was walking in the orchards. She had been on my mind as I enjoyed the scent of the fruit, and then I heard her call. I sent word to Dyisi via a wisp and she bade me join her by one of the pools, there to use the water to scry for my child.
The waters stirred and showed me my daughter, falling from where I did not know, storm-tossed and seemingly uncaring of her fate. Then my blood ran colder than I could have imagined. She was pursued. Red and black, antlers and wings and rampant insanity. Llywd! Llwyd, who I had thought secure in Vedis’ care. Llwyd, who I had last seen arguing with the magician, Padishar, and more chillingly, with the spirit of Gwythyr. He chased her, calling out Faermorn’s name, still believing her to be his lost wife.
I did not hesitate; I did not stop to think. I leaped, not knowing where I was going, beyond that it was to my daughter’s aid, not even knowing for sure the mechanism I used, save that it was that ability to walk the realms given to me by Alex. Perhaps my flight was assisted by Dyisi. I knew not and cared not. All I cared for was to be with my daughter.
I crossed, ripping reality asunder and found myself plummeting also. Falling close to Llwyd/Gwythyr, while below me, Bronwyn fell still. All the anger I had came rushing through as I aimed the same spell I had used before on Gwythyr, blood and fire, calling out “Boil, you bastard!”
I could not tell how much damage I caused, but I had his attention, and screams of pain, but I had not taken his life again. He turned his attention to me, as we both fell, and swung his cudgel at me. A weapon more powerful than its physical appearance, struck only a glancing blow, but even that grated on my senses, much as I imaged cold iron would upon the fae. I turned my hatred and anger on that, calling on fire again, seeking to melt it or burn it from his hands. What effect it had was not apparent. He merely laughed and cast some manner of cold darkness at me, but somehow it passed me by. I called out to Bronwyn to flee and below, I could hear her call for her father, but still she fell, too scared to do anything.
I cursed mightily and turned my back on Llwyd/Gwythyr, marshalling my powers of flight to accelerate towards Bronwyn, caring not for what he might aim at me. I could hear him screaming at me that we would never escape and that he would find me, but I ignored him, concentrating on gathering Bronwyn into my arms, crying out for her as she cried out for me. The storm buffeted us both, as did the screams of Llwyd/Gwythyr, but somehow I had her! The Roads! That was my first thought, praying to whatever gods might hear me that I could do this. Opening a rift was my normal way to the Roads, but I had no time, and did not know if I could close it before Llwyd/Gwythyr followed. I thought of Valene’s cave, a place of safety for me so many times and hopped realms again in mid-flight, even as Llwyd/Gwythyr’s screams followed me.
A change in the air, the almost total absence of air, and familiar chill told me that I had succeeded. Clutching Bronwyn close, I decelerated rapidly, not wishing to strike the cold, unforgiving ground here at any speed. And then we were down. Bronwyn shivered and trembled in my arms, burying her face in my shoulders. Wet through, we were, from the storm, and chilled by the wind, far beyond the normal chill of this place. I hurried to the cave, surprising the Cait, who probably wondered how we got there, since I had not opened the normal rift. Nevertheless, they scattered to do my bidding, bringing blankets and preparing a fire. I told them only that this was my child and that we sought shelter.
Bronwyn’s sobs subsided enough that she could speak, calling me father over and over. She was so tired, too tired to run any more, she said. There was nowhere to hide, she told me, saying she could no longer keep me safe.
I held her until the trembling eased, kissing the top of her head. “That was my job,” I told her, “to keep her safe, to keep me safe.” I told her there were other places we could go, places I could go that he would not know. I would keep her safe from him until such time as I could deal with him finally and for good. She would not leave go of me, so I made a nest for us by the fire, among the furs and blankets the Cait brought us. Eventually, she cried herself to sleep in my arms. For myself, I could not sleep, and lay there; holding her, thinking what I might be able to do, until the anger subsided and exhaustion claimed me to.
I have my daughter. I will keep her safe, if I have to tear down worlds to do so. Gwythyr will die. And this time, I will leave no remnant to come back!