It is the duty of a parent to do what is best for their children, even if there is heartache and pain in what needs to be done. When my beloved Alexandra died giving birth to my son, Arthur, there was really only one sensible path forward; for him to be adopted by my brother Gilbert and his wife, and raised as their own. Even if it meant that I could only ever be an uncle rather than a father. Perhaps, one day, when he achieves his majority, the truth can be told, but that will be Gilbert’s choice, not mine.
When Wren came into my life, she was the dauphine, princess to Alec and Isabella, but to me, she was a smart kid marching around the castle as proud and brave as any soldier, and so I called her Patrolman Wren, and through that, we became friends. When her family betrayed her, I was more than happy, nay honoured, to adopt her as my own. Even so, I was unable to provide her with the life she wanted, nor the protection she needed, and so she chose to leave Mysthaven for a safer place, and for her sake, I had to honour that choice, even if it meant us being parted.
Then came my three children by Gwyn. There, I did not have the experience of raising them, for they were born adult, at least, in appearance. But the time came that decisions had to be made, and it seemed best that Drysi and Eilian would find a better home elsewhere, with their extended family. That left only Bronwyn, the most ethereal and unworldly of them all. She was the hardest, for me, for she was the very image and embodiment of my late friend, mentor, lover and queen, Faermorn. It was even harder when it became clear that my daughter was unwitting host to the soul of my departed queen. By what means, I do not know how, save that I must have played my part, when I visited with Faermorn in the Summerlands and perhaps, provided her with the means to achieve that which she desired, a return to life. Had I known how she would return, I might have made other choices, but that is by and by now.
For all that I loved Faermorn; her presence now presents a mortal danger to my daughter. The late and unlamented Gwythyr has also achieved a return, in the form of Llwyd, and seeks, as ever, his wife and queen. He will stop at nothing to gain her and if he gains her, he gains my daughter too, and she will be forever lost to me. Thus, the dilemma facing me – until Gwythyr is gone, she will never be safe, unless I can find some way to separate my queen from my daughter, and even then, could I let Faermorn fall into his hands again?
Such thoughts have been running around in my head to no avail. I lack the experience and knowledge to answer the questions and there are none left of the high fae to help me.
Except for Faermorn.
I was sitting in my office, in a brown study, wondering what I should do, when Bronwyn called me through our mental link. She wished for my presence, and there was no way I could deny her. I could have walked across the realms in an instant, but out of respect for my Cait cousins, I parted the veil as Valene had taught me and stepped through into that stark, chilly, airless landscape that nevertheless, was a much home to me as any place. There I found my daughter, standing morosely outside of Valene’s dwelling. I went straight to her and took her into my arms. I held her for a few moments, father and daughter together. I was her refuge, her safety, her home and I could feel the unquestioning love and trust of a daughter for her father through our bond. I hoped above hope that I would always be worthy of that love and trust.
“I just wanted to see you,” she told me, as she thanked me for coming. She told me how cold she felt here, and although she accepted my assurance that this was the safest place for her, she increasingly felt she did not belong. It was harder for her to keep her thoughts anchored here, and, most telling of all, she told me that her dreams did not seem to be her own.
I joked that I would have asked Nemaine for a better climate, but feared what price she might demand. I led her into the cave and made us comfortable on the bedding by the fire. The dreams were not her own, I told her, and admitted that I did not know how to separate her from them, or the owner of those dreams.
There was a shift, a subtle change in her scent and demeanour and in her voice. “My warrior poet,” she said, softly, in Faermorn’s tone.
“I am here, my queen,” I answered her, overlaying my words with my sense memories of her, to reinforce the connection. I knew that she was the only person I could ask for advice, and needed to hang on to this connection as long as I could. “We should speak of what must be done,” I said, adding that this situation was not good for her, or my child.
The connection strengthened, bringing echoes of times past, and of all the things she had been, and the things she had been to me. With it came the burden and regret, the weight of all the lives she had lived and all that had become her. “I am sorry,” she told me. “I have caused so much suffering, pain and death to too many.” She told me that she had to put a stop to it, to end it at long last.
Through her words and the link, I knew, all to well, what she meant. For this to end, would mean an end to her. I opened the link a little more, to show her my love and respect and friendship. “This was not by your design,” I told her. “That she should return in the form of my daughter was unfortunate, but not an act of malice.” I told her that I did not hold her responsible for what had passed, and especially not for what he, Gwythyr, had done. “What can we do?” I asked her.
Her mutual affection for me welled up through the link, along with a great and heavy sorrow. “There is only one thing that can be done,” she said, “I must end.” She told me it was the only way she could atone. She looked away, shivering in the cold as she stared into the fire. She thanked me for my forgiveness, but said she could not forgive herself. Too many had suffered. Her presence brushed against me, again suffused with sorrow, as she told me more. She was but a dream given flesh, and there was no way she could escape him, any more than she could escape her own shadow because they were two sides of an accursed coin. She looked back at me, taking my hands again. “I must go,” she said, “and he will follow me. It is the only way to free your child from my fate.” Tears flowed as she asked. “Will you help me, will you help me to say goodbye?”
I allowed my own tears to fall as I told her that I had lost too many friends. All the high ones were gone, save for her and Gwythyr, and them in borrowed bodies. I told her how Gwyneth and I had inherited our positions of leadership, but we lacked experience and knowledge. Faermorn was the last of those I could trust for advice, but even that must pass. “You know well that I love you and value your counsel,” I said, “but I also know some of what you have been through. If you wish for an end, then, for that love, I will do what is needed. For love, for friendship, and for my child. What would you have me do?”
She smiled through her tears, and I felt her relief through the bond, that I had agreed without argument. “We have nothing but the moment to live the life given us, my warrior poet”, she sighed, “but I have been blessed and honoured to have known you, to be loved and to love you, Nathaniel.” She started to droop with the effort of maintaining the presence. I could feel her fading into the background, but, nevertheless, she persevered, as she tried to explain. I would have to bring her, and Bronwyn, into danger, into the same place as Gwythyr, then she would leave, and he would follow. After that, it would be down to me and Aoibheann, and whoever else was there to aid us, to ensure Bronwyn’s safety and to drive what was left of Llwyd away. The land would then be saved. She faded then, and was gone, leaving only my beloved daughter, blinking and confused. She seemed to have no memory of what had passed between Faermorn and ame, and sought, once again, the comfort of my arms.
I held her and whispered reassuring words for a while. I told her that I had spoken with the one whose dreams she held. I told her that we had agreed that there would be an end, but it would not be pleasant, for we would have to confront the one who pursued her. After that, I assured her, there would be an end to the dreams, an end to the pursuit and all that ailed her. I lay back, drawing her down with me, making us both comfortable on the bed. Then, I told her, we could go anywhere we pleased, and be safe, and warm. That seemed to reassure her, and so, we rested.
I can not, and will not, lose my daughter. I would rather that I did not have to lose a friend, a lover and a mentor either, but that is the choice she has made – to end her suffering, her pain, her dream made flesh. For the love and friendship we had, I will do what I must to give her that surcease. If I must lose a life to save a life, so be it.