Nathaniel’s nose twitched a few times and his eyes started to stir. “Leave me alone,” he muttered, still half asleep. Something batted at his nose again and he opened his eyes blearily, to be presented with a pair of very green eyes close up, and a paw reaching for the end of his nose. “Gerroff!” he growled and immediately regretted as it gave him a mouthful of soft fur. He reached up and lifted the young Cait off his face, dislodging a few more of the Cait that were snuggled against his arm and shoulder. “I love you guys, but, a man needs his sleep.” He lay a while, lulled by the rhythmic sound of dozens of purring Cait, their individual purrs moving in and out of time with each other. He sighed. “Ah well, I should probably be about my business anyway. Come on guys, let me get up.” He struggled to a more seated position, lifting various Cait out of the way and depositing them in the nearby heap of those who hadn’t managed to find a spot on top of him. He got up and attempted, vainly, to brush some of the fur off. “Wow, if it was possibly to make fabric from your fur, we’d make a fortune,” he said. A few feet away, he could see Bronwyn, still sleeping under her own blanket of furs and Cait. He knelt and kissed her gently on the forehead, careful not to disturb her slumber. “I love you, dear daughter,” he said quietly, and reinforced this, gently, through the link. “You are stronger than you know.” He stood and bade the Cait look after her before taking his reluctant leave.
Back at the castle, he changed into something less furry and went down to the office for the usual morning meeting with his stewards. As was his habit, he poured tea and coffee for them before sitting down behind his desk. For once, he pushed the papers aside and looked round at the room, favouring each of them with a smile and a nod. “I think it’s time to change the flag,” he said, eventually. “We do still have the green one, right?” His stewards looked at each other, somewhat puzzled.
“Yes,” said Novak eventually, “It’s in the weapons store. Why?”
“I think we can fly it again, at long last,” said Nathaniel, leaning back and taking a long pull at his own coffee.
“How so?” asked Kustav.
“It is over,” said Nathaniel. “The Sithen Rose is subdued and freed of malign influence, so our roses should be back to normal. The rebel demi-fae queen is no more, and her people are no longer a threat.” There were various nods of approval. “And,” Nathaniel paused a moment. “The late and unlamented Unseelie King, GwythyrGwnn, is finally gone from us, this time for good. And that madman, Llwyd, his son, is back in the custody of Queen Vedis, where he belongs, and this time, he has no allies to help him escape. We are free, at last!” He beamed at his team.
There was a collective sigh of relief and then a babble of cheers and congratulations and a smatter of applause.
Nathaniel continued. “So, Kustav, you can stand the reservists down for now and take the guards off high alert. Remain vigilant, though, because you never know what’s going to happen in this place.”
Kustav nodded and allowed a soft smile to cross his face, even as his mind started reorganising schedules and watches. “I’ll get on it straight away.”
Nathaniel nodded. “Hal, I think we need a celebration. Maybe we can have a slightly delayed Equinox celebration. Maybe this weekend.” His face darkens for a moment. “Oh, and talking of the Equinox. It might be advisable for us to avoid Faerie lands for a while. Queen Gwyneth has decided to vacate the throne and hand it over to Lord Mornoth, the Unseelie Seneschal. This could cause some,” he paused for a moment, “instability. I, personally, don’t think he is ready for that level of responsibility… yet. But, I think he will rally, and he may well have strong support, from our daughter, Bronwyn. She is young, but she is strong, and understands duty.” He smiled as he thought on his child. “So, as I said, there might be a few ripples and repercussions, so mind how you go when dealing with the Fae.”
His stewards nodded, then Kustav spoke up. “And where has Gwyneth gone?”
Nathaniel allowed a wry smile to cross his face. “I suspect she has gone shopping. That seems to be her favourite remedy for stress. I should probably go see how she is, if I can find her.” He finished his coffee and stood up. “That’s all for now. Oh, somebody get one of the horticultural types to give the roses some extra mulch. It can’t be a bad idea to remind them who the good guys are. Oh, and Novak, ask around, see if any of them would be willing to donate a little blood occasionally. That would help reinforce the idea.”
Novak nodded. “Will do.”
Nathaniel bade them good day and retreated to his chambers. He sat on the bed and opened his sense to the Wyld. He frowned as he felt the disturbances – uncertainty and confusion – as the various factions dealt with the unexpected changes, and somewhere in the middle, a knot of confusion that he suspected was Mornoth, struggling to come to terms with his new status. “This could be bad,” he muttered to himself. Just then, he caught a brief whiff of peaches and roses, the scent of his daughter. He looked down at the outfit he had recently worn, thinking maybe her scent still lingered from where he had held her the previous night. Then it came again and he felt the echo of her thoughts through the link… stirring from her sleep, briefly thinking of her father, talking with the Cait with a new maturity beyond her years, her joy at finally being free. Then he felt the echo of Mornoth in her thoughts. He smiled, as he felt her sense of duty, as if she knew what needed to be done. Then his smile turned a little wry as he sensed her feelings for the Seneschal. He sighed. “My daughter, no longer a child,” he murmured. “Be strong, be safe, be loved,” he suggested, as feelings rather than words, through the link, and then closed it off, lest he sense things a father should not.
There was no need anyway; he could feel her presence through the Wyld. For all her young years, she radiated a sense of light and calm and, he allowed himself a little surge of pride, steadfastness and strength of will that she had inherited from him. The Wyld rippled around him as her light shone in the darkness, dispelling confusion. The struggle that was Mornoth seemed to ebb as the light approached and then the energies began to merge. He dampened his senses somewhat, barely needing them to feel the surge of life renewed. Love and pride in his daughter welled up and he wiped away a happy tear. Spring was finally sprung, and maybe, just maybe, all would be well in Faerie after all. “You will rise, daughter mine, you will rise,” he said with a proud smile.
He wiped away another happy tear and got up. Spring notwithstanding, there was still much to do.