Spread Your Wings

faeriequeene

LO I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far vnfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
Whose prayses hauing slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.

Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene

There is a wish that most rational beings, or at least those that have survived into some measure of adulthood, have expressed at some point or other in their lives. It has been expressed in many forms, but the general thrust is “I wish I had known then what I know now.”  It is a natural enough wish, whether it be about your first fumbling forays into the realm of romance or more far-reaching life choices such as marriage, moving to another country or changing career. I have, myself, indulged in such speculation in the past, but now, knowing that reality is a somewhat variable and occasionally fragile concept, I tend not to. Even more so since I gained the use of the Shadow Roads and the Realm-walking, where it would be all too easy to tamper with that reality and give my past self that knowledge. From my reading of Dee’s journal, scoundrel though he was, I know how bad this could be and so take great pains to avoid the possibility. The weakest point of my resolve in this matter is in respect of my mother. That, in many ways, would be the most dangerous area in which I could tamper. Nevertheless, I have of late wished that I had known something of my mother’s heritage while she was still alive. I wish that I had known then of her fae side and what it meant to her. Oddly, it is that most mundane of human endeavours – bureaucracy, that brings it to mind.

Gwyn and I have a meeting soon, with representatives from the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and/or the Consilium Arcanum, to discuss the progress of moving Awenia towards becoming an open fae realm. She has even rented an AirBnB in Seattle, which is apparently some fancy way of borrowing somebody else’s dwelling for a short time. It seems a potentially unsanitary arrangement to me, but I am sure she knows best. I suppose it will afford us more privacy than a hotel.  So far as I see it, my purpose in such things is in the mundane side of things, and, dare I say, the bureaucratic elements.  I do have previous experience of negotiating trade deals, treaties, the Accords between Mysthaven and the Summerlands and such like. That experience, to my mind, is independent of what shape I wear. Gwyn, on the other hand, is quite keen that, for the purposes of these meetings, I should emphasise the fae side of my nature. Which, I suppose, is fair enough (or fairy enough, ha ha), since it is a fae realm that we will be discussing, so, I cannot disagree.

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The question is, of course, what is my fae nature? As with almost everything in my life, it is complicated. In part, it comes from being consort and husband to Gwyn, my very own Faerie Queen. All that Wyld energy from our proximity, our love and our love-making cannot fail to affect me. Some comes from that other faerie queen, the late Faermorn, from the Quickening she gave me, from other times we spent together, and from my time in her realms and at the Wellspring of the Wyld. Much came from Isabella, from that chance encounter with her and Alex and me being the unintended recipient of her life-giver energy. But, even before that, there was Mother.  My mother, who I later learned was part-fae, a descendant of the Tuatha de Danann. I did not know it at the time, even though I unknowingly held the clue to it so close to my heart for many years. It was the inscription on the mourning locket I have worn so long. It was there, on the locket, in an inscription in a script I did not know.  It was an aunt from my mother’s side, Aislinn, who gave it to me after the funeral, and I never thought, in my grief, to ask her what the inscription actually said. I copied it to my notebook and occasionally asked people who had some knowledge of languages, but to no avail.

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It was only much later that I learned the reading of it – “Ida Elvine Aubrey iníon Siobhan Ní Cearbhalláin iníon Caoimhe Ní Nuadháin iníon an Rí Tuaithe Dé Danann” or “Ida Elvine Aubrey daughter of Siobhan Ní Cearbhalláin daughter of Caoimhe Ní Nuadháin daughter of the Kings of the Tuatha de Dannan.”

That was my mother’s lineage, and her fae heritage. I did not know it when she was alive, and only learned long after she passed. Now that, if anything, is something I wish I had known while she was alive.  Looking back, there were enough clues, had I had the knowing of it. Her skills with plants and with healing, her love of art and music, her affinity with nature, all pointed to something in her nature. It is no wonder that she loved to go barefoot in the woods and meadows, or encouraged me to commune with the trees. Her free spirit and her disregard for the rules of modesty, in private at least, must have stemmed from that side of her. And, now that I recall it, it seems that I never knew her to tell a lie, even when to do so might have made life easier. That she encouraged me to read Spenser’s The Faerie Queene at such a young age might have been a massive hint, again, had I had the knowing of it. Why she did not tell me, even in her last days, as the consumption took her, I do not know. Perhaps she did not wish to fill me with longing for a place and time I might never be able to reach, or perhaps she feared that the rational side of me, instilled by my father, might reject it or dismiss it as a fanciful notion of hers. I will probably never know, save that she visits my dreams again from the Summerlands, as she did one time. Even if she does not, I suppose that I can be content that she now knows, from that dream, that I at long last had realised that side of me.

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Whatever her reasons, and whatever the many and various twists of fate that led me to the discovery of that part of me and the subsequent development of my fae side, I have come to terms with the existence of it. It is a part of me and I am content with that. Actively displaying it, on the other hand, I still find difficult. When the first external manifestations appeared, I had little control over them. I grew used to the ears, and the wings, appearing at inconvenient moments when the Wyld energy was strongest around me. I have since learned to control my appearance, though with nowhere the facility that Gwyn has. The ears I can manage easily enough, but the wings, not so much. And, for whatever reason, it is the wings that Gwyn wishes me to be more comfortable with, and to be more open with wearing them. And so, I put myself to getting used to them. Of course, even that was not as simple as it might have been. When I first earned my wings, so to speak, they were a dark brooding red and feathered. Gwyn did not approve of those at all. I cannot say that I blame her, for they do look more suited to a demon or at best, a fallen angel.

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And so, it was time to try on some other wings. Of course, I am used to Gwyn changing her wings almost as often as she changes her clothes, but I had not considered it in respect of my own wings, nor was I entirely sure of the method of changing them. To be perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure how I manage to manifest the ones I am used to. I just think of them and they are there. Manifesting others is another thing entirely, even if I had some inkling what style of wings I would enjoy. I remember liking the wings that Janus, our lover and the other father of our children, had, the ones that resembled sycamore keys, but somehow that just did not work at all. Gwyn lent a hand and, after a couple of attempts that made me look like some mad scientist had  been experimenting on some unwilling Lepidoptera, we settled on something that we both liked, more like, in appearance, to the Odonata, specifically, a dragonfly. These, I can live with, being far less gaudy, and, to my tastes, anyway, more pleasing and refined. I could probably do without the coruscant effects, but perhaps I will learn to control that with time.

 

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Despite my fears, having the wings does not appear to require me to have a whole new wardrobe, as, unlike my beloved wife for whom it is almost a religion, I am not overly fond of shopping for clothes.  Somehow or other, in a manner I do not understand, which pretty much applies to most things about the fae side of my nature, my clothes adapt to the wings, or perhaps it is the wings that adapt to the clothes. I do not know, and I am disinclined to put this to the test by trying to don or discard a jacket while I am wearing the wings. There are mornings when I have a hard enough time getting my normal limbs into trouser legs and shirt sleeves (and I have to confess, on occasions of extreme inebriation, getting legs into shirt sleeves and vice versa), let alone getting a jacket over diaphanous wings twice the length of my arms.

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I spent the rest of the day wandering around Awenia, getting used to the wearing of the wings. Perhaps, by the time we have our meeting, I will be as comfortable with them as I am in my own shape.

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Spread Your Wings

 

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Farewell (again) to a Queen

When beggars die there are no comets seen.
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.

Such were Calphurnia’s words to Caesar. Were this true, then the heavens above Mysthaven would, this night, be ablaze with light. One queen and one king, gone, forever this time, to that bourne from which no traveller returns. One prince, plucked from this realm to spend his days in Hell. And one queen departed her throne to seek sanctuary in her own time. The latter, my beloved wife, Gwyn, is only gone back, or should I say forward, to the time she knew before all this madness, and who can blame her? She, at least, I can be with whenever I choose, and soon, I may join her in that distant time.

Yes, indeed, there should be comets enough drive even the most optimistic seers into a frenzy of end-of-the-world predictions, but these heavens blazed nothing.  Not even to proclaim that my darling daughter is safe at last, saved by the passing of three of the above. That she is safe brings me joy, which helps to assuage the loss of my lover, my mentor and my friend. It is hard to lose a friend, harder still to lose them again, but this time, the loss is tempered by the knowledge that she is at last at peace, and that this, in the end, was her choice, to save herself, and to save my child.

As I sit here in my eyrie, my refuge on the upper floors of the castle, I feel alone, more so than I have for many a year. The castle presence provides some background comfort, the gentle swish and sigh of its inhabitants going about their daily lives. I have my books, my belongings, my glass of rum, the gentle flicker of the lamps, and the familiarity of my journal, and yet I feel myself a stranger here. Maric is gone to his rest, a matter of a bargain he had made long ago. Wren has gone to a place where she feels safe. Gallyana I have not seen in a long time, perhaps on some extended mission for Vedis. And now, Faermorn has gone; one last act of sacrifice to end her pain, and to make my darling Bronwyn safe.

I spoke, in my last journal entry, that I had one final reckoning with Gwythyr. That came this day, sooner than I had expected, but, in the end, perhaps it was better than waiting.

It started with a disturbance in the Wyld. Even here in the castle, I could sense it. Something was amiss, more than the usual changes that the Equinox brings. I went outside and stood at the edge of the rock, looking towards the Mallorn tree, which seemed the likely source of the disturbance. Was something going wrong with the Equinox rituals?  I summoned a wisp and asked what was going on. It returned a few minutes later with some confused tale of Gwyneth having quit the throne, handing it off to Lord Mornoth, the Unseelie Seneschal and going away somewhere. This was not quite the handover that was expected. I guessed that she had gone off back to the 21st century, which seems to be her preferred retreat these days, and was considering going after her when I felt another twinge in the Wyld. This time, though, it was my daughter, Bronwyn, a twinge echoed through the mental link. Gwyneth could wait a while. She was more than capable of taking care of herself, but my daughter….

I stepped through the veil into the Shadow Roads, welcoming the cold and stark landscape as a second home. More so, these days, than Mysthaven. I went to Bronwyn, sensing her anxiety through the bond, and hugged her close, sending soothing thoughts to calm her. I felt her relief as she sensed I was safe, but she wanted to know what was happening. She could feel something, but knew not what it was.

I held her some more and assured her that I was indeed safe. I explained that we had had a bit of a battle with the roses, which had been corrupted by the thornwyrms, but that Auntie Aoibheann, Lord Mornoth and myself had defeated them. As to what else was happening, I was not sure, save that it seemed that her mother had abdicated the throne in Mornoth’s favour.

As I spoke, a wisp arrived to tell me that Dyisi wished to see me. I hugged Bronwyn some more and began to pick up thoughts that a father perhaps would not wish to hear from his daughter. Especially when I mentioned Mornoth – concern, and perhaps more. Was my daughter sweet on the Unseelie Seneschal? Perhaps so. So far as the Unseelie were concerned, he seemed to me to be more honourable than most, and more charming. And he had been kind to her.  I recalled my early days with Gwyneth and my dealings with Blaise, when he placed himself in loco parentis to her. I admonished Bronwyn gently. “Slow down there, young lady. Time enough for that sort of thing when you are older,” I told her. “Your mother’s stepfather told her that she should wait until she was 100 years old before she could consider such things.” Honesty compelled me to add that it hadn’t worked, but again, perhaps that was something that a father and daughter should not share.  I kissed her and let go the embrace so I could open the rift and call Dyisi to join us. “What news?” I asked her.

She stepped through, looking a little harassed. She paused a moment as if assembling her thoughts. “Gwyn has handed all her duties and kingship to Mornoth,” she said, “in rather spectacular fashion.” She paused a moment. “He has not taken it well. If I were to hazard a guess, it was because he is not royal sidhe and lacks the ability to handle such power.”

Bronwyn, in her way, admonished me back, saying she had lived a life already, albeit by a dream, and had had a husband and children. I could feel her gathering herself together, composing herself, her heritage starting to show through with self confidence and determination. “I know what needs to be done,” she said, “I will do whatever is needed to set the Queen free.” As Mornoth was mentioned again, I felt her thoughts about him, quickly buried. I could tell she wanted to go to him, to help him, and, I suspected, to help the realm. As I said, her heritage was shining through. “Let us get this done, so I can be free,” she said, “Then I can go to him and help him.”

I felt a surge of pride and love for my daughter, who was maturing before my eyes. For one so young, she seemed to understand duty. I kissed her and told her so. She truly was her father’s and mother’s daughter. Knowing and accepting duty was a blessing and a burden, I told her, but perhaps, sensing her feelings towards Mornoth, she would be lucky and have duty and desire coincide.

I turned to Dyisi and told her I suspected I knew where Gwyneth had gone to, but, before I could go to her, there were things to be done. Did she know of Faermorn’s plan to deal with Gwthyr and did we need to find and summon Aoibheann for this?

If it was the dark one and his son we sought, then Dyisi knew how to bring them here, where they would perhaps be the most vulnerable. I nodded and agreed that this was what we needed to do. Bronwyn chimed in, saying that bringing him here was the thing to do, and then, she, meaning Faermorn would do the rest. I felt the strength in her, as well as the vulnerability. She did not know now to defend herself, should he attack her first.

I said I hoped that Faermorn’s sense of timing would render that unnecessary, but, just in case, I would teach her a few basic defence and attack skills. I demonstrated, through the link, for words were inadequate here, how to bend before the wind, and yet remain steadfast. Her will, I told her, was unbreakable. I also demonstrated the attack I had used on Gwythyr before, of boiling the blood. I did not know how well it would work, without the inherent power of the blood that was in me, but hoped it would, at least, distract him long enough for Dyisi and I to defend her.

Dyisi brought out the crystal sword, the one I had last seen her use to capture the soul of Queen Teuta’s captive, and then sank into a meditative stance. I had not the same link with her as I did with Bronwyn, yet I could sense she was putting herself out there, in spirit form, crossing the realms to find Gwythyr and Llwyd. Beside me, Bronwyn fretted, not at all sure she had the power to do what I had shown her. She was still young, and not yet Quickened, and did not know her true potential, and yet, she stood strong. As we waited, I speculated on what we should do with Llwyd, should our plan succeed and Gwythyr’s spirit was driven from him. He was insane even before that, but was their something that could yet be saved? I did not know, and neither did my daughter. We would have to wait and see, I said. By rights, he had been in the custody of Vedis, so perhaps the final decision would be hers. I noticed that the Cait were still lingering around, unsure of their role. This is not your fight, I told them. Defend yourself, and your realm if needed, but do not otherwise engage.

The wyld rippled, reality bent a moment, and suddenly, he was upon us. The form of Llwyd, and the madness of Gwythyr within, roaring as best he could in the thin air. “Faermorn!!!” was his cry as he lunged towards Bronwyn.

“This is your cue,” I yelled, mentally, at Bronwyn, hoping that Faermorn’s spirit would be the one to hear it.” As I did so, I leapt before her; sword raised to deflect any blows, and hurled my blood magic at Llwyd’s body, seeking to paralyse him, to freeze him where he stood. Perhaps I succeeded, at least in part, for he fell to his knees, but that massive, and very dangerous, cudgel swung at me with great force. Behind him, Dyisi rose up like a force of nature and plunged the crystal sword into his back, tearing at those parts of the spirit that remained. “Push him out,” she shouted, “Feel this conduit and push him out.”

Beside me, I felt Bronwyn stiffen and stand taller, and I knew Faermorn’s presence in her, for the now, taking over. The friendship and love between her, and me, her warrior-poet, flooded through the link, but her purpose was clear, her focus was on her pursuer, her creator, the one she hated and loved in equal measure. She did not flinch from his attack, but raised her hands, bringing forth a light that was as bright and painful as any I had seen. Before she could cast it, however, I had leaped in front of her, to defend my daughter. She stayed her hand, and waited her chance.

I sensed her impending attack and rolled to dodge both that and Gwythyr’s giant cudgel. “This ends, now!” I shouted. I cast fire and blood boil at him, aiming for the arm that held the club. That seemed to succeed for the moment, causing the arm, and the cudgel, to come crashing to the ground. Within him, I could sense a struggle between the two spirits, as the combined efforts of Llwyd and the crystal sworn forced Gwythyr out, out into the open, and out into the mercy, or otherwise, of Faermorn’s power.

Bronwyn/Faermorn advanced on the stricken sidhe. Her appreciation for Dyisi and I leaked through the link, but her focus was on her king. Her hands glowed with a brilliant, piercing light, perhaps some form of Hand of Power, and it burned away the helm that covered Llwyd’s head. There seemed two faces there, that of the mad prince, and that of the late king. The latter, forced by magic from Dyisi and Faermorn, drifted out from the former, making a smoky cloud that resembled the former king. Faermorn spoke of the place of her birth, a place so similar to the Shadow Roads, she said. But no more, Gwythyr, she told him. She would no longer try to escape him. She would no longer hide in this corporeal form. It was but a dream, and now that dream must end. As he had named her, she would now un-name herself. She would no longer be Faermorn; she would be TobarFiorUisge no more. She told him farewell, and then the essence of what I knew as Faermorn, rose ghostlike out of Bronwyn’s body, her shape fading into the Wyld, revealing another. Soucanna the Fair, was the name that came through the link to me, once the Seelie Queen. A bright and glorious being. She spoke to Gwythyr as an equal, in melodious tones. Her spirit could not rest while he longed for her, she told him. Faermorn could not replace her and he knew that. This madness, that had caused so much pain, should end. She reached out and cupped his face in her hands. Come, let us rest together, forever, she said.

I could see Dyisi behind him, still hanging on to the physical form of Llwyd. Cautiously, she waited to see what would pass. The body slumped as, with a soundless roar, Gwythyr withdrew his control. His spirit resumed its familiar shape and he called out to Faermorn, or TobarFiorUisge, the other name she had used.  Conflicted thoughts burned in the ether, in the Wyld, as her words stabbed him and burned him and when the spirit of Faermorn fled, he seemed ready to drown in sorry and rage. But, the sound of his former queen, Soucanna, captured his attention. Hope and love welled within the rage and hatred and he fell hungrily towards the image of his queen, seeking the kiss she offered him. And then, they were gone. As their lips met, their spirits somehow merged and sank into the Wyld. GwythyrGwynn, to give him full title, and Faermorn/ TobarFiorUisge/Soucanna were both gone forever.

Llwyd, still injured, and still wrapped in his own madness realised he had his own mind back and tried to rise. But, before he could, two familiar and lovely hands, tipped in crimson nails, reached out from another rift that opened beneath his feet, and snatched him away. The Demon Queen, at the last, reclaiming her prize, for whatever torments she could devise.

The battle was done. Dyisi slumped as the body she held was dragged away from her, and sat there, cradling the sword in her arms. Bronwyn, freed from the spirit of Faermorn, also slumped into a faint on the ground, no doubt overwhelmed by all that had passed. My body ached, my heart was rent in twain,and I cried out in anguish for my lost mentor, lover and friend. But, my daughter needed me. I forced my way through my sorrow, struggled to my feet, and gathered my daughter into my arms. I took her through into the cave and laid her among the furs by the fire. I fell down beside her, caring not for blankets or the warmth of the fire. Only then could I give vent to my grief.  I bade Faermorn goodbye and thanks, not knowing if what remained of her, if anything, could hear. I buried my face in the furs and gave way to the sobs, crying for my lost friend, and in the relief that my child was, at last, safe, crying until the sleep claimed me.

When I was a child, my mother would read to me at bedtime, even when I was more than capable of reading for myself. It was one of those things we did. When a chapter came to an end, and she closed the book to give me a kiss goodnight, I would sometimes cry for more, as I did not want the story to end. Sometimes, I was even more upset when that was the final chapter of the book, and there would be no more. With a heavy heart, I know there are no more chapters in the book of Faermorn. For all that I had loved her, and been honoured to be a part of some of the brighter chapters of her story, her story was over. Two words, centred, starkly alone at the bottom of the page – “The End”. There would be no “And they lived happily every after,” just “The End.” Tomorrow, there would be another story, another book. The book of Bronwyn. Bronwyn, my radiant daughter. Perhaps she will take her place on the throne beside Mornoth and become a wise and powerful queen. I do not know, for this book is as yet unwritten. At least, I hope, I will have a hand in the writing of her story, and, as any loving father would, make it as happy a story as I can. What father would not, for his daughter?

“Dear friend goodbye
No tear in my eyes
So sad it ends
As it began”

White Queen (As it Began) – Queen

 

I Know How To Save A Life

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.

I Know How to Save a Life

Parlez Vous

I have found myself being somewhat tired of late. I know that the practising of the bat form is physically demanding, though I grow better used to it in time. At least, when I am flying, I feel free, more so than when I flew the way I did before, when I was always afraid I would forget how. I feel free, unburdened by duties and loyalties, and sometimes, I find myself looking to the far horizon and wondering what lies out there. I do not think I would willingly leave here, but sometimes, it would be nice to just be me, and not have to worry about so many things. I have not slept well these last few days, and have neglected my studies, and my diary. That latter, I will try now to remedy.

I fear, sometimes, that the strain of trying to reconcile my different natures is getting to me. I suppose I should expect this. In some ways, the powers of the vampire should be the very antithesis of those of the fae. Some would say that the powers of the vampire are those of death, whereas those of the fae are of life. I am not so sure. The vampiric powers derive from the blood, which could be regarded as the essence of life. Now my first magic lessons came from Paasheeluu, and her power definitely came from death, but I did not partake of her power, save that a fragment of horn was my focus, just her teachings. My research has thus far found little of use. My situation is, if not unique, at least very rare.

Most of the time, I feel that I am integrating the aspects well. Save for those times I exercise those powers I know to be purely vampiric, such as the ones I learned before I knew I was fae, I do not distinguish between the powers when I used them. But then, I so rarely exercise any of my powers unless I have to. I guess for the same reason that I prefer to not dress in a manner that befits my station. However, lately, I have been experience fatigue, headaches and suchlike, which, sadly, I have allowed to manifest itself in occasional grumpiness.

The other day, I found the Darlings and Aoibheann down by the river. I didn’t really get much of a chance to find out what was going on, save that they had gone there in pursuit of a lost lamb and had had a bit of a spat about something – the kids, that is. All I know is that Aoibheann and Wren were in the water, and then we found Hadley entangled in the roots of a nearby tree. Between us, Aoibheann and I managed to free her, albeit somewhat bruised and having fainted. I tried to soothe things a little, talking about how we needed to try to fix this, then Aoibheann reacted, as she often does to my optimistic approach by saying that things can’t always be fixed. Words were said that left us both less than well-tempered and I fear that Wren may have taken my words as suggesting she was to blame for the accident. Aoibheann was determined to take Hadley to Ardan and spend some time there. I suggested that maybe we should have a picnic and went back to the castle for some supplies. Unfortunately, castle business intervened and I did not make it back. I do hope that Wren will still speak to me. I thought we had made progress the other day, but I fear I might have set that back a little.

-=oOo=-

I did not get much of a chance to speak with them the following day. I had heard them talking by the orchards but before I could go and see them, I was interrupted by one of the guards, warning me of a potentially hostile visitor at the Mystgate. I took a few of the guards with me and went to investigate, sending Mirko to the bell, ready to sound an alert if necessary.

What I found by the gate was a very large being, heavily armoured, very dark, but emitting an internal glow, as if he were powered by a furnace of some sort. I was reminded of the character I had seen around London sometimes, whose name I don’t recall at the moment. It was lifting one of the guards out of the way. I told it that we preferred visitors to not do that to our guards and asked what it wanted. I signalled to one of the guards that we should stand by for a stage two alert.

It put the guard down and faced me. It squatted, placed its hand a few feet off the ground and made a clawing gesture. I was not sure what to make of this. Perhaps it had lost something or it was hurt? It tried again, making a deep groaning noise, at which, black smoke and sparks emerged from its visor. It tapped itself on the chest, pointed at its eyes, made a sweeping gesture in the direction of the village, and then produced a dagger, which it waved around before putting it away again. It also repeated the hand held out flat above the ground gesture. It was looking for something, or someone, maybe a short person with a dagger. I told him that there were no such people within the village, and that I would not permit it to use any weapons there.

The smell of the smoke reached me, and something in that suggested a demonic origin, as if the general appearance had not already done so. It faced me, and somehow, looked irritated by having to play charades. This time, it tried speaking, though the noises that emerged reminded me of the times Father would be having cartloads of gravel or rubble delivered from wooden carts, rather than an actual voice. It managed two words that were comprehensible – Galyanna and Parlay.

That made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. This was clearly an emissary from Kitori, or possibly Asmodeus, and therefore dangerous. I told it that I had not seen Galyanna for some days, but if I did, I would pass on the message. I warned it that any dealings it had with Galyanna should take place outside the village. We were a peaceful people, I said, and wished to remain so. If it wished, it could return the following day and I would leave a message with the guards as to Galyanna’s response, if any. It appeared to understand and indicated that it would return to talk. It then turned and disappeared into the dusk.

I stood the guards down from high alert, but recommended they kept extra vigilance and told them to spread the word that I was to be alerted as soon as Galyanna appeared.

I went back to the village, intending to warn people of this possible threat and to report the news to Maric when he woke. On the way, I encountered Dyisi, sitting under the tree. I thanked her for obtaining the doll for Hadley and asked if I owed her anything for it. She waved that off and said that she could obtain things, other things, if I wished. I thought of the various trade goods that I had wanted to obtain, but thought this was possibly impractical, as I would need things by the cartload. One selfish thought did occur. I missed my mint imperials and had been feeling the want of them of late. While practising the bat form, I had been unable to resist the temptation to consume, as bats do, moths and other flying insects. Even with a good brushing of teeth and a glass of rum after, that is still a hard taste to get out of one’s mouth. I didn’t tell her about the bat thing, but did ask if she could obtain the mints, which she reckoned she could. I would have spoken more on trade, but the guard alerted me to the presence of Galyanna down by the gate.

I went to see her and told her what had passed. She was not best pleased. She had been quite jovial when I arrived, at least, as jovial as she ever is, but as soon as I told her about the demon, she switched into full warrior mode. She partly drew her sword and went immediately to the gate, facing out, searching. She told me to put the village on lockdown and that I was not to let any of the guards go with her, or patrolmen. I was not entirely happy about letting her go on her own, but deferred to her greater experience. I was more than happy to not let any patrolmen go with her. I told her to be careful and asked that she tell the guards when it was safe to stand down the alert if I was not around.

I went back to the village and sounded the alert, telling everybody to get inside. I found Wren, Hadley and Aoibheann in Dorina’s cottage, apparently cooking something, so I told them to stay inside or return to the castle as soon as possible.

What passed, I do not yet know, as I have not seen Galyanna since. I heard the all-clear sounded some time after she left, and the guards tell me that she returned safely and told them to sound it. I will have to see what happened next time I see her.

-=oOo=-

Horace came to see me in the morning, to talk about Faermorn. I had asked him to do so after the incident with Gwrgi, but had not had opportunity until now. He declined coffee, saying he had already drunk too much at the tavern, and asked what I knew of Faermorn.

I decided to level with him, and told him of my part-fae nature, and how Faermorn had helped me to reconnect with that shortly before she departed. I explained briefly the nature of the fae afterlife, such as I knew of it, and then told him that she still visited me in my dreams, although it was more real than that.

She did the same to him, he said, visiting him in his dreams. She had told him he could help to restore her, but he needed some items to do so. His first task, he said, was to recover the stolen branch of the Mallorn tree from Esterwell and bring it back here.

That would be no easy task, I said. I told him that I would ask if he was sure, but I knew, from my own experience, that he would do anything for her. I asked that he keep me advised of his plans. While the Damondreds themselves could no longer come here, they could send others, and I would want to be prepared. I offered what help I could and asked what other items he needed.

He declined any assistance on the ground. It would be a hit and run operation, he said. The other item was the red stone, part of that which had imprisoned Faermorn on the side of the sea-monster. He needed to speak to Vedis or Galyanna in order to obtain this.

He looked down at his hands. He was already changing, it seemed, and he did not know how the restoration of Faermorn would change him further, or how it would affect the Summerlands. I did not know either, but I had to take a pragmatic approach. I told him how Gwyneth and Janus had built a new Summerlands, as the land that was part of Faermorn was no longer. They were the monarchs now and anything concerning the fae monarchy was their business to sort out. My business was the protection of Mysthaven. I felt a slight twinge at that, since I loved Gwyneth and, in a different way, Faermorn and did not want to see conflict. But then, surely Faermorn knew she could not regain the throne. I could not think how that would work and put the matter aside for the moment. I told Horace that I had known the wrath of the Damondreds, so I admired his bravery in even thinking of going up against them.

He shook his head, saying he had seen brave men, but he was something else. He had seen the horrors of war, he had seen no-mans-land, and after that, he could do anything. He stood to go, saying he would keep me advised of his plans and thanked me for my offer of assistance.

I stood too and saluted him before shaking his hand. Nevertheless, I told him, I still admired his courage. I said I would speak to Vedis about the stone and repeated that if there was anything he needed, to let me know.

He left then, and I sat for a while considering. Up until now, I had been less than patient with him, finding his attitudes irritating, but now I had new respect for him. I was still concerned as to the nature of his mission. Had she truly visited him, or was he under some elf-struck delusion? I would have to try to go to Faermorn in my dreams soon.

Later that day, I joined Wren, Hadley and Aoibheann for archery practice. I fear I may have accidentally started a competition of some sort, since my first arrow flew true and hit dead centre of the gold. That was a bit of a fluke, however, and subsequent shots were more consistent with my normal skill. Wren and Aoibheann both managed to hit the target and even Hadley did after one or two false starts. Everybody seemed relaxed, so I didn’t pursue any of the questions I had for Wren, and the evening passed quite pleasantly.

 

Parlez Vous

Midnight Queen

And on a night like this
You’ll find her burning kiss
Her hair all wrapped around you
Your dreams are here to drown you
*

 

I am no mortal man, or so I was told last night, by one who calls me a warrior poet. Is that what I have become? Given that circumstances have dictated that I have had to gain some proficiency at arms, I cannot argue the former, but I am not so sure of the latter. While I will admit that words are my medium of choice, such words as have flowed from my pen have rarely ventured into the realms of poesy, even if I am prone to reading such things voraciously. Certainly, I cannot argue that I am nothing but a mortal man. That is no longer my fate. What fate there might be, I do not know, only that I am marked by fate, and many paths lie ahead of me to choose. This, I have learned, in that other world of dream. Or was it a dream? Or did I really go to that other place?

A voice called me; sensuous, soft as a summer breeze, a caress that called me to that other place. That other place that exists, in my dreams, and outside of them, within me and without. That place where dreams and the faerie realms come together. Reality or dream, I do not know for sure, save that it is real to me, and maybe that is as real as real can be.

It was Faermorn who called me; that most beauteous queen of my dreams, if no longer queen of the fae. While Gwyn is my first and most constant love, I can no longer deny that Faermorn holds a part of me, even from beyond the mortal realms, and that she has done so for a long time, even before she gave part of herself to me in the Quickening. She called to me, and from my dreams, I went, to that place they call the Summerlands, where life and death are one and the same. She called me to a crystal pool, wreathed in fountains and mist. Her aspect was bright, goddess-like, as if she were all woman-kind, including, for a moment, my mother, but the shapes of light resolved into human-seeming form, and it was the queen I had known, even if she seemed more the woman than the queen. Nathaniel, she named me, in a voice that breathed across my sense, and warrior poet.

I knelt, that seeming the only reaction I could muster while I gathered my senses, reeling from the shock of seeing her again. For a moment, I could not bring her name to my lips, calling her only, Majesty. She urged me to my feet, telling me she was no longer Majesty. She was always here, she told me, and she had heard my heart calling. Her touch was wondrous, as was her voice; for all that she seemed more the mortal woman in form. Gone was the sadness and regret that had tinged her soul before. Now, here was nothing but joy and completion.

I regained my feet, knowing now where I was, and had to reassure myself with a touch to my own breast, that I yet lived, that my heartbeat had not left me. “Majesty,” I called her, then corrected myself, the sound of her name a thrill that ran through my heart, “Faermorn, then, if I may so call you.” I asked why I was there, what call she had heard from my heart. Her smile lit up, brighter and softer than the sun, all that love could be. This place was within me, she told me, it was within everyone if they knew where to look. Her smile focussed on me, just for me. Dear heart, she called me, telling me that she was always with me, as was my mother, or so I interpreted the other she referred to. She told me that it was good to speak with me, face to face. My heart, she said, held the legacy of both dark and light within me. She offered her hands, so soft and delicate, yet strong, to me, and for all that she wore a mortal form, she seemed one with the sunlight that glowed within her.

I took those hands, and did not want to release them, kissing each one and holding them in mine, idly stroking the backs with my thumbs. I told her that I often regretted that we had not spent more time in each other’s company, face to face, before… before she came to this realm. But that time was gone. I spoke of the dark and light, speculating that one could not be without the other, even of there were those that would say that you could only choose one side. All I knew was that sometimes, it seemed there was too much of both. I spoke briefly of what had assailed the land since she had gone. I spoke of what Gwyn and Janus had wrought since then, and finally spoke of what had been foremost in my mind of late, that Gwyneth was with child.

I would not have thought it possible, but the radiance of her smile grew, as she leaned forward and kissed me on the lips, tangling her fingers with mine. She told me, with great joy, that she knew. I supposed that this should not surprise me, being outside of time, or so I assumed. This was a new beginning, she told me, to celebrate the reunion of the dark and light, by which, I thought she meant the courts. Or perhaps not, since she also said that there was a balance in me, between the two forces. Was that another reunion? I know I have being trying to integrate those aspects of my nature, but one is partly innate and partly gifted, whereas the other was imposed upon me, so I do not know how that can be a reunion.

Her next words were more worrying. She told me that I was marked by fate and had many paths ahead of me. I wasn’t so sure I liked that. I was minded of the old quote about those the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. While I am fairly sure that there aren’t any gods out to get me, Nemaine notwithstanding, I was not sure I liked the idea of being marked for particular attention. That, I said, could lead to what the old curse called ‘interesting times’. I accepted that it was long past the time when I could expect to live an ordinary life, but it would be nice to do so sometimes. One other question came to my mind. Since I had mentioned Gwyn’s pregnancy, there was a question still to be answered, concerning myself and Janus.

She was leaning towards me, offering a kiss, and that I could no longer resist. The radiance of her, the scent of her, and the temptation of her was too strong, and here, it did not seem to be glamour, but just herself. Surprisingly, she seemed to desire it equally. The touch of her lips was electric, and I could feel the Wyld rising. She spoke of Gwyn, even as we kissed, telling me that I had already gifted my energy to her, and that my energy would be carried forward, as would the king’s. Could we both be fathers with one mother? I had heard that such things were possible, albeit rare, among humans, but who knows with the fae? She shifted closer, her body leaning against mine, and I could not help but be aware of the woman, this embodiment of sensuality, so close and in my arms. The very epitome of desire was in my arms, and yet I could not help but remember the poems and stories I knew so well, and that gave me pause for a moment.

“Our poetry and folklore are full of dire warnings of what happens when a faerie queen takes a mortal lover,” I said to her, smiling, and making no move to retreat, “but this is just a dream, right?” She moulded herself against me, and sealed my fate with her words, telling me that everything was a dream and told me that I, her warrior poet, was no mortal man. That made me smile and I kissed her fingers as I replied. “Then thrice-doomed I am, is that not so? … A warrior turns not from peril … rather he seeks it out and faces it… with joy in his heart… A poet pays no heed to reason… rather he listens to his heart… he lets passion rule over sense… and he follows his muse wherever she leads… And if I am no mortal man… then there can be no surcease to my torment… Thrice-doomed I am indeed.”

What passed thereafter, I can not recall. I think we kissed, and again, and there was that dizzying desire that comes of the faerie queen, but what occurred after that, my memory does not serve me. Memory fades, is it is wont to do in dreams, if it was a dream. Or perhaps she sent me back from the Summerlands with just the taste of her lips on mine, a small favour bestowed by a queen on her subject. Which it was, I do not know for sure. Perhaps, as she said to me, everything is a dream. Dream or not, some things I take away as truth, however those truths came to me. One concerns the paths ahead of me, but all I know is that there are many of them. The other concerns my dearest love, my living queen, and what we may have wrought. Perhaps I am a father after all. That, only time will tell.

 

 * Midnight Queen – By Inkubus Sukkubus, go check them out.

 

Tree Party

When do you celebrate the birthday of a tree? What point counts as the birth? Is it when the first tiny shoot emerges from the seed-casing? Is it when the tiny leaves, cotyledons I think, if I remember my biology classes from school, first emerge through the dirt and leaf-litter on the forest floor? It’s a somewhat nebulous concept, and in the case of this particular tree, we have no way of knowing anyway, for he was already a seedling, a six-inch high miniature tree-let in a pot when we first met him. For it is Ardan of which I speak. We had a party in the Summerlands, as a celebration for Ardan. I’m still not entirely sure what anniversary we were celebrating – the day that old Hat-Rack gave him to Aoibheann, the day he was planted in Jasper Cove, the day he was replanted by the river in Ashmourne, or even the day he was replanted in the Summerlands. The latter I think is unlikely, since he has only been there a short while.

But celebrate we did. There was no cake, much to my disappointment, as I had been looking forward to seeing Ardan blow out the candles with a well-directed personal tornado. But then, who knows how old he is, so the number of candles would have been speculative at best.

The Tenacious Trinity were there, of course, and for a while, it was just the three of us, plus Ardan. I described Aoibheann and Gwyn as being among my brightest blessings and got admonished for not including Ardan. I keep forgetting that Aoibheann regards Ardan as a person. Maybe he is, maybe he talks to her when we aren’t around. I must admit I was somewhat astonished when Aoibheann arrived, as she had clearly let the fae dress her. While what she wore was perfectly normal among the fae, for Aoibheann, it was, for want of a better word, revealing. I complimented her anyway because she did look stunning. She tried to chide me for it, but, for once, it seemed she was actually pleased.

Ket’lyn and Helene turned up for a while, and they seemed to be quite cosy with each other, which can only be a good thing, as I know how much Helene misses intimacy.

Janus was there when I arrived, but disappeared shortly after, having business elsewhere. We greeted each other with a certain familiarity and intimacy, if a kiss on the forehead is intimate. I find my reactions to him somewhat disconcerting, as each time we meet; there is a stirring of the wyld in me, and a matching one in him. I do not know if that is just our natures reacting to each other, a genuine attraction, or if what we are feeling is an echo from that part of me which is Faermorn. I do not quite yet know. The attraction is very different from that which I felt for Greyson, which stemmed from a likeness of minds rather than any physical desires, whereas with Janus, it is more primal. I have spent enough time among the fae to be aware of the dangers of being elf-struck, so I do not think it is that. Part, I am sure, is me trying to ensure that things are not awkward because of our shared love for Gwyn, but even there, I am not quite sure how Gwyn feels about that. The spirit of Faermorn is definitely a part of it, that much we both recognise. Each time we meet, we acknowledge that she is still with us, but we have yet to explore that further.

Something else was up, regarding Janus. Gwyn clearly had something to discuss with him, and she seemed a little uncertain when we embraced and kissed, as though there was something on her mind. She did not mention anything, and I chose not to disturb the atmosphere by asking.

Gwyn made an official appointment, giving Aoibheann the formal title of Mother of Trees, and a position in Court. Aoibheann wasn’t too sure about that, wondering if Aerodine had to be consulted first, but since we hadn’t seen her since the incident with the sea-monster, we decided it was probably ok.

It was a strange day, and after a while, we relocated to Gwyn’s residence for food and drink. Aoibheann was a little reluctant to leave Ardan, but relented when she realised what a good view we had of him from the residence. The evening passed in pleasant sociability, and all seemed well, but I still wonder what it was that Gwyn had on her mind.

So that was it, a party for a tree. Am I becoming jaded that this does not even seem the littlest bit strange? I wonder what mother would make of it.

 

Tree Party – At least, a song by a band called Tree Party

Between Two Worlds

I have never liked to take sides, save for always being on the side of my friends. I have tried so hard to not do so, especially since the fall of Cristof’s castle, when it seemed that the Unseelie and the Seelie were demanding that we all choose sides. Gwyn chose, and that was right for her. I did not, which was right for me, even with all the attendant problems with His Unseelie Majesty. Instead, I chose to be a bridge, an envoy, an emissary, able to move between the Seelie and Unseelie courts while being a part of neither, and representing the humans and vampires to both. I walk between the worlds of the fae and the worlds of the humans. I include the vampires in the latter, since all of us were once human.

In time, I have found that I am actually a part of both worlds now, fae-blooded through my mother, vampire by Katharina, and the longer I remain here, the deeper I seem to get into both those worlds. The accident with Isabella and my relationship with Gwyn, both bringing out more and more of the fae; and Maric’s training and vitae, making me more a vampire than I was before. And now, I have partaken of more of the fae, of the Unseelie Queen herself, and I am pulled deeper again into that world. As I said above, I chose to be a bridge, and I realise that a bridge cannot be a bridge, unless it is firmly anchored at both ends, in both the worlds it connects. Thus, given what has passed, I suppose it was inevitable that I should become part of both. And thus I find myself, a bridge between two worlds.

As requested, I waited until the sun was on the horizon, and then made my way down the hill, to the bridge, where I presented myself to the ravens, ready to be taken to Her Majesty. I did not know quite what to expect, so went with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. Her Majesty had promised to Quicken me, which she said was her gift to me, to awaken my heritage. On the surface, that sounded like a good thing, but yet I wasn’t sure. I had some inkling of what the Unseelie considered a good thing, from my dealings with Gwythyr and I was not so sure I liked that. But then, I had often gotten the impression from Faermorn that she did not much like those things either. So, it was in a decidedly mixed frame of mind that I presented myself at the bridge, to be taken to the Queen’s chambers.

I was not surprised to find Valene there, already curled up with Faermorn. I had been there for their re-binding, so her being there for my Quickening made sense. She, however, did not seem entirely pleased to see me, as if she did not know who I was. From her reaction, perhaps she perceived me only as a possible threat to Faermorn. I accessed the bond between us, sending a calm I was not entirely sure I felt myself, and as always, my deep love for her.

Faermorn was sleeping, dreaming, and she seemed cold, lying on the furs instead of under them. Valene’s growls were enough to disturb her, struggling back to wakefulness. She looked at me and then beyond me with some surprise, saying “I dreamed of you.” I looked behind to see that Vedis was also there. In what capacity, I could not guess, since I knew nothing of relations between the demons and the Unseelie Court. Faermorn smiled at both of us and beckoned us both closer, her other hand trying to soothe Valene’s aggression. She asked that we join her for a while because she needed to say our goodbyes while she could. As ever, I took off my sword before approaching and giving her my now customary greeting of a kiss on the hand. I could feel the sadness in her and tried to counter it with they joy I had felt on seeing Cernunnos. Rather than goodbyes, I told her, I preferred the French words – “Au Revoir.”

Vedis hoped that Faermorn’s dreams had been good ones without her there to influence them. There was a moment of regret on her face when Faermorn mentioned goodbyes. She didn’t say goodbyes, she told Faermorn, but she had come anyway. She came forward slowly, and I could see sorrow in her face, much as there would have been in mine, had I not been trying to hide it.

Valene seemed to relax a little at Faermorn’s touch, and perhaps at what I was sending through the bond. She settled slightly and curled herself into Faermorn’s larger form. When she saw Vedis, she seemed to curl up even smaller, ears flattened against her head, and for a moment, looking much more catlike than normal. I did not know why. I knew they had history, and that Valene had been a part of the Seid clan, but of course, I did not know what had passed in the many years, for her, that we had been apart. Faermorn’s reaction to Vedis, I could not quite work out, the cold and heat meeting that seemed to cool the room somehow. She was glad that Vedis had come to her. To my greeting, she reacted as she had before, that flurry of warmth and almost impossible desire beneath the skin. A charming poet, she called me, reacting to my speaking French. Oddly, that had seemed to provoke a reaction in Vedis too. “Mon plaisir, ma reine, vous êtes belle comme toujours.” I told her, keeping hold of her hand as I reached across with the other to touch Valene, calling on my blood to give her strength and warmth. I questioned the idea of more gifts; since it seemed to me that I had nearly all I loved here, save for Gwyn, who I could sense was not far away. I would not deny her, though.

Vedis came closer, remaining standing. She told Faermorn that she owed her no gifts, as all her debts had been paid in full. She had come to see if she could help, as she held a part of Faermorn’s power, which she would return if it helped her to regain her health. She told us that meeting fate upon your feet was the demon way as she came a little closer. Valene seemed to perk up a little, agreeing that they didn’t give up without a fight. The Seids fight until the end. They met death head on with a bloody smile on their faces. I had to chuckle a little as she said this, reaching for my hand, our energies touching. She was sure that Vedis could help Faermorn, that much she said.

Faermorn looked upon the three of us, weakened, but still very much the Faerie Queen. All the various energies; hers, mine, Valene’s, Vedis’ swirling together, raising the tension in the air, like a coming thunderstorm, a growing tide. The veils fell aside as she dropped the glamour, showing all that she was and could be; the very essence of all desire and beauty, her voice pure fire and moonlight. Come to me, she bade us, so that she might give, as she was wished, as she was made, as she was to the end. The sight brought a gasp and a sigh from me, but a contented one. At last, I could see beyond the glamour, see what was real, which was, in a way, all that I had ever wanted. I was there, I told her, and we all were, all here for her as she had wished. I shifted slightly so that Vedis could get closer, while still stroking on Valene’s and Faermorn’s hands. Then, in an attempt to lighten the mood a little, I chuckled and admitted that I did not know what a Quickening was.

Vedis laughed and told me I was about to find out. She said that family was strength, kneeling between us and caressing Faermorn’s leg, sending new jolts of energy into the gathering. “Betwixt and between, his desire for you is manifest,” she said, brushing my back with her tentacles and Valene’s hand with others. The energy in the room was palpable, the swirling of power, the strange melange of demonic and fae, human and vampire, dizzying desire, desire that had me on the precipice, and for a moment, I was almost afraid, trapped here between one of my greatest loves, the promise of everything that was this Faerie Queen, who I realised I had come to love as well, and the frightening allure of the Queen of Lust. Valene spoke as well, her own glamour falling away as her own desires joined the whirlpool. “Here and there and everywhere, we reside. Our power is thrice-fold, true and tried.” Her words, like Vedis’ sounding formal, ritualistic, their power pulling me in. Strong magic was afoot, and I was the centre of it. Faermorn’s own power burst forth into us all, rushing over us, caressing and tingling our skins, our very beings, clinging to us as her inner desires flared, desire for her Cait, desire for Vedis, desire for me, a rush of feeling that shuddered her body, her arms pulling at mine, pulling me down onto her soft, yielding flesh. My breath was ragged now, and in my surprise, I barely managed to catch my weight on my arms, either side of her, suddenly face to face, almost lip to lip, very aware that my lower body was lying on hers, soft, warm, inviting. I breathed hard, composing myself as best I could. “My lady,” I asked, “what would you have of me?” Her face was too beautiful and my desire so strong, that I had to fight to keep my composure. I smiled, letting her see my love and friendship, lowering myself to kiss her forehead, for that was all I could trust myself with at that moment.

There was a weight on my back, soft, supple flesh, and burning lust. It was Vedis, leaning against me, pressing me harder against Faermorn. She told me that Faermorn was offering me a Quickening, and saying I should do my research – as if I hadn’t been scouring the libraries at Maric’s for clues. She pressed herself against me, her lips brushing my neck, the fangs grazing the skin, pulling my hair aside with a tentacle, while others caressed Valene and Faermorn. Lust and desire was burning the air around us. Valene joined the press of bodies, her own lips and teeth finding the spot on my neck where we had bonded so long ago. She agreed with Vedis, saying I really, really should do my research, she called me her handsome poet and told me this was going to be the most intense night of my life. I could feel her own desires being added to that which surrounded us, until I could no longer tell what was what, whose energies were whose, whose lust and desire was what, only that we four were somehow melded together.

Faermorn’s body was writhing against mine, against the press of all three of us, glowing brighter with the rush of feeling. I was only too aware of her very inviting flesh pressed against mine, soft and hard, only a few layers of fabric between us being joined in an entirely other way. The light, the warmth, the desire, the beauty that had drawn a fae king to her, and I understood more of the story Valene had told me. The energy flowed around and in me, energy other than that of lust and desire, the energy that was calling to the fae part of my being, that which I had from Mother, and I could hear her voice, see her face in among the sensations that were taking me over. Faermorn’s face and voice recaptured my attention. “Partake of me,” she said, “Take of me what you will, my body, my blood, and my fire will Quicken you.” She pressed herself against me. “I am Sidhe, and that which is fae will always come to my call.”

My body was reacting without me, making its own desires felt, my hardness pressing against her. I struggled to resist its desires, uncertain how where this was going. I could only barely manage to mutter “my lady” a few times, looking down at her, her face, her lovely face, so close to mine. I called upon all my will, to remain in control, to not give in to my primal needs. I kissed her, gently, on each cheek, her eyes, her ears, and the pulse on her neck, that, itself yet another desire. “What would you?” I asked, not knowing my own feelings well enough to choose. I could hear Vedis chuckling and saying I was strong. I guess I impressed her, but she did not know how hard it was for me to resist. A tentacle appeared, pulling Faermorn’s head back slightly, so I could see the pulse point clearly. “You could take of her blood,” she said, “though her delights are hardly limited to that.” She started caressing Faermorn, me, Valene, with her tentacles. “She is desire,” she said, “I am lust, and hunger you already know.” Valene pressed herself against me too, whispering in my ear. “Feed upon her, handsome drinker of blood… Feast and be your true self.” I could see her shadows moving, undoing Faermorn’s clothing as she teased me with her tongue on my neck. “Hunger for her,” she said, “Take from her and know pleasure beyond compare. We are primordial desires and you are ours.” She started pressing herself against my back, ordering me to take, and to give.

I barely heard them as Faermorn trembled beneath me, her body pressed against mine, every fibre of her tugging every fibre of me, lost, it seemed, in desire and lust, spurred on by Valene and Vedis, yet looking at me, her hands grasping my shoulders, pulling me to her. Each kiss I had given, bringing yet another shiver. Each touch of her skin against mine was dizzying, scent and taste and pure sensation, everything in her a maelstrom of lust and desire that would take me, and I would be lost forever in that in that deep well, never wanting to climb out. The desires in me, in her, the desires and lusts from Valene and Vedis filled me, surrounded me, almost drowning me. I covered her face in kisses again, my love, my lust, my appreciation for what she was, kissing down to her sweet, alabaster neck, lust and hunger breaking like the sea over my head as I kissed against the pulse. For the sake of sanity, for the sake of my love for Gwyn, and for the sake of not losing myself, I chose hunger, readying my fangs to strike and hoping I was making the right choice. I bit, and that beautiful, bright, burning blood flowed into my mouth and took me. I had partaken of elven blood before, served by Borris at the London Café, but this was that magnified a thousand or more times. This was life; this was the very essence of being. This was ecstasy and more, much more, filling me, permeating me, awakening every cell, every fibre of me that came from Mother. In that moment, I was fae, I was FAE, more than I could ever imagine. The Wyld filled me, turned me, surrounded me until I could take no more and the blackness took me.

When I awoke, my face was resting on Faermorn’s breast, a soft, pliable, temptation, so close to my mouth, but still covered in her silks and that strange, silver chain mail she wears. Valene was cuddled with her from the other side, her arm across Faermorn’s body and entwined with mine. She, like me, was mostly fully clothed. Of Vedis, there was no sign, save for the lingering atmosphere of lust and desire. Faermorn and Valene slept, deeply, insensible to me moving. The fae energy in me sparkled and swirled, and the very sight of them renewed my desires, almost too much for me to bear. I slid my arm from under Faermorn, and disentangled my other arm from Valene. Neither of them woke, or showed any reaction. I kissed them both gently and took my leave, sleep long gone from me and likely very far away for some time.

And so, I have been Quickened. I still do not entirely know what that is, save that I can feel, and I know my fae side much more than I had before. What other aspects of the fae I have taken on, I do not know. It is going to take me some time to integrate all of this, and I do not know how much time I have. I am left with a sense of wonder, and a lingering sense of vague regret. I think I chose wisely to partake by the blood, but part of me will always wonder what might have been, had I chosen other. What I am now, I do not know. Am I fae? Am I vampire? Or am I something in between? Between two worlds, but a part of both? Only time will tell.

Between Two Worlds