The Hound

The cŵn is gone, but Gwrgi lives. Whatever fight it was that Horace had with Gwrgi resulted in the latter being shot, with lead and with iron. And in the process of healing him, he has been restored to his original, so far as I know, form.

After the trauma of the cleansing of the corruption, and the efforts involved with cleaning up afterwards, I was half-asleep in my chambers, when I felt a surge of pain and anger and loss from Valene. I jerked me awake and upright, calling out her name in response. As I called to her, I saw images, as if through her eyes, of the large cŵn sprawled out on the ground, in a cave, clearly injured, and I could see Valene’s hands burning as she pulled iron balls from his flesh.

I called out for Royce, but there was no sign of him. In desperation, I reached out with my hand, slashing at the air as I had seen him do with his paws, when he opened the way to the Roads. To my immense surprise, it actually worked, as if I had always known the means to open the way to the Roads, but had never realised it. I stepped through and ran from there to Valene’s throne room, her cave, her sanctuary, but there was no sign of her there. I ran back to the signpost at the centre of the Roads, scanning it for any sign, for any clue. I called out her name again, desperate to get to her as once more her pain and loss echoed through me. The sign-post hummed and rippled, the names on the posts moving too fast for me to comprehend, and it seemed like it was whispering all the names as they rippled past. I could not follow them, nor hear them and almost despaired. I stopped, and decided to stop trying to understand. This was not a time for logical thought; I had to trust to instinct. I focussed my mind on Valene and reached out again, tearing a hole that I had to trust would take me to her.

The tear opened up in a great cave, filled with crystalline light and a well of clear water. I had seen this place before, in my dreams of Faermorn, but before I could get a sense of where I was, I was overwhelmed with the power of the Wyld. It knocked me to my knees as it rushed over me and through me. This was so much more than I had experienced before. It was raw, primal, a bright power that dazzled and burned. For a few moments, I felt myself drowning in it until I stopped resisting, let it flow over me, around me, through me, and felt myself bob to the surface, like a swimmer temporarily swamped by a wave. I felt my fae side bursting out, my ears lengthening, and something else happening to my head.

As I regained the use of my senses, I saw Valene crouched over the body of the cŵn, throwing power at him to help heal his wounds, while around him there were iron balls, and silver, that had perhaps once been bullets. The rage and frustration flooded through her, blinding her, and I knew not if she was even aware of my presence. Nevertheless, I ran to her, holding her from behind, pouring my love and protection into her. Her blood and her tears were falling on the bedraggled skin of Gwrgi, merging with swirls and patterns that were appearing on the skin. His flesh writhed and twisted, pushing out the contamination. I could feel the magic rushing through her as she pushed it at him, healing, changing, restoring. Even as I held her, I could feel her body changing, her shape and appearance shifting, flickering too fast for me to see until, with a final scream, she pushed more magic into Gwrgi and collapsed in my arms. I held her tight, not knowing what else I could do, gazing down at a familiar shape, a familiar pale, spotted skin – the shape I had known and loved so many years ago in London.

The magic surged through Gwrgi’s body, and he writhed on the ground, contorting and shifting, limbs lengthening here, shrinking there, the hair receding into the skin until, there before me, lay a humanoid form, pale-haired, elven in shape. I stared, even as I held Valene tight in my arms. Could this be the original form that Gwrgi had been before he had been taken by the Huntsman? She had once told me that he was an elf beforehand.

She shuddered against me, coming to, eyes focussing on the form before her. She darted forward, rolling him over and wrapping herself around him. I went with her, knowing only I needed to be with her. She turned and looked at me with eyes I knew so well, seemingly aware of my presence for the first time. She seemed confused, perhaps by my presence, or perhaps by the restoration of her friend or possibly both. Gwrgi rolled over, briefly opening his eyes and recognising Valene before lapsing into unconsciousness.

It was then that we noticed Cait were lining up around us, forming a protective cordon. I looked up and there, at the edge of the lake, was the Huntsman, staring at us, with three of his cŵn behind him. Valene whispered at me to help get Gwrgi upright between us. I had to take most of the weight since she is so small compared to him, and me. We stood and faced the Huntsman. Valene addressed him saying that she had come to recover what was hers. Her kind had offered no harm or hindrance to him. She named Gwrgi Swiftfoot and she named me, saying we were hers and she would not give us to him.

The Huntsman shook his head and said he had no claim on either of us and did not want us. We were not of his pack, had no debts, and were not foresworn. There was, however, an issue that needed to be resolved, something to do with what had happened the previous night. I did not know what that might be about unless it was something to do with the events that had caused Gwrgi to be injured. Whatever it was, he seemed angry about it. I stood beside Valene and said that he knew who I was, so any issues he had, he could speak of with me too.

Valene shook her head. She asked me to take Gwrgi back to her den and take care of him for her. She would speak with the Huntsman. She assured me that she would not be in danger, and the Huntsman’s word was good. Curiously, that much I trusted. I gathered Gwrgi into my arms and asked if she could spare some of the Cait to assist me. With that, I parted the ways and stepped through to her den, leaving her to deal with the Huntsman’s issues.

I made up a bed for Gwrgi as best I could, and asked the Cait to fetch me some cloths and water. While that was being dealt with, I parted the ways again and went briefly to my own chambers, where I found some older clothes of mine that might fit Gwrgi in his elven shape. Once I got back, I cleaned him up as best I could while he was unconscious and made him comfortable. He could come and have a bath back at the castle once he was awake again. That done, I made myself comfortable on the throne and dozed until Valene returned. She did not speak of what passed with her and the Huntsman, instead, she curled up against Gwrgi and insisted I join her, so I curled up against her on the other side until we all drifted off into uneasy sleep.

I had all but forgotten the strange sensation on my head when I first arrived in the cave, but when I saw my reflection in the bowl of water, I realised I had grown a pair of very fine horns, curved like a ram’s. I can only assume that was a result of the additional Wyld energy down there. It took me until part-way through the following day before I could get them to go away again, which led to a certain amount of embarrassment at my morning meeting with the staff. I dare not even speculate what aspect of my nature that represents.

The Hound

 

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A Piece of Cake

It is hard sometimes, to know what to do for the best. I do not yet understand what Horace’s motivation is for his quest to restore Faermorn, or even if it is real. It may yet be some delusion, some fantasy, occasioned by the things he has suffered. Nevertheless, I said that I would help, and so I shall.

I made a start this evening by speaking with Vedis. She was sitting under the tree, reading, so I joined her. After the usual pleasantries, I asked if she had seen Horace and explained, in part, what he wanted, of his quest to restore Faermorn and his need of the red crystal.

Vedis was somewhat sceptical. Faermorn was never meant to be alive, she said, and was only the way she was because of the wishes of the dark-haired menace. While she agreed that a restoration was possible, she did not see why Faermorn would desire such a thing, as her life had mostly been unhappy. She was not sure she could do much, as there was another she sought, before Faermorn.

I told her that I knew the story, as Valene had told it. I knew of Faermorn’s unhappiness as I had often sensed it, that and her regrets. I said that was why I had tried to offer her my friendship, not as an adoring subject, or kiss-up courtier seeking favour, but just friendship for its own sake.

She smiled at that, saying it was a precious gift, especially for those with power, as they often had few friends who would walk with them. I told her that there had been times when that was all I had to offer. The ordinary man I had once been had little else to offer, and that why it was so important to me. And, I preferred to give it without seeking reward or favour. I said that she and Galyanna were among those friends, so I would assist her seeking if I could. In the meanwhile, would she be willing to assist Horace in his? She said that she would talk to him, and perhaps, if she felt his quest worthy, she would let him use the crystal.

Wren and Hadley turned up and joined us. Vedis had evidently been anticipating this, because she said she had a treat for them. Hadley expressed the hope that this might be some sort of puppy, but it turned out to be cakes. Cakes with their names written on in icing. Vedis said that she had found the recipes through the mirror. The kids were delighted with the cakes, though they did seem to be slightly less delighted when they tasted them. Wren eventually persuaded me to try a piece of hers and I could understand why. It was incredibly, overpoweringly sweet. I remarked that it must have been one of Mitternacht’s recipes, as she had always been overly fond of the sugar.

I noticed that Hadley was having a little difficulty holding her fork and when Vedis remarked on it, we could both see that her hand was bruised and swollen. I guessed, from the look of it, that she had been trying a little too hard with the archery from the previous evening. I told her that I would make her some protection, a tab and a bracer. She said I shouldn’t go to so much trouble, in case she decided to give it up, but I assured her that such things would only take a few minutes to make.

I wanted to talk more of Faermorn and Horace, but did not think it appropriate in front of the kids. I asked Vedis instead about the possibility of being able to communicate with one another – contacting her or contacting Galyanna. She did not think it an issue at first, as we could always speak her name into the mirror, and she was never out of touch with Galyanna. When I explained further, she said that she could devise a very small portal, based on a crystal, which would allow sound through. That would allow the wearer to talk to another wearer. When I asked, she said it could also be used to locate the wearer, but that it would have to be done by somebody in the know, so it would be relatively secure. She asked if I could supply some crystals.

Galyanna arrived then, and whispered something to Vedis. I don’t know what it was, but Vedis excused herself thereafter, saying she and Galyanna needed to discuss things. I said that I would look into getting some crystals and that we would talk later. I had to go myself soon after, as I had business with the castle staff.

My evening ended on a very pleasant note. I was summoned to the Shadow Roads, to the presence of my beloved Valene. Judging by her attire, or lack thereof, she did not intend a formal meeting of any sort. I told her that I had never been a great one for formality. She asked if I remembered the games we had played, back in the place that we had once called home. The teasing and torture of having each other but not having each other. I recalled well the flirting, and the times we had come closer to becoming more than friends. We were different people then, I told her. On the one hand, we had to deal with each other in the context of her position at Fiendish Pleasures and me being a customer thereof, and on the other, there was the friendship we had built, which I had not wanted to compromise by confusing our professional and personal relationships. That was past, I said, and now we had each other, and could love unencumbered by those other considerations.

That, I think was what she wanted to hear, and she came to me, and I to her. Not a customer and a muse, not a Sigil and a Queen, but just each other, friends and lovers. And that, in itself is a very healing thing. Just for a few hours, there was nothing else, but each others’ arms and each others’ hearts.

A Piece of Cake

Music Has Charms

“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast” or so wrote William Congreve. Many people think it was the immortal bard who wrote that line or think it is about soothing a savage beast rather than breast, but those are not the case. It was the latter misquotation that brought it to mind. Only, in this case, music was definitely not soothing a savage beast. At least, not one kind of music.

I was on my walk around the village, when I came across Hadley, who was coming perilously close to straying beyond the roses. She was tearing Orie off a strip about enquiring after her personal life and her history before coming here. I greeted them both, asked how they were and reminded Hadley that she wasn’t to go beyond the roses without one of us with her.

Hadley said she was fine and that she wasn’t going anywhere. Orie would only admit to things being fine. I reminded him to listen to Hadley’s request about not talking about her or her past. I said there were political matters that he did not want to get involved with. Hadley appreciated, saying “See!” to him in response to my warning to him. He claimed he had nothing to do with politics, but seemed distracted.

So was I. I could smell mint nearby. I was fairly sure none grew where we were, unless some of Helene’s or Dorina’s plantings had escaped, as mint is wont to do. I glanced sideways and thought I saw a familiar shadow. I blew a kiss in its direction and explained a little more to Hadley about going outside the village.

Valene emerged from the shadows, coming to my side where I drew her into a hug. She greeted everybody and melded into my embrace. She claimed that she had managed to elude her guards for a short while so that she could go wandering. It felt good to have her close, but I also felt another sense of well-being from some other presence. I looked round and found Dyisi had emerged from the mists and was cosying up to Orie. I made introductions, as did Orie, surprisingly gracefully. Hadley and Dyisi seemed to already know each other. I felt a moment of concern. I liked and trusted Dyisi, but I didn’t know what her situation in Esterwell was, so I mentioned that Hadley was our guest and under our protection. She seemed only concerned that I was looking after Hadley, which I told her I was, and which Hadley agreed was the case.

Since Dyisi was there, I asked if she knew anything about dolls of a character called Elsa. She wasn’t sure, but when I explained further, she thought she might have seen the character on a poster about the film. Hadley chimed in with some additional information. Dyisi said that she could maybe find somebody who might be able to obtain such a thing.

Nualla and Royce appeared, glaring at me and scolding Valene for straying. She may be queen, but they keep her on a tight leash. She grumbled somewhat, but went with them anyway.

Further conversation was interrupted by a blood-chilling roar and howl, as Gwrgi appeared, upright and apparently angry at something, or possibly someone. His attention seemed to be focussed on Orie for some reason. The guards were already reacting, adopting defensive positions. I reminded them that weapons were not to be drawn unless absolutely necessary. I had a moment of panic when I saw that Wren was very close by to the cŵn, so yelled at her to get inside the tavern and yelled at Hadley to get in the nearest building. Fortunately they were both close enough that guards could get in front of them. For a moment, I wished that Valene had not left us, thinking she might have been able to deal with him.

I confronted Gwrgi, with hands away from my weapons, asking him what he wanted and stating that no violence would be offered him if he offered none. He responded in that most disconcerting voice of his, telling us to stop the music maker, who was not welcome in his woods, otherwise he would kill and eat him and use his violin as a toothpick. I had heard reports from villagers of violin music in the woods, and that Orie was possibly the culprit.

Behind me, I heard Orie unholster his guns and yell at us to stand clear. He shouted that he had come to restore Faermorn, and nobody was going to stop him. I told Gwrgi again that there would be no violence; there was no need for violence. I summoned up all my presence and commanded Orie to stand down, which fortunately he did. Perhaps Dyisi helped, for I felt that wave of calm flow from her, as she also told him to put up his weapons.

As if in response to my unspoken wish, or perhaps she had heard me through our bond, the shadows near me swirled and coalesced into the form of Valene. She looked with sorrow upon the beast and asked how far he had fallen. Her scent surrounded us and she sang, something that sounded like a lullaby. He stopped for a moment. He had looked torn, torn between the desire to rend Orie into pieces and the desire to be civilised, to respond to my overtures of peace. But now, he looked confused, as if memories were surfacing, forgotten familiarities. He stayed focussed entirely on her.

I backed up towards Orie and Dyisi, letting Valene handle her one-time friend and maybe lover. Dyisi seemed to me to be doing the same to Orie, who also looked torn between a desire to fight and the soothing influence of Dyisi. I explained who Gwrgi was, how he had been a cŵn, but was now freed of the Huntsman and a little, I suspected, lost. I thanked Orie for putting up his guns and suggested that maybe we try to find somewhere else to play his music, and maybe, stay away from the woods for a few days, to give Gwrgi time to settle down. He was still staring after the beast, as Valene led him away, but eventually, pulled himself in, muttering “shit” as if scared by what he had almost become.

I left him in Dyisi’s charge, since they appeared to be good friends, and I trusted her calming instincts and went to make sure that Wren and Hadley were ok.

I wonder now, what happened with him and Faermorn. He was part of the effort to rescue her from the sea-monster, so it was likely she had invited him to her chambers to thank him. Had he become elf-struck or otherwise infatuated? Or had he too dreamed of her? I did ask him to come and talk to me about her, but I don’t know that he heard. Perhaps I will get better answers in the Summerlands, perhaps I should try to dream of her soon.

 

 Music Has Charms

 

Darling

The girls have decided on a new surname. Well, Hadley seems to have decided on it and Wren is going along with it. Henceforth, they will be known as Hadley and Wren Darling. Apparently, this is the surname of some children in a book called Peter Pan. I have heard Wren and Gwyn speak of this book before. I seem to recall it involves a boy who never grows up. I wonder if there is any significance to that. For myself, I would rather it commemorated the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Grace Darling, but I doubt that they have even heard of her. I did suggest that we have some sort of naming ceremony to mark the change that they could celebrate on anniversaries, like Maric had the Naming Day ball. Neither was keen on the idea, but I told them I would record them in the village census under their new name anyway.

Val came briefly to visit, but Royce and Nualla dragged her away pretty quickly, not even letting her stay for a drink and a warm by the fire in the tavern. At least she was there long enough to hug Aoibheann and meet the Darlings. Wren was a little confused by my kissing Valene and asked if Gwyn would be mad. I didn’t want to get into details, but assured her that Gwyn and I loved each other very much, as did Val and I, and nobody was going to get mad.

Senna turned up, apparently in search of a drink. I asked her about Patch and the Metatron. It turns out that Metatron is one of the archangels, the one who has the role of being the heavenly scribe. Now that she mentioned it, I remember vaguely reading about that somewhere. Or it could have been during the after-dinner discussion I had with the Rev. Elverson about angels dancing on pinheads. If I recall, a lot of port was consumed that night. Senna was not at all pleased with the idea of angels being around the place, they and demons being natural enemies of course. She was unsure if he was a threat or not – he had been sent here to observe, but the question remains of what conclusion might be drawn from the observation. On the other hand, it was also still Patch. For the moment, all we could do was, like him, observe, and see what happens.

Wren wasn’t entirely sure what an archangel was, so I dredged up what I could recall of the angelic host – cherubim, seraphim, archangels and suchlike, likening them to ranks in the army. Harder to explain was why the angels were the bad guys, at least, from Senna’s perspective, and, to some extent, from the perspective of our current situation. I didn’t really want to get into a major theological discussion, especially with Aoibheann around who would likely understand it even less than Wren. I left it that Angels were supposedly on the side of humanity, but that their views on that might be coloured by circumstances, e.g. us helping Vedis and co. Generally speaking the best thing to do was stay out of it.

I changed the subject by suggesting we relocated to the cabin for tea and cakes, or in Senna’s case, strong drink. Hadley joined us, trying to sneak up on Wren and poking her from behind. She looked a little dishevelled, possibly because of her adventures, and possibly because nobody was around making her comb her hair or wash or anything. It was likely she hadn’t brought any clothes with her. Aoibheann had clearly come to the same conclusion, since she asked me if she could have an allowance to get some clothes and other essentials for Hadley and Wren. I told her that was fine, and that as lady of the household, she could make decisions about that level of expenditure without asking me first, just so long as she told me about it at some point. She wasn’t entirely sure about that, but I insisted. She then put herself in charge of dealing with Hadley’s hair. Wren made some noises about having to get a job to pay for her things but I would have none of it. They were my responsibility, so I would pay for things until they were in a position to start earning. Maybe when she was a fully paid up member of the guard, she could start paying for herself, but for now, I told her, don’t worry about it.

I left them to it then, telling Hal to put the cakes and drink on my tab. I had other duties that evening, and some sleep to catch up on.

Darling

Arms of an Angel

Well, that was something of an interesting day. There had been a demon attack overnight, I had a visit from three demons, and a visit from a fourth demon under the direction of an angel. On the plus side, I am reunited with my beloved Queen of the Cait.

My morning report from the guards and the stewards rather disturbingly included an attack by Kitori overnight. The purpose of the attack was unknown, but fortunately, Galyanna had been on hand, and assisted by others, had contained the fight and taken it outside the village boundaries.

I heard that Galyanna had returned, so I left the castle and went to thank her, finding her near the tavern with Karl Seid. The latter was just visiting, he said, and departed for the tavern soon after. It seemed a peaceful enough day, the main noise being Wren and Hadley playing and talking about climbing trees.

Galyanna told me some more about the attack. Hal had taken charge of the children and sheltered them in the tavern with the help of the guards. The other guards had assisted her and respected her decision to take the fight elsewhere. I nodded and thanked her; pleased that all had gone according to the standard procedures that Maric, Kustav and I had worked out. I told her that there were standing orders that the guard follow her guidance when it came to demonic attacks. While we were talking, a fiery-red-headed figure approached, almost dwarfed by the huge sword on her back. It was Senna. Galyanna told me that she had arrived last night and that she had thought her to be working for Kitori at first; however, she had assisted in the defence of the village. Senna was her usual jovial and irreverent self, calling me Natey and being highly delighted to have had the chance to use her sword almost as soon as we had arrived. I welcomed her back and thanked her for her assistance.

My senses picked up that I was being watched, and I realised that many of the Cait were lurking in the undergrowth, including Royce. He approached and told me, rather cryptically, that SHE wished my presence. My heart skipped a beat. Maric had told me that he had spoken with Valene and Sebastios, so I assumed that SHE was Valene, hoping desperately that it wasn’t that other female ruler of that domain. Before I could answer him, there was a loud whooshing sound as something plummeted at high speed, landing near the castle, sending out a gust of wind that rattled the trees all around. I asked Royce to despatch one of the younger Cait to tell Valene that I would be honoured to attend upon HER, just as soon as I ascertained that this latest happening was no threat.

By the time I got to the castle, the guards had formed a defensive ring, surrounding the figure that stood there, but seemed a little uncertain as to what to do. It was a strange figure, radiating a curious sense of peace. In appearance, it looked to be of angelic origin, to my limited experience of such beings, yet there was something familiar. It regarded us calmly, telling us that it meant us no harm. I recognised something about the voice and the face. It was Galyanna’s apprentice, Patch.

I told the guard to stand down, saying this one was known to us, and asked what he wanted. Beside me, Galyanna was not so sure; muttering something about what had Patch done to himself.

When it spoke, its manner was strange. “This one,” it said, “had been sent here to observe this realm.” He apparently heard Galyanna’s remark, for he addressed her, saying that this one had been corrected and reformed, to come here and make a note of the balance of this realm on behalf of somebody called the Grand Metatron. I had no idea what kind of name Metatron was, but there appeared to be no immediate danger. I decided to leave it in Galyanna’s hands, since she was much more familiar with Patch and his… eccentricities. Perhaps I should have stayed, but there did not appear to be any immediate threat. It was Patch, albeit in the arms of an angel. I had to trust that no danger was forthcoming. Besides, I was eager to go with Royce and see my beloved Cait Queen. I told the children to stay well away and to do what Galyanna told them. I left her to deal with this new visitor, saying that I would leave some of the Cait to observe and that she should send one of them for me if there was any danger.

I observed for a moment. Galyanna seemed to be less than pleased, but it did not look as if there was going to be any immediate dangerous activity. I went back to Royce and let him part the ways for me, through to the Roads and Valene’s abode.

She was there, seated on her throne, surrounded by the Cait, all trailing by the throne, each eager for a little attention. She looked much as she ever did, but perhaps with some more white in her hair. I paid it no heed, for to me she was always lovely. I smiled and approached gently, asking who I should greet first, my Queen or my Love. Mindful that there might be members of her court present, I knelt and gave her formal greeting from a kneeling position.

She asked if they were different, for surely she was both. I got up again, teasing her slightly, saying that she was indeed both, but that protocols should be observed. I then said that now I could greet my Love and drew her into a warm embrace and longing kiss. I told her I had missed her greatly, and that the Cait had sometimes let me come and watch her sleeping, but that wasn’t quite the same thing.

She wrapped herself up in my embrace, pulling me down so I could share the throne with her, there being plenty of room for her slight body next to mine. We snuggled for a few moments and she said she had noticed my scent in the room. She said that the Cait had been bringing her up to date, but asked me to tell her what she had missed.

I scarcely knew where to begin. I pulled her closer, if that were possible, into my embrace, sharing my warmth with her since I had it to spare. I told her of the battles with the demons, of our sheltering in the Roads, and the price we had paid for that. I told her of the passing of the old rulers of Faerie and the rise of Gwyneth and Janus, of the rebuilding of the Summerlands and the joining of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. I told her that we now dwelt in the Summerlands. I told her what had become of Vedis and how we were trying to restore her. I told her of the arrival of Patch just before I had come to her. Finally, wanting to give her some cheer, I told her of the children that Gwyn, Janus and I were going to have.

She took a while, taking the news in, nuzzling against me and trailing her fingers through my hair. Up close, I could see that there was more white in hers, but again, it mattered not to me. She made comment about how life changed while sleepers sleep. She was not surprised that Nemaine had taken the bodies and taken one who had not been dead. She had warned me that she was treacherous even before we thought of taking the village there. She herself had slumbered long, she told me, for her power had ebbed. But now the change of seasons had come, and winter’s approach had woken her. She said that He was whispering through the trees, presumably the spirit of Winter, and how he still owned a part of her, just as her Queen had. I was a little chilled by that, wondering if the He she spoke of was Gwythr.

Perhaps sensing her mood, one of the kittens braved the leap into her lap and curled up there, asking and offering comfort. She stroked it as we spoke. She gave her blessing to the new King and Queen. She had not known Janus well, but he and she shared a sorrow. She also proffered blessing on the children we were going to have. There was a touch of melancholy there as she told me that she had long known she was barren, as half-blood fae often were. She said that I would have to let her visit them often, saying that they would be guarded by her and her people because we were beloved by her kind and especially her. She had missed me, even in her slumbers, as one who had seen her through good times and bad. She had dreamed, she said, of the past, and of Home.

I kissed her and said it was a shame, because she would have had beautiful children. I told her I was surprised to be a father, having thought myself to be sterile as a vampire and having only a small portion of fae blood by birth. I could only assume that the life-giver energy from Isabella and the Quickening from Faermorn were what had allowed me to have issue. The thought of Faermorn brought the start of a tear to my eyes, as had the longing in Valene’s voice when she spoke of her. I told her that I missed Faermorn too, but knew that she was not truly gone, for she had come to me in dreams, had come to her warrior-poet.

I held her close again and kissed her over and over. I did not know where home was any more, I told her, but being with her felt like home. And, wherever I was, she would always be welcome with me, wherever I was was her home too. I kissed her again and told her how much I had missed her.

She plucked the young Cait from her lap and set it down, standing and drawing me up too. Nothing ever dies, she told me, but sometimes things were too far from sight and mind. She looked to make a decision to forget melancholy thoughts for the now and asked if I would stay the night with her. She knew I had duties, as did she, but for now, she wanted just one night of togetherness – not Queen and Sigil or Steward, just Nathaniel and Valene. She looked up at me and the longing in her eyes almost broke my heart. There was no way I was going to refuse her, come hell or high water. “Always,” I told her, “always, my love, always.” I lifted her then, for another kiss and then let her lead me to her chambers, to a place of privacy, where we could lie together as old friends, old lovers, regardless of rank and title, to enjoy each other for as long as the night would let us.

 Arms of an Angel

Blank Page

I am sure that a fear of the blank page is the curse of many a writer, or in my case, diarist. Although I have kept this diary since I was 12 years old, there have been times when I have just not had the inclination or energy to write in it. Such, it seems, has been the case over the past few weeks. What with reorganising the accommodation in the castle, sorting out village matters and my general duties as steward, it seems I have had no time to put pen to paper of late.

What has passed?

Helene still wants to open herself a little shop, and she wants space for Horace to work on whatever it is he does. She promised him a place to stay and some work to do. I am not entirely sure what she wants of him. We spoke about his lost wife, Rebecca and Helene wasn’t sure she could replace her. I told her that it isn’t a case of replacement. Nobody could replace Alex, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t love again. I will have to sit down with my team of stewards and see what we can do. First priority for the village is getting the accommodation sorted, but there will be a need for a place for people to work and such.

Talking of Horace, he and Aoibheann had a fight, during which he went off on his usual rant about us not caring, about us sitting in the posh house and not doing anything for the villagers or him. He seems to be thinking that we have trapped him, the islanders and the villagers here to starve them or something, despite the fact that I have been managing to keep people fed. Aoibheann and I agreed that we needed to do something because he was making people unhappy with his complaints.

To my surprise, Aoibheann and I talked about relationship matters. It started because she was telling me about Helene and Horace, but we went on to talk about Helene and I, and how things were progressing with Aoibheann and Maric. She actually told me they had spent the night together, chastely (as I had told her I had done so with Helene), and even admitted to unchaste thoughts. The poor girl is clearly missing him badly, and is afraid of how things will be when he comes out of torpor. I tried to reassure her that I did not think she needed to worry, not if the feelings I was picking up across the mental link were anything to go by. We also talked a little about the healing process and the need to start feeding him soon. I really must go back over his notes and develop a more detailed plan of action. Gwyn came along and we talked about other stuff, including pirates, which made Aoibheann cry, possibly because she misses the kids from Jasper Cove. I remember her playing pirates with them in the pond. At least she seems more relaxed in Gwyn’s company, allowing herself to be cuddled, and even falling asleep in Gwyn’s arms, which meant we had to carry her down to Maric’s chambers.

I had another conversation with Helene later, and her loneliness and her needs. This time I dropped the hint that I might not be as unavailable as I had been before, given how open my relationship with Gwyn has become. I am not sure she entirely understood, but at least, if the two of us find ourselves in an intimate situation, she will know there is less to worry about.

We didn’t get much of a chance to talk about it, as we were interrupted by a young lad from the Islander encampment, indicating that they wanted to talk to me. We went down there and I was greeted by a lady by the name of Phaedra. Ket’Lyn was there, who immediately attached herself to Helene, which seemed to make them both happy. Phaedra wanted to talk about the general state of affairs, being unhappy that they were unable to forage and farm, and not wanting to be a drain on the resources of the village. I assured her that they did not need to worry for the moment, and reinforced the warning about venturing beyond the boundaries. There was also an issue with the health of some of the youngsters, but that was something that Helene and Ket’Lyn could deal with, as they are both healers. Galyanna appeared briefly to tell me that she needed to journey back to hell, and would be doing so in a few days. I offered her some assistance from the guard, if she needed it, and she said she would think about it.

Aoibheann and I had another conversation about various things. Part of that was about her losing weight, and she wanted to know if she could do anything about that – perhaps with one of Helene’s potions. I suggested that maybe just eating more regularly would be a good start, and that maybe Helen could provide a potion to stimulate her appetite. We also agreed that we would try to sit down and have a meal together at least once a day, just to make sure that she got at least one proper meal a day. I suggested that she should try to reduce her stress levels as well, but we were less certain how to manage that. We did come up with the idea of perhaps having more events to keep the villagers occupied, and particularly the younger ones. Perhaps a sports day or something.

We also spoke of Gwythyr and of our answers to his questions and what that had resulted from that. We spoke of Valene’s grief over Faermorn, Aoibheann’s grief about the Huntsman, and her fears about Maric. She told me that she had been writing him letters and was worried that he would think them stupid. I assured her that this was very unlikely and that he would almost certainly love them. We also spoke of how we should handle his awakening. I felt that it would be best if it were I, and maybe the senior vampires among the guards who were there, and once he was more stable, then I was sure he would want to see her. She told me to tell him that she would be wearing a red dress for him. This clearly meant something to her, and presumably to him. I told her that I was sure she would look lovely in red, and sent her over to the tailor to make sure she had something suitable.

We chatted again, the next day, about the arrangements with Vedis and Nemaine, and how we were going to get supplies. I told her of my ideas of trading through the Shadow Roads. I could bring back eggs so we could start raising chickens, and if I could fathom a way of containing air – perhaps a waxed tent and some of the roses – I could bring back rabbits and goats. Plus, of course, seeds and stuff so we could start growing stuff. That, of course, would require negotiating with Nemaine. With so few deaths among the guards, I don’t know what we can offer her. Aoibheann did give me a lock of her hair, but I fear it is going to take more than that.

 

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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