March 20, 2014

Goblin Fires, Chapter Two

Like many Unbridled spirits of the fae world, The Morrigan—my mother—struck a bargain with the Four Sidhe Courts, to ensure her freedom from them and the certainty of her independence. It is not such a strange thing... but it might have been the thing that nearly destroyed us, in the end.
Mortals called The Morrigan a goddess of war, and there were, of course, reasons for her title. Whether or not she might actually be a deity hardly mattered; she is a creature of power and means, the rival of any High Sidhe in magic or in wiles. When the Fae Courts began to assemble and formalize a code of magical law and order, the Unbridled beings like my mother were assessed and considered heavily, as factors which could disrupt the forces the Fae Lords would seek to protect. So The Morrigan struck an alliance to codify her rights as a free agent, and simultaneously make a show of good will and treaty toward the Sidhe Kings and Queens. She offered her offspring as Knights and Champions for the High Noble Houses.

Each child would be trusted to the care of The Morrigan for the first seven years of life. After such time, she would present them for formal introduction to the House of their Fae father. Thereafter, they lived in his Court: for another seven years he would provide for their training and education.
At any time in those seven years, a Child of The Morrigan has leave to renounce allegiance to the Court and declare herself Unbridled—a fae creature without loyalty to King, Queen, or any crown. However, this means exile from the courts forever, and a life of wariness and suspicion from those within the seasons. In the eyes of the Four Courts, the Unbridled were not trusted, unless they could be tamed.
At fourteen years, few of us choose to be ostracized forever from our kin. For my part, it had never been a difficult decision: I chose Ceridwen, the very night we met. All the years intervening between then and the day I took oath as her Knight were nothing but formality to me.
I saw her for the first time on the eve my mother presented me to my father's noble House. I was, of course, seven. To be exact, I was seven years, seven months, and seven days. Up until then, I had lived with my mother in an obscure little coastal town in Maine, with only my half-brother Finn as company. I hadn't even appreciated my fae lineage in any concrete detail until The Morrigan told me the time had come to meet my father.
By the time I turned seven, I'd had occasion enough to see my mother use her magic. It still came as a wonder to me when Mother led me to our plain back door and, upon opening it, revealed to me a glamorous, golden ballroom full of beautiful figures. She stepped through the doorway as casual as you please, tugging me gently along after her into the fae world: the realms of Thairy.
My mother is tall and proud of bearing, and her pale skin is flawlessly smooth. On this night she dressed in the most elegant, breathtaking of evening gowns, and she wore glittering black sapphires at ears and throat. Her long, jet-black hair—done up in a complicated interplay of braids for this occasion—made a sharp contrast, so dark it shone indigo in the twinkling ballroom lights all around us. Her dress shimmered, elegant and stylish but gracefully alluring, a sparkling gown starting out dusty silver at the high halter neckline, then fading through shades of glittering pewter, shady steel-gray, and finally deep, dark black where the skirt flared out in rippling cascades all the way to the floor. Her lovely white shoulders were bare, and delicate, intricate lines depicting three black raven's feathers marked her right shoulder blade. Mortals might have called such a sigil a tattoo, but it wasn't. No one had ever inked it or stamped upon her: it had been there forever, as natural to her skin as a birthmark.
She had always been the kind of woman who naturally arrived polished and poised, as if all the forces of nature conspired to be sure her strength, spirit, and sovereignty were plain to be seen. Hers proved a dangerous beauty: compelling and yet formidable. Little wonder mortals called her a goddess.
My own dress had been a diminutive version of hers, the neckline a more suitable bateau. My hair—naturally a two-tone color, tawny blonde underscored by dark, dark brown low-lights tending almost to black—also twined in complex braids, though she'd styled it more playfully, more girlish, as if pixies had done it. In fact, my mother could have had pixies do the job of styling my hair for her, if she wanted. Often the ones living in our woods did it anyway if I spent any time outside, reading or studying or otherwise sitting still long enough to give them the chance. On this occasion, though, she'd done it herself, quietly arranging a small spray of miniature tiger lily blooms among the braids at the back.
"A favorite of your father's," she explained as she wove the flowers into place. She gave me one of them to examine while she arranged the rest in my hair. "And they match your eyes so nicely, Reagan my love."
My eyes were the wild, bright orange of a harvest bonfire. People think I wear contacts for the effect. It's obviously from my Tylwyth side: The Morrigan's eyes, when in the company of the fae at least, are pure, featureless black, though mortals see any number of colors when they gaze upon her.
For the occasion of my presentation to my father, my mother also gave me a matching set of delicately wrought Tylwyth jewelry—an arrangement of pale moonstones and fiery topaz set in a platinum pendant, and vibrant topaz earrings. They were a birthday gift from my father himself. Literally a birth day gift: he had given it to The Morrigan the day I had been born, to be kept by her in trust until this night, when I would meet him for the very first time. I spent long, long moments admiring the pendant when she put it around my neck, carefully turning it this way and that to watch the stones catch the light. Up until those very moments, I'd been blithely unconcerned with any need to examine or define what I was. My fae identity had been an ephemeral, amorphous concept outside the limits of my attention. I think, for those of my siblings who do break ties with their faerie kin to live as Unbridled, perhaps such a sense of undefined self never faded. Or perhaps it proved more appealing. For me, though, those royal gemstones, the gesture of paternal acknowledgment, brought the first solid, definite knowledge of identity to me. I was Tylwyth, at least in part. My father invited me among them. I would have a place in his House, as long as I wanted it.
It made everything instantly very real to me too. I would be made to leave my mother's house in Maine and become part of the Court in Seattle, three thousand miles away on the opposite coast. In seven years, I would be asked to decide if I would swear my allegiance to the Eastern House of Faerie for the rest of my life.
It hardly mattered, though, by the time the night had ended. I made the decision before I'd even been formally introduced to my father himself.
I made it the moment I first saw Ceri.
She stood with the High King, and she'd been beautiful beyond words. She shone among her people like an autumn blossom, all reds and orange-ambers and gold. Her pale blonde hair, wreathed with a harvest garland of yellow ribbon and crimson maple leaves; her dress a tier of colors, all the colors of fall, rippling in layers to the floor and speckled with small clusters of tiny jewels along the alternating hems. Like me, she wore an understated amount of makeup and jewelry, almost none at all, but where I had a pair of elbow-length black lace gloves, and my mother had intricate, elf-crafted silver warrior's bangles, little Ceri had been decorated by her handmaidens with some sort of shimmering gold design in ink. Also not a tattoo, per se, but perhaps something akin to henna. It wound from her right elbow up and over her pretty little white shoulders, passing under the frilly cap-sleeve of her dress. Harvest leaves, as though dancing on a brisk, playful wind. More of the jewels in red, orange, yellow, and violet accentuated the pretty curving lines of the design. Finally, a bit of sparkle, the tiniest spray of jewels, glittered at the outside corners of her pretty, hazel eyes.
I found myself taken with her immediately. Certainly, at seven years old, I had no sense yet of what romantic attraction could be, but I realized I wished to be close to this lovely creature. She possessed a captivating charm, a magnetism which struck right in the heartstrings. Her wide, pretty eyes brimmed with mirth and warmth, and her smile, traded freely with all those around her, proved gentle, sweet, and bright with genuine pleasure. I realized, being near her, I lingered on the verge of something quietly, personally momentous. If my father's necklace had been the catalyst in bringing my identity into focus, seeing Ceridwen across the floor of the ballroom became the point on which this focus converged. I wished to know her. I wished to be part of her world.
"Mother?" I asked The Morrigan, tugging gently at her hand. "Who is she?"
Her black eyes followed my gaze and she blinked when she saw who I meant.
"She is the young Lady Ceridwen, my child," she explained. "Daughter of High King Herne."
"She's... beautiful," I said.
My mother regarded this with a thoughtful frown. Perhaps she understood something about this exchange I myself would not understand until decades later, but if she did, she said nothing of it.
"Well, Reagan, as luck would have it, there is your father, Lord Griffith, speaking to Herne now. So I shall introduce you, and maybe Herne will introduce you to his daughter."
I'd never met my father. Such had forever been the way with the Children of The Morrigan. Even if their sire expresses interest in them, as mine had, The Morrigan's contract expressly allows her to keep the child to herself for seven years. She alone has the raising of them during those first years. Perhaps she meant to compensate for the lost time that would come later, when the Houses of their sires assumed responsibility. Still, as The Morrigan brought me before Lord Griffith and High King Herne—a tall, leonine man with golden eyes and a patient but scrutinizing gaze—I remained more fascinated by the king's daughter, standing with obedient grace beside him. Etiquette demanded we wait to speak until we were formally introduced. As we waited, she flashed me a pretty white smile. Her hazel eyes sparkled, and at exactly that moment the decision fell into place for me.
I would become part of the Tylwyth Court, and swear my oath to them for life.
So I could be near her.
I left Tala sleeping soundly in a tangle of sheets, planting a kiss on her lips and whispering a fond goodbye in her ear before going. Shortly before dawn, I stepped out onto the quiet New York street, shrugging down into my dark brown hunter's jacket as I scanned the area. Tala's apartment stood in a nice section of the Upper East Side, and though by most standards it might be considered too far a walk to the hotel where Ceri and our retinue were staying, I enjoy a good long stroll before the sunrise. So I set off on foot, forgoing the cab most others would prefer.
 It would be less than an hour's walk, but as I neared the hotel, I stopped to pick up Ceri's favorite breakfast and a coffee from the little bakery she'd discovered on a visit some years ago. I bought a hot tea and a tin of intensely strong, sugar-free peppermints for myself, as well. I don't like most things sweet, strange as it is for a fae, but for some reason I have an almost obsessive craving for peppermint.
We were in early spring, early enough to still feel frost on the air, but the bakery proved accommodating when I ordered a seasonal flavor of fall for Ceri's drink. Usually the coffee shops, which carry maple or pumpkin flavors in the later months of the year, don't continue them after January, but this one usually had a stock kept in reserve for such an occasion as eclectic customers wanting fall flavors in spring. It might have been one of the reasons Ceri fell in love with the place.
I bought a newspaper and skimmed over it as I waited for them to prepare my order. Forecast for the day read sunny and warm. No surprise there, given the company I knew to expect in the city today.
Evidently, there'd been reports of odd electrical phenomenon in Manhattan: heat lightning and St. Elmo's Fire. A vocal trio of residents insisted it must be alien activity, but I saw it for what it was. Heat lightning and will'o'wisps meant a clash between Summer and Winter fae.
Probably some prankish Summer sprite had tried to pick a fight with one of Winter's local residents. I frowned, though: even minor scuffles should not be allowed to produce elemental side-effects where mortals could witness them. Especially in such marked territory. A city like Vegas, New Orleans, or Chicago, perhaps: they're more fluid, changing, and they're recognized neutral—or at least shifting—territory of the fae. New York had traditionally been the territory of Winter, though, whereas a place like Los Angeles, for example, belonged to Summer. Sure, little skirmishes did happen, but when they did, there would almost always be someone in the Sidhe families out for a bit of blood afterwards.
A troublesome tangle. Thank goodness Autumn fae rarely caused any such obvious nuisances in mortal realms.
Perusing the rest of the headlines, I found no other outstanding items I might attribute to fae kind. Then I heard them call up my order.
The sun had risen as I finally arrived at the hotel. Our concierge gave me a nod of greeting and I returned it, giving a tilt of my chin toward the elevator bank. He'd already started on his way there, though. He would need to key in a code on a number pad for me to send the car to the top floor, where Ceri and our contingent kept rooms. I thanked him with another gracious nod.
I exited the elevator to enter a silent hall. Two of Herne's men, guards, sat outside the door to Ceri's suite, chatting in low, subdued tones. They stood from their chairs when I approached—acknowledgment of my station—and we traded nods as well before I entered. This is standard: Herne did not have call to fear for his daughter's life, but it is done, as it is for the mortal children of famous leaders and dignitaries. Ultimately, it is my job to protect Ceri, but Herne is a thinker and a hunter: he doesn't put all his trust on a single factor, even if it is a Child of War. I might have an impressive catalogue of skills at my disposal, but I am still one warrior. I suppose it might be taken as an insult upon my honor, by some people—Talaith, for instance, who kept no contingent of escorts at all, took offense on my behalf—but I am a thinker and a hunter too. I agree with my King.
"And just where have you been all night, Reagan?" greeted a careless and breezy voice as I entered the suite. Glancing up, I saw Erin lounging on the couch in the sitting area with a magazine spread out in front of her. Her eyes—hazel, like Ceri's—sparkled with mirth as she looked me over.
"You wouldn't have been out late making time with a certain winter faerie, would you?" she teased, leaning on the arm of the couch to give me a long once over. "Tsk, tsk, tsk, Reg... and you come back home to us in the same clothes you wore last night."
I held up one of the cups from the bakery. "Shut up, Erin, or you don't get your candy-cane mocha."
"Ooh! Gimme gimme!"
She bounced up from the sofa and grabbed the drinks out of my hands to help me put them out on the counter of the kitchen. Erin looked remarkably like Ceri, except she kept her blonde hair cropped short, and she'd dyed one streak each of blue, green and violet by her right ear. In a pinch she could throw up a glamour and conceal all the differences, though it rarely became necessary except when Ceri found herself called to be two places at once. It occasionally happened when one dealt with the fae. Erin had been Ceri's handmaiden since they were children.
She'd also always been an unshakeable tease.
I put down everything left in my hands besides the drink I judiciously kept away from her. I held it up again for her to see, keeping it out of her reach.
"You promise to behave?"
She rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Reg... do you think I have nothing better to do than embarrass you in front of Ceri?"
I gave her an oblique look.
"Fine," she said. "I promise not to say anything untoward in front of Lady Ceridwen."
She stretched the word out, making it a playfully stuffy imitation of my accent. Her word would be good, though. I handed over the bribe.
"But," she said, taking it from me. "You can still give me all the juicy details before she gets up..."
"Maybe later," I told her. Of course I wouldn't. I don't kiss and tell.
She gave me a cool, conspiring smile, and smugly sipped her mocha. I shook my head, crossing to the door to the master bedroom where Ceridwen slept.
"My Lady," I called softly, knocking once. "There is breakfast. From the little shop you like."
I could hear her stirring within, and soon her soft voice came back, "Thank you, Reagan. I will be out shortly."
"Take your time, My Lady," Erin called. "I'll keep it hot for you."
I turned back to the handmaiden with a nod of thanks. She can point a finger at a teakettle and make it boil in half a moment. I am no hand with magic at all. She winked at me, sipping her mocha, and mouthed Details. Later.
I shook my head and left her to her laughter, eager for a shower before the day truly began.
When I returned, Ceridwen sat at the dining table, her coffee in one hand as she perused the paper I'd left for her. She brightened when she saw me, putting it down and holding up the sweet apple turnover I'd brought her for breakfast, now half-eaten.
"My favorite, Reagan," she said. "Thank you so much."
I gave her a low bow. "Certainly, My Lady."
I caught Erin rolling her eyes at me. Ceri smiled, and patted the chair beside her.
"Come and sit, my Knight."
I did so, taking my tea and the plain croissant I had ordered for myself. Erin kept both warm for me. As I tore off a corner of the croissant, I reached for my planner with the other hand, plucking it up from where it had been charging on the table overnight. I'd conveniently forgotten it when I'd gone out to meet Talaith. If there was one thing that would without a doubt incur a fairy princess's wrath, it is checking your phone for new messages when you are meant to be adoring and making love with her. I learned it the hard way: Tala has three slagged hunks of plastic, which used to be my various phones, sitting on one of the shelves in her living room. The third one hadn't even made an appearance the night she slagged it. She'd simply found it while running her hands down the back of my jeans, and summarily executed it on principle. I leave my phones at home now.
I sipped my tea—a standard breakfast tea, nothing special—as I unlocked the phone and began checking the day's updates.
"The plane carrying the Spring envoy has already arrived at the airport, my Lady," I informed Ceri, scanning the airline's status page. "I would expect our meeting will proceed on time as planned."
"Excellent," she murmured. "I'll have Alan call the restaurant and place an order to be ready." She placed a finger thoughtfully to her lips. "What sort of appetizer do you think Nineva and Nerissa would enjoy?"
"Tiger lilies," Erin said abruptly, and I sniffed, catching myself before I could spit out my tea. I gave her a highly irritated glower and she innocently glanced away.
"Oh, I forgot," she said. "The twins don't like tiger lilies... they like the whole tiger."
I glowered. She blithely nibbled on a pastry.
"Pears," I said pointedly. "Nineva and Nerissa like pears. And the Terrace has a nice pear and camembert plate."
"Thank you, Reagan," Ceri replied, and wisely decided to ignore the little spat between her attendants. "Erin, would you be so kind as to ask Alan to call ahead and place the order under my name?"
"Of course, Majesty," Erin replied, and hopped up from her seat, making the little brown capelet she wore flutter out behind her like a falling autumn leaf as she left to inform the Lady's steward. Alan, the old, gnarled goblin, had once been an attendant to the High King Herne himself. A shrewd, perceptive, and very clever man, but incredibly easy to overlook. He's good at keeping quiet and inconspicuous, and as a result has proven excellent as a seemingly ingenuous servant. He listened well, and intuited much. In his elder years—he'd lived more than five centuries by now—the High King appointed him to serve the princess, and so he had been Ceridwen's personal attendant practically since her birth.
Technically, it would be Alan's job to arrange for Ceri's breakfast, not mine. I am a Knight, not her personal assistant. Alan, wise old codger, probably expected I would have brought something anyway, and so hadn't bothered to arrange anything else. He realized I liked to do it.
The fae of the Tylwyth Teg are the goblin fae. In Wales, King Herne is actually called Gwynn Ap Nudd, the goblin king. Surprisingly, for all that frivolous film Labyrinth bollixed in their caricature of our kingdom, they didn't do half-badly when they took a stab at him. Like all the High Sidhe, the goblin high folk are beautiful, graceful figures, usually tall, slender, and sharp-featured. We have an edge of predatory mystery to us, which is not so noticeable in, for instance, our Western kin, the elves, who exude a far more innocent and gentle air. What we are not is a pack of warty, buffoonish puppets. Goblins, contrary to popular belief, are dangerously lovely, and widely underestimated.
"Are you and my handmaiden at odds again today, Reagan?" Ceri asked me softly after Erin had taken her leave. She didn't look up from the paper as she asked it, merely sipped her coffee with an air of wry amusement.
"No more than usual, my Lady," I answered honestly and without bitterness. Erin and I are a study in contrasts, but we are both passionately devoted to our duties, and harbor no true disdain for each other. I continued to nurse my tea as I checked my messages.
I'd received one from Finn. Excellent. I scanned it to see he wished to invite me for a walk during the Ladies' lunch. Of course it would be more than amenable to me. I responded in the affirmative and cleared my last few emails. Then I put my phone down and saw the Puca had joined us.
Puca sat on the table staring at me with his shimmering yellow eyes, his head tilted so far to one side as to be wholly perpendicular to the rest of him. He appeared to be something like a slinking black cat, but with two jaunty bat wings jutting from his little shoulders and the tips of two white fangs showing the tiniest bit from his otherwise expressionless mouth. His tail, nothing but a little nub, tapped the tabletop pensively.
A lot of people—even Ceri's retinue—were startled by the little shapeshifter's habit of popping up unexpectedly. He'd yet to catch me by surprise, though. Of course, it just meant he would keep trying harder.
I frowned at him. "Yes, Sir Goblin? Can I help you?"
He said nothing—not to me, at least—and twitched an ear. Turning the page in her paper, Ceri translated.
"He says it is rude to use your phone at the table."
"Ah," I said. "Well, it is also unsanitary for a feline to sit on the table where others are eating, now, isn't it?"
"Reagan," Ceri scolded. "You know the Puca is not a common feline."
Clearly not. The little messenger slitted his shining eyes at me in smug victory, then padded the length of the table to Ceri's chair, and she reached out to stroke his kittenish ears.
Puca wasn't a feline. He's, as I mentioned, a shapeshifter, and he can talk... he simply never does, except to Ceri. I'd seen him take the shape of a horse in the past, though she proved the only one he would allow to ride in peace: all others were fair game for impish torment, run round for hours at breakneck speed before he threw them in a ditch. He'd be a dog sometimes, overly large and very protective. In fact, when we'd been little he'd been the better protector, myself not being precisely trained for it yet. I'd been jealous of the stupid creature for a long time. He made a good guardian, though, and eventually he taught me to be one as well. He'd been a rabbit, a bat, and even sometimes assumed the shape of a man. He liked the cat though, because he could wind about and purr and twitch his little whiskers until she wrapped him in her arms, stroking him in glee.
I meanwhile, suffered in silent envy.
I gave the little imp a careless lift of my eyebrows and calmly finished my tea. The trick is not to let him see any reaction. Besides, I had enjoyed an exceptionally pleasant rendezvous myself last night. I grinned, particularly well satisfied, and perhaps I still channeled a little of Tala's cool disregard.
"He says you're glowing," Ceri reported, petting Puca indulgently.
"Why, thank you, Puca," I said back, smiling. "It must be the lovely springtime air. I'll be seeing Finn today."
I switched my attention back to Ceri and said, "I hope it is acceptable to you, Lady, if Finn and I take our leave while you and the twins catch up?"
"Quite acceptable, my Knight," she agreed with a smile. "I am happy to allow you time with your brother."
"Thank you," I replied. Puca twisted his head to the other side, tilting it so far it angled almost upside-down. But this time he was simply being silly.
We were not scheduled to meet the princesses of the Court of Spring until eleven, and there were no other imminent matters of Court to attend for the day. So after we finished our breakfast Ceri, Erin, and I moved to the sitting area—Puca curling up on the sofa behind Ceri's shoulder—and the princess continued the work she had begun on one of her poems.
When I say Ceri writes poems, I don't mean she jots down a few artistic verses here and there, as though it were a passing hobby. Ceri composes epic poems, lyrical ballads the likes of Chaucer, Spenser, and the Bard. It is what she does; it is her role, as mine is Knight. She is the Poet.
The verse she worked on this morning, she'd been crafting for months: a song of the beauty of Gloriana, the Faerie Queen of Spring.
Ever since Edmund Spenser had failed to complete his famous ballad of the Faerie Queen, Gloriana—the faerie he'd been writing of—had not found an artist worthy of penning another word. A folly of her vanity. The matriarch of the Western Court is renowned for her vainglorious pride. She'd gone to great lengths to have Spenser author her homage, and found herself summarily disappointed when barely six of the twelve books were completed. To further insult, the books were taken by the public as a tribute to the mortal queen Elizabeth, not the Springtime Sidhe Goddess. So Gloriana, dejected, had spitefully disdained to inspire any other poet, especially a mortal. Which, incidentally, might have been why, to the mortal world at least, Gloriana has never been as famous a fae as her counterparts, Oberon and Titania.
Quite honestly, she'd chosen to make a frivolous little tiff of the whole matter. Of course, fairy monarchs have been notorious for worse when their pride is insulted.
Almost five centuries later, Gloriana had evidently gotten over the worst of her ire. At least, she had finally given permission to her daughters to seek out a poet to complete the ballad. Nineva and Nerissa selected the best fae artist they knew: Ceridwen.
Ceri's installment to the epic would be a birthday gift to the Queen, presented on the night of the vernal equinox. Normally it is the role of mortals to pay homage to the fae, and the role of the fae to inspire them... but so fiery is Gloriana's mistrust, she balked at any suggestion of a mortal poet venturing the task. There were none now as skilled as the likes of the old masters, she insisted; if her daughters were set on completing the verse, it must be done by no other than one of the fair folk, one whose interpretations would not be subject to the flimsy understandings of men.
Gloriana could be... exacting.
Ceridwen had agreed to write another installment for the Queen of Spring and the Aos Sí, the elvyn folk. My Princess would surely put all her heart into the work, and turn a simple human's lyrical poem into a piece of aesthetic wonder. Queen Gloriana, no matter how vain or proud, would find no fault with this tribute.
While she crafted words into verse, Erin and I listened intently, silent in a sort of pleasant reverence. It is a special privilege to be audience to the virgin work of an artist like Ceridwen of the Tylwyth Teg. She reads to us, pauses to consider, rolls through a thousand words to select the one which either overjoys or offends her, ponders, hms, rewrites, retools. It is, in a way, like watching a Sidhe silversmith craft delicate links of jewelry: each element is to be added just so, for balance, beauty, elegance of form. Ceri implores us to offer opinion, but we must always decline. Our hands do not belong on her work. We simply listen with quiet excitement.
Trivial as it might seem, a poetic tribute is actually quite a meaningful gesture to a High Sidhe Lord or Lady. Consider the mortal equivalent: Shakespeare himself composes a play expressly for the pleasure of the First Family. As I listened to Ceridwen compose, my fingers played over the smooth edges of my moonstones and topaz.
At seven, I might have understood something compelled me closer to this stunning girl... something drawing me to her like moths are drawn to lamps. I realized then how much I wanted to be hers; I could not have predicted how completely those feelings would consume me over time, how violently they would begin to blaze as we grew closer and closer to each other's worlds. As I trained to become her Knight, she came to become my friend.
The other thing I never appreciated, however, is how the moth feels as it draws nearer and nearer to the warmth of its lamp. It does so, and finds the lamp is kept from it, safely behind a bell of glass.
Glass. So simple. I, Reagan of The Morrigan, Knight of the Tylwyth Teg, can shatter glass windows and smash glass baubles hardly having to think of it. In this parable I am not the Knight, however, not the preternatural child of the Goddess of War.
I am a moth. Tiny. Powerless. Fragile.
Moths do not shatter glass.
At the end of my seventh year in my father's House, the year I became confirmed in my Knighthood and given to Ceri, the Sidhe lords finally explained to me what a Knight—a half-breed—is to a princess of their Courts. Her vassal. Her soldier. Her servant.
Not her equal.
Not her love.
I am a moth, outside the bell jar surrounding my Lady's light. There are others who can lift the glass, touch her light, warm themselves in its glow... but when they do, they shoo aside the tiny moth hovering by. Such light is not for me. What is the moth to the lamp?
What is a lovelorn Knight to the Lady out of her reach?
Perhaps I am not so useless with words after all. Even if I could recapture all the verse from my heart, who would I be free to share it with?
Who would ever care for the unheard love song of a moth?

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