Hey everyone! Sorry for the late post. We have guests at the house. I've been cleaning and cooking all day, and then I kind of got distracted playing with the blog. ;) But I'm posting now. Yay!
This will be the last My Telija installation and I hope you all like it. It's short, sweet, and exactly how I wanted it to be. I'll confess that this story was an experiment of sorts for me, and while it was confusing, a complete fantasy work, and at times stressful to write, I still loved doing it. With a bit, okay a lot of work, it could very well flesh out into something spectacular. But for now, it's going on the back burner. I have TONS to do as it is. lol But you already know that.
Anyway, I hope you like it. This is the My Telija Finale...
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
The windows of the empty room stood wide open. Their thin coverings blew towards me. They were nothing more than ghostly billows of shimmering gauze, adding to the haunting silence of the small room. Footprints covered the ground, lined in a fine dust. My heart raced like the free run of a wild pony in an open field. I could scent my beloved as if he were standing right in front of me, but he was nowhere to be found. However, I could still feel him, not tangibly, but a wash of warmth flooded my body, similar to the fizzy feeling of a first kiss, nerves on end and stomach fluttering with emotion. I wanted to collapse with nausea and joy. He was still alive, wherever he might be.
But I still yearned for him. I didn’t like the concentrated basking of love he sent me. It was worthy of a last goodbye or a hopeless attempt to survive, knowing the end was near and he had no other option. Trembling, I ran my fingertips over my lips. They tingled, swollen with the feeling of Jordan’s lips against mine. And again, I had to remind myself it wasn’t real. He wasn’t here! Squeezing my eyes shut, I tried to find him in my mind, seeking his soul for a location… for something.
I grabbed my head, falling to my knees. A rasping noise filled my ears. The flap of wings, of complete madness, and screams of terror whirled around me. Black fire burst across the image I tried to hold onto. And then everything went completely dark. I threw my head back, and screamed in rage.
“Vendish!” Cellan’s own anger filled the room. His hands locked under my arms, hauling me to my feet.
My eyes snapped open, still nauseous, but now determinedly fierce. “Hunters,” I hissed.
The Night Fae growled, licking his sharp teeth. Stars bloomed over his chest, dazzlingly bright against his midnight skin. His light eyes glowed, and the tips of his white blond hair began to move slowly with his power. “Death will be a sweet mercy.”
He grasped my forearm. “Jambi is with them. He has to be. They’re all gone, Ven. Wherever your Ghea is, they are.”
“For now!” I pushed his hand away, snarling towards the door. “The Elders will take up arms. Peace is reserved for tomorrow, when the bodies of Hunters become the Mother’s soil. They will end this and that is final!”
Eyes straining, the hallway howling with my ferocious anger, I put my hand in front of me and stomped to the main room. My fist was filled with my own staff. It gave me strength, siphoning my energy to store for later, and blared with light at the stoned tip. Priests and priestesses backed out of my way. What few guards we’d been allowed, began to take step behind me. The main room echoed with an unforgiving torrent of wind. The rush of air reflected my mood, my need, and my course of action. Every set of eyes in the room took heed, and gave me the space I deserved.
Thrusting my staff in Elder Frawn’s direction, I roared. “The time for war has come. You will take our side and abandon your peace, or make yourself enemy in my eye. Your kind began this. Your kind will help to end it! Hunters have my mate. I will not stand quietly. I will rip this temple to bits and show you how I feel!”
Rain reluctantly stepped from Elder Frawn’s side. “And Luciana? What of my wee one?” Her long dark hair rippled like a stone cast into a pond. The silver streak loosely slithered away from her blue eyes. “What of my grandchild!”
“Missing, all of them are gone, Rain.” Cellan joined my side. She keened, unaccepting of his answer, but was silenced as the Elders looked her way.
Frawn fluidly rose from his throne. “Would you dare to claim me an enemy, Guardwin, such as your prince?” He lifted his silver robe a few inches, revealing his bare feet as he descended the stairs with the grace of a cat. “If I chose not to join you and yours, would you pit yourself against us, knowing your destruction would be imminent?”
The king didn’t hesitate to join Frawn in the center of the room. His eyes swam like ocean tides, the color an infuriated blue. His fists clenched. “I would call you my enemy in a heartbeat. That is your family in danger. Those are the Mother’s children, same as yours. If you would deny them your help, you would be dead to me and to everyone under my hand. I would never give you the selfish satisfaction you seek from my fear. I would never utter a breath as you took my life, because I would die knowing I made a stand for my children and theirs.”
Frawn returned Guardwin’s stoic words with a deadpan stare. He made a small noise, turning to the other Elders. He raised his hand. “As you have heard with your very own ears, the king would die for his people. As he is who he claims to be, and as he wishes to provide peace to these lands once more, we will join him in battle. Tonight, we eradicate our Mother’s heart of our mistake. Tomorrow, we will finally get the peace we have longed for.”
The Elders rose from their chairs, wearing the same even stare as their leader. As one, they stepped forward and bowed. None of them said a word as they began to file down from the steps. A circle was formed around us, a wall of beings that held enough power to destroy the universe. Guardwin looked to me. Droplets of water leaked from his pores. “It is time,” he said, putting his emotions behind every word.
Every Fae in the room acknowledged his declaration in some manner or another. Floxa hovered midair. Her wings flapping so quickly, they were almost invisible. Brutus twitched, his head jerking back and forth with his transformation. Fur spread over his limbs and fangs descended from his mouth. Eyes burning like amber, he growled to his son, who followed in his footsteps. Quimm’s claws jutted forward with a slicing noise. His half-human form turned to me, muzzle pointing up as he scented the air. Hazia’s eyes burned with tiny flames. His skin sweated with the heat of his anger. And Rain was about to open her mouth when…
Trails of sparkling pink began to rain from the ceiling, swirling down until a small form popped into sight. Daega’s body seemed to fall in slow motion. Her back in a limp arch as it fell into the palm of my hand.
Floxa buzzed onto my wrist, just as mortified as I at Daega’s condition. Black spots covered her burnt wings. Her face was bloody and one of her legs was twisted in an unnatural pose. “Daega!” Floxa crawled to her, carefully holding her head up. “Daega,” she whispered. Everyone crowded around.
The black spots grew in size, spreading the Hunter’s mist along her body. She shuddered helplessly. “Where have you been, little one?” A tear slid down my face.
“Look for Jordy…” Her body jerked with a sickly cough.
“I told you to stay,” Floxa wailed. “You were supposed to stay.”
“Yukah… attacked…” Daega reached her hand to me, trying to tell me what she knew. I held up a finger for her to hold onto. “Jordy is…”
“Jordan is what?” I leaned in until I could smell the rank infection of Hunter magic.
“Is the Keeper.” She forced a smile. Her eyes started to dull of their dazzling fuchsia. “The Mother is with him.” She took in a choked breath. “He saves us.”
“Daega?” I stroked her tiny arm. This time there was no response. “No.”
The mist covered her face, cutting off air to her lungs. She flailed. “Get away, Floxa!” I shook her off, hoping she hadn’t touched the mist. Cellan had to hold onto the Pixie Queen. Her sharp teeth clacked over and over, haunting screams like that of a dying animal ripped from her lips.
Rain put a hand to her mouth, sick with grief over the tiny Pixie. Her tears activated her ability, flooding the ground around her with water. She knelt on the ground as I laid Daega’s now limp body on the stone, careful to let go before the mist touched me. “Go with the Mother, little one,” Rain rasped, putting a hand to the ground.
“I’m so sorry, Daega.” I knelt next to Rain. “You honor us with this last gift. The Mother be with you,” I whispered. In her last moments of life, Daega had given us the information we needed. We knew where to begin the end.
Daega’s body turned to ash, leaving a perfect cast of her body. The water consumed the ash. The Pixie I had grown up with, loved as family, and had smiled over many times... vanished. She was… dead, gone, and never to be seen my own eyes again. It was inconceivable. It was unnatural. My heart hurt all over again. As I put my hand to the water, hoping it was all a dream, the large puddle sparkled. I sat back with a gasp. A shimmer of pink swirled around the liquid surface. A vine crawled from between the stones on the floor. Then another slithered to life, twisting above the water and over the floor. Tiny buds of a brilliant pink sprouted along the green tendrils. Vines curled around the ground, never touching us as they sprawled throughout the room. There had to be hundreds of them now.
“What is this?” Even Elder Frawn was lost. He turned in a wide circle, showing more emotion than I thought possible. All at once the vines ceased to move. The buds doubled in size. Massive blooms unfolded like fans, and thousands of small, pink Pixies stretched to life with a chorus of sighs.
“By the Mother,”Floxa breathed, holding out her hands. The baby Pixies flocked to her, stumbling a bit with their new wings. They swirled around her. Bubbling gurgles of joy filled the room. Floxa wept openly. She fell to the ground, bathing in little Pixies that huddled around her in comfort.
A soothing breeze commanded our attention, but we couldn’t find a source. A chilling voice whispered around us, subtle at first. “In death, I am with you. And where there is death, there is rebirth. I am the light. Therefore I fill you with strength to vanquish the dark. Remember me, and you will do great things.”
“Mother?” Frawn called to the ceiling. His voice croaked with need. “Mother!” She had stopped talking to them after the beginning. They had all been waiting for her, keeping her temple, and trying abide by their own peaceful ideals. But if this wasn’t assurance of what they were to do now, I don’t think they’d ever understand.
“I am always with you,” a whisper chilled us to the bone.
“Mother,” Frawn breathed, clutching the spot over his heart. “I understand,” he whispered, reaching out to the other Elders. They took hands, offering each other comfort same as any family, but I felt like an outcast. Everywhere around me, there was love, or the idea of it. I’d had that. I’d somehow lost it. I couldn’t cope. I could barely breathe.
Left with an emptiness I didn’t know I had until Jordan, I turned from the others and let my staff guide me. If they wanted to take my heart from me, they’d have to take my life first. And that was going to be a task now that I knew who was on my side—the creator, our very own Mother.
Her hold on my mind was strong enough to break iron with a single thought. But my will to break free and do of my own bidding was stronger, or so I imagined. As I laid hands on my own race, I tried to speak to them. I tried to ask forgiveness and seek mercy for things of which I had done with my body, but not with my heart. They couldn’t hear me. I couldn’t tell them! She fed me orders over and over as she hid behind the enemy, letting me bring death upon my own people by means of suffocation or piercing them through the heart. She radiated with stolen blood, power hungry for nothing more than to be noticed. She’d wanted to wear a crown. She’d wanted to have an opinion.
Our men had refused her. Our people had worshipped her, revered her as something to be cherished. She had laid hands on our wee ones, and spoke the Mother’s love to everyone she knew. All lies, I cried. The water wrapped around the Yukah’s face, suffocating him by my hands. I watched his arms claw for help. I watched his eyes bulge when he realized this was the end. I died inside. He was my friend, but I couldn’t stop. I just couldn’t stop. I was going to kill Sena. I would kill myself in the end. Forever in my mind would be those eyes, staring at me with such confusion, such innocent confusion.
But then I saw her. The corpse warriors drew closer, surrounding me in hopes of taking my life. The glowing beauty put herself between me and Sena. My mouth went wide. My eyes tried to focus, but it was as if I had been blinded. A fracture of humanity within Yarnah’s hold, urged me to touch her, this fair haired Fae. I knew this woman. I loved this woman. I had begged the universe to hold her, one more time for so many years. My Jillian…
My hands dropped Sena to the ground. I selfishly disregarded him in favor of the Fae glowing like a beacon in the dark. She hummed with power. A breathless look overtook her delicate face. The corpse warriors took another step, weapons raised to put me to death. The glow of her skin magnified, lighting Lygos’s face from behind her. The corpses weren’t coming for me. They were coming for the leader of the Hunters. He raised his hand, a mass of swirling black within his palm. Shattering the hold Yarnah kept over me, I reached for my beloved, and felt her skin in mine. The connection between us was rekindled instantly. I keened with anger, with love, and with everything I’d kept within myself.
In my last moment alive, I sacrificed myself as a mate, as a father, and most of all, as a warrior. With my last breath, and the very last of my strength, I protected my race with all that I had to give. They were my everything. And if this was the only way I could prove it, I would gladly offer myself time and time again.
Lygos’s eyes narrowed in a split second. His fingers splayed in slow motion. Without Yarnah’s power feeding me, I was done for. Listening to my mate’s scream, I accepted the leader of the Hunters’ power into myself. The black mist swallowed me, but not before I felt the ground shake, and a light blind out the rest of the world. Then there was nothing but pain.
This was a dream, my brain tried to warn me. However, my heart knew better. Sitting atop the dragon’s back, feeling the cold air rush through my hair, I gripped his scaly neck, knowing this was exactly where I belonged. The power flooding me was almost stifling. It was as if I was drowning, but enjoying it. The dark part of my ability fought against who I really was, slowly edging towards my humanity. I wouldn’t let the darkness take me. Determined to keep my promise to the Mother, and to myself, I gently kicked the dragon’s side, urging him down towards the trees again. The other winged-creatures followed, snorting black flames, and spanning their wings as we funneled down from the sky. My stomach dropped. I felt dizzy and weightless. We were going back into the battle. We were going to kill. We were going to take back what was ours.
Yes, my companions echoed. I had a moment to whip my head to the side, my waves dancing across my face. The closest dragon’s eyes drifted to mine. They blinked, flashing yellow, and I nodded. The beast beneath me took us through the trees, maneuvering his massive form through branches and narrow twists like a fish in water.
Hold on, Keeper. My fingers locked around his neck. He spun his body through two tight trees and came out in the middle of a warzone. There was Jambi, falling to his knees under the strain of his power. There was Kimella, soaking wet and screaming, but still casting water at the Hunters with the last of her strength. There was Lu, my best friend in the entire world, riding a wave of water high into the air. Her eyes were almost white as she commanded the wave down upon the enemy. Skeletons and half missing bodies stood fast against their opponents. They were already dead. They couldn’t be killed, but once Jambi went down, they would too. The Yukah took Hunter after Hunter under the foggy water, but they still, the enemy came from somewhere unseen.
“There!” I pointed to the jagged entrance in the barrier. Hunters still walked out of the hole in the invisible protection, a never ending stream of them. The staff grew in my hand again. The blue gem at the top whirled with color, and I pointed it at the new enemy recruits. “Kill them.”
The dragons circled back, this time charging at the entrance. Fire made of my own power rushed from their lungs, licking at the skin of our enemy. Cries of terror and pain satisfied a part of me. I was high on the looks in their eyes before they burnt to a crisp. I was mesmerized by the ash they left behind. I was filled with what was once their energy, recycling their strength into myself. My eyes cut to the Hunters’ secret entrance again. What I saw made me howl with rage.
There stood Yarnah, my own family, in a long green cloak. Her eyes burned. Her hatred was obvious. “Jordan!” She pointed to me, fearless of the beasts around her. “Listen to me, to the sound of my voice.”
Fuck that. I knew what she was trying to do now. “You’re the traitor!” The dragon rose a few feet off the ground, scattering ashes with a deep exhale of smoke. “You’re a murderer!”
“No, Jordan. I’m just like you.” Something about her voice caressed my mind as if she was searching out my innermost weakness. I couldn’t let her have me like she’d taken Orla and…
“No! You made him do it, didn’t you?” A cold chill coursed through me. “You bitch,” I roared. “You took my father from me.”
Green fabric billowed around her, playing backdrop to the rush of caramel tendrils rushing around her face. Her eyes turned down with a nasty scowl as she lifted her hands. “He was supposed to love me! You are supposed to love me. I am the beautiful one.” Her mouth opened. A shrill scream lit up the air, vibrating through my head. Her power was so great, hidden from all the others this entire time. She was the Skeenji traitor. She had done this to our people.
The blood of Pixies stained her hands and as I rose higher into the air, on the back of my dragon, I saw the same silvery liquid painted on her arms and neck. “I will rule you all, starting with you!” She pointed a finger at me. An invisible wave of air slammed into us, driving the dragons closer to the ground. “Come to me, Jordan!”
Let go of your fears, Master. Let us in. Let us give you strength. We will protect you from the dark. The scaled creatures shielded me with their wings, taking the brunt of her continuous assaults. I remembered what Elder Frawn had said. She was using the dark against me. I was made of the dark, even though my heart controlled it. I could use her abilities against her. Trusting in the dragons took courage. I was scared I would destroy everything around me. But the fact I was worried about them, made me sure I wouldn’t bring harm to them. I had a heart. I had faith. We would destroy Yarnah, my own kin. This ended here.
“Do it!” Their wings fanned back down with my acceptance, leaving me open to the burning wind and all the debris filtering through it. My shadows reached down, clinging to the back of the beast, becoming one as I was smothered whole by the darkness. My skin turned black. My staff burned bright. I was terrified, but the rush in my blood was so great, I gave over to it. A laugh rippled from my throat, and I narrowed my eyes.
“You’ll rule nothing!” My staff pointed at her. Shadows made of black fire clashed with her wall of air. They swirled, her power pushing back at her a few feet until she screamed and pushed back at mine. The dragons started to surround the entrance. It was now a battle of good and evil. She roared, jolting into me with her stolen abilities. The dragons flew higher, giving her back a dose of heat.
We must enter, Master. We must destroy all who remain on the other side. We can leave nothing behind of their magic.
“Yes!” My dragon took to the ground, clawing it’s talons into the earth, and roared another round of flames.
Yarnah slowly went to her knees, palms outstretched. Water flooded the dry patch of bog, splaying her cloak around her. Her eyes went mad with power. Her screams of hate continued. “They denied me! I will have you as mine! They will be—”
Her voice was overpowered by a loud chorus of noise behind us. I couldn’t look. I only had eyes for her. I had to take her out to get to the other side of the barrier. Their lands would burn. Their Hunters would all die, and therefore their evil would forever be ended. The dragons closed in around her, taking out Hunters while they fought to gain access to the entrance. It was in her eyes that she would die. But she wouldn’t die without a final fight. She was outnumbered, underpowered. Not even Pixie blood would save her.
“No,” she cried. “No!” The shadows created a dome around her, crackling with blue sparks. “I am the most powerful. I am the most beautiful,” she chanted. “Mother save me!”
“You lost your faith,” I boomed. “She denies you now, traitor. The Mother remains with me.”
“Mother,” she screamed. The shadows grew smaller and smaller, suffocating her until all that remained was a coating on her skin. Her arms reached up, begging for life. Slowly, she slipped under the water, meeting her end.
“Take the body to the other side,” I commanded. “I’ll leave nothing to chance.”
Now you learn, Master. I could feel his smile in my mind.
The closest dragon obeyed, dipping his head into the water until he took Yarnah between his fangs. He shook her limp body for good measure and eyed me. “Now.” I pointed my staff at the shimmering rip in the barrier. My companions burned their way through the crowd of Hunters until the ash of their fallen bodies floated then sank into the water.
I turned my head one last time as the dragon beneath me headed for the other side. Vendish. My mate screamed for me, heading towards me in a rush of wind. “Jordan, no!”
“I love you,” I whispered. “I have to end them all.”
“Telija!” His fingers reached. His eyes were pained. He touched the end of the dragon’s tail, right before we slipped through the barrier. The rip sealed shut behind us.
He was gone. My Telija was gone. I couldn’t feel him anymore. I couldn’t…
“My Prince!” Cellan whirled around me, calling stars from the sky like bombs. They fell into the water, burning bright under the surface until they exploded, taking the Hunter’s with them. His blade swirled around us, puncturing skin, taking hearts, and earning screams of the enemy.
My rage at the scene around us was unfathomable. I’d never been so angry in my entire life. So many things were happening. So many people were dying. So much blood in the water… But none it compared to the loss of my beloved. I had nothing left to lose. I was stricken, yet numb. I was ripped in two, yet still alive. This curse of hatred fueled me to act without another thought.
I saw his bald head from yards away. Lygos, leader of the Hunters, cast a mist at a young Fae warrior. The Earth Fae held fast between two trees, wrapping himself in their bark, before twisting high above the forest canopy in tree form. When he reappeared, it was from an explosion of rock beneath the surface of the water. He aimed his sword at Lygos, and despite his quick thinking, he had not earned the right to take this death from me. I cried, I sweat, and I bled for this moment. This kill was mine.
The look shared between me and the young warrior left nothing left to question. He disappeared in a flash, leaving Lygos to whirl around. A snarl curled over his chapped lips. His swine nose flared in disgust. “Well if it isn’t the pretty, pretty princess.” Lygos spit to the side, running his tongue over his rotting teeth.
“You weren’t ever very smart, were you, Lygos?” I twirled my staff. The wind swept through my body, filling me to the brim with energy. “If you were, you’d have known to stay the hell away from my mate, and my family.”
“Aw, come now, Vendish.” Lygos spun, throwing a ball of mist at me. He growled when it hit the end of my staff, untouchable by the Hunter’s magic, and evaporated into thin air. “I never touched your precious half-breed. But I did have fun touching your little friend Jameen. You should have seen the look on his face when Yarnah finally broke him. He was devastated.” Lygos smiled and all the anger inside of me came flooding through the tip of my staff.
The wind wrapped around him, taking water with it. A small funnel whirled him higher into the air, turning black as he fought to take me down. I didn’t remember breathing. I didn’t remember thinking. I didn’t know anything except his extermination from this world. He didn’t deserve to live. My scream came out a clap of thunder, echoing through the woods above the ruckus of the battle around me. Lygos tried his best, for I felt the burn of his magic trying to touch me. But again, the loss of my mate, coupled with the loss of Jameen was too much to bear. The air swirling in front of me moved faster than any human eye could comprehend. It whipped him into the trees, ripped his skin away from his body, and burned him as I willed a brutal heat to accompany it. But it didn’t seem enough pain for someone I hated above all others.
His face bubbled, flying past me over and over. He was wasting away, suffocating, and hopefully dying a most painful death. Hands gripped my shoulders, sliding down until they covered both of my hands over my staff. Red skin indicated their owner, and a tear slid from my eye. Fire sparked to life, whirling around the length of my weapon to combine with my power.
“For what he has done to you and all others, he shall feel my wrath as well. To take the love of a mate is the highest crime in Fae,” Hazia said in my ear. “As my friend, and as my brother, I give you his screams like a taste on your tongue. I will always be there for you.” His hands tightened.
I didn’t have time to think of where he’d come from. I was only happy to have another touching me, before I fell apart. The fire joined my wind, supernaturally resisting being put out by my power. Like oil to water, the flames and wind stayed separate, but had the desired effect. Lygos screamed, on fire and fanned by the flames, he was engulfed entirely. No amount of water could save him. Hazia’s fire only listened to him.
As Lygos became nothing but dust, and my heart began to break as Jordan’s mind was untouchable, Hazia and I fought our way to the edge of the Yukah woods. The Elders started to form a circle around the dark clump of forest, slowly edging inside. The Fae received word by tiny pink Pixie to retreat. One by one, the Fae warriors and all who had answered the call were transported to safety. Brutus and his kind brought the wounded in with their claws or teeth. Blajah lit the way to safety for the weak who couldn’t transport themselves. Cellan lit the woods up with a ring of stars, forming a barrier of which the Hunters could not breach. Jambi, gaunt, and skeletal himself collapsed on his knees in front of me. His eyes rolled and he fell to his side. The sound of thousands of corpse warriors falling back into their graves was deafening. Bones clacked together. Ripping and gnawing noises gave us pause. Dirt kicked up everywhere as they slithered back into their resting place, and then all was quiet except for the simultaneous step of the Elders coming closer and closer to the remaining Hunters.
Luciana rushed to me, hugging me around the waist. She sobbed violently, pulling at my bloodied tunic. “Ven – Where is he?” She gasped, sputtering water. “Where?”
“He’s gone…” I hugged her tighter, numb as my fingers combed through her hair.
She yanked back, disbelieving. “You lie!”
Tears filled my eyes. My lip trembled. “He’s gone!”
“No,” she said, adamantly. “He’s the Keeper. He can’t die.” She shook her head, sopping blue strands slapping her shoulders as she did so.
“Luciana,” Rain called softly, gathering her granddaughter in her arms. “I am so sorry, my wee one. I am so very sorry.” She let Luciana collapse against her. “He was very brave,” she whispered.
“No,” Lucy continued to scream. “No…”
Dim and Lit appeared to either side of Rain. They peeled Lu from her grandmother. “We shall take her from here.”
“But she’s…” Rain sat with her mouth agape.
“She’s ours,” they chorused.
“I don’t under—”
“You don’t have to understand everything,” Dim said.
“We will care for her,” Lit murmured, stroking Lu’s back. Almost immediately, her shaking stopped, and she stilled in their arms.
I turned away, realizing how much it hurt to see such love, and true mates. I would never know that again. I knew how Hazia felt now. I never knew how lonely I’d been before I’d ever met Jordan. But now I knew. Not even knowing what the Elders were about to do eased my heart. Revenge wasn’t the sweetest gift. It was empty, with nothing tangible to receive for your efforts. There was no prize, no warm feeling after the fact. There was only a dull ache that would eventually turn to ice.
“Ven,” Cellan whispered. “It’ll be okay.”
I pushed him away, shaking my head. “No. It won’t be okay,” I screamed, finally losing it. “My Ghea is dead. How is that okay, Cellan? Tell me!”
Cellan smiled slowly and looked up at the sky. “It’s going to be just fine.”
“You’re mad,” I barked, turning to see what had him spelled.
A line of black smoke curled above the horizon, running from side to side. A flash of wing behind an invisible curtain made me gasp. The barrier, he was just beyond the barrier. “Jordan!”
Strong arms gripped me. “Wait, Ven. Let us make certain there are no tricks on the other side.”
“Vendish,” Orla’s cry made me turn. She ran out of the woods at full speed. Quimm was hot on her heels, dragging a male body across the ground. Behind him, another Anifae carried a petite female on his back. Her wings were collapsed over his body, and I recognized her immediately.
“Jillian,” I whispered, going to her. “Is she?”
“She lives, Vendish.” Orla smiled, laughing a bit. “They both do.” Her hands cut off circulation to my fingers.
“What do you mean both?”
“Jameen lives.” She stepped aside. On the ground, Jameen stirred. His fingers reached for Jillian, who returned the gesture with her eyes closed. “My son lives.”
My eyes went wide. I choked on words as I crouched to the ground. “Jameen?”
His eyes fluttered open. Brilliant teal irises mirrored my mate’s as if they were the same. My chest deflated. My hands hit the ground and sobs blubbered from my mouth. “Jameen.”
He sat up, completely confused. “Vendish?” But once Jameen rolled over and saw Jillian, limp and eyes closed, his attention was focused solely on his Ghea.
“It’s a miracle,” Orla whispered behind her hand. She folded her free fingers in mine, turning her teary eyes to the woods. “It’s begun,” she said, calmed within seconds. I could feel her reaching for the king, tethered to his heart.
The rush of water, comparable to a great waterfall, babbled through the trees. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at the woods. Through the thick trunks and tangled branches, I made out the rise of liquid and felt it trickle around our feet.
“The King floods the woods. Brutus, continue to take the wounded to safety. The healers have been given word at the palace. Go now.” Orla’s voice held a serious tone I wasn’t accustomed to. Her deep command was that of a queen.
Brutus eyed me, his ever present one sided competitive streak rolled around his gaze. My nostrils flared. “What you do is important, Brutus. This isn’t the time to question why you go and I stay. This is the time to see to your… to your prince and his beloved, as I wonder if mine is dead.” I pointed to Jameen. “I may have worn a crown in his absence, but he is and always will be, your prince.”
“I’m not anything,” Jameen rasped, trying to pick up his mate. He staggered, thankfully caught by Brutus’s strong chest to keep Jilly from falling.
“Yes,” I said. “You are.”
“Let me, Your Highness.” Brutus’s eyes softened. He cast me a subtle agreement and took Jillian in his massive arms. “I will guide you home.”
“Home?” Jameen wobbled.
“Yes, wee one.” Orla ran her hand along his jaw. “You can go home now.”
Obviously confused and barely standing on his own two feet, Jameen brushed his mother’s arm. “I’d like that.”
“Come along, Your Highness.” The leader of the Anifae grabbed his hand and led him away from the woods slowly.
The bog was overflowing. Water licked at my boots, reaching my ankles within minutes. Shoulder to shoulder between Orla and Rain, I stood strong with the line of leaders. We waited for the final screams. We waited for the chance to see the evil that had crept into our lands, be swallowed by the Elders’ magic. We waited for the chance to exact our revenge, even though, as I’d learned, it was empty without Jordan to share it with.
As smoke continued to rise above the barrier in the sky, I hoped and prayed my Telija’s heart still beat. I prayed he would be the same Jordan I loved, if and when he returned to me. The ground began to shake. The water was now at my knees. Guardwin was flooding the bog. The Hunters couldn’t transport like the Fae. It was their weak point. They would have no choice but to try and swim their way out. But by that time, the Elders would take over the show. We had a wrong to make right. And all in one swoop, we would bury the evil we sought to destroy in the lands where we had hidden our dirty secret, our brothers and sisters who deserved better than to live in the dark.
I looked over my shoulder to see Sena on his knees. His dark eyes wet with tears, he held onto a younger Yukah. Hands rested on his shoulders. His people were banding together, protecting him through it all. He had been there guiding light, their leader for so long, that they knew nothing else. We needed to purge him of that burden. We needed to integrate those poor people into our life. Jameen had been their only connection to the outside, besides the mandatory leader meetings, where Sena usually never said a word. He wanted peace. He wanted what we all did—to be the Fae read about in fairytales. We wanted to be the beings who rejoiced in the elements, in the earth, and to dance around the lands the Mother had bestowed upon us.
As the ground we stood on began to rise, we locked hands. The woods flattened under the Elder’s commands. The trees sacrificed themselves for the greater good. The tiny creatures and insects whispered their goodbyes. I wept openly, as did every other Fae around me. These woods were a living, breathing being that had been so good to the Yukah. But as the trees and the bog had protected them for many years, they gave up their lives to protect them one last time. Beautiful, heart-wrenching, and a memory that would stay with me for years, the Earth Fae knelt on the ground that continued to rise above the woods. They put their hands to the edge of the cliff being created, and mourned the loss below.
Water rose from the seemingly bottomless well below, a hole where the woods had once been. The echoes of our enemies screams bounced around the rocky earth. The water swirled up, carrying the Elders and our king. Guardwin kept the Elders on their feet, supporting the water beneath them. He bowed to Frawn.
Frawn closed his eyes in acknowledgement. “You have done well… my King.”
Guardwin put his hand over his heart and backed away. For an Elder to call the king by his title was more than progress, it was simply not done. Frawn had been so touched by the Mother’s appearance, that there was actual emotion on his face. No longer superior to us in smarts, only powers, the Elders raised their hands with smiles on their faces. Their elements took shape in the space between their palms.
They let the power build. Their eyes closed. The air around us swirled with comfort, caressing us like a mother’s touch. The screams below did nothing to shake us. We tightened our hold on each other’s hands, waiting for the grand finale. The rush cut through all of us as their hands lowered. Their powers connected in the very center, a blinding prism of energy that burst into hundreds of colors, until it formed a sphere, rippling and crackling until it shot down the well. The eradication of the Hunters and all their dark magic brought us to our knees. A sonic boom of color exploded into the sky. The Elders strained under the use of such power. We were just in awe.
The cliff began to descend rapidly, leaving me sick to my stomach and feeling weightless as we fell. The Earthy cliff was no more, the ground level, and the hole was no longer there. There was nothing but a giant plain of… nothing. We all looked around, separating to take in the vast space where the Yukah’s home had always been. The dimming light over the horizon washed the wet soil in pinks and purples. Broken branches littered the ground. A dead bird lay still in a pool of water. This wasn’t Fae. This was death, and a reminder of the evil that had almost destroyed us. This wasn’t right! Where was the happiness we deserved? Where was my beloved and the beauty the Mother had promised? We believed. We fought. We were brave… for her.
In the distance, the smoke wisped into nothing, clearing up the sky for a dozen, tiny black silhouettes. Coming closer, the wings flapped against the setting sun, and I started to run towards them.
“Telija!” I screamed, willing my staff away. “Jordan!”
My legs pumped. My boots kicked through the debris and dirt. The shapes turned into massive dragons. They huffed, breaking their landing by gripping their talons into the ground, and skidding to a stop. A smaller body fell off the largest dragon and rolled into the dirt.
“No,” I gasped. “Telija,” I roared. Winding my way around their bodies, I fell to my knees and turned Jordan over as if he was nothing more than a doll. “Please, no. Please…”
He coughed. Covered in black from head to toe, his eyes popped open. They were the most beautiful teal I had ever seen. He reached up, fingering my hair. A smile broke over his lips and he coughed again.
“Hey,” he rasped.
“That is not the proper way to greet your Ghea when his heart is malfunctioning.” Tears ran down my cheeks.
“Malfunctioning?” Jordan grinned. “You really need to stop getting words from Lu.”
“Now is not the time for jokes, Telija.” I pulled him to me, staring down into his eyes. “I thought—”
“But I’m not.” His smile lit me up inside. “I had faith,” he declared. “I did it, Vendish.”
“You did what?” I wrapped my arms around him.
“There is no other side. No more Hunters. No more evil. We’re free.”
His eyes flicked up. “As it turns out, I really am Fae. Imagine that,” he whispered.
“I can imagine all sorts of things about you. But what I wish the most is for all of this to fade away, everything except for you.”
“They might not like that.” He glanced to the largest dragon.
Reminded of where I was, I looked up to see two dozen yellow eyes staring down at me. “Incredible. You really are—”
“I’m really in love with you, and I want to go home, Ven.”
“I missed you,” I confessed, breathlessly. He grabbed at me, bringing my lips to his. I had never tasted an ending as sweet as this. To share the death of evil with my beloved, to rejoice in his life, and to know our race was free at last, was the best ending possible.
That is, until soft blooms formed around our legs. “What?” He broke our kiss.
Deliriously happy, I looked around. Brilliant pink blooms covered the land, mixed amongst swaying, tall grass that was lit with the dying sun. The smell of fruit and spices made me reach for his hand and haul us to our feet. Peering out from behind the dragon’s large body, there were trees everywhere. Tall, spaced out trunks of a pure white with flowering branches. Petals blew in the wind, raining pink and white. The Yukah slowly approached the trees with as much wonder as they could express.
She hadn’t left us. She had provided us all with a new start. From here on out, we would do great things. But first, I had something I needed to do, and his name was Jordan.
Whirling around, I lifted him into my arms, and smiled. The wind wrapped around us and we left the plain behind. Finally, I brought my mate home.
~Three Days Later~
“Mm.” My eyes refused to open. I was getting used to being snuggled in bed, with no alarm clock to shrill me awake. I was getting used to his arms folding around me while I slept, and waking up to his smell under my nose. The only thing I couldn’t get used to, but had accepted, was how beautiful he was when he slept.
When he was sprawled out, his hair a mess around him, and his chest rising slowly, he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen him. But like always, he opened an eye before I got too close a look, and smiled.
“Why do you do that?”
“Do what?” I sat up.
Vendish yawned. “Watch me as if I’m a wee one in their bed?”
“Because you’re pretty.” I chuckled.
He frowned. “Pretty is reserved for young girls and long hair, not me.” He thumbed my chin, raising a brow.
“You do have long hair,” I argued.
“That’s not what I meant.” He fought not to laugh and sat up. “But as long as you look at me, I can’t complain now, can I?”
“You should work on that.” I crawled into his lap. “You complain too much. It makes you tense.”
“You make me tense,” he whispered. “Speaking of which, you do remember what today is, don’t you?”
“Don’t ruin a good moment with talk of leaving this bed.” I licked at his lips.
He groaned, pushing me back onto the bed. Settling between my legs, he kissed me deeper until I was void of oxygen. Okay, well not literally, but I was light headed with a smile on my face. Fine by me, I thought. He worked his way down my neck, mouth and hands working a magic that had nothing to do with being Fae.
“You know what?” I brushed his hair through my fingers.
“Hmm?” He kissed my chest, flicking his green eyes up to me.
“Let’s skip the festivities, and stay here, all day.” I crooked a finger at him, bringing his lips closer again.
Ven smirked. “We have not left his bed in three days, Jordan.”
“Let’s make it four,” I whispered.
“We have neglected our guests, and Rosie will surely begin to wonder if we’ve died.”
“Let them wonder.” I stretched, trying to lure him in. But he was slowly catching on to my tricks.
“And you did that yesterday, too.” He scanned my body. “How am I to resist this, Telija?”
“You’re not.” I bit my lip. “Come here.”
“You’ve spelled me,” he murmured.
“You started this,” I whispered into his mouth.
“I—” We both rolled over at the loud knock on the door.
“That’ll be enough of that,” Rosie shouted. “Get your arses out here and have some breakfast. Cold food for three days straight. Aint’ right. Don’t make me come in there!”
Ven and I scampered from the bed, knowing she meant business. We laughed, throwing clothes at each other. “I hope this is clean.” I sniffed a tunic and threw it aside in disgust. A wad of fabric hit me, and a red garment slid to the floor.
“Hurry up before she starts breaking the door down.” Ven tugged on a pair of linen pants and yanked on a matching tunic. “Hurry, Telija. You know how she is.”
“Grumpy,” I huffed. “That’s what.”
“I heard that!” Rosie’s tiny boots stomped away from the door.
I slapped a hand over my mouth, rolling in laughter. “She’s crazy.”
“She’s set in her ways. And she’s right. We’ve been neglecting her. She wants nothing more to care for us, but she can’t very well do that if we lock ourselves away. It’s disrespect in her eyes. Plus, we’ve been gone for so long, and she probably misses us.”
I nodded. “You’re right. I didn’t think about it like that. We kind of have been in here a while, huh?” I looked around at the mess on the floor, on the bed, on the table, in the bathroom…
He smirked. “Yeah.”
“I’m so sure you didn’t like every minute of it.” I backed away to the door. “Guess that means you’re sick of me already.” I grinned, turning the knob.
“Will you stop repeating Lu?” I threw my head back, laughing.
“It’s appropriate, I think. Get over here, Jordan.”
I shook my head. “Nope. You’ll have to catch me first.” I threw the door open and ran down the hallway. He was hot on my heels when I dug my feet into the floor, abruptly stopping in my tracks.
“Telija, I—” He stopped next to me. “Jameen.”
My mother smiled at me. Her eyes were warm. Her posture was regal and comforting. But her hand was held by another’s. A man stood there. He had my long golden waves and the same teal eyes, only he was taller and more muscled. This man could only be one person.
“Vendish.” He extended his hand, pulling my Ghea into a hug.
I still stood there, waiting for my mind to explode. I looked to Cellan for help, but he was just as smiley about the ordeal as Vendish. That and he had his own mate to worry about now. Hazia lazed on the sofa with his head in Cellan’s lap. He winked at me and I blushed, suddenly reminded of the loud racket Vendish and I had been making for the past three days. Their smug grins said it all. They’d heard. Rosie had heard. Shit. Oh well, I thought, smiling back. Who cared if they knew how I felt about Vendish? They weren’t making a fuss over it, why should I? I shouldn’t. My gaze traveled back to my mate.
His arm around his friend, he stared at me warmly. “Telija, this is Jameen. He’s your…”
“I know who you are.” I swallowed. “How could I not?” Jameen’s eyes wavered as he took a step away from Vendish.
Nervous as all hell, I took a sheepish step towards him, and stuck out my hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Jameen shook his head. His whisper of a laugh turned to a choked sob. “I have not waited twenty-three years to shake your hand.” My eyes widened. Rejection set a deep frown on my lips.
“I’m sorry.” My hand fell to my side. Keeping my head up, I stepped away. “I just thought—”
He was quick to put his hands up. Panic struck his eyes. “My dear boy, I don’t want to shake your hand. I want this…” He pulled me to him, embracing me as if shielding me from a massive explosion. His tears wet my face, and I collapsed into him.
This was my father. The man I had wanted all my life was actually here, with me, with my mother. This was my family. This was how it was supposed to be.
“I know,” he whispered, not letting go. “I know,” he cried.
Delicate hands soothed over my back, embracing me from the other side. My mother kissed my head, and I couldn’t hold back the tears. My eyes settled on Vendish. His arms were crossed and the look on his face… there wasn’t a description for the love there.
Looking down, Rosie used the end of her skirt to wipe her eyes. “Now ya done it. Ya food is cold, and I’m a blubbering mess.” She wrapped her hands around Ven’s knee and cried.
“What’s that for?” I touched the plant in Ven’s arms. Tropical almost, the leaves were stiff and smooth like an Asiatic Lily. The bloom had yet to open, but if I had to wager, the petals would be a bright yellow.
Ven guided us through the woods surrounding the palace. “It’s tradition for a member of the family to give the newly mated pair a flower before it’s bloomed. This flower in particular is the traditional choice. They’re enchanted and only the Dwarves can grow them.”
“But what is it?” I smelled the lemony fragrance, feeling a little dizzy from the intoxicating scent.
“Always with the questions,” he teased.
I rolled my eyes. “Forgive me for learning, Your Highness.”
“Stop with that non-sense.” He chuckled. “All right, it’s a Fiona.”
“You mean the Dwarf named it after herself?”
“No.” Ven shook his head. “The Dwarf who created the species named if after her wee one when she lost her.”
“That’s terrible. Why would this be a wedding gift?”
“Hand fasting,” Ven corrected me. The smile never left his lips.
“Why are you smiling? That’s awful. She lost her baby?”
“The wee one was lost deep in the woods, and her mother had almost given up all hope to see her child ever again. She set the first Fiona outside her doorstep and prayed to the Mother for her child’s safe return. She did this every day for a year. Another flower, another prayer, and never lost her faith. Some thought her mad. Some sympathized. But every day she did the same.”
“What happened after the year was up?” I jogged a little to keep up with his stride. Little pink Pixies fluttered through the treetops, leading us to the festivities.
“Exactly one year later, the Dwarf went outside to place another flower in the yard, but found a present for her instead.” Ven stopped walking and turned. “The flower she had placed the night before had grown so large she was scared to touch it. The mother knelt before the flower and it bloomed before her eyes.”
“Don’t keep me in suspense, Ven. What happened?” I eyed the plant, eager to touch it again.
“In the center of the bloom was her wee one, all curled up and fast asleep.” He pushed my hair behind my ear. “Because of her faith, the mother had granted her the greatest gift of all… love. The Fiona has forever since been a sign of faith, of commitment, and love. That is why we bestow this gift to the newly mated, because that is what a relationship between two people is based on, faith, commitment, and love.”
“I knew you weren’t a jerk,” I confessed on a whisper.
“Well, of course I’m not.” He clucked his tongue, laughing a little.
“Seriously? Jerk? How did you know… I’m going to have a talk with Lu.”
“I will learn your words soon enough, Telija. You can’t hide behind them forever.” He kissed my head and held up his elbow. I looped my arm through his.
“I’m stuck with you forever, huh?”
“Do you not wish to be?” He swallowed, keeping his eyes on the path.
“Gotcha.” I laughed and he sighed.
“Really, Telija? Must you scare you me like that? You’re sense of humor ages me.”
“You’ll never age, old man.” I stuck my tongue out at him. “Come on. It’s not every day your parents get married.”
Exasperated, Ven sighed. “Hand fasted, Telija. It’s hand fasting for the thousandth time.”
“Well, where I come from, it’s called getting hitched.” I snorted.
“That sounds absolutely crude. Hitched? I will never understand some of your customs. The yard work I get, but hitched, I’m afraid I don’t. Ah well, we shall learn along the way.”
“Yes, we shall.” I grinned, entering the canopy of trees where all of Fae partied the day away.
“Jordy!” Lucy came running to us. Her hair had been curled and a delicate crown of stars sat on her head. A silver dress made of hundreds of ribbons danced around her as she moved. Behind her, Dim and Lit gave each other a look, then smiled at us. “Where have you been, you idiot! Your parents are getting hitched and you’re like, uh… late!”
“Oh no,” Ven groaned. “You too, Luciana?”
“What?” She looked over her dress and patted her face. “Do I have something on me?”
“No.” I laughed. “He doesn’t like the word hitched.”
“Remind him not to visit Vegas.” She took my hand. “Hitched would be nothing compared to the dancing Elvis and the strippers.”
“What is she saying?” Ven looked to Dim and Lit.
“She speaks another language,” Dim concurred.
Lit nodded. “Aye, I wish there was a text we could turn to, but alas, we are just as in the dark as you.”
“Oh shut up.” She smacked his chest with a wink.
“You really did snag two for one, didn’t you?” I whispered in her ear.
“I never was the normal one,” she whispered back. “Therefore why should my Ghea be normal either?”
“Are you serious? They’re your…”
“Oh yeah.” She licked her lips, waggling her brows. “Come on boys, I got us a front seat. Later, Jordy. Ciao, Ven.”
“What is ciao?” Vendish looked to me for help.
I waved a hand, and helped him to our seat. In the front, Guardwin and Orla stood on a flat rock. An archway of flowers in front of them housed my mother and father. Both dressed in white, they were a picture of beauty. As my mother’s wings fluttered, and my father cut me a handsome smile, I leaned into Ven’s body, and beamed. Their hands were tied with a ribbon and raised for all to see.
“I cannot wait for the day I am bound to you officially.”
“I don’t need a ribbon, Ven,” I whispered in his ear. “You’re stuck with me regardless.”
He dipped his head and kissed me softly. The cheers of all of Fae lit up the woods. Their prince had returned, and now… he had bound himself to his true mate forevermore.
*A Year Later*
My favorite place in all of Fae was still the pond Vendish had first brought me to. It was the place where I’d first used my power. It was the first place I’d felt free. It was the place where Vendish and I had been hand fasted, and it was now the place my dragons called home. I skimmed my toes across the water, watching them splash around happily. Next to me, I patted the soil where our own Fiona was planted in the ground. The thing had yet to bloom, but at least it was still alive. I’d never had a green thumb. So this was progress.
Thinking about the flower was a little bittersweet. While it stood for the love we shared for one another, the hint of bright pink around the base of the bloom always reminded me of Daega. It had been a little over a year since I’d seen her, but I missed her every day. In the short time I knew her she’d been the bright spot in all the discomfort and the newness of Fae. She’d been the little tease with a wide smile, and the sparkle that never dimmed. She’d been Ven’s friend and loyal subject for longer than I’d been alive, and I knew he missed her greatly. Hell, I missed her and I barely even knew her. Above all, she was a hero. She had come to find me, and without her, the others wouldn’t have arrived in time. Daega was a little miracle who was taken far too soon.
You cannot dwell on the past, Master. It is not good for the heart. The largest dragon, who had revealed his name as Ulysses, brushed his nose against my feet. It was her time, Master. She is in a better place.
“I find that hard to believe, Ulysses. Have you looked around you? It doesn’t get better than this.” I sighed and lay on my back, rubbing his scales with my feet.
But you are wrong, Master. Where the Mother lives is greater than here.
“To me, this is heaven.” I pushed up on my elbows to look into his wide yellow eyes. “But I guess it would seem that way because I grew up on the other side, huh?”
Hmm. Heaven is what you make it out to be, Master. If this is your heaven, someone else pictures a different heaven. Do you understand?
“Yeah. I just wish she was here. I know I didn’t know her well, but we all miss her. I know the Mother took her for a reason, and I can’t blame her for this, but it just sucks.”
I take that to mean you dislike the situation?
“Dislike, hate, and a lot of other things, but if Daega is with the Mother, she has to be in a good place, right?”
Now you understand. There is no greater place than with the Mother, but being here, on the land she created, I could understand your confusion. For Fae is a beautiful place. Much better than the waters we were trapped in.
“So this is heaven to you, too?” I smiled as he eased his neck under my feet.
Heaven to me is where I am loved. Before you none of us had ever known such adoration or compassion. So yes, Jordan, this is heaven to us.
Sitting up, I smoothed hand down the scales above his mouth. “Don’t give me a complex. I’m not always sweet.”
Their laughter filled my head. But you care, and that is all we ask for.
“I do care,” I whispered.
“Has someone told you otherwise?” Vendish startled me. “I’m sorry, Telija. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“You didn’t.” I patted the ground next to me and Ulysses blinked his eye before swimming away. Always respectful, he gave me and Ven some privacy and cut his mental connection from my mind. “So, how did class go?”
Since the crown had been handed back to my father, Vendish had a lot of free time on his hands. Apart from helping Cellan with the warriors, he now taught the wee ones about their abilities a few times a week. It was too adorable to watch, and sometimes I found myself a little jealous of the other parents. Not that I’d told him that, but I gave him his time with the children, and started making more regular visits to the pond when he was gone.
“We had another fire, and Hazia spent a few hours comforting the little thing. He mistook his classmate dousing him with water as a hate crime and all hell broke loose. I’m exhausted.” I smiled at his use of human slang and took his hand.
“A hate crime? They’re what, five?”
“Six and yes, he said hate crime.” Vendish leaned into me, kissing my temple. “And you, have you had a good day?”
“Always.” I turned, kissing him. His hands threaded in my hair as his foot dipped into the water.
“And what of our Fiona?” He whispered against my lips.
I frowned. “Nothing yet, but I’m sure it will bloom soon. It has to, right?”
“All in good time. How about we go home? I’m sure Rosie will have supper ready by now.”
I glanced over my shoulder at the flower. “Sure.” I turned back, faking a smile.
“Or we could stay a little longer, if you like.” His thumb caught my bottom lip. “We have nowhere to be.”
“Are you sure?” I laid my head against his shoulder.
“Posit—” He gasped, slapping my arm with his hand. “Telija, look.”
“This is not the time to practice another joke, Ven. I’m tired…” I turned. My eyes bugged and my mouth fell open. “What the hell?”
The Fiona shimmered a perfect pink, rosy and vibrant. The bloom grew and grew until it was a little larger than a pumpkin.
“Jordan, it was just a story,” Ven whispered, pulling me back.
“Apparently it wasn’t,” I replied.
The petals opened one by one at an excruciatingly slow pace that had me ready to jump out of my skin. When the last petal had unfolded, a little pink tuft of hair was the first thing I made out.
“Is that a…” Ven gripped my arms.
“It sure the fuck is,” I murmured, half horrified and half in love already.
“What do we do with it?” He crawled around me. A little huff scared me and I looked to the water. A dozen dragons had crowded around, curiously blinking their yellow eyes.
I would think you’d care for it, Master.
“But it’s not ours.” I crawled next to Vendish. He touched the soft pink hair before running his finger over a chubby pink cheek.
It was your Fiona. I would say you claim ownership.
“This is ours?”
“It’s not a this, Telija.” Vendish beamed. His eyes misted over. “It’s a Daega.”
“A what?” I peered down into the fuchsia eyes of a Fae infant. The resemblance between the child and Daega was not a coincidence. Little wings fluttered over her shoulders as Vendish picked her up.
“A Daega,” he repeated in awe.
“In death there is rebirth,” I quoted the mother.
“In life there is commitment, and faith, and love.” He looked at me. “She is ours, Telija. She came back for us.”
I bit my lip, tears coming to my eyes. “And you are mine.”
Shoulder to shoulder, we watched the wee one stick a fist in her mouth and gurgle happily. Vendish and I both turned at the same time. The baby secured in our arms, our lips met in the middle.
Unexpected, but with no regrets, I was in love. I was happy. I was strong. I was now gifted with being a parent. I had faith. That’s what it meant to be Fae. And that was my happing ending.