My apologies for the delay. Here’s an excerpt from “Variations on a Theme of You.”
“Isn’t that a bit dangerous?”
The boy looked for the source of the voice amidst the twirling, leaping bodies and bright colours in the fairy ring. There was a figure standing outside of the ring. She looked like one of the warriors he’d seen once on a tapestry. Her armour was outdated, but well cared for. He couldn’t quite see her, but he saw blonde hair and dark eyes, glimpsing brown leather, chain mail, and a blue skirt.
He tried to reply, but the dancers became more frenetic, the tempo increasing. A hand reached out toward him.
“I can pull you out,” she said. “If you want to be free, take my hand.”
The boy almost reached out to her. Thoughts of home, what was left of it, filled his mind. There was nothing for him there. Drab grays and a harsh life compared to lurid colours and bright laughter of the Fair Folk. He wanted to stay.
The soldier watched as the boy vanished with the morning light, whisked away by the Fae. She turned away, shrugging. What was one boy taken by the Faeries? He would become one of them, or a favoured mortal of one of them. His Fate was no longer her concern.
She knew the Fae and their ways, and thought it best not to interfere. Maybe she’d see the boy again. Most likely wouldn’t.
Days became weeks, which became months. She forgot all about the boy dancing in the fairy ring. She made friends with a few of the Fae, but only when their worlds overlapped.It was on one of these occassions that she made the acquiantence of one Cinnia, sister of Caolàn, who was to become a Prince after his mother.
Cinnia seemed an ageless thing. Fae she was, yet not. She knew too much, saw too much. Her gaze was fathomless, and drew you in. She was otherworldly in a way the Fae were not. The Fair Folk often said they were older than the earth yet younger than the dawn. If that were true, Vaeramae would wager that Cinnia was as old as the ancient waters, which were older than the first dawn. But she was the daughter of the current queen, making her young. Time was tricky thing when the Fair Folk were involved.
But there was a wildness about her not seen in her breathren. Her constant companion Aodhàn unsettled everyone, and Vaeramae was sure that he wasn’t quite Fae. It was the mystery that they presented that caught her attention, and maybe that was why they were something resembling friends with her. Whatever the case, it prompted an invitation to a party. Vaeramae was sure that it was to have someone to talke with while surrounded by the glamour of the Fae.
She almost turned it down, remembering stories of time escaping the attendees; days, even centuries passing before returning to the mortal realm. What was time to her? It didn’t mean the same thing to her as it did mortals. What did it matter if she lost a year? She accepted the invitation in the end.
Unsure of what to wear, Vaeramae wore her best dress and jewelry, small beads and trinkets in her hair. She arrived at the apointed hour at a crack in a cliff. Aodhàn was the one to greet her.
He nodded approvingly at her choice of dress. “Don’t stray form the path,” he warned.
She was careful to step where he stepped as they passed through a narrow passage in the rock awall. They descended into the earth. At least, she thought they did. Or maybe it was out. Either way, they emerged in what she could only describe as a glade, but the trees created the walls of a room and their branches the ceiling. The area was lit with a warm light that reminded her of lamps, and the moon and stars were glimpsed throught the trees.
The tables were filled with food and drink she had never seen before, and the guests were just as otherworldly. Whisps and elements flitted amongst more corporeal beings, shades and colours she had never seen before.
“Don’t stare,” Aodhàn murmured.
Admonished, Vaeramae jerked her gaze away. “I thought I knew and have seen all manner of man and beast, but I am wrong.”
“You likely have,” Aodhàn told her, “but the Fae are far different.”
“Is it true they were the first to walk the earth?”
Aodhàn snorted. “No.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Dragons were first.”
For a moment, and only a moment, Vaeramae swore Aodhàn’s eyes changed. It happened so fast she wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the light or not. There was a pause in her step, wondering – not for the first time – who or what Aodhàn was. He was far from human, and he ceratinly wasn’t a soul she could one day collect.
As if sensing her growing question, Aodhàn looked over his shoulder. He didn’t say anything, simply looked at her.
The question died on her lips.
Satisfied, Aodhàn said, “Thank you.”
That was how it was between them. If she didn’t ask questions, he didn’t lie to her. She took it as a sign that on some level he liked her well enough to not want to lie to her.