Authors: Bonnie Lamer
Xandra has tears streaming down her face as she continues to be unsuccessful in reining in her magic. A light suddenly bursts from her, a blinding light that I have seen before. I rush to close my eyes and hope that the others have done the same. Xandra’s wings have come to help her.
I feel her next to me now and I am wrapped in a feathery embrace. I feel the pull as her wings fight to drain my body of the magic that is killing me. With a final pull, it is gone and I am left gasping on the sand.
“Kallen, I am so sorry,” Xandra murmurs against my chest. She and her wings are still wrapped around me.
When I can finally breathe again, I wrap my arms around her and pull her close. “I know.”
“Who the hell
you?” Kegan’s stunned voice asks from behind us.
Stepping out of my embrace, Xandra gives a quick look to Rhiannon and her friend. They are out cold. Watching her face, I can tell that Xandra is scrambling for some sort of story to tell that does not involve admitting that she is part Angel.
“I admit,” Alita says, “I am as curious as Kegan. Who are you?”
“Um, would you believe my animal body is an eagle and I just haven’t changed all the way?” I smile. That was a good try on her part but it is not going to fly.
Alita shakes her head. “No, I would not.”
I see Rhiannon start to stir. “Perhaps now is not the best time for explanations. Xandra, you need to get back to the house before anyone else sees those wings.” Turning to Kegan, I say, “I need your assistance in getting Rhiannon and her friend home. We do not need to aggravate the situation by leaving her here.”
Kegan nods but I am not sure he heard me. He is staring at Xandra in awe and I can tell it is making Xandra uncomfortable. “Kegan, snap out of it,” she says with a scowl.
Kegan shakes his head, as if to rouse himself from sleep. “Right, of course.” He moves towards the two unconscious bodies on the shore.
“Alita, you should accompany Xandra. We do not want you to get caught in the middle of this, but I do not think it wise for you to return home at present,” I tell her. “When Kegan and I return, Xandra and I will explain everything.” Looking at Xandra, I say pointedly, “Everything.”
Xandra nods and turns to go. I catch her arm and turn her towards me so I can give her a quick kiss. “I promise, I will tell you everything as soon as I return.” And then because I cannot help myself when she is in my arms, I kiss her more thoroughly and I am relieved when she wraps her arms around my neck and opens her lips for me.
Forcing myself to end the kiss before Rhiannon wakes up, I lean my forehead against Xandra’s. “I am sorry I made you angry. I promise, you will know everything.”
“I believe they are coming around,” Kegan says from where he’s standing over Rhiannon.
Xandra turns to Alita. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to meet you at the house, okay?” Alita nods, still in a daze from this whole experience. When Xandra uses her wings and flies away, Alita starts walking towards Grandmother’s house. Kegan and I each pick up an unconscious body and start walking in the opposite direction.
“Who is she, Kallen?” Kegan asks as we trudge through the sand.
“You will know soon enough.”
“Xandra was right. You have become the king of secrets.”
I sigh. “It is not my story to tell, cousin. You will hear the story from Xandra’s lips.”
He is quiet for a moment as we move from the beach to the path through the woods that leads to Rhiannon’s house. I am not relishing the idea of having to explain to anyone in her family how she came to be in this state. I believe it would be considered an act of war. I shake my head in disgust with myself. All of this could have been avoided if I was not such a coward.
About halfway down the path, both girls begin to come round. When Rhiannon opens her eyes and realizes where she is, she wraps her arms around my neck. “You saved me,” she says with a grin.
I snort. “More like I picked up the pieces of you when you did something foolish.” I stop walking and unceremoniously drop her to her feet. “As you are alive and well, you can continue on your own. I have better company to keep.”
Her eyes become murderous. “Going back to your half breed?”
I chuckle. “My half breed as you call her just kicked your ass in a magical duel. Perhaps your blood line needs a little tainting to make it more powerful.” No, I am not helping the situation but it is hard to resist pointing these things out. I believe Xandra may be rubbing off on me.
“You are a bastard, Kallen. I do not know why my sister even wants you.”
I shrug. “Me either. You think I am a bastard now, you should see me when I have spent more than a minute or two in your sister’s company.” Rhiannon’s face flushes red with anger.
In my peripheral vision, I see that the girl Kegan is carrying has also woken. He sets her on the ground and steps to my side. Ignoring Rhiannon, he says, “Are you ready?”
With a grin, I change into my raven form. Kegan has become his sparrow form and we fly away. A very angry Rhiannon watches us go.
Flying back to the house is much faster than walking. I love the feel of soaring through the air like this. I wish Xandra could do this with her Angel wings. She can fly with them. She just cannot let anyone know that she has them.
Landing on the terrace, we both shift back to our Fairy forms. Kegan walks ahead of me into the house in search of Alita and Xandra. I am close on his heels.
We find them in the kitchen. Before I have a chance to even open my mouth, Kegan says, “Perhaps now you could enlighten me about who you really are.” He glares at me. “My dear cousin has absolutely refused to do so.”
I grin as I walk behind Xandra’s stool. I wrap my arms around her waist and give her a kiss on the cheek. It is too soon for that, apparently.
“Uh uh, you go over there,” she demands disentangling herself from my arms. “You have a lot of explaining to do before I say another word about me. What’s all this hand fasting stuff – and why did I have to hear about it from a complete stranger?”
Tabitha’s hands go to her hips. “You have not told her?” Her right hand reaches out so fast I barely see it before it smacks into the back of the head. “Of all the things not to tell her, you pick the most important thing?”
“Ouch,” I say as I rub head. “I am going to explain right now.”
Tabitha doesn’t look appeased; she looks like she’s going to hit me again. I believe it best to move out of range. I walk to the other side of Alita using her as a buffer.
“I’m waiting.” Xandra’s fingertips are drumming on the counter.
I attempt to stall. “Do you not want to know if Rhiannon and her friend saw your wings first?”
“No.” With that one word, she has told me that if I do not tell her the story right this minute, I will not have the opportunity again.
I sigh. This could still be the last conversation we have even when I have told her the truth. Here goes. “I believe I told you before that my mother’s sister is married to King Dagda.”
“Yeah, you did.”
“The idea when they got married was to show unity between the Sheehogue and the Pooka Fae. And to unite the two blood lines on a more physical level. There was, and still is, a lot of Sheehogue opposition to this idea. Most Sheehogue see this as a way for the Pooka to gain more power with no benefit at all for the Sheehogue blood lines, only weakening of them. But, my mother and her sister, and the rest of their family, hoped that the merging of blood lines would result in tempering the wildness of the Pooka with the more civilized Sheehogue blood; preventing civil wars and ensuring peace in the realm. For this reason, my grandparents on my mother’s side arranged the marriage between Dagda and my Aunt Tana. A child of theirs would be of both bloodlines, making the throne blood neutral. Unfortunately, they were never capable of conceiving.”
“Okay, what does any of this have to do with you and this Xenia person being hand-fasted?”
“When it became apparent that Aunt Tana would not bear a child, she turned to my mother and a friend for help in furthering their goal. So strong were my mother’s beliefs that combining blood lines would bring peace and unite the realm, she agreed to participate in an ancient ritual with Xenia’s mother. Xenia’s Pooka bloodline is as pure as our own, so it would have been a strong union. The ritual they performed had been used many centuries ago to keep blood lines pure. It was also a ritual that was outlawed centuries ago, and it is considered a high crime to perform it. Despite that, they went ahead. For the first time in history, the ritual was performed to unite a Sheehogue and a Pooka.” I have to pause a moment to push the bile of anger back down my throat.
“What did they do?” Xandra asks.
“They performed a blood bonding ceremony, attempting to unite mine and Xenia’s blood. The desired result of the ritual is that the two Fairies brought together may not love anyone else. They will be irresistibly drawn to each other, whether they are suited for each other or not.”
Her brow furrows. “So, it’s like a love spell?”
I shake my head and bile be damned, I let the anger spew out in my words. “No, the two are drawn together out of compulsion, not love. They may hate each other, but still find they cannot be with another.” I will never understand why my mother wanted such a fate for me. She may have wanted peace, but using me as a pawn and attempting to shove such a terrible fate onto me has left a dark spot in my heart where my love for her should be.
For the first time in this conversation, Xandra looks nervous instead of angry. “So, you’re drawn to this Xenia?”
That she is concerned about such a thing almost makes me smile. “No.”
She lets out a sigh of relief. “The blood bonding didn’t work? Was that because you were from different Fae blood lines?”
I shake my head. “No, neither my mother nor Xenia’s did enough research regarding the ritual. Both parents must be present and give their consent, and magic, for the binding to take. When the first ritual failed – our blood refused to combine in the mortar bowl, they approached their husbands. They wanted to perform the ritual again. Xenia’s father was very much in favor of the idea, but my father was furious. Grandmother even more so.”
“She doesn’t want the blood lines to combine?”
“It is not that. Grandmother believes that Fairies should marry for love, not to keep a blood line intact. And if they happen to love someone of a different blood line that should not be a concern.” I smile as I think about how she sent me to find Xandra knowing I would fall in love with her. “Her objection to the ritual was, and is, the loss of free will. That was why the ritual had been banned. Forcing one to be with someone they probably would not have chosen on their own is cruel and selfish, and can lead to a life time of emotional pain.”
“What happened when Isla and your dad found out?”
I take a moment before responding. In the silence, Grandmother’s voice resounds through the kitchen. “As High Chancellor of the judicial system, I had no choice but to banish both women from the Fae realm.”
Xandra must not have heard her come in because she practically falls of her stool. “You’re the High Chancellor of the judicial system?” she asks.
Grandmother smiles, though it’s a sad smile, and comes farther into the room. “Yes, I am the High Chancellor of the judicial system. I preside over crimes involving high magic.”
“And you banished your son and his wife from this realm?” That is a fair, if harsh, question.
Grandmother shakes her head. “No, I did not banish my son. I did not want to have to banish his wife, either, but the laws against performing certain rituals have been rendered for very good reasons. And the penalty for performing these rites is banishment. I could not change the laws simply because she was my daughter-in-law. I was also concerned that she may try the ritual again.” Everything Grandmother must have felt at the time washes over her face – anger, sadness, betrayal, shame, disgust. It is all there. “Xenia’s mother left this realm alone. Her father has since hand-fasted with another.”
The shock on Xandra’s face is tangible. “But Kallen’s dad chose to go with her? Even after she tried to do that?”
“Yes,” Grandmother says simply.
Looking at me, Xandra asks softly, “Is that why your parents were in my realm when they were killed by humans?”
I nod hoping she will not pursue that line of questioning. I will not keep anything from her, but there are some things that are still difficult for me to speak of even after all these years.
Changing the subject back to its beginning, Xandra says, “I’m not sure that I understand. If the ritual didn’t take, why is Kallen hand-fasted with this Xenia person?” Magic is rising with her temper. I do not think she even knows she is doing it.
“Unless you plan to use that magic, dear, you should let it go. I understand there has already been another incident today,” Grandmother says calmly.
Xandra gives her a sheepish smile. Looking back at me, she asks, “Kallen, why?”
“Because Xenia’s family claims that the ritual was successful, that the blood did join. Regardless of the fact that my mother swore on her life that it did not. And regardless of the fact that it was illegal to perform the rite, their belief is that what is done is done and we must abide by the law of magic over the law of the realm.”
“So, they think you two are married?”
I nod because I am once again too angry to speak for a moment. After a couple of deep breathes, I say, “That is their claim. But, it has been strongly refuted during our lifetimes. The principle argument being that I am not in the least bit, not even an infinitesimal, miniscule part of me, drawn to Xenia.” I hope I emphasized that enough.
“If that’s true, then why didn’t you tell me this before?”