The Urisk dragged his long fingers through the feathers sprouted on his head. His knobbly hands clasped, rubbed together, then tugged at the feathers continuing down his neck. Round, amber coloured eyes fluttered in between being fixed upon the pale beauty looming above him.
Her spun-gold curls were pulled up into an artful pile with a few intentionally escaped to trail in a distracting line down her elegant neck and curve along well defined cheekbones. The sardonic half-smile she kept on her dark painted lips never reached her cobalt gaze, even when the Urisk bowed from the hips and offered to refill her glass with more of the sweet blackberry liqueur she favoured.
Indeed, he had brought the bottle himself, hoping to soften the news he also carried. The fear racing through his gut had driven the Urisk to clutch the glass decanter between those long fingers of his and instil the black liquid with a glow of his magic a moment before he broke the seal. Just a tiny bit. Barely any, really. His kind were gifted with the power to intoxicate and influence, and he only wanted to foster a more accepting environment for when he had to reveal the information.
Best of all, the lovely Arlon forbade him to speak in the beginning. She wanted to enjoy his gift in a luxurious silence. Then a second glass. And more. Her lipstick glimmered as dark as the liqueur in her goblet, matching shades of violaceous wine.
‘Mistress, may I tell you something now?’
‘Why should you want to?’ she murmured, tipping her glass side to side, watching the rich liquid cling to the inner surface.
‘I did come with news, Mistress Ynnis.’
Her smile tightened with petty satisfaction before she said, ‘You may wait, then.’
The Urisk bobbed to acquiesce and pressed his fingertip to the side of the remaining blackberry liqueur. He tried for casual; there were other witnesses, after all. The two stoney guards stationed at the Lady’s back, and her other Bachobl help. The Ba’leilon wouldn’t even glance his direction on a normal day, being such a small fae. His other hand dragged at the feathers behind his pointed ears. Must be unobtrusive
about all this. He gave another quick burst of magic into the alcohol to make Ynnis more receptive; nothing strong enough to catch anyone’s attention in the room. Not even the head attendant, a Brownie as wily as they come, paid any mind.
The woman finished her drink and moved onto the next. Even without his power clinging to the fluid, the flush of warmth creeping across her sunkissed cheeks would change her disposition in time. Ah, but one wouldn’t like a drunk Arlon, would they? Spiteful fae. He shook his head, trying to drive away the thoughts before his wide face betrayed him. Hard to keep everything just so when he was trying to hide all this anxiety.
‘Come then, Gale, tell me what message you bring,’ Ynnis drawled over the top of her goblet.
He gulped and felt his feathers bristling. Something in her languorous tone warned him this would all go amiss. Still, the Urisk straightened to deliver the news.
‘I came to tell you what I saw, Mistress. I was at my tributary, one which flows into Lake Llydias, down in the Southern Quarter-’
‘I am not enjoying this story so far, Gale. If there are pertinent details, you had better share them.’
‘Y-yes, well. I don’t normally notice the comings and goings of people in the area because there are so many.’
Ynnis rolled her head toward the Brownie stationed nearby. ‘This is why I don’t like it when someone thinks they are fit to report to me, Stellon. Always so caught up in their role in the recount, all this boring, unimportant specification.’
Stellon growled out, ‘Would ye like me to escort him away, my lady?’
Gale shuffled his hoofs, eyeing the Brownie in a sudden greater alarm. The bright mistress would be angry enough with him speaking, but if she realised he never even told her-! ‘Your daughter has fled!’ he shouted over Ynnis’ first words. ‘I-I saw your daughter escaping Belfew.’
Her dark blue gaze shifted in increments until falling upon the short Urisk. In his rush of panic, Gale opened his mouth and let out a trill of song. His voice pushed more magic against the spell twined through
the blackberry liqueur resting in her stomach, hoping to exert enough influence to calm the rising fury he saw in the Arlon.
Instead, Ynnis snarled and flung herself from the fine velvet armchair. The crystal goblet left her hand and turned through the air, catching the light as it fell to the carpet. The half-glass of liqueur sloshed and splattered over the rug. Blackberry stains.
Her Talent filled the room in a warm, cloying cloud, burning through the tenuous power which the small fae had half-heartedly formed. The air glimmered with source-less light, like flecks of precious metals suspended in the space between Ynnis and Gale. Another ripple of sound escaped him in an instinctual reaction, but the imposing lady stormed forward in a haze of glowing rage.
His magics had only made her angrier.
The other faeries in the room took a collective step back. Even her tall guards. The sheer weight of power she took into herself threatened to overflow onto anyone nearby. Ynnis’ hair streamed around her, lifting in the heat coming off her body. Her ruby coloured gown flowed in the streams
of feverish air. With every step closer, the sphere of burning power pressed down on Gale.
‘What did you say?’ Ynnis asked in a voice so calmly incongruous that the Urisk staggered backward.
‘The young mistress Lacilegwen, I saw her leave the city, she has packed her bags and moved out of Belfew. She didn’t know I saw, she was sneaking, and I was just at my waterway-’
‘Why? Why would she leave?’
Gale blinked his large amber eyes rapidly. ‘I overheard her say the duels would be the death of her soon. She didn’t feel safe in Belfew any longer.’
‘No, lady Ynnis, I swear!’
‘Liar! My child wouldn’t-’ She seemed to choke on her fury. ‘She wouldn’t dare undertake such transgression! You come here, you ply me with your spells,’ she stalked closer, teeth bared. ‘Oh, I noticed. I bet you think this is somehow my fault, don’t you? Think I should feel guilty for what she
got herself into. If she hadn’t been so stupid with her thoughts and actions, she would have never been challenged. I did her too many favours already! I have interrupted the due process of each and every combat she has brought on herself. And you still come here with these lies, these nasty whispers, trying to worm your way in my ear with so many falsehoods.’
Ynnis’ glare turned sharper and even less rational while the heated air whipped loose objects around her sitting room. Beads of sweat stood upon her skin, whether from the warmth encasing her or the degrading anger. She took another long step forward and shoved Gale with one hand, a sneer of contempt twisting her face.
‘You disrespectful little beast,’ she spat. ‘Admit it, you’re a liar.’
The Urisk unwisely shook his head. A twitching movement of cold, terrified denial. He knew he shouldn’t have stirred the moment her nose and mouth scrunched into sour disgust. Her hand extended again, as though to push him a second time, but her fingers stopped a few centimetres from his shoulder.
‘I hate you. I can smell the lies on you.’ The many tiny lights in the air condensed down, drawn in with such raw power that the illumination of her lamps joined the glow pouring into her extended palm. The room both dimmed and grew brighter, as if each wave of light expelled from her right hand was immediately dragged further into the ball of energy captured in the splay of her fingers.
Gale wanted to run. He shied from the burning sphere before him, arguing internally about the safest course of action while encompassed by danger. Then the heat in front of his body became a raging furnace and the Urisk couldn’t handle the discomfort any more. As a being aligned with water, this fiery display sucked something from him, draining away his ability to form clear thoughts or fully muster the energy to flee. He staggered back with no mind to head for the door, just his body recoiling on instinct. Then with the extra distance between himself and the brilliant bright magic, the overwhelming need to run screamed through the Bachobl.
He turned and threw himself into an ungainly upright gallop. A heedless quaver of music like the crash of river
rapids sprang from his mouth. He bolted, but the abrupt movement was not enough.
Gale’s attempt to escape sent Ynnis into a blind frenzy. She shrieked, long and loud, covering the sound of his odd song. Her long legs brought her behind the Urisk in moments. She struck him in the shoulder with the heal of her hand, sending him in a careening stumble as his legs tangled together. His face slammed into the smooth brick wall with a muted thud while his long arms flailed in helpless waves. He slid to the ground, leaving a trail of blood speckling the wallpaper where his gasping, musical breath sprayed the crimson fluid. He tasted the sharp sweetness as it dribbled across lips and down his rough chin.
She hit again, birthing a new blossom of pain. Her open hand carried such force that feathers were torn from his back. Gale scrabbled in delirium to get away from the attack, but could not figure out which direction he needed to move.
Ynnis raised her right arm, the cupped hand still containing a bulge of magic light. Her power, the Talent they called her the Brightness for, suddenly turned dark to most
of the awe-struck eyes observing the spectacle. A few of the Bachobl races could see in the infra-red range and began screaming through the sitting room. What could they do for Gale? Nothing, nothing but die with him. Some of the Pixies babbled at the Arlon guards to stop her, stop her, but those men of battle stood in uncertain fear of their own. The degree of power was growing dangerous for them all. If she drew much more they might be visited by the Eternal Hunger of the Anguisher, but to try and interfere with Ynnis would mean a death most terrible.
The woman’s screams of anger turned to a piercing volume. Everyone in the room instinctively cowered down, hands pressing over pained ears. Her spell burst forward in a rumbling band of heat, flinging fabric and loosened feathers around Gale. Thick layers of super-condensed light magic slammed his body. In an evil trick of physical matter interacting with this power Ynnis wielded, he burnt from the inside. The Urisk fell stiff to the floor and stopped moving. The pressure built rapidly, expanding the mass of liquids making up his small form. His skin bulged oddly. The place where Gale lay became a gory explosion of boiled blood
and flesh. Burning pieces of what had once been the small fae splattered across the room. Chunks fells with wet thuds. Drips trailed vivid red down every surface.
Ynnis’ attendants erupted into a bellowing commotion. Their terror only drew her ire. She spun in a storm of darkly red light, swirling from burgundy to claret and emitting more heat than glow. A thick mask of Gale’s remains clung to her body. She lashed out to those nearest. The two Arlon joined in shouting, begging her to contain her Talent. They were unable to stand by while their mistress consumed more and more power, but dared not make a physical confrontation.
Small bodies were sent flying through the air. Blood mingled and voices turned raw. Stellon stepped up, but Ynnis launched his stout form into the door with a horrendous crack of shattering wood. One of the tiny blue-fleshed Pixies managed to squeeze through the jagged gap. Her wings fluttered too fast, making her flight into a maddened cycle of crests and troughs as she lurched down the many white halls, leaving behind the echoing shouts and crackles of casted enchantments.
She kept going through dread and exhaustion, knowing her friends would end up dead, and there might only be one person who could halt the destruction Ynnis wrought.
The fae followed her magic sense wildly, insensible, feeling her way to their unlikely saviour.
When she caught sight of his wide shoulders and familiar snowy hair, her ragged voice cried out in despair and relief, ‘Master Thorin, come, come, she’s killing us all!’
The unmistakeable buzz of Pixie wings had reached his sensitive ears long before he could see the creature flying up the Council’s elegant passageway. The sound carried a tone of disquiet. Too thick and wet, and much more uneven than the winged fae normally flew. One hand rested on the charcoal hilt of a sword, while the other hung relaxed and at the ready by his thigh. This wouldn’t be the first time
someone had sent a Bachobl to attack a larger Ba’leilon.
At the sound of her familiar voice crying his name, the Loughvire warrior turned to the hoarse Pixie and held out his free hand. The tiny fae dropped into his upturned palm with a dry sob, weary and helpless as her thin chest quaked with each gasped breath.
Her narrow limbs left a smear of tacky blood against his skin. Thorin glanced up the hall she had flown from.
‘Maeveen, what has happened?’
A thin wail rose from the huddled Pixie. She clutched Thorin’s fingers with a strength belied by her diminutive form. ‘Our lady has the madness in her. She was lashing us all with her magics, she had already killed one, and the others-!’ Her words were drowned under another warbling cry of her anguish.
The man lifted Maeveen until she sat level with his face. Experience told him the brilliant turquoise of his eyes would be shifting to teal and keep darkening in answer to the change of emotion. Thorin did not want to understand
correctly and have to face his lady in the throes of a magical fight, but couldn’t turn a blind eye and walk away from the unspoken appeal this fae had brought. She found and asked him because he had a chance of interrupting Ynnis’ wave of destruction. He murmured, ‘Little one, are you saying our lady has attacked her attendants?’
She nodded in misery.
‘Are you injured?’
‘None of the blood is mine,’ she admitted.
‘Do you have a safe place you can fly to until I have settled things?’
Thorin began striding down the hall. Of all the things this night! The few other instances of having to tend the Brightness in a fit of fury were long ago. She prided herself on exacting control. But with her sense of authority Ynnis became even harder to turn from her course as she always insisted she was fully justified in her tantrums. He moved without making a sound, Pixie still cradled in one hand,
readying himself to walk into a bloodbath.
‘I will leave you outside of the room, I do not wish to see you harmed.’ He hesitated over asking, ‘Do you know what triggered the rampage?’
Maeveen hiccuped and moaned out, ‘An Urisk came to tell tales of the mistress’s daughter.’
Her soft words made the rhythm of Thorin’s step falter for a brief moment. ‘Did he speak of Lacilegwen leaving Belfew?’
Maeveen’s almond-shaped eyes of solid black, oversized in her tiny pointed face, opened even wider. ‘You know?’ she whispered. When Thorin nodded, her voice dropped even quieter. ‘Were you the one who helped her escape the city?’
‘Why do you ask?’
She bobbed her small head. ‘You have helped the young mistress many times before.’
‘I have become involved when her life was endangered.’
Maeveen’s wings shivered. ‘The Urisk said she
feared the duels, that they would end up killing her.’
Thorin couldn’t keep the frown off his face. The words were true enough. ‘I was not the one to assist her escape; I heard the rumours already circulating and began investigating what truth there was in these claims when you came for me. I would not report such a thing to Ynnis without first confirming as much information as possible.’
Her tiny hands squeezed against Thorin. ‘Would you have?’
‘Would I have what?’
A sigh drifted free from the man. Against his pale skin and the still-red smears of blood, she looked even brighter blue, adding a sense of importance to answering such a small question. Would he have risked so much to get Lacilegwen out of the city if she had come to him for aid? Maeveen’s solid gaze waited with indefinite patience, but he had to respond. He looked aside to break the natural pseudo-enchantment the Pixies caused. ‘There is a limit to what I am free to do, even for Lacilegwen.’
The pair rounded one last corner which had stood between them and the site of terrible bloodshed. Sounds of an ongoing fight caught their attention. Cries of pain, things striking flesh, the thumps of bodies and furniture colliding and falling. The Pixie’s forgotten fear returned to her face. She gave a rapid nod. ‘Of course, the mistress would have punished you the way she…’ Her pointed cheekbone pressed to the man’s fingertip. ‘I fear it sent her mad, master Thorin. So mad.’ Her thin body quivered.
‘You have done well to fetch me, Maeveen. Rest now in these flowers while I see who survives and quell any lingering rage in the lady Ynnis.’
Thorin knelt beside the long garden bed which hugged the sides of the hallway. The Pixie allowed her pale would-be hero to slide her into one of the many tulips, cupped by its large yellow petals. ‘Goddess guard you,’ she whispered.
‘And you, little one.’
Thorin needed no time to prepare. He didn’t take a deep breath, nor square his shoulders. The splintered door hung crooked. Pieces of dark wood lay scattered across the white
marble tiles of the hall. In between, droplets of blood. Chips of ruby scattered carelessly.
He eased the broken door open and sidled inside. As he expected, the room had fallen to chaos. Overturned chairs, torn curtains, and enough blood to make parts of the carpeting squelch underfoot.
He approached Ynnis. She stood in the exact centre of her sitting room. The gore dripping from her skin and clothes held lumps of flesh, fragments of bone.
Thorin bowed while keeping her in sight. ‘My lady.’
Her feverish expression contorted. ‘Where have you been?’ she hissed. Before he had a chance to answer, she screeched the same question again.
‘Unearthing the truth for you, my lady.’
‘Too late, others have crawled in here and told me too many things already!’
Ynnis spun in a blur of speed and backhanded the nearest fae trying to rise. They were littered about the room like so many pieces of broken furniture.
The crazed Arlon treated them as such.
When the blooded woman stepped in a dainty circle back to face Thorin, she wore a narrow-eyed sneer of suspicion.
‘Where have you been all night, my guard? My guard, who has stepped in for my daughter more than once. Encouraged me to shield the child from necessary pain.’
The Loughvire swore inside. She made the same connections Maeveen did. Thorin had always been cautious and distant, which Ynnis accepted until now without question. Maintaining his cold demeanour kept them all safe in a way. He recognised the lady’s posture leading into a rant and more violence, and while she was shouting at him, Ynnis would not be harming the small fae. He would be happy to take the abuse. Perhaps some of the wounded Bachobl would have the sense to drag themselves away while they could.
‘My guard, who I have foolishly put into contact with Lacilegwen many a time. Is that what it is, Thorin? I never did realise how my heartless killer treated my child with an unaccustomed kindness. You felt sorry for her.
Did all those times where I demanded you take care of the stupid girl’s mistakes forge a bond between you? Did you like the way she felt when you had to drag her body out of the ring yet again? She’s grown older, an adult now, what convenient timing! Did she come simpering to your side tonight, begging your aid? Promising you sweet things? You will not undermine me!’
Ynnis stood the same height as her fair guard, a tall and extraordinarily imposing woman able to scream directly into his face. Thorin lowered his chin, staring up through white strands of hair and shifted his bland, polite countenance to something sinister and mocking. He had to disrupt these thoughts. His voice lowered. He allowed his rolling Northern accent to come through sharper.
‘If I held such protective instincts toward your daughter, would I be daft enough to send her out into the world alone? She has barely reached her hundredth birthday without a Talent to her name. She will be lucky to survive on her own.’
Ynnis shook herself and blinked, surprised by her guard’s reaction.
‘If I were involved, and were as much of an ever-vigilant guardian as your wild imaginings have suggested, I would have to run off with Lacilegwen. I would not be the sort to release a helpless girl to live in the wilds of the Twin Forest all alone if my intent were to save her.’
Obvious confusion and anger warred across Ynnis’ features. Something was indeed wrong to be able to read the Brightness so easily.
Her animosity won out. Fingers curling into acrimonious hooks, she snarled, ‘Get on your knees for me, Spiritblade.’
Pain would follow. Thorin accepted the fact and made his genuflection as graceful and cynical as possible. His long coat fanned behind his body. An eyebrow quirked at the furious woman before him. His growing amusement even while kneeling drew her ire in a flurry of movement.
She darted forward and grasped a handful of his snowy hair. Her long fingernails had scratched at his scalp, adding a sting to her callous tugging. He didn’t resist as she pulled his head back further and further. Ynnis slapped him across the cheek. The blood on her
hands had dried to a flaky second skin and rained down in pieces. The angle of their two bodies took some of the momentum from her, but as she continued striking him, she still carried enough force to finally split open his lip.
When Thorin felt his own blood trickling from his swelling mouth, he gave a dark laugh and slowly licked the wet, prickling wound. He knew how the blood would seep across his triangular teeth, displayed by a rare grin. The crimson would paint his pointed dentition and insist the lady’s attention focus on the most prominent physical difference in his race. The twisted show lead into his low utterance perfectly.
‘I did not know you felt this way about me, my lady.’
Shock rippled over Ynnis. She stepped back, though her guard stayed in the backward bowed position a moment longer, letting the uncommon smile fade from his face.
‘You are depraved,’ she murmured.
He knew the absolute lie to his actions and how they misrepresented him to anyone in the room,
but such was life for the warrior. Thorin liked blood, all Loughvire did. In the curious way he danced with manipulation of his mistress, he also liked the control. Even, perhaps, the edge which danger gave to all experiences. But having another dispensing pain against his body fed a deep resentment for all those around him. Thorin let the overt picture of perversion break Ynnis of her short term madness, just as he allowed so many other degrees of reputation precede him in this dreaded place. Belfew had been his residence for over a century; under layers and layers of masks and lies, he couldn’t possibly feel at home.
‘Perhaps,’ he answered. The quiet word held weight amidst the tense silence surrounding the pair.
Her eyes flickered as another set of discernible thoughts crossed through her mind. Then she snorted. ‘Lacilegwen would not survive you.’
On that, he might agree. Best to ignore the subject. ‘My lady, may I ask what gave you the idea I might be connected to her actions this night?’
The tall woman frowned. The dried blood coating her face creased across her forehead and around eyes and mouth, making the expression grotesque and exaggerated. ‘Someone… may have said something?’
One of the two guards she had on duty took an unsteady step forward from where he had been waiting against the wall all this time. Everything in the way he held himself told Thorin the other man could barely function from sheer terror, yet he still brought attention to himself to whisper, ‘I believe you thought of it on your own, my lady. It seems you are prone to following any idea you conceive.’ He gave a shaking bow to their mistress.
Thorin shot the guard a sideways look. ‘You are not an impressionable woman, my lady. Do you feel struck with certain knowledge this evening?’
The other man’s eyes opened wider. Confirmation.
Thorin quickly added, ‘Your insights always have been wise, of course.’
‘Did you think I was wrong about Thorin?’ she asked the quivering man.
‘No, mistress Ynnis, it seemed utterly plausible. Who else would think themselves strong enough to go against you? There are not many in the city stupid enough to cross you,’ he babbled.
A good answer if you wanted to keep your body in one piece.
‘Who, indeed.’ The woman gestured for Thorin to stand. ‘The only ones proven to possess such ignorance have been…’ Her attention fixed on the weak smaller faeries limping and pulling their battered bodies away. They hadn’t been able to move fast enough to reach safety during the Brightness’ distraction, having to avoid so much debris littered through the room.
Ynnis coalesced the light again, glaring hatred toward the wounded Pixies, Brownies, and lone Hobgoblin scattered around her. ‘I will know who worked against me to help her escape.’
The Bachobl turned as one, voices crying out in spite of themselves as Ynnis let the first prickling wave of magic seek the victims. Minuscule blue hands rose over pointed faces,
impossible to fend off the coming spells. Thorin’s jaw clenched at seeing torn wings hanging from one of the Pixies; the little man might never fly again if Ynnis were to harm him further. One of the Brownies still crawled one-handed, the other clutching her shattered cheekbone. Her large hooked nose had been pulverised. Her shoulders flinched under the sorcery, but she pulled herself forward with the desperate persistence of the doomed.
Thorin put himself directly in front of the Arlon and absorbed the snapping sting of her initial magic. Nothing in his appearance betrayed the unease wending through his gut or the continuing crawl of painful spots where the spell burnt. With a sinking regret he came to realise he would have to choose who else bore her wrath, because left in this room, her rage would just return to the defenceless Bachobl over again. He had stilled her hand once, now the small fae needed time to recover. If she would take to a new target, there would be room to prevent her causing permanent damage.
‘Stand down, Spiritblade,’ she growled. ‘There are enemies afoot.’
‘Not in this room, my lady.’
‘Do you know more than you’ve let on?’
‘You never allowed me to explain where I have been,’ he said softly.
‘And what is the relevance?’
‘Someone had to find out the truth for you.’
They stared at each other, two shades of blue eyes locked together. Thorin moved closer. They were within touching distance and the simmering power dimmed by fractions until no more sparks nipped at the warrior’s skin.
He bowed his head. Glimmering strands of pure white fell around his face. An act of deference made to hide his untrustworthy mien concealing the thready self-loathing of handing someone over to be tortured. Quick kills were one thing, a bloodbath of suffering made Thorin ill. ‘Do you remember the Eroft who showed interest in your daughter some years ago?’
‘Yes, they were courting, decided for themselves how incompatible they were.’
Courting and incompatible were both understatements to the carnal relationship Lacilegwen had shared with Cam before their opposing social ideology got in the way of a permanent coupling, but Thorin didn’t correct her. ‘He is the one who helped Lacilegwen beyond the walls.’
‘Bring me his head, Thorin,’ she hissed.
It took all of his discipline to not react. ‘My lady, the reason he could get her past the guards is because most of his family is on the detachment. I feel a personal appearance from you would be more appropriate in dealing with Cam’s disrespect.’
A cruel smile split the dark gore covering her face. ‘You’re right, of course. Follow me, my guards. Let us pay this Eroft a visit.’
Thorin bowed and trailed the woman. Their strides were matched to an almost comfortable familiarity. Neither of them looked back at the injured, nor the two other warriors
coming in behind to protect their mistress. Not that Ynnis required their strength of arms. Perhaps if her power-madness did not quiet soon, Thorin could enlist them to help the bystanders. Perhaps.
The small fae used their own brand of magics to gently tend each other’s injuries. They brought down swelling from where furious hands had struck, cooled the burns of sorcery, and mended cuts with fibres and sticky spells. Healing each other came easy enough, a Talent widely available among the Bachobl. But they were only the wee faeries with equally sized magics and of no use when fixing a Ba’leilon’s wounds. Their power, in so many ways, was disregarded and disrespected.
Once the worst injuries were soothed, uncertain glances were shared back and forth. The whirlwind of hysterical fury didn’t change their obligation to the lady of the house, and even if they wanted to flee and never return,
the safest option was to go about their business as usual. Together, the bandaged Bachobl righted furniture, stitched gashes in fabric, and chanted as one to invoke the help of the mystic Fais to consume the over-abundance of spilt blood and dead flesh. From the corners of their eyes, they caught glimpses of movement but ignored the power they had conjured. Stains faded from sight. The salted metal stench of blood disappeared. They opened windows to allow the room to dry and release any lingering power back to the Elementals.
Hours later, a faint knock came through the newly repaired door. Stellon the Brownie went dutifully to open and greet the visitor while the rest of the Bachobl tried not to huddle around each other.
Stellon looked up and gave a brief nod. A Brownie of few words. He stepped back enough for the pale warrior to glide in, as silent as ever. In Thorin’s hands lay the tiny Maeveen asleep in a ball, dusted with golden pollen from the tulips outside.
The Loughvire sighed and passed the small fae into the waiting arms of the Brownie woman. Her terrible fractures
had been repaired, leaving her face bruised, abraded, but otherwise whole again. She shot a nervous smile at Thorin before carrying Maeveen away.
‘You have seen a great darkness today, little ones.’ He brushed hair from his face and paced across the room. ‘The Eroft lives. Ynnis is… recovering elsewhere.’
‘Is there something we can do to avoid this ever happening again?’ a tiny voice asked from the gathering of Bachobl.
Thorin stifled a rough laugh. ‘Never let another Urisk try their power on her again.’
‘I have not seen it fail so spectacularly before,’ a different fae said.
‘Because it did not fail. Gale’s magic worked all too well on her, and combined with the physical drunkenness, any semblance of reason and composure was struck from Ynnis. We are lucky she does not care for most alcohol.’ Thorin took a shuddering breath and let his weary gaze roam over the assembled faeries. ‘I am sorry I could do no more for you.’
‘No one responsible ‘cept the Brightness,’ Stellon grumbled. He tugged his pointed cap with long fingers, a sign of deep respect among Brownies. ‘Ye did more than anyone else would.’
The tall warrior half shrugged and moved as if to leave. Stellon stopped him by tugging on the closest hem of Thorin’s long coat.
‘Don’t be fearin’ for the young mistress. I’ve a sense she’ll head to the ranch out by Carrington. Good Brownies work there, tendin’ the flocks.’
Thorin’s vivid turquoise eyes rested on the creased, short fae. Strong emotion flashed and vanished before the wise little man could decipher the feelings, though the fact he had said anything at all acknowledged something more. The ordinary aloofness they received from the Loughvire replaced any reaction. Whatever it meant to Thorin to know Lacilegwen had a place to go would never be vocalised beyond this small exchange. Stellon made a strangely graceful gesture as he opened the door, ushering the guard on his way.
‘Gods keep you well, Stellon.’
‘And ye, master.’