Chapter Twenty-One

Over a century ago....

Myriad demi-fae floated on the air. Refractions from their brightly colored wings danced on the air and glittered the obsidian walls of Quinn’s chamber as he paced the crystalline floor. “Ye be demi-fae!” he argued.

Sadb zinged the air and halted in front of him, furious hands on her hips, antennas doing a frenetic jig on her head. “Aye! And me wish t’be ye guard!”

The demi-fae raised their arms and cheered. 

“Ye cannot be!”

The demi-fae booed.

“Me can!” Sadb insisted.

“Cannot!”

“Can!” 

“Cannot!”

“Can!”

The demi-fae cheered Sadb on again.

“Ye not be!” 

“I be!”

“Nay!”

“Aye!”

“Nay!”

“Aye!”

“Nay!” Quinn shouted at her.

The demi-fae booed louder.

“Ye judge me unfairly!” she shouted back at him, her high-pitched voice slicing through Quinn’s eardrums like a hot dagger. The demi-fae joined the painful cacophony and cheered even louder.

“Do not!”

“Ye do!”

“Do not!”

The demi-fae booed the loudest yet, but fell silent when Quinn turned to them, anger plain on his face.

“Ye dooooooo!” she shrieked as she zinged past him.

Quinn wasn’t sure how he’d get out of this one. The fact of the matter was he did judge her unfairly. His mother swore the demi-fae were incapable of all things, though he knew it wasn’t true. After all, the demi-fae had the most powerful magicks in all of Fairy. And that intimidated full-sized fae. Especially his mother. So much so, she dared to tell tall tales about them; lies containing just enough truth to keep Gabriel’s Hounds from claiming her. For if the fae told a lie, they’d be slain by the Wild Hunt, the Devil’s Dandy Dogs themselves! 

She told tall tales about him too. She berated and disgraced him, and said he was useless—as useless as a glass axe, to be precise. Not a chance she’d born such a useless bantling, to be sure. At times, she even dared to wonder aloud if he was less than full fae. Worse yet, she dared to speak tales aloud at Court, of all things! But he knew in his heart of hearts that he was full fae, just as he knew the demi-fae held the most powerful magicks in all the land. 

His mother only told half-truths when she was afraid of something, flying in the face of menace, almost relishing the risk she posed to herself. So often, he’d begun to believe her incapable of telling a whole truth. Risky for a fae. Even one as powerful as his mother, the Queen. Why would she be afraid of demi-fae magicks? Why would she be afraid of him? He shook his head to rid his mind of the curiosity that plagued him. He needed to learn to accept fae law for what it was. And, fates knew, he’d learned never to question his mother. No matter how unfairly she judged him. 
He stopped pacing and faced Sadb. “If I judge ye unfairly then I judge meself unfairly.”

Sabd ceased zinging the air, her eyes narrowing on him. “How so?”

Think fast, think fast. “Well....” He waved a useless hand as he stalled for time to think. “Everyone know all we fae be fairly fairy, justly so. So, if I judge ye unfairly, then I judge meself unfairly too.”

Oooohs and ahhhs rippled through the cloud of demi-fae. A purple fairy even did a little flip in the air. A blue fairy smacked the back of his head and told him to be still. He rubbed his head, a lavender tear doing a slow slide down his cheek. He floated back a few paces, did a quick flip, and stuck his tongue out at the back of the blue fairy’s head.

This time, Sadb glared at them. They fell silent and she turned back to Quinn. “Ye mean to say I be fairly Fairy, as ye be?” 

“Aye.”

Her antennas stilled and her obsidian eyes became large and round as she gave this a thought. “Naaaaay,” she said long and loud.

Quinn frowned. “Why not?”

“Ye be Prince of we High Court of Fairy. Ye be more fairly Fairy than I be!”

He smirked. “Not if ye query we Queen Mother. She deem me a lesser fae swifter than a kick in ye jacksie when it strike she fancy.”

Sadb’s eyes filled with genuine sadness. “Aye, she be wicked with she judgments and she judge ye unfairly,” she said wistfully.

Quinn nodded. “There ye be. Proof I not judge ye unfairly.” 

She brightened. “Aye, I be fairly Fairy, justly so, and I be ye guard!”

The myriad demi-fae broke into the loudest cheer yet, the purple fairy flipping three times behind the blue fairy’s back.

“Nay!” Quinn shouted over the din.

The cheering came to a deafening halt and Sadb stomped her foot on the air. “I be!” 

Quinn blew an exasperated breath and went to her. Taking her gently by the hand, he led her to a massive oval mirror. It floated, suspended in the air, its gilded frame glistening in the moonlit room. He turned it ever so slightly with the tip of a finger and moonbeams splashed its surface. A startling shine blossomed and, with a wave of Quinn’s hand, water pooled in the glass and three-dimensional images began to appear. “Behold we looking glass, Sadb. See what peril exist in we realm.” 

The demi-fae crowded en masse and a cloud of color enveloped them as they all peered into the translucent reflection.

The Ghost Riders of the Wild Hunt came to life with all the attendant horror of Fionn mac Cumhaill, himself. Slough flew over the lands, breathing in the essence of every fae, and they dropped like flies, but not before suffering unspeakable agony. Sadb trembled and her lips quivered as Quinn waved his hand, and the looking glass returned to its once-mirrored glass.

“Now ye know true evil for what it be as ye beheld it. I canno’ risk ye essence of demi-fae.”

She looked up at him with frightened eyes and whispered, “Ye fix ye eye on such creature afore?”

“Aye,” Quinn said gravely. “Ilk with teeth the size of five ogre! Horses with breath o’fire to scald we unicorn! And they magicks be the darkest of black t’leave ye with ye inside on the out!”

A chorus of stifled whimpers, yips, and gurgles emanated from the demi-fae.

“Ye not leave we mound!” one shouted.

“Be pure evil yon!” another warned.

“Ye be certain to lose ye essence for all time!” a third one screeched.

In spite of her trembling, Sadb turned to them. “The Queen Mother betray we demi-fae! She leave we with no standing! By the grace of we Prince alone, we not be thrown in we chasm of eternal suffering! We must protect we Prince for he be all we have to protect we!” 

Murmurs cascaded the crowd of demi-fae as they argued amongst themselves. Some insisted they protect the Prince, some offered challenge, and some looked on in abject terror, still consumed by the malevolence in the looking glass.

A loud boom filled the air as someone banged the knocker against the chamber door. Sadb took to flight and the demi-fae scattered, the purple Fairy committing one final felonious flip before they disappeared, nary a one in sight. 

Quinn crossed the chamber, lifted the brass bar from its cradles, and opened the heavy oak door. A guard adorned in glistening black armor and a cape trimmed in red offered a curt bow before handing a scroll over and stepping aside, only to remain until Quinn read it. 
Quinn closed the door, set the brass bar in place, and studied the scroll. Tied with black lace and sealed with a deadly thorned rose set in elfin wax, he didn’t need to inquire whence the summons came. Holding the scroll ever so carefully for the scroll could be one of trixie, he broke the black seal.

When nothing untoward happened, he slowly untied the lace that held it bound. An hourglass slipped into the palm of his hand with the liquid grace of a water sprite’s eel. He closed his fingers around it ever so gently and unfurled the scroll and read.

My bower nay a nonce begeondon the shatter. 

Queen Muirgan's initial was signed in blood.








Chapter Twenty                                            Table of Contents                                   


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