We’re always so pleased to introduce new blood to the fandom and whilst ladytarara has been around for a bit now it’s heartening to see you all jump on this wonderful tale so eagerly! Here’s part 2 of Heather218’s gift.
Day 13: A gift for Heather218 from ladytarara
The Christmas Fairy
Part 2: The Mercenary
Rome was at an end, and he had brought about its downfall.
They’d been moving south, fighting their way into the territory of the Celts when Godric had first encountered the Romans, led by Caesar himself, the red and gold colours of Rome trooping through the mud, pinning his people, the Suebi, between his troops and a swollen river.
Still human, his long hair yet to be shorn in the Roman fashion, it was tied in a knot, his sword in his hands as he sat atop his nervous horse who did not know whether to flee further into the rushing river water that already sucked at its ankles, or to take its chances against the clanking armour of the Roman infantry, their cavalry no doubt nearby. The horse whinnied nervously, rearing up into the air on his hind legs, and Godric sought to quiet him with a word and a gentle hand.
Some of the riders, men older and braver than he, tried to ride into the river, their screams lost to his ears as they were carried downstream. Godric steadied his horse, sword in hand, prepared to fight, knowing he would most likely end up impaled on the end of a Roman sword.
“So be it,” he said softly. “Wotan, grant me a good death.”
Godric rode into the fray, sword held high, cutting and slashing through as many Romans as he could, kicking some in the face, trampling others, thinking perhaps they might make it, perhaps they might get through, when the Roman cavalry crested the top of the hill. Ripping his sword out of a dead man’s chest, Godric wheeled his horse around with an unearthly cry, waiting for the Roman cavalry to advance, holding himself and his horse steady, waiting to use the force of their own charge against them.
Hooves thundered closer and still he waited till he could see the faces of the men who rode them, some of them from Caesar’s allied tribes in Gaul, some of them Spanish riders, and only a few Romans. Their faces were worn like leather left too long in the sun, their skin cracked and chapped from the wind and years on the campaign trail, fighting for this little general who would crown himself emperor.
Mud began to spray toward him from the stampeding horses, and just as they were close enough that he could almost feel their breath on his neck, Godric slid down from his horse’s back, stabbing a Roman horse in the belly and unseating its rider before swinging himself back onto his horse.
Hundreds of other men from the Suebi did the same, scattering the mud with horse guts and throwing their riders into the muck until their warriors could finish them.
The Romans turned and ran.
When the tribe’s elders tried to sue for peace with Caesar at his request after his troop’s inglorious defeat, they journeyed to his encampment. Godric had ridden in on his horse, eyeing the fortifications with mistrust, the Romans well-known for their elaborate holes in the ground filled with spikes and clay that would sink into a man’s belly and break his horse’s legs. His horse stepped from one hoof to the other as the gates closed behind them, cut off from escape and the open ground of the Rhineland.
Too late they heard the screams behind them as what was left of their camp was attacked, the women and children attempting to run, Caesar sending his cavalry after them, hoping it would lift their morale after their embarrassing defeat.
Godric and his fellow men rode for the walls, leaping over them. Some men fell to their deaths, impaled on the spikes hidden in the trenches surrounding the Roman camp, their horses screaming in pain as limbs shattered.
But not Godric. Perfectly timed and perfectly paced, his horse leapt over the fence, then the first, second, and third set of fortifications dug into the ground before his steed galloped away over the open grassland, back toward the river and whatever was left of his people, hacking and slashing at any Roman he saw, till the cowards rode as far from him as they could.
His father, a tribal chieftain, was trapped in the camp with Caesar. But his mother, his sister, his wife – he found their bodies, broken and bloodied.
His sword, bathed in the blood of Romans, he picked it up and used it to shear off his Suebi locks, the severed hair he placed in the clutched hands of his dead family.
“I will avenge you. I give you the blood of your enemies, my most sacred oath to Wotan and I swear to you I will make Rome burn.”
Godric did not have time to prepare the funeral pyre before the Romans came for him. Twenty mounted men, Spaniards by the look of them and their fancy, high-stepping horses, and they were too fearful to come near him, to bind him, to take him into custody to face the Caesar’s justice.
Was his father dead? The other men?
The group parted and Caesar himself rode forward on a fat horse, clearly not used to being ridden, but chosen instead for its jet-black colour and the way it offset the red and gold of Rome.
Caesar dismounted and strutted around like a vain-glorious peacock, his men still circling Godric cautiously.
“Join my cavalry with 400 of your finest warriors, and I will let the remainder of your tribe live. Ransom their lives with your own. Surely this would appeal to your savage sense of honour and sacrifice?”
“How do I know you will not kill them anyway?”
Caesar waved a hand, and the remainder of the Suebi forces appeared.
“I will give them boats to cross the river. I will allow them to move into Gaul unimpeded, to take land and riches for themselves. I will even grant them what gold I carry – on the condition you swear to serve me loyally.”
“And what is to stop me breaking my oath with an oath-breaker?” Godric demanded.
Caesar laughed, a harsh, horrid sound. “I know your kind, know your type. You are loyal to a fault. Once an oath is sworn, you will not break it. You will get down on your knees in the mud and swear to your great Wotan that you will serve me and Rome unto my death.”
Godric paused for a moment, thinking of the oath he had already sworn, running a hand through his shorn hair, drenched with the blood of these fat and bloated imbeciles.
Besides, what better way was there to bring your enemy down than from the inside?
Nodding, Godric dismounted his horse and strode toward Caesar, the guards surrounding their general flinching as he approached. He dropped to his knees in the mud and swore fealty to the man who had slaughtered his family, those who had decimated his tribe, the words bitter as gall on his tongue.
“I swear by our great god Wotan to serve you to the end of your days.”
All Suebi knew a blood oath such as the one he had sworn to his family outweighed any given under duress. The tribesmen saw his shorn hair and knew the truth the great Caesar was ignorant of: Godric would seek to cut his throat the first chance he got.
The elders murmured amongst each other as Caesar continued to speak.
“Romans are soft. Good food and wine and wealth have taken the fight out of them. The Gauls are little better these days, corrupted by trade with Rome. But you – your people are made of tougher stuff. Real men, real warriors. Fight with Rome and I will allow what is left of your people to live. I will select my remaining troops as tribute for your lives.”
Caesar walked amongst the remaining men, choosing the fittest and fiercest, those with the best horses, leaving scarcely a hundred men, and those beyond their prime, to defend their tribe from others.
“You can’t do this,” Godric demanded. “It’s not enough. The Gauls will slaughter them. This is an unfair bargain!”
Caesar regarded the warrior on his knees in the mud before him with the strangely unkempt hair with disdain.
“This is my bargain; your oath is sworn. If you choose to break it, I will slaughter them all now.”
Godric’s father shook his head imperceptibly at him, signalling him to let it be, to let him worry about how they would fend off attack when so badly depleted.
“Well?” demanded Caesar.
“I will abide by my oath,” he answered through gritted teeth.
“Good.” He motioned to Godric to stand. “Take your horse and join my column of men. When you return to camp, report to the commissary and have your hair properly barbered in the Roman fashion. That looks like you cut it yourself with your knife.”
If only you knew, thought Godric darkly.
Still, he got to his feet and did as his new lord bid him, taking his horse by the hand and leading her over to the mounted troops of his hated enemy.
“Go tend to your dead,” said Caesar to the remaining Suebi, turning his back on them and re-joining his men, dismissing them. Then he turned to speak to his new mercenary cavalry.
“You lack tactics, you lack training and armour and weaponry, yet one-on-one I would back you and your kind against these fat soldiers from Rome. You will accompany me to Gaul and help me enslave her tribes and make them vassals of Rome.”
Mounting his horse, Godric had followed in the wake of Caesar, knowing that if his people ever became united, if they ever had a leader who could call all the tribes together, then inside knowledge of Rome’s tactics would be needed.
An initiated man, with the woad tattoos on his chest, his true loyalty would always lay with his people, regardless of who held his sword. And what were the Gauls to him? Enemies whom they raided and plundered, taking cattle and horses and women, as the Gauls also did to them. What did he care if Rome ruled them or not?
A few short days later, the army rode out of their fortified camp, heading further into the territory of Gaul. Godric’s hair was now shorn in the Roman fashion, so strange to him that his head felt too light and he kept running his hand through his hair against the grain of the cut, thinking of his dead family and the symbolic sacrifice he had made to them of his hair and his enemies’ blood. He followed the lead of their Roman commander, all the time with murder in his heart.
Godric sat around the campfire at night, listening to the conversation of the men, many of them from Caesar’s allies amongst the Gauls. That was where he first heard the name Vercingetorix and whispered mutterings of mutiny.
“We are allied to Rome! The chieftains will never allow -”
“They have been bought with Rome’s gold! They sell our own people into slavery to gild their houses. When we finally meet him in battle, I for one will desert these Roman dogs!”
Godric kept his face impassive, knowing the Gauls assumed he did not know their language. He listened intently, struggling from keeping his lips curling up into a sneer, thinking them fools to talk rebellion so openly. He would not make such a mistake if ever his own people became united and had a chance against the power of Rome.
The next morning, half of Caesar’s cavalry were gone, run off to join in the fight to free their people from the Roman oppressors.
Caesar cursed and swore, his face turning red and purple with rage, and Godric watched with interest as he foamed at the mouth and some of his men led him away arm-in-arm, but from his vantage point on his horse, Godric could see he collapsed to the ground in front of his tent, his body quaking and writhing in a seizure brought on by anger, his body diffused with a strange light.
So, that was his weakness, he thought. The great Roman general had the falling sickness. Godric smiled, and hoped it would go hard for him, that it hurt, that perhaps he might swallow his own tongue and die.
Several hours later though, a pale and shaky Caesar emerged, riding his battle horse, ordering the Suebi cavalry, vastly outnumbered, to attack the Gauls led by Vercingetorix, his numbers swollen by the defection from his own troops.
Smiling grimly, Godric mounted his horse and rode into battle.
Godric rode till his thighs ached, no mean feat for a man who had been practically born in the saddle. The dust of the road filled his lungs and settled into his heart as he tried not to think of his dead family or whether his father still lived. He fought Caesar’s war for him, but his mind was detached, his body reacting on instinct alone as he drove his sword home, parting life from bodies beyond count. He longed to turn the same sword on those who were now his masters and drive it deep into their guts.
Small in number as they were, the Suebi cavalry drove Vercingetorix to Alesia, a small, fortified town. The Gauls had not expected to be charged by members of the Germanic tribes, and certainly not their old enemies the Suebi, the most feared horsemen in Europe.
The town itself barely had space for them and food was in short supply with so many mouths to feed. Caesar had smirked at the news.
“We will lay siege to the town, starve them out like the rats they are.”
Idleness hung heavily upon Godric, the waiting binding his limbs and dragging them down like a dead weight into deep mud. How could Caesar still live? He swore a blood oath for vengeance, yet the man still drew breath. His mind seething with dark anger, Godric kept watching and waiting for an opening, for a chance to be alone with the mighty Caesar, to sneak up on him in the dark, but such a chance did not come.
There had to be a way.
Fortifications were built around the town, trenches filled with spears and clay, camouflaged with leaves and sticks, and siege towers were built by Roman engineers, propped up against the walls of the place as they prepared to tear them down, brick by brick and stone by stone, to send their own men up and over the top as they were breached. But it was more than just a defensive circle.
It was a trap.
A deserter came to their camp, a dishevelled and stinking man, covered in his own filth, suffering from dysentery and starving as so many of the Gauls were as Vercingetorix laid the torch to all the villages and the crops, burning them till the land was blackened and scorched, denying Caesar’s ten legions the food they needed. Unable to live from the land, the supply train for the Roman army spread out treacherously across the continent as the Gauls did their best to cut it off and capture the spoils of Rome for themselves.
The deserter had been brought to Caesar, the man thrown to his knees by the guards.
“What information of any use could a coward such as yourself have to pass on to me?” Caesar demanded.
“The cavalry,” the man stammered. “Vercingetorix has sent most of them out into the countryside, to draw his vassal tribes to his side and demand they join him in war.”
Of course, he had. Caesar nodded to his guard, who raised his knife and slit the man’s throat.
“A man who has betrayed his master can never be trusted,” Caesar continued. “I would never bring a creature such as this to my side. Better to kill him where he lies, like the dog he is.”
“Master, we will be crushed between the reinforcements and the walls of Alesia!” one guard said.
With a dismissive wave, Caesar continued with his plans.
“You will dig an outer ring of earthworks in secret, at night. We will camouflage the site during the day, sit around, eat, drink and look fat – that shouldn’t be too hard for you lot.”
When the cavalry came, they outnumbered the Romans 4 to 1. Their beasts whinnied and reared in excitement, already scenting blood in the air before charging, the Gauls riding them full-pelt straight into the hidden trenches, horses screaming in pain, men gutted on the stakes below. It lacked honour, such a tactic, but honour was something few Romans knew, and it certainly evened the odds in their favour, as much as Godric would have preferred to ride straight for them and kill them in hand-to-hand combat.
He could not fulfil his blood oath if he was dead.
Besieged and starving, Vercingetorix surrendered, his body thin but held tall and proud, his back straight and his head high, riding out in full battle array. He’d sent emissary after emissary to Caesar, begging him, imploring him, to let the women and children leave Alesia, to spare them a cruel and painful death, their skin stretched taut over too-thin bodies, their eyes dark and pleading with hunger.
“Then he will surrender himself, the siege will end, and you will let them go,” the emissary explained.
“If I don’t?” Caesar demanded.
“The war will continue to bleed Rome dry.”
“Alright,” he agreed at last, finding he had grown bored with this Gaulish sky, the infernal road and longed for a decent cup of Roman wine. “Gaul is my vassal, and your leader my hostage, his life forfeit.”
Vercingetorix, unable to bear the piled-up bodies of the dead, or the living skeletons who hunted rats in the sewers and fought over scraps of fur and bone, murdering others for any morsel that might pass their lips, gave himself up. If only he could erase the memory of the corpses of the dead, stacked like firewood, some with flesh pockmarked by bites from the small jaws of roaming packs of children. Their suffering wasn’t worth his life, and he had to save them, before they lost everything that had made them human.
Unable to leave Alesia, Caesar found himself fighting skirmish after skirmish as fresh warriors from further-flung Gallic tribes came to free their leader. He doubled the guard on Vercingetorix, then tripled it, sending men from his own personal guard, the best, the most highly trained, leaving himself vulnerable.
Only they would not be expecting an attack from within.
In the dead of the night, Godric watched as yet another legion was sent out to fight the encroaching Gauls, Caesar sending his personal guards to watch over Vercingetorix as he remained in his tent, planning his battle and how to force them to surrender, to give up their king as dead. Feigning illness, Godric was not riding out this night. The dagger hidden in the folds of his cloak cried out for Caesar’s blood, to avenge his family and to flee to the open plains of his home, to put as many miles as possible between himself and these walls of stone that hemmed him in at every turn.
Caesar looked up from his maps drawn in black ink on scrolls of parchment. “What is it?” he demanded, spotting Godric’s approach. “Why aren’t you out with your horse lining the road back to Rome with the corpses of my enemies?”
“Forgive me, sir,” he began, his dagger still clutched tight. “Your maps are wrong – I have lived on the borders between Gaul and Germania all my life, and no wonder the Gauls have been able to ambush you because those mountains should actually be over there.”
Caesar raised a suspicious eyebrow at him. “Show me,” he demanded, and Godric advanced toward him, cloak still closed, dagger in hand. Carefully he fished one hand out of the folds and pointed.
“These mountains.” Caesar looked, and seizing his chance, Godric pulled out his dagger, raising it high, only to have it knocked out of his hand and find himself pinned to the table by a large, dark-skinned man. The man growled and dropped his fangs, leering into Godric’s face.
“This one tried to kill you, my lord.”
“You have not met my vampire guard, have you? His presence is not well known. Godric, meet Kha, a present to me from Queen Cleopatra and King Ptolemy of Egypt. Have him killed and his horse butchered for meat.”
“He is a fierce warrior, yes? He has killed many of your enemies?” Kha asked Caesar.
“True, but I will not allow a traitor to live in my midst.”
“You slaughtered my family!” Godric began.
Caesar slapped him across the face, making his ears ring.
“I have watched this one at night,” Kha continued. “He is merciless and fierce and I have a better punishment for him. What use is a dead man to you? What if I could ensure his loyalty to you forever?”
“Not even the gods can do such a thing,” Caesar replied. “He broke his oath to his beloved Wotan easily enough.”
“I did no such thing!”
This time Kha struck Godric.
“I would make him like me. The process is known as turning. As vampire, I would be his master and because of the blood magic between us, I can command him to be loyal to you for the rest of your days. And he will suffer, that I promise you. I will kill him, fill him with my blood, and every night when he rises he will live in terrible agony because he will want to kill you, yet he cannot, and he will be forced to do your bidding.”
Caesar thought for a moment.
“You are right. For these barbarian savages, death is a reward. You have my permission. I know you are lonely here, away from your kind.”
“Thank you, master.”
Kha took his leave, dragging Godric out into the night as Godric tried to fight back. Kha slapped him again.
“Be quiet you fool, or he will change his mind. My people are enslaved to Rome as much as yours, and I am old, so old you would not believe me, but I lived in a time when my country ruled the world. I would not see her enslaved. I want the same thing you do. Let us work together to bring him down, and every emperor they place on the throne after him.”
“Why didn’t you just let me kill him?”
“Because you would never have escaped with your life. He would have hunted you down and killed whoever was left of your people. My way is better.”
“Do I have a choice?”
He struck out at Godric then, so swiftly he didn’t see him coming, barely felt his fangs enter his neck or his blood leave his body. He felt weak and light, then a dark wrist was placed in his face and he drank deeply of the blood, its taste in his throat the last living memory he ever had before his heart gave out and he died, with none to mourn him or bewail his loss.
His eyes snapped open, filling them with dirt. Unable to breathe, he began to panic, pushing and scrabbling at the dirt, trying to find some kind of purchase to pull himself out. Godric struggled to remember what had happened to him. He had been caught – why was he buried alive? Was even Caesar this cruel?
A strong arm grasped his waist and he felt another lifting him up, pulling him out of the ground as gasping for air, his head finally broke through the surface of the gravel and dirt, spitting it out of his mouth as his fangs dropped, cutting his lip below and making him cry out with pain. Hunger gripped at his stomach and he cried out, gasping as he clutched at the edge of his makeshift grave, worse even than the winters when he’d had nothing to eat but boiled grass and leaves.
Spitting the dirt from his mouth and throat, Godric began to scream.
“Stop!” a voice commanded him and he felt the words burn into him, the scream die on his lips and in his lungs. “It is the thirst – I have prepared for this. Come.”
His master took him to where the prisoners, mostly Gauls, were chained. “They are sentenced to die anyway. We may take our fill…”
Before the sentence was even done, Godric threw himself onto the neck of the first prisoner, ripping it open as the man screamed and Godric drank the meaty richness of his blood, his gut unclenching as the blood soothed the ache within him.
“No!” Kha commanded again, and Godric found his limbs hanging uselessly by his side, his fangs retracting.
Kha taught him what it meant to be vampire, and Godric revelled in what he was.
One night, finally back on the road to Rome, Gaul now a subdued, vassal state, Kha took Godric out from the column of Caesar’s men, bidding him to follow, to ride his horse into the shadows that grabbed at them with their long fingers, the wind a cold breath on the back of their necks as the night whispered at them to flee, to turn around now, to run and never, ever look back.
“We have an ally,” he told Godric. “An unlikely one, but one of great power. He wants Caesar gone too, but for reasons different to ours. I command you not to attack him.”
The command settling deep into his chest, no longer burning his undead heart, Godric nodded, waiting for his maker to go on, but he stayed silent as a man stepped out of the darkness, the clutching shadows shrinking away from him. What had been night transformed into the golden light of noon, and Godric cringed, his newborn vampire senses unused to such brilliance, living now only by the moon and the flicker of candle and firelight. He braced himself, waiting for the burn the sun would give him, but it did not come, and slowly, grudgingly, his eyes adjusted so he could make out the shape of a man but surely someone who could not be a man. His hair was golden and long, his eyes dark and terrifying, clad in midnight blue and wearing a rising sun as his crest.
“What are you?” breathed Godric.
The creature laughed. “Have you not taught him manners?”
“It seems I have not. Godric, meet Oren Brigant, the leader of a rebel force of the Fae.”
His fangs throbbing in his gums, Godric longed to eat this golden creature, to take this light and snuff it out, but his maker’s command held.
“I think your new progeny is quite distracted by me,” Oren remarked.
“He is young, but he hates Caesar as I do. More, perhaps.”
“I am not Caesar. When I look at you, I do not just see a barbarian or a vampire. Your father is Suebi, but your mother was not.” He inclined his head toward the gold symbol attached to a leather thong around Godric’s neck. “You wear the arwen.”
Godric’s hand reached out to touch the three-pronged symbol of light, almost a stylised version of the sun’s rays. “Where there is light, there is life,” he said softly, the irony not lost on him. “She was a Celt, taken from another tribe, far to the west.”
“What did she tell you of the standing stones?”
“That they were portals to other times, maybe other worlds. Places of power that would sing to her at night.”
“And the fairies?”
“Treacherous creatures who would steal human children and leave changelings in their place.”
Oren laughed. “She was right, in a way. The stones channel the sun’s power, and once, when my kind walked more freely amongst men, when there was less iron in the world, we used these ancient pools of power to enhance our own natural magic. I personally have never stolen a baby, but there are others who may have.” Niall’s face flickered before Oren’s eyes. “Rome is destroying the druids who tend the stones, who feed power into them, and so I find we have a common enemy.”
“Why do you want that power?” demanded Godric.
“My father is Niall Brigant. He has given himself the title of prince, but it might as well be Caesar. He fights a long and protracted war with the vampires in an attempt to unite the fae tribes under his rule, but he does so only to further his own ends. He wishes to seat himself on a throne above all the other supernatural species, to be an emperor if you will. He plans to close the portals, to prevent anyone crossing between the worlds and across time because Niall wants us to think the battle for Earth is already lost – but I have not yet given up. I have a fondness for this place. My own wife is human, and I do not wish her to lose contact with this place, or my small daughter either. I will not surrender hope – there has to be a way, and midwinter is the time the end will come, because from the darkest day will come the greatest light.”
“What would you have me do?” Godric demanded.
“He is blunt. Good. You will help bring down Rome from within, and your maker will bring the vampires to our side. If you can get them to join together -”
“Doubtful,” interrupted Kha. “Some perhaps, but there are others driven mad with your blood.”
“If we save the stone circles, I can use them to destroy Niall. My power will exceed his, but to access that power I must end Rome and stop the slaughter of the humans who tend these gateways. Will you help?”
“You know we will.”
Something flickered in the night, far in the distance, a twig snapping, a leaf rustling. Kha and Godric dropped their fangs, and Oren turned, his hands pooling with light as the stars fell out of the sky, exploding to the dark ground below, setting it on fire. A battalion of fairies appeared, swords flaming and shooting balls of light from their hands as Oren turned to them, his face terrible as he uttered an incantation, raising his hands high above his head, the light exploding upward and outward, raining down upon the heads of his enemies as he grabbed Kha and Godric by the hand.
“Hold on. This will hurt.”
The light grew brighter, even with his eyes shut it burned Godric, his retinas dazzled by coloured lights like those you might see from looking too long at the sun. A force pushed them downward, flat on their faces, and they woke inside a stone circle.
“Where are we?”
“The village of Carnac is over there. Stay down! They will follow.”
Murmuring a spell, Oren waited for the fae soldiers to appear, men clad in armour of gold, shields emblazoned with Niall’s symbol, the bloody sun. Raising his arms aloft, the spell released like a shockwave across the land, the soldiers turned to stone, still arrayed in their battle formation.
“This is one of the few stone circles still functioning. Come, they will not trouble us now.”
Stunned, Godric got to his feet, raising a questioning eyebrow at his maker, who sternly ignored him and followed Oren as he made his way towards the village. The sky had returned to its accustomed shade of black, and Godric ran after them both.
Dolmens were scattered across the site, and Godric wondered who lay buried there, whether his own mother had come from a place such as this. Judging by the position of the stars they had travelled far to the north-west, and she had told tales of coming from a place such as this before her father had purchased her from a rival raider.
Oren took them to the village, nestled in a valley below the stones, the houses made from wood and thatched with straw, pale in the moonlight as washed-out silk. The people sat round a bonfire, and Godric could tell many of them were fae, their scent tantalising him, tickling his nostrils more than any fine Roman pastry stuffed with almonds ever had. His nostrils dilated, his eyes were wide, and his maker gave him a cautionary glance.
A woman approached them, her hair long and golden-brown, glowing in the firelight, her hair reaching to her waist. Her gown was simple but made of fine cloth, the same shade of blue as Oren, embroidered with the same symbol, so like the arwen he wore around his neck. She wrapped her arms around Oren, and Godric wondered if this was his human wife, and if so, he was a luckier man than most.
“You were attacked! I know you would not use the stones unless…”
“Hush, I am here now.”
“You have brought vampires to us?” Her eyes were wide, and Godric guessed she had met the most vicious of his kind before.
“They are allies, come to help us.”
“What if they lead him to us?”
“How can he know? We have not seen Niall in months. He is too busy shoring up his support in Faerie.”
“What if he knows, what if he finds us, finds her?”
A small child, a girl with blonde hair and big, dark eyes ran up to Oren, wrapping her arms around his legs.
Oren crouched down till his face was level with that of his daughter.
He hugged her tight and then she was gone, disappearing as fast as she came, chasing other children into the night as they played tag around the feet of the humans and fae alike. Godric watched her go, watched the faces of others as she ran by them, saw the smiles and the softening of their eyes as they watched her, seeing this child of Oren was loved by them all. He found his eyes following her, feeling himself drawn to her, something about her was bewitching, and it had nothing to do with her delicious scent or her blood. She glowed from within, from some kind of inner light, and it lit up her face and her hands with genuine affection, a light of warmth and kindness so unlike the alien light of the fae.
Godric broke away from Kha, Oren, and Annwyn, scarcely able to hear them as they discussed their plans. At first he thought to clear his head, to break away from the heady scent of too-ripe fruit that hung in the air, a scent he thought came from the fae. Kha watched him go, continuing his conversation, knowing it was too much for Godric, that he needed the darkness and the night to calm him.
He stood alone in the dark, letting the cold, fresh air wash over him, the scent of rain dislodging the heady fragrance of the fae. It was cloying, too much, sticking to his skin like a rancid perfume left in the sun to dry up in the bottle, the liquid turned to a hard residue. For all they smelled like sweets, Godric found his stomach had turned from the thought of drinking their blood, too strange and too foreign, untempered by human kindness.
Then she was in front of him, the golden-haired, brown-eyed child, the perfect blending of light and dark, and she giggled as she ran up to him, her sky-blue dress floating behind her as the wind lifted the light fabric, ruffling its way along the edges.
“Are you really a vampire?” she asked. Godric knelt before her as Oren had.
He let his fangs snick out, and laying them bare like that, he felt like her dark eyes could see into his soul.
“But you are a good vampire,” she said to him, and he felt the words settling into him like a maker’s command, and he wondered at the enormous power folded into such a small package. Rather than making her less, somehow being human had made her more. And she was right – he knew her words were true, that somehow this child had the gift of seeing through to the heart of things.
Impulsively, he pulled off the arwen he wore around his neck and placed it over Sookie’s.
“This was my mother’s. She was from a place like this, and she was beautiful and kind like you. Will you wear it for her and for me, little one?”
Sookie nodded. “I will.”
“If you ever need me, I will come for you,” he said.
“But how will you know where I am?”
“What do you mean? Aren’t you always here?”
“No. We move around a lot, sometimes to different places, other worlds, even other times. Father says he is trying to protect me from a man called Niall who does not like hybrids like me. Do you know him?”
“I do not. My parents were from different peoples, too. Different tribes who were often enemies, often fought.”
“Were you hunted?”
“No. But I was rejected by some, usually those who were afraid of me, of change, of peace, of a different way of life and a different way of being. Vampires are good at tracking. I will find you. Send me word somehow, and I will rescue you, fair maiden.” Godric held out his hand to Sookie and she laughed again.
Sookie shivered and her face lost its mirth, Godric getting to his feet, his vampire senses on full alert.
“You weren’t followed, were you?” Sookie demanded.
Up on the hill, the stone circle blazed with light.
Niall stepped out of the stone circle, the brightness of the light surprising even him as he travelled from Caesar’s camp to this place of deep magic. They must have powerful druids here, he thought, knowing his son sought to use that power to end his plan to rule Faerie, no longer a prince but a king.
“You came alone?” Oren demanded, having teleported himself to the circle when he saw it activate.
His son stood before him and Niall wondered what he had done to deserve this. What had he done to earn the enmity of his child? The witch Annwyn stood beside him and he lamented his son’s choice of bride, though as far as the laws of the Fae were concerned, they were not and could never be wed. Oren was his only surviving child, and he needed an heir to his empire.
“Are all the fae women dead that you would choose this, a lowly human, for your wife?” he spat.
“I love her. I don’t want to be part of your schemes and your plans. Let us end it now. Let us go in peace and leave the portals open.”
“And you will come and go as you please, contaminating what is left of our powers with iron? And you will no doubt beg me to end the war with the vampires, to let the tribes disintegrate into warfare once more, to remove Rome from the human world and let it fall into darkness?” Niall laughed bitterly. “I will not. You must come to your senses, return home to Faerie, and take your place by my side.”
Oren’s heart broke as he heard his father’s words. “Did you come alone?” he repeated.
“Are you expecting an army like the one I sent after you near Rome? Imagine my delight when my spies told me you were near and meeting with our bitter enemies who would sooner drain us than any other species. Do you think so little of your own kind?”
“They aren’t all like that. They aren’t the unthinking beasts you believe them to be. We don’t have to fight them – but I think you know that.”
“Well,” smiled Niall, his pointed teeth showing. “Lucky for you my army is already here.”
He raised his hand, and the army of fae Oren had turned to stone flashed back into life, gathering around their king, their bows raised high, their silver swords ready to slash, their hands filled with bright light to hurl at the rebel fae.
Oren’s supporters stood, some fae, others Celts, some armed with iron, and others drawing on magic.
“Father, I warn you -” Oren began.
“Save your fine words. This place will be destroyed, the stones toppled over, but not before I take the light pooled here for myself!”
Niall tried to draw on the magic of the stone circle, but instead of fuelling his spark as he intended, it backfired and attacked him, a red flash of light forcing him to his knees.
“What have you done?” he seethed.
“The place is warded against you. The druids, my wife Annwyn whom you call witch, they have cut you off from the magic of this land. It answers only to me, only to my blood.”
“Well, then we shall make sure your blood soaks well into this soil!”
Annwyn whispered, “Sookie, where is she? He cannot know. Please.”
“Hush – this may be the end of us all. Godric is with her. He has pledged to protect her.”
Then the battle began, archers firing a volley of shots, the humans much aided by their iron-tipped arrows which only had to lightly graze the skin of the fae to end them, screaming as the iron ate into them before they exploded into sparkling fairy dust. Niall took up his sword, the blade clashing with that of his son as his army followed him down into the village, away from the stone circle, closer to Sookie who stood shivering in the night now suddenly grown cold, watching her fae kin slaughter each other.
“We must flee,” said Godric. “Please, little one – let me save you.”
“My father would want me to go,” she said softly. “Can you fly me to the stone circle? I can take us to a place I’ve hidden often.”
“Alright. Look, your father is drawing the army away.”
Sookie nodded. “It was always his plan if he was attacked here, in his last, great stronghold. I know what to do.”
Together they stood in the dark, side by side, watching the army advance down the slope of the hill, some of the fae setting fire to the thatched cottages. Perhaps Oren would turn them all back to stone, and Godric could see he was muttering, that he was casting spell after spell, but his father was countering them with words of his own.
“We have to hurry,” said Sookie. “He is drawing on the power of the stones to try to stop Niall. If we don’t hurry, they will be too weak to transport us.”
Godric grabbed hold of Sookie, scooping her up into his arms as he took flight, taking care to fly round the arrows and the fireballs, wanting above all else to protect his precious cargo, to take her somewhere safe where she could wait out the return of her parents. The stone circle was dark now, only the stars providing a feeble light, along with the waxing moon. He landed softly on the circle’s edge, the largest stone blocking them from the sight of those fighting for their lives below, the sound of roaring flames, splintering wood and clashing blades echoing through the valley.
The shadows around the stones were thick and dark, but Sookie was unafraid, placing her hand on to the rough, bumpy surface, the stones warm under her touch and she thought she could feel them breathing, the sides of each stone pushing out and then in with each breath. She could feel their hearts beating, hear them whispering to her as they drew upon the lines of power radiating out across the ancient Celtic lands, could feel them straining, drawing on every bit of their strength and lending it to her father.
“We have to go now.”
She took Godric by the hand, closing her eyes as she whispered a spell to take them both somewhere far away, somewhere safe, somewhere they could hide and wait until her father came for her.
“You will not be able to stay long,” Sookie whispered to Godric as she felt the magic begin to unfurl around them. “Fae can travel through time without consequence. But you – you are bound to this place. It will draw you back.”
“As long as it is enough to see you safe, then I will return here to fight with your father and my maker.”
They both fell into silence as the stone circle flashed and they both began to fade, whilst down in the valley Oren paused in his battle with his father, knowing that Sookie had gone somewhere safe.
Gravel crunched beneath his feet, the wave of magic almost pushing Godric to the ground, as he reached out to Sookie and held her till the magic portal closed with a thunderous snap.
“Where are we?” he asked, his head ringing from the journey, his senses scrambled and unable to determine where they were, though he could make out the shape of trees and knew they were on the edge of some kind of woods.
“This is my safe place,” said Sookie. “I don’t know what it’s called, but I come here often. See the lights?”
Godric looked in the direction Sookie was pointing and saw a dwelling lit up from within, the light bright and yellow, warm and inviting and like none he had ever seen before.
“Is this magic?”
All along the edge of the roof were tiny twinkling lights of varied colours, flashing on and off to an unknown rhythm.
“No. It’s just the future.”
He followed Sookie as she ran up the path towards the house, knocking on the door which was hung with a green wreath with red berries. His hand reached out to touch it and recoiled, it was unlike any plant he had ever touched, almost like it was made from a kind of hard wax. The door opened and an old lady peered out, her grey hair wrapped up in a bun, her wrinkled face creasing into a happy smile at the sight before her.
“Sookie, where have you been? It’s almost Christmas and we’ve been hoping you’d come, Jason and I.”
“Hello, Gran,” Sookie answered, standing on tiptoes to plant a kiss on the old woman’s papery cheek. The woman she called Gran straightened, seeing Godric for the first time, who stood a step behind Sookie, nervously eying the magical barrier around the door that prevented him from entering.
“And who is this?” Gran asked. “One of your friends?”
“Gran, this is Godric. Invite him in.”
“Godric, will you please come in?”
The magical barrier in front of the door wobbled and then faded, and Godric crossed the threshold with relief, no longer worried Sookie would rush inside and he would be unable to save her.
“Mr Godric, could I interest you in some pecan pie? You must be famished!” A strange look crossed Godric’s face, but thankfully it went straight over Gran’s head.
“Oh, don’t be silly, Gran! Godric’s a vampire!” Sookie exclaimed, heading for the table where a boy, just a few years older than Sookie was sitting, stuffing great big pieces of pecan pie into his mouth, so much that Godric wondered if he might choke, but then he gulped down a glass of milk and somehow the food went down with it.
“Oh, of course – how silly of me! You must excuse me! Jason, leave some for your sister! How wonderful that you are here in time for Christmas!”
Christmas? What the hell was Christmas?
Godric stared at the boy. Sookie’s brother? But he seemed human. No spark lit him up from within, diffusing his skin with soft, golden light as it did for Sookie.
“It’s what they call the midwinter solstice here. It confused me at first, too. It’s always Christmas when I come here. Whenever I travel in time, I always land in Christmas. Daddy says there’s something special about that time for me, though he doesn’t know what, he thinks I’ll figure it out one day. That maybe I’m a Christmas fairy, come to spread my light through the darkness.”
Jason paid not the slightest attention to their conversation, and Godric found himself wondering if perhaps his ears were stuffed with pecan pie as well. This Gran person seemed oblivious, too, as though she could only hear words that were directed to her specifically. Sookie caught the direction of his gaze and continued her explanation.
“It’s a selective hearing spell – and he’s not really my brother,” Sookie hissed as Gran went to the fridge and started hunting through it for more food to eat. “And she’s not my Gran either. She’s just a nice old lady who’s been spelled to take care of me sometimes. This is a tiny little town and it just happens to be right next to a fairy portal. They don’t have stone circles here. The portals are controlled by Niall, but somehow he’s forgotten about this one, I guess because it’s so far out in the middle of nowhere.”
“Are you sure you will be safe here?”
“Of course. Niall has no idea about this place. And this lady is kind, even though the boy is a bit annoying. I kept telling Daddy he should’ve found me a place with a pretend sister instead.”
Godric began to feel queasy for the first time since he had been turned. Something was going on – something was pulling at him. It was the strangest sensation, located in his chest, somewhere around his dead heart. The bond to his maker – that he was familiar with – but this? Could it be the magic wearing off, ready to send him snapping back to his own time like an over-stretched rope?
He had the strongest urge to leave, to get out of this place, to follow this strange feeling to its source. It wasn’t that far – if he flew…
Gran bustled towards them, her arms filled with Christmas goodies that she plonked on the table. She headed back to the kitchen, this time for plates and cutlery and glasses.
Jason kept eating.
“You’ll leave me soon,” Sookie whispered, “The magic – it’s thinning. I can feel it.”
“I’ll see you again. When your father comes to fetch you home, back to your time.”
“I have no idea where my time is. It could be the same as yours, or not. But yes, I have the strongest feeling we will meet again.”
She laid her small hand in his and he bid her farewell, kissing her cheek lightly.
“You’d best go,” she said. “Not that these two will probably notice you disappear, but you never know.”
“Alright,” Godric agreed, offering his farewells to Jason as he continued to stuff his face, earning a grunt in reply. Gran, preoccupied with feeding up the children, farewelled him also.
With a last look at Sookie, at the light shining inside her, he stepped out of the door and flew straight up into the sky, determined to find the source of this strange queasiness, this unaccustomed bond.
It took him hardly any time at all to get there, the wind rushing past his face, the air crisp with a winter chill, but no sign of snow or rain, the stars so different here he barely recognised them. Below him, lights marked the way, little pockets here and there, increasing in size and frequency the closer he got to the source of his uneasiness.
He landed near a strange building streaming with coloured light, the whole place vibrating with a strange, thumping sound that filled his body and reverberated through it. He saw lines of people queuing outside as though it was a temple. What god lives here, he thought to himself as he pushed past them, the vampire at the door, a tall blonde woman clad in black distracted by a fight in the car park which she hovered around, seemingly undecided whether she should break it up or allow it to continue.
Godric stood in the doorway, peering through the interior gloom to see a tall, blonde man up on the stage, slumped on a throne made of wood and hung with fur. He was kicking a human away from him, his face curled into a sneer as whoever it was presumed to touch him, his fangs out as he snarled, the human in question responding with excitement.
Standing there, Godric’s stomach settled, and he knew without needing to be told.
This man was his vampire child.
Just as he thought to approach him, something grabbed hold of him, and he could feel jagged teeth pressing into his skin, pulling him backward through the door and hurling him up into the sky, only this time he was not flying. The magic seized him in its jaws and dragged him back to the portal in the woods near the house where Sookie was hidden. This time he did not see the streetlights or the strange stars, he was simply in one place and then the other. The portal flickered green and gold and purple, and too late, just as he was forced back by time itself, he saw someone else crossing its threshold.
Niall Brigant had come for Sookie.
The stone circle lay scattered and broken, some of the stones toppled over, others broken in half like jagged teeth after a swift punch to the face. Niall placed his hand on the ground, feeling the throbbing warmth of it, sensing there was scant enough magic left in it for him to follow whoever had escaped this way during the thickest part of the fighting.
He’d fought his way back up the hill, away from the flames and the smoke that hung like a shroud across the valley. Many had fled, the humans who still lived riding their horses, fleeing for their lives out into the night. Some of his troops were still down there, searching through the wreckage of the houses, but Niall had little hope of finding either Oren or the witch. Perhaps they were among the dead – perhaps not. Either way, they had fled and Niall was curious why Oren had not tried to fight his way back to the circle, to use it to escape. All he could assume was his son was trying to distract him, to lead him away – which again made him curious.
What on Earth was he hiding?
The stone circle was not receptive to him and he remembered, could still feel, the sting of the magic rejecting him. Whatever wards had been used on this place, they held strong and given the battle he had just fought and the massive amount of energy he had expended to turn the stones back into warriors, Niall did not want to risk trying to break them open. Perhaps in time, with the villagers scattered and some of the stones toppled, the wards would weaken and then he would take his chances. Instead, he would use his own magic to follow the trail of breadcrumbs, the signature left behind by whomever had used this escape route.
Time to find out what his son had been trying to hide.
Using his own innate magic, he muttered a tracing spell, calling the trail to him, waiting for the breadcrumbs to join together, to thicken into a rope he could wind like a skein around his hands until he was sure his grasp on it was good, that he could follow it to wherever the occupant had gone. He felt the familiar sensation of teleportation tingle throughout his body, and then he was gone.
A wood. A dark wood without a stone circle in sight. He turned to examine the portal, one of his for sure, he recognised the magic linking this gateway to faerie, but he had not thought that Oren would be wily enough or clever enough to piggyback the magic of the stones onto his own. Clever, very clever.
In front of him was a gravel path, a kind of firebreak, and in front of that he could see an old farmhouse across from a garden filled with night-dark plants. The far future – a place he did not often bother to travel – a forgotten gateway, an isolated house.
A clever place to hide something or someone.
Yellow light spilled out onto the porch and the old structure creaked under his weight, threatening to split the old brittleness of the unoiled wood, allowed to dry too much in the sun. Everything about the place was a little ramshackle, a little rundown, and he wondered why his son, a prince of the blood, would frequent such a place.
His fingers reached out to touch the wreath on the door, shabby like the rest of the place, as though it had seen better days than this Christmas. Christmas, he smirked. A pagan holiday dressed up in the clothes of the Christ child. How fitting.
The door swung inward under the slight pressure of his fingers. Unchallenged, he stepped across the threshold.
“Godric? Is that you?” a childish voice said. “How did you get back here on your own? Did Father send you?”
Niall stood still as the girl came racing around the corner, maybe 8-years-old, her long blonde hair swinging wide and spilling over the front of her shoulder as she careened around the corner, almost running straight into him. His hand reached out automatically to stop her crashing into him, his fingers closing around her wrist as he looked up into her deep, dark eyes and knew at once who she was, her skin bathed in a warm golden light that came from within her, lighting her up like a Christmas angel with a fairy light glowing deep inside its chest, and he could see it, could see her spark and he drew in his breath sharply.
“Let go,” she demanded, trying to snatch back her wrist. “I know who you are. Please, let me go.”
Niall shook his head regretfully, at last understanding how the huntsman in the fairy tale of Snow White had felt when asked to murder such a glorious creature, to bring back her tongue and her heart, and then to find that he could not. A savage man used to butchery and slaughter, he had been brought to his knees and risked his life to spare a pretty face. Would he be such a fool and do the same?
He had never thought a hybrid would be so beautiful. Her spark was rare, so golden and bright, and filled with a warmth that most of the fae did not possess. She was half-human, this grandchild of his, hidden from his sight, and by rights as the fae prince he should order her killed. But he would not make another do what he could not. He drew in his breath, deep and shaking.
“I will not harm you – but neither can I let you go.”
“Then what do you mean to do with me?”
“Hide who you are. Take you away from here, raise you as mine. But I cannot let others know what you are, cannot let them know of my failings, not following my own beliefs and ending a child who is a half-breed and a travesty. I will cast a glamour upon you and you will live a secluded and lonely life in a tower of my choosing.” Sookie tried to flinch away from him as his free hand reached out to touch her forehead. “I will change what you know of yourself, take away your past, alter your memories of the present. You will forget you are human, you will forget your mother and your father will be as dead to you, and that may be the truth anyway.”
“No!” Sookie whispered. “Please! Don’t! Please, let me go! I can get myself through the portal – please!”
“Oh my dear child, don’t you know that once I have seen something I want, I will do anything to possess it? I need an heir, and you, my rare beauty, will be it.”
Sookie gasped as Niall’s magic wormed its way into her head, and try as she might, she could not keep him out. He was strong, too strong, and the magic danced through her mind, ripping and plucking and tearing and re-joining her life and her memories in different patterns, altering who she was and hiding her true nature under the veil of glamour, similar to the kind used by the fae to mask their monster selves with unearthly beauty and light.
“I am a fool,” Niall whispered to the silent, vacant-eyed child. “This will cost me much magic, to sustain and keep you, constantly draining me, yet I find I do not care. Your father has failed me in all things except in his creation of you.”
The girl fell senseless into his arms, and he realised he did not even know her name. His fingers stroked her cheek and her name rose in her mind, there for the plucking.
“Sookie,” he whispered. “My Sookie.”
Niall carried the girl back to the portal, determined to destroy it. Never would she come back to this place or that bedraggled house. The portal snapped shut behind him, and with a blast of light from his hands, it exploded.
He dared not return to Rome with Sookie. If Oren lived, he would search for her. So, he took her to Faerie and locked the girl in a lonely tower, only letting her out to play when she begged him and then she would run wild through the meadows with the other children, believing her father an intrepid explorer who had collected objects of great power and magic, who had been murdered by the water fae. All false, of course.
Niall picked up the mirror, an enchanted object he himself had made, along with the others, as a kind of insurance policy if Sookie should ever flee. The mirror could be used in the place of a portal, but it could also be used as a trap.
All he had to do was say the word once he knew she had taken it.
Sookie was glad to get out of the tower, the walls always pressing in closer upon her. When Niall would allow it, she ran and she played, her bare feet crushing the grass and flowers as she chased her fae friends, drawn to her as everyone was by her extraordinary light. But there was an invisible wall between them, as strong and as high as the tower Niall would sometimes lock her into, for her own protection he would say. Something was different about her, something not quite right and sometimes she could feel the ghost of memories tickling at the back of her mind, as teasing as the wind, whispering to her that all was not as it should be.
The warm, endless summer of Faerie galled her sometimes and she didn’t know why. Sookie longed to crinkle red and brown leaves in her hands, yet in Faerie they were always green and fresh. She wanted to feel the cold chill of winter about her, to stick out her tongue to catch snowflakes, to scoop snow up in her hands, to wrap the cloak of night about herself because the endless day here always made her feel exposed for all to see. Her longings were nonsensical, the seasons something she had only read of in a book about Earth, yet why did she feel like she could almost touch it, almost taste it?
And so, she ran off from her friends that day, ran to the edge of Faerie where the land was more raised, not the endless meadows, but instead rolling foothills, none of them quite large enough to be mountains, all of them verdant and green, none sprinkled with the snow she longed for. If her father had sailed off the edge of the world and lived to tell the tale, then, why couldn’t she?
The Earth was round, but Faerie was flat, and the edges dropped suddenly away into the sparkling azure of the ocean. Cliffs lined the edges and Sookie thought she could see a glimmer of darkness there, in a place as deep as a well where even the strong sun of Faerie could not reach. She saw the stairs leading down and she wondered what it could be, her feet stepping lightly onto the first step and then the second and before she could think about it, she was already half-way down. The darkness grew around her and she welcomed it like an old friend, wanting to hug it close as at last the endless day of Faerie began to fade and darkness swirled around her like a tide.
The steps ended, sinking down into a cave. She had not truly found the night, but she had found the closest thing she could to it. There, at the end of the stairway, across the rocky floor, was a door, its wood heavy and dark and barred with iron. Shakily, wondering if the iron would be enough to kill her, she put out her hand to touch it, surprised that it did not make her skin itch or burn as she had seen with some of Niall’s men after they journeyed out into the world. But the portals were all meant to be closed, so what was this place? This little wooden door, seemingly forgotten by the world, where would it lead her?
She took a deep breath, turning the handle and finding it unlocked, she pushed it open and stepped through.
Her eyes took some time to adjust, used as they were to the too-bright sun of Faerie, and she wondered how all the fae were not wizened and wrinkled like old prunes left out to dry in the sun. But perhaps the glamour most of them wore hid it. Few indeed kept their real faces, and they did it mostly to scare others away.
She stepped out into a much larger cave, the ceiling high and vaulted and she wondered at what magic must have carved this place, deep under rock as it appeared to be. There was a chill to the air and she knew she had crossed out of Faerie, knew Niall would be livid if he knew. Well, she thought to herself. Best to make sure he never finds out.
Footsteps echoed in the airy chamber and she paused, her breath caught in her throat. Did Niall know? Had he sent someone after her? But the footsteps were in front of her, getting closer, not creeping up from behind. She had not been discovered, but someone else had sought sanctuary in this place. The footsteps came closer and she peeked out from behind a stone.
There in front of her was a boy, stripped down to his bare skin, perhaps a few years older than her. He was going to be tall and large-framed, and she felt fragile and petite beside him, his young body already bearing the marks of a man bred to the sword. He dived into the lake, his body parting the water before he saw her and stopped, transfixed, gazing up at her from blue eyes so like the blue of the lake.
“Which village are you from?” he’d asked. “What is your name?” She took in a deep breath, knowing she had already fallen under the spell of those hypnotic eyes.
“Village? I do not know. But my name – it is Sookie. Yours?”
She offered a spell up to the heavens, a kind of prayer, hoping that this boy would be as bewitched by her as she was by him, before she shed her own clothes and dived into the water beside him.
MANY THANKS TO THE LOVELY AND ALWAYS ENTERTAINING LADYTARARA FOR THIS IMAGINATIVE AND CAPTIVATING TALE, OF WHICH MORE IS TO COME OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS. DO LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS AND LIKES AS ALWAYS THEY DO END UP WITH HER!
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