(Set during the Fae Wars, Late 15th Century)
had come home to the Fortunate Island to a palace in ruins, its walls and those of our sacred temples stained with the blood of my ladies and servants. The battle to regain my homeland had been grim and all had not gone for those of us who were aligned with Nuada and the Seelie Host. Prince Itet had escaped with his guard of about three hundred troops as well as various contingents and allies escaped from the main port city of the Island to the Eastern side where the terrain was rougher, wilder.
“You are certain?” I asked, my voice was hollow, numb.
“There can be no doubt,” Lord Albion Sage had said, his voice and expression grave, “though the images were allowed by the Prince, he was sure to show us all, and he was gloating with pride, even in his retreat. It took a little work for me to discover if these were true images, but I’m afraid, my Lady, they were.”
“This news is very ill, Lord Albion Sage,” King Nuada said.
Lord Albion Sage, Seer for the Seelie, inclined his head and backed away. What happened next is a blur to me. I only saw crimson before my eyes. The sting of betrayal incites rage so deep and consuming within the soul of a Fae that if left unchecked could render to waste all that is in its path. No words can adequately describe the sheer scathing heat of Gabraith’s betrayal of me – and worse, of my Island and its People to Prince Itet. I had been betrayed and Galbraith had in one moment rendered himself forsworn. Certainly even before betrayed my trust he would have been planning this act of deception. Over a century of friendship, was now gone.
A page came in with a tray with goblets and cool water and wine. He stopped before me and I took a goblet of wine. I swallowed a very large mouthful of it, but it all tasted like dust; the dust of despair and defeat. In a rage I threw it. The contents spilled all over the table the floor, looking very much like the stain of blood – the blood of my people that must even now be staining the sacred stones of the Fortunate Island.
“This affront will not be forgiven!” I proclaimed, “For millenia the sacred shores of the Fortunate Island have never been attacked!” My breathing was laboured, I was about to storm out of the room, to find my armour, to put on my mail and gird myself with a sword and any other weapon I could find to go back and defend my homeland, when a strong hand restrained me. I looked up at the hand that dared to touch my person into the eyes of Nuada.
“No,” his eyes filled with the empathy that he had also lost a great deal in this fight, “it will not be forgiven, my Lady.” He then turned to the others in the chamber and spoke softly, “Leave us.”
I knew as well as Nuada that the stain of the blood of innocents had rendered the place uninhabitable. I could not stay there any longer and both of us knew it. But the thought of razing the ancient and sacred Temples and the palace of my beloved Fortunate Island filled me with grief and trepidation. So much of our history would be turned under along with the blood of friends and loved ones whose essence had been used to help desecrate beyond repair those hallowed halls. We were Fae and more specifically the Sidhe. We would rebuild them with the hands of the finest Fae and human artisans. But before any of that could happen, we stil had an enemy on our shores and dislodging them would be a precarious endeavor. What hit my heart more than anything is that there were no safe walls within the capital city.
Desperate faces sought reassurance from the eyes of me, their Queen, and perhaps maybe to be given some explanation as to how any of this could happen. Had Galbraith, the Goblin King, not been our ally? How could we have been made so vulnerable to the atrocities heaped upon them? But beyond that there was the eternal question found in those eyes; ‘Where were you then, my lady Queen? Why were you not here to protect us?’ I knew that I should have been there with them. But would theif fate have been lessened had I done so? Would we not now also be bearing the chains of slavery or our collective necks beneath the boot of Prince Itet? All of it left me weary and no less horrified at what had happened, We had won this battle, but the war was far from over. Never was I more self-conscious and ashamed of my Unseelie blood as I was now. These were the acts that made we born of the darkness into the creatures of nightmares. Was this also what I was? Was it only my human blood that kept me from such acts of brutality and wretchedness? I could not believe it was true. Prince Itet’s own mother, though far from a benevolent creature was nothing like her son, Itet. Where was she now? Why had the balance among the Sidhe been so upset?
I blinked back the tears of frustration when I felt the hand of my general secretary, Hafiz touch me on my arm. “We must not let you and King Nuada and our generals pass the night in tents. We cannot take the chance with Itet’s allies so close,” he said.
“What do you propose, Hafiz?” I asked bitterly, “ There is no place within the city that is accessible or that can adequately house what is left of our household and troops. All of us are vulnerable until we rid our lands of this scourge.”
“No, there is nowhere inside the City, my lady,” he replied, “But there is the Castle of the Winds within our mountains. Any approach attempted by Itet’s troops and allies would be seen well before their arrival, it is a fortress against any attack and there is ample room for both yours and King Nuada’s entourages and collective households. Only a minimum of troops need to defend it.”
“The rest can be left here to both divert and defend,” I mouthed absently. The plan was ingenious.
“If you travel under nightfall,” Hafiz continued elaborately, speaking with his hands, “we would -“
“If we travel undernightfall, we risk the Queen of Air and Darkness, Annwyn, Prince Itet’s mother learning of it before we even leave the confines of the City,” King Nuada interrupted, coming up behind me, placing a warm and reassuring hand at the small of my back, “and Itet would learn far too quickly of our departure and perhaps any of our other plans.”
Hafiz bowed his head in acknowledgement to King Nuada, “I had not considered that, Majesty, and you are correct,” he raised his eyes and looked directly at Nuada and then at me, “the longer we tarry, the more entrenched Itet’s allies will become and the more vulnerable we are. We must start sending our people to the Castle of the Winds as soon as possible.”
“See to it at once,” I nodded to my friend and privy council member, “We will begin our journey within the hour. But do so discreetly. We do not want there to be panic among the people of the city so that we have a mass migration. That, too, will alert Itet’s allies. They feed on fear and conflict.”
With an inclination of acknowledgement to myself and then to Nuada for the orders he had been entrusted with, Hafiz made his exit, his silken robes rustling and billowing in his wake. When he had gone I turned to Nuada, wrapping my arms around him and placing my head against his chest. He still wore the chainmail that he had been wearing beneath his armour, the rough surface pressed against my cheekbone uncomfortably, but I needed his closeness. I felt his arms wrap round me and I felt borne up.
“Do you think that the people understand why we have done in all this” I asked. I felt such deep sorrow for the loss of Nuada’s queen and for the betrayal of his daughter, but surely we had not been wrong in seeking strength and protection in each other as allies.”
“I think now that we are here to stand beside them, they will understand more than when we were not,” he kissed the top of my head gently, “Itet did not manage to slaughter or steal all of your Fae steeds. There are a few left. We will need to get to the Castle of the Winds before nightfall if we can, but certainly as soon as possible. From there we can plan how to drive out the rest of Itet’s troops and avenge ourselves on him.”
Muse: Fanny Fae / Faelyn
Fandom: Original Character / Folklore / Mythology
Word Count: 1522