Chronicles of the Four Courts, 1
By Brantwijn Serrah
Champagne Books: http://goo.gl/zcjLxy
A Fae Knight's life belongs to the Monarchies. For Reagan, a life is a small price to pay for the princess she loves.
The fairy ring in Central Park stood near the zoo, a short walk from the scene of the accident. We attracted too many curious onlookers until Erin started warding them off, casting glamours and illusions around us to help avoid notice. At a snap of her fingers, whimsical misleading birds took flight from the hedges near us, and women’s skirts fluttered up as though a wild breeze caught them. Startled shouts erupted from the park-goers and all eyes were drawn away from us.
The ring, as I said, belonged to our House, a Ring of Herne: small white toadstools under a shady oak, dotting the ground in a rough and playful circle. It would open into the deep realms of the Goblin Court.
Normally Finn and his Ladies would not be welcome to cross over into Herne’s part of Thairy without express invitation; it violated the strict laws of fae etiquette, and faeries were unforgiving where custom and courtesy were at stake. Ceridwen led our party though, which would be permission enough.
My princess entered the ring and invoked a thinning of the veil, imploring the spirit guards of the gates of Annwyn to let us pass. We gathered in the ring with her, and as she beseeched them, the day appeared to darken by degrees, as though the sun were going behind a thick cloud cover. Then it kept getting darker, then darker still, until it might as well have been night around us. The air changed from the lovely springtime brightness and warmth to cool, brisk autumn chill. The scent of turning leaves and damp soil surrounded us, perfumed with more distant notes of baked apples and sweet wine. There were other smells, death smells, graves and ghosts and wild things.
Then we were no longer standing in Central Park, New York. We were in Annwyn, a close and shadowy realm, the lands of the Tylwyth Teg and the High King of Goblins.
The fairy ring transported us directly into the High King’s orchards, outside the castle of Arawn, former King before Herne. The gray stone of the ancient fortress rose up against a bruised sky, solid, indomitable, eternal. The moon, golden and far larger than it would ever be seen from mortal Earth, hung in the night behind the castle like a leering jack-o-lantern.
Puca, once again in the diminutive form of the impish cat, assumed the lead immediately, scampering up the path to the fortress gates. Finn followed and Nineva stayed close behind him. Erin began to go up as well, but stopped when she saw Ceridwen hesitate, waiting for me.
The moment we’d stepped over into Annwyn, I’d dropped to my knees to press my burning palms against the soil. The very air soothed the iron blaze a little, like Erin’s magic, leaching the pain away with slow relief. The surge of fear, anger, and violence began to wear off a little, but I could still feel the thump and roil of animal power in my blood, the hunger of a tigress running hot in my veins.
This is what it meant to be a child of The Morrigan, the war goddess. We weren’t made to be great artists or musicians or muses or sorcerers. I couldn’t hope to master the craft of enchantment like Erin or play the poltergeist like Oberon’s jester Puck. I had a depth of my own power: the power of a fighter, the magic of war. The blessing my Unbridled nature afforded me, the power I had sworn in the service of High King Herne and his daughter. It bled through me, a raging, thrilling power. Sexual, almost: wild, hungry, predatory, and strong.