His thick cock bobbed against his stomach, just begging to fill me. His muscles flexed as he ran his hands over every inch of his body.
I could smell the smoke wafting through the trees from the fire and feel the power radiating from the ashes that served to return our lost souls to the Mother. As much as I wanted to attend the Rahn Ji, other orders kept me away, and as far as I was concerned, they were more important. A war had begun between the Fae and the hunters, a war that served to end everything we knew and had worked for. Being the second in command to Vendish put me at the top in his absence, and I would not fail my people now.
My friend’s mate needed him and I was more than happy to investigate the appearance of Jameen and the hunters. The old prince had finally returned, with—from what I heard— a show stopping entrance. The rumors had to be false though. The Jameen I knew and loved as a brother; would never put his family in harm’s way. All of the Fae army had different views on the matter, some keeping their opinions hidden, and other’s shouting their views from the rooftops. As of late, the ratio of good votes to bad seemed to be on equal footing, but ever since the rumors began to circulate yesterday, the bad started to outweigh the good.
Pushing on through the black oaks of the Yukah woods, my men fanned out behind me, sticking close, but forming a protective line against unwanted sources. The Yukah, while being on quiet terms with the rest of Fae, were still formidable opponents and viewed as the black sheep amongst every species. Jameen in his time as prince was the only Fae to ever reach out to the scaled beasts, bringing them dwarf made potions to heal their sick or fresh fruit from the markets in the summer. He even went so far as to save the life of their leader Sena from execution by the royal court.
They had become friends and allies, which was completely misunderstood by the other species in their prejudice. I almost wished Sena would agree to help us in our quest to find Jameen, but I believed the leader thought we wished him harm and would never aid us on a death mission. Of course he wouldn’t believe me, when I told him his accusations were unjust; that we just wished to locate him and find out the truth. I grunted and rolled my eyes, Lizards…
My dark feet hit muck, telling me we had reached the bog where the Yukah claimed to have sensed a strange presence. Holding up a hand, I heard the soft halt of the others behind me, and crouched down. This place was a spot of avoidance amongst us all. Even the creatures that lived in the darkest of the dark did not come here.
“Cellan, I do not like this,” Quimm whispered behind me, “you know what dwells here and yet you wish to travel onward? You are mad. Even Vendish would not be so bold.”
I turned to the red eyed Anifae, his pupils glowing bright, even in the cover of the fog that surrounded us, “are you afraid Quimm? The son of the great Brutus is a scared weakling?” My fangs descended with a grin and the stars on my skin shot across my limbs.
Quimm growled, “I would be a fool not to admit my fears here. You saw what those things did to the King!” He hissed, “Do you wish the same fate my brother? Do you wish for the darkness to crawl inside of you?”
“I have no fear of the darkness Quimm, for I am made of it,” My tone was calm and deadly, labeling me the warrior I was, “next time the prince calls for a quest, I will remember to take a few braver souls with me. For it seems I made the mistake of bringing a pack of pups that wet themselves at the first sign of danger.”
Quimm growled and Jambi ducked down into our huddle under the fog, “Quit flapping your tongue Cell and tell your men what you want to do. The newlings are getting under my skin. Shaking like little leafs and hiding behind the trees they is.” The muscled black warrior rolled his glacial blue eyes. “You know this would be a lot easier if the lizard beast had come along. He knows this area better than most.”
“Would you come on a quest to capture your friend with a bunch of Fae that you thought hated you and called you lizard beast?” I shook my head.
“Well that’s what he is, ain’t he? Good Mother, didn’t take him to be such a little girly.” Jambi chuckled and palmed his jeweled dagger. “Did you hear that?” His thin pointed ears twitched and fanned out, searching for a noise I could not hear.
Our last three warriors crawled up next to us, weapons at hand. The youngest of just nineteen years pointed his blade silently across the bog, making us all turn our heads slowly. My eyes widened and my breath rolled out of my mouth in a shocked wisp. The tree in the middle of the bog started to lean forwards slowly, it’s great black leaves and dark blue vines reaching out to the small patch of land we huddled upon.
“Mother be with us,” Jambi breathed, kissing his fingers and touching the ground in a show of faith as the tree’s foliage docked onto land.
The great black oak was now bent into a crescent moon over the muddy waters, forming a bridge to something glowing at the other end. I looked at the other members of my party, finding many similar expressions to mine. Knowing what was under the bog, was enough to make me leery of what I was about to do. But on the other hand, the curiosity was eating me alive. I stood, making myself known to the outside world above the fog.
“You are crazy Cellan!” Quimm rose behind me and grabbed my arm, “surely you know that if you cross that tree, those things will eat you alive!” He whispered fiercely, his nails biting into my celestial skin.
“Then stay here,” I replied matter-of-factly, wrenching my arm out of his large hand.
“Oh no you don’t, you aren’t going over there by yourself. A few shadow creatures eating me will be better than what Vendish does to me if you die alone. If you go, we all go,” Quimm nodded and I turned to see the rest of my warriors nod or grunt.
“Oh come on, have a sense of adventure will you?” I grinned and unsheathed my white metal blade from my belt. Tiptoeing over the leaves of the oak, I set one foot on the trunk, feeling the slippery Kulong moss and bog mud on the soles of my feet. “Be careful,” I commanded behind me and began a strategic walk across the wide tree.
The contents of the bog gurgled and steamed underneath us, sending the fog rolling upwards at our feet, with every small shift in the water. I concentrated on my task, settling my eyes on the prize only two yards away. The glow was dissipating, making the object of light dark once more. Squinting in the night, I finally ended my journey, settling both feet on the flat base of the tree.
“A little light Cell?” Jambi came to stand next to me.
“Of course,” I muttered and stuck out my arm, watching a tiny star flit from my chest, down my arm, and into my palm. The star grew until it was the size of an apple, glowing enough to see in the dark, but enough to attract attention.
“By the Great Mother,” someone gasped, when the object was revealed.
“That is the…But she is dead, how is this possible?” Quimm leaned forward with a finger to poke the object, but Jambi grabbed his arm.
“Do not touch it. You are not its master,” The black warrior pulled Quimm away.
“Is that really what I think it is?” The youngest warrior looked at me, hesitation in his eyes.
“Yes newling. This,” I held my hand up to showcase the object with light, “is the Staff of Shadows.”
“Mom?” I ran a hand over her smooth cheek in awe. Did I die? Was that what all the light was about? Have I gone to the…nether?
“Jordan?” Her voice was light and soothing like a sweet summer rain, the sound comforting me while I transcended to my new reality. “Oh Jordan…” She sat up while wings the color of fresh snow fluttered behind her, rippling the silver fabric of her dress.
A soft hand mimicked mine, brushing away endless tears on my face, but not the confusion in my mind. What was happening? How was she here? We had to be dead.
“Are you real?” I breathed, scooting closer over the cooling ashes just to be nearer to her.
“I…I think so,” she blinked a few times, patting her body as if to make sure she was solid. “Yes, I believe I am.”
“So you’re not…really dead? They told me you were…” our legs touched, allowing me to feel the heat flowing off her body, solidifying our theory. She was alive, very much so.
My mom smiled and her green eyes lit up like the brightest patch of clover, “it was like a dream. At first there was pain and then it was just gone. Everything is kind of fuzzy, but I remember her, I remember everything about her. She was so beautiful…” Mom’s eyes hazed over in a daze.
“Who’s her?” I leaned forward, placing a hand on her knee.
“I would like to know as well,” Guardwin crawled forward slowly, sitting beside us, and it was then that I noticed the tight circle of Fae standing around us with shock in their eyes.
I could feel a body behind me and I turned to see Vendish on his knees inches from my back. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders, “Jillian.” He bowed his head over my shoulder and she smiled softly.
“I remember you Vendish,” she nodded, looking from me to Ven with understanding.
Guardwin touched her shoulder to make sure she wasn’t a vision and she jumped away in surprise, a hand over her heart, “Oh, you are…” she swallowed and gripped her dress with her free hand.
“It’s okay mom. This is…this is…I don’t know what to say,” I looked down, hearing her take a deep breath.
“You are Guardwin,” she finished for me, knowing that I was trying not to cause her pain. If I looked like my dad, then Guardwin was his reincarnation, and a double whammy to her broken heart.
“Yes,” he took her nervous hand and kissed it, “how are you here Jillian? What did you see?”
The crowd leaned forward with bated breath, all waiting to hear of this miraculous re-birth. My mom shifted her eyes a few times and settled on me as if seeing my face gave her strength. “She said he needed me. She said that I would bring him back from the dark and to fight the evil inside him, I must be his light.” Mom glanced back at Guardwin as if that was the most normal conclusion she had ever heard.
“Who is she Jillian? Who told you this? And who is this he you speak of?” Orla wrapped an arm around her mate, pure excitement in her voice.
Mom ran a hand over the earth lovingly, a smile playing on her lips like a child, “the Mother of course.”
A collective gasp resounded, followed by a flurry of whispers. Orla and Guardwin looked to each other in shock, “The she you saw was the Great Mother? You saw her Jillian?” The King turned her chin to face him, doubt on his face.
“Yes of course it was her. I know it was real!” Mom was getting overwhelmed, her defensiveness attempting to shield her from the looks the Fae were directing at her claims. “She sent me back to help him. Why would you doubt that? Look at me for crying out loud! I have wings…” she buried her face in her hands and started to cry.
“I think that’s enough for now,” I finally pulled my mother to me and hugged her against my chest. The minute our bodies connected, I shivered. It was like something was trying to invade my body—not in a bad way—but a searching feeling, it was looking for something.
“Don’t you feel that Jordan? This is the most extraordinary thing any of us have ever seen! A human granted life as a Fae through death! My own son’s Ghea! She has seen the Mother Jordan… No one in our history has ever seen her in person.” Orla started to cry, a smile of joy on her face. “This is beyond anything we know. First you come back to us and now Jillian. Something big is happening here!”
I didn’t have any answers and apparently neither did they. I’ll admit I was as curious about my mother as any of them, but right now we were both overwhelmed. I was touching my mother and she didn’t flinch away. My mother was holding me like I was precious to her. It was a lot to take in, and on top of that, all of Fae was here to witness it. Feeling as if their circle was closing in on us, my breath picked up and I tightened my grip on mom. She buried her face under my chin, her fingers digging into my back. Vendish stroked my arms, before running a hand through mom’s hair in comfort.
“Well that might be, but right now I think it’s best if everyone gives Jillian some space to breathe. I believe we have festivities to resume do we not?” Vendish saved me from having to respond. “We must continue to honor those who sacrificed their lives for our safety.”
I leaned back into his strong chest and breathed in his purely male scent. Between him holding me and my mother showing me affection for the first time, I was in heaven. Kimella stepped forward and kneeled before us. “Let me take her for a while. I think she should rest and have June take a look at her… Jordan, please?”
Five minutes didn’t seem like enough. I had waited all my life to have this moment, but I could see where Aunt Kim was coming from. What if something was wrong with her and I kept her from getting the attention she needed? I would never forgive myself.
Gazing into Kimella’s eyes, I knew my mother would be safe, “Mom?”
My mother looked up at me and nodded, “Okay,” she touched my face one more time and kissed my cheek. “I love you,” she whispered in my ear before she pulled away.
Never had those words meant more to me than in that moment. To hear her finally say the one sentence I had longed to hear my entire life was indescribable. My heart danced in my chest, my eyes watered all over again, and Vendish tightened his grip around my shoulders.
“I will make sure that we visit her before you sleep tonight,” he whispered in my ear and kissed my neck. “She will be in the best of care my love.”
“I’ll be fine Jordan. I am a bit tired,” mom got to her feet with the help of Kimella. “You’ll come by later though?”
“We will come by after the festivities. Go. Get some rest Jillian,” Vendish pulled us to standing with his muscled arms. She smiled, looking between me and Vendish.
A blissful look in her eyes, “Alright then, Kim?” Mom turned with her hair whipping around her like a veil as she spun on her heel, “I’m ready to go.”
Aunt Kim wrapped a lean arm around mom’s shoulders, stroking her hair softly, “Come on Jilly let’s have June take a look at you.” The crowd parted silently, creating a path out of the clearing to the darkening woods. Pixies lit the way above, creating a safe passage for their departure. June gave her mate a kiss and with a quick wave to her family and friends, hurried after the departing duo.
Fae of every kind danced and ran in out and out of the trees that were shimmering with tiny stars. The Night Fae fed the thick purple trunks that ran into the sky with their celestial magic, winding lines of twinkling white lights through the woods. The dwarves set up tables of meats and fruits as far as the eye could see, their little bodies scurried about, tending after the children, and rolling out barrels of wine.
Lu and I had been to the carnival once when we were little with Aunt Kim, but that was no comparison to this magical event unfolding before me. The Rahn Ji, was not a funeral at all. It truly was a celebration. Not even at Christmas had I seen so many lights and in the woods no less. It was a fairy tale come to life. Ann exquisite masterpiece of beauty full of food, laughter and beings only told about in childhood stories.
The crackle and roar of numerous fire pits, the jingle of stringed coins around hips, and the beckoning of soul entrancing music fell upon me like a spell. I had been reluctant to attend the celebration, claiming my mother did need me, but Vendish had set me straight.
“Sit with me?” He gently took my hand in his and lowered us to the soft earth. “Tell me what is rolling about in that head of yours. I would rather you get it out and enjoy this time together, than for you to wallow alone.”
“Am I a freak Ven?” I looked at him, “I know I’m like royalty or whatever, but do you think they’ll really accept me? Being the son of a supposed traitor and the master of shadows doesn’t exactly gain me any points.”
“Telija,” he put a finger under my chin and tapped it with a smile. “They do not hate you in the least. They are just set in their ways and you are definitely a different path. One in which they cannot help but want to follow. This scares them, for the unknown is a bit frightful is it not?”
“You’re right,” I sighed.
“It will take time for complete acceptance, but know you are not a…freak as you say. You are beautiful and unique. Anyone that says otherwise is jealous,” he chuckled and I bit my lip. Every time he called me beautiful, I could feel his sincerity. My hand drifted over his on my knee and I smiled at him.
He seemed a bit startled at the gesture, but wrapped his hand in mine, giving it a good squeeze, “I mean it my Telija, every word.”
Ven brushed my hair out my eyes and pressed a kiss to my forehead. His lips were warm against my skin, his kiss just what I seemed to need. A finger tapping my knee made me jump and I looked into wide brown eyes. A tiny girl that was all of three feet tall smiled bashfully, her hands behind her back, and her little frame turning this way and that in a childish wait.
“Well hello there wee one,” Vendish leaned forward and tapped her on the nose. The girl gasped then giggled, her tiny red wings flapping madly. “What brings you over here?” He whispered with a smile.
The girl curtsied with a giggle, “Prince Vendish. Lord Jordan.” So formal for a child, but then again I had no idea how things worked around here. Her cheeks flushed and her hands came from behind her back. Two beaded necklaces were revealed in her chubby little clutches and she held them up to us.
“I made both of them myself,” she stated proudly. A group of children waited behind her, laughing wildly. The girl turned and scowled at them, turning back to us with embarrassment. She hung her head, dropping her hands with the necklaces in shame.
Well at least the kids here weren’t that much different from back home, I snorted. Yet, they gave me the perfect opportunity to show the Fae that I wasn’t heartless. I leaned forward and brought her pouting face to meet my eyes.
“These are beautiful…wee one,” I grinned, trying out some Fae terminology. The little girl’s eyes widened with glee and her tiny hand thrust one at me eagerly.
“You like it then?” She bit her rosy bottom lip.
“No, I love it,” I whispered and brought the multicolored seed necklace around my head. She gasped in delight, her entire body dancing with joy.
“Well do I not get one too?” Vendish pouted playfully, bringing a hand to his chest.
“Oh Mother, I am so sorry Prince Vendish. Here,” she squealed and almost jumped into his lap.
He picked her up and settled her onto his knee, taking the blue and green necklace out of her hands, “I shall wear it every day.”
“Really?” the wee one looked as if she would cry.
“Why would I let something as wonderful as this go to waste? Besides, when people ask where I got this wonderful piece of hand crafted jewelry, I shall tell them. I believe your little hobby will be keeping you far busier in the future.”
“Oh Prince Vendish, thank you!” she clung to him in a heart wrenching hug.
“Posey! Oh Great Mother, forgive her my Lord. She is still so young,” a woman in a faded orange shift dress went to grab the tiny girl from Vendish’s lap.
“It’s alright,” he waved a hand at her, pulling the wee one into a hug.
“She came to give us these gorgeous necklaces,” I smiled, fingering the seeds around my neck.
“You really like them?” the mother smiled, her panic melting away.
“Actually, I was wondering if Posey…that is your name right?” I tickled the little girl from the side.
“Yes!” she squealed and laughed, poking her head out from Ven’s chest.
“Well I was wondering if Posey could make some more for us. Let’s see we have mom, Lu, Aunt Kim…” I smiled.
“Why don’t you make it an even dozen and send them to the house. We’ll pay you most generously,” Ven winked at me.
“You don’t have to pay me! It is good enough that you like them,” Posey’s big brown eyes watered.
“Well we would not accept them for free. I won’t hear of it. Come by the house by the end of the week and we shall pay you for your work,” Vendish nodded at her.
“Thank you,” she whispered and he kissed her head. “Now go and enjoy the celebration with your family.”
“Come Posey, your papa is waiting for you,” the woman pried the young girl from Ven’s lap. “Thank you my Lords.” The red head bowed, her red and yellow wings spanning over her back.
“You are most welcome. We will see you soon my dearest Posey,” Ven crossed his heart and bowed.