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SoA: Chapter 25


Chapter 25- Many Meetings II

She heard the sliding glass door behind her open and close quietly and she smiled softly. Velorum. She could feel his presence. Even though it had been only a few weeks since the events which had remade her world, she had learned a great deal. Mostly she had spent time becoming reacquainted with who she had been and who she was now. She had also taken the time to understand Tear, Echo, and most of all Velorum. It had been hard, and most of the time they had skirted the more painful subjects, leaving them for other times. On this night, however, they were happily relaxing. They were not out chasing the Unseelie, who seemed to have vanished from the face of the Mortal realm, nor were they guiding the still adjusting Watchers. Tonight they were just watching old movies, Tearlin’s favorite thing to do, and eating pizza. It was the kind of evening that ‘normal’ people had, and that pleased Rain to no end. However, she had felt the pull of the need of solitude, as was often the case for her, and so had slipped off for a little time alone. Even then, she had known that it would not take Velorum to grow concerned and come looking for her.

“The movie over?” She asked as he stood silently behind her, waiting for her to acknowledge him. Rain had to hide a slight smile. He still seemed so shy and uncertain around her, even after all her assurances and confessions of adoration. She knew a good deal of it was his innate courtly grace which prompted him to err on the side of propriety. The rest was just the fact that Velorum was shy around everyone, and most of all her.

“No,” he answered simply, coming to take a seat next to her on the screened in porch. It was chilly out there, as November was coming swiftly to a close and December’s icy cloak was almost upon them. However, Velorum did not feel such things. Nor did Rain, really, though she was cuddled up under a blanket anyway. When she offered to share it with him, he could not refuse her, and a blush colored his pale cheeks. “They’re still fully engrossed in ‘Beckett,” He laughed.

Rain rolled her eyes. “How many times is he gonna watch that? He watched it once already this week, and twice last week. With the unlimited options cable offers, what is his deal with that old tape?”

Velorum just grinned and snuggled closer to her. “I do not venture to guess at the mind of the Lord of Life. However, there is the fact that he was very good friends with the real Beckett, and with those who made that film, which makes it one of his favorites.” He reached over and took her hand under the blanket. “We Fae seem to often live in the past it seems. It’s hard to let go of the things we once loved and have so long ago bidden farewell.” His tone was not sad, just thoughtful. As with most Fae, he had gotten used to the cycle of loss and rebirth. It was simply a consequence of being eternal in a world that was not. There was also the fact that he was the Avatar of Death, which made him more accepting of such things.

Rain laid her head on his shoulder, eyes drawn to the shining stars visible through the glass roof of the porch. For a long time she was quiet, just being. She and Vel had had many such evenings since she had come to stay with him. It was not because she did not want to stay with her father that she had not returned home. It was simply that the Four had a great deal to talk about, and so much still that Rain and Echo had to learn about themselves and the world from which they truly came. It was also safer for them all. None of them were fooled into believing that the Unseelie had really given up their fight, but rather assumed that they were simply regrouping for a new assault on some other front. It was to that end that Rain’s thoughts had been turned.

“Vel,” she asked softly, “Why did Vermillion form the Unseelie in the first place? Did he really hate us that much?” Her brow was furrowed; clearly she could not fathom that depth of hatred.

For some time he was silent, carefully pondering his response. At last he answered, “He was not always this way. Once… once he was one of your dearest friends, and mine, in the early days, when still we walked unveiled among Mortals as their guides and friends. Once, he worked with us to bring beauty and prosperity to both kindreds.”

“Then what changed?” She turned her bright eyed gaze upon him. When he spoke, it had not been with the rancor usually imminent when he spoke of his long time enemy. It was more with the sorrow of loss, with regret.

Velorum shrugged. “Time passes… Mortals change so much more quickly than we do; it is their strength and weakness. We cannot keep up with them in that respect. It seems just as we get them to understand, a new generation is come and we must start over. In time, that began to ware on him, I think.” He paused to meet her glance. “And then there is you.”

“Me?” She questioned. “I don’t understand.”

“Unlike Tearlin and Echorijn, who have always known that they were meant to be together, it was not always so with us. Though I think you and I have always accepted that we were made for one another, our mutual solitary and untrusting natures worked against us. Even in the early days, we children of night did not bond as the children of day did. Love is harder for us, I think, because we are simply darker by nature. For ages, we worked side by side, all the Princes did, yet no one held more favor with you than any other.” He sighed and looked up through the glass to the endless expanse of the sky. Though the orientation of those stars had changed since those first days, the beauty of their light had not. That is something at least, he thought with a soft smile. It was some time before he continued.

“Vermillion had always been strong of will, proud, and skilled. He was the greatest of the Dark Fae save only for you and myself. Perhaps too great, for some began to mutter that he should take a more active role in ruling the Fae. He took more and more to courting you, trying to win you and thereby give strength to his claim. It was only because you seemed to enjoy his company that I even admitted to myself how I felt.” Velorum’s voice grew soft, an undercurrent of ancient passion there. “Seeing you with him made me face my own fears and doubts, and accept that I loved you, always had, and was simply too afraid to be rejected by you. I told you how I felt… and to my joy and surprise, you returned my feelings.” He smiled shyly, sweetly.

Rain returned the smile, a spark of the ancient memory fluttering to the surface. “Of course I loved you too. We are one and the same. I was simply waiting for you to be ready. There was never any doubt for me.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Silly Fae.”

Velorum chuckled. “Perhaps. As you can imagine, however, to Vermillion it did not appear that way. It looked as if I swooped in on raven wings and stole you away from him.” He frowned. “He was never the same after that. That’s when we started seeing him less and less at Court, and when the rumors began. If the journey into true evil is indeed a winding path, then he found the straightest way. It was not all that long after, even as we mark time, that he had gathered the dissidents to him and founded the Unseelie to take ruler ship of Alesya from us and the Queens. They committed heinous acts against Mortal and Fae alike, finally sending us into full out war.” Again he shrugged. “That is the war we yet fight today. I do not think he has ever forgiven you for choosing me over him, and so it is you he has ever sought to hurt the most, if he cannot make you his own.”

Rain took in all that he had said; for it was the most she had ever gotten him to speak of Vermillion. She sighed. “It is odd, isn’t it, that love, which is supposed to be the greatest force and power of good, can be used and the cause of so much evil.” The thought saddened her.

“I do not think so,” Velorum replied. “I do not think any act of true and unselfish love for another person can ever be evil. I think it is self-love and lust that can be turned for evil. Vermillion never loved you for who you were. He loved your power, and the stature being with you would bring him. He loved himself, not you.”

She smiled and cuddled closer. “Why my Prince of the Dark Fae… who knew you were such a wise philosopher?” She giggled.

Vel grinned too. “I have my moments.”

“Indeed you do,” Rain answered, leaning in to kiss him.

“Get a room,” came a laughing voice from behind them. Echo was grinning like mad with her hands on her slight hips, looking every bit the reprimanding mother.

Rain laughed, and Velorum had the decency to blush. That made her laugh even harder. She found his shyness so adorable. Echo just rolled her eyes.

“You two missed the end, again. Tear’s threatening to tie you to chairs next time so you actually sit through it,” the blonde teased.

“Well, maybe if he didn’t watch it every day we would,” Rain retorted good naturedly.

“I heard that,” said the golden haired Lord coming into view behind his beloved. He was grinning.

“It’s true,” she continued to joke. “I mean, would it kill you to add some variety to your movie collection?”

“It might,” Echo joined. She always enjoyed her rare chances to poke fun at her better half. Tear was such a creature of habit. It was just in his nature to be set in his ways, being the very orderly sort that he was. He was almost obsessive/compulsive about things, a fact she found highly amusing. She was about to make another smart remark at his expense, when a figure detached itself from the shadows. Her eyes widened a bit, for it was one of the last people she would have expected to see walking about the Mortal Plane for any reason. Though, it made sense that if she were going to be anywhere, it would be Velorum’s.

The woman who crossed the porch to come bow before the Four was clearly Dark Fae, and a Prince. Not only had she Shadowalked, but she had entered Velorum’s home. That was one thing about the Faery that some of the tales had gotten correct, and others had not. The Fae were creatures of habit, all of them. Even their chaos had a kind of inevitability. They grew very attached and protective, possessive, of certain places, people, and things. Those places they held sacred, groves, their home, a particular fountain or museum, became almost magical in and of themselves. A part of the Fae remained in that place, with that person, or was held in the object. Other Fae could sense it, and even some mortals in rare cases. Especially in the case of places the Fae would often go to great lengths to weave protective spells around that which they favored. Wards of great strength could keep out any unwanted visitors. Velorum’s home, like Byron’s Cup of Chaos, had taken on many forms and had been in many places throughout the ages, but its core had always remained the same. None he did not wish could enter there, not even the Queens. As such, this could only be one of a very few to have been able to enter there.

She was tall, lithe of figure and graceful in her movements in a way that seemed to exceed even that of most of the Fae. Her hair was long and wild, a deep shade of green that looked almost black in the soft silver light of the moon. She was dressed all in black and deep green after the manner of a warrior, with a split skirt, thigh high boots, and a green dragon scale breastplate. Of old, she had been a Mongolian Princess, of the blood of Genghis Khan himself. Now, she was Enyala, Emerald Prince of the Dark Fae, right hand of Velorum when he was not in Alesya.

Velorum was on his feet in a blink, a look of concern on his face. It was well known that she did not much care for the Mortal realm, avoiding it at almost all costs. “Enyala?” The Lord of Death questioned as she rose from her deep bow. He seemed to relax a fraction when he saw her face and could read no storm there.

“My Lord,” she began in her dusky alto, “Please forgive this unexpected intrusion.” She inclined her head to Tear and Echo, whom she knew, if little. Her perfect emerald eyes she then turned upon Rain with bright interest. She had to drop her appraising gaze as Velorum pulled her off to the side to speak to her in private.

Rain, however, did not move a muscle. She stared after the pair, trying to understand the feelings which raced in her heart. What had that look been behind those dark eyes? Could it really have been contempt? She had felt it in her mind as if the woman had spoken the thought aloud. All this for her? She hardly seems worthy of his time, let alone his love. But the thought had fled almost as quickly as it had come, too quickly for her to ascertain if it were her own doubts or the projected thoughts of the Emerald Prince. She felt a moment of furry as she saw the gentle way with which Velorum spoke to her, the engaging manner in which they conversed. There was something long and old between them… something she could not remember. Rain almost jumped when she felt a strong hand on her shoulder.

It never ceased to amaze her how very blue Tear’s eyes were, nor how endlessly deep. There was kindness and compassion in them, understanding. “They have been very close for a long time. When you are called away, as always happens, he relies on her to be his eyes and ears in Alesya. There is nothing more, Rain. Nothing.”

“I didn’t think… I mean,” she began before he stopped her. He sat down next to her, Echo on his other side.

“It’s not easy. Not for you, and not for Echo. Especially now, when you still have so very much to remember. You aren’t used to being Fae yet. It will come with time. Whether you believe it or not, both you and he have taken other loves, and never loved each other any less for it.”

“We have?” She was confused.

Tearlin nodded. Echo piped in, “So has Tear here, and me, I’m told.” The Child of Light grinned and shrugged. “I suppose it makes thing more interesting when you live forever. Besides, you’ve seen him; he watches the same old movies over and over!” She giggled, breaking the tension.

Rain could not help but smile, but she turned to Tear again. “Have we all really… you know… fallen in love with others?”

The golden haired Lord sighed. This was a delicate subject, and one especially difficult for the newly Awakened to understand. “I don’t know why, or how, but we Four are eternally bound. We are the balance of opposites, eternal. I think that means that our souls are always one. We could never leave the other, not really, nor hate them completely, nor fail to love them. Loving one another is as natural as breathing.” He could see he needed to make his point before he lost her. “Look at it like this: you knew, on some level, the very first time you met Velorum that there was something about him, correct?

Rain nodded.

“And then, beyond everything you have learned and felt, you truly knew in your soul that you loved him. Even after all the hurt and deception?”

Again she nodded.

“Exactly. You knew, because your souls are one. Since you made your troth all those ages ago, you two have been one. Now, the Fae are not like Mortals. We are…” Tear looked for the right word, “passion incarnate. When you have all time it is easy to grow weary of one thing or another. It is also possible to love one thing and another. Sometimes an amazing soul comes along, and you understand that you can love that soul, and not love your Mate any less for that love.”

“Sanctioned infidelity?” Rain questioned quietly. She did not like this line of talk. The very thought of Velorum with anyone but her upset her to no end. However, a deeper, older, part of her seemed to almost remember others… people she had loved. Always there was Velorum, but there had been others too. She knew it.

“Not exactly,” Echo decided to add. She had had a lot longer to grow used to the workings of the Fae, so she understood what Tearlin was trying to get across. “You can love more than one person at a time. Just because you love one does not mean you do not still love the other just as much as you always did. In the end, love is love.” She shrugged. “It’s complicated. I’m not saying it always goes over easily, but over time I think we stop being jealous because we know that our boys love us first and foremost, no matter what. They would never leave us, could never. In the end, we Four will remain when all else has passed away.” The blonde blinked her large eyes and there was a kind of peace there. Echo understood. But then, she remembered too.

Rain looked back over at where Velorum was still talking to the green clad Dark Fae. “And he has loved her?” She had to ask.

“Not that I know of,” Echo answered with a wry grin. “Not for her lack of trying.”

Rain raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

Tearlin had to grin too. “Oh yes. As controlled as Enyala is, she cannot hide the fact that she desires him and is highly irritated that he has always had interest only in you. She is a single minded sort, loyal, but stubborn.”

Rain smiled. “Good. I’d like to keep it that way.” She was about to add, ‘because if she lays a hand on him, I’ll sick Nightmare on her,’ but thought better of it. The mere thought caused a flutter of shadow to writhe about her, reminding her that part of her was, and always would be, just beneath the surface.

As if called by the twisting of the shadows, Vel and his visitor returned to the other three. He sighed.

“No sign of Vermillion or Z’iel. Neither those in Alesya nor our agents here have seen or heard anything from them since the night of the battle. We’ve lost track of them. Enyala came to let me know that the Queens remain alert, but have not felt them there at all.”

Rain was not really concerned by the news. She was more interested in this Prince who stood so very near her beloved. It was strange for her, jealousy. It was not an emotion with which she was at all familiar. As if he sensed her coldness, Velorum turned to her and smiled softly.

“Forgive me, Rain. I forgot that you don’t know one another. Ránëv, Child of Darkness and Jade Prince, meet Enyala, Emerald Prince of the Dark Fae.” His voice was light, but he could sense rain’s tension and could not quite figure out what could have caused her mood to have shifted so rapidly. His eyes drifted to Enyala, who also seemed to have chilled. He was not the most astute when it came to matters of the heart, clearly, but even be could see the innate animosity these two shared, even from the first. Here we go again, he thought. Are these two ever going to just get along? He did not voice the thought, however, and decided to just let the two of them figure things out for themselves.

“A pleasure,” Rain said, taking the woman’s offered hand.

Enyala held the jade eyes of the girl keenly, but with no malice. Her first reaction had been an unworthy one, and now that she held the girl’s hand and could feel the power in her, she knew that Rain was indeed a Prince. Emerald had always been a warrior Prince, throughout all its incarnations. She was no exception. As such, she could feel the dark power of Nightmare which by the love of Velorum alone was kept at bay in this slight girl. She accepted that Rain would grow up, and into herself with time. She could also see the rapture on Velorum’s face when he looked at the raven haired Rain. Though she did indeed love Velorum, much of that was the love of a Prince for her High Lord. Rain was her High Lord as well, and so Enyala could love her little less. At long last she let go the girl’s hand and smiled softly, bowing deeply.

“Honored are we, your people of Night, that you have returned to us, my Lady. I only hope that I might prove worthy in service to you and my Lord.”

Rain blinked a few times before blushing, not sure how exactly to respond. She could feel the Prince in her trying to come out, and so did not fight it. “Honored are we, my Kin, that we are returned to those we love most. To lead is to serve first, and I only hope I too might prove worthy.” She blushed again when she saw Tear’s raised eyebrow of surprise. She shrugged and was relieved when Velorum rescued her by continuing what he had been saying, though not without a pleased smile.

“The Queens are anxious to meet both you and Echo once more, as it has been a rather lengthy time since we have all been assembled together in our might.” He tried not to think about the last time the High Lords, which consisted of the Four Avatars and the Queens, had been together. It had been well over a century, upon the trial and sentencing of his and Rain’s son. A dark day in the history of the Fae, and a memory Rain had not yet recovered. He desired to keep it that way. He didn’t think he was ready to deal with that fallout with her yet. Neither was she, for that matter. “Though it would be wonderful to present you both to the Courts, I worry that you’re not quite ready yet.”

“What do we need to do to be ready?” Echo asked. She had her head on Tear’s shoulder and was toying with the necklace at her throat, the mark of her office as a Prince. Though the question was innocent enough, there was a slight undercurrent that even Velorum could not miss. Though Echo was a cheerful and patient sort, she was getting tired of hearing about what they were still not ready for. She had known what and who she was for years. True, she had only just fully Awakened, but that was no excise to always be nursing her.

Velorum looked to Tearlin for aid. It was Enyala who answered, however. “Alesya is the well of magic. It is the home realm and gathering place for all Faery. There are things both beautiful and terrifying there. It is a place of intrigue, and ancient ties. You are so newly Awakened, and have not yet regained all of your lost memories. There are those, even of the Seelie, who would further their own agendas at your expense. Make no mistake, even though we are united in our war against the Unseelie, the Seelie are far from idyllic allies. When you have nothing but time, old feuds do not easily die. They merely slumber.”

“Exactly,” Velorum replied with a nod, thankful she had interjected. He did not want to hurt Echo’s feelings by making her feel like a child, but in the face of the maneuverings of the Fae, she was. “It will be a strain on you both at present. You’re not yet fully in control of your Faery forms yet.” This time he looked at Rain, an apology already on his face.

“You mean,” Rain said flatly, reading what he was really getting at in his eyes, “that you’re afraid Nightmare will go on a rampage because I won’t be able to control her.”

Enyala met her gaze. She was unafraid to be honest, even if the others were. “Not an unfounded fear, given the circumstances.”

Rain stood up, her anger apparent. Tear, ever the peacekeeper, stood between the two women and interjected before either could say a word or start the fight he saw brewing. “Regardless, it is simply not a good idea right now. Not for any of us. The Watchers are going to need our aid to get resituated, and the fact remains that the Unseelie are still out there.” He put a hand on Rain’s cheek. “No one would ever want you to suffer what you have just been through again, my friend. This time you came back to us. I cannot even think what we would do if we had to try and do so once more and failed. It is better to err on the side of caution, and gamble not with the souls of those we love.”

She awarded him a thankful smile, nodding at his wisdom and relenting. She knew that it was dangerous, for had she not felt the pull of the darkness within only moments ago when she had merely thought about Nightmare? If Alesya was truly a place of raw magic, she wondered if they weren’t right and she was just being stubborn. “You’re right, and I know. I guess I’m just afraid that I’ll always be haunted by this. I worry that you’ll all always be looking over your shoulder wondering if I’m going to lose it. I want so much to be stronger than that. I want to be whole.”

“You will be,” Echo said supportively. She felt for Rain, who had the hardest time of them all. Echo had the power of battle in herself, like Rain’s Nightmare, but it was not the same. Battle was simply part of her domain as Avatar of Light. Nightmare was poison. “Everything takes time, that’s all. It’s only been a few weeks. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

When Rain met Vel’s glance, he looked apprehensive, as if he feared that she was mad at him. So much of him was tied to her happiness, her love of him. Sometimes that worried her. However, at present, all she wanted to do was reassure him, because if he let her see his vulnerability, then he really needed it.

“So, what do we do then?” She asked trying to move the conversation along. It was getting rather late, and she was tired.

He seized upon the opening she had left him. “We remain here and gather our strength. I suppose we’ll need to check in on the Watchers from time to time, but I don’t want to interfere in their affairs overly much. Beccah still needs some time to cool off, and Ren will need to rearrange things to his wishes. They know where to find us when the time comes.”

“Which brings us to the second order of business,” the Emerald Prince interjected with an air of dispassion. The comings and goings of Mortals interested her not one bit. “With Sapphire lost to us, we have no idea when the Gate is to open. You two have fully Awakened, which means it could be any time.”

Rain tilted her head to one side. “What happens, when the Gate opens? And what do we do?”

Velorum shifted his weight and leaned against the wall, a thoughtful look on his face. “Well… the Gate is always somewhere different every time, and always where you two finally find one another. It is your strong Mortal and Faery power which pulls it back into existence, as the spell we wove so long ago was meant to do. You’ll know it’s coming, should be able to feel it, the great pull of the magic. All the other Fae will feel it too, and know that the time to decide if they want to come or go has arrived.”

“That means the Unseelie will feel it too,” Tearlin cautioned. The girls nodded.

“Only you two can open the Gate. You’ll know the right words when the time comes. There is a key, embedded in the Gate. Only one of you can turn it to unlock the door. That’s when you have to decide as well, for us all.”

“Decide what?” Echo asked.

“Whether Mortal kind has need of the guidance of the Dark Fae, or the Light Fae. You must use what you have learned as Mortals to temper your decision, for that is the very reason you are reborn into Mortal form. What you two alone decide will determine the fates of both Mortal and Fae alike. You will know what they need when the time comes.”

Rain did not like the thought of yet more responsibility on her shoulders, but accepted it with what grace she could. After all, the Fae in her knew that this was the way that things had to be. “After the key is turned, what then?”

“The rest of the Fae, in both Alesya and here will feel it, and will come. Those that wish to return to Alesya may then do so, and those who wish to come here may ask your permission. You’ll be able to most likely tell the Seelie from the Unseelie, as you always seem to be very sensitive to such things when you are bound to the power of the Gate.”

“And how long will the Gate remain open?”

“That depends on you. You’ll know, both of you. You always do.”

“Way to be vague, Vel,” Echo teased.

He grinned. “Well, it’s true. I really wish I had more to tell you. You two are the children of Light and Dark. It is your hour, not ours. You are the only ones who control the Gate, the only ones who really know its secrets and workings.”

“Way to go us,” Echo replied. “Now, if only we could remember…” she laughed and Rain joined in.

Even Enyala could not help but smile. Though she had always tried to keep a careful distance from the others of the Four, knowing that it was never wise to meddle in the affairs of the Mighty, she could not help it this time. After what had happened with Xaron, it was nice to see them all together and happy. Many of the Fae had despaired of that ever happening again, or of the rift between them all being repaired. Only time would tell, when Rain fully remembered, if this new happiness would last. For herself, the Emerald Prince Hoped so. Rain was growing on her. The girl seemed, despite her outward frailty, to have a core of deep strength. She would have to have, with the path before her.

“I should be getting back,” she finally said, interrupting the friendly banter of the group. They had seemed to have completely forgotten about her presence.

“But you only just arrived,” Velorum questioned. He had moved to sit next to Rain and was caressing her hand in his own. He did not notice that Enyala’s eyes seemed glued to the caress, nor did he note the set of her jaw. “You’re more than welcome to stay with us here for a while if you like.”

“No, no, I’d really rather not. I just came to deliver the message. Besides, you know I dislike the Mortal plane. I’d just a soon go home, if you need nothing further.” She could not help it, being jealous. She wanted the one thing she could never truly have. She respected Rain, for she knew full well into what the girl would grow. Darkness was mighty, graceful, and the incarnation of the things the Dark Fae worshiped. The Emerald Prince respected and served her Lord. The woman… the woman pined for what she knew could never be. She knew it was time to leave, before her emotions got the better of her.

He shrugged, as usual completely oblivious to the war going on inside of her. “As you will. But please, keep in contact. If you hear anything, please let me know.”

“Of course,” she replied. She gave them all one last sweeping bow and turned on her heels, clearly eager to be back in Alesya. She vanished into the shadows and was gone.

They stared after her for a while in silence, and it was Rain who broke the silence. “Well, as much as I’d love to sit through another viewing of “Beckett” I’m tired.” She leaned over and collected the discarded blanket. “You coming, Vel?” He gave her a winning smile and nodded, taking her hand as she led him back into the house. “Goodnight,” she called back over her shoulder to Tear and Echo.

“You think they’ll be alright?” Echo asked curling closer to her beloved.

He smiled softly. “I do. They just still have a lot about which to talk, and that is alright. She’s doing a lot better than that for which I would have given her credit. Once she gets more used to our world, the way we work, she’ll be just fine. Velorum too.”

She nodded in agreement. “Yeah. I don’t envy them, not really. It always makes me thankful that we’ve never had that problem.”

“Perhaps not this time, my love, but even we have had our share of ups and downs. I seem to recall that you had quite a fancy for Louis the XIV of France and gifted him more than any other mortal. You ignored me for decades.”

Echo laughed. “Not fair! I can’t even remember that.” Her laugh became a yawn that she could not hide.

He smiled. “But you will, soon enough. Now, I think you should off to bed as well, my golden one. We have a busy day tomorrow.”

“What about you,” she asked, rising. She yawned again.

“I think I feel like a walk, if that’s alright with you.”

Echo paused and looked deep into his endless blue eyes. She looked for some hint as to what was on his mind, as he always went walking when he needed to think in quiet. “You okay?” She asked softly, lovingly.

He kissed her in her forehead. “I’m well. I just have some things that deserve pondering, that’s all. I’ll be back in a few hours or so.”

She nodded, understanding his need for time alone. All of them felt it sometimes, even her. She kissed him back. “Alright, I’m headed for bed then. Don’t be too long.”

“I won’t. Sweet dreams, Echorijn.” He watched her slight form disappear into the darkness of the house and then turned to go, not quite sure where it was he was headed.

~*†*~

An hour and a half later found dawn still a few hours off, and Tearlin cresting the hill of the local university observatory. He was not a creature of the night, far from it. He was Life after all, and Lord of the Light Fae. However, this place offered something in the stillness of the night that it could not in the light of the day: solitude. During the day students abounded, even in the chill of late fall. Though he could have walked unnoticed among them, he rarely did so. The Fae had the singular talent of not being seen when they did not wish to be. It was not that they were not visible, but rather that Mortal eyes simply slid off of them, Mortal minds did not register the impossibility of such fantastic beings walking so boldly among them. In this late hour, however, no one was about. He was alone beneath the stars with a view of the quiet Northern city twinkling below him.

He looked at the vista spread below him as he took a seat on the grass, disregarding the chill in the air and in the dying grass beneath him. The moon was a sliver in the sky working its way toward full once more. So, it was the stars which illuminated the night. It was as if their glimmer were reflected upon the landscape, all the tiny street lamps and porch lights of the town mimicking them, trying to hold the total darkness of night at bay. Tear found the sight reassuring.

It was not thoughts of the Unseelie and the trials which yet awaited Echo and Rain which had driven him from the comfort to be found in the company of his friends. Rather it was the conversation he had had with Rain upon Enyala’s arrival that troubled him. There was so much about the Fae that he always found himself so inept at explaining. Though he knew that the girls would remember it all in time, there was so much that could be misunderstood if they did not fully grasp the context in which so much had happened. When one lived for eternity and had roots which stretched back before the beginnings of human remembrance, there was much of good and evil to be recounted. The golden haired Lord thought back upon all those he had loved and lost throughout the ages.

There was one whom he missed above all others, one who had always been there for him. The Sapphire Prince. Sapphire’s domain had always been foresight and intuition. In all things, and throughout Sapphire’s many incarnations, they had been close friends… and in more than one instance lovers. Part of what had driven him and Velorum so far apart was the fact that it had been his crazed and corrupted son who had killed the last Sapphire Prince. It was also not only that he had killed her, but Xaron had tortured and mutilated her as well. It had taken her a very long time to die, and Tearlin had felt it very keenly. It was hard to get over such things, even after more than a century. What had made it worse was that shortly after Rain had vanished to be reborn, so had Echo. Without Sapphire, Tear had been very alone during the dawn of the twentieth century.

He sighed. And when would they return, his right hand? The Seelie so very desperately needed the strength that was the domain of the Sapphire Prince, be they man or woman. It really did not matter to him, for he loved all life. With so much in flux, any small thing could tip the balance. There was also the worry that the Unseelie would learn who the new prince was before the Seelie did, and corrupt them. With the fall of Amethyst, they would be desperate to turn one of the Princes to their cause. The thought did not please him one bit. However, he was well aware that they were doing everything that they could. Who knew when Sapphire would be reborn? It could be hundreds of years yet, and that was perhaps the saddest thought of all.

Tear became remotely aware of someone drawing near. He tilted his head to once side and concentrated. Being the Avatar of Life, he had an innate connection to all living things. This was a Mortal? Unawakened? It was hard for him to tell much more than that they were a bright and strong spirit. That intrigued him. Usually he could always tell who it was, how they felt, what they were like, and if it was Fae or not. This figure, however, was strangely guarded. He waited, knowing that they would soon come into view. Who would be out here at this time of night, he wondered with intrigue.

It was a girl, a college student clearly. She was not really dressed for the cold of the early morning, but rather in light blue flannel pajama bottoms with little white stars on them. She had a very warm looking white wool coat on, however. She seemed to be humming softly to herself, and so Tear did not disturb her. After all, she might very well just walk by and never even see him.

The girl was indeed very distracted, running a hand through her mid length auburn hair which seemed to refuse to stay in the pony tail into which she had hastily put it. She sighed, giving up trying to exercise any control over the unruly locks, and continued humming. It was not unusual to see her out walking, for she loved the beauty and peace of the endless sky, but it was strange for her to be out so late at night. She was normally such a day and morning person, but sleep had been very elusive lately, save for when those strange dreams of hers troubled her, and she thought that perhaps a brisk walk would tire her out. So far, it wasn’t working. She loved the observatory and the view it afforded, and so had made her way there to find some clarity of thought. She was very surprised, therefore, to see a very striking blonde haired guy sitting on the lawn in little more than a white button down shirt and jeans. He had such a look of peace and thoughtfulness about him that she stopped in her tracks.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized as he looked up from gazing out at the town spread out below them. “I didn’t think there would be any one else here, especially this late at night. I was having my usual strange dreams and thought a walk would do me some good.”

He awarded her a breathtaking smile, “That makes two of us.” He brow furrowed and he looked curious. “I am not disturbing you, am I? I could go if you would like to be alone.”

She smiled, drawn to the strange lack of contractions in his speech. There was something almost magnetic about him that she could not quite explain. After all, she was not the kind who got butterflies over a boy she had just met. “If anyone’s doing the disturbing, it’s me.” She closed the distance between them, taking a seat on the cold grass near him. “And no, you don’t have to go. It might actually do me some good to meet someone new.” A wry grin crossed her face, and he raised an eyebrow.

“My roommates tease that I prefer the company of my books to people. They’re always trying to get me to go out and meet people.” She sighed. It was not that she had not tried, she really had. She even had fun sometimes, doing the whole party and club scene. But, it really wasn’t her thing. She didn’t seem to fit in with most people. Her mother had always said that she was born in the wrong century, and in truth, she often felt like it too.

“Books are not so bad,” he replied with a smile that made her skip a breath. “Some of my best friends are books.”

She laughed, blushing a little under his gaze. His eyes were so blue, and she’d never met anyone with eyes as blue as hers. It was her one vanity, and the thing that got her the most complements. She had perfectly blue eyes. She let the silence draw out between them for a moment, and was happy to find that it was not awkward as it so often was with people you didn’t know. She took the moment to study the blonde haired beauty beside her and it occurred to her that there was something very familiar about him. He was amazingly attractive, almost as he carved out of living marble with those very Romanesque lines in his features. But it was more than that which struck her. It was as if she felt she knew him, and knew his so well. Just the very presence of him here, on this night, seemed so ordained she could not shake the feeling.

“Umm… have we met before?” she asked. “I mean, I don’t think we have, but there’s something very familiar about you I just can’t put my finger on. I know it sounds impossible, but I feel like we’ve met, like we know one another. Do you go to school here?” She knew her words sounded like a bad pick up line, but it could not be helped.

“No, I do not attend here, though I suppose I have always considered myself the eternal student.” Tearlin met her gaze, intrigued that he could sense so little from her other than the bright light of her spirit. Still, that was enough for him. “Besides, I have always been a believer in the impossible. Are you?”

There was something deeper in the question, and she knew it, could feel it. His question delved deep into the core of who she was as a person, and that was how he had meant it. For some time she thought, and then replied softly, “I’ve always wanted to. I have dreams… about things and times that cannot possibly be real. Yet, they feel so very real to me.” She sighed, and then blushed. She could not figure out why she was telling him all this, her intimate secrets, but there it was. It seemed par for the course where this chance meeting was concerned.

He tilted his golden haired head to one side. “And why can they not be real? Because they are dreams? It seems silly to discount what your heart tells you is truth simply because it is not tangible. So much in life is intangible, and yet no less real or possible because if its lack of form or reason.” His voice was soft, encouraging.

“Your words are so full of wisdom,” she smiled, running a hand through her unruly hair. “Especially since you look little older than I am.” She blushed, realizing that her comment could be taken as an insult.

He just grinned. “I’m older than I look, trust me.” He held out his hand to her, realizing that they didn’t even know one another’s names. “Tearlin Ne’Shay. A pleasure to meet you.” And he meant it. It was rare that he met any Mortals who seemed so at ease with him. Even the unaware always seemed to feel the power in him and shy away. This girl, however, seemed to belong in his world. She did not fear him, nor shy away. She engaged him, and for Tearlin, it was a wonderful change from the usual.

She took his offered hand and smiled brightly. “Meg, Meg Carter.”

When Tearlin took her hand he could not have been prepared for what beset him. It was as if lightning cursed through his entire being, deep into the heart of his soul searing away all veils. Feelings and images, lives too many to count, came in a rush and lashed out at his exposed psyche. Fire raced in his blood and burned his mind. He stood and stumbled a few steps away from her, breaking the contact of their handshake. One thing was clear, however. It was her… he had found her. Beyond all ages and times, his Sapphire Prince had found him.

Meg blinked hard as the golden haired stranger--Tearlin?--stumbled away from her, and she rubbed her tingling palm absentmindedly, trying to cope with the sudden flood of information that had overwhelmed her senses. It had never been like this--pick up an old pot and feel the emotions of the last person to have used it, sure, but this? It was being flooded with golden lit images, memories that were not her own and yet somehow recognizable. Tearlin was in all of them, accompanied by a parade of people, some male, some female, each glancing out of the past with a sapphire blue gaze that was scarily familiar. Sometimes they were alone, reading a book, sharing a meal, or in company, with a shorter woman with bright light blue eyes or two darker beings, with eyes of green and pale faces that grew luminous in the dusk.

At the very end of the images were ones that Meg recognized, dreams she had had just this past week, of a man with eyes of fire and an explosion of wings and fury--fear and glory somehow incarnate in these strange beings, like this one in front of her.

She opened her mouth to speak, and no sound came out, so she tried again, empathy overriding her nerves at touching him again. She stepped forward on shaking knees and briefly put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you...are you all right?" she asked. "That was really something else entirely, even for you, wasn't it?"

He nodded, trying not to wince when she touched his shoulder. "Aye..." A wave of relief that she seemed to be alright washed over him and he offered her a lopsided grin. "And you?"

"Totally blown away," Meg chuckled, taking her hand back and flexing her fingers experimentally. It felt rather like when a bow cord had snapped over her hand at archery practice one day, somehow numb and warm at the same time. "You asked me if I was willing to believe the impossible? That seemed pretty impossible to me. What are you, some kind of living lightning rod?" Her tone was light, but her eyes were serious. This was a little beyond her comprehension, but somehow there was a little glimmer of understanding just waiting deep behind her eyes.

"No," he answered, taking a seat on the grass. He did not trust his legs to support him at this particular moment. Tear sighed, and decided that after that, there was no further need for pretence. She would accept, or reject, there was nothing else for it now. "I am Faery, like in the children's tales. The Diamond Prince of the Seelie, in fact, and Avatar of Life." To show her what he meant, he plucked a dying flower from the grass. He blew upon it, bringing the blush of life and beauty back upon its petals. He handed it to her.

"What you dream, what you feel, it is all completely real. There is a realm beyond the one you know, one to which you are a very important part."

Part of Meg wanted to laugh and reply "Get out of town;" for who could believe such a thing? Yet she had always been the one among her friends who resisted rash judgments and looked for the deeper springs of reasoning, and she twirled the flower thoughtfully in her hand as she too sat on the grass, heedless of the cool which seeped through her pajama bottoms. "Well, either I'm as mad as you are or we're both completely sane," she said finally, not taking her eyes from the petals. "But I do tend to doubt my importance in much of anything. I'm just a university student, after all, no great philosopher or artist, not even much of an archer when it comes down to it, just a kid with a bow and a wish for pointed ears."

She looked up at him finally, and her eyes were still, somewhere between elated and sad. "So who do you say I am, Diamond Prince of Faery?"

"Why, the Sapphire Prince, of course. You do not think just anyone gets eyes like that, do you?" He laughed softly and leaned in closer. "You may think you are none of those things, but I know you to have been all of them in one incarnation or another. Even the pointed ears, one of these days. With lovely gossamer wings of blue and silver to match."

Meg's breath caught in her throat as the golden lord leaned closer, and she released it finally in an almost disbelieving laugh. "Wings? I have wings?" She twisted her head around to look at her completely normal fleece covered back, and turned back to grin at him, enjoying herself despite what seemed a completely ludicrous conversation. "Let me guess. I have to earn them first," she chuckled.

"In a manner of speaking," he replied returning her grin. "It takes time. I fear I may have rushed you already... but..." He looked down, a blush coloring his skin. "It was almost too much to hope," he said softly.

Meg raised a delicate eyebrow, the weight of his words sinking in, and she spoke quietly. "All those people I saw you with, with my eyes--there have been other Sapphires, haven't there? Friends of yours?" Her eyes now gleamed darkly and she gave a soft smile. "You've lived a very long time, haven't you--and now you have to get to know me all over again."

He nodded, a sigh escaping him. "I have been since before Time, since before even I took physical form. Me and the other Avatars. We are eternal. One thing about that, though... when you have no beginning and no real end, you have to watch so very many that you care about leave whilst you must stay." He looked back at her, a kind of beautiful sorrow in the depths of his pale eyes, eyes so like hers in many ways. "They were all my dear friends. Sapphire and I have always been close. Empathy is a binding thing, a shared blessing and curse. I had almost begun to despair that you... that Sapphire would be back. After last time, I truly feared that perhaps the power of Sapphire was destroyed forever." He tried to lighten. "I cannot tell you how much joy it brings me that I was
wrong, and that you are indeed here."

"Destroyed?" Meg looked grim for a moment but shook it off. "I can tell that's a story that should be left for another time--I have plenty to absorb already." She smiled, her natural optimism reasserting itself. "So here I am, whoever I am--I can only hope I do not disappoint you, for truly even if dawn is about to be creeping over the hill, I am rather walking in the dark now here." Her eyes glinted brightly now, and her smile was infectious. "And I believe other Sapphires were lucky to have you as a friend, from what little I could gather from that information overload--I am glad I bumped into you this evening, though it will seem very much a dream when I go back to my dorm again."

He gave her that soft smile again. "It is indeed a story for another time; for I do not have the heart to tell it and you should not yet have to hear it. But another time. " He looked to the coming dawn. "In sooth, I have pressing matters which really should not wait. If... if you want to know more about the Fae, about our world, there is a club, Adion's Fall. There are Fae there, and those of Mortals who aid us. They will be able to answer many of your questions until I may speak with you again. There are many of the fae who, like you, are Unawakened to their true power." He smiled shyly. "You will not feel so alone with them, and they will understand. Just tell them I sent you, that Tear sent you. Do not tell them you are Sapphire yet, let that come with time. You have enough to deal with already." He stood and held out a hand to her to help her to her feet.

Meg blinked again, quickly committing to memory all that Tearlin had said, and taking hold of his hand without hesitation this time, and smiling shyly. "Thank you," she said. "It has been a stranger night than I expected, but in some ways I feel more at peace now than I have for many of the last few years--now I know enough answers that the having of questions is not quite so strange."

Impulsively, she reached up and brushed a stray strand of hair out of his face, and stepped back quickly, not sure where the gesture had come from. "I won't keep you any longer, Tearlin," she said, suddenly shy once more, but unable to keep from using his name.

Almost... almost he kissed her in that moment. How could he explain to anyone that like many of the Fae, he was divided. Life and Light were one. Indivisible. He would always belong to Echo, and he loved her. But the Fae were creatures of passion, of change by nature. Just as she had had many lovers over the millennia, so had he. They did not love each other any less for the love of the others in their long lives. But the sapphire eyed woman before him could never understand that just yet. Perhaps she never would. He knew it would be wrong to try and bring her into his world just yet, and so after a long time gazing into her eyes he bowed sweepingly. "I will find you again, my lady. I promise."

Meg blessed the darkness as she felt a blush burning in her pale cheeks, but she could not help but smile and dip her head in return. "I will look for you whenever I least expect you, my lord," she replied, falling easily and cheekily into the archaism which had always felt natural. "I will look for you," she repeated softly. "Now that I know how to see."

Tearlin grinned and ventured one last look at her before he turned and waked down the hill once more, more light hearted than he ever could have thought on a night when he had received such unpleasant news earlier. He had found the Sapphire Prince, and she was more than he could have hoped for. With a smile, he headed back toward Vel's place to tell the others everything.

Meg watched his figure partway down the hill, still clutching the flower in her hand, which had not even begun to wilt, and bearing a foolish half smile on her face. There was no way on earth she was telling her roommates about this one--there weren't even words for it.
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