moon rise over snow covered trees with purple fog

The Virgin’s Blush Moon

It sounded like thunder that rolled across the valley. “We sheltered in time. A witch is scrying for magic,” Aed said, easing his head out from the cloak. “The snow has stopped. The carrion will be on the move. They should just admit to putrefaction, eat their own vomit, and keep to the crypt.”

Nicely said. The way he carried himself I would be willing to bet he had been hunted, himself. He was impressive. I knew assassins had skills. I had one or two skillsets, myself. But he was well versed in the…well…I could not call them simple magics. He was well past the majority level, apprentice and scholar. I was a Novice Scholar. In some areas he probably knew more than myself. Just the fact that he could hear a witch scrying spoke to the level of his expertise.

“They are down in the valley. No one will think to check the ridge. Too much work. But we will be careful. Stay inside my cloak.”

In one fluid motion he had me up and next to him as we made our way to the tree line. “Sweet mercy!” I gasped, looking out past the heavy foliage. “A spelled Virgin’s Blush moon. She carries her shroud, those clouds, wrapped around her. A beam of her moonlight will kill me.”

Immediately, I was pulled back into the warmth of his body, only my nose and eyes peeking out.

“Someone is seriously looking for you. They have lit up the valley floor and are floating purple mists, searching out any royal in the area…apparently a virgin royal in the area.”

“That moon is a nasty piece of business,” I stepped further back into the shadows of Aed’s cloak. My nose now tucked in, only my eyes peering out watching the scene down below. “I cannot ever go out on moonlit nights, again. There are certain spells and scrying I will not be able to do. I am at risk…” I hesitated and turned to face him. “Unless you would do me the honor…”

“A noble may not mate with a royal,” he smiled at me.

“I though you were a renegade extraordinaire….I thought for you, rules were made to be broken.”

“You want me to do what?” he stepped back more into the shadows and took me with him. “Breach you right here against a tree?”

“Do you think whoever is working the valley would be able to smell the blood?” I countered.

There was a muffled sound from his throat. I think he is laughing at me. “That is the fear speaking. You Rune a cloak woven by a Master, and not even moonlight will be able to see you.”

“Fear is a useful thing,” I openly refuted him. “And I am presently short on trust and…well trust.” I was glad for his warmth. And his company. And this was my burden, but Aed…here was someone I could trust.   “My day has been full of surprises,” I was not going to scream out into the void just how unfair I thought this was. “This newest one…” I gestured with my head toward the valley. “Why all this to search for me? This energy will linger in the air until the New Moon, inviting trouble. And we are to be low-key while here on Earth. There is nothing to be gained. I am not even mentioned in the lineage heritage to inherit the throne. I am just noted as a daughter of Rowan. I am not that important.

Everyone knows I am a Lady of the Guild and learned my craft from the witch that was always one level above me. I am not exceptional in any area of witchery. I can Rune. I do not need a fixed portal to travel. I can take bloodstains out of a carpet. I cannot,” my voice went up an octave, “shroud a Virgin’s Blush moon nor can I light up the night like the day. That is,” I said nodding with my head, “a Mistress of the Guild. The magics that I was taught…many are done at night…under a full moon. That is my area of expertise. That is not public knowledge nor is it a secret. But this witch,” I shuddered, “can activate a shrouded Virgin’s moon.  Without moonlight, I become very limited in my magics and if caught out in the open under such a moon, I am dead.   I need to be rid of this last vestige of my father’s house.” My mouth went dry and I tried to swallow, but choked on nothing instead.

Father is the problem…” he smiled, “a royal and noble…no mating…”

My own body had denied me that failed truth. My father…not my father…who the fuck was my father?

“I do not mean to demean you in asking, or belittle you or think of you only as stud service. I would be grateful, for whatever that is worth, and you would be breaking no laws,” I assured him. “I am not a royal.”

“What?” he barked out a small laugh.

“You said I could not trust you, but those of Ringle’s house gone before me think you can be trusted. And if not, I would rather die a quick death at your hands. Not very brave of me but…fuck…the truth is that Rowan is not my father.”

“What?” his voice hissed as I felt the pressure increase on my arm. “How is that possible? Rowan would know if he was made a cockold. That is one of the joys of being King.”

“Well, apparently not when you are married to a witch,” my voice was low. “A noble is my father. I do not know whom. My mother never said and only she and I knew that truth. Well, and I would assume also my father. But maybe not…” I was lost on that thought. To complete the seven-daughter circle, she only needed one more child. Did my father know I was the seventh of the seventh?

“That witch,” I nodded to down below, “can blow all the purple mists she wants up her ass, but she will not be able to track me with it. That moon, however…” I shuddered. “The Crone responsible for this, she knows me…” I stressed, “personally…fuck…even that I am virgin. This would have to be one of the Mistresses of the Guild. One of my mother’s closest friends. ” I felt the tears form. “One of the women I call Auntie and love.” My mother’s loss pulled me under. I felt like this newest betrayal could devour me. Grief was pooling at my feet, wishing for me to bathe in it and to abide within me the rest of my days.

“Roland,” I sighed, wiping my eyes, “has called in some very big favors. So many things I do not know. I wish Mother were still alive. I could use her counsel and strength. I am tired,” I put my hand on his arm. “And forlorn. And betrayed. Is it possible to go home, now?”

“No,” he took off the cloak and wrapped it around me. “Not yet. Go back into the trees and sleep. When you wake, you will be in your own bed, I promise.”

My hand held his. “I am serious about…” My voice dropped as well as my eyes.

“Really?” he said and I think I hear laughter…again!

“You are serious and you cannot even say it…” his eyebrows were both pushed up.

Righting myself, I pulled my courage out of hiding and what was left of Mistress Dignity…I pinched her until she yowled and begged for mercy. I gave her none and spoke what was on my mind.   “I would be honored, Aed, if you would…” I shrugged. “Be my…” I considered him for a moment. “Be my friend,” I hesitated on the word. My eyes did not waver and neither did his.   “And remove the Maiden’s Blush curse from me. I know no other male I would trust. If your honor or code or ethics forbids this, I do understand. I do not know,” I shrugged, again, “if I am acceptable to you. But you are acceptable to me. You smell like a wood fire,” and there was a tinge of lust in my voice. “Hot…smokey…woody…the cold taste of winter…you make me wet…and hungry…” I ended honestly and quietly as I slowly dropped his hand. I figured I had done a thorough job of embarrassing myself.

Walking back into the tree line, I lay down, pulled his cloak tightly around me, closed my eyes and went to sleep.

I watched her as she walked away. Wrapped in my cloak, she did not look as forlorn. Of course, wrapped in only it, wearing nothing else, and panting my name would be a good look for Gael, as well.

Rowan’s house was going to fall. All of his kin, dead. Trudy’s Runes would run true. At the time I had wondered why Gael had not been distressed about seeing her own death. Well, this explained much…and left many mysteries.

Watching the activity below, she was correct. There was a lot of talent and energy being expended. Why her? Why now? This was more than just having a trusting relative for your White Feast.   Gael was the seventh daughter of a seventh. The last of her breed. Literally. There was not another one and it would take generations for another such daughter to be born. But who else knew that? Certainly not Rowan or any in her guild.

And now I knew.

Trust…I trusted no one and would never again, not if I wanted to live a full and abundant life as an assassin. And if I lived through this , Who Can Kill the Apprentice Master Assassin, all my guild seeking me to end me and have those bragging rights, then the Master of Assassins would retire and I would take his place.

The fog was dissipating and I was beginning to smell the moon…Virgin, come out and play, it called cheerily. Such a light, delicate scent was meant to draw the virgin out to seek the flowers and to her death. Knowing that a great and good slaughter was headed my way because of these that sought to take Gael’s life, it was causing me to stroke myself and think about how sweet that woman sleeping in my cloak would be. Her hand in mine…yes…it was soft and yet…deadly. After the snow, there would be ley lines for only her to walk. One had to ask why? And what could she carry with her? For instance, if she were to piggy-back me, could I go with her? How long, I wondered, had the House of Ringle been planning this? And on whose Runes had Gael’s destiny been spun?

Which begged me to ask the question. On whose Runes had my destiny been spun?

My Master told me the best way to stay alive is to not believe in coincidence. There is no such thing, he would stress as he was beating the blood out of me while we battled with our blades.

It was true, the witch needed a protector. And there I was, as if I had been moved by an unseen hand to protect my queen on the chessboard. Coincidence? Only if you believe in that word.