To Have and to Hold

fire with blowing ash

Everyone was standing on the top floor, admiring the view.   A horn sounded when the Master Assassin stepped through the doorway. He staggered on one foot, caught himself and then approached and stood under the arch. There was applause as Lady Gael stepped up next to him.

“Daughter,” Rowan stood in front of them. “As you have no acknowledged titled-to-inherit-birthright, and are heir to naught, to the Master Assassin I give permission to take you as his consort. He shall stand for you in the council chamber and make your wishes known.

Obey his wishes and cast your desires only upon him. Every happiness to you and to the heirs that you produce for him.”

“Lady Gael,” the tall, rugged male looked down into her eyes, his words slightly slurred. “I am honored. Aed,” he turned to his side, “and your fearless brother Eitilt, I am doubly honored that you are to escort us to our chamber and witness the joining.”

Rowan handed the Master Assassin a drinking horn. All others raised their glasses and offered a toast. “To fertility and compassion. Lust and forgiveness. Be firm of flesh and soft in acceptance.” The glasses were drained and when the Master Assassin turned his upside down, all cheered.

“Master,” Aed was beside him. “If I might offer you some assistance?”

“Thank you Aed,” he smiled sleepily. “I do believe I am drunk. And if I am not mistaken, Rowan put something in my drink to insure…perhaps that I am firm of flesh, despite the drink.”

“Perhaps,” Aed smiled at him. “Do not worry,” Aed began leading him away. Eitilt stepped forward and extended his arm to Lady Gael and followed them. “We have this, my Master.”

The door closed behind them and they descended down into the cool depths until they came to another door which the Master opened with a key. “Welcome Lady Gael,” he turned and smiled at her. “Welcome home. Your chamber is prepared,” he waited until they were all inside and then locked the door behind them. Taking the key out, he hung it on a hook.

Eitilt carefully watched the male who was no longer drunk. His step sure and his words perfectly pronounced. “Such an inelegant way to do this, my dearest, but…I swear to you…you and no other.”

“What?” her voice was soft as she looked up at him. “What did you say?”

“The same words I said to your mother. I have loved you from the moment you were conceived. I love your mother with all that I am.”

“Father?” she whispered. “Father…” tears choked her voice.

“Yes,” he nodded and extended his arms.

“Father,” she kept repeating as the tears covered her face and her body shook with sobs.

“We knew no other way,” he held her crushed to him, his voice tinged with joy and tears. “No other way to get you past Rowan’s insanity.”

“Master, so you really are not drunk,” Aed chuckled. “And Rowan did slip something into your drink.”

“Yes,” he growled and then turned his head to Aed and rolled his eyes. “To make me sleep. There is a reason I am the Master Assassin. Those charms of his does not work on me. I thought he knew that. What is that bastard planning?” He was once more looking down at his daughter, joy on his face as he kissed the top of her head.

“To get you drunk and keep you drunk. He wants me to bed Gael,” Eitilt said. “He wants an heir from our house.”

“Since she is not his heir, impossible,” he snorted.  “And I look forward to the day when I tell him so.  She is my daughter and with great pleasure I taught her the ways of the blade so that she could kill any and all who came against her.  Or thought to bed  her without her permission.”

“Master,” Aed stepped forward, “I…I did not know that you were her father…Gael, she is mated to me and bears my heir, Mer’lyn.”

Laughing, he picked his daughter up and spun her around, kissing her after putting her back on her feet. “Aed,” he started and then stopped. “Honestly, Engl saw this coming. She told me but I am not for sure that I actually believed her when she said that when I made myself known to Gael, that she would carry your son.”

“Momma told you that?” Gael smiled at him. “Was that during the last week you were with her in Dublin?”

“Yes,” he smiled. “Yes, she told me then. Oh daughter, you look just like your mother. So beautiful.”

“Did I not tell you Gay’el,” there was lilting laughter, “did I not tell you she would carry your heir.”

“Mother,” Gael whispered and turned and saw her standing there with her arms out stretched.

The screaming in joy started in earnest.

“Most good,” Rowan was standing over by a window, listening. “They have wasted no time. Eitilt will get this done. See,” Rowan crowed loudly turning into the room.  “Gael enjoys it. I knew she would. I shall have a grandson and all shall be right with the world.”

Engl sat next to her husband, with their daughter between them. Gael’s arms around both.

“Do my sisters still live?” Gael asked.

“I do not know,” Engl sadly shook her head. “We all agreed it was for the best that they disperse throughout the dimensions. They all understood your importance, Gael. That this final battle would restore order to the land of the fae. Word will spread once all is righted, but until then, we have not maintained contact. To do so would be dangerous.”

“Can you teach me what I need to know to defeat the now present evil ones?” Gael asked.

“What?” Gay’el and Engl both said.

“Yes, evil that is wandering,” Gael was very serious. “Eitilt, tell them what you found at Trudy’s.”

“Isn’t she dead yet?” Engl hissed.

“Yes,” Eitilt responded. “But not before she could do damage. Her magic was cloaked with the blood rites for Laguz.”

“So Berkano is in attendance as well,” Engl spit out. “By all that is unholy! Anyone else?”

“No,” Eitilt was thoughtful, “not that I am aware of and I have been nosing about.   Albie pushed her magics into the fire and destroyed whatever remained of them. I did not kill that old bastard soon enough.   I do not know who else stood on the pentagram with them. I know Laguz because Trudy had doused the egg of our house in it.”

Gael, Gay’el and Engl said nothing as they regarded Eitilt. “Who knows that Albie is dead?” Gay’el asked.

“No one at court, at least not yet,” Eitilt replied. “But before this new dark slips away, they will know.”

“Good,” Engl nodded.

Gay’el was intrigued. His daughter was mated to this house. Aed was the son he would thought he would never have. Now he really was his son. The House of the Sun was laced with ancient stories and legends of deep, mystical, magic. Human and dragon lore that had born fruit and walked the path with death and scoffed at any and all.   “I thought that the egg was myth?”

“No, and Mer’lyn’s jewels also exist. My mate, Merlynn wears them. They were in her possession.”

“From what house does she hail?” Gay’el asked.

“Human,” Eitilt responded.

“Oh,” they both said just a bit startled but regained their composure quickly.

“Be blessed in your family,” Engl smiled at him.

“Thank you, and in yours as well,” he countered.

“So what now?” Gael asked.

“Well,” Eitilt laughed, “I think Aed and I now go upstairs. We shall look  about and see just what we can step in and then track all over Rowan.”

“Most excellent,” Gay’el smiled at them. “I shall be here with my wife and daughter, doing my duty as husband and father. I think dinner is here, someplace. We are going to eat. I have waited ages to say a blessing with my wife and daughter, over a meal. Eitilt, and my son Aed, if you will pardon us for a bit. I look forward to us gathering as family but for now, if you will just grant me some time with my girls.”

“Of course,” they both grinned and standing, bowed and then left.

As they entered the room on the top floor, there were many long looks. Eitilt raised his glass in a salute to Rowan.

When Rowan looked at Aed, Eitilt raised his glass again and smiled and nodded yes.

Something that resembled glee danced over Rowan’s face. It was all Aed could do not to laugh out loud as he watched Eitilt stop and chat with the viceroy of the leprechauns, Patrick.

Patrick was not impressed with any of this. Here was just one of Rowan’s debauched reasons to drink and twirl around in wicked perversion. The only motive he had to put in an appearance at what he considered the fae’s worst debacle in ages, was to see Eitilt. Lady Gael was a sweet child with no magic to speak of, but still a sweetling. The Master Assassin…well, he was the Master Assassin. Not much wealth but a lot of killing power. Granted, he owned his tower and not much else. Who benefited from such a mating?

“Patrick, laddie, be careful where you step…” he covered his laugh with a slight cough. “Because something is up. This is what happens when you have been walking the ley lines for the past fifty years or such and are a bit out of the loop. Just look at that fire. The ashes are making more of a to-do than the witches that are present. Of course, wherever Eitilt goes, the fires call out and welcome him.   These bottom feeders that are here, Rowan’s friends, it would make me just a trifle bit nervous to know your enemy could cause the fire in your own hearth to turn against you.”

On the invitation, Rowan had announced with pride that the males of the House of the Sun would be in attendance at this grand affair. Patrick was intrigued because not all of the males of House of the Sun were in attendance. “Where oh where is Albie?” Then another caught his eyes. “Bless me,” he watched the maneuvering and posturing of a Council Representative. “He is so corrupt he stinks like Thursday’s privy house.”

Not even being three feet tall, Patrick had a very different perspective than most of the room.   He was very amused at Eitilt’s self-assuredness that was there on his face for all to see.   Patrick was about to choke on his drink. “Would you just look at my friend, now, that smug bastard,” he chuckled to himself. “Yes, Eitilt is about to bust a gut, but not from filling Lady Gael. From where I am standing, there is just a hint of a raging hard on about him. He is sporting the kind of solid dick that says its owner wants to engage in a knock-down drag-out fight.

Look at his face. Well I do believe that he resembles a wee young one that just inherited an old dragon’s horde to find that he has enough to finance his own army.

It is time to be stickin’ close to home, things are about to get interestin’.”

Together, Eitilt and Aed wandered the upper tower, admiring the view and stopping to exchange pleasantries with those they that knew. And allowing those to kiss their ass that had no pleasantries to exchange.

“And why are the librarians still here?” Aed snickered.

“They must be brokering something huge.”

“Speaking of huge I do believe, Master Assassin’s Apprentice, it is your turn with the Lady Gael. Be sure and make her scream so loud they can hear her above their own drunken revelry.”

Aed grinned, “I believe I can do that,” he smiled as he saluted his brother and then started toward the stairs.

Eitilt was standing next to a window admiring the early evening stars when Rowan joined him. They both heard the screams of passion coming from below.

“Good,” Rowan smiled. “I do not care which one of you gets the child, conceived. The Master Assassin still sleeps?”

“I would take that to be yes,” Eitilt grinned. “Aed just found his release. She will carry a child of our house.

We both know that the Master Assassin will be very aware that the child is not his when he is born with his dragon markings.”

“Many things can happen between now and then,” Rowan smiled.

“And I am sure they shall,” Eitilt smiled in return and bowing walked away.

“Shade Cecil,” Eitilt did a double take as he walked past a mirror. “What are you doing here? It is dangerous, Rowan will cast you away if he finds you here.”

“We needed to give warning and I decided I was the best and most stealthy. Hardest to trace. They are watching the pub. They have not yet come inside but they sit out front. Sandra gives them much to drink and they talk. They are watching for a wynd ryder named Mer’lin. They know he must be a great wizard or warlock or some such from your house. So they are watching the dragons that come and go.

The spell that holds me is dissipating. I am gone now.”

Walking over to the fireplace, Eitilt tossed in the wine left in his cup. With the hissing sound and popping to cover his voice, the ashes rose in a whirl while he spoke to the flames, “Aed, upstairs, soonest.”

Eitilt watched his brother swagger a bit as he walked over to where he was standing by the fire. The flames shot up and ashes created a raging whirlwind up the flue. It all said “Yes, I just had sex with the Lady Gael. That was her screams you heard, produced by me!”

With both of them in attendance, the flames would allow no one to listen in. Their cracking and popping sounds covered the low tones of the brothers.

“The guards that left here in a hurry, they are at the pub,” Eitilt said casually, “looking for a wynd ryder named Mer’lin. They know he is a great magic from our house.”

“What the fuck?” Aed hissed. “That is why the librarians are here. They found something. Or think they found something.”

“The family’s song,” Eitilt said thoughtfully. “Some one wrote down the words and they found it.  Destiny’s Child. Or they just wrote their own version of it and sold it to the king.”

They both smiled.

“So, apparently the safest place for Gael is right here, locked in her Father’s tower with her Mother’s magic to protect her. And her husband locked in with her,” Eitilt chuckled out loud. “Okay, I need to get back to the pub. Those fuckers sitting out front are ruining the ambiance of my establishment. Time to play truth or dare. You want to sit in and see how it is done?’

“I love to watch a master at work,” Aed smiled.

Eitilt stepped away and walking towards Rowan bowed. “My king, it has been pleasant being in such fine company, but I have a business to run. Is there something more,” his voice was most sincere, “I may do for you before I leave?”

“Eitilt,” he smiled. “must you depart so soon? Do you not have lackeys to do such things for you?”

“Not for what must be done,” he smiled charmingly. “I am the chef.”

“The Chef,” he smiled, “I shall be saddened to see you go. And perhaps Gael as well,” he chuckled. “I know the Master Assassin will. It is my understanding he now has a taste for dragon.”

Winking at Rowan, Eitilt engaged. “My king, I am not one to kiss and tell.”

“Oh come now, how about just a small telling? Then you could be on your way.”

“That would depend on the subject.”

“So, a story,” Rowan clapped, “may I pick a subject?”

“Only one,” Eitilt smiled. “And I must approve. We do after all, have ladies present.”

“Is this a true story or a fable,” he smiled charmingly.

“My king, you may pick…”

“Truth,” he grinned. “Stammy,” he called out. “Come forth, you are needed. I want the absolute truth,” Rowan grinned.   “Therefore a truth teller, do you agree?”

“To only one subject, my king and nothing off-color.”

“H-m-m-m-m,” he settled back into his chair.   “I have Eitilt, the heir to the House of the Heart of the Sun. What should I ask?”

Numerous suggestions were called from the floor.

“No,” Rowan, raised his hand in dismissal, “nothing of the sexual nature. So some other truth…”

Eitilt smiled and bowed.

“Your father, Eitilt, is a most loyal subject. He upholds our laws, is gracious to all he encounters and supports me as his king. I am missing him being at this grand and festive occasion. After all, my daughter is given as consort to the Master Assassin. Why is he not in attendance? Is it something that I have said? Have I offended him in some way? Does he plot something, unseemly, like perhaps my birthday party?”

“My father is dead, my king. He and Jorja plotted against me. In my freezer Jorja had placed two-dozen frozen thumb-bellas so that Albie may have them as snacks.   I found them and released their spirits by burning them to ash and with a salute, one last time they danced in the starlight before they returned to the bosom of home.

Madame L’sióg,” he bowed to her, “I am sorry for your loss and for this horrific act that was perpetrated upon your people by my father. I have the names of those he thought to eat.”

“Truth, he speaks truth,” Stammy stuttered.

The thumb-bellas that were present all bared their needle sharp teeth and drew their swords. Other small fae hissed and called foul names. “Are we food for the biggers, now?” was snarled around the room. “We shall slit your throats in your sleep,” was shrieked. “Let us be gone to prepare for war!”

“No, no…” Rowan stood, his hands out stretched, “no, of course no. No. Please, please, this is a joyous occasion.”

“So you can get us drunk and feast on us? Along with all your good and trusted friends!” roared from many.

“No, no…Eitilt, please Jorja is slain, also?”

“Yes, for her horrific part of this shameful act.”

“Heart of the Sun brings justice,” was shouted, “while the king gives us over to his friends for eating!”

“No, no, please,” Rowan was pleading. “Eitilt has brought justice and has done so with my blessing. Please…yes with my blessing…please…”

“Heart of the Sun,” Madame L’sióg bowed to him and the room became quiet. “May I be the first to acknowledge you as such. May you be a blessing to your clan and to your dragon race. And may our days be long and lingering and your heirs as trustworthy as their sire. I thank you for your stalwart ways and your code of honor. I am honored to be called your friend.

To-war,” she glared with her teeth bared as she looked around the room.

“Madame L’sióg,” Rowan bowed to her. “I beg your forgiveness. I thought Albie’s heart was true. I sorrow for this wrong doing.” He took a step toward her. “Please if we might discuss this. I did not know. Please, just a moment, give me a moment, you will see. This had no sanction of the crown. Please.”

She hesitated and nodded.

“Please, Aed, give my respect to the Master. Tell him I wish him all happiness. I must return to court, prepare the way,” he said to his guards. “I must be gone and in attendance upon the sovereign of the thumb-bella fae. The good and gracious Madame L’sióg has agreed to meet with me and I must away.”

In seconds, the room had cleared out.   “You certainly know how to break up a party,” Aed smiled at him.

“Just give them all the truth they don’t want to hear,” Eitilt’s face was sober. “You think they are looking for the jewels as well?”

“They are in the song,” Aed replied.

“Glad we agree,” Eitilt relaxed a bit and grinned.   “I’ll see you,” he smiled at his brother. “I need to take myself home and see to my wife. And, I think it is time that Mer’lyn’s necklace surfaces.”

“Really?” Aed regarded him with skepticism.

“Yes, about one thousand of them. I think they are going to be a give-away some Saturday soon on Grafton Street.”

“What are you going to use for the dragon’s teeth?”

“Pearls. It takes a dragon to recognize dragon’s teeth,” he grinned. “The king’s guards will not know the difference.”

“You are devious and then some,” Aed, grinned.

“Take good care of the family,” Eitilt hugged him. “We are in the final days of insanity. Then war, then peace and then just the madness of children,” he laughed.

“Brothers to the bloody end,” they said, raising their glass in a toast.

Eitilt stood in the trees overlooking the king’s residence. The mountain that he was on was several leagues away, but his dragon sight missed nothing. The thumb-bella fae royalty entourage had left and the guards changed their shift. Normally they changed every three hours, tonight was every one hour.

From the moat he caught a whiff of sulfur and a dark something was swirling in the mists that was now crawling up out of its depths.   “Everything is being warded with a dark spell,” he shook his head as he watched the sacrifices being prepared to complete the ward. Rowan was running scared. Good.

They would not be able to battle at the castle. It would have to be someplace where the dark could hold no sway. “The Old One’s Bone Yard,” he smiled to himself. “Clean and in the open. Life can rot,” his hissed his curse, “behind those walls. We shall draw him out and war where he has not one fucking chance.

I hate having to deal with this fucking shit,” he muttered. “I have my own fucking shit to deal with. I want to go home to my wife. I am done here.”

“Yes,” Cecil looked up at him from a mud puddle. “The king’s guards that sit out front of the pub want women. Sandra has shoved them off with a broom but they are back. I am going down to haunt them. We need our Mr. to come home.”

“How long was I gone?” he asked.

“Three days, Mrs. says,” Cecil replied as Eitilt shifted and was gone.