Here is the opening sequence to Bride of Fae (the sequel to Give Me, A Tale of Wyrd and Fae).
Donall James Utros Cade Bausiney, Lord Tintagos, sat bolt upright, awakened by prankish laughter. What was that sod Sarumen up to now? In the dying fire an ember crackled and fell. Donall recognized the fireplace. The mantle clock read a quarter hour before midnight. He’d been asleep less than two hours. He let out a relieved breath. He wasn’t at Shrewsbury. He was in his room at Faeview, home from his final term at school. He never had to see his dorm’s obnoxious head boy again.
Faint noises sounded somewhere outside, and Donall held his breath to listen – for what? A rustling of wings. An echo of fairy song. Tonight was Mischief Night when the Dumnos fae, according to legend, left their woodland home and trooped en masse to play in the human world. Not that he believed the superstitions of country villagers.
In these times everything could be explained by science and mechanics, not wyrding spells and fairy curses. Magic had no place in this age of progress and invention, of telegraphs and telephones and trains that crossed continents in fewer than four days. Donall wasn’t a mystic, and he was certainly no ghost romancer like his father, the earl. Donall read Trollope, not Coleridge.
And yet … he would always prefer the mists of Dumnos to the Shrewsbury sun.
The floor was cold on his feet as he crossed the room to open the curtains. Moonlight streamed in through the window, and for a moment he really thought he might see one of the wyrders or ghosts or fae of his childhood imagination. The moon was bright enough to go abroad without a lantern, but the locals would be safely indoors, not wanting to meet a fairy on the road.
No surprise there. In Tintagos Village, the vicar’s Sunday sermons were well-attended, but on every other day the people still talked to Brother Sun and Sister Moon. Everyone knew somebody who had heard of someone who’d once seen a fairy or had been touched by the Dumnos ghosts, or whose grandfather or great great aunt had received a service from a wyrding woman. Tonight those stories were told in every Dumnos household.
Donall, you choker. Nanny’s got you boggled.
The stories were told at Faeview as well. Earlier he’d visited the nursery to eat holy cakes with his little sisters and to hear Nanny’s Mischief Night story. Now that he was eighteen, he ought to beg off the ritual. Perhaps next year, or perhaps not until he married. It was Bausiney tradition, after all. Someday he’d be the earl, and his children’s hearts would delight to the annual recital of the tale of the Dumnos war between the wyrders and the fae.
Modernity found purchase everywhere but in Dumnos, where mind had no power over heart.
There it was again. Coarse laughter, faint, but definitely not imaginary. And pipes and drums. His pulse quickened. He was positive he’d heard music, but still nothing moved outside his window. His feet were freezing, and he returned for his slippers under his bed.
“Admit it, Aubrey.” A man’s disembodied voice sounded in the fire, over the embers. “I’ve won.”
“Not so fast,” said another. “You didn’t drink the full measure.”
Donall half leapt and half stumbled backwards, his heart pounding. It couldn’t be the Dumnos ghosts. These voices were both male.
“And you haven’t danced three circles,” said a third voice, a woman.
Donall slapped his forehead and laughed at himself. The voices were not emanating from mystical creatures. They were being funneled down the chimney and amplified in the fireplace. The servants were on the roof.
“And you haven’t said the words!” the female said.
Recklessly loud. And drinking. On clear nights this time of year, the Faeview servants liked to go up on the roof. They believed a glimpse of the northern lights would bring them good luck through the winter. Donall had once asked why this was tolerated. “Let them be, so long as they’re quiet,” the earl had said. “It does no harm and feeds their souls.”
Donall had never thought of the spiritual life as requiring attention and nurture –submission to the vicar’s weekly sermons generally left him more depleted than enriched – but the romance of servants creeping up the back stairs for a glimpse of the heavens’ mystical show had instantly secured a fond corner in his heart. He sighed and put on his robe. He had better warn them to take care. If the earl and countess were disturbed, this would not end well.
In the robe pocket his hand brushed against Nanny’s last holy cake, a dry lump of flour and water with salt crossed over the top – guaranteed to thwart the very devil and his disciples on this most dangerous of nights. So armed, he made way up the back stairs.
In the stairwell, the music was loud. They must be drunk. Donall opened the rooftop door to the clear night, the moon a bright disk and the stars blazing. His lungs filled with cold air, and he jammed his hands into his pockets for warmth. The revelers at the north corner didn’t notice him, but he saw them clearly.
His heart leapt into his throat, and he dove behind a half wall that jutted from the parapet, clenching his fists and crushing the poor little holy cake.
At least a dozen of them, cross-legged in a circle playing flutes and pennywhistles and drums. In the air above them, two spun around each other. Their gossamer wings glittered in the moonlight, and their bodies shimmered under skin-tight gauzy material that made no mystery of their female features.
“Aubrey, dance with us!” one cried. Donall recognized her voice from the fireplace. Her white-blond hair was short and ragged, and she wore a collar-like necklace of woven white cord and beads.
“My pleasure, Cissa.” A lean, bare-chested fairy stood at the edge of the circle. His hair as yellow as straw stuck out at all angles. Golden wings sprouted on his back, and he flew up join Cissa. He wore a similar chocker, the color of rope, and more ornate. “And you, Glory.” He held out a gentlemanly hand to the other female fairy.
Glory’s golden hair fell gently over her shoulders and around her breasts. Her nipples were clearly visible through the filmy material she wore – as was the dark patch between her legs. She had large eyes and thick lips painted garish red, yet she seemed shy. She was the most beautiful creature Donall had ever seen.
“Take care.” The warning came from first voice in the fireplace, the one who’d claimed some sort of victory. Its owner rose to his feet within the circle. He was tall and muscular, of aristocratic bearing, with sleek dark hair pulled off his face like an American Indian and secured by two silver sticks. “I don’t want to disturb Lord Dumnos.”
He wore a skin-tight waistcoat and no shirt. His necklace was different than the others. A simple black collar with a bright-cut stone at its center that caught and reflected moonlight like a diamond.
They all wore collar-like necklaces of different designs. Straw-haired Aubrey’s was the most elaborate, extending over his bare chest and loaded with beads of glass and stone. An expression of his self-opinion, Donall supposed.
“You’re not yet our king, Dandelion,” Aubrey said to the dark-haired fairy. “You haven’t completed the dare. Perhaps it’s as I feared.” He sighed without sincerity. “You don’t have what it takes to challenge Idris.”
Dandelion glared at Aubrey and emptied the liquid contents of a leather bag into a magnificent glass cup. The others stopped dancing, stopped piping, stopped drumming. Donall would lay bets the clear liquid wasn’t water.
“Say the words.” Cissa circled Dandelion and kissed his cheek fondly then flew back up to Glory. They linked arms, a delightful picture floating in the air, silhouetted against the moon.
“Say the words. Say the words.” The fairies chanted, quieting as Dandelion made eye contact with them one by one. When they were silent, he tossed the bag aside and raised the cup. Moonlight illuminated its embedded jewels of blue, green and red and shone on Dandelion’s long hair – which wasn’t brown or black but very dark chestnut red.
“By the fae cup I swear,
And by dandelion wine,
To claim the fae crown
Ever meant to be mine.”
He drank, and the stillness was like a sacred silence. Aubrey watched intently. His lips curled with satisfaction as Dandelion finished the draught.
With the last swallow Cissa cried, “Hurray!” She and Glory flew above Dandelion and threw dust over him in a sparkling shower. Donall couldn’t see where they got the stuff. It seemed to shoot like magic from their fingers. The music started up again. “Come, dance!” Cissa and Glory circled three times, tossing more fairy dust that exploded like tiny fireworks over the players.
Dandelion’s wings sprouted, huge and dark. They unfolded with masculine vigor, and he lifted off the roof. Donall expected the fairy to make a grand sweep over the heads of the others, a victory lap or some hubristic demonstration. Instead, Dandelion lurched and bumped against Glory’s wings. She cried out in surprise – and in pain.
“Slurry, Gloweye – I mean I’m sorry, Glory.” Dandelion’s face paled. He teetered in the air, unbalanced, and shot an accusing glance at Aubrey. The smirking fairy didn’t seem at all surprised by Dandelion’s awkwardness. In fact, his smirk had turned to jubilation.
Donall leaned forward for a better view and lost his own balance. He cried out as he smashed his knee against the wall’s edge.
“Someone’s here.” Glory’s gaze met Donall’s, and a jolt of desire whipped through him. “Fly away!”
“No!” Donall cried. He couldn’t bear the thought of her flying away. She was the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen. He had to know her. Touch her. Kiss her.
She smiled, and he was lost in her gaze. So kind. So full of promise. Her lips were red and full and luscious. She touched her throat and disappeared.
He ran to the fairy circle.
“Everyone fly!” Aubrey gave Donall a wicked leer, touched his throat, and was gone.
Amid a flutter of wings and strange pops and flashes, Donall spun around at the roof’s edge. They were all gone, but at his feet something gleamed. He picked up the glass cup, stunning in the moonlight.
“Ach!” The scream came from just beyond the roof’s edge where Dandelion hovered. He was at a listing angle, his eyes wide with rage. His wings beat angrily against the air.
With one hand, Donall hugged the beautiful prize to his chest. With the other, he desperately dug the crumbs of holy cake out of his robe pocket and threw them in the direction of the angry drugged fairy.
At the same moment green streaks of light shot through the night sky, and Donall let loose a whoop. The northern lights! He locked gazes with the mad Dandelion. It was a sign. He was in luck. The lights meant Brother Sun and Sister Moon meant Donall to have the cup. He tossed another handful of holy cake crumbs.
The fairy shrieked again, a cry of emotional agony. He spun three times at blinding speed and pointed at Donall and chanted:
“If this cup does shatter or crack,
Bausiney’s line will meet its lack.”
With a pop and flash, he was gone.