Monday, January 24, 2011

"I think I told you once that Conal was my squire," he begins, and looks up to meet my eyes. I give him a nod. Emotions flit across his face - sorrow and anger, mostly. "He wanted to be a Knight of the Bright Realm. It was his dream.

I became his master, his mentor, and eventually, his friend. He dealt with mundane matters - seeing to the horses, mending armor, sharpening blades - and I tutored him in the chivalry of the Court, in magic, in combat. He was a clever lad, a fast learner - save in one thing.

In either Court, Bright or Dark, there is much intrigue, much jockeying for position and power. I'm told it's even worse with the Dark Court, and from my time with Morgan, I'm prepared to believe it. But I'm getting ahead of myself."

I pour him a shot of whiskey, hoping it will dull the pain of this recital. He downs it with a grimace, anguish at the corner of his eyes.

"Conal never had the knack of keeping his thoughts from his face. In an environment such as the Fae Courts, with all the politics and backstabbing that goes on, it's essential that your rival not be able to divine your intentions - but Conal was open and honest and transparent as glass.

It was May Eve when the Queen sent us on a mission. There is a gray area between the territories claimed by each Court, where beings who claim neither Court dwell. Of late, such creatures had been raiding our lands, harming and killing those under the protection of the Bright Court. Conal and I were to discover where these things were crossing over, learn who and what they were, and report back to the Queen, who would then send a larger force to deliver a lesson."

His eyes are haunted when he raises them to mine again, full of doubt and uncertainty. "We had hardly crossed the boundary into the unclaimed lands when we were attacked. Conal fought well" - tears gleam in the silver-blue eyes - "as well as any Knight I've ever known; but there were too many of them. We were dragged from our horses and beaten insensible. When I next opened my eyes, it was to see her for the first time. Had I known what would come, I would have strangled the life from her with my bare hands."

I pour another shot, slide it over. Elves must have a hell of a capacity for alcohol; his voice is as clear as ever, and this must be the fifth or sixth shot he's had.

"I have not yet told you how Conal and I became more than friends; such a thing is not uncommon in the realm of the Fae, and there is no dishonor in it. Suffice it to say that we had shared a bed now and again for perhaps two years before Morgan took us. She saw at once how things were; Conal had no art to conceal it, and she played us one against the other, each hostage for the other's good behavior. She took us both to her bed, either singly or together and made us pleasure her, and sometimes each other while she watched.

But pleasure was never enough for Morgan. She delighted also in the pain of others. She had us flogged, burned, stabbed through and through with long needles and much else it would not profit you to hear. I have been flogged till one could see the white of my ribs for that bitch's delight."

His voice is slurring, just a little, and his eyes are looking a little dull. I snag the bottle and glass. "Why don't we continue this upstairs in my room? No point in letting the whole world know, and you're going to need a place to sleep this off."

He rises from his seat (somewhat unsteadily) and follows me upstairs….

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