Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The bed feels strangely cold and empty without K'thyri spooned against me. Raina won't be here until just before dawn. If I'm going, now's the time.

I climb out of bed and get dressed quietly, then noiselessly ease the window open and step out onto the grass.

At the edge of the woods I whistle softly; there's an answering whicker and an elvensteed steps out into the open. "Something a little less conspicuous tonight, boy," I say, touching his coat, and silvery white shifts to dappled gray, almost invisible except in the light of the moon. Tonight the sky is full of low gray clouds, pregnant with the promise of rain, so moonlight shouldn't be a problem. I should be more suitably attired, though... A moment's concentration and my jeans and t-shirt become charcoal-gray mourning silks.

Gating into the Grove isn't permitted, so I get us as close as I can and ride the remaining distance. Time passes differently here, unrelated to the movement of stars and planets; still, it doesn't take long to reach the grove. I dismount and follow a tenuous thread of energy directly to Conal's grave. There's a hazel sapling growing there, the only marker; such are the ways of the Sidhe.

I go to my knees on the thick springy turf, then sit.

"Hello, Conal." There's no response, but then I didn't expect one. Wherever Conal is, he's not bound to this spot. "I meant to get out here sooner, but things have been crazy for a while now...

Of course you know we took care of Morgan, me and my friends. It doesn't fix things... it doesn't even the score, but maybe you can rest peacefully now, knowing she can't hurt anyone else ever again.

I failed you, love, failed as terribly as one person can fail another. I miss you more than you can possibly know; there's not a day goes by that I don't see something or hear something or smell something that reminds me of you...." I grin suddenly. "Hey, remember when we ran into those traveling players on their way to Court?" I smile, remembering. "Sure you do, you rascal. They said they'd pay well for an armed escort - but who knew they'd be paying in kind? We got passed around like the last sweetmeats at the banquet - for a week and a half! I've never been so tired" - I grin again - "or with better reason.

I wish my friends could have known you. You'd like Raina... she's a warrior and a shaman... strong, but wise enough to know that not all problems can be solved by strength alone. She has an amazing heart, Conal.

And Nick, one of the scariest people I know. He carries a darkness inside, a rage that you almost never see - unless he's fighting. Then he's completely savage, yet cold and precise, too. He doesn't have many friends, but he'd die to protect those few." I frown, considering. "K'thyri of the Wyldfae - how do I explain her? She's passionate and impulsive - instinctive, almost. She's fierce and hot and untamable as fire. Her loyalty is fierce, too - stubborn and strong-willed… and I love her.

It helps, having friends - but I miss you. I miss your warmth and your crazy sense of humor and the way you were always after me to relax, not take things so seriously." My voice cracks a little; it feels like I've been talking for a long time. "I'm still working on that."

Clouds come out to cover the sun. While this isn't the Unformed Plane, the weather without does tend to reflect the weather within.

"I have something for you. The Queen had it delivered by special courier." I unroll a parchment scroll and read in a herald's voice: 'Be it known to all within Our Realm that, whereas Conal Fairlocks has served the Realm faithfully and well, with exceptional valor and fortitude, even unto death, I, Titania, Queen of the Seelie, do confer upon the said Conal Fairlocks the rank and title of Knight, with all honors and privileges thereto appertaining; and I do further name him, now and forevermore, Champion of the Bright Realm. Done this day, by my hand. - Titania, Queen.'" My voice holds out till the end, but my eyes are swimming, so that the golden letters of the signature blur into illegibility. I feel the heart within me swell and shatter; and for many minutes I can neither see nor hear nor think.

When I come back to myself, I stand - albeit a trifle unsteadily - and tie the scroll to the sapling with a bit of silver wire. "Never did any Knight more deserve such a tribute." I take a deep breath, seeking control. "This is not farewell, Conal. Our paths must diverge for a time, but we will meet again." I walk to where my steed waits and mount. "Rest in peace, my friend." My voice breaks; it comes out as a bare whisper. "I will never forget you, love. I will love you forever."

With that, I turn my back to the Grove and ride into the deepening twilight.

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