Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rowan smiles as she heads to the rear of the tent where her table is set up. The gathering was stalling, giving Tannr and Tori a few moments alone.

As Toris arms go around Tannrs neck he lifts her and spins her around, his laughter a sound of joy and happiness. He sets her down and tips her chin.

“Red....I love you so much...”

Tori smiles and grabs the front of Tannrs jacket. “Me too... me too...”

Their kiss is interrupted by a soft “Ahem...” and Rowan standing nearby.

“I hate to bother you, but if we dont get these papers signed Alise is going to have to leash the children.”

Once the couples signatures are in place along with Ikes and Eriks as witness, Alise nods to the kids who make a beeline down the aisle and straight into Tannrs and Toris arms. Family follows and friends wanting to offer congratulations to the new couple.

Suddenly heads turn at K'thyri's squeal of happiness. Inari had arrived and the friends had not seen each other in some time. Inari wraps her arms around the slim wyldfae and laughs.

“Your hair! Its gorgeous... How have you been? Staying out of trouble?”

“Never!” Ky grins and stands back to take a look at her friend. “You've been fighting... tell me everything...”

“I will. Let me offer my congratulations and then we can talk.”

It took some time, but finally everyone heads to the tables, the smells from Montys cooking making everyone hungry.

Tori had decided against a traditional reception and a clearing in the park was set up with round tables. Tannr and Tori sharing a smaller table in the center, so they could be surrounded by family and friends, not sitting in front of everyone at a 'head table'. Flowers in vases on all the tables and the soft lighting gave the dinner an intimate feel. Demifae flitted from flowers to plants and back again, some wanting to see Tori up close, her dress grabbing their attention.

Mya whispers to Star. “Young ones think dress is living plant..” and she giggles softly then flits away with Imp. Pandora had set up tiny tables in the bushes with several plates of different kinds of honey. Even the demifae would enjoy the evenings celebration.

Ramji had made a few Greek dishes and everyone had chipped in something. The food and drink was an eclectic blend of all the races and nationalities present giving everyone a taste of old favorites and a chance to try something new.

Once the champagne glasses are filled, Erik stands and lifts his glass towards his brother and new wife. "To my brother and his Chosen - long life and happiness so long as life shall last! Skoal!

I'm a man of few words, not comfortable with public speaking, so let me be brief. Tannr, you're the best brother and the finest friend a man could have. I hope always to have a friend like you at my back when I have need. Tori - I haven't known you very long, but I see in you a sense of duty and a sense of justice that bodes well for my brother" - he smiles - "and the strength to put him on his ass when he gets out of line. Happiness to you both, and my speech making is done... thank the gods."

Tannr raises his glass, “To family..” kisses Tori and takes a long drink of mead.

Tori sends, Take it easy on that stuff Coppertop, I have plans for you later....

Imp flits into a large busy military camp, just Faerie side of the Unformed Plane. Pages are running back and forth, horses being saddled, weapons gathered. Imp had timed his arrival well, a break in the fighting, skirmishes won, and some of the troops were readying for leave while new ones took their place. Imp looks right and left as he flies, looking for a slight figure among the warriors. He finally sees her, leaving one of the medical tents, her face grim.

Imp zips directly to her. “Ambassador... my apologies...”

Startled by his dirty appearance Inari stops in her tracks. “Nonsense. You are never interrupting. Where have you been? You look in need of rest and a bath...”

Imp nods. “Underdark. I bring news... and a warning for our friends in the human realm..”

“Follow me.” Inari leads Imp out of the busiest part of the camp and to her tent, near a small grove.

As Imp relays all he overheard from Ardara and a few others, Inari starts to pace. Even when Imp falls silent Inari continues, back and forth, obviously deep in thought.

She stops suddenly and looks to Imp. “Can you travel with me to the human realm? I plan to leave within the hour.”

Imp bows, “Of course, Ambassador... Should I call for an escort?”

“No need for one. Torin and the Nighthawks will be out for another week. I believe there is a wedding in Exton and we could offer the Queens and our own congratulations to the happy couple. And if certain warriors are in attendance, and I am sure they will be, we can let them know that Ardara is far from forgetting her vengeance...”

An hour later the pair is leaving the camp, headed for the forest. Inari wants to be farther away from the Unformed Plane before she opens a gate to the human realm.

Imp settles into one of the saddlebags, the horses stride rocking him into some much needed sleep.

Ike strolls down the path behind the children. The pipes end as she takes her place and the song begins anew, this time picked out on the strings of an acoustic guitar. Tori stands still, bemused by the sight of Tannr. Her lover has always been handsome to her eyes, but now... All she can think of is stripping jacket away, kissing her way down the V of his shirt before peeling the loose garment over his head. The leather breeches made her swallow. She tried not to lick her lips, just barely succeeding.

You look so beautiful. A Goddess. MY Goddess. 

Not a Goddess, Coppertop, just me. She hides a grin in their thoughts. I was going for the nymph image... 

The lust in his mental touch gives it an animalistic growl. I've seen nymphs... They don't hold a candle to you. 

She feels a glow slide through her body. If it shows, she thinks to herself, I will be incandescent. A tug in her hair reminds her that she is still standing at the foot of the path. A soft voice whispers from among her wreath of flowers. "Lord Blackthorn plays for you."

Tori takes her first step, skirt parting to show a bit of bare leg and begemmed slippered foot. Ob's voice wends softly with the melody.

Are those your eyes? 
Is that your smile? 
I been looking at you forever, 
Yet I never saw you before. 
Are these your hands? Holding mine? 
Now I wonder how I could have been so blind. 
And for the first time, I am looking in your eyes. 
For the first time, I'm seeing who you are. 
I can't believe how much I see, 
When you're looking back at me. 
Now I understand what love is, 
Love is... 
For the first time... 

Stoney's voice joins Ob's. Tenor and bass seem to add an elegance to each step their sister takes.

Can this be real? 
Can this be true? 
Am I the person I was this morning? 
And are you the same you? 
Its all so strange. 
How can it be? 
All along this love was right in front of me! 
And for the first time, I am looking in your eyes. 
For the first time, I am seeing who you are. 
I can't believe how much I see, 
When you're looking back at me. 
Now I understand what love is... 
Love is...

Ob's voice fades away as Stoney continues.

For the first time. 
Such a long time ago, 
I had given up on finding this emotion, 
Ever again. 
But you're here with me now, 
Yes I found you somehow, 
And I've never been so sure. 
For the first time, I am looking in your eyes, 
For the first time, I'm seeing who you are, 
Can't believe how much I see, 
When you're looking back at me. 
Now I understand what love is... 
Love is... 

Ob and Keon join Stoney to end the song. The three male voices fade away as Tori comes to stand beside Tannr.

For the first time. 
For the first time... 

Tannr takes Tori's delicate hand in his larger one. Together they turn towards the robed form half hidden in shadows. The women move forward, one holding a goblet, another a chalice of wine. The other two hand the couple short pieces of red silk cord.

The voice that issues from beneath the hood is soothing, yet compelling. He intones a classic wedding opening, welcoming the friends and family in the eyes of the Almighty. A few cross themselves. Others touch emblems, still others simply smile, knowing who stands before them, and just whom he is invoking.

He speaks of love eternal, of finding the one person who fills a void your heart and soul did not even know was there. The wine is poured into the goblet as the rings are called forth.

"Who bears the rings?"

Tomas and Ryan move forward. The boys are extremely solemn as they hand the boxes to Erik and Marc. Once given they turn and walk very slowly to their places. Stoney hides a smile, sending to his son Very well done. Grace signs the words to Ryan nearly as soon as the children hear it. The boys grin.

"These rings signify the love unending. As you place it upon your beloved's finger, contemplate the commitment into which you are entering."

The rings slide in place and the two women have the couple clasp left hands. They take the cords and wrap them around the hands, entwining them in a complicated weave.

"Red is the blood of the Heart, the symbolic color of Love. Heart hands are bound, as your lives are now entwined before the witness of these assembled. What is sanctified within the purview of one's Faith, let no man tender interference. Tori Tavisham, Tannr Thorsson, do you swear to hold each other's heart, each other's soul with in the safeness of your own?"

There is no hesitation, and although there was no rehearsal of vows, it is as if the two were schooled intensely, for they answered in unison. "I do."

The cords are loosened, but not unwound. The couples' hands are slid out and the weave pulled tight. The ends are tucked inside and the complicated knot is handed to the robed Official.

"Hold out your left hands."

The couple do, and the knot is placed in their joined hands.

"A kiss to seal the promise."

The couple kiss gently, then press closer, forgetting the others until a the sound of applause intrudes and they break apart reluctantly. They are urged to turn towards the assembled people.

"With great satisfaction, and abounding joy, it is my honor to present to you Mr. and Mrs. Tannr Thorrson."

Alise hurries to her seat after making sure the children were lined up properly. As the first sounds of Keons pipes are heard, Tara and Tomas move down the aisle after Silk with Chloe holding Teris hand behind them. Then Ryan with Gracie and finally Mera holding Ruarcs hand who was only too happy to head up front to see his Uncle Tannr. Ike is behind the children, smiling from ear to ear. Alise almost does not recognize the song as the one she has heard Stoney and Ob practicing, Keons pipes giving it a more hauntingly beautiful sound.

Tannr smiles as he watches the children, knowing how excited they had been to dress up and take part in the ceremony.

His thoughts turn to Tori, excited and anxious to see her, to have her as his wife, to spend his life with someone he loved completely and that returned the same feelings.

When his eyes move toward the back of the gathering he sees Tori is standing there. Her eyes never leave his as she waits for the other to move down the aisle. Tannr is stunned, the woman he is looking at is beyond gorgeous. She was always beautiful to him but this vision looked like something from a dream. He whispers to his brother, “Is this Freyja in human form? Or one of the forest goddesses...”

Tannr takes a deep breath, mesmerized by the love he sees in Toris eyes. She starts down the aisle towards him as Keons guitar replaces the pips and Ob starts to sing.

The small lights among the trees seem to fade into existence as shadows lengthen. Colored globes, set on poles, near the outside edges of the chair rows begin to softly glow. The summer flowers reflect small lights hidden in their beds, giving the gardens an ethereal ambience. The clearing is suddenly transformed from everyday fantasy to a step into Faery.

Silk smiles, knowing just how much is everyday electricity, and how much is Fae-wrought magic. Reed pipes are playing softly. The tunes are familiar, yet unfamiliar, due to the airy sound. The murmur of people is faint, and Ike reports the chairs are nearly filled. A hush falls over the assemblage as an antlered figure appears behind Tannr and his two groomsmen. Four women robed to match the seasons flank him. People whisper at the sight, some bow their heads in respect.

Stoney sends to Tori. Your Official is here, Petit Serpent. He sends her an image and Tori fights to hold back tears. She turns to her ladies, "Herne is here. So are the Four Seasons."

Keon pops his head in the pavillion. "Are ye ready ladies?" He smiles broadly, the white of his teeth startling against the pitch black of his skin. "Tori, ye look amazing. Not the hard ass bitch we all know and appreciate."

She throws a makeup brush at him and Keon laughs. "Ke... I can't tell ye how much I appreciate this. Ye hae done so much.."

"Ach ye nae say naught. Yer brogue is thick and ye hae tears in yer eyes. Tells me well enow. Asides lass, Erik is me sworn bro. Tannr is his brother. Makes him mine as well. So ye are coming into the Family. Tis only right we do it up Fair and Fae. I'll nae hae this chance agin til my wee one is grown."

His eartip twitches and Keon looks over the group. "Line up me hearties... That song is the cue to the march of the Attendants." He winks at the children. "Just as we practiced... Follow Tante Silk." He winks again and disappears.

The pipes still, then begin a sweet rendition of Rod Stewart's For The First Time. Silk shakes out the folds of her summer sky blue sari, the multi-hued embroidered flowers seeming to dance in the light reflected off hidden metallic threads. The pavilion flaps are held aside by Pike and Wish. head held high, dark glistening curls seemingly held in an elegant waterfall by clusters of flowers, The Huntress begins a stately walk towards Tori's future.

Rowan felt giddy as a schoolgirl when she caught sight of Marc heading towards the garden area with Tannr and Eric. She quickly adjusted her shirt, pulling up a bit on the 'V' of the neckline. The dark turquoise blue of her skirt and blouse accented her red hair which she had left down for the evening.

She had set up a small table behind all the chairs with the documents that needed to be signed after the ceremony. The gardens were beautiful, full of late summer blooms in various colors and shades. Chairs were set up for the guests, but Tori had wanted no carpet or runners, no altar, just the grass and the flowers for décor and surrounded by their family and friends.

She blushes at the low whistle Marc gives.

“You are a vision..”

“Stop it..” Rowan laughs happily. “The bride is the vision today, not me.”

“I dont know if I agree Priestess.” Marc pulls her into his arms. “Come here. I have missed you.” Relaxing into his arms, Rowan wraps her arms around his waist.

“I brought something back for you....” Marc fishes in his pocket and pulls out his fist.. “Turn around.” he commands.

Rowan obeys and Marc slips a finely wrought silver chain around her neck. As she looks down, a square cut jewel twinkles at her. The gem resembles a diamond and is faintly pink. Rowan gasps at its beauty.

“Its gorgeous... but whats this for?” Rowan asks.

Marc tilts her chin and whispers, “To remind you of the beauty I see...” Rowan blushed but her smile told Marc she loved his gift. “Thank you..” she starts to say, but Marc kisses her cutting off the words.

“You can thank me properly later...” Rowan grins and swats at him. “You better get up front, the guests are arriving.”

Tannr grins at his image in the mirror as he ties his hair back with a green velvet ribbon. He turns to his brother and Marc, “Do you think she will like it?”

“You look like a gentleman highwayman...” Erik chuckles.

Ike had helped Tannr with his clothes and now he was happy that she had. He didnt know if he would have been able to pull off the look on his own. Brown leather breeches and boots with an ivory shirt sporting just a few ruffles and a deep 'V' neck. A deep forest green velvet jacket that wasnt actual velvet but something much lighter weight so Tannr wouldnt roast during the ceremony; but the look and feel was identical, completed the look.

“I do not know about the gentleman part...” Marc adds, quickly changing clothes. He had just arrived in Exton from the Unformed Plane and was rushing so as not to be late - and he was anxious to see Rowan.

The men decide to walk over to the park from the Tavern where some of the guests were beginning to arrive. Tannrs glance goes right to the pavilion surrounded by large trees. He watches as Star comes out and smiles happily when she sees her husband. She stops to check on the children, all of them gathered under a large shade tree with two nannies and Wish and Pike watching over them all before approaching her husband.

Star puts an arm around her husband and grins up at him. “You look nice.”

Tannr pretends to be hurt, hand over his heart. “You mean to tell me you prefer a simple best man to the groom?”

Laughing in that strange almost silent way Star still has she says “Yes. Sorry...”

Tannr asks, “Did you give Tori her gift?”

Star grins and nods.

“Well, did she like it? Did she say anything?”

Star grins and shrugs her shoulders, knowing Tannr would see for himself soon enough. “Oh...” Star tugs on Erics shirt, he bends down for a kiss and Star hurries off across the park.

“She is the happiest little thing... How did someone like you ever end up with her?” Tannr teases his brother.

“I honestly dont know. But I am not the only reason for her happiness today.” Eric nods his head towards the direction of Stars sudden departure.

Star had seen Laila arrive with Ramji. The girls had remained the best of friends and enjoyed each others company whenever they the chance. The men watch as the girls smile and laugh, wrapping their arms around each other, the contrast in their looks almost startling.

“Beautiful...” Marc almost whispers.

Eric nods. “Rowan has said their auras are entwined. I take it thats something very rare. She says they have been together through many lifetimes..”

Marc startles. “Rowan has the sight?”

Shrugging Eric says, “I think with some things..”

“Apparently you still have much to learn about the lady...” Tannr adds.

Marc doesnt reply but grins as his eyes scan the crowd, looking for the lady in question.

A full-length mirror had been set up in the pavilion. Tori stands before it and takes a deep breath. She felt strangely unfinished. Pandora was waiting to do her hair, and since she had doen nothing to it, it lay in short soft waves. Ike was waiting to do her makeup. Tori had worn none, not even her normal liner and mascara. Silk smiles encouragement and Tori slides the jacket off her shoulders. Silk hangs it up as the Gargoyle turns to her sister.

"Can you reach the zipper." Ike stares at her. Tori's reflection smiles at the blonde Gargoyle. "Can... you... reach... the... zipper?"

Ike lowers the bodice's zipper. Tori hands it to Silk and takes the deep plunge bra the Succubi Huntress hands her. She tugs it in place, snapping the front clasp. She sighs as she adjusts her small breasts in the cups.

"I guess I don't really need it..." She smooths the cups, fingering the beaded lace. She looks around at the women in the pavillion. "but it was so pretty... I couldn't resist."

Ike hugs her from behind. "It is gorgeous. But the straps will show."

"No they won't. Because the pantsuit was a decoy."

Ike blinks. "Decoy. Why?"

Tori turns to hug her sister. "Because, little sister, you have a big mouth... or should I say loose thoughts. I didn't want Tannr getting even an inkling of the real dress."

The low heeled boots find a spot under a bench and Ike helps her sister step out of the pale green slacks. Silk carefully hangs them, sets a box on a low stool. She removes the lid and lifts out a dress of the sheerest green chiffon. The skirt is layers of leaf-shaped petals extending from the waist to the floor. The bodice is pleated chiffon, sleeveless with a deep plunge. Tori unhooks the front, opening it like a robe. She turns and Silk slips it over her slim shoulders. She closes the clasps and it is as if the dress is all one piece. Ike whistles softly.

"Wow... Where did you get this?"

Tori grins. "Believe it or not... Keon. Wait until you see the slippers." Silk hands her a pair of low pumps adorned with chiffon leaves and tiny flowers. She slips them on her feet and turns. "What do you think?"

There are smiles all around. Tori settles in a chair and Pandora begins to dress her hair. The soft waves become soft curls, with the aide of hot rollers and Witch powers. A flap is opened, facing into the trees, to alleviate the smell of hairspray.

A coughing fit betrays the hiding place of several demifae. Star scolds them gently, but they profess to be guarding the back opening against the intrusion of the menfolk. Pandora smiles and promises to be more careful with the spray.

Silk offers Tori a small box containing a pair of sheer fingerless gloves. They are nearly colorless, the wrists adorned with tiny silk flowers of blue, lavender, white and pink. "Something blue... What do you have in old and new? The dress does not count."

Pandora laughs. "Does the custom count as something old?" Silk shakes her head with a smile.

Fingers stroke along the ever-present viper lying just above her breastline. Tori licks her lips. "Something old... My Viper from Tannr."

Silk hands her another box. "Ob sent you something old. The perfect accessory for your dress."

It takes the redheaded Gargoyle a moment before she can pick up the narrow belt. It resembles a dark green garter snake, the pattern of the scales picked out in dark and light green enamel, pale gold and silver for the three racing stripes.  Silk wraps it around Tori's waist and snaps it shut. Twin emerald eyes twinkle as Tori moves.

"It was my aunt's. She wore it in honor of Ob's stepfather. He had an affinity for scaled creatures and was talented with metalwork."

Ike purses her lips. "Sooo... Something Old, Borrowed, and Blue... dress and flowers don't count as New."

Ike places the ring of bespelled flowers on Tori's head, Star adjusts it slightly and then reaches into the box that held the flower arrangements. She holds out a small box to Tori. "Something New... a wedding gift from Tannr."

Tori's eyes widen. She lifts out one earring, a fall of teardrop shaped gems that dangle about 3 inches. Tears fill her eyes as she fastens them in her lobes. Peridots and diamonds shimmer in the pavillion's light. Ike hands her a tissue.

"Sit. I need to do your makeup... and you need to stop the tears or it will run." When Tori is finally tear-free, Ike begins to apply shadow and liner for a very light effect. When she is finished, Tori doesn't look like the woman everyone is used to seeing. Gone is the hard, rocker styling, replaced by a woman who could easily be mistaken for the ethereal Fae.

I wear a professional smile as I show our new "boarders" to their rooms. The women are exquisite and the men almost enough to tempt me into... well, let's not go there.

This is by no means an unusual thing. Now and again a couple will meet another couple online and decide they want to get together in a place that's a little more lenient than your average motel. People walking around in lingerie - or less - isn't an uncommon sight at the the Club, and we have a few large rooms that we rent by the night for swing club get-togethers, or munches, or - well, whatever! Oddly, this group wanted two rooms, one per couple. That's fairly unusual - but as the vampire told me -

"Don't be surprised if there's a fair amount of shuttling back and forth between rooms while we're here."

"I rent rooms, I don't care what you do in them so long as it's not illegal." He raised an eyebrow at that. "Well... no more illegal that our usual business."

Vampire? Yes, most certainly. He might not be the same breed I am, but he's nosferatu.

Before I leave, I turn to the women.

"Ladies, I do hope this won't put you off, but we occasionally have entertainments in the main ballroom downstairs - dance contests and the like - and I hope you'll consider participating while you're here."

"Contests?," the dark-haired one inquires. "Like what?"

"Well... like wet t-shirts, lingerie, exotic dancing - that kind of thing."

The redhead grins widely. "We'll think about it." and the brunette nods. "Yes, we'll consider it."

I bow. "I can ask no more than that. Ah, here are your rooms."

The rooms are a hedonist's paradise - large, with big beds, lots of pillows and a jacuzzi big enough for all four - and maybe more, if they squeezed together.

The vampire smiles knowingly. "These will do very nicely."

"Then I'll leave you to it. If you need anything, just pick up the phone - it connects to the front desk."

"Thank you, we will" - and I'm off to the security station to make sure no problems have popped up in my absence.

Pandora brushed down the folds of her dress; it was a halter style with a low back; soft iridescent fabric that appeared to change color as the light struck it... copper for a moment; a second and a movement later a rose tone... it clung to her curves and its low neckline played up her full breasts. It picked up many of the colors in the childrens colorful floral dresses.

Ob has been very careful with Pandora as she healed from her miscarriage, but she had murmured to him as he came up and caressed her hips in her dress..'My Josephito; on a night such as tonight when we celebrate a binding together... it is a night when I desire my husband to also share his love with me... will you be my bold gypsy tonight?... and I will be your willful Bruha". She laughed a low throaty laugh that had Ob's eyes glinting with lust... yes,tonight they would again share their own love.

“Before we go just let me double check a few things.” Raina turns towards the guest room.

Ky nods, “I'll help Gareth with our suitcases.”

“Nick, did you bring the wine up from the cellar?” Raina asks.

“I did. Two red, two white and two champagne. With a note on how to find the wine cellar and to help themselves.” Nick grins, knowing Raina wants everything to be perfect for her brother.

Raina made a quick inspection of the guest room. The room was decorated in rich earthy colors, satin sheets on the plush bed, a very large full length antique mirror on the wall and french doors that opened to a large balcony. She grins when she sees the rocking chair that Tannr had delivered as a gift for Tori. The design was simple but very elegant and Raina knew exactly what Tannr had in mind for the chair.

She heads downstairs with Nick, double-checks the kitchen and her notes and declares the house fit for company. The couple meet Gareth and Ky on the front landing as Nick locks the house and gives Raina the keys.

“I cant believe my little brother is getting married....” Raina sighs, then smiles. “Remember when he first came here, how him and Ky would argue?”

“How could I forget?” Ky laughs. “He was such an annoying brat. I wanted to kick his ass for him every single day on the way here from the UP.”

The group is laughing and happy on their way to check in at the NiteOwl Club before heading to Extons park and the wedding.

Well, the vampire cleans up pretty well...

Nick looks good enough to eat in a lightweight black silk suit of Italian cut with a open-necked silk shirt in pearl gray and black boots. I'm wearing an ankle-length pale green robe trimmed in gold - wedding attire for the Bright Court.

"You can stop checking yourself out in the mirror, peacock - you look fine."

"My cock is larger than a pea, as you well know. You look pretty hot yourself. Want to test these new duds on the girls?"

"Why not? Lead the way...."

Raina turns and takes a look at her backside in the full length mirror in the hallway. Ky steps out of her room and joins her. “You look great... and I look like a 12 year old...”

“You do not, dont be ridiculous.” Raina laughs at the wyldfae as she wiggles her ears in the mirror, her many piercings catching the light. “Nick loves it when you wear your hair down...” Raina admires the unruly mass of red curls.

Raina returns to her own image, dressed in black pants and a burnished red metallic silk top. Her arms were bare, her tattoos in place for the night, Snake settling in her accustomed spot on Rainas upper arm. She grabs a pair of matching sandals as Nick steps into the hallway.

Ky's outfit is similar but in ivory and light blue, making her turquoise eyes look dark and mysterious.

Nick does his best imitation of a howling wolf when he sees the girls. It's pretty good, to be fair - but then he can turn into a wolf at will, so he might have an unfair advantage. Raina smiles, Ky giggles; both look stunning.

"Back off, wolf-man," Raina says warningly. "This is a wedding and I don't have time to get a new outfit because you shredded the old one."

Nick tries to look shocked. Would I do that? is writ large across his face. Raina looks stern for a minute, then collapses into giggles.

"Look, just get us through the wedding, then we'll see what happens." She grins wickedly. "If you think we look good, wait'll you see Alise...."

The tent is up. The dark green roof, and side drapes striped in pale and medium greens, help it blend in to the surrounding trees. I set the box inside, the one Keon had hand-delivered to me, and set up a camp chair. The weather is just cool enough that I don't need the flaps open to stay comfortable. 

As I settle in with a book, I think over what still needs to be done. Ob and Stoney should be up, Ike and Tori have a few more hours. Keon had already set up chairs, arraigned an alcove to sit in with his guitar, and seen to the decorating of the small clearing. The Demifae and street kids had helped string the trees with ribbons and lights. As soon as the shadows lengthened enough to cast shadows among the trees, the lights would blink on, giving a nearly fairytale ambiance to the area.

I turn another page and smile. Irony, I think... to set a seasoned warrior to guard a dress. But this one... Tori would have a fary tale wedding.. helped along by true Faeries.

Alise carefully adjusts her dress and hair in the mirror. The children were ready and were quietly playing in their room in the tavern. Stoney had not seen her dress or her hair and she wanted to surprise him. Raina had taken her to the same hairdresser that she had used and no one had seen her since she returned. Another quick adjustment and she heads out of the dressing room and pauses when she sees Stoney gazing out the window.

Sensing Alise in the same room, Stoney turns and is stunned. The change in makeup was subtle but her eyes appeared as violet as dark lilacs. Her hair was a straight waterfall of molten gold and he didnt know if he would be able to keep his hands off her for the length of a wedding and a reception. The dress she had made was also gold, but a soft matte fabric and color. The sleeveless A-line dress clung to her body in all the right places, emphasizing her petite yet curvy figure. The colorful belt she had designed and embroidered rode just below the waist and Stoney knew his eyes would be following every sway of her hips.

Worried that her husband has not uttered a word and only stared at her Alise asks, “Remi... do I look all right? I know my hair is some shorter but it is still past my hips...” Alise turns to show him, “They only cut off a foot or so...” but Stoneys eyes are not on the length of her hair but on the way her dress clings to her bottom.

D'accord ...? Chaton... All right is not even close.... We need a tower, an ivory tower. Somewhere I can keep you safe from the eyes of other men. *Vous êtes une déesse incarnée la lumière du soleil. Beauty pales in your presence.”

Alise breathes a sigh of relief and smiles as she slips on a gold pair of strappy sandals. “I was afraid you would be angry about my hair...”

“Absolutely not. It is gorgeous...” Stoney steps close and pulls her into his arms. His kiss leaves no doubt in her mind as to whats in his.

*You are a goddess, sunlight incarnate

In her deepest, darkest room where Ardara does her scrying, she watches bits and pieces of the exchange at the cabin. She scowls at the happiness and smiles, her expression growing even darker at the sight of Ruarc.

“Enjoy your happiness while you can, foolish imbeciles. My revenge may be a few years in the making but for every moment of joy you have now it will be returned to you tenfold in misery in the future.... I should send Nathlyn to check on the... child... creature... whatever it is by now....”

Ardaras laugh chills the small demifae listening to the bone. Imp shivers but stays out of sight in the shadows of the rafters. He is covered with mud and dirt so as to blend in but he is anxious now to report to Inari all he has heard the past few days. As soon as Ardara leaves the subterranean room Imp makes his way up and out of the temple and out of Underdark.

Tannr yawns and stretches his large frame out across the bed. His glance goes to the window, his habit to always see where Tori was. Only this morning she wasnt there. Tannr had spent the night at his old place above the stables, the couple deciding to spend an evening apart before the wedding. Tannr didnt like the idea until Tori explained it was sort of a custom and she didnt want any details to be inadvertently exchanged in their minds...or Ikes. Tannr had laughed then and grudgingly agreed.

Splashing water on his face and throwing on jeans and t-shirt he makes his way to the cabin, the smells of breakfast cooking making his stomach growl loudly.

Entering the cabin he sees Star bustling about seemingly doing ten things at once. She smiles and hands him a mug of steaming hot coffee.

“Thanks... just what I need...”

Erik enters the kitchen, a laughing Ruarc carried under his fathers arm like a football. Getting Ru into his highchair Erik turns to Tannr. “Ready for some sparring after you eat?”

Laughing Tannr replies, “Sure... as long as I dont end up with a black eye or something...”

“Dont worry, I wont mess up your pretty face...”


Star and Keon exchange smiles at the banter. “I have to get the flowers to the tavern...”

Keon adds, “I can take her and leave you two to yer brawlin'”

“Hang on...I have something you can do for me...” Tannr disappears and returns moments later, a small silver box with a green bow in his hands.

“Can you give this to Tori for me? Tell her if it doesnt work with what she's wearing I understand...”

Tannr hands the box to Star who smiles brightly and tucks it into one of the many bags she is bringing to the tavern.

The crow alights on the railing. It cocks its head and caws as Keon touches the buzzer for Tori, or what is soon to be Tori and Tannr's, apartment. Glancing over his shoulder Keon takes a step to his left, effectively hiding the bird from the street.

It shudders. Ruffling feathers, the bird puffs itself up in size. Moments later a young man dressed in black, with a mane of ragged black hair, stands before the Dark Lord.

"She's not there." He smiles, the expression taking years away, making him seem much younger. "Can't have Tannr coming back for something and seeing her before the wedding." He glances around, lowering his voice. "If its trouble, take it to the Doc."

A bright smile lights the Dark Lord's face as he taps the box under his arm. "Good news, Talon. The dress is here."

The kid grins and a squawk sounds overhead. Both look up as another crow circles and flies off. The kid's words seem to come from a ball of feathers as he shifts back into his animal form.

"The twins take word. Viper is at Grace's old place. She will be expecting you."

The bird launches upward, catching a thermal and chases after the other.

A pizza delivery is in progress as Keon approaches the shop. The boxes disappear around the side of the building as Tori's night clerk pays for the stack of pies. She nods to Keon, gesturing to the back of the shop with her head.

"She's waiting." Keon takes the stairs two at a time. The door to the rooms upstairs opens as he reaches the landing. A white-faced Tori gestures him inside. He sets the box on a table and only then does he realize there are several people in the room.

Ob and Pandora are sitting on the couch, Tori's laptop open on the low table in front of them. He can hear Traeger's voice. Teri is reaching toward the screen, trying to touch "Poppy". Chloe looks up at his entrance, waves, and goes back to watching her grandfather.

"You are having family time. Don't let me interfere." As he turns to go, Tori lays a hand on his arm.

"Stay. I want your opinion on something."

She takes the box and goes into the bedroom. Ob looks at the closed door and tells his family to close their thoughts tight. He grins at Keon as the Sidhe take a seat, waiting for Tori to return. Pandora turns the laptop, so Traeger can see Tori when she emerges.

Chloe giggles and explains aloud to Teri. "Tante Tori don't want Tante Ike to see her dress, cause Tante Ike is... she is no bueno, not good, at secrets."

The little boy blinks at his sister, then stares at the door. A look of fierce concentration comes over his face. Keon reaches for the diaper bag beside the couch and Ob laughs.

"It isn't what you think, amigo. He is just blocking his Aunt from reading his thoughts." A loud sound, followed by a noxious smell, erupts from the boy. "Well maybe you were right. too."

Ob takes his son and checks his diaper. He tosses the boy up, catching him easily. The toddler laughs. "*Usted pequeño monstruo. Tú apestas!" The boy giggles and puts a hand over mouth and nose. "SI! Peee-yooooo Teri!"

The bedroom door opens and Tori peeks out. "Block what you see. I don't want Ike knowing. She'll see it tomorrow.."

She waits a moment, finally emerging. She takes a step into the room and the skirt parts slightly, exposing a bit of bare leg. When she stops moving it closes as if seamless.

"What do you think?" There is silence, Finally Traeger breathes "beautiful..." as if the word was never uttered before.

Tori blushes, her pale cheeks flaming as red as her hair. Her hands press at her cheeks. "I've never worn anything like this. The picture was a short dress. I told Keon what I had in mind and he said he knew just who to make it." She glides across the floor, pale green chiffon-like fabric fluttering with each step. She clasps her hands as she stands before Keon, unsure of herself. "I know a person should never thank a Fae..." She licks her lips, "But... Keon, I dinna ken what ta say but I - "

The Dark Lord waves his hand, stopping her with the gesture. "Ye have slipped into brogue. That tells me far more than you can say." He grins and stands, taking Tori's hands in his. "Besides, I was right. Mab's seamstress did wonders. It is perfect." Before Tori can say anything, Keon confides. "The Dark Queen's head seamstress owed me a favor. She no longer does."

Tori's fingers stroke the fabric in wonder. "It won't turn into leaves and moss by morning, will it?"

Keon laughs. "No, not this." At the curious looks on the children's faces, Keon drops onto the floor. "Let me tell you the story of the greedy man who sought to cheat a young peasant who had the favor of a Fae maiden." He launches into the tale as Pandora and Tori talk hair and jewelry. 

 Ob's voice pulls at his attention. He tells the children to give him a minute. Ob is asking what she is doing instead of a veil. Keon laughs. "That is already solved." Three heads turn his way. Keon smiles. "Star... need I say more?"

Tori asks what Star has in mind and Keon describes the floral ring. Tori begins to tear. Pandora hands her a tissue. As she wipes her eyes, the Gargoyle tells them. "When I was married in the Highlands, I was made to wear a wimple and head torque with a covering veil. What I wanted was a ring of flowers, like the girls in the village where Ike and I would spend time." She stifles a sob. "I need to take this off. Pan, please help me? I don't want to tear it."

The women disappear into the bedroom and Ob settles on the arm of the couch. "Finish the story Keon, I've never heard this version." The Sidhe Lord obliges and the children are giggling at the greedy man opening his chest of "gold" to find autumn leaves and bits of moss when the women return.

"So you are willing to forgo your usual spikes for soft curls... What about jewelry?"

Tori sighs. "The necklace is a given. The viper that Tannr gave me. Nothing replaces that. Traeger's apprentice gave me a cleaning kit so I will be polishing it tonight." She glances at Ob. "No. No bachelorette party. I am spending the night relaxing and tomorrow as stone. When I wake I will wear the pantsuit to the park. Silk has a pavillion that will be waiting for me. She is picking up the dress tonight and keeping it safe until I arrive." She reaches up to touch an ear. "The only thing I haven't figured out is earrings."

Pandora offers her the loan of a pair of emerald studs. Tori accepts with a sigh. "I just wish I could find something that dangles..."

*You little monster. You stink!"

Mera bursts through the door, Wish close on her heels. Star smiles as the little girl throws herself into the half Fae's waiting arms.

"We're home Mama Star! Wait til you see what Da got in his basket. I met his friend Gil, and my Aunt, and saw Grandmere Fea, and..."

Keon shakes his head as his daughter chatters on and on. He sets the basket on a countertop and picks up the bows that Star had made. The ribbons match the floral pattern of the dresses. Keon fingers them, waiting for his daughter to run out of steam.

"and Da picked some twigs from some really cool trees! The wood's silver and gold, like... like... I don't know, but it is soooo COOL!"

"*Mo chailín uisce, we can just show her."

He smiles as his daughter fairly dances to the pack he has set on the floor. She digs into the pack and pulls out several leafy branches. The bark resembles gold and silverleaf, the leaves are crystalline in varying shades of green. She holds them up for Star to inspect.

"I thought perhaps ye could incorporate these into Tori's bouquet." He gives a wry grin. "Once I cast the spells on the ribbons. the flowers will become silk, the branches and leaves will be even more what they resemble. No Human will know they came from Faerie, but Tori and Tannr will."

He pulls back the cover from the basket to expose the roses. The top layers slowly fade from one pastel tone to another. He watches Star's face light up, her eyes change color at nearly the same pace, from awe to delight, to a sparkling that makes him think her creativity has been jump-started. As he removes the dozen pastel roses, the gleam of the lower two dozen light the inside of the basket. Star gasps at the rainbow display.

"These are for the attendants. Once they are mixed in the girls baskets, I can spell the ribbons to hold them in shades of a particular color as they turn to silk. Fea has given me several spells that will do it. For Tori's, and whatever you make for the ladies, the spells will stabilize the colors in various shades, or combinations of colors. Just tell me what you need and I can personalize the castings."

Eyes bright with excitement, Star picks up a rose and watches it turn from bright sky blue to indigo, then maroon, turning yet again into a clear red. She watches the colorshow and as it fades from orange to lemon yellow, the half Fae twirls it slowly. Her head tilts to one side, nearly white blonde hair slipping over one shoulder. Keon smiles at the beautiful image she makes. If only he had her talent to capture an image. Erik would find it enthralling...

He shakes himself as Star asks if there is anything special in handling the flowers. Keon laughs. "Nae, they are not magic beyond their coloring. Cut them, trim them, do as needed. If ye will tell me what colors to choose for each basket, I will cast on the bows. Once ye place them in the baskets, the roses you add will only change in that spectrum. Once we set the colors, or variations, I will cast over all the arrangements to turn them to silk."

Mera giggles as Star begins to snip at the stems. Her foster mother has an expression the young girl has seen many times. She knows Star is lost in her art. Standing on toetips, Mera kisses her father and turns to Ru, holding out a small stuffed figure she has brought for him. She chatters avidly, telling Erik and Ru about all she had seen, buying presents in a Fae market, and all the different types of Fae she saw.

Ru clutches his new stuffed animal, listening with great concentration. He turns the toy in his hands, examining it closely. The little boy holds it up so Mera can see it. "Mun-ster."

Mera giggles. "No. This is an Ogre. Not all Ogres are mean. Gil says a lot of Ogres are teachers. They just act like monsters." She thinks a moment, then nods. "This Ogre is one that would keep you safe. I got one for Teri. His is green, yours is orange."

Ru looks at the creature. "Oringe... Oh-grrrrrrrr."

He squeezes the toy in his hands and a low pitched grrrrrrr sounds. Ru stops, looks closely at the toy, and growls again. When it doesn't respond, he looks up at his father.

 Mera giggles again. "Squeeze his belly, Ru. Like this." She helps the little boy squeeze the toy and it grrrs again. He grins and squeezes it harder, making it grrr louder. The two children giggle louder and Erik rolls his eyes. Not like there aren't enough strange noises in the house already.

Keon catches Erik's eye and the men share a grin, both remembering favorite childhood toys. The Dark Lord nods and returns to spelling the ribbons. The edges of the bows sparkle with different colors. As Star wires the bows in place the color seems to slide into the basket. The roses settle into monochromatic color plays. One slides through blues, fading into shades of ice blue, light teal, robin's egg, summer sky, then changing and deepening into ocean blues, navy, midnight blues. Another sweeps through shades of lavenders and purples from the palest lilac to the deepest royal purple. Yellow flares bright dancing through sunshine, lemons, to palest daffodils. The last bow finds its place and the roses slowly blush through cotton candy pink, shades of rose, salmons, to fuchsia and hot pink.

The four baskets finished, Star sets them aside to work on the wrist corsages for the family members. Among the flowers were roses with smaller buds, not yet open. Star smiles sadly. She glances up to see Keon watching her.

"What's wrong?"

The pale haired woman smiles sadly. "Nothing. I just wish these were open. The blooms would be smaller, but would have the col..." She stares at the bud held between her fingers as it slowly blossoms. The rose begins its prismatic color play. Keon stares at the flower and begins to laugh. Both turn their heads to stare at the petite WyldFae where she reclines near the door. She grins.

Star sighs, "I said wish, didn't I?"

Keon nods.

"They are perfect, Wish. Just what I need for the wrist corsages and the men's flowers." The WyldFae grins then goes back to seeming half asleep.

Time passes, and what seems like a lot to do, is done in what seems like no time. Star turns her attention to the pale color-changing roses. "Just the Bride's flowers..."

Keon raises a brow as Star spreads the flowers out, then the branches. She stares at them a few moments, then leaves the room, only to return with a vase. Keon watches as she picks and chooses carefully. She delicately removes thorns, trimming the stems to about ten inches. She stands them in the vase, gradually adding flowers and leafy stems until the vase nearly overflows.

"Keon, can you grab the flowers just under the blooms?"

The Dark Lord nods, carefully grasping the flowers. Star quickly wraps a ribbon above Keon's hand, knotting it off. She has him slowly move his hand down the bunch, keeping the stems tight together. It takes a moment, but he catches on to what she is doing and moves his hand until she has wrapped to the bottom, crisscrossing the ribbon, she works her way back up until she ties the pale green fabric into a big bow. Taking the bouquet from Keon's large hands, she carefully evens the stems.

Setting the bouquet in the vase as a holder, Star looks at the leftover flowers. In moments she begins to weave them into a ring, twisting the metallic, gem leafed branches among the blossoms. She ties off the ends with pale green ribbons to match the ones on the Bride's flowers.

She blushes as Keon raises a brow.

"Tori did say she wasn't wearing a veil, and well..." She touches a finger to her temple." I know what her dress looks like."

Star and Keon place all the flowers on the tabletop, making sure none touch the others. Pike slips inside and flanks one side of the table as Wish dances to the other. Keon nods to both and begins his chant, arms opening as if to encircle the table. A bubble of magic encases the flowers, its irridescence a fluid motion as the magic increases. When the bubble looks close to bursting, Keon utters the last few syllables and slowly crosses his arms. The bubble condenses, sinking into the arrangements and leftover flowers. The color changes slow, stilling, leaving some flowers solid in color, while others are caught in midchange, still others appear tie-dyed into a kaleidoscope of colors.

Keon breathes deeply as the spell fades away. "By morning they will be fabric. These colors are locked in. Now, if you will excuse me. I have a dress to deliver..."

*My water lass

"Look you here, warrior." I lead Tannr from the Lodge to a secluded path. "See the grove we set up?"

Tannr looks uncomprehendingly at the trees I planted, then caused to grow magically fast; oak and yew, rowan and blackthorne. All are sacred, and they conceal a surprise.

"First you should know that you must walk this path widdershins or you'll never see what I'm going to show you. You understand widdershins, yes?"


 "Aye, or anti-sunwise, however you remember it best. Follow me now, and watch out for the blackthorn."

Tannr stays close on my heels until I come to a certain tree in a certain particular position. Which tree and what position I'll be keeping to myself, thank you very much.

"Now, Tannr, step through just here, and..." He gasps and I smile contentedly. The ring of trees conceals a swimming pool, built with the usual concrete but dressed with native stone. The full moon bathes the water in brilliant blue-white light.

"The pool is kept warm by magic, sustained by the earth itself. We have many such bathing pools in the Bright Court and I merely adapted it to our use here. Feel free to use it while you're here."

I turn to go and he follows. "Ah, one other thing I borrowed from my people. When you leave to come back to the lodge, walk deosil - sunwise. If you don't, you'll wander lost, though you be but a footstep from the exit."

"Are you expecting trouble, that you built it this way?"

I grin. "Not trouble, exactly, no. This is a college town, though, and college folk tend to be young and rowdy - and - hmmm, how do I phrase this? - our pool parties tend toward clothing-optional."

Tannr looks like someone pole-axed him between the eyebrows. I swear inwardly, remembering too late that Raina is his sister and this might fall into the category of TMI. He follows silently and I hope that he's not brooding too much.

"Well?" Raina grins as he enters the living room. "What do you think?"

Tannr's voice is hushed, almost reverent. "Raina... it's beautiful. Beyond beautiful. I don't know how you can bear to leave this place for a week, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart - and Tori will, too, once I tell her about it."

"Will you stay for supper, Tannr?" Raina asks. "We eat late here... someone sleeps the day away...." Nick grins.

 "I wish I could, but I have to meet Ike for yet more shopping." He looks so appalled that everyone laughs.

Star was outside, near her garden, working on making the baskets for the girls to carry at the wedding. Her fingers flew, weaving the tan colored fibers tightly together. She had her supplies stretched out in front of her on a blanket. Ru had tried to grab the colored ribbons that Mya dangled in front of him until he fell asleep next to Star.

Erik watched her for a few minutes from the stables before he approached her, wondering at the sad expression when she was doing something he knew she loved.

“Princess.... whats wrong? You dont look very happy...”

Pausing in her work Star gives a sad smile. “I dont know. I think I miss Mera...”

“She wont be gone long. Keon will keep her safe.”

“Oh, I know he will. I am sure she is having fun... its just that... the house is so quiet...”

Erik grins and looks to his sleeping son. “Quiet? With this little hellion running around?”

Star returns the grin, “Well, its just different with her gone. And our son is not a hellion.”

Dropping his large frame to the blanket Erik pulls Star into his arms and kisses her. “Do you want to talk to Rowan about adopting a baby? Its fine with me if thats what you want...”

“One will come to us when its time.” Star snuggles into her husbands arms. Wolf and Lobo come bounding from the trees to join the family and Mya sighs loudly.

“Quiet...'dont wake baby...” Mya flits to a finished basket and curls up inside. “Dont wake Mya...”

Laughter rings out across the flower beds, the merry sound of a happy child. Keon turns his head, glancing at his daughter as she dances in the fountain, splashing with his longtime friend Gil. A chuckle brings his gaze back to the ebony skinned woman walking beside him.

"She is a beautiful child, Brother. Are you sure she is - "

Her words cut off as his gaze becomes an icy stare. "I mean she really doesn't look like family. You must admit - "

"Yer a fool Meredith. Mera is both her mother and her father's child. Beneath the bonny blue-black waves are eartips as pointed as yer own. Her gills are a blessing from her ma. Look to yer own mane and ye will see a similarity."

The tall slim Sidhe had whirled at the sound of the rough voice. She dropped to a knee before the squat ugly form of the Mer Cronigh. "Your pardon Mistress of Waters. I was just..."

"Ye were thinking the worst of one who holds family honor close to his heart. And, yer a bitch, Meredith. Has served ye well, being in the Dark Court, but this is family. Let go of that hardness and enjoy yer niece for what she is, a very lovely and loving lass."

Their conversation is interrupted by a shriek of sheer joy and a small body that nearly flies down the row.

"Granmere Fea!"

Fea catches the girl, swinging her up into her ample bosum. "How's my sweeting? Gil has ye sopping wet!" She winks at the Sidhe/Mer halfbreed. The man laughs. "I am here to see yer da about a spell he asked after, then we will visit, lovey. Go play with Gil. I be nae time at all."

The little girl drops to the ground and captures Gil's hand. The two are off to the fountain to wait until Keon's business is done. Meredith's hand lightly touches her brother's sleeve. "I am sorry Keon. It is just... I still can't believe you found time to find love in that life you lead."

Keon smile slightly, his eyes following his daughter. "Love? Twas more than love, Meredith." His fingers find the blue streak in his own hair. A tingle, like the caress of a kiss, touches his soul, and Keon smiles a smile of true affection. "One day Meredith... One day I hope the love of your heart finds you. When that creature does, don't walk away. You will regret it for eternity."

Meredith hands him a few more clipped roses for the basket he carries. The petals slowly change colors, fading from one shade to another. "Several more I think, brother dear. These keep brilliant shades. You did say you want some pastel as well?"

Without waiting for an answer, the dark skinned Sidhe sweeps onward, crossing several rows to another section of the beds. She lays a cloth over the cut roses already in the basket before laying in the lighter shaded roses. Keon hides his amusement. Fea bares her sharp teeth in a grin.

"The spell ye seek, tis an easy one. Once cast, the flowers will begin to change from natural petals to silk. By the time the women begin their walk along the path, the flowers and greens will be fabric. Will ye be picking up ta dress today? I hear ta seamstresses are finished."

Keon nods. "It is already at my home. A question concerning the spell. Will it work on Human Realm flowers as well?"

Fea nods. "It works on flowers from any realm. They will turn as soon as the bespelled ribbon is tucked into the arrangement. It is also a localized spell, so it will only work on the flowers in the arrangements."

"Good. The majority of the flowers are being supplied by Star and the florist is getting the rarer types."

His sister turns her eyes to Keon. "Have you truly aligned yourself with the Lady Star and her people?"

"Aligned? Star fosters my daughter. Erik is my sworn brother of Sword and Blood. I would say Meredith, I am a member of her household as surely as I am a member of the House of Night." Pride infuses his words, satisfaction settles into his eyes as his sister licks her lip in distress. "What is the matter Meredith? Bad enough I stepped away from leading Our House, Bad enough I became a member of the Dark Lords... Now I have done the unthinkable? Guess what little sister... There is a whole world outside the Courts. Pain, Love, Living Life, ... it is all a part of something we have forgotten here." His tone gentles and he takes his sister's hand in his own. "We live so long that we forget the realities of living. Look at Mera. She is joy, tears, unconditional love. That's what these flowers are all about as well. The couple getting married... both have lived a vera long time, longer than the Humans would believe. They will live so much longer still. But with love, their lives have become so much more than just being, fighting, surviving." He kisses his sister's cheek. "Think about it. Maybe you will find enough curiosity to come visit me in the other Realm. If you do... I will introduce you to some vera interesting people."

He lays another cloth over the fresh cut roses. His sister ahkes her head. "I don't know Keon. I am born to the Courts. It is where I know how to survive." Her eyes drift to Mera. "She is a pretty thing. Keep her away from the Courts. Ke. They would destroy her innocence."

Ke laughs. "I think Mera is stronger than you could imagine. She has already met the Queens of Dark and Light as well as the Ambassador herself."

Meredith's eyes go wide. Keon tucks the cloth into the basket. "I keep these covered and they will not wilt?" At her nod, he purses his lips. "I will need to show them to the one making the arrangements. That means uncovering the flowers."

"Cover them back up in ten minutes. She should only open the covers as needed. Once the flowers are in their baskets or holders, cast the spell. Then they will last virtually forever."

Keon gathers her close, hugging her. Meredith hugs him back, tentatively. "Be well little sister. If you need me, send word by demifae or HellHound."

Offering his arm to Fea, Keon heads to the fountain to collect his beloved daughter and old friend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The next couple of days were busy ones for Alise. The girls dresses were on hangers waiting for buttons and hems, the boys blue shirts still being worked on. She smiled when she thought of Ryans and Tomas' excitement at the new T-shirts they would be allowed to wear after the ceremony. Ike had gotten all the boys Spiderman shirts, thinking since they were blue they would not show under the dress shirts.

Her thoughts turned to Ryan and Chiara and the plans for the school. She made a mental note to speak to Mortuis after the wedding. Unless he attended, she would be able to speak to him then. She had been putting off the conversation, not wanting to ask for any more than they had been given already. But she wanted a safe place for the childrens learning and wanted them to have the experience of attending school.

She carefully blocked her thoughts and took out the sketch of her dress from a small notebook she kept near her sewing things. She hoped Stoney would like it, she wanted to wear something different instead of the longer sundresses she usually favored. Carefully checking her threads she noticed she needed a few metallic colors for the belt she was making to go with her dress. Knowing Ike was helping Tannr with some shopping she thought of perhaps asking if she could join them.

Meanwhile, Tannr was busy himself. Ike had agreed to help him with his clothes later that day, but now he was looking for a wedding gift for Tori. He had stopped in a jewelers shop and was looking at various things, nothing really catching his eye until he saw the earrings. He hesitated, thinking that maybe Tori would prefer emeralds rather than the paler peridot stones. And she usually favored studs or hoops and these were longer, drops of diamonds and peridots, each stone perfectly cut and sparkling with light.

The sales person smiled and asked his thoughts. Tannr explained the reasons for his hesitation and added, “I dont know, there is something about this pair...”

“You should go with your gut feeling. And since it is her wedding day, she may want something a little different from her usual style.”

Tannr smiled and agreed. “Okay. I will take this pair then. And I need to pick up her wedding band too, if its ready...”

Ikes thoughts were busy and excited since Tannr had requested her help. He explained what he had in mind, something from a movie that he and Tori had seen and she thought was handsome and sexy. Ike had grinned from ear to ear knowing her sister was going to be speechless and absolutely love what Tannr would be wearing.

Ike had not said another word about Toris choice of wedding attire and the family was determined to keep her busy and out of Toris hair. The two had apologized and the fight was forgotten but the family intended things to stay quiet for Toris sake.

Ob and Stoney had been discussing the music and band. Star and Keon were busy with the gardens and Stars plans for the girls flower baskets. Keon would slip into fairie and get the roses with plenty of time for Star to complete the baskets and Toris bouquet.

Pan and Monty were going over menus and orders, wanting to make sure they had enough food and drink for everyone. Pan welcomed the distraction, and between that and her family her heart began to heal.

Rowan had spent some time with Star in between her duties. She confided that she missed Marc much more than she thought she would but he had said he was certain he would be back for the wedding.

And Raina was making plans for the wedding night. Since Tori didnt want to take time away from the Gallery her thought was to let her brother and new sister use the Lodge. They had a large guest room and the pool was finished.

A weekend at the tavern or someplace might be fun for the four of us... I'll talk to Nick as soon as he gets up, ask Gareth and Ky what they think....

Traeger loaded the bricks in the packs he had fitted the horse with, hoping he didn't kill it with the amount of weight it carried. Once they reached the Inn he had the bricks transferred to a crate for shipping to London; the metal freight box for overseas shipping would wait till he got the clay from France and added it to the load.

Finally done with the task; Traeger hugged Erin..."Well, that was more excitement than I planned on to extract some clay; wonder what awaits us on our next leg? I know Stoney's family, so no problems with hostile gargoyles... perhaps we can do a little shopping and find something to fill our shipping box with." Erin smiled with enthusiasm. 'We also have gifts to find for the children." Traeger sat down at the computer to book their next flight to France while Erin set to work packing.

"Cap'n! Cap'n, awaken! I bring word from the Queen!" The words are accompanied by shrill blasts on a tin horn that manages somehow to sound like a bagpipe in its death agonies.

Marc swears extensively in French, but sits up, every sense on alert. Rowan clutches the covers about her throat, watching Marc apprehensively.

"What is it, Bit?"

"Trouble in the Unformed Plane, Cap'n, an' what the hell else would it be?" The demifae is the country cousin to the demifae at the Tavern, dressed in homespun rather than silks. He has a shock of orange-yellow hair that sticks up any old how, and he bears a passing resemblance to Mortimer Snerd, or possibly Afred E. Neuman.


"All leaves are cancelled, starting now. You are ordered to report back to the Unformed Plane to prevent a goblin incursion at the western border. The buggers have aligned wi' Redcaps and hae been playin' merry hob wi' our boys. You are to go back and kick their bloody arses till their fuckin' noses bleed."

Marc's tone is dry. "I'm fairly certain that's not quite what the Queen said."

"Och, Cap'n, ye hae to learn to read between the lines."

"Go to the Tavern, get word to the Ravens. We march at first light."

"Aye, Cap'n." Bit snaps to attention, flicks a snappy salute and is gone so fast it takes a second for his image to fade.

Marc swears feelingly, and when he runs out of English he switches to French and swears some more. Rowan watches with a bemused smile.

"Well, Captain, you sure know how to show a girl a good time."

"This won't take long, ma chere. Goblins are tough, but they make the average tree look like a military genius. We just have to keep hitting them over the head until we open a big enough crack to let some sense in. Redcaps are basically brigands, not as smart as goblins. I'll be back in time for the wedding - with bells on." He smiles. "There's still a few hours till first light. I know a way we can while away the hours...."

The humans stand before him, the male wearing his confidence like a cloak. The Nest Kin watch from assorted roosts, some waiting among the trees ringing the glen.

"Taryn amd Lynn? Over the centuries those names have been used by many of Highland Nests. How do I know these are of the Tavish Hills?"

The Gargoyle settles back, wings flexing slightly in the intermittent breeze.

The male, Traeger, considers a moment, then asks if he may make a call. When Crag nods, he speaks quietly even though he knows his words are heard by all. When he finally clicks the cell closed, his expression is guarded. Crag waits in stoney patience.

"My daughter asked her sister-in-laws what else I may tell. They are very private women, so what I say of them is only with their permission." Crag nods slightly. His respect for the human slipping up a notch. "The elder sister has eyes of emerald green, that flicker with flame when angry. The younger has eyes paler in hue, and was still a child when they left. They are musicians who left to satisfy a need to learn. One did a favor for a Brownie, earning her a set of Fae pipes. They were later tricked away from her keeping by the same Brownie. Another Brownie has recently restored them to her.

For six years, before they left the Highlands, the girls kept a cottage on the edge of the woods. They called it Haven. Many villagers gathered there in the evening to play music. If the villagers ever wondered about them, it never came up. When they left, they made a point of going through the village. This way no one questioned their disappearance.."

Crag flexes his wings slowly. "And tell me, when do they plan ta come hame?"

Traeger shakes his head slowly. "I have no answer to that. I know the males of their Nest have taken wives. The girls say they have no intention to leave the Nest or Kin at this time."

The Gargoyle's eyes narrow. "Hame is where they belong, back among the cliffs of the Tavish Hills." His wings fan slowly, his tail sliding along the ground.

"They are grown women, I understand, no longer children in the eyes of the Kin. Is this true?" Crag's features set into sharp ridges. Traeger takes this to mean it is true. He sighs, letting his guard down so the Gargoyles can feel his empathy. "I have a daughter, grown to womanhood while I was gone. If I had my way, she would still be coddled and kept protected from the world. But... she is grown, Her decisions are her own. She has made choices, and I must respect her wishes."

The Gargoyle lowers his head, bringing his eyes level with the Witch. "An this pertains how, exactly?"

"Are the sisters your daughters?" He laughs, the rumble causing a small slide of stones in the upper peaks. "My daughters? Goddess be praised, NO!"

Snickers echo around the glen, quieting as Crag stares at the assembled Gargoyles. "They are Kin. They are female and unattatched. As such, they are to be watched over by the Elders and Guardians. They were ever headstrong and disobedient."

Traeger hides a smile. "Ah, then you know the sisters, and they are of these Hills?" Too late Crag sees the trap. "You are as devious as all your Race, human. That is one reason we no longer work hand in hand with your kind. Another is our unwillingness to become slaves to any spellcaster. Many take without giving in return. Take your clay. But remember this... If you return to these hills, you bring the sisters with you. If they are unmated, they stay. If they are mated, we will know if the mating is untrue. If untrue, they will stay."

There is the sound of great wings beating and small clay bricks are stacked in front of Traeger and the female Witch. Crag looks at the Witches.

"It is dried, but retains the same qualities as when wet."

Kin lift into the air, some scrabble up the bare sides of the hillside. Crag's wings spread, catching the breeze. The downdraft of his wingbeats blows the humans' hair back from their faces. As he hovers above them, the impressive gargoyle utters one more warning.

"Tell Obsidian and Bloodstone that if they do not care for my little sisters as they should, I will seek them out." He flexes his hands, talons glittering in the setting sun. "Yes... I do know them, very well. And I remember the males who formed a nest with them. The Wandering Minstral and the Melancholy Giant. Wish my sisters well... for now."

Crag tilts his wings, catching an updraft, and is gone.

Traeger awoke early again; he slipped out of bed and padded over to check his computer... yes! Tori had left him a message... "Tell Crag we are the Summer girls; Taryn and Lynn... sorry for the problems, should have expected as much from him. Love from us all"

It was short and to the point... but now he was armed with what he needed to bring the clay down off the mountain. Traeger was pondering going alone, when a sleepy voice interjected.."You're not leaving me out of this adventure, I've gone this far and I'm seeing it through." He turned to Erin; his breath stopped for a moment as he looked at her among the tumbled blankets... she was lovely. "Well, woman... if you're going with me we better get some things out of the way so we can get a decent start"... and he walked toward her with a lustful smile on his face.

Resplendent with the feeling he could conquer the world; Traeger showered with Erin after more of the best sex he'd ever had, for an inexperienced woman there was an inate wildness in her that brought out similar emotions in him... he wanted her... he was possessive about her... she was his! Again they climaxed together amid the charged electrical field that seemed to gather every time they touched. He was determined to do some research on the phenomenon.

Dressed and leading the extra horse to carry their treasure, they set out again for the crags of the Tavish Hills; armed with the names necessary to release the clay.

Oh, knock it off. Tori sighs. Ike is still pissed over her showing them the pantsuit. She'll get over it. Or.. resign to the fact that her sister isn't going to let someone else dictate to her what her wedding was going to be like. That happened once before. It wasn't happening again. Stop being catty. Ike.  

Catty? I am NOT being catty. I am being totally... I am... I am disappointed! Pants? I mean really.. Pants? Why won't you even thi...

GWYN! Stop! Listen to me!

Ike's complaints still instantly. The last time she was called Gwyn was the night they decided to let their given names lie hidden to start a new life. This life has been one that took them through several countries, and helped them find a place they actually thought of as Home. She listens more closely to what her older sister has to say.  

Traeger needs help. He has found the Tavish Hills, but is having trouble. It seems he ran into Crag. The arrogant ass wants proof that Pan's da wants the clay for members of the Tavish Hill Nestings.  

Oh Goddess... Crag... It had to be Crag. You don't think he'll... Oh Goddess...  

No. He won't come here. He has too much to lose if he leaves the Hills. Besides, we were the banes of his existence. The two females he couldn't bully. Relax... so what should we tell Traeger? I don't want to give our Goddess names....

She can feel the slow smile that creeps across Ike's thoughts. The Summer Sisters. Isn't that what the villagers called us? Taryn and Lynn?

Tori laughs. Knoll and Lake... Of course... There were several of us known by those names. Her fingers fly over the keys, telling Traeger the use names, so common among the Tavish Hill Nest females. If he describes them as they are now, it wouldn't matter. Last time Crag saw the sisters, Tori's hair was waist length and Ike was still young enough to be nearly flat chested. Now... Tori sported a short spiky do, and Ike would put Pamela Anderson's voluptious figure to shame. Tori smiles in satisfaction as she sits back in her chair.  


Ike sends a sighs. I never thought to need those names again. Do you remember the little cottage we kept on the edge of the village?  

Our escape... The sisters reminisce ninety plus years of adventure, boredom, frustrations, and joys. They are open to the family path, and are well aware of the others listening. Tori feels Tannr's arms slide around her and she leans into his embrace. The tension between the girls eases, fading completely by the time they reach their coming to Exton. Their minds embrace, entwining as they hug mentally.  

I'm sor

Laughter, a sound of true amusement, erupts as they realize they are both saying the same thing at the same time. Ob snickers, his voice heard as an echo through many minds. About time...

Something is off; Marc comes awake on the instant. The bed beside him is empty.

His eyes do a slow scan of the room until they light upon Rowan, standing naked at the window. He clears his throat.

"You best be thanking the Goddess for that shapely ass, ma chere; I know I am." Rowan goes rigid, then turns back to the bed with a soft smile. Marc replies with a smile of his own. "Bring your ass back to bed, Rowan; the rest of you, too."

Her smile broadens; then, to the merc's considerable astonishment, she begins to giggle. She giggles till she's out of breath, then gives a very unladylike snort. This sets the giggles off again and now Marc joins in - which makes Rowan laugh even more. She staggers to the bed, falls into his arms, still giggling and she lies there and giggles till her sides hurt and she's gasping for breath.

"I didn't know you had it in you, ma chere." She almost goes off again, but her next words are almost completely unexpected.

"I want it in me, Marc. Think you can rise to the occasion?"

Traeger escorted Erin protectively down the path to where they left the horses; "Erin,are you alright?... I never actually thought we would confront gargoyles, they are pretty secretive. I think he sensed our magickal powers and was drawn to see what we were up to."

Erin looked up at him,.. "I admit I was a little shaken; we were pretty much at their mercy, I am glad the huge male was reasonable. Do you think you can get the proof he wishes?"

Traeger nodded, "I will e-mail Tori as soon as we reach the Inn, surely she will be able to give me the information that will convince him we seek the clay for just reasons."

He drew Erin to him and held her close; "I am sorry, that must have been pretty frightening for you. I must admit that in the community I live in, the unexpected is usually the norm, so I am more comfortable than you would think with such things."  Traeger held her at arms length for a minute... "Perhaps you want to rethink this trip with me, this may not be our only encounter with the strange and unusual."... Erin smiled and slipped back into his embrace... "I am tougher than I look, and if  this is your world; I guess I better get used to it."

Above Erins bent head, Traeger smiled... this woman was turning out to be quite a gutsy lady; he may have found the mate he was hoping for....

Traeger sat down as soon as they reached the Inn to e-mail Tori; he described the episode and the time factor given to them, knowing Tori checked her computer constantly to keep in touch with the patrols... he figured he would probably have a reply by sometime tomorrow.

The humans had pushed their way around Crag as he blocked the path to the sacred glen. The female had remarked, in soft Eirish burr, about the remarkable look of "humanity". The male had probed him with a spell and smiled.

Once they were past, Crag had listened to them, they had collected silk from the stream and banks, commenting on the properties it would give to heal two of the male's extended family group. He spoke as if the two were more of the earth, not quite explaining exactly what he meant. They spent themselves in rutting, and as the sun slid toward sunset, Crag silently rose intending to find out exactly why he "needed" the sacred soils.

Members of the Nest had slid among the trees, watching silently. Crag stood over the nude couple waiting patiently for them to rouse. The female awoke first. She blinked, then bit back a scream. The male surged to he feet, standing protectively over the female. Crag suppressed a smile. Muscular, lean, but still a weak bodied creature to stand against him?

It took a moment for the male to realize they were surrounded. When he did, he relaxed. Relaxed? That in itself puzzled Crag. Humans do not relax when surrounded by Gargoyles. But this one relaxed, even helped the one he mated with to her feet. He murmured something to the she about Gargoyles, Nests, and family ties. When he was done Crag moved slowly, advancing until he was no more than a handsbreadth away.

"What, little man, do ye know of Our kind?"

The voice was smoother than most would expect, coming from living stone.

"What I know, Lord of Mountains, is from the lives of four of your Race, dear to my heart."

The formality of his words spoke of respect and a degree of comfort at being among others not Human.


The male licked his lips, obviously thinking. "My daughter is married to a Gargoyle/Shifter of the Desert. He has three others in his Nest from different lands. One is a full Gargoyle of France. The others are a pair of sisters of Highland descent. One sister was injured in a battle and would have lost her wings. The only thing that saved her was pottery bought on trips to the Isles. The pots were shattered and mixed into clay to pack her wounds. I understand this only worked because the the clays were not all Irish, as I had been told. This trip became vital when my son-in-law was injured severely in another battle. We only saved him through the use of his stone hair since we had nothing else to use to pack his wounds." Tears touch the man's eyes and Crag senses a deep concern for the male's Kin, and something deeper.

The Gargoyle narrows his eyes, giving the male nothing. He is half surprised that the male does not send a spell to probe his response.

"And why should I, or Mine, allow you to take from here?"

The male Witch looks directly into the stoney gaze. "Because the girls are from the Tavish Hills of the Scottish Highlands." Crag laughs. The sound rumbles, echoing as it seems to bounce off the cliffs. It is only then that Crag senses the Witches becoming aware of the Nest and assorted Kin. The female turns slowly. A spell readies, he can feel the energies building, and he laughs harder.

"Little Witch, Ye will not harm us with such spells. Do ye not remember yer own lore? Once upon a time, yer People sought Mine. Do ye remember why?" He doesn't let her answer, instead he nods to a pair of Gargoyles. The two are mirror images, bookends in all ways. between them is stacked Traeger's containers of soil.

"These sisters of which ye speak, an they be Highland born, they hae names We will ken. I would suggest, little man, ye say an' We see."

The man's eyes narrow. The woman is pressed against his back. The Gargoyle can see the shivers she tries to hide. He looks at the pile of discarded clothes and makes a small gesture. "Ye hae such tender hides. Would ye care ta dress?"

There are small rumbles of sound as the two pull on their clothes. The man wraps the blanket around the woman, giving her more heat, more superficial protection. Crag nods slowly. Considerate... Protect the woman and her health, also remind her to hide her casting more carefully. As the two finish covering themselves, Crag stretches out his wings. The others fall silent. It is only then the humans see Crag's true size. Respect and not fear grew in the man's eyes. Crag cocks his head.

"I wait Human. The names."

"The Highland Gargoyles use the names Malachite and Tourmaline. The younger left the Tavish Hills to learn music from mother lands. The elder, to protect her sister." The man pauses and Crag shakes his head.

"The names mean nothing. The sisters sound... vaguely familiar. The story is much the same." He shrugs massive shoulders. "Nests grow too large, Younglings leave." He moves his wings and figures move, clearing the path down the mountain. "The clay stays. At least until ye can prove ta Me the sisters are truly Ours. An they trust ye as ye say, They will gi' ye what ye need." He bows, wings sweeping the ground as he gestures to the path.

"Three days Little Man... Tis the time ye hae ta bring truth. Til then we keep the soil."

The Humans walk to the first turn, then look back. The glade is empty of Gargoyles, and the containers of soil.

Crag feels the sun beating on his back. The broad stone is warm enough for a lizard to lie still, sunning itself. Other small creatures doze in the shade of his half furled wings. The purloined clay, now dried into heavy bricks, lie stacked in the rock crevice blocked by Crag's stone image. His thoughts drift to the names, the vague descriptions of the Gargoyle sisters. Crag remembers heartbreak and pain from nearly a century before....

The man has two more days.