Chapter 18: Spring Time on the Moon
Brannoc, Rowan and Nelise appeared outside the Royal Pavilion on Dana, the largest of Avalon’s six moons. Nelise trotted off without as much as a word and neither Brannoc nor Rowan cared. Brannoc couldn’t take his eyes off of Rowan and she couldn’t take her eyes off of the scene around her.
The moon had been completely terraformed by the Fadians during the reign of Dana. It was a magical garden the size of a small planet. The Royal Pavilion was a flat field of the most luxurious, thick grass; it felt like carpet. Golden globes of light hung in the branches of the knarled trees that stretched in every direction as far as Rowan could see. Every tree was covered in blossoms and a gentle breeze blew petals about like pink snowflakes.
The black velvet sky was alive with fireflies and night birds sang in every tree. White deer stood among the guests and grazed as if unaware of the people around them. In the center of the field there was a huge banquet tables laden with exotic foods and drink. Above the banquet tables bats flew in circles holding glowing lamps.
“I have never seen anything so beautiful,” Rowan exclaimed. “Please tell me that those trees are not made of heads.”
Brannoc smiled as he looked around. “No this is the Spring Garden. It was created long before my mother was born by Dana, my mother’s grandmother. There are three other gardens on other moons to commemorate the other seasons but spring was Dana’s favorite so this moon bears her name. I don’t even my mother would dare change this garden, it is sacred to all Fadians.”
Out of the milling crowd came a familiar face, Dali, and he was even more excited than usual.
“Rowan and Brannoc you are finally here. Please follow me; the Divine Mother will be here any moment, hurry, hurry!”
The crowd parted as Dali led them towards the great table. Rowan could hear the murmurs, she and Brannoc were the center of attention. First she searched for a Thracian mind. Niurgun had said there would be spies at court. If she could find one perhaps she could get word to Unegen but she found no one.
Then she turned her thoughts to the Fadians. She opened her mind and she could feel their thoughts; not words like with the Thracians but feelings. Most of all she felt fear; there was a great deal of fear not of her but of Cali. She felt curiosity and admiration and lust, lots and lots of lust. Maybe Nagas is too good at what he does, she found herself thinking.
Dali took them to large flat rock near the center of the field.
“Hop up and stand there both of you, quickly now she is coming.”
Brannoc took Rowans hand and they stepped up onto the large flat stone. In the forest to their right a light began to shimmer and then build until it was almost too bright to look at. From the light Cali emerged riding on the back of a giant white stag. His antlers were golden as were his hooves; his eyes were ice blue.
The stag walked up to the stone and stopped; his piercing eyes were looking straight at Rowan. She sensed overwhelming masculinity from the giant beast; he was maleness incarnate. The dog-headed carliff, Anubis stepped from the crowd and got down on his hands and knees. Cali used him as a step to dismount the stag.
Cali was even more beautiful than the first time Rowan had seen her. Tonight she wore nothing more than the silken webs of the giant spiders’ wrapped around her perfect body. Her skin was dusted with gold and she shimmered in the light of the hovering globes; her crown was made of living lunar moths their dusty green wings moved slowly opening and closing. The ebony sky was no darker than her hair and her violet eyes glowed like purple embers.
Cali stepped up onto the stone and stood before Rowan. Without so much as a hello she reached out and cupped both of Rowans breasts in her hands. Rowan stiffened but Brannoc squeezed her hand hard. She got the message and stood still, looking Cali right in the eyes. Cali ran her hands down Rowans sides pausing on her hips as if to size her up and them she put her hand between her legs. Rowan felt her fingers reach up into her. Cali stood there with her fingers in Rowan and she smiled. She took back her hand and slowly licked her fingers.
“Nothing on that table is as delicious my dear; you are as lovely as I had hoped.”
Cali turned to the crowd who were watching as if this was as normal as shaking hands.
“You are here tonight to honor Rowan Ross Sender from Earth who is the first changeling sender ever born in all the millennia.” There were oohs and ahhs from the crowd. “She is a sender of immense power, undoubtedly owing to her Fadian blood.” The crowd murmured in agreement.” Today she received the rite of rebirth and in one week from today she shall join with my son Brannoc Tong Durai in the union of marriage bringing the blood of the senders to the royal line.
The crowd cheered in approval and clapped until Cali ordered silence.
“Let us feast and enjoy one another,” Cali motioned to the great tables and the guests began to move in that direction. There was a smaller table set aside and Cali walked to it followed by Dali and Anubis.
“Did you know about this?” Rowan whispered to Brannoc as they followed Cali to the royal table.
“I swear I knew nothing, only that she was up to something; I still don’t know what though. She hasn’t taken an interest in anyone like she has in you since that Thracian sender Niurgun Bootur.”
Rowans head snapped around so fast she startled Brannoc. “What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing,” he stared at her surprised by her reaction, “except she was fascinated by him. She made him come to her chamber almost every night from the day he turned fifteen until the day he left. I hated him then as if it was his fault. He loathed her but he did what he had to in order to stay alive; I see that now.”
Rowan didn’t know what to think. Niurgun had said he knew her better than most. He had only been a boy. She thought of him as a little boy running through the garden with Unegen; she shuddered to think of him in Cali’s embrace.
They got to the royal table and sat down on luxurious cushions. Two more carliff stood by the table and they proceeded to bring trays of food to the three of them. Anubis stood behind Cali with his muscular Thracian arms crossed in front of his bare chest. Rowan caught him looking at her with his intense yellow eyes several times. She could feel his consciousness, wild and untamed. It took all of her self-control not to give in and run with him on those snow covered hills under the double moons.
Cali brought her back to the present however.
“You will be the first half-breed to marry into the royal family since the beginning of our race. It is important that you gain the approval of the court. One day Brannoc will rule after me and he must have a powerful mate at his side.”
Brannoc almost choked on his food. Cali had never spoken of him succeeding her; in fact he was pretty sure she meant to live forever. He was really afraid now; she was planning something horrible.
Rowan looked around her and suddenly noticed that many people had stopped eating and started engaged in all sort of sexual encounters. Couples, threesomes, foursomes were in various stages of undress and in even more various positions. Naked people chased each other across the lush lawn falling and rolling and coupling. She remembered Nelise saying that there would be plenty of time for that sort of behavior at the banquet and now she understood what she meant.
Cali eyed the frivolity with gleaming eyes. She stood and without saying anything she walked into the crowd. Immediately several Fadian men approached her. She pushed one down on his back and she mounted him. Rowan looked away.
“You find this shocking?” Brannoc asked her as he leaned on his elbow laid out on the huge cushions.
“I don’t know,” Rowan answered. “I understand that the social morays of my provincial upbringing have no bearing here but yes I guess it may take some getting used to.”
“Centuries ago your kind on earth were not so shy. They loved to honor the Mother and the great stag by sharing their bodies in the light of the full moon. The rituals were beautiful and erotic not sinful. We don’t really have the concept of sin here; that is an earth anomaly that has robbed your people of so much joy.”
Rowan thought of her unbridled passion with Niurgun. Certainly there is nothing more pure than that moment when one surrenders thought to passion. It could not be mere coincidence that the very act that might randomly result in new life was so transcendental, so joyous. Brannoc was right, sex should be enjoyed without a mountain of baggage but she still wasn’t ready to roll around with total strangers quite yet, but perhaps with someone who is not a stranger?
“Promise me that you will not go and get yourself killed.” Rowan said in absolute earnest.
Brannoc looked puzzled.
“That is a strange request but I can make that promise. I have been around for a long time and I am not planning on going anywhere. Do you require this promise of all men before you mate?”
“Yes, but the last one did not keep his promise.”
“Then he was a fool,” he whispered, “an absolute fool.”
Brannoc reached out and cupped one of Rowans breasts. She didn’t stop him. He ran his hand down to her hip and pulled her towards him. He kissed her softly behind her ear and then down her neck. The perfume from the flowers in her hair seemed to become even stronger and Rowan’s head swam as Brannoc kissed her breasts taking each nipple in his mouth and sucking hard enough to make her back arch. The emeralds cut against her skin causing just the right amount of pain to be pleasurable. Rowan fleetingly wondered if Nagas had planned that too. Brannoc ran his hand up the inside of her silken thigh and it suddenly occurred to Rowan why her outfit had no real bottom.
“Not here,” Rowan whispered. All she could think of was Anubis’ yellow eyes staring down at them.
“Come on then.” Brannoc stood smiling that irresistible smile of his and held out his hand. She reached up and grabbed his hand and they took off running into the forest.
They ran under the blooming trees, ducking to keep from hitting their heads on the golden lanterns. They fell and rolled in the soft grass. Rowan got up first and Brannoc chased her around the knarled trunks and through a stand of weeping willows. Rowan came out from under the willows on the edge of a forest pond, green as emerald and surrounded by mossy banks covered in tiny yellow flowers.
More lanterns floated on the water making golden ripples in the emerald pool. Rowan gasped at the beauty. She was living in Midsummer’s Night Dream; taken astray to the land of the fairies where animal headed beasts, jealous queens, and half naked earth girls romped through magical forests.
As she stared out onto the exquisite scene Brannoc’s arms wrapped around her waist and he softly kissed the nape of her neck. He reached down and pulled the emerald netting up and over her head casting it like a net onto the mossy bank. Rowan turned to face him and found that he was completely naked. She had seen him naked before in the interrogation room of the Juchin and he was as perfect as she remembered.
He picked her up and walked into the still water. Soon they were floating free staring up into an impossibly starry sky.
“How can this place be so beautiful and frightening at the same time?” Rowan asked.
“How can a thunderstorm be so beautiful and yet so frightening, or a lion, a serpent, or a volcano or a raging sea, Fadians are creatures of nature and nature always has two faces.” Brannoc said.
When he stopped talking he blew on the surface of the water and tiny silver fish began to appear. First a couple, darting about, and then a few more until hundreds swirled around Rowan. They rubbed their little scaly bodies against her tickling her until she couldn’t stop laughing. Brannoc blew on the water again and they were gone as quickly as they came. Rowan swam over to him and held his face between her hands.
“Once you called the birds from the sky to sing to me when I was called Margreth and tonight you charm the fish in the sea into caressing me.”
Rowan kissed him, their bodies gliding against one another in the warm water. Brannoc took her firmly around the waist and suddenly they were on the thick moss of the bank. He laid her down on the soft green carpet.
“I cannot wait any longer,” he whispered, “I have wanted you since the night I meet you. I knew you hated me then and I only hope you have come to see me differently now.”
His eyes burned so bright in the dark frame of his long black hair that hung loose over Rowans face. She felt him move her legs apart with his legs and she pushed him back. Rowan grabbed his shoulders, hooked one of his legs with hers and rolled him over.
Brannoc looked down to see Rowan looking back at him from between his legs. She slowly began to crawl up him stopping for a few indescribable moments to caress him with her luscious mouth. Then Rowan slid herself down onto him slowly savoring every second. As she did she touched his mind and felt his deep love for her and his hunger. He knew she was there; he in her as she was in him.
“I feel very different about you now,” she said with a smile.
Rowan and Brannoc made love under the multitude of stars so many times they lost count and when they were finally too tired to do it anymore they lay in the billowy moss beneath the willows and slept as fireflies twinkled all around them.
They awoke to the sound of birds singing to greet the dawn. The sky was pink and yellow as the double suns began to rise over the tree tops. Rowan and Brannoc swam in the pool and lay naked on the bank in the morning sun. Rowan had never felt so natural; so apart of the world around her. They made love again by the bright light of day.
Finally Rowan got up and slid her emerald dress back on. There really was nothing left of the underclothes but she figured after last night no one would notice.
“I think if I don’t get something to eat soon I might just die. Do you think that big spread is still in the field?”
“Oh there will be a morning meal set out. Don’t think we are the only ones just getting up from the festivities of last night.” Brannoc said as he put his arms around her and started sliding her dress up again.
“Seriously I need some nutrition,” Rowan laughed as she squirmed out of his arms. “Where are your clothes by the way?”
“Under the willows somewhere,” he said as he wandered off to find them. He returned in a moment wearing the soft grey suit he had worn the night before. Rowan had though it looked like it was made from tiny fuzzy grey leaves laid over each other like scales on a snake; it was obviously Nagas’ work.
“Let’s get some breakfast please,” she said as she held out her hand to him. They walked back towards the pavilion through the forest of blooming trees and more than once they had to walk around other couples still asleep on the carpet of petals exhausted from the night before.
The table had been replenished with more food and fortunately for Rowan coffee. She and Brannoc were laid out on the lawn enjoying the good food when suddenly a blue glow began and Cali appeared alongside Nelise.
“I see that you have had a taste of my new toy beloved son.’ Cali cooed. “Was she as exquisite as you hoped?”
Brannoc bowed his head. “Rowan is everything anyone could hope for Divine Mother.”
“I plan to find out for myself very soon.” She walked over to Rowan and crouched beside of her. Cali ran her hand up the inside of Rowans thigh.
“I will send for you in two night’s time my dear. We have much to discuss as women, you and me. As royal consort you will have many duties but none more important than your ability to give pleasure to the future Divine Father.” Cali cast a contrived smile towards Brannoc. “I can teach you many wonderful lessons.”
Cali stood back up and walked a few steps away with little Nelise trotting at her heels.
“Until then my dear,” she said right before she and Nelise disappeared.
The Belstar Chinua entered Fadian space with little difficulty. They were a privately registered ship carrying passengers to Availon. One ship, albeit a very fancy one was no real concern to the Fadian Collective. Chinua was feeling in fine form now that her fluids were properly cleaned and balanced and they had made record time.
Niurgun had a crew of fifteen, sixteen if you include Farris. Niurgun had tried to leave him with Unegen but the boy had convinced him to let him come. Nevvi had come as well and Batu. Niurgun had recovered somewhat from his poor treatment but he was still thinner than usual.
His plan was to have two of his crew, posing as bounty hunters turn him over to Cali. The tricky part to this plan was to ensure that she didn’t just kill them and take him. Two Thracians with human ancestry had volunteered to pose as the bounty hunters, one was Unegen’s sender Seru and the other was a giant of a man named Hajif. They didn’t look Thracian so Niurgun hoped they would not arouse suspicion.
Niurgun planned to have them turn him over to the local authorities in the city of Titania and hopefully his crew could get out of the way before Cali was even aware of their presence. No one ever voluntarily entered the Universal Tree so turning them in elsewhere would not seem out of the ordinary.
“Well how do I look,” Seru asked as she turned around slowly.
“You look like an unscrupulous bounty hunter in clothes that don’t fit you.” Hajif replied.
They were both dressed in the loose fitting and rather colorful garb of Stavician merchants; very different from the austere nanoleathers they were accustomed to.
“What can you possibly need all of this material for,” Seru questioned as she tried to make heads or tails of all the folds and pleats of her garment.
“I am sure I don’t know,” Hajif said as he was attempting to tuck in a very long sash.
Niurgun just stood there laughing. Farris was laughing too something that he did a lot more of now. He rarely let Niurgun get out of his sight and he had not been looking forward to this day. Niurgun took off his collar and handed it to Farris. Then he did the same with his comps.
“Keep these safe for me Farris until I get back. Now biogel my wrists Seru,” Niurgun said as he held his hands out.
Seru pressed on her comp and the tiny web like strands soon encircled his wrists.
“How are you going to get out of there without your collar?” Seru asked him.
“I am not sure but I do know that if I was being held captive they wouldn’t let me keep it so I can’t very well show up with it on, plus the sensors will pick it up if we try to hide it.”
Seru nodded her head.
“No I guess you can’t,” she agreed, “but I sure would feel naked without mine.”
“ I will too Seru” Niurgun assured her, “but I am hoping that if I can just get into the city I can get hold of a collar and then get back to the ship. I know it is not much of a plan but I will also be relatively untraceable with an unknown collar signature so maybe it is best that I can’t take mine.”
Niurgun looked back at Farris and smiled then he turned to Seru.
“You have the coordinates for the Office of Public Safety in the Lower Quadrant of Titania. Are you all ready?”
The two of them shifted their massive costumes around a bit more and then looked at Niurgun.
“We are ready Commander.”
Hajif grabbed Niurgun by the back of his nanoleathers and the three of them disappeared in the blue glow. Farris watched and held his hand up to say good bye. He stood there all alone except for Batu who was lying on the floor at his feet.
“He’ll come back Batu,” Farris said, “I know he will be back.”