The Calling - Merry's Apprentice

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Chapter8

Month fourteen

Samhain on Ice

___________________________

“I can’t believe that Samhain has crept up on us again so soon,” Merry said, as he sat in Kieran’s backyard.

“Lucky us,” Denara joked. The druid warrior yawned, as if she was bored.

“Well, I hope to make this a safer and easier Samhain for some of us this year,” Merry announced.

“Nothing happened last year,” Denara commented with disappointment.

The sky was clear and the fifty-six degree evening felt like autumn. With four to five wooden tables pulled out of storage, they had all gathered for dinner and a council with Kieran and Lucan grilling up some steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, and ears of corn. Most of those invited to this grill and council sat waiting to eat and hear Merry’s plan, but not all. Some took advantage of being off of the isle. With Lance and Wayne acting as my personal bodyguards, I was allowed to mill about the house and front and backyard area with adult supervision allowing me my first real chance to speak to Branwyn since the werewolves attacked them. Slipping away with Lance and Wayne hanging back, each had a dirk attached to the waist of their jeans, Branwyn and I walked to the water’s edge.

Things had gone so fast with Branwyn that I couldn’t remember exactly when my feelings for her changed from stranger to someone who could sense when I was being attacked by werewolves and saw me through the mist. If I thought about it or was forced to give my opinion, I’d admit I found her kind of cute, slightly attractive, the first time I ever met her. Yet, early on awkwardness and quick sarcastic comments were the norm for our meetings before it became young attraction. But now, I am thankful for this change of heart.

“What’s Merry’s plans for you this year for Samhain? Are you going back into the Fey?” she asked hopefully.

“I don’t think so. He fears repeated visits to one realm will entice the Aes Sidhe to make an attack on me in that realm. Merry doesn’t want open war yet, since he doesn’t think we are ready,” I answered her, as I took my right hand and ran it through her now long red hair. This simple action made her blush, which I liked.

“He thinks the Aes Sidhe are ready, though, right?” Branwyn asked with concern, not liking to be made to blush so easily.

“Yeah,” I admitted. “He thinks that the werewolf attack on me at the games and the shadow wraith attack are signs that they are more ready than us. They are willing for direction confrontation in our own realm. They don’t fear us.”

“They fear you,” she countered.

“They fear what I might be, that’s all. They don’t know me enough to fear me.”

“So what’s his plan for you this year, Sean?” I asked.

“He wants to keep them guessing, which means a new realm for me to hide in this year. Somewhere I haven’t been yet and probably somewhere unexpected.”

“Oh, a new realm,” she sighed with disappointment.

“I know I feel the same way. I kind of hoped for another visit there, too, so that we could spend a few days together in the Fey. He doesn’t want to impose on them when there is a potential for an attack.”

“Sean, I...,” she paused. “I had a speech worked out that I was going to give you, but now it seems silly, so...”

I stopped her with a kiss. It was a gentle kiss on the lips, but one I’d wanted to share with her since the end of the Highland Games. Branwyn, who now came up to my chest, put her arms around me and I hugged her. I could feel that she didn’t want to let go.

“I remember when we first met I wanted to kick your butt because you were rude and arrogant, especially to Fintain. You know why I’m protective of Fintain?” she looked to explain herself.

“Because you were in diapers together and you feel badly that his mother left him. I understand that now.”

“He was really hurt by his mother, but he won’t show it to anyone but me. You see he wants to show his father that he is as strong as him. I saw how hard it was on him, though.”

“Branwyn, I really do understand. Anyways, I deserved a good swift kick I was rude and arrogant and worse,” I replied.

“No, you weren’t. You were alone and afraid and I was being a bit of jerk trying too hard to protect a friend.”

“No, you weren’t,” I contradicted her.

“Are we dating?” she asked me.

“Sort of, I guess. I don’t know how, but we seem kind of linked to each other and to be honest I like it.”

“I guess so. You know you could make it sound a little more romantic,” she kidded me.

“You want romantic from me,” I said with an expression of horror.

“Yeah, I’m probably asking too much.”

“Dinner is ready,” Cedric called to us, as he came up behind Lance and Wayne.

Lance and Wayne didn’t move, but waited to see what I wanted to do. Both of them seemed as if they were suppressing smirks. Although the thought of eating at this moment didn’t appeal to me, I knew that Merry had other reasons than food to be here. I kissed Branwyn’s head.

“We should go back,” I told her.

“I know,” she answered me.

With Lance and Wayne in the lead we walked hand and hand back to the backyard. Morgana, Kieran, Lucan, Merry, and Chota waited for Branwyn and me to join them. Sitting down side by side, we grabbed a paper plate, which we put an ear of corn on, and a hamburger and a hot dog then we grabbed buns, mustard and ketchup and prepared our food. Merry stood up as everyone began to eat.

“I have some good news for you: this Samhain will not be spent on my isle. You may stay at home and enjoy yourselves while keeping an eye open for Aes sidhe and their allies,” announced Merry.

“Terrific, now I can go trick or treating instead of standing guard,” joked Cedric.

“I’m surprised you’d actually expend that much energy for trick or treating,” Merry cracked back causing Cedric to blush slightly.

“You’re telling me,” sniffed Denara, causing her son to blush a deep red.

“Who will protect Sean during Samhain?” asked Lance. “We know that the Aes Sidhe are actively hunting him, so he needs to be protected by one of us.”

“I have considered every aspect of the situation and have decided on a bold course for this year. Arthur Sean McCoul will be in the Vind Realm,” Merry told everyone, “with Caillech Bhuerr.”

I felt Branwyn tense up beside me. I had never heard of this Realm, or that name before. Whoever this was their name wasn’t well received by those around me, as I saw that most everyone had a negative impression over what Merry said.

“That witch!” Kieran exclaimed.

“Yes, Kay, that witch,” Merry said.

“But, she can’t be trusted,” Morgana added.

“I don’t trust her,” Denara stated.

“On the contrary, if she gives her word she can be trusted completely. Remember Caillech Bhuerr is allied with no one. She does whatever she wishes to do for reasons only she knows,” Merry stated.

“Merry, who is she?” I asked.

“Caillech Bhuerr is a creature of winter. She lives in the Vind Realm alone without minions or others of her kind, who she banished to other realms. Her only companions are some of the more fearsome snow beasts that you will ever encounter,” he began to explain to be interrupted by Etain’s mother.

“I have dealt with her, Merry, she can be trusted only if you receive a blood oath from her and no other time,” Gwendolyn stated.

Gwendolyn Roy was a truly stunning and beautiful woman, much as her daughter was. Yet, where Etain had warm brown eyes, and chestnut colored hair as well as a warm, secure feeling about her, Gwendolyn possessed hair so blond that it was white and eyes the color of blue ice.

“I know you have dealt with her, Gwen. How could you have avoided dealing with her, as she is your mother? Caillech can be treacherous only when the mood takes her, so we must take precautions. I do not trust her and believe a blood oath is necessary, too,” Merry said, “which is why Etain will accompany Sean into the Vind Realm. Etain is her grandchild.”

“No, I won’t allow that,” Gwendolyn asserted, “I have kept Etain away from her for a reason. She uses her relatives and never for the better of the relative.”

Fergus Roy, who possessed the warmth found outwardly and inwardly in his daughter, placed one of his large hands on his wife’s shoulder to calm her then he spoke in a deep voice that sounded as if it came from an aged oak barrel: “You will make arrangements for this to happen, including getting a blood oath from Caillech. But I set one condition, Merry. I want Sean to have a weapon made of Elf steel with him; Elf steel and no other. I will give him my own weapon if I must.”

“You know how those in the realms, Fey, Fiery, Sidhe, all of them, fear Elf steel. A wound from a blade made from Elf steel doesn’t heal easily for them. It burns and causes great pain for them and if used expertly will kill them,” Merry pointed out.

“I know. It is our greatest weapon against them. If my daughter is to meet her grandmother then I want Sean to have an Elf steel weapon on him to protect her and him. There is no argument here.”

“I shall speak to her about this and see if she is willing to make an allowance,” Merry agreed. “If she is willing then I shall make arrangements for Etain and Sean to go to the Vind realm.”

I peered over to Etain’s table. She sat quietly beside her mother looking as if she was in a state of shock. Her mother seemed almost on the verge of tears, which was the most emotion I had ever seen from her. I would have much preferred Branwyn with me, yet I had no choice in the matter. Branwyn placed her small hand on my right arm, which lay on the table. I squeezed it with my left hand.

“I’ll give her some lessons in the spiritual arts before you go off on your adventure, Bear. Etain isn’t as useless as she likes to pretend to be in the arts. I may be more powerful, but she isn’t far behind. She just doesn’t like using her spiritual powers. She’ll be ready for the Vind Realm, though, I’ll make sure of it,” Branwyn whispered to me.

“Protecting me,” I said softly.

“I have to protect you.”

“Why?”

“I’m not sure. I just do,” she answered.

“You’re more powerful than her, Branwyn,” I said, “I wish you were going.”

“Is that the only reason you wish I were going?”

“No, and you know it.”

“Good, I just like hearing you admit it” she said and she put her head on my shoulder.

**********

It was the first night of Samhain and Merry, Chota, Gwendolyn, Fergus, Etain, Kieran, Morgana, Fintain, Etain, and I waited for the doorway to open to Vind Realm. While everyone else was dressed for a chilly evening, Etain and I wore long, thick black hooded robes with sweaters, jeans, and heavy snow boots underneath. Branwyn and I stood side by side, hand in hand. The tension of waiting was starting to build up. If Caillech Bhuerr changed her mind before the blood oath was completed, she wouldn’t even bother to let Merry know. Like winter Caillech Bhuerr was unpredictably cold.

“Your mother enjoys keeping people waiting,” Merry said to Gwendolyn.

“I know. She has done it to me my whole life,” she answered embarrassed by her mother.

Suddenly, there was a moan and a great silver light appeared in thin air. A doorway hung an inch above the ground in the air. With grace and an air of royalty, Caillech Bhuerr exited the doorway then it disappeared.

“Greetings, Queen of Ice, Mistress of Cold,” said Merry, as he bowed.

“Hello, druid,” she answered.

I noticed that when she spoke puffs of smoke exited her mouth, as if the air was below freezing. I observed Caillech Bhuerr for a moment. She was as tall as Denara, which put for just over six foot one, and she wore a white gown that barely covered her body. As for her body, it was a combination of soft and muscle and the color of cobalt blue. Her face had an expression of aloofness and coldness, her hair was white, and eyes cold crystal blue.

“I see you kept us waiting.”

“Yes. I had preparations to make,” she stated then she looked at Gwendolyn. “Daughter, it is a pleasure to see you as always, even if you are a disappointment. I see that you are still warm and have not allowed your internal cold to overcome you and give you power. Shame.”

“Mother,” was all Gwendolyn said in reply.

Next Caillech Bhuerr observed her granddaughter and sniffed: “She has coldness in her, but it is suppressed. She doesn’t even realize it exists in her. And you daughter have not shown her it, so she doesn’t know the power that she possesses. This is wrong.”

Etain blanched. She stared at her grandmother and everyone could see that she feared her. Branwyn gripped my hand tightly. Caillech Bhuerr next gave me her attention: “So you are the one...”

“I may be the one,” I corrected her.

“The druid wouldn’t bother hiding you in my realm unless you were the one, child.”

“Why is that, madam; is your realm so special?” I boldly asked her.

“No, it is so dangerous for those who don’t belong unless I give them permission to be there. My granddaughter belongs but you do not.”

“Then I shouldn’t go into your realm. We can cancel this now and I can stay here,” I countered.

“You have my blood oath that no harm will befall you by me or any of my minions,” she stated then she sneered as she realized that she had given her blood oath to me without negotiating a favor from Merry.

Merry smiled as he had prepared me to act this way with the Queen of Ice. I looked over to Merry, who smiled warmly and gave me a wink.

“Clever, boy,” Caillech Bhuerr said. “We shall go.”

She turned and with a wave of her hand along with an exhale of cold mist from her mouth; the doorway reappeared where it had been.

“Wait,” called out Merry before the three could enter the doorway.

“What is it, Druid?” Caillech Bhuerr asked with great annoyance.

“You forgot the agreement,” Merry said warmly then he waved Chota towards me.

Chota walked over to me and took from behind his back, a short sword that I recognized. It was a replica of Alexander the Great short sword with its curved blade with its brass lion and pearl handle. He handed it to me.

“It’s a gift from Alkimos. Elf made and in honor of another great leader, or so Alkimos told me to tell you. He said you used your men well and now you must learn to use yourself well,” Chota said.

I took the sword and unsheathed it. The blade was shining and sharp. And it was a gift from Alkimos. I put it back in its sheathed and hung the blade around my waist.

“Keep that away from me, child, or I will make you regret it,” Caillech Bhuerr warned.

“Of course, madam. I would never unintentionally give you a wound with it,” I answered.

The three passed through the doorway. Facing me on the other side was mountains of pure white snow, planes of blue ice, and in the distance a modestly huge crystal ice castle. A hard frigid wind was blowing, which Caillech Bhuerr still with a wave of her hand. Awaiting us as transport were three white, jellyfish looking creatures that appeared to swim through the air.

“They are fleoge,” Caillech Bhuerr stated. “They will transport us to my home.”

Etain, Caillech Bhuerr, and I each got on a fleoge, which then flew us lazily through the air to the door of the castle. The fleoge made sweet humming sounds as they floated atop the cold air currents towards the castle. This made for a calming trip. Up on arrival we dismounted the fleoge and followed Caillech Bhuerr to the castle door. A lithe, tall, over seven feet tall, soft white furred creature with ice blue blue eyes opened the door. I was taken back by this huge creature.

“This is a Yeh-Tehh. When they escape into your realm they become known as yeti or big foot,” Caillech Bhuerr told us with great amusement. “They are gentle creatures unless someone attacks me or mine.”

Entering the crystal ice castle Etain and I were awed by its cold beauty of it. Everything appeared to be made of ice, from the ornate furniture to the thick walls and ceiling. Ice globes lit the rooms. The Yeh-tehh escorted us through the grand main entrance hall and to the dining room. On top of a long crystal ice table sat frozen fruit from several realms and a cravat of ice wine. Caillech Bhuerr proceeded to the head of the table where another Yeh-Tehh pulled an ice chair out for the queen. She sat down.

“Etain, come sit by me,” Caillech Bhuerr purred and her granddaughter moved to her right side and sat down in the chair nearest her.

I decided to sit at the other end of the table. Walking around the Yeh-Tehh that showed us in, I went to the other end of the table and sat down. Although the ice appeared to be frigid, it wasn’t cold to the touch. I thought this must be some sort of enchantment done by Caillech Bhuerr for our comfort, or, at least, Etain’s comfort, as I doubted she cared for my comfort. The Yeh-Tehh began to serve us icecold fruit and ice wine.

“We have days to get to know each other, granddaughter,” Caillech Bhuerr began to speak, “I hope to convince you in that time to encourage the cold within you which holds great power, greater than druid power. Your mother only allowed a little of her cold to come out. She is a disappointment to me. There is great magic in the cold.”

“But at what price does this power come?” she asked her grandmother.

“Well, you will loose some of your lovely warmth, which you get from your human father,” she said the word father with great disdain, causing Etain to blink. “Your hair will turn white, your eyes will become ice blue, and you will become slightly less human and more like me.”

“Does that mean blue skin and a mean streak, too?” I asked.

“I don’t believe that I was speaking to you, child,” said Caillech Bhuerr.

“No, you weren’t speaking to me, but you were speaking to a member of my fealty, so I am obligated to defend her from attack and annoyance,” I replied.

Etain looked over at me with surprise. She did not remember being made a member of any fealty. A blush warmed her cheeks.

“Do you protect all your fealty so well?” asked Caillech Bhuerr.

“Yes.”

“Isn’t that lovely! This is family business, child, so you may stay out of it.”

“Fealty is family business,” I retorted.

The Yeh-Tehh standing behind me growled a soft laugh. He liked someone standing up to the Queen of Ice.

“Child...”

“I am not a child. As a matter of fact since my parents are dead, I am no longer anyone’s child. You may call me Sean,” I corrected her.

“You are not a man, yet, either, and I only give men a name,” she coldly explained to me.

“Oh, I understand now. There are only children and men in your world. As a member of the Yuchi Tribe I am considered a warrior. You can call me warrior then,” I informed her.

“Warrior. Ha! You think yourself a warrior. A warrior is an honored title in the realms. You have not earned such a title,” she rebuked me.

“Then I guess you can call me Arthur Sean McCoul, son of Arthur Liam McCoul, and potential Cathal. And if you find that too much to say then you can call me Sean.”

“You presumptuous whelp...”

“Whelp. I am not a dog, but I will accept the title of boy,” I smiled.

“That druid has taught you well, too well. I shall call you boy and I shall ask you to leave so as my granddaughter and I can be alone to speak. As her grandmother I am owed time to get to know her better,” she demanded then she looked at the Yeh-Tehh standing behind me. “Show him to a room.”

I lifted up my glass of ice wine, drank some, placed the glass down then I stood up: “I have sampled something at your table which means we are not enemies. The wine was delicious by the way.”

“The druid taught you all too well, boy,” Caillech Bhuerr snarled.

Etain stared at me, as if she was seeing me for the first time. I offered her a warm smile then I followed the Yeh-Tehh out of the dining hall. As we walked back to the main entrance hall and the staircase, I decided to see if the Yeh-Tehh spoke.

“My name is Sean. What is your name?” I said to the tall, furred creature.

“Murrrhhh,” the Yeh-Tehh growled.

“Hello, Murrrhh.”

“Haaaaarrrooo,” he growled back.

“Your queen has a mean streak, doesn’t she?”

“Gaaahhhh,” he agreed then a soft laugh escaped him.

*********

The ice bed I slept in didn’t make for a comfortable sleep for me. It was hard, though it didn’t melt from my body heat, yet it was slippery, and I kept sliding too much to one side or the other. Getting out of the bed, I saw that the sky was grey, as if it was going to snow, which was no surprise. Since I slept fully dressed, including my winter coat and sword, I walked over to the bedroom door and opened it. Lying on the ground in front of my door unconscious was Murrrhhh. I bent down and checked him out. I found a large lump on Murrrhhh’s head. Someone or something had knocked him unconscious.

I didn’t sense any immediate danger, but there must be some afoot. Standing up I continued on to the next room and opened the door. Etain was in bed asleep. I walked quietly over to her and woke her up.

“Sean, what is wrong?” she asked.

“I think there is a problem. Get up and follow me,” I told her.

She did as I asked of her. Together we moved on to the staircase and walked slowly down to the first level. Again I sensed no immediate danger. It appeared that no one was around, no Yet-Tehh, no Caillech Bhuerr, either. We continued checking the dining room, which was empty.

“Sean, I’m scared,” Etain admitted.

“Don’t be scared until there is a good reason to be scared. Now let’s check out some of the other rooms.”

“My grandmother and I spent time in her great room. It’s on the other side of the main entrance across from the dining room. She said it is her favorite room,” Etain told me.

“Okay, let’s check it out.”

I unsheathed my short sword, the gift from Alkimos. With me in the lead we made our way across the main entrance and to the great room. Opening the door to a giant room filled with ice furniture in the renaissance earth style, and even an ice piano, I was startled to see Caillech Bhuerr lying on the ground. She looked as if she had been battling some strong opponents and was defeated. Etain rushed over to her grandmother and checked on her.

“She is in a trance of some kind,” she told me.

“A trance,” I repeated. “Did she place herself in it or did someone put her in it?”

Etain placed both her hands on her grandmother’s face and closed her eyes in order to concentrate. She was trying to communicate with her grandmother’s mind, as Morgana had taught her. I waited patiently. Finally, after several minutes Etain looked up at me.

“Unseelie have invaded the Vind. My grandmother was able to ban them temporarily from her castle before they placed her in a prison trance. They are here for you. She is very angry, very angry with them,” Etain told me.

“You can talk to her then?”

“Yes.”

“What else did she say?”

“The Yet-Tehh will be on our side, but she is afraid that her ban will not stand up too long because there are too many unseelie here trying to break her ban. Unseelie are powerful.”

“How many of them?”

“Six,” she answered. “My grandmother is furious with them, with all the Aes Sidhe. She is scary when she is this mad.”

“I bet she is. Too bad she isn’t awake and able to help us. Is there a way you can help her out of the trance?”

“No. She is working on it, though. She is trying to emerge quicker but she fears it will take too much time,” Etain explained.

“All right. I got it. We are on own,” I responded then I looked around.

“Arrrhhhhhhhh!” I heard Murrrhhh rising from his enforced slumber.

“Etain, you stay here,” I told her, “I’m going to get Murrrhhh.”

“Murrrhhh?”

“Yes. He’s a Yet-Tehh. Now wait here with your grandmother and take care of her,” he told her then left the great room.

Rushing up the staircase, I saw Murrrhhh slowly getting up from the floor. I approached the Yeh-Tehh slowly, afraid that the creature might be violent from having been attacked. Murrrhhh got to his feet and looked at me. The Yet-Tehh purred at me.

“Hi, big fellow,” I greeted him in my freindilest tone. “Are you okay?”

“Narrrrhhh,” Murrrhhh answered him.

“Sorry to hear about that,” Sean said though he was sure what Murrrhhh said. “Your mistress is in a trance downstairs. We have enemies in this realm invading. They did this to her.”

“Rrrrrrrrrrrhhhh,” Murrrhhh growled in anger.

“I need you to do something for me, big fellow. Will you do it?”

Murrrhhh nodded his head yes, which relieved me. Murrrhhh was not only going to help me, but he understood me.

“Okay, get your fellow Yet-Tehh. There are six Unseelie in Vind and we need to stop them. We need to defeat them. Understand?”

Murrrhhh nodded his head yes again then he and I headed down the staircase. When we reached the bottom of the stairs, Murrrhhh slapped me on the back, almost making me fall then I went to the front door, opened and left. Immediately, I heard the Yeh-Tehh howling as Unseelie attacked it. The rompous continued for a few moments then went silent. I returned to Etain and her grandmother.

“Have you talked to her again?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“And?”

“And she thinks you should give yourself up and let them kill you quickly and easy because there is nothing else to be done as she is stuck in a trance. They will leave us alone once you are dead.”

“Nice, very nice,” I laughed. “Your grandmother has a real high opinion of me.”

“I’m sorry. She told me to say it. I didn’t want to,” Etain said.

“It’s all right.”

“She did say she will destroy the Aes Sidhe for having done this to her. She’s vain,” Etain told me.

“Well, the next time you speak to her, well, tell her that I have no intention of letting anyone kill me or hurt anyone with me,” I said with a smile then an odd feeling of warmth cascaded over my body. “I’ll make sure you get out of here safely, Etain. Don’t worry.”

I had felt this feeling before when I was with Branwyn. Did Branwyn know what was happening to me now? Was there a way I could speak to her? Or was she feeling what I was going through now? I wasn’t sure about anything, but I hoped she knew I needed help and told others.

A loud cracking sound pierced the air. I ran out of the great room and into the main hall to see that the front door, the whole front wall, was starting to crack under the strain of the Unseelie’s attack. Caillech Bhuerr’s ban from the ice catle was fading. The Unseelie were forcing their way back in; I returned to a frightened Etain.

“Etain, tell me about the Unseelie?”

“They are male and female evil Fey...”

“Say no more. I know what the Fey are capable of,” I said.

“What do you want me to do?” Etain asked me.

“I want you to stay here and protect your grandmother. That’s all. She is vulnerable in her current state. Do your best to help her,” he answered.

“But, Sean,” Etain started to speak, but blushed. “I should be with you. I should be helping you.”

“No. Stay here. I command it,” I said then I exited the great room and closed the door behind me.

I continued to the front door. More cracks appeared in the door and wall around the door. The Unseelie were getting closer and closer to getting back into castle. I got into defensive position and waited. Ife was going to be killed by Aes Sidhe, I was going to die fighting, like a warrior of the protector clans that I was.

A large enough crack appeared that I could see the outside white and greyness of the landscape. But what I heard surprised me. I heard the growl and howls of Yet-Tehh attacking the Unseelie. It sounded as if it was dozens of them. I smiled then I ran at the front door. I was not going to let the Yet-Tehh fight alone.

Crashing through the crystal ice front door i came out of the castle swinging at the first Unseelie I saw. Where the Fey were stunning beings, the Unseelie were grey in skin color with black hair and sharp teeth. Surprised that I came breaking through the ice, the closest Unseelie was so shocked that he did nothing as I cut him with my sword. A spray of black blood came from the Unseelie’s chest wound, as he screamed and fell back. One of its companions immediately sent it through a doorway back to its realm then it turned on me. The Yet-Tehh cheered me.

“Elf steel,” the male Unseelie screamed at me.

“That’s right. Want to eat some? I can feed it to you,” I replied then I attacked.

The Unseelie with a brush of his hand conjured up a stiff wind, which sent me flying back hard against the crystal ice of the castle wall. I now wished Branwyn was here. Even though I thought I might have broken a rib or two, I got up quickly and went to attack the Unseelie again. Before the male Unseelie could conjure more of this realm’s nature to attack him, one of the Yet-Tehh tackled the Unseelie before he could attack me again. The Unseelie reacted quickly and sent the Yet-Tehh flying back and too high into the air, a hundred feet or more, but before the Unseelie could give his attention to me, my prey was upon me.

I slashed the Unseelie, who fell to the ground and tried to crawl quickly away from me. With another swing of my sword I further hurt the Unseelie, causing the male to open a doorway and escape before he was killed. There were only four Unseelie left and they were manhandling the Yet-Tehh, who would not give up the fight. I prepared for another attack, when a fist of ice the size of a Yet-Tehh struck me from behind sending me tumbling hard onto the snow. This time I was sure I had broken bones.

I looked up to see a female Unseelie laughing at me. She was the one who had attacked me. As she was gathering up another attack on me, a large doorway opened with Merry, Morgana, Denara, Branwyn, Kieran, and ten Fey hurtling through. Merry and Morgana immediately froze the Unseelie, who was attacking me, in a cube of ice, while the rest of the Unseelie quickly fled back to their realm. The battle was done.

Branwyn rushed to my side. She touched my face gently then with the sleeve of her shirt began to dab the blood away that had formed around my mouth.

“What took you so long?” I asked her with a smile.

Branwyn’s eyes teared up, as she looked down on me. Merry came quickly to my side along with Morgana; he placed his hands on me.

“He has broken bones and internal injuries,” Merry stated. “You’ll be fine, Bear. With time to heal you will be fine.”

“We should get him back to your isle and set up some guards to protect him,” Morgana said.

“We will take him to Kieran’s and we will all tend and protect him now. The realms, except Avalon, are no longer safe,” Merry announced.

An invigorated Denara holding a sword whose blade was bathed in black strode up to them then said with great pride: “The Yet-Tehh said that he took two Unseelie down before they got to him. He is a fine young warrior.”

“That is special, Denara. Why don’t you check in the castle and see how Caillech Bhuerr and Etain are doing,” Merry suggested pleasantly.

“Of course,” she said then strode away.

“Bear,” shouted a concern Kieran, who had finished helping the injured Yet-Tehh. He knelt down beside Branwyn and looked at me with great concern.

“Hey, Kieran,” I said with pain accentuating my words.

“Don’t speak, Bear,” Kieran said then he looked at Merry. “Can I lift him up to bring him home?”

“Yes, Kay. Moving him will do no more damage than has been done. Between his own recuperative abilities, Morgana, and I, he will be fine in time. Take him home.”

Softly, gently, Kieran picked me up then he stood up himself. Merry opened a doorway. With Branwyn following closely behind, Kieran, holding me in his arms, walked through the doorway.

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