Darkness held no terrors for the boy. Shadows were soft, colors veiled, sounds muted. A relief from the overbright and noisome day that jangled his senses and hurt his head. And when the moon rode the indigo sky, everything was brushed with silver: his rock collection, his coloring markers in their lumpy clay cup, his bookshelves, and even the rows of crazy copper-wire creatures on his desk had paled to a gentle pearl gray. The moon’s light created a magical and comfortable world just for him.
Tonight, the moon was round and fat. The boy lay on his side in bed, where he could watch through the tall window. Once, his teacher had read a story about a man who lived in the moon. But although the boy always looked, he didn’t see the man.
The moon was his friend, though. And sometimes, the moon’s light showed him things: hazy images of new places or new people. The boy understood that it was sort of like a television show—they weren’t really in his room with him. But he knew they would come into his life soon. A few days, maybe a week or two, but they would come. It was nice of the moon to tell him ahead of time, as if it understood that new things made him uncomfortable.
The light of the night was soft and silent as it inched over the floor and crept across his bed. Just as it brushed his Squishy Bear, the silvery glow rose like gentle smoke and shimmered to form a picture. A man and a dog. The man was tall, with long white hair and strange eyes, but there was something else different about him . . . Try as he might, the boy couldn’t see what it was. Besides, what he really wanted to look at was the dog. It was crazy big, bigger than any dog he’d ever seen, maybe even the size of a lion. The boy liked dogs, even big ones. Animals were always easier to understand than people. Easier to be around, too.
Gradually the picture faded and sank into the sheet of moonlight atop his blanket. But the man and the dog were fixed in his mind. They’re coming. Soon.
And they were going to need his help.
Royal Court, Palace of Queen Gwenhidw
Heart of the Fae Realms, Wales
A Thousand Mortal Years Ago . . .
There is no such thing as love!” Trahern shoved at his twin. “Your foolish ideas will get you banished, and for what? Nothing in the Nine Realms will change. Nothing! Eirianwen will rule the House of Oak for yet another millennium, while you live out your days in exile. What will you have proven?”
Braith shoved back and followed it with a punch of magic that sent Trahern sailing backward across the royal garden until he slammed high into the trunk of a tree in a flurry of golden leaves. It was as if they were children again, testing each other like young stags. But that was centuries ago, and this was no game. The palace loomed large over them as they argued in its sprawling gardens. Braith had been called to appear before the Royal Court.
“I will have Saffir, and her alone. I will not bend to Eirianwen’s wishes. I will not consent to this pairing with Idelle.”
Trahern landed lightly on his feet and brushed oak leaves from his tunic. The fact that he would bear a bruise or two was not without irony. The amber and claret crest of the House of Oak bore the creed Our enemies break upon us. Briefly he considered retaliating, but it would be no contest. His brother’s blow had been pure luck magnified by anger. Almost all fae beings possessed magic to some degree, but Trahern had been gifted with the rare, full measure of a sorcerer’s power. Despite his years of study to hone his talent, however, he didn’t know of any magic that would alleviate his twin’s stubbornness or persuade him to see reason.
Even Braith’s own talent was of no help. He had been born with the most coveted of all abilities: he was a farseer, able to view the future. It was a cruel paradox, however, that the nature of that gift prevented it from being applied to the seer’s own life. Braith was as blind to his future as anyone else—although a lifetime of dealing with the matriarch of the House of Oak surely should have taught him that resistance to her will was purest folly.
“Why Saffir?” Trahern finally asked. “She belongs to no noble house and has no wealth or connections to speak of. Idelle is the daughter of one of the three princes of the House of Rowan, and they would be valuable allies. What does Saffir have to offer us?”
“Listen to yourself. You sound like Eirianwen—everything must add to the power and standing of the family.” Braith spat on the blue-flowered grass. “And you know full well that she doesn’t want allies, she only wants pawns and resources. Rowan’s leadership is weak, and Eirianwen will have them all supplanted before long.”
Trahern knew that supplanted likely meant systematically slain. Which is precisely why Braith should not defy her. He sighed then, knowing that Braith would be of the opposite opinion. Despite being twins, they differed as greatly in personality as they did in appearance. Trahern’s long hair was white from birth, a color much preferred by the Tylwyth Teg elite, while Braith’s mane was the blue-gray of a storm cloud. Braith’s temperament was that of a storm as well. Trahern had assumed the role of the quiet and studious one, the one who stood in the background observing. The favored one, perhaps, if any offspring of the House could be called a favorite. If not totally obedient, then at least the one wise enough to never give offense . . . or clever enough not to get caught. As children, if they were called to task by anyone other than Heddwen, their guardian and tutor who knew the brothers better than their own kin, it was the recklessly impulsive Braith who was blamed and punished. While there was nothing strange about his current rebellion, the consequences this time would be far worse than losing favored toys.
Trahern tried another tactic. “Idelle is fair to look upon. And well accustomed to the Royal Court.” He left unsaid that Saffir, though lovely, would be considered quite plain by the Court’s standards. And surviving that den of whispering vipers required carefully veiled intent and masked diplomacy. Perhaps because she wasn’t of the nobility herself, or perhaps because she was a healer and therefore more practical, Saffir spoke her mind without regard for the station or office of those she addressed. The Court would eat her alive and spit out her bones.
“The love that I share with Saffir is the most beautiful thing I know,” Braith said simply. “We are Pâr Enaid.”
Twinned souls? Surely his brother did not believe Heddwen’s nighttime stories. “A pleasant myth and no more, but if it pleases you, then keep it. Agree to an official pairing with Idelle, then spend your time with Saffir.” Most members of the Court publicly dallied with whoever they pleased—and often as not with their partners present. “Eirianwen will have gotten what she wants, Idelle will have a much-coveted bond with the House of Oak, and you will have this love that you speak so highly of.”