Chapter 6

Voices from the Aether

The wolf and the man stepped out of the forest, the man with a swagger to his step and a smile on his face, the wolf wearing a wicked grin. They were one and the same, dual aspects of a whole, ideas implanted into her mind’s eye and shaped by imagination. She focused on the man, the rich almond brown of his sharpened features, the way his ash tree hair hung over lithe shoulders cloaked in bark. He was in the prime of his years, his ageless figure sculpted to perfection, the tight muscles of his chest smooth as silk. With a wry smile, he cocked his head and ran his gaze over her body. She pulled her arms around her, shivered as if she stood naked on a winter’s night.

“It would seem that boy is not the only one unworthy of you,” he said, narrowing his emerald eyes. “I see no mark on you, no ravenous fingerprints, not the slightest bite of lust. Such a tragic waste of potential. Why, a kiss from you would open that boy’s eyes to a world he has never imagined, and yet here you are, clinging to your purity, your”—he frowned—”morality.”

Emily Fomalhaut steadied herself, composed her words. She knew the dangers of speaking recklessly to the Sidhe — especially one as powerful as Prince Freyr, of the Court of Queen Áine Echraide. Drawing herself to her full height, she said, “I am a different person now.”

In a heartbeat, the Lord Prince stood before of her, leaning forward to study her face, her eyes. She could feel the spring wind of his breath, taste the scent of budding flowers, jasmines and cherries. With a furrow of contemplation, he stepped back. “You say you are a different person, yet your eyes are as I remember them.”

And they were. The day’s events had proven that much. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how often she smiled, the truth was always there, waiting beneath the surface to slip through the cracks. She shied from the Lord Prince’s gaze, but his image followed her, stayed fixed to her centre of attention as if he had imprinted his form onto her eyeballs. The forest moved with him.

“I—”

Before she could find an excuse, the Prince raised a finger. “But let us not get ahead of ourselves. I would hate for such serious business to sour our reunion, especially when there is such fun to be had! You made a wish, did you not? You wished you could do more for that boy, who locks his heart behind a veil of lies and hypocrisies. Well, since you are so unwilling to utilise your blessed talents, it seems I must lead by example.”

If you’re ever in need of a pop culture reference for what real faeries are like, use the Goblin King from Labyrinth. Friendly little people with wings is just some Victorian misconception that Disney picked up on and made popular…