Chapter Nine

How dare you defy me!” Queen Muirgan shrieked.

Quinn found himself shackled to the jagged obsidian wall of the Chamber of Pain. He refused to cry out as she drew a claw down his back producing yet another spate of blood from him.

"Blessed be, Muirgan, Queen of Flesh and Bone, Bearer of the Hands of Fire and Water. It could not be helped, me beloved Queen," he choked out.

She jerked his head back by a handful of hair until his long neck became an exposed line of flesh, his pulse beating against his skin like the wings of a trapped hummingbird. "How do you do that," she sneered.

"What ye mean to ask, me Queen?" He fought to keep his voice calm, to hide the fear she instilled in him, for she would feed off it to fuel her rage.

"Pay due respect when I cause you pain."

"I live to serve ye, me Queen."

She released her hold on his hair and pushed his head away. The abrupt movement caused his front to connect with the sharp protrusions of the obsidian wall. They sliced into his skin, and rendered his chest and stomach a red ruin to match his back.

"You never fail to say whatever I wish to hear and you manage to fill it with enough truth that you aren't forsworn by the Host. I absolutely hate that about you!"

He winced and rested his forehead against the jagged wall. He'd worked so hard to be worthy of her love and approval and, despite his efforts and centuries at Court, he'd never won her over. Or developed skin thick enough to tolerate her criticism. He could bear her physical torture, but her verbal and emotional abuse shredded and scarred his very essence. With his neck no longer hyperextended, his voice was a little steadier. "Forgive me, me Queen. I beg ye, tell me what I have done to displease ye this time."

She stalked around him, the many layers of her gown slithering across the floor. "How dare you ignore me when I call!"

"It could not be helped, me Queen. Ye ask me to watch over the lad. I be doin' that when ye call."

She wrenched his head back again causing his spine to bow, and he knew she could snap his neck with just a little more pressure. It wouldn't kill him, but he didn't want to spend the rest of his life paralyzed from the neck down. He'd seen what his queen did with useless fae. She kept them as nothing more than toys to torture, storing them in a great silver vault only to pull them out when the mood struck her. He would allow himself to fade before he became a victim of her sadism any more than he already was.

"You were to do nothing more than protect him! Now, you have not only exposed us, but you have enchanted him! An act so forbidden that, but for me, you would spend the next millennium in the Darkling Court!" Her shriek pierced his ears as her claws pierced one of his wings and drew down on the delicate veil, leaving it in tatters.

This time he did cry out as blood ran. "I did not, me Queen! I swear it!"

She canted her head and leered at him, a buzzard eyeing its carrion before plucking the orbs of its dead eyes out and swallowing them whole. "You wouldn't swear such a thing, lest it were true." Her voice was now a smooth, low contralto.

"Ye know I cannot lie, me beloved Queen," he panted through the pain.

Her fist tightened in his hair. "Tell me!” she shrieked, and shook his head with such force he thought his neck would snap.

Quinn didn't want to tell her. Not for fear of what she would do to him, but for fear of what she would do to Merry.

She pulled back and down, bowing his neck and back to point where he was nearly folded in half. “Tell me,” she growled.

"The enchantment be his," he choked out.

She righted him, the whiplash velocity of the movement sending daggers of pain dancing through his essence, and he though he might pass out.

She jerked his head so he came face to face with her, her fiery red eyes gone dead as a winter sky with disbelief. Without glamour to give her beauty, she was hideous in her natural state, and she didn't wear surprise well. "Are you trying to tell me that he bears a showing of magick?" she hissed.

"Aye," Quinn breathed in defeat.

A small laugh escaped her, the high-pitched titter leaving a sickening dread in Quinn’s veins.

"And you have been enchanted by him? A half human, no less?"

Quinn closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "Aye, me Queen."

She abruptly released him and danced around the chamber, her cackle long and loud.

The manacles that held him prisoner fell away, and he dropped to the floor, landing hard on his hands and knees as pain seared every fiber of his being. He thought to get to his feet, and then thought better of it. To rise without her permission would only earn him more punishment. He kept his head bowed, his long red hair a convenient curtain to hide his pained expression.

"You have always been so bloody weak!" Without warning, her slippered foot connected with the side of his head with such force that he went sprawling. "Get up!" she shrieked.

He willed himself to stand. He slowly got to his feet as he fought pain and the fiery sting of his shredded wing. He dared not meet her eyes. His bare foot slipped in the blood that had pooled on the floor and he caught himself against the wall, tearing a jagged wound in the palm of his hand.

"What else does the boy show?"

"Naught more as of yet, me Queen."

She put a clawed fingertip to his chin and lifted his face so he had no choice but to meet her eyes. "You speak true, my weakling."

He wasn't weak. In fact, he was far more powerful than she. If only she knew his lifelong desire for her love and approval was all that kept him from slaying her. "I do, me Queen."

She released his chin, her sharp claw slicing his skin as it left him and leaving warm blood to trickle down his throat and pool in the hollow of his neck. "All the more reason to protect him. Stay with him all hours of the sun and moon from now on."

Being away from the mound denied him the eidos of Fairy, and the very essence that kept him alive. She’d sent him away so often over the past century it was all he could do to last enough hours in a day to protect Merry without beginning to fade. "Ye know I cannot, me Queen."

"You will!" she shrieked.

Her water magick filled the air and he began to drown, as if water was truly filling his lungs. "Great Mother, I beg ye. Please do not punish me for something ye have done to me!"

Her magick ebbed, a wicked wave withdrawing from a battered shore, and he gasped and gulped air as fast as he could.

"Ah, yes, sometimes I forget myself," she said through a cackle.

Quinn tried to stand erect, but didn't have the strength.

"Very well. I return your ability to heal yourself."

"Thank ye, me Queen, but ye know I still cannot be far from Fairy for more than a few hour."

"Ifreann na fola!" she swore. "How in the name of Goddess and Consort did I bear such a worthless fae?"

He winced again. She couldn't even bear to call him her son. "If I may be so bold, me beloved Queen?"


"Return the lad's mother to 'im."

She advanced on him now, rage large in her fiery red eyes. "How dare you question me!" She slapped him hard.

His face ignited in pain and he willed himself not to strike back. "Ye stripped she of every magick she possess and she be weak as a new born bantling. She be harmless, me Queen."

"This is why you will never be king! She betrayed us!"

"She did not, me Queen. She fell in love."

"With a human!"

Quinn couldn't respond without running the risk of imprisonment in the Chamber of Pain for centuries. "Very well, me Queen. I stay with the lad and return only once daily."

"Listen, and listen well, my weakling fae. If anything happens to that boy, I will consign you to the Fountain of Terror until you fade!"

"I take ye meanin', me beloved Queen."

Her cloak spilled around her like black water as she turned and went to the antiquated wooden door and opened it. "Clean him up and see that he is gone by dawn!" she ordered.

A flurry of demi-fae entered the chamber and swarmed Quinn, lifting him into the air, and carrying him from the chamber.


Merry touched fingertips to the blood that stained his blanket. A split-second before Quinn had vanished, he thought he saw wings. Clear as glass with a hint of green to match Quinn's eyes, they were beautiful and looked utterly frail as blood had splashed them and dripped from their tips. He'd called for Quinn, his desperate pleas loud in his mind, but received no response. Adrenaline had flooded his body and left him feeling wired and weak at the same time. He didn't know what had happened, but whatever it was, it left Quinn severely wounded.

Bewildered and wholly afraid for Quinn, he rose from the bed. There was no way to explain the blood to his dad so he had to wash the blanket. His hands shook like newborn leaves as he stripped it back and was disheartened to find that blood had seeped through to the sheets. He stripped those too, only to find that it had seeped into the mattress cover. He stripped that too and was relieved to find that it hadn't seeped into the mattress. His dad would be furious if saw it and, no matter the excuse he invented, his dad would know he was lying.

He carried the linen to their stackable washer and dryer in the closet and threw the mattress cover and sheets in first. They took less time to dry and would be done by the time the blanket was washed. He added soap and made sure he hit the right buttons and started the machine.

He then went to the kitchen and looked out at the backyard. The mist was gone and the sun shined bright in the sky. Until now, he hadn't noticed the plethora of flowers in bloom. Their backyard had become nothing short of a riot of color. Except for one tree stump near the edge of the yard still shrouded in mist.

Interesting. "Send me a sign. A thought. A smoke signal. Anything to let me know you're okay," he whispered to the window.

He had no idea how long he stood there, but the next thing he knew the washer buzzed at him letting him know its duty was complete. He went to the machine and transferred the load to the dryer then loaded the blanket and soap, and set the machines to task again.

He returned to the window. He didn't know what he hoped to see, but wanted—no, needed—to know Quinn was okay. Nothing appeared. No sign came to him. Not so much as a whisper in his mind.

Over the course of the next two hours he finished the laundry as he watched the sun set, and then remade his bed. It was then that he noticed Quinn's T-shirt on the floor. He picked it up and sat on the edge of the bed. Bringing it to his face, he breathed Quinn's scent in. It was unique, like nothing he'd ever smelled before, a rich aroma of new buds and spring grass, and something he thought to be lemon. Who knew a guy could smell like flowers and still be cool? He breathed in deeply one more time before folding the shirt neatly and placing it beneath his pillow.

He thought about eating, but food didn't interest him. He thought about homework, but that didn't interest him either. He needed to know what had happened. He needed to know that Quinn was okay. He decided to put on a hoodie and head to the backyard to wait for Quinn.


"Go to him, Sadb. Tell him I be all right," Quinn urged.

The tiny demi-fae flitted around, rinsing and dressing his wounds with salve. "But he be human, Sire."

Quinn rolled onto his side with a stifled groan. "He won't hurt ye, lass. Now, go on with ye."

Her buzzing wings slowed and she put angry hands on her hips as she hovered over his head. "It be forbidden for demi-fae to speak to a human!"

"Ye be part of me guard, Sadb. Ye be in me service. Be nothing to forgive. Simply let 'im know I be all right and I see 'im on the morrow."

She pursed her lips and tapped her foot angrily in the air. "Naught more?"

He tried to offer her a reassuring smile, but his pain was too great. "Naught more."

"Ye swear it?"

"I swear it, me Lady."

She smiled then, pleased by the formal address, and Quinn knew he'd won her over.


It was midnight and Merry had twice fallen asleep where he sat. He sighed as he grudgingly surrendered to the notion that Quinn wouldn't return tonight. He stood and stretched, and a large moth flew at his face. He waved it away, knocking it gently aside as he turned to go to the house.

"Meriadoc McDaniel, do ye not have a beagán beag of respect for we demi-fae?" a tiny voice shouted.

Chapter Eight                                                 Table of Contents                                                   Chapter Ten
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