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Lady Of The Mist
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ISBN-10: 1-894841-25-5
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 386 Pages
Published: January 2015



From inside the flap

Escaping Faery was only the beginning... The Gentry. The Fair Folk. The Fey. By whatever names we call them, they take people, or bargain with them. For whatever reason they go in most never come home again. And those that do often find that home isn’t home anymore, for the strands of time flow differently between the worlds. Whether escaped or released or rescued, those that leave Faery are forever changed by it. A young Irish governess signs on for more than she expected, serving well and happily teaching three royal Fey children who never seem to grow up. Life is pleasant, if occasionally unpredictable. Until one afternoon in the woods changes all that forever and she makes the ultimate sacrifice for the lives of her charges. In the end it is her eyes and not her life she trades for their safety, but either way, her time in the Summerlands is over. The real world that she knew is a hundred years or more in the past, and a frightening place to one who can no longer see. A young Scottish Rugby player, born of an ancient line, is taken for a fey soldier, serving faithfully until war with the Unseelie Northerner brings an end to his service. The King has charged him with the safe transport of the newly blinded governess from the land of the Gryphon King to the worlds of men. It is a charge he takes seriously; but once there, her temper and a pair of striking green eyes make the task more difficult than it should be. Reentering the world at the Griffon’s Rest, they find a community of their own kind, other humans out of Faery struggling to make their way in a world they no longer quite fit. But the Unseelie still lurk, if no where else but in the hearts of their faithful and life at the Rest is not always quite... restful.

Lady Of The Mist (Excerpt)


1

The woman they called the 'lady of the mist' leaned on the parapet rail, drinking in the early morning air. She smiled softly as she watched the fey sun rise, wildly colouring the sky and beginning to burn off the morning fog. The two guards on the wall with her stood at opposite ends of the walk between two small towers and politely ignored her, keeping their watch in silence.

She was not what anyone would call 'beautiful'. She had an unremarkable Irish face. Her complexion alone was enviable, fair but with a light gilding from the sun. Her eyes were a faded silvery green, nothing at all striking about them. Her hair flowed down her back in waves of mousy brown and stopped just short of the bottom of her ribs, teased just now by the fresh dawn wind. Compared to the willowy elven women she dealt with daily she was short and thick, though, in truth, she was neither. Back home she was considered tall for a girl, but not rangy. Her attire was like everything else about her: modest, only hinting at the figure beneath the front laced bodice.

Her clothes were good elven plain cloth cut in old Celtic style. A full length, peasant skirt that just brushed the lower laces of her short boots in a rich evergreen that matched the bodice. Her white blouse was the finest thing on her, cobweb linen and embroidered at its high throat and wrists with some fey flowering vine hiding tiny owls and dragonflies picked out in white threads. The little princess had embroidered it for her with her own hands and it was precious to her.

The sky slowly eased out of its gaudy splendour and the sun began to dimple the forest floor through gem-like dewdrops. She cast her eye past the great oak and over the jewelled forest and decided that today was an excellent one for wood-lore. Reaching up, she gathered her hair and wound it into a bun at the nape of her neck, securing it with a twisted pin she pulled from a pocket. Satisfied, she turned and left the wall for the tower door, her boot heels clicking softly in her wake.

The two guards watched her go without turning. The senior of them smiled, taking a deep breath. The newer of the two actually turned his head to catch the last swirl of dark green skirt and black boot heel as the door closed behind her. "Bit of a starling, that one." He did not mean it as a compliment. "I think that's the least severe I've ever seen the Governess."

The older man's smile only half faded. "Aye, the only time you'll catch her with her hair down, in any sense. But I'd not write her off just because she can't hold a candle to fey women."

"Oh, she's country pretty, I guess," he interjected.

The other man brushed off his compatriot's rudeness. "Never be fooled by a pretty face, lad, nor a plain one either. Deep as a well, that one. Sure, you kin fall in and maybe drown," he shrugged, then his eye took on hungry glint, "but you'll ne'er die o' thirst, if ye ken."

Apparently the younger man did not 'ken', and shrugged, turning back to watching the sky and the wood before him.


***

She was every inch a governess as she entered the children's rooms. The suite began with a large, comfortable room that served as play room, sitting room, and schoolroom all in one. From this room radiated three smaller ones belonging, respectively, to: the Lion Prince- the eldest, and eleven by all appearances; the Eagle Princess- an introspective eight; and finally the youngest prince- a small, thoughtful boy of five. At her entrance, the three attendants straightening the room snapped to attention and ran into their respective charges' apartments to wake and dress them for the day.

She moved to arrange things on her desk and gather the materials she would need in the woods today for a lesson decent enough to justify the picnic she had requested in the kitchens. As a mortal girl serving governess to fey children, she had her hands full often. Human children can be playful and unconsciously cruel at times. But Fey children can be puckish; pulling pranks that are dangerous to any but themselves and twenty times more difficult to control. They had magics at their command she could not begin to fathom or reign in, but while she could not teach them how to use them, she taught them how to apply them responsibly. Over the first few decades, she had developed methods of disciplining them with disapproval, as she could not very well lay a hand on them. They were more than just fey, they were royal fey, gentry, and rare as water in the desert. And she loved them.

Though she had been just sixteen when she had accepted the position a century and a half ago, she looked barely over eighteen. The children... had not aged a day in all that time, in either appearance or manner. They learned, though, like all children. They soaked up all she could teach them like the sponges that children are and asked for more. She had exhausted her own skills and knowledge after the first decade and had been forced to continually educate herself to keep apace.

The keeper of the library had given her a marvellous bracelet to celebrate her first quarter century when it became obvious she was going to stay for the long haul. It allowed her to absorb in all the information she could on any given subject until she no longer needed it to teach them, and let it slip away again to make room for other things. It seemed that human minds can only hold so much, while fey ones are infinite wells so long as they are young. She found that the adult gentry seemed to lack the ability to take in new information if it was too complex. That, or remembering too much was hard. Oh, they could remember everything that happened to them personally, and sometimes gossip of people they knew, (especially where it affected themselves,) but remembering words of a new language that did not fascinate them, or, say: the pertinent facts of the process of experimentation... these things slipped from their minds like sand through an hourglass.

It was not long at all before the children began to filter in from their rooms. The youngest was first, trotting in with his fingers in his mouth and an arm around a huge, armoured teddy bear. He grinned broadly at the sight of her and ran over, pulling his fingers out of his mouth long enough to cry "Nan!" and throw his arms around her skirts. She bent to return the hug and laughed when Teddy winked at her and shrugged an apology when he was crushed against her as well. She gave his ear a tweak to straighten it and caressed him fondly before standing at the Princess's entrance.

The princess was far more formal than her brother. She curtsied when she saw that the governess had noticed her and chirruped a polite, "Morning, miss."

She noticed that, although she had not told the servants her plans for the day, they had nonetheless prepared them appropriately. The princess was in a heavier cloth than her usual embroidered silks, much the stuff her elders wore hunting, though still finer of cloth and cut than that of kings in the world of men. It was cut suitably for a day in the wood: a shorter skirt that was not over-full and stopped mid-shin, a pair of ruffled pantaloons beneath for modesty and soft leather boots with no heels. Even her heel-length fall of golden hair had been drawn back from her face. The intricate braids had been gathered and pinned up with flowers and one or two live butterflies so that they seemed to form a crown above her very sharply perceiving, steely eyes. It brought the length of it up to the middle of her back, which was practical.

Not far behind her was the eldest. His features were strikingly handsome and his hair fell about his face and shoulder like a rippling mane of red-gold no matter what was attempted to tame it. His eyes were a jewelled blue and his mischievous smile could charm frightened birds to his hands and maidens into swoons. He was outright dressed for hunting. He smiled at her as he reached out to slide a stray braid from his sister's shoulder. "Teacher," he purred.

Names were things of power here, and long ago she had accepted the loss of her own. She was merely what she was, even as the children were what they were. They were called by their titles, even as the King was called by his.

They watched her, waiting. They seemed to suspect something out of the ordinary was in the offing. She smiled, taking down a large book on wood-lore. "I thought that today would be a good one for a picnic..."

She braced herself just in time as the youngest threw himself at her legs again, then began dancing with his Teddy. She smiled indulgently. "Teddy can't come, darling.." The boy stopped, frowning. "Teddy will get dirty, for one, and he has been up all night watching you. He needs his rest."

The prince looked at his bear, only a little shorter than he. Teddy nodded solemnly and made a big deal of yawning. The prince sighed and hugged him. "Night-night, sleep tight," he said.

Teddy saluted the governess and marched back to the bedroom. The moment the door closed on him, the prince regained his excitement about the trip. "Where we going?"

She smiled. "A mile or so out. There's a nice glen near the river we haven't explored and there are plenty of berries and other things I need to teach you about."

The young Prince frowned. "I thought it was a picnic not a lesson."

The governess laughed. "No reason it can't be both. And if you ever go hunting and lose your party, then what I will teach you will help you survive until you find help or your way home. Besides, you should know every inch of your kingdom." She held the book out to the eldest, "Would you carry that for me, your highness?" He bowed and accepted the book, flashing her his winning smile.

The governess turned for the door, "Now, if we are ready, we just have to stop in at the kitchen for the basket and we can go."