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Author’s note

Part Nine concludes the portion of the series set in Spring. It is not necessary for you to have read the first six parts of the story, but this may be hard to follow if you haven’t read Parts Seven and Eight. Part Ten will take us to Winter, and pull all the previous threads together.

This is primarily an incest story, but it is also sci-fi/fantasy, and supernatural elements are not incidental to the plot. Additionally, many chapters will feature elements of other categories, particularly group sex.

All sexual acts are consensual and involve parties who are at least eighteen years of age.

As ever, if you have questions feel free to email me or leave a comment. I’ll try to respond promptly.

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“Think you burned something while we were gone,” Cahill told his mother, wrinkling his nose up at the stench. “You smell that?”

She gave him a playful smack. “Maybe if you hadn’t kept coming back for more.”

“No, seriously,” he said. “Something’s burning.” Then, with a more lascivious tone, he added, “Besides, you should know by now that you can’t count on me to know when enough’s enough.” He gave his mother’s perfect ass a good squeeze through her soft dress. “If the whole house was burning down around us, I might not stop.”

She batted his hand away, but there was a grin on her face. And her Libido gave a nice little pulse. But then her back stiffened and her Libido went still. Sniffing the air, she said, “I think something is burning.”

“Told you!”

She waved him silent. They both looked all around the kitchen. With all the pots, pans, food, and cooking implements floating about, it was hard to tell what was going on.

Caronwyn snapped her fingers and everything found a temporary home.

Nothing was on any heat yet besides the pasta and a pan full of diced onions. While the water had come to a pretty vigorous boil, that obviously wasn’t the issue. And the onions weren’t even clear yet, let alone burned.

“It’s not coming from the kitchen,” his mother said.

Any number of superheroes would have been shamed by how fast Caronwyn moved at that point. The words had hardly left her mouth when she reached the stairs. He followed after her, but he hadn’t been as quick out the gate.

The anguished scream his mother let out would haunt his dreams for years to come.

#

So many things happened so fast after that.

Cahill almost didn’t believe any of it was real. He started flashing back to the days when he visited a world very much like Faerie in his dreams each night, believing that world to be both more real than anything he experienced during the day yet also no more than a figment of his imagination. The days when he walked the Dreaming during the day and pondered the difference between “real” and “true” at night. When he took everything and nothing for granted, questioned his own sanity, and couldn’t have felt more alone.

And the hits kept coming.

Losing Gallech felt a little something like a sudden rain after having his guts ripped out and draped in a bloody pile atop him. His brother’s death probably deserved more of a reaction from him than it got, as did Reilly’s betrayal and presumptive return to Faerie, but he just couldn’t. Not while he was still trying to process what had happened to Fi. And the new life she’d carried within her.

He’d just stood there, propping his mother up, lending her what strength he had to give, while she healed Brittany. While she tried, and failed, to do the same for his other sister. He’d watched with unfocused eyes as Seamus restrained Finnegan, who’d seemed intent on beating his own son within an inch of his life. As Brittany rose unsteadily to her feet, laid an instantly calming hand on her cousin’s chest, and told him that it wasn’t their boy’s fault.

Then he’d blinked, and hours had passed.

Oberon and Tynan returned from their lesson. The moment the prince learned of the fire, his eyes went white. His mother would later tell him that he was seeking Aeife out. Reaching across the city to touch her Libido. Or maybe she told him that while it was happening. He wasn’t even sure. All he remembered now was the way his uncle looked when his gray irises and black pupils melted away, leaving solid white orbs. And the way the entire world had shook, air and ground alike, when he returned with a badly wounded Aeife in his arms.

“I don’t know I’d have gotten through these past few hours without you,” his mother said at one point. “You’ve been so strong. I don’t know how you do it.”

The thing was, he didn’t either.

Some part of him understood why she’d said that. Recognized that he hadn’t gone catatonic at all, however much it felt like his brain had completely checked out. That he’d been flying on autopilot. But still another part of him had no idea how he’d managed to keep from shutting down. mersin escort And scarcely even remembered that he hadn’t.

If anyone should be commended for the way they’d reacted, it was Seamus. How his brother could have cautioned restraint, resisted the temptation to lash out at a convenient and relatively defenseless scapegoat, he didn’t know. But Fiona would be proud that he hadn’t. She hadn’t saved the boy’s life just to have his father or his uncle snuff it out.

They had only one person to blame for all of it. For the head parted from Gallech’s shoulders, the smouldering heap that had once been Fiona, and the child who’d now never be born. Adn that was Titania Dreamsmyth, Queen of Faerie and Lady of the Shadows.

No one knew how she’d gotten to Padraig during the day or why Gallech had died protecting Aeife instead of joining Reilly in submitting to her will. For all they knew, the queen still had other cards to play. Other sleeper cells to activate.

But one thing was for sure. They weren’t going to sit around and wait for her next move.

Aeife and Caronwyn would inspect the children’s minds, searching for any sign of glamour they could undo. It was all too likely that she’d corrupted them in more mundane ways. That her influence would linger for years, having touched a deep part of their delicate young psyches. But they had to try.

Meanwhile, Cahill and Oberon would pay the queen a visit. And Seamus. They tried to talk him out of it, but he was adamant about accompanying them. Were Fi there, she’d have been able to talk sense to him. Make him see that he wasn’t as strong as his brother or their uncle. Was more likely than them to die in that grove, or take Gallech’s place as her knight and champion. But she wasn’t. That was the whole point. And Cahill couldn’t deny his brother a chance to avenge her death.

#

For all that his mind had felt detached from reality up until that point, as though he’d been observing events from a distance, almost with disinterest, it reengaged fully as they prepared their assault. Cahill became hyperaware. The breeze blowing softly across the yard stirred the hair on his chest and arms. Teased his antlers. Their flowers in their garden were, as ever, in full bloom. The smell of ash and death was gone, their house repaired as their hearts never would be. And he was all too keenly aware of it all.

He felt strangely calm. Not apprehensive, as he should have been. Nor vengeful and bloodthirsty, as would have been equally appropriate. Not even sickened by the senselessness of their suffering, or disgusted by the natural beauty that so wrongly surrounded him while he stood waiting for the others. He was a still pond. A resilient oak.

But perhaps that wasn’t surprising at all. He might be ready to live in his body again. To inhabit the world, and to interact with it. To do his best to visit some serious consequences upon Titania. But he wasn’t yet prepared to face his emotions.

“She’s likely to have an honor guard with her,” Oberon said, appearing out of nowhere. “Reilly, for one. Your half-brother, Duncan. Probably even your father.”

It sounded strange, hearing Duncan referred to as his brother. For some reason, he’d never thought of him that way, though it was technically true even if fey custom put more emphasis on the mother’s lineage than the father’s. Teagan, he had no trouble seeing as a sister. But her cold, often mean-spirited brother? No. That one was Dreamsmyth through and through, he was sure, and in all the wrong ways. But he understood what Oberon was trying to do. And his uncle wasn’t wrong to do so.

“Can you bring yourself to do what must be done?” he might as well have asked. “To shed familial blood on a day where such has flown all too freely already?”

Cahill could and would.

He nodded.

The former prince eyed him up and down, gray eyes unblinking. Clearing his throat, he asked, “You plan to face them in the form of a virility god?”

Only then did Cahill take note of Oberon’s attire.

The man once known as the Sword of Dusk and the Lord of Valor wore a suit of armor, all silver and white enamel. It looked at once ethereal, beautiful, and yet intimidating and impenetrable. The silver glittered in the afternoon sun, while the white parts made it just barely possible to look at him without going blind. The massive pauldrons, gauntlets, and greaves seemed to accentuate his uncommon proportions, as did the way his chest plate tapered down to his narrow waist. Encumbered by armor that would have weighted sixty or seventy pounds if made of conventional material he might be, but Cahill reckoned that anyone who doubted that Oberon could still move fast as lightning would soon regret it.

In one hand, he held a great helm with huge white wings sweeping back from the corners of the eye slits. In the other, he clutched a silver scabbard containing kocaeli escort a sword nearly as long as he was tall. The curved blade couldn’t have been any wider than two of Oberon’s slim fingers. Yet Cahill wouldn’t have been surprised to see him slice through diamonds with it.

For a moment, he almost felt bad for whomever Titania might have talked into protecting her. But only for a moment. Then his fleeting sense of sympathy turned to excitement. He refused to consider the possibility that they’d been compelled to act on her behalf. That they were not truly culpable for her deeds. When Oberon cut the queen’s possibly reluctant champions to ribbons, as he no doubt would, Cahill would smile.

Had he gone his whole life without ever seeing this side of the former prince, that would have been just fine by him. Artistic representations, with their curious mix of truth and inaccuracy, would have more than sufficed. He had no need to know that Oberon favored a slender blade rather than the obnoxiously thick one featured in all their chess sets, nor that midnight blue was no more his color than was red or gold. Beauty and grace emanated from him in equal measure, but so too did the quiet potential for extreme lethality. Simply standing so close to him made Cahill a little uneasy.

Under the circumstances, though, he could think of no one else he’d rather have at his side. His uncle might unnerve him a bit, but he’d do far worse to their enemies.

“Good point,” Cahill said at last.

He patterned his armor after Oberon’s, but in honor of Fiona he went with green on green instead of white on silver. He also kept the accoutrements more modest. No oversized pauldrons for him. He kept everything functional, save for the rack of sometimes-solid-sometimes-spectral antlers on his helm. Because he wouldn’t feel like himself without those.

In his hands, he held a spear twice as long as he was tall. The leaf-shaped tip alone was nearly a foot in length. A battle axe hung from his belt.

“That’s more like it,” his uncle said with an approving nod.

It didn’t feel quite right to Cahill, who’d never fancied himself a knight. In all the dreams where he’d played the hero, rescuing his aunt or mother or sister from some false danger, he’d not once worn a full suit of armor. Often as not, he’d appeared as a centaur, but even when he’d been a man from head to toe, his body hadn’t been sheathed in so much metal. Still, there was a certain symbolism to it. If not because of the righteousness of their quest, then because the queen’s champions would be outfitted thusly.

A soft pop announced the arrival of Seamus.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” his brother said, looking Cahill over.

He too had chosen to honor Fiona by wearing her favorite color. His armor wasn’t identical to Cahill’s. It was sleeker, with lighter plate atop the chain mail, and sharper. His articulated poleyns and cowters had pronounced spikes, shaped a bit like thorns, as did his right pauldron. And they carried different weapons. As ever, Seamus favored a spiked morning star and a kite shield. But the two brothers still looked overly similar. Particularly since they’d chosen the exact same shades of green. A base of dark green, reminiscent of their late sister’s eyes, or the deep forest of Faerie, with a brighter hue for the highlights.

“You should wear blue,” Seamus said. “It’ll match your eyes.”

“Fuck you,” Cahill said. “You weren’t the only one who loved her.”

That was ill-considered. Now was not the time to remind his brother that Fiona had never felt quite the same way about him as he always had her.

But Cahill was in no mood to be told what would match his eyes.

“No,” Seamus said, “just the one who-“

“Do either of you think she’d be pleased, hearing you argue over who gets to wear her color?” Oberon asked. “Or do you think maybe that energy could be put to better use?”

They fell silent, glowering at each other out of the corners of their eyes.

“He’s right,” Cahill mumbled.

“Probably.”

“Now,” said the wise old man who was still young and beautiful, his deep voice rumbling. His delicate features were like stone. The wind played with his silvery white hair, but everything else about him was unmoving. “Are we ready?”

“As we’ll ever be,” Seamus said.

They donned their helms almost as one. And then they were off. Oberon didn’t gesture for them to join hands or anything. Didn’t need to. Seemingly without effort, he pulled the three of them out of Savannah, past the rest of the Dreaming, and into the heart of Faerie. The next thing Cahill knew, they stood outside Titania’s grove, just as he and his mother had when he’d rescued his grandmother from an eternity of torment.

A low stone wall he’d have been perfectly content to never again lay eyes upon separated them from a grassy field filled with oak, ash, and samsun escort thorn. His eyes found the flowerbed beside the giant oak and the rage he’d thus far suppressed momentarily slipped its bonds. How could he have believed Liadan when she’d said that her mother realized her grudge had lost her Oberon? That she no longer desired any conflict with Clan Walker?

A small voice in the back of his mind whispered that maybe Fiona would still live if Oberon had forgiven his mother. If he’d returned to her while making it clear that she’d lose him again if she went back to her old ways. But that put the onus of repairing the irreparable on a good man. The only one who had to answer for Titania’s crimes was Titania.

And any who made the mistake of standing for her.

As five poor souls now did.

The only one he recognized for sure was Reilly. As expected, his cousin wore that wicked black armor with its blood-red trim. In his gauntleted hands, he held the vicious double-bladed axe that had reportedly severed Gallech’s neck.

He couldn’t be certain the one with the great bow in his hand and twin kukris on his back was Duncan. But that seemed likely. His cousin was a skilled archer, and whoever it was under that purple armor had the right height and build.

The one with every color of the rainbow worked into his armor might have been his father. Somehow, it seemed like Arawn to think he could impress Titania by mimicking her ostentation. His hubris was not without limit, though, for the various hues stayed put. No matter how long Cahill looked at the prismatic knight, his helmet was red, his left pauldron orange, and his right one yellow. Were he truly mirroring his queen, the colors would shift about constantly, bedazzling and distracting onlookers. That was true of the two swords he held, one short and one long. But not his armor or helm.

The short one could only be Kearney. And if the pink highlights on his brown armor were anything but a tribute to Teagan, Cahill was a monkey’s uncle. He hoped the man kept those throwing axes in his hands. It would be a shame to have to cut him down.

The fifth, whose armor was orange, might have been anyone. Perhaps a member of some lesser Clan, hoping to curry favor with the Queen of Faerie. Or compelled into her service against his will. Or maybe he was the last Dreamsmyth brother, Uillym, about whom Cahill had heard so little. So long as he didn’t swing that great war hammer the wrong way, Cahill would be content to spare him. But he’d not hesitate to spill the man’s blood, whomever he might be, if he got in the way.

“Expecting us?” Seamus asked.

“Go back to your little city-world,” his father said. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Funny,” Cahill said, “I was about to make you the same offer. But it occurs to me that I don’t have to ask.” Beneath his helm, he smiled, forgetting that no one would see him do so. “You still owe me a major boon, after all. I’m invoking it now. Step aside.”

He did so. Not happily, Cahill imagined, but he did. The tip of his long sword kissed the grass as he stepped back against the stone wall. And there he remained, still as a statue.

“The rest of you would be wise to do the same,” Oberon said.

“I’d love to,” Kearney said, voice filled with regret. “I really would. But I’m much more afraid of our mother than I am of you.”

Oberon nodded.

And that settled it, really. Some of their antagonists might wish they were free to let them pass, others might wish they could join the imminent melee, but regardless, there was only one way for this to end. And, ultimately, it wouldn’t matter who was forced to fight and who chose to do so. The only path to Titania lay through the three of them.

It ended nearly as quickly as it began.

Reilly split his cousin’s shield in two, spun around, and sank the other blade of his axe in the man’s skull. All before Seamus could get finish swinging his morning star.

Cahill screamed and changed course abruptly. The war hammer that had been headed straight for him sliced harmlessly through the air. The orange knight stumbled, carried forth by his own inertia, and nearly fell flat on his face. Meanwhile, Cahill impaled his cousin on his long spear. The far end burst out the back of Reilly’s black armor.

Just in case that didn’t seal the deal, he released the grip, grabbed his axe, and quickly made a bloody mess of his cousin’s face. Blood sprayed up at him as the axe rose and fell, but he paid it no mind. Beneath him, black limbs twitched aimlessly a few times, but he kept right on swinging after his cousin’s death throes ended.

He should have been concerned about the possibility of a hammer crushing his skull or cracking his spine. But he wasn’t. All he had room for in his mind was the overwhelming need to make Reilly pay for everything. For what had happened to Oona and Gallech, what had nearly happened to Aeife and Brittany, and, most of all, for Fiona.

“It’s done,” Oberon said, planting a hand on his shoulder.

Cahill nearly took the prince’s head off.

Or, rather, nearly took an ineffectual swing at the man. The odds that he’d have connected were probably slimmer than that of lightning striking the same exact place five times.

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