“But when is he not angry? Don't worry about him, you have done your part. I am well, I am safe, he can... what's the phrase Cael uses... sit and spin?"
Unlike so many of her kin, Vaeluthil was not a cruel creature. For all of the trauma and strife through which she had been dragged, it had only made her softer, kinder. Better at surviving, sure, but she had always been determined to never let it make her mean. In her loss of Seaside two months prior, she had let the acid drip from her tongue, had wished a curse upon the stone manor and the new fae baron’s reign. It was out of character, sure, at least if she were to talk about it now. But it was a testament of the fact that sometimes nature outweighs nurture. The thickness of the blood in her veins said she had every right to be mean and cruel and petty and angry.
I refuse to be like him.
“What right does he have to get indignant about the state of things here? He who never sought me out, he who simply let his Knight do his bidding and called it sufficient. Tsk.” Quietly hissed words beneath her breath were meant for her ears alone. Cael, for his concern, had been sent away from the tower they had been calling home ever since Penny had gifted it to Vaeluthil in the wake of her loss of Seaside. It meant Vael was terribly alone with her thoughts, but not for long.
Before her sat a scrying pool, or really it was more of a scrying pan, but sometimes you have to make do. The broad pot was filled to the brim with silvery elysian water, giving it a mirror like surface. Delicate hands grasped the edge of the pan, her head bowed over the bright waters.
“Show me my father.” She demanded.
No pomp, no flare, the water simply shifted and changed until the edges darkened and within their depths she could see a hulking figure pacing. His mouth was moving but whatever he was saying couldn’t be heard. How long had it been since she looked upon him? Though Vaeluthil could remember the evening as clear as day, she could not recall just how long it had been. Years, she supposed. At the very minimum. Longer, perhaps. It was before the betrayal of her sisters had sent her far, far from the wyldlands and the summerlands alike. Her breath caught in her throat, stuck on a lump that had formed without her realizing.
She had forgotten just how tall and imposing he was. More than twice her height, he was athletically lean even clad in heavy black armor as he was. His horned helm was set upon his throne, leaving his face bare. Shrouded in shadow, she could see but his profile, roguish and scarred by time. His hair was longer than she remembered, shaggy and to his shoulders, light brown with light waves like her own hair when it hadn’t been spun tightly with rag curlers.
“Father.” She said softly. His pacing stopped abruptly and he looked around for the source of her voice. He turned toward the direction her voice had come from and there he found a flutter of a moth, far from the torchlight of the room.
“It is I if you look hard enough.” She encouraged, patiently watching the man as he sent for a scrying portal of his own, contained within an ornate hand mirror. The moth went to settle upon the mirror’s top edge, wings twitching as the image came into view. In reflection of the scrying waters on her own side, Vaeluthil’s face peered out at her father, bright eyed but solemn. The Erlking’s fingers stroked down the mirror’s face then drew away. “I told you.”
“My girl, it’s been… so very long.” He said softly. “Is it really you?”
“Tis.” She nodded. From beneath the neckline of her pale pink dress, she fished free a silver chain from which dangled a jeweled skeleton key. It was her one true possession, the only thing she had left to tie her to Faerie. Her father’s reflection slumped into his throne beside his helm, its antlers prodding against the unforgiving surface of his armor. “I was nae sure if you’d receive me.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” He asked, surprise etched upon his asymmetrical features.
“Because you’ve nae sought me out before…” Her words held a vague note of accusation to them and the surprise on his face turned to confusion tinged with guilt.
“But I…” He began. She was quick to cut him off.
“Sent thine Knight to do thine bidding? Is she a Knight or a nanny?” Already she knew she was toeing the line with her words, but if Penny’s word held true, even he couldn’t find her if he wasn’t first shown to the tower. It was part of why she had sent away Cael, just in case that wasn’t true and she ended up bringing her father’s fury down upon them both.
“Mind your tongue, child. Daughter or not, I am still your father.” He said, snapping back at her. The flinch in her expression was muted but enough for him to pick up and instantly he donned a look of regret. Their reunion wasn’t supposed to be like this. He watched as she glanced away, swallowing hard to compose herself. She was just the way he remembered her, youthful, beautiful, though the blue of her right eye, he didn’t recall. She sighed and looked back to him.
“This was nae what I had hoped for today… though I suppose I dinnae know what to expect either.” She admitted, pressing her lips together as if it might stave off the frown. To her mother, she had been an accessory, a trophy, a way to show that at one time, the Erlking had favored the Lady of Oleanders, Caitriona of House Whitevale. To her siblings, she had been a nuisance, a threat to their stations. But to her father, in the sparing times she had been able to see him, she was everything. Idly she fingered the key dangling from the chain around her neck.
The Key of the Wyld.
With this, you will always have a home here.
She had been but a child when he had entrusted her with it but to this day, she had kept it safe, secret, secure. And thus far it had done her absolutely no good.
“I’m told they are calling you the Lady of Larkspur now.” He remarked softly, pulling her from her pensive reverie. She blinked back to the rippling water in the cooking pot before her. Her cheeks flushed rosy, one shoulder lifting in a demure shrug. His following chuckle was like thunder rolling in the distance. “That’s my girl.”
“I told them I wanted to be left alone… they didn’t leave me alone… it seemed simple.” She gave him a shy little smile. There was pride in the way he looked at her and in the moment, her heart was full. His smile eventually settled though, the conversation shifting once more.
“Alas, I’m sorry my Knight was nae there to stop them.” He said, rumbling a low sound in the back of his throat. Vael frowned at her father’s reflection and shook her head, a tendril of red slipping free from the shell of her pointed ear to fall into her face. She caught it and pushed it back with a sigh.
“Father Mine, that is the crux of the problem here. It is nae her fight to fight. I’ve my own Knight now, a valiant, kind being who serves out of loyalty I’ve earned rather than coerced.” There was a subtle but pointed dig in her words, imploring him to see what she was trying to show him. His shaggy brows knitted, his gold-green eyes cast toward a dark mark on the floor of his hall.
“They took your home, little bird.” He protested as if that gave him some backing for the way he had treated his knight. Even Vaeluthil didn’t know the full extent of it and honestly, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
“Home is not stone or wood, that is but a house. Home? My home right now is with mine Knight in the abode your Knight gave up to me of her own volition. Her own giving in a bid to protect me and, I’m sure, to please you. Are you not pleased?” Wide doe eyes batted auburn lashes. Daughter to father, princess to king.
“Twice now she has failed in her…” He started again only for Vaeluthil’s soft sigh to still his words.
“Tis but sport, not meant for true warriors. For showmen, for thespians, for those with a flare for the dramatic. The wards, the rules, they are not battle. You know as well as I do that our kind, our people, our Knights, are not made to be held back in such a way. And for all of that, all that held her back, she could have killed that human girl. Would have had it not been for the protections they place on the rings in which they fight. For three summers and three winters I fought in those rings, gave my blood and my sweat and even my tears but for what… a domain that wasn’t mine to keep. Let it pass, Father. Let us move on from this.” Vaeluthil’s impassioned plea held the Erlking’s rapt attention but when all was said and done, he gave her a sad shake of his great head.
“It isn’t that simple. This goes beyond showmanship and sport. It is personal now. She will not stop until what was yours is yours once more, of that I have demanded and of that I will get.” The lift of his head was a proud one and down his crooked nose, he looked at his daughter’s reflection. The anger was so palpable she could practically feel it radiate through the scrying water’s connection to him. It was infectious, twisting her mouth into a frown that matched his.
“It is that simple. Your dominion over her does not extend to these lands and as such, I am calling off this feud. Should you wish to contest this, you are welcome to come here yourself and we can speak of it in person. Until then, no more of this. No more blood, not for me. Not Penny’s blood, not anyone else’s blood. Not in my name. You have my unfading love, Father, but on this I must remain steadfast. No more.”
He looked as if he may argue but the look on her face silenced him, a rarity for a creature of his age and station. After a long moment of incredibly uncomfortable eye contact (no issue considering long ago she had Seen his soul and he hers), he nodded. “I will think it over.”
Vael laughed, a humorless thing. “There is nothing to think over. My terms are clear. I will leave you to your brooding, dear Father Mine. Until we meet again may you hunt true. Farewell, Da.”
The last image the mirror projected was the reach of the little sidhe’s hand as she sought to drag her fingers through the elysian waters, severing the connection and leaving him in silence once more.
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