The enchanted gold dust spiraled in a vortex as if a miniature tornado spun within the vial. The glass container itself was not much longer or wider than Lugh’s index finger. Magic twinkled off the dust, as though chips of stars mixed with the gold.
Lugh glanced up from the vial to the row of terraced houses. They had the architectural appeal of bay windows and artistic brickwork. Even still, this neighborhood in Bristol appeared unremarkable compared to most other modern, middle class neighborhoods in England. If not for the reaction of the gold dust in the vial, Lugh would not have guessed that one of the artifacts might have found its way to such an unassuming place. Somewhere in the heart of this mundane humanity, seemingly devoid of even the faintest spark of magic, lay a fragment of the ancient realm of fey.
Even this bit of magic in his hand, this vial of enchantment, seemed ridiculously insignificant in the hands of a Sidhe. And yet held within its simple magicraft it harbored the fragile hope that might save what little survived of the fey. The notion was laughable. The likelihood of success so slim as to be the width of a fairy’s eyelash from total impossibility. Fool’s errand this might be, what else had he? Accept defeat and surrender to the Fade with noble stoicism?
For most of the morning, Lugh watched the house from his perch on the top of a stone garden wall just across the narrow lane. Secure in the belief that his Glamour rendered him invisible to the eyes of mortals, Lugh debated his options. Direct assault? Not his usual strategy, but not beneath him, either. The double-paned, wood-framed windows likely would shatter beneath a precise kick. Then there was the consideration of someone summoning the constables and that was always a needless hassle.
Without having seen inside the building, Lugh could not merely teleport into the house. How ignoble of him to contemplate peeping through the window like a tomcat. Still, if it brought him the prize he sought, then nicety must give way to necessity.
As Lugh debated his options, a young blonde woman emerged from the house. Her loose hair fell in unkempt locks down her back and shoulders. The patchwork peasant skirt flattered her lovely, long legs. The skirt had a gypsy look to it, as did the odd choices of tops. The long, pale blue sleeves flared around delicate forearms, and a dark, tight-fitting top covered it, so the elbow-length sleeves contoured to her thin arms and the feminine curves of her chest.
A seductive grin tugged at his lips. Now charming beautiful women was one of his specialties.
The woman scanned the street with a cursory glance. Lugh remained perfectly still. As her gaze flicked by him he thought, for almost a fraction of a second, she made eye contact.
No mundane human possessed the magic to detect him. And yet her eyes met his. Of this he felt certain.
She flipped her hair back over her shoulder and strolled at a good pace away from him. Lugh dropped down off the garden wall to trail her, his Glamour still tight to him. Her skirt swished in the most fascinating way as it brushed against the maiden’s lovely bum. With casual curiosity, Lugh studied the movement of the cloth as he strolled along behind her, learning the shape of her with each whispered hint of the fabric, a rounded handful that promised a soft surrender.
With each step her skirt swished, giving an impression of the way her hips flared from her narrow waist. The dressmakers of the Seelie Court would encase a figure like hers in lengths of satin that glinted in the light as it drew the eye reverently over every feminine secret. The ladies of the court rarely bothered with a corset, as Sidhe beauty required no augmentation. This woman was no Sidhe, but truly compared to many of the other fair races of fey.
Thinking of the ladies of the court brought back the visions so familiar to him that he could recall every detail perfectly. Rhiannon’s dark grace. Leannan’s shy poise. Kaitlin’s perchance for mischief. Melancholy threatened, as memories stirred of Sidhe lovers who surely perished in the collapse of the Mounds. Depression would only serve to quicken the Fade. Only after he accomplished his mission to restore the power of the fey would he indulge in bittersweet mourning.
Returning to the lovely distraction before him, Lugh firmly silenced that part of his mind for now. Rather, he surrendered to the legionary appreciation of beauty that had his friends teasingly suggesting that his nickname should be changed from The Shining One to The Cad.
He trailed her a mere few blocks before the road ended, spilling into a more populated boulevard lined with shops, cafes, and autos. The Glamour cloaked Lugh in invisibility but did not render him incorporeal. With the grace of the fey as brilliant to witness in dance as in battle, Lugh wove between the passersby without brushing against them. His height, well over six feet, enabled him to keep sight of his quarry.
The woman slowed as she approached the display carts of a flower vender that impinged upon the walkway. Lugh’s strides shortened as he watched her maneuver around the wooden pushcart. A brightly colored canvas created a shading roof suspended above the cart by planks rising from either side of the platform. The effect was of that of a window. The woman turned to examine the flowers, so she faced Lugh. The cart’s design created a frame around her, a suspended bed of flowers between them. As Lugh crossed to stand on the other side of the cart, the woman paused.
Slowly, her eyes lifted from the flowers. Even though the Glamour should have shielded him completely invisible to her, the woman’s gaze lifted. To his chest. Then higher. Until at last her winter blue eyes found his.
There was no mistaking the impact of her intake of breath. “You see me,” Lugh’s resonant voice murmured, so no other than the woman could hear him.