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In Whom You Trust
(Prequel to the Champion of the Sidhe series)
by S.A. Archer
“Celebrating prematurely, aren’t you?” Lugh used his glass to indicate the party filling the grand ballroom of the Seelie Court. It was as spectacular an event as any other victory gala he’d ever partaken in, with the notable exception that this time victory had yet to be secured, and to Lugh’s mind, probably never would be.
“Have faith.” Manannan offered a handsome smile full of arrogance. The Seelie king cut a dashing figure in his brocade doublet of a color that matched his ocean blue eyes. To gaze upon him, one would have believed nothing could tarnish his confidence, not even the rather inconvenient truth.
“Faith? I know the Unseelie. They shall never submit, not to you or any other Seelie king. That is at the very heart of the Unseelie, to never surrender their wild ways.” Lugh scanned those in attendance. All Seelie, which rather proved his point. The brightly attired Sidhe danced the familiar waltzes in the center of the rotunda to the traditional songs. The conversation groupings milling around the fringes were in the usual pairings, so much so that Lugh could almost with certainty describe the topics of conversations without even guessing. He knew the ones discussing politics, or domestic trivialities, or the gossip about the latest romances. All of the trappings of civility and pleasantries that the Seelie did so enjoy, and would have sent an Unseelie’s skin crawling.
Manannan tilted his head back to finish his drink, and then said, “This time, they shall accept our invitation. Danu herself is presiding.”
That did capture Lugh’s attention. He searched the guileless, even expression on Manannan’s face. Perhaps a shade too controlled. Something lurked unsaid just beneath the surface. To be certain, the king owed him no explanation, but Lugh rather wished he would accept his council in the spirit with which he offered it. Though he did not wish to see Manannan fail, in this matter he saw no conceivable way he could succeed. Save one possibility which could never be. Although it should have gone without saying, Lugh reminded his king, “Danu would not compel the Unseelie to obey her. Not in a matter such as this.”
“Certainly not,” Manannan dismissed the notion, “But they are the weaker court. Their strength is waning. The time for division is declining. We shall soon embrace our wayward brethren in one united court.”
Though ruled by their king, the Seelie Court moved by Danu’s bidding. She crowned the king for whatever term she deemed appropriate. Lugh himself had held the crown twice, and served his court with the love and dedication that ruled his life. While each king governed in his own fashion, no other had drawn more controversy than Manannan, crowned only a mere century earlier. Almost immediately the prophetess of the Unseelie Court spoke against him. Aoife predicted a grave doom would befall all fey should the courts be united, and that Manannan would drive them toward that doom with a relentless passion. Before she’d spoken of it, Lugh would have never even suspected such a thing as uniting of the courts would be possible, but Manannan embraced the prophecy as a challenge, as a prediction not of doom, but of his success and the Unseelie fear of it. A legacy no other Sidhe could outshine. The unification of the Sidhe. One people. One court. And, of course, all ruled by one king.
Ambitious, even for the arrogant Seelie.
Lugh gave no credence to predictions, Aoife’s or anyone else’s. Too often circumstances changed, defeating the disasters before they even manifested. But there were many that saw conspiracy woven into every action and every utterance, unconsciously determined to fulfill the very prophecy they claimed to battle. This movement among the fey, this undercurrent of fear, alone should have been enough to defeat the summit’s goal to find peace between the courts. In truth that was probably the very reason Aoife spoke of it, a political maneuver rather than a true vision. How Manannan thought this time would be any different than any other, Lugh could not fathom. The Unseelie queen and her king declined to even attend the last several times Manannan invited them to discuss the issue.
The king raised his empty goblet in a comradely salute, “Don’t trouble yourself about this tonight Lugh. Let us freshen our drinks and find ladies in need of a dance.”
As Lugh casually surveyed the room, he noticed one of the wood elf waiters moving too quickly through the crowd. He did not offer the glasses on his tray to any of the guests. In fact, his gaze was fixed on his destination. His target.
Lugh’s heart nearly stopped, the wrongness struck him that bluntly. Though he had no doubts that the summit would once more fail, there were those who feared it enough to do even the unthinkable to defeat it. It would not be the first time an assassin struck in public.
Lugh departed from Manannan without taking his leave. He cut through the crowd. Closing the distance.
The elf headed for Kaitlin, a princess and Manannan’s sister-in-law. The princess saw the elf coming. Her chin lifted. Eyes lit up. She breathlessly froze in anticipation.
Lugh slowed mere strides before reaching the elf. Had Kaitlin seemed frightened, or even unsuspecting, he’d have quietly detained the elf and discovered his true intent, for serving drinks certainly was not it. The elf removed a folded napkin from his tray. As he moved passed Kaitlin he passed the napkin to the girl without slowing down.
Kaitlin accepted it and then cast an anxious glance about her. Lugh turned away before her eyes could fix upon him. He murmured a random compliment to one of the ladies and she rewarded him with a musical laugh. When he pivoted back toward the princess she no longer faced in his direction, but rather slipped through the crowd with hast. The silk of her dress flowed about her lithe, dancer’s figure. Her loose hair spilled down her back before curling into soft ringlets that bounced youthfully against her back, too eager to make her escape to depart without noticeable excitement.
Curiosity sharp, he trailed behind her. The barrier over the castle prevented Glamour as well as teleportation. Not that following the young princess required in inordinate amount of stealth. Once he saw her safely to her private chambers, he suspected he knew her intentions. And the potential dangers.
##The next part of the story can be found here:http://melissa-melsworld.blogspot.com/2012/02/story-hop-in-whom-you-trust.html And THANK YOU for joining us on this blog hop!##