Story Summary: Elwyn and Connell were lovers cursed by a jealous Fae in the year 1220. The Fae doomed them to be forever parted – she to remain in our world, he in the Realm of Fae – until she yielded to the Fae's desires. To force Elwyn's decision, The Fae's curse declared that Elwyn and Connell would only meet on the battlefield where he would not remember her until he lay dying in her arms. Now Elwyn lives in a cottage in the Pocono Mountains with her friend D'Arcy – a French vampire and his friend Honoria – a demi-god and exiled heir to a DreamWorld. As the American Revolution wages in the woods and towns about them, Elwyn and her friends will hear rumors of a plot forming around the German prisoners in Allentown regarding a certain General who is recuperating in Bethlehem. Something must be done to aid the cause for Freedom. And Elwyn will come face-to-face with her future.
Author's Notes: First of all, Elwyn, Connell, D'Arcy and Honoria and their stories belong to me and I have lived with them for the last twelve years – in other words – mine, mine, mine! Hands off! General Lafayette did recuperate at Moravian Hospital in Bethlehem in the fall of 1777 after the Battle of Brandywine. At the same time, there was an American POW camp for captured Germans in Allentown – the plaque marking the location still exists at the corner of Second and Liberty streets. The Germans in the camp were captured in Trenton in December of 1776 – sound familiar? The Germans stayed in the Lehigh Valley after the war since there was a huge German-speaking community already there. I am borrowing the characters from "The Young Rebels" – Jeremy, Isak, Henry, Elizabeth and Sargent Boggs and I promise to treat them with love and respect. Lafayette and other historical characters are real. The Germans and the young English lieutenant around whom the plot for this story revolves are all mine – as are any … er … strange goings-on.ECHOES IN THE HILLS PROLOUGE
PLACE: The Lake District of England
TIME: Spring 1220
Elwyn slipped the green woolen cloak about her shoulders, thin hands reaching up to fasten the heavy silver clasp at her throat. She cast a worried glance out her window to the Faerie lights dancing in the birch trees atop the enchanted mound, pausing for one moment, thinking about her actions. Yet the call of an evening spent in the arms of her betrothed, atop their own hill, listening to the sounds of Vespers drifting up to them from the monastery below was too much of a temptation. She turned, slippered feet moving silently across the stone floor of her sleeping chamber. Elwyn easily opened the heavy wooden door, slipping through it and closing it behind her. She moved down the stone stairs that encircled the main tower of her family's castle, pausing at the bottom, looking around for retainers and finding none. Elwyn quickly crossed the main entry, brazenly walking out the front door and into the lowering light of evening. She ran quietly across the courtyard and was on the path that lead past the enchanted birch trees and to the hill where Connell waited when a hand reached out, grabbing at her arm and pulling her from the path. Elwyn screamed and felt a hand go over her mouth.
"If you let out another shriek like that, I shall pull your hair and then drag you back to Father," a familiar voice breathed in her ear.
The hand over her mouth fell away and Elwyn angrily whirled on the man behind her. "How dare you frighten me in such a manner!" she screamed at her brother, stamping on his foot.
Tiercel looked down at the little foot that had stomped on his heavy leather boot before raising his head and grinning at his younger sister. "I shall dare as I please, my lady," he said. "You are yet a maiden and that means you are under the control of every male in this household."
"You know where I am going," Elwyn hissed at her brother.
Tiercel gently took his sister by the shoulders and turned her around. "And the Faerie lights dance brighter than normal this evening." He sighed. "Did you truly believe I would let you walk alone on such a night?" He was grateful his sister could not see the grim look on his face. "You were the one who tempted the Fae by climbing the hill to watch them dance; I would not have you pay for that mistake." He wrapped his arms about his sister. "Nor would I have my best friend pay. I wish to see the two of you happily wedded with many children playing at your feet."
Elwyn rolled her eyes. "As does both our families, our cousin Alexander and his kingdom in Scotland, Henry and his kingdom here and Philippe and his kingdom in France." Elwyn gently drew away from her brother's embrace, turning to face him. "Is there anyone in this world that has not planned my marriage to Connell for political or military purposes?"
"You and Connell," Tiercel said softly.
"Yes," Elwyn acknowledged with a blush and nod of her head. "I love him and I would have run away with him to very edge of the world if I was not permitted to wed him."
Tiercel offered his sister an arm. "Then we should not keep him waiting." He patted the hand that gripped his strong arm. "I should despair were Connell to think I kept you from him."
Elwyn laughed delightedly at her brother and allowed him to walk her past the Faerie mound and the lights dancing there.
They walked through the small cemetery where two generations of FitzGarrick's had been laid to rest. They walked down the path that meandered through a field of wildflowers – the lights from Wyndenmere, the DeBruyne castle, winking on a hill off in the distance. Smoke could be smelled on the light spring breezes that blew past and the siblings knew they were close to their destination. The smoke came from the small monastery that rested in the valley between the two great estates, keeping the peace even as the monks tended to the spiritual needs of their flock. Yet the responsibility for the peace between the families – one of Saxon descent, one of Norman – and the peace along the northern English border with Scotland would soon rest upon the shoulders of an eighteen year old girl and her twenty-two year old betrothed.
"This is where I leave you," Tiercel said as he and Elwyn stopped at the bottom of a hill. He gazed upward and could see a strong silhouette against the evening light. He placed a kiss on his sister's cheek. "I shall wait here, in contemplation, until you return."
"Thank you," Elwyn said before turning and running up the hill and into the open arms of the man who waited for her. "Connell," she breathed as her lips sought his.
"My beloved Wynnie," he whispered against her lips, a smile curling his own.
Elwyn drew back. "You know I despise that name!" she admonished him.
Connell grinned at her, merriment sparkling in his bright green eyes. "Even from me?"
"Never from you," Elwyn relented, taking Connell's offered hand and walking with him to the oak tree. She waited until Connell had taken a seat upon the blue cloak spread on the ground before sitting before him, allowing his arms to enfold her. "Tiercel is waiting down below," she said softly.
"And a best friend never there was nor shall be again," Connell breathed as he buried his face in Elwyn's long brown curls.
The sound of a bell rang out from the monastery.
"I do so love this time," Elwyn sighed as she settle back into Connell's embrace. "The sound of the monks," her hand began to idly run back and forth along Connell's arm, "the softness of the night," she turned her head, seeking and finding another kiss, "the warmth of your love."
"And I am expected to wait for another four months until our wedding night?" Connell wondered, his hands caressing the curves of Elwyn's waist.
"My lord!" Elwyn protested half-heartedly. "My brother – your best friend – is below and will tell my lord father if he suspects I have behaved with less than a modicum of modesty." She sighed and snuggled her head into the hollow of Connell's neck. "It is not easier on me, I assure you. But we have waited this long …"
"I can wait," Connell assured her. "I do not like it but I can wait." He grinned, he could not help it. "And there are always lovely farm lasses willing to throw themselves at the feet of the baron's son."
"My lord!" Elwyn feigned shock.
"My lady?" Connell wondered.
"You are a beast, sir!"
"And you love me in spite of it," he reminded her.
"I do," Elwyn said, sighing happily. "I do."
"No more than I love you," Connell said into Elwyn's ear as he rested his head against hers, the sound of Vespers beginning to rise from the darkness at the bottom of the hill.
They sat there, like that, comfortably entwined in each other's arms as evening descended and the music of Heaven rose. No words needed to be spoken for it was enough to share this simple moment of privacy in lives otherwise dictated by the winds of change and the demands of politics. The harmonies that drifted up to them, past them and toward the throne of God in sincere supplication drew the young couple into their magic. It wove about them, promising peace during the coming night and far into a dreamed-of future. It spoke to them of hope in the face of trial and the grace that sees God's children through. It spoke of righteous judgement and abundant mercy. It spoke of the strength of unconditional love.
Elwyn and Connell were so enthralled by the sounds about them, the music of Heaven and Earth, that they did not notice the small, glowing rip that manifested itself in the air behind them.
"Think it is so easy," a menacing voice said softly causing them both to jump to their feet, Connell quickly moving between Elwyn and than man before them.
Kariel looked at the human male with undisguised contempt before turning his attention to the head that peaked out from behind that interloper's shoulder. She was as beautiful as the first night he had seen her watching the Faeries dance. He had enchanted the fourteen-year old adolescent that evening and let her return to her family. He had done so knowing she could return to him one day to live forever by his side in the eternal youth and beauty that is Fae. Kariel had not counted on the all too human emotion of love. He had not counted on it and it had slowly driven him insane with jealousy. He would not heed the Fae who warned of the consequences of a human who did not return the affection offered by one of their kind. Kariel was ancient and powerful and he could – and would – make this mortal girl his. No matter the cost.
"Do you think you can come here and listen to that," his lips curled in disgust as he nodded toward the monastery, taking a step forward, "and think such weak power will be of any use to you?" He held out a hand toward Elwyn. "Come," he ordered, "you belong to me."
"I do not belong to you!" Elwyn replied. "I belong to no one."
"Then what is this thing that stands before us?" Kariel wondered, looking down his nose at Connell.
Connell opened his mouth but Elwyn stayed him with a touch on his arm. "I do not belong to him," she repeated. "I am with him. He is a part of me and I am a part of him. My heart has chosen him freely and not because he claims me. I love him!"
Connell laid a hand over the one on his arm. "And my heart has chosen her. I love her, too."
"Love," Kariel spit out the word. "What do mortals know of love?" He took another step forward. "What do you know of emotion that endures beyond the scope of your pathetic little lives?"
"It does not matter!" Elwyn told him. "I shall love him beyond death!"
"You shall love him beyond death?" Kariel's voice had grown soft and as cold as ice.
Connell watched the man steadily approaching him and Elwyn and eyed the sword resting against the tree lovingly.
"You shall love him beyond death?" Kariel repeated, his slanted golden eyes beginning to glow dangerously. "Let us see if you truly believe that!"
It all happened within the single beat of a heart.
Kariel spread his hands wide, a gold aura glowing and growing about him as he opened a rift between the worlds. He lunged for Elwyn, hoping to drag her into the sparkling Realm of Fae on the other side of the rift. Just as he was lunging for Elwyn, Connell was lunging for his sword, reaching it and swinging round, the edge of his sword knocking Kariel's hands away from the Elwyn who stumbled backwards, tripping over the hem of her gown and falling on her bottom.
"You!" Kariel hissed as he grabbed at the neck of Connell's tunic, pulling him backward with unnatural strength.
"Elwyn!" Connell called out as the wool of his tunic bit into his throat, threatening to cut off his air. "Run!"
Elwyn struggled to her feet, hands reaching out for the man she loved. "Connell!"
"Run!" Connell repeated, able to see what Elwyn could not – Tiercel just reaching the top of the hill behind his sister. "Now!"
Kariel, though, saw Tiercel and in a moment, Fates were sealed for centuries.
"You want your lover," Kariel asked as he twisted the material in his hands, Connell reaching for the constriction about his throat, struggling to breathe.
"Do not hurt him!" Elwyn begged.
"Tiercel," Connell managed, "take her away!"
"You want to find out what it is to love a mortal?"
"Please," Elwyn cried.
"Go!" Connell gasped.
"Your wish is granted!" Kariel said as he dragged Connell through the rift between the worlds, closing it just as Elwyn and Tiercel reached it, his laughter ringing in the ears of the girl who fell sobbing to her knees and the man who fell to his, embracing her in a vain attempt at comfort …