Sorry for the long delay in updating. Tax preparation, a long bout with the flue and vacation interruped for a while, but now I am back. Happy reading.

Chapter 27

The ride from the airport to the small, but luxurious estate outside of the city that Martin had quickly procured for Ydris and her daughter was fraught with tension so thick it could have been cut with a knife. Ydris sat beside him in front, peppering him with questions while Annie sat silently in the back seat. In the rear view mirror, Martin caught glimpses of the beautiful dark haired young woman from time to time; there was pain and anger in her copper eyes, and it was clear that was grieving someone, but something else was going on in those dark eyes too, and he wondered what that was.

Martin knew that Annie was mourning Max Leland, the man who had raised her as his daughter since birth. He had died the week before, thrown by his prize stallion, Domingo, while riding in the fields at his ranch. His horse had been startled by a rattlesnake, and Max had landed on the sharp blades of a reaping machine. His chest and arm had been mangled, by the time that a ranch hand got to him, he had lost too much blood. He died in a medivac helicopter enroute to the nearest hospital. Ydris was at his side, but he was unconsciousness the whole time. Max Leland was a good friend of Martin's, and Ydris called to notify him of the death. It was the second time since he had known her that he heard Ydris cry.

Ydris sat beside Martin occasionally asking questions, but her own grief was apparent on her face. Martin knew his friend, Max, had fallen in love with the beautiful Fae female on the day he met her, and Martin encouraged a relationship between the two. Ydris never tried to fool his friend about how she felt. Although she truly liked Max, she married him, mainly to provide a safe haven for herself and her unborn child. However, through the years, she had grown to love the retiring lanky rancher; she found he had a nobility about him that was lacking in other men.

Theirs was not a fiery, passionate love, but rather a comfortable, succoring and deeply satisfying relationship of friends who were also lovers. They made each other happy, and she mourned Max deeper than she had ever mourned a human husband or lover before. She would always be grateful that Martin McDonald had introduced Max Leland to her.

Due to a bout with measles when he was a young boy, Max could not have children. He never cared that Annie wasn't his biological daughter; he was there at her birth, and he was the first person to hold the tiny bundle in his arms. Ydris knew Max fell in love with the tiny half Fae, half Draghar baby girl the first moment he saw her. As far as he was concerned, the child was his daughter, and Annie returned the feeling. As Annie grew, they were closer than most biologically related father and daughter; so close that Ydris sometimes felt left out.

As they drove, Martin explained in further detail why he called her back Ireland. Ydris heard every word her old friend said and agreed it was time to come home. Ydris asked questions and kept her side of the conversation up, but Martin noted her skepticism. He also that she kept looking back at Annie with a look of longing on her face. There was no doubt that Ydris and her beautiful daughter were estranged for some reason, but now was not the time to ask why, so Martin kept his thoughts to himself.

As they drove, Ydris began to think about her relationship with the human male sitting beside her. She had known him nearly as long as her twin, Galen, had. Martin had come to her assistance more than once over the years. The last time was more than twenty three years ago on another planet. She was several weeks pregnant with Annie at the time, but she never told her friend about that.

Despite her best efforts to avoid capture by V-Lane and his minions, the Fae queen's scheming favorite had found her at long last. She was living on another planet, and had just spent several amazing months living and mating with a Draghar male. The Draghar and the Fae had been mortal enemies for thousands of years; they should have tried to kill each other, instead they ended up in bed together. Their time together was as passionate and magic as two powerful, immortal beings could make it. She fell in love with her Draghar lover; she thought he loved her too.

Summoned by his leader, Zigor, he left after swearing to return as soon as he could. She did not tell him she was pregnant; she decided to wait until he came back. Her Draghar warrior never returned, and V-Lane found her a week later. During the torment that followed, Ydris wondered if her lover had deliberately abandoned her, or worse. She began to believe her fears and found herself hating him as much as she loved him before. She swore to avenge herself on him one day.

Instead of simply killing her quickly as was his way, V-Lane mercilessly tortured her for days trying to find out where Danal and the rest of her Fae family was hiding. For some reason, he never found out she was pregnant, and Ydris was thankful for that. The bastard took pleasure in the pain he caused. He even messed with her mind. He gave her a potion that wiped out her memory and put a spell on her that caused her physical wounds not to heal. He left her alone and near death on that desert planet, certain that the carnivorous lizard-like natives would finish her off once they found her.

Martin had searched for her for days, and when he found her, she was almost dead. She was so badly injured, she did not even know who or what she was. He tended to her as best he could, and when she was able to move, he moved her to a safe house in Ireland for a week, then moved her again. This time, it was in America at Max Leland's, ranch in Montana.

Martin told her that he had met Max some ten years before while the American studied archeology and ancient Celtic/Pict cultures at Trinity College. He had developed an instant affinity for the younger man who went on to become a professor at Montana State University. It was a friendship that was to last during Max's lifetime.

At Max's ranch, Martin continued his treatment of her mind and her physical wounds. With help of his druid magic coupled with the Fae magic he had been taught earlier by both Danal and herself, Martin completely cured his former lover. She regained all of her memory and her magic powers. At her request, he left her with Max when he returned to his family in Ireland. Although they kept in touch, she did not see him again until she got off the plane earlier. Through out the years, Martin kept her whereabouts a secret as she had asked.

Although at the time, Martin claimed that he helped her only because of a debt he owed to Danal and her brother, Ydris knew there was more to it than that. Martin was a druid; they had once been lovers, and they shared a unique magical bond that could not be severed. In a curious way, she knew she would always have a place in Martin's heart. That thought comforted her. That special bond let him know that she was in trouble; it also led him to her. By this time, Martin was remarried with a family. He loved his human wife passionately and deeply, but there was no way he could ignore his tie to her.

Annie Leland sat in the back seat while her mother talked to Martin McDonald. She wasn't interested in their conversation; her mind was focused on the events of the past week. Hurt, confusion and anger clouded her mind. She felt betrayed by Ydris and Max. For twenty three years, she felt she had lived a charmed life, but less than a week ago, her world was turned upside down. After Max Leland was laid to rest in the family plot, she found out that she had been lied to by the two people she loved most in this world; she hated them both now.

The story her mother spun that day left Annie speechless and in disbelief. Ydris Leland claimed that she herself was not human, that she was in fact an immortal Fae princess who was more than a hundred thousand years old. She also claimed that Annie's father wasn't human either: he was some sort of shapeshifing alien who spent part of his life in beast form. Annie wondered if her mother had gone crazy that day, but crazy or not, the world as she knew it had come crashing down on her head.

According to her mother, the man, she thought was her father for twenty three years, was not related to her at all. In addition, the person that she thought she was all her life did not really exist. Hannah, "Annie" Leland was a freak of nature. She had always known she was "different." She was stronger, faster, more intelligent than other children; she healed faster from minor scrapes and bruises and was never sick a day in her life. She also had unusual paranormal abilities, including second sight and clairvoyance.

It was strange to find out that she no human blood in her at all. It was even stranger to find out that her mother was a fairy, something that Annie thought only existed in "fairy" tales and myths. According to her mother, fairies were not like Cinderella's fairy godmother; oh no, they were more like Freddy Kruger from Nightmare on Elm Street.

She didn't know whether to cry or laugh hysterically when her mother told her she was half fairy and half something else. She didn't know exactly what her "real" father was because she had stopped listening as Ydris talked. Annie could not even bring herself to look her mother in the eye. She told her she did not want to hear another word out of her lying mouth. She had hurt her mother when she said that, but she did not care.

Her mother claimed that Max had never wanted Annie to know that she was not his daughter because he loved her so much. Knowing her dad the way she did, his part in the deception had the ring of truth. Her mother also said that she kept her mouth shut because she wanted to protect Annie from enemies that included both the Fae and her father's people. That didn't make sense to Annie, and she had doubts about her mother's motives. Still, right now she hated both her parents equally for the lie she lived. She wondered if she would ever be able to forgive either of them.

Last fall, she and Stevie had won the Montana State Country Music Award for the most promising new duo. Stephanie Majors was her roommate for four years at the Montana State University where she majored in agriculture and animal sciences. Annie fully expected to inherit and run her father's ranch one day, but for several years, the friends had sung together at local bars and events. They formed a popular duo called, "Lady Fair" and also formed their own band. Annie loved music and loved singing, but it was not a forever thing for her the way it was for Stevie. Perhaps now was the time to make the break.

Stevie had studied the performance arts and was a music major. Although they lived on opposite ends of the state, both girls had been raised on large working ranches in Montana and loved it. They had both performed in rodeo competitions during their teens and had met each other a time or two in the past. Like her, Stevie was also blessed with second sight and other paranormal abilities. They liked the same music, the same books and movies, had crushes on the actors and singers and even liked the same style of clothing.

They were often called Mutt and Jeff. Stevie was a petite, green eyed redhead who barely reached 5'3." Annie had raven haired and copper eyes. She towered twelve inches over her friend. Both were fun loving, outgoing and attracted boys like honey attracts bees; they turned heads whenever they walked into a room. Curiously enough, neither one of them had ever had a serious relationship with a man, even though neither of them were virgins.

For days, Annie missed Stevie whom she hadn't seen since her father's funeral. By the end of that day, Annie was so messed up, she couldn't tell her friend what was wrong. Anyway, how does one tell a friend that you are not a human being? "Hey Stevie, guess what, I am an alien. You know, just like E.T." Knowing Stevie, she would probably just laugh her ass off.

Annie had always loved her mother and was close to her, but she loved her father even more. When she was growing up, she and her father were almost inseparable. So much so that Annie knew that her mother was sometimes a little jealous of their relationship. She and her Dad did everything they could to make sure her mother felt included in their plans. Finding out that Max was not her father, and that her whole life had been a lie, hurt more than she thought possible.

After stowing their luggage at their new home, Martin took the three of them to his pub for a bite to eat. It was late, and the bar was almost empty; the three of them sat at a table in the back. Annie didn't realize how hungry she was until the food was placed in front of her. She stuffed her mouth while she began to question Martin about his relationship with her mother. This time, she paid attention to what he said.

First of all, Martin McDonald was much older than he looked, due to her Fae grandfather, Prince Danal, and his magic. He had known her mother very well for more than one hundred years; in fact, they had been lovers for time shortly after they had first met. At that time, although Martin was almost fifty years old, he looked like a young, handsome, virile man in his middle twenties.

Their affair was not a grand passion for either of them; it was more a coming together of two extraordinary beings who were very attracted to each other. They enjoyed their time together; it was passionate and explosive, but the fire eventually died. Their parting was amicable, and they remained close friends to this day.

Martin McDonald was an interesting human being; he was descended from a long line of Irish druid priests who secretly served the Tuatha De Danaan. Although his family was not as old or as powerful as their Scottish cousins, the MacKeltars, the McDonalds served their Fae masters well and had come to the attention of Queen Aiobheal. When he was in his twenties, Martin, along with his father, once hid and tended to Prince V-Lane after he was injured and almost killed by two Draghar warriors.

Martin did not like V-Lane who often boasted about his relationship with his queen. Often when the beautiful Fae prince spoke about Aiobheal, Martin sensed there was something dreadfully wrong with him. Although V-Lane spoke of love, the young druid saw hatred in V-Lane's eyes that belied his words. Martin was not clairvoyant, but he often had dark dreams of V-Lane. The dreams were vague, but they spoke of treachery and betrayal. He thought of warning the Fae queen, but he had no proof. Besides, he knew that Aiobheal punished those who spoke against her lover.

Shortly after providing sanctuary and assistance to V-Lane, Martin nearly succumbed to an epidemic of cholera that swept the Irish countryside. Many of the villagers, including two of his children died from the disease. Their deaths deeply affected Martin's wife, Mary, who, for some reason blamed him for the death of their two year old twins, Walter and Mary Margaret. Mary did not know Martin was a druid, or that he had he planned to train five year old Walter in the druid arts when he was older.

Grateful for his assistance to her favorite consort, Aiobheal ordered Prince Danal, who was a trusted advisor at that time, to cure the human male. Danal used a Fae magic spell to save Martin's life. An unintended result of Danal's magic, not only extended Martin's life, but radically slowed down the aging process.

Twenty years later, Martin and Mary had eight more children, and he was a wealthy merchant. The people in his village and in the surrounding area started to notice the fact that he hadn't aged much in the past two decades. It was the late nineteenth century, but many people in rural Ireland were governed by superstition. They began to call him a witch.

Spurred on by an embittered wife, people began to whisper that Martin was possessed of the devil. Mary told him one night that she hated him. Rumors of witchcraft spread like wildfire and the townsfolk began to take it out on Martin and some of his other children. A confrontation with an angry mob ended in the death of another son, so he moved his family to a farm near Dublin. He gave his wife all the money he had in the world, which was considerable, and disappeared. Before he left, Martin made his two oldest sons, nineteen year old twin boys, swear they would take care of their mother and their siblings.

Through out the remainder of her life, Martin supported Mary McDonald and his family, but he never saw them again. He roamed Europe for years before he ran into Ydris; he was lost in darkness and despair. He had loved Mary deeply and was hurt by her betrayal of him, but he knew her actions were borne of her own sorrow and superstition. She had never gotten over the death of their oldest children. She suffered long bouts of depression, but he kept hoping she would get over it one day. As much as Mary blamed him for the loss of their children; Martin blamed himself even more.

By then Prince Danal was in open rebellion against the Queen's favorite and tried to warn Aiobheal about him. V-Lane took his revenge by slaughtering members of Danal's Fae house by the hundreds. Like many others in her family, Ydris hid in Europe. It was during that time that Martin first met Ydris through Danal. Danal knew exactly where Ydris was and created a diversion to draw the Fae warriors away from his daughter while Martin helped her escape to a new location.

She learned later that V-Lane had chased Danal across Earth and Faery and across several other worlds before they lost him. At Danal's request, Martin had moved her to a safe location in Ireland that he had securely warded with druid spells. It was there that they became lovers. When their passion burned itself out, a strong, healthy friendship remained.

During their time together, Ydris learned that Martin still loved his human wife and family. He would grieve their loss forever. Martin McDonald was the kind of a man who needed to love a woman. He was the kind of a man who needed a family, but because of his slow aging, he would forever be fearful of loving again.

It was Ydris who came up with the idea of how Martin could stay with his next human family. He would first be a husband to his wife and father to their children, and after his wife's death, he would be a brother. It was Ydris who taught Martin the spells that made him seem to age like other humans. It was Ydris who taught Martin memory spells that made his children forget that he was their father and believe that he was their oldest brother.

It was during the time that he was with Ydris that Martin stopped being a druid who served the Tuatha De Danaan. V-Lane's savage attack on Danal's family, and Aiobheal's final betrayal of his friend, Danal, caused Martin to question his loyalty to the Fae. He pledged his loyalty to his friend, Prince Danal, and his Fae family, instead. It was an oath that he never forgot. Later when Galen had saved his son Patrick, Martin knew that he would be forever beholden to Danal and his family.

Danal had taught Martin much Fae magic, but during their time together, Ydris taught him even more. He learned more Fae magic than most druids would ever learn or use in their lifetime. Danal had taught Martin how to use Fae portals to other worlds; Ydris taught him how to locate them. Risking death from her queen, Ydris even taught Martin the magic for sifting; that magic was rarely taught to a human and had only been given to the MacKeltars as far as Martin knew. It was a good thing that she had done so, because that magic helped Martin save Ydris' life; in truth, that magic was also responsible for saving Annie's life as well.

As Martin relayed his story, Annie's cellphone rang. It was Vic Montagna, her band manager, on her cellphone. Annie preferred to have this conversation in private, so she stepped into the ladies room to talk. The aging former rock star, who now managed Annie's up and coming country rock band, Lady Fair, was pitching a fit and reaming her out for not returning after her father's funeral. The band was near the end of a very successful tour and several dates had to be canceled. Vic was doing his worst and threatening a law suit.

"I can't deal with this now, Vic. I don't know when or if I will return, but I will talk to you later," Annie said as she snapped the phone shut and left the restroom.

As she walked toward her mother's table, Annie noticed a perceptible difference in the atmosphere in the almost empty pub. Three other very large men were standing with their backs to her facing Ydris and Martin McDonald. One of the man had long flowing white blonde hair; he was the biggest man she had ever seen.

"Ydris!" the blonde male whispered in astonishment. "I thought you were dead. Where have you been all this time?"

Annie was started by what happened next. Her mother growled and launched herself at the giant blonde male.

"You bastard!" Ydris Leland screamed as she tore into the man, punching, biting and kicking at him. "You left me there, Tygir. You left me there so V-Lane could find me. You left me there to die." She screamed as she wailed at him.

"No, Ydris. I came back for you. The Drachii told me you were dead." The male said has he pulled her close. He held his arms tightly around her, so she could not do any damage.

Her mother managed to push him away. "You're a liar. I don't believe you!"

Annie stepped along side her mother and stared at the man; her hands fisted at her sides. She was ready to jump him if he touched her mother again. She looked at his face. His eyes looked insane as he stared first at her mother, and then at her. He looked like some crazy berserker from an old viking saga. He scared the hell out of out Annie.

From the expression of his face, the man seemed to not believe what he was seeing. He held her mother's gaze for a long while, and then his eyes slowly shifted in her direction again. He stared at her for a long time as if challenging her. Annie held his gaze; she refused to to be cowed by him, but through her peripheral vision, she saw that the other two large males were acting just as strangely.

The man called Tygir suddenly pulled Annie close and sniffed her. The other two males leaned in and smelled her too. A collective gasp went through the three of them.

"Get your hands off her!" Ydris growled as she pulled her daughter away

Red hot anger and a stronger, deeper emotion suffused Annie's brain. Suddenly she was growling just like her mother; she did not recognize the sounds that came out of her own mouth. The fight or flight response kicked in, and she sure didn't feel like running. A feeling she never had before came over her. Annie Leland, who had never laid a hand in anger on another person in her life, was tingling with anticipation; her whole body was vibrating as a primal urge to tear someone apart came over her. She crouched into a fighting stance.

Instead of getting angry, Tygir responded with a weird smile

Who are you?" he asked softly.

"She is your daughter, Tygir! She is your half Fae daughter." Annie heard her mother say, but her voice had a strange husky quality to it. She turned and looked at her mother; Ydris was crying.

"You mean this crazy looking bastard is my father? Ah, Christ! Can my life get any shittier?" Annie whispered to no one in particular.

The giant Draghar warrior tossed back his head and laughed.