Title: Darkness Rises From the Deep
Author: Rhion
Rating: AO
Disclaimer: Me no own, you no sue
AN: Okay, this setting, Saorlaith, and this version of Nuada come from Juliette Louise. On a random whim one day I read her stories, Fear Me and Fear Her, and took note of the fact that they were unfinished. No matter how I refreshed the page (while knowing it was utterly illogical) no new chapters appeared, much to my sadness. This fic would not exist if it was not for her putting ideas in my head. Truly, for this to make any sense, you have to read Fear Me, and, you know, should probably see Hellboy 2. I gained permission from the kind Juliette Louise to play in her sandbox, and this story is going to disregard the events of Fear Her, relying solely upon Fear Me, thus meaning it will diverge vastly. In the end though, I urge you to go read, and for heavens' sake, review, Juliette Louise, pester her until she actually you know, hops to it! Also, for those Zev fans out there, she also has two DAO stories that are also excellent, and really needs some concrit to push her along into doing something with it once more. They are excellent reads, and worth the time it would take to review as well as read. But don't take my word for it, just go read it, and see for yourself.
Also, the title comes from the lyrics of the song Mordred's Lullaby by Heather Dale. Beautiful, haunting, bitter and soothing in the same breath. I figured it was quite fitting for the title. There is also a very good videothat you should watch. For anyone who hasn't seen Hellboy 2, this should be enough to...pique your interest.
For those who are curious, the lyrics can be easily found.

XXX

Saorlaith rolled over in the bed, a hand cautiously reaching out to check that she was alone. She did this each time she awoke, even when she knew the Prince was out making war upon the remains of her people. It was a habit that half unsettled, and half comforted her for some unfathomable reason. Rising carefully, her hands held out before her, Saorlaith searched by memory and feel for her small wardrobe, withdrawing a dress, which she slipped over her head and shoulders.

She could turn to the small lantern, but chose not to. It was a cautious thing she did, trying to learn to not be totally blind in the dark. The dark was where the Unseen dwelled, where Prince Nuada resided, and now Saorlaith had to live there too. There was not much choice in it, so she had to learn to make some way of her own, frightening as it was. Counting steps, lips moving as she did so, Saorlaith found her slippers, and made her way slowly towards the door.

"And where might you be going young Saorlaith?" the words came from right in front of her, just a moment before her hands reached the door, instead touching spidersilk.

Jumping, she stumbled back. "To...to see the sun."

A chilly hand snagged her elbow, drawing her in close. "And why would you want that?"

"...I...I don't know. I just..." searching desperately, Saorlaith fought to keep her fear suppressed, and the shiver of reaction to his proximity and scent. Softly she explained, "I go each day when you are not here, to see the sky from the window down the hall. No one said I could not...I...I thought that it was...allowed."

There was silence as the hand released her, and she felt the air move near her before the wash of his presence pressed to the back of her neck. The now familiar icy touch of lips and flick of tongue over the large vein there came, and the faint gush of breath exhaling. Shivering, Saorlaith swallowed, waiting for the Prince's pleasure. As fast as that he was gone, leaving her to remain near the door, hugging herself, as she blinked out at the darkness.

"I didn't say that it was forbidden, I asked why you would wish to see it," his voice close once more, from the other side of her, and this time the hand that came out to touch her arm was gloved. "Tell me this, and it will remain to you."

Swaying towards him unbidden, instinctively, Saorlaith drew herself up short at the last moment, seeking an answer that would satisfy him, when she barely understood it herself. Gesturing at the room, "I've...I've never been inside so much. I'm used to the forest and ruins. Where it is open. Not...not...enclosed."

With that, the large door swung open, the dim light of small glowing lamps bright to her eyes. In that incandescence, Nuada was revealed, swathed in head to toe black, but for a red slash about his slim waist hanging down to his knees in brilliant vermilion folds. Not daring to be caught staring, even as her gaze continued to fight her mind's demand, Saorlaith steeled herself, following a pace behind and slightly to the side of Nuada's form. He didn't speak to her, nor had she expected it, but when they passed her customary spot to view the sky, she hesitated for what must have been too long.

"You wished to the see the light, did you not? Then come along," the command terse.

Biting her lip, Saorlaith hurried her steps to catch up to him, hands clasping the skirts of the dress. Eventually he brought her to another set of doors, which were pushed open by a silent guard, sunlight flooding the hallway in response. Her breath caught as the smell of green growing things, warm sunlight and song of birds pulled her out with halting paces. Slippered feet touched paving stones along the path, and as though in a trance, Saorlaith tread softly, reverently. Closing her eyes, tipping her head back, late afternoon rays bathed her face, and she could not help the smile that formed at the light's caress.

She forgot his presence for a time as she flitted from one bush or tree to another, reaching out, touching plants and trees that she had never seen the like of. Most times he had been at the castle, he ignored her but for bedding her, the oddness of their first meeting having disappeared. So, she did, not quite the same, but had retreated, not daring to make requests, or engage in talk. It had left her lonely, then again, when he was gone, she was still lonely. Other than to keep herself ready, sleep and eat, there had been nothing to do. That was partially why she had taken to gazing out the window before the sun set, it was something to occupy her, even for a moment. Falling to kneel beside a particularly gorgeous flowering bush, with intensely colored flowers, Saorlaith's hands reached out to cup one so she could better catch the perfume of it, when gloved fingers wrapped like bands about her wrists.

Bodily she was yanked away, and she let out a brief, frightened cry, struggling.

"If you wish to play with poison and lose your life, then you most certainly may," and with that she was released.

Turning to the Prince, Saorlaith shivered under his mirthless gaze. "Poison?"

"Wolfsbane, to touch it unprotected, little human girl, is to die." Nuada gestured sharply, "Enough of this, you have seen your sunlight. Come along."

XXX

Rhiana, the old Unseen woman, entered Nuada's chambers just as Saorlaith awoke for the evening. "Dress and come with me child."

Clambering quickly from the soft, welcoming bed, Saorlaith did as the Unseen woman bid her to, as the lantern was lit without the benefit of a match. She did not question, though questions bubbled in the confines of her mind. The old Unseen woman would come time to time to tell her that she was to bathe or to go to the garden, but usually it was later in the evening, not just as she wakened. Plucking a dual layered dress of sapphire and orange, toeing her slippers on, Saorlaith combed nervous fingers through her long locks. The Unseen woman led her through winding corridors, the small glow lamps bobbing and flickering on and off as they approached and passed them. Doors swayed open, a large room, cascades of books and rolled parchments, moving floor to ceiling, the light diffuse, sepia and gold, red tinged and autumn sensation in a breath.

"I am to educate you," Rhiana turned, gesturing to a long table, implements that Saorlaith was not entirely sure of the names to neatly placed upon them.

Braving a question, Saorlaith licked her lips, "Why?"

"As a slave you need not be educated, but the Prince has ordered that you be kept busy and from underfoot," lambent gold eyes with their tightly contracted pupils stared at her as her melodic voice filled the space between them. "He left it to my discretion what you would do. I have chosen that you learn these things, so that you know your place, your true place, in history, child. And why you will serve."

Sitting on the chair she was directed to, the young woman felt her brow beetle in confusion. "Man overstepped their bounds, and Prince Nuada reclaimed, is reclaiming, the world from man. He will wipe us all out, grind us to nothing, just as we had done to you."

Rhiana smiled a sad smile, "Humans were born with a hole in their heart, their soul. Widened by greed, yes. And to restore the balance, our Prince has embraced the imbalance to tip the scales in the other direction." She opened a large tome, weathered by age, dog-eared and smelling of leather and dust. "Listen then, and I will tell you of the Aos Si..."

...

Once the Aos Si travelled the greening hills and tall forests, ghosts of the night, neither good, nor bad. These are human distinctions, disregarding the balance of all. The humans separated us into two courts, though there had been none between us, the Unseelie and the Seelie, for some of our number viewed mankind with curiosity, others as upstarts. Sometimes the same Aos Si would see the same human one way or another, depending on actions and the core of their heart. Mischief makers the Aos Si were not, for we had given land to share with humans, just as the rest of us lived in a delicately dancing balance. War was made time to time, but when life stretches for ages, war becomes naught much more than a game to break the monotony.

In the end it was greedy kings of kingdoms poor in things that were not physical wealth, turned their eyes to the rest of Eire, and then the world. The blood of short-lived, fast-breeding man, sowed the green fields, death making no distinction between them, and the Aos Si who could do no less than defend their lands. Ogres, goblins, Sidhe, trolls, and all folk from the hills - above and below - they fell in numbers comparable to the humans. But for each of the Aos Si dead, meant ten or more human lifetimes lost. And for every Aos Si, many more than ten humans fell.

There was no balancing of the forces, for while many humans died, they still had many more to replace what was lost. In desperation, King Balor, under advisement from Prince Nuada, accepted the offer of the master smith. Seventy by seventy, golden as the spilled blood of any of the courts of Summer, indestructible golems were crafted. The terrible blood that spilled was the result of pure massacre. King Balor looked upon the field, and how the Army crushed all on the meadow, without thought, all at his direction. No mercy was granted to a single soul, and not a single survivor quit the field on the side of man's kind.

King Balor felt shame, horror, at what had happened under his orders. Creation of monsters who knew no emotion, no ability to hold honor in their breasts... They were the worst of the Aos Si, having no mind, no heart, no soul. No matter that man was created with a hole in their own heart, the golden, clockwork army was by far, far more incomplete...

...

Saorlaith shivered, wrapping her arms about herself. "Is that why the Golden Host is used so rarely?"

Rhiana eyed her speculatively. "In some regards, yes, that is why."

"But not the only reason?" leaping to the next question without permission, but sensing the Unseen woman was waiting for her to do so.

Umber, full lips curved with approval. "The slaugh sidhe is made up of the young, who do not remember the times before. They are tales from the old, and books, nothing more. Being young, they hold rage to their breasts, only vaguely understanding what birthright was lost to them. Their anger must be vented, directed, or it would tear us apart."

Pondering that for a moment, Saorlaith stroked the large tabletop. Sworls in the grain almost formed discernible shapes and she wondered what Nuada would do once humans had all been banished from the lands of the living. Would the Unseen's terrible anger be through? Or would they turn into the very things they sought to rid the world of?

XXX

A flurry of activity, and the Prince's chamber doors were shoved wide, banging with haste, waking Saorlaith. Startled, she sat bolt upright in the bed, and frenzied work began as Rhiana and two Unseen she did not know lay Nuada on the canopied bed, shoving her aside. Golden blood was tinted black - iron poisoning. Scrambling away fully, she stared until the work was done. Like a frozen rabbit Saorlaith held a fist to her mouth, holding in the cry of distress. Someone like Prince Nuada, Death's avatar, should not be felled by such small human means.

Later, Rhiana showed her what to watch for and how to administer small amounts of liquid to him. Charged with his care, Saorlaith saw the monster brought down to a mortal level for the first time. It was a man before her, not the scourge of humankind. Attending to him like a child, she insisted on bathing him herself, called for new bedding when that was necessary, but mostly, Saorlaith was left to be his caretaker without interference, which she found was just how she wanted it.

Because of how his wounds were placed, and the need to allow them to drain properly, Nuada was kept on his side for part of the day to allow the area to heal as it needed. To ensure that to the best of her abilities, Saorlaith would sleep face to face with him, one arm curled under his head and shoulders, and her other slung around his hips, their bodies pressed tightly together. At times he would shift, make a pained noise or murmur something in the Unseen language, waking her. The first few times that happened, she feared for him, ready to call the physician or Rhiana. Soon she realized it was nothing more than dreams, and she was able to soothe him to rest quickly with a few soft hums accompanied by a stroke or kiss to his temple or face.

Her sleep was disturbed by Nuada moving, shifting away, and Saorlaith sleepily cupped the back of his head, fingers combing through his silken silver and gold locks. "Shhh..." There was more moving, and she woke up further, this time kissing his black lips, and trailing a hand over his face down to his shoulder, nuzzling at him as she did so. "Shhh...rest Nuada...rest..."

"I am no child to be coddled. You are not some nurse with a fussy babe in hand," the voice snapped and crackled at her.

Saorlaith's eyes flew open to see nothing but darkness. "You're awake!"

She was inordinately relieved, but his tone had been typically hard, reminding her what place she had with him. A bedmate and that was all. But, she was also the person who saw to his needs. Saorlaith clung to that duty tenaciously. Was it not Rhiana who said she would learn her place? Being a consort could mean more than simply spread legs.

"Your ability to state the obvious is astounding," dry wind humor, crisp like autumn chill.

Daring to ignore his amused irritation, Saorlaith sat up carefully. "Are you in pain? The physician left a potion to give you in water every few hours. Do you want it? Or are you thirsty? Is there anything you need me to get?" Asking a quick succession of questions, as her hands reached out for the side table. "I have to turn on the lantern to be sure of the dosage..." she warned as she slipped from the bed.

Light flared, and there was a displeased grunt from the bed. Ignoring it for the moment in favor of measuring out twelve drops from the vial she had been given, then pouring a little water into the cup, she turned to him, holding the bone vessel in one hand. His expression was hard, vaguely squinting against the brightness, but she found that she held no fear of him in that moment. It had been several days since she looked at him and felt anything like that. Nuada was a man, impressive, imposing and powerful, but still just that, even whilst awake finally. A man.

"Cease your pestering," a bandaged hand pushed aside the cup she carried to him. "I am a man grown, and can do for myself."

"You are a man wounded," she pointed out. Watching as he began to roll over and sit up, grimacing in obvious discomfort, Saorlaith reached out, pushing on his shoulder with one hand. "Rhiana and your physician were adamant that you're not supposed to get up."

She received a sharp look for her trouble, the muscles jumping in his jaw. "I am a man who does not enjoy lying in his own waste. Now let me up, or if you feel that you must, then assist me."

Swallowing the dual reflexes that said shrink away or return the expression in kind as she would to a human, Saorlaith set aside the cup for later. She moved to his side of the bed, pulling the coverlet back, crawling half onto the mattress and slid her arms beneath his shoulders. When she felt the weight of the elf's arm wrap around her back, she took a bracing breath filling her head with his scent, and pulled him upright. It was much easier to maneuver him with his help than when she had to tend to his body on her own. With a small grunt of effort she got him settled, and provided support as he did the rest himself, while she maintained alert wariness in case his strength failed him.

Saorlaith had wanted to guide him back to bed, but he had bodily turned her towards the fireplace, leaning against her for balance. She had no choice but to do as he silently bid her. Finding a pair of loose pants and a tunic, she dressed him, and once she was done with that task she retrieved the cup, pressing it to him quietly.

Kneeling at his feet, Saorlaith touched his knee. "Should I call for some food?"

The Prince made a face at the cup, as though it was the source of his displeasure rather than herself, and downed its contents. "If you must."

Relieved, Saorlaith slipped from the room long enough to whisper quietly to the guard, also requesting that word be sent to Rhiana and the physician. Watching the guard swiftly leave down the hall, she pressed a hand over her breast, closing her eyes and praying for strength. Reminding herself firmly that she had to tread carefully, but still actually walk that path, she slipped back into the room. Puttering about, she brushed her long black hair once she was assured that Nuada would not do himself further injury, and dressed herself properly, then she doused the lantern's light so as to not plague his eyes.

Rhiana entered, the only warning Saorlaith had was a irritated snort from Nuada, and the lantern she had so purposefully snuffed, flared wildly, along with the hearth. Fire bloomed, and for the first time, Nuada's rooms were fully revealed. Breath caught in her throat - the tapestries she had been unable to see were were heartbreaking in their perfection. A man with a crown of horns spiralling and twisting from a mane of floor length silver-white hair, his arms open, with two small children on either side. Each of the children was identical to the other, yet she could tell that one was Nuada. Their expressions were gentle and mournful, but Nuada's held a hint of seriousness, promises of the man he would one day become.

But it was the kindness and gentleness in the other's eyes, somehow captured by the artist that moved Saorlaith, made her own ache to leak tears, when compared to Nuada's already stern countenance. His expression when placed beside the other's showed how joy had fled him, leaving him bereft of something infinitely precious. To save her heart, her mind and sanity, she had to look away, to focus upon Rhiana who was surveying Nuada with businesslike efficiency.

"You let him out of the bed?" the words, directed in mans' tongue could only be meant for her.

Staring in shock at the Unseen woman, Saorlaith tried to not think about what Nuada's reaction might be to the implication that she had any say in what he could and could not do.

There was a dark glower aimed at Rhiana, ignoring Saorlaith. "I need no nursemaiding."

"I remember when there was far more to it than simply checking you over for wounds and keeping you abed," the reply was dry. "No doubt she had to deal with much the same my Liege. And you are much larger now, than you were then."

The expression he turned on Rhiana was foreboding, and accompanied by a faint growl. "Rhiana, remember your place."

"I remember it well," she said, bowing, and Saorlaith sought to make herself small, fearing for the Unseen woman. "I remember it at the side of your cradle." Rhiana rose gracefully, the only sound in the room coming from the crackle of the fireplace. "Your Highness, is there anything else you require of me now?"

XXX

There was a deep inhale, lips coasted over the back of her neck, and down to a shoulder. The chill of it, and Nuada's shifting in the bed pulled her to full wakefulness. For many days he had kept her shoved to the other side of it, away from him, and any overly familiar touches she might give him as she had when he first awoke from his healing slumber. A cool hand came around her front to cup her breast, the customary flick of tongue tasting her skin, sent shivers not born of fear or cold, through her body.

"Hmm," the low sound thrummed beside her ear, and Saorlaith shuddered, rolling over to face him, a hand going directly to touch lean, muscular hip. "Much better..."

She was about to ask him what was better, but got distracted as cool lips, and a colder tongue touched her, slipping into her mouth. Moaning, Saorlaith arched closer, the slickness of his tongue sliding over hers eliciting a hungry whimper from her, and a pleased groan from him. She knew what would come next, and tried to not think sadly - for the moment she could think - of the first time. Readying herself for him, Saorlaith squirmed the shoulders of her nightgown down, seeking to free herself of the silk.

A deep chuckle rasped, "So eager. Has it been too long for you already?"

There was no chance to answer, his mouth was moving down to her bared chest already, robbing her voice of words. It tickled, that sensation, but instead of giggles, the caress of tongue, lips, mouth, and face garnered sighs and quiet cries. Surrounded by the scent of deep, autumn wind, strange spices, and the association of safety and security swamping her. Fingers untied loose knots, palms brushed the fabric aside, coasting over her skin, pushing her to lay back, for her legs to part. It wasn't until the tip of his nose was near her mound that there was a pause, another, deep, hearty indrawn breath, followed by a deeper, nearly silent groan, that she had some idea that this time would be different from what she had experienced so far. Unable to stop the yelp when the chilly wet muscle of his tongue split her, Saorlaith jerked away.

Another low laugh, somewhat muffled, "Oh, don't be shy."

No further warning was given, and she found a leg pressed up, a hand behind her knee, opening her wide. Gasping when his mouth came down on her once more Soarlaith's hands found their way to his hair, grasping. Slickness moved over her, dipping inside to taste, and she shuddered, unused to the sensation, but it felt wonderful, if strange. The kiss lasted a long time, and when his tongue swirled over the bundle of nerves at her apex, she whimpered, begging for something she had no name for, wishing more than anything that she could see if the flush was spreading over him. A pulsing suckle at the pearl nestled there, a core of sensation she had only been vaguely aware of, left her sobbing for breath as she rocked against his mouth, unable to keep still. Coiling warmth settled low in her belly, spreading outwards, taking hold of her until she found herself letting go, even without his urging voice in her ear this time.

Brought back to reality by a long boned hand skimming across her outer thigh, Saorlaith scooted to sit up, dragging her fingernails over his scalp, then cupping his cheeks. They were warmer, and the breath that puffed against the inside of her wrist was coming quicker. His pleased hum when she leaned down to kiss him was encouraging, and Saorlaith dared to meet him partway as he sat up. Arms tight with ropey muscles wrapped about her waist, pulling her to him, and she went willingly, unable to contain a gasp as she was drawn into his lap and sheathing Nuada's manhood in a single stroke. Shaking, she clung to him, her face in his warming throat, and she could feel the way his breath hitched. Strong hands guided her hips, even as his own rocked up, making her cry out as she was filled. Everything built - the pleasure, the intensity, the heat, their speed. Murmured words whose meaning was just outside of her grasp were pressed into the column of her neck and she sobbed, gasping for breath that she could not quite catch.

Soft lips pressed to her mouth, opening and taste other than what she knew entered, but it was only different, nothing more. Her hands scrambled with minds of their own to his shoulders, over his back, encountering bandages but skipping over them. She thought she could take no more, thought she would die, or her heart would simply explode in her breast.

"Yes," Nuada's smooth voice was hoarse, the word drawn out, just before he spoke the magic phrase into her ear. "Let go..."

Shuddering, Saorlaith did, bliss buffeting her like a gale wind. Once more she was transported to a vision of green, rolling hills, lush and vibrant in a shade of emerald that she could barely conceive. Even with the fires in the distance, and the haunting amber eyes flashing in the sky, it was perfection. She didn't know why whenever he told her to 'let go' that she was transported to this vision, or even where such beauty could ever reside in the world. Wind hewn rocks tumbled and dotted the hills, the sky a pristine blue her eyes had never beheld. Its purity brought tears to her eyes, so that when she came back to herself, in a comfortable bed, but a dark room, she nearly did cry out at the loss.

Seeking distraction, Saorlaith ran a light hand over the bandages on Nuada's chest. "Did any come loose?"

"Saorlaith," coming from darkness, the side of his jaw moving against her forehead as he spoke, "you should not worry over things that do not concern you."

Frowning, though she couldn't see him, she knew he could see her, "Then what does concern me if not you? My well-being is directly tied to yours. If something happens to you, then what happens to me?"

"Who told you that? Rhiana?" A mirthless laugh, the Prince returned and the man who had taken her to bed earlier fled, though they were one and the same and there was no distinction between the two. "What other things has she told you, little human girl?"

Drawing away from him, Saorlaith slipped from the canopied bed. If he wanted to mock her, then he could, and surely would. If he wanted to bed her until there was no strength left in either of their bodies, there was no way to deny him, or any real desire to. But since he didn't stop her egress, she found her blind way to a fresh nightdress and robe, and tried not to stumble towards the couches. However, unless he made her sit still for it, she didn't have to pay attention to his mocking.

XXX

She was struggling over the words on the page, but Rhiana was sitting beside her, patiently waiting for her to cave and ask for help. "The...dog...sits by...by the...by the puh-puh-pond."

"Very good," gently serene the Unseen woman's voice slid over her. "Now, can you name the letters as I point to them?"

Saorlaith nodded, and did her best.

When she got none wrong, Rhiana's mouth curled into a small smile, "You are doing very well Saorlaith. Your reading is coming along nicely." The Unseen rose gracefully, a study of feminine power and beauty as she passed a hand over the shelves. "What would you like me to tell you about today for a job well done?"

Watching as white fingers skimmed over the spines of many volumes, Saorlaith's mind flickered back to the visions she had when with Nuada. "Tell me of green hills, please?"

The old woman went still, her voice queer. "Green hills? Now why would you want to hear of that?"

Uncomfortable, Saorlaith ducked her head. "I...I dream of them sometimes."

"And what is it you see? Tell me child, tell me what you see," Rhiana turned towards her, silent footsteps bringing her to kneel at Saorlaith's side.

Shocked, she slid from her own chair, unwilling to remain over Rhiana at all. "Please, don't do that..."

"Child, tell me what you see," the air shimmered, and she found herself drawn inexorably into Rhiana's dark gold eyes, unable to pull away.

With halting words she described it, hands curving to indicate the shape of hills. "Huge mounds, greener than anything I've seen before. Rolling away endlessly. Sometimes I see flowers sprinkled over them in a cloak of rainbows. Others there are large, almond shaped eyes, amber and shot through with black, sorrowful. In the distance the sky's lit up with red, but above me is a blue I can't...I can't describe. Giant stone sometimes breaks up from the fields...Wind blows like...like a stormwind smells. Like, like it has water in it. But salty."

And then, just like that, she was released.

Rhiana's hand came out, slipping through Saorlaith's hair, "I knew your namesake, Saorlaith. A beautiful woman she was. A princess of Ulster, and gave blood to the finest ard ri line Eire ever knew."

Lids fluttered as she sank into the Unseen's hypnotic cadence. "...Ulster...?"

"A high king, ard ri, the ones who ruled Eire's green fields, long a'fore they were sown with too much blood to remain the purest verdant," breezing soft, weaving words, and Saorlaith's long sheaf of hair. "Great heroes and heroines, daring and deceit. Love and loss, two sides of each coin. Who was the villain, who was the victor - it comes down to those who wrote history. And warped it..."

"Please..." mumbling as her long hair was brushed, parted by fingers that twisted and twined through the locks, piling them then releasing the hair over and over again.

"A good king comes from not just a good man, but a good mother," the voice came from all around Saorlaith, hinting at things just out of reach. "And man must have a good wife to gentle his bestial nature so that he may become a good man."

Drowsily, Saorlaith swayed to the rhythm of Rhiana pulling her along, knowing that Unseen magic was doing something to her, but she didn't know what. "I...don't...understand..."

"You need not understand, to serve. For a seed to take root, for the hills to turn green again, they must be fed by not just blood," cool, umber lips whispered into her ear. "You wish for green fields to come once more. Then become a woman of not just great beauty, but of grace and wisdom."

In that moment, that was everything Saorlaith had ever dreamed or desired to be. Pleading, "How...?"

"Learn, child, learn..."