Disclaimer:

Prince Nuada, Princess Nuala, King Balor and all the magical folk are the property of Guillermo del Toro and those who own Hellboy II, the Golden Army. No infringement is intended.

Synopsis:

Prince Nuada finally tracks down the human guardian of the third crown piece. In attempting to reclaim the third crown piece, Nuada sets events in motion that reunite him with his family and turn him away from open war with mankind. Please note that this story diverges from the events of Hellboy II before Nuada breaks the treaty and involves Hellboy and his colleagues in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence (hence, Hellboy and his colleagues are not even in this story). The story is rated "M" for violence and adult situations.

Acknowledgments and Author's Note:

Thanks must go to Guillermo del Toro and his team for creating the magical world portrayed in Hellboy II, and to Luke Goss and the other actors and everyone else who brought the characters to life with such brilliant success. Please take this fanfiction as a compliment, that your work inspired such excitement in your fans.

My heartfelt thanks go to Gabby (GabhMoLeithsceal) for giving me permission to use her amazing portrait of Nuada, Sight Unseen, as the cover image for The Third Crown Piece. Gabby and Robyn-666 are the driving force behind Hidden Realm Entertainment, a campaign to return Nuada to the silver screen. If you haven't already done so, sign the Hidden Realm petition which asks Guillermo del Toro to do another movie with Nuada. The petition is at the Hidden Realms website. Gabby's extensive gallery of amazing Nuada fanart is on the Hidden Realm website as well as at DeviantArt – I highly recommend her work.

Elements of this story were inspired by "Saving Nuada", by Gwenfarr. Thanks for your very enjoyable story about our favourite elf! The Third Crown Piece was greatly improved by my amazing sister, Sylvia Volk – thanks for your feedback and for discussing the ideas with me. Thanks also for allowing me to use the lovely names you made up, Nightimmering and L'oro Leste. "Caoimhe" is a traditional Celtic Irish name, pronounced "Keeva", if I understand the "Baby Names of Ireland" website correctly. It means "gentle, beautiful, precious".

The Third Crown Piece

Chapter 1: The Hunt

Prince Nuada's head came up abruptly, his golden eyes wide and his face enraged. His focus was distant to the darkness of his subterranean home, as he saw through his sister Nuala's eyes.

A human in the royal council chambers? A human daring to stand in the same room as his noble father, his lovely sister?

Nuada ground his teeth savagely, his white fists clenching, wishing he was there. He knew of course from market gossip that a human had actually requested an audience, and in the elfin fashion, but never in a hundred lifetimes would he have thought that his father would grant the human's request! Was there any demand that his royal father would now deny mankind? Nuada paced impotently, furious that such a thing should come to pass, that he was not there to stop it. He would make the human beg for death, for daring to approach his father.

He watched through his sister's eyes as the blindfolded human was led forward. When the guard controlling her demanded that she kneel before King Balor, she sank fluidly to the floor without hesitation, respectfully silent.

"You may rise," his father ruled, leaning forward in his chair and studying the woman intently.

She stood, clasping her hands quietly across her belly. The emotions flickering over her face suggested that she was experiencing warring waves of elation and nerves.

"Speak."

She took a deep breath. "T-thank you, Highness, for allowing me to address you."

Both her courtesy and her use of Elfin surprised Nuada. Most humans had forgotten the language of elves, as they had forgotten that they shared the earth with magical folk.

"Majesty, I am a descendant of the human king to whom you entrusted a fragment of the Royal Crown of Bethmoora. I seek your counsel."

"You are the Guardian of the crown piece?" Nuada's father asked, his gaze unwavering.

"I am." The human spoke softly but clearly, a quick heave of her chest betraying the anxiety she felt in admitting this before the elfin court. The elves around her moved restlessly, speaking quickly among themselves.

Nuada was all the more enraged, but exhilarated too: for millennia he had hunted the human thieves who had the crown piece, but they had always been hidden from him. He had sensed his father's hand in the enchantment behind that, and had been deeply wounded by it. No longer... the human had revealed herself to him, and no magic of his father's could now stop Nuada from running her to the ground and reclaiming what her ancestor should never have been given.

King Balor smiled slowly, his good hand dropping to caress the crown fragment at his belt. He stared down at the human, listening carefully, though Nuada couldn't see anyone talking. Balor nodded decisively. "Guardian, We will provide you with Our counsel," he said, cocking his head and standing, surprising his guards and subjects alike. "Bring her." He turned away, heading out of the main hall and to the smaller, more intimate rooms beyond.

Nuala hurried to follow him, but as he came to the arched entrance of a lovely garden, he turned and stopped her. "No, my daughter. I will see this human alone. All of you, stay here."

As Balor spoke, Nuala gasped, grasping her crown fragment, while the human's hands tightened over her abdomen and she smiled radiantly. Balor nodded at Nuala with shared comprehension, touching his own crown fragment.

Puzzled, Nuada pushed a bit harder at the bond he shared with his twin sister. What he next discovered caused him to become very still, his heart pounding loudly in his ears. Nuala had just realised that the crown piece on her glittering holder was talking to the crown piece in the human before them, and that the human carried the fragment within her, protected inside her own flesh and muscle! She had actually brought it to the royal hall. All Nuada needed to do was go there, slice her open and lift it from her dying body!

Balor gently took the human's hand, carefully leading her into the beauty beyond. Nuala watched anxiously as her father directed the quiet woman to the center of the garden, stopping her under a canopy of fragrant flowers. He must have commanded her to stand, for she remained a living statue, her hands quietly clasped over the crown fragment within her. She shone with a humble strength. Balor walked slowly around her, studying her. Her lips were moving; she must have been asking him whatever it was that she came to ask, but she was too far away for Nuala to hear. Balor's expression gave no clues as to the human's words. Nuada made a snarling sound, wishing to have the human's vulnerable neck under his fingers, imaging the life draining from her empty eyes as he strangled her for her temerity.

Still Balor moved restlessly around her. Finally, when she had fallen silent, he came to rest directly before her. He made a command too quiet for his court to hear. Frowning, the woman raised one hand obediently. King Balor entwined his fingers with hers, their palms together. She stiffened with a gasp. Even from their distance, his audience could see how the human blanched as he entered her mind, then a wave of red mounted her cheeks and she took a deep breath, her expression an odd mixture of joy and shame.

Nuada couldn't believe what his sister was seeing! His royal father, linking his mind with human filth, allowing her festering body to touch his noble flesh! Nuada couldn't stand idle any more. He would not allow this to continue! Even as he moved out into the labyrinth surrounding his subterranean home, he saw through Nuala's eyes as his father released the human, circling her until he was behind her, his good hand slipping firmly over her belly, to cover the crown piece within her. She moved sharply, her fists clenching, but she allowed his contact. He stood thus for a handful of heartbeats, his lips moving but his words too soft for Nuala to hear, then circled the human again. He stopped before her, gently taking her face in his hands, appearing to bless her before placing a kiss on her forehead. Nuada almost stumbled in disbelief at this. A human! Next, magic shrouded his father and the human, surrounding them in fire and power. When the flames died, his father was alone, stepping away from a statue of a human woman, frozen in red and gold opal.

Nuada ground to a halt, his heart on fire with rage. His father would have known that he saw through his sister's eyes, that he would seek the human guardian with all his fury and hunger for justice. And King Balor had neatly complicated his hunt – the woman might be encased in glowing stone, the crown piece still within her, but Nuada doubted this very much. More likely that his royal father used his magical powers to send the human away, out of Nuada's reach. Nuada snorted. Not for long. He knew of her now. Not her name, but her face and her psychic scent, her essence. He was nothing if not persistent. It was only a matter of time before he had her, before that piece of the Royal Crown of Bethmoora was his, and he would raise his people and the Golden Army alike, to reclaim their birthright.