I enjoyed “sneaking up” on my brother. Of course, “sneaking,” in my case, was unexpectedly teleporting to wherever Desmond was. I’d learned—through practice—how to teleport so accurately that I could appear only a foot behind him.
Indeed, it was Desmond’s own blood that enabled me to do this. Not surprisingly, since the Fae and the Dae shared a common magical ancestor, the power to teleport to someone of one’s own blood was a trait that some of the Dae possessed.
Though the skill was becoming rarer and rarer among my kind.
The Fae tended to task people who possessed the ability to “pop” to their kin as guardians. Demons didn’t follow this kind of practice, for we did not share a Fae’s talent for knowing instinctively when one of our blood was in danger. That ability had evolved separately in the Fae race.
Many—many times—I had wished that the Dae enjoyed that trait.
I had wished it after I discovered that my beloved daughter, Gladiola, had been slain.
And—before that—I had wished the power when I found out that my younger sister had been killed as a witch by humans. Esmeralda—or Ezzy, as Desmond and I had called her—had been a magical being, of course. In fact, she had been a practicing witch and had been living with a coven in the Welsh countryside at the time of her demise.
The humans who killed her did so out of fear—not because she or her fellows had harmed anyone in their closeminded village.
Sadly, though a full-blooded Dae, Ezzy had only limited offensive skills, and when she used them, she became quickly tired. Our own mother had been ashamed of Ezzy’s lack of skill, all but banishing her to the human realm so that she would not “disgrace the family.” That action by my mother had led to my father seeking comfort in the arms of any other woman but my mother, so they never had another child after Ezzy.
I had been torn between my mother and my sister. I had loved both.
Because of my love for my mother, I had—for longer than I should have—resented Desmond for being the product of one of my father’s affairs. I’d resented my half-brother for being half-blood. Moreover, I’d resented Desmond for having more power than my own full-blooded sister.
Of course, Ezzy had loved Dezzy, as she’d called him. And—because of her—I began to spend time with my half-brother when I was in the human realm. It took him a long time to trust me fully, but the event of Ezzy’s murder ultimately brought us together in a way that little else could have. Before that, I’d merely tolerated his presence. And I’d had to try to like him. After that, I no longer had to try.
I just did.
Perhaps my change of heart was selfish, rooted in the fact that Desmond was the only sibling I had left after Ezzy perished. Perhaps, my changing feelings came about because I could tell that we shared the same kind of unrelenting grief at her loss.
Or, more likely, it had been Fintan who had made Desmond and I see the best in one another.
I sighed as I closed my eyes and remembered Ezzy’s beautiful face.
Her red hair had flamed. Her eyes had been a green meadow and the blue sky all at once. Her soft features had made her look like a child for much longer than she should have.
And she was not untalented. But her magic had been more organic—a recessive Dae strain that included the natural ability to “know” the properties of plants and animals, no matter what realm she was in. She would have been revered as a healer in other families. But my mother, who was from a proud—too proud—family of warriors, found Ezzy to be an unacceptable offspring.
Thus, when our mother told Ezzy that leaving the Dae realm would be “best for our family,” my sister had merely bowed, issued me an open invitation to visit her, and then teleported to the human realm forever.
Happily, Ezzy had preferred the human realm, and the sisterhood of witches she found there had suited her.
Ezzy generally stayed away from humans, for the more “aware” among them would have been able to tell that she did not age as they did. She was mostly content inside the confines of her coven; indeed, even the “human” witches within her group, who aged as other humans, rarely made contact with other villages.
Yes—my sister’s “earthly” people stayed away from the problems of humans, except when they needed to seek them out for the trading of resources. For almost a century, my sister’s group had no problems. When necessary, they traded the excesses of their crops and their talents with the human villages around them for more livestock. My sister—on very rare occasions (perhaps once a decade)—would venture out to function as a midwife to an important human who was struggling abnormally with her pregnancy. Indeed, in one village in particular, Ezzy became known as an “angel” because she’d saved the chieftain’s wife and infant son.
But neither of these facts saved Ezzy from the humans of that same village.
On the contrary, those humans—spurred on by the fear of the “other”—became stirred into a frenzy by a religious zealot, who could not afford passage to the New World and, therefore, decided to spew his hate-laced diatribe to unsuspecting villagers in Wales. How he’d chosen the village nearest my sister’s sanctuary was beyond me—unless he already knew that there was a group of “odd women” nearby and already anticipated that they would be easy targets.
Up until the arrival of that fanatic, the human villagers had called the witches “wise women.” After the zealot came amongst them, the label of the women darkened.
To “devil’s spawn.”
To “cursed ones.”
Forgotten were the times when the witches had helped to cure their sick.
Forgotten were the times when the witches had helped their crops thrive.
Forgotten was the time when the witches had given the villagers safety from marauders.
What was not forgotten was the location of their settlement.
Ezzy had fully damned herself in the humans’ eyes when she used up all of her energy to try to save her compatriots instead of getting away during the attack upon her coven. I later learned—when Desmond, Fintan, and I decimated that human village—that Ezzy had managed to get off three blasts of fire before she’d tired and been taken by the humans.
With her blasts, she’d ensured that several of her sisters could escape into the Cambrian Mountains and she’d killed three humans.
After discovering what had happened to Ezzy, Desmond, Fintan, and I had killed three hundred in her name.
I took a moment to meditate upon my memories of my sister. The Dae had their own version of the Summerlands, though it was called by a name that had no translation in the human tongue. In fact, the word could not even be said with the sounds of any human language.
That Dae “heaven,” like the Summerlands, was not completely separate from the other realms, and when I meditated with Ezzy in mind, I could always feel that she was as near as she could be to me—that she still loved me as always.
I loved her too—with my greatest regret being that she’d not met my daughters Gladiola and Diantha. Thinking of Gladdy, I concentrated upon her as well and smiled to myself when I felt her “answering” me as her aunt always did.
“I suppose you have met Gladdy,” I smiled at the thought before clearing my mind of those whom I’d lost. After all, my goal for the upcoming night was to make sure that I lost no one else—to make sure that Desmond didn’t get himself killed because of some foolish alliance to a vampire!
I focused on those who shared my blood. Most strongly felt was Diantha, who was close to the one I felt almost as much: Desmond.
I smile wickedly to myself and then teleported to my brother, knowing that I would “pop” in one foot behind him and scare the “devil” out of him!
“Dammit!” I yelled out as a burst of energy brought with it my brother. I quickly spun around and glared at Nargal’s laughing face.
“I told you not to do that!” I yelled; only Nargal could make me lose my cool. But—then again—he’d perfected his little tortures of me since I’d been a child. He’d called such things his “brotherly duty.”
Of course, when I was a child, Nargal’s “brotherly duty” had been completed in order to torture me. Back then, Nargal had resented me; he’d tormented me relentlessly for being only a half-blood—and for dividing the affections of our father. But our sister Ezzy had made sure that Nargal never did anything too violent to me.
I sighed as Ezzy’s face flew vividly into my mind, and memories of her flooded my thoughts. Ezzy had always played peacekeeper between my brother and me. And, ultimately, Nargal and I had made peace.
So much so that now—rather than calling his little “startlings” of me “torture”—I called them (and him) merely a pain in the ass.
But not an unwelcome one.
After all, the “pain in the ass” I was looking at was someone I now loved and trusted more than any other—any other who was alive in my current plane of existence, that is.
Indeed, the only individual I’d ever trusted more had been Fintan Brigant.
“So—tell me again why you are risking your skin. And mine!” my brother said, his eyes glinting with mischief.
“What? Are you becoming forgetful in your extremely old age?” I quipped. “Can’t you remember my telling you just yesterday?”
Nargal smirked. “You told me only that you are planning to help to kill a vampire king. But that cannot be the case!” he returned somewhat snarkily before becoming more serious. “Desmond, you know that a war between the Dae and vampires would not be advisable.”
“The vampire king to be killed does not enjoy the kind of admiration that would start a war,” I returned honestly.
“Still—why risk a treaty that has been in effect for five hundred years for Northman? I mean—he’s a good sort. Hell! From what I’ve heard, he’s an exemplary vampire to work for! And his reputation as a warrior is unblemished. However, that doesn’t mean you should place your fate into his hands—let alone my fate and Diantha’s!”
I sighed loudly. “If it were just for the sake of Mr. Northman—Eric—I would not act overtly on his behalf, even though his situation is grossly unfair. But I do not act for the Viking—despite his worthiness; I act now for my goddaughter.”
Nargal’s eyebrows skyrocketed almost to his hairline. “Goddaughter?”
I gestured toward the couch in my hotel suite. Though he and I always communicated on a secure line and I’d been willing to tell him all about the need to overthrow the vampire king, Felipe de Castro, I’d asked him to wait to hear my motives for doing so.
I wanted to tell him about what I’d done for—done to—Fintan’s progeny in person. After all, Nargal had cared a great deal for Finn as well and would likely be angry to learn about the ways I’d failed our friend’s descendants.
I looked at my brother and took a deep breath. As I steadied my nerves, I could not help but to recall that it had been Nargal who had introduced me to my dearest friend, Fintan Brigant.
252 YEARS EARLIER—NEAR LONDON, ENGLAND
As I approached my brother’s cottage, I heard the distinctive sounds of fucking and rolled my eyes.
“Typical,” I muttered.
“Nargal, I am here!” I yelled out, though I knew I didn’t really need to, given my brother’s hearing. Still, I closed the door with a loud thud. I’d traveled all the way from Paris to London, and the journey had been tiring even on part-Supernatural bones. I was ready for a good meal and at least a cursory visit with my brother, whom I’d not seen in many years since Nargal had been away from the human realm.
Granted, the purpose of my current visit was mostly to join up with him so that we could travel together to visit our sister. Nargal also desired to see the countryside between London and my sister’s village in Wales, for he’d heard that there were some interesting rock formations along the way. I figured that he’d accepted my offer to keep him company because traveling alone simply was not safe. Even Supernaturals could run into trouble on the open road—usually from other Supernaturals.
But I longed to see our sister, Ezzy, so I was determined to tolerate my brother.
Not surprisingly, since Nargal liked being an asshole where I was concerned, he had to act as if he was doing me a favor by letting me travel with him. He enjoyed reminding me that—unlike him—I lacked the ability to teleport. Nargal, on the other hand, could teleport to anyone who shared his blood. Of course, he would not have been able to travel all the way to Ezzy since the village in which she lived was warded from outside Supernatural influence. But Nargal could have used the Dae portals to get to her more quickly. I, on the other hand, had not yet been “recognized” by the head of my Dae family, my father’s father, Zed; thus, the portals would not work for me—another fact that Nargal liked to use to torment me.
My human blood was likely why I did not have the ability to teleport. But, then again, the ability to “pop” came more from Nargal’s mother’s side of his family rather than from the father we shared. And—even in his mother’s bloodline—the gift was rare. Indeed, a more common trait on my father’s side was speediness of foot, a gift which I’d also not inherited. Given the fact that Nargal had been born with that gift too, he enjoyed tormenting me about that lack on my part as well.
My Dae gift was twofold: my telepathy and my physical strength, which—even with my human blood—rivaled Nargal’s. And, of course, I’d have an abnormally long life, compared to humans.
Strangely, I was stronger in many ways than Ezzy, though she was fully Dae. I’d always secretly thought that Nargal disliked me more because I was stronger than his sister. Ezzy had been looked down upon in the Dae world (which I’d yet to be invited to visit), and Nargal had always been extremely protective of her. Ironically, the fact that his “bastard brother” had received gifts that would have made Ezzy less shunned by our kind seemed enough cause to make Nargal shun me most of the time.
I sighed. Nargal was, as Ezzy had put it, a “complicated being.”
Of course, Nargal didn’t sound that “complicated” as I heard him calling out his release as if he were a Barbarian. I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t help but to smirk a little as I heard not one, not two, not three, but four others calling out their own releases moments later.
My brother—he certainly didn’t do anything by half-measures.
Whether he was taunting a younger brother, fucking his way through whole townships, conquering an enemy, or spoiling Ezzy, he had only one goal in life: to seize all the enjoyment he could.
It was just the things that he enjoyed that sometimes gave me pause.
When another round of rumbling followed a woman’s pleas for “more,” I gave up on Nargal being a good host and went into his small kitchen. A fire was already lit despite the fact that it was July. Of course, England never seemed to get too hot, but Nargal enjoyed fires no matter the weather, for the Dae realm tended to be much warmer than the human one.
Since I’d spent all my life in the human realm, I was more comfortable in colder climes than my brother was, but I still placed my hands near to the flame to increase the heat of them. There was something about fire that strengthened the Dae.
Even the part-Dae.
After taking a moment to enjoy the heat, I found a pot and began to look for ingredients for a stew. Even as the panting in the bedroom increased and the walls quite literally shook, I cut up root vegetables before adding water, cured meat, and a few herbs I found hanging from the ceiling.
As the noise increased even more from the bedroom, I could make out that three of the people with my brother were humans—two females and one male. There was also another male with him, but he wasn’t human.
“Fairy,” I mumbled as I put the stew over the flame so that it could cook. “Intriguing.”
I looked at the bedroom door and then the stew. “It will take a while to cook,” I thought as I began stripping and moved toward the bedroom. Despite my weary bones, I had one bone that seemed to be working quite well as I thought about Nargal’s moaning companions.
And—if Nargal didn’t appreciate my intrusion into his little party—he could just learn to be a better host!
A/N: I hope that you enjoyed this chapter and getting to know Desmond and Nargal a bit more. I’ve always wanted to explore their background, and this story offered me that chance. 🙂
As always, many thanks to the team: Kleannhouse and Sephrenia!