“Don’t tell me you give credence to all those old wives tales, Bran.”
Fergus shook his head at me in disbelief as he stared down at the Royal Fern Seeds I held in the palm of my hand.
I shrugged. “I might. My mother and father are very big on all the old customs and lore.” I closed my fist around my prize and slipped them into my pocket, hiding them from Fergus’s view.
“Well, let me help you put this lore to rest. You picked those seeds at midnight here on Midsummer’s Eve, and I can still plainly see you. You are not invisible. I think this is one legend you can cross off.” He ran a hand through his wild red hair—hair I was positive would never be tamed.
“You don’t have to believe, Fergus. It’s not a human I want to be invisible for.” I looked around at the revelers in the celebration around us and lowered my voice. “It’s the Fae.”
Fergus snorted and started to walk away.
I grabbed him by the arm. “I know you believe in them too. You were scared of them as a child.”
“I’ve overcome my fears.” He stood up taller. “Like you, I’m on the brink of manhood now with almost twenty summers to my name. You would do better to quit talking about such crazy things and go find your beautiful Ceridwen before some other young man swoops in to carry her off.”
Laughter came from behind me, and I turned to find Ceridwen eavesdropping on our conversation.
“No one will ever steal me from Bran, Fergus. Who could beat him? He’s the tallest, brawniest, and the handsomest man around. Not to mention he’s kind-hearted as well. No, I think I should be afraid to have him stolen away from me.” She smiled, reaching up to touched the edge of my jawline with her fingertips.
“He’s also the craziest,” Fergus muttered, and I elbowed him in the ribs.
“That will never happen, my love,” I assured Ceridwen—reaching with one arm to pull her in closer so I could kiss her ripe plum lips. I tangled my other hand in her long, honey colored tresses, enjoying the way she felt against me.
Fergus cleared his throat, and the two of us broke apart, staring over at him.
“Before you get anymore wrapped up in your wildly handsome, dark-haired lover, Ceridwen, you might wish to know he’s a little touched in the head. He intends to become invisible by using his magic seeds while he goes off hunting faeries tonight.” He lifted a finger and made a swirling motion around his ear. “I think someone has been dipping a little too heavily in the honey mead.”
She laughed. “I like that he’s not afraid to believe in things he can’t see. I wish I could go with him, but I need to get back to help my mother and sister with the food now.”
Ceridwen gave me a quick peck once more, and I grabbed her before she could run off again, deepening the kiss even farther.
She smiled against my lips, and flattened her palms against my chest as she tried to push away from me. “You are going to cause quite the spectacle if you keep carrying on this way, Bran.”
“I don’t care.” I captured her lips and kissed her breathless. “Come into the woods with me,” I whispered when I pulled away.
“I can’t. I promised my mother. But you go have some fun with Fergus.”
Fergus grunted. “You won’t catch me out in the woods. That’s all I need is to have some Fae capture me and end up walking around like some faery-kissed fool.” He strode off toward the group gathered around the bonfire.
“I thought you didn’t believe!” I called after him with a grin, and he waved me off with an irritated gesture, continuing on his way.
“Since you can’t come with me, shall I stay to help you with the food?” I asked, turning my attention back to Ceridwen.
She laughed again. “My mother would be appalled to have a man helping out in her kitchen! No, go enjoy your little jaunt in the forest. I know how much you love nights like this.”
I stared up into the sky, looking at the giant orb lighting the sky. “You’re right. There’s nothing better than drinking honey mead with a pretty lass under the Honey Moon. I enjoyed the weddings tonight. Maybe next year it will be our turn.” I raised my eyebrow in a suggestive nature.
She blushed, refusing to give in to my teasing. “Go on now!” She gave me a playful shove.
“I won’t be too long, I promise.”
She turned away with a wave and headed back toward the festivities.
I traipsed quickly from the hilltop where the great bonfires were lit and made my way to the valley floor. The light of the giant moon that filled the sky softened as I entered the heavily treed forest, its milky glow filtering through the leaves and branches, casting silvery puddles here and there amongst the shadows.
I tried to tread silently, but couldn’t help the occasional crunch of a twig or two beneath my booted feet, though they were made from the softest, supple leather. Even so, the night remained alive with other sounds—a running rabbit I startled from its hiding place, the crickets singing their midnight song, and the whispering rustle of leaves as a soft breeze floated through the air.
The particular clearing I was searching for was in another small valley just over the hill ahead, and I reached into my pocket to retrieve my seeds, grasping them tightly in my fist before I continued. I chuckled to myself. It really was childish believing that seeds of any kind could make one invisible. I didn’t blame Fergus for his doubt, but whatever the reason, I felt the need to have these with me. I didn’t know why they were important, they just were.
Slowing my pace, I approached the hilltop stealthily, sticking to the darkness of the trees as much as possible. I peered into the moonlit glen below and was disappointed to find nothing there. Not one dancing faery in sight. Even the tall grasses appeared motionless from this height. But still it was a beautiful night so I chose to make my way carefully down the hill, deciding to settle against the roots of a gnarled old tree as I enjoyed the peaceful scene.
Fireflies danced through the air, dipping and swooping as if they too were rejoicing in the season. Every now and then a breeze rippled through, making the vegetation swirl, adding to the mad little dance nature was creating.
I thought of my girl, suddenly wishing she was here to enjoy this magical setting. I could have stolen many a kiss from her under a night sky like this. I knew she was the one for me, the one I would marry. Many of my friends, who were a season or two older, were already settling down and starting their lives with their own pretty girls, as was the custom in these parts. But none of their lasses were as pretty as mine. I closed my eyes, thinking about how I couldn’t wait to have her.
The soft music lulled me at first, but as it grew louder and more rambunctious I suddenly realized what I was hearing. My eyes flashed open, and I was shocked to behold the sight in front of me. They were here, everywhere, filling the meadow to overflowing as they danced seductively around the giant bonfire that hadn’t existed just minutes before, many taking giant graceful leaps over the blaze.
I was frozen in place, afraid to move a muscle for fear I would alert them to my presence, but I cast my gaze rapidly about the space, trying to take in everything I was seeing. Their bodies were slender, but beautifully shaped with almost translucently fair skin, and both male and females had long hair in a variety of shades. I noticed their facial features all held similar slanted and pointed angles that marked them of the same race, but were unique to each individual as well. There was not an ugly person among them—each of them so beautiful it was almost overwhelming.
They were dressed in many different styles and in an overwhelming array of various colors, some of which I was sure I’d never seen before. I knew I’d never be able to describe them properly to another soul.
Those who weren’t dancing sat at giant wooden tables heavily laden with all kinds of food. Several faeries served drinks to those who were seated, often bowing to them in humble deference as they worked.
I looked beyond to a raised platform where a solemn looking Fae king sat on an elaborately carved throne, watching the merrymaking of his subjects, and I cast a glance to the young woman beside him. The rest of the world melted away.
She was the most stunning vision I’d ever beheld. Her hair was long and glowing silvery white—so white it almost reminded me of fresh fallen snow that sparkled in the morning sun. Her features were dainty, yet appeared regal at the same time, and her wide eyes almost made her look like a painted doll. Even from this distance I could tell her gaze was locked with mine.
I glanced down to my hand, realizing in surprise that I’d dropped my seeds. She could see me. I quickly looked up again, but no one around paid me any attention—only she watched.
She smiled slightly and stood, her bright yellow dress floating down around her as she walked toward the fire. The crowd parted easily for her and the music increased. She joined in the dancing, twirling and spinning about before she reached to lift her silken skirt, baring her shapely legs clear up to her thighs.
I couldn’t look away from her perfect form, watching as she sprung over the bonfire with one graceful leap, making it look as if it were the easiest thing to do. She continued to hold her dress up as she danced around the fire once more until she approached the edge that was closest to my location. Then she stopped, turned towards me, and our eyes met.
My breath caught in my throat as we stared at each other. She beckoned for me to join her with one flick of her wrist, but I was frozen. She motioned again, taking another step closer.
“Come,” she said airily, in a high lilted voice, and suddenly I couldn’t disobey her command.
My body seemed to move of its own accord, but I felt awkward and gangly after watching her. I walked toward her, stretching my hand to reach for hers. Sparks ran up my arm when we touched, and I was surprised when she interlaced her fingers with mine.
My brain seemed to be in a fog, and I had difficulty searching for the words I was trying to say.
“My heart belongs to another,” I managed to choke out, unsure of why I was telling her this.
“Shhh.” She smiled and placed a finger over my lips, sending the same sparks through them as well. “Do not speak for the moment. There will be time for that later. Right now we will dance.”
I nodded, and she pulled me into the fray with her. I easily fell into rhythm beside her, my body mimicking and mirroring her moves. Our hands remained clasped together, and each time we passed around the circle a new faery would dance up beside us and drape a vine loosely over our arms. I watched in awe as the vines tightened on their own, binding us together in their grasp. I opened my mouth to ask her how they did that, but she shook her head, signaling for me to stay silent, so I did.
After we had danced around the circle several times, the crowd parted, and she pulled me away toward a small grouping of trees. I couldn’t help but think how beautiful she was as the wind ruffled her silvery hair slightly, and her bright blue eyes seemed to glow with a power of their own.
“Welcome to Faery, Bran. I am Eirian,” she whispered with a smile, and I realized her voice seemed familiar. My body responded when she called my name, sending a tremor through me, but I didn’t know how that was possible.
“You know my name. How?”
“I know lots of things about you, Bran.” Again the sound of her speaking my name caused a pleasant sense of lusty turmoil to ripple through me. She leaned forward and wrapped her unbound arm around my neck, pulling me toward her, lightly kissing my lips.
I was undone. Everything I knew or cared about fled from existence. There was only her. I lived solely for her. I wanted only her, and I knew I would do anything she asked.
The vines binding us together loosened and fell to the ground as she stepped away.
“How would you like to see Faery, Bran? It’s more beautiful than you could ever imagine.”
I groaned at the sound of my name on her lips, noticing that her eyes glittered like unfathomable jewels, and her smile lit the night. I wondered if she knew what she was doing to me.
“I don’t care what we do, as long as we’re together.” I squeezed her hand tightly in mine.
“Perfect,” she replied.
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