Merry Gentry series
HOSPITALS ARE WHERE PEOPLE GO TO BE SAVED, BUT THE DOCTORS can only patch you up, put you back together. They can’t undo the damage. They can’t make it so you didn’t wake up in the bad place, or change the truth to lies. The nice doctor and the nice woman from the SART, Sexual Assault Response Team, couldn’t change that I had indeed been raped. The fact that I couldn’t remember it, because my uncle had used a spell for his date-rape drug, didn’t change the evidence—the evidence that they’d found in my body when they did the exam and took samples.
You would think being a real live faerie princess would make your life fairy-tale-like, but fairy tales only end well. While the story is going on, horrible things happen. Remember Rapunzel? Her prince got his eyes scratched out by the witch, which blinded him. At the end of the story, Rapunzel’s tears magically restored his sight, but that was at the end of the story. Cinderella was little better than a slave. Snow White was actually nearly killed four different times by the evil queen. All anyone remembers is the poisoned apple, but don’t forget the huntsman, or the enchanted girdle and the poisoned comb. Pick any fairy tale that’s based on older stories, and the heroine of the piece has a miserable, dangerous, nightmarish time of it.
I am Princess Meredith NicEssus, next in line to a high throne of faerie, and I’m in the middle of my story. The happy-ever-after ending, if it’s coming at all, seems a very long way away tonight.
I was in a hospital bed, in a nice private room, in a very nice hospital. I was in the maternity ward, because I was pregnant, but not with my crazy uncle’s baby. I had been pregnant before he stole me away. Pregnant with the children of men I loved. They’d risked everything to rescue me from Taranis. Now, I was safe. I had one of the greatest warriors that faerie had ever seen at my side: Doyle, once the Queen’s Darkness, and now mine. He stood at the window, staring off into the night that was so ruined by the lights from the hospital parking lot that the blackness of his skin and hair was much darker than the night outside. He’d removed the wraparound sunglasses that he almost always wore outside. But his eyes were as black as the glasses that hid them. The only color in the dim light of the room was the glints from the silver rings that climbed the graceful line of one ear to the point that marked him as not pure blood, not truly high court, but mixed blood, like me. The diamonds in his earlobe sparkled in the light as he turned his head, as if he’d felt me staring at him. He probably had. He had been the queen’s assassin a thousand years before I was born.
His ankle-length hair moved like a black cloak as he came toward me. He was wearing green hospital scrubs that he’d been loaned. They had replaced the blanket from the ambulance that had brought us here. He’d entered the golden court, to rescue me, in the form of a large black dog. When he shape-shifted he lost everything, clothes, weapons, but strangely never the piercings. The many earrings and the nipple piercing survived his return to human form, maybe because they were part of him.
He came to stand beside the bed, and take my hand—the one that didn’t have the intravenous drip in it, which was helping hydrate me, and get me over the shock I’d been in when I had arrived. If I hadn’t been with child, they’d have probably given me more medicine. For once I wouldn’t have minded stronger drugs, something to make me forget. Not just what my uncle, Taranis, had done, but also the loss of Frost.
I gripped Doyle’s hand, my hand so small and pale in his large, dark one. But there should have been another beside him, beside me. Frost, our Killing Frost, was gone. Not dead, not exactly, but lost to us. Doyle could shape-shift to several forms at will and come back to his true form. Frost had had no ability to shape-shift, but when wild magic had filled the estate where we’d been living in Los Angeles, it had changed him. He had become a white stag, and run out the doors that had appeared into a piece of faerie that had never existed before the magic came.
The lands of faerie were growing, instead of shrinking, for the first time in centuries. I, a noble of the high courts, was with child, twins. I was the last child of faerie nobility to be born. We were dying as a people, but maybe not. Maybe we were going to regain our power, but what use to me was power? What use to me was the return of faerie, and wild magic? What use was any of it, if Frost was an animal with an animal’s mind?
The thought that I would bear his child and he would neither know nor understand made my chest tight. I gripped Doyle’s hand, but couldn’t meet his eyes. I wasn’t sure what he would see there. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling anymore. I loved Doyle, I did, but I loved Frost, too. The thought that they would both be fathers had been a joyous one.
He spoke in his deep, deep voice, as if molasses, and other, thick, sweet things, could be words, but what he said wasn’t sweet. “I will kill Taranis for you.”
I shook my head. “No, you will not.” I had thought about it, because I had known that Doyle would do just what he’d said. If I asked, he would try to kill Taranis, and he might succeed. But I could not allow my lover and future king to assassinate the King of Light and Illusion, the king of our enemy court. We were not at war, and even those among the Seelie Court who thought Taranis was mad or even evil would not be able to overlook an assassination. A duel, maybe, but not an assassination. Doyle was within his rights to challenge the king to a duel. I’d thought about that, too. I’d half liked that idea, but I’d seen what Taranis could do with his hand of power. His hand of light could char flesh, and had nearly killed Doyle once before.
I had let go of any thought of vengeance at Doyle’s hand when I weighed it against the thought of losing him too.
“I am the captain of your guard, and I could avenge my honor and yours for that reason alone.”
“You mean a duel,” I said.
“Yes. He does not deserve a chance to defend himself, but if I assassinate him, it will be war between the courts, and we cannot afford that.”
“No,” I said, “we can’t.” I looked up at him then.
He touched my face with his free hand. “Your eyes glow in the dark with a light of their own, Meredith. Green and gold circles of light in your face. Your emotions betray you.”