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Heirs of the Sun

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My darling Elide,

                I hope this letter finds you well. I am afraid that, given the circumstances, I will be forced to be brief.

                We have managed to catch two of the rebels yestereve. Rowan and myself found them hiding in one of the underground passages of Orynth, and since then we have been questioning them in turns. No answers have been given to us. Whoever these two belong to, they are much more afraid of their leader than they are of us, which is worrying. Aelin herself has made them both sully their pants in the process of trying to get to the bottom of who they are and what they want, but to no avail.

                Aelin, Rowan and I, along with Fenrys, are positive we will find the rest of their group and eventually their leader. But to put a stop to this, I believe my presence in Orynth will be extended for another week or so. I will solve this, my love. The rebels threatening the queen will not see another beam of sunlight once I get my hands on them and make them pay for the damage they have already caused.

                It pains me, every single day, being parted from you. I miss you. I miss you so much. I spend every waking morning imagining you, my mate, in my arms once more. But – soon, Elide. Soon this will be over.

                Know I am protecting our home, my love. Know that I will be with you soon. Until then – take care of my heart, I have left it in your care.

                Your loving husband, and dashingly handsome mate,

                Lorcan.

***

 

Dear Lorcan,

                I am happy to hear news from you. I know it has not been easy these past few weeks, not for either of us. I’m writing to tell you-

***

 

My dear husband,

                I am not sure how to start this, but the truth is-

***

 

Dear Lorcan,

                All that matters, is that you are alright and safe. Also, I believe I have news. I do not know how you will react to it. Lorcan, I am-

***

 

Lorcan,

                I believe I am with child.

***

                Elide Lochan crumples yet another useless scribbled scroll. She takes a moment to steady herself and, with a deep breath, stares out the window and into the bright blooming gardens of Perranth Manor, her face stitched in worry, her eyes deep in thought.

                Her husband has been in Orynth for longer than two weeks now, ever since reports came from Aelin herself: a nameless rebel group had set fire to three houses in one of the villages in the north, flames so ferocious and wild that were carried through acres and acres of land, aided by the spring wind. Four people had died. A child with them.

                Lorcan’s previous letters state that Aelin had been raging with grief, and the queen herself had gone to the village to oversee the damage. It was brutal. When speaking with the fellow villagers, they could not even describe the men that had done such a thing, but some people spoke of an angry growl in the night, declaring Aelin a tyrant monster, a false queen that had no right to rule over a free people, painting her as someone who could only bring destruction upon Terrasen. The villagers had been too shaken by their burnt crops and the five funerals they had to organize to remember much about the rebels.

                Elide closes her eyes at the terrible images, shaking her head to be rid of them. No, she cannot burden Lorcan with something like this right now. The worry it will bring him will not do him any good. Especially if-

                If her suspicions end up not being true.

                Still – nervousness makes a bed at the pit of her stomach, demanding answers. Her nails have been bitten off, her under eyes are dark and purpling from lack of sleep, her skin dry from dehydration, and her cheeks hollow because of her inability to keep much other fruit in her stomach.

                So, she decides.

                Elide Lochan burns the scrolls she wasted and spreads out a new one over her desk. She begins another letter – this time to an old friend.

***

 

                Yrene Towers arrives in Perranth exactly two days later.

                Every month or so, Elide expects a visit from the healer. Ever since she agreed to begin the treatment for her ankle, Yrene has been a gods’ gift, as well as a true friend. Granted, no part of it has been easy. The pain of reshaping Elide’s bones, growing out new ones and twisting her tendons has surpassed the pain she had felt before on a daily basis. It is a slow process, slower than Elide expected. Each session is a triumph, Yrene explains, and Elide is conscious that everything has to get worse before it gets better, so she fights, and keeps on fighting. Of course, Yrene’s homemade ointments such as salves and creams and balms, even pots of tea leaves that Elide brews every morning, have helped immensely in this slow path to healing. Moreover, Yrene was kind enough to present Elide with a marvellous, beautifully crafted cane for a wedding gift, and that alone made Elide’s life so much easier. Especially in a Manor so full of stairs.

                And it is exactly when she’s walking down those evil stairs, supporting her weight on her cane, that Elide realizes how truly dependent of Lorcan’s powers she had been all those months. She had allowed herself to rely too much on the soothing darkness wrapping around her ankle and even had, at times, taken it for granted. She can feel the terrible absence of it now, as she walks to the main Hall to greet her friend.

                Motherhood suits Yrene beautifully – the young healer glows in her pale pink gown, her hair loosely coiled in a bun at the nape of her neck. Her cheeks are round and healthy, a tint to them as she smiles. Her eyes are bright and wide, albeit slightly tired. She has never looked as happy as she does now, standing in front of Elide.

                “I came as soon as I got your letter,” Yrene says as she pulls Elide in for a hug. “You sounded frightened, Elide. It worried me.”

                “I am truly sorry,” Elide begins, pulling away gently. “I know we’ve only just had a session, and I know you have your baby boy at home-”

                “Hardly a baby anymore,” Yrene laughs. “He’s two years old, and already a force of nature. And definitely favours his father over me.”

                Elide gives her friend a large smile. “How are Chaol and the little one fairing?”

                “Well, and so very happy,” Yrene says. Such loving tenderness in her eyes. “Chaol is absolutely in love with his son. They are inseparable, those two.”

                “I do hope to see them again soon. I don’t believe I have ever seen a happier baby in all my years.”

                “Oh, you should see him in the mornings,” Yrene chuckles. “Not so happy then.” Then a slight worry crosses her features and Yrene adds: “But – back to you. What seems to be the matter? I know you would not have written if it were not urgent.”

                When Yrene’s eyes lower to Elide’s bound foot, the Lady of Perranth quickly says: “The ankle is doing fine. Better than expected. It’s something else I want to talk to you about. I would not trust any other healer.”

                At her friend’s slight agitation, Elide invites her to sit at the sunny parlour at the end of the Hall. There, Elide calls for tea and cakes, and once Yrene has a steaming cup in her hands, the lady of Perranth tries and fails to find the proper words to explain her situation, but all of a sudden there is a knot tied at her throat, cutting off her breath.

                Yrene senses this, and begins instead. “I find you very tense today.”

                “I am a bit.”

                “Is it Lorcan?” Yrene murmurs, blowing the steam of her tea. “I understand how nerve wracking it must be being parted, since you’ve recently mated.”

                “Yes,” Elide pulls at the loose strand in her sleeve. “I believe it’s worse for him.”

                “It was a terrible thing what happened to that village,” Yrene says, shaking her head. “Have you heard from Lorcan?”

                “Yes,” Elide says. “They are slowly getting it under control.”  

                “I hope they do,” Yrene says.

                A pause. The young healer gives Elide one of those analysing looks the Lady of Perranth is too familiar with. Yrene Towers has a way to look at you – she sees through the pretty picture your eyes attempt to show, and she always manages to find a window that looks through all the things you hide.

                “You can talk to me,” she says, sipping her tea.

                “I think I might be with child,” Elide blurts out.

                Yrene almost spits her tea.

                Elide quickly adds, “Though it could also be an illness? I…it’s strange, Yrene. I do not feel like myself. Once I start thinking that I am with child, I feel as though it could not be possible. And yet something keeps nagging at me.”

                Yrene composes herself and faces Elide fully. The healer says, “When have these thoughts begun?”

                “Since Lorcan left.”

                “It could be a number of things,” Yrene says. “Your separation could be making you anxious. I see you have not been sleeping well.”

                “I have not slept at all.”

                Yrene’s nose scrunches up in thoughtfulness. “Any nausea?” 

                “Yes – terrible nausea. Every morning and just before I go to bed,” Elide says, picking at her nails. “But then again…I did have a glass of milk two weeks ago. Yes, I know, I’m sorry. I miss it.”

                Yrene laughs softly, giving Elide a pointed look. “Even if the nausea had been caused by your intolerance, it would not have lasted two whole weeks with only a glass.” A pause. “Any pains?”

                “My back and my thighs, mainly. I’ve been having headaches, but I reckoned that could be because of my lack of sleep.”

                Yrene rests her hands on her lap, looking Elide over. “How bad are these pains?”

                “Not bad, exactly. But muscle pains are not abnormal for me.”

                Yrene nods for a moment, and then promptly says, “I can check for you. Even if it’s early, I can…well, feel it, in a way. If you wish.”

                Elide pauses.

                If it is true…

                A child.

                She will become a mother. The mother of a fae child at that.

                Elide cannot wrap her head around it. Can barely imagine a little one in her arms, smiling up at her.

                All her life, she had never imagined a family of her own. It had never been in her mind. All she had done was try to survive, day by day, never expecting to live through the next hour. Back then, in her mind, she truly believed she would have never made it this far. She had been prepared to perish in that tower. And now that she had survived…

                A family. She can have a family.

                Is the thought of having a child truly that terrifying in comparison to what she had to live through? A child created out pure, genuine love?

                “I see that you are more than a little frightened,” Yrene’s voice makes Elide step out of her thoughts.

                “I simply…never expected to have to think about a family this soon,” Elide says.

                And it is true – Elide and Lorcan had been swaying in their new found bliss, too busy enjoying their newfound bond, their home, and their marriage, to give any thought to having a family. They had been given time. They had a long time to discuss it. But now-

                “I will give you a true answer, and it will not take more than a few seconds,” Yrene says.

                “Yes,” Elide nods, breathing in. “Yes, I think that would be for the best.”

                Yrene instructs Elide to lie down on the couch, and rises to sit next to her, facing Elide fully. Once her dress is pulled up to reveal Elide’s stomach, Elide takes another steadying breath.

                Maybe it is all in her mind. Maybe Yrene will shake her head, and Elide will know she made her friend come all this way for nothing.

                Or maybe…

                A child. A child of her own.

                Yrene’s warm, soothing hands touch Elide’s sides. “If I was pregnant,” Elide begins, too nervous to keep silent, “wouldn’t it be too soon for you to…feel it? Since I am not even showing.”

                “No,” Yrene smiles. “Even if you had conceived yesterday, Elide, I would be able to tell.”

                “How?”

                “Well – even your blood feels different,” Yrene explains. “Even your heartbeat.”

                “You can feel all those things?” Elide murmurs, unable to hide her fascination. “Blood, heartbeats…?”

                “Yes.”

                Elide watches as the healer closes her eyes. In that instant, Elide feels her skin pricking all over – her arms, her neck, her legs – as she senses Yrene’s calming powers wash over her. She is all too afraid to close her eyes, so she keeps them firmly planted on the healer’s face, hoping for an answer.

                It is then that Yrene’s face steadies, her eyebrows unfurrow, and a muscle ticks on her cheek, as if she is holding back a smile. Yrene doesn’t even have to open her eyes and say anything, because Elide has her answer.

                She always has.

                Yrene pulls away gently, letting Elide’s dress fall back. The healer’s face is glowing with her powers, her eyes shining with emotion.

                “Congratulations, Elide,” she says.

                Elide expected to feel a storm raining down on her head.

                She expected those words to feel like a punch in the gut. To be a destruction.

                But all she feels is peace.

                Relief.

                Elide realizes then that she has been hoping for that same answer all along. Even if fear and nervousness and the anxiety of not knowing has clouded her mind and judgement.

                “Are you alright?” Yrene asks, tone gentle, taking Elide’s hand.

                “Yes,” Elide murmurs. “It is as if I already knew.”

                “Mothers always do.”

                Mother.

                A baby. I have a baby growing in me.

                “You’re in a bit of a shock right now,” Yrene says, and when she sits up, Elide feels a cup of tea being placed in her hands.

                “How long?” Elide says. “Do you know how long?”

                Yrene smiles. “Well, given your symptoms, and the size – I would say you are two weeks or two weeks and a half along.”

                Oh. Oh.

                She knows exactly when-

                “Wait – size?” Elide blinks, putting down her cold tea and turning her eyes to Yrene. “You…you saw him?”

                “Well,” Yrene chuckles. “See is a bit of a stretch. I get…an image.”

                Elide’s heart gives a jolt. “How big?” She murmurs.

                Yrene shows her, pinching her two fingers together, and opening them – just slightly.

                Tiny. So tiny.

                Elide swallows down a sob, and finds herself smiling – smiling as bright as the skies above her. Flowers are blooming in her heart.

                She has never expected…

                She has never known such fear. And yet, the thought of holding her child, her child with her mate-

                “Are you happy?” Yrene asks, squeezing Elide’s hand.

                “I…yes,” Elide says. “I believe I am.”

                Yrene gives Elide a second, and then the healer gently says, “It is your choice, you know. If you do not feel ready, or for any other reason you may consider enough, you can rethink this.”

                Elide raises her eyes to the healer. “I once had a girl come to me,” Yrene says, her eyes far away, the light in her eyes dimming slightly. “Back in Antica, when I was still studying in Torre Cesme. She had come to ask me specifically for help. She was more or less in her first weeks, as well.”

                “What happened?” Elide whispers.

                “She was young, Elide. Too young to support herself and a child. And with a war looming over our heads, she did not want to bring a child into a world as the one we had before. So, she asked, begged me, to end it.” Yrene pauses, eyes fixed on her cold tea. “I also knew that if I had said no, if I had denied that girl what she was asking for, she would only find another way to do it herself, endangering her own life in the process. So I examined her. Afterwards, I realized that, even if she had decided to keep the child, there was a high chance that she would not survive the birth. I gave her a concoction. She accepted. It was a simple procedure, and the mother did not come to any harm.”       

                Silence settles over Elide as she takes in the words.

                “I am not telling you this story to frighten you,” Yrene says. “I am telling you that you have a choice, Elide. Whatever path you may choose, know that I am here – and so is Lorcan. So is everybody else.”

                Elide finds herself wordless, nodding, squeezing Yrene’s hand.

                “Could you do it?” Elide asks after a while.

                It takes a few moments for Yrene to respond. “I don’t believe so. But I understand any woman who would.”

                Elide nods in agreement, leaning against her friend’s shoulder. “Yrene – I think I am floating with happiness.”

                Yrene wraps an arm around her. “I’m happy for you – and for Lorcan.”

                Lorcan.

                Elide pulls back, blinking. “He will know as soon as he sees me, won’t he?”

                “For fae – it is much easier to detect. And for mates…well, he’ll know even before he gets close to you, I believe.”

                For Lorcan could not have known the morning he left for Orynth, if only the night before-

                But he will know as soon as he gets here.

                Elide’s stomach bubbles with something other than nervousness. It takes her a while to realize that it’s excitement.

                A knock on the parlour’s door shakes Elide awake, and when she sees Mrs. Orland’s red face peeking through the door, she is pulled right back to reality.

                “Oh, my Lady, my apologies, but a messenger came just a few minutes ago.”

                The governess comes in, carrying a sealed envelope with Aelin’s insignia. “The boy, the messenger, my Lady, says he brings good news,” she smiles wide, breathlessly. “Almost did kill myself, I tell you, running down here-“

                “Mrs. Orland, you ought to be careful,” Elide says. “Those stairs-”

                “And your back, Mrs. Orland,” Yrene advices. “You must take care.”

                “Yes, but my dear Lady Yrene, Lady Elide,” the governess looks beyond happy, “I believe our Lord Lorcan and our Prince Rowan have at last caught the stinking rebels.”

                Elide blinks.

                Lorcan’s last letter could not have been two or three days old at most – could he and Rowan have truly ended the terrible doings of the rebels in such a short time?

                “We shall find out what my husband says,” Elide says, accepting the note Mrs. Orland gives her.

                Elide’s hand is still trembling as she opens the letter, and she notices the brief, yet worried glance Mrs. Orland throws her way. A caretaker, her governess. And has been a dear these last few weeks when Elide has not been feeling the best. When she hears what Elide has discovered today…well, she will need to be very careful delivering such news, in fear of giving Mrs. Orland a heart attack.

                The three women read the letter at the same time.

My dear Elide,

                I have good news at last. The leader of the rebels has handed himself in this evening-

                “Handed himself in?” Elide interjects. “Not much of a leader of a rebel group-”

                “But Lorcan says something else below,” Yrene says.

                -He approached the Guard at the gates of Orynth, and declared himself to be the leader of the group that terrorized that village. Rowan and I had been on the outskirts of town, asking around for any suspicious men lurking in the taverns or shops. We came back as soon as we heard.

                His story checks out. The two rebels we’d caught days before admitted they were being led by that man. Upon interrogation, the man who called himself the leader claims that he never intended to kill anyone, and decided to turn himself in because his men were serving a sentence that was only meant for him. A murderer with honour for his comrades. Smell the irony? A lucky bastard, too – for if Rowan had not held the queen back, I am positive that Aelin would have dismembered him on the spot. Powers or no powers.

                The rebels are Aelin’s to punish now. I believe they will not be seeing the sunlight for a long, long time.

                I will see you in a day’s time, Elide. I will only rest when I touch your face and see that you are alright.

                I love you,

                Lorcan.

Elide folds the letter in her hands.

Could it be? Could they really have gotten lucky with everything solving itself? But-

“I will only rest when I touch your face and see that you are alright.” Lorcan wrote.

                Does he know, somehow? Has he sensed anything through the bond?

                It’s too late to notify him now, Elide thinks. A letter will not reach him in time.

                Elide stifles a smile.

                Her Lord Husband will surely have the shock of his life when he returns home.

***

 

                Mrs. Orland is no longer surprised to witness the Lord of Perranth strolling through the gardens with his Lady Wife in his arms, as if he’s carrying his bride out of a chapel.

                The older woman hides a smile behind her hand as she watches from the back entrance the couple laughing at each other, trading kisses as they do, like young people in love.

                Even the gardener smiles to himself as the Lady and Lord of Perranth pass by, seemingly to have not a care in the world. They have been apart for almost three weeks, and now they only have eyes for each other.

                They love him – the people working at the manor. They love him like they love her. They warmed up to the male who worked day and night, night and day, to rebuild their home, their town. The male that put hours and hours of effort to make sure each house was safe and comfortable, for each family. The male who had proved to be kind, kind enough to match his wife. The male who had proved to be worthy of having Perranth as his home, and Elide as his partner.

                Mrs. Orland included, has much admiration for the Lord of Perranth. And Lady Elide knows that Mrs. Orland is not one to muck about and pretend – as an old friend of Marion’s, and for the love that she had for Lady Elide, Mrs. Orland would simply not accept anyone else for her dear girl. Anyone else but Lorcan.

                The couple stumbles through the main entrance, chuckling as they go, and Mrs. Orland dares a soft laugh, turning her head to the lovely gardens and the green, lush forests that lay beyond, marvelling at the peace and happiness that this new world brought about.

***

 

                He arrives in the afternoon.

                Elide watches her husband hand off his horse, his hair tied at the back, his face revealing a slight stubble and urgent eyes.

                And then he looks at her.

                Across the gardens, she takes in his appearance – the cream shirt hanging loose, the dark trousers and riding boots. He’s alright.

                He’s safe.

                Unharmed.

                A breath of relief leaves her lips, followed by a soft, happy sound that is close to a laugh, but leaning more towards a sob, as Lorcan runs to her.

                He takes her into his arms seconds later, faster than she can predict, and he laughs, and she laughs, and they’re laughing, at last, together. Head against his chest, she breathes in his scent, like rain and earth, and at last she is calm. Her mate is in her arms, and-

                Lorcan pulls back.

                He looks her over, arms never leaving her, never unwrapping from around her, and blinks. Elide pauses, eyes searching his, looking for what he’s found.

                And a thought crosses her mind: he knows.

                Instantly, he knows.

                However, Lorcan frowns, and says, “Elide, have you not been eating?”

                It’s Elide’s turn to blink at him. “I…what?”

                Lorcan gently touches her chin, her cheek, thumb caressing her skin. His touch-

                Elide immediately leans into it, eyes falling shut on their own accord, at the gentleness, at the warmth of him.

                Elide opens her eyes, staring at her mate, and whispers, before he can ask anything else: “Is that the only thing you noticed?”

                There is enough suggestion in her tone to make him stop and stare. Not wishing to wait any moment longer for him to understand, Elide takes his hand, and leads it to the bottom of her belly.

                “Tell me what else you feel,” she murmurs to him, arms wrapping around his neck. “What else you see.”

                Lorcan is very still.

                His eyes lower to where his hand is placed.

                Elide reads his face, and sees everything written in the emotion of his eyes, as he blinks.

                “You do not mean…?”

                Elide smiles at him, at the way his face is immediately brightening, softening. At the way Lorcan looks at her – his own smile gleaming, wide.

                “Elide-”

                “Yes,” she tells him, nodding. “Yes.”

                “You are…we…” he is without words, and Elide finds it absolutely delightful. She has been known for taking Lorcan’s words out of his mouth every now and then, but she cherishes this moment more than any other. “A child,” he marvels.      

                “Yes,” Elide says, hands drifting down to his chest. “Yours and mine.”

                “I sensed something was not quite right,” Lorcan whispers, touching his forehead to hers, pulling her close. “Dear Hellas, if I only had stopped for a second- It’s so clear.”

                Elide chuckles, pulling him closer still. “You’re having a better reaction than I did.”

                “How long have you known?” he asks, touching her cheeks.

                “I just found out yesterday,” Elide says. “I sent for Yrene. I did not think it would be right to worry you if it were not true, but…it is. It is true. Yrene herself confirmed it. And then you were already coming home and-“

                Lorcan kisses her mid-sentence.

                He kisses her, so, so gently. And with so much love that Elide is momentarily stunned, then a second later she is melting against him, cheeks burning.

                She giggles under her breath, dazed, as he breaks the kiss.

                “You,” he says, against her lips, his hand on her chin, “could not,” a kiss on the corner of her mouth, “have made me,” a kiss on the tip of her nose, “happier.”

                Elide smiles up at her mate, leaving a gentle peck on his chin. “Oh?”

                “Are you?”

                “Am I what?”

                Lorcan pulls back to stare into her eyes, to see what truth lies there. “Are you, happy, love?”

                Elide sees it then – what Yrene had said yesterday. That beyond that world-changing joy in Lorcan’s eyes, there was also a gentle worry brewing in there. An understanding. He would make sure that she was happy, first and foremost. And he would stand by her whatever path she decided to take. This is Lorcan taking a step back, giving her the choice.

                And Elide knows, right then and there, that her child has been a gift – but her husband, her mate, has been one, too.

                She leans on her tiptoes, takes his face in her hands, thumbs feeling the rough stubble there, and kisses him. Her heartbeat is a call for him, wild and unbound, and his kiss is his answer. Lorcan wraps his arms around her waist once more, pulling his wife impossibly close. Gods, gods. She missed him. She missed him so much.

                Lorcan’s eyes are still closed when she pulls back, breathing her in. She whispers to him, “I am overjoyed.”

                And Lorcan takes her into his arms, lifting her off the ground.

                Elide laughs herself hoarse as he carries her through the gardens, kissing her as he does, every touch on her sides playful, teasing, and Elide can feel every pair of eyes on them, but her bubbling happiness does not allow her to think of anything else past Lorcan’s own laugh, his smile, the gleam in his eyes as he carries over the threshold of their home and up the stairs to the first floor.

                “I left my cane downstairs,” she says, looking over his shoulder.

                “I’m home now,” he says, and Elide feels that soothing darkness once more, wrapping around her injury, like a phantom kiss being placed over her skin. “You can leave that for a little while. Rest.”

                Lorcan carries her to their room, and insists in doing so, despite Elide’s protests, of her telling him that with the relief of his powers, she can walk fine. But even then, she is all too happy to be in her mate’s arms once more, and doesn’t push him when he walks her to their bed, settling her down gently.

                Sitting there, Elide wraps her clever fingers around the loops of his trousers, bringing him close when Lorcan begins to pull away.

                "Where is my Lord Husband going?” She asks, and her low voice is enough to catch Lorcan’s undivided attention.

                “I was going to take a bath,” Lorcan says. “I did spend half a day on horseback, after all, wife.”

                “Bath later,” she says, falling back into the bed and taking her husband with her.

                Lorcan’s rough laugh is swallowed by her kiss, and Elide smiles with dark satisfaction the moment she feels him giving in to her, as he always does.

                “Your husband smells like a horse,” he says, as if there is no other way to put it. “And all you think about is ridding him off his clothes?”

                “Are you complaining?”

                “Not at all,” he murmurs, kissing the line of her jaw. “Even if it is the afternoon, and most of this household will surely know-“

                He’s provoking her, and it isn’t working – for Elide smiles wider, kissing the words out of his mouth, pulling him closer with her thighs, inch by inch, pressing him against her. “I have no worries about that. And no intention of leaving this room.”

                At her confession, Lorcan’s dark brows raise slightly, his lips turning upward into a semblance of a smirk. She watches him watching her, his eyes tracing the lines of her face, and hers tracing the fullness of his lips, the handsome ruggedness of his face.

                “Let me get clean,” he says, “and then we will play.”

                The words send a shiver down her spine, and despite her forwardness, Elide still manages to show him tinted cheeks and a sheepish smile when he speaks against her ear.

                Even though she knows he is only doing this to provoke her, Elide watches him move off her, every inch of him tense and begging to rid her of her own clothes. 

                Elide follows him into the bathroom, leaning against the door frame as he undresses. “So,” she says. “Is it really over?”

                “Apparently so,” Lorcan says, and his shirt comes off first. Elide is not shy about letting her eyes wonder over each and every ridge, and scar, and the imperfect perfection of him. Of course he knows, and of course Lorcan is planning to take full advantage of it.

                But then again – so is she.

                With slow fingers, Elide begins unbuttoning her own bodice, moving down to unlace the strings, as Lorcan watches with a careful, predatory gaze.

                “Don’t you think it’s strange that the supposed leader handed himself in?” Elide asks, letting her clothes fall to the floor.

                Lorcan was good at his own game – charming her, wooing her. But Elide had learned all too well, and she’d mastered his sport. The bulging evidence was right in front of her.

                Lorcan clears his throat as he unbuttons his trousers. “He seemed believable enough.”

                His boots come off, and so does her bodice. She begins untying her shoes. “It seems awfully convenient that-”

                “I don’t want to talk about the rebels,” Lorcan says, tone low but gentle, yet rough and wanting, all at the same time, as he approaches her.

                Elide’s breath is stolen from her lungs when he kneels, and with delicate hands begins removing her shoes. Elide leans her hands on his shoulders to stable herself. Even like this, with such tender gestures, she feels her entire body trembling with need, answering to his. She grows hot, cheeks burning, fingers twitching, as he works on removing her socks, seeming all too happy to be defeated in his own game.

                Elide stays still as he stands, reaching behind her and pulling the zip of her dress down. He falls from her shoulders, and one gentle tug has the fabric sliding down her body, and onto the floor.

                Lorcan takes a breath.

                Elide takes two, for good measure.

                She feels slightly faint.

                Slowly, she drags her hands down his chest, soft and tough skin meeting her palms, the tips of her fingers pausing over the waistline of his trousers. With one look at him, she tugs them down, and off they come.

                He’s gloriously bare.

                Elide’s heart thuds in her chest.

                “How long?” He asks her in a murmur, letting his fingers weave through her unbound hair.

                And, without asking, Elide knows what he’s reffering to.         

                “Two weeks, and a few days.”

                “So…” Lorcan counts the days. “The night before I left-“

                She nods, “Yes.”

                He smiles, and such love is shown in that smile, in those dark eyes of his, that Elide’s heart feels as if it’s melting and crunching and being ultimately smashed in her chest.

                Neither of them has planned this, and yet-

                It feels right, so right, for both of them.

                The tub is filled to the brim, and Lorcan lifts Elide in his arms, her chest pressed against his, heart to heart, as he leaves a soft kiss on her lips, before taking them both in.

                Elide touches his cheeks, her legs around his waist, leaving slow, little kisses everywhere she can reach. Lorcan has his eyes closed, letting her pour her kisses down on him, fingers idly stroking circles on her back.

                “I missed you,” she murmurs.

                “I missed you, my love,” he says, touching his lips to her face, brushing away a bit of soap on her cheeks. “I missed you.”

                Elide brushes out his hair with her fingers as he kisses her lips. It’s blissful paradise.

                “We have to start thinking of names,” she laughs softly against his lips, pulling back just an inch to look at him. “And choose a room. Decorate it. There is still so much to do.”

                “We will do it,” Lorcan says, pulling her wet hair off her cheeks. “Together. And as for names…ah, we have time, Elide. We’ll come up with something for him soon enough.”

                Elide’s lips tug at the corners. “Him?”

                Lorcan pauses, and gives her a little shrug. “I have an inkling.”

                “You don’t say,” Elide breathes a laugh, a funny look on her face.

                “What?”

                She returns his shrug. “I also have an inkling that it’s a boy.” A pause. “It could be either at this point. We could only know for sure when we meet him. Or her.”

                Lorcan smiles up at her. “I’m terrified.”

                “So am I,” she admits, touching her forehead to his, closing her eyes, and letting out a soft breath. “I think we are supposed to. We will learn as we go.”

                Lorcan pulls her closer, leaving a kiss on her shoulder, as the silence envelops them.

                And then Elide moves her hips.

                His self-control is shattered.

                She knows it, too – he can sense it in the way that she parts her lips, as she takes that little breath he always hears before she decides what she wants to do. Every movement is purposeful.

                “Elide,” he breathes, but she touches his chin, and catches his lips with hers in a seeing, dizzying kiss.

                Lorcan has half a mind to get them out of the tub and into a bed, but Elide has other plans; her hand reaches down, grasping him under the water, and slowly, so slowly, she strokes him.

                Lorcan’s head falls on her shoulder. A groan escapes his lips, his hips shifting with her movements. To make matters worse, Elide’s lips are doing wonderful, terrible things to his neck, her free hand tugging gently at the hair at the back of his neck. He can barely breathe.

                And Elide is all too impatient.

                He is rock hard in her hand, his pants and soft groans clouding her mind. Elide now knows which movements drive him over the edge; what kisses make him beg for more, and the kind of touches that will make him say her name.

                She does all of them.

                Lorcan touches her chin and leads her lips to his. And then Elide shifts her hips once more, and feels him at her entrance. When they finally connect, it is like taking a breath after being underwater for weeks.

                He eases her down, breaking the kiss to look up at her. Elide has her bottom lip between her teeth, her brows scrunched together in blissful pleasure. For one long moment, when Elide takes the full length of him, they stare at each other, noses touching, Elide’s trembling hands on his cheeks.

                “I love you,” is the only thing she manages to say, as her hips begin rocking back and forth slowly, as if her body is acting on its own accord. “I love you.”

                Lorcan whispers the same sweet nothings into her ear, hands sliding down, down the sides of her body, feeling every curve and every scar against his fingertips. Her thighs begin to burn at the pressure of moving so slow, yet his hands are there to soothe the pain, gentle as he guides her, yet demanding as he presses his fingers into her skin.

                A gasp leaves her lips as his hips move in time with hers, perfectly in sync, and a blinding light covers her eyes. It is suddenly too much to bear – her mate in her arms, the need to have him now, and harder, and faster, the slow breathing touching her ear and the low groans that eventually turn into soft growls against the skin of her shoulder.

                Elide squeezes her thighs together, saying his name under her breath as Lorcan plunges himself deeper. And it’s all so slow, so agonizingly slow, that Elide finds herself moving on her own, pulling back slightly from him, giving him a view of her breasts as she places her hands on his knees.

                Lorcan’s lips taste the small hurt of one breast, and Elide inclines her head back, eyes closed against the overwhelming feeling. She’s moaning his name, hips shifting and losing their rhythm, her lungs struggling for air as she climbs higher and higher-

                She slams into that sweet release as Lorcan’s teeth graze the top of her breast, a trembling breath leaving her lips. Lorcan has one hand on the small of her back, pulling her closer.

                “Lorcan,” she whispers against his lips, voice slightly shaky, as Lorcan’s own thrusts get clumsier.

                She kisses him, long and deep, taking his lip between her teeth. “Let me see you,” she says, dragging her thumbs across his cheeks, urging him to open his eyes. “Let me see you.”

                Lorcan’s eyes meet her own, so full of love, and need, gentle and desperate. She kisses him again, and again, letting her hips roll against his, meeting his thrusts, coaxing another moan out of his pretty mouth.

                Lorcan crashes and burns, hands holding on for dear life, clinging to her waist, and Elide watches it all on his face – the furrow of his dark brows, the muscles of his jaws tightening as he spills himself inside her, hips stopping short, tense, before relaxing.               

                Elide smiles softly, touching her lips to his forehead, allowing him to slowly come down, and back to her. Slowly, he does.                             

                Lorcan looks up, and it is his turn to pester her face with kisses, some short, some long, some sweet, some playful. In each and every single one is a confession; and a promise of forever remaining in her arms.

                They rinse and dry themselves off, while the sun prepares to disappear.

                Elide helps Lorcan dry off his hair with a towel, all the while leaning over his shoulder and smacking occasional kisses on his cheeks. Her husband, in return, pinches her sides, making her jump, and all that can be heard from across the hall is endless laughter.

                Not for long.

                For when his mate crosses the bedroom with only a towel around her waist, Lorcan pauses, watching her, as he places a shirt over his head. And before Elide can turn, Lorcan is behind her, his lips at her neck.

                “Will my Lord Husband allow his wife to dress herself?” She pokes at his cheek. “I am still capable of such a thing, you know?”

                “I’m not finished with you.”

                Elide raises her brow, and begins to ask when Lorcan is literally tossing her over his shoulder.         

                “Lorcan,” she smacks his clothed ass. “Put your pregnant wife down.”

                He obeys – but does not place her on the floor.

                On the bed.

                Elide laughs as he slowly peels her towel away, making a show of it. “You are terrible,” she says. “What are you doing? Let me get dressed-!”

                He clicks his tongue, pushing Elide back down, earning himself another chuckle from her. “It has been two whole weeks, my love.”

                Elide’s laughter fades quickly enough as she understands where this is going.

                The words leave her mouth the moment Lorcan’s hands wrap around her knees, and she is gently pushed toward him, exposed and vulnerable to his eyes.

                And Lorcan does look, eyes trailing over her delicate neck, the curve of her shoulders, and the roundness of her breasts. Her waist and hips follow, which he accompanies with his hands, marvelling at the soft skin.

                “No matter how many times I love you,” he says, “I always crave more.”

                He parts her legs.

                “Lorcan…” she says, only a breath.

                He lifts a leg and one, two, three kisses are placed, following the path on the inside of her thighs, and back up towards the bone of her hip. He relishes the slow breath she lets out, her eyes intent on each and every kiss he leaves on her skin.

                “Do you want me to taste you?” He asks – a soft question muttered against her skin.

                Elide is silent, transfixed, heart hammering on her breast, while Lorcan breathes in the scent of her skin just below her belly button, now so different, and yet all the same. He kisses her stomach, up, and down, slow kisses leaving her wrecked.

                “If you want me to carry on, my love,” his voice reverberates against her. “I want an answer.”

                He tugs at her legs, and she is pressed closer to him.

                “Yes,” she breathes, watching him.

                It does no matter how many times Elide sees Lorcan between her legs. The sight of it makes her want to unravel on its own, and now – even minutes after a release – she is already desperate for his mouth on her.

                Lorcan cuts right to the chase, and places a sweet, lingering kiss on her swollen bud, making her hips jolt slightly, rising off the mattress.

                “So sensitive,” he smiles.

                Elide almost tells him to fuck off, but her mind is erased of any thought that is not his tongue making slow, teasing circles on her clit. Elide is fisting the sheets, breathing hard, silently begging for him to do something, anything, to put out the fire he started. She wants, needs, some kind of fast relief – but it seems that Lorcan refuses to give her that. Instead he licks at her entrance, all the way up, and back down again, making her see the brightest, most dizzy of stars.

                “Please, please, please,” she murmurs, body squirming and trashing as Lorcan keeps his pace moderately slow, tongue flicking in, out, in, out. And around.

                “Lorcan,” she groans the moment his lips stop their ministrations and instead turn to give their full attention to her thighs.

                “Yes, my wife?”

                Her legs fall limp, her eyes close in both exhaustion and desperation. “I am begging you.”

                “For what?”

                Oh, how he loves to see the fire in those eyes of hers. The cunning frustration in them as she lifts herself on her elbows and gives him a look that would terrorize the most powerful male in the world.

                “Don’t toy with me.”    

                “Then tell me what you want.”

                “You know what I want,” she says, letting her head rest into the mattress. “Lorcan. Please.”

                “Do you want my mouth on you?” he says, and takes her hand, kissing the centre of her palm.

                “Yes,” she sighs, closing her eyes.

                “Do you want to come?” he asks her, a kiss placed on her centre as he looks up at her. “Do you want me to make you come?”

                “Yes,” she breathes. “Yes, yes.”

                Lorcan lets out a dark laugh, and Elide sigh of relief turns into a strangled moan as his tongue works on her, parting her lips and taking everything. His fingers dig into the back of her thighs as Elide throws her head back and parts her mouth in a silent cry.

                She unravels with whimper and his name following, her hand holding on to his shoulder of support as Lorcan finishes her off.

                Elide’s eyes remain closed when he pulls away at last, for she can barely move. She can hardly breathe.

                Lorcan laughs softly, leaning over her as Elide turns to her side, body limp and thrumming. “Is that what you wanted, Elide?”

                She mumbles a soft, “I hate you”, under her breath, before her body begins to settle down, and her mind drifts off.

                Lorcan smiles down at his wife, kissing the crown of her head. “Sleep, now.” He murmurs.

                Before he can pull away, Elide is wrapping a hand around his wrist. “Don’t go.”

                She is almost instantly asleep, exhaustion of the last few days finally catching up to her, but Lorcan lays down anyway, opening his arms, and letting his mate nuzzle into him. The covers are pulled under them both. Lorcan watches her with quite wonder and unending happiness. In the remains of her smile, the Lord of Perranth finds his forever, and intends to keep her in his arms, for as long as he is allowed to.

***

                Elide recounts one of the best days of her life as being one of the first days of winter.

                It is dark but calm, the snow still too weak to truly settle, and the storms still weeks away. It had been a long, winding summer, filled with challenges, tears and laughter. But as Elide looks down at the smiling boy in her arms, she realizes that there is not a single bone in her body wishing to change anything. Anything at all.

                Her baby boy is only days old, and the pains in her body are still a proof of a healthy, uncomplicated birth. The thin, black hair sits atop a chubby-cheeked face that is as dark as his father’s, soft as an early summer breeze. She has only known him for a short period of time, but the amount of love in her heart for this little one can’t even fit in this whole world, for it goes beyond that.

                “Ferran,” she murmurs to him, swearing his mouth tugs upwards as he hears her. “My beautiful joy.”

                She gently sways him, humming to herself. She hears people down below, familiar voices and cheery laughter, and Elide finds a large smile on her own face. “You are meeting your family today. They are…well, you will see for yourself. But you will love them, as they will love you. As I do.”

                Lorcan knocks gently, and Elide turns to face her husband as he steps inside the nursery they had built together, months prior to Ferran’s arrival. Lorcan’s step is almost a bounce as he touches his lips to his wife’s forehead.

                “How’s my warrior?”

                “Drunk on milk,” Elide breathes a laugh. “And very happy right now. Let us see if it lasts.”

                “With that crazy bunch looking down at him? Doubt it.”

                With another laugh and a shake of her head, Elide gently places the baby in Lorcan’s awaiting arms. Lorcan rocks him back and forth, kissing his son’s hand, smiling down at him, as the little one smiles up at him.

                “I swear he is smiling,” Lorcan breathes.           

                “I know!” Elide says. “I was noticing that too-“

                The door bursts open, and in comes Aelin in all her mighty glory, declaring, “I wish to see my nephew.”

                And it is in his might glory, that Lorcan replies, “He is most definitely not your nephew.”

                “Oh, hush,” Aelin swats a hand, and Elide smiles at an amused looking Rowan behind her.

                “Ferran,” Aelin sings softly, staring down at the little one as Lorcan, certainly containing the roll of his eyes, turns to the queen.

                “Elide,” Rowan smiles widely, “congratulations. And you, brother.”

                Lorcan nods at the prince once, emotion shining in his eyes, which Lorcan quickly blinks away as Aelin makes a move for the baby.

                “Careful,” Lorcan says, “have you even held a baby before?”

                “How dare you,” Aelin fumes. “Babies love me, for your information.”

                Elide gives her husband an equally amused glance. “Lorcan’s been…a little overprotective.”

                “I wouldn’t call it overprotective,” Lorcan interjects, back straightening defensively.

                “My love, you scared the living daylights out of poor Mrs. Orland just yesterday when she held the baby,” Elide says, then turns her face to both Aelin and Rowan. “He would not tear his eyes away. It was honestly the creepiest thing I have ever witnessed.”

                “Go on, you big brute, give him to me,” Aelin takes the baby into her eyes, and Lorcan goes positively green. “He loves his aunt already. Look – he’s smiling at me. Rowan, look!”

                And then, all of a sudden, everybody goes very still.

                Because one moment Aelin is smiling, delighted.

                The next she is crying.

                Sobbing.

                “Aelin?” Both Elide and Rowan say at the same time, as Elide gently picks up Ferran from the queen’s arms.

                “He’s so beautiful,” Aelin sobs, letting Rowan pull her into his arms. “And so tiny. He takes after you, Elide, of course. Thank the heavens.”

                Lorcan narrows his eyes.

                Elide smiles gently, “It is an emotional day.”

                “Yes, indeed,” Aelin smiles. “He’s…going to be so loved.”

                Rowan and Elide exchange a glance and, for one second, she is sure the Prince lets something slip in his gaze. She has an inkling of what it might be, but-         

                Elide smiles to herself, and keeps silent.

                All in due time.

                Mrs. Orland is the next one barging into the nursery, bringing with her a smile so delighted it brightens up the room. “My Lady, My Lord, Your Majesty and Your Highness-”

                “Mrs. Orland, did you run here again?” Lorcan says. “The stairs-”

                Elide shakes her head hopelessly at her governess. “Never listens.”

                “The carriages are here,” Mrs. Orland declares And then, with a slight wavering to her tone: “And…wyverns.”

                Elide and Aelin exchange a glance as the queen wipes her tears. “Do you think the witch has already ripped Dorian’s head off?”

                “Aelin, please,” Elide chuckles, and smiles wider and little Ferran nuzzles into her. “They have only just gotten married – leave them be.”

                Aelin smirks. “Let us see how long that lasts.”

                They make their way downstairs, Elide letting Lorcan carry the baby as she’s still limping slightly.

                The first person to push her into a death-gripping hug is Lysandra herself, who looks absolutely mesmerizing in her green gown. Aedion, in matching colours follows suit, rumbling about how lucky it was that little Ferran had seemed to take after his mother, instead of his father.

                Chaol and Yrene, with their own little one walking hand in hand with his mother, look as happy as everyone else, congratulating both Lorcan and Elide on the new bundle of joy. Ferran, all the while, is looking around with wide, curious eyes, being passed from person to person, cooed and smiled at, leaving everybody falling head over heels with him.

                “Nesryn and Sartaq’s congratulatory letter,” Aelin says, giving Elide a pretty bound-up note, with the Emperor and Empress’s insignia attached. “From her last letter, I believe Nesryn is joining us for the Spring Ball.”

                Elide hopes so – she misses Nesryn terribly.

                Last to show is Manon, her own crown of stars glinting on top of her head. She looks down at the little one in Elide’s arms and, with a smile and a knowing glance to Elide, she murmurs, “Congratulations, witchling.”

                Elide feels too inclined to cry from all that joy, so she takes a moment to gather her emotions, and then says, “So, can we expect any little ones from you, soon?”

                Manon makes a face, the most human gesture she’s ever seen the witch Queen make. “Absolutely not.”

                Dorian strides in after her, looking up at the queen with the world’s admiration in his eyes. “We never like to say never.”

                Manon looks positively horrified. “No.”

                Dorian gives Elide a wink, full of love and light and happiness. “That’s what she said when I asked her to marry me. And that’s my ring on her finger now.”

                Elide smiles at both of them, even if Manon swats away Dorian’s hands wrapping around her waist.

                She turns, finds her husband smiling down at her and at their new love. She watches him lift the little one in his arms, cuddling him closer, greedy for his son’s attention.

                For a few moments, Elide loses herself.

                She gets lost in the sea of smiling faces, her friends – now her family. She watches every single face, and begins to believe that miracles are real. Manon and Dorian whispering to themselves, and a secret smile on Manon’s face as she gazes at the prince; Lysandra and Aedion, gushing over to Lorcan about Ferran; Chaol, standing as his wife’s magic envelops him, taking his own son in his arms; and then Aelin, and Rowan, laughing to themselves as Fenrys brings the queen a drink.

                “Don’t be silly, Fenrys,” Aelin smiles. “Pregnant women cannot drink.”

                Everything goes still and silent.

                Dorian lets his cup slip out of his hand, and Manon catches it before it hits the floor, eyes yellow eyes never leaving Aelin’s.

                “WHAT?!” Lysandra screams, charging at Aelin.

                “No fucking way,” Aedion is saying, looking around. “Did you know this? Elide, did you know this?”

                In return, Fenrys is still holding the glass, as if he did not comprehend a word.

                “I’m sorry,” Aelin looks up at Rowan, smiling with her teeth. “I could not help myself.”

                Rowan sighs, but there’s a smile as large as the world on his face. “We were supposed to surprise you,” he says to them all. And then, disappointed, to himself: “I made everyone nice cards.”

                An endless row of congratulations sounds around them, and Elide herself cannot keep the grin out of her lips as she hugs Aelin to her, as she murmurs her congratulations and best wishes. Another baby for them to love and care for. Another member of their family on the way.

                This, Elide thinks, as she watches her family celebrate – this is happiness. This is what they had survived for. This is the world they fought so hard for. A better world – for all of them.

                And for all the miracles in the world…

                Elide cannot imagine that this one belongs to her. To them all.

***

                At the end of the afternoon, Yrene Towers pulls Elide aside.

                “I need a word with you,” is Yrene’s only explanation.

                Yrene herself delivered Ferran, and was there the whole day to help Elide. And as such, the first thing that comes to Elide’s tired brain is that Yrene has bad news concerning her child. Why else would they be having this conversation apart from everybody else?

                “Oh,” Yrene quickly adds, at seeing the worry in Elide’s face. “No, no. Everything is fine with little Ferran.”

                “Yrene,” Elide places a hand at her heart. “Good Gods.”

                “I’m sorry,” Yrene says. “But I have been trying to find an opportunity to tell you something – about yourself.”

                “About me?” Elide says.

                Yrene takes a breath, and begins: “Nine months ago, when you asked me to examine you for a child, I noticed that your blood had changed.”

                “My blood had changed,” Elide repeats dumbly.

                Yrene nods. “It’s a difficult thing to explain. But each species has their own type of blood. A human’s is not like a shifter’s, for example. Shifters are long-lived, like fae, like witches.”

                “Are you saying I have witch blood?” Elide asks. “But we’ve discussed it-”

                “Yes,” Yrene patiently says. “But that day, Elide, when I was examining you, it was not only your witch blood that I sensed.”

                Elide is dead silent.

                “Fae blood,” Yrene says. “Or, better yet, an outward source of fae magic. Strong, and ancient. None of the compounds of fae blood is in your system, but your own blood, witch and human, seems to be electrified with a characteristic of fae blood. As if…wrapped around its magic.”

                “I don’t understand,” Elide murmurs. 

                “I have read books about this, but they were simply mere superstition,” Yrene explains. “Humans and fae have been mating for centuries. Some fae bind themselves to their chosen partner, so they can live the same duration of life. Fae’s blood is stronger than human’s blood; their magic is always dominant.”

                “Yes,” Elide says, nodding. “Lorcan and I did the same at our wedding, but…”

                Yrene pauses, and then says, “I think it had the opposite effect of what you’re referring to, Elide. Nine months ago, I believed the fae magic in your blood was caused by your child, since he is, by nature, faerie. But nine months later, your child has been born, and your blood is still thrumming with it.”

                Elide widens her eyes as it slowly begins to dawn upon her, what Yrene is saying. “What are you saying?”

                “You did not bind Lorcan’s life to yours, Elide. You bound your life to his,” Yrene says. “It has made you immortal.”