Once Upon a Time … Part 5, What Happened After….

For Part One: http://wp.me/p2VCul-kr
For Part Two: http://wp.me/p2VCul-lz
For Part Three: http://wp.me/p2VCul-lG
For Part Four: http://wp.me/p2VCul-lN

Gwyneth and Nathaniel fell in love.

Gwyneth and Nathaniel fell in love.

Gwyneth and Nathaniel fell in love. Even though Nathaniel was a vampire and Gwyn was a Seelie Fae, everyone knew it was the right match. Then one day, Queen Isabella returned and revealed herself as a Goddess, breathing life into Nathaniel but letting him keep his immortality. His Fae heritage was much stronger than he had originally thought, but that would only be revealed in time.

One Day, King Alec came to talk to Gwyneth and Aoibheann.

One Day, King Alec came to talk to Gwyneth and Aoibheann.

One day, King Alec came to talk to Gwyneth and Aoibheann. It was time, he said, to explain the reasons behind everything that had happened. As it turned out, King Alec had, at the time Tabitha hid her two children, been the powerful sorcerer behind the Welsh witch’s magic. He had observed all the hiding and conspiracy, and he had caught up with Tabitha and arranged for her to go to the northlands and be reunited with her lover. Although the two were happy together, they never bore any other children. But Alec and his wife, the Goddess Isabella, sought out the twin girls and watched them as they grew, paying special attention to those important places in their lives when tragedy or inspiration might strike. Isabella herself had whispered the truenames to both Gwyneth’s grandmother and Aoibheann’s friend, although she did not foresee what would happen to either of them in the days and years to follow. Alec, whose magic was great and powerful, transformed himself into the Boatman in order to save the two girls from certain death.

Aoibheann fell in love with a strong Seelie King.

Aoibheann fell in love with a Seelie King.

Aoibheann fell in love with a Seelie King. At first, she thought their love was doomed, but when Alec told Gwyneth and Aoibheann the story of their birth, she rejoiced, for as a full-blooded Sidhe, she could court and consort with her lover.

Gwyneth and Aoibheann were thrilled to find out they were twins!

Gwyneth and Aoibheann were thrilled to find out they were twins!

Even though they looked nothing alike, Aoibheann and Gwyneth were so happy when they found out they were twins! They spent many long hours learning more about one another and thinking about the future and what it would hold for them. It was still a sadness to both of them that their mother and father had never really known them, but King Alec insisted there was a way for them to have the family they had always wanted.

Gwyneth and Aoibheann were dressed in flowers.

Gwyneth and Aoibheann were dressed in flowers.

Search as he might, King Alec could not find Tabitha and her lover, whose name was never revealed. And so one day, he and Queen Isabella dressed Aoibheann and Gwyneth in flowers and claimed them as their own, making them equal Princesses of the Realm.

Aoibheann's coronation crown was made specially for her by skilled Fae jewellers.

Aoibheann’s coronation crown was made specially for her by skilled Fae jewellers.

They each were given special crowns and told that once Alec and Isabella grew bored of ruling in the new land, they would become the Twin Queens, and whoever they chose would rule alongside them. Of course, their choices were already made.

Sometimes, the two Queens held court together.

Sometimes, the two Queens held court together.

Sometimes, the two Queens held court together, and sometimes Gwyneth and Nathaniel held court. Aoibheann’s beloved Fae King was already tired of ruling, and he chose not to hear matters of the court, but he was always available to help make decisions that benefited the people and served their interests, for he was a good and true King.

Sometimes, Gwyneth and Nathaniel held court.

Sometimes, Gwyneth and Nathaniel held court.

While the official residence was a huge castle in the new land, Gwyneth and Nathaniel spent most of their time in a manor by the sea, while Aoibheann and King Llwyd stayed in in the beautiful light forest that covered the new land.

The official residence was a huge castle.

The official residence was a huge castle.

Aoibheann and Llwyd had four beautiful children, including one set of twins. Gwyneth and Nathaniel, whose father was revealed to be a full-blooded Seelie Sidhe, did not have any children, but their friend Valene, the Queen of all the Cait Sidhe, kept them busy with the many Cait who came in and out of their lives, so they were never lonely. Even though they worked together and ruled together, the two sisters remained the best of friends as they danced agelessly through the beautiful kingdom they ruled together. Aoibheann could hear the smallest noise in the forest, and Gwyneth always knew what was going to happen next week, even if she wasn’t sure about the next ten minutes. And their loves danced along with them, through all the days and years of their rules, until they too decided it was time to just relax and enjoy things, when Aoibheann and Llwyd’s children were old enough to rule the kingdom. And they made sure always to keep a lively tavern going in the village, so that any newcomers would feel welcome, and any strays would have a warm place to sleep and a good meal when they arrived. They even called it the Lucky Leaf.

The End.

Once Upon a Time … Part 4, Jasper Cove

For Part One: http://wp.me/p2VCul-kr
For Part Two: http://wp.me/p2VCul-lz
For Part Three: http://wp.me/p2VCul-lG

Gwyneth asked lots of questions.

Gwyneth asked lots of questions.

Gwyneth said goodbye to the Boatman, then climbed the seemingly endless steps to the walled village above the harbour. The town she found was quiet, but she walked along to a pub called the Lucky Leaf, because that’s where you are meant to go when you’re in a fantasy story and you enter a new town. If you’re lucky, there will even be signs up for the Adventurers’ Guild and you will get to slay a dragon or something.

No such signs were posted at the Lucky Leaf.

No such signs were posted at the Lucky Leaf.

No such signs were posted at the Lucky Leaf. However, Gwyneth did meet Aoibheann and Nathaniel, both of whom seemed to work at the pub. Aoibheann introduced herself as the innkeeper, and Nathaniel as her accountant. Kindly, Aoibheann offered Gwyn a place to stay for the night, and a job if she wanted one.

Gwyneth took the job.

Gwyneth took the job.

Gwyneth took the job, because there was not very much in the way of university level lecturing work to be found in Jasper Cove, and she was at least comfortable around copious amounts of alcohol.

Queen Isabella.

Queen Isabella.

Jasper Cove was ruled by King Alec and Queen Isabella.

King Alec.

King Alec.

Nobody really knew their story, but Gwyn was happy enough to have a roof over her head and food on the table, so she did not question these two leaders overmuch.

Gwyneth and Aoibheann soon became friends.

Gwyneth and Aoibheann soon became friends.

Gwyneth and Aoibheann soon became friends, and the same was true for Gwyneth and Nathaniel. Before long, the three Lucky Leaf staff members were inseparable — except when weird stuff happened when others weren’t present.

Nathaniel and Gwyneth became friends, too.

Nathaniel and Gwyneth became friends, too.

Aoibheann and Gwyneth had all sorts of exciting adventures, including narrow escapes from poisonings, encounters with the Huntsman, merchant wars with the sour old guy who ran the bakery, and the birth of Queen Isabella’s youngest (so far), Malachai. Eventually, they all became friends with the King and Queen as well, though Nathaniel and Aoibheann more so: Gwyneth always felt a little distanced from the two sovereigns for reasons she didn’t completely understand.

Still, there were good times.

Still, there were good times.

Still, there were good times. Nobody threw a picnic like Their Majesties, and the trio would sometimes find themselves invited along for a day out with the royal family in the beautiful wilds of Jasper Cove.

One night, when the village cowered in fear of the Huntsman, King Alec came to the Lucky Leaf to lay cold iron along the doors and windows. Gwyneth found herself quite distressed by this action, and the King surmised from this that she must be Fae. His wife, he said, could teach her the ways of the Fae, no matter where she had come from. As winter deepened, Gwyn looked forward to these “fairy lessons”, but things in Jasper Cove became darker and darker as the winter ground on, and Queen Isabella, with a newborn babe, had very little time to spend with Gwyneth. Aoibheann, although she had become the Huntsman’s favourite prey, was still ignorant of her heritage and openly mistrusted Gwyn’s newfound magic. To complicate matters, Nathaniel revealed to Gwyneth that he was a vampire one night. Gwyn already loved and trusted him, so this admission did not cause her any fear, but both of them feared how Aoibheann might react. They agreed not to speak of it.

But a storm was coming.

But a storm was coming.

But a storm was coming. Things were beginning to fall apart in Jasper Cove, and eventually the King and Queen had to cast very powerful magic over the land to make it stable and whole again. When the spell did not work, Jasper Cove was destroyed and the residents once again found themselves in a new land.

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So many adventures occurred in this new land, too many to recount here.

So many adventures  happened in this new land– too many to recount here.

In the next installment, we promise a happy ending to surpass all your wildest dreams!

Once Upon a Time … Part 3, Gwyneth’s Story

For Part One: http://wp.me/p2VCul-kr
For Part Two: http://wp.me/p2VCul-lz

Gwyn grew up in the city.

Gwyneth grew up in the city.

Gwyneth grew up in the city, the child of an Irish mother and a Welsh father who’d moved to London for work. Strongly glamoured by her mother to appear completely human, her parents believed their pale child to be a partial albino because of her pale, pale colouring and light violet eyes. Her Welsh grandmother was steeped in folklore and called her “my changeling granddaughter,” even before Gwyn knew what ‘changeling’ meant. And it was she who whispered Gwyn’s truename into her ear when Gwyn was fifteen and her granny was on her deathbed. “Never say it,” she said. “Never say it to anyone, and telling you now means you won’t have a chance to ask me constantly how I know it. Keep it safe, and tell no one. All your power is inside that name.” An hour later, Granny was dead, and Gwyneth was looking up the name on the Internet, to find out what it meant. “Eirianwen. Shining One.”

University

University

Not surprisingly Gwyneth excelled in university and earned her BA with honours. She gained her MA and PhD in a combination programme and was a qualified lecturer at twenty-one. But her life wasn’t all studies and books and writing and teaching; she did have hobbies. She loved fantasy books and live  roleplaying: she even went through a goth phase.

She even went through a goth phase.

She even went through a goth phase.

Her big passion was live action roleplaying, though she enjoyed a few lost weekends in Dublin as well.

Lost weekend in Dublin

Lost weekend in Dublin

Lost park bench in Dublin.

Lost park bench in Dublin.

Gwyneth spent a good part of the summer when she was in university attending LARP events, and the summer after she completed her first term as a university lecturer was no different: she and three friends went to three events that summer, culminating in Shining Lands, a huge LARP gathering for many different groups that played in the universe her game was set in. She and her friends had an amazing time, there was an Elf Clan Conclave, a big battle, bardic circles to die for, and of course epic amounts of drinking. During Shining Lands 2012, Gwyn actually had an encounter with a boy, her friend Richard. She and Richard had known one another for a few years; they’d met when they were both on the same MA course. But Gwyn was never interested in romantic relationships while in university: she’d seen too many people lose their academic focus and wasn’t going to be one of those people. However, that summer, she and Richard had gone out a couple of times in London, and at Shining Lands, they finally kissed.

Gwyneth and Richard finally kissed.

Gwyneth and Richard finally kissed.

On the long drive home from Lincolnshire to London, Gwyn and Richard sat in the back seat with their friend Emma, holding hands and talking, while Fenella and Kevin were up front with Fen driving. Gwyn was showing off her new boots, and Richard was trying to convince her that his new knife was cooler than her new boots. They were involved in a spirited but completely friendly argument about this when Fen merged the car onto the M11 and a lorry came out of nowhere and broadsided her parents’ estate wagon. It turned upside down, there was lots of blood, and nobody spoke for a while. Richard managed to get the door open and get out of the car, but he kept shouting at Gwyn not to move. Gwyn told him he was crazy: cars always blow up when they turn over– she’d seen all those American films. When she got out, she noticed there was blood all over her Elf Clan bracers. She looked down to find Richard’s new knife stuck in her gut. She started to laugh and shout at him for shanking her, but she passed out instead.

And found herself on the bank of a river, heavy with the scents of rushes and reeds, the chirpings of frogs, and a sound…the sound of oars as a boat pulled up alongside the tiny pier near where she sat, peacefully, on the unmarred ground.

"Well met," said the Boatman.

“Well met, Gwyneth,” said a voice, a voice full of promise. “Looks like you’re in a bit of trouble, back where you’ve come from. How would you like to leave all that behind?”

Gwyn frowned as she looked down at her belly, where there was no blood and no knife. “What happened?” she asked.

“No questions,” said the Boatman. “Not knowing is one of the things you’ll have to get used to. But listen: I can offer you a different life from the one you might be about to lose back on that road in 2012.”

Gwyn listened to the Boatman’s offer, although later she would find the details fuzzy. Without much thought, she agreed, since she was happier without a knife in her gut. And so, he ferried her across the river, and Gwyneth arrived in the settlement of Jasper Cove, where she immediately looked for a tavern– because that’s what you always do in a fantasy story.

Once Upon a Time … Part 2, Aoibheann’s Story

For Part One: http://wp.me/p2VCul-kr

Yes… what did become of Tabitha’s twin girls?

Older by mere seconds, the sunkissed daughter placed in Alba grew up as Aoibheann. Aoibheann lived in a world of toil and worry. Placed under strong glamour by her mother at birth, she appeared and acted human.

Evil dragons scourged the forests and towns of Aoibheann's homeland.

Evil dragons scourged the forests and towns.

Evil dragons scourged the forests and towns of Aoibheann’s homeland, and she and her brother Aodhan were forced to flee and find work and sustenance wherever they could.

Aoibheann worked hard to keep herself and her brother alive.

Aoibheann worked hard.

Aoibheann worked hard to keep herself and her brother alive, but something was always missing; something wasn’t right. Even as she grew into a young woman, she knew something was missing.

Something was missing.

Something was missing.

Aoibheann always knew something wasn’t right.

She just wasn't sure what it was.

She just wasn’t sure what it was.

She just wasn’t sure what it was. Nothing seemed to make her happy, not the simple pleasures her brother enjoyed, not the prospect of growing up and bearing children. Aoibheann did not even have tales of fairies and magic to sustain her. And when finally she and her brother found a town where they stayed for a little while and became part of the community, Aoibheann made a friend, Alithe. Alithe was a seer in a world that distrusted magic, and one night she and Aoibheann shared a bottle of wine and talked about their lives. Alithe went into a trance. Wide-eyed, she pointed at Aoibheann and intoned: “Sídh! Aoibheann Sorcharós, Sídh!” The next day, word had spread all through the village that Aoibheann was an evil witch of the sídh and must be dealt with in the harshest way possible. So, at the age of twenty-one, Aoibheann prepared herself to die a horrible death while her brother looked on unable to stop any of it.

The flames climbed higher.

The flames climbed higher.

Aoibheann knew it was useless to protest. Her former friend, Alithe, who had become her betrayer, was in front of the crowd, screaming insults. Her brother, stunned, pleaded with the mob to stop, but feared for his life in the end. He didn’t stay after the screaming started; it was too painful.

As the flames climbed higher, Aoibheann tried to block out the shouts of the crowd. As she began to shout against her will for help, her vision began to cloud, and a cooling wind seemed to blow across her face. Shocked, she reached out toward it with her mind; it was better than the horrible smell of the fire and her clothing turning to ashes and the already growing stench of burning hair and the beginnings of singed flesh.

And it seemed then that she found herself beside a river, in a place far beyond the crowd and the shouting, heavy with the scents of rushes and reeds, the chirpings of frogs, and a sound…the sound of oars as a boat pulled up alongside the tiny pier near where she sat, peacefully, on the unmarred ground.

"Well met," said the Boatman.

“Well met,” said the Boatman.

“Hello, Aoibheann,” said a voice, a voice full of promise. “Hello, and well-met. Things aren’t going very well, back where you’ve come from. What would you say, if I told you you could leave all that behind?”

Aoibheann looked at him, senses still adjusting to the new environment. “I don’t understand,” she said.

“No,” he replied, “and that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Nobody ever understands. But I’d like to offer you the chance to escape the cruel fate that awaits you back in Alba.”

Still a bit stunned, Aoibheann listened to the Boatman’s offer. Without much thought, she agreed, since life was better than death at any cost. And so, he ferried her across the river, and Aoibheann arrived in the settlement of Jasper Cove, tentatively taking the first steps toward her new life, still unaware of her legacy and the fate that awaited her.

Once Upon a Time… Part 1

You might wonder what there is to write about that's happy, since Ashmourne is such a fucking downer.

You might wonder what there is to write about that’s happy, since Ashmourne is such a fucking downer.

You might wonder what there is to write about that’s happy, since Ashmourne is such a fucking downer. I admit I wondered too, for about thirty seconds. I haven’t written anything but these journal entries for more than a year, but the crazy thing is I used to teach creative writing to university students. And that requires that you’ve at least done a little writing, particularly when they want to know what makes you qualified to teach them.

So, yeah. I might as well use my time wisely, since it’s not like anybody has time for me right now, what with everybody having this or that fucking crisis and me wanting to give Aoibh some space and Nathaniel being busy with negotiations. So here we go.

Once upon a time, there was a Seelie Princess who was so beautiful and powerful the stars sang her name in the evening. She grew up in a beautiful sithen, loved and cherished by her parents, the King and Queen. Her hair was burnished gold and her skin was sun-kissed peach, and everywhere she went, people fell in love with her. Her parents named her Tabitha, because she was like a fawn. She grew to maturity, learned the ways of magic and the elements, enjoyed her share of lovers, but never chose a consort, and the King and Queen were worried; she was their only child, and she needed an heir. They began to believe she was barren, and so, a little, did she.

She was but 300 years old when the humans began to spread their cities, their livestock, and their diseases over Scotland and Wales. Many of the Fae chose to fade, but many also remained; they were a hardy people at that time and did not foresee how their number would be diminished in the centuries to come.

For a time, relations between the humans and the Fae were good: humans were properly afraid of and in awe of the Fae, and Fae power remained strong in the land. Still, because so many of their number had chosen to fade, the Fae courts chose to send ambassadors to one another in order to re-establish relationships and strengthen old treaties. One of these ambassadors came to the Princess’ sithen from the far north of Seelie Lapland, and he bore reindeer skins and brightly woven cloth, gold plunder and tales of heroes. He was the moon to the Princess’ sun, but her parents disapproved of his rough ways and his too-pale skin and his silken silver hair. Still, it was no matter: they believed the Princess barren and now sought among the higher Court Sidhe for an heir, as no barren Sidhe could become a Queen.

The Princess and the northern Ambassador became lovers. Their love was true, for despite his strange ways and exotic appearance, he brought her more fulfilment and ecstasy in a moment than any of her parents’ Court. And soon before it was time for the Ambassador to go, the Princess discovered she was pregnant. At 320, she was still afraid of her parents; she feared they would cast her out if they learned of her condition because  of who the father of her child was. She did not tell the Ambassador she was newly with child, and he never knew: they parted on good terms and talked of seeing one another again, but in her heart, she had a plan.

At this time, the Princess’ court was based in what we now know as the Holy Isle of Anglessey, in the north of Wales. In desperation, she glamoured herself fully, shielded herself against magic, and flew from the Sithen and her parents’ court to continue her pregnancy in secret. She found a friend in a cunningwoman in the middle of Wales, in the great forest that covered much of Midwales at that time, who helped her to hide and to make the preparations for a great piece of magic, more ambitious than anything she’d ever done before.

When the time came, Princess Tabitha gave birth to twin girls, one sunkissed with hair of reddish gold like her own, the other as pale as her lover’s moonlit eyes. It took days to re-plan the spell so that she could accommodate two, and then the end she and the cunningwoman had to make two journeys: both forward in time. The sunkissed girl she exchanged for a girl of Alba, a sickly little thing who would benefit from the beautiful forests of Midwales. The other she took farther forward, to a human city that terrified her. This one she exchanged for a lovely fat baby girl with privileged parents. These two children she gave to the cunningwoman to have for her own.

Once she had recovered from the magic working, Tabitha walked away from Midwales and was never seen or heard from again. The two girls raised as sisters there grew up to be sturdy and strong, cunningwomen like their mother, and they married and passed on these traditions to their own daughters.

But what of Tabitha’s twin girls?