Circle of Stones: The Story that Launched a World

When I wrote this short story for Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones I had no idea that  it would result in two young adult novels being spawned from it. The story ‘The Circle of Stones’ has resulted in a prequel, Honeybee of the Faeries from Starklight Press which will be available early this Autumn. Honeybee cover teaser

Here is a quick summary of the novel:

Irene has been a dreamy girl from the time she was old enough to have responsibilities. Her sister, Alba, has long suspected that Irene is part Faery. The frequent trips that Irene makes to the standing stones only makes her sister and her father more suspicious. Was Irene the result of her mother’s love affair with one of the Elves from the land beyond the stones?As soon as she is old enough a suitable marriage is arranged and Irene’s family breathed a sigh of relief.

Mortal unions cease to matter to Irene when she falls in love with a stranger who emerges from Faery land and into Irene’s heart. She runs away to the land of the Faery and returns with yet another secret in her belly, her daughter Kiona. Because of the difference in time between the land  of the Faery and the Mortals no one in the human world knows how long Irene was gone. Her infidelity is impossible to prove as result although suspicions remain. The rules of Elfdom, Time and Space dictate birth but they don’t dictate Irene’s heart. Nothing in this world or the next will stop her love.

In addition a sequel is scheduled from Azoth Khem Press: The Gates of Sheela.

gates of sheela promo picture

Gates of the Sheela Summary

A Circle of Stones Novel

Virginia Carraway Stark

Alanna is a special girl: born in Faery Land, she is part mortal.

She is the third generation of women with mortal blood to have made Faery Land her home. The resulting torsion has created a vortex of contradictions that has attracted greater attention. Even Queen Maeve herself has no control over the force that is coming forth.

The Creatrix of the Universe herself is coming for Alanna and the rest of her family and she wants answers.

The Sheela Na Gig, an ancient crone who holds within her all the universes is being twisted out of shape by the mortals that have made their home in Faery Land. The Creatrix takes Alanna on a journey to the land of mortals that has been held in time for three generations that has passed as one long decade to Alanna’s great aunt. Alba is a mortal but she has never forgot the loss of her sister and her niece to the Stone Circles.

Alanna must venture from her world of magic and wonder into a dreary world where time passes, rain falls and days pass. She must overcome her fears, her homesickness and a lack of magic in her entire life to set the universe right after her mother and grandmother and great grandmother left the mortal realm for the magic of the Fey and the loves they found there.

It just goes to show that you never know when you set your fingers to your keyboard where your journey might lead you! Read on to hear how the whole story began:

The Stone Circle

Originally Published in Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones. All Rights Reserved.

“I sometimes despair,” Confessed Kiona to the moonbeams.

She thought she was alone in the ring of standing stones. They were a circle of broken teeth around her, ominous and frightening cutouts of darkness that despite logic and reason, were soothing to Kiona. Most people were afraid of them. They said that the Fair Folk still haunted such places, especially under the light of the full moon.

Her aunt had raised her and advised her repeatedly and emphatically on the nature of the Sidhe, “The Sidhe have only their own interests at heart Luv. They’ll take you off into the night and play games with you and then forget about you and abandon you between one second to the next.”

“I want to see elves, I wouldn’t mind any of it, it would be worth it to see one of the Fair Folk,” Kiona protested.

Her Aunt spat on the ground and shook her head, “You’ll get your wish, no doubt about that. Wish hard enough and they’ll come to you and you’ll lose your heart at best, and your life at worst. Silly child.”

Aunt Alba had always been the sensible one. Kiona’s mother Irene had wished to see the Fair Folk too. She had gone to the stones on many a moonlit night. One night she hadn’t come back and Kiona’s father had died of heartbreak. Now Kiona was stuck with Aunt Alba and her sensible ways, bound and determined to protect her headstrong niece from the same fate Irene had suffered.

If Alba thought it would have stopped her, she would have put Kiona under lock and key, but it wouldn’t stop her niece and Alba wasn’t that sort of woman anyway. To Alba, Kiona was Irene. She would often call her Irene if she wasn’t thinking. She knew that nothing would stop Kiona’s need for those moon filled nights to the standing stones, there was fey blood running through her veins. Alba often wondered if Irene was only her half sister and if their mother had run off with the Fair Folk and come back with a belly full of fire-red trouble.

All of this had led to Kiona standing in the stones once more.

They weren’t impressive ones like Stonehenge. They were only a few feet taller than the red-headed girl who set out intrepidly, her cloak pulled tight against her when the wind came off the sea. They were covered in moss and chunks of them had broken off. Her Aunt Alba was fond of saying, ‘They’re as old as sin’. Her aunt had taken to listening to the Roman who had come to save the island from their devilish ways, and her hope was that Kiona would heed his words and leave the Old Ways behind her.

The wind was still tonight and the stars were bright, along with the moon, Kiona was lying on one of the broken, moss covered stumps of broken rock, listening to the ocean and watching the moon rise over the stones until it was neatly framed inside of them.

Kiona closed her eyes. She had fallen asleep in the circle before, woken up covered in dew and shivering in the pre-dawn light. Sheer foolishness, Aunt Alba pointed out. Kiona thought tonight was a good night to let herself go. The rock under the moss was still sun warmed and with her cloak as a blanket the night air was pleasant. She felt herself becoming untethered into the land of sleep.

“You know, I’m getting a little tired of you cluttering up my circle all the time,” a voice said, jarring her awake. The voice was quiet but petulant and the emphasis on syllables slightly foreign.

Kiona’s eyes flew open and she looked up into a beautiful heart shaped face surrounded by a mass of black hair and blue eyes that dominated everything about her except for the quivering of her lips. It was as though it was taking the woman every force of her will to keep from spilling out into a tirade in her effort to give Kiona time to respond.

Kiona opened her mouth and the woman continued, her face was very close to Kiona’s. She was, in fact, kneeling at the head of the stone where Kiona had been sleeping, her arms were folded on the rock and her face was scarcely more than inches away.

“This isn’t your place, and I could be quite irritated with you for insisting on coming here. I’ve been trying to mind my own business, hmm, I’ve been trying to let you just lose interest but I’ll tell you, I’m sick of it.”

Kiona slid away from the woman, and sat up. The woman stood up quickly as well; she was a tiny thing, not miniature, but small and delicate. She was draped in a cloak the color of a beetle’s carapace and her under dress was black and sparkled like starlight. Kiona thought she could see a constellation in the midst of them and they looked to be slowly moving.

“Don’t stare, it’s very rude,” the woman said. She was quivering across her whole body with pent up energy. “Tell me what your business is. I promised I would ask you that before I threw you into the ocean for cluttering the place up. Anything else and I don’t have time for it.”

“I felt a calling to come here,” Kiona started.

“Oh, felt a calling, did you, well, that’s original, fine, off the cliffs with you then.”

The tiny woman started towards Kiona, who felt a shiver come over her body. The woman radiated an energy that made it hard to speak, hard to argue with or explain to.

“Please, my mother vanished from here, my Aunt says my father was one of the Fair Folk. If she’s right, then wouldn’t it be natural for me to feel a calling to come here?” Kiona got the words out in a rush.

The woman cocked her head and narrowed her eyes but stopped her rush to grab Kiona and throw her over the cliffs and into the sea. The woman sniffed a little and sat down on one of the stones.

“Fine, I’ll listen to your plea,” the woman said. Kiona came closer to her and started to speak but before she could utter a syllable the woman interrupted, “Are you dim? When I say ‘plea’ I mean get down on your knees and plea or I’ll just toss you and be done with it. When I say, ‘it’ by the way, I mean you. Whatever you are. Do you have any idea who I am?”

“No,” Kiona said. She had the sense that she had missed whole layers of connotation that she couldn’t possibly have known, and that she may be punished for it. She sank down onto her knees in front of the woman. A tiny part of her mind told her to run away, what was she thinking? It spoke in Aunt Alba’s voice and Kiona paid it no heed. The woman was of the Fair Folk, that much was beyond a doubt.

“I am Queen Maeve and you are an idiot,” The woman said and smiled. “However you did do what you were told so I’ll hear you out a bit longer. I’ll warn you though, the minute I get bored is the minute you go into the sea. I don’t care who your parents are or how much fair blood you have running through your veins, if you’re boring it’s off the cliffs with you.”

“My mother was Irene O’Leary, my Aunt told me that my mother was half faery herself, she came to the rings all the time and then she vanished for a time but she came back to her husband a few days later … she gave birth to me nine months later. When I was only three my Mother vanished again but this time she didn’t come back. My Aunt said she went to be with her Elven lover and it broke my dad’s heart. He died and now I live with my Aunt Alba who wants me to worship the trinity as the man from Rome, Patrick has commanded,” Kiona hesitated, it was warm for March but her face was flushed and she felt stifled in her cloak. She undid it and let it fall down around her before continuing.

“I would rather you toss me into the ocean than to abandon the old gods, I’ve always left offerings for you and Bride-”

“Me and Bride? I suppose one Goddess isn’t good enough for you?”

“Now that I’ve met you, you are more than enough for me!” Kiona cried out, terrified at angering the Queen of the Faery.

“Yes, and I suppose you would say the same thing if you met Bride too,” Maeve said, a tad sullen.

“No, not now, I swear, I will be only loyal to you … even if you do think I’m boring and throw me over the cliff, I swear you will be my Queen … if you want me?” Kiona asked the last part in a hesitant whisper. Maeve clearly wasn’t particularly fond of Kiona

“Want you? Hmmm, well that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I’m still trying to decide if you’re boring or not. Having you seems like more work than it’s worth, you didn’t even know how to plea properly.”

“But I want to learn, I haven’t been taught,” Kiona protested.

Queen Maeve rose to her feet and wrapped the kneeling girl in the folds of her robe, the Queen smelled of exotic spices and flowers and Kiona breathed the scent in deeply. Maeve unfurled her robe and pushed the girl away from her and started to walk away.

Kiona looked around herself, bewildered, leaning back on her elbows. The land was lit with the twilight light of stars hundreds or perhaps thousands of times closer than what the girl was used to. The circle of stones was healed and unbroken. The land that had been cut barren of trees around the stones was surrounded on all sides except for the side with the sea by oaks and hazel trees.

Where she was standing in the center of the stones was at the crossroads of four paths. One went towards the cliffs of the ocean, one led behind her and was, in the other world at least, the direction of Aunt Alba’s cabin, the third led into the grove of trees opposite the ocean and the fourth led through sparser trees and in the distance, Kiona could see a white city with silver rooftops that glimmered palely under the starlight.

Maeve was already walking towards the city, the path led up and down hillsides, and the city was further away than Kiona had thought at first. Maeve walked quickly, and Kiona had to run to keep up. Her running seemed to annoy Maeve somewhat, and she gave the girl a surreptitious glare or two on the way.

Finally Kiona, who usually could run for ages, realized that she was exhausted and couldn’t keep up the pace, “Please, Queen Maeve, could you slow down a little?”

Maeve was gone in a blur down the path. Kiona could make her out at the edge of the city that towered above them, built into a mountain that didn’t exist in the land Kiona had come from. In an equally fast blur, Maeve returned to Kiona’s side. She was cool and fresh as though she had barely moved.

“As you see, I have slowed down for you, quite a lot really. Honestly, I don’t know why I try with your kind.”

“I can’t keep up,” Kiona exclaimed, desperate not to anger Maeve but even breathing the air was different here and she was exhausted.

“That isn’t my problem, now is it?” Maeve asked as though speaking to a very small child. She rolled her eyes at the girl, “I can’t spend all day waiting for you to try to walk, I’m going home. Make your way to the Star Palace and tell them the Queen sent for you.”

Maeve vanished down the road in a blur and Kiona started to cry. It wasn’t that the Queen was mean, not exactly, her expectations of her were beyond her capability. She trudged down the road the Queen had whizzed down.

She had no idea how long it took for her to get to the city that climbed the mountain that never existed in Kiona’s world. She tried to think of what was there in her place, but the land here was more rolling and so distance was hard to figure. She thought it was probably in the sea in her land. The realization filled her with trepidation. If she were to suddenly flip back to her home dimension, would she fall into the sea and die?

There wasn’t anything for it, she kept going. The city itself was walled, but there were gates that stood open. Fair Folk lounged around a jeweled fountain just inside the unguarded gates. Cautiously Kiona approached them. The elves watched her careful approach and a couple of them laughed behind their hands. She attempted a curtsy and they giggled openly at her.

She didn’t know if they were princes, princesses, common elves (was there such a thing?) or somewhere in between. What she did know was that causing Maeve offense was the worst thing that had ever happened to her in her entire life. It was worse than losing her mother, it was worse than the death of her father. It had made her feel as though she was standing over an abyss and terrors awaited her at the bottom of it. She would rather be giggled at than to get in trouble like she had with the Queen, ever again.

“Excuse me, Good Sirs and Ma’ams, I am looking for the Star Palace,” she managed.

“Why do you want to go there?” one of them asked, his voice was lilting and full of laughter. “Are you on a quest or a mission?”

“I don’t know, I suppose so, I am looking for my mother,” she said.

“Well, if you don’t even know for sure if you’re on a mission or a quest then it isn’t a very good mission, is it? You don’t want to bang on the door of the Palace and have Maeve yell at you so you had better decide if you are on a quest and if it’s important enough to risk getting the Queen on a bad day.”

“The Queen brought me here, through a circle of stones. She told me to go to the Star Palace when I got here, and ask for her. I couldn’t keep up, so she was getting bored with me.”

“Oh, that’s an entirely different story,” said the same elf. His eyes sparkled with laughter, “Although if you’re already boring Maeve, you might want to figure out what you want from her, exactly. I’ll take you to her palace and you can think about if you’re on a quest or a mission, and what you’re willing to do for the Queen in order to get her help.”

“It was all an accident, she said I had to make a plea or she would throw me into the ocean. I didn’t have a plan to have a mission or adventure.”

“Now you’re thinking it’s an adventure?” asked the elf. “That’s much more serious than a mission or a quest.”

“A quest I mean, then. I didn’t know there was a difference.”

The Elf stopped and looked at her appraisingly, after a few minutes he came to some sort of decision and relented.

“A mission is only one thing, a Quest is much more difficult and is usually made up of many missions. An adventure is when you want excitement and have an idea that you want treasure or fame or some such and you go adventuring and looking for trouble until you find it and you either die trying or find some sort of fame or treasure, or maybe find them by dying. It’s all simple.”

“A mission, then. I am on a mission to find my mother, and to find out the truth of who my father was.”

The Elf who had befriended her, although she still didn’t know his name, walked with her up many streets, until they came to the Star Palace. It was the only building she had seen in the city that was built with dark stone rather than white but it glowed with the sparkling light of the stars.

“The little mortal girl is here to see Queen Maeve, she’s been sent for,” he informed the guards and gave Kiona a wink.

They nodded, looking at Kiona’s homespun dress and wild red hair dubiously. She realized that her clothing was very plain compared to those the Elves wore. Her cloak had been left behind in the standing stones and she felt mortal and plain and awkward next to these beautiful beings. She twisted the robe that worked as a belt around her waist and waited. The Elf who had helped her left so quickly she didn’t see him go and she wished she had asked him his name and that he had said goodbye. It made it all the more clear that he hadn’t really been her friend, he had just felt pity for her and had no other interest in her.

Kiona had thought he was handsome and had liked the way his hand felt on her shoulder when he had put it there and told the guards why she was here. She waited for some time, trying not to yawn. She found a cushioned chair to sit in and sat in it. The guards exchanged a look when she did. She wondered if she had done yet another thing wrong, but it was too late if she had. She might as well keep sitting if she was in trouble already as it was.

“The Queen will see you now,” an elf announced, Kiona jumped to her feet and followed behind.

She was taken into a throne room that awed Kiona with its magnificence. Across a long purple rug she walked to a set of thrones where Maeve sat alone. Kiona dropped to her knees at the foot of the dais of the thrones.

“Oh, look at that. She can learn,” exclaimed the Queen. Kiona started to stand, “No, don’t stand, I didn’t tell you you could stand. I like you better down there anyway.”

Kiona quickly sunk down to her knees. The Queen examined her fingers as though she had forgotten about Kiona and then spoke again, her voice sharp enough to make Kiona jump, “Right then, what exactly do you want?”

“I am on a Mission,” Kiona replied, grateful to the Elf who had taught her how to speak of what she wanted in terms that wouldn’t anger the Elvish Queen.

The Queen raised a perfect eyebrow and looked marginally impressed, “A mission is it? Well then, what is your mission, little thing?”

“I want to find my mother, Irene O’Leary, if she is here. I want to find out the truth of who my father is as well.”

“Two missions then?” asked the Queen.

“No, really all I want is to find my mother. If she isn’t here, then I would go home. Only my mother could tell me the truth of who my father is.” Talking to the Queen was like walking on quicksand.

“Oh well, I might as well tell you then, I found your mother. She’s living just out of town with her husband.”

Kiona’s heart swelled and she looked up from the purple carpet under her knees, “You found her?”

“I wouldn’t have said I did if I didn’t,” The Queen said, taking umbrage. “Well, on the other hand I might if I thought it was funny. Do you think it would be funny?” she asked Kiona

Kiona shook her head, “No, your Majesty, it would break my heart.”

“Hmmm, I think it might have been funny, still, I suppose you have a right to your own opinion when I say you do, at any rate. But it’s true, she’s living just out of town, I’ll have someone take you there and then hopefully I won’t ever have to answer your stupid questions ever again.”

The Queen smiled her brilliant smile and signaled to the guards who escorted Kiona from the room. Kiona was relieved to see the elf who had guided her to the Star Palace waiting for her outside of the throne room. Kiona ran to meet him, “You came back.”

He laughed at her, “Yes, I was asked to take you to see your mother.”

“I’m Kiona, what’s your name?” She asked, anxious not to lose track of him again without at least knowing his name.

“Kalvass,” he replied. He offered her his arm, “Now that you have survived Queen Maeve, allow me to take you to see your mother and perhaps your father.”

They walked back down through the city, elvish heads turning at the sight of the roughly clad mortal and more than one giggle went through the small gatherings of elves. Very little industry seemed to be taking place. She saw some elves sketching, and one carving a delicate box but there were no signs of shops or bakeries or anything she recognized from trips to the village she had made with Aunt Alba.

Her companion was quiet on the way down the hill. She wished he would tell her about the city but he seemed disinclined to say more than the occasional word or to stop and chat with people who recognized him. He dismissed their questions about Kiona, replying with, “Oh, that, just an errand I’m running.”

Kalvass was the most beautiful person other than Maeve herself that Kiona had ever spoken to and her cheeks flamed at being called, ‘just an errand’. She wondered how one got the attention of the elvish men. Certainly, her mother had managed to do so. Between being dismissed as an errand, and wondering at how her mother had abandoned her for her own life here, Kiona was feeling more and more despondent as they left the city gates and walked down a well groomed trail.

“Aren’t you excited to see your mother?” Kalvass finally asked.

Kiona was surprised, he had so thoroughly ignored her this whole time it was strange to speak again, “I’m wondering why she didn’t bring me with her and why she left me.”

“She didn’t bring you with her because you would have been three years old your whole time here. That’s likely why she returned when she found she was pregnant with you, she would spend all of time with you in her belly, and you never growing unless she had gone back.”

It didn’t answer why she had left in the first place. On the other hand, she thought, glancing at her companion, she thought she would leave most anything or anyone to be with the Fair One who held her arm.

They came at last to a cabin. It was covered in morning glories and the door opened as they approached and a beautiful red haired woman came out of the cottage door. She was dressed simply but elegantly in a pale green silk under dress with a dark green over dress. She was at first oblivious of Kiona and Kalvass but then a smile lit her face as they drew close.

“Kiona!” she cried and held her arms wide to her daughter.

Kiona hadn’t remembered her mother well, she had known she was pretty but the beautiful woman who opened her arms to her was nearly as dazzling as Maeve had been to the girl.

“Mother?” Kiona asked. Irene smiled and nodded, tears were streaming down her cheeks. Kiona didn’t waste any more time but ran to her arms.

Kalvass left the two after a polite goodbye. He kissed Irene’s hand as though she was a Lady Elf and then nodded at Kiona and left. Irene saw her longing glance lingering after Kalvass.

“I see your love of the Elvish kind has followed in my footsteps,” she said as they walked into the cabin.

“He didn’t even notice me, and all the elves laugh at me,” Kiona said.

“That’s because you don’t belong here. You belong with your Aunt Alba and you stink of Christianity and the mortal realm.”

“But – you married an elf, is he my father?”

Irene nodded, “Yes, I found I was pregnant but such things need to be finished in the mortal realm. I wanted you so badly I returned. I stayed as long as I could bear it and then returned here, where I belong. I knew you would find me in time if it was meant to be,” Irene smiled a little guiltily. She knew that her actions had been selfish but her blood cried out for Faery land and every day she had spent with her mortal husband had been torture for her. She had loved her child dearly but the same taint that Kalvass had felt on Kiona, Irene had felt as well.

The baby with the crazy freckles and shock of red hair was meant to be in this realm, or at least Irene hoped that was the case. Seeing the girl with her same shade of hair but in wild curls instead of straight and smooth like her own and Davlin’s wild yet earnest eyes staring back at her, she didn’t know how she could cope if Kiona decided to go back to the mortal realm. She tried to console herself and not bond too fiercely to protect herself, at least she knew her daughter had grown up into a strong and powerful young lady. Whatever she decided, Irene knew Kiona was a girl to be proud of.

To Irene’s eye Kiona was a little piece of Wild Irish. Her red curly hair was as unruly as the girl herself, Irene could see it in the fierceness of the girl’s eyes. Her homespun dress and roughly shod boots emphasized the girl’s wildness. Irene knew that the mortal Irish could be wild, but that there was a streak in the fey that was more wild still, they would never be trained to be civilized by a former slave boy from Rome and his god.

“Your father won’t be home for awhile, are you going to stay to meet him?” Irene asked.

Hearing her mother so casually call a complete stranger her father shook Kiona more than she had anticipated. She remembered washing the face and hands of the man who she had called, ‘Da’ after his death, Aunt Alba holding the bowl for her and drying her tears on her apron afterward as she cried her heart out.

“I had planned on staying …” Kiona started.

“For how long?” Irene asked, a little too quickly.

“I want to be with you, you’re my mother, even if you did leave me.”

“If you want to stay for much longer than you’ve already been here, you’re going to have to renounce your mortal blood and the mortal realm and stay here for good … or you’re going to have to go home to Alba and never come to the standing stones and annoy Maeve again.”

“I want to stay, I want to stay with you no matter what. I don’t belong with Aunt Alba and I won’t believe in the one god. I’ve sworn to Queen Maeve that I will never betray her and will worship her alone.”

Irene looked at her daughter for a long time before answering. Her daughter was filled with fire, where Irene was serene. Her long red hair straight and barely a freckle on her, Kiona was a spitfire. She would do well here if she could truly denounce her mortal blood and be loyal to the faeries. The faeries took what they wanted from the mortal realm, it was this reason that Kiona had noticed so few signs of industry. It was the birthright of their immortal blood that the mortals should serve them. If Kiona couldn’t get over any squeamishness about such things, she wouldn’t survive here for long.

Irene was willing to put her money on her daughter’s fierceness seeing her through, and her being able to burn away the quarter of mortal blood that bloomed in her veins. Irene herself was only half elvish and she had done it. On the other hand, she had love to help her along and being in love made every choice easy.

Kiona was nearly as tall as Irene, so Irene found her a blue version of the dress she was wearing, and a proper elven made pair of boots. She gave them to Kiona and took Kiona’s homespun clothes and burned them in the fire. After that she tried to tackle the reckless curls that capped Kiona’s head. The more she tried to comb or braid them, the wilder they became, finally she went out and picked some morning glories on the vine and wove her daughter a crown out of them.

Davin arrived as the two of them were admiring the effects, his presence could be felt throughout the house as soon as he arrived even though he was nearly silent on his feet. Kiona was braced to hate him. He had usurped her ‘natural’ father, the man Irene had married before she had found Davin and fell in love with him.

When she looked up at him and saw her own eyes looking back at her she didn’t hate him, all she wanted was his acceptance and love. He walked over to her, Irene stood motionless, afraid that the slightest movement might sway how this all important meeting went.

Davin picked Kiona up as easily as if she were a little girl and rubbed her nose against his, “My little girl has at last come home,” he said.

After Kiona had met Davin there was no other option but for her to renounce her mortal blood.

“We must go quickly to the standing stones. Your mother and I can act as witnesses but we need a third witness to seal your union with the Fair Folk once and for all.”

“I can ask a few people in town …” Irene started.

Davin shook his head. It’s a shame she’s been here for such a short time. Whoever witnesses this for her will be bound up with her forever, and it would be good to see if she liked them before being bound to them.”

“Maybe, you could ask Kalvass?” Kiona asked hesitantly.

Irene smiled behind her hand and Davin was taken aback in surprise. He and Irene exchanged a significant look, “We should leave now, I’ll run ahead and find Kalvass,” Davin said, kissing Irene passionately before running out the door.

The sky outside was still lit in the twilight of the large stars, “It is always twilight here,” Irene said. “You can go to visit the mortal realm if you feel the need for the sun on your skin, but most of us are in love with the stars, and it is their light that we crave.”

She knew that many mortals craved the sun and moon and the constant movement of the tides and the seasons, Kiona looked up at the rooftop of stars over them, “I like the stars,” was all she said.

Davin and Kalvass met them at the city gates and they traveled to the standing stones. Davin carried Kiona in his arms so she could travel in the blink of an eye as she had seen Maeve do on the way to the Star Palace.

They entered the ring of standing stones, holding hands in a circle themselves. The earth tilted under Kiona’s feet and she felt like she was on a stormy sea for a moment before the stones rectified. The moon was still high and framed in the ring of stones.

“How long have I been gone for?” Kiona asked. Had it been a month or mere minutes since she had embarked into the other realm?

“Mere moments I would guess,” Irene said. “Although you can never tell how time will pass between the two realms.”

Davin pulled out a sharp, leaf shaped blade made of copper that glinted in the moonlight that was impossibly bright after getting used to the twilight of the stars.

“What do you denounce?” Davin asked his daughter.

“I denounce my mortal blood,” Kiona replied between chattering teeth. She was cold, the wind from the ocean had picked up and for a moment she looked longingly at the cloak she had dropped in the circle. Davin approached her with the blade and took her hands in his. He kissed both her wrists gently and then slashed them across.

Kiona watched as her blood dripped out into the circle, the blade was so sharp it had barely hurt but the shock of it made her feel faint. She watched the blood drip onto the grass and wondered if that was all her mortal blood leaving her.

“Who stands in witness and will vouchsafe this girl as one of the Fair Folk for all Time?” he asked.

Irene stepped forward first, “I do,” She replied.

“And I,” said Kalvass.

Davin slashed their wrists as well and then said, “I vouchsafe for my daughter as the third witness.”

Irene slashed Davin’s wrist and then Irene took a sash she had secreted on her person and bound their wrists together. Davin and Kalvass barely bled at all but Irene bled more. The last of her connection to the mortal world was severed with her daughter being brought into the immortal world.

Once Kiona stopped bleeding she felt different. Better, stronger, faster, happier and lighter. She laughed aloud as the last drops hit the ground. Irene unbound their wrists and kissed her daughter, holding her tight. Davin held both of them and Kalvass smiled and took Kiona’s hand. The four of them formed a circle and the ground tilted under them again. The standing stones were whole once more and the stars sparkled like large diamonds in the sky overhead.

They were all tired from the ritual, and walked back to the town at a sedate pace. Kalvass asked Kiona many questions, not about her past but about what she liked to do and the two were soon laughing and joking as though they had known each other since they were children. Kalvass lived in the city and said a reluctant goodbye to Kiona, for one brief, awkward moment Irene wondered if the boy elf would kiss Kiona. A glance at Davin’s imposing figure stopped the moment and Kalvass picked a flower for Kiona and added it to her morning glory crown instead and then ran up the hill to where he lived fleetly.

Davin shook his head and frowned and Irene teased him, secretly happy that he felt close enough to Kiona to be protective of her and to want to get to know her for himself before she ran off to fall in love with another elf.

The family returned to the cottage, there was a spare room that had been kept for Kiona in case she ever found her way home and she went to bed in the room her parents had planned for her years before.

* * * *

Alba woke up with the sun as she did every morning. She called Kiona but wasn’t surprised when she heard no response. Kiona was always difficult to wake up and Alba had thought she heard the sound of the girl sneaking out into the moonlight last night. She would get no work from the girl today. She spent her nights under the moon and the stars and would sleepwalk through the daylight hours, day dreaming and messing up the chores.

She called Kiona again and was surprised when there was still no response. She went to her room and saw Kiona’s bed hadn’t been slept in and her cloak was gone. A shiver ran up Alba’s spine. How similar this was to the day Irene had disappeared and made an orphan of her only daughter.

Alba took the kettle off the fire and put her cloak around her shoulders, running as fast as her weary legs would let her.

When she got to the circle she saw the cloak she had woven herself for her niece dropped haphazardly on the ground. She picked it up and smelled the rich, warm smell of her high-spirited daughter. She had tears in her eyes and called Kiona’s name in the mist that was rising off the ocean in the early dawn light. She expected no response and she got none.

She started to walk away and saw that she had blood on her shoe. A little searching uncovered the small puddle of mortal blood that Kiona had shed and nearby the much smaller puddle from Irene.

Alba made the sign of the cross and clutched the cloak to her tightly.

Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers—
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours—
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!

She murmured the blessing for her niece and her sister. It was one of the old blessings, not one from Patrick and his god. She hoped it would reach her niece even in the land of the Fair Folk and that she would know she wished her and her mother only happiness and love all the days of their lives.

 

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