ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT
DOUBLED EDGE SERIES, BOOK 2
by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis
Baen Books, March 2005
Henry VIII at last had a living, healthy, legitimate son. Henry had declared his eldest daughter Mary illegitimate when he hoped to have a living son borne of Anne Boleyn. Now he declared Anne's daughter Elizabeth illegitimate too.
But the great lenses that looked into the future in the ForeSeers places, whether Dark Sidhe or Bright Sidhe, cared nothing for Henry's will. They continued to tell the same tale. When Edward ruled, there would be dullness and oppression. If Mary ruled, all the horrors of the Inquisition would stalk the land. But if Elizabeth should come to the throne, glory would follow–-glory in the power of the nation, glory in art, glory in music, glory in literature and drama.
- Born a princess, then disgraced because her mother was accused of adultery and executed, Elizabeth courageously fought the horrors in her mind. It was unfair, her protector Denoriel thought bitterly, that the Dark Court should add to a child's troubles. After all, Elizabeth was least and last in the line for the throne. But still, the fortellings of the future showed the possibility that she would reign, and the Unseleighe were determined either to hold her captive or kill her.
- Queen of the Seleighe Sidhe, Titania was more willful and only slightly less powerful than her husband Oberon, who ruled both Bright Court and Dark. She, however, had no divided loyalties. She had seen the joy and richness of the life Elizabeth's rule would bring to England and she was utterly determined that Elizabeth would sit on the English throne.
- PASGEN and RHOSLYN
- Twins, born to a Seleighe Sidhe mother but abducted by Vidal Dhu, prince of the Dark Court, they were raised to believe in pain and cruelty and to feed on the terror and misery of those in the mortal world. But their mother, who had gone with them into captivity, taught them about beauty, about light and laughter, and about power that could be sipped sweetly from happiness. Unfortunately their mother was a week reed, so a war raged within them, and they had only each other to cling to. And their own wills and desires were not paramount. They were still subject to the power of the dark prince and he bade them destroy Elizabeth.
Excerpt from ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT
"But for today, the Goblin Fair it is."
And darkness and falling were replaced by a enormous open space in which were set, tied, chained, and otherwise fastened every kind of beast and vehicle Elizabeth had ever seen–and a great many that she was sure no one on earth had ever seen. She would have begged to get down and walk, although the distance was considerable, just to look at the weird beasts and even weirder conveyances, but the elvensteeds were already cantering down a wide central aisle to what was apparently an entry to the Fair itself.
A high arch over the aisle said GOBLIN FAIR and below that ALL WELCOME. But directly in front of the arch, so that one had to walk to one side or the other to pass, was a large notice board that said: NO SPELLS, NO DRAWN WEAPONS, NO VIOLENCE and below those words another line: ON PAIN OF PERMANENT REMOVAL.
"How strange," Elizabeth said.
"What's strange, love?" Harry asked, and then began to laugh. "Now that was a stupid question. I'm sure everything is pretty strange to you."
"Yes." Elizabeth laughed too, but she pointed to the signs. "It's strange that they should be in English ... isn't it?"
"Oh no, they're much stranger than that," Denoriel said, coming up on her other side. "The signs are in any language whoever is looking at them can read. And, I suspect, if the being can't read–-like an ogre or an imp–-what the sign says sounds or ... or just is
inside their heads."
"And they mean what they say," Harry said, accepting a silver wire from Denoriel and fastening it across the place where the holder opened to let him seize his gun.
"They do indeed mean what they say," Denoriel warned, wiring the hilt of his sword to the scabbard. "The REMOVAL is permanent. No one I know of has ever found out to where the being is REMOVED, and I've never heard of anyone coming back either. While you're here, Elizabeth, no fighting."
She shook her head. "Really, Denno, when have you ever known me to strike anyone?"
He laughed. "That tongue of yours can draw blood."
About to riposte as they passed under the arch, instead Elizabeth stopped to stare at still another huge sign blocking the aisle. This one said CAVEAT EMPTOR."
"What language is that sign in, Denno?" she asked.
"Elven for me. What is it for you, Harry?"
"Same as it's always been. Latin. Buyer beware. I wonder why it's in Latin rather than English?"
"To fix your mind on it better," Elizabeth said. "When I have
to remember something, I usually write it down in French. Then it sticks in my head."
Denoriel smiled and then sobered. "That's another sign that means what it says. It's said of the Goblin Fair that if you find your heart's desire here and can purchase it, to have it will make your heart break."
Just ahead, the aisle they had been walking down debouched into an open area. It was not very large, perhaps as large as two great halls, but five other aisles also opened into it, and around the sides were not more booths of merchandise but platforms upon which various acts were being displayed.
Elizabeth cried out with delight and darted ahead. The rest of her party followed, but not urgently. The acts had plenty of watchers, but the open space was not crowded and Elizabeth could be seen plainly. Harry caught up with her watching a set of tumblers, who were performing really phenomenal acts of levitation. He was surprised to see that she looked faintly disapproving.
"They cheat," Elizabeth said, when he asked what fault she could find with the act. "They are using magic to add to their balance and the height they can leap. I think without that help they would not be as good as some tumblers I have seen in the World Above."
"You object to magic?"
Elizabeth laughed and tugged Harry toward the next stage. It held a magician who was creating waterfalls of sparkling color, which then ran away onto the audience's shoes, dying them.
"Ugh," Harry said, as his modest brown boots turned bright yellow and twinkled. "I wonder how long it will last?"
Farther along an ogre was displaying feats of strength, and Harry stopped suddenly to watch him. "Hmmm," he said, gesturing Mechain and Elidir closer. "You two should think about ways to bind a few such creatures to our service. Their strength might be useful in uncovering some of the hidden ways."
"Having an ogre take service with us would be easy." Elidir remarked. "Keeping it from falling into the power of that which whispers to us in those accursed lost hames would be far more difficult. I would think twice–-Harry, where is Elizabeth?"
Harry caught his breath and whirled around, but Elizabeth was in sight, about half way across the open area, and Denoriel was not far behind her. All three breathed sighs of relief. Elidir opened his mouth to continue what he had been saying, and a sudden rush of laughing nymphs and fauns almost knocked him down and whirled Harry and Mechain around. They all pelted off toward the center of the area where they began to dance in little groups, laughing and singing.
"I don't like that!" Mechain said.
"Oh, they don't mean any harm." Harry laughed.
"No, Mechain's right. They are all sucking sweets."
"Is that harmful?" Harry asked.
"No, but it makes them very wild and excited. No one in a market will sell fauns and nymphs sweets because, meaning no harm, they can be destructive in their wildness."
"Elizabeth!" Harry exclaimed.
He could not see her among the whirling figures and Denoriel seemed to have disappeared too. Harry and the two older Sidhe started forward, but were buffeted aside–-Harry actually being knocked to the ground–-by a troop of goblins all crying "Dance too! Dance too!" and capering around so wildly that the three companions were driven apart.
When she was first surrounded by the laughing, singing nymphs and fauns, Elizabeth laughed heartily. They tugged at her and pushed her slightly, but there was nothing at all threatening about the touches. None of the creatures was much larger than she, and they were all obviously being playful. Only there were so many of them, and they were just tall enough to block her view of her companions.
Elizabeth tried to turn around so that she could find Denoriel, who had been a few steps behind her but suddenly the gay laughter of the nymphs and fauns changed to little shrieks. All of them stopped dancing and gathered closer together, then began rushing past her, dragging her along with them.
When the crowd had nearly passed her, Elizabeth again attempted to turn around, but her arms were seized. She cried out and pulled hard to get loose. The grip on her only tightened and she realized that it was not any nymph or faun that had seized her. She looked up and from side to side and cried out again.
Two mortal men–-from the round ears and round-pupilled eyes–-had her by her arms and were dragging her along in the midst of the rout of nymphs and fauns. They were both short but very strong. When Elizabeth tried to set her feet and not move, they simply lifted her up by the arms so that her feet did not touch the ground and carried her.
She shrieked for Denno and for her Da, but her voice was lost in the noise the nymphs and fauns and goblins were making. Then one of the men said "Shut your mouth" and slapped her lightly. Terror and rage strangled the cries in Elizabeth's throat, and she saw with a shock that they had worked their way out of the group of nymphs and fauns and were rushing down one of the aisles.
"I need my hands free," one man said.
The other grunted agreement and lifted her up. Elizabeth tried to roll out of his grasp and cried out, but the man only tightened his grip on her thighs and pushed his arm under her neck so he could clamp one hand over her mouth.
Elizabeth was so frightened now that she felt weak and dizzy. There was no one to cry to for help. The aisle was not lined with booths but with shops where business was done within doors. A few beings looked at Elizabeth being carried along, but they did not seem to care. Beside that, the men were moving so swiftly that there was really no time for anyone (or anything) to interfere.
By the time Elizabeth's paralysis of fear was reduced enough for her to kick and squirm, the man who was not carrying her had turned into a narrow alley. Her captor followed, grunting as she almost wriggled our of his arms. Elizabeth worked her lips back from her teeth and bit hard. The man carrying her shrieked, and the one in front turned.
Elizabeth saw that the man who had led had an amulet in his hand. She screamed as loud as she could for Denno, for Da. The man advanced threateningly hand raised either to strike or cast a spell, and Elizabeth suddenly remembered her protections and cast a shield around herself.
The man who was carrying her cried aloud in shock as his arms lost contact with her body and another desperate twist pulled her out of his grip. She fell free, but so heavily that she was stunned and could not spring to her feet and run. She stood at bay, panting with rage and fear, but she saw she could not have escaped anyway. One man was ahead and one behind. They closed in on her. Elizabeth screamed and screamed, but the shield muffled her voice and no one was in the alley. The few back doors to shops were closed.
The men tried to seize her, but their hands would not grip. The one with the amulet tried to strike her; she felt the pressure of the blow, which pushed her back into the man behind her. The blow did not hurt, but the man behind pushed her forward so fiercely that to save herself from falling she ran a few steps on the way they wanted her to go. He laughed and pushed her again.
Elizabeth tried to strike back, and she did hit the man who had been ahead of her but he only laughed and stepped aside and shoved her when he was behind to make her run forward again. The next push was so hard that she fell. Both men laughed. They scooped her up—-they could not grip her but they could lift her shield and all–-set her on her feet and pushed her again.
Now Elizabeth began to run ahead as fast as she could. Being shielded, knowing her abductors could not touch her reduced her panic so she could think. She realized she was going where they wanted her to go, but she hoped she would get there far enough ahead of them that she could see some way to escape.
The move took the men by surprise and she forged ahead. Both men shouted; she could hear them pounding close behind her, but even renewed fear could not lend her more speed. And suddenly, ahead, there was a black wall. Elizabeth shrieked with terror.
She was running so fast that she had no hope of stopping. She was sure the lane had been clear just a moment before so the wall was the doing of the men behind her. All she could do was throw up her arms. Between one stride and the next she felt a strong pulse of magic. NO SPELLS? But the men were still behind her. Gate! It must be a Gate.
Escape. All the Gates she had been through took her to places of open land where there was no place to hide. Her captors–-she had felt a pressure on her shoulder, but if it was one of her abductors, his hand had slipped off her shield–-would catch her within steps. No. There was
a place to hide. The mists of the Unformed land would hide her. Elizabeth plunged into the black wall, her mind fixed on the swirling mists.
Blackness. Falling. But she wasn't falling, she was running.
"Catch her. Quick."
"She'll get lost in the mist."
"Where the hell are we?
"Not where we're supposed to be. That's sure."
Elizabeth had stopped as soon as she could no longer see the men. She was not far away from them, she knew, because she could hear their voices clearly, but the mists were hiding her completely. They seemed to be even thicker and more restless than when she and Denno and Da had been there earlier with Elidir and Mechain.
Free and in a place she knew, Elizabeth's fear diminished, but she was beginning to feel a little weak and dizzy. Because she had been so afraid, she wondered? And then she remembered the warnings Tangwystl had given her about using the shields for too long. The power had to come from her and it was draining her. She would have to dismiss the shield.
"Do you think the amulet didn't work right?"
The voice was closer. Elizabeth jumped.
"It opened the Gate, like the damned Sidhe said it would. It must be working. And it's glowing, see? Maybe this was only a stop on the way and if we get back in the Gate it will take us where we're supposed to go."
"Then we've got to find the girl. Do you want to tell that Sidhe we lost her?"
Elizabeth stepped away cautiously, deeper into the mist. She could feel the Gate behind her and she knew she had to get back to the fair to find her friends. They would all be frantic, thinking her stolen away. But she didn't dare try to get past her abductors and get up on the Gate while the men were so close and could grab her. She would have to lead them deeper into the mist.
If it were only a little thinner they could get a glimpse of her.
"There she is!" one bellowed and plunged toward her.
Elizabeth ran away as fast as she could, thinking "Hide me. Hide me." And the mists closed in again. She stopped running and drew a deep breath. That had been very convenient, almost as if the mist obeyed her. Well, it had obeyed Mechain and Elidir. And it had let her make a kitten ... The man's voice broke her thought.
"Gone again–-oh God, where's the Gate?"
"It's okay. I'm still near it. Just come to my voice."
Elizabeth bit her lip. That had not worked out well. Now the men knew they could be lost in the mist and one of them would stay near the Gate even if she could draw the other away. She could wait, but not forever. Da and Denno must be half out of their wits. And poor Elidir and Mechain would feel so guilty. They would blame themselves for her being taken when they had only meant well by her, wanting to clear her mind so she would learn the spells right.
Spells. What a fool she had been. She could have used Tanglefoot ... no, she could not. Spells were forbidden in the markets although shields weren't it seemed. And anyway, while the men held her having them fall down wouldn't have helped much. Only they weren't holding her now. Could she use Gwthio
to push them away from the Gate?
Elizabeth bit her lip again. She didn't know how strong a push she could give and Tanglefoot wouldn't work very well unless they were running. If she thinned the mist so they would run after her. No, that was too dangerous. She needed them to run away from her. If only she could change herself to look like a monster ...
Ah! Perhaps she could make
a monster. Elizabeth drew in a deep breath. She was very angry and frightened and there was a hot feeling inside her. She had made a kitten. Why not a ... a lion. Yes. If the mist would be so good? She looked around at it, thinking how kind a mist it was and how beautiful. Would it let her make a lion out of it? The mist swirled around in shining coils. Elizabeth's eyes were as bright as the sun as she built an image of a fierce and terrible lion in her mind.
"It's thicker ‘n ever out there. What're we goin' to do?"
"Don't worry. She's only a kid. She'll get scared about being lost pretty soon and start bawling for help. Hey, feels like there's grass here. We can sit down."
Lion, Elizabeth thought, feeling even hotter. She didn't like being called a kid who would bawl for help. Then shame built even more heat in her. She had been bawling for help from Denno and Da–-but that was different, like calling one's guardsmen. She was supposed
to get help from Denno and Da. But she was still angry and thought more intensely, Lion.
Somewhere there was a faint roar. Elizabeth's eyes shone still brighter. Thank you, mist. Lion
. The roar came closer. Hastily Elizabeth said the spells for Gwthio
and then cast the shield spell. She felt a little week-kneed again, but wasn't sure whether it was the draining of her power or just that she was frightened.
She shrieked and spun around when the next roar sounded almost in her ears. And the mist parted. And it was there! Huge, with the thick mane she had imagined, round yellow eyes and teeth ...
At the same moment, both men yelled, "There she is!" and started forward. Elizabeth leapt sideways, away from the lion and the lion leapt forward. Both men screamed. Both turned to run. The lion leapt. One man went down shrieking. Elizabeth ran blindly toward the feeling of "no mist" that meant Gate to her. The second man was also running toward the Gate.
"Minnau ymbil Gwthio,
" Elizabeth screamed.
Pushed violently, the man fell backward, screeching. The lion sprang from its first victim toward its second. Elizabeth thought "Goblin Fair," but the picture that formed in her mind was Denno and Da. The place where the Gate had been began to darken, but there was no wall of black, no sense of falling. And the lion looked up from what it was crouching on. Elizabeth could see its haunches tighten and rise.
"Denno!" she cried. "Da!"