Auralyn consents to ride with us this afternoon, though she is usually more solitary — I think she is reaching out to the Court, building relationships from functional into personal. This can only be a good thing; her considerable sense of personal responsibility and innate sense of the balance of things makes her formidable already, but I worry sometimes that she’s lonely.
The stables, kennels, and mews form their own complex on the Palace grounds. We gather in the stable to saddle our own horses. Sadi Coerleone prepares his bay, and he lends Bhan a palomino filly one shade more gold than polished copper. She sidles alongside and examines him coyly, forelock flopping into her eye. Sadi laughs. “If she suits him, he can keep her — or, more likely, she’ll keep him.”
The ladies join us. Auralyn has a paint stallion I hope she’ll let the Court breed, a chestnut tobiano who surveys us all like we are beneath him. Niamh rides a sweet-natured dapple gray mare she brought from her mother’s Court, while Seliora has a black gelding with a delicate white stripe and a white sock on his left rear leg. He prances a little in place when he sees her; she slips him dried fruit from a pocket and lavishes affection on him. Watching the two of them, I can’t help being amused: these two women elicit reactions ranging from friendly respect to outright terror, and here they are treating their horses like overgrown babies. I would laugh harder if I didn’t understand completely.
My girl nuzzles against my shoulder, lips at my hair. I push at her head affectionately. She is pale as a dream, pale as mist — render a cremello in silvery grey instead of warm golden tan and you’d have a pretty good idea of her coloring. She is named for the night sky and the light of the moon, and she and I can ride anywhere. I am sure, quite sure, that I spoil her at least as outrageously as Seliora pampers her gelding.
In theory, we’re going hunting, though I think no one but Sadi is terribly intent on that. He is taking one of his hawks, while Niamh has a goshawk on her arm, as if that’s a reasonable thing to do. Auralyn is emphatically not killing things today, while Seliora and Bhan carry short bows. And I? I want a relaxing ride; I want time spent with those I love and those who I trust not to try to manipulate or trick me. We set out for the woods and Jarrel’s shrine to Herne, and the sun beams through the tree branches.
Is it — am I sensing what I think I’m sensing? A stirring in her energy, a flush as of rose petals, the scent of rain warming her own?
Nierlia smiles at me and laces her hands together over her abdomen. “A little over two months,” she says quietly, cheeks pink and pleased. She works at the edge of her lower lip, but not even that trace of anxiety can quell the smile she can’t keep in.
“Congratulations! Is, um, you and Rhys…?”
“Yeah,” she nods. I think dimples are happening. Like, spontaneously being created out of joy right before my eyes. “We’re keeping it kind of quiet for now.”
“I didn’t even know you two … I mean I suspected at Imbolc, but you’ve been so circumspect…”
“We wanted to be discreet, until we knew for sure it was something real — he wants this child as much as I do.”
Out of words, I embrace her, feeling the joy shining out of her. “I’m so happy for you both.”
She nods and whispers beside my ear. “Thank you. A new Queen come, spilling new possibility and rebirth — I don’t think this had nothing to do with you.”
Startled, I pull back to meet her eyes, and she nods encouragingly. “I’ll … I’ll take it under advisement. And seriously, congratulations. This is amazing.”
"It is." She releases me to step back, one hand fluttering unconsciously across her waist. "It is."
The Fae, at least in the sidhe, don’t conceive or carry children easily. Their longer lifespans tend to compensate for the lower birthrate, but the announcement of a child is still cause for celebration. We’re all blessed by Nierlia’s news. And what potential in this child — an Opal-Jeweled Lady of Illusions, an acknowledged master of glamour, and a Lord of Shadows, a Gray-Jeweled Warlord Prince, for parents. Born to the First Circle of the Starry Court to the Warlord Prince who rules/administers the City. I cannot wait to see what magic they’ve created together.
Winterfire is what I started calling a particular … magic? ability? … that many of the most powerful Winter-aligned Fae in the sidhe wield. I don’t know if it’s exclusive to them, but I’ve only ever seen a couple use it.
Winterfire is dry ice, it is the burn of frostbite and the terrifying numbness, it is the shock of touching bare skin to frozen metal and the rip of pulling away. And under all of that, under a cold so fierce it is like pressing your hand against a mass of sharpened blades, it consumes and destroys and leaves only pale ash, just like actual fire.
Looking at it, I see it as almost glassy, pale whispers of blues and greens wrapped in silvery gauze shadows. It looks like ice, had ice retained the liquidity of water — the rippled surface of dents and curves that icicles have, but shifting each second as a flame would. Below the colors, or within them, it shines bright as burning diamonds.
I don’t know if this is an always-thing, but I’ve only ever seen it damage organic matter. There are torches in the Winter Queen’s receiving hall made of stone with the ends hollowed down a little to shallow basin type indentations, and winterfire burns in those without consuming them. I’m pretty sure it’s more magic than physics — or it’s physics I don’t understand yet. Totally possible as well ^^;;