Hope for a Dove
Two come for the seventh – raven and dove. One to be trained, the other to love. Beware the beak where brightness dulls. Mourn the heart as it falls. When perched above, sacrifice made, watch the trees for a Warrior babe. – Great Battle Prophecy
April 1900, Glasgow, Scotland
Catriona wiped the final dinner plate, placed it in the cupboard, then sank into a wooden chair at the small ebony table beside her husband. Her gaze fell on the head of dark curls bent studiously over a worn leather book whose yellowed pages were crammed with faded runes.
The boy looked up at his father, a pinched expression on his face.
Hints of silver sparkled in the older man’s dark curls, though his face was as yet unweathered save the laugh lines around his eyes and mouth. He nodded at the boy, a twinkle in his slate-grey eyes. “Ye’ve figured it out, havena ye, lad?” His polished lowland accent always fell away while at home where he reverted to his boyhood brogue with its mixture of Gaelic and Scots words.
Something like a pout flashed across the boy’s mouth. “Aw, Da! I cannae fool you. How do ye always ken, e’en when I try to hide it?”
The man glanced at Catriona and winked. “Well now, Angus. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact I’ve been watching ye for twelve years. Or, perhaps I’ve got a bit of yer mother’s magic. Which say you?” He ruffled the boy’s hair.
Angus ducked away and tried without success to smooth his unruly mop while concealing his grin.
“Read what you’ve translated, Angus.” Catriona’s smile, drawn out by her husband’s teasing, widened. Already the boy showed signs of gifting, never a certainty with children of mingled blood. Midnight blue eyes shone from the end of the table. With Seumas’s hair and frame and her eyes, only several shades darker, Angus was truly a combination of each of them.
Angus focused on the book. “In a time before time began, the Lord of Neamh and the Patterner fought an epic battle with the Lord of Caos. . .”
Catriona continued to watch her son read from the ancient tome, but her mind strayed to a time hundreds of years before when her own mother, Queen Eilidh, had taught her to read this same passage of history. She knew it by heart and wondered if her sister Sorcha had ever succeeded in memorizing it? Even though Sorcha was next in line to be Queen, her patience for learning Faerie history was quickly exhausted. She cared more for the intrigue of Court gossip and the awe her title inspired than for her lessons. Still, Catriona was glad it was Sorcha rather than she who would next wear the necklace and the crown. That fact was the only reason Catriona could live the life she preferred––the life she’d chosen beyond the Veil with her human husband and son.
A rap sounded on their door. All three straightened and turned as one toward the sound, then back, frowns marring each face.
“Professor? I’ve a message, Sir.”
Catriona’s heart scrambled in response. Heat rose up her neck and seeped into her cheeks. Her hand fluttered at her throat.
Seumas reached for Catriona’s hand and squeezed it, then rose and crossed to open the door. A lad of about twenty shifted his stance on the small landing, a white paper in one hand, his rolled hat in the other. A rumpled pile of wheat-colored hair nested above downcast eyes and pink cheeks.
“Sorry to bother you on a Sunday, Professor, but a message came for yer Lady.”
Seumas took the proffered note, then plunged his hand into a pocket of his unbuttoned waistcoat emerging with a small silver coin which he gave to the lad with a smile. “Don’t you fret, Steven. You’re just doing your job. And a first-rate messenger you are. You’ll attend lecture on the morrow?”
“Oh aye, Sir. I’ll be there, Sir. And thank you!” Dimples creased his fair cheeks before he turned and hopped down to street level.
Seumas glanced at the folded paper in his hand and held it out to Catriona who had trailed him to the doorway. “Tis for ye, princess.”
His smile cut through the fog that clouded her brain. She stepped into his embrace needing the strength and warmth his solid presence provided. He’d been her fortress since they’d met and married eighteen years hence. As she took the paper, she couldn’t shake the feeling in her cridhe, the reservoir of her cumachd and power, that her world was about to be shaken. When she saw the name at the bottom, she sagged against her husband.
He eased her into a chair and smoothed the auburn hair from her face. The feel of his fingers gliding over the pointed tips of her ear, along the length of her neck and settling on her shoulder sent shivers of desire through her belly. Time had not diminished her love. That a mating bond did not exist between them, continued to churn her insides. If only Seumas would stop being so noble, realize it was a gift from the Patterner as well as her greatest desire, and accept.
Seumas’s soft voice pulled her back to the moment. “Leaving the note unread will nay alter its existence, Cat. Best to read it, so we can begin to deal with the news whether it be for good or ill.”
Always the pragmatist, her Seumas. She pressed her cheek against his hand, then drew in a deep breath. An aroma of left-over roast beef combined with the spice of Seumas’s cologne and a lingering sweetness from the spring bouquet she’d placed that morning on the mantle above the dormant fireplace. She glanced around their home. Please, Patterner, don’t make me give this up.
She didn’t know how long it had been since she’d beseeched the Patterner in this way. Months. Years. When she was newly-arrived in this land beyond the Veil, far from the Faerie Court and the world behind the Veil where she’d dwelled since birth, she called often upon the favor of the Lord of Neamh and the Patterner. Since marrying Seumas and birthing her son, her contact had decreased. She thought less of her people and her childhood home and more of her life here in this world, this reality. The paper in her hand threatened the comfortable existence she’d built for herself. Pulling in another breath, she accessed her cumachd, another thing she’d let slide into her past. Using her power here was dangerous. It attracted the wrong kind of attention, but she would need it now. She was certain.
She glanced at Seumas, who nodded encouragement along with the press of his fingers. With trembling hands, she unfolded the note.
I hope this finds you happy and contented in your new life. I beg your pardon for my intrusion, but I believe you should know that your sister is missing. She has been gone a fortnight and all attempts to locate her have been thus far unsuccessful. If time proves her truly gone, you need understand the duty that falls to you. I am sorry to be the bearer of these tidings and petition the Patterner continually for her safe and imminent return.
I shall endeavor to keep you aware of any developments and apprise you of any need to return. In the meantime, continued peace and fortune, dear daughter.
Ever your faithful mother,
Catriona swallowed, her throat constricting around a glut of emotion rising from places long buried.
Seumas massaged her back and neck, his familiar movements attempting to smooth the tension building there. He turned her to face him. “Love, we donnae ken that ye’ll be called tae return. Dinnae put the cart before the horse. We’re all here. Now. The three of us. Together we’ll handle whate’er comes.”
She sank into the depths of his eyes. Clung to the love that shone there, to the heart he offered without regard to risk. She offered hers in return, not for the first time, but for all time. An irrevocable bond.
He hesitated, then after years of repeated denial, something shifted in his eyes. A flash of pain followed by the shimmer of love, and he acquiesced. Her heart and cridhe leaped as one, rejoicing in the tug as the strand of gossamer joined them one to the other evermore.
“Ye ken, Love, yer my one and only, with or without the bond. Twill only make it worse should ye be called to yer mother’s Court. I’d hoped to spare ye that.”
His breath on her ear sent a shiver of fear lancing through her gut, but she didn’t care. In this moment, she would not give in. “I ken and I thank ye. More than ye could fathom.”
Pulling him close, she laid her cheek against his chest. The solid thump of his heart promised her this was real. This was her life. She vowed she would never leave it. Let someone else wear the necklace and claim the throne. It would never be her.
But even as her son’s arms wound about her waist and her husband––her mate––molded them into a single unit, she felt the slide of the patterns upon the weaver’s loom pulling taut the newest thread until it threatened to shatter under the strain.
Please, she begged, not yet. Give me more time before I meet my destiny.
A sigh settled through her cumachd. The strain on her mating bond lessened. She squeezed the hot tears from her eyes, the soft cotton of Seumas’s shirt absorbing her grief. A reprieve, nothing more, but she resolved anew to live each day in the light of the love she had here in abundance, soaking it into her cridhe as a reserve against the time when duty would strip her of these moments.
Another thought skittered through her overwrought mind, and she lifted her inner voice to the Patterner once more. Watch over the babe whose life is bound to be as uncertain as mine. Give her a heart to love. When she relaxed into the warmth of her family, a tiny smile curled her lips. She hadn’t known until this moment that the Warrior was a girl, until the image of fiery hair and ice-blue eyes. Catriona felt the threads connecting them. Saw the weaver smile.
The battle was coming and the prophecy could not be denied, but she held to the hope that neither her love nor her sacrifice would be in vain.
Feature photo credit: Photo by 卡晨 on Unsplash