The House of the Seventh Minuet CXXVII

This chapter is told from the point-of-view of Stefan Nilsson.

Scots-Gaelic: Taigh an t-seachdamh mionaid

Once I found out that Blackthorne could get us home within the hour, we started to sort out our plans and say our goodbyes. Lord Thorne was grateful that Leila had helped Ingrid as much as she had, and he assured us that what she and Blackthorne had given her would be more than enough for her to help Brielle properly adapt to having been turned. Apparently, Brielle would stay in the vampires’ castle with Ingrid while she acclimated to her new way of life, and Sir Maël would stay with her for a little while longer to assist. The agreement was that Lord Thorne would look after her needs as a vampire, and she could be with the woman she’d fallen in love with, but she would also be free to attend to all of her duties as one of Tierney Ríocht’s musicians.

Leila and the rest of us didn’t have anything to pack, considering the way we’d gotten to the vampire lord’s castle. All Leila had to do was make sure she had her key, then help Kadri get ready to go. It would be Evander’s duty to look after Kadri while Leila was back on Earth. Until the eighth palace was found and Leila unlocked it, Kadri would be staying in Jean-Marc’s home, where he– with Brom’s help– could also teach her more about being a musician.

Tobias or Aubré had offered to let her stay in their palaces, seeing as how the haltija had so much in common with fae- and elf-kind, but she stuck with the tradition of staying in the home of the musician who’d come before her. Jean-Marc was a little inexperienced, but I think some of the other musicians planned to stay at his house for a while, leaving him with less to be nervous about. part-way through their conversation, I tuned out most of their talk about logistics.

They caught my attention again when Leila said that Kadri and Evander could keep in touch with her by way of messages sent with the owl. It would take me awhile to get used to an owl visiting us frequently, knowing what they symbolized, but after everything else we’d been through, and knowing that Layla trusted it, I really couldn’t argue.

“I’m so glad I got to meet you before you went back home!” Kadri said as they shared one last hug.

“So am I,” Leila agreed. “I can’t imagine how we’d have found each other if you hadn’t come out this way.”

“It’s all thanks to the ballad,” Kadri told her.

Right. The ballad that was supposed to explain more about this world to Leila, and that was supposed to lead her to where she needed to go– but that couldn’t get through, because she was kidnapped in order to feed vampires. As bitter as that sounds, I was actually grateful to Kadri; if she hadn’t run straight to Leila the night before, those merrow might have succeeded in drowning me.

“We’re going to make sure you get your own copy of the ballad,” Kadri assured her, “and I’m going to get ready to learn a lot from you when you come back!”

I wasn’t left out when it came to the goodbye hugs, either. “We won’t go to the beach next time,” she teased. “I really hope you come back with Leila. You two belong together, and I really think it’s going to take both of you to teach me.”

That had me exchanging a wary look with Leila, who ended up giggling. “Well, if I can get Leila to play Poulenc’s Elégie, I’m pretty sure I can help her teach you beginner oboe skills.”

Leila gasped and then laughed. “That one was really hard!” she explained when Kadri gave her a curious look. “I don’t think I could do it again.”

“Of course you can,” I said; I took it as a dare that she’d said she couldn’t. “And Kadri will play it along with us. But for now, I need to get some rest and clear out the extra salt.”

“I look forward to it!” Kadri told us with a bright smile.

Once we were ready, we met upstairs in Blackthorne’s room. It was mostly dark in there, and once the four of us were there with them, he had Justin blew out the candles so that it was even darker. Then he focused on the darkest part of the room, which soon became solid black, and I could smell what seemed like a cavern, as well as ozone; Justin explained that this is was how shadow portals smelled. It was too dark for me to see as we walked through it, but Blackthorne was kind enough to let us know when to follow him. Better yet, Leila took my hand to make sure we stayed close to each other.

It was cold and pitch black all the way up until we stepped out of the shadows and into the dimly lit library of Leila’s house. Blackthorne looked over his shoulder to make sure all of us were through before he released the shadows and closed the passageway.

“Well, Leila, I have to say, this seems to be the library of your dreams,” Blackthorne said.

Leila gave him a smirk. “I guess it’s almost big enough,” she teased.

“Well, I might be able to help you knock out a wall and expand the library into one of the neighboring bedrooms,” I suggested.

“Not anytime soon, mister!” Leila said. “You need to take it easy.”

before I could get my reply in, Larsa grabbed Justin’s hand and led him out into the hallway. “Come on! he declared. “Let me show you the house; it’s really cool!”

Killian followed them out, leaving me in the library with Blackthorne and Leila.

“How long can you stay?” she asked him. “I’d offer lunch or dinner, but we just had a big breakfast. Can I get you something to drink?”

“I wasn’t planning to stay, actually,” Blackthorne admitted. He sounded like he wanted to stay, like he was just a little bit disappointed that he couldn’t, and that he felt a little bad for not being able to. “We were just getting started on our honeymoon when Matthias came to get us, otherwise we would consider staying.”

“Oh right!” Leila said. “It’s your honeymoon. I was going to say, I hope it’s not because Justin is having a hard time seeing killian.”

Blackthorne nodded his understanding. “He’s a lot better at voicing his feelings these days. If it bothered him, he would speak up. But they’ve talked– some conversations just the two of them, and some all four of us. It helps that both Killian and Justin have found better matches, but ultimately they’re not holding any grudges.”

“That’s good,” I said. “Larsa has been having a great time with Killian. I’m just worried about what will happen to them when he goes back to Sweden.”

Leila’s expression looked worried too. “It’s not going to be easy for Killian to have someone leave him again– and Larsa has made so many friends here.”

“We’ve talked about some of those things, actually,” Blackthorne said, “when it was the four of us.”

“Seriously?” I asked, raising a brow. “You got him to talk about that?”

“It wasn’t so hard,” Blackthorne told us as he started to walk out of the library. “I think with you, he was more focused on other ideas. And Larsa has only just met Leila, so he hasn’t been able to open up to her as much. Let me put it this way: once Justin heard that Larsa only came to the States to study, his curiosity had him asking a lot of questions.”

“Oh really? we walked out into the hall,and downtowards Leila’s room. “Anything I should know– so I can help him out when the time comes, I mean?”

Blackthorne gave me a long, thoughtful look. “He has what, about a year left in the states? I think he and Killian are going to see how their relationship goes in that year, and make a decision based on that when it’s actually time. The only thing that’s for certain is that Larsa plans on going back home to his people. He really loves his roots.”

“He does,” I agreed. “Back when he first came to Oregon, he was nervous about leaving the reindeer and the village behind. Killian has made his stay here really happy, and he’s succeeded so much more because of it.”

“I wish them all the best,” Blackthorne said. “Even if they don’t stay together, they’ve made some beautiful memories together. Still, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been watching Killian pretty closely, and he keeps mentioning that he doesn’t have anything forcing him to stay here; it’s completely the opposite of how Larsa feels the need to go home. I think he’s really rolling the idea around in his mind about going to Sweden at some point.”

Leila grinned brightly. “I’m so happy for them! Now, blackthorne,” she said taking his hand, if Justin’s getting a tour, then so do you!”

Justin and Blackthorne didn’t even stay for an entire hour before insisting that it was time to get back to their honeymoon resort on Silver Star Mountain. I tried getting Blackthorne to stay for Leila’s birthday party, but he really wanted to get back to some quiet time with Justin. Fortunately, they were open to exchanging phone numbers and other contact information so that it would be easier to keep in touch. We all shared hugs before he opened a passage through the shadows and they disappeared together.

It was late afternoon by then, and whatever birthday activities we might have partaken in were set aside in favor of relaxation. Leila told Killian that he and Larsa could do whatever they wanted around the house, but that she needed some private time to talk to me, then took my hand and led me to her room. She closed the door, had me sit down on the edge of her bed, and then I heard the soft click of the lock being engaged.

As she walked over to the bed to sit next to me, she looked like she had a million things on her mind, but she didn’t say anything right away. She sat close, so that our legs were touching, and when she took my hand, I could feel her shaking a little bit.

“Oh man,” she sighed, “I don’t know why I’m so nervous; I already told you that I love you. I guess… it just…” Another sigh. “It still seems so unreal that I actually said it.”

“I love you too,” I told her, really having no idea what else to say. I would have gone back to kissing her and avoided the whole conversation, but she was pretty serious about the need to talk first.

“Stefan…” she began, then paused for a long moment. I gave her time, knowing it couldn’t be easy to get out what she needed to express. “If I had known how you felt that night we were at the goth club in Portland, I would have told you that I love you back, and I would not have let you sleep on the floor while I was in the bed. Actually, we probably wouldn’t have gotten much sleep that night.” She looked away, and I caught sight of a blush on her cheeks.

“I kind of feel like a coward for not admitting it right when I threw that satyr across the room,” I admitted. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little about tossing the satyr, but I should have.

“Me too,” she admitted as she moved further onto her bed and lounged on her pillows, “but it would have made for an awkward night if it had been one-sided, like we feared, and I don’t think either of us wanted to feel like that during your debut as DJ. It was the same at the hotel when we got put in a room with only one bed.”

I nodded, and followed her up to the pillows, where I pulled her close to me.

“I kept wanting to say, ‘Stefan, this is perfect, I’m in love with you and I want to sleep in your arms,'” she went on, laying her head on my chest. “But… I wanted you to be able to focus on the concert, and confessing to you would have either kept you from getting enough sleep, or upset you to where you couldn’t play well.”

“I can’t tell you how hard it was to resist admitting my feelings for you,” I said. “I didn’t want it to seem like that was just an excuse for taking advantage of the situation– the one bed, you know?”

She made a sarcastic sort of laugh and shook her head. “We were both so stuck on not playing into tropes or stereotypes that we denied ourselves a lot of good times. The funny thing is, it probably would have been easier to pop down to a local pharmacy to get some condoms in Seattle or Portland, but out here…” She laughed again. “You don’t even have any in your suitcase do you?”

I couldn’t help but laugh, too. “No. I don’t even think I have any in my apartment, either. If I manage to find any when I get back, I’ll have to check to make sure they’re not expired or damaged.”

Leila took in a deep breath, as though trying to calm herself down. Then she sat up straight and looked into my eyes. “We should move on to the important points, then.”

But before I could reply to her, I heard heavy footsteps in the hallway, and then loud knocking on the door.

“Leila!” Larsa called through the door. He sounded frantic, and I couldn’t tell whether something was genuinely wrong, or if he was just overexcited. I narrowed my eyes when I heard him jiggling the handle. “Hey, Leila, open the door!”

About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a distant planet watched over by four deities: good, evil, elemental, and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the realm whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future.
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