Snuggle Time | Legen… on Xingfei, from “No Distan… Snuggle Time | Legen… on Jalingan, from No Distance Gre… garretsidzaka on Chibi Ashton and D’… Chibi Ashton and D… on Prince Loracaz III and Mu… Chibi Ashton and D… on D’Cameron Azarynth, elit…
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This chapter reverts back to the point-of-view of Leila Moss.
The dining room was nearly full once everyone had come down. Aubré sat at the far end of the table and kept himself busy talking to Tobias. Brom was able to secure a seat next to Stefan, and Jean-Marc Sat across from him.
I was surprised, though, when Nikolai arrived, because he brought someone with him whom I hadn’t met before. The man looked pale and weary, and he was leaning heavily on Nikolai.
“Nikolai, really, you didn’t have to force him out of bed!” Jean-Marc exclaimed, rushing over to help the pale man to a nearby chair. “He is to be brought breakfast in bed for as long as it takes for him to recover.”
“It’s all right,” the man said breathlessly. “I want… I wanted to come down.”
“He heard that everyone else was coming down to have breakfast with Leila and her friends,” Nikolai explained. He sat down next to him and poured him some tea from a nearby pot. “I couldn’t stop him.”
The man accepted the sugar and cream from Jean-Marc and sighed contentedly when he finally took a sip. He looked like he was normally strong and quick-footed, and I hated to think about what had drained him so badly– and how Stefan would react to that.
“Lady Moss, I am pleased to inform you that one of our own has returned to us,” Jean-Marc said. “May I present to you Sir Maël Bayeux, otherwise known as the Blue Knight, in service to His Lordship. Maël, this young woman is Leila Moss, and these are her dear friends, Stefan, Larsa, and Killian.”
“A pleasure,” Maël said. “How blessed that… that your friends could join you.”
“Don’t over-exert yourself,” Jean-Marc reminded him, fussing over him as he buttered some toast and brought over a pot of jam. “You need to eat.”
“He’s normally all formalities and pleasantries,” Brom filled in as Jean-Marc asked Evander to have the staff start bringing out the platters.
“It’s all right,” I told him. “It’s… Sir Maël, It’s wonderful to meet you. I heard that you were on a quest to track down Brielle; I had no idea it would result in you coming into such harm.”
“Fear not,” he said as he finished off a piece of toast. “It proved to be worth it, in the end.”
“Worth it?” Stefan asked. “What happened to you?”
I gave Stefan a look that said he shouldn’t have asked so boldly, but he didn’t seem to care.
“I found her,” Maël said. “It took ages, and there were…”
“Let me tell it for you,” Nikolai said. “He followed a lot of false leads and rumors, but eventually he was able to track her down. He was mostly fine up until that point, but once he found her, that was where things got worse.”
“Where…” I breathed.
I paused as the staff came out with plates of eggs, sausages, potatoes, and so much more. There were also bowls of oatmeal, with the option to add cream and spices. I saw Tobias load his plate with cut fruit, and assumed that faerie-kind didn’t eat meat. Sir Maël, however, more than made up for that.
“She was in a cabin in a distant woodland,” Nikolai informed me.
“A cabin? But why?”
“She’d gone there with her beloved,” he said. “They couldn’t be together otherwise.”
“A tale of forbidden love?” Stefan asked. “Why couldn’t they be together?”
“Because her beloved is…” Maël paused to take a breath. “She is a vampire.”
I pursed my lips as I looked to Stefan to see his reaction. He wasn’t going to like this– especially if it meant that Maël had been harmed.
“Vampires…” Stefan eyes stayed locked on Maël. “I… Well, clearly we’re at a point where the more I hear, the more questions I have.” He took along drink from his mug and let one of the servants pour him more coffee. “I think I’m just going to listen to you tell it your own way while I eat.”
He was overwhelmed. That had always been the sign that he had more questions than he could even think to ask: he’d just sit back and listen for a long time. He’d save the questioning for later. As much as I felt bad that he was on edge, I was glad that he used that tactic instead of acting out.
“Allow me to tell you a bit more about Brielle before they explain more about recent events,” Brom said. “She learned to play cello from Maili Moss. When I saw the affection blooming between them, I warned Brielle that the people of Earth do not live as long as we do. She wouldn’t give her up, though.”
“She couldn’t give her up,” Tobias corrected. “Their love has powerful, and the music they wrote together was a gift that made our world thrive in more ways than Nikolai, Brom, and I had done combined.”
Nikolai nodded. “Maili refused to marry anyone back on Earth, and I’ve been told that’s an immense feat for her time. She lived longer than most humans of that era did, too, and she was always happiest when she was with Brielle. When she did pass away, Brielle was heartbroken.”
“But she… she found love again, right?” I asked.
Brom’s expression was not a hopeful one. “I have more to explain before I get to that. As I’ve said before, when a new Terran comes to our world, they arrive in the home of the most recent musician. The next Terran after Maili didn’t come for a very long time; I was almost worried that something had gone terribly wrong, and that we would have no new music. Or perhaps a Terran had visited, but had left right away without Brielle there to greet them; we cannot be certain. Nikolai, Tobias, and I would visit Brielle’s home from time to time in order to help her through her loneliness and play music with her. Caelan Moss appeared during one of my visits.”
“It’s wonderful that you were all there for her,” I said.
“I must admit, Brielle didn’t see it that way the time,” Brom went on. “We would have supported her either way, but the fact is that we were in her home– rather than inviting her to one of ours– because the gateway between Earth and Tierney Ríocht was in her music room. We helped explain our world to Caelan, and he was incredibly kind to Brielle. In fact, when he learned that she’d never been able to find out where Maili had been buried, he helped her track down the plot.”
“Oh, I see,” Killian said. “Brielle couldnae attend her funeral, could she? She couldnae risk revealin’ their relationship.”
Tobias gave a sad nod. “It upset Brielle as much as losing her. I hadn’t needed to stay away from Finnegan’s grave or funeral, and Nikolai could attend Brendan’s as well.”
“Even for me,” Brom added, “bidding a final farewell to Ashleen wasn’t out of the question. But for Maili, all of us had to ensure that we didn’t arouse her family’s suspicion, and protect her reputation.”
“It wasn’t a good time for the people of that part of Earth,” Nikolai noted. “Thankfully, Caelan was far more understanding, and due to his kindness, they forged a friendship that helped her far more than the three of us had.”
“And in return, she helped him find me,” Maël said.
“Does that make you more obligated to help her since she’s missing?” Stefan wanted to know.
“Any of us would have helped find her,” Nikolai answered for him. “Sir Maël was simply the first to volunteer.”
“And when does this vampire come into the picture.”
“Brielle met Ingrid just a few decades ago,” Tobias explained. “It was a chance meeting, a night festival up north. They were both smitten with each other right from the start. It was wonderful to see Brielle smile again.”
“But Ingrid was already a vampire back then,” Nikolai said, “and she wasn’t supposed to be at that festival. She was hardly more than a fledgling, and she’d ignored her master’s orders to stay at the castle.
“She didn’t, of course,” Aubré said. It was a little surprising to hear him finally saying something, as he’d been in a sour mood all morning. “Ingrid snuck off to see Brielle whenever she could, and every time, her master took her away. If it hadn’t been for the fact that she’s one of our musicians, he might have ended her life.”
“Why can’t he just let them be together?” Larsa asked.
Maël smiled at him. “You still believe that love conquers all.”
“Well, it does!” Larsa insisted. “Don’t you believe in it, too?”
“I most certainly do,” he said, smiling still, even though he looked exhausted.
“That’s why he’s like that now,” Nikolai told us. “Ingrid and Brielle won’t give up on each other. She begged her master to turn Brielle, and for permission to do so herself. He refused every time. She even asked the lord of their bloodline.”
“A vampire lord…” I breathed. “And a castle…”
Brom nodded. “They were denied every time, until eventually they couldn’t bear it anymore.”
“What did they do?” I asked.
“They met in that cabin where I found them,” Sir Maël explained, “and Ingrid turned Brielle, even though it was against her master’s and her lord’s wishes.”
A much older concept sketch of Moonstarr. Maybe I can see how it turns out if I re-draw it.
This one involves a much older concept from back before I gave Loracaz III a wingless dragon. Had I kept the wolf-like steed, it would have needed so be much bigger in order to carry Loracaz; I suppose back then it was more of an idea.
The ride back to the manor house was uneventful. Leila explained that it was Jean-Marc’s home, and the other musicians each had a home of their own. It was curious to hear Layla refer to them as musicians, rather than noblemen or anything else. The other tidbit that I caught onto before any formal explanations began was that Jean-Marc was the newest of these musicians, and that had something to do with why they were gathering at his manor.
We rode into the stable together, Jean-Marc dismounting and giving his horse to the stable-master right away, and the centaur taking Evander out to the corral. Sleipnir followed him closely; understandably, he didn’t want to be cooped up in some stall. I dismounted first, then helped Leila down.
Evander thanked Argos for the ride, then looked to me. “I hope that you will allow me to be of assistance to you,” he said.
Leila grasped my hand tightly. “Please be kind to him, Stefan,” she all but begged me. “I’ll explain more about how fauns are different from satyrs later, but please give him a chance.”
I nodded, though I had to admit that my body was still stiff at the idea of communicating with him after the way Leila had been accosted the night at the club. “Leila is my first priority,” I informed him.
“As she is mine,” Evander said. “If you are at her service, then I am at yours.” He gave a slight bow as he spoke. He didn’t sound it all bothered about how upset I’d been earlier. “Do you have a preference, sir, in how I address you?”
“Stefan is fine,” I told him.
“Ah. Well then, Lord Stefan, shall I–“
“No,” I interjected. “Just Stefan, like I said.”
He froze froze and gave Leila a concerned look. I just about rolled my eyes.
“Argh okay, whatever. I don’t need you to add any kind of honorifics, but if that’s what you insist on, I have better things to argue about. I’m hoping you have a good explanation as to why you’re so formal, especially with Leila.”
“Thank you, sir,” Evander said. He looked kind of relieved. Gods he better be able to explain this! “Well then, shall I attempt to find you something better to wear? I have no qualms about what you’re wearing now, especially if you’re comfortable, but I understand that you had only expected to sleep and these clothes.”
“It’s not exactly high on my list of priorities,” I replied. “I’d rather go back to Leila’s house to get some of my own clothes. I don’t know if I’d like the style of this world.”
“Hey,” Leila said, “I thought you were going to give us more of a chance.”
“I am,” I reassured her. “I’m not insisting on going back right now am I? I don’t need to dress up like I’m going to stay here. The sooner we get an explanation as to what’s going on, the better.”
“Okay, Leila sighed, “breakfast in pajamas it is.”
Jean-Marc emerged from the doorway to the stable. “Are you ready to come in?” he called. “Brom came down to meet us. He says that your friends are awake now, and he’s taking them to the dining room so they can get started on breakfast.”
“Yes, Leila agreed. “Let’s meet there. Will you and he help gather everyone together there?”
“Certainly, milady,” Jean-Marc said, and he went back inside.
I held onto Leila’s hand as she led me into the manor house, too, and Evander followed us. It was a pretty fancy place, and Leila told me that it had a lot of rooms. I didn’t normally care for stuff like that, but it worked out, because it gave Leila a safe place to sleep, and some privacy for when she needed to change. It seemed that there were a lot more men here than women, and while they seemed to care about her safety, I didn’t know them at all.
Leila took us to a dining room with her famed favorite: a long wooden table, just like in all the fantasy movies. Killian and Larsa were already there, though they hadn’t gotten much food yet; mainly just tea and toast.
“Leila!” Larsa cheered. He got out of his seat and ran over to hug her. Then he grinned at me. “The beds here are really comfortable! It’s been a long time since I slept that good!”
“Tha’s because ye had fewer distractions here than ye have at home,” Killian pointed out. “Good mornin’ tae ye Leila, Stefan.”
Larsa went back to his seat, and Leila sat down next to him. I, of course, wasted no time in taking the chair next to Leila. It looked as though Evander had been trying to offer her a seat at the head of the table, but she wasn’t interested in taking it.
“I see you guys like it here,” Leila said.
A servant came in through another door, probably one that led to the kitchen, and offered us juice, tea, and coffee. She disappeared again as we went on talking.
“It’s so cool!” Larsa enthused; of course he would think that. “Remember how we saw a fairy man last night? Well, there’s also an elf! And he said there’s a dwarf too– and centaurs! And–“
His eyes widened when he looked over at Evander.
“Don’t worry,” Leila told him. “He’s a fun, not a satyr like the one that was rude to me back at the club.”
“Okay well, nice to meet you.”
Evander nodded to him, or maybe it was something more like a bow. “And you, young sir. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make sure that everyone else is on their way down for breakfast.”
“That sounds wonderful, Evander,” Leila said. “I’m sure Larsa is starving, and he’ll be excited to properly meet everybody.”
And with that, the faun disappeared from the room, and it was just the four of us for a few minutes.
This chapter is told from the point of view of Stefan Nilsson
Holding Leila felt incredibly good. After all the terror and frustration I’d just been feeling, I needed her hugs. I wasn’t ready to tell her why I’d gotten so upset about Evander and the deception. Not yet. Not here. I just had to focus on getting her through whatever she had to do in this strange and magical world. And before that, figuring out what they even wanted her to do.
As soon as we stood up, the ravens were cawing at us and flapping around until we followed them in a certain direction. They took us between trees and bushes, helping us find easier ways to get through the woods. It didn’t take us very long to get back out.
Once we were past the tree-line, I froze. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. There was a horse waiting for us, but it wasn’t just any horse. It had eight legs. I knew what that meant. I knew the legends. As much as I believed in those legends, I didn’t think I would ever encounter anything from them on Earth. Well, we weren’t on Earth. And there he was: Sleipnir.
“Leila…” I gasped, taking her hand. “Do you… do you see him?”
I didn’t want to take my eyes off the horse, but I also wanted to see the expression on her face, so I chanced a glance at her. She was grinning like a loon.
“Of course I see him, Stefan,” she told me. “Oh, I knew you’d be excited when you saw him!”
“Wait… what? You– you knew Sleipnir was out here? How–“
“Isn’t it incredible that he’s here?” she asked me. “He’s so magnificent!”
She started walking over to him, and I gripped her hand tighter and held my ground. She looked back at me.
“It’s okay, Stefan. He’s nice. Well, to me anyway. Today’s my second time riding him, and he looked pretty happy to see me.”
She tugged on my hand again, and I followed her along, uncertain as I was. I watched her pet the horse’s head and cheeks. He whinnied in a way that I could almost call affectionate. Then I saw him looking in my direction.
“Sleipnir…” I whispered. “You are incredible.”
He snorted a little. Then he took a few small steps closer to me and nudged my chest with his snout. I petted him the same way Leila had.
“Wow… You… Leila how did you–“
“How did I find him?” Leila asked for me. She could tell that I was at a loss for words. “I didn’t,” she started to explain. “Nikolai did Oh, you haven’t met him yet. Anyway, Sleipnir had been trapped by some kind of rogues, and Nikolai freed him, but the rogues sent the werewolves after him. That was the night I got scratched.”
“Sounds like a busy night,” I told her.
“It was,” she agreed with a nervous laugh. “I saw several centaurs, I met Sleipnir, I was scratched by a werewolf, and I saw Evander use incredible magic all in one night. And the next morning, Evander and I went on a ride with Sleipnir. Well, Nikolai was with us, too, but he rode one of the centaurs.”
“So…” My mind was racing with a myriad of different thoughts and questions. There were so many things that were real, that– I guess I can’t say that I didn’t believe in them, but that the people of Earth typically don’t believe in them. “When this Nikolai you speak of freed Sleipnir, how did he know it would safe to do so? How did he know Sleipnir wouldn’t hurt him or someone else?”
“I’m not completely sure,” Leila said, and I think she was actually admitting something for once. “Maybe it’s just in his nature, or maybe they were working on an assumption, too. You can ask him a little bit later.”
Leila paused, looking down as though a little worried and ashamed. Then she said, “By the way, I want to apologize again for lying to you about the scratches. I never should have gone outside when they asked me to stay in. I should have trusted them better, and.. I guess part of me knew that you’d be disappointed that I’d acted like that, too. I–“
I pulled her into my arms again, and embraced her tightly. “I know,” I told her. “We’ve always talked a big talk when we see characters in movies and games not listen when it’s for their own good. You didn’t take your own advice. You went outside and put yourself in danger. I hope I didn’t give you the impression that I would be angry that you had a lapse in judgment. It happens. I just… I really want you to be able to come to me with things that are going on in your life.”
She held me back. She was soft, and it felt wonderful to have that softness wrapped around me. I didn’t want to let go of her.
“I’ll be better,” she said in a tone that told me she was trying hard to reassure me. “Now that we’re together here, I know I can do better.”
“I’ll be by your side,” I told her, giving her another squeeze. “So… I guess we should head back and figure out what it is we need to be doing here. Did… Killian and Larsa didn’t follow you out here, did they?”
“No,” she replied with a small laugh. “I don’t know if they’re awake or anything, but as far as I know they didn’t leave the manor house.” She gestured over to the main road. “Evander and Jean-Marc rode out with me– and one of the centaurs.”
I looked over at the small group waiting on the road, then back to her. “And you said you rode Sleipnir here?”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “If you help me get back on him, you can ride with me, and we’ll head back to the manor house together.”
“But there’s no saddle,” I pointed out. “You rode Sleipnir bareback?”
“Of course I did!” she said. “Did you really think he’d take a saddle? Don’t take this the wrong way, but Evander showed me a couple things about riding bareback the last time I was here.”
“You caught on pretty quickly for someone who’s only ridden a horse a few times in her life.”
Her face scrunched a little as she looked up at me. “Stefan, don’t start acting jealous now. You can teach me everything you know about horseback riding from here on out. Now, are you ready to help me up?”
“Whatever you want,” I told her. I helped her up on to Sleipnir’s back, then climbed up to sit behind her. It was an incredible feeling. She’d sat in front of me before, like when when he been on rides at an amusement park, but somehow being on a horse like this felt different. Now I just had to make sure not to do anything that would make her regret letting me ride with her.
I’ve enjoyed expressing my love of the elements for quite a long time! Acrylic on canvas board, from about 1999.