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(C) Copyright by Buffi BeCraft, April 2011
(C) Cover Art by Jenny Dixon, July 2013
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction with rights owned exclusively by the author. All characters, events, and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence. This free ebook is rated PG13, for sexual reference.
Dedication and Forward
With spring in the air and Earth Day around the corner, I’m happy watch the dogwoods bloom and put away the doggie-sweaters. (Okay, this is East Texas- the doggie sweaters keep making an appearance until the end of April.)
Still, spring is in the air. It’s time to look around and see the wonder as nature wakes up from (the stuttering from my neck of the woods) winter hibernation. As I revel in the beauty of my home, it is a stark reminder of how much more could be done to preserve our planet. Recycle when you can to save on the raw materials that go into products, like trees, petroleum, and minerals. For those who cannot afford the paradoxally expensive green vehicles and solar homes, you can do your part as well. Use rechargeable batteries. Plant a tree. Pick up a bit of trash on the road. The only difference you make might be small to some, but collectively, large.
Happy Earth Day,
“Are you sure this is a safe place, My Lord?”
The Dryad wrung her hands, hovering around Morgan as if he would accidentally bruise so much as a leaf on her precious tree while he gently patted the loose soil into place.
The ancient tree looked more like a sapling than the hundreds of years it had survived. The poor tree drooped a bit, but so did its mistress. Its leaves and her hair, both the same lovely shade of green, drooped a bit. The healthy shine dimmed from the drive that evacuated the last of the shy wood fairys out of the way of human pick-nickers and vacationers looking to explore during the annual Dogwood Festival. For some reason, dryads always thought hiking parks were a good fit—that is, until the crowds showed up.
He straightened and laid the fiberglass handled shovel down on the ground. No sense in inciting the dryads with a wood handle. That would be something like showing up with a moving van with a corpse in the passenger seat. Very unsettling. Unlike many of his kind, Morgan liked fiberglass and plastic. A lot. Yay for the modern human marvels that could be done with petroleum. Science was magic.
He promoted recycling and green living as much as the next tree hugger, but he absolutely loved all technology. Beer in a can, pizza delivery, and TIVO. His state-state-of-the-art, touch screen mobile phone where he could play for hours flinging birds at pigs. Now that was a ridiculous but addicting game. As his werewolf friends would say, technology rocked. What more could a man want when he’d seen and suffered through real famine and war? It was hard to believe the dismissive attitudes humans, especially Americans, now had about diseases that once leveled entire villages. Pox? Influenza? Just a routine doctor’s visit and a trip to the drug store for prescriptions to ease the discomfort.
“Be at ease Lyssa. Your tree is safe.” He picked up the plastic five-gallon bucket he’d prepared ahead of time to help ease the dryad’s transition to the preserve and pried the lid off. “And this little pick-me-up I got from the nursery should help until you get your roots dug in good. You’ll love it here, the daffodils grow wild. I’m sure you’ll have new leaves by Earth Day.”
The plant food spilled out in a blue and green flood into the little basin he’d made around the little tree.
“Oh thank you, My Lord!” Lyssa threw her pale, slim arms around Morgan’s neck. “I am your humble servant! Your faithful follower.”
The flood of tears from the dryad clenched his stomach and made him want to flee more than all the ‘My Lording’ that she and the others who’d sought him out usually did. Even if he had just dumped a bucket of plant food on her soul-tree.
He patted her awkwardly and set her away. It couldn’t be good for the dryad to be losing all that moisture. Nature was such an unpredictable thing. First the hurricanes, then oil disasters destroying so many coastal fairy habitats, he didn’t have the heart to turn refugees away. So much so, that he’d done everything in his power over the years to keep the werewolf pack happy and unthreatened by fairykind. Morgan had proved that the dominant supernatural species could co-exist, they just had to work at the relationship. Negotiation and honor were the cornerstones of their treaty.
Checking the soil again, he was pleased to see it held moisture well. The nightmare of hauling food and water to his dryad population in previous summers over for now, but he was still leery. Centuries had taught Morgan to be leery of the loss of even a little bit of precious uncontaminated water.
“It’s okay.” He edged away from her over-grateful enthusiasm. He really did have other rounds to make, that of his human job as well as this whole Forest Lord thing that had crept up on him. Damn his mother’s meddling. He’d been perfectly happy to continue on in his half-breed person non-grata status. “If any your sisters want to transplant, ah, move here. That’s fine. It’s a decent sized wildlife preserve.”
Lyssa smiled, the elusive and shy smile that was the basis of ages old stories told at night. Then a bird’s cry caught her attention and the tears dried as she sought out the source of the sound. She wandered away, her self-proclaimed lord forgotten as she discovered her new home. Already, the little tree perked up, its leaves reaching for the sunshine.
But that was alright. The burden of Lyssa’s pain faded. Dryads were fickle creatures by nature. To fall in love with one was a tragedy. Capture her and she would die of the confinement. She would never stay with a fairy or mortal male long enough to do more than get herself with a dryad daughter to carry back to her beloved forest.
Morgan had loved a dryad once. Dryads only had daughters, so he didn’t even have the comfort of a son to keep of his lost love. But somewhere in the old lands was a pretty moss-haired dryad and her daughter, who Morgan had seen once. The daughter had his eyes and liked the gift of a wild rosebush he’d given her one spring.
It was enough.
He picked up the shovel and bucket, carried them to the truck to begin his rounds.
Morgan knew better than to hope for more from his people. Elven-kind as whole were a prejudiced lot. The dryad he’d given a child to have been the most accepting of his blood heritage and his possession of the goddess’s gifts. Then again, as a dryad she would have forgotten his blood five minutes after she noticed he wasn’t full-blood fairy, and the gift was probably what attracted her to lie with him in the first place.
He frowned, understanding the need inside himself to connect with another. Usually, he was able to bury his own needs, but today, for some reason the urge refused to stay hidden. Maybe he’d take the dryad and her daughter an interesting flower this year or one of the many plant-based fairy dogs that roamed his halls. Still, longing churned in his stomach.
* * * * *
Morgan took black-topped roads out to the dirt-graded drives leading to a path that wound its way to a tidy shack in the woods. If ever a place was ‘in the sticks’, this was it. Digwite the troll had no need for electricity or a mailbox since most trolls prided themselves on illiteracy and most other fairy kind didn’t associate with any of the goblin-kin. Morgan pulled into the rutted drive and saw the crusted, rust-eaten mailbox a few yards away in the trees. He’d have to talk to Digwite about littering again, especially with stuff that didn’t decompose.
The shack was actually pretty s
Morgan stopped at the edge of the road. The usually barren yard was green and grassy. Small colorful flowers dotted the thick carpet. Morning glory vines covered the wreck of a vehicle that Digwite occasionally got running long enough to drive for a pizza.
He killed the truck and climbed down from the cab.
Birdsong stopped when he called out. Morgan frowned. A tingle of warning made him slow his pace to the little porch. The door swung open easily. Morgan’s eyes rounded in surprise at one of the few beings who could still take him off guard. The scene inside the small building was enough to destroy all his careful plans. He shook his head even as his magic fled and his vision blurred.
“Ahh, what have you done?” His body, stripped of the magic that clothed him in his human guise, reverted back to his normal pale color. Hair the color of the Spanish moss that sometimes graced trees near water fell over his bare shoulder. ”Dammit...” he growled out as he took in his sudden nudity. Making clothes from magic was convenient, until the magic was gone and you were left in the buff.
Stepping out of the shadows, she looked down at him and sighed. The blood red tresses spilled like blood over her shoulders and back as she bent down to brush the bold green locks from his face. In the corner the troll whimpered beside the inert man’s body of the golden wolf.
She answered his question with frightening, yet paternal affection, her lips as blood red as her hair. “Why dearest, do you always complain when I look out for you?” She shook her head, arching an eyebrow as old, powerful magic clothed Morgan in a fine silken long tunic and pants more suited to royalty than him. His feet were bare, allowing him to draw and feel the strength of the Earth below him. “Stubborn boy. This plan does not concern you.
“Jaxermilix settle him safely. While I see to the next problem.”
“Yes, Morrigan.” The gnome nodded and swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbed above the collar of his expensive blue polo-shirt. He knew better than to argue with one of the old gods. To bad their meddling could get underlings killed in the crossfire. The gnome pulled two sets of handcuffs from a pouch, one wrapped in red leather, the other in black.
Morgan stepped forward, one hand out in protest. “Stop. These are my people.” In the grand scheme of things a half-breed elf had nothing on the goddess whose specialties were war and fertility. Today, he did not feel like taking any of her shit. “The troll has pledged himself to me.”
Morrigan tilted her head; one long black fingernail indicated the golden haired wolf. “That one has not. It is not even your kind.” Her eyes flicked around the simplicity of their surroundings. “And the troll?” she laughed again, the full throated sound made the gnome shiver. “A troll? Child, surely even you can see the insignificance of one troll.”
Suddenly, she was in his face, the movement or transportation so fast that Morgan did not register the action. He didn’t flinch when she traced his cheek, because he held no fear. Still he mentally said a word prayer to the fates as Morrigan’s eyes glittered with mischief. “I’m off to challenge that old dog, Anubis and I need one of his whelps. You can help me, my little sprout. We will have a time making him chase his tail.”
Her chuckle reminded Morgan of happier times, when he was young and did not know any better than to delight in the scheming of the various gods. Shaking his head ever so slightly, Morgan kept eye contact. “No, Mother. Not this time. The troll is mine.” He felt almost sorry to ruin her fun. But at the expense of his friends? No. He wouldn’t do that. “I have a treaty with the wolves. I will not give up my honor for your game.”
Morrigan sagged and expelled a breath; her drama reminded him of the starlets on television. His senses told him that the werewolf was about to wake. Twirling, Morrigan focused on the cowering gnome. “Do not let them wake up. I am not done here.” She turned back to Morgan, one perfect hand touched her breast. Her voice dropped and became almost tearful. “You would fight me for these two, my son? Flesh of my own body?” Morrigan looked away, pale and dramatic against the backdrop of nature. A single tear trembled on her lower lashes, making him feel like dung.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Morgan strode between her and the helpless captives. He gave the gnome a harsh glance. Jaxermilix had always been a shady character. “The tear is a nice touch, Mother. You’ve been going to theater again.”
“By myself, because my only son will not attend to me,” the fierce goddess of war pouted.
“You have other children,” he reminded. Morrigan did have other children from ancient trysts with other gods. Children that did not recognize him any more than his own father’s relatives recognized him. The ancient thorn pricked at him before he buried the hurt. Morgan was too old to wallow in self-pity.
“Fine then,” Morrigan huffed. She threw her arms out. “You will not help me against Anubis. You will not take me to theater. Have you disowned me, my son?” She looked over her shoulder, showing her smudged and damp eyes. “You would disavow me, my only child to be named for me? You would do nothing to cheer the woman who labored to bring you life?”
A headache bloomed behind his eyes. Nevermind that fairy kind did not fall ill. Morgan wanted to groan, knowing full-well that he’d just fallen for the oldest, sneakiest, trick of all time. “You know that I would do much for you, Mother. I just will not give you my people.” Or go to the strange, horrific theater shows she loved so much.
“Well, then…” Morrigan walked behind him to lay her head against his shoulder. Her long fingers played in his hair. “My dearest friends in all the night, Erbus and Nyx, came to visit. You know how it is with the Greek.”
No, he didn’t know. He did know that gods in general referred to all decedents of their offspring as great grandchildren and dismissed the many, many ‘greats’ that could precede the designation. Morrigan had been a good mother, hiding him away from her peers as he grew into his power. Still, his right eye began to throb. He knew the route this conversation would follow.
Morrigan continued, playing with his hair like she had when he was a child. “As they were telling of their great granddaughter, Illiad, I had a wonderful idea. I have no idea why people name their children such odd names, but she is a lovely girl.”
“Just dinner and theater and I will leave your troll and werewolf alone.” Morrigan rushed the words out as she dropped his hair to grip his arms. She turned him easily to stare into his eyes. “She is very pretty and has an interesting lineage. A bit of Fury, a touch of selkie, a water witch, and she’s delightfully unaware of her own genetics. Very American mutt and just your thing, though I have no idea why.”
“Just one dinner.” Morgan stated, his arms stayed crossed. His jaw locked to keep the impression that he might have some power in this negotiation.
Morrigan smiled. Damn, she knew she’d won. “Dinner and theater. As a bonus, I’ll keep my hands off your Anderson County Pack treaty.”
“You’ll leave all the wolves alone? And my people?” He pressed, already hating whatever play she was about to send him to. At Morrigan’s nod, he felt marginally better. More so, when she gestured for the gnome to free the werewolf and troll. “Then, I agree to the terms.”
His mother squealed, doing a giddy little dance that made the gnome goggle. Morrigan leaned in, pecking a quick kiss on his cheek. “Good. I’ll send you the arrangements.” Leaning back, she beamed. “I’ve got to tell Nyx. She’ll be over the moon.”
“Goodbye, Mother. Enjoy your visit.” Morgan truly hoped she did, hoping he could get her little fixer-upper out of the way soon.
“By the way, dear,” Morrigan’s eyes lit again with mischief, boding ill for him, he was sur
“I’m told abstinence works wonders,” Morgan shot back.
“Oh, we’ll see.” His mother faded from sight. Her voice drifted on the wind. “We shall see.”
* * * * *
Morgan’s powers returned, along with the human persona he’d adopted. Casting his senses out, he verified that the goddess had truly left and taken her minion for the day. Digwite the troll and the werewolf were stirring, so Morgan decided to make himself scarce as well. It was an easy thing to transport himself to his apartments deep inside his realm.
Morgan spied his mother’s ‘arrangements’ immediately. Crossing the richly furnished room to the wardrobe, he avoided stepping on the small pack of fairy dogs that tumbled across his floor wagging brushy tails and fluttering petal lashes at him. A tuxedo hung, pressed and ready on the hanger, waiting for him. Flipping open the lapel, he found the envelope containing tickets to a romantic musical on Broadway, reservations for a five-star cuisine restaurant, and a room keycard for the penthouse of one of the most exclusive hotels in New York. Fates help him, Morrigan was sparing no expense.
Morgan stared at the tickets, key card, and tuxedo and felt his insides quiver a bit. Looking up, he glimpsed his own pale reflection in one of the wardrobe’s inset mirrors. He’d faced down dragons, armies bent on the destruction of his people, political assassins, and nothing frightened him like his mother on a matchmaking streak.
The End…for now
Buffi BeCraft, i db20228e8edb0449