Now she knew. She’d awoken because of something breaching her ward. How stupid of her. 
Her spine jackknifed. 
Garbhan stared across the stone wall. 
Given that the ground on his side was lower, they stood eye level. Six Knights arranged in a strict V formation behind him, held their swords at the ready. She darted to the rack, and pulled her sword, built to suit her hand, the weight perfectly balanced as she held the blade out in front of her. 
She didn’t dare call to the men, and risk exposing them. 
“I knew it,” Garbhan hissed. “Siobhan, did you honestly believe I would be fooled with your glamour?” 
Now she knew. She’d awoken because of something breaching her ward. How stupid of her. 
Her spine jackknifed. 
Garbhan stared across the stone wall. 
Given that the ground on his side was lower, they stood eye level. 
six Knights arranged in a strict V formation behind him, held their swords at the ready. She darted to the rack, and pulled her sword, built to suit her hand, the weight perfectly balanced as she held the blade out in front of her. 
She didn’t dare call to the men, and risk exposing them. 
“I knew it,” Garbhan hissed. “Siobhan, did you honestly believe I would be fooled with your glamour?” 
“You were,” she snapped. “Ahh, to all of my senses, except smell. You should’ve paid better attention. I am a master hunter, tracker. It may’ve taken me a few moments to make the connection, after you had disappeared into the forest. Yours is a unique combination of sex and magick that no other can compete with. That uniqueness makes you easy to track.” To demonstrate, his nostrils flared, dragging in a long breath. He slammed his meaty fist on his chest. “But in here, I will know you anywhere. You dared to run from your duty? What gave you the right?” He sniffed again. “Was there someone else?” 
“Who else would there be, for a willing exile like myself?” Siobhan sneered, every ounce of contempt she’d hid at court showed on her face. The Captain jerked. “Just as I hated you when I left, I want nothing to do with you now. Get off my land. I am within my rights as an exile I have a home outside of the Seelie court.” 
“You were under dictation of your Queen, when you fled. You are a lawbreaker.” She laughed. “I celebrate no Queen, or ever will again.” 
The Captain hooted in triumph. 
Unease gripped Siobhan, as her gaze darted frantically around the forest. Magick rippled in the air, and a slight white robed figure stepped through a glimmering portal. A pungent aroma of roses and spring hung between them. Head bowed, the immense presence threatened to choke her. 
“Did you hear that?” 
“I did,” the female said. 
A pale hand appeared through the tiny slit between the panels of the robbing. She waved dismissively. “You are right in assuming her a traitor to the crown, and she shall be punished accordingly.” The relish in the proclamation turned Siobhan’s stomach. “Take her into the forest, and teach her a lesson she won’t soon forget. Then bring her back to the court in chains. Should the crown feel charitable, the Queen may force her into her predestined fate. If not, she shall be given over to the Knights, to do with what they will for the rest of eternity.” 
The white robed figure turned away. A ripple in the air signified the figure was about to leave. 
“I’m not your only enemy, Druantia O’hUallachain. Show your face to me, wretched Queen of the light. If you dare,” Siobhan jeered. “I am a high born, and if you think they won’t revolt against you, for handing over a noble to be raped then you have sorely misjudged your own people.” 
A snarl escaped the glistening white hood. The Seelie Queen threw back the covering. “You celebrate no court. You are of nobility no longer.” She jerked her angular chin toward the Knights. “They bear witness to your statement. You will be forsworn to your family’s heritage the moment you reenter my kingdom, as a traitor to the crown. No one will question my judgment.” 
Siobhan opened her palm, summoning a spell she never thought to use. Dark magick is to invite karma and fate to your door, to risk angering the Goddess herself. But, by that same Goddess, she would not become the Knights’ whore. Not this day, or any other. 
Even if she had to die to see it so. 
She lobbed the sickly red ball of magick at the Queen. The bitch grabbed the closest Knight, and threw him in the spell’s way. He fell to the ground in convulsions. His skin shrunk against his skeleton, as the Queen and Captain stared in horror. 
Siobhan had been never one to do something halfway. 
“You dare…” The Queen’s voice trembled, her arm shook as she pointed across the wall. 
“Redundant point, Druantia. Past tense. I dared. If not for the power of the royal house behind you, you’re no match for me. And you know it.” Siobhan straightened to her full height. 
She had shaken them so badly, they hesitated. She turned and ran, to get them away from the cottage before Fallon and Dearg woke from the commotion. Hand planted on the far wall, she catapulted herself over. She was fast, but the Knights were faster. Thick on her heels, she weaved through trees, narrowly missing arrows. A portal opened with furious intensity less than a foot in her trajectory, not giving her the time to swerve or stop, as she crashed into the Queen’s arms. The moment they touched, her limbs failed her. 
“You might outdo me in many areas, Siobhan MacCongail, but I have the ability to tap into dead Seelie Kings and Queens, as is my right.” 
Siobhan growled. “That is a sign of a weak figurehead.” She hated failure, more than she hated the woman who gripped her. 
She whispered a charm underneath her breath and sent the bit of invisible magick zinging through the air. The power was so slight, the Queen so arrogant, she didn’t notice. 
* * * * 
Fallon stared at the dust motes floating in the summer rays drifting in the window. 
The silence only broke with the rhythmic tune of Dearg’s snoring that worsened when he rolled onto his back. He waited for Siobhan to return. Every morning, she got up long before either of them. She kept busy, no matter the time of day. The livestock required tending, or she’d be found in her abundant garden, weeding away into oblivion, humming a pleasant tune. 
The dust motes sparkled gold, and he scrambled from bed. The moment he had, the charm leapt at his presence. Siobhan had left messages for him before when she’d gone for walks, or to hunt without them. 
A sense of dread came over him, as the dust motes rearranged themselves into shining words. The Knights came. The Queen has ordered my capture. They do not know you are here. Run. 
He pivoted, and kicked Dearg in the ribs. “Get up. Siobhan’s been taken.” 
Dearg groaned, rolled over. “Taken where?” he mumbled. 
“By the Queen’s Knights.” He tossed the blanket aside, jumped to his feet and charged, naked as the day he was born. 
“I do not know.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Why didn’t you wake me?” 
“I just did. She sent a missive charm, telling us to run.” 
“Fuck that. We’re not abandoning her.” Fallon studied his friend. “You know we could get dragged back to court,” he said. “I won’t blame you, if you run. I will look for her myself.” His hands fisted at his side. A fine tremor worked along his arms, as his pupils shifted into serpent slits. 
“You question my loyalty to Siobhan?” 
“No. Merely pointing out facts.” Dearg stormed past Fallon as he dressed. He shook his head. “Put some clothes on, Dearg. We have a search to make.” 
Skin flashing a deep red, Dearg refused to stop. 
“I’ll take to the skies. You take the ground. Bring to swords.” Fallon rushed to shove his feet into his thin-soled shoes. 
He darted out of the house, as Dearg was amidst the shift. A dragon trice the size of cottage took his place, golden claws slashing at the air. His lemon yellow chest puffed, as fire burst from his razor-filled mouth. A roar that deafened anyone in a mile radius shook the trees. Black barbed tail swiped the ground, tossing dirt and grass in a small tornado. His hind legs tensed as he pushed off, forty-foot wingspan lifting him into the air, tearing off treetops in his wake. 
In all haste, Fallon dragged a bow from the holder, and threw a stocked quiver over his shoulder. He looped a scabbard over his right arm, and grabbed two swords. He jumped the wall, studying the grounds. Footsteps marred the wild grasses that dominated the landscape.
 A broken branch ahead. He had direction. 

* * * * 
Discretion was the better part of valor. 
Except, perhaps when a man was in a rage over the woman he cared for, and not really a man at all. Dearg made no move to hide his presence. Besides, he was dragon in this form. Anyone who looked to the skyline could see him. 
So he made his existence known, lighting the clouds an angry orange as he burst fire that would melt even a Sidhe Knight on contact. His bellows covered square miles in every direction. His keen eyes quartered the area. His heightened sense of smell, his natural ability to sense prey was put through their paces. His body made the forest beneath darker than night. The sight of a glaring white figure amongst all of the greens and browns chilled his blood. 
Not just the Knights had taken their woman, but the Queen herself. Fallon would be forced to act, if he saw her. Indecision flashed. But only for a second. He swooped down, the end of his tail ripping trees clear from the roots, aimed at the fleeing Knights. Two toppled under the weight, pinned until he swerved his attention to them. Five to go. He roasted a ring of foliage, cutting off the Queen and the Captain, who pulled a half-conscious Siobhan behind him. 
They reared at crackling flame as Dearg landed. In his anger, he hadn’t noticed a Knight dart under his wings. The blade cut into his hide like butter, though the pain stayed distant. His long neck craned, jaws snapped, breaking the Knight in two. 
The Queen twisted in midair, throwing a spell at him that rebounded off his scales. How stupid! He had discovered a few tidbits that put him far ahead of his assailants. He chuckled, though the sound from his mouth was nothing a human could utter. All the same, her eyes widened, and her milky skin paled to grey. 
He cast a communication charm, so his voice resonated through their heads, a shrill screech. "Stupid woman. You cursed me to this form, but you know nothing of dragons. Your magick doesn’t work on us. We are elemental."
“How do you know any better than I?” 
"Like most Sidhe, you ignore the lesser fae. Fallon and I never had that crippling view. We preferred to know thy friend or foe."
“Arrogant bastard!” She shifted. He released another stream of fire to her left, anticipating her move before she made it. 
When he went to blow a killing strike, she hid behind Siobhan. 
Oh, sweet Goddess, she was a coward. 
“You’re here for her, aren’t you? That is why my Knights couldn’t find you. She kept you safe from me,” the Queen said. “Another crime to add to the list she will be punished for.” 
"You have to escape me first."
A war cry behind them told him well enough Fallon had indeed arrived. Hard not to track a dragon on the tail of an enemy. 
Siobhan shook her head, narrowing her eyes as she gazed at them. Whatever spell had been cast on her wore off with every passing moment. Maghnus and Neasan moved in front of their Queen and Captain, attempting not to show the fear Dearg smelled, swords drawn in front of them. His mind worked. How best to achieve his goal, without killing Siobhan in the process? 
“See! He hesitates now,” the Queen whispered in the Captain’s ear. “She has enthralled your Knights to keep her safe.”
Dearg growled, and the Captain better covered the Queen with his body. 
Then Fallon spotted her. He charged, engaging Maghnus with vicious blows. 
Siobhan’s eyes cleared little by little. Mischievousness entered her gaze as she completely dropped her weight, unbalancing the Captain, forcing him to choose: her, or his Queen. 
He let her go, and she rolled out of the way. Magick simmered, white glitter backed by the wall of dying fire,
a portal ripped open, and the Queen threw herself in. Dearg thundered forward, but the fabric of the spell stitched back together.

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