Private Tales A rare encounter

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Maeve

Fae-Made
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Clearly, Fiadh still had a lot to learn about her new fae-daughter. For Maeve the small island on which she had been born had been 'close' to her parents even when she was a good two days ride away and the temptation to explore this world, with her new Sight, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Knowing Lorcan would be upset if she did get lost or get herself into trouble she did, however, limit her wandering to just what she could cover on her own two feet rather than a horse.

Maeve hadn't explore beyond Endora and a tiny proportion of the Autumn capital since she had turned from human to fae but she had a suspicion she would have found this area of the world beautiful even without the heightened senses. She took her time as she meandered through the wall trees. The climate here was much more pleasant than the Wilds she now called home. A cool breeze blew off the coastline and whilst it was broken up by the thick foliage it still ruffled her hair. This place reminded her of Arun and the life he had given her after her escape from slavery. Such a time felt a lifetime ago.

A sudden sound to her left caught her sensitive ears and her head whipped round towards it. Nothing move amongst the trees but she stayed frozen anyway, her breath slowing. Those skills she had learnt from the cradle about hunting and becoming unseen were engrained into her very being. Her hand slid for the bow slung over her back and one of the arrows in a quiver at her hip. But something made her stay her hand and instead she watched and listened. Sure enough after a few moments had passed from the thicket moved a white horse. It began to walk towards her with caution, each step a tentative show of trust. Maeve's hands slowly lowered so as not to spook the beast and her jaw almost hit the floor.

"A unicorn," she whispered to nobody in particular. The mare stopped a safe distance away. Raphael had told her of the animals when she had begun her long list of questions about what was real and what really was a fairytale. Unicorns were protected beings amongst the fae. To hurt one was a death sentence and to see one a rare gift. The animal slowly bowed and Maeve mimicked the motion. Then, with great care she stepped forward with her hand outstretched. The mare seemed to consider it, her ears twitching to and fro before slowly pushing her soft nose into the girls outstretched hand.
 
"Move as though you are water, flowing down a gentle stream into a great and vast ocean. Do not expect the ground to catch you, but instead become one with the world every time you feel your feet touch the soil. For he who becomes the world around him is truly a son of the Spring. One who knows the difference between the gentle caress of the leaves against one cheek and the ferocious crash of waves from the tallest of falls is the one who is my son."
Those final pieces of advice were all that had been offered to Tharu by his father before the young Fae had set off on this unusual pilgrimage. The words rang in his head, echoing every minute of the day as he traveled from plain to forest to desert. His travels seemed endless, but he had only been gone a month's time. In that short span of time, however, Tharu had learned so much. More than he'd ever imagined.

The Prince of Spring's upbringing was much unlike that of a typical duanann. Since his youth, and up until very recently, he had been confined within a curse by his own father. Locked to servitude, he could do nothing, go nowhere without the presence of the King. So many years alone, in solitude... He hadn't exactly developed in the way that he should have.

Now that he was free, and acting as the Prince of the Spring, there was much he was expected to know. Namely, the art of the nature dance. Long practiced by the Spring, the dance was performed by Spring fae to connect themselves with the world around them in a manner much deeper than usual Fae magic. Through this dance, one could make life flourish in the most desolate of regions. You could bring a forest to a desert, clean water to a swamp, or flowers to the tallest mountain peaks.

Tharu's father, Nairth San'Seya, was a master of the dance, often considered to be its most powerful practitioner. Since becoming King of the Spring, Nairth had been instructing Tharu, aiming to teach him to use the dance himself. Unfortunately, Tharu was not as gifted as the elder San'Seya, and traditional teaching methods failed to yield results.

That was why he'd been sent out alone, to travel the most beautiful of landscapes and practice his dance until he could feel the world answering his call. And he was close. So close. The Prince walked barefoot through the dense trees, his only clothing an arrangement of wide leaves tied around his waist and hanging down to his knees. His body was adorned with paint and dirt alike, creatures of all types depicted on his torso and back, while vines and roots ran down his arms. which were spread so that the tips of his fingers could brush against the bark of the stalwart trees that stood their ground where he walked.

It made so much more sense than it did when his Father spoke of it; the voices of nature. Tharu had thought far too metaphorically when the opposite was true; he could actually hear them speak. They greeted him, reached out to caress him in thanks as the dirt he walked on sprouted blooms behind him. The path he traveled was towards a significant landmark; a requirement of his journey.

Tharu was to befriend a Unicorn. One of nature's most elusive and sought-after treasures. He could feel it in the distance, the ever-present calm calculation of the beast's mind. It called him to that stretch of tall wyldtree, where it grazed peacefully. The San'Seya's nerves calmed, his arms lowering as he saw the beast. Slowly, with gentle steps he approached the beautiful creature from behind, extending a hand to draw its attention.

Only for it to bow its head to another, appearing from out of his vision on the opposite side. A beautiful woman, with hair as red as fire. Tharu stood in stunned silence as she pet the unicorn with all the gentility and kindness of a goddess.

Of course, she was no goddess. Tharu had seen this woman before, albeit briefly. Shortly before he regained his freedom he had attended a ball with his father during which he'd become aware of her existence. She was Maeve. Nairth had spoken of her in the same breath as the Autumn Prince Lorcan on more than one occasion.

Knowing better than announcing himself and startling the Unicorn, Tharu merely stepped out from the cover of the trees, revealing himself silently as he watched the two of them with muted awe.

Maeve
 
Maeve's father would have berated her for not keeping her senses open to others in the area and for missing a man literally step out from between the trees. But perhaps he would have forgiven her knowing what took her attention. The Ilcinki were a tribe of horse warriors. Their coming of age ritual to tame and befriend a wild horse that would be bonded to them for their life. Nobody from her home would have reacted any differently to the wonder that so openly played across Maeve's face in that moment as her fingers delicately traced up the horses soft nose to her ears.

The unicorn whickered and tilted her head when she got just the right spot.

"Is that the spot?" she said with a breathy laugh and the unicorn pawed at the ground in agreement. This time Maeve's laugh was one of utter delight. The great white horse bumped her soft nose against her crimson hair and in return groomed her back.

"What are you doing out here all alone, hm? It's not safe. There's an elven city not far from here."
 
What was it doing out here indeed? Tharu remained as still as possible, so as not to startle the wonderful creature into fleeing. Even so the young Fae found his body tilting forward, entranced by the display between the two of them. Had the Unicorn responded to his call and wandered this way? The thought of such a success elated him but no, it would be egregious to deny that the lovely beast was quite taken by Maeve. Tharu had felt it, but it was not here for him.

The pang of disappointment was only momentary; Maeve's airy laugh brought another smile to his lips. How could he be upset with such a wonderful scene? To see somebody handle so delicately the sanctity of nature was an increasingly rare delight, and Tharu brought a hand to his painted chest, feeling that pleasant warmth blooming in his heart and seeping from his pores.

The grass around Maeve and the Unicorn would begin to grow beneath them, brilliant blooms of all colors pushing out from the soil to encircle them, highlighting their presence amongst the quiet forest. Tharu stepped forward, fully emerging as he reached out to place his hand on the Unicorn's side. The animal would jump at first, but Tharu soothed it.

"Na'na'." A whispered hush left his lips as his fingers trailed along the Unicorn's back. A smile would meet Maeve as their new friend settled seemingly calmed by whatever presence Tharu exhibited. The Spring prided themselves on such things. "These are dangerous lands indeed. I'm glad you found her, before someone else..."

Maeve
 
Magick prickled at her senses a second before the grass beneath her feet began to sprout and grow. Maeve's back stiffened and quickly she went to grab the curved dagger that rested against the small of her back. The unicorn seemed to share her fright for it snorted and tossed its mane, prancing back a pace or two with her though Maeve tried to stay a little in front in order to protect it if need be. Her piercing green eyes latched quickly on to the man who stepped forth but something about him made her pause in drawing the blade to begin with.

Fae.

Not even the Night Court would harm a unicorn... Ravenna had told her that. Which meant the animal was safe. How funny that only a few months ago the sight of a fae would not have made her release her blade with a quiet sigh of relief but made her draw and loose an ash and iron arrow without a second thought.

That didn't mean she trusted him.

"Who are you?" she asked bluntly, the unicorn now between them like some sort of neutral no mans land. Her eyes flickered over the paint so similar to the type she had seen recently in a book. Spring. That would make sense with the display of blossoming flowers at her feet and Lorcan had said they were not one of the bad courts...

"Are you here to take her home?" The unicorn nibbled on a strand of her scarlet red hair.
 
Tharu knew of Maeve, but he knew nothing of what she'd been through, the reasons she had not to trust him. Of course, had she shown no sign of caution whatsoever he would have thought her slightly foolish. Even a Spring Fae was nothing to believe blindly. Tharu didn't meet her gaze, instead focusing on the beautiful animal they'd both come to witness firsthand as he replied. "I am Tharu, Ambassador and Prince of the Spring."

Honestly he was beginning to doubt that the title of Prince meant anything; more often he was the former title, traveling from court to court in order to try and garner favor for their plights. Tharu was still learning, and the world of the Fae was often a harsh one, but Nairth assured him his work was vital.

"She is not beholden to any one land, but if I were to take her she could be placed under my Father's protection. Any who attempted to hunt her would be dealt with quite handily." Tharu smiled, finally turning to face the green eyes focused warily onto him. "I apologize if I startled you, but I didn't want to frighten her. I'm on a spirit walk, you see, trying to sharpen my connection with the world. To encounter a unicorn in the wild is a great boon to that end, or so I'm told."

Tharu waved a hand towards the ground, and some of the plants that had sprouted raised up, colorful blooms meeting his hand as he gently plucked them from their stems, placing them behind the unicorn's ears. This would mark it for both he and The King. Any who knew of the Spring would know that aggression against this creature would be considered aggression against Spring.

"You are.. Maeve, right? My Father has spoken of you, briefly. It is a pleasure to meet you in person, Madam."

Maeve
 
The whole speech brought up so many questions for the newly-made fae; could the unicorn come home with her? Endora was far safer than any other land she knew. What was a Spirit Walk? And..

"How do you know my name?" she said sharply, her eyes turning from thoughtful to as dangerous as a knife's edge. Her mind began to race through the people who knew who she was but after Midir had found out about her that list could be pages long by now. It was a gift and a curse that sent her heart hammering though she tried to quell it in case the feeling would reach Lorcan. Though Midir had promised not to harm her there was still a whole Court who had forced her change and was more than keen to get a hold of her again to uncover the secrets of Autumn.

Her fear shouldn't have been a reason to be rude to someone who had shown no hint of aggression though.

"Apologies, that was... my manner was rude," she ran a hand through her hair. "I would just rather... people didn't know I had been here," she rubbed her hands up over her bare upper arms and the unicorn nuzzles into her with a comforting noise making the young girl smile.

"Lorcan told me Spring were... allies," Maeve continued softly and wound her fingers into the horses silvery mane. "It is nice to meet one of you in person."
 
Tharu didn't blame Maeve in the least for her caution. He'd have reacted in much the same way had he been approached out of the blue by an unfamiliar duanann. Though the realm of Fae was considered to be 'at peace' for the moment, that peace was more fragile than it had been in some time, and all of the courts were facing their own conflicts, in one way or another. It had been brash of him to approach in such a manner.

Tharu waves off her apology. "You have nothing to worry about. I understand your concern, and will tell nobody of our meeting." If that was what she wished, then it would be so. Taking one step away from the unicorn, The painted Prince bows politely, his hair falling rather wildly down his face. "May name is Tharu San'Seya, Prince of Spring. I know your name because I've heard my father mention you while speaking of Prince Lorcan." Better to dismiss any possible suspicion as soon as he could.

The young duanann brushed the hair from his face as he walked around their four-legged friend, giving her a more thorough look. It made him happy that the son of the Erlking thought of them as friend and not foe. The relationship between his Father and Midir had been less than amicable at times, but the two of them seemed to be putting their best foot forward in working together from this point on.

"She's very healthy. That's wonderful. Sometimes, they spent so much time running that it's difficult for them to eat enough to maintain a healthy weight." When that happened in Spring's territory, often they would bring it to Grovehaven and nurture it back to a proper state of health before releasing it once more. "Likewise, Maeve. I'm also serving as Spring's ambassador, so it is my job to manage our relationships with the other courts."

He paused, a puzzled expression crossing his face as he turns back to her, arms crossing idly over his bare chest. "I don't intend to tell anybody I saw you, but it does beg the admittedly nosy question of what it is you're doing out here. Forgive my brazenness."

Maeve
 
Lorcan might have said they were allies but that didn't mean she was going to suddenly let him get within melee distance of her. As he stepped forward she stepped to the side, making sure to keep a spears length between them. She'd seen Raphael conjure weapons from shadows before and who was to say he couldn't summon them from flowers? She agreed with his assessment of the unicorn though and even thought if she had a carer somewhere else. Perhaps a woodland nymph, or some of the brownies. They would care for a creature such as this with great love.

She blinked up at the other fae when he asked his question.

"I suppose... that's a fair question for a Prince to ask," she laughed awkwardly and ran a hand through her hair. "Truthfully... I think I must have wandered too far from where I was staying - a Duanaan named Fiadh. She lives just over the border to Spring. You don't really have obvious helpful walls around your boundaries..." a small curve of her lips hinted it was a joke.

Shit, did she need to have permission to visit another Court?

The thought made her smile falter a little and a look of concern crossed her face.

"I hope I haven't caused any offence or broken any rules I... I'm quite... new to this kind of life. Where I come from is quite sheltered, I suppose."
 
Tharu once again took no offense at Maeve's obvious apprehension, playing it off with a smile as he lowered to sit in the grass beside the majestic beast, showing just how drastically his level of comfort contrasted with her own. Nairth would likely have scolded Tharu rather thoroughly for this-- Not the trusting of Maeve, mind you, but how he allowed himself to be vulnerable in the presence of another, no matter how he felt about them.

Though he was far kinder than he had once been to Tharu, The King still had some level of coldness in his heart. The Prince truly hoped something would warm it someday.

"Walls are not necessary for us, because all are welcome... so long as they abide by our rules." The Spring prided itself on its willingness to cooperate with those who would respect its beliefs, no matter the creed. They'd even had small groups from Summer and Night pass through the forests with only one or two incidents in-between. No matter what Court you were from, it was often in your best interest to accept Spring's hospitality. "So you've done nothing wrong. In fact, I think it's a boon we crossed paths."

He turned his head to flash her a smile, white beneath the paint on his face. Tharu wasn't sure what she meant by new. Nairth hadn't gotten into details about Maeve's history or anything of the sort, so Tharu had no way of knowing exactly what she was. "I'm on a spirit walk, like I mentioned. It's a long walk where one is supposed to entwine themselves with nature as much as is possible in order to deepen their bond with the world." He wouldn't have shared this, but her mention of being sheltered... "I, too... am new to much of this. Though I am a Prince, I am still weak."

The smile on his face would falter, just a bit, as he looked back to the Unicorn. "Encountering a beast as rare as a Unicorn is supposed to be a great sign of a successful walk. So when I felt her presence I was elated, but I realize now that it is you who captivated it so. My intentions for finding it were selfish, and so I am not worthy. Not yet, anyways." A fluke. That's what it had been.

Maeve
 
Maeve watched the other fae cautiously as he sat down and dithered on the correct protocol. Theoretically they were equals - he a Prince she a Princess - but with her being Made and he Born did that alter things? Lorcan would have said no in a furious heartbeat, but Maeve had grown up in a world where these beings were her Gods. It was still a great challenge to see them as anything but that even now. With that in mind and knowing it was a flaw she needed to work through, Mae forced herself to take a seat opposite. The unicorn, not wanting to be excluded from the circle, lay down too.

"I'm sorry," the young fae said for she didn't know what else to when he looked so sad. "Maybe she appeared so we could meet," she offered instead of his more melancholy retelling of events. The unicorn gave no indication of who was right in what she thought was a rather typical mare-like manner which caused her to smile.

"Where I come from, my tribe are known to be great horse warriors," she explained softly and ran her fingers gently down the unicorns soft nose making the creature close her eyes. "My mother used to tell me stories about unicorns but I never thought I would see one. Maybe she sensed I missed my heart-horse," she gave a soft, sad sigh.
 
Tharu certainly wasn't going to let this setback ruin his entire trip, but the revelation had certainly stung. In actuality, the Unicorn very well could have been here in response to him, but the San'Seya prince's confidence was severely lacking. Though he was free from his curse, the lingering effects of his years of isolation and servitude still haunted his mind even when he could not see it. For so long he'd been treated as nothing, and often it was hard to feel like anything but.

At her words, though, he smiled up at the scarlet-haired woman, a much more genuine grin than the one he'd worn to assuage her earlier fears of him. Yes, perhaps that was a way to look at it. "Maybe so, Lady Maeve. Perhaps I've been sent to you for a reason." His Father always said that the world would steer you where you were needed if you were willing to listen. Maybe this was just such an instance? Tharu rose to his feet, giving her a small bow.

"You said this Lady Fiadh lives in Spring land?" It wouldn't be polite of Tharu to leave an ally so far out on her own, and he was the Ambassador, after all; making connections and strengthening bonds was his duty. "Then perhaps you would permit me to escort you back safely, Lady Maeve?"

The trip back would be practically harmless with Tharu accompanying her; other Fae wouldn't dare act against a Prince, even of a parlor court. It could mean war with Spring's allies, and those included the fearsome Autumn. There was one particular threat Tharu worried about encountering, but either way, Maeve would be better off with him than without him if that happened.

Maeve
 
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"I'm not sure she would class it as Spring's territories," Maeve laughed. Fiadh's court was a small thing in the grand scheme of fae politics from what she understood, but she was fiercely protective of it and on it being recognised properly. If it was her, Mae would have been glad to slip beneath the radar and stay off the ever moving chess board of fae politics but her Goddess had different ideas. Different dreams.

"But the company would certainly be appreciated," she granted him a genuine, albeit shy, smile. Certainly as she was fairly sure that she might get herself lost again trying to find it. The only thing she could go on was the subtle tug of the part of her soul that was Fiadh's, drawing her back to her. With one last stroke of the unicorns mane Maeve rose to her feet in one fluid, graceful movement. The unicorn followed a moment later and nudged her with a wicker, causing the young fae to laugh. "You can come too, of course," the horses ears pricked forward.

She turned back to lead them the way she had come and in the direction of that subtle tug.

"Have you travelled far on your walk?" she asked curiously, peaking at him from the corner of her eyes.
 
When Maeve told him that Fiadh wouldn't consider herself explicitly within Spring territory, it actually gave him a slightly better idea of where the rose-haired Princess was headed. Nairth had informed him of the existence of outliers from his rule, those who operated autonomously and did not officially associate with their Court.

Tharu smiled, offering another small bow before following her closely. Along the way he would correct her path a few times to prevent her from teetering too far off track, though really she seemed to be doing quite well. The Unicorn that had brought them together happily trotted behind the pair, and Tharu had to admit his amusement with how enchanted she was with the two Fae.

"I couldn't even begin to tell you. It's easy to lose track of time and distance when you're communing with nature. I think it hasn't been too terribly long though." The markings on his body seemed to glimmer in the light that peeked through the trees, but his skin was clean, which also suggested it hadn't been too long.

"What about you?" Tharu turned to look at Maeve. "It's rather dangerous to be out alone without any protection. Do you have means of fighting back?"

Maeve
 
"I thought it was rude to ask other fae their magic," Maeve commented airily and fixed him with a sideways look. From any other fae it would have been a quietly veiled threat but the red-head's lips struggled not to break her serious expression with a smile. Tharu was not the first, not the last, to assume she should walk these paths with someone else. There was just an air about her, a certain naivety and sweetness that didn't seem to fit in with the fae world.

"It's only been a few hours, I think," she squinted up towards the sun. It had been morning when she had left and the sun now was just past its zenith. "I've just never been to this... area before. It's beautiful. I think I just got a little distracted," she laughed and rubbed the back of her neck. "Lorcan would kill me if he found out, Fiadh too," she grimaced.

"But I can more than handle myself, don't worry," she winked.
 
Tharu clammed a bit as she caught him in a bit of a faux pas that the Prince wasn't aware of. How could he be expected to know that? It wasn't as though he'd been around other Fae very much in the last few decades, had he?

Lowering his gaze to the ground, he missed the obvious hint of a smirk at the corner of her lips. "Is it? I'm sorry, I didn't realize." The flustered admission may have come as odd from a Fae Prince, but they were beyond the point where they were going to start judging each other now, he thought.

"You're right though. There's so much beauty here that it is far too easy to become lost in it. Even when I am home, I sometimes wander aimlessly for hours..." Tharu gives a little shake of his head, chuckling. "Granted Grovehaven is more or less a castle built in a tree, so it isn't as though I have to look far." The idea that even one of Autumn could be so easily lost in the beauty of the world made him feel a little bit better about himself if he was honest. Maybe he wasn't as scatterbrained as he thought.

The Unicorn's snout nudged against his back, making him turn his head back and smile. "Can't tell if he's telling us to cut the chatter, get a move on, or both. Nevertheless, I don't plan on saying anything. As far as I'm concerned, I never saw you out here, Lady Maeve."

Maeve
 
After a brief hesitation Maeve gently laid a hand on his arm and gave it a tiny squeeze.

"Thank you, Tharu," she said with utter sincerity and prayed he could hear it. She briefly wondered how much he knew about what had happened to her and why she sought so much beyond hiding it from her mate, to keep her whereabouts a secret. Summer was only the other side of Spring and it would not take much for the other Court to attempt to finish what it was they had started. The thought filled her with cold dread and she had to remind herself she was stronger now. And not alone.

"I didn't come out here completely alone, either," she continued with a brighter smile. "I just... am not too sure where he has got too," though from what she could sense of Balfour was that he was on a great hunt. "Lorcan gave me a Cu Sith, his name is Balfour, but I think he's found something more interesting to do than watch me daydream about flowers," she laughed.
 
Tharu felt the gentle touch on his arm and turned his head to give her a somewhat shy smile. There was a good deal of pressure that came from transitioning from a nobody, a mere servant to a Prince. There was so much about the world he simply didn't understand yet. Maeve's patience meant more to him than she likely realized.

"Lorcan, he is your mate, is he not?" Nairth hadn't said it outright to him, but he was beginning to put the pieces together himself. "A Cu Sith is a loyal companion, to be sure. I am sure Prince Lorcan must be worried about you traveling too far from him." Of course, Lorcan didn't know she'd come out this far. Even if Tharu was loose-lipped, telling him so would only cause his worry to increase.

For a moment, Tharu's expression seemed to sink somberly, but just as quickly his lips found contentment, and he looked forward down the path. "I've learned that this world can be very lonely. Petrifyingly so. I am glad that you've found somebody like him. Strong bonds should always be cherished, or that's what I'm told." The Prince crossed his arms as they drew nearer to Fiadh's land. "Though I suppose that's none of my business. Apparently, I am flush with opinions today."

Maeve
 
When Maeve had been human, she had dealt with other tribe leaders and their heirs on a regular basis. She'd been trained from a young age; a Princess was what she was even if she hadn't realised at the time it was never going to be her Tribe she would rule but something far larger. But as someone who had grown up in that environment it was very easy to tell when another had not. She peaked at him curiously as he aired his opinions then told himself off for doing so.

"He is my mate, yes," she had not said the words aloud often and even after these months it still sent a thrill through her at the thought. The presence of him in her mind warm and loving even if faint from the distance. "Though if you had told me he was going to be my mate a year ago I would have laughed in your face," she laughed now, too, at the thought of the horror she would have felt. "My parents promised me to him long ago, when I was a babe. I've spent most of my life running from him for the simple reason I wanted to choose my own fate. Not have it decided for me. Yet... here I am," she glanced up at the trees. "I suppose when it's meant to be it's meant to--"

Her sentence suddenly cut off as from the trees before them a creature materialised. It looked as though it had once been an elk but flies swarmed about its empty eye sockets and its jaw seemed to hang down as though dislocated. The unicorn behind them reared with a sudden shriek as the creature suddenly lurched forward.
 
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The Prince listened closely to Maeve's story. There was something about the idea of her fate being set forth by her parents that resonated with him, spoke to him in a way he hadn't truly expected. He too had been bound to the whims of his Father for much of his life, always promising himself he would break free and become his own person at the first opportunity. Yet, when such an opportunity presented itself... he found that he could not abandon the Father that he'd loathed for so long.

Was that too Fate? Was it his destiny to be at Nairth's side for his entire life? There had to be more to this existence than that. Already Tharu felt as though his life had been a box constantly closing in around him. To learn that nothing he did could change that fact would be downright maddening...

Tharu felt the impeding presence that began to fill the air like a thick, invisible layer of fog before he saw its source.

Fear was something Tharu hadn't gotten used to yet. After all, there wasn't too much for a Duanann Prince to fear in the safety of his own court. There had been a few close shaves during his trips to the Ixchel Wilds, but nothing he couldn't handle. This, though... He knew what this was. That blasted thing that had been hunting his father's men one by one...

"Cursed Shadow..."

It had come this far out? Why? The Prince felt his skin go cold, his breathing quicken, and his eyes widen. The twisted husk of an elk was merely a vessel; it was the being within the decaying carcass that Tharu feared. "Lady Maeve, stay back!"

He'd been preparing for this possibility-- he'd run through the scenario with The King countless times. Now that it was happening though, it felt as if no preparation in the world could have prepared him. The oozing black beast took an aggressive step forwards, and Tharu raised his hands, looking over his shoulder for a moment when the unicorn let out a shriek of fear.

"Maeve, you need to take her and get as far away as possible. If I try to kill it while she's still here, it'll just devour her next." Tharu didn't know if he could fight it off on his own... but he couldn't risk such an important Autumn Fae's safety. Were Maeve to be taken by the Shadow it could very well shatter their uneasy alliance with The Erlking, especially if he could have prevented it.


Maeve
 
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The unicorn reared and tossed its head, it's shrieks drawing the Shadow's gaze to the pure animal. There was no doubt what had tempted such a foul beast to step so brazenly into the open. Perhaps it feared going further into the Fae of Sunlight's realm and wished to corner it's prey here where shadows still lurked. If she were still human she was certain the unicorn would have caught her in the great failing of its hooves. As it was she only just managed to dodge to the side and avoid one to the face.

"Ssshh," Mae tried to soothe the screaming creature, glancing between it and the Shadow which prowled forward, saliva dripping from between its jaws. She desperately wanted her bow and arrows, the curved dagger at her back not the type of weapon she favoured, especially when to use it meant getting close. And her magic... Well it was stronger here, near to Fiadh's realm. Would starlight defeat a shadow?

"She's too frightened!" Maeve shouted over the shrieking as she once again touched the unicorn's neck and tried to calm it. "Run, you need to run," she pleaded with it but the great white horse only snorted and pawed the ground as though it meant to charge.
 
This couldn't have been a much more delicate situation, and while Tharu was doing his best to remain calm and in control, inside he was nearly screaming. This was a beast even his Father could not best, with all the might he carried. What chance did Tharu have? If Maeve were to be hurt, it would be his fault. Even if he survived The Prince doubted he would ever be forgiven for such a thing.

Maeve's shout broke him out of his silent panic. No, if he lost himself here then they were already dead. Maeve needed to get the Unicorn out of here, no matter what. A possessed Elk Tharu felt he had some semblance of a chance against, but if this disgusting thing took hold of a Unicorn? The threat would only double.

The drooling monstrosity took another step forward, the macabre sounds from it's rotting maw growing louder as it sensed Tharu's fear. Time, he needed to buy time. Outstretching his arms to the sides, Tharu bites down tightly on his tongue as he grips the shadows casted by the sunlight through the thick treetops, pulling them close. The soft darkness was nowhere near as powerful as the black of night, but it stretched across the grassy earth, heeding his call regardless.

The Prince tightened his grip, and like dark tendrils the shadows jumped from the ground and wrapped around the legs of his similarly named foe. Immediately it began to thrash against his grip, otherworldly snarls echoing off of the trees.

Turning to Maeve, Tharu implores she think creatively through clenched teeth.

"Maeve, you have to ride it! She'll let you, as long as you don't doubt yourself!"

That Unicorn had come to her. If she had faith, she would be able to mount it.

Maeve
 
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The very thought of riding the unicorn was like a stab through the heart. The last time she had ridden had been on the back of her heart-horse, a creature she had been bonded with for life, and one she had had to leave. The very thought of sitting on another's back... Even Lorcan had not been able to convince her to ride again despite how much pleasure it clearly gave her and how much she missed it. Hers was a people born to the saddle and to be without was to be incomplete.

But to ride another...

She looked doubtfully at the unicorn then, with a deep breathe, gripped a tuft of mane and vaulted on to its back. Instinctively the thing reared and Maeve clutched her teeth as she sat the fear-induced tantrum.

"Woah, sssh...." she soothed, pressing her hand to the horses neck and bringing her smartly under control. She could run, the animal beneath her wanted to, but Tharu... Her eyes took in how the other fae was binding the shadowy being, how he used darkness against darkness. Perhaps if she....

Raising one hand into the air she shut her eyes and her brows furrowed in concentration. It took a few beats of a frantic heart but suddenly the sun began to vanish and light fell, punctured by perfect dots of starlight.
 
The shadows were weak, barely able to restrain the beast in front of them. With each pull and thrash of its limbs, he felt his grip weaken under the strain. The sound of the Unicorn behind implied Maeve had followed his words; he just needed to hold on until she was a safe distance away, and then...

Well, he'd figure something out.

He waited for the sound of hooves against the earth carrying away from him, but that sound never came. Tharu couldn't very well turn his head to look back at her either; the beast was struggling harder and harder, tugging the duanann closer to its maw with the shadows wrapped around it. His heels dug into the ground, but it seemed a rather meaningless attempt to resist. Tharu just wasn't strong enough, not for this.

It would have been a grisly end for all of them were it not for Maeve springing into action, blotting out the sun with her own magic, bringing night when it should have been day for hours yet. The Prince's eyes raised with no small amount of shock at the display. A good tug from the Shadow broke his awe, and Tharu stumbled forward, gritting his teeth as brought the new bountiful harvest of darkness to his hands and redoubled his efforts.

This time the shadows did more than bind the nightmare. They enveloped it. Consumed it. Tendrils of black even darker than the corrupted being seeking their demise crawled up its legs and coated every inch of the terrible thing in its encompassing embrace.

Tharu let go, the shadows would hold the thing in place, for now, quickly turning to Maeve he shouted.

"Quickly, while we have the chance!"

Maeve
 
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Maeve wanted to wretch over the side of the unicorn but managed to keep her breakfast down. Magic was still a new, delightful thing to the fae-made duannan. She hadn't had the luxury of having it from the cradle. Like any muscle it took time to build and over exerting herself was akin to running a marathon without the proper preparation. Still, she would never fall from a horses back. It was true what they said about her people; they were born into a saddle.

She reached down to offer a hand to help hurl him onto the unicorns back and no sooner did his backside touch the soft white rump, the unicorn was off. Maeve swore in a very unlady-like fashion and gripped fistfuls of mane, her thighs clamping to the beasts sweat-slick flanks to keep herself rooted. It was a joy and a heartbreak all in one to be feeling the sensation of riding once more and memories rose unbidden as they flew across the countryside.

Maeve did nothing to guide the animal. It took then far from the encountered spot southwards till finally it reached an odd grove. A circle of mushrooms surrounded what appeared to be a series of clear rock pools and an old, bent willow. As they passed over it a golden shimmer rushed over their skin and Maeve felt a sudden loss of... something.

"What is this place," she wandered aloud, sliding from the unicorns back and giving her a soft caress of thanks.