Luca woke from the nightmare with a start, his back recoiling briefly from the straw on which he lay. Nicoletta, one of the winsome Portofino girls, murmured quietly in her sleep before rolling over and sinking deeper into slumber. Luca should be so lucky.
Faerie lights danced in his memory. In their light he saw terrible beauties and sinister grotesqueries treated as conversation partners and drinking companions by his friends and betters. Paladins and knights, lords and ladies, blithely ignorant or dismissive of the only lore that could protect their souls. Maybe that’s what it was to ascend into the upper echelons of human society–to forget the ways of your ancestors and thus be cast away on the stormy sea of instinct and reason without the anchor of tradition to hold you safely from the rocks.
Perhaps it got worse the higher you got? Did La Principessa lead them into the woods because she was compelled to do so? Had her previous brushes with the fae planted hooks into her mind? Or had she lead her people into deadly spiritual peril of her own free will, on a lark? When she placed her bracelet on the Faerie King was it a desperate first strike meant to give her the leverage to protect them, or was it a whim? Or was it an earnest proposal? Who could tell?
Certainly not Luca. All he knew was that he now found himself and his closest friends under the uncertain aegis of the Queen of Summer. Maybe it meant nothing but a yearly tryste in the woods, a renewal of dark alien vows. But she’d made an off-hand remark recently, a desire to have a conversation about Hestrali forestry practices. She had some new opinions to share. Were they her opinions, or the Faerie King’s?
Luca was awake for hours ill-spared from sleep, finally falling back asleep as the first rays of light infiltrated the loft and Nicoletta crept out to her toilette and chores. Troubled dreams awaited him, dreams of faerie light and bracelets.