Candles are How We Keep Fire as a Pet

The mage sat behind her desk, a notebook open while she scribbled notes down. Her partner was somewhere behind her, humming to himself while he worked on a dissection. She tilted her head to the side, catching the strains of the song. Recognizing it, she smiled to herself and picked up the tune. A candle sat on the desk opposite her but it was unlit. Extending one hand, she touched the wick and watched the flame spring to life. Fire was dangerous, unpredictable, beautiful, and magical. Maybe that was why she’d always been so good with fire. It was like her.

The humming behind her stopped and was exchanged for the sound of the taps turning on. Was that man singing the goddamn lab safety song they’d learned in junior high under his breath? She smothered her laugh and turned around to watch him. His instruments were all in the sanitizer and he was washing his hands. Gods, she loved him.

“All done, babe?”

“Yeah. You?”

She gestured towards her workspace and the diagrams spread out across it.

“I’ll be done for real sometime next millennium. But if you’re done, then I’m officially calling it lunch time.”

He chuckled quietly and swapped out his protective lab glasses for his normal ones before hanging up his smock on the peg by his workspace. She leaned forward to blow out her candle and stopped. Instead, she shaped a spell around it to keep the flames from spreading. She would have to watch it in case the flames decided to test her spellwork, but she wanted to keep this one for now.

“Ready?”

He had one hand on the light switch and was watching her with curiosity.

“Yeah, sure.”

Playing Catch-Up

Marcy was starting to wonder if this guy’s scowl was a permanent feature or if she had just managed to piss him off that much.

“You have yet to explain how you came to this world, Weaver of Silken Words.”

That last part sounded more like an insult and she barely suppressed the urge to make a retort. Play by the rules. Play their game.

“Ah, but I did. As I said, I wove my way between the worlds.”

He took one step to close the distance between them, glaring emerald daggers down at her.

“I grant that you have the smell of the wild spirits about you, but you are mortal. Mortals do not walk the worlds unaided and you cannot lie to me. I am not some mewling whelp of a Faerie kitten, I am the Prince of Thorns and Knives. Now tell me who brought you here and why, in truth, before I decided to flay the flesh from your bones.”

She started to open her mouth and the air shimmered just to her side.

“If you touch my friend, blood-brother, I shall be so very vexed with you.”

The Prince turned, his dark curls bouncing just slightly.

“So do you claim this mortal, Cliff?” Then he paused. “You did not have her when you were here earlier. Is she your pet or have you forgotten my sister?”

Cliff’s voice was soft, tender even.

“I could never forget her. You know that.”

The Prince had the grace to look embarrassed.

“You have my apologies, my brother. But, how do you come to look so very different from when Mother’s servants went to your mortal world to fetch you?” He gestured at Cliff’s hair, shaved on the sides and let grow some on top. “Your hair was much longer and you have never been a one for frequent glamouring. There is too much of truth in you.”

Chewing his lower lip for a moment, Cliff made a rapid decision. Obviously the Prince had seen Kate and might know where she was.

“That wasn’t me. They took my twin sister.”

The Prince grabbed Cliff by the shoulders, Marcy entirely forgotten now. Alarms showed in his eyes.

“A pageboy took your sister to begin the quest meant for you. The quest given by the High Queen.”

“Oh shit.”

“My sentiments entirely, brother.”

“Tell me where to find her. You must know.”

The Prince nodded quickly.

“Come, both of you. We will need to travel quickly.”

The Past

The ink on the letter glistened ominously as she read the address at the top.
“Regina.”
No one called her that anymore…except for her father. Groaning, Reggie unrolled the letter, grumbling to herself.
“Email, Dad, it’s not hard. Seriously…” But then she began to actually process the words on the page.

“My darling Regina,
You must be aware by now that dark doings are afoot in our world. Your one-time classmates have been vanishing one by one, all save for Andarien, who I am certain you must remember. He has managed to secure for himself a position on the High Council and I fear that perhaps there is a connection between Andarien and these disappearances. For your own safety, watch the shadows.
I love you always,
Father”

With a sigh, she rolled the letter back up and jammed it into a drawer with the others. She didn’t have time for her dad’s crazy conspiracy theories, or for the magical world she’d left behind. Curtain call was at seven tonight and maybe if she impressed this crowd, she’d get a better gig next time. Pausing to lean against the counter, she closed her eyes. Yeah, she could remember Andarien alright. She would never forget him, or the look in his eyes when he’d held his wand with its tip pressed just under her chin and told her never to challenge him ever again. It wasn’t all that surprising he’d gone down the path of the dark arts and still managed to worm his way onto the Council. With a frustrated groan, she moved away from the counter. None of that mattered. She wasn’t going to be waving around a real wand anytime soon. And she had a magic show to put on.

Missing: The Wrong Twin

Marcella stood frozen in the doorway, hand still raised from knocking. She’d expected Kate, not her twin brother. But the one standing in front of her was undoubtedly Cliff, despite the very strong resemblance.

“Marcy… I was about to call you.”

“Where’s Kate? Not that it’s not great to see you, but…”

“But I live 2 hours away and this is my sister’s house. But she never lets anyone but her answer the door. Yeah, I know. I called her, no answer. Repeatedly. Tried her cell. Nada. So I drove down. She’s not here, Marcy.”

Marcy stepped inside as Cliff moved aside. He looked almost…defeated. Like he was assuming the worst and blaming himself.

“She might just…be out? You know Kate. Maybe she lost her phone again… Or…”

But it was just hopeful thinking. That sort of ‘if wishes were horses’ sort of thing. Right now, between the desperate hope and downright nightmarish self-blame, they were fit to open a stable. Taking a place on the couch, Marcy looked up at Cliff.

“Has anything weird happened lately? Anything at all.”

He shrugged noncommittally.

“It’s sort of hard to gauge weird with our bunch, Marcy. You know that.”

“Point.” She leaned back and looked up towards the ceiling. “Well, we’re in luck. Your sister decided to start listening to me.”

“What are you-? Oh… Oh no.”

Understanding dawned on Cliff’s face and he took a half-step back.

“Honestly, I don’t understand why you’re scared of them. They’re harmless and helpful. And this little fellow is barely full grown.”

Standing on the couch with a silent apology to Kate for putting her sneakers on the cushions, Marcy reached for the spider sitting in the corner where the wall meets the ceiling. The tiny creature eagerly moved to her hand, letting her move back to sitting. Cliff perched on the arm of one of the two matching plush armchairs, doing his level best not to panic entirely as he watched a sight which really should have been normal to him by now. Marcy raised the spider up so she could look directly into his eyes.

“I’m dreadfully sorry for bothering you, but I need to ask you some questions. My name is Marcy. What’s yours?”

Cliff could see the little legs moving as the spider danced back and forth and Marcy spoke softly to it.

“I’m…gonna go make a pot of coffee and grab my pack from the car. Lemme know if your friend there says anything interesting.”

Marcy nodded and waved Cliff away with her free hand. By the time he returned with two steaming mugs, she looked like she was either going to cry or murder someone and Cliff really hoped she was being particular about who she murdered. He set the mug down on a coaster, smiling slightly that it was one of the lunar phase set he’d gotten for his twin for their birthday a few years back. Marcy took the coffee and stared into it, the spider back up on his perch.

“Well?”

“They thought she was you.”

“They? They who? What?”

“The Midnight Court. They thought that… Well, alright. They didn’t think Kate was you so much as they thought that…um…”

“They thought Kate was Alycia.”

He said the name like it was a brand scorching his flesh, like even something so simple as uttering it would undo years, decades of training and adjusting and medical procedures and Faerie glamour. Cliff scrubbed at his face, looking very much like a man staring down his own death.

“But…why would they want… I mean, they knew! They helped me change!”

“And they never saw the end result. Or, at least, they never saw adult Cliff. Just awkward, gangly Cliff. You also said they never remember you don’t glamour yourself to look like that anymore.”

“And now they have my sister… Who is very not me. Did they say anything about where?”

“The little one, I named him Archie, by the way. Archie said they talked about their web. That’s basically spider-speak for home.”

Cliff sagged into the chair.

“My sister has been kidnapped by Faeries who think she’s pre-op me and you named her living room spider…Archie. Glad to know nothing around here ever changes. So…” He leaned forward, suddenly shifting gears. “How are we doing this? I’m pretty well kitted out for a rogue troll here and there, but you’re talking about storming the Moonless Palace.”

“Yeah…and they have our only real magic user. So frontal assault is out.”

“We could play it like that time in Boston.”

“The time you got drunk and forgot to round your ears and we had to convince people you were a Trekkie?”

“No! The time we charmed our way into the knitting show with your silk and then busted the goblins-”

“-Who were trading in unicorn tail hair. I remember now.” Marcy paused. “You want to impress your way into…a Fae stronghold…in the Otherworld…with silk?”

Cliff shrugged.

“It’s the best plan I’ve got. My other-other idea involves really thick gloves and you loading my clips.”

“We are NOT taking bog iron rounds into the Otherworld! Do you remember last time? You’re lucky you lived!”

The grin that crossed Cliff’s face was not nice, comforting or human.

“Well then, we’d best figure out how to charm our way in before they realize they didn’t get the right toy.”

Photon and Spark – Special #1 – Origins of a Team

Max Jackson didn’t much like bullies. Bullies made things complicated. Bullies that were harassing him and Terry made things doubly complicated. It wasn’t as if the pair didn’t have enough problems. It wasn’t as if they weren’t both already trying to deal with high school, parents, life, and concealing superpowers. That last part was the worst. Especially right now, with Daniel Tompkins grinning at him like the cat who’d got the cream. At least Terry wasn’t here, so there wasn’t that risk. Terry had a hard enough time masking his preternatural speed when he was on the track, hiding it in a fight would be almost impossible. 

“Well, Jackson?”

He could hear the laughter in Daniel’s voice and Max clenched his fists, wanting so badly to just activate his powers and make it obvious who exactly Daniel was messing with. Then he heard another voice, a new voice.

“Hey, Tompkins, why don’t you go bother someone who actually bothered you?”

Max looked up in time to see a girl walking towards them, and not just any girl. That was Jessica Morrow. That was Crusader’s daughter. She had her arms crossed over her chest and was glaring at Daniel Tompkins in a way that said she was going to take no nonsense from him. He glared back for a moment and then stormed off with one last passing shot.

“Guess you have to get saved by a girl, Jackson.”

Max sighed and stood.

“Thanks for bailing me out, Morrow.”

Jessica returned his smile and held her hand out to him.

“No problem. And it’s nice to finally meet you.”

Max raised an eyebrow at that and Jessica leaned in to whisper for his ears only.

“I’ve got access to Sanctum records, Jackal. And I’ve wanted to meet you and your partner for a while.”

First Born

Meredith smoothed her hands over the swell of her stomach and frowned, deep in thought. The closer they got to her due date, the more she was afraid. It had only been a dream, hadn’t it? So many years ago… It had to have been. That blithe childhood promise couldn’t have been real. Dennis put an arm around her shoulders, never knowing that his own thoughts intersected hers so well.
“Meri?”
“Hmmm?”
She leaned back into his grip and smiled.
“Everything alright?”
She looked down for a moment and then smiled.
“Of course it is.”
She ignored the lingering fear as she went and opened the window to try and bring the heat down some.

The leaves were falling as they came home together with their son in the backseat of the car. The little boy was fast asleep, tucked in with his little white blanket in his little tiny green onesie.
“He’s so quiet…”
Meredith glanced back and smiled.
“He’s sleeping, Dennis. Let him stay that way.”
When they got home, Meredith carried their son inside in her arms, a huge smile on her face…until she heard the voices arguing.
“Listen, you old hag, I was here first.”
“Old hag! Who are you calling an old hag, swamp thing.”
There were two old women standing together in the living room, glaring daggers at each other and periodically shooting glances at the ‘its a boy!’ banner over the fireplace.
“Oh good!”
They turned to face the terrified new parents with twin expressions of glee.
“You’re finally home. Time to settle up, dearie.”

Magic Lessons

“Hey! Songchaser!”

Thomas turned, a pen in his hand and a splotch of ink on his cheek. Charlie came jogging towards him across the school grounds, waving and laughing.

“I was hoping I’d find you out here. Working on the paper for Markov’s class?” The blond boy dropped dramatically to sit down and opened a notebook. When Thomas nodded, he grinned. “Think you could help me out? I really don’t get this whole…temporal injunctive thing.”

“Temporal injunction,” Thomas said immediately and then blushed. “Sorry.”

“No, no, do go on. This might explain my confusion. And anyway, I betcha I’ll learn way better from you, oh glorious teacher, than I ever have in class.”

“That’s only because you pay more attention to me.”

“I’d pay more attention to Markov if he was a handsome devil like you, Tom, but sad as it is the only professor on this entire campus worth ogling is Fenrirson and I’m not into tails.”

Thomas chucked an apple from his snack at the other boy. Charlie just caught it with a wry thanks and took a bite out of it.

“Anyway…the paper. Temporal Injunction is really simple-“

“…Simple…”

“It is!”

Thomas flushed, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, Tommy-boy, but not all of us spent our entire lives studying at the knee of the most powerful mages in two dimensions…”

“Sorry…”

“No, no, do go on.”

Charlie scooted closer and leaned in to get a good look at Thomas’s notes. Thomas inhaled deeply, trying to get back on track with his explanation and entirely lost his focus. Had Charlie always smelled so…good? That thought stopped him entirely in his tracks. What was he even thinking? He needed to breathe, needed to focus. Temporal injunction. Explain it. Come on, idiot. Mouth in gear and expound on arcane theory. You do it all the time. Thomas looked up at Charlie and his heart nearly stopped. Slamming everything that felt odd down, Thomas started to explain the theory as in-depth as he could. He tried to focus on literally anything other than the pounding of his own heart and other such confusing physical symptoms.

Jackal and Turbo #1 : A New Kind of Justice

Turbo zipped through the back streets, laughing as the wind rushed past him. He was a blur of color to the people on the streets, but a shadow high above on the rooftops tracked his position. Jackal always knew where his partner was, always kept one eye on him to make sure he was alright. After all, they’d been together a lot longer than they’d been doing this hero thing, long before they’d made the change from friends to boyfriends. Jackal adjusted his jet black armor and lowered the visor of his helm. It was the best way to hide the glow from his eyes as the night grew darker. It was almost time to call their patrol for the evening. There were other heroes out there who stalked the night more effectively than a pair of inner-city teens who had to go to high school in the morning. And anyway, they had a nice stay-at-home date planned for tonight. Jackal began making his way down one of the fire escapes, pulling a phone out of his pocket.

“Hey, babe, ready to bounce?”

Turbo touched a button on the headset he wore under his light helmet and grinned when he heard Jackal’s voice.

“Ready. Just need a minute to get back to base. Meet you there?”

He was already turning, changing course with ease. Honestly, he’d probably be there before Jackal had a chance to respond. That was the upside to his powers. There were downsides of course. Heightened metabolism was a bitch and a half for a teenage boy. When you already want to eat everything in sight and then you need to eat even more everything? Yeah, it gets hard to explain and harder to manage.

“Yeah, sure. Mind if I borrow your jacket for the walk home?”

Turbo laughed, skidding to a halt in front of the abandoned warehouse they used as a homebase.

“Do I want my super hot boyfriend wearing my letterman? Does the moon orbit the Earth?”

Jackal was laughing as he came walking up a few minutes later. Turbo, now in his normal jeans and a t-shirt and known as Terry Walker, was leaning against the wall inside waiting for him. Jackal changed quickly, stowing his armor back in his duffle bag to take home and turned. With a grin, Max Jackson pulled Terry’s letterman jacket on and reached for Terry’s hand.

“Let’s go, babe. I’m so ready for movie night.”


They were on the train home when they heard the crash outside and exchanged a look. There was someone hovering over the tracks ahead of them. Terry sighed and unzipped his backpack.

“Looks like we’re going to have to postpone movies, handsome.”

Max looked out the window and nodded, reaching for his duffle bag.

“Yeah, this looks like the real deal. Give me a second to suit up and I’ll be right behind you.”

Magic Powers and Vigilante Justice

The morning was still dark with the pre-dawn haze as Marcy sat up. She wasn’t overly surprised to see that the spiders were there, not really. She was surprised when the woman strode into the room. She was clad in an odd white garment that Marcy was hesitant to call a dress. Certainly, it bore a remarkable resemblance to one, but at the same time there was something much more ancient about it. With dark brown, nearly black hair, and olive skin, she was a wonder to behold. But the part that made it the oddest was that the door she’d come in through was very much closed.

“Who-“ but the question died on Marcy’s lips as the woman sat on the foot of the bed and the spiders went to her.

“Dear child, dear sweet child, you who have protected so many of my children. I am here to meet you. In answer to the question you did not finish, I am Arachne, the mother of spiders.”

Pulling her knees up to her chest, Marcy watched this woman for a moment and then smiled.

“I’ve heard stories about you. And not just the human ones, either.”

“Good, my little ones followed my instructions. Dear girl, you who have risked so much for my young ones, you have not let me down once. Even in meeting you, you are everything my children have described and more. And for that, I would give you something.”

She stood again then, beckoning for Marcy to come to her. Marcy obeyed, but still she argued.

“Its the right thing to do, I don’t need a reward for doing the right thing. And anyway, they saved me.”

But Arachne was having none of it. She touched a hand to Marcy’s forehead.

“Already you could hear my children and speak with them, but now you will also be able to work thread as we work our silk.”

Marcy blanched and pulled back a little.

“W-wait…um…”

The woman laughed cheerfully.

“Don’t worry, my dear girl, you won’t have spinnerets. Merely the ability to work thread by means of magic.”

“Oh! Oh wow. Magic? Magic is…is real?”

“You who talk to spiders question if magic is real?” Arachne laughed again and tousled Marcy’s hair. “Dear Marcy, yes, magic is real, as are the gods of old. But, you will learn.”


 

I’m late. I’m late. I’m late.

Marcy chanted the words in her mind as she ran, heels click-clacking loudly on the stone floor of the courthouse. She cradled the heavy leather briefcase in her arms and ran into the prosecution counsel’s office.

“Sir, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I had to grab these and…the traffic…and…”

Jared, one of the senior partners, stood near the window and didn’t even turn to look at her. Pausing, she looked him over, noting that his shirt was rumpled…and the same one from the day before. His tie was sitting on the table beside a half-empty glass of what looked rather like bad scotch.

“Its alright, Marcy. We don’t have a case any more.”

She blinked a few times.

“But…but…Sir?”

“Our key witness…he’s dead. Without him, we’ve got nothing. This guy’s going to walk.”

She blanched and set the briefcase on the table.

“Maybe there’s another angle, Sir? Something we haven’t tried?”

Jared turned and grabbed his glass, not even looking at her as he downed the rest of it.

“Marcy, we already tried everything. Even DNA is circumstantial with this guy…Dammit, I know it was him. And now the bastard’s gonna walk.” With a long sigh, he slid the case over to him. “Well, I’m going to work out the best defense I can manage…but…you might as well not suffer too. Take the rest of the day off, go relax or something.”

“Sir…?”

“I mean it, go on. I’ll make sure you get paid for the day. Go have fun.”

She was reluctant to leave him alone like this, but well…he was the boss.

“Yes, Sir.”

Once she was out of his sight, she leaned against a wall and wondered what she could do. Then she had an idea. A crazy, stupid, possibly suicidal idea.

I’m either gonna get in so much trouble, or this is going to be awesome. Now I just need to find the Little Ones.


With a glance into her bag to make sure everyone was still alright, Marcy got off the subway. It wasn’t until she got to the neighborhood where the perp lived that she realized she probably shouldn’t let herself be recognized. Ducking into an alley, she sat and called on her new powers. Slowly, she reshaped fabric of her clothing into an entirely new outfit. But…she needed a bit more to make a mask. With a sigh, she took the whole thing in, tightening the weave until it hugged her figure. Then she pulled on her new mask and held her hand out to her Little Ones.

“Come on.”

She’d promised them a meal, and a good one. They climbed all over her, taking up a perch wherever they could as she climbed up the side of the building. Again, the blessing of Arachne benefitted her. Her fingers clung to the tiny cracks between bricks as she climbed, pulling herself up with an ease she never could have imagined. She swung herself up onto the roof and stretched, bouncing idly.

“That was fun. Everyone still alright?”

“We are fine, Protector.”

“Great! Then, off we go.”

She was glad she’d swapped over for her old Skechers, even if it meant her shoes were hot pink. They were a lot more comfortable as she ran over rooftops. Part of her was surprised how easy it was to fall back into the old pace, but then, she had been a runner for most of her life. Periodically, she glanced down into the streets to make sure she was going the right way, making her way to the house. Finally there, she grinned wickedly and climbed down. Happily for her purposes, a window was open. She climbed inside and started to look around for the man. She found him quickly enough, sitting at a table laughing and playing cards with his buddies.

“Hello, Mister Richardson.”

“What the fuck?! How the hell did you get into my house, you costumed freak?”

“You killed your daughter, Mister Richardson. And then you killed her boyfriend so he could testify against you.”

The other men were starting to stand now, moving towards Marcy, but she held her ground. Then she grinned wickedly.

“I’m here to make sure you never hurt anyone again.”

The spiders all moved at once. And not just the ones Marcy had brought with her. All of the ones in his home too. She flicked her hand and his clothing started to stitch itself together. The others were screaming, but she did nothing to stop them from leaving. Stepping out of their way, she moved closer to him.

“Confess, Richardson.”

“You’re a psychotic bitch!”

“Now, now. You really should get caught up with the times, we don’t call people that anymore.”

And the spiders began their real work. Marcy didn’t watch. She just thanked them and made her way back out. Pausing for a moment on the roof, she wondered what people would say when they only found his bones the next morning. Then she just sat down to wait for her spiders to return so they could all go home together.

Going Home

Gwen paced nervously as she waited for the knock on the door she knew was coming. Nessa would be there any minute with dinner. She would have a takeaway bag of their favorite Thai foods and that smile Gwen couldn’t say no to. Except that tonight she would have to say much more than no. Tonight, she would have to say goodbye.

She stopped her pacing for just a moment, leaning against the countertop to stare down at the roll of parchment that had upset the careful balance of her life. It had been a shock when it had appeared beside her bed in the night.

Bitterly, Gwen remembered so many years ago when she had been sent, sobbing, far from her home. It had been for her safety, they had said. They couldn’t guarantee her protection if she stayed. Now they wanted her back, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to go.
Scooping up the offending scroll, she looked one last time at the seal of her house and shoved the whole thing into a cabinet. If tonight had to be the last, then better it be a good memory for them both.

Vanessa knocked not more than a minute later, a smile on her face as she held up the bag.
“I got extra satay since you ate all of mine last time.”
“You’re the best, Nessa.”
Gwen closed the door, trying to figure out what to say and how to say it while Vanessa put the food on the table.
“Hey, Earth to Gwen.”
Vanessa’s giggle drew Gwen out of her thoughts and she looked up to see Vanessa holding plates in one hand and the roll of parchment in the other.
“What’s this, love?”
“It’s…that’s…” Gwen froze, staring at the scroll, then her shoulders slumped. “It’s a royal decree from my mother. I have to go home.”
“A royal decree?” For a moment, Nessa grinned, but slowly the smile vanished. “You’re serious. Oh God, you’re serious.”
Vanessa set the plates on the table and dropped into her chair, reading and re-reading the scroll. Then she set it on the table and looked across at Gwen, her face full of wonder.
“Tell me. Tell me everything.”
For the next two hours, they ate and Gwen told Nessa everything she could remember from those long ago days under the double moons. She told about her mother’s court and the civil war, about the death of her father, the rumors of assassins. Gwen didn’t notice when she set down her fork and didn’t pick it back up, so wrapped up was she in her telling. She painted a picture of words, drawing on every detail of her so-nearly forgotten childhood. She could see it all again from the slightly blue shade of the grass to the light grey sky with the single golden spire of her mother’s castle illuminated against it.
“The war’s over.” The words left Gwen’s mouth quietly, uncertainly. “That means I have to go home. Be the heir.”
“But you don’t want to.”
It wasn’t a question. It was never a question, but Gwen answered it anyway.
“I don’t want to leave you.”
The silence hanging between them in that moment was painful. Then Vanessa tapped the scroll.
“They said there would be a portal? To bring you home?”
Gwen nodded mutely and Vanessa soldiered on.
“You know how this stuff works. Would anything go wrong if we both went through?”

At the stroke of midnight, the portal opened in the throne hall as scheduled. This was the best time, during the conjunction of celestial objects that would put their material existence closest to that where they had hidden the Princess Gwynneth. Tonight, she would be coming home. The court tittered with excitement and the Queen leaned forward on her throne with eager anticipation. A shadow formed in the portal and a shape stepped through, followed closely by a second one. There was no mistaking the princess, even in tattered jeans and an old, oversized t-shirt. It was in her manner and her bearing. She bowed low before her mother and gestured to the woman who stood at her right hand.
“Mother, may I present my love, Lady Vanessa.”
The Queen smiled and nodded as Vanessa sketched a shaky bow. Gwen relaxed inwardly and reached for Vanessa’s hand. Now. Now, she was truly home.