Several days after the incident in the forest clearing, she learned from the Queen of Air and Darkness that the Raven Guards had been returned. With trepidation, Emilly asked about the one she considered her Raven. It was not that he guarded her small person, per se, but that when their Queen sent out the call to all the Sídhe-sided to help her populate the new land, he had come, and had abandoned all other worldly naming to simply become Raven in truth, as well as occupation. It was chance and serendipity that she found a fierce heart within the half-Drow, half-Sídhe that answered her own.
And yet, he did not contact her once he had returned. She had reached out to him psychically now and again, but such conversations were strangely distant, very nearly formal, and she grew even more worried over his emotional state. Once, she saw him briefly at a Court function, but he vanished soon after her arrival. She wracked her mind trying to understand why he would hold her at such a distance. After a few days of attempting to chase him down, however, she was well and truly angry.
Raven had returned to his small apartment within the Court; trying to reweave the threads of his life after his abduction from the Unseelie. He stopped in his sitting room, sniffing at the air and cocking his head to the side. This was something new; his little shifter, generally speaking, was never this angry with him. He grinned sharply as he allowed communication between their minds.
"Waiting, dear Emilly," he sent, crossing his arms over his broad, bare chest.
A flick of a mental thought, sharp-edged, her snarl behind it. "Then shouldn't you bring me to see you, if you are waiting?"
He couldn't help smiling. "Aye, that I should. However, something tells me that in this particular state you may very well wish to strike me." He sent her a snarl back as he cracked his neck side to side, preparing for her coming words. He felt the smile that graced her face across the leagues between them, brittle and tremulous as it was.
"Well, now, my Raven. What might you have done to deserve being struck, then?"
And he did not answer, even in thought. He stood, sorting through ways to speak, ways to respond, as the silence stretched between them. Her snarl built, and he stiffened when she slammed her hand down hard against the trunk of a tree, a jolt of pain even he could feel, at his chosen distance.
"You cannot even TELL me! Raven, you try my patience!"
He snarled back, finally growing angry himself. "REMEMBER who you are speaking to, succubi! And if you must know, the one known as Enigma offered me his body in exchange for my leaving you be!" He felt her frustration build, crest, barely suppressed before her anger would cascade again through the psychic link.
"WHO do you think you speak with? Lilit is NOT here!"
He nodded his head, knowing she would catch the hint of motion. "Aye, but Emilly is. And unless he spoke false, he said you knew of the arrangement."
There was a pause while she shook her head, sighing, leaning against the tree she'd struck. "Aye, he told me. And you never thought to consult with me after your return? You cannot just--just--TRADE me, Raven, I am not a playing piece!"
His shoulders slumped. "Hence why I have not made the decision yet. What, did you think I was simply mulling it over, as I would the decision to wear black, or red?" He felt her suspicion, the chasing chaos of her thoughts, and closed his eyes, inhaling slowly.
"Enigma has told me...he's offered you the boy in exchange for Lilit. But he has not told me what that means. Your claim on her released? Or...her ripped out of me?"
Raven sighed. "I believe he is referring...to my love for you both."
She blinked, swallowing. Her hands gripped the bark as her eyes closed. It was several moments before she sent her next words. "He made it sound as if...you'd been discussing it, and it was just..." An impression of movement, quickly restrained, another sigh. "Damnation, Raven, he said you'd all but agreed. He's been GLOATING over the idea of...of...marking me, of--of--branding me, or..." She shuddered, thinking of I-Yaksha's brand, burned into his skin by hot iron during the ritual. The very mark she'd managed, somehow, to avoid when Lilit slipped into the back of her mind.
A brief, tactile impression of his dark fingers, tracing down her cheek. "You can be assured I have not thought it over fully, at all," he murmured.
She hung her head, her blood-red hair falling forward to obscure her face, not that he could see where she stood, concealed by shadows. "It has...not been the best week, Raven. I-Yaksha tells me, he cannot feed me more, and...partially because of the deal with you, and...that misbegotten slave of Sombra's spending some little time seeing how many arrows I could bear...I'm...exhausted."
His shock was palpable through the link. "By Vhaeraun...SOMBRA?? That idiot demon had the gall to strike at one I hold dear?!"
She felt his hands clench into fists, and sought to offer what little reassurance she could. "No, no, my Raven--he had no knowledge, it was one of his slaves. She...lost her sanity, she's in gaol for it. But..." She paused, and he felt her hand curl protectively over her midsection. Finally she sighed. "I will not lie to you, Raven. It was a close thing. Even for one of my abilities. The arrows were iron-tipped, and...I lost a great deal of blood. Were it not for a knight in the vicinity, who chose to..." Her mouth twisted, thinking of it. "To...pray over me, and how galling is that...I may not have...I..." She forebore mentioning the doctor, who'd stabilized the bleeding, but it hardly mattered. "I still...do not know WHY she shot at me in the first place, her and her two companions. She gave no direct cause, behind finding me there."
"The demons in this place," he said slowly, "they are not like the few we knew in Lumindor. They are...unstable, unkowning. They need a REAL leader, someone they can all fall behind."
"So you/ve said. And you intend to be that leader?"
"If it must be. Which means I shall have to deal with the problems of Sombra's slaves. They are more trouble than they seem to be worth."
She nodded slowly.
"Of course, there is a way to deal with fool demons such as Enigma. Why did he say he could not feed you?"
"The boy said he could not feed me," she answered quietly. "Because...once you'd decided...he would be yours, and his actions no longer his own. I..." Her mental voice went quiet in his mind, and he heard another soft sigh.
His hands clenched into fists once more.
He felt her twitch, discomfited.
"I am...addicted to his blood." She sighed. "Again. I believe I mentioned it..."
"Aye, I remember," he muttered darkly. Again, she had said. Yet again he was reminded how terribly wrong things had gone while he'd been spirited away. His lady injured, his lady chained to another's blood, the very land he knew and loved altered nearly beyond recognition...Of what use were his own struggles when the land itself cried out against violation?
"I am...not looking forward to breaking this one. I've taken...far more, it's...changed me, somewhat. It will not be...easy."
He very nearly smiled, but he was not sure there was humor in it. "Really, shouldn't you be beyond this sort of thing by now, dear Emilly?"
She quirked a sharp smile, leagues away. "And what was I to do, Raven? You were...elsewhere, I thought I'd examined his offer from all sides. I did not...then...see any complications." She sighed once more. "I suppose I was wrong."
"Naïve of you, but it happens."
She shrugged, her back still pressed against the tree. "I liked the lad. I thought it was in the nature of an equable exchange. He needed...connection, a place to belong that was not the heart of a human city, and..."
"At your age, you should see past such things."
She sighed, resignation and frustration both in the sound. "So our Queen told me. She's threatened to pinion me for another fifty years on that damnable little isle."
He took that in, thinking. "Well, did you learn from your past mistakes?" Her silence was answer. "It seems you did not. So it makes sense that she may threatened you with that again."
She nodded, her eyes closing. "I learned some things, just...not everything, apparently."
The Raven sighed, speaking softer now through the link, treading on the power of their bond. "This was the main reason, your tendency to form unhealthy habits. So she has said."
Emilly took that single step through the ether their bond allowed, close enough for something of her touch to pass through. One hand stroked over his chest, eerily tangible. "I do not know if that has...necessarily changed, Raven," she whispered. "That may simply be my...burden, to bear."
He shook his head. She persisted.
"I...forgave a great deal. I grew closer to Lilit, in the sense of understanding her, in..."
"That is good, my dear. I have not seen her outbursts, nor felt them since my return." He laid what he could send of his touch over her hand, reaching for her, mind to mind. "At the same time, you must understand. I have problems beyond all this I must attend to. I cannot worry over whether or not my closest confidante is going to explode in addicted rage, or change into a succubi that wishes me dead."
She was surprised into a laugh. He frowned. "You laugh at a serious concern, my dear."
"Oh, Raven...I do apologize, but...truly, now. The last time--granted, it didn't go as...deep...but the last time I had an addiction to Enigma, I did not fly into a frenzied rage. And I sincerely doubt Lilit wishes you dead, that was me. And that was when I thought you were going to hand me over to Enigma."
"Lilit does wish me dead. She finds me a threat, my dear Emilly."
She blinked. He could nearly see her eyes now, in the shadowed space they shared through the bond. "She does?"
His voice was a low, amused, sarcastic thing. "I am fairly sure, my dear."
"She did not mention it to me...not that that's surprising, just...disappointing."
"She is a demon, I hold nothing against her. It is her nature."
Emilly shrugged. "Yes, but...still."
"Speak with her on it, if you will."
He felt her small hands clench at her sides, among the distant trees. "I am trying. She is not giving me understandable answers."
"It is her nature. You must word the question correctly."
Emilly blinked. "'Do you want him dead?' isn't correct? Or at least, direct..."
He laughed humorlessly. "No, asking what her plans would be for me would be better, it is broader. The more direct, the easier it is to avoid."
A blur of tangled energies, bells chiming off-tone, even as the persistent sense of autumn wind remained. Ah.
"You could just ask me, it's not as if I'm not present," Lilit said. Raven snarled slightly.
"I prefer her company to yours, beloved."
She sneered haughtily. "Of course you do. Everyone does. Save for Enigma."
He shook his head. "That is not true. Simply at this moment, I prefer her company. You know my love for you both. Even if you wish me dead."
She scoffed. "I do not wish you dead."
He roared. "Do not TRIFLE with me!"
Lilit snarled, sensation of her claws extending through the link. "Why would I lie? Even to you? I do NOT wish you dead. I am not always best pleased with you, but you're better than the alternative."
There was a beat of silence while he considered that. "And the alternative is?"
"Branded and claimed to the demon inside that boy, obviously."
"Ahh, and we are back to Enigma. And I do wonder what he wishes to do with the two of you...once he has you."
Lilit shook her head. "I do not know. She is terrified of being branded, though. Iron on Sídhe flesh, I don't blame her...I doubt even a full manifestation would save that, so much of me is formed of her in this place."
He nodded, shuddering a bit himself at the prospect. "Aye, I doubt that, as well."
"And I do not know...I have been puzzling over why he wants me, ever since he mentioned it." She sneered. "He tells me he will make me beg for the brand." Lilit rolled her eyes.
He laughed a bit. "Asking you to beg, may as well ask me to while he's at it."
"Indeed. And I will let you have your little shifter back. Being this close...there is enough of a connection he always manages to find me."
Now he pulled his changeling companion through the veils to his side, breathing in the scent of her, whispering into her hair as they held each other.
"Aye, that he does. But I have you now."
(Continued in part three.)