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The elf set the book down on a stack and sat upon the edge of the bed. For a moment, he simply looked at Peter in a coolly appraising manner that made Peter all too aware of his worn clothes and haggard looks. He was growing thin; it showed in his gaunt cheeks. And, while clean, his hair and nails grew unkempt.
But then the elf smiled, and that small gesture had a most miraculous effect. A gentle expression made the elf seem genuine in his concern, and somehow more real. He laid one hand quite casually on Peter's thigh, and it seemed quite natural that he do so.
"My name is Veleur," he said. "And I have been waiting for you to be ready to know the whole truth. The truth that Maewyn banished from Eire not only my people, but many of the arts of yours. In another world, you would have been a druid, Peter, never a priest."
Peter grew a little cold at this; one thing he had never questioned was God--and he never would, however men might bend His name and words to their purposes. Yet equally, Peter's body warmed to that slight touch and yearned for this creature to venture more.
"You are ready now for me to help you," Veleur said. "To begin to develop that talent that lies dormant within you."
Peter felt his face set in a rigid expression. "And why should you? To what end?"
Veleur laughed. His hand crept a little higher as he turned more towards Peter. "It is our way, and I will answer any and all questions you have. There are the fey, a few--and many of us are in exile. Here in these small islands, there are men and women who can channel the strength of the land and choose to share it with us--that together we might make magic. But long ago, in Ireland, ayoung man strong in magic was made a slave and grew very angry. He fled to France and there became a Christian and a priest. He returned and cast a spell, in the shape of a prayer, that severed the land from the people and cast the fey out into exile. This much I think you know."
Peter sat up slowly. Veleur, with sad and downcast eyes, no longer frightened him. The urge to reach out to the elf was hard to resist.
"So what is it that I don't know?"
Veleur looked at him, his great grey eyes wide and sincere. Peter felt a pain in his chest like a fishing hook being set and pulled.
"When a human who will be a magic-worker reaches maturity, one of the fey is drawn to them, to be their partner and together do good in the land. Now it has become hard for these partners to find each other, and to do the great work that remains before us."
Peter shook his head. "I don't even believe in magic, and I'm sure I shall never..."
Veleur drew his knee up on the bed so that he could face Peter directly. They were only a few inches apart, and the elf leaned forward in the near-darkness and kissed Peter. It seemed the most natural thing in the world. Peter saw phantom lights like shooting stars and felt a keen regret when Veleur leaned back again. But now, looking at the elf, he saw him wreathed in sinuous skeins of green lights that outlined his body and reached out, with gentle strands, to all things in the room, especially reaching out to Peter. And as he looked, he could actually feel the gentle touches upon the bare skin of his face and hands.
Peter reached forward and touched Veleur's face tentatively with his fingertips. "You think that you and I..."
He could accept that an elf might have some kind of grand destiny, but not his humble, mortal self. Veleur took Peter's hand and turned it palm up. The elf answered with a kiss upon the palm, then the wrist, the pale underside of the arm. Each touch struck sparks that made Peter gasp aloud.
"That is for you to say," Veleur whispered.
He slipped the buttons of Peter's shirt open and pushed the garment back off his shoulders. The green light flared and danced across Peter's chest like pins and needles. Peter leaned back, and Veleur straddled his body. It felt right, so right--when it should have been so wrong.
"Veleur, I don't, I haven't..."
The elf's long hands cupped his face. "If ever you dislike anything that happens, stop me. Say no, and I will always heed you."