When October is informed that Simon Torquill—legally her father, due to Faerie's archaic marriage traditions—must be invited to her wedding or risk the ceremony throwing the Kingdom in the Mists into political turmoil, she finds herself setting out on a quest she was not yet prepared to undertake for the sake of her future.... and the man who represents her family's past.
About the Author
You can visit her at www.seananmcguire.com.
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October 11th, 2014
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And, when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do.
-William Shakespeare, Henry VIII.
"We're going to have to discuss dresses eventually, October," said May, holding up a bridal magazine and waving it at me like a weapon. "Something pretty. Something lacy. Something-and this is the part I can't stress enough-that you're actually willing to wear."
"It doesn't matter what I wear to the wedding, we both know it's going to be completely covered in blood before we reach 'I do,'" I said scornfully. "Do purebloods even say, 'I do'?" Having never been to a pureblood wedding before, I was woefully uninformed about their customs. Thanks to my mother, my wedding knowledge is much more romantic comedy than formal fairy tale.
My sister-technically my retired Fetch, but that's not a relationship that's easy to explain, and she's family either way-rolled her eyes. "Of course not," she said. "That's a Christian thing, which means it's a human thing. Purebloods don't do Christian wedding vows."
"Got it," I said, even though I didn't. I didn't "got" any of this.
May snorted before pushing her hair, currently streaked in electric blue, out of her eyes and dropping the magazine onto the pile that had come to dominate our coffee table. "Liar," she said. Like most of our furniture, the table had originally come from Community Thrift, and like every other flat surface in our house, it had been immediately covered in a thick layer of junk mail, books, and generalized clutter. We're not tidy people.
It doesn't help that we have a constant stream of teenagers flowing in and out of the house, which is huge by San Francisco standards. We have a dedicated living room and a dining room, and four bedrooms, most of which are in use on any given afternoon. Tybalt and I share one, despite his occasional protests that it's inappropriate for us to cohabitate before the wedding; May and her live-in girlfriend Jazz, share a second, which is far enough down the hall from mine that we can all pretend to be untouched paragons of virtue.
The third bedroom belongs to my squire, Quentin, and will until the day his parents call him home to Toronto to take up his place as Crown Prince of the Westlands, which is what Faerie calls North America. We steal human words with gleeful abandon, but we don't like to use their names for things when we have any other choice in the matter. We're sort of like the French that way.
The fourth bedroom is currently a guest room and plays host to a rotating cast of people with nowhere better to spend the day. Usually, it's either Quentin's boyfriend Dean, who prefers to sleep alone, my friend Etienne's daughter Chelsea, or my friend Stacy's middle daughter Karen. Like I said, a constant stream of teenagers. Tybalt's nephew Raj is in Quentin's room what seems like three nights out of five, and I continue to hold out hope that my own daughter Gillian will eventually decide she's tired of hating me and take her turn at using up all the hot water. I like having a full house. It feels safer than the alternative.
Although that might be an artifact of my childhood. When I was alone with my mother in her tower, that was always when things got bad. When I was with Uncle Sylvester and my friends in Shadowed Hills, I was safe, and fed, and cared for. For me, home never happened in the building where it was supposed to live. I guess that's why I'm so determined to keep my doors open, and to keep the kids who tumble through my life as safe as I can. I want to be the kind of friend to them that my uncle was to me, back before he became my liege, back before I understood what we really were to one another.
Growing up doesn't mean getting over everything that happened to us as children. It just means calcifying it and never letting go.
May grabbed another bridal magazine, flipping it open to a picture of a bride who was wearing so much lace and beadwork that it was a miracle she could stand under her own power. Wait. Maybe she wasn't standing. Maybe the dress was doing it for her. It certainly looked stiff enough.
"How about this one?" she asked.
"If you want to open a bakery, I won't stop you, but I'm not walking down the aisle looking like somebody's grandmother's prize meringue," I said.
May wrinkled her nose. "You're no fun at all."
"If you want a dress with its own zip code, you get married."
To my surprise, she sighed heavily, turned the page in her magazine, and said, "I want to. Jazz isn't sure."
I blinked. "Why isn't she sure? You're amazing. Any girl would be lucky to marry you."
"Try telling her that," said May. She put the magazine down on the table and stood, stretching. "I think I'm done with this for the afternoon. I'm going to go bake some cookies."
"That's your answer to everything."
"Better than your answer to everything." She made an exaggerated stabbing gesture. "There's a reason I don't go through as many pairs of jeans as you do."
"Proud of it." May cracked a smile, although it lacked her usual intensity. "I'd bake your wedding cake if you hadn't promised the job to Kerry when you were six."
"She'll do an amazing job, and you know it."
"I do," May agreed. "But my buttercream is better."
She laughed as she walked out of the living room, leaving me alone with a pile of bridal magazines and the two geriatric half-Siamese cats sleeping on the other end of the couch. I gave them a worried look. Cagney and Lacey can sleep through virtually anything these days. They're cats, so sleep was always a strong suit of theirs, but for the last few years, they haven't wanted to do much of anything else.
Age comes for everything mortal. Everything except for me, assuming I can play my cards right.
My name is October Daye because my mother should never have been allowed to name her own children. My mother should never have been allowed to have children. She's a Firstborn daughter of Oberon, absent Lord of Faerie, and nothing about her is human. She used to pretend she was, once upon a time, and that's how I happened, because my father was as human as they come. I'm what we call a changeling, a blend of two worlds, magical and mortal at the same time. It's an awkward place to stand since we don't belong anywhere, not really. We have to fight for our place every day of our lives, and it can be exhausting. A lot of changelings break under the strain.
Sometimes, I'm not sure I haven't. I spent my childhood as my mother's shadow, dogging her heels and trying desperately to make her love me, even when it was clear she didn't really want to. I didn't know it then, but I wasn't the daughter she wanted to have. No, that honor was reserved for my missing sister, August, who had decided to play the hero and go looking for our grandfather.
She didn't find him. She lost herself in the act of trying and stayed lost until I went and brought her home. But nothing in Faerie is ever that straightforward. I'm the daughter of a fae woman and a human man, and I'm holding onto my humanity by my fingernails. One day it's going to slip away, and I'll be immortal like my mother, my sisters, and my daughter.
I'm not ready for that. I can't hold it off forever but giving up my mortality feels like betraying my father, who never asked to get swept up in any of this.
August's father is as fae as they come. He's a man named Simon Torquill, twin brother to my liege lord, Duke Sylvester Torquill of Shadowed Hills. He's also the man who turned me into a fish for fourteen years and destroyed the life I'd been trying to build outside of Faerie. He did it to save me from something even worse, because fae don't think about time the way humans do-as a pureblood, spending a decade or so as a fish would have been inconvenient, not devastating. It took me a long time to forgive him. Part of me never will. The part that will always be human, no matter what my blood says. The rest of me says I wouldn't have what I've got now if I'd stayed where I was. I didn't choose to lose my human fiancé, or my then-mostly-human daughter. I would never have chosen that. But I also wouldn't go back if someone could offer me the choice. Not now.
Now, I'm a knight errant and a recognized Hero of the Realm, thanks to Queen Arden Windermere in the Mists, who was able to reclaim her family's throne and get her brother back because of my chronic inability to mind my own damn business.
Now, I live in a house that I own free and clear, thanks to Sylvester, who gave it to me when it became apparent that my squire needed to come live with me. Houses are a weirdly extravagant gift in human circles, but the fae amass land the way some people amass little ceramic figurines. If Sylvester divested himself of his real estate holdings, he might actually crash the Bay Area markets. For him, giving me a house was a small price to pay for knowing I was safe behind a locked door and not at the mercy of a mortal landlord.
Again, purebloods think differently than changelings or humans do. They're so far outside the flow of time that it doesn't matter as much to them. It doesn't have to. There are exceptions, of course.
Younger purebloods, like Quentin, may have eternity in front of them, but they're still living within the limits of a mortal lifespan where experience and opinions are concerned. Their thoughts follow lines I can understand, and they're as baffled by their elders as I am. Being the larval stage of something doesn't mean you comprehend it. Maybe that's why I have so many teenagers in my house. Or maybe they just figured out that I'm willing to feed them. The jury's still out on that one.
May is technically a pureblood, but since she was created when a night haunt consumed my living blood, she has my memories up to that point, and some of her own memories from the person she was before. I'm not sure how deep those older memories go, but I know they're less real to her; she's May Daye, now and forever, mixed mostly with Dare, the girl whose face she wore before mine. We're on much the same level most of the time.
And then there's Tybalt. A man I never expected to call friend, much less anything more. But he loves me as much as I love him, and that's a rare and precious thing in this world. He's my best friend and my favorite person to talk to and the reason I'm letting May subject me to her increasingly questionable taste in wedding gowns. Although that may be partially her trying to mess with me, since she knows I don't like dresses that are bigger than I am; she just wants me to pick something.
Some people seem to think my disinterest in the planning process comes from a secret desire not to get married. That couldn't be further from the truth. If Tybalt would agree to it, or if it wouldn't cause a massive diplomatic incident, I'd drag him to the courthouse tomorrow and get married in jeans and a tank top, since those make up the majority of my wardrobe. He fell in love with me without finery or billows of lace. I'd be happy to marry him the same way. It's just that my life is chaotic and I'm something of a magnet for people who want to kill me, take me apart and use me for my magic, or ensnare me in incomprehensible plans for world domination.
It doesn't matter what my wedding dress looks like because by the time the actual ceremony rolls around, I'm going to look like the lead in a high school production of Carrie. We should start out by rolling me through an abattoir since there's no way we're getting around it.
I've learned not to be too attached to plans. They never survive contact with reality when I'm around.
Groaning, I stood, leaving the couch, the cats, and May's pile of magazines behind. There was a time when I would have been horrified by the thought of my wedding dress getting so drenched in blood that it was ruined; these days, I'm more resigned. My mother, who is not a very nice person, raised me to think I was Daoine Sidhe, descended from Titania, and that the reason I found blood alluring and revolting at the same time was because my magic wasn't strong enough to handle it.
Thanks, Mom. She's not Daoine Sidhe, and neither am I; there's nothing of Titania in my veins. We're D—chas Sidhe, and while our magic is still tied to blood, it's not the same. For us, there's nothing else, no flowers, no water.
All we get is in the blood.
It was about six in the evening, and May and I were alone in the house. Quentin was at Saltmist spending time with Dean, who's been over less since our collective visit to the Duchy of Ships back in May, where we'd helped the sea witch keep her word by bringing back her descendant race, the Roane, from the verge of extinction. It turns out that suddenly reintroducing a long-lost type of fae to the Undersea, while removing most of the Selkies at the same time, was a little destabilizing, and as one of our coastal nobles, whose mother is a Duchess in the Undersea, Dean had been spending a lot of his time dealing with the fallout.
Better him than me. Of the two of us, he's the one who actually speaks "diplomacy" with something other than a knife.
Jazz was likewise absent, since the small antique store she owned and operated in Berkeley didn't close until seven. With wedding planning done for the day, Tybalt off at the Court of Cats, and May busy baking, I was free to go upstairs, take off my bra, and do nothing for the rest of the afternoon. Paradise is real.
I was halfway to the stairs when the phone rang. The landline, not my cell. I stopped, blinking at the sound. It continued ringing.