Reedren leaned against the table, looking all the world like a young man trying to share highly technical concepts with a child. "You have coffee?" he asked, the faintest tinge of hope touching his voice.
Deborah nodded slowly and turned to the coffee-maker. She poured a cup and held it out to Reedren, who politely nodded. "Seven sugar, please."
"Seven? " Deborah stammered, but turned to the cupboard. "Um... sorry. No Sugar. Do you want Sweet & Low?"
"What is that?"
"Artificial sweetener. Aspartane, I think. "
Reedren took the preferred mug. He lingered over the mug, closed his eyes and inhaled. "There is nothing like coffee on the other side. Sahlab doesn't come close."
Lily smiled up at Reedren. "I like Sahlab." She reached her arms out to her mother, who picked her up. Deborah felt herself begin to sob with the sheer joy of Lily's presence, then calmed herself. "You were talking about the Seasons." She ventured tentatively, one arm protectively around Lily, the other clutching the counter-top.
"The Seasons..." Reedren began, "The seasons are an eternal dance. The courts take turns ruling the realms, fae and mortal, yin and yang, if you will. It has always been so, and it keeps the worlds in balance. But it isn't always polite. Sometimes it is bloody and vicious. There have been changes in the courts, recently. And with new blood comes new politics. The courts are unstable."
"Once upon a time, a beautiful lady ascended to the Summer court. She was fair and lithe and danced every morning and every night. The story goes that she had been captured dancing in the moonlight by a mortal who--of course--fell in love with her. She bore him daughter and they lived happily, though she desperately wished to dance under the summer trees once again. "
"She's pretty." Lily said. "She has green eyes like Daddy's."
Reedren continued, "A Summer Hunters found her with her child. She was compelled to dance again. Lady Verano insists she did not love her husband, but that she was bound to stay with him. Truthfully, her husbands' love for her was strong, but the Hunter severed the tie and orphaned the child, freeing Verano of mortal binds. Since then, Lady Verano has ordered the slip for hundreds of mortal children. She seeks one that carries her blood.
"Why?" Deborah asked.
"I do not know the answer to this." Reedren shrugged. "Perhaps she wishes to reclaim some semblance of her love. Or, perhaps she seeks to distill her power by removing any diluted influence."
Deborah gasped despite herself. Reedren glanced down sadly at Lily, and reached a hand out to smooth a strand of hair from her forehead. Deborah pulled Lily away from his reach.
"The Winter Queens hoped she would grow out of this childish obsession. Now, Summer is glutted with Changelings. Winter has forced the issue, claiming tithe to balance. Summer is in full power now, so close to the Solstice, but as Summers' power wanes, the Winter Court will press its' claim. Unless the changelings are cast out from Summer, there will be war."
"The choices for your child were to be cast out without guidance, to be tithed to Winter or to be sacrificed on the altar of seasons. I..." Reedren stopped and took a heavy pull from the coffee. "I will not let these things happen to her. I forged another choice."
Deborah stood, frowning. "Why?" She asked. "Why forge this other choice and bring her back to me? You still haven't said."
Reedren bestowed upon her such a look of tenderness, that Deborah was honestly confused. "Mrs. Samson." he said. "Lily is of Verano's blood."