Storm at a Reunion
—1216 (Present Day)—
At some point within the last few minutes—neither party knew exactly how or when—Henry and Fiona had ceased dancing and had somehow fallen into bed together, partially clothed. They were laying there thusly, uncertain how to proceed, when the sentry-horn blared forth, warning that the gates would soon be opened—this so that all the castle guards would be prepared for combat should anyone of nefarious intent be accidentally admitted.
Fiona sprang immediately to her feet and began to lace her corset back up the front. “They’re here!” she squealed. “It can only be them!”
Henry, who had scrambled out of bed after her, grunted in agreement while hopping about on one foot, trying to get his trousers back on. Raif, meanwhile, ran circles about the room, its tail a blur of excitement. The creature doubtlessly had no idea what was going on, but its pack was happy, so it was too.
“Come on, come on, come on!” Fiona urged Henry, who had moved on to his boots. “Hurry noo, will you?”
“Patience!” he snapped. “These are more troublesome than they look.”
Once they were both relatively put-together again, the two humans rushed from the room, down a spiral staircase, and out onto the lawns, followed closely by Raif. There was already a small crowd gathered by the gates, among them the Alt-Mage, the Lady Altis, and Fiona’s mother and younger brother. As they joined them there, a second horn sounded, this one to tell the guards to raise the portcullis and open the gates.
A single, brawny white mare sprang through the opening and came to a quick halt in front of the welcoming committee, hooves sparking on the paving stones. From her saddlebag had emerged the upper body of a young man with shoulder-length blond hair, grinning through the layer of dirt upon his face. Fiona deduced that this must be Henry’s twin brother, Simon, although they didn’t look much alike.
In the saddle rode a tall and very handsome individual with green skin and pointed ears, which were adorned with a variety of metal piercings. In front of him—practically in his lap—was Seoc.
Fiona hardly recognized him at first. When he had been taken away, he had been a bit chubby and still looked very much like a child. Now he was very thin, almost dangerously so, and his features had hardened out. His hair was cut very short, so that there was hardly a hint of curl in it, and there was stubble on his jaw. But he was still Seoc, and when she met his eyes, she could see her little brother looking back out at her, as if nothing had ever changed.
The merman dismounted first, helped Seoc to the ground and then pulled Simon the rest of the way out of the saddlebag, lifting each human with the same ease with which an adult might carry a small child. After depositing them gently on their feet, he stepped back to allow the family members access to their long missing relatives. He wore a smile, but behind it was an expression of the deepest sadness.