Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Brothers and Sisters
Do you know what I loved most about growing up? I mean, I had a pretty awesome childhood – how many children can say they had singing lessons from sirens, learned to swim with mermaids, and were taught battle strategy by Artair, known in legend as King Arthur? I lived in Faerie, a land of magic and power, where I could go out on my balcony at night and watch the dragons and griffins fly, where pixies danced among the flower blossoms in our gardens. As princess of the Winter Court and heir to Da’s throne, I was treasured but not spoiled; if there was something I wanted, I had to work for it, but I never needed for anything. All-in-all, my childhood was essentially perfect in every conceivable way and the thing I loved the most about it was my big brother, Fiachra.
Technically, he was my stepbrother; his mother was my father’s first wife. Aoife had a flare for tangled webs of the intrigue and scandal variety and when my father took up with my mother – a mortal clairvoyant – she decided to take up with a moon elf. Much drama ensued, mostly because both women insisted Da had fathered their children, but the whole scandal was cleared up instantly when we were born – on the same day – and only I had Da’s Mark. Aoife was banished from the Court after that, but Da insisted Fiachra stay behind. He said it was because he didn’t want Fiachra to be raised with Aoife’s taint but I always thought he didn’t want me to grow up alone. He himself had a half-brother – my uncle Ruaidhrí – that he was incredibly close to; I think he wanted me to have that same sort of relationship with my own brother and knew Fiachra was the close as I’d ever get.
“Fiachra” comes from the Gaelic word meaning “raven,” an ironically appropriate name considering his totem animal turned out to be ravens. I always called him Rave. My own totem was the griffin, giving me additional affinities for cats and birds. Rave called me Cat. The nicknames had been his idea. He said that for everyone else in the world, we were Fiachra and Fionnuala, prince and princess of Faerie, our parents’ children, and the sums of our magical heritages. But when it was just me and him together, just us, he said we could be whoever we wanted, whoever we really were when you took away the titles and the magic and the bloodlines.
It was as close to true freedom as royalty could ever get.
For close to ninety years, my brother and I were inseparable, the best of best friends. Every night we exchanged notes back and forth using his pet raven, Morag, as our carrier pigeon. We had all of our lessons together, much to the horror of our tutors, and on weekends we would camp out in the gardens together along with my cousin, Donnovan. When Rave had his heart broken by an uppity nymph named Ciannait who then told everyone he kissed like a frog, I cursed her turn into a frog herself whenever she accepted a kiss from someone she didn’t love. Once…maybe twice…we snuck into the high council’s chambers cloaked in an invisibility and wreaked havoc while the councillors and Da tried to conduct business – they thought the room might be haunted and were ultimately forced to relocate. Rave got into more than one fistfight with Uaithne, a green man whose father was one of the Court’s more powerful lords, when the brute took up bullying me as his favourite pastime. Like I said, we were inseparable; the only time we were ever apart being when I had my daily two hours of Daddy time and when Rave was forced to visit Aoife every other month.
You know that saying about how all good things must come to end? Apparently that’s true. On New Year’s Day 1408, his mother staged a coup, killed my father, named herself my regent, and imprisoned me to be tortured for a couple of centuries. It put something of a strain on our relationship to say the least, especially when Rave publicly denounced me in favour of supporting his mother. Not one of my favourite memories. Any of it.
I’m almost nine hundred years old now. It’s a big deal for a Fae; our age of maturity. It an even bigger deal for Aoife; it’s the end of her regency. I escaped from her – twice actually and the second time it stuck, thank the gods. I hid from Aoife, going out among the humans and built a new life for myself. I lost my family; my father was killed, my brother betrayed me, my uncle Ruaidhrí was bound to Aoife, and my cousin Donnovan vanished. But I had my cats and my wraiths and as the years went on I built myself a new family, friends both new and old who still cared enough, who were loyal and honourable enough, to claim and hold my trust and love. At the same time, I did the smart thing and developed allies, cut down enemies, bided my time like any good fairy tale heroine. I even found myself a prince and fell in love – the real kind of love that makes your heart skip beats and shifts the orbit of your whole world.
How sad is it, though, that despite all of that, I still wish my big brother was here? When storms roll in and thunder booms, when nightmares have me waking to the echoes of my own screams, and, oh, hey, when assassins creep from the shadows to try and kill – again – my first thought is still to call for Rave. He betrayed me, threw his lot in with the woman who killed my father and had me tortured for centuries, and I still miss him and want him with me, protecting me from the world just like he did when we were kids.
Is that pathetic or what?
You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at calliopedomain.blogspot.ca