Our Owen has got himself into more hot water than he can imagine. Not only is Aggie on his case but Bran's father is now putting his tuppence worth in and it's all going south fast. Of all the things the thought might happen next, this didn't even enter the equation,
“What’s wrong?” Owen immediately caught the change in atmosphere and frowned at the expression on his grandmother’s face.
“What did he tell you?”
“What do you mean?”
“What did he tell you of himself, of his nature?”
“Well, he told me his name. He wasn’t too happy when he thought I was mocking him.”
“Mocking him? Are you insane boy? What have I told you about names? They are even more important to fey. They are sacred, powerful. You do not mock a fey’s name – not if you value your life.”
“I wasn’t mocking his name,” Owen shot back indignantly. “I was just pointing out that it wasn’t a name I would have given to someone as pale as he is. Crows are black.”
Aggie closed her eyes and shook her head, making disapproving, sucking sounds.
“It’s alright. He wasn’t offended. He just said that humans are too concerned with how things look on the outside, and we should be more worried about how they are on the inside. Then he turned into a crow, pulled out a couple of feathers and flew away. What’s the big drama?”
Aggie didn’t answer. She turned back to the stove and stirred the stew.
“Why am I in trouble?”
Aggie didn’t answer. Her back was an impenetrable wall of disapproval.”
Aggie sighed, then turned brandishing a wooden spoon. “You are a foolish, foolish boy. Before this is done you will be broken. You should have listened to me. Nothing good ever comes from associating with the fey folk.”
Owen narrowed his eyes. “You didn’t think it would work, did you? You never thought for one minute the fey would do anything but play with me.”
“What makes you think he isn’t?”
Aggie pursed her lips and turned away again.
“How could you do that? Why did you do that? You let me believe I had a chance.”
“I let you make your own mistakes. You certainly weren’t listening to me.”
“You’re unbelievable, do you know that? You….” Owen huffed and stormed upstairs.
Half an hour later he was back, sitting at the kitchen table, twisting a mug. Even though it was the early hours of the morning, Aggie was still bending over the range. This time, the smell of bread permeated the tiny kitchen.
“So, what do I do now?”
“I think you’ve done quite enough.”
“Don’t be like that. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
“One day you will realize the world does not revolve around you, Owen Prentis, and that not every world is the same and follows the same rules. There are more worlds than you could imagine, no more than a heartbeat away, and you would blunder through them all with your human ideas of right and privilege.”
“I am not….”
Owen’s mouth snapped shut with an audible click. Aggie very rarely got truly angry, and when she did the only thing to do was keep silent and ride it out.
“You have no idea of the danger you’ve put yourself in. By giving you his name, the fey has bound himself to you. There’s no walking away now.”
Owen’s heart soared, then crashed at the expression on Aggie’s face.
“There will be a price. There is always a price, and I hope with all my heart you have the means to pay.”
Owen swallowed. “What kind of price?”
“It’s too late to wonder now. Better you had asked before you committed yourself.”
“I haven’t committed to anything.”
“Perhaps not in your world, but you have in his and which world do you think holds sway in these hills? You can argue until you’re blue that their rules don’t apply to you, or that you can’t be bound by something you didn’t agree to, but that won’t save you. You’re his now and what comes of it will come whether you want it or not.”
“I want it.”
Aggie growled. “Fool boy. Go to bed. There’s nothing you can do now but hope whatever is to happen comes swiftly.”
Owen went up to his room, but he couldn’t sleep. He lay, fully clothed, on his bed gazing out of the open window at the moon. For the first time, he truly regretted what he’d done. He wished with all his heart he’d listened to his grandmother.
Owen must have fallen asleep at some point because he opened his eyes to sunshine, bright in his eyes. He blinked. Something wasn’t right. He blinked again, and something moved between him and the window, blocking the sun.
Owen sat up so fast his head swum. “What the hell?”
“Good day, human.”
“Bran? What are you doing here?”
“You speak as if I’m not welcome in your home.” Bran tossed his hair and frowned but amusement tightened the corners of his lips and his eyes sparkled.
“No, it’s not that. Of course you are. How did you get in?”
“The window is open.” He waved his hand as if that should have been too obvious to question.
“You climbed…? Oh, of course not. You flew.”
Bran laughed aloud. “You are funny, human.”
“Do you want to sit down? Just put the book off the chair onto the floor.”
Bran glanced around and wrinkled his nose. “I can’t stay. I have come to bring a summons.”
The word summons rung with an ominous echo is Owen’s head, and he shivered. “What do you mean? A summons to where?”
“To my father’s court.”
Bran wandered around, idly picking things up, glancing at them, then putting then down again.
“But how…? What does he want? How do I get there?”
Bran put down what he was holding and faced Owen. He grinned. “Come to the lake at midnight. My father wishes to discuss the terms of our betrothal.”
“Did you think my father would allow me to walk the land without evidence of your commitment and worth?”
“But…but…. You want me to marry you?”
Bran’s laughter fell like silver rain. “I want you to ask me. It is my father’s decision if he will permit me to accept.”
“I…but, I… I’m not…”
“Tonight at midnight.”
Before Owen could say another word, Bran had gone and the crow, clinging to the window sill gave a single caw before launching into the sky. Owen stood at the window watching it fly and thinking Oh fuck.
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