12.9 Tennyson’s Dream

by Matt P.

Walter knew instantly that it was a battle. There was too much that sounded the same for it to be anything but fighting, even though it quickly became apparent that the weapons were very different from the ones he had used. Some people were wielding swords in sizes ranging from normal to ludicrous with ease, while others wielded hammers or axes with equal skill.

Are those people flying?” Walter asked with an intake of breath as he saw the full range of the battle. “Because no one briefed me about flying people.

Morgan smirked at that. “What is it you keep telling me, Walter? Magic isn’t real?” She let her eyes go up to the flying figures, one of whom seemed to have a sword made of lightning. “It’s probably just sufficiently advanced technology, you know?”

Walter scowled, but then looked around as they continued to go deeper in to the dream. The mayhem became pitched around them, and he noticed that Morgan was becoming more and more quiet as they moved deeper in to the fray. She looked around, her brow furrowed as she considered it.

What war is this?” Ryan asked as he looked around. “It’s so damnably hard to date Faerie wars because nothing they wear changes.

This is the civil war. In the records it’s officially the King’s War, because of who waged it—but people call it Oberon’s War,” Morgan explained with a heavy weight to her voice. “It’s the war that Oberon waged against the people who killed my mother, and thought they were killing Tania and I. He promised he would drag their bodies in to court and leave their heads on pikes for a decade of mortal years.”

Did he?” Walter asked. The battle continued to wage around them, but they were being steered toward a certain section of it. That section had some of the most intense fighting of the whole battle, with people moving so fast he felt like the air should have rippled around them visibly.

No,” Morgan said softly. “He left them up there for a score of mortal years instead. Preserved. Their faces horrified and horrifying in equal measure.” She looked around the fracas and shook her head sadly, as if she finally knew where she was going. “Part of it was what happens here. That foolish boy.” When Walter and Ryan looked quizzically at her because of the final words, she merely shook her head and motioned them forward. Gabriel looked interested.

They came to a pitched battle, and a beautiful woman in armor that seemed to be made of green grass and blue sky forged into shimmering plates. Her features beneath the open-faced helm were lovely and determined, with a small fierce smile on her lips. She wielded a spear with the grace of a dancer, and whatever direction she stepped her foes fell in waves about her. It was awe-inspiring to watch, the most graceful slaughter Walter had ever seen, until it was brutally over. A man with a beautiful face of hard lines and angles stepped from seemingly nowhere and slid a slender blade between the armored plates, and her face went blank with shock and agony. A moment later the fighting around her stopped, a clear and almost peaceful area forming around her as men and women watched the beauty fall to the earth.

A man burst in to that ring, clad in armor of crafted smoke and flame, tearing his helmet off as he fell to his knees next to the woman. He carefully took the helmet off her head, allowing her flame-red hair to tumble out. “NO!” The man’s voice was ragged, with tears clawing at his throat even as they streamed down his cheeks. The woman looked at him for a moment, as if trying to figure out what to say—but then her time was out, and there were no words she could speak. She died in his arms, and as she did all the grass around her blackened and whithered as if it could not stand to be without her. Without her helm and with her hair around her, she looked achingly like Morgan and Tania in their youth.

Sile,” Morgan said, and it took a moment for Walter to realize that it was a name. “She was our half-sister, and the most beloved of all of Oberon’s children. She was Mab’s daughter, and her death would shock the Queen of Winter out of neutrality, and galvanize the courts. Oberon was never the same, which probably caused everything that followed.

The man holding Sile looked up, as if shocked at the voices. He looked in anger at the crowd, to see who would dare disturb her rest, and blanched. “She was mine to protect.”

I know,” Morgan said as she walked toward the man. Walter realized in that moment it was Tennyson, but he looked different in his youth and the leanness of a warrior in the middle of his war. “But the Ebon Serpent earned his name dozens of times before he killed Sile, and if you had been here it only would have been your throat slit first. You slew Flann the Black before he could get to your King, and that was a great deed.

He shook his head, tears running openly down his cheeks. “I failed him in not keeping her safe, and it set him on the path he is on today. His rage burns still, and it is why he struggled to keep the cycles from happening. It is why I followed him, too.”

Because…” Morgan trailed off, as if she couldn’t follow the logical leap necessarily.

“Because she died and then you, who he favored only second to her, turned against him. The both of you were the second and third jewels in his eyes, and you betrayed him. And betrayed Sile by doing so.”

Morgan bristled. “Firstly I am a jewel in no man’s crown, brother. And neither was Sile—if he had remembered that more, she might not have been here.” She didn’t elaborate on that point, but continued on with anger in her eyes. “And it is no betrayal to choose your land over your king, or your father. As I believe you are finding out.”

Tennyson thought for a moment, before he sighed deeply. “I am finding that out now, yes. Perhaps to my dishonor and credit; or perhaps it is to my honor and discredit, I cannot be certain.”

Your chance is not yet gone.” Morgan’s voice was not exactly cold, but neither did it flinch away from what she said. “You may yet have honor and save your realm, instead of sending both Faerie and the mortal realms into chaos.” Her voice softened, and she reached out to put a hand on her half-brother’s face. “You need only choose to do so.

Tennyson stared at the corpse in his arms, before he laid it down to rest on the blackened grass. She looked like stained glass in a burned building, beautiful and surrounded only by darkness. He reached out to take Morgan’s hand, and kissed the back of it formally. “I chose the moment I tried to stop you from going in to the portal.” He paused for a moment, before forcing himself to finish. “My Queen.”

Good, then we have much work to do,” Morgan proclaimed, pulling to help Tennyson to his feet. “I will have need of Knights as much as Sile did, Sir—and we must be fast.