Morhrívë’s left hand toyed idly with a sleek black feather, while his right gently swirled a goblet of French pinot noir, the dark ruby liquid almost a match for the feather in color. The wine was no equal to the fine fae libation he had shared with the satyr of the House of Saffron Sages, but it would serve for the nonce. The feather, on the other hand, had a much more ominous implication. It was a spoil, a prize taken from the body of one of the Raven Guard, assassins and mercenaries of the Unseelie Court.
Tossing the feather onto the table, he reclined in his leather seat and sighed. It had been long since he had crossed blades with the Unseelie, as long ago as Mag Tuireadh, when the Autumn Court had made alliance with the Sidhe of Summer against the dark fae. It was a battle of the old world, one that mortals knew only through legend and tale. Last night, though, he, Night Fletcher, and Mindtwister had fought four of the Raven Guard.
They were fools to face us. Raven Guard, pah. They are carrion birds and I am a king raven — how dare they take up arms against one such as I?
The motivation for their daring was plain — Queen Mab herself had put a bounty on their heads, or so they had said, and they had come to collect. Instead, they had found only death. Still, a bounty from Queen Mab was no small thing. Morhrívë’s eyes narrowed slightly as he recalled the assault on his sister he had witnessed through the portal in the basement, a hint of crimson creeping into their dark blue.
First Kraehe, now this. Is it war the Unseelie want? Another Mag Tuireadh? Perhaps vengeance? Or perhaps something simpler than all that.
He closed his eyes, remembering Kraehe’s words.
The doors are opening, brother. A wizard is born again into the mortal world. You must help him. Please, if ever you esteemed your blood as a prince of House Helraumo, help him. Help us.
A gulp of wine followed.
Dear sister. We are one blood, but we were never, how is it the mortals put it? Birds of a feather. No, you always had a mind for the future and the conduct of great things. It was fit that you inherited suzerainty of our house, while I flew free, lord only of storms and myself.
A second gulp of wine chased the first.
Princess Kraehe’s intentions for the doors was benevolent, he was sure. To open the portals, to reestablish the long lost treaties with the mortal world, to guide men in the wake of the great comet Elenin, that was her purpose. But as to Queen Mab’s intentions, who could say? When questioned, the satyr and even the great bridge troll had been furtive, fearful of any mention of the Unseelie. A door to the world of men might be only a door to conquest and dominion in the eyes of the Black Queen. Perhaps it was a simple as that.
Yet, the mortal world was not without it’s protectors. Night Fletcher was newly come into his strength, but he had already mastered the power of Valacirca, the great bow that bent the heavens. Whether by accident or thievery, Mindtwister had found and unlocked the secrets of Kor-Nolwe, the ring of power thought long lost. Last, locked in the darkness of Morhrívë’s winter seeming, was Osse Helraumo, the Rod of Blackwinter. Wielders of God-Treasures such as these were no mean foes to be threatened by the carrion birds and scrap-pickers of the Unseelie Court.
Their path was set now, by knowledge gained and favors owed. They had discovered the existence of the Black Brothers, fallen druids that swore fealty to the Unseelie. Morhrívë had traded a gift of knowledge for a promise of another to the satyr of Saffron Sages, and an oath to speak in favor of Ogryn, the ossuary troll. All they had to do now was to find the courage to walk the path to its end.
Rising from his recline, Morhrívë crossed to one of the windows of the orphanage and threw it open, savoring the blast of night air. As he leaned on the frame, delicate patterns of hoarfrost began to creep across the glass panes.
Perhaps a crow’s eyes will see what a man’s cannot.
A blaze of black feathers swirled about Morhrívë as he cast away his aspect of spring and took his aspect of autumn. In place of the fae lord was a great black bird, the Stormcrow Suzerain. With a harsh caw, it took flight into the dark.