The Prelude

By Darrell Walker

It was a cool autumn night. A crisp wind rustled the branches of beech and oak before brushing against the old farmhouse, forming small, invisible, whirling eddies under the eaves. A woman's figure stood at the window, the light behind casting her in silhouette. A dark shadow was her body, and a lighter shadow her thin nightgown. Her room was the only one lit -- it was late. Normally, she would have been long asleep, dreaming peaceful dreams, but tonight she was awake, gazing over the rolling hills that led to the large woods not far from her house. Tonight she stood at the window, the full moon giving her fair face an unearthly radiance. Tonight she remained awake, waiting...

The moon slowly moved across the sky and seemed to be playing a game of tag with Venus. Alyssa watched the cool green speck that was Venus cross the night sky. Venus, the goddes of love and fertility. Alyssa laughed softly to herself. How could such a wondrous thing as love exist in a world cold and dismal as this one? Alyssa's life had not been an easy one. She was only nineteen, but she had the cynical outlook of one much older. She no longer believed in such things as romance and true love. Maybe once they had existed, but they certainly couldn't be found today. Alyssa looked towards the door, wondering if her father would be barging through it soon. He was out at the bars, as usual, and if she was awake when he came home, he would find no end of fault with her. He was not abusive, at least not physically -- he never hit her; but when his ranting made her feel small and shriveled up inside, she wished that he would hit her. Surely that would be easier to take.

Perhaps it was because Alyssa's mind dwelt on such unpleasant thoughts that she did not hear the sound until it was quite loud. Alyssa started and became aware of her surroundings once more. Yes, there it was again! The sound of tinkling bells, or wind chimes -- neither seemed quite the correct description. The sound was very strange, otherworldly, yet peaceful. Suddenly, the night grew less dark, and Alyssa looked up to see the clouds drifting away from the moon. A tangible beam of soft moonlight slowly and deliberately reached out from the moon and stretched across the sky until it came to rest on the lawn before her window -- almost like a spotlight, only softer, less harsh. Alyssa heard the neighing of a horse and the sound of pounding hooves. She looked up in astonishment to see a horse and rider galloping down the moonbeam towards her. It was truly a magnificent sight! The horse was a large stallion of the purest white; even from the window Alyssa could see the unblemished pink of its lips. The rider was even more beautiful. He sat the saddle with quiet ease, holding to the reigns as if he had been born there. His black pants were a striking contrast to the white flanks of his steed. He wore a deep blue tunic of silk, and a dark purple cloak streamed behind him. He held aloft a great shining sword that radiated power, surrounding rider and horse in a nimbus of light shifting between blues and purples.

Alyssa had long ago decided that she was dreaming, so she did not hesitate when the majestic and beautiful man dismounted and motioned for her to join him on the lawn.

Sir Aerinn Moonwater, Knight of the Silver Branch, Knight of the Krystal Loch, and Defender of the Dream dismounted his warhorse with practiced ease. He looked around, taking in the rolling fields and the woods in the distance, and sheathed his sword. If things were as he thought, he would not need it. Whitegold nickered to him, and Aerinn patted patted his nose affectionately. "Do not be impatient, old friend, she will be out soon." No sooner had the words left his mouth than the front door to the farm house opened, and the woman hurried out. She'd thrown on a robe over her nightgown, but already the subtle chill of the night air prompted her to gather the robe close to her and hug herself for warmth.

Aerinn admired her briefly, though he had every feature memorized. She was tall for a woman, but not so tall as him, and slender, but muscular in the way of women who have grown up in the outdoors. Her raven-black hair cascaded down her back in long, silky waves. Her skin was fair and pale, and large liquid eyes of the deepest brown stared into his. She was beautiful, and beautiful in the dangerous, forbidden sense as well. He shouldn't be here, Aerinn knew that, or at the very least he should have waited until Samhain, but he could not wait -- not an hour more.

"Good night, my lady," Aerinn's voice was steady with a quiet strength. He sketched a bow, deep with great respect, though he doubted she would understand the meaning. These Americans had no culture; how he missed the old country... Aerinn's pause was only for a brief moment, but this beautiful, delicate creature sensed his sadness. Seemingly without her knowledge, for she looked as surprised by it as he, Alyssa's hand left the warmth of her robe to stroke Aerinn's cheek. Tears formed in her eyes to mirror his own. Aerinn saw himself in her eyes, and though he knew he was beautiful, he was still surprised by what he saw. Long, golden hair surrounded a beautiful, tanned face that was both strong and passionate. Eyes the color of a summer sky looked into hers and seemed to hold their own light within. Aerinn had known from the beginning that this would be an interesting night, but he knew now he was in for a surprise.

Quickly Aerinn collected himself once more, "My name is Aerinn Moonwater, and you, my lady, are the most beautiful woman to ever grace my eyes." She was startled by the blatant compliment; he could see her mouthing his name to herself. Before she could gather her thoughts again, he said, "This is truly a beautiful night, and I have travelled far to see you. Would you care to join me for a ride?"

Alyssa gazed at Whitegold with obvious admiration and then looked into Aerinn's eyes and blushed. "I would like that," she said in a small voice, not meeting his gaze. Aerinn sighed to himself as he helped her onto the saddle in front of him. That was the problem with humans -- they found his kind so beautiful and majestic, but it actually got in the way more often than it helped. Aerinn glanced at the moon high up in the sky. The night was already half over -- he didn't have much time. Aerinn leaned forward to speak to Whitegold in Gaelic; Alyssa started at the words. Good, Aerinn smiled to himself as the horse began an easy trot towards the woods a quarter-mile away, part of her, at least, remembers.

The chill autumn wind was numbing as they rode through the fields. Aerinn wrapped his cloak around Alyssa and held her close against him. Soon she stopped shivering and began to look around her as he spoke, "I have come a long way to be with you tonight, Alyssa." She flinched. "Yes, I know your name. I know much about you. I know how your father mistreats you, and I know how lonely you are, how empty life seems to you." Alyssa twisted around to look at him, astonishment on her face. Aerinn cupped her chin in his hand, "I have watched you so from afar because of my love for you. From the moment I first saw you, I loved you, though I did not at the beginning know why."

"You seem so familiar to me, Aerinn," she breathed, "like someone out of a dream...what am I talking about? This is a dream!"

"This is not a dream, my love -- at least not in the way you mean it. Everything that happens tonight is as real as anything in the waking world. You must believe that, lest you make a foolish decision. There is much you will be confronted with tonight, and you must take it seriously. Do you understand?"

"Of course I understand!" Alyssa shot back indignantly. "I am not an idiot; you do not need to speak slow for me, my lord!" the last was said with scorn dripping from her voice.

Aerinn chuckled softly, then kissed her gently on her forehead. "A thousand apologies, my lady, I meant no offense. I have nothing but respect and admiration for your intellect and intuition; it has always been so. And it has always been your anger that has spoken the truth when you might otherwise be loath to do so."

"Do I know you? You speak as if you know me, but I've never seen you before, surely. And yet..." Alyssa lost momentum and trailed off in confusion.

"You must not worry yourself about it now, my love. All will be made clear in time." Whitegold had reached the edge of the woods and began to walk into its depths, using a deer-trail.

"You have a very smart horse, Aerinn."

Aerinn laughed, "Smarter than I many say!"

The forest was a different place at night. Light in a myriad of colors seemed to dance in the tree-tops. Surely it is the moon, Alyssa thought. There was no doubt now that tonight was a magical night; though she was not sure that she believed her companion when he said it was real. She felt the warmth of Aerinn's body behind her and finally decided it must be real, because if it was a dream, surely they would not be riding a horse in silence, but would be enjoying each other more intimately. Alyssa blushed and hoped her thoughts were not plain to him.

Aerinn felt the change in the woman in front of him and realized that they would have to stop soon. He wasn't sure exactly what was going to happen -- well, certain things could be counted on, but unions with humans were always wondrous things to say the least. He watched the Glamour sparkling in the tree-tops and was startled to notice Alyssa watching it as well. If she could see the Faerie magic, then perhaps it would not be long before she awoke to the Dream.

It was not much longer until Whitegold stepped into a small glade. Trees surrounded it on all sides. The long, thick grasses and wildflowers were beautiful and fragrant and looked luxuriously comfortable to lie in. Aerinn dismounted and helped Alyssa down. He looked to the moon overhead and said a quick prayer to Luna. "Sing to me, sweet Luna, sing to me of Light and Love. Sing to me, sweet Luna, sing to me of Light and Love." He had not realized that he sang the words aloud until Alyssa wrapped her arms around him.

"That's beautiful," she murmured into his tunic. "Who is Luna?"

"Luna is the moon, my love. She watches over us. Whenever the moon is out, and I am not with you, know that you are not alone -- for Luna watches over our kind."

"Our kind?" she asked, burrowing herself closer to him.

Aerinn tightened the grip of his arms around her, and buried his face into her fragrant hair. He kissed her tenderly on the neck and whispered in her ear, "The Faerie folk, my love. Surely you must know that is what I am? A Sidhe come to woo you in the moonlight?" She laughed as he led her into the center of the glade. They sank to the ground holding one another tight. Aerinn's fine wool cloak served well to insulate them against the cold earth. Soon Aerinn was kissing her, and the Glamour was sparkling about them. His was an old spirit, and slow in its build to passion. Alyssa did not seem to mind. Aerinn had heard that humans enjoyed prolonged lovemaking, and it seemed to him that Alyssa especially had.

Alyssa turned her head to the side, and for the first time noticed the ring of mushrooms that encircled them. "What is that?" she asked breathlessly.

"A Faerie ring, my love. Don't tell me you've never made love in a Faerie ring before."

"I haven't."

"Yes you have, love, you just don't remember," Aerinn whispered sadly. He wasn't sure if she heard him or not, but it didn't really matter. Soon she would know him for what he was, and perhaps then the memories would return to her. All the bittersweet memories -- she always human, he always Fae. Always their love had ended in tragedy, always the cold, bitter world had taken her from him. Never in the turning of all the seasons, all the centuries, never did he remember them being together for long.

Now, as their spirits joined -- immortal Faerie spirit, and immortal human spirit -- Aerinn vowed that this time it would be different. This time they would break the cycle, this time they would be together.

When the Glamourous ecstasy washed over them both, Alyssa cried out, "My love! I remember! I will never forget you again, I swear!" She sobbed into Aerinn's chest.

Aerinn stroked her hair, "It's not your fault, Alyssa, it's not your fault...."

High overhead, Luna moved slowly across the night sky.

High overhead, Luna wept for the lovers, and for love denied.