Facing the Twilight
by Rachel Parsons
Table of Contents
appeared in issue 254.
Princess Rhiannon of New Fairy was a prodigal daughter of a king, forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution before returning to her father. Though freed from her servitude, Rhiannon has suffered a terrible curse and must appear naked at all times, vulnerable and cold.
As she resumes her rightful place in the world, she encounters dark sorcery, the evil of men, the intrigue of enemies and her own inner conflicts. She now confronts two crises at once: the menace of the offworlders and an ancient conflict between dragons and men.
I had Ionnen bring me a flagon of coffee mixed with whisky. As she hovered by me, Henry, who had been quietly reading in a corner, started juggling with his head again but in a bored and abstracted way. I reviewed what I knew, which was not much.
Henry had never been a soldier, but was found decapitated in an offworlder encampment. His father was wealthy enough to buy him freedom from service, yet his friends thought he might be patriotic enough to serve any way. He does not remember doing this, but this is not unusual. The longer a spirit is from its departure, the less it remembers about its time in our dimension. He could have been killed in action, even so, but by beheading? Perhaps the other soldiers had resented his pretence and had done the bloody deed. Those not on Earth and beyond my reach to summons were all dead, and my scouts had yet to find their bodies. Without their skulls to focus my mind, I could not communicate with them lest they too decide to haunt me.
His friend claims not to be jealous, and has an alibi. So does Summers’ fiancée, who was the other member of the triangle. That left the mother and the father. But the father had traversed to the Other World already, and why would a mother kill her own son? In spite of proffered motives, her guilt was still not convincing, although you never know with offworlders. I have heard they kill over someone’s shoes.
I was getting desperate enough that I even suspected Ionnen for a moment. After all, guilt would explain her fear in front of Henry’s spirit. Perhaps she had been the one to help with the investigation to see how close I would come to finding her out.
Perhaps Henry’s father had come back to this world to wreak a ghostly vengeance-although that would be a first, as far as I knew. A spirit voluntarily coming back to our world would be as likely as one of us voluntarily going to Niflheim. But that has happened. I shuddered as I remembered the last conference of the queens of the dimensions which had been held there, as we take turns. Queen Hel was gracious, Queen Freya was in rare form, everyone was dressed down out of respect for my condition, but I was freezing in that underworld iceberg. My advice: do not go to the Ice Dimension without clothes even if everyone is calling you “the great queen.” Brrr.
I had Ionnen pour me some coffee, but the brew failed to give me any answers. I suspected everyone and no one. I wondered whether Henry had found some macabre way to slice his own head off his body, as impossible as that would appear to be.
I began to even suspect myself. I had killed so many during the war, wielding my death sword, that maybe I had done the deed unwittingly. That would explain Henry’s lumbering into my castle.
I pondered on these matters until I realized who the one person who could have been responsible was. I made the summons, in spite of the dangers.
Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Parsons