|This is a copy of a poster I own by Howard Johnson|
Such were Darius’s thoughts as he sat on the Old Stone, at the edge of Malgren forest, on the banks of the Zoran River, as the sun hovered, no more than a rosy hue on the horizon. In these moments, love lived.
Darius of the Fang and Carillon of the Fae. They should never have met.
The Fang—the vampyres—creatures of dark and moonlight and unbridled lust.
The Fae. Beings of golden light. Of joy. Creatures of passion.
Fang and Fae. Ice and Fire. And never the twain…Darius laughed. He and Carillon. The unlikeliest couple on the planet. Even now, the memory of their first meeting brought a smile to his face and joy to his heart.
Sleepless, he had begun the night early, prowling in the shadows, waiting for the release of full dark. Restless, she had chased the day late, reluctant to let the sun go. They had come upon one another in this place, in the sunset hour. Each had been surprised and intrigued by a creature so different from themselves. They had met again the next dawn. And at dusk. And dawn again. Lust and passion had collided. A gift—a once in a millennium gift—bestowed by Valentine.
And now Darius waited in the twilight. Waited for those moments—that glorious, silver hour—when he and Carillon could be joined. For a thousand dawns and dusks they had come together in this place between. Valentine himself, that wily priest, had blessed their strange union, but with a caveat.
“My children,” he had said when they’d sought him out. “Should you wish to be together always, each of you must be willing to live in the other’s world. You, Carillon, for a night. And you, Darius, for a day.”
“But my kind withers and dies in the dark,” Carillon had said, a tear marring her rose-petal cheek. “When night falls I must be safely in the Fairy Hall, surrounded by the glow of light and fire and heat. The Fae cannot survive in the dark and cold.”
“And you, Darius?” Valentine asked. “Would you dwell in the light with Carillon?”
“I cannot, sir. You know that. My people have no tolerance for anything stronger than moonlight. I would die in her heat.”
The old man had shaken his head sadly, then clasped his hands over his round belly and sighed. “Here, then, is all I can do for you,” he said. “For a thousand dawns, and a thousand dusks, you may meet here in the place between. For one hour only, the sun will stand and the moon remain motionless. For that hour you may be together. At the end of the thousand days, if neither of you chooses to live in the other’s world, you must part and come together no more.”
The old man had smiled at them, at the same time admonishing them gently. “Much can be moved in heaven and on earth by the power of love, but time will not stand still forever.”
Tonight would mark the end of their allotted time.
Of late, Darius had noticed the strain writ on Carillon’s sweet face—the shadows that matched the lavender hue of the setting sun, etched beneath her verdant eyes. She’d likely seen the same on him. The pale skin and ebony eyes were normal; the deep grooves bracketing his sensuous red lips and the needle-straight mark between his narrow black brows were new.
She raced across the meadow toward him, gossamer blue gown and iridescent wings floating in the soft summer breeze. He rose to meet her, arms outstretched in welcome, his own black wings held in abeyance so as not to frighten her, though she’d long since ceased to be afraid.
Their lovemaking was fast and fierce and desperate. When at last they drew apart, the sun’s last rays shimmered on the horizon.
”Go now, love.” Darius pulled Carillon into the last sliver of light. He was not ashamed of the tears coursing down his cheeks. “Know that I will love you always.”
She drew back, shocking him. “No, Darius. No. Tonight I will stay with you.”
There was no time to argue. The sun slipped away and with it, Carillon’s last hope. There was no point in berating this soft, golden creature. Her courage shamed him. She’d done this for him. For love of him. He enfolded her in his great black wings and drew her down to sit with him on the grass, no longer green, but gray in the rising moonlight.
“You know I can make you one of my people,” he said. “You would live forever, beside me. You don’t have to die, Carillon.”
She smiled at him sadly, already shivering with cold. “I would not be happy in the dark, Darius. I would die for want of light and the colors of the day. No.” She shook her head. “Better to die here with you—with my memories untarnished with loss and longing.”
They spoke little after that. What could be said at a time such as this? He held her through that long night. He kissed her brow as it grew colder under his lips, murmured endearments in her ear; he watched the roses turn ashen in her cheeks and felt the strength and life ebbing away.
“Hold on, Carillon. Hold on, my love. It’s nearly dawn.” But in that darkest part of the night, just before the sun cast its first rays into the new day, Carillon away slipped into that final sleep. He held her still body close—and wept.
Fury tore through him with hurricane force. He stood, with Carillon in his arms, and strode toward the light, cursing the gods and the cruel priest who had granted them so little time.
“Damn you, Eros! And damn you, Venus! And thrice damnation to you, Valentine!”
He dropped to his knees in Carillon’s meadow and placed her gently on the ground. He would not keep her in darkness—in the everlasting night to which he’d been cursed. She would have light and warmth on her body. He would stay by her. What difference did it make now?
The sun rose higher in the sky. He shielded his eyes with his wings, but the heat seared through them. A thousand fires ignited under his skin. Was this what Carillon had endured with barely a murmur? This pain? He lowered his wings and bared his face to the sun. So these were the colors his beloved had adored so much. Such vivid hues; his eyes burned with them. Life seeped from his body, until he had no choice. He curled up on the ground next to Carillon, wrapped himself around her, and gave himself over to death. His last prayer was that Valentine would take pity on them and bury them together in the place between.
The sound of singing woke him. The gloaming had come again; the sun, a bare sliver, hung low on the horizon. He gasped, a drowning man who’d found air. He surged up, but a soft hand stopped him.
“Go slow, love. It takes a bit of getting used to.” Carillon. He spun toward the voice. Carillon?
She smiled at him, then nodded at the man standing beside her. Valentine, his face lit with a beatific smile.
“The gods are celebrating this day,” he said, “and all the stars in heaven are dancing. True love, that most precious, most wonderful, most inexplicable of gifts, is always rewarded, given time—and faith. Each of you showed yourselves willing to give everything—even your lives—to be with one another.” He stretched out his arms to the dark and to the light and to the place between. “All this now is yours. Darius, you will find much joy in the light and heat of Carillon’s love. And Carillon, you will discover the pleasures to be found in the quiet cool of the night.”
And so it was. They built their home at the edge of Malgren forest, on the banks of the Zoran River, and taught their children to clamber to the top of the Old Stone and embrace the whole of night and day.
A plaque—painted by Darius and embellished by Carillon—hung over their bed. It read, “To those who will risk all, everlasting love is the reward.”
Kat Sheridan, former project manager and business analyst, used to write specifications for new software. The powers-that-be believed these were detailed descriptions of software that would actually be produced. The computer programmers, however, considered them to be hilarious works of speculative fiction. This turn of events inspired Kat to try her hand at intentionally writing fiction (it also inspired an as-yet-to-be-realized plan to send all computer programmers on a deep-space mission to the planet Xorg).
Although she has a reputation for being a hard-bitten, whip-cracking corporate type, her brash exterior hides a secret romantic, known to wear glitter-pink nail polish under her combat boots (when she bothers wearing shoes at all). She is equally fond of bourbon and tiaras.
Kat spends summers in the north, and winters in the south. No matter where her body is, Kat’s brain can more often be found meandering through shadowy moonlit gardens and dark, haunted halls, plotting historical romances that include forbidding castles, menacing villains, and heartthrob heroes. She imagines a world where men are men, and courageous, spirited women can conquer even the toughest of them with a sultry glance, a passionate kiss, and a few well-chosen words!
After all, Kat does write fiction.