Etienne paused within the cold-flame-wreathed rift, within this liminal place between realms. Before him lay the Mortal Realm, and behind him, Faerie. He had spent weeks seeking a rift to pass through. He had wandered alone, his body aching with the agony of knife and fire that still wracked each step. His mind aching with the sting of humiliation, desperation, and betrayal. He had endured it all, looking for this passage—this escape. But now, he paused
There was nothing for him among the mortals. Not anymore. Not since his beloved Bess had died. Not since the plague that had robbed him of her sweetness, of her kisses.
Of their children.
But behind him he was a hunted man, scarred by his enemies. By his sidhe step-father. Scarred by his allies for his own protection, because a sidhe magician had carved spell glyphs into his flesh—glyphs of compulsion and control—and the only remedy was to brand dwarven runes over each and every one
And still his step-father hunted him. Still he could not rest.
That was the thought that propelled him forward, even as pain knifed through his chest. He had not set foot in the Mortal Realm since losing her. Losing them. Losing everything. But Bess would not want him to die at his step-father’s hands. She would want him to live, even as hollow as his existence had become.
He would persist for her.
With that, he shouldered the pack over his raw shoulders and threw his lot in with the mortals.