QSFer Angel Martinez has a new MM fantasy book out, book four in the Endangered Fae series: No Fae Is An Island.
Diego’s world refused to stand still in his absence. Now he’s no longer sure of his place in it.
Three years ago, Danu banished Diego from the human world for a time. Three years and three days doesn’t seem that long to be away from home but time among the wild fae can change a man and the human world returns the favor by changing while he’s gone. There’s a vampire on Tearmann Island’s security force. A curious selkie’s followed him home. So much to do to keep the world safe…but Diego’s no longer sure he has the right to interfere.
Theo Aguilar started his vampire life on the wrong side of the law. He’s killed and knows he’s dangerous if he doesn’t stay in control every moment. But the fae took him in and Prince Lugh has given him a position of trust. So when Diego and Finn are arrested on a diplomatic mission far from home, he knows his duty. He’s striking out on his own to rescue them, a lone vigilante once again, this time for the good guys. The only glitch? The selkie, Limpet, can’t seem to understand the alone part.
Publisher’s Note: This book was previously released elsewhere. It has been reedited for release with Pride Publishing.
Classification: Dual-nature fae shifter
Appoquinimink social scale: 7
The sidhe are arguably the most ancient fae race, suggested by their creation of the Veil between the worlds. Each sidhe possesses a dual animal-fae nature, exhibiting behaviors associated with that animal even in fae form. While they are social fae with a complex, closed-group structure, over the centuries they have adopted other beings into their court system, even certain humans.
The Compendium of the Magically Sensitive, 4th Edition, Dr. Nathan Cooper
Late-morning sun glinted off the rainbow sand. Diego let the grains run through his fingers, smiling at the tropical-bright shades. Once, he would have wondered at the colors. By now, he knew that the rocks under the restless sea weren’t gray, as they were at home, but painted in riotous brilliance. He had swum in these waters and seen it for himself. Why this was, no one could tell him. There seemed to be no geological explanation because the Otherworld often refused to conform to such trivial things as science.
Though the dragon lord would have an explanation.
Squinting, Diego searched the waves for the sleek, black shapes leaping and arrowing through the surf. It wasn’t fair to say the Otherworld had no natural laws. They simply followed different paths. In three years, a man could learn enough to know he would need several hundred more to claim he understood them.
He stood and brushed the sand from his skin. It’ll be strange to wear clothes again. Some of the black heads turned toward him and he raised an arm to wave the pod to shore. In a gleeful surge, the seals became their own wave, barking and cavorting up the beach, an impending onslaught of noise and joy.
The first of the pack reached the sand, flippering their way out of the foam, all so alike and yet he knew them. Whelk with the gray spot on his nose. Lyonsia with her slender flippers. Murex with his overlarge eyes. Limpet with the white scar on the side of his head.
In the middle of the pod, a larger seal, coal black and shining, galumphed along, barking and nudging at the rest. Oh, yes, he knew that one, too.
The seals stopped on the sand, bumping into one another, complaining and barking seal laughs. As if shot, they suddenly flopped over on their sides, while the larger one in the center reared up on his tail, a blue glow surrounding him. His flippers elongated. His tail began to separate.
Disturbing enough, if one had never seen such things, but the seals on the sand did something far more distressing. The fur on their abdomens split in a neat line from chin to tail. The slits grew as the seals wriggled and squirmed, their skins wrinkling as if they were suddenly loose. Feet and hands emerged from the openings and the pod transformed into a group of selkies standing or kneeling to wriggle the rest of the way out of their sealskins.
The one in the center had no sealskin to shed, a lone pooka standing hipshot in their midst, watching their more arduous transformations with poorly concealed amusement. The ocean back home would have made him ill, but the oceans of the Otherworld, abiding by their own laws, affected him only after several hours of swimming. Here, he could live among marine people and play to his heart’s content.
“I could have devoured the lot of you by now.” Finn made a snapping motion at the nearest selkie, who reached over and smacked him on the back of the head.
“You could never, Fionnachd,” she said on a laugh. “You would talk us to death first.”
“And we’d be back in our skins and out to sea before you could even finish chewing on Limpet,” the tallest male added as he kicked sand at Finn.
Limpet, the youngest, made a strangled sound. “Me? Fionnachd would never…would you?”
He clutched his sealskin to his chest, black eyes huge in shocked recrimination. Lean and sleek like his pod mates, wild unruly hair the shifting color of waves falling to his waist, Limpet did his best to appear wounded. He ruined it by snickering as he compressed his sealskin into as small a parcel as possible and tucked it into the little marsupial-like pouch on the side of his right thigh.
“Never.” Finn ruffled his hair. “I would much rather eat Cerith, who has a bit of meat on his bones.”
Cerith pounced and knocked Finn to the ground, which only encouraged a selkie pile. All the wrestling kicked up more sand and Diego waited until they had expended enough energy to collapse into a giggling heap.
“Mi vida?” he finally ventured. “We should probably start on our way.”
Finn’s dark head popped up from the selkie pile. “So soon?”
“Don’t you want to go home?”
“Of course! But right this moment?” Finn struggled to free himself from the tangle of naked limbs.
“People might worry.”
“Oh, bother.” Finn stepped through sprawled selkies with astounding grace. “I suppose there will be anxious handwringing if we’re not there on time. We can fly, though? None of this paddling upstream in a boat nonsense?”
Diego turned his gaze inland, his heart aching at the thought of home. His time among the wild fae had taught him so much, but three years without the company of another human was a long time. There were people he longed to see, dear friends and family. The terrible memories still haunted him, though, the guilt still sharp inside him.
He wasn’t certain he was ready to face the world again. He was even less certain if the world would want him back. I could always return here, I suppose.
The selkies picked themselves up to hug Finn one last time. Then they scampered up the beach to smother Diego in warm embraces as well. He turned to find Limpet at his elbow, with the selkie holding Diego’s pack out to him.
“Are the waves there like ours, Light Wielder? Do the humans swim? Is it true that there are boats larger than kraken?”
Selkies, like most fae, had few children. Limpet was the only child born to the pod after the Veil had closed. Even though he was over a hundred and fifty years old, he had yet to visit the human world.
“They are.” Diego took his pack and zipped it closed. “Many do. And all Finn has told you is true, oddly enough.”
Finn gave an offended sniff. “The human world needs no embellishment. It’s quite unbelievable all on its own.”
“Yes. Sometimes.” Diego managed a smile, tamping down on the melancholy threatening like a summer squall. “How shall we go? Dragon?”
Instead of answering, Finn gave him a wink and walked off a few steps. He dropped his head back and spread his arms, a sign that he was shifting into one of his less usual forms. His body increased in size as he pulled magic and mass from the world around him, his limbs changing, his neck stretching. For a moment, Diego was certain the gleaming black hide and four limbs would resolve into Finn’s version of a dragon after all, but then the ends of Finn’s new feet resolved into hooves.
Diego stared, slack-jawed, as the familiar pooka horse took shape but with one astounding difference. Enormous black wings fanned out on either side of powerful flanks. Finn flapped those huge appendages a few times, raising tiny sand devils. Despite his horsey face, he managed to look smug as he settled his wings against his back.
“I didn’t know you could do…that.”
Finn stamped a hoof. “I’ve learned things, too, bucko. Did you think I was sleeping all this time you were receiving instruction?”
“No, but…” Diego waved a hand at him, trying to find an appropriate word. “You’re magnificent.”
“My heartfelt thanks.” Finn bent a foreleg in an elegant equine bow. “Your steed awaits. Though you may wish to wrap your beautiful bits in something. Cold aloft.”
Diego laughed as he pulled the blue kilt and a blanket from his pack. This was their gift to him, his lesson from the selkies, his ability to laugh again. He still caught himself sometimes. That he had no right to make such a happy sound nagged at him, but it was a normal, human thing to do, despite and sometimes because of tragedy.
After everything he had done, everywhere he had been, he was still human.
He closed up the pack again, slung it on his back and climbed up onto Finn. They had a moment’s clumsy maneuvering as Diego puzzled out where to put his feet. By sliding up toward Finn’s neck and tucking his feet up, though, he managed to keep them out of the way of those shining black wings.
Lyonsia, the selkie matriarch, put her hand on his calf. Her seal black eyes shone up at him, so familiar and alien at once. “Listen, Light Wielder, and I will tell you a truth.”
“The oceans of both worlds understand regret. They are mother and destroyer, bringers of joy and despair. Their deep, dark places and restless natures contain all of time’s regrets and they have room for more. Always room. Ever shifting. Ever sifting. Give yours to the waves as we have done. It is a stone you drag behind you. If you cannot cut it loose, you will drown.”
“Someday, maybe. Thank you. For letting me stay with you a while. For all you’ve done for me.”
Cerith let out a deep, barking laugh. “Oh, yes, we let you fish for us and let you bring us a new playmate. We are so very generous.”
“I’ll miss you. Come to the sidhe lands and through the door to visit me. I’d be happy to see all of you,” Diego offered.
The selkies shifted uncomfortably, looking away or at the sand. “Perhaps someday. When the oceans of the human world are quieter again.”
He gave a final wave then clung tight to Finn’s mane as the pooka-Pegasus leaped skyward. The knot of selkies grew gradually smaller below, some of them turning to embrace their neighbors. Diego wondered if they wept.
* * * *
“What is it? The Light Wielder left it.” Limpet held out the strange hide case to his father.
Cerith took it and turned it over. “It’s called a ‘knife’. An extra sharp tooth for humans to use since their teeth are flat like deer.”
“We should take it to him, shouldn’t we? Won’t he need it? How far of a swim is it? If he needs it to eat, why haven’t I seen it before?”
“I didn’t say he needed it to eat,” Cerith said with an exasperated chuckle. “I’m sure he has others. You keep that one as a remembrance.”
Limpet turned the long, razor-clam-shaped case in his hands as he wandered down the beach. It wasn’t a gift. Isn’t keeping it the same as theft? Why couldn’t we go find him and give it back? What are they all so frightened of?
The pod’s hesitance over returning to the human world both puzzled and irked him. They had been there. They had seen it, but they wouldn’t give him the chance. This was certainly not the first time he had asked.
He fiddled with his scarred right ear as he let the waves lap over his toes, his resolve growing. He wasn’t a child any longer. Perhaps he would never reach his father’s height or Whelk’s breadth of shoulder, but he was grown, by all the water goddesses. If he wished to see the world, he would simply do it. The door lay in the sidhe court lands. Everyone said so. If he swam up the Alainn, he would reach those lands and the door to the human world, or so he’d been told.
He glanced back at the pod, getting ready to settle in for the night. Perhaps, though, it will be best if I wait until it’s dark so no one sees me go.
The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.