When last we visited our doomed couple, they were attempting to make a go of it. They know there will never be a Grand Passion, but they believe they still have a solid foundation upon which they can build a successful marriage.
But is there? There is definitely lust, that we know. What about friendship? Is there the friendship and respect necessary to carry them through those times when lust is not enough?
Thomas wanted a honeymoon; Celeste did not. Today, we discover why she wanted to go straight to his country estate, Summer Haven.
And so, it continues…
Tell me about your home, Thomas. Is it grand?” Celeste leaned forward, peering at Thomas in the dim light. She grew increasingly nervous the longer they travelled, and sought to allay those nerves.
Thomas seemed distracted, worried perhaps. When he answered her many questions throughout the journey, it was with as few words as possible. This one, however, seemed to catch him off guard as he considered it before answering. “Grand? Well, I suppose it is. Summer Haven is nothing next to Spirit of the Forest, which belongs to the Duke of Dalrymple, but it’s a far sight better than many you will find elsewhere.”
“Such unusual names, Thomas. Tell me why you chose the name Summer Haven? Well, I suppose an ancient predecessor chose it.” Am I babbling, she asked herself before deciding: Yes. Yes I am.
“We did not actually choose the name. It was given to us back in… Oh, the early 13th century, I believe.”
“Has the land not always been called Summer Haven, perhaps?” Celeste’s chest hitched as she gulped in the stale air of the carriage. Her instincts told her she had been correctly informed: this marriage would take her home.
“My very distant great-grandfather, Ulric, saved this forest from a great threat. His reward was the title and the lands. He built Summer Haven Court from the ground up.”
Well, that was not very forthcoming, was it?
“My people used to weave stories about this home of yours. The Eternal Forest they call it; home of the Fae.” Looking at him through lowered lashes, she added, “My Nan once told me of dragons living here.”
Thomas looked directly at her at that, eyes widened in shock, and she knew the tales to be truth. He gave away his emotions too easily. The prophecy would come true, after all: one day, the Forest would echo with the laughter of the True People, exiled no more. If only I could let Nan know, she thought.
A hum in her ear told her Nan already knew.
“How do your people know of the forest?”
“Once, it was our home. Before the Romans. Before the Celts. Before even the Fae.”
“Impossible.” Thomas was giving her the Look. The one that suggested she had just told him the sky was purple, or that she had sprouted a second head. “The Fae have always been here. They were the First.”
“I’m sorry, Thomas but that isn’t true. I am of this land; a part of it just as you are.” Reaching out, she touched his knee soothingly. “Let me tell you why my people named your lands Summer Haven, my husband.”
Recounting the story as passed down by Nan, Celeste gave the history of the Eternal Forest. Thomas listened in silence, reeling from the similarities. The story he had learned at his mother’s knee told of the Fae, their crafty ancestors, discovering the utopia after being tossed from their own lands.
Celeste spoke to him of a darker history than he recalled, however. One of war, of death and destruction. She told him of a history where her people lived in the forest, crafting the very spells creating the eternal summer; living in peace, tucked away from threats of Outsiders. Until the day they took in a people with no land of their own. She told him how the people they rescued then turned on their saviors, ousting them from the forest, often at the threat of death.
Shaking his head, Thomas refused to believe it could be true. “No. I cannot believe you, Celeste. First of all, my people are peaceful; we would never do that. Second, the land only looks to be in perpetual summer; we still experience the colds of autumn and winter.”
“That is the crafting of my people, as well. The prophecy foretold one of my people returning to the land. But only with the true joining of people will the land heal itself, and return to eternal summer.”
“Then how do you explain the differences in our stories? Why did my mother not mention your people?”
Celeste looked at him, and he swore there was pity in her eyes. How dare she!
“Our stories differ, Thomas, because the land was only abandoned once. It was stolen the next time the tale wove its way through the Akashic records.”
“That does not explain why there is no mention of your people.” Damn it. Her reasoning made sense.
“It is the way of the world, husband. History is written not by the loser, but rather the victor.” Celeste shrugged as if it meant nothing.
Perhaps it really does mean nothing. No matter who was first, we were last. And she and I will bring back the eternal summer. I will be Elder by then.
The next few minutes were spent in relative silence. Celeste knew Thomas was digesting her words; likely, he was searching for a way to turn the prophecy in his favor. That damned title would be the death of him.
“I suppose this explains your eagerness to accept my offer.” Thomas broke the silence first, bringing them both back to their present situation; married, and on their way home. “Shall I expect to soon be overrun with the rest of your people?”
“There are no more of my people, Thomas. The life of an exiled traveller is hard. Unlike many of our brethren, we no longer had a place to call home. We had nowhere to stop and regroup; we were constantly on the move.” Sadness overwhelmed her as she remembered losing her Nan, the last of her Clan.
“For that, I offer my condolences, Celeste. No one should ever be the last of any family.” Looking through the side window, he said, “Come. No tears, wife. You are home.”
Following his gaze, Celeste caught her first sight of the Eternal Forest. In her heart, she knew his words held Truth. She was Home. The trees sang through her, pulsing with the beat of her heart. The waters of the forest flowed through her blood. Home; finally.
“Can you stop at the Ancient Tree?” She asked, referring to the oldest living tree in the forest. Possibly the oldest tree in all of Britain. She needed to pay her respects before anything else.
Thomas conveyed the new directions to his young driver, no questions asked.
It was another half hour before the carriage reached the edge of the meadow at the center of the large forest, but once again – Celeste knew where she was before the coach pulled to a stop. She could hear the whispers of the trees welcoming her to the Sacred Meadow.
Without waiting, Celeste opened the door and bounced out of the carriage. She felt like a child getting her first pony.
No thoughts of propriety to caution her, Celeste ran across the meadow, straight to the ancient oak. Big enough that thirty or more could stand round it, the tree towered over everything, reaching high up into the sky. Home.
Bird song filled the air around her as a gentle breeze rustled her loose curls. Her Nan once again hummed in her ear; content that the last of her people had finally come back to the Tree.
Running a hand over the rough bark, Celeste felt a surge of life course through her. Many thousands of years old, the tree cried out, need giving voice to the years of neglect.
Turning to Thomas, who had peered out of the carriage as the eerie screech filled the air around them, she cried. Swiping angrily at the tears slicking down her face she said, “How could you?”
Thomas rushed to her side, concern drawing his brows together. “What is it? Are you ill?”
“Not I — the tree. Oh Thomas, how could this happen? Had I not come, the tree would have died. And with it, all the forest. My people gave their blood for this tree, and your people have neglected your duties.”
“It looks perfectly healthy to me.” Once again, THomas was giving her The Look.
“Looks can be deceiving.” A musical voice broke into their conversation.
Walking toward the tree, the beautiful young girl with the musical voice spoke again, “Not even my touch could help the tree. Your wife is right, Thomas; the tree would die had she not come.”
“Who are you?” Thomas asked, dropping her hand to speak to the stranger. He had eyes only for this girl with curls of fire. And in that instant, Celeste saw the fall of her carefully planned, perfectly cordial marriage.
For this slight girl was the Dragon Bride. She, too, had come home.