“You may laugh all you like, but think of the complications of having a rabbit for a sibling!” Jamie howled and collapsed in a helpless heap on the grass. “I’m probably related to half the rabbits in Britain by now.” There was little point in continuing the narrative until the three had laughed themselves back to normality, so Merlin helped himself to one of Jamie’s scones. He was on his second by the time the trio had settled enough to ask him to continue. “I learned much from my extended family about the ways of nature and from my father I learned to control the gifts that my parentage had given me. I had the talent for prophecy and for conversing with creatures of the Otherworld. Shape changing was more difficult to master, but my half brothers and sisters were patient teachers and I enjoyed it all.” Jamie choked but received a quelling stare from the old man. “No, before you ask, I left that to my sire.”
“You could tell them about that pretty young doe.”
“That is none of their….Oh god.”
“Not quite, but close, dear brother! Well met, Merlin!” The dismay on the old man’s face was too much for Jamie, who went off into fresh peals of laughter.
Rhea blinked in astonishment as a small figure seemed to step out of the air before her. He looked about twelve years old, but Rhea was fast learning not to make any logical assumptions. Untidy chestnut curls framed a face brimming with glee, his only garment was a strip of animal skin around his hips and about his brow was a garland of oak leaves and bright berries. Despite his apparent youth there was a disturbing and cynical quality to his face. Rhea thought it lacked humanity. He reminded her of a satyr.
“No, my lady, a satyr is not what I am.” Rhea had not spoken aloud and her silent consternation elicited a gleeful response from the newcomer.
“But satire is one of his vices,” interposed a disgruntled Merlin.
“Bravo, brother mine! Perhaps there is hope for you yet.”
“Not while you are around!” The creature greeted this sally with light laughter and Rhea decided that this battle of word and wit could have been going on for centuries. No offence seemed to be taken despite the content of the exchange and it appeared to Rhea that this was the verbal sparring of two who were not only familiar, but fond of each other too. The youth smiled wickedly at Rhea and leaned close,
“Don’t tell Merlin. He’d be terribly upset if he thought I knew that. You are most perceptive, my lady.” He sketched a mocking blow in her direction then seated himself cross legged on the grass. “Are you not going to introduce me to your flock, brother?”
Merlin glared at him.
“You will doubtless have informed yourself of their identities already,” said the old man.
“My gifts have their uses, I admit,” shrugged the youth.
“It is unusual to hear you admit to anything,” was the riposte. “Rhea, Jamie, Alec… I am afraid I must introduce my half-brother, Heilyn. You could try and guard your thoughts but it is probably quite useless to do so as he has little respect for etiquette and has probably gleaned as much as he wishes to know already.” Heilyn assumed an air of innocence completely at odds with the brilliant eyes. For some unaccountable reason Rhea found herself blushing. “You will have guessed that we share a father, but Heilyn’s mother is not human.”
“Is not?” asked Alec. Heilyn inclined his head in an uncharacteristic gesture of respect.
“My mother rules in Faery as ever. Time touches the Otherworld differently. I am actually some years older than Merlin.” Merlin muttered something unintelligible under his breath.
“How much older?” This from Jamie.
“A couple of thousands of your years or so give or take the odd century or two.” Jamie’s jaw dropped in surprise. “Consider… my father is a god, my mother immortal, my own nature determines my appearance unless I will a change. How should I look any different?”
“Heilyn,” said Rhea, beginning to comprehend, “what are you?”
“I am of the realm of Faery and of the Earth; I am the spirit of spring in the oak, the song of the brook and the flight of the lark. I am the dew on the primrose and the star in the dark. And for this time, lady, I am the servant of the Champions of Light.”
Extract from Swords of Destiny