Is it an ornament or a digestive noose?

There are things in our day to day lives that we have no idea are harmful to our health. Ordinary things, like the pretty belt you like to wear to work, or a formal occasion, or just to keep your jeans from falling.

A few days ago my article on belts and their side effects was published on Conscious Talk Magazine, and today I’m going to share it here with you.

Please note that comments are very much welcome, either here or at the magazine, I will reply to either.


Belts: Are They An Ornament Or A Digestive Noose?

Aside from being a useful accessory for many, belts can also be considered ornaments, a final touch that adds more panache to what a person wears. Around dresses, pants, even long shirts. But these pretty ornaments are actually not as harmless as people believe. Aside from hurting the wallet….



Chapter 3 – The Bargain

Chapter Three
The Bargain…

It took Fosch a few months and about a dozen other rituals before he had purged the clan entirely from that cursed plague. It had come to be known that those who escaped the plague awoke in the morning exhausted and with three strange scars – which was true – or swore that an angel with huge feathery wings came at night to their windows and stared at them until they had been cured – which Fosch knew was not.
Only three members had died, and only because they had been too stubborn, or afraid to report the symptoms, making it too late to save them. Still, Fosch had tried, had to perform the mercy kills himself.
Those three he grieved for, but such was the way of life. There were those that lived too far for him to reach in time, even skipping dimensions – messages had to cross the ocean by ships, and when a message reached him, it was already too late.
There was also the outbreak in Siberia where the plague had killed eight members of the clan that Fosch had only heard about a few months later. He had grieved for those too. The Belochkin family had been a close acquaintance, but their deaths happened even before he had acquired the binding stones.
The clan was too big and too far out spread, he had often told the high council. They needed to split, form sub clans that responded to the head clan leader. He had, however, always been outvoted. It was only now whenever he performed the mercy kills that he hated he had been the one to suggest they vote for each major change.
Fosch kept the stones for an entire year after he’d done the last ritual before returning them to Oberon. Though he had no doubt the plague was over, if any of the members exhibited any signs of the plague, Oberon would return the binding stones to Fosch without any further demands.
“What does completion of the bargain entail?” Fosch asked Oberon, standing on the same spot where he had met him once two years past. The sky was still that vivid blue, the trees still lush and full, whispering rustling breezes behind them like the soothing caress of a beloved. The ground was as green as it could possibly be, full of crawling insects and unseen miniature life.
Oberon jiggled the pouch contemplatively, making the stones emit a surprisingly appealing sound. He took his time replying, though he had had two years to contemplate his asking price. It made the knots in Fosch’s stomach grow tighter, though his face remained passive. He had already taken steps to ensure the safety of the clan by renouncing his leadership, then made sure word travelled and reached far into the Sidhe land.
“Completion of the bargain . . . perhaps an offspring would be a fitting price.” Oberon mused, and Fosch’s stomach contents curdled. “A Dhiultadh, one strong enough to power the binding stones and still live to tell. It makes me wonder, what an offspring of yours and a Seelie would create.”
He hadn’t expected such a request, therefore, he hadn’t considered or rehearsed a convincing argument against it. A mistake, he realized now, since he was well aware of the difficulties the Sidhe faced to produce an offspring. His offspring would already have some fee blood, and a couple – maybe three generations later, that scion would be pure blooded enough to mate and produce one or two Seelie before infertility kicked in. A matter of fifty years, perhaps, and a few new Sidhe pure bloods would be created. And Fosch would be helping his enemy’s army grow. His clan would never forgive him, he thought now.
So he tried the truth, knowing Oberon had already made up his mind and there was nothing he could do about it.
“No Seelie would accept a coupling with a Dhiultadh, much less an Unseelie Dhiultadh.” Fosch pointed out reasonably.
“Nay, we would not.” Oberon agreed equably. “For that, you will produce an offspring that will be raised according to our rules and traditions, here in the Seelie land.”
Fosch’s jaws tightened, his hands wanted to fist.
“It is increasingly hard to produce an offspring. Surely, your highness, you know this.” For the Unseelie Dhiultadh, although blessed once with fertility, now faced difficulties to reproduce as well.
Oberon grunted. “You Dhiultadh are increasingly stubborn. Your better peers have not had such difficulties, for they are flexible creatures.”
Once, a long time ago, Verenastra, Titania’s daughter, met Madoc, the leader of the Unseelie court at that time, and produced with him an offspring, a daughter she named Oonagh.
Fosch’s clan were descendants of Oonagh, who had mated with no other than Finvarra, queen Maeve’s – now leader of the Unseelie – bastard child. When Madoc tried to kill Verenastra, she fled the Sidhe land and mated Tristan, the leader of the Tristan star. They bred and started a different line altogether, now called the Seelie Dhiultadh, or the Unseelie Dhiultadh’s ‘better kin’.
“Their blood is diluted.” Fosch argued without any heat. He had never been one to consider his cousin clan weaklings the way all the elders from his clan suggested, and once – during his father’s rein – he had dared to voice his opinion and almost gotten himself ostracized for it. After that particular incident had been straightened, Fosch stopped voicing his opinion, even when a debate arose – and they often did – and some of the elders aimed daring looks at him.
Yes, his mother had not been a Dhiultadh, but his parent’s marriage had been an unconventional arrangement, a way to strengthen the clan during a time of war, and even that hadn’t worked well. Fosch, the firstborn, was supposed to be a scion of the earth witch coven, but his father, the clan leader at that time had circumvented the agreement by declaring Fosch the next clan leader, which would subject Fosch’s first century to a rigorous life in training, making Fosch by default unfit for the earth witch clan.
A long, bloody feud had followed his father’s declaration, until his mother had produced another scion, Cora; a sister Fosch met only a handful of times and who now ruled over the dwindling coven. His parents were the only ‘permitted’ interspecies marriage, and not a single member of the clan protested when his ancestors, arrogant, backward leaders of the clan had decided that any interspecies marital relations would dilute their blood and decreed such thing a blasphemy. Of course, at the time of this decree, breeding hadn’t been an issue, but had in fact, been a blessing. A lot of his ancestors had more than half a dozen siblings; some even more than a dozen.
His cousin clan, the Seelie Dhiultadh on the other hand, bred more easily because of their flexibility and willingness to explore interspecies relationship, and even with this truth facing them like a bright star, the clan still refused to expand.
Fosch suspected that one day the clan would see reason – or be forced to see reason – when the Unseelie Dhiultadh number begin to dwindle into extinction.
Oberon waved a hand dismissively before placing his hands behind his back. “We talk not of the Tristan clan. An offspring is my bargaining price, Yoncey Fosch, son of Dhiultadh Bran Fosch.”
Fosch inclined his head in agreement, though his insides screamed in denial.
“But I will ease the choice for you. I want a half human scion, to breed four royals for my queen.”
Astonished, Fosch turned to him. “For you? An offspring of mine and a human for you?”
Oberon tilted his head upward, his brown eyes scrutinizing Fosch sharply. “It offends you.”
Fosch shrugged. Fulfilling his side of the bargain didn’t mean he had to like it.
Unperturbed, Oberon returned his gaze to the land before he spoke again. Though both his stance and Fosch’s were relaxed, tense energy began crackling around them. “To answer your question, not for me, nay. But I will let you know the third generation of this offspring will be Seelie enough for my queen.”
Ah, Fosch thought. A human hybrid, easy enough to produce. It, the human hybrid, would already be part fee. And it would produce four offspring’s. Each would mate and produce as many as they were able, increasing the Sidhe genes. And those would produce as many as they could. And once Queen Titania deemed them Seelie enough, she would choose the ones that showed promise, pair them with her best.
And the Seelie army would grow, Fosch thought, god knew by how many.
“For how long?” Fosch asked.
“The scion will be born and raised at court. You are allowed to visit and be presented as the sire, if you so wish. Once the four offsprings are produced, the scion can leave with you, or return to the mortal realm.”
Fosch was quiet for a long time, contemplating the asking price for his brother’s life, along with a dozen others. He found that he didn’t regret his deed, the bargain, even the asking price. No, what stuck in his craw was the human part.
He didn’t like humans, never made it a secret. Could even be why Oberon specified the human hybrid, Fosch mused.
He’d have no trouble handing over the scion, wouldn’t want to present himself as the sire.
A human hybrid. Nothing but an abomination. Easy enough to hand over, Fosch repeated to himself. To reproduce four times, it would have to be female, so any male offspring would be disregarded.
Oh, it was true that the difficulties of the Dhiultadh’s to breed extended as far as their avoidance to mate outside the clan, like their cousin clan had done long ago. Not that his cousin clan endured human hybrids, no, not at all. Even they didn’t stoop so low as to breed with a human. Yes, human hybrids were very easy to come by. In fact, it would be more troublesome to procure a worthy human to carry on his seed.
“I will need to find a suitable vessel for my seed.” Fosch finally said.
Oberon inclined his head and started moving away. Business concluded. He hoped his first offspring was female so he wouldn’t need to produce more than one, and that this female would produce four male offsprings so that Oberon wouldn’t be able to breed an army out of them.
In any case, Fosch thought gloomily, what was he supposed to do with a human hybrid after that? The clan would have no use for it, would in fact, make that scion’s life a misery of ridicule and humiliation.
Fosch paused in the forest, his head cocked to the side as if listening to some inner thought. Gongo appeared by his side, his faithful companion, still the size of a child even if he was already three hundred and fifty-six years old.
Fosch met the understanding in the shell shaped eyes of his familiar. We never agreed upon a date, he thought to his familiar, who crouched beside him.
“No, master,” it hissed in a deep, barrel tone.
Fosch laughed then, a long, booming sound that echoed around and spooked the exotic birds into flight.

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Chapter 2 – The Ritual

Chapter Two
The Ritual…

Three days after Fosch acquired the stones, he moved through the gates of his brother’s estate in Wyoming. It was located near the Yellowstone National Park, five hundred acres of prime land that bordered Idaho on the western side. Archer’s home, a sprawling two thousand and seven hundred square foot stone building was an l-shaped two-story mansion with eight spacious bedrooms luxuriously decorated. There was a pool house where the servants lived, a barn, a chicken coup, a stable with three thoroughbred stallions – one black, one white and one brown with the mane and tail the color of honey gold. The black one belonged to Archer, the other two to Arianna – Archer’s lover.
Fosch would have preferred to have come the previous night, but Gongo had reported that Arianna had been home, and so Fosch had to wait. He’d told himself if Arianna didn’t leave by the next night he’d perform the ritual in front of her, knowing she wouldn’t judge him, even if she oft guessed the lengths Fosch had taken to procure the stones. After all, she wasn’t a Dhiultadh, and so lacked the reservations they had against the Seelie and Unseelie courts. She was, in fact, friendly, if not friends, with the Sidhe land inhabitants. But Arianna had left early this morning, and Gongo hadn’t seen her come back.
What was important now was that the house was empty; the servants were back in the pool-house with Laura, the in-house assistant, asleep in her bed on the first floor.
The moment Gongo had given the all clear Fosch had left the clan’s compound, a fifty thousand acre of prime real estate just outside Bristol, Rhode Island; a ten-minute travel hopping through dimensions. He had spent the past three days in his private study, accepting only his house assistant’s presence – when, and only when, he brought Fosch’s meals and no one else. He’d gone over the ritual over and over, searched for possible different variations, made notes.
Now here he was. It was very late but he had purposefully delayed his arrival, intending to keep this mission as secretive as possible. Gongo had gone to the pool house, made sure everyone was deep asleep, had been given orders to put anyone else into a deep slumber and keep watch.
Fosch prowled into the estate like a pro thief, moving from shadow to shadow, through the unlocked front door, up the round staircase to the second floor. The lamps were still on in his brother’s room, but Gongo had never missed a trick, and Fosch slowly opened the heavy door.
The room was masculine, done in dark browns and pale yellows, the furniture heavy and thick antiques made from dark wood and sharp edges, gleaming with wood polish. The massive fireplace was unlit, clean save for a few logs strategically placed so it would be ready for use.
Archer was asleep atop the soft duvet, his chest and feet both bare, his golden hair spread unbound over the pillow. One arm was thrown over his face, the other spasmed slightly above his naked stomach. Fosch could see right away the thin, slick sheen of sweat that covered his brother’s bare torso. The windows had been left open; the room wintry cold despite it being spring outside. There was no reason for the sweat, for the bare chest, for an open window . . . for an unlit fire.
His brother was truly sick, Fosch realized with a jolt. Until that moment he had been hoping he was wrong, that his brother’s snappish mood and extra hour of sleep hadn’t been symptoms of the plague but a reaction to something else.
Now, with the truth staring him in the eye, he knew he couldn’t fail here. How long did his brother have? How did this plague work, exactly? Why was every individual affected in a different way?
Fosch approached the bed slowly, his steps muffled by the thick winter rugs that still covered the gleaming wood planks. An empty glass lay sideways on the stand, a pair of forgotten earrings sat beside it. It was the only feminine touch he could see in the room.
For an instance, Fosch just stood there, watching the lines of the parts he could see from his brother’s face.
He didn’t look peaceful asleep, he thought. A half-formed snarl marred his lips; his fingers spasmed; the veins on his neck stood at attention.
He looked like a man on the verge of rage.
With a steady hand Fosch took the prick syringe and injected the horse sedative into Archer’s bicep. Archer’s arm lowered, his eyes opened a moment and a growl passed his lips. Then confusion entered his eyes before they glazed, the snarl died. Archer’s arm fell off the bed, and Fosch gently placed it over his naked stomach. Fosch then unlaced the small pouch with the herbs and roots he had mashed together, dipped a small paintbrush into the sharp smelling concoction.
It took Fosch the better part of an hour to perfectly draw all the sigils on Archer’s chest, forehead, abdomen, and then inlay each sigil with a power rune. He’d practiced the precision of the work last night, not wanting to have to draw the symbols more than once and risk smudging the work. The size of the sigil should be precise, balanced in a way that it could accommodate the smaller size of the runes and binding stones without touching one another.
Fosch placed the exotic binding stones on the middle of each rune, pricked his finger with a sharp scalpel-like talon and trapped the symbols inside a blood circle. He had to slice his finger a few times to keep on the flow.
It was a simple enough task, to trap the energy within the circles, a basic ritual his mother had taught him when he was just a boy.
He circled next the sigil on Archer’s chest, started from the top and moved clockwise, then the third one on the forehead. Chakra points, three of the major seven. Once every sigil had been circled, he placed one more stone, the opposite stone from the one inside the circle, out of the circle, facing north. Blue for the red stone, green for the yellow, white for the black.
When every symbol had been drawn, bound and powered, Fosch began pulling energy from his body, directing it at the outer stones, which in turn would mirror energy on the inner stones and awaken them. The sigils, healing symbols his mother rarely had occasion to use, would travel through Archer’s entire body and ‘herd’ whatever unhealthiness lived within the body, pulling it back into the circle. He added the containment rune to focus the plague in the middle of the sigil, where each stone would absorb the bad blood or vibes. He hoped the plague was an ethereal thing, something that wouldn’t need to draw blood, as he had read that drawing blood into a healing circle could be as fatal as the disease itself. Since his only other choice was to let the plague take on its deadly course, he chose to take a chance with the binding stones and the ritual.
Once the inner stone had received enough bad energy – or blood – the outer stone would circle around the bloody circle and contain the stone and keep it from overloading and exploding. He had never done this before, hadn’t found the ritual written anywhere in his mother’s journal, his grandmother’s from his mother’s side, or his great-grandmother’s. Or in any of the dusty journals he had found. But there were mentions here and there, a partial containment for the black fever, a healing sigil for the evil snake fordra – whatever that was – and of course, the binding ritual the Seelie used to banish a treasonous Seelie into their elemental form.
Archer twitched, but otherwise didn’t move, didn’t alter his rhythmic breathing. On and on Fosch pulled from his energy, sent it to the binding stones, which in turn awoke the runes, then the sigils – until he began to feel dizzy. He slowed then, knowing if anyone walked in they would find his eyes glowing orange, his hair standing up as if electrocuted, see Archer’s bloody, prone body, see the blood that was beginning to ooze slowly from his nose, his ears, his closed eyes like colored tears, and assume Fosch was performing a ritual attack on his own brother.
Fosch didn’t let this concern him. He kept pushing energy into the stones until they too took on an iridescent glow.
It was working, Fosch thought with hope and renewed adrenaline. He doubled his efforts, felt the world spin once, braced his legs apart for better balance. When the world spun again, he felt Gongo press against his leg, offer some of his energy. Fosch took it, took it all.
For hours he worked, until the center stones floated like mini stars above each rune, and the outer stones orbited around them, never altering from their steady rhythm. Only then did Fosch stop the energy flow, swaying as he pricked a finger, touched a bloodied tip to the blue glowing stone, picked it up before it fell back onto his brother’s body. The red stone – the middle one immediately started to fall, and Fosch snatched it before it hit the middle of the rune again. There was blood and enough energy for Fosch to realize the plague had been both ethereal and corporal, something he’d have to research later on. He placed the binding stones – now glowing madly like colored stars – into the warded pouch Oberon had provided for him, then cleaned his brother up. There was nothing he could do about the small wounds that were left behind from the ritual, but suspicion was a small price his brother would have to pay for his good health.
The clean-up took another hour, another sedative, and by then the sky was beginning to clear. He left no traces of his visit behind, no drop of blood, no symbols, no scents but that of ozone, and the small dash-like wounds he knew Archer would wonder about his entire existence, even after he could no longer see them.
When a fresh wave of dizziness made Fosch stop, brace a hand on the wall to balance himself, Fosch conceded that perhaps he should have confessed his plans to Arianna, since she too could power the runes. Better than him, since she didn’t need to pull energy from herself, but could manipulate lost energy as well, pulling it from the environment . . . into herself, into a work in progress, or just redirect it to wherever she wished. She was a being of energy, out from a planet billions of light years away, and Fosch was glad there were only two others like her. They were dangerous beings, capable of unintentionally killing entire planets – as they had done once when they first fell through the portal. But despite all of Arianna’s faults, she was a loyal creature, one willing to die for those she loved, and Fosch sometimes suspected that Archer might be one of them. Other times He pitied Archer for his love, for he, an outsider to the drama, understood Archer and Arianna would never mate, because they weren’t equals in any way. Although Archer was no weakling, she was stronger than him by leagues. Indeed, Archer was a formidable man, strong, capable, fair and just. He was one of a very few who Fosch admired, respected, called an equal. It was why the knowledge of the plague infecting him hit Fosch the hardest.
Gongo pressed against Fosch’s leg, still invisible, and Fosch sensed his worry and anxiety, so he sent him a reassuring thought.
Nothing a good sleep wouldn’t cure, he told his faithful friend and pushed himself from the wall.


Chapter 1 – The Secret

Chapter 1
The Secret…

Yoncey Fosch was a cunning man. A fee – or a Dhiultadh – a half one, since his mother had been a notorious earth witch. He was a man of many qualities, excellent attributes. He was ridiculously rich, having had centuries upon centuries of accumulated wealth bestowed upon him by his grandfather, his father, and his late mother. He was ridiculously handsome, having inherited both the charms of his pure-blooded father and his beautiful gypsy mother. He had dark hair that brushed soft waves about his shoulders, dark eyes surrounded by thick lashes that gave him a dreamy, romantic look, a poet’s nose, and a sculpted mouth. He was tall, broad, sharp. He was an undefeatable sword master; remarkably accurate with a crossbow; the clan’s champion with an arc and arrow, having won fifty archery competitions in the past two decades. He was a master in martial arts, being the head sensei for the scions in his clan. He was even handy with the more modern weapons, though he had no taste for guns.
From his earth witch mother, he had inherited the ability to power runes, sigils, glyphs. He learned to control them, to imbue them on living and dead things, to keep them hidden from clever eyes, though this tidbit was never shared with a soul but his mother. From his father he learned to hunt, to shift, to fly, to rule. His wisdom came both from his parents and the long life he had led. All in all, Yoncey Fosch not only was a blessed being and a production of good genes, but a power to be reckoned with.
He had a younger sister no one remembered, and whose circumstance had kept him away from, a half brother and a half sister from his father’s side, along with a stepsister – from his father’s third marriage – and a half aunt from his mother’s side, though this particular juicy detail wasn’t common knowledge.
He was clan leader of the Unseelie Dhiultadh, where he ruled with an iron fist and a warm heart. He was loved by everyone and everything, including the trees and animals. One of the latter even had willingly bound himself to him, giving his master his loyal devotion, and at the end, his life.
He was a man of few words and many wisdoms, a charming charisma. But on that spring of 1822, Yoncey Fosch was anything but smart. On the contrary, he was a desperate man, a grieving man.
He moved briskly through the forbidden land, the Sidhe land, a man with an urgent agenda, a heavy heart and a frantic need. The trees, giant billowing things, rustled and whispered words he didn’t listen, didn’t care to hear. He had a purpose, a goal, a fool’s errand. Yes, he was aware of the horrendous mistake he was about to commit. But he had no other choice. Were his mother alive, he would never need such an atrocious favor.
The animals of this land knew him, recognized a native, though this was no longer his world. Two-headed creatures watched his progress curiously, rabbit-like hoppers moved along with him, their tales long, reptilian things that helped them jump to the high branches and move through the canopies with ease. His familiar, a young shadow he had fed a traitor once upon a time, stirred uneasily, unseen in his higher dimension. Fosch sensed it, wanted to reassure his long-time companion, but he too felt uneasy, sick to his stomach, even if he was determined to carry this mission through. A bird of disproportional size sang a surprisingly melodious song high above the green, quickly joined by other birds. Fosch barely paid attention, his eyes fixed on the clearing he could make up ahead. It was a secret meeting, a condition both parties had agreed upon. Already he could make out the silhouette of the man, standing in the middle of the clearing watching some unseen bird, or just the beautiful sky. The clearing, a place for peace counseling, was warded against dimensional hops, as safe as the Seelie castle itself from intruders or direct attacks.
Fosch emerged into the clearing with a sure step; a warrior leader confident of his place, aware that none of the anxiety and turmoil he felt showed through. The sky was a vivid blue bowl, like nothing he had seen anywhere in any of the worlds. Had it not been for the grim moment and the high fee royalty, standing with arms crossed a few feet away, Fosch would have stopped to admire the beauty of the sky and land.
He had come unarmed, also a condition, one he met with honor. He didn’t consider Gongo – his familiar – a weapon, but a friend, one he knew Oberon was aware of.
Fosch paused four feet away from the Seelie consort. Anything closer would be construed as an insult and Fosch hadn’t asked for this meeting to quarrel.
Oberon raised his arrogant chin at Fosch in acknowledgement. “Fosch.”
Fosch returned the chin raising. “Oberon.” Though the fee royalty looked like an ordinary man of medium size and average stature, Oberon was anything but. A truth that could be gleaned by the straight posture, the agile way he moved, the cunning in his deep brown eyes, if one cared to look. Or by the sword, for Oberon’s swordsmanship was beyond excellent. He was a champion among the best. Fosch had once sparred with him in a duel for the best swordsman, and hours later they had to call it off because both men had duties to attend.
“Let us walk.” Oberon motioned to the other end of the clearing before he turned and began moving toward the tree line, hands clasped behind his back like a tutoring teacher. Without a word, Fosch stepped beside him, shortening his steps to accommodate Oberon’s shorter ones. Both men strolled silently, their faces calm expressions. They looked like two colleagues taking a companionable walk through the woods.
They entered the woods once again, moved more than a mile through the peaceful, green twilight before emerging atop a gently, lazily sloping hill where the trees ended. Both men regarded the land like the finest of arts.
The grass under their feet was crisp and green, crunching underneath their weight. A lonely cloud hung up above, white and heavy, while the sun shone brightly, softly cooled by a fragrant breeze.
“Rosalinda passed away last night.” Fosch finally spoke, words of grief in a land of beauty and serenity. It almost felt like blasphemy, to mar the air with such words of sadness.
No doubt catching on the note of grief, Oberon tilted his head to the side, focused at a point far in the horizon. “A clan subject?” he asked. “Merely not just so.” He added in a speculative tone.
Rosalinda wasn’t just a member of the clan, she was the half aunt nobody could know, so Fosch merely shrugged, saying nothing. His mission would reveal more than he was comfortable revealing anyway.
A darting two-headed animal passed by them, close enough for Oberon to touch. Oberon followed the animal’s progress down the hill with his eyes, giving Fosch time to compose his request.
He was shorter than Fosch by at least a foot, leaner by at least fifty pounds, but lacked none of the presence and charisma.
“The plague?” Oberon prompted. Had it been any other Dhiultadh, Oberon would have walked away, considered his precious time not worth the Dhiultadh’s comfort. But Fosch was a man of his words, loyal and honest to a fault, considerate and yet a fearsome ruler; qualities not easily found. One or two, perhaps, but not all of them in one, as Oberon had witnessed many rulers who had once been loyal and fair becoming corrupt by their position of power. But Fosch had been a leader for many centuries now, and his good qualities remained. Had he not been a Dhiultadh, Oberon would have admired him. Furthermore, he was an excellent opponent, one Oberon enjoyed. If it weren’t for Fosch’s heritage, Oberon could have called him a friend. But he was a Dhiultadh, rejected from the Sidhe land, once half Seelie, half Unseelie. Or a quarter of each, since one half of him was an earth witch. Oberon had grieved over Fosch’s mother, Odra, and her tragic death, felt the loss of a good spirit pass by. He had offered his condolences, and his queen’s, in person to Fosch.
Fosch grunted his response to Oberon’s simple question. “Ay, the plague.” It was a mysterious disease, appearing so gradually that one didn’t even notice the symptoms until it was too late. A shiver, a scratch, a choking cough that cut off as abruptly as it started. A half hour of extra sleep, an extra glass of water. Then there was the rage. First just snappish remarks, then arguments that made no sense. Then the killing spree no one could calm without cutting the throat or – with his beloved Aunt Rosalinda’s case – the entire head.
So far, he had lost eleven members.
“Ah.” Oberon said, understanding all he needed from that single word. “You are sure?” he asked, glancing at Fosch for the first time to gauge his response.
“He slept in yesterday. Snapped mad when I asked about it.”
“Ah.” Oberon’s single word carried a world of understanding. Gerome Archer, Fosch’s half-brother.
Both men returned their gazes to the blue sky, contemplating what their few words meant in a bigger scheme.
“What is it you want?”
“The binding stones.”
Now Oberon turned to face him, his friendly brown eyes searching. “You wish to banish the plague?”
Fosch shrugged a shoulder. He was reaching, but he assumed he had to do something, and his year of research had brought forth no fruit. “The plague is a force, an external one. My mother has taught me enough to give me a rudimentary understanding of the binding stones.” A lie, a simple one, but Oberon didn’t need to know how much Fosch had been taught about the court’s ritualistic ways. “I will use it in reverse, bind his inner strength to him, banish whatever is left.”
Oberon was thoughtful for a few moments. Fosch let him be, knowing he’d have to convince him one way or the other. He’d give anything for a chance to save his younger brother, anything at all. Torture, a limb, servitude. He’d give his own life for any of his brothers, particularly Gerome, but his life was something he’d give to a number of people.
“The binding stones may or may not work.” Oberon finally cautioned.
Fosch let out a relieved sigh, though he was in no way in position of the stones yet. “It is the only choice I have at the moment. I welcome any suggestions.”
“I have none. My people suffer no mortal disease.” It was a condescending rebuke, one given without mockery or derision. Oberon studied Fosch’s face a moment, the strong set of his jaws, the clear, steady gaze, saw no uncertainty in his eyes, hadn’t expected any. “There will be a price, Yoncey Fosch, son of Dhiultadh Bran Fosch. Are you willing to pay?”
Though his stomach jumped in agitated anxiety, Fosch nodded once. It went against his better judgment, all he was, to bargain with a royal fee, with Queen Titania’s consort no less.
“Then, Dhiultadh Yoncey Fosch, we will meet again in the stone circle – when the sun touches the horizon with gold and red hues.” Both men glanced up at the sky, the sun already making a slow descent to the other side. Fosch calculated a few hours at best.
Without a word, both men turned in different directions. Now, Fosch had to go pour over his mother’s journals and find the right sigils and glyphs to use. Perhaps a few runes to ground the work. Even if he already had an idea of the ritual he was going to perform, the herbs he would need, the roots he would pick, he would go read his mother’s vast journals once more, make sure he wouldn’t be missing a step, or adding an unnecessary one.
By god, he vowed to himself, he would do this right, no matter what it cost him.