Home > Antlered Crown (The Wild Hunt #18)

Antlered Crown (The Wild Hunt #18)
Author: Yasmine Galenorn

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

“I wish I could wear jeans and a corset for my wedding,” I whined. “If I have to go in for one more fitting, I’m going to throw a fit! They always manage to jab me with the pins.” I was tired of the endless hours the seamstresses had demanded of me. Try on the dress. Take off the dress. Try on the dress. Morgana’s seamstresses were making it, and during the past two months, I had had no less than ten fittings. But I’d given up protesting. First, it did no good. Second…well, it was part of my new role as both a goddess and a bride-to-be.

“Quit complaining,” Angel said. “Woman up. You knew going in that your wedding wouldn’t be simple, that was a given. So deal with it. You’re marrying the man of your dreams. Isn’t that worth a few jabs?”

She set down her book. Angel was learning how to speak Elvish and it turned out she was a quick study when it came to languages. And while she was at it, she was also learning Turneth and Nuva—the languages of the Dark and the Light Fae.

The past six months had been an intense roller-coaster ride of emotions, and the ride didn’t feel over yet. Ever since I had come through the Gadawnoin, the ritual that had walked me through my death from mortality into my birth as a goddess, I had floundered, not quite sure about who I was or how I fit in anymore. I loved all my friends, especially my bestie—Angel—but the ritual had slashed an unspoken chasm between us. Some days I wanted to sit in bed and cry all day.

While I didn’t regret my decision, I could never turn back, and that had caused more angst than I thought possible. People always assumed that if they were immortal they wouldn’t worry anymore, but that was far from the case. While my sense of self had expanded, a part of me had vanished and I missed her—the mortal Ember. Because, when you realized you couldn’t die, everything changed—there wasn’t the same sense of urgency.

Mostly, though, I had sequestered myself with Elta, my tutor. An Elf, she had to be several thousand years old because she had helped Morgana when she ascended to goddesshood. Elta was teaching me everything I’d need to know for my life in Annwn. Customs and decorum, the history of the Celtic gods. In fact, I had textbooks, notebooks—everything a new goddess could need to find her place among the Immortals. I was facing a solid five years of training.

“You’re positive you’re coming to live with us at Caer Briar Shore?”

Herne had let me name our new home, and I had—in a fit of romantic flair—decided to name it in honor of the sea over which it stood sentinel. The name reminded me of windswept moors and ghostly castles and all the bone-chilling tales of days gone by. Our new home was located on the edge of a cliff overlooking a massive sea, about two hundred miles from Cernunnos’s palace. In fact, we were on the other side of the stretch of the great forest of Y’Bain that was near the Forest Lord’s palace.

“For the last time, yes, I am. And so is DJ, and Cooper’s family.” Angel ducked her head, but I could hear the joy in her voice. “I’m so grateful that I get to live in the same castle as my brother. I’ve missed him so much.” She paused, then said, “How are you coping? You’ve been awfully quiet the past few days.”

I put down my own book and walked over to sit beside her in front of the massive fireplace. We were in the common room Cernunnos had assigned to Herne and me, directly off our bedroom suite. It was large and elegantly furnished, but I still felt like an outsider.

“I didn’t think it would take this long to adapt, but I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what my life is becoming.” I stared into the flames. “Seriously, I have no clue where I’m going. Or who I’ll end up becoming.”

Angel rested her hand on my arm. “How can you expect to be the same? You’re a goddess, Ember. Your mind and emotions are going to take awhile to catch up with the physical changes that have happened. Isn’t that why Morgana insisted you start seeing Sejun twice a week?”

In addition to my studies, I had entered deep therapy with Sejun because Morgana—who knew better than anybody what I was going through—had insisted.

“You’re right. And Morgana was right. It helps to talk to him. He’s talented.”

Angel blushed. I knew that she and the Elf were dating. As much as we had all liked Rafé, Sejun was a much better match for her. Elves were more conscientious and far less chaotic.

“Yeah, he is,” she murmured. “How will you see him when we move to the castle?”

I decided to drop a bit of news that she didn’t know. “You know that he’s coming to live in Briar Shore with us, right? So that I can continue my therapy?”

Angel straightened up, a smile spreading over her face. “Really?”

Laughing, I nodded. “Yeah, so you won’t have to deal with a long-distance relationship. Since Annwn doesn’t have the internet, that would be a lot harder than it was back home.” I paused, then added, “I guess I should stop calling it ‘home’…Earth is no longer my home, is it?”

“No, that world no longer belongs to any of us.” She stared at the floor, and we both sank into our thoughts.

I had tried to keep from looking back, but the knowledge that the world Angel and I had claimed for thirty-some years no longer belonged to us rankled. The dragons had taken over, and while most countries were supposedly running themselves, the truth was, the dragons were systematically insinuating themselves into every country, wresting control one city—one state—one nation at a time.

The Father of All Dragons had been locked away again, hopefully this time forever, but his children were battling over the spoils. The Celestial Wanderers and the Mountain Dreamers were fighting against the Luminous Warriors to keep them from enslaving humankind. The war raged, mostly still under a cloak of secrecy, but I didn’t hold out much hope.

“What about all of the people we knew?” I whispered.

“I hope they’re all right,” Angel said. “I miss Raven and Kipa, but at least they’re in Kalevala, safe from the dragons.”

“I miss them too. I guess we’re all scattered to the winds, though. At least for now.” So many memories, so many friends, and all at loose ends. “Did I tell you Viktor and Sheila are going to move to Caer Briar Shore? Herne appointed him head of his guard, so they’ll be there with us.”

Angel cheered. “Oh good! I thought for sure they’d stay in Eselwithe.” She settled back down on the sofa and opened her book again.

Eselwithe was the village directly outside of Cernunnos’s palace. It was a pleasant town, mostly filled with Elves, but it was hard to imagine Viktor living there with any comfort. The half-ogre did his best to fit in, but Elves could be total assholes when they chose to be.

“They considered it, but Viktor and Herne have been good friends for a long time.” I paused. “I’m not sure about Yutani, though. He seems unhappy here and his aunt told me that he misses his old life a lot. And I know Talia has been talking about going back. Anyway, I’d better get moving or the seamstresses will drag me away in chains.” I waved and headed out as Angel went back to her reading.

 

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