A Kiss of Shadows – Chapter 24: Introducing Count Drac, I mean, Cel

 
Chapter 24  begins with Merry and Co arriving at the faerie mounds, the sithen. It is October, and the fall chill is in the air. Merry loves fall in the Midwest. She misses seasons, the change of colors, the smell of fall, because she does not get this in LA. She wishes that she had come back to Faerie under better conditions, because she would take the time to enjoy her favorite month around her friends and family.
 
Galen reminisces about taking Merry and her brownie friend Keelin trick-or-treating every year until they were to old for it. However, Merry tells him that she continued to take Keelin and herself trick-or-treating for years after by using her power of glamour. Barinthus is impressed by this – most sidhe would not be powerful enough to hide Keelin from humans.

While they’re reminiscing, they come across Prince Cel. He’s dressed like fucking Dracula.
This is how I’ve always pictured Cel. You’re welcome.
He’s tall, with long straight black hair and pale skin. He’s wearing all black and a long black duster jacket. He’s flanked by his right-hand guard, his guard’s captain, Siobhan. She’s on the shorter side with long silvery grey and white hair and dull grey skin. She wore full battle armor. Cel reveals that Siobhan feared that Merry may have grown in power during her self exile, but says she is silly to worry. Cel is not aware that Merry has come into her hand of power.
 
Cel also reveals he’s hiding something from Merry – Keelin, her best friend. Cel is holding onto Keelin’s leash, and she is crouching at his feet. She had apparently become Cel’s “pet”, which could happen in two ways: the queen could give her enemies to Cel for him to “play with”, or one of the lesser fey could volunteer to become his pet for a chance to become a member of the court. Because, again, the court is the most important thing and it’s totally okay to debase yourself until you’re led around on a leash and tortured constantly to try to get in.
 
Merry crouches down to talk to Keelin. Meanwhile, Cel is just outright fondling her while Merry tries to talk to her. Cel begins responding for Keelin – she had volunteered herself to be Cel’s pet, to join the court and hope to get with child and permanently be a part of court. The queen had put a geas on everyone to never tell Merry about Keelin’s predicament. Merry is pissed off. She is pissed that no one ever told her about this once she came out of hiding. She demands Galen tell her how long Keelin has been Cel’s pet – nearly 3 years. Keelin pretty much immediately went to Cel upon Merry leaving. However, Merry cannot do anything about it now, and she cannot talk to Keelin while Cel is there.
 
Cel tells them that the queen sent him to escort Merry to dinner. Barinthus and Galen step in to try to keep Cel away from her, but Cel orders them back to court, without Merry. Barinthus begins arguing  with Cel, as he doesn’t take orders from anyone but the queen, and while they are arguing, Merry walks away from the group. The wind picked up, and Merry walks into it. Merry can tell that Faerie is welcoming her home, glad to have her home. Earth magic is one of the most powerful forms of magic, and Merry accepts Faerie’s invitation for her to return to it. Merry turns back to the group – they’ve stopped arguing and watched Faerie welcome Merry home. They’re all terrified of her now, because she was able to call up earth magic to her own magic, and power swirled all around her.
 
Merry allows the power to reach out to the group, out to Barinthus and Galen. Siobhan, Cel’s guard, tries to reach out to the power herself, but it rejects her and pulls away from her. The power then begins swirling over Cel, but he keeps his magical shields up and does not embrace the power. The power then moves over to Keelin, and she tries to embrace it, but Cel yanks on her leash and draws her away from it. The power, apparently pissed off at this, pushes at Cel hard enough to make him stumble. Siobhan takes this as a threat, and tries to draw her weapon on Merry, but the power stops her. She tries to raise her own power against the earth’s magic, but the earth’s power completely overtakes her.
 
Doyle then happens on the group. Cel and Siobhan tense, and Merry thinks it’s interesting that they both seem afraid of Doyle. The earth’s magic draws away from the group. While Cel is distracted by Doyle, Keelin walks over to Merry and they can finally talk. Merry tries to take Keelin’s leash off of her, but Keelin stops her. She wants this, again, because she will never be allowed to enjoy life at court without being Cel’s pet. As a sidhe, even just part-sidhe, Merry cannot understand how badly the lesser fey desire to be a part of the sidhe court. Again, it’s worth giving up yourself to be even close to court.
 
A recurring theme in this series is giving up yourself for something you want/need. Merry has to hide herself from the sidhe out with the humans, Gran/Keelin have to subject themselves to awful lives in order to have a “better” life, etc… Thankfully, LKH doesn’t try to pass this off as being something that is right and okay to do. Merry was forced to because she feared for her life. She spent every minute of her life in LA wishing she could be back at Faerie. Gran and Keelin did/do not enjoy the lives they’re being subjected to, but they feel it is necessary in order to achieve a better level of lifestyle. They all did something because it was necessary to get what they want (Merry: not to die; Gran/Keelin: a better life). I’m just glad that LKH doesn’t try to pass this off as some bullshit “strong woman” thing.
 
Oh, and this is highlighted a few times in this chapter – Keelin has four breasts. Because of course she does. Four legs, four arms, four breasts. And she’s covered in a very light coat of fine hair. Like a nose-less chimpanzee/octopus hybrid. A chimpantopus. Ooookay.
 
Doyle sends Barinthus and Galen off to the queen, as Cel bid. He will personally escort Merry to the queen, not Cel, because he wishes to discuss Merry’s new ability to “call the earth”. Merry says she didn’t call the earth’s power, that it offered itself to her, which is just not a thing that has happened in a long, long, long time.
 
Like eight pages (this is a long chapter!) pass because Doyle and Barinthus and Galen just have to bicker about whether or not Merry is truly safe with Doyle. Merry finally gets pissed and just sends them away, mad that they are not obeying the queen’s direct order from the captain of her guard. Doyle and Barinthus continue to square off, with Doyle calling forth some of his power of fire, which just serves to piss Merry off further. Merry realizes she needs to do something drastic to get them to stop, so she walks over to Doyle and tries to put her hand into the fire. Doyle calls the fire off mere seconds before she does so, and he calls her crazy.
 
Cel and Siobhan had watched this display, and when Merry realizes this, she blows a kiss at the pair of them. They flinch, because apparently they are now afraid of Merry for her directly challenging Doyle the way she did. Siobhan reacts to this poorly, and draws her weapon, standing guard in front of Cel. Doyle doesn’t want to fight Siobhan, so he instead grabs Merry by the wrist and yanks her away from them, forcing her down the path towards the door to the Unseelie sithen.
 
Merry gets Doyle to stop dragging her and escort her like a true guard. He lifts his arm for Merry to grasp, and when she does the ring on her finger reacts to Doyle, growing warm. Doyle is surprised to see the ring, and even more surprised that it reacted as such to him.
 
The chapter ends with Doyle and Merry fucking finally reaching the doorway to the sithen.
 
Another problem with the LKH novels are chapter length – I went into this a little in my Chapter 10 review. Sometimes the chapters a simple, short, and not a lot happens. Sometimes they’re short and a lot happens. Sometimes they’re long and a lot happens, and, like this chapter, sometimes they are way too long and nothing fucking at all happens. This chapter easily could have been halved, but there’s just pages and pages of everyone bickering. We didn’t need to multi-page stand off between Barinthus and Doyle – sure, it helps to put it out that Cel and Siobhan now somewhat fear Merry due to her emerging abilities, but couldn’t it have been done better? A better writer could have found a way to succinctly put the events of this chapter. I believe LKH thinks that more words, more descriptions, more actions make for a better story, but sometimes that’s not needed at all. This chapter is proof of it.
 
Characters Introduced:
 
Siobhan – captain of the Prince’s guard. Fiercely protective of Cel.
 
Keelin – Merry’s half goblin, half brownie best friend. Immediately after Merry fled the court she offered herself as Cel’s “pet” as a way to become accepted at court. Small, four legs, four arms, four breasts, brown skin and covered in fur.
 
Themes Introduced:
 
Long chapter is long and not very good.
 
The magical sex ring reacted to Doyle. OOooOoOOoooh.
 
Sex: OooOooOOoooooh. Nah. 

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