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by Stephen Herron

For Sweet Faith

Dublin

September 19th 1997

Kestry sat quietly, nursing a mug of tea, but not really drinking it. The small coffee shop was busy, and the rain was keeping most of the customers inside. The main pedestrian traffic of Grafton Street was not too far away, but most folk never left the main street to explore the alleys. He had come to this place so many times, during the year of his exile. King Bran of Leinster was a kind ruler, and though he couldn't directly help the Duke-in-exile, he allowed Kestry to stay in local Freeholds across the city whenever he needed to.

But in the six months that Kestry spent living here, he had rarely entered a Freehold. Many times, the Mists had come for him, and only one person had kept him from slipping away forever.

"Shaheen," he murmured, and stared sadly into his tea.

It had been, he realised, two years since he had left here. A long time. The last six months of his exile had been spent here, and he had spent them all with the dusky Eshu girl.

The waitress cleared the table beside him, but he barely noticed. His attention was on this table, where he sat now.

This was the very table where he had met Shaheen…

The young man sat quietly, nursing a cup of tea, but not really drinking it. His face was drawn, tired, and the sadness in his eyes was overwhelming.

"Hello !"

The voice was so cheery, the man had to look up. Standing there, with a big grin, was a beautiful young woman, dusky in a most unIrish way. Her eyes were big and dark, and her smile glorious.

"Can I join you ?" she asked. The man nodded dumbly.

"My name is Shaheen," she said. Her accent was very Dublin. He smiled, weakly, and took her offered hand.

"Kelly. My name is Kelly McKnight," he said. She leaned close and whispered,

"No, it isn't,"

He blinked at her. "What ?"

She sat back, and ordered a coffee from the waitress. "My name is Shaheen. But it's also Ella." She smiled at him as he stared blankly back. "Your name isn't Kelly McKnight. Well, not just Kelly McKnight…" She smiled, I-know-something-you-don't-know…

Kelly sipped his tea. It was cold. He winced. "Who are you ?" he asked. Shaheen took off the flowery hat she was wearing, and set it down on the table. Kelly took the moment to look her up and down. She wore a simple dress, ankle length, and a dark purple in colour, like her hat. The large yellow daisy that had been sown onto the brim of the hat was like a spark of colour.

She lifted a rose from her bag, and handed it to him.

"For you, Duke Kestry ap Liam of Belfast…"

Kelly took the rose, and sniffed it.

The world slipped away as Glamour filled his soul. He looked at Shaheen, and could see the violet of her dress in her eyes, her skin darker, and a sense of joy and wonder around her that he fell in love with instantly…

"I remember…" was all he could say.

"Excuse me ?" asked the waitress.

Kestry looked up in surprise. "What ?"

"What do you remember, sir ?" she asked with a curious smile.

Kestry sighed, and smiled back. "Just thinking aloud, sorry. Can I have another cup of tea ? This one's gone cold on me," he said, handing her the cup.

"Ah, sure, no problem," said the waitress, and she moved away. Kestry looked back out the window, and tried to re-rail his train of thought.

Shaheen had helped Kestry back into his Fae Seeming, having been asked to keep an eye on him by King Bran himself. It turned out that Shaheen was a Herald in the local Court Scene, and did the long-distance travelling that Bran preferred not to do. She carefully gave Glamour to Kestry in small amounts, and had found him somewhere to live.

Over the next few weeks, they had spent time together, as Shaheen gave Kestry a tour of Dublin he could really appreciate.

Late one night, in the small hotel room that Kestry was using as temporary accommodation, he had asked her how she had heard of him. She had heard about Kestry's exile, and had asked about him at King Finn's Court. Shaheen had barely got out of Ulster alive.

"When I got that reaction about you," she had explained, "I just had to find out more about you. What there is about you that pisses off the King of Ulster."

"And ? What do you think ?" Kestry had asked in return.

Shaheen had said nothing, but had kissed him very passionately, and hadn't let go of him again until several hours later.

Kestry had never felt so happy. He worried about his Duchy, and about Galway and the others, but for the first time in months, he felt like things might be okay.

It was love. As Simple As That.

After a month, it made sense for Kestry to move in with Shaheen. They spent every moment of day and night together, so it could only get better.

Shaheen helped Kestry with his trunk of personal belongings. Between them, they got it up the two flights of stairs to the spacious apartment where she lived.

"This is a nice place," said Kestry as he looked around. The Eshu had gathered many trinkets on her travels, and they filled nearly every corner of the large studio apartment He hadn't been here before, though he had heard all about it.

"Yeah, well, you know, I do my best," she said shyly. Kestry grinned.

"Where will you fit me in ?" he asked. She looked up at him through her eyelashes, and Kestry's heart melted.

"I'll find somewhere for you, " she breathed, and it all got a bit hot for a while.

"Hot enough for you ?"

Kestry looked up, and blushed.

"Your tea…" the waitress grinned at him, and handed him the fresh mug of tea.

"Ohhh… yeah…thank you," he said, smiling. The waitress winked at him, and walked off.

Kestry shook his head, and gently sipped the tea. It was steaming hot, and he sighed with some degree of satisfaction.

His thoughts wandered again, and he found himself grinning as a wave of memories swamped him…

They were both in bed, but fully dressed. Shaheen sat astride Kestry, a very serious expression on her face. Kestry was wearing a suit and tie, ready for an important meeting with some mortals who owned some ancient Fae texts he was searching for. Shaheen hadn't let him go yet.

The Eshu was examining Kestry and his clothing in silence. She was ignoring him, yet examining him, as if he wasn't there. She pulled his tie, and waited. She bit her lip, the serious expression still there, and pulled the tie again. Kestry giggled. Her eyes lit up, and she pulled the tie again. Kestry fought to keep quiet. Shaheen got bored of that, and lifted his arm, examining it. She tugged his hand, and then shook it around. She pulled back his sleeve, and peered up it, as if she was looking for something. Kestry was grinning, barely able to stop laughing.

Again, bored of that game, Shaheen, lifted his shirt up, and stuck her head under it. She looked around, and that just set Kestry laughing madly again, as her hair tickled his chest. She took her head out from under his shirt, and looked around again. Some shiny buttons caught her attention and she began twisting each one in turn, as if listening for a noise in response.

Kestry chuckled, and she grinned, twisting that particular button again, and waiting for the chuckle. When it didn't come, she pouted, and leant in, lying on him, her face over his. She looked at his eyes, gleaming blue, and smiled.

"Mmmm. Candy…" she sighed, and leant in to lick one of his eyes.

Kestry screamed, and she leapt off him, laughing and giggling, whilst Kestry laughed and laughed until his sides actually hurt him.

"The Duke Kestry Activity Centre," she giggled, and ran off with his tie.

Kestry couldn't stop laughing.

He was two hours late for his meeting.

"That's better," said the waitress.

"Mmmm ?" replied Kestry, silently chuckling where he sat. His face was lit up with a smile.

"You looked so sad, earlier," she said softly. Kestry shrugged.

"Just remembering an old friend," he said. The waitress nodded. "That's nice."

Kestry shook his head, as she turned her back.

"No. Not always…"

That entire summer had been mostly perfect, with Shaheen making his life a joy, and he filled her with at least as much happiness. Together, they experienced Raptures, the creation of Glamour from within, so often he thought that he could never taste mortal Glamour again.

But there were tensions. Barely important at first, but they got worse.

Kestry was worried. Scared, in fact. He walked up and down, glancing down at his watch.

She was six hours late. It was three am, and he was wild with worry.

The door opened, and Shaheen walked through. She was bruised and hurt. Kestry rushed to her side.

"Kelly," she murmured, and fell into his arms. Kestry could feel how little Glamour she had in her body, and he carried her into the bedroom. He lay her out, and tended her wounds. She looked up at him, her eyes dull and lifeless. She blinked.

"Kelly ? What's wrong with me ?"

Kestry choked back a sob. He lay his hand upon her brow, and whispered to her.

"It'll be alright… I promise…"

He let his own Glamour flow through his hands into her body, and felt it be pulled into the dark Banality of her soul. They fell asleep like that.

When Kestry woke up, Shaheen was sitting on the bed, watching him.

"Hi," she murmured softly.

"How do you feel ?" asked Kestry, standing and stretching. She shrugged.

"Better. Bran sent me to speak with some Redcaps that he's been having trouble with. They beat me with Cold Iron, and I barely got out in one piece."

Kestry was furious.

"You have to stop doing those missions ! You'll get killed… or worse…"

Shaheen glared at him, and jumped down off the bed.

"Forget it, Kestry, I'm good at what I do. And you can't stop me."

She stormed out, and let Kestry in an impotent anger, which gave way to sorrow. And fear.

They had talked, or fought, about this before. It wasn't the first time that Shaheen had come home, bruised and battered, barely able to remember who she was. Kestry and Shaheen worked through it, though there were many rows about it.

Things just got worse. No particular reason, it just happens. Slowly , so slowly that you never notice. Until one time.

The last time.

It happened late one September night. Early in the month.

Shaheen came home, and she was crying. She ran to Kestry, and they held each other for a long time before he could ask her what was wrong.

"King Bran wants me to leave. One of the Courts in London has an opening for me, and I'm going to take it."

Kestry couldn't believe it.

"But… I thought…"

She slapped him, hard. It was so sudden.

"You have a responsibility ! To your friends and people back in Belfast ! And I want to do some good for Dublin. Don't tell me you thought this was a permanent arrangement between us."

Kestry nodded dumbly.

"To be honest, yes. I would have given it all up for you and me."

She wiped tears away.

"But I wouldn't. I love you, Kestry, but I've got to keep moving. I can't stop in one place forever. This summer with you, god, it's been great…" She smiled, weakly, but it failed to make Kestry feel better. She continued. "But I'm Eshu. I'm a traveller, a wanderer. I'll never settle down, because that's not who I am. I've been in one place too long, already."

Kestry nodded. He knew all of this, really. But he'd lived the lie because it was easier.

"Okay. When do you go ?" he asked, his heart broken. He'd never felt such loss.

"Tomorrow. Bran will send people around to pack my things. You can stay here as long as you like, it belongs to the King."

Kestry walked away, the pain too much. Shaheen let him go. There was nothing else to say. Later, that night, they made love, filled with the passion that grief can sometimes bring. They felt in ways that defied words, that this really was the last time they'd be able to hold each other, to love each other with skin and touch, lips and caress. The lovemaking spoke with eloquence, with sorrow.

She left the next day. Kestry left her to the Ferry, and held her close. They whispered words of love to each other, and promised to meet again soon. Kestry told her, every word true, that he would never be able to love anyone the way he loved her. And that no one would ever make him laugh the way she did.

As soon as the ship pulled away for it's fifty mile trip to Holyhead, Kestry knew, deep in his heart, that he'd never see Shaheen again.

He sat in the empty apartment, with his trunk of belongings, and wept for a long long time. Morning came, and with it, a sense of ending.

Then he climbed on a train for Belfast, and went home, a year and a day after he was exiled.

It wasn't until after the War of the Rebels, when Kestry had regained his title, that he tried to find her.

The news was not good.

Shaheen had left Kestry a note, explaining her actions. When her maidservant had found her in the manor where she had been staying, there had been barely enough blood left in her to keep her alive.

She had slit her wrists with a Cold Iron Blade, and had completely destroyed her Fae soul. The doctors were just able to save her life, but Shaheen, Eshu Herald and Envoy for King Bran of Leinster, was dead.

There was only Ella left. She returned to Dublin, her memories of her Fae life gone forever. That had been last year. No one knew what had happened to her since then.

The note had been painful for Kestry to read. Shaheen had always been so good with words…

Kestry, dearest Kestry, I can't forget you. I can't. I want to, but your face, your smile, your love fills my thoughts. I wish I could. It hurts so much, because I know, as you do, that we'll never be together again.

There's only one way to stop this. I can't keep the memories any more. I have to get rid of them. You keep your memories safe, because you'll be the only place where they exist now. The only place where we exist.

In those memories, I love you, and always will. Never Forget Me.

Shaheen.

Kestry spent three days in the Brick Glade, speaking to no one. Lord Galway kept them all away, and told them almost nothing about what had happened.

Ten Kestry emerged, there was only one place he could go. He got on the train to Dublin, and in a haze of grief, found himself here, in the coffee shop where it all began…

With a cup of tea.

"Enjoy your tea, sir ?" asked the waitress. Kestry nodded.

"Yeah. Thanks."

"Have I seen you here before ?" she asked, looking at him as if he was familiar.

"No, I doubt it…" he said with a kind smile.

"Oh well. You do look so familiar. Well, have a nice day, then. Hope the rain stops for you. Most people prefer the summer, but I'm an autumn person, myself." she said, with a sigh. Then she smiled, and walked away.

Kestry watched her go. She hadn't changed at all, really. "You'll always be the summer for me, Shaheen…" he murmured to the waitress, knowing she'd never hear him.

Kestry got up from his table, put a ten punt note down beneath the mug, and walked quickly out, into the rain. Maybe it would hide his tears.

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