Taken By the Sidhe

Chapter 1

For as far back as she could remember, Gwynnydd's mother, Morgan, had always told her to stay away from the Sidhe. The great hill outside the village was strictly off-limits to her; there was said to be a portal to the Sidhe realms there.

Gwynnydd never understood why her mother was so terrified of the Sidhe; the rumor around the village was that Morgan was a Sidhe herself. And while new mothers armed themselves with iron trinkets to protect infants from being taken, she was more than old enough to take care of herself, surely?

Gwynydd was sixteen; her monthly courses would probably start soon, making her a woman. Mother had told her what would happen then, and how to care for her changed body. When she became a woman, she would be able to marry whichever villager expressed an interest in her; and she was so lovely that several young men were already trying to woo her. Her hair was raven-dark like her father's, and her eyes, like her mother's, were as blue as the sky. Her figure, if thin, was still pleasant to look upon. However, there was something strange about her that the villagers couldn't put their finger on, something otherwordly about her beauty. But then, it was only natural that people would say such things, given the rumors about Morgan.

She had finished her chores early today, and decided to pick blackberries from the bushes just outside the village. The bushes were near Sidhe Hill, but as long as Gwynydd wasn't actually on the hill, she wouldn't be disobeying her mother. It seemed strange anyway, to be afraid of a hill. It didn't look any different from any of the other hills in the area, after all.

Gwynydd had just put a particularly large and juicy blackberry into her basket when there was a flash of light, almost too dim to be noticed in the bright June sun. Gwynydd heard movement in the grass by the hill and turned--

--only to come face-to-face with a strange, handsome man. His long hair was nearly white, and shone like silver. His eyes were as green as the grass, and his lean, angular face was almost too pretty to be a man's. He was lean, but his bare arms were corded with muscle. His clothing was like nothing else she had ever seen in the village--fine, and green, and embroidered with gold and silver.

The man saw her and smiled. "My beautiful Aurea." His voice was sweet and smooth, like the sounds of a stream murmuring over the rocks.

Gwynydd blushed, suddenly acutely aware of her own coarse dress. To think that such a man could mistake her for some great beauty! But what village was he from? She had never seen him before at any of the fairs or festivals.

"I'm sorry, my lord, but I'm afraid you must have mistaken me for someone else."

"Forgive me. You looked so like my lost love...except for your hair, I would swear you were Aurea."

Gwynydd smiled. "There is no one in our village by that name, my lord."

"You need not stand on ceremony with me, dear girl. My name is Anoron. And as you are assuredly not my Aurea, might I have your name?" He smiled again, the afternoon sun dancing in his eyes.

"I am Gwynydd."

"It is a pleasure to meet you, fair Gwynydd." He bent down and kissed her free hand, as if she were the noble here, rather than he.

"Are you--" She stopped, afraid to ask.

"I am of the Sidhe."

Gwynydd backed away. "My mother says--"

"--That we are evil child-stealing monsters, no doubt. Rescue an abused child once, and the story twists itself into something awful in a few centuries. We haven't dared enter this village in years because of the way humans treat us, thanks to that nasty rumor! But my great-grandfather, like myself, always had a bit of a soft spot for humans. He still does." Anoron smiled.

"Your great-grandfather? Is it true that the Sidhe live forever, then?"

"Only within our own realms, and only if we are not killed by some accident. Few of us have died in centuries, and our people rarely make war with one another. If you would like, I could tell you more about us."

Gwynydd was uncertain what to do. Morgan had warned her to stay away from Sidhe, but Anoron seemed friendly and sincere--and so handsome, as well. In spite of herself, Gwynydd was already half in love with the mysterious Sidhe. But she knew she could not talk to him here forever. "I cannot stay long--my mother will call for me soon."

"Do you wish to speak with me again, Gwynydd?"

Gwynydd blushed. "Perhaps--perhaps some other time--"

"Then take this." Anoron placed a thin chain into her hand. From it dangled...

"A stone?"

"It is not an ordinary stone," said Anoron. "When it trembles and glows, I am calling you to meet with me again."

Gwynydd put the chain around her neck, letting the small white stone rest beneath her chemise, against her heart. It seemed to belong there, and the magic made it feel oddly warm and tingly against her skin.

Chapter 2