Extra Scene/Fourth Epilogue

Extra Scene/Fourth Epilogue

Kingdom of Shadow and Light

When I completed the last chapter of Kingdom of Shadow and Light, I didn’t feel quite finished, nagged by a scene that, if I didn’t write, would keep me awake at night, tossing and turning, harangued by a character insistent I grant him his final hour on the page.

I prefer not to be stalked through nocturnal climes by this particular character, as chaos would undoubtedly ensue, although I’d willingly embrace shadowy encounters with Masdann, in the Dreaming.

The Unseelie king, after millions of years in power, stepped down. He bequeathed his inestimable, formidable power to a successor. Yet by the end of Kingdom of Shadow and Light, aside from infrequent, amorphous hoverings, he’d not manifested on the page.

Which left me with countless unanswered questions.

What kind of existence was there for him now? Whatever entity he was, whatever stuff of which he was fashioned, or species to which he belonged—did he remain immortal? Did he have a home to which he might return? Did he retain residual powers? What was it all for—his epic love affair with Zara, the countless beings and worlds created and destroyed—if it ended like this, with no proper ending at all?

What of the cold, emberless boudoir in the White Mansion, the concubine’s half forever separated from the Unseelie king’s without a mirror to join them? The magnificent demesne took a chill the day I wrote the scene where the love between the Unseelie king and Zara died. The Mansion paled and, in odd corners, mausoleums replaced opulent bedchambers, and sepulchers erupted in gardens. The death of their enormous love etched the boundless House with emblems of decay, a thing that had never before existed within its walls.  The brilliant palette of the marble corridors faded, sunlight dimmed, fires gusted out and lamps were extinguished. Sparkling fireflies crashed to the floor and turned to ash. In the chamber of Sky where once Mac considered sunbathing, puffy clouds turned dark and thunderous, and a deluge of tears gushed from the ceiling as the Mansion, itself, wept.

Mac and Barrons’s love affair blossomed in the shadow of an ancient, passionate, legendary affair.

When the Dreamy Eyed Guy (who describes himself as one of the king’s skins that refused to return, who demanded mastery of his own fate, and is but a drop of rain from the storm that is the Unseelie king) came to Mac in Feversong, he demanded three boons.  

He collected two. Mac restored the concubine’s mortality and returned her to her original homeworld. The DEG told Mac, one day, he or the king might return to collect a third boon. By the end of Kingdom of Shadow and Light, that hadn’t happened.

I always knew what the third boon was.  But I needed to see the scene.

Mac needed to see it, too, because, she believes love is what makes people leap out of bed in the morning, despite aching joints and tired bones, and slip back into it easy at night.  Love fuels dreams, has been known to heal broken bodies and fractured souls and Mac believes when people make love, whether physically with a partner, or through the blossoming of love between kindred spirits, they subtly shift the balance in the universe toward a better state, nudging it, and everyone involved, one step closer to the Divine.

Both Zara and the Unseelie king are flawed and have made countless mistakes, some of their own volition, others as pawns on another’s chessboard. (Yes, even the king.)

That doesn’t make them—or any of us—less worthy of another chance to get it right.



Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again


Zara was a powerful witch of the forests and stars and seas.

To those of her village, she was no longer the stranger who’d arrived five years ago; a woman alone, icy and remote, harkening from a strange and distant land, bearing strange customs—perhaps from so far as beyond vertiginous snow-capped mountains or the wild, dangerous, windswept sea.

After years among them, Zara had become their compassionate and beloved healer whom they would war to protect. They’d built a lovely hut in a glade at the edge of the forest for her and her companion T’murra that rode upon her shoulder as she made rounds. They’d tunneled down to release an ice-crystal spring, encircled it with smooth, pale stones and created for her a reflecting pool in which she might do her magycks or bathe beneath a spun-silver moon. They’d gifted her a goat and a cow, manures for her gardens, and her larder was always full.

She had a tribe.

She belonged.

Zara was, at long last, home.

Though the villagers were dismayed that, after so many years among them, she remained unwilling to speak of her past (and evidenced no desire to mate!) as people deprived a story are wont, they populated her mysterious silence with constructs of their own. They told one another she’d suffered dreadful travails and, against mighty odds, prevailed. They wove yarns of mythical beasts, consuming love and crushing betrayal, tales of powerful and unpredictable kings, wars and unspeakable pain. They wagered she carried scars so deep and cruel they might gush heartblood anew, were words to give shape and substance to the heinous deeds behind them.

They were right on all counts.

“Ack! Silence is golden!” the T’murra, perched on a nearby cupboard squawked, intuiting her thoughts. They’d become inseparable, she and her brightly feathered friend. To her winged companion, alone, did she reveal the truths of her heart.

“Perhaps not golden but indisputably, safer,” Zara murmured.

“Ack! Safer!” the T’murra agreed.

The past was a verdant seed that, when fertilized by too much talk and watered by too many tears, grew into a dense thicket, preventing hopeful seeds of the present from reaching the soil to bear fruit.

Zara had once been silent for so many centuries, tucked away within the White Mansion, she’d forgotten how to speak. Whittled by solitude to a wisp, feeling transparent as a shade, she’d ghosted the silent, empty corridors. Waiting. Always waiting.

For a king who never came

In such a state had Cruce found her, bearing a flask the king couldn’t be bothered to deliver personally.

Cruce, her enemy, the great deceiver had, at that time, been a long-overdue and welcome friend.

Then, for still more countless eons there’d been too much talk, in the jaded, complicated, treacherous Fae Court she’d ended up ruling for another small, hellish eternity.

Her life had been very long.

But it was no longer.

Sitting cross-legged on a tufted pallet before the hearth, Zara studied the back of her hand in the firelight and smiled.

Her skin had begun to wrinkle.  Creases framed the corners of her eyes and mouth, and faint lines etched her forehead.

Welcome signs of mortality.

But far more thrilling was the delicate glow that emanated from her brown skin, haloed her dark hair, a subtle sheen she’d once believed she would never see again, the true hue of her being.

Like Adam Black, the Fae Prince of the D’Jai who’d so fascinated her—the one who’d chosen to sacrifice everything, even his immortality for love—Zara shimmered with the light of an immortal soul.

It had happened nearly two years ago, the night she’d almost died trying to heal a poisoned child. She’d employed every art at her disposal, each tincture, poultice and potion, frantic to save the wee girl, and give her a chance at the short yet infinitely vibrant life to which mortals were entitled. Heart-sick, exhausted when all had failed, Zara did the only thing left; she drew the poison into her own body and lay down to die in the child’s place.

She’d been desperately ill for weeks, too feeble and fevered to feed herself, reliant upon the villagers for care and, when she was finally able to stand above her reflecting pool again, the shine of her soul was unmistakable.

Now, each morning she awoke, she felt a deep, fierce burn of joy in her heart.

Now, when she walked the dewy forest at dawn, collecting herbs and fragrant grasses, she laughed and wept, she danced and sang, and often knelt to give praise to the gods for restoring to her the priceless ability to feel.

Life was only unbearably long if one lived it without one’s heart.

Solitude no longer bothered Zara because she was rich and full and drunk on emotions and passions long lost, regained, that defined her being.

A million years later, down a twisted and tangled path, she was finally herself again.

She remembered—and felt—each moment of the love she’d held for her king.

She proudly carried the bliss and grief, the hunger and loss, the rage and hope and despair.  Each emotion precious, tucked reverently within her, scars of a love so deep and wide it had killed and rebirthed her, over and again.

And if being mated, now, to none felt lonely, sometimes on those nights when her passions ran high and she couldn’t sleep and stood, peering between curtains into windows as her people nestled down and made love and babies and futures, and mating season came for the animals she protected, being connected to the All, able to feel every nuance of every emotion she’d lived, made the loneliness worth the price.

Or so she thought.

Until he came.


Her name was Zara.

His was a symbol too complex for her mind to absorb.

She was her race’s beloved healer, willing to die so others might live.

He was a half-mad god-king who too often neglected those in his care.

But this time, he came different.

This time, the Unseelie king came to her as a mortal man.


“That doesn’t work for me,” I snapped, as I paced back and forth before the gas fireplace in the seating cozy at Barrons Books and Baubles.  “You can’t just shut me out there. I need to know how it ends.”

“Endings, beginnings,” the Dreamy-Eyed Guy, seated on the Chesterfield said, shrugging, “one and the same. It’s middles I prefer.  The second act inevitably ensures the universe gets delightfully fucked up.”

I stabbed my finger at him in irritation. “And that’s another of those cryptic, useless things you’ve been saying to me since the day we met.  Endings and beginnings aren’t the same.” However, I silently conceded, middles of stories were indeed, notorious for their fuckage quotient.

“They are to those with far-vision. Creation destroys. Destruction creates.”

“I don’t have far-vision,” I seethed, pacing one of Barrons’s favorite rugs so vigorously I was surprised I wasn’t ripping out tufts.  “I want to know the bloody ending.  Every detail.  What did the king do after you collected the third boon from me? After I made him mortal and you took him to Zara without me? What did he say? How did Zara react? What happened? Did they kiss?”

“You’re as infernally annoying as that nosy scribe, Ms. Moning.  You never cease wanting to know more.”

“I have no bloody clue who Ms. Moning is and don’t care.  Just tell me the ending. Better yet, take me there.  I want to see it all for myself.” I couldn’t sift to Zara’s world. I’d tried and failed the moment the DEG had left me standing in the bookstore by myself.  Forever engraved in my memory was my last vision of the Unseelie king as a mortal man. Tall, elegant, his ancient eyes brimming with enormous intellect, vast awareness and an eternity of sorrow, he’d radiated the same mesmerizing, addictive carnality of Jericho Barrons.

“Zara’s homeworld is now and forever off limits to travelers. Eternally forbidden, according to my liege, specifically to any and all Fae queens. I was expelled.  He ejected me before the door closed.”

“Are you saying not even you know the ending?” I exclaimed, aghast.

“Of course I do.”

“Well, you can’t just leave me hanging. I’m invested. You said the door closed.  What door? Was it Zara’s home? Was the king inside?”

He flashed me an easy smile. “I owe you no debt, Beautiful Girl.”

I scowled in return. “You owe me a huge debt.  The only reason you’re a free man is because I made the Unseelie king mortal.  He can never summon you back to become part of him again.  Thanks to me, you have an autonomous life, a destiny of your own. All I want in exchange for the enormity of your entire life as a free man is the small ending of a bloody story.”

Templing his fingers, the DEG studied me with starry eyes that reminded me far too disconcertingly of the king’s distant, galaxy-filled gaze.  “Ah, your far-vision isn’t completely obfuscated,” he murmured.

“One day, you will be a contender for the king’s power, should it be passed on.”

“Theme and motif.  It is not humans that assign it to the world with their tales but the very fabric of the universe. Every now and then, one of you glimpses a hint of the pattern. Your Dancer was one. You call those human geniuses.”

“I need to know the ending.”

“Need is a dangerous thing.”

“Life is a dangerous thing.”

“Ah, Beautiful Girl,” he said, “you are a dangerous thing.”

I narrowed my eyes and said very quietly, “I am. Particularly when denied an ending. I am your queen.  I demand to know what happened with Zara and her king.”

“Cycles. Ever-repeating. The more things change, the more they stay the same. You need only look to yourself and Barrons to divine how it ends. If, indeed, anything ever ends which is infinitely debatable.” The Dreamy Eyed Guy stood, sketched a faint, mocking bow, and vanished.

Abruptly, so did I.


The moment I reappeared, I knew I was in the White Mansion.  I’d been in this particular chamber before, an enormous theater of sorts but the room was a paler version of itself.  The elevated platform upon which the players performed their dramas was no longer a gilded, ornately framed stage but fashioned of simple wood.  Scarlet drapes and rugs were faded and worn.  Glittering chandeliers had become drab wooden candelabras, once plush seats were now slatted wooden chairs.

The White Mansion was the house of the king and Zara’s soul, shaped by their love.  Without that love, it was merely a house. Lights off, air cold, void of passion, void of their eternal residue.

I moved forward and perched on one of the rickety chairs in the front row.  The DEG did nothing without reason.

After a moment, one of those old-fashioned projector screens dropped from the ceiling and unrolled, filling the stage. Behind me, I heard the clackety-click of an old-time projector whirring to life as the scent of buttery popcorn filled the air. I glanced down to find a box of Junior Mints in my hand.

The DEG was a piece of work.

The film began to roll, white frames with black bands then a charming hut in an enchanting glade appeared. It was night on Zara’s world, and behind the windows of her hut, firelight danced across the panes.

“I trust there’s a reason I’m here?” Barrons said dryly, from behind me.

I tipped back my head, smiled at him, and patted the seat next to me. “DEG bring you?”

He inclined his head.  “What is this, movie night in the White Mansion?”

It’s testament to his love for me that he will participate if I ask him. He will paint my nails, trim my too-long hair, splint my bones and follow me to the ends of the universe.  As I will, for him.

“Hush, the movie’s starting. I made the king mortal.  He went to Zara. I need to know how it ends.”

“I trust there’s a reason I’m here?” Barrons said, even more dryly.

“Don’t you want to know what happens?”

“That arrogant fuck complicated our lives long enough.  He’s out of the picture and I have no desire to see him in a new one.”

Still he dropped into a rickety chair beside me that groaned dangerously beneath his weight.

And after a moment, when a box of piping hot buttery popcorn appeared in my right hand, I slipped my left into his and settled back against the uncomfortable chair to watch, wide-eyed, heart pounding with anticipation.


Zara stood, staring at the man in her doorway, unable to believe her eyes.

He’d come.


How dare he?

“Ack! Dare!” the T’murra squawked angrily.

A thousand recriminations blazed in Zara’s eyes.

A million self-recriminations burned in the king’s.

Then he dropped his dark head forward and swayed ever so slightly toward her and, unchecked, unable to check herself, she swayed ever so slightly nearer him.

Moth to his flame.



But no! She would not be burned! Scorched to a husk of a woman, left bereft, lost and confused!

The king moved slowly, deeper into the hut, as if approaching a wild animal he didn’t wish to spook.

Wise, she thought, eyes narrowing, for this animal had teeth. And was prepared to use them.


Her damned heart remembered and her heart was alight with joy at the wonder of seeing him again.


At long last, the arrogant, imperious, immortal being had given her all she’d ever wanted.

The normal, usual every day, small matters of a life with him.

The king stopped with a foot of space between them.

They stared at each other in silence for a long time, and she knew his heart heard each of her endless recriminations. It was evident in his wince, his frown, in the closing of his eyes then opening again, shadowed with endless sorrow.

And while he listened to her accusations, her heart listened to the enormity of his self-blame. As always happened between them, the edges of their beings bled into one another, as if coming home.

“An apology would yield nothing, Zara,” the king finally said, and she shivered to hear the husky timbre of his voice, gentled by love.  “Yet I would offer you a thousand and another thousand more. Any act of contrition would be as empty, for it would take the rest of my mortal life plus an eternity to make my failings up to you.  Yet…”

He didn’t speak again for so long, she snapped impatiently, “Yet, what? What do you think can make a difference now? That, at long last, you are willing to grow old and die with me?”

“Yes,” he said simply. “I will die to die with you. I will burn to burn with you. I will do anything, anyplace, anytime, to spend what hours remain with you. I say to you now what I should have said then.  Show me your world, Zara.  Teach me your ways. Share with me the countless small wonders you see. Humble and dazzle and enchant me with the beauty of your heart, as you did the first moment I met you. I am flawed.  But this flawed being cannot and does not wish to exist one more hour without you. If I must be your workman outdoors, let me labor for your wellbeing. If you can only accept my care for your daily life and no intimacy, so be it. But allow me to live near you.  Talk with me. Let me watch you dance the way you once did, beneath a midnight moon, wild and free. Permit me to love you, if only from a nearby hut. And if, at any moment, you feel I’m causing you grief, pain or any harmful emotion, you have but to murmur words dispatching me to the furthest corners of the universe because I would rather die alone than cause you one more ounce of sorrow.”

Zara stared up at him, as words she’d waited an eternity to hear were finally spoken.

“Ack! Too little, too late!” her T’murra shrieked.

Zara was inclined to agree.


She wet her lips and hesitated. They were both proud.  They always had been. Squaring her shoulders, she said, “I have my own share of flaws. I stopped trying.  I fed my anger and retreated.  I might have left at any time.  And if I’d left—“

“I’d have come.  You would have gotten my attention. I’d have followed.  We’d have fought.”

“But I stayed, and invented more reasons to despise you with each passing century, rather than coming to find you, which I might have done at any time. I could pass through all doors in your demesne. I knew where your laboratory was.”

“Why didn’t you come? I would have welcomed the distraction.”

“I wanted you to choose to come to me.”


“And fear.  We’ve always burned too hot. Always.”

“There’s no such thing as too hot, if we stay together.  It’s the chill of drifting apart that is the problem.  Neither of us fought to remain together.” He’s silent a moment then, “I who feared nothing, feared mortality.”

“And I who feared nothing, feared losing my soul. Not merely by becoming immortal but because my love for you sometimes felt greater than my love for myself.”

“Yes.  Exactly,” he whispered.  “I love you to madness.”

“Fire to my ice—the ice of living alone as a healer.”

“Ice to my endless fever—the burn of living alone as a creator. Zara,” he said softly and his voice broke on the word. “Please. Let us try again.”

Zara’s eyes filled with tears.

“Try again!” the T’murra squawked, ruffling its wings before settling again.

Gently, slowly, the king reached out his hand to brush a tear from her cheek.  She was astonished to see his eyes glistened as well. “Tell me it’s not too late, Zara.”

Gods help her, it wasn’t.  She wasn’t certain it could ever be too late with this man.  Impossible to walk away from him, this mortal who’d relinquished all certainty, all power to experience the blink of an eye of a life beside her.

Moving closer, she stared up into into his handsome, beloved face, her body quickening with desire.  They were merely human now, and short-lived.  They ruled no courts, were responsible for no worlds but their own; this small, medieval world in which she was healer and he might become a craftsman.  They would walk the forests at dawn and make love in the afternoons and she would dance for him beneath midnight moons. “Kiss me, my love.”

Then she was in his arms and he was sweeping her to the bed and, as she fell back upon it, he stripped off his shirt.

He was no longer an enormity that had to change form to be with her.  Perhaps a foot and a half taller than she, still, powerfully, beautifully fashioned.

Gods, she hungered for him! “If you wander off, I’ll come after you this time,” she warned, eyes flashing.

“I’d expect you to. Yet will give you no cause,” he said, as he kicked off his boots.

“If I see you getting obsessed with something that’s not me, “ Zara spat, “I’ll cast horrid spells on you. And you can’t defeat them now.”

“I’d deserve nothing less,” he agreed, eyes hooding with desire as he raked her body with his dark gaze.

She stabbed a finger at him. “If you don’t clean up after yourself and think to leave your usual messes, I’ll berate you until you wish you were deaf.”

“Then I’ll clean up after both of us for the first few centur—decades.”

“That might go a long way toward appeasing me,” Zara conceded, as he joined her in bed.

He still hadn’t kissed her.  He was staring at her as if he couldn’t quite believe he was there, about to take her in his arms, beneath him and every other way. “Why would you forgive me?”

Zara smiled faintly. “Because forgiveness is made of love. And I will never stop loving you.”

The king crushed his mouth to hers.


I lean back into the plush red velvet chair with a rapturous sigh, gaze riveted to the projection screen that graces the ornate, gilded stage.

They’re about to make love and I’m all in, popcorn forgotten on a chair beside me, painfully aroused. I glance at Barrons to find him staring at me, midnight eyes pools of crimson lust. My breathing is ragged, as is his.

I glance back at the screen, impossibly torn. I don’t think of myself as a voyeur but to miss out on watching beautiful, star-crossed lovers who’ve been through hell and back again countless times, make love with all the passion in their souls?


Beside me, I feel Barrons’s attention return to the screen, too, as the king stretches his dark, powerful body over Zara’s.

Suddenly the king turns and looks sharply over his shoulder.

As if directly at us!

Then he reaches out an arm that grows to impossible lengths, stretching toward us, further and further as if he might reach right through and touch us. Or smack us for watching.

Then with a snap so loud it startles me from my seat, the projection screen rolls tightly closed and the apparatus retreats into the ceiling.

Leaving an empty stage.

“Oh! How dare he?” I fume.  “On second thought, how did he?” I demand.  “He’s not the king anymore.  How did he reach into the White Mansion and affect matter here when he’s worlds away and—“

“For fuck’s sake, who cares?” Barrons growls, clearly as irritated as me by getting our show terminated at the steamy part. “I know where we can watch the end.”

Dark gaze glittering with the same lust blazing in my veins, he yanks me up and lunges off, half-dragging me until I get my feet situated and break into a run beside him.

We race through the Mansion, down corridors that have begun to gleam golden again, over rosy marble, brilliant cerulean, finally to crimson and, at last to black marble and, with each step, the passion within me burns whiter and hotter as I hear their whispers, feel their caresses, the residue of a love that spanned a million years, finally, being fully consummated with Zara and her king willing to sacrifice everything just to be together as a man and a woman facing an uncertain future, facing certain eventual death for one long drink of the poignancy and passion of now.

By the time we reach the concubine’s door, I’m half undressed and Barrons is yanking off his belt and unbuttoning his trousers. We stumble into the chamber together, fall to the great white bed where we sink into plush ermine furs.  Above us, thousands of sparkling diamonds twirl lazily on the air and tiny flames flicker to life deep within them.  In the hearth, white birch logs burst into flame.

And the mirror! The enormous gilt-framed mirror joining the white side of the chamber to the dark half, blinks into existence, rippling quicksilver before going translucent black and, on the other side, Zara and her king are making love like there’s no tomorrow.  The way we should always make love.

But now, faithful reader, like the Unseelie king, I’m retracting my screen to leave you with this.

Love is. Only is.

The greatest and most powerful magic in the world.

Never stop believing in it.

Life is only unbearably long if you live it without your heart.