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“Did you forgive your father for everything he did to you?” Alys asked her.

“When I discovered he had not murdered all of my adopted brothers, but had given them new lives…on that day, my hatred of Derien ended.” She made an elegant gesture. “I can’t say if I will ever forgive him, but I do have the man I love, and the brothers I thought I had lost. The Kyn have given me the family I have always wanted. What I hope, what I dream, is that in my happiness, in the love and the life I share with Korvel, that someday I will forget him.”

“Yes.” That sounded right to Alys. “Beau and I have always been alone. Now we have each other, and our friends, you and Chris.…It’s everything I ever dreamed of. For that, I owe Derien a lot.”

Chris came over and took her other hand. “Well, my sisters, I happen to be petty and selfish, and I wasn’t raised by nuns, and he drove my mother insane, so I’m going to keep on hating our dad for a while. Just FYI.”

The door to Alys’s chamber opened, and Alexandra Keller looked in on them. “We’ve got a couple hundred vampires crammed in the chapel, a groom who is getting a bit fidgety, and a mortal organist who is becoming so zonked on Kyn pheromones that she’s starting to take requests. You ready to clamp on the old ball and chain, Indiana?”

“Very much so.” Alys glanced at her companions. “Before we go, I need to have a word with Dr. Keller in private. Would you mind?”

“No problem.” Chris linked her arm through Simone’s. “Come on, Paris. Let’s go find that champagne and think up a cool nickname for me.”

“Terrier,” Simone suggested. “You are as vicious as one.”

When her sisters had left them, Alys set aside the bouquet. “Did Beaumaris tell you what happened to Cristophe?”

“He described how he shoved the emeralds into his dematerializing body, which evidently caused the green mini-mushroom cloud.” Alex came over and straightened the lace collar of her gown. “Jayr’s men have searched every inch of the springs, the mission, and the other encampments. They didn’t recover any remains or traces of him, if that’s your worry.” She searched Alys’s face. “And that’s not it.”

“Just before I blacked out—no, just before I died,” Alys corrected herself, “Cristophe spoke to me. Up here.” She tapped the side of her head. “It’s funny. All this time I’ve been thinking Beau was the one who saved me as a child.” She briefly described the horrific incident from her childhood, and added, “Cristophe has the same voice as Beau. You can’t tell them apart.”

Alex nodded. “Why was he bugging you this time?”

“He could see that I was dying, and I was the last mortal Derien, so perhaps he thought it would be safe to let me know,” Alys said. “Make one last confession.”

“You haven’t told anyone yet?” When Alys shook her head, Alex grimaced. “But you want to.”

“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “Finding out that the guardian that I loved and mourned was still alive, and that he was the maniac who wanted to destroy the Kyn and rule the world…It was almost more than I could handle. And he killed my mother to get his hands on me. God. What do I with that?”

“You forget it, and him.” The doctor picked up her bouquet. “As for this thing that Cristophe told you, maybe he knew you were going to survive, and trusted you to know what to do with it. Guarding the emeralds for as long as he did gave Cristophe abilities that we’ll never understand.”

“That’s the other thing.” Alys glanced at the door. “I mentioned that I minored in geology. When I retrieved the gems from the spring, I got a good look at them, and they match the description of the crystals you found in my sisters’ blood samples.”

“So they were changed by the emeralds.”

Alys shook her head. “Alexandra, they weren’t emeralds. They were diamonds.”

“Huh?” Alex looked perplexed. “Are you sure? I’ve never heard of green diamonds.”

“They turn that color only under certain conditions,” Alys said. “Like when they’ve been irradiated.”

“That’s an interesting theory, but it wasn’t as if you had time to take samples or run a proper spectral analysis.” She studied her fingernails. “Since the jewels were destroyed, I guess we’ll really never know.”

“We’re scientists, Alexandra,” Alys reminded her. “Even if we don’t have the gems, we can reverse engineer their effect by…” Her voice trailed off as she made the final connection. “You’ve already done that.”

“My minor was in genetics, not geology.” Alex gave her a narrow look before she huffed out some air. “It was so much easier, being the only scientist. No one knows, Indiana. Not even Michael.”

“You can trust me.”

“A couple of years ago I stumbled onto it.” Alex briefly explained how Robin of Locksley had sacrificed himself to protect the world. “What Rob ingested turned out to be a form of the original Kyn-maker pathogen that had been exposed to radiation at some point—back in the Dark Ages, no one knew about the dangers of uranium exposure—and had mutated into a far more toxic, aggressive strain. The pathogen he already carried in his bloodstream attacked it, and basically they ate each other. He then reverted to a human state.”

“But why didn’t you formulate a treatment from what you learned from Robin’s case?” Alys asked.

“Even if I could collect another sample of the pathogen that turned him mortal, and use it to synthesize a vaccine to force another battle of the mutations, it would require genetic engineering on a scale far beyond anything I can do now,” Alex admitted. “At best it would be like me using a sledgehammer to chop up a watermelon. I had to let it go.”

“Yet you’re still collecting blood samples from the Kyn, and studying the pathogen.” Alys studied Alex’s bland expression. “You’re waiting for the science to advance.”

She lifted her shoulders. “I figure in a hundred years we’ll have the means to do it. Then it’ll probably take me another century to talk the Darkyn into giving up eternal life. I can’t force it on them, Alys. I want them to want it.”

“But you want to be human again, more than anything.”

“I want to be with the man I love just a little bit more,” Alex corrected. “For him, I’ll wait, but I’m sure you get that.” She handed her the bouquet. “Come on. Let’s get you hitched before someone gets bored and eats the preacher.”

“I do not recall flowers at weddings in our time,” Harlech said. “Now, funerals were a different matter. They piled them everywhere; in the chapel, at the cemetery, on the body.…”

“That was to cover the smell of rotting flesh.” Beaumaris tried not to glance at the back of the chapel again. “Why has she not come? Do you think she has changed her mind?”

“The lady took two bullets in the back for you, brother. She will not desert you now.” Harlech’s mouth curved as the organist abruptly changed her tune. “As you see.”

All of the Kyn stood as Beau turned to see Alys come into the chapel on Byrne’s arm. The Scotsman had dressed in his finest plaid and kilt, and wore on his brow the gleaming band of gold and red beryls that Robert the Brus had bestowed on him after their victory at Bannockburn.

Alys wore a full, lavender-colored veil, but through the delicate lace Beau could see her lovely eyes shining. Her lips trembled into a smile as Byrne reached the altar, and offered her hand to Beau.

“Love her for the rest of your days, lad, and you’ll be a lucky man,” the Scotsman said, and leaned forward to murmur the rest. “Hurt her, and you’ll be a dead one.”

“Aye, my lord.” Beau brought Alys’s hand to his lips, and then folded her arm over his as they turned to face the priest.


Alys and Beau turned to see Farlae struggling to his feet. Although Rain tried to stop him, he came forward toward the altar, almost dragging the big man with him.

“Forgive the interruption, but there is something I must say.” As Beau nodded, he turned to address the rest of the Kyn. “I have been in love with Rainer of Sherwood since the day we met. I purchased him, took him away, seduced him, and have since been his lover, these seven hundred years.” He scanned the faces staring at them. “Some of you do not approve, I well know, but it is not your choice to make for us. And since it is also none of your bloody business, I beg you keep your narrow-minded opinions to yourselves.”

Rain gaped at him. “Farlae, what are you doing?”

The wardrobe master reached into his pocket, and produced a large golden ring inlaid with multicolored stones and one huge sapphire. “I am telling everyone that I love you, and I wish to marry you.” With great difficulty he went down on one knee. “If you will have me.”

“Yes. Yes, I will.” Rain held out his left hand, and Farlae slid the ring on his finger. “Will we have a wedding, too?”

Farlae nodded. “As soon as I’ve recovered, lad.”

Rain picked up Farlae, kissing him soundly and then setting him back on his feet before he grimaced at Beau. “Sorry, Beaumaris. I had not thought to become engaged in the middle of your wedding. Do go on.”

The ceremony was simple, and once they had made their vows to each other before God and all their kind, the priest pronounced them man and wife. Beau gently lifted the veil and smoothed it back from Alys’s face before he smiled at her.

“Now you’ll never be rid of me, love,” he said as he brushed his lips against hers.

Alys pressed her hand to his cheek. “Forever should just about be long enough.”

The men of the garrison cheered as Beau lifted Alys off her feet and spun around with her.

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