Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Service Promised Was Service Given

There was a person in front of her. He was neither as tall as the fair ones who crossed the land in their ridings nor as small as the fey and lesser folk who populated both this world and the other. He looked quite human actually, if one disregarded the sharply pointed tips of his ears and the sharply pointed teeth, or the eyes as green and slit-pupiled as a cat’s. His hair was as brown as oak-bark, and he was dressed in green and brown.

“Puca,” she acknowledged him by name and kind.

He grinned and bowed. “At your service, lady,” he said.

She was very careful not to twitch. No word spoken in this world was heedless, and service promised was service given. “Indeed?” she asked. “Have I earned it?”

“Your destiny has,” said the puca, “and your magic. You’re blossoming into it, lady.”

“Like a nettle,” she said.

He laughed. He was not mocking her, she did not think. But then he sobered. “We’re not at ease with all of magic, either. Some of what’s been breeding and growing in Britain is frightening. Even the great ones walk wary of it.”

“The black places?” Edith asked. Even out of the body, the thought made her cold. “The places where it’s all rotted and dead?”

The puca nodded. “It scares us. It’s all wrong—and what ever it touches, it twists. It’s caught the Hunt; they’re ever turning on their own, and feeding on magic.”

“Won’t the rites of Beltane and Midsummer help?” said Edith. “Aren’t they supposed to feed the magic?”

“They do,” said the puca.

“You want me to do something,” Edith said.

The puca grinned. “Everyone said you had clear sight. Yes, we want something. We’re not sure what, yet. Just… something. Because you have so much magic, and your blood is what it is.”

“You want my blood,” Edith said. She was very calm. “Do you think it will help?”

“Maybe not that kind of blood,” said the puca. “We don’t know. Fate swirls around you—time comes to a center in you. But we can’t see how. Not yet.”

Well, Edith thought. She was born to matter: king’s daughter and descendant of kings. That she mattered to England came as no surprise.

“Britain,” said the puca. “You matter to Britain.”

“But England is—”

England is a shadow. Britain was there before it and will be there long after it is gone.

“I was born to England,” Edith said a little stiffly.

“Your mother was born to England. You are half a Gael, and all the magic is in you.”

Edith set her lips together. She did not know that she was angry. He was saying things she had thought for herself. But part of her was still her mother’s child, however little she loved the life her mother had meant for her. She had to defend it somehow.

“I won’t destroy England,” she said. “I’ll never agree to that.”

“We won’t ask it,” said the puca. Still smiling at her, he shrank and dwindled and shifted, until a sleek striped cat stood where he had been. His eyes were still the same, and his teeth not so different. He was purring loudly; his whole body shook with it.

Edith blinked. She had not expected that, even knowing he was a puca and therefore a shapeshifter. He crouched; she was prepared, somewhat, when he sprang to her shoulder.

His claws dug in, but gently. His purr was raucous. She caught herself smiling and stroking his fur. He was seducing her; but she did not mind.

King’s Blood, Chapter 16

Emphasis mine.