She heard his footsteps on the stone steps long before she heard him; the tell-tale clack of talons on solid stone was unmistakable. As he reached 'her' room, the place she always tended to go when the sun rose, the wind from the window brought the familiar smells of Avalon with it... and his unmistakable scent of the sea moments later. Cordelia knew there was only one who brought that scent with him wherever he went, and the voice that broke the silence confirmed it as she turned to face his direction.
"I thought I would find you here..." She could hear the smile in Acaeileus' voice even if she couldn't see it. It brought a small smile to her own lips, but it was tinged with concern.
"I have always felt... safe here, I suppose you could say. It was here that the princess would read to us before dawn and the magus would tell us tales of magic and wonder."
Her tone became wistful for a few moments as Acaeileus crossed the room to her side and placed a hand on her shoulder in reassurance. He knew of what had transpired on Avalon before his arrival and how the loss of the magus still struck a chord with many of the clan. "I know that you miss him, my dear... I only wish I had had the chance to meet him."
Cordelia smiled at his words and lifted her own hand to settle onto his. Since Acaeileus' arrival, they had been almost inseparable from sundown to sunrise -- Cordelia had never found someone so easy to talk to, someone whom she felt so utterly at ease with. That was why she felt the pang of apprehension at what she had to ask next.
"... What did Lord Oberon want with you?"
Acaeileus sighed softly and gently squeezed her shoulder. "You mentioned the 'sisters' being the gatekeepers of this island, and how strange it was for them to allow me to cross over into Avalon's waters. As it turns out... they had a reason."
Seeing the confusion on the green gargess' face, Acaeileus continued. "I must go, Cordelia... for my clan may very well be in danger, if not the world itself. An ancient foe of Oberon's has arisen, but she has managed to hide herself from the sisters' gaze. Oberon sent a few of his other children out to seek any sign of her, but they have been unsuccessful."
Cordelia's hands went to her mouth as her eyes went wide. "But.. Oberon is the most powerful of the Fae, their lord and master... what could possibly
be able to hide from him? And what does it have to do with you?"
"My clan is of the sea, and not tied to this island as his children are now. He wishes for me to be his eyes and ears in the search for this rogue Fae, as she will not suspect his power behind me." She heard the talons of his free hand tap against the torque at his neck before he continued; his tone a mixture of regret and concern. "My days here have been months
out there, my dear... I need to ensure that my clan is safe, and let them know in turn that I yet live. Then we must let our sister clans of the Greecian lands know of the danger so that they may help us... if she has not already struck out at them."
The uncertainty in his voice tugged at Cordelia's heart. For as much as she wanted to beg him to stay with her, safe on Avalon... she knew it would be for naught. His family was in danger at worst and worried sick about him at best, and if Oberon himself decreed that Acaeileus leave on business for him... the lord of the Fae would not allow him to linger much longer on Avalon anyway. It was a wonder he'd even allowed Acaeileus to come see her at all rather than just sending him away immediately. That spoke more of his queen, Titania's, involvement.
"I... I understand." she finally managed; looking away and hoping he could not see her disappointment.
"I am glad, but please... do not sound so sad. Not yet." As Acaeileus spoke, he moved around behind Cordelia and soon the light tinkling of metal on itself could be heard. Tilting her head now in curiosity, she felt Acaeileus' hands settle on either shoulder -- bringing with them an odd warmth that settled against her chest in the form of a necklace. Her talons gently ran over the edges and facets of the shell at its center -- memorizing every inch out of habit.
"Whatever your answer is, this gift is yours. You told me once how you feared the sea... now you need not fear any longer." Acaeileus clasped the pearled string together and allowed his hands to settle back onto Cordelia's shoulders. "With this, now water will be as air to you and allow you to explore the depths to your heart's content."
As tears threatened at the corners of her eyes, Cordelia fought them back with a deep breath. "Acaeileus... such a gift, I could never give you anything nearly so wonderful in return..."
Acaeileus paused for a long moment, as though collecting his thoughts and words. "There is one gift you can grant me... as before, if you refuse then I will understand."
"What? What is it?"
"... That you will return with me to my clan... as my mate."
Her heart fluttered in her chest as she was stunned into silence. A mixture of emotions flooded through her as she tried to find what words she wanted to say -- the only home she had ever known was Avalon, the only family was her own. It had taken her years to learn how to work around her blindness and maneuver the island as well as her siblings.
But Acaeileus was the only person whom she'd had an immediate connection with, and even in the short time he'd been on Avalon the idea of him leaving -- in and of itself as well as to possibly face a threat as great as an ancient Fae -- tore her heart in two. She could not bear the thought of never seeing him again, let alone never knowing what became of him at all. Oberon was as fickle as his children, and even if Acaeileus succeeded in finding Oberon's foe it did not mean the Fae lord would allow him to return to Avalon.
With all of her thoughts flashing through her head, both negative and positive, Cordelia came to the sudden realization that she'd already decided the moment he'd asked. With a determined smile, the young gargess turned to face her love as best she could and wrapped her arms around him.
"Yes, Acaeileus... yes."
As ever, Acaeileus is property of:
Cordelia is mine.
Gargoyles belongs to Disney.