Chapter 49

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When Eleri, still accompanied by Saeth, returned to the room, they found Defnyn, Arwain and the two guards waiting outside in the hallway. Defnyn had been transformed from a very terrifying Helwyr to a slightly less scary version of himself. Eleri couldn't help but smile. He was now wearing a long green sleeveless tunic over a pair of loose charcoal grey coloured trousers. The attire suited him. His hair, however, remained untouched.

'We tried to persuade him to use a comb, but...' Arwain's words failed. With a shake of the head, he said, 'Come. It will not do to keep King Arawn waiting.'

Eleri and Defnyn walked side-by-side behind Arwain, with the guards following behind. They were led through various corridors once more, the path of which quickly became entangled in the priestess' mind.

They soon found themselves standing in a great stone hall with a vaulted ceiling, and they were not alone. Immediately Eleri spotted a face she recognised.

'Celyn!'

'Eleri!'

Oblivious to everyone and everything else - especially court etiquette - she broke out into a run, heading straight to him. But then there was a row of guards standing in her way, spears crossed and swords drawn. Where had they come from, Eleri had no clue. Another row of soldiers were behind these, facing Celyn, preventing their meeting.

Eleri could not take her eyes off Celyn. Although they were still apart, she drank in the sight of him. His skin glowed with health and vitality, and he was dressed in the clothes she had chosen for his burial. His eyes were bright, his smile, heart-melting. He was everything she remembered and more.

With a signal she did not see, given by someone out of sight, the guards stepped back. Eleri did not hesitate. She ran directly to Celyn and threw her arms around his neck. Wrapping his big strong arms around her, he lifted her off the ground, clutching her to him. Eleri buried her head in his shoulder, breathing in the smell of him, savouring every moment she was in his arms as if it might be her last.

'You're here,' Celyn whispered, kissing her head. 'You're really here.'

Eleri looked up. 'Of course I am. You thought I wouldn't try once I found out it was possible?'

'By the spirits, Eleri. The peril you must have faced...'

'It was worth it. I would take every step of the journey again, if only you would be there to meet me at the end of it.'

Begrudgingly Celyn relinquished hold of Eleri and her feet found the floor. Yet, she wasn't ready for him to let go, so she clasped his hand in hers, resisting the urge to bring it to her mouth and kiss it.

Arwain coughed. 'Lady Eleri, Priestess of the Green Lady, of the People of Carreg, and Defnyn son of Mochyn, of the Banished Ones, The Helwyr.'

At the mention of the Helwyr, mutterings and gasps echoed round the audience chamber. Defnyn gave Arwain a filthy look for introducing him thus after their conversation at the bridge, but didn't say anything.

Eleri looked about, trying to seek out to whom they were being introduced. As the crowd parted, she spotted him, Lord Arawn, King of the Summerlands, Chief of the Land of the Dead. He was sitting on an imposing carved seat that spoke of power and strength. He did not look as she expected.

He appeared to be no more than ten years older than Celyn and just as tall and broad. His dark hair fell around his face in waves to rest upon his shoulders, and he was clean shaven. From the intelligent look in his eyes, she knew he was astute and wise. She only hoped that meant he would be amenable to listening to what she had to say.

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