The Twisted Skein

2038 -- Journey Long

They say the only way to become immortal is to have the heart of a star. Of course, they also say it's to work for Death, or to aid the Gods, or to become a vampire, or sometimes they say you have to be born that way. All this really proves is that 'they' don't have the faintest idea what they're talking about.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?"

Dafydd Illian sighed softly, reaching up to stroke his wife's hair gently. "Look at you," he said rather than answering. "You're going on sixty years old. By all rights you should be grey-haired, wrinkled, and losing control of your bladder."

Constance raised an eyebrow. "Are you going somewhere with this, elf-boy?" she asked caustically.

Dafydd shook his head slightly. "Instead, your hair is still jet-black except for a couple of strands, and you'll never have more than those couple. In every world we've visited you've either obtained immortality in some canonical fashion or been banned from the underworld by an irate deity. You will never die - you'll never even age."

"And neither will you," Constance pointed out. "And I'm very glad of that."

"So am I," Dafydd agreed fervently. "But Connie, that's just us. What about our children? Their spouses? Their children?"

"We could do it," Constance said stubbornly. "It's not that hard-"

"Where would it end?" Dafydd interrupted. "Once we start keeping people from dying, where will it end? Would you give it to Bella's husband, but not his parents? Not his siblings? Not their husbands and wives? Before you know it, we'd have made all the worlds immortal. We don't have that right."

"Why not?" Constance insisted. "We had the right to do it for me."

"You're a very special woman," Dafydd told her seriously, "and more than that, you're mine. I'm not going to lose you. But our children... are their own people. And Connie, except for Tanfin, they all chose mortality, too. What right have we to take that gift away from them?"

"They chose wrong," Constance tried, but her face was pale. "Oh, Dafydd, I don't want to let go."

"Oh, my love." Wrapping his arms around her, Dafydd held his wife close. "I know, love. That's why it's better this way. Better to make a clean break of it than to hang around, watching them grow old and..." He left the sentence unfinished, swallowing hard.

Constance nodded slightly, straightening up and wiping the tears from her eyes. "You're right," she said. "I've already watched one of my daughters die. I don't want to go through that again - ever."


Jasmine looked around the room. Everyone was there, right enough. Bella and Oleander stood together, the last unmarried Illians. Luden Dioxond was hovering near the wall, watching while his daughter - Daphne's daughter, but Daphne wasn't there, was she? - played with Jasmine's own son Durran, named for the father he had never known. Then, lurking near the door, was Tanfin, Atanafinwë Illian, an elf among humans, back from wherever he spent his time these days. They were all here, her entire family.

The guests were scattered around the room, but their attention was definitely focussed on the last two figures, who stood talking softly in a corner. Finally, Jasmine's mother turned to face the group. "Hey, kids," she said, smiling. "Glad you could all make it. You can probably guess why we've dragged you all here."

"To be annoying, probably," Tanfin said grumpily. "I was busy, you know."

"Oh, how nice," Dafydd said in an aside to Constance, one which Jasmine could still hear quite clearly. "He takes after his grandfather." Jasmine watched her mother's slight smirk, and then spoke up herself.

"You're leaving," she said into the suddenly silent room, "aren't you?"

Constance looked at her eldest daughter and nodded. "We are," she confirmed. "Dafydd and I have talked about this, and we think it's time. You're not getting any younger, and," she paused for a moment, smiled slightly, "we're not exactly getting older, either. Which is rather the point."

"I can understand that," Jasmine agreed, and looked at them shrewdly. "You don't want to watch us die, do you? I remember what losing Kell was like."

"We've all lost people," Dafydd said, looking at her sadly. "And no, we don't want to go through that again. Nor do we want to put you through the ordeal of growing old while your parents... don't."

"And what about me?" Tanfin demanded. "I'm not going to die. Will you cut off contact with me, too?"

Constance's mouth set into a hard line, but she stayed silent, letting Dafydd answer instead. "My son," the elf said, "you chose immortality, but with it, you accepted an entire legacy. There is still a curse on House Fëanor, a curse of, let's be frank, overwhelming pride. You may think your mother and I don't know of your visits to my brothers, but boy, we're your parents - we know everything." Jasmine was amused to see Tanfin blush furiously before Dafydd went on. "I hope you escape our Doom, I really do, but... to date, every elf of my father's line has died rather horribly. To be brutally honest, your chances aren't that good."

Constance had now gained enough control over her emotions to add her own response. "And yes, Tanfin, we will be cutting off contact with you. If you think about it, that's only what you yourself have done these past ten years. And, after all," she flashed him a humourless grin, "we wouldn't want to be unfair, would we?"

Tanfin scowled at his mother, but it was Belladonna who spoke up next. "But, Mam," she said, looking worried, "you're not really going, are you? I mean, you said you wanted to be at my wedding..."

"I said that when you were six, Bella," Constance replied flatly. "You're nearly thirty now. Do you intend to ever get married?"

It was Bella's turn to blush. "Well, um," she said hesitantly, "there's this boy down in town, Furimem Vishort... we've been sort of, well, talking about... um."

"Ah, so that's why you refused to leave home," Dafydd said with a twinkle in his eye. Bella's blush deepened, but Constance grinned.

"Well," the woman said, "we won't be leaving immediately, so you can have... let's see, can you get sorted in a week?" Bella stared at her, then nodded quickly and hid her face in embarrassment while her mother turned to look at Oleander. "And you, my boy?"

The young man returned her gaze. "Elisabeth and I are thinking about it," he announced, "but we won't be ready in a week. You don't need to attend."

"He kept that quiet," Dafydd murmured to his wife, who nodded slightly. Jasmine smiled, amused: so they didn't know everything.

"All right," Constance said, "that was it, really." She frowned. "Oh, no, not quite it. What was the other thing, dear?"

"Hmm." Dafydd pretended to think hard. "Something about food?"

"Ah!" Constance beamed. "That's right. We've got a buffet set out in the garden, so enjoy yourselves while you can - it's the last meal we'll be giving you lot."


"I've never really gotten the hang of their wedding ceremonies," Constance commented a week later as they stood on the road outside town. "I much preferred ours."

"Well, we have to accommodate the locals," Dafydd said genially. "Bella looked good, though."

"She did," Constance agreed with a fond smile. "Do you think she'll be okay?"

"It's a civilised country," Dafydd pointed out, "and he's a nice boy. She should do fine."

"She does stand out around here, though," Constance said, frowning. "We all do, with our pale skin."

"That's probably why the rest of the family moved to other worlds," Dafydd mused, "but really, Connie, Bella will be fine. Come on, we've places to be."

"Sorry," Constance said ruefully. "I just... well, we're leaving our children, I'm allowed to be worried." She brightened up. "Hey, maybe we can think about having another set once we've settled in?"

Dafydd laughed and opened a portal. "Sure, love," he said. "In about five thousand years, maybe."

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