Home > Antlered Crown (The Wild Hunt #18)(2)

Antlered Crown (The Wild Hunt #18)(2)
Author: Yasmine Galenorn

 

A few days later, Herne and I prepared to leave the palace.

“It’s time to go home, love. To our new home,” he said, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. “I can’t wait till we get married.”

I nodded, suddenly feeling hesitant about leaving the safety of Cernunnos’s home. Here, he was in charge and we didn’t have to make any of the decisions.

As well as Yutani, Talia, Viktor, Sheila, Angel, DJ and Cooper’s family, and Sejun, we were being accompanied by Herne’s guard—which had been siphoned off of Cernunnos’s army—and a host of staff chosen from the village and my soon-to-be father-in-law’s court.

Even then, we wouldn’t have enough people to run the castle the way we needed, but they would keep us going until we could hire a full crew.

“Morgana’s meeting us there,” he added.

Morgana had taken over decorating our new home, and she’d stick around until we were married. The wedding was in three weeks, and it would take us a full week to reach the new castle, so our schedule was tight. But we wanted to be married on Samhain, so we had to get a move on.

I stared out the window in our private chamber overlooking a thicket of oaks. The wind was shaking the trees, and the rain came down in sheets. The weather in Annwn—in Cernunnos’s land—mirrored our weather back in Seattle, although it was colder here. And living by the sea would be even colder and stormier. Our land and castle might only be two hundred miles north, but in that distance, the elevation increased steeply.

The sea beneath Caer Briar Shore was vast, and the depths had never been measured. There were supposedly monsters in the sea, although I wondered how true the rumors were.

Cernunnos joined us, placing a hand on my shoulder. I glanced up at him, trying to quell my nerves. He had been nothing but gracious and kind to me, but I had seen him when he was angry, and he was a terror to behold.

“You’ll be there for the wedding, right?” I asked.

“Nothing could keep me away. I hope you know how happy Morgana and I are that you’re joining our family. You’re good for Herne, he needs you. You will do for him what Morgana did for me—make him a better man.”

“It’s hard to believe that two and a half years ago I didn’t know him. That I had never heard of the Wild Hunt. And now, it’s my life.”

Cernunnos folded his arms and stared out the window. The massive god was close to seven feet tall, although he could rise up or shrink down at will. It was a power I would eventually acquire. Morgana had.

“Let me guess. You’re nervous, and questioning whether you did the right thing.”

Startled, I leaned against a column near the windows. “How did you know?”

“Because that’s what Morgana did right before, but especially for a few years after she went through the Gadawnoin. It took her awhile to adapt, so don’t think you have to feel settled. This is the biggest adaptation that you’ll ever have to make. But I can guarantee you, you will get past the indecision and the uncertainty.”

“But how can I be certain?” I wanted a guarantee, even though I knew life seldom offered one.

“Because if you couldn’t adapt, you would have gone mad during the ritual. Or you would have died. The only ones who haven’t adapted are no longer with us. Those who make it through the ritual but lose their minds we have to send to a haven where they’re watched and cared for. If they’re dangerous, they’re watched by security guards. As for those who’ve died, well, their spirits moved on. If you survive the ritual and are sane, you will manage the transition process.”

While I knew that was supposed to make me feel better, I wasn’t sure it did. Before I had moved through the Gadawnoin, no one had told me that there was even a possibility of going mad, or of dying. I still felt miffed. But I decided to ignore the irritation.

“So you don’t mind having a daughter-in-law who was mortal?”

Cernunnos laughed. “I wouldn’t have married Morgana if I minded mortals. You remind me of her. There are reasons that she was assigned to be your goddess. Now, make sure that you have everything you need, and I will see you in a couple weeks for your wedding. Give Morgana my love.” And with that, he walked off.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Everything was packed, and the caravan headed out. Herne and I had our own vardo, wagons we could sleep in, and Angel rode with us most of the way.

We were due at the castle in a week, and most of the journey was straight uphill. The horses who pulled our carriages were strong, among the best of Cernunnos’s stables. They were sturdy, used to pulling a lot of weight, and their endurance amazed me. I opened the windows on both sides of the vardo so Angel and I could look out as we rode along. Herne rode up front along with Viktor, both on massive horses leading the way. Thirty wagons long, the caravan was filled with personal luggage we would need when we arrived. Morgana was already at the castle, making sure that there would be food and a skeleton staff to welcome us in.

The scenery was breathtaking. We passed through a break in the forest, which took one full day. If the pass hadn’t existed, we’d have a lot longer trip. Neither Herne nor I could enter Y’Bain, the magical forest that spread across Annwn. The spell was endemic to the forest itself, and it prevented any god from journeying into its borders. Now that I was a goddess, I could never enter the forest again.

The break in the forest was actually a low-elevation pass, leading into the foothills of the White Mountains, a massive mountain range that led far north into other realms, including the Forgotten Kingdom, the land of the dragons.

“What’s it like, where we’re going? Where your castle is?” Angel asked.

“Caer Briar Shore is at the top of the cliff. It’s not above the tree line—but it’s pretty far up. If you think of Blewett Pass or Stevens Pass back in Washington, we’re probably about at that level. There’s a lot of tall timber—the forest continues up to the crest. But on the other side, the road dips down into a valley, about a thousand feet down to the shores of the Muir Leathan Sea. The valley below has enough room for a village to settle. The land isn’t too bad—while it won’t grow more delicate crops that have a longer growing season, the villagers should be able to plant plenty of root vegetables, and there’s a long swath of land that can sustain corn and wheat. It’s decent agricultural land.”

Angel shifted position, crossing her legs beneath her. “So there will be others besides those of us living in the castle?”

“Yes, eventually. As soon as the castle is settled, they’ll start to come. Farther along the shore, there are some wide meadows that will sustain cattle. Herne says we’re going to need to create our own self-sustaining environment. Even though magic can work wonders, it can’t take the place of food, nor any of those day-to-day activities that support daily life.”

“What’s the village going to be called? Have you decided?”

“Avondale, the valley of waters. Herne actually chose the name of the village, since I chose the name of our castle.” I paused, bursting out into a nervous laugh. “I can’t believe I’m talking about having a castle and overseeing the creation of a village.”

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