by Bensiamin

Chapter 2

Bran knelt beside Lennon and stroked his cheek. "We have arrived. How do you feel?"

"Better, like more energy. I feel as if I'm waking up or something."

"That is good. You were very close to death, to the point of your spirit departing, before I cast the spell to stop it. If you feel like you are waking, then you are. You are coming to life in this transitory form."

"Bran, what does that mean? Tell me. I trust you."

"It means that you are still an embodied spirit, but your body has now been transformed to this intermediate plane. You are not the same as you were yesterday, but you are still body and soul and here in this place with me. The spell I invoked prevented the departure of your spirit so that I might carry you."

"Meaning there will be no body for anyone to find?"

"Yes. Either I let your spirit depart your body, or kept them together through a spell so that I could bring you here."

Lennon thought briefly about the things and people he had left behind who would know nothing of his disappearance. On the other hand, was that much worse than them learning he'd been assaulted and killed? He turned to Bran, "And where is here?"

"Here is Wales. This is my homeland, and it was once so for your family as well. It is a small and old manor house in the hills that once was part of my family's estate. That estate has become smaller and smaller over time, and some years ago I was able to arrange to purchase this portion of it so that I have a place for as long as I am in this condition."

Lennon found himself chuckling. Bran looked at him questioningly. "You not only were a raven who came to guide my spirit to the spiritual realm, but you transformed into… I don't know how to describe what you are now… and you transported me here to Wales from America. Those are surely magical things. Yet you arranged to purchase a manor house? It's too funny."

"I am glad to hear you speak this way, to express humor. It means all is well with you and the separation we stopped. As to the manor house, I told you that due to the spell I am bound here, in this physical plane. Whether I am in the form of a raven, or as you see me now, it is principally a physical dimension. So, it should be no surprise that I need a physical place to be. That said, it was important to me that it be part of my family estate, and especially this place, and so I waited many years to be able to make this place mine. As you can imagine, being a person with wings is not common and tends to prompt questions and concerns. So, I was fortunate that on my family's estate was this manor house in the mountains away from the main castle. At the time it was constructed, they thought of it as a hunting lodge." He smiled angelically has he said it.

"But you didn't tell me what you are? I mean you are beautiful standing in front of me, and your black wings are both astonishing and gorgeous. I've never seen a man with wings, and only heard about Icarus trying that flying thing with fake wings." Lennon turned serious. "I liked you, and was drawn to you when you were a raven. Now you are even more stunning. What are you? Seriously. I want to know."

Bran looked confused, as if he didn't understand the question. "The boy you see is what I was when I was cursed. However, it is not just the boy, it is also the raven. I am an embodied spirit as you now are. In my case the boy and the raven are now conjoined."

Lennon felt himself returning to full strength and smiled in delight. "You are more than a boy. You are a beautiful young man. One I feel I know somehow, and one with astonishing wings like no one else."

Bran, as if it was possible, appeared to blush. Lennon hurried on. "Can I stroke your wings?"

"You mean as you stroked my neck and back in the alley?"

"Yes, that was wonderful. I felt so connected to you."

"And I to you. Yes, I would love to have you stroke my wings. First, though, we must get you into the manor house and settled. It's misty and cool out here and soon you will chill."

"I can't wait to see it and have you show it to me. I've never been in a manor house. I've never been outside of the US." He looked at Bran and cocked his head a bit, the way the raven had done to him many times and then said with a smile, "This is an adventure. This could be fun."

Bran smiled back. "This will be pleasurable. We will be able to know each other again, to enjoy each other's presence. Perhaps if we are fortunate, to recapture something lost in times past. We shall see. For now, though, let me help you up and we'll go to the house."

Lennon's strength had returned, and though he needed help to stand, he was able to walk to the manor house. As Bran had said, it was not large, but was a well designed and sturdily built stone building set back from the promontory on which they had landed. It was spartanly but comfortably furnished within, and Bran led him down a hall that led away from the main room. He opened the first door on the right and walked inside to turn on the light. "This will be your room. Mine is the next one along the hall."

Lennon looked at him coyly and said, "Why do I have to be here? You told me I wouldn't be alone, that I'd be with you. You know a lot about me, so you have to know that I'm gay. What if I want to be with you?"

Bran smiled wryly and then said softly, "I would not deny you. We are cut from the same cloth. However, you just arrived. You have been through much in the last twelve hours. Additionally, while it was early morning when I picked you up in America, it is now evening here. We both should eat and rest."

He had turned to face Lennon and placed a hand against Lennon's cheek and said softly, "It is wonderful to have you here with me. However, you also have not looked at yourself in a mirror. You were assaulted last night and have dried blood on your body and clothing. You will want a hot bath to cleanse and restore yourself. The bathroom is through that door. My room is on the other side, and you will find clothing in the armoire." He pointed at a stand-along wardrobe with two doors.

"You're right," Lennon replied. "I probably do look a mess and seriously need a bath." He felt the back of his head. "It feels like the wounds have healed. Did you do that?"

Bran smiled back demurely. "It was part of the spell. Also, we ravens are reputed to be able to provide healing."

Lennon stepped forward to stand in front of Bran. "Well, thank you. Can I hug you? You've done so much for me."

"Nothing would please me more," Bran said softly, and he shuddered as Lennon's arms came around his waist and pulled him close. He felt Lennon's hands slide up his sides to his armpits and then stroke his chest following which they went around his back, encompassing his arms and torso and wings.

"It's quite a reach to hold all of you, including your wings."

"I'm sure, but I will tell you that it has been centuries since I have been held this way."

Lennon hugged him close, softly stroking the smooth black wings, and he felt Bran's hands stroke his own back. He let his face rest against Bran's neck and softly kissed it, then said, "I should bathe and then change, but you have to promise that you will tell me the full story then. I want to know all that I can."

"I shall. You bathe, and even rest, then we will eat and begin to know each other once more."

It was an hour later when Lennon appeared in clean clothes, looking rested and refreshed. Bran was sitting near the fireplace in the main room, and rose to greet him with a smile.

"You were right," Lennon said, walking toward him, "I not only needed to get clean, but was tired. I fell asleep in the bath."

Bran smiled at him. "I know. I checked on you and you were a picture of beauty."

Lennon's eye's rose and he grinned "You came in and looked at me naked in the bath? Isn't that a little pervy? You know what pervy means, right?"

Bran grinned back, nodding. "Ah, yes. On his home ground and cheeky once more. No, in fact, it wasn't what you describe as pervy. It was simple admiration of beauty. Also, I had to be assured that my house guest was safe and not experiencing any problems in the bath."

Lennon smirked and then said, "And you liked what you saw?"

"I loved what I saw. I love everything about you. That's why I came to guide you, because I hoped against hope that you would…." Bran's sentence died.

Lennon looked at him with concern. "What? Go on. Please, tell me."

"I will, I promise. However, it's important not to rush. I will tell you all, trust me. First, though, let us eat and then we can talk as we break bread together."

Lennon nodded and then said, "And who baked the bread? You haven't had time since we arrived."

"You are correct," Bran replied. "I have a housekeeper of sorts, one who is in touch with the old ways, who understands me and who does not ask too many questions." He took Lennon's hand, starting to lead him to the kitchen, adding, "In contrast to some people, who are impatient to have all their questions answered at once."

They sat at the kitchen table, where Bran had laid out some prepared food. He sat on a bench that allowed the tips of his wings to drape over the back. Lennon sat across from him in a chair and said, "It didn't dawn on me that it would be hard to sit in a chair with a back when you have wings."

"It's a small adjustment. One gets used to such things." Bran caught his eye and smiled mischievously. "At least I don't have to sit on a perch."

Lennon found himself giggling in reply and reached for Bran's hand. "Good point. Are you able to sleep in a bed?"

"I think you have an ulterior motive in asking me that question. However, the answer is yes, as long as I sleep on my side. As you can imagine, sleeping on my back would be quite difficult. I've tried it and I'm always rolling from one side to the other."

Lennon was holding Bran's eyes in his and said softly and sensuously, "Does that mean when you make love that you have to be in the upper position? What we now call a top?"

To Lennon's pleasure, Bran laughed deeply, and then said, "You appear to have a one-track mind, my dear Lennon."

"Not just one track, but I certainly do have that track. You told me before that you hadn't been stroked for a very long time. How long has it been since someone told you how beautiful you are? How sexy you are? You said before that we're cut from the same cloth. Does that mean you're gay too?"

Lennon paused, reflecting on the question he'd just asked, then went on. "I mean… I guess that ravens can't be gay, can they? But what about raven-boys like you?"

Bran paused, holding Lennon's eyes in return as if deciding how much to say, and then replied. "I suppose in today's scientific parlance I am what would be called Corvus puer. Meaning, as you just said, raven-boy, or perhaps crow-boy. I have told you that I was once like you, meaning I was once a normal human being, a normal boy who was in love, and I was what you now call homosexual or gay. By extension, and that means that even in this form, which is mainly human, I am still what you call gay. Though it has been a long time since I have been in a relationship."

Lennon grinned at him. "I am so relieved! I was worried that I was assuming too much. We do have much in common then, don't we?"

"Far more than you yet know or understand, my dear Lennon, but let us eat now and then continue our discussion."

After they ate and cleared the table they moved to the main room where Bran sat on a low backed chair near the fire, and Lennon sat down next to him. They watched the fire flicker for a few minutes, then Lennon said, "I've been wondering about something."

Bran looked at him. "Yes?"

"How did you know I was going to die and that I would need a guide. Were you sent? Is there some kind of dispatch center?"

Bran raised his eyebrows and smiled wryly. Lennon went on. "Yeah, I know, I'm being cheeky. But I want to know. It's kind of an important and major thing if you ask me."

"The truth is that no one sent me. I have been keeping track of you, some might say watching you, hoping that what I thought might come to pass indeed did."

"You've been stalking me?" He said it with a mix of humor and pride.

"I suppose some people in this time would describe it that way. However, they wouldn't understand what happened today, nor the connection that exists between us."

"I want to know more about that connection. I know it's real, I just only understand a little bit of it. Will you tell me more?"

Bran yawned. "Certainly, I will. You apparently are only in touch with part of it, and are entitled to know all of it. As I said before, I was of a noble family here in Wales. In fact, I was the second son in that family. It was descended nobility, and the family line goes back to the time of Merlin, the magician. You know of him?"

Lennon nodded. "Well, yeah. I mean, Merlin and Arthur, right? The Knights of the Round Table, all of that?"

Bran smiled knowingly. "Well, in terms of 'all of that,' most of it is myth… the kind of myth you were speaking of earlier. Meaning baseless and false stories. Most of the Arthurian legend, which includes Merlin, is just that—legend. It was picked up and embellished by later British writers, and so most of what people think of as the story of King Arthur and the Wizard Merlin is fiction. However, as with many stories in life, there is some truth behind the stories. In terms of my family, it is that we were descended from Merlin, who himself was descended from Druid priests, and he was a powerful magician in the time of Arthur, which was the 5th or 6th centuries."

"You're descended from a Wizard? From Merlin?"

"On the face of it, yes. But the fact is that many people are, but not all are wizards. The power tends to pass to only one or two in each succeeding generation, and then it requires training and diligence and study. It was a long time from the age of Arthur and Merlin to when I was born and lived here, in fact it was seven hundred years, but magic and the old ways are real and did not go away or disappear simply because Christianity conquered England. Wales was always an outlier. This is a difficult land with a difficult people, and it was difficult, nigh impossible, for outsiders to conqueror. So, while there were times we were allied with England, or times when we were even part of it, we were also our own people with our own ways, and the legacy of following the old ways and tapping their power continued."

"That is so cool. I've always believed in magic, but never really understood it," Lennon said.

"Well, my dear Lennon, it is not about hat tricks or card tricks. Rather, it is being in tune with the energies of nature and being able to harness those powers. That's why, when I cast the spell to prevent the departure of your spirit, I did so by calling on the kindly powers, the good powers. There are also black powers. At any rate, by my father's time he had no magical powers. It had passed to his brother, who was a forceful worker of the powers, but was also a hard and unkind man."

Bran paused, then continued. "So, while my father was the eldest son and held the title of nobility, his brother had equal standing of sorts because he had the magical powers. My father had three sons, of which I was the second. My older brother had no natural abilities with magic, or even inclination for the old ways. I did, and was studying and training. That meant that among other things, I was able to see some things in the future, to understand the old ways, to begin to harness their powers. As I told you, I was cursed and was disowned and cast out of my family, but I retained the powers and have honed them ever since. And I have been seeking since that time for a certain type of person. I thought I might have found that person in you, and as I learned more about you and that your family was also from Wales originally, and then I learned other things about you and your family and my hope increased, and I kept watch."

He looked directly at Lennon, yawned again, and added, "I will tell you that I was not stalking you. I was watching from afar, hoping that certain attributes or characteristics would align in a certain way."

Lennon had been enraptured by the tale Bran had told him. "And did they? Align, I mean," he asked.

"They did. At least they did more so than with anyone in the last eight hundred years."

"What? Eight hundred years! What are you saying?"

"I am telling you that exercising the powers has been in my family since the time of Merlin, and that I was disowned from my family and cursed in the 13th Century. Thus, for the intervening eight hundred years I have been watching for a person, for the person I lost then… or for a person like them."

"You've been on a long quest."

"Indeed! A quest to find my heart's first love, if you must know." He yawned again and then added, "My dear Lennon, I apologize, but I must go to bed. I am far more tired that I expected to be. I am afraid I am being a poor host, but I am very tired."

Lennon rose from his chair and knelt in front of Bran, taking his hands. "I understand. You saved me today. You cast a powerful spell. You transported me here. That would have taken a lot of energy. No wonder you're tired. Honestly, I'm tired, too. Let's both go to bed, and we can continue later."

With that, he led Lennon down the hall off the main room. Pointing to the first door on the right, he said, "As you know, this is your room, and mine is through the bathroom." He turned to Lennon and added. "It is modest, but should be comfortable for you."

Before he could turn to leave, Lennon pulled Bran into his arms. "You're not going to bed without giving me a hug."

This time he felt Bran's arms come up and meet behind his back and clasp him against his chest. Lennon reached around his back, stroked his wings and hugged him tight as he kissed his neck.

Bran shuddered, then leaned back to look Lennon directly in the eyes. "Thank you. I've not felt that affection for so long."

They stared at each other for some seconds, then their lips slowly came together in a tenuous kiss. After a few seconds Lennon brought his tongue forward and let it play on Bran's lips, which opened in reception and the first dance of sensuousness began between them.

Lennon could feel the excitement rising in both of them, when he felt Bran softly and carefully pull away. "Sleep well, my dear Lennon." Bran gave him one last quick kiss and turned down the hall.

Lennon did not fall asleep easily, tossing and turning as he considered all that had happened, what they had discussed, the things that Bran had told him, the excitement of the kiss they had just shared. Some parts of this new information were now connecting with things he already knew and felt, but it was still incomplete. Like the loose pieces of a jig saw puzzle spread out on a tabletop with only part of the puzzle assembled.

After a few hours of restless tossing, he knew what he had to do. He rose and quietly went through the bathroom, and slid through the door into Bran's room. As he had said earlier in the evening, he was lying on his side, facing away from the door and toward a small fireplace, covered only with a sheet. Lennon quietly moved to the bed and noiselessly slid in behind the raven-boy.

He felt Bran adjust to the weight of a second person on the mattress, but he didn't wake up, and it wasn't long before Lennon was spooned up behind him, his face nestled between the tops of Bran's soft midnight wings. He slowly slid an arm over Bran's side and felt his hand come up to take it. As he fell asleep minutes later, he reflected on how comfortable and familiar this felt… though he'd never had a boyfriend with black hair, let alone one with wings.

He woke in the same position, spooned up against Bran, reveling in the softness and warmth of the wings against his chest and abdomen. It took a few seconds for him to comprehend where he was, and then he realized two things. First, he had a hard on that was pressing against Bran's crack, and second, that he was holding Bran's semi-hard cock in his hand. He stroked softly and felt the cock harden further, so he continued. Then he heard Bran's exhalation which carried with it a soft moan of pleasure.

Lennon took that as permission to continue, and found himself totally aroused as Bran's cock reached full hardness in his hand. He leaned back just a little and whispered, "Turn my way a little," into Bran's ear. With the better access provided, Lennon laid back the sheet and continued stroking. Bran's groans of pleasure encouraged him as he admired the beautiful cock head exposed above the now retracted foreskin. In just another minute to so, Bran let out a deep and guttural groan and bucked in Lennon's hand as he shot ropes of cum onto the bed.

Lennon slowed his stroking, but continued to hold the warm and softening cock until Bran rolled toward him and said softly, "That was absolutely wonderful." He leaned forward kissing Lennon's lips and then said, "It's been so long, I'd almost forgotten."

He was silent for another minute, both of them enjoying the light touch of one another's lips, and then Bran said softly, "But, I haven't forgotten what making love entails, and I desire for you to also feel as good." Lennon began to softly smile as Bran's hand closed around his cock.

They both briefly fell back asleep and awoke in each other's arms. Bran was the first to speak. "Thank you for coming to my bed. I was afraid of being too forward last night, of pushing you against your will."

"None of it was against my will."

"But it is important that this all be volitional," Bran said softly, "just as I said to you yesterday about casting the spell to prevent your spirit from separating. All of this has to be your choice."

"All of this?"

"Whatever this is, whatever it becomes, it has to be your will."

Lennon was touched by the sincerity of Bran's words and the sensitivity he was showing. "As I said then and again just now, none of it was against my will." He paused and a wry smile appeared on his lips. "In fact, I saw your beautiful cock when you landed, after you set me down," and here he placed his hand on Bran's groin. "Your kilt blew to the side and there it was in all it's glory. I've been hungry for it ever since."

Bran just watched him, his brown eyes glistening.

"All I could think about after I got into bed last night was what you'd done for me, how attractive you are, how I feel like parts of me and you are connected somehow, and… and how much I wanted to be with you. I just couldn't stay in that bed alone any longer."

He felt Bran stroke his cheek and say, "I'm so happy that's how you felt… that you came to me. It was my deepest desire, but I couldn't force you."

"No force was involved, just attraction… and dare I say deep feelings that I'm still trying to understand and make sense of."

When they arose and cleaned up, they walked to the kitchen and prepared breakfast. Lennon smiled at Bran and said, "Explain to me how after I almost died, and you cast a spell that saved me, that we can have sex and still have an appetite and be eating food?"

Bran smiled back. "You mean explain to you why your senses and bodily functions and needs still operate? It's quite simple, really. You are still an embodied spirit. Meaning it may have taken a spell to prevent your spirit's departure, but it is still Lennon's spirit in Lennon's body. And while that means we are living in a different plane; we are still physically here with all our physical needs and desires."

"I'm very happy to learn that," Lennon said, as he leaned into him affectionately. "Tell me more about you and your family and this house. I want to know as much as I can."

"We need to know as much as we can about each other. I told you I was named after Bran the Blessed, and in Welsh mythology, ravens were associated with Bran. In fact, bran is the Gaelic word for raven."

Lennon let that sink in, then said, "You appeared to me as a raven, you are a raven-boy, and you were actually named Bran as a child? That is beyond coincidence."

"It is, indeed. Ravens are signs of healing and prophecy and power, and have been symbols in our family since the time of Merlin. My older brother was named Branwen, which means white raven, the rarest type of raven. I was simply named raven." He paused and looked Lennon deeply in the eyes, seeking a psychic connection which he quickly found.

"You do know," he continued," that your family is also connected symbolically to ravens?"

"What? That's news to me. How did I miss that?"

"Perhaps it is because you've not seen, or may have forgotten, the heraldry of your family."

"That's not something I paid much attention to. I mean, I know my family is descended from George Washington, and Washington's family came from England and… wait! I can see it now." He stared intently back at Bran. "It's the coat of arms, isn't it?"

Bran nodded slowly, and Lennon went on, "It has a raven on it!" I think I've only seen it once or twice when I was younger, and my grandmother was doing genealogy. I thought that was cool, but it was way back when over in England, so why does it matter. What do you know? Tell me more."

Bran took his hand and said, "Let's go to the library. I have some things to show you."

The first of the two doors on the left side of the hall opened into a small library with large windows that looked out over the hills. Bran walked to a shelf and pulled out a book of heraldry and thumbed through until he found the page he was after, which he then set in front of Lennon. It described the Washington family coat of arms.

Lennon's eyes were wide as he saw the heraldry printed in color, and he said, "Wow! That's it. I can't read all of this now. Tell me what I need to know."

Bran guided him to a chair and then sat himself on a low-backed chair that accommodated his wings comfortably, and began to recount the history. He described how the Washington family actually traces its roots back to Sir William de Hertburn who was granted a lordship in northeast England and adopted his first coat of arms in 1203. "That coat of arms had a rampant lion on it, but over the next century and a half it was modified at least twice and by the mid-14th century there was a new design with two horizontal bars below three mullets and the raven above.

Washington Family Coat of Arms

Washington Family Coat of Arms

File:Coat of Arms of George Washington.svg. (2022, March 20). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository . Retrieved 06:01, June 23, 2022 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Coat_of_Arms_of_George_Washington.svg&oldid=642402083 .

"So, the final coat of arms has a raven rising with wings elevated, as you can see. And the motto that goes with it is: The outcome is the test of the act."

Lennon was studiously examining the coat of arms in the book and Bran said, "But let me continue the history. By the end of the 14th century this coat of arms was in use by the family, which had scattered over various parts of the country during the previous centuries. One branch of the family would remain in Wales, another settled in Northamptonshire, and yet another moved to the Colony of Virginia. The point of connection between us, concerning ravens is that in 1791, George Washington was in correspondence with the College of Arms in London about this coat of arms, and he confirmed it was the one in use by his family in America . He used the coat of arms in many places around his home in Mount Vernon, including on several personal items and uniforms."

Lennon looked up at him from the book. "Why ravens? I don't get it."

"That my dear Lennon, is a question about which I can only speculate as to the answer."

Lennon smiled at him, and he continued, "originally the coat of arms had a lion rampant, and that symbolizes courage, nobility, royalty, strength, and so on. In contrast, the raven is a symbol of prophecy, foresight and divine providence. Consider the motto. Since the outcome is the test of the act, being able to anticipate the future, or see the future, is important to achieve the desired outcome. Particularly so if one is a military man."

"That makes sense," Lennon replied, "but the raven was central to your family's character. Why would the Washington family also use the raven? Do you suppose it goes back to your situation, to the curse?"

"I doubt it. More likely it was coincidence," Bran replied, "though in the realm of the old ways and magic and prophecy, it is hard to think it was coincidence." He smiled wryly at Lennon who said, "Tell me about the curse, please. It seems so central to all of this."

Bran stood and stretched, and then stepped across to Lennon and stroked his face before sitting back down. "All spells happen for a reason, whether large or small, kindly or black. In my case, as you know, I was second son in a noble family. My uncle had the strongest magical power in the family, though my mother and sister and I all had somewhat lesser capabilities. The curse happened because I was found out."

He paused and looked at Lennon as if he wondered if he should continue. "Tell me," Lennon said, "I want to know it all. It's about us somehow, isn't it?"

Bran smiled and nodded and said, "Yes, it is. My lover and I were discovered. My lover, my one and only true love, was a beautiful boy with straw-colored hair named Leannán which is a Gaelic word meaning sweetheart or beloved."

"Wait! What? You're telling me you're gay? Or that you were gay and were caught? Is that it?"

"Why should that be a surprise after our time together last night and this morning?"

"It's just that… I don't know, maybe I'm slow. Somehow, I just wasn't certain. But you've been watching me, so you knew I was gay, yet you rescued me and brought me here with you. It seems so obvious when I say it that way. So, what happened?"

"Well, it is not a pleasant story or time. In the early 14th century, Edward was the King of England, and like many others, even though he had a wife he had male lovers. In fact, he had many male lovers, and it became a know fact, ultimately resulting in the Bishop of Winchester accusing the King of being a sodomite because of his final unnatural relationship. Denial and scandal ensued, and ultimately it grew into a political movement that characterized his disastrous reign as due to his perverted sexuality, and finally he was killed by scandalized members of the nobility who inserted a red-hot poker into his anus."

Lennon winced, and Bran went on, "Yes, a horrible way to die. The outcry was against the effeminate and perverted king, and that became a movement by the church against so-called sodomy relations, which unleashed a campaign nationwide that even reached remote Wales. Specifically, what happened was that even though Leannán and I loved each other dearly and completely, we knew it was a relationship condemned and outlawed by the church. He was the son of one of my father's knights, who lived on a neighboring lands. We had to meet in secret, but finally one of our trysts was discovered, and this was reported to my father and uncle. It became a family scandal."

"I can only imagine," Lennon said. "Even in America today, while gay rights exist and same-sex marriage is legal, there are all kinds of religious extremists who want us outlawed or banned, or even killed."

"It was the same then. History repeats itself, sadly, and especially where religious condemnation is involved. At any rate, I was brought before my father and uncle to face the charges and consequences. My father deferred to my uncle who had the strongest magical powers in the family and who was his legal counsel and confidant."

"This doesn't sound good," Lennon said softly. "I hate to say it, but I think I know where this is going."

Bran smiled grimly and nodded. "As a second son in a noble family within a realm that subscribed to primogeniture, I was disposable and easy for all but my mother to banish."

"Bran, what is primogeniture?"

"It is the ancient English and European feudal right of succession wherein all the property of an estate ultimately belongs to the firstborn son. In other words, the title and the whole estate passes to the eldest son upon the death of the father. So, my sister would be married off to another noble and I would receive nothing anyway, and in that sense, I was disposable."

Bran stopped and thought back for a moment, then continued. "My uncle sought to keep the scandal from becoming public and that prevented condemnation by the church. He staged a kind of mock trial, aimed at mortifying and condemning me. My father went along with this. They found me guilty of the sin of sodomy, but more importantly of scandalizing the family name, and I was disowned after my uncle pronounced the curse."

"What was the curse?"

Bran grimaced before he responded. "Thou hast chosen to love and travel with one mate, like a raven. However, as a sodomite, the mate thou hast chosen is an abomination and brings dishonor and disgrace upon this family. Therefore, a raven thou shall be, and I call the unfriendly powers upon thee, that thou shall, upon thy mortal death, be bound between the physical and material realms in the body of a raven, remaining there until thou consummateth the plight of thy troth."

Lennon was wide-eyed again. "What? He threw his nephew out of the family and turned you into a raven."

"Yes, though I was disowned first and provided some subsistence to live," Bran said painfully, "and did not transform into a raven until I died. What my uncle didn't anticipate, though, is that my mother and I were close, and she also was in touch with the old ways and could call on the blessed powers, and she cast her own spell. She could not overcome my uncle's stronger spell, but moderated it so that my spirit did not depart from my body upon death."

"And what happened to Leannán ?"

"He was also arrested and jailed, and then died suspiciously after I was sent away."

"I don't believe it. How terrible. So, it was your mother's spell that saved you, like your spell saved me?"

"Yes, but she could not alter the part that the body would primarily be that of a raven."

"How does that work? What do you mean primarily?"

"I am opening my heart and life to you because that is what we agreed. The curse transformed my bodily state to that of a raven. However, enough of the magical powers that descended from Merlin ran in our family, and both my mother and I possessed different abilities. Merlin was known not just for the gift of prophecy, but also what is called shape-shifting. My uncle's intent was that my spirit be separated from my body upon my physical death, but my mother's spell prevented it. Additionally, his intent was that once I was transformed into a raven, it would be an eternal punishment. I would eternally be a raven and devoid of spirit. My mother's countering spell meant that I remained body and spirit, and as I have the ability also to shape-shift, I can invoke a spell to transform myself into what you see."

"You mean transform yourself into an absolutely beautiful raven-boy?" A mischievous expression flickered onto Lennon's face, and he added, "A beautiful raven-boy with a way sexy body and gorgeously soft wings."

Bran blushed. "For eight hundred years I have thought of myself only as someone outcast and cursed. I am afraid I don't know how to handle such comments."

"They are compliments of praise and affection, and what you must do with them is that you simply accept them as true. I've been in relationships with quite a few boys and men, and you are the most beautiful, the sexiest, and the kindest, by far. You have also tapped something in me," Lennon went on," that not just makes me try to understand some historic connection I don't quite get yet, but makes me feel for you in ways I never felt have before."

Bran smiled shyly, then the smile broadened, and he said, "Thank you for saying all of that. I will accept what you say as true. And I feel the same affection. Now, come, let me show you what I need to before I tire too much."

He led Lennon out of the library and down to the next room, which had only one window that was curtained so that the light was dim. In the middle stood a frame that had a shape like the trunk of a tree with a crotch of three branches. In the crotch, between and stretching across the branches was a nest. It was made with long sticks and twigs, and was almost four feet across and a foot high. Bran was still holding Lennon's hand and pulled him toward it.

"This is my nest. Normally the male raven brings the materials, and the female builds the nest, but I've done it myself." The nest was lined with sheep's wool and looked warm and comfortable.

"When I am in this state, the raven-boy you see, to whom you made love this morning, it is because I have cast a spell to shape-shift from a raven to this. Casting spells is easy, but maintaining them requires concentration and energy, and this is where I go when I return to my raven's body and must roost in order to rest and regain my strength."

Lennon had listened solemnly, and then said, "You mean to tell me that you've had to maintain this state, being a raven-boy since you transformed yesterday? That you've been like this for almost twenty-four hours and have even made love to me, and that it didn't just happen? That you've got to focus and burn energy to be able to do it?"

"Indeed. This is the longest time I've ever shape-shifted for, and I am beginning to feel extremely tired. However, it was worth every minute. Not only because of how close I feel us growing, or because of the sex, which I told you was glorious, but simply because I feel like we are reconnecting in a deep and mystical way that I feared was never possible again."

Lennon's eye's had been widening as he listened to Bran. "You've got to tell me something else. If you have to focus and expend energy to keep yourself in raven-boy form, then you have to do the same thing to keep me this way, right? To maintain the spell that prevents my spirit separating from my body."

"You are correct. That's why I am becoming so tired."

Lennon pulled him close, kissing the side of his face and then whispering, "What do you need to do?"

"I need to transform back into the raven and roost for a time to regain my strength. As little as eight or twelve hours should suffice. I can cast a little spell so that the kindly powers, the blessed powers, flow into me and maintain you as I sleep."

"Do it. Do it now. I'll be fine, but you need to care for yourself as well."

Bran kissed Lennon briefly and softly said, "Thank you. You understand. Make yourself at home. This house is now yours. The library is filled with interesting books about the old ways, magic, the kindly or blessed powers, all of it. Take a walk. Whatever you wish to do."

Lennon kissed him back. "May I watch?"

"Of course. I feel we are deeply connected such that you understand and won't be appalled."

"Why would I be appalled? I stroked your neck and back when you first came to me as a raven, remember? I thought you were beautiful then. Why not now, especially with all I now know?"

Bran leaned over and kissed Lennon once more and softly whispered, "Thank you." Then he turned to a small stand, slowly slid off his clothes and turned back to Lennon standing naked before him. He opened the palms of his hands and extended them forwards a ways, closed his eyes and Lennon saw his lips begin to move.

What Lennon observed was very different from what was taking place within Bran, even though he was becoming more and more familiar with magic and the kindly powers. Bran turned his mind to his inner resources and asked for the presence of the blessed powers. He emptied his mind of all thoughts and pictures and then held it empty till he felt the surge which always denoted the appearance of those sweet, blessed powers. Their arrival provided him the consciousness of the spreading out of their power within him and he passed along his request for the spell of transformation. Then he allowed the powers to work and held his thoughts in abeyance as the changes began to take place.

Within seconds the reverse of the transformation Lennon had seen on the pavement outside of the club took place. Bran's head began to change into that of a raven, his arms and legs followed and shortened as his body became smaller, and in a minute the raven stood on the floor. He shook his head and looked directly at Lennon, the soft light in the room glinting off his bright brown eyes, and he let out a soft and sweet kaww. Lennon watch entranced as Bran extended his wings, stretched them twice and then hopped once and flapped them enough to become airborne and fly up to the nest. He watched the raven circle in the nest and then settle down as he folded his legs under him and tucked his beak under one wing.

Very carefully and quietly, he stepped closer to the nest and extended a hand to stroke the head and neck as softly as he could. The raven didn't stir.

Lennon whispered, "Rest well, my love," and softly turned to leave the room.

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