Author: Ceallai PM
A fairy story with a plucky heroine and a bunch of badass fairies. Dark historical fantasy. Rated T.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Supernatural - Chapters: 10 - Words: 19,871 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 10-17-11 - Published: 03-10-11 - id: 2897902
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I know, I haven't published anything in aaages, but I started work again, and it was tiring, and I had other things to think about. And this story is starting to feel lame next to the ones I'm reading, and I know that's stupid because as lame as it is now, this is only the first draft, and I'll be able to revise it as much as I want if I can only finish this one, goddammit.
Encouragement would be welcome right now. I need to know this is worth pursuing.
Orren had explained that while fairies needed less sleep than humans, most human and animal-formed fairies would sleep eventually. Some - mostly the animal fairies - did all their sleeping in one go, in winter, and spent the rest of the year awake. Others slept every few days.
Darcy, who had slept a night and half a day after her scrape with Yorwen, found herself yawning around dawn the next day, and she wasn't the only one. Orren had preferred to avoid sleeping in his mother's territory, and even Mimic seemed to be lagging.
"As soon as the sun's up, we'll stop to rest," Orren promised.
"Couldn't we have rested last night and set out this morning?"
"Too risky. The Unseelie are nocturnal fairies. I'd prefer to be awake when they are, rather than chance them finding our hiding place."
The sun finally rose and hung in the sky, about a hand's breadth above the horizon, colouring the clouds in fantastic shades of pink and gold and other colours in between that Darcy couldn't name. She wondered that she hadn't noticed before.
"Yesterday was cloudy," Orren explained. "The weather is temperamental, here. Humans are usually more sensitive to it than we are. Grey weather makes them moody, rain makes them sad, sunny weather makes them happy."
"I didn't feel sad yesterday," Darcy objected.
"No," Orren conceded. "But then, you've been here before."
They had reached the end of the plain of song grass and were entering a sparse forest of thin silver birches, taller and straighter than any she'd ever seen at home.
"I've been meaning to ask you about that," she said, a little breathlessly. "How did I come here, the last time? And why?"
Orren was walking in front of her, so she couldn't see his face. His voice was carefully neutral when he answered. "Variana was the one who discovered you. You caught her attention because you looked just like her, and she was fascinated by you. It's strange that you don't remember her - I think she pestered you quite a lot at first - and then you became friends. You used to come with your brother and other children to a creek in the forest, and Variana joined you one day. But the children became suspicious that there should be two of you, and mother, when she heard of it, grew fearful that Variana should come to harm. She sent me to keep an eye on her, and that is how we became friends.
"Then one day, Variana decided she wanted to swap places with you, just for a day. You didn't want to at first, because you didn't trust Variana completely - she was a tricksy child - but you agreed eventually, and the next time you went to the creek, she went back home in your place, and you came back to the Glimmerlands with me."
He paused, and lifted a hand to indicate that she should be quiet. She listened, but heard nothing, not even the winds in the trees or birds singing.
Orren pulled her over to stand next to him and whispered so quietly that she had to lean close to hear. "Someone is watching us, but I don't think they mean us harm - yet. The safest thing to do is to keep going and pretend they're not there."
He let go of her wrist and set off again.
"So, what happened when I came here?" Darcy asked.
"Oh, the usual, when a fairy invites a human to the Glimmerlands. We sang, danced, played, feasted, and by the next day you could barely remember what home was like. I did, however, and I knew it was time to take you back. Mother didn't know that Variana was gone, and I had to bring her back before someone got word to her that her daughter had been looking strangely human this past night. It should have been easy - Variana had promised to meet us at the gateway - but she wasn't there. I took you to the edge of the forest, and you were reunited with your mother, who had been searching frantically. It turned out that Variana had gone missing sometime in the night, and no matter how I searched, I couldn't find her.
"When I got back and told my mother how I had lost Variana, she… wasn't happy. I was banished. She sent scouts out to look for her, but to no avail. Eventually she gave up, leaving only one agent to keep an eye on you, in case Variana ever tried to come back to you."
"Yorwen was spying on me?"
"One of her agents was. Did you ever feel like you were being watched when noone was around? Or did you see a light in the corner of your eye and when you turned around it was gone?"
"But that happens to everyone," Darcy protested.
"Not often," he said.
Darcy struggled with this. It was true that she often felt like she was being watched - so often, in fact, that she only really noticed when she no longer felt it. The feeling had redoubled since she'd come to the Glimmerlands, but she'd assumed that was the nature of fairyland. Right now, the feeling was so strong it was giving her goosebumps.
"Do you think she's spying on us now?"
"Oh, without a doubt" said Orren mildly. "Though her spies are usually far more discreet than this. It can't be a very powerful fairy if even a human can sense it."
Something zipped past Darcy's nose, missing by a millimetre. She jumped back in time to dodge another attack, and stumbled, landing on her backside. The thing buzzed in circles around her, and before she could blink she found herself tightly bound in what looked like a silk straight jacket, like the one she'd seen Mad Betty carted off in after she'd started losing her hair and started trying to steal her neighbour's.
"What was that about powerful fairies?" asked a tiny, shrill voice.
A thin strand of what looked like spider silk led from Darcy's binds to a tiny, fluttering thing hanging in mid-air above her. Darcy stared, speechless.
"Not so cocky now, are you?" jibed the most fairyish fairy Darcy had seen since arriving in the Glimmerlands: tiny glowing body, translucent wings, limbs that were slightly too long, and a dress that seemed to be made out of a bluebell. "Stupid, ugly, pesky human!" This last she spat out like the direst of curses.
Orren grabbed her out of the air effortlessly and held her up to his face.
"That human is with me," he growled, his eyes glowing like green fires, hair standing on end. Glamour shimmered about him as he grew bigger.
The fairy squealed. "Nooo, let me go, please, I'll do anything, I promise, please please pl-"
"Then release her."
Darcy collapsed into a heap as her bonds vanished.
"Let me go now!" squeaked the fairy.
"You're the one we saved last night," Orren noticed.
"This is how you thank your rescuer? By binding her in spider silk? Where did you get that much of it anyway?" The fairy squirmed, but Orren held her firmly. "I happen to have a little spider silk on me, too. More than enough to bind you in."
"You'd better not!" the fairy squealed.
"Oh?" Orrens smile was cruel. "Why not?"
"I'm a spidermaster! My spiders will come and eat you alive if I call them!"
"Ooh, how fearsome," Orren mocked. "And when's the last time a spider bite killed a leanan sidhe?"
"It could well kill your human!" the fairy retorted. Orren glanced fleetingly at Darcy with doubt in his eyes. Darcy had never heard of a spider killing a person, but who knew what fairyland spiders were capable of?
"Why are you spying on us?" he asked.
"I wasn't! I was just going the same way as you." The fairy pouted in a way that reminded Darcy of her friend Mary's younger sister when she didn't get her way.
"And where might that be?"
"None of your business!" Orren squeezed her a little, and she squealed again. "Alright, alright, I was following you! But only because you looked safe!"
Orren laughed mirthlessly. "Us? We're fleeing the Queen. Find someone else to follow." And with that he flung her away.
The fairy stopped just short of hitting a tree. "I'm fleeing the Queen, too!" she said.
Orren offered Darcy a hand and she brushed herself off.
"I am!" said the fairy. "I'm wanted for… er, spying and treason and loads of other bad stuff!"
"I'm sure you are," said Orren. "You're right - let's make their job that much easier by sticking together. That way, they can find all of us at once."
"I can help you!" said the fairy. "I truly am a spidermaster! Watch!" She squeezed her eyes shut and balled up her fists, and quite literally became blue in the face, and Orren almost laughed until he felt something climbing up his leg.
Darcy's scream could have shattered crystal. These spiders were bigger than anything she'd ever seen at home.
"Call them off!" Orren made a grab for the fairy again, but she was too quick for him this time. Still, the spiders receded, tucking themselves away under leaves and roots until they were no longer visible. But still there.
"Let me come with you," the fairy said. "I can provide protection. You need that."
"Why should I trust you?"
"You have no choice," said the fairy. "I'm going to follow you anyway. I'd rather not have to fly, though, and your human would make me a good enough mount."
"Ride one of your spiders," Orren growled. "Darcy is no mount."
"I'm sure she won't mind."
"I certainly would!" Darcy finally found her voice. The fairy scowled at her. "You insult me, entrap me, set spiders on me, and now you want me to carry you? I'd have done better to leave you in the songgrass!"
"You didn't save me," the fairy retorted. "Did she?" she turned to Orren.
"She did," he said. "I'd have left you there." He showed sharp teeth in a grin of pure sadism as the fairy's sneer gave way to horror.
"Nooo!" she wailed. "No! A human! I'm indebted to a human!" And she burst into very loud tears.
Darcy frowned in bewilderment at Orren, whose smile was so wide and evil she barely recognized him. "What's the matter with her?"
"The spiderbound are bound by eight rules, one of which is blood debt. She owes you her protection, whether she wants to give it or not, until she has risked her life for you at least once."
"Can't I just… let her off?" Darcy asked. She didn't want a fairy bodyguard who might try to kill her as soon as her blood debt was cleared.
"No, and I'd advise you not to. She's quite the spidermaster, and there may come a time when you'll have need of her. Anyway, flower fairies are nothing if not changeable. Let her ride on your shoulder, and you may grow on her."
"She will not!" sobbed the flower fairy, trailing through the air to hover close to Darcy and throwing herself onto her shoulder like a capricious child on a bed. Darcy resisted the urge to swat her away.
"How do we know we can trust her?" she asked.
"We don't," Orren replied. "But at least we know why she was following us. The spiderbound can no more disobey their eight rules than you can stop breathing. She thought she was following me, but she was following you - to protect you. She can't leave you until she risks her life to save yours - or until you're home safe. Fairy laws don't apply in Cat's Court."
"Thank goodness for that," Darcy grumbled, following him deeper into the forest, and trying to ignore the fairy sobbing on her shoulder.