The Price

They'd warned him about the dangers of bringing a human back into his realm. Exposure to too much magic at one time was a shock to the delicate mortal body. He'd heard terrifying stories about insanity, suicide, and death but hadn't believed a single word. Until now.

He should never have brought her with him. He should have taken the time and gradually exposed her to the magic. Let her build up a tolerance. He'd acted impulsively, irrational with fear of losing her, and now they were paying the price.

When she'd first started showing signs of being... off... he called for every healer in the kingdom. One by one, they paraded through the room, gave her a cursory glance then graced him with a look of disbelief and disappointment. The diagnosis was simple: insanity brought on by magic poisoning. Her mind would, in time, process everything and she would return to normal.

In time. Little consolation for his guilty conscience. The healers had suggested he send her home but that idea was immediately dismissed. Not only was there no guarantee she would get better, she would not be allowed to return to his world. Ever. He'd rather have her like this, even if in time was the equivalent of several centuries, than have her lost to him forever.

After she'd attacked two of his servants and one guard, he moved her to his private chambers and barred the doors. He was the only one allowed to enter. The only one safe from her sharp little nails and teeth. They'd given him a sedative to slip into her drink. Just one pinch of herbs would help her sleep through the spells. It's been nearly a year and he's only done it once.

Part of him wishes there was a way to prolong the crazy spells. At least then she smiles. Twirls around the room, dances with him, and sways lazily to a tune only she can hear. She stares up at him with dreamy adoration and whispers promises of forever. She can spend hours talking to people he can't see. Holds entire conversations with her dead mother. Recites monologues from old plays, nursery rhymes and bits of sonnets.

He dreads the brief moments of sanity. Her entire body goes still and she turns her head to look at him. Hurt, accusation and betrayal pierce through him like a dull sword. She backs away from him, curls up in a corner of the room and wraps herself up a blanket. She never speaks then, just stares at him in silent horror.

Relief rushes through him when the sanity passes and he hates himself all the more for it. This laughing child is not the witty, remarkable woman who captured his heart. He misses their lively debates, her sharp sense of humor, and sympathetic ear. He should be glad when sanity lingers just a little longer than it had the last time, a sure sign that she's learning to process the magic. Instead, he selfishly hopes she stays this way for as long as possible. She doesn't hate him when she's crazy.

On the other side

She should have known he'd take it the wrong way. When she said she'd needed more time, she meant more time to say goodbye to her friends and family, not that she was unsure about him. He'd been the only thing she was certain of. He had misunderstood and immediately whisked her away to wherever his home was.

His world had been the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Unfortunately the wonder had only lasted for a few moments. As soon as he'd released her hand and she sucked in a deep breath, her skin had started tingling, her eyes burned and her lungs felt like they were going to explode. She managed to convince him that she was fine. Had to be allergies. He'd proudly introduced her to his family. Their welcome had been warm but there was a concern in their eyes she did not understand. At least not until she'd lost her mind.

It had started innocuously enough. Mild forgetfulness, giggling for no reason at all, splashing in the courtyard fountain. To her dismay, it rapidly worsened. Her thoughts became jumbled and trying to reorder them made her temples throb. Unable to fight it any longer, she gave in to the insanity.

Contrary to what everyone seems to believe, she's not unaware of her behavior. Almost as if watching herself on television, she can see and hear everything. Knows that the things she says don't make any sense, heard what the healers said, and recognizes the guilt on his face. She wants to reach out, to tell him that it's okay, she understands, but all that comes out is more gibberish and forgotten lines from Shakespeare, Byron and Dr. Seuss.

There are small breaks where she is in control. She can only stare at him in self-disgust, ashamed at her own behavior and curl up in a vain attempt to disappear. She passed her college psychology classes and knows full well that the insanity only brings to the forefront parts of her psyche she'd rather have hidden. The recitations, sappy love-talk and silly dancing are all part of her. Nothing new. How can he be so indulgent with her knowing that she's such a foolish, senseless lunatic and too weak to survive in his world?

As the madness creeps back in, she grasps onto the control for as long as she can. She needs to reassure him that it's all right. She doesn't blame him for any of this. She loves him. Always will. Maybe more so now that she's seen how patient and gentle he can be with someone so damaged. The words won't come out and by the time she finds her voice, it's Keats' words that spill out and not her own. As she sits back and waits for the next wave of blessed sanity, all she can do is wonder if he'll still love her when all this is over.