Oh. My. God. I am going to die here. Emily groaned, sprawled out on her king-sized bed, staring at the soft, white clouds drifting around on the ceiling. Her room in the Sylph Court was uncomfortably large and ridiculously fancy. The walls, like the rest of Court, were painted sky blue and the floor was made up of white tiles that were painfully cold under her feet when she rolled out of bed in a morning. There was an en-suite bathroom with a huge claw-footed bath, and an adjoining dressing room stocked with railing after railing of clothes – mostly fancy silk gowns and linen casual clothes and cotton sleepwear. She rarely wore the dresses, though Lila – her handmaiden and one of her few friends here in Elfhame – always tried to convince her to.
As a Fortune, Emily was supposed to learn to fight and train to use her magic, but as the girlfriend of the only prince of the Sylph Court, she was meant to dress in formal gowns and attend fancy dinner parties and generally act like snobby, overly polite royalty. Of course, that just meant that Emily deliberately chose to wear t-shirts and white linen trousers whenever she left her room. At first, it had seemed scandalous to the faeries of the Court, a girl wearing trousers; they were so bloody old fashioned, they insisted she wear a skirt. But she'd been here four months now, and they'd learned that nothing they could do would make her wear a skirt or fancy dress if she didn't want to. A lot of them were unhappy about it, but mostly they accepted it because they couldn't do anything about it. She was a Fortune. She was untouchable. If she wanted to parade around the Court naked, she could – but that would give Trey far too much pleasure, she was sure. It was bad enough having him training her and guarding her bedroom door at almost all times.
Oscar, unfortunately, had not been able to convince his parents to assign another faery to guard her and teach her, so she was stuck with the annoying, arrogant faery knight – who, at this moment, was banging on her bedroom door. Again. "Come on, princess, it's time for training" He called through the door. Emily reached over her head and pulled one of her extraordinarily puffy pillows down over her face, clamping it over her ears. She could still hear Trey's voice. "Don't make me come in there, little Emily. You know I will, whether you're decent or not" He snickered and she lifted her pillow so she could roll her eyes at the door. Ugh. Why couldn't one of the Court guards train her? She was sure Asher or Seth would happily teach her. They liked her. They thought she was hilarious. But neither of them had the kind of magic that Trey had, and neither of them were knights.
Also, neither Asher nor Seth would insist on bugging her when she was clearly ignoring them, and they would certainly never enter her room without her permission. But Trey would. And he did. Emily heard the click of the lock turning and the door swung open, allowing in a gust of cold air. She shivered in her thin training clothes – loose cotton trousers and a baggy t-shirt – and threw her pillow in the direction of the door. Trey chuckled and she opened her eyes to see him standing at the end of her bed with that maddening grin on his face. "You missed" He commented, planting his palms on the blue silk comforter.
"Come closer. I won't miss with my fist" Emily grumbled, glaring at him. He snorted, and reached for her foot. She kicked his hand, scowling. "Don't touch me" She snapped, pulling her foot back and sitting up reluctantly.
Trey just shrugged, and shoved his hands into his pockets. "Fine. But if you don't get your arse out to the training yard in the next thirty seconds, I'm going to have to touch you because I'm going to carry you over my shoulder and out the door" He threatened, smiling blandly. Emily glowered at him. When she stubbornly crossed her arms and didn't budge, he arched a brow at her, tilting his head. She glared steadily back at him until he sighed. "Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve…" He was counting down. She was refusing to move. If he so much as laid a finger on her, Oscar would be seriously ticked, and then Trey would be in trouble. "Ten, nine, eight…You really want everyone to see me carrying you like a child throwing a tantrum?"
She hadn't thought of that…but he wouldn't really dare…would he? "You really want to face Oscar when I tell him you put your hands on me?"
"You really want me to put my hands on you?"
"You wouldn't dare"
"Willing to bet on that?"
Unfortunately, she wasn't. The joy of seeing Trey chewed out by Oscar was outweighed by the risk of him actually touching her. Ever since he told her that he'd cast a temptation charm on her to make her kiss him, she'd been disgusted by the very thought of touching him – unless she was punching him in the gut or slapping his face. That was actually one of the perks of training, the physical training at least; she got to beat up Trey. Well, she got to try anyway. So far, she'd only succeeded in getting knocked to the ground and acquiring a multitude of bruises. Still, the chance that today might be the day that she finally landed a blow on the smug bastard grinning at her was too tempting to pass up.
Trey rolled his eyes. "Three, two, one…Okay, here we go" He moved toward her, reaching, and Emily rolled off the other side of the bed. She almost shivered at the sting of the cold tiles under her bare feet. What was wrong with having a carpet, for God's sake? Stupid faeries.
Scowling, Emily walked to the door, keeping an eye on Trey just in case he decided to pull something. "I'm going to kick your ass this time" She warned. Trey laughed as he followed her out of the room.
"I can't wait" He muttered sarcastically.
The walk to the training yard was familiar to her, seeing as she'd walked it every day for the last two months, but it was only slowly becoming less uncomfortable. She still wasn't really used to people – faeries – staring at her everywhere she went, like she was some alien entity. Of course, in Elfhame, the faery world, she was an alien entity. Most of them had never seen a human before, and her status as a rare not-entirely-human…creature…had put her right up there with ET and IPods to the old-fashioned faeries.
The curious, cold eyes of elves and pixies and satyrs followed her and Trey through the open, freaky hallways of the Court. There were doors everywhere, some in walls, some floating in mid-air, some on the ceiling. Emily had made the mistake once, while exploring, of opening a random door, just to see what was behind it. Since then, she'd only opened the doors to her room, her bathroom and Oscar's room. Any other door, she had Trey open first. You could never be sure, even when you swore you'd seen behind that particular door before, that it was the same one. Sometimes, the rooms shifted. You could think you were going to find the music hall, and you'd actually be stepping into a vortex that would take you to the Badlands – She'd seen it happen to a young faun. She hadn't seen that faun since.
Above them, as they wandered through the bright, high-ceilinged hallways, golden chandeliers swung in an invisible breeze, shining flickering candlelight through pale, impossible clouds misting around them. It was something that really bugged Emily sometimes – how there were clouds and breezes everywhere, in places they just couldn't be. You'd have thought she'd have been used to it by now, but sometimes her sanity rebelled and she'd have to spend a few hours staring at the floor instead.
Eventually, they came to a set of simple crystal doors – doors made of huge slices of some sparkling, natural stone, like quartz - beyond which Emily could see the training yard, a vast expanse of clean, cut green grass surrounded by high, stone walls – walls so high, they disappeared into more thick, fluffy clouds. Emily stopped at the doors and crossed her arms, waiting for Trey to open them for her. He sent her a baleful glare and rolled his eyes with obvious exasperation. He pushed open one of the crystal doors and held it, bowing mockingly. Emily smiled blandly at him and was tempted to pat him on the head condescendingly, but thought better of it. She strode into the training yard and sighed in bliss. As much as she hated to admit it, she loved coming to the training yard. While there were unnatural breezes all throughout the Sylph Court Palace, she appreciated them more when she was actually outside. Warm, yellow sunlight streamed through the swirling fog of clouds that obscured chunks of the blue, blue sky, and it almost felt normal…until Trey shoved her aside as an errant spear of blue magic darted through the space she'd just been standing in.
Trey yelled at the inept Korrigan, who shrunk miserably under the glare of the Sylph knight. "Watch what you're doing, you useless cretin! Try aiming at an actual target next time!" The poor purple-tinted Korrigan tucked his little clawed hands under his pointy chin and hunched his shoulders, nodding and muttering apologies in a high-pitched voice before shuffling away to train on the other side of the yard. Emily turned on Trey and put her hands on her hips. His eyebrows went up and he held up his hands defensively. "What? You want to get zapped and blasted to the Dryad Court?"
Emily scoffed. "You didn't have to be so mean. I'm sure you didn't have perfect aim to start with" She grumbled, stalking past him. From the corner of her eye, she saw him mimicking her grouchily and resisted the urge to smack him. Instead, she looked around the yard for a free space to train in. The yard was unusually busy today, a group of sprites practicing their archery with electrified arrows, and a satyr wrestling with a green-skinned djinn on the grass. There was an attractive elf with long, braided brown hair teaching a class of young imps to fence. One of the little imps, a boy with blue hair and a spiky smile, started prodding one of the girls with his wooden saber and the elf – Emily thought his name was Dime – lifted the boy by the back of his t-shirt to glare into the boy's eyes warningly.
A sharp whistle made Emily jump and she turned away from the class of mischievous imps to see Trey standing in a space on the grass, impatiently waiting for her. With a sigh, Emily padded across the cool grass in her bare feet, feeling the blades tickle at her toes, and stood in front of Trey to await instructions. Annoyingly, Trey just stared at her with his arms crossed and she raised her brows expectantly at him. "Are we going to do something, or are you just going to stand there and let me punch you? Because, honestly, I like that idea a whole lot right now" She said, curling and uncurling her fists at her sides, sliding one foot slightly back to balance herself if he struck out at her suddenly. He did that sometimes. He said it was to improve her reflexes, but really, she thought he just liked knocking her on her ass.
But he didn't do that this time. For endless minutes he just stood there, still as stone, watching her. The insistent breeze blew strands of his fine dark hair around his face, brushing them across his abnormally sharp cheekbones, and he didn't even twitch. Emily was running out of patience. She wanted to get this over with so she could and find Oscar and rant to him about how annoying Trey was and then Oscar could distract her from her irritation with gentle kisses. That was how a lot of her days went lately. And she didn't mind that.
A pillywiggan, a faery the size of her hand, in a tiny blue dress, darted around her ears, chittering and pulling on her hair until Emily raised a hand and tried to smack it away. Of course, it zipped away before her hands could hit it. Emily growled, bouncing on her toes agitatedly. "Trey, for God's sake, either do something or I'm out of here. I'm not standing around all day staring at your annoying face" She snapped. But he still didn't move. With a hiss of frustration, Emily ran out of patience, but instead of storming away like she'd planned, she lunged out at him. Her leg came up, quick as a snake striking, and she felt her toes brush the fabric of his trousers, right at the back of his knee…and then he moved, blindingly fast, and slammed a flat palm into her shoulder, throwing her off balance. Grunting both in pain and anger, Emily spun around, kicking out again at the same time, and this time Trey caught her ankle and yanked it upward, pulling her other leg out from under her. For a split second, she panicked, but her instinct saved her at the last moment as he arms shot out to catch her before her face hit the grass. Trey still had hold of her ankle, and she pulled it savagely from his grasp, surprising him, and flipped over in a somersault before rolling to her feet and spinning to face him with her fists up. Her shoulder ached where he'd hit her, but she ignored it, watching him very carefully for the slightest movement to indicate he'd come at her again. He didn't. He was just grinning at her and he raised his hands, making her flinch, but he just clapped slowly and dramatically. Emily bared her teeth at him and he laughed.
"Well done! You're finally getting there, Emily. For weeks now, I've been wondering how to get you to work with me properly because God knows you've bee failing spectacularly. But I've worked it out. You need to be angry. You don't need to work with me, but against me. That's how we're going to teach you to fight" Trey looked genuinely proud of her, but that meant nothing – well, almost nothing. She bit back the smile threatening at the corners of her lips. At last! She thought, turning away so he wouldn't see her grin.
Once she'd pushed the excitement back down, she turned back to him sulkily and asked, "When are you going to start teaching me to use my magic? I thought it was my Fortune magic that made me useful to the faeries" Truthfully, she was both itching to learn to use her magic and terrified of it. She didn't know how she could possibly have magic in her, or where it had come from, but if she could use it to zap leering dwarves or find hidden treasure, that would be awesome. Maybe she could even use it to wipe that infuriating smirk off Trey's face.
Trey snorted and rolled his oh-so-blue eyes, the faint icy lines under curling across his jaw and cheekbones showing through his pale skin. Emily remembered the first time she'd seen him, his eyes had been slate grey and he'd been standing in the snow in bare feet. She'd thought he was a lunatic. Unfortunately, she'd been right, in a way. A faery knight was hardly normal, hardly sane – at least, this one wasn't. He was stubborn and infuriating and always seemed to have a hidden agenda, some double meaning behind his words or actions. Even now, after four months with him at her side almost every waking moment, she couldn't figure him out. All she knew of who he really was, was that he was remarkably aggravating and sneaky.
"I can't start teaching you magic" He said in a tone that was half-mocking and made her want to kick him in the face, "until you've learned some patience. As you've just proved, you're incessantly impatient, no matter what you're doing-"
"You've only seen me fight, you can't know I'm impatient with everything-"
He chuckled lightly, shaking his head. "Little Emily" – she hated it when he called her that and bristled, glaring at him – "In the last four months, I've seen you attempt to play chess with Oscar and fail because you can't sit still for long enough to learn the rules, I've seen you try to knit a pair of socks and give up after ten minutes because the wooden needles kept slipping, I've seen you-"
"Okay, I get it! And I gave up on the knitting because apparently nobody can teach a left-handed person to knit properly" Emily grumbled. It was true, though. Her grandmother and mother had both attempted to teach her knit several times since she was a girl, but it was hard because they were right-handed and she was a leftie, so the movements had to be reversed. Still, she had to get credit for giving it a go again, even if she'd only tried it because there was practically nothing to do in Elfhame except train and play board games and take walks around the Court and the Gardens. No TV, no computers, no technology of any sort. If she ever showed one of the faeries here a microwave, they'd probably have a fit and call her demon spawn. Then again, it didn't help that they were all sorely allergic to iron.
Laughing at her, Trey's attention was momentarily distracted and Emily took advantage of it, the way he'd been teaching her to - Don't let your guard down. An opponent could strike at any moment, especially if you're distracted. Guess he forgot to mind his own lesson, She thought with a smirk as she darted forward and swung a leg out to catch his ankles. Amazingly, her foot connected with his leg and he stumbled before abruptly tumbling to the ground, his laughter cut off as he hit the dirt. Cruelly gleeful, Emily bent double with rib-shaking laughter of her own upon seeing the stunned expression on his face. A tear slicked down her cheek and she gasped for air through her giggles.
Around her, a handful of other fey were openly laughing, too, and a few more were trying not to, fearful of the Sylph knight's reaction to being laughed at presumably. But Emily didn't care about Trey's wrath, she just wished the damn faeries had a camera so she could've taken a photo of Trey's expression. With a grunt, he pushed himself to his feet and brushed the grass off his trousers, then glowered at her. "Feel better now, princess?" He asked scathingly. Wordlessly, Emily nodded, still gasping and clutching at her sides. He made a noise of irritation and pursed his lips while he waited for her to stop laughing.
When she eventually did manage to breathe again, he motioned with strained courtesy toward the crystal doors of the Palace. "I think we've done enough training for today" He said in a hard voice. Emily shrugged, but she didn't really want to go back inside. She tipped her head back to stare at the imposing Palace building, a looming masterpiece of gothic castle-like architecture, thick clouds twining lovingly around the reaching spires and the walls made up of huge, irregular blocks of pale blue stone – Blue lace agate stone, Oscar had once told her. He'd said that blue agate grew in natural spires around the Sylph Lands. He'd explained that each Court had its own representative stone that grew in natural abundance around its Court. The Sylph Court's was serene blue lace agate. Salamander Court's was fiery red jasper. Dryad Court's was rich green malachite. Nymph Court's was lapis lazuli. And the Dark Court's stone was snowflake onyx.
"Are you coming or not?" Trey snapped, and Emily jerked her attention away from the beautifully sculpted towers of the Sylph Palace to Trey, who was holding one of the crystal doors open. Heaving a rueful sigh, she stalked through the doors and left the sunshine and grass behind to wander the cold, marble halls of the Palace in search of her boyfriend. Hopefully he wasn't too busy to take her on a picnic at the river. She wasn't sure how much longer she could stand being stuck inside.