"Hello Helena," The green eyed woman said still studying me closely. She was so tall compared to the human women; she must have been something else!
"Where am I?" I asked again.
"You are safe," The woman said. "I'm Kelly," She added as if extending a hand of trust.
"Nice to meet you?" I said as more of a question than a statement.
"Patch, why don't you take our little Fae for a tour, will you?" Kelly asked. The look on the boy, Patch's, face looked irritated and annoyed. He actually rolled his eyes!
"Yes, Ma'am," He said in a hiss. Kelly exited the room, but then came back very quickly.
"I brought a dress for you," She said handing me the fabric bundle that was in her arms when she returned.
"Thanks," I said. The fabric was silky and shimmery, it practically flowed like water through my fingers. Kelly left again, and I waited for Patch to leave so I could change. He continued to stare at me with his lovely eyes.
"I need to change," I said. He made no move to leave. "Can you give me some privacy?" I asked curtly. Patch glared at nothing, but then stepped beyond the curtain over the door. I stood and slowly unbuttoned my shirt.
Slipping the fluid fabric over my skin, a shiver ran through my body, and I twirled the skirt in sheer feminine delight. The dress was ivory white in the light, but in the shadows it shimmered periwinkle blue. It was a simple dress with cuffs on the shoulders instead actual sleeves, and the front was cut in a V shape to expose most of my bosom. The back of the dress was cut very low, so most of my back was exposed. The simplicity of the fabric and color made it elegant as well.
I stepped through the curtain into the rest of the mud hut. I could see soft light coming from a door that must have led outside. In this larger room there was a fire for cooking, some more furniture, and a few trunks on the floor for storing stuff I assumed. Patch was waiting for me, lounging against the door frame.
"I'm ready," I said to get his attention. Patch turned and his mouth opened slightly when he saw me. His face changed to a mask again, so I didn't know what the reaction was for. I rolled my eyes at him, repeating his gesture from earlier.
"Come on," Patch said in his hard voice. He stepped out of the hut and waited for me to follow. In the dim morning light, I could make out the forest around me. I was in a small village it seemed, constructed of mud huts everywhere and a few outside fires burned in various locations. The trees were huge, much bigger than the ones I had been near when I fell, and they offered plenty of shade and shadow. The ground was soft with dirt, leaves, moss, and grasses and ferns that grew. I enjoyed being barefoot. There were some horses grazing nearby, and many of the people I saw were tall and thin, greatly resembling Kelly.
"What is this place?" I asked.
"Rebel Camp," Patch said uninterested in conversation with me. The tour consisted of Patch walking me through the village, showing me where the river was, and then bringing me back to the hut we started at, all with minimal conversation. I didn't really know what to think of him. Back inside, I felt like I was intruding on Patch's personal space, he lit a fire in the cooking pit. It was an ordinary task, but the way he went about it was rather astonishing. Patch didn't use flint to create a spark, he simply breathed on the tinder, and a small flame sprouted.
"You're an Elemental," I said in surprise. I hadn't realized there were Elementals in the camp. They were powerful, and many feared them. Patch gave a shrug and began gathering together what looked like fixings for a meal.
"How is everything going?" Kelly's sweet voice asked as she appeared in the doorway of the hut and strode proudly inside.
"What kind of Rebel Camp is this?" I asked. Kelly pursed her lips in a way that told me Patch was not supposed to reveal that information to me.
"Rogue Fae, Elementals, Xanthus, and Skin Walkers live here," Kelly said after a long pause in which I wasn't sure she would explain anything. "The Rogue Fae disagree with The Guild and have split from them, only we are not permitted to do so, so we are in hiding."
"You are a Faery?" I asked her.
"One of many," She said with a nod.
"Like me?" I asked.
"Not like you," Kelly said softly. I wasn't sure what she meant, but she didn't elaborate, so I stopped pestering her with questions.
"Patch, Helena will be staying with you," Kelly said. "Take care of her and protect her." Patch looked at Kelly defiantly, but whatever argument he had died on his lips when his eyes passed over me. What was it with him?
"Fine," He said moodily.
"Hey, staying with you isn't my first choice of accommodations either," I said getting fed up with his attitude and throwing in some of my own.
"I will come by tomorrow," Kelly said, ducking quickly out of the hut. I heard her giggle as she walked away and wondered what she could find amusing about all this.
"Are you hungry?" Patch asked speaking to me directly for the first time. His laid back posture and his mocking eyes made me glare at him.
"No," I said just as my stomach growled. Patch gave me a half smile of triumph. He knew he was getting to me, and he was enjoying it! Patch sat on the opposite side of the hut from me as we ate. It was a stew he had cooked, which was surprisingly delicious for the cookery of a male.
"What did Kelly mean when she said I'm not like her and the other Fae?" I asked him.
"She doesn't really know why, but your physical appearance is different," Patch said. "You are much shorter than they are, although you are still as slender and lithe as them. Also, you have blue eyes. Fae have green or brown, the colors of the forest."
"What does that mean?" I asked. Patch shrugged a wordless answer. I was getting frustrated with his casual way of blowing me off!
"I have to go see a horse about a man," Patch said with a half smile that conveyed humor at his own play on words. "Make yourself useful and do some cleanup," He said. I glared at him. I had spent ten years working for the Reapers, I had stolen my freedom, and was not about to become a slave to this Elemental!
"Oh no!" I said. "I'm not cleaning your messes up," I said sharply.
"Then start in the bedroom where you shattered a crystal sling, and make the bed you slept in, and do your dishes," Patch said grinning at me with no humor, only smugness at his clever come back.
I opened my mouth to respond, but Patch had left the hut, and I was alone in his house. I went into the bedroom, which apparently only had one bed, so one of us would be on the floor until I had a more permanent living situation. There were small particles of crystal covering the floor. I shuddered. I had to clean up this mess; Patch was right about that, I had done the damage.
After an hour or so of sweeping, washing dishes, and otherwise organizing things, I suddenly realized how carried away I had gotten. It was then that Patch walked into his house and looked around. He raised an eye brow at me in question. I glared at him and ignored it. He laughed at me, and then disappeared into the bedroom. After a few minutes, Patch emerged in his sweat pants loosely rolled around his hips, and no shirt. He was also barefoot. That seemed to be his style of choice. It irritated me. While there was nothing wrong with Patch's body, in fact it was rather perfect, I felt like he was just being cocky and showing off how incredibly good looking he was. The sun was setting now, and I was getting tired. I was also curious about the sleeping arrangement.
"Is there something more comfortable I can wear for the night?" I asked. Patch eyed me and the lovely dress I was still wearing. He raised an eyebrow suggestively, and I immediately regretted asking him anything! Without saying anything else, Patch stood and vanished into his room, reappearing with a pair of sweat pants.
"They'll be too long and baggy, but it will do," He said.
"Umm….yea, I kind of need a shirt too," I said in a 'duh' voice. Instead of being snooty though, it only further pointed out the male and female difference between Patch and me. He grinned, but produced a very large shirt, and let me change in peace.
"Take the bed, I don't sleep much anyway," Patch said when I yawned sleepily. I didn't argue, and I stood up to go to the bedroom. I stumbled with my eyes half closed, and a warm glow caught me and righted me. The air was nice and cozy, and the orange red glow made me even drowsier.
"Thanks," I murmured to Patch, realizing that the warm ember glow that kept catching me before I hit the floor was an extension of his powers as a Fire Elemental. I snuggled under the comforter, and let myself get cozy. It was the first time I could remember being comfortable in sleep. The mattress was so soft and pliant, and almost three times larger than my bunk at the Work House. I spread out under the sheets and drifted happily into dreams; although, none of the dreams were happy.
I kept seeing flames and shadows, dark clouds and snow covering the Realms. It was terrifying. The Realms had always been so peaceful, warm, and golden. Now something was about to happen that meant…war? I wasn't sure. All I knew was that from my position in the sky, I could see nothing but destruction around me. A shudder ran through my body, and I thought of the Rebel Camp I was staying in. Were they going to start a war? Or were the Winter Realms' creatures going to fight first? I knew the answer, the real answer of who would strike first, but I didn't want to face it! It meant that everything I had grown up in had been a lie! The whole world was a lie!
Without warning, an arrow came flying at me. I ducked, and thought I had escaped, but the arrow had torn through my delicate wing. I screamed as my wings failed and I began falling from the sky. I grabbed at the air. My wings were broken; I was going to crash into the ground and die! My body hit the ground, and simultaneously I jerked awake in the bed. I clamored to my feet and found a candle to light. I was sweating and shaking. My wings ached inside my skin, and I had to unfold them to check for damage. I know it had been a dream, but it felt so real!
Unfurling my wings inside was difficult, but I managed. I had to take Patch's shirt off, because there were no cuts in his like there had been in mine. I looked them over. With a sigh of relief I realized that there was no new damage, but I groaned when I saw that the tear from my fall in the woods hadn't even begun to heal. Kelly still hadn't told me if the damage was permanent or serious. I knew I couldn't fly with it. I heard a funny sound behind me, and turned to see what was happening. I turned, and screamed.