The villagers have never cut down but a few trees on the outskirts of the forest, and even less have dared to collect the fallen branches. There is an aura of protection that even the giftless humans must sense; it has permeated their very beings until it has almost become a race memory. Surely, it must be a genetic memory, for few of them remember the town’s past. It is a town whose life begins several decades earlier, and few dare to question that fact.
But, things begin to grow more and more peculiar as I began to search the town; If you look just so, the secret history is still quite alive. For although they had killed the Others of the town, they had not bothered with those few half-breeds who favored their human parent, and those half-breeds had bred with other humans until their offspring had naught but a hint of their blood. Through them, I have found, a history, splintered and incomplete it may be, but a history all the same, of what once was.
Below, I have included a short conversation I had with an elderly man quite advanced in years. The man lived closer to the forest than many of the people dared, from my short time there, I have heard him accused of ‘witchery’ and consorting with all sorts of devils and demons. His house is little but a shack, but the inside is meticulously kept. I was awed into silence, Old books, loose-leaf pages, and old scrolls, are stowed beneath the floorboards in wax paper. A treasure! He let me have a few of these, and I covet them still; they are the last of a fine collection. His wrinkled skin has a noticeable tint of green, which as he proudly told me, came from his pixie forebears. Upon hearing my inquiry as to why the citizens of Bedford seemed to avoid the woodcutting in the forest with an almost religious zeal, he settled in for a long tale. He rubbed the side of his nose in that knowing way many of the elderly had and began.
“Y’see, Mr. Caraway. The answer ta that, ought a be plain to a scholar such as yerself.” He blew smoke rings into the air, we watched them fly up into the rafters and disappear into small puffs.
“The reason why, is because the Faeries take a child for every tree that’s cut.
Now here’s the question.
Should I ignore the bad vibes I was getting from that stare; continue chatting with Nina like nothing was wrong, or turn around and face whoever, or whatever it was, head on?
Yeah, the first, obviously.
“In what, Adelle?” Nina asked perfect black eyebrows raised questioningly.
“Oh, um, a long time. Almost a year, in fact.” The floral lady gaped at me and clucked at the scandal of not eating a burger for that long. Yes, pink menace, it’s possible, so please close your mouth. I don’t need to see your burger.
“Oh, tha-“Nina was talking, and then she wasn’t. In fact, she wasn’t even there anymore. The restaurant’s roar had disappeared along with its’ customers. I looked around wildly, but the place was empty. I was actually wishing Pink Menace was still there, anything to indicate that this situation was anything but out of the ordinary. To replace the sea of voices, a slow steady tapping filled the air.
“You’re a hard girl to find, Ms. Hunt.” A voice like a sharp honed axe, the voice probably matched the owner perfectly.
“Oh, am I?” Should I grab a fork? If I am for the jugular, I might be able to get away. But for all I knew the rest of the town was like this. There could be more people with voices as sharp as axes out there.
“Indeed, out and about one moment,” The click of heels moved closer, then to Nina’s seat. “And then no trace of you the next.” I looked down at his hands, because it was a man. They were crisscrossed with old scars. On his index finger, he wore a silver ring that bore a symbol I’d never seen before, but made my stomach clench; A cavorting silver stag enclosed in three rings of scrit.
“You’re also very well adjusted, Ms.Hunt” Mystery man smelled of old leaves and places that hadn’t seen the sun in years.. He gave off the air of being a very cruel man, and his flat green eyes echoed that feeling. He scanned me like so much meat, and then filed away the information for later.
“The shock from a distortion spell usually causes nausea, nosebleeds, even.”
“Yeah, what can I say? I’m pretty talented.” Man, I really need to stop leaving the house. At least I’m less likely to meet weird non-humans there.
“Or you’ve been through a spell before.”
I took a moment to look him over. He felt like an army man, but I highly doubted any human government made their soldiers dress in elaborately embroidered green tunics.His hair was cut cruelly short; it accentuated his high and sharp cheekbones and long pointed ears. His beaked nose even looked strictly disciplined. He leaned against the bar like he had all the time in the world, but it was deceptive. I’m sure he could be up and fighting in the blink of an eye. One hand rested upon the hilt of a sheathed sword while the other tapped out an obnoxious rhythm on the counter.
“Hey, you would you mi-“
“We have business to speak of.” He moved aside his cloak and flashed a crest my way, and frowned in obvious disappointment when it got no sort of reaction. He quickly smoothed it away and his face became a mask once more.
Of course, seeing as he had a sword, I decided to play along. “What sort of Business?”
“It has come to our attention-” He started but I cut him off. Judging by the ‘I’ll impale you on my sword, insolent whelp!’ face he made, he didn’t get interrupted often. Well, good! It’s annoying.
“The Seelie Court’s attention, Ms. Hunt. Don’t you know anything?”
“No, actually, I don’t.” He looked at me in disgust, and I stared right back. Seelie Court… Seelie Court… Didn’t that have something to do with Faeries?
“Regardless of your ignorance, it has come to our attention that you have been consorting with a creature by the name of Ezell Foss.” I felt a blush spread across my cheeks, which he must have taken as confirmation of my guilt.
“That beast is a fugitive. He may speak with a silver tongue but, that is one of his best tricks, you see.” He slapped one hand on the table and the napkin dispenser fell with a loud clank which rang through the empty restaurant. My heart beat a painful rhythm in my chest.
“W-what’d he do?” I said, the words fell between the two us, louder than the napkin dispenser could ever be. The man shook his head; his fist clenched and viciously banged it against the table again and again to emphasize each word.
“He is guilty of the violent murder of our Crown Prince, along with the deaths of many lesser beings.”
“No way, he might be odd, but Ezell’s no murderer.” Or was he? I may not think so, but I didn’t have much to go on except for three days of knowing him.
He couldn’t be a killer…
“And how would you know? Did you see the bodies, mangled beyond all recognition? The blood and guts of those unfortunate beings splattered across the trees?” He leaned forward. “Or maybe, you saw him leaning over the body of his majesty, covered from head to toe in his blood?”
I shook my head, mute in horror.
“You understand, I see. If you see him…” A small scroll passed across the table, stamped with that same odd symbol he had flashed at me earlier and stood. “Come to part of the forest where the mirrored pond lies, say Philanecian three times. I shall meet you.”
He made to leave, but turned back when he was almost to the door and smiled wolfishly. “Oh, do not try to hide him. We’ll know if you do.”
The restaurant filled with talk and laughter. I must have been lost in thought for a while, because Nina shook my shoulder hard. I put on a fake smile and tried to enjoy our lunch, even though the burger tasted about as good as warmed cardboard right then.
Day 3, Sussex England
Two days of planning our attack, two days of Benjamin hitting the bottle, two days of him doing nothing, whereas I do everything.
He is the brawn, I am the brawn with brains.
As I write this, I look out upon the city; artificial lights fragile as soap bubbles light the town, yet they are stronger than a double-edged sword. Many of the Others who are older than me cannot stand the stench of metal. Even my partner Benjamin cannot stand it. He drinks to dull the pain of being so close to iron and steel. Is it odd that I find no pain in it? Am I really that different from the Other races?
Thoughts for another night, I suppose. Once again, I cannot help but wonder as to how Adelle fares, if not for the severity of this mission, I would check on her now. But better to wonder than to look, and then find Benjamin had ripped off another human’s arms and my belongings were in the streets again.
Two days from now, I shall have to check in.