We landed somewhat more gracefully, this time into my bedroom. Tobias hastily let go of my hand. A severe dizziness set in and I almost fell flat on my nose, but Tobias grabbed hold of my arm and steadied me. I knew then that if I didn’t lie down I was going to pass out, giant black and grey blobs crowded my vision as if from blood loss and my head felt like it was full of helium. He seemed to read my thoughts, he grabbed both of my arms gently, yet securely from behind and half walked, half carried me to my bed. I didn’t bother to fight him off, I hadn’t the strength. I sat down, closed my eyes and let my head hang, thinking of how I must have been holding my breath during the fall home.
The moment I was able to see properly, I noticed that my bedroom door was wholly off its hinges.
“Where is my mother?” Was all I managed to cough out.
“She’s on her way to your room as we speak, and she is coming very fast, she must have heard us land. Hailey, it is important that you listen to me. The man you saw is very dangerous, he will be back and so will I, please trust me Hailey, if you do not, by default you are choosing death. Do not go anywhere alone, and do not go out at night, do you understand?” He instructed, his tone full of authority that he most certainly did not have over me.
I looked up into his eyes, and then it was as if I had blinked him out of existence. He was gone without a trace, but his earthy scent still lingered in his absence.
Death? What did he mean by not choosing to trust him I was choosing death? How could I trust him? He is one of them, and I am human, disposable.
“Hailey!” My mother’s frantic voice broke me out of my reverie. Her quick footsteps clomped down the hallway, getting closer still.
An instant before she entered my bedroom my instincts told me to hide the leafy thing still perched on my pillow top. I tensed and looked quickly around my room for somewhere to put it, my eyes stopped on the top drawer of my dresser, but I knew she was getting to close for me to put it there. I panicked and unceremoniously threw it under my bed, hoping it would hide itself among the build-up of clutter there.
“Hailey! Thank god!” She ran and threw herself on me. “Where did you go? What happened? Are you alright? What happened to your lip?” Her skinny arms confined me and she was rocking me back and forth as if I were a child.
“I’m alright mom, he didn’t hurt me.” I was bewildered by that fact.
She grabbed onto my arm then, and made me face her, perplexed, “What? Who? Who took you away?”
“His name was Tobias, of the Elven fae.”
“And he knew that you could see him and he didn’t hurt you, or try to hurt you?"
I sighed and shook my head. “All he wanted was my name. He didn’t hurt me mom.” I left out the part about him trying to tell me it was his purpose to protect me, that he said he was always near and the part about the thing hiding under my bed right now.
She was obviously confused, “Listen to me Hailey, if you ever see him again you need to tell me okay, right away. If he comes back I’m sure it won’t be for your phone number.” She said it like a threat, as in, if I didn’t tell her she would find out and I would be dead either way.
“Okay.” I said even though I knew that if he did come back and I lived to tell the tale I wouldn’t be telling it to her. If I did she would move us halfway around the world and probably make me change my name. After all that’s what we’ve been doing our entire lives. If one of the unseen finds out about us, we pack up and move right away, it’s happened a few times now. I’m actually surprised she didn’t announce that we were moving to California or Tim-buck-two, if there is such a place.
I shuddered at the thought of moving to another place like Greenland, always wet and cold, luckily our stint there only lasted about two months. There really wasn’t a place in this entire world that I could truly call my home. Everywhere we lived only lasted a short time. The closest place that I could call home would be our quaint little cottage in Galway, Ireland, lasting a measly three years. And despite what people may say, the place is highly unpopulated by fae, but unfortunately had a few too many Lycans. Of course the untimely disappearance of my Grandmother that I refuse to accept as her death was a major influence in our departure.
Besides Galway, Orillia has been the only other place that I have come to consider my home. This small town is home and has been for an undefeated seven years. The rest were just houses that we happened to reside in for the time being, if you asked me now, I couldn’t tell you the street names we lived on, never mind addresses or phone numbers.
“And promise me that you won’t go looking for him.” My mother shocked me back into reality. I could tell she was deeply unsettled even thinking of such a thing.
“Okay.” I wondered why she would think that I would.
My mother looked at me with challenging eyes. She didn’t believe me. She was waiting for me to swear to it, but having never lied to my mother about things that mattered, I wasn’t sure if I could.
“Don’t worry mom, he won’t come back and I have no reason to go looking for him.” Something inside me knew that today was not the last time I would be seeing Tobias, after all he said he would be back.
The storm had died down by the time I was finished cleaning up the mess of broken glass and tea strewn on my bedroom floor. My mother scarcely left my side the entire time. She said that she was concerned about him coming back. Then she waited in my bedroom, right outside of the bathroom door while I had a shower, insisting I leave the door unlocked to avoid breaking another one.
“Hailey, I think you should sleep in my room tonight.” She told me after I came back into my room.
“No mom, I’ll be fine, really. I don’t think he’s,” I cut myself off, “He won’t come back.”
It took me nearly fifteen minutes to convince her that I could sleep by myself.
My alarm clock told me that it was almost 2:00am when I got into bed, but I was grateful that I didn’t have to set it. School had just ended in the last week. I was so overjoyed to be done with school, holding fast to the fact that next year would be my last, until my mom brought home a massive stack of college applications, the biggest I have ever seen.
I heard footsteps in the hallway and I spun my head around so fast that my neck cracked.
“Hailey, are you alright?” She said taking in my pained expression.
I rubbed the sore muscle in my neck, “Yeah I’m alright.”
“Okay, I just wanted to say goodnight hun.”
“Goodnight mom.” I laid back down and yanked my blanket up over my ears, “Knock next time okay?”
“Sure, Goodnight.” She extended her hand to close my bedroom door, forgetting that she had already ripped it off its hinges. I suppose I had forgotten as well.
“I’ll fix that tomorrow.” She said biting her lip, a family habit.
I tucked myself deep inside my duvet, “Goodnight mom.” I knew our conversation wouldn’t be over. The only reason she left me alone was because she knew I needed to sleep. Otherwise she would have been badgering me for hours more. I hoped I could escape the ranting and raving I knew would take place tomorrow.
After a restless few minutes trying shake off a clinging chill, I realized my window was open and got out of bed to close it, pushing on the top of it and then jumping back as it slammed shut, I reached over and locked it. A man’s face, I was sure I saw a man’s face in my back shed window. No, I told myself, there is nothing there, just go to sleep. But the golden eyes that smouldered in the dark like live lava didn’t lie. My hand absently flew to my Grandmother’s Jade pendant that hung loosely around my neck, only touching it had a severe calming effect on me, just as my grandmother had. She always had a placating explanation for everything.
Hearing my mother’s bedroom door close what seemed like hours later I reached under my bed to get what I had thrown there earlier, I half expected it to have disappeared and somewhat hoped that it had.
It took me a few seconds to find it among all the other things under my bed, but it was there. Surprisingly I felt more excitement than fear when my fingers wrapped around it.
Scolding myself for my excitement in the face of such a serious and dangerous situation, I placed it in one hand and examined it, the leaves concealing whatever was inside were very large and shaped like a spade that you could find in a deck of cards. I could also tell that they were fresh and they smelled like Tobias.
I wondered briefly what harm there could be in opening it, finding no reason good enough not to. My breathing quickened when I pulled off the first piece of twine, letting a leaf loose. I pulled off the other piece of twine and the leaves all began to peel themselves off in a uniform pattern.
I was left holding a small pinecone. I flipped it over in my hands wondering what the meaning of it could be. When I found nothing on it but some dirt and sticky pine needles I relaxed my tightened muscles and leaned back onto my pillow. Well it wasn’t what I thought it would have been. Something dangerous, perhaps a time bomb.
“What a great gift.” I whispered, “Thanks Tobias.” I looked out the window as if he was there watching and then I shivered when I realized that he very well could be. Why was it so seemingly imperative for me to open this?
Suddenly the little brown pinecone felt as if it were getting hot, I studied it and found it was turning red, it was burning my palm. I jerked my hand back and dropped it onto my blanket, trying to blow on it. It turned a blazing, fire-engine red before erupting into green flames. Suppressing the urge to cry out, I found myself biting my lip, opening the cut there and allowing the foul, metallic taste of blood to fill my mouth. I didn’t think the pinecone was there any more. All I could see was a green mass of fire whose light danced along my walls and didn’t seem to even scorch my blanket. I tried to brush it off with the back of my hand, but once my flesh touched the cool flames, they went out. I was right, the pine cone was gone, and in its place was a small, rolled strip of birch bark. I touched it quickly first to make sure it wasn’t hot; it wasn’t, so I delicately picked it up and contemplated my choices.
Number one, I could throw it away right now and never know what was inside, but possibly save myself a lot of trouble.
Number two, I could open it and find out what is inside, and then never have to wonder what was in it and regret not opening it. Plus I could just throw it away after I know what it is. I obviously wanted to open it.
I chose option number two and unrolled the birch bark quickly so I couldn’t change my mind.
There was a single paragraph written in beautiful cursive on the bark inside, definitely not as dangerous as I had thought. It read;
Hailey, please heed my warnings, you aren’t safe. I fear I am being followed so I may not be able to stay close to you. I will watch over you as best as I can but if one moment you find you need me, all you will need is my name.
I was sure I wouldn’t ever find that I needed him again, but I put the little makeshift paper in the drawer of my night stand. Pushing away all thoughts of elves and angry mothers I tried to get some sleep. It felt as if I tossed and turned in the covers for hours but my alarm clock revealed that it had only been minutes. It was going to be a long night.
* * *
The sky was a lustrous blue, almost cloudless. I was standing waist deep in a crystalline pool at the base of a small waterfall. The water rushed down from somewhere above, and smashed into the pool, erupting into a cataract of white mist. It delivered a serene, tumbling roar. The temperature was cool and the waves reflected their rippling pattern on my warm skin. I looked into the translucent water at my distorted mirror image, but it was a picture of another. I was staring at a girl, slightly older than myself, with long, wavy, brown hair like mine and light violet eyes. She was beautiful, but she was not me. I noticed the stone around her neck, although encased in a different golden braided amulet, it was the same stone I wore, my grandmother’s jade.
What happened to me? Where am I? I wondered, looking around for something familiar. I moved to the edge of the pool, my feet sinking in the smooth mud. I was surrounded by a forest of trees and shadows. The air smelled strongly of pine. I searched their depths for something I recognized.
“Ethel, we must go. Falkoi has found us.” A man with a similar voice and facial features to Tobias, yet not Tobias, extended a hand toward me. I took his hand, unable to make myself do otherwise. Although he was not human, but elf, the look he held wasn’t that of cruelty, but softer, one of sincerity and fear.
The Tobias look-alike lifted me out of the water with ease. Dripping wet and freezing in nothing but nearly translucent undergarments, I was shivering, but somehow I knew it was not from the cold. In a flash the Tobias-like character removed his jacket and draped it around my shoulders.
Within an instant after, I abruptly heard someone coming and felt instant fear with no obvious reason to be afraid. It was as if I was trapped in my own body, without control over what I was doing, saying, or feeling. I was living inside the mind of a stranger.
The man whistled a short and beautiful song. Within seconds an enormous, gallant, white horse trotted to his side out of the surrounding forests. He helped me onto its back, and then whispered something that I didn’t quite catch. Planting a quick kiss on my inflamed cheek he drew a sword and the horse took off at a speed that would have knocked the socks off any brave man. I looked back as the horse ran and I saw another man with him. They fought.
The sound of their blades clashing together, metal on metal, was unbearable even from this far away. I itched to cover my ears but could not will my hands into moving.
“Raedyn!” I yelled it as loud as I could without wanting to. Just loud enough to distract him for one second, and in that second the other man was able to end his life. A sword was thrust deep into his chest. Blood trickled from his mouth and down the side of his neck. His sword fell from his grasp and into the pool. I watched his limp body fall to the ground. A cloud of dirt erupted around him as he drew his final breath.
My eyes flickered to the menace of a man who killed him, who was staring daggers into my eyes.
I looked down into my lap, my eyes wet with tears and my heart clenching in extraordinary agony. The horse started to stop, digging its front hooves into the ground and then kicking upwards. The man who murdered Raedyn had materialized in front of me. He threw me off the horse with blinding speed and held his blood stained sword to my throat. Its blade was broad, black, and decorated with strange symbols. I glared into his familiar eyes and seized the blade, cutting my fingers. I couldn’t stop myself. I was screaming inside but it didn’t come out.
“Do it!” I yelled at him through sobs, “End me!”
The man removed the sword from my neck, slicing my fingers further. He angrily gripped me by my shoulder and easily and violently threw me into a nearby tree. The deafening cracking sound when my ribs broke was sickening. I rolled onto my stomach and spat blood, knowing my lung had been punctured. I tried to breathe, my hands moved to lift me, but with no result. Drawing on all the energy I could muster, I dried my tears, only for more to replace them, and lifted myself from the ground, but he was there. Throwing me again...
I woke up as if I was drowning and by some miracle dragged to the surface, breathing hard, with tears spilling down my cheeks. I wanted to scream. I held my side where my ribs broke, but thankfully there was no pain. I looked out the window. The sun was just beginning to rise. I didn’t even have to look at my clock to figure out that it was much too early to be waking up.
Then something clicked in my mind. Raedyn had said, “I love you, ride swift.”
I hadn’t had a nightmare like that since I was twelve years old. I used to have nightmares similar to this, but in them I was myself and I could never see the evil man’s face. I saw it this time, perfectly, too perfectly. I didn’t think I would ever forget those eyes, the way they looked at me in such raw hatred that I have never known.
The name Falkoi, had Tobias said the name to me earlier? I was almost positive he had.
I went back to sleep, clasping my necklace to ward off more bad dreams and thinking about Raedyn and how much he reminded me of Tobias. I tried not to think of Falkoi nor all the anger, and victory he had in his eyes when he was standing over me in the clearing.
I had so many questions that needed answering, and no one to answer them for me.