Once upon a time, I was a fae lord's son -- but I did something stupid, so they exiled me into the human lands. That's the official story, anyway.
Nothing in the faelands is ever that simple. The few fae I've encountered on this side the veil look curiously at me when they hear the story, but I've kept to it.
The truth is that I did do something stupid -- but I did it on purpose so that the officials would have a reason to send me here with the notice that I'd been stripped of my magical powers and would spend the rest of my life with the humans.
That was four years ago. It's been hell. But I'm holding on ... and I am still doing my job. Oddly, magical things have been happening in the human world, but I can't find the prime cause. I was ready to give up and head for the nearest veil (a place between the two worlds) and head for home. I wanted my old life back.
Just the day before I took that step, things started to go stranger than usual. I sensed a magical trail to the east coast and in strange places -- a tourist town in the north, a quiet backwater village farther south, and a hive of activity near Boston.
Or actually, under Boston.
It's well known that there are magical colonies living in off-shoots of the Chicago subway as well as New York's maze of underground tunnels. People don't say much about the Boston area, but from Alewife to Braintree, there are scattered small enclaves of exiles and self-exiled creatures from the faelands, especially those that would be noticeable out on the streets. If you find your way into the area, you'll see hidden gems and horrible landscapes. The MBTA does its best to ignore them -- like all the other subways around the world -- but sometimes even a human can stumble into such a place.
The feel of magic from such a location isn't usually unnatural -- but what I felt made my feet tingle as I crossed the upper world. I probably looked like a drunk from the way I danced around and nearly fell, my feet going all but numb.
The nearest subway entrance was only a few yards farther on. I rushed that way and bought my way in -- and then disappeared at the first real opportunity. Really, disappeared. That was the one spell I'd used most often during my exile. It allowed me to watch places where there was already enough magic in place to hide the little bit that I used.
I had to wait, but somewhere in the night's dark hours, I felt a swarm of magic nearby. It didn't take long to find the flock of pixies racing along in the dark, looking like random sparks. Heading northward toward Alewife.
I followed on foot. There was no telling where they might find an exit and disappear. I was right, too. After no more than a mile from where I had started, I felt both a welling of more magic and saw the flock take a sudden swerve to the right where there was no subway tunnel.
Cautious of the trouble I faced, I inched forward to a crevice where I could feel a surge of magic drifting out. I could even see the flickering of light, which might have been the pixie wings, or maybe some candles or even torches. Some of the beings from the Faelands preferred that sort of illumination to anything unnatural -- which meant anything technical. Light bulbs were apt to blow out.
Pixies let out high-pitched squeals, but something else answered in a much lower pitch. The pixies were not alone. Other, low voices joined in. I thought I heard consternation on both sides, but nothing out of the ordinary.
"You know, it's really not nice to eavesdrop," a voice said right at my ear.
I squealed and leapt aside. I was still invisible. No one should have seen me -- and it didn't help that I couldn't see whoever had spoken. My hand went to my belt knife, but a hand caught hold of it.
I didn't panic.
The pixies and their companions had heard us, though, and I could tell they were even more upset now. I just stood still because while I'd been startled, I was more curious now.
"How did you find me?" I asked at last.
The other laughed. Female. I was sure of it now, and either fae or something very close to it. I let my magical veil drop, and a moment later, she dropped her as well.
Not fae. Wood Sylph, with dark brown skin, flowing green and brown hair. I had never spent much time with them, even as my father's son. They're Wild Things -- and to find one in the tunnels below Boston sent a chill through me that had nothing to do with the cold winter weather above ground.
"Lady," I said with a very proper bow.
"Oh, you didn't learn those manners in this world," she replied, a laugh in her voice -- but it was said a Slyph might have an odd sense of humor and laugh while she killed you.
Her long-fingered hand reached out and lifted my chin, even though I tried to pull away.
"Lordling," she said, surprised.
"So it would seem -- and yet you still have your powers, no matter what the proclamation read. And spying on others, are you?"
Her voice had taken on a different quality that I didn't much like, but I still knew better than to try to escape her notice.
"Something is happening here in the human world, Lady. My father -- and others -- fear it is something dangerous." I paused and then forged ahead, hoping not to get killed by asking a stupid question. "Do you know anything about it?"