Thursday, December 03, 2020

Flash Fiction #436 -- The Fae Underground/12

 

 

The bigger problem was that the others had started to look at me for answers.  I saw it in their eyes and the way they waited as they expected me to speak.

This was not, I realized because I held a title back in the Fae lands.  Most of them -- maybe all of them -- had no idea whom I might be.  Some who did know might think I was a disgraced fae and should be without powers -- but it was clear I had magic.

More than anything, I think they turned to me right now because I looked and acted more human than any of them.

"As much as I think we need to find the crowns and other missing things," I began, letting my voice take on some magic so that everyone could hear it, "I think our first problem is to find a safe way to remain hidden from the humans.  We do not want to draw them into our problems."

That drew a quick murmur of agreement from the crowd.  Good so far, though I hadn't actually asked them to do anything.

"You cannot remain here for too long.  This much magic will draw notice even of the humans.  I don't think that would be safe for any of us."

"But they are less safe spread out in small groups," Sylph replied.  "Most of these beings have never been on this side of the veil.  They don't know how to behave in ways that will not draw attention."

And with those words, she gave a quick glance at Lady Snow, reinforcing those words.  She was right, too.  

"If they can't go, then I guess we'll just have to work faster to find the answer to what is going on," I said.  I kept from shoving both hands through my hair out of pure frustration.  I had no idea at all where to start.

"I can help," a small voice said by my ear, and I looked to see a pixie land on my shoulder.  I saw the little crown on his head and bowed my own as best I could in the awkward position.  "I think you need something to lure the enemy out."

He put his tiny fingers to his crown.

"This would be dangerous, King Pixie," I said, but softly.  I did not want to call his bravery into question.  "Both for you and for the rest of us if they got your crown."

"It is only time before they try again," he said.  Steadier than most pixies.  He looked into my face, and I had the feeling I knew why he was the Pixie King -- and why they did better these days than they used to do.  "I do not want to send my pixies against some force that it appears even the bigs are having trouble with this time.  We will all do better if we can work together.  If something still wants my crown, I don't see why any of us would want to make it easier for this enemy."

"You are right," Sylph said and bowed her head.

Then she looked at me.

"I have no more idea of what is going on than the rest of you," I said.  I didn't like to admit to it, but the others only nodded.  "I think the one thing I can do is try to get to the Faeland and find out what the fae themselves know.  There is a reason why they are not here, and that may lead to the answers that we need."

"You do not go alone," Lycan said and then lifted his hand when I started to protest.  "No."

I saw that Lady Snow and Sylph nodded agreement.  Even King Pixie gave a quick nod, but I thought that might be his worry about having to face the enemy.  He had to know, though, that we were bound to face something dangerous as well.

But at least he wouldn't be facing it alone.

"I will return as soon as I can with an answer," I said to the others, letting my voice drift out across the strange crowd.  "Try to keep magic to a minimum.  If humans come, don't fight them unless you must.  You might defeat them, but that just means more will come the next time -- or they will come up with something that might be as dangerous to them as it would be to you.  They do not give up."

I had to trust that some of these people had dealt with humans before and knew the truth of what I was saying.  I looked at my companions and wanted to ask them to stay behind -- but they'd just argue with me.  And I would lose.
We went back out the way we had entered.  It grew progressively colder, and I thought that was as much my state of mind as the colder area away from so many people.

"This is a mess," I said and looked to Lycan.  King Pixie still sat on my shoulder and nodded in agreement.  I stopped worrying about what he might or might not understand. He had one hand to his crown, though, as though he intended to hold on to it no matter what anyone else wanted.

We had to get to a spot away from this area to where I could open a portal to Faeland.  I could do it here, but the mass of unintentional magic the others had created here would have made that dangerous.

Besides, I didn't want to give away their hiding place, even to my own people.  Who knew what else might be lurking on the other side, waiting for someone to zip through.  I said so to the others.

"Only one way to find out," Lycan said.  He had his hand on his sword.  "And at least it would be a quick answer."

I agreed.  "Get ready," I said.

I opened the portal, and we stepped into -- yeah, more trouble.


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Flash Ficion # 435 -- The Fae Undergroud/11


This was every fae creature in this realm.  Maybe more than would typically have been in the human lands, in fact.  I found myself stepping backward in shock.

"What does this mean?" Slyph asked softly, her own voice trembling.

"The problem stretches across realms," Lycan replied.  "Power is moving -- most of it stolen.  This has the feel of a problem long in the making, my friends.  It has the feel of someone -- something -- that wants to wrench the old power base out of the faelands and move it to ... here, perhaps."

"Oh, not wise," I said with a quick shake of my head.

He didn't argue.  Maybe I had just proved some shred of sanity on my part.  The idea of bringing fae rule to the lands of the humans was something made of nightmares.  Even if the Fae didn't intend to rule the humans themselves, but only the Fae who lived here, it would still be a powerful assemblage of magical beings who would start to affect the world around them, if only to keep their own people safe.

Single Fae had come to this realm and brought magic in the past.  Merlin had not done too poorly, but Lilith fell on the other side.  No humans knew even a quarter of what she had done to the human world, and yet they still reviled her name in many places.

Other beings had come in groups and left their imprint on fairy tales and myths.  Things that were not quite human enough to walk down the street side-by-side with the humans were relegated to the pages of 'let's pretend.'  Humans had a unique ability to see themselves as the only real intelligent life on their world.

It made them blind, but we had used that blindness against them in the past.

Unfortunately, the human world had changed drastically in the last two hundred years.  Now they had technology -- and worse than that, they had mass communications.

A couple centaurs walking down Main Street might be passed off as a beautiful FX show, at least the first time.  But for every appearance of something strange, a few more humans were going to start doubting their version of reality.

So?

So then they know magic is real.

And then they want it, too.

Humans rarely know how to handle true power.  And besides that, they tend to be vindictive and rash, a combination that is not good for a being with powers.  There are a few such among our own, but we do our best to police them.  Some have been stripped of powers.

My own people thought I had been stripped of power and sent here, in fact.  I thought, now, that I'd only been sent ahead because something far larger was happening.

"Where does the loss of the crowns fit into this? I asked as I looked at Lady Winter, Sylph, and Lycan.

"I would really wish to know," Sylph answered.  Lycan nodded, but Lady Snow only stared out into the gathering.  I thought she might hope to find her daughter there.
 
I hoped for it, too.  It would be one easy problem solved.

I even looked, hoping to find someone or group with the crowns.  I wanted an answer to some smaller problem than trying to find out what all these beings were doing here.

"What do you know, Lycan?" I asked softly.  We were drawing attention, a slow shift of stares that turned our way from front to so far back that I couldn't clearly tell what stood there.

"I think we face a change none of us care to see," he answered.  His hand moved to his belt-dagger as though he meant to fight some enemy off and then came away again.  "I don't know what to do in this mess.  I was rather hoping you and your two odd companions might have a better idea."

Not what I wanted to hear.

I looked back at the crowd and searched the scattered groups for the Fae and hope of talking to someone I knew.  I searched and searched again, looking from one group to another until I could not see clearly.  A group of fae would ot be that far back in the mass of beings.

"Where are the Fae?" I asked, at last, my voice softer than I had intended.

"They haven't joined us yet," Lycan answered.  He looked troubled.  "We fear they might be holding off something else from coming through.  Something powerful."

If that were true, then my duty was not to be here but rather with them.  "Where is the portal?"

Lycan looked at me and must have known what I meant to do.  Lady Snow didn't seem to notice at all, and Sylph might not have understood the implications of my words.

"I can take you there, but I don't think one more fae is going to help in that battle," Lycan said with a shake of his head.

"I go with him," Lady Snow said, surprising us all.  "My daughter is not here.  I must go on and look elsewhere.  I go with the Fae who has at least tried to help."

"I'll help," Sylph replied.  She even dared one long-fingered touch of her hand on the other creature's arm.  "I shall help you, and all of us together might yet find answers to all these mysteries."

I saw Lycan's odd glance at Sylph and then the quick nod of his head in agreement.

"And I with you.  The more types of our kind, the more likely we are to find the path to answers.  Will you have us, Fae?"

I had not expected that question, but I nodded agreement.  We had chanced into meeting each other and headed on the same path in search of answers.  Now I began to wonder if something more powerful might be directing us all into this quest.

I couldn't say if it was for good or bad, though.
 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Flash Fiction # 434 -- The Fae Underground/10

 

Lady Snow moved before I did, shoving me aside with a hand that changed into a sizeable clawed paw and swept through the empty air no more than a foot from my face.

Not so empty since something gave a howl of pain, and blood splattered the air.  A moment later, a Lycan appeared, one hand to his bleeding muzzle as he backed up.  He lifted a hand to start another spell but stopped when I raised mine.

"What the hell are you doing?" I demanded and hoped Lady Snow wasn't on the verge of going berserk.

"I am the guard.  You will not get past me to attack the others."

"If you mean the pixies and gremlins -- and whoever else might be with them -- you don't have to worry.  And where were you when we came by the last time?"

"I was detained," he said with a snarl.

I did think he looked more than usually scruffy, and what might have been a nice suit now had a few rents and splatters that might be blood.

That meant the Lycan might know more of what was going on than the rest of us.  We just had to get him to trust us.

I knew of one way.

I stepped back and drew the knife I carried at my belt.  Everyone started to react, so I moved quickly, slicing across my hand, and holding it out.

"We are telling the truth," I said.

The Lycan knew what I offered with that hand.  He stepped closer with a quick sniff and then leaned forward so that his tongue lapped quickly across my palm.  I wasn't sure if the other two understood the ritual, but they held back.

The Lycan stepped back as well.  He was more than a head taller than me, the tips of his pointed ears lost in a mass of dark curls and his slanted dark brown eyes blinking.  I hoped he came to a decision soon so I could wrap my hand, but I just kept it held out and waited.

"Enough," he said.  "It is the truth.  We are allied, then, fae -- and fae friends."

He didn't particularly trust Sylph or Lady Snow.  That was fine as long as he could work with me.  I used a bit of magic to tear some cloth and wrap it around my hand -- awkward work, but Sylph helped tie it off.  I was not going to use magic for something that trivial.

Lady Snow was not bothered by our companion, probably because he was more like her than me.  I told him everything that I'd learned so far.  Sylph and Lady Snow filled in a little bit more, but not much I hadn't already heard.

Lycan listened to us all with a grave frown and then gave a nod of understanding.  "All of us, for one reason or another, have been drawn to this city and to this place.  I have sensed the gremlins and the pixies in this place -- they are not far away.  I am here to guard them, but now I see this is far more than they have realized.  None of us can name the enemy yet, can we?"

"No," I said.  "We can't even guess at the nature of what we face, let alone name it."

"Come with me," Lycan said.  He gave a nod of his head to me, and I guessed he put me at the head of the group.  I would have put Sylph, but she didn't seem bothered.

We finally slipped entirely into the area where humans would not find us.  Not that I thought this made us any safer.  This was an unusually dangerous group just on its own.  The Lycan was not as much of a surprise as Lady Snow (whatever she might genuinely be) or Sylph.  Lycans often hired out as guards to individuals and to groups.

This was a high-level Lycan, though.  I knew that from that rather expert level of magic he'd used that almost got me killed.  That made me wonder who had hired him because it was unlikely that he worked for the Gremlins or the little Pixies.

"I have the feeling everyone has been called out in this trouble," I said.  Lycan dabbed at the cut on his snout and gave a quick nod.  He even whispered a little magic and reshaped his face into something that would pass for human, as long as no one looked too closely.  I didn't expect to find any humans in these crevices where he led us, but humans sometimes turn up where you least expect them.  Or maybe he just knew more than I did.

Considering the situation, that wouldn't be difficult.  I walked beside Lycan and wondered how to voice questions and concerns given the situation.  It wasn't as though he blindly trusted this Lycan -- he was ready for any kind of trouble -- but he did hope that their new companion had some clue.

From the way Lycan looked my way, there wasn't much trust on that side, either.  Good.  If Lycan had been outgoing and chummy, I would have backed out of this as fast as he could.

"We have a dilemma," I offered and won a quick nod from Lycan.  The other two said nothing, but I could sense their curiosity.  "All of us have turned up at the same fortuitous spot, which means any of us might not be trustworthy.  Despite that Lycan knows I have not lied, that doesn't mean I am telling the entire truth."

"And I have given you no reassurance at all," Lycan admitted.  "Until now."

We had passed through another crevice.  I had felt magic, but the stone had blocked how very much of it there was.  I thought there was a bit of light --

And then I stepped through into a vast cavern filled with fae land creatures and globes of magic -- thousands of them stretched out so far that the opening must have been carved out under most of the city.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Flash Fiction #433 -- The Fae Underground/9

 

The humans in the underground area didn't know what had happened, and they panicked -- really panicked this time.  I saw one woman holding a baby and trying to grab the hand of a toddler --

Oh.

"Be calm, Lady," I said, and dared to go near the bear.  "Be calm.  You hurt the child."

"Not my child!"

"And should someone feel that way about your daughter?  Not her child, so what does it matter?"

That had been a dangerous thing to say, but I knew I had to work fast to get her to draw back her powers.  I could hear people screaming and running.  Many would fall, and this would be a dangerous place to have an accident.

Lady Snow grew angrier at my words.  I had expected it might go that way.  I en-spelled the air between us when I saw that glare, and even with the shield in place, I felt the blast of killing cold.

If Sylph hadn't arrived, I think I would have been dead in the next few seconds.  Sylph drew Lady Snow's attention, and the blast came to a quick halt.  By then, almost everyone was out of the area, and those left were trying to scramble away as well.  I didn't know what the locals were going to do to explain this one.  Luckily for all three of us that the last of the humans fled, and I didn't think he could see much in the last of the snow and ice.

Sylph had gotten the beer in hand.  She gave me a worried look, though, and I couldn't decide if that was because of the trouble with Lady Snow or because of the missing bear-child.

I had other trouble to consider, though.  The snowstorm out of nowhere was going to draw too many questions.  I looked around quickly and even dared use a little to find a sight crack in the rock wall not far away.  I built a slight wedge into the rock and filled it with enough frost to make it look like it had given way and then subsided again.  Someone would be checking it out, but it wouldn't be any real trouble.

"Do we know anything about this problem?" I asked when I joined the two at the edge of the walkway.  It was a purposely open-ended question.  I knew that many fae responded to specifics.

"No more than you and I have figured out," Sylph said with an almost glare at our companion.  I wasn't sure what that meant -- except maybe Sylph didn't appreciate the cold any more than I did.  "We know that someone -- more likely something -- is trying to gather power.  I do not know who or why."

I looked at Lady Snow.  She frowned as she looked around, almost startled.  "Not just my beloved daughter?"

"No other children that we know of yet," I said.  "We do not belittle your loss -- but crowns are gone, too.  Several of them.  We have felt something else involved -- something of nature more than fae, and it has not been friendly."

Sylph looked bothered by that admission, but I didn't want Lady Snow to simply trust anything magical that happened along.  We were in a dangerous situation, and she could make it far worse without any guidance.

"I had a guest in my cave home," Lady Snow said.  She sounded more assured and focused now.  "One who moved like shadows and whispered on the wind.  I had such in the past.  This one whispered of danger, and then took my child."

I blinked and looked at Sylph.  I wasn't sure that she'd caught the implications.  When I turned back to Lady Snow, she looked contrite this time.  I thought she might have gotten better control of her emotions.  I feared that she looked at me with hope, though.  And I didn't have a clue except, maybe, the part of one that she'd just passed on to me.

"This being that warned you -- did it warn, and then something took your child?  Or did it warn and then took your child itself."

"It took the child, and I followed to here."

"Here," I said with a nod.  Sylph frowned.  "That might have been what we sensed before we escaped, Sylph."

"Yes, that might be so," she agreed.  Then she tilted her head.  "We ran thinking it the enemy -- and maybe, we drew the enemy straight to us instead.  We may have done good, no matter how unwittingly.  You and I are powerful beacons of magic, friend fae."

"I felt no malice in the being we knew was near.  I couldn't see around it, though."

"And I never looked.  What attacked us when we came back to the surface ... it might not have followed us from the subway."

"I felt --" Sylph began.  Then she stopped and shook her head.  "The attack surprised us both.  What are we dealing with?  How many?  Who are our friends, and what is our enemy?"

"And did the creature take Lady Snow's child to get her daughter out of danger?" I added.

They both looked at me with a frown, but I could tell that Lady Snow considered the words and might not be as confident of the problem now.  

"There are still too many pieces we don't understand," I admitted.  "Let's see if we can find the pixies and the gremlins."

Neither argued with me.  We moved away from the area where humans would see us and into the site where the others had been.  I felt out the magic, but I sensed nothing dangerous there.  I even tested out the smaller crevice through which they had escaped, but I sensed nothing nearby.  I realized the gap opened wider only a few feet beyond the tiny opening.  I could probably make it larger, but would then just put the gremlins and pixies in more danger?

They weren't nearby.  I could sense nothing nearby, in fact.

I should have tried harder.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Flash Fiction #432 -- The Fae Undergroud/8


The polar bear saw me as well.  I was closer to her than I had expected, and besides, she was a lot larger than anything that should have been out here.  She growled and lifted paws with claws as long as my arm.

I swerved as she started to yell in anger -- then rage changed to despair, and she cried.  Every breath created more wind and snow.  She looked at me again, her eyes narrowed, the ice of tears on her colossal face.  I held off a little out of reach and wondered how I could deal with her.

"Where is she?" the bear asked.  Not a demand.  I heard fear in her growling voice and more ice in the air.  "What have you done with her?"

"I've taken no one," I said and tumbled a bit because I lot a little hold on my magic.  I pulled myself back with some effort and held there in the sky.  I didn't want to drop into the ocean.  "You are Winter of the Northland, are you not?  What are you doing in the human lands?"

"They took her and brought her here.  My sweet daughter."  Her face changed, the eyes narrowing --

"It was not me.  Others have lost things, though you are the first I heard who has lost a child.  Please stop the storm.  You will kill others' children, and that won't help us find your daughter."

I said those words while facing a growing glare of anger.  I dared not lift my hand because Lady Snow (a good enough name) could easily misinterpret that move as the start of an attack when all I really wanted to do was put a slight shield between us so that I didn't entirely freeze.

"You are here, fae, to help?" she asked, her face softening this time.

"I will do all that I can to help you get your daughter back," I promised.  A fae's promise has power, and I saw a slight whisper of hope in her face.  "You need not do this alone.  I am also working with a Sylph who is in human form.  Can you --"

"I will go with you," she said, and at the same time, her shape changed and contracted so that I looked down at a tall, but not outlandishly so, woman with long white hair and wearing a plain white pantsuit.

"Yes," I said and settled beside her.  The storm had died down, and even the iceberg had started to disappear.  "This is helpful.  Remember that humans are not part of the trouble we face.  Something far more powerful has moved in here.  Why did you choose Boston?  Why this location?"

"This is where I last felt her, following by sweet child to here before she disappeared.  She blinked and looked around, her focus on the things human around us.  "These humans are blind to such power.  It cannot be them."

I only dared not agree since I knew no more than that and didn't want her to realize it.   The storm, at least, had already died down to a slight dusting of snow on a breeze.  No one really moved yet since it would take a bit for the ice to melt, but that was good.  I wanted Lady Snow away from the bay and the area where the storm had obviously centered.

Not that the humans would figure out that it was her, but I didn't want anyone to set her off again.  I could feel the tension in her body.  It echoed in mine.

She, of course, had no trouble with the snow, while I had to skip along to keep up and also to curse aloud.  I still wasn't entirely sure what I dealt with here except that she was an aspect of nature and clearly related to the winter world.  Not winter as a season so much, but instead winter in places where it should never leave.  She did not belong here in this place of tall buildings and yelling -- often frightened -- humans.  Truth be told, I didn't enjoy being here with them, either, when they were in this state.  Because humans do not have magic to fall back on, they're unpredictable and sometimes violent.

I knew where Sylph had gone, at least.  I thought she might have a better chance of dealing with Lady Snow than a lost fae male right now.  This was not the assignment I had taken on --

Or maybe it was. Perhaps I had not noticed how this trouble fit into the few small things I'd heard before my 'exile' to the human lands.  The fae hadn't known much back then.  Now I wondered ... I wondered if the Queen of the fae still held her crown.

I hadn't heard from home for a long time.  I had thought they had begun to trust me out on my own.  Now ...

I turned my attention back to Lady Snow, who looked around with growing wonder and distrust missed in equal measure.  I led her straight toward the subway without any undo sight-seeing.  We were starting to get in among other people, and they spared quick looks at her.  I realized some of those stares were because she and I had no coats, and the weather had been chill enough that most people had been wearing them.  We didn't look bothered by the storm, either, while everyone else seemed half panicked still.

I could feel Sylph off in the direction where we had met with the pixies and gremlins.  We had to be careful now, especially since Lady Snow was drawing so much attention and suddenly disappearing -- really, disappearing -- would not be a good idea.

I wasn't entirely sure what to do now.  Sylph would have sensed us, and I hoped that she would join us and help -- though adding another strange-looking person to the mix --

Lady Snow suddenly let out a wail, and the subway filled with the roar of wind and the feel of ice.