I wasn’t what anyone would call a nice person. I was grumpy, sarcastic, and I’d earned every scar on my body in ways that would make most people have a nervous breakdown.
But nice or not, there were some things you didn’t ignore – not if you saw them and had the power to act. And the hint of power I could feel from the woods demanded action.
“I do believe in fairies, I do, I do…”
I pinched my nose when I heard that half-whispered chant on the breeze.
Damn Peter Pan to hell. The whole play was pure fey propaganda.
I could feel a trickle of power coming from the woods, surprising in the sheer uncontrolled strength but also in the desperation behind it.
Whoever this kid was, they’d managed to crack open the edge of reality like an egg.
Not an easy thing to do.
The whispered chant slipped though the woods, thinning the barrier betwixt and between. I tried to hurry, but my cane was sinking into the soft earth, which was giving my hip hell.
“I do believe in fairies, I do, I do.”
I grimaced. Yeah, I believed in them too, which was why I had a ziplock bag full of salt and mixed with iron oxide in my pocket.
The thing about fairies is that sometimes you ended up calling a unicorn. And sometimes you encountered a redcap. Even the Seelie court was fairly dangerous if you didn’t know what you were doing, and a completely disproportionate number of fey creatures would just eat you if you were in their way. No muss, no fuss.
I arrived and saw a rumpled child in a jacket that was far too light for the weather. Skinny. Frail.
Faintly glowing with power.
I think it was a she.
I glanced at the kid, with very little to indicate whether it was a boy or a girl…not that I knew much about kids, but even with the short hair and clearly mismatched secondhand clothing, there was something delicate.
I clinched my jaw.
They fey liked pretty things.
The sickly-sweet smell of farie power burned my nose as I ran toward the child, casting shields and recklessly spending as much power as I dared.
I dove between the child and something reaching for her, handful of salt and iron making a quick circle.
I pulled the child to me. “Be still.”
“She called us.” The hissing sibilants wound their way from the shadows. I saw the child’s eyes widen.
My lips twisted as I stared into the undulating darkness. “I doubt it was you that she had in mind.”
The darkness inside the shadows laughed. “She didn’t specify.”
I didn’t comment on that. The foolish child hadn’t – an oversight which had once led to any number of children disappearing and never being seen again.
My hands trembled. “Called or not, you can’t cross the circle.” If I could keep them busy until the power faded, they’d have to leave – they couldn’t survive in this magically dry area without power – a lot of power. I looked down at the child.
She didn’t look like much.
Whatever was sitting in the shadows wasn’t fooled by her scrubby appearance. The kid had some serious magical firepower – and all the hallmarks of being completely untrained.
I had a pretty good idea of what was waiting in the shadows, and it wasn’t interested in raising the little girl as a changeling.
It would probably just eat her.
The child was completely terrified and clung to me like she hadn’t been the one calling the thrice-damned things in the first place.
I felt pressure behind me, the hair on the back of my neck raising. I tossed a pinch of salt and iron over my shoulder instead of looking – more than one type of fairy could use the faith of the action against you – the act of looking back lent it power it didn’t ordinarily have. Tossing salt over the shoulder was just good luck – and probably where the superstition came from.
I heard a hiss from behind as the iron fillings and salt hit it.
The child pulled on my sleeve. “What is that thing?”
I kept my eyes on the formless mass. “Hush. Stay still. I will explain later – if there is a later.”
Have I mentioned that I wasn’t good at dealing with small, unfinished humans?
Because I am not.
I felt the power began to dissipate and fed what little power I had left into the shields – it would cost me in a few moments, but I had a terrible feeling that – yep. I felt a jarring attack on the shield as the fey thing in the shadows clawed at the shields with brute force in a desperate attempt to finish what he’d started.
My eyesight dimmed as my hip gave out and I sunk to the forest floor, clutching the child to my side as the shield compressed around us. The rift in between healed- and the fey – realizing that his chance to return was ebbing, fled as the rift sputtered out of existence.
I looked at the child from my seat on the ground. “That was a very foolish thing to do.”
Then I promptly passed out.
I woke up hours later. A cheery fire was burning to one side and the child was poking at it with a stick.
“You should have gone home.”
“No home to go to. And besides, if I had left you, the gators would have eaten you.” She offered me a suspicious-looking bottle of water. I took a quick sip, then another.
“Someone is going to be worried about you.”
“Won’t.” I’m not much for mind-reading, but the word was packed with images that made me think the child was right.
I used a tree to haul myself up. “Put out the fire and let’s go home then.”
The kid looked up at me.
Sometime very soon, when my powers were topped off, the people from her memories would be receiving a visit from me. They would not enjoy it.
I wasn’t what anyone would call a nice person.
Wednesday, November 30th, 2022
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I Do Believe In Faeries by Vanessa Wells <–YOU ARE HERE