My palm had been on Durandal’s pommel this entire time. That voice intimidated me enough to lift my hand off him, and raise my other hand to match.
As soon as I did, the mass of butterflies suddenly imploded. I found myself lifting off my feet, born up into the air on Wind mana in the same way I had seen Ceria lift her sister. It shocked me, because these butterflies had not shown any sign of being either magical or monstrous. They were just ordinary, mortal butterflies, and yet they were carrying me with magic.
For a moment, I had the impulse to form my wings and try to escape, but nothing seemed to be touching me, other than the occasional brush of a butterfly wing when one strayed a bit too close. What they were doing, they were doing gently. I decided it might be better to wait and see for the moment.
We sailed along through the air, as my abductors bore me off to the woods from which they had come. Trees passed by, just a few paces under my feet, with tall ones occasionally rising to the sides, higher than my current elevation. It was a view I was familiar with, being a flying species, but I was more than a little uncomfortable with seeing it while I was doing nothing to elevate myself.
The flock (is that the right word?) of butterflies eventually lowered me once more, down to a small clearing, barely more than a short gap in the trees. A fairy and a deer waited in the shadows between two trees at the edge, watching my arrival. The woman nearly blended into the foliage, because her raiment seemed to be made of leaves and moss, although it flowed like silk. The deer wore a saddle and bridle, and its reins were in the woman’s hand.
I touched down as gently as I had been lifted, and the butterflies quite suddenly dispersed. Within two breaths it was as if they had never been there.
I stared at her. She stared at me. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was in this situation.
Finally, I decided to break the ice. I descended into an Atian-style curtsey and declared, “Ëi onar lâ. Semöan Cenole Tianà ci cyralinëo.”
I had decided to give the short form, just “Tiana of the High Forest”. Many of the fairies I had met thus far in Relador had been out to kill me. Not knowing where this one stood on the issue, I didn’t want to antagonize her with a title she might not accept.
Why didn’t I give a false identity? I thought that trying to pass as only a monster might be even worse than being a certain fairy vampire princess.
She gave a gracious bow in return, then lifted her chin slightly. “Onar lâ. Temira Dan Möemnen ro.”
I blinked, then nodded. Without the -le suffix that meant ‘of’, ‘Temira Dan” shouldn’t be a clan name. She was simply calling herself, ‘Möemnen Gentle Hands’. It was a common fairy’s bestowed name, more than likely.
I asked, “Did you… summon me?”
She shook her head with a smile. “There was a monster that confused my friends, so they brought it to me.”
I had my doubts they had been acting on their own, or even were capable of it, but I kept my thoughts to myself. I noted, “You yelled into my head pretty loudly, though…”
She laughed lightly. “Out of concern for you, my pretty little monster. If you struggled, my friends might have become violent. Thank you for putting up with them.”
I nodded, still uncertain what we were doing there.
She walked forward into the light, the deer obediently following her. It was really large for a deer, I noticed. Big enough to ride like a horse. Yeah, if it had a saddle, that would expected, right?
“So, you’re the monster princess I heard about,” she mused. “You seem to have upset the nobles quite a bit by coming into our land.”
I felt a bit of apprehension. “How do you feel about it?”
She kept walking, not stopping until she was within arm’s reach. Reaching out that arm, she touched my cheek.
Tipping her head, she said, “Nothing in particular. How should I feel?”
The fact that this woman had absolutely no fear of me made me very nervous. I mean, I was wearing a sword and everything, but she clearly didn’t regard me as any sort of threat.
I answered, “I… don’t really have a specific expectation, Miss Möemnen. Why did your friends decide they needed to bring me to you?”
“They were simply doing their job. You were in a meadow they keep clear of monsters, for the shepherds. It’s of mutual benefit, since the locals help them in return. But you were a monster they never saw before, and they didn’t know the right place to carry you. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No… I guess it’s fine. So it’s okay for me to leave?”
She stroked my arm. “Why are you in such a hurry, child?”
“I’m trying to get a little farther away from those nobles you mentioned?”
The stroking continued. “Where are these nobles? Are they nearby? Will they come while we’re chatting?”
I was getting a little paranoid. Did she want to delay me here until someone showed up for me? It was a real possibility. Frankly, I was once again a fugitive, and I need to be looking at things from that perspective.
I gently intercepted Möemen’s wrist before the stroking moved somewhere less comfortable. “I have no idea where those nobles are, and I don’t have a good idea where I am, but I can’t just sit around waiting to be caught.”
Her hand managed to slip out of my grasp and find its way to my shoulder, which she caressed.
With a proud smile, she declared, “Well, I care not at all about the affairs of nobles and princesses and politics, Your Highness. Why don’t you have lunch with me? Weren’t you trying to take a rest?”
I sighed and snagged her hand again. “Perhaps, but I don’t want to trouble you.”
Actually, for all I knew, there was some kind of fairyland all-points-bulletin out there, or the equivalent of wanted posters. I had no idea how such things worked in Relador, but she had mentioned the nobles being upset with me being in this country. That meant information about me was traveling around among the fairies at remarkable speed. She could well have sent word to someone that I was here, while waiting for her butterfly helpers to bring me to her.
“Follow me, Your Highness,” she said, while mounting the deer. It was completely fine with her weight on its back, which I found surprising. I know reindeer pull sleighs sometimes– I’m talking about normal reindeer and normal sleighs, not the santa claus kind– but I had never heard of a deer letting somebody ride it.
Cautiously, I answered, “I… would rather get on my way…”
“If you don’t leave this forest with me, my friends will surround you and bring you right back to me, Your Highness.”
She offered her hand, and directed, “Use my foot as a step.”
“It’s going to carry both of us?”
“Rìn is quite strong, Your Highness.”
Reluctantly, I took her hand and cautiously put my foot on top of hers. It was the stirrup bearing the weight, but I suppose it was fairy strength allowing her to bear the fact that I was stepping on her foot. I ended up side-saddle behind her.
She snapped the reins lightly. The meadow had a small brook at its center, and Möemnen guided the animal to follow it upstream. As the trees closed in, the animal often had to wade, but the water was only a few inches deep.
“Might I ask you where you are headed, Your Highness?”
I wondered briefly if I should tell her. But my plans were already known to my enemies.
“I’m traveling to Tëan Tír.”
She laughed merrily. “You will never get there like this.”
“What do you mean?”
She gestured overhead “You didn’t fly across my woods when you flew to that meadow. That tells me you were headed the wrong way. Had you been heading in the direction of Tëan Tír, you surely would have crossed my sky before you landed there. Without any doubt, you are traveling without a seal.”
I didn’t want to betray my ignorance, so I didn’t say anything.
“You don’t have one, do you?” she asked over her shoulder, with a slight smirk. “You’re lost.”
I still said nothing. She tipped her head back and let out another laugh.
“I shall teach you something important, Your Highness. I shall teach you why Relador is the precious treasure of Faerie. Even if the silly humans who live here think the country belongs to them, they will never truly own it. The reason it actually belongs to fairies is that only we can truly live here.”
She glanced over her shoulder and saw my puzzled frown, and she again laughed merrily.
“This land is haunted by an ancient magic, my dear. A fairy spell that they say our Dear King cast himself, back at the beginning of history, when the magics were far stronger. And you, my dear, are now at the mercy of that spell.”
Psst! Psst! Click here and join our YouTube Channel