Remember those 200-words-at-a-time writing challenges over the past few weeks? Well, what I didn’t mention was that for each piece I wrote, I actually continued and wove into a fuller story. Here is the longer, completed version of The Fair Folk’s Favor.
The wolves came in. That’s what happens when you leave the front door open at night, which is exactly what I did. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I was in the kitchen warming up some midnight milk for myself when I saw their shadows slinking along the hallway, breaking up the moonbeams across the floor. I heard their panting, smelled breath most foul. I froze, of course. But–and I guess this was stupid of me but I still had my wits about and what else was I to do with them–I tried to figure out just by looking at their shadows if these wolves were scared, bored, or hungry.
You’d think the hungry ones are the most dangerous, but these aren’t ordinary wolves. And if they were bored, I was as good as dead.
Very quietly, I shut off the gas. Stove dials would make too much noise, and so would my bunny slippers. I slid the biggest knife we had from its place in the wooden holder with the brood of ducks on it before I realized that one, I tended to focus on the most mundane things when I am scared, and two, I sure as hell didn’t know how to wield a knife.
Well, not against wolves like these anyway. It just wasn’t in me. They couldn’t help that they’d been corrupted any more than I could help fixing what had been done. Why did this always seem to happen? I was planning a quiet few years this time with no conflict, no involvement in anything. The wolves were always the first to come. I knew they’d be followed by elves, dwarves, pixies — all needing my help and here we’d go again.
I clenched my teeth and sliced the big knife over the palm of my hand. The blood flowed and I cupped my hand to collect it. Then I watched the milk turn pink as I turned my hand over the saucepan.
I lifted the pan in absolute silence and squatted down to cast the grisly mixture across the floor. The wolves smelled it immediately and closed in to lap it up. I didn’t move a muscle, counting on the distraction to keep them interested until they started to change. Luck was with me and it didn’t take long. Their matted fur smoothed and their rank panting mellowed to something not much worse than dog breath. There were three of them and they padded over to surround me, nuzzling my skin with their night-chilled noses.
“Good boys,” I mutter. “Go.”
They stare up at me as though they expect something else.
“Go!” It is a harsh command, but they linger. Why? I have nothing more to give them.
My heart thuds in my chest when I realize what the pack is – not hellhounds, werewolves, or skinchangers. These are Cu Sith, and it’s taken me this long to see the greenish tint in their dark fur.
I don’t expect to be alone, but my breath still catches when I look up: Melvina.
This is why you don’t leave the door open. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“Maleficent thing,” I say, “you tricked me.”
She wears embroidered brocade. Impractical for the weather, but the Sidhe have no need for practical things.
“Such silly magic,” Melvina shakes her head when she sees the pink paste on the floor. “A child’s trick. It would not work against beasts of the Fair Folk.”
“I did not know they were the Sidhe’s hounds,” I reply.
“You say our name?” Melvina grimaces.
“I have your wrath already. What do you want?” I answer.
“Sorry,” I hold my hands up and smirk, “I’m fresh out of favors.”
“Sweet mortal,” Melvina’s pale hand caresses my cheek, “to think you have a choice.”
Melvina looks around my kitchen, her sapphire eyes washing over it as though everything is new to her. The stove, the pan, the tepid milk mixed with my blood.
“I asked out of obligation to respect mortal courtesy and politeness. You are not one to say no, Dougal. Make no mistake – should you choose not to come with me, I will enchant you. It will be easy with you.”
The way Melvina says it makes me blush. She knows I find her beautiful, moreso than the few other Sidhe I have met. The limited skill I have is nothing compared to her powers of suggestion.
“You should have killed them, Dougal,” Melvina continues, her eyes locked onto mine. I can feel myself melting, and I am not sure if it is fairy magic that dances in the air between us or something else.
“I couldn’t kill them,” The words come out of me, as slow and thick as sap.
“If you used the knife against them, I would not have come in,” Melvina picks it up by the handle and pretends to draw the blade against my throat. “You used the knife on yourself. You slid it against the flesh of your palm, and drew your blood into milk of human kindness.”
Melvina throws the knife on the floor and kisses me softly on the lips. I pull her in closer and her dark red hair tangles in my hands, knotting in my fingers as I kiss her. This comes from a place of lust, starvation, and magic. I cannot remember if I feel whole only when I kiss her, or if I felt whole before the kiss began. I am half-mad or enchanted, or possibly both.
I kiss her until I do not care.
“What do you need?” I ask.
“Mordred,” Melvina whispers. “Avalon.”
“Legends,” I say. “Legends from long ago, Melvina.”
“And I am a fairy tale,” Melvina gives me a sad smile. “I am still real, Dougal.”
When she leaves, I follow her, not bothering to shut the door.