Oosel led her into the glittering darkness of Dal’coler. It was the second time she traveled the vast corridors filled with alive lights and monumental columns, looming over her like predatory beasts. The dense, thick atmosphere of magic, which was filling the capital of the fairy realm, again took a hold on her throat. In her secluded room, it seemed less oppressive… more gentle. If she didn’t pay too much attention to the glass creatures that were looking at her from windows and sculptures hanging over her head when she slept.
The small fairy was this time dressed in a perfectly black dress, with gashes on the sides – still no shoes, but her wings were adorned with a tiny spider web made of silver, which gleamed when Oosel was making even the slightest move. Her hair, still untruly and wild, held small orbs which were making strange sounds, when brushing over her untamed tangles.
This time they didn’t give her an eyeball dress. Her attire was modest, light and golden, covering her arms, legs and even neck. She was especially grateful for that. She was scared and any part of her body exposed in a chamber filled with predators was the last thing she needed to start screaming.
She felt the music more than heard.
It rang in her mind and spread with mute terror over her tendons, veins and flesh. So inside. So visceral. The sound was not necessarily unpleasant, but strange, uncanny and alien. Not distorted, but dangerously brushing over the most extreme kind of it.
Mina swallowed and focused on Oosel, trying to not think about what awaits her in the ballroom.
“Ah, here we are!” laughed the small fairy suddenly and Mina almost jumped, that sudden it was. The widely open door before they stood, wasn’t here just a second ago. Mina would think she lost her mind, if not Oosel, a reminder, where she actually is.
“But… this room is empty” she managed to say, looking into a completely abandoned, old and dusty interior; high ceiling supporting itself heavy over a time-bitten columns.
“Because she is not inside, silly child” giggled Oosel. “What would be the point of a ballroom, if all could see it, even those who are not welcome there?”
That was the kind of logic that Mina was not ready to embrace.
Oosel took her by the hand; Mina shivered – the fey’s hand was cold, like a touch of winter in the highest mountains.
“She should make the first step” Oosel looked at her mischievously. “That way, the surprise will be even more exciting.”
Mina doubted it. Her heart raced, her pulse beating frantically in her veins. The music embraced her, coming from nowhere, it seemed like resounding in the walls of the lost chamber she was facing.
Suddenly Oosel pushed her.
Mina tripped. Fell forward.
And found herself in the room. Room taken not from nightmares though. But frantic and wishful dreams.
The ballroom was lit by millions of lights, both candles and small orbs drifting slowly in the air. The walls were embraced by beautifully crafted sculpts and paintings, created by masters of the craft. Nothing showed the bloodthirsty scenes she was expecting. The fae on the walls and cailing danced and laughed and if you dared to touch them, you could almost feel the wind in between the painted trees and hear the songs of the night birds, welcoming dusk.
But… Oosel was not with her.
And slowly, very slowly, all eyes, all eyes of hundreds of fae in the chamber, turned at her. Their eyes empty like hollow haunted castles, their expressions… wanting. Yes, wanting… craving.
They didn’t approach. They didn’t attack her. But they were staring at her in perfect silence, even the strange music ceased. Their presence was like a storm cloud looking just at her, looming over her with vile intent.
Mina panicked. First time in all the time she was here, even if she has seen much more cruel sights. She took the hems of her dress and ran by the wall, trying to find any room where she could hide. Oosel left her, like a goat prepared to trap the wolf with.
Oh goddess, she left her to be eaten by these hungry eyes.
The fae behind started to whisper, some beautiful laughter could be heard, but Mina didn’t care. As long as no one was after her. She managed to find a darker corner, blooming with black roses. She thought it was roses, but she never saw a black rose before. She was aware how childish it was. She was in their palace, and they could just come for her anytime they wished. A false cure for the sickness of this place, but she couldn’t stand being there, just in the center of attention, looking up, like a meat on the shop window…
Please, allow me to disappear, gracious goddess.
She sat in the darkness, but no one was going after her, and nothing was happening. Only the resounding music became calm, more silent… like her entrance caused them to lower the magical influence. But she still felt that… radiating from all the fae, repressed need, to love them and fear them – very mute, but still there, dragging itself over her soul, like a knife over a fresh wound.
She was sure – no she knew – that they all just played with her. Preparing a good joke for them – and a painful reality for her.
Tiyan. You shouldn’t come, but I would do everything to have you here, by my side.
She was sitting in the gloomy corner, surrounded by flowers, and she started to feel like she sits there an eternity. No one cared for her. It was… good. But, at the other hand, it prolonged the inevitable, when the fey start their games.
She felt lost, lost, afraid and lonely, and even if she was aware, deep inside, that the fae won’t kill her until they need Tiyan, they can hurt her in many other ways. She hoped, so much, that they want Tiyan to find her alive and well.
The fey laughed and danced and talked, in their own melodic language. Somehow, she understood them, but when she wanted to bring the conversation on mind, she couldn’t. A veil separated her from her kidnappers. Like she sat in a bubble. Observing, taking everything in but… not understanding the sense of it. Sometimes she was catching fae looking at her. Their eyes sliding over her, a smile, a beautiful smile on their faces, and she felt the mock in them, but no one disturbed her, like she didn’t matter at all. Like she was as important as a lonely candle in a daylit room. Her fear from already strong, paradoxically became overwhelming.
“Oh goddess…” she didn’t know, but repeating it, was soothing her soul. The goddess, a protector of humankind. Why did she leave them, though? Allowing the darkness to swallow the land of her children? Why did she allow the fae to hunt on them, unraveling their cruelty more and more? Why were humans disappearing and then, if coming back, were mad, and wounded inside?
Perhaps the goddess left them. Maybe they disappointed her and this was her punishment.
Or, Mina thought with bitterness, maybe she lost humankind to fae gods, on some twisted godly dice game.
“Maybe the goddess never existed” she heard a deep, calm voice. “But gods not existing are safer. No one can think up a worse fate to anyone, than a hungry god.”
Mina swiftly, fearfully looked up.
Lorian gracefully sat near to her, his black eyes gleaming with stars in the candlelit chamber. His pose was relaxed and almost content, and his smile – promising many things that Mina could want – but she better not wording them out. Never.
Because they would be twisted in the wrong way.
Lorian leaned slightly to her; she backed off, but Lorian summed it with only a light laughter.
“It seemed that I made a very wrong impression on you.”
“I–” Mina really didn’t know how to react or what to say. His aura, very repressed, muted, but she felt it, how it pushes her to just obey him. That was terrible. She didn’t want to feel that way. She still remembered him wanting to eat the apple. His commanding tone and a threat hidden behind his voice.
Yes, you didn’t make a good impression, she thought, and Lorian grinned.
“Maybe making a good impression on humans isn’t one of my uttermost skills. A thought of a pure youngling never is false, after all.”
Oh by the sake of it all, he knew what she was thinking!
She felt a strong urge to hide under the bench. Childish, so childish. Better – so the earth swallowed her and took her from here, where all things were beautiful and sick.
“Allow me to be honest” said Lorian and leaned back, to leave her a bit of safe space. “You eating the apple would make things easier. But your brother will come, one way or another. And I doubt he realizes how beautiful and dangerous his blood is. And how deep my mark is burned in his body – and soul. These two things are contradicting. Me against the gods. Fire against the ice. A cold wind agaist the flaming void.”
I don’t understand, why you tell me this, ran through Mina’s head, involuntarily.
“You don’t need to,” smiled Lorian.
“You won’t force me to eat it” Mina decided to be bold. Do not be the prey.
“Only if you will want to eat it. Force would be so primitive, don’t you think?” Lorian’s face lit up by some ill gleam.
She hated him already. She hated his riddles and dangerous aura. She hated him, surprised by the strenght of her own feelings.
Lorian slowly stood up and Mina instinctively threw back, so deep into the bench. But Lorian only bowed before her, a cursty she would never expect.
“We are on a ball. And I truly want to dance with you” he reached to her with his hand, still half-bowed, like he really cared for convenanses. Of course, a lie. A lie which was worse than cruel reality.
Mina buried herself into the seat, she felt like agreeing was breaking a final seal. Hidden monstrosities escaping the closed box, so far guarded by her will and slowly shattering courage.
And suddenly, she found herself in his arms, and that made her almost lose all composure she still had.
“Will you allow me?” he spoke, his voice so calm, sweet. So sweet that she felt like it melts in her head, like a candle that dripped with wax from the high walls.
“Do I have a choice?”
“It’s the only choice you still have” he chuckled charmingly.
Mina’s heart sank.
“I will allow,” she whispered. Because she knew, she didn’t have that choice, at all.
When they bit into the crowd of the High Fae, all eyes were on them. Some looked at them with joy, some with hunger, some – with curiosity. And some, with anger and hate. A human in the ballroom, dancing with the fae lord. A tresspaser.
She didn’t read in their minds, but… she knew what they thought. You shouldn’t be here. You should suffer. A mere toy. Only a human.
She closed her eyes. Do not be prey, even if they all see it in you. Even if you feel like one.
Lorian didn’t pull her close, didn’t do anything wrong. But his presence was enough. She felt even more exposed before all those eyes looking at her, than before.
Lorian’s grin almost kind, if not something under it, a threat which she knew is there. Which she saw by the corner of the eye.
Mad, this is mad. Do not agree, do not allow.
“My lady” Lorian squeezed her hand, a warm touch. Not like Oosel’s. His voice tainted though with mocking note, which told her more than any of his gestures.
He knew he can do anything with her. And she hated him for this knowledge and for a false, amused kindness he was dripping with.
But he was here, holding her in light grasp…
… and he took her into the enchanted world of fairy gleams and darkness creeping from every concealed nook and every shadowed corner.
The dance was slow, so slow and not similar to anything that she even witnessed, but somehow she knew the steps, she knew it all. The music slowly resumed to be louder, drowning her in an absence of light. It drifted through her veins, like the dance she was dragged into was causing it to overwhelm her easier, like the mere knowing the steps was enough to become more like the fae. Still not fitting, but buried more into the heart of this place.
Lorian never took his eyes from hers and she realized that she drowns in them, a spell working into her mind and making itself a guest in her brain. Even if the steps were most natural, easy, pleasant, it was not just a dance – it was magic. Lorian swirled her. Pulled closer. Eventually. She was looking at him and couldn’t decide who he was – a fae lord or a creature of the night, made of black smoke and shadows. His eyes, dark as bottomless wells, were reminding her that he is not here to fulfill her dreams.
She slowly, very slowly started to love it, dancing on the ballroom floor, surrounded by distorted faces, by eternal hunger of those who never age. Her arms landed on Lorian’s neck and arms. This was filling her with joy, which relentlessly entered her like an open vessel for the disturbing notes that ranged in the chamber.
It was wild. So wild, in calculated, beautiful way.
A passages in the vast gardens, sunken in young rays of the sun. The cold water soothing her feet as she walks by the river shore, evening painting the sky with orange and vermillion.
Her feet carried her through the room, mirroring Lorian’s moves. Her lifted her up, high and she felt as joy brims in her chest, unwanted, forbidden.
The fae started to blur around her and the music found a place in her soul. Wormed into it and released tendrils and spores, intoxicating it with sweet delirium.
Cat on her window, when the scent of freshly baked bread promises a feast. Blooming phloxes, roses red as setting sun. A dog welcoming her when she comes back home from a day spent in the woods, his soft tongues on her face.
She laughed. Honestly, carefree, enjoying every second of the dance. It was sweet like a summer wine. Like a celebration of life.
And she wanted to sink her teeth into the heart of this place and pull out the beating strings.
Deep down, she was screaming though, trapped into a cage with bars made of enchantment.
You are made to become like us, crawled into her mind and she knew it was true. She wanted it, she wanted to stay here forever, if only Lorian always danced with her, and the music always was stealing her soul.
She couldn’t place when that happened. But soon, her fingers were dripping with thick blood and her mouth was filled with it too. She had to look stunning, with a bloodstained face. Like a goddess of war, taking in the horrors of her element.
Please, it can’t happen.
But she was biting into the flesh of the core apple, relishing on it. So sweet. So tasty. Like the liquid midnight.
And deep in her, she knew it was her fall.
Yet she still ate it. She wanted it, so badly. She wanted to eat it, which was exactly what they desired.
She heard the laughters, cruel, and filled with true joy. Amused by her crimson-touched skin. Mocking her weak will.
She slowly, very slowly, slid on the floor. Many, many eyes dug in her, like trying to pull her very being from her. And before she lost her consciousness, a pure shadow stared at her, a pure night, with too many gods pulsing in his chest.