“Delicious child, come with us… into wild woods…”
“… to drink from under the trees, to bathe in the starlight…”
She couldn’t sleep. The voices were haunting her, stripping her off any confidence and leaving her breathless. Her stained dress was changed the next day, but she still felt an iron stench of blood on her. A terrifying reminiscence of what happened a few nights ago.
Oosel was replaced with a tall fae with long flat hair and gleaming dust covering her face. Her wings were black as night and seemed to swallow all light. She was more scary than Oosel, even if she almost never talked to her.
She lost sense of time. Especially during nights. Nights were always the most horrible. Presence in her room, like a thick old spiderweb. She could swear that sometimes something crawls from the ceiling and looks at her, hair spread over all four walls, like tentacles. She screamed the first time she experienced it. After that, she didn’t dare, as the ghastly apparition seemed emboldened by her scream, feeding on fear.
Nights were the worst, even worse than in the beginning. The voices urged her and she would lose her mind, if not memory of Tiyan.
Tiyan who comes for her. Tiyan who will take her home.
Tiyan, who worried about her and surely thought about her. Who will pry her off this place, no matter how many fae will go against him. Because he will think something up. He will outsmart them. All.
But tonight, something was different. She felt as her feet carried her, unwillingly, in the direction of voices, who called her from behind the door to her room. Kind, pleasant voices, promising only joy and happiness. But she knew already that here, nothing is joyful and nothing is happy.
“Mina… come to us… Come and enjoy…”
“We are here to fulfill your dreams.”
“And make your nightmares perish.”
The laughter was delicate and pearly and Mina was dragged to the door, like a doll on a string. She knew she shouldn’t go, she knew it’s wrong. But she needed to follow the voices and it was making her want to hide.
But… she was going, step by step. Foor after foot.
When she opened the door, she expected that some guard would push her back and won’t allow her to leave the room. But no one was there, only an empty corridor, which gleamed with faint lights, dancing in the air.
Her bare feet didn’t make a sound, when she was forced by the strange urge. Just into the open maw of the glittering passage.
The voices laughed, she couldn’t even place from where they were coming. From the walls? Or from her head? She heard, at home, about the man from their village, who returned from the fairy realm, mad, hearing voices in his mind, telling him wrong things. When he disappeared, even Tiyan didn’t want to tell her what happened to him. But her friend, Luca, told her that he heard he opened his own stomach and pulled all out. Luca told it with strange fascination Mina didn’t share.
Mina didn’t want to pull all out.
She was scared to lose mind, something that she perceived, in her own way, like an anchor in safety. If she won’t become mad, she will be able to return home. Untouched by magic. Still being Mina. Not a dummy filled with only bad memories, bad thoughts, and wrong views on the world.
But the voices mocked her and soon, she was left in the completely dark part of the palace.
She slowly moved forth, to try to find the wall. Fear was taking over her as she couldn’t find anything with her hands. What if she falls into some hole or steps into nothingness? What if she stumbles on something sharp? The previous nights, filled with pulsing flesh and deceiving mirrors were worse… visually. But hearing madness in her own mind was somehow scarier.
What if she will be forced to pull something out, against her own will?
The first wing touched her face when she walked with her hands outstretched. She screamed in shock, almost falling. Second wing fled straight through her back, and pushed hard. And third, fourth. Soon she couldn’t even place how many of them surrounded her.
“Such a fragile girl…”
“Such a frail human child…”
She screamed. Loud. And she started to run, not seeing where, just to get free from the wings, and voices. The tension that accumulated through the night, now gave her strength to run and scream.
Fast as lighting.
Chased by laughters, laughters sharp as blades.
Until she bumped onto something – or someone – and the wings’ clapping stopped. Silebce reigned over the corridor, leaving her breathless and afraid. Lost.
But all stopped.
Like cut with a butcher knife.
The tiny fairy lights started to slowly gather, lighting up the corridor. And the figure who she stumbled onto. The fae was looking at her with an amused smile on his face.
Please not him.
“I think guards who were sent to watch you didn’t care much to stay dutifully on their post” said Lorian. Mina watched with strange fascination, as fairy lights danced around him like maidens around the maypole.
“I… got lost” she uttered, still in shock. He was the last person she would want near her. But better than darkness… and voices. And wings.
At least she hoped so. At least she needed it to be truth.
He possibly was worse than them all.
At least lights returned, a blessing inside the curse.
“No. You weren’t” Lorian didn’t hurry to step towards her. Mina was slowly calming down, but she was alert. With him. With him of all. He proved he was… awful. “My court sometimes takes their dark urges too seriously. I didn’t expect them to go against my will, just to eat you.”
Mina moved restlessly. Eat her. They wanted to… eat her.
“You wanted me to suffer” she eventually said, and took a step back, slowly, like a homeless cat who measures a hostile creature.
“I already got what I wanted from you. You ate the apple. That was the only thing that was important. Your brother will come and serve me. But the dark minds of my servants sometimes omit the best possibilities to get straight to the heart of the carnal feast.”
Again. Why does he always speak with riddles?
“I will not go with you. Anywhere. If that’s what you want.”
“Of course. But I am the best option here, at least now. That sounds better than be swallowed by night, don’t you think?”
Mina looked at him with distrust.
“And you would not have a choice, after all. I won’t bargain and pretend you have it” he added, sparks in his black eyes.
“You want Tiyan… why?” This was the best moment to ask. At least she felt it was. He wasn’t forcing her to do anything nor he was using dark magic against her.
“He is the key… to many things” Lorian looked at her intensely, his face lighted suddenly from bellow, looked more dangerous, more… unreal. “Human race too. Maybe is able to make you all wiser.”
“But you invaded us. Made us slaves” Mina narrowed brows. She won’t fall for this. She was not a… child?
“Believe me, there are worse things than winter and blood,” Lorian cracked a smile. “I am not here to prove my good intentions, because that would be a lie. I am here to make sure you are well guarded and not… dead.”
A shiver ran down her spine.
“Why” she just said.
“Because it would be… not such a wise move.”
She still measured him with attentive gaze. She had two options now. Go with him… and risk even more twisted fate… or stay and allow the fey to eat her. Literally.
The choice was obvious for her, even if she knew it was not a good one. Nothing was an option here, after all. Only darkness.
She followed him, numbed by what just happened, all the time looking at him, checking, always alert. She saw as a dark veil of shadows followed him, like a night attached to his skin. His feathered clothes looked like raven wings, gleaming against the light emitted by the small fairy creatures that were surrounding him like moths surround the flame.
“Why do they like you?” She narrowed her brows. This was stronger than her, stronger than her fear before him.
Alina told her once it kills the cats.
“Because I am darker than them” was the light answer.
That, she could believe.
He was darker than everything here.
He was dark soul of this place. A black sun shining with reverted light.
She wasn’t going to believe in anything he says.