Authors: H.D Gordon
“What now?” I asked Arrol, my
toes consciously close the ledge that dumped over into this mysterious sea. I
feared I already knew the answer.
“I hope you’re not afraid of
falling,” Arrol said.
I’d given him a droll look. “I’m
not afraid of anything.”
“Good,” he said, “because this
may be jarring without wings to slow your descent. You have to jump.”
I cursed under my breath. I
wasn’t afraid of heights, but it had to be over a fifty yard drop from where I
stood, down to the waters below. And, assuming that the fall didn’t kill me and
the two-thousand five hundred people who I had led here, who the hell wanted to
charge into a battle with clothes damp and stiff with sea salt?
As if Arrol could read my
thoughts, he said, “None of you will be hurt. You will land safely in the Fae
Forest, and no, you won’t be wet.”
I gestured down at the rolling
rainbow sea below me. “That looks pretty damn wet to me.”
Arrol smirked. “You’ve got some
major trust issues, Sun Warrior.”
I rolled my eyes. “Well, if
to jump off a bridge, would you do it?”
The Fae chuckled and shook his
head, making his silver hair ripple where it hung over his bare shoulders. His
black tattooed wings sprung free from his back and flicked in the air. “Don’t
worry,” he said. “I’ll go first.”
And then he leapt into the air
and was falling with only minor resistance from his wings. What seemed like
hundreds of people leaned their heads over the cliff with me to watch as he hit
the water. I expected to hear a splash, or at least see one, but he colors just
seemed to opened their mouths and swallow Arrol whole. For not the first time,
I seriously wished that all of these people with me didn’t think of me as their
leader. I would have to go first.
I swallowed hard and took a
half-step forward so that the tips of my toes were hanging out over the edge.
My heart was thundering like an angry ocean in my chest.
Do it. Do it. Do it! Or let me
do it for you, Warrior. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to fly.
“You really are a fearless
bastard, aren’t you?”
My Monster’s laugh was loud and cold
in my head.
Well, actually, yes. Now that you’ve mentioned it, yes I am.
I shut my eyes, then forced
myself to open then, and just before I could leap over, a hand found mine. I
looked up at Kayden and gave him a smile that I hoped would convey my gratitude.
He would not let me jump alone. I was not particularly surprised by this.
When a hand gripped mine on my
other side, I was surprised. I turned my head and was Tommy gave me a smirk.
Then Gavin took Tommy’s hand, and Patterson took Gavin’s. Victoria took
Kayden’s other hand, and Simon held hers. And Mark, and Malcolm.
We stood there, an army standing
behind us, linked together like a human chain. And we jumped.
The fall had felt exactly as you
would think a fall would feel. Stomach shooting up and settling between my
earlobes. Hair and cloak lifting off my shoulders and fluttering above me like
dark flags in the wind. Eyes watering and squeezing shut as the air rubbed them
unkindly. Teeth clenched together to hold back a scream.
When we hit the water, only
seconds, but seeming like hours after our feet had left the ledge, I sucked in
a hard breath and held it, expecting to be enveloped in water and the fear that
came with that feeling filled me up. But the ocean felt nothing like an ocean
at all. It was more like falling into a cloud, soft and not entirely
unpleasant, if not for my stomach still being in my throat. I waited then for
But Arrol had been right about
this, too. The impact was so gentle that it could hardly be called impact at
all. My feet met an earth that was also as soft as a cloud, and no jolt of pain
shot up through my ankles or legs. It was as though I had jumped through a
portal that was kind and easy on travelers. And, really, I supposed I had.
Arrol was the first thing I saw
in this new world, and the look in his silver eyes conveyed his thoughts:
told you so.
“Step out of the way,” he said,
gesturing me and my group forward.
We released our holds on each
other and stepped forward, and I would have come to a stop and stared around in
wonder if Arrol hadn’t said, “Quickly, now. You wouldn’t want any of your
comrades landing on your head.”
I don’t know, Warrior. That
would be kind of funny.
“Yes. You would think that.”
I moved over to where Arrol was
standing. As I walked, my head was all but rolling around on my shoulders as I
craned it this way and that, trying to take in all that was around me. The
forest, like the ocean, was unlike any forest I had ever seen. The trees were
tall and thick and multicolored, their branches and trees reminding me of the
tufts of cotton candy that you could buy back in the human world in circuses
and fairs, but somehow, not that way at all. The ground was a rich blue, soft
dirt and sprouting flowers and grass, all blue, only different shades. The air
seemed to have a slight shimmer to it, as though the passing of so many Fae had
left sprinkles of fairy dust floating in the air there the way that dust mites
will in a shaft of light. And, yes, the light was different here, too.
Softer, somehow, the way that
twilight can sometimes be in the tropics. All sorts of sounds that were
unfamiliar to me filled my ears; tinkling of bells, flutter of strange wings,
movements of creatures that I no doubt had no idea even existed. There was a
light pink fog blanketing the ground, and it shuddered away from me to reveal
the blue beneath with every step I took. When I inhaled deeply, I could
it. It smelled sharply sweet,
sweet, almost like burning sugar, but
not quite, and I had to begin breathing through my mouth because it was
starting to make my stomach turn.
It seemed that the possibilities
of the unknown were endless. It was funny to me that even though I had been
proven wrong every step of the way, every time I unveiled another mystery of
this world, I believed that mystery would be it, that this journey couldn’t
possibly get any stranger, any more
Standing in the Fae Forest
right then, I knew that there was an unimaginable amount that I didn’t know,
know, not even if I got to live an epically long life,
which, I knew I wouldn’t.
For several long moments, no one
else dropped down between the cotton candy trees, and I was worried that the
army had changed its mind, and would not be following us on this insane
mission. But as I stood there, the first of them arrived in a group of ten,
hands locked together the way that my groups had been. And soon, the whole of
us were standing in the Fae Forest. I was glad when the same neck-rolling,
eye-popping looks of wonder filled their faces. I hated being the only one who
was always being surprised and taken off guard.
“We must move quickly now,” Arrol
said, cutting a path through the pink fog and knowing that I would follow.
“Stay close to me, and if someone sees you, pay them no mind. Just keep
I didn’t hesitate to do as he
directed, or miss the uneasiness in Arrol’s voice. This place was beautiful in
its otherness, extraordinary even, but it was so much so that I felt utterly
out of place here. Glancing around at the people who were following me, I saw
that I was not alone in this. We
felt out of place here.
And why shouldn’t we? We were
sanctioned trespassers through a land that our kind had no foot in, no claim
to, and probably had not, if ever, for over a thousand years. Not only that,
but who knew how the Fae here felt about Vampires and Wolves? I had only Arrol
for example, and the Fae back at the Outlands had all agreed to live
peacefully, so they didn’t count. This was a whole new cookie altogether, and I
felt uneasy about taking a bite. It could be poison.
Are you sure we should trust
this Fae, Warrior? What reason has he to help you in the ways that he has? What
makes you think that we’re not walking straight into a trap?
“Well, that’s a shitload of
questions that I’d rather not contemplate right now, thank you.”
I think you better contemplate
them at some point. Watch him closer, Warrior. Pay attention and see. The Fae
is hiding it well, but the tension in the muscles of his back and the darting
of his eyes is giving him away. Arrol has either betrayed you, or neglected to
tell you something rather important. He’s too nervous.
“Too late to do anything about
it now then, huh? Just shut up already. If he has betrayed me, I’ll cut his
Oh, Warrior. I love to hear
you say such sweet things.
I gritted my teeth and shot
Kayden a glance that told him to stay back for a moment while I caught up with
Arrol, who was moving like a very cautious bat out of hell, weaving through the
trees and fog just a pace too quickly. My Monster was right. Now that I was
paying attention, I saw that Arrol was nervous.
nervous. I hated it
when my Monster was right.
“Arrol,” I said, my voice pitched
low. Under the concealment of my black cloak, my hand reached back and
retrieved my Gladius from where it was tucked into the back of my pants. I
gripped it tightly, but left the blade sheathed for now.
Arrol turned his head and met my
eyes for a moment, but kept moving at his hurried pace.
I took a deep breath, and leaned
in so that only he would hear me—hopefully, it was always difficult to have a
private conversation with so many Wolf and Vampire ears present. “Is there
something you want to tell me?” I asked.
His silver eyes met mine once
more, and held them just long enough for me to see that the answer was yes. His
voice was even softer than mine when he spoke, so much so that even though I
was right beside him and had my super-hearing, I had to strain to hear his
words. “Would that I could, Warrior,” he said. “But I can tell you two things.
First, I’m sorry, and second, choose a high number.”
I was a breath away from asking
him what the hell that was supposed to mean, when the sword in my hand tingled.
And without me having said a word
or given a command, my Monster stepped into the forefront of my being and took
And saved our life.
For the second time, Warrior.
But who’s counting?
I spun around fast, the magnets
that held together the front of my long coat snapping apart and my left hand
catching the arrow in out of the air just inches from home plate. My left eye
twitched and a crooked smile pulled up one side of my mouth. In my head, my
Monster’s laugh trilled cold and gleeful, and my fist tightened and snapped the
arrow in its grasp as though it were nothing more than a stick of cracker. For
several breaths, nothing but silence filled the Forest; no beat of wings or
pulse or heart.
My head whipped toward Arrol, who
was looking down at his feet, silver hair falling forward to shield some of his
face. The blade of my sword had slid out at some point already, and it gleamed
silver in the soft light of this world. I could feel my Monster’s intentions in
my right hand that held it. It was going to slide the tip through Arrol’s
heart, but I stepped forward and seized control of myself, shoving my darkness
back where it belonged, and waited.
The laughter came from nowhere
and everywhere at once. It was a sweet sound, like a child’s merriment, and it
seemed to float through the colorful trees and carry on the pink fog that danced
over the ground. I focused hard on my hearing, my teeth clenching together as I
tried to pinpoint the source of the sound. My comrades were struck still and
silent, willing to let me decide how to handle this, and that was why I had
waited. Maybe this wasn’t so much an ambush as it was a test. After all, no
second arrow had been fired.
I heard it then, just the
slightest of rustling in the branches of a tree twenty yards ahead of me, and
my eyes snapped to it in time to see her drop out of the cotton leaves and land
lithely on ground, where the pink fog parted like a manipulated sea. I said
nothing as she approached, and knew at once who she was without having to ask.
The Fae Queen.
She was as other as the land over
which she ruled, with wings that were feathered and dark blue at the top that
faded down to a deep black. Her skin was a swirling, changing pattern of soft
pastels, ears pointed and long. She regarded me with eyes shaped like a Siamese
cat’s and spaced too far apart on her head. A smile pulled up the edges of her
wide, pink mouth, and white teeth that were sharp and long gleamed behind it.
She wore a gown made of a material that was like the trees in this land, fluffy
and almost cloud-like, and it fell to her bare feet, sweeping away the pink fog
like the breeze at the shore. We she came to a stop, it was less than a foot in
front of me, and I had to crane my neck back to look up at her. She had to be
at least as tall as Kayden, which was over six feet.
” she said,
in a voice that was like music in a song that did not appeal to me.
I said nothing.
Her hands came together in front
of her, long pointed nails clicking together as she stared down at me. “How
pleased I am to meet a Sun Warrior,” she said. “I thought the last of you had
died long before my time. Oh, manners, manners! Where are my manners? I am
Queen Tristell. This is my land that you stand on, and I am pleased that you’ve
I found my voice finally, and
held up the broken arrow that was still in my left hand. “Yes,” I said, “Quite