They woke up late, he told her as they were getting in the car. She leaned her head against the glass, and tried not to remember the end of her last journey. Light rain for the first hour, but after that it was clear skies.
She tried not to think about that either.
After a few hours of driving, they turned away from the ocean. It had barely been in view at a few points anyway. She didn’t have a lot to say to him, and after he bought her breakfast, this time a pleasant salad, he didn’t seem to have a lot to say either.
She didn’t want to go to sleep again, but without anything going on, she soon found herself nodding against the window. Asking him to put music on seemed like a lot, and she wasn’t going to force conversation on him. She was fairly certain she wanted to talk, but right then a conversation was an impossible scenario, so far fetched she couldn’t even imagine a beginning.
The drove through a few large towns. Eventually he slowed the car, and pulled out his phone.
“This is Modesto?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I told you we’d be here today.”
“I know, I just didn’t know.”
“About on par then?”
“Excited to be home?” he asked.
“Not home for me.”
“Yet. It’s not home yet. I’m sure you, and Abby will get along great.” He did not even try for excited, or if he did it failed entirely.
“You know her?”
“Naw, but Nicole brought her through a few years back. A Fryhelian, actually.”
“Umm, not entirely sure.”
They pulled off the bigger road, and drove past a few giant complexes stores, and a couple of buildings that looked like fortresses. Half-an-hour, and quite a bit of backtracking later they parked outside a 4-story brick building.
The apartment was on the third floor. All she had beside her clothes, was the little yellow stuffed toy, and she carried it up the stairs. The door was red wood, and he tapped 3 times. The girl answered it in just a moment, as if she was waiting for the knock.
Her hair was mild yellow, and her eyes a light green. She wore a shirt with a large cartoon bear on it, and bright red jeans. She showed every tooth she could, as she smiled.
“I’ve been waiting for you!” she said, and almost jumped to the side ushering them into the apartment. It smelled very strongly of flowers, but there was a sweet underscent to it. “Febreze’d the whole place. Don’t have company a lot,” she added her voice dull, despite the forced excitement on her face.
They walked in, and she shut the door. Annabelle gripped his arm, and dragged him over to the large front window, her mind racing. She could not name it, but something in the back of her head was pushing panic on her. Abby followed, and looked out with them. The red roof of his car was just visible. The road was mostly clear, just the occasional car.
“I’m Abby.” She held out her hand. Nicholas shook it, but Annabelle declined her eyes wide, as the underscent caught her nose again. “Why brings you here?”
“To Earth?” he asked, his eyes pulsed open, just a flash of thought. She had a similar flash, as she realized what the smell was.
“Or Modesto. Whatever you want to talk about.”
“Just needed a change,” Annabelle said. “Nicky, I left the rest of my stuff in the car. Will you go get it?”
“Let’s go together,” he said, his face blank.
“You won’t need it.” The girl smiled, and drew a short dark wand from behind her. The glamour faded, around her face, and it gave the appearance of the skin melting away all at once. The left side of her it had been burnt, to the point where it appeared to have melted, by Annabelle’s fire. It was already healed, but mages were good with healing. The fairy wasn’t sure what dark magic helped the girl survive but her remaining eye leaked it like tears from all sides. Tendrils of night ringed the edges, and escaped her mouth as she breathed.
“What gave it away?”
Nicholas’s hand slid behind him, but she waved the wand.
“Nuh-uh,” the mage said with a laugh. She reached down, and moved a large metal barrel from behind the couch. “Propane. Also got the stove on. You pull the trigger, we all go up. Tell her too.”
“It’s gas, it will-.”
“I get it.”
“Just so we’re all clear. This is just about you, and her.”
“He killed my drake.”
“No, Billy did that. He killed Billy.”
“I did shoot Billy.” He nodded.
“I don’t care. It’s just about you two. You die here, I don’t go back to Oregon, and kill the short chick.”
“How did you find us?” Nicholas asked.
“The leprechaun at the garage passed me your phone information. I had it cloned, and then followed the trail, redeyed here last night.”
“I didn’t get any of that,” Annabelle said.
“She’s not from Fryhel.”
“I was born here. In Nebraska, actually. I had talent, so much the College came for me. I moved to Stydran when I was nine.”
“Didn’t work out well for you did it?” Nicholas gestured to his face, as he spoke.
“It worked out great. Until this pixie bitch burned me, I was one of the Lord’s top mages.” Annabelle wanted to point out that she could not have been that great a mage, if being ugly lost her rank, but it seemed like a bad moment.
“You did that?” he asked, with a low whistle.
“I’m not very sorry. She killed Abby.”
“How’d you know?”
“I’m no pixie. I can smell it through the flowery perfume.”
“She’s in the tub. I’m going to slit your bf’s throat, then you’re going to join her. Already drew your bath.”
She glanced at Nicholas. He was calm, his eyes fearless as they cut to her, he was as ready to face death as his father had been.
She glanced out the wide window behind him, and wished she had taken the time to enjoy that last flight.
“And if I.” She held up her fingers, ready to snap.
“We all die, and I still win.” She laughed a little, and tilted her head to the side.
The fairy looked to the kitchen, and snapped her fingers. The mage took the bait, glancing at the room.
Annabelle grabbed her hand, and sent her mind into the mages. The girl resisted, and she was right to be proud, the magic in her flowed thicker than blood, but the fairy was determined. She danced across the girls mind, smashing into the defenses, and slipping in where she could. It took only seconds in the real world, but hours passed for them. With a triumphant cry, she froze the girl, and then returned to her body.
Nicholas was still staring at the kitchen, apparently taking his time catching up.
“Only for a second,” she said, before he could ask. The mage was already waking, she could feel her brand slipping.
“What?” She slammed her lips against his, a quick touch, she couldn’t give herself time to enjoy it.
A hard push on his chest, not looking at his eyes. He yelled a curse word as he sailed through the glass.
One hand wrapped around the mages again. The girl’s eye was fearful even through the darkness, as she woke
“Want to dance?” The fairy asked, and clicked her fingers. She spun the girl, who screamed, and pulled back, but no human could break her grasp. The flames rose, as always her home, and she felt their bright touch for the last time against her skin.
Living on a Prayer
At first, all she heard was the crackling. She could remember it, from the first time. It was not the same fire though, this was no memory.
She hung on the edge of twig, until it burnt, dropping her into the whole of the blaze. For years it felt, she burned, her body forming, growing stronger. Gradually she became aware of things. First touch, she felt the heat of the flame. Second her eyes opened, and she saw the night sky above her. If her lips had formed, she would have smiled.
She felt like it couldn’t have been this hard, to come to life the first time. Surely she could not have done it without knowing the steps. She built her body, piece by piece, calling the burning bits to her, she cradled them, building outward to create limbs, and then hair.
It was hard to come to life, dangerous too, she knew. Too little time to awaken, and she would be nothing but another spark or ember on the breeze. Too long, and she would be stuck, a lump of charcoal. Over cooked in the life-flames.
An old woman with steel gray hair leaned over the fire, and smiled for her. The woman leaned back, and she heard a laugh.
Hours longer, time making sense again as she grew, she stepped out of the flames. One tentative step, and she collapsed. Her new wings fell over her, and fluttered on their own, lifting her up.
“You seem tired, Annabelle,” the old womans voice was like sandpaper across a stone. “Thirsty?” she poured a bit of vodka into a plastic lid, and sat it down. The newborn fairy gratefully lapped at the booze, feeling her heat grow with the fuel. Next the old woman sat a piece of a candy bar down, peanut butter pieces crumbling from it. She swallowed it in two bites, feeling herself becoming more stable after just moments.
“I thought I was dead,” she said. “Wow, I’ve got a singers voice.” She glanced at her skin, a dark shade. “I’m red. Really red.”
“Fierce color, Wings,” The Washer said with a laugh. “You were dead, as dead as an elemental can get. Spark, and dust. A few embers. I carried one back, in this.” She held up Greg’s pipe. “I breathed it life again, and set you on the fire to grow.”
The Washer looked up, and when she spoke again, her voice changed, a child’s voice with hints of bubbles came through. “You seemed like a half-decent sort. Not every Fairy, would dive to death for someone who pretends to hate her.”
“He owes me now,” she said. “He owes me.”
“Are you going to collect?” the Washer asked, her tone not showing a clue as to her feelings on the matter.
“Where’s the mortal world?” Annabelle asked, her tone a bit clearer.
“Look around, Wings,” she gestured, with a small smile that she covered it with the bottle.
The fairy’s eyes were weak, she realized, and she missed her glasses. Something though, in the distance. A field with only a few trees, and a fence. A long low fence, sagging in a few sections. Large columns of dark metal. A long steel room.
She jumped up, but her wings failed her, and the old lady saved her from a shameful faceplant.
“Here,” she said, as she handed her the rest the candy bar. “Going to need to take it slow. No heavy spells, just growing but fly small.”
“I’m really back?”
“Of course,” she said. “We always repay our debts.”
“You don’t owe me,” she said. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Kindness to folk, that creates more kindness. It breeds forward, when you reach out a hand like that. You helped shape the future in ways you’ll never know, Wings.”
“I’d like to know,” she said.
“Then follow the Path,” she said. “The Rose Path is the road to paradise.”
“I think my paradise is just up that hill,” she answered, finishing another drink, and the candy bar.
“Always use more knowledge.”
“Good luck,” she said. “My good fairy.”
“Thanks, I’ll be sure to pay my debts, should you ever need a warm fire, or little wings.”
“Never need a fire myself, I’ve got a lot of friends though. A friend of a friend…”
The woman smiled, and faded, the bottle of vodka pressed to her lips.
She jumped some, but saved her strength for the fence. She took it at a run, using her wings to zoom high then soar in low, she landed on the container.
She could hear movement inside, and was a bit sad her room had been filled already. She ran to the edge, and glanced in, surprised to see Nicole sitting on the edge of the mattress looking at the gray bags. Her first impulse was to jump in, but she held herself back.
She dulled her glow, and dropped down sending a group green, and silver sparks at her friend. The other girl jumped, dropping the body wash.
She grew, as she gave a little curtsy. “Annabelle Rose.”
“Nicky said you blew up. What the fuck?” She poked her once, and Annabelle wasn’t sure how she felt, about the red in her friends eyes.
“I think I did,” she said. “Not sure anyway.”
“You’re alive? And red.”
“Yeah, I guess.” She glanced at her arms in proper lighting. It was just a shade darker than Nicholas’s car. “The washer saved my ash.”
“Was that a pun?”
“No she saved my ash, and relit me. Don’t know why I’m this color.”
“It looks great,” she said, and then hugged her. “Wow, holy hellballs we thought… I mean we planned a stone in the Murphy plot. You saved Nicky, and all.”
“Is he here?”
“No, he, well he landed on his good leg, and he’s in the hospital waiting to be picked up by some people. Speak of the dumbass.” Her phone was beeping. She laughed, and blushed a bit, as she checked it. “Oh, for you I think, my good fairy.”
She passed the phone.
<Washer sent me a text. ‘Prayer granted UOI.’ What the hell does that even mean? :(>
She hit the little picture, and held it to her ear. After a moment he answered, same grumpy tone, if a bit quieter. “Any ideas?” he asked.
“I think it means, that you’re still a uwarun.”
End of Tale
Well, what did you think? I had a blast, at least. Stayed tuned for info on another full Tale soon.