Melisssa A. Joy, Blackheath Dawn’s emerging fantasy writer celebrates St Patrick’s day with our readers with her short story from the land of the Fey – The lady of the Faren Prince.
Reyna padded through a small front garden filled with spring flowers into the small thatched wattle and daub cottage where she lived, ignoring the banging and shouting as she ascended the rickety old stairs. It had been yet another tedious day at school with that wicked Mrs. Therlow, not to mention the amount of times she’d been caned and sent out of the class for absent-mindedness.
She opened the door to her room, threw down her leather satchel, and began removing the stuffy linen dress she hated so much. The dress was tossed on to the bed and was replaced with a pair of close fitting black trousers and a long cream blouse with puffed sleeves decorated with lace on the cuffs and collar. She took a brush from the black dresser and stood in front of a gilded mirror, staring at the reflection of a soft-featured young woman with bright blue eyes closing in on her eighteenth birthday. Mousy brown hair hung in rivulets down her back, which she carefully brushed until a familiar presence swept in behind her and stroked her shoulders.
“Are you dreaming tonight?” a gentle male voice whispered into her right ear. There was no reflection of another person in the room, nor did anyone appear to be standing behind her.
“Jaeren,” she whispered back. “Yes. Tonight, I want to walk free.”
“A decision not lightly made,” he warned her, his voice smooth and cold as ice.
“I’ve had many years to think about it,” Reyna sighed, winding strands of her hair around her middle finger. “I’ve been dreaming for a long time, remember?”
She felt a cold hand run down her right arm, felt it lifting her wrist. A pair of cold lips pressed lightly against the back of her hand. The presence leaned in closer, and in the mirror she saw faintly the features of her guest like the basic sketches of a drawing; dark hair, bold eyes and long ears that extended above his head. She had never seen his full features, not even in the dreams she had of the Fey. They always appeared translucent as if they were between worlds, or rather, as if she was between worlds.
“Your decision will not be final until we meet in the glade,” he told her. “I shall await you in there at midnight.” And then he was gone.
‘I can’t go on like this,’ she thought. ‘This is my chance to be free forever. I don’t want to be here anymore. Only the Fey can help me now.’
Every night was the same when she returned home. Mother finished the chores and cooked the evening meal, and father comes in from working in the forge. Instantly mother snaps at him, hurling question after question on why he hasn’t completed all the tasks he’d promised to do like some kind of interrogation, and father retaliates demanding that dinner be served the moment he walks in through the door – and so the arguing went on. There was no-one she could visit to take her mind off it; no notable friends who cared to visit her or who even bothered to invite her to theirs.
It had begun when Reyna’s younger brother had died suddenly of an unknown illness several years ago. The doctor had done everything possible for him, but his body resisted all forms of treatment and he’d died within a few short months of showing the symptoms; fever, sweating, rashes covering his pale body, and eventually bloodshot eyes followed by sickness toward the end. Her two elder siblings moved out years ago; brother joining the knight academy for the king’s infantry, sister pursuing life as an adventurer.
Dinner was eaten in silence. Should Reyna open her mouth to speak, no words came out before she was signalled to remain silent. She was ordered to go to her room as soon as the meal was finished, and after much deliberating she decided to retire to bed early while she waited for sleep to claim her. The Fey would escort her into the woods at midnight, and she would meet with Jaeren and pledge herself to him.
It was a well known legend in the village of Aurenil that the Faren, one of several known Fey races, took great interest in dreamers, and once they had their sights set on someone of particular interest that person would pass away in their sleep as their spirits were lured from one world into another. The village elder had recruited a shaman to erect a barrier that would keep the Fey away, but Reyna was a different case. As a lucid dreamer, she had gone looking for the Fey in her dreams before they had come searching for her, and as a result the Faren Prince had taken special interest in her.
Midnight came almost all too soon. She rose and stepped toward the door, stopping to look over her shoulder at her physical form sleeping in the bed, a form she would never return to. ‘Am I being too selfish?’ she wondered as she turned and left the room. Before leaving the house, she took a moment to visit her parents’ room. “I love you both,” she whimpered. “I just can’t deal with things the way they are anymore. I’m sorry.”
Quickly she motioned over to them, kissed them both and fled the house as quickly as possible. She ran along the gravel path, past the well in the village square and turned left to where a guard stood watch by the gate that led into the forest. Her astral form slipped right through the gate and as she approached the edge of the forest, she slowed to a walk.
Fairies danced among thousands of fireflies by the silver light of the full moon amidst the trees; they seemed to be heading in the direction of the glade she had come to know so well over her years of astral walking. It was where she had first met Jaeren. The fey prince had taken quite an interest in her, and it was he who had been her only true friend through all her troubles at home and at school. She saw the shapes of the Fey stepping out from behind the trees to greet her, all of them translucent silhouettes with long ears.
“Lord Jaeren awaits,” said a female in a cool voice that was soft and yet resonant. She gestured in the direction of the glade. Reyna nodded and proceeded down the winding forest path. True to his word as always, Jaeren stood in the middle of the glade on the other side of a trickling stream among a sea of bluebells. Tendrils of shadowy hair trailed down his back, billowing out behind his silhouette, and there was no mistaking that he was naked to the waist. He extended a hand to her. She took it willingly, lightly springing over to the other side of the stream.
“I vowed you would have the final word,” he whispered, “and I shall keep that promise.” Reyna looked up at him.
“I have longed to see you clearly,” she smiled, running a hand down his left cheek. “I have said my goodbyes. I don’t belong there. There is no turning back.”
“Very well,” Jaeren acknowledged, leaning in closer. Then he seized her by the shoulders and planted a passionate kiss upon her lips.
When Reyna’s eyes opened again, the world around her seemed much the same except it seemed surreal with its nebulous sky. She was wearing a long white dress down to her knees that felt like soft woven cotton, and her skin was noticeably paler. And then she saw him. Jaeren stood beside her; milky skin, tribal tattoos marking his shoulders and forearms, ears jutting up above his head, long black hair flowing all the way down his back, and the most striking pair eyes she’d ever seen. They were almond-shaped, and they shone the colour of the purest peridot.
It was at that moment she felt her mouth fall open, but it was accompanied by a sharp pain in her chest, telling her that her original body was no longer drawing breath. For all the villagers and her parents would know, she had died in her sleep. A few tears slid down her cheeks; it was too late, even if she had wanted to go back.
“Welcome to the realm of the Faren, Reyna.” Jaeren took her by the hand and was about to lead her away when he asked, “whatever’s the matter?” Reyna clutched at her chest.
“I’m dead,” she said. “I no longer breathe in that world. I have abandoned my parents. My younger brother died many years ago, and it was his death that changed them. Now they’ve lost me too, and my other two siblings are far away.”
“Do you regret your decision?”
“No!” she exclaimed, forlornly gazing down at the grass beneath her feet. “Part of me feels guilty, but I do not regret my decision. I am ready to begin a new life, here, with you.”
“That is good to hear,” Jaeren replied softly. He smiled faintly, obviously pleased. Next he led her through the shady forest, the treetops just touched by the light of dawn. Reyna wondered if time flowed differently here. For all the wondrous landscapes surrounding her, she didn’t register where she was until she looked up.
With bare feet she stepped on to smooth pearlescent stones that were cold to the touch. These stones led up a narrow path toward to a shimmering palace that might have been fashioned from ancient sea shells, and aside from the city within its walls, it was completely surrounded by forest. There was a sinking feeling in her gut, but she realised it was in awe of the place; this was where Jaeren lived. This was the heart of the Faren Kingdom. One day Jaeren would be its king, and one day, she would be its queen.
Reyna’s mother and father wept that following morning as their daughter was laid on to the funeral pyre. The shaman lit the fire and stepped back, his head bowed. As the fire engulfed the young woman’s body, a small girl spoke. “Do you hear that?” she asked. Everyone attending the funeral stopped to listen. The faint ringing of bells could be heard, but the only bells in the village were in the church and square, and they were silent.
“It’s the Fey,” said the shaman, listening carefully. “The legends say that those bells only ring when there is a royal wedding among the Faren. Considering that Reyna was a healthy young woman and we have a barrier around the village to ward off the Fey, it stands to reason that she actively sought them out. It is my guess that a prince of the Faren chose her as his bride and they are now wedded.”
“I refuse to believe it!” Reyna’s mother snapped, tears streaming down her face. “I won’t! My daughter, she’s…”
“She wasn’t a very happy girl, was she?” the elder of Aurenil asked, suspicious. “Can you think of any reasons why that might be?”
“We argue all the time,” Reyna’s father interrupted. “Ever since our youngest son passed away…”
“Mrs. Therlow was always caning her and sending her out of class for being absent-minded,” said a young man of about Reyna’s age. “If the old hag had only asked what the matter was, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. I was never allowed to see or talk to her because my parents thought it was inappropriate.” The shaman shrugged.
“What’s done is done. We all should have taken the time to notice her anguish. Now, we should pay our respects, and say our farewells.” All bowed their heads in grief and shame at Reyna’s loss, remembering the beautiful young woman who was now the Lady of the Faren Prince, who would one day, be a queen among the Fey.
Copyright Melissa A. Joy, 2014
About Melissa A. Joy
Melissa A. Joy is also a consultant writer for Blackheath Dawn and supports aspiring writers within our Creative Writing section, to read here posts, click below:
Melissa has recently launched her sample book, The Gateway to Aeldynn Lore and promo video in preparation of her forthcoming debut novel, Keys of the Origin, the first book in a saga under the banner of Aeldynn Lore.
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