B is for Betrayal.
Fitting in with the overall theme and feel of my blog, I decided to share a short story with you that takes place in my Faerie world. The Story of the Galno is one that I wrote years ago and recently changed a little as things progressed in other stories (most notably The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog. I hope you enjoy this story about choices and betrayal.
Rumour Has It
By Ronel Janse van Vuuren
Jamie MacKinnion purposely walked through the thick foliage reminiscent of a tropical forest. He didn’t care much for Faerie’s new look. Where once everything had the distinct feel of cold Caledonian forests, moors, heaths and mountains, only the Faery Queen’s newest whim stood.
It was infuriating. And it fuelled the rumours making the rounds.
He finally made it to the last patch of heather. Most of the Galno were already waiting.
‘So, what did the Queen say?’ the laird of clan Douglas asked without greeting.
Everyone shifted so they could see him.
‘That Faerie is hers to do with as she pleases.’ She actually had a lot more to say on the matter, but the clans didn’t need to hear it. Especially the part where there’d been complaints of everything always looking exactly like the Galno – like he – wanted it to.
‘Doesn’t she care how we feel?’
Jamie ground his teeth. He didn’t want to snap at them. Even if they’d cost him the most important relationship in his life: family comes first.
‘Are you sure?’ the laird of the MacGregor clan asked softly. ‘They’re not taking this too well.’
‘And they shouldn’t,’ Jamie replied darkly. ‘All this feuding against her wishes had caused this.’ He gestured around them to the encroaching tropical flowers.
‘Spring, Jamie,’ the Faery Queen had said, ‘isn’t it wonderful? Too long now have we lived in the shadow of autumn. It’s time for a change. All my subjects need it. Showing my full power will remind all who’s Queen.’
‘It’s our way of life. She thinks we’re challenging her authority?’
‘Worse. She thinks that we’re causing the restlessness among others in Faerie.’
The MacGregor looked around worriedly.
Jamie didn’t blame him.
‘It’s time for us to leave Faerie,’ Faolon MacKeltar, laird of clan MacKeltar, said loudly to all the Galno. ‘We can live in the human realm, in Scotia, where moors and heaths are clad in heather, and no fickle queen can change things at a whim!’
Jamie felt stricken. He would’ve felt even worse if there’d been cheers.
Grumbling came from the crowd.
The sweet scent of wisteria whisked him back a fortnight when all the trouble began.
‘Was that really necessary?’ Jamie asked the Faery Queen. They were alone in her wisteria-covered bower. The big meeting with important Fae was finally over. But he was still seething.
‘Yes. My subjects are restless. Some have even gone to the human realm, feeling that they’d have more control over their own lives there.’
She sighed and Jamie itched to hold her and tell her that everything would be alright. But he had a feeling that, despite their relationship, it wouldn’t be well-received. Besides, she’d questioned his loyalty in front of all the prominent Fae.
‘You realise that they’d challenged me to prove your loyalty?’ she asked.
‘Wasn’t that enough?’
‘Apparently not. Jamie: you have to stop the feuding among the clans or there’ll be consequences.’
He watched her, unsure how to tell her that it was a trap: the Galno would never stop feuding. Not even for her.
Gasps from the crowd pulled him back to the present. The last of the heather turned to cowslip and grass. It stopped at the invisible line separating Seelie and Unseelie territory. The Unseelie lands were covered in dry grass and, eventually, snow.
Everyone looked at Jamie. He hoped it was because he was laird of the largest clan and not because they felt he could do something about this final change. It was quite a concession of the Queen to not have turned it into whatever passed as spring flowers in the tropics.
‘I guess I’ll be sending scouts to find us a suitable home,’ the MacGregor said as the yellow flowers turned to red, white and cobalt hyacinths.
Jamie nodded, defeated.
Jamie felt a twinge of regret as he left the gathering. Leaving Faerie would change something in him for perpetuity. But the Queen and her short-sightedness left him without much choice.
Jamie came to a stop. He did not turn to face the other man.
‘Fine. I’ll do all of the talking then. You know that others had forced the Queen’s hand and yet you didn’t defend her. I don’t know what happened between you two, but I always thought you’d look out for her no matter what.’
Jamie clenched his jaw and stared straight ahead. The Assassin sighed.
‘This new action the Galno want to take will be outright treason. You know this. If you continue in this vain and have a mass exodus of Galno out of Faerie there will be war. You have been warned.’
Tears silently flowed. His pride had cost him the woman he loved. And now it might even get his people killed.
Jamie paced the meeting room in the Galno compound. It had to be clear to other Fae that something was up, but he didn’t care. With so many of his people already in the human realm, it was better for the rest of them to stay close together.
More than just the upcoming exodus was weighing on him. Though what they’re attempting could cost them all their lives, it was the waiting that was getting to him. It’d been days since they’ve sent scouts out to find them a new home and they’d had no word.
A chill swept over him and Jamie stopped pacing.
His heart racing, he slipped out of the room, sword drawn.
It was late enough that most in the compound were already asleep. He signalled the guards to alert the others: he knew that something was wrong.
They came upon the MacKeltar, throat slit, and his assassin slipping out of the window, grinning at them.
Time felt like it stood still as he watched the blood drip from the other clan laird’s throat. Rattling from the MacKeltar’s throat snapped him out of immobility. He raced to Faolon’s side. Eyes wide, he didn’t quite register what the other Fae said before his last breath left him.
Jamie made way for the MacKeltar’s only son.
‘Search the grounds! The assassin couldn’t have gotten far,’ he orders the other Galno there.
‘The Assassin killed my father?’
‘No. A Dark Court Knight.’
Though death was a rare occurrence for their kind, it was always a possibility. And it meant a call from either the Dullahans that work for the king of the dead or a visit from Ankou himself.
Jamie looked around the dark room. Only he, Ian MacKeltar and the late laird Mackeltar were left after the others went to chase the Unseelie Knight. He shivered. Those from the Unseelie Court rarely ventured into Seelie lands. Something was really wrong for this to have happened.
‘More wrong than you possibly know,’ a voice said from the darkness.
A shadow moved out of the darkness. The king of the dead had come personally to escort the dead. He touched Faolon’s body and a shade arose.
‘You may bury the corpse,’ the bone white Fae said.
Jamie nodded, jaw clenched as Ankou took Faolan’s ghost with him. The Death Fae seriously scared him.
He felt helpless rage as he watched Faolan MacKeltar fade. His last words, that there was a secret Faery Circle leading from Avalon to the Highlands of Scotland, was still feeling a lot surreal. A gateway from Faerie to the human realm…
Ian MacKeltar’s silver eyes shimmered with unshed tears and pain.
Jamie didn’t care much for Faolan, but even he was shaken by the other Fae’s death.
‘We lost him in the dark. We apologise, milaird,’ one of his lieutenants said from the door.
Jamie nodded. He knew who’d murdered the other laird: Daray will pay for crossing one of his own.
They buried the body of Faolon MacKeltar in the early morning light. Heather immediately grew over the grave as Faerie took back one of its own.
‘My scouts have found a perfect heath in the heart of Scotia. It is in the Highlands. We can build a Keep for ourselves there as a fortress and move on out once we have conquered it.’
Jamie looked across the table at the MacGregor, something in his voice was somewhat alarming.
‘Are there other Fae there?’ the new laird MacKeltar asked suspicious.
‘No. But it is untamed and unclaimed.’
Jamie sighed. At least if there were other Fae there it would have been a bit safer moving there. But on the other hand this made it easier to leave Faerie and have a home there on No Fae’s land.
‘Good. But we will have to use stealth. The Assassin knows too much,’ Jamie said to them. They needed to know that they could all die at any moment. Though, perhaps the memory of Faolon’s death was reminder enough.
‘What should we do then?’ the Douglas asked.
‘Send our best builders and spell-weavers to build us a fortress. Once this is done we can move our people out of Faerie,’ the MacGregor said. ‘It may be necessary to cast invisibility spells over them.’
‘We will need to chisel many wards into the Keep,’ the new laird MacKeltar growled.
Jamie didn’t blame him for expecting trouble from Faerie for this desertion.
‘So it will be,’ Jamie said with a sort of finality.
It’d been weeks since they’d sent their craftsmen and spell-weavers to build them a new home. Jamie was getting aggravated. He’d been searching for the Unseelie Knight who’d murdered Faolon MacKeltar without success. They didn’t dare go into the Unseelie Realm to search for him with so few of their people still in Faerie.
He walked through Avalon, the changes the Queen had made not nearly as grating on his nerves as they once were. The spring flowers were actually pretty. But they represented everything that had changed in his life, everything he’d lost.
He came to a complete stand still. The world was yet again changing. Where before there’d been clouds covering the sky it was now bedecked with stars and a full moon.
‘I am truly sorry things have gone this far.’
Still Jamie refused to acknowledge her presence in more than the fact that he had stopped when she’d said his name.
‘This is no time for your insufferable pride to dictate, Jamie,’ she said softly. He would’ve preferred her yelling – at least then he wouldn’t have felt so bad for finally betraying her for his race.
‘This is as good a time as any, my lady.’
‘Why so stiff? Is it because I’ve changed the scenery rather radically?’
Jamie could hear her voice raising slightly. He had loved her for longer than he cared to remember. Turning, he looked into her tear-brightened eyes. This he had not expected.
‘You are leaving, aren’t you?’
‘Is there something I can do for you, as your Queen one last time?’
‘As my Queen, no. But as the woman I have loved for all of my life… let me hold for the last time.’
‘It’s the last chance for me to feel like this again,’ he said as he held her, taking in the smell of wisteria which always clung to her.
‘We’ve been living in flashes of light for far too long. For the first time I realise that you are larger than life: I have no right to love you. I who can wield only weapons and no magic. I am no fit consort for the Seelie Queen.’
‘Jamie – I’m sorry. I should never have treated you like I did. I did not treat you like the man I love. I treated you like some Solitary seeking my grace. I wish I could change it. But it’s too late, isn’t it?’ She pulled away, watching him with tear-brightened eyes.
‘It tears me up. I’ve tried to forgive – but it’s not enough to make it any of it acceptable. And I’ve been wondering if it had all been real…’
‘You can’t feel something that your heart doesn’t want to feel. You know that I’ve never manipulated you, right?’
Cracking twigs caused her to pull her regal mask back in place.
‘Go, quickly. Be safe, Jamie.’
‘I’ll always love you, Mae,’ he said before disappearing into the foliage. He knew that she was aiding his escape, but he was unsure what to feel about that.
Heart racing, Jamie jumped into the fray. Somehow Faerie had brought him into the middle of the fight between his people and Seelie Knights.
‘What’s this?’ he asked the new MacKeltar as they fought back-to-back.
‘We’re to be arrested.’
‘By whose authority?’
‘Mine,’ the Assassin said as he engaged Jamie.
‘Does the Queen know?’
Jamie nodded and continued to fight. And he fell to the ground. The Assassin went in for the killing blow. And stopped.
Confused, Jamie looked down. Wisteria was sprouting and blooming from his kilt. And it was forming a wall between his warriors and the Seelie Knights.
‘Run,’ the Assassin said and let him pass.
Not needing to be told twice, Jamie caught the attention of his brethren and ran.
They were outmatched and outclassed: the Seelie Knights, much like their counterparts in the Unseelie Court, were trained from birth to be killing machines. The Assassin… well, no-one really knew where he came from or what he really was.
Blood dripped steadily from a shoulder wound. Jamie grimaced at the trail it left. Though the plants were insistent in helping them escape, it wouldn’t take long for the knights to find them.
‘Here!’ Ian MacKeltar called.
He stood inside a Faery Ring of purple mushrooms and white flowers.
It had to be the one Faolon had spoken of.
They all made their way inside the ring and wished to escape.
They came out in a Faery Ring in a woodland. Blackthorns were covered in white blossoms. White and pink wood anemones grew everywhere. Fragrant white and yellow primroses dotted the landscape.
Jamie immediately knew that they were in the human realm. The flowers did not possess any magic. Sadness passed through him as they followed the MacGregor.
‘The others should’ve made it out safely. I think we made quite the distraction.’
‘Did they use the other passage?’ Jamie asked.
The other Galno nodded. He’d hoped that while he was taking a farewell walk through Faerie that the MacGregor would take charge. And he had.
A violet blue mist covered the woodland floor and most of the heath. Bluebells. A few sprigs of white could be seen in places. Jamie smiled. He knew the folklore the humans held: white bluebells indicate where fairies sat down. Yes, he thought, this is the right place for me to stay awhile.
‘Kregora,’ the MacGregor said.
Leaves shifted and the air shimmered. A tower-like structure appeared. A broch, Jamie realised.
‘Let me give you the tour.’
‘In good time. I…’ he shrugged and turned to watch the heath, the mountains and the encroaching mist.
Rumours had driven him from his home and his love. He had lost much; he hoped that it wouldn’t define him. Breathing deeply, he allowed the promise that spring was whispering envelop him.
I hope that you enjoyed this story. I always appreciate feedback, so don’t hesitate to comment. More stories about Faerie will enchant, terrify and entertain you throughout the month of April.
If you enjoyed this, you’ll love the short story collection “Once…“.
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