I promised fiction from Faerie for the last Sunday of June, so here it is. Though, it isn’t the story I had planned… Somewhere between rewrites and battling flu, I misplaced today’s story. I’m blaming gremlins running amok. (Oh, if you were looking for the folklore on the Sirens, it will be up on Thursday.)
Here’s the first story in my series the Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth. Enjoy.
By Ronel Janse van Vuuren
Daphne pretended to faint and attracted the full attention of the drivers of the two catering vans. Except for them, the street between two high rise buildings were empty. Her ploy worked and the two men abandoned their trucks to rush over to her.
While they were fussing over her, she watched the dark brown lizard-like creatures out of the corner of her eye as they removed all the food from the trucks and took it down the drain into the sewage line. A special trolley waited there for the food. The five goblins made quick work of removing every edible.
‘Thank you,’ she said to the two men as the last of the food disappeared with the goblins. Daphne sat up and smiled dazzlingly at them – which made their minds goo for a moment. She dived into the drain after the Fae thieves.
She preferred working with the goblins over the Red Caps. The goblins were good at stealing stuff and following orders whereas the Red Caps mostly just wanted to slaughter everyone who stood between them and what they seek.
Daphne quickly jumped from the sewage line to the entrance to the Labyrinth. The opening was getting smaller by the moment. She fought the urge to close her eyes as she fell the distance down to where the goblins waited for her.
A black-grey cat scratched her left hand as she entered the Labyrinth and searing pain shot through her entire body, bursting from her fingertips. She cursed the Caìt Sìth when she saw her hand. Two puncture holes – one at the base of her middle finger and one at the top of the same finger were pewter and darkening as the finger turned silver. She knew that it would turn pewter and finally black – signalling death.
The goblins navigated the cart expertly through the Labyrinth. Brown stone turned to onyx and Daphne felt relief as they entered the Onyx Labyrinth. At least no Caìt Sìth would be lurking around to finish her off. She felt weaker and weaker as they approached home. She felt the goblins’ worried gazes, but concentrated on staying conscious.
‘Good luck,’ they said as they dropped her off near the main building. The black stone glistened in the weak light. All she knew was that she had to get to the healer.
She walked and walked but the live stone refused her access to the healer’s chambers. Finally she wished to be in the courtyard on the other side and a few steps took her out onto the green grass and into the artificial sunlight.
An elf, of the servant class, was leading a group of tweens somewhere.
‘I require your assistance,’ she said with a bow.
‘Buzz off, Guardian. The elf is taking us to her Royal Highness’ theatre,’ a brat in blue said.
‘Apologies, Guardian. Once I’m done, I’ll come and find you,’ the elf said timidly.
She watched them go, fury building in her for the brat’s selfishness. Only elves, with their slight builds and pointy ears, can go where they wish in the Onyx Labyrinth. If she didn’t get to the healer soon, she’ll die.
‘How are you this morning?’
The voice made her feel all the things she was forbidden to.
‘Well enough, your Grace,’ she said without looking up at the gorgeous countenance of the Duke.
‘Come on, there’s no formalities between us,’ Brandon said and turned her face towards him. His eyes twinkled the happy way they always did when he saw her. Her heart jumped around as crazily as always when she was near him.
Then reality returned. They could never be together. He had to marry the princess of another Court to secure their community’s future; and she was a guardian – too low in standing to ever be more to him than his protector.
‘Maybe there should be,’ she said and looked away, he let his hand fall from her face.
Pain shot through her hand and her finger turned to darkest pewter.
‘Need. Healer,’ she said before she collapsed.
He rushed her, in his arms, to the chambers of the healer. Daphne barely clung to wisps of consciousness.
She saw the older woman’s face hover above her as she examined her. The gasp when she saw her hand was profound.
‘What did this?’
Daphne couldn’t speak, so she showed her the memory of the Caìt Sìth’s attack by broadcasting her thoughts to the healer. It felt so good not to keep the barrier up.
‘Stay with me,’ the healer commanded.
She felt the sharpest pain in her hand and blacked out.
Daphne was in the garden, simulated to look like something above ground with the moon illuminating the area, supposedly keeping watch so no uninvited guests arrived to ruin this night. Her heart was breaking nonetheless. He was getting engaged to that princess. She knew all the political reasons, but still hated it.
‘Why so sad?’
She jumped. It was him.
‘You know why,’ she said weakly.
‘If it were only about you and me, I would never do this. But the future of our entire Court rests on me.’
‘I know. I wish…’
The words hung between them.
And then they kissed. And not politely. Passionately. Something that shouldn’t be seen by others.
‘I have to go,’ Brandon said.
She nodded silently, stupidly, and watched him go.
‘You are all better,’ the healer’s voice said and Daphne blinked, the fairy-tale vision gone, replaced by the dark chamber of the healer and the healer’s face and that of another woman. Her commander.
‘That was some poison,’ the healer said.
‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ Daphne’s commander asked in a barely-controlled hiss.
‘That you kissed.’
Daphne looked at them confused.
‘You were broadcasting your thoughts,’ the healer explained.
Daphne felt panicked.
‘Don’t worry, we kept it contained to this room.’
Daphne relaxed at the healer’s words.
‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ her commander asked again, calmly.
‘Because there was nothing to tell,’ she said evasively, her throat feeling dry and scraping.
‘If that’s the memory you clung to during this poison’s pain, then it is certainly not nothing,’ the healer said.
‘If both of you feel this way, then we are in trouble. The fever could take you and it would be catastrophic,’ Daphne’s commander said while pacing the room.
‘He won’t be able to marry the princess and our futures would be dark,’ the healer said worriedly.
‘Stay away from him, for all our sakes.’
‘And your own.’
Elation that he felt for her as she did for him was overshadowed by the awfulness of what would happen if the union between the Duke and princess fell through. Instead of the happiness that should be shared when the fever took two, she’d be stoned – or worse – for her love.
They’d burn her for treason.
What do you think? I like the idea of the Fae being able to cross over into the human realm through a series of tunnels linking their world with ours. I rewrote this story in Afrikaans and it placed in a competition on INK earlier this year. And while writing about the world of the Onyx Labyrinth during April’s A-Z challenge, lots of readers liked the premise. I’m really enjoying this series… Check out my Pinterest page dedicated to the Labyrinth. Hopefully next week I’ll be more coherent 😉