Fairy Bond (The Key to Embralia, Book Two)
Book Excerpt: Chapter One
Kelly rubbed her eraser against the paper, trying to erase the last hints of the lopsided trapezoid she had drawn. The two bases were supposed to be horizontal, not vertical. She glanced up at the clock. Still thirty minutes left, and only two more questions. It was the first day of ninth grade and her first class at the new high school. She was taking a diagnostic math test for Intro to Chemistry. She didn't understand why geometry was relevant to chemistry, but these were the problems on the test. She rubbed the crook in her neck, then attempted to draw a neater trapezoid.
A sudden flurry of activity by the door caught her attention. She looked around to see if anyone else had noticed the commotion. No, of course they hadn't. All the other students were scribbling furiously on their papers, unaware that Kelly's fairy friend Bubbles had just flown into the classroom in his transparent, invisible-to-humans form. Kelly could see him because she was a fadaman -- half-human, half-fairy, a fact she had unceremoniously discovered after she caught Bubbles stealing her fourteenth birthday cake only two months before. As his ghostlike form flew towards her desk, Kelly's eyes narrowed. He'd better have a good explanation for showing up here.
"Kelly, Kelly!" Bubbles panted breathlessly as he plopped himself down on the side of her desk. Clearly, he had rushed over here from somewhere. Beads of sweat swelled on his forehead and his hefty belly jiggled up and down as he tried to catch his breath. "Kelly, you won't believe it!"
I can't talk now, I'm in class. Kelly scribbled the words on her scratch paper, then pointed so that Bubbles could read them.
He frowned. "Stupid human classes, not worth anything. I have something to tell you."
It'll have to wait. I told you, you can't bother me at school.
Kelly was not pleased that Bubbles had already broken his promise of not disturbing her at school. It was only day one, for crying out loud. Bubbles was not pleased either. He crossed his arms and pouted, then wiped his forehead with a handkerchief from his shoulder bag. Kelly went back to redrawing her trapezoid while Bubbles fidgeted impatiently. After a few minutes he was swinging his legs back and forth off the edge of her desk so much that the desk shook.
She shot Bubbles a stern look and put her index finger up to her lips. When she realized Mrs. Jenkins was scrutinizing her from the front of the room, she quickly looked back down at her paper. Bubbles sat still for almost a minute. Then he started singing. No one else in the room could hear him, but to Kelly's ears he came through loud and clear.
"I'm flying through the forest, it's a beautiful day. The birds and bees and mice they best get out of my way. The branches and the leaves and trees oh my how they swaaaay--"
Stop it! Kelly scribbled on her paper. Bubbles sang louder and higher, his voice cracking as he reached outside of his range. "My good friend Kelly dear, isn't list'ning to me. I'm sad, so very sad, like when I sprained my knee..."
Kelly rolled her eyes and did her best to ignore Bubbles. When he saw that the singing tactic wasn't going to work, he tried another. He pulled out his wand, a human toothpick, and pointed it at Kelly. "Come outside so we can talk right now, or you'll be sorry," he said.
We talked about this. I can't leave during school. GO AWAY!
"Fine then. Just remember, I did ask nicely first." With a quick twist of the wrist he flicked his wand. A bright spark shot from its tip and onto the center of Kelly's paper. A tiny flame burst forth and started to burn a hole in Kelly's test. She hurriedly blew on the flame to extinguish it.
"Is everything all right, Miss Brennan?" Kelly jumped at the sound of Mrs. Jenkins's unamused voice.
"Yes, ma'am," Kelly answered, blushing as all the other students turned their eyes on her.
Bubbles smirked and repositioned his wand for a second strike. The next spark hit Kelly on her shirt sleeve, and she clapped her hand over it before it could form a flame. Then Bubbles took aim at her leg. That's it, Kelly thought. In a flash she reached out and snatched Bubbles's toothpick out of his hand, tossed it to the floor, grabbed him with both hands and pinned his arms to his sides.
"Let me go!" Bubbles shouted.
Kelly struggled to maintain her grip as Bubbles squirmed. The girl sitting next to Kelly was staring, open mouthed. She must think I'm crazy, Kelly thought. She couldn't blame her. After all, from the girl's point of view it would just look like Kelly was holding an imaginary ball and shaking it. Great, the first day of high school and I'm already going to be labeled a freak. Bubbles broke free of her grasp and scrambled to retrieve his wand.
Kelly raised her hand.
"What is it, Miss Brennan?" Mrs. Jenkins asked.
"I'm not feeling very well. May I go get a drink of water?"
"Are you finished with your test?"
Kelly looked down at her unfinished test, then at Bubbles, who had regained his wand. He extended it, scowling, waiting to see what she would tell her teacher.
"Yes, I'm done," Kelly said. She would have to take the hit on the last couple of questions. She brought the test to the front and handed it to Mrs. Jenkins. Mrs. Jenkins handed her the wooden hall pass. As Kelly stormed out the door, she heard a few snickers from her classmates.
She burst into the bathroom down the hall with Bubbles close behind. She swirled to face him. "Are you happy now? I can't believe this! You promised you wouldn't bother me at school." Kelly struggled to keep her voice shy of a full shout.
"I'm sorry, but you didn't have to grab me. That was uncalled for." Bubbles rubbed an elbow as he fluttered in the air.
"Oh yeah? Was burning a hole in my test called for?"
"I suppose you have a point there," Bubbles admitted. "But don't you want to hear what I have to tell you?" His eyes gleamed with childlike excitement.
Kelly sighed. "Fine, what is it?"
"Thomas's mother and the rest of his family just arrived in Glendenland. There's going to be a feast tonight, a feast like never before! And Thomas wants us all to be there. Well, he wants us to meet him for a private royal dinner, but it will still be a feast just like the big feast." Bubbles performed a somersault with delight, then cocked his head to the side and squinted at the automatic paper towel dispenser.
"You barged into the middle of my class to tell me that?"
He didn't answer. He was too intrigued by the dispenser. He flew past the sensor and a paper towel rolled down. He giggled. He flew past the sensor again.
"Bubbles? Did you hear me?"
"Oh, yes, sorry." He flew back over to her. "You said I could interrupt you for important things. So, I did."
"Important things would be stuff like my house burning down, an earthquake, or Miasmos and his minions attacking Glendenland. Not Thomas's relatives arriving. That could easily have waited until school let out."
Bubbles's face fell. "I thought you'd be excited."
"I would have been, if you'd told me after school. But now I'm upset because you interrupted my class. You made me look like an idiot on the first day of high school."
Bubbles rolled his eyes. "Why do you care about those morons anyway? Why don't you just come live in Glendenland?"
"You know I can't just abandon my mother. And besides, in spite of how foreign it seems to you, I like my human life."
"Listen, I know you don't understand why school is important, but it is really important to me. So would you please go away now?"
Kelly walked back into the hall and headed for her classroom. Bubbles flew along for a few paces.
"So, are you going to come to the feast tonight?" he asked.
Bubbles grinned, satisfied. "Be there by nine!"
A few hours later Kelly stepped into the high school cafeteria for the first time. It was much bigger than the middle school one, which made sense because it had to fit all the graduates from three neighboring middle schools, not to mention the upperclassmen, who for the most part moved about as if the freshmen didn't exist. Kelly saw many new faces as she waited in the lunch line.
The lunch choices weren't much different from the middle school choices. There was pizza, a salad bar with brown iceberg lettuce and unripe tomatoes, cheeseburgers, and some sort of casserole. Kelly opted for the pizza. After she paid, she spotted her best friend Stephanie waving at her from the end of a table in the middle of the room.
"How's your first day going?" Stephanie asked as Kelly sat down across from her.
Kelly glanced around to make sure no one else was within earshot before telling Stephanie how Bubbles had shown up in the middle of her test. Stephanie was the only human who knew Kelly was a fadaman, and she had accompanied Kelly when she first went to Glendenland to hide from the evil Miasmos and his fadaman son Marcos Witherings.
"Bubbles has absolutely no emotional intelligence," Stephanie said when Kelly had finished recounting his visit. "We are going to go tonight though, right?"
Kelly smiled at her friend's enthusiasm. Stephanie jumped at every chance to don her prosthetic wings and be shrunk to fairy size with fairy dust. "I suppose," Kelly answered.
"Good." Stephanie took a bite of her mystery casserole and grimaced. "I should have gone with the pizza."
Kelly shrugged. "I'm not sure about that. It's soggy."
Stephanie wrinkled her nose, then she perked up. "Eye candy alert, six o'clock!" she said.
Kelly turned around to see a tall blond boy bending down to retrieve a soda from the soda machine. His tight black t-shirt rose up slightly and Kelly could see the small of his back. It was toned. She'd never seen him before. "Maybe he's from another middle school," she said.
Stephanie shook her head. "No, he's an upperclassman."
"How do you know?"
"Can't you tell? It's all in how he carries himself. With confidence."
The boy turned around and Kelly saw he had a pleasing face to match his pleasing frame, with startling ice-blue eyes. He tossed his soda can high up in the air. It swirled around four times before he caught it with one hand and made his way over to sit with a large group of guys in varsity t-shirts. Popular kids.
"He's so dreamy," Stephanie sighed.
"He's out of your league."
"I always like a challenge."
"Judging by the company he keeps, he's probably a jerk."
"He might be nice."
"Give me a break," Kelly said. "When was the last time you met a nice jock?"
"There's a first time for everything," Stephanie answered. "Besides, you shouldn't stereotype people."
The boy said something and all of his companions burst into hysterical laughter.
"Hey, Pixie Chick." Kelly heard Tommy Thompson's voice behind her. Just who I was hoping to see, she groaned internally. Tommy Thompson was always making fun of her unusually pointed ears. He had no idea how close some of his nicknames came to describing Kelly's true identity.
"How was your summer?" Tommy continued, taking a seat beside her. "I heard you spent it making Christmas tree ornaments with your mommy. I guess I shouldn't be surprised; that's suitable work for an elf." He chuckled at his own cleverness. Stephanie and Kelly just looked at him. "Suitable work for an elf, get it?" He waited for them to laugh. They didn't.
"What do you want?" Kelly asked finally.
"Who, me? I don't want anything. I was just saying hi." He stood up. "Hey, when did you start wearing jewelry?" He eyed Kelly's fairy sense necklace, and then the emerald heart necklace she had been awarded by Thomas, the king of Glendenland, for her role in the battle against Miasmos and his son.
"Why do you care if I wear jewelry?" Kelly snapped.
Tommy shrugged, reminding Kelly of a stubborn English bulldog. "Just curious. See you in German class, Elfie."
"How does he know you're in the same German class as he is?" Stephanie asked once he was out of earshot.
"We had our first class this morning. Plus, he saw me registering last year in homeroom. He probably signed up just to torment me."
"Well, don't worry about it. If he pisses you off you can get Bubbles to set one of his tests on fire," Stephanie said.
Kelly laughed. Maybe that wasn't such a bad idea.
Half an hour later Kelly and Stephanie sat down for their Algebra I class, the only class they had together. Instead of individual desks, there were several long tables arranged in rows, each with four chairs behind them. When they arrived, the prime real estate in the back of the room had already been claimed, and the teacher's pets had already taken up position in the front row. So they sat in an empty table in the middle of the room.
The teacher was a huge man who looked like a bodybuilder on steroids, but he had bright white hair and must have been at least sixty years old. He paced back and forth in front of the whiteboard, waiting for the seats to fill. It was still a few minutes before the bell and students filed in one by one. Kelly recognized about half of them from her middle school, and she assumed the other half were from other middle schools, since mostly freshmen took algebra. Soon almost all of the seats were taken, except for the seat to the left of Stephanie, where she had rested her backpack. A very skinny boy with long black hair, eyeliner, and black nail polish sat down next to Kelly. Moments later, in walked the cute boy from lunch. He paused just inside the door, scanning the room for an empty seat. Kelly poked Stephanie. Stephanie quickly moved her book bag off the seat beside her and flashed a smile at the boy. He came over and sat down beside them.
"Hi, I'm Stephanie. This is my friend Kelly," Stephanie said to him. Kelly nodded. She hoped Stephanie didn't say anything too embarrassing.
"Dmitri," he mumbled, before reaching into his bag for his notebook.
"Are you new here?" Stephanie asked.
"Huh?" His reaction was delayed, as if he hadn't immediately realized that she was talking to him.
"No, I'm a sophomore."
"Then what are you doing in Algebra I?" Stephanie asked.
"I failed this class last year," he answered, his face turning pink.
The bell rang. "Good afternoon, class," the teacher began. "I hope you like where you are sitting, because these will be your assigned seats for the entire semester."
Stephanie broke into a wide grin at these words.
"My name is Mr. Patterson. Let's begin by going over the class rules." Mr. Patterson launched into a long speech about respect and dedication, which lasted almost the entire period. When the bell finally rang to announce the end of class, Dmitri got up quickly and raced from the room without saying anything to anybody.
"Can you believe he's in our class?" Stephanie asked. "This year is going to be great. I can feel it."
That afternoon on the metro ride home Kelly thought about her first day of high school. Not much seemed different about being back in the classroom, which surprised her. She had been expecting everything to feel dull and strange after her exciting summer. In the last two months she had found out she was half-fairy, learned her absent father (who was a fairy!) might still be alive, started magic lessons, and helped defeat Miasmos and his fadaman son, Marcos Witherings. She shivered to think of how Witherings, who before his fateful duel with Kelly had been running for US president, now lay in a crazed stupor in the jail bubble of Glendenland. Kelly had driven him crazy by causing him to experience all the pain and suffering he had ever caused anyone else. Kelly knew he had deserved it, but she still felt guilty. Her attack had only worked because Witherings had still possessed some remnants of a conscience. The same technique wouldn't have worked on his father, who didn't have even a shred of a conscience anymore, if he'd ever had one to begin with. Kelly's heart fluttered. Miasmos had escaped the battle -- weakened but far from dead. She dreaded what could happen if he regained his strength before Thomas's forces tracked him down.
Almost no thoughts about fairies had crossed her mind during the school day, however. Except for when Bubbles barged into her class, of course. At school everything had seemed like it had been before. She still cared about the same things, like not wanting to look like a freak. Intellectually she knew she shouldn't care, but she did.
When she got home Kelly found her mother Mindy in the kitchen, busy making dinner. "How was your day, sweetie?" Mindy asked.
"Okay. How was yours?" Mindy was an elementary school teacher, so today was also her first day with a new class.
"It was great. My kids are such a good group. I'm very excited," Mindy answered happily.
"Do you need help with dinner?" Kelly asked.
"No, you just go relax. I've got everything under control." Mindy started chopping carrots for a salad.
"All right. By the way, can Stephanie come over later and spend the night?"
"On a weeknight?"
"All of our teachers gave us a lot of homework," Kelly ventured. "We think they did it to drive home the fact that high school is going to be harder than middle school. I thought it would be easier if we worked on the homework in the same place so we could compare answers and help each other. But, there's so much of it that it will probably be pretty late by the time we're done. Too late to ask her dad to come pick her up."
Mindy nodded knowingly. "In that case, of course she can stay the night."
"Thanks, Mom." Kelly retreated upstairs to her bedroom. She was already tired, but she resisted the urge to lie down. She had to finish her homework before Stephanie arrived. While she had been lying to Mindy about why Stephanie was going to come over, she hadn't been lying about having a lot of homework.
About two hours later Stephanie arrived at the door. She and Kelly quickly ate dinner (but only small portions to leave room for the feast), and then they went up to Kelly's room. Mindy was always trying to give Kelly 'her space,' so the girls weren't worried about their true plans for the night being discovered.
As the door to Kelly's room closed behind them, Stephanie flung her backpack down onto Kelly's bed. "So, what are you going to wear?" she asked.
"I don't know." Kelly hadn't given it much thought.
Stephanie had. "Look at what I'm wearing." She reached into her backpack and pulled out a bright red dress.
"Wow, that's bright."
"Of course it is," Stephanie replied. "We have to look good. It isn't every day that previously exiled royal families return to fairy kingdoms. Besides, who knows what kind of cute cousins Thomas might have?"
While Kelly stood and looked through her closet for something suitable to wear, Stephanie changed into her red dress and applied vibrant red lipstick to match. Finally Kelly decided to wear black dress pants and a light blue blouse.
"You're wearing that?" Stephanie asked disapprovingly. "What about that shiny silver dress?" She pointed to the bright dress in Kelly's closet that Mindy had insisted she buy for a neighbor's wedding.
"That would look silly with my wings," Kelly answered. In fairy form Kelly had light purple wings with bright silver lines running through them, like the veins of a leaf. Wearing a silver dress would look quite tacky.
"I suppose you're right. Well, at least put on some makeup." Stephanie extended a tube of mascara to Kelly.
"No, thanks. I'll just stick to my strawberry flavored lip gloss."
Stephanie shrugged. "Suit yourself. But hurry up, it's already 8:30."
"Oh no. We're going to be late!" Kelly quickly changed into her chosen outfit. Glendenland was a thirty-minute flight away, so they had no time to spare. "Where's your fairy dust?"
Stephanie pulled a tiny jar, about a half-inch tall, from her backpack. It was filled with a fine and shiny silver powder -- fairy dust. "Get over here and dust me."
Kelly closed her eyes and willed herself to change into her fairy form. The transformation was now second nature to her, and it only took about a second. Once in fairy form, Kelly flew over to Stephanie, took the fairy dust jar, opened it, and poured a generous amount of the dust onto Stephanie's head.
Stephanie rapidly shrunk to fairy size, ending up about one foot tall. Next Stephanie handed Kelly her prosthetic wing bundle, a ball of jumbled wires. Kelly pulled on two of the wires and the wing skeleton sprung into shape. She held the wings up to Stephanie's back and pressed the attach button. The wings instantly attached directly into Stephanie's back. After stretching brown fibrous wing covers over the wing skeleton, they finished off Stephanie's getup by attaching her prosthetic ear tips. Most of the fairies in Glendenland didn't know Stephanie was actually a human, and Thomas preferred to keep it that way, since anti-human sentiment was far from uncommon amongst the general fairy population.
After Stephanie tested her wings by flying around the room a few times, they both put on the fairy shoulder bags they had bought in Glendenland during the summer. They were ready. Together they pushed the window open and flew out into the night.
They knew the way to Glendenland by heart. Within thirty-minutes they had reached the small park on the shore of the Potomac river that contained their usual entrance to Glendenland -- a statue of a sitting lion, right by the water. As they approached they realized there was a problem. A human couple sat on a nearby bench, mere feet from the statue. Since Kelly could only make herself half-invisible to humans, seeing as she was only half-fairy, and Stephanie couldn't make herself even a little bit invisible, they would have to enter Glendenland another way. Through the water.
"But I don't want my makeup to get messed up," Stephanie complained.
"Don't worry, it'll be fine," Kelly said.
They pulled their underwater breathing masks from their bags, put them on, and dove into the water. Kelly could see Glendenland's large expanse of interconnected underwater bubbles below them. They emanated a faint glow that made them visible to fairies at night. Stephanie followed Kelly closely, not able to see Glendenland from above, due to the invisibility charms that kept humans from spotting it. Kelly located the bubble she wanted and headed towards it.
They came through the ceiling of a bubble hallway just outside the entrance to the king's royal quarters.
"What are we doing here?" Stephanie asked, touching down on the ground. She pulled a compact mirror out of her bag to check her makeup. Luckily, makeup was the only thing to worry about; their clothes and hair had been dried automatically when they passed through the charmed bubble membrane. "Shouldn't we be in the Great Hall, or the mess hall?" Stephanie added.
"No. I'm sure they must have had an official welcoming ceremony earlier. Bubbles said that Thomas wanted us to join him for a private dinner, and to be there by nine."
Stephanie looked down at her watch, a pretty mechanical one she had bought from the fairy market, since fairies didn't have digital watches. "That's in three minutes."
Kelly put her hand up to the middle of the shaded semicircle that marked the entrance to the royal quarters. She heard the expected series of chimes announcing their presence just before a familiar mechanical voice spoke.
"State your names, fairies," the voice commanded.
"Kelly Brennan and Stephanie Portersfield," Kelly answered.
"State your business, fairies."
"We are here to see Thomas," Stephanie said.
"Invalid business. Please rephrase."
"They really need to reprogram this thing," Stephanie whispered to Kelly. The gatekeeper seemed only to accept a set series of requests phrased in flowery language, and they always had to try several times to get it right.
"We are here at the request of his Grace the just, loyal, unwavering, and wise Thomas Penadas," Kelly said.
"Valid business. Please pass through the archway and wait for further instructions."
When Kelly and Stephanie walked through the archway, they were greeted by the portly fairy attendant Flimsly, who was presently dressed in his best red jacket and white pants.
"You're just in time. Follow me," he said.
They followed Flimsly through the archway that led to the royal dining hall. Inside, the royal dining table stretched before them, and the enormous chandelier hanging from the bubble's ceiling shone brightly as it shifted back and forth with the water movements above them. The fireplace at the far side of the room was also lit, but the decorative fire didn't give off any heat.
Thomas sat at the head of the table. His long brown hair hung loose over his shoulders, as was the traditional style for formal occasions. His ornate golden crown sparkled atop his head. Kelly knew the crown's presence was due to the formality of the occasion as well, since Thomas hated to wear the delicate vine of golden leaves unless he had to. Unfortunately for him, he'd already needed to wear it several times in the past two and a half weeks since he became king.
Thomas's gold-streaked blue wings were currently folded behind his back, as were the wings of the other guests. To his right sat his wife Carmina, who looked stunning in a flowing lavender dress that perfectly complemented her glistening yellow wings.
Continuing down the table on Thomas's right were fairies Kelly knew well: Prince Venuto, who had been looking much happier since being appointed first advisor to Thomas instead of being forced to take the crown after his father King Glenden's death; Petania, Venuto's girlfriend, who had been warming up to Kelly and Stephanie after realizing they weren't competition for Venuto's affections; Dimpleton, tireless friend of Thomas who had been promoted to advisor when Thomas returned to Glendenland; and Bubbles and his sister Beatrix. Bubbles waved excitedly to Kelly. She nodded to him curtly, still not fully forgiving him for his antics earlier in the day.
Flimsly guided Kelly and Stephanie to the two empty seats that completed that side of the table. Once seated, Kelly took in the fairies across from her.
On Thomas's immediate left was an older fairy woman. She sat with a very straight spine. Kelly could see the resemblance between her and Thomas. She had the same color hair, the same blue eyes, and the same bone structure. Her face was starting to become lined with time, but it was still very striking. Kelly couldn't see her wings because they were folded down, but she was curious as to their color. To the woman's left sat a male fairy, who looked to be about the same age as Kelly. His dark black hair was a tousled mess of curls. Beside him sat three other male fairies, who looked closer to Thomas's age.
"Welcome," Thomas said, smiling at the newest arrivals. "Mother," he continued, looking to the female fairy on his left, "these are my friends Kelly and Stephanie. Kelly and Stephanie, my mother Reynalda."
"Nice to meet you," Kelly said.
"I've heard a lot about you," Reynalda replied, not changing her expression. Her stoic manner reminded Kelly a bit of Glendenland's last king, King Glenden, who had rarely ever showed his emotions.
"And this is my cousin Blaine," Thomas indicated the next fairy. "He is my late Aunt Mimi's son."
Blaine flashed them a wide smile, and his curls bobbed around his forehead. Looking more closely, Kelly noticed that his brown eyes were so dark she couldn't see where his pupils separated from his irises. She also noticed his strong jaw and well-balanced cheekbones. He was very handsome. Kelly avoided making direct eye contact and hoped she wasn't blushing.
"And those three are also cousins. Gerald, Peramino, and Mustino."
The last three fairies nodded politely.
Before Thomas could say anything further, Blaine broke in excitedly. "Kelly, Thomas was just telling us how you beat Marcos Witherings all alone. That's amazing."
"It was just luck really," Kelly said. Being showered with praise, especially from someone as good looking as Blaine, made her uncomfortable.
"She's just being modest," Stephanie said. "He didn't stand a chance against her."
Blaine looked impressed. But no matter what anyone else thought, Kelly knew it had just been luck.
Flimsly, with the help of another attendant, laid an appetizer of cranberry herb soup before them. It smelled delicious.
"So, how was the trip here?" Kelly asked, trying to change the subject before Blaine could ask her more about Witherings.
Blaine opened his mouth to answer but Reynalda beat him to it. "It was fine," she said flatly.
"And how do you find Glendenland so far?" Kelly asked.
"It's great," Blaine said. "They had a ceremony for us in the Great Hall followed by fireworks in the underwater park. It was incredible. And everyone is being so nice to us."
Reynalda let out a harsh breath that might have been a laugh, but Kelly couldn't be sure. "Just remember those fairies that are being so nice to you now are the same ones who caused you to go into exile for thirteen years."
"Mother," Thomas said.
"Don't Mother me Thomas," she snapped. "Making you king and having a party doesn't erase the past."
"No one is trying to erase it," Venuto said quietly. "We are just trying to make amends."
Reynalda turned her eyes to him. They flashed with a fierce intensity that made Kelly glad she wasn't the recipient. Venuto gazed back calmly.
"Amends?" she asked, incredulous. "This coming from the son of the man responsible for our expulsion from our own kingdom!"
"My father did the best he could with the information he had at the time," Venuto answered, his voice shaking ever so slightly. Kelly knew that the death of his father was still fresh in his mind. She saw Petania reach for his hand under the table. No one had yet touched their soup.
"He did not do his best," Reynalda said. "He let his grief for the loss of his wife cloud his judgment."
"Mother," Thomas said again, putting his hand on her forearm.
"Let me speak!" She pulled her arm away. "What his father did to this family is horrible. My poor nieces and nephews, having to grow up like free fairies, without a band, without a home, scarred for life."
"I don't think I'm scarred for life," Blaine said.
"You just say that because you don't know what your life would have been like otherwise. You don't know what you've lost. Nothing any of you can do now can make up for those thirteen years." Her eyes were back on Venuto. Now the emotion was clearly written on her face. Everyone sat uncomfortably for a few moments. Venuto looked like he didn't know what to say.
Finally Dimpleton, who had been sitting still as a statue and just as quiet up until that point, broke the silence. "What happened happened, and there isn't anything we can do to change it. All we can do is try to make the best out of the future that we have."
"Well put," Thomas said.
Venuto nodded. Reynalda still had a surly scowl on her face, but she didn't say anything back, perhaps because she knew how hard Dimpleton had worked to try and clear Thomas's name. Maybe his actions deserved her respect. Or maybe she just couldn't think of a smart reply.
"So, Kelly, how was your first day of school?" Carmina asked. Kelly was grateful for the change in conversation, as were the others. Soon Kelly and Stephanie were busy answering questions, mostly from Blaine, about what human school was like. This topic kept the conversation going through the main course of fish and creamed corn mush, and it carried on about halfway through their dessert of strawberry lime ice cream. But then the conversation topic finally shifted.
"One thing I don't understand," Blaine said, "is how you two expect to fight Miasmos when you're still in school?"
Kelly and Stephanie just looked at each other, unsure of what to say.
"There isn't much anyone can do about Miasmos at the moment," Thomas said. "We are trying, but we can't really hope to sense his location given his expert ability to hide himself."
"But, can't we be out there, actively searching for him?" Blaine asked.
Thomas raised an eyebrow. "And where would we start?"
"Exactly my point."
"It just feels, wrong. To sit here and do nothing," Blaine said with a sigh.
"Sometimes in life you just have to wait," Venuto said. "Although while you're waiting you should work to make yourself ready for when the time comes."
"When will the time come?" Blaine asked.
"You'll know when it does," Venuto said.
Blaine's frown deepened.
By the time Flimsly took away their dessert bowls it was after 11pm. Kelly and Stephanie politely excused themselves, knowing they would have to get up very early for school the next morning. As they walked down the hall away from the royal quarters, they heard a set of quick footsteps run up behind them. Kelly turned to see Blaine approaching.
"Wait, I want to ask you something," he called out.
"What is it?" Stephanie asked once he'd caught up.
"Will you take me to see him?"
"To see who?" Kelly asked.
"Marcos Witherings," Blaine replied in a hushed whisper.
"Why are you asking me? Ask Thomas," Kelly said.
"He's so busy. I don't want to bother him."
"Are you sure you aren't just worried he'll say no?"
He bristled. "No, I just don't want to bother him. Like I said."
"Why do you want to see Marcos Witherings?" Stephanie asked.
"Why?" Kelly asked.
"I've never seen a crazy evil half-fairy before, that's why." At first Kelly thought he might be joking, but on second glance she realized he'd meant exactly what he'd said. A boyish, naive interest shone from his eyes.
"What makes you think I have authority to go and see him?" Kelly asked.
He looked surprised by the question. "Fairy law, of course." The girls stared blankly at him. "Whoever captures a prisoner has visitation rights," he explained.
"That's weird. What if whoever captured a prisoner had a grudge against them?" Kelly asked, thinking of how many people might want to take personal revenge on someone they had captured.
"Obviously if the visitor tried to hurt the prisoner they would be stopped by the guards and not be allowed in after that," Blaine answered.
"How do you know so much about fairy law if you spent most of your life outside of Glendenland?" Stephanie asked.
"My Aunt Reynalda made sure of it. I probably know more about Glendenland than most people who've been here all their lives do. So, will you take me to see him?"
"I don't know. It's late, and I'm not sure Thomas would approve," Kelly said.
"What would it take for you to say yes?" Blaine asked.
Kelly wasn't sure what he was getting at, but Stephanie's response made it clear that she and Blaine spoke the same language.
"A jar of high quality fairy dust should do the job, don't you think?"
Blaine nodded his agreement to the terms. "Kelly, do you accept?"
Kelly didn't like it much, but Stephanie was staring at her with her famous puppy dog eyes, and she supposed it couldn't really be such a big deal. Witherings was harmless, after all, and they would be quickly in and out. Plus, Thomas had never expressly said anything about not going to visit him, so if he were to get upset then she could just say she didn't know it would bother him. "All right," Kelly acquiesced.
"Yes!" Blaine jumped up and down.
"Really, I don't see what you are so excited about," Kelly said.
They walked to the nearest transport bubble and Kelly examined the map of Glendenland on the podium in the center of the room. She quickly located the transport bubble closest to the jail bubble complex. Though she had never been there, she knew the complex was situated on the outskirts of Glendenland, past the far edge of the underwater park. She pressed on the red circle representing the transport bubble closest to the jail, and the shadow archway on their right turned from its inactive opaque grey to its active bright blue. Kelly, Stephanie, and Blaine walked through the portal.
They exited the transport bubble on the other side and proceeded down the hall until they reached a nondescript, unlabelled shadow archway. Despite the absence of identifying markings, Kelly could sense that this archway was the entrance to the jail complex. Using her developing fairy senses was still a strange feeling. She didn't visually see what was on the other side of the archway; she just somehow knew it was the entrance to the jail bubble.
Kelly put her hand up and touched the middle of the archway. There was a series of chimes. She noticed Blaine looking at her with a strange expression.
"What is it?"
"I just had the strangest feeling," he said. "You seem so familiar to me. Almost like we've met before."
"Uh, we've never met. I think both of us would have remembered." She couldn't tell if he had intended his comment to be some sort of a pickup line or not. Either way, it was odd.
They waited a few moments at the archway, but when no disembodied voice came forth to ask about their business, they took that to mean they were allowed to enter. They walked through unimpeded. On the other side, a long hallway stretched before them, and a middle-aged male fairy sat in a small wooden chair just inside the entrance. He was sound asleep, and snoring blissfully.
"Excuse us," Kelly said.
The fairy just snorted, still asleep.
"Excuse me, sir?" Kelly repeated. No response.
Blaine walked up to the sleeping fairy and tapped him on the shoulder. The fairy jumped from his seat, unfurling bright red wings in a quick motion. He pulled a small wooden wand from his pocket, disoriented and startled. "What, who goes there?" he asked, facing away from them.
Blaine cleared his throat. The man spun around to face them, panic in his eyes. When he realized they weren't menacing, he lowered his wand slowly. "Sorry, er, I'm the warden. How can I help you?" He tucked his wand back in his pocket and refolded his wings.
"We want to see a prisoner," Kelly said.
"Marcos Witherings?" the warden asked.
"How did you know?"
"He's the only prisoner we've got, besides old Ricketer."
"Yep," the warden answered. "And no one besides young Venuto has ever been here to see that old chap, at least not in the twenty years I've worked here."
"Wow, twenty years. What's he in for?" Blaine asked.
"What do you mean nobody knows?" Stephanie asked.
"He was put in prison some sixty years ago, before even our dear late King Glenden's reign, may he rest in peace. And the reason for his imprisonment was a secret. Only the king and a few others knew why. All I know is that it's a life sentence."
"But how do you know he deserves a life sentence if you don't know what he's in for?" Kelly asked.
The warden shrugged. "What's your name?"
The warden nodded. "Very good. You're only allowed to bring in one guest with you per visit, however."
"I'll stay here," Stephanie said. "I don't really want to see him anyways. The idea gives me the creeps."
"As you wish. You two follow me."
Kelly and Blaine followed the warden down the hallway. It was very long and twisty, and there were shadow archways spaced evenly along it -- one about every six paces.
"There're certainly a lot of cells here for only two prisoners," Kelly commented. Blaine nodded in agreement.
Finally they rounded a corner and Kelly could see two guards standing in the hall, one on either side of an archway about three archways down from their position. The presence of the guards, who stood facing the archway, implied that the cell was occupied.
Kelly expected the warden to stop at the guarded cell, having assumed it was Witherings's, but when they reached it he just kept walking. Even so, Kelly couldn't help but pause for a moment from curiosity outside of the cell. The archway astonished her; it was transparent. She had never seen one like it before. It was clear, but flickering rivers of bright pink and purple glistened over its surface, like colors over the outside of a soap bubble. Kelly guessed it made sense for prisoners' archways to be transparent when occupied, so that the guards could see if the prisoner inside made any sort of unexpected movements.
She squinted to see through the archway. She could make out a small cot with someone sitting cross-legged on top of it, eyes closed in deep meditation. It was a very old fairy with a long grey beard. He seemed to feel Kelly's stare. His eyes opened. Kelly gasped at their startling purple color -- and their intensity. She felt as though his gaze was penetrating to the very core of her being, scrutinizing her. It would probably be a good idea to look away, she thought, but for some reason she didn't.
"Let's go." The warden's voice jerked Kelly's attention away from the prisoner. She moved to follow the warden, glancing back quickly over her shoulder. The old man was again sitting with closed eyes, like a statue, and for a second Kelly wondered if he had really even opened his eyes at all. She hurried to catch up with the warden and Blaine.
A few archways later they came upon another see-through archway with guards. Kelly looked at the guards, wondering something. "Are there guards stationed outside in the water too?" she asked the warden.
"There's no need," he replied. "The prison bubbles are non-permeous, save for the entrances, so it's impossible to exit through the top of them into the river like you can do with other bubbles."
"I see." Through the glistening wall Kelly saw a small cot. A form lay on top, covered by a blanket: Marcos Witherings.
"You can have fifteen minutes," the warden said. He placed his hand on the archway and a series of chimes tinkled to indicate that it was now unlocked. "I'll be back when your time is up."
Kelly and Blaine walked into the cell. Once they were inside the chimes rang again behind them.
"He didn't say he was going to lock us in," Kelly said. "I don't like the idea of being locked in a room with Witherings, even if he is in a coma."
Glendenland's head healer, Margretta, had said that Witherings might never come out of his coma. All the same, Kelly felt very uneasy in his presence. He hadn't made any motions when she and Blaine had entered, but she still hung back as Blaine approached the edge of the cot. He pulled down the blanket to reveal Witherings's face.
Just as she remembered from the last time she had seen him, Witherings stared unseeingly into the air, drooling and trembling slightly.
"Whoa," Blaine said. "You made him this way?"
"Wicked," he said appreciatively.
"I don't think it's anything to feel proud of," she answered. "Actually, I feel horrible."
"Just, seeing him like that. Knowing I'm responsible."
"He's the only one responsible. He did bad things and all you did was turn them back on him. You should be happy about it."
"I just feel bad because the only reason it worked is because he still had some of a conscience left."
"The key words there are 'some of a conscience,'" Blaine said. "He was evil and he got what was coming to him."
"I know, but I still feel a little sorry for him. I can't help it." She looked down at her watch. They'd only been in the cell for two minutes. Thirteen more to go.
"You know, everyone else still thinks you had help bringing down Witherings," Blaine said. "Thomas said I'm not allowed to tell anyone you're a fadaman. But you know, if the rest of the fairies knew you took him down all alone, you'd be really famous around here."
"I don't want to be famous. Please don't tell anyone."
"Don't worry. It's just an idea. You should think about it, though." He leaned over Witherings, examining the comatose fadaman's face intently. "I wonder why his father hasn't tried to break him out of here."
"It's too dangerous when everybody is looking for him, I suppose," Kelly said.
"Yeah, everybody is looking for him, but nobody can find him."
Nobody can find Witherings's father, Kelly thought. Like no one can find my father. In spite of their best efforts, she, Venuto, and Thomas had gotten nowhere. Mindy was no help either; she didn't even remember how she'd become pregnant, and Thomas believed a powerful fairy had erased her memory for as-yet-unknown reasons. Miasmos once said he knew my father. Kelly's eyes narrowed on the huddled form of Marcos Witherings. And if Miasmos knew him, then maybe Witherings did to.
What if she could ask him -- would he tell her? She felt an impulse creeping into her mind. Not sure exactly what she was doing, she approached Witherings. It was ridiculous, thinking that she could ask him. He was in a coma, cut off from everything, wasn't he? Then it came to her -- fairy senses. She knew it was possible to connect telepathically to another's mind, although she had yet to receive the training. She had talked mind-to-mind with Witherings before, twice in fact. What was it he had said? That he had sent her a 'mental invitation,' and that she had accepted. Now it was her turn. She would send him an invitation.
She wasn't sure what to do, but as she reached his bedside she felt a sudden urge to touch his forehead. She extended her hand downwards.
"What are you doing?" Blaine asked.
She didn't answer him, nor did she notice the apprehensive look he was giving her. Her hand made contact with Witherings' forehead. She closed her eyes. Tell me who my father is, she thought towards him. She concentrated very hard and repeated the thought, imagining it travel through her hand and into his mind. At first nothing happened, but then she felt a hint of heat in the center of her palm. She couldn't tell if the heat was coming from her hand or from Witherings. After a moment the heat intensified so much that it almost burned. A thick fog overtook her mind's eye. Shapes appeared in the mist -- flashes of haggard, ghoulish faces, one after another. Dizziness gripped her as she was sucked deeper and deeper into the fog.
She tried to pull her hand away, but it was stuck. The heat moved, and she realized that it was coming from her. All of the energy in her body was rushing into her hand, then out through her palm and into Witherings. A creeping chill spread through her, down to the bone. When there was almost no heat left, suddenly the transfer stopped. With the connection severed, she fell to the ground. She blinked, and the fogginess receded. She looked up to see Witherings still lying on the bed. He didn't appear to have moved an inch.
"Are you all right?" Blaine asked, kneeling over her.
"I'm tired," Kelly said. She was so sleepy that it was all she could do to keep her eyes open. Blaine felt her forehead, and a worried look formed on his face. He started to get up, but just at that moment one of Witherings's fingers twitched. A strong puff of air flew from it and struck Blaine in the head. He dropped to the ground beside Kelly, unconscious.
Marcos Witherings sat up. Kelly strained every muscle, trying to move, but she couldn't. She vaguely heard chimes at the archway -- the guards were coming in to stop him. But then there were two more bursts of air, followed by dull thuds as the guards fell to the ground. Kelly looked on, gripped by terror, as Witherings swung his feet off the cot and stood up. He stepped towards her. She expected the worst, but she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of pleading with him. She squeezed her eyes shut, expecting the deadly strike at any moment.
It didn't come. After what seemed like an hour, but was probably only a few seconds, she cautiously opened one of her eyes. Witherings looked down at her with an odd expression on his face, one like a person might have after smelling spoiled milk.
"Never touch someone you view as an enemy on the forehead, Kelly," he said. "Not unless you know what you're doing, and you are certain your enemy does not."
With those words he turned and walked towards the archway -- slowly, deliberately, and unimpeded by the downed guards. Kelly felt a wave of relief, followed by perplexity, before she gave in to a deep, dreamless sleep.
*End of Fairy Bond excerpt.* Buy Full Book Now