The Tale of a Faerie Knight
Tay LaRoi © 2017
All Rights Reserved
The soft glare from the street lamp outside wakes me up. The soft drone of my box fan tempts me back to sleep, but the knocking at my door makes that impossible. I swear under my breath, but I should be grateful. I need to get up and get ready to go to work.
It turns into pounding as I roll out of bed and hunt for pants.
“Keep your wings attached,” I bark, wiggling into a pair. “I’m coming.”
The tiny little man at the door looks me over and scowls at my stained T-shirt, dirty jeans, and bedhead. Given that he’s wearing leaves, vines, and moss shoes, I don’t think he has room to judge. Thankfully, there’s no one coming in or out of the apartments to see him.
“Delivery for Ms. DJ Suzuki,” he grunts, holding out a large wooden crate. At least he’s calling me DJ instead of Daisy Jane now.
I take it and perch it on my hip. With my free hand, I take a handful of pinecones and acorns from the bucket by the door and dump them into the man’s hands. As he counts out his payment, I survey the contents of the crate. It’s filled with fruits, vegetables, breads, a gallon of milk—hey, wait a minute.
With a tip of his dusty cap, the little man says, “A pleasure as always.”
“Hey, whoa, hold on,” I snap. “There should be a bottle of wine in here.”
The man blinks up at me, then twiddles his thumbs. “Pardon me, miss, but I only make your deliveries. I don’t pack them.”
I study the large satchel hanging from his shoulder. It looks pretty weighed down, if you ask me. “What’s in the bag?”
He shoves it behind his back. “Is Miss accusing me of lying?” With his squeaky voice, it’s more like a small shriek. “Faeries can’t lie. You ought to know that.”
“Yeah, but you bastards steal anything and everything. Hand it over.”
“Miss can’t have my delivery bag. You didn’t pay for it.”
I glance at the clock on the stove and it nearly gives me a heart attack. It’s 8:45 and I need to be at work at nine. I forgot to set an alarm. Curse my love of sleep.
“All right, here.” I dig in the bucket by the door again and pull out a small plastic baggie. “You give me my wine and I’ll give you this dirt from a witch’s grave. Deal?”
His eyes get as big as harvest moons, and I know I’ve got him hooked like a goblin on gold. He digs around in his bag and, lo and behold, pulls out my bottle of Pixie Dust Sparkling Wine. “You drive a hard bargain, Miss.”
We make the exchange, and he studies the dirt in the bag like an elated mad scientist, then tips his hat again. “Have a lovely evening, Miss.” With a series of pops and a wisp of smoke, he disappears, leaving behind the smell of burnt herbs. His evening probably won’t be so lovely once he realizes I got that dirt from a playground.
I kick the door shut behind me and sort my groceries like a mad woman, tossing the things that need it in the fridge and leaving the rest of the counter. Glass jars filled with herbs for tea line the bottom of the crate, even though I assured my boss I still had plenty. If the faerie food didn’t give me longevity, then surely the amount of herbal tea they make me drink would.
Being cursed to only eat faerie food from here to eternity isn’t so bad, given how much healthier they eat than humans. The only things I ever miss are my mom’s homemade lasagna and my dad’s barbecue. Faeries don’t cook much of either, unfortunately.
Thankfully, they like chocolate almost as much as I do. There’s three bars sitting between the teas. Heedless of the time, I squeal for joy and rip the paper off of one, chomping off a huge bite and letting the beautiful blend of bitter and sweet cocoa melt on my tongue as slowly as possible, because, in addition to tasting like heaven, it tastes like home.
It tastes like chocolate chip cookies, fresh out the oven after making snowmen in the moonlight with my brother. It tastes like Halloween candy and staying up late to watch scary movies. It tastes like cake at countless birthday parties.
Just like the chocolate, the aftertaste of the memories is more bitter than sweet. I wrap it up and reach for an apple instead.
I throw on a black tank top and take a few bites. The shirt reveals the rivers of Japanese wood-block style images interwoven with Gaelic knots tattooed down my muscular arms. As I one-handedly rake a brush through my hair, a tuff of dark brown on top of my head and pixie-short sides, I finish the apple with the other. There’s nothing but the core as I put on some basic makeup: foundation, mascara, and some smoky eye shadow to frame my round monolid eyes like my dad’s. A bit of tinted lip balm is enough for my full lips, which match my mother’s.
The clock on the stove reads 8:55 by the time I grab my equipment bag and head out the door for the night. A few of the building tenants smile as they pass me on the stairs, and I return the gesture, even though I’ve never learned a single name. It’s too risky. People would notice too many strange things after a while, like strange little men delivering my groceries for example. Besides, my nightly work schedule doesn’t leave a lot of room for a normal social life, even if I did still know how to socialize with humans. I’m not sure I do.
On hot June nights like this, I drive with my windows down. The wind off Lake Michigan feels fresh and alive. It fuels the hustle and bustle of downtown Grand Harbor and helps wake me up for the long night ahead.
While the city hums with activity—tourist families shopping, local artists selling their works, independent musicians trying to make it on the bar scene—the area where I work is as dead as the old factory buildings that surround it. At least, it is for now. In a few hours, it’ll come alive.
Not that the humans will ever know.
When I first left the Faerie Court all those months ago, I thought it would be hard to walk the fine line of existing in the two worlds, but it’s actually quite simple. When I work, I’m a part of the Faerie Realm: magic and strange creatures intermingling in a world just out of humanity’s line of sight. At home, I’m as human as I was before I stumbled into my mistress’s lair those twenty years ago. It’s all TV, eating out, and paying my bills. The two don’t mix. Faeries want nothing to do with the Human Realm and most humans don’t believe in faeries enough to go looking for them.
Not that they should.
I park and slip in the nightclub’s back door. The vacant dance floor and dark empty chairs look eerier while unoccupied than when they’re overflowing with mystical creatures. I hate being alone in this place. Luckily, I hardly ever am. I find my boss, Iver, in his natural habitat behind the bar whistling as he takes inventory. He doesn’t notice me come in, so I take the opportunity to mess with him.
As he kneels below the counter, I silently plop down on a barstool and wait. He sets a nearly empty bottle of vodka on the bar, which I hide behind my back the second his hand disappears again. He reaches back up for it, gropes around, then stands back up with a cross look on his face.
“Evening, Iver,” I greet with a wide, unassuming grin. “How’s it going?”
He shakes his head, but smirks, and holds out his hand for the bottle. “It was going great before my imp of an employee showed up. You’re late, by the way.”
“In my defense, the delivery faerie tried to cheat me out of my alcohol. I couldn’t just let that slide.” I hand him the bottle and hop off the stool. “Which reminds me…”
As he puts the bottle in its original spot, I flip the door latch and let myself behind the counter. He’s tall, even for an elf, so I have to stand on my toes and pull on his shoulder to plant a kiss on his cheek. It’s completely innocent. He made it clear on day one he didn’t date employees. It’s kind of a bummer. He’s a looker and that’s been my only standard for a while now.
“Thank you for the chocolate.”
“I figured you deserved it.” He wipes my kiss off with the back of his hand. “You’ve been working particularly hard lately, despite your tardiness.”
“That’s because I don’t have any more online classes to worry about, thank God.” Since I wound up trapped in Faerie at sixteen, I never finished high school. There’s a lot I don’t understand about the twenty-first century, but being able to get a GED online has been an absolute blessing, especially since dial-up is a thing of the past. Having friends in Faerie that were willing to help me write up some fake transcripts certainly helped too.
I can’t tell you why I got the dumb thing. The Faerie Realm isn’t exactly renowned for its stellar universities, so it’s not like I’m going to be continuing my education any time soon, seeing as I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got all the time, booze, fun, and entertainment in the world, so why would I? A little voice in the back of my head, which sounded a lot like my brother, just told me it was a good idea. My brother tended to have a lot of those. I get pissed at myself for getting it if I think about it too long. It’s almost like I still want my family to be proud of me or some shit, which is nonsense.
I kneel behind the bar and hunt for something to drink. It’s all here for faerie consumption, so I have plenty to pick from. I think I’ll go with a rum and Coke.
“If you’re so grateful to me, maybe you’ll ease my nerves and drink a little less?” Iver raises an eyebrow as he watches me drop ice into a glass.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I reply, precariously measuring out the rum. “I don’t drink that much. And I always make sure to sober up before I leave. Can’t enjoy eternity if I’m dead.”
Iver sighs. “What if a human were to come in here and see you?”
“Humans don’t come in here,” I remind him, swirling my drink before taking a sip. Needs more rum. Maybe a little vodka to dilute the sweetness. “The one time they did, Calista got rid of them.”
She accidentally got rid of me too. Some dweeb asked her to bewitch a group of human girls, who had wandered in here, to make them leave. Since I didn’t come here that often back then, she thought I was one of them. It was quite startling to be dancing one minute only to wake up on James-Child College’s campus the next. We’ve become pretty good…well, I’m not sure what you’d call us.
“I just don’t like taking risks. That’s all,” Iver says.
I roll my eyes and lean on the counter. “Right. Mr. Let’s-Stage-A-Coup doesn’t like taking risks.”
Iver gives me a dirty look. He doesn’t like it when I bring up the coup last October in which he and a bunch of his buddies took back the Faerie Court. He’s too humble. Given that he helped take out Queen Mab, whom I served for the better half of twenty years, I’m eternally grateful to him and everyone else for it.
“That was a completely different situation,” he huffs. “You’re comparing pixies to trolls.”
“If you say so. How’s the court doing, anyway? Other than sending us more enjoyable customers, that is.”
Iver wipes the whole counter down before he answers. “It’s fine.”
“Uh-oh. Trouble in paradise?”
My boss glances around the club to make sure we’re still alone. Leaning close, he mutters, “You know the string of human disappearances lately?”
“Yeah. It’s all over the news around here.” I down the rest of my drink and reach for the bottle again.
“The queen is starting to suspect it has something to do with Faerie. More specifically, the Mab supporters who broke out last November.”
I give an impressed whistle. “Queen Titania inherited quite a mess, huh?”
I really feel for the woman. First, her sister, Mab, took the throne and trashed the place for about a hundred years, then as soon as she gets it back, several of her sister’s supporters manage to escape. Now she’s got human disappearances on her plate? Who would want to be Queen of Faerie?
“I thought faeries only snatched children,” I muse, mixing my second drink. “Every missing person I’ve seen so far is either in their late teens or early twenties.”
“We’re not supposed to anymore. She dismissed the connection at first, but apparently, she’s picking up a pattern. They’re all loners. They disappear at night with their doors locked and live in secluded, wooded areas.”
“What does Queen Shaylee think?”
These days, the Faerie Court is split in two. Queen Titania rules the Seelie Court, the area around here. Her daughter, Shaylee, rules the Unseelie Court farther to the south. I’ve never met Queen Shaylee, but if the stories I’ve heard about her are true, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was behind it. After pretending to be Queen Mab’s long-lost daughter and tricking a human girl into sacrificing herself so that the coup could happen, she doesn’t seem like the most trustworthy individual.
“Her Majesty Shaylee is currently away, dealing with some rowdy solitary fae,” Iver says. “Though her champion, Dominic, assures Queen Titania that there hasn’t been any suspicious activity in the Unseelie Court.”
“Of course, he said there isn’t,” I scoff. I scowl down at my glass. I jacked up the rum-cola ratio again.
“Dominic’s loyalty still lies more with Titania. If he thought Shaylee was doing something wrong, he’d be sure to say so.” Iver snatches the rum bottle out of my reach and sets it on the counter behind him. “And you have a job to do, missy. Don’t get out of control.”
“I’m not,” I huff, swirling my drink. “I’ve worked in far more inebriated states than this.”
Iver sighs. “Don’t you have equipment to set up?”
I throw back the rest of my drink and wipe my mouth. “All right, all right. I’m going. Thanks for the gossip update.”
Iver takes my glass. “You’re an honorary faerie. You ought to be in the know.”
Honorary faerie. That has a nice ring to it.
A few regulars trickle into the club as I set up my music equipment. Luckily, all the speakers, mics, and most of the wires were here when I took the job back in November. I just had to provide my own laptop and controller. Neither of them are very fancy, and I had to learn on the fly. Truth be told, I’m okay at best. I can do basic effects, put together a decent playlist, and weave it together seamlessly, but that’s about it. I’m more of an acoustic guitar girl, honestly.
At least, I was before I got trapped in Faerie. I haven’t touched a guitar in forever.
Lucky for me, faeries aren’t very picky when it comes to human music. As long as they can dance, they’re happy, so by eleven, the dance floor is filling up with people and creatures who look like they walked straight out of storybooks and nightmares. Bright glistening wings shimmer in the flashing lights while hollow eyes beckon into the shadows those too naive to know any better. Wispy ghostlike women twirl around men made of sticks and stones, promising them all the stars in the sky in exchange for a drink at the bar. They might give them the stars with or without the drinks since they’re all so high on this place. I feel it too. The rhythm, the magic-infused atmosphere, the secrets and mysteries growing in the shadows. It’s all more intoxicating than the alcohol I’ve already consumed.
So are some of the people who dance in the crowd.
The woman who slips behind my workstation is the perfect example. She runs a finger up my spine as the overwhelming smell of cloves hits me, then she wraps her arms around my waist, swaying in time to the music with me.
“Evening, Calista,” I greet, craning my neck to meet her sparkling green eyes.
She removes one of my headphones to whisper, “Have you missed me?” That smooth, sultry voice sends a chill through me. Her cool body sends another one.
“Of course,” I reply. “Where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you around lately.”
“Out and about,” she giggles. “You know how it is.”
I sure do. I have no idea how or where Calista spends most of her time, and I guess it’s not really any of my business. What I do know is that whenever we happen to bump into each other here at the club, we have a good time together, no strings attached. Some of the other patrons are pretty good substitutes, male and female alike, but I’d be lying if I said Calista wasn’t something special.
“Looks like you’re working hard,” she mutters, lowering her lips to my jaw. “You deserve a break.”
I swallow hard and try to think straight, which is nearly impossible since her hands have started to roam. “Enticing as always, but I’ve got another two hours before my break. Iver’d have my hide if I slipped off now.”
Calista huffs and lays her head on my shoulder. “Who am I supposed to play with until then?”
“Go dance,” I suggest, lowering the volume on one song as another starts. “I’m sure you’ll find somebody.”
“I wanna dance with you, though,” Calista insists, slipping one hand down to the lining of my jeans. “You’re my favorite.”
I try to ignore the way my heart jumps and how my skin heats up and attempt to focus on fading to the next song instead. Paying attention to those reactions could mean I might be developing feelings for her, and that’s a no-go. She just meant that she has a better time fooling around with me than with other people here. That’s it.
“How about this,” I say. “My buzz is wearing off. Go get me a drink, and then we’ll try to work something out, okay?”
“Sounds good.” Calista kisses my neck and disappears. She shimmies through the dancing crowd, her loose translucent sleeves and bare midriff flowing with the beat while her low-hanging skirt sways.
I try to focus on the music and forget her words. I’m her favorite in the way we all have our favorite drinks to get wasted with. That’s it. Even if she meant something more, it’s not like I’d pry and risk ruining the fun we have. Trying to get close to people, opening up to them, that’s the quickest way to let things go to shit, especially in the Faerie Realm. And I don’t mean just bad breakups. She could get seriously hurt. Not everyone here likes that I’m human or that I used to work for Queen Mab. They could use either of those facts to get…creative. Things are fine the way they are. Besides, nymphs aren’t exactly famous for their ability to hold down a steady relationship.
Time passes, and then some more creeps by. I’m beginning to think Calista found someone else after all, but I survey the crowd just in case. I really did want that drink.
The Employees Only door flies open and catches my eye. It only leads to the back parking lot, but Iver usually keeps it cursed so no one can sneak in without paying. Since I’m human, I’m the only one who can go in and out without getting hurt.
A young woman sprawls in anyway, disheveled, bruised, and barefoot. She tries to straighten her ripped gown and breathes heavily as she looks around, in what appears to be an attempt to get patrons’ attention, with shaking hands and wide eyes
Someone help me.