She trapped three men already. One more and it’d be the most productive night in her entire immortality. Murders needed less time than curses, so she erred on the side of gore.
Of course, the intention was to teach a lesson. But most victims died of old age before they ever managed to change; this seemed more efficient.
And justice never seemed thorough enough unless it was undeniably permanent.
As the fairy walked along, her hump pressing down painfully, a crooked smile spread across her mouth.
The forests had been absent of most human activity. She had to wander the countryside, looking for lonely barons, searching through woodcutters' houses, and finding campsites of everyday adventurers and merchants. Of course she avoided towns, though it was the richer men whom she longed to attract and destroy. The nobler, the shallower, the tastier her revenge was.
She was nearing a village, the small scattering of cottages in the forest growing more common. Each victim she had found tonight had been within half a league of each other, farm houses and sin houses alike, each giving her apt opportunity to hedge her numbers.
The fairy would soon have to turn away, feeling the prickle of a more powerful being’s territory. But she was willing to take her chances. The sight of the warn road illuminated under the thin moonlight, crisp and obvious. She started to leave the trees behind, entering into a prairie-like land in which long, blue grass crunched under her step. The world sat all alone there, even Man leaving it be. Only one little hut sat by the road. That was what interested her.
Small and gray, tilting like a dying tree, the house perched loosely on its base, forlorn—a remote building with the thatched roof sagging.
Cane barely holding her up, the hag entered into the gleam shining through the badly boarded cracks.
She took a breath and let out a whisper of magic.
A gust of wind blew from night sky, shivering through the fractures and beating against the walls. The moonlight sunk behind a cloud into a gray-lit night. A coyote howled in the distance. The rest of the world grew gravely silent.
She placed her wrinkled lips into a tight frown and stared up at the door from behind her wart. With the end of her staff, she raised it to the entrance. Slowly, rhythmically, she knocked three times.
A scattering inside indicated the people had heard. She listened to a hissing sound, the whispering and the hustling. The flame that shown through the holes of the gray wooden walls flickered. Thudding footsteps moved towards her. The door was thrown open.
A young woman stared down at her. The fairy stared back. This hadn’t been what she had expected.
Light, feathery blonde hair flicked into the face of this human, large brown, blinking gaze studied the hag over with a thought. The girl frowned for a moment before suddenly her eyes widened. She stared, struck with an idea, and turned stiff.
“It’s for you,” she said.
The fairy stood motionless as the girl spun and ran. The door hung wide open and empty.
A young man walked over. He sauntered with a causal lethargy, entering into the doorway with a calm stare. His eyes much more weary, his suspicion started before he even spied the old woman. He looked at the hag, the same wispy blonde hair trickling in his eyes as he studied her. Suddenly, his eyebrows rose. His back went erect. He pressed a smile on his face and bowed stiffly.
“Hello,” he said in an eerily pleasant way. “How may I help you?”
“Greetings, young sir,” the fairy responded, her voice extra cracked. “I have been wandering these woods for days. I am just a poor lost woman in the need food and drink, and I have found no one who would help me. Might you spare something for a cold, old lady?”
The man hesitated. His eyes flicked back into the room. The old hag could hardly prevent herself from smiling. She sensed his discomfort.
The girl was back. She smiled and tossed something.
The hag caught the purse, surprised. She frowned. The girl just nodded obligingly.
Then the human slammed the door.
“There you go!” the muffled voice goodbyed. “Take care!”
The woman stood in the cold and dark, staring. She paused. She looked at the bag.
Inside the hut, the dirt floor cold and the thin walls exposing, the siblings stared at each other, both waiting in a dead silence. The brother started to slowly shrug.
A splintering scream rocked the house. It shook the door off its hinges, shaking the world with a jolt. The door soared. Air ripped through the seams. It split open with a loud crack. Hinges hung on for dear life as the wind roared into the house.
A fury and the storm, the floating woman rolled in, the world red around her.
Her presence swallowed the air from wall to wall, pushing down on the one-roomed hut. No windows and no other door, the ambush left no escape. She filled the entire house. Papers blasted.
Black hair trailing behind her, it spiraled in curls. Foggy mist steamed off her dark gown. The wind screamed. The woman planted a gaze on the human sister frowning up at her. The girl did not cower.
Something was wrong.
Glass shattered on the fairy’s head. She fell. The young man beat her with the mirror again and again. He hit, continuing long after she went still. Exhaustion slowed him. He looked to see if it had an effect. Then he struck again. Showers of glass rained until the fixture could shatter no more, the limp body more frozen than a corpse.
The man dropped the frame on her. The air grew silent. The two humans stared. The assailant looked to his sister. They locked eyes. Each waited for the other’s response.
Finally, the girl threw up her arms in the air in victory.
He stared at her.
“I hate solicitors!” Rasmus shouted.
The man pitched himself around the body, his cloak fluttering out about him in a jagged manner. His sister stared up into space, blinking rapidly.
“I think I got a piece of glass in my eye,” Kaia said.
He pushed back his blonde hair from his face, staring at the unconscious creature with a curious and tense glance. “What the hell is it with these things always coming at the wrong time?”
Kaia bent forward, holding apart her eyelids.
He walked around the body in attempts to remain hopeful, but abruptly burst into annoyance, shouting, “What are we supposed to do with her?!”
“I say sell her.”
“I don’t understand why fairies feel it’s necessary to act like that. We could have just been polite and she would have left. I don’t think I can kill an innocent woman.” He frowned. “Even if it’s not a woman.” He looked to his sister. “What are we going to do with her?”
He watched her blinking exaggeratedly. “Kaia.”
Her chin raised towards the ceiling, she kept up the fluttering of the eyes, her hands out and up poignantly. Then, raising one finger, she pointed to the corner in which his sack and things laid.
Rasmus turned and looked. At first he couldn’t imagine what she was indicating, the shadows and mess allowing for it to be anything.
He had scattered his items out by the mat, a waning candle illuminating the glass jar and sparkling dagger. He stared for a good time, brow furrowed, curiosity and concealing darkness confusing him before he suddenly realized.
Walking over, he picked up the book peaking from his sack and turned back to his sister, still obsessed with the threat of damage to her eye.
She only said, “But I’m not so sure we should waste it now.”
He paused a minute, staring at the limp fairy with thought.
Already walking towards it, he replied, “You always say that,” before opening the book.
Arms outstretched, he faced the thing to the body. His sister jumped away in sudden alarm, forgetting all about her pain and throwing herself against the door.
He turned it back around to look at the pages. He flipped through them aggressively.
“How does this work?”
“Didn’t you ask?” she said, backing down from the wall.
He continued to read as she marched forward, stepping over the body with a distinct lack of concern. She tried to snatch it away from him. She failed.
“I say we just drag the body to a river and leave her there.”
“She’ll come and find us.”
He turned the book upside down.
“I don’t want to fill that up with her. It’s expensive.”
The man ignored her, looking at the back cover.
“And we just got it. I knew this would happen,” she moaned. “You insist on spending money on these things and then use them right away. You bought it for emergencies.”
“It was a bargain, you brat. And I’m not going to risk dealing with a pissed off fairy for a few extra coins.”
He frantically began to shake the book at the fairy, a sudden apprehension overcoming him. “Come on you stupid thing!” He whirled on his sister. “Can’t you bind her or something before she wakes and kills us?”
“With what? Glass rope? You may try shoving her in a jar if you like.”
He frowned at her callousness as she turned back to the fairy and merely stared. The man tried harder to force the book to work. He shook it at her vigorously as his sister nudged the fairy with her foot. He closed and opened the pages. She kicked the body.
“I think it’s dead,” she said.
“Come on,” he grunted at the book. “Do your thing.”
The girl bent down and stared deeply into the creature’s face.
“I’ve never actually seen a fairy close up before.”
“Kaia, get out of the way.”
She stood, but still studied the person. “You probably have to say something. Is there some sort of inscription?”
“No! It’s blank,” he hissed. “Get out of the way.”
She turned, “Let me try.”
An instinctual reaction yanked the book away before she could touch it, but a second thought made him hand it over begrudgingly.
She turned it upside down.
The young man sighed a bit, looking way as his sister was just as rough with it as he had been, to just as much avail. He moved towards the fairy’s limp body and studied it from a distance.
The aura of magic around her had disappeared with her consciousness. Now she looked a soot rag doll, black hair and spidery fabric dripping all over the floor, flat spirals branching from her heavy form.
Kaia walked around the fairy, attempting the book at different angles and heights. She even proceeded to nudge the woman with the corner a couple of times, but nothing happened. The sister turned to Rasmus who had taken to keeping his distance and shrugged.
The man saw it before she did.
The body shot up. Gray claws flailed through the air towards the girl. Gored into flesh, the fabric ripped and Kaia cried out.
Both women collapsed in unison, the creature’s hands caught in the skin. Pulled down, the girl wailed at the fairy’s head behind her, smacking with the book. Rasmus ran to them, grasping the beast by the long black hair. He pried her away. She snatched at him instead, claws slicing into his arm.
Kaia went for his dagger. Book in both hands, she stumbled over the mat and dropped it to reach. Her hesitation faltered as she spied the jar. She went for it, and, snatching it up, she chucked it.
It flew past both their heads. Rasmus tackled the beast to the ground. Kaia bolted forward.
The book went off.
Air sucking from the pages fluttered around all the work. It tore at the dirt underneath Kaia, pulling mounds up in sheets of dust. She forced it away to the wall behind her. It drug Rasmus’s sack forward with a heavy jerk. The candle flame flicked and then was consumed. The light went out.
“Get away, Rasmus!” she shouted.
Pulling the book in front of her, she pressed, trying to slam it shut. The sound of her brother’s pain-filled bark broke through the rushing wind. The faint moonlight coming from cracks only showed a black, indistinct silhouette. In indecision, Kaia aimed the book towards the sound of the grappling.
A second cry released, and she felt the book hook.
“Rasmus, get out of the way!”
The fairy screamed, screeching through the dirt. The Kaia could see through the shadows the large blob soaring towards her.
She tried to turn the thing to the side, back to the floor. It held on tight to the wiggling blob. Kaia’s eyes, teary from the wind ripping about her, made out the hold the fairy had on her brother. She immediately released the tome. It flew forward.
She heard a regretful cry, a crash, and then silence. The wind stopped and the book flapped shut. Shock blanked out her gaze. She couldn’t register the body before her, understand the separation of the congealed splotch. She saw nothing of her brother, nor nothing of the hut. All looked black.
The figure on the ground sat up.
“Ouch,” Rasmus muttered. He groaned, trying to rise in the dark. “Relight the candle, Kaia.”
She gaped in his general direction. The sound of crunching glass accompanied his motion.
He laughed a bit, a faint, tripped up chuckle.
Hands shaking, Kaia ran to help him to his feet. He grabbed her elbow and raised himself up. With one hand rested on her shoulder, he felt around for the pouch across his chest and fiddled in it. Kaia started to lead him back to his mat.
“Light,” he demanded, thrusting the flint into her hand.
She set him on the ground up against the wall and shakily turned to the candle.
The flame flickered into life. She stared at him with a grave face.
Rasmus met her stare. “Are you alright?”
“Ow,” she said, showing him a little of her back.
“I had to smash my jar on her head.” He held up his hands. Tiny cuts and blood covered them.
She moved to his bag, saying nothing.
He watched her in silence for a moment before pushing himself to a sitting position. “You know, if are persuasive and sell it to the right person, maybe we can even get a little more for it than what the book’s worth. I mean, a fairy soul? Even if it doesn’t do anything, it still sounds like it should.”
She quaked as she smiled, a pained look on her brow as she gently took his hands and dabbed away the blood with a rag.
“Just kidding,” he sighed. “I’m not selling souls.”
“Did she get you good?”
“No. I’m fine,” the boy insisted. “How about you?”
“Bleeding. Agony. You know. Bitch.”
“Bitch.” He glanced around to the wreckage. “We’re going to have to reorganize everything.”
“And we’re going to have to get you a new shawl or something.”
He turned her and looked at the back of the thick leather dress-coat. Two long slashes dug through it. One even cut straight through the back of her white bodice, drawing a line of red.
“That’s inappropriate,” he said.
She attempted to keep cleaning his hands, but he quickly pulled away, standing and moving to collect the book. The girl stared at him with a blank, absorbing gaze. He held the tight leather binding and looked to her.
“We need to get back to business. We’re not nearly prepared as we’d like to think we are.”
Kaia read his expression and her tension dropped. She pulled back casually off her knees to lift them up and hug them, saying frankly, “Vampire.”
He smiled, annoyed. “No.”
She shrugged. “That’s still my vote.”
“That’s never not your vote. It’s always too hard.”
“Well, considering tonight, maybe we won’t have to fake anything.”
“Don’t get eager,” he said, placing the book down. “And tonight only makes me hope that we will.”