Fairy Tales of Cliffside: Volume One
By Corey Daggett
Chapter 7: The Master
The fairies were now so separated that they could no longer see each other. Yukina flew over the streets, which were now thinning and turning to residential. Her heart raced with worry. As she searched, she replayed her brief glimpse of Autumn over and over. Yukina knew there was some type of foul magic at work. Her eyes had been dim, as if she were sleep walking. The man didn’t have to touch her, he had simply opened the door for her and she’d gotten in without question. Even in her mind’s eye, when she saw the tall man, it frightened her. There was no logical reason for it, but she had felt it deep inside. Fear. A pure fear that had seized her heart and wouldn’t let go.
She heard a voice from her left which jolted her from a daze. Slipha flew up, calling to her. “I found it!” She came to a stop beside her and they hovered together in the air. “I found the car at a house near the cliffs, but I didn’t see her.”
“Good. We need to find the others and bring them with us.” They took off in the direction that Kara and April had flown.
Malcolm felt helpless. He sat on a bench on the sidewalk, his hands gripped together while his legs bounced furiously. (A nervous habit he’d developed as a kid.) His mind raced. In his worried state, he tried to think of something he could do to help. Nothing came to mind. At least, nothing logical came to mind. Guilt seeped into his thoughts. He had been the one to pull the fairies from their safe haven. Despite all his good intentions and careful planning, it had still brought them harm.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked it. 8:15. He had to go home soon, but how could he? Worry would keep him occupied all night. But if he didn’t, there would be no explanation cunning enough to convince Blaire that he wasn’t up to no good. Was he up to no good? He didn’t feel like he was doing anything terribly wrong. But then again, maybe he was up to no good. Even though there wasn’t anything close to a romantic relationship between him and any of the fairies, it wouldn’t matter to Blaire. If she knew he was spending his time with a group of magical women, she wouldn’t take it lightly.
Malcolm searched for an answer. After a few minutes of wrestling, he did the only thing he could come up with. He started walking.
“Please, sit down, Autumn.” He waved his hand to an ornate sofa. The house looked huge on the inside. The ceiling was a mile above her head. She sat down, still dazed and in a fog. He sat in a chair across from her and leaned in close with his elbows resting on his knees. “I imagine you feel quite odd. Don’t worry, it will pass.” He waved his palm in front of her eyes. The fog in her mind began to lift. Her eyes lit with their usual life. Her eyelids fluttered and she began looking around the room. “There, see? Not so bad.”
With her wits back, she carefully examined the room. It was dark, the only light coming from the moon, which slipped in through the parted curtain of a large window. There were a few pieces of furniture, such as old-fashioned sofas, chairs, and end tables. There was a fireplace at the end of the room which was unlit. The house felt cold. Oddly cold. Somewhere in the hallway outside the room, a sleepy grandfather clock tick-tocked.
She looked to the man, her hands gripping the cushion of the sofa, her chest tight, her breath quickening. She fought the fear that the man projected into her soul and found enough strength to speak. It came out in a horse whisper. “What did you do to me?”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry. Just a little spell to make you more cooperative. But it’s gone now.” He sat back and folded his hands in his lap. “Can I ask you a few questions?”
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Daniel Orthenlow. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Autumn.”
“Can I stand up? I don’t like sitting.”
“Go right ahead, my dear.”
She stood and walked slowly away from the sofas. The doors which led to the hallway were closed. She began a cautious circle around the room, walking on her toes as if she were on ice.
“So you are a fairy?”
“Yes.” she answered as she made her way around the room, examining it.
“I’m very interested in fairies. There are a lot of different legends that people have spun, some that are completely made up, while others hold an ounce of truth. But I have only met two real fairies before you. I believe one of them might’ve been your mother.”
Autumn stopped walking and looked at him.
“She looked just like you. Her and her friend used to live in Cliffside.”
Autumn ran her fingers over the wood trim of a chair much older than her. “How well did you know them?”
“Not very well. We met once during a festival. We talked, much like you and I are talking now. Then they left. For years, I tried to find them, but never did. They just vanished.”
“I know what you mean.” she said. “I haven’t seen my mom since I was a child.”
Daniel sighed. “Then you don’t know what happened to them?”
“No. They both disappeared. Left us to fend for ourselves.”
“That is sad. But I’m not looking for a reunion.” He stood up and faced Autumn, his hands in his pockets. “I want to know more about your magic.”
“Why didn’t you just ask? Why’d you have to put a spell on me?”
“Would you have really come? I doubt it. This was my first meeting with a fairy in twenty-some years. I wasn’t about to let you slip away. Not again. That’s why I stopped you and led you away from everyone. I knew we couldn’t have a genuine conversation in that situation.”
“So what do you want to know?”
He moved closer to her. “Where does it come from?”
“Yes, your magic. You don’t need anything to make it. Something I’ve worked all my life to find and what little I can do is laughable compared to what comes naturally for you.”
Autumn shrugged. “I don’t know what to say. It’s inside us, but you need to be taught how to use it. And each of us have a different magic we’re talented in.”
“Really? Such as?”
“There’s different types of magic. Each type has different uses. There’s light, electrical, gravitational, air...” she hesitated as she thought, “... yup, that’s all of them. You can use light magic to heal, create illusions, or even portals which will let you travel somewhere instantly. Then there’s electrical, which can be used as a weapon.” She chuckled. “Slipha used that one on me this morning. My sister Yukina is really good with mental grip and third eye.”
“Fascinating. Now, what are mental grip and third eye?”
“With mental grip, you can reach out with your mind and grab things, move them, throw them. It’s like having giant hands.”
“Uuhh... I don’t know what that means.”
“Never mind, go on. What’s third eye?”
“Yukina can see into people just by touching them. She can see everything like she were reading a book.”
“Very intriguing. But what are you good at?”
“I’m not very good at anything. I’m only starting to learn. I can heal, very slowly. I’ve gotten pretty good at gravitational magic, as you might have noticed. That’s where mental grip comes from. And I can’t do anything with third eye. I guess I’m not a natural like my sister.”
“No no no.” Daniel protested, walking closer to her. “You just need help to strengthen your powers.” He grabbed her arms. His grin was wild now. “I can help you develop it. And you could be far more powerful than your sisters.”
His icy blue eyes pierced her. She was both mesmerized and afraid. “No.” she shook her head. “No, it’s okay. My sisters will teach me.”
“No they won’t. They won’t teach you everything because they don’t want you to be more powerful than they are.”
“Well... I want my magic to be strong...” she squirmed to try and break free from his grasp, but it was too tight. He was squeezing her arms. “... but I don’t know you.”
“That’s not of concern. We will get to know each other. You can live here with me. I will teach you what I know and you can teach me what you know. Together, we can be powerful sorcerers.”
“No.” She tried to push away from him, pushing hard against his chest, but was still powerless to escape. “I don’t want that. I just want to stay with my sisters.”
“NO!” he yelled. His voice echoed through the room and it stopped Autumn’s struggle instantly. “You’re staying with me. You’ll learn to like it here, I promise.”
Her eyes changed. She realized there would be no reasoning with him. “I understand.”
“I’m sorry, Daniel. But you leave me no choice.” Her palms were still pressed to his chest. She concentrated on them. She was about to show him what her magic could do.
Nothing. No glow. No power. Nothing. Bewilderment came over her.
“You tried to use your magic on me, didn’t you? I’ve put an enchantment on this room. Magic won’t work in here.”
Suddenly, he flung her away from him. She tumbled to the floor. He began walking toward her. “You’re going to have to accept the fact that I’m your master now. You will stay here and help me, whether you do it willingly or not.”
Autumn pulled herself up and ran to the door. She yanked on it, tried turning the knob, and pulled on it harder. It didn’t budge. It wasn’t only locked, but a spell protected it. She turned back to him. He was nearing her and now held a black, lacey choker.
“Stop trying to resist, Autumn. You have no reason to fear me.” He came closer, holding the choker like a collar that he was about to clamp onto a dog. “The two of us have a lot of magic to explore together.”
Autumn tried to run from him, but he grasped her arm and flung her backward. She hit the floor and slid backwards a bit. Daniel jumped on top of her, pinning her to the floor. Before she could recover herself, he slipped the choker around her neck and clipped the clasp in the back. He stood. Autumn lay in the floor motionless.
“Get up, Autumn.”
She stirred, then slowly pulled herself off the floor. He reached down to help her up. She accepted his offer and was back to her feet.
“How are you feeling, my dear?”
“I’m okay, thank you.” She looked up at him and smiled. “Sorry I caused you trouble.”
He smiled back, placing his hand on her shoulder. “No worries. No worries at all.”
Malcolm unlocked the door and walked into the apartment. He didn’t want to be there. He really didn’t want to be there. All the way home, his mind wouldn’t stop racing. Like anyone caught in the middle of life or death situations, his mind was busy thinking up every possible worst case scenario. Most of them ended with the discovery of a murder victim with wings. These thoughts tortured him so much that he was beginning to feel sick. He went straight for the fridge to pour himself a ginger ale.
Just as the night before, Blaire was curled on the couch, reading a book on her tablet with soft jazz playing on the stereo. “Hi honey. How was your day?”
Malcolm sipped the ginger ale and tried his best to fake normalcy. “It was okay.”
“That’s good. Have a good meeting?”
He drank another swig, then nodded to her question. “Oh yes, very good.”
“That’s good. Did you remember to pick up the gift card?”
No, he hadn’t remembered to pick up the gift card. Gift cards are the last thing on your mind when your friend has just been abducted. But as the inner anger rushed through him at the thought of buying a gift card at a time like this, an idea dawned on him. It was a brilliant and devious idea. He slammed the remainder of his drink and set the cup by the sink. “I am so sorry, honey. I completely forgot.”
For the first time, Blaire looked away from her book. She gave him a How Could You Be That Stupid? look.
He hurried over to the sofa and gave her shoulder a good squeeze. “I’m so, so, so sorry. I’ll make it up to you. I’ll go out right now and get one.”
She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. “No, no, you don’t have to. We can get one on our way.”
“No, I really want to.” he insisted. “I feel bad about it and I want to make it up to you. So...” he went to the door and grabbed her keys from the hanger. “I’ll head down to the convenience store and pick one up.”
She looked at him for a second, then nodded. “Okay, thank you. You really don’t have to, but I guess if you want to.”
“Yes. Yes I want to.” He was already out the door and gave her a wave before closing it.
Yukina, Slipha, April, and Kara hovered above the house. “What now?” Kara asked.
“There’s foul magic here.” Yukina said as she studied the building. “We need to be careful or we’ll find ourselves in a trap.”
“My guess is that he’s got her tied up somewhere in the house.” Slipha said. “I could draw him outside and give you time to sneak in and get her.”
Yukina shook her head. “I’m not sure about that. It looked like he had her under a spell. She’s not tied up and she may not be in her right mind.”
“But if we kill him, it’ll break the spell.”
“It may or may not...”
“Then let’s kill him. Just to be sure.” Slipha’s eyes gleamed in the moonlight as she grinned.
“We can’t just run in with no idea what’s waiting for us.”
“Either you can stay up here and talk all night or we can do it my way.”
“There could be a trap waiting for us!”
“Then I’ll spring it and you can clean it up!” Slipha darted downward before Yukina could protest anymore.
“Foolish child.” she scoffed. “Let’s wait here and see what happens.”
Slipha landed on the ragged, over-grown lawn. She turned her palms upward and charged her magical energy in each hand, the same kind she’d used against Autumn earlier that day. She reeled back and threw them at the front of the house. They smacked into the brick wall and exploded. It shook everything and caused loose stones to tumble down. However, no real damage was done to the house.
“LISTEN UP, YOU MAGGOT!” Slipha yelled as she began walking toward the house, lighting up more charges in her hands. “You’ve got my sister! Give her to me and I might spare you!”
Daniel parted the curtain of the sitting room. Autumn stood beside him and looked out, too. “Looks like your sister is causing trouble.”
“Yes, she’s always been trouble.”
“Could you take care of her?”
“I will. But first, let her expel more energy. She’ll be easier to fight then.”
“Excellent thinking. You have much potential.”
“Thank you, Master Daniel.”
Slipha waited for a moment to see if anyone was coming. With no answer, she threw the second wave of charges at the house. Another explosion shook the ground and kicked up rocks, but still no damage was done to the house. She realized he had a protection spell around it. Her eye caught the black sports car. A devilish grin lit her face. “I see you have the house protected by magic.” she called out. “But did you remember to protect your car?” She held her hand up and charged a ball of power as big as her own body. The ball sizzled and cracked like lightning above her.
Inside, Daniel’s expression changed from that of a man in total control to utter despair. “Oh... no.” He bolted from the window, threw open the sitting room doors, and was gone. After witnessing the scene, Autumn giggled, then calmly followed after him.
The front door suddenly flung open. Daniel ran out. “STOP!” he yelled to her. “Don’t do that!” He held out his hands, pleading for mercy.
“Oooh?” Her cat smile now bigger than ever. “Did I strike a nerve?”
“You’re angry. I understand that. Let me at least have a chance to explain myself.”
“Tell me where Autumn is and I might spare you and your car.”
Autumn walked out onto the front porch. “I’m right here.”
Slipha studied her, not sure if she should believe it. “You’re not an illusion, are you?”
She shook her head and began walking out to them.
Slipha wasn’t lowering her guard yet. She continued holding onto the sphere of energy. “Are you okay? Did this maggot hurt you?”
Autumn shook her head again. “No, not at all. We just talked.”
“Is that so?” She eyed Daniel, who stood frozen before her. Autumn was still walking slowly toward them. “What did you steal from me this morning?”
She seemed confused by the question. “Why are you asking that now?”
“I want to make sure you’re not an illusion by this guy. So what did you steal?”
“Oh, I see. I stole your book. Now do you trust me?”
Her eyes jumped from one to the other. “Okay. I suppose I should spare your car, then.”
“Oh, thank you, madam. Thank you.” He seemed over-joyed.
Slipha turned her energy-filled hand toward him. “You, on the other hand, need to be punished.”
He instinctively raised his arms to protect his face.
“NO!” Autumn screamed.
Slipha let loose the charge. In an instant, it exploded white light. His limp body reeled across the yard. It hit the ground and tumbled a bit before coming to rest.
Slipha burst out laughing. She laughed so hard that she held her stomach and doubled over. Autumn scowled at her. She began charging power just like Slipha’s. She marched toward her. Slipha looked up and stopped laughing. “What are you...?”
Autumn threw the blasts at her. They hit Slipha’s chest and exploded. She flew backward and flopped against the ground. The blast had left her ears ringing and her vision white. Her head was spinning and she couldn’t remember where she was or what she was doing.
The others, who had been watching from above, landed beside her. Yukina pointed down to Slipha. “Take care of her.” she said as she began walking toward Autumn. April and Kara knew there was no arguing with her when she took that tone. They knelt down on each side of Slipha and began healing her.
Autumn was kneeling beside Daniel. He was unconscious, but breathing. She held her hand to his chest and worked to heal him.
“Autumn?” Yukina called to her. “What are you doing?”
“She shouldn’t have attacked him!” she yelled, not taking her eyes away from him. She continued trying to heal him. “She had no reason.”
“You know very well she was just trying to protect you.”
“No. She was looking for a fight.”
Daniel’s eyes opened. He looked up to see Autumn kneeling beside him. “You healed me?” he asked. She nodded. “See?” he said, struggling to sit up. “I knew you had it in you.”
“I got her back for you. I got her really good.”
“Excellent. You did well, my dear.” She helped him up by his arm. He was still weak and in pain, but doing better than he should have after taking the blast to the face. He looked up to see Yukina. “Oh. Hello. What’s you’re name?”
She didn’t show a hint of emotion. She didn’t blink. Yukina stood firm with her fists balled. “Yukina. Who are you?”
“Daniel. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” he said as he leaned on Autumn for support.
“I can’t say the same. You abduct my sister, twist her mind with incantations, and then have the nerve to speak politely to me? I see no reason why I should let you live.”
“Now now, please don’t jump to conclusions. We just had a little chat...”
“DON’T TRY TO MANIPULATE ME, YOU SNAKE!”
Her voice boomed all around them. It shook the ground like the voice of a god. Both Autumn and Daniel stumbled backward and fell to the grass. They looked up at Yukina, completely gripped by fear. Magical energy crackled all over her as if a great thunderstorm were trying to escape her body.
“I’M TAKING HER HOME. PRAY I DON’T TURN YOU INSIDE OUT.”
His eyes were wide. He nodded in agreement. Autumn stood cautiously to her feet, her eyes fixed on Yukina.
“Now...” her voice returned to it’s usual calm, the rage within her subsiding. “... let’s go home.” She reached her hand out to her.
“I said no. I’m staying here.”
Yukina studied her from head to toe. “What’s that around your neck?”
“A gift. Daniel cares for me. And he’s going to teach me how to use my magic.”
“Can’t you see he’s manipulating you? That thing around your neck is enchanted. You have to take it off. Then you’ll be able to think clearly.”
“I’m not taking it off. It’s helping me to see clearly.” She pointed her finger at Yukina. “I understand now. You and the others have been holding me back. You won’t let me become more powerful than you.”
“You’re young. You’re not ready to control your full power yet.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“You blew Slipha up! You’re not in your right mind!”
Daniel struggled back to his feet. “Now now, Miss Autumn. I don’t think you should be arguing with your sister.” He straightened his back, trying to regain his composure. He put his hands in his pockets, then added, “I don’t want to be on the bad side of an all-powerful fairy.” He walked closer to Yukina. “I think we need to start over. Perhaps there is still a friendship to be had between us.”
“We have no reason to associate with a low-level sorcerer like you. As far as I’m concerned, this is the last time we’ll have the displeasure of meeting.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“If we meet again, I’ll kill you.”
Daniel ripped his hand from his pocket and threw a handful of powder at Yukina. It struck her face. She screamed, stumbled, and fell to the ground. She continued thrashing on the ground, all the while crying in agony and wiping at her face.
Kara and April jumped from their place by Slipha, who was now getting her wits back. They flew to help Yukina. Autumn reached out to the ground. They were yanked down by gravity. They struggled to free themselves, but were unable. All they could accomplish was to shift their limbs in the dirt like drowning swimmers.
“Autumn!” Kara shouted. “Please stop! We’re your sisters!”
“I’m not stupid! I see you all for what you really are.”
“But... we love you.”
“No you don’t. You put up with me.”
April stretched her hand out toward Autumn. “Listen to me. Just let us go and you can stay. We won’t come back.”
“No!” Kara yelled at April. “We can’t leave her!”
“We have to think about Yukina and Slipha.” April said to her. They were pinned hard against the grass and still barely able to move. She looked to Kara and with her eyes pleaded Trust me.
Daniel approached Yukina. She was still crying in the dirt, powerless to move except to wipe at her face. He kicked her in the stomach and laughed. “You’re not the only powerful one here!” he screamed, spit flying from his teeth like a rabid dog. “I AM THE ONE TO FEAR! I AM THE ONE THAT DECIDES WHO LIVES! I AM THE GOD WHO DESTROYS! ME! NOT YOU!” He vaulted kick after kick into her abdomen. Yukina fought to regain some control over what was happening to her, and struggled to reach her hand toward him, her palm glowing. Before she could use magic on him, he stomped on her hand, pinning it to the ground.
Slipha, now back to her feet, approached the group. “I understand now.” she said.
“Don’t come any closer, bitch!” Daniel yelled. “Or I’ll kill you next.”
Slipha stopped behind where Kara and April were pinned to the ground, just outside of the circle of gravity. “I have great respect for power and I can see that you are greater than any of us.” She knelt down to her knees and bowed forward, putting her hands to the ground. “I beg for your forgiveness. Autumn can stay with you. I swear we won’t bother you again if you let us go.”
He studied her, then walked around Yukina and approached the bowing Slipha. A wild grin parted his features. “Oh, you’re a clever one, aren’t you?”
She looked up to him. “Unlike my sisters.”
He now stood over her. “Another trick?”
“What can I do? As long as Autumn is here, I can’t touch you.”
“So I suppose you’ve finally accepted reality and are willing to cut your losses and go home?” He knelt down and grabbed a fistful of her hair. He yanked her head up so that she was forced to look into his eyes. “Maybe one fairy isn’t enough for me. Perhaps a second would help my efforts. What do you think?”
His eyes were mesmerizing. Slipha could feel her willpower slipping away. The world around her turned swimmy. It felt like drowning. The angry, rebellious Slipha was being replaced by an obedient Slipha. A part of her consciousness knew what was happening. She fought back, trying to snap herself out of the spell. She knew very well that it was a spell, but was powerless to stop it. She’d always thought herself too intelligent to fall victim to such powers, but tonight she was discovering just how wrong she’d been. The last bit of her will began to slip away. She was almost ready to obey. Then, from somewhere distant, she heard April.
Autumn’s attention turned back to April.
A portal opened beneath her. Before she realized what was happening, she fell through.
Gravity returned to normal. April and Kara jumped up and rushed to Yukina’s side, who now lay unconscious in the dirt.
Daniels’ attention was pulled away from Slipha and toward the commotion. The daze left her. She reached up and grabbed his wrist with both hands. When he felt her grasp, he turned back to her.
“You like black magic?” she growled at him. “So do I.”
Daniel was frozen, unable to move.
April used grip magic to pick Yukina’s limp body up and send her through the portal. Kara jumped through next. April looked back at Slipha for a moment, then jumped through.
Daniel’s features contorted as he watched his hostages escape. He was still unable to move, caught in Slipha’s spell. She clutched his wrist hard, still worried of letting go. If she did, he would overpower her. This was her one chance to end the nightmare. She focused herself and prepared to carry out her incantation. Slipha began speaking in the ancient tongue of fairies, one not spoken for a millennia. It was a long string of syllables that trailed on and on without end.
Daniel couldn’t budge. He could only watch the hate in her eyes as she recited the words. Then, as if falling into a dream, he began to see things. Ghostly images circling around him. They looked like fog with grim faces. They snarled at him. The light of the moon disappeared. All around him was black, save a patch of grass he stood on. All that remained were him, Slipha, and the demons. He let go of her hair. She stood, never loosing his wrist. It was her connection to him which funneled the visions. Her tongue kept moving, but the words tumbled all around him like gusts of wind.
He tried to scream, but couldn’t hear himself. He looked down at the grass. Rats bubbled forth from the ground, their fur crimson red, their eyes flickering with fire. It was like watching an ocean wave rush up to his legs and engulf them. They scaled him, scurrying, biting, and chewing. He screamed, falling to the ground, flailing all but one of his limbs, struggling to escape. They tore into his flesh as easily as if they were burrowing through paper. He felt it and it was as real as any pain he’d experienced. Slipha stood above him as he suffered, a smile of ecstasy lighting her face, her grip on him unyielding. She would be his only companion in this torment.
Six demons circled around him. The seventh was Slipha. Their figures fluttered like wind. They had no eyes, only black pits which sunk into their faces. They held swords which glowed as if they’d just been pulled from the forge. The swarm of rats suddenly scattered from their meal, disappearing into the darkness. The demons raised their swords, pointing them down at him. He raised his hand in a futile attempt to shield himself.
They brought the glowing swords down onto him. They pierced him with pure, hot pain. A mixture of screaming and wailing erupted from Daniel. The pain was so real. This was what awaited in hell. He tried to move, tried to flail his body, but couldn’t. The six swords were pinning him to the ground, passing through his body and sticking into the dirt. They raised the swords back up, allowing them to exit and hover above him. Then they thrust down into him again. This renewed his agonized screams.
In a distant corner of his mind, he heard the laughter of a delighted fairy.
Malcolm sat on the bench in the center of the yard. He had arrived at the fairy home about ten minutes ago. He still didn’t know what to do or what had become of his friends. He would have to go home soon, but he still didn’t want to. He felt a strong desire to be here, as if drawn to it by magnetism.
The familiar sound of a portal opening came from the cabin’s porch. He spun in his seat, excited to see who would pop through. As soon as it’d opened, Autumn fell through, appearing from the porch’s ceiling and thudding against the wooden floor. She seemed a bit dazed and stumbled to her feet.
“Autumn!” he called out, getting up from the bench and hurrying to see her.
She screamed at the portal. “Imbeciles!” Malcolm stopped about half way, suddenly wondering if he should be approaching her. She snarled at the portal, then attempted to fly through it. She raised her hands to meet it, pushing against it. Even though the hole was visible, she could not enter.
While attempting to break through, Yukina’s body fell through and landed on top of her. Autumn broke her fall, ending up pinned under her on the porch. Next, Kara slipped through the portal, staying airborne as she came through so that she could land safely on the porch beside the others. April did the same, landing beside them.
Autumn squirmed, trying to free herself from Yukina’s weight. She slipped out from under her and flew over to Malcolm.
“Autumn.” he said, still feeling a bit nervous at the sight of her demeanor. “I’m so glad you’re alright.”
“Alright?!” she barked at him. “I was fine until these fools interfered!”
April pointed to her. “The choker on her neck is controlling her mind! We have to remove it.”
Malcolm grabbed the choker, yanking from the back. It pulled against Autumn’s throat and caused her to gag. He looked at the clasp and realized it was too complex to simply yank off.
Autumn charged magical energy in her hand and jabbed it into
Malcolm’s side. A loud pop came from the point of impact and sent him flying
backward, tumbling onto the ground a few feet away. He lay on his side panting
for several seconds before regaining himself enough to sit up. “What...” he
reeled as if dizzy. “What was that?”
“Be glad she’s been weakened.” Kara said. “You should have seen what she did to Slipha!”
“Oh yea...” Malcolm said, holding his head and trying to regain his faculties. “Where is Slipha?”
Just then, a man’s scream came from the portal. Everyone stopped and listened. It was a scream of terror mixed with pain. April raised her hand to the portal and closed it. “She’ll be fine.”
“Why did you have to interfere?” Autumn held her hands out, charging more energy.
“You’ll thank us later.” April said, charging energy in her hands, too.
Autumn threw the electrical orbs at her. April threw hers to meet them. They clashed in the middle. An explosion rocked the yard. The shockwave pushed air out in all directions. The static-filled wind smacked Malcolm’s face. The explosion kicked dirt up, causing it to rain down on them.
Autumn turned and rushed to Malcolm. Before he could react, she grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet. With the other hand, she ignited an electrical charge and held it to the side of his head. He stood still, not wanting to provoke the fairy any further.
“I don’t care what I have to do. I’ll kill him right now if you don’t let me go.”
“How could you say that about Malcolm?” Kara said. “He’s our friend.”
“Shut up! I won’t fall for your tricks!”
“Listen to her, Autumn.” Malcolm pleaded. The crackling electricity inches from his ear had him sweating. “We’re friends, remember?”
Kara stood firm as stone, her arms tensed and her knees bent. “I wish I could help you understand that you’re being controlled.” she said to her sister. “But I will do anything to help you, even if it means hurting you.”
“You’ll have to watch me kill him.” she said, smirking. “I’ll electrocute him right now.”
In the small moment when Autumn was talking to Kara, Malcolm saw a vulnerability in her guard. He grabbed her wrist and twisted it downward. The sudden pain in her arm shocked her. She was forced down to one knee and her grip on his arm loosed. She yelped as he twisted her arm. Malcolm used the leverage on her arm and pushed it further. She raised her free hand and grabbed his leg. A bolt of electricity shot from her palm and through his leg. It was the same kind of pain a taser would have induced. Malcolm screamed, lost his hold on her arm, and collapsed to the ground. As he was still in shock from the jolt, Autumn pushed his body over and gripped his forehead with her hand.
“Damn human!” she screamed. She shot electricity through his brain. Malcolm screamed.
“NOO!” Kara leapt into flight and rushed Autumn. She collided into her, knocking her over. They tumbled over one another until they came to rest several feet from where Malcolm lay. Kara ended up on top of her sister. She grabbed her throat and pushed her against the ground. She raised her fist into the air.
“Sister...” Autumn gagged as she tried to speak. “... no.”
“You can’t trick me!”
Kara brought her fist down, punching Autumn in the side of her face. She yelped. Kara brought her fist up again.
Autumn snarled up at her. “I’LL KILL YOU!” She charged more electricity in her hand.
Kara punched her again. The electricity dissipated. She punched her again and again and again. Blood leapt from Autumn’s nose and splattered on the ground beside them.
“Stop it, Kara!” April yelled.
Autumn lay limp and dazed. Kara stopped, let go of her throat, and sat back. She stared down at her sister. Autumn struggled to move. Tears leaked from Kara’s eyes. “I’m sorry...” she said. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”
Kara reached down for the choker, reaching around to try and loose the clasp. She began fiddling with it, but it wasn’t coming undone. Autumn opened the one eye that would open. Anger filled it. A sudden burst of magic exploded from her. It sent Kara hurling up into the air and pinned her against the ceiling of the bubble. Autumn reached up with one arm and, using her grip magic, pushed Kara hard against it. Kara cried from the pain of being crushed.
Malcolm stirred as his wits slowly returned. He opened his eyes and saw what was happening. He wished he could do something to help, but he couldn’t even move.
April leapt from Yukina’s side and rushed to help. She thrust her hand out at Autumn, sending a wave of force toward her. Autumn guarded herself with an invisible wall of her own. Then, with one hand still pushing against Kara, she pushed April back with the wall of gravity. April raised her hands and stopped the force with her own grip magic. They struggled to push against one another’s power, but April’s was stronger. She pushed until Autumn’s power gave out. She was flung away and hit the side of the bubble. April kept pressure on her so that she would stay pinned to the wall. Kara, now loosed, fell to the ground. Autumn tried to move, but couldn’t. She tried to summon more magic, but couldn’t. Her power was exhausted and she fought to stay conscious.
Kara labored to pick herself up from the ground. The best she could do was to get up to her hands and knees and crawl toward Autumn. She coughed and heaved as she tried to catch her breath. After regaining it, she called out to April. “Let her down.”
April released her, allowing Autumn to flop to the ground. Kara reached out and grabbed the choker. Autumn could barely move. She was exhausted and border-line delirious. But she still tried to fight back. Her hands reached out and pushed against Kara, who wouldn’t loosen her grip on the choker. She began to speak words. They were words not of this world, but of the ancient language. Autumn continued pushing against her, but could do nothing to stop the words.
The air changed in the sphere around the home. Wind began rushing around and everything grew cold. The torches which encircled the yard dimmed. Voices echoed through the air, coming from everywhere and nowhere. There were many voices and they snarled.
“We will not let her go.”
Kara continued whispering the ancient words.
“We will not let her go!”
The wind rushed faster.
“Leave my sister.” Kara whispered.
“She belongs to us.”
“Leave her!” she screamed.
Angered screams echoed around them. Kara spoke more unknown words. Then, the choker broke. It crumbled into dust and fell through her fingers. Autumn stopped struggling. The snarling voices yelled in anger, then were gone. The air returned to normal and the lights grew bright again.
Kara whispered to Autumn. “Are you back?”
A small voice answered. “Yea.”
Kara inched closer and put her arms around Autumn, laying her weary head beside hers.
“I’m sorry.” Autumn said. She began to sob and covered her face with her hands.
“It’s alright.” Kara whispered in her ear. “You’re my sister. I’d do anything for you.”
April knelt beside Malcolm. “Are you okay?” she asked.
He pulled his gaze from the twins and looked up to her. “Don’t know. But I feel awful.”
“You’ll feel better in a moment.” She set a white crystal on his chest.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“It will amplify the healing spell. I’m already weakened, so I don’t have much more to give. And everyone needs to be healed.” She put her hands above the crystal and they began glowing. Malcolm could feel his health returning.
After assisting him, April went to Kara and Autumn and did the same. Once everyone was back on their feet, they crowded around Yukina. She was lying on the floor of the front porch. She was still unconscious and her breath was labored.
“What happened to her?” Malcolm asked.
“She was poisoned.” April answered, placing the crystal on Yukina’s chest. The three fairies reached out, holding their glowing hands above her.
“Is there anything I can do?”
April thought a moment, then beckoned him to come closer. “We are all very weak. We desperately need more energy. Are you willing to give up yours?”
He looked at Yukina who was on the verge of a precipice... much as he’d been once. He nodded. “Take as much as you want.”
“Put your hand on mine.”
Malcolm moved closer and reached out. As soon as he touched the back of her hand, he could feel himself becoming weaker. It suddenly felt like he hadn’t eaten in days. His arm began to shake because his muscles were struggling to keep it up. “Oh... wow.” he whispered. “So that’s what you meant.”
Slipha stood over his body. It now lay on his bed upstairs in the cold, empty house. As she had explored the house searching for the bedroom, she had noticed how sparse the furnishings were. Some rooms were completely bare. It didn’t feel like a normal home at all. Something seemed off about the place. But these were merely random thoughts which crossed her mind. Right now, she had to decide what to do.
Was he dead? She checked his pulse again. No, not dead. Close… but not dead. She tossed his wrist back onto the bed, crossed her arms, and watched him. Should she finish him? Part of her wanted to, but another part fought back. For what he had done to Autumn, she wanted to murder him. Not just once. She wanted to take him to the edge of death, then heal him, then do it again and again until she felt he’d suffered enough. Then she would end his misery.
But something held her back. Not mercy or pity. Not guilt or remorse. She didn’t want his talents to be wasted. He was an amazing sorcerer. He was far too useful to simply snuff out.
Slipha looked around the room. There wasn’t much to it: a bed, a mirror, and a nightstand. There were a few personal items on the stand. The thing that caught her eye was a golden watch. It looked very old, the kind that wound up, and was still ticking. Its glass was foggy. She picked it up and studied it. Then a crooked smile crossed her. Her predicament had suddenly worked out in her mind.
She cupped the watch between her hands, put her lips to them, and whispered. Then, she put the watch on his wrist and locked the clasp. She leaned over and whispered into his ear, “Never take it off.”
Yukina stirred. Everyone watching leaned in closer. Her eyes opened gradually. Before she could regain her bearings, Autumn threw her arms around her and squeezed tight. “OOF!”
“I’m so glad you’re okay! I’m sorry! I’m really really sorry!” Autumn rambled as she squeezed Yukina.
She returned the hug. “It’s alright. I’m glad you’re back to normal.”
“I love you, Yuki!”
“I love you, too, Autumn.”
They parted. Yukina sat up and looked at the group of fairies - and human - who sat around her. “Did everything turn out well?”
“I believe so.” April answered, showing a weak smile.
April searched her mind for the right words. “She held him off while we escaped. I had to close the portal, but I believe she’ll be flying home soon.”
“Should we go back for her?”
“No.” April responded quickly. “She has everything taken care of.”
Yukina sighed. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” They helped her to her feet.
Malcolm’s eyes stayed fixed to the ground. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have taken you guys out.”
Yukina waved her hand. “Don’t act like any of this is your fault. We all wanted to go out and we had a lot of fun.” She took his hand in hers and squeezed it. He looked up to her and she looked in his eyes. “Thank you, Malcolm.”
He felt entranced by her eyes. In that small moment, he thought she might be the embodiment of love. Pure, unconditional, and flawless love. She pulled him close and hugged him. A gentle hug which seemed too powerful for Malcolm to take part in. He hesitated, slowly brought up his arms, and put them around her. There was something about her that broke through all his defenses, reached right in, and touched his heart. All he wanted to do was stay there forever, soaking in love like the warm sun.
“You helped heal me, didn’t you?”
“You’re the most incredible human I’ve ever met. Thank you.”
Malcolm gulped at the sound of the compliment. He still didn’t feel worthy of such praise. “Wish I could do more.”
“You’ve done so much already, Malcolm.” She whispered in his ear. “Will you come back tomorrow? Perhaps we can have a more relaxing day.”
Without hesitation, he answered. “I’ll be here.”
Slipha held her hand to his chest, healing him. After a few minutes, Daniel’s eyes popped open. He stared at the ceiling for a moment, then turned toward Slipha. He looked around the room a bit more before turning his attention back to her. “Why did you help me?”
She crossed her arms. “Does it matter? Maybe I had a brief moment of pity.”
He looked down at his watch. “And why is this on me?”
“I saw it. Thought it suited you.”
“I haven’t worn it in a long time. But... you’re right. I shouldn’t take it off.”
“No. You should never take it off.” she said, then added, “It’s far too nice a watch.”
“Why did you let me live?”
“Oh believe me, I wanted to kill you. It would have brought me great pleasure. But… you’re also intriguing. And powerful. I like powerful. Perhaps you and I can explore magic together.”
He studied her for a moment, then stood from the bed. He towered above her. As he walked closer, Slipha inched backward and tilted her head back to look at him. Daniel took her hand. “I feel as if I should vomit at the sound of your proposal.” Slipha held her breath. Then, he bowed to one knee before her. “But I feel compelled to accept.” He pulled her hand close and kissed the back of it. “Thank you.”
Slipha smiled. “Good. I look forward to working with you.”
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