Fairy Tales of Cliffside: Volume Two
By Corey Daggett
Chapter 8: Bitter Victory
Malcolm was awakened by a smack across his face. He jolted, a sudden flood of adrenaline soaking his veins. Slipha knelt beside him wearing a cold scour. She looked like she’d been dragged through hell.
“What?” Malcolm yelled in a loud whisper.
“Wake Kara and come out to the yard.”
Malcolm was infuriated. “Why?”
“I need help, you imbecile!” she yelled back at him in a whisper. “Get her up.” She stood and limped out of the cabin.
As Malcolm’s brain woke up, it dawned on him the possible reason for Slipha’s state. A deep feeling of dread entered him as he got up and went to the small fairy house occupied by Kara. He thumped his finger on its wooden side, not sure what else to do. After a minute, Kara appeared in the doorway, rubbing her eyes. “What?”
“Come outside. Slipha needs help.”
“What?” she asked again, delirious.
“I think it’s important. Come on.”
When they went to the yard, they found Slipha lying on the bench, her limbs and hair hanging limp from it. Kara hurried to her and knelt by the bench. “What happened?”
“Just heal me.” she said. As Malcolm stood back and observed, he noticed a layer of emotion buried deep beneath Slipha’s response. It was as if she were hiding the gratitude and relief she felt beneath anger. Kara held out her hands and began healing her sister. It only took a few minutes for the life to return to Slipha.
“What happened?” Malcolm asked.
She got up from the bench and folded her arms. “Maybe I should ask you what you two did last night?”
They both froze. “Why do you ask?” he tried and failed to mask his fear.
“I had a problem with a man and his birds.”
“Morris.” As soon as Malcolm said the name, his mouth felt vile.
“He mentioned you two. He didn’t like you very much.”
Kara stood firm, tightening her fists. She felt like a nervous wreck, but she had to speak up. “Then you were at Daniel’s?”
Slipha shrugged. “And why would you assume that?”
“We’ll tell you about Morris. But first tell us why we found you training Daniel last night.”
Silence fell among the group. Slipha kept her arms folded over her chest. Kara kept her fists balled on either side of her waist. Malcolm stayed back, hoping he was far enough away to avoid the crossfire.
After a few moments, Slipha finally spoke with a scoff. “So what if I was training him? It’s my business what I do.”
“It’s our concern if you’re putting us all in danger!” Kara snapped. “Don’t you remember what he did to Autumn?!”
“Of course I do!” Slipha yelled back. “But he’s not a terrible person. He has potential. Just like Malcolm. And I want to bring it out of him.”
“Why? So he can capture us and make us his slaves?”
“He’ll never be more powerful than me! I’m his teacher.”
“If he ever gets the opportunity, he’ll betray you. He wants to control us and use our magic for evil.”
“Evil? You make it sound like he’s a monster. He’s not. He’s a regular guy who followed the wrong path. Why can’t we give him a chance?”
“And what if Yukina found out?”
Slipha fell silent, still scouring, but unable to formulate a response.
“We kept it a secret from her because we wanted to give you a chance to stop this craziness. If Yukina finds out, we don’t know what she’ll do to you.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Like you did tonight? Real good job at that.”
“Shut up, you little brat.” Slipha marched to her and put a finger on Kara’s forehead. “You’re the one that stirred up trouble with that psychopath! I almost died tonight because of you!”
Kara fell silent. Her eyes dropped away from Slipha’s.
“Look at me.”
“Look at me, Kara!”
Slipha grabbed her chin and pulled it up, forcing their eyes to meet. “You can disagree with me and hate me all you want. It doesn’t change the fact that Daniel and I were very close to death because of your stupidity.” She slung her head away. Kara kept her face turned away from her sister, closing her eyes and trying not to tear up. She felt the weight of what she’d said and knew it was true.
“I guess you’re right.” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”
More silence fell, then Malcolm spoke up. “How’d you get away?”
“I killed him.”
“You killed him? I find that hard to believe.”
“He’s protected from magic by spells. But he’s not protected from physical assault. In that way, he’s no different than any other human. We can exchange stories later. Right now, you have someone else you need to heal.”
Kara looked up at Slipha wide-eyed. “No!” she shouted in disbelief. “You didn’t bring him here, did you?”
“He’s waiting in the car by the highway. The way I see it, you owe us both a healing after unleashing that monster on us.”
“No, no, no. I won’t heal him. I can’t look at him after what he did to Autumn.”
“Let’s not get into this again. I don’t have the energy for healing yet. Besides, he’s still a human being and he’ll probably die without help. You want that on your conscience?”
“How do I know he won’t take control of me once I’m done?”
“Because I’ll be there. Don’t worry, he won’t do anything without my permission.”
“I don’t believe you. He’s probably tricking you into doing this. He’s going to betray you once he’s learned enough.”
“Trust me. I have him under my complete control.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Well...” Slipha smiled. “Let’s just say he’s been convinced.”
Kara studied her for a moment. “Did you put a spell on him?”
“Saying it like that sounds too harsh. I’d prefer to call it a sedative. One that makes him completely and blindly loyal to me.”
“So what happens if it wears off?”
“Don’t worry, it won’t. Now come on, we need to tend to him. We’re wasting too much time standing here bickering.”
Malcolm walked over to Kara. “I’ll come with you if that’ll make you feel better.”
Kara looked up at him. “Do you think I should heal him?”
Malcolm nodded. “No use in letting the man die. He did help get rid of Morris. If he decides to fight us later, we’ll deal with him then. Right now, we just need to get this mess taken care of before anyone else wakes up.”
“Alright, take me to him.”
Daniel sat in the driver’s seat of his car. He stared at the ceiling with the chair leaned back. He felt nauseated, weak, and hated himself for being so useless. No magic or sorcery he’d learned helped them at all. The only way he had contributed to the fight was with the crowbar he’d retrieved from the cellar. He raised his good arm and looked at his watch. 2:04. He stared at it too long. A nagging feeling nibbled at the back of his brain. He couldn’t quite figure out what bothered him about the watch. The only thing he could think was… why had he started wearing it again? He used to only wear it when he went out among other people, but now, he wore it all the time. Even at night when he slept.
The passenger door opened and Slipha leaned in. “Come on, doctor’s here.”
Daniel struggled to pull himself out of the car. He staggered around, holding his arm which was throbbing from the hit he’d taken. He made it to the edge of the forest, then stopped trying, falling to his knees, then to his side. He lay in the grass and groaned.
“See? Isn’t he pitiful?” Slipha commented as Kara approached the hurt man. “And you wanted to leave him to die. How sad.”
Kara knelt down beside him, eyeing the injured man. Daniel looked up at her and tried to give a cordial smile, though it looked very pained. “Evening, Miss Kara.”
She didn’t respond. She studied him with narrowed eyes. Slipha let out an annoyed groan. “Come on, Kara, just heal him.”
“Sorry, Daniel.” she said, not taking her eyes off him. “I see you and can’t help but remember that night. You tried to kill me with my own sister.”
He gave her a slight smile, turned to spit a wad of blood out on the grass, and turned back to face her. “I realize I did some terrible things. And for that, I deeply apologize. Your sister, Slipha, set me straight. I hope we can put our… sorted first impressions behind us.”
She fought within herself to let go of her mistrust and give him a second chance. She wanted to. But… something was off about him. On the surface, he would appear friendly and inviting to most people. But she could feel something below the surface that felt disturbing. It felt as if he were dreaming of stabbing her repeatedly behind those inviting eyes.
Malcolm spoke up. “I know he doesn’t deserve it. But if he saved Slipha’s life, that has to count for something.”
Kara sighed. “I know, I know.” She turned her gaze to Daniel. “Don’t make me regret this or I’ll turn you inside-out.”
“Yes, ma’am.” he responded.
She extended her hands and began projecting the aura over him. After a few minutes, his wounds had closed and his energy returned. He sat up. “Thank you, Miss Kara.” He took her hand in his and looked her in the eyes. “I’ll never forget your kindness.”
Kara quickly diverted her eyes and pulled away. She stood and returned to Malcolm’s side.
“Alright, Daniel, go home.” Slipha said. “We’ll pick up where we left off tomorrow night.”
“Yes, madam Slipha.” He stood, faced the others, and took a slight bow. “I look forward to it.” He turned, doing his best to keep his dignity, and got back in the car. After he drove away, they began walking home.
“See? He’s not so bad.” Slipha said. “Maybe he just needed a mentor in his life.”
“Or a spell.” Kara added.
“Or a mentor with a spell. Either way, he’s turning out better than before. Trust me.”
“Sorry, but it’s still hard for me to trust either of you.” Malcolm said as he followed behind her and Kara.
“Oh, shut up, naysayer. You’re just worried he’s going to replace you as our resident pet.”
Malcolm rolled his eyes.
An explosion of golden light flashed against Daniel’s house. Rays bright as the sun poured from a hole in the ground. The figure of a woman rose from it, her fairy wings gently fluttering. After her feet had risen above the hole, she didn’t bother to land on the grass. She reached her hand out toward the pile of meat and fabric that lay before her. Sunlight beamed from her outstretched hand and shot into it. It sizzled with heat. Grotesque noises crackled and gurgled below the surface.
Several seconds passed. The gore under the cloak began taking shape. It became solid again. Soon, it looked like Morris again. She ceased the healing light, lowered her hand, and floated closer to the body. For the first time, she landed on the ground, then gently lowered herself onto her hands and crawled over him until she stared directly at his face.
“Poor… poor… stupid Morris.” She took a deep breath, then blew a long stream onto his face. Life jumped back into him and he jolted beneath her. The fairy floated back up and to her feet. Morris writhed on the ground, gasped for air, then let out a scream. His eyes shot open and he saw the woman standing over him. The sudden panic of being reborn subsided now that he saw the familiar face. “Welcome back, Morris.” A smile danced on her voice.
He sat up, looked around at the empty yard, then back to the goddess floating before him. He crawled onto his hands and knees and bowed to her, putting his face to the ground. “My lady! I’m again in your debt.”
“Morris. How many times have I had to save you?”
“Too many to count.” He stood to his feet and began systematically cracking every joint in his body. “This time I went all the way to hell. The wails of agony still ring in my ears.”
She giggled. “Oh, sounds like your kinda place.”
“So you would think, but I only like the screams I cause. And drowning in lava was a bitch.”
“In that case, aren’t you glad I decided to bail you out again?”
He gave a slight bow. “You own my life many times over. I will serve you for all of eternity, Queen Arany.”
“Excellent. I’m going to need your skills very soon.”
“Oh? Finally emerging from hiding?”
“Very soon, dear Morris, very soon. Until then, I order you to lay low and don’t go on any more vengeful outings. You especially shouldn’t pick fights with the fairies that live near Cliffside.”
“Oh, so you know the little fairy that turned my birds into useless butterflies and the boastful one that caught me off guard with shards of glass? I would love very much to pay them back.”
“I know you would, but do not attack them without my permission. Understood?”
“Yes, my queen. I’ll look forward to that day.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve been keeping my eye on them. We’ll take care of them soon enough. Now, I’m going to transport you back home. Follow me.”
It wasn’t long before Daniel drove up his driveway and parked in the usual spot, which was a square of dead grass near the front porch. He turned the car off and looked up at the house. It was a mess. Then, he looked to his side where the carnage awaited him. He squinted, looking carefully, then yanked the door handle and jumped out of the car. His heart shot into his throat and pounded in his ears.
He walked to the puddle of blood and glass. There was no body or clothing. Morris had vanished. Daniel’s voice shook as he whispered, “Mother fucker.”
A sour taste hung in the air at the fairy home. It was the aura given off by people trying to keep secrets. A feeling of uneasiness shared by Malcolm, Kara, and, of course, Slipha. They tried to go about their day with their usual pass times, but the heaviness weighed them down. Malcolm kept an eye on Slipha, who stayed isolated in the corner of the yard. He didn’t think she’d slept at all last night.
He continued his training with April, who was as chipper and oblivious as usual. But whenever he caught sight of Yukina as she attended to her daily chores, it seemed like she felt the uneasiness, too. How much she could sense, he wasn’t sure, but she could taste the sourness in the air. Maybe she didn’t understand why it was there, but she was too keen not to feel it.
He struggled to keep up with his magic training. His mind wandered far from his lessons, wandering back to the woods, back to the sins of Slipha. He wondered why he and Kara were forced to keep her secrets, and why she was so insistent on making friends with a dangerous man. But why did he continue to keep her secret? Wouldn’t seeing Yukina go berserk on Slipha be fun to witness? A few days ago, he might have loved to see her get what she deserved. But now… things had changed between them. He had actually come to like Slipha and enjoyed the small amount of time they’d spent one-on-one. And like him, she was a writer searching for a creative outlet.
The more Malcolm dwelled on it, the more anger built in him. He wanted to save Slipha, even if it was from her own rebellion. He wanted to free his friends from secrets, but had no idea how. He pondered on the problem all day.
Evening set in and the group went to the cliffs to enjoy the last of the day. Kara, Autumn, and April went flying over the water. They needed time to stretch their wings and get some fresh sea air. Malcolm walked over to Slipha and sat down beside her. They were both quiet for a while, perhaps unwilling to acknowledge each other’s existence. Finally, Malcolm broke the sharp silence.
“So, are you up for story time?” he asked, still timid.
Without taking her eyes from the book, she answered, “Whatever do you mean?”
“I think you know.”
She tried to ignore him further, but finally gave in, slamming the book shut and setting it beside her. “Fine. If you’re going to be so insistent. What do you want to know?”
Malcolm took a deep breath, smacking his knees with his hands, as if trying to spur himself onward. “I’ll start. I’m the one that stirred up the wasp nest in the woods.”
He told the story of the late night walk, discovering the cabin, the battle with Morris and his eccentric girlfriend, and their eventual escape. He ended with their leading the raven to Daniel’s house and discovering her there. Once he finished, Slipha told him about the previous night’s battle and the downfall of Morris. She took a deep breath and kept her eyes fixed on the sea and the frolicking fairies above.
“Daniel said he was going to bury the bastard in the back yard. I doubt anyone will come looking for him.”
Malcolm nodded his agreement. “I’m sorry things happened the way they did. At the time, it seemed like a solid plan. Let our enemies kill each other and keep your home a secret.”
“I would have done the same, you know.” Slipha replied with a snicker under her breath. “Guess I shouldn’t have laid into Kara so hard. But I was pissed.”
“If Daniel is such a power-hungry maniac, why are you helping him? Don’t you think he’ll use that against you eventually?”
“I told you, I have it under control.” She finally turned to look in Malcolm’s eyes, a first for this conversation. It startled him. “Don’t forget that having you around is just as foolish and dangerous. And if you don’t want to make an enemy out of me, keep this between us.”
Malcolm sighed. It was a tired sigh. “Ok. You don’t have to worry about me telling anyone. Let’s just try to put this behind us.” He stood and walked away. Slipha eyed his back as he walked, his hands stuffed in his jacket pockets and his shoulders slouched.
The group of fairies made the trek back into the forest with Malcolm tagging along behind them. The three youngest fairies were in high spirits. It made him feel better to see them back to their usual selves. Perhaps the frolicking was just what they needed to take their minds off things.
They entered the bubble and Yukina started a fire in the pit. The whole yard had such a pleasant glow about it; the warm flickering campfire, the moonlight seeping in through the trees above, and the glowing fairy wings gave the place such a wondrous, surreal feeling. Malcolm stood in the center soaking in the scene with a smile on his face. It was a pained smile, because on the one hand, he loved them deeply and saw the place as heaven. On the other hand, scenarios ran through his head of all the ways it could be destroyed.
The group sat around the fire, chattering about nothing important. The younger ones were excited about the prospects of leaving the forest again for an outing, which had not been confirmed as of yet, but Malcolm figured they needed to have something to look forward to. How he could pull it off, he had no idea, especially now that his guard was even higher.
Yukina was sitting to his right and Kara to his left. Directly across the fire from him sat Slipha, her expression solemn, her eyes glaring at him over the fire as if she were making sure he kept his trap shut. Malcolm felt Yukina’s eyes on him. He chanced a glance at her.
She smiled for a moment, then asked, “You seem quiet tonight, Malcolm. Feeling well?”
He shifted in his seat and sat up straighter. “No, no, I’m just fine. Just tired from training.”
She nodded. “Alright.” Though she didn’t speak it, her eyes added You can tell me what’s really troubling you. And he wanted to so badly.
They ate dinner around the fire and soon bedtime was creeping closer. They got up, wished each other a good night, and retired to their miniature homes, leaving Malcolm and Yukina in the yard together. As she approached him, he could feel his soul begging him to tell her everything. Just hand over all the weight and not worry about the consequences.
They smiled toward each other. “Ready for bed?” she asked.
He fidgeted inside his pockets. “Not exactly. I… was thinking about… um, walking.” She tilted her head. “Yes, just going for a walk.” A voice inside him, a voice that sounded a lot like Slipha’s, yelled at him.
Don’t you do it! Don’t you dare ask her!
He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Forgive me for saying this, but you seem distant.” Of course, there was no hiding from Yukina. She paused, seeming hesitant to ask the next question. “Are you… still upset over what happened yesterday? At the pool?”
A small bit of relief returned to Malcolm. He dismissed the question with a laugh. “No, no, it’s okay. It’s not bothering me. I was just embarrassed like a grade-schooler.”
Her hand stayed on his shoulder. “Okay, don’t let it bother you. It was simply a misunderstanding. Well… enjoy your walk.”
Malcolm reached up and patted her hand. “Thanks, I will.” He walked away from her, toward the bubble. He wanted to ask her something else, but Slipha’s voice continued berating him. He couldn’t betray her. Not after promising. There had to be another way.
Without his permission, his body acted, turning back toward her.
She turned back to him as if she had been waiting. “Yes, Malcolm?”
“Would you like to come with me?”
“I’d love to.”
They walked side by side through the forest, silent. Malcolm felt even more nervous than before. She looked over to him and smiled. “It’s a beautiful night tonight, isn’t it?” Her voice was like a calming stream to his ears.
“Have you been working on any new stories?”
“Oh… not in the last few days, sorry to say. I’ve been consumed with magic lessons.”
“That’s not a bad thing. I’m sure you’ll get back to your stories soon.”
“I want to. I felt such a burst of creativity after meeting you guys. But I’ve been so anxious lately. I can’t seem to relax.”
“I could tell. Again, I hope you don’t feel bad about yesterday. I was mad… very mad… but I forgive and forget. You are human, after all.”
“I wish that’s all it was. There’s so much I want to tell you… but I can’t.”
She stopped walking and looked directly in his eyes. Her gaze froze him.
“Malcolm, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can tell me. I can’t stand to see you distressed.”
He ran his hand through his hair, turned away from her, and paced back and forth. “I do want to. I really really do. But I can’t. I just can’t.”
“Malcolm…” She reached out and grabbed his arm, trying to stop the nervous movement. “Please tell me what’s wrong. You’re worrying me.”
Their eyes locked again and this time he knew there was no escaping. He had to let go. He could see that she was worrying over him and it wasn’t going to get any better after tonight if the secrets stayed secret. He grabbed her hands, squeezing them tight. “Alright… but I can’t tell you. I made a promise. But could you read my thoughts?”
Yukina stared, bewildered. “Malcolm… I didn’t ever want to do that again. It’s such an invasion of privacy. It’s just that last time, you insisted.”
“I’m insisting now. Please. I can’t break my promise. But I never said anything about letting you read me. If you want to help, this is how.”
Yukina saw the seriousness in his eyes and there was no arguing. “Okay. I’ll do it.”
Malcolm moved her hands closer and pushed them against his heart. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her palms began glowing blue. They stood in silence. Her eyes moved behind her lids like she were dreaming. Just like a dream, you can experience hours, days, or even years in seconds. She was experiencing the last several days of Malcolm’s life for herself. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
She opened her eyes and gazed up at him. Her hands fell down limp to her sides. She teetered for a moment, then fell into his arms. Malcolm squeezed her, pulling her in tightly to his chest. She began crying quietly, raising her hands and grabbing hold of his back. They stayed that way for a long moment.
When Yukina finally pulled away from Malcolm, her eyes red, she wiped at them and cleared her throat. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay. I’m more worried for you. Are you okay?”
She nodded her head. “Yeah… yeah. I’m okay. I just need a few minutes.” She sat down on the ground and leaned her back against a tree, pulling her knees up to her chest.
He sat down beside her, leaned against the tree, and stared off at the darkness.
“I feel so betrayed.” She whispered, taking a deep breath. “Slipha has always been a problem child. She’s always been an outsider among her own family. I never thought she’d do something like this, though.”
“I like Slipha. I really do. But damn if she doesn’t make it hard. Do you have any idea what she’s trying to do?”
“I don’t know. She just want to rebel. She probably doesn’t even know why. She just wants so badly to not be me. She’s always wanted to go out into the world and cause trouble while I’ve been trying so hard to keep my sisters home and away from trouble.”
“I hope you won’t come down hard on her.”
Yukina shook her head. “No, no. I’m not going to give in to the anger. I have to think about this. But I can promise she’s not going back to Daniel. I will make sure of that.”
“Can you really?”
Malcolm stood and reached to help her up. “Come on. Let’s go home.” She took his hand and he pulled her up.
“Thank you, Malcolm.” She gave him another hug. He smiled and reciprocated. “You’re a good guy. Don’t let things like this get between us again, okay?”
“I’ll sure try not to. You’ve already made me feel tons better.”
“Then I did my job. Let’s go back home and get some sleep now.”
Daniel paced around his house like a madman. He went up and down the stairs, touring every room, looking in every shadow and every corner. He didn’t believe Morris was in the house. He would’ve felt that evil presence by now. No, Morris was long gone, wherever he was. But would he come back? That was the question that haunted Daniel’s mind. Dread gripped him. He knew he’d come back. He had to. The man was insane and seemed to love fighting. He’d be back. Maybe in an hour. Maybe in a week. He’d come back prepared for a new fight.
Daniel wished so badly that he could contact Slipha, but she had been very careful to keep him isolated from her family. He only knew the place he had parked last night near the woods. He had no idea where their home would be in those woods.
He walked back down stairs and through the hall to the kitchen. Then, he went to the cupboard and pulled out the brandy, popping the top and swigging a shot. He coughed, waited a moment to regain himself, then took another swig and coughed as soon as it was down.
BANG BANG BANG
Daniel’s heart stopped. He looked down the hall at the door. Was that a knock? It was a violent, angry knock. Maybe it was just in his head…
BANG BANG BANG BANG
That was a real knock. He put the brandy on the counter and walked toward the door. He took each step quietly, careful not to cause a floorboard to squeak.
Daniel jumped. The banging didn’t come from the front door. It came from the sitting room. His adrenaline pumped through him, running through his veins alongside the alcohol. He ran to the side window by the front door and glanced out. No one. The door knob wasn’t even disturbed. Then, he looked back at the sitting room door. As his mind caught up, he smiled. His mood suddenly changed to delight. The intruder had just made a grave mistake. His sitting room was the most protected room in the house. It had layers and layers of magic spells protecting it. In that room, there was only one person who could use magic and it was Daniel.
He regained his usual air of confidence, straightened his clothes, reached for the door, and swung it open.
On the other side, there was no Morris. Sitting in the chair on the opposite side of the room sat Yukina.
To Be Continued in Volume 3
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