Today’s post is a short fiction for the Photo Story Challenge hosted by @RadinaValova on twitter (Photo: Radina Valova). Her blog is radinavalova.com – check her out!
The rules are to use the photo as a prompt and to begin with the word ‘No’ and end with the word ‘road’. This photo sparked some ideas for my old project, Light Breaks, so I have based it in that world.
“No green fields, no tall palaces, no twinkly lights, are you sure this is fairyland?”
Damon flicked a frown at me, his jaw tightening. My heart fluttered and I stretched my legs out, watching the dirt form eddies around my feet. The dried out wood of the stoop caught on my jeans as i leaned away, keeping my hands from reaching out to him.
“I told you before, Phoebe, the word is Fae. And yes, I’m sure we are in Aelfinhame.” Those beautiful dark eyes shimmered with flickers of sliver light – he was becoming less human the further away from the city we got. “Are you never serious?”
My lips curled up even as the burning heat of loss settled deeper into my chest. “Sometimes things are too awful. I can’t cry all the time. Besides, I was being serious.”
It certainly didn’t look like any fairyland I’d ever read about. Bare hills covered with grey scrubby bushes rose steeply behind the dilapidated shack whose stoop we sat on. It reminded me of the new roads built through the valley for the motorway, as if it had been both forgotten and was looming in anticipation. I stopped my legs from jiggling when Damon huffed and shifted away from the echoing judder of the step. I brushed the dirt off my jeans, warm and sun soaked. Could you get sunburned in fairyland?
Damon had become increasingly withdrawn as we’d approached in the car that was now parked out the back of the two broken shells that you could hardly still call buildings. I eyed him sidelong. His glamour was slipping, and he seemed increasingly more real, more solid as we waited.
The dried out step shifted as he stood up and I had to put out a hand to balance myself. I leaned on my hand and gazed up at him, his long black coat hanging from broad shoulders more Matrix-like than Fae. I let myself look, soaking in his strength, the aura of darkness that promised that whatever was about to happen, I wouldn’t be alone.
His eyes met mine. “It’s an entry point.”
I deliberately scanned the vast open nowhere stretching out to the horizon and raised my brows at him. “Why yes, that’s so very obvious.”
A small tug at the corner of his mouth made my pulse jump again.
“We don’t want it to look like a gateway, but I’m guessing if you try you’ll see it.”
Shivers ran down my back. “More spells? You know, I’m still waiting for that wand.”
The step underneath me shuddered as Eru came out of the shack. His rucksack landed next to my feet, and i shook dust off my shoes.
“Do you get wings as well?” he asked.
Damon didn’t roll his eyes at us but it looked as if it was only through great restraint on his part. He turned away instead, his eyes raking the horizon.
“Do I look like I have wings?”
Eru leaned on the post and twinkled down at me “As long as they’re proper ones and not those silly gauze things you wore on Halloween I think you’ll look very much the part.”
Halloween. Ella dressed up as a mini fairy princess and insisting I wear wings too. Tears prickled and I had to swallow the ache that closed my throat. Eru’s face dropped and he sat down to put an arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer in a hug. “I’m sorry, Pheebs. I didn’t think.”
Tears were pointless. I brushed at them and smiled, tight and small but I hoped he realised I meant it. “It’s okay.”
The sun dimmed as Damon loomed in front of me and I blinked up at him. “It isn’t okay, Phoebe but it will be. I promised I’d help you get her back and I intend to keep that promise.”
I nodded, not trusting my voice but attempting another smile.
He stretched out a hand and pulled me up. Eru leaned back, a frown settling on his brow.
Damon wiped a renegade tear from the corner of my eye, the warmth of his touch spreading across my skin, easing my pounding heart a little. “Our doorman approaches. We will get to her, Phoebe. Do not doubt it.”
I could see her face in my mind, happy smile twisting to a mask of fear. I rubbed my chest trying to reduce the pain squeezing my heart.
“Is that your doorman?” Eru’s voice cut through the visions in my mind and I followed his gaze to where a small person, all hair and big coat, was approaching out of the sparse wasteland.
Damon squeezed my shoulder and stepped away. “Yes. Brychan has been doorman here for as long as I can remember, but I suspect for longer still.”
Stretching out behind the doorman the horizon shimmered, a darkly shaded path appearing behind him as he shuffled ever closer.
I flicked my eyes to Damon who was looking not at the darkness opening in the middle of the sun drenched plain, but at me.
“There it is Phoebe. The way to Aelfinhame and the way to your daughter. We will pass from one world to the next through the shadows of the Darkening Road.”