Sunday, January 16, 2011
Shadowfever Teaser #6
I’ve seen thousands of Unseelie but until now, even I—sidhe-seer extraordinaire—have seen only a single Seelie.
I’d begun to wonder why.
In the dark hours of the night, I’d wondered if maybe he was the only one left, if he was hiding something, if perhaps he wasn’t Seelie at all, despite evidence supporting his claim.
Seeing him as he is now, all my doubts evaporate.
Here are the Seelie.
They’ve finally gotten off their asses and started paying attention to the mess they’ve made of my world. I guess they couldn’t be bothered before now.
Even filled as I am with hatred for all Fae, I can’t deny that V’lane looks like an avenging angel, charging down from heaven to set my world back on its axis and clean this whole mess up. Radiant, golden and mesmerizing, he leads an army of angels.
Tall, gracefully muscled, they stand shoulder to shoulder with him, filling the street. Stunning, velvety-skinned, dusted with gold, they are so chillingly exquisite that I have a hard time looking at them—and I’m immune from having been Pri-ya, a Fae sex-addict. They are otherworldly, divine.
There are dozens of V’lane’s caste, male and female. They possess a terrifying eroticism that makes them deadly to humans. If a scientist managed to get his hands on one to study, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn their skin exudes a pheromone we crave.
The perpetual promise of a smile hovers on irresistible lips, below ancient, alien eyes. Despite all I’ve suffered at their hands, I want to rush forward and fall to my knees before them. I want to slide my palms over their flawless skin, discover if they taste as amazing as they smell. I want to be gathered into a Fae embrace, yield my memories, my mind, my will and be carried off to a Faery Court where I could stay forever young, cocooned by illusion.
Flanking V’lane’s caste—which I assume is the highest ranking by how the other castes seem to protect it—are the stuff of fairytales. There are rainbow-colored, delicate Fae that dart like hummingbirds on gossamer wings; silvery nymphs that dance on dainty feet; and others that I can’t even see, except for blinding trailers of light they leave behind as they move. They’re so brilliant and fiery, they could only be earthbound stars.
I scoff at the delicacy of his army. They’re ethereal, born to wisp about, seduce, and be served.
Mine is earthy, solid. Born to gorge, kill, and rule.
We stalk toward each other, down a snow-filled street.
Where Seelie feet touch the earth, the snow melts with a hiss. Steam rises and flowers push up through cracks, blooming brilliantly, anointing the air with the scents of jasmine and sandalwood. The Seelie end of the street is bathed in golden light.
Where my army’s hooves and scaled bellies pass over the stones—a crust of black ice forms. The night embraces us; stealthy shadows, we ooze forward from the blackness.
Only once before have Seelie and Unseelie met like this—and on that day the Seelie Queen died. This is the stuff of legends, never seen by humans, except perhaps in our dreams.
Deformed monsters and hideous demons stare with baleful, hate-filled eyes at their perfect, golden counterparts.
Angels glare with disdain at abominations that should never have been born, who blemish the perfection of the Fae race, tarnish their existence simply by being.
I wonder what Darroc was thinking bringing them together like this.
We stop a dozen paces apart.
Ice and heat slam together in the street.
My breath frosts the air then turns to steam as it passes an invisible demarcation. Eddies swirl on the pavement between us, gathering the indigestible rinds of people the Shades left behind, and tiny tornados begin to form.
Whoever began the fairytales that Fae don’t feel was selling pure bullshit. They feel the entire range of human emotion. They just handle it differently; with patience born of eternity. Schooled by courtly manners, they don masks of impassivity because they have forever to play out their games.
As we study each other through the rapidly growing tornados, I remember V’lane telling me that they destroyed their own world by fighting. It cracked from end to end. Was this why? Will the weather disturbance that’s being generated by the clash of these two mighty Courts continue to grow if they fight, and tear this world apart, too? Not that I’d particularly mind since I intend to re-create it with the Book, but I need the Book before this world is destroyed.
Which means this stormy posturing really needs to stop.
“Enough with the melodrama, V’lane,” I say coolly.
His eyes are those of a stranger. He regards me with the same expression he turns on the monsters at my back. I’m a little irritated to realize he doesn’t look at Darroc. His gaze slides over him as if he’s not even there. He’s the fallen-Fae, traitor to their race, the one responsible for tearing the walls down. I’m just a sidhe-seer trying to survive.
The gold-dusted Greek god standing on V’lane’s right sneers, “That…thing…is the human you said we need to protect? She consorts with abominations!”
The gilt-skinned goddess to his left hisses, “Destroy her now!”
Hundreds of Seelie, walking, dancing and flying, begin to clamor for my death.
Without taking my eyes off them, I snap at Darroc, “I could really use my spear right now.” I assume he still has it, that V’lane hasn’t somehow plucked it from him the same way he takes it from me.
As the tiny, dainty Fae begin proposing methods for my execution, each one slower and more painful than the last, the god and goddess bracketing V’lane hammer him.
“She is human and has chosen the dark ones! Look at her! She wears their colors!”
“You said she worshipped us!”
“And she would obey us in all things!”
“They have touched her! I smell it on her skin!” The god looks revolted….and aroused. Iridescent eyes glitter with gold sparks.
“They have used her!” the goddess snarls. “She is soiled. I will not suffer her at court!”
“Silence!” V’lane thunders. “I lead the True Race for our Queen. I speak for Aoibheal!”
“This is unacceptable!”
“Beyond bearing, V’lane!”
“You will do as I say, Dree’lia! I decide her fate. And only I will carry it out.”
I hiss at Darroc, “You need to make a decision and fast.”
“They always over-react,” Darroc murmurs. “It is one of the many things I despised at court. A session in High Council could go on like this for several human years. Give them time. V’lane will bring them to heel.”
One of the tiny, winged Seelie breaks formation and darts straight for my head. I duck, but it whizzes around me.
I’m startled to hear myself burst out laughing.
Two more of them break rank and begin to zip tight circles around my head.
As they buzz past me, my laughter takes on a hysterical edge. There’s nothing funny about what’s happening—still I hoot and snort. I can’t help it. I’ve never been so amused in my entire life. I hold my sides and double over, chortling, guffawing, choking on sobs of forced gaiety, as they weave closer and closer around me. I’m appalled by the sounds coming out of my mouth. I’m horrified at the uncontrollable nature of it. I hate the Fae and their way of stripping away my will.
“Stop laughing,” Darroc growls.
Hilarity has me on the edge of hysterics and it hurts. I manage to raise my head from my knees just enough to shoot him a dirty look. I’d love to stop laughing. But I can’t.
I want to tell him to make the damned things go away except I can’t breathe, I can’t even close my lips long enough to grit consonants. Whatever these lovely little Seelie-monsters are, their specialty is death-by-laughter. What a hellish way to go. After only a few minutes, my sides ache from heaving, my gut burns, and I’m so breathless I’m light-headed. I wonder how long it takes to die of forced mirth. Hours? Days?
A fourth tiny Fae takes up the game, and I brace myself to dive inward, to find a weapon in my dark, lake-filled cave when suddenly a long tongue, dripping venom, whizzes past my ear and plucks the dainty Seelie straight from the air.
I hear crunching noises behind me.
I snicker helplessly.
“V’lane!” The golden goddess shrieks, “That thing, that awful thing, it ate M’ree!”
I hear another snap, followed by more crunching noises and a second one is gone. I cackle madly.
The remaining two retreat, shaking tiny fists and screaming in a language I don’t understand. Even angry, the sound they make is more beautiful than an aria.
My laughter loses its forced edge.
After a long moment, I’m able to relax, and I stop making crazed sounds of amusement. Peals fade to moans to silence. I release my sides and gulp cool, soothing air.
I stand, suddenly furious, and this emotion is all mine. I’m sick of being vulnerable. If I’d had my spear, those nasty little death-by-laughter fairies would never have dared approach me. I’d have skewered them mid-air and made Fae-ka-bobs out of them.
“Friends,” I hiss at Darroc, “trust each other.”
But he doesn’t. I see it in his face.
“You said you would give it to me so I could defend us.”
He smiles faintly and I know he’s remembering how Mallucé died; slowly, gruesomely, rotting from the inside out. The spear kills all things Fae and because Darroc has been eating so much Unseelie, he’s laced with veins of Fae. One tiny little prick of the tip of my spear would be a death sentence. “As yet, we are not under attack.”
“Who are you talking to, human?” the goddess demands.
I look at Darroc who shrugs. “I told you the first Seelie that saw me would try to kill me. Hence they do not see me. My princes keep me concealed from their vision.”
Now I understand why V’lane’s gaze slid over him like he wasn’t there. He’s not. “So it looks like I’m the only one standing here? They think I’m running your army!”
“Never fear, sidhe-seer,” V’lane says coldly, “I smell the foulness of what was once Fae and now cannibalizes our race. I know who leads this army. As for his being your friend, the one you so unwisely walk with has no friends. He has always served only his own purposes.”
I tilt my head. “Are you my friend, V’lane?”
“I would be. I have offered you my protection repeatedly.”
The goddess gasps. “You offered our protection and she refused? She chose those… things… over us?”
“The Tuatha de Danaan do not offer twice!” she fumes.
“I said ‘silence!’” V’lane snaps.
“Clearly you do not under—”
I gape. Dree’lia has no mouth. There is only smooth skin where her lips used to be. Delicate nostrils flare beneath ancient, hate-filled eyes.
The golden god moves to embrace her. She rests her head in the hollow of his neck and clutches him. “That was unnecessary,” he tells V’lane stiffly.
I’m struck by the absurdity of the moment. Here I stand, between opposing halves of the most powerful race imaginable. They are at war with one another. They despise each other and are vying for the same prize.
And the Seelie—who have enjoyed absolute freedom and power their entire existences—are squabbling among themselves over trivialities, while, the Unseelie—who’ve been imprisoned, starved and tortured for hundreds of thousands of years—patiently hold formation and wait for Darroc’s orders.
And I can’t help but see myself in them. The Seelie are who I was before my sister died. Pink, pretty, frivolous Mac. The Unseelie are who I’ve become, carved by loss and despair. Black, grungy, driven Mac.
The Unseelie are stronger, less breakable. I’m glad I’m like them.
* Released by KMM*