I’ve danced with the fae since I was a child.
From the moment I stumbled upon their glade as a toddler, the human world ceased to hold magic for me.
I longed for nightfall and those creatures with the moon-bright eyes.
I lived to dance until the stars rained down around me.
Still, I was careful never to eat of their food or sip of their wine. I learned not to trust the dark glitter in their eyes, and I always kept an iron cross tucked into my chest.
I was, after all, only human.
I suspected a trick as I made my way to the other side of the lake that night, but I had no idea what I was really in for. The Faerie Queen was making a visit, and the celebrations were to be held on the opposite side of the lake, away from our usual glade.
I was prepared for any tricks that came my way, and I still felt a shiver of delight as I remembered the fae’s whisper in my ear: “We shall dance until the moon burns out.”
When I reached the new glade I knew something was wrong. The celebrations were in full swing, but the music was different, heavier. Leering eyes followed me as I made my way through the crowd. I didn’t see any familiar faces.
I brushed past a faerie with wings of sleek obsidian. Something clattered around her neck as she moved aside.
Were those bones?
Alright, I thought. Time to leave.
I turned to go but a clawed hand gripped my bare shoulder. A drop of blood fell to the earth.
“Look what we have here,” purred the faerie with the bone necklace. “Why do you wander so far from safety, little human?” She grinned at me. Tiny snakes hissed from between her teeth.
I felt gazes turn toward me, none of them friendly.
“She’s afraid,” came a childlike voice from the crowd. “They say their blood tastes sweeter when fear runs though it…like strawberries!” The faerie laughed delightedly.
My hand went to my chest. A spear of panic shot through me. Where was my iron cross?
“Come, come, why are you afraid? Dance with us until you are nothing but bones…”
I felt a dark magic pulse in my ears. My knees started to give way…
A sudden silence.
“I see you have one of my court.”
A regal being stood before us, silver-haired and cloaked in starlit mist. Her expression was stern, and there was no mistaking the flower garland resting on her head for anything but a crown.
The bone-necklace faerie curtsied. “Queen Esmeralde.”
The Faerie Queen, for I was certain it was no other, beckoned for me to follow her. The crowd parted to let us though.
When we were alone the queen still kept her gaze on the trees above us. “I see you have met the Unseelie,” she said.
I was silent.
“Some of the others thought it amusing to send you to the wrong court. But it is late, and they have had their fun.”
Fun? Anger sparked in my veins. I almost died.
The queen let something fall from her hand into the thicket. I bent to pick it up. It was my iron cross, wrapped in two layers of cloth. So that’s how they stole it, I thought.
“I suggest you limit your dealings with the Winter Court in future. They are not as tolerant of your kind as we.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” I was still boiling with rage. Then something occurred to me. “Your Majesty? When we were in the glade, you said I was a part of your court…?”
The queen humphed. “You dance with us every night, do you not? You wear our attire, follow our customs? Are you not one of our court?”
She was right, I realized. After all these years, I was more fae than human.
I knew how to cause mischief. I knew how to trick the unwary.
And right now I was burning for revenge.
Maybe, I thought, it’s time to play some tricks of my own.
Isabel Caves is a writer and poet living in Auckland, New Zealand. She has been writing fantasy fiction since she was very young, and remembers entertaining her classmates with stories about magic and adventure. When she’s not writing, she’s busy dreaming up a new story.