Authors: Annette Gisby
Tags: #faery, #fantasy, #urban fantasy, #romance
fairy with lantern canva.com/Zastavkin
the pain which woke her, a dull throbbing at the base of her skull
and working its way down her back. As she opened her eyes, she was
greeted by a canopy of green and brown above her. Leaves. Branches.
Trees. There was no sunlight to be seen, just a muted grey green
light, as if she was seeing things through a haze.
She tried to sit up, but failed on the first few attempts, a
dizziness so acute that she wondered if she was going to faint again.
Once she was sitting up, she placed a hand at the back of her head
gently. Yes, there was a bump there all right, but how did she get
it? How did she get here, to this forest?
There was a groan from her left and she glanced down to see an
equally confused Caden staring up at her. She reached down an arm to
help him up.
"Abigail? Where are we?"
"I have no idea. I was hoping you would be able to tell me."
"The last thing I remember, was that we were on our way to
Kansas for a conference."
"Oh, that explains it then," said Abigail.
"Explains what?" he asked, rubbing his head and wincing
when he found the
spot of his own bump.
"We most be over the rainbow," said Abigail.
"Well, one thing's for sure, we sure aren't in Kansas anymore."
Abigail stared around at their surroundings once more. There was
something odd, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She could
hear Caden's steady breathing and her own. That was it. There was no
No rustling of leaves, although she could feel a little breeze caress
her face, no birds singing, no insect chirps. There was nothing
except her and Caden. No sounds of cars from a nearby highway, no
airplanes overhead. She looked up again, trying to peer through the
branches at the sky above, but it was impossible. It was as though
they were in a room with a ceiling made of trees.
Abigail stood up and began to brush at her clothes, to dislodge any
leaves or dirt that had been there, but her skirt and blouse were
completely clean. She looked quizzically at the ground, she'd been
lying on a carpet of grass such a vivid green, but there were no
grass stains on her clothes, and no loose debris from the trees
scattered about. Where were the fallen leaves and twigs, pine cones
The ground looked too clean and she bent down to make sure that the
grass was real.
She plucked a blade of grass to test it. It felt like grass, it
looked like grass, it smelled like...nothing. It had no smell.
Abigail sat back down and scooted over next to Caden. She began to
sniff his neck.
Sweat, aftershave and soap all combined to make one unique smell.
His. She would recognise it anywhere.
"Abigail? What are you doing?" he asked, gently pushing her
"Sorry," she blushed at the intimacy of what she'd done. It
wasn't something a colleague would do, more like something a lover
"There's no smell here," said Abigail, handing him the
blade of grass.
He sniffed it and looked at her in surprise. "That's odd."
Abigail nodded and wondered if he was going to start smelling her
like she had done to him. She wanted him to, wanted to feel his
breath on her neck like a gentle caress and she had to bite her lip
from crying out loud at the imagined sensation. It was the odd
situation they found themselves in, that was all. She didn't really
want to be doing that with Caden. Did she?
"Hello!" called a voice in the distance. "Do you need
They both turned to see the owner of the voice, a tall man dressed in
a linen tunic which reached his knees. Two blue vertical stripes at
the edges were matched by the blue of his eyes. Blond hair and a
blond beard glinted in a source of light that Abigail couldn't
fathom. The day was bright, but she couldn't see the sun.
"My name is Linden," he said and bowed to them. Abigail and
Caden stood up and reached out their hands, but he didn't seem to
know what a handshake was so they dropped them by their sides and
bowed like he had done.
"We seem to be lost," said Caden. "Do you know where
"Of course," Linden said with a broad smile, but made no
attempt at sharing this knowledge with them. Abigail wondered if they
had stumbled upon some strange cannibalistic cult and they were going
to be dinner. Linden didn't look as if he was contemplating eating
them, but then how could you really tell?
"If you could maybe point us in the direction of the nearest
town or village?" began Abigail hopefully.
"Oh, I can do better than that," said Linden. "You're
on the edge of Forever. I can take you there."
"What?" exclaimed Caden.
"Forever. It is my city. The nearest city. I will take you
"Thank you," said Caden and Abigail together. As Caden
stood up, he winced in pain and Abigail could see that he was biting
his lip to stop himself from crying out
"What is it? Where are you hurt?" she asked and rushed to
"My – my leg," he gasped out, his face turning the
colour of oatmeal. "Left one." Abigail bent down and ripped
the leg of his trousers to get a better look at his left leg. Just
below the knee she could see a small piece of bone protruding from
the flesh. How could he not scream with that?
"Is there a hospital in Forever?" asked Abigail.
"I'm sorry. I do not know that word," replied Linden.
"A doctor? A physician?"
Linden shook his head. "We have no words for these."
Abigail bit her cheek to stop herself screaming from frustration.
"What do you do when you get sick?"
"We never get sick," he replied simply.
"A healer? Do you have a healer?" she asked, inspiration
suddenly dawning on her. His garments were old fashioned, maybe he
would understand the old fashioned word.
"Why, yes. Why didn't you say so before? My sister, Celeste is a
healer. We will take your friend to her."
"Thank you," said Abigail, just as she felt Caden go limp
in her arms. He had fainted. She hoped this city wasn't very far
away. Caden didn't look good.
"I will carry your friend," said Linden and bent down
towards the prone Caden. He hefted him over his shoulders, as though
Caden were a dead deer and Abigail shivered at the thought.
The city, if it could be called that, was nothing like Abigail had
ever seen before. There were no buildings as such, everything was
carved out of wood or rock, there was nothing man-made at all.
Linden walked towards one of the larger trees and went inside. He
turned and beckoned for Abigail to follow him. Once inside, Linden
placed Caden on some fur rugs on the floor. A few minutes later,
seemingly from nowhere, Celeste appeared.
She was as tall as Linden, a good head taller than Caden, with
flowing fair hair that reached her lower back. Like Linden, she was
wearing a short tunic with the two blue stripes. She was so beautiful
that she hardly looked real, more like a fantasy. Caden's fantasy?
Celeste sat down cross-legged on the rug beside Caden and touched his
brow. His eyelids fluttered open and she stared at the vision in
front of him, his lips forming a pleased smile.
Abigail felt as if someone had just punched her in the gut. He hadn't
even looked to see where she was. He had eyes only for Celeste.
"Come," said Linden. "We must leave Celeste to her
Abigail didn't want to go. She didn't want to leave him with that
overgrown Barbie doll who was Celeste. As they reached the opening,
it couldn't really be called a door, Abigail risked a glance back and
wished she hadn't.
Caden was caressing Celeste's cheek. He didn't look Abigail's way.
When they were outside, if this strange green gloom could be called
outside, Linden took her hand. She pulled it away quickly, feeling
dizzy and disoriented. His touch was like fire, she felt the desire
pool between her legs, her face flaming.
She grabbed the nearest wooden wall to steady herself. "Don't
touch me," she hissed at him.
"I am sorry. The touch was only meant to help you."
"Help? How could that help? Just leave me alone."
"As you wish," said Linden, bowing and walking away. There
were other people walking about as well, men and women both dressed
in the same tunics as Linden and Celeste. Were they some sort of
religious community? Or were they something else altogether? They all
had a strange look on their face and it took a while for her to
realise what it was.
Contentment. They were all content. Every single one of them.
Abigail's legs were like rubber, the after effects of Linden's touch
no doubt. She didn't no how long she stood there, her arms braced
against the wall taking deep breaths to calm herself. The desire was
slow to go and she felt as though her body had betrayed her. How
could she feel desire for Linden when she – when she –
but her mind refused to let her go there.
She walked away from the centre of town, wandering in and out of
deserted alleyways between the trees that all looked so alike she was
sure she would get lost. A sweaty hand was clamped over her mouth and
she was dragged backwards into another smaller alley.
"Ssh, don't scream," said a voice in her ear. "I'm
human. Like you."
The hand was removed from her mouth and she turned to face her
would-be attacker. Once he may have been a handsome man, but now his
face was drawn and haggard, once rosy cheeks were now grey, as if
life had left him but his body didn't know it yet. His clothes were
nothing but rags hanging on a skeleton with skin.
"I can get you out. You and your friend," he said.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Oh, no. You won't get me that way again. Have you told them
your name? I can't do anything if you've told them your name."
Abigail thought back. "No, I don't think so," she said at
"Good, good," muttered the man. "And the food. Don't
eat or drink anything they give you. You're lost if you do.
"Okay," said Abigail. "That sounds easy enough."
"Oh, but it isn't," he said. "They are strong. They
can impose their will on you, making you drink even though you don't
want to. You have to be very strong to resist them. They can drive
you mad with lust, wanting no one but them. But you mustn't give in,
if you lie with them there is no way out."
"Oh no!" cried Abigail. "My friend. He's alone with
one of them. He might..."
"We must get him out quickly then," said the man. "Which
one is he with?"
"Celeste," replied Abigail.
"Celeste," he spat the name like a curse. "Oh, yes, I
know all of her tricks."
He took Abigail's hand and dragged her along the warren of narrow
streets until they came to the town square again. They waited a few
moments until Celeste emerged and walked away from the tree hut that
Caden was in. "Now!" he said and they both dashed inside.
Caden was sleeping peacefully, the ghost of a smile playing on his
lips and Abigail almost faltered, wondering if he was dreaming of
"No time!" muttered the man beside her. Between them they
managed to lift Caden and run out into the street again. But that was
when they were seen.
"Stop them!" roared Linden and a multitude of tunic clad
people rushed at them.
Abigail's anxiety gave her an extra boost and they ran as fast as
they could away from the town and out towards the forest. The thin
man seemed to know his way around and took them to a hideaway in a
"We can rest now," he panted. He and Abigail laid down
their burden. Caden slept on.
"Won't they come after us?" asked Abigail, glancing round,
imagining she was still hearing the sounds of pursuit.
"Not here. It isn't part of their realm. It's a portal back to
your world. They can only come here once a year."
"What are you talking about?" demanded Abigail. None of it
made any sense and she was getting fed up. "Where are we?"
"I thought you knew," he said sadly. "We're in the
land of Faery."
"Don't be ridiculous!" snapped Abigail and stood up, pacing
the cave like a wild animal in a cage. "You're telling me that
those, that those people back there are faeries?"
"Yes," he said. On the floor, Caden stirred.
"Celeste?" he whispered and Abigail felt her heart sink.
"Celeste!" he shrieked this time, a shriek of fear and
Abigail bent down to him and he looked at her blankly. He didn't know
her. His eyes roamed the cave, looking for the object of his
"Are we too late?" asked Abigail. Had he and Celeste
already slept together? How could she tell?