Authors: Jamie McHenry
ON FALLEN WINGS
By Jamie McHenry
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
On Fallen Wings
Copyright 2012 by Jamie McHenry
All rights reserved.
Cover art Nate Baertsch
First e-book edition, 2012
When Rhiannon's fiancé is kidnapped, her quest to save him forces her to choose between the faerie life she loves and losing him forever.
Find out more online.
~ Contents ~
The Darkness between Trees
For as long as I could remember, faeries had danced at Stone Meadow. I loved dancing and the night was perfect, like a dream. Raising my arms, I leaned my head back to absorb glowing blue rays on my face and hands. I closed my eyes and caressed the cold tips of grass with my feet, repeating the familiar sway of my steps. As a frosty wisp of air stirred me from my trance, I swept my gown in a circle and spun to kneel where my young sister, Leila, sat watching.
She reached up and parted a long strand of hair from my face. “That was wonderful,” she said. “Are you nervous for tomorrow?”
“Oh, yes.” I fell to the grass. “I can’t believe this is happening.” I covered my face with both hands and cried out with joy. “My Day of Promise, at last.”
Leila rolled onto her stomach and leaned on her elbows, propping her chin with her palms. “What is it like to be in love?”
I grinned at her curiosity and stretched my arms straight. “It’s like dancing barefoot in the meadow under moonlight,” I told her. “Love tickles your toes and then climbs to your heart.” I rolled on the grass. “It spirals toward your fingertips as you spin and spin. Then it reaches up to the moon, grabs its rays, and pulls them down like a warm blanket.”
Leila sighed. My sister’s wide eyes revealed their wanting.
“What will you do when I move away?” I asked. “We won’t get to talk like this anymore.”
Her face fell. “You won’t go far—will you?”
Someone spoke from behind me. “I’ll never let you leave us.”
I turned to look. I knew that voice; I had known it since childhood. “Nia,” I called out, “where are you?”
My best friend peered out from behind a tall stone. “It’s a late night,” she said, teasing me with a grin as she walked toward us. “Don’t you ever sleep?”
Still startled by her interruption, I held my breath before answering. “I’m practicing,” I told her. “Dancing clears my thoughts. How did you know we were here?”
Nia laughed. “I know you, Rhia. You’re too much like the moon: devoted and perfect. After one look into the sky tonight, I knew where to find you.”
I smiled at her answer. Hearing my secret name always made me happy. A flash of memory carried my mind to the day, so many years ago, when Nia gave it to me. She had plucked a wide leaf from a maple tree and announced, “Nia and Rhia—we’ll be best friends forever.” Nia had been right. She was always right. I still had the leaf.
She leaned low and offered me a warm hug before flopping to the grass.
doing at the meadow, Nia?” asked my sister. “Were you trying to frighten us?”
“I came to see my friend before she forgets about me and starts her new life.” Nia’s answer was plain and honest. She never covered her thoughts.
“I won’t forget you—” I told her, then turned to my sister, “—or my family.”
Leila rolled to me and grabbed me tight around the waist. “Will you promise me something?”
I accepted her embrace and watched a tear trickle down her cheek. “Of course,” I answered. “Anything.”
Leila moved back and stood. In the moonlight, stone pillars loomed behind her with sacred dominance. There were twenty-seven of them, all equal distance from a single rounded rock. That one had a hole the size of a person cut through its center. Our village called it the Season Stone. Beyond the circle, the grass stretched far into the distance until it abruptly met the forest trees.
Leila wiped her face with the sleeve of her dress and took a quivering breath that seemed to give her courage. “Tell me that you’ll never leave me.”
“Why do you ask that? It’s an oath I can’t keep,” I said. “You know that I’ll leave soon.”
Leila remained firm. “Because I don’t want to be alone.”
“You won’t be alone.” I leaned back. “We’re sisters, and we’re bound forever. No matter the distance between where we dream, we will always be close. Our blood is our bond.”
She sniffled. “Do you promise that?”
Leila ran to me and squeezed my shoulders. “I love you,” she cried, holding me tight. Leila was strong.
“Will you swear the same to me?” Nia’s green eyes were penetrating and serious.
“Yes, I will.”
Nia reached out and clasped my hands while staring into my face. “Then we
be friends forever.” She pulled me to my feet and hugged me tight. “I’m happy for you, and wish you good fortune with Sean.” She released me and pulled on my arm. “Let’s get you home to rest. Tomorrow is an important day.”
I grabbed my sandals and laced them tight to my ankles while Nia tugged Leila to her feet. Together, we departed the shadow of the stones—Nia at my side and Leila close behind. When we reached the forest trees at the meadow’s edge, I stepped cautiously into their cover. Veiling branches voided the moonlight. I strained to focus.
Nia shook her head. “I don’t know why you were ever chosen to be a faerie,” she said. “Faeries aren’t scared of the shadows.”
“Stop it. I just can’t see in the dark. Give me a moment so my eyes can adjust.”
In spite of my retort, I knew Nia was right. Faeries were pure and valiant—and unafraid. A sacred sisterhood of chosen women, the Fae represented the hearts of our village; when we celebrated, nature shared her strength; when we battled ills of the unwell, good fortune found us; when we brought our light to the darkness, malevolence left in peace.
Leila humphed in pretend annoyance and brushed by both of us, strolling into the woods. Still disoriented, I followed the yellow of her dress while Nia gave me playful shoves from behind.
Leila stopped abruptly. She stared at the surrounding trees and turned back toward us. “Don’t move,” she whispered. “Something’s over there.”
I couldn’t see anything, but I obeyed.
Nia grunted and stepped forward. “You’re such a child. It’s probably a—”
Something in the dark disturbed a fallen branch. I snatched the bottom of Nia’s dress.
“Stop trying to scare me,” she yelled. She grabbed my wrist but allowed me to cling to her. “It’s some animal.”
The trees to our right exploded with snapping branches and crunching leaves. I dropped to the ground, screaming as I pulled my young sister with one arm, and best friend with the other.
A shadow leapt onto the trail and bounded toward us. I lowered my head, fearing an attack, and cringed. Something brushed my shoulder. As I screamed again, the whistle of an arrow announced its approach before striking a nearby elm. Angry voices broke the night.
“What are you doing here, girls?” The man that burst through the trees was obviously annoyed at us.
I recognized his voice, although in my panic I couldn’t name him. I looked up, still unable to focus as he ran toward me. The man stopped and turned toward the meadow. I followed his gaze and caught a glimpse of a fleeting coat before it disappeared beyond the darkness. In its place remained the moonlit grass, framed by the trees at the trail’s entrance.
“Cameron,” I said loudly, putting a name to the voice.
He thrust the tip of his bow into the soil and helped Nia to her feet. “Yes, it’s me.” He tossed his words with displeasure. “It’s late. What are you doing?”
“Dancing at Stone Meadow,” I answered, brushing dry leaves from my shoulders. My heart pounded so hard that it hurt. I pressed my hand against my chest to calm it. “What’s going on? Who are you chasing?”
Cameron glanced again toward the moonlit grass and shook his head. “You faeries and the meadow,” he muttered. He turned to me. “We’re following a stranger. Has no one told you? There’s a bandit in the village.”
Nia and I gasped together. Leila whimpered. I hadn’t heard of any trouble and I was certain that my father wouldn’t have let us come had he known. My hands trembled and I still couldn’t see. We had been in danger.
Two more men emerged from the trees behind us. “Where did he go?” demanded one of them. I didn’t know his voice.
Another man pulled Leila to her feet. It was David Dunn; I could smell the bread flour on his clothes. “What are you doing in the forest tonight, child? It’s not safe.”
Leila sniffled but didn’t answer him.
“He made it to the meadow.” Cameron answered the first man’s question and pointed. “I’m certain he’s across.”
The men snorted and stomped past us, leaving as quickly as they had arrived.
“Let’s go.” Cameron shoved me toward the darkness while snapping his words. “I’ll take you to safety.”
The turn in the night had been alarming and our flight from the danger was equally upsetting. I wanted to move, but my legs wouldn’t obey—I was still shaking. Cameron seemed as cold as the night had become, although the other men had frightened me more. With Nia pulling me behind Leila, and Cameron’s angry grunts prodding me forward, we stumbled along the dark forest trail until finally arriving at the main road, the road through Aisling.
It was refreshing to see again. The moon highlighted everything in blue. Able to distinguish the shapes of the night, I noticed the tears that covered Leila’s face. She was more frightened than I was.