Read The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom Online

Authors: Leah Cutter

Tags: #dwarf, #fairies, #knotwork, #Makers, #Oregon, #paranormal, #shape shifters, #tinkers, #urban fantasy

The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom (3 page)

BOOK: The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom
10.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Cornelius pressed a finger against his nose in thought, and
then nodded. “All right.” He blew on his cupped hands. A gray cloud filled his
palms, wispy and light, then gained weight. He stretched the tendrils out, like
a spinner carding wool, until a fine net was strung between his fingers. With
great care he lifted it until it hung like a gossamer veil over Adele’s dark
hair. It shimmered briefly, then faded from sight.

“Thank you, old friend,” Adele said, briefly squeezing Cornelius’
arm before slipping out. Few fairies had the power to hide from each other.
Some in the court didn’t trust Cornelius because of the strength of his magic,
but Adele knew he always had her best interests in mind.

Adele first went to her rooms, cast off the illusion, and
then changed into working clothes: white overalls and a tight-fitting shirt.
Her maid Clarissa sniffed in disapproval, but didn’t say anything. Then Adele
went down back corridors and stairs, her bare feet moving silently over dusty
wood and brick. All the servants she passed looked down and away, maintaining
the illusion that she moved unseen, as the servant class frequently did for the
royals. Many of the back halls weren’t lit, but Adele easily called a will-o’-the-wisp
to dance beside her, bobbing and circling, lighting her way.

Bright lights filled the machine room. Thaddeus’ greatest
creation dominated the center of it. Adele walked slowly around it, then spread
her wings and continued her circling, going higher and higher. She could
identify only the major pieces: the mainspring, the four pallet levers, the
primary motion works, and some of the balances. So much of it went beyond her,
as well as Thaddeus’ assistants. That was partly through design; no one was
supposed to know what their master created.

The machine had been the main component in Adele’s plan to
bring her people out of the shadows and into the world again. All the resources
of the kingdom had been funneled into its creation. It had taken them decades
to get to this point. So close.

Electronics hurt Adele’s people. One of the
had tried to explain about waves and magnets,
but Adele didn’t care. This modern world repelled her, literally. She was tired
of retreating. She and Thaddeus had finally come up with a plan for fighting
back. The smaller-scale models he’d created had been successful. Powered partly
by magic, partly by machine works and cranks, they could stop all electronics,
but only in a limited area.

Adele wanted to kill them, all of them, for miles and miles.
Then she and her people could rise from the ground, return to being the fierce hunters
they’d once been. Not only the warrior caste would fight. All of them would
return to their former glory, be as they’d once been. It was her fondest wish. They’d
drive the humans out, then move east, send their machines ahead of them, and
take back their world.

Of course the humans would fight. Adele was certain her
people would remember their skill at killing once they tasted human flesh

However, Thaddeus had never finished his machine. Now he was

Adele floated to the floor, and then crumpled, finally

Chapter Two

woke with war cries ringing
in his ears. At first he thought he was still dreaming, but his dreams had been
bittersweet, not violent. He’d seen his wife, long dead, clearly for once. She’d
called to him from behind foreign glass, the kind that smelled of chemicals and
bitter gas. He hadn’t been able to reach her. He’d shouted and screamed, his
words blending into the noises that had awakened him. Finally he recognized the
sounds: the onset of battle by fairy warriors.

“By the third eye of
swore. He stared at the rough rock
ceiling of his underground home, thinking furiously. The fairies hadn’t trapped
him—they’d been at war for too long and he’d dug escape tunnels out of
every room of his long, shambling home. He calmed himself. His defenses would
keep him safe for a while. Still, he sprang up from his bed, retrieving his
vest and coat from the bedpost where he’d hung them, then shoving his feet into
his boots.

Piles of scavenged items littered the floor: books, plastic
bags, dolls’ feet, wire, juice boxes, sweaters, broken cups, and so on.
swiftly went from one pile to the next, stuffing
things into a large leather backpack. He paused, smiling at the first
explosion, and then gathered more things: another sweater, a handful of tools, and
four long straws. He knew better than to think the fairies would stop. He had
to leave, and for a long while, too. The last time the fairies had attacked his
home, it had taken three years before they’d gotten distracted enough that he
could return. He had no idea what had riled them this time. One of the deep
tunnels had blown a few days before—he wondered if he’d killed someone
important. He hadn’t expected such swift retaliation.

A second, then third explosion echoed through the tunnels.
The fairies were getting too close. One or two fairies
may be able to take on, though he wasn’t much of a fighter. A war party would
overrun him like water down a hill. Damn fairies didn’t look like
much—all scrawny and thin—but they were tough. Only way
knew to kill one was to cut off its head. Even
though fairies couldn’t swim, drowning them only sometimes worked. He’d seen a
warrior with her arm or wing torn off still come for him.

The fourth explosion came from the side, to the south, not
to the east where the others had sounded. More than one group was after
. They’d hoped to trap him.
abandoned packing his bag and ran to the wall containing a shelf of radios all
wired together. A piece of modern machinery stood at the far end.
flipped a switch, then started cranking. The radios
began singing static, one by one. The sudden buzz of electricity danced across
skin. The dwarf could stand to be around electronics
longer than the fairies, but he didn’t like it; it made him feel as though ants
crawled across his skin.

finished setting his trap.
The radios would draw the attention of the fairies, distracting them from the
bomb. He picked up his bag and looked around one last time. He wished he could
take more. It would take a long, long time to make his next place feel as homey
as this, with its piles of knickknacks and random collectables. It was one of
the reasons why he hated the fairies: Their kingdom was so damn sterile. Queen
Adele and her order—just unnatural, it was.

pulled up one edge of the
rug on his floor, then opened the trap door. He grunted as he stepped into
it—he’d gained girth recently and escape route fit more snugly than it
should. He forced himself down the stairs, scraping his thighs and hips against
the rough-cut walls. Stupid, stupid fairies. He didn’t take much time to booby-trap
the escape hatch. He’d be gone by the time the fairies got to his room.

At the bottom of the stairs,
trotted along the natural tunnel, heading toward the ocean. He twisted his
knotted bracelet as he went, invoking his strongest protection against his
enemy: his ability to see through
illusions. No fairy lay in wait for him and no scouts glided through the air.
Maybe they didn’t realize this was
escape route. He couldn’t fly as they did, and the tunnel did end abruptly in midair.

could, however, swim. After
checking the sky again, he retraced his steps, then ran full speed out of the
tunnel, launching himself into the air. He wrapped his arms around his knees,
making himself as small a ball as he could, and landed with an explosive

The shock of the cold water took
breath away. He kicked for the surface, his boots, clothes, and bag weighing
him down. A strong current pulled him further down. He refused to give up and
struggled harder, pushing through the water with his arms now. Finally his head
broke the surface, only to find that the waves had pushed him dangerously close
to the rocks. Digging into the water with each stroke,
drove himself through the waves, swimming away from the danger. A human wouldn’t
have made it. He headed north, up the coast.

Only after
had reached his
hidden boat did he realize his mistake.

The fairies now had his jabber. They’d learn about the human
Tinker. It was their machine, after all—they’d left it out as a test. He’d
just adapted it for his own purposes.

Instead of heading further north, to his second set of
turned the boat back south.

The human Tinker had to die.


Robert sat in his car outside the off-track betting house
and considered calling Denise back. That first “hello” had been flat, not soft,
and the second time he’d called her she’d had too much tension in her voice.
Was this the right Denise, though? The one Robert’s client had hired him to

The only way Robert would know for certain was by seeing
her. He sighed, looking again at the betting house. It was a plain house, built
in the 1930s and painted a faded green. Sandwiched in between two shops, it was
easy to miss. It advertised itself as a “gentleman’s club.” Ladies waited for
men to buy them drinks and converse in the front room. In the back, the formal
dining room and kitchen had been converted into a gambling den, with TVs hung
on the walls like paintings. The bookie sat in a converted closet under the
stairs. Robert had heard rumors of high-stakes poker games on the second floor.

Robert sighed again. He couldn’t go in, not now. He had work
to do. So he drove back to the ratty motel he currently called home, with the
thin towels, thinner walls, and shower that just spit at him, and extended his
stay instead of checking out. He could have gone to a nicer place—his
winnings from the day before had been enough. However, when he finished this
job he’d have more, a lot more. Robert promised himself that this time, he’d
save some of it. Use it to get himself more legitimate work, bigger clients,
and a nicer office, maybe one with a window.

First, Robert located the house Denise had rented, viewing
it using the Internet. Without driving out there, he quickly learned that the usual
techniques he used for photographing suspects weren’t going to work. The house sat
higher than the surrounding land, with clear views on all sides. Robert didn’t
see anyplace he could set up a nest and take photos, not without Denise getting

So Robert haunted grocery stores, his camera pen poking him
in the ribcage every time he bent over. Woman had to eat, right? While he was
looking around, he learned that more than one of the shops offered home
delivery. He stomped out of the store, growling at the amount of money he’d
wasted while “shopping.”

The next route Robert considered was the kids.
Unfortunately, single men sitting in ramshackle cars, taking pictures of high
school students, tended to get questioned by the police. Robert needed to avoid
all law enforcement, at least for a while, until he got some money and could
pay off his debt. While driving by the school to see if there was a place where
he could set up shop without drawing any attention, he noticed one important
thing: school buses.

The kids would have to wait somewhere for the bus, right?
Probably close to their home.

It didn’t take Robert long to find out when the school bus
stopped on Spring Road—the winter cancellation notifications listed all
the start times. Then it was just a matter of driving the route, estimating the
number of kids and pickup times. Robert had always been good with numbers,
though they hadn’t always been good to him. He’d make it all up on this job,

Once Robert had come up with his plan, he thought about
calling his client. In the end, he decided not to. His client had some anger
issues, enough to almost make Robert turn down the job. However, he had checked
before taking it, as his client had suggested. Denise had never filed for a divorce
or even sought a restraining order. She’d just taken the kids and run, which
made her a kidnapper and a
. His client
had reassured him that he just wanted to get his family back together. Robert
was doing the right thing by reuniting this man and his children.

Robert spent the afternoon wiring a tiny camera to the
passenger-side door handle of his car. He took pride in covering the wires,
hiding them as they ran from the door to the steering column. He tested it a
couple of times, making sure that with the push of a button he could get a
series of shots.

At 2 A.M., Robert timed his drive, going along the route
twice. He took into account as many variables as he could. It was easier to add
time, go around an additional block or two, than to make up time if the bus was
early or fast.

After a precise 248-minute nap, a lucky number if there ever
was one, Robert awoke, shaved, showered, and then hit the road. His luck held
that morning—just as he turned down the main highway, the bus came up
behind him. It slowed a couple of times, making stops right where Robert
thought it would. He turned down Spring Road just as it had started up again.

Robert passed the intersection of Spring and Fowler at 7:57
A.M. The button camera worked perfectly. He got multiple shots of the three
people standing at the bus stop: a young woman with dark hair and a fine,
upturned nose, pale in the morning light with a sprinkling of freckles across
her cheeks; a young boy, tow-headed, with blue eyes that matched the sky; and a
young girl, as dark as her mother, but brighter, more joyous.

After turning down the main highway, Robert pulled to the
side to let the bus pass him. He was tempted to keep going, to use this string
of luck and go straight to the betting parlor. However, he prided himself on
being a professional, so he called his client using the pre-paid cell phone his
client had provided for him, for this one task.

“I found them.”


Dale had put away the machinery in the morning, carefully
loading all the screws and parts he’d removed from the primary piece into empty
yogurt containers. He missed the glass jars he’d had at their old place—he’d
attached the tops of the jars into the bottom of a shelf, then screwed the jars
back into the tops. That way he could see what was in a jar without having to
open it, and all the small nuts, screws, wire, and bolts were easily
accessible. The yogurt containers were cheap but they weren’t as convenient.

That morning, it didn’t matter to Dale that he rode the bus
alone, with only his sister, and that no one said hello to Dale in the hallway
before homeroom. Instead, he thought about the machine. Why had it started to
glow? What about it was phosphorus? There must be a compartment for storing the


Dale looked up. His cheeks grew warm. Mr. Henderson had just
called his name—twice—for attendance. “Here,” he said sheepishly.

“Already on summer break?” his homeroom teacher asked,
teasing gently.

Dale just shrugged. It had been hard coming into this school
so late in the year, with barely a trimester left. He’d wished his mom had
agreed to homeschool them; he could have gotten so much more done. However, she
had to work as well.

The plastic seats made Dale’s thighs sweat. He tried to pay
attention to the announcements: the finals schedule, parent-teacher
conferences, summer school, as well as the big school picnic. However, he kept
squirming, as well as tracing gear paths in his head. Mr. Henderson had to call
him to order a second time.

Dale wasn’t sure how he made it through all his classes
without someone threatening detention. Luckily, the teachers cut all the kids
slack because summer break started next week. Because of winter weather and
school cancellations, they only had two more days of school the following week.

Finally, last period arrived, along with Dale’s favorite
class, shop. The familiar scents of grease, solder, and fresh-cut wood greeted him
as he walked in. Benches lined the room. Ms. Anderson, the shop teacher, had
already tied on her heavy-duty khaki apron. Her gray curls peeked out from
under the leather helmet-like hat she wore, and large safety goggles perched on
her forehead. She instructed two girls on the
drilling them on its use, making sure they knew how to use it before she turned
it on.

Rich and
nodded at Dale, and
Rich indicated an open space on the bench to his left. Dale had helped both of
them on their projects—a music box and a plant holder with an electronic
moisture meter. They’d shared shop only that trimester, but they’d talked about
trying to take history together the next year. They weren’t friends, not yet;
Dale couldn’t call them and they didn’t eat lunch together. Maybe next year,

BOOK: The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom
10.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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