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 (5 page)

BOOK: The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom
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“Sure,” Dale said, making his escape into the house. He was
surrounded by crazy people.

“Mom?” Dale called. No answer. The whiteboard next to the
door had a scrawled note—
Groceries
—below
Nora’s scrawled note:
Beach
. They’d
negotiated this system of always letting each other know where they were once
they’d discovered that cell phones weren’t reliable. If Dale and Nora swore to
keep the board always up-to-date, their mom promised not to freak out and ask
where they were twenty-four hours a day. Dale added a note,
Just Nora
, to let his mom know he’d come
home.

Dale stood in the kitchen listening to the clock for a
moment. The house smelled of the hamburgers Mom had cooked for lunch. He
thought about blasting his music loudly—something he could never do
around his sister and mother—but the quiet settled over him, soothed him.

Instead, Dale went to his room to work. First he laid the
plastic down on the floor, sighing again at the necessity. At least he had
floor space and could work in his room, unlike Nora, whose room always looked
like a tornado had just struck. She kept everything out in piles, never putting
things away.

From the toolbox, Dale pulled out the machine. He hadn’t
found a phosphorus compartment yet. The smaller screwdriver set Ms. Anderson
had given him turned out to be handy, though the three-prong-headed screws
still gave him problems. He also got out his notebook. Nora had personalized it
for him, burning the leather binder in a pattern of clouds and gears. Dale didn’t
keep something silly like a diary in it, but he did take notes about the
projects he worked on.

Dale drew a quick sketch of the placement of the wires
connecting the gears. He probably would remember, but he wanted to be sure. He
didn’t quite understand their function. Were they part of the primary
mechanism, or the backup? He wished yet again that he had friends here, people
he could talk with about clockwork. Or anything else.

The sound of crunching along the gravel road wafted through
the quiet afternoon. Dale waited, listening. He didn’t hear a door opening or
his mom—Mr. Patterson must have left.

Just as Dale started unhooking the small gears from the main
works, he heard a knock on the front door. Strange. He hadn’t heard another
car.

Wary, Dale peeked out the window next to the front door. Two
kids stood on the far side of the road, staring at the house. They didn’t wear
any shirts, just some kind of weird red paint and shorts. Maybe they were
playing doorbell ditch.

One lifted a brass-colored sphere, about the size of a
whiffle ball. The kid twisted the top in one direction while turning the bottom
in the other.

Even in the bright daylight, Dale recognized the cool blue-phosphorus
glow, the same as from the odd machine in his room.

Without thinking, Dale threw the door open. The two kids
stared at him. “Hey,” Dale called out. He slowly crossed the threshold and
walked toward them. “What is that?” he asked. As he drew closer, he realized
the two halves weren’t solid: gradated wheels spinning in different directions
made up each.

The blue light flashed brightly in Dale’s eyes, then
everything went dark.

***

Kostya
sat in the deep grass
across the road from the human Tinker’s house, waiting. He kept as still as
possible. The sturdy house wasn’t bad for a human dwelling, he decided. At
least it only had one level. Solid brown wood covered the walls. It sat in the
open, though, far too exposed for the dwarf.

An older woman with dark hair and too-pale skin left the
house at midday, walking up the road.
Kostya
assumed
that was the mother. She carried her frailty proudly, as delicate as a jeweled
songbird.

Kostya
considered going into the
house and mapping out all the escape routes before she came back. However,
before he could leave his post, three humans came down the road—the
mother and the two children: the Maker and the Tinker.

The Maker closely resembled her mother—dark hair that
grew in wild waves down her back, equally dark eyes. However, her pale skin
didn’t represent sickness; rather, it expressed an irrepressible light that
glowed deep inside her.

The Tinker also shone in the sunlight, hair practically
bleached white. He was balanced with a darkness, clouds boiling within.

After a while, the boy and girl left, leaving the mother
inside.
Kostya
followed them silently to the top of
the trail leading down to the cove. They paid no attention to their
surroundings.
Kostya
could have walked behind them in
plain sight and they wouldn’t have noticed.

Kostya
left them to their play and
went back to his spot to plan and wait. If the boy and girl were always
together, maybe he’d have to kill them both. He didn’t want to do that, to
snuff out the lovely light of the Maker. However,
Kostya
would do anything to thwart the fairies.

The mother left after a while in her infernal combustion
engine.
Kostya
cursed the car as it passed, holding
his breath until the stench of its fuel faded away. Humans must not have any
sense of smell.

While
Kostya
contemplated going
into the house again, old Eli drove up, causing
Kostya
to curse more. The handful of cold iron he carried won him
Kostya’s
grudging respect. Not all humans were oblivious, and the iron would slow the
fairies from entering the house, as well as
Kostya
himself.

When Eli pounded the first piece in, under the eave right
above the front door,
Kostya
realized they weren’t
just iron, but magnetized. His respect for the old man increased. Then Eli
moved to the corners of the house. Protecting the door was good, but he left
all the windows untreated. Damn fairies could fly through any of them unharmed.

Still, it was a start. The way old Eli puttered around the
lawn made
Kostya
think he had more planned as well.

Kostya
kept himself very still
when the boy came back alone. He hadn’t expected to have an opportunity like
this for at least a few days. Once Eli left, he could approach the boy,
befriend him, and get him out of the house...then take him to the ocean and
drown him where his body would never be found.

After the old man drove away,
Kostya
began casting his illusion, working to make himself more comely to humans. It
took him a while to change his appearance.
Glamours
weren’t native to his people. His greatest strength was the opposite: sensing
and finding hidden things.

Kostya
hid his large teeth and
oversized nose, though he kept his crooked eyebrows and pointed ears. More than
one human book mentioned that dwarfs had beards—
Kostya
added one to his chin as well as a stalk-thin mustache. He maintained his
golden eyes; his wife had always told him they were his best feature. He shrank
his claw-like fingernails down to human-size, whitening them as well. Then he
spruced up his clothes, making his shirt whiter, his vest richer, and his pants
cleaned and pressed.

A loud knock jolted
Kostya
from
his preparations. When had the damn fairies arrived? A hunting party of six
warriors stood in the grass. He watched them easily lure the boy out, capturing
him quickly. He cursed under his breath. Now the fairies had the boy. They’d
take his will from him, and he’d help them despite himself.

However,
Kostya
couldn’t attack
such a large party alone. He needed help.

The girl. He must go get the girl.

Chapter Four

Nora eagerly waited for the tide. The wind kept her company,
teasing her hair, offering her different scents to guess at. A small tan lizard
darted out of the log she sat on, heading for the cliff. Its splayed feet made
flowerlike patterns on either side of the line drawn by its tail. Nora wondered
how she would capture that in a knitting pattern before the wind brushed it
away.

More movement caught Nora’s eye. To her left, someone
stumbled down the rock trail. At first, she thought the distance tricked her
eyes—they couldn’t really be that small, could they?

As the person drew closer, Nora realize that he was dressed
like an adult, not a kid.
A dwarf
!
Then Nora corrected herself: a little person.

Nora continued to wait, a little less patiently, as the
little person made his way to her. He wore solid leather boots that sank into the
sand. His clothes looked old-fashioned: vest, full pants, and a starched white
shirt.

His eyes held Nora’s attention: golden like melted honey.
She wondered if he were Japanese—his eyelids had that look, and his beard
only grew from the tip of his chin, whereas his red cheeks were smooth.

“I am
Kostya
,” he said, introducing
himself formally when he reached her, bowing at the waist.

“I am Nora,” she replied, just as formally, bowing from
where she sat. His accent reminded her of Mrs.
Reznikova
,
a teacher at her school, from Russia.

“You’ve moved here recently, yes?”

“We did,” Nora said. “From California.” Belatedly, she
remembered her mom telling her never to give out any information about their
past. However,
Kostya
didn’t look like someone Nora
needed to be wary of. There was something about him, something exciting that
set the hair along the back of her neck tingling. Besides, he only came up to
her chest. She didn’t view him as a threat. “Are you a local?” she asked,
trying to be polite.

“You might call me that,”
Kostya
said, rocking back on his heels and chuckling. He kept his hands behind his
back, as if he’d been in the military. Sunlight bounced off the silver threads
in his vest. “I’ve lived here a very long time,”
Kostya
confided in Nora. “But I came from over there,” he added, pointing out over the
ocean.

“So you’re Russian?” Nora guessed.

Kostya
shrugged. “I am a little of
a lot of things. Just like you. Artist,” he said, gesturing toward the rock
design in the sand. He looked at the encroaching tide, his smile widening. “Destroyer.”

Nora grinned, buoyed up and filled with sunlight. Was this
someone who understood?

“While I would love to sit here with you and watch the ocean
scrub the beach clean, I’m afraid we have to go. You’re brother’s in trouble.”

“What?” Nora asked, immediately jumping to her feet. The truth
of
Kostya’s
words thrummed through her bones. Dale
was in danger. She had no doubt, now that it had been brought to her attention.
“Where is he? What’s wrong?”

“He’s been taken. By the fairies.”

Nora’s urgency and joy crashed to the ground, as if knocked
over by a cold ocean wave. “What do you mean?” There were no such things as
fairies or magic. She wasn’t some six-year-old looking for a bedtime story. “Fairies?
Not really
fairies
, right?”

“We don’t have time for nice stories,”
Kostya
said, glaring at her. “We must go. Now!”

“Fine,” Nora said, turning and stomping away. The wind
pushed her, encouraging her to go faster, as did her growing worry for her
brother. She looked back when she’d gotten to the halfway point up the trail.
Kostya
still trundled far behind her, unable to keep up
with her longer legs.

“Creepy man,” Nora muttered as she quickly hiked up the rest
of the trail. Not content with merely walking once she’d reached the top, she
jogged the rest of the way home.

The front door stood open. No car sat in the driveway. Her
brother would never have left the house like that. Mom would kill him.

“Dale?” Nora called as she poked her head into the living
room. Quiet resounded around her.

Nora took one cautious step into the house. “Mom?” She knew
her mom wasn’t home, but she still felt like she had to try.

No one answered. The house stood empty.

Nora went to the kitchen. Dale had been there—he’d
marked himself as home on the board. Nora erased his mark. Better that Mom
thought they were still at the beach.

Next, Nora went to Dale’s room. The machine sat on plastic
in the center of the floor, the only thing out of place. She had the irrational
impulse to tear apart the sheets on his bed or toss the papers on his desk onto
the floor. Instead she quietly shut the door, to hide from their mom what Dale
had been working on.

She checked her own room, her mom’s room, the office—nothing
was out of place. Finally she went back outside, carefully closing and locking
the door behind her.

Kostya
stood on the far side of
the road, looking at something. Nora stormed over to him. “I swear, if you did
something to him, if you hurt him—”

“No, no, not me, miss. The fairies,”
Kostya
said, pointing.

A circle had been beaten down in the dusty grass. Nora bit
back the impulse to laugh. First fairies, now crop circles? A piece of braided
grass lay on one edge. When Nora picked it up, it gave a puff of blue
phosphoros
light. It was the same light as the strange
machine Dale had. As the glow dissipated, the grass shriveled and dried up.

“What was that?” Nora demanded, turning to show
Kostya
. “Grass isn’t supposed to do that.” Chills ran down
her arms, while her fingers tingled. She shivered.

“Magic,”
Kostya
said.

Nora didn’t believe in magic. Not like that. Creating a
sweater out of a single strand of yarn was magic enough for her. Real magic,
fairy magic
, meant an entire new world,
one without limits. She frowned.

None of it meant anything without her brother to share it.

“Where’s Dale?”

Kostya
shrugged, but his face
looked stern. “The fairies have him.”

Regardless of whether Nora believed in fairies or not, she
still knew what they had to do. “We must rescue him.”

***

A bright light shone directly in Dale’s eyes and pulled him
from his sleep. “Dang it, Nora, stop that,” he murmured. He found he couldn’t
lift his hands—the sheets must have tangled them. Determined, he pushed
himself back and over to his side.

For a sickening moment, Dale fell. He landed on the ground
hard
. Then he rolled, and he kept
rolling. He needed to get away from the light following him. Rocks scratched
his bare arms as he rolled. Had he fallen asleep in Nora’s room? His floor wasn’t
this bumpy.

With a shock, Dale suddenly remembered. He opened his eyes
and sprang to his feet. He tried to pull apart his hands, but thick rope bound
them together. He recognized where he was—outside the abandoned house.
The door to the house stood open, black and endless, like a deep tunnel. An
abandoned stretcher lay before it.

Six kids spread out before Dale, between him and the tall
grasses that led to the road and freedom. The ocean crashed into the rocks at
his back. Now that Dale saw them better, he realized they weren’t young: their
faces held too many wrinkles and wiry muscle made up their bare arms and legs.

And they had wings.

“What are you?” Dale asked, taking a step back. Mouths full
of sharp, pointed teeth grinned at him. More than one carried a weapon—knives,
swords, or staves. Dale knew they meant business. The creatures took a step
forward.

The sun glinted off the leg of the female closest to Dale.
He saw it wasn’t flesh, but a brass piston. All of them had some sort of mechanical
works imbedded into them: One had a forearm replaced, another had one wing, and
one wore a bright red jewel instead of an eye.

Dale tried to free his hands. When he looked down again, he
saw it wasn’t a rope, but merely grass tied around the wrists. He yanked his
hands apart, breaking the stems, then crossed his arms over his chest. “What do
you want?” he asked, stubbornly standing his ground. Fear made sweat course
down his back, but anger overrode it. How dare they try to kidnap him?

The creatures stopped advancing and looked at each other.
Finally, the one with the jeweled eye stepped forward. “I am called Bascom,” he
said. “We—”

“Dale!” Nora came crashing through the tall grass, as
unstoppable as a hurricane. “You nasty fairies stay the hell away from my
brother!” she said as she stormed toward the creatures. Nora’s fury moved
before her like a shock wave, forcing the fairies back. Dale watched in awe.
The sunlight made her pale skin shine.

Wait. Was Nora glowing? “What the—”

Another creature, a little taller than the fairies but much
more stout, came barreling out of the grass.

The fairies immediately attacked him.

“Come on!” Nora said, grabbing Dale’s hand and pulling him
toward the trail. She pushed Dale in front of her, shouting again, “Go!”

Dale ran as fast as he could, afraid of pursuers. What the
hell had just happened? Why had Nora called them fairies? How did Nora know
about them? Who was the short man who’d helped them?

Just before Dale reached the road, he stopped. The only
sounds he heard were his own panting breaths and the cicadas.

Nora wasn’t behind him.

Dale stood rooted to the spot. He didn’t want to go back.
Those things—those fairies—frightened him. Their swords and knives
weren’t for play. Even unarmed, their teeth would serve them well.

However, his sister was in trouble now.

Dale turned and raced back the way he came.

“Keep braiding!” came the hoarse cry as Dale peered out of
the grass. Nora stood on the far side, her fingers flying as she plied grass
together. The short man stood with his back against the house and fought
desperately, holding off the fairies with a long staff.

“Now! Make it rope!”

“What?” Nora asked, looking up, puzzled. One of the fairies
left the first battle and flew toward her. “How?”

Dale pushed out of the grass and grabbed the leg of the
fairy, swinging her hard toward the ground. Before Dale could reach Nora’s
side, something heavy landed on his back. An iron forearm pushed against his
throat, choking him.

“Dale!” Nora cried.

Dale tried to reply but he couldn’t squeeze out any words.
His fingers slipped off the arm across his windpipe as if the fairy’s skin had
been greased. He tried to shake the fairy from his back, punching at it, but he
kept missing. The edges of his vision dimmed.

“Rope, girl, rope!”

The other fairy, the one Dale had thrown to the ground,
started to rise. She glared at Dale and bared her teeth, her legs tensed, about
to pounce.

“No, you don’t!” Nora yelled. A length of rope flew through
the air and curled around the fairy’s neck. She screamed so loudly that Dale’s
ears hurt.

The other fairies froze. The one choking Dale loosened his
grip.

Nora held a second glowing rope in her hands. This didn’t
have the pale blue glow of the fairies; no, this shone blood-red and deadly.

“You will let us go. All of us. Now,” Nora insisted. She
advanced on Bascom, rope ready.

The fairy on Dale’s back let go, rising up into the air.
Slowly, one by one, the others sheathed their weapons, also taking to the air.

“Good,” Nora said, dropping the rope she still held. The
rope around the neck of the remaining fairy transformed into grass. The fairy
grabbed it from her throat and threw it to the ground. Growling, she spread her
wings and joined the others.

“We will come for you. All of you,” Bascom said in warning.

The stout man waved nonchalantly at them, though he still
breathed heavily and bled from a dozen places. “Yes, yes. You will hunt me and
all my ancestors and all my descendants through all generations. I know, I
know.”

The fairies practically shimmered with anger at being
dismissed so lightly. They didn’t fly away. They just disappeared.

“Nora, are you all right?” Dale asked, immediately crossing
to his sister.

“Oh God, Dale, did you see those things? Did you see what I
did?” Nora’s hands shook. Dale wished their mom were there so she could give
Nora a hug.

“Are you okay?” Dale asked again.

Nora nodded. “I think so. How are you?” She peered at his
neck. “I don’t know how we’re going to explain those bruises on your neck.”

“You can hide them,” said the stout man, gazing at Nora.

For the first time Dale could remember, Nora looked fearful.
“No. No. It’s too much.”

“Perhaps for now,” the stout man said grudgingly.

Even Dale could tell he’d push Nora about it later.

“What did you do?” Dale asked Nora. “What was the thing with
the grass and the rope?”

Nora turned to face Dale, but her gaze had a faraway look. “Magic.”

***

Chris sang along with the radio as he drove north. His Caddy
cruised along, eating up the miles. He scoffed at the smaller foreign cars he
passed. American-made was still the way to go.

After checking the clock, Chris calculated the hours again.
He’d already crossed over into Oregon. Maybe another four or five hours before
he’d hit the town Denise had run away to.

That witch. He wouldn’t have actually hurt her. A gentleman
never struck a lady. His mama had drilled that into his head but good.

Traffic grew congested. However, instead of a town, a huge
collection of outlet shops crouched together on the side of the road, drawing
crowds of people.

“That, right there, is what’s was wrong with America,” Chris
said out loud to the empty car. He ground his teeth, changing into the fast
lane to avoid the merging traffic, though he continued to stay close to the
speed limit. He couldn’t risk getting a ticket or calling any attention to
himself.

BOOK: The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom
10.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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