The Faire

Chapter 6

Although the down mattress was more soft and luxurious than any she had used before, Cassidy could not sleep. The fire was silent in the small fireplace, leaving a dead emptiness lingering in the room. Cassidy had wept in the room for an hour, then concocted hundreds of plans to save herself and the other girls for another hour. Eventually, she deemed every single well-thought out plan a failure. She sat at the end of the bed, staring into the jumping embers of the firelight, feeling entirely useless.

She stood and replaced her sheer gown with the simplest dress she could find in wardrobe. It was black and made with a velvet material, embroidered with shining silver lilies and vines. The wardrobe was filled with excessively garish gowns, like the one Kirrill brought to the kitchen, all of them black but with flamboyant designs and cuts.

There were shoes on a shelf at the top of the wardrobe, some carved out of smooth wood and painted, some delicate glass, a few were leather sandals. Among the pairs, she found a very human pair of lace up boots, with the worn logo of a company stamped on the sole. They were slightly big on her, but she stuffed a few silk scarves into the toes and called them her own. After all, she thought, if I am here forever, I will need shoes. If I am to escape, eventually, I will also need them. Human shoes for the human girl seems meant to be.

She began to explore the drawers and trifles in the room. Despite finding boots from the mortal version of the world Cassidy was familiar with, there was no other remnant there. She wondered if the faerie woman who had lived here enjoyed human fashion as much as the couture of Faerie. Imagining a woman like the resplendent queen walking into a Dillard’s was more bizarre to Cassidy than the fact that creatures like the queen existed at all.

The room, in all it’s finery, had a small assortment of books on a shelf. Cassidy read the spine of the ones that had engraved the titles. The Canterbury Tales, Hamlet, Harry Potter. She paused. Harry Potter seemed out of place in this room. In her mind, the faerie who had lived here had been gone for ages. Harry Potter was only a little over two decades old. The fact the faerie woman had loved the literature of mortals seemed to comfort Cassidy. She wondered what had happened to make her disappear and leave the room vacant. Did her proximity to Kirrill get her killed? Will it get me killed?
She pulled a book that had no markings on the spine, but that was as large as a dictionary. She opened the book to find pages filled with a small dense scribble and scratchy sketches of what Cassidy recognized as the Fae. With a powerful yawn, she placed it in the ornate chair by the bed.
Having not slept in hours, and exhausted from crying, Cassidy climbed under the heavy down blankets, again. It was totally silent.

Then, a noise woke her just as she edged into sleep. She listened carefully, but it just sounded like several voices whispering. She waited for it to stop, and it was over in less than a minute. She closed her eyes tightly.

A few minutes later, the noise returned again. This time louder, as if it were several hundred voices whispering incoherently. When it stopped, Cassidy threw the covers off of her, pulled on the boots that she had scavenged, and walked to the wooden door. Terrified but curious, she leaned an ear to the gap in the wood. The noise came again, and she followed it into the hallway, desperate to make out the words. With each step towards the living area, the whispering became more of a roar. The hall was dim, but the light from the living area cast strange shadows on the shelves of books to her sides. By the time she reached the bright room the sound had silenced, leaving Cassidy staring blankly at a faerie in the arm chair.

All in black and looking over the edge of a book at her entrance was Kirrill. His eyes glittered in the reflection of several hundred candles. He looked harmless enough, book perched in his clawed hand, hair loose around his broad shoulders, clothed in a black night dress that reached his ankles, and head topped with the thorned circlet. Beside him was a steaming cup of tea, in a fine porcelain cup.

His expression was one of curiosity, but he did not ask any questions of her. He awaited her explanation.

“Did you hear that sound?” Cassidy gathered the courage to ask. She could think of no way he could produce the noise of a thousand whispering people, but hoped he could tell her what had produced it, or what it was saying.

Kirrill’s slick silver eyes darted to the door and his fingers loosed the book, letting it fall into his lap. She saw his sharp ears twitch.

“This noise, can you describe it?” His voice was low and agitated. His claws dug into the wood of the chair. His eyebrows furrowed, a deep crease forming between them. Cassidy understood with a sinking feeling that she was the only one privy to the sound.

Whispers flooded the room, thousands upon thousands of them in an incomprehensible cacophony. Cassidy noticed it was coming from the door to Kirrill’s home, exactly where his eyes rested. She took a quick step towards it.

“It’s like someone is whispering. Loads of whispering, thousands of voices, but I just...I can not make out what they are saying.”

Kirrill did not move from his chair, becoming as rigid as a statue, but his eyes moved to follow Cassidy.

“Why are you moving toward it? You know not what it could be.” He sounded perplexed but cautionary.

Cassidy stared down in horror at her moving feet. “I-I don’t know. I just need to know what they are saying.”

The whispers were a din in her ears now, demanding she come and find the source. Her hand was perched on the wood of the door, ready to pull it open, when Kirrill yelled, “Stop!”

The babel was silenced. Cassidy realized from the shadows on the wall that he was behind her, hand pressing the door closed. Not even the cloth of his gown touched her. Even in such close proximity, he managed to keep a distance. She ducked beneath his arm, and made her way to a wooden armchair.

“What is it?” she inquired. “Why do I feel like it is calling out to me.”

Kirrill turned and leaned against the door, foot catching the fabric of his thin silk gown. The silk pulled at his chest and body, abs and tight corded muscles emphasized in the firelight. Cassidy was busy staring at the door behind the faerie, but noticed his awkward shifting to release the fabric. She caught what looked like embarrassment crossing his face out of the corner of her eye.

“It could be any variety of things, most likely some forlorn fae who had intended your purchase at the auction and who feels that I did not provide equitable reason for rights to you.”

Cassidy’s face twisted at the thought, imagining all of the beautifully grotesque beasts and fae in the crowd earlier that day. Beasts with the head of a goat and body of a man. Creatures that looked human with arms draping the ground and mouths on their bellies with no face on their smooth heads.

“You contort your face at the idea. However, you sit comfortably in my company? What happened to the knife-wielding mortal I met earlier?” His tone was admonitory, eyes narrowed.

Cassidy felt suddenly aware that she had taken a seat so easily alone in the room with him, and could not explain it to herself. She had no time to think of it too deeply, because the whispers deafened her, suffocating every other thought.

When it hushed, she found herself scratching at the door, fingers raw and bleeding and nails broken. Kirrill stood to her right, weight holding the door in place. His eyes clenched in pure fury, his lips pulled back into a snarl revealing unnaturally sharp teeth. He sighed and relaxed as she stopped scratching the door and placed a bleeding finger in her mouth to pluck a splinter with her teeth. She tasted the metallic blood and the salt from her sweat.

“What should I do? Drink more tea?” Cassidy said, a hint of sarcasm in her voice failing to survive in the tremble of fear.

Kirrill turned his face away from her, his jaw clenched tight. He shook his head, mumbling denials to himself. Then, he released a low, defeated yowl and let go of the door. He left her there, heading down the hall and opening a door. She heard it close behind him.

Has he given up? Left me to the devices of whatever faerie is luring me away. She wondered if the faerie who called her out into the darkened dirt halls meant to kill her. In her absentminded horror, she thought of the faeries she saw in movies that were always kind, magical creatures that aided the protagonist. Then, she remembered that Tinkerbell attempted to have Wendy killed, and she wondered if the author of Peter Pan knew about real faeries and had based Tinkerbell off of them. Faeries were real, after all, so it was not impossible to imagine.

The discord of voices rang in her head again. Without Kirrill blocking the way, she was out of the door and into the dirt hall in seconds. She walked down the hall in what she knew was the right way. It was too dimly lit, though, and she lost her footing and fell.

When she came back to her senses, realizing she had been abandoned to fall into some beast’s trap, her eyes stung with unshed tears. Harvor was the face she imagined, the scaled beast that had licked his bulbous lips at her when she was trapped in the cage, and she shivered as she thought of his hand on her skin. She bit the inside of her cheek, trying to keep herself from crying. Trying to keep herself present. What would Gwen do? She would know exactly what to do, Cassidy thought this so fervently that heat rushed to her face.

Several twisting roots were bulging out of the dirt walls a few paces ahead under the light of a torch. She quickly went to them, digging into the dirt, and using the thick roots as makeshift shackles for herself. If Kirrill had given up on keeping her from walking into danger, she should do her best to save herself.

The whispers started, and she thought she had succeeded, until it stopped and she found herself fallen onto her knees several meters further into the hall.

It had failed. She dug her nails into her palms and bit her lip to keep from crying. If the faerie who ended up luring her saw the weakness in her, what would it do? Surely, like the wood nymphs said, if it smelled the iron in her it would surely kill her for that alone. Was it already losing patience with it's lure? Would it come hunting her in the halls instead?

Fast heaving footsteps approached her from the hall she had left. Cassidy felt the brush of the wind on her back as the faerie arrived. She covered her head.

“Put this on. Quickly!” Kirrill bellowed, ignoring Cassidy’s flinch.

He had a thick leather glove on one hand, fingers clenched tightly around something that must have been very small. Cassidy lifted her hands as if cupping the air. Something small, cold, and metal fell onto her dirty palms.

It took a moment of spinning the object around in her fingers for Cassidy to realize it was a ring. Just as the whispers deafened her again, she slid the ring quickly onto her left index finger. The din silenced immediately, without even an echo.

Kirrill’s gloved hand was still outstretched from dropping the ring, and Cassidy reached up to grab it and lift herself to her feet. He ripped his hand away when he noticed she was just mere millimeters away, and turned to walk back into the dark depths of the hall. Cassidy grabbed the rooted wall, heaved herself up, and quickly followed behind with trembling, weak knees.

Neither of them dared to speak until they were back into the living area. Kirrill bolted the door behind them, and fell into a chair with an exasperated groan. He picked up his book from the floor, and placed it on the table beside him. The edge of the book knocked out a good portion of tea, staining the pages. Kirrill swiped the saucer with his fist and sent it flying into the center of the room, shattering with shards of porcelain and splashes of tea right in front of Cassidy’s feet. She started, frightened by his aggressive outburst.

“I…” Cassidy started to speak, but couldn’t formulate the words. She opted for her default response, instead. “I’m sorry.”

Kirrill clenched both of his clawed hands into his tangled mess of black hair. “Why?” he muttered with his face concealed. “What do you know to be apologetic for?”

Cassidy crouched down to the floor, collecting the larger pieces of porcelain and placing them in the palm of her hand. “I don’t know,” she tried to add strength to her voice, but it still quivered slightly. “You’re clearly angry, it seems I’m to blame. So, for whatever it is worth to you, I am apologizing.”
He looked up, saw her collecting the broken cup, and glowered. “Even now, you take things that belonged to her and place them in your own hands and claim them for your own. What more of her must I give to you?”

Cassidy frowned down at the shattered cup in her hand. She had not expected him to get so angry at her for cleaning up, and she had not known it had belonged to some other woman. Kirrill was the one had given the room and the ring. His outburst was what broke the cup. What right did he have to be angry with her?

“I am just cleaning up the mess,” she grumbled passively, finding it easy not to rise to his anger after years of dealing with Gwen’s foul moods. “You can have the pieces back when I am done. I am not trying to take anything that does not belong to me, I promise.”

Cassidy heard him stand, and walk past her to the kitchen. She was wondering if he was going to go tantrum and break more things, when he stepped back through the door with a faded purple rag in hand. He kneeled beside her, and began placing pieces of the cup in the cloth, indicating that she should do the same. She dropped the fragments in her hand onto the cloth, and began picking up more pieces.

“We are missing a piece,” he sighed, defeated.

“How can you tell?” Cassidy scanned the ground and looked at the shattered pile on the rag. Then she saw the blood. “You have something red on your hand. Are you bleeding?”

Kirrill lifted his hands, to find one tiny narrow piece embedded in the flesh of his fingertip. He plucked it out without flinching and added it to the stack. The rag turned green, as though it were slowly soaked in dye. Cassidy stared in bewilderment.

Kirrill stood, and held the bundled rag over the flame of a candle, heating it until the rag returned to its original purple hue. When he dropped the rag onto the sidetable, the cup was fully restored. Cassidy realized, now that she was getting a closer look, that the design on the rim was just an ‘s’ and a ‘k’ with a heart between them, in a repeating pattern, and it appeared to be drawn in sharpie marker.

“She made this for you,” Cassidy realized aloud. “I assume the ring is hers, too?”

Kirrill answered with a simple nod of his head. He held the cup up to the light, as if to ensure it was in pristine shape.

“Is that why you kept arguing with yourself,” Cassidy asked, wondering if she was overstepping. “You did not want to give away her things to me?”

Without looking away from the cup, he answered. “It was the ring from our marriage, as was her custom. I had it made especially for her, so she would be able to live here with me.”

Cassidy stared down at the ring, getting her first decent look at it in the light. It was a black metal, twisted smoothly,coming up in fine vines around two small emeralds and holding a larger emerald in its center. It was stunning, and fit perfectly the taste of the person who had designed the room that Cassidy was meant to stay in.

“It blocked out the noise. It stopped that faerie from luring me away. Do faeries get enchanted, too?” Cassidy said this, but reality slowly crept on her. She realized, now, why she found the boots and books. Why Kirrill's wife had a ring that blocked enchantments.

“No,” Kirrill said bluntly. “She was a mortal.”

Then, he left her without a passing glance.

In the washing room, Cassidy found a small streaming waterfall. Water hit stacked stones against the wall like a human-sized zen fountain and drizzled into a six foot round pool surrounded but smooth, round rocks. The water rippled, bubbling where it met the pool.

She dipped her fingers in, scrubbing away the dirt and blood in the ice cold water. Her fingertips stung after, but she pulled off her boots and scrubbed off the dried dirt and the blood of the unknown dead girl on the dais.

Cassidy wanted to scrub herself until the skin was raw, emptying her skin of all the memories of the day. She could not bring herself to bathe. Partly because of the frigid water, but also because Kirrill was in the adjacent room and there was no bolt on the door.

There were several jars and clay pots by the pool’s edge. Then, Cassidy spotted it. Cocoa butter shampoo and conditioner in orange and white plastic bottles perched behind several jars as if trying to blend in. Cassidy rolled up her sleeves, squirted a minim of shampoo into her palms, and gave herself the most thorough bird bath she could. Anything for a familiar scent. Anything to remove the odor of the mint and flowers the wood nymphs had soaked her with.

She stood, and found a cloth rolled neatly in a pile by the door. The lighting was dim, being lit by only a few candles, and she couldn’t make out any form of a toilet. Not even finding some sort of squatting hole like they had in other countries, Cassidy was astounded that creatures filled with magic could not figure out basic plumbing. She reasoned with herself that it could be due in part to the metal of the pipes. Even Kirrill donned a glove just to carry a metal ring. Remembering it, Cassidy spun the ring on her finger, letting the emerald glisten in the small flame of the candle. Tempted, she nearly slid it off for a millisecond, just to see if the voices were still going.

Immediately, she thrust her hand down to her side. I’m not suicidal, she thought. But that impulse certainly was.

When she finally laid her head down on the large, fluffed pillows, she felt all of the muscles in her back as if she had been battered. She closed her eyes and tried to think of none of the terrors of the day. She reminded herself to ask Kirrill about the bathroom situation in the morning when she woke. Not even sure how she could broach the subject, she had an imaginary conversation in her head until exhaustion overtook her.

The next morning, Cassidy woke to a light known on the bedroom door. She yawned, and out of habit called out that the door was open. Gwen always came to early, but never earlier than her grandparents woke. With a start, she realized she was not in her RV, and her heart began pounding increasingly faster. Kirrill stepped inside, hovering by the door.

Cassidy wrapped the blankets around herself, and dangled her legs off the side of the bed to face him. She scolded herself for feeling self-conscious about her ratty hair and foul morning breath, telling herself she should care very little what her captor thought of her. Her was not even paying attention to her, staring instead at the walls and the room as if he hadn’t seen it in years despite being inside it the night before. Cassidy kept her eyes on him, warily. He was her captor, and perhaps if he found her smell vile he would let her go, deeming her unfit to be his servant. On the other hand, from the faeries she had seen thus far, he was far more likely to kill her for his own viewing pleasure.

The internal argument ceased only when he spoke.

“You will have to let the hob, Unir, know to clean your chamber pot when she arrives. She has not been granted access to this room since…” he trailed off, loathe to continue that train of thought.
Cassidy wrinkled her eyebrows. “Chamber pot?”

Kirrill saw her expression, finally taking notice of her, and released a startled laugh. He placed a hand to his lips to stifle his smile.

“You must forgive me,” he said, and Cassidy wondered if he meant to apologize for lack of explanation or for having any happy emotions. “I have forgotten that mortals, such as yourself, have more modern fixtures. The chamber pot is out equivalent to your toilet. Use it as you will, the hob cleans it once a day. I believe Symone also left some menstruation items in a drawer beneath the bed, among other human necessities, shall you need them.”

The nonchalance with which he discussed the topics humans tended to avoid stunned Cassidy into silence. Instead, she repeated the name Symone in her head until it was lodged there. Symone’s room. Symone’s ring. Symone’s shampoo. Symone’s Kirrill.

“I must return to the side of the queen. Do not leave the home. Do not remove the ring. Do not eat any food the hob may offer you. She is no evil thing, but enjoys trickery which would seem cruel to most mortals. You can however allow Unir to acquaint you with this home, as she may know it as well as I. Are there any questions you have of me before I take my leave?”

His eyes sparkled as the gazed inquiringly at her, the fire casting dancing shadows on the wall behind him. If he wanted questions, she had one million, all piling up too quickly to grasp hold of just one.

Cassidy shook her head, trying to will her mouth closed over one of the many questions she knew would offend him.

“After all she’s done, how can you still serve her?” she asked despite herself.

Kirrill caught her eyes in his own gaze. She could not read his expression, despite expressly trying to. He could yell at her, fly across the room, or even begin sobbing, and he gave no indication of it. Instead, he stared at her with nothingness in his eyes.

“For what purpose do you need that answered?” he responded emotionlessly.

Cassidy looked down to the hands in her lap. She had begun nervously plucking at her nails without realizing. Calming her hands, she took a deep steadying breath.

“Curiosity, I guess. I can’t think of any reason that would make you stay, myself. Plus, you asked if I had any questions. That’s my question,” she tried making her voice as monotonous as his, but instead felt she sounded like a petulant child.

He rubbed a hand over his eyes in exasperation, and grumbled to himself. When he looked up his gaze froze on the large book she had tossed into the chair the night before.

“It seems you have already found your answer,” he sneered. Cassidy followed his gaze. Clearly, he was not pleased that she had read the book. She wanted to argue that she had not even read a word, only seen a few images of faeries and assumed that it would be useful to her. She opened her mouth to speak but he turned to leave.

“If there is nothing else…” he said sharply.

“Wait!” Cassidy jumped from the bed, nearly tripping on the velvet dress, to stop him from leaving. Cassidy caught her hands before they reached out to grab his arm. His hand was on the door handle, but he was already frozen at the sound of her approaching.

“Yes?” he hissed with his broad back to her, heavy with black silk cloaks.

She hesitated, not having expected him to halt so easily.

“I just-I wanted…” she fumbled for the right words in the jumbled mess of all the thoughts she wanted to express. “Thank you.”

She wanted to hate him, she truly did, and she knew it was what he preferred as well. But he had done nothing but protect her so far, and she knew when to be grateful.

Cassidy did not see his expression change, because he still hid it from her view in the shadows cast by the firelight. Still, she knew something changed because his back was quaking and she swore she heard a quiet laugh.

“Never thank a faerie,” he warned, but with a childish amusement in his voice. “I understand the gesture, but it is quite offensive to most of my kind.”

Then he purged the amusement from his face. “Do not drop your blade, do not be swayed by kindness,” he reminded her, but she heard a sad sort of kindness in his words.

She wondered as he left how many times he had told Symone those words. She wondered how often she told himself those words. Do not be swayed. Nothing comes without a price. It was impossible to her that there was a world in which kindness did not exist in and of itself. Difficult to find, but she had already found it here. If it did have a price, when would she be expected to pay her dues?