“I’m not going.”
Kallima folded her arms over her slight chest defiantly as her father, Havard, folded her life into the boxes around her. The teenage girl’s lip quivered as, one by one, posters, photos, and books vanished into the cardboard caverns.
“I wouldn’t send you if I had another choice, Kali,” the older man replied.
Kallima turned away and drew her feet up onto her bed, pulling her knees close to her chin. Kallima’s short red hair fell in front of her sad eyes as she dipped into her knees to hide her face. She had tried, she insisted to herself. Everyone seemed to think moving on was so easy. Havard continued packing, oblivious. He was always oblivious, Kallima thought.
Kallima’s mother, though, had been attentive and caring towards the girl, when she was sober. While Kallima detested her mother’s life choices, she loved her. How could she not love the woman who looked so much like her?
While Kallima recently butchered her hair with a pair of sewing scissors, it still brought to mind the ember-like glow of her mother’s. The heavy orange eye-shadow detracted little from the steel grey eyes that the women shared. Even her ears, despite several visits to the salon to get both pierced multiple times, retained the slight point that could only be attributed to her mother’s genes. Only her close eyebrows and height differed from her mother’s looks. Kallima’s behavior, however, marked her very different from the elder. Kallima refused to be as gentle, as silent, as cowardly as her mother.
But her actions carried the side effect of making her father worry about the girl’s future. So when the letter came offering the fourteen-year-old private schooling, free of all charges, Havard gladly and eagerly accepted, despite his daughter’s protests.
“Besides,” he said, closing the last box with packing tape, “this is a very specialized school for people like you and your mother. You’ll be fine, Kali.”
“What, is it a school for queer fish?”
“Lump it, Kali,” he said. After a pause he continued, “No, I’d never do that to you, Princess. I promise. Your mum picked it out for you, you know?”
Kallima felt Havard sit next to her on the bed.She stared at her crimson nails to avoid his judgemental gaze.
“Kali, you’re going to learn so much at this school and meet so many new people. But I need you make me a promise.”
“What is it?” Kallima sighed.
“Please, Princess,” Havard begged, turning the girl’s face to his, “no matter what they tell you, remember that I am your father. You’ve never been any less than a daughter to me. Promise me that.”
Kallima swatted his hand away and asked, “What are you on about?”
“You’ll understand soon. Please, Kali, promise me.”
“Alright then, Dad, alright. I promise I won’t stop being your daughter.”
Havard smiled gently and pressed his lips to the child’s temple, patting her red hair.
“Get some sleep. We need to be up before dawn tomorrow.”
Kallima groaned and grumbled in agreement as the greying man stood and shuffled to the door. Kallima, not bothering to pull up the covers or fluff the pillows, laid down on the bed, curled up like a cat, and softly, silently cried until her eyes fell closed, heavy and empty at the same time.
Kallima opened her eyes as the car brakes squeaked to a halt. Havard cleared his throat and parked the car as his daughter rubbed her eyes and sat up.
“Ready?” he asked.
Peering out the car window, Kallima furrowed her brow.
“There’s nothing out there, Dad.”
Havard hurriedly exited the car and stepped to Kallima’s door. The teen stared out over the dim, flowered meadow below them as her father opened her door. She glanced up at him, then back to the meadow in confusion.
“What kind of school is this, Dad?”
“Just get your bags, Kali,” Havard said. “It’s nearly dawn.”
Havard unloaded three boxes from the trunk as Kallima heaved her suitcase from the backseat. She slung her leather satchel over one shoulder and kicked the door shut. Rolling her eyes, she picked up one of the boxes with which her father struggled. Now carrying two, he smiled down and thanked her.
“Now what?” Kallima asked.
Havard tipped his head and huffed, “This way.”
The two started down into the meadow valley. Kallima panted as Havard picked up speed, making the two sprint to wherever it was they headed. Suddenly, Havard stopped, causing Kallima to bump into him.
“Here, stand right here.”
Havard set the boxes he carried down in a strange patch of dirt surrounded by thin, tan toadstools. Kallima scoffed at him.
“Are you kidding me? We came all this way for a bloody fairy circle?”
“Kali, please, just stand in it, just for two minutes,” Havard said. “If nothing happens, we’ll both go home, and you can go back to public.”
Kallima rolled her eyes but humored her father, stepping lightly into the ring. Havard peeked over his shoulder at the dim, reddening horizon. Kallima set her box atop of another and put her hand on her hip.
“How long is this going to take?”
Kallima was immediately filled with foreboding as the tan mushrooms began to glow in an array of neon hues, shimmering like an aurora as the first sunlight illuminated them.
“Dad?” Kallima whimpered, looking up.
But he was gone. The world was gone. Only the four-foot wide circle of earth inside the mushrooms existed as the space around her whirled in a muddied tangle of color. The boxes rattled at her feet. In a blast of color, everything stopped with a jolt. Kallima hit her knees and palms as she keeled over, retching. Green bile leaked from her mouth as she heaved dryly.
“First time?” someone asked, her voice light and refreshing like a soft brook on a hot day, but with a ghastly accent.
Wiping her mouth, Kallima looked up for the first time at her new surroundings.
The source of the voice, a thin woman with sharp features and white hair, grinned and scribbled something on the clipboard in her hand. A deformed child at her ankles began loading Kallima’s boxes onto a trolley.
“Kallima Satudotter?” she asked.
The woman smiled and said, “Come with me. I’ll show you to your dorm room.”
The woman crouched down to Kallima and helped her to her feet as the child pulled her satchel away. Kallima gasped when she saw the thing’s pig-like face. The woman ushered the red-haired girl along a cobblestone path. Kallima gaped at the enormous marble castle perched comfortably atop a gentle hill of a peninsula to which she was led. The impish creature trailed them with Kallima’s luggage.
“Would you like some breakfast?” the woman asked. “My cousin and I arrived early, so we could greet you. He’s an amazing chef. Head of the kitchen here.”
Kallima shook her head as the massive front gate opened at their approach. Within the sprawling courtyard they stepped into, an elegant but frail-looking gazebo glimmered in the dawn’s light, supporting a bell that looked far too heavy for it. The sharp-faced woman gestured as Kallima tried to take in her surroundings.
“The dining hall is to the left here,” she explained. “The medical ward and gymnasium, too. Classrooms on the right on the first and second floors. Teachers offices are all on the fifth floor, if you need them. The tower is Headmaster Locke’s.”
“Bleeding Christ...” Kallima breathed.
The elder turned, confused, as she opened one of the huge oaken doors.
Kallima admitted, “I don’t even know where I am. Am I dreaming?”
“No, dear. You’re at the Iolanthe School of Fae. In the Faerie Realm.”
“There must be some mistake, then. I- I’m not a fairy.”
“Of course not,” the woman grinned as she ushered the teenager inside and up a flight of stairs. “Fairies are much smaller than you, and they have such lovely wings. But you are certainly a fae.”
“No, I’m not. I need to go home,” Kallima whined. “I’m human.”
“Now, Miss Satudotter,” the woman scolded, pushing Kallima up another flight of stairs, “if you were human, you would have gotten stuck in the portal. Humans cannot travel between the Mortal and Faerie Realms.”
“Satu was a remarkable fae. No doubt you’ll live up to her power. Even I can feel the energy coming off of you!”
As the woman forced Kallima up a third staircase, Kallima bit her lip, clenched her fists, and, at the top step, whirled around to the woman.
“Look here, now. My mother was human, bent as nine, but human. My dad, too. I don’t know how I got here, but send me home,” she demanded.
The woman crossed her arms and pressed her lips into the thinnest of lines as she stared Kallima down.
“Miss Satudotter,” she hissed, “I promise you that your mother was neither human nor a fool. She was a sorcerer and the personal adviser to King Titanus himself. More than that, though: she was my friend. It hurt me to hear of her passing, but it hurts me more to hear her child insult her the way you just did. Freshman girl’s dorms are right behind you. Here are your room and mail keys. Room 407. You’ll manage.”
Tossing Kallima a small set of keys, the woman turned and stormed back down the steps. Kallima bounced the keys in her hand, unsure of what to do next. She teared as she realized that she did not know how to get home from the ‘Faerie Realm,’ that she was trapped. Resigned, she turned to the door the woman had indicated and opened it.
Kallima found herself stepping into a comfortable room, one with stone walls that stopped halfway up and turned to soft blue wallpaper. The white armchairs and couches beckoned her with their plushness to rest. A few small tables stood along one wall, flanked with white desk chairs. She rolled her eyes. How suiting, she thought, that the room make her feel as though she walked among the clouds when it was on the fourth floor. She made her way to the door across the lobby, running her fingers along the top of one couch as she did. She would sit in it once, she told herself, before she left.
The door opened to a long, narrow, hallway lined with impossibly narrow doors, all stamped with white numbers. The one across from her read 402. With a groan, she started down the hall. Right next to a slightly wider door labeled “BATH,” the door that bore her room number stood proudly, as though knowing who it would house that year. Kallima quickly tested the knob, laughed to discover that it was, indeed, locked, then used her own key to open it.
The blue disappeared, replaced by white walls, two white bunk beds, a pair of white desks, and white carpet. Even the door was white on the inside, as were the two other doors and the windowsill. The only thing that broke the blank monopoly was the pile of boxes and luggage in the middle of the room. Kallima sighed and opened one door to find a closet. It held a dresser, a shallow shelf, and a closet rod on each side, each supporting two grey jackets emblazoned with the initials ISF. Opening one dresser drawer, Kallima groaned. It was filled with white blouses and blue plaid skirts. No wonder Havard had told her to pack lightly.
Reminding herself that she had no choice, Kallima dragged her suitcase into the closet and unzipped it. As she pulled the last of her pajamas from the bag, a large, manila envelope clunked to the floor. With a furrowed brow, she leaned over and scooped it up, ripping the paper open and slipping one hand inside.
Kallima’s fingertips brushed something cold. She plucked it out and gasped, pressing the paper to her mouth.
Suspended by its tip from a delicate gold chain, a thin, scale-like slice of gold glistened, decorated with stones and engravings. Kallima gaped wide-eyed at the amulet. Eight pearl white stones surrounded a large blue gem in the center. Kallima brushed the crystalline rock in awe, watching as it glinted with electricity at her touch. She quickly draped it around her neck, grinning madly at the elegance of the gift. Returning her attention to the envelope, she searched for a note from Havard. When she found it, she pulled it out and read:
If you have this, you are in the Faerie Realm. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but how could I? You would have thought I’d been drinking.
This is an Amulet of Binding. Don’t let anyone see it. It will keep your power in check until you can control it.
Your bank account is 477950. The safe box is 1413. Stay out of Orphanage, and don’t draw the Nobles’ eyes.
All my love,
Kallima touched the signature gently, eyes tearing. Her ever-cryptic mother was still watching over her. Kallima squeezed her eyes shut and choked down the tears.
“Traitor,” she whispered.
To her mother or to herself, though, she could not tell.