I get in after a long day, my body aches from the effort of keeping my identity secret, but I’m used to it. I strip off my shirt and unclasp the ties I’ve sewed into my bralette. I’d tried many different things but this was the most comfortable. Like walking over lego vs walking over thorns. Both painful but one is less painful than the other.
I sigh as I shake my back and shoulders, pealing the translucent membrane from my stomach then chest. Another sigh escapes my lips as they unfurl- my wings. They had been stuck to my pale skin for over nine hours. I shook again, relishing in the satisfaction as they flapped around me. The only way I can describe it is that feeling when you need to crack your knuckles, the pressure keeps building then you release the tension. That’s what unwrapping my wings felt like.
It wasn’t always like this, once upon a time many, many years ago I didn’t have to hide. But I was a little girl then and we can get to that later, first WINE. “It’s Friday,” I sigh as I reach for the bottle of Rosé. I can let my wings out for a good fly tomorrow. They’re not as strong as they should be, I’m definitely not as strong as mother and father were. But they’re long dead. I have to blend in, be inconspicuous.
I set off early the next morning, better to get a good distance from civilisation before the humans wake. I drive until the track runs out in the forest. I park, let my feet crunch the few twigs littering the ground. I wrap my hoodie around my waist and unstrap my wings. Allowing them to be free. The beauties that sprout from just below my bralette- why I wear a certain underwear. They’re almost clear, they shimmer and refract light like mist on a summers day. My wings grew with me, always remaining in proportion to my body. Dropping to just above mid-calf, reaching to the tips half a foot above my head. I’m pretty much full grown now so they won’t grow much more.
I enjoy the feel of the sun on the membrane looking down to the bottom of my wings seemingly fluttering with anticipation. I shake and begin flapping. I start by just getting momentum to lift off the ground, then allow the air to float me gracefully in the air. I hover forty feet from the ground, surveying the bottle green fir trees that cascade for miles around. I can see the speck on the horizon of the town I came from.
I turn from the town, looking towards the never-ending sea of green. The dense forest offers perfect cover for me. I lower a little so the tips of the trees give that protection; can’t risk a human catching sight of me. I also need to be close enough to the ground to hear anyone coming.
The toes of my canvas pumps graze the needles as I whizz passed. This is life, this is living. I wish fate had been kinder to our species. I wish there were others... but I’m the last. The Faeries were massacred, so I’m destined to live my next five hundred years alone. It’s OK though, I’ve done it for four hundred and sixteen years so far... so no biggie.
I’m heading for my favourite spot, it has a good amount of lingering magic so I can recharge properly. It’s a natural pool of water, with the strength of magic there I doubt humans have ever found it. It’s almost impossible to get there by foot, even with my nimbleness. I tried it once and nearly fell to my death.
The area’s beautiful, ferns surround the pool with moss covering the dull grey rocks. The water always shimmers in the sunlight, making it inviting and I can never resist.
A noise forces me to land in one of the tall trees. I can hear footsteps; the crunching of dirt and foliage under boots. To be safe, I groan as I quickly wrap my wings around myself strapping them in place. I hiss as I have to tug them a little tighter; painful but necessary to lessen the stump on my back. I throw the hoodie on which is baggy enough to disguise the rest of my wing stumps.
The sounds of the boots are getting closer so I climb down the tree agilely, light on my feet as always. Where I’ve dropped there isn’t a natural path, creatures obviously don’t frequent this section of the forest, which means it is a little odd to hear footsteps around this area. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be traipsing so early through this part.
I continue my way to my destination on foot. Still awkwardly aware of the footsteps around, I can’t tell where they’re coming from. I turn off a little just to see if I can find a trail, it’s tiring walking though under-brush and foliage. I continue through ferns, still no sign of a path. The footsteps have stopped. So I’ll walk for a few miles then take flight again.
After ten minutes I find a small trail so relish in the easier walk I’ll have. I take in the tweeting of birds greeting the morning, the sun rose around an hour or so ago. I can hear the small rustle of ground creatures, we look after the animals... or we did. I wish there was more breeze today, I love hearing the wind through leaves, it’s calming.
A sight makes me slow my pace. A man is stood a little way up the path. He’s looking up into the trees, seemingly studying something. I know it can’t be what I can see. Many trees this far into the forest have kept a small glimmer of magic, and that’s what it looks like, a glimmer high in the trees. Magic used to engulf the forests particularly but there was magic all over the world until the creatures of magic died.
The man makes a note in a small notebook, then seemingly not noticing me strolls up the path. I continue my journey, but there’s something about him that intrigues me. I think it’s the way he moves. Despite his tall built frame, similar to that of a lumberjack, he moves more that of a dancer. His boots despite making noise, aren’t heavy on the ground. I should start moving off the path to get my distance from him... but I don’t.
“Are you following me?” his melodic voice almost makes me stop dead in my tracks. That’s a type of voice I hadn’t heard in many years. I shake it off and answer “No, my destination happens to be ahead.”
His sing-song chuckle makes my breath catch. I can’t help it, I speed up. As I near him I take in his checked flannel shirt. A small disappointment rising in my stomach as I fail to see any hint of a bulge in his back, his shirt is too thin to hide anything.
I fall in step with him and look up to him, not quite catching his face before he speaks again, “I believe you are now following me,” his melodic voice possessing a hint of irritation. I take one extra step than him to look to his face. His delicate but strong jaw, his high prominent cheekbones, and pale skin. For a human he was beautiful, but the more I looked to him the less I believed he could possibly be human. I couldn’t outright ask him though... what if I was wrong?
“What’s your name?” I ask
“Athieus,” he replies sounding uninterested, but he hadn’t turned off the path, or quickened his pace to get away from me. So we continue walking in step with each other. I unashamedly watch as his golden hair catches the sunlight, it’s quite long, hitting just below his shoulders.
We continued in silence. I decided he was more interesting than the swimming. After an hour of silence, he clears his throat. “There’s a natural spring twenty minutes walk that way.” He gestures off the trail to the left. I turn to where he’s pointing, deeply hoping he turns too. I wasn’t sure if his words were an invitation but I’m relieved when I hear his boots just behind me. Then coming in line with my pumps. “I didn’t ask your name,” he states.
“You are correct you didn’t.” I continue walking... he didn’t ask. He sighs.
“What do I call you?” that irritation back in his tuneful voice, I stifle a small chuckle
“Nice to meet you Eilidh. This may be an odd question, how do you spell that?” I spell out my name to him, it is an odd spelling as it’s pronounced Aylee. “Hmm, Gaelic spelling,” he observes, it was a statement rather than a question. “Yes, many can’t pronounce when they read it, and certainly don’t know its Gaelic.”
“I can imagine. So... how old are you?” He seems more interested in me now... Bold question but whatever my age is fake
“Twenty-three.” It’s the age I roughly look, I have maybe five more years out of this town before questions of my lack of ageing come up. So I’ll move on like I always do. Don’t get me wrong I age... just much slower than my human counterparts.
“How old do I look?” That’s an odd reply, I don’t want to offend him. I look up to his face for a while, “Maybe twenty-eight?” He looks to me for the first time, his soft brown eyes seeming to be thinking for a little while “You’re close, twenty-nine.” I hum in response. A silence descends again.
We remain silent until we reach what I suspect is our destination. There’s a let-up in the trees, forming an almost rectangular clearing. The water trickles through a sculpture of varying sizes of rocks and boulders. The water dribbles into a tiny stream that’s littered with pebbles.
Wildflowers dance despite the lack of breeze. The glimmer is evident all around the clearing. Obviously mostly untouched the magic had been allowed to fester and grow, much like my natural pool. I could feel my aura drinking in the pure electricity of the magic. My wings begin to battle against the tight straps locking them in place. “Are you OK?” he asks, studying me. I’m guessing my face gives me away. “Yeah, it’s just so... beautiful.” I try to hide my discomfort with one of shock.
He seems to believe me and shoots a gorgeous small smile my way, he looks almost boyish in this clearing. “It makes me feel alive,” he comments. Now I know exactly that that is how this place makes me feel. My skin tingles with newfound energy. But I know humans use that term for quite a few things too.
There’s just something about him though... his being just screams he’s not human.
They all died in the war I try to remind myself... but I can still try something.
We sit in the soft moss-covered ground, “What’s your true-” I ‘catch myself’ purposefully before I ‘correct’ myself “Family name?” The look he gave me made me almost certain he’s Fae. I’m certain he knows what I’m talking about.
As quick as a flash he leans over and has yanked my hoodie at my neck and in one swift move pulled it off my shoulder. I yelp in surprise at his action. “I knew it! How did you survive?” his tone almost accusatory. I push his hand away despite the tingle that his fingers on my wings gives me.
“I... you’re... how?” I stutter
“I asked first.”
“But I don’t know if you’re...” I start.
He sighs, standing. “Fair enough, you make a valid point. I’m Athieus Foxchild. Long ago I was one of the King’s warriors.” He began unbuttoning his flannel shirt while he spoke. When the shirt fell away he unveiled a black vest. Similar to a bulletproof vest... that’s why I couldn’t see a hint of a stump. I can see a glint of translucent golden shimmer around the straps over his shoulders.
I gasp unable to say anything as he un-Velcros the vest. It had been so long... so long since I saw another of my kind... other wings. I watched with bated breath as his translucent wings slowly began to unfurl from his chiselled stomach first, then the wings over his well-toned chest fluttered to life. His wings were magnificent as they rose gracefully over his head. The golden hue glinting a deeper gold as the sun’s rays shone through.
His chest now uncovered displayed scars. He's littered in them. A long silver line began at his stomach and rose across his chest ending almost to his shoulder. It looked like it was from a blade. “You remember the elven war?” he asks.
“Of course,” I reply, that was how I lost everyone.
“I was fighting next to the King. Until I had no-one left to fight. When I turned around... there was no-one left, Elves and Fae alike... dead. I was alone. So... I’ll ask again. How did you survive?” His wings fluttered, again that accusatory tone.
I’m almost embarrassed by my story, “I was a child... my father hid me. Helped me to disguise myself then left me with a human who had knowledge of our kind.”
“How old were you?” his tone softening slightly, his eyes more curious than angry or irritated.
“Barely one hundred,” I breathe back... knowing he'll know who I am.
“Too small to fight...” he commented, “I only know of one Faerie that young at the point of the war.”
“Yes,” I lower my gaze, looking to the lime moss. I didn’t want him to treat me any different. He knelt in front of me. His wings drooping, brushing the soft ground. “I’m just Eilidh,” I whisper. He scoots closer and put his hand in mine. He hooks his finger and gently rises my head to meet his soft brown eyes. “OK just Eilidh,” his tone gentle, he wasn’t mocking which I was glad of. He offers me a charming smile, which I reciprocate.
“I never thought I’d see a Fae again,” he whispers. I search his eyes, I see my own relief reflected back at me. I couldn’t believe it either, but here he was... here he is. His hair flutters with the small movements of his wings. The breeze he's creating is pleasant against the ever-increasing heat of the sun. “Please, release your wings. I know they’re dying to escape,” he requests gently. He was right, they were fighting from their bonds, quivering. I nod, kneeling in front of him.
I remove my hoodie, I should have been embarrassed that all I wore was a white lace bralette. But I wasn’t, because I was about to be me for the first time in centuries. And unlike before, I now have the body of a woman. Last time anyone saw my wings I had a body close to that of a human four-year-old.
I unfurl my translucent wings that ripples with rainbows in the sunlight. I allow them to rest on the floor around me, just happy they're out. Together the tips of our wings create a pleasant breeze, fluttering my ash blonde hair.
Athieus rose onto his knees, our bodies drawing together as he crawls forward. “So beautiful,” he mutters breathlessly. He seems caught up in the moment as I am. His hands wrap around my waist, careful not to trap my wings. He pulls me closer so the lace of my bralette brushes his chest. His wings begin to flap, drawing us both effortlessly to our feet.
Wordlessly we both work our wings so our feet are no longer on the moss. Athieus wraps his arms tighter around me, his strong arms almost holding me above the ground without my wings helping. Despite this, I continue to beat my wings gently against the supportive air. He looks deep into my fir green eyes “Princess,” is the word that left his lips before they capture mine. My heart flutters out of my chest. I had never been kissed but I seem to know what to do in the arms of Athieus.
We rise together high into the air, our wings beating a rhythm only we know as our kiss deepens, my arms wrap around his neck pulling him into me. I want all of him, I’d never been touched by another and now I want to feel every experience.
And Athieus happily obliged.
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