The prison wagon rumbled to the edge of Taergoria Wood with Ravenshade clearly on exhibition. Bound to an obelisk of metal by the heavy chains that wrapped around her, the Dark Fairy was in excruciating pain, though she refused to let it show. On the bench, the Royal Mystic preened beside a Goblin who was cloaked in black and driving a team of black horses.
Hazelbite turned to smirk at the prisoner.
“So you thought your little scheme would work, eh? At long last, you managed to exact your revenge on the royal family. Now you will receive justice for your crime.”
Ravenshade’s eyes flashed but her demeanor remained cool. “To whom are you speaking, Mystic? We are miles from the adoring crowds and the Goblin cares not. You and I both know who the true killer is and, as you did nothing to stop it, I expect you will have to explain yourself to the Exalted Council.”
Hazelbite’s eyes narrowed. “I did what was necessary to preserve the family from scandal.”
“Does the Council know you never approved of the marriage, of the union between a royal human and, what was it you deemed her, ‘innominate refuse?’” How does it feel having to run all over town to put out the fires that refuse caused? Worse yet, having to associate with lesser Fae desperate to claw their way into the inner court in order to cover your own tracks in the process.” Ravenshade cackled. “That must have killed you!”
Hazelbite hissed. “Tis no matter, churl, all will be settled and done once Prince Logan executes you.”
“My death is of no consequence. Remind me, Mystic, what does the Council do to those who break their oath?” The Dark Fairy crooned. “The fact you also violated the treaty makes everything far worse for you, doesn’t it? After all, you did put the needs of a Fairy over your duty to the king’s human daughter.”
Hazelbite’s face was purple as she twisted in her seat to face the prisoner. “Half human! Filthy crossbloods, both of them. A scourge on Davenmour’s elite, these mongrels! I did what I could to save the crown. I only wish I had killed the girl myself. In time she would have gone mad just like the queen.”
“My sister was already mad before you bound her magic and a tentative binding at that. How much longer will you let this go on, Hazelbite? How many more murders will you have to cover up before it becomes necessary to commit one yourself?”
There was a sudden blast of sparks as The Fairy Godmother appeared before the carriage, her dark blue cape swirling about her like a night full of stars. The horses reared up, screaming before the driver finally managed to get them under control again.
“Aryssa Thornhart, have you gone mad?” Hazelbite bellowed as she caught herself from unceremoniously rolling off the cart and dropped to her feet.
The stone-faced Godmother rapped the bottom of her staff against the ground three times and an enormous golden shield appeared overhead.
“Willow Fairy Hazelbite, you are charged with failing to protect the royal family of Davenmour from harm. You are charged with conspiracy to commit regicide, and you are charged with multiple violations of the Skalitude Treaty. You are hereby ordered to appear before the Department of Divine Justice to answer for your crimes. By order of the Exalted Council, I am authorized to remove you from the position of Royal Mystic of Davenmour along with all rank, power, and privilege therein.” Aryssa said.
A burst of sparks showered over the women before a swirl of gold and green rose from Hazelbite. The Willow Fairy sank to her knees with a wail.
“Fool, you do not understand! I did it to protect the royal family. Can you not see? The child was a parasite, an unholy evil birthed from a union between man and Fae, she had to be destroyed! Saskia knew this but she was crazed. There was nothing I could do to stop her!”
“You know the council would have sent assistance if the situation was so beyond your control. Humans are fragile, unpredictable creatures at the best of times, everyone knows this. Binding her magic as you did only made the situation worse. What happens when you clamp a lid on a boiling pot?” The Godmother’s eyes narrowed. “No, you weren’t thinking of the royal family. You were only thinking of your pride. Reaching out to the council meant the possibility of losing face in front of the entire realm of Fae and you couldn’t have that, not after maintaining such a lofty position for so long.”
Aryssa trembled with rage. “Well, that pride and selfishness cost an innocent life, almost two, and will rock this kingdom for a long time to come. The damage you have caused may be irreparable. That is conduct unbecoming of the Exalted Fae and you know the penalty.”
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no.” Hazelbite whispered and grew pale, shaking her head violently as her voice grew louder and she started wailing, “No! No! No! No! NO!”
Shadows stretched towards the road as a thickening mist surrounded them and she began to scream. The Willow Fairy’s shrieking was suddenly cut off as the fog enveloped everything. Aryssa closed her eyes and shivered against a chill that did not reach her skin. When she opened them again Hazelbite, her driver, and the wagon were gone leaving the Fairy Godmother and the unchained Dark Fairy to face each other.
Ravenshade smiled. “Godmother, you did it. You set me free.”
“I might have done so faster had you been straight with me, of course.” Aryssa smiled back.
“Would you have believed me if I told you about my sister- and daughter?”
“At first? Probably not, but the pieces of the puzzle would have fit together much faster.”
Ravenshade’s expression softened for a moment. “How is she?”
“The princess is well and on her way to Silvermire with her future husband.”
Ravenshade sniffed and Aryssa could all but see the sudden waves of relief and bittersweet melancholy of a mother losing her little girl. Then the Dark Fairy held her gaze.
“Well, I have a lot of work to catch up on starting with that special dye. I’ve lost so much time already and I doubt my useless staff has cracked the formula since I’ve been away.”
“Ah yes, about that.” Aryssa reached deep into her sleeve and drew a small bottle of shimmering purple liquid.
Ravenshade’s eyes grew wide. “How did- is that what I think it is?”
Aryssa nodded. “I paid a visit to your home during my investigation and discovered the remnants of the formula still on the floor. You’re right, that staff of yours really are useless.”
The Dark Fairy gazed at the delicate bottle cradled in her hands like it was a newborn and if the Fairy Godmother didn’t know better, she thought Ravenshade might cry.
“But why did you do this?” She asked softly.
“Your sacrifice and secrecy did more for this kingdom than Hazelbite ever did. The council was most grateful to you and I figured it was the least we could do.”
Ravenshade shook herself and her cool demeanor returned as she secreted the potion bottle. “Of course it was but I suppose it will have to do.”
At the familiar clip-clop of horse hooves, the women turned to see the Godmother’s coach crest the top of a nearby hill driven by Detective Chief Inspector Shroudcliffe himself. Aryssa turned to Ravenshade.
“We also decided to give you a lift back home if I may so impose.”
Ravenshade raised her chin to look down her nose at her before striding towards the carriage.
“You may.” She said.