Act I: Red
Chapter 4: Thaia
"Is he dead?"
The woman asking stood over the two laying in bed, one completely awake while the other ambiguous as to what state he was in. The female of the two bedded glanced over to the one inquiring as she brought both hands to rest under her red-haired head.
"That's rather morbid, don't you think?" she asked with a slight smirk. "You haven't even met him yet and here you are, casting aspersions."
"Asking if someone's dead isn't an insult. At least not on their part," the standing woman stated with an agitated look. She stood over them with arms crossed.
"It is if you're implying he couldn't handle me," the red head said.
The other woman merely rolled her eyes and pulled the sheets off the two.
"Get up. You know what today is."
The red head sighed irritably as she lay for a handful of seconds before turning her head to face her unmoving partner. Seemingly without care, she slapped her arm over the male's neck. After another few seconds, she chuckled.
"Huh. I guess he really is dead. Whoops," she said with an undertow of humor.
"...Seriously?" the other asked, holding her forehead. The red-haired woman sat up and shook her hand in dismissal.
"Oh hush. He'll be back in a few days."
She then stood and stretched the delicate, intricately patterned wings that sprouted naturally from her back. As she did so, the attendant could hear the cracking of several unnatural joints throughout her body; this of course was nothing new to her. Living among a court of fae, a being like herself would only find normality among the outsider's perspective of the odd.
"That isn't the point, Thaia. The next man you bed shouldn't be killed... or harmed in any way for that matter," she continued to lecture.
"I'm not a sadist. Never was, never will be. Whatever happened last night was entirely his doing," she answered, shuffling around to find the sparse amount of clothing she owned scattered throughout the room. "And I get it. The king is only interested in having some tension relieved, right? So he gets a hot red head in his bed and I get to be..."
"Mm, I was going to say adored. You're being morbid again," Thaia chuckled again as she slipped her shirt on. "Anyway, why are you here so early? I didn't think anyone wanted to make a big deal out of coronating a concubine."
Thaia floated over to the attendant and placed her arms on her hips. She bested the older fae by at least a foot in height. The attendant merely looked up at her in mild annoyance at Thaia's rather bubbly mood.
"I was going to give you the ground rules for the engagement, but I can see you still want your freedom," she said.
"I was practicing," Thaia retorted.
"You were spiraling. A few letters are all I get in a week from you? Divines, not even from you, but smitten bartenders you invited back to their own sheets," the older fae said. "Are you taking for granted what kind of life you'll be living now? Every day being waited on, all for simply giving your nights to the Fae King... of all the men in the world."
Thaia smiled broadly and flitted backwards onto a couch. She leaned back with a drunken aloofness.
"You say that like it's something new. Men... and women for the most part... enjoy experiencing euphoria almost to a fault, you know. I promise, I'll have him done in three days. And then he'll give me whatever I want, even my nights... which I'll most likely spend with him anyway. As I said, I enjoy being adored," Thaia explained with little gusto.
"You're not listening... do you even know what you're talking about?"
"I am and I do. You're worrying about nothing," Thaia sighed exasperatedly. "Now are you going to take me to the Great Hall to meet him, or what? I assume that was going to happen after you've lectured me."
The attendant continued to give her a stern look, but decided to relent. As with most subjects, Thaia handled it with confidence. Just as she knew her since childhood.
"Alright. Let's go," the attendant said in a defeated tone. Thaia excitedly burst upward and followed the woman out of the room, leaving the dead fae in bed. "You know I'm only concerned about you."
"Only because you keep hearing horror stories about other fae like me," Thaia huffed. "Not to damn myself, or anything, but nothing ever happens to me. I'm hoping the king will rectify that."
The two fluttered down several halls to get to the main area of the palace. As they neared the Great Hall, where the Fae King was in attendance, Thaia gazed into the courtyard viewable on her left. It was beautifully attended, nearing that of a dream, but that wasn't what caught her attention; instead, her eyes darted straight towards that of the fae doing the tending. He was far too preoccupied to notice.
Because of Thaia's distraction, she wasn't able to react in time when the attendant made a dead halt. She quickly found her face in the older one's wings.
"Why did you just stop?" she asked, though half way through asking she realized it was unnecessary.
"Thank you, Nanny. I will take it from here," a male fae stated with a gentle disposition. He stood abruptly in front of the two. One of the first traits Thaia noticed was that he had a scar running vertically down from his left eye. "This is the concubine chosen for His Majesty's pleasure, is she not?"
The attendant merely nodded in respect before glancing in Thaia's direction. Without uttering a word, she departed from the scene, leaving the red-haired girl confused and mildly annoyed. Regardless, she knew her station and the responsibilities that came with it, and so if the attendant wasn't allowed to speak, then respect was the highest priority at the moment. She gave a slight bow in his direction.
"I take it you directly serve the King," Thaia said softly. The male fairy smiled warmly.
"That is correct," he answered.
Thaia's attention, though, quickly went from him to the rather colossal and ornate doors that mightily stood tens of dozens of yards behind him, with a countless number of guards patrolling the floor. Some she recognized as fae; others, however, she did not.
"Is there something distressing you?" the fae asked, his smile fading somewhat. She immediately snapped back to him.
"I'm sorry, I must have missed what you told me," she blubbered, now sensing the disapproval in his very presence.
"I merely pointed you in the direction of the King's quarters, where you will be living until pardoned," he repeated, pointing to his right, down a thinner hallway.
Thaia looked slightly perplexed, as she had expected to see the King up front.
"I'm not meeting him?" she asked.
The male fae now all but dropped any semblance of kindness and politeness he held previously for meeting with a stranger. He did not respond.
"Right... my apologies," she floundered.
The moment Thaia moved a mere inch from his line of sight, she noticed that he already lost any interest in her. His eyes stared straight ahead for a second before he went on to a different activity. Though she continued down the hall at a steady pace, her expression was nothing short of unbridled malice.
The room was much simpler than she anticipated. The bed was large enough for two, but there was nothing more to it than a couple of pillows and a blanket. Tall windows made up most of the walls, draped over with thin curtains and allowing a flood of pale light to bathe the emptiness. Thaia floated over to the single, fittingly ordinary looking dresser to the side and studied the oddities displayed on top. There were no pictures or anything that would normally decorate furniture such as this. In fact, nothing about the room seemed fae at all.
She leafed through a few of the title-less books that were haphazardly placed on top of the dresser, noting that the King must have enjoyed history. Aside from this, she couldn't detail anything else about his personality or character. There were a pair of spectacles, but she assumed they were merely to read the few books he had.
Glancing back at the door, she sneakily started to open the drawers in curiosity. She was never one for clothing in the first place, but that in itself most likely, to her anyway, told a lot about her... and thus she could possibly catch a glimpse of any trait from his own wardrobe. And that, she found, was exactly what had happened; for there was nothing inside any of them. The dresser was empty, only serving as some sort of table for the three books he owned.
With a sigh of defeat, Thaia sat on the bed. Upon doing this, however, her back immediately straightened; it was almost as rigid as the dresser she had just raided.
Wonderful. So he's a stiff in more ways than one, she thought as she placed her hands on her lap. After staring at them for a few minutes she glanced back to the door. It was plain. Everything about this room was dreadful and completely unlike the rest of the palace.
And it was at this moment a small smile crept along her lips. A twinge of excitement coursed through her veins as the rationalization seeped in; if he was as bland as his own room made him out to be, then that means he was most likely alone and in need of comfort. This was enough of a thrill to build her patience.
So she waited.
The courtyard seemed almost as blissfully ignorant as the gardener tending to it. He simply pranced along, trimming random hedges and sprinkling water on various flora. All the while oblivious to the rather obvious stares coming from the slouched concubine who had situated herself on a silver bench. Her mouth was covered by her hand, which was holding her head in place as she stared, wide-eyed. A few fae that passed by gave her odd looks, but said nothing on the matter, for what they had in their schedule was far more important than paying any mind to the obsessive fairy. All except one, however.
"Thaia? What in the world are you doing out here? I didn't realize you were given the privilege to leave," the attendant said as she walked up to her, holding what appeared to be a basket of odd fruit. Thaia didn't respond. She just continued to stare. The attendant glanced in the same direction before sitting herself next to the red haired fae. "Is everything alright?"
"He's not very attractive, is he?" Thaia mumbled. "Don't think I've ever seen a bald fae before."
"The King isn't bal..." the attendant started but quickly looked to the gardener. It became prevalent what Thaia was talking about. "Thaia. Are you seriously looking at another male? This isn't--"
"Watch. Every once and a while he has to rub the spot behind his left ear. Do you think he's diseased?" Thaia asked through her palm.
"Are you even listening to me? You're not supposed to be out here. The King--"
"...Won't even notice," Thaia snapped.
The attendant raised an eyebrow in confusion.
"It's been a week. He hasn't set one foot in that suffocating prison cell they are calling a bedroom," Thaia explained, though without moving an inch to give her attention to the attendant.
"His Majesty is very busy. That's what you are for, Thaia. To provide comfort."
"I'm there to be his toy. Nothing more," she stated blankly. "I'm his whore, but he won't even grant me that title. I'm basically there to make his room look more interesting."
The attendant said nothing at first. She sat back and exhaled a stressed breath, linking her fingers together on her lap as she stared at the gardener as well.
"I don't know. Maybe he just rubbed all of his hair off," she said. Her eyes landed back on Thaia's profile, noticing that she was smiling subtly. This was enough for her to stand up and pick up her basket. "I need to bring this to the kitchens. Apparently some of the courtiers are requesting an audience with the King. Big heads need a lot of food, I guess."
Thaia's brow furrowed and she finally broke from her pose to face the older fae.
"The kitchens link to the Great Hall, don't they?" she asked.
The attendant laughed.
"Oh yes, one of the better known pleasers of men becomes a cook over night. Think that one through, Thaia," she said. "He has to sleep sometime. Just be a bit more patient."
Thaia said nothing as she rested her head back on her palm. As the attendant left, the gardener placed his hedge trimmers on the ground to rub his head.
The first book that caught her attention was small and had a bright red cover. It was on top of a dark violet, thick textbook, and before she even opened either, Thaia assumed the former was a compendium of notes on the latter. And as expected, she was correct. The violet book was large, though from what she gathered it was a basic history of the fae world. Nothing she wasn't already made aware of. The notes, on the other hand...
Lies... she read in her mind. He's claiming that most of what's being said is lies...
After placing both books down on the bed, she glanced over to the third and final tome. It had a tattered, green cover, and did not have a title, like the other two. However, unlike the other two, it did not have any words... only various diagrams and pictures that seemed to commemorate the history book.
After spending a few minutes fiddling with the various texts, she decided to return them to their proper places. She was never into anything relating to history, so on top of the king being a terrible decorator, he was turning into a very dry lover.
Her eyes then landed on the spectacles. They were thin and seemed to be handcrafted, given the state of expertise attributed to the design. Functional with no inherent thought of appearance. As Thaia held them out in front of her, curiosity set into her mind and she slipped them onto her face. Expecting to see into a distorted world that would leave her with a headache should she stare for too long, she closed her eyes for a few moments and then slowly opened them again to adjust, at least in her mind.
However, this was not what happened.
She saw as she normally did. There was nothing to change her vision. The glass wasn't molded to better eyesight... it was fake. And with this, she realized that the spectacles were fake.
Slowly, Thaia placed the glasses back down onto the hard wood, next to the books. She swallowed hard. The books... they must have been fake as well. The whole room...
The door to the room burst open as she fled out into the hall. Her entire body was now rigid with fury, understanding everything as of this moment. Scanning from left to right, she attempted to find a specific fae that would answer all of her earned questions. And this did not take long.
Floating where he typically did, the scarred fae that directed her to the bedroom on the first day was directing another servant to possibly another room. Thaia furiously pushed him aside and latched onto the cuff of his tunic.
"You bastard... how many of you are in on this?!" she hissed.
The fae stared at her in complete awe, as if she had just poured wine all over his clothing in the rudest possible fashion. This caused her to growl.
"The glasses, you worm. They're fake. This whole thing has been fake."
"...Ah," he replied, his previous expression of disbelief fading into understanding. "Well, I'm surprised. I didn't expect you to root around what wasn't yours. This can be counted as a felony, you know."
"Don't care. Spill it."
At this point many of the guards were closing in on the two, obviously intent on dragging the seething tall female fae away from her victim and possibly forever out of the sight of the public. The male, though, only gave them a nod. They halted.
"Please try to remain civil. Your occupation is still that of a concubine... just think of it as a title. Only," he explained, though without helping Thaia in any way possible. "His Majesty has been very busy as of late, given all of the talks with his courtiers. A few of us decided it would be in his best interests if we let the other servants know that he is quite alright."
Thaia loosened her grip, though her disgust only heightened.
"So I'm basically part of an act," she said.
"Indeed. Are you satisfied, now?" he asked.
She crossed her arms. "No. What's so important that he needs to spend all week blabbing to a bunch of stiffs? I'm not a doll."
"That is none of your concern, concubine," he snapped, stepping back and nodding to the guards again as he brushed himself off. They closed in again. "Now, scuttle off back into your room. I'm sure you of all people don't want to be forced back in."
"I agreed to sex. Not making a handful of fae feel better," Thaia growled. The male fae groaned.
"Doesn't matter. For all intents and purposes, you are a doll," was all he said before turning away and back to what he was doing before.
As two guards reached out to grab her, Thaia pulled away and assured them that she was returning on her own. In that moment, if anyone was paying any sort of attention, they would have seen that the air was only slightly rippling around her fingertips.
A pale darkness began to seep into the room as night crept its way across the surface. The floor was more welcoming than the bed, Thaia found, and it was most likely just as comfortable. She lay on her side with a vacant expression, staring emptily at the open hand laid out in front of her. Only the gentle swaying of the curtains pulled her attention back into reality. The outside.
The gardener cheerfully made his way along the cobblestone path to where many of the fae servants called home, opposite of the palace but still within its grounds. Despite the night darkening everything, the area was still very well lit due to many magically suspended, golden spheres of light that only seemed to appear when anyone was near them. At the moment, he was the only fae allowing the lights to flicker, but very quickly he noticed more fading into sight.
Several yards in front of him a tall, scantily clad fae woman was standing alongside the path. From his distance it was difficult to make out who it was, but he was still able to tell that she had a very wide grin on her face. He briskly walked towards her.
"Hello there! Is something the matter? You don't look like a servant, are you perhaps lost?" he started to ask until only a few feet away from her.
Thaia didn't waste any time answering the question or chattering the male up. She swiftly moved from her position and embraced the gardener, catching him completely off guard. And without any semblance of hesitance, she planted her lips onto the utterly shocked male, slightly pushing him back with the amount of force she was giving to it.
"Now then... I assume you have a bed, yes?" she asked after pulling away.
The gardener was speechless for several seconds, giving her the cue to start pulling him with her. However, upon movement, he planted his stance.
"W-wait, hold on, who are you? Why did you just do that?"
"Does it matter?" she asked.
The gardener squinted his eyes.
"You... wait, you're the one who's always watching me..." he realized.
This elated her.
"So you have been paying attention!" she exclaimed like a small child. Realizing she had just broke character, however, she quickly regained her composure. She gripped his hands and continued to pull, all while attempting to wear a seductive expression. The male continued to resist, however.
"No... no, if you're her, than that means you... you're the--"
"Don't say it."
Thaia's entire body froze in place as she said this. It was jarring enough for the gardener to flinch, causing him to finally pull away.
"I'm sorry, milady, but I cannot be seen with you. I have a very good place here, and..." he began to apologize.
"Am I not beautiful to you?" Thaia asked, obviously attempting to sound innocent, but failing, as the rage began to seethe through her skin.
"Well, I suppose, yes, but..."
"Do I not attract you?"
"If a man is attracted to a woman, she should be the very core of his adoration... why are you denying this part of yourself?"
The gardener began to take a few steps back. "What are you..."
"Why are you avoiding me?"
Thaia's wings fluttered very quickly, as if they were as agitated as she. The gardener took note of this and quickly pushed his hedge trimmers in between the two. However, she refused to accept this action; the air crackled around the both of them, and his back suddenly surged with pain as an indiscriminate force struck him from behind. The trimmers flew to the side as he fell face first into the stone walkway, causing him to groan.
The next thing he knew, Thaia was standing directly over him, turning him onto his pulsing back and kneeling over his body. He stared up in horror as she slowly bent down, her face stopping an inch away from his.
"I want you to love me," she whispered.
Instantly she felt the swipe of a fist strike her across the face, throwing her to the side. The gardener then wasted no time and quickly sprung to his feet. Without hesitation, he burst off in a random direction without saying a word.
Thaia sat in silence as the side of her face throbbed. Her wings had returned to their normal pace, and her expression turned docile. Whatever rage that had built up within her exited the moment she was hit. Soon she began to notice the sounds of the night, and awareness took effect.
She was alone.
And beside her were the trimmers.
Thaia pushed her forlorn gaze to the palace.
"I'm not sure who His Majesty is speaking with tonight. He merely said that he wanted all entrances to the hall barred closed and no one to interrupt," the scarred fae stated to another male as they stood next to an oven.
"So he's not a courtier, then, is what you're saying."
"Absolutely not. He's been planning this for weeks," he replied.
"Hmf. Well, all of the cooks have been dismissed for the night, should we..." the fae was interrupted.
"Halt! The doors have been sealed, you aren't allowed to--"
The voice of what sounded like one of the guards was abruptly cut off by his own grunt, preceded by a sickening thrash. The two men turned to the commotion and stepped forward to see what had happened.
"What in the world..." the respondent fae said.
"...Unbelievable... of all concubines we could have chosen..." the scarred fae scoffed.
Sure enough, Thaia came bursting through the kitchen doors. From the two males' perspective, she was set on bypassing the main entrance to the Great Hall to get in from the side. However, she did not get far before the scarred fae motioned for the other to subdue her.
In that very instance, however, Thaia merely lifted her arm and lashed it to the side. Consequently, a burst of wind tunneled from the side of the kitchen and into her potential attacker, crashing him onto a counter and subsequently stocks of food. The scarred fae reached for his daggers.
"Of course we'd hire a sylph to be a concubine... you damn traitor..." he growled as he attempted to duck below another counter to avert being torn apart by another gust.
Thaia saw what he was doing and ignored it. She had no interest in anything but her primary goal. Because of this, the scarred fae sped around her and forward to stab her in the back - which she then countered by spinning around and jamming the pair of hedge trimmers from the courtyard into his throat. With his momentum, he flew forward and slammed into an oven. Thaia then hastily flew to the exit.
The moment the door opened, cascades of guards descended on the intruder in a matter of seconds. Any magic Thaia would have produced was countered by the guardsmen's own defensive spells, and she was thrown to the ground.
"Let me see his face... let me see his face!" she screamed as her face was pushed into the tile flooring.
And then everything seemed to slow down for her. For beyond the large table, in the back of the room, was the throne. And in this emerald and gold encrusted throne sat a figure, intimidating and imposing, watching contently as the scene played out. He was a tall, frightfully alluring being, someone who never knew or experienced the concept of mortality or the plights of the common man. He wore no crown. No sign of royalty. It was entirely within his nature. And it was at that moment Thaia, bathed in the surreal light emanating from the ethereal figure, realized that she was not looking at a fae.
And then everything went black.
The sunlight that passed lazily through the canopies gently caressed her cheeks. Slowly, Thaia started to come to, her consciousness returning. The silent sounds of an empty forest were all but foreign to her, but in her groggy state she attributed such a phenomenon to anything but a form of logic. She could feel the sharp prods of the sticks and rocks that made up most of the forest floor, which prompted her to at least attempt to wake up further and force herself to get into a more comfortable position.
As Thaia sat up, she realized she was somewhere she did not recognize. Nothing about the trees that now surrounded her seemed anything resembling what she believed was real.
"...Where am I?"
Glossary - Day 4
- The Stranger / Race: Human / Status: Active
- Sakiya / Race: Human / Status: Active
- Thaia / Race: Fae (Sylph) / Status: Active
THE FAE COURT
- Avelia / Race: Fae (Fairy) / Status: Active
- The Tavern: Establishment in between the Fae Forest and Rogue Woods, south of the Graveyard.
- The Graveyard: Plot of land between two rivers and in the center of the land.
- The Corrupted Tree: Black, deadened tree located in the Graveyard.