Act I: Red
Chapter 5: Salutations
Thaia closed her eyes. She attempted to remember the last image she had seen before somehow awakening in a place she was unable to recognize. The image of someone who was a fairy, but by some miracle was not. And the red-haired fae could not figure out why. Her eyes opened again. Trees. She spun around. More trees. Above, the canopy. Below, the forest floor.
“What is this?” she asked to no one. There was no one else there. She was alone. And yet… somehow, in the air, there was a feeling of intensity she could not place. But in that moment, she did not want to place it.
Is this a punishment? She asked herself. Was I somehow transported here after seeing his face? There wasn’t even a transition…
As Thaia attempted to comprehend what was happening, her knees weakened below her and she dropped to the vegetated ground. A shiver passed through her spine. Her eyes immediately focused on her hands, which lay across her thighs. The fae couldn’t move.
Calm down, she chided herself again. Get up. Get up and get out of here. You most likely hit your head and fell unconscious, that’s why you don’t remember being dumped out here. You’ve been banished for your actions – that’s all. Now get up, and get out of here.
With every fiber in her body, Thaia forced herself up. Weakness gripped her muscles, but even moreso, her mind. The lasting image before her appearance here refused to leave. And this gripped her very core, to the point where she could not function normally. The seemingly delicate wings behind her began to flap rapidly, and in doing so she began to move forward. It was a blind trek. She avoided trees, of course, but she did not know or care where exactly she was headed. Because it was at this moment that it sank in – a banished fae had no home. She would have to ingratiate herself within another court… and she knew how unlikely it was that her previous one placed her near another.
It wasn’t long before she began really sensing the density of the air. It wasn’t exactly a sensation she could place; rather, it was almost as if it wasn’t real. Thaia didn’t know how she was able to sense this, but it was the only explanation she was able to muster.
And then she heard a snap.
As quickly as she heard it she turned to face the origin. There was nothing in all directions, at least on the ground – which prompted her to start looking upward. And that’s when she saw what had caused it. The snap was not from a twig; instead, it was from the crunching of bark.
Latched on the upper part of a tree, facing downward, was a girl. Her hands and feet dug into the wood as she hung there, staring at the meandering, lost fae. Thaia, through her near heart attack, was able to see that the girl was mostly naked, aside from the tatters of red cloth haphazardly attached to various parts of her body. This was not the most notable sight, however; spines made their way through her skin and hung from her body, coming from her arms, legs, back, and head. And as Thaia stared unwillingly, the creature slowly broke into a sharp-toothed grin. Once again the visual became even more distressing; for the pair of eyes a typical living being would have were not alone. Three more sets of eyes opened below and above the original as her smile broke out, and with this she began to slowly crawl down the tree.
“Hello, greetings, salutations…” the girl suddenly said in a raspy, droning voice. As she got to the base of the tree, her legs pushed off the bark and landed on the ground first, causing her body to flip forwards and wobble to retain her balance. She then stood normally, only with her arms dangled in front of her. “You appear to be lost.”
Thaia was of course a fae, so she had definitely seen bizarre creatures in her life. However, while this one’s appearance was mostly unlike what she has seen in the past, that wasn’t what startled her; her entire presence felt very much like the air culminating in the forest. Fake.
“I am,” she finally answered, attempting to be as firm as possible. “Do you know where this place is?”
The creature’s grin did not cease. Her eyes blinked in different intervals, giving off a sickening sucking noise each time they did.
“We appear to be in a forest,” she answered.
Thaia frowned and folded her arms in front of her. “Yes, but where is this forest?”
Suddenly the red-spined girl began to swing her arms side to side, as if excited by the prospect of Thaia’s confusion. A gargled giggle came through her mouth.
“The forest is hers,” she said. “But I know where it is. You are one of them. Interesting, though, for you are also one of them.”
Obviously this made no sense to the fae. However, again, she was used to riddled speech, so this didn’t intimidate her.
“Do you speak of the fae? I am one of them, then, yes,” Thaia answered. “Why do you say that twice, though? Am I something else?”
“Fae, fairy, sprite, sylph, faun… creatures of the forest belong below the trees, with her,” the creature gargled. “Yet you wander above, alone… unbound. Yet bound. Quite new.”
Below the trees…
"You’re saying that I am standing above a Fae Court?” Thaia asked, suddenly growing hopeful. But as hope flooded in her system, so too did confusion. She did not understand why her fellow courtiers moved her here… if that was even the case. She was beginning to doubt it.
It was then that the eight eyed unnaturally shaped being began to look the fae up and down, initially putting Thaia on edge. She took a few tentative steps closer, and Thaia began to notice that the girl was very much like a child, save for the obvious traits that took away from that image. But once again, she stood her ground as the creature closely inspected the fairy’s body.
“And yet… you are different from those and those,” it croaked. “Aged. But not decrepit. But the dream you had is not unlike the others’.”
Thaia took several seconds to think through her riddles.
“One group is the fae… but what is the second? And how am I not of those two?” she asked, watching cautiously as the spined girl continued her non sequitur examination. “And what do you mean, ‘others’? Do you mean the fae? Are you fae?”
“Zhei,” the girl stated. She was now an inch away from Thaia’s own face as she spoke her name. “I am not you. But he will speak in the vague words what you will need to hear if you are to survive your ordeal.”
Thaia’s eyes narrowed. “Who’s he?”
It was at this moment Thaia noticed that two of Zhei’s eyes were no longer focusing on her. Instead, they were off to her left, which prompted Thaia to glance in that direction. And in the mist of the forest she spotted a silhouette of a creature she almost immediately recognized. It had the body of a man… but the legs of a goat.
“A faun,” Thaia stated loud enough for this new guest to hear. Zhei now turned her head to face it as well.
“Ah. I apologize, I meant to slowly approach so as to not startle you. You appeared to be in some sort of trance, my lady,” the faun said in a low-pitched, polite voice. As he approached, Thaia quickly glanced over his features. He was not particularly built, and his head was covered with blonde hair. He was smiling generously.
“So this is a Fae Court, then,” Thaia responded. A coy smile spread over her lips as she placed a hand on her hip. “I doubt I could be anymore startled than I was when meeting the young lady on my right.”
The faun gave a confused look. He glanced to where Thaia gestured, and then looked back. Thaia herself lowered her smirk as she recognized his befuddled expression.
“Oh…” he said quietly. “And… what is the young lady’s name? And yours, by chance? You may call me Dimitri.” He gave a slight bow, but his eyes were still obviously attempting to see what exactly Thaia had referred to.
In return, Thaia became confused at the man’s mannerisms. She turned to her right and found that Zhei was still standing by her side, staring at the male with amusement. Looking back to the male, she answered. “My name is Thaia,” she said. “And… you don’t see the eight eyed creature beside me, do you?”
Dimitri continued to smile, pegging this creature to be a part of this new fairy’s madness. Such was the way of their kind, however, so he did not bother to question it. “The mist pervading these woods is sometimes so thick that I am unable to properly see, my lady, but yes, I do in fact see her,” he lied. “However, and correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t you a sylph?”
“…Yes,” Thaia answered, quickly understanding that the faun believed her to be mad. “And are you part of this court?”
“Heh, you already know there is a court…” he chuckled. “I am indeed. The Court is open to any fae, so long as they pledge their loyalty to the Queen. She will want to see you before you are brought into the fold, of course. Which is what I am doing here; to send you a message that she will find you.”
Thaia tilted her head.
“You’re not going to bring me to her?” she asked.
“Oh, no. She is busy right now. We have a certain event we are working to see come to fruition, so it would be best for you to remain in these forests until she deems the meeting ready,” he explained. “I just wanted to let you know so you are informed, and thus are able to show the Queen the etiquette required.”
"And what exactly makes me so special?” Thaia asked skeptically. “Why is the Queen dedicating her time to personally meet with me?”
Dimitri gave a look as if to show another moment of confusion.
“Hm… I guess you are unaware,” he muttered. “You are the only fae among those who have awakened in this land.”
This immediately caught the red-haired fae’s attention. She clenched her hands, as this tied in with what Zhei off-handedly mentioned. The “others”.
“Wait. Explain that. Who are the rest? What do you mean, ‘awakened’?” she began asking.
“I am sorry, my lady, but I believe the Queen wanted to speak to you about these subjects,” he answered, bowing again. “Now then, I will leave you for the time being. And don’t worry, it will be very soon. Have a pleasant day.”
Of course, she wasn't going to simply follow the goat man’s suggestion and instinctively decided to follow him – but quickly found that she was unable to. Somehow, he only needed to take a few steps back into the mist, and it enveloped him completely.
“That is what you needed to hear,” Zhei said, having remained still for the duration of the conversation. Thaia whipped back around to face her.
“What? That the Fae Queen wants to talk to me for some reason?” she asked, slightly growing irritated by the lack of answers.
“There are ‘others’,” she answered, stepping back to one of the trees and latching onto it as before. As she crawled up the bark in her usual disturbing manner, the echo of her voice, for the first time, sent chills down Thaia’s spine. “And like them, you cannot leave this land.”
Glossary - Day 4
- The Stranger / Race: Human / Status: Active
- Sakiya / Race: Human / Status: Active
- Thaia / Race: Fae (Sylph) / Status: Active
- Zhei / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
THE FAE COURT
- Avelia / Race: Fae (Fairy) / Status: Active
- Dimitri / Race: Fae (Faun) / Status: Active
- The Tavern: Establishment in between the Fae Forest and Rogue Woods, south of the Graveyard.
- The Corrupted Tree: Black, deadened tree located in the Graveyard.
- The Graveyard: Plot of land between two rivers and in the center of the land.