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A gentle breeze sighed, undulating the meadow grass lazily and whispering past the forlorn figure slumped on the tree trunk, hands clasped tightly in his lap. Thomas, a forest leprechaun, released a long melancholy breath between his cracked, dry lips. A single plump tear meandered down his stubbled cheek.
The sun sent bright shafts of light through the pine boughs and around the wooden pedestal upon which the morose figure resided. Ignoring the dancing beams, the leprechaun pulled a shuddered breath into his lungs and stared at a spot in front of the stump where a crumpled daisy chain necklace lay withering in the warmth of the afternoon. Another plump tear snaked down his unshaven face.
In the distance, a lone figure scuffed up the lane, which crossed in front of the tree stump. Thomas paid no heed to the approaching form, pulling a thin silver flask from inside his rumpled vest. He blindly opened the lid, placed the opened top to his lips and pulled a deep draught from the container. Refitting the cap to the top, he slipped the silver spirit holder back into his vest. His next shuddered breath was interrupted with a hiccup.
The figure on the road drew closer. Thomas raised his head and squinted his eyes. Was she coming back? He hiccupped and straightened up. Maybe she had been teasing him when she ran away and now she realized how much he cared for her. His eyes brightened and a smile began to touch his lips.
The figure came around the bend and toward him. The last he'd seen her, she was wearing a diaphanous, thin dress. Had she changed? The form nearing him was clad in leather breeches, a braided leather tunic, and knee-high, soft leather boots. A sword blade strapped to the figure's back flashed in the sunlight. Was Cary so angry she meant to cut him in little pieces? His heart began to pound in his chest and inside his mouth his tongue stuck to the roof.
The figure stopped two lengths from him and raised a hand to shade its eyes from the brightness of the day.
Thomas realized he was shaking. This was it…his life was over. He hung his head.
The voice was familiar but it didn't sound like Cary. If it wasn't her…
The Lending Library
Faeries try to fit into the human world when the forest where they make their home is destroyed by a mysterious enemy.
Ailidh wobbled precariously on her high heels.
Kayne smirked. "Having problems, dear?"
"Shut up!" she snapped. "I need to practice this until I get it right. We don’t really have many options left open to us, Kayne. You had better practice, too."
He stopped and steadied himself on the railing of the porch. He wriggled his feet out of the closed leather shoes that encased them.
"I don’t know why you insist we wear these ridiculous articles of clothing. This long-sleeved shirt cuts off the circulation to my hands not to mention the lack of space for my wings and these long pants chap my legs.
"Worst of all, are these horrendous leather shoes. They pinch and make my feet swell. Why do we have to go through all of this? I don’t understand." Kayne grumbled.
Ailidh sighed and slowly, patiently explained to him, once again, why they were practicing.
"Remember last Wednesday when Keegan and Connal lost their dwelling? The sound of their tree crashing to the ground was deafening. The Others are moving out more and more. We will lose our home if we don’t act first. Now, put your shoes back on and walk for just five more minutes."
Kayne wrestled his shirt off and threw it to the porch’s deck. He pulled the long pants off his body and left them in a heap next to the shirt. Bending forward, he touched his toes gingerly as he gradually unfurled his lacey wings. Slowly, he pulled himself to an upright position. Shoulders back, wings completely expanded, he lifted his 18-inch form to its full height and looked at Ailidh defiantly.
"I don’t need to fit into the Others’ world. They need to adjust themselves to my world and leave us alone."
Ailidh, teetering, grabbed the lower railing of the porch and shook her head.
"Kayne, most of the Others don’t even know we exist. How can they adjust to something they don’t even believe?"
"They adjust to animals, don’t they?"
"The animals chose to be seen. We did not. Remember? Our great, great grandfathers took a vote and decided we would endanger ourselves more if we continued to be visible to the Others. At that time, they didn’t have all the machinery they have now. They moved into our lands at a slower pace. Now, put on the clothes and try to adjust."
"No." Kayne kicked at the clothing on the porch. "I’m going to get a magazine and a cup of coffee. You can stand here and practice day and night for all I care."
He turned on his heels and lifted himself off the ground with his delicate appendages. He lazily winged his way into the open window of the building marked Lending Library.
Hovering until he landed on the balls of his feet, he folded the wings tight to his torso and walked to the corner of the building signed Coffee Shop. He sat in a small chair snugged close to the matching table. Sliding the Newsweek someone had tossed on the table toward him, he flipped through the pages. Minimized for easier handling, the magazine was still large enough to require both of his hands to turn the pages. A diminutive nymph in a waitress uniform with a "Chrissy" nametag took his order for a latte. Ten minutes later, she returned with the steaming liquid in a cup.
"Thanks, Chrissy." Kayne picked up the cup carefully and took a sip.
"No problem, Kayne," she had a surprisingly deep voice for a nymph. "Where’s Ailidh?"
Kayne jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward the front porch.
"Practicing," he grunted.
"Oh," Chrissy mopped the table next to Kayne’s with a wet rag then flew daintily to the kitchen with the dirty cups and saucers she’d picked up. One of the resident dryads of the valley, Chrissy was living in the tree behind the Lending Library. Her home across the meadow had been one of the first destroyed.
Ailidh is right. Kayne frowned at the silent admission. The Others were invading his world with frightening, swift, uncaring swaths into the forestlands. Soon there wouldn’t be an Ancient tree left. While, at a glance, their movements seemed random, even careless, Kayne had noted a pattern, albeit haphazard, to their actions. Months earlier he’d watched from a safe distance as the huge screeching yellow machines ripped up his ancient wood friends and squashed their bodies beneath armored tracks. He could never be sure whether the squealing had been the old trees or the vicious yellow machines. After the first occasion of watching as they destroyed a sea of Ancients, Kayne had left on shaky wings and flown home. Ailidh was furious at him, thinking he’d been with his friends drinking honeysuckle wine. He couldn’t stop throwing up long enough to tell her what he’d seen.
Defying the Odds
The night elves on the hill aren't happy without their magic. They concoct a plan to punish those who were involved in the act that rendered them almost human. Meanwhile, Uther, the rogue night elf, has returned to woo the Librarian to be his eternal mate.
In a meadow east of Eugene, Oregon
Bram ambled up the roughly hewn stairs to the willow lounge chair located at the front of his home. He pulled the scrimshawed pipe from his pocket and filled the bowl with his favorite blend of black cherry tobacco. The paced routine of loading the ivory bowl with fragrant leaves and tamping them firmly into place was one of his favorite after dinner rituals. Withdrawing a matchstick from the inner pocket of his vest, he struck the sulfured end against a river rock he'd placed on the root of the towering oak that served as his home.
The fading evening sky showered the mountains in hues of gold and red. Pushing away the light, a blanket of dark blue velvet sprinkled with luminous star points soon prevailed. Bram puffed smoke rings at the darkening heavens.
"Evenin'." A scruffy black and tan terrier mix meandered up and, after circling three times, lay next to the chubby gnome.
"Evening, Silas. How's the family?"
"Well, thank you. Daisy announced we're expecting--again."
Bram chuckled into his beard. "Congratulations."
"Humph. I'll be glad when we're both too old to care. I came over to ask if there are any jobs in sight. I'll need to be working as much as I can now."
It seemed he got one batch of kids out of the house and another was on the way.
Silence stretched between the business partners. Bram pulled deep draughts on his pipe, blowing the smoke away from his friend. His eyes were drawn to the large block of light spilling from the picture window of the behemoth on the hill. The Saun clan, night elves whose callous actions nearly destroyed the fae population of the meadow and surrounding forests, owned the out of place monstrosity.
Bram squinted his eyes to focus his vision on the methodical movement that broke the beam of light. He could just make out a figure pacing rhythmically in front of the casement. Unable to ascertain which of the night elves was engaged in the determined striding, Bram was sure of only one thing…if the night elves were restless and unhappy, the rest of the valley was in trouble.
~ * ~
Gitty paced in front of the picture window, ignoring the expansive view of the green valley below. The thick carpet covering the hand selected hardwood floors muffled the angry stompings of her boots. At the end of each turn, she jabbed the air with her finger.
"Think you can take away my magic, do you?" She spun on the ball of her foot and stamped to the other side of the room. "We'll see about that!" Jab, jab.
Morgan, the younger of the two siblings, stretched his limbs languidly across the fine leather couch, watching the angry display being played out in the living room, a smirk residing on his lips.
"What has your knickers in a twist?" His leg, hanging over the arm of the couch, swung slowly back and forth.
Gitty broke her tirade for a moment. "I'm surprised yours aren't. How can you tolerate not having magic to use?"
"Because, dear sister, I don't need magic to get my way. I have my," he waved a hand up and down his body, "obvious attributes."
Gitty grimaced. "Please. Don't make me sick."
Pulling to an upright position, Morgan stretched his long legs in front of him, tucking his hands behind his head.
"You're just jealous."
"Then what's your problem?"
"I don't fancy living my life in pubs among the scum of the valley sponging off the pity of strangers. My plans include owning all I see."
Morgan rose from the couch and faced his sister.
"Good luck with that. Even the Others are wise to your quest for power. I'm going out. See you later." He moseyed out of the living room and down the hall.
Gitty gritted her teeth. Morgan might be her brother, but he was useless when it came to thinking beyond his next good time.
She glared at the source of the fingers of light stretching over the meadow. The owner of the Lending Library was an Other the local fae had embraced with open arms. Even Uther, the one-time leader of the night elves and her uncle, had taken a personal interest in the older female.
"Must be losing his sanity."
She spotted a pinpoint of red light glowing in the far distance. As hard as she tried, she couldn't sense the origin of the light.
"I hate not having my magic!" She smacked the wall with her hand, immediately regretting the action. Bolts of pain shot up her arm.
Turning on her heel, she tramped out of the room.