Malle: A Tale of Innocence and Blood
(Malle is a very minor character in A Rokian's Curse, known only as the queen of fairies. I thought it would be fun to explore her background a bit! Knowledge of the book isn't needed to understand the story, but some of the little things might make more sense to those who read it. Enjoy!)
Malle hated how the sea spray stung her eyes. She hated the docks, the stinky old men at work, and all the noise. She never minded it when it was her own father, but now she wished he was never a sailor. Never again will she brandish a stick and pretend she threatened pirates with a sword at sea. She wanted to play in the grass in a quieter city. No, not any city. She wanted to go back home. At least, the little child hoped Penacha stayed the same as she remembered it; little and quiet, but fun and adventurous to the mind of a six-year-old.
Malle scrunched up her stumpy nose as the tinge of fish became stronger. Yes, stronger, because it was always around them now. The girl grumbled as her mother, oblivious to her discomfort, walked the little girl home from her new schoolhouse. Malle didn’t like her new school, so she didn’t like anyone in it as well. It stunk like everything else and she wondered how the other children didn’t seem to notice it. No one bullied her and the teacher was bright and cheery when introducing her to the class. But that didn’t change the fact that they were all a part of the awful city.
She tugged her mom’s sleeve. “Mom, when can we go back home?”
The woman didn’t know if she wanted to chuckle or sigh. The little one asked her this question every day. Stubborn, but wanting the child to move on to their new life, she played along. “We’re going home now.”
Malle snapped and pointed a finger up at her mom. “That’s not home! I wanna go back to the old house.”
Her mother’s tone fell serious. The child will be able to adjust at some point, but her attitude in the meantime troubled them all. “Daddy needs to be here for his job, Honey. It’ll take a little bit of time to get used to the city, but give it time. You’ll get used to it.”
Malle puffed out her chubby cheeks, but her mother only patted her golden head. The same old answer to the same old question. Well, Malle planned on never getting used to it purely out of spite. “How long until the job doesn’t need him?” She shuffled a few steps behind now, but Mom stopped to look at some boring stalls and talk with the boring vendors to notice her question.
Malle studied tall legs marching to and fro through the street. Here, every day was as busy as home when church service finished on the weekend. Surely Mom and Dad didn’t want to leave Penacha forever? When will they go back? Did they really expect her to adjust here, with her unfamiliar house and the overwhelming number of strange faces in her classroom?
Malle didn’t know for sure, but she knew neither her mom nor dad wanted to answer. She didn’t even see her dad as much as she used to with him working on the ships. If they continued to avoid her questions and refuse to go back to their happy little town, then Malle would go back home without them. If she went missing, they would come looking for her, and it wouldn’t be too hard for them to figure out where she would hide. She would only be alone for a little while. Malle was a big girl now. She can be by herself for a little while if she had to.
Her eyes and mouth stayed dry as she followed her mother. They went from stall to stall, picking veggies and fruits and other things Malle didn’t care about. After this, they will continue going back “Home,” but that thought didn’t comfort her. That house was old and dark. The one in Penacha was too but in a different way. It was safe. The new house had a confusing layout and her room was always cold. If she went through with her plan, she wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.
The opportune arose as her mother called her attention. “Actually, I think I will love to bring back some of those apples. Honey, will you pick out three lovely apples and bring them to me please?” She dropped a few coins into Malle’s plump hands and pointed to the apples two vendors down. Malle clutched the gold but hesitated as she moved for the apples. She turned her head, but Mom was too busy purchasing bread to notice her.
Instead of buying the apples, Malle blended with the crowd and kept moving. As the vendors fell behind her and the crowd carried on, Malle thought she heard her mother’s voice crying in worry moments later. Malle carried up the street. “Don’t worry, Mommy! I’ll see you soon at home!” She replied without calling too loud.
As murmurs began to rise, Malle sped into a jog. The cool air froze her cheeks and nose as she sped through the crowds of people. She flitted around them like a speeding cat. People around her shouted at her to slow down or take care. She didn’t look back until she reached Seadrake’s gate. The city’s walls towered high and cast a shadow over her. The girl stopped, stared straight up, and twiddled her fingers together. She didn't remember it being this big the last time she was here. Will she even find the right way home?
She looked back and sidestepped out of the way as passersby moved in and out the gates. A dirt road carried on where the cobblestone stopped. She remembered the dirt road when they left Penacha too. If she followed it, she can get back there in no time.
“You’re awfully little to be by yourself. Where’s your mommy?”
Malle snapped her attention to a tall man looking down at her. Tall and tidy, but working hard judging by the sweat on his temples. Still, she couldn’t help but shrink away as he came toward her. It was now or never. She raced through the gates and ignored his concerned calls. Freedom.
◊ ◊ ◊
Walking alone on a long dirt road wasn’t nearly as fun as riding in a wagon with Mom and Dad. The lack of their comforting voices left the air empty. Malle pressed on, though the weight of the larger-than-life world rested on her shoulders.
When she got tired, she plopped down on the grass. Her little dress floofed and spilled over her legs. If Mom was here, she would yell about her getting her nice dress dirty, but Malle was too tired to find an alternative. She would bear the punishment for her clothes later when they were all together again.
The sun rested on the hills before her. Orange light began to flood the sky and soon stars would shine. In her little mind, she didn’t plan for anything other than running away, and it slowly caught up with her. A night chill brushed her cheek, making her shiver. Her hungry belly growled regrets. She hugged her legs and buried her face. For the first time since she left, tears spilled.
With no one to soothe her, the tears took her focus until the chill set in and tickled her bare ankles. After she fell quiet, she played and studied the locks of her hair to block out the view of the big world. She could go back. Her mom will be there. Maybe she would even be at home and ready to feed her a hot meal and tuck her to bed.
Malle shook her head and pulled her hair in front of her face. Mom already told her they’re not going back to Penacha. If Malle gives up on her quest now, she would have to return to the weird house with old boards. A big girl can make it through. The path was already in front of her. She only had to follow it. She stood up and shook the tingling in her cold skin and broke into the fastest run she could manage. The faster she reaches Penacha, the less the road can scare her.
Unfortunately, the earth crept past her at a snail’s pace no matter how hard her legs worked. But that wasn’t what made her stop. She heard a howl break the quiet and spread out into the open. Coyotes! They sounded close! She stopped and tried to slow her heavy breathing. Hyper energy rose through her toes and fingers. Her arms became bumpy and clammy before she could even respond. In her panic, she forgot which direction she heard it. She rubbed her arms and waited for them to cry again. She didn’t get a chance to hear them again before a shuffling of grass made her flinch and scurry off the road. She looked back, hoping whatever rustled by her ran off by now.
No such luck. Before her, canine shadows meandered into the road. Two, no five, cayotes stopped to ponder the child as she stopped to ponder them. It must’ve been a mother with her growing litter.
Frozen in place, each side stared at the other. Malle could barely breathe. She began to tremble and held her hands against her chest. She remembered hearing them at night before. Dad told her they threatened livestock. Her little heart beat too loud in her ears. To them, she must be nothing more than a scared lamb.
In truth, the mother and litter were well fed and merely crossing the hills, but when one let loose a noisy whine to another, that triggered Malle to flee into the nearby trees. Nightlife began to grow with more insects and animal cries. The sky darkened and the trees obstructed her view, leaves and twigs slapping her in the face. She raced past them all until her vision blurred and her feet gave in. They collapsed and she flattened the grass, chest first.
She covered her head and whimpered. She imagined the drooling beasts lingering over her, but nothing happened. No teeth ripped her. No howls singing the joy of a late supper sang. Finally, Malle opened her eyes and rolled over. Nothing but the twinkling sky beyond shivering leaves filled her eyes. Malle sat up. Her nice dress now had tears in several spots and her baby blue ribbon hung by only a few hairs. Taking a moment to rub a bruised arm over a rosy cheek, Malle took in her new surroundings.
She lost sight of the trusty dirt road.
After realizing its absence, that was the only thing she could focus on. She spun around in circles, hoping it would somehow magically appear and help her back. The poor ribbon couldn’t hang on and finally gave up and floated to the grass. Malle didn’t notice, nor would she care. She had but one last hope; retrace her steps back to the road. She picked what she hoped was the way she came and meandered.
◊ ◊ ◊
The dawn came too soon. The warm night sky turned a cool violet and the stars were beginning to sleep. Soon, the sun will take their place. Malle never found the road again. She hobbled like a lost and injured puppy, crying and wishing she never left her mother’s side. She’d give it all up to be back in Seadrake. Forget Penacha! Curse her old home! At least she had a loving mom and dad by her side. That was all she needed. A part of her wished her admittance to her fault would bring her mother jumping out from the nearest bush, ready to forgive her and fix her a plate of hot bacon and eggs.
Malle walked on until her legs wobbled, then she stopped and took in the wildlife. A border of trees marked the horizon, but a flash of color took her attention. Flitting between the shrubs and trees were soft bubbles of colorful light. Blue, red, yellow, green, and many other shades drifted by. At first, she thought they were fireflies, but they were too bright. Too big and striking. Too mysterious.
The exhaustion in her legs now forgotten, Malle stumbled onward in awe. Even though the stars were mostly gone and the sky turned bright pink with every breath, the magic lights illuminated a forest of depth and shadow. The contrast only made them seem more alive! Were they fairies? After a thought, she didn’t care what they were. Whether they could help her home or not, she had to find out what they were.
Only a few of the lights remained by the time she reached the trees. They did not react to her in any way, only continuing to drift aimlessly in the air. Malle held out her little hands before a soft pink light. It floated on her hand but remained light as air. She poked it instead, but her finger went right through it. As the sun lifted behind the trees, the ball of light faded until it was no more. It left nothing behind.
Malle sighed. She sped all the way over here. Why couldn’t they at least tell her a secret or something? Maybe she can find something just as interesting beyond the trees. With a quick glance behind her shoulder at the open sky, she plunged into the dark, unaware she would never see those hills again.
Like a living beast, the dark forest swallowed the girl and pulled her into its belly. The pretty lights were mere bait to drag her into the living trees which watched her every step. The singsong of the wilderness here was unlike anything else she ever heard before at home. The cries were less animal-like and more warped like voices or music. When she entered looking for something interesting, this wasn’t what she had in mind.
Vines that seemed to crawl around her ankles on their own and the unseen eyes were not as pretty as the glowing lights were, and deep in these depths, she could find no more floating lights. Malle hugged her pale arms and bowed her head. Each step she took was slower than the last.
She walked straight in a random direction until she came to a little creek. She knelt down and watched it roll over the rocks. Her belly growled as she took a drink. It tasted funny like it sloshed both cold and hot in her empty stomach. An almost sweet and fruity taste lingered behind. Malle held her hands before her. She couldn’t tell if the fizzing shiver running through her arms came from how tired and dehydrated she's been, or if the water was more than a normal creek.
As soon as it spread through her fingers, it disappeared with no change Malle noticed. With a whine, she wished she could have a meal of some sort as well, but that seemed to be more difficult in a place like this. The burden of her rumbling belly threatened to let her waste away in these woods. She wouldn’t even turn her nose up at her mother’s slow cooked stew. She promised she would be grateful for any meal, no matter how tough the meat or bitter the vegetables.
She continued to complain until a rustle of leaves stole her attention. She jumped to her feet, but it was only a little rabbit. It flicked an ear and ran a paw over its face, but Malle’s presence didn’t seem to bother it. If anything, it seemed as happy to see her as she did it.
As it took a little hop toward her, the sun touched its fur, bringing forth an unnatural shine. That wasn’t fur at all, but a soft crystal. The living crystal hopped within her arm’s length. Curiosity bypassing all logical thought, Malle extended her arm and gave it a little pat. It wasn’t as smooth and hard as it looked. Malle wondered if she wasn’t making up the odd colors and facets in her mind.
For a few minutes, she stroked the friendly creature, until it finally backed away. It took a few hops to the shrub where it emerged before looking back with beaded eyes. Malle pointed a finger at her chin and tilted her head. “Are you waiting for me?” She asked aloud. The whiskers twitched in response and the rabbit hopped again.
Malle took a few slow steps for it before another distraction befell her. Sparkles crowded her vision. At first, Malle thought the color lights were returning, but these were different. Upon closer inspection, she noticed fluttering transparent wings of color. Fairies.
Malle sucked in a breath and her hands shot to her mouth. They were like the ones from her stories! “I know you!” She cried out and giggled. The fairies didn’t seem fazed. She continued to laugh and look all around her. With so much to look at, she didn't notice the rabbit coming to brush against her legs.
With glee, she asked if they could sing and dance, but they only exchanged glances. Finally, she heard a tiny voice. The girl studied the round face of a young boy before realizing she couldn’t understand a word he said. “What?” She asked and reached out to touch him. He screamed in a tiny voice and flew out of her reach.
The others began talking now, but disappointment grew inside the human girl. The appearance of the lovely rabbit overcame her loneliness, but now she thought it didn’t matter. They didn’t understand her, nor did she have any chance of escaping the weird forest now.
The rabbit pawed at her feet and the fairies began pointing and chattering. they wanted her to follow them, but they overwhelmed her. High-pitched chattering echoed in her ears, they picked at her dress, and their fluttering wings and sparkling light confused her eyes. As some of the fairies began tugging on strands of her hair, she covered her ears and screamed.
Finally, that got their attention and they backed away in stunned silence. Even the crystal rabbit hopped away, but theirs weren’t the only attention she alarmed. Back in the trees, she heard a loud crack, followed by a rattle of chains. Malle stumbled back until she tripped and fell by the creek. The rabbit fled into the shrubs and the fairies panicked. Some chose to fly away, leaving only a few others behind. The fairies remaining grasped at Malle with desperation, but the girl was too stunned to react.
It was too late anyway.
Through the obstacles without visible disruption, a transparent figure in the form of a large man with a deformed face came for the creek with a large iron chain trailing in his hands and behind him. The living terror released a yell to the sky. It echoed in an unwavering tone only something as unnatural as himself could sound. By the time Malle recovered and found her feet, the figure swung the iron chain at her.
Malle ducked and darted to the side, missing the blow by a few inches. Though he made no impression on the environment around him, the chain landed with a deep thud that shook the earth. The fairies blew away like powder. The girl began to use her legs and splashed to the other side of the creek, but traversing this weird forest was nothing like the hills she left behind. Twigs grasped her unruly hair and twisting roots tried to catch her feet. The only thought she had for the fairies at this point is if they could somehow save her from this terrible monster, but a quick glance around the whirling forest revealed nothing but startling movement from other beasts looking to hide from the deformed man’s wraith.
As the sound of chains fell behind her, Malle tried to stifle her trail of tears and continued in the dark forest until the loud metal cracking fell out of her memory. The girl rounded a thick tree and sat behind it, taking a small peek around it to make sure she lost him. She thought she heard him yelling at the sky again, but if it wasn’t a figment of her imagination, it was far away.
She let the tree brace her as she caught her breath. Right across from her, she saw little glowing legs kicking as a tiny girl popped up from being wrapped around a leaf. She sighed and slipped downward, almost spiraling to the ground. This little fairy must be one of the ones blown away by the chaos. Nearby, a second one popped his head out from the foliage and spied his companion.
Tears built up in Malle’s vision and her throat burned. Seeing she wasn’t alone lifted the tremendous weight on her tense shoulders. She cried out at them, but in her attempt to rise and meet them, she found she could not. With everything going on, she didn’t recognize the familiar tingling in her limbs. Malle pulled against the resistance in her arm, but she never would have guessed what she was fighting against. Roots trailed out of her palms and planted in the very tree she leaned against.
She screeched a desperate scream and pulled. The fairies looked at her and flittered closer. Then, the roots gave and she tore them free. Malle rushed to her feet and ran for the fairies, desperate for comfort and support. Her roots flung as she wove her arms and tried to grab the fairies once again.
One didn’t manage to get away fast enough and reeled as the human pulled her close. The fairy girl forgave the struggle and patted Malle’s shoulder with her little hand as the human hugged her, crying waterfalls of fear and sorrow. Seeing that his companion chose to comfort the girl, the boy, with wings of frosted blue glass, reached out and took her arm. Malle’s loud sobbing left very little room for air and whatever remained she used to gasp and cry out for her mom... The new roots protruding from her arms begin to ping with pain from when she tore them away from the tree.
Malle’s sobs quieted down when she heard the two voices talking to each other. She wiped her tired eyes and looked at the fairies as they faced each other, discussing something in their language. The boy with rugged dark hair gave Malle’s arm a pat and gave her a big smile when she met his sparkling eyes. She dropped her arms to her side, releasing the fairy in her grasp. Neither of them left her. The winged girl took Malle’s finger and tugged it. The boy nodded and waved his arm. They wanted her to follow them.
Scared, lost, and defeated, Malle dragged her feet along with no questions. Her new companions stayed nearby, chit-chattering in their tiny voices and every now and then directing Malle with a touch. “I wanna go home...” She muttered again and again while watching her feet. Her lovely dress was tattered and her shoes were falling apart. The signaling shiver traveled down to her legs now. She began to shake.
The fairies understood her as well as she did them, but it didn’t take a shared language for them to recognize the cry of a young child. With every second, Malle’s whines grew more frequent until the fairies decided to settle it with a song. Their voices worked so well together and sounded pretty despite being so tiny. If Malle wasn’t lost in her tears, she would have laughed at them. Instead, she let them lead her without ever looking ahead.
Time went on, but became meaningless. Malle didn’t know if it was day or night anymore, and she refused to look up. Her sobs faded away except for a few tired whines as she listened to the fairies’ music. Her roots spent most of the time trailing on the ground behind her, but occasionally she would pull them close and off the ground as she didn’t like the textures of them dragging. Each time she tugged, she sobbed louder, realizing each time how real they were.
As they walked, Malle began to drag herself more and more. The roots grew strong and heavy and she longed to calm her mind with sleep. At some point without her noticing, her two companions stopped singing and were bickering with some new voices. The human girl glanced up long enough to see some more fairies. These were different. Their wings were darker like those of insects rather than the colored glass her companions had. Their clothes were less regal. They looked rugged and handmade, and she couldn’t tell if the mud decorating their face was intentional or not.
None of it mattered to her anymore. Her companions were more focused on arguing with the newcomers rather than leading her. Malle gave her tired legs a break. Her new roots from her legs and feet began to find an anchor in the forest ground.
No one minded the child as rage grew between the fairies. The rugged ones began throwing insults and deemed themselves the worthy ones to lead Malle. When Malle’s companions disagreed, magical sparks flew and the fairies zipped around the trees. Mini bursts of magic sent leaves whirling back through the air. Little dashes of light flitted back and forth, dodging waves of spells from either side. Malle remained unaware and fell into a deep sleep.
The fight continued to grow in violence as both sides seemed evenly matched. Eventually, for Malle’s little companions, it became more about destroying their hated Unseelie cousins than it was about who would lead the human girl they found in the forest. It was the observant Unseelie scamp who put an end to their fight. A twinkling bolt knocked him out of the air and he went spiraling to the ground. He landed right by the sleeping Malle. As he got to his knees, he pointed and yelled at the girl.
After catching the attention of the three still in battle, he directed their attention again to the child. Every root burrowed into the ground and her fair skin turned dark and rough. The wilderness already began to claim her. Soon, she would become just another shrub in the forest. The rugged fairy told his opponents and partner there was no need to continue the fight for a lost cause. After his partner agreed, they flew off, leaving her two companions to look on.
Slowly, the boy with the bright blue wings placed his hands on her face, but Malle never stirred. The rough bark skin kept her eyes sealed. Behind him, his female companion couldn't look at her. Their hate made them forget about the fate of the dying child. The boy only took a little time to discuss their shortcomings before he bolted away. The girl wiped her eyes and dared to give the human a quick look before she also left for him.
The wilderness returned to its own form of “normal.” As if nothing happened, Malle became another stump of foliage to watch the cycle of the woods. A stranger walking through would have disengaged the child-shaped stump as just another mystery. As she hardened, time started to forget the child who only wanted to return home.
She didn’t feel the breeze that blew to tell dusk was coming, nor did she hear the awakening of voices in the dark. Her eyes couldn’t open to see the return of the floating lights she liked so much. Her companions were the only ones aware of what happened. Her fate rested on their decision.
After many hours, her two fairy companions came back, this time with a full court worth of fairies who gathered in a ring around her. They begin singing and dancing for the forgotten girl, releasing streams of light into her stumpy body. The bark began to fade like ice and reawaken her spirit. The roots sprouting from her arm and legs began to retreat back under her skin, but those weren’t the only changes done to her body.
With her arms and legs free, she fell flat on the ground and curled her free limbs tight around her, but something else protruded from her skin. On her back, a set of green wings unfurled and she began to shrink until she was but the size of her rescuers. As the fairies stopped and came closer to look at the child still sound asleep, the glow of their magic remained surrounding her.
◊ ◊ ◊
Sore pangs ran through her body, but the soft covers around her were so warm. Malle opened her eyes to see herself in a cozy cottage. Across the room and almost around the corner, she spied a kitchen counter and what may have been a hearth, though it wasn’t one like her mother used. On a tiny round table sat a steaming kettle with a few teacups. The smell of sweet baked treats carried the low earthy smell of the cottage. Malle moved the blankets and sat up. For a while, she remained there and stared at her ankles, trying to recount how she came here in the first place. A shiver raked her body. She remembered carrying a tremendous weight behind her. One that left her exhausted enough to sink down into the soil. She remembered the cold in the unkind woods, but outside of that, everything came together in a conjoined blur.
She remembered running away from home, but only the sight of her dirty dress gave her the solid rock in her gut the feeling something terrible happened after that. Who brought her here? Was she alone while she slept, or...? As she continued to stare, her focus readjusted to her feet still dangling off the bed. Whatever little house she was in didn’t have a floor, only dirt. but that didn’t take away the cottage’s charm. Malle couldn’t imagine ever seeing a house like this back in Seadrake or even Penacha for that matter. Everything about it was familiar, yet different. The walls were pale and plump and the wooden furniture had a pleasant shine. Something only a rich home would have.
Someone has tended to the potted plants recently. Their leaves were bouncy and vibrant green. A collection of random trinkets took up the surface of the desk, though none of it was messy. Maybe a window somewhere was open, but she could hear the rustling of the forest even while inside.
Finally, a sweet and low hum from around the corner in the presumed kitchen told her she wasn’t the only one here. Malle rose to her feet, but swayed from the lack of balance and had to catch herself on a nearby shelf. That was when she glimpsed something green and transparent behind her. Malle turned her head over her shoulder and saw a pair of wings gently waving. With but a thought, she could control how they moved. “Oh, OH!” she cried, smacking her shoulder into the shelf in her excitement. The pots and books jingled and wobbled as she turned around in circles, unable to find any words behind her excitement.
With her mind spinning in faster circles than she turned, Malle used the same momentum and rounded the kitchen corner, crashing right into a tidy woman in an apron. The lady grabbed Malle’s shoulder to steady them both from disaster. “You are lucky I already set the tarts down!” She laughed, a wide smile now beaming at her. The little girl froze and stared up into her eyes with a million questions swimming in her head, but she didn’t have to say a thing for the soft woman to know the mentioned tarts were also among them. “Do you want one?” She wove her arm over the table where the teacups sat.
Malle bounced to the nearest seat and took the best-looking pastry as the fairy woman poured them some tea and joined the girl on the other side of the table. She watched as the child devoured several of the jam tarts one after another like a hungry animal. The woman smiled and took a slow sip from her cup. “Do you like them? They’re my own recipe. I’m Lindie. What do they call you, my dear?”
Malle didn’t take a moment to wipe the crumbs from her face. “Malle,” She answered and took a drink of tea. The cup clinked on the table as the warm liquid filled her up. “My name is Malle. Um, Lindie? When do I get to go home? I want to see my mommy.”
Lindie tilted her round head and leaned over the table to wipe her face with a napkin. “Oh... We’re going to take good care of you here.”
Like in her usual stubborn way, Malle puffed out her fat cheeks and pouted. Another empty answer for her to chew on... She wanted to press the matter further, but she found herself staring at Lindie’s wings instead. “Are you a fairy?”
Lindie turned in her seat to display her wings of rich crimson. “Yes, and so are you, my dear.”
Malle turned to find her own wings. “But why?”
Lindie set her elbows on the table and rested her head on her knuckles. “Well, from what they tell me? You fell to the magic of the Aven Wilderness. Nothing to worry about now, but it was a good thing they were able to cancel it out before it was too late.”
Malle stared down at the smooth table trying to process how her blurry memory matched up to what the fairy said. Lindie continued. “I’m not sure how you came about the magic. Was it a creature of the woods that set it on you? Poor thing... What beast would have the heart to curse a child so young...? Or maybe you consumed something while you were out there? Magic oozes wherever it can in the wilderness. It seeps into the leaves, fruit, and water out there. You never know what it will do to you.”
The mention of wild magic sent the memory of the creek to Malle’s mind. She remembered the warm tingling running throughout her body. The one that had her sprouting roots. The girl reeled, knocking over a teacup in the process. Her scream covered the loud smash from the cup. Lindie rounded the table and knelt down to wrap the child in a tight hug. The girl continued to wail. In Lindie’s grasp, she reached for where the roots were before, but couldn’t find them. In ugly gasps of breath, she cried out bits and pieces of the horror she experienced. What little bit Lindie could make out made no sense to her, but she held her close anyway, telling her over and over that the horror passed away and she was safe now.
What the boy heard from outside was a lot more concerning. He rushed to the door, already familiar with Lindie’s mushroom cottage and the girl she decided to care for. His companion stood frozen in place and didn’t stop him. Without thinking, he slammed the door open without pausing to knock. “Lindie?! What’s wrong?” He scanned every corner of the room but didn’t see any crisis.
Still comforting the sobbing child in her arms, Lindie looked up at him with a calm expression. “We’re fine. She woke up and got a little scared over what happened last night, but that’s all right.” She gave Malle a gentle push and directed her to look at the newcomer. “Malle, this is Tyler. You might recognize him. He and Ann kept you company last night before you fell to the magic. They are the ones who brought back enough fairies to save you.”
The other fairy named Ann finally entered the cottage and stood by Tyler’s side. Malle studied them from their somber faces to their wing tips. She quieted down to a few isolated chokes. Now that she was their same size, she could see they were kids like her. They looked real. They looked human. They reminded her of people she once knew. The image of home, both in Penacha and Seadrake, faded further and further away from her grasp. “When can I go home?” She gasped. “When can I see my mom? I miss my mom.”
Tyler and Ann met each other’s gaze in silence. Lindie, who knew the two better than Malle did, saw the familiar hurt in their eyes. They were also lost in the forest once. Ann broke to wipe an arm over her face as Tyler painted a polite smile on his face and knelt at Malle’s level. “Things are going to be different... For you and for your mom. It may hurt for a little while, but you’ll be all right. Both of you will be.”
Finally, the truth set in and Malle once again broke into an ugly sob. The fairies crowded around her to comfort and share her pain. Soon, the girl will smile and celebrate once again, but until then, her new family will give her the comfort she needed no matter how long it might take.
It took some time, but she did eventually smile again after that. Not only that, but she made everyone else smile around her as well. She played games, worked, and loved her new family with all her heart. Once she became wise enough in the way of the Seelie Court, she supported the battles against the ever-raging conflict with their Unseelie cousins.
Years passed... Then decades... Then centuries. Still, Malle remained one of the joys of her people. She was so young when she left her human days behind her. Now that she was grown and wise, her old memories began to fade behind the decades. She forgot her dear mother in the streets of Seadrake. She forgot the house she left in her attempts at returning to her old one in Penacha. She barely remembered the trip through the forest that brought her to her new home in the first place. She grew comfortable in her wings. It was almost as if she was always here from the beginning.
In one deadly battle over territory, they lost their loyal king in a fight with the Unseelie. The court decided to honor the ever-proud and passionate Malle as their new queen in his place. At first, the innocent girl hesitated, but her love for her family prevailed and she wore the title in grace. Though she may not remember her old life, she comforted every new fairy joining their ranks as they did her once. To this day, Queen Malle lived and ruled in the Aven Wilderness with her beloved court of fairies, invisible to the world, but present in every heart who knew her.
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