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The Stone of Virtue: Part 4

Chapter 4

By Kelly BelmontPublished 2 months ago 9 min read
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The pain came first, searing, burning, and pounding right between her eyes. Then noise, first a ringing in her ears, then muffled as if under water, finally load and clear. It was the forest—the chirping of birds, the buzzing of insects, and someone calling her name.

Everything came back to her. She had to move, to run. She willed her eyes to open and they reluctantly obeyed. Her vision was blurred and tinted red—blood. Her nose was probably broken. She wiped away what she could as she struggled to her knees. She couldn't chance standing yet. The world was still reeling.

Blinking away the blood, she looked around at the crimson world. The berry bush she’d ran for was only inches away. Quickly and quietly, she crawled towards it, her hands feeling their way across the mossy forest floor. She hurried, hearing the echo of her name from behind. As she moved, her hand lit upon something smooth and warm. She withdrew and looked at the ground. Something small shimmered there, and for a moment she swore it moved.

The voices were right behind her now. Rose had no time to wait. Grabbing the creature, she scrambled into the bushes.

In the safety of the underbrush, Rose looked at the thing she’d found.

Rose covered her mouth to hold back a gasp. Lying in her hand, no bigger than her own palm, was a little person. Her pale skin seemed to glow, even in the dim light of their hiding place. A delicate purple dress hugged her body and little boots graced her feet. From her bare back sprouted two iridescent wings. Rose couldn’t believe her eyes. She was holding a fairy!

The fairy stirred, its little eyes opening in shock. With a buzz of her wings she lifted out of Rose’s hand, only to fall back down against her palm. She tried again, and after the briefest of moments, fell again. Finally, with difficulty, she simply stood up.

“Release me, human!” She demanded in a voice much larger than herself. “Though your attack has hindered my ability to fly,” she said pulling a small dagger from her belt, “I’m still armed.”

“Shhhhh,” Rose said. “I didn’t attack you, you flew into me. Now quiet before they find us.”

“I warn you human,” the fairy said loudly, “my dagger may be small, but it’s tipped with poison. You’ll be dead before you ever find the wound.”

“There’s no need for that, Mistress,” Rose said. “I don’t mean you any harm. I’ll set you down if you like.”

“On the branch,” the fairy said. “I’ll not be put on the ground to be stepped on.”

“Alright, just please, be quiet or they’ll find us and we’ll both be dead.”

Rose gently placed the girl on one of the thicker branches and peered through the foliage. Her name still rang through the air, but Leon and Fletcher were nowhere in sight.

“Who’re you hiding from,” the fairy asked.

Rose was startled at her closeness. She’d moved along the branch and was now at Rose’s cheek peering through the bush as she did.

“Men,” Rose whispered. “One wants me to marry his son. The other is likely to kill me if he finds me.”

“Strange hunting partners,” the fairy said. “Does your father approve the match?”

Rose shook her head. “My father is dead,” she said for the first time aloud.

“So the man who wants to kill you. He’s your mother’s husband?”

“No,” Rose said. “I have no family. I’m a servant in his house.”

“That gives him authority to choose your husband?” The fairy shook her head. “Humans are strange.”

“Shhh,” Rose begged. “Please, they’ll hear you.”

“Rose!”

There was a snapping of twigs and the rustling of leaves as Leon stepped into the clearing, his whip clenched tightly in his fist.

Rose raised a finger to her lips, her eyes begging the fairy not to speak.

“I doubt she’d come this way,” Fletcher said stepping out of the thicket. “They say these woods are full of fairy folk. Fowler’s been afraid of ‘em since he was a boy. They steal children,” he whispered, “and they’ll kill a grown man without leaving a mark!”

“Stuff and nonsense!” Leon said. “You’re not saying you believe that rubbish.”

“I’m just saying you hear things. My father swore he saw one. He told me all the time, then Fowler when he was young. He and his brother were hunting and they spotted it. At first they thought it was a hummingbird, because it moved so fast. They followed it for a little and it stopped on a fallen tree. They nearly caught it too, but the little beast caught sight of ‘em. My uncle died right here in these woods. They never knew what done it. Tried to bring Fowler out here hunting a few times. He won’t even step into the woods. He’ll never say it, but I’m sure he’s still afraid a fairy’ll get him.”

“And I suppose,” Leon said, “you believe the old stories, how if you can catch a fairy and eat it, you’ll take its magic.”

“Couldn’t hurt to try,” Fletcher said. “Course it would depend on what they really look like. Couldn’t do it if they looked like us, could you. Or if they were hard and crunchy like some bug, just couldn’t stomach that.”

“Stuff and nonsense,” Leon said again. “So where do you think she’d go?”

“Northeast most likely,” Fletcher said pointing. “She’ll be heading to Kelrudras, using the woods as cover until she’s further up the road.”

Without a word Leon turned on his heel and headed in the direction Fletcher pointed.

Rose watched as the men disappeared, calling her name as they went.

She carefully climbed out of the bushes.

“Can you fly,” she asked the fairy.

Her wings sprung to life, hovering above the bush. “Well enough.”

“Then I’ll leave you. Goodbye fairy mistress! Avoid that direction,” she said pointing towards town, “if you want to live.”

“Where will you go?” she asked.

“Deeper into the woods I suppose. I’d planned to go to Kelrudras, but they’ll be sure to find me there.”

“You would live in the wild? All alone?”

“I’m alone wherever I go. Why not in the wild? They didn’t give me much of a choice. It was either this or death.”

Rose was amazed at how easily the words came. There was no fear, no hesitation. It was not a path she’d planned on, but it was surprisingly the least frightening.

“Again,” she said, “I’m sorry if I hurt you. Be well, fairy Mistress.”

The fairy’s purple eyes looked at her beneath a raised brow as Rose bowed her head and turned away.

“You’re just going to leave?” the fairy said.

“I can’t stay here. They might come back.”

“You really have no where to go?”

Rose shook her head.

“No family to take you in and protect you?”

“None.”

“I’ll give you shelter.”

“That’s kind of you.” Rose said, “but I’ll be fine.”

“You saved me,” the fairy said. “If you hadn’t stopped me, I would’ve flown straight into them.”

“It was an accident, I was in your way.”

“I owe you a debt,” she insisted, “it’s our way.”

“You’re released from your debt. I don’t need anything.”

“You need shelter,” she said, “at least for the night. I can offer you that.”

“Thank you,” Rose laughed, “but my foot alone would fill a fairy’s home.”

“Like that, yes,” the fairy said.

She hovered in front of Rose’s face, placing one hand on each side of her broken nose. Rose’s body tingled as the world started to spin and grow. Rose lost her balance and fell to the ground. The fall was surprisingly shorter than she’d expected.

The fairy stood in front of her now, floating just above the ground and not much smaller than herself.

“How did you,” she said. At her side her father’s dagger still hung. “Even my things!”

“Anything you carried was affected by the magic. And I fixed that,” she said pointing to Rose’s nose. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”

Rose touched her nose to find it whole and painless. “It was an accident,” she said, “but thank you.”

“Come,” the fairy said, relieving Rose of one of her bags. “We have a long journey ahead since we cannot fly.”

They walked in silence, the fairy leading the way. Now equal in size, Rose realized just how alike they were.

As she walked, the fairy’s shimmering wings withdrew into her back, leaving no visible blemish on her radiant skin. She was short, only coming to Rose’s shoulder, though Rose herself was always regarded as strangely tall. The fairy was thin, but with a plump curve Rose envied in some of the village girls. But for her purple hair and matching eyes, the girl could’ve passed for human.

“Do humans really eat fairies,” the girl asked.

“I’ve never known one who has, but I’ve also never known one who caught one either.”

“There were stories of course, when I was a fairling, a fairy who ventured too close to the human village would never return. It was said they were eaten. I always thought they were just to scare us from wandering off.”

“We had stories, too. Fairies sneaking into unlocked windows to steal babies from their cradles, or snatching kids who went too far into the woods.”

“Why?” the fairy asked.

“To raise them as their own I suppose. The stories never said.”

“That’s not so bad. Stolen away in the night to be raised by fairies. Why’s that frightening?”

“I don’t know. I was never afraid. My father only told me good fairytales.”

The fairy shrugged her broad shoulders. “I don’t see why a fairy would need to steal human young, we have our own. I’ll speak to Peony and see if she knows any truth to the tale.”

“Peony?” Rose asked.

“Our tribe’s Weidterin.”

“Weid…”

“Weidterin. She’s sort of our history keeper. She teaches the fairlings. Her mother Campion was Weidterin when I was a fairling. Peony is very wise, though she’s seen only a few more seasons than me.”

Rose marveled at the way she talked, both at the ease with which the fairy spoke and at her assumption Rose understood what she was talking about.

“Are you all named for flowers?” Rose asked, noticing the link between Peony and her mother.

“Our women are,” she said, “are yours not? The man called you Rose.”

“I am, but it’s not common.”

The fairy studied her for a moment. “Were you born fairy, you’d be the same. Scarlett hair, leafy green eyes—Rose would be the obvious choice.”

“So you must be…Lavender? Violet?”

“No,” the fairy said. “Violet was my mother and Lavender is much lighter. I’m Snapdragon.”

Fantasy
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About the Creator

Kelly Belmont

I have been writing for more than 20 years. Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Children's, YA, Adult. I've dabbled in a bit of everything. My daily life is spent as a wife and training coordinator for a finacial institution.

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