Apologies, Bloggies. Things are going pretty wild here at the moment, so I didn’t manage to do a full story post this morning.
Okay, now I know where I left off with the 2 stories I’m blogging.
Here are the previous instalments of “A Friday Fairytale”.
5 – Immunity
A giant red eye opened and peered at Nadisda with the reptilian levelness that came from being millions of years old.
“Fairy. Have you come to bring back my moonstone?”
“Bright day, Faff,” greeted Nadisda, her bare, half-transparent feet burning from landing on the sweltering rocks in the mid-day sun. “I hope you are well. Something happened.”
“You didn’t lose the moonstone, did you?” asked Faff menacingly.
“It – disappeared, when I fell through to another world.”
Faff raised his huge head and blew an angry flame, bright as a welding light, against the dry blue sky.
“I’m sorry,” stammered Nadisda. “It was the spell! We’re searching for it, all of us.”
Faff lowered his head to her, fixating her with a slit pupil.
“That moonstone was given to me as a personal favour by another magic being,” he pointed out. “I should never have let you use it!”
“I’m sorry! I need to ask for your help again,” she said contritely. “That is so I can find the stone and return it.”
“You don’t think your foul spell destroyed it?” asked Faff. “Its echoes resounded all over the Realms, are you aware of that? Belladonna! You never add deadly nightshade into a dark love-bondage spell!”
“I’m sorry,” repeated Nadisda. “But I really need your help now. We suspect the stone is lost somewhere between the levels.”
“Levels?” Faff listened up. “What do you know about the levels? Level-bound creatures should only stay in their own.”
She shook her head. “Mike says they are searching in all levels for the stone. I suspect they are like dimensions, right?”
Faff closed his eyes to think.
“Which world did you fall to?” he asked.
“Mike calls it the Real World,” said Nadisda. “Valentine, I mean.”
Faff snorted derisively. “That place doesn’t exist! A world without magic? Nonsense. It’s just a legend, fairy. One some silly youngster cooked up in his head.”
Nadisda eyed Faff, surprised. It dawned on her that he couldn’t help her.
“Go look for Valentine,” instructed the dragon. “You two must unravel what you have cooked up, to undo the evil that has been unleashed. I have no idea if you’ll find my moonstone.”
“I hope so,” said Nadisda and left.
Faff could not help her! Deflated, she returned to her cave, along the narrow mountain path running along Wrath Peak, then flying across the Torn Vale, a valley criss-crossed with jagged rocks and deep ravines and jigsawed with silvery streamlets at the bottom; crossing over the largest part of the Shady Forest and setting down lightly in her glade.
The Villain was waiting for her there, sitting comfortably on a fallen log on which all greenery had wilted away, with his as always insufferable grin. She could nearly forget that in another world, he was only a sweet teenage boy.
“Valentine,” she greeted him. “Faff says that you and I must undo what we have done, and that I should never have added Belladonna to the curse.”
“Details,” he said derisively. “It was the wrong curse. What were you trying – to get Hero Hugo to find his True Love? I wanted you to curse him, not reward him!”
“And I thought you were just being mindlessly evil,” she retorted. “You could have given me a bit more background.”
Valentine smiled. “You were not supposed to ask, Nadisda. But you’ve broken more rules than I can count. We have to solve this riddle on all levels.”
“I don’t understand,” said the wood fairy.
“Do me a favour,” said Valentine, getting up from the log. “Let me look at your wings.”
“Why?” asked Nadisda self-consciously, spreading her iridescent, pale-blue wings with the silver filigree veins running across them like fine lace.
Valentine walked all around her, admiring the large wings in detail.
“She’s brilliant,” he muttered. “What a work of art!”
Nadisda held still, her wings quivering a bit from being under such close inspection.
“You don’t have them in my world, do you?” asked Valentine pensively. “That’s probably a mistake. No idea how I can fix that. But there is something I can fix, something I must fix. Nadisda, you must do something for me now.”
“What is that?” she asked, still holding her breath from having her wings looked at.
“Go lie down in your cave, shield it off against everyone and go to sleep. There’s something I must do.”
“Surely you can do it while I’m awake?”
“Not this, fairy. Sorry.”
Nadisda folded her wings away and compliantly went into her cave.
“When will I see you?” she asked back at the Villain.
“Soon enough,” came the answer through the spell that she drew over the cave mouth. “Don’t worry, fairy.”
Somewhat reassured, she lay down on her bed of moss and went back to sleep.
“I don’t get it,” said Ben. “My questbook says I must find the forest fairy. I’m at her cave, it says here, ‘cave of the Forest Fairy’, but I click it and nothing happens.”
“Maybe she’s not in,” said Mike, hacking away at supersonic speeds at his laptop.
“What’re you writing now?” asked Ben.
“Overrides,” said Mike.
“Your forest fairy is a glitch,” complained Ben.
“You have no idea,” muttered Mike. “Hold on tight.” He hammered out a never-ending string of code, then sealed it with passwords and closed the black window. “I’m done, guys. Going to sleep.”
“We’ll carry on a bit longer,” said Jen. “Just in the middle of a mini-quest.” She glanced up and saw Mike studying her pensively.
“You’re a genius,” he said.
“You are,” replied Jen. “This thing is brilliant. It will go viral, and then we’re rich.”
“You’re the designer,” said Mike. “Without your gorgeous characters this game would be useless.”
She laughed and ruffled his hair.
“Anything for you, little brother!”
“Younger brother,” Mike pointed out with dignity.
Nadisda opened her eyes. It was early morning; pale light fell in through a slatted blind that covered the window.
She sat up. She was feeling better. In fact, she felt almost as well as she did usually, in her grove at home. Just a bit more – solid, heavier. She doubted she could fly, with this body. Was this what unmagical people always felt like?
She sat up and stretched, and glanced down in surprise at what she was wearing.
Her tattered and discoloured fairy gown was gone. Someone had dressed her in a maroon shirt that looked much like what Jen wore; and in a strange blue leg-dress, similar to what all the people in this house wore. It had a rip on the knee. But Nadisda’s fairy dress had also been torn, and probably this was all these people had.
Only now did she become aware that she was being watched. Right! No wilted plants indicated that the Villain was in the room, in this world. On the contrary, to her surprise there were quite a few plants in pots arrayed around her mattress. She pointed at them, eyeing Mike quizzically.
“Yes, I wanted to ask you about those too,” he jumped ahead of her. “I came in this morning and they were there. You must have started recovering your powers while you were sleeping. So I guess you’ve started planting yourself a grove?” He grinned.
“I did this?” she asked back, surprised.
“Nobody else did, fairy. But what I want to know is, are you feeling better?”
“I’m feeling nearly well,” she replied. “What happened? Did you take me to one of those … doctors?”
Mike shook his head and smiled. “Nope. I thought I’d tackle it differently. Seems to have worked.”
“What did you do?”
“That’s for me to know,” he grinned. “Anyway, girl, are you ready to come out with me a bit?”
“Out of the house?”
She gazed at the potted plants. They were standing in clay pots with their roots, in a bit of earth. Young tree saplings most of them; and one magical black Damask rose, like the ones in the palace garden. She touched its velvety black petals in wonder.
“Those don’t even exist in my world,” Mike pointed out. “I’m amazed how you got that right! Cool smell, too.”
The rose’s delicate perfume did indeed pervade the room like a mystery.
“We must plant these outside,” suggested Mike. “They will need sunlight. Potted plants always die.”
Nadisda got up and walked over to the slatted window covering, and lifted it a bit to peer into the overgrown garden. She waved a few weeds away with her hand, and with a nod she had transplanted her potted plants outside, shaping a little start-up grove.
“Awesome,” noted Mike. He got to his feet too and led the way, out of the room.
In the dysfunctional kitchen, Mike scrambled some eggs on a gas cooker and put them on bread for Nadisda. He brewed some coffee for them both and joined her with his own breakfast of scrambled egg on bread.
“Where are the others?” asked Nadisda.
“Still sleeping,” he grinned. “Knocked out from a too-late night, last night.”
“I don’t understand this world,” she said, feeling left out.
“Spend a little while, you will,” he replied. Nadisda peered at the strange boxes with tangles coming out of them like vines, except that she knew that they were not vines. They were no living things at all; the inside of those vines was copper, as her fairy sensitivities told her quite loudly. Nadisda didn’t get hurt by metals like some fairies did, but she was quite aware of them anyway.
Electricity like lightning lived in those boxes. She knew it, suddenly. Electricity was a life force of another kind. So these boxes were alive of sorts after all?
Mike finished up his food, drank down the rest of his coffee and jumped up, beckoning her to finish. She hastily swallowed down the rest and got up too. Mike took her plate and mug and opened a metal well-spring under which he rinsed them. It took a bit longer than Nadisda felt like waiting, so she waved her hand and the plates and cups were clean.
“Ah!” said Mike, surprised. “Thank you! Seems to me like you’ve got your magic under better control in this world?”
“I think so,” said Nadisda, equally surprised. “It does feel like it! And you said this world doesn’t even have magic?”
He pulled a face, leading the way out of the front door which closed with a final “click” behind them.
“Yeah, there’s magic, of a sort,” he hedged, leading her down the cobblestone path and out past the broken picket fence. “Not good magic though, and not very efficient.”
“Then where is it?” she demanded.
“In books,” he replied. “You’re going to help us find the moonstone. Fairy, I think the moonstone is your key to getting home.”
They walked down the road, past more broken, ramshackle old houses that were quite obviously empty. The gardens looked terrible; all weeds and not much else. Nadisda’s fingers itched to fix that, but she restrained herself. Still, from all the restraint little white wayside flowers sprang up out of the kerb wherever she passed by.
They walked for a good half-hour before the houses started changing, looking squarer, more inhabited and even dirtier.
“I need you to understand this world,” said Mike. “That over there is a corner café, for instance. One buys things there.”
“What kind of things?” asked the forest fairy.
“Check it out,” said Mike and led the way. He picked a basket at the entrance of the shop, and led the fairy through the isles with products.
“Most of this is food,” he explained. He filled the basket with products, explaining to her what each one was, and then putting them all back.
“What was the point in that?” she asked, perplexed.
“I have no money,” said Mike. “So I can’t buy any of this.”
“Wait,” said Nadisda and reached under her maroon t-shirt. “I have some coins.” She produced some solid gold ducates from the Realms. Mike’s eyes stretched.
“Whoa, fairy,” he objected. “Can’t use those! They use other kinds of money here.”
Nadisda concentrated. Turn into whatever is in use here, she mentally instructed the ducates. The next moment, she was holding a hundred-dollar bill.
“That would sort it,” said Mike with a grin and snatched the money. “Come. Let’s put that food back into the basket!”
“There’s still one thing I don’t understand,” said Nadisda as they carried on along the road, with all the provisions stashed into Mike’s backpack. “Why do you people buy your food? Can’t you simply grow it?”
“We probably could,” said Mike, astonished. “We should! You’re right! But it will take time though.”
“Maybe,” said Nadisda. “But doesn’t it make more sense to stick to the natural order of things? You wouldn’t have to go hungry when you have no coins. Or… papers, in this world.”
“You have a point,” said Mike. “Anyway, here we are.” He led her up the steps of an old building with double-doors. A bronze plate announced it as the “Detroit Public Library”.
Nadisda followed him into a large room packed floor to ceiling with bookshelves. The shelves almost made a forest in which one could get lost. She felt the spirit of the woods still coming from the pages and the wooden shelves.
“Here,” said Mike and led her through the labyrinth of shelves, to a section at the back. He pulled a book off the shelf. “Natural Magic.”
Nadisda accepted the tome. She opened it. “Nice drawings.”
Mike peered sharply at her. “Damn,” he said. “We’ve got to do this again! Oh man, this whole trek!”
“Why?” she asked, confused.
“You can’t read,” he said through gritted teeth. “Damn! Should have thought of that! Fairy, hang tight. We’re going home.” He stuck the book into his backpack. “Come!”
The sensors at the doors screamed when the backpack with the book in it passed through them. Library staff came towards them and demanded that Mike unpack his backpack.
“This is just – dammit,” he swore. “I wasn’t thinking! And now there’s going to be commotion and all sorts of stuff – last thing we need! Damn, damn, damn!”
Nadisda stared at him. She could actually see the features of the evil villain overlaying his young face.
The stolen book came out of the pack.
“I was going to book it out,” insisted Mike to the security guard who had come to clamp his huge hands around the teenager’s wrists. “Honestly! I just forgot! Was lost in thought!”
“Right, we’ll believe that,” growled the guard. A second guard grabbed Nadisda’s arms and turned them on her back so that she couldn’t move. One of the librarians left through a door behind the counter.
“Damn! She’s calling the cops,” muttered Mike as the security guards were holding onto his and Nadisda’s wrists. “Last thing we need! Going to get a record! Crap!”
“Valentine,” said Nadisda gently, “be calm. You did nothing wrong.” She inclined her head, and her guard let her go in confusion.
“No harm done,” she said sweetly, pushing some strands of hair out of her face. The other guard let go of Mike and looked at him with concern.
“Are you alright, kid? You fell. Look, everything in your pack fell out.”
“I’m fine,” said Mike gruffly, flexing his wrists and hands and watching in astonishment how the guard crouched down to repack his pack for him.
The librarian who had left, came back through the door, looking a bit perplexed.
“What was I going to do?”
“You were going to help these two borrow that book,” one of the assistants replied in a bored voice, barely glancing up from her workstation.
“Right! Do you have a library card?” asked the librarian.
Mike looked beleaguered.
“Fill in this form,” invited the lady and pushed a paper towards him. Nadisda saw how Mike hesitated.
“I have one,” she said and held out her hand. The librarian accepted the glamour spell that turned into a library card in her hand.
“Ah! Nadisda Woodsworth,” she muttered and smiled at the fairy as she put the book through the system. “There, enjoy, Miss. Just remember to return it in two weeks.”
“I will, thanks,” smiled Nadisda and led the way out of the library with a bounce in her step, the Villain scrambling to catch up with her.
Once they were well down the road and out of sight of the city library, Mike grabbed Nadisda’s arm.
“What the hell was that?”
“That’s what I wanted to ask you, Valentine,” she said.
“I asked you not to call me that in this world,” said Mike.
“Oh, but you are him!” replied Nadisda. “You steal, don’t you? You’re a practised thief. I should have seen it earlier.”
Mike pulled a face. “Don’t half have a choice. We have to live.”
“How do other people manage?”
“Other kids have parents,” he said. “They haven’t run away from a hostile system. The parents make sure the kids have something to eat.”
“You’re hardly a child, Valentine,” said Nadisda.
“Alright,” Mike conceded. “We’re all over sixteen now, I guess we could work. But it’s too late. The kind of jobs people like us would get, are useless. They don’t feed one. I’m a programmer. I learnt that by hacking into people’s bank accounts, but I can’t do that at the moment because the police have their tabs on me and if I stick my cyber-nose out, they’ll catch me in a jinx. So I’m lying low. But…” he smiled.
“Yes?” prompted the woodlands fairy.
“I’m working on a program,” he said. “We are. Me and Jen. She draws the world and the characters. The other two are beta-testers, and friends. We’re playing this game together to test it, and I’ve thrown it online for other beta players to join in. It’s going to be our breakthrough. It will make us rich and we’ll never have to steal again. But here’s the catch. When you throw a game online for others to test, you’ll always get some evil guys who try to crack the code and steal it. We’re up against the nastiest hacker from New York that the cyber world has ever seen. And he’s in my game, and he’s trying to hijack it.”
“Who is he?” asked Nadisda.
“The same bloke who threw a spanner in my own hacking,” said Mike. “His name is Connor McNaught. He’s a cop. And a hacker. He’s the reason I can’t nip tiny amounts out of people’s bank accounts without them ever noticing. I mean. C’mon! I’ve never taken more than the bank itself does.” He sighed. “Guess you didn’t understand even a third of what I said now. Don’t worry, I’ll fix that too.”
“You’re still a villain,” she smiled. “That cop – whatever that is. I think I know who he is.”
“You do?” asked Valentine.
“It’s obvious.” laughed Nadisda. “Hero Hugo.”