Arianne slid between the tickling branches of two pink honeysuckles, allowing the balls of her feet to brush the grass softly, and then drifted upwards again, silently aloft on wings that were the deep blue of midnight hour. The animals that resided in her forest were subdued, perhaps because of the misty rain that cloaked the land, or because they sensed the danger through their own means.
A danger which didn’t threaten her, Arianne thought angrily, but her younger sister, Evelyn, who was currently no where to be found.
Arianne increased the speed of her pixie wings, shooting herself up into the treetops, which were an easy thousand feet above the ground. The pines in the Amberseek Family’s forests were taller, thicker and older than those belonging to any of the other Families – the girth of the widest tree a hundred steps when paced on the ground. They provided excellent cover– especially from the kind of predator that was roaming the forest floor right now.
Perched on a branch twice as wide as she was tall, Arianne scanned the meadow she had just exited from a new vantage. With part relief, part frustration, she saw that it was indeed void of Evelyn. The young Faerie had disappeared earlier that morning, scurrying off into the forest, murmuring something about a shy bear with an injured paw… And now she was in danger, and possibly completely unaware of the fact. Arianne had been keeping just ahead of Them all day, combing the forest floor in search of her sister, hiding herself in treetops and in the mist she had summoned from the heavens whenever They were near. When she found Evelyn, the younger Faerie was going to have to answer to their mother.
Arianne sighed and retreated deeper into the tree’s cover, in desperate need of a break. She dissolved her wings so she could perch on a crooked branch that formed a sort of bench. For one who had just recently acquired her wings, she had used them an awful lot today.
Fair Folk didn’t develop their wings until their seventeenth spring, so Arianne had grown hers in three months prior. However, wispy flight muscles in her back had yet to fully develop, and flying for long periods of time caused an irritating ache in her shoulders.
Arianne was the second youngest daughter of the Amberseek Family – a powerful clan of Fair Folk which controlled the forests of the Western mountain ranges. The youngest daughter, Evelyn, was still in her fifteenth summer, meaning her wings wouldn’t manifest for almost another two cycles.
And that made her an easy target for the Hunt.
They were close now. Arianne could feel the forest become still around her, as if a thousand creatures were holding their breaths collectively. She blew her dark blue hair out of her face. I was unusual for Fair Folk to have hair any color other than silver or black, but Arianne and Evelyn shared the same dark blue locks.
She heard Their voices. Harsh laughter. She knew that if she moved back to where she’d stood seconds before, she would be able to see Them moving into the other side of the clearing, Their great black steeds like drops of darkness in the silvery green forest as they emerged from the undergrowth. They would sit astride those pawing, snorting animals; arrogant shoulders thrust back, swords at Their sides. Swords would not be used on those who They hunted, but were carried as protection. They may have come from a land of steel and fire, but the Forest answered to the will of the Amberseek Family.
There was only one thing that Their kind dared enter the Forest to do. And only the most dangerous of Their kind was sent to do it.
Too long, the daughters of the Amberseek Family had been hunted as game, but this was the price they had to pay, for the mistake of one Faerie, long ago. Generation after generation had suffered from Them.
The Human’s Hunt.
Arianne peeked out from her hiding spot. Five men, astride black stallions that pranced with unbridled energy, made their way across the open field. She wandered if They knew it was Their presence that caused the forest to go still, or if they simply assumed it was always as unanimated, barren, and dark as it was when they saw it.
They didn’t belong here, not where the wilderness was a vast mystery, with millions of species of wildlife teeming in perfect harmony with each other. Where the moon was full and huge every night and unknown creatures slinked in the shadowy undergrowth. Nor in the thickest parts of the forest, where the huge pines blocked out the sun and carpeted the ground with a layer of needles, and one who was not familiar with the air currents and patterns in the growth of moss would be lost so easily, when all you could see in every direction was brown, brown, brown from the massive tree columns.
Yet still, They came, with amber-laced swords – toxic to all Fair Folk, and the Forest, when it followed their will – in the pursuit of Arianne and her sisters, her entire family…
All because of the folly one young Faerie made.
To fall in love with a human man, what would cause such lunacy? They were creatures of fire, blood, and terrifying power. Yet, when there had been more peaceful times, and Faeries and humans had interacted with good intent, perhaps then, there had been some appeal in the idea. A draw that could have been felt… to a handsome face, soft voice, gentle hands? Enough for her to trust him, for him to achieve what he had desired, for her to tell him the deepest secrets of their kind, for him to have a chance to share with his fellows the unearthly pleasure their coupling had created…
Arianne shuddered. This was why now; the females of the Amberseek Family lived in fear. Their pearlescent flesh, starry eyes, and flowing hair in silver, ebony, and midnight blue were the curse they had to bear. Human men hungered for them. Hunted them.
When a Faerie was taken, she was never seen again.
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