Hooboy, it’s been a while since I posted here. So long, in fact, that I forgot my password to this site. OOOps. Anyway, this story was in response to a prompt to pick one of 10 titles, and write a 1500-word story. I went a lot over, then edited the crap out of it to…still be over. Hope you like it anyway.

I woke up, blinking my eyes against the glare of the sun in the cloudless sky above me. The last thing I remembered was kneeling at the goddess stone with my offering, my sister Mabel at my side. “Mabel?” I looked around, but I was alone in a field, the stone a few feet to my right. It looked like someone had spilled something on it. I crawled towards it, and as I got closer, I could see the stain more clearly. Blood.

“Mabel!” My heart started pounding as I whirled my head around, trying to find some clue to what happened. Aside from the blood drying in the sun, the stone was undisturbed. Our offerings – gone. The field – silent. Too silent. But there. A glint of metal. I reached for it; it was my hunting knife, the blade covered in dried blood from point to hilt.

“By the Goddess! Did I…?” But I would never! I could never! Why couldn’t I remember what happened?

RUN. A voice, not my own, in my head. RUN. NOW. I sheathed the knife without bothering to wipe it clean as I sprang up and sprinted towards the shelter of the forest nearby. I couldn’t return to our village alone. Not if I had murdered my own sister. I reached the treeline and tucked myself into the cover of a large oak tree, peeking back around to the goddess stone.

“Are you looking for something?” I jumped back, clamping my hand over my mouth to keep from crying out in surprise. I hadn’t heard anyone approach; they stood just far enough away that I couldn’t make out any features. Their voice had a strange rhythmic lilt to it though; almost as if they were singing rather than speaking.

Gazing at them warily, I stepped towards them until I could see them better in the dim light of the forest. Wide, violet eyes. Vivid green hair. Pointed ears. Not a person, then. A fairie. A ridiculous, desperate idea struck me.

“I need to see your Queen. I have a question that needs answering.”

“Ah, you need to see her mirror then.”

“Her mirror?”

“She has a mirror than can answer any question asked before it.”

“Very well.” I tried not to roll my eyes. “I need to see the Queen’s mirror, then.”

“I can take you to it. And her.” They nodded slowly. “If you can cross the bridge, that is.”

“The bridge?” The fairie nodded, this time more quickly.

“Yes, the bridge to our realm.”

“How do I cross it, then?”

“‘Bring the Queen a gift, as beautiful as she. If your offering pleases her, the bridge to her you’ll see.’” The fairie bounced back and forth on their feet as they spoke.

“What kind of gift would the Queen of the fairie realm want? What can she not just conjure for herself?” I backed up closer to the tree and crossed my arms in front of my chest.

“There are many things she cannot obtain through magic alone,” the fairie replied, leaning towards me. “I should not be telling a mortal of such things, but,” they leaned even further in, until their lips nearly brushed my ear, “blue roses are her favorite.” They kissed me then, a flutter of lips on my jaw before they pulled away. I resisted the urge to wipe it off.

“A blue rose?” I had never seen a rose that colour before.

“Oh yes. They’re quite rare, you know. They only grow in one place.” They pointed their index finger up, violet eyes twinkling. “And I know where it is!”

“You do? Tell me!”

“No, but I will show you.” They grabbed my hand, the woods vanished, and after a few dizzying spins we were standing in the middle of an immense garden.

“It’s…beautiful,” I breathed, but even this word was not good enough to describe it. A riot of colours surrounded us, flowers in shades I had never even imagined. Dropping the fairie’s hand, I turned until I spotted a bush filled with blue roses, then stepped towards them.

“Wait! You cannot—” They dashed to catch up with me, grabbing my wrist and pulling me to a stop. “These are not weeds! You cannot just pluck them up. You have to prove your worth.”

“And how do I do that, exactly?”

Quick as lightning, they pulled my knife from its sheath, bringing the blood-stained blade in front of my face. “This I think, might tell your tale.”

“But—I didn’t—”

“Maybe you didn’t; maybe you did,” the fairie sang, handing me the blade and skipping towards the blue roses. “But the rose will decide if it wants to help you find the answer!” I followed them until we reached the roses. Careful to avoid the prickles, I pulled the largest bloom towards me and placed the knife against the stem. It sliced through with the barest amount of pressure.

“It has agreed. Hooray!” There was a sudden crash in the distance, and the ground beneath us began to tremble. “Oops, time to go!” The fairie grabbed my hand before I could even sheath my knife again, and the garden vanished.

Twilight had fallen once we reached our next destination—a narrow clearing with a forest on one side and the top of a rocky cliff on the other. I could barely hear the rush of water, far below.

“Where are we now?” I asked, wiping my knife on my pants leg before sheathing it.

“Why, we’re at the bridge!” They pointed at a spot on the rocks but I could see nothing.

“I can’t see it.” My heart sank.

“You give up too easily!” The fairie sang, pulling me towards the spot. “Come with me. You have to show her your gift!” They towed me until we were standing on the edge of the cliff, then grabbed my arm holding the rose, stretching it forward. They ducked behind me and pushed me until I thought I would fall. I looked down but even with the last bit of daylight I couldn’t see the water below. I leaned back as much as I could, feeling queasy, but the fairie pressed their body against mine and pushed us forward. I shut my eyes, waiting to fall to my death.

“Have some faith,” they whispered against my ear. I swayed forward, losing my balance and instinctively took a step; instead of air, my boot landed on something solid. My eyes flew open and I gasped. We were standing on a wide wooden bridge, the rails covered in ivy and red roses, tiny lights twinkling along the expanse. The lights continued along a path on the other side. We crossed the bridge and followed the path for a short while until it ended abruptly before a giant tree. The fairie skipped up to the tree and pressed a knot in the wood, causing an arched entryway to appear.

“This way to the Queen’s throne room!” They called, beckoning me forward as they walked through. I followed for what felt like a long time, winding through a tunnel that smelled like damp earth. I finally passed through another archway into a large circular room, brilliantly lit by thousands of twinkle lights along the walls and ceiling, strung through tangles of ivy and roses. A large, still pond reflected the light in the centre of the room, with a single chair, constructed of twigs and branches behind it. The chair was empty.

“Wait.” I turned to the fairie, anger and frustration surging through me. “We went through all this and she’s not even here?” The fairie skipped over to me, took the rose, and headed towards the throne.

“Oh, but they are.” They snapped their fingers and they seemed to grow taller, large gauzy wings appearing at their back, a crown of ivy and red roses atop their head. As they sat down, a mischievous smile played on their face. Surprise gave way to renewed anger as I stalked towards them.

“You made me do all of this…stuff, and you were the queen the entire time?” I stopped when I reached the pond, my cheeks burning.

“Of course. I had to make sure you were worthy.” They leaned forward, tossing the rose into the pond, which rippled away from the flower and then went still. “Look in the mirror. Find your answer.” I leaned forward, gazing into the water.

“Mabel!” I cried out, in relief and dismay. She was alive, but injured, and bound to a tree by several strands of ivy around her waist. A large bruise had swollen her left eye nearly shut and her dingy shirt was stained with blood at the left shoulder. Relief quickly turned to realization and I jerked back.

“You!” I took a step back and reached for my knife, hands shaking with fury.

“You have your answer. And now I have a question for you: do you want her back, safe and sound?” I swallowed all the curses I wanted to fling at them, and nodded, dropping my hand. “Good. You shall see her soon. But first, I have a task for you.” They stood up from the chair and, in a flash, crossed the pond and stood beside me, grasping my wrist.

“Why…me?”

“This.” Still holding my wrist, they pulled up the sleeve of my shirt, revealing what looked like a brand on the inside of my forearm. I had never seen it before, and I tried to jerk my arm away, but they held it fast. “You have the mark. Nobody can hurt you; and you will protect me.”

“But how did you…”

“Oh, Cayne,” they sang, “I’ve been looking for you a long time.”