Written for a Halloween Writing Contest. Genre is “Urban Fantasy”. It’s sort of like Dresden Files, Peter Pan, and Midsummer Night’s Dream had a baby, with Jordan Peterson playing midwife. It is Chapter 1 of a full length novel I’m “working on”.
Halloween night. The perfect time for a summoning. Or ordering bags of your favorite candy from Amazon and hoping your house get’s TP’d (which, this year amounts to an act of charitable giving).
It’s time to get some answers, and maybe start to fix whatever the heck (waves hand in circular motion) “all this is”.
Summoning is pretty simple. Make a circle on the ground (chalk is easiest). Set the mood with a few or as many of the items that remind you of your intent as you can. Invest it with a drop of blood. Concentrate really hard on who or what you want to appear there. Say their Name three times and pull really hard like you’re Luke Skywalker trying to get the light saber out of the ice and then hope to God you have the mental fortitude to maintain concentration to keep the being physically bound within the circle. Bigger the being, stronger the circle needs to be; it’s more art and psychology than science (actually its specifically not science. It’s magic). Whatever you do, don’t break the circle.
“Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell.”
Snap, crackle, pop, and there she is. Six inches of blazing light zipping around like a banshee venting her fury (yeah, being summoned always pisses them off) with pyrotechnics that make Michael Bay look like an amateur. So beautiful… Stay focused! Just because she can’t get to you physically doesn’t mean she isn’t already in your head.
She freezes in mid-air, spinning around to face me, balanced on one leg, toes pointed to rest delicately on what looks like an illuminated manuscript painting of the sun floating flatly a foot above the ground. Smile spreading mischievously across her face.
“Good evening Andrew.”
I’d stumbled across this particular pixie some years ago. Kids, don’t try this at home, but you can go fishing for Fae and hope that whatever you happen to call doesn’t completely outclass you and eat your brain. I’d realized that there was zero chance Walt Disney was making it all up, and was probably “in the know” like the Brothers Grimm before him. So I picked a being he portrayed as powerful, but also mostly benign, and hoped he wasn’t too far off. I was in no way disappointed.
“Good evening Tink.”
She nods her head demurely, and I relax a little now that her initial anger at being summoned has faded and we are no longer fighting a battle of wills. She begins to zip more calmly around the circle examining the focus items I have set around the edges just outside the chalk lines. As she nears them the candles change hue slightly (neat trick…) and the flame grows a little. If I cared to, I could have gazed into the flame and caught glimpses of things.
She zips from the little pile of miniature pumpkins, across to the giant Russian sunflower head, and then over to a painting of Peter Pan, at which she oddly turns an angry bright red all over, stomps her foot and sticks out her tongue. The nearby candles flare greatly and I momentarily catch a glimpse of a child in a woman’s arms in one and a man gazing sternly at them from another, before she glances at me, a hint of a veiled pleading panicked look flashing on her face before she turns away to survey the far side of the circle.
“What is it you require?” She asks, and then zips off across to a beloved stuffed koala that used to keep me company in my crib as a child. “Oooh!” She squeals in delight a little shower of dust sprinkling out (there’s the stuff!) while she dances and spins, exclaiming, “But you would have made such a lost boy!” And as quickly as the exclamation had come it was gone again and now she’s standing gazing longingly at a little pile of dark chocolate salted caramels.
Faeries are unpredictable and have the attention span of a gnat. Which is odd, since they’re immortal… But I guess when something with a lifespan that would measure in comparative eye blinks wants to talk to you, it’s probably hard to pay them much mind at all, especially given all the billion year old relationships you have to maintain. It was honestly shocking she even remembered my name from one summoning to the next, but maybe it had something to do with our bargain.
“Pixie dust.” I hold up a nearly empty leather bag and give it a little shake to indicate my poverty. Happy thoughts and a little magic dust and you can fly. Tink here is my source.
She rolls her eyes, “Surely that’s not all.”
“Pay up Tink! We have a deal.”
She gives me an unamused deadpan glare and begins to hop, fairy dust showering down in a little ring all around her. “There. Good?”
“Actually, one more thing…”
“As expected…” She smiles guilelessly, “what else?”
Gulp. Those teeth and dimples. I feel bad bringing it up, but still, I’ve had enough! “What is going on!?” I yell at her, a little more angrily than I had intended. Actually, I hadn’t intended to yell at all. But seriously! What is going on?
She freezes with the stillness of a house cat intent on a rabbit, and some part of my brain sounds an alarm that it can’t decide which she reminds me more of.
“I thought so.” I nod, tight lipped and determined.
“Whatever are you talking about?” She says through her frozen smile, barely affecting any of the faux innocence she’s going for.
“Give it up Tink. The world is falling right the hell apart. Global Pandemic, riots going on over 100 days now, choice between a clown and a vegetable for president. What. Is. Going. On.”
She turns, nose in the air, eyes closed and begins walking slowly around the edge of the circle, “Even if I had any idea what was happening in your silly mortal world, this is a crass breach of etiquette and decorum. Something I thought was well beneath you Andrew.” She finishes with a sniff and a toss of her head.
Oh. Of course. Not only was I perhaps ruining the game by being a little too straight forward (fae love verbal sparring and puzzles) but I was asking for something for nothing, which was extremely inconsiderate. “Strike a new bargain?”
She stops and straightens a bit. I’ve got her attention. Faeries can never resist a bargain.
“No. You’re not taking my first-born, don’t even ask.”
She spins around to look at me again, “Oh come now Andrew,” she pouts and stomps her foot, every bit the picture of Tinker Bell, “you could at least have let me ask… You don’t have to be rude and take the fun out.”
“Ok, fine, you can ask.”
She grins eagerly, “A fair trade would be your firstb—”
“No. Next offer”
She rolls her eyes and groans.
“Come on, my knees are getting cold on this rough concrete, and its freezing down here. My nose is going to start dripping, and I’m super hungry. In fact, tell you what, give up the goods and I’ll give you an entire pizza.”
She brightens, and I don’t mean figuratively, I mean she literally explodes with yellow light. If there’s one thing I’ve been told faeries love, its pizza. Well, pizza and first born children. Then she dims visibly and wilts down to stand on the ground, her arms folded across beneath her chest. “I can’t.”
“You can’t what?”
“I can’t… make… any deals about what’s going on right now with those outside of Faerie…”
What? That’s… That’s huge actually. Fae make deals like they breathe air. It’s part of what powers them. They also can’t lie. So. Wow, ok this is big. I mean, global events already said it was big, but this is like, actually confirmed to not just be stupid bad luck on a global scale. Wait, going on right now. See, that’s the other thing about Faeries, they can’t lie, but like talking to an introvert if you actually listen to them you can find out all sorts of stuff.
“Say there Tink… Remember the 1918 flu?”
“I might… What are you offering?”
“Pizza. One piece per question answered.”
“Whole pizza, 3 questions.”
“Deal, but ‘remember the 1918 flu’ doesn’t count as one of the questions.”
Something not entirely unlike an invisible vice cranking down on her tightens and she shutters and blinks three times rapidly “Done and bound. Ask your questions three.”
“When was the last event of this magnitude?”
“541 through 1453”
Wait… That’s like 900 years…
“Was that the time span of some sort of Fae war or something?” I ask myself under my breath.
“Everything is some sort of Fae war or something Andrew. Next question.”
“Wat! No! I was thinking out loud!”
“And I was answering in kind. What is your next question.”
I gaze at her as she stands there regally. Calm, collected, elegant. The candles set around the circle sputter softly in the crisp, what should have been slightly stale dank basement air, but instead smells of summer fields, fresh lightning, magnolia blossoms, and babbling brooks. A full five minutes pass before I realize I had become utterly lost in awe of her beauty, as if somehow gazing simultaneously at an ocean sunrise, a glorious mountain range, a field of ripe wheat, every manner of spring and summer flower, a bee at work on an apple blossom, a wedded lover’s first embrace, a nursing newborn babe, and an ancient couple falling asleep forever in each other’s arms. The bottomless depth of her eyes held me fast and it takes an extreme gasping effort to break the gaze I realize had rolled back the curtains and allowed my spirit to peek out and likewise to be observed.
“Yes… you will do.” She whispers, decisively, motionless, but somehow wholly angled toward me in hungry anticipation.
What in the blazes? “Who… Who are you?”
“Titania.” A feeling like thunder rumbles through the air and my mental shock brings a taste like a mouth full of pennies. I lose my focus, lose my balance, and accidentally set my hand down over the circle’s chalk line to steady myself —thereby shattering the circle’s power.
She pounces on my hand immediately. “Andrew, Andrew, Andrew….” She casually enthralls me. “My new pet!” She claps and giggles, dancing from foot to foot and spinning in a circle.
Oh no. Oh. No. nononononono. My scalp tingles and the hair stands up on the back of my neck. The “pixie” steps forward, walking slowly up my arm, each step leaving little pin-pricks of sunburn as the “little fae” advances. Her steps each accompanied by a transformation of appearance, each one more beautiful and terrible than the last, until she walks out of view and stands by my ear.
“You fool. You simple, wonderful, innocent, perfect, naive, trusting, fool.” She laughs into my ear. Warmth radiates from her.
I’m frozen in place. Completely beholden to and trapped by her will… Ye gods and little fishes! Titania, Faerie Queen herself(!) was standing on my shoulder and held me completely in her will. I had missed something. Scratch that, I had certainly missed somethings. I began to think furiously over our entire encounter looking for clues and a way out.
“tsk tsk… That charade was fun while it lasted, my pet.” She says, and with a glimmer and a twist the whole world seems to tilt sideways and suddenly I can feel her standing behind me, her hand on my shoulder, maintaining contact, and her enthrallment. I’m reminded of an Edmund Blaire Leighton painting.
Fae, like people, are rarely straight-forward. Constantly testing, prodding, exploring, sizing up, dropping bids and hints. She had obviously been using her “Tinkerbell” persona to weigh and measure me. And what did I know about Titania exactly? I knew I should have read Midsummer Night’s Dream more closely. She wanted something… And what does anyone usually want from me? Ah, what fools these immortals be.
“Nice trick, now let’s treat.” Time to get to work. I school my face into a posture and expression of solemnity befitting compassionately addressing her excellency and declare, “In exchange for my freedom and life which you now hold, I swear myself as reagent of Faerie until Allhallowtide’s end, beholden to quest on behalf of my Lady Titania in effort to repair whatsoever damages or differences she might have with her beloved Oberon. Now, my lady, and this is my true final question, what, pray tell, has so disturbed your peace that you besought my aid?”
Allow me to introduce myself. Hi, my name is Andrew Gavin Valentine. And I’m a wizard.