Posted by: Caitlynn | January 18, 2010

Genre #14 — Urban Fantasy

(For more information on my Genre Self-Challenge, read previous entry here.)

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“The Mark of Fae”

————

“What’s this, Mom?” Betsy asked, holding up a slightly worn envelope wrapped with a dirtied yellow ribbon. “It has my name in it.”

Her mother took a quick glance at the letter. “It’s in your grandmother’s handwriting.” She held out her hand, and Betsy gave the envelope to her. “Yes,” she said in a quiet whisper. “I think I remember now.” Then, handing it back to her daughter, she explained, “Your grandmother wrote that for you when you were only seven. She must’ve known even then that her time was almost up—she was like that, always with a sense of things no one else could predict—but at any rate, I remember that letter very vividly, now that I think about it. She handed it to me one afternoon, telling me that you and you alone must be the one to read it, and in your own time.”

“Could…could that time be now?” Betsy questioned, a little excited. “I don’t remember much about grandma. She’s been gone eight years now.”

“Well, I suppose it very well could be,” her mother answered with a smile. “She did say ‘your time,’ after all.”

Her mother walked away, leaving Betsy to eye the letter for a few minutes more before taking it with her up to her room. Sprawling out over her bed, she opened it up and began reading:

My dear Betsy,

By the time you read this, I will have long since passed away. I don’t know when you’ll finally open this, but I imagine that, when you do, you’ll most likely remember very little about me. All the same, I have a secret I would like to share with the ‘growing up’ you—a secret that the ‘child’ you already knows.

Yesterday, as I understand, you came into your house crying, with scraped up hands and knees and your face dirtied with tears. Your mother tells me that you had gotten into some sort of scuffle but refused to share the details with her and your father. When I asked, had you said nothing at all?, I was greeted with a small sort of nervous laughter.

“Oh, she made up some story about pixies and magic and such. It was surprisingly detailed, too, and very creative. But that imagination of hers…honestly, her father and I asked her over and over again, but she wouldn’t veer from that story of hers. She wouldn’t tell us the truth.”

I asked, did it seem like you were lying, or had you entered into a dishonest phase of your childhood?

But with a sigh and another laugh, your mother informed me that, no, you seemed to believe you were telling the truth. She was worried, quite frankly, that you actually believed your story. Moreover, you had yourself so worked up that you had even fallen ill! So I told her that I would check on you.

Poor dear, I’ll never remember how pale you looked when I came into your room and saw you lying in bed with a fever. Nor will I ever remember the struggle evident in your voice when you called out to me, “Gramma…”

The instant I took your hand, I could tell that it was no ordinary fever that overcame you. I asked you to share what happened to you earlier, and you hesitated, wary of not being believed again. But when I assured you that I would trust your story, you shared it quite readily.

Seems you had wandered well past your backyard and into the woods just behind it—a very reckless action that, even you, at your small age, knew to be dangerous. But it was as though you were being called somewhere, and you felt inclined to go. And so you traveled beneath the trees and sunlight until you came to a strange patch of mushrooms forming a circle. This circle is commonly known as a “fairy ring,” and while most wise adults would simply explain the science behind it—how the mushrooms drain the soil of water, changing the color of the grass above them—legend has it that these rings are the gateways into the land of fairies.

You were cautious, but ultimately, drawn to the fairy ring. Without fully intending to, you soon found yourself stepping inside it. Nothing unusual happened at first, which would have seemed a little disappointing, I imagine. But when you tried to step back out, you found yourself stuck there. And before long, the ground around you began to shimmer and glow. Tiny specks of light surrounded you, you told me, and when they got real close to you, you said they looked like tiny people with wings.

“Were they fairies, Gramma?” you asked me, eager to know.

I nodded solemnly and urged you to continue with your story.

The fairies told you to go with them, but you told them you couldn’t. It was almost lunch time, and your mother and father would be worried if you did not return. They begged you a second time, and you refused again. But then, they asked you once more, a third time. Instead of an entirely negative answer, however, you hesitated, telling them that you would like to accept their invitation, but were unsure. This indecision was taken as an opportunity. It was then that they attempted to take you back with them.

You trembled a little as you described the sensation to me. From what I gather, the ground under your feet faded away into light, and the tiny fairies who had introduced themselves to you began tugging at your clothes and pulling you beneath the ring. And then, from the light below, a hand only slightly larger than yours reached up, and a voice beckoned, “Come, my dear child.”

However, the moment his hand touched your wrist, you let out a terrible cry in pain, which startled he and the other fairies away. The light stopped, and you were left in a normal circle of mushrooms once more. You darted home, where the events that your mother had mentioned to me took place.

I asked you if your wrist still hurt; you told me that it did, even showing me where. I examined the spot. The normal human eye would only see bare skin; I, however, could see the mark of fae left on you by the fairy boy on the other side of the ring. It had left you fairy-struck—a strange sort of illness, rare and inexplicable by modern medical knowledge. I gave you an antidote and told you to rest, all the while knowing that your memory of what happened would vanish with your fever when you awoke.

For all your knowledge then, my dear granddaughter, there was one thing you did not know: I am what some would call a “fairy doctor.” I have the ability to cleanse and heal those stricken by fairy illnesses. And, as my descendent, my fairy doctor blood runs in your veins as well. It was never awakened in your mother, for she never had contact with the world of fae as a child. I made sure of that. But now, you most certainly have.

Being a fairy doctor is very important, Betsy. Little girls are often called into fairy rings, just as you were. It is less common nowadays than it once was, I admit. And most escape, so long as they have some attachment holding them to our world. Yet, even if they escape, they will be left with the mark of fae on them, and will become dreadfully stricken with fever if they are not attended to. That is why it is important for those of us with fairy doctor abilities to make use of them, so that those who are in danger can be healed.

You are probably all grown up now. And as such, I expect you that you are probably very skeptical about the existence of fairies. If, however, you are even the least bit curious, then I will tell you how to remember your encounter with the fairies, and how to awaken the fairy doctor blood within you.

Find the fairy ring from your childhood. Don’t think too hard about where it might be; just let your feet guide you there. Stand inside, and wait. Now that you have matured and have already been once healed, you should be safe from becoming fairy-struck.

Best of luck, my dear. I’m proud of you, no matter which choice you decide to make.

Love,
Gramma Violet

Betsy reread the letter several times before refolding it and putting it back into the envelope. “Fairies,” she mumbled. “As though I’d believe something like that.”

And yet, that evening, just before the sun went down, she found herself wandering through the woods near her house, following along a strangely familiar path that she had no recollection of going down before. And there, at the end of that path, appeared a fairy ring.

She could hear her heart beating loudly in her chest, and her throat became immensely dry. “It’s not as though anything will really happen,” she tried reassuring herself as she approached. Then, very cautiously, she stepped inside, holding her breath and squinting her eyes shut as she did. And…

Nothing happened.

Betsy heaved what should have been a sigh of relief. “Of course,” she said, laughing at herself. “Like I said. Nothing would happen. Nothing possibly could.” Then, glancing down at her wrist, she muttered, “And yet, I almost wish…”

No sooner had she admitted it to herself, her wrist began to tingle, and a strange mark appeared on it out of no where. She examined it a little more closely: it was like a butterfly, only thinner, and it seemed to move as she did. Dropping her wrist back down to her side, she looked around and noticed the ground shimmering. The air around her warmed. Betsy closed her eyes and inhaled, smelling a fragrant blend of lilacs and lavender and other sweet flowers, and as she stood still, she could hear a jingling that sounded vaguely like laughter. She remained like that a few moments longer, soaking it all in and recalling that time in her life when she experienced something very similar.

When she opened her eyes, everything around her had returned to normal, just as though none of it had even happened. At first, she wondered if it had, perhaps, all been a daydream. But then she glanced down at her wrist again.

The strange butterfly mark was still there.

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Responses

  1. Coolness! You ought to make this into a longer story 🙂

    • It does seem to have that sort of potential, doesn’t it? If I don’t expand on this one specifically, I might at least use the concept to help me fill in the gaps with another novel idea I’ve had for a while.


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