Raven in Flight

By @Corliss_Ilta
Raven in Flight

Based off old Irish faerie lore, the story follows a young boy taken into a faerie kingdom and raised as a slave.

Chapter 10

Hunt

The subterranean light had already begun to dim for the night. There were no stars or even mimicry of stars here. Once night fell, the light no longer shone. Lanterns were relied upon under the earth at night even more than above where the moon shone. A single, daring faerie made his ways through the darkening halls accompanied by a single lantern filled with yellow, sparkling light. There was no fire this deep underground. The light was supplied by magic and specific stones. The color of the light was dependent on the color of the stone combined with the personality of the magician using it. The brightness was determined by the amount of power the magician gave it.

The general boldness and occasional rashness of this faerie made the pink stone shine a strong, determined, yellow light. His boldness was also evident in his appearance. Nature had given him grey eyes, he made them green. Nature had given him white hair, he made it blue at the tips and pink at the roots. Nature had given him pointed ears, he cut them into squares. True, it had caused him immense pain, but the end result was worth it. Now he smiled as he walked the halls alone.

This was a bold move, because the faeries had a new enemy. An enemy who had been raised with them and treated with the most respect they could conjure and yet still turned on them. As if their disgust toward humans could deepen any further, this human wretch of a slave had dared to rise against them. The worst, most puzzling part of it all was that they couldn’t defeat him. In open combat, he wouldn’t stand a chance, but he kept to himself and met them one by one. His defense spells were without equal. They had never seen anything like this. You didn’t meet an enemy one by one like a coward, you attacked them all at once and contested your strength against theirs. If your strength wasn’t enough, you shouldn’t win anyway. This boy had broken all laws of conduct. It was revolting and unforgiveable. He needed to die, but he was unkillable.

The reason for this faerie’s boldness was one of joy and nearly unmatched thrill. The thought of it sent wonderful shivers down his spine. The howl to the new moon, the soft pattering of the frantic footsteps, the panting, and the fear in his proud chest. He turned a familiar corner.

The moonlight flooded the nightscape. Wind sighed through the trees. The faerie stood silently for a long moment, listening. Then he heard it, the wolf’s lonely cry. His mouth spread into a grin and he leapt onto a high tree branch. Several silent moments passed before he heard the wolf’s feet beating the ground for greater speed. The proud creature’s breath came in gasps. His chest hurt with the effort of remaining on his feet. The faerie leaned forward to get a closer look. The wolf had a slight limp in his back left paw. The faerie jumped to another branch to get a better look. The wolf moved with startling speed, even despite his limp. His footsteps hardly made a sound in the soft underbrush. The sound of hooves approached from the distance. Shouts and howls from the riders accompanied the hoof beats. The hunting party was nearing their quarry.

The faerie dashed to another tree branch to keep up with the wolf. A greedy smile twisted the faerie’s lips upward. The wolf would trip soon and when he did, the faerie would pounce and claim him as his own. Stride after laborious stride, the wolf ran on. Branch after treacherous branch, the faerie leapt after him. Then it happened: the wolf stumbled. The faerie’s eye lit with burning greed and he jumped. As his foot pushed off the branch the limb snapped and he fell. The faerie’s lithe body hit the ground with a thud at the feet of the wolf.

The wolf reared up in surprise. He bared his proud teeth and growled. The faerie looked up in panic. He scrambled to stand, but he could hear the horses coming. Terrified, injured, and running out of time, the wolf attacked. In one stroke he ripped the faerie’s screaming throat from his neck. Blood sprayed onto the trees and soaked into the underbrush. The wolf ran on. In a moment, the horses of the hunters trampled the already bleeding body. In the darkness, no one noticed the blood staining the horses’ hooves. In the excitement, no one could hear the strangled gurgle of a scream emitting from the body. The stampede passed in a flurry of pain and blood for the injured faerie. When it was over, he lay in the wet underbrush.

The moon bathed the faerie’s face in light as he lay, dying. Faeries do no easily die. They are born of nature and are very nearly forces of nature. However, even hurricanes and tsunamis have their endings, and so do faeries. A member of the Unseelie Court can endure much, but loss of blood will kill a faerie just as surely as it would kill a human. Light began to darken in the faerie’s eyes and even the full moon could do nothing for him.

The crunch of leaves barely crossed the threshold of the faerie’s hearing. Breathing shallowly and painfully, the faerie called on a last reserve of strength and sat up just enough to see over his chest. The hind-scout of the hunting party was winding his way through the woods. All the dying faerie could make out through his dark eyes was a shadowy figure ghosting through the woods. He tried to call out, but no sound came from his trembling lips.

The scout saw the movement of the bloodied faerie falling back into the underbrush. He stopped behind a thick ash tree. Peering around the trunk only enough to see, he watched the restless figure in the leaves. After several moments his small, desperate movements stilled. Only following five or so minutes of silent stillness did the scout finally dare approach.

When he came to the bloody figure and saw that he was a faerie just like himself, he knelt next to him. Curiosity rather than compassion shone in his eyes. Blood stained the dying faerie’s neck, and he saw that a chunk of flesh had been torn out. The dying faerie was also covered in disfiguring bruises and cuts, presumably from the hooves of the horses. He could tell the faerie was beyond speaking to or saving. He was still alive, but barely. A silent, desperate wish tore out of the dying faerie’s eyes. Even without words, the scout understood the wish. It was the same wish of all dying faeries: a single white lily.

The scout put one gray hand to the ground and sang a simple melody in a low voice. A white lily sprouted up from the dark underbrush. He picked it and placed it carefully into the dying faerie’s open throat. “May the earth reclaim you and make you clean again.” He whispered.

With these words, the faerie’s darkening eyes closed, never to open again.

The scout rose. His dark coat obscured him in the shadows of the night. He looked up at the moon and stars. He’d lost his hunting party. A shame. He looked back down at the shell of a faerie at his feet. What a bother. He had to pick this night to die. With his bare foot, he turned the faerie’s face away from him. The hind-scout looked deep into the woods for a moment, hastily coming to a decision. He was in no hurry to get home, with his renegade slave terrorizing the populace, but he had been gone for weeks now.

The moment he heard of his slave’s dissent, he left the burgh. He knew suspicion would fall to him, which was of course intolerably ridiculous. But he knew it was time to go back and face him. If he had created this monster, it was only right that he should destroy him. 

He stretched a hand out parallel to the ground and whispered a word. A bulge grew in the earth beneath his hand. It rose to the height of his hand and split open at the top. Dirt showered the faerie and the body behind him. In one leap the gray faerie entered the tunnel. After another word or two the entrance closed itself.

In a moment, the faerie’s eyes dilated and adjusted to the pale light of the blue stones in the walls. With his long, bony hands he brushed the dirt off his black coat and ruffled it out of his wispy white hair.

“That’s much better.” He muttered to himself. “Now, where is my little starling?” Fire flickered in his eyes and he set off down the tunnel. 

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