Jane awoke to the smell of bacon. A smile spread upon her face as she sniffed. Then she opened her eyes and sat up with a jolt.
“I wasn’t dreaming,” she said to no one in particular. She got off the narrow bed, stopping to smooth down the sheets and fold the blanket before turning to inspect the place. In the light of day, the little cottage looked positively cheery. She followed her nose and her ears through an open doorway, where she saw Ataneq stooping over a low fire, pan in hand.
“Good morning, Jane,” he greeted her.
She returned the greeting, studying him with great curiosity.
“So… what were you doing out here last night?” Ataneq asked as they tucked into their breakfast. They were seated on the ground at a low table that Ataneq had pulled out from a corner of his tiny kitchen.
“I was picking herbs for my mother’s medicine. I lost track of the time and it started to rain,” she hesitated. “I've been past here many times before but this is the first time I've seen your cottage.”
“Oh, you've never looked hard enough,” he replied. “It’s hard to see wood amongst wood.”
“No, but I've been through these woods almost daily - hey!” Something tugged at bacon, making it jump off the fork.
“But never at twilight.”
“Stop that,” Jane said, stabbing at the bacon that was jumping back and forth. Ataneq glanced over and chuckled.
“Here,” he said, reaching over and cutting off a lump of bread and placing it on Jane’s plate. “Now show yourself.”
A winged girl about as big as Jane’s palm materialised. “You spoil my fun, dog-man,” she grumbled, flitting over to land beside the bread.
“You don’t eat bacon anyway, Petals,” he replied.
“What are you doing here, human?” Petals cocked her head to the left as she peered at Jane.
Jane repeated her story, watching the fairy’s expression. It wasn't exactly hostile or mean, but it was unnerving all the same.
“You need to leave,” Petals said.
“I am leaving. Right after breakfast.”
Ataneq shook his head. “You can’t. The portal only opens from twilight until midnight.”
“What? But I can’t -”
“She needs to leave now.” The fairy turned to Ataneq, ignoring Jane.
“She can’t go back until the portal opens tonight,” the adlet repeated.
“Even so, she can’t stay here.”
“Why?” Ataneq said, holding up a hand to silence Jane’s protests. “What do you know?”
“The Fairy Queen is angry. I can feel it in my soles to the tips of my wings. Do not court the wrath of the Queen.”
“I don’t understand,” Jane said.
“The treaty was broken twice last night, human, evidenced by your presence here. The Fairy Kingdom has been breached, and you, dog-man, are harbouring a fugitive. Not that I care what happens to you,” she smiled almost sweetly at Jane, “but I do like to keep my friends out of trouble. So, dear girl, as much as Ataneq likes you, you must go.”
“I don’t bow to the Fairy Queen,” Ataneq said after an uncomfortable silence. “She remains my guest until she is able to leave again this evening.”
“You don’t bow to her, maybe, but you still do live in her land, under her rule. Think about that.” Petals glared again at Jane before zipping away.
“Will she -”
“She won’t tell,” Ataneq interrupted. “She’s a good friend. But we must find ways to keep you hidden.”
“Why does she hate me so?”
“The fairies have not been treated well by humans, Jane. It’s a generational grudge she bears, not any personal animosity for you. Her ancestors were once enslaved by men a long time ago.”
“What was the treaty she mentioned?”
“I don’t know. I keep to myself as a stranger in this land - this was the first time Petals brought it up. I don’t like the sound of it.”
Next: Ghillie Dhu
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A fairy (also fay, fae; from faery, faerie, "realm of the fays") is a type of mythical being or legendary creature in European folklore, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural or preternatural. Fairies resemble various beings of other mythologies, though even folklore that uses the term fairy offers many definitions. Sometimes the term describes any magical creature, including goblins or gnomes: at other times, the term only describes a specific type of more ethereal creature or sprite. Various folkloristic traditions refer to them euphemistically, by names such as wee folk, good folk, people of peace, fair folk (Welsh tylwyth teg), etc.---
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