Author Note: Updated Thursday 10th April 2014. Here is a Terri chapter. Enjoy! :)
“Just one more picture, sweetie,” Terri’s dad insisted.
He set his camera on the stand to take a picture of the three of us this time, with Terri in the middle, her mum to her left and her dad to her right.
“Surely you have dozens by now,” Terri groaned.
“Oh, let your father have his moment,” Jenny Logan said.
“Say ‘cheese’,” Richard Load instructed. Terri complied to keep him happy.
The doorbell rang just as the camera flash went off and the picture was taken. Terri stumbled across the living room in her heels and floor length dress. When she opened the door, Ariel greeted her with a smile and then leaned in for a kiss. She was immediately assaulted by an aroma quite unlike any other. It smelled dry and earthy, with a dominant scent of cocoa, and yet not quite the same. There was a slight sweetness in the aroma that made me feel a bit giddy and before she knew it, was turning the kiss into something deeper. Unfortunately, Ariel pulled away far too soon for her liking, looking at her with a slightly baffled expression.
“Are you okay?” he asked. The kiss was far too short-lived for me and had her craving for more but with her parents so near, she thought better of going in for another.
“Yeah,” she said. “You smell really good. Well, come in then. My dad will probably point the camera at you but it’s non-deadly so don’t attack him or anything.”
It was a bad joke, she knew, but accepting the fact that my boyfriend was an assassin within a faery court was still a difficult concept to get around. Maybe joking about it would be one step closer to her accepting it.
“You look stunning,” Ariel commented as she closed the door. “Green suits you. And the Empire waistline accentuates your…” Ariel’s trailed down to her breasts, causing them both to blush slightly. “Your height. It makes you look taller.”
“Um, thanks,” she said. “And you look great it black.” And he did. He was a regular old James Bond— sexy and deadly, but with a slight boyish charm.
“Hello, Ariel!” Jenny Logan greeted him as we entered the living room. They must have been on their best behaviour if they were willing to give the young couple a bit of privacy.
“Hello, Mrs Logan.” He gave his hand out to shake hers but she ignored it, pulling him into a hug.
Ariel greeted Richard Logan next and they spent the next ten minutes getting more photos taken until they were finally permitted to leave. Mrs Logan gave Terri one more hug and slipped something into my clutch bag. A packet of condoms.
“Mum!” I fumed.
“Well forgive me for caring about your wellbeing,” she replied. She lowered her voice to a whisper and stated, “You know, the government is thinking of lowering the age of consent to 15.” To that, Terri could only roll her eyes and walk out of the door, hauling Ariel with her.
“What was that about?” he asked as they approached his car.
“She gave me a packet of condoms.”
“Oh,” he said in a deep undertone, as if he had just swallowed something before chewing properly. “You know we don’t have to do any of that if you don’t want to.”
Terri stopped dead in her tracks. “What are you talking about?” she asked. “We’ve already gone all the way.”
Terri saw his lips twitch into a smile. “Well, of course we have. I just meant, we don’t have to tonight if you don’t want to.”
She looked at her boyfriend intently and not for the first time, she thought she was looking at someone else. Ariel was flirtatious and funny, not cautious and timid. Once again, she batted that thought aside. If there really was something he was not telling her, she didn’t want him to be aware that she was on to him. Flirty comment it was then, she decided, telling him, “Then you really shouldn’t have worn that cologne.” She gave a light hearted giggle and got into his car, all the while wondering what was wrong with her boyfriend.
The Gemini Ball was everything that Terri had expected from a high class charity event with the glitz and glam, and everything that she feared of the fey with the powerful and the deadly in attendance. How any of the humans couldn’t see what was right behind the façade of those primp and glamorous figures, she couldn’t quite fathom. Ariel said that faeries wore a glamour to hide their true forms from humans, but to think that it had once affected even herself was bizarre. It was like she had been living in a peaceful dream and awoken to a real life nightmare.
Their pictures were taken as the young couple entered the venue, which turned out to be The Natural History Museum. It was to be one of the most popular events of the year, with a number of powerful politicians, actors and singers in attendance. But even more important than any of them would be the King of the Iabal Court and the Queen of the Ivbal Court.
As they entered the Central Hall, descending from the grand staircase, it was difficult for Terri not to be nervous as dozens of eyes stared at them. She wasn’t sure whether she was more terrified of the celebrities or the fey.
Candles decorated the staircase at either side, with yellow and purple tulips on top of the banisters. The room was darkened and Terri was surprised to see the floor shine from small balls of light and bright lights from the floor shone on the arches, giving it a golden glow. The whole room had an ethereal glow, but with light came shadows and it was hard to miss the dancing shadowy creatures all around the room.
They were not the only unnoticed creatures, however. Lithe skinny fey dressed entirely in white delicate dresses danced in a circle near the centre of the room. They appeared almost to be transparent with the exception of their glowing skin. Willowy and graceful, they completely enraptured Terri and the few other fey who saw them. The majority of the humans hardly seemed to notice them at all, though something made them avoid walking into them as they headed towards their allocated tables.
“What are they?” Terri asked. “The glowing faeries in the centre, I mean.”
“No one really knows,” Ariel admitted, shrugging his shoulders. “I call them Jellyfish fey because of the way they glow and the electric shock one of them gave me when I pissed her off.”
Tables were laid out at one side of the hall and Ariel led her to an empty table near the centre of the room, but towards the back. They took their seats and Terri had another glimpse around them in order to fully immerse herself in the new world she was starting to become a part of.
“So which fey belong to which court?” she asked. “Is it like, light fey belong in Iabal and dark fey belong in Ivbal?”
“It’s not so black and white,” he stated. “My father would have me believe that the Ivbal are the more extreme of the two, verging on evil, but it isn’t the case. We call it the Gemini Ball to represent the two faery courts, whether the mortals know of our existence or not. But the courts used to be one, and as such you will find both aspects of light and darkness, goodness and cruelty, and beauty and grotesqueness in both halves of the courts.”
At the other side of the hall it was bare, with a dance floor. A man in a white suit danced with a woman all in black.
“Who are they?” Terri asked.
“The two most important people in the room.”
“Isn’t the prime minister and the president of France sat over there?” she joked, pointing the far left table.
“Look more closely at the pair dancing,” he said. It seems that her idea of witticism had fallen flat. “Now tell me, who do you think they are?”
“The Iabal King and the Ivbal Queen.”
Their dance was altogether intense; primal and sophisticated; intimate and detached. For all the passion their body language suggested, their eyes somehow remained cold and calculated as though this was a battle of sorts. With his bright blonde hair, all white attire and fair skin, and her raven black hair and olive skin tone, they appeared to be Yin and Yang— opposites in every regard. Where he was at times more stilted and rigid in his movements, she didn’t hold back. Her movements were sensual— sometimes slow and graceful, often with what equated with casual teasing, and other times more energetic with an almost bouncy energy, especially with some of her footwork.
As the Iabal King spun her around, Terri saw that the glitter in her dress which she had thought slightly tacky before glowed much brighter than before. They even shimmered and moved places every once in a while, and she began to notice familiar constellations on them. Her dress was not made of glitter; it was embroidered with what appeared to be real stars.
When their dance ended, people clapped and they each took a bow. A man dressed all in white walked quickly towards them, handing each of them a microphone. The Iabal King spoke first.
“Ladies and gentlemen… esteemed guests,”— Terri saw him noticeably eye several of the fey, though no one else would have thought much of it, of course— “It is so wonderful to be hosting the Gemini Ball here in London this year. Last year was in Russia, and although I tried to give a warm reception, how am I expected to change the weather?” There were several half-arsed laughs from human brown nosers, but many of the fey gave knowing smiles and toothy grins, some revealing sharp fangs or shark like teeth, whilst others even had blue tongues. “I am glad that this year’s Gemini Ball was able to proceed, despite a few problems and I would like to acknowledge a few of my most generous benefactors, Ms Jenny Green, Rika Aura, and Louis Deveaux.” He gave a winning smile, before passing the microphone to the Ivbal Queen.
“Remember that we are here to give generously in aid of Cancer Research and the auctions shall commence in half an hour. Your donation can really make a difference.” She lowered her microphone and they both made their way to vacate the space.
To Terri’s horror, they both headed towards her table and she felt her hand shake and her stomach flip. The last time she had encountered fey, it had not gone well.
“They’re coming,” Terri whispered.
“Relax will you?” he asked, talking my hands in his lap. “My father doesn’t bite. He’s too cultured for that, but he does disembowel.”
As the regents approached, Terri noticed that the queen’s black dress seemed to shift around her, with wisps of smoky black moving around, almost slithering. But if that was shocking then she was rendered petrified when she saw the way the Iabal King’s form faded ever so slightly before he became fully visible again. A white mist began to envelope him and his pale blue eyes shone with the intensity of a storm.
“Good evening, Ariel,” he greeted his son. “So this must be the lovely girl you have been telling me so much about.” He reached to shake Terri’s hand and before she knew it, he kissed her at either side of her cheek. He acted like it was completely normal, not at all noticing her blush.
“Hello, Mr Winters,” I greeted him.
“Oh please, call me Éamonn.”
“Isn’t your name Edward?” I asked. Edward Winters was a well-known media mogul and was a major competitor to the likes of Rupert Murdoch.
“Just one of many aliases,” the queen cut in. “The humans call me Annette but in our world I am known as Queen Dauana.”
“You may have worn the crown for a decade, but you are still nothing more than a fey filled with false pretences,” the king replied.
“What, because you were so thrilled about your brother opposing you?” she asked.
“He wasn’t to oppose me, he was to balance me, and I will never forgive him for his act of betrayal.” He smiled at me apologetically. “But this is not about him, this is about you and the hidden potentials that lie dormant within you. It seems that my son was incapable of keeping the matter of the fey a secret from you. I do hope you forgive him for the deception. That was entirely my fault.”
“I understand that he was just following orders,” Terri replied.
“Yes, though in future I would prefer it if he did so to the letter.” A flash of anger passed through him, his blue eyes becoming a steeled grey. Then it passed as though it had never occurred. “So, now that you know about our secret little world, tell me what you think?” he asked, waving his hand at the grand scene all around us.
A group of performers had taken to the dance floor and were doing some sort of ballroom dance. The women wore long, flowing dresses with fabric attached from their dressed to their gloves. As they spun around, the sequins glittered, and the turquoise fabric seemed to swoop around in the air. As Terri looked closer however, she saw that their dresses were not turquoise at all. It seemed to be made from the ocean and sea foam, with the hems of the dresses spluttering around a bit and crashing like the wave.
“Terri,” Ariel snapped his fingers at her. “My father asked you a question.”
“Oh, right,” she said, bringing herself back to the situation at hand. “It’s… captivating, like a beautiful nightmare. Terrifying at times, but I guess it makes me feel special that I can see so many wonderful things that other people can’t.”
“And won’t ever see, if we can keep it that way,” Queen Duana stated. “Every mortal who gains the Sight is a threat after all.”
“Pardon?” She asked. “How exactly are they a threat? Aren’t the fey like super strong or something?”
“Not all,” she admitted. “But when the humans can find a common enemy, they can be as deadly as any other creature. The day you encounter the Paladins will be the day you understand.”
To Terri’s relief, Ariel rose to his feet and offered her a dance after Duana’s ominous statement. The music was a light jazz song, and the singer was most definitely fey. They swayed in each other’s arms, seemingly content not to speak a word. But Terri had so many questions that wanted to roll off her tongue. She wanted to know whether her powers had something to do with the fey, or whether it was just a peculiarity only she had.
As the song ended, a man walked towards them, his eye set solely on her. Terri’s stomach heaved as she realised that he was fey, and no good would come from one of the fey taking interest in her. Having said that, she supposed she was already in deep trouble, considering that the Iabal King had an interest in her.
“Might I have a dance with the lovely young lady?” he asked Ariel. His voice was sweet and lyrical, telling Terri truths she had not wished to know on his earlier visit. She had not known his name before, but now she felt it at the tip of her tongue.
“I don’t think so,” Ariel replied. But Terri was already stepping away from her boyfriend, walking closer to the stranger.
His face was altogether unfamiliar, but those entrancing ebony eyes were not. He was dressed in a silver suit with his long dark hair tied in a band. He gave Terri a warm smile as he held her waist.
“You came back for me I,” I stated. “Why?” She had been driving the Stromkarl away since he had first appeared. Why hadn’t he gotten the message that she didn’t want him? And yet, she had found myself slowly changing her mind.
“You know him?” Ariel asked.
“Pardon me, prince,” the Stromkarl said. Then he and Terri were dancing away, lost in the song and their embrace. “After all I do to keep you safe, you still remain with him?” he asked her.
“Ariel is my boyfriend.”
“What about the others?”
“Which others?” I asked.
“The lover cannot keep you safe,” the Stromkarl said. “The skeptic will care only for themselves and the assassin will make cutworks of you. What good is the Golden One if she dies before fulfilling her role?”
“What role? You haven’t explained anything to me.”
“You have not listened.”
“I still don’t understand,” she said. “The lover, the skeptic and the assassin? Who are they? Is Ariel the lover?”
“These people are all closer than you think,” he stated. “And please, do not get me wrong. I do wish to help you, Golden One, but at the end of the day I cannot save you. You must save yourself. I am merely here to point you in the right direction.”
“Then what is it that you mean to do with me if I come away with you?” Terri asked.
“I will take you to your beginning and ask that you choose your end.”
“My end? You wish to kill me?”
“No, I do not wish it. I wish for you to rectify the sins of your creators. I wish to dance merrily around a certain faery’s pretty little corpse. But above all, I wish… for peace.” The Stromkarl gave Tierr a sad smile and stroked her cheek with his thumb. “How is it that the sun dares to rise each new day when it is as though without that one person, life itself is meaningless? The birds sing their merry little tunes and I snap their necks from time to time so as not to hear their chirping. And the moon, with her ever changing faces refuses to speak with me here.”
Terri really had no idea what to say. It felt as though he wasn’t even speaking to her. His look was so distant, as if thinking back to another era, long ago before all of this.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but if there is one thing I’ve learned in my short but hopefully one day meaningful life, it’s that life goes on and that you have to live in the present and learn from the past.”
“These words ring true, and it is certainly what I aspire to. Mayhaps you might enlighten me some more. Please, come away with me now whilst the choice is still simple.”
Terri looked away from those dark, earnest eyes. “It’s not that simple. I have a family and I have a boyfriend. I can’t just leave them all without explaining myself. What would they think?”
“Is it better to take your chances with the Iabal King?”
“Perhaps not, but I don’t see a lot of wisdom in following a stranger.”
“’Tis a pity you still do not see. Have you ever thought that perhaps the ones you think you know best are the true strangers?”
“And what are you?” Terri asked. “A long lost brother?”
The song ended, and she saw Ariel not too far away by a waitress with a glass of wine. He looked at her inquisitively, unwrapping me with his eyes in a way that made me feel exposed. What had happened to the carefree guy I had grown to know? This person looked almost cold and calculating, as if she were some sort of puzzle to figure out.
“The hour is close at hand and I must make my leave,” said the Stromkarl. “You have one more day to make your mind to come with me. After that I am not certain there is a lot I can do to help you.”
“Help me with what? I’m not in any danger.”
“Not in any that you can see.”
He bowed at her and quickly glanced at Ariel before leaving the ballroom. Although Terri hardly knew the fey, a sense of abandonment washed over her as he walked away. The Stromkarl had given her a brief insight into the workings of his strange and twisted mind, but why he had a real interest in her, and what exactly he needed to save her from, remained a mystery to her.