by Ruth Davis Hays 2011
The Fae, under most circumstances, mimic humans in both looks and grace, a shimmering reflection cast in nigh immortal hues. Though, which race was born first remains a secret that only the Creators knew. Alike in body, but not in mind; the Fae spirit soars on a passionate wind. While humankind finds release or prophesy in the visions of sleep, the Fae heart has tales, past, present, and future it must keep. Though they do not dream the fancies humans sometimes do ; more often than not, the Fae do indeed dream things true…
A crowd of excited children gathered around the jeering ten-year old human boy and his victim. The boy was tall and husky with a mop of unruly, red hair hanging in his dull, brown eyes. The freckles covering his face danced with his taunting grin. He was enjoying the attention from his peers that his jests gathered. The fact that he was playing with fire never entered his mind.
There are two things that one should never tease: one is a razor-toothed sand badger; the other, the red-haired boy was teasing at the moment.
Adults called him ‘Khiall, a nickname that his stepmother had given him. The human children he went to school with called him Freaky. That was a nickname he had earned with his looks, his strange behavior, and his temper. He tolerated many names that were hurled at him, but there was one that ‘Khiall hated more than any…
“Changeling, change-ling!” The redheaded boy laughed. “Look at the freaky changeling! Your ma was cursed with you for being a faery harlot!”
His proclamation brought a roar of approval from the prepubescent onlookers. A chorus of “change-ling” began to ring out loudly in a singsong manner.
“That’s why you’re so ugly!” Jerem, the taunting boy, continued.
The almond-shaped eyes of ‘Khiall glared warningly at the child. The rage pounding in his head sent a trembling urge to strike through his limbs. It was held in check only by his cunning. His stepfather had declared that if one more fight with other children occurred, he would send the boy away to a militia or a monastic academy. The thought of being alone among more stomach-churning, saphien ignorance filled the fae boy with dread. Nevertheless, his limits of tolerance were fast approaching.
“Fascinating theory, Jerem.” He forced a smirk from beneath the layer of stillness. “What’s your excuse, then?”
This insult halted Jerem in thought only for a second, then he let it slide over his head and pursued his new found popularity as the schoolgrounds bully. The half-faerlin boy was thin and lanky, an easy target. Jerem was broad-shouldered and hosted a heavy gut. Being taller than ‘Khiall, he assumed it meant that he was stronger as well. Jerem did not know much about the Fae.
“Open your mouth, changeling!” The red-haired Jerem sneered. “Why don’t you show the girls your dog teeth? He’s part dog!”
The other children laughed, and then another boy joined the debate. A puny, brunette urchin with barely an inch of skin not darkened with dried mud, shouted, “Look at his fingers! His nails are gray! Is that dirt from digging up bones, Faery-dog boy?”
’Khiall would have remarked on the irony of this boy’s insult if he had not been consumed with trying to keep his fists quiet. A barrage of snide questions followed, as the circle of children grew braver, their prey standing stock-still and mute, his dark blue eyes closing to block them out.
“Is your skin white ‘cause you live under a rock?”
“Did you get that black hair from your ogre-father?”
“Bark for us, mongrel boy!”
“Do changelings eat rats or just other babies? Dirty, little flesh-eater!”
The chant of “changeling” was echoing in the darkness of his skull. In their frenzy, no one seemed to notice that ‘Khiall’s witty retorts had stopped. His smug front had dropped. His chest had begun to heave. His body had begun to tremble, and his hands were closed so tightly that blood dripped from them.
“Maybe they eat pigshat!” Jerem’s voice boomed louder than the others. “Com’on, changeling, eat some shite!”
Something hit ‘Khiall in the side of his head. It spun him down into the dust, but only for a fleeting heartbeat. His eyes flared open, his fingernails digging deep clods of dirt that he hurled at Jerem one instant before he pounced.
Jerem screamed as the dark-haired fae flew at him, a frightening blue fire in the strange eyes. The children scattered, yelling for help from the adults that had been hovering near the buildings, observing the antics of the youngsters. However, they were not fast enough to stop the furious young ‘Khiall. He was atop Jerem in seconds, forcing the human boy’s head into the ground. Knees and fists, strong and quick, pummeled Jerem as the pallid half-faerlin screeched with spittle flinging off his snarl.
Three large men struggled to grab the wiry ‘Khiall, his little hands curled into claws slashing up at them. Before meaty fists laid hold on him, one pale talon dug into Jerem’s fat chest and the other tore into his red, tangled scalp.
‘Khiall lunged to bite him in the face just as the men pulled furiously at the fae. The slick crimson elixir between his fingers, with its aroma spiking his nostrils, galvanized him like no other sensation. A fury and freedom lit his soul, creating a hunger that could transcend and permeate his being…
A large crowd of adults had circled the combatants. Many shouted curses at ‘Khiall. One woman fainted as they pulled him off Jerem, the saphien boy’s flesh and hair still in the fae child’s grip. Jerem mercifully fell to unconsciousness as the authorities dragged ‘Khiall, snarling and kicking, away from the crowd.
They locked him up securely, waiting until his stepfather could arrive and pay for damages. His family would be given the ultimatum: keep this deviant fae at home or else he would be sentenced to prison, despite his youth. This carnage must not happen… again.
The blood-soaked dust remained on his lips in memory, the fire lighting his mind as the madness in his body was causing ’Khiall to thrash violently about the cot, despite the obvious pain it caused him.
One evening, Brother Fells came in to tend him and found boy moaning on the floor, shaking uncontrollably. The monks began tying him down to prevent further damage to his seeping wound. The High Priest Illis came to view the unfortunate fae and agreed with those that had watched him for the last week or so that he was wasting away. Death was a certainty.
It was not that the priests of Coreigan were unable to help, but they had been instructed not to help. Brother Fells, an elderly monk of human lineage, had been placed in charge of the strange faerlin the night that he was brought to them. He had been told to speak nothing, do nothing, only watch him and feed him. And he had, but as the young fae’s health deteriorated and the cross-shaped cut on his privates festered, the old man could not keep the condition a secret. He had written to Master Khnyghtsyde without consulting his superiors.
This slight in procedure was dealt with when a letter arrived from Mistress Khnyghtsyde, who had learned of her son’s condition and was due to arrive shortly to make sure that healing had begun. Brother Fells was replaced.
The surgery to extract the infection began. Several members of the Healing Arts swarmed down upon the sweat-stained cot, dusted ’Khiall’s restless eyes with a Sleeping Powder, and went to work quickly as his body fell limp with an ocean-deep unconsciousness.
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