(my attempt at fantasy.)
Lyea sat with her knees pulled tightly to her chest in the middle of the iron cage. The cold, soulless metal made her cringe, and she kept her skin as far from it as possible. Her wings lay tightly folded against her back, so thin and colorless they nearly blended into her gossamer gown. Laying her cheek against her knee, she prayed to the goddess she had served for so long to save her from the humans who surrounded her in their dank village that smelled of sweat and fear.
She raised her head with an effort when the door to her cage rattled.
“Let’s go, pretty. You’re up on the market block today. We should fetch a pretty price for you, even gone as sickly grey as you have.”
The repulsive merchant grabbed the chain attached to her neck and yanked her quickly from the cell, causing her to scrape her knees before she could get to her feet. She could still sense in him his desire to touch her, and knew that it was only a lingering fear of the fairy kind that kept him from claiming her as a permanent sideshow at his stall.
Lyea stumbled along after him, silently. She had used all the pleas, all the begging, all the demands and curses she could think of to no avail. Now, at this possible turning point in her life, she would not be sold while pleading to be set free. It was too late.
Dragged unceremoniously onto a wooden stage, the feel of the wood, even dead, gave her the energy to lift her head and stare defiantly at the crowd gathered to bid for the forest creatures being traded as slaves. Most of the human’s eyes slid away from hers when she caught their stare. Dwarves and pixies were common chattel in human markets these days, but full grown adult fairies were rare.
She listened duly as the merchant began the bidding for the “finest fairy in Wildfell Forest, with magic galore and a comely shape for even the most discerning client.” The bile rose in her mouth and she considered spitting it at the nearest person to the stage. But the beating that would come after would likely be worse than the one used after she was captured, and she knew she didn’t have the strength to withstand that. With the last of her self control, she swallowed.
The bids came in fast, building so quickly the merchant was sweating and the greed oozed from his skin. Men shouted, women yelled. Numbers flew like arrows through and around her. She still couldn’t fathom how one chose a number to value a life.
Just when her legs began to tremble and she thought she would faint, both from lack of food and from the fear seeping into her heart, a husky voice called out, “3,000 crinar.”
A gasp went through the crowd and then it was silenced as the out-bid turned to find the rich person who had just bought the fairy for far more than she was likely worth.
A tall, handsome woman dressed in flowing linens and leather shoes stepped forward, her arms crossed and her head tilted to the side, a wisp of hair falling over one crystal blue eye. She stared at the merchant, waiting for him to close the sale. Spluttering, he did so, congratulating her on her fine new possession and professing devoted admiration of her sense.
It was the last Lyea heard before collapsing to the stage, fear taking the last of her strength.
The world stopped spinning and Lyea opened her eyes. The walls of a closed horse cart surrounded her, and she lay on a thick bed of leaves, her head pillowed on fresh rushes. Closing her eyes, she breathed in the life of the forest and felt some of her strength return. Startled, she felt around her neck and realized the thick iron collar and chain were gone. Flexing her wrists and ankles she found they too were unfettered.
Suddenly the cart stopped, and she heard the driver jump down. The heavy leather curtain was pulled back, and the woman from the market poked her head in.
“Ah. I thought I heard you moving back here. How are you feeling?” Her voice was a deep, cheerful melody that suggested nothing was wrong.
Lyea stared at her, unwilling to speak, waiting to find out what this woman wanted from her.
Clearing her throat and looking slightly uncomfortable, the woman said, “My name’s Ashwin. Friend’s call me Ash. You’ll notice you’re not chained in any way. If you insist, you can go free. But I don’t think you’re strong enough to fly right now, or even walk, so I suggest you wait till we get to my home, and you can decide what to do with your future there.”
With that she let the curtain drop, and the carriage once again began bumping along the road.
You can decide what to do with your future. What did she mean by that? It almost sounded like she was going to let Lyea go. Her heart hammered in her chest and she felt the blood rush to her face. After her long month in captivity, she couldn’t believe that a merchant who had just spent what she knew to be a large amount in human terms would just let her go.
Deciding not to risk it and to leave at once, Lyea pushed herself from the bed of leaves, but her arms shook and her breath came in short gasps. Falling back, she realized the woman was right. She didn’t even have the strength to get up, let alone get away. She took solace in the fact that the iron chains no longer bound her, and she lay her face back on the rushes, allowing long held tears to fall as she drifted into a restless sleep.
Waking again later, Lyea groaned slightly at her stiff body, wondering why the carriage had stopped. Again, the curtain popped open and the woman’s handsome face appeared.
“Thought you might need help getting out? We’re another day from my house, so we have to camp for a night. It would be better if you could sleep in there, so that no passing merchants get any ideas. But if you want to come out and join me, I’ve made a mushroom and lentil stew?”
She was clearly trying to be friendly, and she met and held Lyea’s hostile gaze without looking away. Smelling the stew, Lyea’s growling stomach gave her away, and the woman grinned wryly.
“It seems your body has decided for you. Allow me?” It wasn’t so much a question as a notice of action, and leaning forward, she pulled Lyea into her arms and carried her to a roaring fire with a large stew pot hanging over it. Placing the fairy gently on a large mound of dirt, she moved away and dished the stew for them both.
While they sat eating, Lyea openly studied the human woman who was dressed so finely and carried the five-foot fairy without even a break in stride. She had short cropped brown hair, and eyes the color of the evening sky, a crystalline blue. She was about a foot taller than Lyea, and trim rather than plump like the other human women she had come across. She had small, high breasts that swayed lightly beneath the loose black linen shirt. As Lyea watched, the nipples on those breasts hardened to noticeable points beneath the cloth.
“If you’re going to continue looking at me that way, fairy, I wont be held accountable for my actions.” While the voice held humor, there was also an underlying sensuality that made Lyea flush.
“My name’s Lyea,” she murmured, staring at the last of her stew.
“Nice to meet you. Are you feeling a bit better?”
“Thank you, yes. The stew was lovely. Most humans put meat in everything they cook.”
“Well, I have some experience with your kind. After seeing that disaster of a merchant who held you, I figured he hadn’t fed you properly. It will take a while to get your strength back. He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
The hint of danger in Ashwin’s voice when she spoke of the merchant surprised her.
“They beat me after I was captured and tried to get away, and my right wing hurts, but no broken bones.”
Abruptly, Lyea leaned forward and touched the human’s knee.
“Why did you buy me? What do you want from me? Will you let me go?”
Ashwin stared at the small, delicate hand against her black pants. Suddenly she had a desire to kiss the skin, to watch the pulse of the fairy’s wrist speed up as she became aroused.
Jumping up, she moved away, certain that any move of the kind would send the fairy into the forest, well enough or not.
“I bought you in order to set you free. I don’t want anything from you. I’ve bought other creatures of the forest from markets and helped them find safe havens.”
Lyea stared, dumbfounded. This woman had bought her freedom. She began to cry, overwhelmed at the thought of going back to her forest, back to her duties as priestess to the goddess.
With a quiet sigh, Ashwin sat back down next to the beautiful fairy and put her arms around the frail figure, allowing her to cry on her shoulder. Lyea sobbed until there she was wrung dry, and then sat with her head pillowed on the human’s shoulder for a few moments more, content to listen to the steady heartbeat and have strong, comforting arms around her.
“We should get some sleep, Lyea. We have a long day of travel ahead of us tomorrow. But we’ll be at my house by nightfall and we can work on healing your wing.” Ashwin spoke against the fairy’s corn-silk hair, her eyes closed and her senses overrun by the earthy smell and soft body against her.
Nodding, Lyea stood unsteadily. Ashwin lifted her easily and laid her back down in the carriage, careful not to touch the damaged wing.
“Ashwin? Will you be close? I mean, should anything happen…” Lyea trailed off, not sure what exactly she was asking.
“I’ll be sleeping next to the fire. If you need me, just yell. But don’t worry, I wont leave you alone.” With a soft smile and a gentle squeeze of Lyea’s calf, she let the canvas fall. Lyea sank back on to the pile of leaves and fell into a deep sleep, feeling safe for the first time in moons.
They traveled at a strong pace the next day. Ashwin had woken her with a cup of stream water and a fresh apple. But more interesting to Lyea were the slightly dark circles beneath her eyes that spoke of an ill nights sleep.
Lyea slept fitfully before and after they stopped for a brief lunch of dried mushrooms and figs, although she was enjoying the time spent talking to the human woman who had saved her life. It was the closest she had willingly been to a human, and she found this one fascinating. She wanted to know everything about Ashwin.
“Well, I’m a landholder in Castlerigg Forest. I inherited it from my mother, who had it from her mother. I have two sisters, both who married and live in other parts of the country.”
“Are you married?” Lyea asked, without understanding why the answer should matter so much to her.
“No.” Ashwin stood and the conversation ended. Lyea pursed her lips, disturbed by Ash’s sudden darkening energy.
The rest of the day had gone quickly. Lyea sat in the carriage, wondering what Ashwin’s home would look like, and how quickly they could fix the tear in her right wing.
When the carriage finally stopped the sun was setting in the South and the moon rising in North. Lyea stepped carefully out of the carriage, leaning heavily on Ashwin’s arm. Her mouth opened in astonishment.
“This is what you call your home? It’s enormous.”
Ashwin nodded and shuffled her feet in the dirt, staring at something Lyea couldn’t see.
“I know it isn’t what you’re used to, but I have several rooms made for creatures of the forest. I think you’ll be comfortable while you heal.”
Lyea nodded, uncertain but willing to do just about anything to see Ashwin’s gentle smile again.
She got her wish when Ashwin blew out the breath she had been holding and swung Lyea up into her arms. Striding through the courtyard with its hundreds of flowers, past trees of every kind, she entered the home through a huge wooden door.
The room they entered was dim but not quiet. Voices laughed, joked and carried on from a long table at the far end of the hall. Lyea was suddenly very aware of her tousled, vulnerable state as she was carried in the arms of the handsomest woman she had ever seen. She tucked her face against Ashwin’s shoulder, suddenly timid and wishing that it was just the two of them again.
“It’s okay, fairy. Nothing will harm you here,” Ashwin whispered against her hair.
To the rest of the people in the house she said loudly, “Okay you bunch of layabouts. We have an injured guest. Where’s Doc Crabtree? Have him come up to the Yew wing. Sarah, can you please get a bath drawn up as well?”
A high pitched, teasing voice said, “For one, or two, lordship?”
Grunting, Ashwin spun on her heel and Lyea held on tightly. “I’ll take my bath in a little while, in my own room, thank you.”
After going through so many passages Lyea was thourghouly turned around, they stopped in front of a large doorway covered with a canvas not unlike the one that hung on the carriage. Pushing it aside, Ashwin gently laid Lyea on a bed carved completely from a single tree. Rubbing her face on it, Lyea smiled shyly at Ashwin.
“It’s lovely. How is it that it still feels alive?”
“It is. This tree is thousands of years old. This is just a branch of it. Occasionally I have to cover it with blankets, because it saps. But it should be fine right now.”
Ashwin couldn’t keep her eyes off the beautiful woman before her. Her color had returned with food and rest, and the varying shades of blue and green that flowed like shimmering water through her wings and eyes made it difficult for Ashwin to stare too long without getting dizzy. Lyea’s skin had gone from a sickly translucent white to a gentle pink, the color of a spring sunrise. Her corn colored hair had streaks of the blues and greens of her wings. Truly, she looked magical. More than that, she looked sensual and desireable.
Mumbling an excuse, Ashwin backed out of the room, promising someone would be in to help her shortly.
Lyea sat on the edge of the bed, contemplating the look of pure passion she had seen in Ashwin’s eyes before she had shuttered it and run from the room. Relations between humans and forest creatures wasn’t unknown, just unlikely. She found herself enormously attracted to Ashwin, and realized that she didn’t want the woman to relinquish her hold whenever she carried Lyea from place to place. Biting her lip, she placed a hand on her stomach to quell the sudden fish flops.
Tears slid from her eyes unchecked, and she squeezed Ashwin’s hand tightly as the healer gently pulled her wing to its full length. While the colors were vibrant, one section remained icily white. A three inch tear ripped from the thick veined edge to a thin circle where there should have been a patch of blue.
Doc Crabtree, who looked much like his name, with knarled hands a bulbous, baby apple shaped nose and thick, pointy ears, shook his head in pity.
“This is going to take some work, fairy. The human tore it and took a chunk. I can stitch it back together, but it will take some work to get you flying again.” He gently let go and Lyea folded it back against her, the torn edge hot against her skin.
Ashwin pulled Lyea into an embrace, and she let her head rest under the human’s strong chin.
“It’s okay, Lyea. You can stay here for as long as you like. If anyone can fix it, Doc Crabtree can.” She rocked gently, and Lyea felt the pain and stress melt away.
“I know. I want it better. I trust you, and if you say he’s the best, then I believe you.” Lyea said it simply, and watched as Ashwin closed her eyes and tightened her embrace.
“Hm. Well, yes. Then I’ll be about getting my materials. After you’ve had your bath, I’ll get the area cleaned, and when its dry, we’ll stitch it up and bandage it.” He backed out of the room, his wise old eyes suggesting he knew something they didn’t.
Ash and Lyea sat entwined for some time, not saying anything with words, but their bodies speaking volumes. The longer they sat, the more they felt one another’s heart beat and breathing. Slowly, Lyea raised her face, and not breaking eye contact, she pressed her lips lightly to Ashwin’s. Ash’s eyes widened and Lyea saw a moment of panic, and then saw the moment when she gave in and kissed her back, her eyes closing and her hands moving to cradle Lyea’s face.
Lyea moved to straddle Ash’s thighs, their tongues dancing in a melody their bodies began to match.
Suddenly, the door opened and two men carried in a large tub, followed by two women with large buckets of steaming water. All four stopped and stared, their burdens momentarily forgotten. Someone let loose an embarrassed giggle.
Ashwin gently lifted Lyea off her lap, her smile wry and her eyes laughing.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to have this conversation later, Lyea. I’ll come check on you after your bath.”
Lyea nodded breathlessly, her cheeks burning and her core aching.
“What are you lot looking at? Its not as if you haven’t seen a fairy before. Finish what you’re doing and let the poor woman bathe.” Ashwin nudged the women aside as she stepped past, her tone full of a humor her staff had not heard in a very long time.
Lyea watched as the four delivered the bath to her room, noting from their distinctive ears and noses that they too were creatures of the forest. She quickly stripped off her gown and dropped into the warm water with a sigh the moment they left, still giggling.
Lyea grimaced when Doc Crabtree once again tugged on her injured wing. She felt a mountain of acorns better after her bath, and the wing wasn’t as stiff as it had been. But now that the tear was fresh, it hurt even more.
“Okay, Lyea. I’m going to begin stitching. Drink this first.”
Swallowing the nasty, bitter brew, Lyea nearly choked.
“Poppy and willow bark. It’ll take the pain out of it.”
Lyea nodded and pressed her face down into the pillow, willing the mixture to take flight through her body as quickly as possible.
She felt him begin his probing of her wound, and listened as he began to talk. She knew from the lazy, uninterested tone of his voice that it was mostly just to give her something to concentrate on.
“You’re lucky, actually. Ash has brought some people in with even nastier wounds. You’re the first fairy, though. We’ve had quite a few pixies with broken wings, a few dwarves with cracked bones and heads, and even a few brownies worse for wear. Last year she brought in an elf who was about to die in irons because everyone wanted him but no one would buy him. Elf’s have a reputation as fighters, you know. They wont be held long.
Stitch. Stitch. Stitch. Lyea felt the thread piercing, moving, piercing.
“Of course, several of the pixies and one or two of the dwarves have stayed. I’m a wood nymph, myself. There aren’t enough of us in one place to go back to, anymore, and here we’re safe. Ironic, isn’t it?”
He took Lyea’s tiny squeak as her reply, and he continued.
“A human buys us from other humans, and we stay living with that human to keep us safe from the rest of them.”
Lyea was close to oblivion, thanks to the infusion making its way through her blood stream. Her last thought was how nice it would be to live here, with other creatures of the forest and close to Ashwin.
She woke to a comforting hand wiping her forehead with a cool cloth. Lying on her side, she opened her eyes and met Ash’s clear blue gaze.
“Hey.” Lyea croaked, and accepted the water Ash instantly pressed into her hand.
“Doc Crabtree said your wing stitched up nicely, and it should be strong enough in a week or so to begin stretching it.”
“Thank the goddess. I was having a nightmare about waking to find it cut off and myself unable to fly again.”
Ashwin’s smile was kind, and Lyea liked how her eyes crinkled deeply at the corners when her smile made it that far.
“Nope. You’ll be good as new.”
They sat in akward silence for a few moments, neither knowing what to say next, or how to bring up what had happened before the bath.
“Lyea.” Ashwin stood abruptly and strode to the window. There was a tension Lyea had noticed once or twice before.
“I don’t know what I can offer. You see, there was a woman, two years ago. She was my life,” Ashwin said, and rested her elbows on the window sill, not looking at the fairy behind her.
“We saved the creatures of the forest together. One day she got sick, and then almost as fast, she was gone. I was angry for a very long time. It’s only since I’ve met you that I realize how closely I had come to following her. But you make me smile. You make me feel again.” Lyea watched as Ashwin closed her eyes and her body shrunk in on itself, as though waiting for a blow she wouldn’t defend herself from.
“Do you want me?” Lyea asked.
“What?” Ashwin looked at her, finally, uncertain how to answer the blunt question.
“Do you want me? Do you want me to stay, to be with you, to see what we might become? Or would you like me to go?”
“What do you want?” Ashwin knew that answering a question with another was cowardly, but she couldn’t help it.
“I want to stay. I want to feel you wrapped around me at night, and wake with you in the morning. The world is not safe for me anymore, but with you, I’m safe, and happy, and I feel like life isn’t over just because my forest has been taken over by humans. I believe we could have something real, and wonderful.” Lyea said it simply, with little inflection, not wanting to pressure Ashwin into anything she wasn’t ready for.
“I want you to stay. Is it wrong, though? Is it wrong to be with someone so soon after Kella died?”
Lyea, careful of her tender wing, moved to stand behind Ashwin, and gently folded her mult-hued wings around the trembling body.
“I believe you should follow your heart. I believe your partner would not have wanted you to suffer through life alone, when you could have love again. But the decision is yours.” Lyea pressed her cheek to Ashwin’s back and held her tightly, using both her wings and her arms to show Ashwin just how she felt.
Turning in her embrace, Ashwin placed her forehead against the top of Lyea’s head. Inhaling deeply, Ashwin said, “Stay. Love me. Let me help you fly again, and maybe you can show me how its done.”
Lyea smiled, and the colors in her eyes turned into the radiant color of the ocean on a clear summers day.
“Perhaps we could pick up where we left off earlier?” she murmured, her lips brushing her lovers.
Bodies pressed together, they shuffled back to the bed, and wary of Lyea’s injury, they made love throughout the night, exploring one another in every intimate way, their cries and moan mingled as their bodies arched to each others delving hands and tongue.
Lying together the next morning, Ashwin nuzzled Lyea’s neck and whispered, “Buying you was the best thing I’ve ever done. I knew when you were standing there, looking down at everyone like they were scum when you could barely even stay upright, that you were something special. Thank you, for wanting to stay. For wanting me. For bringing me back to life.”
Lyea snuggled deeper into her lovers side and sighed contentedly. As she drifted to sleep, she knew that no matter how soon her wing could support her flight again, this would always be the place she flew back to.