“Oh my God, this is so unbelievably lame,” I muttered. How much longer was I going to have to endure this torture?
“Just one more picture,” Mom insisted. “How about actually going over to the stones, since we came all this way?”
I rolled my eyes and trudged across the muddy grass to Stonehenge. The place was crawling with tourists ahead of the summer solstice. I guess I was a tourist too, although not a willing one.
Mom organized a last-minute trip to jolly old England, to stay with some distant relative, a man she insisted I call Uncle Phillip. I’d certainly never heard his name growing up. Then she insisted on this ridiculous day out together. Mom didn’t do days out. When she wasn’t working at the lab, she was locked away in her office at home.
I got used to doing things by myself, this was completely out of character.
Maybe after almost eighteen years, she’s finally remembered that she has a kid.
I could be back home hanging out with Roxy, going to parties, instead of visiting some ancient rock formation. I mean who cared about them anyway?
“At least try to smile, Nova,” Mom said, giving me her patented disapproving stare.
I forced a smile then dropped it as soon as the flash went off.
Leaving Mom to fuss over the camera, I strolled over to the nearest rock. There was a kind of weird energy in the air.
Probably static electricity, I thought. It had been raining for most of the day. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a thunderstorm soon.
I reached out my hand and placed it on the stone. The second my hand connected, the world started to spin, my vision clouded over and everything around me disappeared. It was dark, so dark, and cold. I couldn’t move my body, couldn’t speak. Then in the darkness I saw something. A face. Skeletal, terrifying. It opened its eyes and I screamed.
Suddenly I was back at the rock. I jerked my hand away from it, hissing in pain as I scraped my hand. I clutched it to me and looked around at the other tourists. Clearly, I didn’t scream for real as no one was even looking in my direction. I still felt strange, I could feel a headache forming at my temples. What the hell was that?
“Nova? Is everything okay?” Mom asked.
I showed her my hand.
“Oh! Let me see,” she said. As she took my hand, she accidentally jabbed the cut with her thumbnail.
“Ow! Mom!” I tried to pull my hand away, but she grabbed hold of it and squeezed, causing blood to drip onto the grass.
“Hold still, Nova. Let me see it.”
After a few seconds of inspecting it, she pulled a tissue from her pocket and pressed it to the cut.
“Go clean it in the restroom.”
Holding the tissue in place, I headed for the restroom. So much for her bedside manner. But Mom wasn’t that kind of doctor, she was a biologist. Everything was cold and clinical with her. I remember cutting my knee as a child when I fell off my bike. It was a quick inspection, a band aid and a warning to be more careful.
I checked the cut, it wasn’t too deep, but I ran it under the cold faucet anyway. The last thing I needed was to catch some British disease.
I brushed my auburn bangs out of my eyes and fixed my eyeliner using the cracked mirror above the sink. I tried to put my…vision? Out of my mind. Maybe all this fresh air was making me hallucinate. Or I should stop watching horror movies before going to sleep.
Mom was waiting when I left the restroom.
“Can we go now?” I moaned.
“Yes, fine.” Mom sighed. She brushed her light brown hair off her face and gave me a tight smile. We looked nothing alike. I was a redhead with green eyes, a trait Mom often told me was rare. I was a good four inches taller than her too. I guess I took after my father, whoever he was. Mom never spoke about him. I didn’t even know his name. My guess was that it was a one-night stand, but she would never admit to that. Mom had to be in control of everything and there was no way she would have lumbered herself with a kid if she didn’t want one. Pity all her behavior said otherwise. I often worried if I was just some science experiment to her. There to be observed but not loved.
Stop it, she does love you. Perhaps she did, but she was definitely not maternal.
We headed back to the car.
“A fascinating structure, isn’t it?” Mom said.
I shrugged. “I suppose.”
“Come on, Nova. This is supposed to be a fun day out.”
I checked to see if my hand was still bleeding. It was. “Well I’m sorry, but I don’t think a bunch of rocks are fun.”
“I thought you would like to get out of Phillip’s house for a while. To see a bit of the world.”
“Yeah, well now I’ve seen it. Can we go home now?”
Mom sighed as she started the car. “Why don’t we stop somewhere for some ice cream? Chocolate chip? Your favorite.”
I bit my tongue to stop myself from saying, “Yeah, when I was five.” Instead I shrugged again. “Whatever.”
She took us to a little café that served ice cream.
“What’s the password for the wi-fi?” I asked the girl behind the counter. She pointed to a chalkboard on the wall with the password on it – Sprinkles.
Taking a seat at one of the tables, I logged in to check my messages. There was one from Roxy.
Yo, girl, how’s jolly old England? Snore. You better get back here soon. Todd was asking about you ;)
Todd? Todd Parish was asking about me? He was the hottest guy in school. I flirted a bit with him before Spring Break, but I never thought he would do anything about it. I messaged her back for the details.
Mom appeared and handed me an ice cream cone.
“Thanks,” I said, taking a lick of it. It wasn’t bad.
Mom bought a cup of coffee for herself. She looked lost in thought.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” she blurted.
“Oh God, are you dying?”
“What? No! Of course not,” she said.
“Good. You just looked so serious,” I said.
“Well, it is serious. I have to go away on a trip.”
“So? You always go away. I’ll be fine by myself.”
“I can’t leave you by yourself. You’ll be staying with your Uncle Phillip.”
“He’s going to come to our house?”
“No, you’ll be staying here.”
“For how long?”
“I don’t have a time frame yet. At least a couple of weeks.”
“Weeks? But Roxy and I have plans…”
“For now, you’re staying here,” she said firmly.
“I don’t even know the guy. I’m nearly eighteen, I can go back home, I’ll be fine by myself.”
“I’ve made my decision. I’m sure Phillip can find chores for you to do around the house to keep you busy. The time will fly by.”
“Can we go home when you get back?”
Mom sipped her coffee. “Of course.”
For some strange reason, I didn’t believe her.
* * *
Asteria was asleep and dreaming of the war when the first drop of blood touched the Earth. Her eyes opened for the first time in a millennium, as she felt the vibrations through the soil.
Oberon’s blood. It has been shed.
Her kin started to awaken too. They lay below her, her subjects, the ones who followed her in her bid to become Queen. Even Oberon’s loyal followers were entombed with her. He showed them no loyalty to them, choosing instead to seal them all away until only he remained.
Selfish of you, brother, Asteria thought. She remembered that day on the battlefield, when she lay waste to all around her, smiting and cursing the humans because he preferred them to his own kind.
She was majestic, riding forth on her winged horse, her red hair, the color of blood, flowing behind her as she rode. She was well named. She held the power of the sun within her and was determined to scorch the Earth, rid the world of the human vermin and make it fit for the Fae once more.
She should have succeeded, but Oberon fought dirty. He knew he could never defeat her head on, so he used blood magic to open a sinkhole in the Earth. One by one, her brethren were sucked inside.
As she stared her brother in the eyes, she asked him – why? She didn’t expect to see pain in them, but it was there all the same.
She fought hard but the magic was too strong. She was sucked down into the ground, her body trapped by the layers of dirt. But Fae cannot be killed by being buried alive, no, they remained conscious, forever subdued, while the world above them carried on.
But Asteria could still dream and she dreamed of the day she would escape and finish what she started. While she did not share her brother’s ability to see the future, she was able to see glimpses of the world above her. The humans grew in number at an alarming rate. They laid waste to the Earth, murdering each other over petty squabbles. At times she wondered if they would do her job for her, but no, they continued to flourish and breed.
Oberon decided to mark the spot where they fell, placing huge stones above them, as grave markers. The stupid humans would flock to the site to marvel at the structure.
If only they knew what lay beneath their feet.
She wanted to reach out and grab them, to strip their flesh from their bones and swallow it whole.
Today was one of the days they congregated here – the Solstice. Surprising that the fickle creatures remembered such sacred days. The Solstice was a rare time when she could feel the sun’s energy replenishing her.
She longed to bask in its glow. It was so cold down here, so dark. That was when she felt it. Some primal part of her reaching out to something familiar in the world above. What was that?
For a moment, a brief moment, she was connected to it. Oberon? He has returned. The connection broke as quickly as it came.
Oberon never came here. Even with her ability to reach out into the world, she never once felt him. Saw him. Perhaps he changed his mind? Could he have decided that she was right all along?
Then the blood dropped. Fresh, warm, it struck the dirt like the first drop of rain after a long drought.
He is here. He is releasing us. No doubt he has seen what this world has become and decided to join her against the humans.
All around her, the others were reacting to the blood too, eager to be free.
Patience, my pets, she thought. It would take time for the blood to reach them, but when that first drop touched her, this Earth would face a reckoning. There would be no more mistakes, no more truces with the humans. They would be wiped out quickly, without warning. Most would be consumed and the rest? Well, she’d had plenty of time to think of suitable ways to torture them. This world would be hers. If Oberon wanted to join her, so be it. She could work with her brother despite all that he’d done. They could slay the humans together, help restore the Earth to the way it once was, so it could heal, and the magic could flow freely once more.
And when it’s over, I’ll cut off his head and place him in a tomb of his own. Somewhere dark, cold, where he will be completely alone. When a Fae dies naturally, they enter the Summerlands, but she would ensure he never reached it. He didn’t deserve peace. She would trap his essence in a body that could not be used, for all eternity.
The blood began to work its way down towards her.
Come. Yes, free us, brother. It will be the last thing you do.
* * *
The Fae will rise, can Nova stop them? Find out in Bloodlines: The Dark Fae Chronicles, available in the Cursed Lands boxed set for only 99c!
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”