When I think of legends, the stories I most often think of are stories of human encounters with fairies. So when I began to write my own stories, I turned to those old legends for inspiration and threw in my own urban fantasy spin. This story takes place in an alternate version of Los Angeles where fairies live openly among humans. But not all humans find them beautiful…
THE SMALLEST OF THE SUMMONER’S BELLS
© Kat Parrish
You could call it coincidence.
You could call it fate or destiny or karma.
You could call it any number of things but when the too-tan teenager walked through my door with that little scrap of fairy gold, I saw it for what it really was, a big, tasty slice of opportunity pie.
You don’t stumble into my establishment by accident. I don’t advertise. I don’t have a website. I don’t distribute flyers on community bulletin boards. I don’t have a Facebook page or a twitter account. My phone number is private and I don’t use email.
I’m hard to find for a reason. If you show up here it’s because someone who’s dealt with me gave you my address and you’ve gone out of your way to track me down. If you’re here it’s because you think you have business here.
Maybe you’ve come here because you have something to sell and you’ve heard I give fair value. Or maybe you’ve come because you’ve heard I have something you might like to buy.
For the right price, I might sell it to you; and the price isn’t always money. If I don’t like you, though, all the riches on earth won’t persuade me to take your coin and you’ll go away empty-handed.
And you might be better off.
I pegged the kid for a zip code in the San Fernando Valley trying to pass for Beverly Hills. He had the California smile that speaks of good genes and expensive orthodontia but he had a herpes sore at the corner of his mouth.
His shoes cost more than I paid in monthly rent but they were dirty and maybe six months out of style.
He was a wannabe on the verge of being a never was and he knew it.
But he was a pretty boy, I’ll give him that—just the sort of kid who would attract the attention of the fae, at least until they got tired of playing with him and abandoned him to a life of utter dissatisfaction with his own kind.
You know what they say, “Once you go fae you don’t ever stay.” Humans who’ve had close encounters of the fairy kind are ruined for other relationships. But try to tell someone that.
The kid walked in with confidence and took his time looking around. He was doing a pretty good job of feigning casual but I was getting impatient, so I put an end to his charade by putting my elbows on the glass counter and leaning into the light so he could get a good look at me.
You’ve probably heard the stories, the rumors that I’m half-demon with blood-red eyes that can kill you if I look at you too closely. The truth is a lot less interesting.
I suffer from albinism. My skin is the color of aged ivory, my hair a pale straw. My eyes are pink, not red, and so sensitive I wear sunglasses even at night.
I am no demon but nevertheless, I am no one to be trifled with. Or as my late mother would have said, “no one to fuck over.” My mother knew a lot about being fucked over. She’s the one who taught me about fairies, her knowledge hard-won and secret. She never talked about the source of her information and I knew better than to ask.
The kid was surprised when he saw my face. The stereotype of a pawnbroker is an old Jewish man and I am neither old, nor Jewish nor male. He knew that of course. What he hadn’t expected was that I would be pretty in a pink-eyed sort of way.
Expectations are funny things.
Certainly I’d never expected to end up in the family business.
I inherited the pawn shop not long after Los Angeles went broke. There were a lot of desperate people in the city in those days and the businesses that were booming—liquor stores and check-cashing places and pawn shops—provided easy pickings for the predators.
My father had known this and he’d kept an extremely low profile. He drove a beater car, lived in a modest house, and wore clothes so shabby they looked like he’d fought a homeless guy for him. It was the mask he showed to the world in the hope it would protect him.
My father had died of a heart attack while being robbed and I was his only heir.
The thing that had killed my father was not an ordinary criminal. The killer had broken through state-of-the-art paranormal security and he was after just one thing—a gold chain with a tiny ruby pendant hanging from it like a frozen drop of blood. It was a pretty thing, simple and elegant, not the kind of flash bling an ordinary thief would have grabbed. Only someone who knew what it really was would have thought it valuable at all.
The thief knew what it was.
I knew what it was, too and one day I was going to get it back. And then the creature that had ordered the theft and sanctioned the murder to possess it would be very, very sorry.
The boy’s voice broke through my reverie. “How much will you give me for this?” he asked.
He put down a small plastic baggie like the ones dealers use for transporting their goods. Inside was a tiny gold bell, no larger than the nail on my pinkie finger. The kid knew what he had was valuable, but he also knew that it was dangerous. Once it was out of his hands he seemed relieved.
I opened the little baggie and dropped the bell into my palm. It was very warm to the touch, body-warm, blood-warm.
The gold was so thin and fine it was almost transparent but it was also strong. I could see what looked like scratches on the metal. Under a loupe, I could see it was engraved with glyphs from the old language.
I had been a history major when my father died, specializing in dead and fae languages. This was an inscription in old fae French, one of the most ornate and beautiful of the fairy tongues and one I couldn’t read.
“Pretty,” I said and flicked the bell with my finger. Its pure tone rang in the small shop and briefly caused some items to come to life with a golden fire.
“I’ll give you a hundred for it,” I added.
His face fell.
“A hundred? It’s worth at least a thousand.”
He took my silence for a negotiating ploy. “Eight hundred?”
I looked at him pityingly. He clearly had no idea of its true worth, just thought it was a shiny bauble.
I shook my head again and dropped the bell back into its little bag before pushing it across the counter towards him.
He made no move to take it.
“You didn’t come all the way out here because you heard I pay great prices,” I said. “You’ve been going from pawn shop to pawn shop all day hoping someone will give you money on it. Someone who doesn’t know what it is.”
I skewered him with my glance. “Someone who doesn’t know who it belongs to.”
He looked at me then, a feral gleam in his eye. “It’s one of the Summoner’s Bells,” he declared defiantly.
So he did know. Now that was interesting.
“Yes,” I said. “I know.”
I tapped it again through the plastic, just for the pleasure of hearing it ring.
The smallest of the Summoner’s bells.
You’ve heard the story, of course. Everyone knows the story of the Summoner’s bells. Seven in all, they were crafted by Rhodri the Summoner in the 11th century and stolen by a fairy king, who’d killed him to possess the set.
Each bell was made of a different material and was a different size and each bell had a different power. The largest, made of bronze, was said to summon the future. This one, the golden bell, was said to summon the past. There’s a prophecy that warns ringing all the bells at the same time will summon apocalypse but that’s a fairy story and I long ago learned to discount such things.
In any case, the larcenous fairy king never had a chance to bring doom to the world because he was killed himself and his ill-gotten treasure scattered to the four winds.
Both mortals and fae have sought the bells ever since.
And here was one that had just been walked into my shop.
Call it coincidence, or fate, or karma.
The boy was starting to fidget, caught between an intense desire to bolt and an even more urgent need to acquire the funds to pay for his escape.
“How did you come by this bell?” I asked him, wondering if he would lie.
“It was a gift.”
I laughed at that and knew him for a fool.
“The King of Air and Darkness is known to have a weakness for beautiful humans,” I said. “But he would never have given you such a gift. You stole it from him and now hope to avoid his wrath by selling it to me and bringing your trouble to my door.”
The blood rushed to his face, telling me that I was right.
I scooted the bag with the bell a little closer to him but again, he made no move to pick it up and leave.
“You should return the bell to him right now and beg him for mercy.”
“I can’t,” he said in a whisper. “He has no mercy.”
And once again I said, “I know.”
“Please,” he said with the little bell sitting on the counter between us. “Please help me,” he begged.
With pretended reluctance, I pulled out an old-fashioned ledger book. “Why’d you take it, anyway?” I asked. “It’s not like he wasn’t going to notice it was gone.”
A look of desperate pain passed across his face and I knew that his story was going to be the oldest story told about humans and fairies. The fairies take their fun but they’re easily bored.
“I thought if I took it, he’d … he might see me again.” He paused to take a deep breath that was almost a sob. “And instead, he sent pixies after me.”
Pixies. Nasty little fuckers. If he’d tangled with pixies he’d been lucky to get this far.
“You’ll see him again,” I predicted, knowing that would not be a good thing.
“I know,” he said miserably, knowing the same thing.
I counted out $500 cash on the counter and then added another $200. It was all I had in the till and I knew that I was throwing good money away. He’d never live to spend the money and he’d die screaming.
I didn’t want to tell him that, though, so I let him leave with the illusion that he could run for his life. And after all, $700 was a small price to pay for the smallest of the Summoner’s bells.
I put the bell in a box of cold iron with the other three I owned—the bronze, the bone, and the jade. I knew the King of Air and Darkness would be coming for the bell and I knew he would not be coming alone.
He’s not the first fairy I’ve fought to regain what is rightfully mine.
He isn’t the first and he won’t be the last.
My people are descendants of the Summoner and we have a few tricks of our own.
Let the King of Air and Darkness come.
And call what happens “fate.”
Kat Parrish is an international and Amazon bestselling author. A former reporter, she prefers making things up! An Army brat, her motto is "Have passport, will travel." She currently lives in Portugal where her apartment overlooks an 18th century church, a park full of oleander trees, and a street full of houses with narrow, decorative doors.
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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.”