Published on 2011/05/22

Ancient Enmities

Emily McIntyre

Bret was an ordinary fairy, born on Midsummer’s day from a standard milkweed pod and reared in the fey solitude of the Great Woods, where he spent his days talking with badgers and teasing squirrels. The seasons, in their majestic sweep of change, brought him his food, his music, and his entertainment, for in the outflung foamy pink garments of Spring he found a rare happiness, and in the strange white silence of a new snow he learned reverence.

One day he ventured farther than ever before from his home in the great live oak, so far that when he got tired of peering through the night with his glowing cat-eyes, he climbed a tree and sprawled to rest and wait for dawn. And there, calm in his solitude, he heard her voice.

“Oh fairies, I know you’re out there! Please show yourself to me!” There was a strange coarseness to her voice, and a vitality which caused him to sit up and look through the darkness to where she crouched at the foot of his tree. Her hair flamed burnt orange brighter than deadly bittersweet nightshade. He swung down and landed softly in front of her. She looked at him. “You came, finally.”

“Where are you from? You look strange.” He reached out a hand to feel her face; her skin was warm, not cool like his. Was she a different species altogether?

“I’m a human. I’m Ada,” she said, and thus it was that Bret the fairy ventured forth into the realm of humans, eager for the adventure of he knew not what.

Dogs started barking in hysterical rage before they had even stepped foot in the village. The racket hurt his head. Bret looked around himself in amazement at the humans. They lived in huts which smelled of wet dog and human excrement, and the snow had been sullied everywhere. A dog ran out, darted at him, then ran away whimpering as if kicked.

“Where are we going?” he asked her. There was something oppressive about this place; his breath seemed flattened in his chest. Still she just stared at his long brown hair, his six-fingered hands, his slightly green teeth.

A woman with a haystack of frowsy red hair ran out of a hut toward them and grabbed Ada’s ear between her thumb and forefingers, her mouth open in a loose-lipped growl. Just then she saw him. A high-pitched scream left her and she stumbled away, still clutching Ada by the ear. Bret followed.

They entered the hut—he had to duck—and he was struck by an overpowering stench. The air was smoky and his quick ears could sense the rapid panicky movements of small many-legged creatures in the walls and floor. Several filthy children cowered in the corners. Why were they cowering? When he held out his hand to them as if to a flighty doe, they shrank away. He looked around for Ada. She had turned back and was gesturing to someone outside the hut.

“You have a horrible home,” he pronounced to the walls, and backed out the door, only to jump in terrified surprise. Ada had reached out and put a strange cold ring around his wrist that burned him so that he could not think, could not speak, could not even run.

“I’ve got you, fairy. Your kind cannot withstand cold iron.” Her eyes were narrowed and her face, which he had thought so curious, seemed blobby and patchy in color. Other humans began to gather. Ada held up his hand—his fingers dangling limply—and cried in a triumphant voice, “I’ve captured the fairy, nevermore will he send us the plague and cause our sows to give stillbirth!” He was losing feeling in his arm; numbness walked icy fingers down his hand and gripped his elbow.

And from the ever-increasing crowd there rose an exultant cry, the cry of charging bulls, of feeding bear. They began to jostle him, tossing cold iron baubles and trinkets. Wherever the iron struck him a deep bruise began to spread. Someone tossed cloudy water on him and his skin began to sizzle. At first puzzled, then terrified, Bret became angry and began fighting back. Fairy elbow broke someone’s ribs, fairy eyes burned black holes in faces, and fairy voice released piercing shrieks that deafened. Ada clung, her face forming strange contortions as she attempted to hold her prize.

Finally he reached out his good arm and plucked her up and then with strides that wove through the crowd like a stream of water, fled the village for the haven of the forest.

She wailed as they ran, but her voice had no power and her people did not pursue her. The ring still burned him, its poison spreading until he felt his heart and stomach seizing and cramping from its evil. He reached the tree where she had called to him and threw her to the ground. She huddled there, hands over head, hoarse sobs shuddering through her.

“You are an abomination,” Bret observed, and held out the ring to her to remove. But she only looked up at him and cried, and the poison continued to creep through his body with its black fingers. When in desperation he tore at it with his good hand, that became numb. He beat his wrist against the tree, but the ring would not break. He could feel his life being grabbed by it. She was laughing now, a high hysterical wailing mixed with tears, clutching herself as if she too were dying.

“Then I will not go alone.” He reached into his clothing for the sharp knife with which he usually cut bark, and leaned over her. His eyes met her eyes, and a deep killing blush started over both their faces.

She had red blood like the animals. He could see that before the forest turned black, and he could smell her as he could smell his own scorched flesh. And then he could smell nothing.


Emily McIntyre enjoys writing non-fiction and creative fiction, reading fantasy, and studying classic literature while listening to her I-pod on scramble. You may find her espresso and coffee-house-related articles at Examiner.com, Kansas City. Her fiction has been featured in Midwest Literary Magazine, among others. A celtic harpist and vocalist, Emily also enjoys playing around the state of Missouri in a variety of venues and under a range of weather conditions.