A Faerie Tale
The piece below is one of the first thirty stories I’d ever written. It was never published and hardly ever submitted due to its strangeness. I’ve always been an avid fairy tale fan, and I think some of the influence for this piece came from a love I have for old romantic poetry and fairies, the idea of fairies, and how formative the thought of sparkling or glistening women who can fly can be to little girls. I stayed at a lovely estate in Virginia when I wrote this — experiencing a year of real seasons for the first time. For a Southern California girl, the idea of fall or autumn or winter was not so far removed from that of spring or early summer. There was no snow where I grew up. Perhaps this was a love-letter to the seasons, too. Although it is far different from my more aggressive, or modern, magical realism, you can see that I have always played with magic. And tragic love. If I use a modern slant now, to be more discursive, to be more accessible, that is only the result of my own growth or approach to modernity. At heart, I have always appreciated the timeless, the whimsy, the wild flair of language used for the creation of new worlds — as well as new relationships.
This is not my story. Fardeel to that, the Faerie word for mouths glued shut with haste; my tale would bore the sweetest fly to hover o’er rotten meats if every gaping hole had mouths to tell infinity’s dilemma. A spider’s verse would bear in mind the boredom in between events, sucked like leechy blood to stomachs full — And parasitic creatures best record the lives of our betters, so Asher. Here she is: I’ll tell her simply for you. Speak of her blood, feelings, residual like embers of a rancid love-flame in my mouth because I taste her fury. Sssssshhhhhhhhhh — the yarn begins in a web of silk, and there withal will wend its own way out:
Asher holds her small hands in fists near her dandelion cloak. The gray seeds of old roars wrap hoary soft around her. Dew freezes leaves with glass ornaments, clear balls of shine and cold. Now it is cold. Spring will be her time to wander. At summer’s start, she’ll spread her dry wings ashimmer with pollen and fly through sunspots of oak, pine, namesake and cedar; then, shedding last’s year’s skin of rusty red, she’ll birth the year again for all to see, but here, here in the wind chill, the leaves blow past her crimson eyes, altering with her stare to myriad earth tones.
September arrives and blood leaks from her pores. She prepares herself for the ritual. Each dandelion darkens slowly. Soon she’ll weave a new garment, this one of thorns. She’ll wear it close to her faerie skin and to prepare for winter’s landscape. Another season will pass in the strange glen for the love of Cadar. How she misses him and the home glen; she supposes she could go back, but the forfeiture is too high.
Even now, he raises Hyacinth with his Star Breed bride and Asher cannot bear to let him go. She weaves an ivy wreath around his empty jar. Cadar, Prince of Mist, multiplies those sky-struck. When she squints, Asher can see them above her glen.
She places a violet hand to her breast, shakes my webs from her hair and sighs. Another tree must redden at the tips. Another group of felled leaves must brown. The Dark Clan is never happy. Never finished. Stupid Asher to fall for a Misted. Stupid Cadar to fall back. With his fingertips he could wrap the aerie fog around her, set it aglow, but nothing comes of air and fall. Nothing but loneliness, sorrow, and loss; these she carries over meadows, springs, and swollen thaws.
“Simple,” as her mother said, “near as foolish to fall for an Evergreen, with their green and only green. Boring viridium to hunter scope.”
“But I’ve only yellow, red, and brown, mother,” Asher replied.
“Yellow, red, and brown?” her mother argued. “Gold, cadmium, lemon, ochre, gray, black, brown, beige, violet — all these yours Asher. Your unique gifts.”
“I know mother, but — “
“Fardeel!” her mother said, tweaking Asher’s wing. “There are too few to forget. The Large One’s need the fey. Each and every one. Choose wisely daughter, for we are fallen clans when the season’s circles break.”
“Mother, I am infertile.” These words tore at her.
“Of course, if you mate only with air.”
Her blood tastes different now. Two scores ago, Cadar came to her in August, in the end of ripe summer when she lingered in her meadow. He lowered from the sky, hurricanes whirling from fingertips, and scattered, breeze genus to her left and right. “There’ll be a storm today,” he said, hovering above her and pointing at her hair. He spun it from her face with one warm breath.
She glared, replying, “How rude,” anger flashing simmer to her eyes. She’d been picking thistle petals and blowing music from them.
“Where do you come from?” he asked.
“None of your business. Go away!”
He sent a southward current down and lifted her to meet him. She raised some debris to mark his wind. He let her leaves twirl around her until they dizzied her vision. Finally, she said, “I’m Asher, waiting a month for purpose. Who are you?”
Cadar smiled. “Does it matter? Ah, a dark one,” he said, “haven’t seen your kind for ages.”
She purpled a leaf and raised it to his face. “What colors do you have?”
“White,” he said, “Thick and opaque. Blue in the evenings. Mauve and yellow at sunset.”
“I have yellow too,” she said. His mist cradled her above ground, soft as mushroom rot around her. Her wings scarcely fluttered. Her cloak rested between them like a veil, sending poorly woven buds to wind. “And you are who?” she asked again.
“Cadar,” he said.
Ca-dar, notes of thorn drops and dew to her ears. “Cadar,” she repeated. “Why dwell you in my glen?”
“The Misted go where they will,” he replied imperiously.
She was tempted to tweak his wing, or spit him up a knat then noted the ringlet of butterflies in his hair. A royal? Sure enough, their undead wings fluttered constant, monarch flaps. “I must go,” she said, hissing, “Fardeel! Fardeel! Fardeel!” under her breath.
She had no business with a royal, and a Misted One at that, but Cadar blew a wind swirl around her, and she twisted again in his breath. Her hemlock skirt scented his breeze. “Stop. I’m dizzy,” she said. “Please let me down.”
He brought her tumble close, wrapped his air around her, and flew queries into her mind. He showered her with private fancies — a field of swaying grass, a ripple over her lake, and a cloud moving overhead. “I come here often,” he said. “Let’s not argue. It’s peaceful.”
Without thinking, she threw herself into his forbidden sacred space. Her eyes closed. “See mine,” she said — a forest hand-touched with red, brown stark beauty on a hillside, black sporophyte daisy centers after the rain. Her vision left him smiling.
“Why did you do that?” he asked.
“Let you into my mind space, or invade yours?”
“Either,” he said, “Both.”
“I wanted to see you,” she said, blushing. “Do we work together?”
“No,” he replied, “I blow your world apart. Pile your leaves, and crack your dead branches. I am your before and after. I have no off-season.”
He was so handsome with his mournful looks, her cool blood pulsed rapidly, and she decided he was her first-seen. The other Dark Clan were so bland. Some specialized in only one bush or one plant. Her mother was the Lily; studies of decomposition ranging four continents of amber, purple, pink, and white.
Cadar was light to her eyes. Sensing her thoughts, he felled a clover bud, and brought it to her lips. When Asher ate it, he brought another to her hand. “I’ll be back for you,” he said. “I’ll take you to the Large One’s dwellings and we can watch them. Would you like that Asher?”
The Large One’s dwellings were forbidden, so she trembled. Any Darkling spotted there would be humiliated with the wing clip ceremony and outcast to the edges of the Faeriedom. She stretched her blood-red wings and retracted them. Their tips tingled. “No,” she said, “When the Large One’s caught Aislynn, they pinned her to a glass plate in a place of dwarves and two-headed women. She died screaming and they did not consecrate her faerie dust for burial.”
“Faerie tales,” Cadar said, “Not a grain of truth.”
“I will not die like Aislynn,” she said.
“I will hide you,” he replied, spinning her round again. “Fly with me Asher. I’ll carry you in a cloud. Don’t you feel the air form its cloak around you?” Asher looked up, and every limb was covered with gray; only the crimson of her eyes shone out like a red beacon.
“I make an oddly shaped cloud,” she said.
“The Large One’s are stupid,” he said. “They don’t notice those things.”
“Come for me tomorrow,” she said. “I must go before the Bleed Season,” but all evening she was afloat with his memory. Her silver slippers scarcely marked the ground. She cast several acorns violet as decorations and put them on her table. In the morning she rolled in fresh hemlock to bring him a compelling scent.
When he arrived, he brought her marigolds. “Are you ready Darkling?” he asked. “Fly with me and we will stun the earth.”
She could not say no, but sadly, when they arrived, she realized there was not much of interest in the Large One’s dwelling. Because they were forbidden, she’d imagined they held sights never before dreamt. A few silver beads, and an emerald cast in gold were all she wanted, but Cadar spied a glass jar on their hearth, gestured to it, and pointed. “See that Asher,” he said, “I could leave a mist in there forever.”
“What good is that jar?” Asher asked. “Plain and clear like wind swept water. So many of these they leave in forests. We didn’t have to go to the Large Ones’ dwellings for this.”
“It’s the purest thing here,” Cadar said, “I will sparkle it with rain. I will leave it every morning in your glen with a gift for you.” He flew through the open window and spirited the jar from the shelf before the Large Ones noticed, swift and nimble-fingered. His art was precise.
The monarchs of his circlet made an orange flutter of wind and breeze. That moon, Cadar did as he promised — each morning a ladybug, bloom, or element. On the third day he placed a slice of geode copper in the jar, copper in its natural form — crystalline green, cloudy, with strips of mint inwoven.
“How beautiful,” Asher said. She cracked it into fragments and spilled the shards to her hair.
Cadar blushed violet with praise and touched her burning cheeks with wind. “Oh Cadar,” she said, “You are definitely my first-seen!” Then she acted rashly, as was her fashion, and showed him her sacred passion vision, breached its maiden veil, and thrust it to his head. The passion vision had been forming as bridal gift since her eighth Faerie cycle. “I hope you love me Cadar,” she said, knowing full-well the consequence, “Else, I have thrown my life to wind.” She reached to embrace him, but he could not be touched. Her arms flew through him and paused in his center. “No, Cadar, no! “ she howled. “You must come to me or the passion rites cannot be fulfilled.”
The air shrieked with his misery. “You see Asher,” he said, “This is what sped me from our union. If I could touch you, I’d have embraced you long ago.”
Asher cried blood tears and made a circle of her arms. “Come be here Cadar,” she said. “Fly inside my empty reach and I’ll be content.”
But, all at once, a frost descended. Regal and frigid, Cadar’s mother, the Snow Queen, arrived. “Cadar,” she said, “You are a bad child. Your promised bride has cried you foul. A Darkling? A non-royal? Go to the eastern front this moment and bring the tide in with your father.”
Mother and son rose above the glen in seconds, and Asher mourned his loss. She curled in the dry grass, picking at roots. She could not see him, but felt him all around her for days, for weeks, for months… With the advent of September her skin assumed the Darkling state.
Her cloak of thorns ripped gashes in her back, and she flew with the fleetest of insects: mosquitoes near spread hands, spiders on threads from her cloak, and horse-flies buzzing at her feet. Cadar’s jar remained empty for three moons, but the leaves made crackle chimes, and she somehow knew that every slight breeze was his way of sending music to her ears, so she threw herself into her work, and the countryside was commended by the elders as the most brooding they’d seen.
One night Cadar came to her, wrapped in fog, and stood above her bed. He noticed her wounds healing slowly, for she was covered with blood crusted ruby in the dim light of the fireflies. “Asher,” he said, “Wake, for I haven’t long! My bride is watching, but she wont see us if I hurry! I give this to you for honor. You are my truest love.”
Asher awoke startled, and watched as he ripped open his blue chest, and placed his heart in her jar. “Don’t forget me, “ he said, “I leave my heart as my promise, and when her star falls, I will come to you.” He leaned close and his lips lingered just above hers, but not a day later, Asher’s mother returned to find the jar.
“I should cry you out to the others,” her mother said. “Bury this jar and I will forget your trespasses. If you do not — I will have to tell them you broke the faerie law.”
“But mother,” Asher said.
“No,” her mother said, “You have defiled the structure of the Clan twice. Once with the aerie Princeling, and again with the Large One’s dwelling. Dispose of this before you are discovered child. I care not how you do it!”
Asher took wing, flew over tree tops, but every look at Cadar’s heart pulsing in her hands forbade her drop it. The jar was heavy and forced her to stop often for rest. She flew to the west end of the Faeriedom, and settled in the glen just beyond it, the strange glen. After a while, she forgot the sound of Cadar’s voice, though he refreshed her at times with breezes flung from the sky, moaning through her trees, “Aaashssshsher,” a constant rich lament. Years passed. I gave birth to a thousand new eggs. I did not put them in her hair.
In her thirtieth summer alone, she tried to go to him. She journeyed past the azure coast, and flew as high as her wings could lift her. She planned to return his heart, which was hidden in the jar beneath her dandelion cloak. The sky darkened and she continued unafraid. She flew high above the Large One’s purring beasts of steel, but soon, the sight of his bride to the North blinded her.
His wife was the brightest of any Star-Breed, and Asher’s close perusal gave her form. A stellar beauty, she glistened as an ice statue. “Cadar is mine, Darkling,” the girl said. “He will never love you.”
Asher recoiled. She nearly toppled to the ocean, a wing’s dash below. His bride swept her a chilled spotlight and mocked, “Did he give you his heart? Cadar has many tricks. Beware him! Even now you are the victim of our jests. Go home, go to your clan and leave the jar with me. You can still do that.” She cast a white replica of Asher’s village in the sky. The false Clan faces smiled and waved. Asher imagined the sound of her mother’s voice, how sweet it would be.
“I swear to drop it to the deepest crevice, and your guilt will be absolved,” the Star-Breed continued, smiling, but her feral eyes glowed, and as she reached with star-light to take the jar from Asher, Asher yanked it back.
“No,” Asher said, “Show me Cadar.” She spun in circles searching for him like the lightest wind dancer but Cadar could not be seen. “Cadar,” she cried, Cadar — “
“Silence,” the Star-Breed demanded, “He’ll not come for you.” On her crystalline fingers she spun the light to juggle many small replicas of the jar in Asher’s cloak — bright and blinding in her eyes.
“Fine,” Asher said, “I will give you back his heart if you can answer this. What does it look like, and how does it feel in a jar between the hands?”
The Star-Breed laughed. “A heart like any other Misted. Blue as a robin’s egg and aerie from the edge.”
“And how does it feel,” Asher repeated, “In a jar between the hands.”
The Star-Breed smiled, reaching her light tentacles toward Asher and stopped them in mid-air. “What difference does that make?” she said.
Cadar’s heart beat rhythms through the glass under Asher’s cloak. “None to a Star-Breed,” Asher replied, “But everything to me. No wonder he can leave his heart with me. It’s obvious he doesn’t use it here.” She continued to search for Cadar’s form, looking high and low, but Cadar was no where. “Cadar,” she cried to the sky, “Take back your burden if you will not protect me from your bride.” Upon that, she loosed the lid and flung the heart upwards, as a beetle taking wing. Strangely, it hovered near her face, flew through her heart, and out her open mouth to sink down again inside the glass. Asher stood firm on a cloudy ledge and felt his love warm her wings, and cross the barren threshold of her womb. “See Star-Breed, she said, “Choke on your illusions.”
She returned to the glen, with his mist as her prize. But Cadar was far from this scene — atop the freezing glaciers making Tsunami with his father. When he returned to hear his wife’s story, he was very angry. “She said she hates you and wants nothing of your heart,” the Star-Breed said.
Any memory of his own was trapped in the jar. When he returned to Asher, the chill of December flavored his winds, and the Snow Queen journeyed with him, covering Asher’s leaves with icy drifts. Everything was white. His pain had not healed. “Tell her Cadar,” his mother said. “Tell her now.”
“Asher, you have boasted of my love, which I won’t deny you, but I can never come to you again. Unless the right star falls, we must be separate.”
“And — “ the Snow Queen prodded.
“I must have it back,” Cadar said, looking away over the hills, “my heart.”
“No — “ Asher cried.
“Mother,” he said, “I cannot take my heart from where it feels most safe. I will not ask what Asher cannot give.”
“Boy,” his mother said, “Ask for what I demand you take, or I will send you far distant from anything you’ve ever seen. I brought you here, and be assured I can take you away,” but Asher couldn’t bear Cadar’s tortured look, so before anyone could say another word, she grasped the pulsing jar and poured his heart to the air, shouting, “Because I love you, Cadar.” She made a wing flurry and swept it to his chest.
“No, no, no,” he cried, but Asher would not be denied. She pushed it to him until he ripped open his misty chest and let it fall inside his shirt. When he began to cry the sky heaved with rain.
“Brave girl,” the Snow Queen said, “If you choose to leave my son alone, I’ll grant you this mercy. Passion Vision restored, you can journey home to greet a sleeping people. Your long absence will seem days to those nearest. In a year’s time, I’ll grant you the numbness of amnesia for yourself. You’ll never think of my son again.”
“Cadar — “ Asher said. “Would you choose to forget me?”
“I will never forget you Asher.”
“Then I’ll wait,” Asher said, “listen for your voice in the murmurs through my trees, look for wet gloss on my leaves, and bleed this glen red for you until you can return…”
It was a stunning pledge, but the northern Star-Breed never fell. She remained in her static glory for a thousand years, and Asher did not reclaim the Faeriedom because a Faerie can be killed, but never dies of time. The glen became her place of voluntary solitude forever. And there she waits now for the inevitable moment of her happiness. But hers is a secret story, gentle reader, fragile as the mist that coats a barren hill, or the beauty of wet-touched leaves spiraling down with Cadar’s breath. When the wind howls, listen close; you can hear Cadar’s voice — “Asssshhhshhhshhhhshhhhhsssshher.” Peer up to see the Star-Breed glare you down with hate. Then hold between your fingers one red leaf, and let the firm breeze steal it from your grasp. This same leaf can be retrieved, but the breeze wends on and on until it seems to sigh from such great misery. And this is why nothing ever comes of air and fall.
Asher would tell you, but she bears mistrust for Large Ones. I lay no more eggs in her eternal hair, suck weakly on her scalp, and weave only the most fragile of webs. Fardeel! I remind myself — all this must seem a different tongue for those unskilled in Faerie Tales. Forgive me if the telling seems a mite bit mumbled. A mite will mumble what a mite might say, a mite myself I surely fathom than, and what Asher thinks and Asher does are surely inscrutable to those of your kind.
My only proof, at last, is what you see, and how you feel when winter claims the land — if melancholy wind would bring you tears, if thoughts of falling snow would chill you to the bone, if change of green to red would have you sigh — then we can share her story, you and I.