by James Crofoot
“Tell me again, Taylenel,” Clarrisa whispered in her lover’s ear. “How deep is your love for me?”
Taylenel cupped the face of his beautiful world in his hands. “Oh, queen of my world, my love for you is deeper than the stars above. Does that make you happy?” He laughed.
She rose above him and hovered. Clarrisa twirled in the air, yellow wings in a blur. “Oh yes,” she sang.
Taylenel rose to meet her and took her hand. “Bet I can out fly you.” He laughed some more and then took off into the silver-green leaves that made the fairy world.
“No you can’t!” Clarrisa put on a serious face and took off after him.
The two soared and dove, circled and spiraled. They flew high and low with such joy that they did not hear the alarm signaling that the borders of their land were violated. In their defense, no one dared enter their realm because few returned who did. Fairies do not kill; you see it is beyond their sensibilities. Instead, they use a salve on their arrows and blades that put those who crossed into this sylvan wood into a deep sleep, a sleep that lasts for a hundred years. Therefore, they had no fear of the outside world because none ever got too deep, and these two had never seen people from beyond their borders, being young for fairies.
Clarrisa and Taylenel, not hearing the alarm, flew with complete abandon. They flew, not noticing where they were. They flew to the edge of their home, so absorbed in their game that they didn’t see the goblins hiding in the brush at the foot of the trees.
It happened in a soaring dive that was making them both laugh in glee. Taylenel heard the terrified scream; he turned and looked back just in time to see Clarrisa in a net, knocked from the air by a club.
The Queen allowed him this visit every year, but every year she would try to talk him out of this lingering in the past.
When Taylenel awoke, the moon shone high in the cloudless sky. Then he remembered Clarissa’s scream and it jerked him fully alert.
“Clarrisa,” he yelled. He rose into the air and looked around frantically. When he saw the broken limbs of the underbrush, fear clutched at his heart and down he dropped. Seeing the footprints of the goblins, he knew they had to be goblins from the stories his father had told him, he screamed his beloved’s name again. Taylenel flew to the edge of the fairy wood and hovered silently, just staring out at the big world. Thoughts raced through his mind at the speed of a hummingbird’s wings.
Goblins had her.
They had taken her out of the woods.
He must speak to the Queen.
He had to save her.
Fear and rage now filled his thoughts.
“My Queen, I need the Sword of Kindra.”
The Queen of the fairies, who was currently entertaining the ambassador from the robins of the east, looked in slight surprise at Taylenel standing before her. This fairy had just flown up, completely bypassing all the rules of her court. Now he was demanding the treasured sword.
“Dear fairy, what do you mean by forcing your way into my court?” the Queen asked. She was not very commanding, however, due to the audacity of this youth.
“They have taken her,” he replied with bowed head. “The goblins! Why was there no alarm?”
The Queen regained her authority and calm. “Goblins took whom? The alarm was sounded. You must explain yourself.”
Taylenel looked up with anger in his eyes. The anger hit the queen and once again, she lost her composure.
“The goblins have taken my love. They took my Clarrisa!” Taylenel now spoke through clenched teeth, impatience clear in his demeanor.
The Queen now understood. “I see.” She softened. “I am very sorry. I can see this Clarrisa was deeply cared for. Asking for the sword, however, is no light matter. Do you intend on tracking down these goblins by yourself?”
“Yes,” Taylenel said. “There is no time for help.” He hadn’t really thought of the big world outside the woods, just of Clarrisa.
“Fairies don’t leave the realm often. We have little magic outside our home. I don’t think you can help her alone, please, can I not make you wait for help?” The Queen put as much compassion in her voice as she could muster.
“I’m going, Majesty. Now. With or without the sword.”
The queen looked at Taylenel for a short time. She could see that pain and anger tore at him and began to appreciate the courage this young fey possessed.
“Are you sure? You must be very sure if you are to leave our realm.”
Taylenel tried to keep from yelling. “I’m very sure. They have her. I have no choice but to find them.”
A tear formed in his eye.
She was not sure if it was anger or grief. Then decided it was both. She could not do otherwise but to grant his wish. “Very well, dear, brave fairy.” She ordered her chancellor to bring the sword. “The Sword of Kindra is our most treasured thing. It is a weapon, true, but it can be very beautiful, also. It belongs to all fairies, though. I am merely its keeper.”
The chancellor returned with the sword.
“You may take the sword.” She then pleaded, “Please, brave fairy, return it with your love.”
Taylenel took the sword and flew off.
As the Queen had stated, fairies did not leave their realm, fey magic did not work out there much. Not so with the Sword of Kindra though. Centuries before, the fey of the north crafted the weapon for the fairies, and it kept its power, both beautiful and terrible. It required no salve to put things to sleep.
Taylenel put his hand on the hilt of the sword he now wore. For an instant, his courage and resolve had faltered, but it quickly returned. He looked at the footprints left by the goblins and followed them.
For two days, he tracked the goblins without rest. The last words spoken by him to Clarissa ran on repeatedly in his head.
Finally, the prints led into a cave.
Landing on a ledge above the entrance, he listened. The fairy drew the sword, slowly, silently; with only the barest rasp of metal on metal. He flew in along the top of the tunnel. Passageways began branching off and there were footprints everywhere now. Despair seeped into his heart.
The stench of excrement and refuse from these filthy creatures made him vomit twice. This was alien to him; in the fairy wood, all was pleasant and clean, but he could not turn back. He must find Clarrisa; there was no other option. Goblins were everywhere. Constantly he had to hide. They chattered on in their tongue, which Taylenel could not understand.
They were terrible creatures to look upon. Their faces, twisted with wicked grins of decayed and yellow teeth showing through smiles of cracked lips. Their skin was a sickly green and putrid sores added to the disgusting smells. To the fairy, it seemed the vile nature of their bodies must be a reflection of their souls.
He took one tunnel that led to a sleeping chamber, another led to a crude kitchen. He wept, knowing he would never find his love in time, imagining what these cruel things would do to something so much weaker and smaller. But, with no time for tears, he wiped his face and moved on. Finally, after searching many tunnels while hiding from the goblins that lived here, Taylenel came to a lantern lit chamber from which cruel laughter emanated. He approached cautiously, keeping to the side of the cold damp passageway..
There were three of them standing around a table looking down at something there. A shrill scream was heard which pierced Taylenel’s being. He charged into the room, flitting around the three of them.
The first went down in a sleeping heap without the other two seeing. He cut the second one across the cheek and it too fell, fast asleep.
The third goblin was now aware of the fairy and started swinging with his club. The fairy dodged back and forth and finally got to the hand wielding the weapon. He cut that hand and down that goblin fell.
Every year the queen would allow her stern champion to gaze into her water, she knew the terrible story well.
He looked to the table and saw Clarissa tied to it with thread. Her wings were gone. There were many cuts covering her naked body. None would be immediately lethal, but all would have been painful. She was unconscious and very pale in a pool of blood.
The green fairy flew to her, his wings drooping with the grief in his chest. Landing softly next to her, as if afraid to disturb the table for fear of causing her more pain, he knelt and lifted her head gently.
Clarissa opened her eyes halfway. They were bloodshot and unfocused at first, but they cleared as she realized who she looked at and love filled them. She smiled.
“I knew you’d come, I knew I could hold on till then,” she said weakly and coughed, crimson stained her gentle, pink lips.
“My love.” Taylenel began to weep again.
“How deeply do you love me?” she asked.
She did not hear the reply. Taylenel reached up and closed her eyes.
Now his teeth clenched in rage, his face a mask of tears and dust. He stood, walked to the edge of the table and looked down at the sleeping goblins with his sword held in a white knuckled grip. They would not awaken, he decided. Not these monsters who were so cruel. He flew down to each in turn and quickly learned how to open their throats.
After, he flew back to the tabletop and cut the threads holding Clarissa’s inert form. The fairy sheathed his sword and picked her up in both arms.
Once again, Taylenel flew directly into the Queen’s court. This time it was full. Landing directly in front of the Queen, he laid Clarissa’s body on the steps there.
Shock filled the court at the fairy’s appearance. Shock filled all except the Queen, whose heart filled with grief, knowing what had happened.
“Why are you covered in the black blood of goblins, dear brave fairy?”
Taylenel could not bring his eyes to meet hers.
“You said to return the sword with my love.” He paused. The court held their breath. “I killed them, your majesty. I cut them and let their life’s blood flow from them, just as they did my love. Now they will never awaken, like my love. It has died.”
Tears began to form in the Queen’s eyes at the death of his innocence. After a silent moment, she regained control.
Taylenel unbuckled the sword from his waist and offered it to her.
“No,” she said in what was almost a whisper. “You will keep this weapon. Fairies do not kill, but there have been those who have. This sword our fey brethren made for one of them. You did what fairies do not do. I may need that someday, brave fairy. I ask you, in front of the fairy realm, will you be my champion? Before you answer, know that I do not ask this lightly. What you will be called to do, at times, I can ask of no other fairy.” She wiped a tear from her cheek. “You will be my ambassador to outside kingdoms, and may be asked to kill again. Will you think on this?”
“I need no time to think. I will carry this sword for you, Majesty. I can not allow the malicious evil that did this to such an innocent.” He was looking at Clarissa. “First however, I must seek a boon from you. I need to be gone from our kingdom. I cannot stay. The very leaves remind me of the fairy at your feet. I do not know for how long, but I cannot look on this realm now. Will you allow this?”
The Queen granted his wish and for over two hundred years, Taylenel traveled the world outside his home. He visited kings, queens and emperors. He rode on the shoulders of generals in battles, epic and not. He sat for twenty years on a rocky ledge with a wise man discussing good and evil. Once a year, however, he returned to ask the maturing fairy queen to allow him to see his only love.
Taylenel, the Queen’s Champion and holder of the Sword of Kindra, rose to his feet. The image of his only love, the laughing Clarissa, vanished for another year. With a last look at the still water, which reflected the stars of a night sky above, as if a mirror, he turned and walked away.
James J Crofoot has traveled for most of his life, on sea and land. Throughout, he has written. Now he is starting to put the stories into the public eye. In addition to this story, he has a book published with MuseItUp publishing, The Journeys of a Different Necromancer. Above all else, he wishes you to enjoy his work.