Originally hosted on A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog
Hello again! Here is another excerpt from “Portraits” for those of you who want to read more.
I’ve never told anyone, but my fear of the dark lasted long into high school. Since striking the deal with the queen, however, the monsters that hide here can’t hurt me. It’s a comforting thought as I walk through the trees.
In a small clearing sits a large hill ringed with white mushrooms. Its grass is still lush while the surrounding area lays cloaked in dying grayish-brown. As I climb over it, the energy of the world shifts. The air feels thinner, the colors sharper, and the earth more alive. It feels like a fresh spring morning rather than a bitter autumn night.
If that doesn’t tell me I’ve entered Faerie, the houses protruding from trees and rocks certainly do. Lights glow in windows like fireflies and bonfires. Colorful smoke and earthy herbal scents waft down from chimneys built from hollowed branches. Hushed conversations ride the wind, and I can pick up English and a few modern European languages, but I suspect others are older than these woods. The unease in all the voices crosses any barrier made my language. Nervous figures peek outside at the sound of my footsteps. Some are only as big as a human hand and others stand twice as tall as any adult.
Members of the queen’s guard patrol the paths. They scowl at me from the slits in their black helmets. Once they spot the painting, they ignore me and look for other people to harass. I’d scowl back, but I’d hate to cause a scene, mainly because that scene would end with me getting my ass kicked.
The queen’s labyrinth of a keep rises out of the night. Its trunk and roots are so massive and sprawling that they remind me of a mountain range. I don’t raise my eyes to the branches anymore. The sight makes me dizzy, and I know the sky is hidden, even as the autumn leaves fall. Two knights stand at the entrance, a root arching tall enough to walk under, and let me pass without a word.
Once inside, the bark turns into a system of corridors and chambers too vast for anyone to explore all at once. If they didn’t drive you mad, the thick aura of magic would. It hangs in the air like a muggy scentless perfume. Luckily, the path to the Grand Hall is a short one.
Red, gold, and brown banners wave limply in various states of decay. They span from new and silky to moth-eaten and crusted with dirt. The tablecloths and silverware are in a similar state, as are the decorative paintings and tapestries. The scenery has nothing on the patrons.
They wear similar autumn colors as they dance and peruse the tables. Many of them sport ripped gowns and trousers spotted with dried blood and dirt. Leaves and acorns adorn elaborate and simple hair styles alike, which complement corsages made of dead flowers. Those wearing clean clothing stand out with their otherworldly physical characteristics: skin like bark and twiglike fingers, enormous onyx eyes and sharp jagged teeth, hair like weeping willow branches and bodies with more thorns than a rose bush.
I know better than to stare into the crowds, but I can’t help it. Both the beautiful and horrifying enchant me with the way they move. The way they dance and weave together.
The way they torture each other.
The only folk that look like they could be from fairy tales are living a nightmare. One small mangled arm hangs out of a gremlin’s bloody grin. To my right, a doe-like woman kneels as a footrest for a harsh-looking pair of gentlemen. A young man gingerly weaves past me, his back hunched with defeat, to set more food on the table. Two dark bloody holes protrude from his shoulder blades where a pair of glistening wings once fluttered.
If I stay here too long, I`ll be sick. I need to deliver this painting and get out.
I lift my gaze to the most beautiful and terrifying being in the court. My refuge from all this ugliness and my worst nightmare.
The Queen of Faerie.
Purchase “Portraits” wherever you buy paper or electronic books!