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The Rise of the Space Faerie: Discovery - Part One


by desibick

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Laimane sighed and shivered as the rain pouring from the stars drenched her from head to toe. Ducking into a crouch to better fight the mighty winds that now blew, she instinctively navigated the winding streets of Faerieland, getting home the only thought on her mind now. She could still feel the tingle of instinct attempting to brush her down strange streets and dark alleyways, but she ignored it, focusing on remembering the tangle of side streets that would lead her to her small cottage home on the outskirts of the city.

      Laimane was eager to get home for reasons besides the rain. Rain was rare in Faerieland and was often considered an ill omen, and she didn't need the rain to remind her that remaining on the streets any longer could be fatal. And yet, as she finally lifted her head and looked around, she was deeply tempted to investigate the alley that now lay before her. It branched off at a strange diagonal, the slant designed so that at this angle she could only see two feet down the street before the opposite wall got in her way. Unlike most of the walls that made up the Maze, a district of Faerieland that consisted of streets and the buildings that were their boundaries, the walls of the shops surrounding her were built of some strange black stone, not the pale marble that was used for most of the Maze. The dark stone was chipped and battered, and made the streets seem even more forbidding, if that was possible. Laimane was in a strange area of the Maze, one she had rarely traversed before, and where it was thus almost certain that she would get lost. She knew that there were many possible dangers lurking down that road, but she also knew that whatever great need had pressed her to come out of her haven, late at night in the pouring rain, was waiting for her just down that hidden passage.

      She frowned and impatiently brushed her lengthy locks from her face. What if these feelings she had-all of this-was just a trick, a plot intended to catch her off-guard once and for all, to be preyed upon by her enemies?

      Her ears pricked as a sound other than the constant drumming of the rain met them, the sound increasing in magnitude and spreading throughout the street like ripples in a pond. Footsteps. There were footsteps echoing around her, heavy and clearly hurried. And if her hearing served her well, they were headed in her direction. The road was completely deserted, whoever it was would see her. Laimane didn't know who the footsteps belonged to, but there was only one faerie she could think of who would be out on a night like this. And she had to avoid that faerie at all costs.

      The decision was made for her. Not daring to look back, Laimane sprinted into the nearby alley, running as speedily as was possible without making much noise. Haphazardly she dove into the shadows, stifling the glow of her pale skin with her sopping cloak. Hardly daring to breathe, she peered out the entrance to this enclosed street, which lay only a few feet away from her. She could only hope that the faerie hadn't seen or heard her escape. If she had… Laimane didn't know what she would do if she had.

      Seconds dragged on like hours, the heavy footstep growing in volume until they were as loud as the steps of Elephantes to her ears. Laimane forced herself to be still; the slightest rustle of her damp cloak could give her away. She thought of using her magic to try and identify the traveler, but she scolded herself for the idea. If the faerie noticed Laimane's magic, she would know Laimane was there, and would search without stop until she found her.

      Finally the steps stopped their pounding, softening into a slow and cautious pace; the tempo reminded her of a Kougra getting ready to pounce. A shadow slunk into the entrance of the alley, illuminated by a small lantern hanging from the front of a nearby stall, its position giving away the action of its source. Laimane grinned with triumph and silently gloated. Her enemy was getting careless, to give her such an opportunity to spy.

      Laimane's smile disappeared in an instant, as if lead weights had grabbed her lips and tugged them downwards. She could see what the faerie was doing, and the knowledge did not bode well for her. The shadow, and thus the faerie, was crouching, a long thin finger tracing something on the sodden ground beneath her.

      She's following my footprints. She's tracking me. It was a struggle for Laimane to not move, to watch as her stalker crept closer and closer to her position. She hadn't though about her tracks, caused by her muddy sandals, when she fled to her current hiding spot. Panic filled her body, weighting her down as she struggled to think of what to do. She couldn't just sit here, waiting to be found, she had to run, to hide, fight, use her magic… she had to do something, but there was nothing she could do. Not unless she wanted to make it easier for the faerie to find her.

      Her senses became more acute, as they always seemed to when she was in great danger. Laimane was aware of everything, of the cold that mercilessly nipped at her ears, the watering of her frigid eyes, the glow of the storm clouds high above her, the plink of drops of water landing beside her, and the damp that came from the ones that landed in her hair. She had never understood why she became so aware of life when she was helpless, whether it was to aid a futile hope that she could still escape, or whether it was just her body's way of reminding her of how much she had to lose, and how much she wanted to live.

      Lost in her deepest fears, she was startled back into reality by a harsh curse in the faerie tongue. Focusing again on the shadow, she watched as in a swift and sudden movement, the faerie rose and cursed again, the hate-filled word seeming to burn Laimane's ears. The shadow began to run; Laimane got a mere glimpse of a violet-cloaked form tearing past the alley entrance before both shadow and form disappeared from her view. Frozen in place, she listened to the fading footsteps, falling lighter and lighter until she could no longer hear them. Only when she was certain her tracker had gone did Laimane dare to exhale, gasping both out of exhaustion and need for air and for the reassuring feeling that convinced her she was still alive.

      Now that the faerie was gone, Laimane had confidence in her plans. Her enemy was gone for now, but she might soon be back, and Laimane didn't want to be caught off guard. She decided to leave the Maze and travel to her home by walking by the outside walls, instead of traveling through the Maze itself. It was safer that way, without any chance of an encounter with her enemies.

      But first, she was going to explore the alley and see what there was for her to find.

      Her cramping limbs protested as she rose; their anger at being in such an uncomfortable position for so long was clearly expressed. The pain lessened as she began to walk, her long strides and a comfortable gait helped to express a feeling of confidence, or so she hoped. If any faerie happened to notice her, she would hopefully look more like a town faerie out for a night time stroll than a restless fugitive, hiding from the world around her.

      Laimane had been walking for about a half an hour before she considered turning back. She had been walking at a hurried pace and covered plenty of ground, and still had found nothing of interest. The path she had followed was strange, constantly angling in one direction or another, while most of the streets in the Maze were straight as a lance, and unlighted, except for the glow of the muted moon and stars above. All of the coincidences and oddities of the night were taking a toll on Laimane's nerves, and she was nervous and wary. More than anything, she wanted to be off the streets. Still, the tingling of goose bumps on her normally flawless skin and the slight throbbing that had begun at her temple and dispersed to the rest of her head urged her to continue, pressing her to keep walking, to discover what had to be found.

     But, for the first time in her life, Laimane found herself doubting her strange instinct, and longed more than anything to leave the Maze and go home. For several years past she had worked and the beck and call of her strange feelings, thwarting the plans of greater powers than herself with its aid. And now it was stronger and more urgent than she had ever felt it before, pressing at her like a heavy load upon her back, almost pushing her forwards. But her feeling answered only to what she assumed was the greater good; it had tossed her into dangerous situations many times before with reckless abandon, situations that had almost cost Laimane her life. Laimane was merely a vessel, a toy, of her instincts, and her life seemed not to be of importance. This had always been the case, and her brush with the shadowy figure had made her aware that the alley could easily be leading her to her death.

     For the second time that night, fate made the choice for her. As Laimane pondered what to do, a soft cry met her ears, echoing from a short distance down the walled street. She stiffened, unnerved by the eerie sounds that drifted down the path, carried by a soft wind that gently brought the sounds to Laimane's ears. The cry increased in volume, until finally it could not be classified as anything other than a wail. Though she had no reason to know what it was, Laimane somehow knew that it was the wailing of a young child.

     Fury boiled in her veins, and every muscle in her body was as cold as ice. How dare they! Her heart and mind were screaming as, caution flung aside, Laimane broke into a run, sprinting as hard as she possibly could towards the source of the sound. They didn't. They wouldn't! Even they would not dare kidnap a faerie child! No matter how much logic her mind tried to feed her, Laimane knew that these faeries were beyond logic. If they could manage to steal a child and use it to catch her, they would.

     The wailing grew to a sickening climax just as Laimane was fed out of the alley into a walled courtyard. A spindly, black iron gate, almost three times the size of the unusually tall faerie, blocked her path into most of the courtyard, but as Laimane slowed to a stop and pushed on the hinged door, she found that it was open.

     Only then did she stop to think about what she was doing. Everything was too convenient here, from her escape from the faerie who tracked her to the unlocked gate before her. It was clearly planned that she would enter the courtyard. But who wanted her to go in, and why?

     Many answers came to Laimane's mind, all of them morbid. The more she thought about it, the more sure Laimane became that this was a plot. But Laimane could see, a mere six yards away, a small wooden cradle laying in a beam of light, the stars above glittering as they were reflected off of its polished surface. She could hear the murmur of the child as it finally calmed, all of its tears spent. And she could feel the need to enter, her instinct humming in her veins like electricity.

     Taking a deep breath, knowing it might be her last, Laimane roughly shoved the gate open and walked in.

To be continued...

 
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