Being Grey: Part Three
Also by psychopsam
You have powers.
She was standing in a puddle of warm sunlight, but Laeren still felt a violent shiver shake her world. Those words, those three words – so innocent, so harmless, and yet they were dangerous and painful beyond anything imaginable. To say they brought back memories was a lie. They weren’t memories if she didn’t remember, didn’t know. She almost felt stupid, getting so worked up over something she didn’t even know. But then again – she did know that something she’d tried so hard, too hard, to lose and forget, was about to resurface. Faintly, she remembered sorrow... a fallen ocean of tears... hours spent running and hiding, too scared to stop, too weak to fight, too hopeless to defend herself.
No... no... Her fists clenched and face twisted down into a grimace. For the first time in ten years, Laeren was bordering on happiness. And now it was being smothered again by some dark unknown. Wasn’t it enough that she’d ran around like a blind person, feeling around the world for something to give her a hopeful pointer, for ten years? Why was fate – or whatever it was – so cruel?
“Laeren?” Mierelle asked in confusion and concern.
“Take it back,” she choked, hoping the water faerie would. The past couldn’t be held back much longer like this. Something was going to give. She’d black out, eventually, and the past would rush back in dream formation unless...
“But you do have powers!” Mierelle cried in utter bewilderment. “Why are you all teary? Oh, no. Did I just say something offending? I’m sorry – is there something, anything, that I should probably know before I say more? Laeren? Laeren!”
The grey faerie rocked back and forward, whimpering in indecision and pain. She felt as if there was something missing, something that both of them ought to have known. So finally, to answer the water faerie’s question – “Yes,” she whispered.
And the world instantly went dark.
“You have powers,” the water faerie said in amazement.
“And if I do?” Laeren retorted, sounding ten times, a hundred times braver than she actually felt. She was cornered – pressed right up against the cold brick wall. The mean looking faerie in front of her kept flinging cold droplets of water into her face, so cold that they hurt and smarted and stung for a long time afterwards. Like a burn, or something. “Why’d you –”
“I’m asking the questions,” the water faerie said. “Where did you get your magic from?”
Another splash of water. Laeren bit back the urge to scream in pain at the tiny fires that seemed to have erupted. “Where – did – you – get – your – magic – from?” The water faerie glared.
“I didn’t get it from anywhere. Seriously. Please!” Laeren whimpered, rocking back and forth. She didn’t understand anything. “Wasn’t it enough, at the school? You said yourself, that I’m a –”
“You shouldn’t,” the mean little faerie fired back. “You never should have. You clearly stole that magic.”
“It was a few sparks,” Laeren protested, “not magic.”
“So you did steal it, then!”
“No!” She felt the tears welling up, stupid, fat, angry tears of pain and frustration that made her face hurt even more as they ran down her cheeks. “Would you just – just listen and let me talk, okay? I’ve been telling you all this time that – ow! Stop the waterworks and I’ll tell you. Just – just stop. Please.”
The water faerie frowned and looked around the dark streets. She nodded curtly. “Now tell,” she said sharply, and there was a look of satisfaction and – hope? – on her face.
Laeren gulped down a few breaths of cold air, trying to steady herself. She didn’t want to repeat the last five minutes ever again. “I’m not sure – not sure why I am this way. My wings never – never really grew in. It was just the way I was, honest. And because of that, I never really – never really had a faerie type. I just stayed – what was it? Grey. But, I think, to kind of balance that out, I was blessed with extra powers. Not exactly extra strength,” she tried vaguely to explain. “Just – you know, extra powers.”
The water faerie nodded, looking almost bored. Like it was old news. “Yes, yes. I know; I’m not a complete idiot. Go on.”
Sure that it would be better to keep talking, Laeren continued. “I always thought I was just a little slow, and sooner or later I’d settle into a type, and grow out wings. Didn’t know I had powers before this morning, no. I was so happy, so hopeful at the school, because I thought that maybe... maybe that would be my big break. Then when you came after me – I got all sorts of scared and something just...”
She frowned, trying to find the right words.
“Something just... just happened,” she mumbled lamely. “It was like something just... kind of broke inside me, and everything came spilling out. The magic, what I mean,” Laeren quickly clarified as the water faerie began to scowl.
“So it was natural?” the water faerie said, her eyebrow raised in total skepticism.
“I... guess?” How was Laeren supposed to know, when she’d only found out hours ago?
“Or not,” the water faerie mumbled, thinking out loud. “Maybe she might be... no, she can’t... or maybe... you’re just being stupid now. Nevertheless, I’ve got to find a way to take her...”
Laeren frowned as she realized what the water faerie’s mumblings were driving at. “You want – you want to be like me? But what about all that about black hearts and stuff? Pure evil? No one wants to be like that, even if they’re a nutcase, and besides –”
“Well, haven’t you heard?” the water faerie snapped, incredulous. “Fyora does it to faeries who’ve... who’ve done something really, really bad. She rips their wings off, and they turn grey.” Maybe it was Laeren’s imagination, but did the cruel little faerie’s voice waver a little?
“They turn grey – like you,” the faerie finished, the malice and contempt back in her voice...
“I didn’t ever do anything –”
“Shut up and let me think,” the faerie snarled. “I just want to know how I can get those powers. That’s all. Just the powers. They’re just powers. So...”
The water faerie’s eyes lit up with epiphany. “Just powers,” she mumbled happily to herself. “Powers can be taken. It’s been done before... I know the incantation... why not again?”
Laeren suddenly wished she could fly – or at least climb up a sheer wall of brick. “No!” she screamed as the faerie came toward her. It was all she had left. Without her powers, she had nothing – no hope, no joy – nothing. And if they were to be stolen... how could she ever go back to her old ways, now that’d she’d had a brief taste what it was like for everyone else?
And there was nothing she could do. She was trapped, and she had no idea how to call upon her newly discovered weapon. And the water just faerie kept coming closer and closer, positively beaming. Why was she doing this to her? Why, out of all the grey faeries in the world, did it have to be her, Laeren, to suffer through this?
The last thing she remembered was and overwhelming rush of misery... despair... anger... and the horrible feeling of getting drained...
Then everything she ever knew, ever remembered, ever felt before that moment just seemed to fade away, wiped clean from memory.
As the Laeren of ten years later began to slowly resurface from her long-forgotten past, one last image from the past flashed before her eyes. It was, again, the water faerie. But this time, she finally saw that her tormentor bore a shocking resemblance to –
Laeren bolted upright, wincing as her still-tender wing scraped against something. She glanced wildly about, searching for the water faerie.
There was no one.
“M – Mierelle?” she tried again. Slowly, Laeren struggled to her feet. Nothing had changed in the hall.
Almost nothing. The water faerie – the water faerie – was gone.
Had she realized who Laeren was just as Laeren realized who she was? Had she fled, out of a guilty conscience? Mierelle didn’t seem like the kind of faerie who would do that, but the faerie who’d mistreated her at Mini-Faerie School, then cornered her in the back alley, did.
How could they ever possibly be the one and the same? Was it even possible for a friend to be an enemy at the same exact time? But then again, it had been ten years...
...But no, not even that much time could change...
Laeren sighed wearily. It was just too confusing to try to unravel. She felt torn right down the center; on one hand, she was ready to forgive Mierelle, to have a – dare she say it? – friend, someone to trust. On the other, though, she wanted to just run away to some dark, secluded forest, and never meet up with another faerie again, now knowing how deep their plots and lies ran. How could she possibly accept that the one who had taken everything away from her was the one who’d given it back – even if falsely, even if temporarily? It felt like betrayal, even though it hadn’t really been.
She turned to find a door, to leave, to run and never come back. Her footsteps were absolutely silent, muffled by the carpet.
And then she heard a rustle.
Laeren looked down. A slip of wrinkled paper was crumpled beneath her foot. Frowning, she picked the bit of litter up, ready to throw it out –
Her hand stopped inches above the wastebasket. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but... Laeren carefully unfolded the paper, smoothing it out as best as she could. She was right. A slanting script flowed across the surface, and at the bottom it was signed with a familiar name. Was Mierelle going to explain everything after all? A tiny, fragile bud of hope bloomed inside her. She squinted down at the letters, breathing deeply, reading slowly.
I need your help.
Laeren repressed a snort. As if.
I realize this is honestly not the best time for this – we barely know each other, and... I’m guessing you seriously hate my guts right about now. For what happened ten years ago, I’m ever so sorry. I only just realized. And for leaving you today, I’m sorry again. I know it looks suspicious. But I had to go, had to try. Honest. And if you come, I can explain everything.
I think you know where to go.
Laeren reread the note several more times, trying to make sense of it through the haze of anger and despair that was doing a great job of making everything hazy and distorted.
Need your help...
She recrumpled the poor, abused piece of paper and dashed it to the floor. She was going to find Mierelle – not to help; the water faerie didn’t deserve that much. But it was the only way she could get her answers. It was too bad if curiosity killed the Kadoatie. She still was going.
Laeren walked out the door, through the garden, down the streets. She ignored all the strange glances that flew her way.
It was time to go back to Mini-Faerie School.
To be continued...