The following excerpt is from a novel-in-progress in which a human girl gets taken to the fairy  world.


I had started keeping track of the days by making tally marks on the cave walls with the sticks of chalk. Three days have passed, so today is March 31. My rent was due yesterday afternoon and so was my phone bill. In four days, my term paper on redox reactions will be due, even with the extension my chemistry professor gave me due to my extenuating circumstances. Eleven days from now, I’m supposed to dogsit my lab partner’s labradoodle. Twenty-seven days from now, I’m supposed to bake cookies for old people as a part of my community service requirement. Mr. Fitzgerald refuses to eat his vegetables, so I would have to shove a couple of turnips into a blender and make cookies out of it and endure the onslaught of stale breath as he’d give me the same speech he gives the other workers for trying to “pull the wool over his eyes.”

The strange thing was that as much as these dates made me yearn for the polka-dotted planner I had the rest of the year mapped out in, I could still lose myself for hours in my paintings. The morning after my birthday dinner, Elias had sent a ruddy-faced girl with my breakfast. Avoiding eye contact, she had gone onto the ledge, came back and strung half of the lanterns on her arm, and went back down the ladder promptly. She had fixed branches on each side, curved in the shape of hooks. At night, I would have to light lanterns to see. During the day, there was a plentiful amount of sunshine that poured into the cave, which made it easier to paint in.

Elias usually delivered breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but he stopped trying to make small talk with me once he realized that I was occupied with my work. Soon, I stopped hearing him enter or put the plates on the table; I’d only hear the trap door close then turn and see the food laid out for me.

Today, I was arranging my finished paintings while I waited for my latest work to dry. There were a few parts of the wall that were miraculously suitable to hang paintings on, but as for the rest, I placed them on top of the cabinets and the dresser upstairs. The painting inspired by Katie sat against a stalagmite. It looked fine, but something was missing and I couldn’t figure out what.

I went back to the easel to finish painting a grove of willow trees in the northeast corner of the valley, but it was impossible to salvage any more white paint from the sides of the jar. Elias had brought up lunch no more than ten minutes ago—it would be hours before dinner! He couldn’t get mad at me for this, right? Running out of white paint is a legitimate crisis. For the most part.

The hatch wasn’t held shut with a lock. I tightened my grip around the handle and yanked it open. As fast as I could, I went halfway down the ladder. There, I grabbed the jar and leaned forward, clutching it to my stomach as I used my free hand to shut the hatch. I guided myself the rest of the way down and then held the jar with both hands.

Except for the ladder, there were no other signs that the mountain’s walls were being inhabited. Wearily, I eyed the five paths laid out in front of me, or at least what I could make of them. There could’ve been marks on the ground somewhere, but the dim golden light that emanated from a hidden source in the ceiling didn’t reveal much. I could have gone back to grab a lantern and lit it with one of the matches from the box Elias had left in the pantry, but it would also make me a target. Before I could regret it, I went down the path on the far left.

My feet moved soundlessly over the bumpy terrain, but no matter how fast I ran, an end wasn’t in sight. That’s why there wasn’t a lock; Elias didn’t expect me to find the exit. But what if it was just a little further down? I kept walking and inspected the walls as I went. Clicking noises came from behind me. And they were getting louder. I sped up and did a one-eighty. A fuzzy black dot was approaching me at a leisurely pace. As it got closer, I could make out bright gold eyes, fluffy brown fur, and dirty white paws. The fairy world had many of the plants and animals that were found in the human world, but I didn’t think that they would have domestic cats.

I sat down and held out my hand. It came towards me so fast that I jerked my hand back. It seemed to understand and walked slowly, past my outstretched hand and sat down in front of my lap. I patted its head and it purred. Now that it was within arm’s reach, I could tell that its fur was orange, not brown. Without further ado, it went back down the path. I chased after it, alarmed. It only took me seconds to get back to the beginning. The cat was sitting in front of the path on the opposite end, but upon my arrival, walked through the wall instead.

My hand passed straight through the panel of rock. The cat’s head poked back through, and it meowed at me impatiently. Stepping through, I fell about two inches onto a hallway with a floor haphazardly constructed of irregularly shaped pieces of rock. The hallway was drowned in darkness save for the rectangular sliver of light which came from the doorway on the left.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

I spun around, but there wasn’t anyone behind me. “I’m kicking you off your lazy arse, that’s what,” said a woman from inside the room. “You were supposed to have these carrots peeled ages ago! If supper gets delayed because of this, you will go down to the dining hall and apologize to each fairy yourself!”

The cat walked past the door and up the spiraling flight of stairs. I looked inside the room as I walked past. Luckily, everyone was too busy snickering at the fairy that was having his ear pinched by the woman as she gave him a scolding. We went up two flights of stairs until the cat decided that we had arrived at our destination. We were outside of the door of the room that rested at the top of the building we were in.

Another man laid down a large piece of paper and huffed. “All territory north of Lough Geal has been lost.”

“Not to mention the ports off of Marigold!”

Elias let out a short laugh. “She’s encroaching on Unseelie territory.”

“My men confirmed it.” The first man tapped the piece of paper. “This map arrived days before their heads did.”

“Elias, we have to consider calling back the scouts on border patrol.” Elias must have made a face, because the other man who was speaking quickly added on, “Lough Geal we can defend with our swords strapped to our elbows, but the western territories are a lost cause.”

The cat nestled up against my leg and purred. I pushed it back with my foot shushed it. The voices grew fainter, so I pressed myself as close to the doorframe as I could.

Elias replied, “Those warriors knew fully well that taking the oath meant devoting their lives to the Spring Court.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to—”

“Carrick. Look at it from a strategical standpoint. The Sparrows have spent decades undercover in the Summer Court. If we withdraw the border patrol, they’ll lose their backup.”

“Even so, the Sparrows haven’t been putting their lives in danger like my men have! They haven’t been active since the Recapture of Marigold and frankly—”

Claws dug in and slid across my ankle. I shouted and scrambled to place distance between the cat and me, knocking my shoulder against the door. It fell open and the room went silent. Elias was seated at the head of the table with one large map laid out in front of him, decorated with wooden markers and lines of colored strings wrapped around tacks. To his right was a bearded man, and further down the table on his left was a man with short inky blue hair and alabaster skin.

The cat strode in and leaped around the room, launching itself off of a stool and then off of the bearded man’s lap, where it disappeared behind Elias. A boy, smothered in dirt, appeared on Elias’s left and sat down, laying his arms on top of the map. “Look at the cute human I found!”

A ghost of a smile danced across Elias’s face. “Casey…”

“Aw, don’t tell me she’s yours!” He threw his arms around Elias. “Why do you get to have all the fun?” He shook Elias’s shoulders. “Does brotherhood mean nothing to you?!”

Fury tinged my cheeks. “I’m not—”

The bearded man on the right stood up abruptly, pushing his chair back with a harsh scraping noise. “She’s the princess’s sister.”

Casey squinted at me, even as Elias escaped from his grasp, and the other man seated at the table nodded in acknowledgement. To my horror, the bearded man bowed and held his position for a few seconds before returning to his standing position.

“Hey, Elias,” Casey leaned over to him while keeping his eyes on me, “are you sure you took the right human?”

The bearded man turned to him and frowned. “Casey!”

Casey frowned as well and deepened his voice. “Carrick!”

“Stop that.”

“Stop what?!”





Briana TranBriana Tran: In a perfect world, Briana Tran would be a part-time high school student and a full-time writer. For now, she is content with squandering time on her never-ending existential crisis and expressing her feelings through angst-ridden poetry and prose.

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