Fairy Lines

Author's Note- Welcome to my latest story! About a month ago, I was thinking about what I'd write after I was finished with Lifetime. I knew I didn't want to write another vampire story, but besides that I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to write. Then, one of my friends told me that Diana Wynne Jones had written another sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, a book called House of Many Ways. The next day I went out to Borders and got it. It had been ages since I had read an honest to God fantasy book, so I immediately fell in love with it. By the time I finished it, I knew I wanted to write my own fantasy story. I haven't written one since Lady Alexandra so it's been a really long time.

Other things to think about- Out of everything I have planned for this story, I forgot to plan the opening, so I'm not entirely happy with the second half of this chapter. There may be changes here and there in the future.

Also, consider Fairy Lines to be a working title. Please be forwarned, that I may change it if I come up with something better.

Enjoy and please let me know what you think! Because I'm not quite happy with this chapter, every little suggestion you can give me will really help. Thanks so much!

An Excerpt from Cornan: A History

In 1547, the fifteenth year of his reign, King Theodore the Great of the Kingdom of Cornan was inexplicably found dead in his bedchamber, supposedly of natural causes. While there were no signs of a struggle or poison and all investigations have suggested that his heart simply gave out in his sleep, circumstantial evidence begs to differ. Just minutes before the dead king was found, Queen Rachel was discovered, also dead, in front of the young Princess Arlea's bedchamber door. Magical burn marks around her neck suggest a hasty magical demise. However, even more shocking than the two monarchs' demises in one night was the disappearance of the seven-year-old princess from her own bedchamber.

The death of King Theodore and Queen Rachel shocked the country and greatly disrupted the economy. Many believed the monarchy to be cursed after such a horrific event and promptly moved out of Cornan to the neighboring countries.

In a desperate attempt to prove this wrong and prevent a mass exodus, Lord Rylan Everhart, advisor and close friend to the king, immediately decreed a royal investigation of the two monarchs' deaths and a search party for the princess. As no body was ever recovered, he felt it safe to assume the princess was still alive, perhaps kidnapped.

A review of King Theodore's will showed that Princess Arlea was next in line for the throne, but if the king passed before she was of age, Everhart would control the throne as regent until she was ready. Everhart's first decree as regent was to say that if Princess Arlea was not found by her twenty first birthday, her throne would go to her closest blood relative, her paternal uncle, Prince Richard so as to preserve the supposed "fairy" lineage and coloring* passed down through the royal family.

When no evidence of murder could be found in the king's death after a year and no one was ever charged for the queen's murder, Everhart was forced to give up the investigations. He fought to continue the search for the princess, but as no more clues had surfaced he was forced to give it up as well. In one last effort to keep the search for the princess active, Everhart offered the princess's hand in marriage to anyone that could find her.

Slowly, with Everhart acting as regent, Cornan began to move back towards normality. He proved to be skilled in economic dealings and skillfully maneuvered the kingdom back to nearly its former glory.

* As it is well known, any royal born into the family possesses a creamy, dark skin color as well as red hair. A select few of the nobles also share these traits or sometimes one of the two. According to myth, these royal characteristics are said to have been passed down from fairies that once populated the country of Cornan. Of course, there are no historical facts to back this claim and therefore the story has been retired to where it belongs—fairy books.

Christopher was standing in the middle of a small clearing in the woods, gazing up at the giant trees around him. There was a fuzziness to them and everything else around that only came in dreams and the trees himself seemed to tower above him, twice as tall as he had ever seen them before.

He was alone, a position he often found himself in while hunting. But today a shiver of dread rolled up his spine at the realization. As fast as he could, he turned and scampered through the underbrush. It lead him to a stream bank where his father crouched down on the ground with his back turned to him, examining something near the water.

The knot of dread that had been building in his stomach disappeared and he took a step towards his father, only to be waved off towards a fallen tree at the edge of the stream.

"Do you need help figuring out what kind of track it is, Papa?" Christopher asked, obediently sitting on the log.

His father shook his head. "No, no," He stood up, kicking a few rocks and some of the ground as he did so. Then he looked at Christopher. The expression on his face was strange—it almost looked like a mix of fear and bewilderment. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Wait for me here. Don't move from that tree."

While he was confused by his father's antics, there was nothing he could do besides nod and obey. "Yes, Papa,"

With a nod of his own, his father turned and made his way through the trees.

After a minute of watching his father disappear into the dark of the forest, Christopher turned his attention to the stream. It wasn't large, but it was still big enough to gurgle and let the water dance over the rock bottom. A grin slowly slid over his face and he eagerly kicked his shoes off and stepped into the water. His father had told him to stay on the log, but surely it wasn't disobeying if he was only a foot away…

But what had his father been looking at?

He stepped out of the water and padded over to what had caught his father's attention, hunching down in his father's much larger footprints. There were a few rocks scattered around, but that had been his father's doing. There weren't even any tracks leading to the spot that might have explained the strange behavior. Truthfully, he had been half expecting to see wolf tracks. Wolves were dangerous. It would have been easy to understand why his father didn't want him any further if there were wolves around, but the only tracks in the dirt were a few old bird prints, maybe a blue jay or a robin. It was hard to tell the difference between small bird tracks. But they didn't mean anything anyways, so it didn't matter.

With a sigh, Christopher kicked one of the rocks into the water and returned to the log. He hoped his father would come back soon so that he could explain what he had seen. Christopher glared at the dirt, wishing he could see it as well.

Suddenly the sun was setting and he was still alone. If they didn't leave by nightfall they would have to wait until daylight to return home. Christopher didn't like that idea at all, but still, he wouldn't leave without his father. Whether he had been told to stay on the log or not, he had to find him. He rose from his seat and wandered into the darkness, following his father's foot steps…

Christopher's eyes snapped open, showing him sunlight illuminating the thatched, attic ceiling of his bedroom. He lay there for a moment, letting his breathing calm and recovering his wits. It had only been a dream. Uncannily familiar, perhaps, but still just a dream.

With a groan, he sat up, got dressed, ran his fingers through his unruly curled brown hair, and plodded down the narrow steps to the kitchen, ducking his head to avoid the downstairs' low ceiling. He straightened again as he stepped off the stairs.

As the main room of the house, the kitchen was packed with everyday items ranging from Christopher's hunting supplies stored neatly on a set of shelves in the back corner to the pots and pans hanging on the wall around the stone fireplace. A multitude of dried herbs hung from the ceiling as did a few reels of brightly died wool yarn. The middle of the room was occupied by a large, plank table with four roughly constructed chairs arranged around it and the table itself was cluttered with dishes and utensils from a previously finished meal.

"Morning, Mother,"

His mother turned from the pot in the fireplace, raising an eyebrow at him. "You're up awfully late this morning, aren't you? Been up nearly three hours myself, I have. Here," Grabbing an earthenware bowel off the plank table in the middle of the small room, she ladled some of the pot's contents into it and handed it to her son. "Porridge,"

"Thank you," Christopher took the bowl and settled himself into one of the chairs at the table. Like always the porridge was rich and satisfying, flavored with what tasted like herbs from the garden.

"I'd hurry up with that if I were you," his mother continued, scraping the contents of another bowl back into the pot. "Lara's already here."

His eyes widened, the spoon in his mouth. Hurriedly he removed it and swallowed. "She said she was coming at eight!"

"And it's just after eight thirty according to the dial." She replied tartly. "When you were still sleeping when she finished her own porridge I so gracefully offered her as a time waster, she volunteered to feed the chickens. Imagine making your woman do your own chores just because you were too lazy to wake up on time. Hah! What kind of son have I raised here? You'd think you were fairy blessed the way you act sometimes. Like you could wave your hand and have everything your way because you make it so," Clucking her tongue, she wiped her hands on her apron and crossed the room to the front door. "I'll be tending to the garden if either of you need me."

There was a squeak and a wooden bang as the door closed behind her. Christopher shoveled the rest of his meal into his mouth and hurried out the back door. Just like his mother had said, he found Lara feeding the chickens that mulled around the backyard. Although he had known her for nearly his whole life, the sight of her pale skin and blond hair still took his breath away whenever he saw her. This morning was no exception.

She turned and smiled at him, the sunlight gleaming prettily off her hair. This morning she had pulled it into a simple horsetail, but it was already slipping out of its restraints, fluttering becomingly around her shoulders. "Good morning, darling."

After making sure they were completely alone, he slipped his arms around her waist and gave her a quick kiss in response.

She giggled and an agreeable flush appeared on her cheeks. "You're up rather late today, aren't you? Did you forget that I was coming?" She pouted at him and let the feedbag drop to the ground before resting her arms on his shoulders."

"I could never forget you were coming. I love you too much and you couldn't be prettier even if you had red hair and dark skin like the nobles." He gave her another peck, this time on the nose.

"Oh, stop it," Lara said, laughing and swatting off his advances teasingly.

He grinned, but did as she commanded, changing the subject instead. "Did you get to speak with the priest?"

"Yes!" She nodded enthusiastically. "He says we can be married in two weeks. Oh Christopher, I'm so excited!" She hugged him tightly, pressing her cheek against his.

Christopher felt a surge of anticipation at her words. Two weeks? Why, that was only days away! He grinned and stole another kiss, this time on her cheek. "I am too, love. Two weeks!" He laughed at loud, hearing the words come from his own mouth. It was like a dream come true. Having the honor to start a family with Lara had always seemed like a distant fantasy to him, but now it was so close he could almost touch it.

Rocking her back and forth in his arms he began to whisper into her ear. "You're going to be my wife, move in with me, move all your worldly possessions into my home, and share a bed with me. And eventually we're going to have little ones and I'll teach the boys to hunt and track and you'll teach the girls to cook and clean and spin and we'll make one big, happy family."

"You make it all sound so perfect," she murmured, resting her head against his shoulder.

"That's because it is,"

They stayed in each others arms, making no move to pull apart, simply revealing in each other's presence.

Suddenly, there was a muted thump from the house followed by the sound of shoes padding across the floor towards the back door. The couple jumped apart in alarm as Christopher's mother rushed into the backyard, her eyes bright with excitement.

"You'll never guess who's coming down the road!" She exclaimed, looking from her son to his fiancé and back. "It's a royal messenger! He's wearing one of those fancy red uniforms and everything!"

Without another word, Christopher and Lara hurried back into the house after her, intent on seeing the sight for themselves. The couple crowded around one of the kitchen windows while the older woman made her way over to the other. Indeed, just like she had said, a man in an unmistakable red, royal uniform was headed straight down the dirt path that led to the cottage at the edge of the woods. He rode a fine, brown horse outfitted in the finest tack Christopher had ever laid his eyes on.

"Why do you suppose he's here?" Lara asked

Christopher shrugged. "No clue,"

The group dissolved into silence as they watched the messenger approach. Upon reaching the front gate, he dismounted and tied the reigns to the fence before opening the gate and walking up to the front door. Christopher's mother had flown from her spot at the window and opened the door scarcely before the messenger could knock.

He cleared his throat, pulling a scroll out of his pocket as he did so. And then, with a flourish, he began to read. "His lordship, Regent Rylan Everhart requests an audience with Master Christopher of residence outside the town of Forestshire. Master Christopher should arrive at the soonest possible occasion in the throne room of the Great Castle of Cornan so as to discuss urgent matters of the state with the Regent. Signed by his lordship himself, Regent Rylan Everhart."

His message delivered, the man rolled up the scroll, returned it to his pocket and turned, heading back to his horse.

It was silent in the cottage for a moment as its inhabitants processed what they had just heard. Then Christopher's mother laughed.

"Well! Bless my soul! What feats of great importance have you been doing behind our backs to merit an audience with the regent himself?"

"I haven't the foggiest idea, Mother," he admitted, frowning. What did the regent want with him? He was just a lowly peasant who made his livelihood by hunting in the forest. The only reason he could possibly come up with for being summoned to the castle was that they wanted him as a royal hunter, but that hardly merited a meeting with the regent himself, let alone could it be considered an urgent matter of the state.

"Oi!" his mother stepped out of the front door, waving to the messenger who was just now mounting up onto his horse. "Oi! What does the regent want with Christopher?"

"I don't know, madam!" he called back as he turned his horse away from the house. "I only deliver the messages. They don't tell me anything of importance!" That said, he kicked his horse into a trot and began his trip back to the capital.

"Well," Christopher's mother repeated, this time smiling at him and Lara good-naturedly. "Let's get you a knapsack put together then, shall we?"