“Will you marry me?”
Dorian was the definition of aloof, coy and mysterious. He was asking me to marry him right now all the while threatening to have Mist kill himself if I refused. I look over at Mist and see how his hands are shaking. I can see the nervousness all through him.
And I’m not sure what to do. Me agreeing to this could give Dorian everything he needed to possibly start a war. Me saying no would mean that I could lose Mist.
Thousands die or one.
I had to make my choice.
“No,” I state.
It’s the hardest thing I have to do but the words just come out of my mouth. I just literally say them and when it happens I almost turn away expecting Mist to do it. I expect him to just kill himself.
Mist was bound to Dorian. He had to do whatever Dorian asked him to do. Solaris called us servants his slaves by accident at times but the servants of the Unseelie were true slaves. If they refused their masters they were sent to the realm of those who broke their binds. They were sent to the Shadow Courts.
“Stop,” Dorian states.
I’m shocked when he says it. I look up and I can see Mist was seconds away from slitting his throat. I look over at Dorian. I’m confused. Why stop him? Why threaten me just to stop him from doing it? That’s when Dorian nods and just walks away.
Not another word. Just walks away.
I look over at Mist scared and nervous that he was almost forced to do something like that. I mutter the words quickly, “Are you OK?”
Mist looks over at me, “You were willing to let me die?”
“No, it’s not that, just—-”
“I should go,” Mist states.
His feelings are hurt. I can see it all over his face. FUCK! It was an impossible situation and I had to make a choice. I had seen what war could do to the country. Mist had seen it too. It was the absolute worst thing possible. He had to understand. Right now though I wasn’t sure if he did. Right at that moment, I wasn’t sure Mist could ever forgive me.
I’m walking out of the Unseelie Court with a turn in my stomach. I feel like shit. I feel as though I made the biggest mistake in my life by choosing peace over saving Mist’s life. It had all worked out. Dorian had backed off from his proposal and Mist was alive.
So why did I feel so horrible?
I turn hearing the person scream at me. I look back and notice who it is. It’s Willow. She’s chasing after me. Aunt Willow gives me a look that seems to almost be the opposite of what I’m expecting. She is smiling at me.
“What is it?”
“You did good,” she says.
I’m shocked when she says it.
“The Master is impressed with you,” she explains, “He loves a challenge. You turning him down has made him want you even more.”
“You think I care if he likes me?”
“Dorian is not that bad. He’s just—misunderstood.”
“He’s a traitor and he is murderous.”
“Who in the Seasonal Courts isn’t?” she asks.
She had a point. I wasn’t going to give her the whole point though. I shake my head, “I’m not. And I’m not going to marry someone who is.”
“I was afraid you two wouldn’t be compatible but I watched him literally almost melt in your hands. Of course, you didn’t see it but for the first time in forever, I saw him genuinely smile. And MEAN it. He likes you. He really does. You passed his test.”
She looks at me as though I should celebrate. She is talking to me as though my entire meaning in life is making sure that King Dorian is happy. Clearly, the human mania that inflicted servants in the seasonal courts weren’t restricted to just the Seelie. It was clear that these Unseelie had their own ridiculous notions as well.
And at that moment I’m disgusted.
“He threatened to kill your son!” I bark at Willow.
Willow doesn’t skip a beat before declaring with all this feigned pride, “Mist would have happily died if it meant bringing the Unseelie Court back together.”
She was so out of touch. I looked at Willow and I could tell that she meant it. She absolutely meant it. She was willing to sacrifice her son for this with no regrets. I want to be upset with her. I want to scream at her. I want to shake her.
I don’t do any of those things. I just remember the time that Mist showed me the least bit of affection and Willow told him that I wasn’t for him. Back then I didn’t know what that meant. I knew now.
I walk away feeling bad for Willow. She was a slave, just like Mist. And there was nothing I could do for them now.
The rainy season gets heavy.
“Make sure you clean up all the blood,” Solaris states, “I can smell the stench of flesh—-”
Solaris hits me in the back of the head before tossing a bloody rag on my face. I feel myself steaming in heat wanting to tell him that maybe it wouldn’t smell this way if Titania stopped torturing people in hopes of finding the Winter King.
“Will this ever end?” I hear someone whisper.
It’s one of the servants that it’s coming from. The girl seems irritated by the rain and the fact it isn’t helping clean the blood off the stones. I, at least, think that is what she said. It’s the only thing that makes sense with her on her hands and knees as Solaris walks past her and stomps on her back a few times for not working hard enough.
“What was that?” I ask.
She’s afraid to repeat herself. It was honestly really sad how the servants were treated here. I mean Solaris literally made it his personal duty to make our lives as servants hell. But then I remember Aunt Willow and Mist over the wide moats towards the Autumn Courts. I hadn’t thought things could be worse with fairies until I realized that the Autumn Court had bound servants. I couldn’t think of anything worse.
I am sweating for hours until I see someone at the door.
“Hey you—servant, come with me,” he states.
“Me?” one of the girls says.
“You know he’s not talking to you,” another young servant boy says, “We all know who he’s talking to.”
I don’t like how he says that and I don’t like how he turns to me. It looks like he’s suspicious. I wouldn’t be surprised. These walls talked and this isn’t the first time Paris has come to see me.
I get up and go with Paris outside. As soon as we are in the open his lips are on me. He’s kissing me. It’s as though he can’t hold it back. Every second we have in private is a second where he wants to shower me with affection as though he’s been backed up. His kisses are sweet and his hard body pressed up against mine on the stone is even sweeter.
“Stop…” I whisper to him.
“I can’t resist you,” he says back to me.
His dick is rising hard between my legs. His hands grab my side pulling up my shirt until his thumb runs across my nipple sending shivers throughout my body.
“Why would I ever stop touching you?” Paris asks, “Ever…”
“Because the other servants are getting suspicious,” I state, “I’ve heard them talking. And with Titania going on her hunt for the Winter King…it’s not safe for anyone to be getting suspicious.”
He laughs at the idea, “Relax. Titania’s search is closing in. She has an idea who the Winter King is….”
I swallow my spit.
What the fuck was going on? I hadn’t been pulled aside or interviewed. But then again I had this feeling I was being followed. Paris could have still been having Striker follow me, or Mist could be following me, or maybe one of Titania’s people. There were so many damn spies and sneaks around the Seasonal Courts that I had no idea where the threat was coming from nowadays.
Paris nods, “I don’t know who it is, but she has an idea. Says she realizes someone is lying about their heritage.”
“She said that?”
He nods, “Yeah. Look. I don’t want you to worry about any of this. I want you to be around me all the time. I’m thinking I can have a conversation with Solaris and explain to him that you will be a preferred servant.”
“is that a thing?” I ask.
All the servants were pretty much treated the same as far as I could tell. They were all treated like shit.
“No, but I can make it a thing,” Paris states, pushing his hand up against my face, “I want you to be with me…all the time.”
“Before you say anything I want to give you something,” he states.
Just at that moment he digs in his pocket and hands me something. It’s in a box that seems to have been crafted by the gods. He gives it to me as though it is some small token but as I open it I know it’s not. I’m not sure what it is but when I open my hands I see. It’s this diamond necklace. I look over at it and I swear this thing is worth more than anything I’ve ever had combined.
“I can’t accept this. I’m a servant…”
“I don’t care,” he states, “Usually it’s always a Spring fairy falling for a human. The Summer fairies always felt embarrassed by it. I would tease the idea of a Spring fairy chasing after humans. Now I get it. There is beauty in you. And this is nothing. Nothing compared to what I really see.”
I want to wear it right now but I can’t. So instead of wearing it I just lean forward. I just kiss him. I kiss him softly on his lips and that’s when I see someone running up. I feel relief when it’s Striker.
“Sir…” Striker says, “It’s time.”
“You going somewhere?” I ask.
“A tournament. A fuckin dick measuring contest for all three courts?”
“The Autumn Court is participating—unfortunately,” he states, “They’ve found their way back to court and Solaris invited them to the tournament in hopes of rekindling things. You should come?”
“I have to clean up on orders of Solaris.”
“I’ll deal with Solaris,” Paris states, “I want you near me. I always want you near me.”
I can’t be with Paris. Not in the way that I would want, nor even the way that he wants. But I notice how when I arrive at the tournament he keeps looking back at me. He’s sitting next to Indigo but I can tell that he’s interested in me.
The tournament is ridiculous. All these naked oiled up men wearing nothing but a cape with the symbol of the Court they represented were out there. All around there were the fairies of those courts cheering on the human gladiators that represented their house. There were even some Middle Worlders who were allowed in. I hadn’t known this sort of event was happening. Hundreds are lined up in this giant coliseum but one of the most important areas is the area I’m in. The seating of the Summer Court. It seemed like a very loud raucous event and as I look around I’m struggling to find Dorian.
No sign as of yet though.
“More wine,” I hear Paris state.
I’m one of the only servants that have been allowed here. I guess I’m privileged. I probably shouldn’t be here but it helps with keeping an eye on my nephew who I see sitting next to Titania’s daughter in the same Summer Fairy seating area around the Coliseum that I’m at.
I approach with more wine. After I finish pouring I feel Paris brush past my fingers. It slight but it is happening. He is running his hands in and out of my fingers all the while watching the match and pretending as though that is what he finds interesting.
“More for me too,” Indigo states.
Hearing Indigo at that moment seems to really snap me out of the fantasy. His face grimaces at the fact that I’m here. He doesn’t seem happy at all.
“He’s here,” a voice states.
I realize it’s Solaris. I realize who he’s talking about. Across from us, we see Dorian enter. All the high-level IAs in our area are making quite the scene with Solaris appearing. Solaris seems to know that him coming to his first public event would cause this sort of discord. He has a serious face on and is dressed in his normal revealing clothes. This outfit is more revealing than usual. He has no shirt on. And only a long thong like contraption what has black lace tied in the front wrapping line vines around his private parts. They barely work to cover anything at all.
“He dresses like a little slut,” one of the IAs said, “Those Autumn fairies have no decorum.”
“It’s a shame they are allowed to be here,” Solaris agrees.
“Don’t underestimate them,” Titania responds, “He’s dangerous and he’s planning something. We must find the Winter King before he does. We cannot allow the Unseelie Court to rise from their ashes.”
I feel as though I’m eavesdropping on a conversation not meant for me. Hearing how the Summer Fairies react not only to King Dorian but to the concept of a possible war definitely intrigues me. I’m happier now than ever that Paris invited me, even if it was just to be closer to me.
“Perhaps it’s time to talk,” Indigo states, “Dorian’s arrival proves that the Spring Court and the Summer Court have so much more in common.”
“I believe you have a point,” Solaris states, “Would you bring the lovely Queen Cerulean to sit with us, Indigo?”
Indigo, seeming happy that he was able to convince this show of good faith immediately gets up and gives an optimistic, “Yes sir!”
As he walks away I’m surprised he doesn’t know they are going to discuss him the moment he walked out of earshot. As soon as he leaves the IAs are all whispering. What means the most though is what I hear from Titania as she leans over to Solaris.
“You don’t trust him, do you?” she asks, “I’ve been hearing dreadful rumors from my spies.”
“Of course not,” he states, “But we do need the Spring court—-for now.”
The way he adds in “for now” definitely lets me know how far the trust even among the Seelie fairies goes. Sure they preferred the Spring fairies over the Autumn fairies, but at the end of the day, the Summer fairies trusted themselves more than any other court.
“Would you like to sit?” Paris asks, “You’ve been standing this whole time.”
“Please. Don’t make me beg.”
I’m not sure who’s listening. No one is acting as though they are listening. A part of me hopes they are all so distracted with King Dorian’s arrival that none of them are worried about me.
I take a seat next to Paris. It’s the seat that Indigo was sitting in not too long ago.
“Have you ever heard of one of the tournaments?” Paris asks leaning over.
“Not really,” I respond.
“Before the civil wars, fairies would settle their differences using these courts,” he schools me, “The Civil war was just that on a bigger scale. Fairies don’t just have 1 champion. They’ll choose thousands of champions to fight for them.”
I remember talks about Cerulean raising an army. Was she already choosing her champions for a possible upcoming war?
“You like schooling me don’t you?” I ask.
He smiles. He has this sense of pride when he tells me about some things I don’t know. That’s when he leans over and quickly says, “I just like impressing you.”
He bites his lips. I don’t think he can help it. It makes me nervous how I look back at him too. I mean the thing about Paris was that he was already sexy. He was smart too. The guy literally broke us into a museum to have some private time with me. I find how much he knew to be the most attractive thing about him. And now I was beginning to find him more and more irresistible. I wondered what Willow would think knowing that the plan she had to keep me away from Summer influence was failing.
It was failing really badly.
I was beginning to really, REALLY like Paris.
“Maybe,” I state whispering back, “You can come to my room tonight and teach me a few more things.”
“I have very ancient secrets I can share…”
We’re close. Uncomfortably close. He makes me feel as though I can be that free with him. He makes me think that I can forget everything and everyone. Stupid. SO STUPID.
Indigo is back and he gives me a look, “You’re in my seat.”
The way he says it so harshly brings attention to us from the Summer Fairies who are now just as curious as to why I’m sitting in the seat of a high fae.
Luckily before I get to respond we notice Queen Cerulean with Indigo.
“Welcome Cerulean—-” Solaris states.
Cerulean doesn’t respond. That’s when I notice how disheveled she looks. I remembered when I first met her. She was one of the most well put together people I know. That person was gone. The Spring Queen looked out of it. Her hair was a mess. Her clothing had stains all over it. She looks from Solaris to Titania and then to each one of the IAs as though not realizing where she is.
“Honorable Queen,” Titania starts, “Are you OK?”
It’s Indigo who seems to want to explain this behavior away with a fractured, hectic excuse, “My Queen is just a bit tired…is all. That’s all.”
“It’s Cold…” she states.
“It’s rainy season, Queen Cerulean.”
“Winter. The Endless Winter. Indigo—INDIGO! No one can know, Indigo about the baby. It’s a cold winter. What’s this? Cold? Yes, Winter! WINTER! BRr. Turn the heat on. Who has my fire? Light the fireplace. Bring my bourbon. It’s cold. What an endless winter.”
She was babbling. She wasn’t drunk. That wasn’t it. No this was much more complex than that.
“I got you, ma’am. Ma’am.”
“INDIGO!” Cerulean continues to scream.
No one really understands what’s going on. I had an idea though. Something had spooked her and she was seeking shelter from the one man who she loved. Regardless of whether Indigo loved her back wasn’t exactly the question. All I knew is that she was grabbing at him. She was pulling at him. It was all quite strange.
“Excuse us,” Indigo states.
Indigo takes Cerulean away. I look at how uneasy the Summer Fairies get. I watch as a few of them gather around. They look like they are leaving.
“What just happened?” I ask Paris.
Paris gives me a hard look, “What just happened is that everyone is realizing the Spring Queen is losing her mind.”
All the talk of the tournament is less on the winner and more of how the Spring Queen is unraveling. As I’m leaving I notice the other side of the court. I have to do something. I have to find out what’s going on. So I take the risk. As people are exiting I find myself making my way towards where Dorian was sitting.
I find him still sitting down in his seat. His servants—few as they are—-let me walk right up to him and without turning around he seems to know who I am.
“I knew you’d be back.”
“I didn’t come back to agree to your marriage,” I state.
“Then why are you here?”
“The Spring Queen is acting strangely.”
“Paranoia can do that to you,” he states, “My spies tell me she feels the same thing that the rest of us feels. The lost king has returned. She’s frightened.”
I look around. We’re surrounded by the odd, submissive, strange Unseelie fairies. I doubt they would have been the type to go gossiping based on the fact that they were probably all bound to Dorian and would be sent to the Shadow Courts if they didn’t do what he said.
“Why would I frighten her?” I ask, “I’m just normal.”
“You are more than you could imagine,” He responds, “My spies tell me Titania has already locked on who the Winter King might be. You need to marry me and leave that side of the Summer Court immediately. I won’t be able to protect you if you are in their custody.”
I look around at his few guards, “You can barely protect yourself.”
“I have my means,” he states, “And the moment you agree to marry me, you’ll see the Unseelie Court is far from done.”
He looks at me.
He’s expecting something. Perhaps he wants me to change his mind. Perhaps he wants me to just stick around and have a conversation with him. I don’t know what it is about Dorian. The same thing that attracts me to him also scares the shit out of me.
“This will be our last conversation,” I warn him.
He doesn’t smile or really react to it much, “No it won’t be. You’ll be back. Once you know who your enemies are and who your friends are.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask.
“I saw you with Paris. Do you really trust him?”
“You know what my father used to tell me?” Dorian asks, “He used to tell me that Autumn paints in colors that the Summer has never seen.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means I am the only person—-the ONLY person in this fucking Court that you can trust,” Dorian explains, “And one day you’ll see the truth for yourself.”
Dorian’s words haunt me after I leave the tournament. They haunt me all that night. The next morning I wake up with his words on my mind. I don’t know what gets over me but I feel like he knows something that I don’t know. Or at least he suspects something.
He had spies. That was clear.
I could be a spy. I was just as quiet as any a spy. I knew that the Summer Court always had meetings where they didn’t let anyone else in. Not servants. Not visitors. And definitely not outsiders from other courts like Indigo who had married into the Court. Maybe that’s why I find myself sneaking towards the Summer main room in the Summer Court. As I suspected there was talking there. Very serious talking. I get real quiet and make my way along the walls.
I’m so curious to know what it is that they always spoke about.
I get more than I expect…
“Does Midnight know you are aware of his identity?” are the words I hear asked.
They were talking about me!
They were fucking discussing me.
I sink into the wall to see who is talking. It’s Titania. That is no surprise. What does surprise me is who she is talking to.
She is talking to Paris.
Paris is in the middle of the room, “He’s not aware.”
He almost looks like he’s being grilled. Of course, he was playing it off cool and collected but I feel the pressure for him. The room is surrounded with the other fairies of the Summer Court. They all have gathered around him. The looks that they are giving him are hot enough to support their claim of being the Summer Court. I’m on fire just watching it. I’m surprised Paris is so able to keep his cool.
“Is he in love with you?” Titania asks.
I’m still shocked. Dorian was right. She knew my identity. The fucking jig was up. Everything was going to come crashing down.
“I don’t understand why that matters—-”
“Because if he’s in love with you, then there is a chance that you are in love with him,” Titania states, “And you won’t be able to do what we need you to do.”
Titania has a way of controlling the narrative. She’ a master manipulator. The fact that she can speak and all of a sudden, a chorus of other voices support her makes my spine crawl. I feel bad for Paris at this moment.
It’s Solaris who takes over this weird Summer Interrogation, “I always looked at you as a son, ever since you and your brother were very young. But Paris, we are beginning to doubt where your loyalties lie.”
“My loyalties?” Paris asks, “This has to be a joke.”
He’s still shockingly keeping his cool. So unbreakable. So masculine. So tough. He’s not going to let these fucking assholes get the better of him. I can see it.
“No one’s laughing,” Solaris states, “Please Paris. Don’t make me regret going to bat for you. Everyday Summer fairies are asking about your loyalty.”
“I am loyal to the Summer, forever,” he announces.
For a moment I believe how strongly he says it. He has to be just trying to get them off his back? Right?
“Prove it,” Titania states.
It had to be her. It just HAD to be her. I look over at her wondering what the hell she had in mind and knowing that she had thought about this before the interrogation.
Paris seems confused, “How?”
“Bind yourself,” Titania states.
Gasps take over the court. I knew what that meant. Binding meant that he could not turn his back. If he betrayed the binding then his soul would be sent to the Shadow Realm, never to return. But what had he agreed to do for them? What was he binding himself to?
For the first time, I see him sweat. I see sweat trickling down his forehead.
Please, Paris. Please don’t do this.
I want to help him. I want to beg him not to do this.
“We have no dust to complete something like that,” he states.
“I have a bit,” she states, “The very last bit of dust that the Summer fairies have. I’ve been saving it for a time such as this.”
I watch as she grabs the dust. The purity of the dust is clear even from the distance that I am. The reflective light was the same light that I saw coming out of my locket. Pure. Strong. Real. There was no turning back now.
Paris had two choices.
Turn against the Summer Court or…
“I, Paris of the Summer Court bind myself,” he states ingesting the dust into himself to complete the ancient Fairy ceremony of binding, “Through dust. I will before the year’s end, kill the Winter Heir Midnight——or I will be banished to the Shadow Realm…forever.”