1.26. The Fairy Circle, Part Two
Everyone stares at Lark, waiting for her to speak. It’s the most powerful she has ever felt. She could draw this out for as long as she wants.
But she won’t. She opens her mouth to speak: “Her name is--”
“Wait,” Dom says quickly, “Don’t tell us. Not until we’re ready to go.”
“Why the hell not,” Bastian asks, “we’ve been trying to figure out this goddamn name for nearly fourteen years.”
“Mom worked under the assumption that knowing the fae’s name was a reciprocal curse--you had power of her, but she had power over you as well.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Bastian scoffs.
“It’s caution,” Dom raises an eyebrow, “something we should probably be exercising.”
“Wait, am I in danger?” Lark asks, but the room ignores her.
Bastian rolls his eyes, “So what do you suggest?”
“Lark comes with us--”
“No,” Luna interrupts, “no way.”
“Please, Mrs. Bee,” Dom says, “Let me finish: Lark comes with us to the fairy circle and gives us the name there. We’ll leave her in Aurora Skies, safe.”
“That’s bull,” Lark pouts, “I crack your fourteen year mystery, and I get bupkis. I wanna go on an adventure!”
“Lark, this is serious,” Luna frowns, “I’m hardly comfortable with this as it is.”
“Mrs. Bee, I understand that you are concerned about Lark’s well-being, and her safety is obviously a priority--”
“What about mine?” Mark mutters, but everyone ignores him.
“I’m not suggesting this out of carelessness, but caution--knowing her name could endanger us for the time being. We’ll leave as soon as tomorrow, and you can come with us. We’ll get the name at the circle, and you can return home.”
Luna hesitates, “only if you can promise my daughter’s safety.”
“I swear it,” Dom pledges. It’s a cheesy gesture, bordering on boyish and bromidic. But still, there’s something genuine about his words.
“Okay,” Mark sighs, “you wanna do this soon we’ll need to leave before dawn. I could never reach her realm during the day, or on a new moon.”
“Then we need to rest, so my father and I are prepared to cast tomorrow,” Dom frowns, “not to impose on your hospitality, Mrs. Bee, but can we stay the night?”
“Of course. I’ll call for dinner,” Luna offers, “and I’ll text my husband and makes sure he’s taking our other children to stay with their aunt tonight. You can stay in Lydia’s room and Luke's” she says, nodding to Dom and Bastian respectively. She looks at Mark for a moment, sizing him up: “you can sleep on the couch.”
“Gee, thanks,” Mark frowns.
As if to balance out the fantastical nature of the afternoon’s conversation, Luna orders pizza for dinner, plain and mundane. It reminds her of years ago, those childfree nights when she would order pizzas for herself, Quentin, and Crimson. And now here she is ordering pizza for her teenage daughter and a gaggle of mages and sordid folk.
Life is weird.
The mages don’t touch the food, though. Dom, having apparently packed a vast array of dusty tomes, is pouring over a book in the living room. Bastian occasionally glances over his shoulder and rolls his eyes.
“Dominic, you don’t need to memorize all of these incantations--”
Dom furrows his brows, “Yes, I do--”
“If you would just focus--”
“Which I’m trying to do right now--”
“You’d have an easier time casting--”
“I have a perfectly fine time casting--”
“And you’d waste less time reading--”
“Blasphemy,” Dom retorts.
Lark sits at the table with her mother and Mark. She watches with a mouth full of pizza as the conversation between the mages unfold. “What’s that about?” she whispers.
Mark blinks as if the answer is obvious: “Bastian’s a dick.”
“Well duh,” Lark scoffs, “I mean, why is he mad that Dom is reading?”
Mark looks thoughtful, “Beatrice--Bastian’s wife--once told me that mages have to ‘ask the universe’s permission’ to cast. They have to say incantations in like Latin or Greek or Sanskrit or something, so most mages have to study. But Bastian can just do whatever the fu--heck he wants. He doesn’t have to go through all the same rituals. I guess he expects the same from Dom.”
“Oh,” Lark says, “that sucks.” She glances at her mother, but looks away quickly before she notices. “So how come you’re helping them? You don’t really seem like the magic-y type.” He seems more like the keto and crossfit type, really, but she doesn’t say that.
“I made a pact with Bastian without realizing it was a pact and now I’m in his service until he finds his daughter, at which point I’m half afraid he’s going to kill me,” Mark punctuates the run-on sentence with a nod.
“So,” Luna butts in on the conversation, “Where have you been, Mark?”
“Bridgeport, mostly," Mark answers through a mouthful of pizza.
Luna narrows her eyes, then begins bombarding him with questions: “Have you called my sister? Why not? Do they not have cell service in Bridgeport? Oh, you have a girlfriend? What’s her name? When are you planning on abandoning her?” At the last question, Lark calls it quits.
“Night, mom. I’m setting my alarm for 4:00, ‘kay?” Lark bounds up the stairs to her room, leaving behind a warzone--Dom arguing with Bastian, Luna with Mark.
It’s a disconcerting feeling.
She searches her mind, thinking of what can calm her. A glass of water--she needs a glass of water. She tiptoes down the stairs, trying to avoid the spots that creak. When she reaches the bottom of the stairs, she can hear snoring from the living room--Mark, no doubt, exiled to the couch. She stands still for a moment, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. As she does, the figure of a man sitting at the dining room table comes into focus. She approaches him slowly, squinting her eyes, but his stiff frame betrays his identity. It’s Bastian, staring at a picture.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” Lark asks as she slowly approaches him. He looks up lethargically, his puffy, red eyes blinking slowly.
“Can’t sleep,” his voice is gruff.
“Excited, I bet,” Lark says, speaking so quickly her words run together “you’re going to see your little girl again after so long. I wouldn’t be able to sleep, either. Oh, is that a picture of her?” She doesn’t know what is compelling her to be so nice, or so chatty.
Bastian nods and slides the picture across the table. It’s of a smiling, dark-haired girl, probably not much older than a year. Her eyes are the same as color Bastian’s, and the resemblance between the two is undeniable.
“She’s cute,” Lark smiles at the picture, “she looks a lot like you and Dom. Does that bother your wife? You know, that they look so much like you? I’d be pissed if I popped out two kids and they looked like their dad.”
“They have different mothers,” Bastian says stiffly, “but yes, Alison and Dom’s appearances did bother my wife. Alison’s more so.”
“Oh,” Lark grimaces, “wow, I’m sorry.”
“My wife was a saint. She put up with my," he struggles for the word, "wandering ways, and she still helped me try to find Alison.”
“Was,” Lark notes the past tense, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I should have left you alone.”
Bastian shakes his head, “You’re too young to be involved in this emotional clusterfuck.”
“You’d be surprised. My generation is pretty desensitized.”
Bastian laughs. It’s the first time she’s heard him do so, and judging by the raspiness of his laughter, he seems unpracticed at it. “You’re spunky,” he says, and hastily continues when he notes her confused expression, “that’s a compliment. Dominic is so demure--meek, really, though he’s such a smart boy--and I worry about what Alison’s going to be like. Growing up in a completely different place. Seeing her again is going to be like meeting a stranger, possibly one I don’t even like. Or who won’t like me.”
“You’re her dad--she has to like you,” Lark replies, but the words ring hollow.
Bastian clears his throat, “You should go to bed, Lark. We’ll be leaving in a couple of hours.”
Lark frowns, “yeah, I guess.” She feels off-kilter as she climbs up the stairs to her bedroom. She often laments her boring, humdrum life. But right now, in this very moment, it feels like a blessing.
She doesn’t sleep a wink before her alarm goes off. She can’t even close her eyes--every time she does, she sees the grinning face of the fae. She sighs as she rises from bed and dresses.
Downstairs, Lark finds the three men waiting for her, but Luna is notably absent. “Where’s my mom?” She asks.
Dom looks uncomfortable, but Bastian is the one who answers, “I think she’ll be sleeping in today,” he says casually.
“It’s temporary,” Dom reassures Lark, “just to make sure she wouldn’t impede your assistance.”
Lark doesn’t protest, though. She doesn’t need her mother tagging along. As Dom states, she could keep Lark from what she has resolved to do. “Okay,” she shrugs, “anyway, I think I know where a fairy circle is in the woods nearby.”
The men defer to Lark, allowing her to lead the party. Sheba also follows her outside, despite Lark’s attempts to shoo her back inside.
“Let her come,” Dom suggests, “she’ll be fine.”
“I just don’t want her to get lost in the woods,” Lark frowns.
“I don’t think that’ll happen,” Bastian says, “She seems pretty capable.”
“And how do you know? Are you the dog whisperer?”
“No, but I can sense magic, and that dog has it coming off her in waves,” he sneers at her teenage petulance.
“Cŵn Annwn, you think?” Dom asks.
“Most likely,” Bastian replies.
“Huh?” Lark wrinkles her nose.
“A hellhound,” Dom explains, “though the name is misleading. After all, this one’s pretty friendly” He pets Sheba, who pants happily at him
“You’re lucky,” Bastian says, “some mages pay a small fortune for dogs like this.” Sheba tilts her head. Luck has nothing to do with it, but the humans don’t know that.
“This is such a stupid conversation,” Mark yawns. Sheba agrees.
Lark leads them through the plains of Aurora Skies, Sheba staying close by her side. “I’m pretty sure there are mushroom rings over here,” she calls over her shoulder, “I’d see them on my walks to visit Mother Clucker.”
“Mother Clucker?” Dom asks.
“My chicken friend,” Lark says, but she doesn’t explain further.
“Pretty much,” Mark replies, “this and her name.” Three pairs of eyes turn to Lark. She shifts uncomfortably. It’s time to give them the name, then return to her home, alone. But the other realm calls to her, beckoning her to come.
“Lark,” Bastian says stiffly, “her name?”
“I want to go, too,” Lark’s voice wavers, “so I don’t think I’ll tell you.”
Bastian rolls his eyes, “This isn’t a fucking game, Lark. Tell us her name.”
She steps in the circle. “We have to stand here, right? And then I’ll say the name.”
“Tell us her goddamn name,” he snarls.
“Dico nōmen,” Dom interrupts her, his tone commanding. It’s so loud, so aggressive, it doesn’t even sound like his normal voice.
Lark feels a tingling run up from her stomach to her mouth, the same unpleasant feeling that precedes vomiting: “Atë,” she spits the word out.
Dom tilts his head and looks thoughtful, “Atë. Goddess of folly and ruin. That makes a lot of sense, actually.”
“Does it, though?” Mark makes a face.
“No, it doesn’t,” Bastian says, “nothing in this goddamn situation does.”
Lark has her hand over her mouth, her face in shock. She’d witnessed a couple of things at this point that should have cemented the power of Bastian and Dom. But this, for some reason, is what leaves her in awe.
“You know her name now--so what?” Lark glares, “I’m still going with you.”
Sheba whines and looks up at Dom, her bright yellow eyes full of concern. He nods at the hound, pulls his wand from his back pocket, and raises it in the air.
“Wait,” Lark puts her hands up.
“Oblīviscere ‘Atë,’” Dom says, making eye contact with Lark. Suddenly the name disappears from her mind. What was it again? Did it start with an A, or an E? Was it even a vowel, or was it a consonant?
“Dormī,” Dom continues. Lark’s body goes limp, and Mark catches her right before she hits the ground. He gives Dom a look of surprise. “I’m not going to let a teen girl go on our suicide mission,” Dom shrugs.
Mark scoops her up in his arms, “We can’t leave her here. I’ll take her back to her home.”
“Stay with her for awhile,” Bastian replies, “make sure she doesn’t do anything stupid.”
“You don’t want me to go, too, then?”
Bastian looks down at the ground, “I don’t think that’s necessary. You’d probably just fuck things up.”
“So I take it this is where the pact ends, huh?”
“Seems that way. It’s been a pleasure, Mark--no, that’s a lie. It’s been fucking awful. You’re a loathsome son of a bitch,” Bastian pauses, “and I rue that you’re my closest friend.”
“Closest friend?” Mark beams, “right back at you, buddy.”
“Dad,” Dom says, “The clock’s ticking.”
The two mages step into the fairy circle. Bastian clears his throat before he speaks the fae’s name. As soon as the word leaves his mouth, there’s a clap of thunder. In a bright flash, the two men disappear.
Mark stares at the empty circle for a minute. Then he kicks at the ground, uprooting the mushrooms until the fairy circle is no more. Any attempts on Lark’s part to return to the circle will be in vain.
It’s a short walk back to the Bee house, but an awkward one. He hopes no one notices him--a man carrying an unconscious teenage girl. That’d be hell to explain.
When he gets back to her home, he rests her on the couch, leaving her to sleep.
Her dreams are twisted images, each melting into the next in rapid succession.
Some familiar faces.
And then some unfamiliar ones.
Lark awakens hours later. Sunlight fills the living room, its warmth signifying that it’s well into the afternoon. She jolts up and looks around. Her mother is sitting at the dining room table, an empty coffee cup in front of her.
“Where is everyone?” Lark’s voice is creaky, her throat dry.
“Mark just left for Sunset Valley. And your dad is at the fall festival with Lydia and Luke.”
“What about Dom? And Bastian?”
“I haven’t heard from them. It might be awhile, honey. Who knows how long it’ll take them.”
“Yeah,” Lark says absently. She looks back at the coffee table--it’s still crowded with Dom’s books.
Anyway. I’m always worried when I try something new (for example, showing the resolution to a story arc nearly wordlessly via a dream sequence), it’s going to leave everyone confused/disappointed. I hope that isn’t the case.