1.25. The Fairy Circle, Part One
Lark rolls the apple around in her hand, examining it from every angle. She looks up from it
“How is this supposed to prove that you’re a mage?”
“You just saw me conjure it,” Bastian Trémaux--the haggard man, as Lark had mentally called him-- replies, his voice gruff and irate. He had introduced himself moments earlier alongside his son, Dom Trémaux, and Mark Rhee, né the tattooed man. The trio has spent the last twenty minutes trying to convince Lark that Bastian and Dom are indeed mages. She’s proving to be a hard sell.
“True. But that doesn’t actually mean that it’s magic. You could have hidden it up your sleeve or something.”
“Listen here, you--”
“Lark,” Dom interrupts his father, “you’ll have to cut us some slack. Magic thrives in subtlety, and most peaceful spells and rituals have no physically discernable effects. So it’s difficult to prove we’re mages without lighting your house on fire or raising the dead.”
Lark perks up, “that sounds fun. Let’s do that!”
Mark laughs, but the other two men look appropriately horrified. “We need you to take this seriously,” Dom says.
“I am! I’m just trying to be a critical thinker,” Lark nods.
“Of course,” the corners of Dom’s mouth twitch upward.
“Fine. I’ll accept that you’re mages. But why do you need to talk to me? Oh maker,” she breathes in deeply, “am I a mage, too? Is this like my letter to Hogwarts?”
Bastian guffaws, “no, you’re not a mage. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“What my father means to say is that it’s genetic, more or less. One or both of your parents would have the be magical for you to have any powers.”
“Unfair,” Lark pouts.
“Mark, maybe explain why you’re here?” Luna suggests, trying to steer the conversation back on track.
“Yes, please,” Bastian rolls his eyes, “let’s get to the fucking point.”
“Watch your language,” Luna snaps. Bastian is taken aback, but he doesn’t apologize.
“Right,” Mark takes a deep breath before starting his story, “so I used to be able to walk through walls," he begins.
“Wait, what?” Lark scrunches her face in confusion.
"Maybe provide more context, first," Bastian sneers "or let someone more coherent tell the story."
"Fine then. You tell it."
“Gladly,” he growls, “as we’ve established that we’re mages, but--”
“Barely,” Lark interrupts, “sorry. You were saying.”
“But Mark was born human, like you--”
“Actually, I’m a quarter extraterrestrial,” Lark says proudly.
Bastian inhales deeply, his brow furrowed in rage. “Young lady,” he finally says, “I need you to just stop. Stop talking and just listen, okay? You are turning a simple conversation into torture.”
“Yeah,” Lark shifts uncomfortably, “sorry.”
“Mark was born human. When he was a young man, though, he died in an accident--”
"I'm fine now," Mark gestures to his body, "obviously." Lark giggles, causing Mark to grin widely. Luna shoots a threatening glare at Mark.
“As I was saying: Mark died, and he entered what we mages call The Brink--a point between life and death. Most people pass through it quickly, but Mark found himself stuck there. It was then he was offered a choice--"
"I saw a woman," Mark interrupts. His eyes have glazed over a little bit, and he speaks as if he’s in a trance, "She was a fairy. I'd never seen one before, even though I lived in Moonlight Falls. She offered to bring me back to life. And I had to--my mom was home, by herself, and she hadn't been herself since my dad died. She wouldn’t even get out of bed most days. I had to take care of her."
Mark pauses. The room is tense, quiet, and everyone waits for him to speak again. Even Bastian and Dom, who have obviously heard this story before, are enthralled. "So I agreed," Mark blinks, "and she gave me my life back, and powers. And then I was able to walk through walls."
"As one would expect, his agreement with the fae backfired--"
"He swore fealty," Lark pipes up, "right? And so his powers meant he had to serve her in return."
"Yes, actually," Bastian replies with surprise.
"How did you know?" Dom asks.
"I've read a couple of fantasy novels," Lark shrugs, "so what was the deal? No, wait! Lemme guess: if he could walk through walls, he had to steal stuff for her, right? But what?"
"Children," Mark responds before Lark can offer her answer.
"Of course," Lark gasps, "changelings!"
"Except I never left fairy children as replacements," Mark says, "Well, sometimes she made me leave a piece of wood but it didn't ever turn into a kid or anything like in fairytales. I think that was just her sense of humor."
“So people would wake up and their children would have disappeared,” Lark’s face falls, “That’s so sad."
"And that's why we're here," Dom says, "Mark took a child on the fae’s orders a long time ago, and we're looking for her. We think you may be able to help."
"Why are you looking at her?” Lark regrets the question as soon as she asks it--the answer is obvious, and the act of giving it is painful.
"She’s my daughter," Bastian’s voice is remarkably soft. Mark looks away from the rest of the room's occupants, his shoulders slumped.
“I-I’m sorry. How long has she been missing?”
"Almost fourteen years," Bastian replies. His light blue eyes are unwavering, but Lark notices his back is stiff and his fists are clenched.
Lark hesitates. She has no idea how she factors into this, nor does she believe there is anything she can do to help. And she still has a million more questions (What does she do with all of the children Mark kidnapped? Why did she want them in the first place? How did he free himself? If she can help, why has it taken so long for them to contact her? Isn’t a secret name a really, really lazy fantasy trope?). But only one seems important enough to ask: “what can I do?”
Dom smiles appreciatively, “the fae is in a different realm, and we think my sister resides there with her--Mark told us that the children she takes are usually raised as her own.”
“What do you mean a different realm?”
“There are other universes running parallel to our own,” Dom explains, “linked by arcane ports of entry. Most magical creatures, excluding mages, originated from these universes.”
“Oh,” Lark can’t fathom the idea of other universes, much less links between them.
“So we need to get there, but we’re missing the key: her name,” Dom says, “Mark says the only way to get to her realm is to stand in a ring of mushrooms and say her name.”
“And Mark doesn’t remember it?”
“Nope,” Mark knocks on his head with his fist, “I’m basically empty up here.”
“I’ll say,” Bastian mutters under his breath.
“We’ve tried using memory rituals to bring back the memory of her name, but the slate’s wiped clean. And any attempt to use magic on Mark results in,” Dom pauses as he looks at his father, “unpleasant consequences. He seems to have some sort of protective spell, but we can’t really figure it out.”
“So where do I come in,” Lark says, “‘cause I don’t know anything about this kind of stuff.”
“We think you might know her name,” Dom says, “based on some information Mark barely shared with me and my father.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Why would I know her name?”
“You’ve likely met her before, in one form or another,” Dom chooses his words carefully.
The room is quiet, and finally Luna speaks: “When you were a baby, Mark tried to kidnap you. As part of his deal with that, um, woman. Fae. Whatever.”
“What,” Lark laughs nervously, “What do you mean?”
The explanation sounds ridiculous, contrived, and melodramatic, but Luna provides it anyway: “He snuck into your room one night and tried to take you from your crib. Your father heard him and--uh, for lack of a better term--subdued him. And that’s why I agreed to let Mark speak to you when he called me the other day--if your father hadn’t stopped him, you would also be lost.” Luna leaves her other worry unspoken: that if Lark didn’t help stop this unfathomable creature, any granddaughters could be lost, too.
“It’s possible that because of that, you could know her name,” Dom says, “we would like your permission to try a memory ritual.”
But Lark doesn’t answer. She stares forward, her eyes unblinking.
Luna slides down on the couch next to Lark. She sits stiffly, obviously unsure of whether or not to try to comfort her daughter with a hug. “I’m sorry for never telling you,” she says softly, “I never thought--well, I hoped that it would never come up again. It just seemed like something you didn’t need to know.”
“No,” Lark shakes her head, “I mean, it doesn’t bother me that you never told me. I understand--you though you’d scare me or something. It’s just this--it feels like it explains so much about me, you know? I’ve always felt different, like I don’t belong here. I guess a lot of people feel that way. Everyone wants to be special, right? But this just feels...right. And then I’ve been having these weird dreams recently….” Lark trails off then looks up at Dom. He looks back at her, his eyes unblinking and his face unreadable.
“You belong here, Lark,” Luna says, “I’m sorry if I make you feel differently.”
Bastian clears his throat, “To get back to business--”
“I don’t think I can help,” Lark shrugs helplessly, “I don’t remember her name.”
“We think you can,” Dom says, “My mother worked with Mark for years trying to figure out how the fae’s magic works. All magic has rules and limitations, and her name appeared to be integral to her powers. Telling someone her name was such a liability, but it balanced out--if someone knew her name, they were bound to her. Like Mark: when he was freed, he forgot her name. We have a hypothesis that you may know her name from when she was trying to,” he pauses, searching for the word, “‘claim’ you as a daughter.”
“You’re not listening. I don’t remember anything.”
“We didn’t expect you to. I’ve prepared a memory ritual, and my father will perform it, if you’ll agree to it.”
“Sure, I guess,” Lark shrugs. She doesn’t understand the formality.
Bastian tells Lark where to stand, guiding her by the shoulders. “Relax,” he orders her, but it isn’t convincing, “ready?”
Lark always imagined mages casting with wands, possibly due to the cultural omnipresence of sources such as Harry Potter. But Bastian uses his hands, muttering under his breath as he waves them smoothly. His hands begin to glow, and then white noise fills the room. Lark suddenly feels unsure about this, but she doesn’t get a chance to voice her concerns.
There are years in a person’s life they will never remember. The brain routinely dumps memories it deems unimportant--little bits and pieces from each boring day that amount to nothing more than a waste of time and space. And beyond that, the first approximate four years of a person’s life are a pitch black hole. And maybe we forget those memories for a reason, for our own health.
As soon as Bastian finishes the ritual, Lark’s eyes roll into the back of her head. She falls to the ground, her body seizing. And with unconsciousness comes dreams.
The black, infinite abyss greets her again. It’s a tired scene, and it hardly incites dread in Lark anymore. Furthermore, she isn’t surprised at the only other occupant: the fae, standing tall with her usual smirk.
“Lark,” the fae tilts her head, “It is so good to see you again--my how you have grown.”
“Yeah, like a weed,” Lark raises an eyebrow, “or so I’ve been told.”
“I desperately wish I had been blessed enough to raise you. Perhaps you would not have turned out so,” the fae pauses, “unremarkable.”
“That’s rude,” Lark wrinkles her nose.
“I merely state a fact. I called for you much longer than I normally do,” she sounds wistful, “but I cannot dwell on what I cannot control or change. The loss of you as my daughter is one of those matters.”
For a moment, Lark considers various petulant retorts. But her mission nags at her. “I could still be your daughter,” she says.
The fae smirks, “oh?”
“Yeah. Just tell me your name and I’d come to you.”
“Child,” the fae laughs, “you have no guile. That is disappointing--and after your aunt proved herself to be so formidable.”
“I’m not trying to trick you. Tell me your name and I’ll come to you. I promise.”
“You are just too darling. But you have chosen your side, and that door is closed.”
“Fine then. I don’t want a half-naked bint as a mom anyway.”
“Watch yourself,” the fae’s voice is warning.
“Would you care to test me?”
“Wait,” Lark furrows her eyebrows, “This is dumb. I must be asleep. I only see this kind of crap when I’m asleep, so this is a dream, right?” The fae narrows her eyes, but doesn’t answer. “And aren’t dreams just, like, rehashes of memories and stuff?”
“Child, this is so much more than that.”
“But that would make sense, though, right? I talked about you all afternoon, so that’s why you’re in my subconscious or whatever.”
The fae’s voice grows louder, “Your insolence is not charming--
“Okay,” Lark mutters to herself, “this makes sense.” She approaches the book carefully, inspecting it from each side before standing in front of it. She’s seen enough horror movies to know better--reading old books, especially ones in Latin, is a sure way to conjure the undead army of the apocalypse.
But curiosity gets the better of her. She cracks her knuckles and opens the book to a random page. There’s one word, printed over and over. She flips through the remaining pages, but it’s all the same: Atë, Atë, Atë, Atë, page after page.
“Lark,” her mother’s voice echoes around her, “Lark.” The world begins to shake, and Lark gasps as she feels herself fall backward.
“Lark,” he mother is holding her in her arms and shaking her slightly, “Lark, are you okay?”
Lark’s eyes flutter open, her dark, thick eyelashes parting to reveal her warm brown eyes. She’s in her mother’s arms. Dom is kneeling next to her, while Sheba stands by, on guard. Bastian is kneeled in front of her, a notable lack of concern on his face.
“I’m fine,” she murmurs, “I just--I just closed my eyes.”
“I’m sorry,” Dom says, “perhaps we rushed the ritual, but we’re on a deadline of sorts.”
“Mages have deadlines,” Lark says groggily.
“So,” Bastian says firmly, “her name?”
Sheba--obviously angered that she had awoken from her afternoon nap to find her favorite human unconscious--growls at him, baring her teeth fully.
“Give her a moment, please,” Luna says.
“I’m fine. Just lightheaded.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. And I remember her name,” she smiles, “I know how to get to her.”
Bastian hangs his head and speaks: “Thank the maker.” The relief in his voice is immeasurable.
Author’s note: Okay. So. I have a hard time gauging what people are likely remember about earlier chapters because I have a pretty bad memory myself, and I also don’t know who reads the stuff I post on tumblr and who doesn’t. I tried to write this chapter to fill in any potential gaps in knowledge WITHOUT being repetitive. But if I failed at either, I’m sorry.
BTW, Mark and Bastian weren’t going to seek out Lark’s help in the original draft of their story. Rather, Dom was going to come up with a more creative solution. But I lost interest in that story (specifically, all the posing it required), so I went back on a previous comment I made saying that Lark wouldn’t factor into their search. Whoops!