The Five Children, Part 2

You can read the first part of this story here.

The five children were hungry. Oliver was threatening to scream for what might have been the fiftieth time, Victor’s teeth had somehow grown even pointer, and Emil’s eyes kept flashing a peculiar shade of yellow, one that was definitely not human.

“We have to do something,” whispered white-skinned Agnes in Victor’s ear. “If Oliver does scream, people will definitely find us.”

Victor ran a hand through his hair-feathers. His stomach growled. “I have an idea,” he murmured, “but—well, it won’t be pretty.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll see.” He gave a small grim smile.

They walked on for a few yards together, until they came to a small clearing. Victor, as the oldest, gestured his siblings around him. All eyes fixed on him; Emil’s had stopped flashing and were now a steady monstrous yellow.

“I have an idea,” he announced, “but we need to work together. And absolutely no screaming,” he added, glaring at Oliver. “Pippa, come here.” His younger sister Philippa stepped up to him in silence. “I need you to catch a rabbit and bring it back. Can you do that?”

Philippa’s eyes widened. “Alone?”

Victor sighed and squeezed her shoulders. “I would come with you, but I would just scare the rabbit away.”

“Okay. I can try,” said Philippa, and scampered off with unheard footfalls into the trees.

“Now Emil.”

His younger brother loped forward, wiping drool from his mouth. Victor bent down and whispered in his ear, then glanced at Agnes, who suddenly understood. She tightened her lips and drew Oliver close.

Emil too had understood. His face brightened eagerly, and with a bound he charged into the trees after his sister.

Minutes passed in silence, except for the murmur of trees and occasional chirp of a bird.

“I hate waiting,” said Agnes, clutching Oliver’s broken suspenders.

“Me too.” Victor’s stomach growled again and Agnes’s joined in. Oliver howled gently and pouted among the tree roots. In the distant bushes an animal rustled and the girl scooted closer to her oldest brother.

Then all at once Philippa was beside them, panting and colorless as her sister, her eyes saucer-like with fear.

“There’s—there’s a monster,” she stammered in a whisper, “in the trees.”

Roused from his stupor, Victor leapt to his feet. “Are you okay? Where’s Emil?”

His brother emerged into the clearing, and an unearthly figure followed him. Head lowered and pointed ears back, the creature lumbered forward, a hulking monstrosity of stony skin. The monster dwarfed Emil, who stood only as tall as the creature’s knees, but Emil walked forth with peculiar confidence.

“I think it wants to tell me something,” he announced, “but I don’t know what.”

Victor frowned in bafflement. “How do you know that?”

“No idea.”

Victor and Agnes looked at each other. Agnes was still holding Oliver’s suspenders, but the little boy had gone quiet. Philippa kept close as her oldest brother approached the monster.

“Excuse me,” he began, not knowing how else to start a conversation with a creature like that, “do you have something to say?”

A series of echoing groans and rumbles emanated from a crack in the lopsided face.

Victor closed his eyes and opened his ears. All at once the rumbles transformed into words.

“Fae children, born of the cursed mother—”

“What’s it saying?” Philippa interrupted.

“Quiet! I’m trying to listen!”

“—hear me. Danger seeks you for its own, drawn by your abhorrent blood. Neither human nor fae, you will forever bear your mother’s punishment for her crime.”

“What crime?” Victor exploded, forgetting that his siblings couldn’t understand. “What do you mean?”

The monster didn’t answer. It raised a boulder-like hand and reached inside a crevice that had opened in its chest. Victor saw his reflection in the gleaming surface of a jewel as its fingers curled back. No, not his reflection—a scene, a woman, a flash of light and the cry of a child. The truth.

He stood in shocked silence for what might have been hours. His siblings watched him, hunger forgotten, waiting for him to speak.

“I know what we are,” he said finally. “Not faery or human, but somewhere in between.” He turned to the creature and touched its hand, still closed around the seeing-stone. “And I also know that everyone will pay for what they’ve done to us.”

 

~H

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