Silver Earth - With The Fairies
SILVER EARTH – WITH THE FAIRIES
Rupert Giles agrees to spend a week with Jago and Delayna’ Pridwyn. He finds himself caught up in the tears and tantrums of family life, but the Pridwyns are no ordinary family.
It echoed around the corridors of the magical house. At certain times it would make its presence felt like a chill to the spine, at others times, like an unheard scream. It would catch its victim in the dream-state between sleep and the first waking moments of the morning. Sometimes it would call his name.
“Jago, Jago Pridwyn! Get your arse down ‘ere right now,” Delayna demanded. Jago awoke with a snap, patterns and colours fleeing before him as the daylight stung his eyes. He groaned to himself. What did that demented demon want now?
He flung his dressing gown around his shoulders and thudded down the stairs. Delayna, still blood soaked and ruffled from her night of slaying, was waiting for him. In her hand was a crumpled telephone bill. “Two hundred and forty bloody quid,” she yelled. “Look at this,” she shoved the bill at him. “Over fifty bleeding phone calls, to the same bloody mobile phone.” Jago scanned the itemised section.
“Well… okay,” he stuttered. “They’re all to Colette’s number but… there must be some mistake,” he turned over the page, only to find another column of the same numbers on the other side. Nausea, embarrassment and shame, all mixed with dose of panic, welled up in him. He swallowed hard. “You’ve always said that good communication is important in a relationship,” he offered, hoping to humour his way out of the situation.
“You see every day at school!” Delayna replied.
Jago accepted that he was not going to win this battle. “I’ll pay for it,” he offered. “I mean, I don’t know how but...”
“Forget it,” Delayna snapped. “I’ve spent the last ten, twelve years cleaning up after you lot, it’s not like it’s going to kill me.”
“I said, I’ll pay for it!” Jago yelled back at her. “I just made a mistake, okay? I didn’t know how much the bleeding calls would cost. Just get out of my face for once!” He shoved the paper at her and stormed up the stairs, nearly bashing into the cheese plant on his way.
Delayna lashed out, grabbed the plant and slammed it against the wall. The terracotta pot shattered, scattering pottery shards, compost and roots all over the burnt orange carpet. “I hated that plant,” she confessed.
The noise had roused another sleeper; she clenched her teeth as the pain in her side also awoke. Someone knelt beside her. She reached out to him, but in a half-breath he had faded. She grasped into the air where he had been, over reached and tumbled out of bed. She swore as she untangled herself. The noise had attracted ‘Melza’s attention. She glided to her elder sister’s side, helping her to stand. Delayna was not far behind.
“What the ‘ell ‘appened ‘ere?” Delayna put an arm around ‘Renza, supporting her efforts to get to her feet.
“Del’,” ‘Renza said in all seriousness. “I think I saw Dad.”
“Are you going to be alright?” said Giles as he turned off the ignition. Jago sat beside him, looking out of the window towards the school.
“I’m doing my best,” Jago replied
as he watched huddles of his fellow pupils laugh and joke their way
through the school gates. “It’s just never good enough for
her. How the hell am I going to pay it back?”
“Perhaps you could get a part-time job?” Giles suggested.
Jago looked at him incredulously. “Yeah right. Delayna wants me to train all the hours that God sends. Not that it’s going to do me any good.”
“Well, your family situation is a very special one - sacred blood lines and that kind of stuff,” Giles offered, echoing the phrase that Jago had used the day before to describe his family.
“I can’t be what my Dad and Granddad were,” Jago said with a heavy tone. “The source of our power… my Dad was wearing it when the boat went down… and all ‘ell’s about to break lose.” Jago let the thought hang for a moment. “I’ve got to find a way to pay her back.”
“Or all hell will break loose?” Giles said teasingly.
“I wasn’t talking about the telephone bill,” Jago gave a small laugh. He unfastened his seat belt and climbed out of the car.
“Jago,” Giles called after him. Jago spun around. “About this ‘Colette’.” Jago looked puzzled. Giles explained. “You see, if she is worth all this trouble, she must be a very pretty girl. Did you say that her mother was divorced?”
“Yegh like I want you for a father-in-law,” Jago teased. He gave a wicked grin “Her mum’s not ‘alf bad though. See you later.”
During morning break, Jago checked the school notice board. He had often wondered if he should take part in the after-school sports activates, although since getting a week’s worth of detention for breaking Matthew Isaacs’ nose during a rugby match he had to admit that he was avoiding the locker room as much as possible. Matthew had had it coming, he had told Delayna, always picking on the kids in the lower school, he had done the world a favour. It was a small victory against the forces of evil. Delayna had disapproved of his actions, but had neither punished or rewarded the deed.
Jago’s attention was caught by a postcard-sized notice, half hidden under a poster advertising the Halloween disco. The handwriting was elegantly looped and tailed, it looked as if the author had used a fountain pen. It read:
“Baby Sitter” required for one young boy. Remuneration generous. Interested parties to meet at the Rosewarren Car Park at 3.30 pm.
Fantastic, thought Jago, how difficult can it be to look after one kid? He unpinned the notice and slipped it inside his backpack
At twenty five past three, Jago was waiting at the car park. It was already starting to get dark, but although the clouds looked menacing it was not raining. At exactly half past, a lady with wispy grey hair walked into the car park. She was dressed in a quilted jacket, with a long, pleated skirt. As she got closer she smiled at Jago. It was a warm smile, her eyes seemed to twinkle as she looked him up and down.
“Interested in the baby sitting position are you?” she enquired with a rich voice.
“I am,” Jago replied. “I’ve looked after my younger sister and cousins loads of times.”
The lady chuckled. “I have reasons enough for choosing you, Jago Pridwyn. I want my boy to know something of your world.” Jago made a noise that sounded like a surprise on hearing the stranger call him by name. “We must go before nightfall, come quickly, come quickly,” she turned and beckoned him to follow. Jago hesitated, wondering if he should phone Delayna and tell her what he was doing. It seemed as if the Lady Stranger had read his mind. “Don’t worry about the folks at home, I will send them word in due course, let’s go, let’s go.”
Jago found himself following the Lady Stranger. At first they travelled through the familiar streets of Camborne, the narrow terraces of stone-built cottages, the estates of local authority housing, the detached bungalows in the wooded outskirts that only those that had retired from ‘up-the-country’ could afford to own. They walked on into the countryside, past farm buildings guarded by collie dogs and fields full of patient cows waiting for their evening milking. They walked on into the woods. Jago had never been this way before. The trees became shadows of grey and brown as the forest enclosed around them. He found himself following the Lady down a muddy slope, the trees seemed to get larger and larger the deeper they descended. Brambles, bracken, bamboo and rhododendrons lined the path that seemed to get narrower and narrower the further they went.
The Lady Stranger stopped. Jago was a few steps behind her. Their way was blocked by a moss-covered tree, the largest tree that Jago had ever seen. It was a tree so large, that the point where the exposed roots met the trunk was higher than Jago and the Lady Stranger. She turned to him, her finger in front of her lips. “Are you ready?” She said conspiratorially as she reached out with her other hand towards the moss-covered tree. Jago nodded. “Then close your eyes and step into my world.” She drew back a curtain of moss that had grown between the tree roots and beckoned Jago to follow her. Closing his eyes, Jago stepped between the tree roots. He felt sunlight warm his face as the curtain closed behind him, but still he kept his eyes shut. “This is my world,” the Lady declared expecting a reaction. She gave him a nudge with her elbow. “You can look now Jago.” Jago opened his eyes.
The sight that greeted him was something out of a book of fairy stories. The grass stretched out before him like a field of emeralds; the flowers that were set amongst them shone like gemstones. The fairy lords, in their velvet suits danced with their fairy ladies, whose dresses were no less colourful than the flowers. A river of clear icy water wondered its way between the hills and forests of the enchanted land. Every few minutes, spheres of gold and crystal would arise like bubbles from the river, rising into the sky to form pillow clouds of the purest white. The land was as beautiful to see as honey is sweet to taste.
Jago looked at the Lady Stranger beside him. She had shed her human clothes and was dressed in a gown of bluebells. She unfurled her fairy wings and returned Jago’s glance. “Impressed are you?” she questioned with a small smile. Jago nodded. “I’m known as the Lady Harebell in these parts, so I suppose that’s what you would do well to call me. Would you like to see where you are to live?”
“To live?” Jago echoed.
“Well, yes, my dear. It’s the standard contract. You have to stay ‘ere for a year and a day. Did your mother not tell you the stories about us?” Lady Harebell knitted her grey eyebrows and rested her fists on her hips. She sighed. “I’ll see if I can arrange something, but in the time of this world, you will have to stay for a year and a day.”
Jago rubbed his hands over his forehead. After the morning shouting match with Delayna he was not looking forward to returning home. A year and a day in this enchanted world would give him a rest from all that, a little room to breath, somewhere just to be without the demands and commitments of school, family, sacred bloodlines and that sort of thing. “You promise to tell Delayna where I am,” said Jago in a serious tone. Lady Harebell agreed. “Then I’ll stay”.
Lady Harebell showed Jago the way to the house that was to become his home for the next year and a day. It was round, the walls were the colour of butter, with a roof of reeds that had been tied at the top like a tuft of hair. The inside of the house reminded him of the picture books he had looked at as a child. The furniture was handcrafted, the fabrics patchwork. In the kitchen, there was a black lead kitchen range, a porcelain sink and a pine dresser displaying an impressive collection of pewter plates. Lady Harebell beckoned him to the nursery. In the centre of the room was an enormous clamshell. Tucked up in velvet bedclothes was the most beautiful child that Jago had ever seen. “This is my boy,” Lady Harebell said as she went over to her son.
“I know what I saw, and that was Dad’s ghost,” ‘Renza insisted as the four of them sat around the kitchen table discussing the morning’s apparition. “He died suddenly, he might not have passed over.”
“That’s impossible,” said Delayna. “The Seer is never wrong. She told me that he was at rest.”
“Could it have been a demonic apparition?” Giles asked. ‘Renza and ‘Melza looked at him, their expression told him that they had been insulted.
Finally ‘Melza spoke. “I’ve cast a protection spell over the property. Nothing can enter the grounds without our permission.” Her gentle tone was layered with such certainty that Giles was momentarily convinced.
“Actually, that’s not strictly true,” Delayna contradicted. She glanced at Giles, as if asking him to elaborate.
“A very powerful something could break the protections, especially if they had not been renewed for a few days,” Giles hypothesised. “But in doing so it would be breaking the laws of trespass, thus incurring the wrath of its Parthenon.” He removed his glasses and wiped the sweat from his face.
“So, should we call Wolfram and Hart and sue the bastard?” ‘Renza suggested, her face breaking out in a smile. Delyana shot her an angry glance to rebuke her for using bad language at the kitchen table.
“We don’t know what it is, or if it really cares about the laws, but we do know that it is powerful,” ‘Melza stated. She got up from her chair and closed the kitchen curtains against the evening sun. “Maybe it’s powerful enough not to care,” she said as she smoothed the curtains into even pleats.
“Look, whatever, I’ve got to get to work,” ‘Renza rose from her chair, her hand over her belly to prevent her recent battle injury from reopening.
“I would advise against it,” Giles said. “That’s quite a serious slash wound. You should at least wait until I’m able to take the stitches out.”
“Balls to that, I’m going,” said ‘Renza, before putting a whole biscuit in her mouth and strolling out of the door.
“I’m going with you,” Delayna said, following ‘Renza. ‘Renza protested, but Delayna insisted and ‘Renza saw that it was useless to argue with her.
Back in his room, Giles turned on his mobile and responded to a text message from Catherine at the Watchers’ Council. There was an anxious tone to her voice. “Giles, I’ve talked to Quentin. The Pridwyn family are notorious for their interference with our work. If you know anything about them it is so important that you tell us.”
Giles shook his head. “I overheard a conversation about them in the local pub, I was just curious.” He took a sharp breath. “It was nothing really.”
“Very glad to hear it,” Catherine replied. “Stay in touch,” with that she terminated the conversation. In the Watchers’ Headquarters, Catherine turned to Quentin and the other Council members who had been listening. “I think that he is lying to us,” she ventured. Quentin nodded in agreement.
Delayna watched from a distance as ‘Renza entered the gates of the factory where she worked. ‘Renza swiped her security pass through the reader, allowing her to pass through the turnstile and into the building. As Delayna left she was confronted by a Yemp. The small creature was dressed in a carrier bag and held a scrap of paper in its hand. It gave Delayna the paper before scurrying back into the night. Delayna read the message:
Jago Pridwyn has agreed to work for me for the usual terms. I promise that I will take good care of him and reward him accordingly.
Delayna grunted and covered her face with her hands. That stupid, stupid, boy, she thought to herself. What kind of trouble has he got himself into now?
The days seemed to pass quickly in the fairy realm that was now Jago’s home. He had very little work to do, except look after Lady Harebell’s son, who was a delightful child and very easy to please. Every morning Jago would fetch milk to make the boy’s breakfast, wash him in the warm waters of the wishing well, take him to play with the other children and teach him a little bit about the human world. In the afternoon when the child slept, he would tend to Lady Harebell’s garden, collect the herbs and other ingredients that she required for her spells, before taking the boy for a long walk in the evening sunshine, reading him a story and putting him to bed.
One evening, Lady Harebell made a special request. Jago was to rise at midnight and collect a bunch of four leaf clovers in the light of the full moon. Jago did as he was asked and Lady Harebell was delighted with the specimens that he had selected.
The next morning, after Jago had finished feeding his little charge, he returned to the house to get a ball in order to teach the boy how to play catch. Lady Harebell had prepared several bars of green soap which she had left to set on the kitchen table. “Hello Jago,” she greeted him. “I was just looking for you. Before you take my son out to play, I would like you to wash him, using this soap.” Jago looked alarmed. “Oh don’t worry,” she reassured him “It will not hurt him at all.” She handed Jago a linen-wrapped bar of green soap. “But you must promise me,” she said leaning closer, “that you will never, ever wash with it yourself. This soap is very powerful but it is only made for fairy folk like my son and I”. Jago nodded in agreement.
The days continued in their usual pattern. The little boy was now able to eat porridge for breakfast and with Jago’s help, to read his own bedtime stories. Jago would wash the little boy using the magic soap. He would draw a pitcher of warm water from the magical wishing well, cut a sliver of soap using a silver knife, mix it with the water and pour it all over the little boy. The child would squeal with delight, as the bubbles would change his skin to every colour of the rainbow before disappearing in a shower of glittered snowflakes.
One day, however, Jago’s curiosity got the better of him. After the little boy had been bathed and left to dry in the morning sun, Jago took a little bit of the soap, mixed it with the water in the usual way, and poured it over himself. For a moment nothing happened. Then his skin began to tingle. His back began to itch. He scratched it. Then his arms and legs began to itch. He scratched them. Finally his whole body began to itch. Jago squealed and squirmed as he tried to scratch every inch of his skin at the same time. The commotion had attracted Lady Harebell’s attention. Jago’s skin began to feel hot, like it was about to catch fire. Sinking to his knees, he drew another pitcher of water from the wishing well and poured it over himself. When he looked up, Lady Harebell was standing above him, her hands on her hips. She was angry.
“Did I not treat you fairly?” She said. “All I asked is that you did not wash yourself with the fairy soap. You are lucky it did not catch you on fire.” The little boy ran towards his mother. He wrapped his arms around her legs and hung on tightly, burying his head in the folds of her skirt. He was frightened and confused by what he had just seen.
Jago looked sheepishly up at her. “I’m sorry, I was just curious.”
“At least you taught my son an important lesson,” she reached down and stroked her child’s soft hair. “That even the best of humans cannot be entirely trusted with our secrets.” She offered Jago a hand and helped him to his feet. “You will have to leave now,” she said, her voice full of regret. “Your time here was almost up anyway.”
As Jago and Lady Harebell stood by the tree roots she handed him a velvet bag. Lady Harebell had reverted to her appearance as the Lady Stranger, her wispy grey hair, tucked neatly in a bun and her quilted jacket drawn tightly around her. “Here,” she presented Jago with the velvet bag. “This is your payment for your work. Don’t open it until you get home.”
Jago took the bag, but was not enthusiastic about the payment. “Will I ever see you again?” He asked regretfully. “Will I ever be able to come back here?”
“I don’t know, and I’m not sure,” Lady Harebell replied. “You have taught my son so much and for that I’ll be forever thankful.” Jago looked down at his feet. There was a good two-inch gap between his trousers and socks. He had grown since he had been in the fairy world. “In your world you have only been away for a few hours,” Lady Harebell said with a smile. Jago looked confused. “It’s magic,” she reminded him.
Jago examined his arms, which were also longer than he remembered them. “How did you…?” He started saying, but on looking up he realised that Lady Harebell had disappeared. He was alone in the woods. For a moment he looked around, getting his bearings. Through the trees, he saw the familiar sight of Carn Brea castle, illuminated high on the hilltop against the darkened sky. Clutching his payment, Jago wearily made his way towards home.
As he trundled along the footpath, Jago could have sworn that he was being followed.
‘Melza, Delayna and Giles were in the library when they heard Jago’s key turn in the door and his announcement that he was home. Delayna jumped to her feet. “Jago, Jago Pridwyn! Get your arse in ‘ere right now,” she demanded. Giles clapped a hand firmly on her upper arm. He shook his head disapprovingly, keeping up the pressure until she sat back down again.
“I’m home,” Jago repeated as he bounced his way into the library. He opened the velvet bag. Inside was a handful of gold coins. He poured them out onto the library table. “Is that enough to pay for the phone bill?” He asked with a certain smug satisfaction.
Giles picked up a coin and tested it by biting it between his teeth. “From now till kingdom come I should think,” Giles remarked as he set the coin down again.
“You’ve grown’” ‘Melza observed as she looked up at Jago. “Exactly how long were you in the fairy realm?”
Delayna remained silent. She tilted her head to one side as if listening. Jago looked at her, puzzled. Delayna pointed towards the front of the house. The pair of them got to their feet to investigate the disturbance. Giles and ‘Melza had noticed their concern and followed them out of the library. The four of them peered out through the curtains of the front sitting room. In the darkness, beyond the boundaries of their property, they could see torchlight and the figures of at least two dozen people. In the distance, there were several vehicles, transit vans, people carriers, and armoured cars, some of which sported antenna and satellite dishes.
“It’s the Watchers’ Council,” Giles identified them. “What on Earth are they doing here?”
“They’ve found us.” Delayna turned to look at Giles. “You told them where we live? How could you? We trusted you!”
“Miss Pridwyn, I assure you that I would never betray a confidence, not even to my employers,” Giles tried to reassure her, but deduced that nothing he could say would make a difference. Outside they could hear the barking of dogs and the chatter of short-range radios as the operatives from the Watchers’ Council, laid siege to the Pridwyn’s house.
“We could always invite them in for a cup of tea,” Jago said as he closed the curtain. “I think we could even stretch to a plate of biscuits.”
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