by Gabriella Burk
“Come now and follow me down.”
She sang the words to the children sitting in front of her, flowing her skirt around as she danced around them. “Down to the lights of Shroudway where there’s faeries walking the town, waiting to take the babes away,” she said in a hushed tone, giving each child a mischievous look.
The children stared up at the woman wide eyed. Delia was just a laundress in their small village, Whitemount, but every evening she came out to the town square and told the children stories of the fae. Of course, they were only stories, nothing more than that. Or, at least, that is what Delia told their parents when confronted by their worried faces.
“Watch now, they’ll soon be along,” she said, letting her voice fall into a whisper as she picked a flower from a nearby bush and twisted it around her fingers. “They’re tricksters unlike any other so, come now pick your flowers,” she ordered, tossing a flower to a small child, lifting her eyes as she did. Delia scanned the amassing crowd. It had once been just the children who listened to her tales of the fae, but as time went by her songs grew in popularity. “They’re waiting to take you away from here,” she sang softly, her eyes falling on a man to the side of the crowd. He was tall and fine as he leaned against a large tree, from this distance, Delia could just barely see the tips of his pointed ears coming from under his long black hair.
Without tearing her eyes from the male, she sang softly. “Here today, you’re gone tomorrow, going off to Shroudway. Jiggin’ around and off to play, you won’t be coming back again,” she finished, finally tearing her eyes away from the male and looked back at the children in front of her. “So stay a while and we’ll dance together as the light is falling down. We’ll reel away till the break of day and dance together till morning,” she finished, bowing low to the ground as the crowd clapped loudly.
“Absolutely beautiful Miss Icethorn,” a man said, coming up to Delia once the crowd dispersed. “I don’t know where all of your stories come from but they’re just wonderful. I listen every single evening.”
Delia flashed the man a tentative smile, showing her pearly white teeth just slightly. “Why thank you, Mr. Pritchard. I am proud to say that the stories just come from my imagination,” she told him, tucking a strand of light blonde hair behind her ear.
“Well, as interesting as your stories are, Miss Icethorn, every young lady needs to realize that their imagination will never get them anywhere,” he told her, slipping his hands in his pockets. Mr. Griffin Pritchard was a rich man, a low level noble, but a noble nonetheless. His wife had passed mysteriously only a few months ago and had already started his search for a new, younger wife. His eyes had been on Delia since she had started telling her tales in the town square. “And being a laundress must not be a very easy job for a young maiden like yourself, Miss Icethorn.”
“I am very glad to know that you are worried about my wellbeing, Mr. Pritchard. As of right now, though, I think I am doing just fine,” Delia told the man, standing slightly straighter as she slipped the flower that was still wrapped around her fingers into the folds of her dress. “And I think my imagination is the best part about me. Now, I must be on my way.”
With that, Delia started towards the male still leaned against the tree, his eyes never leaving her face. Pritchard’s hand shot out, wrapping around Delia’s arm. “A young maid like yourself needs to find a husband soon, Delia, have you thought more on my offer?”
Delia gave the older man a forced smile. “No,” she said simply and wrenched her arm from Pritchard’s grip and continued to the male.
“I should kill him,” he said just as Delia approached.
“And to what do I owe the pleasure, Jarrah?” She asked him, not bothering to acknowledge his statement.
“You know what I’m here for,” he said. “Your highness, it has been three years, you need to come home. Your mother is worried sick.”
Delia gave the male a simple smile. “Jarrah, I don’t want to come home. I don’t plan on ever going back. Besides, I love it here.”
“You love being grabbed by peasants such as that one?” He demanded, snarling slightly. Delia placed her hand on his shoulder and sighed.
“That, not so much. But the children here, the people, it is lovely,” she stated, looking into his grass green eyes. “It is simple here, something I’ve wanted my entire life.”
“You are meant to take the crown soon, Delianna,” he said, taking her hand off of his chest and holding it tight. “You’re not meant for the life of a laundress, you are meant to be Queen.”
“Queen of a court that does nothing but lie and twist everyone’s words around? That steals innocent children for their amusement?” She asked, scrunching her nose. “I want nothing of the Underground Court. This life is peaceful.”
“Faeries cannot lie, Delianna, you know this as well as I,” Jarrah snarled. The male had once been Delia’s guard, their relationship had been… complicated. Jarrah was Delia’s sworn protector, promised to her the moment she was born. Delia did not need his protection, though. She never did. The only thing she had ever needed from Jarrah had been his friendship, and she never got it. Not even once in the three hundred years Delia had known Jarrah.
“You know what I mean, Jarrah. I don’t want that life, I have never wanted that life,” she told him, pulling her hand away. “Will you please just leave me alone.”
“Elliot misses you, you know. So does Evening,” he told her softly.
“Eve made her decision. She made it a very long time,” Delia said smoothly. “And Elliot told me that they wanted what was best for me when I told them that I was leaving. They have always supported my decisions, even if they disagree.”
“I miss you,” Jarrah offered and Delia let out a laugh.
“You are not going to sway me, Jarrah. I love this life, it is simple and it is beautiful,” she stated, bundling her long blonde hair back, braiding it swiftly. “Now, if you do not mind, I have work that I need to get back to.”
“What are you going to do when they realize that you do not age, Delianna?”
He demanded, glaring at the young woman.
“I will just move on to the next town, no one will ever have to know,” Delia said, shrugging her shoulders easily as she finished her braid and tied it off with the stem of the flower she still had in her dress.
“It is not that easy, people will notice eventually.”
“Go home, Jarrah, that is an order,” Delia said steadily as she turned around and headed back to her cottage.
“Queen Marianna ordered me to stay,” he said, falling into step with her.
“Well I told you to leave,” she said harshly, elbowing the male in the ribs roughly.
He shrugged. “I do not care, Delianna.”
“It is Delia!” She snapped. “If you insist on following me to my home then put a glamour on. I do not need these people thinking that I am with an actual faerie,” she told him. Jarrah glared, he stood a little straighter.
“I am not changing my looks,” he all but snarled.
Delia returned his glare with a frightening one of her own. “You will hide your ears and your teeth now or else I will ensure that you look like nothing more than a flower. Now change,” she ordered, forcing the power of a queen’s command to slip into her voice, forcing Jarrah to have no choice other than to make himself look human. Delia watched as his ears rounded out and his canines shortened. “I’ll have you know by having you come with me to my home everyone in town will talk, you know.”
Jarrah raised an eyebrow at the snooty tone in his Princesses voice. “And that bothers you why?” He questioned and Delia rolled her eyes.
“It bothers me because I am attempting to seem like a normal maiden. I’m already dealing with the town trying to figure out why I won’t take Griffin Pritchard’s hand in marriage—” Delia stopped herself and gave her former guard a sly look. “How long are you going to be pestering me, Jarrah?” She asked, pressing a hand to the male’s chest.
“Queen Marianna ordered me to stay for however long it takes to convince you to come home,” he told her stiffly, pushing her hand off of his chest.
“Well, I guess that means you shall be with me for all of eternity,” she said with a sad, dramatic sigh. “I guess this must only mean one thing,” she stated as the two walked back to her small cottage at the edge of town. Many people had wondered about Delia. How did a young, poor, laundress afford her own cottage? She didn’t make much coin, had no husband who helped provide for her and from what it seemed like, she lived alone. Delia didn’t know this, of course, but she was the talk of the village. Everyone wanted to know more about the mysterious laundress who told stories of faeries stealing children away.
“What are you talking about, Delianna?” Jarrah demanded, giving his princess a suspicious look.
“If you’re going to insist on following me everywhere I go, then you must either make yourself invisible so no one suspects, or you must act like my suitor so that no one in this village gets suspicious of you. Understand?” She stated, giving her guard a small smile.
“Absolutely not!” Jarrah spluttered as he stared at the female. “I will do no such thing, it’s improper.”
“If you don’t, I’m turning you into a leaf,” she threatened. Jarrah glared.
“I’ll scream for help right this minute and have the town think you’re trying to kill me. I can only imagine that dear Mr. Pritchard would come right to my rescue if it meant saving me from such a fearsome, handsome man such as yourself.”
“Delianna, it is my sworn duty to protect you not—”
“You will be protecting me, if you do this, it will keep people from asking questions of any kind.” She gave him an innocent smile. “Don’t you want to protect me while I’m in this vile human village, Jarrah?”
Jarrah’s nose crinkled as his eyes landed on Delia’s small cottage. “If I am to be courting you, you are going to need better living arrangements.”
Delia clasped her hands together and let out an excited squeal. Now, Griffin Pritchard would leave her alone. Hopefully. And hopefully, Jarrah would see that Delia was much happier here than she ever was in the Underground.
Author: Gabriella Burk
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Major: Multidisciplinary Studies