Traveling the Fae Path

This is a three-part story that’s at the root of my Dragonfae Cycle. It may never be published or it will be published WAY AFTER everything else. In any case, this is a YA/Possibly Adult story due to the themes.

This was written several months ago and hahah… it’s… not written exactly how I write today. There will be a huge noticeable difference when I get to Part 2, which I haven’t written yet. It’s been run through Grammarly and is a ROUGH DRAFT. The first rough.

So we begin in the 1890’s in Texas, at the end of one of the land rushes.

Chapter 1

He had been drawn to the forest as soon as he neared it. The woods were thick and old, with trees towering far into the sky, their limbs reaching like hands to the life-giving sun. There were few human habitations nearby, and his horse became excited. The mare picked up her hooves and pranced. She tossed her mane and neighed, almost slamming his leg into a nearby tree trunk.

“Whoa, Romey,” Ryn reined her away from the tree and held her at a stop. She continued making little squeaking noises, pawing the dirt. There weren’t any predators nearby, and this wasn’t how Romey acted when there was one. The horse continued fussing, ears pricked forward.

Ryn slid off the saddle, landing with a thump on the leaf-littered ground. It was soft, and he could hear the sounds of water nearby. “Settle down. I’ll be right back.” He tied the reins to a nearby branch, giving the horse room to reach a patch of grass. If there was anything in the forest that was a threat, she would be able to free herself. He would be stranded, but he could handle himself.

The tall, slim man made his way cautiously into the forest. He pulled a dagger from the sheath at his side and marked the large tree trunks as he walked. Getting lost would not be desirable. Ryn walked for half an hour, making his way slowly toward the beckoning call.

There was a fragrance in the air, the smell of spring when the first shoots of grass upturned the earth. But there was more—a voice. Whatever or whoever it was, was ancient. That was saying a lot, considering Ryn was well over two hundred years of age.

He looked like a man, walked like a man, stuck to the ground, but Ryn was not simply a man. The way he moved, like a creature of the wild, light on his feet and with a predator’s alertness, was not entirely human. He was sharply featured, angular, tall, with short black hair and bright blue eyes.

Ryn appeared as a human, near the end of the prime of his life, more forty than two hundred and forty. As a Fae, he had plenty of life left in him and a family he cared for. A human family. For thirty-seven years, he had left his life as a Fae behind to devote himself to a human wife and their growing brood of children and grandchildren. The life of a Fae is far longer than that of a human, and she grew old and passed before he was ready to say goodbye.

Now, with his family in tow, Ryn had decided to move west to escape the human masses on the east side of America. The interior was wild closer to Texas. Cities and towns were few and far between, and Ryn was seeking a place for himself, where he could be Fae again with his new wife, Lorna. But he still wanted his human family nearby and had come up with a plan, which most of them agreed with. 

And now, he was scouting land for the perfect place to serve for generations to come. He would see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow here, along with a new family in the wilds. So far, he liked all the land they had passed through, but this place was special.

The call came again, and Ryn stumbled into a clearing with a gasp. At his age, few things in life surprised him; however, a perfect fairy circle was rare. It sat in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by a bed of mass. Perfect round white mushrooms sat in the middle, and he could feel their power.

“Hullo?” Ryn called out.

His voice echoed through the trees, but there was no response. Birds continued singing in the nearby trees, and a few deer rustled just out of sight. There were no predators that Ryn could detect. But then again, he wasn’t in the ideal form for that. And that might be why he couldn’t get a full sense of where the voice was originating from.

Ryn eyed the circle, then shook his head. There was one way to test the theory, and the gate stood before him. Using the fairy circle would save him energy in the transformation, and it had been so long since the last time he was a Fae that he wasn’t sure he wanted to will himself into that form after so long of a rest. He might not have the energy to change back into human-size for some time.

“Hullo?” he called out again, to the same response.

There was nobody to answer a human.

But they might answer a Fae.

He stepped toward the circle, his long stride carrying him within seconds. One foot in. Then the other. There was just enough room for one person to stand. Then he stepped out, and the world tilted and swayed, a wave of vertigo passing over him.

Ryn crashed into the soft moss with a groan, assaulted by new smells and sounds he couldn’t hear as a human. With a low growl, he pushed himself upright, his new body foreign from how long he had been away from it. 

Ryn flexed his fingers, cracking his knuckles and curling them. Pale grey and white, covered in thick skin. They looked the same. Even his curved black nails were the same as the last time he had seen them, filed to sharp points. Everything was exactly as he remembered it. Even his armor and the traditional wrapped cloth he wore was still over his left shoulder. 

He was so caught up in looking at himself and making sure everything was as he left it that he forgot about the voice calling to him until it boomed through the forest. Ryn whirled around, tripped over his feet, and landed face-first into the moss again. His wings made a futile attempt to catch him, but after so many decades without them, they were slow.

“Here! Here!” A voice called in English from somewhere nearby. 

Ryn grumbled, pushing himself back into an upright position. Walking on his toes was much more difficult than he remembered. It shouldn’t have been difficult at all, but his time as a human had taken its toll, and he couldn’t find his balance. Well, he didn’t have to walk, did he? He could just fly—once he remembered how to use his wings.

Once again, it shouldn’t have been difficult. Flight was instinct, but after decades of not flying, lifting in the air was a strange concept. He lifted the top set of transparent wings, attempting to remember how to stretch. They flicked, then hummed. It began coming back to him as the second set joined in, and he closed his eyes. The sound, that even soft wispy sound of his wings hitting the air, was a comfort.

Ryn opened his eyes and grinned, rising off the ground. He spun in a slow circle, testing his wings, remembering how to fly within a few seconds. The voice came again, echoing off the trees, beckoning him with urgent excitement. Whoever it was, was the first welcoming Fae he had seen outside of his new wife for over a decade. 

He took off, moving slowly for several feet before moving into a more customary horizontal position. He knew where the voice was coming from now. It gave off an even stronger draw, pulling him through the forest. In a manner of minutes, he found himself in another clearing, this one surrounding a large pine tree. It wasn’t an especially big pine, but something about it seemed more vibrant and full of life. The needles seemed to be larger and darker than those of the other trees of similar size.

“Where are ye?” Ryn shouted, circling the pine tree. He started at the top, peering into the closely placed limbs. He expected another Fae, but where were they?

“Come to the bottom.”

Ryn dropped, hovering to a stop just above the ground. He still didn’t see who was talking to him until a limb moved at the base of the pine tree. 

It shouldn’t have moved.

“Don’t be afraid,” The voice was low, gentle, and held a tone of worry in it. “Please, come closer. I cannot see well.”

Ryn bared his fangs, his wings rising of their own will. What was this? Was it a trap? Trees didn’t move.

“Don’t be afraid.” The tree repeated. “Please, come closer.”

Ryn hovered around the tree’s base, slowly coming closer, one hand gripping his staff in front of him, the other resting on the worn hilt of his sword. He kept clear of the overhanging branches, glancing around the limbs. If anything attempted to take him off-guard, they would regret it.

“You are not a Dryad,” said the tree mournfully. “Where is the Dryad?”

“Dryad?” Ryn made a face at the word. “I uh, have a little far back in my family line.”

“You do not have anyone with you?”

“No, it’s just me.”

“Then you must be enough.” The branch moved again, and Ryn stared.

It was a hand, with fingers on the end. But it looked woody and smaller branches extended from it with tiny pine needles. Whatever it was, was considerably bigger than him. 

The tree shook without warning, bits of bark flaking and flying free. The upper torso of a Fae twisted out of the tree, pushing a form into an upright form. Ryn gasped, flying back as dark green eyes met his and the Fae smiled at him, a wooden face crinkling and cracking.

“No, don’t leave!” The Fae shouted frantically, waving stiff arms in the air. “I haven’t seen anyone in so long!”

Ryn circled the tree with a rattle of his wings, unsure of what he had found. He came back around and flew a little closer, still wary.  The Fae appeared to be stuck to the tree because he didn’t move any closer or leave where he sat.

“What are you?”

“A lot more Dryad than you,” said the Fae, his face lit up with excitement. 

Ryn huffed uncertainly. “I’ve never met a Dryad before, but I’ve heard about them.”

At this, the Dryad closed his eyes and sighed. “And what is it that you’ve heard?”

“They’re rare, keep ta themselves,” said Ryn, coming a little closer and landing beneath the tree. “They’re dependable, wise, and ye leave them alone.”

“Then you are not from the Fae colony that lives in the valley?” The Dryad asked quietly, pointing to the southwest. “There is a colony of Soliel who live there.”

“There are already Fae here?” Ryn glanced in the direction the Dryad pointed. 

“Vance. Over a mile that way.”

“I see. Are they hostile?”

“Normally, no,” said the Dryad, looking away. “There was an incident long ago that made them invade the forest. We chose to leave instead of fight with them. It is not our way, and it was a misunderstanding we could do nothing about.”

“Explain.” Ryn folded his arms, regarding the Dryad curiously. It appeared only to want to talk, but why had he called him there? Was he just lonely?

“One of my granddaughters fell in love with one of their noblemen, and they wanted to be together.” The Dryad sighed heavily. “We should have allowed it, but we feared for the future of any children from their union. We shouldn’t mix with other Fae.” He paused, staring at Ryn. “What are you? I have never seen a Fae like you.”

“I am Caderyn, a Dragonfae,” said Ryn, bowing to the Dryad. “Ye can call me Ryn. Ye are?”

“Díˀṣi,” replied the Dryad, bowing his head in return. “That was rude. I’ve been here for far too long. I don’t even remember how long. I’ve been asleep.”

His curiosity took over, and Ryn came a little closer. He held his wings out, ready to whisk him away, should the Dryad not be as friendly as he seemed.

“I have nothing against the Vance,” said Díˀṣi. “They were our friends when they arrived. We welcomed new people to our forest because they were not afraid of us. We thought we could live with them as neighbors. We wanted to have friends.”

“Is that why ye called me?” Ryn tilted his face, regarding Díˀṣi curiously. “Ta banter?”

“I made a promise to the Vance.” The Dryad lowered his head, slumping forward.

“What does that have ta do with me?”

“It has been a long time. They have mostly forgotten about us and what happened. But I have a vow to protect this forest and those that reside in it—including the Vance.”

“What does that have ta do with me?” Ryn repeated, losing patience with the Dryad.

“This is a good place.” Díˀṣi leaned against the tree. “But it needs someone to care for it.”

“I am not looking for a job,” groaned Ryn, dragging a clawed hand over his face. “I just want a home for my family.”

“It will be a good home,” said Díˀṣi hopefully. “You come here. Bring your family. Live in the forest and watch over it. Keep it safe from humans.”

“Most of my family is human,” mumbled Ryn, glancing away.

“Really?” Díˀṣi tilted his head toward Ryn. “Tell me about it. What is life like out there?”

“Why dinnae ye pull yerself out of that tree and go look for yerself.”

The Dryad fell silent, his face falling into more crevices and wrinkles.

“I can’t.”

“Why not?” Ryn rubbed his chin, walking a few steps closer. He stood beneath the tree, looking up into the old wizen face. From there, he could see everything. This curious-looking Fae was embedded from the waist down, seamlessly with the trunk.

“When my people left, and I remained behind, I thought I would sleep for a time and grafted myself to this tree to sustain me,” explained Díˀṣi. He dropped his hands, tapping the bark where his waist should have been. “It appears I made a mistake, and I cannot remove myself. I was here too long.” His voice took on a mournful wail, and Ryn felt awful for asking.

“Why did ye even remain when ye know those other Fae wanted ye gone?” Ryn scowled, unable to look directly at Díˀṣi.

“I made a promise,” said Díˀṣi stubbornly. “And they are not bad. I’ve awakened to see a prince in the forest, a young one who comes here to be alone. You should find him and talk to him and see for yourself what you think of them, Ryn.”

“I want a safe home for my family.” Ryn furrowed his brow, grimacing. “I don’t want them chased out. Ye see me, right? Clearly? Other Fae are often frightened of us because of our appearance.” Ryn held up his clawed hands and bared his teeth.

“I sense you are old and powerful,” said Díˀṣi. “I could feel it the moment ye came close. Yer Dryad blood is strong, even if ye look nothing like us.”

“Why…why are you talking like me?” Ryn stepped back.

“It doesn’t make ye more comfortable?”

Ryn shivered.

“No, it’s aff putting.”

“I won’t then,” said Díˀṣi sadly. “Consider it. There are bogles in the forest who need a leader. We took care of them once. I’m afraid they are wild now but will come around under a strong leader.”

Ryn scowled, turning away. His wings fell slack, and he closed his eyes. This wasn’t what he came here for, was it? He had never desired to be a king and had been denied the role under his father. Still, this was a beautiful stretch of land, and it was cheap. He could buy a massive amount of it and keep his entire family close and sheltered.

“I will look around,” said Ryn, looking over his shoulder. “And I will return to talk to ye.”

“Thank you. That is all I ask.” Díˀṣi bowed his head again, then leaned back against the indention in the tree. “Goodbye, Ryn. Thank you for talking to me. It’s been so long.”

The loneliness in the Dryad’s voice hit Ryn hard as he flew away to explore. This wasn’t what he had asked for. It might be a challenge. Of course, he had a few tricks up his sleeves that he was sure the other Fae would have no knowledge of.

Ryn would give the forest a fair exploration before deciding. He would meet these bogles and search for the prince. At a minimum, it sounded like nobody came into the woods, and there was so much land, they could reside anywhere they wanted and never come into contact with the Vance.

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