Into the Feywild
Animal death, Mentions of violence, Mentions of ableism
Presley had heard rumors of the Feywild; a mystical, ethereal place without rules, populated by mysterious Fae and other strange creatures. A place where time and space have no hold. A place where one may enter, but may never come out.
She had first heard of it in her youth, from a group of scrappy children a year older than her. Waiting for their parents to return from the marketplace, the children had started narrating tales of their own journeys into the Feywild.
One boy claimed that he’d become King of the Passion Court, by offering his broken tooth to the current ruler. He’d won a battle wielding a cursed sword, riding a two-horned dragon. A girl argued that he was lying, and she knew it, for she’d been a princess of the Court of Life. After walking through a Gate made of faerie tears, the court realized she was a long-lost heir to the throne and crowned her that very day.
Another child’s parent had returned and put their stories to rest: none of them could have visited the Feywild, because once you enter, you can never return. Those who have returned have come back Wrong, their memories wiped, their magic drained, their behaviors altered.
Presley swore to never step through a potential Gate. She had a wonderful life, and she didn’t want to leave it.
As she aged, she wondered if perhaps she was a long-lost Fae princess after all. She could never understand the people around her. They didn’t understand her, either. Even her parents grew to dislike her, once she began to lose interest in their high society lifestyle.
One autumn evening, she was walking down an off-road, admiring the trees, when a figure tackled her to the ground.
All she remembers is a growling wolf and a searing pain in her shoulder.
Presley began to change after that night. Her teeth grew too long for her mouth. The hair on her body became thicker and more noticeable. And she began to have the strangest cravings.
She knew what she was becoming, and her stomach turned whenever she thought about what might happen when the next full moon rose.
So she placed her journal in her pocket, took a walk through the forest, and stepped into a Gate of faerie tears.
The sun is blazing bright, filtering through the green treetops and landing upon Presley’s sleeping face. Her eyes open. She sits up and looks around. She’s in the middle of a circle of faerie tears, the same one that she stepped into, but—
She hears a hiss, and lets out a shriek as a snake-like creature slithers past her feet, paying no mind to her. It’s a dark purple, and looks to be shimmering green, but on closer inspection, she realizes it has some sort of invisibility spell. She watches it disappear.
And then a giant owl, taller than Presley herself, swoops down from the sky and picks up the snake in its talons before flying away again.
She mutters curses under her breath. How close was she to being that snake, scooped up in the owl’s claws and eaten? She scans the sky, but the owl is nowhere to be seen.
After a few more minutes of sitting in the grass, reality comes crashing down on her. She has nowhere to go, no plan, no way to return home. Her eyes fill with tears, but she wipes them away and stands up. What’s done is done. She must push forward.
A few hours-minutes-years-weeks later, clouds have begun to form. They are gray and angry, and it’s not long before raindrops begin to fall upon Presley’s cheeks. She huffs, and continues walking, trying to ignore the stinging sensation the droplets create on her skin.
And then, as if the gods have blessed her, she spots a structure made of ancient stone and grown-over by multicolored moss. It looks like a tiny fortress, although there’s nothing around it to defend.
The chimney is smoking, and the door is open.
Presley steps into the building and is immediately filled with a sense of warmth. The floors are dark and wooden, and there’s a lit fireplace across the room.
Sitting on a cozy-looking armchair is a Fae.
His skin is pale, his ears are long, and his eyes are filled with the cosmos themselves. His posture is relaxed as he leans back into the cushions. Presley is about to speak when a chill runs down her spine.
The Fae is holding a plate, upon which sits the snake from earlier, now back to its purple hue and half-eaten. The Fae cuts into it with a delicate silver knife, gingerly stabs the slice, and swallows it, bones and all.
He nods at the armchair opposite his. There’s a beautiful glass filled with sparkling liquid. Although he doesn’t have pupils to express with, she knows that he’s giving it to her. She also knows that the Fae never give anything away for free.
“Thank you,” she says quietly, and takes a sip.
Suddenly, she is back at her fifth birthday celebration. It’s loud and colorful and warm. The faces around her are those of friends and family. Some are faces she hasn’t seen in a very long time. She is standing next to her parents. Their grips on her shoulders are tight. She sees other children playing with her new toys, but when she tries to play with them, her parents’ grips tighten. The warmth drips out of the memory. She must smile and nod and be pretty. No playtime for the birthday girl.
She comes back to her senses and finds that she’s curled up in the chair. The fire is still going strong, but the Fae has finished his meal. He gives her a small smile.
There is silence for a few moments. And then she speaks.
“Can you help me go back home?”
His smile drops. He stares at the wall behind her, although something tells her that he’s not actually looking anywhere at all. Then he looks directly at her, and something tickles the back of her head.
“What do you offer in return?” he asks, quiet but firm, as a voice in the echoes of her mind.
She thinks, tapping a nonsense pattern on the armchair with her fingertips. “I will do whatever you wish for, um... for one year.”
He smiles again. “Perhaps. Answer a few of my questions, and I may accept.”
Her heart races, thumping wildly in her chest. She knows the Fae don’t take kindly to lies. “O-Okay.”
“Why did you step into the Gate?”
“I was bitten by a werewolf. The full moon was approaching, and I didn’t want to stay in my town, where I could hurt someone.”
The Fae stares expectantly.
“A-And I think... I always wanted to. Deep down. I always felt different. I don’t belong back there.”
He nods. She exhales shakily.
“Why do you want to return, then?”
“I mean, I have to, don’t I? What else am I going to do?”
He stands, and walks over to a bookshelf behind the chair. He picks up a book and flips through it. “Why do you think you happened upon this place, Presley?”
She stares at him. “I don’t know.”
"You're not Fae," he says plainly, turning the pages. He doesn't look up. "You are completely, utterly mortal. If it weren't for your journey into my domain, you'd be indistinguishable from the constant flow of mortal lives that are born and killed every moment."
She shivers. "Do you know why I'm here?"
"Because you had the bravery to step through the Gate, despite having no knowledge about what would happen afterwards." He plucks a worn piece of parchment out of the book. "So much bravery, in fact, that Fate took notice."
Presley takes the parchment and unfolds it. It looks like it was torn out of a book, although she suspects the original book isn’t the one that the Fae is holding. The handwriting is fanciful but legible. Along the edge of the page are minimalistic drawings of owls, birds, cats, and insects.
The Owl King will grow lonely and desire a companion. He will not accept just anyone, however, and will put each candidate through trials to test their worthiness. The one he accepts will be his friend, his champion, his Wolfknight.
Her hand trembles as she reads the page. Not only is she most certainly holding a page ripped directly from the Book of Fate, but she might be the one it’s talking about. And that means that the Fae in front of her...
“Y-You’re the—” she stammers.
“Owl King? Yes.” He sits back down and crosses his legs. “Do I not seem royal enough?”
“No, that’s not what I meant!” She places the page on the table, next to the empty plate. “I mean... I know this might be me. But what trials are you going to put me through before I can be sure?”
The Owl King smiles. “Presley, you’ve already passed my trials.”
She blinks, mouth hanging open.
“Firstly, you stepped through the Gate. Many potential candidates I’d kept an eye on never mustered up the courage to do so. Then, when faced with a completely different, alien world, you reacted with shock, but also curiosity and wonder. You never harmed an innocent creature, never uprooted a plant with malice.
“You were also afraid when you first saw my true form.” He smirks. “Fear is essential, but too much or too little would never do for a knight. You hesitated to venture into the Feywild, but pushed forward regardless. No tricks of this realm were able to get the better of you. Most of the others either succumbed to their own mind or let a Fae take advantage of them.
“When greeted with me, you were polite and respectful. You knew that I was more powerful than you, and aware that I could kill you easily. While you may not think so, you’re well-versed in what it takes to interact with Fae as a lesser creature. You’re fit to be my knight, Presley. Do you accept?”
Another plate appears in his hands. It’s a large serving of meat that she can smell from her chair. Its scent is delicious, and her stomach rumbles. This is what she’s been craving ever since she was bit.
She reaches for the plate, but pauses.
Is this what she wants? To become tied directly to a monarch of the Feywild, to stay here for the rest of her life... it sends a thrill up her spine. But what about home? Her parents, who never cared about her, except when she could be used for bragging rights at dinner parties. Her friends, who always abandoned her when someone better came along. Her village, full of life but empty of joy.
Even if Fate hadn’t written it into xer book, she would never have chosen differently.
The Owl King grins. She grabs the meat with her bare hands and bites into it, juicy liquid dripping down her chin as she tears it apart. It tastes sweet and savory and divine. She’s so busy devouring the meat she doesn’t notice the tingle of magic spreading throughout her body and soul, giving her control over her wolf form and binding her to the Feywild.
When she looks up, the Owl King is standing in front of her, a hand outstretched. “So, Presley Ofark, my loyal Wolfknight. Would you like to take a look around your new home?”
She nods, takes his hand, and they’re both whisked away in a wisp of magic.