The Silken Throne
DescriptionFirst chap of my work in progress...
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Chapter One I grew up in a little village in the south of England. It was one of those picturesque villages you see on post cards a lot, displayed in the windows of little seaside gift shops. I lived in a middle terraced house opposite the bakery and a two-minute walk away from the playing fields. Our house had a red door, and whitewashed windows that always seemed dirty no matter how hard my mother cleaned them. Smoke would billow from the red-bricked chimney each day in winter; the smell of burning coal would greet me warmly as I walked home from school. Niven was two years older than I was and would always clutch at my hand as we walked the five-minute journey home when school finished. Even at Ten years old, she was beautiful, a tiny image of our mother and she radiated. Her hair, always tied into two neat pigtails shone black and her lovely eyes sparkled with innocence only children can possess. Niven was as confident as I was shy, always the first to sign up for the village play or talent contest. Niven was born for the stage, and I just knew she would grow to become a star, if only I had let her. I however watched from my sister's shadow, a wallflower, awkward and painfully quiet. I was certainly not born for the stage, but found myself standing beside Niven when the curtain rose. I would stand there and tremble as I stared out at the faces of our parents as they beamed at us. I would usually only have the one line to squeak out, and I would push the words from my mouth as quickly as I could. No one but the few people in the front seats would hear them. Niven would then step beside me, take my hand in her own, close her long fingers around my palm and say, "What is it dear snowflake?" (For we were doing the snow queen at the time.) "Winter is ending and all will soon be warm?" She would repeat the line so that all the hall could hear her, ensuring I did not look a complete fool. But I hated her for it. I was not like my sister in many ways, and unlike her, I was not particularly pretty. I was a little too tall for my age, with skin that was a little too pale and hair just a little to red. I did not have that impish quality held by most eight year olds; I wasn't even ugly. Just plain. I remembered being happy as a child, despite my dislike for my older sister I enjoyed my life. I was good at school, and focused my time on books and excelling at lessons. Yes, even at such a young age I was a geek. I devoured books, inhaling their words and pictures like nothing else on earth mattered. I had memorised many of the characters, and they seemed to me like trusted friends. They would always be there when I needed them; all I had to do was turn the pages and they would speak to me. I was reading when She first came to me, up on the hill not far from our house on the outskirts of the woodland. I had my back to the trees and sat in their shadows, smiling as they danced across the pages of my book. I can't even remember what it was that I was reading. The sun shone weakly above in the cloudless sky, but it was only March so there was a chill to the wind and I shivered. My bottom was damp from sitting on the dew soaked grass and I knew that I would get a telling off when finally I slumped home. I stood and closed the book, placing it in the pocket of my hoodie and made to walk home. I had always been told not to talk to strangers, and truly, I had never met a stranger being since. But my god was she beautiful. It was if she had emerged from the shadows themselves, and that they belonged to her and not from the trees. She was frighteningly beautiful, standing before me with her chocolate hair and melting eyes. I couldn't have run, my legs forbade any sense that was fast dwindling from my little body, all I could do was stand and stare. I watched with my mouth open as she stepped closer and knelt beside me. Her perfect lips formed a smile as she reached for my hand, her skin like ice against my own. "Hello child," She whispered, breathing a delicious scent into my face. "What is your name?" She laughed as I stood before her, completely mute and ran her fingers over my face pushing the strands of red from my eyes. I shivered from her touch and she laughed again, and the passing wind snatched the melody and stole it away from me. "My name is Luthien." She sang to me. "And these woods are my home, would you like to come and see?" "No;no thank you." I stammered, attempting to move away from her. She made no real attempt to stop me from walking away, but very gently moved her hand to hold my own. Her fingers coiled lightly over mine, not restraining me or holding me back but under her touch, I no longer wanted to leave her. "Tell me your name little child, I'd so like to hear it." I whispered my name to her, the sound barely escaping my lips but she heard it and smiled. "So beautiful, Teya;Teya." She repeated my name in her flawless voice as if she were seeing how it tasted against her perfect lips. She bent down on her knees and looked directly into my eyes, her own sparkling. "Do you want to see the fearies Teya? I can show them to you child for they dwell just beyond these trees. They are waiting to greet you Teya, but I told them they must wait, for you may not want to meet them. They wept when I said that Teya, and begged that I must go and tell you how excited they were, how rarely they get to meet a little girl as lovely as you are." I turned my head to look into the shadows of the giant oak trees standing so tall on the outskirts of the forest. Luthien followed my gaze, her hair falling across her shoulders as she turned her head, a blanket of silk against her ivory skin. "Would you like to meet them?" She pressed, rubbing her cool fingers down my arms. "Yes please." I gasped, and she laughed at the desperation in my voice. Luthien pulled her hands from my shoulders, and I longed for her to hold me again. I watched as she stood up, and cupped her elegant hands together all the while keeping her eyes upon me. She blew on her fingertips, her eyes closing for a moment allowing her thick lashes to brush against her skin. Luthien blinked and opened her fingers, revealing a crouching Faery nestled upon her palm. I held my hand out to touch it, to see if it was truly real. It uncurled from its position and took flight, alighting upon my own outstretched fingers. She was perfect, her russet hair hung in tangled curls over her naked body and her eyes, almond in shape gazed up at me. Her wings were golden brown in colour but so delicate and as thin as rice paper. I could see the warren of veins through the thin membrane and the sun shone through the many rips and tears, but they were as beautiful as an autumn leaf. "Now, Teya." Luthien breathed beside me, "The others are waiting for you beyond the trees, you still wish to see them?" I nodded quickly, eager to see the magikal world she spoke of. A world where the characters of my books were flesh and blood and more beautiful than any author could portray them. Luthien rose to her feet, and carefully took the tiny Faery from my fingers and closed her own around it. When she held out her palm to me, the creature had disappeared. "Now sweet child, as much as I would love to just simply guide you through our door and show you our world, I am forbidden to do so." I looked up at her, her dark eyes shimming with silver tears and she allowed just the one to fall over her lashes and onto her flawless skin. I longed to wipe it away and comfort her, as I could not bear to see her weep. "I require a small gift from you Teya." "Anything." "You have a sister, yes?" My heart skipped, though I was unsure if it was from fear of what this woman wanted from Niven, or jealousy. Why did she want her when she already had me? "I need you to bring her to me Teya, that's all. Then the three of us can see my world and that would make you happy wouldn't it?" I nodded, and I felt the prick of disappointed tears push against my eyes. I did not want to share this magik with my sister; I wanted it solely for me. Luthien bent down once again and kissed the salty tears that dribbled down my cheeks, and brushed her fingers over my lashes, catching the rest. "Go now, child. I shall wait for you." I sprinted down the hill, the cold wind stinging my eyes and whipping my hair against my red face. I could hear my heart thump in my ears, pumping to the dull thud of my trainers as they hit the concrete path. I had never been much of an athlete, always coming last at sports day, whether it was the hurdles or the beanbag throw. I was always the one that became tangled in the Hessian sack during the sack race and mum would have to rescue me. I ran as if my life truly depended on it, ignoring the stabbing pain in my side as I cramped up. I wouldn't stop running until I fell through the red door and felt the warmth of the coal fire press against my skin. "Niven!" I gasped, falling to my knees in the sitting room. "Where is Niven?" "Where in Gods name have you been?" Scolded my mum as she rose from the sofa and stormed beside me, ignoring my pleading question. "Well?" "By the woods;I told you;" I glanced desperately around the room to find my sister, but it was empty save for my parents. Dad stood up, folding his newspaper up neatly before placing it on the coffee table. He moved to stand next to mum, his blue eyes dark as he glared at me through his glasses. "You're an hour late Teya." He fumed, my father never raised his voice, not once had he shouted at us or anyone for that matter, he was much to gentle. I looked at the clock, its hands pointing to half past six, only then did I notice the darkening of the sky outside the window. "You are eight years old! You should not be playing in the woods in the dark at your age, I sent Niven to go look for you." "I wasn't playing in the woods;" I protested as my mother spun me around to observe the grass stains on my clothes. I heard her sharp intake of breath as she noticed the wet patch on my bottom. "You'll catch your death!" She shrieked, bringing her hand harshly down upon the wet spot ignoring my yelp of pain. "Sitting on damp grass, in the dark;what would the neighbours think?" "Ruby;" My father began, placing his hand on mums shoulder rubbing the fabric of her blouse with his thumb. "The neighbours don't give a damn if Teya has a wet arse, so stop nagging at her." He paused to look at me, kneeling down so that he faced me. "Go and get your nightdress on and then come down for tea. You are grounded for the next week." I stormed to my room of course, ensuring that I pounded my feet as loud as I could on each of the wooden steps. I sulked as I pulled the cotton slip over my head, but even I knew that it was a fair deal, the time had just melted away. I sat at the dinner table quietly, pushing the food around my plate turning it to mush rather than eating it. Niven's seat remained empty; she had called at her friends before coming home and was now staying the night. I could not hide the utter disappointment I felt and cried into my dressing gown. With me weeping and refusing to eat my food, my mother diagnosed me with a suspected head cold and sent me to bed. "I said you'd catch cold." She cooed gently, pressing her hand to my forehead, before pushing a mug of hot chocolate into my palms. "Didn't I?" her voice was accusatory as she turned to dad. "I'll run you a bath and then you can go to bed, we'll discus this further in the morning." I followed my mum to the bathroom, and watched as she filled the iron cast bath with steaming water, tipping in a capful of pink bubble bath. She swirled the water with her hand causing the bubbles to foam up and smiled gently at me. "Don't get your hair wet, Teya." I watched as she left the bathroom, leaving the door open a crack and returned downstairs. I slid into the bath, wincing as the cool polished sides touched my skin. I lay in the soothing water and washed away the tears that had dried against my face. I hoped that Luthien would wait for me, I had decided that I would take Niven to the woods the next day; surely, she would wait for me until then. The water grew cold around me as I lay and pondered how I could convince my sister to accompany me. Niven did not believe in fearies, she never had. Whilst my own room was littered with shelves upon shelves of books and dolls of the magikal creatures, hers was a shrine to her favourite film stars. Posters of them were taped to the walls like wallpaper, actors and actress posing on set, their beautiful bodies taut, muscular and perfect. Niven loved them all, and dreamt a very different dream to mine; she wanted to be like them. A much more realistic dream really, it was a shame it was my own impossible dream that came to be. I shivered as I stepped from the tub, and wrapped myself quickly in the thick towel left for me, breathing in the sweet scent of our washing powder. Pulling on my dressing gown, I hurried across the freezing landing and dived under my duvet. Mum came in seconds later and kissed the top of my head, picking up the damp towel I had discarded as she walked by. "No reading tonight Teya." She said as she tucked the covers around me. "But;" I began, though she just shook her head and took the book that sat atop my bedside table and tucked it under her arm. "Not tonight." She flicked off the light and left my door open slightly like the bathroom, allowing the light from the landing to trickle in. These shadows did not dance like the ones in the woods, but remained stationary, just dark reflections of the many figurines I had upon my shelves. I knelt up and lent against the cool wood of my windowsill, pulling my duvet snugly around my shoulders. I had a perfect view of the woods from my house; I could see the dark trees swaying on the hill as the last of the light melted behind them. I could not see Her, of course, but knew she waited for me in the shadows. As I looked over at the woods, I was sure I could feel her own haunting eyes watching me, waiting for me. I lay down and sleep came much faster than I had expected, I closed my eyes and dreamt of Her, of dancing and midnight feasts. The fair and the Fey surrounded us as we twirled and sang, and when the sun rose, they kissed us and allowed us to return home. I was not too know that they would be keeping one of us. Diluted sunlight shone through my window and gently stirred me; I had no curtains to draw, preferring instead to let moonlight and sunlight shine through. Yawning, I stretched and pulled the covers over my head, not yet quite ready to venture from their warmth. I pulled Lancelot closer to me, my ancient teddy bear and age-old friend breathing in his familiar smell. Beneath my covers, I told him my secrets, my dreams and my wild wishes, and he laughed not at my tales of fearies and secret worlds. He never laughed, because he couldn't but still it comforted me as I spilled my heart out to him, knowing his amber eyes never judged me. From under my covers, I heard the muffled cry of mum as she called me down for breakfast, I smiled for it was Saturday morning and she always made bacon sandwiches on Saturday mornings. Kissing Lancelot on the nose, I propped him up on the pillow as I neatly made my bed, ensuring his jacket was still buttoned firmly. I pulled on a clean pair of jeans and a purple jumper, picking up the dirty clothes I had discarded on the floor the night before. Bacon spat in the frying pan, filling the small kitchen with a delightful scent that made my mouth water. I dumped my dirty washing in the laundry basket and took my place at the table, where dad already waited nearly foaming at the mouth for his bacon sarnie. "You look better." He commented, not really looking at me, but eyeing the fatty meat mum had just slopped onto a plate. I nodded, and turned to look out the window where the sun shone beautifully, hidden only partially by a few scattered clouds. "I'm fine." I replied, between mouthfuls of sandwich, allowing ketchup and butter to run down my chin. "Can I go outside today?" Mum sat at the table and began to place strips of bacon on to heavily buttered bread; I noticed her gaze up at dad, spilling brown sauce over her fingers as she did so. "Damn it!;You are grounded Teya, remember?" My heart sank, "But then I don't want you here under my feet all day, you can spend the day with Niven, she'll be back in an hour or so." "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" I squealed, dropping my food on my plate to give mum a hug. She held me back and I buried my head into her chest, only imagining the quizzical look she gave my dad. "You're not usually that happy to spend time with your sister, are you sure you're feeling alright?" I moved away as she went to push her palm against my forehead and returned to my sandwich, only just managing to finish it off as my excitement bubbled. The next hour passed slowly, the way time always does when you're eager for it to fly by. Cartoons flickered on the T.V but I didn't watch them, just hummed along absently to the Rainbow tune. I nearly tripped over my own feet when I heard the latch on the door click, and Niven's sweet voice filled the kitchen as mum handed her a bacon sandwich. "I hear I'm stuck with you today." Niven said as she walked in and sat down on the sofa, wiping ketchup from her face with the back of her sleeve. "Is that ok?" "Sure." Niven had no problems hanging around with her little sister, I knew she enjoyed having me around; I just never enjoyed having an older sister. We fought regularly like most siblings do, she pulled my hair and I stole her things and hid them, but I knew deep down that Niven loved me. She would protect me if ever I needed to be protected, and wipe away the tears that I wept when the shadows frightened me. Niven was always there when I needed her to be, my rock to which I could discard when I felt like it. I never really found out if Niven knew that I loved her too, deep down past the bitter jealousy. Not once did I ever tell her. I followed Niven to her room so she could change from yesterday's dirty clothes, sitting on the edge of her bed as she rummaged through her wardrobe. I curled my legs up under me and ran my hands over the cool lilac covers that graced Niven's bed, matching the shade of her walls beneath the posters perfectly. "Do you want to go to the woods today?" I asked hopefully. "Why?" "I don't know, for something to do?" Niven turned to face me, sliding a little ruffled skirt up past her knees; she smiled as she pushed her toes into her shoes and sat down beside me. "We could go to the park." She suggested, her periwinkle eyes sparkling behind her lashes. "Or catch the bus into town?" "I don't want to go to town." I sulked, pushing out my bottom lip. I was so eager to get her to Luthien that I could feel the tears well up again. "Oh, don't be a baby Teya." Niven scolded, "I'll go to the woods with you, if you tell me why you're so eager to go there." I turned my head away from her and stared at my hands, picking at the skin beneath my fingernail. "I want to see the fearies." I mumbled, turning red as Niven laughed at me. "Really?" "I know you don't believe me Niven, but it's true, I swear to you. They are waiting for us at the edge of the woods, and want to see you. They're so pretty, and really nice, one of them even stood on my finger." "That must have hurt." I knew she was mocking me, and folded my arms across my chest, sticking out my chin indignantly. Niven laughed again, and pressed her fingers into the hollows of my cheeks, forcing me to smile. "Why do your Fearies want to see me then?" She asked gently, moving her hands to my hair which she smoothed and begun to braid. "Dunno." I shrugged, "Luthien said she wanted to meet you, and wouldn't show me the other Fearies if I didn't." "You can show me your Fearies, only if we do something I want to do afterwards." "Does that involve a makeover for me?" Niven smiled, flashing a row of little white teeth. "Of course." Mum pushed our coats into our hands as we made to race out the door, me racing so that I could get to the woods, Niven, so she could get back and do something she wanted to do. "I want you back in two hours for Lunch," Mum began, standing over us and ensuring we buttoned up our coats. "And Teya, if you come back with a wet ass I'll really give you something to cry about. Understand?" I nodded, not understanding the irony behind her words, and wiggled out of her grasp as she tied me into my jacket as tightly as she could. "Gerroff!" I mumbled under my hood, forcing it back over my head so that I could breathe again. I heard the tinkle of Niven's laugh as she took my hand and fled from the kitchen and towards the woods. The grass was still wet from the morning dew, and it squelched beneath our trainers and soon our hands and knees were soaked through as we slipped and slid over the damp ground. I roared with laughter as we struggled uphill, clutching at my side as I gasped for breath between fits. Niven squealed beside me as we pushed and shoved one another, ignoring the bruises as we tumbled down the hill, only to run back up and do it again. By the time, we reached the edge of the woods we were sopping wet, covered in mud and gasping for breath. Though I didn't care what mum would say when she saw us, no all I could focus on was the beautiful creature standing in front of us, and the look of awe on Niven's graceful face. Luthien stepped towards me, her face lit up by the radiant smile she wore and took me in her arms. "You came back." She exclaimed holding me at arms length, her wonderful eyes turned to Niven who stood shyly beside me, and something different flashed over them and for just a moment, they darkened. "You must be Niven," Luthien sang, turning to my sister who gushed in return. I watched Niven turn scarlet as the lovely creature fawned over her, running her slender fingers over her hair, twisting it so it curled. Absently we wandered into the shadows of the trees, following her melodic voice like rats to the pipers tune, and it was funny because I didn't remember giving Luthien my sister's name. Luthien danced and skipped as she led us further into the woods, her simple white dress flowing like mist around her slender body. She danced to music the wind sang as it blew through the boughs of the trees, and stepped in time to the birdsong up above us. As she moved, we watched in wonder as others came to join her, materialising it seemed from the trees themselves. They were impossibly beautiful, as she was and I felt my heart melt inside my breast as I longed to touch them. Creatures I had never even read about moved lithely around us, bending and bowing to invisible notes. Waif like women with scarlet eyes entwined their rake thin bodies around men with pointed ears, their iridescent wings flickering in the sunlight. Men and woman as tall as the trees themselves stood in the shadows, watching us with their fox-like faces. I watched back and they smiled at me, revealing rows of sharp, perfect teeth as the pulled back their lips. I heard them sing, and soon we were both being twirled and spun by the perfect creatures that haunted the woods. A man took Niven by the hands and in one graceful swoop he held her in his arms, his own silver hair mingling with her ebony mane. She squealed with delight, and he laughed back, and as she clutched at his neck he spun her faster and faster and soon I had lost them amongst the dancing bodies. "Dance with me." I looked up and held out my hands like an obedient dog, and cold-clawed hands that held me tight swallowed my tiny fingers. Pale lilac eyes gazed back into my own, and this creature did not smile at me as we danced. His cloven feet thudded against the dry earth with every step he took, forcing my body against his. He smelled of the woods, of damp and dirt, and had hair matted through with vines and leaves. "Do not fear, little child." He breathed to me, moving his head closer to me as he twirled me around, his strange eyes narrowing as he leaned in. "Just dance with me." He held me hard as he threw back his head and laughed, and I winced as his two horns came startling close to my face. "Where's Niven?" I asked him, trying vainly to release my hand from his solid fingers. "Over there." He replied in a bored voice, pointing in the distance with his free hand. I turned to where he gestured, and could vaguely make out my sister as she danced with Luthien, and a few of the other more beautiful beings. Her laughter mingled with theirs, and from where I danced, I could barely hear it. I pulled away from the Fauns iron grip, but he held me fast, lightly tugging me back to him. "Dance with me." He hissed, as he spun me around transforming the woods into a great blur. I could barely catch my breath before he would turn around and spin me repeatedly; forcing me to step in time to music, I could barely hear. "Please;stop." I begged, tears sliding down my cheeks, but again he just threw back his head and laughed. This time my face collided with one of his great horns and I fell to my knees, stars bursting before my eyes. I clamped my hand to my cheek and felt the warm blood trickle over my fingers, mingling with the tears that fell freely. The creature knelt beside me, a twisted smile gouged over his goat-like features, and ran his cold hands down my cheek, taking my head in his hands. "Shhh, little child." He whispered, his voice like gravel. "Just be still, and dance with me." With my head in his arms, he tilted back on his knees and gently rocked me, and I could feel the chill of his fingers as they ran through my hair. "Do not fret, little child," He purred, "They've gone, they've all gone." He laughed in my ear, a deep chuckle that rose through his throat and pushed his earthy breath against my face. I twisted from his hold and snatched my head back to the nest of trees where moments earlier Niven had danced, nothing moved but the trees as the wind whispered over them. The Faun rose to his feet, his hooves dragging in the dirt as he stood and backed away from me. He pushed a finger to his lips, and drew his teeth back and smiled at me. Bowing slightly he turned and vanished into the shadows, leaving me completely alone beneath the silent trees. I stood in the shadows for what seemed like forever, but of course, just like before time barely passed. I stared back into the trees, too frightened to step further under their enchanted boughs; I trembled at the thought of what monsters still lingered in the woods, waiting in the darkness now the music had stopped. Though as I stood there shaking, I knew that I was completely and utterly alone, knowing they had taken what it was they had wanted. They did not intend to take me with them, and I knew that now. "Niven!" I screeched at the trees, nothing answered but my echo. "Niven!" I screamed and screamed her name, oddly comforted by the sound of my voice as it rebounded off the trees. Above me, I could see the sky darkening, the once distant clouds now covering the weak rays of light. I pulled my hood up as it began to drizzle, and continued to shout my sister's name, thunder answered my calls and I jumped as the sound boomed through the wood. As the rain soaked through my coat, I began to cry. Not heaving panicked sobs, as they should have been, but a slow trickle of wet that reddened my cheeks as they dribbled down. My bottom lip quivered and I could taste them as they trickled onto my tongue, a mixture of salty tears and rainwater. I wandered a little deeper into the woods, peering under tree stumps and fallen branches, looking hopelessly for any signs of the wondrous monsters that had stolen Niven. I was almost relived when I found none, not even footprints in the soil underfoot, or trampled bramble - had there been I don't think I would have had the guts to follow. I stopped walking beside an old oak tree, its trunk rotted by the thousand strings of ivy that was slowly choking it to death. I sat in its shadow, leaning back against the damp bark and waited. Waited for what I didn't know, but I knew I couldn't return home without Niven and fear stopped me from going deeper into the woods. I was stuck beneath the oak tree and I wanted to wish the ivy to swallow me up too, but I didn't for I truly feared that it would. It was not long before I was soaked through, my woollen coat dripping wet hung heavily off my shoulders, weighing me down against the oak. I didn't feel the cold, although I shivered and my teeth chattered so violently that I bit my tongue, and tasted blood. I stared at my arms, stark white against the red fabric and noticed the deep bruises that spread over my wrists, a swirl of mottled purple and blue. I placed my hand over them; shadowing the finger marks the Faun had left upon me, and winced as the pain shot up my arm. I curled my body into a ball, tucking my dripping hair back under my hood and away from my eyes. I turned my head away from the trees, hiding it under my tender arms so that I could pretend I was somewhere else. I closed my eyes and shut out the wind that continued to sing through the branches of the trees, and I shivered and trembled, I slept "Teya!;Niven!" Weakly I outstretched my hand, my frozen fingers clawing at the darkness, desperately seeking something to grip. Though I pulled it back sharply and called out, as they curled around another hand, fearing some creature had come back for me. I was not to know that I was long forgotten, a dulled memory that was easily pushed back as life - their life carried on. The hand I clutched in the darkness belonged to my father, and as I reached out to him, my blackened arms visible in the dull light, I saw him weep. He wrenched me upward as if I weighed nothing, tugging furiously at my damp coat and replacing it with a gloriously warm blanket. I threw my arms around him, locking my hands so tightly around his neck that he struggled to breath; he did not attempt to loosen them. "I've got her!;Ruby!;I've got her!" I heard the sound of distant cheers, and I wondered how many of the local people had braved the darkness to come look for us. Though their cheers were tinged with desperation as they searched - though they did not know how vainly - for my sister. "Niven?" My mother screamed, and it nearly broke me to hear the hope beneath her question, I was thankful then for the darkness of my fathers shoulder. At least I wouldn't have to see the flash of regret on my mothers face as she reached out to hold the wrong daughter. "It's Teya, Ruby." I felt my weight shift, as my father placed me into mum's arms, she squeezed me tightly and I could feel her fingertips dig into my skin beneath the blanket. "My baby." She wept, "My little baby." I clawed at her neck, pulling myself closer so that was not an inch of space between us and sobbed into her. She smelt so familiar, of white musk and the faint whisper of cigarette smoke. "The fearies took her mummy." I gasped into her ear, but she wasn't really listening to me, she hushed me and soothed my hair, as she frantically looked around for her other lost baby. "We could take her back now Ruby, get her warm." I felt the damp fingers of Megan Stanley brush against my shoulder, a neighbour of ours and one of mums closest friends, she smiled as I looked at her, mum growled. "Don't you touch her!" She screeched. "Don't you touch her!" My mother's cries caused more tears to escape my eyes, but Mrs Stanley merely nodded, causing her sopping curls to bob wetly over her shoulders. She moved her hand from me and rested it on mum's cheek, wiping away the mascara that had oozed down from her lashes. "We'll find her Ruby." Mrs Stanley promised, tucking one of mum's stray hairs behind her ears. "We'll find Niven." I wanted to scream at the poor deluded woman, curse her for the false hope she was bestowing upon my mum. I knew that they could search all night - for all the days and nights they had - but they'd always be looking in the wrong places. "Come now Ruby, we need to get Teya home." "My;baby;" I watched as my dad placed a strong hand on my mothers arm and pulled her very gently toward him, and as he kissed her damp hair, he scooped me from her arms and held me close. I had no need to cling to him, for he hummed softly in my ear, a familiar lullaby that he always hummed, the words long forgotten but I felt safe. My father had always been the one to chase the imaginary monsters from under my bed, and he would do so with the wordless song at his lips. He told me that the monsters couldn't bear the sound of a happy tune, and would hop-foot it out of the shadows and into the night, covering their ears as they ran. My father did not know that the magic had gone from his broken lullaby, and that no amount of humming would force away the new monsters from the shadows, but I allowed him to be my hero, and let him sing. He carried me home in his arms, supporting mum as she wept silently beside him, with her he would steal a glance back at the woods behind us, hating himself for leaving his other little girl behind. "The Faeries took her daddy." I whispered as he placed me gently onto his bed, pulling the huge duvet tightly around me. "That's all she's been saying, Jack." Mum said hoarsely from the doorway. Her dainty fingers clutched at a mug of steaming coffee, though she didn't flinch or utter a sound as the china burned her skin. "That's what she said to the officer, they can't get any thing else out of her, they don't know what to look for;who took Niven honey?" She turned to me, "Was it a man, poppet? You tell mummy and daddy so they can help find her, who took Niven away?" "The Faeries took her mummy." The mug slipped from mums hand and I watched it fall, though it didn't shatter into a thousand pieces like mugs tend to do in the movies, the coffee just slopped onto the carpet turning it a muddy brown. "They didn't!" She shouted, stepping closer to me, "Tell me who it was Teya! Who was it!" "Stop it Ruby!" Dad barked at her, "Can't you see you're scaring her?" "Who took my baby?" Mum screeched "She did!" I wept, my voice coming out as a desperate sob. "The beautiful woman with the dark eyes;" "Jack!" "It's not much of a description Ruby;" Dad began, but he already had the phone to his ear and left the room, his frantic voice barely a muted whisper in the dark hallway. I watched my mother as she sunk to her knees and desperately began to scrub at the murky stain in the carpet, using the edge of her nightie. She caught me looking at her and pushed a tiny smile to her lips and stood up. "That'll leave a stain." she said absently. "But fuck it." Slowly she stepped closer to the bed, and sunk under the covers beside me, placing her thin arms around me and pulling me in closer. I lay my head against her breast and listened for a while at the thudding of her heartbeat, my own echoing to the song it danced. I thought it would have been impossible to sleep, with all the nightmares circling my head, but sleep I did. Wedged in-between the bodies of my parents I slept and dreamt of nothing. No monsters plagued my unconscious or beautiful women with haunting eyes and liquid voices. I was expecting them, and was more frightened by the fact that they didn't't come. Had Luthien truly forgotten me? Taking with my sister, my right to dream of her? They never did find Niven, of course they didn't. Perhaps if they had looked more closely to where I had pointed they may have. They scanned the woods in search of her, teams of policeman with monstrous dogs that strained at the leash turned over every stone, and stepped into the shadows I still feared to tread. Niven was on the news, her face plastered over the front pages of all the newspapers, as were the wretched faces of my parents as they waited for her. Women fitting the pathetic description of Luthien I had given were taken in for questioning, and were released as I knew they would be, soon after. No one was ever arrested, Niven, it seemed had just walked into the woods and vanished, leaving nothing to help us find her. As the months went by, my broken family stopped being front-page news and it wasn't long before they even ceased mentioning us all together, without any leads on Niven, they had no story to tell. I stopped talking of fearies soon after Niven's disappearance, I was only eight years old, yes, but I knew the words psychologist and hospitals well enough to keep my mouth shut. So I waited with them, I even helped mum as she wrapped Niven's Christmas presents and placed them neatly next to my own. Niven's birthdays gifts were in the loft, perfectly wrapped and gathering dust, and though I knew these parcels too would never be opened I carried on. No matter how hard I tried to be good or how frenetically I prayed I couldn't hold my family together. For two years, I continued to wrap the loft bound gifts, and set a place at the table where no one would ever sit. I even joined the local theatre and sung, just so that they could have someone to smile up at. I didn't even care that mum closed her eyes and imagined it was Niven, and not me that sang. On the 22nd march, I watched as the ever-fraying stands that held us all together finally broke. I sat on the top stair in my nightie, woken from my dreamless sleep to the sound of voices in the hallway. Leaning against the woodchip paper that hung from the walls I strained to listen to the hushed whisperings below, but could only make out broken fragments of the conversation. I didn't need to hear the words, nor hear the gentle sobs of mum as she clung to the banister. No, I could see the old leather holdall in the hallway, the blanched leather shining dully under the weak light, and I understood well enough. I didn't move from my hiding place, but wept silently in the darkness as I watched my beloved father turn his back on his family and abandon us. He turned only once to gaze up at my bedroom door, forcing me to melt further into the darkness in fear of being seen. His eyes lingered for just a second, on the pink sign nailed to the wood that declared that room as my own, and then shot a glance at the purple one on the door to the left. I begged silently for him to come upstairs, just one more time to kiss me goodbye. I wanted to feel the rough stubble on his chin as he held me, and to ensure there were no monsters beneath my bed that would scare me when he was gone. I wanted just one more lullaby, his song which held no lyrics, for I feared I would soon forget. I watched as he turned away and picked up his holdall, the ancient leather squeaking in protest as he did so. He did not come upstairs to kiss me goodbye but flicked the catch on the front door and walked out, allowing the cold wind to sneak past and sting my wet cheeks. "Bye daddy." I whispered to the empty doorway, the sound of the revving taxi stole away my farewell, as I hugged my knees. "Teya?" Someone had heard my goodbye. Mum used the banister to haul herself up from the bottom stair, pulling the sleeves of her crumpled nightdress back over her arms, trying vainly to hang onto her dignity. I watched her climb the steps towards me, stumbling up them as if drunk. She clung to the walls as she dragged herself to me and I held out my desperate arms to her. She pulled me to her body harshly, and I gripped her as I had done when she found me in the woods. Together we wept for the loss of our family, and in the darkness we clung to each other fearing we would lose one another if we so much as slackened our hold. I believe it was me that finally let go, not just that night when we had finally ran out of tears, but of any hope of staying together. Niven was the catalyst of our families destruction, although I blamed myself for leading her into the woods, I hated her so very much. Luthien had loved her more then me and in stealing away my sister, took my own life with her. If it were me she had danced with and lead into the shadows, Niven would have held our family together. As much as I loathed her, I honestly knew she would braved the darkness and ran into the shadows after me. And so I remained sitting next to mum on the landing, shivering as the cold march wind travelled through the open front door. As she buried her head in my shoulder, I gazed out into the night, knowing even then I would not stay with her long. Poor woman, I had stayed with her after she lost her daughter, and wept with her as she watched her husband leave. At the age of sixteen I moved away and left her wondering what she could have done to save her family. But this is not her story, but my own. I have told you what happened when I took my sister by the hand and led her into the woods, but what next? I could tell you I finally conquered my fear of the dark and stole Niven back. How we all lived happily ever after, but you don't want to hear that. I shall save such endings for Faery tales, but for now you can have the truth. How I stumbled through the shadows I so desperately feared, fell in love and lost my heart.