“Legend has it that every time a child was born and was marked for great things by the fates, it attracted the attention of the dark fairy, Freyja. She granted the child, most often a prince or princess, but sometimes a farmer, or a merchant’s child, a gift. Maybe beautiful voices or wrinkle-free skin. Something every little boy or girl wanted. But there was always a twist. She took delight in making people desire her gifts so much that they were blinded by the thorns in the shadow of her rose. Those with beautiful voices lost their ability to talk in anything but limericks. Those without wrinkles in their skin gained horrendous acne, scarring their faces horribly - wrinkle-free, sure, but not perfect skin.
And then there were the dreaded curses. The ones old maids gossiped about behind closed doors. The ones that devastated the entire kingdom for years. The ones that cursed the young child to die on a specific birthday. And even if the child fell beneath Freydja’s notice, she would still find a way to smite the kingdom. Maybe a blight on the land, or killing off the female livestock so that the kingdom couldn’t produce anything to trade. Not even the gentle persuasion of the light fairy, Maven, could completely dissolve Freydja’s trace on the kingdom. Yes, she could make the child’s death a deep sleep, or the beautiful voices finally go silent to prevent the person from going mad, but the gift or curse would still impact the person and the kingdom for years to come.
But that was before the War. Nobody’s seen or heard of Freyja since the four kings of the land, and Maven put their heads together and devised a scheme to lock away the dark fairy for good. They couldn't kill her. Nobody can kill a fairy, let alone a dark one, for the fairy must selflessly sacrifice herself to truly die. And neither of the two wanted to die. But around the same time that the Kings vanquished Freydja, Maven also vanished, leaving the kings with instructions on how to bring her back if Freydja ever resurfaced. No one knows where she went. Maybe she assimilated herself with the kingdoms, protecting under a disguise.
Nobody knows exactly how the Kings locked away Freydja, either. To prevent anybody from releasing Freyja, the kings didn’t share the entire story with anybody. Different fragments of the story were told to different people floating around the kingdoms like leaves on the wind, getting so mixed up and confused that within a few years, no one trusted the other’s word on how or where Freydja vanished. And then, almost five decades after Freyja was gone, people stopped believing she existed. She became a bedtime story, a horror story, if you will, for mothers to scold their children. ‘If you don’t turn out the horses into the paddocks, Freyja will curse you!’ or everyone’s favorite, ‘If you don’t eat all your vegetables, Freyja will make sure you won’t ever eat again.’
But I knew better. I had seen Freydja, felt her evil touch on our lands. As the Queen, I have to protect my daughter from attracting the attention of Freyja, for although she may be slumbering in the Dark Forest somewhere, she would certainly not stay that way for all eternity.” I ended my story and peaked down at the little girl tucked under my arm, eyes wide with…fear and a little bit of admiration.
“Wow mama, that’s so cool. Do you know where Freyja is?” I shook my head and leaned over to tuck Elaxi further into the covers.
“Nobody knows, dear. That’s why she will never awaken again.” I swallowed the familiar burn of the lie and buried it under a bright smile. “Don’t be scared, little one. She will never, ever, lay eyes on you.” I kissed her nose, and she squealed as my fingers tickled her sides. “Goodnight, sweetie,” I whispered, before getting out of her bed, and blowing out the candle on her nightstand. I walked over to her room door and stepped outside into the hallway, closing the door softly, smiling at the sight of her burrowing deeper into her blankets.
“Queen Dhariana, you have a letter from your sister.” I startled at the sound of Benwick, our butler, coming up behind me.
“My…my sister?” I asked, fear creeping into my voice. Nobody actually knew this apart from my husband and me, but my sister was Maven, the light fairy, and she only sent letters when something was terribly, terribly wrong. With trembling hands that I tried to quiet in front of Benwick, I took the letter from him and walked to my rooms on legs that suddenly felt like jelly.
I knocked on our room door twice before entering, letting my husband know it was me, and ran over to the bedroom where he was washing up.
“Radomir!” I cried, collapsing on the bed. He poked his head out of the bathroom and when he saw the letter I was holding, immediately came over to me. My hands were shaking so hard I almost stabbed myself twice with the letter opener, so Radomir took it out of my hands gently and opened it, unfolding the thick parchment my sister favored above all. He quickly scanned it, his face falling with every line, and handed it to me, his shoulder slumping. He ran a hand over his face and abruptly stood up and walked over to the window. I picked up the piece of paper and read it.
I fear what we have dreaded most is happening. Freyja is stirring, and none of the spells we devised for this situation are working. She is growing stronger with each passing hour, and I am growing weaker, trying to prevent her from waking up. My magic is slowly draining, sister, and I am afraid it won’t be too long before she wakes.
I will do as much as I can to stop her, but her magic is stronger than anything we’ve ever seen from her. Don’t be scared sister, I will not allow her to awaken, so hear me, and I will send word if I can reign her back under control.
Prepare yourself and your family, for if Freyja wakes up, our world will be crushed under her anger.
I read the letter with growing dread and helplessly looked up at my husband, where he was looking out the window overlooking our kingdom, clenching his jaw.
“What do we do now?” I whispered. He turned back to me.
“We have to protect Elaxi and our kingdom. If she awakens-”
“Don’t say that!” I interrupted, suddenly angry. “If Maven can’t control her in her sleep, then how can we even hope to control her without my sister?” He looked grim.
“Maven has been with Freyja for over five decades, and her power is not what it used to be. We need to fortify the kingdom. Tell our people what’s happening, otherwise, when the dark fairy comes for us, we will all surely perish.”
“No. We cannot tell our people.” He looked surprised at my words. I forged on, ignoring the hurt in his eyes as I pulled rank over him. Our kingdom was more of a Queendom, passing down the throne from mother to daughter, and our husbands were the Queen’s consorts. They controlled the practical sides of the kingdom’s affairs, while the Queen controlled the psychological side, the people, and their well-being. “We cannot allow chaos and fear to spread within the land, based on a very big if. Maven will pull through, and we will protect Elaxi and our people by not telling them about this development. If Maven sends another letter with worse news, then yes, then we will let our people know. Otherwise, we keep this between you and me.” I folded up the letter and stood up, walking over to the fireplace and threw it into the flames. Instantly, it alight, and I stared into the flicking flames as the paper caught fire and burned up, a pile of ash in mere seconds.
A few weeks later, we still hadn’t heard anything from Maven, so I assumed everything was under control again, and we had nothing to worry about. Radomir disagreed, and he would often gaze out the windows in our rooms, deep in thought as he surveyed our kingdom. I pushed aside any lingering doubt about Maven and Freyja and instead focused on the scarf I was knitting Elaxi for her birthday party later this evening. We were going to hold a ball and invite the court in celebration, and I was determined to hold the best eighth birthday she could ever want.
It would not only be beneficial for my peace of mind, to do something different and not focus on the rumbling storm over the horizon, but also for the kingdom. It would boost the kingdom economically and boost morale within the people. I put aside the scarf and walked down the grand stairs to the ballroom where the party would be held. Elaxi didn’t know about it she was playing with some of the servant’s children’s in the west wing and were instructed to not give away the secret. People were slowly filtering in, some court members, some merchants, and some people who had been invited from the other kingdoms to celebrate my daughter.
After a couple of hours, the party guests were all here and were talking amongst each other, and Elaxi was about to be brought in. I walked slowly, giggling with her as my hands covered her eyes.
“What’s happening, mama?” She laughed, as we took another couple of tentative steps toward the ballroom. Radomir was at the threshold of the room, and everyone was quiet, watching the little girl being led to her party. I held up the fingers of my other hand, silently counting down to when everyone would yell ‘Happy Birthday!’ 3-2-1.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Everyone roared, and I pulled my hands away from her face theatrically. Elaxi’s eyes lit up as she took in the scene before her.
“Oh, thank you, mama and papa!” She gave us both a hug and leaned on tiptoe to kiss us on the cheek before running off to receive her presents and greet her guests.
The party went on for hours, and we had just cut the cake and sang birthday songs to my daughter. She was playing with some friends, chattering eagerly about her presents, and the court was milling around, talking to us and each other. Suddenly the throne room door banged open, and a hush fell over the court as the sound of heels clicking on the stone floor grew closer and closer. Everyone was staring at the source of the interruption. I inhaled sharply as a face I’d never thought I’d see again in my lifetime crossed the threshold of my ballroom.
Freyja didn’t look a day older than when she’d been vanquished by the kings over fifty years ago, but I guess fairy magic does have its perks. The only difference in her features was an ugly scar that ran the length of her beautiful pale violet eyes down to her pursed red lips. That must have been from Maven, but I was curious as to why she didn’t hide it. She was holding something in her hands, swinging as she walked purposely towards us. Bile rose in my throat. It was someone’s head. I felt sick, and dread pooled in my stomach. This was exactly what I didn’t want happening. This was all my fault, and my daughter and my kingdom were going to pay dearly for my mistake. I’d thought my sister was invincible, but I’d assumed wrong and let my arrogance get the better of me. I swallowed the lump in my throat and willed myself to be strong in front of my daughter and court.
“Elaxi! Come here now.” My voice cracked across the still room, and from where she was sitting frozen at the base of the dais with her friends, she hurriedly got to her feet and ran up the steps to me. I hugged her close. Freyja made her way over to the dais, people scrambling out of her way, and mockingly curtsied in front of us.
“What are you doing here?” My husband asked, his unwavering voice giving me strength. Freyja threw the beheaded head at the base of the dais, and I recoiled in disgust, taking in the gaping wounds covering the woman's face, and closed Elaxi’s eyes lest she started to cry and draw attention to herself. Not that I’d already done so by calling her to me in front of Freyja. I studied the face, trying to recognize it, and gasped loudly when a familiar birthmark shaped like a rose near the base of the woman’s nose caught my eye. I looked at Freyja, whose smile grew when she caught the look of horror in my eyes.
“Maven?” I whispered in shock. Titters from the crowd barely registered in my brain as I stared into my dead sister’s face. “But I thought no one could kill…how did you kill her?” Freyja only smirked as she walked even closer, still having yet to speak a word. A wicked smile crossed her devastatingly beautiful features as she looked Elaxi up and down. I protectively moved her behind me, half hiding her behind my voluminous skirts. My husband put a threatening hand on the pommel of his sword and took a step forward in front of me, trying in vain to prevent her from looking at our daughter.
“Hello, Your Majesties. It’s so very good to be back.”