Niccy likes the human world, it's beautiful. but he misses his true home, the fey land the Seelie court he was part of, but he was banished by the King years ago due to his trust in one of his friends he gave him shelter when he was wanted for treachery and now his banishment is complete, because of a foolish visit to heaven to attend the spring festival, he can never return . But nothing could have prepared Niccy for what happened next, when Meena, the love of his life goes missing after the festival. What would Niccy do can he abandon her? or would he risk the wrath of his
king, the most feared Sidhe in all of Fey land for her safety?
Niccy observed the flowers on the window sill, they were blue, deep blue like the night sky blue to match his eyes.But his eyes were, of course, another shade of blue flowers didn't really grow in that color. He would never find flowers of that color on Earth like the ones he received from Crystal 3 years ago on his birthday, she even reminded him of that
“They are like your eyes,” she said, gesturing towards the bouquet she had brought him, “you won't find flowers like these here, they don’t belong here like those eyes … they belong in Heaven”
Heaven, Fairyland, Fairie, Fey Lands … all names for their land of beauty and magic and immortality. Crystal meant to make him ache for that land for his home she wanted him to come back … like it was his choice to leave, to make herself clear she had warned him. “I won't be here next year,” she said, hoping he would miss her he did terribly but it wasn't his choice to come back any more than it had been his choice to leave. Okay, it had been choice of a kind he had been the one to suggest this punishment for himself. Crystal had meant to invite him back, back to that beautiful place they had called home since they were born but she succeeded only in making him miserable because in his mine his “choice” to be banished to Earth wasn't a choice at all. In a way yes, it had been he who had suggested this punishment for himself. He was the one who when their King had solemnly and somewhat sarcastically asked him what he thought he deserved for sheltering and protecting a traitor just because he was his friend. Niccy had replied “Banish me, Your Majesty, I don't deserve to be your subject anymore” So he was banished from Heaven. He didn't really know, no one did, why Feyland was called Heaven, probably one of their ancestors, fascinated as their kind often is with humans, had visited Earth had a human lover or friends and heard them mention Heaven and had said “ that's where I am from I am from Heaven”
The name stuck and it was a suitable name. But where is Heaven there is the opposite and the Realm of Pain and Mortality bears many similarities to the Biblical Hell and ending up there, the ultimate prison for Immortals was the fate he had escaped by suggesting and embracing his banishment, that or being personally punished by Essus the King of Heaven, The Wielder of the Hand of Flames & Lightning & Flesh, a fate far worse than the Prison. And so he was satisfied with his sentence on Earth even grateful for he knew if given the choice most humans would opt to avoid the Judgement Day and stay on Earth indefinitely living as Immortals on Earth rather than risk going to hell even if it cost them a chance to go to Heaven, for nothing is worth risking being burnt in flames for all eternity.
He studied the flowers in his windowsill & the roses in his garden inside the glasshouse were not visible from here where the majority of his flowers were the place of the small business he ran. there had been only a few orders this week for “Beautiful Nature”, the name of his plant and flower shop and delivery service, He delivered and planted, gave gardening advice. It gave him a little peace, surrounded by these flowers, the connection to Nature, to the magic of Earth and Life, his was a magic of Creation and Growth. Crystal had jokingly called him a flower deity and given him a flowery bowtie for his birthday once of course, that was many birthdays ago
He moved from the window sill to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of orange juice and tried not to think about the Spring Festival, the greatest Festive event occurring every ten years in Heaven, marking a change in climate, in fate. It was the first one he would be missing. he had always loved this party, unlike other parties this one was filled with life, with giant size flowers, with their fragrance covering everything, his heart ached. He thought of the decorations, the music, the magic surrounding the feast, the festival which would last for 5 days. After a glass of orange juice and a banana he went outside to his glasshouse, to observe and look over his rows of planted flowers. A green light glowed in the middle. He blinked twice then pinched himself, it couldn't be he thought. Yet the light glowed steadily, he knew who was waiting on the other side. He took a deep breath & walked inside. Despite his nervousness, he couldn't suppress the wave of happiness that flooded his heart After crystal had said that it was her last visit no one from home had come to visit him. He walked inside the glass walls, at once the light glowed then receded and then he saw him. With dark brown hair, dark blue eyes, ina white dress with a blblue-collarnd lining, Aaron stood there, in the middle of the flowers. Without question the most beautiful thing in the room, the most “alive “ too. TheSidhe Fey, particularly the high class gave of a magical aura which vibrated with life.”
“A pretty house “ he commented.
“It's a glasshouse,” Niccy said, hardly believing his eyes and ears, ”a place for things to grow” he added.
“It's pretty,” Aaron said, “though not as pretty as your garden in your home, you wouldn’t leave it for a palace preferring a cottage so you could be close to the garden. Don’t you miss it?”
“Did you come here to torment me” Niccy sked. Why would Aaron remind him of what he had, in all probability lost forever probably to be as cruel as Crystal had been but it wasn’t like Aaron he had always been kind, never saying insensitive things.
“You can see it again, if only through the looking mirror,” said Aaron holding up a
piece of glass, the magical mirror greater magic than any human camera able to show anything any place of Fairie that hadn’t been specifically made magically invisible.
Niccy shook his head. “No,” he said, “I am not a masochist”?” Aaron said with a hint of sarcasm. “I thought only masochists suggested their own punishments and then carried out their sentences quietly instead of appealing to the mercy of our king, who is the most merciful ruler Heaven has ever seen.”
“You know I can't do that, I am forbidden from even entering Heaven again.,Niccy replied.
“You can call him. He will answer you, or I can do it for you, should I?”
“No!” Niccy almost shouted,the fear was plain on his face.
“You are a lot of things Niccy, but I never took you for a coward, I can't believe you would give up that easily.”
“Fearing our King isn’t cowardice, it's being sane. You would be equally afraid if you were in my place”
“I would never be in your place”
“No, he loves you too much, he would forgive you for anything”
“No, I would never betray his trust in me by sheltering and protecting a traitor in my home just because he was my friend. What were you thinking?”
“He was not a traitor, he was my friend he promised me he wasn’t involved, he was just caught in the crossfire, he begged me to save him, I couldn’t just throw him out, I still believe he was innocent.”
“So you don't regret it
“Oh, I do, but I understand what I did and why. I accept it”
“The festival is in four days”
“I know,” Niccy said.
“You can come, the festivities are held outside the gates too”
“Its still Fairie Land, I can’t, it's against the rules.”
“You won't have to see His Majesty, he won’t come out far.”
“Someone will see me and report to him.”
“If that happens, I’ll say I invited you, told you were permitted to come by him”.
“You would lie to him? For me?
“You aren’t the only one who would take risks for a friend”.
“What would be the point? I’ll just see the festivities and then return without even setting foot in Heaven.”
“You can all of us, your friends… Meena!”
“Meena has forgotten all about me.”
“No, she just isn’t strong enough to make the trip to Earth again and again and figured a clean break would be better for both of you.”
“A clean break is just another word for moving on.”
“She has tried, but she misses you terribly, she came to me, begging me to intercede on your behalf.”
This was news to Niccy, it made something flutter in his heart. Meena, his Meena, with eyes the color of water, a lighter shade than his own eyes, the long blonde hair falling to her waist, so blonde they were almost white, Meana’s smile, her hand watering the plants with him.
"She’ll be there?” he knew it was a silly question, of course, she would.
“If you’ll be there? Definitely.” He replied.
“What if he sees me?”
“Tell him I invited you.”
“That’s not good enough.”
“He won't see you.” He reached inside his pocket, withdrew a piece of paper, a golden card, an official invitation. “There,” he pressed into the palm of Niccy’s hand.
“Come,” He said. “I miss you, we all do.”
With that, a green light glowed and Aaron disappeared, vanishing into the air. “Farewell,” the last word to escape his lips leaving Niccy speechless. Once again surrounded by his flowers and his ordinary glasshouse, and keenly feeling his loneliness more than ever before.
“The idiot is not going to come,” Crystal said looking at the photograph. They looked so happy, her short brown hair bobbing around her head. She stared at the photograph the longing plain in her eyes.
“He is hardly an idiot,” said Helena. “Why? Because he can occasionally understand what's wrong with those nutcases you call patients.”
“That’s more than any of you can do, even Essus.”
“Because we don’t want to, you are not actually suggesting Niccy is smarter than our King.”
“He has his moments,” said Helena, “And don’t ever call my patients nutcases again now I understand why you miss Niccy, he is the only one who can stand you.”
“Used to, now he is too busy planting flowers and selling them to humans.”
“He doesn’t have a choice.”
“He does, he just has to stop being such a coward.”
“When you break Essus’s rules, we’ll see how brave you are. I still remember you trembling just because you failed to deliver a message.”
“A message that could have prevented a war and I was sure Essus would think I kept it from him on purpose, that I disobeyed him, and yes, I was scared but I wouldn’t have banished myself just to avoid facing him. I think I would prefer death to being exiled from my home.”
“Niccy likes the human world,” said Aaron. “if he didn’t miss us and his garden so much, I think he would be happy there”
" What if he right? What if on seeing him Essus really becomes angry. What if he decides to punish him? After all your story that you invited him isn't very credible. Officially Niccy should wait for an official invitation which he isn't gonna get."
" I'll plead for him"
“What if that's not enough?”
“It will be.” Helena shook her head, clearly distressed.
“Have a little faith in him, Helen, in his compassion. He is the kindest ruler Heaven has ever had. I can’t believe he spent all those hours pouring his heart out to you and you have such little faith in his ability to forgive.”
“Precisely, he told me everything, including the things which haunt even him, the worst things he has ever done and don’t forget I am a Natural Healer, which means that I have an innate ability to sense auras, the origins of magical ability.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“The Hand of Fire, of blood and Lightning doesn’t just manifest,” said Helena. “It has to do with personality, it requires a certain kind of ruthlessness, a tendency or at least ability for violence, even cruelty.”
“You are not seriously suggesting that Essus is violent and cruel just because his Hands of Power are about violence,” said Aaron, the nod=te of incredulity clear in his voice.
“You just don’t understand. None of you do, I forget how ignorant you all are.”
“Does Essus share your opinion? Or is he ignorant too?”
“I didn’t say that to him.”
“Didn’t want to hurt his feelings? Or were you too afraid?”
“A little bit of both but really, he never asked anything which would make me give him such an answer, I suspect he knows and that's why he is so careful not to lose himself in anger and violence. He knows he is prone to it.”
“Even so, he would not hurt me or you or Crystal or even Niccy, Niccy forgets how close he was to Essus. He misses him.”
“If Essus missed him, he would have called him.”
“Essus is waiting for Niccy to apologize to him, he never really apologized. He just suggested a punishment. You know how much Essus hates that, that we always assume the worst of him.”
“We don’t, at least not all of us do. I think some of us expect unimaginable generosity form him.” the irritation was now plain in Hele’s voice.
“And Essus will like that,” Aaron said.
“Whatever, its Niccy’s decision in the end." Helen said. She often got the last word in an argument, for some reason it was important to her.
Essus put the wine glass back on the table, the festival had begun. In the evening it would officially start. It was the biggest festival in Heaven, occurring only once every ten years. A certain celestial combination marked the event, was the cause for celebration. He had always enjoyed it, he thought about Miley, she was supposed to join him by now, Carmela, Miley to him and her friends, the love of his life, she was probably in her room, trying on her gown for the dozenth time. He didn’t know why she bothered, the woman could look beautiful in rags. But then it might be the love talking. He sighed, he was bored. Of course, he only had to send for it and any number of people would show up to entertain him, play music or dance, but he wasn’t in the mood for shallow pleasure, he wanted to talk, discuss the new policies, his thoughts kept circling back to that stranger, that dark tall hooded figure he had seen at the Ball a week ago. Essus was wary of him, he seemed like a spy.
Essus got up and signaled for his messenger, his phoenix and it flew up to him from his porch. He wrote a small note: “Come and see me, I want to talk. Nothing urgent.” He gave it to the phoenix, “Take this to Aaron.” He bobbed his pretty head. Essus gave him a small pat on the head and he flew off. Essus took a book from the shelf and settled down. He had no doubt Aaron would come but it would take him at least 15 minutes to get the message and come.
“You called.” Aaron’s voice floated in the room. Essus looked at him and smiled, he had finally broken Aaron of the habit of bowing to him every time he saw him. Ever since he took the throne decades ago, all of his friends and lovers had started doing that, no matter how many times he told them not to. They could do so in the court but they even did it on unofficial, purely social visits like this one.
Essus said. “I did. I am bored and have conflicting feelings about the opening ceremony tonight.”
“I thought you loved it.”
“I do. I am worried about that stranger.”
“Oh forget about that, we followed up on him and found nothing. He was probably one of the demi fey, who else would spy on a public gathering? There was nothing important going on there!”
“Nevertheless it irks me, and then there is the matter of invitations. Should I invite the Unseelie Lords?”
“Crystal didn’t tell you, she already invited them.” Essus looked surprised. “Why didn’t she tell me? Does she not think it important to inform me?” When Aaron shrugged, Essus said, “I am way too lenient with all of us, she should suffer a penalty for this.”
“Oh c’mon, I would like to see what penalty you give her, maybe you won't give her the special spring wine tonight?” Aaron said, laughter twinkling in his eyes.
Essus glared at him, but he was not really angry, he had worked way too hard to make Aaron and the others comfortable around him, talking to him even laughing at him. It was true what Aaron said, he never did punish any of them properly but then most of those who served him all the time were his closest friends and lovers. How could he hurt them?
“I am bored” Essus repeated.
“I can call the dancers, they have been waiting all week to perform for you.”
“They’ll get their chance at the feast tomorrow. I want to see you dance … and … and Crystal! That can be her punishment.” He could see Aaron laughing. “Oh, that would be too precious. Shall I fetch her?”
“Yup, do so.” Aaron left almost having a laughing fit.
“I am not your concubine!” said Crystal, her anger was too precious. Aaron was suppressing his laughter so hard it must physically hurt. “You can’t just summon me and order met to dance.”
“Are you sure? A concubine is someone who isn’t a wife and yet sleeps with the king. Isn’t that what you do?” Essus kept his own voice completely serious.
“No, a concubine is a slave who isn’t allowed any freedom or to be with any other man.”
“No, most of my grandfather’s concubines weren’t slaves and many of them had other lovers with his permission. Didn’t you ask for my permission the first time you took another lover after being with me? We aren’t humans after all.” Humans were far more monogamous in their relationships having only 40 to 50 years to fulfill that commitment. Eternity with only one lover can be incredibly boring. Most fey couples they knew had open relationships.
“And did they also have ranks in his Court? Were they his ministers?”
“No, but they weren’t as powerful or clever as you. I see no reason why your talents should go to waste just because you are my concubine.”
“Don’t call me that!” Crystal snapped.
“Careful Crystal, don’t forget who you are talking to.”
“No how can I forget that? You wouldn’t let me. But don’t ever call me that again!”
“Such disdain. Do you not wish to be mine anymore?”
“ ‘Yours?’ I am not any body’s. I belong only to myself.”
“So you don't wish to be mine?”
“If I say no, you’ll stop being close to me, touching me just because I don't wish to be called your concubine, really? I mean that little to you?”
“If I mean that little to you that you find it so distressing to be called mine.” Essus flicked his hand and music started playing “C’mon” he said “Dance for me.”
“No way, you can stop being my lover if you want, your loss” and she turned around and walked towards the door.
“Wait” Essus called. The music had stopped, Crystal turned around “Put it on “ Essus gestured towards the dress, it was bright pink, a skirt and a top with beads. “You will dance, it is my command.”
“I told you, no way! I am not putting that thing on and dancing for you like a common slave girl.”
“You would disobey me?” Essus asked, his voice was calm but there was an undercurrent of a threat.
“Of course...” Crystal began but Essus had stood up and taken a few steps towards her.
Crystal stopped short when she saw the look on his face. Her eyes grew wide and her skin paled a little. “Of course not.” she stammered. “I was just going to put on the music.”
“I will do that, you just dance.”
“Okay, I’ll … I’ll change.” she grabbed the dress and disappeared quickly.
Essus went back to his seat. Aaron was staring at him. “It’s possible Helen was right,” he said,
“We had an argument just a few hours ago. I was remembering the Goblin war and I wondered how to managed to control those vicious creatures by simply scaring them in the final battle, You are not that scary, I reasoned but Helen argues that as the healer of nutcases she has studied personalities and inner energies very deeply and knows a basic conclusion that the powers we manifest depend on our spirits, our personalities, she said someone who wielded the Hand of Fire and flesh, even lightening must have an innate capacity for violence and ruthlessness , even cruelty because these are not healing powers like her own or Niccy’s which bring life and joy. These are dark powers, dark magic. I disagreed. I told her you were one of the kindest, most compassionate people I know. She said that you know your nature and thus work on keeping it in check. Our innate natures do not mean that we don’t have moralities or conscience to keep those under control.”
“And now you have changed your mind because I ordered Crystal to dress up and dance, so I must be violent and cruel, of course, I am”
“It is not the dance or the dress, it’s the way you looked at her when she refused. She would have agreed to things far more humiliating than dancing after that look, you could have ordered her to go to the Bazaar and she would have agreed.”
“She wouldn’t go there if her life depended on it.”
“She would if you commanded her right now.”
“Lets test that theory, shall we?”
At that moment, Crystal entered. The dark pink, almost red top fitted her perfectly, the skirt fanning around her legs. She looked stunning. “Shall I turn on the music?” she asked.
“No, I have changed my mind. Instead of dancing, you will go to the
E Bazaar and put yourself on auction.”
“What? But … why? You said to dance and I will, it will be beautiful, I promise.”
“You refused. So now you have a much more unpleasant task. You did fail to inform me of something important, this is your punishment.”
Crystal looked at him, clearly distresses, she walked forward a few steps, then knelt, bowing her head. “Please, my King, don’t tell me to do that. I’ll do anything else.”
“Will you obey me or not?”
“Of course I will.” she looked close to tears.
Essus looked at Aaron. “You were right.” he looked back at Crystal. “You can go, you don’t have to go to the Bazaar or dance. That you agreed to obey me is enough. Go.”
She hesitated, then stood up and kept looking at him. “Go on.” she bowed. “Thank you Your Majesty.” the left, giving another bow.
“So, you were right, it doesn’t mean that I am a cruel tyrant. I am the King, of course, she had to obey.”
“I didn’t call you a cruel tyrant. I just said you had the capacity to be one if you didn’t act on your conscience so much.”
“That is so much better. And I thought Crystal was braver than that.”
“She is brave . If you would have looked at me like that…”
“You would have what? Run away?”
“I wouldn’t dream of running away from you, I couldn’t anyhow, no if you would have looked at me with such anger, I would have fallen at your feet and begged you to forgive me.”
Essus’s look softened. “You never have to do that,” he said kindly. “Don’t you know what you mean to me? How much I love you?”
“You are still my King.”
“Doesn’t mean I can ever bear to hurt you. I am also your friend, your lover.” he put his hands on both his arms and kissed him softly on the lips.
“I am sorry for repeating what Helena said to you.” Aaron said softly. “She would never have said all that to you, though she said that she would, you are not violent or cruel to us, only to those who truly deserve it. You give us far more mercy and kindness than we deserve. Please don’t show me what it would be like if those words were true. Forgive me, I didn’t mean to sound so ungrateful, I am not.”
Essus kissed him again and then hugged him close. “It's okay. You can say anything to me. I don’t want you to censure your thoughts when speaking to me, though you apologizing for doing so doesn’t exactly mean you think I am kind, means more that you think I am cruel and would punish you for saying so, for daring to complain so you beg for forgiveness.”
Aaron remained silent.
“What, ran out of arguments?”
“I wasn't arguing.”
“Of course not, how can you argue with your ruthless and violent, tyrannical king?”
“Don’t" Aaron said, almost pleading. “Please, I didn’t mean it. Forgive me.” Aaron actually removed his arms from around Essus and knelt before him. “You are the kindest ruler Heaven has ever seen.”
“Get up.” said Essus a little impatiently. He leaned forward and kissed him again.
“I should go, begin the festivities.”
“Yes, put the decorations in orange and green. Get Crystal to join you if she is not still too upset.”
“I will,” Aaron said. Essus lightly kissed his cheek and he left, bowing to him before leaving.
Essus sighed. He normally discouraged, nay, almost forbade them from bowing to him outside of court but after the scene with Crystal he guessed he had earned that. He could hardly blame Aaron for treating him like a king when he had just demanded from Crystal that she does.
He returned to his chair, he was alone again and bored, he sent a message, a white ball of magic to the dancers and musicians. Since Crystal wouldn't dance of her own free will, he would have to make do with the ones happy to do so.
It had been years, far too long since Niccy had seen the Gate, the last time had been 15 years ago, he had been returning from a trip to the Demi Fey lands, the little fairies, some Sidhe lords called them, but Niccy had always liked them, mostly because they grew flowers, most of them, magic flowers but healing and other powers, even poisonous ones, and herbs, and made potions and wrote up spells… . On that particular night, he especially reluctant to leave because his mission had failed. The negotiations had not gone as expected and he dreaded telling Essus. He had thought he was afraid then, he never could have guessed how terrified he would be the next time he will stand before the Gate. I can’t cross it now, he thought, beyond that threshold lay the entrance to heaven, no the Gate was the entrance to Heaven, the forbidden land for him now.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” a voice said behind him. A cute girl with floppy brown hair said. She wore a flowery dress that fell to her knees, she wore huge hoop earrings and a pendant on her neck. She was holding a tray with glasses of orange wine. “Want one?”
Niccy took a glass gratefully, taking a sip. He hadn’t tasted this in years.
“I have always wondered what it’s like inside,” she said “I just can't find an excuse to go inside. So what’s it like?” she asked. Her eyes shone in anticipation of his answer.
Niccy sighed. Why did this girl think ha has been inside the gate? After years of being banished, did he really look so much like a court official? Or maybe he just looked like a high Sidhe. They had an aura of magic or power that less powerful beings like this girl were good at recognizing. It had helped them to survive in the past, before the Great wars when everything was not so peaceful.
“It’s like… it’s indescribable, it’s beautiful, enchanting. That's why it's called Heaven, like the Biblical Heaven, humans believe they go to after death, the good ones, that is.”
“Yes, I have heard of the myth, seems silly but maybe it gives them hope. They have such short lives. Is it true that there is never a thunderstorm or bad weather inside?”
“It is my biggest dream to go inside, to see it at least once before I die.” the longing was plain in her voice.
“It’s not all rainbows and sunshine in there.” Niccy surprised himself.
“No?” the girl’s voice was surprised too.
“No, the duties can be very difficult. We all have to serve the King and if we make a mistake, if we fail in our duties, the punishments… they are just as terrible as the beauty. Heaven … and Hell is always near. Out here it’s easy to live. No magnificent rewards but no terrible fears either. You probably don’t even know real terror, your life is easy, simple.”
She stared at him clearly surprised. She had probably always only heard beautiful stories of Heaven, from traders who went inside to sell their stuff, and bragged to their friends later, nothing about the Terrible Hands of power the Sidhe lords used on each other and definitely not about the Realm of Mortality. They have no idea what it’s like to live there, these demi fey, what it's like to serve Essus, the King of Heaven, how much everyone inside feared his anger.
She was silent for a few moments. “But,” she said thoughtfully, “I have heard King Essus is very kind, especially to his Ravens, but to everyone else too. They don’t fear serving him. Life is not so hard for them.”
“He is, but there is always room for mistakes that are too much, unforgivable.”
“Would you like another glass?” Maybe she didn’t want to hear the dark side of heaven. She would rather keep her fantasies.
“Yes, thank you.” at that moment music started, beautiful, heavenly and everyone started a dance procession almost as if it was choreographed though he knew it wasn’t.
Oh, this was pure bliss, he thought as he lost himself in the music dancing all the steps he knew so well.
He couldn’t believe it, it had been three hours since he arrived here. Already he was happier than he had been in years. But something was missing. Where was Meena? He stepped away from the crowd, his eyes scanning everywhere.
“Looking for someone? You seemed perfectly content dancing with the crowd, but perhaps you would like a partner now?”
Niccy turned around slowly. There was no mistaking that voice, but how could it be? Essus should be inside, in the palace. What was he doing out here?
“My… my King!” he stammered, all the colors, the rosy glow fading from his face, leaving him pale.
“You don’t happy to see me. Didn’t you miss me?”
“I… I... I”
“You certainly missed this place, the music. You were the most cheerful dancer in there. He looked towards the crowd, they were still dancing, oblivious to the presence of the King. that’s when Niccy noticed that Essus was disguised probably wearing a little glamour as well which only Sidhe can see through. He was still in shock, unable to speak.
“C’ mon, you must have missed me a little. We attended the festival together last time. I still remember the song you sang, you were so wonderful.”
“My… my Lord. I haven’t gone inside. Haven’t crossed the gat.” Niccy said finally finding his voice.
“So you haven’t broken your rules of banishment.”
“Great. So stop looking so scared but perhaps you think now that I have seen you I'll remember your mistake, your offense and think that I let you off too easy or maybe I'll consider this whole hall part of heaven for tonight, for the dural of the celebration. It is our party, after all, heaven’s magic surrounds this place. You were hoping I wouldn’t see you, wouldn’t find out you are here. You’ll slip by unnoticed.”
“C’ mon speak up.”
“This isn’t part of heaven.”
“Are you sure?” Essus pointed to the edge of the party, a light silvery mist hung there separating it from the rest of the area. Beyond that no light or music reached. It was a kind of magical dome including the whole area into a party of heavenly magic.
“That’s just… that’s just a tent, a party tent. This isn’t actually part of heaven. Everyone is allowed outside.”
“Even those banished from Faerie?”
“You didn't banish me from faerie only from heaven. I could have gone to Goblin land or the demi fey’s. I choose the human world.”
“Right, so if all that is true, why are you so afraid to see me?”
“Because... You might still be angry with me. I … I don’t know what…?”
“To do? to say to me? Tell me how you have been. Do you like the human world? You must love it since you didn’t try to come back and ask to be allowed inside once again in almost 10 years.”
“I miss home terribly, of course, I do.” Niccy was surprised he didn’t expect this from Essus.
“I couldn’t dare to come back.”
“Why? Perhaps I’ll be reminded that your punishment was too light for the crime. I’ll remember that you betrayed me, helped a traitor. You know what your punishment should have been don’t you? You should have shared his fate or something worse, at least equal.”
“My King… please…”
“I am not… Am I? your king?
“You’ll always be my King, my Master, I am one of the Ravens.”
“Yes and yet you would rather abandon your service than face the consequences of your mistake or should I say your very deliberate disobedience.”
“Isn’t it enough of a consequence that I’ll never see my home, everyone I love again,”
“Is it? You think it’s enough?”
“No, but you have always been more merciful to all of us than we deserve,”
“Or perhaps I decided too soon, perhaps I thought that in time you’ll feel ashamed, return to repent and face your punishment, now I can see you won’t do that. Maybe I should just sentence you to what you actually deserve.”
“No!” Niccy said “You, you can’t mean that. Please I’ll… I’ll go back. I’ll never return here again. I swear. I didn’t think that you would find me here, you are right. I was hoping to sneak in without your knowledge. It will never happen again. Forgive me.” He fell to his knees, his face drained of all colour.
“Ah, but breaking in here isn’t your only crime, is it? You still haven’t paid for your last crime.”
“Please… spare me. I can’t bear your wrath. Before this mistake… I have served you with the best of my ability for decades, almost a century. You told me you loved me. Please don’t punish me. I… I was trying to help a friend, he told me he wasn’t involved in the war, I believed him. I never meant to betray you. You exiled me for that. I accept that. I’ll never set eyes on Heaven again. Just let me go.” Niccy trembled as he spoke these words.
Essus stared at him. He hadn’t expected to find Niccy here. he had disguised himself and come out to check if the suspicious stranger he had seen last week would show up again/ though in the past years he had expected Niccy to come back, apologize or accept some other punishment to come back to court. He had never imagined as he had banished Niccy that Niccy would simply not return. And here he was surprising him again by being willing to be banished forever from heaven, never to return again. He didn’t think Niccy was such a coward. He had been brave in battle. He looked down at him.
“You really mean that? I let you go and you’ll never return. Last time I didn’t say you were banished for eternity, surely you hoped to return one day. But now if I say that you are to leave, and never return, not just to heaven but to all lands of faerie, you can’t join or even visit any court of Fey, you would take that sentence? To avoid my punishment?” he sounded incredulous.
“I’ll even accept a death sentence, My Lord, to avoid your punishment,” said Niccy. “And unlike some Sidhe, I don’t consider banishment equal to death. I like the human world. I have been almost happy there. I’ll leave forever. I’ll live there.”
“You won’t wish to come back, see your lover again perhaps?”
“She can come to visit me if she wants… and of course, I’ll wish that. But I deserve to be punished.”
“Fine then, you leave here and you are banished forever. You will set foot on a Fey land again. Never, no second chances. If you ever break the rules again like this time, then I’ll put you in a far worse place than Earth to spend eternity in. I promise you that your fate then would be an example to give others nightmares and you would wish you had never been born.”
Niccy visibly shook with fear at the threat. Essus didn’t threaten often, but when he did he meant it. “I won't ever break it. I’ll never return I swear.”
“Alright, then I’ll spare you from any other punishment. Go, you are free to return to your home.”
Niccy took a deep breath. He seemed relieved. He bowed lower and kissed the tip of Essus’s feet, then got slowly. “Thank you, Your Majesty.” he bowed and then turned to go.
“Wait, you can stay for the festival… the 5 days, you can enjoy your last sights of magic. You can even come inside,” he gestured to the gate. “Say goodbye to everyone, you didn’t have the chance last time and now you’ll never return. Then leave after the feast of the stars (which marks the end of the spring festival)”
Niccy stopped and stared at Essus in complete surprise. He couldn’t speak for a few seconds, then he said “Thank you, your Majesty… Thank you. That means more to me than I can say”
Essus nodded. “Enjoy and don’t tell anybody that I was here, outside, especially the demi fey in the crowds, anybody except the Ravens actually. As you can see I don’t want to be recognized here” he gestured towards his fake hair. Then he turned and vanished.
Niccy just stood there, hardly believing what just happened. He was caught and now he actually had permission to stay for the festival, enter the Gate, see heaven again but for the last time. Essus was right, Niccy had hoped that in time he would be forgiven but now… now, this truly was the last time he ‘ll ever see his home.
“Hey, come back, you are our best dancer!” the girl was the cute hair and pendant who had offered him wine a few hours ago and then danced close by since then called out to him. Presumably, Essus had used glamour to hide them both from the celebrating crowd as they had their serious conversation. To them, the party had never stopped.
Niccy turned and joined her.
“I don’t understand the problem. You found no stranger who was spying in the crowd, why is that a bad thing?” Aaron was trying to watch the procession through the huge windows as he talked to Essus.
“The problem is that I did see someone, just caught a glimpse, thenI didnt find any one.”
“How do you know it wasn’t just another one of the crowd, all you saw was a hood covered face and for one second. You are being paranoid.”
“And you have become careless, just because we won the last war and that Dark court doesn’t wish to challenge us these days doesn’t mean that there is no danger.”
“The Spring festival is sacred, no one would use it as grounds for an attack.”
“But they can spy, can’t they?”
“Spy on what? It’s a public event!”
Essus sighed. He couldn’t explain it, Aaron was being logical. Yet Essus had an intuition that something was wrong.
“Did you see Lord Cosimo arrive? He asked, changing the subject.
“I think Crystal did, I think I heard her mention him.”
“Is she still friends with him?”
“Don’t be angry with her again, even her nerve isn’t that strong, and you know Cosimo isn’t just her friend, he is her cousin. Of course ,she ttalksto him now and then, exchange letters. He would never betray her, he considers her family. Besides she only says casual harmless things to him.”
“I know that but he is her second cousin, on her mother’s side. she hates everyone else in that family, what’s so special about him?”
“I think she had a crush on him when she was younger, and he was the only one who was kind to her mother’s palace.”
“I always wonder about that, whether Crystal is actually truthful about her time growing up, how can someone treat their own daughter that badly?”
“You know her history.”
“Yes, but still…”
“Shouldn’t we go outside? They are waiting to begin the ceremony.”
“Yes, but just in case, could you add a layer of extra protection around everyone we care about?”
Aaron could hardly believe it. What had gotten into Essus? “As you wish, my King.”
“You are right about him.” Crystal finished drinking the glass of purple liquid. She could never remember the names of the funny drinks Helen always has lying around, she says they make you feel better.
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic”, Carmela said. “He just ordered you to do one thing you didn’t want to do and even that he didn’t actually make you do and suddenly he is vicious and scary?”
“He has always been scary, and he didn’t just order e to dance, he threatened to sell me to that… that… I can’t even name that place!”
“Maybe he just wanted to see if you can shut up and obey for once!”
“Miley, you know we aren’t insulting him, right? Calling a King frightening isn’t an insult.” Helen was surprised. Miley was never that rude.
“You are calling him cruel, not just frightening and considering the amount of effort he puts into being kind to all of us, yes, it’s an insult.”
“It’s not, I don’t mean it like that.” Crystal said, slightly irritated. “But I do think now that Aaron shouldn’t have invited Niccy like that,” she added in a worried voice. “After all showing up here uninvited is a lot worse than not telling him about some stupid invitations. What if he really gets angry?”
“Ah, that’s touching, I never thought you cared.”
Crystal turned around, hardly believing it. There he stood. After years, she had forgotten, forgotten the impossible blue of his eyes… the kind, yet somewhat mischievous look in them, and that smile, like the world was a beautiful place and nothing bad ever happens.”
“Niccy!” Helen cried.”What are you doing here? We are inside! We are inside the Gate of Heaven, you were supposed to stay outside!”
“Gee, is that the welcome I get after almost a decade? I thought you liked me Helen.”
“Have you lost your mind?” Helen looked panicked, she never panicked. “Get out now! What if Essus sees you?”
“He already has.”
“What?” Crystal looked horrified.
“Relax. He allowed me to attend the festival, to come inside till the closing feast.”
“He… he did?”
“You don’t look very happy about that” Crystal asked suspiciously.
“That’s because it’s the last time I’ll ever set foot into Heaven again. He has made my banishment permanent. He was going to punish me for what i did all those years ago when he saw me and when I asked for forgiveness he said that the only way he’ll spare me is if I go out of Faerie and never return,not just to heaven but to any fey land. I’ll be banished forever.”
“And you agreed?”
“Of course, I did. I would have embraced death to be spared from Our King’s wrath.”
Crystal just stared at him. “Well, go on then, enjoy the festival that you came back for.” and she turned to leave the room.
“Wait, don’t you want to… to talk to me? We haven’t seen each other in years!”
“Yes, and now we won’t see each for centuries, if you manage to live that long among humans. What is there to talk about?” and she turned and vanished into a cloud of silver smoke,tiny white crystals, her namesake.
“Wow.” he stared after her.
“Yes, wow,” said Carmela, “she has learnt to control herself better in the past few years, i thought she was going to stab you.”
“This is not my fault!”
“The hell it isn’t. I am sure you suggested this punishment for yourself, didn’t you? Just like last time!”
“Well, it’s better than the other options.”
“Ist it? Is it really?” said Helen softly. “You could survive a little bit of pain.then it would be over. He wouldn’t have given you an unbearable sentence. Maybe imprisonment for a few years.”
“Not in an ordinary prison and you are the one to talk about it, I remember last time Essus took you down there to help one of the prisoners who was really sick and close to dying, you fainted, and then later begged Essus never to take you down there again for any reason and that if He ever decides to imprison you there, you would eat those black beans of yours and kill yourself.”
“The guy was flayed, I could see the places where the skin was removed and he told me that they did that to him everyday, everytime he healed.”
“And you think they wouldn’t do that to me if I was there?”
“Yes, he didn’t, he gave me a choice. I leave and I get to keep my skin and my sanity, and freedom.”
“Freedom to be alone, away from home for all eternity.” Carmela said, her sadness floating through the room. She was good at that, filling a room with her feelings.
“Why didn’t you plead for me? Ask him to be kinder when he banished me for the first time if you care so much? None of you did.”
“That it was the best sentence I could have gotten? It was.”
“We didn’t dream it would be forever.”
“Well, it is now.” he turned to Helen. “Will you walk away too, without saying goodbye, like her?”
“Of course not” Helen walked closer, put out her arms and hugged him.”I missed you. You are the only one who gets it, your magic is almost like mine. You share my hope that my patients will get better. You don’t think they are damaged or weak like everyone else does.”
“They are not, and what you do is wonderful. Maybe you can visit me sometimes,I don’t think Essus would forbid that.”
“Of course I will, I am sorry I didn’t before, I just couldn’t bear it, you know how sensitive I am, to see you suffering…”
“Its not that bad. You are the one who really showed me the human world. It’s beautiful”
“But I have also seen it’s suffering.”
“But I just went there. I didn’t become human, I don’t share their suffering. I don’t age,I’ll never get old or sick and die. I had my gold, I was rich and now I have a little garden and I sell flowers to them. It’s really quite peaceful. You should see it.”
“I will, and I know all about your flower garden, Crystal told me. Come, I and those elves you brought back have been caring for your garden, it’s as beautiful as ever. Come, you must see it, if only to say goodbye.”
Niccy hesitated then said “You are right, I should say goodbye, get some closure.” they turned and went further in. Carmela thought about calling Crystal back and then just turned and followed them.