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  • Writer's pictureEmmie Christie

Gift of the Fey


Tira plucked the sethel flower off the stem and sucked the starlight from it. It hinted at sweetness, teasing like the moon on this cloudy evening. 

“Get out of there, foreigner!” One of the old human women from the village shook her cane at Tira. “Go on, get!” 

Tira hunched her shoulders. She had her gloves, hood, and scarf on, but the constellations on her skin twinkled through the fabric anyway. The old woman must have spotted her glow from the road and traipsed down to the sewage drain just to chase her off.

The sweetness faded on Tira’s tongue, and she tore a few sethel weeds and stuffed them in her pocket. “It’s not your field. It’s no one’s. You can’t tell me what to do.” 

“Just like those weeds.” The old woman traipsed towards her, shaking her cane. “We don’t want you here.” 

“Why not?” Tira straightened, the nectar stuttering in her veins. A sliver of exposed skin at her wrist flickered, the points of light there fading, and her stomach rumbled. She needed more sethel flowers. “Because I’m fey?”

“Now don’t turn this around on me,” the woman said. “I don’t see shimmer. The problem is you’re a thief. I’ll call my two boys on you, see if I don’t.” 

“You don’t know anything about me.” 

“I know you’re a leech!” The woman swung her cane. 

“Tapez,” Tira whispered. 

The constellation wrapping her torso—Tapez, the Winged Warrioress—flared crisp and bright through her clothes in the darkness of the late evening. The cane clanged against her skin, and the woman cried out. She dropped the cane and held her hand as if she’d hit a steel wall. 

“You can’t hurt me,” Tira said. She took off galloping down the road before her tears called her bluff.


 

Tira’s mother brushed out her daughter’s hair, humming after a simple meal of potatoes and herbs. They camped outside of town in the shelter of a little copse of trees away from the road. 

“How can I make them listen, Mama?” Tira chewed on her nails. “Is there anything I can do?” 

Her mother gathered strands of hair and plaited them around Tira’s head, pinning them with age-freckled hands. It seemed only months ago that her mother had had clear eyes and a smooth voice. Time played cruel, though, with humans, and ‘months’ to Tira meant ‘years’ to everyone else. “You can’t make someone hear when they muffle their own ears, dearest.” 

Tira played with the stems she had grabbed before the old woman had chased her off. She’d already drunk the rest of the sethel nectar, or condensed starlight, and still her skin flickered like tremulous candles in the too-warm light of day. Activating her constellations took so much energy. Tapez’s wings around her waist lay folded and dun. Iliadri’s Eye on her right wrist, the symbol of sharp sight, blinked as if sleepy.

“Anyone can take sethel on the side of the road. No human wants them; they’re weeds. Why do they care if I do it?” She tore one of her nails and it bled. “I didn’t ask to be like this.”   


“Now, listen here, young star-fey.” Her mother gripped Tira’s shoulders, and her eyes flashed with protective anger that reminded Tira of starlight. “You sprung up with a shimmer, with nary a drop of fey in your bloodline. Some people see that and get afraid. They see something they didn’t plant as a weed, as something to be dug up. But others—like me, dear heart—see it as a gift.” She pressed a kiss to the top of Tira’s head. 

Tira laid the sethel stems by her bedroll and wrapped her arms around her mother. “I’m so lucky to have you for a mama. I want to be like you and see the best in people.”

“Why, what a co-inky-dink. I want to be like you.” She tickled Tira under the arms, gentler than she had in the past, with shaking fingers. Tira shrieked and they dissolved in mock fights and laughter, until her mother left to sell herbs in the village and Tira fell asleep under the shade of the trees.


 

The next night, Tira wandered the roadsides, searching for sethel. She kept to the edge of the ditch, away from the view of the road. Her stomach rumbled. She could use Iliadri’s Eye to cause the starlight in the sethel weeds to glow but activating another constellation so soon would drain her to the brink of exhaustion. 

Within half an hour, two figures sauntered through the field towards her, carrying a pitchfork and a shovel. Tira dashed up the ravine towards a wooded area, but her breath shortened in her lungs, and the glow of her skin sputtered, and her pursuers had no such difficulty. 

“Fey-leech,” one of them called close behind, with a thin voice like a reed in the wind. A young man. “Our grandma said you’d be here.” 

The other raced to cut her off in front. She slowed, shot a glance behind. The first stabbed his pitchfork into the ground. “You have five seconds to get out of here.”

“I’m hoping it don’t, Vasr,” said the boy in front, the one with a shovel. His chin seemed to have thought about growing a beard but had hesitated and stopped halfway. “I’ve heard they bleed purple, and I want to see.”  

Tira bolted to the side. Half-beard boy chucked his shovel at her. It sliced into her calves, knocking her to the ground. She cried out.  

“No, no!” She didn’t have enough energy to activate Tapez yet!

She tried to stand, but Vasr kicked her in the side and pinned her to the ground with his knee in her chest. 

“The knife, try the knife,” Half-beard said. 

Pain along her arm, a deep cut. Warm stickiness, like nectar, leaving her body. Her skin flickered. 

So tired. Exhaustion had dogged her before this, and now...what was the point? Why fight against such loathing when it flared so constantly? 

“Yes! It worked!” Vasr’s thin voice, high and shrill. 

“Aww. It’s just red.” 

How would her mother see these two? Would she find any “gifts” hidden in the muck of their hatred? Her mother could do that—see things where others didn’t. Reveal them…

A desperate idea shimmered in her head, and the backdrop of pain blurred out. 

“Iliadri,” she said. 

The Eye flared on her shoulder.

“What’s that? What’s she doing?” 

Tira opened her eyes. She’d always used Iliadri to find sethel before, but now, with it directed at the two boys, it illuminated something else. Something on their skin. 


Iliadri’s Eye peeled back their humanity, revealing a single star shimmering inside each of them. Wonder overcame her pain. Did stars hide inside all humans, waiting to shine, waiting to be found? I’ve seen starlight in Mama’s eyes, before. 

Once exposed, the stars spread like weeds in a wild field, and the two boys’ skin shimmered, lit up with hundreds of little points of light. 

“Ahh! Ahh! Make it stop!”

She slumped, her energy drained, everything she had spent. 

Vasr screamed and ran. Half-beard stared at his hands. Fey hands.

“Now you can... see how we bleed,” she said. 

Half-beard lifted his head, and then reached out for the shovel. He traipsed over to her, anger, fear, and loathing connecting in his eyes like a constellation of war. Dear Tapez, she thought. I had to go and taunt him. 

She didn’t have the strength. Her eyes closed without her consent, and darkness dragged her under. 

When she woke, the shovel lay at her feet.


 


Emmie Christie’s work includes practical subjects, like feminism and mental health, and speculative subjects, like unicorns and affordable healthcare. Her novel A Caged and Restless Magic debuted March 2024. She has been published in Daily Science Fiction, Infinite Worlds Magazine, and Flash Fiction Online, among others. Find her at www.emmiechristie.com.

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