Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 6

Miss the previous installments of Fae and Folly? 

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

“Did you not hear anything I told you last night?”

I dodged Dy’s death glare, ducking into the kitchen. I didn’t really need my chai tea, but what I did need was a plausible reason to avoid taking Dy’s energy straight on. It was the fourth time we’d had this conversation after I tried to offhandedly mention to her that she would need to take public transit to the airport because I was going to be gone – with Caleb.

As if to prove a point, she had woken up at 7 am to pester me about it. I think I could count on one hand the number of times I’d seen Dy conscious before ten. She was serious.

“I heard you,” I tried to speak a patiently as I could. “I heard you the first time, and the second time…” well, maybe not quite as patiently as all that.

“There’s something not right about that guy,” Dy continued as if she hadn’t heard me at all. Peering around the corner I could see her perched on my couch the way she liked to do, hands motioning to her own private audience. “You know I’ve never seen him fly? It’s just weird, Lee. The motorcycle thing doesn’t make any sense.”

“I saw him fly,” I said, barely able to censor my initial defensive response. I didn’t need to defend him so much as I needed to defend my own rationale for agreeing to this escapade. Of course, I wasn’t doing a great job of convincing myself to begin with. “He flew inside the bar.”

“Flew? Or did he just do that fluttery thing?”

“How well do you know him, again?”

“Word gets around, Lee. I’m still a muse. We talk.” She swooped around the bar area to stand next to me.

I glanced up at her only briefly before diligently stirring a dust of cinnamon into my travel mug. “It’s not like I have a choice. It’s my job – the IFA wants me to show Caleb around the Willamette, so I will. That’s all it is.”

She was looking at me. I knew she was doing it. I frowned and walked out into my living room, sitting on the edge of my chaise.

Undeterred, Dyana knelt at my feet where I couldn’t evade her wide, silvery eyes. She was childish like that when she was riled – it was actually a little concerning. I’d rarely seen her so hellbent on changing my mind about anything. Then again, when we were doing the activist thing we very specifically agreed on almost everything. That was why we worked so well to begin with.

“We always agreed that we were non-violent,” she began again in earnest. “You still believe in that too, don’t you?”

“What would make you think-” I worked my jaw, but the words weren’t coming out. “How could you… of course I’m still non-violent, Dy. I’d never-”

“I just needed to hear you say it.”

“Dy, is there something else going on that you’re not telling me about?”

Dy quieted, her full, pale lips downturned. Her wings clung tight to her body. “With all that’s been going on… I don’t know, alright? There are rumors about something big going down, and I promise you, if I knew any more than this I would tell you everything. With you being up in the IFA these days I figured it could go one of two ways…”

“Just be honest with me Dyana. We’ve always been straight with each other.”

“I don’t know if ‘straight’ is what the humans would call it,” she struggled to put on a joking smile, but it died a quick death. I narrowed my eyes. “If you were sympathetic to his cause, it would explain-“

“We don’t know that he has a cause at all.”

She blinked at me a couple times, and her eyebrows shot up into her hairline. I shook my head, my fingers working the ties on my boots. Boots would be appropriate for motorcycling. The internet told me so.

Never in my life did I think I’d have a need to look up motorcycling footwear.

“You like him,” Dy accused, leaning in somehow closer.

“I do not like him. I… the very opposite of like him. It’s like you said, he’s strange-“

“And he’s got one hell of a set of wings on him, doesn’t he?”

“Oh please.”

Her wings – which were still just as gorgeous as the day we met – flexed long and languid, almost suggestive. “I know your face, Amelie Fletcher. You think he’s a pretty bit of stardust.”

“That’s not the issue here-“

“You of all people!” her hands covered her face, and at that moment I could imagine no more uncomfortable a feat than discussing attraction to another Fae in front of my former partner – which wasn’t entirely accurate, I reminded myself. Attraction required both the physical and mental aspects for me, and I had yet to find anything about his mind that would be considered desirable. I hardly knew him at all… the problem was, Dy was partly right. He was a pretty bit of stardust, but that wasn’t the point. “I never thought you would be the kind to get distracted by a pair of fancy black wings.”

“Dy,” I grabbed her wrists and pulled them away from her face, planting my now-booted feet on the floor. “Remember who you’re talking to. I’m not as shallow as all that. If he’s in with the Elementals then I want no part of him,” I paused, flashing her a smile. “And besides, what better way to figure all that out than to spend a little extra time with him?”

Dyana sighed, tugging her wrists from my grasp. She rose, kissing the top of my head on her way up. “Take care of yourself out there. Not all the muses are as clean cut as me.”

“You’ve never been clean cut.”

Her lopsided grin warmed my soul – if I had one – the way it always did. “What I do in private notwithstanding.”

I almost had a good reply in mind when there was a knock at my door. Right on time. I had every intention of getting the door myself, but Dy beat me to it.

The wide-eyed, huge-mouthed smile she managed to achieve when she opened it was so comical that I had to laugh. My laughter was drowned out by her overly enthusiastic “Hello!”

I watched their interactions as I finished zipping up my backpack, filled to bulging with a couple changes of clothes and basic essentials on the assumption that we’d be spending a night in Eugene. Landsong would insist.

“It’s nice to see you again, Dyana,” said Caleb, the essence of cool. I was certain that most people would have shrieked or at least looked startled at Dy’s theatrics. Not Caleb. Caleb acted as if she’d answered the door with a polite how-do-you-do.

“Isn’t it though?” Dyana stood in the entryway without the slightest movement to indicate that he could come in.

“You’ve been well? Down in… Reno, as I recall,” he continued, stuck just outside the door.

“The Tahoe glade is a real trip. I love it down there. I hear that you’ve been awfully busy these days.”

“Professional hazard,” he inclined his head, glancing at me over Dy’s shoulder for the first time since he arrived. “Do you need a little more time?”

“Not at all,” I swung the bag over my back, taking another sip from my mug. The sun shone brightly behind Caleb’s figure, the glowing Oregon greenery a sharp contrast with Caleb’s (apparently customary) black attire. He looked rather out of place against the backdrop of a vibrant, sunny day. He was more of a night Fae, for certain. I hugged Dy briefly before I passed her by. “Lock up on your way out, and have a good flight.”

She squeezed me with pressure enough to approximate my ribs together. It was very Dy of her. “I’ll call you.”

I nodded once more before managing to escape, the click of the door a sure sign that I was all alone with Caleb.

His dark eyes swept me head-to-toe before he made a soft sound of what I assumed was approval. “You’re appropriately dressed, at least.”

I had on my sturdiest pair of jeans and a long-sleeved purple shirt underneath a jean jacket. My hair was held out of my face by a flowery headband. Game enough, I made my own visual sweep of him, passing over his zipped-up faux leather jacket and dark jeans. With skin so pale he was all darkness and light.

“I suppose you’ll do as well,” I raised an eyebrow.

The barely-audible chuckle in his throat could hardly be called a laugh. “I have some gear for you.” He began walking down the stairs – a little odd, I noted, since I usually just glided down from the railing, but I went with it anyway. There was no need to show off.

I was on the second story of the ‘hotel,’ a catwalk connecting my room to all the others with an open-air staircase. To my knowledge I was the only one in a suite for the time being. Most of the time other Fae traveled to the Northwest in the summer when it was less wet. This day was a special day in that regard. Sunshine in an Oregon winter was near-blinding, all the dampened grass and leaves sparkling emerald-green. It was absolutely breathtaking, if a little jarring compared to the usual grayness. The road was mercifully low-traffic so far.

“Where are you staying, anyway?” I asked, filling the silence.

“Family business associate keeps a house down here. They don’t use it much, so I generally have free reign over it.”

“Here in Portland?”

He nodded absently, approaching his very shiny – very pretty – motorcycle. It was all curves, a body that reminded me of smoothed agates. I restrained myself from touching it out of fear that my fingertips would smudge its perfect black sheen. Caleb started handing me a few things from his saddlebag – another one of those things I had to google in preparation for this adventure. My analysis of motorcycle schematics  told me that “saddlebag” was an accurate, if somewhat silly term for the storage device.

“The helmet is where all of the PPE comes in,” he said, referencing ‘Personal Protective Equipment.’ “You’ll need that, the jacket, a scarf and gloves. I think these should fit alright, maybe a little on the large side.”

I handed him my bag in exchange. “You can smash it in there. Nothing fancy in my stuff.”

“Not even a computer?”

“The glade doesn’t have wireless anyway.”

“So I take it we’ll be staying there.”

“Is that a problem for you, fancy Fae?” I was swimming in the jacket he handed me, but it was a nice combination of lightweight and warm. My heart was racing as I handled the helmet, an enclosed unit with a filter near the mouth when the shield was down. I was about to ride a motorcycle.

Why did I agree to this?

“Your stunningly poor opinion of me aside,” his lips twitched the way they liked to twitch just before he settled his own helmet over his face, “no, it won’t be a problem.”

Stunningly poor opinion. It was the first real rise I’d managed to get out of him, if you didn’t count the passive-aggressive sparring in the conference. He didn’t seem angry, exactly, or even hurt. I wasn’t really sure what he was, and that was the entire problem.

I swallowed against the – guilty? – lump in my throat and put on the helmet myself. The filter was cumbersome, my breath fogging the shield almost immediately. There was no way this was going to work-

Until he tapped the switch next to my jaw and the tiny motor whirred, circulating the air. I blushed behind the mask.

“You ready?” I jerked at the sound of his voice, loud and clear in my helmet. He had some kind of radio system in the damned thing – I supposed, though, that with the cost of the filter and the jackets, a radio system was pocket change.

I couldn’t tell if he was smiling at me with the mirrored shade over his face. It made him even less readable.

Gods of the old continent, I was certain I was about to die. My mouth was totally dry and my stomach was clenched with fear. It occurred to me that humans would probably feel the same terror about flying. Anything that is new and seemingly uncontrollable is scary the first time you try it. I could only hope that I would survive to try it a second time, when it would be less horrifying.

“Yeah, sure.” My hands trembled in the gloves which were at least a size too large. At least the helmet fit alright. None of the outside air brushed my face.

He settled down on the bike and craned around to look at me, just waiting. I slipped in behind him and realized, quite stupidly, that there were no safety devices to hook into. I swallowed, and with the radio system there was a good chance he heard me.

“Mind the footholds,” he told me, indicating them with the flick of his wrist. He steadied the bike upright while I positioned myself. “You’ve ridden a bicycle, haven’t you? I regular one.”

“I… once?”

“Just relax,” he crooned. “Hands on my hips. Easier to steer that way. We’re taking 99 down to Corvallis and then the 5 from there. It’ll take longer but it’ll let you get used to things before we’re on a real highway.”

If this is going to take so long, why are we bothering with it at all? With weather so nice would could have flown the whole way. Then I realized it – he was toying with me. The only way this made sense was if it was some kind of test. Test of what and why, I wasn’t sure. It was too late to turn back.

Hesitantly I placed my hands as he asked, reminding myself that such hand positioning was necessary to ride properly, and nothing more. I could almost hear him grinning. “Okay,” my voice cracked without my permission. “Okay, you can… make it go.”

“Hang on tight, Ms. Fletcher,” in his voice I heard mischief; another flicker of life in his heretofore inscrutable personality.

When the electric motor revved and the contraption took off, I learned about an entirely different form of flight.

Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 5

Check out this page to view the previous installments of Fae and Folly.

“Buy you a drink?”

Caleb’s smile – that boyish, damnably convincing smile – was getting on my nerves. He leaned over the mega-sized bar right next to me, his dark eyes shadowed by his similarly dark hair. The other muses from the conference were aflutter behind us, chatting about all manner of things. They’d taken up a long table behind a clouded glass divider made specifically for Fae patrons. I had slipped away unnoticed to order my drink, or so I thought. Instead he pursued me. The man had the persistence of an ox.

Between Dy’s rumor about Caleb being sympathetic to terrorists and his recent lackluster behavior, I was not inclined to give him any leeway. I didn’t want to believe Dy at the outset, but his behavior was so… odd. I approached him from a position of cautious intrigue – to get anything else from me he’d need to prove himself.

“I already ordered,” I huffed, my gaze averted. If I looked at him he’d continue to try that charm thing. Even though other Fae were generally immune to the influence of muses, I didn’t want to risk it.

“Then I don’t suppose I can ask what you’re having.”

“Tequila, thank you.”

“The conference wasn’t that bad.”

I so wanted to give him my best sour face, one that would convey every ounce of frustration he’d caused me. Instead I smiled and thanked the mega-sized bartender for my mini-sized drink. This bar, whimsically named Pixie’s, was a regular hangout spot for the IFA members and Fae who wandered out into Portland from the glade. The music was soft and ethereal, perfect for having actual conversations. They carried tiny shot glasses, which was good. Fae were already lightweights when it came to alcohol – it had some… interesting… effects on us. Tiny shots were fine, but just a little extra and we were seeing flashes of near earth and dancing with starlight.

I could do with some starlight, though. It would be more fun than the prospect of making friends with all the muses. I knew it would come to this, of course, but I pretended it wasn’t going to happen. I made friends just fine out in regular public – people I sought out myself. I didn’t prefer this artificial friend-making process.

“Conference was fine,” I finally replied, taking my shot and quickly sucking on the tiny lime slice attached to it. The glass clicked down against the bartop, the colors swirling from the light below the stylish counter making the loveliest patterns on the rim of the cup. The bar looked like a block of glowing LED ice – a rather nice effect. “I just like tequila.”

Caleb chuckled, his wings shivering audibly behind him. “Sure you do.”

Cheeky one. “You can stop with the disingenuousness any time, you know.”

“Is ‘disingenuousness’ actually a word, Ms. Fletcher?” He was following me back to the gathering of the other bridgers at the appropriate-sized table. He had a legitimate reason to travel in the same direction, much as it vexed me.

“I thought that you muses were all about making things up,” I said, quirking an eyebrow in his direction.

I suppose I had finally come up with a decent comeback; his only response to that was a wry smile. Inside I sighed.  Maybe it was the smile that made people like him so much – it surely couldn’t be his overall personality.

“Ah, I miss those days!” Alex was apparently in the middle of some story when I sat down. Cally moved aside to make room for me,  her body a shield between Caleb and I.

I plucked one of the fried zucchini from the appetizer plate and listened, hoping I would eventually catch on to the topic at hand.

Alex’s dark brown-and-fuchsia wings fluttered playfully when he continued. “I haven’t been able to have that kind of fun in years, not with a job like this one. I wasn’t even that good at it back when I had the chance.”

“You would’ve been fine,” Peter sipped on a mug of what looked like root beer – a safe choice. “You just didn’t try hard enough.”

“I bet you have some stories to tell, Mr. Master of Charm,” Alex purred at Caleb, who looked back at him like he knew exactly what they were talking about.

I still hadn’t figured it out. I glanced at Cally, who was shaking her head. “What are they talking about?” I murmured in her direction.

“Youthful indiscretions,” she snorted.

I wanted to prod her and ask what that was supposed to mean, but she didn’t seem interested in elucidating.

“I don’t have as many as you’d think,” Caleb said, continuing on with the elusive exchange.

“Hah,”  Cally snickered in disbelief. “I believe there’s a story floating around involving some unfortunate young private, a skateboard and a manhole.”

I could feel my eyes widening of their own accord. What in the five earths could they possibly be talking about?

Caleb waved her off dismissively. “All exaggerated. He was fine, anyway.”

“I’ve never known you to be modest.”

Those dark eyes flickered up at me again, and the edges of Caleb’s lips rose and fell so quick I nearly missed it. “I think we might be making our new associate uncomfortable.”

I cleared my throat. “Confused is more like it.”

“Your ex didn’t tell stories about all the unfortunate humans she ‘inspired’ in her adolescence?” Alex raised his eyebrows.

Everyone knew about the two of us, even if I hadn’t told them explicitly. Dy and I were inseparable when we were activists. “Dy was never…” I paused, not wanting to shame Dyana in her own community. Then again, she’d never been so much on muse community. She was her own special brand of musedom. “She had trouble relating to a lot of humans.”

“Uh-huh,” Alex plucked the last zucchini spear from the plate. “Funny you’d say-”

“Maybe we should find something in common to talk about,” Caleb said pointedly.

Alex’s sly look was all-knowing. “Fine. You pick the topic.”

“When is everyone heading out?” Caleb asked the group politely – perhaps too politely.

“I’ll be on my way day after tomorrow. People to see down in the gorge,” replied Peter. He turned his kind eyes on me and offered up his mug to toast. I scrambled for my water and clicked glasses, since it seemed the thing to do. “You live local, don’t you?”

I was sure that he knew exactly where I lived, but he was including me so I wouldn’t be so left out. He winked at me as if to confirm my suspicion. I nodded, “Yes, I do. As much as any of us lives in one place, anyway. I don’t think I’m used to the lifestyle yet.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” Peter smoothed his pale hair from his eyes, “I’ve been at this for fifteen years and I’m still not used to it. I miss being a sessile Fae.”

I shrugged. “I was getting a little bored, actually. I’ve lived in Oregon forever.”

“There are few places any better, I assure you.”

“Shouldn’t you be saying that about your own district?”

“Everyone envies you northwest people. I bridge for the southwest because I was born there-” he paused, “well, and because if it weren’t me they’d give it over to one of those shady crazy bastards from New Mexico. Let me tell you, the magick down there is… different.”

“I shall have to visit sometime.”

“Be happy to tour you. Just let me know.”

Alright, I thought to myself, my shoulders ratcheting down a notch. The oldest bridger had taken a liking to me – or at least had not taken a disliking to me. Perhaps this night wasn’t going to be so hard after all.

“So you’re water Fae, right?” Alex spoke up.

“Half,” I replied. The waitress was coming by with a few other appetizers to share – hummus and veggies, and something that looked vaguely falafel-ish. “Mother was water, father was tree.”

“Amelie is IFA-WNA’s very first non-muse,” Brenna chirped. I felt my cheeks go red. Brenna was on the older side, too – probably older than Peter, her hair salt-and-peppery, beige wings faded with time. She was pure tree Fae, actually, the only other individual at the table who was not a muse. “Very ambitious.”

“Ambitious indeed,” said Caleb. “Genuinely, we’re all glad you made it this far. We were worried you’d quit after the first meeting.”

“I had faith,” Peter scoffed. “I knew your grandmother during The Reveal. Strong stock. I have no doubts about you, youngling.”

My coloring deepened, and Cally tisked. “You’re making the girl blush.”

“I thought you’d all be more…” I failed to smother a nervous laugh, “formal.”

“Only with the humans,” Alex stuck his tongue out in the direction of the human bar patrons.

I had to cover my face with both hands to keep from roaring in laughter. Alex’s silly behavior contrasted sharply with his otherwise suave outer appearance and perfectly tailored suit. Not what I expected – so much better. I coughed the outburst away. “I hope you’re not setting me up to let loose and make a fool of myself later.”

If the legends are to be believed we muses are descended from the likes of Pan, Lugh, and Kokopelli,” Peter gazed skyward. “If we cannot be fools amongst ourselves then how are we to survive? I find the human need to put on airs cumbersome, and quite frankly, dumb.”


“I’ve been drinking, darling. Better words fail me.”

“You’ve been drinking root beer.”

“And yet that still qualifies as drinking,” Peter grinned.

Pretenses shattered, three hours passed by in a flash. By the time I was to leave I had an ache in my cheeks from laughter, and learned a great many things about my co-bridgers. Cally, for one, had a near-unhealthy obsession with tie-dying; Alex played the lute, and Peter enjoyed inspiring young athletes. Brenna, of course, loomed over the conversations as the grandmotherly one, and Caleb…

Caleb said nearly nothing. He sat back and watched, his mild-toned voice weaving in between the laughter, rarely sharing anything of himself. It seemed that the others noted the omission, yet chose to ignore it. I found it curious, in addition to being unhelpful. We were supposed to plan our trip down to Eugene, and by the end of the night I’d learned nothing about when he was leaving for Vancouver, or anything else about him for that matter.

At around midnight the group began to disperse. Peter was showing Brenna out while Cally and Alex were discussing some kind of official IFA thing. I closed my eyes, hopping into the air to catch a draft which flung me up on the barstool, a happy flip-flop in my stomach at the quickness of it. The tequila warmed my bones and the good company gave me its own unique buzz, one of acceptance. I could do this, it turned out. I could be one of them, even if I wasn’t really one of them.

It made sense to me in my slightly-altered state.

“Cute trick.” My eyes were still closed when Caleb spoke. I opened them only in response to the clatter of my receipt and a pen against the bar top. The IFA gladly paid for our appetizers, but we were responsible for any alcohol.

“Sure,” I said, catching my tongue between my teeth while I did the math on the bartender’s tip.

“We should arrange the trip to the Willamette.” I felt a brush of air when he fluttered up to the bar, landing delicately on the stool beside mine.

“Of course.” I handed the receipt over and swiveled the stool toward him, my moment of airborne bliss quietly tucked away so I could deal with him. “How long do you have down here?”

“As long as I need,” he cocked his head to the side, his sharp features casting the most interesting shadows over half of his face. “When would you like to leave?”

“Sooner is better. I’m expected in Austin next Tuesday.”

“Austin,” he nearly choked on the word, “they’re sending you to Texas?”

“I’m told that Austin isn’t really Texas.”

“I hope they’re sending you with someone else. Texas is…” He shook his head, and the darkness that swept over his features both frightened and intrigued me. “Our kind have some issues in Texas.”

“I’m not a child. I know what Texas has been like.” I hopped off and started walking outside. Winter in Portland meant rain, and indeed, it was drizzling outside. The sun had long set but the streets were still alive, hipsters and hippies all mixed up together. I waved to the other Fae as I passed them, intending to grab the MAX back to my apartment. Still he followed me.

“I wasn’t insulting you,” he said, two paces behind me.

I paused under the the eve of the house-like building. Pixie’s was in one of those very trendy neighborhoods that Portland was so famous for – a street full of downtown-type businesses with a residential look about it. I began the rather tedious task of putting on my rain jacket. Even though it was specially made for people with wings, it was still a chore just to get it hooked together.

“Here, let me help you with that,” he said charitably.

I just blinked at him.

“Or not,” he held up his hands innocently. “I’ll be ready to leave in the morning. Name the time.”

Buttons buttoned and wings situated through the wing-flap, I shoved my hands in my pockets. This was my favorite jacket – purple like the purple in my wings, a nice fabric that was water-repellent yet lightweight. I fit my form nicely, all modern and human-like. The perfect blending-in jacket. “If we’re taking the train we’ll need to check the schedule first.”

“I assumed you’d ride with me.”

My mouth dropped. Ride? On a motorcycle? “That’s quite an assumption.”

“You seemed interested.”

“Is that supposed to be a double entendre of some kind?”

There was that twitch of his lips again – not quite a smile. He hooked his thumbs through his belt loops and leaned against the wall, his face frozen in that look. “You know it’ll be fun. It’s even supposed to be halfway sunny tomorrow. It would be a waste to pass up riding weather in the middle of winter.”

I was getting tired, and it was late. He seemed determined to push the point of me joining him on his motorcycle contraption. Practical, business Amelie was telling herself that this was stupid idea. The train made a lot more sense – it would be more comfortable and afford the luxury of using a computer, which would provide both an opportunity for productivity and an additional opportunity to avoid excessive conversation. Moreover, I still didn’t know if he was some radical like Dy had suggested, and joining a radical on his motorcycle was surely the worst travel arrangements in the world. Even after spending an evening around him and his associates I knew perhaps less about him than I knew before.

“Pick me up at IFA HQ around eight.” What are you doing?! Practical, business Amelie shouted at me in my head. I turned away from him before he could reply and walked down the street toward the light rail stop, rain catching on my eyelashes. He did not follow me this time.

Dy was going to have a fit.

Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 4

Check out this page to view the previous installments of Fae and Folly. Happy reading! 🙂

Humans like to put shine on everything. They shine metal, bits of rocks, even wood – they apply a sheen to whatever they use, a little bit of sparkle. Most of us Fae have a thing for sparkle, but generally we reserve it for magick, wings, and makeup. We didn’t make our everyday items shiny. If I’d been sitting at a human conference table it would no doubt have that glossy look to it, but of course I wasn’t at a human meeting. This meeting was for Fae only.

I set my glass of water down on the decidedly matte block of wood, sanded down and preserved with the softest touch of life magick so that the wood maintained a mold-free healthy color. I resisted the urge to trace my fingers along the patterns in the table, stories of the tree’s life. There was something to be said of our predilection for keeping things in their natural form.

Around me there was chatter. Five people including myself showed up for this conference – Brenna, the IFA coordinator; Cally, the executive of the IFA Western North America Chapter (abbreviated IFA-WNA); Peter, representing the southwest; myself, with the Pacifica territory; and Alexander, with the near-west. Collette would be skyping in, as usual, and Caleb… was late.

Making an entrance, probably. I heard that Caleb was well-liked and nice enough for a muse, but I would imagine that like every other muse from an influential circle, he liked to make an impression.

I took another sip of my water, holding it out like a glassy shield . I wasn’t really thirsty, but it was a good way to keep my mouth busy while I stared out of the many windows in the conference room. There was a beautiful view of Portland, skyscrapers against a backdrop of hills, rivers snaking through the mundane art. Lovely. I wished that I could go outside, anything to escape the awkward pre-business sitting around ritual. After the initial overly cordial introductions the muses went back to talking amongst themselves, a veritable biological clique. The IFA was all about relationships, and I had yet to forge any within this particular group.

When the door crept open a hush rolled through the room. I held my water with both hands, peering over the rim with thinly veiled curiosity. He had finally arrived.  I recognized him almost immediately. Every Fae in the northwest – even those who were glade-obligated – had seen pictures of Caleb and his family. His black hair was fashionably unkempt, windswept in a devil-may-care style. Black eyes glittered under a terse brow, his skin strikingly pale. He had a thin, hawkish face, always searching, and wore a most peculiar getup – some kind of black leather analog jacket, boots and heavy gloves. I lingered on his odd choice of clothing only a moment before I was distracted by his wings.

The photos did not do his wings justice. They were like his hair and eyes – black, deep and dark, almost velvety. I’d never seen another Fae with black wings, but then he was a muse, and they were known for shocking wing colors. Impressive as they were, he treated them as if they were nothing special – they lay across his back, casual, like an afterthought.

I was certain he saw me gawking at them when he flashed a boyish grin and briefly stretched his wings, the Fae equivalent of a wink. I managed a dismissive snort in return.

It was no wonder that Caleb’s family was known for inspiring some of the most brilliant minds in Hollywood and industry for centuries. With his celestial (and highly heritable) appearance he put even the most intriguing-looking muses to shame. My father, who was a traditionalist among Fae, would have guessed that he was a direct descendent of Lugh I’m sure. I didn’t agree with Fae line about us being “the walking gods and goddesses,” but Caleb’s appearance by itself was a fair argument against atheism.

I sighed. I wouldn’t be fooled by all of that. He was a muse – a privileged muse. Nice or not, he would always be one of them.

“Caleb!” Peter, the eldest Fae in the room, rose to greet him. Peter had tan skin like a tree Fae, clashing with his once-blonde-now-graying hair and neon green wings. He reached out to clasp Caleb’s hand. “I was getting worried about you.”

Caleb tipped his head apologetically. “Bike trouble. Sorry about all that.”

Bike?” I blurted, surprising myself and everyone else. I pursed my lips, calling more attention to myself than I intended.

Caleb took his seat, which happened to be directly across the table from mine. “You say that as if you disapprove, Ms. Fletcher.”

Of course he knew my name. I cleared my throat, re-obtaining my composure. “With wings like those I assumed you would prefer flight to pedaling.”

“Motorcycling, actually. It’s a great deal like flying and far less tiring,” he smiled, “you should try it sometime.”

“How…?” I blinked. Motorcycling, out with all the cars right in the trail of their fumes? And was he implying that he’d rode all the way to Portland from British Columbia? Even if it was an electric it had to be painful.

“Extensive environmental PPE,” he answered. “I have an extra set.”

“Of course you do.” It probably cost more than I’d ever made in my life.

“Now that Caleb is here we can get down to real business,” Cally interrupted, walking up to the head of the table near the projector and whiteboard. Her red-and-gold wings fluttered anxiously. She tapped on the television-sized touchscreen behind her and Collette’s image – a dark-skinned muse with dreadlocks and orange mottled wings flashed on the screen. “Can you hear us down there Collette?”

“No problems,” Collette smiled thinly, “good morning everyone.”

The room murmured with ‘good mornings’ all around.

“Before we begin we’d like to officially welcome Amelie to her first regional conference,” Cally smiled and clapped, which caused everyone else to join in, including Caleb who was looking right at me.

I waved a hand to stop them. “It’s great to be here,” I said in my best neutral voice. “I look forward to getting to know all of you better.”

“I’m sure you do.” I didn’t appreciate the glint in Caleb’s eyes. He knew damned well how closed the muse community was, and he was mocking me for it.

I just smiled.

“Yes,” Cally said, already distracted. She motioned widely with her arm. “If all of you would just pull up the agenda we can get started.”

There was a rustling of bags while each of us pulled out our tablets – glass and wood tablets, specially made. They were expensive, too, but luckily it was the IFA who picked up the cost. I’d heard that Caleb and his family were substantial benefactors to the IFA-WNA pool of funds. Finally meeting him with his fancy motorcycle gear gave me a better picture of how the IFA came to afford the things it procured for us. He probably had some line on an R&D facility at one of the big corporations.


I passed a finger over the agenda, skimming it with bored familiarity. I’d read it at least a dozen times the day before while Dy made comical attempts to get ahold of it. There were four major items –

GENERAL BUSINESS: Welcoming Amelie, the new rep from the Pacifica territory. Budget update and personal expenditures (Cally). Scheduling the next IFA budget committee meeting.
EDUCATION: Updates from the Department of Education curriculum meeting (Peter and Collette). Lobbying efforts in the Republican caucus (Brenna and Caleb).
FAE RELATIONS: Updates from individual glades (all). Infrastructure and education progress (Caleb and Alex).
ENERGY: Chicago Renewable-Rail meeting (Amelie). Petroleum and the Northwest – new initiative (Caleb). Lobbying the coal lobby (Peter, Alex, and Collette).

I suppressed a sigh. So much to go through before I would have anything particular to say. I’d been honored to replace Gregory, the muse who came before me from the Pacifica region. His name was well-known (and mostly hated) in the energy community, and as the most important item on the IFA agenda, it was a privilege to represent. In all honesty, though, I was better-suited for the education initiatives given my activist history.

Sadly none of that mattered. I would be a fool to give up the energy piece – it put the Northwest in a powerful position amongst the Fae nationally and internationally. We needed that.

I tried to listen to everything that the others were saying as we went through the agenda, all the while running over what I was going to say in my head. It hadn’t gone poorly, certainly, but I didn’t feel like I’d made any headway. I was still just trying to keep up with Gregory’s shadow.

After much discussion, only a fraction of which I had anything to do with, it was my turn.

“Alright Amelie,” Cally leaned back in her chair, tapping her stylus to her lips. “Would you start us off with the energy section?”

“Absolutely,” I said, more confident than I felt. I flipped my tablet to the page of notes I’d made. “So last week I attended one of the ongoing meetings regarding the renewable-rail initiative to reduce semi hauling. Present at the meeting were myself, Senator Buckley, Senator Reynolds, House Member Ashad,  as well as representatives from Steadfast Rail, Exxon, and Iberdrola,” just listing those people made my heart beat a little faster. The people I’d met with weren’t the biggest hitters in this discussion, but they were several heads higher than the people I worked with as a piss-poor activist in the textbook years. “The meeting, of course, focused on cost. The house budget committee and energy and commerce committee aren’t on the same page with us. We’ve made progress with charging stations throughout major metro areas, and they’ve agreed to expand rail cargo in general, but we’re getting resistance with making those system renewable and with getting the requisite number of trucks off the road.”

“How much of a reduction would we get with the current plan?” Alex asked, a middle-aged Fae with light brown hair who leaned over the table on his elbows.

My mouth was dry. “Fifteen percent, give or take.”

A soft collective groan sounded around the table. I jerked when Collette tapped something on her desk, the sound amplified through the speaker system.

“Fifteen is better than none,” Collette said in an admonishing tone. “It’s better than we have now.”

“Fifteen percent is a boon to the traffic problem, sure,” Peter spoke up from beside me, “I doubt it does much for emissions.”

“If we made the upgrades they’re willing to make they say it will reduce by…” I thumbed through my research, provided by some scrappy human interns who worked on our side. “About 5% of the emissions from all major land cargo transport.”

I paused and waited for judgment, but none came. The muses just looked at me, like they expected more.

I swallowed. “Again, the main sticking point here is the cost, at almost one trillion to get cargo and human transport to 50% emissions by-”

“I hope you weren’t using that number,” Caleb arched an eyebrow.

My mouth snapped shut. I regarded him skeptically. “It’s the number I have to work with.”

“That’s Exxon’s number, not ours. With Fae assistance using nature magick we could reduce costs by a quarter. That’s your bargaining position.”

“My notes-”

“If you’d asked one of us, we could have told you. Obviously someone thought you knew,” he hesitated, “but then you’re new to this group.”

I wished for a ticking clock to break up the ominous silence. He was baiting me – so much for the kind and amiable Caleb that everyone spoke of. I felt my face flush. “Well, that will be something for me to remember, then, won’t it? Perhaps I should have you go over my notes before I go into the next meeting.”

Caleb shrugged, and his face didn’t change from the relatively pleasant half-smile he’d walked in with. “I just thought you should be aware. You no doubt gave up ground with the senate and house by using those numbers.”

“They did agree to the 5%, which is a start. The next meeting is in a month and I have some ideas about presenting the costs in a better long-term projection. We need to think fiscal, not environmental, if we want to convince the humans on this one.”

“Perhaps they’re just uninspired.”

Hotter. My face was on fire. “Are you saying that the meeting was a failure because I’m not a muse?”

“I’m sure that’s not what Caleb was saying,” Cally said patiently. Caleb had locked eyes with me and showed no signs of letting up, even with Cally’s interjection. “Was there anything else from that meeting, Amelie?”

“Yes, actually,” I said pointedly, snapping my gaze back up to Cally. “I got the card of a young woman from an algal-diesel production in Kansas. She’s interested in talking with the IFA about getting some tree Fae in on the action. Exxon has apparently been very concerned with the scale of what they’re doing, which can only be a good thing for us. I’ll forward everyone her information presently.”

“I’ll have Collette get some of her people on it,” Cally said, nodding back at the skype screen. “Now, as for Caleb, we have some updates on the biodegradable plastic work we’ve been doing…”

Her voice was drowned out by the ringing in my ears. I watched Caleb as he talked with his calm, cool composure. Whatever he said to me, he was going to a lot of trouble to make it not look personal. It certainly felt personal. If muse magick could have fixed our Fade problem, it would have by now. The muses were so wrapped up in the crisis that you would think that they had something to do with causing it – and maybe they had. Muses liked money, and oil certainly appeared to pay, even if it did make us itchy and infertile.

“…I think that you may do well to work with Amelie on that.”

I was startled out of my thoughts by the sound of my name. I hadn’t been listening closely enough to know what Cally could possibly be talking about. “What’s that?” I stuttered.

“The plastic problem. Since Caleb is in town I thought you might be able to take him through the Willamette Glade.”

She was talking about the glade just outside of Eugene where some of the best tree Fae – including my grandmother – lived. Tree Fae were proving quite important in the renewables discussion since they had the magick to make things grow larger, faster, and more abundantly. Unfortunately they were also some of the most sensitive to the Fade, and as such spent a lot of time in near-earth.

Of course, being half a tree Fae and connected to one of the greatest tree Fae glades in the world, I had reasons to be included in the conversation. What I didn’t particularly want was to partner with another muse so soon after showing up. I hadn’t even proven myself – had done quite the opposite, in fact.

Sigh. “Happy to,” I replied cheerfully.

“Wonderful,” Caleb nodded at me casually, the same casual way he draped his exquisite wings down his back. “We’ll talk at the mixer.”

Well, there went my week. I had been planning to use some extra time to visit the gorge, but work came first, no matter how uncomfortable it would be. The ride from Portland to Eugene was long regardless of which method of transportation was used, meaning I would have to spend a chunk of actual time with Caleb.

I smiled, lips pressed together.

“Great,” said Cally, oblivious to our interplay. “I’ll let the two of you arrange that. Now, as for the coal…”

Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 3

You can check out Part 1 and Part 2 via the links.

Tired was an inadequate descriptor for how I felt when I finally set foot in my apartment, one cab ride and two more doses of benadryl later. My keys clanked on the table in my entryway and I took a long, deep breath. Portland was known for decent air quality despite its population density, but no city could be quite clean enough for a Fae. The petroleum running rampant in the air wherever we went gave us trouble, reduced only by copious greenery and the occasional slide into near earth. Sliding into near earth was like coming up for breath after a long dive – that strange kind of I was almost dying and now I’m not ecstasy, which is less pleasure than survival. I’m half water nymph, after all – I would know.

My apartment was on the outskirts of Northeast Portland in a little (emphasis on the “little”) building near the Columbia. The IFA regional office had a hotel on the premises used for visiting Fae dignitaries. As a representative of the Northwest I requested a unit reserved just for me with all the amenities of a standard one-bedroom Portland apartment – scaled down, of course.

The “scaled down” part was very important. Before taking a position as bridger I tried to live in mundane society in a tiny studio apartment in downtown. It is difficult to fully appreciate the challenges of cooking in a giant-sized kitchen if you’ve never done it. Just putting a pot of water on to boil was such a workout that I ended up ordering veggie sushi every night for two months.

Portland was good for vegans, at least. That was one of many reasons why when Fae from various parts of the world came to North America, they chose to come to Portland. It was one of the “nice” places to be one of our people.

I breathed deep, feeling just a bit lighter when filtered air scented by the many flowers planted along my walls filed my lungs. My apartment was formerly a one-bedroom suite – the living room and kitchen were decidedly hotel-like, but just spacious enough for my purposes. Ever since I became a bridger I spent half my time away between the grove and my travels, anyway. I’d taken the time to paint the walls in browns, blues, and greens when I got in, reminiscent of nature. The furnishings were otherwise entirely modern. I had a few shiny metal statues mixed in with the green. I liked my nature like any Fae, but I had my own flare for style, too.

I wandered through my sadly empty kitchen, finding only expired juices in my fridge. I settled on a tall glass of ice water, leaning on the counter while I powered up my neglected phone. I’d turned it off at the beginning of the plane ride and hadn’t turned it on since I got back into Portland. My eyes were dull and heavy while I watched the screen power up. I slipped off my blazer, tossing it in a pile on my living room floor. I’d deal with cleanup later.

There were several emails waiting for me, as well as a couple of texts from Brenna, the IFA coordinator who lived in the regional facility, inquiring about my whereabouts. She was a bit motherly, and I’d forgotten to let her know I got in safe. Oops. I replied to that text immediately.

Finally a voicemail notification appeared on my screen, and the number made me raise an eyebrow. I knew that number. It was a Nevada area code, and there was only one person in Nevada who would ever have a reason to get in touch with me.

I groaned low in my throat when I touched the ‘play’ button, speaker on.

“Hey Lee. I guess you forgot to turn on your phone, didn’t you? Oh well. Anyway, I wanted to meet up with you for dinner-” I pressed my palm directly to the center of my face. Dinner. She wants to have dinner. “-but since I can’t get in touch with you I’ll just come by.  Petals, babe.”

“Oh by the blades,” I cursed. My eyes darted to the door, knowing that Dyana would be knocking any minute. We’d bonded for almost a full year, after all – I knew her well, just as she knew me. My windows were closed but my lights were on, surely visible through the little cracks in the curtains. Perhaps if I could just shut off the lights and lock my door really fast before she arrived…

As if waiting for just that moment, an insistent knock came from outside. I closed my eyes.

It came again. Knocknocknock. “Amelie?” A pause, “I flew metal just for you, so don’t you dare-”

As I swung open the door I had to decide what to do with my face – whether it would be appropriately un-enthused, or whether I would put on a fake smile to appease her. In my haze of fatigue I’m pretty sure it came out somewhere in between, an ineffectual medium which would not help me toward any goal.

Dyana’s appearance – silver eyes, white hair and moonpale skin – would be directly at odds with her over-the-top personality except for the bright purple wings she used to hover several inches above me. I fell in love with her wings when we first met. They had a gorgeous glow about them.

“Don’t you look uninspired,” Dyana smiled, her pale lips seemingly too large for her face. Oh muses. I didn’t hate them – it would be quite unfortunate if I did, given that bridging was a muse-dominated field – but I preferred dealing with muses only at work. A year of bonding with Dyana taught me that much.

“I…” I sighed. I wasn’t going to be able to pretend to be excited to see her, even if she was my ex-partner and the woman who convinced me to get into the bridger business in the first place. “I am, Dy. I’m exhausted. Happy to see you, though,” I struggled with the last statement. I liked Dy, and certainly would have been pleased to hear that she was planning a trip to see me. It would have been genuine happiness had she only waited another six hours to announce herself.

“Oh shush,” Dy glided past me, perching with bare feet up on the back of my lovely, white couch. I winced, shutting and locking the door behind her, leaning against it with a huff that blew frazzled strands of hair out of my eyes. “I knew that if I waited for you to get back to me it would be forever. You probably would have gone off to that meeting without even a word.”

“The meeting is-” I was about to say ‘Monday’ before I glanced at the digital clock on the wall. One a.m. “Tomorrow, technically. I would have called you back, you know that.”

Dy shrugged. “If you kept your phone on you maybe I could have caught you on your way back from the airport. Takes two to make these kinds of mistakes, Lee.”

She’d always been energetic, that was for sure. I crossed over to my chaise and threw myself into it. In my shell top with the bra sticking out, business pants, and socks, I knew I looked a wreck. I didn’t even care anymore. “I would say something witty, but my wings are already asleep. The rest of me is just standing guard.”

Suddenly distracted, Dy swooped into my kitchen with a dazzling flutter of her wings. I couldn’t see what she was doing behind the little bar – and again, I didn’t care. I was too tired to care about much of anything.

“Why are you here? I haven’t seen you in… what is it, six months now?” I asked over the sound of pots clanging and drawers opening. She’d never been in this particular apartment of mine, yet she walked around in it like it was hers. It made me smile just a little, enough that I couldn’t bring myself to tell her to calm down and stay out of my stuff.

“Eight,” Dy corrected, her head poking around the corner. “I wanted to congratulate you! And get the gossip, of course. I have some to give too.”

“And it still can’t wait till morning?”

“Well… some of it can, if I can borrow your couch.”

“Didn’t you start your own… something? Down in Reno?” I leaned forward to try to catch a glimpse of what in the five earths she was up to in my kitchen, but her back was turned to me. I collapsed back in my chair. “Surely you could afford your own hotel room.”

She rounded the corner of the bar, hands outstretched to present a steaming mug of jasmine tea.  Her eyebrows raised. “Burlesque club, is what it is,” she said, carefully delivering the mug into my hands. My favoriteDamn it, Dy. “I could afford it if you want me to stay elsewhere.”

“Forget I said anything,” I sipped the tea, too hot to drink quickly. It was steeped exactly the way I liked. I shook my head. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you need.” Please just don’t let it be too long.

“Just two nights is all. I do have my own obligations. I might not be as important as my lady bridger…” she smirked.

“I don’t feel terribly important just yet. I’m still the newest member in the region.” And the only non-muse. I didn’t add that part, of course. Dyana would insist that as a muse herself she had never looked down on us other Fae, and perhaps for her, that was true.

What I knew was that muses lived by different rules, and they didn’t relish the idea of other Fae getting involved in their games.

“Do you know what the topics are?” asked Dy.

“You know I’m not supposed to share that kind of information.”

“Pish,” Dy settled back on her perch, heedless of the dirty look I was giving her feet. “How am I supposed to tell you what I know if you don’t tell me what you know?”

“I seem to recall that you were the one who customarily did the begging in this relationship.”

“Mm, good one sleepy,” Dy winked. “Have you met Caleb yet?”

Caleb was a highly influential young Fae, the bridger from British Columbia. He’d been serving with the IFA since his early 20’s, a talented muse and the son of Blackwind, who inspired Howard Hughes in the early 20th century. Caleb came from power, talent, and mundane fortune – the kind of Fae I’d always found most difficult to relate to.

“No, I haven’t,” I answered her. “Tomorrow will be my first time.”

She nodded, and the look in her eyes caught my attention.

“Something about him, then?”

“Well,” Dy leaned forward, resting her chin in her hands. “I ran in some… well, you know me, I can’t keep my hands out of the political things. I was at a march down in San Diego-”

My face soured. “San Diego? Please tell me you wore a mask.”

She waved off my comment. “Anyway, I ran into some of the… well, some of the California Fae.”

There weren’t many of those left, most of them all balled up in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. They had a bridger from there – Collette – but she wasn’t very fond of the IFA overall. She usually skyped in, I was told, and even then she rarely spoke. There were very few NorCal Fae who wanted anything to do with human relations.

“Just say it, Dy, I can barely see anymore.”

“Caleb met with somebody from the Elementals.”

“I don’t see a problem with that.” The Elementals were Fae who liked their magick – liked it more than most Fae, if you can believe that, and were hellbent on using it to distance themselves from the humans in any way possible.

The way Dy was shaking her head told me that she had a rather different view of the Elementals. “Don’t see a problem? Lee, those people are radical. They’re way out there, like I don’t think you even know. Didn’t you see how they destroyed that server farm last month? Every hard drive, nonrecoverable.”

“That was a chicken butchery and they were angry about the treatment of the soft ones,” I narrowed my eyes, trying to understand her concern through my fuzzy thoughts. I needed to sleep someday. “Even you and I vandalized a few offices during the whole textbook ordeal.”

“I don’t know, Lee. When I met them they seemed a little… tainted.”

“That’s a serious accusation,” I sat up to make my point, feeling a little off-balance. Tainted was a term we Fae used for dangerous Fae (besides the unders like the Leprechauns, who were a different class altogether thank you very much), Fae who were so twisted that they came to use their powers for violence. Violence – destruction of any kind – was obscene to us. “You can’t just go around saying that about people.”

“I wanted to warn you, that’s all,” Dy apologized, planting her feet on the floor for the first time since she buzzed in. “And I wanted to bug you, too. I missed you.”

She offered her hand to help me up, and my skin brushing hers felt so different than it ever had before. The electricity I remembered from back when we were bonded was replaced by a trail of pleasant warmth. Friendship. At least if we couldn’t be partners, we could be good friends.

In small doses, anyway. I don’t think I could have withstood her energy for long periods, even on a platonic basis.

“Alright, alright,” Dy tugged me down the hall, “I’ll let you sleep.” She paused, glancing at me from the corner of her eyes, “where do you want to go for breakfast?”

Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 2

As of now this is the Inconvenient Muse’s serial blog story: Fae and Folly. There is quite a bit of development yet to come, so if it piques your interest please check back! There may even be an actual Inconvenient Muse who shows up…

The plan (a very loose, changeable plan) is to continue this story in scene-long bursts a minimum of once per week. It’s a nice little change of pace between all of the Forsaken Lands stuff I’ve been working on – and let me assure you, many things are going on with that. So many things.

Too many things.

At any rate – here is Part 2 of Fae and Folly. Enjoy. 🙂

It was snowing outside the windows of the Chicago airport while I went through the rest of the security theater. I tried to focus more on the snow than anything else; there were plenty of people staring at me and whispering, and most days I would indulge in some more showing off like I’d done with the TSA agent. I was late, though, and rather tired. I’d only spent less than 48 hours in the Chicago area, coming in just long enough to finish up a meeting and scurry back to Portland for my first regional bridger conference.

So much to-do with all these things. I hovered the rest of the way through the winding mall-like terminal, searching for my gate. My lips kept drying out from the brush of artificially heated air against my cheeks. Wing flight was lovely no matter where it was done, but it was so much more refreshing to fly when the air was cool and just a bit humid – the Northwest in Fall came to mind. I couldn’t wait to be back with hills and trees around the Portland metro. Chicago simply did not compare.

I buzzed past several cooing children who pointed and giggled. Most Fae had a soft spot for children, sometimes bordering on obsession. Personally I found the vast majority of them rather boring and repetitive, though on rare occasion a child caught my attention. I had a very long relationship with a youngling from Northern California when I was barely old enough to travel outside the glad, a girl who would be a grown woman now. She was quite brilliant for such a little thing.

I supposed that it was exactly that which drew us Fae to the children – their smallness made them much more approachable. They also tended to pay attention to us even back before The Reveal. Human adults had the strangest habit of ignoring perfectly real magick around them, thinking it was a trick of the light or their imagination. I was so young when The Reveal happened that I never got to play tricks on adults like some of my elders. Their stories were quite amusing – almost frightening. Humans insisted on driving giant metal vehicles around yet were historically incapable of noticing the most important of details.

I was almost too late to catch my flight, which was almost exactly on time by my standard. I’d never been known for my patience, and I loathed waiting in lines. Such tedium. A human construct, really – the Fae didn’t line up for anything, but humans seemed to be obsessed with waiting their turn. Fae society had a rather different view of time. We lived twice as long, after all.

“Excuse me,” my wings steadied me at eye-level over the boarding counter. The middle-aged attendant at the computer looked up with veiled alarm. I continued as if I didn’t notice. “I’ll be needing a modified belt.”

The attendant – Thomas, per his nametag – cleared his throat. “Yes, yes of course ma’am. I’ll get that for you immediately.”

I bowed at the waist, crossing my legs to keep my shoes off the counter. Tiny or not, I always found it rude to put ones shoes on another’s working surface. “Much appreciated, Thomas.”

Thomas smiled at me before putting through the order on his radio device. He ended up escorting me to my seat personally, and made sure that I was tucked in. More people stared at me from the rows in front and behind me, a soft murmuring that was so conspicuous that they may as well have been yelling GOOD GODS IT’S A FAERIE ON A PLANE. I stayed polite, taking my window seat without making a fuss and keeping everything as normal as possible as I clicked in my much-smaller modified seatbelt. My briefcase fit very easily under the seat in front of me, the only issue being that I could scarcely nudge it forward with my feet. I supposed it was better than the opposite problem of being too tall for plane seats. I would gladly trade having ample legroom for the inability to easily access my items when my belt was buckled.

No, legroom was not an issue for Faeries on planes. Plane flight instead came with the same inconveniences as almost every other method of mundane travel. I frowned at the plastic wall framing my window. I’d asked for an aisle seat, of course, but with the way the airlines liked to overbook their flights I didn’t get it. I sighed, thrusting my hand into my pocket. I’d brought a small container of water – less than 3 ounces, of course – along with my ever-present bottle of benadryl.

One of many reasons that the Fae didn’t use planes (other than the technophobia, lack of interest, and general disdain for integration into human culture) was because of the overwhelming amount of plastic-contact involved in the feat. Fae were allergic to plastic – really to all petroleum products. The reaction was rarely life-threatening, but by the ancestors did plastic make us itch something terrible. I could already feel my skin tickling, and I had been very careful not to touch anything.

I tossed back my benadryl just as my flying companion settled in beside me. The young woman had long, dark curly hair and exceptionally pale skin. She wore flared-out jeans and a blue hoodie, her hands clasped in her lap. It didn’t take much guesswork to surmise that she was heading home to the Pacific Northwest.

“Hey,” she said, looking down at me. She sounded pleased and even a little excited to see me, though we did not know each other.

“‘Afternoon,” I said in my businessy voice.

The girl paused, as if searching for words. Her gaze lingered on me just a little longer than socially acceptable before she began removing items from her backpack to place them in reach – an iPod, a packet of highlighters, and a medical physiology book.

I smirked to myself, studying her possessions. “Medical student?” I asked, again with a polite, professional voice.

“Ah, yeah. OHSU.”

“Came to Chicago to visit family?”

“Yes, actually,” she chuckled. “How did you know?”

“Why else would anyone leave Portland to visit the midwest in winter?”

“It isn’t so bad. I grew up in Peoria.”

My smirk grew. “Your midwest winters are hell on these wings.” I rubbed one of them fondly. I was born with them, and still I loved their texture – softer than the best of the human fabrics.

“I read about that,” the student said, then paused. “I mean… I guess that sounds a little weird, doesn’t it?”

“Not a bit. I was part of the petition to get the chapter on Fae physiology in your textbooks.” OHSU was actually one of very few medical schools to offer a short course on Fae medicine. I’d been a part of that movement since before I was a bridger – the anti-Fae humans claimed that there were too few of us to warrant an entire medical class, and even then, only a minority of Fae would consent to see a human doctor. The arguments were a smokescreen, of course, like all of the anti-Fae arguments. The anti-Fae hatred ran much deeper than it appeared on the surface.

“Oh wow,” the girl extended a hand in my direction. “My name is Rebecca, by the way.”

“Amelie.” The handshake was less awkward than some. Rebecca was short and had smallish hands, as opposed to some of the gigantic hands I had the misfortune of shaking in my position as a bridger.

“I didn’t think-” Rebecca caught herself before she finished the sentence. “I mean, that’s a really nice name.”

“Shush,” I laughed, “you didn’t think we had mundane names like Amelie. I know. I don’t play games with people. You can be honest.”

“Well, you’re right. I thought you had more… descriptive names.”

“We do, but I like to fit in, just like anybody else.” Her keen eyes reminded me a little of that girl-child that caught my attention in California, and I was feeling charitable despite my fatigue. The flight attendants were doing their safety ritual in the aisles, but I had no interest in listening to all of that again. “You can ask me whatever you want. It’s more fun for me if you talk. I’ve had enough people silently ogle me on this trip to last a lifetime.

Rebecca snorted at my comment, and I shared a grin with her. She secured her book in the magazine pocket. “Well then, do you mind if I ask why you wear the suit?”

“Pinstripes make me look taller. And I’m a bridger, so it’s expected of me.”

“A real bridger?” Rebecca’s eyes widened. “Sorry, it’s just… you’re like an ambassador. Shouldn’t you be sitting up in first class or something?”

“The IFA doesn’t pay me well enough for that,” I said with a roll of my eyes. The IFA – International Fae Alliance – oversaw all bridgers and our funds. It was a communal setup like so many other Fae things, and as such did not necessarily lead to great personal wealth. I didn’t mind the communal culture, but I wouldn’t have minded a few extra dollars to do what I wanted.

“Interesting.” Rebecca shook her head, “I’ve never had the chance to just… talk with one of you. Again, not to sound-”

“Don’t apologize. That’s our own fault.”

“You’re not really what I expected.”

“I’m not much like the other Faeries,” I paused, “but then, most bridgers aren’t.”

“Are you going back to the glade? The one in the gorge?”

“In a bit. I have other business to conduct in town,” I kept that response short. That ‘other business’ had already given me several headaches. The conference was set for Monday, but today was still Saturday – and I was on a plane with an inquisitive young mind. “What other questions do you have?”