A peculiar path wound through the fields behind Beaugenveu Estate. It was a long path that no one ever walked for fear of never walking back. Despite never being used, the grass on the path was always cut while the grass surrounding it grew vigorously. As was the way of Faerie roads.
The youngest Beaugenveu daughter, Alice, had grown up hearing horror stories about the Faerie road. She used to watch the path from her bedroom window night after night and wonder if what her nanny said was true. This sort of thinking was what drove Alice to walk the path one sunny, Sunday afternoon, and her cousin was either stupid enough or courageous enough to go with her.
"This is it?" Lena sighed. "I thought it would be more impressive."
"This is it," Alice confirmed. Lena gave it another disapproving look. Doubt crept up Alice's spine the longer Lena stared. "Come on. Staring doesn't do anything," she said, stepping onto the path. Lena was quick to follow.
High tendrils of grass swayed around the path like a green ocean. Like gleaming golden rays of sunlight, dandelions stood out against the green. The air of unease that had surrounded them slipped away with each step as the house grew smaller and smaller, leaving them smiling and laughing. Everyone was wrong; there was nothing scary about the path. Nothing at all.
The path stopped where the old family cemetery began. Both stared at the ancient iron gate for many moments before Alice spoke. "Let's have a look around," she breathed. Lena shrugged.
The cemetery was small with crumbling graves. "No one's been buried here since the path appeared," Alice whispered. "Said it was too dangerous."
They danced around gaping holes and fallen stones before coming to the center of the cemetery. A large brush cropped out of the ground and loomed over their heads. They stopped and stared at it for several moments.
"It looks like you can go inside," breathed Lena. A small fissure, more open in some places than others, ran between the two bushes. Beyond was darkness.
Alice nudged Lena in the back. "Go on then," she said. Lena stared at the gap, hesitant. "What are you waiting for? An invitation?" Alice laughed. Her cousin's mocking was not something Lena would put up with, so she brushed away the thoughts of danger beginning to cloud her mind and stepped into the bush.
Alice followed close behind and the two girls spread out in the small area. "How very mysterious," Alice laughed, looking around. Lena glanced around as well but her eyes stopped as they landed on a gentleman kneeling before a gravestone. "Do you think faerie-"
"Alice," Lena hissed. Alice quieted and turned to see what had disturbed her cousin. Her eyes quickly found the gentleman. He was watching them with eyes the color of silver and hair a glowing gold.
"Miladies," he greeted, slowly standing, brushing dirt off his opulent clothing. The unease Lena had felt before stepping in the bush washed over her again. There was something dangerous and also delightful about him. Lena wasn't sure which scared her most.
"I'm sorry, we'll leave." Lena grabbed Alice's wrist but her cousin wouldn't move. She was staring at the man as if he was the only thing in the world.
"You needn't." A shiver of terror raced down Lena's spine, and she tugged on Alice.
"We have to go." Alice didn't budge.
"In fact," continued the man. "I was just looking for a partner. I was on my way to a ball at my brother's kingdom." He smiled at Alice. "Do you like to dance?" A smile broke across Alice's face.
"Yes," she breathed, stepping towards him.
"Then come with me." He offered a hand and Lena pulled back on Alice, terror fully consuming her now. Alice kept walking, reaching for the man's hand. Lena felt her fingers slip from her cousin's arm, and she fought for grip. As Alice's fingers wrapped around his, she disappeared. Lena stared at where her cousin had just been standing with wide eyes.
"Would you like to come to the ball too?" the man asked Lena. His charm did not fight through her fear, and she whirled, tripping out of the bush.
Lena raced back to the path. Her pounding feet matched the frantic beating of her heart. Alice was gone, captured by a faerie. The path was just as dangerous as the stories said.
Clouds gathered with alarming speed and lightning shattered the sky. Rain began to fall in torrents and the world blurred until Lena didn't know up from down. She pushed forward, unsure of where she was, or where the path was, but determined to keep going.
Suddenly the rain dropped away as a canopy of leaves sheltered her. The forest unveiled itself around her, dark and foreboding. Lena jogged slowly down a random path, her waterlogged skirts weighing her down. She needed to get back to the estate, to tell Uncle Pete that Alice had disappeared, to send people out to find her. Could anyone be rescued from a faerie, though?
The forest was unfamiliar territory and somewhere in her heart, Lena knew she was hopelessly lost. She wouldn't let that seep into her mind, though. There was hope somewhere. There had to be.
A stick snapped behind her, and she whirled. She couldn't see anything through the murky light of the forest. Lena started on when a growl rumbled behind her. Again, nothing revealed itself to her. Lena remembered the hunt's master talking about wolves that lived in the forest. The thought continued to fuel her fear.
As if on cue, a giant wolf lunged from the shadows. Lena reeled back, screaming. Two other wolves followed the first. They slowly began to circle her. Ragged sobs began to rip from Lena's throat. She was going to die, in the middle of a forest, no one knowing where she was. She closed her eyes and waited for their attack.
Silence filled the forest clearing and Lean slowly gathered the courage to open her eyes. The wolves were gone. Lena felt her legs give out, and she hit the ground. Hopelessness filled her and she sobbed.
As she sat there, a hand patted her on the shoulder. "The ball would be much more fun than this." She looked up, finding the faerie man behind her. Lena nodded despite herself. "Come with me."
Written by: Cameron Mitchell
Photograph by: Kyle Hemmings