Year 525 CE.—Tipperary, Ireland—Fairy Throne Hall
The assembly is stunned and frozen in horror as the voice of their new Summer Queen fades away. There is only stunned silence in response to her extraordinary proclamation, for such a thing has never happened before.
The previous Winter Queen had fled, leaving only the brief note that has just been read. No one had ever imagined such a scenario, for the role of Fairy Queen is not only an immense honor, but also a vital position for the balance of nature.
What's next for the assembled court? Is the new Summer Queen, who has just ascended to the throne, even legitimate? As long as the former queen is alive—even though she has abdicated—the new queen is not the repository of nature's power, which has not been transferred to her. Is this unprecedented interim solution really viable? As far as we can remember, there's nothing to support this hypothesis.
Worried murmurs swirl around the room, amplified by the immense stone vault, but no one dares speak out against Eleanor's decision for before she was the new symbol of royalty, she was the leader of the Boudicca Squadron, the warrior women of her people. The latter had ordered the former queen hunted down and executed for high treason against her community and nature. The reason? No fairy can have a relationship with a human, except for the annual mating ritual to perpetuate the species. However, the previous Winter Queen had left her position for a Druid. This was the heretical excuse she used to justify her unacceptable act.
“This infamy cannot be tolerated!” Eleanor cries, her angry voice echoing through the vaults of the fortress as brutally as the rumble of thunder before lightning. “Until the traitor's energy is returned to me, all winter fairies present here must give me their power before they are banished.”
Maeven, the second winter fairy after the former queen, protests vehemently against the injustice of this decision, for the court cannot do without the balance of summer and winter fluids.
“It is unthinkable,” she concludes emphatically. “The course of nature would be turned upside down!”
“The balance will be preserved,” the new monarch replies with an evil smile, “because I will have both winter and summer power. It was your queen who put us in this situation, so it is only fair that you make up for her failure. By abandoning her duty, she has condemned you all at the same time. We cannot risk this happening again, and it is my responsibility to make sure it never does. That is why, from now on, the throne will revert to a summer fairy, to whom I will pass on the winter power I received when the time comes. As for your protest, I take good note of it, but…”
At a sign from Eleanor, a Boudicca behind her throne quickly bends her bow and pierces the impertinent woman's heart with an iron arrow! Then she slowly descends the steps, taking her time so that all can see the agony of the one who dared to defy her queen. Breaking the woman's ribs as she collapses to the ground, the warrior removes Maeven's heart, still beating, from her cavity. Holding it high in the air for all to see, she bows to the dais at the foot of the throne and offers it to the woman she considers the sole leader of her people.
Eleanor hastens to greedily suck the vital essence from this sacrifice before returning it to nature. As she does so, she is enveloped in a veil of frost, and she rises to renew her decree with force.
“Or, as you can see, you can simply die,” she announces with an evil smile. “Either you give me your powers willingly, or I will have them when you die.”
Still reeling from the shock of this sudden and violent act, the hundred or so winter fairies finally fall to their knees, heads bowed. One by one, they cast their transfer charms to avoid the same fate as their fellow fairies, devastated by the impact of their former queen's crime on their community. They also realize that the long, harsh winter that has lasted for almost a year is surely the result of their former leader's negligence. Busy cooing with her Druid, she neglected her duty to watch over the balance of the seasons and the regeneration of nature. Maeven, her second-in-command, did her best to keep her rivals at bay and became the queen's sole advisor. In doing so, she supported her sovereign's irresponsible behavior, all the better to consolidate her own position at court. However, none of them intervened to remind her of her shortcomings; in a way, they all let her get away with it and must take their share of responsibility for the situation…
Full of resentment at the betrayal they have approved without even realizing it, they all slowly make their way to the exit without saying a word, crushed by the enormity of this event and under the scornful gaze of the summer fairies.
Suddenly, shouts echo through the group and a ripple of jostling spreads like a tidal wave. The Boudiccas have been waiting for their queen's signal to shoot their arrows into the backs of the doomed fairies, who fall like flies under the iron rain.
“Throw their bodies into the sea,” orders Eleanor, drunk with the power she has just received. “For their treachery, however passive, they do not deserve to return to Mother Earth. Tomorrow, with the full moon, I will let summer reign over the planet once again. This will be our ascension, and the world will forget that winter ever existed!”
Siobhan — Winter Fairy
It did not take long for the new queen to show her true face—the face of mad ambition. She had always longed to rule and was impatient to wait for her turn. Obviously, she could not pass up the opportunity to take the throne decades in advance. What is more, she secured the loyalty of her summer court with her crazy promise about the future transfer of power; every fairy on her side would do everything in her power to be the future heiress.
I can only bow to her and submit to her yoke, as do my companions. But I am holding back some of my power, because it is out of the question to be defenseless in the human world. The position of women there is even worse than that of a mangy dog! I have a daughter to protect in my bosom, even if her spark has only just ignited in me. With the influx of fairy energy that we all exchange, no one should notice that I keep a little of it and share it with my unborn child to hide it.
Having stayed at the back of the room when the meeting was called, I am finally the first one through the door, in such a hurry to get away from this heavy atmosphere and into the invigorating sea air that overlooks our fort. Rather, the summer fairies' strong and no longer mine, I can't help but think bitterly.
But as soon as I put my hand on the door handle, a strong push in my back sends me spinning, stumbling and crashing into the heavy wooden door, which opens with a jerk. I crumble to the floor as a sharp pain shoots through me. Then I realize that it is not my fall that causes this excruciating pain, but an arrow! If I had not ducked at the last moment, it would have hit me right in the lung, but it only hit my rib.
Eleanor may call us traitors, but she is a traitor too, and not the least. She dared to have us shot in the back without warning! Outraged by this despicable act, I fight through the pain and grit my teeth to slip stealthily to the side of the open door and out of sight of the room. Leaning against the stone wall and hidden by the wooden panel of the door, I painfully removed the cursed iron spike from my rib, praising nature for not striking me in a vital area like my sisters had been. I can hear the Boudiccas, sure of victory, taking their time to finish off my companions…
Even if I have some strength left, there is nothing I can do for them. My heart heavy with guilt for leaving them to their fate, I decide to focus on my daughter, for perhaps I can save her. Gathering what little energy I can, I wrap myself in a travel bubble before I am discovered. It is all in extremis when I hear footsteps approaching just as I escape. Unfortunately, I get no farther than the edge of the forest surrounding the fort. Getting out of the building is a crucial first step, but not enough if I am to have any hope of escaping.
Catching my breath as best I can, I force myself to cover the few meters separating me from a hundred-year-old oak tree, pulling myself up into its foliage, my only chance of survival. I have discovered a ball of mistletoe. To heal my iron wound, only the rare oak mistletoe can save me. If I can seal the wound, I will have a small chance of regaining my strength to survive the wrath of this cruel queen. For from now on, I will not be able to recognize her as my own. Not after her despicable deed!
Tomorrow she will be at the Circle of Sacred Dolmens, which will be my only chance to leave Ireland for England so that my daughter may live! My only chance to perpetuate the cycle of winter, which is indispensable to nature, contrary to what Eleanor would have us believe. And as the last representative of the Winter Court, I will not shirk my duty.
With this pious wish, after hastily applying a mistletoe bandage to my bloody wound, I lose consciousness, surrendering to the energy of the trees, the wind, and the rain that has suddenly fallen, as if to express nature's grievance at this infamy. I am surrounded by earth, air, and water. And the fire of my anger burns in my heart!
All the elements of life come together: a coincidence or to protect me?
I prefer to believe in Mother Nature, whom I thank before I lose consciousness.
Present day—Magnolia Estate—Louisiana.
Selena (aka Barbie)
As I do every morning, I watch the sun rise over the bayou from the raised deck of our little wooden house on the river's edge. The spectacle of the iridescent rays on the water is a thing of beauty, and I can't get enough of it. Jarod, my husband, joins me and gently embraces me, holding me close to his chest.
“Did you know that in a week it’ll be a year since we met?” he whispers in my ear with his warm, husky voice. “If you'd told me that pushing open the door of your esoteric boutique in Paris would lead me to you in New Orleans, I never would have believed you.”
“First of all, if anyone could have predicted anything for you, it would have been Grandma, because she was the psychic back then. And in a way, she did, when she asked me to include you in all the magical messes we had to deal with.”
“Well, anyway, I'm your soul mate, so we would have found each other somehow, if I understand correctly,” he concludes, brushing his greedy lips against my neck.
It's true. Before, I had no idea that a hidden supernatural world actually existed.
But that was before. Now, my family includes a medium, a wizard, a ghost—actually two, but I don't want to hear about the first one—and my husband, who is human, but with very special blood that can nullify all forms of magic . Oh, and two unicorns.
They appeared right after our wedding on the grounds of the estate where we'd settled in after all that business with the Magi. “The awakening of ancestral forces,” as Grandma and my SBFF, Sybil, had predicted in their tarot readings. But except for the fact that they're here now and for my sake, we don't know anything more about them.
Although I'll never admit it openly, Dick, the mafia ghost associated with my sister, is right: “They're useless, these damn horses.” Apart from eating and sleeping, for months, I haven't been able to figure out what they're doing here or what they want. When they show up, I'm the only one who can get close enough to give them their daily ration of carrots and apples at exactly 11:00 am, but otherwise… As soon as they're done eating, they go back into hiding who knows where, until the next day.
“I'd like us to go to Paimpol for our anniversary,” Jarod murmurs, pulling me out of my thoughts. “What do you think?”
I would love to. It's been planned for a long time, but we had to give it up when the magic beasts appeared because I didn't want to go too far away when it turned out that they were attached to me. However, since nothing has happened with them for ages, maybe we could take the risk of going away for a few days after all.
I want to rediscover my past, my roots. Because with all the revelations of the last year, I don't know who I really am anymore. All these unanswered questions have been bothering me more and more lately, and it must show on my face when my husband tries to reassure me.
“You're the woman in my life, Sybil's beloved sister-best-friend-forever, Charlie's doll, and the unicorn fairy,” he explains tenderly.
He always knows how to comfort me with a few words, without me having to say anything. But the root of the problem keeps nagging at me. Learning that my parents actually weren't was a relief at first. An abusive, junkie couple isn't exactly what you want on your family tree. Still, learning that I'm a fairy when I have no idea of my power or my past isn't comfortable either. How can I know what I want for my future if I don't know where I come from?
Sarah, Sybil's grandmother, officially adopted me with her characteristic generosity. And even though I've grown up thanks to the two of them, who took me in when I was just an orphan tossed around by the child welfare system, part of me feels… incomplete.
I need to know my history in order to compose my future. Or so I think. Sybil keeps telling me that regardless of the past, it's what I do that determines my life, but the child in me, beaten and rejected, is deeply wounded and lost. This wound has never fully healed, despite the love I've received since, and has determined much of my “strong character,” as my sister diplomatically calls it. But when life doesn't do you any favors, you tend to return the punches you receive. Or even throw them first.
Anyway, I figure it can't hurt to look for my roots, right? And Jarod understands that perfectly. That's why he offers to take me to a secure spot in the heart of the Broceliande Forest, even though he's dreaming of a beach paradise for his vacation. I'm all the most grateful to have someone who loves me without needing to prove it. I have to admit that emotional demonstrations aren't really my forte, although I'm working on it and making progress every day.
“Hey, you’re finally up!” Charlie screams. “About time.”
“Rhooo, I'm fine, it's barely 6:30 in the morning,” I reply, signaling to my ghost as I inform my husband of this invasive presence.
Charlie bonded with me at the moment of his death, when he sacrificed himself to save us from the evil Magi we were fighting. Since then, he's loved his new life as a disembodied spirit, free of all material constraints. It gives him more time and opportunities to roam the net and poke his nose everywhere. He used to be a genius hacker but now, with his ability to move undetected wherever he wants, he's an unrivaled asset to the game.
But Jarod, as a human, is the only one who can't hear or see him, and I'm forced to act as a relay so they can communicate with each other. This sometimes leads to crazy dialogue when they get confused. Like when Charlie finally confessed that he'd hijacked the holding company for our benefit… Since my husband is an honest cop, it was a hard pill to swallow.
“I finally found the contact information for the last family I have to notify, Bro.”
As magic returned with a vengeance and disrupted our lives, we discovered a far-reaching conspiracy in the Magi community.
We discovered hundreds of unsolved murders. They were “normal” women for whom we concocted a plausible story to tell the public and the police. The case caused quite a stir last year when Interpol made it public. Think about it: a serial killer who knows voodoo and has been plaguing the world for decades—that's news for the media. Netflix is even said to be considering a series based on the story. But we also discovered that there had been many other murders in the previous century, of “special” people who claimed to be shamans or sorcerers. Since the bodies had never been found, no one had made the connection until now. Scores of families had waited years for answers about the fate of their loved ones, in the face of complete indifference or the impossibility of finding any leads from the investigating services.
Jarod was originally a lieutenant with the Paris police, but he resigned to work on these particular disappearances, to bring clarity to the families, even if it's to the next generation. Watered-down explanations also linked to a secret sect, but allowing them to finally mourn. Not knowing what happened to a loved one is, in my opinion, the worst kind of torture, as we alternate between hope, anger, and fear.
“Thank you,” my husband says with veiled emotion. “Do you know if they wanted to know?”
This story really moves him. In fact, he was particularly touched by one of these cases because the granddaughter of the so-called witch was able to tell the story to her mother just before she breathed her last breath. She died with a gentle smile on her face and tears in her eyes. All her life she'd blamed herself for her mother's disappearance, convincing herself that it was her fault for abandoning her. Knowing that this wasn't the case brought her peace, not to mention peace to her daughter, whose life had also been marked by this family burden.
Insofar as these specific cases touch on the very closed and more or less esoteric underground milieu, Jarod presents himself as a private detective, even if he “smells like a cop from a mile away,” as Dick accuses him. But considering he's the ghost of a Chicago gangster from the '50s, his attitude toward law enforcement is understandable… And he gets along like two peas in a pod with Charlie, whom I adore, so I'm obliged to more or less tolerate him —and not try to nuke him more than once a week.
“Yeah, they never stopped looking,” I replied for Charlie. “There's only the mother left in Kentucky, but every year, on the anniversary of her daughter's disappearance, she offers a reward of five thousand dollars to anyone who can bring her something that might help find her. This goes back to 1988 in Atlanta.”
“So, I’m leaving tomorrow.” My husband sighs. “I'm relieved it's the last time, because it's really hard to break the news to the families. On the one hand, they're eager to finally have confirmation of what happened to their loved ones, but on the other…”
“You're giving them closure,” I say quietly, taking him in my arms. “It's a first step toward healing their wound. And that's important. I’m so proud of what you’re doing.”
“And the jet is ready. It'll be waiting for you at 7:00 am tomorrow morning at the private airstrip,” Charlie adds cheerfully, while Jarod tenses up when I report this to him.
Indeed, this private plane is a more or less sensitive issue. We bought it with dirty money from Merlin & Co., the Magi holding company that Charlie embezzled for our benefit, and Jarod has a hard time appreciating this “abuse of the common good,” as he calls it.
However, I have to admit that it's quite practical, which he grudgingly agrees with. It's also his straightforwardness that I like about him, as he balances us from a moral point of view. It has to be said that for Charlie and me, rules can be easily bent without keeping us up at night.
Despite my husband's inner conflict about our means of transportation, I take over for Charlie.
“Could you also plan a trip for next weekend? To Paimpol?”
“Did he convince you? Great, I'll take care of that too. And I can't wait. I've dug up everything I could from the Arthurian legends, and I'm sure there's a treasure hidden in the forest of Broceliande!”
Here we go again. Charlie's great hobby is treasure hunting. Ever since we got our hands on the pirate Jean Lafitte's treasure last year, he's been passionately searching for all those mentioned but not yet found. With Dick's enthusiastic support, they've already managed to find a Spanish galleon that sank during the first explorations of the continent and whose contents have brought a small fortune to our foundation.
Yes, because all the proceeds from the illegal sales Charlie organizes on the darknet go to fund the foundation we've set up to take in wizards rejected by their community. Without powers, they would have been executed, but since our intervention, my sister and Dimitri have changed all that.
The estate has been renovated and remodeled for this purpose. To date, we have eighteen little boarders, ages seven to eight, as well as a dozen mothers who have taken refuge with us to learn how to live in the human world. Sybil has taken it upon herself to initiate them into the creation of herbal philters, which we sell online worldwide through the esoteric boutique we've reopened. It's a way for us to honor the memory of Sarah, our grandmother who died because of the Magi, by reliving the Oracle of Pythia for a positive purpose.
It's working like a charm, because we've had a lot of loyal followers clamoring for it since the shop exploded in Paris. In the four months since we relaunched the 2.0 site, we've even reached one hundred and fifty thousand followers on our boutique's social networks. Sybil regularly prints cards online for private consultations, and her diary fills up in a matter of minutes from one month to the next. As for her husband, Dimitri, he's researching with the Magi archivist of each continent to develop spells that the little ones can use even when their aura isn't awakened.
Plants have powers too! Especially the magnolias on the estate, which we cultivate with special care. It has to be said that they were given energy by my fairy ancestors, so I'm sure that has something to do with it. Anyway, we've found that with certain potions, the children are able to cast some minor spells. This helps them psychologically to accept their differences.
Being rejected when you don't fit into the accepted mold is especially painful for these kids. I know because I've felt like an outsider all my life. As much as I accept it now, when I was younger, I would have given anything to be like everyone else.
That reminds me: we're going to need to pick some flowers to replenish our supply of energy potions. We've got a big order coming soon from a group in Mexico who need them for a spiritual retreat. Since Charlie can act on nature thanks to the essence of the old ghost Jean, I take him with me, but not without a last embrace for my husband. Why bother to cut the flowers when he can do it for me?