The Arcadian Press



by Anna Conrad

Fire and ash rain down over my head, but I don’t stop running. I leap over fallen trees and dodge broken, crumbling homes. My wings itch at my back, and the urge to fly overwhelms me. But I can’t fly. If I do, the Crows will have a better view of me.

I finally reach the castle and barrel through the doors. Fairies are scattered all over the floor, their wings torn and bodies pale and limp. I fight a sob, forcing myself not to breathe in the retched smell of dead magic.

I dive behind a colorful tapestry woven with stories of our origin and open the invisible door leading to the emergency passageways. I sprint down the long, dark corridors, the only light coming from my wings. I want to cry out for Rowan, but I don’t, not wanting to risk being found by a Crow. They are destroying Faerie Glen, killing everyone in their sight, all because of their anger and hatred for us. I may never live happily here again.

Tears stream down my glittery cheeks as I push myself to run faster, the last drop of my hope beginning to evaporate. What if Rowan was captured by the Crows, and that’s why I can’t find him?

I round a corner and slam into a tall figure. They clasp a hand over my mouth before I can scream.

“Celeste, it’s me.” Rowan’s soothing voice fills my ears, and relief floods my body. He’s all right.

“Rowan, it’s awful,” I cry, my voice high-pitched and frightened. “Everything is gone.”

Rowan holds me tight in his arms, his half-Crow feathered wings brushing against my trembling hands. “I know. But we have to keep going. We have to get out.”

I let out a sob but nod my assent, allowing him to guide me through the tunnels.

“I can’t find my family,” I tell him. My limbs ache and my head fills with exhaustion and fatigue, but I push myself to keep going.

“I know where they are,” he says. “We’re going there now.”

I sigh in relief and pray they’re all right and unharmed. But a tiny voice whispers in the back of my mind, saying how unlikely that may be.

We reach an end of the tunnel and Rowan pushes the door open, revealing the lowest floor in our castle. My parents are there, lying against the far wall, and I run to them. The side of my mother’s face is dripping with blood and one of her beautiful wings is completely torn off. My father is pressing his hand to a deep wound in his side and his skin is deathly pale.

I cry out at the sight of them and throw myself onto the ground before them, fumbling for anything I can use to heal them.

“Don’t try to help,” Father says. “There is no hope for us.”

“But I can help you,” I say in between sobs.

“The only way you can help,” he says, “is by leaving this world.”

I look over at Mother, who in the midst of her pain, nods and smiles sadly.

“No,” I say. “I can’t leave.”

“Listen to me,” Father says. A coughing fit stops him for several seconds, and I squeeze my eyes shut, unable to watch his heaving, wounded body.

“You have to leave this world,” he continues, “so then we still have an heir who can conquer the Crows. You can take back the throne; but you have to leave for a while first.”

I shake my head violently, my cheeks soaked with tears.

Someone lays a trembling hand on my arm. It’s my mother. The light in her eyes is fading, and her skin is too pale. But she’s smiling at me.

“My dear Celeste,” she says, “this is your only choice. You must go.”

“I can’t do it by myself.” My voice is quiet, weak, and scared. I try to show strength and courage, but at the moment, it is completely impossible.

“You aren’t going alone,” Father whispers, and I realize his time is quickly running out. “Rowan will be with you.”

I turn to Rowan. He stands tall, wings held low but head held high, like he isn’t afraid of anything. Like he isn’t afraid of the Crows he came from. He’s never afraid of the danger. And there is no one I trust more than him.

I turn back to face my parents and say, “All right. Whatever you wish. I will go.”

They both smile, and at the same time, say, “We love you, Celeste.”

My breath hitches and my heart pounds inside my chest, the sound deafening me. But I manage to say in return, “And I love you.”

I reach for them, embracing them gently. I study their faces one last time to remember every detail. I always will, though, no matter how long I sit staring. Then I smile, silently showing them that everything was going to be all right, and I will bring justice to their kingdom. Our kingdom.

Rowan helps me up from the floor and retrieves a Traveling Stone from his pocket. He looks at me with such sadness in his eyes, and it makes my eyes prickle once again.

“Are you ready?” He whispers.

I take a deep breath and nod.

Rowan uses the Traveling Stone to open a portal, and he grasps my hand tightly.

I take one last look at my parents, a final tear dripping down my cheek as I take in their limp forms. I turn my gaze back to the portal and I let Rowan lead me through it, and out into the real world, where we will live as humans until my time comes to take back what belongs to me.

The end of Faerie Glen is finally happening, and it is something I never expected would happen. But Rowan always expected it. I should have believed him before. It is a regret I will always carry.

I vow to remember all Faerie Glen was, all it gave me and showed me. One day, I will come back, and fix what will become of it. I will come back and take what is mine. And when that time comes, the Crows won’t win. I will. Because my kingdom will always belong to me and my family.

And I know, without a doubt, that Rowan will always be right by my side until the end, just like he has been from the very beginning.

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