Story: The Last Resort

So, I think my brain had more of a NaNo hangover than I thought it did. I’ve really struggled to get going this month, and now have a second prompt waiting for this series, because I failed to get the story out within a week. Oops. Oh well. Better late than never.

The prompt for this was: Having to finally do that which you know you have to, but don’t want to.. and gladly reaping the rewards thereafter.

Which is just about the wordiest prompt ever… So I shortened the title to: The Last Resort. Previous instalments under the Writing tab above. And this hasn’t been proofread by someone else, so please point out any typos/errors.

The Last Resort
by Liberty Gilmore, 08/12/12

Ava does something she knows she must, but really doesn’t want to…

Ava went through three small timers before she was pointed in the direction she needed to go. All the time the clouds were broiling above her, threatening to split and drop their loads on a small German town expecting sunshine. But she’d bottled her anger and hurt, stashing it somewhere inside of her, biting down on her tongue every time it came close to spilling over. And each time she tasted the tang of copper in her mouth, the clouds stilled.

Arriving at a shop door, she banged on the glass until her knuckles hurt, then continued to bang until a small, wizened little human man came to the door.

‘I’m looking for Clotilda,’ Ava said.

‘There’s no one here by that name,’ he replied, a tremor in his voice.

Ava let her Fey aura slip. ‘Do not test me, Human, I’m not in the mood.’

The wizened man stepped away from her, but tottered back to the door, opening it, cowering behind it as Ava stalked through. Faolan bounded at her heels, jaws snapping, his usually gentle temperament affected by her mood.

She pushed through the shop front into the offices at the back, where a grotesquely fat fairy woman was sitting in a tree carved from some enormous tree root. She peered at Ava between slitted eyelids, over rounded cheeks.

‘You dare to charge in here like that, insolent girl?’ she said, her voice as thick as the lips that formed the shapes of the sounds.

‘You may find you don’t want to test me today,’ Ava said, Faolan snarling and edging forwards beside her.

‘You think bringing your little pet in here gives you authority, Winter?’ Clotilda said. ‘Your Court may be in overall power, but Summer rules here.’

‘Does it?’ Ava said, glancing to the window.

Outside, a gentle snow began to fall, ice crystals forming across the glass. Clotilda blew out a breath that condensed in the sudden coldness. Her next breath carried an exclamation of shock in the fairy language.

‘What do you want?’ Clotilda said. ‘There is nothing I have to give you.’

‘There is,’ Ava said, reigning in the snow and ice. ‘Your help. I need your help.’

*

‘So, what’s your girlfriend’s name?’ Percy asked, trotting to keep up with Adam’s fast pace.

‘Ava,’ Adam replied. ‘Ava Dakarov.’

Percy shook her head, apparently unfamiliar, and why would she have been? Adam thought.

‘You realise that’s not her real name, right?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘No fairy will ever give you their true name. Why do you think I tell people I’m called Percy? Names have power. You ought to remember that before you give yours up so freely, Adam Clements, even if you are apparently able to fight off Glamour.’

‘I’ll keep that in mind.’

Percy grabbed him by the arm then, pulling him to a halt. Adam looked at the storm clouds ahead. They didn’t seem any closer, and he didn’t want to stop until they were.

‘You don’t know an awful lot about Fairies, do you? Don’t lie, I’ll know.’

Adam shook his head. ‘Not really.’

‘Then you have no real idea what you’re charging into. You think your girlfriend can control the weather? That’s nuts, I’ve never heard of any fairy who can do that without lots of friends, months of chanting, and concentrated effort.’

‘Ava can do it without even trying, and it terrifies her. I’ve got to find her – I can’t leave her to be alone right now. Not when her mother is probably after her and she has everything else to deal with.’

‘Her mother?’

‘Her name’s Natalia, and she’s a right…’

Adam never finished that thought, for Percy backed away from him suddenly, muttering under her breath in rapid German. Or something.

‘Natalia Dakarov of the Winter Court?’ she said in English after a moment.

Adam shrugged a shoulder. ‘Could be.’

‘Adam, you need to turn around right now and go back to your hotel, then back to your life. Winter Fairies are dangerous. Especially Natalia.’

‘What’s a Winter Fairy?’

Percy gave him a pained look. ‘You really don’t know much, do you?’

‘Yeah, well, Ava was part way through explaining then she ran off…’

‘She probably realised how much danger she was putting you in and decided to save your life. I’d think about going along with it, if I were you.’

‘No,’ Adam said, setting off again in the direction of the bad weather. Percy jogged alongside him to keep up with his pace.

‘Adam,’ she said, imploring, ‘Winter Fairies are bad news. Nothing goes well for Humans when the Winter Court is in power. Almost anything corrupt and horrible a Human ever did, they had a Winter Fairy whispering in their ears. Winter Fairies believe that the Human race should be subjugated.’

‘And you’re any better? Sleeping around to produce “infiltrators.”’

Adam thought she actually looked hurt. ‘It’s not like that. Every Court has infiltrators. Some so we can keep abreast of what the Human Race is doing. Sometimes there’s nudging, but only the Winter Court are out to hurt you. The rest of us just want to coexist. Without Human knowledge, of course. That’s what most of the nudging compromises of. Stopping anyone discovering the Fairy races.’ She paused a moment before continuing in a quiet voice. ‘And stopping people like Natalia Dakarov. Adam…’

‘I’m not afraid of Ava’s mother. And she’s not like her, if that’s what you’re trying to get at. Ava has never wanted to do anything her mother tried to make her do.’

‘You really love her, don’t you?’ Percy’s eyes were wide and sad.

‘Yeah,’ Adam said, doubling his pace. ‘So don’t try to stop me.’

*

Clotilda looked at Ava through narrowed eyes. ‘You’ll never be able to defect from the Court. And it’s not in mine, or anyone’s power to help you. If Lord and Lady Winter decide to come for you, we wouldn’t be able to stop them. Not without sacrifices no one here will be prepared to make. While we don’t agree with Winter principles, the last thing we want or need is war. I’m not getting into it for one girl, powerful though you may be.’

Ava felt her heart sink. It was the answer she’d feared. ‘So you would leave me to die?’

‘You never should have run in the first place.’

‘And how many people do you think there are in my Court who feel the same way? Who are stuck in a role they didn’t chose because they fear the consequences of not accepting it? Taking a stand for one such person would give others the chance to follow.’

‘Winter, your circumstances are unique. Second generation infiltrator, but pure fairy, no mix of Human blood to compromise you. If there were hundreds of thousands of people in a similar position, I might buy that argument, but you are one of perhaps thirty or forty. That is not an army.’

‘You think it’s my exposure to Humans that’s driven me to this?’

‘I think it’s very likely.’

‘So you’re just going to carry on putting up with Winter extremism?’ Ava raged. ‘I know it’s not what the other Courts want. But you won’t agree with each other, and you won’t stand up against Winter. Things will never change as long as you fear them.’

‘Winter has the power. They have the power of the Ruling Court, and they have the power of the bloodlines. Summer may have had the strength to stand up to them centuries ago, but our blood is thinned by Humans’. Spring, Autumn, they’re weaker still. Even combined we wouldn’t have the fire power to take on the Winter Fey.’

Fey. Pure-blooded, powerful Fairies. They were few and far between. And Ava was one of them.

‘Lord and Lady Winter,’ Clotilda continued, ‘have centuries of experience and power. The day for overthrowing the Winter Court will come, but it likely won’t be in our lifetimes.’

‘Definitely not in mine,’ Ava snapped. ‘Not with the death sentence you’ve just handed me.’

A hint of shame crossed the wide expanse of Clotilda’s face. ‘If I could help you,’ she said. ‘Please believe that I would.’

Ava sighed, the weight of tears behind her eyes threatening to break through. ‘Can you at least try to help me understand this?’ she said, allowing the wind to pick up.

Clotilda nodded her vast head. ‘That, perhaps I can help you with. How long do you think you have before the Court catches up with you?’

‘Maybe a day, two at most.’ Saying it made her realise exactly how selfish and stupid she’d been bringing Adam along. All her earlier anger at him evapourated. She’d allowed him to get into this situation. He’d balked at the first sign of real danger. Could she blame him for instinctive self-preservation?

‘Then I’ll teach you what I can,’ Clotilda said. ‘And then you’ll have to run.’

*

‘Do you have any idea where you’re going?’ Percy called.

Adam marched ahead, ignoring her. He was sure it was getting colder, which meant he had to be getting closer. Had to be.

‘Adam! This is insane, you know. How will you know where she is? You can follow the weather, but storms cover a wide area you know!’

Adam turned a corner and stopped abruptly.

‘I imagine the single building in the area covered in ice would be a good place to start,’ he said.

Percy followed his gaze, her wide brown eyes narrowing. ‘That’s Clotilda’s place,’ she said, voice whisper quiet.

‘Who’s Clotilda?’

‘She’s an emissary of the Summer Court. Old. Powerful. Makes sense that your girl would seek her out.’

‘Then let’s go.’

‘Adam,’ she called, grabbing him again.

‘You don’t have to come!’ he shouted at her. Stunned, Percy stood by and let him march past.

Adam bashed through the door, pushing past the startled little man who came to answer his abrupt entrance. ‘Ava?’ he called, searching through the shop, heading towards the back. ‘Ava?’

He burst through a second door into a back room, where Ava was talking to a hugely fat woman. When Adam looked at her, her skin flickered from human-looking to green and mottled like a toad. When he looked at Ava, she looked reassuringly the same, no skin beneath the surface.

And the look on her face wasn’t one of hatred or anger. He couldn’t really work out the complex rainbow of emotions that crossed her face, but he was sure hate and anger weren’t in the mix.

She opened her mouth to speak, but her eyes slid past him to where Percy was walking through the door. Then her eyes narrowed in anger. Before Adam had a chance to blink, Ava had Percy pinned against the wall, Faolan gnashing his teeth and snarling, fur stood upright.

‘Ava, stop!’ Adam rushed to pull her off his guide. ‘Ava, she helped me find you, please don’t hurt her.’

‘You stay away from him!’ Ava hissed at Percy, her voice sounding, for the first time, less than human.

Adam pulled hard on her arm, unbalancing her so she was forced to step back. Percy rubbed her throat, coughing a little, before saying. ‘I didn’t touch him. I swear!’

Adam thought Ava was about to go for her again, so put himself between them. ‘She didn’t, Ava, I promise. I know what she is and what she does. She told me. But she didn’t do anything to me.’

He pushed Ava’s hair out of her face, brushed his fingers over her cheeks, trying to draw her back to him with touch, afraid to let go. ‘Ava…’

Tears started to bloom in her eyes, and she looked away from him.

‘Ava, come on,’ Adam said, drawing her face back to his.

Suddenly, Ava’s hand was clamped over his mouth, and she pushed him back, pinning him as she’d done to Percy a moment ago.

‘Adam,’ she said, nearly choking on the syllables that made his name. ‘You’re going to do the same to yourself as we did to your family, then go and join them.’ Adam shook his head, pinching his eyes shut. But even with them closed, the sound of her voice seemed to exert some pressure on his brain that he couldn’t shake. ‘You’re going to do this today, as soon as you can. You’ll forget everything about me. You’ll be happy.’

Her hand came away from his mouth and Adam kept his eyes shut, not wanting to look at her as all memory of her faded from his brain. After a while, he opened first one eye, then the other. Ava was still stood in front of him, tears flowing freely down her face, though she didn’t sob or make a sound. Percy was crying too, shaking her head.

‘I can’t believe you just tried to do that to me,’ Adam said, voice small. Betrayed.

The look of shock on Ava’s face would have been comical in any other circumstance. ‘What?’ she whispered, then she was holding his head in her hands, pressing her forehead against his, gazing deeply into his eyes. Adam watched her pupils dilate and felt that same pressure in his head.

‘You have to listen, Adam. Do as I’ve said. Forget me.’

‘Ava, I won’t do that.’

‘Go and stay with your family. Change your name, forget your past, go where you’ll be safe, forget me. Forget me. Forget!’

‘Ava, shut up,’ Adam said, then plunged his mouth onto hers.

She tasted of salt and desperation. Adam ignored the other people in the room and kissed her until a need to breathe forced him back.

Ava didn’t speak, staring at him, shock written across every one of her features. Behind her, the huge woman stood. Ava whirled to face her, and Adam wrapped his arms around her. The huge woman surveyed them with interest that bordered on reverence.

‘You need to come with me,’ she said.

‘Where?’ Ava’s voice was filled with suspicion.

‘You wanted my help, Winter. You wanted my protection. Well, you’re getting it.’

But she was looking at Adam.

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