This story began here, but each in this magical series is standalone. [Image courtesy of Mabel Amber on Pixabay]
He kicked at the stable wall with the heel of his slightly curled suede boots, feeling just as mulish and sulky as he looked. Being rejected by Sukie had been a bitter blow. Although time to win her heart was not on his side, he’d been foolish to rush in without taking time to plan and scheme. He’d been angry enough to tell her he wouldn’t beg, it wasn’t in his nature. He’d taken too much swagger from the portent which seemed to foretell her as his future wife. Leaving his horse to be tended by a grey skinned goblin with wide spaced eyes and an undershot jaw, Pashkin strode purposefully into Mistle Hall.
Although he was the youngest son of the high King of the land of Faerie, he did not live within the court. Instead he and his mother kept to themselves at Mistle Hall which was surrounded by a high-hedged maze and bordered on one side by a river. They had few servants, as they’d never adopted the practice of tricking mortals into servitude then returning them, bewildered, to the mortal world. His mother, the Lady Vinca, was able to enchant objects, so instead brooms swept without assistance and fires lit themselves in the grate. Such magical skills had made the court wary of her company, and she preferred it this way.
He barged into his own chamber and threw himself into a carved chair, his irritation palpable. Fiddling with the royal signet ring worn on his left hand, Pashkin was deep in thought when his mother swept into the room.
Pale skinned like her son, Lady Vinca had abundant hair, red like claret, which she wore braided like a crown, the surplus cascading down her back.
“My son, you seem troubled,” her low voice was resonant.
He sensed her attempts to calm him, some tension ebbed away.
She sat in an adjacent chair, arranging her embroidered skirts. With a flick of her hand and some whispered magic, a tray bearing cups, saucers and herbal tea drifted in to settle on a table.
“Mother, tell me once more your mirror’s portent,” Pashkin asked, leaning towards her and steepling his elegant fingers.
With a faraway look, Lady Vinca recited the words.
Lady fair, neither water nor air,
Leaves a life of trouble and strife
Her tongue so bold breaks spells of old
Fae traditions will die, no word of lie
From a field of song, where her people throng
She must end her toil on native soil
A clover mark upon her breast
Constant and brave, marks true love’s quest
‘Ere the blood moon sinks below the tide
Cleave yourself to this mortal bride
Pashkin had heard it many times since the mirror had declared it, and was sure he’d interpreted it correctly. When he’d attended the festival where mortals gathered in verdant fields to listen to all kinds of music, something had drawn him to the tent where Suki had been working, serving drinks and food to well heeled customers.
The girl was too beautiful to ignore, with lush curves not seen on fey women, she exuded a spirit of independence he admired. When she was serving his company with food and drink, he saw inside the neck of her shirt to a wine coloured birthmark shaped like a clover leaf. That’s when he was sure the girl was his destiny.
“Did you find the girl?” his mother asked mildly, but her look was intent like a cock sparrow.
“I did,” he growled in exasperation, running fingers through his thick black hair. Without the glamour he’d used on his visit to the mortal world, his goat like horns were quite prominent. “She rejected me.”
Pouring more tea, Lady Vinca observed her hadsome son’s frustration shrewdly. “I find that hard to believe. What did she say exactly?”
“She asked me, “Will you love me forever?” so I answered that the fey live a very long time.”
“Ahh -” a sage nod, “mortals require constancy and devotion from their mates. It is in the prophecy, you should have been better prepared for that question.”
“That was not the deal breaker!” Agitation made Pashkin stride across the room and glare out of the window at the plants below. “She was concerned about leaving the mortal world, never seeing her family. Then she stated she did not choose to be my lover.”
“Those are very carefully considered words for a human girl, did she recognise you were of the fey?”
“No – not until she had already turned me down. By then I was so crushed with disappointment I lowered my guard.” His look of anguish was genuine, Lady Vinca took his clenched fists in her cool hands. “I told her my name.”
Her sudden gasp ground into him how foolish he’d been when speaking to Suki.
“Not your full name?”
“No Mother, just Pashkin.”
“That is something at least, otherwise she could have commanded you.”
“But Mother – she’s a human.”
“It sounds as if she knows our ways. What else did she say?”
“She stated that, despite its disappointments, she preferred her mortal life, but was complimented by my attention.”
They considered awhile, Pashkin biting his knuckle, while his mother bore a vexed expression.
“That still fits with what was foretold.” It was Lady Vinca’s turn to pace. “We must turn this round, you cannot give up, she could still be the one.”
“She is Mother, she bore the mark.”
“Then there’s no time to waste. Take an offering to Ma Bussel, the wise woman; obtain a love potion.”
“The girl was angry that I’d tried to trick her with magic, although it did not work on her. I dare not risk it a second time.”
“I’m one step ahead of you my Prince,” his mother bowed low then swept out of the chamber towards the room where she kept herbs and her grimoire. “I plan to locate an incantation or portal which allows you to travel back in time.”
Prince Pashkin repaired to the study, which had been his maternal grandfather’s; its shelves stacked with books he’d never read. In a locked chest, with iron bindings, were stored magical objects which had been gifted to his family as marks of fealty. To open the chest he donned thick leather gloves. Touching iron could be fatal to one with faery blood. The key to fit its lock was made of silver, mined by the Tylwyth Teg, which Pashkin wore threaded on his bracelet. After studying the contents of the trunk he selected a purse of tooled leather.
Ma Bussel declared herself to be humbled by the Prince’s visit, but she took the never empty purse eagerly in exchange for one of her potions. Pashkin returned to Mistle Hall with the stoppered vial wrapped in cloth of spun spider silk.
His mother too had found what they needed. She urged him to eat while explaining how combined use of the portal to the mortal world and an incantation would allow him to travel back in time. It would also be relatively simple, using a strand of Suki’s hair caught on Pashkin’s jacket, to locate the woman who was destined to give birth to her.
* * *
Marta had picked a peaceful spot to sit and sketch, the water of the brook babbled pleasantly nearby and the vista of fields, with grazing sheep and a distant farmhouse, would make a striking watercolour. She was enjoying the peace of her surroundings when she heard a twig snap, so turned to see a handsome man approaching. The way he dressed was slightly old fashioned, perhaps, with those dark good looks, he was a gypsy. She laughed at herself for being fanciful. More likely he was a new romantic, like her, grasping the opportunity to dress like someone from a storybook.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
As he drew closer, his charming smile distracted her from feeling wary. She set down her pencil and pad to stand, pressing both hands into the small of her back.
“No, I need a break,” Marta was stiff from sitting still for so long.
He crouched down and reached towards her sketch. “May I?”
At her nod he studied what she’d drawn so far, looking away at the view, then back down at the paper. “Wonderful,” he admired, “you have quite a skill.”
Marta blushed, although she was used to such compliments. While studying for a degree in fine art, she was putting together a portfolio to offer galleries. Something about his manner made her feel at ease.
“What do you do?” she asked.
“Nothing as skilled as this,” he put down her drawing. “It’s a family business.” He looked at the view she was sketching and gestured in the direction of the farm, “watching over our land.”
The last strands of wariness ebbed away, she was happy to hear an explanation for him walking about the fields, then she worried – was she trespassing?
“Not at all,” he reassured her, “unless you’re going to litter with your picnic.” He nodded towards her voluminous shoulder basket.
“Absolutely not, I know the country code. Would you like to join me?” It was peculiar how relaxed she was beginning to feel. “I’m Marta by the way.”
“Pashkin,” he returned, “I would be pleased to, if you have enough.”
She rummaged in her bag and produced a stack of tin-foiled sandwiches and a bottle of blackcurrant cordial. “I only brought one cup,” she shrugged.
“Then you should use that and I will drink from the bottle,” Pashkin made it sound gallant. “I have some fruit to offer.”
He drew from one pocket a linen handkerchief from which, once unknotted, rolled several plump, green gooseberries.
“We have a feast,” she giggled, and they settled down companionably to eat.
Pashkin seemed able to draw her out, when Marta usually felt shy. The time flew as they talked so she was startled to notice shadows growing long and the sun sinking in the sky.
“I must get home,” she packed her things into her bag as she spoke. “I’ll come back and finish my drawing tomorrow, weather permitting.”
Her companion eyed the sky thoughtfully, “it will be dry tomorrow.”
“I suppose you farmers have a way to read the weather.”
“It’s in my blood. My family has close ties with the earth.”
Marta nodded thoughtfully. “It was lovely meeting you, Pashkin. Perhaps when it’s finished, I could bring the picture to the farmhouse to show you.” Something in his golden eyes made her unwilling to part.
“My mother would love to meet you too, Marta.”
She blushed – he’d seen through her subterfuge.
“If you would like to visit my home, I can show you a shortcut.”
He led her down a slight slope to a silver birch copse that was teeming with buttercups and sorrel. He looked over his shoulder to check that she was following. The dappled shade was pleasant, but quickly it got darker than she would have expected.
“Pashkin, where are you taking me?” she cried out in alarm, suddenly concerned that she’d been too trusting of this total stranger.
But he turned, fixing her with unblinking amber eyes. “You did say you would like to visit my home, did you not?”
Marta nodded, but felt less sure.
“This is my land, and over yonder is my home.” Pashkin moved ahead then swiftly stepped aside, revealing a beautiful, lush landscape which encompassed a riverbank and pastures ahead, while to one side she spied the chimneys of a grand building, mostly masked by a high yew hedge.
She was almost speechless. “Where are we? This is not the countryside I’m used to.” She almost turned to run back the way she had come, but he took her hand and spoke soothingly.
“Please let me explain Marta. You have passed through a portal into my world, the Land of Faerie. Your world is still there, I will teach you how to return, but it would please me if you would let me show you around.”
The young woman’s head was spinning, as if she was tipsy from alcohol, or perhaps feeling sunstroke. Their surroundings were breathtaking, like something from a storybook – which chimed with what Pashkin had said – she could believe she was in another land.
“This is ridiculous, faeries don’t exist.”
“Am I not real enough?” He quirked one dark eyebrow and led her onwards, before releasing her hands.
Marta didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, the place was so indescribably beautiful. She tried to take in her surroundings, but it was too much.
“I would ask something from you in return,” Pashkin’s expression was serious, “you must not tell anyone that you have visited Faery or how to get here. You may come and go as you please but, I think it best that you remain under my protection while you learn our ways. Some fey folk enjoy tricking mortals, but if you always wear rowan berries, you are protected.” Saying this, he tied a string of red berries round her wrist. “Will you let me put a geas on you? it will bind you to secrecy.”
“Yes.” She could not imagine she would ever grow tired of this place.
Using precise words, Prince Pashkin spoke the geas, prescribing that Marta could neither speak of having visited Faery, nor share the whereabouts of the portal that gave her access. She felt no different once it was done.
“You will not age while you are here,” he told her, “but time will catch up with you when you return to the mortal world. An oak apple will help maintain your youth; carry it at all times.” Pashkin placed a small, still green, acorn in its cup in her hand.
“The formalities are over Marta, let me show you my home. My mother will be delighted to meet you.”
Submitted for #WickedWednesday where the prompt is “Foretell” and #4ThoughtsorFiction where the prompt is “Time Travel“. I plan to continue this story of Prince Pashkin, from the land of Faery in his quest to win over Sukie, from the mortal world, if there is sufficient interest. So if you enjoyed this and want more, please leave me a comment.