[Author's note: Every year on Halloween--what the humans of Dumnos call Mischief Night--the Dumnos fae gather for Troop Night where they march together into the human world. In old times, the fairies, sprites, pixies, and brownies did favors or granted wishes, but during the reign of Idris they've inclined to the dark side. Their pranks can border on the dangerous.
In the following scene from Bride of Fae , the fae are about to embark on the troop. King Idris is there, also Prince Dandelion, Princess Narcissus, and the goblin Max - as well as Aubrey, father of Elyse the Faeling - a half fae/half human wyrding woman. Princess Narcissus (called Cissa), as usual, is up to no good.]
Idris smiled indulgently and snapped his fingers. With a pop and a flash, a serving pixie appeared with a tray of four glasses of sparkling pink liquid. Max sniffed at the wine dubiously, and the pixie wrinkled her nose and disappeared in a huff.
As Max drank, Dan lifted the spell. The goblin spotted Cissa, and his eyes widened eagerly.
Idris followed his gaze. “There is nothing more pathetic than a fae in love,” Idris said. “It’s why I forbid Aubrey here to visit his wretched faeling. She reminds him of his lost love, and I can’t bear to see anyone so unhappy. Now it seems poor Max is smitten.”
Max shifted his weight from foot to foot.
“What is your problem, Max? Can’t you take a little joke?” Idris said. “I’ve been hearing your goblin grumbles all the way from the throne room. You’re quite spoiling the mood.”
“I do have a problem, my liege. A grievance.” Max raised his voice and waved his empty glass at Cissa. “A grievance against the princess!”
Cissa and Morning Glory turned to the sound, along with other fae nearby, and Cissa turned bright red. Giggles rippled through the fae. None doubted their princess was guilty—of whatever Max would claim she’d done. The big question was what would Idris do about it?
As more fae gathered to watch, Cissa glared at Max, but she didn’t deny her crime. She stamped her foot. “It’s not my fault!” She twirled around and the glimmermist cloak shimmered gloriously. “I couldn’t resist. It’s too beautiful.”
No one could blame her. If there is one thing a fairy can never resist, it’s a sparkly object. That cloak was the sparkliest object Dan had seen in a very long time.
“A confession! The princess has confessed!” Max practically salivated. “I demand satisfaction.”
“Indeed, she has.” Idris glanced from Max to Cissa and back to Max. “Satisfaction, you say. You demand it.”
“I spoke in haste.” The goblin dropped his accusing finger and made an obvious effort to control his emotions. “I humbly beg satisfaction.”
Idris raised one eyebrow. His orange-red hair flared beneath the moonstick crown.
“My liege.” Max added.
“Satisfaction, then.” Idris’s eyes glittered. “Yes, you shall have it. A kiss should do.”
The fae murmured their approval.
Idris addressed Cissa. “A good one, mind you, full on the lips.”
Max’s outrage evaporated, replaced by a humorous gleam in his eye. The lusty gob was going to enjoy this.
Cissa looked at Dan, mortified, and Dan stared back at her hard. He willed her to obey Idris’s command no matter how distasteful. He can’t know we’re not bound to him.
“One kiss,” Idris said. “How hard can that be, Princess Narcissus?”
“Judging by the goblin’s trousers, it can be very hard!” Morning Glory said. Cissa flashed her eyes at her friend, and all the fae burst out laughing.
Beneath the laughter, Dan heard the human woman moan in pain. The musicians had stopped playing, and she’d fallen to the ground in a lump. None moved to help or offer a word of kindness.
Dan sighed. Ruling this self-centered lot would make anyone as cynical as Idris. He pulled a handful of dust from a pouch tied to his belt and strode over to the woman while the fae moved on to the next new shiny object: the drama of beauty and beast. Would the goblin get his kiss?
Dan sprinkled fairy dust over the human’s feet. She looked at him with gratitude and relief, but the light in her eyes dimmed. Something tugged at his heart. Was it sympathy?
He squatted beside her and whispered, “Tell me you forgive me. Say it three times.”
She looked confused. She raised a feeble hand and touched his cheek and then his lips. “You’re beautiful,” she said.
She passed out. Dan felt for her pulse, still there but very faint.
“This is my judgment,” Idris said.
Always the master showman, he waited a few beats to build the anticipation. The moonstick crown glittered, and the jewels of his ornate tether sparkled over his sinuous bare chest. He was a living, breathing work of art, and he knew it. Loved being looked at. Perhaps Idris was the very king the Dumnos fae deserved.
“Princess Narcissus owes Goblin Max one kiss!”
The fae whistled and clapped, and some spun in the air. The musicians played a fanfare.
Cissa grimaced at Dan. He held her gaze and prayed to the high gods she’d understand his expression. Don’t refuse, sister. Don’t let anyone know .
Every Dumnos fae was bound by the high gods’ decree to obey the regent, just as they’d be bound to Dan when—if—he became king. Dan and Cissa weren’t bound. They didn’t know why Brother Sun and Sister Moon had spared them. But they’d never trusted Idris, so for their own safety they’d pretended.
Of course Cissa loathed the prospect of kissing a goblin, but if she refused Idris’s command, they’d be exposed. Ever so slightly, she nodded her understanding to Dan.
Cissa towered over Max. If they danced together, his head would fit nicely just below her bosom. She ran her finger down his rough cheek and lifted his chin. The goblin trembled. It was quite sweet, actually.
“If I kiss you,” she said, “will you forgive me utterly?”
“Utterly,” Max said. The gleam in his eye burned bright, but there was something else there. Something more than lust. Could Max truly love Cissa?
Cissa laid her hands on Max’s shoulders and fluffed herself out, radiating her beauty and sexual power. She bent forward. Fairies and brownies drew closer, and a few sprites flitted above, tossing sparklies over the couple. Cissa placed her lovely lips on Max’s hungry fat ones, mashed her perfect smooth skin against his rough face. It seemed all of the Faewood was dead quiet.
There was no mistaking Cissa’s small involuntary groan of pleasure or that she melted, if only slightly, into Max’s embrace. When the princess stepped away from the goblin, she swayed and shook her head as if shaking off a trance.
She grinned broadly. “Good.”
Max glared at the laughing fae and retreated, Cissa calling after him, “Remember, your promise!”
She caught Dan’s eye. Her look of triumphant joy sent a jolt through his heart, and he groaned inside. What now?
Cissa whirled around to face the crowd, letting her cloak slide to the ground. He was right. She wore a skin tight body suit of the same magical fabric. She appeared nude when still, but when she moved the fabric shimmered.
Dan gasped and staggered backwards, knocking against the tree—but it wasn’t Cissa’s appearance that amazed him. It was what she held above her head, its jewels gleaming with reflected firelight.