escape to elphyne

Dystopian Fantasy Romance where the Fae Protectors meet their match with strong, sassy human women.

Of Pixies and Promises Novella (Paperback)

Of Pixies and Promises Novella (Paperback)

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Fae Guardians 6.5

As a lethal Reaper, Sid kills monstrous fae. He’s spent his life blocking the little voice in his head saying his loyalties are misplaced. But humans can't be wrong. It’s the fae who hoard the earth’s bounty and banish humanity to live behind cold gray walls. But when a lone, captivating pixie dares to face his soldiers pillaging her forest, he knows his priorities are about to shift. 

On the eve of her coronation, Princess Nyra feels less than worthy when her wings refuse to make pixie dust. Without it, she can’t choose a consort, let alone receive the power required to keep her gully safe. When she stumbles across humans illegally mining her precious forest, she wants to prove she’s still worthy of protecting her people... with or without a consort.

But her sabotage backfires, and her handsome enemy unexpectedly saves her life. Suddenly shrunk to bug size and without magic, they’re forced to trust each other to survive the perilous journey home. With each step, their forbidden attraction grows. But when one is lying and a promise is broken, the gully won’t be the only thing in danger of becoming a wasteland. Nyra’s heart will never flourish again.

 

** This story was originally published in the BABE Anthology 2023

An elf sat beneath Trix’s tree.

Not just any elf, but one dressed in hardcore leather clothes. His big sword rested across his knees as he leaned against the trunk. And when she said big, she meant big. She bet the hilt would be as high as her head if he placed it next to her, point touching the ground. 

Maybe he was a soldier from the Autumn Court here to return her to prison.

They will never take me alive.  

Sun glinted off his sword as he twisted to survey the forest. Glyphs inscribed across the blade glowed blue. Metal… But wasn’t metal outlawed in Elphyne? Nero always told her fae weren’t allowed to touch the substance. 

But she’d since learned he was a Grade A liar. 

Now that she thought about it, there was a group of fae allowed to use metal. She should know. After all, she’d created a machine fueled by their mana. So, if this elf was a Guardian, and he waited beneath her tree, it meant only one thing. Her heart rate spiked. Her ears heated. She rolled back from the treehouse platform edge, hyperventilating, and trying not to make a sound. 

Oh fuck. He was probably here to make her pay for her Guardian-killing invention. To seek revenge. Oh, God. Can’t breathe. Someone had tied a piece of string around her lungs. Can’t breathe. She hiccuped and stared at the green leaves rustling above her, using their soft repetition to focus and compose.

Wait.

Wait.

The Guardian would have shaken the tree down if he knew she was here. He’d have done something to get to her; if he hadn’t, perhaps he was simply resting after a long journey. 

She calmed enough to crawl back to the platform edge and studied the elf again. 

Long brown hair braided at the sides ensured his sharp elven ears were obvious. Fae tended to keep their ears out in the open for easy fae identification. His leather armor was scuffed but had been oiled and cared for. She imagined his painstaking efforts to keep it conditioned, despite the scratches and gouges marring the surface. 

Trix had heard stories about Guardians. They were brutal, unforgiving warriors who cut down anything endangering their power source—including humans. Like all fanatics, they were convinced their way was the right way. She hated to be the one who told them others could use their power source too. And it wasn’t called magic but science. 

When Nero came to her a few years ago, asking her to devise a way to allow them to travel through portals with metal, she’d accepted the challenge and excelled. Nero had supplied the fuel. She’d studied it with colleagues—including Justin, her ex. And together, they’d come up with an incredible solution. To be honest, she wasn’t exactly sure how it worked, but it did, and that was all that mattered. 

Maybe it wasn’t science. 

She frowned. 

Returning to the elf, she noticed he scrutinized the woods around them, always vigilant, always ready. The more she studied, the more she was certain he had no idea she was up here—he would have looked up by now. Surely. She’d not exactly been nimble when she woke. Her mother used to say she had the steps of a rhino but the temperament of a butterfly. Trix used to think this was her mother calling her fat, but then she grew up and realized she meant something about how Trix went through life. She was impulsive and emotional. 

This elf ruined everything by being here. Her berry and nut cache was empty. How was she supposed to get down and find food? She might have to wait hours. If he took longer than that, she would have to resort to the magical ability that had saved her in the Autumn Court dungeon. She closed her eyes against the horrific memories, but the visual of soldiers being stabbed by vines lurching from the ground flashed in her mind. The vines had twisted through the soldiers and around until they looked like morbid Christs on a cross. 

She opened her eyes and focused on the trees ahead until the screams in her memory dimmed. 

She refused to do that to another living creature. Nero was right. This power was dangerous. She hadn’t known she was the cause of the stabby vines until it was too late. All she remembered was the power surge in her veins—the delayed understanding—then the horror and subsequent escape. 

Trix had snuck out of the Autumn Court, which seemed to be in an uproar after the king died. The confused crowd was easy to get lost in. She followed a couple through a portal and ended up here, where she’d built the treehouse with that same dangerous power. It had a platform of solid wood, leaves and vines enshrouding her at night. And a working toilet. Sort of. She’d made a little pipeline out of woven vines, and any time she needed to go, she did her business, shut the wooden lid, and then used her power to push all the waste down into the soil beneath the tree. 

Science. 

Magic. 

Gah, she didn’t know anymore. But she knew it made her feel warm and fuzzy to see something good come from the power within her. After she’d killed those soldiers and escaped, she’d lived up here for weeks, hiding from the enemy, studying Elphyne and her power. Nero had always said humans were incapable of carrying mana. He said it tainted and corrupted them from within. 

Lies

Everywhere she turned, she found dishonesty. She grabbed a notebook she’d stolen from the local markets and quietly flicked through the pages of gathered evidence of his lies. It was almost full. Already. She shook her head, disparaging. This was why the elf had to go. When her notebooks filled, she became restless. Her ideas had to go somewhere, and if not between the pages, they blurted out of her mouth. Some people didn’t like her lack of filter. Or the restlessness transferred to her body, and if she couldn’t keep still, she got into trouble. 

Continuing through her notebook, she stopped at a sketch of a strange cat that had stolen her food the previous night. The tail needed fixing. It wasn’t right. There were also drawings of other creatures in Elphyne she’d been studying. This elf would be another entry in her book. A book she should call Trix’s Arc. No—she crossed that out. The Bestiary. Boring. That wasn’t good, either. There were more than beasts in here. She’d have to come up with something better when she wasn’t so wired. 

What had she been doing?

Oh, yeah. The elf. That’s right. Finding a clean page, she put her charcoal stick to paper and sketched him, starting with his long brown hair and pointed ears. Her fingers stole the busyness from her mind and allowed her to think clearly. 

She didn’t trust fae. Didn’t trust humans, either. She’d been lied to the entire time she’d been awake in this time. The only person she could trust was herself. 

This elf looked particularly untrustworthy with his stiff and serious demeanor—she flattened herself on the slatted wooden platform, carefully staying quiet as she peeked over the edge, but it creaked beneath her. She winced and stilled, hoping he hadn’t heard. When he didn’t look up, she tested the wood beneath her. Definitely a weak spot in there. She’d have to give it a—suddenly remembering why she was looking over the edge, she went back to studying the elf. All right, sure. He was handsome… in a weird blend of aristocratic barbarian sort of way. But weren’t all fae good-looking? 

All the better to entrap her.

He kind of reminded her of a student she went to MIT with. Whenever she had a wrong answer, he would find her after class and do his best to passive-aggressively mansplain. It was as though his kink was degrading her. 

Nope. Don’t like elves. 

His pointed ears twitched as though he’d heard her move… or a fly landed on them. Her eyes narrowed. She didn’t know elf ears twitched. She wrote a quick note next to his sketch to remind herself to investigate the lineage of elves. Every fae race stemmed from a blend of humanity and animal or insect. It fascinated her to no end. When she returned to studying him, his head turned methodically as though he patrolled the woods with the sweep of his eyes. Left to right, then right to left. 

She tapped her lip with a charcoal-stained finger. Pointed ears… easy to see the link to other animals like wolves or vampire bats. But an elf? Maybe the ears were just the tiny bit of animal DNA, and they were as close to humans as any fae could get. 

Interesting. 

A warning prickle went off again as Trix fidgeted with her charcoal stick. 

Why was he here?

What if she couldn’t just wait him out?

What if she starved to death?

Every day since she’d made the treehouse with her power, she’d hidden here to gather her bearings. One of her own kind had sold her to the fae. It made sense for her to work out a few truths before making a rash decision to return to a bunch of liars and betrayers. She only meant to stay for a few days, but, well, Elphyne fascinated her. 

From its lush greenery to dangerous inhabitants to the magic-maybe-science pumping new life into her veins. If it wasn’t for her undercurrent of fear, she felt terrific… like she’d just downed ten coffees, but they were filled with pure energy and offered no caffeine hangover. 

Hmm. She tapped her lip again and noted: Figure out why I feel like I have so much more energy. 

She wanted to know how it all ticked. 

President Nero had capitalized on her thirst for knowledge. He’d handed her things to make, things to pull apart, things to invent, machines to resurrect. It wasn’t only the president telling her lies about Elphyne. It had been her ex, Justin. Or rather, the Professor, they’d called him. She was the Tinker, and he was the Professor. They’d been a fitting couple—two clever, elite inhabitants of the Tower in Crystal City. 

He used to call Trix clever… said that she was remarkable. But her brain obviously wasn’t enough to keep him stimulated. Not long before she was sold to the fae, she found Justin in bed with a much prettier, less “clever” version of herself. 

Sliding back from the ledge, she crawled to a haphazard stack of notebooks. Further into the treehouse, cocooned by wooden roots and foxglove flowers, her bedding was made of fresh leaves. 

Apart from a few lonely nights, she’d been okay here. She grew her berries and nuts with her power. She found water in the leaves. She was reluctant to sneak into the city market unless it was to grab supplies. Okay, steal them. She stole them when no one looked. 

She didn’t even think of Justin until those nights when the forest sounds were loudest, and it was only because she’d close her eyes and imagine his arms around her as she drifted to sleep. 

Ugh. There she went again, giving him more time in her brain than that twat deserved. She only wished for him because she didn’t want to be lonely. And maybe... maybe because she didn’t think she deserved anyone better. 

Trix lost her place in her book, then flipped through it again with a scowl. The cat-like creature whose tail she was supposed to fix stole her attention again. She tidied the drawing and remembered how it had snuffled around the toadstools beneath her tree. Trix smiled as she recalled it purring and rolling in the mushrooms. It had triggered some kind of glowing phosphorescence and stumbled away drunk. 

She must remember to gather a sample of that substance. It might come in handy. She wondered what the fae called it and jotted down a few suggestions. Once she’d done that, she continued writing other observations and sketches. Before she knew it, the natural sunlight in the treehouse dimmed to a point where she found it hard to see. 

Alarmed, she sat upright and looked around. 

Bollocks.

Night was here. Biting her lip, panicked, she stood so suddenly she hit her head on a bough. Ouch. She’d done it again! Lost track of time and… what had she been doing before? Oh, yeah. The elf. Bloody hell. She peeked over the edge but wasn’t looking where she put her foot. A weak spot in the platform broke. The wood dropped from beneath her, and suddenly, she was weightless. 

more books in the fae guardians series