Please find below the first chapter of the Final instalment of the fairy lights series, "A Thousand and One Fairy Lights: Part Four"
The final part of the 1001 Fairy Lights series is the most thrilling yet. Our heroine, Melanie is taken deeper into the fairy realm where she meets (and has sex with) a range of unusual female characters including fairies, elves, goddesses, a demi-goddess with the craziest hair and strange beings that can change into animal forms. The book ends with a dramatic battle between good and evil that finds Melanie fighting incredibly powerful forces, not just for her life but for the lives of everyone in the entire realm.
Rosscanon’s life had become one filled with nothing but darkness. As soon as it became dark she was set to work and then, before the sky had lightened with a new dawn, she was locked away in a stone dungeon with no windows and no light.
To steal the light from a fairy’s existence was the cruellest of punishments and it broke her heart.
The work was tough—cleaning the kitchens by the faintest of candlelight, a light so faint that she spent most of the night scrabbling across cold stone floors on her hands and knees beneath the watchful, spiteful eye of any guard or servant whose own punishment was to supervise her.
They only had to do it for a few days; Rosscanon knew that this candlelit existence was going to be for the rest of her natural life—five or six hundred years, though she was sure that despair will kill her much faster than that.
She huddled in one corner of the cell, her knees pulled up to her chin. Her arms were wrapped tight around her legs, as if somehow they could provide protection from the cold, damp, filth and decay that surrounded her.
She still wore the same dress they’d brought her in. Thin and flimsy her clothes offered no comfort. She trembled trying hard to ignore both the atmosphere of her prison and the empty gnawing pain in her belly. They didn’t feed her much, and what little she got was hardly enough to keep the icy fingers from running down her back and reaching deep inside to the very core of her being.
For what must have been the thousandth time her mistress, Melanie sliced into her thoughts. She uttered a bitter and remorse filled curse. This was all Melanie’s fault. If only the stupid woman had not tried to prove anything. All she had to do was go to bed with Lord Peacock’s son and it would have all been over—finished. But, oh no! Melanie had to create a scene, just to get her point across.
Fresh tears sprang from the well of her eyes and traced well-travelled tracks down her cheeks. It was Melanie who made the mistake, but it was her servant who was punished. Rosscanon knew that the Peacocks wouldn’t dare kidnap a courtier—for that would be an open act of war—a war that could quickly escalate into something that neither side wanted.
But a servant? Nobody would go to war over a servant. She was in no doubt that she would be missed, mourned even. But only for a while, then they would forget about her and time would pass, until the memory of the kidnapped slave would finally become distant. But not for her; for her the misery would go on and on to the end of her days.
She let her drifting thoughts settle on those who would miss her: her lovers: Jasmine, Cantabelle and Lilian, her parents and friends. Maybe even some of the courtiers she’d served over the years. They wouldn’t miss her for long. Fairies were experts at zoning out things that unsettled their otherwise perfect little worlds.
A noise outside snatched her attention, her heart started to race and she fought to control her shaking as a grating sound signalled a key unlocking the wood and iron door of her cell. The door swung open to reveal a figure holding a candle.
After having to stare into complete blackness for so long, she found the light from the flame too bright and shielded her eyes and tried to focus on the face hidden the in deep shadows behind it.
“Get up,” came a gruff unfriendly voice.
She was a moment too slow to react.
“I said get up, fairy!” the voice echoed from the stone walls. “I’ve been given the miserable job of watching over you tonight, and I can’t say as I like it much.”
Using the wall as a brace, she found the strength to haul herself up where she swayed on unsteady legs weakened by cold, stress and hunger.
“I need to eat,” she said trying hard to not sound as if she was pleading.
The man laughed, “Don’t worry about that, my sweet. I’ll make sure you get something to fill you up. Now move, the kitchen isn’t going to scrub itself.”
With every joint, every muscle aching in progress she forced herself to follow him out into the cellar beyond. The icy chill of the catacombs was even worse than her cell and made her shiver even more. They climbed the spiral stone staircase that led up to the ground floor of the castle. The candlelight danced across rugged stone walls glistening with the moisture drained from the massive structure above them—a vast monolith that frightened her simply by the sheer weight of its presence.
The staircase opened out to a short corridor that led into the castle kitchens, a cavern of a room filled with stone slab tables and massive open fireplaces around which, hideously deformed faces of demons grinned and leered at her in some kind of perverse greeting.
On one table she noticed a metal bucket of water and a horsehair brush, while piled high on another table was a huge mound of dirty plates, beakers and cutlery that amounted to more washing up than she’d ever seen in her life.
The man noted her look. “That’s right it’s been waiting for you. Lord Peacock was entertaining guests this evening. Normally, three servants would tackle this lot, but guess what?”
She could guess but refused to say.
“It’s all yours,” he finished for her. He placed the candle on a nearby table. “Well, I’ve got no intention of watching you work so I’m disappearing. No one’s around to know and no one’s ever going to find out, at least not from you. Now, you get to work and make sure it’s all done by the time I get back.”
He fished another candle from out of his pocket, lit it and giving her a warning stare, walked away.
Rosscanon watched as his candle flickered away across the kitchen; then, with a sinking heart, turned to the hopeless task that lay before her. Inside she was filled with dark emotion—a deep depression, a crimson fear of what might happen to her should she fail, and a deep sense of sorrow and loss that threatened to overwhelm her in its intensity.
She took one last look at her night’s work and, giving into despair, crumpled to the ground in a bitter flood of tears.
She had no idea how long she’d lay there sobbing but eventually fear overcame distress. Should she fail she was certain that another session with the sadistic castle mistress (she was too busy pleading and screaming to catch her name) filled her with a dread more icy than the stone floor she lay on.
She forced herself to stand up. The washing up hadn’t disappeared, but the light from the candle was flickering and she realized that more time had passed than she realized.
A continuous flow of water sprang out of the mouth of a stone fairy statue set into the wall. The water fell into a sink filled with greasy grey soap bubbles. She grabbed a plate and ran it through—the plate came out clean. She laid it down and went to get another one when she heard a scuffle.
She looked round, her heart hammering. The light from the candle lit up just a small part of the kitchen and soon became lost in the shadows. She thought she saw something moving—something just outside the candlelight, something with wings—a fairy then, but there was something odd about it.
“Hello?,” she said trying to keep the edge of fear from her voice.
Whoever it was didn’t answer, just stood still watching her. Though she feared for her life Rosscanon forced herself to turn away. She had to be careful; in this castle she was lower than even the lowliest of servants. If someone chose to stand and watch her from the shadows, she’d best be careful how she reacted.
She returned to the washing up, picking up an item and swishing through the water. The soapy liquid was cold. In her own castle where she sometimes did the same chore the water was always warm, the kitchen light and airy, the other fairies friendly and—
With a savage shake she thrust the memories from her mind, forced the tears from spilling out of her eyes.
Another scuffle made her spin round her breath caught in her throat. At the edge of the weak circle of light was a male fairy. Short and stocky he kept his face hidden in the shadows, but she could just make out the peacock eyes on his wings.
She curtsied and looked down at the ground, her hands clasped in front of her in a gesture of servile politeness. For a long moment nothing happened and, after a while, the unfinished washing up began to prey on her mind. She risked flicking her eyes up for a look.
The man had moved to within a few paces of her and boy was he ugly! He looked like his face had been pieced together from bits of many other faces, so that one eye was twice the size of the other and his pencil line of a lower lip was almost lost beneath the swollen fat slug of his upper lip. His nose wasn’t much better—too small for the proportions of his head and squashed in like a belly button.
He grinned by partly opening that fat upper lip to reveal a line of broken teeth that glowed with a sickly green light. Rosscanon resisted the temptation to scream.
“I know who you are the young man said (she wasn’t sure but she placed him in his early hundreds). The whole castle is talking about you. You’re the brown-winged servant who had the gall to attack my father.”
His father? She stared at the deformed fairy in disbelief. Surely, this wasn’t Lord Peacock’s son.
“Do you know who I am?” he said.
She shook her head.
His grin grew wider. “I am Grendall, Lord Peacocks first born and heir.”
She gave another courtesy, even though she didn’t believe the bit about being the Lord’s heir. She knew that would be the son who Lord Peacock had brought to the Royal Ball. It wasn’t her place to argue and she stood once again staring down at the floor and wishing she could get on with her chores.
A flicker of movement made her look back up. He was now standing right in front of her. Up close his deformed face looked hideous. Even his wings were mismatched; one crumpled and stunted as if it never fully developed. She wondered if he could even fly.