A fortnight later, after The Gold-Digger In was cleaned and past events forgotten, Morgan closed later than usual. The full moon shone down on her through the windows, and she already knew sleep would not come easily tonight. Her eyes found herself in the reflection, studying her slim face framed by her wavy white hair and thin lips with an arrogant smile on them. As beautiful as ever. Not lingering for too long she turned on her heel and went over to the bar. The faerie was close now, and she poured herself a drink and downed it before pouring another. This time, when she sat down at her usual table, she sat down with her back to the door. One chair was placed in front of her, with a glass of water for her uninvited guest on the edge of the table.
The door slid open with the usual screech of old hinges, and a shadow crept into the tavern on silent feet. Morgan studied it on the wall in front of her, her evil grin reaching the corner of her lips. A beauty, this would be, and an innocent one at that. Maybe this would not be as bad as she thought after all. Her fingers tapped slowly on the wood of the table, no claws visible. Her supplies of Faerie blood would be restocked this night, all she had to do was to listen to the request she knew this faerie brought with her – although she did not yet know what it was.
Darkness fell over the room once the door was closed shut, and the torches on the wall automatically lit up brighter to compensate for the lost moonlight. They soon settled back down, and a dim light was thrown over the tavern.
“Hello, Morgan,” the softest voice she had ever heard reached her, her grip on the glass tightened, and a pinch of her usual annoyance ran through her blood. “I have been looking for you.”
A memory flickered in the back of her mind, but she crushed it, furrowing her brow in the process. Such a delicate voice, it was nearly painful. A controlled breath made sure to leash her growing anger.
The faerie ran her slender fingers along the table and sat down in front of Morgan. Her shoulder length brown hair fell in tiny waves around her faded brown eyes, framing a slightly round face that matched her highly curved body. Freckles ran across her nose and cheeks, and her full lips were of a natural and soft pink color.
She wore a green and floppy hat with gold markings around the edge, and a knee length leaf green and gold colored dress. It truly complimented her figure. Morgan could not deny she was a pleasant sight, but that did not mean she planned on playing nice. When the faerie had walked past she noticed the big dark belt with tiny bags and potions hanging from it. Including the dagger strapped to her thigh, visible through the slit in her dress that ran up to her hip. Which was how a blind woman with this sort of look could go around unharmed. No one would dare touch her.
“Faerie,” she snarled in response. “Took you long enough to get here.”
A faint smile reached the faeries lips, and even though she was blind, Morgan could tell the smile reached her eyes. It made her look somewhat aware, but somehow distant at the same time. Morgan did not doubt that this faerie both heard and saw more than she would let on.
“My name is Nayeli Merryleaf,” she nodded slightly.
That name sounded vaguely familiar, but placing it turned out to be difficult. Her eyes ran over the faerie’s features again. Had she met one of her relatives in the past, perhaps? But no, she couldn’t remember. At least she was sure she had never met this specific faerie before.
“You already know me, it seems,” she threw the thought away and sipped her glass. “Now tell me, what do you want in exchange for a bit of blood?”
“One would be a fool if one didn’t know who you are, Banebringer,” Nayeli smiled a bit brighter, placing her hands in her lap. “And somehow, I believe you already know why I am here.”
Morgan let out an annoyed growl, noticing the faeries’ hands were close to her dagger, but she could not deny that she did know the faerie would request something of her. Call it a sixth sense, her kind was born naturally with it. Nayeli was wise to keep her weapon close, and parts of Morgan admired her for daring to approach someone she knew was as dangerous as her, on her own territory.
“This land is dying,” Nayeli continued. “And I take it you are aware of the curse in your veins?”
“Of course!” Morgan snapped in defense and slammed her palm onto the table with enough force to make the glass of water nearly tip over. “I don’t need reminders. How do you know about this?!”
The faerie did not flinch, not even a little bit. Morgan thought of her as either truly brave, or incredibly stupid, her admiration not faltering. Her suspicion ran deep, however. No one was supposed to know about her curse, yet here sat a faerie she had never met before, claiming she knew about it. In the briefest second before she remained control on her anger, she had even admitted to it.
Nayeli calmly pulled up the sleeve on her dress, revealing only the edge of a tattoo on the inside of her upper arm, Morgan’s eyes growing wider in disbelief. All thoughts of refilling her blood supply disappeared. She knew all too well what the tattoo looked like, seeing as she too had one, on the rib cage next to her left breast. It displayed a black line shaped as a ball of fire, with three pointy edges, and three stars on the tip of each edge. It had appeared one day after the fateful night that brought her the right to wear ‘Banebringer’ as her name. Since then, nothing had been the same, and no matter what she had done, it would not go away.
“It would seem, I am cursed too,” Nayeli smiled. “I am a faerie with healing abilities. No wound or illness can withstand my powers, but as the curse wills it, my lifespan shortens a great deal each time I do. But do not worry, I will not ask what your curse is, as I think it is a personal subject. However, feel free to share if you want.”
Like hell I would, she thought. I’ve never spoken words of it to anyone.
“What do you want?” she repeated the earlier question with a snarl.
“To lift the curse, with you as my bodyguard,” the faerie placed her hands gently on the table, probably feeling safe that Morgan would not kill her tonight after all. “I’ve learned there is more of us, at least seven, but traveling alone makes things a bit difficult at times.”
Seven? Morgan’s grip on the glass tightened, causing it slightly to crack. There was seven of them with the curse, and this was the first she ever heard of it. All this time she believed she was alone, atoning for her sins. Having one other with the curse in her tavern seemed as a big enough stretch on its own, and it had already challenged her self-confidence. Believing there was even more made her shameful she had never known until now. Had her own ignorance blinded her so deeply?
“Do you happen to know how the curse came to life?” she asked, wary of revealing too much of her lack of information, and avoiding commenting on the ‘bodyguard’ part.
“Unfortunately, no,” Nayeli’s smile never faded. “All I know is that there are more of us, and I do have a vague feeling of who the others might be, so I wish to find them. That’s as far as my knowledge goes.”
“How did you know I was one of them?” Morgan continued with the questions, not feeling too comfortable about the turn of events she had not been able to foresee.
“A Banebringer has gone nearly a century without wreaking havoc,” Nayeli tilted her head. “I would name it a gut feeling, and as it turns out, I was right. Having you in my company would for sure convince the others to join us if I were to find them.”
That would explain why the faerie had dared to seek her out, seeing as no other had done so in ages. However, her brows furrowed further, how come this faerie knew of others when she herself had thought she was alone for all those years? From the smell of her, she told the truth, so Morgan had no reason to discard that there was indeed at least seven of them, but setting out on a quest like this with close to no information seemed way too much of a risk.
“This is a selfish quest then?” she asked. “No evil kings who needs to perish, no princesses needing rescue, only our curse needing to be lifted?”
“Well, one of the seven is indeed a princess, and she need rescue,” Nayeli nodded again. “But that is merely a coincidence, and by now I have not heard words of any evil that needs to perish.”
“What is in it for me, other than having the curse lifted?” she asked, not willing to throw herself into something like this unless the price was high enough.
After years of living with her curse she had become used to it, so to her there was no matter of life and death. Lifting curses were no easy task, so this would require a lot of effort – effort she was feeling reluctant to offer.
“The one thing you enjoy more than money,” Nayeli replied. “Faerie blood, directly from the source, as much as you’d like.”
Morgan scoffed and rolled her eyes, her dismay easing down. What the faerie said might be true, but not even Faerie blood was good enough for this much work. Although she loved the taste of it, she did not need it for survival. It would not be worth it. She cared for only herself, and helping a blind faerie was not her top priority. From the looks of it she fared pretty good on her own, how else would she be able to travel to Unlatta?
“How did you acquire this information?” she asked before standing up to leave. “How do you think to break the curse?”
For a moment the faeries’ smile fell, and Morgan could have sworn she saw grief and agony in her faded eyes, but then her smile was back. Moment gone.
That I will not tell you unless I find you trustworthy,” Nayeli also stood from her chair. “And that I do not know. My knowledge about it is limited, but I have words of someone who might know more.”
“My apologies,” Morgan walked over to the door and opened it. “Faerie blood might be a good treat, but I will not lift a finger unless you offer something of higher value.”
Nayeli, with a great amount of grace, walked over to her and stood in the opening of the door, ready to leave on her command.
“Very well,” she smiled at her, blinking slowly. “Could I ask you to escort me through The Cursed Woods at least? To the city of Meaha? The price still being Faerie blood, from the source.”
“No,” Morgan slammed the door shut and turned the lock before the faerie could utter another word.
Silence fell over her, and she pressed her fingers to her temples. How had this turned out to be such a disappointment? All she wanted was some Faerie blood, and she had straight out denied it when it was offered, all because the latest information had thrown her off course. Killing the faerie would have been easy, but something in her felt too disturbed to go through with it.
“Seven,” she mumbled to herself as she walked towards the stairs to her chambers. “I’ll be damned.”
A deep and unsettling feeling of dread had taken root in her stomach, and for the first time in a long time she could almost taste fear on her tongue. If a blind faerie had dared to seek her out, knowing she would leave unharmed, others and stronger fiends might sniff her out too. Far more lethal creatures than her lurked in the night.