Chapter Twenty-Seven: Stripped
Vandi Fafnir let the snow crunch beneath his boots. His eyes were directed forward, he did not let them stray to the houses of his former comrades. The tail of his coat billowed behind him as if it were trying to make up for his lack of wings. The pulsing light of the Stone of Life was visible through his pocket. The body of the ‘boy’ lifelessly trailed along the ground; for Vandi was lazily holding it by the collar of its cloak by his side.
All around him, he heard whispers. The other fairies were confused. Fearful. Amazed. A few of them asked if someone should stop him but nobody moved forward. A thick wall of intimidating aura separated him from them.
The icy palace of the queen was spread out before him. The ice statues that stood behind the gates were flawless fairies dancing with their wings held out proudly. The statues beside the doors were fairies donned in armor with spears in their hands. Frost-coated rose bushes sat beside the guard statues; botanical magic kept the roses fresh as spring. The mighty stain-glass window depicting Queen looked down on him.
He pushed the doors open. The hall stretched out until it came to a stop at a throne. Sitting in the throne, with two guards beside her, was the queen of fairies, Freya.
Her honey colored hair cascaded over her bare shoulders. Her silver dress poured onto the floor, a pool at the foot of the throne. Her porcelain skin was decorated with the light coming through the stain-glass window. Her wings... Vandi always had trouble wrenching his eyes away from the crystalline display of colors. Her head was bare, for she didn’t need a crown to show her authority. Her blue-green eyes looked straight into his. Eyes that once filled him with determination and admiration now made him feel small.
“My Lady Freya...” Vandi dipped into a bow. The remains of his wings feebly tried to spread themselves out beneath his coat.
“Fafnir,” the queen said coolly. Her voice sent a chill up his spine. “I told you I didn’t want to see your face anywhere near Valhall again.”
“I-I know you did, My Lady Freya.” Vandi felt like his tongue was constricting his throat. “But um... I... I would like to... r-reopen my case.”
“There is nothing to discuss.” Her guards raised their lances. “You were punishing those who hadn’t fully committed a crime yet. The very last case you worked on was about an elf creating life. You brought a body but it hadn’t even awakened yet.” She jerked her chin in his direction. The guards moved forward.
“Wait! Wait! Wait!” He threw his hands up defensively, dropping the corpse to the floor. “My Lady! Please! Wait! I have evidence! I have evidence! Call off your guards!”
She narrowed her eyes but she still snapped her fingers. The guards stopped and floated back to their positions. “Continue.”
Vandi’s stance relaxed. He cleared his throat and straightened himself up. “The final case that I worked on was a boy who was trying to reanimate his brother. What I brought back five hundred years ago was his second attempt.” He bent down and picked up the body from beneath the arms. ”This was his first attempt.”
Freya scrutinized the body from its thin, silver hair to the rags tied around its feet. Freya turned to the guard on her right. “Check it.”
The guard nodded. She removed a glove and lay a hand against the body’s cheek. She pursed her lips.
“These threads are laced with a strength spell. Hundreds of years old, My Lady.” The guard’s eyes narrowed. “But no life spell. Coming here with a well preserved doll won’t prove anything, Fafnir.”
“That’s because he didn’t use a life spell.” Vandi placed the body down and pulled the Stone of Life out of his pocket. “He used this.”
The queen’s face softened into a look of interest. “Those gems... can do that?”
Vandi felt relief flutter in his chest. “Yes, My Lady Freya. I didn’t realize it until I ran into it in Shift, but there was no doubt about the power I felt. So, My Lady Freya... I was right in punishing that boy.”
“Hm. Centuries old and you still learn something new once in a while,” Freya said with amusement.
Vandi’s heart skipped a bit. “So... may I have my wings back?”
Freya arched a thin eyebrow. “You may have proven a point but that doesn’t excuse your actions.”
Vandi felt the world freeze over. His limbs grew heavy and the most he could move was his neck and his fingers. His hair fell over his eyes as he looked to the ground. His grip around the stone tightened.
“Now, if you’re done, Fafnir,” Freya said. “You can give us the doll and the stone.”
Vandi didn’t move.
“That was an order, Fafnir,” she said firmly.
Vandi looked up to Freya. There was a fire in his golden eyes. His face pulled up into a twisted smile. He shook his head. “No.”
Freya’s eyes narrowed. “What was that?”
“No.” He let out a laugh. “No. I won’t.”
“That was a direct order, Fafnir,” Freya spat. “I expect you to do it.”
“Or what?” Vandi asked. He spread his arms out with the Stone of Life pulsating in his palm. “You’ll rip my wings off? You’ve already done that. You’ll strip me of my rank? Wait, you’ve already done that too. Imprison me? I’ll be fed and sheltered, what kind of punishment is that? You’ll kill me? I honestly don’t care at this point. You can’t do anything to me. But you?” His smile stretched wider and he gave her a dark chuckle. “I can do so much to you.”
Freya, for the first time in millennia, looked frightened. Vandi thought it was a good look for her. The guards held up their spears to his face.
That was when the fight broke out. It was finished very swiftly.
When he awoke, he was staring at ice statue of a pair of fairies dancing. He tried to move his eyes to look around him, but he found that they were stuck. He had to turn his head to look around. To his left was a pole and a statue of a fairy guard with bloody iridescent wings stabbed onto the icy spear. To his right was a man with dark hair and golden eyes.
He flinched away from him. Vandi lifted his hands and shushed him in a soothing manner. He felt like screaming, but like his eyes, his mouth didn’t want to move.
“Easy...” Vandi cooed. “It’s okay. I know this must be confusing. Can you understand me?”
He nodded. He didn’t relax around the man, though. Why did he ask him that? They’d spoken before, so why did he ask that?
“Good. That will make this easier then.” Vandi’s soft smile melted into a stern expression. “You’re to be my guard. Understand?”
He shook his head. Why would Vandi want him to be his guard? He wasn’t a fighter... He was the farthest thing from one.
Vandi reached up and yanked him to his face. Blazing eyes struck fear into his core. He tried to pull away but the man had a firm grip on his shoulders.
“Protect me from angry fairies,” he said slowly. His condescending voice was thick with annoyance. “Make sure I stay alive or you won’t stay alive. I just gave you life, so you owe me that much. Do you understand now?”
He fearfully nodded.
The fairy instantly released him and walked to the front door. He looked back at him with a commanding stare that ordered him to follow. When he clumsily rushed up to him, Vandi rolled his eyes and opened the front doors.
It was then that he noticed the pole that was to his left was still in front of him. He looked up and down the shaft and he noticed two things. One, it was actually a spear. Two, he was actually holding it. He was filled with even more confusion. He couldn’t feel its weight in his hand.
In fact, the hand that was holding it didn’t even look like his hand. It was broad and flawless. It was practically translucent; he could see the white floor through his fingers. The closer he looked, the more he realized that the spear was actually attached to his hand.
His body started trembling. He looked down at himself. His whole body had the same shiny and clear appearance. The shape of it vaguely looked like light armor, but he wasn’t sure. There were no lines between skin and cloth. Everything flowed into each other without interruption. He looked up and noticed that he was at eye-level, no, he was taller than Vandi Fafnir.
He demanded answers. He wanted to ask Vandi what on Earth he did to him. He had to scream.
But he had no mouth.
He frantically looked around for an answer. There had to be something here to explain what happened to him. It was in the throne room of the palace that he finally got his answer.
He could see it dangling above the throne like a banner. Like some sick hunting trophy. Its gaunt face held even less life in it. Its eyes were closed. There was no comparison to sleep to be made; it was obviously dead. It was held up by nothing but a nail and the collar of its cloak. The ragged stitches looked all the more crooked now that he was standing outside of them.Victor’s body hung above Vandi’s throne.