The Last Pixie

Lisa Marie Arnopp

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Southland

1

You might think things are idyllic growing up in a fairytale kingdom. It’s all right – kind of boring really. It isn’t all wishes and daydreams come true – at least none of mine have. But then I’m too pragmatic to waste energy hoping for things that may never happen. And don’t forget there are evil creatures as well as benevolent ones. From the sounds of some newspapers, you might think they had us well out numbered. Luckily I live in the southern tip of Kismania. Things run pretty smoothly down here. Plus we have fantastic weather year round. If it weren’t for the fact that to get to town we have to cross a bridge I could almost forget all about the darker forces. See it’s a Troll bridge and you either give up an offering or trick your way across. Mankus is the father Troll of the family that claims that passage. When I was younger, every crossing was an act of courage but since I learned he likes a nice ripe fruit it isn’t so bad. We have a diverse grove growing on our farm so it’s easy to bring enough for the whole clan. I can’t say if he feels the same but I consider him a friend. If you need proof, once he ran off a pack of wild wolfs that tracked my brother Taylor and me home one night. Trolls get a bad reputation. It can’t be an easy life lurking under bridges or in caves unable to be in the sun for more than a few minutes straight. Well, Mankus doesn’t seem so bad and he’s the only adult Troll I’ve met in Southland. Granted it isn’t a proper sampling size to declare all Trolls are misunderstood. Whether he’s an exception or not – I like him. Mankus is a shining example that not all darker beings are destined to be evil. His Troll kids, Winky and Dinky, are kind of cute. They lost some of their appeal when they started teething and wanted to bite everything including my fingers. Winky, his oldest and the daughter, has taken to gnawing on tree limbs to quell her urges. Dinky hasn’t picked up the wood habit but he was grounding up pebbles from the riverbed in his mouth the other day. That can’t taste good but if it keeps him from snapping at me when I hand him a fruit, I won’t complain. Gin-gin, my best friend and a Fairy, says that Trolls were once much prettier than they are today. Apparently they considered themselves so handsome that they took to hiding for privacy. After generations of living in dark dank places their beautiful skin

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 turned green and rough and hence their current appearance. At least they don’t grow taller than four feet but don’t let that fool you. They are quite strong. Stronger than an Ogre some say but since I have never met an Ogre, I can’t be sure. Most people pay up out of intimidation. The few who brave across without a better plan get a stone thrown their way. As for Fairies, like Gin-gin, they are stunningly beautiful with perfect milky

2

complexions and long flowing hair. Gin-gin’s is pure white and even without moonlight, she shines in the night. Her eyes are pale blue. She’s tall for her kind at ten inches and now that she’s courting age, late forties for Fairies, she has a hard time finding males taller than her. There are some. The thing with Fairies is they are very particular on appearances. All the girls like tall guys and all the guys like short girls so she has a tough time getting the taller ones to take notice for long. She would have better luck if she didn’t spend so much time with me. Fairies don’t trust humans as a general rule of thumb, at least not the full grown ones. Her clan has not kept their displeasure in her choice of friends silent. Despite that we’re pretty inseparable. Perhaps because we share a firm believe that all life is equal. Not all humans feel the same. Many believe because we are the majority that we’re the top of the animal pyramid. The Proclaimer, the official news source of Kismania and a rag publication in my opinion, has ads for Fairy sales. It’s illegal but they cover up their tracks by using coded language like Pixie power for so-many doubloons. Why doesn’t the King put an end to this? The guards make raids but the ads never seem to end. I don’t understand if they are magical how Fairies can be trapped in birdcages, which is how most are kept captive. Gin-gin says their magic is greatly hindered without their freedom. Too bad that doesn’t discourage folks from collecting them anyway and forcing them to do menial magical tasks for their keep. The Proclaimer is wrong to allow it but that paper has no scruples. It is all antikingdom propaganda except for page six which is dedicated to the social elite’s interactions. I’ll admit this much – whoever does the artwork for their paper is fantastic. They use a new device called a camera and the pictures are incredibly lifelike. As much as I hate myself for reading those pages, I do.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 of The Proclaimer. If we bothered to sensationalize we’d probably catch up but we

3

I write for Insights, the next most circulated news, which is merely a tenth the size adhere to moral standards like keeping the details to facts and not speculation. Quinn, the owner and editor of Insights, hired me last fall during a visit to Southland. He needed someone to report on our remote village. Really there isn’t a whole lot going on in my neck of the woods. I get a kick to see my articles in print. Mostly I cover the occasional tropical storm, weddings, births and any town event is big news like the Harvest and Summer Fiestas. On Quinn’s recommendation, I use a pseudonym. My official reporter name is Susie Nimm but outside of my family, Gin-gin and a few co-workers, no one knows that. Everyone else calls me Felicia, short for Felicidad. It’s suits me better than Susie Nimm, which I consider my alter ego.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 My Little Friends Yesterday was the big Spring Fling in Southland and it was fabulous; tons of food, music and mead. Even the recently available Billy Wilson asked me to dance, not once but twice. He’s the nicest looking man in town but he has also been engaged three times. He called each off as soon as he got bored. Dancing was pleasant, for one night but I’m not dumb. After spending too much time writing rather than sleeping last night, I’m feeling pretty groggy. My image in the mirror shows the dark shadows under my eyes to prove it. My eyes are hazel like my mother’s and my hair is brown like my dad’s used to be. As for the rest of me – you see bits and pieces of them here and there; his smile, her figure, his odd sense of humor, her smarts. I may not be the fairest of them all but as long as I can seem them in me, I’m happy with how I look.

4

Dad was upset about my job at first. He’s a liberated thinker and since his wife is brilliant, he gets why I would enjoy an outlet that flexed my cranium. What bothers him is that Quinn wants me to go to Kingdom City to see the full production process. Dad grew up there and has never wanted to go back. It’s too busy and crowded for his liking. What scares him so much is what if I like it and want to move there for good. And now that winter has passed Quinn is going to bring it up again. I wouldn’t be surprised if Speedy has a request with him when he arrives. Speedy isn’t his real name of course. We just call him that because he is the fastest messenger Elf and handles all of our correspondence. Thing is, I don’t know his real name. He’ll be here any minute. I’m sure he’ll give me his usual hard time. All that traveling on the road gets lonely and therefore he gets chatty. The difference from Elves and Fairies physically is no wings and they have a blue shade in their hair and skin. Speedy is a deep blue because he spends so much time running in the sun. Elves don’t have any magical powers but are extremely gifted at all forms of art as well as incredibly fast and tireless. Oddly, when they aren’t using their energy for speed, they are very serene – absolutely sedate. When they push themselves, Elves can run for hours into days without getting drained or slowing down. It takes Speedy a day to get here from Kingdom City and that

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 is through a lot of densely forested terrain. A person on foot would take four weeks maybe. By carriage you can cut that in half and if you rode a horse you can cut that in half. The ships can make the journey in four days – some smaller sleeker naval vessels make it in three. “Are you decent?” A squeaky voice calls from outside my window. “Yes.” I pull back the curtain to let in Speedy, who isn’t panting. If Elves get tired, they must wait it out before seeing anyone because he’s never worn out. “Well, close enough I suppose.” He points his tiny fingers to his eyes, which unlike mine, are bag-less. Elves may not be as beautiful as Fairies but they have a lot of character in their features. And Speedy is not without his physical charms. His social charms are an acquired taste and I’m almost able to appreciate them. “Very nice. Yes, I wrote through most of the night.” “Not going to find a man looking like that.” He teases and picks up my article.

5

Of course he can’t just take it, as is his job. He unrolls the scroll and reads it in a blink of the eye. “Riveting.” He sasses. “Everyone’s a critic. I can only do so much with what I have to work with.” “Quinn will love it. He thinks readers like to hear about the small town goingons.” He pulls out a thinner scroll and twelve doubloons for me. “Twelve? Did I get a raise?” Usually I get one per article. Yeah, I know – I won’t be getting rich anytime soon. The note is the anticipated request to come to Kingdom City with a boat voucher already secured. Unfortunately thrilled isn’t the sole emotion it conjures. Anxiety sets in as I recall my practiced speech to breach the sensitive topic with Dad. It’s only for a few days. It’s a great experience. And I’m sure you won’t notice I’m gone before I return. Weak arguments at best. “Some extra traveling money.” He answers nonchalantly. “And where is your lovely friend Gin-gin?” Elves and Fairies have a bizarre rivalry. I have seen it in the past but to be honest, I think Speedy has a thing for Gin-gin. Wondering the same thing I answer, “She’s sleeping off her wild night.” He laughs at the outlandish thought. First, Fairies don’t drink much if at all. Second, Gin-gin is too responsible to overdo anything even by Fairy standards. I say

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 responsible – Speedy says uptight. Elves on the other hand are more than willing to let their blue hair down. “It would do her good if she did drink a bit too much and let loose her wild side. It isn’t healthy to keep yourself bottled up.” “That’s fine coming from you.” Gin-gin snaps as she flutters into the window. She probably stayed away until she knew I was up. “Good morning.” I toss her a cautious look. The pair of them can be very annoying when they bicker in their quick chirpy voices. It’s like two mad canaries fighting over the last grain of bread. She lets out a huff and settles on the lip of my desk – her usual spot. “Do I get to read the article first?” Crossing her legs she fluffs out her skirt knowing full well it drives Speedy crazy. Speedy immediately rolls up the scroll and tucks it away. “It isn’t very good. You can see it when it’s printed.” He may not be able to stir her desires like she can his. However he can rile her up faster than he runs. “Everything Felicia writes is inspired.” She’s so adorable to think that although her sour puss cuts the cute factor a smidge.

6

“Speedy, let Gin-gin read it. You haven’t eaten anything and you can’t leave until you do.” He’ll need to refuel before heading home. Tireless doesn’t happen without a hearty appetite. With an exaggerated roll of the eyes, he hands over the article. “What do you have for me today?” “Bread and fruit.” It’s what we always have and he loves our food. They say our land is the most fertile and our crops are the tastiest in Kismania. It would have been nice if the parents were out doing chores but they had slept in late as well. Both are mulling around the kitchen at this late morning hour. There isn’t time to think over a good way to let my father know. If I want to make the ship set for that afternoon, it’s probably for the best. If I miss that boat, it will be another three or four days before the next one. Mom’s great with Speedy and Gin-gin. She sets up plates cutting everything into tiny pieces for them and they sit at a diminutive table on top of our table that my dad built for our frequent visitors.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 When I was a kid and didn’t seem to bond closely with any of my schoolmates,

7

they worried I would never have a best friend. When it was clear that Gin-gin was filling the post, they eased up. I’m not klutzy but I am curious and I often got stuck or in dangerous situations like up a tree without a good way down – excluding gravity. So even though they thought it bizarre for a human and Fairy to be so tight they saw how having a super strong miniature flying person around wasn’t such a bad idea. “Dad,” I use my sweetest tone I can muster knowing he isn’t going to like what I have to say. “Quinn wants me to go to Kingdom City.” I wait. It sinks in. If need calls for it I have the ready list of semi-persuasive arguments. At present, my mind doesn’t seem to recall them. He grimaces and his head sags with a heavy sigh. “Understood.” “We knew it was coming and we’ve had a long talk.” Mom says as she pulls back my hair and braids it. It makes me feel like I’m five instead of twenty-two but considering they aren’t debating about my trip I don’t squirm away. “I’m going with you.” Dad adds defiantly. “I’ll be with her. We’ll be safe.” Gin-gin assures him. “Then we’ll go together.” “Honey,” Mom is much better at soothing than I am as she addresses Dad, “We have a lot of work to do on the farm. Felicia is old enough to travel alone.” He grumbles incoherently and trudges out to the yard to feed something or check the fields. It’s as close to permission I’m going to get. Truth is, I don’t mind if he comes but a farm can’t run long with two of its keepers missing. Even with Taylor and his family putting in their share there is too much work in the spring after a long winter. Taylor is my older brother who married at an appropriate age per our parents’ critical opinion. Gin-gin leans over and touches my hand. Fairies can detect the near future for someone through contact and meditation so this always makes me tentative. She’s my best friend and I trust her explicitly but you don’t want to know if things are going to be rocky. And Fairies don’t lie – at least I have never heard of any doing so. Since we are good friends, she can see a few days ahead otherwise the time span is shortened depending on how connected she is to the subject.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “It will be a good voyage.” She says in an ethereal tone. Speedy snickers. “I could have told you that without the hocus pocus. People travel to Kingdom City every day and nothing happens to them.” Gin-gin shoots him a dirty look and he sticks out his tongue. My muscles relax hearing validation that things will run as planned for a couple of days anyway.

8

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Speeding Things Up After spending the next hour packing and saying our good byes around the farm, Gin-gin and I head off to the docks, well supplied to pay the toll. Speedy joins us for a short while. He’ll head off before the bridge since his route is inland. “Want to race?” He challenges pumping his hands as if he were sprinting. “No.” Gin-gin declines. “We already know you’re faster than ships.” He turns backwards and jogs while keeping pace with us. “I’ll run like this.” “Does that slow you down?” Something tells me it doesn’t. “If I hit something but that isn’t likely. I’ve made the trip too many times not to

9

know where all the obstacles are.” Apparently elves have a sixth sense of memory recall and perception. “Then no.” Gin-gin reiterates tersely. “You sure are a grouchy Fairy.” “Only when you’re around.” “My presence is that impactful that it changes your mood.” He gives her a sultry lift of his blue eyebrows as he grins. “It does. I must be allergic to irksome elves.” She scratches at an imaginary rash. Pretending to be shot in the heart by her words he falls on the ground. She walks past callously. I oblige his dramatics and help him to his feet. “Can you two behave? It isn’t going to be like this all the time in Kingdom City, is it?” “I can be nice if she can.” He winks at her and she takes to flying well ahead of us. “I’ll see you when you’re in town. Assuming I get there first.” “See you soon.” He darts off the path and I watch until his blue blur disappears over a hilltop. “Why can’t Quinn hire some professional help? He makes enough to pay full wage and not settle for low grade workers.” Gin-gin hovers in place until we are even again. “Gin-gin, he’s very sweet when you look past his ego.” “That’s a lot to look past.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 to the shade of the elm by the riverbank. “How are Winky and Dinky?” I hand him a mixed basket of fruits. His eyes widen at his prize. The two younger Trolls crawl up and hide behind their father. “They aren’t biting as much.” He wiggles his fingers to display their near perfect condition. They were very scarred not long ago. “Wow! This is some basket. I’ll never require payment from you ever again.”

10

“Good afternoon.” Mankus scratchily calls out loping up from beneath the bridge

Lie or not, I’ll keep bringing him food. It’s just the way things work. “I’m going out of town and wanted to make sure you were well stocked.” I’m his biggest source of income. Winky smiles as she grabs the basket handle to pull it closer. She’s eager to get started. Not liking the idea of getting second choices, Dinky pulls from the other side and a tug-o-war ensues. “Stop it!” Mankus commands and I remember how threatening he can appear. They let go and the basket thumps on the ground with a couple of apples and oranges rolling out. Scrambling they restore order. “One a piece for now and take the rest to your mother.” I’ve never seen his wife. Gin-gin says she’s pretty for a Troll but the women don’t like to be seen by other creatures. She only met her because one of the kids was sick. Mankus needed Gin-gin’s magic to get Dinky better. Town is quieter than normal. The few that are out and about are dragging from lack of sleep or overdoing it at the Spring Fling. The docks are down the main road and seeing the masts of the shipyard stirs the inner traveler. They always have but today it’s more exhilarating. It’s my first sea voyage and an intertwining feeling of thrill and anxiety swells. Since Southland is a port town, we get a lot of tourism and once on the docks, the strangers outnumber the locals and you already feel like you left Southland. Mom and Dad want me to find a good local guy and settle down. Seeing these sea faring men, I know that no ordinary Southlander will do – not even Billy. The sailors are big, strong and confident. The only problem I see is that they are all so serious. Nary a smile among

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 a pleasant disposition. “Ticket.” A burly man with a neat beard and dragon tattoo on his right forearm asks. He scans it over. “And the Fairy is with you?” I nod. “We usually charge more for them.” He looks me over and decides to allow it without a fee. Motioning us forward he asks the next passenger for their ticket. Maybe he was trying to hustle some extra coins. Whatever the reason, I’m

11

them. If you’re going to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want him to have

grateful. “I thought city folk would be more accepting of Fairies.” I mutter quietly to my little companion. Gin-gin shrugs. “He didn’t seem shocked to see me. I suppose I am getting a free ride.” She bats her eyelids. “It’s not like you’re weighing down the boat much – especially when you’re flying.” “We’re very dense. I bet I weigh twelve pounds after last night.” She pats her belly without missing a beat of her transparent wings. “Yeah. You’re looking kind of pudgy.” She frowns and flies out ahead of me as if she is mad. Another thing Elves and Fairies have in common is the tendency to emote. Our small room has two round windows. Gin-gin skits over, opens one, flies out and then back in. “Brace yourself, we’re pushing off from the pier.” It isn’t my first time on a boat but never one so large. The undulating floor is subdued until we are far enough out and they drop sails. Immediately we feel the high speed and the rolling rhythmic motion sets a pace. Please don’t let me get seasick. “Felicia, let’s go up on deck.” Gin-gin eagerly pulls at my sleeve. I must look green or something because she asks, “Are you ill?” “I don’t think so.” “Some food will help.” She pulls again. I follow thinking the last thing I need is something to eat. Why load a cannon before it goes off if you don’t mean to shoot anything? We scrape up some morsels and nibble overlooking the great expanse of the ocean. Watching the horizon helps settle my

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 queasy stomach. I’ve never seen anything like it – deep dark blue water stretching out

12

forever. Far off a small plume of water jets up and then down. A couple more shoot up in the same vicinity. “What was that?” I point. “Did you see that?” “Here.” The man who took my ticket offers me a telescope. “It’s a pod of whales.” “Whales?” I slide out the scope and peer through it. Everything gets nearer and clearer. A spot on the ocean surfaces smoothes to a glassy finish, then the gray rubbery topside of a huge sea creature slides out and finally a spray of seawater shoots vertically into the air. In school, we saw pictures of whales and were taught all about them but I’ve never seen so many in the wild. “Amazing.” I mutter and jump back when one beasts swims right out of the water and flops down with a mighty splash. It was too far away to spray us but through the telescope it looked much closer. Embarrassed I return the spyglass. “They do that sometimes.” He warns too late. “I was looking for you.” Did he change his mind about payment for Gin-gin? “Anything wrong?” “Not at all. If you both will follow me.” I pray he didn’t hear me gulp as Gin-gin and I obey. We walk up to the helm where a handful of brawny men are in deep debate. The tallest of them is the Captain who stands off to the side talking to another man. The Captain is older with gray hair and the look of a person that has spent more days at sea than on land. His sharp black eyes dart up to us when we step on deck. “Why is there a woman here?” He growls. “And a Fairy? Why is there a Fairy on my bridge?” All the men, his conversationalist included, turn towards us. “It was at my request.” The man with the Captain crosses over, “Pardon the superstitious natures.” Broad shoulders and a certain air of discipline are the first impressions that hit me. He’s much younger than the captain and a good portion of the sailors on the deck. His head is uncovered. He isn’t part of the crew. With the wind blowing through his deep brown hair and scruffy cheeks, he comes off as a strong hard workingman. My knees give a little – maybe a little more than a little. Probably less than ten years older than me in age but somehow far more mature.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Can we go somewhere else to talk?” I suggest feeling harsh eyes on us. “We don’t need to.” He says casually and leads us further onto the man-only sanctuary away from the sailors. It isn’t only the captain that feels we don’t belong but this man is impervious to their severe opinions. The Captain keeps an astute glare on our movement but doesn’t restate his

13

objection. He follows at a short distance – close enough to hear but far enough to not be considered part of the exchange. “My name is Charles.” The attractive man’s large hand extends palm up. “I’m Felicidad Smithe. Pleased to meet you.” I put my small hand into his massive one and he gently squeezes as he lightly kisses it. “And this is Gin-gin.” I practically stutter after he releases my hand. He holds out a finger and bows a greeting. “Forgive me for being so forward and having you brought here. I have a request to make of you, Gin-gin.” Absorbing both of our reactions he continues. “I have received notice that my presence is required in Kingdom City sooner than my original plans. I was hoping that perhaps you would be so kind as to speed our journey along.” The captain grunts. “Just give them a royal decree.” I examine him with more scrutiny but I don’t recognize him. King Edward IV is twenty years older than me, and his wife twelve. Many of their most trusted personnel are young for their levels. King Edward III retired early when he lost his eyesight and advises his son from behind the thrown. Although many of his closest consultants are as active as before there are many fresher faces that come with a change in command. Both Kings have been very good leaders. So even though this man isn’t King Edward, he must be high up the food chain if he has the authority to throw around royal decrees. Smiling for the first time, he winks at me. “I can’t do that to just anyone.” He whispers but the Captain heard. “It’s a Fairy for Pete’s sake.” The old seaman blurts out. “They know how to comply.” “She’s a free Fairy.” I don’t mean to be combative but I don’t care for the implication. “It’s her choice.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


14

“Which is why I am asking and not making demands.” Charles stares the Captain down. He doesn’t need his interruptions offsetting Gin-gin willingness to comply. “Do you think you can do anything to shorten the trip? Perhaps optimize the wind?” “I can but I don’t know if I can do more than save a day?” “Even a day would be enough.” Charles’ face relaxes. Whatever he’s late for must be important. “I’ll do my best.” She answers. “I’d appreciate it.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Late Night Swim

15

“That was Commander Moberly.” Gin-gin informs me when we are back in our cabin. “Commander Moberly?” The name’s familiar. I rummage through my things and pull out an old issue of The Proclaimer and flip to page six. It’s one of my favorite editions because it covered Prince Edward V’s birthday. It’s a virtual who’s who of the Royal Court. “There.” Gin-gin lands on the page and bends down pointing at Commander Moberly. I take back everything I said about the artwork for their paper. Sure, it’s a sufficient representation but with a clean shave and dressed to the tees, I’d never recognize him. He looks older and heavier in the photo. Draped on him like an overcoat is a statuesque blond. The caption reads Commander Charles Moberly and his future fiancé Agnes Keeton. I practically gag. Agnes Keeton is the queen of page six. By queen I mean she is the top reporter and when she isn’t embellishing some scandal she’s dishing out the dirt on the upper crust. Ninety percent of page six articles are her handiwork. She has a knack of worming her way into these pages by dating many of the men she admires. Commander Moberly had been her bachelor of the year only three months earlier and now she’s his intended intended. As for Commander Moberly, he isn’t just a celebrity for page six fodder. He is said to be the right hand man of King Edward IV even above the High Advisor who by design is positioned to fill in for the reigning family in times of crisis. I can see why the Captain wasn’t more assertive with Charles. “He’s Agnes’ fiancé? Blah!” “No accounting for taste.” Gin-gin giggles as she nudges my shoulder with her whole body waking me out of my mild sense of disgust. It isn’t professional jealousy that we base our dislike on Agnes Keeton. Or if there is any, it’s added to our already low opinion of the paper and most specifically the

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 that way long before I accepted this job from Quinn. “I better get to business.” Gin-gin lifts up from the desk. “Are you going to be able to do this without wearing yourself out?” I worry. If she uses too much magic she can faint and if she is midflight at the time she could get seriously hurt.

16

social pages. There are more retractions and corrections than new items and it has been

“I’ll stand when I do it in case I need a breather. If I can enchant the sails I won’t need to do more than the occasional booster. If not, I can try to increase the wind but that will take constant tending and I’ll need to rest frequently.” “Good luck.” She flies out the window. I know she doesn’t want me checking on her but I owe her for saving my butt so many times in the past I can’t help myself. The passages are empty. Most travelers are tucked away for the evening and only the night crew is alert. Sneaking up a stairwell I spy her standing on a barrel staring ominously at the sails as she mentally runs through her options to perform the task at hand. Her small mouth is twisted to one side as she finally makes her first attempt. Eyes closed she holds her hands out towards the sails. I’ve never seen her exert so much concentration to execute a spell. The hull bucks hard on a wave and she falls on her rear. I grab the railing and try to stay hidden in the shadows. “Out for a late night stroll?” A deep voice softly says in my ear. “Commander Moberly.” I frown as I see Gin-gin gently pat her sore bottom. “She can sometimes over do it and …” “And you’re being a good friend.” He looks at Gin-gin. “They are fantastic creatures.” I nod. “Gin-gin is my best friend.” He sits on the top step to chat while I keep watch. “How did that happen?” “I guess neither of us totally fit with our own kind.” We hit another swell but this time Gin-gin merely sways as she keeps her footing. I manage mine by clutching on to the handrail.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 His eyes squint as he considers something. “You’ve recognized me.”

17

Blushing I nod. “Gin-gin did and we looked up an old paper I had with me. You don’t look anything like those pictures.” “Thanks. They do add a few years and pounds.” He glances back at the Fairy who is seated cross-legged on the barrel lid reconsidering her dilemma. “I’m more an Insights reader myself.” And he laughs too hard. “Wouldn’t Agnes object to that?” It came off sassy. It wasn’t for him. Agnes is such a hack and well, let’s admit it, her paper is our competition and soundly beating us in circulation. Susie Nimm will be writing about this preference by Agnes’ fiancé as soon as she gets back to her room. “Agnes objects to that and more all the time.” He’s uncomfortable. We hit another swell and I teeter forward. In spite of my efforts I fall on him. “Sorry.” I scramble to get up but the ship keeps bucking. Grabbing the railing he gets us both to our feet. His arm is sturdier than the beam. I stare directly at his Adam’s apple that is in desperate need of a sharp razor’s edge. “Where is she?” He asks. My heart sinks. Gin-gin isn’t on her perch. I run onto the open deck. “Felicidad, stay below. I’ll find Gin-gin.” Charles calls from behind me. The hull rocks harder than ever and ocean spray drenches down. It doesn’t stop me but it slows me considerably. Once at her barrel I frantically scan around. Another lurch and I slide to the edging hitting my head against a wood beam. That’s going to show in the morning but I don’t have time to worry about it. A small glow floats up and down far back in our wake. “Gin-gin!” “Drop anchor!” Charles booms next to me. The clink of the chain is too slow. We’re going fast and I can barely see her. Gin-gin’s spell is working too well and now she’s lost at sea. Leaning far over the railing I strain to keep her in my sight. “She’s sinking.” “Hold tight. You’ll fall in.” Charles warns. The anchor must have hit rock bottom because with a hard stop the floor jumps. I soar over the edge and into the chilly water. “Man overboard!” Moberly yells. “Felicidad, don’t move.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 The water is frigid and I spit out the salty liquid. Without thinking, I make way

18

for the glow. She doesn’t have time for them to turn around or send a rescue boat. I can only get an occasional glimpse of her at each crest of a wave and then I lose it. The glow gets closer which is remarkable because I have barely made any headway. Looking over my shoulder the ship isn’t far. Gin-gin must be coming to me. She’s alive. “Gin-gin! I’m over here.” I pull as far out of the ocean as I can and wave frantically. Water splashes loudly against the hull of the ship that is fighting the anchor to move. “Man overboard!” Someone repeats. Keep swimming. I have to keep swimming. But I’m not the only thing in the water. A fin slices out of the waves and makes a broad circle around me. Then there is another and a third. Paddling in place I turn to the ship hoping for a lifeline. “Stay calm.” Charles says from a yard away. The second call for a man overboard wasn’t for me. He came after us. “I’m bleeding.” I feel my head and know that’s drawing the sharks. “Grab on.” As soon as he has a grip on my wrist he tows me to him with his left arm. His right hand comes out of the water in an arc. Steel flashes in his hand as he knives one of the predators behind me. Its muscular tale swipes at my body and slams me into Charles but it darts away lesson learned. “Hoist us up!” He hollers. I see a tether leading from his body to the boat. “Gin-gin.” I can barely hear my voice and get more water in than air out. “She’s almost here. Hold on.” His arms have me secure – one hand still holding the knife in case another shark makes a move for us. The one behind Charles promptly moves our direction. “Behind you.” I say but it isn’t needed. We are lifted out of the water and floated up to the deck. We hit the floor with a thud. Gin-gin wraps her arms tightly around my neck. “Gin-gin, I thought you were a goner…” Shivering uncontrollably my words sound like I’m riding in a wagon at a full run on rocky terrain. “We’re okay.” She squeaks out. “Cut the anchor.” Charles shouts getting up on one elbow. “No need sir, it broke off.” The tattooed sailor helps him up.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 other man lifts Gin-gin in his hands. The ship is bouncing along again taking full

19

“You get the little one, I’ll get the big one.” Charles carefully picks me up as the advantage of Gin-gin’s enchantment. Charlie barely falters as he sloshes along the deck even with the added load in his arm. I shut my eyes and everything goes dark.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Waking up in a Strange Bed “She’s coming to. Felicidad?” “Hmm?”

20

“She needs another blanket.” Charles orders and a moment later a wool sheet is draped over my shoulders. “Felicidad?” “Felicia.” Gin-gin corrects. “She likes to be called Felicia.” “Whatever. Fine, Felicia.” “It’s so cold.” “A dip in the ocean will do that to you. Do you know where you are?” “On the Catalina.” I open my eyes. The blurry room is much larger than my cabin with two large fuzzy forms towering over me. “Where’s Gin-gin?” “Right here.” She says standing on a chair next to the bed. “We’re moving really fast.” “Great.” I don’t care. Rubbing my temple I don’t feel a wound. Gin-gin must have healed it but it throbs. And dried me off. Even so, I am chilled to the bone and the blankets aren’t warming enough. “That’ll be all.” Charles tells the sailor. “Sir.” “I’ve got things covered. They can stay here until they’re ready to move to their cabin.” “Yes, sir.” Whoever is answering doesn’t like the idea but isn’t going to counter Commander Moberly. I guess it was the tattooed man but I can’t make out more than vague shapes. The door opens and closes and we’re alone with Moberly. “Drink this.” Charles shoves a tin mug into my hands. Something has him irked. Sitting up I take a swig. The liquid burns going down my gullet. “Ugh. What was that?” “Whiskey.” He withholds a snicker. “Thanks, I think.” “It’ll put hair on your chest.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “She doesn’t want hair on her chest.” Gin-gin misses his jokes. It wasn’t much of a joke. “So why did you jump in the water?” His momentary good humor passed. “I fell in.” “And then you started swimming away from the boat. You should have stayed put.” “Gin-gin was sinking.” “I wasn’t out long. The coldness woke me up.” She puts her hand on mine and pats. It reminds me of her forecast, the one that claimed all would be well on our voyage. “Why didn’t you see this? You said we’d have a safe voyage.” “I saw us arriving safely in Kingdom City. I didn’t think to watch every second of the trip.” “Wouldn’t have mattered.” Charles says. “Pardon me?” “Fairies can read the future, that’s true but if something changes so do the end results. I didn’t think to ask you to speed up the journey until I heard there was a Fairy

21

on board.” His roguish smile has too much conceit in it. He knows his Fairy tales. “My first reaction wasn’t to ask for help but to jail you and free your slave. When I learned she was with you willingly, that’s when I thought why not see if she could do some magic.” Maybe I could overlook the conceit being that he was going to set things right if I had a slave. It’s a bit insulting that he thought I could be that kind of person. Slowly shapes solidify as I take in a much larger and better-furnished room than ours. “Is this your cabin?” “It is.” Charles sinks into a chair. “Get some sleep.” “What about you?” He closes his eyes and lets his head fall back. “You can’t sleep in a chair.” One eye pops open. “I’m not going to sleep much until you ladies are back to health,” and he added under his breath, “and out of here.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “I have a cabin.” I try to stand up but the motion of the ship kicks me back into the bed. “Yeah, yeah.” “Thank you.” Gin-gin says. “You saved her.” “And you saved the two of us. We’re even – actually, I’m still indebted. I’ll be home in plenty of time at this rate. Now get some rest.” Perhaps he is accustomed to

22

barking orders and didn’t mean to tell us what to do. Or perhaps he didn’t care to take a late night swim and to top it off we were intruding on his quarters. I don’t know how he accomplished it but he fell asleep. Or he is very good at snoring as if he were. I won’t get to sleep with that buzz saw noise all night. “Gin-gin, how do you feel?” “Out of energy but otherwise good.” “Me too.” And even with the rumbling from Commander Moberly, I fade. I don’t know how long I was out but I stir when I hear quiet conversation. “By the looks of it, I’ll be there first thing tomorrow morning.” Charles speaks softly in the corner holding a framed object of some kind. “How did you manage that?” The frame asks back. “There is a Fairy passenger onboard who was kind enough to help me out. She really put herself out there for it.” “A Fairy?” “A free Fairy.” Moberly clarifies. “Sounds like you’re making friends.” The other voice says. It must be one of those communication looking glasses. Two people can talk from far away if they each have one of paired mirrors. “When I have to. She’ll be in Kingdom City for a few days.” “Uh huh.” The mirror says knowingly. “We’d be happy to extend an invitation to our party.” “I’ll pass that along. She’s traveling with a friend.” “Eddie has never met Fairies.” He must be talking to the King. The Prince is often referred to as Eddie. “Only one is a Fairy. The other is a girl.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “So he meets one Fairy this time. And this girl, is she attractive.” I strain to make sure I hear his answer but he stalls. The mirror continues, “Very I’d guess by that ruddy complexion.” “Yes, pretty and accident prone.” I sulk not that he sees. “Do invite them. I haven’t had the pleasure of Fairy company for too long. I’ll enjoy her visit.” “Thank you for offering.”

23

“If they are assisting you it’s the least we can do. You would have asked me. I’m not a fool. We didn’t have a scheduled talk. You had something on your mind.” “I don’t think you’re a fool.” “Just addle minded.” “You have a lot to worry about these days. How’s Mary?” “Fine. I’ll tell her you asked.” Charlie puts down the mirror and turns to his convalescing guests. He catches me alert. “Good morning. It’s impolite to eavesdrop.” One brow raises as he accurately accuses me of listening in. “Sorry.” I can’t help my curiosity. “Was that Kind Edward?” “It was and he has extended you and Gin-gin an invitation to their ball. But then you already know that.” He rests his elbows on his knees with his hands folded in front of him. “What’s it for?” “An announcement. You’ll find out there.” It’s sweet that we are invited but I’m not prepared for such a formal occasion. Gin-gin may go without me. I’m sure she will. “Where is Gin-gin?” “On your other side.” He pushes up and walks over to sit next to the bed. Placing the back of his fingers to my head he says, “You were feverish but it’s passing. How do you feel?” “Good.” “Do you have anything to wear?” Seeing me blush he amends the question, “To the ball?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Not really.” “I know someone who can fix that. She’ll get you ready.” Not Agnes, I hope. “Who?” Mockingly serious he frowned. “I took a shark bite for you. You could extend me a little trust.” I bolt upright jostling the bed and waking Gin-gin. “You were bitten?” Heartily chuckling he holds up his right hand. “Not really. I did get scratched

24

touching it. You rub a shark’s skin the wrong way and it’s like sandpaper.” True to his word there was a red raw patch on the edge of his hand that held the knife. Frowning I caress is his course skin. “I’m sorry. All I was thinking about was getting to Gin-gin.” From behind me I feel another neck hug from my tiny friend. “Two peas in a pod.” Charles smiles probably really thinking two stowaways in my bed. “My sister will help you. She loves to fuss over people and since she’s been married she hasn’t had much opportunity. If you can handle being spoiled, she’ll suit you up.” A sister doesn’t sound so bad. If he had said Agnes I wouldn’t have accepted even if it meant skipping the party. “If it isn’t any trouble.” “She’ll love it. Always said she wished I was a younger sister instead of a bratty baby brother.” I snicker at a silly idea. “Did she ever dress you up in girl’s clothes?” I would have. He cocks his head. “No.” “We should give you back your room.” My legs wobble under the double speed of the ship but I’m rested and ready. Why couldn’t I have been a Fairy like Gin-gin so I could fly without having to walk on the unstable floor?

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Kingdom City The rest of the voyage is uneventful. We don’t see much of Charles Moberly

25

after that. It annoyed him that I fell into the water. Who can blame him? Being the hero type that he is, he was practically compelled to follow me in and save me. So much for making a good first impression. Accident prone? That was kind of snarky. Before we leave our cabin for the last time the tattooed sailor gives us a note with an official seal on it that says we are to stop by the castle to see Charles’ sister. They aren’t going to let anyone in and this is our pass. It must be amazing to live in the castle. I wonder what Charles’ sister does for the Kingdom? Once we are on the gangway disembarking, the castle looms high above looking as magnificent as I always dreamed but much smaller. I can’t believe we’ll be allowed inside. It’s a wish come true. “We made a powerful friend.” Gin-gin says looking up at the impressive structure. “Let’s find Quinn.” The harbor is far larger than Southland’s with ten times the boats and people to fill it. The traffic flow is a quick tempo and we do our best to skirt around the pushier folk. They don’t even make eye contact. Other than the fact they have to circumvent our physical presence, we wouldn’t exist at all. A few shady characters give Gin-gin wary looks and it creeps me out. The last thing I want is for someone to try to catch her. Main Street isn’t much better but it is better. A man with an eye patch emits an exceptionally unnatural vibe as he watches Gin-gin with covet in his greedy leer. I slyly guide her into a shop until he passes. Halfway up the road on the second floor above a tavern a window reads Insights HQ. “We have to walk through a saloon to get to Quinn.” Great. “I always wanted to know what one was like.” Gin-gin flutters in over the swinging doors too innocent to be scared or too fearless to worry. Everything inside is covered in wood, antlers or other parts of deceased animals. At least we aren’t the only females in the joint. Any respectable Southland lady wouldn’t go to taverns. Don’t tell my parents but my brother Taylor took me a few times. I was

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 with him and his friends so no one bothered me but without a handful of bodyguards, I wouldn’t have gone.

26

The large window and ample lamps brightly light the room taking off some of the seedier edge the décor creates. The bartender is a bald man with a round belly. By the looks of him he knows how to restore order if things get out of hand. It helps that he has a colossal wolf sprawled in one corner with a watchful eye on the patrons. His head rises to get a better look at Gin-gin who immediately flies to him to say hello. She loves animals – even large predatory ones. She mistakenly thinks all animals are friendly. This large gray wolf is. “Hello.” He smiles. Taken aback I slow down my pace but proceed forward. “Hi.” “I’m Seymour.” “Hi Seymour.” Gin-gin alights on his mat and runs a hand down his shaggy mane. Too close. Those teeth are sharp. “I’m Gin-gin and this is Felicia.” “Hi.” I say sheepishly. “I’m a Werewolf. That’s why I can talk.” He tells us easily. Probably used to the strange looks and the need to explain why he can speak. “Shouldn’t you be a man until the full moon?” “Don’t believe every fairytale you read. My brother and I have to share these bodies. While he’s a man, I’m a wolf. He usually tends to business during the day and I get the night shift.” “Interesting.” Gin-gin says scratching with both hands behind his ear as he tilts his head and shakes a hind leg. “I hate that I can’t control the reflex but it feels sooooo good.” He growls a little happy noise. “We have to see someone upstairs. It was nice meeting you.” “Bye Seymour.” Gin-gin waves as she takes flight. We go up to the second floor offices.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Upstairs is a different feel completely. The halls are covered with soft beige

27

wallpaper that has a fleur-de-lis pattern. There is one door with the same wording as the window facing Main Street and stairs up to another story of the building. Inside Quinn’s office is a large oak desk and sitting on an especially tall chair is Speedy. “You girls got here pretty fast.” He’s impressed. “Commander Moberly was on our ship and he asked Gin-gin to speed things up for him.” I tell him. “We should have taken you up on the race.” His blue eyes bug out. “Commander Moberly? Really? We’re old friends.” He boasts trying to outdo our story. “He must want to be back in time for the ball.” “Do you know what that is about?” “Haven’t a clue but Quinn is out hitting up all his sources to find out. It’s a no press affair and he wants to scoop The Proclaimer.” “We’ll be going. We can tell you about it afterwards.” Gin-gin says with a liberal application of relish. He hops up on the desk either eager to hear more or envious that we have an invitation. “You’re going to the ball? Quinn will be pleased.” “And we have a story. There was a bit of excitement on our trip.” I give him my latest article. As usual, he reads it over as soon as he has the scroll in his hot little hands. “This is better than the usual tripe you write.” “She is a great writer.” Gin-gin automatically corrects. He only says those things about my writing to provoke her. “If you say so. The material is better than small town events. We’ll get it in this evening edition. Quinn won’t be back until mid afternoon but I’ll have it ready knowing he’ll give his approval.” “That’s fine. We’ll be back before then. We have errands to run.” She adds disdainfully. For such a sweet Fairy, she can be a little snot with Speedy. “What errands?” Elves hate to be kept out of anything and even though he is foolish to bite, he does.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


28

“We’ll see you later.” I don’t usually let Gin-gin get away with rude behavior but I don’t want Speedy tagging along when we have an appointment to meet Charles’ sister at the castle. As we wind up the road to our destination the size that is dwarfed from a distance is actualized. It is formidable and beautiful. I bet the whole Royal Family and everyone that lives here are thin from so much walking. A stern guard walks down to meet us as we make our final approach. “Felicidad and Gin-gin?” Stunned I answer, “That’s us.” But then there is only one Fairy on the guest list. “Very well. Commander Moberly instructed me to take you right in when you arrived.” He offers his arm for me and leads us under the raised gate to an open carriage pulled by two horses. After we are situated, he clicks at the two-mare team, gently shakes the reins and off we go. They trot at a leisurely pace. The atmosphere is gorgeous, the picturesque landscape delightful. A small bridge spans over the narrow portion of a Lilly pad covered pond. Trees and flowers bloom everywhere. It is a good time of year to visit such an extravagant garden. And it isn’t just the flora that amazes. Animals are plenty; ducks, swans, frogs, squirrels, hens, birds, dogs and cats. It’s a critter menagerie. We amble along the last stretch of road to two staircases leading up to the grand entrance. A glorious fountain gurgles spring water across the driveway. The mermaid in the center is surrounded by all kinds of sea life while water rains from above her head. “It’s so beautiful.” “It is.” The guard agrees and takes my arm again to show me the way. An older lady waits for us. “Sanora, this is Commander Moberly’s friends here to see Queen Mary.” My head snaps up and my mouth drops open but it’s unable to express anything audibly. I’m here to see Moberly’s sister not the Queen. “She’s expecting you. I’ll show you to the waiting room while I see if now is a good time for her majesty.” Sanora is a stout woman with a strict face. She spins on her heel and proceeds to lead us into the castle.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Dumbstruck I rush forward and try to clear up the confusion. “There’s some mistake.” “You’re not Felicidad and Gin-gin?” She’s withholding her anger. “We are but…” She relaxes. “Tea?” “Thank you but…” “Tut, tut. You can explain it to Queen Mary.” Sanora pours us tea. They even

29

have Fairy size cups for Gin-gin. She scoots out and leaves us with our refreshment and my guilty burden.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Queen Mary

30

Unable to sit, I pace nervously. “They’ll hang us for misrepresenting ourselves.” I take a sip of tea figuring it may be the last pleasant thing I ever taste. Bread and water for the rest of my life. Queen Mary is good-natured but even so, she won’t want to be disturbed by strangers with no cause to see her. “They don’t hang people for that.” Gin-gin wisely states. “Good, than we’ll only be tossed into the dudgeon for the rest of our natural lives. You don’t seem bothered by this.” “We tried to explain and no one wanted to listen. I’m sure we’ll be able to sort it out quickly and without being sentenced to death or life.” She sits on an elfin pillow that serves its purpose just as well for a Fairy – that purpose being to boost her level with humans. “Sure we’ll just tell Queen Mary that we didn’t mean to bother her and we’re sorry for the inconvenience. I wonder how this happened.” “You don’t want to see me?” A ravine haired woman steps into the room with the most confused look. Could have been worse. She could have been mad. Please have a sense of humor. It’s Queen Mary. Her face is as well known as the King’s. But the rest of her doesn’t match up. She’s in pants, which few women wear outside of house chores. Of course considering the gloves she pulls off are covered in dirt, she was probably out in the garden. I fumble to curtsey and feel completely un-presentable, “Your highness. I’m so sorry for the confusion. Charles had meant for us to meet with his sister not you.” She tosses her head to one side with a familiar grin. “Oh, well usually we cut your head off for wasting my time but since Charlie didn’t warn you that I am both the Queen and his sister, I’ll just take it out on his hide with thirty lashes.” “That’s a joke right?” I’m too petrified to laugh. “Felicia wouldn’t have come if I told her you’re the queen. I keep telling you that you can be intimidating.” Charles saunters in and gives his sister a kiss on the cheek. “You’re looking well.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “I just tossed my cookies so I feel great.” Do queens say things like tossed my cookies? “I see you managed to get here without further harm.” He takes my hand and kisses it and then gives Gin-gin a bow. I nod still muted by fear. “And I’m sure you’re thrilled to have a new test subject.” He tells his sister.

31

“Hopefully she’ll put up less of a fuss when I put a dress on her than you use to.” I couldn’t help snickering and he looks ashamed. At least I am free of my anxiety briefly. “She’s making that up.” He glares at his sister. “I am not. Mother and Father promised me a sister and then you came along.” Now I recognize her smile. It’s the same as his. “And the only thing more cruel than pretending I was your sister is that you bring it up in front of company.” He chides. “Before you girls run off to try on clothes and do your hair can I take a minute of your time Mary?” The queen shakes her head. “No press. If it is about anything else, than yes.” She is dead serious about this no press thing. I better warn Quinn before he prints something and gets us keelhauled and swinging from the gallows. Charles, or is it Charlie, looks up at me as he repeats his request to his Queen sister. “Can we talk privately?” Mary looses her cool. “You’re so called fiancé is not coming to the ball and that is my final word. And Edward won’t counter me on this one. Edward won’t counter me for another,” she scrunched her face as she calculates, “six and a half months.” His head sinks to half-mast. “And how do I explain that to Agnes? The same Agnes you wanted me to court.” “To tame the shrew not to give her a free pass to come in, take pictures and fabricate lies about us.” She exhales after her sermon. “Any other occasion, I wouldn’t care but this is a small get together and no politics, press or phonies.” “You aren’t upsetting the Queen, are you?” Sanora is back with a vengeance. “No.” After accepting defeat he turns to us and adds, “Have a pleasant time with the dictator.” He storms out.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Mary looks offset. She didn’t like bantering with her brother. “He can get so pissy. Shall we get to business?” “You’re very kind to help us.” I mumble and swallow a big breath of air preparing myself. “So no press.” Gin-gin stands up knowing what is about to happen. I can’t take advantage of people under false pretenses. “It was fun while it lasted.” She zips out low enough for only me.

32

The Queen puts her fists on her waste to steady herself. “No press. Why do you ask?” “I already know too much but I have to be honest with you. I write for a paper.” Her face, which had grown pink while talking to her brother, turns beat red. For a second, she looks like she’s about to blow but then calms. Not the good kind of calm that sets one at ease – the eerie kind of calm that hides an inferno. “You may leave.” “Of course. Charles doesn’t know and I had no idea about any of this until now.” “I’m tired of The Proclaimers questionable tactics to get a juicy story out of this place. Sanora, please show them out and ensure the gate is instructed to keep them from returning.” She glides back to the hall and away from us. Feeling horrible about the misunderstanding I call after her before she leaves the room. “It was very nice to meet you and we won’t tell anyone you’re pregnant.” She stops. “Was that a threat?” “A promise. We won’t mention it. Congratulations.” She walks over with a determined look. I back up bumping into the coffee table and spilling my mostly full teacup on the white rug. What will I do next? Catch the place on fire? “Sorry.” I’m trapped between the furniture and the dictator. “Why would you mention that unless you mean to print it?” Getting where she saw the threat I try to explain, “I write for Insights sending in articles about Southland. I’m not an investigative reporter. I don’t have that killer instinct.” She doesn’t seem satisfied.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 give me some space. Her harsh glare jump to Gin-gin. “How did you know that?” “Fairy.” She rolls her eyes. “And your due date is off. She’ll be here in six months or less.” “I added a few weeks of doting husband time.” She resizes us up. “Gin-gin is it?” She nods. “What else can you tell about the baby?” It’s a test. “She likes it when you sing to her.” The Queen is skeptical about this overly sentimental assessment. Unfazed Gin-gin begins to hum a lullaby I haven’t heard. Thankfully the Queen is close enough to me that I catch her when she nearly passes out. “I’m guessing that’s the right song.” Sanora and I get Mary to the couch.

33

“It’s a girl, did you know?” Gin-gin asks flying between us and causing Mary to

“I’m fine.” Mary stammers. Her anger has passed completely. “She remembers the song? And you could sing it?” “Of course. She also likes your voice. Do you talk to the baby often?” “For the last couple of weeks. We didn’t know I was pregnant until recently. I was in denial. All the signs were there but then it was so different when I was carrying Eddie.” “That’s because it’s a girl.” Sanora has a satisfied look on her face. “Now that the Fairy has said the same we know for sure and can start preparations for the nursery accordingly. Pink.” “We should go. I didn’t know that this was a conflict of interest. We’re really weren’t trying to crash your party. It was so nice to meet you. And please, don’t let anyone know I am a writer. I live an anonymous life.” “Anonymous life? Sounds wonderful.” She holds my arm before I can walk away. “Stay.” “If I do my boss is going to grill me. He’ll want a story.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Quinn? He probably already knows what’s going on. He has an insider in our walls.” She says it so confidently she must know who it is. But does Quinn realize his source is revealed? Either way, I’ll keep that under my hat for now. She continues, “And I don’t mind him scooping The Proclaimer. But don’t tell

34

Charlie that you’re a reporter. He’ll want Agnes to come and I don’t want her here. She wrote a nasty article suggesting that I have anorexia when she found out I’ve been throwing up regularly. Called me flabby and desperate to regain my figure.” We’re usually a couple of days behind the headline news in Southland being so far from Kingdom City so it doesn’t surprise me an article I hadn’t read was out. I don’t care for Agnes or her methods at all and after hearing Mary’s comments, my dislike grows. “She’s a hack.” Mary laughs so hard she snorts a little. Covering her mouth she looks mortified. “Excuse me. It’s seldom I get to laugh. Always on when you’re the Queen.” “It must be a hard life except for the being waited on hand and foot and living in the lap of luxury.” “You’re teasing me. It isn’t all pretty dresses and afternoon socials.” She stands up. “Let’s go see my dress maker. I believe I have a favor to fulfill for my irksome brother.” Her seamstress is a sweet lady who isn’t much older than the Queen. Pleased to have a new subject she samples some colors and dress types. Each is more elaborate than the first and more uncomfortable. “Janice, this is a joyous occasion. We don’t want to be too burdened with our clothes. Simpler is better.” Mary hints. “Simpler.” She reluctantly repeats. “Whatever you wish.” “It’s very pretty.” I say hoping to make her feel better. It works some. “Let’s go with a teal scoop neck and loose skirt. Simple enough?” Janice drapes a silk fabric across my shoulder. The cloth is exquisite and the color so unique. I’ve never seen such a vibrant shade in silk. “It’s a good color for her.” Mary agrees putting her hands on my back and turning me to the mirror. “No man will be able to resist you.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “You have a talented eye.” Gin-gin says bringing about the first honest smile from Janice since we met.

35

“I told you it wasn’t so easy to be Queen.” Mary jokes when Janice leaves to get some supplies to measure and cut. “I don’t know. This seems pretty nice.” She laughs and manages not to snort. “What about your hair? Do you want it done up?” I pull it back nervously wondering if I look like a wild child as my grandmother use to call me when I wouldn’t allow them to comb it. “I tried it up once but…” “I know. It’s so itchy and stiff. And you feel like it will topple over every time you move your neck. We’ll leave it down. It’s so lovely and wavy, you can get away with it easily.” “Did you ever do Charlie’s hair?” She gets a faraway look as she recalls her childhood. “Mother kept it too short to do much with it but I did put bows or flowers in at times. At least until he was about three and he wouldn’t have it.” The image makes me giddy. “I’ll never admit this to him but I’m really glad he turned out to be a brother after all. And he has taken a shine to you.” “Actually, I kind of annoy him.” “Nonsense. He could have given you a monitory reward. He wanted you to come to the ball.” “Fairies don’t have much use for money and Gin-gin was the one that got him here on time.” Gin-gin rolls her eyes. “He adores you.” She has that reversed but they aren’t going to listen to common sense. “Whatever the reason, I’m glad to be included.” Mary gets serious for a moment. “Ask Quinn not to mention the baby until after the ball. He’ll understand.” I nod feeling ill at ease. He won’t like it and I’m not sure if he’ll oblige. Quinn is a nice guy but he has a paper to sell.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 place to stay you’re welcome to lodge here.” “We’d love to.” Gin-gin answers excitedly. “Gin-gin, we have a room.” “Please.” Mary tries to sway me. “Our baggage is at the offices…”

36

“The dress won’t be ready until tomorrow. You can get ready here. If you need a

“We can send for them and rearrange any accommodations you may have already made. If you prefer to stay in town, I’ll understand but don’t feel like it’s a burden for us.” She smiles. “I can’t tell you how glad I am that Charlie was able to get back in time. We were about to postpone things but that isn’t as easy as it sounds.” Honestly, I like her. She’s so normal, even more so when she snorted and laughed. “We’d love to but it’s too much.” “At least we can prepare for the evening together. Come by after lunch and we’ll start with a sauna and massage.” It’s good to be queen.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Getting Catty “You’re going to the ball.” Quinn shakes his head in awe and disbelief. “And you were offered a room at the castle?” He’s in his fifties and comes off like a young grandfather. The job has taken its toll on him but it also gives him good energy.

37

I shrug. What can you say when things fall into place for you like that? “It was tempting but I don’t want to wear out my welcome. She wasn’t happy to hear I’m a reporter.” He flings his hands downward. “She doesn’t mind us. I’ve met Queen Mary a few times and she has always been pleasant. It’s The Proclaimer that bothers them. I don’t know how she allows her brother to date that shrew.” “I was wondering about that as well. He made some comment that he was courting Agnes on Mary’s request.” “Probably hoping she would ease off her twisted tales. Agnes had her sights set on the Commander for a year and he didn’t pay her any mind until a few weeks ago.” “And now they are engaged to be engaged?” “So says The Proclaimer and it could be her subtle way to put pressure on him. She’s getting too old to keep up her social life at the level she has grown accustomed to. If she’s going to settle for matrimony, she’s going to do so in style.” There isn’t a subtle thing about Agnes. “Since you’ve chosen to slum it with the common folk, I have arranged for a room at the Kingdom City Inn across the street.” “And you don’t mind sitting on the baby news for a day?” “I do but if Mary asked I don’t want to push my luck. We’ll have a story in the morning edition. It isn’t the end of the world if we get scooped on that kind of news.” He tries to convince himself more than us. “And this story about Commander Moberly’s heroics is a nice item. We’ll sell out tonight and into tomorrow.” That makes me feel better. Gin-gin and I leave him to find us something for dinner. We skipped lunch and I’m ravenous. The tavern is full but we find a corner table near the wolf that is much heavier now with darker hair. The bartender on the other hand

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 is tall and lean and as bald as the first. Seymour must have switched places with his brother already.

38

The food is tasty and Seymour keeps a personal watch on us. It’s like this when your best friend is a Fairy. Some people take a shine to Gin-gin. The nice thing about being in the big city is that there are a few elves about and Gin-gin doesn’t stand out too much when she isn’t flying. Doesn’t stop the one-eyed man I saw earlier from ogling her. It can’t be later than eight but people are already getting unruly from the drink. Seymour tosses out two inebriated men. Being in a strange city for the night it should probably worry me more but I recognize enough sailors from our ship and guards from the castle, among them Charles Moberly himself, so I’m not intimidated. Of course he has to be looking our way right when I take another peak and waves at us. It’s my fault for flashing back to him every other minute. Yeah, he adores me. “He’s very handsome.” Gin-gin needlessly says. It’s pretty obvious. “A clean shave makes it even better.” I roll my eyes. The stumble was kind of rugged. He doesn’t look as happy as his companions. If anything he looks pretty upset probably still stewing about his sister forbidding his girlfriend into her exclusive gathering. “He has a habit of looking at you.” She smiles too hard showing all her perfect teeth and annoying me to no end. “And that guy with the patch watches you. Keep alert.” She scans the room until she spots him. “Ugh! I’d turn him into a toad before he could lay a finger on me.” “Let’s call it a night.” There’s something about sea travel that tires me. Even being on a fishing boat for a few hours can wipe me out. There’s a way out from our back table without walking past Charlie but it would be obvious I was avoiding him. Torn between overtly evading him or risking a chat, I resign to take the direct route out. “Are you girls staying out of trouble?” He asks when we near. “Haven’t fallen overboard for two whole days.” I want to keep moving but Gingin stops.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


39

“Then I have wasted my time hiding from you.” He smirks at his joke maybe to cue that it was a joke because it was easy to overlook. “Mary told me you prefer the Inn to the castle.” “It was really nice for your sister to ask but I didn’t feel comfortable taking advantage of her kindness.” He shrugs. “You should have. It’s better food than Seymour has here.” “I don’t know. Our dinner was scrumptious.” “Who are your friends?” A cute man with red hair asks. “Stanley, this is Felicia and Gin-gin.” Stanley bows to each of us in turn. “Nice to make your acquaintance.” “Hello.” We say together. Soldiers are cuter than seaman and they seem to have more personality to boot. “Are you the same Felicia that our brave leader plucked from a watery grave?” I freeze. It’s a quote from the article I handed in earlier that day. Hearing it back, it sounds a bit over the top. At least I wrote in third person but I regret using my real name as the rescuee. “I am.” “Stanley, can we not talk about that?” Charlie requests. “Well, if it hadn’t been for Susie Nimm we wouldn’t have even known about your adventure or as she put it, the handsome Commander’s Elf-like reflexes to right all that went wrong.” “Leave it alone.” Charlie isn’t in a good mood. Snapping his head my way he challenges, “You don’t happen to know Susie Nimm, do you?” I gulp. “Why do you ask?” “She had to be on the Catalina with us. I looked up past articles and she always writes about Southland. I’d wager she is from your hometown.” “Charlie didn’t like the story.” Stanley tells us and clearly by Charlie’s reaction, he speaks the gospel truth. “Why not?” I flush and my stomach decides to do back flips. It couldn’t have been nicer to him except for the comment he made about preferring Insights over The Proclaimer.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “I didn’t expect Insights to publish anything about me.” Charlie pretends it doesn’t bother him. It must be the mystery identity of this woman that irks him. He glances at the stairs and I wonder if he will demand answers from Quinn. “That and he got an earful from his girlfriend for the story that wasn’t in her paper. She doesn’t like being scooped or that he hadn’t gotten around to telling her himself.” “Believe me, that was hardly the top issue Agnes had with me tonight.” “We know. Gave him a verbal lashing right out on the street when we were coming here tonight.” Stanley laughs. “She says she’s going to refuse his proposal which is funny because other than her tag lines, no one thought they were going to get married.” “Excuse me!” A shrill voice cracks from behind me.

40

In an almost military pose a tall blond, who is not nearly as attractive as her photo in the paper, stands with icy enraged eyes. Don’t get me wrong. She’s pretty but not as perfect as the depiction from her page six clippings. “Honey, I thought you headed home.” As if someone flipped a control switch, Charlie’s demeanor changes to a henpecked man. She almost misses his remark as she glowers at Gin-gin and me. “I should have but I thought I would give you one more chance to make up to me. Perhaps telling me what the ball is for. If I can’t go, I’d like to know why.” He shakes his head. “I can’t. You’ll print a story.” “You help other journalists. Susie Nimm didn’t get all those details from inside her cabin.” Then her cruel sight falls on us. She thinks we filled Susie Nimm on the events. “And you two must be the riff raff he pulled out of the ocean.” I tense at the inappropriate comment too shocked to react. Gin-gin on the other hand flies in her face. “We aren’t riff raff.” “Hmph. A Fairy. Don’t you have a tree to hide away in?” Fairies live in enchanted trees where they can sleep safely without a fear of capture. But Agnes wasn’t bringing that up for her protection. “Come on Gin-gin, we should get going.” One thing is for sure – meeting Agnes doesn’t advance my image of her one iota unless it’s to clarify how truly heinous she is.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Don’t go on my account. Perhaps you can manage to get into another sticky situation and Charlie can save you again. This time a real paper can break the story.”

41

I feel the compulsion to defend myself growing and before I can put it in check I flippantly say, “Like Charlie, I prefer to read Insights.” She slaps me hard across the face and I’m sure it’s red because it stings. It was a bad move. Suddenly the woman is gone and a white cat that looks very surprised is fussing at us. “Gin-gin, you can’t leave her like that.” Although it is an improvement. “She was being catty.” The cat pounces on the table knocking over drinks, which in turn causes the drinkers to jump up cursing. Reaching for his feline girlfriend, Charlie gets a hard hit across the jaw and that was all it took to get the brawl started. Grown men start swinging randomly at each other. Two men take on the Commander who manages to keep the upper hand regardless of being outnumbered. Seymour tries to take charge and pulls men apart to restore harmony but more men join faster than he can retire others. “Change her back.” I say over the din. Seeing the white cat cowering in the corner I skillfully dodge around to pick it up before she gets hurt. Dancing around the tangled mass of men, I veer left when I should have gone right and accidently get a fist on the other side of my face. Being a stronger hit I stagger into Stanley. He protects me as he shoves an opponent into another. “Pull it together!” Commander Moberly orders. The men stop fighting. With an exasperated sigh he asks, “Gin-gin, please.” The cat Agnes scratches my face and leaps to the floor. Huffing as she undoes her enchantment the very angry Agnes reappears. “How dare you, you rotten little Pixie!” Agnes coughs a bit. Maybe she’ll hack up a giant hairball. Gin-gin ignores Agnes’ uncouth comment as she checks on my face, which has been slapped, hit and scratched. “Agnes, you shouldn’t have slapped Felicia.” Charlie tells her as if the idea was a foreign one. “Felicia,” She bitterly repeats and then continues without remorse, “I’m sorry.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


42

It hurts too much to be polite. “All is forgiven. Will we be seeing you tomorrow at the gala?” It’s a cheap shot and I wouldn’t have taken it if I hadn’t been scratched up trying to keep her from getting a swift kick in the tail. “You’re invited?” She glares at Charlie and then at me. “Too bad you’re going to have a scar on your face.” “No she won’t.” Gin-gin puts a hand on my face and it prickles as it heals magically. “You’ll be as beautiful as ever.” That shut Agnes up for all of two seconds. “And how is it that she is going?” “Agnes, why don’t we talk outside?” Charlie reaches for her arm that is promptly jerked out of his reach. “If I am not there we are over. That’s final.” She tears out of the bar leaving a pungent aroma of too much perfume. He shakes his head and picks up his drink. “Women! Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.” “Go after her.” I tell him. Charlie’s face is blank. “She wants you to go after her.” I don’t understand how men can be so dense. “Tomorrow, maybe. For now, it’s easier if I don’t have to argue for the millionth time about why she isn’t allowed into the castle.” He fumes. “Thanks by the way for bringing up the ball.” Guilt engulfs me but not so much that the defense mechanism doesn’t speak first, “She behaved like a wild animal.” “She’s a vicious kitty.” He says with half sarcasm and half humor. Best joke he’s made so far. Quickly he wipes the proud grin from his face. “I don’t know what you see in her anyway.” Stanley, who started everything off on a horrible footing but has no discernable compunction on the matter, says. “Journalists are scum of the earth – lower than Trolls.” “I know some pretty decent Trolls.” I automatically say and we giggle. By we, I mean Stanley, Gin-gin and I. Charlie frowns. “Not all journalists.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 remark it wasn’t the first hissy fit she tossed around in front of his men.

43

“How can you defend her after that performance?” From the sounds of Stanley’s “I’m defending Susie Nimm.” He finally cracks a small smirk and keeps it. “At least her story wasn’t unfounded garbage.” “Can I tell Agnes you said that?” “Never.” He stares at me. “She fancies you.” Stanley jokes in a singsong tone. “Susie Nimm writes as if you’re a saint. She only referred to you as handsome three times.” Did I? I better reread that story when I get to my hotel not that I can unprint it now. Ignoring Stanley Charlie points at me, “As for you, I’m not done being mad over that crack about the ball.” “I’m not sorry.” “That’s why I’m mad.” If he’s kidding, I can’t tell and he isn’t giving his usual hint it’s okay to laugh. “Stanley, see to it that these two make it safely to their hotel without further incident.” “Right away, sir.” “Really, it’s across the street.” I say. “But you seem to attract trouble. Take some backup.” “Sir?” “It’s a joke.” Charlie tells his dense subordinate. Regardless of my wishes, Stanley walks us to the Inn. “Good night, Stanley.” “Good night ladies. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He waits with a silly grin until we are inside the building before heading back to Seymour’s.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Who Is She? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just wash off the bad feelings and memory of Charlie’s cold stare at the end of the night? But that isn’t my nature and I toss and turn for an hour before accepting sleep isn’t in my near future. So I do what I usually do, I write. Needing a topic, I decide on the altercation at the pub. I’m extra careful not to sound too enamored by Commander Moberly but strangely enough, it isn’t a problem. Writing works enough. I get in a few winks before the sun comes up but wake

44

when Gin-gin gets up. She reluctantly delivers the article to Speedy as I get some more rest. Well rest is a generous term. When I wasn’t consciously regretting my behavior and dreading an evening in a social status I have only read about, I had nightmares where I show up to the ball only to see that I am dressed in my bloomers. By late morning, I can’t sleep with all the noise from the people who probably had a good night’s sleep. After eating a late breakfast, we set off to see Quinn. He didn’t have a chance to show us around the office yesterday and the purpose of the trip is to get a big picture view of his operation. Speedy isn’t at his post when we enter. Loud voices boom from the direction of Quinn’s office. Stunned, Gin-gin and I stare at each other. “You could have warned me before last night’s edition hit the stands. And now this!” It’s Charlie and he’s even less agreeable than when we saw him last. Quinn uses a professional but cautious voice. “It isn’t my responsibility to keep you updated on every story that crosses my desk.” “You knew damn well it was going to cause trouble for me.” “I didn’t. I figure you had already updated Agnes on your actions. How was I to know you would keep it from her?” “For once I wouldn’t mind every detail of my life being printed for the masses.” Kinder Quinn states, “It’s part of being a popular public figure. You know that. If it weren’t for the King and Queen you’d be the subject of more news items than anyone.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


45

“I expect The Proclaimer to invade my privacy but not you. I want to meet Susie Nimm and give her a piece of my mind. First the boat and now the bar. Is she following me around? Are you taking to gossip news?” Insulted, Quinn finally yells back. “There’s no need for a tantrum. Are the stories accurate? People like to know you’re a good guy that watches out for the little people. You’re a hero.” “Quinn, we’ve been friends for a long time. Next time can you warn me? I’ll keep the timing in your favor. You’ll get the scoop but at least spare me the humiliation of being confronted by Agnes. She’s going to blow when she reads your paper. It took me hours to talk her out of pressing charges against that Fairy. She’ll probably change her mind now that everyone will read she was turned into a cat last night. Dammit. I’m going to be in the doghouse for weeks.” “Doghouse? I heard you two were through?” “We’ll see. She’s mad but we both know this isn’t going to end our relationship. I’m her ticket inside the castle walls.” “You shouldn’t been seen here. It’ll look suspicious?” “Why? I’ve been in the office of the Proclaimer more often than I can count. How do you think I met Agnes?” He’s calmer but still far from happy. “We should go.” Gin-gin whispers. I nod but before we escape the very agitated Commander Moberly storms into the reception area. “And what the hell are you doing here?” This is a big problem. No one is suppose to know I work for Quinn and if Charlie finds out another reporter will be at the ball, he’ll surely use the information to leverage his sister’s hand. My stubborn mind goes blank unable to process the needed lie. Quinn walks out and goes pale reading the situation. He shakes his head emphasizing the need to cover our tracks. It only makes my brain more useless and unable to create a believable alibi. “We came with a few requests to place ads by Southland businesses. Is that an issue for you?” Gin-gin cleverly covers with a partial truth. He’s buying it seeing how Fairies don’t lie – at least he is until Speedy walks in and sees his favorite Fairy.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Gin-gin. You can’t stay away from me can you?” “Speedy?” She doesn’t miss a beat. “Do you work here?”

46

It only takes a millisecond for him to see his mistake and he quickly takes his role on with vigor. “Aren’t you a crafty Fairy? You did your research to find me and all the way from Southland.” “Oh yes. It’s as if my wings have a mind of their own seeking you out to get my daily dose of obnoxiousness.” “Gin-gin.” I tentatively warn. Charlie isn’t in a mood to keep up games, even mandatory ones, going on for long. He’s confused by our presence and I’m not sure how much he is deducing despite our best efforts. The commander walks up to me. “As long as I am wasting my breath asking for favors, why don’t you keep your trap shut around Agnes?” Appalled by his discourtesy, I choose diversionary tactics. “I don’t plan to see her again.” “Of course not. She isn’t going to the ball.” “Maybe I won’t either.” “Felicia.” Gin-gin’s eyes are wide open seeing I’ve gone down a dangerous path. “You’ll be out of your element if that’s concerning you.” “It isn’t my cup of tea. A bunch of hoity-toity sycophants sucking up to the King and Queen for a crumb of acceptance.” “I won’t miss you.” His pointy finger is inches from my face. “You’ve been nothing but trouble from day one.” Quickly he is lifted up and back from me magically. “Watch it mister.” Gin-gin lost her temper. “I wish I never met the two of you.” He says once he is on his two feet again. “Menaces the both of you.” “The feeling is mutual.” I bark back. “I quit!” He snaps at Quinn. “Get yourself another informant and call your hound dog Susie Nimm off me.” “Charlie, be reasonable.” Quinn calls after him. It’s too late. Charlie is out the door.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 For a good ten minutes we all stare blankly around the room until I finally ask, “He was your informant?” Does Mary know that? Is Mary behind it? “And a writer. He’s Max Wells.” Max Wells writes all the tournament news for Insight. He’s good. No wonder. Charlie is usually in the top bouts – better than a front row seat.

47

“Or he was.” Quinn says regretfully. “He could change his mind when he calms down. I don’t know. I haven’t seen him so aggravated before.” “We aren’t going to the ball.” Gin-gin pouts. I shouldn’t have said that and now I can’t take it back. No doubt Charlie is informing his sister of her poor choice in allowing us access and that I have rudely refused. After declining her offer to stay at the castle, she’ll hate me. “Commander Moberly and I go way back. I’m sure I’ll iron things out. He loves to write his column. It’ll work out.” Quinn runs his hand through his silver hair looking older than ever. “Come on. Let’s get to business. What should we show them first?” If business was an attempt to get our minds off the awkward moment it only works for Speedy, who takes the lead as tour guide. He walks us around the offices explaining all the workers, their jobs and then down the stairs to the printing press. Quinn has a well-oiled operation. The second floor office is the command center for everything except the printing, which is done in a large building behind the tavern that shares the space for surplus storage. He employs an army of elves to deliver the papers throughout Kismania and they all look up to Speedy. It explains his healthy sense of self worth. I’m so distracted that I bump into an elf that was setting up the page for the evening edition. Metal backward letter tiles fly everywhere. “Oh no. I’m so sorry.” “No problem.” The lady elf tells me as we help her get the letters off the dirty floor. She’s so quick that she places the letters in the proper spot as she picks them up. Elves are amazing. I get most of the details of business despite my split focus. I’m not meant for the fast paced life of the big city and all the people that live here. Southland is peaceful and I miss home. I can’t wait to be back on a boat and headed for the farm, better yet, back on

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Dad’s fear that I’d settle here couldn’t be farther from the truth. As long as I’m evaluating places and plans, I’ve changed my mind about nice simple farm men. I want a guy that doesn’t have complicated moods and duties confusing things – like my less complicated moods and duties. Quinn decides to send for lunch. We don’t want someone recognizing us. If we’re with Quinn and Speedy, and Charlie hears, he’ll complete the puzzle of Susie

48

the farm. The next ship south is scheduled to leave tomorrow and I am going to be on it.

Nimm. Or worse yet, Agnes might figure it out. Speedy graciously brings food and we dine in the printing workspace surrounded by dozens of Elves. And for the first time I can recall, Speedy and Gin-gin get along nicely. As fun as it is to be taught about the printing business, we have to pay our respects to the Queen about bailing on her gala announcement. Avoiding her isn’t a respectable option. “We should go see Mary. I should explain why we won’t be there tonight.” The thought sickens me because, oddly enough, I think she will be hurt on some level. “If Charlie didn’t tell her about YOUR blow up, she’ll wonder why we didn’t show.” Gin-gin emphasizes that it’s my fault we aren’t going. I know. It is a hard trek up the road to the majestic building because I don’t want to face Mary. And to be perfectly honest, I want to skip it but my pride won’t allow it. Sanora sits us in the waiting room while she fetches Mary. “I thought you weren’t coming.” Charlie walks in stiffer than ever. He is the last person I want to see. “I wanted to explain to Mary personally that we weren’t coming.” “She understands it isn’t a reflection on her. Actually she has rightfully placed all the blame on me. I was out of line.” “It’s my fault.” “I agree.” Gin-gin blurts out. “Felicia gets flustered around you.” I frown at her. Too much information. “Mary wants you to come tonight.” He tells me. “I’m sorry.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Of course he’s only playing nice to appease his emotional and pregnant sister. “You’re apologizing because she asked you to. Don’t. Let’s erase the whole thing and start over.” “It’s a sincere apology. Accept it.” He grins. For a man that has a bit of a hard edge, his smile is very charming.

49

“Gin-gin will go. I don’t belong here. You were right. It’s out of my element.” I glance at the rug where I spilt my tea the day before. There isn’t even a stain. At least I didn’t leave a permanent reminder. “Nonsense.” Mary comes into the parlor holding a gorgeous teal dress made especially for me. “And Janice will be heart broken if you don’t get a chance to wear her marvelous creation.” “Janice or you?” Charlie jokes. “Hush. You’ve caused enough trouble for the day.” His eyes roll. The dress is too precious to ignore. I take it from her and hold it up to me and spin to Gin-gin. “What do you think?” “That we are going to the ball.” She claps her tiny hands together as she jumps in glee. “Even if I look the part, I could still say something dumb.” “Gin-gin, can you make her mute?” Charlie suggests. “For the night.” He adds pretending the idea of longer is preferable. He catches my eyes. “I would like to see you in that dress.” This man seems to make me mad and happy with such small gestures. That last comment practically takes my breath away. “Come on. Unless you really aren’t up for it.” Mary gently nudges me. “You are the nicest queen ever.” “I know how annoying Charlie can be.” She grimaces at the man and guides me by my shoulders out of the room.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 The Ball I could get use to life in a castle. We start with a massage and then go to the sauna and exfoliate, whatever that means. Mary mentioned something about pores and releasing toxins. Sounds like a mild kind of magic.

50

We’re in a wooden room filled with fragrant steam. Wearing only towels, we sit on benches and do nothing more than exfoliating. Gin-gin is in Fairy heaven. They love warmth more than lazy housecats. “It’s nice to have someone to get ready with.” Mary says genially. “I hope Charlie wasn’t too brutish.” “She gave it right back to him.” Gin-gin admits for me. “And she shouldn’t have.” “You pushed him back with your magic.” I remind my Fairy friend. “He didn’t deserve to be a cat.” She snickers. “But it crossed my mind.” Mary snorts another awkward laugh. “I’m sure my little brother was asking for a lesson. And I read about you turning that nasty piece of work into a cat. What I wouldn’t give to be able to do that to Agnes whenever she writes some false scandal. Actually, why did you change her back?” “Charlie made me.” Gin-gin’s mouth twists to one side uncertain how she feels about it. “You could have turned Charlie into a dog.” A sinister and appreciative smile crosses the Queen’s lips. “I wonder how Agnes likes having a story about her that she didn’t construct. A good dose of her own medicine if you ask me.” Gin-gin’s face grows rosy – probably in pride as well as embarrassment. “It’s my fault he’s even involved with that woman. I foolishly thought perhaps if she got to know us she would be less spiteful. Charlie didn’t care for the idea but since he’s never going to get married, he agreed to try.” She’s sorely mistaken about her brother. He is far more fetching than she imagines. “When love strikes, he’ll be fine. Speaking of love, how did you meet King Edward?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 was very good looking but meeting him was absolutely heart stopping.” “For both of you.” Mary nods with the confidence of a woman that is loved absolutely. “He swept

51

“Charlie introduced us.” Her face warms at the mention of the King. “I knew he

me off my feet before I knew what was happening. Sometimes I think Charlie regrets it.” “Why?” “He was already on his way up the ladder because he is so intelligent and brave. When Edward and him became trusted friends, it was a done deal. But now his sister and nephew are in the mix of his duties to provide protection. It’s a lot of weight on his shoulders.” Never thought about that. “Are you in danger?” She shakes her head. “Not great danger but we can’t simply walk around town like everybody else. I suppose if we didn’t live peacefully with other kingdoms it could be worse but things have been good for generations thanks to Edward’s family.” “They are great leaders. We have always said the same in Southland.” “Do you live on a farm?” “I do.” “It’s a beautiful farm. I’m there all the time.” Gin-gin chimes in. “When I’m not with my Fairy clan.” I’m so relaxed my eyelids start to shut. Mary and Gin-gin gab about the Fairies and how they govern themselves. Some of it is new to me but I am too removed from the conversation to notice. “Felicia,” Mary says, “we need to move on or we’ll be late.” “Doesn’t the party start whenever you arrive?” I joke as I stand. “I don’t think I have ever felt this calm in all my life.” “It’s a hard life.” She snickers. “Actually, I am usually more involved with running things along side Edward but since I’m with child, I have decided to take it easy until the urge to throw up passes. Hopefully it will be soon. I tried to talk him into letting his brother or sister take over for a year so we can enjoy our children. He’s considering it. We would still be involved just not as reigning King and Queen. His brother is willing but not eager.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 We walk into a room that has two large baths drawn and a special bowl big enough for Gin-gin. The water is just a bit hot and it takes some getting use to. Eventually we are soaking in the scented fluid. “What do you do? When you aren’t baby baking?” I ask finding that there was some tension left because now I’m turning into a human sponge.

52

“People come to us to settle legal matters and we have to keep up good relations with neighboring kingdoms. We’re the only kingdom that has a parliament behind the throne so most decisions are well debated and have majority support. Edward’s family, me included, are part of the committee to choose a new member when a seat is available. We currently have one to fill. Daniels passed away last week.” She saddens to remember him. “He was a good man – smart and just.” “Do you have someone in mind?” “I do.” Mary doesn’t elaborate but then I wouldn’t know any of the candidates even if she did. If coming to Kingdom City becomes a frequent part of my job, I’ll have to take notes on the social pages. Sanora fetches us in time to keep me from nodding off again. Mary leaves to her super duper prep, while Gin-gin and I are given a very plush room to ready ourselves. Janice and a couple of other ladies pay us visits to ensure all is going smoothly. It is. “Wow!” Gin-gin compliments standing next to the full-length mirror. I’ve never been this gorgeous in all my life. My image looks like a princess. Any prettier and I could be Gin-gin’s gigantic sister. “I’ll never be the same again.” “You are the same. It’s a nice dress that amplifies the inner you.” It’s a lot more than a nice dress – the shoes, the hair, it’s all part of a recreated Felicia. “Are you ready?” Charlie calls from behind the door. Why is he here? “Yes.” I answer fretting his reaction, which has to be better than ever considering but it scares me none-the-less. “Can I come in?” He sounds perturbed, as usual. “Or will you come out?” “Um…” “Yes.” Gin-gin answers as she opens the door magically.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 He swaggers in and stops after three steps. My fears were wasted because he

53

stares pleased with the view. Which isn’t a problem. It gives me time to enjoy his view. As good as he looks in his formal attire, I prefer him in his comfortable clothes and windblown hair. “Is it time?” Gin-gin asks Charlie. “Mary suggested I escort you ladies. I didn’t know I would have the two loveliest dates of the affair when I agreed.” I take his arm and even though I have stopped eyeing him, I feel his gaze on me. “I’m glad you didn’t carry out your threat not to come.” “Me too.” He gives a low whistle. “Last time I pick a fight with you.” “Are you two going to flirt all night or can we go to the ball?” Gin-gin snaps her tiny fingers a couple of times to prompt us into motion. Next time we are around Speedy, I’m going to give her a taste of her own medicine. Right now, I try not to say anything stupid. “Did Mary mention that you are the only available woman attending?” “We’ll it’s a small gathering of close family and friends.” “And many of the guards, most of which are single gentlemen.” Butterflies flutter in my nervous stomach. Worse than they were. “Stanley will be there at the top of the hour and my instincts tell me he will be tending to you personally.” I could live with that. Stanley is pleasant. “Aside from guards, who else will be there?” “Their families if they have any. Staff and their families. And Edward’s family.” That doesn’t help settle my butterflies. The entire royal family. Don’t say anything dumb. Don’t do anything dumb. How hard can it be? I make a goal for the evening, to be as innocuous as possible. Gin-gin flies ahead guided by the noise coming from down the hallway. My shoes click as we walk. For such a short distance, it feels like we’re walking a mile. “You’re dazzling.” Charlie whispers. “It’s the dress…”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “It isn’t the dress.” We walk into the crowded room and as promised, the men far outnumber the

54

women – four to one at least. There are many children, including Prince Eddie, running around and being kids. At the sight of Gin-gin the young heir to the throne sprints to greet us. “Hello Eddie.” Charlie bends down giving his nephew a bear hug and introduces us. “Are you a real Fairy?” His eyes are huge. Gin-gin bows to him. “Yes. Are you a real prince?” He nods. “Do you want to play with us?” “I’ll be with the children.” Gin-gin declares and follows the boy who wants to show her off to impress his cousins and friends like some new toy. Now I feel alone. “Here comes Theodore.” Charlie says softly as a self-important gentleman makes a beeline for us. “Unfortunately, he fancies himself a ladies man and you are the only lady for him to practice on.” “Theodore? As in Prince Theodore? Edward’s brother?” It must be. Charlie gives a subtle jerk of his head but doesn’t speak since said Theodore is already taking my hand in his and kissing it affectionately. “You must be Felicia. Mary mentioned you to me.” He keeps my hand and strokes it. I curtsey. “It’s an honor, Prince Theodore.” “Of course.” He gives Charlie a cursory glance. “Is she with you?” “She is.” He answers. “Of course.” Theodore says glibly. “You always have the loveliest girls at your beck and call.” “Thank you.” Charlie dismisses and walks us away. “If you would like to speak with him, you can. I just didn’t want you getting cornered before you even had a chance to mingle.” The idea of mingling frightens me and anyway, I liked being on Charlie’s arm. “Whatever you think is best.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 makes it even more enchanting.” Is it my imagination or are his eyes smoldering? We walk along the outskirts of the room as people chat in their circles. “In all fairness, you seem more chivalrous than the other times I’ve seen you.” “And that is probably due to the dress as well.” It’s some dress. “I’ll never take it off.”

55

He smiles, “You’re much more compliant this evening. Is it the dress? If so, that

His mouth almost frowns before returning to his grin. “There’s someone that has requested to meet you.” He gently tugs at my arm. My feet drag as I realize he means to guide me to meet King Edward. When Mary sees us she pats Edward’s arm and steers him to meet us half way. “You look beautiful.” She praises. It’s nothing compared to her and Edward is a good match for her. Reluctantly I release Charlie’s arm to curtsy and my knee slips to the floor. Charlie grabs my elbow and helps me up but it’s too late. I’m a fool. So much for innocuous. Edward takes my hand and gives it a gentle peck. “You have made quite an impression on my wife and brother-in-law.” “It’s Gin-gin. I’m merely her tag-along human.” “That isn’t how I hear it.” He smiles but his eyes scrutinize me. “We’re glad you could come.” “It’s an enormous honor to be here and meet you, sir.” “And where is your little Fairy friend?” “She’s with Eddie.” Charlie updates. “He took her to play with the children.” “Excellent. I’ll have to swing by and meet her.” “She’d like that.” “Please, enjoy yourselves.” He gives Mary a quick kiss on the cheek and they wander off. “Are you feeling all right?” Charlie squints at me. “You’re white as a ghost.” “I can’t believe I just tripped in front of the king.” “You were fine and sadly I think my time with you is near an end. Stanley has arrived.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 you again.” “Have a pleasant evening.” Charlie tells me as he releases custody over to Stanley and makes his way after the King and Queen. “You look amazing.”

56

With an ear-to-ear smile on his face, Stanley quickly steps up. “I’m so glad to see

“Thank you.” Alone with Stanley is different. I can’t think of what to talk about. His eyes fidget around the room and land on a table that has food set out for the guests. “Would you care for something to eat?” I agree and with the excuse of eating the silence is less awkward. The children aren’t around – probably playing outside before the storm breaks. It’s a warm evening but the dark clouds are gathering. We have about an hour or more before they open up. “Are you having a nice time in Kingdom City?” “I am. But I miss home.” “Takes some getting used to. I have lived here four years and I’m not fully acclimated. Getting there.” Our table is off to the far side of the room and we can see everyone clearly. The former King Edward III looks too young to be retired but his eyes are covered in a milky residue no doubt from or causing his blindness. And next to him sits a twig of a man – all height and little girth – with a pointy beard, equally pointing nose and beady eyes. “Who is that with King Edward III?” I ask. “That is the High Advisor.” “He’s been in that position since before King Edward III retired?” I ask uncertain in the fact. “He has.” A couple of guards jump at Stanley’s back. “Big date?” The older one jests. The red-faced Stanley makes introductions. “Can we steal Stanley away for a few minutes, miss?” They request. “We have a billiards competition and he is our best chance to thwart Jacob.” “Of course. Please don’t let me keep you from your games.” Stanley isn’t sure which is a better use of his time. Eventually he chooses billiards over me thanks to the pressure of his friends.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Child’s Play Too timid to mingle with the adults and seeing Theodore eyeing my suddenly unaccompanied state, I decide to find Gin-gin. Getting directions from a butler, I walk

57

out into the front yard. Half the sky is clear and starry, the other dark and gloomy. Past the fountain, I follow the frivolous voices of the children. They are on the other side of the bridge playing a game of tag. Gin-gin sits on a big boulder in the middle refereeing. I wiggle my fingers at her but stay on the top of the bridge arc on a bench. It’s nice to use a bridge without paying a Troll toll. Even so, I miss Mankus along with the rest of my home. The kids aren’t worried about rules so much as spending energy. When I was young I could run around all day and never get tired. Where does all that liveliness go when we cross over into adulthood? The dark clouds have begun to cover the stars directly above. A gust blows past and the distinct smell of tobacco smoke wafts by. At the far side of the bridge there is a person in the shadows. “Who’s there?” “Felicia.” Charlie steps into the light. “What brings you outside in the nippy air?” “Stanley had a better offer so I decided to check on Gin-gin.” “A better offer?” “Billiards.” He shakes his head. “Dumb kid.” A jolt of satisfaction shoots through my veins as he gives me an admiring once over. “And why are you here?” “Mary hates it when I smoke.” He takes a long toke and exhales. “Worst day of my life when my sister became my queen.” I’m sure he doesn’t mean it but just in case I state, “She’s wonderful.” “You two have become fast friends.” “She is easy to like.” I smile because it’s true. Another puff of smoke billows out from his lungs. “Nasty habit.” He crushes the tip and leaves the remainder on the rail of the bridge. “Pardon me.” “I’m accustomed to it. Father enjoys a pipe every so often.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Charlie walks up to the top of the bridge and leans over with his hands clasped. He watches the kids frolic. “Are you missing Agnes?” Turning to me he grins. “Not really. Not now.” “You don’t seem to care much for her.” He shrugs. “And this is of interest to you?” The egomaniac. “No interest. I’m making conversation.” “And what is your interest in Stanley?” “He’s very nice.” We have nothing in common. Couldn’t even find a topic to discuss but he is a nice man. “Outstanding man. You could do worse.” “I’m sure you’re right.” “So it isn’t love at first sight?” “I don’t believe in love at first sight. That’s for little girls’ dreams.” “But you believe in love?” His eyes probe me. “Sure. Who doesn’t believe in love?” “I don’t. It’s for big girls’ fancies.” He reverses position to lean against the bridge and face me. I snicker. “Just because you haven’t felt love doesn’t mean it’s a myth.” “Let’s agree to disagree.”

58

I roll my eyes. “You’re a cynical man. So why were you courting Miss Keeton if not for the pursuit of love?” “The obvious reasons. She’s beautiful. Too bad she talks to much.” His eyes twinkle from the light of the garden torches. “Not as much as you though.” “I don’t talk too much.” “You do. Even in your sleep you mumble. Did you know that?” I didn’t. Did I? Gin-gin has mentioned that I mumble, never discernable words. My silence is telling enough for him. “I suppose this isn’t the first you’ve heard of it.” “What did I say?” I peep. He is probably making it up to embarrass me. It’s working.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “You were calling for Gin-gin at first.” There’s more. His expression is too delighted to think it wouldn’t be more discomforting. “And then my name.” “I must have been reliving the horror of being surrounded by sharks.” “It made an impression on you no doubt.” And no doubt he is reading what he wants. “I’m sure it won’t happen again.” “No. It won’t. You’ll probably be calling for Stanley tonight.” I grimace at him. He is intolerable. “Stanley is very taken by you. He hasn’t stopped asking me about you.” “I’m flattered.” “If you weren’t so attractive, I’m sure he wouldn’t bother.” “What does that mean?” “He hardly knows you.” And what does Commander Moberly know of me? “True. Is your point that there isn’t much to me?” “You’re pretty. Well Stanley says you are.”

59

“And you don’t agree?” I charge. He’ll deny it but he didn’t take his eyes off me when he fetched me for the party. They don’t wonder even now as we quarrel. “I agree.” He surprises me. “Stanley has good taste. He thinks…” I put my fingers to his lips to stop him. “I get it. Stanley is interested. You haven’t stop talking about him. What I don’t know is what you think of me?” He smiles a bit harder on one side and removes my hand. “That you would be a lucky woman if things work out with Stanley.” “By things working out, you mean if we wrongfully presume to fall in love.” I lock eyes with him and lean in. I’m shamelessly flirting. My experience isn’t vast but I know when a man is enamored and Charlie is sending clear signals. Taking in every feature of my face he’s pleased at the attention. “Are you trying to entice me?” “You’re too smart to fall for a silly girl that believes in old wives’ tales like love.” My head tilts towards him. He wants to kiss me. I’ve kissed enough men to know this much.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “And if you’re a believer why use your wiles to lure a non-believer?” He bows his head surely debating the pros and cons of intimacy. “Sometimes a girl likes a challenge.”

60

He walks past me to the other side of the bridge. “Stanley will be looking for you shortly.” Losing my cool due to a very pronounced sense of dissatisfaction, I scold him. “Let Stanley make his own case. Why don’t you speak for yourself?” “And what do you expect me to say? That I find you appealing? That I want to kiss you?” “You could say what you like.” “I believe actions speak louder than words.” He moves back to me and puts his arms on either side of me as he grabs the stone edge of the bridge. Licking his lips, he scans mine. “Say it.” “Say what?” If I lean back any further, I’ll spill over into the creek and then he’ll have to pull me from the water again. “That you want to be kissed. Tell me you want me to kiss you and then I’ll consider it.” “No.” “No you won’t say it or no you don’t want to kiss me.” He doesn’t wait for a reply. “Perhaps I’ll do it anyway.” Like an idiot I reflexively jerk away and lose my footing. Apparently he doesn’t want to fetch me from the pond because he catches me with one arm around my waist. “How about you tell me if you don’t want me to kiss you?” He closes his eyes and since I do the same I don’t see him kiss me. But I feel his lips on mine, softly at first and then harder. It wasn’t the kiss of a simple small town boy. This well traveled man means business. And now I am past my limited knowledge of men. We pant arm in arm, staring eye to eye. My core temperature jumps. I thought I was a clever flirt but I was child’s play to him. His fingertips trace over the features of my face, along my forehead, over my eyes, then one long finger down my nose to my lips. Caressing my neck, he smiles. “I think you’re more fun than billiards.” Instinctively I pucker up, hoping for more.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Felicia!” Gin-gin calls and I shut my eyes embarrassed that she caught me in Charlie’s embrace. Feeling the same, Charlie pushes away. “Over hear!” I call but keep my eyes on Charlie. It was fun and games when I was teasing him but after a sample, I’m left wanting. “Felicia, we need to do something. Eddie is in danger.”

61

“What happened?” Charlie’s eyes break from mine hearing his nephew may be in harm’s way. “Nothing yet. He scrapped his knee and when I was touching it to heal the scratches I saw him on a ship tied up in a room.” “How far away do you think that was?” It’s seldom that Gin-gin sees something prophetic without meditation but it has happened before. “I don’t know. Two hours tops and it could be sooner.” “Are you sure it’s a prophecy? It hasn’t happened yet?” Charlie asks walking down the bridge to the lawn. “It is going to and tonight.” She states adamantly. “Unless we stop it.” “Where is he?” Charlie runs out to the kids who are in the middle of game of hide-and-seek. “Eddie! I need to see you!” “He’s hiding.” A golden haired girl explains to him. “Where are you Eddie?” Charlie panics. “Uncle…” We hear faintly down the hill towards the outer wall. “This way.” Gin-gin flies off at top speed. “Frederick, shut down the castle! Eddie is missing!” Charlie calls back as he follows the glowing Fairy. My teal shoes aren’t much for running but I keep up as best I can. Once we are past the patch of lawn by the pond, the trees are surprisingly thick. I slide in the loose dirt, twigs and leaves but with so many trunks to hold on to, I don’t fall. Charlie stops and I bump into his back. “Felicia, go back to the castle.” He orders as he crouches down to find tracks. Gin-gin flies back to us. “I lost them.” She pants.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 and hugs him for dear life. Charlie picks him up. “They’ll come after us.” Eddie sniffles. “They’re going to get me.”

62

“Uncle Charlie!” Eddie bursts through some bushes and runs into Charlie’s arms

“You’re safe.” Charlie holds him tighter and rubs his eyes dry on the boy’s hair. “No one can get you now.” It feels like an intrusion on a private moment and I hang back. Gin-gin and Charlie take the frightened prince towards the clearing.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Uninvited Guests Who would tie up the Prince? I spin on my heal to follow Charlie and Gin-gin.

63

My shoe gets stuck on a root. “Ugh.” It’s covered in dirt so I bang it against a tree trunk to clear out pebbles before putting it on. Now I can’t see Gin-gin’s glow and the clouds have engulfed all the stars. I’m about to go in the most logical general direction when a twig snaps behind me. Before I have time to register that whoever took Eddie hasn’t left the grounds a man grabs me from behind and a calloused hand clamps down over my mouth. “Shh.” A blade is pressed to my neck. Gin-gin, please come find me. Usually she keeps tabs on my progress, especially at night, but since she has a scared kid, it may take a while for her to notice I’m missing. “Who are you?” The man whispers in my ear and raises his hand to let me answer. “No one of importance.” “Bring her with us.” A woman steps out from behind a tree. “Hurry before they find how we got in. Hopefully she’ll do.” “Madison, let her go!” Charlie is back without Eddie or Gin-gin. Lightning flashes overhead and thunder peals a moment later. Pellets of water drip through the foliage as the storm breaks. It’s irrelevant to worry about the dress getting wet when my life is threatened but I do. That is until the knife digs into the corner of my neck and left shoulder ready to do damage. Now I don’t care about the silk. “Stay back.” The woman cautions. “You’ll never get off the grounds.” Charlie threatens. It’s all he can do without a weapon. “We will.” “Let the girl go.” “Are you volunteering to take her place?” “Yes.” The lady pirate glances at me quizzically. “Captain, the Fairy is back.” The guy holding me warns.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Gin-gin’s soft glow bobs through the boughs. “Cut her.” The woman shouts. I drop to the ground when released and grab my neck. The blade was so sharp I didn’t feel it when it slid into my flesh but the river of warm blood gushing out of my

64

fingers tells me that the man did his duty before fleeing. When I see my hand covered in my blood I almost faint. Charlie pulls out a handkerchief but Gin-gin pushes his hand aside. “I’ll heal her. Lay her down on her back.” With Charlie’s help I recline and she puts her hands on my wound. It doesn’t take long and aside from an itchy sensation the process is painless. Next she cleans my dress of blood and mud. Charlie picks me up to take me back to the castle. I’m too light headed to protest. “They ran away but they can’t get past the walls. Be thorough. It’s Madison and she can be tricky.” He tells the first guard we see. The lawn that was full of children playing hide-and-seek only minutes earlier is now populated with armed guards. The party is officially over. “No one leaves until we know how they got in and out.” Charlie tells an older guard who nods and proceeds to carry out Charlie’s command. “And bring Madison to me immediately when you find her.” Once we are inside the guests are cleared out. Kind Edward’s arms are around Mary who is holding the teary eyed Eddie. Gin-gin dries us off of the rainwater. “Is she okay?” Mary doesn’t see why Charlie cradles me. “Felicia is fine but she lost a lot of blood.” He answers quietly. “Let’s discuss out what happened.” King Edward declares walking towards the waiting room. Charlie explains Gin-gin’s premonition and how we found Eddie running alone in the wooded area of the grounds as he puts me on the couch. The King’s head nods as he listens but his eyes don’t stray from Gin-gin or me. I have a bad feeling about it. “They were pirates.” Eddie sobs out. “Four of them and one was a woman.” “Madison?” Edward immediately deduces.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Charlie had used that name all night. I’ve heard of her before. She isn’t one of the ruthless scourges that usually made the big news. On the other hand, tricky is an understatement. She is said to be elusive and cunning.

65

“We’ll find them. There isn’t any escape.” Charlie promises as he runs his hand through Eddie’s messy hair. “How did you get away?” “I jabbed the skinny one hard in the gut – like you taught me.” Eddie tells him. Mary pats her son’s back as he lays with his head in her lap. Her maternal side shows. “Can you come with me?” The King asks Charlie and leaves. Squatting by my legs he winks at me, “You’re doing great. Will you be all right?” Did he mean to tell the King no if I said I wouldn’t? “I’m tired, that’s all.” Immediately after he leaves I feel less safe. Nothing bad can reach us inside the castle, surrounded by guards, behind a wall. And Gin-gin is already more protection than a girl needs. Still I feel defenseless when Charlie exits the room. “Thank you.” Mary whispers to us as to not disturb her son. Eddie’s eyes are shut and he’s nodding off. “If Madison had taken him…” Her fist covers her mouth as she staves off an onslaught of tears. Gin-gin sits on the armrest watching Eddie. Fairies, who don’t care for people, do have a strong connection to kids. It was how we became friends and now her Fairy instincts are triggered to protect Eddie. Stanley dashes in to see that we are well. “I heard you were outside when it happened. Are you okay?” “We’re fine.” I promise although I don’t really feel well. Gin-gin can heal the wound but it takes time for the body to replenish the blood. “We should get back to our hotel.” “I’ll take you.” Stanley helps me stand. I teeter when I get to my feet but get my bearings. “That’s very kind…” “It would be better if you stay the night.” Charlie cuts me off. He is back with King Edward.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 weren’t so I’d stay. Carefully Charlie approaches. “I’d like it if you were here in the morning, with me.”

66

“We can’t.” I answer knowing we are intruding on an intense family crisis. If it

His eyes are full of concern and I reconsider it. Actually I change my mind until I remember I have my own duties set out before me. As much as I want to stay, and more than just because he asked so kindly, I can’t. Quinn is going to want the details and I won’t be able to deliver them if we don’t return to our inn. And I don’t want to miss the next boat out of town. It’s time to go home. “We’ll be fine at the Inn.” King Edward clears his throat but says nothing. Charlie runs his fingers down my neck to where the scar would be if I didn’t have a Fairy for a best friend. “Please.” His touch is so gentle and it stirs earlier memories when he kissed me. If we were alone, I would have fallen into his arms. Fighting back urges I reiterate that it isn’t possible. “We’ll stop by before we leave. We’re heading home tomorrow.” “It isn’t working.” Edward brusquely interrupts. “Let me be direct. It isn’t a request.” “Edward?” Mary’s voice is soft but firm. “They saved Eddie’s life.” “We don’t know if they were involved. You only met these women. Awfully convenient that they were the only guests that were not part of the guard or our families. And how did the Fairy know that Eddie was in danger if she isn’t working with Madison?” “Fairy’s can see the future.” Gin-gin tells him. “Can they? Or can they make sure their predictions happen?” If he’s son hadn’t nearly been kidnapped, I’d have thought Edward a cruel man for his condemnation of us. “Are we under arrest?” In my shock I can barely get the words out. “No but only because Charlie has vouched for you. Still you can’t be allowed to escape town until we know what happened here tonight.” Escape? Like we were going on the lam. Hurt I look at Charlie. “You were trying to persuade me to stay rather than tell me I’m a prisoner.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “You won’t be in the prison.” He runs his hand down my arm and holds my hand. I pull it away and almost fall over in the process. “But we can’t leave until you allow it.”

67

“We’ll have guards posted at your door.” Edward informs us. “Have a pleasant night.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Imprisoned “I can’t believe this.” Despite my fuzzy head I pace the room, which although

68

posh, is also our cell. How did things turn around so quickly? First we were a couple of county girls on a trip to the big city. Then we were invited to a privileged affair with the Royal Family. Now we are under watch unable to leave until our good names’ are cleared. “He’s scared.” Gin-gin guesses. “And we’re strangers.” “Why would you warn Charlie if we were trying to kidnap the prince?” “The King thinks it’s a ploy to worm our way deeper into their lives.” “This is ridiculous.” I rap on the door and a man opens it. “Did you need something?” He asks as if he was our personal waiter and not our warden. Behind him is another guard, his back up because we are such treacherous criminals. “Some water.” Truth is, I have a plan. He nods at the other man who walks off. “It won’t be long.” The door shuts. “Can you knock him out through the door?” Gin-gin smiles and I hear a thud against the door. “Shall we go?” We sneak out the door and scurry down the dimly lit hallway. There isn’t another soul to be seen. Keeping to the shadows we are half way down the staircase when we hear a commotion above. The other guard must have returned to find his friend passed out on the rug in our room. “Faster.” I whisper and run right into Charlie. Unlike when he was holding me on the bridge, his arms grip firmly around me. “Why can’t you cooperative this once?” “You have no right to keep us here. We didn’t do anything.” I wiggle to get free but it’s useless. “I know, Felicia. Why do you think I put my name on the line to keep you out of the dungeon and now you are making me look like an idiot.” “You are an idiot.” I snap. “Gin-gin, help.” Obliging she magically pries his arms open and I take a couple of steps up. We are at a stand off.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Gin-gin, knock him out.” “Wait.” Charlie makes his plea to her opting to barter with a more willing

69

negotiator. “Gin-gin, you two are known by these pirates. You could be in danger if you go back to town. If Felicia won’t listen to reason, will you?” “Gin-gin, we need to get out of here.” I counter. “Don’t let him confuse you.” Since he is still alert, she must be thinking it over. “Please.” He beseeches. “There isn’t a place in town we can’t track you two and if it comes to that Edward is going to need a lot more than my word to keep you out of the dungeon.” “For one night.” She tells him as she betrays me. “Good enough.” With that confirmation he bows and in a swift motion tackles me at the waist and lifts me over his broad shoulder. “Put me down.” I pound my fists on his back. “Gin-gin, how can you let him do this to me?” “One night.” She repeats flying behind us. The two guards flank the doorway as Charlie casually carries me in like a sack of potatoes. He tosses me on the bed. “Sleep tight.” I hop up and slap him. There’s a red imprint on his face and my palm stings. “Stay put.” He warns and without another word leaves. I’ve never been madder and refuse to look at Gin-gin. After all we have been through she sides with Charlie and the King. “We could have gone to the hotel and once we were there you could have kept the guards away. You didn’t need to roll over on me.” “He makes a good point.” She tries to sooth me. “It’s better if we stay in the castle. Those pirates attacked you.” I snatch the pajamas left for me and get ready for bed. Gin-gin tells me goodnight but I don’t return the favor. The stupid bed is the most comfortable I’ve ever been in and regardless of my desire to pout, I fall asleep. “Felicia?” A small voice that isn’t Gin-gin’s rouses me from my slumber. The thunder is so loud I don’t know how I slept so soundly. “What time is it?” “Four in the morning.” Speedy answers. “Where’s Gin-gin?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 She isn’t in the room. “She probably went to check on Eddie. There was a

70

kidnapping attempt.” I sit up. “Can you wait while I write some notes to take to Quinn?” “Sure.” Finding some paper in the desk I hurriedly write down the gist of events. “Quinn is going to have to clean it up. I don’t have time to write a full story. We can’t leave until the morning.” Hopefully. “You were cut?” Speedy glances at me after looking over the paper. “Gin-gin fixed it. I’m fine.” At least that woozy feeling has passed. “She’d do anything for you.” He says not realizing that I found something to prove him wrong a few hours earlier. Rather than let my ire bubble up to the surface I focus on home. “I want to leave for Southland today but I don’t know if we’ll make it in time.” “There’s another boat in four days.” I don’t want to stay another four days but I don’t tell him that. “Come by after lunch if you haven’t seen us yet.” “Will do.” He gives me a salute and dashes out the window. I get back into bed still frustrated that my freedom has been denied. Still too comfortable a bed to lay awake fretting, I float away into slumber land again. “It’s morning.” Gin-gin tells me. “Where were did you go last night?” I sit up. My clothes from the previous day are on the dresser. The fabric feels course in comparison to the dress and sleepwear I’ve been wearing but that’s me and my life. No more lap of luxury for me. “Mary let me sleep in Eddie’s room.” Just as I thought. “What time is it?” “Ten.” I leap out of bed. “We have to hurry if we want to make the boat. Have you heard anything else?” “No.” A new guard walks us to a warm waiting breakfast. “Are you still mad?” Gin-gin asks.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 you thought was best. Let’s hurry so we can get out to catch the boat.” She makes an odd squeaky noise. “I’m not going back.”

71

I sigh. “Not really. How can I even get mad at you to begin with? You did what

I drop my toast that falls butter side down on the table proving the old adage and my klutziness. “What?” “I’ve agreed to fill the open post in parliament. Well, I guess I’ll be going back to tell my family and then returning here.” “I thought we were outlaws?” “You aren’t outlaws.” Mary says briskly as she gives me a hug from behind and then one for Gin-gin. “We have a full report and Edward has calmed down. We’ll need to vote on it but having a Fairy in our government is long overdue.” If I felt abandoned when she flew off with the kids last night, it is nothing to how I feel now. “You’ll be great.” It’s true as much as it hurts to let her go. “I’m going to step outside for a breath of fresh air.” I can’t eat anymore and need a moment alone. Everything has the fresh look of a bright morning after a storm. The scent of the evergreens is stronger for the same reason. Home isn’t going to feel like home without Gin-gin. I clear away a tear and fortify to keep from getting downright weepy. “Good morning.” Charlie announces his presence. I don’t turn around but do manage a small nod. “I did what I did for your own good.” “You took away my options for my own good?” I spin around as the anger flares. It may be unfair but he is getting more fury than he deserves as the frustration of losing my best friend complicates my emotions. “And you played my affections to do it.” Annoyed he paces. “I wanted to spare you from Edward’s erroneous accusations. He admits it was wrong. Being King, there’s not much we can do if he gets stubborn and I knew you would only respond in kind unless I could persuade you otherwise. I didn’t lie. I wanted you here for your own good.” “Well, thank you.” I say venomously. “So I’m free to leave.” “I would rather you didn’t. The kidnappers got away. We found a small hole in the wall. That is how they slipped past our defenses without setting off alarms.” “With all due respect, I hardly think I am any concern of theirs.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “With all due respect, I think you are.” He has worked overtime watching over

72

his sister and King and now he doesn’t see that I’m only a random girl that no one cares about. “You’re only saying that to validate your actions. I’m not part of your army that has to obey your every command.” He stops his irritating pacing and chuckles. “You’re sorely mistaken if you think I tolerate behavior like yours in my men.” “I was imprisoned.” “It must have been so hard sleeping on a feather bed and satin sheets. I should have tossed your bottom in the dungeon at least then your claims would be justified.” He pauses and tries to hold back his temper. “I’ll let you go without an apology if you allow the same for me.” “Why do I owe you an apology?” “You slapped me.” I had forgotten. Apparently he has not. “I’m not sorry.” It’s a lie. I acted rashly but it’s too soon to admit it. After today, he’ll be a bad memory in my life, so why bother with reconciling? “And neither am I.” His eyes smolder but it won’t work on me now. It’s his means to control me but I’m wise to it. “Charlie!” Edward hollers. “Where are you?” “You’re being summoned.” I sneer as I follow him. “Have you seen the papers this morning?” Edward tosses a fresh copy of Insights to Charlie. Whatever he wanted Charlie to see had to be on the front page. “Trouble at the Castle.” He reads and looks up at the king. “They already have the full story about last night? I didn’t tell them. How did Susie Nimm find out about last night?” “Someone told them. Speedy was here last night. One of the guards spotted him.” Dumbfounded Charlie tries to think. “You think he’s Susie Nimm’s source? But who told him? I never saw him. Why would he come here and not see me?” “You’re not his only source he checks and he may be one of her resources.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Can’t be her only one. He wasn’t at the bar or on the ship.” Charlie contemplates the quandary. “It doesn’t add up.” I keep a stony façade pretending they aren’t talking about me. Mary’s eyes me. She has connected the dots that the men fail to see knowing that I write for Insights. “It gets worse.” Edward pulls out another paper that’s wrinkled and folded to a precise page. “Page six. Your fame is growing.” “Pictures from last night?” Charlie mumbles looking at the morning edition of The Proclaimer.

73

I cross the room and look over his arm to see. Sure enough there are a handful of photos that had to be taken during the party. “They are all outside.” I look up at Mary who is furious. One has Gin-gin playing with the kids and reads Prince Eddie has a new Fairy Friend. “Whoever took them didn’t want to risk being seen.” Edward adds. Unfolding the paper to see the full page Charlie says in disgust, “It was Agnes.” At the top of the page is a black and white image of Charlie kissing me on the bridge. I’m mortified. From the angle, they were on the far side of the bridge probably hiding in a tree. Charlie reads the caption. “Commander Moberly has skipped the mourning process after Agnes Keeton called off their engagement and has already found an easy woman to fulfill his many needs.” His temper boils. “It goes on to name you.” He mumbles at me. “She wasn’t kind.” Gin-gin flies up and looks at the paper. “You kissed him.” She says softly to me but since the whole room is dead silent no one misses it. “It was only a kiss.” I admit stepping away from Charlie. “Do you think she used the same breech in the wall to get in?” Edward didn’t care about our social faux pas. Thinking back on the methods Charlie attempted to use to influence me to stay, Edward must consider me infatuated. “I’ll find out.” Charlie vows. “You’re too close to it. We’ll send someone else to follow up.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Either way.” Charlie dismisses too easily. He’ll do his own investigating regardless. Putting down page six, he reads the full headline news on Insights. “Susie Nimm didn’t write this.” “It’s her name.” “But it isn’t her style. Quinn wrote this and credited her.”

74

He’s sharp. It wasn’t my hand. Good eye but since he writes as well, no wonder. “Why would he do that?” Mary questions. “Why not use his name?” “The lead may have been from her or he used her penname. He has done the same to me before. Still, whoever she was had to be here last night.” Looking up he takes a stab in the dark, “Maybe on staff? Or do you think she’s in the family? Theodore comes to mind. Using a lady’s name is a clever ruse.” “Theodore?” Mary mockingly repeats and I’m sure she is about to reveal me but stops when she sees my begging expression. “I don’t see Theo using a woman alias. You’re just mad because the article isn’t as adoring as usual.” “I am recently jilted and since Agnes has made the wrong conclusion about a replacement, I need to find me a new lady.” He fails to sound as nonchalant as he hoped. “Or Quinn used her name to keep his out of it. I wouldn’t put that past him. It does read like his work. That’s probably it. She doesn’t usually write about Kingdom City.” “If I’m no longer a threat to the public, may I be permitted to leave? The boat begins boarding at noon and I don’t want to miss it.” There are so many reasons I want to get out of that building and go home. “I’ll see you get safely on board.” Charlie declares. “If it’s all the same, I am free to go alone.” “You are.” Mary nods. “But we’ll be sending a naval ship there in the next day. Please wait.” “Some of us will be going with Gin-gin when she asks for permission to join parliament.” Edward clarifies. “And I would like to get to know you better and make up for my vulgar behavior last night.” “I understand.” I don’t really. That empty feeling returns and I need to get away. “Stop by when you’re in town but it’s best that I leave today. I’m terribly homesick.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 to warn Charlie not to object. “We’ll see you in a few days. Thank you for all your help.” “Bon voyage.” Charlie tells me and storms out in a snit.

75

“You’re free to go.” Edward grants his official permission and holds up his hand

Before anyone else can object I say my farewells and leave. Gin-gin follows me outside and gives me the biggest hug a little Fairy can give. “Have you ever thought about moving to Kingdom City?” I wipe away a tear. “Gin-gin, since we’ve left home I’ve almost drowned, been in a brawl and knifed and that’s overlooking the fact I was held against my will for an evening. I just want to go home.” “I’ll visit all the time and you’ll do the same. We’ll see plenty of each other and I’ll send a letter home every week with Speedy.” She hates to be separated but she made her choice understanding the consequences. “He’ll be happy to hear you’re staying in town.” “I’m sure he’ll make a nuisance of himself.” “Be nice. He’s your oldest friend in Kingdom City.” Now she’s crying and my heart breaks. “I’m going to look for the navy ship every day so don’t let them tarry.” If I’m lucky, they’ll arrive the same day being that the naval vessels are swift.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Being Followed Oddly, I don’t feel liberated on the far side of the castle walls. Immediately everyone looks suspect. Charlie and Mary’s fears have gotten to me. To add to my

76

paranoia I have the sensation of being watched. At the top of Main Street’s it dawns on me why. Walking into a dress shop and I linger in the back. It doesn’t take long for Stanley’s face to peer into the storefront window. His face brightens in spirits and redness when I catch his eye. With the cat out of the bag, I plod outside. “Why are you following me?” “I’ve been ordered to see you home.” Charlie is out of control. “Why don’t you go back and say I gave you the slip?” “How would that look on my abilities to carry out an order?” He half-teases. “Let’s walk together since I won’t have the pleasure of your company for much longer.” “Fine.” And again we have nothing to discuss. Too bad. Red heads are always so cute. I see Quinn across the street but he pretends to be looking at produce since I am under the careful supervision of Stanley. We need to chat before I go and I’d like it to be private. “Here’s my hotel.” I announce and hold out my hand. “It was very nice meeting you.” “You don’t understand. I have been instructed to see you home.” He informs me. “Home? Southland?” “Yes ma’am.” “You’re going on the boat with me?” “I am.” How am I going to get enough privacy to talk with Quinn? I debate telling him. He looks like he could keep a secret but then Moberly is his commander. At the reception counter in the Inn is the very strict wife of the owner. “Room 314 please.” I say to get my key and an epiphany strikes. “Do you have rules about gentleman callers?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 an inquiry. “We don’t allow male callers in the rooms. There is a hotel down the road that allows that kind of promiscuous behavior but not here.” Her hypercritical eyes squint. “Aren’t you the lady that was kissing Commander Moberly in this morning’s paper?”

77

Stanley stiffens. She might not have taken note he was with me if I hadn’t made

Now she considers Stanley, who is clearly not Moberly. “You can wait for Miss Smithe down here.” “I’m under royal orders to ensure this woman’s safety.” “She’s perfectly safe inside these walls.” “I’m only going to pack and then check out. It’s a lovely inn.” I reassure him. “Hmph.” She disapproves. “Why pay for a room when you don’t even use it.” Thoroughly disgraced I resist the compulsion to explain that I am not that kind of woman. What does it matter what she thinks? Still I don’t care for it. “It won’t take long.” Stanley follows to the foot of the stairs where he ceases walking as if an invisible wall prevents him to go further. He considers charging forward regardless of house rules but stays after a stern glance from the disgruntled innkeeper. As I take the second flight up I weigh my options. Tell him or give him the slip. But how to get out without him seeing me? In answer to my dilemma a fire escape lays conveniently at the end of the hallway that leads to the alley at the side of the building. Pleased I open my door and toss my key on the dresser. I’ll sneak down, see Quinn and then back up again before anyone misses me. Stanley will never know if I keep it quick. At least that was my plan until a hard butt of a pistol whacks me in the head and I black out. “Do you think he will come?” A gruff voice asks. Opening my eyes I find myself on the dusty ground in a cave with my hands and feet tied. I can see the silhouette of two people standing in the mouth of the cave. With the sun behind them, I can’t make out more than shapes. “Yes.” The woman from the night before answers as she walks over. She is tall with dark clothes from her head to the tip of her boots. The pants only accentuate her length. Her bright red hair puts Stanley’s to shame. “Hello there sleeping beauty.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Who are you?” I sit against the wall. “Madison. And you are?” She says politely as if I am her guest and not her captive. “Felicia.” She shakes my bound hand. “You were very bad last night. You and that Fairy halted our operation. But she does nice work. There isn’t even a scar.” I shiver as she fingers my neck looking for signs of the cut. “You could have killed me.”

78

She laughs. “Doubtful. We needed to keep the Fairy busy so we could get away. Of course I didn’t expect the dashing Commander Moberly to cease his pursuit as well. I needed to talk to him and that didn’t happen.” “Why would he follow you without a weapon?” “He knows we wouldn’t do him any harm. The better question is why did he stop. Are you his side action? No offense but you come off kind of prissy for him.” “I am not his side action and I am not prissy.” “Honey, it’s good for him. He always falls for head strong woman and it would do him well to wear the pants in the relationship for once.” Something tells me she is speaking from experience. “You’re jumping to the wrong conclusion.” “Sure I am. Your strapping champion is probably getting our message about now. We’ll have to get moving soon. Do you think you can walk?” I reflexively nod. “Where am I?” “No matter. We’re moving on now.” She leaves me with the large pirate. “You’re one fortunate lady.” He sneers at me. “I bet she would have given the kill order if she knew you were involved with Moberly.” Holding up my restricted hands I say, “I feel very fortunate.” He misses the sarcasm. Probably another fortunate break for me. There are two more men with Madison and their harsh appearance makes the sailors look like pansies. Even as attractive as she is, she looks like she would give any of the sailors a run for their money in a fair fight. And my guess is they don’t fight fair if they don’t have to.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Come on doll face. We have to go see your boyfriend.” She removes the rope from my feet and pulls me up by one arm. She’s strong as a man. At the mouth of the cave are four horses. “Now, we can knock you out again and put you in a sack or you can sit pretty and behave.” “I’ll behave.” “I knew you would be cooperative.” She pats my cheek. “Hugo, you take doll face.” The beefy man sits me sidesaddle and quickly hops behind me. Taking my tied

79

wrists he hooks them over the nub of the horn. He smells horrible – a rancid combination of sweat and rum. After a couple of passes through dales I see town but we head to the waterfront. In the farthest warehouse we dismount and they sit me on a crate. The roof is easily three stories tall and there are wooden crates everywhere stacked on top of each other. “Don’t try anything.” Hugo tells me and I see he is missing a tooth just off to the left of his front two. Again I nod. Like I was planning on taking on four armed captors with my hands tied. If only my hands were free than I would still do nothing but wait and pray that Charlie will come. Even if he doesn’t, Gin-gin will if she hears. “How long before he gets here?” Hugo doesn’t pretend to be a patient man. “Not long. He’ll want to see his sweetie is safe and sound.” Madison answers with false sweetness. “I’m here.” Charlie walks in hesitantly. Quickly he takes in his surroundings and his face tightens at the sight of me. “Are you okay?” I nod until Hugo puts a blade to my neck. We are in the same predicament as the night before.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Casa de Agnes “I came alone as instructed.” Charlie holds his hands up still surveying the warehouse, the pirates and me. “It’s been a while.” Madison walks up to him and glides her hands down his

80

chest. Letting out a hum she says, “You won’t be needing these.” Her hands move for his pistol and sword. Stepping back Charlie doesn’t allow it. “I’ll be keeping those on me. What do you want?” “Unarmed.” The brute shouts waving his knife manically. I flitch. The blade is cold and it isn’t even a full day since that same man with that same knife cut into my neck. “It’s okay Hugo.” Madison smiles at her opponent. “Charlie, you’re looking well.” “Cut to the chase Madison.” “No kind words for me?” She pouts but he doesn’t soften. “Fine. You won’t believe this, hence the need for a bargaining chip,” she gestures to me, “but we’re fighting on the same side.” “Then let Felicia go.” She shakes her head. “Can’t do that. We don’t have time to convince you through conventional means and so I’m resorting to extortion.” Glancing back at me she states, “She’s our ticket to expediting the cause.” “What do you need?” “Agnes Keeton has a captive Pixie. I want it.” “A Pixie. All this for a Pixie?” “I’m not the only one looking for him. There are others and they aren’t going to worry about the human casualties to get it.” “And you’re sure Agnes has this Pixie you’re looking for?” She nods confidently smirking. Something smells fishy and Charlie thinks so too but he agrees. “I’ll do it. Now hand Felicia over.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Not so fast there handsome. Doll face stays with us until we get him.” “No deal.” He says. “Felicia comes with me now or no deal.” “You aren’t in the position to make demands.” Hugo threatens and moves forward with the other men to close in on Charlie. “We’ll take good care of her.” Madison promises. “I’ve been looking for a protégé to pass on my experience.” Charlie stands his ground but lowers his hand to his pistol. “Madison, you have lied to me too many times for me to take you at your word.” She feigns a hurt expression. “True and yet you have no choice.” Or does he. My ties unravel but hang on my wrists like rope swag. He didn’t come alone. I can’t see Gin-gin but she has to be near. Her men encroach on Charlie who draws his pistol in one hand and a dagger in the other. Even in my current predicament I notice the he looks dashing.

81

“Now!” Charlie shouts and one man flies up flailing all the way until he grabs a beam. Bad move. Gin-gin leaves him there. The next pirate is plucked up and placed on a stack of cartons too high to jump down from. Then, as the last man is taken out of the equation in much the same way, Madison runs to me. She means to use me in hopes of limiting Gin-gin’s options. The surprise on her face when the rope unravels in her hand when she grabs it is not as great as the look when I kick her feet from under her. She stretches to grab my ankles but misses. When I get to Charlie, he pushes me past him and runs backwards to make sure we aren’t followed. “Can you ride?” He asks as I see his horse. I don’t have time to roll my eyes but I grab the saddle and mount with ease. Leaping on behind me he kicks the horse and we set off at a full run. “Forgot, you’re a farm girl.” I had no reason to be sure he would come for me but somehow I never doubted it. His arms that were my prison the night before are now my salvation and they feel wonderful and strong. I would savor the moment if we weren’t headed into a posse of a dozen pirates all mounted and given the double duty our horse is carrying, we are going to have a hard ride to get away. I take the reins. “What are you doing?” Charlie says in my ear but doesn’t fight me on control. “Where’s Gin-gin?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “In the saddle bag.”

82

“Gin-gin! Do your thing.” I holler and steer our horse to the side and directly at sloop docked on the pier. “You’re going to jump that?” He regrets relinquishing the horse to me. “He won’t do it.” “He will with Gin-gin’s help.” I say as the pirates see where we are headed and start to cut us off. But Gin-gin is not only keeping the horse from seeing how far we really want him to jump, she’s speeding him up. The pirates fall behind and I push our stead even faster. A few bullets fly at us. Charlie’s holds tighter, “They’re warning shots. Keep going.” “Wasn’t planning on stopping.” I reply and we sail over the sloop and back to the dock. “That way.” Charlie directs us up a road parallel to Main Street. “Keep going until you are at the top of the hill. We’re looking for Fifth Street.” “You drive.” I say as the horse keeps running faster than normal. Taking the lead he tucks his chin over my shoulder. “Next time why don’t you listen to me?” “About what?” “You should have stayed with us until we left as a group.” “Madison only nabbed me to force your help. How can that be my fault?” “You really are stubborn beyond repair.” He slows the horse and we get out at a charming cottage not far from Main Street. “Where are we?” “Agnes Keeton’s place.” He helps me down. “Agnes’? Are you going to fulfill your promise to Madison?” What is he thinking? “I’m going to find this Pixie and see what’s going on.” Gin-gin flies out of one side of the bag and Speedy hops down from the other. “You three stay here.” He tells us but we don’t listen. There are several horses out front as well as an official carriage and a pair of guards. They are already investigating her after her unexplained intrusion into the castle.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Wait outside.” He tries to keep us out of the house again. “If she has an enslaved Fairy, we’re going in.” Gin-gin protests.

83

“This is official business. We can handle it without your meddling. And seeing you will only upset her.” He adds to me. “Fine.” I stop with my two tiny friends. “I won’t be long.” He promises. “She said Pixie.” Speedy corrects after Charles enters the house. “It may not be a Fairy.” “Isn’t it the same thing? Isn’t Pixie a derogatory term for Fairy?” I ask. “Nowadays that’s how it’s used but once there were Pixies apart from Fairies. They are believed to be extinct or isolated.” “That’s true. I have been taught the same. Our three races have the same roots.” Gin-gin confirms. “They can fly and run and have weak magic but it grows stronger when they are in larger numbers. Before humans came along the three tribes lived on this land but the Pixies grew hostile and ambitious and we warred for centuries. But since they were so wicked by nature, they fought among themselves and before long their numbers were diminished. Fearful of each other they took to hiding but without procreating, I can’t see how there are any left alive.” “Do you think she has a Pixie or a Fairy?” “Fairy but if it’s a Pixie, let’s hope they don’t release it. They like to bite and it is poisonous. I was told that unless you cut off the infected area, it can drive you to madness.” I’m getting a bad feeling about this. Madison doesn’t come off as someone that tossed around phrases carelessly and she specifically said Pixie at least twice. Right when I’m about to force my way in, Charlie exits the cottage. “They searched the house and didn’t find any signs of a creature.” He has his doubts. “So Madison was lying?” “I don’t think so.” He says gravely. “I’m sure it isn’t the last we’ll hear of it.” Charlie takes some men to the docks to find Madison and her crew while we are sent to the castle. They don’t expect to find them but they follow through on their duty.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


84

Before our carriage stops Mary is out front. “Felicia, I was so worried when Charlie got your ransom note.” She hugs me hard. “You’ll go back with us.” She insists and it may have been an order. Regardless, I agree. Back in my cell from last night that feels more like my room than it did before, I write a proper article for Speedy to take to Quinn with a note to explain that I may not be able to see him before I leave. And I’m careful not to sound like a star struck teen when writing about Charlie. “He’ll understand.” Speedy says after reading both the article and the note. Nosy little Elf and I love him for it.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Going Home in Style After all the excitement of the last two days, Edward agrees to step down for a

85

year or longer depending on Theodore, who will fill in during his hiatus. Mary explains that Theodore wouldn’t be ruling without sufficient guidance and if anything the stint could be good for the playboy brother of Edward. It is high time he grew up, as she put it. With their less cumbersome burdens, Edward and Mary decide to take a family trip with the navy to Southland to return me home and support Gin-gin. She has a hefty load to ask for permission to be part of parliament. I have never seen Gin-gin so apprehensive. The naval vessel is smaller than the ship we took from Southland and therefore can make the trip in three days without Gin-gin’s magic. Since no one seems to think there’s a need to hurry things along – I never ask for her assistance. Mary has been Queen too long. She not only brings Sanora but Janice as well who has presented more dresses to me to thank me for my part in helping Eddie. All I did was get cut but I accept them happily. My room is huge now that I have become some kind of pseudo-VIP. Too large. I know that sounds weird but it’s because Gin-gin spends her nights with Prince Eddie. I suppose that is why I take a stroll after dinner rather than retire in my one occupant only accommodations. The cool breeze is refreshing even if it can’t erase my worries of the impending changes in my life. Gin-gin will do well in Kingdom City and I repeat that mantra over and over. Each pass makes it easier. Another ten million times and the anxiety will be start to be tolerable. I’m not the only one enjoying the sea air. Charlie crushes out his cigar and tosses it overboard. “You and your cigars, Commander Moberly.” I pop up behind him causing him to flinch. With a roguish grin he asks, “Commander? Have we taken a step back in our familiarity Miss Smithe?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


86

“I never did thank you for rescuing me from Madison.” I hadn’t seen him alone since the balcony yesterday morning when we spat. Okay – I did most of the spatting but he kept up easily. “It wasn’t my idea. Mary made me.” “Like she made you apologize to me? Then I’ll thank her in the morning.” “Credit should be paid where credit is due. And did you learn your lesson?” His eyes twinkle in the moonlight. “What lesson is that?” “That you should always listen to me.” “No. I didn’t learn that.” I smile and shake my head. “Was I supposed to?” “It would help in the future.” “Always obey the commander. Got it.” I say flippantly. “So, this Madison knows you well.” “We were close before I was a royal guard and she was a pirate.” “Did you tell her there wasn’t a Pixie?” “She’s heard by now. I found a member of her crew to deliver the news.” “Is she why you don’t believe in love?” I saw how she looked at him and there was desire in her eyes. His were not readable. He doesn’t answer. “You must be happy to be going home.” I take the abrupt change in topic as confirmation. “I am. Kingdom City is too dangerous for me.” “If you had listened to me from the start…” I put my fingers over his mouth. “It isn’t that I don’t listen. It’s that I don’t like to have my freedoms taken from me.” He rolls his eyes and takes my hand from his mouth. “Perhaps after a few more lessons. At least some people appreciate me. Did you see the paper this morning?” “I didn’t get one before we boarded.” I slide my hand out of his and lean next to him. “Another Susie Nimm article. She had a lot of details about what happened. Made me sound like a big hero.” Does he know that I am Susie Nimm? “You are a big hero.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 next time I see him.” He doesn’t have a clue. “You do that.” “I wonder if she’s pretty?” “You get off on reading about your adventures.” “It’s gratifying.” He leans into me. “You’re not jealous?”

87

“I bet she would listen to me. I’ll have to ask Speedy to arrange an introduction

“No. I know when I am out of my league.” I push myself up from the deck rail. “I’ll see you in the morning.” “What about a good night kiss?” “I’ll pass.” “I meant for me.” He is too irresistible but I shouldn’t. I meet the request half way and give him a peck on the cheek. “Good night.” I’ve grown too fond of this man that lives in a different world, two if you count Kingdom City and the castle separately. The next night we meet again and after a second request, I give him another kiss on the cheek. On our last night, as we go through the same routine he holds me before I can move on. “You know darn well that hasn’t been what I meant.” He whispers in my ear and tucks his head to give me a real good night kiss. “Good night.” I finally say when I am able to speak. “It is.” When my feet hit the docks of Southland in the early morning a great sense of relief rushes over me. Home at last. If I were prone to dramatics like Speedy, I might bend down and kiss the ground. I’m too self-conscious to pull it off but I do giggle at the thought and get a few odd looks from people around me. Town feels different now, smaller and more austere and it pleases me more than I ever imagined. A carriage waits for the royal family to take them to the fortress that has been made ready for them before their arrival. It’s right along the water’s edge. They will go there first and stop by my farm later in the day. They offered a ride for me but after three days at sea I need an easy hike on terra firma. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could walk home alone? Mary wouldn’t have it. She is something like a big bossy sister who has the unfortunate authoritative power to impose

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 businesses are closed and at least the stares are minimized by sheer lack of spectators. Mankus looks glad to see me and is under his shade tree before the bridge is in

88

her whims on me. Charlie escorts me as we amble into town. Except for the bakery, the

view. “Welcome back Felicia.” Even his most sincere smile looks forced but the effort is appreciated. “Hi Mankus. How’s the family?” “Still working on that basket you left last time you crossed. Very generous.” “Does that mean you don’t care for any of these?” Charlie uncovers a fresh plate of breakfast pastries knowing full well how Trolls love treats and expect payment. “I wouldn’t dream of charging Felicia since we still have fresh fruit but it would be nice if you had something to offer.” He has a twisted greedy grin telling us he knows he’ll have his muffins and eat them too. “Enjoy.” Charlie hands over the goodies and we continue up the road to my farm. “You have a diverse group of friends.” “Mankus is all right. Does it surprise you that I’m friends with him?” “Anyone else but you. You’re different. I saw that straight away.” “Impossible. How could you have made that deduction from our first meeting?” “Wasn’t hard when you’re traveling with a free Fairy. And although you are obstinate to the point of irritation, you are also very kind.” “I didn’t argue with Mary when she insisted you see me home.” “You wanted to.” That’s true. We’re along the fence surrounding my farm and I can see the top of the chimney and a stream of smoke. My heart is happy. “But you didn’t and that is a good start. In time…” “Yes, yes. Another hundred lessons or so and I’ll do whatever you say.” He chuckles. “Let’s see, in one week there were three learning experience, at least, so that means I have eight months give or take to wait. So close and yet so far away.” Suddenly I wonder what my parents are going to think that I have a guard walking me home from the pier. I’ll just explain it was an offer extended by the Queen, who I

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 have befriended, and then segue to their upcoming visit to our home. The idea of meeting the former King and Queen of Kismania should over shadow meeting Charlie.

89

Mom sees us first as she carries her daily collection of eggs. “Ron!” She calls for my dad. “Felicia is home.” By her words she has seen me but her eyes are on my companion. She hurries down and hugs me. Dad is there before I’m released. “Mom, Dad, this is Charlie Moberly. And these are my parents, Ron and Doris Smithe.” My mother extends her hand for a shake but Charlie bends down and kisses it like he did when he met me. “Pleased to meet you Mrs. Smithe.” “We aren’t that formal here.” Dad tells him. “Ron, it’s fine.” Mother brushes her hair back with her hand. She’s thrilled by Charlie’s good manners. “We weren’t expecting you to bring home a guest. We have a room if you need a place to stay.” Charlie has a luxurious cabin to sleep in and our little farmhouse couldn’t be appealing. “Mother, he doesn’t need it.” “And we don’t have room for all her new acquaintances. Becoming quite popular.” Dad disapproves of the man with me. It is a bit scandalous in Southland. “Just the other day some men were in town asking about you.” I can’t imagine who they could be. “That’s very generous of you to invite me. It would be my honor.” Charlie says upon hearing that strangers were looking for me. He’s imagining the worst as usual. “And what is your relation with my daughter?” Dad glares. “Honey.” Mother flushes. “This is Commander Moberly.” I freeze. She doesn’t follow the news that well to know the structure of the echelon of society. Or does she? “Saw our photo in the paper, did you?” Charlie holds back his laughter. His enjoyment at this awkward moment for me is infuriating. Dad puffs out his chest. “He’s the scoundrel that was kissing our daughter days after he broke off his engagement.” “I wasn’t engaged.” Charlie assures him. “The Proclaimer isn’t proficient when it comes to fact checking.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Winning Dad Over

90

“Why don’t you ladies fix something to eat and I’ll show the Commander around our farm.” Dad tells Mom and me. That tone means he’s going to lecture Charlie. Good. That should let the air out of his condescending ego. As confident as ever, Charlie puts an arm around my father’s back as he tells him he has a beautiful family and lovely farm. Dad walks him to the stables unfazed by Charlie’s charm. “He’s even more handsome in person.” Mom gushes. “Mom, really. It isn’t as romantic as you think.” “Don’t worry. We knew you’d find someone some day but we hoped he would live in town.” She practically has us married and breeding. “Mom.” “After all the trouble you got into during your trip, I’m glad to hear you have found yourself a man that can take care of you. Really? How did you fall off a ship in the middle of the night? And pirates? Your father was going stark raving mad with worry.” I sigh. Of course they would read my stories. “Charlie doesn’t know I’m Susie Nimm, please don’t mention it.” “You can’t keep secrets if you want a healthy relationship.” She chides. Good advice. Bad timing. “Mother. I barely know the man.” “Looked like you were getting to know him pretty well all gussied up at the castle.” Another sigh and it doesn’t help my mood any better then the first one. Cooking breakfast feels good even with the grand inquisition from my mother on every detail of my trip. I missed my home and it’s comfortable to return. Everything is exactly where it belongs including the small table that was made for Gin-gin. Will things feel so snug without her? “The bacon is going to burn.” Mom pulls me out of my stream of thought. “Oops.” I put the strips on a plate and mother hollers that breakfast is ready.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Seeing his tail between his legs will be amusing. Unfortunately I am greatly disappointed. Dad’s hearty laugh booms in before they cross the threshold. “That is a good joke.” “I have a million of them. We have to kill time somehow when we’re on duty.” Charlie says and flashes a smile at me. “You’re father is a good guy.” “Flattery will get you everywhere.” Dad ribs back as if they were old chums. “You want to keep this one happy.” I should keep him happy? Dad’s a good guy? Who’s seeking whose approval? “Mmm. Smells delicious.” Charlie says taking a plate from Mom’s hand. “You’re a guest. Please let us provide the hospitality.”

91

I smile thinking of the warning Dad must have administered on the cocky Charlie.

You’d think Dad never met another man before. Everything Charlie says is met with the appropriate and exaggerated reaction. And Charlie soaks it up. He’ll never be able to leave out the door if his head swells any more. And to make matters worse, he slings an arm over the back of my chair as he continues to orate on story after story. He’s playing to their fancy. “What are you doing?” I ask when my father insists that we relax while he helps clean up. He never helps mom clean up. That’s woman’s work. “I’m having a nice breakfast with your family.” Amazingly, he looks innocent. I glare at his arm, which he retracts carefully. “So I was enjoying telling your father anecdotes while sneaking peaks at you.” I blush and check. He can’t see much. “Do you really plan to stay here while you’re in town?” “I like it here. I may stay on as a farm hand. I bet your parents would like that.” “You have a perfectly well suited place to sleep on the boat and you don’t need a new job.” “The rocking gets old.” He leans back and puts his hands behind his head. “What’s the best offer on you as far as dowries go?” “There are none.” “I guess that makes sense. They act as if I’m the first man you brought home.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 is accurate. “But none lately?” “You are misleading them. There is nothing between us.” “Nothing?” He lifts his eyebrows up and down suggestively. “You gave me some kiss last night.” “It was you who kissed me.” I say lowly to ensure we aren’t overheard. He shrugs with a wry grin. “If it turns out Susie Nimm is a real horse face, I’ll consider you.” “You’re impossible.” “You’re cute when you’re mad.” That is enough. I get up. Right then mother walks back in. “Felicia, why don’t you show Commander Moberly the house?” “Please, call me Charlie.” “All right, Charlie.” She blushes. She actually blushes. “Would you care to see our home?” I say through clenched teeth. The correct answer is no.

92

“There have been plenty of interested parties.” Plenty is an overstatement. Two

“Love to.” He gets up and follows me around as I give the shortest tour in written history. Well it would have been if he didn’t pace out each room and look out every window. This is annoying on two counts. First, it slows us down. Second, it’s a reminder that he’s really here to keep me safe and he’s doing security surveillance. “Where will I be staying?” He asks as he looks out my bedroom window. “Next door in my brother’s old room.” “That will have to do. Unless you think they will let me stay in here with you.” “They most certainly will not.” “Yeah. They like me but not that much.” “And what are you going to do when you have to go back to Kingdom City?” “I have a plan.” He wants me to bite. I don’t but not because of willpower. We get interrupted.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Felicia?” Mom calls. “There is a whole troop of people coming up our walkway.” “Damn. I didn’t warn them about the King and Queen.” “Such language. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Charlie jests. I stare rudely at him to hush. “You just stop it. Right now.” He puckers up and I try to knock him over when I barge past. I only manage to

93

hurt my arm but I shake it off so he won’t see my stupidity. “I meant to tell you that we would have some visitors.” I stammer to my mother who is peering out a front window. “Is that…” Mom can’t finish the sentence. “That’s King Edward.” Dad is awed. “And Queen Mary.” “The King is coming and you didn’t warn us?” Mother admonishes. “Clean up in here while I fix myself.” She vanishes into our hallway. “Clean up? It looks fine.” I roll my eyes. “Don’t talk back to your mother.” “Everything looks great.” Charlie says. “Let me introduce you.” It isn’t too bad. The part where my parents meet the royal family is fine anyway. The part where Charlie informs Mary that men were looking for me – well I could do without that. And they have an exclusive powwow with the King to discuss how to protect me in the future when they leave in a few days.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Fairy Village Thankfully Gin-gin needs to go to see her family and for the first time ever, she asks me along. About a mile into the woods she blinds my eyes and leads by the hand. Bringing a human to her village isn’t permitted and it’s a precautionary measure. Another mile or so, it’s hard to tell at the slower pace, she restores my vision. I am in the center of a close circle of trees covered in magically made burrows for the Fairies’ rooms. There are hundreds, may be more than a thousand, tiny faces looking quizzically at me. Each is more lovely then the next and each emits a Fairy glow in the shadow of the overhanging leafy boughs.

94

A Fairy that looks very like Gin-gin flies down to the stump that stands four feet from the ground and greets me. “It’s nice to meet you Felicia.” She says. “Felicia, this is my mother Anastasia.” I bow. “I’m so pleased to be here.” I had met several of her sisters but never her mother who hasn’t mingled outside the clan in years. Anastasia gives a grave look at Gin-gin. Something tells me she anticipated that I would be brought here someday. “Did you have a nice time in Kingdom City?” “I did.” Gin-gin admits. “I think you would like it there. I met the royal family.” “They have no jurisdiction over us.” She huffs out. “They do not but they have a parliament much like our council of elders and they have asked that I join.” Her mother’s face tightens. “And you want my consent to allow you to subjugate yourself to willing slavery?” “Mother, it isn’t like that. They feel as a Fairy I can be an ambassador between our races and I will have input on legislation that impacts us.” “They have no legal claim to Fairies.” “Of course not. I meant they want me to help clean up the Fairy trading and I will help free our trapped comrades.” “Foolish Fairies that have allowed themselves to be captured by their vanity or careless behavior.” I’m not sure how vanity plays into this but I listen quietly.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 my presence is more than a long over due introduction. “Only the obvious. That Gin-gin would be an asset to the King and Queen and that they are good people that will treat her well.” “Better than her own family?” “As if she were family.”

95

“And what do you have to say on this matter?” Anastasia challenges me knowing

“This isn’t acceptable.” A male Fairy flies next to Anastasia. “Madam Elder, if you please, I am betrothed to Gin-gin and I do not wish her to live with the humans for the next month.” Betrothed? I didn’t know Gin-gin was betrothed. This Fairy is about half an inch shorter than Gin-gin and I’m sure it isn’t by her choosing. If it were, she would have told me about him. “Willis, I am not going to marry you!” Gin-gin almost yells. “We have been through this before.” “Gin-gin.” Her mother holds up her hand to her daughter. “I agreed you could marry who you want if you found a suitable husband before you’re fiftieth birthday but you haven’t. The agreement was that you would marry Willis.” “Mother.” “I would prefer if you had found your own mate but with only a month to go, do you have any prospects? And if you do not, as I suspect is the case, why shouldn’t Willis have a say regarding this most unusual request?” Willis smiles. “Wise as always, Madam Elder.” “Still, you have a month and if this is how you choose to spend it, I will not obstruct your intentions to serve the humans.” “Thank you mother.” Gin-gin bows her head. “And Felicia, you are a good friend to my daughter. When Gin-gin’s wedding day comes, please know that you’re welcome to attend.” “I’d like that.” It is a rare honor to be permitted to a Fairy ceremony of any kind. Still, I don’t miss the subtle threat that the wedding will most likely happen as planned. Anastasia is giving Gin-gin a month of independence before her nuptial.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 were betrothed.” “I will not marry him.” “What are you going to do?” “She can’t make me even if she is the monarch.” “She’s the monarch? You mean the queen? You’re a Fairy princess?” “We don’t label things like you humans but more or less, if it helps you understand, than yes.” She doesn’t say much for a while and I don’t know how to respond. Finally she continues. “I have twelve older sisters and it isn’t likely that even the second oldest would be called to serve as leader. We have a matriarchal society.” “It’s because you spend too much time with me that you haven’t found a better alternative to Willis.” “It isn’t. I don’t find any in my tribe appealing and I have never met any other Fairies.” She gives me back my vision and we are able to walk faster. “What was that about vanity causing Fairy to be captured?” Gin-gin frowns. “Fairies can be very vain. Many are trapped with a mirror as bait. They can’t resist looking at themselves.” “You’re not like that.” “We’ve learned to avoid looking at our own image.” She says. “It’s for our protection.” When we get back to my farm, the place is unrecognizable. It’s covered with tables and guards drinking and eating. My parents, the royal family and Charlie are chatting happily over half eaten plates.

96

My sight grows dark and Gin-gin leads me back to the farm. “I didn’t know you

“Gin-gin.” Eddie shouts as he runs up to meet us. “We’ve been waiting for you. Do you want to sit with us?” Probably not hearing the word no often, he takes us to join the others without confirmation from Gin-gin. “How did it go?” Mary asks knowing it was a hard task for Gin-gin. “I have permission for a month.” She segments her answers omitting the forced marriage looming weeks in her future. “And then?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Depends.” I sit by Charlie. “I’ll get you some food.” He pops up and leaves to fulfill his promise. “He’s very attentive.” Mother says and I get knowing glances from the whole table. “We have all fallen in love with Felicia. She’s wonderful.” Mary says. “Come on Ron, let’s go try your hand at sword play.” Edward asks my father. “What?” I stutter in surprise. “My father has never held a sword in his life.” “It’s been a while but I have.” He corrects. “It is only for fun.” They leave to the gathering where men take turns at fencing.

97

“Here you go.” Charlie places a huge plate of food before me and a small one by Gin-gin. Mine is more than I can eat in one sitting. “Thank you.” We say. He doesn’t sit. Instead he goes to the same fencing games. “Mother, I’ll be with Dad and Uncle Charlie.” Eddie updates and runs after him. “Look at that silly old fool.” Mom says and I glance over my shoulder. Dad is fencing with Charlie and amazingly doing all right. He wins and I’m sure Charlie allowed it. “Who’s next?” Dad dares victoriously. “I’m going to enjoy this.” Mother leaves to see her man do her proud. “You have a nice home here.” Mary tells me. “Nothing like clean country living.” “Would you ever consider moving to Kingdom City?” “Oh, yes, that would be wonderful.” Gin-gin enthusiastically echoes. “I didn’t do too well there.” I pick at my food. “You can’t let pirates and bar brawls dictate your life. And you could write anywhere.” It’s clear she had figured out I’m Susie Nimm but this is the first chance she’s had to mention it. “But then Quinn would need to find a new journalist to write about Southland.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “I’m sure he would manage.” She dismisses. “Charlie has asked to stay here after we leave.” “When are you leaving?” “We aren’t sure. We had planned for a week at least but it may be longer. The point is that he wants to stay behind.” Admittedly that would be very nice but it wouldn’t be forever. “Excuse me.” I

98

get up and walk over to watch my father and Edward pace around as they fence. Unlike Charlie, Edward isn’t playing so easy and yet my father is holding his ground. “Let’s call it a draw.” Stanley suggests. “Other’s want a go at it.” “Stanley.” Charlie rebukes. “That is your King.” Edward laughs. “Right now, I am merely the King’s brother. All right Stanley. You’re so eager to try.” He tosses his foil over and Stanley deftly catches it. “See how good the farmer is for yourself.” Stanley smiles and takes his stance across from my father. They bow their heads and immediately Stanley lunges forward. The tip of dad’s foil pokes his shoulder. I’m amused and flabbergasted – more amused. “Touché.” Stanley says and they pace around. This time Stanley means to wait for a better opportunity. Dad gives Stanley a wink and in response the young guard makes another go at him only to be hit again. “One more and I win.” Dad taunts seeing that Stanley’s impulsive nature is an advantage to him. Again Stanley takes another stab, so to speak, and dad steps aside and finishes the match. “Excellent.” Edward claps his hands. “You have been well trained.” “It’s been years but it came back to me.” Dad hands his foil to a waiting guard. “Let the boys play. This old man needs another ale.” Charlie laughs at my side. “Like you, there is more to him than meets the eye.” He whispers. I can’t believe my father can fence? But then he was thirty before he settled down and who knows what he had done before he lived in Southland. He never mentions it much.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Farm Living Clean up doesn’t take long with so many helping hands and slowly my home

99

morphs back to its old self. Sleeping in my room is impossible knowing Charlie is next door. And then he is about during the day – eating with us, doing farm chores, smoking with my dad on the porch. Even Taylor and his family idolize him. My two nephews follow him around like star-struck puppies asking every conceivable question about being the head of the King’s Guard. And Charlie is great with them. His patience has no end and when he doesn’t have a good answer, he makes one up. It wasn’t natural at first but every day it gets easier and easier and I’m in danger of thinking that life with him and the farm is normal when it is really a temporary anomaly. There’s a hard letdown in the not too distant future. Valiantly I accept the jeopardy my heart is in. And when the Royal Family leave town and Charlie doesn’t – I don’t know what is happening to my world. Gin-gin isn’t around and Charlie is placing a basket of fresh bread on the table and taking the seat next to me, his usual spot. “Felicia, did you hear?” Dad asks vaguely leaving it impossible to know how to answer. “What’s that?” “Charlie’s men are going to build barracks on our property and keep a few men here to help me out and in return they are going to get farm experience.” Farm experience? What does a soldier want with farm experience? It’s the plan to keep me under careful watch. How long do they expect to do this? “We have a few operations set up like that around.” Charlie says plopping down more potatoes on his plate than I think one man can eat but after so many meals, I know it is only his first serving. “And Edward is going to get the fortress up and running again and increase the frequency for naval vessels. He realized how remote this land felt and wanted to make some changes to close the gap from Kingdom City.” “I suppose that’s a good thing.” Dad grumbles. “And I suppose we’ll have to go up there before long.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “To visit you.” She says as if it were obvious. “Are you moving?” Charlie actually seems pleased to hear it. “Not that I know of.” Now Dad’s face lights up and he turns to Charlie. “Does that mean you’re moving to Southland?”

100

“Why is that Dad?” I take a bite of my food but nearly choke on Mom’s reply.

And that cockiness that drives me nuts, in the good and bad way, evaporates into oblivion. The Commander has finally been taken completely and utterly by surprise. He stops eating and tents his fingertips over his nose as he calculates his answer. With a thoughtful look at me he speaks, “To be truthful, it has been on my mind lately.” My heart skips a beat and then stops when he reaches for my hand. “Of course that is if I’m wanted here.” After that, I can’t concentrate enough to hear anything. I don’t know what we’re talking about. Knowing my parents, it’s probably wedding plans. There were times I say yes when cued but no one seems to notice I’m lost to the real world. Charlie wants to take a walk after dinner but I decline claiming I’m too tired. I go to bed but lay there daydreaming at night. “Are you decent?” Speedy says from the windowsill. “Come in.” “And where is your lovely friend Gin-gin?” He hands me my weekly pay. “She’s moving to Kingdom City to join parliament. They’ll be there in three days.” “Gin-gin is moving to Kingdom City?” He has a silly grin. “I’ll keep an eye on her for you.” Yeah right, for me. “Please do. We plan to keep in touch through letters and you’re faster than the post.” “I am.” He states proudly. Plus it gives him a nice excuse to visit her regularly. “Here.” I pass him a few stories I wrote from the last week and a note for Gingin. He reads the articles over, makes some snide comments and goes.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 joking self with my parents. But how long can Southland keep a man like him interested? How long could a simple farm girl keep him interested?

101

Alone, I can’t help but wonder if Charlie meant what he said. It wasn’t his usual

The next few days I keep to myself. Mom thinks I am moping about Gin-gin and that is a good portion for my melancholy. Charlie is too busy working with his men to get the sleeping quarters set up on our farm to put real effort into another private talk. The work is arduous and even the strong men are spent by the end of the day. I hadn’t been in town since I returned and it’s a shame that I didn’t stay put. The older ladies give me wary looks and the younger ones inquire about Commander Moberly non-stop. It doesn’t take long for me to get my fill and I rush to get my errand done. My one and only task is to get more paper and ink for writing and when I am back on the road Charlie finds me. “The barracks are almost done.” He tells me as he takes my package. “They are livable now and some of the men are moving in today.” “Does that mean you’ll be moving into the fortress?” “I hadn’t planned on it. Would you prefer that?” “No.” “So you prefer me on the farm?” “No.” “It makes no difference either way to you?” “Charlie, I don’t know what to think about you.” “Felicia, I’ve grown very fond of you.” “I see that.” I admit. “But only fond.” He doesn’t answer. He can’t. Someone who doesn’t believe in love can’t possibly give more than fondness. “You don’t feel the same?” “I do.” “Felicia, can’t you speak clearly? Are you saying you want me around or not?” “Hello.” Mankus interrupts giving me the perfect out from answering. Charlie searches his pockets for something to give. “No charge coming home.” He says. “Just glad to see you.” “Good to see you.” We say and pass without further delay or conversation.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 At our gate Charlie puts the package on the wall and steps in front of me. “Felicia, if you want me here, you’re going to have to say it even if that means swallowing your considerable pride.” “My considerable pride?” “Yes. I have more than I need as well but it’s your pride that is keeping things from progressing with us.” “Progressing to fondness.” He sighs. “Maybe more.” “You won’t be happy here on the farm. I think it’s best if you go back to your life.” I dry a tear and reach for the package. “If that’s what you want, why are you crying?” “Charlie, I want it all. Love, marriage, children. Do you want any of those things?” His face goes pale white. “And I have to commit to that today.”

102

“No, but if you’re committed to never loving you’ll never get there. You said you don’t believe in love.” “We were flirting at the time.” He runs his hand in his hair searching for the right thing to say. “Did you mean it?” He shrugs. “Do you want me here?” “Go back to your life.” I walk into the house, to my room and cry myself to sleep in the middle of the day.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Leaving Town

103

“Doris, I’ll be moving to the fortress.” Charlie tells my mother. “And then back to Kingdom City at the end of the week maybe sooner, I don’t know.” They are in the living room but I can make out their voices. “Are you and Felicia having a tiff?” “You have a wonderful daughter but she doesn’t want me here and I’m not the kind of man to beg.” “She adores you and you her. Am I misreading that?” “No. No, you aren’t. I’m not the marrying kind and she deserves to have a good man who can provide her a good living and a big family.” I peak out my room and stay behind the door to hear better. “And you can’t do that? Why not?” She’s peeved. “Ten years ago I was left at the altar and I vowed never to put myself in that vulnerable a situation again.” Someone hadn’t just broken his heart but torn it to shreds. “Your fiancé left you.” “She never showed. I waited at the chapel all day like a lovesick fool. There wasn’t a note or a reason given. Later I learned she went to another man.” “Felicia wouldn’t do that to you.” “Of course she wouldn’t. But why? Why get married? If we care about each other why do you need a piece of paper legally binding you?” His voice is raised but not in anger. The frustration is too much for him. “Because some days you wouldn’t stay without it.” She laughs. “I’m not giving up on you kids yet.” “I’ll see Ron on my way out. If Felicia changes her mind…” He pauses. “She isn’t going to do that, is she?” Mom gives Charlie a big hug and kisses his cheek. “Don’t be a stranger.” He turns before exiting, door in hand. “These last few weeks were the best I have had in a long time.” The door shuts behind him. “Honey, are you okay?” Mom says and looks directly at my hiding place.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “No, Mom. I’m not.” And now I don’t have Gin-gin to share my grief. “I’m going to take a ride.”

104

Going out the back, I head to the stables. My beautiful white horse bobs her head when I enter. She knows I’m here for her. “Hello Gloria. It’s been a while since we took a ride into the mountainside. You won’t leave me, will you?” She prances in place as eager to be ridden as I am to ride. We have a couple of hours to enjoy our late day trek before sunset. The country isn’t like the city, which seems to always have a light source. When it’s night in the country, it’s dark. If Gin-gin were here, we could use her light or she could make some extra and it wouldn’t matter but we are not that auspicious any longer. If we hurry we can make it to the top of the ridge so I push her hard. The sun races down as we race up. “Almost there.” I urge but then pull back on the reins. “Whoa!” Glowing figures dance around the tree trunks. I strain to see the two Fairies. “Hello Felicia.” Anastasia says with Willis behind her and behind him the magically bound familiar red head. “That’s Madison the pirate captain.” “I believe it is. We found her on the far side of your land.” Anastasia motions to Willis and Madison stretches her mouth as if a gag is removed. “Felicia, I need to find Charlie.” “Charlie went back to the fortress. What were you doing on my land? Trying to kidnap me again?” “He did? Things haven’t changed and I still need his help. He has to listen to me. I am alone and was coming to make a plea to you to reach him.” She did mean to nab him or me from my home. If she only wanted to talk to him there were other ways to go about it. “Why should I help you?” “Because if she is correct and there is a Pixie left, we can all be in danger.” Anastasia says grimly. Apparently Madison told her the same story about Agnes having a Pixie. “Agnes’ home was searched and no Pixie or Fairy was found.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


105

Madison sighs. “Can you let my arms and feet free?” At a nod of approval from Anastasia, Willis obliges her request. Rubbing her wrists she steps up to the side of my horse. “Can you find a Fairy tree? No, because they enchant it to be hidden. So Agnes had the Pixie enchant its hiding place.” “I’ll take you to Charlie and he can decide your fate. That is the best offer I’ll give you.” It’s more than she deserves. “Good enough.” She jumps on the back of Gloria who objects to the weight. “Willis, follow them until they get to the fortress and see to it that Felicia leaves unmolested.” “Yes.” He readily obeys. “So you’re Charlie’s squeeze.” Madison says as we make our way to town. “No. It isn’t like that so you may as well give up on using me to get him to do your bidding.” “Deny it all you want. Fact is he came after you right fast the last time.” She’s asking for one obvious reason – jealousy. “Was it you? Did you leave him at the altar wondering what happened?” Her whole body goes rigid. “That’s ancient history.” What a witch. I just want to get rid of her as fast as possible. “Willis, do you mind helping us speed things up so we can get rid of her sooner?” “Excellent suggestion.” He answers and I kick Gloria to a fast run. She loves it. Gin-gin has done the favor many times. The stoic Madison is apprehensive by the speed. We slow to a trot once we are in town and the guard at the wall of the fortress calls the alarm when he sees my passenger. We jump down inside the courtyard. “We promised to bring Madison to Commander Moberly.” “And how did you find her?” Charlie says running down the steps from the main entrance. He’s wearing his farm clothes without a weapon but two guards follow him. “We caught her trespassing on the farm. Anastasia has been watching over Felicia’s family since Gin-gin first became friends with Felicia.” Willis informs him. I didn’t know that.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Charlie, you have to listen to me. I need your help.” Madison runs into his arms. “Good luck.” I say and mount Gloria. “Take care.” Willis flies at my side as we trot down the main road. “So you guys watch my farm?” “Since you were a baby.” I laugh. “I only met Gin-gin when I was eight.” “You only saw her when you were eight. She has been watching you nightly since you were a baby and got terribly sick. She saw that you got well and when you found her one night, she changed her night watch to a day friendship.”

106

Wow! Who knew? Gin-gin never told me. I remember the first time I saw her. I couldn’t sleep because of a thunderstorm and I went out to watch the lightning from the porch and there was this Fairy smiling at me. We talked until dawn and Dad spanked me good for getting out of bed and staying up all night. “She isn’t like the rest of us.” Willis continues. “Never was.” “Thank you for helping with Madison. Charlie will know what to do about her.” “You all right to get home from here?” “Sure. We’re fine.” I hold my head to Gloria’s mane and pet her for being a good horse and carrying that unwanted baggage. Willis skits into the forest back to be with his people. In the dark Gloria and I make our way down the road at a leisurely pace. If I fell asleep she would find her way to her stable. She’s that smart. “Felicia!” Charlie hollers as he rides up fast on a brawny brown horse. He pulls up next to us and urges Gloria to stop. “I’m leaving in the morning to take Madison to Kingdom City. I didn’t want to leave without seeing you.” “Tomorrow?” That’s so soon. I’m not ready to let go and yet I must, just as I did with Gin-gin. He nods. “Unless you have a good reason for me to stay.” Not if he doesn’t love me, there isn’t any reason to stay. I’ll grow more attached and one day he’ll get bored.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 not if you don’t want me.”

107

Getting off his horse he holds his hand for me to do the same. “I want to stay but “Oh Charlie, don’t say those sort of things.” I hide my face in his chest afraid I’ll cry again. “Felicia.” He strokes my hair. “I’ll never be the same again. I already don’t recognize myself. Can’t we worry about forever a few months down the road? I need more time but I’ll get there.” “This is so touching.” The pungent Hugo says as he closes in on us with a halfdozen other pirates. Charlie pulls me behind him, “Madison isn’t here.” “I have to trust her to complete her mission and I am to complete mine. To bring you with us.” “You can’t.” I blurt out clutching Charlie’s shoulder. “Don’t worry miss, we’ll bring you along for good measure.” “Felicia, run!” Charlie shouts as he takes a swing at one of the pirates. Three of them subdue him with little trouble and one has me crushed in his arms as I kick and struggle to break free. Hugo smacks the buttocks of our horses and they run off without riders to their homes. With two swords at his back Charlie barters, “I’ll cooperate, just let her go.” “You’ll cooperate and she is coming with us.” Hugo laughs and heads down a path that leads to the beach. “Madison only said to bring the Commander.” The young pirate holding me comments quickly under his breath. “Clancy, are you questioning my judgment?” “I am.” Charlie argues. “Felicia doesn’t need to be here.” “I’ve had enough of you. Another word and you’ll wear a gag.” Three rowboats wait on the sandy beach. Filling up two, we drift out into the surf and into the rolling tide. With only a waxing moon hidden behind clouds, it is quite dark and our boat nearly hits the ship when Hugo forces me up a rope ladder. Charlie comes up next.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Where’s Madison?” A surly man asks when Hugo climbs on deck.

108

“Give them an hour. The fortress doesn’t have but twelve men and half are up the road at the farm. She’ll be here.” He jerks his head at us, “And put them in one of the spare rooms towards the bow.” “You don’t mind sharing your room with the lady, do you?” A grungy pirate asks Charlie. “She stays with me at all times.” He answers with deadly eyes. Unarmed and outnumbered, he can’t do much more than wish to fight. The pirates chuckle at his uselessness and we’re taken below. Promptly shoved into a room that isn’t unlike the one Gin-gin and I shared on the Catalina weeks earlier Charlie checks the perimeters but there is only one door in or out. “What do they want with us?” I can’t imagine what my mother will think when I don’t return. And by now Gloria has already made it back. They must be worried sick. “You’re collateral damage. It’s me she wants.” He paces. Then he tests the bed for cleanliness and firmness. It passes, barely. “We’re moving? It hasn’t been an hour. Damn it. Madison must have escaped.” It was our only hope for time enough to escape. I hug my arms around my waist and try not to get ill from fear, the sea or pure irritation. “Sleep tight, we’ll talk in the morning.” Madison yells through the door and gives it a couple of knocks with her palm. “Bright and early. You’ll be expected to pull your weight on my ship.” “She isn’t kidding.” Charlie says and puts his strong arms around my body. “We’re not in immediate danger. If she needs my help, she can’t harm either of us.” “That lady had me cut the first time I met her.” “Only to distract Gin-gin. She didn’t mean for you to die.” “Sure, I’m misunderstanding her good intentions.” “I didn’t say we didn’t have anything to worry about. I said we won’t be killed.” He sits me on the bed and curls up with me in his arms. “Too bad we only have the one bed.” It’s another of his barely discernable jokes but it helps me feel better. At least I think that’s what makes me feel better.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Captive “Get up sleepy heads. Time to meet the day.” Madison barges into our room holding some clothes and linens. Her face is pure satisfaction. She has her evasive quarry at last.

109

Charlie’s arm is over my shoulder but slides off when she comes in and we sit on the bed edge. “So cute. I almost hate to intrude.” Madison stands with her arms crossed as she stares down at me taking full inventory of her rival. “Madison, what the hell do you want?” Charlie’s patience had been spent before we fell asleep. “I tried to tell you last night but you had to run after her. It’s your fault she’s here at all.” Charlie is on his feet. “My fault you had to kidnap us both!” “Charlie, Charlie. Always the hot head.” She puts the clothes on the bed ignoring Charlie’s agitated demeanor. “Sorry honey, we don’t have any dresses for you but there are some pants that will do. Later I’ll show you the storage room. We have a lot of nice fabric. If you know how to sew, you’ll be able to use whatever you want.” “Thank you.” “Don’t thank her.” Charlie gives me a perplexed look. It was a stupid thing to say. Madison laughs. “She can tell I’m not a bad pirate.” “Sure, you only steal and rob.” “No killing allowed on my ship. The other commandments are up for grabs but no killing.” She walks out the door and before it closes she adds, “Hurry. I’ve waited too long to get your attention already.” I sort through the clothes. Some are larger and some small. “These must be yours.” He grabs them from me. “They aren’t mine. I thought you hated to be held captive. I remember getting slapped for it not that long ago and you’re so grateful to her.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “I don’t know why it doesn’t feel the same. Maybe because it’s your fault I’m here.” I smile to encourage him to relax. He doesn’t. Instead he points his finger in my face, “If you two become friends, I’ll never forgive you.” Taking his new clothes he walks behind a screen to change without me seeing. “Do you have a plan?” I ask as I rinse off my face. “A plan? To get off a moving boat when we are out at sea? Nothing comes to mind.” “I’ll try to work it out.” Again the levity doesn’t help.

110

He rolls his eyes as he tucks in his shirt, which has a loose opening in front. His hairy chest isn’t well covered. I like it. “Well?” He prods me into action. Hopefully he doesn’t know what I was daydreaming about. My turn to change. I pull on a pair of pants and a blousy shirt that scoops a little bit more than proper even with my bodice over the top. Rolling up the pants I ask, “Do I look ridiculous?” “Here.” He walks up behind me and pulls at the back of my collar. Using a bit of loose thread he ties it to make the neck smaller. “Not that I mind the cheap thrill but we’re on a boatful of pirates.” His hands massage the tension from my neck. “Shall we face or captor?” “Charlie, you meant it when you said they won’t hurt us.” “I may get hit and pushed around but nothing serious.” Madison’s head falls to her right when she sees me and she holds her hand over her heart. “If only you were truly my protégé. I always wished to have a female pirate to share my joys and struggles with. You look great.” “Thank you.” “Stop thanking her.” Charlie mumbles. Madison laughs. “Here. You’ll get a lot of sun on the decks. Better to cover up a bit.” I take a floppy hat and place it on my head. “It’s kind of big?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Nonsense. You look like you belong here.” Madison says to me and then

111

addresses Charlie. “And do you still have your aversion to anything on your head aside from official uniform headgear?” “What do you want?” He growls. “We’re headed to Isla de Diablo.” “And why are we headed there?” “To see Jaxton and you need to be there, undercover of course. I’ll be skinned alive if he knew you were working with me.” “I am not working with you.” Charlie amends. “You will after you hear what Jaxton is up to.” “Jaxton? The murderer?” I have read about him. He doesn’t usually travel in our waters because of the heavy naval traffic. His infamy is reported widely. Unlike Madison his rule is leave no survivors and there have been very few exceptions. “Among his many talents, yes.” “And what does he want.” “The last of the Pixies.” “The last Pixie.” Charlie scowls. “We didn’t find anything like that when we searched Agnes’ home.” His lack of acceptance wears on Madison. Pinching the bridge of her nose, she shakes off her annoyance. “I’m such a horrible host. You must be hungry.” “Starved.” I admit. “Thank you.” Charlie corners me. “Do I have to keep reminding you that we are not here as guests?” “I can see why you like. She’s adorable.” Madison says. His eyes lock on mine, “Don’t even think of thanking her for that compliment.” I cover my mouth. “Never did care for an obedient woman did you?” Madison tugs me from his arm. “Come on, we’ll get you fed and show you around. Make yourself at home on the Orb Weaver.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 woman that runs a large group of loyal men. It’s admirable. Still my parents must be going mad with grief.

112

It’s easy to forget I’m a prisoner because she’s so likeable. A strong independent

After taking care of breakfast, she shows us the whole ship. I pay attention and Charlie follows grousing all the way. We are to have free range except for the armory. It will be guarded by two of the three dozen crew around the clock. “What can you do? As far as work on a boat.” Madison inquires. “I don’t know. I suppose cleaning is the same at sea as on land. And cooking.” “True.” She grins. “And how are you with a sword.” “We didn’t have much need for one on my farm.” “We’ll give you some tips.” She pulls a young lanky pirate to her side, “Clancy, can you show our new piratess how to defend herself with a sword.” He eyes me and grins. “It will be fun.” It was Clancy that seized me last night. He is tall and handsome. Why would he choose a life of crime? “I can do it.” Charlie says. “As long as you keep up with your chores.” Madison chides and walks up to the helm to check on the voyage heading. “Here you two go.” Clancy pulls out a couple of foils with corks on their tips. “We’ll move you up to a saber after you get comfortable with this.” It’s not as light as it looks and I imagine a thicker blade would be hard for me to swing with any grace or accuracy. Charlie stands at my side and has me mimic his motions as he calls out different moves; thrust, parry, lunge. After getting some of the basics down we play out some scenarios. First he has me block his attacks then I try to attack him. “You aren’t half bad for a first timer.” Clancy encourages. “It’s in her blood. Her father is a natural.” Charlie grunts as we face off again. “Touché.” I say with the tip of my foil on his chest. “Again.” “I didn’t think you cared for sea life.” Charlie teases and it’s the first sign of good humor all day. I usually don’t. It may not make a lot of sense but being on a pirate ship feels better than being home without Gin-gin.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Lunch is quick and then we’re given a list of chores. Most are for Charlie and

113

Madison takes me to the storage room with the fabric. She has bolt upon bolt of fabrics, some basic and other much more luxurious. Running my hand down the edges I comment, “You have so many.” “Knock yourself out sweetheart.” I pick up a dark navy satin bolt. “This would look fabulous with your hair.” “I prefer black.” “It’s still dark. You must be about my size but taller.” “Probably.” “And does that work.” I point to a sewing machine that is covered in dust in the corner. “Don’t know. Never tried it.” She gets up. “I see you’ll be busy for a while.” I turn on the lamps and clear off the table. Making a simple dress with some adjustments like the one Janice made for me, my first creation is for Madison. Staying on her good side seems like a safe idea although Charlie will surely see it as another sign of undeserved gratitude. After that, I get to work on some more common clothes for me to wear if I have a few days at sea working on a ship – a pirate ship. While I’m at it, I sew up some undergarments for Charlie and myself. We weren’t able to pack before our unplanned trip. Nervously, I go to Madison’s cabin. “Come in.” Madison answers my knock. “This isn’t a thank you. It’s an attempt at ingratiating myself.” I hand her the folded dress. Skeptically, she accepts it and puts it on her desktop. “You’re ingratiated.” Disappointed that she didn’t even hold it up for a look, I take the other items to our room. Charlie must still be working on his ample list. I change into a new outfit more suitable for a woman. “Well?” I hear Madison from the other side of the screen. Popping up my head I see her in the dress. “You look nice. The skirt could be longer.” “I thought it would be better if it was shorter, just below the knees.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “And you mean to wear those boots with it?” “Sure. And if it’s shorter, it won’t get too wet if I need to wade in the water to beach a rowboat.” “Of course, how impractical that I left it so long.” What is she thinking? “I’ll take it up a few inches.” Charlie gives a low whistle when he sees our captain in her dress. “It’s been a while since you’ve worn a dress.” “Not true. Unless you don’t count when I’m in disguise.” “Doesn’t she look lovely?”

114

He rolls his eyes. “I really wish you would stop acting like she’s our friend and we’re on a leisurely vacation.” Patting Charlie’s cheek with her hand Madison exits. “I know she’s a pirate but she’s a nice one.” I preempt as I step from behind the screen fluffy out my skirt. “And I’m easier on her because her nature is to break the law. You had no reason to imprison me at the castle.” He almost rebuts my statement but thinks better of it when he sees my outfit. “New dress for you as well.” I flare my skirt, “I didn’t want to wear pants everyday. And we have some fresh under garments.” “You’ve thought of everything. You’ll make a good wife…” He doesn’t finish the sentiment. It’s a sensitive topic for us. Dinner is a wake up call. The men are boisterous and many leer openly at me. To walk off our meal, we stroll around the deck before returning to our shared room. Last night, it didn’t seem so awkward to share a bed with Charlie. I was too frightened to worry about protocol but now it seems indecent. That thought doesn’t cross Charlie’s mind. He pulls back the covers and fluffs our pillows like this is our home. “Maybe I should ask for my own room.” “I don’t want you away from me for the night. We’re on a ship of lonely, aggressive men.” He contemplates my statement and snuggles in, amused that I’m shy.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Patting the empty space next to him his fiery eyes watch me. “Is the pirate protégé scared?”

115

I bite my lip knowing there aren’t any better options. Sliding in I pull the covers to my chin. “I’ll get the lantern.” He says leaning over me to the nightstand. His hand holds mine. “Would it be a bad time to say that if you admitted that you wanted me to stay at the farm, we wouldn’t be here now?” “Not a good time for that.” I say stiffly. He snuggles up and kisses my neck. “Someday you’re going to listen to me and then nothing bad will happen.” This doesn’t feel that bad.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Sirens We wake up to rain. Things feel a lot different on a boat when you’re staying

116

below deck to keep from being drenched – from spacious to claustrophobic. And the sea bounces us around more in a storm but this doesn’t affect me like it first did. Madison takes us to her quarters to finally discuss why she needs Charlie. “It’s about time.” He closes the door. “You didn’t find the Pixie because Agnes is using it to keep hidden. But it was there and Jaxton wants it for his own purposes.” “How is one trapped Fairy going to help him?” “It’s not a Fairy, it may look like one at times but it’s a Pixie and they are nasty beasts. They can move quickly but not as fast as an Elf. They can fly but aren’t as strong as Fairies and they have minimal magical powers, hence it can change its appearance to look like a Fairy or Elf. They do that a lot to hide. A lone Pixie can’t do much more than a trapped Fairy but if it multiplies their strength grows with numbers at a greater rate than Fairies do. And they have a wicked sense of mischief. It will reek havoc if released and they’re next to impossible to catch.” “And how do you know this is a Pixie or that Agnes has it?” That’s a good question. “Jaxton got it on good word from the seller’s son. She bought it five years ago in Melville from a peddler of exotic relics. According to this guy, his father inherited it from his father who inherited it from his. He doesn’t know how far back their ownership goes.” That’s a long time for a Pixie to be caged. “So if she’s hiding it, how do you expect to find it?” “We were going to use Prince Edward as leverage to incentivize your help. I thought if you were dating Agnes you might get full access to her home, especially since all reports were you were about to be engaged.” “That was never more than gossip.” She glances at me. “Clearly there was trouble in paradise. Now I’m not sure how we find it. That Fairy that is heading up all the raids may be able to locate him.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Gin-gin?” “Is she the one from the castle?” I nod. “Since she got to Kingdom City they have released over a hundred enslaved Fairies from capture. Apparently they can sense each other and she is cleaning house after house block by block.” Impressive. I knew she would be great but to be so effective in such a short period – well that exceeds even my high expectations. “Can she detect a Pixie? And if she can, will she know if it’s truly a Pixie or a Fairy?” “A Pixie is blue, but much darker than even the tannest Elf. They are almost black and as a Fairy can emit a soft light, they can make rooms darker just by their

117

presence. Their wings aren’t thin and transparent – more leathery like a dragon. They have the body of a bug and a human head. They can hide all that behind a guise of a Fairy or an Elf being nearly the same size. The only feature that doesn’t seem to change is their teeth and that may be due to the fact they like to have a ready defense. They are sharp and poisonous.” “Deadly?” “Maybe. Definitely incapacitating within minutes. It will rot the flesh and madden the mind. They have been thought extinct since before men so I don’t know if there is a recorded account of a human being infected. It can kill a Fairy or an Elf but not reliably. From what I hear, if they don’t bite long enough, they probably won’t kill but how long that is isn’t mentioned and it doesn’t stop the madness.” “And you’re sure Agnes has it.” He believes her although he seems cautious. “She bought it, so she had it once. Since we can’t get near, it follows she still has it. There aren’t many people that can elude us for long without a spell’s help. We are pirates after all.” Charlie stands up and paces. “He does that when he thinks.” Madison tells me. “Jaxton hasn’t tried to extend an offer to buy this thing from her?” He asks at one pivot turn on his repetition.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


118

“Like I said, we can’t get near her and he doesn’t want to leave a trail by writing down a request. Although he may have to do just that since it has been three months and he isn’t any closer to getting it. He’s desperate.” “What’s his plan if he gets this thing?” “At first, he will keep it in a larger cage. Like Fairies they can be kept. The shopkeeper in Melville said it would need to be released to reproduce.” “Won’t you need two Pixies for that?” I ask. “One theory is they duplicate themselves at midnight asexually. Jaxton hopes that a larger cage would give this thing enough room to make more while still kept and if not, he will let it go and flourish. He’ll pillage in the wake of the ensuing chaos.” “Chaos?” “They have a malicious nature. They only bite when threatened but they like to tamper with things and cause mayhem – usually along the lines of fire or destroying structures. Enough of these things get around and life won’t be so peaceful in Kismania. And you can see the problem with their reproduction.” “One makes two, two make four, four make eight.” Charlie chants like a child reciting his multiplication tables. “Even so, they don’t much care for large numbers. There are stories they will revert to cannibalism. There were never more than a few hundred give or take at any known time per Elf lore.” “They could reach a hundred in a week.” She nods. “So if they were believed extinct, what happened to the others?” “I have searched for that answer but can’t find it. This Pixie may have been captured since before they were extinct. The vendor that sold it to Agnes said it had started rambling in manic fits. It got so crazed that he decided to sell it.” “Did you ask the Fairies?” I glance to Madison. “Did Anastasia tell you anything about Pixies?” “I tried to get her to talk but she didn’t know or didn’t say. She believed me that I’m after a Pixie. She agrees that it can’t be freed and that was why she took me to you. Kind of protective of you aren’t they?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Her daughter is my best friend.” “Doesn’t really explain the whole clan watching out for you.”

119

“How absurd of them?” Charlie mocks. “Why should they watch Felicia? What could possibly happen to Felicia in Southland?” He’s funnier when he’s not trying. “Anastasia said this Pixie shouldn’t be let go?” I repeat more to myself. Fairies are enlightened beings and they don’t believe any creature should be kept, not even farm animals. They used to open their stalls or pens until they realized that some animals were happy to be domesticated. Even so, a farmer in town who had gone senile in his old age and took to beating his livestock found them all gone one morning. If Anastasia believed in Madison’s cause than these things are not to be tampered with. “We’re going to help Madison, aren’t we? Jaxton can’t get the last Pixie.” “We?” Charlie looks at me. “You’re staying at the castle as soon as I can get you to land.” “When did WE decide that?” “Don’t worry darling, we aren’t going to be on the mainland for a while.” Madison reminds us. A rap stops Charlie’s next input on the topic. “Captain, are we to skirt around the Rocks? We need to change course if we are.” Hugo glares at Charlie. He doesn’t care for him. “No need. Felicia and I can keep us afloat for a couple of hours.” “In this storm?” Hugo’s eyes glance over me. “She isn’t a sailor by a long shot. Those waters aren’t easy to sail through on a clear day with seasoned crew.” “We’ll be fine. Lock up the men. Charlie included.” “What?” Charlie’s head snaps up. “We’re going through the Rocks. The Sirens calls won’t affect Felicia and myself, you men are susceptible.” She nods at Hugo. “Get the rest prepared. I’ll be up to take the helm shortly.” “Aye, aye.” With one final look of disdain towards Charlie, Hugo leaves. “I’ll plug my ears.” Charlie decides. “That will only reduce the urge to dive in the waters and more often than not, men tear off their covers and take a plunge regardless.” Pleading Madison begs the

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Commander to listen. “Charlie, I can’t lose you. You need to take the proper precautions.” “I didn’t know you cared.” He scoffs.

120

“I never stopped carrying.” She speaks softly. “But without you and your guards we can’t do this alone.” Charlie’s torn between being touched and angry. “What’s a Siren?” I’ve never heard of it before. “They are half women and half fish, like mermaids but when a boat sails past they make this horrible screeching sound.” Madison begins. “To women it’s screeching, to men, it’s sweet music and we supposedly loose our senses and can’t do anything but swim to them.” Charlie adds doubtfully. “And if they don’t drown before they get to the rocks, the Sirens will eat them alive.” “I’ll be fine.” “Strong men had died after they made that same erroneous claim.” “Tie a tether on me.” “Charlie why take the chance?” I ask. “It’s only for a couple of hours.” Madison adds. “The rest of the crew will be tied up and Felicia will be with me. There’s nothing to worry about.” “Sirens calls are based on creating a false sense of the thing a man loves. I’m sure it won’t have an impact on me.” “Because you don’t believe in love?” I practically snap. He glares at me. “It’s a matter of controlling your emotions.” “Charlie, emotions aren’t controllable. That’s why they are emotions.” Madison shakes her head in annoyance. “You’re risking your life on the idea that love doesn’t exist.” “No I am not.” “Fine. I don’t have the energy to argue with you all day. We’ll tie a leash on you to keep you from jumping.” We walk along the halls and Madison tests the locks on the doors. She secures Bruno to his bed. “Pleasant dreams.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 He smirks. “At least we get that out of this.” On deck she wraps a rope around Charlie’s bare chest. “Doll face, make sure

121

there are no sharp objects anywhere on the deck.” Madison ties the knots to his harness high on his back to keep them out of his reach. I obey. The rain is getting heavy and the water is choppy. “Not too tight on that one.” Charlie says and I see she has looped the rope up under his leg. She tugs, “Is that enough room for you big guy.” He grimaces as he puts his shirt back on. “Enjoy it while you can.” “I am.” She whispers seductively in his ear. “All clear.” I purposely break the amorous exchange. “Don’t worry sweetheart, I’m only toying with him. He’s all yours.” Putting her hand on his shoulder she gives him one last word of caution, “If you try to steer my ship into those rocks, I’ll kill you.” “If I do, you should.” He tests the ropes. “Well, perhaps you could disable me for the time being. I’d prefer that.” “No promises.” She grabs the helm, which has a rope to keep it in place. “Felicia, come here. When we pass the first rocks, we’ll need to maneuver occasionally. Keep your hands on these spokes and keep them steady. Don’t veer to the left or the right unless you see a need.” The visibility isn’t great. “What are you going to do?” “I’ll be with you unless we need to change the sails. We’ll be fine.” I can feel the wheel pull against me when she removes the rope. My ears start to ring and at first I think I am catching a cold in the chill of the rain. Then it gets louder and more grating. “Crazy to think they find it alluring.” She points her head towards Charlie who has a dreamy look. “He should have stayed below.” I mutter to myself and she nods in agreement. The so-called song grows louder and the rain comes down harder. Now it takes all my strength to hold the helm and Madison helps. “We’ll have to secure the sails.” She shouts over the rain. “Stay here.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 handle it but Charlie grabs hold and steadies the course. “Straight ahead.” She orders him and runs down to work the sails. “Help her. I got it.” Charlie yells.

122

As soon as she lets go the wheel jerks hard to the left. She pivots to check if I can

I look at him and aside from a wayward look in the eyes, he is coherent. Trusting him, I leave him to find Madison fighting with some levers. “What do I do?” She glances at Charlie and decides she needs me on deck more than at the helm if he can fend of the allure of the Siren’s call. “Go to the other side and tighten this same rope.” Doing as instructed I get the cord as taut as possible. The wet rope chaffs my hands but I fight the pain as best I can. With a jolt of the ship I slam into the rail. Not wanting to go overboard in a storm I put hand over hand and make my way back to Charlie. His eyes are glassed over but we are navigating between the rocks. The screeching is unbearable. “Should I take the helm?” I shout over the din of the Sirens and weather. He looks at me. “Felicia.” His muscles are strained as they keep the helm steady but he doesn’t change course. “Charlie, should I take the helm?” Madison pushes him aside. “Watch him.” The noise is excruciatingly painful and I won’t be surprised if my ears start bleeding. All the while Charlie gets a silly grin on his face. When the ocean really starts to churn we help Madison and each minutes passes slowly. Tying a rope around the helm she tells us to fall back. We’re almost through the last of the Rocks to calmer waters. The noise is dimming but not quickly enough. Charlie is unaware of the downpour as we stand waiting for further instructions. The boat bucks and I almost slip. Then it bucks harder. He grabs my arm before I take a hard tumble on the deck. Pulling me up to my feet and into his embrace he kisses me with a burning need. Wet, ears aching from the sirens and scared out of my wits it isn’t the time for passion. But he won’t let me go. “Felicia, I love you.” He says before taking another kiss that erases my worries away.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 The rain lightens up and we steady with the ocean. Finally the Sirens call dies

123

down. Charlie let’s me go. His eyes sharpen a bit. My hand runs down his face. “You need a shave.” “You’re a strong man Commander Moberly.” Madison says from the helm. “If you don’t mind taking the wheel, I have a crew to untie.” Once the crew is out of confinement we head to our cabin for the night. “Well, I’m sure I’ll sleep like a log.” I say nonchalantly as I change into dry clothes behind the screen. Charlie is in bed flat on his back and staring intently at the ceiling. If I didn’t know he was alive, I would have thought rigor mortis set in. Surely he’s disappointed that the Sirens did indeed affect him. I turn off the lamp and pull the covers up. “It’s okay.” I say softly. “I know you were delusional.” “I’m sorry you’ve been pulled into this mess. I should have never asked Gin-gin to help me that day.” “That is the second time you wished you never met us.” I tease but his stiff state doesn’t change. “I’ll get you home safely.” I curl up and hold his arm. “We’ll be fine. Madison isn’t going to harm us and after we go to Isla de Diablo, we’ll find this Pixie.” “You’re staying at the castle once we’re back on the mainland.” He can’t see me roll my eyes. “We’ll discuss it later.” It’s clear he didn’t rule his troops by example.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 For Your Honor Disappointed I wake up alone. It shouldn’t matter but it does. Charlie was embarrassed that he said he loved me and now I’m getting the cold shoulder. I understand what happened. It was wonderful to hear nonetheless. “Hello Clancy.” I say once on deck. “Miss Felicia.” “Where’s Charlie?”

124

“Going over some charts with Captain Madison.” He motions over his shoulder. Madison is slung over Charlie’s shoulder reading a map. “Never knew her to find someone so vitally important.” He’s jealous and unhappily I can relate a little too well. My guess is he’s about my age and Charlie and Madison have a few years on us – not much but enough to show. “She needs the Royal Guards help to find this Pixie and since she has a past with him…” Clancy huffs in disgust. “How did you become a pirate?” The question takes him aback but he is as eager as I am to talk about anything else. “Well, I didn’t have any skills and when I met Madison she offered to teach me how to sail and fight and that sounded like a good place to start. She’s smart too. Taught me to read.” “That’s great but don’t you miss your home always being at sea?” He shrugs. “I don’t have one unless you mean the orphanage I ran away from when I was twelve. I don’t consider that home and I don’t miss it.” It’s an eye opening revelation. “Why don’t you give me some fencing tips?” “He won’t like it. Doesn’t want to share either of you with the rest of us.” “I want to fence and a second instructor’s prospective would only make me better.” That’s all the encouragement he needed. We get out the foils and begin my lessons. Fencing with Clancy is easier. He sees it as a game and Charlie took it very seriously.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Clancy on. “I’m the teacher. This isn’t about besting her.”

125

“Come on now, don’t go easy on the lass just because she’s a looker.” Hugo eggs

Taking advantage of the distraction, I twist my blade around his and disarm him. His foil clangs on the deck. “Who’s teaching who?” Hugo chuckles. Clancy ignores him and picks up his weapon. “You’re doing well. Maybe it is time to challenge you more.” He carries out his threat. Time and time again he nicks me and I can’t get a hit in edgewise. “Concentrate Felicia, you can do this.” With a leap forward he goes for the kill but I dodge his blade and jab his shoulder just like Dad with Stanley. A bit too hard even in a game using corked tipped toys. “Sorry. Did that hurt?” “Not at all.” He gives me a big hug and kisses my cheek. “Do you want another go?” “Let me show her a trick or two.” Hugo sneers. Clancy gives him the foil. “Remember, she’s a beginner.” “Sure. I’ll take it slow.” He grins at me with his one-tooth short smile. “If you can knock this from my hand, I’ll kiss you better than that. I’ll give you a little something extra if Commander Moberly will allow you to lodge in someone else’s room for the night.” “I won’t.” Charlie curtly remarks from behind me. “Charlie.” I smile at him. “I’m getting much better.” Hugo is formidable and my only chance is to keep from being touched. It’s hard to believe such a large man would be so hard to prick with a blade. “You’re fast on your feet.” The gruff pirate acknowledges. Braving my first lunge, Hugo moves to one side and grabs me from behind and holds my wrists. “Gotcha. How about a kiss?” He puckers up for effect. He doesn’t mean it. At least I don’t think he did and I never find out. Charlie’s fist strikes his face. Hugo releases me at impact and they tussle. Seeing as the foil isn’t more than a stick, Hugo drops it and rams Charlie mid-torso. “Stop it.” I say and Clancy drags me back.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “They aren’t going to stop. It’s a contest to see who has the biggest…”

126

“Clancy! We have a lady on board.” Madison warns as if she is excluded from the need for etiquette. “Let them work out some aggravation.” Lifting Charlie over his head Hugo flings him down on the wood floor. I wince. “Had enough pretty boy? You don’t want your woman to see you take a beating do you?” Hugo taunts. Charlie kicks the legs out from Hugo and the man hits hard. They both regain their feet and face off. Arm over arm they dance as they try to toss the other down. “Charlie, you’re going to get hurt. Please stop this foolishness.” I beg. “Listen to her. She’s smarter than you.” Hugo sneers. “Sunshine, tonight you’ll sleep with a real man.” Charlie runs at Hugo and slams him against the main mast. His hand is at Hugo’s throat and the large man turns bluish. “Stay away from Felicia.” He snarls before letting Hugo breath freely again. Charlie turns to me but Hugo tugs his shoulder and hits him square in the eye. Charlie collapses over a barrel. Blood drains down his face. Neither man was ready to stop but Madison shoots a pistol into the air and everyone settles. “Very entertaining but you are taking this too far.” “Yes Captain.” Hugo hangs his head. “Felicia, clean up Charlie’s eye?” Why does everyone boss me around? Charlie gingerly walks ahead of me. Only his eye is bleeding but there are tender spots from Hugo’s fists all over his body. He drops on the edge of the bed. I slam the door behind me. “And what was that about?” He looks confused. “I thought you would be happy I was fighting for you virtue.” “He was only mouthing off. You didn’t need to fight.” “Felicia, these are pirates. They don’t obey the law just because it exists.” I ring out a towel and forcefully take his chin and dab. “Ouch! It hurts.” The cut isn’t big. “Stupid men playing stupid games.” “Next time one is making advances at you I’ll stay out of it…” He starts to threaten. “No, I won’t let it happen, I’ll do the same.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 more bloody grime away. He scoffs at me. “You have no idea what these men are like. They aren’t like us.”

127

“I’m not yours to protect nor am I his to have.” I rinse the towel before cleaning

“Us?” I condescend. “I’m not like you. Servants don’t tend to my every needs.” He yanks the towel from my hand. “I worked hard to get to my station. It wasn’t always the case and I don’t need it.” I sit on the bed next to him. “Charlie, you grew up in a home with a happy family. I don’t think the same is true with the crew. They are envious of you.” “Yeah, Hugo threw a fistful of envy right at me.” He mocks a hit to himself. “And they admire you and are intimidated by you.” “Don’t be so naïve. They know I’m not infallible. I’m not here because I chose to be. I’m a mockery and I couldn’t even keep them from taking you as well.” His hand brushes back my hair. “They aren’t going to hurt us. You said so yourself.” “And Jaxton, you think he couldn’t do us some damage? Wake up, we may not be in dire peril but we are far from secure.” He scoots back on the bed and grabs the small of his back. “And that damn farm work really did a number on me. Now if you don’t mind,” he makes a shooing motion with his hands, “I need a nap.” “Hopefully you’ll wake up less grumpy.” I stand up as he swings his legs onto the mattress. “Next time my virtue is at stake, I’ll defend it myself.” He closes his eyes. “Sure.” I shove him out of frustration. “Don’t do that again.” I do. He grabs me and I struggle but fall back on him. Sliding out from under me he pins my arm down. With my other I swing but he grabs it and holds it on my far side. Now he is hovering over me. “You’re feisty.” “Get off me.” I squirm but have nowhere to go. “Charlie, let me up.” For a minute, I think he is going to kiss me but he rolls off. I crawl out of bed and leave mad – mad that he pinned me and mad that he didn’t kiss me.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 I knock on Madison’s door not knowing where else to go. “Come in.” “He’s resting.” “Never seen him act so impetuously before. You really have him mixed up. Doesn’t know if he’s coming or going.” “When will we get to Isla de Diablo?”

128

“By night fall.” She points out the port on a map. The island is far west of the coast of the tip of Southland. “Charlie and I were discussing whether you should stay on board while we see Jaxton but I guess after Hugo’s ill behavior, he isn’t going to leave you behind.” “Good.” “He’s right. You don’t know what’s good for you.” “And do you? This Jaxton sounds horrible and you’re acting like his friend when you really mean to undermine his plans.” She accepts that. “If I knew what was good for me, I would have never left Charlie to begin with.” “Why did you?” “Just don’t make the same mistake.” “It isn’t like that. He doesn’t believe in love.” “Believe in it or not, it doesn’t stop the fact that he is crazy about you.” “For now – maybe.” I trace the outline of the island on the charts. “You’re as turned around as he is.” “What will happen if Jaxton finds Charlie with your men?” “He’s easy to hide. With that four-day-old stubble, a hat and now the shiner, he’ll look like any one of our crew. You’re going to stand out and that’s a problem.” She pops open a box by her desk and pulls out some make up. “We’ll need to do you up. Make you look older and less recognizable.” “I’ve never met Jaxton.” “You’ve been in the papers. Of course your face was somewhat hidden by Charlie’s mouth. We have to play it safe. You’ll need to dress the part.” She stands up. “Pull down your blouse. A pirate wench shows more skin.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 drop my skirt she yanks the shirt herself revealing more skin.

129

I pull up my skirt and tug at my shirttails until it is lower than I dare go. Before I “And the skirt is too long.” She flips out a knife and cuts off a foot from my hem. Then she cakes on make up, first powder, then eyeliner, and finally lipstick. “How’s that look?” My own mother would have a hard time seeing me through her disguise. “Will I have to talk to him?” “No. You’ll stay back with Clancy. Try to be as ordinary as possible.” “Not a problem. I excel at being average.” “Ma’am.” Clancy says from the doorway. “We’ll be there in an hour.” “Thank you Clancy. Please come in.” She spins me around. “What do you think of Felicia?” He grimaces. “To be honest, it’s a bit much.” He says not looking me in the eyes and I blush. “It is. She was too pretty. I don’t want her calling attention to herself.” He snickers. “You have a ways to go. But then, in that getup he won’t recognize her face.” That comment annoys her. Apparently his infatuation isn’t unrequited. “Thank you. Will you see that Charlie gets up and eats something?” She rolls her eyes. “And give him a hat.” “Aye.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Isla de Diablo

130

Shortly after sunset we walk down the pier to the few buildings on Isla de Diablo. A handful of crew went earlier and it’s Charlie and me with Madison, Hugo and Clancy. An old man lights the torches along the one road. There are four buildings and we head for the pub. The others are trading posts and closed for the night. The bar is crowded with men and a few women that make my clothes look discreet. Clancy takes me to a corner table and hides me in the shadow. I see some familiar faces at other tables but I don’t spot a likely candidate for Jaxton. Clearly there are pirates from his crew and then there are locals, assuming those that aren’t brawny men aren’t pirates. “Keep back.” Clancy reminds me and pushes my shoulder until it hits the chair. “Why are there so few of us?” “Less to worry about if we have to run.” He winks. Madison, Charlie and Hugo go to the barman. “Where’s Jaxton?” She asks. “Ah, Madison. Looking as delicious as ever.” A large barrel-chested pirate walks out from behind a curtain. His temples are silver but I see enough dark edges under his rim to know he isn’t completely gray. Like Charlie, he has a thick growth of stubble but not enough to qualify as a beard. Down his face is a long jagged scar. Behind him are two men equally as threatening in appearance. “Jaxton. Have you had better luck than us?” He frowns. “Some.” His eyes fall on Charlie. “You have a new man?” “This is Marcus, an old friend of mine.” Hugo lies. “From the north.” “You look familiar.” “I should.” Charlie says. “You raided a cargo ship I was working on two years back.” “Could be. I raid a lot of ships.” Jaxton agrees and addresses Madison. “You weren’t able to get the Pixie from that reporter?” “I tried to force Commander Moberly to do the leg work. He searched her home but didn’t find it.” “Of course not. It wasn’t there.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “It wasn’t?”

131

“No. It wasn’t the Pixie.” He nods to his first mate that goes to a side room and returns with a cage that has a Fairy inside. “Tell her what you told me.” “Why is he doing this out in the open?” I whisper to Clancy. “Everyone here is part of his crew or locals that are reliant on him for supplies.” Suddenly I understand how truly far into the lion’s den we have voluntarily walked. “Tell her!” He orders the Fairy. “Agnes traded her Pixie for me a year ago.” He cowers from the large face at his cage bars. “And who owned you before?” “A man named Montague.” He’s trembling. It’s awful to see a Fairy treated so roughly. Charlie has heard the name before. He catches my eye and then bows his head enough to hide under his hat rim. “It isn’t all bad news.” Jaxton muses. “He’s a trader. It’ll be easier to get the Pixie from him. Do you think you can manage that task?” His tone is distinctly derisive. “Sure. The problem with Agnes was she didn’t want to be discovered with illegal contraband. This Montague needs buyers. He’ll be reachable.” “My patience is near an end. Do not fail.” He glances away and scans the room. “This man isn’t your only new crew member.” Madison nods, “That is Clancy and my new protégé, Nina.” “What a beautiful name. Nina.” He repeats airily. “Come here girl, so I can see you.” Charlie shifts on his feet as I get up to meet Jaxton. “Hello.” “Shy little thing to be a pirate.” He scratches his chin. “She’s new and don’t let her demure nature fool you. I see great potential there.” Madison puts an arm around my shoulder and pulls me closer to her. Jaxton takes my hand and tows me his way. “You’re lovely.” “Thank you.” “How do you like life on the high seas?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 He’s testing me and I don’t know what clues he is looking for to confirm my piracy experience. “It has it merits.”

132

“So do you.” He candidly ogles me and I wish Madison hadn’t pulled my shirt so low. “If you would like to be the only hen in the rooster house, you’re welcome to join our crew.” “No thanks.” I push him away and hide behind the lady captain. Hugo’s hand rests on my shoulder to let me know he’s there for me. “I’ll stay with Madison.” “Oh, is it like that?” He lifts a curious eyebrow to Madison. “I’m actually more turned on.” “Can it Jaxton.” Madison warns. “So after we get this Pixie, what do you plan to do?” “Madison, dear old friend Madison.” He runs the back of his fingers down her face. “We’ve known each other a long time, and even though it didn’t work out as partners, I’d like to think I can trust you.” “Have I’ve ever let you down before?” He thinks it over. “Never. I have no reason to doubt your loyalty. I didn’t care that you were going to use Commander Moberly to execute your plan. First, there was a chance he could jail you and then there was the chance that old passions could be reignited. I wouldn’t want you to turn me over for a trip down memory lane or a romp in the sack.” “If anyone should understand that I don’t make the same mistake twice, it’s you.” He sneers at her. “You never felt a tenth for me as you did for him. If it wasn’t for your fear of domestication, you would be married with a dozen kids.” “Jaxton, drop it. Charlie and I have had dozen of opportunities for reconciliation and it hasn’t happened.” Something is amiss. He’s talking too much about Charlie. My sense of selfpreservation is triggering an urge to flee. I want to reach for Charlie if only to feel his hand in mine but I’m afraid of what Jaxton might read into it. “Even with his latest vixen to keep his manly needs met, Moberly hasn’t wed. I’d wager it’s because of you.” Jaxton eye pierce Madison and then their gaze drifts back to me. “You sure are a cute thing.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Jaxton, you were explaining your plans.”

133

“That’s right.” He looks at Charlie. “I know you look familiar. What ship were you on?” “The Whydah.” Charlie tells him quickly. “I remember that. Half the crew managed to be saved by that dastardly Moberly.” “We get it. You don’t care for him.” Madison is getting anxious or paranoid. “I’ve never met the man.” Jaxton admits. “He’s brave, resilient, persistent. If it wasn’t for his insufferable sense of honor, I could even like the guy.” Shrugging he calls out, “Sheila.” I catch my breath. In flies the ugliest thing I have ever laid eyes on. Its face is humanoid but the body is that of an enormous spider with two large bat-like wings carrying the hideous combination. The bulb of it’s body is bigger than a large potato. Landing on the counter it crawls down in that mechanical way that spiders walk and stops next to Jaxton. The light of lantern by her barely emits on one side as she absorbs it. “This is your friend that is going to find the other Pixie?” It speaks looking at Madison. “Sheila, this is my old lover Madison.” Madison is shocked speechless. She lifts a hand and waves hypnotically at the creature. “Did you tell her everything?” Sheila asks Jaxton. “We’ve heard very little.” Charlie chimes in. “I can see by your expressions you have never seen the likes of me. I believed myself to be the last of the Pixies but we learned of another. I mean to find him and breed.” “Don’t Pixies bred asexually?” Madison asks. “That’s a myth. We breed like most animals, arachnids anyway. Once impregnated, I will lay a dozen eggs. With your help, I mean to keep my species from extinction.” “So, now you know the full plan.” Jaxton smiles. “Barkeep, a round of drinks. We should toast our renewed alliance.” He reaches past Madison and tugs my arm. “And I want to get to know my new friend especially well.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 his grubby hand around my midsection. Madison is on my other side with Hugo and Charlie. A quick glance and I can see he’s worried. Jaxton kisses my fingers. “Why don’t I show you around the backrooms?” “No thank you.” Suddenly Hugo has Charlie pinned to the counter. “Hugo, release Marcus now.” Madison scolds. “Excuse them. They get rambunctious.” “We all get antsy.” Jaxton squeezes my waist. “You don’t mind if I take your protégé for a private tour, do you?” “Jaxton, she said no.” “But her eyes say yes.” “If you don’t mind.” I pick up his arm and try to move away but he grips my

134

I pick up my drink and try to bear the near proximity to the heinous man who has

wrist so roughly it hurts. “Let me go.” I see the pirate behind Jaxton has his pistol out expecting trouble. Charlie lunges at Jaxton but his man aims his weapon. Shoving it out of the way in time not to be shot, Charlie rams the man into the counter and slams the back of the weapon wielding hand until the pistol falls. Sheila moves out of the way but the pirate’s arms reaches blindly for something to hit Charlie with. When he accidentally smacks Sheila her sharp teeth clamp down and she holds. “Agh!” The man screams and Charlie jumps off him. Sheila doesn’t release at first but does and flies back to the countertop. Jaxton’s second bodyguard has his pistol pointed at Charlie. The bite on the pirate’s hand swells immediately and begins to darken. “Cut it off.” He shouts. “Before the poison spreads.” Jaxton pulls out his cutlass and lops it off. “Let Rogan fix it.” Holding the stub to the cage the Fairy reaches out and closes the wound. The handless pirate stares at his nub. “Dammit.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Crabs

135

Putting his blade away Jaxton orders the Fairy to speak. “Rogan, why don’t you tell our friends what you saw when you read my future.” He holds me from behind with both arms. Charlie still has a pistol pointed at him. Madison and Hugo stand vigilant. Clancy’s eyes are on me and his hand on his sword. The Fairy cowers on the far side of the cage hiding behind his hands but answers, “I saw betrayal. A man was going to kill you if you made advances on the shorter lady. Slice your head off.” I freeze. “So, let’s cut through the crap. Who are you?” “He’s her husband. We took on the couple.” Madison quickly improvises. “So if you don’t mind letting his wife go.” “I do.” Jaxton says. “Nelson isn’t going to be the same and I think we deserve compensation.” Madison draws her gun. “That isn’t going to happen.” “Nelson, how do you feel?” “Other than losing my hand?” He barks. “I don’t think the poison got to my brain.” “Sheila, I thought you weren’t going to bite my men again.” She crawls up to Jaxton. “He hit me. I can’t fight my instincts.” “Little miss, are you ready for an evening of frivolity?” Jaxton says softly in my ear. “Let me go.” I grit out. “Spirited. I like that.” He lifts me off my feet and I kick frantically knocking over the cage. Rogan lays motionless inside. The door is opened wide. “Hold still and this will go much easier for you. But I’ll warn you – I don’t mind one bit if you prefer it rough.” Still flaying my boot hits a table and the candle falls on a curtain. It flares up. Madison takes advantage of the momentary diversion and shoots the man aiming at

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 forward. I scramble away. Pirates are fighting pirates everywhere I look. Charlie takes on two men in addition to stubby and Madison and Jaxton are dueling.

136

Charlie. Then she strikes Jaxton across the jaw. He throws me aside and Sheila moves

Clancy grabs me, “We need to create a bigger distraction.” He pulls out a whistle and blows loudly. “What will that do?” I hope bring more back up. “You don’t want to know.” He grabs my arm. “Come on.” “Wait!” I run to the cage and pick up the Fairy. Hurrying back to Clancy I dodge as Hugo pushes two pirates across the room. Then I duck as Madison pushes Jaxton back and he falls over me. Clancy seizes my free wrist and tows me away from the heart of the melee. Outside the building is burning. “What about the others?” I yell over the crackling fire. “They know what the whistle meant.” We run up the hill away from port. “Why aren’t we going to the Orb Weaver?” “We are. This way, now hurry.” I look back and Madison’s ship isn’t at port. Holding Rogan like a baby to one shoulder I do my best to keep up. He moans but doesn’t move. “Thank goodness you’re alive.” I see the ship after we cross the top of the hill. There is a long way to go to get to the ocean and all of it is covered in boulders. In the dark the going will be slow. “Keep quiet.” Clancy quietly orders as we stay in last of the brush and trees. I hear rustling from down the path then a low whistle. Clancy replies with a similar noise. Two crew men approach, no doubt the arsons. Then Madison and the rest of her men walk up freely except for Charlie who is being helped along by Hugo. He’s holding his neck. “What’s wrong?” I panic. “Get to the boat.” Madison ignores me. “Charlie, you’re hurt.” “I’m fine.” He says with a glassy eyed look that reminds me when he was entranced by the sirens. “He was bit.” Hugo answers bleakly.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “By Sheila?” I gasp as I follow the men across the rocks. “She wasn’t at full potency having just administered a good dose on Nelson.” Charlie tries to sound brave. “What have you got there?”

137

“Rogan.” I answer as I keep from falling on the rocks. The pirates have a knack of finding a footing in the partial moonlight. Letting them do the hard part, I follow behind Clancy. Hugo makes remarkable progress even with the burden of Charlie. Madison is nearest the tide. “Won’t they follow us?” “Not this way. They won’t expect us to come through here.” Clancy helps me jump to the next rock. “Why not?” Something clicks behind me. “Did you hear that?” Clancy stops and the clicking increases in loudness and frequency. “We’re out of time. The crabs are alert. Felicia, faster.” Crabs? He sounds more disturbed by his words than concern over mere crustaceans. I try to ignore the sound but it’s grows. I look behind me and there are hundreds of crabs that are easily four feet across the tops of their backs with chelipeds larger than even their enormous size should dictate. And they’re gaining ground. I stumble and almost drop the Fairy but Clancy catches us. “Don’t look back.” “We aren’t going to make it.” “Men, we have to fend them off.” Madison says making the same assessment as me. “To arms.” She holds up her sword. “Don’t bother with pistols. Won’t do much on their shells.” Forming a wide circle the pirates swing their blades but the crabs keep advancing. Madison cuts off one’s claw but the other grabs her blade and pulls it from her hand. It clanks as it falls down a crevice. “Since you aren’t using this, do you mind?” She says flippantly as she takes Charlie’s weapon. He’s on his knees rocking in place. I go to his side and put Rogan in my lap. “Charlie, let me see.” “No.” “There’s too many.” Hugo blurts out. “We have no choice.” Madison declares as she takes the dagger from my waste. It’s an understatement. Hostile man-eating crabs surround us. It’s a whole new meaning

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 to crab dinner. A smaller crab, about three feet wide, scuttles forward and pinches Charlie’s ankle. “Ouch!” He yells. “Shut up!” Madison orders and kicks it off him.

138

The crabs encroach on Charlie and me. Everyone else is losing ground from the sheer numbers we face. In all my years I could have never guessed this was how I would die. Without warning one goes sailing into the air and knocks others back. Then another and then they all retreat angrily clicking their large claws. “Come on.” Madison commands. “Before they charge again.” Hugo slings Charlie’s arm over his neck and gets him to his feet. When I look down to Rogan he is sitting up. “Well, get moving. I can’t hold them off forever.” A sparkle flashes from his teeth when he speaks. Motivated to live, I get to my feet and he flies at my side. Two rowboats arrive at the edge of the rocks just as we reach the end of the island. The crabs are only ten yards away but can’t get past Rogan’s magical wall. “Come on sweetheart. We don’t have time to catch one for supper.” Madison helps me into the boat and I sit by Charlie. “Let me see.” And this time I don’t wait for his refusal. I move his hand that has no strength to fight me. On his neck is an imperfect circle of punctures oozing a black gooey substance. The flesh by each opening darkens. “It’s tainted blood.” Madison says dismally. “And by now the poison is well in his system.” “Will he die?” “He’ll wish it before long if he doesn’t loose consciousness.” “Rogan, can you help?” Rogan lands on the bow and inspects the damage. He puts his hands on Charlie’s neck and closes his eyes. Suddenly the thick dark liquid begins to expel itself. Then the holes close up and Rogan slumps from the energy drain. “It looks like he got more saliva than poison. His body is healed but there is still some toxin. He’ll go mad in days.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 me. Please get better.”

139

I hold Charlie to my chest and he loosely puts his arms around me. “Don’t leave

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Depression Sinks In

140

As soon as we are onboard Madison starts throwing around orders as Clancy and I help Charlie to his bed. Rogan follows on foot, too tired to fly. Charlie passes out as soon as he is on the mattress. Rogan and I stay with him and Clancy goes up on deck to do whatever needs to be done for us to get away from Isla de Diablo, Jaxton and his wretched pet Sheila. “I’m sorry.” Rogan tells me looking down at Charlie. “I wish there was more I could do.” Me too. “You’ve been great.” “Thank you for releasing me. I thought I was going to be captive until death.” I wipe away my tears but more fall and it’s a futile effort. “You’re free now.” He nods and looks around for a place to sleep for the night. I put a blanket on the chair and he curls up. Still very handsome, he is the plainest Fairy I have ever seen. All those years in the birdcage had taken away his shine and beauty. I sit against the bed frame and run my fingers through Charlie’s hair. Please wake up in the morning. Every so often he groans or squirms – sometimes both at the same time – but otherwise stays still. Madison cracks the door and pokes her head in. “How are things?” “He’s out. Asleep I hope.” “If the poison is in his brain, it’s for the best.” She sits on the foot of the bed. “We’re well ahead of Jaxton if he even bothers to pursue us. He probably will.” Her eyes are sad as she takes in another restless stirring from Charlie. “I hate to imagine what’s going on inside his head right now.” “Will he be okay?” “I’ll never forgive myself if he isn’t.” She gets up and gives me a hug. “Get some sleep, sugar. It’s going to be a while before he wakes.” Finally I break down and weep. Holding me tight she let’s me get it out. “He’s the strongest willed man I ever met. The poison will do its worst but he will prevail in the end just to tell us we should have listened to him.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 I smile and when she leaves I snuggle up to Charlie praying for his revival.

141

As soon as the sun breaks, I get up. I didn’t sleep much and my fingers are sore from clenching my fists so much. Checking on Charlie he seems more fidgety but still out. Rogan’s chair is empty and I suppose he went up on deck to enjoy his freedom. Still in the clothes I wore yesterday, I open a drawer to get a fresh outfit and find Rogan inside. “Why are you in the dresser?” “Couldn’t sleep in such a big room.” He says on all fours as he stretches like a cat. Poor little guy was use to his cage. “It will get easier.” “I don’t know. Honestly, I think it would be better if I had died in the fire.” “Don’t say that.” It’s bad karma. I give him a hug. “I’m glad you didn’t.” He flies out and lands on the chair by Charlie. “Looks like he is having nightmares.” True it may be but I don’t want to think about it. “Why don’t we get some sun?” “It won’t help.” He mutters. Cleaned up and freshly dressed is better but I can’t stop worrying about Charlie. I take Rogan up on deck and we get a quick bite. “Do you want a Fairy slave?” He covers his mouth as he speaks while chewing. “No. You’re free now. Why would you ask me something so absurd?” He hangs his head. “I was a good slave.” “No one should be enslaved. I have a friend that has freed lots of Fairies, she’ll be able to help you adjust back to freedom.” “Where is she?” “In Kingdom City. She’s a Fairy and she’s in the parliament.” “Really? I’ve never heard of such things.” “It’s a recent development.” “Won’t matter. I’ve been thinking it would be best if I ended it all.” “Do you mean kill yourself? Don’t do that.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 He glances up but keeps his head bowed. “Why not? I’ll never be the same again.” “Wait until you meet Gin-gin. She’ll help you.” “Gin-gin? Anastasia’s youngest?” “That’s her. Do you know her?”

142

“I know of her. Some kind of odd bird that likes to spend her time with humans.” “We’re friends and she has been releasing Fairies all over Kingdom City. She’ll be able to help you.” Assuming he isn’t the first Fairy to have depression issues after being liberated. “Is that where we’re headed?” “We are.” Madison answers. She had been listening in on our chat. “Although we may stop at Southland if Charlie wakes. He’ll be safe there.” I can see the anguish in her face. “He isn’t doing better is he?” I shake my head. “I should get back. I don’t want him to wake up without someone nearby.” She nods but doesn’t look hopeful. Charlie hasn’t changed in my short absence. Except to eat, I don’t leave him and I only eat when I have to. And if it wasn’t depressing enough to tend to Charlie and hope against hope that he will wake up without any brain damage, then Rogan takes me further down into the depths of my horrors. His suicidal talk is disturbing and focused – perhaps disturbingly focused. The only thing I can do to keep from going nuts is write. Madison is kind enough to bring me some paper and quills and I start jotting down the stories of our adventure. More and more Charlie stirs and with more movement. His nightmares are increasing in intensity. I light the lamp as the sunsets and wait as I have all day. “Why did you save me?” Rogan asks from the chair by Charlie. “It was the right thing to do.” I wait for him to deny it. “No one’s ever been kind to me.” “Probably before you were captured.” “Maybe then but that was years and years ago.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Not knowing what else to do I hug him and I’ll keep doing it until he realizes someone cares. “That’s all changed now.” His deep blue eyes stare at me and I think he feels loved for the first time in a very long while. “Hello.” Madison says in one of her numerous checks. “Still the same.” I answer before she asks. “Just to be safe, you’ll need to tie him down. We’re coming up on the Sirens again.” I doubt it will matter in his current state but I nod. “And we have another problem.” She adds dismally. “Jaxton is on our tail.”

143

“Rogan, can you help speed up the ship?” I ask knowing he will be more apt to help at my request. “For an hour maybe.” He sighs. “Gin-gin did it with less effort by enchanting the sails and not the wind.” His eyes widen. “That would work.” He agrees. “She’s clever Fairy.” “You’re willing to help us.” Madison says innocently but something tells me she had a plan before she opened the door. “Because I have an idea that may be crazy enough to work.” Even my despondent little friend is intrigued. “What if we let them catch up and when we get to the Rocks, you surround the ship to be sound proof from the Sirens’ song?” It’s ingenious. Jaxton will have to go around without a woman crewmember to steer them through safely. Unless they chance it but that would be foolish. He’ll loose ground and we can speed up and get to Kingdom City a day ahead of him or more. “If you think that’s better.” Rogan’s apathy is actually an improvement from his pessimism. “I do. It’s a favor. Not a command.” She understands Fairies. “I would willingly go into a cage for you but then I may not have enough magic to perform your request.” He stretches out his fingers like a pianist. “Of course, I feel more energized than ever.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 about tying him up after all.” “Please wake up.” I say to Charlie feeling dumb talking to someone that can’t

144

“Let’s leave these two alone.” Before she closes the door she adds, “Don’t worry

hear me. He thrashes suddenly and then it subsides. I’m helpless to do anything for him. The waters get rough, probably from the Rocks. I assumed the weather had made the crossing worse but even in the clear night the boat bounces. Then an eerie silence engulfs us. I can hear the echoes of the crews’ footsteps as they work on deck. “I’ll be back.” I kiss Charlie forehead and walk up on deck. “Came up for the show?” Madison hands me a telescope. “They aren’t taking any precautions.” “Don’t they know about the sirens?” “Sure but few have tested the legends for themselves. A hundred years ago was the last reported ship that dared to get this close and one of every ten man on board lived. Maybe they think they are tougher than them. Probably are but some of them aren’t going to make it.” I scan the horizon with the telescope. The quarter moon is bright enough to see the Rocks. They are like jagged teeth poking through the swells and perched atop are dozens of sirens. They are maroon in color from head to tail. True to Madison’s description they look like women from the waste up, topless in all their glory. Their dark wet hair is as long as their bodies. Every mouth is open wide making their horrendous noise and I can make out their shark like choppers. Row after row of sharp teeth, they put Sheila’s to shame. “One of them jumped!” Clancy yells down from the crow’s nest. There isn’t a need to shout since we are in a cocoon of silence. “Two more!” Refocusing on Jaxton’s ship I see three men swimming to the Sirens. Too engrossed to turn away I watch as the first climbs up a rock to the nearest Siren. She smiles as he runs to her stretched out arms. Opening wide, she takes a mouthful from his shoulder. He doesn’t even flinch. Her bloody mouth hungrily devours her first bite and then she goes in for a second. It’s too gruesome and I put down the spyglass in disgust. “They’re fighting others from jumping and wrapping up their ears.” Clancy commentates. “There goes another man.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Stay alert.” Madison reminds her men. She has things under control and she isn’t worried for her crew. Still each man is a life lost and she doesn’t care for it. I return to my post at Charlie’s side.

145

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Sea Monsters The boat steadies and the sound of the ocean returns. We are past the Rocks.

146

Now the boat picks up speed as Rogan changes from muffling us to enchanting the sails. “We’re past the Sirens.” Madison tells me as she sits on the chair. “Nineteen men flung themselves to their death.” The news of the deaths is morbid but considering they would have no qualms about killing us, I do my best to shake the guilt. “And we’ve lost Jaxton’s ship. We must be going double speed.” “That’s about how fast we ran on the Catalina when Gin-gin did the same.” She looks down at Charlie and puts her hand on his arm. “It’s been a day. I was hoping he would be through this by now.” A tear falls. “I’ll see you in the morning. Rogan’s going to sleep in my cabin tonight.” I snicker through my tears. “I found him in a drawer this morning. Said the room was too big.” “Good to know. I’ll set him up in my closet.” The next morning I wake when Charlie gives another sudden jolt in the bed. I hold him. “You’ll be all right. You have to be.” His limp body is a reminder that we have a long way to go. Rogan may have started in Madison’s cabin but he’s in my drawer again. Needing to stretch my legs I take a quick walk around the deck after lunch while Rogan boosts his spell. The crew is far more cordial than before our visit to Isla de Diablo. Even Hugo asks how Commander Moberly is doing and seems sincerely upset that his condition hasn’t improved. He pretends that he doesn’t care by adding, “What did I waste my effort getting him out of the burning bar for if he’s going to sleep through all the hard work?” But that’s his way. “How far are we from the mainland?” I ask knowing we’ll come up on the backside of Southland peninsula and then turn north to Kingdom City. “At this rate, we’ll be there before nightfall.” Hugo tells me. “Are we stopping at Southland?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 I shake my head no. “Madison and I had a discussion about it and since there wasn’t anything to do to help Charlie we decided to go straight to Kingdom City. We

147

have to get to that Pixie before Jaxton and even if we have a couple of days on him, we have no idea where to start.” Fearful that Charlie will be in the same state, I linger. He’s always the same and I’m not ready to face the grim news. Leaning over the railing I look out at the vast sea. Rogan flies up and lands next to me. “It’s so tempting to jump.” I do not have the full strength to talk him off the ledge. “Please don’t.” “Since I’m able to help, I feel useful. As long as we’re going to Kingdom City, I may as well meet your friend first. I’m not expecting to change my mind.” “I’d miss you if you did something like that.” He gives me a hug. “And that may be the biggest reason why I haven’t.” Gin-gin will know what to do or one of the other Fairies if any stuck around. I suspect a few might have. Clancy’s shoulder bumps mine. “How are you holding up?” “I’m great.” I overtly lie. “Tough as nails.” More like straw but I don’t debate him. “Is that a whale?” I point to a large area of glass smooth water heading our direction. Before he answers, I can see that it isn’t. A shadowy figure materializes as a creature swims closer to the surface. The bulk of the body could be a whale but there is a long snake like neck and an equally long tale. “Sound the alarms and brace yourselves!” Clancy yells. The beast’s head is yards away when the good seaman pulls Rogan and me from the ledge. If he hadn’t, we would have fallen over when the monster hits the hull of the ship. “There’s another one!” The man in the crow’s nest shouts as a second bump bucks our vessel. We run up to the helm. “They’ll break the Orb Weaver to wood splinters if they keep this up.” Madison tells us. “Do we have any meat to toss in as bait?” “I’ll see.” Clancy runs off to take inventory.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “They’re coming around!” The man hollers down to the deck. Another thud followed closely by a second hit. The beasts must have taken another pass. “Rogan, can you do anything?” I frantically ask.

148

“Sure, sure. Don’t know why I should bother except that it would be ungrateful not to serve you.” “Prepare for impact!” The crow’s nest warns. Their wakes form giant arrows in the water aimed straight for mid-hull. “Rogan are you going to help us or not?” Madison pleads. “Already have.” True to his words, the creatures were on the other side of the boat swimming away and slowing probably wondering how they missed such a large target. One of their necks rises above the water and for an enormous creature it has a smallish head. Still it is longer than a man from snout to the tip of its neck. Ducking down they move quickly and again pass under us without touching a slat of wood. Now two heads look at the Orb Weaver. One mouth opens wide and wails a mournful sound. “They aren’t going to give up that easily are they?” I say preparing for the worst. In answer they glide to our ship with their heads held high. One moves to the bow and the other to the aft. They can reach us and one clamps down barely missing Hugo. Swimming in circles they form a monster-made eddy under us. The Orb Weaver begins to turn rather than sail straight. The creatures heads poke overhead again looking for easy pickings. “Rogan!” “Working on it.” He tells Madison. One head makes a go at a pirate and gets a cut from a saber. Screeching it pulls back angrier than ever. It looks like they’re sinking below water until I realize that Rogan has levitated the ship out of the sea and high enough to keep these monsters from reaching the deck. With a mighty thump one hits the hull with its skullcap but we float up higher. Once out of the ocean we move even faster. Thinking that the commotion could have woken Charlie, I go to investigate. He hasn’t improved. He’s not restless. What if he’s given up fending off the poison? It’s

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


149

too much and I collapse on him holding his motionless body and sob. “Wake up Charlie. You have to wake up. Mary needs you and Edward. And what about Eddie? He loves his uncle Charlie.” I sniffle. “And I love you. I need you Charlie. If you wake up I promise to never disobey you again.” “Never again?” “Yes. Just get better. I’ll do anything.” His fingers run through my hair as he clears it from my face. “That’s a very tempting offer. What about a kiss? Maybe if you gave me a kiss I’d wake up.” I sit up. He’s smiling from ear to ear. “You’re awake?” “And you promised to listen to me going forward. I won’t forget that.” Kissing him with all my might he pulls me tight to his chest. I don’t ever want to let go. So excited to see him alive I kiss all over his face. “How long have I been out?” “Two days.” I sputter between kisses. “And where are we?” He’s confused. Leaning up on my arm I answer, “On the Orb Weaver.” Has he forgotten everything that happened? “What is the last thing you remember?” “Crabs. I don’t remember anything after the crabs.” Still disoriented he says, “Are we moving? It’s too smooth to be on the sea.” “We’re flying. Rogan lifted us from the water when sea monsters attacked.” “Sea monsters?” I nod. “And we passed the Sirens with his help. He silenced their sound from our ears.” “Two days you say.” He sits up and caresses my neck before kissing me. “We’ll have to continue this later.” “You should rest.” “No need. I feel great.” I’d put down my foot but he looks strong and healthy albeit a bit stiff in the joints. We go up to Madison who runs into his arms and kisses him hard. Blushing she gives me a guilty glance and pushes away. “I don’t know what came over me.” Clancy sighs.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 escaped quarry. The sun sets beyond them. “Rogan, how difficult is this for you?”

150

Charlie looks over the railing at the two monsters lagging behind still eyeing their He shakes his head sadly. “It’s very difficult. I hate being freed. I miss the cage as outrageous as that sounds and yet all I ever thought about was killing myself when I was captured.” “Not that? How much energy does it take to fly the ship?” “Oh.” He doesn’t seem bothered at Charlie’s lack of concern for his psychological wellbeing. “Energy isn’t a problem. I have a power surge since Isla de Diablo. It’s like all my magic was stored up beyond full capacity.” “Do you mean to have him fly us all the way?” Madison questions. “If we fly over the forest we can cut off more time.” After two days of unconsciousness he’s clever as ever. “That’s brilliant.” Hugo smirks. “Glad you’re back to your usual self.” Charlie does a double take. “Are you?” “Sure. You were a worthy opponent.” He gives him a wink and holds up his fists. “Who else will fight me on this ship? The rest are cowards or wise enough not to try. You’re brave and dumb.” The Commander’s head falls back in laughter. “We have a bout to resume, don’t we?” “Enough of that.” I say completely certain that men never truly grow out of childhood. “What about when Rogan needs to sleep?” “We can make it in a day at this rate.” “Then I can go without sleep. But I should eat.” Rogan guesses.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 The Only Way to Travel

151

It is a great plan. My only regret is that I can’t tell my parents that I’m safe until we land and I send a messenger Elf. That remorse is offset with the knowledge that I’ll see Gin-gin within twenty-four hours. Three weeks feels like a million years without her. Considering all that has transpired since we last spoke it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been longer. With everyone crowding Charlie and giving him updates on our voyage, I wonder off feeling too relieved to strategize about how to best Jaxton. Glancing down I see the shore near. We are already closer to the beach than a ship this size should get if it were in the water. A moment of doubt about Charlie’s plan to fly over the forest passes quickly. Apparently I’m not the only one needing a reprieve from the hero worship. Clancy sits on the steps leading to the bow and my guess is Madison’s kiss was harder for him to see than me. “How are you holding up?” I echo his sentiment from earlier. “Tough as nails.” It’s far more believable when he says it. I sit beside him. “Does Madison know you care for her?” “She has a rule about getting involved with another pirate.” He glances at the stars above. “Jaxton ruined it for the rest of us.” And she ruined Charlie for the rest of us. I put my arm around his shoulder and give him a half hug. “I don’t think it’s as hopeless as you think.” “Felicia.” Charlie has come to find my. “Am I interrupting?” “You are.” Clancy answers but I don’t think he means our little chat. “Figured everything out?” I ask. “No. I’ve heard of Montague but I don’t have a clue how to contact him. If I did, he would be out of business.” “I’ll see you later.” Clancy gets up and leaves. The coldness is so pronounced even a dense guy like Charlie doesn’t miss it. “Is he smitten by you?” “No.” I laugh. “He doesn’t care for me.” Charlie takes Clancy’s place by me.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “It’ll pass.” I hope. “About what I was saying in the cabin, I was scared and I wanted you to wake up.” “You were.” He allows. “And you said things you didn’t mean to say but did mean.”

152

There’s no taking it back or even letting it pass. “Do you remember any of your nightmares?” He shrugs. “Many. It was horrific scene after horrific scene of all my worst fears played out in gory detail. Some where my family and friends were being killed or tortured. The good ones were where I was the one being harmed. All I could do was tell myself it wasn’t real but that didn’t make it seem less authentic.” “I’m so sorry. We didn’t know how to stop it.” “Eventually the horrors stopped and then nothing – no sound, no light, everything was gone. For a while I figured I was dead. The Pixie venom must have run its course. Then I heard you crying and I thought it was going to cycle through again but it was different that time. Waking up was going to be good after those dreams but it couldn’t have been nicer without you in my arms.” “It was my turn to sit watch on you.” I say as if we took shifts. “Funny. Madison didn’t mention that. She actually said you rarely left and never longer than a few minutes.” “You’re well and that’s all that matters.” “Not all that matters. I recall someone swearing an oath that she would listen to me going forward.” “It wasn’t an oath. It was more like the desperate plea of a distraught woman.” The back of his fingers gently runs down my face. “Let’s test what happens, shall we?” I swallow wondering what he’ll ask and I know there isn’t anything I’ll refuse him. “You look awful.” Wasn’t anticipating that remark. “When was the last time you had a good rest? My guess is almost three nights ago.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “I slept.” “Get some shut eye.”

153

My first impulse is to stay put but he’s right. I’d rather talk all night long or even if we didn’t say anything at all I’m just so glad he’s up. But if it will make him happy for me to get some rest, I’ll comply. “Wake me at dawn.” He kisses me. “Do you know how irresistible you are when you’re obedient? I’ll tuck you in.” Holding my hand he walks me to our room. “Is that what you truly want? For me to obey your every command like a pet dog?” “For a while, I’d like it. I have enough to deal with finding this Pixie and arresting Jaxton. I don’t need you running amok in your imaginary fantasy world where everything, even the Trolls, are good.” “You intend to order me to stay at the castle until then?” “I don’t.” He says all too easily as he pulls back the sheets for me. My mind doesn’t need to do a lot of deducing to see where he is headed. “You’re going to jail me again.” “How about you let that go? It was hardly a hardship. Considering you were kidnapped the night I moved out I don’t really see how you can protest.” He’ll see me protest but I’ll wait for the time to come. “And I suppose you have too much energy to sleep.” “Hugo and I are going to crack open some rum and drink until we fight or don’t have the urge to.” Absolutely ridiculous. “Will Madison allow it?” “She already retired for the night.” He sits me on the bed and leans with an arm on each side of me. Kissing me hard I can’t help but recline under him. “I don’t want you fighting.” I murmur. “I promise if we make any wagers that I won’t use you as ante.” He says it so softly in my ear that I almost miss the meaning behind the words. “Or I could stay here and we can do whatever you want.” “Maybe you could wait a little longer before drinking with Hugo.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 He grins and turns off our lamp.

154

Eventually I’m alone and can’t sleep without stopping the replay of our romance and I don’t care to do that. I haven’t written about the sea monsters yet and it seems like a good way to wind myself down. Lighting the lamp I get to business. The night sky is hidden behind the window, which only reflects a dim image of the room. The moon is discernable but no stars. Without warning the window pops open and two Fairies fly in, Anastasia and Willis. “Hello.” They greet. “We saw your ship flying over head. Do you need to be rescued?” Of course it’s the sort of thing that would catch their attention. “We’re working with Madison. Rogan, an enslaved Fairy we freed is flying the boat.” “Rogan?” Anastasia repeats. “Never heard of him. Must be from another Fairy clan.” “He isn’t adjusting well to freedom. Poor thing is terribly downhearted. I don’t know how long he was in that cage but it had to be decades.” “That’s a long time to be kept.” Willis is disturbed by the concept. “Will you do me a favor?” “Anything.” Anastasia agrees without stipulations. “Please tell my parents you saw me and that I am on my way to Kingdom City.” “Kingdom City?” Willis glances at Anastasia. “Perhaps I can go with them and see how Gin-gin is adjusting.” “Better yet, I’ll stay with them and you can pass Felicia’s message to her parents.” “Of course.” He flies off in a huff. If Gin-gin hasn’t found a suitable husband in the next week she is to marry Willis. It looks likely. Even if she has met new Fairies, it has only been two weeks and I don’t see her falling in love that quickly. Unlike me, she’s too intelligent to get attached too quickly. “Make yourself at home.” I offer to Anastasia. We talk and I write and after an hour, we settle in for the evening.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Madison Gets Anxious

155

“We’ll be in Kingdom City by dinner time.” Madison tells me the next morning. “And you’ve brought along an old friend?” “I stowed away last night.” Anastasia says. “Glad to have you on board assuming you aren’t going to bind me again.” Madison smiles kindly. “Rogan, can you come here? I’d like you to meet Anastasia the Queen of the Fairies.” Trotting up from the bow, Rogan halts when he sees Anastasia. The depressed Fairy bends to his knee. “It’s been decades since I’ve seen a free Fairy, Madam Elder.” “Please rise.” Anastasia takes his hands. “You’ve met some good friends of mine.” “Very good. They rescued me.” He keeps his head bowed out of respect. “Felicia was born with a heart of gold.” “It’s absolute truth.” I blush. Hopefully some interaction with Anastasia will remind him what it’s like to be with his own kind and erase any dark doubts from his fancy. “If you need to rest, I can take over for a few hours.” She offers. “I couldn’t allow you to do that.” “It would be an honor. Felicia updated me on how you saved them from Sirens and sea monsters. Giving you a moment to recuperate isn’t an imposition.” “Very well.” He says but I think he feels such an important Fairy shouldn’t do that kind of magic for humans. He goes below to his closet or my drawer for a quick nap. “And where is Commander Moberly?” Madison asks me. “Still in bed.” “Good. He needs to sleep off his night of rum.” She rolls her eyes. “I should have suspected Hugo was up to something when he relieved me of the helm an hour early.” I giggle. “But they got along?” “They did. Woke me up middle of the night singing some stupid sailor ditty. It was last call for them. Clancy and I put the rest of the rum back in storage.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 fresh for a long night that was capped off with only a couple of hours of sleep.

156

“We were ready to stop anyway.” Charlie says with a roguish grin looking too Quite surprisingly Madison walks up to him and before her fist meets his face he has her wrist in his hand. He was faster than her but Clancy faster than him and he gets another hit on his eye. “I should toss you overboard right in the middle of the Ogres’ land. How dare you try to steal any of my crew? It’s mutiny!” Madison is unnerved. “Will you guys stop hitting me?” Charlie holds his eyes. “Madison, I only told Hugo that if he really meant to give up piracy that I would see to it that he got a legitimate start in a proper career.” “Working like a dog trying to keep a family fed?” “If he wants it, who should deny him?” “I should have never allowed you on board the Orb Weaver.” “As if I asked for it? Go to a mirror if you wish to yell at the responsible party.” He paces. “If we get this Pixie and Jaxton to boot, I’ll see that any of your men are given a full pardon and a fresh start including you.” “And what does proper society have to offer me? A house, a farm, a dozen screaming kids?” She fumes. “Clancy, take the wheel. I need some space.” Running down the stairs she’s out of sight. “Aye Captain.” He glares at Charlie. “I decline your offer.” “Go see to Madison.” Anastasia whispers in my ear. “She needs some womanly advice.” Like I have any sagely words for someone more mature and worldly than myself but I go. “Madison.” I say cautiously. “Hi Felicia.” “Felicia?” I mimic. “Not sunshine, cutie, darling?” “You didn’t seem to mind.” “You didn’t seem to mean it maliciously.” I sit on a barrel next to where she leans against the railing of the bow. “Charlie’s a jerk.” She snickers. “You don’t even try to sound like you mean it.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 there’s a bit of a control problem he has.”

157

“I can see it. He doesn’t get that others didn’t have the same experience and then “Bit? The size of all Kismania.” Her red hair flies wildly about her face. “It’s better for them isn’t it? That bastard is right again?” “Would it be awful if they accepted Charlie’s proposal?” “Just for me.” “And Clancy. He declined Charlie flat out.” She smiles. “He’s very loyal.” “He loves you.” Now she blushes. “There are rules against that.” “Who makes the rules?” She rolls her eyes. “I’m sorry about yesterday. When I kissed Charlie.” “Do you love him still?” “Yes and no. We weren’t meant to be but he was my first love and I’ll never get over him completely.” And he may feel very much the same. I’d already accepted that. “I like you,” She then adds, “for him. I like you in general but you’re a good match for him.” “Because I’m not strong willed?” She laughs hard. “If you say so.” Her eyes dart up at the sails billowing in the wind. “Maybe we should have some girl time. I mean if they can have a boys night, why can’t we do the same.” “What do you have in mind?” “Well, I never met the King and only knew the Queen before she was married. It wouldn’t kill me to wear a dress and look more presentable.” “You don’t need to do that.” I remind her for good measure. “But it would be fun.” It’s my turn to dress her up. She has a large selection of clothes and some dresses and skirts that she only used when she needed to blend into the crowd. We pick the dark blue dress I sewed my first day. After her outfit is done, we work on her beautiful hair.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 its thing. I skip over most of the make up but do allow her some rouge and lipstick. “You’re stunning.” I say truthfully. “Did you have to pick something so lacey?” She picks at her collar. “No. There are other choices but let’s get a second opinion.” Reluctantly she allows me to take her to the helm. “Captain Madison.” Clancy’s jaw drops to the deck. Even Charlie is pleased – too pleased. “Do you like it?” For once Madison sounds like an insecure girl rather than a strong woman. “Aye Captain.” “Commander Moberly,” Anastasia interrupts. “Shall we land in the water and bring the ship in the usual way?”

158

It is too lovely to tie back or up so we pin braided strands on each side and let the rest do

“Excellent plan.” He peers through the telescope and then hands it to me. “That way.” “It’s the castle.” I can see the peaks of the rooftops. “We’re there.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Too Many Chefs Once we dock there are a hundred of the King’s Guards waiting for us. As

159

agreed, Charlie goes to talk to them and explain that Madison and her crew are not to be arrested. After negotiating, he returns to say she is allowed to keep her weapons and bring a couple of men with her to see the King. Getting in a covered wagon, we’re escorted to the castle. Unlike the first time, I’m not intimidated by the big city. Too much has happened in the last month for crowds of unknown people to sway my nerves. Hugo and Clancy sit on either side of Madison. Charlie and I sit across from them with Anastasia and Rogan between us. The three pirates are anxious, probably to meet Edward and Mary since Charlie has vowed they will not be detained if they wish to leave. Charlie gets out first and helps me down. As soon as I turn to move on so he can help the others Gin-gin flies into me at full speed and I slam into him. She forgets her own strength. “Gin-gin, it’s so good to see you.” Her arms are too tight but I don’t mind. Madison gets off next and immediately Gin-gin flies in her face. “What are you doing here?” She yells in her high-pitched voice. “Gin-gin, she’s here under Commander Moberly’s protection.” Anastasia says. Gin-gin alights on the ground. “Mother?” They hug and we walk up to the entrance where Eddie and Mary immediately embrace Charlie and then me. She doesn’t like that Madison is there any more than Gingin does. “You’re showing.” I nod to Mary’s engorged body. “I look fat.” She frets. “But the sickness has passed.” “Mary.” Madison curtsies. “Last time I saw you, you were gushing about your prince fiancé.” “Madison.” She says coolly and gives Charlie a warning look. “Last time I saw you was the night before you stood my brother up at the altar.” “Ladies.” Charlie steps between them.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 wouldn’t be gone long. Not the man with a thousand lives.”

160

Before we get through the door Edward gives Charlie a manly hug. “Knew you Eddie cowers behind his father’s legs. “You snatched me.” He glares bravely at the pirates. “We shouldn’t have.” Madison lowers to be level with the child. “I’m sorry we scared you. We never wanted to scare you and we never would have hurt you.” “Liar.” “Eddie,” Charlie picks him up, “she’s telling the truth. Sometimes good people do bad things with good intentions.” “Pirates are bad people.” He stubbornly says as he clings to Charlie. “She’s only sort of a pirate. Maybe you can give her another chance?” “Sure he could.” Hugo steps up and bows to the young prince. “Your uncle and I didn’t get along well, but we’re friends now.” Eddie eyes Hugo suspiciously. Charlie gives him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. “You don’t have to. Use your best judgment.” “I’ll think about it.” Eddie says sounding wiser than his years. Clancy shakes his head at his comrades’ amateur efforts. He pulls out a leather string with a pirate doubloon dangling at the end. “This is a good luck necklace.” Eddie’s eyes follow the gold as it swings at the end of its cord. “You wear this and pirates will know you have other pirate friends and they’ll think twice before they mess with you.” He pulls Eddie’s small hand forward and positions the coin in his palm. “No one will bother you again.” “Thanks.” Eddie says and happily shakes Clancy’s hand. “I’m Eddie.” “I’m Clancy.” Madison is most shocked of all of us. “Can I play with Clancy?” He asks his parents. “Later.” Mary says holding back her distaste on the matter. Even she found Clancy’s gift sweet in a bribery kind of way, she doesn’t want her son being friendly with outlaws.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 updates Edward and the others of everything up to and including our arrival. Both Theodore and Edward III are there. “Madison, until this business is resolved, you have immunity in our town

161

Sanora takes Eddie away and the rest of us gather in the waiting room. Charlie

provided that you work with us.” Theodore declares after some private discussions with the Edwards and Charlie. “Then you have a choice to make. If you choose to return to piracy, you will be granted a one day head start before things return to as they have been.” “Understood.” She says. “Theodore has left us to handle this predicament.” Edward informs Charlie. “Shirking his kingly duty?” Charlie teases and the new bachelor King laughs. “If so only in this instance. Seems to be taking to it nicely.” Their father pats Theodore’s back. “You’re mother raised you boys well.” “Felicia, you must be exhausted. Would you like a bath and change of clothes?” Mary asks. I glance up to Madison. Surely the offer isn’t meant to be extended. “Um, yeah, I could use a good bath.” “Sanora, can you find these three rooms in the north wing if they’d like to stay at the castle while in town.” “Thank you but we can stay on the Orb Weaver.” Madison defies. “Madison, if you are going to be intricately involved in finding Montague, you may as well bunker down here on dry land for the time being.” Charlie persuades. “I don’t know if I will feel comfortable here.” And by comfortable she means welcomed. “I had to live on your boat for almost a week, you can grin and bear it.” “Fine. We’ll stay here. It’s a generous offer. Thank you.” As soon as we are in the spa room, in the south end of the castle, and the servants are preparing the water Mary starts her inquisition. “Was it awful? Did she make pass after pass at Charlie? She always does.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Not really. At first it was scary but then we kind of felt like part of the crew.

162

And although they haven’t stopped caring for each other, I don’t think you have anything to worry about regarding Madison and Charlie.” “Good. She’s wretched.” “I kind of like her.” I get a shocked look from Mary. “She’s a great captain. Nice to see a woman in charge. Kind of like you when I think about it.” “I don’t break the laws.” She rebuts. “True. I swear, they were very nice to us, as far as pirates go.” “I bet Charlie felt differently.” I chortle. “At first but he eased up. Hugo and him had a go at each other but that passed after we escaped Jaxton. The two of them got into the rum last night and Madison went to strike him for his insubordination.” “How dare she? I can’t believe they are staying in the castle. I only offered because it will be better to keep them nearby. You know, keep your enemies close. Can’t say I wouldn’t prefer her staying far from here.” “She turned to Charlie because he was in a position to help and when he was out for days, she was torn up with guilt.” “Because it’s her fault.” “It was her fault he was there but by then he wanted to hear what Jaxton was planning. And she has brought this potential danger to your attention.” I get in the bath and it feels great to be pampered again. “It’s good to be queen.” “It’s better to be the queen’s friend.” She kisses the top of my head. “I can’t tell you how worried we were about both of you. I knew Charlie would get you back safely. As evil as Madison is, she’d never mortally wound Charlie.” “See, there’s something good about her.” Mary squints her eyes at me and I’m sure I took the opposition one argument too far. She leaves me to her servants and after a relaxing soak I’m given new clothes Janice prepared for me. I must have taken too long because I’m the last to arrive for dinner. Like the small table father made at our house, they have arranged a similar one for Gin-gin. Anastasia, Rogan and a sight for soar eyes, Speedy join her.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 have some stories for Quinn.” He nods. “Felicia, you look well.”

163

“Speedy.” I give him a hug and whisper in his ear. “Come by my room later. I

That was uncharacteristically sappy of him. Madison, Hugo and Clancy are half way through their soup when I sit. Immediately a warm bowl is placed on my placemat and one on Charlie’s. He had waited for me. “Where’s Mary and Edward?” I ask taking a mental roll call. “They had a family meal with Eddie earlier. They’ll be by shortly.” True to his word, Edward, Mary and the newly crowned Theodore come in as we enjoy a post dinner drink. The most obvious problem as they start to work out the details of the operation is everyone is trying to run things. “We have the best chances of getting to him.” Madison declares. “We’re his kind of people.” “Honor among thieves?” Mary glares at her. “All the same, things will be better if Charlie takes charge. We’ll need someone we can trust.” “I’ll go undercover.” He says. “It won’t be hard. Gin-gin says she has a lead to get us in contact with Montague.” “I do.” She confirms. “We’ll send out a feeler,” Charlie motions to Madison as a gesture that she is an integral part of the team, “and we’ll smoke him out.” Of course, she is included and he’ll expect me to stay put like a good dog. “Felicia, you should come and see the colony Gin-gin has started here.” Speedy brags for her and again it feels unfitting for the Speedy I know and love, not that it diminishes my love for him. “You did most of the work.” She answers back. “It’s a Fairy Elf colony. Rogan isn’t the only Fairy to have a hard time adjusting to freedom. Most aren’t so down about it but many aren’t ready to return to their homes. So we enchanted a tree here on the grounds and many elves came to live. They all work in town but now they live there and go to work like people do.” “That’s brilliant.” I compliment. In synch Speedy credits Gin-gin as she credits him. They laugh.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Better than their bickering. “I knew you would do great things.” “Me too.” Her mother states proudly. “I’ll have to reconsider this mandatory marriage deadline.” “We can discuss that later.” Gin-gin stands up and stretches. “I think I’ll get some rest. It’s going to be a big day if we plan to reach out to Montague.” “I’ll get going as well.” Speedy gives me a wink.

164

“I suppose that’s my cue.” I get up knowing Speedy will be at my window within minutes. My room is as welcoming as I remember. Odd how it felt like a cell the first night I spent here. Going to the few things I brought with me from the Orb Weaver, I locate the articles I wrote for Quinn. Hurriedly I make notes for him not to post anything that implies that Madison and Charlie are working together. Not that it truly matters. The one person that we wish to keep that secret from will know the truth when he sees the Orb Weaver docked unmolested in Kingdom City. Having sufficiently explained the situation, I wait. It won’t be long. Or so I think. Almost an hour later Speedy comes into my room via the window. “What took so long?” “You aren’t the only person that uses my services in the castle.” “Yes, you’re very important. I forget.” I hand him the pages and for once he doesn’t bother to read them. He heard the stories earlier that day. “I see you and Gin-gin get along better.” “Well, she needed support. The big city, missing you and trying to adjust to all the red tape of parliament was overwhelming her at first.” He gives me a hug. “We were both so glad to see you today.” “As I was you.” “Come by the colony tomorrow. You’ll love it.” “Speedy, which way is Charlie’s room?” He eyes me suspiciously. “And why would you need that information?” “I forgot to tell him something.” I fabricate. “And you’re going to see him dressed in your night clothes?” He points up and down at my attire.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Never mind.”

165

“It’s straight down the hall to your left. Last door on the right.” Given his playful humor, he could have been much more difficult about it. I wave good night and he leaves the way he came. The room feels empty. The last six nights I have shared my bed and now the one before me looks lonely. Poking my head out the door I make sure the passage is clear. There are candles lit but it is dim. I creep slowly but hear a door. Ducking in a broom closet I wait for footsteps to pass before proceeding again. I knock gently at first then louder. He must still be discussing the big plan. I open the door for a quick glance to confirm it’s unoccupied and then I tiptoe back to my room disappointed. What was I thinking? His life is too busy to make time for an unscheduled rendezvous. The romance of being at sea is lost in his hometown with his duties pressing down on him. In my room I kick off my slippers and sit on my bed. Arms grab me from behind and I try to scream but a hand covers my mouth. “Felicia, it’s me.” Charlie says. “Where did you go dressed like that?” “No where.” I lie. “And what are you doing here?” “Thought I could start the night here.” He pulls me down and snuggles up. “Or I can go if I am being presumptuous.” “You are but I don’t want anyone seeing you sneaking out of my room. What would people think? Wait a while and then you…” He doesn’t let me finish my inane tirade.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Fairy Refugees

166

Gin-gin wakes me up and I slyly check to make sure Charlie left. I’m alone in the bed. “It’s nice to be woken up by you again.” “Don’t expect me to believe that. You hate it when I get you up but I can’t wait and Speedy said you wanted to see the colony.” “Of course I do.” I get ready and Gin-gin only allows me a chance to grab a muffin to nibble on before taking me into the denser part of the trees on the castle property. “Aren’t you going to blind my sight?” “No. Queen Mary is allowed to know so I don’t see why you can’t. We’re a very progressive community.” She keeps flying faster and then slows to wait for me. She is very excited. “I’m coming.” I hurry. Like the trees where Gin-gin’s home was, we walk into another tight circle. They must magic them in this formation. The nooks are fewer as are the occupants who exit to get an eyeful of the newcomer. More blue elves than glowing Fairies wave down at me. Anastasia flutters out of her guest nook and lands on a stump in the center like the one she has in her home. “Gin-gin, I have to admit you and Speedy have created a fine establishment.” She brims with motherly pride. “Speedy did most of the work.” “And what happens to their former illegal masters?” “A committee has been assigned to deal with them. Mary is on it. There is no amnesty but not all sentences will be equal since not all treated their slaves equally. Each Fairy will be questioned before they dole out the consequences of their punishment.” Her mother gives her a warm hug. “You’re work here is remarkable. I hope they appreciate you on their council.” “Yes Mom.” “It would be selfish to force you to leave. You may have another ten years to find a husband. Of course Willis won’t wait for you.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Thank you but as it turns out I’ve accepted a marriage proposal earlier this week.” “You’re engaged?” I’m shocked. Her mother is too. “Out of love or obligation?” “Love.” Anastasia glances around for the likely prospect. “Does my future son-in-law have a name?” “Sebastian.” “And he makes you happy?” She nods. “He can make me very agitated as well.”

167

“That isn’t nice.” Speedy says jumping from his home and landing next to her. “Mother, this is Sebastian.” “Speedy?” In my shock it sounded critical. “I never dreamed. I mean sure you two flirt all the time.” I give them hugs. “Sebastian? Your proper name is Sebastian.” “No one ever calls me that.” He pales a bit and then gives Gin-gin a sweet peck on the cheek. “We grew closer working with our colony and eventually the jabs turned to affection.” Anastasia hasn’t said a word. I doubt she expected her future son-in-law to be an Elf. “Mother. Don’t you have anything to say?” “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little shaken.” “I am deeply in love with your daughter. And the day she agreed to marry was the happiest of my life.” “Still, I wasn’t prepared for you to be an Elf.” She looks ashamed by her comment. “It isn’t something that has happened before.” “I think it’s a new trend.” Gin-gin says and sure enough some of the nooks house mixed species. “I won’t object to your love. That isn’t the problem. I suppose only time will tell if you can have children.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Gin-gin laughs. “Is that what has you worried? Grandchildren? Mother, you

168

have dozens already and if we can’t have children of our own, than we’ll lavish those in our family.” “And if you can they will be the most beautiful blue Fairies ever.” Anastasia kisses her daughter and then Speedy. “I wish you a long and happy life.” “Thank you Mother. Don’t cry.” They both are a bit weepy. Poor Sebastian isn’t sure how to respond but he’s grown up if he doesn’t speak whatever glib comment I’m sure he has already thought of. The Fairy elder hides her eyes. “We preach and live by a code of equality. It’s important but we aren’t without our prejudices. If we were, more of us would have friends like Felicia and none of us would have thought you odd for it. But my little girl has proven that she sees the soul and not the being.” She blows her nose that is extraordinarily loud for a foot tall woman. “It’s humbling.” They start to chatter quickly as they discuss details like where, when, perhaps having two ceremonies to cover Gin-gin’s hometown and current residence. Peering around at all the Fairies and elves I spy my despondent friend. “Good morning Rogan.” “Felicia.” He smiles a first although it isn’t a big one – all lip and no teeth. I guess the depression is wearing off. “Good to see you.” “Rogan is a hero.” Gin-gin tells me. “We were up half the night listening to his adventures.” “Saved our lives on numerous occasions. He’s a good man.” I agree. “I didn’t do anything that any of us wouldn’t have done in the same situation.” Many Fairies nod at Rogan’s words and even a few elves that agree on principle since they don’t have magical powers to fly ships and silence sirens. “We were lucky to have you with us. Commander Moberly might have died without your healing magic.” Gin-gin kisses Speedy and her mother. “I’ll be at the castle with Felicia if you need me.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Speedy smiles nervously at his future mother-in-law, who has a tentative grin. They’ll be fine. He’s a great guy. Gin-gin and I head back to human turf. “It’s a very nice colony.” I admire.

169

“They did most of it and Speedy did the organizing. He’s the unofficial leader.” “You two are too cute together.” She blushes. “By the way, you haven’t told me about your excursion.” “We told you everything at dinner.” She wants details about Charlie. It was at the mention of his name that she suddenly decided to return to the castle. “I stopped by your room last night.” That was all she needed to say to confirm my secret was exposed. “We have grown close.” “Are you in love with Charlie?” “With him? I don’t know that but I do love him. And I’m sure he cares dearly for me.” “What happened?” I fill in the missing pieces. I hadn’t even gotten to the kiss after the Sirens when we cross the bridge so we sit down on the bench and catch up on girl talk. After satisfying her interest in my love life she gives me the same details of her time with Speedy. “I wondered where you ladies went.” Charlie says as he walks up the bridge to meet us. “We were catching up on everything.” Gin-gin giggles. A telling sign to him that we are discussing him. Unfazed, perhaps flattered, he sits with us. “I saw Seymour this morning. Do you know he won’t talk much when he’s a wolf if strangers are around? This old man suggested I see the town psychologist thinking I was talking to an ordinary dog. He might have taken me himself if Seymour didn’t start laughing. And if you think Seymour is a strange sight when he speaks, a laughing wolf if downright unsettling. Boy did that put the fear of dog in the old man. He ran off probably to set up an appointment for himself. But really, in a town like this and it didn’t cross his mind the wolf understood

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 me.” Charlie shrugs and gets back to business. “He’s going to contact Montague like you suggested. Now we wait.” “We’ll find him.” She assures him.

170

“We need to. Before Jaxton and he may already have a goon on the job in town.” “The colony is going to scour the village and see if they can sense any Fairies. A trader like him must have several in one location. We’ll pick up their trace.” “If they aren’t being used to hide their own existence.” Charlie frets. “What are we going to do when we hear back?” I ask. “I’ll meet him incognito.” I don’t care for that much risk. When the time comes, I’ll allow him to believe I will stay put and then follow from a distance. If Gin-gin won’t help me, Rogan will. “I have a meeting to go to.” Gin-gin excuses herself. Does she really have a prior arrangement or if she is giving us time alone? Either way, we are alone. “Did you know that Speedy and Gin-gin are engaged?” “They are. That’s great.” Apparently Charlie is thrilled at the idea of marriage if he isn’t involved. “Have you read the morning paper?” “No.” “Susie Nimm, who hasn’t had an article published in days, has one in today’s paper. It’s about our safe return.” He doesn’t conceal a revealing smile. “She’s enamored by me. You can tell.” Pretending he doesn’t know seems stupid. Even if I want to keep my identity secret, it’s clear by the look on his face that he has made the correct conclusion. “How long have you known?” “Since the day we left Kingdom City. It hit me that night when I replayed who could have leaked the kidnapping attempt. I’m not usually that dumb but it took me a while to realize Susie Nimm was a penname.” His numerous lame jokes about wanting to meet her seem different in hindsight knowing he knew. He kisses me. “I wanted her to be you.” Standing he extends a hand. “I’d love to stay here all day but Madison sent me to fetch you. Shall we?” Taking his arm we find Madison and her men on the back patio.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Good morning.” She says brightly. “Good morning. How are you guys?”

171

“Fine. Better now that you’re here.” Clancy smiles and Charlie’s hand squeezes my arm. “We’re headed to town. Do you want to come with us? Get out of this stuffy castle.” Must be worse for them to have to conform to the castle. “That’s too tempting to pass up. Charlie, you’ll come too?” “I can’t.” He says to Clancy’s delight. “Back to work.” Hugo taunts him. “I tell you what, I’ll meet you at the pub and the first round is on me.” “When word spreads the whole crew will want to come.” “The more the merrier. Keep an eye on her, will you?” “Charlie, didn’t we take excellent care of her while she was with us?” He raises a doubtful brow at the man who cut me the first night we met. “Take care of her. If not, I’ll send a couple guards to dog you.” “We’ll be fine without your dogs.” Madison pulls me from Charlie’s arm. “Let’s go see what this town has to do for fun.” “Stay out of trouble and don’t forget to behave as non-piratical as possible.” “Sir, yes sir.” Clancy gives him a mock salute and pushes Madison and me into the house. “He’s a right drill sergeant he is.” “Where are you headed off to?” Mary cuts us off at the pass. “A day in town. Shopping, eating, who knows what we’ll find.” Madison tells her. She wants to forbid it but Charlie gives her a stern eye and she wishes us a nice time.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Same Ole City, New Felicia It’s a lot more fun walking around town with a group of friends. The pirates aren’t like other people. They go into every shop and look at all the goods – even the

172

dresses are fascinating to Hugo and Clancy. And Madison knows how to spend money. I try to forget that it’s probably stolen. Madison has a fondness for jewelry. Being her only girl friend she insists on buying me something. I talk her down from a large pendant, chain and earrings to a smaller charm and chain. “It’s lovely.” Hugo tells me. “And you deserve it. You’re a good kid to put up with us without judging.” Kid? He can’t be more than ten years older than me. “Thanks.” I say holding the heart locket out with my thumb. It is nice. “Let’s get started on that drinking.” Madison steers us to the bar. Seymour is tending shop and the large black wolf is curled on his mat. With a nod he acknowledges me. “As long as we’re here, do you mind if I go and pay a quick visit to a friend of mine that works upstairs?” “We’ll go with you.” I think about it. “Okay but I should tell you that I write for Insights and I’m going to see Quinn the owner of the paper.” Madison has a wicked grin on. “You’re Susie Nimm?” “How do you know?” “She wrote about the night we tried to kidnap the prince and when we took you.” Why do I even bother with a penname? We walk into the office and Speedy greets us. “Why Felicia, did you come to see me at work?” He covers. “I’m here to see Quinn. They know. I think everyone does.” “Oh.” He dismisses. “Go on in. He’d love to meet Captain Madison and her mates.” We walk back and I rap on the doorjamb. “Hi Quinn.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 sees I am not alone. “You’re Captain Madison the Lady of the Sea.” “Nice to meet you, Quinn.” She shakes his hand and introduces Hugo and Clancy.

173

“Felicia. Finally we get a chance to talk face to face.” His mouth drops when he

“You never cease to amaze me, Felicia. First the Royal family and now the crew of the Orb Weaver.” “If we were ever to talk again, I had to give up the ghost.” “Captain Madison.” He says in pure awe. “You’re a legend among legends.” “Legends based on stories that have more invention than truth.” “Doesn’t matter as long as they sell.” Spoken like a true print man. “And if half of what Felicia wrote was true, you’re quite a woman and pirate and captain.” “Everything I wrote was the absolute truth.” “We can’t keep the stands supplied. Selling like hotcakes.” “Good. Do you have a copy? I tried to buy one but…” “They were sold out. I know. We are outselling The Proclaimer two to one. You’re some journalist.” He hands me a page and the headline reads Fairy Slave Business Hit Hard by Guards. “We had already caught up in circulation after your previous adventures but now we are the leading publication.” “This doesn’t have any of the stories from our trip. Only an edited version hinting at Sirens and Pixies.” “It’s a teaser. Saving the full versions for a book. Kind of needs an ending.” He hints. “As for the paper we keep up the pace even on slow news days and we had to hire some extra help to manage the increase in new subscribers. Some of the freed Fairies took jobs. It’s avant-garde for Fairies to work for a man but they like it as much as we do.” We convince him to join us and Seymour gives our group in a private room expecting our numbers to grow. Charlie brings Stanley and a couple of other guards. More pirates drop in followed by more guards. Gin-gin, Speedy and Rogan add a little specie variety. Many Elves and some braver Fairies also come.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 pirates are indistinguishable. It’s great to see Rogan being more social but he keeps somewhat hidden in the corner. Taking a shot glass of mead I offer him a refresher. “Glad you came out.” “It’s different to be in Kingdom City when you’re free.” “You deserve to be free. No one should be caged.” “Except for the Pixie.” He frowns.

174

I’ll tell you this much – once they have a few drinks in them the guards and the

“Sheila was a piece of work. I guess for safety’s sake that would be good. But that’s because she’s dangerous. Maybe we can find a way to exile the Pixies. To be honest, I don’t feel right about that either. What do you think?” “Me?” “Well, you’re the only friend I have that was ever enslaved and you know what Sheila is like.” “You consider me a friend.” “Even if you hadn’t saved our lives so many times. Rogan, you’re free and you are a good Fairy. And we are most definitely friends.” Charlie watches us as Stanley and Clancy have him flanked arguing passionately about something or maybe men don’t need a topic to argue over. He rolls his eyes and then winks. “I’m going to get some more food.” I tell Rogan and stopping by Charlie I ask him to go and chat up Rogan some. He needs more than one friend. The main room is empty in comparison. “Seymour, we’re running low on snacks.” “Stella, get some food for Moberly’s party, will ya?” He asks one of his waitresses. “What about you? Do you need anything?” “I’m good, thanks.” “Hello.” Agnes’ shrill voice says behind me. “Agnes. How are you?” “No guards or Fairies tonight.” I laugh. If she only knew who was with me in the other room. “Do you want something?”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Only to finish what we started.”

175

What is it with city folks that they want to fight all the time? She makes a move to slap me again. It’s child’s play compared to life on the Orb Weaver and I pin her face down to the bar. “It was good seeing you again.” I release and head to our party. In the doorway are Madison, Charlie, Clancy and Hugo. Rogan is at their feet. All with big grins, well Rogan had his wiry smile and he stays behind Charlie’s leg. Probably doesn’t want Agnes to see him since she owned him the last few years. “That’s my girl.” Hugo says and gives me a big congratulatory embrace and a wet peck on the cheek. “What do you mean?” Madison contradicts. “She’s still standing. Go back and finish her off or I find me a new protégé in the morning.” “She was perfect.” Charlie takes my hand. Patting me on the back, Clancy sits me at the head of the table. “Rogan, why don’t you lead the toast?” Clearing his throat he lifts his glass to his mouth and says before drinking, “To Felicia.” Everyone clicks glasses and drinks. “Very nice.” I blush and then whisper to Charlie, “Good enough to be part of the team when the time comes.” “Yes but you won’t be going.” He answers simply. We’ll see about that.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 The Last Pixie

176

At least I know to stay put in my room rather than search for Charlie. As he had the night before, Charlie pays me a visit. “I’ve decided to relocate to Southland after this matter here is settled.” He tells me. Joy engulfs me and I kiss him. “What about your sister and Edward? Won’t you miss them?” He shimmies under the covers. “No. They’re moving there too. Theodore will run things up here and Edward will run things down there and parliament will live in one place or the other and they will meet four times a year for national issues. That’s the direction things are going now.” I snuggle up thinking that sounds idyllic, a real live happily ever after. Best of all, I’m sure Gin-gin and Speedy will live in Southland at least half the time. “What will Madison do after this?” “I don’t know. I’d recruit her to the navy but Theodore and Edward aren’t willing to allow that.” He squeezes me. “As for us, I suppose we should get married.” “Do you?” I answer in the same business-like sense he used to make the declaration. He nods. “That’s what you want, isn’t it?” It’s like he’s looking for a loophole. “I want you.” “Then it’s settled.” It had to be the least romantic marriage proposal ever. “You give the orders and I’ll do the obeying.” “You’re only saying that to turn me on.” He teases. “Felicia, I love you.” My head pops up. “What? Did you drink too much? Are there Sirens around here somewhere?” “I love you. That’s how I knew the Sirens couldn’t make me jump overboard. There are only three ways to get by them if you’re a man.” He counts out on his fingers as he explains. “If you can’t hear them. If you can’t love. Or if the thing you love is with you.” “And how do you know that it isn’t that you can’t love.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


177

“I had it narrowed down before we sailed through the Rocks but considering I was ready to take you right there on the deck in the rain with Madison watching, I think we both know the answer.” “I love you too but you’ve known that for a while.” “You’re a woman of refined taste so it was the logical conclusion.” I hit him with the back of my hand and we wrestle and then we don’t. After a night of food and drink, I usually lag all morning but I have energy to spare. Mary is the only person up when I get downstairs and we start a quiet breakfast. “Looks like Charlie has updated you on our plans.” She says seeing my exuberance. “It will be wonderful. You’ll love Southland.” “Nice weather year round. I’ll be able to garden everyday. I’m sure we’ll adjust. And Edward’s duty will be lighter.” She has a waiting expression but no patience. “Charlie says he wants to marry you. Did he mention that yet?” I pull my hair behind my ears. “He did.” She rolls her eyes and gives me a big hug. “Do you have a date set?” Shaking my head I tell her no. “He’s in love with me.” “I think we all know that.” “But he said it. Out loud. He loves me.” We quiet as we eat. Mary orders a second plate explaining her appetite is bigger than ever. Pregnancy does that to her. “Do you want a big family?” “I don’t know. Whatever works.” That’s too far down the road. “Nothing compares to children.” She promises or threatens. “There’s a hardship behind loving someone so much. For those few minutes between the guards shutting down the castle because Eddie was missing and Charlie bringing him to me – it was unbearable.” Madison wouldn’t have hurt him but that doesn’t excuse it. I recall how frightened the boy was. “Good morning.” Madison says. “Madison.” Mary says coolly. “You know there is one thing I never understood.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “What’s that?” “How did you make that hole in our wall when you tried to kidnap my son?” “We were following Agnes. She had her Fairy with her.”

178

“I did it.” Rogan admits flying in looking less gloomy every day. “A few days later, Agnes sold me to one of Jaxton’s men. It was after her home was searched and she wanted to get rid of the evidence.” “How did Jaxton find you?” Mary asks. “Through a written inquiry.” “Good morning everyone.” Charlie says giving his sister a peck on the cheek and then one to me and even one for Madison. “Such beautiful breakfast companions.” “You’re in a good mood.” Madison observes. “Didn’t you hear?” Mary says gleefully. “Charlie and Felicia are going to get married.” “That’s wonderful.” Clancy announces as he walks in with Hugo. “Congratulations.” Hugo says patting my head too hard. Shaken but not crushed, Madison gets up and gives me warm wishes. “You’re a lucky girl.” “You’ll come.” Now Mary is shaken but not crushed. “Have we heard anything back from our lead on Montague?” Edward asks. The dining room is going to hit maximum capacity at this rate. “Not yet and Jaxton is probably only a day or two away. His ship is fast.” Charlie remarks. “All these Fairy raids may have him jittery but they also mean he has to clear out his inventory and fast.” “I’m going to get Gin-gin and the others.” I excuse. I need to tell her the news before she hears via the grapevine. Rogan comes with me. The Fairies are buzzing around with their morning duties and I find Gin-gin and Speedy chatting happily on the edge of their nook. It doesn’t take long before they are both hugging me congratulations. “Charlie’s very lucky to have you.” Rogan surprises me with such optimistic kindness.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 he was invited to keep his mind from suicidal tendencies but I don’t think he needs it anymore.

179

“We want you to be there.” I hug him and he almost smiles properly. I told him

I never noticed it before but he isn’t as bright as the others. In the shade cast by the rising sun, he doesn’t shine at all. If I ever get my hands on the bastard that caught him – I’ll have Charlie throw him in the dungeon and destroy the key. Or get Hugo to take care of him for good. After that, I go back to the castle. Without anything to do but wait on word and every hour knowing Jaxton gets closer to town, high anxiety sets in. When a messenger Elf brings me a letter from my parents I quickly write a reply that I am well and have big news next time I see them. With things being murky, I can’t give an arrival date to note. Hopefully I’ll see them in a couple of weeks. The next day is even harder. Still no word and Jaxton has to be on our doorstep. The others aren’t handling the undo test on our patience much better. Mary stays clear of the pirates because each interaction upsets her. The pirates are bouncing off the castle walls. And when another day passes, we are dismal. Jaxton must be in town. The naval ships are patrolling the waters without luck but he has had enough time to complete the journey. The Fairies continue to probe the city for what has been dubbed the kennel but no such location is found. Dinner is silent when Speedy runs in at top speed. “Seymour heard back. We are to meet Montague at midnight at this address.” He hands Charlie a slip of paper. “Finally.” He sighs. “Madison, you’ll come with me. Clancy and Hugo will back us up but keep out of sight.” “And me.” I state. “You’ll be here.” He answers as if I asked. “I’ll stay with Clancy and Hugo.” If he doesn’t allow it, I’ll get Rogan’s help after they leave. Rogan had already agreed when we discussed it. “That’s going to be hard to do from the castle.” Charlie gets up and walks out and then back in not a minute later. “Charlie, I have been through worse things than this.” “I know honey.” He says kissing my cheek.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Stanley walks in. “We’re ready.” “Good, keep Felicia in her room until I get back.”

180

“No!” I say but Stanley and two other guards have me in their arms. “Gin-gin? Madison?” Neither help me and I am coerced to stay put in my room. “This is ridiculous!” I yell when they shut my door. I pace and fume. Hours later Charlie walks in dressed in grubby clothes to conceal his identity and weapons. “I’ll see you when we get back.” He tries to kiss me but I pull away. “I must love you to put up with this?” “Is that why you have me locked up alone?” “Not alone. Rogan wants to stay with you.” He opens the door and Rogan flies in. “You gave your word that you wouldn’t let her out and Fairies never lie.” Charlie points a stern finger at the blue-eyed Fairy. “Cross my heart and hope to die.” Charlie does a double take as he considers the odd joke from our once suicidal friend. “I’d tell you not to wait up but I’m sure you won’t listen.” He closes the door and gives the guards extra instructions. “I guess you always wanted to be caged again.” I say to Rogan. He sits down on my desk. “This is a nice cage.” “Take his side.” I look at the clock and it is nearly midnight. They are probably already in town. I have no way to find them even if I could find a way out. “It won’t take them long. An hour tops maybe two if Montague takes them to his Fairy vault.” “You know where they’re going?” “Agnes was thinking about trading me in a couple of years ago. She thought I was too miserable but Montague didn’t have any male Fairies at the time and she wanted a male for some reason.” “Why didn’t you tell us?” “No one asked.” We never did turn to him for input. We could have saved days of worry if we had or he had spoke up. And worse, what if Jaxton was on the same path at this very

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 beyond despair for everyone’s safety. “If it’s that important to you, I’ll take you and we can keep an eye on them.” “How can we do that with three guards and you gave your word?” “So we’ll wait.” “What if Jaxton is there with Sheila? She’s deadly.”

181

moment? Too late for what-ifs. Charlie probably has a small army for back up. Still I’m

“Yuck!” He shivers to hear her name. “This isn’t Jaxton’s doing to find Sheila a mate. She’s controlling his thought. She’s as mean as she is ugly.” “Makes you wonder if they can’t look like Fairies why they don’t stay like Fairies all the time.” I snicker. “Actually, they naturally look like Fairies and the spider form is a creation they developed to inspire fear. Over time it has become second nature and it takes almost no magical energy to switch between those forms.” “You’re probably right.” I settle on the bed and look him in the eye. “Hopefully they find the Pixie.” “They won’t.” “How can you be sure? Did you see him when you were at Montague’s?” “Not exactly.” He says elusively and a tooth sparkles from the lamps reflection. “Do you think they will kill the Pixie if they find it?” “I don’t know. I wouldn’t.” “I know you wouldn’t. But the others are blood thirsty.” “Not to kill him but to keep him from Jaxton. They’ll do the right thing.” I flop down on the bed. “And they’re taking Gin-gin and some other Fairies so they will have the magical advantage.” “Their magic won’t work in the vault. It’s magic proof.” “Why didn’t you tell us this before? Rogan are you sure?” This means things are down to man-to-man combat and Charlie may have understaffed his operation relying on Fairy power. He nods and then he smiles and for the first time I see his teeth. They are jagged and sharp.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Pixie.” He shakes his head. “I’m half Fairy and half Pixie and I’m not sure how the others would react to the news.”

182

“You’re teeth are like....” Revelation hits me like a blow to the head. “You’re the

No wonder he wasn’t more forthcoming if he thought they would kill him or cage him. Should I be worried that I am locked up with a venomous Pixie? I can’t be. It’s Rogan. “Rogan, we need to get to Charlie before they fall into a trap.” “Shall I take care of the guards?” He easily asks and it makes sense. He lied because he isn’t a full Fairy. And the lack of shine wasn’t because of his years in captivity. So many little clues added up. Even thinking back to when he talks he always hung his head to keep his teeth from showing. “What do you mean take care?” He rolls his eyes. “I’m not going to bite them. We don’t like to bite because we only have one dose. It’s for dire need. And being only half, mine isn’t as potent.” “Can you look like Sheila?” Suddenly a hideous form stands before me only the smile is recognizable. “That’s creepy.” I can’t keep this secret. The others need to know but I won’t let them harm him. I doubt it would come to that. “We’re going to tell Edward.” I bang on the door and demand to be taken to the king. “Charlie said not to let you go anywhere.” Stanley reiterates looking through a crack in the door. When Rogan in his spider form walks up Stanley pulls his sword. “Don’t you dare!” I snarl. “We want to see Edward. No one knows that Rogan is the Pixie everyone is looking for.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Once Bitten

183

We walk to Edward’s office. All the while Stanley eyes shift to Rogan in distrust. A large fireplace lights most of the room and Edward is surrounded by six other men and a handful of Fairies and elves including Anastasia. “Stanley, Charlie said she wasn’t …” He freezes and puts his hand on his saber. Before he does anything stupid I step forward. “Edward, there isn’t a Pixie at Montague’s. Rogan is half Fairy and half Pixie. Rogan can you change back?” My request is fulfilled before it is completely stated. Rogan has a puppy dog expression trying to elicit sympathy rather than fear or anger from the former king. “A Fixie?” Edward tries to smile but misgiving is in his eyes. “Charlie will be pleased. They went to a second location per instructions they found at Montague’s home.” Speedy runs into the office and upon seeing me he says, “Aren’t you suppose to be in your room?” But he has more important business than my whereabouts. “Edward, your men found Montague’s body stashed in a closet in his home. It’s a trap. Jaxton must have set it for Charlie and Madison.” “Do we know where they went?” “A general direction.” “I do.” Rogan says. “We can’t take him.” An older guard declares. “He’s what Jaxton is after. We would be better off killing him now.” With his saber drawn he swiftly moves to end Rogan’s life. I step in front of him expecting impact but the man is petrified in mid-action. “Thanks Rogan.” “I did that.” Anastasia announces. “Shall we go?” Edward doesn’t waste much time thinking it over. “We’ll need more Fairies and get a horse for Felicia. We’re going after them.” “Sir, you’re going?” Stanley says. “But you’re the king.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “I’m the king’s brother and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that fool of a brother-in-law get himself killed after how many times he has come through for my family. Now get the troops ready and my horse. I said MOVE IT!” Everyone breaks into action. “Anastasia, thanks for helping us out.” I say as we run down to the stables. “Pixie or not, I have no reason to distrust him.” She says sagely. Rogan explains the Fairy storage to us. It’s in a hidden cave within a cave and

184

even in the outer cave, magic will be hard to come by. “I can get us to the right location but it will take trial and error to find the doorway to the kennel. Whatever Montague did to get into the storage chamber was done secretly.” “The Fairies and elves will stay out of the cave until Jaxton is dealt with.” Anastasia decides. “There’s one more problem.” Rogan regretfully says. “Sheila.” “No kidding.” I sass as I jump on my horse and Speedy leaps up on my saddle. “She doesn’t know I am half Pixie and she can’t. My species isn’t prone to emotions, so when it’s time to procreate we are driven by instincts and pheromones.” “Are you saying if she realizes you’re near, you won’t be able to resist…” I stutter. He nods. “I’m only half Pixie. Even if I can it will be a hardship.” “You stay back with the rest of us.” Anastasia puts a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll keep you from doing anything you’ll regret.” “Do whatever you have to.” Rogan bravely says. It reminds me of Charlie when we were about to sail through the Rocks. Edward and I lead the troops through the woods with Rogan’s guidance. Rogan being the paranoid Fixie he is, steers us wide of a direct route. When we get to the cave entrance there are a dozen of Jaxton’s men standing guard. And we have no idea how many are inside. Circling his finger in the air, Edward orders his men to surround the pirates. Then Anastasia’s Fairies start to make the men woozy and wonder from the opening. Each leans on a tree trunk, against the rocky wall or on the soft ground and falls deeply asleep.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 Everything is working perfectly until a man walks out and shouts, “Jaxton” seeing his comrades passed out.

185

“Charge!” Edward yells and his men clash with an onslaught of pirates pouring out of the cave. “Where’s Charlie?” I say looking for signs of him or any of his team. Jaxton isn’t in the melee – he must have Charlie’s team in the cave. Without a guard I’m free to move in. A beefy pirate’s body almost pins me to against the mountain when it hits an invisible force field. Not sure who to thank for that narrow miss. I slip by and into the cave. Jaxton and three pirates have Charlie, Madison, Hugo and Clancy cornered without weapons. Sheila is there looking as hideous as ever. “Look who we have here?” Jaxton grabs my neck and holds a sword to me. “Do you know how to get into the Fairy kennel?” I shake my head. “Then we have no use for you.” Before he can slit my throat Rogan flies in. “I can.” He says. “Rogan, get out of here.” I beg. “Hush!” Jaxton orders. “Hurry or she dies.” Flying to a corner Rogan’s hands slide over the rock wall. “It’s in this area.” “Help him.” Jaxton tells Sheila who changes to a Fairy body and begins to search. Rogan is already frightened, so it isn’t alerting that he gives her a wide margin. Madison steps forward and Jaxton aims his saber at her. “Stay.” “We’re cooperating, let Felicia go.” “No. She wants to be here. Don’t you darling?” “What are we looking for?” Sheila snaps. “A hidden trigger on the wall.” Rogan says keeping distance between them. “I start killing in a minute.” Jaxton easily threatens. The sounds of steal against steal rings into the cave from the outside and Jaxton gets antsy. “Her first.” Jaxton points at Madison and his first mate quickly lunges at her mid section with his sword. He misses Madison when Clancy protects her and takes the brunt of the blade in his abs.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Clancy!” Madison yells and bows at his side. “Get up.” Jaxton orders. “You bastard.” Clancy moans in pain. “Madison, I’ve always loved you.” “Save your energy.” She says cradling him in her arms. “Up!” Jaxton barks. The killer picks up Madison, who runs for Jaxton but the pirate stops her. “I didn’t expect you to be so weak.” “Give me a sword and see how weak I am.” She dares.

186

“When I kill you, I’ll take my time. Betraying me for your former lover.” Jaxton sneers. One of the Pixies must have found the trigger because a hidden door appears in the thick stone. Pleased, Jaxton orders us inside. We’re ushered into a large cavern that has a dozen cages along the floor and a second cage above each. Most are empty but four are occupied with scared Fairies. “Can you tell which is the Pixie?” Jaxton asks Sheila. In her spider form she walks along each cage and peers curiously inside. Each Fairy clings to the far side frightened by the heinous creature leering at them. “It would have to be this one.” She says to the only male Pixie in a top cage. Even plainer than Rogan as a Fairy, she must have her doubts about the male Fairy who is gorgeous. “You in the cage.” Jaxton pulls me with him as he addresses the lone male Fairy. “Change back to your natural form.” “This is my natural form.” He answers from the far wall of his confinement. “This should help.” Sheila says and changes to her Fairy like body. She flutters her wings causing a breeze to flow into the confinement. If Rogan hadn’t mentioned pheromones earlier, I wouldn’t know what to look for. Since he did, I glance at him and his body is solid as stone as he fights the impulse to procreate. “It isn’t the Pixie.” Sheila changes back to her spider form. “Montague must have sold him. We’ll need to go through his record books and hit every sale he made

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 office, didn’t you?” “We did. Let’s get out of here.” Suddenly Jaxton rams me against the cages where Sheila was standing but moved out of the way. “Watch it.” She yells.

187

starting with the most recent and working backwards. You did take the ledgers from his

I can’t say anything with his meaty hand clenched tightly around my neck and my face smashed between iron bars. “Bite her.” He demands. “No.” Sheila thankfully says. “I’m not going to waste my venom when you can just as easily run her throw.” Charlie lunges at the pirate closest to Jaxton. Hugo and Madison follow his leading attacking the remaining two. Taking my arm Jaxton pulls it to Sheila and hits her in the face with it. Unable to resist her natural tendencies, she locks on for dear life and I feel the sharp tips of her teeth poke into the fleshy spot between my thumb and fingers. He releases me and I swing my arm trying to knock Sheila free but she won’t let go. Charlie grabs the sword wielding hand of his assailant and rams his elbow hard against his chin with a loud cracking noise. The man is out and Charlie is armed. He swings down on Sheila and cuts her in half at an angle. Her dead head unlocks from my hand and I hold my wound. Turning to Jaxton, Charlie’s bloody saber arcs directly at his neck. He intends to decapitate him. But Jaxton stops him with his weapon and Charlie uses all his strength to slowly move forward. Without the momentum to cut through his spine, Charlie cuts into Jaxton’s arm and pulls the full length of his blade along the slit. “Fool.” Jaxton jeers holding his saber easily in his left arm. “The Fairy warned me you would try to cut off my head. I knew what you were going to do before you even swung. And I’ve sustained much worse.” Hugo’s opponent lays dead on the ground and the last pirate is still standing with his sword. Madison stays with Hugo and Charlie and we are two swords against two swords. “Jaxton.” The lone back up says. “You’re arm.”

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 in the bar on Isla de Diablo. “Have you sustained worse from a blade that was covered in Pixie poison?”

188

The skin by the cut on Jaxton is black and bubbling. Worse than the pirate’s hand

Charlie picks me up from the ground. “Pixie poison that hasn’t been diluted by saliva.” Jaxton sinks to his knees and his saber falls to the dirt. With both hands at his temples he starts howling in anguish. The nightmares are even more severe either because he is awake or the poison is stronger or both. Even his lone crewman has his sword readied afraid of what the madman will do in his insanity. Grabbing the bars of the cages the vicious pirate pulls himself to his feet. The lunacy is apparent in his eyes and he runs at his man casting his chest on the blade. Dropping to the floor with the saber sticking all the way through his back, he rolls on his side screaming but only for one last terrifying breath. “Rogan, can you fix her?” Charlie begs. “Not in here.” He says as he opens the final caged Fairy. We stumble out of the cave to find that Edward and his men have the situation under control. “Gin-gin.” Charlie calls as he sits me on the ground. “Felicia needs you.” She’s there in a blink of the eye. I uncover my wound that hasn’t even darkened. “Rogan had to expel the poison before healing Charlie’s wound.” I tell her coherently. I’m waiting for the crazy to possess my mind but I didn’t get pure poison like Jaxton. “Rogan, you should do it.” “No need to drain the bad blood.” Rogan lands next to her and the two lay their hands on me. Interestingly enough, his magic feels different than hers. As I have been healed many times before the flesh prickles as it closes on itself good as new. “Why didn’t you get rid of the toxin?” Charlie asks. “Is it too late?” “It isn’t a problem.” “Not a problem.” He hollers. “She’s been bitten.” I put my hand on Charlie. “It’s okay. Rogan knows what he’s doing.” “Charlie, I was the one Jaxton was looking for.” Rogan confesses showing his sinister choppers. “You’re the Pixie?” Charlie is stunned.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie
 “Half Pixie half Fairy.” He explains. “And there is a weakness to our Pixie

189

poison. It’s toxin although effective, loses its power once a body builds immunity. So if you were bitten again, for example, you wouldn’t suffer any side affects.” “Side affects.” Charlie scoffs recalling his horrible recovery. “But how does that help Felicia.” “Well, we can’t help biting sometimes and if I was going to spend time with her, I couldn’t risk harming her. So, every night since I have been free I have given her small bites to build her tolerance.” “You have?” I’m flabbergasted. “But I haven’t found any bite marks.” “I healed them.” He says obviously and pulls at my finger. “Just small nibbles on your index finger, far away from your heart and brain. So you see, you won’t go mad. Your body is well equipped to extract it via its biological channels.” Charlie starts laughing. “That’s the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard but if she isn’t going to suffer, I don’t care.” He hugs me tightly. “Rogan, it appears that we owe you again for yet another save.” “You are the luckiest man alive.” Edward compliments. “Evidently you’ve found a lady that shares that resilience.” Shouting to the men. “Let’s get things cleaned up and head home.” “How bad are the casualties?” Charlie asks preparing for some bad news. “None.” Edward says. “Too many Fairies helping fight and if we got hit, we were healed before we even noticed.” “Except Clancy.” Madison cries into Hugo’s chest. “No, he’s fine. The Pixies pulled him from the cave and repaired him. Lost a lot of blood though. He’s really out of it.” Stanley tells us. “Kept saying ‘mad son’ as a soldier took him to the castle to recover.” “Madison, you idiot.” Madison is laughing and crying but clearly relieved. “I need a horse.” “Get her to the castle.” Edward tells Stanley and they hurry off with Hugo behind them. Charlie mounts a horse and then Edward helps me into his lap sitting completely sideways.

Lisa
Marie
Arnopp
 The
Last
Pixie


190

I try to straighten out some. “This isn’t going to be comfortable for your stead.” “He’ll be fine. We’ll take it slow.” Charlie gives me a long kiss. “And I want to do that at least once every minute all the way home so you’ll need to stay like that.” I roll my eyes and we trot down the path to the castle. “So?” Charlie says after a few minutes and an equal amount of kisses. “So?” “You were supposed to stay put. I thought you were going to obey.” “We had new information that necessitated new deliberation and Edward made the final decision that you needed backup. Good thing for you. So I was obeying him, who you left in charge of me, therefore, really, I didn’t rebel.” “That is the most convoluted excuse ever. Regardless, you didn’t need to come.” “I’ll tell you what.” I breathlessly say in his ear. “I’ll do everything you ask twice for the next twenty four hours to make it up to you.” “Turn forward.” He tells me. I do so, then turn back and do it again. “Was that a test?” “No.” He kicks the horse into a run. “Just don’t want to waste our time commuting.”

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful