Of Leaves of Gold and Petals Red: A Faery Tale
2. Truths and Consequences
"No. It's not possible. Hardly anyone gets pregnant their first time - and besides, he wasn't even human!"
Janet stared at the white stick in her hand in disbelief. The blue cross in the center of the test area was still there, seeming to mock her. "Simple to Read!" the box had promised - and it was. There was no way to deny the results - according to the home test kit she'd purchased, she was most decidedly with child.
She still wasn't sure what impulse had prompted her to buy the thing in the first place. The recent bouts of nausea she'd been experiencing were easily attributed to the onset of the flu, and her periods had never been all that regular anyway, she was probably just late because of the stress of studying for her upcoming finals... Now, as she squeezed her eyes tightly shut in a last attempt at denial, she wished she'd never stopped by the drugstore. After a long moment, she finally opened her eyes again - still pregnant. In a sudden fit of anger, she swept up the content of the test kit and threw them into the trash, then stormed out of the bathroom back down the hall towards her dorm room. Don't be foolish, Janet silently tried to tell herself, you know damn well the test kit isn't what caused this, so not buying it wouldn't have changed a thing. You're pregnant - deal with it.
"But I can't deal with it," she whispered softly in reply. "I'm a freshman, a starving student - how am I supposed to support a baby on my own? How am I going to tell my parents - they'll be furious, Dad will say he raised me to be better than that, sleeping with someone before marriage, like a slut... And what about my future? Am I supposed to give up my dreams just for the sake of a baby? It's not fair!" she said, raising her voice as she burst into the room - only to stop in surprise when she saw Deborah sitting at her desk, reading.
"What's not fair?" her roommate asked, without looking up from her book.
No, you're not supposed to be here! "I thought you'd already left - don't you have a 7 AM class on Tuesdays?" Janet asked weakly.
"Usually - but when I got there, I found it was cancelled. Apparently, the prof got sick last night. Thought I might as well come back here and catch up on some studying, since my P Chem lab doesn't begin until 2:30." Deborah looked up for the first time; something in Janet's expression must have caught her attention, because she slowly straightened up and closed her book. "You look terrible. What's wrong, kiddo?" she asked quietly. "Talk to your big sis now."
"I'm pregnant," Janet replied. There, the secret's out. It's real now.
"Are you sure?" Deborah asked softly; Janet nodded mutely in reply. "Oh, Janet - I'm so sorry," she replied, walking over to place her arms around her, and Janet finally broke down and sobbed.
"Have you decided what you're going to do about it?" Deborah asked when Janet finally regained control of herself.
"What's there to do?" Janet replied miserably. "I'm pregnant - I can't go back in time and undo what happened to me that night."
"No, but you don't have to stay pregnant if you don't want to," Deborah reminded her. "An abortion is expensive, but it's very safe, and probably the best -"
"No," Janet replied firmly. "No abortion. That's not an option."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I'm Catholic. All my life, I've believed that abortions are wrong. I'm not going to violate my beliefs now just because it would be convenient for me," Janet replied, crossing her arms defiantly.
"All right then, no abortion," Deborah said soothingly. "Then I guess you need to decide whether or not you're going to keep the baby - "
"I'm keeping the baby," Janet interrupted. "At least, I think I am."
"- and whether or not you want to have anything more to do with the father. He has to support the child, too, you know, and if you need to, you can take him to court to see to it that he does so. Unless..." Deborah paused for a moment, a strange look on her face, then continued on more gently. "That night you spent out in the woods... Janet, you weren't raped, were you?"
"No," she replied softly, remembering her lover's strange, shining eyes, the softness of his hair, the almost unbearable rush of pleasure she'd felt when at last they joined, flesh penetrating into flesh. "No - it was not rape."
"In that case, perhaps you'd better talk to the father before you decide anything. Assuming that you care about him at all, he has a right to know about this - and he damn well better take responsibility for his actions," Deborah concluded firmly. "This is his baby, too, Janet - don't think you have to take all the burden onto your own shoulders. He owes you child support, at the very least."
Child support! It was all she could do to keep from laughing aloud. Faery gold that will turn to lead at sunrise, lumps of coal glamoured to look like diamonds... 'The Seelie Court hereby orders Mr. Faery to provide 500 moonbeams per month to the support of his changeling...' "I somehow don't think he's going to be able to help me much," she finally replied, giggling slightly.
Deborah just stared at her for a moment. Stop it; she thinks you're going mad! Janet told herself firmly. "Well, talk to him anyway," Deborah finally continued, "you may be surprised by what he'll say. And I'm here, if you need me. Where are you going?" she asked, as Janet doffed the travelling cloak she'd worn on that fateful hike.
"I've decided to take your advice, big sis - I'm going to talk to my baby's father."
* * * * * * *
Nearly all of the leaves had fallen from the trees, carpeting the grass in a golden mantle, and only a few colorful orange hips were left clinging to the tattered rosebushes. No roses; I guess even Faery gardens have frosts. Everything appears so changed, so ordinary - I can hardly believe that what I remember from that night was real, Janet thought as she wandered aimlessly through the fading, forgotten garden. But it had to be; dreams don't make girls pregnant, and I most definitely am. And Mr. Faery and I definitely need to have a little chat about that! It's his changeling - so he can raise it. It's time the Fey Folk learned about Women's Lib.
The sun was still fairly high in the sky - it was a least an hour to sunset, but the hike (and the fact that she'd been unable to keep anything down from lunch - why the hell do they call it morning sickness, if you can have it all day? she thought crossly) had made her ravenous, and so Janet decided to eat early. If that means I'm hungry again, well, I'll just have to remember not to touch anything he might offer me, she decided as she opened the hamper she brought with her. After devouring the bread and cheese (and even more miraculously, managing to keep it down), she decided to stretch out on the soft leaves and rest. Sunset was still a long ways off, and she sensed there was no point in searching for her Faery any earlier than that. So she stretched out on the carpet of leaves and closed her eyes, and soon slipped into sleep.
When she woke, she was startled to realize that it was night. I didn't mean to sleep, Janet thought in dismay, only to rest for a bit! How late is it, anyway? Clouds covered the sky and a cold wind was blowing, whipping the tree branches back and forth. The air seemed filled with sinister sounds, and suddenly Janet felt nervous. Why did I ever come here? she thought, dismayed. Then a wave of fright seemed to sweep throughout her body, and she suddenly knew, inexplicably but with utter certainty, that something evil was approaching. Hide, a voice whispered abruptly in her mind, hide NOW, or it will be too late! Without thinking, she dived behind the stone foundation of the decayed house, and sank into the deepest and most sheltered corner of the basement, where she pulled her knees up against her chest, wrapping her arms tightly around them, then closed her eyes tightly and tried as best she could to become invisible.
The feeling of menace kept increasing, until it was all she could do to keep herself from screaming aloud in utter terror - then, abruptly, it faded away, and Janet found herself shaken but unharmed. Slowly she rose up from the earth, searching for a way out of the sunken basement - and froze. Her Faery was there, standing on the opposite wall of the basement, looking down at her - and the glitter in his eyes did not seem friendly. With an inhuman grace, he smoothly jumped down from the foundation wall into the basement, landing almost noiselessly, and quickly walked over to her, stopping just am arm's length away. "Why did you return here?" he said, and she shivered again at the coldness in his voice. No, she decided, not friendly tonight at all. "You could have been killed," he continued firmly. "Had you not listened to my warning, you would have been. When I first saw you, I thought you merely young and inexperienced - not stupid. I dislike being proved wrong."
"I'm not stupid," Janet replied, angered by the arrogance she heard in his tone "and perhaps you should at least hear my reasons for returning here before you judge me so."
"Why bother?" the Faery man sneered. "I told you before, when we first met, that these woods are no place for a young woman to roam - but you completely disregard not only my explicit warning but your own common sense, and go marching about them as though - "
The look of arrogant superiority and condescension on her Faery's face abruptly disappeared, to be replaced by sheer incredulity. After a long moment of waiting, Janet spoke again into the silence. "Well? Don't you have anything to say about it?"
"That's not possible - I'm an Elda and you're one of the Second Children, there's no way - "
"I don't know anything about Faeries and Elda and Second Children, nor do I want to know. I only know that I'm pregnant, and you're definitely the father. You're the only... creature... I've ever slept with, this is your baby I'm carrying, and I want to know what you're going to do about it," Janet replied firmly, hands on her hips.
"There isn't anything I can do about it," the Faery replied. "I would not have lain with you that night had I realized we could beget a child together - but there is nothing I can do to change that now. I'm sorry." He turned and began to walk away.
"Wait a minute," Janet cried out. "That's all you have to say? You think you can just get me pregnant and walk away from it? Just what type of creature are you, that you would do this to me, to your unborn baby?"
"A damned one," the Faery replied softly, without even turning around.
Faeries, Janet remembered Professor Bautista lecturing, were soulless and amoral beings; contact with them was always dangerous, and usually turned out badly for the human involved. So she'd known that it was unlikely her Faery would be willing to help her, but until that moment she had continued to cling to the dim possibility that that would be untrue, that he would somehow use his magic and make things right. The crumbling of that last faint hope was too much for her to bear. She wanted to strangle him, she wanted to make the heartless creature suffer, she... Overwhelmed, she finally began to cry.
She sat down on the firmly packed earthen floor and sobbed as she had not done since she was a small child - and then to her surprise she felt an arm wrap around her shoulders to pull her against a broad chest clothed in softest silk, heard a melodic voice gently singing a calming tune. Her tears gradually slowed, then stopped, and at last she looked up into the face of her Faery. "Surely it's not so bad as all that, little one," he spoke gently. "It's the way of things for a woman to quicken and bear children, after all. You must have a family who can help you raise the babe..."
"I can't - I won't - go home to my parents. They don't approve of young women who have sex before they're married - not at all. They'll probably throw me out on the street - or make me put the baby up for adoption. I won't bear this child only to give it up to strangers!"
"Surely your parents would not be so heartless?" the Faery replied, but Janet could hear the thin strand of doubt in his voice.
"Oh, yes, they would be," she replied. "And I'm not finished with my education yet - I can't stay in school without someone helping me care for the baby, and if I drop out now, I won't even be able to support myself, much less a child. That's why I need your help. You're the father, after all, and I can't believe you'd hurt your own child, and I was hoping that you could help me raise the baby at least until I could finish school..."
"NO!" the Faery shouted; Janet jumped back, alarmed. "Believe me, I would help you if I could - but I cannot take the child," he continued gently, a look of great sorrow clouding his not-quite-human features. "My Mistress is cruel - you have no idea how cruel - and she would eventually find out. No innocent babe deserves the misery She would delight in inflicting on it. I dare not take the baby. I am sorry, truly I am, but there is nothing I can do to help you."
"If your mistress is so cruel, why don't you leave her?" Janet asked. "You're a Faery - can't you just use your magic to... "
The Faery's chuckle was bleak. "Leave my Mistress? Do you think I have not already tried that? I am an Elda, the mightiest of my kind - but I have found to my everlasting sorrow that her webs are far too strong for even my power to break. No, I am condemned to remain in her lair until the stars themselves go out - and then, with her, I will be swept away into the Darkness Everlasting. Help you, little mortal? How can I, when I am powerless even to help myself?"
"If you were free to leave her, would you help me then?" Janet asked softly.
"Yes," the Faery replied. "Once I might have acted otherwise; I was arrogant and cruel, blinded by my own selfish desires. The needs of a mere mortal would have mattered not at all to me then. But I have had long years of darkness in which to repent of my wickedness and my folly, and I have changed. I would help you, were I free to do so."
"Well, then," Janet said decisively, "that settles things. I'll just have to find a way to set you free. Then you'll be able to help me raise the baby and - " She broke off, confused, as her Faery began to laugh. Not a gentle laughter, no, but great roars of mirth that bent him over double. She simply sat and watched, waiting patiently until he slowly brought himself under control again. Finally, he began to gasp in between his laughs, "You... will... free... me?"
Janet made no reply; finally the Faery, laughter stilled at last, simply put his face in his hands. "I don't see what you found so funny about my decision; I'm quite certain that there must be some way to set you free, I only have to find it... "
The Faery looked up again, and told her simply, "You felt but a small taste of my Mistress's power earlier this evening - and you were unable then to stand against it. What makes you think that you, a frail mortal woman, can find a source of power that will be able to challenge that?"
"I don't know if I can - but I've got nothing to lose by trying. And neither do you, if what you've told me is true. So why not try?" To that the Faery made no reply. Suddenly, she felt him tense, and a look of pain came over his fair face. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"The morning star has risen over the treetops, and the Sun will soon come up; the Queen of these woods is summoning me home," he replied sadly; he was looking east, where Venus had just cleared the tangled branches of the treetops, and to her surprise, Janet saw a tear streak slowly down his cheek. She gently reached over to wipe it away.
We need each other, she realized in dawning wonder. Alone, neither of us can find our way out of our respective traps. Perhaps it is some strange design of Fate that brought us together? Aloud, she only said, "I promise you, I'll find a way to set you free, somehow. But that will have to wait until later. For now, help me climb out of this hole."
The first pale rays of dawn were beginning to streak the sky when Janet and her Faery emerged from the ruins; the Faery seemed to wince as the soft light touched his face. It burns him, she thought. Like cold iron... "Would cold iron work against your Mistress, I wonder? Or silver?" she said as she stepped back onto the path leading out of the forest.
"No," he replied.
"Don't worry," she said, and surprised him by placing a gentle kiss onto his cheek. "So cold iron and silver won't work; that doesn't mean that nothing else will. It may be a bit before I come back - I don't know how long it's going to take me to find the solution - but I will return for you, I promise. Be patient - but be ready to act the next time you see me." The Faery made no reply, but Janet saw the skepticism in his eyes.
"Farewell," he said at last - and then stepping into the shadows under the trees, he simply seemed to vanish.
How did he do that? she wondered; and then she turned and began the long walk back to campus. Not to her dorm room - no, she needed to visit the Library. She had research to do.
(To Be Continued)
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.