Words of Warning

By M. Elizabeth Ticknor

Originally published in Eat, Drink, and be Wary, by Wordfire Press.

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Don’t trust the fairies, child. Beware the chitinous kiss of dragonfly wings against your peach-soft cheeks. Beware the delicate pitter-patter of flower-booted feet dancing on the surface of the goldfish pond. Beware echoes of laughter carried on gentle breezes, especially when you believed yourself to be alone mere moments previous. Beware their saccharine-sweet words, mixing truths and lies into every sentence until there’s no way to tell the difference.

That’s how magic works, you know–the fairies lie so well that reality reshapes itself to suit them.

Don’t trust the fairies, child, but feed them daily. Leave saucers of milk and bread crusts on your kitchen stoop. Even if it’s all the milk you have left, even if it’s your last crust of rye, feed the fairies as best you’re able. Far better to earn their favor than their wrath. If you must seek the fairies’ aid, supplement your daily offerings with berries, cheese, and honey. Such generosity will endear you to them.

Fae pranks can be both dangerous and deadly. You should protect yourself accordingly. Seek out an iron pendant–an arrowhead or a cross, a shape both sturdy and dependable. While you bear iron, no fairy can harm you directly. However, its protection is far from universal–spells and charms can still affect you. Keep bread crumbs on hand for emergency appeasement, and a pinch of salt to repel unwelcome advances.

Be on your guard should you ever venture into the dark and ancient wood. The pull of magic is strong, there–it will confound your sense of direction and tempt you to stray from well-trod paths. Getting lost is the surest way to cross into the Fae Realm, and nowhere is this easier to accomplish than in places where nature still holds sway.

Once you’ve crossed the threshold, you can’t return the way you came. The paths are ever-changing, and no matter which way you turn, sooner or later you are bound to wander headlong into the Fairy Court. Do not expect this to mean you will find a castle–fairies make their homes wherever they choose, and they far prefer a carpet of moss and the limitless expanse of a starry sky to the cramped, restrictive walls and ceilings that mortals use to gain protection from the elements. Fairies, not being mortal, need no such protection.

Beware the Fae Realm, child, and beware fae hospitality most of all. Ignore the platters piled high with roast pheasant and boar. Shun the bowls piled high with fruits both familiar and foreign–blood-red apples as large as coconuts, bruise-purple mulberries that stretch as long as your fingers, dragon fruits that grow warm in your hands and pulse with something akin to a heartbeat. Drink not the aromatic wines made from elderberries, plums, cherries, and currants. Consume nothing while in the Fae Realm, for that will bind you in service to the court forever.

Don’t trust the fairies, child–but, should you find yourself in the Fairy Court, steal a bottle of elderberry wine for me. I’ll pay you well and teach you charms to turn away the Fairy Court’s wrath. The wine will lose some of its potency when it’s brought across the border, but it’s still a fine draught, and it’ll do these old bones good. There might even be enough magic left in the bottle to breathe life back into my tattered wings.