Five days earlier.
The pine chair Nahtaia slouched on needed a good sanding. She would definitely need to replace her stockings after an hour of sitting in that horrid chair. I'm in trouble now, she thought to herself, eyeing the larger, clearly more comfortable chair on the other side of the desk; the desk that belonged to Moriel, the Faery Forest's Minister of Fae Assignment.
It was the second time in four days that Nahtaia was called for a meeting with Moriel. Last time, it was a scuffle with a local squirrel that earned her the seat before the rather intimidating Minister. She was not looking forward to his scolding gaze as nights were yet passing irksomely slow with just the memory of it.
The door creaked open behind her and Moriel entered. With a lump in her throat, Nahty watched as he made his way to his seat, his long, white hair cascading down his back, smooth as silk. After taking his seat, he folded his hands with slender, lengthy fingers and raised ivory eyes to hers.
The heart palpitations began. Those empty, white eyes could bring anxiety up from the most secretive of hearts. That's why they sent the bad little fae to him; because he could guilt trip just by making eye contact. It was his gift.
"Nahtaia," he began in a strong, composed voice, "must I remind you at every meeting to bring your manners?"
She stared at him with raised brows, unsure of what he meant.
"Ahem," he cleared his throat and sat up straight.
"Oh," she squeaked as she straightened her back and pulled her feet together. "Sorry."
An exhausted sigh came from his pale lips and he rubbed his temples. "Nahtaia, I called you here for a reason. It seems we're running out of-"
"-it wasn't my fault!" Nahtaia blurted in defeat before he could go on. The all-knowing, abysmal eyes of the Minister were just too much. "That half-witted bull stepped into my ring!" she continued. "He ruined the perfect composition! I put so much hard work and focus into growing those shrooms and he comes prancing about like a dunce!"
Moriel's jaw slowly dropped and his eyes widened. Nahty thought she even saw one of his eyelids twitch.
"You charmed a minotaur?" he croaked, nearly choking on the words.
Nahtaia paused and narrowed her eyes. "What exactly am I here for?" she innocently asked, biting her nail.
"Oh, Lord in Heaven," he moaned, dropping his face into his palms. "I was concerned about the dog you turned into a pig, but this?"
"Hey, that wretched animal nipped my wings! I had every right-"
"-you shouldn't be in human territory in the first place! Just because you can use magic of such sorts does not give you the right to! Nahtaia, you..." he trailed off, deciding that the effort to explain was useless. After taking in a deep breath, he continued. "Nahtaia, your assignment was to keep watch over the forest's edge, not go exploring into the neighboring farms. You know how much the humans detest faeries."
Nahtaia's wings flinched. That was not all true but she couldn't very well tell the Minister that. He'd stare the truth out of her in a matter of seconds and everyone knew what happened to faeries that wandered too far into human territory. Banishment.
Goosebumps rose all over her body at the thought. When one was banished, he or she had their wings and abilities stripped, then was denied all contact with faeries. It was harsh but believed to be necessary. After all, history taught that humans caused the vast majority of faery deaths and homelessness.
"Nahtaia," Moriel snapped, drawing her out of her hollow gaze. "Are you listening to me? We have a final assignment for you and if you fail or proceed to cause trouble of any sort, you will be punished most severely."
Nahtaia swallowed hard. "What is the assignment?" she asked, tucking a long lock of blue hair behind her pointed ear.
With that, Minister Moriel's lips curved into a wicked smile. "Pine collecting." Something inside Nahtaia told her that he enjoyed breaking the news to her.
"Oren put you up to this, didn't he?" She jumped to her with the accusation. The minister crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back into his chair with a smirk. "I knew it!" she hissed. "That toad-lipped oaf has been trying for years to see me suffer!"