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Ch. 25 - Mask Song

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Gran checked Rhianna from head to toe for injuries and gave the expected lecture. When she finally went back to the barn muttering that some lessons couldn't be taught, Rhianna retreated to her bedroom with her friends.

After closing the bedroom door and leaning against it a moment for support, Rhianna unloaded her story. She told them about Kasubia talking to her, Grayson being her fairy father—his mask—and finally about Boscoe and his crazy story about her mother stealing a seashell.

She didn't elaborate on her life before coming to the farm. Maybe she was too embarrassed or maybe it was still her self-preservation instinct.

The fact that she slept in her mom's car most nights and didn't go to a real school wasn't important anyway. Her old life had nothing to do with magic and fairies.

"How do you know you're really hearing the horse if it's all in your head?" Raisen asked.

"Obviously, she was talking to Kasubia when she stopped cold in the middle of trampling her to death!" said Jenny, taking up Rhianna's cause.

Gretch hadn't said a word all through Rhianna's story. She had been pretending to study the same page in the fairy book for quite some time.

"Gretch?" Rhianna said, then held her breath, waiting. Would she think she was crazy? Call her cousin the sheriff to take her in? Rhianna reviewed what she had said for some accidental slip of something criminal.

Gretch closed the book carefully. "What else are you keeping from us?"

Rhianna started. Was the mask failing her? Even Gretch could hear her thoughts now?

"I thought we were your friends?"

Jenny and Raisen suddenly found their shoelaces exceedingly interesting.

Rhianna pressed her hands to her cheeks trying to cool their flame. She'd had a hundred excellent excuses before, but now she couldn't think of a single one.

"I-I'm sorry..."

"So what else are you keeping from us?"

"Nothing I swear." Rhianna's cheeks grew hotter. Only the fact that she was a hobo. "It doesn't mean—listen, I didn't know you guys when Kasubia first started talking, and I thought I was going crazy at the best of times. I was doing my best to pretend it wasn't happening."

"But you know us now. And we are your friends. Friends tell each other everything."

"You're right."

"Promise."

Rhianna furrowed her brow. "Promise?"

"Promise you will tell us everything from now on and you won't hide anything more from us." Gretch crossed the room and put a hand on each of Rhianna's shoulders, burrowing into Rhianna's soul with her gaze. "Promise."

"I promise," Rhianna said before her brain could take over. It didn't matter. Her past wasn't relevant. They knew as much as they needed to know there. The story about her mother from sheriff Sampson, the first encounter with Boscoe, modified just slightly. "You guys are my friends now."

Gretch flung her hair over her shoulder and opened the book again, cradling it in her arms and flipping pages until she found what she was looking for. "Here it is. The Mask Song."

How did she do that? Gretch had only had the book in her hands for a few short hours and somehow she had already made enough sense of it to look things up like it was a dictionary.

"Grimina Onyx, a black fae whose powers were volatile, was sentenced to masking. A special mask that has its own magic was made for her. The song of the mask wove with her own song and dampened her powers."

"Why didn't they just take her powers away."

Gretch ran her finger down the page, and flipped to the next. "It says if a fairy's magic is extinguished she withers away and dies."

Raisen hugged Rhianna protectively. "Are you ok?"

"I guess my magic isn't totally gone if I can still talk to Kasubia." The words my magic felt strange to say.

Gretch wore a slight frown on her face. Concern or jealousy? Her life's ambition was to learn magic and now Rhianna had what she wanted—though Gretch wanted to be a Witch not a Fairy. Rhianna would rather be a Witch. Fairy life seemed dangerous and complicated, a lot like living on the road with mom.

"What happened to Grimina?" asked Raisen, guiding Rhianna to sit on the bed. "Did she get it off."

Turning her frown back to the book again, Gretch's lips moved as she read to herself. Finally, after skimming a few pages she looked up. "She learned to master the Mask Song and her powers were stronger than ever. She ruled over Faerie for a hundred years less a day."

"Well, that doesn't sound too bad." Jenny crouched in front of Rhianna, peering into her face as though she could see it. "You just have to master the mask, and then you get to be Queen of the fairies."

Raisen smiled, rubbing Rhianna's arm.

Was the mask still there? Rhianna didn't feel any different. She touched her cheek with her fingers. Nothing. The only evidence it was there was the fact that Kasubia and Teasel had trouble "hearing" her, without a significant effort on her part at least.

Gretch's frown deepened. "I am not so sure this is a good thing. Not all of the passages are happy ones."

A chill went through her and Rhianna was reluctant to ask what it meant.

Jenny asked.

Gretch read from the book in answer:

"Grimina Onyx, the wicked, the black,

Suffered on the throne, a vicious attack.

The seal of the mask carried song and soul,

It burned up her heart like yesterday's coal.

In her place another, ruling with fear,

Stripping the country of all we held dear.

Grimina Onyx, the wicked, the black,

Taken by the mask of pitch and lilac."

The chill settled into her bones. Becoming the fairy queen and mastering her powers did not sound like it had worked out for Grimina very well.

A/N - Hmmm. What do you think? Would you rather be a Witch or a Fairy? 

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