Chapter Two

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They walked for so long, it seemed like an eternity before they reached the edge of the woods at the city's end. Entering the quiet forest made Shade more aware of how alone she suddenly felt. Should she trust this stranger? Where were they going? She peeked over her shoulder as the city faded behind them, engulfed by the shrubs and trees as they progressed deeper into the woods.

She shivered as the breeze caressed her skin. The forest came alive with animal calls. Leaves rustled and branches swayed violently above them. The day was vanishing, the sunset swirling in colors of tangerine orange, pink, and a smear of blue.

Shade suddenly felt panicked, realizing she didn't have a flashlight and that night was quickly approaching. "Um, Jack?" Her voice seemed loud in the open air, but he kept going.

"Yes, what's up?" Jack pushed branches aside and avoided tripping on the thick, gnarled roots crawling across the forest floor.

"It'll be dark soon. Are we close yet? I don't have a flashlight. Do you? Maybe I should come back during the day tomorrow?" She ducked under a low branch as the forest around them thickened, swallowing them in its embrace.

"We're quite near. Don't worry. The dusk is nothing to fear. Just don't go near any little faeries you might see. They like to enthrall you, suck you into their charms, and they won't release you. They enjoy torturing mortals."

Her eyes widened as she dug her heels into the dirt. "What? Did you say 'faeries'? Are you kidding me? You don't really believe in them, do you? They aren't really real...." Shade's voice trailed off as she examined her surroundings more carefully.

What the heck is he talking about?

He chuckled. "I'm not joking. They really do exist. What do you think I am? The fey—faeries—like me come in many sizes. We live in this world, parallel to yours, hidden in plain sight. We're magical beings, but most are bound to stay within the boundaries of the land of Faerie," he offered but found her face still full of confusion. "Don't worry. I won't trick you or charm you like the tiny demi-fey do. The farther you go into these woods, the more and more you'll see." Jack grunted as he pulled away some overgrown branches that stood in their way.

"It's a whole new world out here, with things you could never imagine. This is our territory, away from the iron cities." He continued to wrestle with an unrelenting vine, turning red and impatient with the vegetation. Was it fighting with him? Shade thought it odd that it appeared almost alive, trying to ensnare him. "Faeries can't stand iron, you know. It's our kryptonite." He pulled his sword by the hilt tied to his back and began hacking at the thick vegetation that surrounded them.

Shade crept forward, more wary and spooked than before. Faeries aren't that bad. I guess things could be worse. Could be tigers and lions and bears, oh my! She hurried to keep up with Jack, pulling her sweater tighter around herself. The sun had gone down, and the heat receded with it. "Jack?"

"Yes?" A slight impatience now tainted his voice.

"It sounded like Vange knows you... intimately. Do you know her well?" Shade fumbled over a root sticking up from the dirt.

Jack pressed his lips together as his pace hesitated for a moment. He furrowed his brow as she waited.

"I did know her... intimately, I mean. That's all changed now. We were, well, lovers. Engaged once." He swung his sword harder, making the branches fly easily out of their way. "I loved her very much. Then the Unseelie Court started raging war against the Seelie Courts of Faeries, especially the one I reside at. She changed then, switched sides, started using dark magic. I'm not sure what made her choose to change, but she up and left one day and never returned. She became one of the evil Queen Aveta's top lieutenants.

Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale #1) by Alexia Purdy (complete)Where stories live. Discover now