Summer was fun until a ghostly knight puts a damper on things
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Brigit, a fae dryad, and Jib, her talking cat, become trapped in a haunted French chateau. They quickly become embroiled in a creepy family mystery with ties to the medieval myths and legends of the Holy Grail.
Between the bizarre dinner ritual and unearthly screaming from the cellar, can the two break the Dupois curse before it claims another victim?
“I also had an interesting time,” the True Beast said, ignoring the materialization of the knight. “This family is under a curse.”
“Duh,” said Brigit, warily eyeing the ghost who was floating about a foot off the ground. “This guy probably knows something about it.”
Taking Brigit at her word, the knight began to speak, “For three days, I shall warn those at the Château du Puis. On the third night, one of you will die.”
The púca commented, “Sound’s like we will be leaving tomorrow.”
A contemporary fantasy – this Fae Magic adventure short story is a standalone tale using characters from the YA fantasy, Never Date a Siren – the College Fae Magic Series, book #1.
Read a preview of Knight of Cups
Brigit Cullen didn’t like the forest. Being a fae dryad, she knew when things weren’t right, and these trees felt all wrong.
“Stop bouncing around so much, I’m trying to sleep back here,” said the cat she was carrying in her backpack.
“Excuse me, Jib!” the woman snapped back at her companion, “But if you hadn’t told off the cab driver, we wouldn’t be taking a cross country hike.”
Poking its head up, the black cat dislodged the knapsack flap. The fae being climbed partially out, placing its front paws on Brigit’s shoulders to meow in her pointed ear.
“I was simply correcting that poor human’s belief that I was a cute kitty. I’m a dangerous púca Trickster. He should be grateful since I didn’t set him on fire for the insult he gave me.”
Like all True Beasts, Jib was far more massive than its form promised. The púca was as heavy as a bowling bowl. Brigit bounced the pack up, to give her lower back some relief. The maneuver made Jib yowl a protest causing Brigit to snarl, “Well, genius, we would already be at the hostel if it weren’t for you.”
Both of them were feeling out of sorts. The summer was almost at an end and, while touring had been fun, Brigit was ready to be back home in Geheimetür.
After completing her first school year at Leopold-Ottos-Universität Geheimetür, in Bewachterberg, the two fae had toured Italy and France. Using her dryad healing skills among the vineyards padded Brigit’s purse, but she was ready to be back among her friends and regular schedule.
Being on the road, sleeping in strange trees, and without regular meals had made them both cranky. The fall semester would begin in just a few weeks, but Jib insisted on a detour.
Now they were lost in an unfriendly forest with the late summer sun setting in a bank of what looked to be stormy clouds.
“If you didn’t insist we visit a castle, I could already be sleeping in a tree,” she told the cat, adding, “and saving my money.”
“You are so stingy, princess. Who taught you that? It wasn’t your mother. The queen appreciates the finer things in life as I do,” replied the púca.
As a member of her parents’ court in the Perilous Realm, Jib had known the dryad since birth. Sometimes this long familiarity made Brigit resent the fae Trickster.
She had run away from the Perilous Realm to attend LOTTOS, only for Jib to rat out her location to her parents. Afterward, the True Beast negotiated an agreement with her parents that if the púca chaperoned Brigit, she could stay in the human lands, attending the human university in Bewachterberg.
This arrangement between the cat and her parents, made without her input, numbered first in her list of resentments. Thinking upon this caused the dryad to mutter, “Jailer.”
Jib ignored her remark, meowing plaintively, “Just because I’ve never slept in a human castle doesn’t mean I need to. I’ll return to school and tell all of our friends about sleeping in ditches and under mushrooms.”
“Okay! Okay! I get it. Your life is nothing but suffering. Enough already.”
After their spat, the two continued in silence for about half an hour as the cloud cover increased. A slight mist started to make everything damp.
“Talk to a tree, Brigit,” begged the cat. Many púca, especially kelpies, loved water. However, Jib, with its magical fire affiliation, couldn’t stand being wet. “Ask it where to go. Don’t be a contrary boggart.”
“I’m not talking to these trees. There’s something off about them.”
Jib retreated further into the bag letting the flap cover its head. Round orange eyes peered out surveying the dark shadows around them.
“Now that you mention it, they do look rather unpleasant. Too much moss and rot. Diseased, huh?”
“Old,” replied Brigit, but before she could expound on the subject, she cried out in surprise, “A road!”
The two emerged onto a paved drive. Looking down the wide lane, they could see peaked roofs silhouetted against the darkening sky.
“Castle!” Jib purred in excitement.
Seeing a possible end to their long journey, Brigit quickened her step.
When they reached the house, she contradicted Jib’s description.
“Not a castle, Jib, though it’s pretty big, isn’t it? I’m guessing a French château. Baroque or French Gothic. Something like that. I get the human history periods mixed up.”
“Looks like a falling down pile to me. Perfect mouse hunting territory.”
The two were standing in front of a monster of a building. The French château boasted four distinct levels with rows and rows of tall narrow windows. It had a sharply peaked roof, and Brigit counted four turrets.
The place was old and historical, but also in disrepair. The six visible chimney stacks were towering things, but one was crooked like a drunkard, and none spouted any smoke. Shingles seemed to be missing, as well as some window glass, but the darkening gloom made it hard to confirm the extent of the decay.
The two walked up the steps, Brigit stepping over the broken masonry and where tree roots cracked through the stonework. Feeling the dryad was moving too slow, the excited púca jumped down from Brigit’s shoulders to trot up the handrail.
As Brigit reached the door, she saw an engraved brass plaque, now mostly green mounted on the wall to the side. Bending close, she read aloud, “Château du Puis.”
“Castle of the grotto spring,” translated the cat, who was a host of stray knowledge about human ways.
“Don’t think anyone is here, but let’s see.” As she knocked on the massive French wood doors, Brigit warned her companion, “Remember to keep your smart mouth shut. You’ve already landed us into one pickle already. Right now, I’m tired, hungry, and this sprinkle is about to turn into a downpour.”
Before Brigit could give the True Beast another caution, the door opened.
“Oh, Salut. About time you got here. We’ve been holding dinner for hours,” said a teen girl, dressed in modern clothes: a simple short-sleeved, purple t-shirt with a scoop neck, faded blue jeans, and sneakers.
As the two stared at each other, the girl pushed a pair of round glasses up her nose. Her hair was partially blond, but mostly it was colored robin’s egg blue.
Someone deeper in the house called out, and the girl at the door yelled back over her shoulder, “It’s a short, black girl. Yes, I’m bringing her!”
The teen turned back to Brigit, telling her, “Hurry up and come in. Dinner will get cold otherwise. Besides, it’s best not to be out in the park when the sun goes down. Things roam about which you do not want to meet.”
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