Cottingley Fairies

Book one of the Fae DNA trilogy. A thrilling new urban fantasy series that fans of Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch will love.

Chapter 1 – Homecoming

Friday, 22 June 2007 – 23:45

Midsummer’s Eve

Bamford Folly, Glencolmcille Ireland

The darkened fields of Ireland stretch to the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean, each bound in stacked stones like an enormous chessboard. The cliffs taper into a lone promontory; the ancient foot-slopes of a mountain long eroded by the ocean until only this slender spur remains pointed at America over four thousand miles away. The waves of the Atlantic surge and crash two thousand feet below, carrying off Ireland in tiny increments.

Upon this chessboard splinter stands a dark rook shaped tower.

At the foot of the tower, just yards from the raised rim of the cliff’s knife edge, is a ring of twelve tall slim standing stones. The tallest stone faces the moon setting over the Atlantic. The others shrink away in tidy increments forming a half-buried tiara; the crown of the fallen queen captured by this rook in a game of chess played by titans in an age when mammoths roamed.

At the very edge of the cliff sheltered by an elbow of crumbling rock is a dolmen; an ancient stone burial chamber in the shape of a popup headlight from an eighties model sports car.

As the moon sinks into the Atlantic, darkness returns to the dell claiming the dolmen and the stone circle. Creeping up to the foot of the tower. Until a cleft in the raised cliff edge catches the rim of the setting moon amplifying the moonlight into a spotlight casting night aside again.

The tip of the headstone; the centre of the stone tiara is chromed with white light.

The mouth of the dolmen, a flat monolith of ten tonnes, falls inward with a deep muffled boom spilling a scarlet light into the dell. As the echo rolls away across the fields it is replaced by the tootling of flutes mixed with the muffled roar of crashing waves. The flutes multiply into a chorus of merry springtime song. Refrains from ancient odes and opening stanzas of operas mingle into a joyful chorus.

Upon the monolithic drawbridge appear forms; some lithe and lovely, some dark and dangerous. Gossamer wings, horns and long tails, donkey’s ears and goat legs. Animalian appendages adorn forms akin to humans, but as removed as Neanderthals.

They skip and dance, or solemnly pace, from the dolmen to the foot of the chrome tipped headstone.

Pale plump fairies with wings too frail to lift their Reubenesque forms dance with a simpering self-consciousness. Tiny naked pukels with only an upturned flower for a hat dance with a grace impossible for their chubby infant-like proportions.

Tall thin wraithlike sluagh with pale oval faces like Japanese kabuki masks stalk and skulk around the edges of the stone circle. Clad in rotting black garments and draped with bog weeds they do not dance, but look upon the gaiety with mournful distaste, like clergy lingering at a wake.

Squat, toad-like banshee pick their way around the edges of the fray with keen-eyed vulturous glee.

Small stout hobbit-like creatures, dressed in fine waistcoats and tail coats with mutton chop beards loudly greet old friends. Thick wiry hair juts from sleeves and trouser legs. Full of good cheer and good will, they do not dance but applaud the efforts of others and join the music with fiddles and baritone voices.

Small pockets of hush in the revelling dancers form around squat strong redcaps in jackboots, gambesons and filthy fur cloaks. Black greasy hair balding into widows peaks above faces as sharp as the knives they carry. Immune to the good cheer; they are irked at the lack of fear at their presence.

The rosy light from the dolmen falters as enormous trolls shoulder their way out. Stooped like gorillas on the march, one by one they emerge and stretch to their full height of nine feet, as tall as the gilded headstone. Strings of runes in a lost language brand the steel-coloured skin of these muscular giants. The trolls dance with wild joy, their great lumbering cartwheels deftly avoided by the smaller revellers.

The music quietens and intensifies, robbed of the amplification of the dolmen’s mouth, as the pipe playing satyrs emerge. They skip and dance in a short shudder of hops into the depths of the throng.

With a short reverential blast from the pipes, the dancing peters out. The revellers form a horseshoe about the headstone facing the dolmen in poses ranging from reverential bows to grudging nods of submission as the heart of the procession emerges.

It is a sidhe as fair as the Midsummer Eve into which he has stepped, clad in robes rich enough for royalty, for that is clearly what he is. Yet in an act of deference, he leads by the hand a lady clad in simple white with a golden kirtle about her waist. Fairer and finer than Bottecelli’s Venus, she steps forth into the reception of her people carrying a garland of flowers in one hand. No crown sits upon her brow. She needs none to be known as queen. Even the most grudging of heads bow under the firm clarity of her emerald gaze.

Side by side the royal pair stand; back-lit by the scarlet subterranean light. With the solemnity of a priestess, the sidhe Queen raises the garland in both hands and paces forward with even steps to the foot of the giant stone tiara.

Looking up at the crest of the headstone twice as tall as she, she gives a calm flick with both hands sending the garland sailing up toward its tip. Yet the perfect arc of its trajectory is sucked short and the garland falls in failure.

Silence hardens into shock. Horrified amazement whispers through the crowd. The fae look around for the source of the disruption. One tiny pukel gasps and points. At the other end of the circle the shortest stone, twin to the headstone, is gone. In its place is a nasty gash in the earth, like a slowly closing gum over the site of an extracted tooth. The removed stone lies on the ground to one side.

The blasphemy is compounded by pegs with small pink flags marking an area of intrusion into the sacred stone circle.

The sidhe queen’s fury is palpable as her eyes sweep toward the rook tower. A recent inclusion in the landscape of this sacred place; tolerated, but only just. Signs of habitation ring its foot. An occupied caravan slumbers beside the timber frame of a building site abutting the tower. There is a ward of protection over the caravan’s door.

Her eyes scan up the squat rook shaped tower. There is a new addition; a stained glass window. In excruciating insult, the window depicts a Christian saint. Not just any saint, but her oldest foe. But behind that fresh portal is the most tender and delicious thing possible. A beautiful, terrified, unbaptised infant.

With a point and flick, the queen dispatches a single banshee who gallops on all fours to the rook tower. Gathering all her rage into a single gesture the queen extends her arm and tightens her fist at the tower’s arch shaped window. She seizes.

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