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Just as humans begin to accept that elves, dwarves, and other fey aren’t monsters – and the world is not about to end – a video emerges implicating a fey queen in a heartbreaking kidnapping of a human child.
When Tessa is forced to represent the fey queen in the controversial court case, a brooding elven prince is assigned to protect her.
During the trial, Tessa and the elven prince unearth a secret.
A secret so deadly someone is willing to kill to keep buried.
Tessa sat on the floor with her back against her white leather couch. Her toes moved playfully back and forth through the plush carpet underneath her feet. With her eyes glued on the TV screen, she reached into her bowl of extra butter popcorn, stuffed some of it into her mouth, and licked the remaining grease from her fingers. With every bite, she felt a small ping of guilt. Ladies watching their weight never had extra butter on their popcorn. But she and Jeremy, her sexy coworker, and the man of her dreams, were no longer dating. And with no prospects in sight, what did it matter what she ate? Oh, wait. Staying moderately healthy would also help ease some of the constant pain in her joints. The diet starts tomorrow, she promised herself as she popped some more popcorn into her mouth.
The wall separating the human and fey realms fell three months ago, exposing humans to the truth their governments had been hiding for millennia: fey were real. Shonda Rhymes had been the first television producer to take advantage of this new world. She hurriedly wrote a script, mixing humans with elves, dwarves, and trolls as cast members, and named it Night and Fey. She hardly knew anything about the fey, but Shonda remedied her ignorance by hiring elves and dwarves, along with humans, as co-writers.
For all eight episodes that had aired so far, Tessa, Peony, and Deidre had gotten together to watch the show, gossip, and eat. At least once in every episode, someone appeared in pajamas, so the trio had decided to make tonight pajama night. The weekly girl-time gave Tessa something familiar to look forward to in a constantly changing and increasingly hostile world.
Shonda set Night and Fey in an idealistic future where the fey had fought for and won their rights in a human court. Now, they were just trying to fit into society.
While Tessa watched the show, she could forget that her neighbors looked at her with fear and curiosity. Before the wall fell, Tessa had gotten plenty of second glances because she was six-foot-six. With the knowledge that fey actually existed, those curious glances turned accusatory, suspicious, or frightful. People looked at her and assumed because of her height that she was glamoured to appear human. They wanted to know if she was an elf or troll or giant, hiding in their world without permission. They were right on the first count. She was something other. But she was born here. This was home.
Like most of Shonda’s heroines, Sophia was black, smart, successful, and dysfunctional when it came to relationships. Right now, she was stuck in a love triangle with a human and an elf. Both love interests dripped sex appeal. The human was a sexy black police officer with thick curly hair and commitment issues. The elf had long red hair, was extremely naïve, and had been assigned as her partner to work fey crimes. In real life, the elf had actually been living in the human realm as an actor for years, getting small parts in TV commercials until he came out as an elf, just for this role.
Every week, the world watched while Sophia had to choose between decadent chocolate cake or strawberry cheesecake. And every week, Sophia’s tastes waived from one flavor to the other.
“Oh, I love her outfit,” Peony gushed, sitting on the couch in a gray silk negligee with her long legs tucked beneath her. And, just as they predicted, Sophia was walking around her apartment with a bottle of beer, wearing a black negligee.
In this episode, Sophia had just broken up with the elf. She decided that he was too passive, too normal. But the elf had taken some advice from a human streetwalker he’d arrested for drugs. She gave him some tips on how to treat human women.
As they watched, Alek shoved himself into Sophia’s apartment and pushed her against the wall. The camera zeroed in on Sophia’s wine-tinted lips as she gaped in surprise.
“Oooh,” Tessa said. “He shouldn’t have taken that hooker’s advice. Sophia is not going to let him treat her that way.” Tessa recalled the time Jeremy had practically done the same thing three months ago. She kicked him out of her mind immediately. He had apologized later, but that was beside the point.
“She likes it,” Peony added. “I can tell.” Peony was out, which meant she was walking around in the human realm as a real-life elf. Her dark hair was in a pixie cut, which showed off her pointed ears. Before the wall had fallen, she had used makeup to make her high cheekbones seem less prominent and her face fuller, so she could look more human. There was actually a YouTube video making the rounds that showed the elves how to do it. Otherwise, the elves’ faces were a little too long, their teeth a little too predator-like.
“She’s going to make him leave,” Deidre said. As a truthsayer, she loved the show because she didn’t know what would happen next. Shonda Rhymes always surprised Deidre. Shoot, Shonda made it a point to surprise everyone.
Unlike Peony, Deidre wasn’t out. She still covered her ears with a plastic adhesive to blunt the points, and for an extra layer of security, she kept her long, blonde hair past her shoulders. Which, coincidentally, made every woman with long hair a target for harassment. If your hair was long, it meant you were hiding something. This was silly; plenty of humans had long hair, but now women scared of being targeted were cutting their hair.
Just when Sophia was about to choose between devouring the elf or kicking him out, the words ‘Breaking News’ flashed across the television. The trio groaned as Night and Fey was replaced by a news anchor.
Peony reached into Tessa’s bowl and threw a kernel of popcorn at the television. “Oh pooh. No one cares about the news,” Peony pouted.
“Hey,” Tessa shouted. “Don’t throw things at my overpriced television!”
“We interrupt this television program to bring you breaking news,” Andy, an aging light-skinned black man, took a deep breath before continuing. “A video has been uploaded onto YouTube featuring the fey prince Coal.”
Tessa was about to walk to the kitchen and open another bottle of wine, but at the mention of Prince Coal, she stopped in her tracks and sat between Peony and Deidre on the couch. She reached for the remote and raised the volume. Tessa had a major crush on the newly crowned prince. He was brave, handsome, and a rare elven prince in a world ruled by queens. His only fault: he was in love with the selfish fey queen, Chalcedony.
“Ooh, do you think Prince Coal has a sex tape?” Peony asked.
“Come on now; he’s barely eighteen,” Tessa said. “Why would he have a sex tape?”
“They don’t take long to make,” Deidre added.
Penelope and Tessa turned their gaze to Deidre.
“How would you know how long it takes to make a sex tape? Have you made one?” Peony asked.
“Maybe.” Deidre nodded toward the television. “But this isn’t about a sex tape.”
Curiosity piqued, Tessa turned her attention back toward the television. The story of Prince Coal was straight out of a Grimm’s Fairy tale. He was born in the human realm to a powerful elven woman named Jade. She possessed a power that only queens were supposed to have. She could shape-shift.
So that she would not be discovered and killed by a jealous queen, Jade moved to the human realm to live a life free from fear. When her son Coal was born, aided by her son’s own ability to change shape, she used magic to change his skin from white to black, she blunted his elven ears, and stunted the sharpness of his teeth.
Through fate, drama, or bad luck, Jade was discovered by an evil queen and taken away to an elven labor camp. Coal, who everyone believed was human, was taken by the evil queen as a human toy for her selfish daughter, Princess Chalcedony.
Coal was only five years old, and the grief of losing his mother was so terrible and heartbreaking, the evil queen took away all memories of his past life, including all the memories of love he had for his mother.
Eventually, Coal and Princess Chalcedony fell in love, and he was reunited with his mother. There are lots of variations on the story, but this is the fairy tale ending, Tessa told herself.
“Without further delay, here is the video,” the newscaster continued.
Prince Coal, in his human form, sat in a small, brightly lit room. He wore his signature ebon skin and cornrows that made him look like a mix between a sexy rapper and a football linebacker. According to the time stamp on the video, it had been recorded six months ago, before the wall separating the realms had failed, and right around the time he would have learned that he was not a black man, but an elven shape-shifter.
“For the record, state your name, please,” a deep voice said from behind the camera.
“My name is Coal.” He looked uncomfortable, tired, and out of place in the cramped sterile room.
“Look at the camera, please,” the voice requested.
Coal lifted his head, and the camera centered on his eyes, which were like two smooth, shiny black jewels.
“What’s your last name, Coal?”
“I don’t have one.”
“Where were you born?”
“I don’t know.” He leaned forward and rested his fists on the table before him. “I don’t remember anything before I was five.”
“How old are you?”
“I’m seventeen, I think.” He began fiddling with this with his thumbs. Anger. Tessa’s heart went out to him. She could tell that he didn’t want to be there. It was obvious he was being forced or coerced somehow.
“Where have you been living for the past few years?”
There was a long silence before Coal answered. “I’ve been living in the fey realm.”
“What is the fey realm?”
He leaned back and took a deep breath. “The fey realm is a world created thousands of years ago to separate humans from fey.”
“That sounds crazy,” the man behind the camera mocked.
Coal answered with a shrug.
“Did you like it there?”
“Yes. It was the only home I’ve ever known.”
“So why are you here? Why aren’t you at home with the fairies?” the man asked.
“I had to bring someone back. She didn’t belong in the fey realm. I haven’t been able to find my way back.”
“Who did you bring back?” the man asked.
Another deep breath as he lifted his gaze. “Elizabeth.”
“Elizabeth was a little girl, right? A human?”
Coal’s jaw twitched. “Yes, a little girl.”
Tessa was enthralled. She looked to Deidre and Penelope to check and see if they were seeing the same thing she was. Their eyes were transfixed to the television. The harsh light from the screen illuminated their faces with an ominous glow in the mostly dark room.
Every fey knew the story of then-Princess Chalcedony chasing her best friend-slash-human-slash-forbidden love across the realm because he had escaped with a human girl who had done the forbidden and drawn the princess’s blood. It had been the fey realm’s very own TV drama.
But it was one thing to gossip about the story from other fey; it was a completely other thing to hear the story on television. The story of Coal and Elizabeth and Princess Chalcedony was like a dark secret that fey knew to keep from the humans because every fey in the human world would have to pay, not just the perpetrator.
“How did the little girl get to the fey realm?” the interviewer continued.
“She came with me.”
“You alone?” From the way the man asked the question, it was obvious he already knew the answer.
“Princess Chalcedony was there also,” Coal answered.
“Oh my goddess,” Peony’s voice was filled with disbelief.
Tessa held her breath in anticipation for the next few questions and answers. She hoped Coal wouldn’t implicate Queen Chalcedony. She prayed that he would lie and take all of the blame on himself. It would suck, but Coal would be a better martyr than the selfish Queen Chalcedony. Chalcedony, everyone knew, would never admit to being wrong. She would never submit. Coal was the complete opposite, selfless, caring, and moral.
“Princess Chalcedony,” the man repeated. Coal was exactly what the man wanted him to be. You could hear the growing excitement in his voice. “Whose idea was it to take the child?”
“It was Elizabeth’s idea. We met Elizabeth at a café, and she could see through Chalcedony’s glamour. She was so excited to meet an elf that she asked to come to the world of fey.”
“Was the girl’s mother okay with this?”
Coal dropped his gaze and clenched his fists tighter. “Not at first.”
“What made her finally agree?” the man asked. “What finally made Elizabeth’s mother agree to let you take her child?” the man repeated after Coal didn’t answer.
“Chalcedony glamoured her.”
“I don’t understand,” the man asked with mock confusion. “Glamoured? How?” Coal stared at the camera. His eyes were hard and defiant. Please don’t say anything, Tessa begged silently. “If you want the truth about your past, you have to tell me the truth about Chalcedony. Did she have permission to take Elizabeth?”
“No,” Coal answered pensively. “Chalcedony had to use glamour to convince her to let Elizabeth come with us.”
Before the man behind the camera could ask another question, the television faded to black.
To Be Continued. . .