Essie: Ten Years Earlier
The men crept through the forest, careful to make as little noise as possible, but I heard them. I heard everything. Mischievous by nature, I let them get close. Their excitement making their voices carry just a little bit louder with each passing step, allowing me to hear what they were saying as I stayed hidden amongst the trees.
"We've got to be getting closer," one of the men whispered, "there are no animals about."
It was a true statement, but it surprised me that they knew to expect that so I eased closer to them. My powers making it impossible for them to hear my approach. When I was close enough to get a good look at them, I narrowed my eyes and watched theirs move back and forth between each other.
A cry off to the side of them, had one of the men grabbing his chest in fear, while the other began slowly backing away. The first one, one hand still on his chest, held his arm out to stop the other one's departure. I knew that it was one of my sisters playing with the mortals, tempting them to come closer with her cries, proving to them that they were indeed close. I also knew that she wouldn't get any closer to them. No one would dare interfere with my duties and I wouldn't have it any other way. I was the Guardian. The Realm was mine to protect.
"We can't stop now. We are close. I can feel it, can't you?"
The man who had began to depart looked further into the forest and as their steps drew them closer to the bridge, his eyes began to widen with wonder as the ordinary forest scenery began to change into something much more mystical, something magical. "This can't be really happening," he said in awe.
The first man smiled and clapped his friend on his back. "I told you, Shawn. Just a little further and all of our wildest dreams will be ours to hold."
The man called Shawn began nodding his head in earnest as his feet began moving more quickly toward the now slightly glowing forest. "Yes, Ian, I believe you now. We all thought you were crazy, but it's true," he looked at his friend with wonder lighting up his eyes, "it's really here."
Ian, not willing to let Shawn get ahead of him, pushed forward past him. Each step bringing them closer to the bridge; to my domain. I used my powers to hurry back to my post. No mortal had gotten into the Realm since I had taken over as Guardian and I wasn't about to let these two ruin my record.
Standing in the middle of the bridge I closed my eyes and let the power wash over me, cloaking me in an invisible veil. My senses heightened and I could hear them moving closer toward me. I could even smell them. Excitement a tangy aroma coming off of them making my nostrils flair with anticipation.
When they finally took the first step onto the bridge, I could hear their hearts beating faster and faster with fear and an indescribable emotion that most closely resembled victory. I smiled and slowly allowed the veil to slip, I chose to show myself in my true mortal form, something I knew they wouldn't be expecting and at their gasps, I knew I had been right.
"Christ, it's just a child!" Shawn exclaimed.
Ian, slightly more reserved, looked me up and down. "Are you lost sweetheart?" he asked finally, like his friend, unable to believe that I could be anything other than what I appeared. Humorous to me, since they knew where they were headed and what my sisters were capable of.
I decided to play along and nodded, letting a few sparkling tears stream down my face. "I think so." I sniffed and smiled inwardly as they moved closer to me. Shane even held out his hand toward me as if to offer me comfort.
"What's your name?" Ian asked me softly, kneeling down so that he was eye level with my seven year old height.
"That's a pretty name, darling." He looked toward Shane and than back to me. "Listen, love," his endearments were beginning to annoy me and I was looking forward to the next few moments, "just past this bridge is a world that you could never imagine. A world full of magic and wishes." He smiled softly, "a world full of faeries."
I let my eyes widen in a practiced expression of wonder. "Faeries?"
He nodded, "you do believe in magic, don't you, Esmeralda?"
Smiling, I let the veil begin to slip even further, beginning to distort my mortal form and showing pieces of what I had become. As my body began to take on an ethereal glow and my eyes began to darken, the whites turning as black as night, both men gasped and sputtered out curses before beginning to back away.
"Oh yes," I smiled, "I most certainly believe in magic."
Shane whimpered as my long blondish hair began blowing in a breeze that only I could feel and a crown of thorns began to appear on my head. "But you're only a child," he cried.
Ian, face as white as a sheet of paper, began shaking his head. "It's her. Dammit, she's the Guardian." He looked at his friend, visibly shaken and terrified. "She's one of them."
When my eyes turned completely black and the smile that covered my face began to take on a demonic appearance, I threw my head back and began laughing. My sisters, the ones that were close enough to hear and even see the exchange as they hid in the trees began laughing with me.
"You see, I'm terribly sorry," I said, my voice still carrying the innocence of my youth, "but I can't let you pass."
Both men began crying and threw themselves at my feet begging for mercy, but there was no mercy to be had. Not from me. That part of myself, the part that showed compassion had been lost in the transformation and I felt nothing for them as I watched them grovel before me.
After a few more seconds, I began to tire of their cries and the game and with a quick motion of throwing my arms up toward the sky, I called on all of the powers that had been granted to me. Dark smoke began curling around me, obliterating the men, covering us with the acrid smell of dark magic. After a few moments of this, the whites of my eyes began to reappear and with a soft breath, I blew the foul smelling smoke until there was nothing left. Nothing, but me, standing alone in the middle of a bridge that many would seek out in the years to come. There was no signs of the men who had been there moments before, and deep in my heart I searched for some sort of regret at the lives I had just taken, but just like any other time, there was nothing.
This was my life now. This was my destiny and no one would ever get past into the Realm of the faeries. Not with me as the Guardian. My sisters had chosen wisely, and with my duty done for the time being, I found a tree close by to nestle in and wait. Wait, because as sure as I was that magic was alive, I knew that those who would seek it, would one day find themselves facing me. And I was ready.