"I appreciate you meeting with me." Reaper bowed before the women who looked like she was carved from the side of an icy glacier. She wore a long blue dress with silver trim in the pattern of snowflakes and her hair was pinned beneath a blue hat with fur on it. Her eyes reminded him of a lake that had been iced over. Beside her stood a few ice faerie men the women gathered around her. Their faces and just as pale eyes tired, and there were also several more of the strange lizard creatures.
"You didn't give me much choice, Reaper, son of Death and right hand of Dagda, usurper of my birthright," she said all this in a flat monotone.
"So this is revenge you want to hurt me to hurt the one who took me in, makes sense," Reaper stated. "And you've been trying to take over the Summer Court for years, but why drag the Spring Court into this?" he asked.
"When our subjects started to revolt my mother...asked for assistance, Spring left us to our fate then refused to take in those of us who escaped," Winter said, only the slight twitch of her lip revealed any emotion about the whole thing.
"So what was your plan? Have that room drive us insane and have us kill each other? Start a war? Or did you merely intend to break us, then pick up the pieces and reshape them to your liking?" Reaper questioned, studying her for hints as to which one it was.
"You're far more clever than I anticipated," Winter admitted.
"Why settle for me as a puppet when I could be an ally?" Reaper offered.
"You'd hand the Unseelie throne back to the Frost dynasty?" Winter asked him.
"I have no business ruling," Reaper admitted.
"Finally, someone who knows their place," the queen stated. Reaper hid his annoyance behind a subservient look. "The thought of that gutter rat Dagda's face when he realizes you've sworn allegiance to the true queen."
Reaper thought briefly of the young snake Faire, Belinda, King Dagda had taken as a lover after his own wife died in childbirth along with his child. She had been captured on the battlefield by Spring and later rescued. The whole Court had realized with shock that they had underestimated the Seelie soldiers' capacity for cruelty. Belinda had been half-starved, the scales on her back had been torn off, and the beautifully sharp teeth that drove many an Unseelie Court man to desperately try and win her affections had been ripped out of her mouth. Everyone had been surprised that King Dagda had not only ordered his healers to give her the best care but still kept her. Reaper had finally worked up the courage to ask why keep something so damaged when there were other prettier women throwing themselves at him? Ones who still had fangs or better yet long talons.
Dagda's response was something Reaper never forgot. "She never told them my secrets. If you judge someone by what they can give you on a surface level, then expect to receive the same treatment in return and don't be surprised when they go for the better offer because Reaper, my boy, there is always a better offer." The King had informed him.
The Unseelie faerie knew Winter was the type who'd take one look at that fairies toothless gums and disgustedly toss her aside without a second thought. It was a pity Reaper mused, that such a beautiful intelligent mind was limited by such a small view of a much larger world. He might feel bad for her if he didn't know he'd have to spend the next few days kissing her frozen blue blood ass.
"Su-Prince Helios?" Reaper asked her.
"Being fixed by my servants," Winter stated.
"May I speak freely, your grace?" he asked.
"Granted," she said in the same flat tone.
"When I get a particularly stubborn war prisoner, I leave them alone for weeks, even months on end." Reaper paused. "Then they crack as easily as the fragile shell of an egg."
"Are you saying I should isolate Prince Helios?" she asked.
"I'm saying you should leave Prince Angus in that room with his thoughts. Don't send me or the Summer prince back." Reaper suggested.
Winter looked thoughtful. "You'll be heavily under the guard, of course," she decided.
"Your grace is quite wise," Reaper responded. He had expected as much.
Five minutes later Reaper sank into thick furs on the bed. The room was still cold but a warm fire had been lit for him and it crackled in the fireplace filling the room with heat. Winters strange servants hovered around him as the Unseelie faerie went over plans in his head. What was he going to do? Normally he'd try seduction but this one was way too fond of blood and titles to even give him a glance. He was dirt on her shoes regardless of the rugged good looks of his right side or the fascinatingly grotesque appearance of his left side.
Still, he needed to distract her somehow so he could put his own plans into motion. If he played this right Reaper could not only walk out of here alive but get everything he wanted. ............................................
"How are you doing, Summer?" Reaper asked after him three days of kissing ass and Frosty Snow Bitch had finally decided to allow him to visit the healers bay.
"If I wasn't strapped down, I'd snap your neck," Summer informed him warily.
"It was a risky gamble but it paid off," Reaper admitted.
"And it's put me in a position to be gotten rid of," the Summer faerie stated.
"The alternative is becoming Winter's marionette," Reaper informed him.
"I was trained to endure pain," Summer said.
"Can you endure sleep deprivation, stress positions, and complete isolation?" Reaper inquired.
"What?" Summer asked
"I thought so, being a broken puppet would be a sorry fate for a proud warrior." The Unseelie faerie paused.
"I can offer you an honorable death if it comes to that," Reaper said.
"Why would you do that for me?" Summer asked.
Because you'd be dead, you idiot, and one less obstacle, Reaper thought.
Out loud he said, "Just forget it okay...it's not that big a deal." Reaper put on a mask of guilt that he let Summer see before turning.
"You feel guilty?" Summer sounded stunned.
Reaper fought a sigh of irritation. "Just drop it," he mumbled.
"So have you got a plan," Summer added rather quickly jolting Reaper from his thoughts.
"We need to get a message to my people," he answered.
"You mean our people," Summer said sharply. Reaper nods, though he has no intention of getting Summer or Spring's people involved. " Prince Angus. Is he well?" The Summer Prince asked.
"Winter has left him down in that room to rot alone, we need to move quickly before he breaks," Reaper said, adding just the right hint of worry to his voice. He took secret satisfaction in the look of fear on Summer's face, the other fairie now like clay in his hands...............................................................................................
Reaper walks into the throne room. "Your high-" Winter slaps him across the face. He really has to bite back the impulse to strike her back for the insult. "Whatever I did I meant no offense," the Unseelie faerie said
"I said you could go visit Summer, but you were supposed to take my attendants," Winter said flatly. "And you," She turned her attention to her quivering half lizard subjects, "should of accompanied him."
Icy spoke up, "Highness did not say so..." the creature trailed off at the sight of her cold eyes. Winter took a whip and rapped it against the floor.
"Hands against the wall!" Every one of her attendants did and Reaper saw the deep ugly scars that ran along their spines.
Or course, Reaper realized, it was impossible to be completely emotionless, one still needed an outlet for certain repressed feelings. The Unseelie were no stranger to corporal punishment, but King Dagda only beat his subjects for actual offenses; not failing to guess his whims. If Winter was not clear when giving orders that was on her. This was the kind of treatment one reserved for the likes of Spring fairies, not one's own people. He saw the whip land, though several of the creatures cried out the one called Icy bit his slimy lip hard as if in defiance. It was then Reaper finally started to shape a plan......................................................
A day later, Spring was dragged into the room by two of the lizard creatures. he looked so tired he could barely stand, but still, he managed a glare even as he swayed.
"What's this?" Reaper demanded
"My subjects are useless due to their injuries," Winter said.
"I was not informed of this decision." Reaper kept his tone even.
"You didn't need to be," Winter retorted.
"I can't heal your monsters," Spring rasped.
"I still have Prince Helios," Winter threatened.
"I have no herbs and I don't see any medicine here," Spring protested.
"What kind of prince studies botany?" Winter had a hint of scorn in her tone.
"It's one of the highest subjects among those of noble birth. All Seelie subjects are covered in their entirety." Spring said sounding confused.
"Yet your tutors failed to cover the entire history of our Court," Winter stated.
"We know exactly what to expect from the Unseelie atrocities and mayhem, why be repetitive?" Spring asked her
"Long ago, my family with the permission of our dear elders, fought against the chaotic impulses of their people. Then...they were destroyed by their own subjects." Her voice wavered. "Their atrocities should be listed over and over so that no one forgets about them."
Reaper bit his tongue silently keeping his face blank.
"It doesn't matter what we do for them, what we suffer," Winter said.
"The moment someone else comes along, someone stronger, healthier, more charming you become a trial," Angus agreed.
"People rarely know what's best for them, that's what we're for," Winter added.
"May I suggest bringing them in?" Reaper said, cutting in smoothly.
"He said he could do nothing for them," Winter said cooly.
"I can't heal them but I can dull their pain," Spring said quietly.
Winter's eyelid lid twitched briefly but she nodded. "Creature, tell the injured they can come in." The lizard creatures practically crawled in, wincing with every painful inch. Spring reached forward to lay hands on each creature but they spit and hissed at him. "What is the meaning of this?" Winter demanded.
"Seelie beat Snowball to death with shoe!" Icy roared. Reaper saw Spring's face took on a look of surprise that gave way to confusion. Winter commanded them to bare his touch and they did while making their revulsion and unease clear. And when Spring was roughly escorted back to the room by Winter's guards, his shoulders were slumped, as if the weight of his guilt was crushing him. .............................................................................................................................
"Winter clearly has no respect for you, look at how she made you endure the blood-soaked hands of your friend's killer," Reaper said to Icy back in his rooms.
"Fear Winter," Icy reminded him.
"They don't know how to rule any other way," the faerie explained, adopting a sympathetic tone. "You're just tools, like I was." Reaper dropped his tone to a murmur that the creature could still hear. "In their eyes, we lack the proper blood, we're not important." The creature's face crumpled...........................................
"You can reassure me that the Winter Queen is mentally sound of mind, right Alps?" he asked one of the guards on his way to bringing food.
Soon he heard his own words spoken in hushed whispers between lizard creatures. Three days later and Reaper watches Icy's head fly off as one of Winter's attendants swings the axe. "This is the fate of traitors in my kingdom." Her tone as emotionless as ever. The other winter court survivors are too busy politely clapping to see the spark of fire take shape in the previously dull frog-like eyes of their servants.
It was funny, Reaper mused, how history tended to repeat itself...................................................................................................................................................................
"Here." Reaper hands a letter to Alps with a smile. "Deliver this, your people are counting on you." He places one hand on the creature's shoulder.
"Unseelie rile Summer, he rip his stitches," one of the lizard creatures complains as she stitched up Reaper's face; the only part of him that couldn't regenerate.
Reaper looks her in the eye. "Your husband was on guard," he offers.
She blanches. "I ignore," she agrees.
"Don't repair him," Reaper stresses. She cleared her throat.
"Winter say she want to move date up," the creature added.
"What does that mean?" Reaper demanded.
"Don't know," the creature admitted.
"You think she suspects? " Reaper asked her.
"You no think Alps caught?" The creature sounded alarmed. Reape,r who had been sending coded messages since the Spanish Inquisition, highly doubted what looked like a Winter Court supply list would be examined too closely but didn't say allowed in case she did get cold feet and sold him out.
"I took precautions to ensure his safety," was all he said................................................................................................................................................................
"Queen sent Alps with message," Alps said a few hours later while in Reaper's assigned room.
"Recite it by word of mouth," Reaper ordered while idly playing with a snow globe, the only item they had allowed in the room.
"Yukki-onna, I require your presence sooner than expected... I have three souls I want you to remove."
The death fairie cut him off. Who is Yukki-onna?" he asked.
"She deceived and murdered in woods," Alps said. Reaper felt cold chills fill him.
"A ghost, why in the name of the Battle Gods does she have a ghost!" Reaper threw the snow globe at the wall and then swiftly turned his own bed. Alps looked alarmed. The death fairie found he was no longer looking at things through a hazy cloud of rage and was aware of his heavy breathing. The creature continued to gape at him.
"Sorry," Reaper offered by way of explanation. "So this one steals souls was being a dead abomination not creepy enough for it?" he snarked.
"Unseelie not like ghosts," Alps observed.
Reaper ignored him. "Get one of your buddies to pass on what you told me to Spring and Summer. Actually, two different friends just to be safe." Reaper paused. "Also tell Spring...a ghost's touch doesn't feel like anything," the death faerie said reluctantly.
"I tell him, oh, Winter Lady want me to invite you to dinner next week," Alps added.
Reaper froze this he knew in his gut was when she was going to strike. "Tell me everything about this Yukki-onna," he ordered. .......................................................
"I do hope you're enjoying the rabbit," Winter said flatly.
Reaper was so glad he'd learned to hide his emotions at a young age. "It's very good," he said through a mouthful of greasy meat. Reaper was never one to turn down any food.
"It's nothing compared to the great feasts we once had," said one of the Winter fairies, one of the survivors.
"I don't believe I've had the pleasure," Reaper purred.
"Oh...i'm Neva." Her cheeks flushed.
"It's nice to hear a normal voice," the death fairie said brightly.
"Our queen has expelled her emotions for the sake of our people. So she can make perfectly rational decisions."
Reaper fought the urge to snort. "So her highness has given up a lot for you?" he said candidly.
"If it weren't for her, none of us would have survived," the girl responded.
"So this is all of you, then?" Reaper asked casually. before she could respond, two more of Winter's creature guard dragged in Spring. There were shadows under his eyes, his long black hair had come undone and it now spilled over his shoulders, he raised his chin in defiance toward everyone at the table. Helios was looking sour as he was supported by several of the creatures barely able to stand because of his wounds, Reaper knew he must be burning with humiliation.
Spring and Summer looked at each other, their faces filled with relief. The princes were shoved into the chairs and swiftly bound by two male winter fairies. "Thank you for joining me, your highnesses," Winter said.
"As if we had a choice about any of this," Summer seethed, struggling to get free.
"I'm allowing you to help me make history," Winter responded.
"Will you please tell us why we're here?" Spring played innocent, or Reaper hoped he was playing innocent, and his message hadn't been misconstrued or forgotten.
"When our final guest arrives, I'll be glad to explain everything," Winter said, Reaper swore she almost smiled in triumph. Then he felt himself being tied to the damn chair. It was then every hair on Reapers arms stood up. A few of the Winter fairies shifted nervously.
"It's just our guest no need to be frightened," Winter said.
Reaper felt his stomach turn. Gods of chaos please aid me, he prayed silently.
Then the doors flew open the candles which lit the banquet hall flickered. Reaper caught the scent of rotting flesh mixed with the sweet scent of a woman's perfume. As the doors flew open a pale woman with flowing raven hair staggered through the door. Her white kimono was so translucent you could see the deep red slashes that covered her body and each step was slow and heavy as if it pained her to drag her sandaled feet across the hall. Winter said not one word or even acknowledge her presence.
Yuki-onna came staggering over and sat down between Helios and Reaper. Reaper forced himself to look right through her, he hoped Summer and Spring were doing the same. "Nice night, is it not?" Yukki-onna asked. All three fairie boys ignored her.
"I said, nice night, is it not?" she repeated. Reaper pretended to take a sip of his wine. The ghost tried everything to engage them in conversation, every topic she covered from politics to history, to poetry, but not of them said one word to her. His message had gotten to both of them Reaper thought but he refused to relax.
"Why I never thought the prince of the Seelie Court would be so rude." The ghost huffed. Spring looked troubled, but Reaper sharply reached over and pinched his hand in warning. One word to her and they would have their souls sucked out and handed to Winter.
Yukki continued to talk then looking quite annoyed she said. "Please water." Winter silently motioned for one of her creature servants to fetch water. One of the female lizard creatures came back with a cup and placed it at Yukki-onna's wrist.
She was just about to drink when Spring cried out loudly focusing everyone's attention on him. "I cut my finger, please allow your servants to apply pressure to the wound," he said. Reaper saw Helios touch Yuuki-onna's cup, his hand glowed briefly before he dropped it. Winter motioned her lizard servant forward to bind Springs's finger.
The ghost was about to drink when Neva cried out, "Yukki-onna, steam rises from your cup!" The ghost quickly tossed the hot water on the ground with a cry of rage.
"Do you intend for me to melt away!" she demanded of Winter, who remained silent.
Then the doors flew open and an Unseelie Court raiding party of about fifty swarmed into the hall accompanied by the Winter Queen's lizard creature guard. Then all hell broke loose with the lizard people and Unseelie Court hacking at the Winter fairies and the surviving Winter fairies either sending hail their way via fingers or making do with whatever silverware they had knives fork even spoons found their mark but they were far outnumbered and didn't stand a chance.
Reaper took advantage of the confusion to untie himself. He looked over and saw a fairie dressed from head to toe in black armor with horns on the helmet. King Dagda! Reaper felt relief at the sight of him. He advanced toward Winter, then out of nowhere came Neva who put her thin body between him and the queen she was holding a table knife. "Stay back...I won't let you Unseelie hurt her." The girl was shaking like a leaf. Dagda disarmed and cut her down without a second thought and stepped directly over her dead body.
Reaper felt a slight twinge of discomfort. She was on the losing side that's how it is, he reminded himself. As he spotted a black cloaked figure who had been hanging on the fringes of the room who suddenly glided toward Neva's body drawing something silvery from it that floated up into the air until Reaper could no longer see it.
The figure had the air of someone who was waiting for something. Reaper turned at saw Winter and Dagda locked in battle, realization hit him. Reaper frantically turned back to the cloaked figure who nodded at him, his body language smug. The faerie boy saw Winter was driving Dagda back with her ice tipped spear, slashing fiercely at him, putting a hole in his armor; it was magic. Reaper's jaw clenched as he snatched a plate from the table and when he saw Winter's arm move he hurled the plate like it was a discus. There was a squelch sound and a scream as the Winter fairie lay on the ground her severed limb gushing green blood.
"That's my boy." King Dagda beamed at him.
Reaper turned back to the cloaked figure and folded his arms. "You have your price." The figure extended his scythe toward Reaper. "No." the faeire boy batted the scythe away but the figure forced it into his hand. "Fine," the faerie boy said coldly before slashing Winters other arm off with it.
"This...was...all...your doing," Winter accused though the pain.
"This was our doing" Reaper corrected, ripping off his gloves and flexing his calloused palms.
"No, no no! It can't end like this...I need to avenge them! That's why I lived, otherwise-!" Winter trailed off and screamed. "Yuki..." Reaper wrapped his hands around her throat letting the power flow through him, the smooth skin under him started to dry out then crack until it was nothing but bones then he was holding nothing but dust. Reaper brushed what was left of the Winter Queen off his furs.
The cloaked figure looked at him patiently. "That's your job," Reaper retorted cooly. The figure brushed past him angrily and drew something silvery from the pile of dust with an air of resentment. Reaper put his thumb in his mouth and snapped it against his teeth.
"I'm guessing He was here," Dagda said sympathetically.
"At least I actually got a birthday present." Reaper brandished the scythe.
"Are you sure keeping that is wise?" Dagda asked, frowning.
"If I don't agree, he can't make me do anything," Reaper reminded him. "Speaking of presents, may I present the princes of Spring and Summer," he informed his king, motioning to Spring and Summer who were being restrained by Unseelie soldiers.
"Oh, Reaper, it's not even my birthday yet." Dagda grinned.
Reaper patted a furious Spring's shoulders. "He can heal our lands," the death fairie said.
"It's worth a try I suppose," the Unseelie King replied doubtfully.
"If I let you take me, will you promise to let Helios go?" Spring asked them.
"No, Angus, now is not the time to be sentimental," Summer argued.
"My sister can take my place, but your people can't afford to lose you, our Court alliance can't afford it," Spring argued. "Yuki-onna, are you going to let Reaper get away with killing Winter, the only one who understood what it was like to have people stand by and watch as you were slowly killed?"
Yukki turned to Helios. "I cannot touch the living unless I'm acknowledged," the ghost answered.
"He's a death fairie," Helios revealed.
At those words, Yuki hurled herself straight at Reaper, he froze, unable to make his legs move he felt her start to slither under his skin. Reaper suddenly felt as if someone was slowly sliding a pillow over his face, he tried to claw and scream but his own rib cage was quickly becoming a cage.
"Reaper, Reaper!" the Unseelie King's voice sounded far away Reaper felt his brain go fuzzy then nothing...........................................................................................
Reaper jolted upright, looking around frantically, he was in his bed chambers at the Unseelie Court. "What did my body do?!" he demanded, fighting off the sluggish feeling that seemed to have overtaken his body.
"Your banjaxed you need your strength" remarked a scaly woman with beautiful large teeth the color of slime her long red hair fell wild and free about her shoulders, Jenny Greenteeth, normally, he'd welcome such a tantalizing sight.
"What did my body do?" he repeated an edge to his voice.
"Nothing, his highness banished the spirit before it could do damage," she replied, handing him a bowl, it was dusty and dented but full of something hot. Reaper felt his fingers struggle to grip the bowl, he felt as weak as a newborn kitten but through sheer pig-headedness, he managed to get the bowl to his lips.
"Ugh, tastes like shit!" he grimaced.
"It was made with the last of our medical supplies, you dick!" Jenny lectured.
"Tell me Dagda didn't let the princes get away to look after me," Reaper pleaded.
"Honestly, he couldn't go after the princes himself, Dagda didn't fight Yukki-onna alone, and Prince Angus made him promise to let them go afterward," Jenny said. Reaper's face burned with humiliation. "Of course, our King found a loophole, and simply sent us after them instead , but it did no good," she added.
"Summer had a wounded side! How hard were they to catch?" Reaper protested.
"The lizard people helped them escape," Jenny replied.
"Spring killed one of their brethren," Reaper argued baffled.
"I don't understand it myself something about not wanting to hold onto the past."
Reaper was silent for a moment. "So that's it, then." The weight of failure started to press down.
"We did eliminate the enemy," Jenny reminded him.
"And lost the bigger prize," Reaper grumbled.
"Your inability to be satisfied is why I stopped coming to your bed," Jenny informed him.
"You just have no concept of setting goals," the death fairie retorted.
"I'll leave the planning to you brainy types, so what is your new idea?" Jenny asked eagerly.
Reaper motioned for her to hand him a feather quill and his scroll which she did. Then he crossed out something and scrawled directly under it on his list of goals. Jenny read it and whistled. "Those Princes really pissed you off," she remarked.
"No one makes a fool of me, or this Court," Reaper retorted. He was going to destroy both of them, even if it took a couple of centuries, then the history books would be painting a very different picture of the Unseelie Court.