Work in progress
Ellie stepped down off her fifth bus in the space of two days. Her legs trembled, she was tired and hungry. She made her way to the back of the tiny bus stop and dropped her backpack. She scrubbed at her face with her hands, then pulled her hair from its ponytail and shook it out. She waited until the people milling about the stop had boarded the bus or moved away. She had to consider her options. She had taken five buses since Weston, moved through two cities and now found herself in a small town in the cold north. Small towns were risky, people tended to take notice of newcomers and some of them might remember her if she spent time here. It was hard to blend in and be anonymous. On the other hand, small town residents were generally more hospitable and generous, meaning she was more likely to find herself some temporary work and somewhere cheap to stay. She needed more money. She chewed her lip as she considered. She hoped that her rapid exit from Vici and her recent cross country journey would have put her ahead for the time being, she couldn’t see how Wyatt would have kept track of her. By the time he found her here she could have moved on, she needn’t stay long. Making her decision, she hoisted her backpack and followed the main road into the centre of town. She came across a small diner style café attached to a service station. ‘Well, if that’s not luck I don’t know what is’, she thought, eyeing the handwritten sign in the front window stating ‘Help wanted’.
Despite the convenience of the situation, she hesitated. As much as possible, she tried to avoid making contact with people on her travels. She was pretty sure she had not spent as much cumulative time speaking to people in the last five years as she had conversing with Levi in the few days they spent together. The way in which she had so quickly grown comfortable with him still scared her. Meeting people meant they were more likely to recall her when Wyatt came through seeking her whereabouts. Yet, she had trusted Levi, trusted that he wanted to care for her and that the would not betray her safety if the opportunity came to him. Taking a deep breath, she tried to suppress the wish that she were still with him feeling safe and protected. She had known not to get used to such an unfamiliar feeling. With another deep breath, she straightened her crumpled clothes as much as possible and headed into the diner.
“Can I help you, hun?” a young waitress asked her from behind the counter. She poured two cups of coffee and slid them to two men sitting with overflowing plates of eggs and bacon. Ellie tried to ignore the hunger inducing smell. She hadn’t had a bite of real food since she had left Levi’s place. Ellie looked at the waitress. She was tall, with thick dark hair, a bulging chest and a genuine smile. There was something motherly about her demeanor.
“Actually, I was hoping maybe I could help you,” Ellie told her, trying to return the woman’s smile, “I saw the sign.” She pointed to the front window, the woman’s gaze followed her finger and her face brightened.
“Oh, that’s perfect,” she cried, “We were just started to think we’d have to make do on our own. Eddy!” she called behind her, into the kitchen.
“What?” a man yelled back, leaning his head through the serving window. He looked to be in his forties with a clear family resemblance to the young waitress. The woman motioned toward Ellie.
“This pretty little thing here wants to talk about the position,” she told him cheerfully, obviously not bothered by his stern look. His eyebrows rose as he scanned Ellie up and down.
“You got any waitressin’ experience?” he asked her.
“Yes,” Ellie told him. She had worked a few brief stints in diners and cafes like this across the country.
“You got anywhere else to be?” he asked, stern tone remaining. Ellie took this to be a question about her availability.
“No,” she replied. She would work as much as they would let her for a couple of weeks and then vanish without a word. She always felt some guilt over it, but it was what she needed to do to survive.
“Alrigh’, then,” he nodded, seeming satisfied, “What’s yer name?”
“Maddie,” she told him. The woman grinned, taking a plate that Eddy shoved through the window.
“Welcome, Maddie,” she told Ellie, grinning, “I’m Jessie. Let me show you round then.” She moved from behind the counter, depositing the plate in front a customer with a friendly smile before reaching for Ellie’s hand. Ellie tried not to flinch at her touch. Strange, she had never felt a need to flinch away from Levi, intimidating as he was in appearance. She gave her head a slight shake, trying to dislodge that thought and any memory of his touch. That was in the past and it needed to stay there. Jessie tugged Ellie through a side door and motioned to the steamy kitchen they stood in.
“This here’s the kitchen,” Jessie told her, as though it wouldn’t obvious. Pointing to boy in his late teens she added, “That’s Joey, he’s my brother. You met Uncle Eddy.” She pushed a second door open and showed Ellie a small room that resembled a locker and changing room, with a bathroom attached it.
“You can stash your stuff in here and there’s a shower through there,” Jessie continued, pointing. Ellie smiled herself, that she would definitely be able to make use of. She was already desperate to wash the travel off herself. “That’s bought it for this place. You wanna start for dinner time tonight?” She glanced at her watch. It was far too large, slipping around on her slim wrist. It looked like a man’s watch.
“Sure,” Ellie replied, trying to sound confident, “That sounds great. Does it get busy?”
Jessie shrugged, “It’s just a Monday so won’t be too bad, probably a good night to get you settled in. Wanna come back, say about four?”
“Ok, sure,” Ellie said, again. Where was she going to go until four? She didn’t have anywhere to stay yet and she didn’t think she had enough cash left to find somewhere. She would need to rough it out for a couple of nights until she could pay and hope that none of her new workmates noticed.
“See ya then,” Jessie said, cheerily, giving her a little wave, “Oh I’ll scrounge you up a uniform, you look like you could probably fit mine.” Jessie eyed her up and down. Ellie was clearly shorter and a bit thinner, but that wouldn’t matter too much.
Ellie wandered through the town, what there was of it. Two main streets with store fronts, cafes, a mechanic, grocer and to her surprise a small move theatre. On the next block over there was a school, gym, fire station and a doctors surgery. From what she could tell, the rest of the streets were residential. She found herself in a park, tucked away from the street, filled with tall oak trees and prettily carved wooden benches. This would probably be her hide out for the next few days she figured. There was a public toilet block, not very sanitary but sufficient. In a city it would the lair of drug users and any other sinister characters with no where else to be but she figured that Rockport probably didn’t have enough of those kinds of people for her to worry about. Choosing a grassy spot in the shade of one of the large oaks, Ellie collapsed on the ground, stretching her arms and legs and relishing in the room to move. She was definitely an outside person, but a life in hiding meant a lot of hiding inside. One day, when she didn’t have to run anymore, she would live in the mountains far away from prying eyes and spend all her time outside in the sun on the grass. She tried not to think about the fact that she had no idea how she would ever achieve such a lofty goal. She didn’t really know why she had ended up on the run in the first place, only that she needed to stay ahead of Wyatt at all times. She sighed and felt her chest squeeze as she released the air. Breath in, she told herself, keep breathing, don’t let it overwhelm you. That was all she could do, one breath after another, one foot in front of the other.
As Ellie stepped down off the bus, a terribly familiar movement, the rain pelted her. She pulled her hood further around her face and hurried off toward the depot entrance. As she walked through the revolving glass doors and onto the linoleum floors, her battered sneaks slipped in the wet and she tumbled through the entrance, landing in a heap.
“Graceful,” a deep voice said, as a hand gripped her elbow and helped her to her feet. A strange tingle shot through her arm from the contact and she jerked away from the tall man at her side. He held his hands up, a demonstration of innocence, and she blushed.
“Just thought you could use a hand,” he told her, not seemeding overly offended.
“Yes, sorry, thanks,” she stuttered. The seven hour ride from Rockport had been rough and noisy, crying infants and prattling women. She was exhausted, in more ways than one.
“New in town?” the stranger asked her.
“Um, I don’t know,” she replied, thrown by his attempt to continue the conversation, “Probably just passing through actually.”
“That’s a shame,” he told her, sounding as though he really meant it, “Thought we might have been able to get to know each other a bit better.”
“uh, no thank you,” Ellie told him, trying to sound as polite as possible as she turned away. She needed to get herself on another bus and get out here, quickly. She had spent two weeks in Rockport before suddenly feeling desperately restless, knowing it was time to move on. She had boarded the bus that same night and now, at five o’clock in the morning, here she was in at a busy transit depot in an even busier city. She could go anywhere in the country from here.
“A real shame,” the man continued, “I enjoyed getting to know your father, see.” Ellie froze. She glanced over her shoulder, taking the man in. He wore a dark coat over dark jeans. Everything about him was dark, except for his absurdly blue eyes.
“I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else,” she told him, voice trembling despite her attempts to sound flippant.
“Oh no, I haven’t,” he assisted with a grin that was definitely not friendly, “I know Cillian Delaney very well, you see.” Ellie swallowed, her heart suddenly racing. This man had not made a mistake, Aurelia Delaney knew that for sure. Without hesitation, Ellie turned back toward the entrance, diving past the man and back into the revolving door. As it spat her back out into the drenched street she took off running, without looking back.
Her backpack bounced heavily against her shoulder blades as she ran and the rain felt like needles against her face. She could barely see ahead of her but it didn’t matter, there was no other recourse but to run. She turned down street after street, paying no attention to her direction and marveling at the number of people bustling about in the cold and soggy weather. The crowded footpaths were to her benefit though, it was much easier to get lost in a crowd. She slipped into a slim alley way and paused, looking back around the corner. She could not see anyone who was clearly following her but that didn’t mean she was safe. With a deep breath, she stepped away from the wall and moved toward the row of traffic crawling along the street in the rain. She would cross to other side. As she stepped off the curb, a hand closed around her arm, bringing her to an abrupt halt. She cried out, both surprised and outraged. How could she have let this happen? She had slipped up somewhere, wherever it had been she should have known better.
She gazed up into the dark eyes of the man from the transit depot. Her mouth felt dry.
“It’s time we talked, Aurelia,” he told her and her breath hitched in her chest. He knew her name, knew who she was, he had to be working for Wyatt.
“Please,” she whispered, her heart thumping in her chest, “He’s taken enough. Please let me go.”
“He?” the man enquired, “Who is he?”
“Don’t take me back to Wyatt,” she begged. The man cocked his head, staring down at her. People passing in the street stared at them, standing on the curb with her arm tightly in his grasp as she begged him. He took no notice of them and it seemed that no one cared enough to intervene.
“My name is Keiron and my purpose here is not what you think. Come.” With that, he dragged her with him. The rain seemed to fall heavier as he pulled her along as though she weighed no more than a feather. She had paid little attention to her surroundings as she ran and now she could make out even less in the dark and the rain and they walked. She was hopelessly lost. She waited for a moment in which any distraction meant his grips lessened, even slightly, and she could attempt to escape. But the moment didn’t come and each time she contemplated breaking free it seemed as though his grip tightened. Her arm throbbed.
Keiron turned suddenly, pulling Ellie through a stone archway, and down a short flight of stairs. Ellie tripped along after him, her terror growing as they entered a concrete tunnel and she realized that no one would hear anything that happened down here and her chances of escape were diminishing quickly. He stopped before a large, steel door and pounded on it with his fist. A response was pounded from the other side before Keiron pounded again. A code, Ellie realized, her heart pounding its own rhythm against her chest. She wondered if Keiron could feel her shaking, he would recognize it for fear, surely. The large door was pulled open just enough for them to enter. As they did, Ellie’s gaze shifted frantically around the room. It looked like a warehouse, but with no windows that she could see. She searched for exits, any other door. There was only one, on the opposite side of the big space. She could see the huge, heavy padlock from where she stood and her trembling increased. She was trapped. Several tables sat haphazardly around the room, surrounded by chairs and littered with a variety of objects from papers and coffee mugs, to maps, rocks, an a strange assortment of carvings. She counted four other people, all dressed in dark clothes similar to Keiron. All eyes were trained on her and her captor. He finally released her arm and she could not help but flex and rub it, trying to restore the blood flow.
“Sit there,” he instructed her, gesturing to a high back chair near the closest table. She gulped, but did as she was told, dropping her sodden backpack on the floor beside her. Keiron marched across the room, pulling a fat yellow envelope from inside his coat and tossing it down on the table in front a young woman with waving blonde hair. Her fair skin and hair was a stark contrast to her dark outfit and the dark demeanor of the room. Ellie blinked in surprise when she smiled brightly up at Keiron.
“Oh, brilliant,” she cried, snatching up the envelope and peering inside, “I bet Ray you wouldn’t get it.”
“Thanks,” Keiron muttered, sarcastically, “Would have thought you’d have a little faith in me by now.” He moved toward a coffee machine in the corner and filled a mug with a steaming coffee. Taking a long drink, he sighed. Turning toward Ellie, he lifted the mug in gesture.
“Coffee?” he asked her. She stared at him in shock. He had chased her through the city, dragged her to some kind of hidden lair by force only to offer her a hot drink. He waited, patiently as she struggled to form an answer. She was at a loss as to what was going on here. Nothing she saw here in anyway seemed to reflect Wyatt’s level of disorganization and cruelty.
“Um, yes?” it didn’t sound like an answer, “Thanks?” she couldn’t hide her uncertainty. Picking up a second cup, Keiron poured the steaming coffee again.
“Cream?” he asked. She blinked.
“Yes, please,” she said feebly. He brought the cup, holding it out toward her. She took it, tentatively, wrapping her hands around the warm ceramic. She was soaked through and cold. Being the mug to her mouth, she let the hot steam rise in her face for a moment before sipping. The hot liquid burned down her throat, warming her chest. She took a deep breath, relishing the soothing feeling, before drinking again.
“Better?” Keiron asked, his tone much less threatening now that it had been when he found her in the street. She nodded, still uncertain. The woman rose from her desk and moved to stand beside Keiron, looking down at Ellie.
“This is Taya,” Keiron told Ellie. He pulled a chair over to sit directly in front of Ellie. Two other occupants of the mysterious room, a man with dark hair and round black glasses and a with a tight black bun and very stern expression, carried on with their task as though no one had even entered. By the steel door through which they had entered stood a young man, maybe in his early twenties. He looked different to the others, somehow, despite his matching dark attire. He watched Ellie with curiosity, an eagerness in his expression that Ellie realized was probably what set him apart. He noticed Ellie’s eyes on him and smiled her, sheepishly.
“Sorry,” he told her, his voice light, “Didn’t mean to stare. It’s just, I’ve never seen one before.” Ellie frowned, what an odd thing to say she thought, even in a circumstance like this. She looked to Keiron, hoping he was about to make some sense out of all of this for her. Her fear was ebbing slowly, but she thought that might just be the coffee.
“I’ll let you get some dry clothes on soon,” he told her, “but there’s a few things we need to know first.”
Ellie said nothing, watching him with apprehension. What could she possibly know that would be of use to people like this?
“Where is your father now, Aurelia?” Kieron asked.
“Wh-“ Ellie swallowed. How much could these people know about her, about her life, if they thought that she knew where he was. She shook her head. What would they do with her when they found out that she couldn’t help them?
“I-“ her voice sounded strangled, she tried again, “I don’t know. I haven’t known since –“ she hesitated, more for herself than for them. Remembering what he had done, the choice he had made all those years ago, was still painfully raw for her considering what it had lead to.
“Since I was thirteen years old,” she finished, softly. Keiron and Taya exchanged a glance.
“Where have you come from?” Taya asked her, her voice was musical and motherly somehow.
“What do you mean?” Ellie replied, carefully.
“Before you came to Amsten today, where did you come from?”
Ellie hesitated again. Revealing details about her life was very foreign to her and she found it difficult to consider letting these people any truths about her.
“Rockport,” she answered, finally. Taya frowned.
“How long were you there for?”
“A couple of weeks.”
“And before that?”
“Why does this matter?” Ellie demanded.
“I’m sorry,” Taya told her softly, resting a gentle hand on her wet shoulder, “We are just trying to retrace your steps, it seems we might have got something wrong.”
“Have you been following me?” Ellie whispered, evident fear creeping back into her voice.
“Sort of,” Taya told her, sounding apologetic.
“Not very well,” Keiron responded, his tone amused. Ellie put the cup down on the nearby table, regretting the loss of it’s warmth but not wanting to spill it all over her self with shaking hands.
“Ok, what is going on?” she demanded, glancing between Keiron and Taya, trying to inject anger into her voice. She would rather they thought her angry than afraid. Truthfully, she was both. They shared another glance, this time showing far less confidence than before. Keiron ran a hand over his face, suddenly looking weary. Ellie knew how he felt.
“Alright, but it’s kind of a long story,” he told her, “Do you want to change first? Maybe have something to eat?” Once again, she was caught off guard by their hospitality.
“Why are you being so nice?” she blurted. Taya laughed, her laugh as melodious as her voice. Gazing at her, Ellie decided the woman was definitely beautiful. She had delicate features and warm brown eyes.
“Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry that Keiron scared you the way he did. He did think you would come with him if you thought you had a choice. We aren’t going to hurt you, honestly. We just need your help.”
Ellie puzzled over that information.
“So, I have a choice?”
“Of course,” Keiron told her, “but if you really don’t know where he is, I imagine there’s a few other things that you don’t know and probably should.” Ellie contemplated that. If she had a choice, did that mean they would let her leave whenever she wanted to? More importantly, how much did she want to know? Most of her life had been a mystery, not a pleasant one. What if they could explain that to her? They knew her father, that meant that had to know something about her past, right? With a deep breath, Ellie made her decision.
“Alright,” she said slowly, glanced down at her bag, “but I don’t think I have any dry clothes by now. Let’s get to the point.” She was starting to find the looks exchanged by Keiron and Taya a bit annoying.
“Here goes,” Keiron muttered, looking at her skeptically. “Stop me if you have any questions, I really don’t know how much you know. Our informant was obviously wrong.” Taya nodded at this.
“We,” he began, indicating himself, Taya and the others in the room, “are all Fey. We have been working together since the barrier went up, trying to keep track of the other Fey that were trapped here with us. Those willing to accept it,” he inclined his head slightly, a resigned look on his face, “we have helped settle in as much as we can. It’s hard for our kind, the longer they’re in the mortal realm the more they –“ he hesitated, his tone changing, “change their character.”
“The mortal realm darkens a Fey heart,” Taya told Ellie, sadly, as though this was some kind of explanation, “The longer a Fey lives here the further they drift from a good path, most of them become pretty evil in the end. For a Fey, there’s really no way back. It’s pretty devastating.” Keiron nodded slightly, agreeing and sharing her understanding of the degree of tragic that this knowledge was to them.
“Knowing your father,” Keiron continued, “What he had been through, the power he possed-“ he indicated Ellie, but stopped speaking when he noted her expression. Ellie stared at them, wide eyed and speechless. Her stomach seemed to have dropped out completely and their words sank heavily in the empty space.
“Aurelia?” he asked, glaced worriedly at Taya, “Are you alright?” Ellie tried to answer, tried to phrase at least one of the many questions marching through her mind. Her mouth moved, no words came out.
“Fey?” she finally managed to squeak, “What – what are Fey?” It was Keiron’s turn to look shocked at speechless. He turned to Taya, expression expectant. She studied Ellie for a long moment, turned to him and shrugged.
“I think it’s worse than we thought,” she told him, “The beginning might be a bit further back.”
“I don’t understand,” Keiron told Ellie, blankly. He no longer seemed threatening or intimidating. Instead of a kidnapping, the situation had become an opportunity for Ellie to learn everything she needed to know to make sense of what her life had been, had become.
“Keiron,” she said softly, intensely, leaning toward him, “Who do you think I am?” He swallowed, he hadn’t thought he would be the one revealing this to her.
“The daughter of Cillian Delaney and Mariah, a human,” he whispered, “The half-Fey child with the power to break the barrier.” Ellie blinked, slowly, blinked again.
“What?” her voice was little more than a breath. Keiron and Taya waited in silence, anxious for her reaction. Long moments passed as she stared ahead, eyes unfocused, breathing slow. But her mind raced, using this information to drop decades worth or senseless puzzle pieces into place. She was half-Fey, she was supernatural. It explained why Wyatt had needed her, why he had held her. The power to drop the barrier, what did that mean? She wondered. She didn’t know a lot about the Fey, except that they were from a different realm and possessed certain magical powers. She had never realized what her father was, but the knowledge shed a light of understanding on so many aspects of her childhood. She also realized why they could track her, follow her, no matter how far or hard she tried to outrun them. Finn surfaced in her mind and she wondered what all of these things meant for him, for his survival. She pushed deliberations of him away, all she could have in that regard was hope. If she focused too much on his fate it would break her and that could not happen when she was so close; to what, she wasn’t sure.
“Aurelia?” Keiron asked, again. He looked concern. Her attention snapped to him and he blinked, startled.
“Ellie,” Ellie told him firmly, “People call me Ellie.”
“Ok,” he responded, uncertain as to how to proceed.
“I need more information,” Ellie said, bluntly, looking from Keiron to Taya, “I need to know everything that you can tell me about me, about my family, about this ‘power’ I apparently have.” Keiron continued to look worried, but Taya’s motherly tone returned as she leaned down to pat Ellie’s hand, reassuringly.
“We’ll tell you everything that we can,” she promised, “Though I think our information has a few holes in it as well. Let’s get you dried out and warmed up first, this won’t be a quick chat.”