(a piece of Mad Victorian Fantasy)
If I write this with a heavy heart, please be aware that it is yet lighter than my hands, which feel as though they belong to a dockside laborer who’s unloaded a Spanish galleon and then gotten into a few dozen fisticuffly scuffles, wherein he did not, each and every time, emerge the victor.
But at least the house is finally as utterly shuttered as I can make it, and I’ve personally driven nails of black metal into the hardwood myself; had to, as the servants have, naturally, fled. Truly, I am at last the “Dark Baronet” or “Dark Lord” of Basingstoke, my situation now matching the village nickname for me; it’s morning, and I can scarcely see my palm in front of my face. (Assuming, as I hope, that this strange paw at the end of my arm is, indeed, my hand, and that my eyes are peering through a face I’d recognize.) I’d light a candle, but I’ve not yet finished cursing the darkness, thank you.
When I agreed to take over the family’s country estates, it was with two thoughts: that it would permit Gwendolyn and I a quiet courtship, and the countryside would, hopefully, allow me to pursue my passion for lepidopterans.
The last I saw of Gwendolyn, she was dancing in increasingly smaller circles within the Faerie ring. I would give the remains of my ticker to believe her enchanted, but I know her too well, I’ve seen that selfsame smile a dozen times when she was the belle of some Covent Garden soirée, and between that, and her cheery (if a tad gauche) “Toodle-oo!”—I know she was taken willingly.
* * *
It’s evening now. Rain beats softly against the shutters, and Faerie bodies, with rather more force, likewise strike the house; the former, impelled by gravity; the latter, looking for weak spots. They won’t find any; this house is old, and full of cold iron, and I begin to suspect why the latter might be. One can’t make an entire residence impregnable; but with sufficient Faeriesbane in every room and over every doorway, one can repel the things handily enough, it seems.
In this part of the country, we all, regardless of station, carry a horseshoe or two for good luck. I thought it was a charming tradition from a simpler past; one hadn’t expected to use it to lay into the Fae standing jeeringly betwixt one and one’s beloved; but needs must.
The figures are stirring in their bell jars now, and already beginning to howl tiny, high-pitched protests. These Fae are about the size of my butterflies, though it would be cruel to keep a live butterfly in a jar; insects are not thinking beings, and they are, therefore, not responsible for their actions. All butterflies know is that they wish to fly free; should one choose to deny them that ability, one ought remove life-force with rapidity, and in a painless manner. It is only thinking beings who can really understand what it is to harm others, and thus only sentients who can recognize meaning, and consequence.
If I want the little bastards to live, I’ll have to find out what they eat.