Three-Eye. Yellow. Gold Powder. Sunflower. Breezy. Five-Leaf. Truth. Fairy Dust. There’s a trick to making it, a secret kept by Spring herself, one of the four most powerful fairy queens on earth, the personifications of the seasons themselves. But the gist is you tear off a bit of a soul and a bit of blood. Grind it up, toss it in a pan, and simmer it with a breath of Spring. Boom, powdered magic. If a magician could get their hands on the stuff, their power would stand unmatched for a few, bright, burning moments. Thing is, Spring never gives anything away for free.
Dani went to one of her parties. In a yacht off of Coronado, loud and bright enough for the peasants on shore to see but just far enough that they had to leave its nature to their imaginations. Dani knew the sort, she’d grown up in them, caught up in the cycle of cash for a glimpse at a young girl, maybe a little bit of flattery, though she did mostly avoid the drugs. Then a little spell saved her, sent her spiraling into a hidden world of magic, magicians, and monsters. Now she used those powers to steal from right under the noses of those with power greater than herself. Mostly for cash, never for power. Dani already had a buyer ready for the breath, an organization called the Hand. Collectors of all things magical, she didn’t trust them, but they had the money Dani needed.
The topdeck had a pool in it which flowed with more champagne than water, it fueled a mess of swimsuits and left them dangerously close to falling off in some mixture of sweat, chlorine, and intoxicated bravery. Dani already looked out of place in a patch-covered denim jacket Deeper, she found the lounge fogged with smoke. Two types she knew and another she didn’t dare to guess. A man stumbled over with a shot in one hand and a woman in the other. His shirt was half unbuttoned, muscle just starting to peek out when he said something about the patches on her jacket. That she should take it off and have a drink. After all, she must be way too hot inside of it. Dani said no, she’d be fine. But she took the drink anyways. Best way to keep up appearances.
Just one shot, probably not the best of ideas but nothing Dani hadn’t handled before. The patches on her jacket could turn into real things when she tore them off, like the water bottle on her left side. Dani thought about grabbing it, but the thought got washed away in a wave of purple. The drink hammered her gut in step with the bass and someone tried to pull her behind a satin curtain. A girl, not even sixteen with bloodshot eyes, gripped her wrist such that her nails started digging into Dani’s skin. The purple gave way to red and she whispered the magic words to slip free. Dani thought a guy said something nice and a shot appeared in her hand. She took it, she laughed and said she was looking for Spring. Was it a joke? Sort of. Magic and reality sort of get mixed up. The guy smiled and wished her a good night before Dani weaved back into the crowd. The room started to heat up and the purple pulsed with red. Sweat trickled down Dani’s sides and her jacket slipped off her shoulders. Just a little way to cool off, but she knew she could still slip free of anything. Probably a good idea to get outside. So Dani whispered the words and slipped around the crowd. Flat, insubstantial, practically a shadow twisting through the cracks between euphoric dancers and beneath half-spilled drinks so sweet no one could taste what they were made of until she reached the wall and tried to make it back outside the the fairy queen’s party. Too much could go wrong. The magic had already wormed its way into her mind.
“You are not having fun at my party,” a woman said. Half accusing, half pouting. Dani turned to a shorter, white haired woman in a hand-knit bra and dreadlocks. Free spirited through and through, yet she carried a mist of authority, refreshing as the morning.
“Sorry sorry sorry,” Dani said, stumbling over her words, “I was just, uh, trying to get some air.”
“Oh of course. There’s a balcony just behind this door.”
She had shifting eyes. The color of tulips, lilacs, daffodils, redbuds, pansies, hellebores, and more and bloodroots. Hypnotizing, and dangerous. For a faint moment, Dani almost wanted to slip away but chaotic colors of the party shifted to the pale blue of an April day. There was a door behind one of the curtains and Spring seemed to dance through. Dani didn’t follow.
“I know this is not the best party. Really ought to have invited more witches, maybe made you feel a little bit more at home,” Spring pondered into the wind. She worked her way closer to Dani, who in turn tried to back towards the door. No holes there, nowhere to slip away. “You are simply too pretty not to have a good time. Come.”
Right, Dani needed one breath of Spring, then she’d be able to get out of the fairy’s cursed party maybe she could work that into a deal. Spring’s voice felt as fresh as a cool dewy morning. She took Dani’s jacket, made a comment about the vial on her wrist, and hooked one arm around her hip and waltzed her deeper into the party. Few people noticed them, either too caught up in glass pipes or those who struck their fancy. Those that did voiced their wonder, their jealousy, and tried to follow before Spring gave a little gesture which threw them back into the throng. They turned down a hall. Two women hadn’t bothered to close the bathroom door and one kneeled, vomiting over a toilet as her friend tried clumsily to keep her hair back. Others had forgotten to close the doors to cabins which probably weren’t theirs. Up a flight of stairs, the smoke shifted and the party goers gambled under red lights, but not for money. Spring spun Dani into a chair.
“Let us play a game,” Spring whispered. A table slid before them and Spring fluttered into the chair across. Her multicolored eyes swirled so quickly that Dani couldn’t read them.
“What kind,” Dani questioned. She tried crossing her arms, but one slipped and hit the table with a thunk. She cringed.
“A simple game of dice,” Spring said. “Three dice, a magic number, yes? Roll above a ten and you win the prize. If you fail, I get to roll and thus I get a chance for the same.” Her lips twisted into a predatory smile.
“And that is?”
“Whatever we agree upon. Let us start with three rounds of questions, we shall each answer truthfully,” Spring flourished her hands and a st of mint green dice and a small wooden bowl appeared on the table under a gust of wind. “Deal?”
Dani hesitated, then nodded. She hadn’t said yes yet, but she could already feel Spring’s magic working its way through her mind, trying to bind her to the terms of their game. Between the power of her drinks and the sheer presence commanded by Spring, Dani could barely resist it.
“Only if we use my dice,” She said. One small rebellion, hopefully it would be enough to win. Spring let a frown dance across her face.
“Very well,” She whispered, “It is in your jacket, I presume?” She placed it on the table and dani reached over, tearing at a small patch beneath an armpit. Four dice falling out of a cup, they morphed into the real thing. Cheap, plastic, six-sided dice and a solo cup. Dani dropped three of them into a bowl.
“Six,” Spring announced, “What a shame. I suppose it is my turn.” She took the dice and with a flourish of her wrist, sent the dice rustling about the bowl. “Eleven.”
Dani’s heart dropped.
“What is your name?” Spring asked.
Dangerous. There were stories about what Fairies could do with a person’s name. Dani resolved to give only part of it.
“Dani,” she said after a long moment. She rolled the dice. Thirteen. “How can I leave your party?”
Spring put one elbow on the table and rested her cheek in her palm, thunder crackled and Dani swore she could see lightning arc between Spring’s dreads. “You may leave whenever you like, beautiful, though I would be very upset.”
The dice danced around the bowl. One die fell on three, another on four until the third finally landed on another three.
“Why did you want to find me,” Spring said pointed and precise. The question shot right between Dani’s eyes.
“To steal your breath.”
“Oh how I love ambitious little witches,” Spring smiled, her face radiated like the midday sun. “For our last round, we gamble. Your jacket, for my breath in that little vial. Even though you stole it the moment I saw you.”
Dani found herself sinking into the cushions of Spring’s master suite, staring at the fairy lights crisscrossing overhead. Each yellow bulb seemed to pulse like a firefly. The colors had faded away and Dani couldn’t remember when. Part of her felt like it ought to have panicked but she was sitting on clouds. The cushions only sucked Dani further and further into their warm embrace.
“I was always jealous of Autumn, she gets to frolic with witches and devils,” Spring said. She handed Dani a wine glass. Red and sweet.
“Just water,” Dani said Spring nodded, tapped the glass, and wine turned into water.
“Fresh spring water for my little witch.”
Dani giggled, thought about it for a second, then doubled over into a hiccup ridden belly-laugh.
“So you fairies can make puns,” Dani said with tears in the edges of her eyes.
“Oh Dani, it is my favorite part of the game,” Spring said, laughing perfectly. “People find so many double meanings in words. I think it’s just so much fun to exploit them.”
“When did I tell you my name?”
“While we were playing cards of course,” Spring smiled like a coyote and Dani checked herself. Nothing seemed to be missing. “Oh do not worry, you won everything back. Even that devilish little jacket of yours. Clever little device, all things said, hiding aces as patches.”
“Where is it?”
“By the door.”
Dani pushed herself to her feet. She didn’t stumble while walking over, and she still had her shoes on. She checked her wrist. A blue wisp swirled inside the vial. Probably the breath, but Dani couldn’t remember for the life of her. Maybe she got it out of a gamble. Offers, counter-offers. Dani had only gone to the party with a deal in mind. A tiny favor in exchange for a single breath of Spring. Dani kept drawing blank cards and her heart started to hammer. Surely Spring knew what Dani wanted to do, surely she didn’t give up a breath for nothing. At least not in a simple hand of poker. She pulled her jacket free from its hook and Spring’s breath trailed down Dani’s neck like a cool breeze.
“I hope you are not leaving so soon,” Spring said. She wrapped her hands around Dani’s wrist. The free one.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I’ve just gotta get home. It’s so late, you know?” Dani tried to slip free. Just between the cracks of the door. She could feel herself flattening, all she would have to do is get around the locks. Not hard at all to do, she’d done it thousands of times to steal uncounted things, only Dani didn’t move.
“Do not try those parlor tricks with me,” Spring said. “You are my guest, you have drank and made a deal under my roof. You are mine.”
“I can’t remember,” Dani said, still trying to work herself free from Spring’s iron grip.
“Oh, but you already, sealed the deal.”
Dani shook her head. She knew she wouldn’t have been that stupid. Outside. The deck must’ve had a balcony of some kind.
“I need some fresh air,” Dani said. She started moving towards a set of double doors towards the stern, at least that’s what she thought.
“Why? I am right here,” Spring said, smiling like a coyote, “I am all the fresh air you need.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Dani said while shrugging on her jacket. The doors slid open to a small balcony. She took a quick glance down, the bow. The deep rumble of bass and screams echoed from the aft, but the night otherwise stood silent. Fifteen feet down and Dani could have been free if she wanted to risk a pair of broken legs. She didn’t have a patch to solve that, nor could anyone slip over a balcony. Dani kept a smoking gun patch. Loaded
“Come back inside,” Spring said from the doorway. “Just tell me what it is and I’ll make you more comfortable.”
Dani ripped the patch free. Cotton and polyester shifted morphed into iron and plastic. Stretching and warping until Dani held one hefty colt .45, fully loaded and aimed at Spring.
“You injure me,” Spring continued.
Dani to cut her off with the thunder of her revolver. Eight hundred feet per second, that’s how fast the bullet traveled. A tiny piece of led, not even a half-inch in diameter, traveling faster than the speed of sound and carrying the destructive power to punch through steel slammed into Spring’s forehead. She didn’t move.
“So I must show you your place,” Spring said flatly. “We have a deal and you will uphold it. Take the dust. Do not resist and everything will feel better.”
Spring made a gesture and fresh grass lashed out from between the deck, pulling the revolver out of Dani’s hand. It struck the floor with a heavy thunk and she dove for it and the grass worked its way around her legs, then arms, and dragged her back into Spring’s lounge. The fairy lights had dimmed and started swaying in a chilly March breeze. Thunder crackled somewhere, then Dani found herself sat back on the couch with a little pouch full of golden dust. Fairy dust. She didn’t need to guess. Spring took it and shook a line on the back of her wrist. Dani tried to turn away, but Spring locked her head in place. The dust drew her eyes. Tantalizing. Close. Raw magic, Dani’s skin itched with need. It knew she had only tasted little drops of power. Patches and slipping around were tiny little tricks any human could learn. No, even greater secrets hid in a little pile of golden powder. Money too. That’s why she wanted it. The dust glinted off the lights and drew closer, or maybe that was Dani moving. She could feel Spring’s coyote smile just beyond the edge of her vision.
“No,” Dani said. Weakly. Spring didn’t bother to listen.
“Good girl,” She said.
The powder met Dani’s nose and her mind exploded with gold. Her heart shone like spring’s early sun, just starting to call apple buds into bloom. A sunshower kissed her neck and Dani remembered a time when words of power weren’t the way of life and she never had to slip through a lock just to save her skin. When she squished through damp earth with bare hands, patting down the dirt below freshly planted tulips. Morning dew kissed her neck as time slipped by. Somewhere, dimly, beneath yellow fairy lights a golden fairy queen ruled a party fueled by the raw, unrestrained desires of man. A place where no transformed itself into a suggestion which even those who said it failed to follow, but Dani wasn’t there anymore. She sat on clouds and stared at Hercules just starting to show his face in the sky, readying himself to gaze upon California’s summer joys. Out to the east, beyond the horizon, Dani could see the past and the future all at once, then she slipped through it. Faster and faster, watching herself through the early days. Childhood, high school, college, prison. Those first little dabblings in magic, that raw joy when she finally squeezed around a doorknob, then the first case of cold hard cash. She wondered why she would even bother selling Spring’s breath. Not now that she’d tasted the Dust’s power. All it would take is a bit of soul. One tiny little sliver, Spring would help her take it, then a little bit of blood. Grind it up, and she would be able to see the sky again.
“Remember your promise, Dani.” Spring whispered like a sweet song beyond the clouds. “You will return in a year and a day in exchange for my breath. Run all you want in the meantime.”