“You wish to take away pain?”
Lincoln nodded, nervously crossing his arms. He had pondered where to go all day. The young Faun had had all kinds of ideas, one even more far-fetched than the other. But in the end, Lincoln knew where his worries would eventually take him.
Right back to Nimueh’s lair. Like always.
An amused, curious smile spread across Nimueh’s lips as the Water Dragon looked him up and down. She raised a single eyebrow.
“Last time I saw you, you had eyes for nothing but your violin, Faunling. What has brought this on?”
Lincoln gulped. He knew that the Lady of the Lake had a soft spot for him – but even then, the sheer intensity of the magick that radiated off of her was enough to make his knees go weak.
“A… a girl,” he said, his voice so soft that it was almost inaudible. The smile on Nimueh’s face instantly turned into a smirk.
“No,” the young Faun replied, quickly shaking his head. “It’s not like that. It’s just… she always comes to the ruins. On the other side.”
“Yeah. She was always laughing before. But lately her spirit is… it’s all wrong. Painful. I can’t explain it. Like the bad is pulling her under.”
As he thought back, his expression fell.
“There’s… so much pain.”
The Lady of the Lake cocked her head quizzically. Lincoln could see her place her hand under her chin, raising a single eyebrow as she looked up at him.
“You are a child of the Fanes, Faunling. Have they not taught you how to erase memories?”
Lincoln knew what she meant – but he didn’t want to use that unless he absolutely had do. He balled his hands into fists and shook his head at the dragon.
“I don’t want to take the memories,” he muttered. “I just want to take away the sadness. I just want the hurt to go away. Can you teach me how to do that?”
In an instant, that smirk had returned. The Lady of the Lake gestured towards the rock next to her.
He did. Lincoln carefully took place next to her, nervously fiddling with his arm rings as he did so. Sitting this close to a dragon, even when she was in humanoid form, did not make him feel any less anxious. But Nimueh ignored the fretful look on his face.
“What you describe as “hurt”, is a human’s spirit being corrupted,” the Water Dragon explained. “It happens to all of them to some degree. If you wish, I can teach you how to negate that corruption. I can show you how to draw the darkness out of other creatures- but powerful magick always comes with a cost, Lincoln. You know this, do you not?”
“I don’t mind the cost,” the young Faun replied. “I just want to help.”
Nimueh wasn’t convinced. The Lady of the Lake broke eye contact with him, placing a hand under her chin as she looked up at the illusory sky.
“It would be quite a cost, indeed. Cleansing corrupted spirit is no easy feat. There will be a price to pay.”
“I don’t care. I’ll do it.”
Lincoln watched as the expression on Nimueh’s face changed. A strange, calculative glimmer appeared in her eyes.
“Those are strong words, Faunling,” the Water Dragon warned. “You may not be able to take them back later. A Fae’s word is his bond. Are you sure?”
“I am,” Lincoln nodded. The young Faun straightened his back as he lifted his chin, rising as tall as he could.
“I give you my word.”
The effect was immediate. As he uttered that sentence, Lincoln could feel a surge of warmth course through his chest. He had never felt something like that before. It was a strange rush of energy, flowing through his body like adrenaline. The sensation lasted for a few seconds, before gradually fading away.
The Water Dragon felt it, too. Lincoln watched as she rose up from her seat, gravity momentarily losing its grip on her. Her feet landed on the submerged ground, turning as she took a step towards him. A strange, calculative smile lay in her expression. Lincoln couldn’t read it. Then again, he had never been able to read her well. This time was no different. The Lady of the Lake pulled him towards her. When Nimueh spoke, Lincoln could hear her voice echoing directly in his head.
Very well. I will teach you.
Later that week…
One clearing of Lincoln’s glades was home to a faerie ring. The young Faun could look through it, seeing anyone on the other side while being unseen himself. He had spied on humans many times. They were fascinating. Lincoln had never quite fit in with the other Fae – not even the Fanes. He didn’t know why. Nimueh had tried to explain it to him before, but the young Faun simply didn’t understand most of what she had said.
Lincoln only rarely travelled to the other side himself – the Fanes had warned him not to. He couldn’t cross them. But the young Faun kept finding himself pulled back to the passageway. Towards the world of humans. Something about them was almost magnetic. He would spend countless hours looking in on their world, seeing glimpses of human lives here and there.
One of his favourite places to look in on was the Cornwall ruins. It was familiar, being overgrown and largely left to nature. It was also regularly visited. It had not taken Lincoln long to begin recognising someone. A dark-haired human girl, who had visited the ruins on the other side countless times. She was always smiling. Always cheerful, with a laugh as clear as water.
The young Faun knew that he was supposed to stay away. But he just couldn’t leave her alone. As she grew up, her smile had begun to appear less and less often. The sound of laughter faded. Until eventually, one day, there was nothing left.
He didn’t know why. But he didn’t like it. He had seen her crying a number of times. Every time Lincoln thought of the sad, forlorn expression in her eyes, his chest began to hurt, and he could feel a strange knot form in his stomach.
He wanted to help.
They said I shouldn’t go out again.
But they never said anything about luring someone else in… right?
Lincoln let the violin rest on his shoulder, placing his bow on top of the strings in an elegant, practiced gesture. Playing came as natural to him as breathing. Within moments, the entire glade was filled with a beautiful, ethereal tune. Lincoln’s hands deftly moved back and forth across the instrument, moving as gracefully as water. He had always known how to play. It was a part of him, flowing through him ever since the young Faun had been able to crawl.
But as the melody swelled, Lincoln could feel something else. Something new. Every stroke of the bow vibrated with an energy, a vigour that the young Faun had not possessed before. Every note was filled with spirit.
As he played, Lincoln could hear the words of Nimueh echoing through the back of his mind.
Your music has magick, Faunling. Use it.
Lincoln could feel her crossing into the faerie ring. He saw the leaves beginning to swirl around, the flowers swaying from the magic around them- and he bolted. The young Faun dashed away from the circle as fast as he could, his hooves clattering against the ground as he ran. Lincoln rushed behind the nearest standing stone, violin in hand. He haphazardly continued to play, almost missing a note as he pressed his back to the stone. Within moments, the young Faun had hidden from sight entirely.
It was not a moment too soon.
Lincoln had never had a human visit the glade before. He had never shared it with anyone but the Fanes, and Nimueh. Part of him was giddy with anticipation. The eager smile on his face was reflected in the bright, almost euphoric melody that drifted out from behind the standing stones.
Would she like the flowers he grew?
Could humans talk to butterflies, too?
Would the sprites be kind to her?
What if she didn’t like his glade?
Would she stay at all?
Lincoln’s music swelled in volume, shifting and echoing throughout the clearing. From where he stood, he knew that the melody sounded like it was coming from all directions. The young Faun had practiced it sixteen times in advance.
Would she like the music? What if she hated violin?
As he played, Lincoln could feel her presence behind him. He could hear a gasp. The clattering sound of footsteps against mossy, overgrown stones. A moment of silence.
Then… laughter. A beautiful sound, swelling in volume and filling the glades like clear drops of water.
She didn’t notice him.
She didn’t have to.
The girl had spent hours in his glade, playing with the sprites, putting flowers in the pond and chasing butterflies. Lincoln had missed the sound of her laughter. He remained hidden for the entirety of her visit. The young Faun watched from afar, playing music from his hiding spot and occasionally glancing behind him.
When she left, the young Faun could feel a strange tightness in his chest.
He wanted to see her again. He wanted her to come back. The next day, as soon as the sun reached the highest point in the sky, Lincoln began to play through the faerie ring a second time.
But she wasn’t there all the time. Sometimes the girl was gone, and the surrounding ruins lay empty. Lincoln did not actually expect her to show up again so soon.
But she did. The girl returned the very next day.
And the day after.
And the day after.
Lincoln played for her every day. With every song, he could feel the grief and darkness inside the girl lessen. With every note, a little bit of that spark returned. It was working. Nimueh’s magick really worked. The realisation filled him with joy – and so Lincoln kept playing, ignoring the increasing heaviness in his limbs and what felt like the beginning of a headache.
It didn’t matter.
Right now, nothing else mattered.
As he heard her footsteps trailing from one side of the clearing to the other, Lincoln carefully began to move away. He was good at hiding. This was a great plan. The young Faun was silently proud of himself for finding the loophole in the Fanes’ reasoning. He hadn’t approached anyone. This way, there was no way she could notice him, and Lincoln could keep his promise to the Fanes to stay away from humans without actually-
“Why are you hiding?”