The Tidemaster

The waves pounded against the shore and the sounds of laughter echoed from within the rocks. Peony was giggling with two other girls her age as I dropped down between the rocks. The trio looked up, every inch children caught with hands in the proverbial cookie jar.

“Uh…hi, Mouse.”

I just gave them a smile.

“Don’t mind me. I’m here to talk to the Tide Master.”

One of the seal-girls gasped and the other girl’s eyes went huge.

“The Tide Master? Really? Well, he’s in his cave…but…”

I gave the poor girl another smile and tousled her hair.

“Don’t worry, he’s expecting me. And Peony, stay out of trouble and don’t go farther out than you can swim by yourself.”

“Yes, Mouse!”

As I climbed further down into the cliff, following the secret roads, I hoped that Peony really would listen to me. Mistress would be angry if we lost the changeling girl to the Sea Fae. Selkies were notorious for that kind of thing. I could hear the waves still and knew that soon the water outside the rocks would be well over my head. This cave was only intended as a meeting place between those of us from the land and those from the sea. Descending the last few feet, I stepped into the great receiving cavern and found myself gazing at the great bulk of the Tide Master.

Red Eyes

I held the bag tight against my chest and moved through the forest in silence. Drawing attention to myself at this point would be worse than suicidal. I could hear the movement further out in the darkness, just beyond the light of the path. Most Fae avoided the paths. Paths are bad, dangerous, mortal. As a Changeling, the paths are safety for me…except against one thing. The Red Eyes hunt the paths. I can almost feel them watching me as I move. Lords and Ladies, I hope I get home soon. There were rules for this, of course. Not that the Red Eyes follow rules, but instead Faerie Land would enforce the rules for me. If I didn’t think I could get back to our holding, I could take the next turn and hide in the standing stones. No one could harm another in there. Mistress had said they were dangerous for other reasons though, only to hide there if I had no other choice. Whirling around at the sound of footsteps, I nearly dropped the bag, which would have been a mistake unto itself. A younger Changeling I knew was barreling towards me like a bat out of hell. His eyes were huge and wild and his tail coursed behind him like a pennant in a wind. He was one of the ones who had changed their shape as soon as they could, becoming far more a raccoon than a human.

“Coop?”

“Mouse! Run! Hunters!”

He didn’t have to say it twice. I grabbed his arm as he would have gone past the stones and pulled him down that path instead. As soon as we were a few feet down that path, I moved to let go, confident he would follow. He grabbed at my arm, clinging fiercely. Poor guy must be terrified. I thought, just as I passed through the stones and came to a sudden jerky stop. Turning, I was surprised to see that Coop still held my arm and was on the outside of the stones.

“Come on! What are you waiting for?”

“I can’t. It must be the old magic. Come on, let’s keep running. There must be somewhere else that’s safe.”

I tried to shake off his grip, suddenly wary.

“Coop, come on, don’t be silly. As long as you’re not going to hurt anyone, you can come in here.”

Listening for a moment, I realized I couldn’t hear any other footsteps. Just the sound of our heavy breathing. Then I felt his fingers tighten even more on my arm. That’s when it hit me.

“Oh…oh no. Coop. No…no…no…no…You didn’t. No. There’s no way…”

He let go and flung himself at the space between the standing stones, falling to the ground in a pile of fur and snarls. There it was, on the back of his neck. The Red Eye. There were tears pouring down my face as I curled up in the middle of the circle. Mistress would find me later, I knew. But until then, I could wait here and mourn for my friend.