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Nectar of the Wicked
Author: Ella Fields


They arrived at the same time every year.

Not a moment late and never a second early.

The clock in the town square struck seven with a screech. The moon sat full and high in the starless sky. Against it bobbed silhouettes—flapping wings and swaying caravans of the monsters descending toward the vast field of shivering wildflowers.

Businesses and homes locked up hours ago, but the streets were not empty.

In groups for presumed safety, townsfolk, farmers, the curious, and those from neighboring villages formed a crowd of more than one-hundred daring souls. All of us were headed toward the same destination.

Toward the most excitement we’d see until they returned.

It was my first time. Those under the age of twenty years were not permitted to conduct business with our yearly visitors. Many called them the traveling traders. Others, those who knew better, called them exactly what they were.

The Wild Hunt.

“Come on, Flea.” My guardian dug her fingers into my wrist and tugged. “If we get stuck too far back, we might miss our chance.”

I loathed the word. Guardian.

It implied the woman had raised me. Nurtured me. With the exception of indulging herself until she’d lost consciousness, Rolina nurtured nothing. One could argue that I’d spent a great portion of my life taking care of her.

I was never to call Rolina my mother, which she’d insisted as soon as I could begin to understand why. As soon as I could grasp that I wasn’t like her and never would be.

Cracked cobblestone soon gave way to grass. The overwhelming scents and heat of clustering bodies enveloped as we joined the awaiting and gathering citizens of Crustle in the field.

Why the hunt even bothered with the soggy river-flanked prison commonly referred to as the middle lands, I didn’t know. I was just grateful they did, or I might have remained trapped in this place of in-between forevermore.

Anticipation swelled. Together, we all slowly shuffled forward, careful to give our visitors room but unwilling to cease moving out of fear of losing our place in line.

My eyes glued to the night sky, my breath quickening as the advancing darkness of those silhouettes blocked out the moon. My attention returned to the ground when a boot squashed my slipper-encased foot.

My toe throbbed, making my whisper harsh. “Are you certain this will work?”

The question was redundant.

We weren’t leaving this field until Rolina seized the only thing she wanted more than wine and narcotics and opulence. It was my own desperate eagerness that had me seeking reassurance.

“Of course, it will,” Rolina snapped. “It has to.”

She’d had this planned for years. We both had. For so long, I’d almost begun to think this night would never come. For so long, it would seem I’d forgotten to be fearful of what awaited us.

I’d spent those years researching what to expect when everything I wanted finally arrived. Endless nights wasted to wondering over the evening I would be taken home. For although the middle lands were home to faerie and human and more, I’d always felt within my bones that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.

Residents of Crustle consisted mostly of humans who’d been discarded from their homeland for unlawful and immoral conduct, and faeries. I’d never understood why any faerie would choose to leave Folkyn for this damp and miserable land that sat squashed between it and the human realm of Ordaylia.

Gane, the town librarian and my only friend, often reminded me that not all Fae chose to leave. Many had been forced to because they’d gone against one of the four ruling houses by breaking their archaic laws, or they’d done the unthinkable...

They’d fallen in love with a human.

Humans were not permitted in Folkyn. Somehow, many still slipped through the cracks in the warded veil that separated Faerie from the middle lands. That, or they’d been captured by faeries to be kept for various dark needs.

Then there were those who remained in Crustle because they’d been born here—their parents faerie, human, or even both.

I was none of the above.

I was a changeling.

Though I was certainly not the only creature who’d been dumped in the middle lands as a freshly born babe, I was still something of a rarity. For if there was one thing the Fae valued above nearly all else, it was family—especially their young.

A fact that only made my impatience to find answers all the more burning.

Rolina ceased rising onto her toes in an attempt to see past the group of burly men in front of us. My guardian tossed me a cold glance. “It’s worked before. There is no reason it won’t now.”

Indeed. If that were not true, we would not be so willing to believe we’d get what we both desired.

“It was hundreds of years ago,” I reminded her, and though I’d tried desperately to research it, we knew nothing of the circumstances of the changeling who’d returned to her home in Folkyn via a trading visit with the Wild Hunt.

An elbow jabbed into my ribs.

Not from the murmuring crowd awaiting the arrival of the growing mass of darkness above, but from Rolina. As with any touch from her, pain sparked, but I didn’t wince. I bit my tongue until it nearly bled and drew in a deep breath through my nose.

Incessantly, I’d had to remind myself that my guardian’s hatred of me was not my fault. That she’d spent twenty years in the type of pain that filled her heart with poisonous rot while longing for her true daughter. But her ire no longer burned as it used to. I’d long ceased desiring a scrap of affection from a woman who would only ever resent me.

“But it’s what is right. What is fair,” Rolina said with quiet venom. “Your ilk is many ghastly things, but they are always fair.”


Such a word did not exist in this world of eternal gray.

Rolina should know that better than anyone. Yet so many souls held tight to the false security of right and wrong. I’d ceased believing any such security existed before knowing what the words meant.

No matter what realm you stood in, the expansive and diverse continent of Mythayla was cruel and unjust—perhaps far more than even the guardian I’d been stuck with.

Regardless, after years of being trapped, I was ready to embrace every inch of what awaited on the other side of that invisible veil. A veil I’d seen shine in the distance from the puddled rooftop of our apartment building, the only sign of its presence unless you dared to breach the wetlands and woods to approach it.

Supposedly, the vibration and heat of the wards were enough to repel humans from nearing, while those with faerie blood could walk right up to it. Some had even sworn they’d glimpsed the gigantic wolves and scaled beasts of Folkyn that roamed the ever-stretching forests and rivers on the other side.

The shuffled movement of huddled bodies came to a stop.

A hush descended over the field as both steed and monster alighted one by one.

Grass and flowers lurched. The very soil beneath our feet rippled. No one moved. I wondered if many had ceased breathing, and if they too felt it. The way the air grew colder—thicker—as if the horde of wild faeries had brought the night sky closer to land.

“Move,” Rolina snarled, nails curling into my skin once more.

I did, and right as someone stepped on my dress. I heard it tear and cringed. I loathed sewing, and Rolina would insist I mend it right away. I hoped I wouldn’t have to. Hoped I might never see our sewing kit again.

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