Chapter 20: Return

Villia seemed to be in a rather optimistic mood when she led us through the thicket of fairytale plants and real-life weeds. She seemed to think that talking to this matriarch could clear up all possible problems. Or then she was just glad to be back home. It was clear that she spent quite a lot of time among us humans, after all. She kept proudly pointing out little details around us, like the fairy lights – and I had actually been smart for not following them – and what looked like a maypole.

When we got past the thicket and to another larger clearing, Villia gave the scenery a very content smile.

“Well, what do you think?” she asked, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

I had to admit that yes, it was. There were more tree trunk houses and more spirally trees around us. But there was also a larger building that looked like a mix of a small castle and a gazebo. Villia started walking towards it, and Rem and I followed with much less confident steps. Rem kept looking around in amazement, but he cringed when he met the eyes of some passers-by that stared at him rather angrily.

I wondered what their problem was.

At the entrance to the gazebo-castle stood a white-haired woman, who had to be Kuura and Halla’s mother. Lumi? Yeah, that was her name. Villia walked up to her and started talking. Lumi seemed to be rather apprehensive about all this. They talked in hushed voices, but I could make out phrases like “against the rules”, “very questionable”, and “are you sure you know what you’re doing?”. That didn’t really make me feel very confident. Not that I’d been bursting with confidence before this either. I glanced at Rem again, but he kept his eyes directed at his feet.

Finally Lumi led us inside the gazebo-castle without speaking more than a short, clipped greeting at us. Inside there were stone benches that Villia motioned us to sit on. There was also a simple throne – really, the only way I could tell it was a throne was that it was placed like one – and a statuesque woman who sat on it.

Her eyes were as green as Villia’s, and she was dressed like a proper fairy queen – and that’s what she was, kind of. I felt a pang of envy when I looked at her gorgeous, long red hair. After some patient growing I had come to the conclusion that my hair would never reach past my shoulders again. It was probably because of the fire. I tried to comfort myself with the thought that The Matriarch’s hair could have been an illusion. These people were a bunch of fakes in many ways, after all.

Rem and I sat on the benches – they were much more comfortable than I would have guessed by their appearance – and Villia stood in front of us. She gave a light bow of the head to The Matriarch.

“Honoured Matriarch Milia,” she said formally, “I have finally brought the changeling home.”

The Matriarch nodded.

“Greetings, Villia,” she said, her voice melodious like a pan flute, “You may sit. We have a lot to discuss.”

Villia sat next to me, probably so The Matriarch and Lumi would have a clear view to scrutinise Rem, who looked both impatient and uncomfortable under their gazes.

Finally The Matriarch spoke again:

“I’ve heard that you have been getting reacquainted with your family.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Rem said shyly, “I… it has been good to know. To have answers.”

“Of course. And are you happy here?”

Rem nodded.

“It feels like home, in a way. I’d love to get to know it better.”

“And that you shall,” said The Matriarch, “If you decide to stay, that is.”

Rem blinked. I realised my shoulders were tensing. My Sim Fu teacher, Mr. Nyqvist had always told me not to tense my shoulders. Right now I couldn’t care less about that. The Matriarch smiled her gentle yet somehow too-friendly-to-be-true smile.

“I know this has to be a lot to handle, even after having some time to think about things. But I will be direct, seeing how we haven’t been that with you very much. We want you to return here. Home. You are one of us, despite growing up apart.”

“And despite bringing an outsider here,” Lumi said, her freezing eyes narrowing, “Matriarch, are you sure it’s safe to let her walk around here? Shouldn’t we at least wipe her memory of this little trip?”

“What?” I blurted out.

Villia frowned.

“We are not drugging anyone or fiddling with their memories! We’ve made a mistake, and we have to face the consequences!”

“I heard Kaita doesn’t even want to stay!” Lumi argued “I’d say even he should forget, then! He has already talked to Alvar and tried to convince him to return! What then? His birth parents will no doubt demand him back, or react negatively, or at the very least want to know where he has been! It’s too dangerous to let humans know about us!”

“Lumi, calm down,” said the Matriarch, “We’ll discuss this matter later.”

“No, wait a minute!” I said before I could stop myself, “Go back to the drugs and mind wipes! You’re not really planning on doing that, are you?”

“Of course they aren’t,” Villia said, her voice tense as a bowstring, “Lumi is just being her overly worrying self.”

Someone has to be!” Lumi snapped.

“I should point out,” The Matriarch said slowly and clearly, “That young Rem here hasn’t even given us his answer yet.”

They all turned to stare at Rem again. I did too, even though I noticed that all the stares were making my brother nervous. I noticed I was stressing the brother in my head a bit too much. Was I really worried he’d decide that he wanted to stay? I mean, of course he wouldn’t. Right? I really, really didn’t want to think about how our family would break again if he did. And how I would have to somehow explain it to mum and Patrick.

“I like this place,” Rem said after an agonisingly long silence, “And I’m glad to know where I came from… even though it’s all filled up with sadness and lies.”

He bit his lip.

“But I think you all know I can’t stay here just like that. I have a home, and a family. Just like Alvar does.”

I let out a breath I’d apparently been holding. The Matriarch’s shoulders slumped. I almost scoffed. I mean, what had they been thinking? That Rem would just jump at the chance to abandon the people who’d raised him? Please, Rem wasn’t quite that fickle.

“I feared you would say that,” The Matriarch said, “We are really in need of a new clairvoyant, and according to Villia’s reports you have shown much potential for that. And then there is the matter of both our laws and the safety of you and the people around you. You have noticed your powers are more unpredictable than before, yes?”

Rem nodded reluctantly.

“We could help you with that,” The Matriarch smiled again, “It’s a part of growing up for all of us. You don’t have to be lost anymore.”

Rem fidgeted in his seat. I tried to make eye contact with him and maybe give him a questioning look, but he kept staring at The Matriarch, his face such a mess of emotions that it was totally unreadable to me.

“I… I would like to get help with all that,” he finally said, “And I’d like to help you too. But you have to understand that… our parents are probably already super worried about us, and we should leave.”

“If you wish, we can make sure they won’t think about you,” The Matriarch said. She smiled at Rem’s mortified expression, “But I can see that you don’t. It is a rather difficult and questionable procedure.”

“It definitely wouldn’t be right,” Rem said firmly, “Besides, I want to go home. I… I could visit you if you wanted, though. Would that be okay?”

“Of course,” the Matriarch said.

“Milia, you can’t be serious!” said Lumi, “We can’t just let them walk away! How can we trust them not to spill everything about our village?”

“You brought us here,” said Rem, suddenly so defiant and different from the previous him that I almost thought for a second he’d been replaced with an alien twin, “You all did… by believing my mum. And then by not being clear with us. If you would have just talked properly to begin with, things might have been different.”

“Exactly,” Villia said, “And since it was mostly my fault, I’ll take responsibility for everything that might go wrong.”

“Blaming someone when we get discovered and possibly killed – or worse – isn’t going to help much,” Lumi muttered, but then she sighed, “Fine. But we can’t just leave this be. Kaita… I mean Rem must be taught control if he wants to stay safe.”

“I know,” the Matriarch said, “That’s why I’m proposing a compromise: you can go, but you must keep this a secret. You can only tell your… family, and no one else. And I also propose that you visit us again once you have sorted things out among… humans. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. But we do hope that you could keep a link open to us.”

I frowned. That was oddly generous of people who had just talked about mind wipes. I honestly couldn’t tell if the Matriarch was being sincere or if there was something else behind it.

Rem was smiling, and his eyes shone with familiar excitement.

“That… that sounds great!” he said, “It’s like… everything would work out that way.”

“It requires work, of course. Your home is quite a long way away from here. But with your transportation system it doesn’t take that long.”

“Milia, are you sure this is wise?” Lumi asked without much enthusiasm.

“Yes. I am. We have already caused enough damage.”

“Let me at least teach the boy the very basics of controlling magic surges before they go.”

“Of course,” the Matriarch nodded, and then smiled again, “It would be great if you could stay for a couple of more hours. Lumi can help Rem, we can all eat something, and Villia can then guide you back.”

“And no mind wipes?” I asked cautiously.

The Matriarch’s smile widened.

“No mind wipes. I promise.”

Rem finally looked at me. His smile was from ear to ear.

“Isn’t this awesome?” he asked.

I could only nod.

It turned out that some of the fairies had been cooking like crazy while we’d been talking. There was a banquet waiting for us, like straight from some stories that always ended badly for anyone who tried to eat from the fairy buffets. But we were invited, so it should be okay, right? I hoped so. I was starving.

Even the Matriarch joined us for dinner, and we dug in to the wild vegetable salad and what looked like roasted fowl. We chatted, or more like the fairies chatted. Rem and I mostly focused on eating and occasionally looking at each other as if to make sure we were both still in the same state of reality. Rem smiled at me reassuringly, and I smiled back. I think I was finally starting to accept that yes, this was indeed happening.

The food was delicious, and definitely called for. The paleo-picnic felt like it had happened ages ago. I tried my best to just focus on eating and forget about all the apprehension and worries that my surroundings and the thoughts about the future gave me.

I couldn’t stop thinking about my wish that everything would be the same once we returned, though. It didn’t take any clairvoyant powers to know that no, it wouldn’t be the same.

After the dinner I was basically forgotten for a moment again when Rem was led to the shore of the river.

I’m not sure what exactly Lumi did, but it was apparently some kind of ritual most of the fair folk took part in sometime during their teens. While that was going on, the other fair folk busied themselves with what I presumed was their normal evening activities. Kuura and Halla wanted to play with either Villia or I, but were instead ushered out of the “grown-ups’” way. They ended up disappearing into the bushes with a black-haired girl who was apparently named Marras.

So I was left alone in the unfamiliar world again. I leaned against a giant mushroom and waited. As I stood there and watched the evening chores of the fair folk, I started to feel like the village was slowly becoming less unreal. The flowers weren’t quite as bright in the darkening evening, and I was getting used to the faintly glowing, curly trees. Even the occasional, mystical lights didn’t feel so surreal anymore.

“Hey,” said a voice that made me jump.

I spun around and saw Alvar standing behind me. Damn it, why were these barefooted people so sneaky?

“Hey,” I said warily. Alvar smiled uncertainly. He looked almost sheepish when he extended his hand.

“Um… so, it’s nice to meet you. Properly.”

I gave him a tight-lipped smile and shook his hand. Alvar glanced towards the shore of the river, which was barely visible through the flower bush thicket.

“So your brother’s getting his first ritual, huh?” he said, “It’s usually done around the twelfth year, so it’s a bit late.”

“Really,” I said. It wasn’t a question, but just something to keep the silence filled.

“Uh-huh. So hey, can I ask you… stuff?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

Alvar shifted his weight from side to side. Like a very nervous, broken metronome.

“So I’m actually your… brother, right?” he finally asked.

“Stepbrother,” I corrected, “Not blood-related. Your dad and mum both have more kids, though. They’re not together anymore.”

“Right. I did know something about them being separated… So, how’re my parents like? Rem told me something, but it was… I didn’t want to ask too much. It’s much less awkward to talk to you, somehow.”

“Really? Usually I’m the more awkward one of us.”

Alvar chuckled. I managed a slightly more believable smile than before.

“Well, alright” I said, “I’ve only met your real mum once, though. She obviously cared a hell of a lot about you. Your dad’s a teacher, and he’s really into helping the environment and stuff. He’s really nice. He doesn’t want to talk about his ex-wife. But he loves my mum now. And he loves Rem and me and our little brother, Merrill.”

I paused, hesitating for a moment before adding:

“And I’m sure he’d love you too.”

Alvar was quiet for a long time. He chewed his lip, and I only now properly noted the scar near his eye.

“Where did you get that scar, if you don’t mind me asking?” I asked when the silence got awkward again.

Alvar touched the scar automatically.

“I was dumb,” he said, and actually laughed a little, “I was playing in the forest and saw some people… humans, you know? I went to investigate, and they noticed me. I was ten or something. They thought I was lost and wanted to take me to civilisation. I panicked because I’d been told that I should never talk to humans without supervision. That they should never find us. I ran, and I was so scared that I ran right into a tree. Almost got my eye gouged out. Mother was so worried, but Lumi healed me right up. Well, except for the obvious.”

“Oh.”

“So what about you? I can see some scarring on your face too.”

I bit my lip. I smoothed my hair to cover my scars even better.

“Alright… I guess it’s only fair,” I said, “There was a fire, and Rem got trapped. I pulled him out but got burned instead.”

“Wow. So you’re a hero.”

“Not really. I was just a stupid, reckless girl who didn’t want to lose a brother.”

I crossed my arms.

“We’ve never been the closest of siblings,” I said, “But we’re getting there, and we’ve always cared about each other. I’m not going to lose him to you people either.”

I cringed at how callous my words sounded.

“No offence,” I added quickly, “It’s just… these people have been trying to get him back for years. Now they have him. I can’t help but think that… they won’t settle for actually letting him go just like that.”

“Yeah. I know.”

Alvar was quiet again. He had the same, pondering look Patrick often got before he was about to hand out some advice.

“I don’t think they’re going to force him or anything,” he said, “Villia’s been really strict about that ever since she… since things went wrong in your town. That whole mess really hit her hard. And I’m sure Aunt Kielo would be furious if they did anything to hurt either of you. She’s always been the most pro-human person I know.”

He sighed.

“At least Aunt Kielo just wants our family to scrape together what we can, and move on. The rest… I’m not sure.”

“The Matriarch said we could go if we wanted,” I said, “But she wanted Rem to come back.”

Alvar nodded.

“Makes sense. The higher ups really want Rem to stay, so I’m sure they’ll be nice to him in hopes that he wants to do just that. The clairvoyant is an important part of both tradition and our safety. They’ve always helped us hide and stay protected.”

“Why do you want to hide so badly anyway?” I asked.

“All I can tell what I’ve been told,” Alvar shrugged, “Long ago the fair folk didn’t really get along with humans, and their ancestors thought it best to break away from them. I think it had something to do with war and them taking the fair folk’s land and all. You know, what the stories usually say. Aunt Kielo has been insisting that we should at least try to bridge the gap between us and humans again. But… well, she’s told me that by now it has become more of a question of pride than anything else. When things get that far, it can be increasingly difficult to change.”

“Yeah. I guess you’re right,” I mused.

“I wished it wasn’t like that,” Alvar said, “I mean, I don’t think I’ve questioned it before all that much, but now… after everything I knew was turned upside down… I really wish I could just go and see what my real parents are like.”

I looked at Alvar for a long, conflicted moment. Then I smiled at him.

“Well, I can certainly relate to that… bro.”

“Bro?” Alvar frowned, “That sounds odd.”

“Yeah. You’re right. I guess I’ll just stick with ‘Alvar’.”

“That’s okay… uh, Lynn, was it?”

“Yeah.”

“It was nice to meet you.”

“You too. Even if it involved all of… this.”

“I get it,” Alvar laughed, “This has all been pretty rough.”

“Tell me about it.”

When Rem finally returned, he seemed just the same as he had been before. When I asked him if he felt any different, he just shrugged with an unsure expression on his face. The others assured us that it wasn’t anything that was easy to notice, and I asked if we could finally go back. As if on cue, Villia appeared from among the trees, wearing clothing that wouldn’t look out of place among humans, and smiled. It was only mildly creepy.

“Yes. I think it’s time for you to really leave. Lumi made me promise that I make sure you keep your end of the bargain, though.”

“Don’t worry,” Rem said brightly and looked only a little bit nervous at the mention of the stern, sceptical woman with chilling eyes, “I promise I’ll come back when I can.”

When Villia began leading us out of the glade and towards the edge of the village, Alvar followed us. He chatted innocently and brightly, asking questions about our lives and wishing us a good journey back. I could see a hint of something in his eyes, though. He had almost the same look as I probably did when I set my mind on something. Once we had got past the village’s borders and the still rather frowny Myrsky, Villia stopped and turned to Alvar.

“Okay, Alvar, it’s time for you to turn back,” she said, “I’ll take it from here.”

Alvar hesitated and glanced around as if to see if Myrsky or some other guard was within earshot. Then his eyes got steely. Now he reminded me a lot of Donna and her intimidating anger.

“Don’t I deserve some better answers too?” he asked.

Villia massaged her temples.

“Alvar, you know the rules, and you know your mother-“

“Mother lied to me!” Alvar snapped, “Don’t get me wrong; I love her! But I too want to know what’s really going on!”

He pressed his palms together in some kind of parody of a prayer.

“Please, I don’t need to necessarily talk to them, if that’s too bad. I just want to see…”

He trailed off. Now Villia was pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Oh, I’m going to get so much crap for this… Fine! You know, at some point even my guilt is going to run out and you’ll stop getting special rule-breaking enabling from me!”

Alvar jumped up and down. At that moment he looked so much like a little kid on Snowflake Day that it was hard to believe he was already fourteen.

“Thank you so much, Aunt Villia!”

Villia frowned.

“I have a feeling I’m going to be disowned for this or something, so use that title while you can.”

It took us hours to get back. I sensed the light air of the fairy forest shifting into the more humid, chilly air of Twinbrook’s swamp at night. My legs started aching by the time we caught the first glimpses of the ramshackle houses at the edge of the town. They were a most welcome sight. When we passed the first house, I caught a glimpse of Villia’s hair that was again blonde and immaculately curled. When she looked back at us, I saw she was again wearing her human face.

Twinbrook was sleepy, which was no surprise considering it was half past midnight. Some cars passed us by, and I could see some of the townspeople walking either home or towards a bar. The air was chilly, and I shivered. I noticed I was getting dead tired, but I stubbornly refused to walk back to Grandma and Grandpa’s looking cross-eyed and ready to collapse.

I was so happy to see their house. I was a bit less pleased to see that their lights were still on. They had to be worried sick by now. Rem and I shared a look and then turned to Villia and Alvar.

“I think you should stay back a bit,” I said, “I mean… they don’t know either of you, and I think we should only tell Patrick and mum about this at first.”

“Who lives here, then?” Alvar asked.

“My…” Rem trailed off and then cleared his throat, “Or actually your grandparents.”

Alvar’s eyes widened.

“I have those too? Awesome!”

He thought about it for a moment.

“But yeah. Maybe we should talk to them in the morning. Or what do you think, Aunt Villia?”

“I’d say we should definitely lay low until this whole thing is sorted out,” Villia said, “We’ll seek you out tomorrow.”

“Are you going to be okay?” Rem asked worriedly. His eyes stared through emptiness, and he blinked rapidly, “I… I think something’s… something’s about to go wrong. I can see the… blood… I don’t know.”

“We can stay hidden when we want to,” said Villia, “Don’t worry. As for your visions, you’re probably still just getting used to the aftereffects of the ritual. After I got my first ritual done, my hair was changing colour at random for the next three days.”

Rem nodded slowly, but didn’t seem too convinced.

“Just be careful,” he said. He looked worriedly at their retreating backs until they disappeared among the bushes.

After Villia and Alvar were out of sight, we walked up to the front door. Before I had time to ring the bell or knock, the door opened cautiously, almost hopefully.

“Who’s moving out there?” asked a voice I probably should have expected.

My eyes widened.

“Mum?” I asked.

Mum almost screamed in surprise and relief.

The door was thrown open, and Patrick, Grandma and Grandpa poured out as well. Rem and I found ourselves in a sea of relieved hugs.

I knew we were going to be in so much trouble once we’d explained where we’d been – to the extent we even could explain it – so I definitely clung to the love we were surrounded with at the moment. And when we got inside, the commotion woke up Merrill, who had been sleeping and whom mum and Patrick hadn’t apparently dared to leave in the care of a babysitter when they had rushed to Twinbrook.

He was grumpy at first, but Rem quickly and happily picked him up and twirled him around, gushing about how great it was to see his little brother again.

But the happiness had to end soon, because as I’d expected, after the relief and the hugs came the fury.

“Where have you been?!” mum almost shrieked once we had sat down on the couch, “We’ve all been worried sick! We called the police and they’re already looking for you!”

I cringed. I’d been hoping my milk carton scenarios had been an exaggeration. I guess I’d been wrong. Rem and I shared a look again. I realised we’d been doing that a lot lately. This time our look was more like a mutual agreement. Then we turned back to our parents and grandparents and started to lie. Or at least to omit certain things.

We had agreed not to tell about the fair folk or changelings or anything before we had actual proof in the form of Villia and Alvar. And before any proof could be presented, we needed to lay our parents’ worries to rest and get Grandma and Grandpa out of the picture. I knew they could be trusted, but the fair folk certainly didn’t, and they also didn’t seem to want to risk it. Just the permission to talk to our parents had been given very reluctantly. It was best not to push it. I wasn’t still perfectly ready to trust them not to do something messed up again.

So we told them we’d got lost in the swamp after needing a place to talk in private. Rem confessed that we’d gone to see Donna, and that the meeting had caused him to flee for most of the day. Patrick looked shocked at that, and then mumbled that they would talk about it later. I was mostly quiet, only backing up Rem’s story when needed, and watched the family drama stew behind the worried gazes and the quietly sombre questions. I could only imagine what this would turn into once we actually told the rest of the story.

After mum couldn’t stop asking questions – most of which were along the lines of “are you sure you’re alright” – and Patrick had fallen into some kind of silent shock because of the news that Rem had gone to see Donna, Grandma Brandi clapped her hands together.

“Alright, everyone,” she said warmly but in a tone that allowed no arguments, “The kids are obviously exhausted. And so are we! We should let the kids wash up and sleep, and we can call the police and call off the search. Would you do that, Margaret? I’m sure the police will be glad to hear the kids are okay, and no doubt want to see them tomorrow. And I’m sure Laketon will be glad to be let off the hook as well.”

“Laketon?” I repeated, “What’s he got to do with this?”

Mum shifted nervously.

“Well, once we informed the police that you were gone… we of course thought about Laketon. So the police went to talk to him and… apparently he was suspicious enough to be arrested for further questioning.”

“What?” I blurted out, “So he’s here? In town?”

Mum nodded.

“But he’ll be gone very soon. He… he didn’t cross paths with you, right?”

“Of course not!” I snapped, “I would have said if he had!”

“Of course, sorry,” mum mumbled, “I’m just… I’m just so glad to see you’re okay.”

I only now could get a better picture of our parents’ worry. The last time we’d been gone… Oh, wow, and I thought I had overestimated their worry. I let mum hug me and Rem again, and I hugged her back with all my might.

After we’d managed to get our folks to calm down enough to really let us go to sleep, I took a long, warm shower and felt amazing after getting a few days’ worth of gunk off me. By the time I got into my nightshirt, everyone seemed to have calmed down. Mum was sleeping on the couch, and I caught a glimpse of Patrick in yet another sleeping bag in Grandma and Grandpa’s room. Even Merrill had his own tiny bag, or “cocoon”, as he insisted on calling it. I crawled to my resting spot next to Rem, who also looked a bit less haggard after a shower and some late-night herbal tea. He was tossing and turning in his own cocoon, and I closed my eyes and hoped we’d both get some rest despite the troubling thoughts that kept chasing each other in my and no doubt his head too. I fell asleep almost immediately.

I woke up to Rem shaking my shoulder. I blinked furiously and squinted at my brother, who sat agitated in the never-very-dark summer night.

“Rem?” I mumbled sleepily, “Wha-?”

“Shhhh!” Rem hissed, “We can’t wake up mum.”

I looked confusedly at mum’s sleeping form. She shifted, but didn’t wake up. I looked at the time.

“Rem. It’s like… four a.m.”

“I know,” Rem said. I noticed only now that he had already thrown on some proper clothes, “It can’t wait.”

Still confused and more than a little cranky, I sat up. Rem slid my backpack towards me and motioned me to put on some clothes.

“What’s going on?” I whispered.

Rem looked around nervously and then leaned it, his eyes unfocused.

“I saw… I saw Villia and Alvar. They were in trouble.”

“You saw, as in…?”

“Yes.”

“You sure?”

Rem had already stood up. He looked at me very solemnly.

“This is the clearest… vision… premonition… whatever that I’ve had in years. It’s like with the Boogeyman and the Phoenix. I don’t know what it is, but it’s bad. We have to find them and help!”

There was such real distress in Rem’s hushed voice that I finally shook the last of the sleep from my eyes. I’d ignored Rem’s warnings before, and all that had got us was pain and grief.

Things just seemed to refuse to go smoothly for us.

We snuck out into the town. It was early, those dead hours of morning when usually even the hardiest of partiers were at home or passed out or both. We called out for Villia and Alvar a couple of times, but got no response.

“Where do you think they went?” I asked.

Rem looked around almost frantically.

“I don’t know. But I doubt they just hid in the bushes all night.”

“Right. How about places with lots of trees? They seem to like those.”

“Good thinking,” Rem’s eyes brightened, “Let’s go to the community gardens.”

“Right.”

When we reached the community gardens, they were empty. Well, mostly. Some guy was walking towards the gardens and stopped there among the free vegetables. He lit a cigarette that glowed in the dark. We called for Alvar and Villia in quieter voices, and I felt a shiver going through my spine when my voice echoed. The situation was eerie, especially with Rem’s visions or whatever they really were.

“Hey!” I whisper-yelled, “Villia? Alvar? Come out!”

“What’s going on here?”

We spun around, and I let out a sigh of relief. Villia and Alvar stood there by the road, looking perplexed and maybe a little sleepy. Villia crossed her arms.

“I told you we can take care of ourselves,” she said, “What are you doing here? And why are you yelling when there’s people around.”

I glanced at the man farther away. He kept his eyes either on the ground or at the street somewhere behind us and didn’t seem to pay us any notice. Rem looked a bit embarrassed.

“Well, I had a… vision? I thought you guys would be in trouble. I just thought you should know. To be careful.”

He sighed.

“Of course, I can’t really know when these things happen. Sometimes it can take years, so…”

Villia nodded and smiled.

“I’m sure it’ll get better with practise. So… how did your folks take this all?”

I opened my mouth to answer something a bit snarky, but it all got caught in my throat when I saw a figure over Villia’s shoulder. The figure froze when he saw us, and there was a moment of chilling recognition. Villia frowned and turned around, and it was only then when the figure spoke:

“It’s you! You bitch!”

I almost stopped breathing. Rem let out a small squeak, and Villia blurted out a word that sounded something like prkl. Judging by her tone and the situation, the word wasn’t a very friendly one.

For in front of us stood Nils Laketon, rage very apparent on his worn-out face.

Author’s Note: Whew, sorry about the wait, guys! I had a lot of problems with this, mainly the problem of thinking that this story is utter crap (again). And also the problem of pulling the threads of this story arc together. That’s right, we’re nearing the end of what I call the first big arc of the story. Of course some of the subplots are still wide open and all, but the main mystery has been mostly solved and all that. And now things are coming together on Laketon’s end too. So I hammered out this and the next chapter too. All I need to do is edit that and I can get it out, so it shouldn’t take that long. And for now I’m feeling pretty good about this too, so that’s something.

Thank you so much for your patience, and if you feel like telling me what you think, then that would be awesome!

The Finnish names in this one:

Marras: A not often used word for dead/dying person or an omen of death. The Finnish word for November, marraskuu literally translates to “the month (or moon) of death.”

Milia: A more English-friendly form of the Finnish name, Milja. It’s a variant of Emilia, which is a feminine form of Emil (which comes from the Roman name Aemulus – challenger). Can also be from the name Ludmila.

The random frowny teenaged fairy wasn’t named in story (yet), but his name is Aarni.

Aarni: A variant of Arnold, which can mean “ruling like an eagle”. Aarni is also a word in old Finnish mythology that refers to a spirit creature, a guardian of treasures.

Also the word Villia muttered at the end was perkele, which is a Finnish swearword that is nowadays used as yet another name for the biblical devil, but it most likely originally came from Perkūnas, which is the name of an old Baltic thunder god.

Have a lovely time, people!

PREVIOUS Chapter: Rabbit Hole

NEXT Chapter: Recoil

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4 thoughts on “Chapter 20: Return

  1. Oh shoot. Of course Laketon blames Villia for all his problems (not completely unfairly, too). It seems that Rem’s prescience proved correct. But how can some teenagers really offer protection. Although, 4 is still better than 1.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup. He wasn’t dragged to the police station to be totally insignificant, after all. 😀 Alvar and Lynn seem to be hitting it off pretty well. Maybe they’ll become friends after this has been sorted out. Maybe.

      Liked by 1 person

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