A creature, waist high to Taina, with a Cheshire-Cat grin, a British accent, two iridescent blue wings, and a squat, leaf-green body materialized. His choice bits were barely concealed by a brown rag.
“What the F^&*! A fairy in this human wasteland?”
Like a true New Yorker, he ignored the duplicate expletive. “Allow me to introduce myself. Bridge Rat, minion to Hawk Claw, Fairy King of New Yorke at your service, Lady Taina. I am in charge of this sector of The Bronx. My liege lord shall arrive in a moment.”
He bowed, and his arm gestured like he was sweeping the sidewalk. “I daresay the foul language you’ve acquired in such a short time bodes well for your ability to rise to your duties.”
Tonight couldn’t get weirder. First, she’d broken some punk’s nose. Now she’d dropped the F-bomb on a fairy. She didn’t give a shit about either transgression.
“Knock it off. The only court around here is on 161st Street and the Grand Concourse. This isn’t Camelot, and I’m not a lady. I’m a woman and don’t rise to do anyone’s duty.”
The fairy rustled his wings. Magick tingled along Taina’s spine and soothed the angst roiling in her gut since she’d gotten off the plane and into that fetid yellow cab at Kennedy airport two weeks ago.
“Ah, I beg to differ, my lady.” Bridge Rat turned his eyes skyward.
A majestic ruddy hawk glided to a landing on top of Ritual Rock. Another fae-induced shiver crawled down Taina’s back like a spider.
The haughty fairy king coalesced out of a rusty dust spiral. Red hair hung in wavy tendrils over his shoulders, obscuring much of a bare chest. Pointed ears, adorned with cuffs, spikes, and jeweled earrings, wiggled. A lime-green cape swept the gum-stained asphalt as he flitted toward her, bare, six-toed feet hovering only inches above the ground, maroon and ochre wings beating like a translucent heart.
Bridge Rat announced him. “Hawk Claw, King of The Fairydom of New Yorke.”
Hawk Claw alighted, swept the cape over one shoulder, and bowed. “Hail and welcome, White Witch. Long have we awaited your return.”
Yes, this night could get even weirder. “I think you must be confusing me with someone else. I’m brown and barely a witch at all.”
“On the contrary, Lady Taina. You are just beginning to realize your powers. We trust that Sir Arnaldo will be at your side during the impending battle.”
She suppressed a giggle at that image. “I’m just trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, then get my bottom out of the Fairydom of New Yorke.”
The fairies in PR were more like fireflies, quiet, silly, tricky. Of course, everything in The Bronx mutated to the most extreme degree possible.
“Fear not, it has been foreseen and will occur.” Hawk Claw pronounced, expressionless, like one who hasn’t had good news in a long time. “Bridge Rat will summon me and the others when the time comes.” He fluttered his wings, rose into the air, and transformed back into a majestic bird as he flew west over Ritual Rock toward the Manhattan skyline.
“I don’t mean to be rude, Bridge Rat, but I need to get this royal ass inside. My powers aren’t strong enough to fight off the dhamps and weres. I doubt I’d be much use in a real battle.”
The fairy crinkled his mouth and scratched a fuzzy chin. “Need an amplifier, then, do you, Lady Taina?” He flapped his wings rapid fire and transformed back into a common pigeon, flying east.
A trace of fae glitter, perhaps some of their glamour, sparkled on Taina’s arms and hands, and she couldn’t wipe it off. As she walked, dark shadows surrounded by red auras crept out behind Ritual Rock and the other smaller boulders scattered about the park. The temperature dropped. Los Sangueros were coming out to play, and she’d missed curfew.