The White Rose of Fiorazzurro
Chapter 11 (or, “A Visit to the Faerie King”)
Calimero was speechless. There was a faerie in their midst? Not just that, but a faerie princess? And she was going to have them go follow her to her faerie hole to go meet her dad, the king? He felt nearly ready to pass out — or, at least, he had before Daisy had dragged them all on this excursion.
They had spent an entire day getting ready. Milaya hadn’t minded losing the time, since most of it was spent planning out how to gather the rest of the magic users once they got the plans for the potion from Daisy’s father. They had packed basics, as it would be a day trip and might turn into an overnight if the details took too long to figure out. Milaya was in charge of food, Collodi would handle transportation, and Daisy would handle everything once they got to the Faerie Kingdom…or what was left of it.
“Isn’t your father going to be mad that you ran away from home to come here to the mainland?” Calimero asked under his breath as they took the D train inward, then took the A across the island to the East Side.
Daisy shook her head. “He’s actually really proud of me. He’s been suggesting I do this for years, try to start some sort of revival. Someday, he will die and I will become Queen as his eldest daughter, and he’s always wanted to see me take charge. It’s my mother who’s going to throw a fit.”
“Because she’s got her own opinion of what she wants a faerie princess to be, and I’m not having any of it. All big frilly dresses and special events and this and that. Can’t take it.”
They got off the A train at the end of the line, debarking the train. The East Side of Fiorazzurro was filled with luxurious homes and sprawling vistas. Daisy uncorked a bottle of something she had been hiding in her jacket. “Each one of you, take a small swig of this. It’s my own batch of Forgetful Fancy. I’m no pro like Calimero, so he should make us more, but…it should keep us covered until we can get past the East Side. Stay quiet. The people who walk by us should not notice us, but that doesn’t mean they can’t hear us. If we’re too loud, it’ll break the spell. Collodi, you can still give it to Blue and it should have the same effect. It operates off of magic, not off of livelihood.”
Milaya took the bottle of clear liquid from Daisy and took a small sip. It tasted like rubbing alcohol, but she mustered it down. She wiped her hands on the hem of her green dress and handed the bottle to Calimero, who did the same.
“I can make this taste a little better,” he said under his breath. “I can’t completely dull the taste of it, but I’ve got some strawberry flavoring back at the lab. I use it all the time if there’s something that tastes weird, or if I want to make something for a child.”
The potion kicked in, and Daisy led them soundlessly across the last neighborhoods of the East Side. Milaya had never seen homes like this before. There were single houses, huge in size and splendor, with every amenity one could consider and lots of land to go around. Luxurious cars sat in the driveway. Horses ran wild and free in the fields that they crossed. Wildflowers grew like crazy in the fields in between, unattended to. Milaya picked one of the flowers and put it into her hair, tying it back now that nobody could see her do so. The sky was so blue out here, it was hard to believe they were in the same place, on the same island.
“The trains don’t come out here,” Daisy said as they got to the edge of a huge wood. “I can start talking again now, but we still shouldn’t speak too loudly. Rumor has it that Queen Cendrillon has cameras out here, but they shouldn’t pick us up yet. They don’t have microphones, either.”
“She does a great job of persecuting in some areas and a horrible job in others,” Milaya noted.
“Yeah, well, she couldn’t completely get rid of the faeries. Len’s father decreed that we had a right to this island when he was king. The faeries were here before everybody else came to Fiorazzurro, to tell the truth. We were exiled from Europe in the 1500’s, and this was one of the places we came. We used to own the entire land, but now, we just have this area on the fringe. We do what we can with it, and it’s a little crowded, but we’re all waiting for the day when we can go storm Cendrillon’s castle and claim what is rightfully ours.”
“Why dont’cha just do that anyway?” Collodi asked.
“Because if we boot Cendrillon, that’s not going to shine favorably on our heads with the European Union. We need to find a better way to do it. I know I want to use that potion, but we need to expose Cendrillon for the fraud she is. She’s a horrible choice for queen, not just for magic users. I could go on and on with the things she’s done to make Fiorazzurro the most miserable place to live in the European Union.” She pushed a couple of bushes aside. “We are almost to Gallathia, so keep your voices down.”
“Gallathia?” Milaya asked.
Daisy tried not to throw a fit. “Didn’t I just say to keep quiet? Gallathia is our hideout. It’s faerie for ‘by the shore.’ We were calling Fiorazzurro the land of blue flowers long before the Italians took over.” She led the way through the bushes, and the others followed.
The bushes got thicker as they pressed onward. Milaya wasn’t sure if the brambles would ever end when they suddenly separated. Three men were standing at the clearing, with spears pointed right in their direction. Milaya froze. Images flashed into her mind of soldiers wanting to take her hostage, her dancing for them as the only act of her free will —and then she shook them away as quickly as they had came.
She reached back behind her neck and made sure her knotted bun was still there. Not her normal hairstyle, but good enough considering the circumstances.
Daisy said something to them, and Milaya felt the chip in the back of her neck begin to register the language. She had done her research when she had come into contact with this world, and headquarters had had three different faerie languages on record, but not this one. The chip would register as much as it could, but she would just have to do a good job of listening to pick up the language. She made a note to default to Italian, not Russian, if she couldn’t find the word in this faerie language to use.
She reviewed the words being spoken. “Guards, you may put your weaponry down.” Then, the guard on the left: “It’s the princess! She has returned to us!” They had then crowded around Daisy at that point, talking to her so rapid-fire that Milaya hadn’t picked it up. Daisy had then shushed them and spoken. “I return with friends. They are magic users who are interested in helping our cause. Please give them your goodwill.”
The guard in the middle spoke to the group in Italian. “Thank you all for coming. Please know that while you are our guests, you must understand this is not your home. We are not human. We are different than you, and we expect you to understand that. If you cause trouble, you will be sent back to Fiorazzurro without warning and without your memories of your stay here. Understood?”
Everybody else nodded. Milaya figured she would try her best. She wanted to say, “We are friends, and we give you goodwill,” taking words from what had been said before. However, it came out more like, “Friends give goodwill.” She blushed, suddenly looking at her feet.
The guards’ mouths dropped open. “How did you do that?” Daisy asked in her faerie language.
Milaya grinned. It had worked. “Magic,” she said in faerie, then switched back to Italian. “I have the ability to pick up languages easily. As long as you keep speaking in your language, I should be fluent by the end of the night.” It had worked with a lot of different languages. It wasn’t something she had started out with, as her chip had come programmed with English, the official language of her faction. But she had asked Isabel about it, since Isabel had had several languages programmed onto her chip. To date, Milaya was the only member with the technology to learn languages at as fast a rate.
Introductions were made, and then Daisy spoke to them again. “We would like to be escorted to the palace.”
“You have a palace here?” Collodi asked in Italian. Unlike Milaya, he didn’t have the luxury of speaking lots of different languages or learning them magically; he was stuck with Italian.
Daisy cringed. “We actually used to live in the palace on the East End of town, the big castle where Queen Cendrillon now lives,” she said. “But that was when my ancestors ruled over Fiorazzurro. Our castle now is more like an elaborate treehouse.”
“A treehouse?” Milaya was interested. “Sounds good. Sign me up!”
Daisy led them all through the forest, past other sets of guards and long, winding trees that Milaya had never seen before. Calimero had never been to this part of Fiorazzurro before, and he noted that the flora and fauna were different here than any other place on the island. Strange colored birds sat in the trees, whistling tunes that were so elaborate he could pen them down and give them to a songstrummer to utilize in one of their sets. Flowers that were bigger than his head bloomed at the top of trees.
Calimero wondered if this was the result of all of the magic being used by the faeries in this part of the forest. He understood in his head that faeries were a separate race from humans, whom had evolved past humanity with the use of their magic. But it was hard sometimes to look at Daisy and not think of her as human, to think of her as a separate entity, more evolved in a sense than he was. He had always thought of himself as more special than regular humans since he could mix potions, but what did that make him?
He glanced over at Milaya and forced himself to keep looking ahead. He had been staring at her too long over these past two days — which basically meant every second he could afford was spent gazing at her beauty. She was young, and so was he, but he couldn’t stop trying to get inside her head. She wasn’t from here, and that would probably end in tragedy, but couldn’t he afford a little thinking about it every once in a while?
They finally parted through the slim corridor of trees and found themselves right at the eastern shore of Fiorazzurro. The white sand met the blue sky, clear waters going on for miles and miles in this untouched oasis. Calimero had seen the shore of Fiorazzurro before, but it was completely different on the other side of the island. Touched and contaminated by humans and their industry, the water was suitable for swimming in but not much else. The Northern shores were used for recreation, but since nobody was allowed over to this side of the island since faeries inhabited it, Calimero was certain nobody else had ever seen these shores before.
Tall palm trees lined the well worn paths, and Calimero could see that there were houses made out of wood and leaves lining the shoreline as well. In addition, there were many houses that were up in the trees themselves. They were intricately built, with decorations on the outsides and birds sitting peacefully on the roofs.
And then there were faerie people, outside, doing chores and weaving on their looms and talking. The shore was quite populated; in fact, Calimero was surprised there were so many people and so many houses. “There are a lot of people here,” he noted to Daisy.
“You haven’t seen anything yet. You have to remember that Cendrillon drove us all from our homes on the island,” Daisy noted back in Italian. “So every faerie family that took up the entire island is now squished over here on this shore. It’s beautiful, but everybody is kind of on top of one another.” She pointed above her head, and Calimero had to crane his neck to see all of the houses in the sky, hanging from tree branches, one on top of another. It reminded him of the apartment buildings in Spain, how they were tall and crammed as many people into one as possible. He never imagined faerie people would live like this.
“Follow me,” Daisy said, and she took off her simple shoes, going barefoot in the sand. Milaya followed suit, removing boots and socks, holding them in her arms instead. Calimero shrugged, then removed his boots as well. He wasn’t cool with getting sand everywhere, but he would tolerate it if Milaya was. Collodi had already removed Blue’s shoes and removed his boots. “You can bring the boots with you, but it’s rude around here to wear shoes,” Daisy said. “We can keep them at the palace.”
No matter where they walked, Daisy kept running into people she knew. It was to be expected — she was the princess, after all — but it was a little annoying to be constantly stopped by passersby when she just wanted to get back to her dad’s place. She was surprised that word hadn’t gotten out to her mother by now about her return. She was glad to be back, though, if only for a day. The men were out fishing as normal, using their developed eyes and ears to listen to fish. Her mother’s weaver friends were on the shore, creating detailed clothing depicting everyday faerie life and coloring it with their magically made dyes.
All magic was was the reorganization of energy. Daisy knew that. Faeries knew that. But humans hadn’t yet wrapped their minds around that. Daisy was actually afraid that, someday, they would understand. What would happen to the world then? Would they all become like the peaceful faeries, or would they rebel, stay true to their selfish ways? She had always believed that humans were incapable of change, but she had three humans behind her — and one robot. That had to prove something.
She walked with them to the edge of town, past the carts selling food and the classes of children being taught outside. Finally, they reached the courtyard, a long, thin row of palm trees separating the royal castle from the rest of the island. “Step right in,” she said as she escorted the four past a huge group of guards who kept watch over the castle at all times. “Don’t be scared. It’s just a home.”
Home was not word enough for the complex that stretched out over Milaya and her friends. Milaya would have still called it a castle, even though it was a far cry from the parapets and fortresses she had read about as a kid. Made entirely of wood, the sprawling treehouse began on the forest floor and then stretched stories high above their heads. There were elaborate designs carved into the trees all around the area, and flowers poking out of every new space. Milaya looked down at her feet when they passed by the guards. There were so many people here, a subculture that had been hidden for so long.
It brought back too many memories.
Collodi was in shock. He couldn’t believe how an entire subculture of people different than him could live in this place. A long time ago, his own people had been separated from society, but that had been banned many, many years ago. Now, black people were the same as white people as Hispanic people as East Asian people as everybody else, and the only differences these days were between magic users and non magic users. And Daisy and her people were on the losing end of that.
He opened his mouth to say something, but paused when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he noticed it was Blue and reminded himself that everybody in the group witnessed the same prejudice as this group did…in one way or another.
The sky was exceptionally blue against the skyline as Daisy stepped forward, the three guards from before still flanking her. Milaya paid close attention as she spoke to the line of guards in her faerie language. “Might I have service with the king?”
One of the guards, clearly taller and more reveled than the others, stepped forward. He had long black hair, jet like ink, and small eyes. “The King is on the northern shore,” he told Daisy. “There was a storm last night, and they are cleaning up some of the trees. A current has been sent to him, and he should arrive shortly. He did not bring any poof chalk with him, so he will have to make his way back on foot.”
“That is understandable.” Daisy bit her tongue. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to ask this next question. “And what about —“
“Oh, Margherita, DARLING!” Even Milaya cringed as a woman came out of the front door of the castle. She was dressed in elaborate blue silk, all bunched around her waist and showing off every curve. The woman who must be Queen of the Faeries exhibited a lot less grace than Milaya would have anticipated. Everything she had previously thought about faeries was being turned on its head.
The Queen’s long blonde hair was piled on top of her head, it tight coils and ribbons. She marched forward with no regard to the dust under her feet and swept Daisy up in her arms. “Now, look at who you’ve become! I’m so glad you’re finally home!”
“I’m — glad I’m home too, Mom,” Daisy said through gritted teeth. She had been secretly hoping that her father would know she was home before her mother, but apparently that plan had gone to pot.
“Oh, but please, my child.” And with that, the Queen dropped Daisy like a sack of potatoes. “Look at that…that clothing! And did you dye your hair?”
“I know you said not to —“
“Nonsense. Look at how short you’ve cut it. You know we get most of our faerie ability from the long hair that we all exhibit.” Now Milaya understood why all of the faeries had super long hair. “And all of your clothes are dark black, sweetheart. At least you’re not wearing any shoes. If you continue going around like this, fae are going to think you’re…you’re…”
“A human boy? Mother, that’s who I was masquerading as for the last few days. And when I go back to Fiorazzurro, I’ll have to continue —“
“Oh, hush now, stop your daydreaming. We’ll just send your father to Fiorazzurro and he’ll sort this entire mess out.”
“She’s mental,” Collodi whispered to Milaya.
The Queen noticed the newcomers for the first time. Collodi noted by the look on her face that racism could run both ways. “But…you’ve brought humans!” She switched over to Italian, accented but fluent. “Ata’laika Margherita, you should know better than to bring them here. We will have to wipe all of their minds immediately.”
“Mother. For crying out loud. Were you even paying attention when I spoke to the court about my plan? My plan was to go to the main town in Fiorazzurro and talk to people about setting up a revolution. These are the people I’ve found so far. We just needed to come home because one of them is a potions master. Learned the trade from Rossini himself. I’m willing to bet my position as princess that he can whip up the potion we need when the time comes. I wanted him to speak with my Father about that.”
“Well, you’ll just have to —“ Daisy’s mother finally paused at the mention of the name Rossini. “Ahh, Master Rossini,” she said. “We have not heard that name in many moons, bless his soul. He used to mix drinks for the royal faerie parties. He was practically a member of the royal court. And you said his apprentice is here?”
“That would be me,” Calimero said as he stepped forward, suddenly feeling extremely awkward in his dark pants and heavy laboratory jacket.
The Queen nodded to him, a hand reaching up to her hair to keep her crown in place. “Look at you. You even have the goggles and the white jacket. Aren’t you adorable?”
Please don’t pinch my cheeks, Calimero thought to himself. He made sure to keep ample distance between him and this so-called Queen, just in case she continued to think he was the ‘cutest thing on the face of the Earth.’
Thankfully, the Queen didn’t seem fond of touching a human at all. “May I have your name?” she asked in fluent Italian.
“I am Calimero Antonio Pineiro, apprentice to Master Rossini. I learned under him for the last year of his life, before the plague hit. I am looking to assist Daisy with her search for magic users.” He almost looked back at Milaya, the real reason he was doing this, but forced himself to look ahead at the Queen.
“Well, I’ll be blessed! And these are your friends?”
“Ya may have heard of me, ma’am.” Collodi bowed in front of the Queen. “I was once known as Giovanni Collodi, master robotics maker for Fiorazzurro. The secret behind my robots is magic. I am aided by my magnum opus, the robot girl named Blue. She follows my every command.” As if on cue, Blue bowed as well before the Queen.
She clapped, amused by the toy. “Isn’t she just lovely! I have heard much about you, Mister Collodi, and now that I know the secret of your work, I am most certainly glad that it has not fallen into the hands of those wretched non-magics.” She turned toward Milaya, suddenly harsh in her execution. “And who is this girl?”
Milaya figured it was now or never. “I am Milaya,” she said in the faerie language. “I come from Russia, and I am new to magic.”
“She learns languages really quickly,” Calimero noted.
The Queen seemed less fazed by this than the guards had, but she nodded nonetheless. “Cool. We can use it. Now, my dearest daughter, please come with me. Guards, show our guests to the lobby. My dear Ata’laika, we need to get you into some more favorable clothes…”
Daisy groaned as her mother stretched out her hand and practically pulled her by her magic touch into the castle, through the front doors. The jet black haired faerie stood by Milaya. “Follow us,” he said.
The inside of the castle was even more elaborate than the outside. Milaya had assumed that since everything had been made out of wood, it would have less majesty than a castle made out of stone. It did not have less luster, but was simply built differently. The high ceiling had many patterns and spirals carved into it. A chandelier hung from the ceiling that glowed with magical blue light. Under the chandelier were two thrones, one for the king and one for the queen. To the left was an alcove with a smaller throne; Milaya assumed it was the princess Daisy’s.
“Why does she go about calling herself Daisy, anyway?” she wondered out loud. “It’s an English word.”
“The word margherita is the word in Italian for a flower much resembling what Americans used to call a daisy,” Calimero whispered into her ear.
She blushed. “Oh. That makes sense, I guess.”
“Now, what do we have here?”
They all turned to the booming voice behind them. A tall man with long brown hair was standing in the doorway, muscular and young, though Milaya couldn’t tell how old or young. Faeries probably didn’t age the same way that humans did. He was clean shaven, with bright blue eyes like the sea. He wore a long, light blue tunic that shimmered as he stepped forward, and Milaya could notice that there were soft white wings coming out from his back. He didn’t wear a crown, but she knew this must be Daisy’s father, the king.
She bowed. She had wanted to say something in faerie, but the knowledge left her mind at the moment. She wasn’t sure how to continue.
The others bowed in front of the King. “We have traveled with your daughter,” Calimero finally said in Italian.
“Oh, I have heard from the current that she brought human friends with her,” the King said in his booming voice. “I am Raza’qiel Gericaria Fae, King of Gallathia.”
“And if my memory serves me right, you should be the rightful king of the entire island of Fiorazzurro,” Milaya said, her head still bowed.
“You would be correct. May I ask whom you are?”
“Only a simpler traveler.” Milaya didn’t want to tell the King just who she was yet. She wanted to keep that portion of her identity a secret a little longer.
She looked up to see the King smiling at her. “You are all welcome here, as long as you need to be. Care to make yourselves at home?”