The White Rose of Fiorazzurro
Chapter 4 (or, "The Faerie Vagabond")
Daisy wore her cap low over her ears, trying to hide her only defining characteristic. She had only one chance to get this right, and if she messed it up, everything would be over.
In front of her, the Ovest Traders Market blossomed out like a lotus, layers upon layers of people and hubbub and activity. She watched as people came and went, shuttering in and out of aisles, showing their identification and which wares they had purchased. People were smiling, and it made her sick.
Curse them, she thought. Curse all of them and their precious Queen Cendrillon. Soon enough, the end would come for them...but it couldn't come today. Today, there was planning to be done. Today she needed to make allies, most likely human ones, and she didn't know where to start.
She had heard whispers of the illegal trade line occurring here at this market, and she had picked up on what code words she would need to use. The sheer volume of people made her wonder if she would find anybody at all, but then she remembered how Fiorazzurro had been since Cendrillon's reign had began, and she forced herself to look at the bigger picture.
Magic users. The arts had been honed in Europe for years, in ways that no other area of the world would ever understand. It had all began when Arthur had returned to England, spurring a new generation of witches and wizards. The arts had always been welcome in England, and their use and facility had spread to the other areas of the eastern world. They had always faced persecution, but it had never been as strong as with Cendrillon's rule. It seemed that with every passing day, she heard another story about a group of people who had mysteriously gone missing in connection with using magic. Most of the magic users had already fled the small island nation, and those that remained...she didn't even know how many of them remained now.
It made her sick. Who did this Queen even think she was, anyway?
She approached the entrance to the market and let the police officer scan her fake ID. It was from Fiorazzurro - as she was herself - but her identity ensured that she needed a fake ID. The officer looked over her information. "Would you remove your hat, please," he said, curtly, as a demand rather than a question.
Curse Lady Atlianora. At least she had been prepared for this. She pulled off her pageboy cap, and short, dark red tresses fell from where she had piled them on top of her head. She had cut her hair for this mission, but she had needed certain parts of it to stay long.
Sure enough, her hair covered all the right spots even when she didn't have to wear a hat. She considered herself blessed; others of her kind would be caught right away and taken in for questioning. It wasn't her fault that, after years and years of magic exposure, her group of people had evolved to meet their own needs. It was something Cendrillon would never understand. Under Lukiliolaika's reign, faeries were protected under law, but all of that had changed with the plague.
It shouldn't have. Daisy and her kin had been on Fiorazzurro first...before the first inhabitants from Italy had arrived. Before they had been corrupted and had changed their look, their language to fit in with the times. Before they had been pushed to the brink of extinction, left to inhabit one small corner of the island. Cendrillon couldn't completely kick them out; they were protected as an endangered group, so they were federally required to have land to live on. But Cendrillon could ban them from the city and forbid them from using their inherent magical powers.
Which was a problem, as faerie life had evolved around magic. Faeries had once been human, a thousand years ago, but had come about in England from legend and lore, started by the first magicians themselves. The gypsy nomads who refused city life and accepted nature as theirs to behold were gifted to understand the natural world, and to be without that power took away what it meant to be faerie. Daisy would know; she had watched her people become even more repressed under Cendrillon, and she knew something had to be done.
Even if it meant disguising herself as a human and infiltrating the Ovest Traders Market. This made her the most sick. Contrary to popular belief, faeries could never be human. Not after a thousand years of change and dedication to their art. And having to disguise herself as such a low form of living turned her stomach. But if it meant that she could find allies here in the city, and convince them for her cause...Daisy would do her best to put up with it.
The man gave her back her fake ID. "Proceed."
"Thank you." Daisy put her cap back on and looked toward the sky. It was high midday with not a cloud in the sky. If she plugged her ears, she wouldn't have to listen to the din and she could believe she was comfortably back at home.
But nope, she was here, and her ID had worked. She smiled back at herself in the picture on her ID, glad to see it had worked its charm. It wasn't every day she could pass as a young boy from the East Side, but today had been her lucky day.
This entire endeavor had been her own idea, not only to dress as human but to cross dress to further confuse the magistrate. And why not? Daisy couldn't stand the frillier persuasion anyway and only wore it when she had to. She pulled her long leather jacket right around herself, gazing around her. No time to look confused or soft. Long, lengthy steps. Own the space you have...what little space there is to own. She tried not to trip and felt like the smallest person in the entire crowd.
Finally just resolving to follow the crowd until she figured out a plan, Daisy passed by stall after stall until she got to the area in the middle. There were police all around, but there were also people, excited and chatting and oh, so stupid. Everybody here loved Cendrillon so much, and most of it had to do with the fact that for every hit she took on magic users, she gave regular humans the return on. If you registered with the government as a regular human, pledging not to use magic, you got ridiculous tax breaks in all sorts of ways. If you signed and they found out you had been fibbing...oh, how Daisy hated that stupid excuse for a queen. One of these days, there would be a coup, she would die, and Daisy would be the one to do her in.
There were two traditional fiddle players who were playing together on stage at the moment. Daisy watched them as they continued to go at it for a moment, playing together and having fun. She couldn't hold it against them; music itself had been one of the magics long ago, and one of the few that had survived the purge Queen Cendrillon had brought about. Music could now only be studied as a mathematical equation, and only certified players could perform in public. And sure enough, Daisy recognized the piece they were playing as one of the certified hymns listed on the official Scroll of Performable Pieces the government had put out. Humans could never hope to capture music's original magic performing like this, but at least they weren't letting it die, either.
Then, without warning, a man - maybe just a boy - jumped up onto the stage as the performers finished. He dressed like a Western cowboy, from one of those imported films that had been rather popular a while back. He took the microphone from where it was sitting and started speaking into it.
"Ladies and gentlemen, one more round of applause for our musician friends! While we wait for our next act to come onstage, I would like to show you all an illusion." An illusion? Daisy wasn't fazed by old tricks and slight of hand. The man spoke with a lot of charisma, though, and the crowd seemed to be responding well to him.
He never announced his name, but merely asked for his assistant to come onstage with him. Daisy could tell there was something off about the girl with the long blonde hair and the vacant blue eyes, but she couldn't tell immediately what it was. She stood eerily still as the cowboy went about finding a volunteer in the crowd, then pulled out a boy dressed in what had to be a lab coat and goggles. The goggles themselves looked as if they were AC-135 models, usually used in potions laboratories. Was this kid a magic user?
And then she knew what seemed so off about the girl. There was something magical about it. Regular humans wouldn't be able to sense it, but Daisy was more attuned to the flow of energy and could sense it channeling between her and the cowboy. Why, though? It was as if she was an entirely magical being, living and feeding off of the energy itself.
Regardless, she had found her rebels. They just had to stick around long enough for her to introduce herself.
But they didn't. The boy caused a huge explosion, caused by poof chalk, an old faerie trick that wasn't inherently magical but had its roots in it. Daisy had to shield her eyes from the dust clouds, and when they were gone, the cowboy, his magical assistant, and the goggle boy were long gone.
The crowd descended into mania, and the police did their best to restore order. Daisy ducked out and away from the throngs of people. She could not afford to get caught up in this mess. But at least she knew where she was headed now.
She had a goal: find the cowboy or die trying.