The Faerie and the Knight on Valentine’s Day Izabella Grace
I meet Sir Magvelyn at dusk in a north London park to exchange gifts. The damp, frosty air makes my seven-hundred-year-old bones ache, but I hide my discomfort, and reach up to brush grey strands of hair from his wrinkled brow. He greets me with a tender kiss, then we sit on a metal bench covered in swirls of graffiti beneath a slivered moon.
I give him my wings, folded into creamy-white, tissue paper, because, I tell him, his love lifts me high enough, and his old, grey eyes twinkle. He opens the scarlet, quilted box, and runs his gnarled fingers over the shimmering wings. I study his age-weathered face, but, apart from a slight twitch of his thin lips, he gives no sign that he knows they are fake. My real wings are tucked away at home in our carved, oak wardrobe. These ones are made from chicken wire and gauze with a glimmer spell cast over them.
Magvelyn slides back the lid onto the box, and twists one of my greying curls around his calloused, index finger. Then he reaches into his parka pocket and pulls out a small package of crinkly, brown paper tied up with string. I raise an eyebrow, tear it open, and out falls a huge, white tooth, sharp as a silver dagger.
“A dragon’s tooth,” he says. “I plucked it from the fire-breather’s jaw–just for you.”
His breath smells of beef crisps and cheap beer, and I should scold him, because he has obviously been to the pub. How many times have I told him that my magic will only slow aging for so long? I worry about his heart, but he refuses to watch his diet. “I’m five hundred and thirty three,” he always says. “That’s a mighty stretch for any man, and I’d rather die happy with a bacon roll in my belly than live miserably on boiled chicken and rocket salad.”
I sigh, snuggle closer to him, and watch human children playing football on the frosted, sodium-vapour-lit grass. Then I ask Magvelyn about his dragon hunt, and he tells me how a band of robbers tried to knock him from his saddle in the dark, Elm Forest, but he hacked off their ugly, bearded heads with his glittering sword. His voice changes as he describes it: he sounds younger, stronger and happy.
In the haunted marsh, he says, he saw the bloated faces of the dead beneath the water’s muddy surface, and they called to him like sirens. His white mare frothed and rolled her eyes, but he soothed her with a faerie ballad, and led her across the treacherous ground to safety. Then he reached the Purple Mountain, which spiked, sharp as my dragon’s tooth, high up into the dark, rainy sky, and lightning split the earth as he climbed the narrow, crumbling path through Dead Man’s Gorge.
Sir Magvelyn heard the dragon long before he saw her: the ground shook with her snores. Boulders tipped down the mountainside, uprooting trees, and, as he approached, stones leapt and danced on the scorched grass. The stink of half-eaten human carcasses made him retch. The deafening, earthquake-rumble lodged like an axe in his head, and fear nibbled at his bones. But he refused to turn back. Gripping his sword, he crept closer and closer to certain death.
Then the dragon cracked open her yellow eyes. And raised her gargantuan head. When Magvelyn threw the blade, it flew like an arrow and thumped into her throat. She died coughing fire.
“It was like stepping into hell,” he says.
“Then you should’ve run.”
“But I wanted a tooth.” He smiles. “For you.”
I plant a kiss on his icy, unshaven cheek, and cast a glow spell to warm us, which I regret instantly, because the effort makes my gums ache and the tips of my fingers go numb. Casting drains me more than it should these days–I even lost a tooth after I glimmered those wings–but I keep it from Magvelyn. He’d just try to stop me doing his anti-aging spells if he knew.
Before we leave the park, I hang the bone-white tooth on a piece of brown leather, and tie it around my neck. I saw Magvelyn buying it from a bric-a-brac stall in the goblins’ market last month, and goblins are renowned for selling fake curios, but I don’t care about its authenticity. My need for cold, hard facts has faded with age, like my eyesight and the rich auburn in my hair. The mind creates a colorful enough reality, I’ve found, and love always forges a much sweeter version of the truth.
Izabella Grace hails from London, but lives in rural Ireland with her partner and two very naughty cats. She wrote “the Faerie and the Knight on Valentine’s Day” with her late grandfather’s fountain pen. The story was inspired by traditional fairytales, Arthurian myth and the Carol Ann Duffy poem “Valentine”.
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