The Looking-Glass, Part III

The traveler returned on his own a day later, his nephew nowhere to be seen. He closed the distance between them, watching her with bored acceptance. “Fine, then,” he said. “We made a deal. Where’s the looking-glass?”

The faery didn’t reply immediately, puzzled. She’d grown accustomed to superstitious villagers seeking her out for her ability. This man’s lack of interest was almost offensive. She eyed him suspiciously for several heartbeats.

“I sent the boy to find you,” she said, stalling. “Where is he?”

“Oh, him? He can’t find his own head,” came the nonchalant reply.

“I sent him on a specific mission to find you. I should track him down.” Once I finish my business with you, she added silently.

As if he had heard her thoughts, he asked, “Why does it matter whether you see my fortune or not? I’m one person.”

“You’re not special, if that’s what you’re asking,” she said irritably. “Your fortune is probably gray and dull. The only reason I need to read yours is because you made me agree to a deal—that I would wait here for a week and then you would look into the mirror.”

“Is that it?” asked the traveler, looking surprised. “You can’t find a loophole? I thought the Fae were oathbreakers.”

Ignoring that remark, she continued. “I’ve never yet broken a promise, trivial as it may be. Until I finish my business with you, I cannot leave this spot on the road.”

“I see,” he said, putting his hands in his pockets. The faery didn’t like his thoughtful expression as he continued. “Out of curiosity, what would happen if I walked home now? Would you be forced to wait another week?”

The looking-glass faery clenched her fists, resolving never to make a deal again. If someone refused to look at their reflection, she would not agree for them to return. It wasn’t worth the trouble of hunting them down.

“And what would happen if you broke a promise?” he continued, ignoring her glare. “Would you lose your wings—or worse, your looking-glass? Why is it so important for you to be honest about giving away bad fortunes?”

She ignored his questions, holding out the looking-glass, hoping it would hide the desperation on her face. “Aren’t you a little bit curious about what you’ll see? It could answer a question about your future. It could settle a mystery from your past. It may open exciting new doors, or close dreadful old ones. Take a look, and tell me what you see.”

He peered at her for several seconds, with an expression she could not trust. She held her breath, prepared to fight him if he tried to walk away again. It was a great surprise when he looked into his reflection without arguing any more.

The faery waited, heart pounding. She could finally get off this road and go somewhere else. She would never come back.

The traveler cleared his throat and said, “I see you.”

To Be Continued…

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