Glitterface was an angry fairy. The Fairy Queen had taken all her friends.
She climbed up out of the grave she’d been hiding in.
The queen’s goons had come that afternoon, looking for beauty. All the beauty in the world must belong to the Fairy Queen, they said. Beauty was wasted on the fairies who lived outside the royal court, like the biker fairies and the farmer fairies and the bartender fairies and the religious recluse fairies and the fairies who dabbled in the magic arts.
It was definitely wasted on the necromancer fairies, like Glitterface.
She fluttered her wings, trying to shake off the bits of grave dirt that clung to them.
Some gravestones were toppled and broken. Others were gone, taken to the castle. Glitterface had heard the stomping of the goons above her, and she’d also heard the screams of the fairies who had come here to protect the memories of their loved ones.
Glitterface had no such compunctions about memories. She went through the graves, picking up bones. A femur here, an ulna there. She put them all in her pack.
There was one last thing to do. She flitted over to the final resting place of Goldenbones. The old fairy’s stone was still there, unbroken, plain as she had been plain in life.
But now she was dead.
Glitterface spoke in the ancient tongue, from the days before there were queens and goons and palaces, and her wings moved back and forth through the still evening air. Small dark red blobs of light fell from them.
She grinned as shining golden finger bones broke through the ground.
Glitterface pushed through the bead curtain, Goldenbones in tow. She figured Flitterfinger had made it through the raid, because Flitterfinger made ugliness his specialty.
She looked around the fortune teller’s room, at the yellow and brown striped wallpaper and the avocado green bookcases and the orange plush carpeting. The queen’s goons had not been here.
Fliterfinger himself was sitting behind a teal table, in a hot pink blow up chair with dark green and gray stars glued onto it. He waggled yellow eyebrows at Glitterface.
“What you here for, girl? I see you got a gold skellyslave with you. I ain’t looking for no trouble.”
She sat down opposite him, in the dark brown recliner meant for guests. Goldenbones stood behind her.
“I’m going to the palace, to get our people back, and I need you to roll the bones.”
“Don’t have no bones, and I don’t want no truck with you if you’re gonna go to the palace. What you think I keep this place so godawful ugly for? You go along now. You ain’t got no business here.”
Glitterface flicked her wrist. In a second Goldenbones was at the pink blow up chair, her finger bones wrapped around Flitterfinger’s throat.
“I have bones. That’s not a problem.”
She threw the femurs and ulnas and clavicles that she’d picked up at the graveyard down on the teal table.
“Now roll them.”
The bones had landed in three T’s, and one I.
Flitterfinger was sweating. His yellow wings left sparkles in the air, residue of his scrying magic.
Glitterface had called off Goldenbones. For now.
She asked, “What do the T’s mean?”
Flitterfinger rocked back and forth in the blow up chair. He’d gone all pale and limp. If the queen’s goons came here looking for her, he’d give her up in a second.
“Trouble, is what they mean. If you’re aiming to get the queen, you gotta get through three trials.”
“What are the trials?”
He looked at her, and Glitterface could see the fear in his eyes.
“First is the trial of the traitor. If you make it past that, then you got the trial of trust. Then, if you’re still alive, you got the trial of true aim. The bones say if you make it through that, you get the queen and you win, and you come back here alive. But if you fail any of the trials, you ain’t coming back.”
“All right. What does the I mean?”
“It’s the queen. You know she’s got that eye.”
She’d seen his eyes flicker towards the bead curtain. She didn’t know if this place was bugged or if he had a hidden communicator or if maybe they just had this place on lockdown and there were goons always watching it, but she knew now why he was sweating so much.
She wasn’t going to fail the first trial.
Glitterface flicked her wrist again. Goldenbones moved, swiftly and surely.
She was already past the bead curtain when she heard Flitterfinger’s neck snap.
Glitterface walked along the forest road that led from her town to the queen’s palace, deep in thought. She had to walk because Goldenbones, being dead, had no wings. Of course, even when she’d been alive she hadn’t able to fly, not with those heavy bones.
She also did not have a tongue or lips, so Glitterface could not ask her what she thought about a trial of trust.
Did it mean that she had to trust someone else? Or maybe it meant that she was supposed to not trust someone. Or maybe she was supposed to show that she was trustworthy. Or maybe it meant that she had to set up a trust fund for the descendants of Goldenbones, as a thank you for letting her use their great great grandmother’s sharp solid gold bones in a fight with the Fairy Queen.
One of those solid gold bones tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around.
Goldenbones made a zero with her finger bones, and Glitterface remembered that she had no descendants. Fairies did not find someone whose bones were too heavy for them to fly and whose color and shine was hidden under their skin very worthy of reproducing with. She also remembered that she shared a mental link with her enslaved skeletal minions, and that Goldenbones could hear her thoughts.
Glitterface patted the gold phalanges in sympathy. She would have liked Goldenbones. She would have been her friend. Maybe more than friends, even. It could have been fun, experimenting with someone who couldn’t fly.
Then she watched as Goldenbones pulled one of her own finger bones out of her hand and placed it in Glitterface’s hands.
The empty eye sockets stared at her out of the golden skull, and Glitterface realized that she had passed the trial of trust. She’d had to get someone to trust her, and Goldenbones trusted her so much that she had gifted one of her bones. Which was pretty silly of her, because they’d just met and all that had happened so far is that she’d had Goldenbones kill someone for her.
The golden jaw opened, and a terrible sound of death and despair came out. Glitterface thought maybe the sound was supposed to mean “I trust you to kill that Fairy Queen wench”. She also thought that maybe one of the eye sockets had winked at her, somehow.
She turned back and started walking again. They’d have to hurry if they wanted to get to the palace by sundown.
The golden finger bone was heavy and solid in her hand. It’d make a great weapon, when the time came.
Goldenbones looked very pretty in the orange light of late afternoon. Glitterface admired the play of the light on the skeleton fairy’s rib cage as she choked palace guards to death and ripped their wings from their bodies and used the weight of her bones to bash their heads open. More of them came, but they were light and airy and thin, and their wings and their hollow bones were as dust against solid gold.
They made their way towards the throne room. Glitterface recognized the mural that had always been on the side of the nightclub back at home, hanging on the wall here now. She saw the beautiful tombstone of her old friend Shimmerhands, intricately worked with shimmery musical notes. The goons had even uprooted the blue diamond tree from the garden in the middle of town, and it was here now, in the middle of a grand hallway, its branches hanging low with homesickness.
If the queen really did have an all-seeing eye, she should have known Glitterface was coming. If she had ears at all, she should hear her guards being massacred. It shouldn’t be long now.
Goldenbones was slugging a guard with the femur of his companion when the voice rang out.
“Glitterface! You have brought your foul magic to my palace. You have soiled the beauty of our realm with the blood of my guards. You have killed my faithful servant, Flitterfinger.”
The Fairy Queen stood in the doorway of her throne room. Her silver wings glinted in the light. Her dress reflected the light so much that it hurt to look at her. But Glitterface looked anyway. And she saw the eye.
What had been the queen’s name before she was the queen? Oh yeah. Stinkeye.
“You saw it happen, with that eye of yours. You let it happen. You let me raise Goldenbones. You let Flitterfinger die. You let us kill your guards.”
The queen moved closer. Her dress flowed like water.
“Yes, you’re right. But oh, did you not see how beautiful Goldenbones is? I should be the envy of all the other monarchs of the realm with such a prize in my throne room. Come, Glitterface. You’ve spilled your blood. Give me Goldenbones, and I will release your townspeople. I won’t execute you. You can go home and play in your graveyard. I promise. Just give me the golden one.”
Glitterface thought about it. She did. And she saw the pain in those empty eye sockets when she thought about it.
She remembered Goldenbones walking beside her. She remembered the golden finger bone, pulled out and placed in her hand.
She remembered that the finger bone was still in her hand.
She would not betray her friend. She would prove trustworthy. And she would have true aim.
Glitterface raised her hand. The finger bone gleamed in the light reflected from the queen’s dress.
She found the dot in the queen’s stinkeye, the one that saw everything, the one that could not escape ugliness even with all the beauty in the realm to look at. She took aim, very very carefully. This was her one chance. This had to be right. She could not fail this final trial.
Glitterface saw the eye turn to her, saw the fear and the knowledge of coming death in it, and she let the golden finger bone go.
Later, in the taverns, they sang of the necrofairy with the dark red wings and her friend the golden skeleton. Bards told the legend of how Glitterface had crossed through the three trials, of how she had driven a golden finger bone through the dot in the all-seeing eye of the evil Fairy Queen. Little fairies grew up wanting to be a hero like the great Glitterface. The graveyards were very busy these days, with so many necrofairies in training.
Glitterface sat with Goldenbones in the cottage that she had built for them. She held the skeletal hand that was missing a finger, looked into the empty eye sockets, and kissed the golden jaw.