The fae stirred from his deep dreamless sleep, stimulated by the rich pleasureful odor of chocolate. Such an overwhelming smell, made up of so many smaller, tightly interlocking smells, some earthy and crude, others sweet and delicate, high notes and low notes, with that wandering firefly of bitterness lending contrast to it all. Exquisite, tantalizing, the smell brought the fae up out of his mossy bed, leaning toward the low arch between the roots of his ancient oak tree, drawing more scent into himself.
Under the smell of chocolate came another smell, only slightly less pleasureful, the scent of a man. The fae was not surprised, as chocolate does not occur naturally in the wood; if there is chocolate, a human cannot be far behind. The man-scent was slightly familiar, a waft of something known mingled with ordinary human smells--he couldn't quite place it, but it made him feel happy and angry at the same time, a nostalgic longing entwined with a fiery indignation.
The anger gave him pause, laying back down and rolling over to look at the tangle of roots above his bed. There hadn't been a man in this wood for a very long time, at least not close enough for the fae to smell. He didn't really know how long it had been since those soldiers had fallen from the sky, buoyed by great domes of fragile dark silk, barely visible against a cloudy sky rumbling with engines. The fae dimly understood that Britain was at war with Germany, and that other nations were involved as well, but such things could not be expected to affect him, happening far away from the Wanderwood.
But reading their thoughts, the fae discovered these soldiers had come into his wood not to do battle, but to find treasure, some powerful occult object to bring back to their masters across the water; these were special soldiers, carrying shovels as well as guns, chosen for their sensitivity to magic. The area around about was full of magical things, from the great standing stones of Salisbury Plain to the multitude of unnamed barrows under pastures and spinneys; in no other place did Faerie and the human world intersect so frequently.
He'd slaughtered those German boys as soon as they came near his tree on its hill, drawn by the magic emanating from the two standing stones that marked his own gateway to Faerie; it had been distasteful, the killing, he always hated killing young men, and some of these had been beautiful. But they could not be allowed to take the stones away, nor to tell anyone of their location. He tracked their scent up into the air, flying after the aeroplane that had vomited them out above the Wanderwood, and forced the machine to fly straight at the ground where it erupted in a terrifying pillar of flame.
Returning from the foul-smelling wreckage, the fae flew low over the many-roomed house around the high tower where the Avery Men lived. The house and tower were empty, and the village nearby was almost devoid of men and women, only a handful of old people and small children were living there. If the Avery Men had gone extinct, he was sure he would have felt it; if the village had been struck by some decimating plague or bloody raid, he would have heard it: no, they must be involved in this new war, a great and terrible war being fought all over the globe.
Exhausted and furious, the fae had crawled under his tree and curled up to sleep. Killing those handsome boys, leaving the wood to make the machine explode, it was all so ugly, so much iron and fire and pain; he should never have had to turn his hand to such filthy work: it was the Avery Man's duty to defend the Wanderwood, a compact made hundreds of years ago, writ with human blood on fae skins, for which the fae had paid with blessings beyond count.
Remembering his anger, the fae turned back to the arch to look out into the wood--that was the familiar scent on the man with the chocolate: he was an Avery Man. Not much of one, the bloodline must have weakened in recent generations, there was too much other blood overpowering the Avery scent he so loved. He could see the man's back as he walked slowly and apparently aimlessly in the direction of the house and the village, skirting the perimeter of the clearing in which the fae's tree and gate stood.
"He will be made to see the folly of neglecting his duty," the fae snarled, stretching luxuriously in his bed of moss and silt and powdered leaves, "Next time he comes near, I will put fear and awe into his heart. He will pay for making me defend the Wanderwood myself like a common drow."
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