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Faerie Tale

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Faerie Tale

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Author: Raymond E. Feist
Publisher: Doubleday, 1988
Grafton, 1988

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Successful screenwriter Phil Hastings decides to move his family from sunny California to a ramshackle farmhouse in New York State. The idea is to take some time out, relax and pick up the threads of his career as a novelist.

Good plan, bad choice. The place they choose is surrounded by ancient woodland. The house they choose is the centrepoint of a centuries-old evil intent on making its presence felt to intruders.



"Stop it, you two!"

Gloria Hastings stood with hands on hips, delivering the Look. Sean and Patrick stopped their bickering over who was entitled to the baseball bat. Their large blue eyes regarded their mother for a moment before, as one, they judged it close to the point of no return where her patience was concerned. They reached an accord with their peculiar, silent communication. Sean conceded custody of the bat to Patrick and led the escape outside.

"Don't wander too far off!" Gloria shouted after them. She listened to the sounds of eight-year-olds dashing down the ancient front steps and for a moment considered the almost preternatural bond between her boys. The old stories of twins and their empathic link had seemed folktales to her before giving birth, but now she conceded that there was something there out of the ordinary, a closeness beyond what was expected of siblings.

Putting aside her musing, she looked at the mess the movers had left and considered, not for the first time, the wisdom of all this. She wandered aimlessly among the opened crates of personal belongings and felt nearly overwhelmed by the simple demands of sorting out the hundreds of small things they had brought with them from California. Just deciding where each item should go seemed a Sisyphean task.

She glanced around the room, as if expecting it to have somehow changed since her last inspection. Deep-grained hardwood floors, freshly polished--which would need polishing again as soon as the crates and boxes were hauled outside--hinted at a style of living alien to Gloria. She regarded the huge fireplace with its ancient hand-carved façade as something from another planet, a stark contrast to the rough brick and stone ranch-house-style hearths of her California childhood. The stairs in the hallway, with their polished maple banisters, and the sliding doors to the den and dining room were relics of another era, conjuring up images of William Powell as Clarence Day or Clifton Webb in Cheaper by the Dozen. This house called for--no, demanded, she amended--high starched collars in an age of designer jeans. Gloria absently brushed back an errant strand of blond hair attempting an escape from under the red kerchief tied about her head, and fought back a nearly overwhelming homesickness. Casting about for a place to start in the seemingly endless mess, she threw her hands up in resignation. "This is not what Oscar winners are supposed to be doing! Phil!"

When no answer was forthcoming, she left the large living room and shouted her husband's name up the stairs. Again no reply. She walked back along the narrow hallway to the kitchen and pushed open the swinging door. The old house presented its kitchen to the east, with hinged windows over the sink and drainboard admitting the morning light. It would be hot in the mornings, come July, but it would be a pleasant place to sit in the evenings, with the windows and large door to the screened-in back porch left open, admitting the evening breeze. At least, she hoped so. Southern California days might be blast-furnace-hot at times, but it was dry heat and the evenings were impossibly beautiful. God, she wished to herself, what I'd give for an honest patio, and about half this humidity. Fighting off a sudden bout of regret over the move, she pulled her sticky blouse away from herself and let some air cool her while she hollered for her husband again.

An answering scrabbling sound under the table made her jump, and she turned and uttered her favorite oath, "Goddamnitall!" Beneath the kitchen table crouched Bad Luck, the family's black Labrador retriever, a guilty expression on his visage as he hunkered down before a ten-pound bag of Ken-L-Ration he had plundered. Crunchy kernels rolled around the floor. "You!" she commanded. "Out!"

Bad Luck knew the rules of the game as well as the boys and at once bolted from under the table. He skidded about the floor looking for a way out, suddenly confounded by discovering himself in new territory. Having arrived only the day before, he hadn't yet learned the local escape routes. He turned first one way, then another, his tail half wagging, half lowered between his legs, until Gloria held open the swinging door to the hallway. Bad Luck bolted down the hall toward the front door. She followed and opened it for him, and as he dashed outside, she shouted, "Go find the boys!"

Turning, she spied the family's large, smoky tomcat preening himself on the stairs. Philip had named the cat Hemingway, but everyone else called him Ernie. Feeling set upon, Gloria reached over, picked him up, and deposited him outside. "You too!" she snapped, slamming the door behind him.

Ernie was a scarred veteran of such family eruptions and took it all with an unassailable dignity attained only by British ambassadors, Episcopal bishops, and tomcats. He glanced about the porch, decided upon a sunny patch, turned about twice, and settled down for a nap.

Gloria returned to the kitchen, calling for her husband. Ignoring Bad Luck's mess for the moment, she left the kitchen and walked past the service porch. She cast a suspicious sidelong glance at the ancient washer and dryer. She had already decided a visit to the mall was in order, for she knew with dread certainty those machines were just waiting to devour any clothing she might be foolish enough to place inside. New machines would take only a few days to deliver, she hoped. She paused a moment as she regarded the faded, torn sofa that occupied the large back porch, and silently added some appropriate porch furniture to her Sears list.

Opening the screen door, she left the porch and walked down the steps to the "backyard," a large bare patch of earth defined by the house, a stand of old apple trees off to the left, the dilapidated garage to the right, and the equally run-down barn a good fifty yards away. Over near the barn she caught sight of her husband, speaking to his daughter. He still looked like an Ivy League professor, she thought, with his greying hair receding upward slowly, his brown eyes intense. But he had a smile to melt your heart, one that made him look like a little boy. Then Gloria noticed that her stepdaughter, Gabrielle, was in the midst of a rare but intense pout, and debated turning around and leaving them alone. She knew that Phil had just informed Gabbie she couldn't have her horse for the summer.

Gabbie stood with arms crossed tight against her chest, weight shifted to her left leg, a pose typical of teenage girls that Gloria and other actresses over twenty-five had to dislocate joints to imitate. For a moment Gloria was caught in open admiration of her stepdaughter. When Gloria and Phil had married, his career was in high gear, and Gabbie had been with her maternal grandmother, attending a private school in Arizona, seeing her father and his new wife only at Christmas, at Easter, and for two weeks in the summer. Since her grandmother had died, Gabbie had come to live with them. Gloria liked Gabbie, but they had never been able to communicate easily, and these days Gloria saw a beautiful young woman taking the place of a moody young girl. Gloria felt an unexpected stab of guilt and worry that she and Gabbie might never get closer. She put aside her momentary uneasiness and approached them.

Phil said, "Look, honey, it will only take a week or two more, then the barn will be fixed and we can see about leasing some horses. Then you and the boys can go riding whenever you want."

Gabbie tossed her long dark hair, and her brown eyes narrowed. Gloria was struck by Gabbie's resemblance to her mother, Corinne. "I still don't see why we can't ship Bumper out from home, Father." She said "Father" in that polysyllabic way young girls have of communicating hopelessness over ever being understood. "You let the boys bring that retarded dog and you brought Ernie. Look, if it's the money, I'll pay for it. Why do we have to rent some stupid farmer's horses when Bumper's back in California with no one to ride him?"

Gloria decided to take a hand and entered the conversation as she closed on them. "You know it's not money. Ned Barlow called and said he had a jumper panic aboard a flight last week, and they had to put him down before he could endanger the crew and riders, and he almost lost a second horse as well. The insurance company's shut him down until he resolves that mess. And it's a week into June and Ned also said it would be four or five weeks before he could get a reliable driver and good trailer to bring Bumper here, then nearly a week to move him, with all the stops he'd have to make. By the time he got here, it would be almost time for you to head back to UCLA. You'd have to ship him right back so he'd be there to ride when you're at school. Want me to go on? Look, Gabbie, Ned'll see Bump's worked and cared for. He'll be fine and ready for you when you get back."

"Oooh," answered Gabbie, a raw sound of pure aggravation, "I don't know why you had to drag me out here to this farm! I could have spent the summer with Ducky Summers. Her parents said it was all right."

"Stop whining," Phil snapped, his expression showing at once he regretted his tone. Like her mother, Gabbie instinctively knew how to nettle him with hardly an effort. The difference was that Gabbie rarely did, while Corinne had with regularity. "Look, honey, I'm sorry. But I don't like Ducky and her fancy friends. They're kids with too much money and time on their hands, and not an ounce of common sense in the whole lot. And Ducky's mom and dad are off somewhere in Europe." He cast a knowing glance at his wife. "I doubt they have a hint who's sleeping at their house these days."

"Look, I know Ducky's an airhead and has a new boyfriend every twenty minutes, but I can take care of myself."

"I know you can, hon," answered Phil, "but until you've graduated, you'll have to put up with a father's prerogatives." He reached out and touched her cheek.

"All too soon some young guy's going to steal you away, Gabbie. We've never had a lot of time together. I thought we could make it a family summer."

Gabbie sighed in resignation and allowed her father a slight hug, but it was clear she wasn't pleased. Gloria decided to change the subject. "I could use a hand, you guys. The moving elves are out on strike and those boxes aren't going to unload themselves."

Copyright © 1988 by Raymond E. Feist


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