[Inquiries regarding fairies are always welcome. Fairy Doctor, Lydia Carlton.]
The client was an elderly woman. Wearing a slightly ostentatious saffron-colored dress and a fur cape, this woman appeared alone on Lydia’s doorstep around sunset.
“My goodness, so you were proposed to by a fairy?” gasped Lydia to the woman smiling like a pure young girl.
“That’s right. I would love to accept it. But my whole family disagrees with me. I cannot understand how marrying a fairy could be improper at all.”
“Yes I see, but there have been a few arrangements that were done in the past.”
It’s been so long to have such an actual job consultation. Lydia was excited and inched forward in anticipation.
“So, may I ask what sort of suitor he is?”
“He only appeared as a handsome young man to my eyes, and he did seem very different at first. But even after learning that he wasn’t human I wasn’t that surprised.”
Then it looks like he isn’t a brownie or hobgoblin that could be living around here.
“Mrs. Hadley, for a start, could you introduce me to your suitor? I could be a liaison for you two and try to convince your family.”
“Really? That would be wonderful! Such a relief. I’m so glad I came to visit you.” The woman took Lydia’s hands into hers. Lydia was thrilled with satisfaction. Stories about fairies proposing to humans were usually heard with young girls. But there were still so many different kinds of fairies in the world. If there was a fairy who found this pure old lady so adorable, than she could understand how such a fairy would want to propose to her.
“Then I’ll go fetch us some tea. So please, make yourself comfortable. We’ll discuss the details while enjoying some refreshments,” offered Lydia slowly standing up. I need to get all the details exactly. This is such a joyous opportunity. It might be finally be my first step to be acknowledged as a fairy doctor!
For the public, fairies only were characters in children’s bedtime stories. If it was not too long ago, then nobody would have doubted their existence. But when it rolled into the 19th century, with all the drastic changes in industry, all the people of England who had been neighbors with fairies, had forgotten such beings, with rapid speed.
But Lydia knew that they all still exist. Spotting them constantly and hearing their voices wherever she went. Someday, like her late mother, Lydia wanted to become a Fairy Doctor that people depended on and become well respected for her good deeds. At this point, she still was an amateur but she had plenty of motivation.
“That old woman, she better not be senile,” came the voice from above the shelves. A biscuit floated up into the air.
Just as her eyes followed it, a side of it was bitten into. The one with the voice that appeared, licking his lips for any crumbs, was a long haired gray cat. He sat down on top of the shelf and crossed his hind legs. The cat straightened his favorite tie and combed through his whiskers that he was so proud of, and looked down at Lydia.
“Nico! that’s bad behavior!” shouted Lydia.
“But you know, in your own case, even if you can see fairies, you don’t have an eye for people.”
“If it’s about humans, than as a human of course I’d know !” Lydia puffed out her words as she poured hot water into a pot.
“But so far, the previous client was a self-proclaimed angel. Before that was a self-proclaiming spiritualist and you believed in all their crazy fantasies and already failed miserably. Even that old lady, with her story of being proposed by a handsome fairy man, sounds like one of her dreams,” said the gray cat as he waved his long tail.
He was Lydia’s childhood friend and was in fact, a fairy himself. But regardless, he had no pleasant comments to give. Besides, it wasn’t convincing when a cat that didn’t act like a cat was trying to persuade you something.
“This time, surely it’s a true request. Because there are fairies that can transform into human form, you know.” Just then, the front door bell range repeatedly, almost vehemently. “Oh my, another visitor? Nico, would you prepare the tea?”
“What~! You overwork fairies too much.”
Paying no attention to the complaining cat, Lydia rushed to the front door.
When she swung the door open, a portly gentleman stood at the door, taking off his hat.
“I believe my aunt has paid you a visit.”
“Umm, do you mean Mrs. Hadley?”
“Pardon me,” he said and entered the house. After spotting the old woman sitting in the drawing room sofa, he grabbed her arm roughly.
“Aunt Ruth, please stop such foolish behavior. Talking about fairies and marrying one, you are the laughing stock of the town.”
“Hold on just a moment! Please don’t judge like that. Catching the eye of a fairy really isn’t that unusual,” claimed Lydia to the sudden intruder.
The gentleman stared at Lydia with a look of disbelief.
“I see. I’ve heard that the Carlton daughter is an oddball, but it seems the rumors are true. Someone like you would be able to converse with a senile old woman.”
“I am not senile. Who are you? Would you please left go of me,” said the lady.
“What are you talking about? Aunt Ruth.”
“I know! my father has sent you, hasn’t he? Because he can’t seem to left go of the prospects of marrying me off to that family that runs the bank.”
“Good God!” cried out the man and turned towards Lydia. “As you can see, my aunt thinks of herself as a young debutante.”
“Uh, but, that shouldn’t mean her story about a fairy proposing was made up..”
But the man, without consent, started to drag the woman out.
“Unfortunately, young miss, if you continue to speak of fairies, it’ll make me doubt your sanity.”
“But I am a fairy doctor! A professional about fairies, so please if you would just listen to me..”
“Fairy doctor? Do you use ancient magical spells, young lady? Like that is believable! The people even say that you are a changeling with fairy blood. You truly are then, if fairies do exist.”
Changeling. When fairies take a human infant, they leave their own infant in its place. To Lydia, who believed she was the real daughter of this house, those rumors only stabbed at her heart. Her green eyes with shades of gold, or her sharp looking eyes and nose, seemed to be like someone from another world. Since childhood, her neighbors would periodically whisper about that part of her.
“But please do not involve my aunt in one of your fantasies. She isn’t able to tell dream and reality apart,” snapped the man. Lydia lost her strength and didn’t attempt to stop the old lady being taken away by her nephew.
People live their lives as if fairies don’t exist, yet they talk so negatively about them as if they just suddenly remembered their existence. This grand country was too busy accepting new inventions and cultures from around the world but had the time to throw out the irrational and vague.
But the link between fairies was not broken, that was all the more reason that people unconsciously tried to ignore their presence and tried to forget about them.
“That woman was senile, just like I said,” boasted the cat leaning up against the kitchen door on his hind legs, sipping freshly poured tea from a teacup he held in his paw.
Why can’t he just burn his tongue. Lydia thought as she breathed a sigh.
“But I just don’t think so. Even if she thought of herself as a young girl, would she go to the length of using a fairy as a suitor? It could have just as well as been a handsome human man.” As she said that, Lydia moved her gaze over to the door and spotted something shining lying on the doorway. “Oh, I wonder if Mrs. Hadley dropped something.” It was a clear crystal made into a pendant. Picking it up, it was shaped like a snow fallen from the sky and was icy cold to the touch. “This, it’s a snow crystal!” It was a crystal born from the depths of the waters. She heard that it was made using the bubbles from the fresh water living fairies and formed by gathering shining crystallizing star particles to create this beautiful six pedal flower.
“Oh, but could it be real?”
Taking it into his paw, Nico gave it a lick. “Hmm, it tastes like ice.”
“Nico! Now you’ll make it melt!”
“A true snow crystal doesn’t melt. Even if you throw it in a fire,” he said and dropped it into his teacup. In the milk tea, the clear ice flower only remained bloomed.
“Then Nico, this means Mrs. Hadley really did meet a fairy. Because this could only be found by a fairy that lives in the water. She really was telling the truth.”
“Well Lydia, now that’s troublesome. A fairy that lives in water and can change shape to a handsome human can only be those ferocious kelpies.”
“Kelpie? That’s impossible. I never saw one near this town.”
“It could have came down the river.”
They were beautiful horses that lived in fresh waters. But those who were caught by its seductive appearance and approached it were said to be dragged into the watery depths to be eaten. By the next morning, according to the tales, only the untouched livers were thrown back onto shore by the water’s edge.
“Oh no, if it was planning to invite Mrs. Hadley into the water… Nico, we need to go!”
“Check if there really is a kelpie or not.”
“Oh no. I don’t want to. I have no dream of coming out as just my liver.”
She grabbed the scruff of Nico’s neck before he could disappear.
“So you have a liver even though you’re a supernatural cat?”
“Come on let go! You’re ruffling my fur!”
“So you’re coming?”
“Alright, geesh, you are so short-tempered. But the night’s too dangerous, so we go tomorrow, understood?”
After setting him down, the cat angrily snorted through his nose and swiftly combed down his fluffy gray fur with his paws.
The next day, Lydia immediately headed to the river, located at the edge of town. There wasn’t anybody at the riverside where its reflection mirrored only the cloudy gray sky, making it even more dismal.
Lydia, along with Nico, cautiously approached the water’s edge while careful to spot any sight of unnatural ripples on the water surface.
“Oi, Lydia, there’s somebody there.”
Holding down her hair that was blown around by the strong winds, she squinted into the distance, to see a figure standing by the riverbed.
“Mrs. Hadley! What are you doing here?”
It was the visitor from yesterday. Lydia dashed over to her.
Covering her gray hair with a shall, Ruth Hadley lifted her face from her gaze from the water surface.
“My, Miss Carlton. Please forgive me for leaving yesterday. It seems like my father won’t approve my marriage with a fairy.”
“Um, about that, I…”
“But, I was so thankful for your kindness. You were the only one who believed me.”
“It’s Ruth. Please call me Ruth. I want us to become friends.”
“Yes, of course.”
“I was just waiting to meet him. This is such perfect timing! I’ll introduce you.”
“A water-horse, here? ….He’s coming?!”
Lydia also noticed that Nico had disappeared. What a fraidy-cat.
She needed to get Mrs. Hadley away from this dangerous riverbed where a Kelpie might appear.
“Anyway. Uh, Ruth. The wind is so strong here. Why don’t we head near the town?”
Just as they were about to start walking, another voice butted beside them.
“Oi, human. Are you the chit?”
Lydia whipped around to face a young man standing between them and the river. He had pitch black hair, and incredibly handsome looks that came with a splendid body. He had a beautifully well balanced face, it was such a perfect creation that it was incomparable to any person she’s ever seen. This man inspected Lydia back in a glaring way.
“Hmmm, you’re surprisingly more good looking than I thought.”
“How kind of you.”
“And you have a nice bottom too.” He traced it from atop her skirt, which made her slap him with her hand in reflex.
“What are you doing!”
Her open palm hit his cheek right on the spot. In that second, a strong wind erupted and the river surface started to ripple roughly. Right in front of Lydia’s eyes, the man’s body changed shape - into a dauntingly beautiful, pitch black horse.
“Ke-Kelpie? Ruth, is he the one?”
“No…, he had silver hair…”
Guarding Ruth behind her, Lydia backed away.
“Oh, so you weren’t the human chit. I see, seems like I’ve forgotten how humans age so quickly.”
“Who are you? What happened to Ruth’s suitor?”
“I came to see what kind of woman my brother’s bride is going to be.” The kelpie slowly circled around the two of them. Shaking, Lydia searched inside her pocket.
“He speaks about leaving our kelpie’s territory and marrying a human. Of course I objected, but he wouldn’t listen. So naturally, I became curious as what sort of woman could do that to him. If she turned out to be trash, I was planning to eat her myself.”
“Don’t come any closer!” threatened Lydia, holding out a twig of hawthorn. “I am a fairy doctor. I won’t allow you to harm her.”
“A tiny human like you? First of all, a petty evil-warding-charm like that won’t effect me.” The water-horse neighed loudly, standing up in full fierce. As the black horse came closer, Lydia shivered as she was too frightened to speak. Lydia clamped her eyes shut. Then, something soft as a feather touched her face.
“Brother, please stop.”
Cautiously opening her eyes, Lydia saw that there was a silver-haired young man standing in front of her, as if guarding them from the black unseelie court. That soft touch must have been his long hair, no his mane.
“Ruth….!!” the young man rushed over to Ruth who had fainted from fear.
It was half a century ago. Ruth grew up in the Highlands, the area where water-horses were said to live. The young Ruth met a water-horse who happened to be in his human form and both fell in love. But she already had an engagement her father made, and on top of that the man disappeared from her, fearing the time when she’d come to find out he was ferocious fairy of human eating kind. But even after many years, he still couldn’t forget her, and thinking that now was the only time since a human’s lifespan was so short and followed the river back to this town.
The younger brother kelpie told Lydia that Ruth had not forgotten about him. She kept the snow crystal that he gave her. He was overjoyed at their reunion and proposed to her immediately but still couldn’t tell her that he was a water-horse.
He was soft spoken and had graceful manners. Unlike his older brother, he was more slender but he too had the perfectly sculptured beauty. These two water-horses were now in the Carlton house.
Of course, they were in human form, but Lydia couldn’t stop thinking how unreal this seemed to herself. But in reality here in front of her were two gorgeous handsome men, one silver-haired man sitting politely with his hands resting on his thighs and one black-haired man leaning back in a chair with his feet on the table in an arrogantly, daunting manner.
And they’re horses. Horses!, she bitterly muttered, for no reason.
The younger brother carried the unconscious Ruth to this house and she was currently resting in one of the bed chambers. Lydia was listening silently to the water-horse’s story.
“Fairy Doctor, I will leave this land. I shouldn’t have come here in the first place.”
“Oi, you are alright with that?” shouted the older brother fairy.
“Brother, weren’t you opposed?”
“As kin, I oppose. In any case, humans die too quick after all. Even if we take them to the fairy world, there still is their lifespan. But I saw how you were suffering all this time. To watch you continue to be heartbroken is unbearable.”
“Well now, so you do have a good side,” said Lydia.
“Of course I do. How low were you thinking of this great kelpie?”
“A barbarian kelpie.”
“You bloody bitch, do you want to get eaten?”
“Hmph, I know perfectly well that a kelpie away from water is powerless. Or I wouldn’t invite you into my house.”
“Such a conceited chit. Really, what is so great about human females?”
“Ruth is a modest and polite woman.” After the younger said so, he hastily turned towards Lydia. “No, that was, I mean, human women are each unique and…”
“….It’s alright. I don’t need to have a horse try to be polite.”
“Stop saying horse. We are noble water kelpies! But this one here, he’s defective. Normally we each have our own territory and live in solitude. But he whimpers about that being lonely and always follows me around. First of all, the reason he meets a human and chooses one as a mate is because he’s a good for nothing. So I will guarantee it, a normal kelpie couldn’t be able to live happily with a human, but he could!”
“But your young brother has already said he’ll leave. I think that’s best. A human and kelpie marriage, however you think of it, is impossible. Even Ruth fainted after seeing your transformation. Finding out that her lover was a water-horse must have been a great shock for her.”
The black haired kelpie, became broodingly silent, possibly from regretting what he said.
“It’s not your fault, brother. It was better this way. She was going to find out regardless, I’m happy just that she still remembered me after all this time,” said the younger.
“Well then,” said Lydia, standing up and taking out the snow crystal from her skirt pocket. “This was a gift you gave to Ruth, correct?”
“Why do you have it?” asked the older.
“Ruth dropped it. Anyhow, as long as this is destroyed, you’ll never be able to go near her again, right?”
It was a method used periodically to cut off contact from the Unseelie courts - by destroying the gift you received from the one you want to cut off connections with. That way, that fairy will loose sight of that human.
“Hey, there’s no need to go that far,” interrupted the older.
“No, I agree. Please go ahead,” cut in the younger, softy but sure.
They were fairies that were savage beasts. But kelpies, with their strong and noble prescience, attracted humans. Obviously that was their means of capturing humans to feed on them, but seeing how this quiet, fragile looking silver-haired man cared so deeply about Ruth, and exhibited how he was backing away for her sake and suffering because of it, Lydia had to keep reminding herself that the ferocious blood still runs deep in him.
“But, hey now, Lydia, do you know how to destroy this snow crystal?” After the brothers left, Nico slowly reappeared his invisible body while leaning back against the sofa armrest and shamelessly grinned.
“Nico, how dare you abandon me and run away!”
“I didn’t abandon you. I just made myself invisible.”
“Well, I’ll let that be the case this time. So tell me about the snow crystal.”
“Unfortunately I don’t know anything either. All I know is that even if you tried smashing or burning it’s useless effort.”
“That‘s all? Then stop acting all self-important.” When the occasion really demanded his help, this cat was useless.
“But, Ruth may know,” he said facing his turned-up chin towards the door. Ruth, who had been resting in the next room, apparently had waken, and was standing in the doorway puzzled.
“Ruth, you’re awake. How do you feel?” asked Lydia, going over to her and taking her hand to lead her to sit back down on the sofa.
Looking bewildered, Ruth combed her fingers through her long unraveled gray hair as if confirming if they were really hers.
“I’d forgotten. I’ve grown so old. I could never have gone with him from the start.”
Hearing those words, Lydia grew puzzled.
“Aren’t you afraid of kelpies?”
“Kelpie? Aah, yes, during my childhood I was told by a priest that they were ferocious water-horses. He taught me not to go near the water’s edge by myself. That’s why I had a small feeling that he might be a kelpie.”
“….Yet you still fell in love?”
“I wasn’t frightened at all. Because he was always so kind. But because he was so gentle, he didn’t take me into the water.”
So she had realized he was a kelpie. Ruth only fainted because the black water-horse had threatened to eat her and not because she was shocked that her lover was a kelpie. Misunderstanding that, the younger kelpie made his decision of leaving her.
“When he first left, I was filled with regret. Knowing he was a kelpie, I realized I must have been hesitant somewhere deep down. There are good and bad people in our society, and yet I don’t know why I couldn’t fully believe in him. Getting married and coming back to this town, even after so many decades, that regret never went away. I wasn’t terribly unhappy, but I couldn’t be with child with my husband, and after our nephew succeeded the family business and after I became a widow, I continued to feel like a foreigner in the Hadley house.”
“And so you thought to go with him this time?”
“If he, whose appearance hasn’t changed from that time, would still have me one more time….”
But to trust a kelpie was unimaginable as a fairy doctor. Even if the younger brother was indeed different from the others, Lydia was told by her mother that a fairy doctor’s duty was to keep people away from the evil fae. Human and fairies, at times crossed paths and could establish a good relationship, but there are times when both sides should not be mingled together. Especially water horses like them who were classified as unseelie courts, their danger was immeasurable to those who were not familiar with them and so marriage with them were not allowed so easily.
“It was stupid of me. Even if he didn’t change, I have. Seeing how I am now, he must have been so disappointed. Because he has such a kind soul, he didn’t say so.” Ruth spotted the snow crystal pendant Lydia had resting on her lap and breathed a small sigh.
“Still obsessed with this like an old sore, he must have pitied me,” and picking it up from Lydia’s hand, Ruth took off the chain. She softly hanged the snow crystal down to her open mouth.
“What are you doing?!”
“He said if I swallow it, it’ll melt and disappear. If that happens, then he wouldn’t be able to see me again… Sooner, I should have done this much sooner, before he saw my aged body.”
So that was the way to destroy the snow crystal. And then Lydia realized that the kelpie had deliberately revealed to Ruth on how to keep him at bay. He himself was aware of the natural instincts of being a kelpie. That’s why he told Ruth, who would find out his true nature eventually so that she wouldn’t be frightened, and so he wouldn’t have to see her terrified face. That was the true feelings that he kept in the depths of his heart. Humans and water-horses do not suit each other, they aren’t suppose to. But…..
“Wait, stop!” cried Lydia, snatching the snow crystal from Ruth’s hand, and looked down at her bewildered face.
“You can’t give up! He loves you even now. But he was terrified that you’d find out he was a kelpie and come to hate him. Aaaah! why do both of you have to worry so much about such small things! If you truly care for one another then just tell him the truth, and find out what he’s really thinking!”
“Now come with me. If we don’t hurry those two will leave this town!” she said and yanked on Ruth’s arm. Lydia left the house and headed towards the river. Ruth ended up being dragged along like a doll by Lydia’s heated determination.
Reaching the bank of the river that was exposed to the wind, the water surface still had its dark color and reflected the gray clouds on its surface. Weaving through the scattered grove of trees, Lydia approached the river. Finally stopping, she gave a good look across the surface.
“Oi, now Lydia, I thought you were going to cut the ties from the kelpies?” asked Nico, who had followed along after them.
“…..Yes, as a fairy doctor that’s what should be my priority. But I’m friends with Ruth. I couldn’t pull the two apart when they are so deeply in love with each other.”
Lydia turned back to the water.
“Kelpie, can you hear me? Ruth says she isn’t afraid even if you’re a kelpie! That’s why I need to be certain. What about you?! Do you not love her because she is an old lady now?!”
The silent reflection abruptly turned into rippling waves. The two water-horses rose out from the splashing rolling waves. The silver and black brother’s manes glittered with rainbow sparkling droplets and both of them ascended to stand on the water’s surface. They looked as if wrapped in a glowing light. The air surrounding them was colored with a mysterious glow that shined from the separate realm of the fairy world. Suddenly feeling a slight shivering apprehension of danger from this unbelievable spectacle in front of her, but for the sake of Ruth, Lydia bravely raised her voice.
“Ahh, geesh, you’re still thinking too much?! Oi, younger brother, is that your idea of being a man?! Even if you’re a water-horse or poor, as long as you have love, you‘d still try to woo her! That‘s normal!”
“Being a kelpie and poor aren’t the same thing,” Nico pointed out, which she ignored.
“So you’re not coming? You’re fine with that? Alright then, Ruth is going to swallow this snow crystal!”
Nico had periodically pointed out to her that she was too short-tempered but she couldn‘t change that now. Lydia angrily shoved the snow crystal to Ruth.
In that moment, the silver kelpie trotted forward. He transformed gracefully into a beautiful human man as he neared them.
“Ruth, you haven’t changed one bit. All I see is the shape of your soul. If I truly don’t frightened you, then would you please spend your remaining time with me?”
Squeezing the snow crystal in her hand, Ruth replied with a faint nod. Then she turned to Lydia with a smile on her face and softly hugged her.
“Lydia, thank you… I’m so happy that we became friends….”
Unraveling her arms and silently backing away, Ruth slowly walked over to him. As she got closer, the light that was surrounding the water-horse spilled over onto her and turned her gray hair into a bright red, and Lydia watched with watery eyes, as an energetic young lady was embraced by the man’s arms.
“And you had just made a human friend. Yet you have to send her off to the fairy world,” said the gray cat sitting on a chair, twitching his whiskers as if they were enjoying the fragrance of the tea rising up from the cup he held in his front paw.
“There’s nothing I can do about it now. It was for Ruth’s sake.”
“So you gave up making human friends and decided to increase your fairy friends instead?” asked Nico glancing suspiciously over to the black wavy haired man crunching down on biscuits.
“What is this. Such wimpy food.”
Lydia, shaking her hands that gripped the teapot, knitted her brows on top of a frown.
“Why are you here in the first place, kelpie!”
“Well my younger brother went off to the new frontier with his bride. As for me, it’s quite boring now…”
“Doesn’t mean that you have to come to my house!”
“I’ve started to be interested in humans as well.”
“Even if you were to observe Lydia, she might not equal to an actual human being’s standard.”
“What? Nico! What does that suppose to mean?!” shouted Lydia. She didn’t realize that soon enough, people would be whispering about the Carlton daughter who was having a loud conversation with only a cat in her house.