Flying with a fairy is easy enough. All the little girl had to do was hold onto Francesca’s hand, and she’d sail right along with her as if she had wings herself. It was a good thing, too. Francesca’s wings would have strained under their combined weight. Human children could be so heavy.
“Where are we going?” the child asked, sucking her free thumb.
Francesca nearly stopped in midair, but caught herself and kept flying. Where were they going? As they passed a pond she could see their reflections: a delicate, luminescent fairy and a small, chubby child. She wasn’t sure if they looked beautiful or ridiculous. The child’s tooth was still in her palm.
“Do you want to see what we fairies do with teeth?”
The little girl nodded vigorously.
“Good! Then I’ll show you!” Francesca scanned the countryside: beyond the cul-de-sacs and supermarket parking lots were the outskirts of town, followed by forested hills. If her assignment had gone according to plan, she would have flown back to the forest, into underground entrance to the fairy world, gone straight to the Artifact Bank, checked in and collected her money for the tooth. This was no longer an option. They would recognize her at the Bank at once, not to mention how she could never get a human child past the security at the entrance to the fairy world in the first place. Francesca had never been in trouble herself before tonight (apart from the incident with the light bulbs back in her academy days), but she knew there was more than one way to sell a tooth!
It wasn’t supposed to exist. No respectable fairies went there. No one would ever admit to knowing anything about it. It was a despicable scandal at best.
Francesca led her new friend in a gentle but speedy dive, avoiding the tall downtown buildings and powerlines. The little girl shrieked in delight at the roller-coaster effect while her pigtails flew straight back. The two of them zipped past a late-night carnival and a movie theatre. One of the lights around the old sign for the theatre had a flickering bulb that blinked on and off. Blink. Blink-blink. Blinky-blink-blink. Blink.
With a shrinking spell she had to know to do her job, Francesca shrunk them both to the size of bees and hurtled toward the entrance to the fairy world that she shouldn’t have known. They flew toward flickering bulb and just a hint to the left. Zoom! They were inside the hidden doorway.
“Ta-da! Here we are!” Francesca waved her hands. “Welcome to the Fairy World’s Black Market!”
It was a busy night. Goblins, ifrits, pixies, and witches milled around them in a crowd. Stalls of food and wares were on either side of each aisle, some brightly lit with friendly vendors, and others draped in mysterious shadows. It was easy to tell which people didn’t want to be seen. They had hoods pulled down low over their faces. Francesca frowned. She should have brought a hood too, not that it mattered anymore.
“What’s that?” Francesca’s hand was tugged. She looked where the child was pointing.
“That, my dear, is a dwarf-troll. Don’t point. They don’t like it.”
“Ooh! Is that another fairy?” The child bounced with delight as she caught a glimpse of sparkling wings peeking out from a hood and cloak.
“Yes, it is. But don’t point. They don’t like it either.” Francesca made her way through the crowd to the particular booth that she knew (but shouldn’t have known) would give her a fair price for her tooth.
“Good evening, Peregrin,” she called. brushing back an owl windchime hanging from the awning.
“Francesca!” A pointy-eared fairy loomed out from the shadows, a single earring dangling. “How lovely to--” he paused when he saw the human child and looked back up at Francesca with a rather mischievous gleam in his eyes. “Well, well, well.”