By Jes Young
Have you ever noticed that the parents in fairy tales are either negligent, wicked, or dead? There are a few exceptions, but by and large this is a group of people who Child Services really should have been keeping an eye on. I mean, Belle’s father’s life of bad business decisions and petty theft is the cause of her imprisonment. The phrase “wicked stepmother” was coined to describe Snow White’s uber-competitive new mommy. Don’t get me started on a list of dead fairy tale parents—that thing could take days to assemble. The point is, parents aren’t always shown in the best light in your average fairy tale. I don’t want to point any fingers, but I think maybe Mother and Father Grimm were monsters. As an aside, my parents are great. In all my 37 years, they’ve never abandoned me in the woods. Not even once.
Anyway, this long standing tradition of fairy tale princesses with parental issues is one I continue in my urban fantasy romance series, the Princess of Twilight & Dawn. In the first book, Tab Bennett and the Inbetween, we learn about Tab’s relationship with her mother which manages to be incredibly complicated even though her mother is dead and they’ve never met. In Underneath, Tab, who’s been raised in away from any contact with the Elvish world, takes a dangerous journey to finally meet her father, Daniel, the dark king of the Underneath. Once she's there, Tab is forced to confront the seductive nature of Darkness and her own potential to truly become her father’s daughter.
In this excerpt from Underneath, Tab meets her father for the very first time.
Unless you’ve spent the night in a cave in the Underneath, way below the crust of the earth, down where the sun has never touched and never will, you have no idea how cold it is, how wet. In the damp chill of the air, your skin slicks with moisture that freezes and glazes over, crackling like ice. Your bones ache with it. When you blink, your lids snag on tears that have already frozen before they even had a chance to fall from your eyes. Before long, you forget what it feels like to be warm. You begin to doubt that such a thing is even possible.
Even fully clothed in my sleeping bag, my teeth chattered. I didn’t think I’d be able to fall asleep until suddenly, I was lounging in a chair on the most beautiful beach I’d ever seen, on the most perfect, sunny day. I was wearing a red and white polka dot bikini and drinking a pina colada from a hollowed out pineapple.
I was waiting for Alex to come, wondering if making love to him in the surf would be sexy or just sandy, when something passed in front of the sun. I looked up as a thousand starlings became a man. I knew who he was even though I’d never seen him before.
“Behold the prodigal daughter,” King Daniel said as he sat down on the lounger across from me. “Come home at last.”
Even in the dream I could feel the tingle of magic on my palms as the Gift of Light and Air welled up around me, preparing for a fight.
“This isn’t my home,” I said, “and I am not your daughter.”
I could deny it, but proof of who I was, of how I had come to be, was all over the Dark King’s face. Robbin had been right—I looked exactly like him. His hair was like mine, almost black and slightly wavy. We had the same straight nose and pointy chin.
Like all They of the Dark, his eyes were red. My mother’s were blue. Mine are purple. You’re familiar with the color wheel, right? Good. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
“This could be your home,” he answered, “if you chose it.”
The palm trees waved back and forth in a soft breeze that tousled his hair. I caught the familiar smell of strawberry shampoo on the air.
“So I get to choose?” I laughed. “Light or dark? Inbetween or Underneath?”
“Of course.” He had the nerve to look insulted. “I would never try to force you to be anyone other than who you are.”
“You killed my sisters, one by one, to bring me here. What is that, if not force?”
“Regrettable,” he said. “But necessary. And they weren’t really your sisters.”
I felt something hot and sharp growing, glowing, inside of my chest. He watched with interest as my magic swirled around me, bathing me in a golden light. Daniel sat just outside of it, wrapped in the kind of darkness that even the brightest light can’t chase away.
The look on his face was, unmistakably, one of parental pride. I can’t even tell you how much that pissed me off.
I want King Daniel dead, I told the magic. It surged up, ready when I needed it. But instead of pouring over him, it split in two, leaving him on an island of shadow amidst the currents of light. I tried again, and once again the magic rushed forward but went nowhere.
Do this for me now and I’ll start practicing more as soon as I wake up.
Blistering heat and light built up around me. I want King Daniel dead.
That time it hurt him, just a little, I could tell.
“Enough,” he roared. With a wave of his hand, he turned the sunny day to nighttime. There was only a sliver of moon left. Even in its dim light I could see that whatever kindness or fondness he had for me was gone, replaced now with fury. He’d killed people for less than the tweak I’d managed to give him. “Do you know who I am, child? What I could do to you? There are thousands of ways I could tear you apart without moving from this spot.”
“So do it,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest. “None of this is real anyway.”
“Real is a very subjective concept,” Daniel explained, sounding exasperated. “Let’s not test the bounds of reality on our first meeting.” He reset the sunny afternoon and his pleasant face. He pulled a pair of sunglasses from the pocket of his linen shirt and slipped them on, stretching out in the lounge chair next to mine.
“Why are you here?” I asked when I couldn’t stand the silence any longer.
“I wanted us to have a chance to talk in private, so I arranged to visit you somewhere that neither your guard nor mine could get in our way.”
“Nicholas isn’t coming? That’s too bad. I’m looking forward to seeing him again.”
Daniel laughed. “You intend to kill him.”
It wasn’t a question. He was Daniel’s second, his enforcer. He had orchestrated the attack on my mother; and later, the ones that took my sisters from me one by one. Of course I wanted to kill him.
I shrugged, all nonchalant. “That’s part of the plan.”
“I will give him to you as a gift if you agree to stay with me. He’ll be yours to do with as you wish.”
“You’ll just give him to me? After he’s been your right-hand for centuries; after he’s killed for you?” I asked. “Where’s the loyalty?”
Daniel smiled—all teeth and menace—revealing a glimpse of the heartless, beautiful monster he really was. “As the humans say, my daughter dear, blood is thicker than water.”
If you have any questions about me or my work, if you want to say hello, or if you feel compelled to share a story about power struggles with your parents, please head to the comments. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and thanks for stopping by!
After graduating from Emerson College with a BFA in creative writing, Jes Young was a copywriter at Random House (Ballantine Books and Crown Publishing Group) for nearly ten years. Currently she is the development manager of a small non-profit and the mother of two children under the age of ten. Her writing is done primarily between the hours of 11 p.m and 3 a.m.
My blog: http://www.JesYoung.com