Ghyntyyrke

Johnny Libenzon
17 min readOct 25, 2022
Tonight of all nights, the air is warm with the earth’s magic, and we should bring into the moonlight thoughts that have been left unspoken. [“Cold night meet” by Nikolai Lockertsen]

On a dark night, somewhere in southern Ontario, Jakob was crying.

It wasn’t as if it was a frightening night; all things considered, though the air bore an odd sort of scent that signalled that rain was to come sometime during the night, there was not much to really be scared of. The night was clear, the world was gentle, and things were, by all accounts, fine.

Except for three things. The first was more of a physical discomfort; Jakob had caught a cold, and was currently two days into battling it out with the mightiest immune system a boy of ten could muster, while he did his best to assist his valiant cells through a combined front of herbal teas, honey, gargling salt, and chicken broth. He wasn’t sure if all of those could help, but his parents had him go through the gauntlet and he trusted his parents — so, there it was.

Jakob imagined his immune cells as tiny knights fighting a horde of fiery demons. The demons had invaded his city — that is to say, him — and now his valiant elite forces were slowly hacking and slashing their way through a veritable horde of unwanted guests.

A cough sang out in his room even as he heard the doorbell call his parents over. Jakob sighed, remembering the second thing: It was Halloween, and here he was. Sick, alone, watching cartoons to avoid thinking about the stuffy feeling in his skull.

“And remember, every wish has a price you have to pay…”

He wasn’t really listening to the show, which was called ‘Those Pixies!’ It was about faeries and humans and whatnot. One of those stories where people ask for something from a mischievous pixie-thing and, though they get what they want, there’s always a catch. Every episode was similar: human makes a wish, pixie makes them regret it. It always worked out well in the end, though, generally with the wishmaker realizing they had everything they needed to change their lives from the get-go, and that they never needed magic in the first place. The usual.

But again — Jakob was not listening to this episode. His ears were perked up, trying to catch the sounds outside his bedroom instead.

Sounds of yelling and aggression. His parents were unhappy. They were fighting, and though he couldn’t catch every word with the door closed, he could hear things. What he did hear made his eyes close tight.

He’d thought about intervening, but he’d tried that once, when he was younger. They’d simply paused while he was in the room, told him sweet nothings and how much they loved him, and how mom and dad loved each other very much, and how everything would be okay. They said that, and they put him to sleep.

But he hadn’t slept. He’d stayed awake, waiting to see if the yelling would resume once he was out of the picture. Jakob learned the meaning of disappointment that day.

“… and it was you… outside, when he wasn’t… freezing!”

“… now how it… cold, because then… would you know!”

They were talking about him tonight, clearly. What fragments he did hear were obviously related to him being sick on Halloween. It was kinda funny, in a way; he’d accepted that he would skip trick-or-treating this year, but they clearly hadn’t, even though he was the one missing out.

Jakob sighed, sitting back on the bed and listening to kids his age laughing outdoors and complaining about the candy they were given at his house. His dad had been backed up at work, so his mom had bought some of those ‘healthy’ rice cake snacks to give out in a bucket just outside the door that read ‘Take One!’. Kids his age weren’t exactly fond of such snacks, so naturally they took more. As if grabbing a surplus would somehow improve the flavor.

Tap. Tap.

A branch was hitting his window. Jakob pulled his blanket up to his neck, trying to soothe the perpetual feeling of soreness in his throat. His eyes passed over his many action figures, clothing tossed haphazardly onto a chair, and his toy sword he’d gotten from Medieval Times to instead settle on the costume he was going to wear that day: An orc, from those early-2000’s Lord of the Rings films. Granted, it looked far less imposing and technically impressive than the ones on screen, but the mask was pretty good. Freaky, even. His mom had told him that over time, he’d grow up from costumes designed to scare people to those designed to impress girls. Jakob thought that was a weird thing to tell a ten-year old.

Outside his room, he heard them continuing to argue. Jakob thought he caught his father saying something about fishing, but it might have started with a ‘b‘ instead. It was hard to tell through the wall.

“… every time, you keep… my mother would nev…”

“… yeah, go back to… then I can get some peace and q…”

They weren’t quite as loud, but the venom in both their tongues was still just as present.

Tap. Tap. The branch again.

Jakob closed his eyes, trying to think about something else. The show was still playing, though now it was running the ending riff and then the credits tune was on. He was usually annoyed at having to listen through the credits, but the boy was too lazy to bother turning it off right now.

He opened his eyes again, looking towards the window to see when the branch would hit the glass again, and froze.

There was no branch there at all. Instead there was a small, goblin-like face watching him.

It had leathery skin, a sharp nose and beady blood-red eyes. The creature stared at Jakob quietly, mouth open in a sort of lazy grin. Its teeth were sharp, one of its molars chipped. Whether it had hair or not was uncertain due to the black hoodie thrown over its head, and it had feathers all along the shoulders and trailing from its back.

One of its spindly nails tapped at the glass, scraping it slightly.

Tap. Tap.

“Well hello, Jakob, dear boy,” it said with a gravelly tone. It sounded like the voice of someone that had smoked far too many cigarettes, hidden behind radio static.

The boy was shaking under the covers, holding them tight to his chest. His eyes were wide open as he stared at the creature.

“Come out, Jakob. Tonight of all nights, the air is warm with the earth’s magic, and we should bring into the moonlight thoughts that have been left unspoken.” The creature closed its mouth, allowing the boy to realize just how disproportionally large its eyes were compared to the rest of its head. “You are the one that called me here, after all.”

Though still quite afraid of the unnatural being before his eyes, Jakob couldn’t help but let his mind wander. At first he thought it was some mutant freak, but now he wondered if this was like in one of his shows…

“Are you a fairy?” Jakob finally said, voice quivering.

“Of sorts. Though in the tongue of my people, I am what is known as a ‘Ghyntyyrke’ — in your tongue, a ‘Changer of Ways.’”

The young boy bit his lip hard, feeling pain rush through his gums, and wondered on what to do. Did he even have a wish he wanted granted? What could he ask a creature like this for? And fairies were commonly known to be tricky… still, he was an intelligent ten-year old. He could spot whatever trick they pulled up, and he’d arrange his wish accordingly to make sure he wasn’t left looking the fool after a deal was made.

“Why do I need to go outside?” Jakob whispered, though he wasn’t sure if the creature would hear it.

“So we may speak in private,” said the Ghyntyyrke, its voice now lower and softer than before, almost as though it were cooing to the young child. “You seem better versed than your parents in the lore of the Fair Folk, after all. They might not understand our exchange like you do.”

After some contemplation, Jakob shifted under the covers. He pushed away his blanket and stood up, making his way over to the window. His head was only a foot above the windowsill, and the window itself was quite large and could easily match Jakob’s standing height, meaning that he had to crane his neck up to stare at the creature. He wondered why the faerie sat on the windowsill instead of just standing on the balcony outside, though he knew it was wooden and not very sturdy, as his father had warned him. But neither Jakob or the Faerie likely weighed very much as it was.

“What’s your name?” Asked Jakob, rubbing his arm with the opposite hand nervously. The window between them was locked shut so, in the boy’s mind, it was still safe.

“Oh, my real name is… a dreadfully oblong, dull affair. Names, after all, are just how one endeavors to provide themselves with unique identity among an oversaturated populace — and even then, names repeat, sometimes in tens and dozens. But, among my people, I am often known as ‘Amplepuck Who Gathers Chaenda’lai-ial Within Clouds’, though… hmm… ‘Puck’ will suffice. You may refer to me as Puck.”

Jakob felt that the name the fairy had given itself was familiar, but did not know why. Regardless, he hadn’t quite understood what it had said before that, so he just settled on the last piece of information it had given him and went from there.

Outside his door, the boy heard his parents’ shouting grow louder again.

“I hear your pains, child of the earth,” said Puck, placing both of its arms down on the windowsill outside and resting its chin upon them. It blinked, for the first time since Jakob had seen it. “They are causing you distress, are they not?”

“Yeah. They’ve been fighting more recently,” sighed the boy, copying the creature’s movements and resting against the windowsill as well. He was not entirely sure why, but he seemed less afraid of the creature before him now than when he’d first seen it. Its features that he’d found horrifying at first glance now seemed mystical and curious. Perhaps the Fair Folk did appear frightening to children, well… that made sense, did it not? Many people were afraid of faeries, and they did use tricks on any humans foolish enough to make a deal without thinking it through first, but Jakob was clever.

That, and the faerie had come to him, not him to it. Most times, humans only got in trouble because they went to the Fair Folk for greedy reasons, and Jakob didn’t have any. So he would be fine.

“Come outside, child. We need not listen to their anger.”

This time, Jakob obeyed.

Though his mother had told him the cool air of October would only cause his fever to swell up, the boy felt far more at ease sitting on the windowsill with the window swung out into the open and the cool air passing by his red cheeks.

“Hm… mhm…” Jakob was uneasy. He’d never done this before, looking down at the rickety structure of the wooden balcony. It was like someone had tried to build a deck into the side of a house, but hadn’t really thought the whole thing through. There were visible cracks between sections of the wood that one could look between to see the ground below.

“I will not let you fall, child,” Puck said from a distance. The faerie had moved away, now crouched on the edge of the balcony with its hands playing with something. To Jakob, it looked like an old Rubik’s Cube, though it was completely white in color. He wasn’t sure what the point of something like that even was.

“Mhm,” was the only sound that Jakob made in response.

He burned with questions. He wanted to ask so much, but he remained quiet and still, hoping to avoid making the creature aware of just how much he wanted to wish for.

“Why are you not out there, a shadow in the darkness?” Asked Puck, turning the Rubik’s Cube over to inspect it for something.

“Caught a flu,” Jakob said.

“And this is enough to prevent you from enjoying yourself? You seem enraptured by the lowlight. Things such as ghouls, goblinfolk, us Old Folk, we are not memories for you, but fascination. Enigma, yes, but one you can crack open like a quail egg. What is the true reason?”

“My parents won’t let me,” the boy admitted.

“Ah. And you obey them, do you?” Puck grinned. Its teeth were jagged, frighteningly so. And yet the boy was not afraid.

“I love them,” Jakob said.

Down below, someone yelled ‘Trick or Treat!’ Laughter ensued. Children exclaimed happily over the sweets they were given. Footsteps clattered as they moved on to the next house, hoping for a greater prize.

“You seem unsure of your own answer,” Puck said, cocking its head, “I asked one question, yet you answered another. Your youth betrays you, your paltry attempts at deceit. What does love have to do with obedience? Those we love rarely understand more about the world than the roots and frogs, but we concede to their orders all the same.”

Jakob fidgeted nervously, watching Puck’s dainty fingers dart around the cube. As it turned, he thought he saw colors appear on the pale squares dotting its exterior, but they disappeared as soon as they had come.

“Well… they’re my parents,” Jakob ventured cautiously, “So I have to do what they say, even if I don’t understand it.”

For a moment, Puck looked down, almost seeming sad in its own way.

“You disobey them now, sitting out here. Why?”

Puck blinked. Its eyelids were spiral in shape, closing in around the iris before receding back into the skin around the eyes.

“Because I like you?”

“When is a statement a question? When the speaker does not believe themselves enough to ground their words in fact,” Puck said, seeming rather amused now. “But enough of this. Tell me the true reason, child; I’ll not mock you for it. A Ghyntyyrke always keeps its promises.”

“Because…” Jakob sniffled, swallowing saliva and averting his eyes from the faerie creature. “Because you’re a faerie, right.”

Tsssck.” Puck made a sound somewhere between a hiss and a click of reprimand. “You are referring to my cousins, blessed and cursed as they are and shall ever be. I am Ghyntyyrke, mark this well.”

“Okay, okay, but you still grant wishes, right?”

Puck was silent for several moments, staring at the young boy. Even still, its hands continued to play with the modified Rubik’s cube, as if feverishly searching for the right configuration before finally replying.

“Ye know of the Old Folk and the Fair Folk therein, yet thou still wishes t’seal a pact within?” Puck said quietly in an odd tone, its red eyes having grown in luster to now shine like fireflies in the darkness. “Knowing still how such things oft end with those like Puck, thou dost seek to make contract and bet your luck?”

“I… Yes.” Jakob’s throat felt dry. He fought back a sneeze, not wanting to appear weak now at this crucial moment. Indoors, he heard his mother yelling.

“Name thine desire, child o’ the earth. In balance with this, Puck shall name its own with truth and mirth. But only one, and not one more — so speak ye true if thou dost know our lore.”

The response was quick.

“I want my parents to stop arguing tonight.”

Jakob hadn’t felt true embarrassment nor fear often over the course of his admittedly small lifespan, but he felt it now when the Ghyntyyrke began to laugh. It was an unpleasant sound, with a whistle to it, like someone whose throat was too cramped to pass through all the mockery billowing up from their gut. It felt like some ancient witch was cackling out her pleasure at his misfortunes over a bad telephone connection.

“So simple? So meek?” Puck said, its face now somewhat flushed from the ferocity of its laughter and no longer speaking in rhymes. “You say you understand our kind, and yet you ask for such meek things. You did hear me when I said one such wish would be granted, did you not?”

Jakob was about to speak, but the Ghyntyyrke just sighed and waved a hand to cut him off.

“You could wish for so much, Jakob. You choose this?” Puck asked, curling its lip again to expose sallow gums, as if anticipating another bout of cruel laughter already.

“Yes,” Jakob said simply, “Because it is important to me. More than anything in the world.”

A leaf from a nearby oak tree was falling. It was red in hue, the pinnacle of autumnal glory, and stood out starkly against a dark landscape illuminated by the glowing Jack-O’-Lanterns placed near the doorways of semi-detached homes on the street. It floated onto the balcony upon which Jakob and Puck now sat, and was caught out of the air by two of Puck’s nimble fingers. The Ghyntyyrke turned the leaf over, slipping it between its fingers and eyeing the veiny protrusions along its length.

“Mhm. So then, this wish of yours… is that your parents cease arguing. And only for tonight? Meek, very meek.”

“If I asked you to make them stop arguing forever, then you’d do something I didn’t expect,” Jakob said, reasoning as best he could with the creature, “Like… I don’t know, sewing their lips shut, or making their brains soup. I guess I figured if I make a simple wish, I’ll get exactly what I wanted.”

“Wiser than your years,” Puck admitted, crumpling the leaf in its hand and letting the battered mess that remained fall to the wooden boards of the balcony floor. “Fine, such a wish I shall grant. And in return…”

Jakob did not speak. Seeing that the boy was not going to venture and ask what Puck wanted, the creature shrugged and finished its point.

“… In return, Jakob, I wish to inhabit your body for one hour. During this hour, I promise not to do anything violent, malicious, harmful, vindictive, or otherwise bearing an overtly negative connotation in your eyes. I will simply be me, pretending to be you.”

“Why?” The boy’s eyes widened. Sure, he wanted his parents to make up and all that, but letting this creature enter his body for a whole hour certainly seemed like a bad idea.

“I want to feel something different,” Puck said simply. “Only ever been Puck myself, after all. Living as not-Puck seems a fascinating prospect. And we Ghyntyyrke always keeps our promises, this I affirm to you again.”

The deal that was being proposed was unlike anything Jakob had seen in his shows and films about the strange creatures. He had never encountered a situation in which he was given the freedom to ask for so much, and yet chose instead to take what most might call a truly gross misallocation of treasure. Jakob knew this — he was confident that he could ask for a chest filled with precious gems, a manor the size of a small castle, a boat to travel the world in, and perhaps found some way to haggle down the cost of it with the fae creature before him so that he still came out on top.

Confidence born of ignorance, perhaps. But it seemed as though the child was aware of this too. An hour of his life, inhabited by Puck, in exchange for peace for the rest of the night.

To its credit, the Ghyntyyrke remained mute as the boy considered his predicament. Its only movements were to glance away from Jakob and towards the window of the living room whenever the shouting of Jakob’s parents briefly grew to greater levels. As the shouting grew, Jakob watched Puck turn the Rubik’s Cube over ever more erratically.

Then, as if seized by sudden inspiration, Jakob understood. And he knew. The boy stretched out his hand, and Puck shook it with its spindly talons.

The Ghyntyyrke smiled.

On the 5th floor of an apartment complex, a family is sitting in their living room. It is decorated without garish excess, lacking any modern art or exceptionally unique aesthetic to complement the plain brick walls that surrounded it, and yet it had clearly been assembled with some care.

In the living room, there was a couch. The couch faced the television, flat-screen, which hung on the opposite wall and now played a new episode of ‘Those Pixies!’, in which a boy got trapped in a well and made a deal with several mischievous woodland fauns to help get him out of it. At the foot of the couch, there was a nightstand, where a fruit smoothie that the mother had concocted now sat among three half-drained mugs and a bowl containing remnants of Chicago mix popcorn.

On the couch, there sat three people. The father, scruffy-bearded and wearing flannel, sat on the right. The mother, long-braided and wearing a long robe, sat on the left. Between them was a child, a boy with coarse hair and wearing pajamas.

The parents, drawing their eyes away from the show, looked at one another. They smiled warmly, in remembrance and knowing that the future still lay ahead, and leaned in to kiss one another. The father placed his hand on the boy’s head and ruffled his hair, while his mother leaned down to kiss him on the scalp.

Between them, the boy continued to stare straight ahead. A happy tear fell as the boy shook silently from the sheer volume of emotion welling up inside.

There was only so much it could do to stop itself from crying.

“Not the wisest trade, I’ll agree with you there,” The Ghyntyyrke said hours later, in the dark of the night when the trick-or-treaters outside had long-since left the roads and the Jack-o’-Lanterns had either blow out or been put away.

“But I am grateful that we made it. You’ve reminded me of…”

Puck took a moment to gather itself, breathing the autumn air deeply for a moment.

“… of something I’d long since lost.”

Jakob was snug under the covers again; Puck had left his mind some time ago, and it now sat on the windowsill while Jakob’s parents cleaned the living room after some of their popcorn and candy had spilled on the floor. Jakob watched Puck’s feet dangle from up where it was, framed by the moonlight, and realized just then that it was no taller than he was, and had a similar boyish build as well. The Rubik’s Cube it had been playing with was nowhere to be seen.

The conditions had been met; after Jakob regained his control over his own mind and body, both his mom and dad no longer seemed to share ill will towards one another. It was clear that whatever had sparked such animosity still remained, brewing under the surface, but perhaps now cooler heads could prevail and a more reasonable discussion could arise. Jakob just hoped the next time his parents were at odds, there was a more compassionate side of each doing the talking.

And though the boy did not recall what had transpired within that hour he had granted Puck, he knew that the Ghyntyyrke had kept its word; his parents were unharmed, and Puck seemed… perhaps not happy, but a sort of ‘glad sad.’ The boy was young and did not fully understand the feelings currently coursing through the creature’s veins. Neither did Puck attempt to explain himself, figuring that Jakob would understand in time.

“Am I going to see you again?” Jakob asked quietly.

“Mhm. Hmm…” Puck considered this for a moment, tapping its chin as if to dramatize its thinking process. “Perhaps. As you may well know, Samhain — this ‘Hallowe’en’, as you know it — is a time when the barrier between The Shadow and Mortalis is at its weakest, allowing enterprising Fair Folk like myself to pass through on our way from The Woods. Perhaps next year, I might visit again…”

“Yes, please,” Jakob said with a small smile. “I’d like that.”

Puck looked down at the boy from the windowsill, regarding him curiously with its red eyes, before turning away sharply to stare towards the bedroom door. The knob was shaking.

By the time Jakob’s mother had entered the room to tuck him in, the Ghyntyyrke was far away, floating in the air.

Below Puck’s dainty feet were thousands of houses, half of which had pumpkins outside on the porch. Most of the pumpkin’s were still in good shape, though many had rotted from being put out too early before the holiday itself and half-devoured from the inside by squirrels. Children were no longer anywhere to be seen, though the evidence of their passing was marked by candy wrappers littering the streets, bits of costume like string and colored paper on the ground, and the cleanup that adults were doing on their lawns before heading off to bed themselves.

Puck watched from its place in the sky as Jakob’s mother kissed the boy’s forehead, cooing something quietly to her dear son. Apologizing, perhaps, for having scared him that night. Something unexpected hit Puck’s heart at the sight of them — a longing feeling, an ache. It threatened to burst out of it with a sob, but the Ghyntyyrke held it back.

Puck hugged itself, arms curling around its chest.

It would bury that feeling for now, keep it hidden inside the core of its being, lest the others tease Puck for it. But that ache would remain, lying dormant just under the surface. Hiding, a special little feeling that would tickle its mind every now and again in the coming seasons. And next October, it will come back again.

A Ghyntyyrke always keeps its promises.

--

--

Johnny Libenzon

Toronto-based aspiring author writing a mix of sci-fi and 'rural fantasy' short stories