Called Home

Jennifer took a deep breath, then another. Her mind was reeling as she tried to process everything that was happening, at the words the woman standing in front of her was saying. Finally, she haltingly managed to say something, anything.
“You…you have pointy ears.”
The other woman, Aislinn was it? She brushed a curl of auburn hair back behind her ears.
“Yes, I do. And so will you, when I take the glamours off of you, your Highness.”
Jenny winced just slightly at the title and hugged her books a little tighter against her chest.
“Yeah, right. Uh…cool. But I need to get to class. Like, now.”
Aislinn reached out to grab her arm.
“Did you not hear me? We must return to the Otherworld so you can take up your rightful mantle and rule beside your mother. The war is over.”
Pulling away, Jenny laughed nervously.
“Right, sure. Whatever you say. This is the most intense invite to a D&D game I think I’ve ever gotten. And thanks, but I’ve already got a campaign I’m in so…”
There was an odd feeling in the air for just a moment and Aislinn sighed.
“So be it, but if you wish to change your mind, I shall be around.”
Jenny turned away then and ran to class, laughing to herself. She didn’t notice the smile on Aislinn’s face, didn’t notice the other students look at her oddly now, didn’t notice that the rounded tips of her ears came to a perceptible point now.


Aislinn watched as her princess ran off and smiled, reaching into her pocket for the spell stone that would allow her to call home.
“The princess resists for now, but she will be home soon, your Majesty. Of that, I am quite certain.”

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Princess

A tower rose up through the gloom and haze that was the normal state of Hell. A lone female watched through the bars on the windows as small shadows were herded together into a pen beneath her tower. She hated this time of year, the time when she was reminded that not only she paid for her imprisonment among these creatures, these denizens of Hell. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she watched the pitiful little parade. Those poor mortal children, cursed to live a short painful life at the hands of the demons of Hell. Those poor parents, never knowing where their children had gone, or even never knowing that their children were gone, assuming her people used their magical arts. Cursing loudly, the woman turned and grabbed a vase that sat on a small table nearby and flung it at the stone wall. The pieces shattered everywhere and pain coursed through her body.

“Now, now, Princess Linette, you should really know better than to have these little outbursts by now.” The voice that spoke in her mind was harsh, but also welcome and familiar. It was the sign that she was still alive, still a prisoner, still where she had been for the last untold centuries.

Linette began to cry in earnest now. She knew full well that she was the reason these children suffered and died and the reason that their parents would mourn their loss, whether they realized it or not. At the same time though, she had come to know this place, to belong here, to need to be here. She was afraid that she would find a way to escape and return to Faerie Land. She was afraid that she was no longer the gentle, beautiful princess that had been stolen away. She didn’t even know if she was still in her natural form. She barely remembered those days, eons ago, when she had frolicked in the fields of Faerie and led her people in joyous revels. A scream tore through the air and she sighed. She was not in Faerie, she was in Hell. So far gone was she, that the scream didn’t do anything but remind her where she was. She had long since become immune to the screams and torment of adults, but never to the screams of children.

Crickets

The only thing they could hear were the crickets. It was dark and the air was starting to turn chill and the night was full of crickets chirping. Molly grabbed her twin by the arm and tugged him along.
“We can’t stop.”
“I know that.”
But his footsteps slowed as he tugged out of her grip. It wasn’t as though they knew where they were going, so why did pressing on matter so much? Barrett sighed and closed his eyes, listening. There weren’t any roads out this far. Only them and the crickets in the grass. Every so often, one of them heard a rustle and they prayed it wasn’t something larger, something dangerous. They should’ve been able to remember the way. It hadn’t been that long, after all. They’d just come this way with their father. And where was he? There should’ve been lights. Should’ve been tracks. Should’ve been something. They’d woken up alone in the grass with no sign of which way he’d gone. Barrett stopped completely and his hands went to fists at his sides.
“I don’t want to go home, Moll. They don’t want us there. You know it too, you’re just not admitting it.”
Molly stopped and turned to look at him, her jaw tight with stubbornness. Then she sighed and looked down.
“Have you got a better plan, Bar?”
He looked up towards the stars.
“We could…go somewhere else. Find our own way, you know?”
After a moment, he reached for Molly’s hand and she smiled.
“Think we can?”
“I know we can. Just gotta stick together.”
Looking around for a moment, they picked a direction and headed off together while the crickets chirped all around them.

Disguise

Lady Niamh smiled down at the bundle in her arms as she walked into her husband’s study. Lord Tellys sat at his crystalline desk studying maps and ledgers. She could see the frustration evident in his form as he studied one list in particular. With a growled curse, he crumpled up the parchment and flung it across the room.

“Why?” He raged, slamming his fist on the desk. “Why must we continue this foolishness? And why does the King refuse to tell us the reasons?”

The shouting stirred the little boy and he awoke with a start. As the little human began to cry, the elven man at the desk turned, eyes wide, to gaze upon his wife.

“My dear lord Tellys, I have returned from a walk in mortal country. I took one of the marks and left a Fetch in his place.” She gently rocked the little boy until his crying abated. “His name is Hayden, and he is to be our son and no part of this foolishness, as you called it.”

Tellys smiled broadly, some of the stress on his face easing. He stood and embraced his wife and new foundling son. He took the little boy into his arms and looked him over. Nodding his approval, he passed a hand over the boy’s head and placed a strong magic on him to disguise his nature. His round little ears came to a point and his eyes sharpened to become slightly more feline. His little fingers became slightly longer and some of his baby fat thinned out. His rough homespun was replaced with fine silk and his little feet were in warm, soft slippers. All in all, he was a proper little elf. Then Tellys put his hand over the boy’s eyes and spoke a short word that just about crackled with power.

“There, Niamh. Now no one will ever know that our son is, in fact, a mortal child and no one will ever try and take him away from us. I also saw to it that he will see through Glamour, though most mortals are unable. I think though, that you should go a find him a proper nursemaid. And I shall correct the reports to his majesty to reflect the fact that his capture was not successful.”

There was an open smile on her face, so pleased was Niamh with this subtle rebellion against the horridness that was the Tithe. She cooed to the child softly, holding him against her breast as she strode from the room. Tellys smiled broadly as he sunk back into his chair and gaze at the records, maps, and lists before him. They all seemed inconsequential at this precious moment when he had beaten the Tithe.

A Prelude to Murder

Master Byron Galewind leaned over his desk, his ledgers spread before him. He only had a few more rows of accounts he would like to have settled before the guests began to arrive. Glancing at the window, he knew he was cutting it close, but Tywin would forgive him. He always did, after all. At the thought of his husband, a tender smile crossed the half-elven man’s face. Just these last few rows and then he would dress for the dinner party they were hosting together.


Tywin Galewind practically floated through the estate in his new vivid purple robes bedecked in stars. He looked the very image of a master wizard, even if he only knew the most basic spells of the illusion school. He could hear quiet conversation in the formal sitting room and wondered who had arrived. What he found was his adopted Tiefling son, Gareth, chatting with his sister-in-law, Sadry. Gareth was hugging his pull-string dog tightly to his chest and he had a nervous smile on his face. Sadry, a full Elf to her brother’s half, looked up and smiled brightly.
“Ty!” She hugged him tightly and he laughed, returning the hug. “It’s good to see you. Will my brother be joining us or is he still-?”
“Buried in numbers, I’m afraid. But never fear, he promised this time.”
Tywin looked around to find Gareth again, but the little boy had vanished. He had a rather unnerving habit of doing that, but Tywin assumed it was just a relic of his time on the streets. Or a piece of his demonic heritage. One of those. Instead, he spotted Cogsworth. Smiling at the Gnomish butler, he turned away from Sadry.
“Yes, Cogsworth?”
“Lady Belissa of Runnerspring has arrived, Master Tywin, and she’s absolutely insistent that you see her immediately.”
Tywin sighed just slightly.
“Of course she is. Sadry, I-”
“Don’t worry about it, Ty. We both know how your cousin feels about me and Byron.”


Lady Belissa of Runnerspring didn’t like many things. She didn’t like that her cousin had married a commoner. She didn’t like that he associated with merchants. And above all else, she didn’t like that half of those merchants would like very much to put a blade between the ribs of either her cousin or his husband or, preferably, both. So, when she arrived at the Galewind home, the first thing she did was check in with her agent.
“Well, Cogsworth?”
“All has been well, my Lady. And I ensured that the Masters were never even aware of the last assassin that came for them.”
“Good. And this boy?”
“I’ve done a full background check and he is as he appears to be.”
Belissa nodded slowly.
“Very well. In that case, I wish to see my cousin.”
Cogsworth bowed deeply.
“Right away, my Lady.”


The last usual guest waited. He was unsure that he should be there, but by that same token, he should be seen in public while his plan went forward. In the end, Dennis Chandler arrived at the door and was led in. He paid no mind to the maid as she went up the stairs, even though he knew who she truly was. He’d seen to that some time ago. And it hadn’t even been difficult to replace the girl they’d had working for them with one of his own. He asked the Gnome they had as butler to get him a drink and settled into one of the comfortable chairs to enjoy the tense silence between Belissa of Runnerspring and Sadry Galewind. He wondered how quickly they would turn on each other when his plan had come to fruition. He would almost lay odds that Sadry would accuse Belissa of causing it. He hoped the Priestess had her bow ready.


Byron didn’t close his ledgers. He merely sprinkled sand across the ink to help it dry faster and went to change into his most elegant clothes for the evening. He didn’t see the girl come up behind him, wouldn’t have thought a thing of it if he had. As the blood pooled on the bed under him and he faded into the darkness, Byron’s last thoughts were to regret breaking his promise to Tywin.


The last guests had only just arrived, a group of adventurers from the local guild. Tywin and Byron had invited them on a whim, hoping that real adventurers would liven up the party some. With the guests all waiting in the formal sitting room, Cogsworth began to relax. With them all in one place, he could watch Chandler. That was when they all heard the scream issuing from upstairs. It was the maid.

Abduction

The morning air was chilled and dew rested on the grass. A sound broke the tableau, accompanied by a smattering of lights. It was the sound of a giggling child crossing the green, shadowed expanse. The boy-child tottered unevenly, holding the hand of what appeared to be a tiny little grandfather. They were an unusual looking pair to be sure, and the boy tugged on the diminutive old man’s hand, trying to pull him towards the little lights that danced and swirled around before them. Out of the forest ahead of them, stepped a shadowy figure. As the light of morning slowly began to dawn, her features coalesced. She was beautiful, a tall and lithe figure that moved like a dancer. Her every motion seemed to have been planned out ahead of time by some great artist to ensure that in any position, she was the perfect model for his art. Her raven black hair was tied up in a braid and she wore an elegant dress of pale green silk tied with a white sash around her trim waist.

“Very good, Brody, very good. Let me see the child.” The lady’s voice was as elegant as she was, nearly a lilting song as she spoke.

The tiny little man bowed, his knees knocking together, and thrust the child forward to his mistress. She scooped the toddler into her arms and examined him. His hair was a dark mass atop his head and his pale, green eyes gazed up at her with no fear what so ever.

“Yes…very well done indeed, Brody. I think that I shall keep him. Prepare the Fetch to replace him.” She braced the boy on her hip and began to walk back into the forest. “Has he a name he answers to?”

“He does, Lady Niamh. The lad is known as Hayden.”

The little man bowed again, trotting over to a cloth-wrapped package with far more alacrity than his wrinkled and knock-kneed form should allow him. As the lady stepped fully into the forest, Brody unwrapped the package to reveal what appeared to be the body of a child. He smeared a vile smelling oil on the forehead of the little body and it shook for a moment, then lay still again. Brody cursed softly and then began to move his hands in a complex pattern. Lights swirled out from his hands, encompassing the little body until it shaped into the form of Hayden and stood.

“Go back to your bed, Hayden. You saw nothing on this night and nothing is out of the ordinary.”

The little Fetch tottered back towards the village while the real Hayden fell asleep in the arms of the Lady Niamh and passed into Faerie Land without ever seeing the changeover.

Normalcy

Kelsy finished tying her hair back and checked her make-up in the mirror one more time. Sure, she hated the stuff, but she had to wear it when she went out for volunteering days with her parents. The press always ended up showing up, no matter how much no one wanted them there. Her parents were waiting for her in the front foyer along with Douglas, Dad’s bodyguard.

“Don’t worry, Kels, we’re gonna have a good time today. And, we’ll get some ice cream after, alright?”

“Yeah, sure, Dad.”

It took a lot of effort for Kelsy to hold in the responses she wanted to make. Didn’t her father realize she enjoyed helping? She wasn’t some little kid who needed to be rewarded for being a decent human being. She had always understood that his political career hinged on her ability to behave herself in public. Soon, they were piled into the car and buzzing along down backstreets through the bad parts of town, the parts of town she was only allowed in so long as she was with her family. There was one thing she could say for the day, it was largely uneventful. Hour upon hour of serving people food and talking to the people who came here. Everything was going great. That was…until the door opened and two people she recognized walked in.

Oh no. Oh no. No no no no no. It would be Darcy. If anyone was going to catch me, it would be Darcy.

Niall Darcy led his younger sister into the line, looking sullen. The last thing he wanted was to be here yet again, but there was no other way to make sure he and Maeve were getting enough food, at least not without a lot of stealing. And wasn’t that what their father was in prison for in the first place? Yeah, that wasn’t happening. He didn’t notice right away who was handing him the tray, so focused was he on his own thoughts. Then he looked up to ask for extra milk for Maeve when he realized he was looking into the brown eyes of Kelsy Cloudsinger from school. Only…she was wearing make-up and…

“Uh…hi Niall.”

“Hi.” His words were curt and she pulled back a little. “Can I get a second milk for her?”

It wasn’t a question, not really.

“Uh…yeah, sure.”

“Hey, Kels,” The tall charming man who was helping out came over to see what she was doing and then he smiled broadly. “Did you say Niall? Your friend from school, right?”

“He’s um…not exactly my friend, Dad.”

Dad? Niall blinked a little, This guy’s her dad? Isn’t he that congressman from the news? Cunningham?

“Yeah. Not exactly.”

Niall took the second milk carton and made sure Maeve took it before walking off to find a table. Maeve gave Kelsy a smile with far too many teeth and nothing in it that seemed friendly before following her brother.

“Not a friend? Funny, you’ve mentioned him enough.”

“He’s a troublemaker, Dad…It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Walking to her locker Monday morning, Kelsy felt something odd in the air. People were paying far more attention to her than usual and she wasn’t entirely pleased about it. Especially not with the whispering and the muttering. Then she noticed that there was a picture from the paper taped to her locker and groaned. So much for normalcy.