Insufferably Perfect

“Brother, I have something of a question for you.”
Cliff looked up, setting aside the leather he was cleaning.
“Is that so?”
The Prince of Knives and Thorns leaned against the wall of the stables tossing one of his many throwing knives lightly in one hand.
“I have noticed, of late, that you spend a great deal of time with my sister. More than I would think to see between friends. And I have seen, once or twice, a form I believe to be hers sneaking out of your chambers of an evening.”
Eyes wide, Cliff could feel his cheeks going hot. Keeping his eyes on that knife, he stood.
“None of that was a question, you know.”
The Prince chuckled, catching his knife by the hilt in a smooth motion.
“Then I will speak plainly. Are you and my sister involved romantically?”
“Yes.”
Lying would be stupid, far more stupid than admitting to what was quite obviously there. Even if it was looking more and more likely he was about to be turned into the Prince’s personal pin cushion. Then, much to Cliff’s surprise, the Prince sheathed the knife completely and stepped in to give him a hug.
“Good! You too are insufferably perfect for each other and I had been bereft thinking neither of you had noticed!”

Little Lion

  Under the screams of his parents arguing, he could still hear something coming from his bedroom closet. Something shattered in the other room and the screaming continued, only broken by periodic sobbing and the sounds of something striking flesh. He wasn’t sure which was worse. Then the closet door opened completely and Lionel pulled the blankets up higher trying to hide. The black eye still dominating his small, pale face told him he couldn’t go run for help.
“Lionel?”
The voice was female, soft and surprisingly gentle. Poking his head out the slightest bit, he saw a beautiful woman with the darkest skin he’d ever seen. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that seemed to be made of a mass of braids and her eyes were gentle.
“You’re not a monster, right?”
His voice was still quiet, full of fear. But her light laugh and little smile allayed his fears.
“No, little one, I am not one of the monsters.” Her glance strayed towards the door of his room, but then she smiled at him again. “Would you like to go somewhere where you will not be hurt again?”
He started to nod eagerly and then looked down.
“What about Mama?”
Her eyes, nearly black as coals but with just a hint of flame in them, turned away from him.
“She cannot come, dear one. She…would not be welcomed where we would go. Do you deny that she has also turned a hand against you?”
With a little sniffle, he shook his head.
“She only does when Daddy hurts her.”
“My poor little one, that is not for you to bear. Come away with me and be happy. Never again be hurt. Be a child.”
He smiled a gap-tooth grin and nodded.
“Can Teddy come?”
This time, he held up a small bear covered in patches and wearing a small cape.
“Oh yes, Teddy can come.” The woman scooped him up in her arms and strode towards the closet once more. “One last thing, before we go. From this point onwards, tell no one that you are Lionel.”
“Why?”
He had already wrapped his arms around her neck and cuddled against her shoulder like he belonged there.
“Because if anyone knew, they could use your name to hurt you.”
“Oh…so what do I get called?”
She kissed him gently on the forehead, healing the bruises on his face.
“We shall see.”

Delicious

There’s a place out in the hills where there’s a tree bent to form an arch, just by a pond. That was where I met her. She was sitting by the water quietly playing an old acoustic guitar. I had been out for a hike, my pack still on. I was looking at my GPS when I heard the sound. It had started to go on the fritz about five minutes prior and I’d been worried I’d get lost out here without it. When I heard the music, I slipped the device back into a pocket and held my hand up in greeting.
“Hi!”
She turned, startlement clear on her face.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wasn’t expecting to see anyone else out here.”
She stood slowly, setting the guitar on the rock, and stepped towards me. It wasn’t until then that I processed that her ears came to long points and that her eyes were a pure gold.
“Hello, mortal boy.”
I gulped, not sure if maybe I wasn’t more dehydrated than I thought. I could be hallucinating. She reached out to touch my cheek, a smile on her face.
“You seem scared, pretty mortal boy.”
I took a breath, trying to get my racing heart back under control.
“I’m…I’m not a-”
She looked me up and down in a way that was half curious and half flirtatious.
“Not in body, but you are in your mind, are you not?”
I took a step back. How had she known that? I hadn’t told anyone yet. That’s why I was out here alone, trying to figure out how to tell them.
“Stay with me, pretty mortal boy, and I will sing for you and you can be happy with me.”
It was tempting, oh so tempting.
“What about my…family? My friends?”
She shrugged, clearly not caring.
“No doubt they will believe that the girl-you-are-now died in the woods alone. So sad. And you would stay here as my prince.”
I shook my head fiercely.
“I can’t do that to them.”
She laughed coldly.
“Did you not come here to kill the girl you are?”
I clenched my fists.
“Not like that.”
“They will hurt still.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know mortals, pretty mortal boy. I remember the fires.”
I shoved her back.
“You don’t know anything.” And then I spoke again. “I won’t stay here. I know what I need to do now and I’m doing it.”
I turned on my heel and strode off, half expecting her to stop me. Instead, I heard her speak softly, a smile in her voice.
“Wise choice. Though, I imagine you would have been delicious.”

Little Lion

Under the screams of his parents arguing, he could still hear something coming from his bedroom closet. Something shattered in the other room and the screaming continued, only broken by periodic sobbing and the sounds of something striking flesh. He wasn’t sure which was worse. Then the closet door opened completely and Lionel pulled the blankets up higher trying to hide. The black eye still dominating his small, pale face told him he couldn’t go run for help.
“Lionel?”
The voice was female, soft and surprisingly gentle. Poking his head out the slightest bit, he saw a beautiful woman with the darkest skin he’d ever seen. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that seemed to be made of a mass of braids and her eyes were gentle.
“You’re not a monster, right?”
His voice was still quiet, full of fear. But her light laugh and little smile allayed his fears.
“No, little one, I am not one of the monsters.” Her glance strayed towards the door of his room, but then she smiled at him again. “Would you like to go somewhere where you will not be hurt again?”
He started to nod eagerly and then looked down.
“What about Mama?”
Her eyes, nearly black as coals but with just a hint of flame in them, turned away from him.
“She cannot come, dear one. She…would not be welcomed where we would go. Do you
deny that she has also turned a hand against you?”
With a little sniffle, he shook his head.
“She only does when Daddy hurts her.”
“My poor little one, that is not for you to bear. Come away with me and be happy. Never again be hurt. Be a child.”
He smiled a gap-tooth grin and nodded.
“Can Teddy come?”
This time, he held up a small bear covered in patches and wearing a small cape.
“Oh yes, Teddy can come.” The woman scooped him up in her arms and strode towards the closet once more. “One last thing, before we go. From this point onwards, tell no one that you are Lionel.”
“Why?”
He had already wrapped his arms around her neck and cuddled against her shoulder like he belonged there.
“Because if anyone knew, they could use your name to hurt you.”
“Oh…so what do I get called?”
She kissed him gently on the forehead, healing the bruises on his face.
“We shall see.”

Mistress and Mouse

One in three hundred twenty-five. That’s how many people go missing and don’t come home in a year. The crazier part is, that’s the same percentage that a herd loses to predators on the Savannah. Kinda raises a question, doesn’t it? Who or what is hunting us? I’m in a unique position to find out for you, it turns out. Do you know why? I’m missing. My name doesn’t matter anymore, so don’t worry about it. I guess you need something to call me, so let’s go with Mouse. As of right now, I’ve been officially missing for two years, five months and fifteen days. I was twenty-four when I went missing, gone out for a night on the town with friends and never came back. My friends have no idea what happened. I was there one minute and gone the next. I’m putting this out there hoping maybe someday one of them will see it and understand, know what really happened.

The night was cool but the smoke and sound in the bar were starting to get oppressive. The same skeez-ball had been trying and failing both to stand up straight and flirt with me pretty much all night and I was sick of it. I was just going outside to get some air, I’d be right back in. There was a woman already standing out there, dressed all in leather and lace. I’ll never forget my first sight of her, with just the barest hint of the tattoos that run all the way up her arms and down her back showing, just tiny hints of black feathers. Her hair was jet black and cut in one of those gorgeous asymmetrical bobs. In short, she looked like death in heels, but if death had just walked off the runway. She turned to look at me, tapping the ashes off her cigarette and smiled. Her eyes were the purest green I’d ever seen. Not even an emerald looks that bright.
“Hello there, little mouse. Escaping your playmates?”
“Wh-what? No, I just wanted some air.”
“Really? I saw you in there, off on the edge and they did nothing to help you with that…I hesitate to call him a man. You deserve more respect than that.”
“Um…thanks? Yeah…I should…I should go back in. My friends are wai-”
The air started to feel heavy and I wanted to run. Something was very, very wrong. If I was a mouse as she’d named me, her’s were the cat’s paws entrapping me. I didn’t even think. I couldn’t, really. The next thing I knew, I was following her as she led me away. Parked just around the corner was a red and white corvette, one of the old ones. Every inch of it shone and I remember the smell of the leather and thinking just how comfortable it was as I buckled myself into the passenger seat. I think I fell asleep. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well, that’s just how it happened.

“Wake up, little mouse.”
All around me was silkiness, soft as lying in a cloud, and I was reluctant to move. Slowly, I opened my eyes and looked up at the woman I’d left with. That’s when it all hit me.
“You…you kidnapped me!” I pulled back, trying to get as far away from her as I could. “You’re some kind of…of…murdering psychopath and you drugged me and…”
“Oh, you silly little thing. I’m far worse than that. Now calm yourself and come eat. You should get cleaned up as well and take some time to get used to your new home.”
“This isn’t my home. You’re crazy and I want to go home.”
I could feel the hot tears pouring down my face as I glared at her. She sighed slightly and shrugged.
“If you don’t wish to eat, I shan’t force you. But you ought, little mouse.”

She left me alone. I don’t know for how long. All I had were those four walls and that soft bed. There were no books, no tv, no phone, nothing. There weren’t even windows or a door. That was the strangest part. I couldn’t figure how she left. Not until she came back, anyway.
“Little mouse, I’m back and I brought you a pizza. You must be famished.”
I sat up and watched her walk in through a door I was certain hadn’t been there minutes before and just as she’d promised, she held a pizza box. Standing slowly, I went to take it from her and then sat on the floor with my back to the wall.
“Thanks, I guess.”
“You should be careful with that word around here, pet.”
“I’m not your pet,” I snapped.
“You still don’t understand where you are and what I am, do you?”
When I looked up to snap a retort about her being crazy, I froze with my eyes wide and mouth hanging open. She glowed subtly from under her skin and her ears had lengthened and came to a point. The most startling change was the wings, all made up of black feathers like a raven.
“Y-you…you…wh-what? What are you?”
“I am one of the Fair Folk, pet. And that is why you can’t go home.” She knelt in front of me and stroked my cheek gently. “Years, years I’ve been watching you. When you and your mother ran from the man who called himself your father, I was there. When you were in school, awkward and learning to be yourself, I was there. I eased you through your nightmares and guided you to your dreams. And now, I have finally come to collect my due. Did you not once wish that someone would make things better? That someone would just take you away?”
I don’t know if it was a spell or if I felt I owed her or what, but I didn’t ask her to bring me home again after that.

My name is Mouse and I’ve missing for two years, five months and fifteen days. My ears come to a point, though they’re still short. I can’t quite weave a glamour yet, but I’m almost there. My mistress saved me from the world of men, brought me away into her world. But I am still the mouse in her feline games. They are the hunters, these Fair Folk. But not all who hunt seek to kill. Some intend to save their prey.

The Changeling

The three children walked across the moorlands of Faerie, each one leading a mount behind them. The sky was just starting to lighten, the sun rising slowly. The Prince of Knives and Thorns glanced at his two companions, waiting for the human amongst them to finally say what had been on her mind for so long, what had been weighing on her. He noticed it more and more of late, especially in their classes on etiquette and those on swordplay. Finally, she looked down, squeezing her eyes shut.
“Is it so hard to begin?”
The Princess of Fallen Leaves and Falling Stars rested a hand on Alycia’s shoulder, trying to reassure, only to have it shaken off.
“It is. I’m…afraid.”
“Is it something dangerous?” The Prince asked the question with a touch of excitement in his voice. “May we help?”
The laugh that came then was strained.
“I don’t know if it’s dangerous. I just know that it’s important.” For a long moment, she was silent. Then the words began to come, quietly at first. “I haven’t felt right about a lot of things lately. It’s hard to explain, I just have. Like I don’t belong in my own body. Like it’s wrong, like it isn’t right for me. I don’t…I’m not…I’m not a girl.” Then just slightly more confident, a little louder. “I’m a boy.”
The Prince shot his friend a relieved smile.
“Oh! Is that all? I was starting to worry you might be trying to say you were under a curse. And that would just be awkward.”
Blinking a few times, the young human finally pulled his fist back and socked the Prince as hard as he could.
“You ass! I was worried you were going to freak out or treat me differently or something!”
“Why should I? You’re still my friend. And now you’re just my brother instead of my sister. Nothing’s changed.”
The Princess wrapped her arms around the young boy and kissed his cheek.
“I think you were very brave to tell us, scared as you were.”
He blushed brightly and ducked his head as she continued speaking.
“Let us go home and we can get you new attire, to befit who you are. And speak to Mother about what can be done to help.”
Reaching up, the young changeling tugged at his ponytail.
“And a haircut, I think.”


Note: I know, I know, I hardly ever leave comments on my own writing. In this case, though, I had to. I want to clear up a few things for my dear readers, particularly those who might be alarmed or confused, about the use of pronouns in this story. You may be familiar with how important it is to never misgender someone and you may also have noticed that the pronouns used for the young changeling change partway through the story. That’s because this story isn’t from his perspective. The other characters simply don’t know, particularly the Prince who’s perspective this is. Once they know, the narration switches to the correct pronouns. I hope that helps to clear things up. Thanks 🙂