The Dragon Who Wanted a Princess

Once upon a time, there was a mighty dragon. She lived on her towering hoard of precious, shiny things in a cavern deep below the ground. But there was one thing she didn’t have: a princess. She knew all about princesses from books, so she knew that all the very best dragons have a princess to call their own. So, one day she went out into the city to find herself a princess.


She walked through a neighborhood of houses that stood side-by-side and heard a voice shouting “Princess! Come here, Princess!”

“Well, that was easy!”

She ran towards the voice and found a woman feeding a cat.

“That’s not a princess, that’s a cat.”

She tried some of the kitty kibble and then went back on the search.


She walked down to the wharf and heard a voice saying “The Princess is almost ready to go.”

“Well, that was easy!”

She ran towards the voice and found a sailor getting a ship ready to travel.

“That’s not a princess, that’s a ship.”

She tried to stowaway, just in case, but ended up getting all wet.


She walked through the market and heard a voice saying, “That’s right, Princess.”

“This one has to be a princess.”

She ran towards the voice and found a man with a horse-drawn carriage.

“That’s not a princess, that’s a horse.”

She tried to get a ride, but she scared the horses.


Exhausted, she walked to the park and sat on a bright blue bench.

“I’ll never find a real princess.”

Three little girls heard her sad words and came over to see if they could help.

“Why are you looking for a princess, little dragon?”

“Because without a princess, I can’t be a real dragon.”

The girls whispered to each other for a minute and then held out a little sparkly purple tiara.

“Now you’re a princess. A dragon princess!”


So the little dragon thanked the girls very much and took her new tiara back home to her hoard in her cavern deep under the city. Now she was even greater than those other dragons. They only caught princesses. She had become one.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

The Ship of Dreams

“I will arrive by week’s end, my love. Wait for me at the White Star Dock and together we will have the someday I have promised you for so long.”
Those had been the words Harry had written Clara in the last letter before he took to sea. Now, she held that letter before her as she stitched shirt sleeves with the other young women chatting around her.
“News from home, Clarrie?”
She smiled up at the older woman. Erin was a kindly grandmother of a woman with curly hair that had once been as red as Clara’s was blonde.
“From my fiancé. Harry’s coming over on a ship this very week.”
There was a chorus of excitement all about the factory, one which was quickly silenced as they heard the door from the offices opening. It wouldn’t do to be seen lazing. Even if they were doing no such thing. Clara’s sewing needle darted in and out of the cloth she was stitching as she imagined seeing Harry again for the first time in nearly a year. They could finally marry, finally start a family and finally have the life they’d been dreaming about for so long.
As Clara tidied up her station, Erin waited patiently. It was a custom of theirs for Clara to walk the older woman to her lodgings before headed home herself.
“So, tell me, Miss Clara. Is he coming on that fine ship of dreams everyone’s been talking about in the papers?”
Clara absolutely beamed, her smile threatening to split her cheeks.
“He is! I’m just so excited, Erin.”
Placing her hat on her head, Clara turned that smile on Erin.
“Any day now.”
Erin offered her young friend a smile of her own, then concern flickered onto her face.
“Will you be leaving us?”
As they walked to the door, Clara waved that concern off.
“Not right away. Someday, certainly, when we’ve a mind to start a family. But we’ll need the money I make until Harry’s all settled in.”

The sound that woke Harry O’Dell was like nothing he’d ever heard before. It was metal shearing metal, like the very walls of the ship were being rent by some giant with a knife. He leapt out of his narrow cot and was in the hallway in naught but trousers in a moment. There were others there as well, women holding crying children, even some of the ship’s crew looking just as lost as the rest of them.
“What’s going on?” He grabbed one of the crewmen as he passed. “What happened?”
The man looked at Harry, taking in his red hair and freckled face before shaking him off.
“Nothing. It was nothing. Go back to bed.”
The man continued on down the corridor, moving briskly and leaving Harry in his dust. Resigned, Harry turned back to his room to help the young mother bunked in with him calm her two young children.
When the water began to enter the compartment, Harry knew they had been lied to. Whatever had happened was far from nothing.

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Titanic sinks! Massive loss of life!”
Clara stopped dead in her tracks, slowly turning to look at the young newsie standing on the side of the road.
“Wh-what did you just say?”
“The ship, Ma’am, it sunk. Hit a big old iceberg, it did.”
She was shaking as she held her hand out.
“How much for the paper?”
“A penny, Ma’am.”
He held out his hand and she gave him one of her precious pennies, taking the paper. Slumped against a nearby building, she began to read. In the dark hours long before dawn. A great loss of life. Mainly women and children among the survivors. Harry, oh Harry.

Hot, silent tears streamed from her eyes and Clara’s grip on the too fragile newsprint tightening until it tore. She stared for a long moment at the shredded yellow paper in her hands. It didn’t matter now. It didn’t matter how much they had both saved and scrimped and scanted. There was no future for Clara and Harry, no future in which she was Mrs. O’Dell. All the happy dreams of a home together and a little crop of children under foot were as sunk as the vessel that had called itself the Ship of Dreams.

The paper fell from Clara’s fingers as she walked towards Pier 54 where the ship would have come in. There was already a crowd when she arrived, but she paid them no attention. She stood nearby, as close as she could get, and stared out at the water. It wasn’t the ocean, not here, not really. But she wondered, as she stared into the water, if God would bring her to Harry if she jumped in anyway. The thought nearly slapped her in the face when she realized why she had come here, what she was contemplating. Then she thought of the life ahead of her, so far from the land of her birth and her family and now without her Harry O’Dell. There were tears in her eyes as she stepped off into the air.

Phone Calls

As the door to the White Elephant opened, I looked up half making a silent bet with myself. Tourist, God, or wayward soul? I hadn’t bet on a teenage girl being escorted by a large dog.
“Um…” I hesitated for a moment, uncertain. I didn’t interact with the boss’ daughter much. Usually Mel was out on the beach with Spots or off in the city with her dad. “Hi. Is…um…?”
“Spots knows how to behave.”
Mel took my stammered question the wrong way, but I didn’t push the matter. She slipped behind the counter and the Great Dane settled onto a cushion in the corner. I watched him for a long moment, wondering if I could get her to teach me her tricks for dealing with her parents’ guard dog.
“Mother told me to tell you call your parents and say we’re taking you for dinner tonight. She wants you to meet Father.” Mel grinned wickedly. “Don’t worry, he’ll like you. Oh, and Mother said if you want Hermes’ number after all, she can give it to you. Apparently he likes you a lot.”
That was a whole lot to take in and I took a deep breath, leaning on the counter.
“I’ll go call them.”
She flicked a piece of paper in my direction and I blinked, taking it.
“His number. Seriously, Uncle Hermes likes you. Like…like-like. Date territory. Carpe diem, mortal girl.”
I crammed the paper into my pocket and just about fled out the back door to take my five and make a phone call. Or maybe two.

Music From the Heart

I’d been busking on the same street corner every summer since I left high school. I had a guitar and a dream and I wasn’t planning on letting go of either, not now and not ever. When things got a little tight, I sold things. But never my old acoustic guitar.

It was a day like any other when he appeared. At first, I thought he would just walk by like everyone else as I strummed my chords and sang my own songs in a voice loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to bother people. He didn’t though. He didn’t look away or ignore me. He stopped and leaned against a lamp post, closed his sky blue eyes to listen. He had on a suit in a shimmery blue so dark it was almost black and long hair that fell loose to his shoulders. When I finished the song, he smiled and I had to look down. It was almost like staring into the sun. But he stepped closer and dropped something into my case.

“That was some beautiful music. From the heart. Be proud of it.”

I started to look up, to say something. What do you even say? But he just stuck his hands back in his pockets and walked off, humming the chorus I had written. I felt my legs going to jelly as I looked down to see what he’d left. I picked up the $20 bill with hands that shook. No one had ever given me that much. And there was something folded in it. It dropped from my fingers and I knelt to retrieve it. A business card for the Sunburst, a club up town. And there was a note on the back.

Call me if you want a performing gig. It really was that good. -A

Red Eyes

I held the bag tight against my chest and moved through the forest in silence. Drawing attention to myself at this point would be worse than suicidal. I could hear the movement further out in the darkness, just beyond the light of the path. Most Fae avoided the paths. Paths are bad, dangerous, mortal. As a Changeling, the paths are safety for me…except against one thing. The Red Eyes hunt the paths. I can almost feel them watching me as I move. Lords and Ladies, I hope I get home soon. There were rules for this, of course. Not that the Red Eyes follow rules, but instead Faerie Land would enforce the rules for me. If I didn’t think I could get back to our holding, I could take the next turn and hide in the standing stones. No one could harm another in there. Mistress had said they were dangerous for other reasons though, only to hide there if I had no other choice. Whirling around at the sound of footsteps, I nearly dropped the bag, which would have been a mistake unto itself. A younger Changeling I knew was barreling towards me like a bat out of hell. His eyes were huge and wild and his tail coursed behind him like a pennant in a wind. He was one of the ones who had changed their shape as soon as they could, becoming far more a raccoon than a human.

“Coop?”

“Mouse! Run! Hunters!”

He didn’t have to say it twice. I grabbed his arm as he would have gone past the stones and pulled him down that path instead. As soon as we were a few feet down that path, I moved to let go, confident he would follow. He grabbed at my arm, clinging fiercely. Poor guy must be terrified. I thought, just as I passed through the stones and came to a sudden jerky stop. Turning, I was surprised to see that Coop still held my arm and was on the outside of the stones.

“Come on! What are you waiting for?”

“I can’t. It must be the old magic. Come on, let’s keep running. There must be somewhere else that’s safe.”

I tried to shake off his grip, suddenly wary.

“Coop, come on, don’t be silly. As long as you’re not going to hurt anyone, you can come in here.”

Listening for a moment, I realized I couldn’t hear any other footsteps. Just the sound of our heavy breathing. Then I felt his fingers tighten even more on my arm. That’s when it hit me.

“Oh…oh no. Coop. No…no…no…no…You didn’t. No. There’s no way…”

He let go and flung himself at the space between the standing stones, falling to the ground in a pile of fur and snarls. There it was, on the back of his neck. The Red Eye. There were tears pouring down my face as I curled up in the middle of the circle. Mistress would find me later, I knew. But until then, I could wait here and mourn for my friend.

Haunted Hide and Seek

The fences around churchyards were iron for a reason. Time wore on, though, as it always does, and that reason was forgotten. People erected chain fences and used padlocks to keep other people out. They forgot about the things that needed to be kept in.
Jack stood by the gate with her hood up, watching the people as they moved about among the tombstones to visit ancestors and loved ones. With any luck, none of them would see her. It was rare but possible. After all, those who were close to needing her services were likely to have death on the mind. She glanced at the sky. The sun would be setting soon, and then it would be time to get to work. Once the living were gone, then she could look for that which they had set free.
A long, low moan echoed through the now empty burying ground and Jack winced. It was the sound of metal grinding somewhere. Probably a crypt door, if she knew anything about her line of work. Now came the first of many unpleasant parts of the evening: crossing the boundary line into the sanctified part of the grounds. Jack stretched and pulled her hood down as she walked towards the fence. Then she passed through it. That was never a fun time, but she had made it through. That meant it was hunting time. Extending her hand, she called her scythe forth and spun it idly as she walked.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are.”
She singsonged her words as she scanned the area around her. There was the open crypt. Time to investigate. She stepped up to the door and stuck her head inside.
“Olly olly oxen free!”
But there was nothing undead in there. Nothing moving.
“Well, that’s bad. That means it’s out there somewhere.”
Turning, she scanned the horizon again. It would be here still, somewhere. Then she gritted her teeth. No, it had a way out, dammit.
“Stupid humans forgetting the rules!”
Scythe in hand, Jack sprinted for the main gate of the cemetery. Iron would have kept the thing in. Iron would have kept the humans safe. Iron would have made her job a world of easier. Instead, she found herself getting there just too slow as the undead creature wrenched the gates open and crossed the barrier. The land of the living had been breached. Jack swung her scythe up into an attack position. She still had time, before something else noticed what had happened. She could still reap this lost soul and keep the world in balance. Then something slammed into her from behind. When she stood again, her prey was gone and a human teenager sat on the ground behind her, blinking up with wide confused eyes from behind his too-large glasses.
“Well, shit. This day just keeps getting better and better…”