“Just More Chaos”; Chapter Seven Part Two

Up on the rooftop, Kuryo placed me on the snow before him. The wind whipped around us, rising now in biting touch. I couldn’t move. I was just a blob, just a being, and I sat before him like a small ball. In fact, as I saw my reflection in his beady crow eye, I looked like an eyeball. Yuck.

The crow that he was lifted his wings majestically, and I cringed. Here it came. Was he going to peck me apart? Gobble me down in one piece? Or just – metaphysically – something?

It turned out to be the metaphysically ‘something’. A grip came over me, warm and enveloping. I felt myself separate in ways that I’d never been before. A buddhist would probably be all ‘yeah, see, that part there -‘ and then I’d punch them. It was very uncomfortable in a painless but icky kind of way. It was like – I don’t know. Watching yourself get torn apart?

One by one, the pieces began dissolving apart, slipping into Kuryo. I felt it, felt him, and became him. Our subconsciousness began to merge. In a flood I felt all his thoughts, his memories, and knew so much- and the next instant I was seeing through his birdie eyes, and the next – something went terribly wrong.

“Agh!” Kuryo gasped as an arrow pierced through us.

The world careened, pain jabbing as we bounced down. Kuryo lamely flapped, and we thudded down into a pile of snow. So cold!

But for once my thoughts weren’t on the snow. My thoughts were on the consciousness that I felt fading next to me.

“What are you doing?” I shrieked. I wasn’t fading! “Where are you going?”

There was a spluttering thought, and I saw a galaxy.

“No!” I shrieked, mind crashing. This couldn’t be happening. What was happening?

A pair of boots crunched down before us and Bella’s face was grinning down. She had her bow in one hand. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she crooned as she reached down to scoop us up.

Kuryo was scrambling. His power jolted, and the world around us with it. Lights blared, and we reappeared on a soft bed. In his room. Still in crow form.

I tried to scream. A miserable croak came out of the beak.

“Kuryo!” Charr’s voice shrieked. She was by us in an instant, but not touching. “Hold on! I’ll – I’ll get a medic! Hold on!”

The world swam. I felt kuryo’s consciousness slipping, and it kind of made sense why. He was the one with all the senses attached to his body. I was just – here.

But he was slipping fast. And I certainly was no medic, but as Kuryo faded more and more, I felt something else taking his place. Bella’s magic, familiar and tainted like bitter poison.

Now it wasn’t exactly poison, per se, but it was killing him faster than it should have. I just hoped it wasn’t kidnapping him in the process. Poor guy.

That was my final thought as darkness began enveloping him. Poor guy. He didn’t deserve this, no matter how jealous I was of him.

Dammit, I thought, as I felt him slip finally away and the body sunk into darkness.

Bam! What felt like a million volts jolted through me. My body gasped, jolted, and breathed.

“We got him!” someone said.

“Fuck!” I spluttered. It hurt! It hurt so very much! Then, mercifully, I sunk back into unconsciousness.

Another gentle zap, and I was awake.

“There he is,” a voice said happily.

The room was different. The lights were gentler, and the people around were still. There was Leo, Charr, FoxFace, and a doctor or two. Everyone was smiling. Charr was holding my hand.

I looked around. Damn, my vision was good. I flexed my fingers, and they ached. My chest ached. Everything ached.

“You’re okay,” said Charr roughly. “You came back in time.”

Oh, shit, I thought as I took a second look down at the hand she was holding. It was exactly two shades paler than I was usually. I lifted my other hand to touch my head – and the hair there hadn’t been given the military buzz. I was in Kuryo’s body.

“Where’s Kuryo?” I asked lamely, my voice raspy. I knew the instant that I said it that none of them knew.

“What?” asked FoxFace. Charr stiffened, eyes widening.

“Where’s,” but Charr leaned over and sniffed my breath. She recoiled, dropping my hand.

“This is Chaos,” she said angrily.

Yeah, glad to see you too. But I was hurting too. Kuryo was dead, wasn’t he? He’d… gone to the galaxy.

“How?” FoxFace put her hands on her hips and looked me over. “Chaos, what did you do?”

I wanted to cry. I didn’t want to explain one thing, especially not to them. But I was upset, and I guessed Charr deserved to know what had happened to her boyfriend.

Hicupping, I tried to explain. By the few looks around, no one was quite sure what I was saying. Everyone except Charr, who was listening with an iron gaze. Her arms were crossed and she was just staring me down. Story sort of done with, I mumbled at her “I’m sorry.”

Charr didn’t want my apology and certainly didn’t acknowledge it. “He could have gone home,” she said flatly. “We’ll have to check there.”

“Or Bella took him,” I mumbled miserably.

“That too,” Charr said sharply. “How did she know you were there? She had never seen Kuryo transform before. She didn’t know he could.”

I felt even more miserable. “She must have sensed me?”

Charr frowned and looked to a tray on the side. There was a small stack of folded clothes and, beside them, a necklace of cord featuring a small black box. She picked it up and something flickered in her gaze. Sadness? Remorse?

“He left you his powers,” she mumbled. “Some part of him must still be in you. You wouldn’t have had this if it didn’t belong to you now.”

Well our subconscious did fuse, I guess? And did that make Kuryo dead and gone instead of kidnapped? But I didn’t want to say that. “I don’t think,” I started, but she hooked the necklace over my head and dropped it onto my chest. Ouch! Smack on the bandage!

“We’ve got to find him,” she said lamely. “If he’s anywhere, he’s without his powers.”

FoxFace cleared her throat. “We’ll find out where he is by capturing Bella. That is still our primary objective.”

Charr glared at the window. I slunk down miserably in the bed. I felt awful. So bad.

“Just More Chaos”: Chapter Six, Part One

I stood to one side of the hallway, waiting. Not because I wanted to, but because I had been asked to. Charr had stomped into my tiny room and said “He wants to see you,” and had marched out, with her hand attached to my collar. In other words, she hauled my sorry ass all the way into the medic ward, and left me here to wait. Now my neck hurt, and I felt clutzy. It wasn’t FoxFace (she wasn’t a he), but rather Conan who supposedly wanted to see me.

So I crossed my arms and waited. If I hadn’t almost killed the guy I wouldn’t still be here. But – I guess I owed it to him?

Anyways, I was there when Charr walked him out, half supporting him and half trying to murder me with her eyes.

“Hey,” I said, holding up a hand.

He managed to lift a hand, the other arm wrapped around his stomach, which was bandaged. He was wearing jeans, but no shirt. How did he still look good despite looking so sickish? I hated him more.

Charr planted him on the wall beside me, where he leaned on it with a grimace. Then she walked away with a scowl at me.

The minute the door to the stairs closed, Conan turned his attention to me. “So,” he said.

I raised my eyebrows. He continued “We’re doing this. Right here, right now. Why do you hate me?”

“I don’t,” I mumbled unconvincingly.

He shook his head. “There was five other vampires but you attacked me. Why? What have I done to you?”

I looked away, down the hall. Then I shook my head. “I don’t have to explain to you. First of all, there was three vampires, not five. Second, you were in the way. Happy? I’m done.” and I picked myself off the wall and began walkign away.

A hand on my shoulder – but I shrugged it off and kept going without looking back.

“Hey!” he called after me.

But that was it. I didn’t owe him anything else. Nope, no, his so-good-looking ass could manage fine without me.

I had a hand on the stairwell’s door when he grabbed me with his powers. It was like a giant vice over my entire body. Slowly, I began sliding backwards.

“You asshole!” I shouted, whirling around. He had one hand lifted and a smug look on his face. I stomped over to him, lifting a fist to his face. “Want me to try again?” I yelled.

He was nonplussed. As always. Where did he get that nerve from? Especially for someone who couldn’t fight! “You don’t like me,” he said. “But why?”

I shook my hands over his shoulders, resisting rattling him but that might hurt his stitches. “I don’t like you!” I said stupidly, but that was all I could manage that would make sense.

“Keep going,” he said too calmly. I wanted to punch him. Just to get a rise out of him.

“You’re so friggin’ irritating!” I snapped, shaking my hands in the air beside my shoulders, feeling ready to snap. “Just stay out of my face!”

That smug look turned smugger. “You like me,” he said nastily. I realized in a flash that he already knew it, and was just choosing now to wave it around.

So I punched him. So he fell. Big deal.

Uhm, well, I kind of felt guilty as he groaned on the floor. I stepped to his side and crouched down.

“You’re annoying,” I said half-heartedly.

He looked up at me, propped up on an elbow with the side of his face all red. “You’re such a jerk,” he said.

I snorted. “You’re the one who pulled me on, saying all ‘oh you like me’.” I quoted him in the most annoying pitch I could manage.

“You do,” he said sharply. “I can read it in you.”

I blanked. Oh, shit. “You can read minds?” It was my feeble attempt at changing topic.

“I control energy,” he said with a grimace as he sat up. “So I can read a few general signs. Like,” He brushed his hair from his face. “You like me. A lot.”

I looked away with a huff. “Alright. Now you’re just begging to be punched,” I said but there was no (hah!) punch to it.

His hand gripped my shoulder. “Help me up.”

I scowled at him. He looked back, unflinching. Rolling my eyes and cursing under my breath, I did actually help him up. He hissed, held his stomach, but got up.

“You know, you almost cut me in half,” he said.

“Still not sorry,” I said snarkily. “You talk too much.”

He laughed. His hand stayed on my shoulder. I looked at him. “You’ve got a girlfriend,” I said, not exactly un-jealous but certainly not, well, I was upset.

“We’re open,” he said in the way people do when they’re trying not to laugh at you. I gawked at him. He chuckled and patted me on the shoulder. Then he began making his way down the hallway, a hand on the wall.

I was rooted to the spot, brain trying to digest that. If he and her- did that mean -? I whirled around. “Hey!” I shouted at his retreating back. “What do want? I mean – what’s your point? Why did you?”

He stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “Don’t I talk too much?”

I cursed and stalked over to him. He smirked at me. I reached to rattle him, but stopped myself at the last moment. I pocketed my hands. “Why are you messing with me?” I snapped, putting on my best glare.

“I’m not,” he said. “But you’re the one throwing a tantrum.”

I rolled my eyes so hard it hurt. “Get over yourself,” I muttered.

“Or you could do that,” he said cheekily.

I flushed, angry and embarrassed all at the same time. “Okay, you – what do you want? You want to get me mad? Fine! I’m mad!”

“I actually didn’t want you mad; but that’s like, your default setting?”

I snorted and looked aside. Yeah, I was always upset these days. So what? Life wasn’t a cakewalk.

He patted me on the shoulder. I scowled at him. “Be less of a jerk,” he said sweetly. “And then maybe we can date. Okay?”

My jaw fell. He looked ready to laugh at me again. I fled, turning and darting away as fast as I could walk without running.

“Just More Chaos”; Chapter Four, Part Two

Wherein Chaos Regrets with the capital ‘R’ and Conan/Kuryo tries to literally shake sense into him. Hah! It all goes so well (muahahaha). And cue the entrance of (dun dun dunnn)-> the cat!

/////

The tea sat between my hands, burning hot. I barely felt it. I felt numb. My mind was whirling in circles yet I barely knew what I was thinking.

On one side, I knew very clearly that my father must have collected the souls by now. He’d know I’d killed them. But would he know I’d enjoyed it?

On the other sides, my mind was just screaming, point-blank. It made no sense. I felt panic, dread, and sick all at the same time as being inconsolably numb.

One by one the vampires were trickling away. Bella sat nearby, primly sipping her tea and smugly being smug. Conan was perched on one foot and leaning against a nearby wall, arms crossed. His eyes wouldn’t leave me. I knew why. I’d just murdered people.

Okay, hell, we can argue about whether all incarnations are as valid and bla bla bla. It’s basically the same. A soul is a soul is a soul. So yeah, I’d murdered a person.

I had the urge to vomit. One look to the side and all I could think of was that Bella would be most displeased if I puked on her carpet. She caught me eye and her smile turned so pleased, so content. I looked back at my tea. What did she want?

“Hey,” Conan was at my side, hands in his jacket pockets. He nudged my foot with a toe. “Let’s talk. Outside-”

“Why?” asked Bella so sweetly yet poisonously. “Are you avoiding me?”

Conan glared at her. I shook my head, trying to defuse the situation. “I don’t want to talk with you.”

Conan looked down at me. “Let’s talk,” he repeated.

“What, are you two in love?” Bella jeered. “Sneaking away like that-”

I was up on my feet and wasn’t sure what I’d been planning. I just was now, like I’d blacked out for a second. Trying to pull it together, I scowled at Conan. He raised his eyebrows in a silent ‘what?’.

I shook myself mentally. “I’m going to get some air.”

I shoved past Conan, wanting to throw him (and his nice face) into a garbage or something. I just wanted to be alone. In a blur I shrugged into my coat and pulled the door open with only half the coat on. I’d even forgotten to put my boots on.

And then I looked down.

“Miaouw,” said the cutest black cat I’d ever seen.

I gaped. It was small, long-haired, and pitch black with these gorgeous green eyes. It was sitting as if it had been waiting, but now that I’d opened the door it rose up, tail held high. With another pointed miaouw, it walked past me and into the house.

“A cat?” asked Bella, horrified. “A black cat?”

Fear and terror pulsed through me. Poor thing! Poor, innocent- I couldn’t let Bella hurt it. Not something so innocent.

I shut the door and whirled to see the cat marching, tail crooked up, straight towards Bella. Beside my empty chair, Conan was staring.

“A cat?” Bella repeated. “I haven’t seen one of those since the werewolves arrived!” Her eyes met mine and she asked “What’s it doing here?”

As if I should know. I gaped, mind racing. I didn’t want her to hurt it! I just – no more blood today, please!

In my useless silence, Conan spoke. “It must be an omen! A- a sign!”

Bella scoffed. “From who?” and she rose to her feet, setting down her cocoa. The cat looped around her ankles, eyes glowing up to Bella.

“It likes you,” said Conan, shell-shocked.

“Lucifer!” I spluttered. “It must be a gift!” God of witches? Black cats maybe? I was inventing, but I just didn’t want that cat killed. Please!

“Oh?” Bella looked down at the cat, her smile curious. “Come here, you.” and she stooped, scooping the cat up in her arms.

I held my breath, knowing from experience that picking up random cats usually ended badly. But not this time.

As if to add even more absurdity of the situation, the cat began purring and nuzzled Bella’s chin. Bella laughed. “Oh it’s adorable!” she cooed. Squeezing the cat to her chest she crooned. “I’m going to keep her.”

I relaxed. So did Conan. Our eyes met, then quickly parted before Bella could notice. “Good, good- choice,” said Conan.

“Oh shut up,” said Bella harshly. With a jerk of the head towards the kitchen she said “Get it some food.” To the cat she said “Mistress fuzzles must be starving. Isn’t that right?”

“Miaouw!” the cat seemed to agree with her. Bella crooned and cuddled it under her chin.

As if jerking free from some spell, Conan made for the kitchen. An idea kicked into my head. “I’ll help you,” I blurted, following after him.

We made it into the kitchen, where we were finally alone. I cornered Conan. “What’s that thing doing here?”

“I don’t know!” he hissed back, wide-eyed. Then, despite being the one in a corner, he flipped the tables by taking my shoulders and shaking me gently. “But you need to smarten up. You hear me? Don’t let her get to you like that-”

“I can hear you,” called out Bella in a sing-song voice from just beyond the kitchen’s entrance. One heartbeat later and she was in the entrance, smugly cradling the cat in her arms. The cat’s eyes seemed to glow.

Conan straightened. “You’re fucking with him!” he yelled at her. To me he said “She’s turning you into-” and he searched for a word.

“Oh, a monster? Am I corrupting poor, neutral, Chaos?” Bella faked a pout but her smirk crawled out. “Chaos, do you have any comments to that?”

“She’s turning you into something you’re not!” Conan snapped at me. He shook my shoulders again, his fingers digging into me tightly. “Did you really want to kill those people? Would you have done that without her around? I don’t think so!”

“Tsk, tsk,” Bella clucked as she stepped to my side. “A couple’s fight. Are you jealous maybe?” And she rested a shoulder against mine, eyes glued to Conan. As if it was her and me against him.

He tried to rattle me again but I smacked his hands off. “Enough!” I snapped. Then, simply because I didn’t know what else to say, I said to him “You’re not making any sense.”

Conan gave me the look people get when their bullshit detector goes off. Bella cackled. “Chaos,” she murmured, bumping her shoulder against mine. “It looks like your slave is acting out.” With relish she added “You should punish him.”

Conan and I blanched. I felt ready to shake all over – if I wasn’t already doing that. I felt sick. “Uh,” I managed.

Conan turned, grabbed a can of tuna out of the cupboard, and slammed it onto the counter. “I was just giving him advice.”

“Her,” drawled Bella. “It’s a she.”

Conan looked me up and down. “Looks like a he.”

Well that’s because, you know, gender fluid?

“She,” said Bella sharply. “I should know.”

“Really?” Conan asked me with piercing eyes. I looked away.

“Really,” Bella answered. I nodded, not daring to say anything else.

“Dreaming of Lights”; Chapter Two, Part Two

Lights glowed up from the creases where the floor met the walls. Blue hued, it made the very air seem cold.

Well,” Master pulled off his fake afro and tossed it aside. His natural hair tumbled down. In this lighting, all that one could see was the deep darkness of his base color, and the jet blue that glistened metallic in streaks throughout. I wanted to clap my hands in glee and touch it. I always wanted to touch his hair. It was a sign of his birth lineage, a sign of his world, of this strangeness, of everything here.

He gave me a stern look. “Are you ready?” Not that now was the time to be un-ready, obviously. But he wanted to be sure I was focused. I nodded, reaching to my hips for my hidden daggers. He returned the nod in silent agreement at my actions and flicked his wrist out. A small handle slid down his sleeve. The moment it touched his palm it unclicked and the sword slid out as if it was unfolding. Though he had explained the minutia of the process to me before, it still seemed like magic. There was no creases in the blade and that samurai sword couldn’t possibly fit within its own handle. Pure magic.

He would tutt and shake his head if he knew I still believed in such things. “The ethereal is not magic,” he would scoff. “It is quantifiable. Measurable. Moveable. We know what it is. Magic is silly.”

Yet even his own eyes seemed like magic to me. What else was I to believe in? Believe in the moment, I had told myself so long ago. Just roll with it.

And so I did. As so many times before, he took the first step and I slid into pace at his side, always just one step behind him. That way I could mirror his every move while still being within reach- a very important thing for us.

It was swiftly put to the basest of tests when we rounded our first corner, again, a left turn. Here the lighting turned a bright orange-hue that beamed down from the top of the walls as if pretending to be normal. Yet there were no bulbs that shed this light. It was a (magic) ethereal sign that we had switched worlds.

I had very little time to acknowledge the lighting however. The hall was suddenly filled with party-goers. As silent as the entry had been, here was chaotic with laughter, the throbs of music that imitated the echoes from out of doors yet was somehow different. And here, no one partied with drinks in hand. The women – for they mostly were women- swirled and danced and laughed loudly with hands at their sides instead of aloft. On their chests hung the black squares, all of them.

A group of five turned towards us, laughing and whooping as they rushed with arms outstretched. Before I could wonder, master dodged to the side and I seamlessly followed. The women swooped by, their fingers skimming past my shoulder. Laughing, they swooped on mindlessly.

As a trailing afterthought that whispered in their wake, master hissed to me. “Beware the black squares. If they touch you, you will become one of them.”

The squares-?” I hesitated. He had quickened his pace. More partygoers swirled around us, and I began to notice strange things. Limbs jutting like spiders’ legs from the squares. Some had eyes that grew and blinked from within the black.

They’re alive,” master muttered as we dodged a man who was walking, laughing and senselessly ambling along. His eyes did not seem to see, but he was grinning madly as if this was the best party of his life. We ducked by his side easily, but the six spider-like limbs that hung from either side of the square reached for us. It’s bulging eyes rolled and the square squirmed towards us as we passed on.

At the end of this corridor, all pretense of normalcy had passed. The house began revealing its true colors, one shade in every turn that presented itself to us.

There were three. The leftmost side was a brilliant orange in keeping with the hues of this hall. To the middle was red. To the rightmost was red. I looked to master. He did not miss a beat.

Orange will be easiest,” he said, deciphering the silent code of colors. And so we took the orange hallway.

As we progressed, there were doors and turns that presented themselves to us. I did not bother trying to understand the rhyme and reason of master’s choices. Were it up to me, we would be hopelessly lost in this madman’s maze within seconds. Left, right, left, – I did not try to keep track. Instead I kept my eyes fixated upon the walls which had now turned strangely desert again. The doors, in glimmering hues that glistened under the brilliant orange lighting, were beginning to shine with spirit-marks. Footprints of the ethereal, master would scoldingly say.

One twist that brought us straight up a flight of stairs, then presented us with another corridor. To our left hung a black curtain, thirty feet long. Master pulled it back.

On the wall, completely covering the wall and beamed down upon by more orange light, was a giant painting. It spoke of oil spills, of lustrous velvety fabrics, and of drinks so desirable it grew moth wings into mouths. It throbbed with life, glistening all over with slumpering life.

Master quickly drew it shut. “Almost there,” he said to me under his breath, so not as to wake the sleeping danger.

“Dreaming of Lights”; Chapter One, Part Four

Turning around on the ledge, I looked into the void.

Behold, a poet would have said, the void looked back.

Well if the void looking back was a thing, it went ‘Boo!’ at me. Because right then, as I was turning around, the wind buffeted me and I saw, far far beneath me, my Aaliyah whacking away at three sprites that were surrounding her. Worse! There was a ring of spirit creatures, our classmates, around her and watching.

My blood boiled. How dare they make fun of Aaliyah! How dare they leave her helpless against three sprites!

I lunged from my perch, my thoughts full of rage and no such thing as common sense. Careening, I sped on recklessly as fast as I could.

It was about halfway there that I realized they were cheering her on. Aaliyah whacked out one sprite, then another, and the third cowered in fear. More cheers. Aaliyah was flush with victory, and our classmates were pounding the earth in support of her.

It was her glorious moment and I, shooting through the sky like a fluffball of idiocy, realized I was about to make a joke out of it by ‘rushing to her rescue’.

Cursing loudly in my head I tried to slow down. It was the worst pilates class ever. Clench those buttcheeks! Flap the wings – oh not that way!

I found myself cartwheeling, flapping, and, I’ll admit it, shrieking my lungs out as the world spun and the earth came closer.

For a horrid blink all I saw was Aaliyah zooming up to me, spinning with the earth – and then something green flashed over me.

Snap! Giant teeth caught me and I was squished by a soft tongue – then unceremoniously spat on the ground. A giant set of claws pinned me to the earth and a snarling jade snout shoved into my face, complete with golden mane and horns.

I froze. My heart pounded in my chest. Jade. Jade dragon, my classmate. Oh, how embarrassing.

Looking left, I saw a horde of creatures staring me down in dismay. Looking right I saw more classmates – and Aaliyah’s shoes.

What is it?” Aaliyah’s voice asked. A stick prodded towards me.

It’s me!” I tried to squawk, twisting and flapping.

Is it dangerous?” my classmates murmured.

It’s looking right at you,” the jade dragon said to Aaliyah.

Of course! Because – “It’s me!” I shrieked, willing myself back to humanoid form – and that did it.

With a crackle of magic over my limbs I was suddenly human again. The giant paw snatched off of me in surprise and I scrambled to my feet. “Aaliyah!” I gasped, grabbing at her arm. “It’s me!”

To my horror, she recoiled. Everyone took a jump back. Terrified that I hadn’t de-bloomed properly (or whatever you call it), I looked down at myself and patted myself. I looked fine. I was clothed (yeah!). “What?” I looked up, then around.

The jade dragon shimmered, then turned into the slender and graceful girl she was. Tall of legs, beautiful and icy, she glared at me. “You bloomed,” she said coldly, as if it was a capital crime.

I looked down at myself, then back at Aaliyah. She looked shocked as well, but in a good way. “You bloomed!” she said, reaching out to tentatively pat me on the shoulder. “Congratulations!” And then she drew me in for a hug.

If the day could have ended there, it would have been blissful. For that moment I was in Aaliyah’s arms, pressed against her chest. I felt her heart beating against mine. We were surrounded by a ring of students who, sure, were looking on. But they weren’t being rude or cruel. I even assumed they were admiring.

Then, yeah, reality struck. Aaliyah drew back. I stepped back as well, not wanting to be the creeper who clung to her. “So – you bloomed?” she asked.

I looked down at myself again. But before I even got the chance to say something, the jade dragon laughed. “Into a crow. God, what a useless thing. Carrion,” and she snorted. Then, gagging, she waved a hand at her mouth. “Ugh,” she made a face as if tasting something disgusting. “I tasted dirt.”

I wanted to punch her. Aaliyah stood bravely beside me – but the other students laughed. The jade dragon turned away and dissolved into her slender and oh so elegant friend group. The other students, guilty of having laughed and not wanting to associate with us much longer, turned away.

With a sigh I turned to Aaliyah, about to give her my usual speech. “Ignore them,” I began before she held up a hand.

You’ve got to tell the teachers,” she said, her eyes unreadable. Wait- was she sad? “This is going to change everything.”

My stomach fell out. No.

But yes. In a rush of breathlessness, it struck me. I bloomed. I could go on hunts now. I could easily get into the universities with my marks without having to plead that I was an exceptional case. Better yet – I could get a job.

I was no longer just like Aaliyah.

It was a realization that took on its own presence as I sat in Mister Murney’s office, then in the nurse’s office. It clung to me like a wet sweater, crushing me into myself. After hearing the words ‘exceptional’ and ‘how did you do it’ over a thousand times, I was finally walking home with Aaliyah.

Then, again, “How did you do it?” Aaliyah looked at me in wonder.

I shook my head. “I just – it happened.” And that was all. I wasn’t stupid enough to tell anyone what had happened. Who ever heard of eating a spirit? Of, of, infusing it up through your arms? That was crazy talk. So I just kept shaking my head. Shamefully, I told Aaliyah what I told all the others. “I was getting attacked by a sprite. I tried to move back, and I tripped and fell weirdly – and I was a bird.” I looked down at my shoes. “And that’s it.”

Oh,” was all Aaliyah said, softly. She too looked down at her shoes. And that, was that.

We walked in utter silence after that. We parted ways with a wave and a lame “see you tomorrow” that we echoed back at each other. Then, I walked home.

“Dreaming of Lights”; Chapter One, Part Two

In a catastrophic rush we ran through the building. She didn’t need to pull me anymore but she had a firm grip on me. But I wasn’t going to run away. I was by her side and was going to protect her from the sprites! Somehow, in the chaotic rush of the moment, I thought that I was going to prove that I could take care of her by… whacking sprites over the head? Yeah. Brilliant.

We crashed out the double front doors into the yard. It was full chaos. There was students in all shapes, everywhere, grabbing at sprites and battling them in the most (to my unmagical lens) epic of ways. Sparks were flying! Magic simmered through the air like ribbons!

Aaliyah let go of me, running towards the debris around the trees. “Grab a stick!” she called to me, doing so herself. Then, seeing as I wasn’t getting there fast enough she threw a stick at me, snapped one off a branch for herself, and whirled around to face…everything.

Because the school grounds were huge. The fields sprawled in all directions with preened green slopes, a little stream gurgling down among them, and trimmed trees here and there dotting the landscape. But the battle was all concentrated here, where the sprites were trying to destroy our sacred trees. We were smack in the thick of it.

Get as many as you can!” ordered Aaliyah before sprinting into the chaos. I wanted to yell at her to wait for me- but that would have sounded wimpy. I was brave! Rawwwr!

So I stood there and tried not to quiver with my stupid stick in hand. Damnit! Why?!

As they say, spirits and the bloomed ones that are so inclined can smell fear. Within seconds a sprite was flashing towards me, elemental powers in hand and teeth gnashing.

If you’ve never seen a sprite up close, their sparkling cloud doesn’t hide their shape very well. Beneath it, they sort of look like floating ghosts with evil hands and onion-shaped heads. This one had green lights sparkling around its hands and the nastiest pointy teeth I’d ever seen.

Snack- snack,” it seemed to say, clacking its teeth together as it floated before me.

I gripped my stick with both hands. Think of Aaliyah, I told myself. Think of school. You’re never going anywhere unless you bash this thing’s brains in-

Aaaand, just as I was thinking that, it zoomed in on me. I swung the stick with a yell, a sound that was mercifully drowned away by all the sounds of a battlefield around us. My stick whizzed above the sprite’s head and I lost my balance. The sprite leaped forward. Its fangs buried into my right forearm, its elemental spell sending electric shocks into me.

Okay, now I yelled.

And then something happened.

I felt a change come over me. Something rushed through my system like hot soda bubbling in my veins. I thrashed, the electric sparks suddenly seeming faint.

I’m fucking dying, I remember thinking. Good lords, this was stupid!

As the rush continued I found myself moving – and suddenly came to with my hand closed over the sprite. Both hands.

Beneath my fingers I felt the sprite pulsing. I felt the three parts of its soul throbbing with life. I heard it hissing and scrawling in a language I suddenly understood.

Let me go!” it shrieked in that tiny, hissing, voice. “You’re not one of them! Let me go! What are you? Let me go!”

Shocked, I moved my hands. Tentatively, I pulled on what I felt and the three soul parts began coming apart. The sprite shrieked – and burst one of its own parts. It killed itself.

I gaped as the body went limp in my hands. The two other parts throbbed with life still – and it smelt. It smelt delicious, a strange aroma of death and untimely consumption and decay that called to me like a corrupt song. Suddenly I knew what an addiction must feel like. What it must be like to crave the casinos, the drugs, the things you knew you shouldn’t do.

Because I knew I shouldn’t eat the sprite.

I mean, yes, everyone eats sprites. Their body is a common fall roast that mother could afford about once a year. But I wanted the soul.

Hesitant, I looked around. Maybe I was searching for a reality check. But the world felt woozy. It didn’t seem real. And somehow I just knew that no one was paying me a shred of attention, too busy searching out their own glory strikes.

So I gave in. I was lifting the sprite’s remaining two souls to my lips. Somewhere within me my rational self was wondering what was happening. I mean, can stomachs even digest souls?

But it never reached my lips. Instead, the two sprite souls sort of infused up my arms, dissolving into me, merging up through my skin.

I gasped, dropping the now thoroughly dead body. I wanted to scream as I realized that the souls were now in me. Did I digest them through my hands? Was the sprite now part of me? Did I now have five soul-parts? What was going on?

Completely freaking I fell backwards onto my butt. With a scramble I tried to get away from the inanimate body. Impulsively I wanted to flee.

That must have been the trick because suddenly I was scrambling, launching myself up, up, and flapping into the sky. It was when I was about five to six feet up, pumping my wings/arms like mad that I realized – wait a minute.

I looked down at the chaotic battlefield. I looked downer and saw my legs- now two stubby black bird legs. With a hoarse shriek I realized that I wasn’t me any longer.

With a jolt I realized I’d bloomed. Somehow. With another jolt I realized I was about to fall straight down if I didn’t do something about it.

“Dreaming of Lights” Chapter One, Part One

Kuryo

Kuryo! Kuryo!”
I ducked and ran. No, that wasn’t me! Totally not my name!

I saw you!” the vendor shouted, who also happened to be my neighbor, so even if I got away now I wasn’t really getting away.

Late for school!” I shouted over my shoulder in guise of a terrible excuse.
Behind me, the dirty street was nearly empty. It was too early for the druggies to be out of bed and most of the drunks were home sleeping their hangover off. A thin, cold, mist hung over the earth, soaking through my pant legs and making my boots skid over the damp sidewalk.

Thief!” the horrid neighbor shouted after me, as loud as he could. I didn’t care. Everyone knew I was a thief. Everyone, even my mother. She hung her head and nodded whenever someone came and yelled to her about it. She’d order me to give back whatever I stole- but I’d usually already eaten it. She’d get a good talking to from whomever it was (usually our crappy neighbor) and then she’d apologetically close the door. After that, I would get the silent treatment for a day or so. Then, the cycle might just repeat itself right away.
It wasn’t that Mom hadn’t taught me well, as everyone told her. It was that I saw the struggle in her eyes when I reached for a second helping of food. Once, there was no food for lunch. Then, I realized that yeah, I couldn’t eat twice at one meal – but oh look! A vendor!
Now, I never ate twice and mom knew why. It was a tacit agreement that neither of us spoke about the dire finances of our household – and she would keep nodding at the intruders shaking their fists at me.
As I rounded the corner towards school, I slowed to a walk. I pulled the warm pizza pocket out of my mouth where I’d been holding it. I took a smaller bite than the whole thing. It was steaming in the cold air, delicious, and with just a hint of spices that didn’t wholly belong on the pizza. Hey, no one said the vendor paid for these in the first place. I’d caught him garbage diving too one day. We’d fought over a whole box of old bread – and yeah, I just ran away with them.
But now, I happily munched on my breakfast. Yep, life was good right then. I strolled slowly now, knowing full well that I was early to meet my friend, Aaliyah. But I couldn’t wait to meet her. These quiet walks in the morning were usually the highlight of my day. They were also the reason I held an extra pizza pocket in each hand. Another for me, and one for her. This one I would eat with her and we would happily walk together, enjoying our short walk to school before the day really began.
Ours was a quiet existence. I already knew that someday, our friendship would hopefully breach the lines of friendship and we, the pariahs already of our ‘slumbug’ existence, would break into a whole new level of pariah – that of two female bodies in love (even though it boggled me that I was female. It just never felt quite right).
Finishing my first pizza pocket I tried not to dwell on this. But of course I did. I tried to visualize how Aaliyah’s mother (another single mother, just like mine!) would accept this. Would she? I knew Madame Akizah as a generous and kind shop owner. But what did she think of women in love?
We could marry if we moved north, I told myself. There, there was job in factories for us ‘unbloomed’ ones. I would work hard to protect Aaliyah and provide for her! I would –

Already eating?” a laughing voice jerked me from my thoughts. And there she was. The highlight of my life. The shining ray in all this misery.
Aaliyah had shining black hair that she kept simply long and plain. Her smile was brilliant, her skin just a tad darker than mine, which left us both in the ‘dirty-looking’ category. She was shorter than me by half an inch (which I constantly rubbed in her face) and had the largest and sweetest eyes possible. Today, she was wearing her loose red sweatshirt and grey track pants with sneakers.
Still chewing my last mouthful I made sure not to speak so I wouldn’t spit all over. I’d done that before. She’d laughed at me so hard she’d turned redder than her sweatshirt.

Thanks,” she said as she accepted it. Then, pressing it between her two hands, she said “Ooh, it’s still warm.”
I nodded and smiled, then finished my mouthful with a gulp. Awkwardly, I tried to think of something to say. As usual in these strange silences that would so often fill the air between us, I wished to tell her how I felt.
If only I was big and strong, I thought. If only I was stunningly beautiful like she. If only, if only… and my thoughts would spiral down and down as we walked together. I hunched my shoulders like an unhappy bird and ate ravenously at my last pizza bit.
A fine drizzle began to descend. A car whipped past us, full of jeering idiots. Protectively, I slipped an arm around Aaliyah’s shoulders. She stepped closer to me. It was our protective mechanism. It worked well on strangers because they all assumed I was a guy – even Aaliyah’s mother sometimes called me ‘mister’ if she was scolding me (like the third time I’d tried to steal from her).
But right now it wasn’t wholly necessary. The car was gone, after all, and the walk to school was short. But… I jostled Aaliyah playfully just as an excuse to keep my arm around her. If it was a joke it didn’t matter, so I got to hold her a little longer. “You ready for today?” I asked cheerfully.
She looked up at me with those big doe-like eyes. She smiled, and it was filling me with sparkles. “I think so,” she said “I studied all night. I think I’m ready.”

Great,” I said wistfully, wondering what it would be like to kiss her – and then my brain registered what she’d said. “Wait- ready for what? Is there a test?”
She gave me ‘that look’. “Physics! Today! First period! Did you forget?”
I whimpered, drawing my arm from around her to play with my short and messy hair. It was black (just like Aaliyah’s!) but dull and boring. “Yes?” Oh crap! And I was trying to get good marks in that!
In a jerk she pulled her bag over her shoulder and whipped a light blue notebook out. First she smacked me on the shoulder with them. I yelped, then she handed them to me. “Cram!” she ordered.

Yes, ma’am,” I muttered as I took the notebook and flipped it open. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think she’d be the perfect wife. Strict but caring, disciplined and studious – I could get a job for the two of us and she could keep studying…
Shaking my head I tried to focus upon the notes before me, even as small droplets began cascading down harder and harder.
We, and the notebook, were thoroughly soaked by the time we stood in the corridor before the classroom. Funnily enough, only about half the students were soaked. There were those who had the good sense to own a coat and who were only damp. Then, there was the rich kids.
Oh, it wasn’t hard to tell them apart. They were dazzling and beautiful no matter what happened, and they were just – whatever. I didn’t even look at them.
I just stood in a corner with Aaliyah and our three friends – the total of us being five. ‘The’ five that teachers always talked about. We were the ‘special education’ ones. The unbloomed.
I had this theory, I read about it online and in a magazine once, that not being able to bloom was due to a nutritional deficiency. I’d believe it, because all five of us were dirt poor except Magdalene. And Magdalene was, well, really special. She had a hard time talking. Her eyes were lined with black, her clothes were black, and spikes jutted from her at every possible corner. But she just couldn’t really talk. Or do math. Or really, sit still for that long. She liked shouting too.
But she was an unbloomed, so she was my friend. We, the useless ones, we stuck together.
Also, we waited our turn. As the teacher, Mister Murney, passed by to unlock the door the five of us drew back to get out of everyone else’s way. We knew our place in society. I gritted my teeth at it, but that was what it was. It just wasn’t safe to get in anyone else’s way. People who had bloomed just had so much power!

Studying still? It’s a bit late for that?” Professor joked as he held the door open. I realized he was talking to me. Sheepishly, I grinned and shrugged. Someone walked past me and slammed their backpack into my shoulder.

Sorry!” they said, obviously not at all. I returned to the page. The ink had bled a little from the rain. I tried to focus, to memorize all the formulas-

Come on,” Aaliyah patted me on the shoulder, steering me into the classroom. I protested but let her, enjoying the attention. In a last minute ditch attempt I flipped the page – and saw more formulas! CRAP!
Sniggers rose from the back of the class as Aaliyah steered me to my seat. We sat, all five of us, smack in the front. It was the safest spot to be and even the teachers encouraged it. They didn’t want us to get picked on.

Notebooks away,” Murney said, mainly to me. I pressed my lips together and handed Aaliyah back her notebook. More sniggers, about what I couldn’t guess but I wanted to punch someone for it. Rich kids.
Then, the test began. Mister Murney handed out the leaflets to each row and they were passed down. The instant I got mine I flipped it open and began skimming the questions. Yes, yes, yes, I knew most of these! Okay!
Thanking Aaliyah with all my might, I flipped to the back section – the ‘superior’ section. It was really only for the ‘superior’ students who showed promise and who had exceptional marks – a category Aaliyah and me had exceptionally managed to nose our way into. It was quite remarkable for us unbloomed ones to have managed to enter the category, a feat that amazed our principal and even earned us both an embarrassing article in the school’s newspaper once.
And YES! I knew how to do those too!
Furiously, I began scribbling away. Time seemed to slow as I focused upon one question then another, scribbling and calculating and jotting numbers here then there.
Halfway through, I lifted my head up. Professor Murney was pacing the rows, scolding students and reminding everyone to keep their eyes on their papers.
I, however, was suddenly unsure of what I was doing. Something was wrong. Something tingled at the back of my neck. Something that had happened when – I looked out the window and caught my breath. Beyond the preened soccer fields, the sacred trees were on fire. Strange figures ran about, shadowy and furtive.
I lifted my hand. “Professor.”

Don’t speak out of turn,” Murney said as he walked over.

But,” I protested.

What?” he asked as he walked to my side. I pointed to the window.

We’re being attacked,” I said, stating the obvious.

Oh,” he said.
There was the universal rustle of everyone looking. Of necks craning as everyone tried to see what I was pointing at. Which, for your information, was a sprite attack. It had happened once in my mother’s time at this school. It had already happened once in my time, and now I was unlucky enough to witness it again.
The alarm, a little late in my opinion, wailed out over the microphone. “Attention, students and staff,” our principal said primly. “We are enduring a sprite attack! Senior students are encouraged to use this as an opportunity to hone their fighting skills and gain hunting points – which I remind you are required for graduation!”
There was a cheer. Because, yeah, sprite attacks weren’t a catastrophe. In suburbs, where people were caught unawares watching their TV’s and where the populace wasn’t crawling with students yearning to ‘get out and FIIIIGHT!’, as some teachers were now shouting in the hallways, it could be dangerous. It was just especially dangerous if you were magically crippled, like, you know, us unbloomed were.
I was hunkering down in my chair, heart already hammering in my throat. Professor Murney was already at the front of the class, huge grin plastered on his face. “Alright students!” he called out like this was the best ball game of the world. “Get out there! Get some points!”
I slunk farther down in my chair, exchanging a horrified look with Aaliyah – who somehow didn’t look as terrified as I felt.
There was a roaring cheer of students jumping up, throwing pencils down and rushing for the windows. “Go, go, go!” Murney cheered, clapping his hands.
Students, the fastest first, began blooming right as they threw themselves at the windows. It was normally a sight I both loved to watch and hated to watch. I was jealous, I hated them for being able to do something so magnificent. To shed their human skin and bloom into fully spiritual form.
There was Zalf, the gryffon who passed through the glass just in the nick of time. Gertrude, the graceful swan. But I was waiting with bated breath for the one. The one.
She was filthy rich. She was long-legged, blonde, pale of skin and always impeccably dressed. Her hair was short and choppily pulled back, with two long tendrils hanging down beside her face. Confident as could be, she and her small cluster of elite friends waited until everyone else was on their way to being moving. Because they never needed to rush. They were dragons.
Ever seen a dragon? Me neither until last year when our classes merged. Since then, I waited with bated breath for the crystal ice white dragon to materialize – but most of all for the jade green one. Her.
She, leaping for the window, was graceful and lithe. Stunning and magnificent as her green scales shimmered to reality around her and her shocking blonde mane rippled out.
Then, just like that, she was gone. With an exhale I relaxed and looked back to the front of the class where Murney was. He was looking at me expectantly.
I pointed to the test. “Can I finish?”
Proffessor cringed. “You do know that you need hunting points to get into any high-ranked school, right?”
My jaw fell. But we were un-bloomed! We couldn’t hunt! It was too dangerous for us to even join organized hunting parties! Never mind throwing ourselves into a melee!

I mean,” Murney continued. “For the other schools, you can get in without it. But I know you two were hoping to get into McVaster so-“
Aaliyah scraped back her chair and jumped to her feet. Determination was scrawled all over her face. Holy – she really was going to do this!
I clutched at my chair. “Aaliyah! They’re sprites! We’re unbloomed-“

Get up!” she ordered. “We’re going!”

You can hit them over the head with sticks!” professor was cheering. Aaliyah grabbed me by the arm and yanked me to my feet.
I protested, but my wife-to-be was having none of it. With a yank and more determination than she needed, she rushed us out the door.
And that, really, was how it all began.

“Of Adelaide and Shadow” Chapter Seven

Well, as fate would have it, Adelaide was getting along quite well for a woman, er, chipmunk, without an army. She was doing so well, she found herself cackling and saying “It’s almost as if I don’t need an army!”

Whoever told you that you needed an army in the first place?” asked the soft-spoken oracle from behind her.

The pair were in a dark alleyway. Behind them was a large barrel upon which the oracle was fastening a lid. At his side was a large pole with a net at the end, the sort one could use to catch fish. Adelaide was at the end of this pole, weilding it more or less well.

I did!” she said, giving the barrel a small chipmunk kick. “I thought I couldn’t do anything without an army.”

Well, you certainly seem capable all on your own,” said the oracle sweetly as Adelaide twirled the fishing net about herself.

March! March! March!” cried out another series of frog guards that were marching down the road.

Hah!” squeaked Adelaide. With a thrust she twirled the net, and slung it out into the road. With a final “March!” three frogs were caught up into it. Four others tripped on the pole and landed on their noses. Those behind were startled, but they could barely say “March?” before their compatriots were hefted up into the air.

Adelaide, grunting from the effort, swung the frogs up – and tipped them into the barrel that the oracle opened for that purpose.

With another “hah!” several more frogs were caught up!

March- rubbit- attack!” croaked the lead frog as their compatriots were once again hefted up into the air and away into the barrel.

Help!” said the frogs from within the barrel.

Ah ha ha!” said Adelaide the chipmunk, twirling the fishing net and bonking several frogs atop the heads with it.

The frogs charged. Left and right the fishing pole struck, laying about and laying the frogs flat upon their rumps. On the count of three, all was still.

Adelaide made a satisfied ‘hmph’ sound and set the net beside her. The oracle nodded and said “Good job, your highness,” and he began plucking up the limp frogs from the earth and dropping them into the barrel. On occasion one or two of the frogs that were already within the barrel tried to leap out, but the barrel was too deep. Within several moments there were no frogs left in the street. The oracle fastened the lid upon it once again.

Now!” said Adelaide. “We shall put that barrel in the dark of the alleyway. Once I have conquered the kingdom, I shall have them sent away.”

Very well,” said the oracle before tipping the barrel onto its side. With a push and a shove he began rolling it down the alleyway. Thumps and exclamations rang out from within.

Ouch!” “Eech!” squealed the frogs from within. Adelaide and the oracle paid them no heed. They knew that the frogs were of a complaining sort of people. They were not truly being hurt more than a scuff or a bruise.

Once the end of the alleyway was reached, the two set the barrel in a dark corner where no one would find it. The frogs, sensing they were about to be abandoned, set up a clamor and began making a ruckus of ‘rubbits’ and even shouted out ‘help!’.

Adelaide knocked on the side of the barrel. “If you are quiet, when I send you away you shall have rations for the road. Honeycakes,” she said.

The frogs were silent. Not even a ‘meep’ was heard.

Adelaide nodded, satisfied. The oracle was impressed. “What a diplomat you are,” he said sweetly, happy that the frog’s fate was not too sour.

I learned from the best,” said Adelaide with a sniffle. For the thoughts of her parents being dead. Ah! How that hurt her little heart. How it still sent tears to her eyes and mad her heart grow heavy. But it also strengthened her resolve. It made her certain that she must be the one to reign now. There was no one else to do it but her.

But she still had no army! What was she to do?

That busied her mind all night. She thought and thought while walking the dark alleyways with the oracle at her side. She wondered and pondered while snatching up frogs and bargaining them into silence. Then, as the first glimpses of dawn shone on the horizon, a realization came over her.

It was not glistening and shining but a calm, hard, and truthful fact that she became aware of.

She did not need an army.

What? What is a princess without her army? Well, as it turns out, very capable.

With her fishing pole in one hand and the promise of honey cakes in the other, Adelaide was rounding up most of the Frog King’s army into barrels that she stole from around the city. Once that army was out of the way, all she would have to contend with were the Frog King’s personal guards. That, and the Frog King himself.

As dawn broke across the city of Farfadel, Adelaide was cool. Adelaide was calm. Adelaide felt neither exhaustion or frustration. She was ready.

We are going to take over the castle,” she announced to the oracle.

Oh?” said the oracle, proving just how mild-mannered and unshakeable he was. “Alright then.”

And so it was! Great reader, powerful one of vast imagination, imagine as you will, this scene.

A chipmunk! Gloriously decked out in the brightest of reds and deepest of black armor. Her chin is high, her eyes are flashing with determination. One hand is on her hip, the other is on the fishing pole. Her tail is up and fluffed, ready for whatever may come.

At her side stands the oracle, a figure so slim and so calm nearly everyone (certainly, you too) underestimates him. His eyes are brilliant, his hair floating like streams of smoke about him.

Ah! The sun shone upon them. Ah! They were brave and glorious! Ah! They were noble and righteous-

We’re going to sneak up through the sewers and kill the Frog King when he isn’t looking,” announced Adelaide proudly to the whole city.

Well, perhaps not so noble or brave…

Oh?” said the oracle gently. “Are we?”

Adelaide’s round and fluffy ears pricked, hearing something in the oracle’s gentle tone. “What?” she asked, turning to face him. “Did you see something different?”

The oracle smiled kindly. “I see you and him having a great and glorious final battle. You will win, of course. Do not fear.”

Tish-tosh,” muttered Adelaide. “I am a strategist and a plotter, not a chivalrous buffoon. I will do no such thing. I am small, and must put the advantages to my side. We shall sneak into the castle.”

Must it be the latrines though?” winced the oracle. “We will not be able to sneak upon anyone if we reek of that.”

Adelaide considered again. “I am a chipmunk,” she muttered. “I could scale the walls.” Then, looking over the oracle, she said “I could hide inside your sleeves and you could enter the castle by saying you’ve seen something the King must know.”

The oracle frowned. “Me? But I am not the king’s oracle!”

Adelaide chuckled in a very chipmunk-y way. “Do the frogs know that?” she asked.

Now there was a little problem however. You see, the King and Queen of Farfadel did not have an oracle. Hence, Adelaide and the oracle did not know what they were impersonating. They drew upon their imaginations, rumors and tidbits, and they scavenged around for whatever might look mystical and empowering.

A scarf went missing from a windowsill. An orange vanished from a cook’s shelf. A book was snatched up from a door left ajar. Some beads and baubles went missing from an abandoned stand – and there it was.

As the sun rose and beat down unusually fiercely upon Farfadel, the oracle presented himself at the castle’s gates.

His long black robe was doused with fairy glitter that itched at the nose. His ears were hung about with several earrings of red, green, and orange. As his ears were not pierced, they were hooked atop his ears and left to jangle as they would. His long ashen hair was no longer visible. In its stead, three scarves of blue, green, and yellow were cockishly draped and fluffed atop his head. His pale face was adorned with several charcoal squiggles and markings here and there, along with more fairy glitter. Some of the glitter had gotten into his eyes and turned them quite red and dangerous looking.

In his left hand the oracle was holding a thick volume. It was a book on plums and the preservation thereof, but they had doused it in the last of that fairy glitter and now it looked very respectable and venerable. In the other hand the oracle held the orange.

Why the orange?” he had asked, perplexed as Adelaide shoved it into his hand.

I do not know,” Adelaide said. “And neither will they. So they will think you are powerful.”

And it worked.

The oracle drew up before the guards at the gates. His eyes flashed red, his entire robe glittered and sparkled in the light of the sun, and he was made up of almost every color imaginable. Standing on one foot, he balanced himself and held out the orange to one side and the book to the other.

Also, Adelaide was sitting cross-legged atop his head with her eyes closed, pretending to meditate.

Great beings of infinite solitude,” intoned the oracle, glaring down at the shocked frog guards that were beign slowly blinded by all that glitter. “I must partake of your leader and meeteth with him.”

The frogs blinked. They looked at each other. The oracle continued.

For I! I am the King’s oracle!” and he stamped his foot to the ground so he stood powerful and strong. In a fantastically overdone gesture he thrust the book forward and the orange behind him. “Stand back! For I am the King’s oracle!”

The frogs blinked. Small flakes of glitter trailed through the air. Adelaide peeked one eye open to see how it was going.

Glitter landed in the frogs’ eyes. They blinked, and began tearing up most painfully. This, they believed, must be the true power of this strange being.

So they hopped aside, muttering under their breath “Oracle, oracle.”

Hah!” With an arrogant sniff the oracle marched on by.

Into the castle he strode, Adelaide silently cheering. On and on he marched, straight into the empty courtyard. Straight up the great big steps and to the great big doors. He pulled them open with a loud creak, and marched on in.

There, the halls were silent. The air smelt of stale bread and unwashed floors. There was no pitter-patter of servants doing lazy chores. There was only flap-flaps in the distance of marching frogs.

To the left,” muttered Adelaide. “He is most certainly in the throne room.”

And so on they went. The throne room was not far. Past the turn, up a tiny flight of stairs, and past another giant set of doors- that was guarded by over a dozen frogs.

Rubbit!” they said in a very menacing way, pointing their pointy spears at the oracle.

I am here to see the King!” announced the oracle imperiously. “For I am the King’s oracle and he must hear what I have to say.”

The frogs looked at each other. Their leader went ‘rubbit?’ and shrugged. The shrug was repeated and the frogs hopped aside, pulling the door open as they went. Obviously they were not very motivated for their guarding job.

With head held as high as it could go, the oracle marched on through. Straight into the throne room.

Oh my,” squeaked Adelaide.

Oh,” said the oracle softly.

Rubbit!” intoned the giant frog.

For the Frog King was now as tall as any human! As wide as any elephant! He sat like a large wobbly wart atop the King’s throne, his sides spilling over the chair. His chins wobbled and his beady eyes glistened as he looked the pair over.

Oracle?” the frog King said, his huge mouth flapping open and shut with a smacking sound. But what was worst of all was the smell! The room stunk!

It was putrid, it was petrifying, it was pungent, in the worst of ways. It was nearly enough to make one faint.

But the oracle was too mild-mannered to say anything about the stench. “Why yes, I am an oracle,” was what he said in his sweet tone. And he lifted up his hands.

Adelaide bounded down, landing squarely on the book. “Give me that orange!” she ordered before plucking it from the oracle’s grasp.

Rubbit?” croaked the Frog King, his huge eyes focusing upon Adelaide.

Tremble in fear, you horrid creature!” squeaked Adelaide, drawing her sword and thrusting it forward in a dramatic gesture. “For I, I am the Princess Adelaide! I was once your betrothed and now I shall be your murderer! Lay down, and let me slay you!”

Unfortunately, the Frog King was not that verbose. He merely heard a shrill “bla bla bla” and noticed that the tiny chipmunk was holding what looked like a very fancy toothpick. He thought that it would be quite useful.

Also not fortunately, the frogs on the other side of the door suddenly seemed to recall that their job was to guard their King. Upon hearing “bla bla bla murderer bla bla slay you!” they used their small iota of intelligence and realized that he was in danger. With a bang the door burst open and the dozen or so guards spilled through. They waved their spears and shrieked curses in their frog-language (“ribbut”, if you really must know).

And so the moment was. Adelaide, standing upon a book, sword pointing at the King. The oracle, pinned from behind by a dozen guards.

Oh! The suspense! Oh! The danger! Oh! ….

Look, a cliffhanger.

Adelaide!

Be-fucking-hold! Queen Adelaide, Ladies and Gentlemen and folks in between!

adelaide victorious.jpeg

This, if you haven’t been reading along with the story, is massive spoilers, by the way. If you have, it’s probably still spoilers. This is Adelaide’s end form/final mutation from the story ‘Of Adelaide and Shadow’. So WHY oh fucking why am I sharing it?

To motivate myself, selfishly. I have been so focused upon Chaos’ story that I have totally left Farfadel in the dust. But you know, Farfadel is one of those stories that is close to my heart so… I must continue to share it!

So let me tell you a little bit about Adelaide, for those who are wondering ‘Is this a story I’d want to read?’.

Adelaide is a princess who grows into a Queen. She starts off insecure but devious, and ends up, well, bad-ass. She literally rules the world and shapes Farfadel into what it will be, and is constantly referenced in later Farfadel novels. So if you like humor, fairy tales centering around a woman who grows in strength and awesomeness -> this is the story for you!

Join me, one and all, in reading ‘Of Adelaide and Shadow’!