Wednesday, February 7, 2018

FRACTURED FAIRYTALE: CINDERBOY CH. 3

Hello my reader and writerlings! It's been forever and a day--or so it must seem! But really it's only been....um....3 weeks. So that equals to practically forever and a day, but not quite!

But you're not her to talk time schemantics! You're here to read! And thank goodness for that or I'd be out of a job!

........Kinda.

If you're new to the show and need to catch up (I mean, you could just start here, but you'd be missing some prime fairytale set up and snark and awkward flirting) you can read chapters 1 and 2 here and here. Go on, I'll wait while you catch up.

........

You good?  Great!


When last we left Agate he had gotten thoroughly lost in the Dark Woods, his clothes had been tattered, and he was contemplating visiting a singing village to find his way to the castle where the Dark Prince was hosting a ball. His ears were saved from this fate when an attractive but obviously lying man comes to his rescue, professing to be his fairy godmother. Agate does not believe him, but he's given new clothes for the ball, a way to get there, and been commanded to dance with the Dark Prince all night.

And now he's arrived at the ball! but can he keep his promise to his not-fairy-godmother? And why does he know about Snowflake's obsession with flowers? And why does Aunt Wentle hate him so much? Find out (maybe) in chapter three!


CINDERBOY

Ch. 3

(In Which Agate Makes His Grand Entrance Poorly)




      Now, I don't mean to be one to brag, but before I was put under Aunt Wentle's care I lived in a nice home. Or rather, a nice mansion. Or, if you're an angry villager who's also highly superstitious, I lived in an imposing, dark, cursed mansion. Which is ridiculous, because my house had hundreds of windows, and the only cursed item we had was locked in silver chains down in the dungeon. But it was imposing, which kept villagers from coming too close to it.

      But as grand and imposing as my home had been, it was nothing compared to the castle that the Dark Prince lived in. When I crossed the lowered drawbridge I saw that the moat had not one, but two water dragons that made the dark water foam white when they thrashed their tails and gnashed their teeth. There was a long line of guards on either side of the bridge whose black armor gleamed thanks to floating white lanterns dangling above, and the air smelled like snow and food and perfume. It was actually a really unsettling scent.

      The inside of the castle was just as imposing as the outside, with cold marble floors I could feel through my boots, dozens of crystal chandeliers shaped like icicles--clearly he was really running with the 'winter' theme--and so many mysterious nooks that I even caught one nook sneaking into another. There were some people milling about, but no one I recognized yet, which was a relief. I wasn't sure how quickly the news of my parents death had spread, or what rumors were being circulated. Yet another failing of being carted off to live in the Dark Woods.

      A young woman with a dress that looked more like a snowball than a fashion forward statement bumped into me from behind. I stiffened and thought for the briefest of moments of side stepping and letting her fall. I hated strangers touching me. You didn't know where their hands had been--or when they'd last cleaned them. Instead I did the polite thing and steadied her.

     "Are you alright?" I asked politely.
   
     "Oh yes, I'm just....oh."

      I smiled, hoping it came across as mysterious and knowing, instead of tight and strained. I hated that women reacted this way towards me. Imagine if your most annoying cousin suddenly fancied you and wanted to kiss you and chased you around no matter where you went. That's how it felt when women looked at me like this woman was looking at me now. She batted her eyes and tucked a perfectly placed curl behind her ear. Her ears were a bit pointy. She really should have left the curl in front of it.

      "I haven't seen you before, sir.....what is your name?"

      I thought quickly. I really didn't want her knowing my real name, at least for as long as was humanly possible. She was smiling up at me between her lashes. I'm sure to other men she would be very pretty. Unfortunately for her I wasn't most men. I stood a bit taller, smiled a bit deeper.

     "Egbeth." There. That sounded horrifying enough. Girls really didn't like boys with weird names.

     "What a..." She was searching for a nice thing to say to me. "Unique name."

     "Yes, my aunt picked it out. For a troll she has a remarkable imagination."

     "A troll you say?"

     "Yes. On my father's side."

    "Oh. Yes. I....oh my, is that my friend? Do excuse me Sir...er...Egbeth."

     I bowed and smiled as I watched her hurry away to the other side of the room where there didn't seem to be anyone waiting for her. It was then I noticed the grand stairway to the right. Those who weren't milling about were going up it, where two giants stood watch in front of a heavy black curtain. More terrifying than the giants with their giant tusks and balding heads was the man dressed in the palace colors taking the invitations. He was tiny, perhaps only coming to my knee, and had sharp mean eyes. I groaned. There was no mistaking that face, and it was the last one I wanted to see, next to Aunt Wentle.

     I'd been on Rumpelstiltskin's bad side ever since I told a princess his name. But I had only told her so she would put in a good word about me to her handsome brother. Not only did she forget to tell him about me, she also told Rumpelstiltskin I'd told her his name. Even with my invitation I doubted he'd let me pass. There had to be another way in.

     I scanned the many nooks and saw one on the left that looked like it might go through the back and around the ballroom. And if there was a window or balcony I could easily climb over it and into the ball room. Perfect. I headed towards the left, hoping I blended in well.

     "Agate."

     The voice calling my name was nasal and dripping in feigned friendliness. I spun around to see Rumpelstiltskin motioning me over. I couldn't ignore him now. Drat. I kept my smile on my face and headed over to him. He had a smile on his face, the nasty kind that meant he had a trick up his sleeve.

    "Didn't think I'd see you here, m'boy." He said, his beady eyes flashing. "Heard you weren't invited."

    "As you can see, I am." I withdrew the invitation and some of his smile deflated. "How are you? How are the kids?"

    "The ones you keep getting from princess."

    "Oh those." He grimaced. "Gone, all of em. Thanks to you the princesses all got them back."

   "I....." I lost my voice for a moment. Why....why he looked to be tearing up!  "I thought you hated children. You hated me."

    "Of course I hate children you dunderhead! But now I have such a dirty house to take care of no one to clean it for free! And it's no thanks to you!"

     I was certain he was going to tear up my invitation. Instead he opened it and withdrew a white card with scrawling writing. He sniffed it, then narrowed his eyes at me as he leaned closer, sniffing the air around me. Insulted doesn't even begin to describe how I was feeling. I could feel heat creeping up my neck and down my arms. My fingers began to tingle as  I tried to keep my temper in check.

     "Little Agate you smell like a wish."

     "Excuse me?"

     "You heard me. Have you been hanging around genies?"

     "I've never even met a...." I thought back to the man with golden eyes and caramel skin.

     "Never what?"

    "I've never hung around a genie. This coat is borrowed is all. Are you going to let me in or not?"

    "Hmph." Taking the card he tapped it against his leg, then grunted. "I supposed I have to, don't I. I can't lose this job. Step on through Agate. I do hope you have a good time."

    "Thank you."

     I said it with as much genuine emotion as he did--which meant not at all. He snapped his fingers and the giant behind him raised the black curtain, revealing a scene right out of my nightmares. Ice sculptures everywhere, magicked snow was floating down from high above, and glittering icicles were securely strung around every window; of where there were dozens.

     There was a grand staircase leading down to the main floor, where most people were dancing. To the right and left of the dancers guests milled about drinking and laughing and trying to stay warm. And on a dais build and surrounded by ice sculptures of prancing deer sat the queen and king. I could practically feel my blood freezing to a stop.

     "Oh do hurry up!" said a female voice behind me.

      I took a step forward, only to find the glittering white world wobble and spin as my feet tripped over something. By all the dark shadows above, I was falling down the stairs! Months of dodging Aunt Wentle's cane kept me from getting truly hurt as I rolled, and I stood up fast enough from my bumpy all that I felt that perhaps not too many people had noticed. My cheek was scraped, and my head a bit banged, but I hadn't broken or twisted anything. I glared up at Rumpelstiltskin who simply smiled and closed the curtain.

      A dozen pair of eyes or more were staring at me, and I tugged my coat back into place and ran a hand through my hair.

    "Well," I said with a smile, "That was a much faster way to use the stairs than walking them."

    A few people laughed and the slight hush that had fallen around me picked up once more. It is always better to make the first joke about yourself than to let someone else do it for you. After all, its better to have people laugh with you than to laugh at you. 

     "Are you alright? That was quite a fall."

     If the midnight hour had a voice, it would sound like the voice behind him. Dark, powerful, exciting. I felt as if my whole body had been wrapped in silk. It took quite a bit of courage to turn around, but when I did was grateful I had. The most beautiful man I had ever seen--and I had seen quite a few--was staring down at me in concern.

     He was perhaps a little older than myself, with skin was the color of hot chocolate, eyes the color of a spring leaf, and ebony that hair hung over his left shoulder in a thick braid was studded in droplets of ice crystals.

    It was, of course, the prince.

    All of the words I had ever acquired since birth fled my head and left me with nothing. Not one ounce of wit was left to save me. This was far worse than a tumble down the stairs.

   
    "I...."

     His hand reached forward, his fingers warm as they brushed against my scrapped cheek. I winced at the sting and he frowned.

     "Really, we should have made sure the stairs had carpet. Come with me....what is your name?"

    "Agate." I blinked, trying to clear the fog from my mind. "Agate of Edgemore."

    "Agate." The way he said my name was like a thousand dark and stormy nights. "It's an unusual name."

   "I'm an unusual person."

   It was the best I could come with, and I immediately felt like turning into an ice sculpture. The Dark Prince smiled and led me away from the stairs, his hand on my back.

   "Of that, I have no doubt."

     

Thursday, January 4, 2018

FRACTURED FAIRYTALE: CINDERBOY CH. 2

Hello! Happy New Year! Merry Everything! How are you!?

Did I cover everything? Okay cool.


WELCOME BOYS AND GIRLS to the second installment of Cinderboy! I'm SO glad you've joined me in this fractured, mashed up fairytale journey! I hope you enjoy the ride, because let me tell you, I did not read 50+ million fairytales (and own the same amount of books on said subject) for nothing!

For those JUST joining us, you can read the first chapter here: Cinderboy Part 1

When last we left our poor Agate, he had taken up his coat and gone dashing into the DARK FOREST, of which is aunt Wentle is the ruler. Will he make it to the ball in time? Will he get help with his wardrobe? And will we ever know how he got his hands on poison lace (honestly I have no idea how he did either)? FIND OUT IN THIS INSTALLMENT (probably)!



CINDERBOY: CHAPTER 2

(In which Agate meets his not-so-fairy-godmother)



    My first mistake in going into the Dark Forest was that I went right, instead of left. And everyone knows that the best way to go into enchanted forests is to take the left path--the one that looks difficult and dangerous and deadly. And any way you go, you need to make sure you do so in a counter clock wise direction and to always make a left.

   Always. 

    Which is why I have no idea why I turned right. I knew better. A will-o-the-wisp bobbed past me, taking me for some unsuspecting prince who'd taken a wrong turn and was trying to lure me deeper. Unfortunately for both of us, I wasn't that stupid.

     My second mistake was going in dark clothing. You'd think it would be a good idea. You know, blend in with your surrounding and what have you. Except that in the Dark Forest wearing dark things makes it easier for even darker things to find you. It's like wearing red in the snow. Just the thought of snow cause me to shiver, and my boot snapped a thick twig. I stopped. That was the third time I'd stepped on that particular twig.

  "Great, I'm lost." My voice echoed into the forest, sounding more like a lonely ghost's cry than my own voice.

    I took a slow circle--counter clockwise of course--and stared at the dark, finger like branches around me. All of the trees looked the same, as did the nine thin trails fanning out before me. I couldn't seem to find the path that I had once been on, which wasn't surprising. I hadn't been this deep in the woods before, and while I wasn't afraid of the creatures within them, I was afraid of dying of starvation. And cold. I hated the cold more than anything else.

    I had already tried going left at a six o'clock position. Perhaps I should try ten. Tugging my black coat closer around me, I circled counter clockwise until I hit ten, then hedged slightly to the left. That's another thing about trails in enchanted forests--go one hop to the left or right and you'll end up in a completely different part of the forest within minutes. It's all a matter of perspective. Something my mother had taught me.

    Unfortunately she'd never prepared me for the dark forest--she never had liked visiting aunt Wentle. Which is why, ten minutes later, I found myself right back where started, only this time most of my coat was tattered from a patch of scorch slugs and tangle-me-dead vines. My sleeves were also torn and my pants had been ripped in several places. Basically, I was unfit for a ball. But it was nothing a bit of magic couldn't fix when I got there. I hoped. Twelve was the next direction I chose, and I went counter-clockwise twice just to be safe before plunging almost straight ahead, veering to the left.


     The new trail appeared twenty one steps later, a well worn one with gold brown leaves thickly padding each side, and tree branches that arched above me like hands clasping one another. I paused. The downside to well worn roads was that they led out of the woods, not through them. And I did not want to end up in some village that broke out into song every five minutes. If you've ever heard a tone-deaf baker singing, you'd know why I hesitate to go into singing villages.

 "Lost?"

   The voice coming from my right was hoarse sounding, like they were in the middle of a bad cough. I really didn't have time for this. Sighing, I turned and came face to face with....well I'm not sure what. A man. A man my age who was very attractive, if I had to be honest. He was well lit by a lantern hanging above him, highlighting tawny brown skin, long, waving dark brown hair, and the most beautiful golden eyes I had ever seen short of a honey jar sitting in afternoon sunlight.

"That depends," I said, drawing myself up to my full hight. "on what you do to people who are lost."

"Normally," The man said with a smile, "I eat them."

"Then I'm not lost. Excuse me."

   I didn't have time to exchange words with a magical being, nor did I have the energy to waste my valuable wit on him. Even if he was cute. I'd rather take my chances in a singing village, where I'm sure they could point the way to the Dark Prince's castle. Because there's one thing villagers love singing about, it's dire warnings about the Dark Prince's home.

"I was kidding, Agate. It's a joke. Sarcasm. They told me you had wit, but clearly they were wrong."

    I spun around so fast my cloak fanned around in a great, arching swirl that I'd tried to perfect for hours in front of a mirror. And of course it had to happen when no one was able to see it. At least not anyone noteworthy. A perfect coat spin, wasted.

"Who are you?" I realize how cliche I sounded, but really, what else was there to say? How are you? Have you seen the Dark Prince lately? How's the kids?

"I'm your fairy godmother."

Really? 

He certainly didn't look like one with his plain clothes that were--and I'm being generous here--hand me downs from a farm boy. I knew better than to judge someone by their appearance of course, but I'm sure fairy godmothers had standards. They were a guild, after all. And guilds had standards about things like clothes and hair. 

"How do I know you're not some bog toad dressed as a human waiting to devour me?" 

"I would have eaten you a long time ago. If I weren't your fairy godmother, how would I know your name?" 

   A fair point. I looked back at where the forest road led. I could risk going to a singing village or....

"If you're my fairy godmother, prove it." 

"Your name's Agate." 

"The whole forest knows that." 

"You uh..." My supposed fairy godmother suddenly looked less sure of himself. "Your aunt is the ruler of the Dark Forest." 

"Everyone know's that too. Try again. Go on." I smiled. "I'll give you one more shot." 

"You're so..." My fake fairy godmother frowned, searching for a word. 

"Smart? Witty? Giving?" 

"Infuriating!" 

"So I've been told." I ran a hand through my hair, because I knew it would annoy him. Well, it annoys most people, anyway. Aunt Wentle goes purple when I do it to her. "Was that your final guess? Because I have a ball to get to."

    He was silent for so long I figured I'd gotten the last word. I went to leave, but his voice rang out behind me. 

"Your cousin Snowflake likes roses." 

    Slowly, I turned back around. There was no way. No one knew about her obsession over roses except me. Well, and Snowflake. I must have looked more surprised than I thought, because my fake fairy godmother smiled in relief. Relief.  Surely a real fairy godmother wouldn't feel relief at getting something right if they already knew the answer to begin with.

    I glared at him, trying to stare down my nose in that I'm-better-than-you way my father had taught me. Except you can't do that when your shorter than your fairy godmother.

"That was a lucky guess."

"But I was right! Now look Agate, you're lost, your clothes are a mess, and you have horrible manners." 

"Excuse me, I have wonderful manners." 

"Well--"

"And a wonderful sense of humor."

"And modesty."

I decided to let that one go, because I really couldn't afford to be late--or later, really--to the ball. 

"Look," I said, "if you're going to insult me, fine, I'm used to it. But I'm lost, I'm late, and my clothes are ruined." 

"I know. I can help with your clothing...your style is all wrong for the ball anyway." 

    I could feel my temper rising. I took a deep, slow breath through my nose, hoping to calm down. Instead I ended up coughing because the smell of dead leaves and musty, wet frogs filled my senses. It was during my coughing fit that I saw a yellow fissure of light streak past my ear. And then another, and another. It was like a bunch of fireflies had decided to have a party around me. One light flew past my nose, and caused me to sneeze. Which is when I heard a 'pop'. 

    When I looked down it was to see my once tattered outfit had been transformed. Instead of black I was covered head to toe in white and gold. White leggings, white breeches, a white vest with gold leaf vines, white shirt, and a great white coat with gold trim. I wanted to like it. I really did. Except I hate white. And anything that reminds me of cold. I glared up at my failure of a fairy godmother. 

"What," I said, trying to keep my anger down, "have you done?" 

"I've made you presentable for court. You do know the ball is themed, don't you?" 

"No." 

"Oh." My fairy godmother shrugged. "Well it is. It's winter themed. You look....really good in white. It brings out your eyes and hair. You're a bit thin though. Hasn't your aunt been feeding you?"

I could smell smoke, and I quickly curled my hands, stopping the fire that itched to leak out. 

"If by feeding me you mean do I get whatever table scraps Snowflake leaves behind, then yes, I do get fed." 

     We stood in awkward silence. I don't know if he realized that I knew he wasn't my fairy godmother (because a fairy godmother would know what my life was like), but he'd given me new clothing and information, regardless of what he was. I could have asked why he was helping me, but again, knowledge is dangerous, especially personal knowledge. This was probably the extent of his powers anyway. I clapped my hands together, hoping he didn't notice the soot on them, and smiled. 

"Thank you very much for the clothing. If I'm ever able to conquer a land for my own I'll be sure to name a forest after you. Um...what's your name?" 

"My name isn't important." Suddenly the golden eyed fairy godmother looked worried. Shifty.

"Oh but it is." I insisted. "How can I accept clothing from some one whose name I don't know?" 

"You don't need to know your fairy godmother's name, alright? Just...just get to the ball in time and make sure you dance with the prince."

"I would love nothing more than to do that, if I knew which way to go. Because I'm lost." 

"Right." Pushing his long hair back from his face (he had a lovely square jaw.), my not-fairy-godmother cleared his throat. "Go down this road. On the third tree before the end of the woods, go left. You'll reach the palace in no time. Remember, you need to dance with the prince. All night." 

"All night?" He couldn't be serious. "Do you know how many people will be waiting to dance with him?"

"Look, I don't care who you have to poison, transform, or curse, just make sure you stick with him. Now go!"

    He'd grabbed me by the shoulders and given me a push, causing me to stumble and almost fall in my new clothes. My new white clothes. I whirled to give him a piece of my mind--only to find him and his lantern gone. I rolled my eyes and head off in the direction I was supposed to.

     My life didn't seem to get any better the longer I lived in it. First my parents and my home were burned down to ashes, and then my aunt Wentle, and now this strange, golden eye man who'd tossed me in my least favorite colors had given me an impossible task. If I didn't know any better I'd almost say I was quickly on my way to becoming a princess locked in a tower.  At the third tree before the end of the woods I turned left, and hadn't gone more than ten steps when the world blurred together like a sort of shadowy watercolor. It snapped into focus after a few seconds and there, towering above black trees, was an even blacker castle.

     It's spires and turrets stood sharp against the night sky, and a lonely, moaning wind blew from behind me, stirring up dead leaves to dance in the sky. In the distance I could hear music. Dark, haunting, and beautiful. I had truly made it. I stuck my hands in my coat pocket against the cold, and my fingers jammed against stiff paper. Quickly, I withdrew the paper and found a black envelope. On the front in silvery lettering that must have taken hours to get correct, were the words I had longed to see nearly a year ago. 




You Are Cordially Invited

      
     Four words. Four words that would allow me entry into the world I knew I was meant for. Taking a deep breath I straightened my shoulders and headed for the castle, tucking the invitation safely into it's pocket. My fairy godmother may not be real, but the invitation was, and that was good enough. 




Wednesday, December 20, 2017

FRACTURED FAIRYTALE: CINDERBOY CH 1

CINDERBOY CH 1 
(In which meet our heroine)



So, I have a lot of skeletons in my closet.

Like, real ones.

And sure, I COULD animate them and make them move to the cupboard, but that would make aunt Wentle mad. And I can't have her turning me into a bat.

Again.

The worst part about animating skeletons is how much they talk. And by talk I mean complain. A LOT. How their bones hurt, how it's bone cold in the cupboard. how it rattles their bones when we push them out of the way when we're in a hurry. They really love making their puns. Which is fine, except it's the same ones. Every. Single. TIME. 

"AGAAAATE!"

I sighed and quickly shut my closet. Only one person in the whole cottage screeched my name in that gritty, ear curling way. 

"AGATE WHERE ARE YOU?!"

And only one other person could sound like she was drowning in a bucket of sadness when she talked. 

"I'm up here." I mumbled the words, but I knew they could hear me. It's a shame, because you'd think if they had such awful, loud voices, they'd have bad hearing to compensate. Sadly, they could hear a pin drop even if trolls were dancing up a storm. 

"Why are you up here, you selfish thing!?" Aunt Wentle sneered. Not said. Sneered. She sneered all of her words. "You're supposed to be adding lace to Snowflake's dress!" 

Snowflake was my cousin. My aunt Wentle named her that in hopes that she'd be as delicate as that horrible stuff that falls from the sky. Snowflake more or less looked like a stone with moss growing on top of it. She walked like it too. 

"Yeah!" Snowflake said in a wet-rag sob. "How will I make the Dark Prince notice m-me if you don't ma-make my dreeeesss?!" 

I winced as she ended on a high pitched wail. Aunt Wentle was giving me such an evil glare I would have sworn she was the rightful ruler of the Dark Forest. Which, consequently, she was.

"I'm sorry Snowflake. I'll add cobweb lace from the blackwidow stash in my closet, alright?"

"Really? Y-you're special lace that sparkles with poison?"

"Yes." I tried not to sound bitter. "I'll add it to the cuffs of your dress."

"OH Aggie, you're the best!"

Before I could stop her, my cousin hugged me with her cold, clammy, rock-lik
e arms. I hated when she hugged me, because if she was a rock, I was a twig. And rocks crushed twigs. She thudded out of my room in her version of a waltz and aunt Wentle sniffed her long crooked nose at me. Her dark eyes were massive due to her thick glasses, but it didn't do any good. She was mainly blind, and no glasses or magic had been able to fix it yet.

"Agate, when your mother and father died in that horrible fire five months ago, I took you in, and I certainly didn't have to!"

"Yes, Auntie."

"AUNT WENTLE." She boomed. "You're not a baby, young man, so stop using that insufferable word! I could have turned you into a newt and been done with you, you know."

"I understand that Aunt Wentle."

"I hope you do. Your parents left you nothing. Not a poisoned apple, not a magic wand, not even seven league boots! It's a disgrace to our name! Now hurry with that lace, we leave for the ball in three hours!"

What Aunt Wentle wasn't saying was that she wanted to throw me out but couldn't because, unlike Snowflake, I could cast spells. Real ones. And it made her black heart even blacker. Which is what happens when all you do is black magic. I believe in diversifying. But aunt Wentle doesn't know what that word means.

After she left my room I waited until I heard her footsteps hit the last creaky step before I dared to make a face at the door she closed. I hated it here. I hated having to be subservient to a wet rock like Snowflake. The only good thing that had come out of it all was that I had access to Aunt Wentle's spell book, and could sneak into it to learn new spells. One spell taught you how to reanimate a person's limb. They couldn't feel anything with it, and it'd rot eventually, but they got it back for a little bit. I used that spell and tinkered with it to make clothes instead.

Because if Aunt Wentle and Snowflake thought I'd sew any of her dressses by hand, they were crazier than a bat in a giant's ear.


Snowflake's dress was lying on the one chair I was allowed to have. It also doubled as my bed when the floor got too cold. The dress was pretty, if I did say so myself. Not that I knew much about fashion. But Snowflake seemed to like it, so I guess I had some sort of talent. It was made of silk, dyed with dark green swamp slime that added a nice sheen to it. It had puffed sleeves--that I now had to add my precious poison lace to--and the gown billowed out.

On any other person it would have looked wonderful. On Snowflake it looked like she was drowning. And believe me, I tried everything. But like I said, she's rock.

I could hear the front door slam, signaling Aunt Wentle had gone to wander the woods to hand out poison apples to children and I breathed a sigh of relief. now I could say the spell and she wouldn't hear. Taking the black lace from dresser I laid it on the dress and pointed to the puffed sleeves.

"Black of heart
 Cold as stone
 Stitch togther
 To be reborn"

It wasn't my most rhymiest of spells, but it did the trick. The two pieces of lace gave a little shiver and then wriggled like worms towards the sleeves, attaching themselves neatly around each one. For good measure I added some at the bottom of the dress to make a pretty rose. For some reason Snowflake really liked roses. I don't know where she'd seen one though, nothing like that grew in the Dark Forest.

But I don't question things like that. Knowledge is a dangerous thing, and you've got to be careful about what kind of knowledge you acquire. Spells and hexes are one thing. Knowing peoples deepest, darkest, thoughts and secrets can often leave you dead. And I liked living. Well, usually.

With the dress completed I got my own clothing ready. It might not seem like it, but clothes for men are tricky. First you have to make sure your breeches are padded just right. And when you're thin like me, it's important to know what does and doesn't work for you. Tight fitting shirts make you look like a skeleton and peasant shirts are too baggy and make your arms look like toothpicks. I had managed to make a black poet's shirt with billowing sleeves and tightly buttoned cuffs that I tucked into my black leather gloves carefully, otherwise it would pucker. My black boots were shined and I'd even managed to magic in a wonderful black coat.

In the cracked and mostly dusty glass window I could just make out my dim reflection. If I bent to the left, I wasn't as warped looking. In fact, I looked....almost normal again.

"Agate, is the dress--oh. Oh my!"

I spun around. Snowflake stood in the doorway, staring at me as if I'd sprouted three heads. I couldn't look that terrible. I glanced down at my shoes. No, they weren't crooked, and nothing was out of place. I definitely looked ready.

"Am I missing something?"

"Oh, well..." Whatever Snowflake was going to say she stopped, because she saw her dress waiting for her. "It's beautiful! Just what I'd imagined in my mind!"

Without even stopping to think that I might be offended--or embarrassed--she was out of her clothes and into the dress faster than I could think of a spell to make my eyes not remember what I'd just seen.

"Aggie, it's beautiful!"

Well...it was. But Snowflake, poor, poor cousin Snowflake, looked like a rock with more moss than it knew what to do with. If I told her the truth she'd burst into tears and make my life miserable. If I didn't, I'd make all the people in court miserable. I was going to break the news to her gently, because I actually did feel bad for her, except Aunt Wentle came in then.

I held my breath. Maybe she'd tell her daughter. I might get turned into a bat again, but at least I wouldn't be the bearer of bad news.

"You look gorgeous, my little snow pile!"

Really?

"Why, the Dark Prince will be a puddle at your feet!"

Really?

I was at a loss for words, but I wasn't given a chance to try to find some, because Aunt Wentle turned to me and stepped close. So close that I could smell hints of the Dark Forest on her clothes and a strange, sickly sweet scent. Probably from the poisoned apples.

"Why do you have on such fancy clothes, boy?"

"Well, I figured I was going too."

"When did you ever hear me include you?"

I thought quickly. She was right. She'd never once asked me if I wanted to go--or told me I was. I tried not to blush. My face often turns red when I'm mad, but I've been working on that. I pressed my lips tightly together and counted to ten. Then I counted to ten again .And all the while aunt Wentle had her dark gaze fixed on mine, daring me to say something.

"You can't go." Said Snowflake.

"That's right." Aunt Wentle sniffed, and stepped back. "You're name never came on an invitation."

"Because I wasn't living here when they did."


"So?" Taking Snowflakes hand aunt Wentle tugged her out of the room. "You weren't invited and that's that. Watch the house and make sure that you keep those godawful scorch-slugs off our porch."

With a swish of her dark cape and purple dress--that was a really bad color for her skin--Aunt Wentle dragged Snowflake out of my room, down the stairs, and into the carriage pulled by the charred skeletal remains of once living horses. Aunt Wentle told me they'd belonged to a princess who had been foolish enough to try and take a shortcut through her woods. As I watched the black carriage roll away I tugged my coat off and threw it to the floor. The one good thing I'd had to look forward to. The one thing that my mother and father had promised they would take me to, had been snatched away again. 


A strange feeling fluttered in my stomach and slowly made it's way up my chest, spreading to my fingers. The scent of burning leather wafted to my nose and I curled my fingers. I'd almost lost control again. But I wouldn't. Not now. Not yet.

I gazed at my reflection for a moment. Caught a glimpse of a my dark eyes and the orange light that flickered in them. I closed them and when I opened them again the light was gone. Beyond the window the blue will-o-the-wisps were bobbing deep into the forest to lure unsuspecting people into the Dark Forest.

Grabbing my coat from the floor I headed downstairs. Without my asking, the door of the cottage flung open. The reaching, clawing hands of the Dark Forest stretched towards me as I buttoned up my coat.

If aunt Wentle thought I was going to obey her, or feared her woods, she'd picked the wrong opponent.

 I suppose she hadn't heard the rumors yet.

The Dark Prince didn't like princesses.

And, as it happened, neither did I. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WRITER CONFESSIONS: The Myth Of Working Hard

Hello fellow writerlings! Are you all still rolling around the floors stuffed with turkey, or have you survived yet another family function and ready to tuck back into the world of writing? You have? GREAT!

Apologies for being absent the past 2 weeks, there was much food eaten and personal life issue things that came up that stopped me from writing here, editing my novel, and hosting #fairiefriday on Twitter.

SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADIEU LET'S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!


I bet, as a writer, you've heard the famous story of how Nora Roberts (and if you haven't heard of her shame on you and the cave you live in!) wakes up, drinks her coffee, and writes from 8-5.

EVERY

SINGLE

DAY

YES FRIENDS, I'M SERIOUS!

And not only does she write 8 hours a day Monday through Friday, so do several other famous authors.

If you're anything like me, you're now curled up in a ball on the floor and crying and feeling like a failure because cheezus christ you haven't written in 2 weeks/2 months/10 months. 

You hear stories of authors who are writing 8 hours a day, authors who worked a full time job and still wrote 5 hours a day and had three kids, did laundry, made dinner from scratch, AND paid the bills.

I asked the same question you do:

ARE THEY ANDRIOIDS?!?! 

They aren't. They just have a time machine to do all of this. I checked into it. I'm totally trustworthy on this info. I swear.

But the thing is, you hear people around you saying how they write everyday and they finished a whole fucking chapter in 4 hours and someone else finished half a novel in 2 days and you feel like a failure because it's been forever since you wrote anything, and everything you DO write recently seems to be crap, and you're crap, and your writing is crap, and.....

BREATH


ITS GONNA BE OKAY

YOU. ARE. NOT. FAILING.

I know you don't believe me right now. I didn't believe my friends when they told me this too. I felt like I was failing. I wasn't trying hard enough. I was doing enough. I wasn't being enough. If I were trying harder I'd be writing 8 hours a day (or night). And here were my talented, driven friends telling me how they'd just completed editing something, or finished writing their latest chapter, and there I was reading manga and watching TV shows and barely able to muster the energy to even think about writing.

The thought of opening up word to edit my novel was exhausting. I never even thought that could a real thing. But I literally got tired just from thinking about what I'd have to do and tackle. Meanwhile, my friends were writing.

But here's the dirty little truth you don't hear authors always talk about:


Many of them aren't writing every day


You heard me! They don't write every day. Let alone three days in a row. There are those who have this amazing work ethic and they can write every day 9 hours a day 5 days a week. But that isn't MOST authors--that's not even most famous authors!

Think about it. Do you think J.K. Rowling was writing every day five days a week (after book 2)? Do you? NO. Because she was raising her kid, doing book signings, celebrating with friends, doing book tours, speaking at events, AND FILMING MOVIES. Do you think she was writing every day? NO.

And you know what? MOST PEOPLE CAN'T.

And the thing is, "working hard" is a REALLY REALLY FREAKING HORRIBLE MISCONCEPTION THAT ONLY BELONGS IN 9-5 JOBS.

Because writers? We're not 9-5 people.


WE'RE ARTISTS 



And art brains, my friends, take more fuel than other brains. And fuel in an artists brain looks like--to muggle people--goofing off. We look lazy. We look like we're doing a bunch of useless stuff that has nothing to do with writing. But it does. IT ALL DOES. That's us, working.


It doesn't feel like work, I know. But it is. Your brain, unbeknownst to you, is storing snippets and snappets of ideas and color and characters and stuffing it into corners and files in your mind for later. And on the 4th month you're bemoaning and hating yourself, BAM! All of a sudden you see a picture or hear a line in a show, or read it in a manga or comic or book and YOU HAVE AN IDEA. You're CONSUMED with the idea or it suddenly fixes a problem in your story that's kept you from writing for the past X-amount of days and away you fly to your computer to write for 12 hours straight.

I know, I just blew your mind, right?

That's how writing works. We aren't normal. If we were normal, we'd be doing 9-5 jobs.

But we're not. And that's good. 

It's hard not to feel guilty for not doing actual writing, but writing is actually VERY mentally exhausting, and we require vast amounts of fodder for our imagination folders.

So don't despair about not writing for a long time. Your brain just needs to be replenished, and it needs time away from your work. You wouldn't want to think about how to cook something all day right? Same with writing. You're not meant to think about it all day, 5 days a week. You'll burn out. And you need fresh ideas. So when you read that comic/book/manga or watch that TV show, you're actually working, and you're working hard!

It's just that OUR work and research is *gasp* fun.

So the next time you feel that you're not doing enough, or being enough, or trying hard enough, SMACK YOURSELF. You
are trying hard enough. It's just that 'trying' is often researching fun things, reading books, watching movies, or taking up knitting. It alllll comes back to you in the form of a new idea or a better way to fix your book.
What about you guys!? Do you feel bad/guilty for not writing every single day? Do you feel like your failing? What do you  do when you get discouraged/frustrated with your writing? This author wants to know! 

Friday, November 17, 2017

FAIRIE FRIDAY: Fairy Raths

Hello my Irish mythology loving friends! If this is the first post you're reading, you'll know that for the foreseeable future I'm devoting my Friday's to Irish Good Folk--the Tuath De Danann--, mythology, folklore, and even modern day accounting of those who have had a run in the with those Good Neighbors.

Basically I'm a really big geek, guys. 

A geek who loves Irish mythology too much and wants to fix the misconceptions about 'fairies'.


To read previous articles and catch up, you can read them here and here! If you'd like to join in, I also host a 1 hour live Q&A discussions on twitter on Fridays at 1 pm (California time)! Just use the hashtag #fairiefriday and ask questions or even provide answers! I don't care! The more the merrier!

TODAY'S TOPIC is going to be super fun and a little bit short! I figured you guys could use a break from all that heavy duty mythology!

So grab some tea (or whisky. OR BOTH) and lets talk:

FAIRIE RATHS (forts)

Katie, I hear you saying, everyone knows that fairie forts are really just adorable little homes that people make in pots or put doors in trees. You can even buy fairie homes in the garden section of Joann's. Everyone knows that!

Oh honey.

Oh my sweet little rainbowchild.

NO.

A fairie rath is not a little manufactured door, or rose petal tea cup sets made in China. Nor are those tinsy tiny homes you make out of twigs and bark and moss ever going fit a Good Folk. Pixies, sure. But Good Folk? HAHAHA.

Sorry, that was rude of me to laugh. But I'm not sorry.

A Fairie Rath (or Fairie Fort) is what some people in Ireland (who clearly aren't from Ireland) say are just 'weird bumps in the earth'. But Irish scholars and mythology students know better. Hell, the Irish PEOPLE know better. Those bumps in the earth that have no business being there are, in act, Fairie Raths, or 'homes'. They look like this: 


 



I TOOK THIS PHOTO IN IRELAND! IT WAS POINTED OUT TO ME BY A LOCAL! IT'S ACTUALLY HUGE.

Now, depending on how far back you want to go into mythology it's assumed that the entire mound itself is the 'home' and that the Good folk dwell in it. Some say that it's an entrance into their world, and you have to go at the right time (usually 'between' times, like right before dawn and right before sunset). 

But if you go back even further, what these odd mounds are actually supposed to be is the tops of the roofs--or some speculate pillars--that denote the top of the roof for palaces of the Tuath De Danann. And even funner fact, one of the great kings/rulers of the Tuath De Danann (the most famous), build such mounds while he was enslaved by the Fir Bolg.  

There is a lot of  folklore surrounding them. like...a LOT. And the main theme is: If you go near them, consider yourself dead.

NO REALLY. 

Now look, if people can believe that some invisible person in sky rules over us all, then I can damn well believe in Good Folk and them killing you for disturbing their homes. And if you think that they're not real and that real, life altering, deadly things can't happen for trying (or even succeeding) to bulldoze one down because you 'don't believe', then I present to you these cases:

-Ireland's wealthiest man going bankrupt after removing a fairie  fort. RUINED. (the point? The Good Folk don't just go up to you and stab you with a magical spear. They work in ways that look like 'bad timing' and 'freak accidents'. Really really scary 'freak accidents'.)

-The worker who died IN a fairie fort while working on a road that he'd recently help lay that destroyed another one.

There are more, but honestly, you have Google and you know how to use it. I believe in you.

So there you have it! That's what a fairie fort is!

Some people believe none of it is real. They're also the same people to 1000% not go near a Fairie fort.

For your enjoyment, a short story on how I almost got to go up to a Fairie Fort 
I was in Ireland doing research for the sequel to my book, Brenna Morgan and the Iron Key (what no I'm totally not plugging my book!......okay I am. sue me. I need to feed my cat, okay!?). My first stop was Dingle, where I stayed for four days. I ended up doing a really fun tour, where locals volunteer to drive you around the Dingle Peninsula. I was exceedingly lucky in that my local was a curmodgenly Irishmen with a great beard and piercing stare.

When he asked me what I was doing in Ireland, I of course said that I was doing research on the Good Folk. He scoffed at me, and said "you don't believe any of that nonsense d'you?" to which  I said "I do." He harumphed and didn't say anything more to me.

Clearly this was going to be a very fun rest of the tour.
About fifteen minutes later he pulls over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. NOWHERE. Cows and ocean to our left fields to our right, no houses. Just cows. The man has me and my companion get out of the car and as my companion is taking pictures on the other side of the road of the cows and the ocean (I got some pics too, not gonna lie!) the driver turns to me--who is resting against the car--and says:

"D'you see that there?" And he points behind us, to which I see a weird, massive, bump in the earth surrounded by gorse (f***ing gorse. I hate it. I hate it so much!) and other plant life.

"Yes." I say.

"That's a fairy rath."

"Oh wow, really!?" (It was surrounded by a poorly made fence)

"T'is." He said. "That belongs to my friend *name omitted*, a farmer who owns the land there."

Being that I sometimes don't THINK before I SPEAK (like the time I asked a cop who didn't know me if I could hold his gun), these words went flying out of my mouth from sheer astonishment and delight at seeing a legit fairi fort:

"Do you think he'd let me go in it!?" (it was surrounded by a poorly made fence).

"IN it?" Asks the old man, and he's look angrier. "Why would you want to go IN it?"

"No no, not IN it." I assured him. "Just, you know, AROUND it."

"Well why would you be wantin' to do that, then?"

And that was the end of our discussion. Clearly worried I was going to hop the fence and get myself cursed by the goodfolk--I wasn't--he ushered me and my companion into the car and zoomed off.

A lot of people will tell you they don't believe, but when push comes to shove, even they refuse to move something considered belonging to the Good Folk. For the most part.

Thank you for joining me today! If you have any questions please feel free to comment here, or join me today at 1 pm (California time) for a discussion on Fairie Forts and all things Irish Mythology!

Have you been to Ireland? Seen a fairie fort? BEEN INSIDE ONE AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE or new someone who did!? SHARE YOUR STORY WE WANT TO KNOW!

Next week's topic is: FAIRIE DOCTORS! 
**********

IF YOU LIKE IRISH MYTHOLOGY OR YA BOOKS--OR BETTER YET BOTH--HAVE A LOOK AT MY YA BOOK DEDICATED TO STRICTLY IRISH MYTHOLOGY:

BRENNA MORGAN AND THE IRON KEY! Available for purchase here
And if that doesn't convince you because you're visual and you just don't have time to read the back of a book, CHECK OUT THIS AMAZING MOVIE BOOK TRAILER FOR IT TO CHANGE YOUR MIND! (it worked right?.....the caplocks yelling worked?)




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Short Story Pt. II WILD CHILD

Oh hello my fellow writer and readerlings! Today is part II of my short(ish?) story! I hope you enjoy it, because it's been fun and kind of creepy to write. If you didn't read the first part, you can read it here! Next week will be the conclusion to this story! I sincerely hope you enjoy it!

A question to you writers out there: Do you ever write stories that when you're done writing them, you go back to read them, only to find that you don't remember ever sounding as articulate as what you thought? I felt that way recently about a story I wrote and I sat there going, "who wrote this? Because this is leagues above what I feel I normally write? Did some spirit inhabit my body and write these beautiful words, because it wasn't ME."

Or maybe I'm just crazy?

Anyway, enjoy this story, it was really fun to write!

REMINDER: 

COME BACK FRIDAY TO READ MY BLOG POST FOR FAIRIE FRIDAY! WE'RE GOING TO BE DISCUSSING FAIRY RATHS AND BIDDY EARLY--THE FAIRIE DOCTOR! 

THE BLOG POST WILL BE FOLLOWED BY A LIVE Q&A SESSION ON TWITTER USING THE HASHTAG #fairiefriday! USE THE HASHTAG TO ASK QUESTIONS OR PASS INFO! I'LL ASK ANY OF YOUR QUESTIONS AND HEAR ANY OF YOUR STORIES IF YOU'VE HAD EXPERIENCE WITH GOOD FOLK! 

THE Q&A STARTS AT 1 PM CALIFORNIA TIME.

4 PM EAST COAST TIME

9 PM FOR ENGLAND, IRELAND, SCOTLAND

10 PM FOR GERMANY & SWEDEN

8 AM FOR AUSTRALIA 
9 AM FOR JAPAN


AND NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY NON-SPONSORED PROGRAM



WILD CHILD



“What are you doing by the woods? Don’t go in without me. You don’t know the land yet. You wouldn’t want a bear to eat you, would you?”

River peered into the woods, but couldn’t find the strange shape she had just seen. She was pretty sure bears were the least of her worries. She didn’t have time to worry about the strange event for long, because her mother put her to work covering up the logs and saw mill with a blue tarp. Breakfast was granola bars and chocolate milk, and then it was twenty miles of bumpy road out onto the main highway.
The nearest town was fifteen minutes away, and River used the time to peer into the dark woods out her window. She saw now shapes, and the trees didn’t feel as forbidding as the ones where they lived.
“Here we are.” Said her mom as she pulled into a roadside diner. It was a long dingy white building, with red fabric awnings over the windows that were tattered at the ends and had a thick layer of grime on top. River wrinkled her nose.
“Do we have to stop here?”
“It’s where your Uncle Mike would eat. C’mon, I’ll get you a milkshake.”
River wasn’t sure if the milkshake would be all that good, and she trudged after her mom. The inside was cleaner than the outside, and crowded. The red booths were filled with families, while the counter was filled with men that reminded River of Santa Clause if he were a lumberjack wearing caps and cowboy hats.
Taking a seat at the end of the counter, swinging her legs as she took in the scent of eggs, fries, and burgers. Her air was filled with the sound of knives and forks on plates, food being chewed, and  a four-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. River rubbed at her abused ears while her mother went to go talk to a waitress.
“You the new kid?” The man next to her spoke, his long yellow-white beard parted and braided into two separate pieces. River nodded slowly, eyeing him. He was thin, with deep wrinkles and deeper brown eyes. He had egg stuck on his beard.
            “My mom and I just moved.”
“I know. You moved onto Selden’s land.”
“Selden?”
“The man who owned the land before you did. But that was twenty three years ago. I’m Mark Sutter.”
“River.” She held her hand out, and the old man took it, his hand rough, hard, and cold. River shivered, and Mark let go, picking up his coffee cup.
“Your mama know how build a house?”
“Yeah. She’s really smart. She can shoot a gun too.”
“A gun ain’t gonna help you, kid. Don’t wander too far into the woods out there, that’s how Selden lost his three kids.”
“Did….did a bear get them?”
“Don’t know.” Mark took a sip of his coffee, staring at her over the rim of the thick white mug. “Some people say it was ghosts that took ‘em.”
“G-ghosts?”
“Well, it was probably a bear. They’re big out there where you live. ‘Cept they didn’t find no bodies or bones. Weird, that.”  
“River, did you make a friend?” Her mom had walked up, her smile bright.
“This is Mark Sutter.”
“Hi, I’m Sarah Freeman.”
“Nice to meet y’all.” The old man shook her mother’s hand and then stood up, whipping his beard. “I gotta get goin’, but I live about ten miles for you. Just take a left on the fork at the river bend, instead of the right. Always happy to help.”
“Thanks Mark, I appreciate that. You wouldn’t happen to have seen or met my brother, would you? He was up there building a cabin about a week ago.”
“A man huh….” Mark ran a hand through his beard. “I did see a red truck driving by last week, but I don’t know if I saw it leave or not.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it.”
Mark nodded his head and walked out, and River twirled her seat to face her mom, who took the old man’s seat.
“Mom, Mr. Sutter said that the man who owned the land before us had three kids and that they got taken by ghosts.”
“Oh please.” Her mom laughed as two milkshakes landed in front of them. “He’s just trying to scare you. You really need to stop believing everything you hear.”
“Did anyone see uncle Mike?” River changed the subject. She didn’t want to fight with her mother.
“They didn’t see him here recently. But maybe he didn’t stop in town on his way out. I’ll call his phone before we leave.”
The phone call didn’t lead to anything but his voicemail, and after getting some lunch at a cafĂ©, they headed back to their land. River jumped out of the car and stared into the woods where the three children had supposedly be taken by ghosts. Or eaten by a bear. She didn’t like the idea of either of those things happening to her. The forest around her was busy with life, and didn’t feel as threatening or creepy as before, and as the days passed by, the feelings disappeared completely.
The forest became more welcoming, felt less threatening. The trees seemed to watch her not with hate, but with curiosity now, and the shade didn’t seem so dark or gloomy. With the help of her mother River was able to stake out places she knew, and how to make markers so she could find her way back. The gentle, wide creek turned out to have fish, and she spent her time trying to catch them with a net. Some days she was successful, and other times she found herself as wet as the fish she was trying to catch.
Sometimes she heard laughter in the woods, the kind that wasn’t her own, but she didn’t find any more childlike footprints, or strange dark shapes loping in the shade of the forest, and shrugged it off. If they were ghosts, they were only ghosts of children her age, and that didn’t seem so scary.
“Cooooweeeee!!!”
The cry was loud and piercing—it was the cry her mother used to call her home. Dropping the stick she’d been digging in the sand near the river bank, River ran barefoot through the now well worn path. Through the ferns and trees River saw her home and grinned. In the three weeks they’d live there, her mother had been hard at work, and Mark Sutter had even come to help out. Now their cabin had a roof, and the dirt, rocks, and sticks that had littered the ground had been cleared. It was home.
“Mom? Where are you?”
“At the front! Come here!”
River ran around the side and then gave a whoop. The door had been installed. Her mom was standing beside it, a paint can in her hands.
“You ready to paint this door?”
“Yeah!”
Together they painted the door a dark purple, and then stood back to observe their handy work.
“Tonight, we sleep and eat indoors, kiddo.”
Yes!”
River stepped inside the sparsely furnished cabin and grinned. Light flooded in from the large windows, the stone fireplace between the two windows stood ready for use, and stairs leading up to the two bedrooms was freshly polished. Home.
“Mom, I’ll go get some really nice pine cones for the fireplace!”
“Alright, but don’t go too far, it’ll be dark soon.”
“Okay!”
Grabbing her backpack River slung it over her shoulder, along with her pocket knife, and head out, barefoot and heart light. The woods around her were familiar, friendly, warm. She had a place in the world they had moved into. She was being accepted, and River couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. She ran through the familiar old pines and oaks, keeping her eyes out for pinecones. There were none.
Frowning she peered deeper into the woods. She could go a little further than normal without getting lost. Taking her pocket knife out she carved into a pine tree, three sideway slashes that marked her way. She entered the new section of woods, and after a bit of search found an area loaded with pinecones. Behind her she heard a giggle, and River froze, her hand hovering over a pinecone.
“Hello? Are you there?” she called out, but only the sound of blue jays alighting from a tree greeted her. Picking the pinecone up she straightened, looking around slowly. Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw something dark between the trees to her left.
“This isn’t funny!” She cried. “If you’re going to laugh at me, at least do it to my face!”
She waited for several minutes, but no response came. Picking up the pinecone she backed away slowly. Something other than the trees and animals were with her, she knew it. The memories she’d forgotten on purpose came rushing up. Tiny feet around the tent, strange shadows in the woods, feelings of being watched. As quickly as she could she ran back to the tree she’d left her newest mark, but her relief at the sight was short lived. Below the three slashes was a white hand print, as if it had been painted on. It was smaller than hers. Behind her she heard the sound of footsteps crunching leaves and twigs.
River stood frozen, holding her breath. No matter how much she wanted to scream or run, nothing happened. The footsteps were small, and then there were more. She stared ahead, where the familiar path that led to her home waited for her. She was close to it, close to safety, and she couldn’t do anything.
 The footsteps had stopped, and she closed her eyes. River could feel them standing right behind her, though she wasn’t sure how many, or who. Maybe it was the ghost children. Maybe it was a mountain lion. Maybe it was her imagination. Someone giggled, and she could feel their breath on her neck.
“Turn around.” The voice was childlike but tight, like some one who was talking in between coughing.
“N-No.”
“She’s afraid.” Said a second, tight voice. It was older and sounded like a boy.
“She shouldn’t be, she’s one of us.” Said the first voice. “Hey, River, turn around.”
Her body reacted faster than her mind did. River spun before she could think better of it, terrified to see what was behind her. No one was there. There were no children, no animals, no disturbed leaves or twigs other than the ones she’d stepped on.
“Coooowwweee!” Called her mother. Shaking, River ran to the sound, ran to safety. The moment her bare feet landed on the soft, freshly turned dark soil, she felt safe.
“River did you find enough pinecones?”
“No, I….” Her voice was hoarse, and she coughed. “I didn’t find many.”
“Too bad. Come inside, the sun’s setting and we need to get this fire started.”
Tightening her hands on her shoulder straps River backed away from the woods, keep her eyes on the rapidly darkening woods. They were watching her, she could feel it. She heard the crack of  large branch, the rustling of leaves, and in the looming darkness, by the side of a tree, she saw a face, a strange face her mind couldn’t quite accept.
“River?”
“C-coming.”
The face wasn’t human, but it was. It was…River ran inside. It wasn’t a ghost. But it wasn’t human either.

            Whatever it was, it had horns on top of its head.