So this story evolved from a short into something a touch more epic. I sort of still know where it’s going, but not entirely; and the name it used to have (“Cabbaged,” if you want to know) doesn’t apply even a little.
I’m having a blast writing it, though. It’s been far too long since Gray told me a story.
Note: as usual, this is pretty much unedited, messy, wordy, etc. I hope it’s fun, anyway!
I’d been prince-napped. You’ll forgive me if I didn’t figure that out right away, yeah?
I came to because I’d drooled down my chin and soaked my shirt, which had now gone all cold and sticky against my skin, and it irritated me.
It also irritated me that whoever was on my left wasn’t good at singing.
All right, all right, he wasn’t awful. But he wasn’t my standard, and the piece he’d picked – “Red Right Hand” – was decidedly below his range.
“Will you cut it?” growled a voice from behind me. “Got a headache as it is.”
For some reason, that voice is what pulled me back into awareness.
Sitting up felt like rising through mud, just heavy enough to slow me down and cling to every crevice, preventing my thoughts from breathing right just yet. “Buh…” I said.
“See? He’s in shock. I think he needs a little more help, don’t you?” said left-voice, and magic…
Magic flowed into me, restarting my engines, refilling my veins, soothing the persistent itching pain of magic seeping out of my veins like lungs deprived of oxygen.
I took it – of course I took it! – like a man in the desert, gulping it down whether it was good for me or not, and barely even noticed behind-me-voice chuckling like this was all really funny.
Reality came on like a light switch.
I was clinging to someone’s chest. Not very well, given that he was in a car seat and we were both strapped in, but I was managing. My face was mashed to his chest, whoever he was, and he smelled pleasantly of juniper.
“There he goes,” rumbled the behind-me-voice.
I sat up and took a moment to assess my situation.
This was not my most dignified point of existence. My hair was simply everywhere – looping away in peripheral vision as though it had tried a perm but changed its might halfway through. My saliva made my jaw tacky and really ruined this shirt. It felt like I’d managed to indent my cheek with the seatbelt or some other hard object by lying on it too long. And of course, I’d just been snuggling some total stranger in a van.
“Good morning, pretty boy,” came from behind.
The one to the left of me – with whom I had just been cuddling – was Fey, like me. Honey-brown hair gently curled around his face, and his long, pointed ears hung at a relaxed acute angle; he was pretty like all of us, nothing remarkable there, and he smiled contentedly without bothering to glance my way as he drove.
Behind me was a bigger problem.
I am not fond of the Shadow’s Breath.
The People of the Darkness are many and varied and encompass everything from dragons to zimwi, and it just so happens that all of them eat Fey.
Shadow’s Breath are particularly dangerous. One of them even rules all the People of the Darkness – Kanon, the Raven Kin.
The fellow in the back seat was hiding his true appearance today; he’d normally be about seven feet tall, black-horned and black-hooved, with brick-red skin cracked with deep, flickering valleys leading who knows where.
Right now, he looked like a yuppie.
The tie was out of date, the suit was expensive but cut all wrong, and the hair – “Aren’t you pretty when you’re not drooling?” he said, smiling with teeth so white they had to be fake.
I responded as only a proper kidnapped prince would. “What the bloody hell is going on here?”
“Relax, Gray,” said the driver, using my chosen name with great sarcasm. “We’re not here to hurt you. By the time we’re done, you’ll thank us for getting you out of there.”
“Out of where? The best gig I’ve had in a year? What’s wrong with you?” He was Fey, for crying out loud. “What are you doing with him? Are you okay? Was this your idea? Am I supposed to swap places with you or just join in the fun?”
They both laughed.
Fair enough. I couldn’t stop rambling for some insane reason, though I knew what that reason was. Magical overload tends to make one just a bit… high.
“Hey!” I declared, fumbling with my belt. “I am out of here and I do not even care if you don’t slow down-”
The Fey put his hand on mine, and I stopped. “No,” he said evenly.
I obeyed him.
It wasn’t on purpose. It was the kind of no that comes from an elder and immediately reduces you to childhood, at least for one insane second. “Excuse me,” I said, and swatted.
“Do you know who I am?” said the Fey, negotiating a turn signal around a small green suburban.
“Why should I?” I reached for my seatbelt again.
This time, he kept his hand on mine, and now I knew what I’d obeyed him: there was power in his skin.
Real power. Not borrowed, not siphoned off something or someone else, Fey power, a distinctly special magic I hadn’t felt since I’d left home.
And I hadn’t felt it since I left home because only my father had that kind of power available to him – his own, not stolen, neither begged nor borrowed.
That was impossible.
“My name is Robin Goodfellow,” he said, and smiled out the windshield as the music changed again.
Arnór Dan Arnársson’s haunting vocals filled the speakers, bringing “So Close” with lyrics about dark and light and shadows and masks.
“Ólafur Arnalds,” I blurted. “A favorite. And you’re crazy. He doesn’t exist.”
They both laughed again.
This time, I let go of the seatbelt under my own volution.
That power. Lips could lie but power could not.
I was in a van with Robin Goodfellow and some Shadow’s Breath rando, and I had no idea where we were headed.
I’ve had some weird nights in my life, but…
No buts. This was definitely shaping up to be the worst of them.