Fiction Fragment Friday
This week’s story is one of those that formed when the first line popped into my head. I have no idea where the inspiration for this line came from, but a whole story developed in that one moment. I woke up in the middle of the night and sent myself a message with the whole first paragraph so I could remember it in the morning.
As I wrote it I realized I had a much larger short story on my hands than fits for a Fiction Fragment Friday so I started cutting out things that I would have spent paragraphs on. Conversations between the main character, a mirror, her hunter, and the pigs were cut. In fact as I was writing the chase scene I realized that it could have lasted the entire length of a Fiction Fragment Friday. This is a case where I think the story could use a bit more room to breath and might have been better if I had written the entire story and then edited it down for size instead of the approach I took. I take it as a lesson learned.
My alias is Snow White, and I am the realm’s greatest art thief. To the best of my knowledge, I’m the realm’s only art thief but let’s not quibble over minor little details like that. I have been liberating great works from the rich for years with only the rare close call. No matter the number of guards or traps setup I can abscond with my target leaving no trace of my passing. You might wonder how I achieve such a remarkable success rate, but that is a trade secret. Words cannot thus express my surprise at triggering the Queen’s magic security system.
“Thief on the second floor of the north wing.” The voice came from a mirror in the hall across from the painting I was targeting. It also came from every other mirror and reflective surface in the castle. There was an elderly man’s face reflected in these surfaces and he did not look happy. He gave a play-by-play report of my actions as I grabbed my objective and made a run for it. On the plus side I had covered my face, so the descriptions of my appearance were not particularly helpful. On the negative side the moment the mirror started talking a magic suppression field went into effect and I could no longer walk through shadows.
I heard the howl and knew I was in serious trouble. The Queen had loosed her werewolf hunter on me. It would have no trouble getting my scent so the saving grace of keeping my appearance hidden wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped. Even with my abilities losing a hunter that tracked by scent was difficult. Without them I was about as scared as I had ever been. That meant I was desperate, and, in my desperation, I dove through a glass window into the courtyard. My gear kept me from getting cut, but the action was loud, and the landing was hard. There would be no blood left behind to use against me, but I was drawing a lot of attention.
Exhaustion soon threatened to overtake me as I regained access to my magic and started pushing against my own limitations to escape. My muscles were sore from running and my brain was pounding from magic exertion. There was only so long I could push myself like that and my ankle had landed very poorly so every step shot pain up my leg. I was free of the castle, but the werewolf was still behind me. Scent cannot be outrun. I needed just a moment to catch my breath and think of something. That is when I saw the thatch cottage.
The owner let out a squeal of surprise when I melted out of a shadow of his cottage. He was a Swineman. If you have never encountered one, they are magically evolved pigs that walk on hind legs and wear clothes. Mostly they have been created as an underclass of farmers for the Queen. She doesn’t really let them leave the farms that they work very often. He was shaking petrified and considering most of the encounters he had probably had with humans I couldn’t blame him.
“Little pig, Little pig. Let me in.” The harsh raspy voice of the werewolf carried through the little cottage. My host was too petrified to move or speak.
“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen,” I yelled back out the window. I knew that the walls of the cottage could never hold him out, but I still needed more time.
I expected him to give another warning. The longer I could stall the better. He did not bother with more words though. I heard rough chanting and when I glanced out, I could see his clawed hands making signs. Wind whipped around him, and a mini tornado formed heading straight for the cottage. On instinct I grabbed the Swineman and dragged him through shadows seconds before the building was completely destroyed.
Hoping it would take the werewolf a moment to realize he hadn’t gotten us I paused long enough to take in my surroundings. There was a much sturdier looking cabin on the far end of the farm field. I was still working on instinct and started heading in that direction. The werewolf would have no problem slaughtering the Swineman for just being near me, so I dragged him along. The werewolf realized what I was doing far faster than I had hoped and leapt through the air at us. I was barely able to melt into a shadow before a claw sliced through the air where we had just been.
In the wooden cabin we were greeted with another squeal of shock. My Swineman ran to the new one and they held each other tightly. I think they were brothers, but to be honest I have a hard time telling them apart. I feel horrible for that, but it is the truth. “Calm down, I’ll think of something.” I was gasping for breath. I finally set the painting down to free up my hands.
“Little pigs, little pigs. Let me in.” The voice sent shivers up my spine. He was enjoying this hunt and I was just putting more people in danger. “No brave words this time? Well then, I guess I’ll just huff and puff and blow your house down.” The chanting started again.
I was at rock bottom as far as my magic went. I needed rest and focus. The cabin looked solid, so I decided to risk it and try to rest. It was one of many mistakes I made that day. The walls held against the first impact, but the roof collapsed in on us with the second. The weight of the wood slammed down on me. Pain shot through my body as a splintered beam pierced my side. I could feel the warm blood pouring. If I managed to get away that blood could be used against me.
A strong clawed hand wrapped around the back of my neck and lifted me off the ground. I dangled there with the weight of my body pulling me down and my head spinning. My body was broken and my mind fussy. My magic though had one final reservoir of power. I turned intangible passing through the claw and dropping to the ground once again physical. I grabbed a support beam turning it intangible for a moment. With all the muscle I had left I hefted the beam through the werewolf and let go of it.
The wood turned solid again inside the wolf causing him to let out a bone chilling howl of pain. There was no external blood since the skin was not punctured but melded with the wood. He reared back and started wildly grasping at the beam trying to break it. I had expected my actions to have been fatal for him, but he was still on his feet. This was not over.
I quickly took in the scene around me. The Swinemen were both down and needed help. The painting was destroyed. My body wasn’t fully responding telling me that bones were broken. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a stone building. As my consciousness faded, I melted into the shadows and came out in front of a brick fireplace. I could still hear the howling as I passed out.
“Wake up, wake up.” The panicked Swineman was shaking me, and it hurt. The stone cottage was shaking as wind buffeted it. The werewolf was cursing me outside, but he didn’t sound like he was having fun anymore. I could hear pain in his words and the wind was not nearly as strong as it had been when it destroyed the wooden cabin. “Here drink this.” He poured a mug of something down my throat. It stung going down and soon it felt like my entire body was being burnt from the inside out.
“What was that?” My voice came out strained.
“Magic user, yes?” He held up the mug. “This will refill magic. Can’t help fix your body, don’t have the right ingredients.”
I felt deep inside and found that indeed my magic reservoir had been refilled. My headache had faded as well. I only have limited healing magic, but I pushed it to it’s limit to try and deal with my pain. It was just enough for me to stand again and approach the window. Thankfully it was far too small to fit the werewolf, but I still found myself buffeted with wind and debris. The Werewolf was bent over in pain with its palm out towards the house. The beam had been snapped but was still sticking out of him. I could tell that his healing ability was taxed to its limit, and his magic was fading fast as well.
I could barely move so anything I did needed to rely more on magic than physicality. I would only have one shot because even hurt it could move so much faster than I could. The moment he lowered his hand and the wind stopped I made my move. I melted out of his own shadow and grabbed him turning us intangible. We sunk into the ground and I let go of him allowing him to become physical again. Shadow walking while intangible is extremely dangerous, but turning physical underground is even more dangerous. I dropped to the ground inside the stone building and once again the world faded away.
I awoke hours later. The werewolf was dead. Even if it survived becoming tangible again it would not be able to breath underground. The Swineman from the stone building had retrieved the other two and addressed their wounds. As I looked over my body, I found that he had bandaged me as well. I could smell something burning in the distance.
“Worry not. Your blood burns with the remains of my brother’s house. You are safe for now, but you can’t stay long. I don’t need the kind of trouble having you here will bring.”
“Thank you.” I felt like I should say more, but words didn’t quite match my gratitude. “If you ever need anything..”
“You owe no debt here princess. Just don’t mention us to your stepmother.” I reached up to my face and realized that to bandage me he had removed my coverings. He knew who I really was. If word got out that Snow White was Princess Caselotti it would not only be the end of me but might destroy the kingdom. He seemed to read the concern on my face. “Relax princess your secret is safe with us. If I may be so bold though perhaps you could do more with your gifts than steal pretty pictures.”
I think that was the moment I decided to organize the resistance against my stepmother.