The Fairy King -7- Circumstantial Evidence

Mom discusses how to discourage a groper -- and Tintabelle delivers a verdict. Nightgowns and muskrats, it's a weird episode.

Part 7 - Circumstantial Evidence

by Wanda Cunningham

Chapter 14

The Truth about Boys

We sat around the dining room table, Dad drank coffee and Mom and I had diet soda. "I do know, how, um, how sex works?" I said. "And, uh..."

"You're not properly equipped. Yet." Dad scowled. "So you can't let things get that far, it's even more dangerous for you than for other girls."

Other girls. I nodded. It didn't take much imagination to fear what might happen if someone discovered my secret in the wrong circumstances.

"Boys have one thing on their mind," Dad began. "Oh, they think of other things, too, but there's one thought that is always there and they keep coming back to it. Sex."

I sighed. It wasn't that long ago that I'd been a boy, less than forty-eight hours, I knew what he was saying was true for most boys. Had it been true for me? I didn't really know.

"And since they know damn-little about sex, they think about it even more. Imagining and dreaming and picturing it. It's mostly harmless but for girls it can be dangerous."

My face burned. "I'll be careful," I whispered.

"You have to be more than careful, honey," said Mom. "You have to be aware. Even a nice boy can take things further than you or he intended if you let him. You really do seem to have the reactions a girl your age would have, so I need to give you this warning, too. If you let things go far enough, both of you will likely lose control. It's just nature trying to continue the species but you have to stop when you still can."

"You can get hurt," Daddy said. "Any girl can but for you, well, you've got a medical problem."

"I'm...I'm just trying this out?" I tried to say.

"Being a girl? I know that that was the agreement, so we're going to try to treat you like we would if we'd always known you were our daughter."

"What I meant, I'm not going to let things go that direction--at all!"

"Hmph!" said Mom. "That wasn't what I was seeing earlier this evening. You like Phillip, he likes you. If he'd tried to kiss you what would you have done?"

"Uh..." I really didn't know.

"Have a plan, sugar," said Daddy. "You were safe enough with both of us here and Phillip is a nice boy. But know what you're going to do in various situations, from changing the subject to yelling for the cops to taking direct personal action. I know you hated those self-defense classes I made you take but you do remember some of it, don't you?"

I nodded. I wasn't sure I could actually use any of it, hitting someone had never been something I wanted to learn.

Daddy frowned. "We'll get you some more classes, punkin. Phoebe hated them, too, and she's never had to use them but knowing how to fight when you have to is something everyone should learn.

"And I'll give you some lessons in how to manage boys and men so you don't end up in a situation where you need to kill one," Mom said. "We'll discuss specifics later, when your father isn't here to get embarrassed."

Dad grinned. "She's managed me for over twenty-five years," he said, "so you better listen to her, too."

 
Mom and I did talk about things after Dad went back to his office, such as why you should carry something hard and heavy in your purse sometimes and what to do if someone tries to grope you in an elevator. My brain was still going bonzo over the idea of carrying a purse when Mom got to part about the elevator. "Move away if you can, step on his feet if it's a crowded elevator then apologize all over the place. Keep apologizing until he is out of sight, and look him in the eye and smile while doing it." Mom demonstrated with a harpy-like grimace that sent me into giggles.

"Now," Mom said, "that was a first lesson. There's lots more to learn and I'm sure your father is going to want to give you more physical lessons. Expect to get harangued on this subject at irregular intervals whenever your father or I get nervous about what you are doing or the boys you are seeing."

"Oh, no!" I said.

"Oh, yes," she nodded. "We are not going to let you get hurt because we didn't tell you things you needed to know."

"Um, okay. But I reserve the right to whine and complain about it if you get too annoying." I remembered Phoebe doing so when she got parental lectures.

Mom laughed. "Don't get too smart with your mother, dear. Unlike Phoebe, you're still smaller than me and I can whup your ass."

"Mom!"

She shook her head. "I've never even spanked you, you've been a good kid. I can't believe this all sneaked up on me."

"Sneaked up on me, too," I said.

"I can't remember you ever saying anything about...well, about feeling like a girl or wanting to be one."

"I don't think I did." I felt pretty sure I hadn't and still wouldn't if my brain and body hadn't been warped by fairy magic. "I really don't think the thought occurred to me." Pretty sure.

Mom didn't say anything for a bit, we both thought about things, I guess. Finally, she said, "We knew you might be different, honey. Your father and I hadn't forgotten the decision we made when you were a baby, we're not idiots. We knew the doctors might be wrong when they told us we should raise you as a boy."

I stared at her, wondering how much the magic might have re-written my past; and wondering again if any of this were real at all. It didn't feel completely real.

"We had to let you try to be a boy, E-Eden." We both smiled at her near slip. "But we didn't want to force you, just help you when you needed it. You weren't like Sean and Adam were, all energy and noise but you were sick a lot. Still, now and then, we wondered and we talked a little about it."

"You did?" I said, feeling a bit stupid.

She nodded. "Not much," she said. "It was a scary thing to think about. And usually not directly. Alec would mention that you weren't that interested in sports or I would mention how you always seemed to notice what people were wearing and how they had done their hair."

"Huh?"

"Nothing really," Mom said. "Just you weren't a stereotypical boy, at least, not like your brothers." She sighed. "Last year, we talked about what we might say if it turned out you were gay."

"Uh? You did? Why did you think I might be gay?" I probably turned red at the idea that my parents had been talking about my--sexual orientation.

Mom shrugged. "No reason really. Little things. You didn't seem that interested in either girls or boys, really."

"I don't think I'm gay, Mom," I said.

"No, you're not gay; you like boys, don't you?" She smiled and we both giggled a bit.

Then Mom looked sad. "We're so sorry, honey. We should have figured this all out years ago but we just didn't know."

"But I didn't know either so...it's okay?" I squirmed. I almost told her right then that none of this was her fault, or Daddy's, that I hadn't always been this way, that it was just the betrothal curse of the Fairy Queen. But I couldn't see that going over real well so I kept my mouth shut. Instead I said, "Besides, uh, the doctors may discover something or...." Or I might get the magic reversed. If I still wanted to.

"We'll see, honey. But we have to give you a chance to be Megan, if you want it. And Tuesday, I'm going to call some lawyers and see what it would take to get your birth certificate changed, when and if we need to."

"Uh," I said. "School. You took my birth certificate in and showed it to them, didn't you?"

"I had it with me but they just took your transcript from West L.A. They never asked for the birth certificate."

"How will we handle that, I've already registered as Ethan?" I asked.

"Well, that's the first thing to do on Tuesday, I'll go down and register you again, as Megan--or Margaret Eden--and pull Ethan's registration. Ethan went back to live with grandma and you're here, Ethan's twin sister as far as the school is concerned. We won't say that but you have the same birthday...."

"Don't you think they'll recognize me?" I said.

Mom's eyes widened. "Wouldn't anyone expect a girl to look like her brother?" She grinned. "Besides, they saw you for only a few minutes...hmm. You know, we probably will have to tell someone, in order to keep you out of P.E. Maybe you'll have to miss the first days of school so we can get a note from a doctor?" I must have looked very worried because Mom patted my hand. "It'll be okay, I'm sure this sort of thing has happened before. Somebody knows how to handle it and we'll just have to find out who? Your Dad is a whiz on the internet, you know, there's tons of information out there, besides all the smut."

"I don't want to be weird," I said, surprising myself.

"You're not weird, for goodness sake, you've just got a medical condition."

"Mom, in school, that's the same thing! I know, 'cause I've had a medical condition all my life. The kids treat you different, even the teachers. And, and, different is bad, in school."

"It shouldn't be that way," Mom said.

"But it is," I surprised myself again by not crying, this was a painful subject I'd hardly ever talked about, with anyone. "I'd just like to be a normal kid. Even--even a normal girl is better than being a medical freak."

She didn't say anything for a moment, letting what I had said just lie there. "Are you saying you don't want us to take a note to school explaining things to them?" she asked when she decided I wasn't going to start crying.

"Why does anyone else have to know?"

"What about P.E. honey? Gym class, you can't--um--change clothes in front of the other girls."

Other girls. I didn't know what to say about that. The idea of being in a locker room full of girls changing clothes hadn't actually occurred to me until just then. "I guess not," I admitted. Not until and if the magic--or something else!--got rid of the last evidence of my former boyhood.

Mom tried to be reassuring again. "Well, I'll investigate. One of the schools I went to had a policy that shy girls could change in little private cubicles. I think there was some odd religious group around. I promise, honey, neither your father nor I will tell anyone who doesn't need to know."

I sighed. "Okay."

"The situation is strange for all of us, isn't it?"

I nodded.

She smiled. "Want to go upstairs and raid Phoebe's stuff for things you can wear?"

"Uh. I--yeah, I guess so." I knew what I wanted to do--go out looking for the Fairy Queen--but I also knew that wasn't going to happen at nearly nine o'clock.

"You don't sound so enthusiastic."

"It's not something I'd ever thought of doing, you know?" I grinned weakly. "Won't Phoebe get mad, too?"

"None of the stuff you'll be taking would fit her anymore; she should have got rid of it when we moved." Mom said. "She did get rid of some stuff, so there really isn't that much you can wear. You're so slender."

"Skinny. Scrawny."

She laughed. "No, dear, welcome to the new world, now you are fashionably thin. A lot of the girls at school are going to be envious of your figure."

I stared at her. "You've got to be kidding. Last week, I was a boy and I still don't have that much of a figure?" I looked down, startled a bit to see the protrusions that were really mostly the padding in one of Phoebe's old bras. They seemed larger somehow and it was still a bit odd to see breasts, even mostly fake ones on myself. Then again, I felt a curious sense of satisfaction at seeing the evidence of my transformation. And that was almost more disturbing than the physical changes.

Mom stood and pulled me to my feet. "C'mon, we should measure you, figure out your sizes and I'll take you shopping for some of your own things tomorrow."

I wanted to protest that I didn't want to go shopping, a boring activity in my experience, but from Mom's point of view, it did make sense. And I had already told Phillip that that was where I'd be. I followed her upstairs, thinking we would--play dress up--with Phoebe's clothes for a bit then I'd say I was tired and go to bed early, so I could get up early and go looking for Queen Tintabelle.

We found two more pairs of slacks I could wear and another of Phoebe's old bras. Mom also filched for me four tops she claimed would be indecent on my sister's more developed chest and I had a week's worth of clean panties, too. A sweater, some more junk jewelry and a few odds and ends completed our raid. Trying on the clothes had been weird but Mom seemed to enjoy it. I couldn't decide if I wanted to be pleased about all the new experiences or not, but some part of me definitely was.

"We'll buy you some of your own things tomorrow, hon," Mom promised.

"That's going to be expensive," I said. "And you just bought new stuff for me for school."

"Well, some of that you can still wear, I think?" Mom said. "Girls can wear boy's clothing and it's cute, you know?"

I blushed. I still felt like a boy wearing girl's clothes, sometimes, and that isn't cute--it's either funny or stupid or sick. At least, most people think it is. Mostly, though, I felt more and more comfortable when dressed as a girl. Things were happening too fast.

"I'm pooped," I said, and I didn't need to exaggerate the yawning to make it look real.

"Stress, excitement," Mom nodded. "Why don't you go to bed, honey? We can get an early start tomorrow, hit the malls, maybe get your hair done?"

"Yike. Okay," I headed toward my own room, carrying part of the loot. Mom followed and we put most of it away. "These jeans you can still wear," she commented about some of my new Ethan clothes.

"They're going to be tight in the seat," I said.

Mom frowned. "You'd think I would have noticed that when we bought them."

"Uh, well it--like I said, it happened really fast?"

"Oh!" Mom said and dashed off for Phoebe's room. She came back with a nightgown.

"Mom!" I complained.

"Just try it on, dear. It's brand new, Phoebe didn't take it with her for some reason and it will fit you."

I took off my shirt and pants--again--and my bra!--and pulled the nightgown on. It fell to my ankles, all soft and silky feeling; there seemed to be a lot of material. "What's it made of?" I asked, looking in the mirror at the startling image.

"Poly-cotton, but it's a nice blend. It'll be warm enough for you, but not too warm. The color looks good on you."

She was right, I thought, a kind of pale green-aqua with tiny orange-pink flower trim around the neck and sleeves that made my hair look redder and my eyes greener. The way it was cut, I looked like I had more shape up top than I actually did after taking off the padded bra. "It's pretty," I admitted.

"You're pretty, dear," Mom said. She gave me a hug and a kiss on the forehead. "Get some sleep."

"Okay," I climbed into bed, realizing as I did that the soft nightie would keep my sensitive nipples from being rubbed by the harsher sheets. It actually felt nice and I giggled a little, embarrassed that I was enjoying the feel.

Mom turned out the light and closed the door behind her. "Good night, Megan," she said.

"Good night, Mom," I said.

Of course, five minutes later, Daddy came up and knocked on the door. "You decent, honey?" he asked. Last week he would never have asked and certainly wouldn't have called me 'honey'.

"I'm in bed," I said. "C'mon in, Daddy."

He came in, "Okay if I turn the light on for a moment?"

"Sure," I said. I propped myself up on an elbow and closed my eyes until the lights were on. When I opened them, Daddy was kneeling by the bed to look me right in the face.

"Pretty strange day, huh, kid?" he said.

I nodded.

"You're a brave one, I think."

"Brave?"

"This is unknown territory, isn't it? The natives may be hostile." He grinned. "You look cute in that nightie."

I blushed. "Can I be cute and brave at the same time?"

"Sure," he said. He bent closer and kissed me on the cheek. "Good night, punkin."

"Good night, Daddy." Impulsively, I kissed him back, just a peck on the cheek. Giggling in embarrassment, I pulled the covers up around my face. Still chuckling, he left the room and turned out the light again.

I felt safe and warm though I doubted I would be going to sleep right away, too much to think about. But I surprised myself and drifted off while wondering how I in the world I would manage to find the Fairy Court and its tiny queen in the morning.


Chapter 15

The Fairy Trial

I had a very strange dream, probably no surprise, but I remembered parts of this one later. I woke up several times during it, or maybe I dreamed it more than once; either way I spent a restless night in and out of the Fairy Court. In the dream, I lay helpless while the tiny warriors of Queen Tintabelle bound me hand and foot to the rocks near where I had accidentally killed King Fritharic.

I spent a lot of time wondering if this were a dream or a memory and remembering that at the time, I'd wondered if it were a dream. The queen and her advisors supervised, standing around talking while others did the work. I could hear and see them since they stood on top of a flat rock right near my head.

"The sleeping draughts on the arrows will keep the giant helpless while we cut his throat," said Duke Leandro, the Grand Weasel. "I don't understand the need to bind him."

"So we can have a trial," bubbled the Queen. "Oh, it's been simply ages since we've had a capital trial and they are such fun. You shall be the prosecutor, my dearest Leandro."

The Duke looked suitably bloodthirsty at the prospect. "Well, if you insist, but it is just for form's sake, isn't it?"

"Just so," said the Queen. "We must obey the forms or we are simple woodland spirits and not a Queen and Her Court at all. I shall sit as judge. John Jay, you shall be the bailiff and Doctor Mushrat shall provide the defense." A sharp-faced, black-coated rodent scowled at that.

I tried to struggle against my bonds but I could do nothing, I couldn't even whimper. Part of me knew that I was dreaming a memory but it felt very real.

Quickly the animals and fairies set up a semblance of a courtroom there among the rocks. A small wooden fruit box served as a bench for Tintabelle and the fairies draped it with cobwebs to hide most of the colorful paper label. I could just make out the words, "Sunrise Tomatoes," through the spider silk.

The Queen conferred with her ludicrous courtiers and announced that there would be no jury. "For a jury must be made up of the peers of the defendant, and that would mean twelve more giants. I don't think so, it would just be too tiresome. I shall serve as impartial magistrate and ensure a fair trial, myself."

"Gah!" I managed to protest and I think I may have stirred a little in my sleep.

"Mushrat, keep your client quiet unless you call him to the stand or I shall be forced to gag as well as restrain him."

"Quiet you," hissed my appointed defender, the same moist, black-frocked rodent of elderly appearance who had been scowling at me since the Queen had appointed him to my defense. Then he hit me on the nose with a tiny, furled umbrella.

"Lord Prosecutor, read the charges," intoned the Queen. She looked ridiculously pleased with herself, like a little girl who has talked everyone into letting her play the princess.

Duke Leandro took a deep breath and spoke at length about my habits and ancestors, all of it fabrications or exaggerations that didn't apply to me personally. Like talking about humans capturing fairies and forcing them to lead them to treasure. Finally, he mentioned that I had slain King Fritharic, "most foully and with obvious malice. He should face the gravest penalty this court can pronounce."

The crowd began to cheer but Queen Tintabelle waved for silence and frowned, "Pronounce? I fail to see what my diction has to do with appropriate penalties."

This forced a lengthy conference in which they decided that 'pronounce' in this context amounted to the same thing as 'announce' and had no reference to the Queen's diction at all. "Although, my diction is quite adequate to the pronouncement of any conceivable sentence, I assure you," she told the weasel in a chilly tone.

Doctor Mushrat, in his first act in my defense, said, "The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick."

"I object," said the Grand Weasel, instantly.

"Sustained," said the Queen. "You're out of order, Doctor. Sentencing comes later, right now you must tell us how you intend to plead your client?"

"Why? What's he got that I want?" said the rodent.

"No, no. Guilty or not guilty, that is how he must plead."

"He can't say a word till the arrow draughts wear off," Dr. Mushrat pointed out.

"That's why you must plead for him."

Mushrat eyed me speculatively. "Well, we all saw him do it, so I guess I have to plead him guilty."

I groaned.

"You can't plead guilty in a capital case, Doctor. The court directs you to plead your client not guilty."

"Why did you ask me how I intended to plead him if you were going to tell me how?"

"We must observe the forms," the queen reminded him haughtily.

The old rodent shivered a bit, lifted his hat and smoothed his fur. "A not guilty plea is absurd. We all know he did it!"

"But you must defend his action, Doctor. Think of some extenuating circumstance, whereby you can admit to your client's known actions but he can be held blameless for any untoward results."

"Like Ol' Freddy being reduced to a green pancake?"

Tintabelle grimaced. "Yes, like that, I suppose. Put some thought into it, surely you can think of something. Duke Leandro will present the case for the prosecution while you think about it. You may confer with your client if you wish."

The weasel puffed himself up like one of those poisonous fish I saw once on PBS. He began to harangue the court with tales of human misdeeds over the centuries. More leprecauns lost their treasure hoards as well as dryads having their trees cut down and nixies being left high and dry by humans draining their ponds. He began to go very far afield to find examples, though.

"What's this fellow Herod and the babies have to do with our case?" the queen asked, interrupting a very creative, if bloody, retelling of the Christmas story.

"It's to lay the groundwork for a charge of congenital criminality, Your Majesty," said the duke, sneering at me.

"When I'm sitting here," she remarked, "I am 'Your Honor'."

The duke nodded. "Your Honor, then, ma'am."

"But I'm still your queen," she reminded him.

"Your Majestic Honor?" the weasel guessed, looking harassed.

She nodded as if appeased. "But if you prove that his fault is congenital, then where's the guilt? Do we try and hang the trout for devouring mayflies, as is his nature?"

"Nah," said a badger in the witness gallery, "we fry'em."

Tintabelle smiled at the Duke while the crowd tittered.

The weasel looked craftily confident, sparing me a glance of pure malignant enthusiasm. "I'll get to that, Your --uh-- Your Honored Majesty. Congenital criminality is different from animal hungers. Humans are rational creatures capable of having motives for the crimes they are driven to commit by their very natures."

"It sounds species-ist to me," said the tiny Queen. "Or is that specious? But you may proceed, Honorable Prosecutor."

"Your Grace," the duke suggested, trying to insist on his title as Tintabelle had hers.

"And yours," agreed the queen.

Dr. Mushrat in the meantime, approached me in the defendant's box and tried to engage me in a discussion of worthy defenses but since all I could do was moan and mumble he eventually became so impatient that he seized my lower lip between his huge incisors and bit nearly completely through. "You great lump of suet! You mildewed mound of misfeasance, what possible defense could there be for killing the Fairy King! It's hopeless." So saying he retreated underneath my chin to mumble and grumble while the Grand Weasel ranted.

The Duke, after a particularly frothy crescendo of accusations, announced in anticlimax, "The prosecution rests, Your Majestic Honor, for we feel we have proved our case beyond a shadow of a glimmer of a thread of a doubt."

Then Queen Tintabelle turned to Dr. Mushrat and said, "You may make your case for the defense."

I thought my goose was cooked, even though intellectually I knew this was a dream that might be a memory and that I had actually survived this encounter. I have to give the old rodent credit, though, he actually came up with a defense. It was at least as ludicrous as the accusations of the weasel but I wouldn't have thought the old mushrat had enough imagination. Or maybe it was my imagination.

In the dream, Dr. Mushrat crawled out upon my chest announcing, "My client is huge! He's enormous! His body is five times longer than the body of any one of us and his legs are nearer ten times longer than ours! He's so big that his colossal head normally gets no timely information about where his distant extremities may be." Here he pointed at my shoe, "His foot killed King Fritharic! But my client is Not Guilty by reason of his enormous length and height making it impossible for him to act as a willing agent of ranacide!"

Ranacide? I thought it was regicide, another one I would have to look up when I awoke. That was the gist of the defense, though, that I couldn't be held accountable for something my foot did. The old rodent also threw in something about if humans were congenitally criminal then I couldn't be responsible for the accident of my birth either. That bit caused Duke Leandro to gobble like a turkey as he tried to voice an objection.

"Oh, do not take on so," Queen Tintabelle told the Grand Weasel. "I think Dr. Mushrat is very clever for having come up with such a defense and if you keep making noises like that someone will put cranberry sauce on your giblets." I half-expected the weasel's eyes to pop out with all the suppressed yelling he didn't utter.

The trial continued for hours it seemed. If I hadn't been asleep it would have been pretty boring as witnesses were called to establish that I had indeed stepped on King Fritharic and he had in fact, expired. I felt pretty bad about that but I had been running out of control down a steep hillside and had not seen the froggy king. Royalty less than twelve inches tall should be required to hold up signs, I wanted to suggest, but I still couldn't say anything at all.

During all of this I realized that Queen Tintabelle wasn't listening to the testimony as much as she was winking and making kissy faces at me. Scary. Before I could really decide what to do about that, things shifted in the way dreams do and the yellow-jacketed bluejay, acting as bailiff, called the court to order to hear the reading of the verdict.

"We find the defendant 'not guilty' of the charge of murder," read Tintabelle. "Murder requires intent and no one has testified that young Ethan intended to kill King Fritharic."

"Slaughter then!" the weasel interrupted. "If he's not guilty of murder then he can be charged with frogslaughter!"

"Too late for new charges, Your Grace," the queen said, showing him her dimples. "You should have thought of that at the beginning of the trial." She went on reading while the weasel sizzled. "The charge of treason is also dismissed; at the time of the incident, Ethan was not a subject of our kingdom and cannot therefore be guilty of treason. On the charge of lese majeste..." she paused, to look at me, "we find the defendant guilty, for intent does not matter in this crime."

Duke Leandro scowled but looked satisfied until the queen continued, "We reject the imposition of capital punishment in this case. By the ancient customs of our prisoner's tribe, killing a king was a time-honored method of becoming king."

"What!" exclaimed the Duke. If you've ever seen a horrified weasel, he looked exactly like that.

Tintatabelle went on. "Since the only method in our fairy tribe of becoming king is to marry me, I will consider a proposal of marriage from the accused." She looked straight at me and fluttered her eyelids.

"Me, marry you?" I exclaimed. Oh no, what a time to discover I could speak again.

"I accept!" said Tintabelle quickly.

"Your Majesty! You can't do this!" The crowd didn't seem as angry as the Duke but the noise sounded less like a breeze in the willows now. No one heard my protest that I hadn't intended my outburst as a proposal.

"He's not a noble!" screamed the Grand Weasel. "You can't marry a commoner! Your Majesty, please!"

"He's right," I said, finally making myself heard. "I'm as common as dirt!"

"Pooh!" said the Queen. "In consideration of your proposal and my acceptance, I grant you the title of Earl of Pincerrie." I heard that as 'Pinchery' (which conjured up some odd images) but I found out later it was just fancy Old English for 'Pine Ridge' or 'Pine Hills'.

Duke Leandro snatched his top hat off his head and began to chew on the brim. "This isn't a punishment! You found him guilty of lese majeste, that merits exile at the very least!"

"Poo-poo! I'll wait till he's king to pronounce sentence on that one." She leered at me. "Once you're king we can lese each others majesty with impunity." I didn't like the sound of that.

"Bring wine! Bring food! Let the Queen's Betrothal Celebration commence!" announced John Jay Audible, loudly.

The party began, complete with the drinking of fairy liquor, songs, dances, and a betrothal kiss from the queen. I still couldn't move my limbs or my body to get away. Her kiss was as light as a butterfly landing on a flower but my face tingled with it for several minutes. "I would give you a betrothal gift, Lord Pincerrie," the queen announced.

But Duke Leandro hadn't forgotten his enmity. "You can't do that, Your Majesty! I insist that you mete out a proper punishment before you begin rewarding this miscreant!"

"You don't have to give me anything," I assured her, feeling desperate. For a dream, this sure seemed real and very dangerous. My head felt ready to explode, I had been thirsty and had drunk three tiny cups of the fairy brew held to my lips without thinking about what it might contain.

The queen laughed. "Perhaps the Duke is right at last. You are a dangerous felon but I do owe you a betrothal gift." She thought a moment. "Very well, since you are a beautiful criminal, like a rose, my gift shall have a thorn." She laughed in my ear. Then she danced and sang.

Thrice three boons but never twain for ane,
A gift--and cunning curse!--now devise;
A boon will ye grant if aught lone claim,
Nor shalt spare any that be to your bane.
Thrice three wishes, but none to the wise
Nor any who know thy rank and name.

No boon may yet another unwind
Save only the ninth and last in time
If made by the one who cast this spell,
The Queen of Forest and Meadows fine,
Who's known by the name of Tintabelle;
She who speaks this wyrd against thy crime.

 
I woke up suddenly with the verses of that song reverberating in my memory and my new nightgown twisted around my body. I struggled to sit up, gasping with frightened knowledge.

Nine wishes. Any person can ask me for one except people who know about the wishes or know my rank--Earl of Pincerrie, I suppose--and my name. Which name? And can a girl be an earl? Earl-ess? That didn't sound right.

One other thing, no wish can undo another except the last wish and only if Tintabelle makes it.

Ouch.


Next - [How Real Can It Get?]

More [The Fairy King]



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