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Jan. 18th, 2010 @ 09:03 pm The Mischief (Story 2 pt 1)
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: Kate nash: Foundations
The Mischief (Story 2)


Mena could hardly believe it. That the proud man in front of her, hand holding forth a shimmering dagger and smiling slyly behind glimmering golden eyes while his expression remained properly serious on the outside, was no other than her childhood friend Rao.
“What happened to you?” She asked the man, certainly she had seen him only yesterday, but in his guard’s outfit she hadn’t remembered him being quite this ..shiny. Her hand maiden gasped in alarm and shot her a worried look. The man’s eyes opened in surprise and his servant’s hands moved to cover a frown.
Gods I didn’t mean it like that. She cursed to herself. But that was her whole problem wasn't it? People always took her comments in the wrong way, it was the reason that she had been given the nickname “The stormcloud princess.” Well, perhaps not the only reason. Unlike the rest of her family she had the dark hair of a foreigner and the stormy gray eyes of a winter night.
She parted her lips to apologize but suddenly Rao was standing, his gorgeous blond hair shaking around his shoulders as laughter racked his body.
“You haven’t changed at all Mena.” He smiled and took her hand, confidently placing a gentle kiss in the circle of her palm.
“As promised, from this day forth I’ll serve you.” He whispered in her ear, quiet enough so that only she could hear. A deep blush shot straight up her neck and she threw a hand up to cover her face. Those golden eyes watched her, laughing, it was their joke afterall, their secret pact from childhood. No matter what other people wanted to call it, he was now her faithful servant. He held up the sparkling dagger again and this time she took it from his hands, her own hands were shaking but Rao’s were perfectly still.
In the corner she heard a gentle cough and all of a sudden it wasn’t just the two of them, looking up the reality of the situation raced back to her so quickly that she felt faint. Mena stood upon the podium of her castle’s main hall, Rao on the steps below her, and the room around them was filled with more noblemen and woman than she could count.
Rao stood and taking a deep bow in the direction of Mena’s parents the king and queen of Raoslo he finally took his rightful place to Mena’s right, the new prince of Raoslo. Cheers shot up around the room until the entire hall was clapping. An echo of voices and smiles and congratulations trapped Mena in her spot and it wasn’t until Rao took her arm and gently led her up to the thrones beside her family that she managed to move. Her father the king stood and said a few words of congratulations, the crowd went silent when he began to speak, but she hardly heard the words, too busy trying to hide her blush.
“You look nice.” Rao mouthed from beside her with a winning smile. She frowned at him and shrugged in a very unprincess-like manner.
Even dressed in gowns with skin shined up and powdered to perfection she could still never match his looks. Rao looked gorgeous in the white suit and navy blue cape that they had fitted him in for the ceremony. He was born for the position of prince, even his name shouted his claim to the throne. Ever since Mena was old enough to know of marriage she knew that her own would be to the shining prince, but that didn’t stop her from dreaming of another future, of another path other than becoming the queen of Raoslo and marrying the man of every Raoslo girl’s dreams. No, for Mena, be it greedy or not, she couldn’t help but dream of a world beyond the palace walls and so she took to writing. Books lined her bedroom’s shelves, those she had read and those she had written. Papers lay scattered over her bedsheets, twisted between furniture and covered her desk like a mountain of sheer parchment.
However, now with Rao by her side, perhaps it was finally the time to give up what her mother spoke of as “Childish expectations.” With a frown she let her mind wander as the rest of the day long ceremony dragged on. A ride through the palace yards and down the mainstreet of the city, a feast, a ball. She nodded lifelessly as friends and acquaintances wished her well and when the night was finally done she slunk down the hallways alone, dragging her toes as if sacks of flour were tied to her ankles.

“Escaping princess?” A deep voice called to her and she found a man she was quite certain that she didn't know sitting in the windowsill of the hallway’s large bay windows. The man’s skin was tinged an olive brown and his hair as black as ebony. Perhaps it was due to a lifetime of being kept safe in the sanctuary of the castle, but rather than keeping her distance she foolishly approached him.
“I run from no one sir.” She growled. “I am only tired of this mockery and wish to find some peace alone.” The words surprised even her and she clenched her fists, ready for that look of surprise and worry that she was so familiar with, instead the man only nodded.
“Too true.” He reached into the crimson robe that hung around his tunic and pulled out a parchment folded three times until it was in the shape of a perfectly even triangle. “However, I was asked to deliver this message. Please, once you have found your peace, if you would be kind enough to look over its contents.”

Mena looked at the parchment doubtfully before taking it in her hands.
“Who is it from?” she asked, fiddling with the paper’s edges and tempted to open it right then and there.
“Me.” He said. She looked up to find the messenger crouched in the wide window. Before she could move to stop him he had jumped and instinctively she winced, expecting to hear the screams from people below at any moment. But, they never came and when she finally caught her breath well enough to move again she dared a look over the edge and saw no body.
Impossible, its nearly a thirty foot drop. She shook her head wonderingly. It was perhaps the first rule in combat, do not think that opponent’s abilities are limited to what you yourself can do. But what did she know about combat?, she was only a princess.
Tucking the letter into her sleeve she picked up her pace down a twisting maze of hallways until she reached the door to her rooms. With a practiced ease she threw the door open and caught its knob just before it hit the table inside. Kicking it shut behind her, she sighed loudly.

“Was it really that bad?” The voice, coming from so close behind her caused her to squeak in alarm and then he was laughing again.
“Rao!” She scolded. “What are you doing in here? Get out!” The prince was sprawled across her bed, head comfortably rested on her purple satin pillows. At least he had had the courtesy to take his boots off.

“Out? But we are married now! And the Queen pulled me aside specifically tonight to ask me to give her a grandson as soon as possible!” Rao smiled and Mena groaned. She had expected her mother was up to no good. “Any means necessary.” He said, emphasizing any and waving her closer.
“Honestly, I don’t know why she bothers going to such excess..” Mena threw off the ivory cup that held her long hair tight against her head and the hazelnut locks cascaded down around her shoulders. Annoyed now, she sat before her dressing mirror and began to comb out the knots that the maids had tied for her that morning.
“Its either love or security I suppose.” He muttered, curling up against a pillow as snug as a puppy in a basket.
“Security?” She asked absentmindedly, watching him in the mirror as she worked on the tangles that had formed in her hair.
“One can never have too many successors.” He yawned and closed his eyes. “Especially in times of war.” Mena set down her brush and looked in the mirror. It would take the rest of the evening to take off the horrid face paint the maids had made her up with that morning much to her displeasure. Getting more irritated by the moment she glared at Rao, comfy in her bed as she dipped a rag in oil and began working off the paints.
Mena wasn’t the first child of the king and queen, nor the second, nor the third, she was but the fourth child of six.
The crown prince Bellar was her eldest brother, a serious man of twenty eight. Bellar was the General of the Raoslo army and Rao’s direct superior. Sometimes she felt that the only way she knew even a thing about the man was through what Rao had told her in his daily rants. Crown prince Bellar didn’t seem the kind to worry about brotherly bonding and his fierce eyes scared her too much for her to approach him on her own.
Tesha was the second child and her elder sister. With skin of ivory and silky golden hair, it wasn’t a surprise that she was her father’s favorite. If she wanted to, Tesha could crush all the men of the kingdom with her beauty alone and yet, amazingly she was also the kindest person that Mena knew, always giving her time to the unfortunate and already a trained healer in the palace.
Griff was next, only a year older than herself, she had always been particularly close with her brother. Aside from Rao, he was the one person who knew her well enough to understand her rough way of speaking and not take offence. When they were children they had been tied at the hip, but now at seventeen, Griff was becoming a man and with his own young bride’s first child on the way, he hadn’t a moment to spare for a little sister.
Her younger sisters were twins, both ten years old they had come as quite a surprise to her father and even more so to her mother, who had been told by a healer after Mena’s birth that she could no longer bear children. The little girls were both the spitting image of her mother, long fingers and high arched noses but with the fair hair and blue eyes of her father.
“I believe my family has quite enough security.” She grumbled past the foul odor of the cleansing crème.
When she finally managed to remove enough of the paints so that she wouldn’t mess her fine pillowcases, she roughly shoved her new husband aside and crawled into bed. He murmured something unintelligible and wound a strong arm around her middle and for about the hundredth time that day, she sighed.

By morning Rao’s heavy body covered her own and she awoke to find his face resting against her cheek. Without thinking she jerked away from his sleeping form and in doing so bumped her head so hard against the bedframe that she bit the inside of her mouth. In his sleep Rao smiled and it was enough to set her back into a fury.
“Get up!” She shouted in his ear and instantly those golden eyes shot open. When he realized that there was no emergency he shot her an annoyed look and pulled the covers back over his head.
“Get out of my room.” She demanded harshly.
“But, were married.” He whined from beneath the blankets.
“A formality.” She snarled. “And you know very well that my father has prepared separate chambers for us.” By tradition, although couples were married at sixteen, they were not to share a chambers until seventeen when they were officially considered adults by the court. However, judging by her mother’s attempt at getting her pregnant, she decided she was pretty much on her own with enforcing this rule.

Just as she was about to pull the covers away from him she remembered the letter from the night before and froze.
How could I forget something like that? Poking around in her sleeves she found it soon enough, slightly crumpled but still in that perfect triangle shape. As she opened it Rao poked his head out from under the covers, surprised by the suddenness at which her attack ended.
“What’s that?” He said and she waved him away absently as he sat up to read over her shoulder.
The writing was in Morn, the traditional language of her people. That in itself was somewhat strange as the country had officially changed their language to common before she was even born to increase trade opportunities. But, what surprised her even more was the color of the ink used. Bright red, almost like blood. It was an unusual choice.

Mena second princess of Raoslo,

We, of the mischief invite you to our party.

Gnawl- Bosha-mi, high prince.

Her brows furrowed as she tried to concentrate. Her Morn wasn’t perfect, but she certainly knew enough to translate a few simple lines. Then why didn’t the note make sense? The Mischief? She knew of tales of the mischief, a colony of rats so smart that they broke away from the human world and created a paradise for those who followed their ways, but those were but fairy tales for children. Was it some sort of secret code instead? And what of the messenger who brought the note? He certainly seemed human enough, at least until he had disappeared.

“Who gave you this?” Rao asked as he took the note from her hands. She knew that subtle change in his voice. His eyes turned hard and he was no longer Rao her annoying childhood friend, he was Rao captain of the Raoslo guard and protector of the court.
“A man.” She said, pouting slightly as he stuck the note in his pocket. She didn’t bother to protest, it wasn’t like the note had told her where to go anyways. Probably just another one of her brother’s dumb pranks.
“I had better check in with the general.” Rao said, slipping from the bed. Swiftly he pulled on his boots and threw a navy blue robe around his shoulders. No break for the happy couple, not even a fancy honey moon. Raoslo was in the midst of a war and one night of festival was all her father could afford to spare his guard.
“What will you do with it?” She asked as an afterthought, pointing to Rao’s pocket. As if some switch had clicked inside him that smile reappeared upon his lips and reached over to pat her head like a child. Though she glared at him she couldn’t help but feel a bit of love escape the fortress of her heart where she bound it. There were not many husbands who would respect their wives wishes and let them be on their wedding night, at least for that much she was thankful to have Rao by herside and no other.
“Don't worry.” He assured, pulling the note out to wave in front of her face. “I’ll bring it back.” Tauntingly he slowly put it back into his pocket and then, with his hand on the doorknob and his back to her he said, “If you see the man again, stay away from him and let me know immediately.”

With Rao finally gone, Mena set to work taking off the gown that she had worn for the ball the evening before. It was heavy and gaudy but somehow even on her worst day she still had to admit its beauty. Cerulean and violet waves danced around each other, with crystal beading covering the length. She had sparkled as Rao had led her along the dance floor that evening and yet what she thought of now was not the memory of what must have been a beautiful day, but rather why such an unimportant note, a prank surely, had frightened her new husband so.

~~~~~

She spent the day making rounds with her mother to thank the staff for the wonderful service, the elegant ball, the sumptuous feast. Mena wasn’t against thanking servants, but the repetition of the day began to wear on her by the time they reached the third floor servant’s quarters.
“You look like you could use a change of pace.” He mother finally sighed when Mena yawned for the fifth time in as many minutes. Her eyes brightened at the prospect of ending the day early.
“Really?”
Her mom laughed but something in her eyes made Mena think she would regret following her back upstairs to the royal chambers.
She was right. There on the middle of the big oaken writing table lay a stack of papers folded beautifully with a set of ink pens and wax sealant sitting beside it.
“Thank you notes?” Mena groaned, picking up an envelope and dropping it back onto the table in disgust.
“There is more than this.” Her mother said with a haughty smile. “I’ll send your sister in to help later.”
Mena groaned and dropped her head on the table beside the stack. There were so many good books that she could be reading right now.

By that evening her hands were cramping so badly that she couldn’t even hold her fork to lift it to her mouth. She ate with the woman in her family as well as her brother Griff and his young wife. The rest of the men were fast at their posts, Rao included, watching the southern border for the Inamatos attack. She gave up trying after three bites of shaky food and tried to excuse herself from the table.
“Whats wrong Mena? Don’t want us asking about the honeymoon?” Her brother Griff taunted. The twins cheered in their seats, clearly oblivious to what he meant but happy nonetheless that there was going to be a fight. They always seemed to enjoy their older siblings arguments, of which there was many.
“Dena, Mina, proper young ladies don’t cheer at the table.” Tesha said, placing a finger to her lips the twins quieted to a wave of hushed giggles, hands pressed against their mouths.
“I don’t feel well I am going to bed.” Mena said through gritted teeth. Griff’s eyes lit right up at that,
“Hard night?” He said in mock sympathy and that's when she threw the muffin. With her weakened hands her aim was off and instead of his face it struck the wall beside him, knocking a priceless portrait of her father from the wall. Everyone watched in horror as it dropped to the stone floor with a bang and then the frame split in two and the twins started crying.
As Mena trudged down the halls to her rooms after a long scolding by her mother she shrugged in annoyance. “Well at least I got to leave.” She murmured.
Exhausted, she flopped into bed the moment she got into her room and hardly noticed an hour later when someone came in. A pressure on the bed beside her made her sigh in her sleep but it was a kiss that woke her up.
“Hey.” Was all Rao said when she woke with a start, eyes wide in confusion until her brain caught up with them.
“What are you doing here?” She demanded and he rolled his eyes.
“Can’t we just skip that part or are we going to have the same conversation everynight?” He asked, flopping onto his stomach and closing his eyes. She glared at the man, he was covered in dust and mud and scratches. He had worked hard today too, protecting her and her family.
“How are things?” She asked quietly and he frowned.
“Safe enough for the moment.” He said.

“Rao?”
“Hmm?”
“I think my mom is going to disown me.”
His eyes shot open and he rolled to one side facing her with a smile.
“What did you do this time? I want to hear it all.”
After retelling the story in near entirety she couldn’t help laugh along when he did. It had been a ridiculous day.
“So, you didn’t eat then?” He asked with suddenly serious eyes and she shrugged.
“All day?” He asked again.

Right then her stomach growled loudly but his serious expression didn’t waver a bit.
“You need to eat.” He said.
“No, I’m not hungry I just want to sleep.” Mena protested.
Suddenly he kissed her on the lips, like a child’s kiss, a quick peck and she shoved his shoulder.
“Stop that.” She warned but now he was smiling.
“If you don’t eat, I’ll just have to kiss you.” He said and suddenly predatory eyes rolled over her body. She threw her arms over her chest and jumped back so that she was pressed against the bedframe. She laughed nervously and he pounced, quickly pinning her arms and straddling her middle. Quick butterfly kisses across her jaw and down her neck. It tickled and she couldn’t stop laughing. She spun away and managed to free a hand, using it to push his head away while kicking her legs at his back.
“Ouch!” He laughed, trying to regain his hold, but she swung out a leg and pushed herself until she was the one on top. She was smiling in triumph, using both hands to hold him down when suddenly the door swung open.
Both she and Rao froze, as did the woman in the doorway. It was Jezna, Griff’s wife.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She said, with a quick bow the door was shut and it took another full minute before Mena had enough composure to look away from the door.
“Did she think?” She asked and Rao nodded. He sat up and put his arm around her shoulders.
“And in a day the entire palace will think the same thing.” He said and her eyes caught his own, a shadow of sadness quickly replaced by good humor.
“Rao?”
“Well your mom is being pushy so, why not use this to buy some time?”
“You set this up?” She snarled, quickly hushing her voice when she remembered people may be outside.
He shrugged. “I told Jezna that you had that old romance novel that all the girls love and suggested that she ask you about it tonight, that's all.”
Mena moved off of his legs and sat on the bed, pulling her legs up against her chest. The move made sense, what married couple their age didn’t have a little bit of fun? But it was so embarrassing. When she thought over what their little game would have sounded like from out in the hall, what it must have looked like to see her pushing him down she couldn’t take it.

He stood and started for the door.
“Rao?”
“I’ll go get you that food.” He said and before she could protest he was gone.

That night was the first that Mena heard chewing in the walls. Rodents were not uncommon in the castle, but the cats usually did a good job of keeping them from the upper rooms. Before she drifted off, belly full of warm turkey pies and sweetbread, she made a mental note to borrow Tesha’s big tom cat the next morning, he would catch the culprit soon enough.

The next morning the sky was red with sunrise. She awoke, always a poor sleeper, to the jingle of Rao’s uniform as he slipped it on. Not his guard’s robe, but his leather armor for riding.
“Rao?” Her voice called out, lost in the darkness, but he crept to her side.
“Shh, go back to bed I’ll see you later.”
“Is it something bad?” She asked and he hesitated.
“No, its just a routine check of the supply fields.” He lied and she wanted to ask him not to go, but she knew he would anyways so she nodded, thankful for the lie.
“Be careful.”

When she woke up again it was already past noon and she was surprised to find the maids hadn’t roused her. She had expected another long day of thank you notes and endless writing, but perhaps her mother’s anger from the night before was a bit greater than she had expected.
Sleepily she rubbed her body clean with a basin of cold water. It was from Rao’s wash that morning, so the maids hadn’t been in at all since then. When she stepped out into the hallway in breeches and a deep green shirt she found an even stranger sight. Bellos the gray tom cat she had wanted to borrow from her sister was sitting right next to a gray rat nearly half his size. At first she had smiled in satisfaction, thinking the cat had killed the little chewer already, that was until its little white whiskers twitched and its black beady eyes turned to her.
“Ah!” she jumped back, not because she was the kind of girl to be afraid of a little rodent but from sheer surprise that it looked at her so calmly.
Confidently as if stepping with purpose the rodent hopped forward until it was nearly at her feet and then it stood on its hind legs, balancing delicately, head bobbing up and down once in what she could have sworn was a bow, and then it turned and raced away so quickly that it looked like an arrow released from a bow.
“Bellos?” She yelled in exasperation, pointing to the escaping chewer. “Aren't you a cat?” In response he flicked his tail twice and then lay down in the middle of the floor.
“Useless cat.” She grumbled and stepped around him.

She would go to her mother and apologize directly, if that's what it took. Surely she was still mad if she had ordered the maids not to serve her. She hated the walk to the royal chambers; countless numbers of family portraits and paintings of long gone Raoslos lined the hallway like some sort of morbid family tree. Every one had the same beautiful flashing blue eyes and silky golden hair, every single Raoslo except for one. Apparently, when she was born the nursemaid’s had gasped and dropped her onto the changing sheets. Her hair was so dark and her eyes such a strange gray hue, she looked like a completely different family’s child, perhaps one from Denma where all the dark skinned races came from, or even a rare fluke from their enemy the Inamoto where the firehead children lived. But despite the doubt it should have caused her father never once denied her paternity and for that, even if his baritone scared her, even if his blue eyes seemed to watch her every step with disdain, for that she could never hate him nor betray him.

When she was halfway down the hallway she heard skittering on the stones behind her and whirled to face what she assumed would be a tiny rodent and ended up being an olive skinned man towering over her.
“Who are you?” She demanded and the man smiled, bright teeth stark white against his dark skin. He held out a piece of paper, folded into a perfect white triangle and she took it without looking away from his face.
This time she didn’t wait until he had disappeared, she ripped open the letter and read its three lines written in morn.

Before the time is past, Come to the Mischief.
It is as agreed.
From time to now, we make the trade.

Gnawl-Bosha-mi, High prince.

She glowered at the words and looked up to the tall man who still wore a rather dumb smile on his face.
“Who is this from?” She demanded and he replied as the other had, “Me.”

“Well if it is from you then explain yourself. The Mischief is nothing but a fairy tale! Are you from Denma? Inamoto? If you are then I suggest you escape soon or else the guards will be upon you soon.”

He shook his head.
“I made a deal with your guard, he said that if we bring him milk he will ignore our messengers for the next week.”
It took her a moment to put that sentence together, another for her memory to flash back to the strange scene before her door that morning.

“You are a rat?” She felt dumb even asking it but before she could regret the words he nodded. “I’m a Mischief messenger.” He said with a smile. “The prince will be awaiting your arrival. Call us any time and we can bring you to him princess.”
“Who is the prince?”
He cocked his head to the side.
“Me.”
“What?” She couldn’t see the smiley rat man being a prince, but then she wasn’t really one to judge, seeing as she didn’t exactly fit the part of royalty either.
“So you are the prince?”
He shook his head.
“No no no, I’m Gnao a messenger and chewer for the mischief.”
Now she was really confused.
“Mena! Who are you talking to out there?” She turned to face her mother’s voice.
“Mother, stay in your rooms I’m..” but when she turned back he was gone, the hallways empty. Her eyes even searched the ground for the scurrying of a little rat as if it were possible, but even here there was nothing.

“Mena, come in here this instant.”
Her mother’s furious voice pulled her from the mystery and she spent the rest of the afternoon finishing the thank you notes all by herself as punishment for her “outrageous behavior.” But every now and again she caught her mother’s expression out of the corner of her eyes and seeing a sly smile on her lips, was horrified when she realized that meant that Jezna’s story had spread, and now everyone though that she was doing that with Rao.

“Oh come on its not that embarrassing.” He said in bed that night. She was getting much too used to sharing her bed with her friend. His snoring at night was like white noise and his warmth seemed to burn away the nightmares that had plagued her since her youth. Beyond chaste kisses and teasing he was careful not to push her further than she cares to go, not that he had the energy after a day on patrol.
When she woke up suddenly in the night he would talk to her until she calmed down and as he had since they were children he barely even took notice when her tone turned sharp. With Rao she felt safe, but even with the happy blonde by her side she still felt unease, because again that night she heard chewing, and again the night after that, whatever it was was coming closer.

That morning when she awoke she looked out the window and there by the gates amongst a throng of guards who took no notice, were the two olive skinned men from before, standing with a horse bridled and set with packs and staring up at her window as if just waiting for her to come to them. A shiver shot down her spine and she nodded once towards the men. Throwing on her clothes, she shot down to the courtyard as fast as her golden flats would allow.
Straight past the servant’s room, past the house guards and straight into the training field. Delicate flats squished in fresh mud and she took big steps to push through it. The men still stood in the same spot, waiting for her.




From the corner of the yards Rao looked up from tightening the girth on his mount to see his fiancé stamping through the mud towards two very foreign men. The look on her face was a mask of fury, but he alone could understand that it was fear that caused her to look this way. Before he could think his feet were moving after her.

“What do you want?” Mena hurled the words at the two men. They looked at her with calm smiles as all of the messengers before them had. These two seemed new, but all four men thusfar had looked so similar it was difficult to tell.
“Princess, the Bosha-mi has bid us to come find you and bring you back where you belong. He fears if you come alone that you may.. get lost along the way.”
The rat men paused and turned to one another. A silent exchange passed between them and prickles raced down Mena’s back.
“Come now, if we leave now we will still make it for the party.”
One of the men reached out for her, but before she could react, strong arms pulled her back and a menacing sword cut the distance between her and the two men.
“And exactly where do you intend to take my wife?” Rao’s voice snarled against her head and his grip on her became painfully strong.
The two men looked to one another again and then one stepped forward and nodded a greeting.
“Prince Rao of Raoslo. For today we shall bid you farewell. The Mischeif awaits your return joyfully, but the Bosha-mi is not the most patient prince so I bid you hurry for your own sake.”
Mena twisted her neck to look at Rao and the look she saw there was frightening. Lips drawn tight over a warrior’s snarl, his eyes dared the men to step closer in range of his blade. This must be the man who Rao’s enemies faced on the field, it was a thrilling change.
With a quick bow the two men mounted their horses and were off before Rao could shout an alarm. Bellar’s men had seen the confrontation though and were settled and after the messengers before they even left the castle’s gates.

“Don’t worry.” Rao growled, “They will catch them and we will get to the bottom of this.”
“Rao.” Mena tried to push him away but his body was like a rock.
“You are hurting me.” She gasped and he instantly let go of her and his expression turned back into her normal cheery friend.
“Sorry, are you ok?”
She rubbed her arm with a grimace.
“They are rats Rao, I have no doubt about that anymore. Your men will not find them.” She turned and began back towards the castle and where she left them Rao whispered,
“We shall see.”
About this Entry
Jan. 3rd, 2010 @ 02:01 pm A convoluted puzzle (Draft1) rest
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
(5)

I counted the turns and twists as I followed the stream of rats. Three twists, seven turns, another twist and a drop and then I was back where I had started the day before. The enormous green doors hung before me and I stayed back in the shadows of the hallway, watching carefully as the doors opened and a group of rats in human form gracefully entered to the cheers of many.
“I thought I asked you to stay in your rooms?” An even voice behind me was Gnar, but I absently waved at him as my eyes were stuck on the figures greeting the rats in the doorway.

Finally seeing the prince in human form was overwhelming and at once my heart was captured. Auburn hair was trimmed neatly against healthy olive tanned skin. He was surrounded by darkly tanned men and woman, their dark coloring giving them a rather menacing look and letting him stand out all the more in his bright white suit and fine leather shoes. It only took a moment before he caught me watching his entrance, his dark eyes shone with a curiosity equal to my own. With a quick stride forward he closed the distance between us in an instant and suddenly his beautiful face was too near. I stumbled back but strong arms caught me close. He had to duck down to match his eyes with my own, a strange flipflop and the humor didn’t escape him from what I could tell of his smile.
I didn’t resist as he pulled me even closer, warm lips just a whisper brushing against my own and my heart skipped a beat; however before they pressed he had pulled away. I imagine my bewildered expression must have been quite amusing since both the prince and Gnar began chuckling, the latter laughing into a curved hand before casually brushing it back through his hair.
“Did you kiss me?” I asked naively. His eyes widened and so did his smile.
“Would you like me to?” The prince asked, strangely turning to Gnar as if asking permission.
I suddenly remembered then that the almost kiss was familiar, I had seen the other rats do it the day before in greeting, was that all it was? My face flushed but my response was cut off.
“Bosha-mi!” A trilling voice rang from the doorway and in popped a beautiful slender woman with long stark white hair. For half a moment I mistook her for the ice princess since her height and stature was just as lovely as my friend; but when her eyes turned towards me I knew she could not be. They were a disturbingly ruby red color that made it look as if she were crying blood. I caught myself from gasping, but the expression on my face must have shown my shock quite well enough.
“Is this her?” The ruby eyes woman asked excitedly and both the prince and Gnar nodded once with a strange grimace.
“Chuh.” She said, stepping towards me and nodding once. My mind raced for an appropriate response.
“Chuh.” I finally replied and the room became still at once. I looked around, heart throbbing in my ears as I tried to figure out what I had done wrong, everyone’s eyes were cast down at their feet except for the female, who glared at me for some untold reason. I shuddered and stepped away from her, she hesitated and bit at her bottom lip as if trying to reason out what should be done with me.
Gnar was the first to break the sudden awkward silence.
“Easy Bosha.” He said to the female. “She is still only a pi-mi-lo.” The female only glared and him as he turned back to me. “When greeting one of higher rank we must reply Che.” He corrected and I nodded quickly. Turning back to the beautiful woman I took a deep breath and whispered, “Che” and all at once the tenseness left the ruby eyed woman’s body and again she was smiling.

“You are a quick learner!” She said to me, and then turning to the prince as if I had left the room, “She is most wonderfully rustic, nothing like the Bosha girl.”
My face blushed even deeper until I was sure my face was as deeply red as her eyes, but no one seemed to notice.

“Let me introduce the lady Calladonna,” Gnar said gesturing towards the woman. “She is the Bosha-mi’s fiancé.”

My eyes shot to prince rat and he was smiling, proud by the announcement. A tiny hope died inside of me and I nodded. He and I were only friends after all.

“Prince rat, why did you bring me here?” I asked when most of the crowd had left the room.
He quickly brushed lips with the female and then without a word of goodbye she strode off back to the hallway.
“I thought that you would like to see where I am from.” He answered simply.
“Well I do.” I was. I was enjoying myself seeing his world, but at the same time I couldn’t help wonder why the rats would have gone to such trouble to bring me here when it seemed like the Mischief was meant to be kept a secret from non rats. Call me distrustful if you will, but at the time I was a little confused about which way was up and who was friend or foe. The rats certainly brought a ray of hope into my crumbling life, but I had to wonder why me?

“I am sorry.” The prince said. I looked up and found him much too close again.
“It seems you find me frightening in this form.”
I didn’t really, did I? I shook my head and he chuckled.
“Perhaps you would let me ride on your shoulder for a bit? I am extremely worn from my trip.”
Before I could answer he was gone from my sight. I looked all around me but found him very much gone. It wasn’t until I felt the weight on my foot that I understood that he had changed back into a rat. Out of habit I picked him up, body fat and squishy like a water bottle, and rested him on my shoulder. A warm nose prodded at my ear and whiskers tickled my cheek. He was right, it was easier like this. The prince rat took me off castle grounds into the lush forests of the Mischief. It was greener than I had expected and twice as blue. Always Gnar walked a step behind us, drifting silently like a ghost and translating everything the prince cared to say to me never adding a word of his own.

“You threw away my prize that day by the river.” Gnar’s voice said from behind me.
“The bird?” I asked looking to the little copper creature on my shoulder who glared at me reproachfully around a mouthful of my sweatshirt.
“Yes, you threw it away, it took me much effort to pull it from its perch, I’d like an explanation.”
That threw me a little, for I always assumed the bird had been dead when prince rat found him. Had he been hunting for birds that day? And if so, where had he kept his hounds?
“Birds carry disease, I didn’t want you to get sick.” I replied.
“Pimilo, I am centuries older than you, I have led wars and forged peace, I have married and had families of innumerable size. I am ageless and you thought I would succumb to a bird disease?”
I blushed crimson and Gnar hesitated behind us, pulling his silver comb through his hair twice before continuing.
“But you are a kind Pimilo, its why you interest me so.”

We walked the rest of the way in relative silence. The prince rat said nothing of my return home and a single seed of worry rested in my chest as my mind turned to doubt. Exactly why had they brought me here. Surely the prince had other human friends?

When we reached the edge of the green we stopped. Gnar pointed out over a sandy expanse. Silver glittered in a netted pattern under the sands.
“Pimilo please never venture further than this green, past it is no longer sanctuary, the sands hold traps that will snap a body in half with one step.”
I shuddered, wondering if the words were my prince’s or Gnar’s own this time.
“I’ve seen snap traps before, back home. My family’s barns had a mouse problem so my father set them out. Snapped the poor little guy’s head clean off.”
Gnar nodded grimly.
“We borrow much from the other worlds, both good and bad.”

As we walked back towards the rooms the seed of doubt began to shudder. Watered by the realization that my father shouldn’t have barns, because my father was a banker, the worry began to sprout.

In my room I was quick to find my photo book. A snack of chocolate puff cookies and warmed milk awaited me on the bedstand and as I gobbled it down I started flipping through the photos. First was my favorite, me and my parents on the day I was born, purple ribbon making me special from the others. The next page was me with my brother’s making pies out of mud in the backyard. I still remember my mother’s wildcat howls of anger as my father only laughed and shot the photo.
“I miss them.” I sighed to myself. My father’s laughter, the smell of my mother’s cooking. I had so many wonderful memories of my childhood, but slowly they were becoming cloudy in my mind.
Flipping to the third page I found something entirely abnormal. Where there should have lain a photo of my father and I at the city zoo, instead I found my uncle holding me when I was maybe three or four. He stood beside a creekbed, a line of three big green river fish proudly held in his free hand. My fingers flipped back and forth, searching for the proper photo, but there was no doubt it had been replaced. A stab of anger shot through me when I imagined my aunt and uncle touching my precious album. Stealing my precious memories and replacing them with lies. Well at least here my photos were safe. Ripping the lie from the book roughly I tore it in fourths and tossed it from the room. Let the rats use it for their nests, memories like those were nothing to me.


(6)

A strange vibration at my foot as whiskers brushed over my slippers. Looking down under the breakfast table I found a small unfamiliar gray rat, black beady eyes pleading for a morsel or two. I handed him a piece of muffin which he promptly crammed into his mouth and then looked back up at me as if conveniently forgetting that I had already given him what he wanted. One purple hand reached up at me, waving back and forth as if saying “its ok, look I can carry more.” Rolling my eyes I ripped off another piece and he took it greedily and then hesitated again. It was becoming a little ridiculous.
“Off with you, you can’t even carry anymore!” I scolded, waving him away. The little fellow hopped off with some difficulty, the food occupying his front hands.

I turned my attention back to the plate of food, mouth watering and belly rumbling. The previous day’s walk had worn me out in more ways than one. I picked up a forkful of fluffy golden eggs and that when I felt the next tug on my sock.
“Again?” I growled, looking down to find it a cinnamon colored Oh-bo looking up at me as if he were starving and I his only hope at surviving the day.

“They’ll steal the food right from your mouth if you let them.” The ice princess warned with a smirk. The moment her back turned I slipped a sliver of the bread into the little desperate creature’s grabbing hands and the pudgy fellow darted off without even a squeak of thanks. I could hardly blame the rats however, their culture was different from that of a human. I was quite certain that a thank you had never kept a hungry cat at bay or kept the miller’s traps from snapping, and so I smiled to myself as I watched the little tail disappear around the corner, and slipped a couple more buns into my pockets for later.

With the third tug I was finally exasperated.
“Why do they even bother feeding us if they are gonna steal it all back?” I shouted, banging my fists on the table this newest beggar scampered off, defeated by my anger.
The princess laughed and then tipped her head to me.
“You are starting to learn Oh-bo.”

Jamming a forkful of eggs and onions into my mouth my mind replayed the previous day. There was so much I wanted to ask the ice princess, but I really didn’t know where to start.

“What’s a pi-mi-lo?” I settled on.
She raised her brows and nodded. “Your pronunciation is improving already.”
I was happy for the compliment, but impatient for the answer.
“I suppose the most proper translation for pi-mi would be little one or child. The pinks are their children because as everyone knows rats are born pink and hairless. Mi of course you know already.”
“So… little child or little one.” It sounded friendly to me, almost loving and so I couldn’t stop smiling. If nothing else, at least prince rat still found me as a friend.
“The lo part means something not of this world. They call me the Bosha-lo because I’m royalty that doesn’t belong here. Similarly you are some kid from another world.” She said.

I wondered with a wry smile if my school would accept Mischeif-ese as my foreign language credit next year.

“Do you have family back home?” The princess asked around a spoonful of crème soup, her eyes not on me but sleepily half closed.
“I do.” I said, but it worried me that in my heart I had my doubts if that was still true.
“Perhaps its best to forget them.” She said
The seed within me grew a whole inch and blooming a sharp dagger like leaf it cut me inside and the pain was too much to bear. Silently, I finished my eggs and picked at the remains until the afternoon chime sounded.
**

Gnar found me after breakfast, a small smile curled on his lips.
“The Bosha-mi requests your presence if you would be so kind as to accompany me?” Today Gnar’s clothes were crimson and indigo, they set off his dark features well although I still preferred the green suit from the first day of our meeting.

As we set forth through the halls it seemed that Gnar walked at double the pace he usually did and I had to jog to keep up with his long strides. The waves of copper and agouti and brown and gray streaming down the hallways seemed more frantic than usual and I wondered if there was a reason for the rush.

“Come now Pimilo,” Gnar urged when I stopped to watch a couple of rats squabbling over running space. They both stood on their hind legs and swatted at eachother like how young girls fight.
“Are we in a hurry?” I asked innocently from where I stooped over the quarreling pair and Gnar turned away, “Of sorts.” He replied and then led me in an ever changing pattern down the hallways, almost as if we were trying to avoid someone.

As a narrow passageway turned into one of the four great halls Gnar suddenly stopped and my nose crashed straight into his back. I looked up and followed his gaze to a tiny form walking down the hallway. I had to strain my eyes to see. It was a very fat rat walking on his hind legs and wearing a tiny rat sized shirt.

Pleasantly round and full of cheer, I didn’t want to admit it but he was even cuter than prince rat and I almost couldn’t stop myself to running to pick up and hug the unfamiliar form tight against my chest. He looked like some sort of clown at a small town circus, fat white belly barely covered by a primly tailored white top. On two legs like a human, the rat waddled side to side with every step, exerting all his effort to move his sizable paunch. I didn’t even need to ask Gnar this time, because if ever there were a proper Bosha-bo, certainly this was him. The streams of color all stopped and nodded as the fat rat king passed them by. I giggled when he tripped on his own tail and hundreds of pairs of black beady eyes turned to stare at me. The king rat’s whiskers twitched once and then he nodded in our direction. Then with a skip and a hop he had turned around the corner and disappeared. I jumped forward to follow, but a warm hand settled upon my shoulder and I found that Gnar was watching me with a strange expression.
“That was the king?” I asked, nearly out of breath from the encounter. Gnar nodded.
“The current Bosha-bo has ruled for countless centuries. He is our most precious friend.”
I couldn’t stop smiling as he led me to the prince’s rooms, I didn’t even notice as every now and again several out of the streams of color racing around the floorboards would stop and turn to peer at me, as if something had changed, as if there was something they were waiting for.

In his rooms the prince was relaxing on a long green couch. Little bits of the fabric and wood were cut away as if it had been chewed. When we entered he looked up over a large open book and smiled.

“Pimilo welcome!” He patted the couch beside him. “I was wondering if I could ask you about your world today. We like to be informed you see about everything and while I was with you there was a lot that I couldn’t quite sort out.”
“Like the bird?” I asked and the prince nodded.
“Like the bird.” He agreed.

“Bosha-mi che-ku?” Gnar asked the prince in their language. When the prince nodded, Gnar swiftly left the room, so I could only assume that he asked to leave.
“I hear from the Bosha-lo that you are quick with our language.” The prince said.
“Would you care to learn from our scholars?” His confident smile said it all, just how long were the rats planning to keep me here?

“Prince rat I appreciate you showing me your world, but I have to get back to school and..”
“Nonsense.” He said, waving a hand at me. “We can manipulate the time when it comes time for you to return. If you want I can even send you back a week before that horrid test you failed.”
He was right. I had failed geography the month before and received quite a swap on my knuckles for it. Surely I had no reason to fear staying here as long as I cared to, but something about committing to this world still made me uneasy. Delly’s words rang through my memory, Perhaps its best to forget them. No, I couldn’t afford to forget my family, because if I did then I really would have no hope of getting things back to where they belonged.
“Can’t I go back to get my things?” I asked with a nervous laugh.
“That's what the Mi-oh are for.” He said, “Anything you want you only need ask.”
With that he turned towards the book, grabbing a pen in one hand, I could tell from his expression that he felt the matter most entirely closed.

And so the days were spent. My mornings I would eat with the ice princess as she taught me of the rat’s language and in the afternoons I was to educate prince rat in the ways of my world. I was quite taken with the seriousness with which he regarded me. It didn't seem to matter that I was a pi-mi-lo, I still had knowledge within me which he called wisdom. One day I asked the prince,
“Why is knowledge so important to the Mischief?” and he regarded me with sad eyes.
“In all the kingdoms in all the world we have sat and watched for centuries as royalty rises and falls, all the coup d’états and great plagues and Trojan horses. Through all of it we have watched and we have learned from it that it doesn’t matter how great a kingdom is, or how strong or how rich, but only how much knowledge of the world it has and its willingness to change its ways to suit the world. Our world changes with our hearts and our hearts are full of the world’s knowledge. As long as we never stop learning more, our world will never fail.”
He showed me a photo of a great man. His bright green and yellow suit made me giggle and the great emblem of a fire fox on his lapel was unfamiliar to me.
“This is Gregor of Tirrin. At one time he was the greatest ruler in all of his world, but with one single cold he was destroyed. His healers were set in their ways and when a helpful dealer of magic offered his services he was quickly,” He made a slash over his neck with two fingers, “ beheaded. Magic was banned you see and the healers couldn’t look past their own fears to heal their king and thus he died. As you can imagine, shortly after the kingdom fell to complete ruin.”
A sad story. I frowned and the prince brushed his fingertips under my chin until I was looking up at him.
“Its what our kingdom hopes to avoid. Knowledge is the key to self preservation, and if along the way we can share our information, then all the better right?”
I nodded dully, my mind still stuck on Gregor dying in his bed and his healers worked with their herbs and the magic dealer beheaded.
“Do rats have a religion?” I asked, an old question I figured I might as well have answered. The prince regarded me for a long moment.
“Of sorts, not the kind of which you think of. No churches or gods or goblets of wine. We do believe though, that there must be something for our fallen comrades. I think the idea of heaven is a necessity if one desires to keep their sanity.”
“Do you let mice come here?” I asked and he scoffed like I was an idiot.
“Sadly the little fellows look much like our forms and have therefore been hated for an eternity, but they follow us in looks alone. It would be a punishment to bring them along here where they couldn’t understand our customs, where they would be blamed for soiling the fineries. Mice belong in their own worlds, let them snap the traps meant for the followers of the Mischief, their lives are short anyways.”
“Prince!” I glared and readied myself to scold him for such harsh words but in an instant he was pressed against me, pushing my back into the couch as his lips brushed my own. I had gotten the answer to that on the second day, not a kiss but a sniff. With one smell a rat could tell a lot about one’s mood, but it was disconcerting nonetheless.
“Stop that!” I growled and he backed off with a smile.
“You have asked me two questions now so let me ask you some. You called me a pirate once.” He said accusingly and I froze. He cocked his head to the side and narrowed his dark eyes.
“What is a pirate?”
And so our lessons went. By the first week I had learned much more of the Mischief than I felt I knew of my own world, but always there would be questions and I was surprised at the simplicity of what the rats couldn’t understand. Why did humans hold hands before dinner? What were the little white folds of fabric by our dishes? Why did we allow one man to run our kingdom when he wasn’t the most round?
Some of the questions made me laugh, some made me angry and just a few reminded me that this wasn't my world and it was after those lessons that I would return to my room and flip to the first page of my photobook. I couldn’t afford to loose myself here, even if its where I had always belonged. I rarely saw the prince’s fiancé and when I did she only smiled at me, ruby eyes bleeding a welcome, I couldn’t bring myself to speak with her a second time. Something about her was terribly frightening.


(7)

It was on my second week that I flipped past my first page of my photobook and screamed. The page which once held the photo of my brothers and I, now was a photo of me dressed in near rags, milking my father’s dairy cows. No, not my father’s my uncle’s. Dropping to my knees the book fell half from my hands. My borrowed room was already filled with my possessions from my home. The Mi-oh made quick work of collecting them and now I grabbed my beloved terrier dog into my arms as I threw the horrid book away. A swift knock came at the door and I didn’t even have to look to know it was Gnar. Was the footman guarding me always?

“Pimilo? What’s wrong?” He asked, breathless for it seemed he had run to the screams. I pointed to the book like it were a ghost.
“Someone has stolen my photos.” I whispered. Gnar walked to the book and picked it up.
I thought they would be safe here in the Mischeif. My mind shouted, My memories are fading so quickly I’ll never find it on my own.
Flipping through the pages of the book, Gnar murmured now and again before looking back at me with a worried expression. “They are all there pimilo, every page is filled.” He held the book up and flipped through it for me. The first photo thankfully was the same as ever, the second me with the cows, the third me and uncle by the river bank. From there on every photo was how it shouldn’t be. Dozens of photos of me looking ragged and bone skinny sitting with my head hanging low by my uncle’s side. In the early photos there was also a shadow of a woman hanging by his side. I couldn’t quite make it out but this was what scared me the most. I couldn’t take it anymore and knocked the book to the ground from Gnar’s hands. As always he reacted calmly, stooping to pick up the book and slide it back onto its place on the shelf by my bed.

“Someone has been stealing from me!” I shouted, mind unable to accept anything else.
“It must be the Mi-oh! They are the only ones who can take from my world and slip in so unnoticed.”
Gnar had a hand to my lips before I could utter another sound. It was the first time he had touched me and I shuddered under his light embrace.
“Say no more pimilo. It is treason to accuse the Mi-oh. They support us all.”

I glared at him when he pulled away, but it was perhaps the first time that I had seen him look so worried and so I stayed quiet as the day progressed. The moment breakfast was done I excused myself from the ice princess and rushed back to my rooms. The photobook was the same as before, but I couldn’t risk loosing any more of my precious memories. So with a quick tug I pulled my baby photo from the book and tucked it into my pockets.
That day something terrible happened. While with the prince in our lessons I heard a scream. When I asked the prince,
“What was that?” He only replied, “I heard nothing.” But I knew what I had heard and so I jumped from the room and ran to the sound, quickly wishing that I had listened to instinct and stayed away. Bound my hands, feet and tail a tiny gray fellow was being read his rights by a legion of Mi-oh. I hadn’t noticed them before, blending in so well to the shadows in their dark forms, but now in human form I recognized a strange thing, every one of the Mi-oh with their olive skin and dark hair and eyes could have been a twin of Gnar.

“For sacrificing the honor of the Mischeif by making assumptions about the Mi-oh which are wholly untrue. Daniel Pi-bo is being sentenced to death.”

My jaw dropped but before I could step forward they had killed him. It was no grand affair. Bound in the form of a rat, it only took one quick snap of the wrist and then his spirit soared with god. A hand settled on my shoulder, it was the prince.
“Pimilo you shouldn’t watch such things.” He murmured, running a hand over my hair twice gently.
“Why was he killed prince?” Prince rat shook his head. “The Mi-oh have strict rules, surely he broke one of them.”
I was annoyed by his indifference. “Daniel pi-bo” the pudgy rat had been just a baby and they killed him. Perhaps they had a population problem at the Mischeif, but that was still no reason for any life to be given such a low status.
In irritation, for the rest of the day for each question he asked my every answer was a falsity and I didn’t care if he knew it. Sticking my hand into my pockets my fingers curled over my photo, I couldn’t forget who I was.
When I left the lessons, as always Gnar was there to greet me. I glared at him.
“You are a Mi-oh?” I asked and he looked surprised. “I was in my younger days.” He said, “The travel and the trouble gets to you with time, so now I am meerly the Bosha-mi’s servant.”
I wasn’t satisfied.
“You know they killed someone today. A young rat by the name of Daniel?” I was fuming and Gnar stepped in front of me blocking my path. Getting down on one knee he nodded to me once.
“Pimilo, things in the Mischief that are necessary will seem strange to you, but they are for the good of the people. Please avoid speaking poorly about the Mi-oh.” The way he knelt made it seem as though he were begging me and I finally turned away.
“Fine Gnar, but killing a little kid is never ok.”

I stalked off without him to my rooms.
“Stupid rats.” I grumbled. “Think they are so great, what about the black plague?” I shouted kicking a boot at the door.
“The Mi-oh are just stashers and thieves.” I growled, frustrated by the day and how everyone just seemed to accept it all. I kicked off my other boot and when it struck my side table I heard a squeak. I froze in my bed and waited. For several moments there was nothing, and then suddenly the sound of skittering feet. I turned my head to the side just in time to see a small black form dashing out my door, cracked open although I had been certain to secure it.
“No!” I shouted, but the little creature was gone. As dark as he was, there was no doubt in my mind that it was one of the Mi-oh’s spies. Well, I hadn’t said anything terrible, just the rantings of a pimilo. I fell back into bed with a long sigh. My hand rested on my chest but I couldn’t get comfortable. I turned this way and that and then remembered the photo. I would curse myself if it had crumbled. Shooting a hand into my pockets I found nothing and the seed inside of me grew a sharp edged leaf.

“Where is it?” I whispered. Searching frantically now, tossing over pillows and digging my hands through the covers. It had to be somewhere. I searched my path from the doorway and back again. I found nothing in my boots nor my long socks. It was then that I remembered the little black rat racing out in such a hurry, had he stolen it? My final precious memory?

As fast as my tiny feet could take me I ran to the prince’s rooms and flung open the door. He wasn’t in the sitting room where I took the lessons, but I heard voices coming from further back in the chambers. I hesitated to call out, instead I crept forward and cocked my ear towards the words.

“The little oh-bo has no sense of time does she?” a feminine voice twittered.
“Its been ages and she thinks it days. She seems rather lost in this world, isn’t it cruel to keep her as a pet?”
“She is quite willing to talk Calla. You should hear the wild stories she knows about the humans of her world.” This voice was the prince I knew him well enough. I supposed it shouldn’t be strange to me that his fiancé be with him in his rooms, but somehow I felt a sense of betrayal. Did he always meet with her after our lessons?

“What of the photo then?” The blood eyes female’s voice cracked in amusement and I froze completely, unable to even breathe.
“Well that was quite a funny story really.” The prince said, “When we met she showed it to me, saying that it was her most precious memory. Fool thing is that the memory was never hers to begin with.”
The laughter that followed was enough to swallow up my fear whole. Bursting through the door with all my strength I scared the pair right back into their true forms. Before they recovered themselves I took back what lay on the bed: My photo, and jammed it into my pockets.
“Prince rat you are terrible!” I shouted, stabbing a finger at his surprised face. His ears rolled back on his head and his tiny tail curled. The female hissed and I hissed back.
“How could you?” I tried to fling all my fury at them, but it too soon turned to tears. I settled for tossing pillows and then I fled into the hallway, rushing back to my rooms, trying to escape my sadness. Only, when I rounded the final corner I found the legion of Mi-oh standing before my door and in front of them all, the great Bosha-bo himself.


(8)

Hands and feet bound they dragged me along the hallways. I hoped for a moment that they were taking me home, but then I knew all too well that the third hall led to the killing wall. The smell of acrid blood filled the air. I had never recognized this scent before but now I understood why Gnar had always avoided this hallway on our walks.

When we reached the wall the legion stopped and the great king, less than a foot high in his true form, stood witness as a dark haired man stepped forward.
“For the crime of conspiracy against the Mischief. For the crime of bringing up our sad history and for the crime of bemusement at the great king’s expense, we sentence you to death.”

A shallow bolt of fear ran along my spine. Back and forth it stung me as I struggled in my bindings. Where was the prince rat? Where was Gnar? This couldn’t be real and yet I could hear the cheers around me, I could feel the coolness of the hall on my cheeks and sense the dripping of blood from where I struggled against my bindings. I had never realized how much I feared death until that moment.
I wondered if they would kill me like Daniel. If they would snap my neck in a quick way or if I would be punished greater? When had I ever been bemused at the Bosha-bo’s misfourtune? When he tripped? Was that why everyone had watched me so?

“Stop.” A voice shot over the cheering. It was the ice princess. She stood with her hands on her hips and glared at the Mi-oh that held me secured. Never once did her eyes stray to the Bosha-bo.
“The girl is a pimilo.” She argued. “Our world isn’t as strict as the one here, she didn’t know.”
“She was warned.” The dark man holding me growled. “I heard it with my own ears as did my comrades.” A handful of the dark men nodded in sequence and the princess’ shoulders dropped.
“Just send her back then. She dosen’t belong here.”
“Bosha-lo.” The Bosha-bo’s voice was unmistakable. Deep and pure, it was a shame my bindings held me so tight that I could not even turn my head to see his human form.
“Bosha-lo you speak for the girl?” The ice princess froze and her voice rose to desperation. “She is learning your ways quickly, she is only a child and cannot be expected to follow the same path as your other Ob-bos here.” Still the princess spoke only to the Mi-oh holding me, as if the king hadn’t spoken at all.
“But do you speak for her?” The Bosha-bo’s voice was demanding now and it shook the hall so hard that bits of scrabble and grit fell all around.
The princess hesitated.
“I speak for her.” Gnar’s green boots stepped before my eyes. My heard pounding in my chest I didn’t dare to move, but he knelt down and gently ran his fingers through my hair three times. Several moments of silence followed and then I was released. Rubbing my wrists I found them raw from the pulling and I jumped to Gnar’s side. The Bosha-bo was gone and the Mi-oh looked conflicted.
“That was a stupid move Gnar.” Said one of the female Mi-oh so similar that she could have been his sister. He nodded back at her and then turned to smile at me.
“You may return to your rooms now.” He said.
“Lets go.”
“No pimilo, I must stay here now. You go and rest, all is well now. Please follow the rules in the future.”
I hesitated for a moment and the ice princess appeared beside me. A long look passed between her and Gnar and then with a frown she tugged at my arm.
“Lets go Oh-bo.” She growled, “Before they change their minds.”
Our pace was breakneck back to my rooms. The princess’s face was as worried as I ever remembered having seen it before.
When we slammed inside she was crying and I put a hand to her arm only to have it swatted away.
“You idiot child!” She snarled. “Now what will become of Gnar because of your stupidity?”
I stared blankly at her fury. Gnar? What of Gnar?
“They are watching at every moment you idiot. The Mi-oh cannot be tricked, they are omnipresent. If you forget again it will be your neck!””
As she reached for the door I grabbed the knob and stopped her.
“What will happen to Gnar? What did he mean by speaking for me?”
“They’ll cut off his tail!”
I dropped to my knees in horror. What had I done? Was there still time?
“It's the same as death. The tail holds the Mi-oh’s power. Without it he can only hope to age and die like his fellows. Two years on average. Oh you stupid stupid oh-bo-lo.”
She shoved me to the side and pushed out of the door. Leaving me on my own I began to cry. I tugged at the knob but found it thoroughly locked. Moments later the whole castle shook right down to its roots and the door swung open. But I didn’t try to escape, because I knew now it was too late to save Gnar from the fate I prescribed him.
By habit my fingers grabbed for my photobook. When I flipped it open I found the first page had its photo properly in place. When had prince rat snuck this back in? My fingers danced over the glossy page. The lighting was the same, but when I looked closer something about the smiles was slightly off.

A scream tore from my lips and I dropped the album. The brown book lay at my feet, mercilessly opened at the very photo that I had always cherished so. Where a father once held me now was my uncle, where my mother had smiled was an unfamiliar woman, the shadow in my other fakes and most certainly the true woman who had bore me. Worst of all my bow, my special, special purple bow, was now such a common pink. There was no doubt now, everything that I had ever known was a lie.

“No~!” I screamed as I tore out through the hallways, colors scattering as rats scurried out of my way. Squeaks of pain stabbed at me as some were too slow to react. Had I killed them? I couldn’t know. I knew where the doors were, I had counted the twists and turns. I couldn’t allow this reality. With all my strength I pushed open the outer doors to the room with the big green doors and stopped short when a familiar form stepped before me. Gnar.

“Let me go!” I screeched at him. The dark rat sighed and his shoulders dropped.
“Its not safe there.” He said, A hand reached towards me and I shrugged away. “Its safe here in the Mischief. We would all like for you to stay.”
My blood boiled with fury.
“This place is a lie! You said I could have my wishes, that you would fix everything, well everything is completely wrong!”

He looked at his feet, mouth twitching as if whiskers really were attached. I became impatient awaiting a response and stepped forward, but my guide stuck out his arm to block me.
“Gnar?”
“I have already granted your first wish. On our first meeting when I gave you my name I granted you what you most desired in the world.”
“What I most desired?”
His dark eyes raised to meet my own and their seriousness made me shiver. When we first met? A coldness wrapped around my chest, crushingly oppressive as my breathing slowed.
“What wish?” I demanded, but in my heart I knew.
“You wished for the happiness that you had seen but never known. You wished for a happy family like the happiness that you saw in your uncle the banker’s large family. You wished to be a part of that family instead of the one that brought you such misery and that's exactly what I granted you.”
“Sadly,” He continued, “The effects seem to have worn off after several years, the system is yet to be perfected and now without my tail every wish that I have granted in my lifetime will have come completely undone.”
So my happy childhood was never real. My father’s laughter, my mother’s delicious breakfasts. The terrible sewing lessons and picking fruit from my brother’s shoulders. None of it.
“That's why my photo changed?” I asked shakily and his dark eyes focused clearly on my own which were already filled with tears ready to drop.
“Pimilo there are always three wishes, always.”

It was too much to take. I hated him, hated the prince rat, hated the ice princess, hated the Mi-oh, hated it all. With a hop and a dash I was to the gigantic doors and through them before Gnar could even squeak a warning.

Dropping back into my world was more painful than I could have ever imagined. Brightness so white that it burned my nails and a darkness so empty that it froze me down to my bones and grayed my hair. A patterned net tore as me as I dropped through it. Again and again it ripped at my flesh and mangled my features, pushing my skin so tight that it wrinkled and pressing my joints until they creaked. Last was the water, I sunk into it so deep that kicking for the surface was useless, when I could no longer control myself I gasped for air and its wetness burned my insides, weakening my lungs, my bowels and my heart. Just when I closed my eyes, accepting my fate, I found myself standing before a bronze mirror eyes wide open.
A crone stood where a child should be and the pain of age wracked my body like a disease. Wrinkled hands groped at sagging skin and a face covered by liver spots and sores. Reddened eyes were wet with perpetual tears and an unfamiliar groan escaped enemy red lips as a tear flew to my feet. I had lost a lifetime in one wide step and all that stood before me now was death.

In India at the Karni Mata Rat Temple it is said that when rats die they become human. Perhaps the Mischief know this too? If they can manipulate time then certainly death is no challenge. I see no other logic for their successful manipulation of the human form. At this temple it is also said that when human beings die they are reincarnated as rats. I don’t have much time left in this life so when I do pass I hope that I can return to the Mischief. While I am still owed two wishes, perhaps if god is willing I will obtain the happiness which has eluded me since I awoke to this reality.

THE END
About this Entry
Jan. 3rd, 2010 @ 02:00 pm A convoluted puzzle (Draft1) pt 3/4
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
(3)


I spent the afternoon on my third vacation day from school walking in the woods behind the dairy barn. I could hear the cows mooing even deep within the solitude of my wooded playground and imagined them to be some sort of mythical beasts that the prince rat and I had to fight off to survive the winter. In my hands I held a long branch, swinging it around like a hero’s sword. At my feet, like a little dog, scampered my prince rat. He was quicker than I was, but seemed content to stop every ten feet or so and inspect a fallen log or a berry bush while casually waiting for me to catch up. I liked that he never rushed me.
My favorite spot in the woods was a little clearing right before the creek bed became rocky. The soil turned to fine sand and was warm in the afternoon light. It seemed strange for such perfectly orangey yellow sand to be filled in only this one spot and I sometimes wondered if it were dumped there purposely. I would have asked my uncle, but I feared his response, I didn’t want him to know about my special place.
As prince rat ran to the creek bed to sip some water from between the rocks, monstrously huge beside his little brown form, I settled myself in the warm sand, carefully burying my special sword up to its hilt beside me. From this spot I could hear the creek trickle by and soon became lost in my thoughts.
I don’t know how long it was before I noticed that I hadn’t seen prince rat in awhile. Instantly I leapt to my feet and called his name.
“Prince? Prince rat?” Anxiety racked my entire body. Thinking about his tiny form dropping into the creek, high and fast this time of year, I ran back and forth along the rushing water, calling his name.
“Prince?” My hands cupped around my mouth I called for him again and again. Racing back to pull my sword from its sandy sheath, I turned back towards the woods and my heart leapt to my throat when I saw a blue mass hop towards me.
Monster! Was my first though Snake! Was my second. Royal blue feathers and a scaly tail came closer, slowly sneaking through the tall grasses. I lifted my sword to strike.
“Don’t come near!” I shouted and all of a sudden the scaly tail broke away from the blue feathers. I stood there, sword still raised as it finally dawned on me what the two pieces meant.
“Prince rat?”
He sat beside his prize looking proud. A dead blue jay, close to his own size. Its eyes had been eaten away and I made a face of disgust as I suspected it to be my beady eyed prince’s doing. Looking at me proudly the prince began to wash himself using both hands. Back, paws, face, he was always thorough.
I lowered my sword and stepped closer to inspect the bird. Maybe he feared I would take his prize, so darting forward like a little copper flash, he grabbed the flesh behind the creature’s torn wing and pulled, dragging It several inches from me with a defiant glare.
“Don’t!” I said, “Its dead, it could be diseased.” As I lectured the prince on the dangers of dead woodland creatures I picked the bird up with the end of my sword and flung it into the creek. Its funny, It never even occurred to me that a friendly wild rat could be carrying some disease or another, but a bird? Forget about it.
Pouting, the prince finished his cleaning and then jumped into my lap to search for treats. These days I kept my pockets full of bread crumbs and I feared I was making the prince a bit too fat, I wouldn’t have told him that though, he was awfully sensitive about his looks. I imagined what he would be like if he were a human. Flowing copper hair, deep brown eyes; he would be a clown when I needed him to cheer me up, but protective when someone threatened our friendship. I would never be lonely with my prince by my side.
His pink tail curled around my wrist as he poked his fuzzy snout into my pockets. Gently I ran a finger along his back and his silky copper fur, seemingly annoyed he took a hand and pushed my own away from him before fishing out a large piece of banana loaf from me.
“Prince.” I sighed. “I wish everyday could be like this.” It was simple in those warm hidden woods, I liked simple.
As the prince pulled out another big chunk of bread I grabbed it from his paws. As if he were desperately hungry he kept his hold too and when I lifted the bread in my hand the prince dangled by his paws from my fingers.
“You can’t still be hungry.” I laughed, releasing my hold and allowing him his reward.

Suddenly the prince dropped the bread and shot under my legs.
“What are you doing here?” A voice snarled much too close. I felt my eyes bulge in my face, that voice was all too familiar. Jonny McClary, the meanest kid in school.
Whipping around I raised onto my knees, hoping to block the prince from the boy’s view, no telling what a bully like Jonny would do to an honest prince.

“Ew, it's the cow girl.” Another boy said from beside Jonny. There were three of them in total, two with dark brown hair and freckles, an unusual combination, these were the McClary boys Jonny and Tommy. Jonny was a fifth grader, but Tommy was in my grade though in a different class. The other boy had hair so blonde that it seemed white, this was Devon Peckular a fifth grader who I only knew by reputation and the reputation wasn’t a good one. Devon held a strange gray satchel over his shoulder and the smile on his face made me feel suddenly much too exposed in the sandy opening.
“I asked you a question.” Jonny said, taking a step closer. I glanced behind me and found the prince nowhere to be seen. Letting out a breath I crept to my feet and turned back to the boys, face already covered in a deep blush.
“I was playing hero.” I muttered, looking away from the boys. They all started laughing and suddenly my epic sword felt like a too light stick within my hands.

“Hero?” Tommy’s high pitch squeal of amusement caused me to furrow my brows. I wanted to get away from them. I remembered what my friend had told me the first time we ever saw the brothers, dangerous. I could feel it now too, there was something off about the dark haired brothers. Devon’s eyes crept over the river bank lazily, he didn’t even acknowledge my presence.
“Come on, lets get back to work.” He said, a demand not a request. It was clear that between the three boys he was the leader.
“In a minute.” Jonny said, “This girl is on our turf.”
I took a deep breath and jumped to the side, hoping to outrun them but not prepared to trip over my own feet. The laugher began again.

Rough hands gripped my chin and lifted my face until dangerous eyes filled my own.
“What should we do with her?” Jonny licked his lips and in the background Devon unshouldered his burden, only then could I see that it wasn’t a gray satchel on his back but a string of squirrels. My heart jumped.

“What are you doing out here?” My frail voice squeaked. Unconsciously my eyes searched for the prince rat, praying that he would stay hidden, but then rats live for mischief and its then that I felt a too familiar presence press against my ankle.
No! my mind shouted, but I was too afraid to look down, if the boys saw my prince they would certainly go after him.

“Why should I tell you?” Jonny demanded. The prince began to tug at my pants, his signal for me to pick him up, I tried to put my other leg before him but the boys thought I was trying to run. Jonny grabbed my arm.
“Why should I tell you what we are doing?” He shouted, his scary face contorted in an anger that I couldn’t begin to understand.
“Because I’m a hero.” I said, I could feel the prince on my foot now, if the boys looked down they would see him, I couldn’t think of what else to do so I raised my sword and smacked it against Jonny’s side as hard as I could. The Jonny cried out in pain and the stick broke in two.

It was chaos then, I ran one way as Jonny fell to the ground. Devon burst out laughing on the log where he was perched and before I could get back to the path Tommy had me by the collar.
I turned with tears in my eyes, expecting the blows, but all I found was a smiling face, he panted like a dog and licked red chapped lips before speaking.
“Gutsy move cow girl.” He said, “I like you, so I’ll give you the honor of being my girlfriend.” He was self assured to an extent that I could only ever dream of.
My eyes must have been as wide as plates.
“Even if you are rot ugly,” He added.
He let me go and my feet carried me away from them, away from the creekbed, away from my safe place.
Behind me I could still hear Devon’s laughter and I could hear Tommy shouting.
“See you at school cow girl.”
Maybe nowhere was safe anymore.

That evening I sat in the TV room with my uncle and aunt and I couldn’t help but stare at my aunt’s face. She was pretty in a conventional sense, petite, thin, always covered in makeup, but I didn’t see what made me rot ugly when she was considered pretty.
That night I couldn’t fall asleep. I hadn’t seen prince rat since the boys at the creekbed and I was terrified that he hadn’t escaped. Every time I closed my eyes I saw a string of gray with a little copper pelt on the end. A shiny trophy for a group of evil poachers in my hero’s fortress. By sunrise I gave up on sleep and instead took out my photobook from its place of honor beside my bed.
The faces on the pages seemed so far away. My family, my mother in her carrot apron, my dad shaving, me with my brothers in the yard. I could remember those times and yet it was like replaying an old movie in my head, maybe those really never were my memories at all. Closing the book with a snap I curled into a ball in the center of my bed and hummed a tune I had heard on the radio.
When morning came my uncle’s voice shouted through the floorboards. It was Sunday, God’s day.
My aunt dressed me in a purple Sunday dress with frills and all sorts of lace which didn’t suit me. A hat topped off the ridiculous outfit but I kept my lips shut tight as she tugged on the ties.
“Very cute.” She assured me.
When we went downstairs my uncle, belly threatening to burst his sweat stained dress shirt, said the same, “Very cute.”

I wondered then if maybe I was cute, was that why Tommy hadn’t struck me in the woods?
We took the loud coughing monster of a car to the church. I recognized the people who filed into the big white building and that set me somewhat at ease, even as my uncle took my hand to pull me beside him.
“This way.” He said, as if I didn’t know my way around my own church.
My aunt filed through the doors behind us, head hanging as if she too hadn’t slept well that evening.

The sermon that day was about Judas and his betrayal. The words struck at me. I had tried to save the prince rat, but what if I was just like Judas? What if I was only trying to save myself and now talking myself into thinking I was a hero?
The priest talked of Judah’s ultimate sin and his death hanging from a jagged tree branch. My mind spun with an image of the dead blue jay, the squirrel pelts with one copper one betwixt them and a poor man dead by his own hand, accepting his sin.
I was so immersed in my worries that I hardly noticed when the service stood to shake hands.
“And also with you.” I muttered under my breath, not looking at the adults who took my hands. All around me was the scent of cheap rosewater perfumes and stick chewing gum.
“And also with you.”
“Peace be with you.” My eyes shot up because I knew that voice. There before me stood a woman, lovely and round and beautiful as I knew her to be. It was the woman from my photobook, my mother.
“Mother!”
A smile flew to my lips and my arms shot over the pew to embrace her middle, however the second my hands touched her she froze. I looked up to find my mother’s eyes quite unrecognizable.

“Well hello honey.” The woman murmured with an awkward smile and before I knew it my aunt was pulling my arms away, apologizing to the round woman while squeezing my arm until it hurt.
“What were you thinking?” She whispered furiously, giving my skinny arm a final pinch before letting me slump back into the pew.
I couldn’t make sense of it but before I could say a word the priest began his sermon again.
The second half was about Mary, Jesus’s mother, the holy mother.

“While those around him felt fear, betrayed him, denied him, only Jesus’s mother stayed by his side until the end, crying tears of thankfulness to the lord for bringing her a son, even if he be taken too soon.”

When the service ended I blinked my eyes and found them full of tears.
“What’s wrong with you?” My uncles booming voice crashed around me and I jumped up.
“I don’t feel good.” I lied and my aunt’s brow raised in annoyance.
“Don’t complain.” She scolded and I hung my head.

My uncle put a hand on my shoulder and used the other to raise my chin to look at him. The movement reminded me of the McClary boys and I pulled away.
“Well you’ll have to bear with it.” He said evenly, eyes scanning the sea of people around us. “We are going to have lunch with my sister’s family, so make sure you behave yourself.”
My expression brightened instantly. Sister? My uncle had only one sibling and that was my mother. If I told my father how uneasy I felt at my uncle’s house he would have to take me home!
With a bright smile I nodded to my uncle and he smiled too.
“Well good then, good girl.” He tapped the top of my gaudy hat twice and then led the way through the crowd. To my displeasure we didn’t find my family in the crowd, but instead crammed back into the loud soot soiled car and drove to my house. My house.
It was just as I remembered it. Big railing curled around a wooden slatted porch, big trees out back, everything was how it was supposed to be which shouldn’t have been so surprising to me since it hadn’t been more than a month before that I left.

“Come on then.” My aunt grumbled as she tugged my wrist after her through the doorway. “Don’t dawdle.”

My home smelled of sweet breads and fresh air and hot chocolate. A tall clock clicked in the corner and I took in a deep breath to savor the moment.
“Uncle.” A voice called from the stairs, it was my brother.

“Hi!” I shouted to him, “I’m home!” I had always liked my brother, he was kind to me when my sisters called me useless. She isn’t useless He would say, swinging me onto his shoulders She can pick the high berries like this! He and my other brother took me berry picking every summer. It was the one and only compliment that they seemed to ever be able to think up, but I took amazing pride in it.
Now he only looked at me, half amused, half confused and my heart thud once, deeply against my ribs.
“Oh.. hi.” He said, rubbing a hand through his hair. “Its Clara or something right?”
I couldn’t formulate a response, my words were lost in his confusion and I swallowed hard. With an embarrassed smile he came down the stairs and into the kitchen.
“Mom, uncle is here with his kid.”
“What…” My words came back to me but I couldn’t think of what to ask, did he really not recognize me? I thought of what I was wearing, it certainly wasn’t like what I usually wore so my hands began to unlace my hat and I got a firm smack on my bottom.
“Stop acting up.” My aunt’s firm words nearly brought tears to my eyes. I dropped my hands and rubbed where she had hit me. My uncle snorted in annoyance and that's when my mom came out of the kitchen, still in her church dress. I hadn’t been wrong, the woman in the church was my mother all right, but why didn’t she look at me now.

“Darling I am home!” My father’s voice came from the doorway and I spun to meet him, my aunt’s hand shot out to grab me but I dodged around her and flung myself out of the room.
“Dad!” I shouted, “Dad!” The man that met my eyes was my father, but suddenly another image came to mind, my uncle holding me when I was little, hugging me against his chest and dancing as some strange woman clapped. Music played in the background, some sort of jig.
I shook my head furiously.
“Dad” I said, a bit quieter. He stared at me hard like he was trying to remember and then shook his head, “Clara are you playing a new game?” He called me Clara, he never called me Clara, none of them did.
Another image assaulted me then, my uncle holding my hand as we walked on stones across a still river. I could almost smell the wet moss as if I were standing in that forest still.
“Its not a game!” I shouted and then my aunt had me in her hands again. She hit me once, twice and my father turned away.
“Stop it!” I cried, “Help me!” I shouted but I could hear my uncle in the background apologizing. “She isn’t usually like this.” He said, I can’t imagine what is wrong with her today.
A third strike and then my aunt turned me around to face her. I was crying desperately now and tears clouded my eyes.
“I asked you to behave.” She snarled, looking for all the world to be some witch out of a child’s tale. “Couldn’t you be good for once?”
She left me there, crying and joined my uncle in the kitchen. My sisters passed me by as they came down the steps. I could hear one whisper to the other.
“Who is that?”
“Just uncle’s kid, remember?”
The first shrugged and they passed me by. Laughter filled the kitchen, the sounds of food being prepared and my young baby brother’s gurgling joyfully from the attention. I stood there and cried. I had nowhere to go anymore, nowhere was safe.


The next morning I was as lost as I had ever been. My prince rat was still missing, my bottom hurt from being spanked for a quarter hour and my mind was in chaos. Where had my family gone? Were they trying to push me off on my uncle who they now referred to as my “father?” Was it possible that they could be that cruel?
Not a single member seemed to remember me and by the end of the evening I sat at the table, food untouched as my fingers stroked the familiar worn wooden table top.

“Clara are you not feeling well?” My mother’s concern caused a fiery hope to well in my chest, but it was short lived when my aunt tore my hands from the table top and dragged me out to the front. Ripping the door open she flung me outside roughly.
“If you cannot act civilized then you will stay outside until it is time for us to go.”

Rubbing my arm gently I was thankful to be outside. This great earthy smelling veranda was my fortress, how many times had I taken naps on its wooden planks? It was where I had first met the prince rat and as I waited, a soundtrack of laughter and polite conversation drifting through the windows to splash over my motionless body, I secretly prayed for his return.

“Please be safe prince rat. Please.”

But now it was morning, and reluctantly I scrubbed my arms and face with yesterday’s well water and tossed the rag back into the basin with such a lack of care that it splashed all over that day’s clothes. With a deep sigh I pulled on the soiled yellow dress and held a hand over my ear as I ripped the Velcro on my clunky black shoes to slip them on. School.

The moment I stepped into the old school house I met my ruddy haired friend. He chattered on and on about a great snowstorm that was coming.
“S’posed to cover half the valley!” He cheered as I looked on, “We can go sleddin and play war in the woods!”
But in my mind I could only see the prince rat huddled in a eaten out log as the blizzard froze him to death. A bitter end for a royal friend. The chew of anxiety was becoming persistent, each new worry eating just another piece of me away.

“Hey cow girl!” My whole body shook when I heard the call. Eyes turning slowly I found the McClary brother’s standing in the doorway. Tommy motioned me over and my friend tssked, “What they want with you?”
I hesitated and Tommy’s face twisted into an angry mask as he began to step through the door.

“Mr. McClary just what do you think you are doing?” Saved by the teacher, an angry old crone who looked a little too much like a spinster to be anything but a teacher.
“Coming in.” Tommy said, petulant response getting him a firm whack of a ruler on his side.
“Ouch!” He shouted as if the whack had been a stronger blow.
“We will tell our Ma on you.” Jonny said with a spoiled smile, “Then you’ll loose your position, then what will you have left to live for?”
The words were cruel and the teacher stepped back, a look of despair covering her face just long enough for the boys to start laughing and walk off without punishment. Just what was it about the McClary’s that everyone feared so much?

At recess I avoided another confrontation by hiding in the bathroom. Crouched in a stall beside a toilet I picked at my lunch of olive loaf and apple slices. My stomach longer for my mother’s peanut butter and butter sandwiches, but I did my best to keep the offensive food down despite the smell in the tiny stall. When the bell rung again I ran back to the classroom and shrunk down in my seat, head buried in my arms I let the scratchy cotton of my sleeves wipe away my tears.

The last hour of schooling went by in a flash. I ignored the teacher’s steady voice as I tried to piece together an escape plan. Surely the boys would want revenge for getting them in trouble, I had to get around them but how?
Then I saw it, across the hall in the opposite classroom they had a doorway straight to the backyard, if only I could dart across before the boys found me, I could run all the way home through the woods before they would even know I was gone.

Bing bing bing
The bell rang and I was up like a shot. Students blocked my way and trying to push past a particular dense clump I lost my grip and my books fell to the floor. I dropped to my knees and began to gather them. Red book, tiny blue book, tan planner. Then a foot stomped my hand and I cried out.
“Sorry.” An anonymous student mumbled as they headed for the door. Then I looked up to find my path cleared and I started to run.
“Clara.” A colossal frame blocked my path, the teacher stood with her hands on her hips and I slid on my heels to stop before I bumped into her.
“Clara I have been meaning to speak to you about your attendance.” My shoulders dropped as two dark haired freckled heads popped into the doorway behind the teacher. Jonny stuck out his tongue and Tommy smacked his fist into his palm several times. I can’t be sure if the teacher knew they were there or not, but I was dead now, no way to escape.

“Clara are you listening to me?” A quick whap on my shoulder brought my attention back to the teacher and I nodded quickly.
“Sorry ma’am.”
“I know that you have had some.. problems recently, but your father assured me that you would adjust quickly and I am not sure that you have shown me that you can.”

My eyes widened. My father? If my father was talking about me having a problem adjusting then maybe it was all some big plan, maybe I wasn’t really crazy at all.
Laughter came from the doorway and I looked up to see Tommy had dropped his pants, gasping I knocked into the teacher’s table and she raised a brow at me as I blushed crimson.
“Let your father and mother know that i’ll just stop by the dairy this weekened so that we can settle this all ok?”
Dairy?

Tommy spun his hips back and forth, tiny member swinging like a pendulum, the sight making me sick to my stomach.
Dairy?
“NO!” I screamed. “My father is a banker! He doesn’t work at a dairy!”
I wanted to run, but the doorway was blocked and the windows too narrow to escape through.

Suddenly all of my anxiety came rushing forward out of me. I heard the teacher shout and the boys laughter as I fell forward, eyes blank, into a pool of my own vomit.

That evening after seven more spankings I was sent to bed without dinner. It was nearly midnight when I heard the doctor knocking on the front door, an icy chill ran up and down my spine when I heard my uncle calling for me. I pretended to be asleep, but it was no use. My aunt came to my room and threw on the lights, blinding me as she dragged me from under the covers. I started crying and begging.
“Please, please i’m fine, I’m fine I don’t need to be examined.” But she ignored my pleas and dragged me down the steps by my collar.
“This is what you get for misbehaving.” She snarled.
Together with my uncle’s help she threw me into the den, leaving me alone with the red lips doctor. Shaking from head to toe I snapped my eyes shut and tensed my body, ready for his clammy hands on my skin, it was then that he began his examination.
~~~

The next morning when I heard the jays calling I didn’t even look to the window. Instead I pulled the covers over my head to shut out the light. I stayed there the entire day.

The second morning I awoke with my throat so parched that I kept choking on nothing. My eyes burned and my lips were ripped and cracked from the dryness in the air. When I walked out into the house I found everything dark and silent. No one was home and for that I was thankful.
Downstairs I found a glass liter of milk and drank straight from the bottle, coating my lips with the whiteness and letting it drip over my sleep gown as I greedily sucked it away. Tears welled in my eyes and a hand absently brushed over my rear, spanked raw and pounding from the bruises.

A movement in the corner of my eye made me hopeful, but it was just a little skittering barn mouse and before I could stop myself my arm sent the glass bottle soaring over the kitchen table like an army missile until it smashed against the far wall and exploded. Shrapnel and white flew everywhere, scaring the little creature half to death as it scurried back to the safety of its hole.

“Well that certainly is no way to make friends.” A voice behind me whispered from the darkness and I spun around, suddenly regretting throwing away my only weapon, instead I held my hands up defensively.
It was most certainly a stranger and yet he looked somehow familiar to me.
“Who are you?” I said, trying to sound confident but my voice so raw and harsh that the words barely reached him. Had my “parents” left me a new guest? My eyes searched frantically for a weapon and I found one in a serrated bread knife lying on the counter. Holding it in front of me I felt like the hero again, my shimmering sword dazzling as it shimmered in the dim light.
The man stepped forward into the sunlight drifting through the kitchen window and instantly I knew. He wasn’t a man at all. Dark black eyes, glistening ebony hair, strange suit of black satin and hunter green velvet with a funny little emblem, this was a certainly not a man.

“Don't worry little mi, “ He whispered, “Even I know better than to grab a hurt pup hissing in a corner.” He smiled brightly and I could almost imagine two long incisors where only human teeth hung. My eyes widened as my mind tried to work out the lack of logic of my assumption.
“We have met before Clary.” The stranger’s voice was pleasant, it wrapped around me like an embrace and I nodded, because whether or not logic wanted to help me out, really there was only one possibility.
“Gnar?”
He nodded, black eyes twitching back and forth, on guard for any possible danger.
“Its time that you come with us now.” He said, nodding at his own assertion.

“Couldn’t you have come two days ago?” I replied bitterly, but his grimace was enough to make me regret the words. I couldn’t lay blame on Gnar, if all of my other assumptions were correct, then he was most certainly a friend. As if searching for the right words he looked at the floor for a long moment, finally pulling out a little silver comb and running it through his hair in two quick motions.
“The prince is waiting,” he said and that alone decided me.
Running up to my room I changed into my Clary clothes and left the hated Clara gowns behind. Cut off green cotton pants, high socks with boots and a red hooded sweatshirt thoroughly chewed by the prince was my traveling suit. I grabbed a handful of marbles and my precious photobook and threw them all along with a stale loaf of pumpkin bread into the small green hardcase. Looking around the girlish room I couldn’t find much else of worth to bother with. With a farewell kiss to my favorite stuffed terrier dog, I asked him to watch over this world until I came back.

“You are ready?” The man asked and I nodded. Gently, he took my hand in his own and led me into the world of the Mischief.


(4)

I expected finding the world would be some grand affair with portals and doorways and secret chambers. Instead, like magic, the moment we walked out of the house’s front door, we were walking into the front doors of the palace. Footmen in red pulled the gargantuan emerald doors open and instantly the sweet smells of spiced breads and crisp air after a gentle rain pulled at my nose.

“This way.” Gnar’s gentle hand moved towards me, but perhaps instinctively did not touch my arm. Our eyes met and he nodded. I followed him through a vast maze of hallways, each more grand than the first. Aside from the corners which were piled with boxes and satchels of what looked to be treasures, the halls were impeccably tidy. By the fifth hallway Gnar motioned me into a small sitting room lit only by a gentle fire.

“Why did you bring me here?” I asked and the rat man’s black eyes twitched towards me as a bright smile covered his lips.
“I only follow the prince’s orders.” He whispered.
“Then prince rat is ok?” I begged for the answer and he held up a hand at my desperation.
“He is safe.” He said. “He has been detained, but shortly he will join us here so please make yourself comfortable. He has made it quite clear that you are a most special guest.”

I let out a huge breath and Gnar chattered a laugh.
“Lady Clary, I will have some food brought in for you, you look as if you haven’t eaten in days.”
He was right, my stomach was growling louder than the flames in the fire could pop.
“Rest friend. In the mischief you are safe, here no one can take you from yourself.”
His words seemed strange to me but nonetheless they comforted my mind.
The warm fire and the plush couch lulled me into a gentle sleep and I didn’t even hear when Gnar came back with the food. When I awoke, unsure of the time in that darkened room I found a silver tray covered with delicacies. A chalice of ice cold milk mixed with cocoa powder, sweetbuns, crunchy puffed cookies, and as if the rats had read my mind, a simple peanut butter and butter sandwich. I devoured the tray’s contents in minutes and then allowed myself to drift back to sleep. For the first time in weeks, no nightmares woke me from my slumber.

I awoke to what sounded like chewing and my mind not quite as awake as my body didn’t recognize the room that surrounded me.
“Mom?” I called, but the moment the word left my lips I felt an oppressive sadness close on me. No, my mother wouldn’t be here, I wasn’t even sure anymore that I knew who my real mother was.

Instead a form in the darkness walked towards me. It was Gnar.
“Gnar good.. morning?” I said and he chuckled.
“Good morning child. The prince will be another few days returning, so I have been asked to chaperone you until then.”
I made a face, I may be a little child but I certainly didn’t need a chaperone.
“No good?” He asked a little sad, “Well perhaps then we can play a game?”
I sat up tall in bed and waited for his game. I felt strangely safe in this unknown palace with this strange rat man, would it be ok to enjoy this dream until I was forced to wake up?

Gnar cocked his head slightly to the side watching me as several emotions passed over my face at once. I pinched my arm just to see, but the rat man still sat before me. Perhaps not a dream then?
“Shall we play?” He asked and I nodded, excited that my eyes had adjusted to the dark light and I could see the room now, just as I had seen it the night before. Nothing had disappeared, so in my simple mind that decided it, this really couldn’t be a dream at all.

“I will grant you two wishes.” He said in his whispery voice, moving to lean against the wall while I perched on the arm of the couch.
“Shouldn’t it be three?” I asked, giddy with joy every moment that passes that convinced me more and more that this world wasn’t just another hallucination.
“How about five?” He responded with a cocky smile.
“Really?”
“No,” he said flatly, “ Two is my limit. I’m not a prince after all.” Smiling knowingly he pointing to my chewed shirt. Prince rat certainly had done a number on the red parka, its two pull strings were snipped awkwardly short and its long pocket had a few extra ragged holes. A few weeks before I had found the prince rat had taken a liking to the fabric and taken it to his nest to “borrow” a couple more pieces, now tattered holes ran along its length.
“So what will you wish for?” Gnar asked and I considered the possibilities.

“I can wish anything?”
“Of course.”
“Can I wish to be back home again?”
“Yes.”
“For everything to be right again?”
“Yes.”
I had read stories before where fairies and genies and elves had granted wishes of foolish humans, I knew a lot could go wrong if one got too greedy. In one story that my father used to read to me it ended with the wife’s nose turning into a sausage! That one scared me for years.

“Can I save my wishes?” I asked carefully.
“Of course. From this life to the next those two wishes belong to only you.”
I smiled, if I saved them then I would have an excuse to explore prince rat’s world for a little longer. If the prince was going to be a couple of days anyways then certainly there was no rush.
“Can you show me the mischief?” I asked.
“Is that a wish?” He looked troubled and I shook my head.
“Not unless it has to be. I just want to look around.”

Gnar brushed back his deep black hair and dark dark eyes regarded me for a moment. I imagined whisker’s on his handsome face and giggled brightly.
“Am I funny?” He asked.
“No,” I assured, “You are cute.”
He seemed to like that because he reached out for my hand, stark white against his olive skin. I gave it to him gladly and before I could blink we were inside the inner palace.
“Its beautiful.” I whispered beside him as we walked the length of the great hallway. Everywhere was cluttered with artwork, shiny statues and woven brightly dyed fabrics. Things were toppled this way and that, as if someone had started to decorate and then gotten quite distracted with something else. It was a coordinated mess, just like a rats nest was supposed to be.

“The Mischief is a sanctuary, it's a better place than what you know now.” He said. I nodded, I could hardly argue with that.
“How come the prince always plays with me?” I asked, “Shouldn’t he be busy doing prince stuff?”
Gnar stopped and pointed to a glass case on the wall.
“This is something of a clock for us.” He said tapping it gently.
It wasn’t like my father’s clock at all. Thirteen little glass buckets on the inside tipped this way and that, continuously filled and emptied of colored sand as they turned. Occasionally the entire case would twist to one side or another and a faint chime would sound. Had Gnar not pointed it out I would never have even thought it a clock, a wall decoration perhaps, but it seemed far from logical in its movements and if anything time was logical.
“Our time is much different than yours,” Gnar explained, “So when the Bosha-mi is gone in your world it is only a fraction of time in ours.”

“So if I return home will I be an old crone?” I laughed and Gnar shook his head.
“If you leave the Mischief it will be with a guide. The time is very particular; traveling back and forth can be dangerous unless you know how to do it. It's a danger for those unfamiliar, but it does help us to keep those not welcome to the Mischief from ever capturing our city.”
“Gnar you know how to travel through time?”
He nodded, “I learned from the Bosha-bo himself.” His smile seemed a bit sad and I pat his arm once. Turning to look at me still only his lips smiled, his eyes seemed elsewhere. A strange fellow this guide.
I tapped on the glass case, admiring a tiny waterfall of turquoise sand as it mixed with cornstalk yellow. A sudden chime made me jump and Gnar chuckled.

“So no one can get here other than the rats?”
He nodded
“ What would happen if someone just came or went on their own?”
“Someone untrained?” He asked, grimacing in horror he fingered the emblem on his lapel.
“If that were to happen it would not end well.”
It was all quite fascinating and I could have looked at that sand filled clock for hours had Gnar not started heading down a different hallway, towards the scent of sweetbreads.
The kitchen was twice as big as my uncle’s dairy farm and the scent of milk and cheese nearly as abundant. Piled high with boxes and bags and cartons of every kind of food and drink. It reminded me of the last time I had looked underneath my bed. The prince was fond of stashing the goodies that I saved for him from my meals. Despite the mess of foods, like the hallways, the kitchen was impeccably clean and high windows lit the room brightly.
“Did you guys hoard all of this?”
Gnar chuckled and handed her a sweetbun. “Most of it, we have our customs afterall.”
I giggled as I imagined how the storage cats must react when these kinds of rats walk in the door. They must run in terror, it was no wonder they had so much gathered.

The kitchen was bustling with activity as rats darted all over in both human and true form, gathering ingredients as the most welcoming aromas filled the air. Every which way I stepped there were flashes of crimson and blue and black as little rat bodies scurried around on their chores. Two rats in the corner stood on their hind legs and smacked at eachother. Another pair touched mouths before darting off into other directions. A small group of copper colored rats tussled in a bag of flour, whipping up quite a storm. From the rafters to the fireplace the place was filled with rodents. The Mischief was like a page right out of my mother’s book of greatest fears, but to me it seemed like a most splendid fantasy.

“We can eat on the veranda.” Gnar said, “There is someone who I would like you to meet.”
Outside the air was fresh and looking over the veranda rail I saw a land not too different from my own. But where cow fields and barns should have stood I saw only beautiful green grasses and deep blue lakes. A sunrise hung over the morning sky, swirled like a peach and vanilla sherbet, my stomach rumbled again.

“Here here.” Gnar motioned for me to sit across from a dazzlingly beautiful woman. She had white blonde hair and eyes the blue of a summer sky. Blue eyes, so she couldn’t be a rat then. With what seemed a forced smile she nodded to me and I nodded back, suddenly overly conscious of my dirty skirts and rumpled hair.
“Chuh” She said in a clipped sound, lifting her chin to Gnar.
“Chuh,” he responded in like and my eyes widened at the exchange.
“This is the princess Denna” Gnar said in introduction. “I imagine that you will both have much to talk about.” With that he took his leave and I was left standing stupidly in front of the table, utterly baffled as to what I was meant to do.
“Sit” the woman commanded and I did as she told me. It was a strange table, split in the middle and slanted so far down that it touched the floor. My silent question was answered when the woman rung a small silver bell and a mass of black and brown sped across the floor from the kitchens.
“Ah.” I lifted my feet until I was crouched on my chair. As fast as lightning thirty rats darted up the table’s middle, pulling with them on a satin linen cloth the morning meal. I smiled at the feat. All those rats pulling together, not even a drop of cider was spilled as the feast settled before us.
The princess frowned and as a little brown rat hesitated in front of her. She batted him with the back of her hand and he fell to the floor. I opened my mouth to protest, but the little fellow skittered away before I could come to his defense.

“I don’t see why they lump us all together.” She grumbled. “You are nothing like me. We come from different worlds, completely different times, its only our form which is similar.”

“Different worlds?” I asked and she nodded. “I certainly wasn’t born in this awful place. I am from a world that values morals and cleanliness.”
I blushed, trying to brush at my skirts a bit more without being obvious.
“Morals ma’am?” I asked and she glared in my direction.
“You’ll address me as princess.” Her firm voice surprised me.
I gulped and nodded quickly.
“Yes morals.” She continued, “I’m certain that my true family are not thieves.”

I knew she meant the rat’s stash, but it was their culture to borrow from others, it was their nature, certainly they couldn’t be blamed for that.
“The Bosha value nothing but riches and meals.” She complained, shoveling a forkful of what looked to be some sort of meat quiche into her mouth. Her silvery blonde hair hung around her, curling over her shoulders like waterfalls and I couldn’t help but stare. What would Jonny think about this woman? Certainly she wasn’t rot ugly like me.

“The Bosha?” I asked, I had heard Gnar use the word once before.
“The Bosha are the royal family,” She explained, “The word implies that one is a leader or a boss or a ruler of some sort.”
I nodded as if I understood. Royal family? My mother once read me a story about a far away time where knights ran the lands and fought dragons, but somehow I couldn’t see the people of the Mischief doing that. Rats preferred to skitter around and be secretive rather than fight.
“The Bosha-mi seems to know you.” She said, her ice blue eyes half lidded as they scanned my face.
“Bosha… mi?” I was embarrassed to be so confused, she seemed to expect me to be able to follow her rather peculiar train of thought.
“Bosha-mi is the prince.” She said, “Bosha is ruler and mi is something small, so small ruler is a prince.”
The way in which she taught me seemed strangely teacher like. She rolled her eyes in annoyance and sighed countless times, but she pronounced the words slowly and clearly, waiting for me to repeat them back to her and correcting the pronunciation until I got it right. By the end of the first course I decided that I liked the icy princess, she seemed confident rather than mean, lonely but not standoffish.

“How long have you been here?” I asked and she laughed, “I told you, I was brought here, stolen really, as an infant. I only know about my world and my family from what I have managed to con out of the Mi-ohs”
She didn’t even wait for my question this time before adding, “An Oh is a stasher, a very important member of the Mischief. Really the most important after the Bosha. The Oh go out and gather anything that is needed for the Mischief and secretly bring it back. The Mi-oh are the best at stashing because they are small and naturally skilled at traveling through the worlds.”
“Through time?” I asked and she nodded.
“A Oh-bo would be a big stasher and since big stashers are generally ineffective at their job, you know knocking into chair legs and setting off traps, the word basically means an idiot or a fool.” A small smile curled at her lips. “Perhaps that's what I will call you then? Oh-bo? Since you haven’t told me your name yet.”

I gasped and a blush crept over my face again. “Clary ma….princess.” I responded, humiliated by my own rudeness and conveniently forgetting that the princess also had never introduced herself properly.
“Well whatever.” She said with a shrug of her shoulders. “Since Gnar has seen it necessary to pawn you off on me I might as well show you around for a bit.”

I was cheered by this, the castle seemed extremely large and it would be convenient to have the princess to explain the language as we went. She dropped her napkin to the ground carelessly and walked off towards the doorway. Stooping down I picked it up and set it carefully back on the table when I heard her calling, “Hurry up Oh-bo, my time is precious.”

It took half a day to get through only a quarter of the palace’s above ground rooms. The princess’s room was not too far from my own quarters but significantly more spacious.
“The rats like cramped quarters.” She said, “But as a human I explained to them that its rather suffocating, so I expanded until I took over this whole floor.”
She pointed out the candles hanging from silver holders on the walls.
“No electricity like in your world.” She said and I had to wonder how exactly she knew of my world. “You see they tried it out, but the rats just kept chewing the wires to pieces. Superior species my ass.” She snorted out a laugh and I giggled as I imagined the chaos of a fully wired rats nest. Prince rat had taken a liking to my radio on the second week in my new house and the poor black box had lain prone and useless ever since.

When we entered the princess’s rooms I suddenly felt much more comfortable than I had since I had left my true home. Spun sugar edging and toffee colored tables filled the space with a serene elegance which personally I felt suited a warmer personality, but found beautiful nonetheless. Rich linens covered a bed the size of the entire room I slept in at my uncle’s house, but what was most impressive was the books.
Spines of indigo and lime green, apricot and rasberry created a rainbow out of the shelves. Some of the titles were vaguely familiar, classics that I was sure also stood upon my own family’s shelves. Others were written in foreign hands with foreign words and I wondered if the princess really knew how to read so many scripts.
“If nothing else the Mischief values knowledge.” The princess said, nodding to her collection. “They steal from all corners of every world. As more Mi-oh are born their empire grows. As it is there isn’t a single item that you can possibly dream of that they cannot obtain.” She held up a glowing rock on a silver chain. As I watched the orb twisted until it was shaped like a crescent moon, color changing from black to glittering gold.
“Pherros.” She said setting the rock down. The moment it left her hold it turned back to the plain black orb. “It detects one’s spirit energy and reflects it in the shape.”
I wanted more than anything else to hold the necklace. So entranced I hardly noticed when she tossed a book on the counter beside me.
“ If you care to learn, the teacher’s here can speak in every foreign tongue. Not that you’ll ever get a chance to use it, but it passes the time.” She shrugged and pointed to the book, titled in a language that I hardly recognized. I smiled politely.
“Thank you princess, but I’m not too good at school. Mama said its because my head is full of rocks.” Thinking of my mother made my stomach hurt. “Besides, I have plenty of classes back home to keep me busy.”
“Home?” She asked, eyebrows raising in surprise and I nodded.
“I am only here for a visit.” I said and she frowned.
“I see, well if that's how they are misleading you then I hope that your visit is successful.”
Without another word she led me out into the hallway and closed the door in my face. I stood dumfounded for a moment, wondering what it could have been that I said that had offended my new friend. All I could figure was that she was sad that I wouldn’t be staying with her forever. The thought made me like the princess more, at least the picture I had painted of her in my mind. Was she crying in her rooms at the thought of loosing a friend? Just as I raised my hand to knock upon the door I caught a flash of red behind me and whirled around.
It was Gnar.
“You scared me.” I scolded and he stepped back.
“You are alone?” He asked and I nodded. “I suppose it is a bit much to ask the Bosha-lo to groom the Mi-lo.” I tried to follow and gave up. All I knew was that someone hadn’t wanted to groom me and honestly I was pretty glad that whoever it was didn’t.

“Very well. I shall show you the outer walls.” Gnar gestured toward the hallways and as he walked I followed at his heels like a puppy, boots clacking on the elegant marble with every step.

Outside, on top of ancient gray stone, great turrets hung in the clouds. The castle gate was hung with wreathes and great stone sculptures surrounded its center, crumbling in bits but seeming to somehow hold together by sheer willpower.
Fountains played pleasant chimes and the gardens smelled of berries. Decorations were strung lazily in the courtyard, as if for a party that had ended ages ago.

“How old is the Mischief?,” I asked absently as I rubbed my hands along the castle’s smooth wall.
“Ageless.” Gnar said. He pointed towards the sky. “There is no sun in our sky yet it is bright, no moon in our night but our oceans still splash waves upon our shores. This world works through the hearts of those who live here, and without our Bosha’s wisdom and love we would not be able to offer sanctuary to the other worlds.”
“But, there has to have been a start right?” I asked and he shook his head.
“For those whom time has no boundaries there is no time.” He said and I remembered what he had said about traveling through times.
“So how old are you?” I asked and Gnar chuckled, dark eyes turning to stare at me, I forced a smile on my lips so that I didn’t seem nervous, but something about the talk of age worried me.
“I am also ageless.” He explained. “It is not a question that I know the answer to.”
“So you don’t have birthdays?” I asked and when he burst out in a light laugh I frowned.
“That's a shame.” I whispered and silently turned away from my guide rat.

“So, the prince rat is really a prince?” I asked and he nodded.
“Indeed, the Bosha-mi is our king’s youngest son.”
Althought I could hardly believe hitting it so smartly on the mark, I smiled brightly at my cleverness.
“I knew it!”
As the afternoon drew on and the light in the sunless sky began to fade, Gnar explained to me their world.
The Bosha-bo was the head rat, he was the king, the emperor, the president, everything to his people. They spoke of him fondly and I sincerely wished to meet him even if it was a foolish thought. After the Bosha-bo were his children, dozens of names were rattled off as Gnar told me of their epic journeys and rise to power. One part of the rats world that I loved, Bosha-mi both male and female were equally treasured by their people, equally respected.
“So you said that the prince rat is the youngest child?”
Gnar nodded. “The people have a special place in their hearts for the Bosha-mi. He is unequalled in his desire for knowledge, the people respect his energy.”
I smiled, feeling that a compliment for my friend was the same as one for me.

All of a sudden a bell chimed and Gnar’s eyes shut for several moments. When they opened again he said nothing, but led me back to my rooms.
“Is something wrong?” I asked and he shook his head. “Please keep to your rooms for now.” He said with a smile and for the second time that day the door shut in my face.
It didn’t take me long to find out what the chime had been announcing. Even through the thick wooden door I could hear the whispers, the laughter and cheers. My prince rat was home and the castle’s inhabitants were thrilled. Ignoring Gnar’s instructions I threw open the door, and following the flow of tiny furry bodies streaming down the hallway, I finally got to meet my prince.
About this Entry
Jan. 3rd, 2010 @ 01:58 pm Convoluted Puzzle -Draft 1 pt1/2
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
A CONVOLUTED PUZZLE – KRH09

A convoluted puzzle.
A two way mirror betwixt which an old crone stares back at me with dead eyes, sagging cheeks and cracked lips. A sense is all it is and I raise my finger tips. The crone responds in like, copies my every move. Its eerie how close she can read me. Then with a puff of stale breath escaping my reddened lips in near humor, I finally remember that haggard form stuck forever in a prison of glass and metal, its me.

I was only six years old when I first met him. I was in the garden digging holes. In one small hand I held a trowel and in the other a glass bottle of milk crème. About thirteen holes I had dug in the garden when a small rodent jumped from the bushes, frightened by my trowel’s point. Surprised, I fell upon my backside and scratched my hand on a tiny stone. Seeing the small drops of cherry colored blood well from my palm I began to wail, for that's what you do at six, you wail. Before I quite knew what was going on I was leaned back in the arms of the most handsome stranger I had ever seen. His hair was a beautiful ebony black and his eyes were dark and watched me with wonderful fascination. At the time this man both frightened and excited my adventurer’s heart.
Looking up into those eyes I had already forgotten about my wound. Reaching around, the gentleman, I knew him to be a gentleman of course for he wore a suit of noticeable quality, despite its emblem being a curious design that I couldn’t make out. In any case, the gentleman took my wounded hand and hesitating only a moment to read my eyes, smiled a sad smile and kissed it once gently, in the center of my palm where I bled from.
I felt a warmth there, and it began to grow and grow until suddenly my entire body felt like it was on fire, but I didn’t struggle for I felt safe in the strange gentleman’s arms. I was only six and wasn’t yet aware of the dangers of the world. I began to ask him who he was but with a gentle smile he put a finger to his lips to quiet me.
“But, what’s your name?” I insisted in my childhood impatience. He watched me for a long moment as if he was trying to decide something important. Finally, he took his long finger and began to write in the loose earth next to my digging spot.
Gnar of the Mischief.

“Gnar?” I asked, for it was a strange name, but turning to look at the gentleman I saw an uneasiness in his eyes. As if he had told a secret that he had promised to always keep. His arms around me grew tighter and all of a sudden it occurred to me that I was late for the afternoon meal.

Standing up abruptly I tossed the milk bottle into the high grasses and shook loose dirt from my fine skirts, mama would certainly scold me again for digging, but it seemed the only right thing to do on a day such as that day.
“Clary! Where are you?” Like clockwork my mother’s voice boomed out over the fields and I unconsciously sighed. Although father had told her to let me be in the mornings, the afternoons I was forced to sit and take tea with the “ladies” and learn to knit and sew with my elder sisters; A tediously boring task for a six year old.

“That's my mama. I had better..”
But when I turned back to the holes the stranger was already gone, as quickly and silently as he had appeared.
“Gnar?” I whispered hesitantly into the high grass, but as my mama’s voice grew louder and closer I decided that finding the strange man wouldn’t be as valuable as avoiding a beating. So, with a final dusting of my soiled skirts, I pushed through the fields and met my family for the afternoon meal of meat pastries and whatever fresh fruits my brothers had managed to pick along the roadside on their mile walk back from school. I always admired them for it, being tall enough to reach the trees and pick something that would provide us with a meal, it seemed an impossible feat to me at six years.

“Honestly Henry, look at her! She looks like a common ground squirrel!” My mama’s voice was lovely, even when she shouted she sounded like she was singing a charming melody.
My father chuckled. His dark fuzzy beard caught bits of crumbs within it as he savored the quality of my mother’s secret recipe meat pies.
“Better bring us in some hazel nuts then lil’ squirrel” he taunted, tapping me under the chin lovingly as my mother fumed over the stove. I smiled back at my father and stuck out my teeth to make them look like a squirrel’s.
“Don’t encourage the girl Henry! I swear, it’s embarrassing when the ladies come over! Not to mention the house is a mess.”
My father frowned, and taking his cue I busied myself with ripping open a biscuit and slathering it with butter and jam. My brothers were late coming back from school and my two elder sisters were off visiting at friend’s homes that afternoon. It was rare that just the three of us were alone.
“My dear wife, the child is only six. If she wants to be a squirrel let her be a squirrel! She needs time to play before she can become the lady you desire.”
I smiled through my mouthful of biscuit. My father always stuck up for me. My brothers said it was a rule that the youngest child was always the father’s favorite, so without fail I always prayed at night that mother wouldn’t bear any more brothers or sisters for us. Without my father backing me up, there could be no telling how much sewing and stitching I would be made to do.

Done with arguing for the moment, my mama slipped several pieces of fatted bacon onto the plates in front of us still sizzling and fell into her own chair with an audible thud. Her eyes passed over the table of food twice before she selected only a single slice of green apple.
Whether or not it had any significance, at the time we were unaware, but she gently put a hand to her belly and sighed. In unison my father and I looked up at her and then at one another, both thinking the same thought.

The day I turned seven I gained not one, but two new siblings. Two little twin boys who quickly became the apples of my father’s eyes and the sun to my little family’s earth. I tried to be patient and waited while they worried over the weight of the infants, cheered over their first smiles. My brother’s brought back fruits for my mother to mash for their meals while my elder sister’s knitted all sorts of tiny socks and tiny blankets. I helped my mother to carry swaddling and diapers and even learned how to change a few on my own. I thought that maybe if I worked extra hard at it then my brother’s theory about the youngest child wouldn't come true, perhaps the new babies wouldn’t become the favorites. But, slowly before I even recognized it myself, I started to become invisible.
It was the most peculiar thing really, my parents would dress the babies, make sure that my sister’s had tied their bonnets for church and shouted at my brother’s to wash their hands and faces. With all that done they would head off down the road to the little chapel where we sought guidance from the lord and yet no one noticed when I was left behind.

On the first occasion I had been in the washroom and came out to find my family gone. In all my seven year old glory I stubbornly refused to follow along down the road like some trained dog and instead waited by the door with a glorious pout, expecting someone, even if it just be one of my brothers, to be sent back to fetch me. However, no one ever came and when they returned from church that day there was no mention of my absence. I silently ate at the dinner table and not a soul looked in my direction.
Beginning to worry I held my little hands in front of my face and turned them this way and that, making sure that I could still see them. Pale, tiny hands with small little veins pumping life through me. I flexed my fingers and they certainly seemed like they belonged to me, so I must still exist.

“Am I still here?” I murmured to myself and mama reached across my held out hands to grab the butter plate.
“Donald, please pass me the biscuits.,” she said to my older brother.
As I watched them all eat dinner that night I began to feel a mild unease take me over. Certainly my world hadn’t changed, but something suddenly just felt off.

The babies cried all evening that night. Mama couldn’t take it anymore and ran out to the porch. Stubbornly she lay her body down right on the wooden slats and refused to get up.

“Woman you are being ridiculous!” I could hear my father shouting in the doorway.
“What kind of mother abandons her own children when they are hungry?”
I didn’t hear anymore because I pulled my pillow over my head and thrust my hands against it to cover my ears. Tears threatened to spill from my eyes and I wasn’t sure why. My parents were nearly sickeningly devoted to one another, his words were far from harsh and within moments he had convinced her to come to the sitting room and drink tea by the fireside. My tears were for another reason, only I couldn’t put my finger on what it might be. Day by day I became more invisible and as I watched the events of my life unfold around me I wondered, where did I go?

The second time I was left behind I had been trying to find the knit bonnet for one of the twins. Mama had looked half mad through the house all morning for it and at the door, having a sudden epiphany I shouted.
“Wait, I know where the bonnet is!” and rushed inside. It had fallen behind the sitting couch as I has suspected. With the babies learning to crawl, things were beginning to end up in the strangest of places.
Triumphantly, I raced to the door with my prize, but when I saw them walking away together, nearly to the curve in the road already I dropped to the veranda slats and curled my thin arms around shaking legs.

“This isn’t right.” I whispered. “Its not fair.” Sitting in a dazed gloom I worried over my situation when suddenly a little coppery brown rat wandered across the veranda. Its whiskers flicked around in such a manner that it brought a smile to my lips. I always knew rats and mice and the like to be cautious animals, but walking purposefully, it settled on its hind legs nearly a yard away from me and began casually cleaning its head with delicate hand like paws.

“I didn’t know rats wash like cats do.” I said. My voice making the little creature look up from his task. Shifting to crouch back on all fours he considered an escape route.
“Don’t worry” I assured, “I wouldn’t eat you, I have bigger worries today.” He seemed to accept that because after a few more moments of caution he finished his cleaning and then flattened himself on the porch slats, lying stretched out in such a comfortable manner that I couldn’t resist emulating the little creature.

“I wonder what the sermon was about today?” I whispered to my new friend. Black beady eyes turned to me and the rat moved its lips around as if licking jam from a spoon and then he began to chatter. The sound was like two pieces of wood being rubbed together and he seemed for all the world to be pleased with my company; and as lonely as I had been living as an invisible seven year old, I was more than happy for his.

“Are rats religious?” I asked him and of course he didn't respond, being a rat.
“I wonder what religion they would be?” I thought over it for some time. Rats need food and mates and shelter. Not too different from humans really. Mama always told me that humans were superior to animals because we have souls, because the good lord made us in his image, but what if god were a rat? Would that make us the pests and them the princes? I let my imagination fly that afternoon as I lay with my new friend. Even from a distance I could tell from a rather sizable lump under his tail that the creature was male.
“Shall I call you prince rat?” I asked with a smile. I could imagine the little brown rat wearing a crown and deep burgundy coat and knighting worthy rat soldiers with a bronze scepter. Looking close at the little guy’s face I saw a smile form on his lips and wondered if he dreamed of such things as well.
“Rats smile.” I wondered aloud. Unfortunately, at that very moment a clattering came up the street and with a leap and a dash my new friend the prince rat was gone under the veranda. Sighing, I looked up to find a most unwelcome sight. My uncle Frederic and his new wife Gena were rattling down the dirt pathway in their very loud automobile.
Even my parents were not fond of the pair’s monthly visits. My uncle had been married not but a year before, his third wife in as many years. The woman was half his age and only after him for his small fortune that he had made in his father’s dairy farm. According to my father however, “Frederic is perfectly aware that he is being used and he is more pleased with it than anyone so let him be.”

Personally, I didn’t care one way or another about my uncle’s new wife, I only hated the way he insisted on touching my shoulder or back every time he drew near. I hated the smell of pipe smoke that always hung on his stale breath and cheap clothes. With my family away at church I worried over what I would say to them once they reached the veranda. So, like my friend, with a leap and a dash I ran behind the house and began to climb my brother’s favorite climbing tree. There I waited silently.
It could have been hours I waited in that tree. I listened to the birds sing and watched moths flutter by, until the sky gradually began to darken and my eyes grew so tired that I slipped my hold and nearly fell all ten feet to the hard earth below. Only luck allowed my hand to catch hold of a knob on the edge of a low branch, I hung from the branch like shorts on a close line, unable to get a better hold to pull myself up.

“What are you doing?” My sister’s stern voice so close to me startled me enough so that I lost hold of the knob branch completely and slipped to my feet the rest of the way, the skin ripping from my palms as I fell. “They were looking all over for you!” She scolded. A part of me lit up in joy until I realized that she didn’t mean that they had missed me at church, or that my parents were worried, but rather that my uncle had questioned my absence.
“Get inside quick and wash up! Mama and Papa have something that they need to tell you!” My sister was smiling but something told me I wouldn’t like anything that came from the world that my body floated in at that moment. How could I trust the words of those who couldn’t even see me?

Towed to the house by an ear, my eyes slipped to the crevice under the veranda. There, two tiny black beads shined in the darkness and I was thankful that at least one friend worried over what was to become of me.

It was in the foyer when I heard the words come from my father’s lips. He didn’t look at me when he spoke and a strange condensation had formed upon his brow.

“Your mother and I have talked and what with the babies taking so much extra time we have decided to send you to live with your uncle and aunt.”

My head tilted like a little terrier who had heard a siren.

“Your sisters are old enough to care for themselves and your brothers will need to focus for exams, so you will be going on your own.”

In my mother’s arms squirmed by baby brother. My uncle’s young wife cooed at the other twin laid upon the sitting couch.
My baby brother giggled and my eyes widened slightly as I noticed that not a member of my family could bare to look in my direction. My hands were covered with scratches from my climb in the tree and only now did they start to burn.
None of it made sense, and for the life of me I couldn’t decide if it were meant to make sense or if everyone around me had suddenly gone mad. Only my uncle, stinking of pipe smoke as always, seemed to be thrilled.

“It will be a great experience for you young girl! Plenty of other lads and lassies to play with around the big creek behind our barns.” My uncle was a dairy farmer, only rather than doing the work himself he hired foreigners to do it and paid them less a week than a common stall mucker would get in an hour. So, I guess rather than to say he was a farmer, its better to just say he owned a dairy farm and reaped the benefits.

I didn’t respond to my uncle but my throat became very dry. My father reached for me, those same strong arms that he used to rock me to sleep at night in and yet I leaned away from his grasp. I tried to ask so many questions at once that none came out and all of a sudden the room begin to spin.
Spinning and spinning I couldn’t see the faces on the heads of the people gathered in the room. A hand shot up to my nose to check that I at least still had a face.
“Well I do believe she is speechless with joy” I heard my uncle chortle, spraying foamy spittle across my face. His young wife twittered happily beside him, clapping her hands once in agreement, but my baby brothers, startled by the noise, began to cry. Spinning and laughter and crying and faceless people who once meant everything to me and now I couldn’t even decide if they were really in front of me or if at some point when I had been asleep snug in my bed, evil puppets had come and replaced them. I turned to look at my mother and a curled line twisted across her blank face, a smile? Spiraling faster and faster I suddenly felt unsteady on my feet and had the terrible sensation of falling backwards quicker than could be possible.
I wasn’t falling though, but to catch myself I threw my hands backward. Instead of catching my fall they slapped into my vulgar uncle’s crotch with enough force to set him wailing as he fell to his knees.

“Honestly!” My mother huffed as she went to her brother’s side. Gradually her features reappeared and peering through squinted eyes I saw everyone looking as they should.
My uncle’s wife held a hand to her shaking lips, trying her best to hold in her laughter and not look like the child she truly was.

“Why?” I asked when I finally found myself able to form the words, but not a soul seemed to hear me.
“Why?” I repeated louder, but I wonder if perhaps it was in my imagination, for my family turned from me to help my uncle into the kitchen for a towel of ice and a soft chair.

“Why?” I muttered quietly at their receding backs. My hands drooped to my sides and my hazel eyes began to burn. There was no fight left in me, all I felt was emptiness.
“Why?”
A flash of brown caught at the corner of my eye and then, coming to rest nearly beside my feet was my prince rat. He leaned back on his haunches and sat like a human, paws floating in the air as his whiskers pointed up at me, twitching this way and that. Beady black eyes surveyed me lazily and again I heard the sound of pieces of wood being rubbed together.
I ran a scratched hand over my burning eyes and kneeled down next to my new friend. Slowly, cautiously, as I watched without moving a muscle, the prince rat walked closer to my side. One step, then two, the rat watched my eyes with his own until he was so close that his white whiskers tickled my foot. Then, like a little kid playing tag he reached out a paw and touched it to my bare leg and with that he turned and dashed away; bouncing comically, as I had imagined only rabbits did.
A small smile formed on my lips as his bare tail disappeared through the doorway into the mudroom.
“Come here!” My mother’s voice, angry as I had ever heard it before, commanded from the kitchen. My hands began to shake and taking one last look at the doorway where my friend had disappeared, I stood and crept over to the brightly lit kitchen, to sit with my faceless family. Only later did it occur to me that perhaps he was asking me to follow him. Like a game of tag he hoped I would chase after. Had I known the consequences for ignoring the chase, I certainly would have.

And so it came to pass, as my mother held a dripping baggy of ice to her own brother’s bruised ballsack, that it was decided that I would go ten miles north of the home where I had grown up digging holes and climbing trees, to go live in my uncle’s childless house with his child-like wife, to what end I couldn’t possibly have imagined at the time.

~~~~~~

(2)

Voluptuous breasts dangled before my eyes like two full bags of sweet icing ready to be piped onto my eighth birthday cake.
“Make a wish hon.” My uncle’s wife cooed, blowing out the match with which she had lit the single candle in the center.
I had only come to live in their home the evening before. Under the cloak of darkness as if it were as evil a deed as I felt it to be in my heart, my family moved me away from the only home I had ever known. As I clung my green and red plaid hardcase bag against my chest as if it were a life preserver in the maelstrom they were dropping me into, I nodded lifelessly at my mother’s “Take care” and my brother’s “don’t let the kids at the new school bully you.” My uncle took my thin arm in his massive hand and lifted me into his clunky car. Only moments later I sat between the pair, my new mother and father humming to the radio as the demon car spit venomous fumes along the roadside.
Now here I sat with a colorful fruitcake staring me in the face. I didn’t even try to pretend to smile, worried how frightful the result may turn out. Fruitcake with cinnamon icing. I hated fruitcake and I was terribly allergic to cinnamon. The single candle in the center was a bright red and white letter “B”, but they encouraged me to use my imagination and pretend it was an eight.

“Happy birthday pretty girl!” My uncle crooned as if the phrase were some beloved old song. To my knowledge no such song existed, so I stared at my hands to hide my overly apparent apprehension in his presence.
“We love you!”
From my uncle’s gaping yaw, droplets flew forth, clearly visible as they drifted over the horrid cake like dirty snowflakes in a shawl of spittle.

We ate the cake, the two females in quiet silence as my uncle droned on about politics. I avoided the frosting, pushing it to the side of my plate, but when I looked up my uncle’s disapproving eyes were on mine.
“In this family we do not waste food.” He said reproachfully, reaching over my plate with his dirty fork he scooped up my discarded blob of frosting and shoveled it into his awaiting cavern of a mouth. “Do we?” He asked his wife through his food, lips smacking with effort. The young girl shook her head vigorously.
“Sorry.” I murmured quietly, silently begging that the lord take mercy on me enough for these people to release me for the evening so that I may take a moment to get a bearing on my new situation.

“Ok enough.” My uncle finally announced, pushing his plate forward and slapping his round belly through his soiled workshirt. “You ladies can bond over the dishes.” With that he stood and walked into the other room, moments later the sound of the tv switch being turned and the raucous laughter of a gameshow audience.

Helping the young wife, I carried away the plates as she readied the dish water. A pleasant sweet smell filled the air; looking at the soap I noticed it was green.
“Its orchard apple scent” She said, noticing my interest in the bottle.
“Oh” was all I could manage.
We washed and dried the dishes in silence.
“Aunt, may I be excused?” I asked as the final dish was done. She looked at me as if I had just asked to be the one to pull the lever at her execution.
“I’m sorry, I am just really tired and I have to unpack still and..” I stumbled over the words. The young girl’s eyebrows furrowed and she balled the washrag into her fist.
“You will call me mum, and yes you may be excused once you give your father a kiss on the cheek goodnight.”

I stood dumbfounded and rooted to the spot for a moment before I realized that she was perfectly serious.
“Kiss?” I whispered and she nodded.
“It’s only proper.” She declared and with that she turned her back on me dismissively.

I took one step and then another towards the room where my uncle sat. One look at his paunch belly and cracked lips and I found my feet, most defiantly racing up the long staircase to my new rooms. Shutting the door behind me I dropped to the floor with my back against it and took three deep breaths.
“Why?” I still murmured every now and again. I thought that perhaps when I turned eight, with the extra wisdom of another year of life, then it would make sense to me, but I still didn’t have a clue as to why I had suddenly disappeared and reappeared only to find myself in such a situation as this.

I unpacked the rest of my two big boxes that evening. Hugging my stuffed terrier dog to my chest and gripping my blue blanky in my fingertips I began to cry. Silent streams ran down my cheeks to my lips. Their saltiness calmed me somewhat but couldn’t help the hurt I felt in my chest when my memories slipped back to how easily my parents had agreed to give me away.
“Why?”

Digging through my last cardboard box I found its contents empty and placed it aside, reaching for my hardcase bag. Still crying, I noticed through my blurred vision that there was a tear in the colorful fabric.
“No no!” I sobbed. My father had bought the bag for me, it was my most treasured item after my photobook. Looking closer I noticed that not only was it ripped, but the entire side corner was missing. No, that's not right, it was eaten off.

“Prince?” It was my first thought as I looked at the little chewmarks going across the plaid. Hopeful, my eyes scanned the room.
“Prince rat?” I called again quietly, but I saw no movement and allowed the tears to overtake me as I, at that moment, forced away my childish fears and tried to accept that my world had changed forever. “Of course he wouldn’t be here.” I said.
“I can’t be a child now.” I decided with confidence. That night before bed I tried on some of the makeup I had borrowed from my elder sisters once and never gave back. As I slept I looked beautiful, I could have easily passed as a middle school student. Only god and the fairy of dreams would know my face that night, by morning I was back to my normal invisible self.


It was the next week that I began “real” school. My mother had always taught me and my sisters at home while my brothers went to the local school house, but my uncle insisted that that just would not do.
“You deserve a proper education.” He insisted as he sucked on his brass handled pipe. “Men like a woman with brains these days.” He said, winking at his wife.

And so I trudged along the dirt path to school, a satchel of books in one hand and an apple in the other. Puddles had formed from the previous night’s thunderstorm and I twirled the satchel around in my fingers, tempted to drop the whole pack as to have some excuse to skip the day.

“Whatcha doing?” A voice called from behind. Turning I found the road empty, so my eyes shot around. Turning in a circle I felt my heart thump. Was I imagining things again?
“Up here” The voice giggled and I looked up to find a boy close to my own age, hanging from his knees from the large oak’s branches.

“What are you doing?” Was the only response I could think of after my surprise. The boy chuckled. “Skipping.” He sounded so sure of himself, I wished that I could be that carefree again.
“Uhm, Can I join you?” I asked and for a moment he looked like he was considering it very seriously. “Ok, I don’t usually let girls climb with me, but you don’t look like much of a girl anyways so you can climb today as a special exception.”

I would have been insulted but he was right, with my hair cut short like I usually wore it in the summer, I did look more boy than girl.
Handing off my bag to him, I flung the shiny red apple into the treeline and scaled the oak, branch by branch until I was about two yards up, positioned on the fork of two branches next to the boy. I could see his features clearly now. He was a ginger kid, bright red hair and freckles. He was missing a few front teeth and his tongue pressed through the holes and I couldn’t help but frown at him. He didn’t seem to notice as he handed me my satchel back.

“What’s your name kid?” He asked, trying to seem superior although later I would come to find that the boy was actually a year seven in the school that I was to attend.
A loud screech interrupted my response as a girl came running down the path with two boys at her heels. The boys laughed gleefully, but the girl seemed plain frightened as untied ribbons flew from her braids.

The boys were faster than her and quickly caught her in their rough hands.
“Dumb bitch.” One boy laughed.
“Please, just leave me alone!” She wailed through soppy tears.
Every muscle in my body tensed, the boys were predators and the female their prey. They were going to hurt her.
Looking beside myself without moving my head I saw the freckled boy glaring at the scene below.

“Those are the McClary boys,” He whispered. “And their sister.”
The girl wailed as they dragged her back down the path.
“Sister?” I wondered if my original assumption had been wrong, and then wondered why an eight year old like myself would even come to such an assumption.

“That family is all wrong.” The redhead boy said seriously. “Try to keep away from them at school. My daddy says they is dangerous.”

We skipped that day and played in the trees further into the woods. My friend talked at me while I silently listened and he seemed happy with that. I was only ten miles from my real home, but I knew that even if I went back there now, nothing would be the same.
When I finally returned back to my uncle’s house I lied about how fun the school had been, how old fashioned the teacher’s glasses were and how I had traded my red apple for a green one.

“You will settle in just fine.” My uncle smiled.
“We have a surprise for you after dinner.” His wife chimed, but my uncle looked at her reproachfully and she turned her eyes down to her plate.
“First, we have company.” My uncle said, “Our doctor would like to meet you, just for a check up.”
I was instantly nervous. I wasn’t fond of doctors to begin with, but at least at the local clinic I was with my family and could hold my mother’s hand when they gave me inoculations. Here, who would be by my side?

“I’m perfectly healthy” I began in a meek voice, but my uncle shook his head and his eyes showed that there was no way of getting out of anything under his watch.
“You are covered in scratches child, you will be examined.”

When the doctor came he was a younger man than I had imagined. Probably in his forties or so, he wore a golden wedding band on his left had and had very pink lips. It was the way he looked at me that kept me in a state of unease.

“Ok, please breathe deeply.” He instructed, pushing his stethoscope this way and that over my back and tiny chest.
“Very good, very good.” His voice tilted high at the last “good” and my brows furrowed. Breathing hot breath onto the stethoscope’s face he then lifted my shirt and I froze to my chair, breathing short breaths I became dizzy as he moved it around my middle, lingering longer than I felt necessary in certain areas. After what seemed like an eternity my shirt again covered me and the doctor looked me straight in the eyes and smiled widely, exposing very white straight teeth between those pink lips.
“There now, all done.” He said, “Do you ever get tummy aches?” He asked as if I was a four year old. I shook my head furiously although I did on occasion suffer from some indigestion, I was determined to say nothing else that would allow him to move his hands anywhere lower on my body.
The doctor smiled knowingly at my worried expression and suddenly my uncle’s voice bellowed from the living room, “Joseph would you like a bit of scotch?”
Those pink lips smiled. “Of course, on the rocks please.”

Putting his tools back into his black bag the doctor never took his eyes off of me and I not off of him. Licking his lips slowly he said, “It was nice meeting you Clara, I look forward to next time.” Which I found a peculiar thing for a doctor to say, and then he was lost into the living room and I threw my arms around myself, feeling extremely violated, I shook down to my bones. It was then that my uncle’s wife walked in.
“Its ok honey.” She smiled, “There is a surprise up in your room.”
Excused, I ran up the steps to my room as quick as a rabbit and immediately set a chair against the door’s knob. I wasn’t sure how effective that really would be since the door opened outwards, but having no locks in the house it was really the best I could do.
My heart pounded in my chest and I rubbed at my shirt, trying to wipe away the last bits of coldness that came from the doctor’s tools. Then, turning around and seeing my bed, I gasped in delight. An illicit affair of blue and magenta linens piled over one another in a fashion most appealing to an eight year old girl. Plain country window treatments were replaced by scenes of unicorns chasing rainbows and despite my mood I couldn’t help smiling in enchantment at the change in the dreary room. Dropping to my knees I noticed a new plush rug under me and lay onto my side, breathing in the clean scent of the fresh linens.
A pressure on my side I thought was the bedsham brushing against me and I moved my hand to push it away, instead touching something warm and fluffy.
“Ya!” I jumped up and barely caught in my eye something brown darting under the boxsprings.

“Prince?” I asked in surprise. Was it really my friend? Or was it some common worker rat who would jump out and bite me if I reached my hand underneath? Pulling a bit of crumbs from my dinner from my pockets I called out to him.

“Come here, I’m sorry I didn’t think you had come along.” I cooed, and slowly, cautiously those white whiskers popped out from under the bedsham and black beady eyes looked at me accusingly.
“Here, forgive me?” I asked, placing a piece of cookie between us. Keeping his eyes on me the whole time the prince slowly walked out and took the cookie in his pointed mouth and then darted away again. It was him alright.

“I’m so glad to see you prince.” I murmured. “I really need to tell someone about what has been going on.”

As I finished arranging my room that evening the prince rat ran back and forth on the floor, white whiskers flashing as he scared the dust bunnies to pieces. Anything that he found on the ground he considered his own property and I lost a good number of bottle caps and marbles that night. Maybe more than a prince he was like a pirate? Stashing away anything he deemed to be treasure.

“Now calm down.” I scolded, “A prince should be refined, even in moments of distress, how else do you think he wins over the princess?”

The little rodent blinked his eyes as if he understood. Then, with a big yawn he reached out a clawed hand in a stretch and his mouth became so wide it exposed his bright yellow teeth. He looked a bit like a snarling lion that one might see on a knight’s shield and I had to laugh.
“I’m sorry, I suppose you know better than I what a proper prince does.” I giggled and seeming to agree he ran back under the bed sham to arrange his own living space.

I found my photobook, tucked away carefully on my shelf like the treasure that it was. Bound in dark leather and stuffed full of photos, I flipped it open to the first page and smiled. No matter how strange the world changed, here was my answer.
A nip to my bare foot made me jump and I turned with a glare to the prince who stood on his hind legs by my side with an innocent look.

“That hurt! Don’t think that just cause you're a prince you can do whatever you want.” Casually he started washing his face with both paws and I sighed.
“Prince look at this photo.” I held up the book and he reached out, trying to pull the photo from its adhesive.
“No!” I wrenched it away and he gave me a look of annoyance.
“This is my most precious thing.” I told him. The little rat hopped into my lap and looked, this time in a gentle manner at my photo.
“This is me when I was born.” I told him. “My daddy is holding me and my mama looks really smiley!”
The prince rubbed his teeth together, the strange grinding sound seeming like he was in agreement that it was a nice photo.
“This is the best part.” I pointed to a bow pasted to my head in the photo. “When I was born they had run out of the pink girl bows, but they found one bit of purple lace from a package and tied it for me. My daddy said that it means that I was born to be special. It's a little silly, but daddy said that someday I’ll become a princess, which would be nice, cause I don’t think princess’ have to do their own sewing, and I hate to sew.
The prince seemed to have fallen asleep so I picked him up by his middle and stared him in his pitch black eyes.
“This is my most precious secret ok prince? You can’t tell anyone. Promise?”
He wriggled in my hands, shoving at my fingers with delicate pink hands and reluctantly I set him down. He darted under the bed and I called after.
“We promised prince, don’t forget.”

It never seemed strange to me to be talking to a prince rat, at the time it was the thing that made the most sense, however looking back on it I guess my uncle and aunt listening outside my door must have had proper reason to think me mad.
About this Entry
May. 27th, 2007 @ 10:12 pm Request
Current Mood: contentcontent
Hello,
Looking for TOKIO (Tomoya Nagase)'s "Hitori Bocchi no Haburashi"
If anyone has it and could upload on anything except for megaupload or sendspace it would be greatly appreciated!!
Thanks in advance! <3
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May. 25th, 2007 @ 08:10 pm B'z request
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Hello!
I just got back from seeing "Ore wa kimi no tame ni koso, shi ni ni iku" and now im dying to listen to the theme song!!
B'z : Eien no tsubasa

Japan seems to reject Megaupload and Sendspace so anything else would be great!
Thanks very much in advance!! ^_^
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May. 23rd, 2007 @ 09:20 pm Request
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Hello!

Could anyone upload F4's "Cant help falling in love" mp3 for me?
If possible anything but megaupload or sendspace as Japan tends to reject those pages for some reason O_O

Thanks so much in advance!!
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May. 7th, 2007 @ 11:26 pm Requests
Current Location: Chiba, Japan
Current Mood: contentcontent
Hello!
Im sorry I cant be more specific with the artists/titles BUT
I was hoping someone could upload the opening/ending themes for the dramas
MARS and Meteor Garden 1

And for some reason Japan seems to reject megaupload and sendspace so if possible anything else would be great! Thanks so much in advance!! ^_^
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May. 11th, 2006 @ 12:22 am Request
Current Mood: complacentcomplacent
Could someone please upload Dir en grey's "Akuro no oka" PV??
Thanks in advance!!!
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May. 7th, 2006 @ 06:54 pm Hello!!
Current Mood: complacentcomplacent
Current Music: Muse: stockholm syndrome
Hi!!
I have a very broad request!
Can someone upload any songs of Dir en grey other then the Kisou album or Withering to Death??
I seem to be severely lacking older songs >_< and my Vulgarism cd wont copy onto my itunes!
Thanks so much in advance!!
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