(As promised. I LOVE diving into a world again and again, and since my loves as a reader drive my loves as a writer, the bonus story bites were born. This month I want to bring you some stories from the baddies’ worlds, but I’ll do some fun, light ones next month. So here’s the first. Please keep in mind that it’s on a first draft level. Hope you enjoy!)
He ran through the foliage, delighting in the satisfying crunch left behind by his hooves. The air was crisp, yet not uncomfortable. The sun peered through the trees, transforming the dark leaves of the night into shades of red and orange and yellow. The muscles in his legs were warm; he had run from the moment the carriage door had opened.
“Be quick, quiet, and invisible.” Eminente had cautioned him. “My plans will not be fully ready to take place for many years, and we will not reach that time if we are not very, very careful.”
“Yes, Eminente.” Oscar waited until his surrogate father nodded slowly and opened the door.
His chest burst with happiness and pride. This was his first job. He had been begging for a chance to prove himself for years, partially because he admired the man’s place to renew the magical world, and partially because someday he wanted revenge on his biological parents.
His parents were the great Faunus and Fauna, the head couple of the fauns on this continent. It was their job to mate and have as many fauns as possible. When they were both gone or unable to have any more children, the responsibility would lie with him. But he did not ever want to have a child. He grunted and jumped forward. At least not the way they had a child. Perhaps someday, many years from now, he would be a father to a child like Eminente was to him.
His parents had left him in the middle of the forest, still covered in afterbirth. He survived only because Eminente had happened to be nearby. It was fate. The man had taken him in as his own son. He had saved his life.
He leaped onto a fallen tree and stretched his arms. He loved his arms. The feel of the muscles under his skin. The sparse, soft hair on his arms. The fingers at the end of his hands. His thumbs. He was fond of his head and chest, too. Really, He loved every part of him that was a boy. The other half he despised, but someday if he were proven trustworthy, Eminente would give him what he wanted the most: the complete body of a boy. He was cautioned that it would hurt and would take mulitple surgeries and a lot of time to heal. Magical surgery was not completely unlike medical surgery. But it was the greatest desire of his life next to revenge.
He was close now. He could hear the sounds of animals in the fields, and somewhere a few workers were singing. Already he could smell bacon and syrup on the wind. His stomach rolled. It was a rule to not eat before missions. Eating dulled the mind and senses, after all. He ignored his stomach and pressed forward. He ran carefully now in short spurts, but he didn’t worry much about them catching him. They were kind people from what he had been told. They would think he was simply a faun passing through the area. What he worried most about was what Eminente would say. Or do.
Eminente was kind, of course. He was loving in his own way, but leaders had to be strong and strength came from power and power came from a strong hand of a fearless leader.
He would be a strong man someday. He felt it in his muscles and mind and heart. After all, how could he not be as the son of such a mighty man? He was surrounded by strength and great ideas. It was merely a matter of time.
He peered in the windows of the wall he was instructed to seek. The window was right where he had been told. He cracked it up without a sound and settled his face in a good spot. The man was sifting through books and writing on a chalkboard. The boy squinted, but he couldn’t make out what the man was writing. Eminente had hired a tutor for him recently, but his eyesight was poor. He would have a surgery to make it right soon, and after that he would learn.
A high pitched squeal broke the silence. A little girl ran down a staircase and into the man’s arms.
“Papa!” She stepped back from his embrace and twirled in her pale pink dress. “Is it pretty? Is it good enough for the first day?”
“Yes, little darling. It will do.” He chuckled and gently tugged on one of her braids.
“Well, I want you to know straight away that I am the only boy who should tug your braids.”
She laughed a loud, single laugh that warmed the room. “You are not a boy!”
“I see I have nothing to fear just yet.”
She put her hands behind her back. “Do you think I’ll get my magic today?”
“Who knows these things?” He smiled. “Not even your papa knows what day it will be.” He kissed her head. “Now off with you to the kitchen. You need a good meal to start the day, and I need to be ready.”
A woman came into the library not long after the girl skipped between the doors. “She’s excited.” She said as she neared the man. She sat on the edge of his desk on the only spot not covered with books or papers.
The man lay down his chalk and crossed to her. He kissed her neck and jaw and lips.
Outside, the boy eyes widened. He shuffled his hooves and frowned until they finally finished their odd encounter.
“The ones who didn’t come last night to secure rooms for the quarter are arriving now.”
“Open the doors when you leave so the apprentices know they may enter.”
She wiped a bit of chalk dust off his nose. “Cooper is here to take the masters for the day. I take it they will relax and travel this week before he starts his classes for masters.” She paused and looked her husband over. “I hear he’s taking the entry level master class this year.”
The man tapped his desk with his pencil. “I’d rather David teach it, but he’s not of sound mind just yet.”
She frowned. “He has taken another apprentice. I haven’t seen them yet, but it’s a good sign.”
“He’s recovering, but slower than I’d like.”
“You can’t force people to recover on your timeline or in your manners.” She chided him gently.
“Hmmm.” He kissed her again, a long kiss. “You keep me in line, you know.” He kissed her quickly. “Now off with you, as well. I’m being invaded by women this morning.”
“You complain of being invaded with love?” The woman asked.
“Never.” He walked her to the door, his hand rubbing her back the entire way. “But a man must work. See you at lunch, darling.”
She smiled and kissed him on the cheek before scooting out the door.
Philip ducked and ran. He had seen enough. It was another long run back to the carriage, but he was glad of the time to think and relax. All the feelings he saw between the people confused him. Eminente always scolded him about showing too many emotions. The run calmed his nerves. He splashed into the stream by the carriage to wipe his sweat off his body and clean his hooves. The servant handed him a towel to dry off with before he stepped into the carriage.
“Success?” Eminente asked.
“Then we will celebrate!” Eminente opened his hand to reveal a small ring. “Magic. For you.” He slid it on the boy’s fingers.
A strange sensation surged through his body. “What is this?”
“Some call it love. From now on you will wear it for a time after success.” He reached forward, pulled the ring off, and replaced it with another.
The boy stiffened.
“When you fail, you will wear that.” He took it off and replaced it with the first ring. “You may wear it until we get home.”
“Why can’t I wear it always?” He looked up at the man. “Unless I fail?”
“Love is a form of weakness.” Eminente answered. “In small doses, it can be beneficial, but you are too young to know how much is helpful.” He patted the boy’s knee. “I will take care of you. I will make sure you grow to be strong.”
“You always take care of me.”
Eminente bent forward and smiled. “Make sure I’m putting the good ring on your more than the bad ring. I hurt when you hurt. I am happy when you are happy.”
“I won’t fail you.” He beamed. “I want everything between us to be perfect.”
“You are learning well, my son.” He tapped on the carriage door. “Home now. Take it slow.” The carriage rose into the air.