The Young Princess
Hannah Duchamps enter the antique store with an almost furtive step. John Dobbs, the owner of the store, glances up from the counter. His wrinkled old face creases up in a smile at the sight of her. “Young Princess! It has arrived!”
Hannah sighs. She has told him, repeatedly, not to call her that. He wouldn’t do it in front of normals, thank god, but by doing it in front of supernaturals he raises questions. About her ancestry. The fact that she lives alone with her father… who is a normal, and not in the know.
“…. Young Princess?” She blinks. “Sorry Mr Dobbs; I was woolgathering”, she says, falling into the old way of speaking. Dobbs nods, making no bones about her distraction and gestures to the square package on the transparent counter, a package covered in brown paper and twine.
She rips the paper away, careful not to hurt it. She had expected it to beautiful. With the money she spent on it, it damn better be. But…. this… in front of her is a chessboard. White ivory-squares alternating with obsidian counterparts. Carved pieces of redwood sit in a small pouch next to the board.
She makes a sound of appreciation. “I take it that you like it, Young Princess?” “Like it? I love it, Mr Dobbs”, she summarizes. Dobbs nods with happiness. Duchamps can’t help but like him. As far as fae go, brownies are benign. That is to say that a brownie won’t kill a human unless severly provoked, unlike the more malign fae, who actively look for an excuse.
She hands him her credit-card, and few moments later their transaction is complete. Dobbs pauses. “Young Princess…. regarding Tam Linn…” “Yes”, she responds, wary of what he will ask. The elder fae, and Dobbs certainly is one such elder, are well aware of the history between Linn and her mother. ” I worry about you”, Dobbs says, surprising her. “I worry that Linn will hurt you, for he cannot reach your mother, and on whom will he then assuage his anger?”
What Dobbs is saying isn’t something new, isn’t something she hasn’t considered before, but hearing her thoughts voiced by another person puts it in stark reality. ” It’s been centuries since that happened. And I’d like to think that Linn wouldn’t hurt a child. And even if he will… there are still the teachers of Ochre.”
Dobbs nods thoughtfully. “If you ever need help-” “Mr Dobbs, you will be the first one I’ll talk to”, Duchamps says, lying. Age is a curious thing among those supernaturals that don’t age. It brings power to some, wisdom to others, but for a rare few, it changes little. Dobbs is the latter. He wouldn’t last ten minutes in a fight against Tam Linn, although she appreciates the sentiment.
She puts the chessboard in her bag and saunters out. She walks to a clothing store and buys a large sweater. As she pays the price for it, she experiences a sense of being watched. She ignores it, chalking it up to nerves and paranoia.
She walks to Evers and orders a latte. The sense of being watched, of eyes roving over her body persists. She slowly rotates around, looking at the people spread around the tables.Two women in their late forties are discussing something which causes one of them to make a severing motion across her throat. Six boys in their early teens are drawing diagrams on a large sheet of paper, comparing it to what looks like a magazine for gamers. An older man with silver hair nurses a cup of coffee, staring into it as if it holds the answers of the universe.
She drags up her magic, and her vision of the world changes. Werewolves and vampires scent the air. Their way of interpreteting the world and using magic is connected to their noses or their tongues. But she isn’t like them. The fae uses their eyes, because one cannot use glamour with being able to trust what one perceives.
Auras spring up all around her; around the people of the cafe, on the furniture and she can make out the shimmery glints in the air that is the result of people walking around. The teenage boys viewing the magazine have auras ranging from excited orange to passionate red. Of the two middle-aged women, one is a depressed brown, whereas the other is a curious yellow. The old man is a melancholic blue, almost cerulean. Rune or Kai would say something about wavelengths, electromagnetic halos or some such, but to her they are auras.
She looks around for the tell-tale signs of glamour; patched areas where the light wavers and for the sensation of the surreal. It takes her longer than she’d expected, because the glamoured area is directly behind her, on the counter. She carefully puts her hands in the weird area. This is not real, she chants to herself thrice. With every bone in her body she disbelieves the illusion.
It is a testiment to Tam Linn’s skill that there is no burst of light, no fracture in space, only that one moment there is nothing on the counter and a blink of an eye later there is a small torn piece of paper.
She flips it around.
To the Young Princess.
I am Tam Linn. From the look of your father, a pleasant, if ever so dull man, I need no presentation. She has a thing for men with brown hair and eyes of the same color, does she not? I have always wondered if it is because She herself is such a presence, that she needs a bland version to provide contrast? Do you know?
I would like to talk you, Young Princess. We are alike in a way, for we have both injured by the same woman. Tell me, do you hate Her? I do. If there was a way, I’d burn all of Faerie to the ground. The grand oaks, the starry skies, the blossom fields. All of them turned to cinders. Alas, the ways to the Old Places have been barred.
I fear that I have gone on a tangent. Meet me at the Crimson Bridge at midnight.
The script of the letter is flowery, a throwback to times when teachers would strike students on their hands for a lack of penmanship. The capitalisation though, of the pronoun ‘her’… that word is not just merely written but almost carved into the letter. Anger, Hannah thinks, only anger could make someone write like that.