The Prince Charming

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“Come down from the tree Cat.”

“No.”

“Cat, you can’t stay up there forever.”

“Yes I can.”

“Cat…” Daniel’s voice takes on a sharp tone. “This is a social function. It might not be one from your Reality, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show the same etiquette.”

“Since when do you care about manners?” I retort.

“Since about now. Now get down!” he snarls.

“Fine.” I jump out of the tree and land on one leg on the blue grass. I walk past Daniel back to the castle without saying a word.

He follows me, equally silent. “Would you like to tell me why you’re in such a foul mood?” he asks, his voice quiet, even though there’s no one around.

I ignore him. He just sighs. “Just promise me you’ll behave,” he says, and leaves me at the door to his chambers.

I enter, and I slam the door behind me. When I turn, I’m startled to see someone there. She’s just as surprised as me, and she drops the large pile she’s holding when I open the door.

“Oh!” I exclaim. “Jhaq, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know-”

She nods hurriedly and resumes to pick up the ocean of fabrics at her feet. “Here, let me help,” I tell her, scooping up a couple of the items. “Who is this for?”

Jhaq looks down as she speaks. “Miss Madigan, certainly,” she says. “His lord sent them for Miss Madigan.”

I grimace. “He shouldn’t have…” It’s too pretty. I pick it up from the bodice, and I can see that it is embroidered with bronze coloured leaves. I run my hands over the fabric. Velvet. The softest, silkiest velvet I’ve ever touched. Fuck. “Jesus Christ…” I murmur.

“Who is Miss Madigan talking to?” Jhaq asks.

“No one. I…” I turn to her, and she flinches away. “What is happening tonight?” I ask her.

“It is the celebration of His Grace’s first day of age,” she informs me promptly. That’s what I could rely on from Jhaq. Unlike Daniel, she would tell me anything I asked, providing she was capable of understanding my question. Not about Daniel of course; whenever I so much as mentioned him she’d go black in the face. I figure that’s their own form of blushing, but when I first saw it happen I thought they were dying.

“I see…” She’s holding out the dress for me, so I reluctantly take off my clothes -my school dress and shoes- and step into it. She ties the laces for me and steps away with her head bowed.

I walk up to the mirror and look at myself. The dress is the colour of the grass I walked on earlier; deep navy blue. The leaves of bronze cover the bodice and short sleeves, and when I turn around, they fall down my back, like a train. This is not meant for a rude little girl, this is for a princess. “People will look at me,” I say aloud. “I don’t belong there. I won’t ever belong there.”

“People will look at Jhaq too,” Jhaq reminds me. Instantly, I feel horrible. Jhaq’s face has tattoos running from her eyes to the ends of her jaw, like tears, and her dark bruises scarring her cheek and collarbone are easy to see. Jhaq’s face shows nothing. Like me, she doesn’t show sadness easily.

“Should we go?” I ask softly.

She gives a sudden gasp. “Miss Madigan’s head firstly,” she says, and rushes off. She returns quickly with a box. “This is for Miss Madigan’s hair,” she tells me.

I open up the box, and Jhaq pins more bronze leaves in my hair. She lets my hair down so that it trails down my back, and Jhaq nods in approval. “You have been good,” she tells me, her eyes sparkling in a rare moment of amusement. “Other girls huff and scream at Jhaq when she does their hair.”

I shake my head. “They’re only pins, and they don’t hurt,” I told her. “How is your talking coming?”

“My…talking is good. A lot better.” She inclines her head and speaks in a whisper. “Thankyou for my words, Miss Madigan.”

“If you ever want another lot of words, let me know.” Daniel has many ‘words’ in his bookcase, and he won’t miss them. “Shall we go?”

“Miss Madigan shall go,” she confirms.

I frown. “Where do I go though?”

Jhaq sighs. “It is down these rooms,” she tells me. “Follow, if you would please.”

Jhaq leads me out, and we walk together down the long hallways. I find it cold and unwelcome here. Grand, certainly, but not beautiful.

We walk past a tall one and Jhaq turns her head away. He walks toward us suddenly, and I raise my arm across my face in a moment of habit. He walks past me however, and toward Jhaq.

And he hits her across the face.

“You’re not to be wandering these grounds at this time,” he fumes. “Foolish slut, get away from here!” He raises his hand again.

Before he can strike, I step between them. “She is guiding me by my own request,” I tell him. “She has done nothing wrong, and you have no reason to harm her.”

He glares at me. “Oh, it’s you, little freak,” he sneers. “What are you all dressed up for?”

“Daniel wants me by his side tonight.” Even though he knows that I hate the idea of a party with these people, and I’ll be in a bad mood the whole time. “I don’t want any trouble. And neither do you, if you know what I am.”

“I’d be a fool not to,” he retorts. “Freak.

I meet his gaze and smile. “You’ll have to come up with something better than that,” I tell him. “Freak is no longer an insult to me. Now…” I gesture to Jhaq. “If Jhaq isn’t allowed out here, perhaps you can show me where to go?”

His face is no longer angry. It is emotionless and cold as a statue. “Of course,” he says shortly. “If you will follow me.”

I turn to Jhaq and incline my head, like I’ve seen Daniel do. She curtseys slightly and hurries away. I trail after the rude man, and I don’t take my eyes off him for a moment. He is wearing a silver robe, as bright as his hair. His eyes, however, are black as ink. One of these things is not like the other… I mused.

It’s all too grand. Everything is done up in gold and bronze. Even servants are painted in gold. I stand next to the man, on top of glossy, golden stairs. I manage to stop myself from wrinkling my nose at the lack of taste, if only just.

“You like it not,” the man says.

I turn to him. “This is all new to me,” I inform him.

He nods. “Your name is short for Catherine, is it?”

“Why do you wish to know?”

“Daniel’s mentioned a Catherine.”

I shake my head. “That’s not me. I am Cat, simply Cat.”

“Lady Cat. It does not sound as easy on the ear as Catherine.”

“Then what about Lady Madigan?”

He sighs. “Very well then. Start down the stairs.”

“After you sir.”

He bows and starts down. When he reaches the bottom, I start walking too. I spot the back of Daniel’s head; his hair is tied back, and he is dressed all in black. When they call out my name, I see him start to turn around, but suddenly, everyone starts walking forward, and I can’t see him any more.

Someone walks up to me and takes me by the arm. I freeze, unsure what to do, and he laughs. It’s a loud, clear sound, and he smiles at me. “Peace,” he says. “You must be nervous.”

I don’t trust myself to speak, so I just incline my head. Keep it up Cat Madigan. “A shy young thing, aren’t you?” he enquires. He does not let go of my arm, and he walks me across the hall. “Contrary to everything I have heard about you.”

“One would hear many things in this place,” I say as clearly as I manage.

He laughs in response. “Is it true though, that you kicked over my advisor?”

“Do you mean…” I nearly say ‘Fat man’, but I correct myself at the last minute. “…Thommand,” I finish.

“Yes. He has a certain dislike for you,” he tells me merrily, stopping at the edge of the giant room.

“He should.”

When I say nothing else, he talks again. “This is the first I have seen of you,” he says. “Why do you not leave your chambers more often?”

“…I don’t get along with people well.” That’s as honest as I get.

“I disagree. You are conversing with me, and I believe, if I may dare say, that we are getting along at least somewhat well.”

“I suppose,” I admit. I look around the room and I catch people quickly glancing away from me. “Still, there are plenty here who would have nothing to do with me.”

“So why are you here today?” he enquires.

“Daniel,” I tell him.

“Ah…yes. How loyal of you,” he says. “I suppose that is another reason why you never leave your room.”

It takes me longer than it should’ve to understand his implication. “I do not know your name,” I say, changing the topic. “I know nobody here, and I should really remedy that, shouldn’t I?”

“Of course.” He sweeps a bow to me. “Christan, though, I think it would suit everyone else better to call me Your Grace.”

Oh….fuck. “Just as well, Your Grace,” I said, quickly recovering. That’s why people were looking before….Cat Madigan, you stupid bitch… “I know only one person called that, and he is a….” I struggle to come up with a ladylike word. “I do not enjoy him,” I say finally.

“As you wish.” He is handsome, in his own way, I observe. He has silver hair, like the man from before, but he has golden eyes, which shine like the sun, and a permanent smile on his face. He is the image of Prince Charming. If Prince Charming was lacking eyebrows.

I didn’t trust him.

Not a lot, anyway.

It wasn’t anything he did. I simply don’t trust handsome strangers who flirt with me for no reason.

He started talking again. “So, when can I expect your first day of age?” Christan asks me. “Of course, it doesn’t matter much, but if you allowed me, I’d be happy to bestow upon you a gift. Or Daniel perhaps.”

I start panicking in my head. What does Day of Age mean? I screamed inwardly.

I just said, “In two years.”

“I see. And how many moons?”

Moons? Wait, does he mean months? I restrain from laughing at the term. “Six.” If it means what I think it is.

“Very well then. Well, I believe I shan’t keep you from Daniel any longer. I wouldn’t want to cause a scandal here tonight,” he laughs, taking my hand.

Suddenly there is a loud bang. “What is that?” I ask, immediately on guard. I feel my hand burning, and I’m grateful that Christan is holding the other.

“The prisoner,” he says, a touch of exhaustion in his voice. “Do not worry, my lady, this isn’t the first time this has happened.”

I take the opportunity. “I was wondering, Your Grace,” I started.

“Go on.” He looks at me with his golden eyes.

“Might I have your permission to see him? The prisoner, I mean.”

Christan frowns. “He’s wild, my lady,” he tells me. “I wouldn’t want to compromise your safety. Besides, we are still trying for information from him.”

“I am human,” I remind him. “Like he is. Maybe I could help?”

“A pretty face might prompt him to tell us something,” he said thoughtfully.

I snort, not at the flattery, but at what would be said in Reality about that. I could almost hear Slenderman sniggering “Heheheh, incest.”

“I’ll consider it, my lady,” he tells me. “Now, if you’ll come with me.” He and I walk over to Daniel, sitting in a dark corner with a cone in his hand. “Daniel!” Christan calls jovially. “So this is the lovely lady you keep locked away from us all. I don’t blame you, my man.”

Ugh….

Daniel sees me flinch, and his lips turn up at the sides. “I thank you,” he tells Christan. “And I thank you for letting me bring her, Your Grace.”

“Ah, it is my pleasure.” Christan was distracted by another beauty passing by, wearing pink and gold and far too much face paint. “If you will excuse me, I must attend to other matters. I hope you enjoy tonight, my lady.” He raises my hand to his lips to kiss and bows, before turning to another girl.

I sit beside Daniel. “Thankyou,” I said.

He turns to me with his eyebrow raised. “I am allowed to see him,” I say. “It’s probably more for interrogation, but I can see him.”

He frowns. “Really?”

“What? You didn’t think of this?”

“Actually, no,” he admitted. “You asked His Majesty?”

I shrug. “He must like you,” he muses.

Another shrug. “Would you like him?” Daniel asks, eyebrow raised suggestively.

I shook my head. “I don’t go for the Knights in Shining Armour,” I told him.

“Oh, you’re more of the Heathcliff type, are you?”

I wrinkle my nose. “Heathcliff is pathetic. He’d probably marry me and ship me off to somewhere dark to die, while he pined over a married woman.”

“Fair enough.” He takes a sip out of his cone.

“Whiskey?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “Cloud dew,” he tells me. “Want some?”

“Doesn’t that mean rain?” I ask, but I take the drink.

He watches me as I take a sip. “You’re behaving quite well, Lady Madigan.”

The drink is sickly sweet. “Thankyou. But if you didn’t take me here to get permission, why did you?”

Daniel smiles. “You like parties.”

“…when I’m around people I enjoy,” I amend.

“Do you enjoy me?”

“Occasionally.” I narrow my eyes. “When you’re not drugging me. What was that for?”

“I was saving your life,” he said mildly, taking the cone back and having another gulp.

“How can you stand that drink, it’s horribly sweet.”

“How appropriate,” he says drily. “It’s alright, I have you, my sour tongued shrew.”

“That’s a rhyme,” I smile.

He grins back. “You forgive me?”

“I will eventually.”

“Good girl. Now.” He stands up. “May I have this dance, m’lady?”

“Do I have to?”

“Well, everyone else is. And the alternative is His Grace, who is coming this way now.”

I look up. “I’ll take His Grace.”

“Whatever. Just watch out for his hands.” He winks at me as Christan appears and holds out his arm before asking if I would accompany him in a dance.

Two dances is all I have with him. Daniel was right, throughout the dance, I’d slowly become closer and closer to His Grace, and by the end of the second, when I asked if I could go back, he pressed a ribbon into my palm before bowing to me and kissing my hand.

When I showed Daniel the ribbon, he sniggered, trying to conceal his face from the crowd. “Please don’t tell me what I think it means,” I said flatly.

When he looked up, his face was straight, but his eyes were gleaming. “It’s a scarlet ribbon, you whore,” he told me cheerfully. “Since when is scarlet ever innocent?”

I grimace. “You’ve had too much to drink.”

“On the contrary. I’ve been feeding on only sweets and secrets all evening,” he said. “Of course, though, I’d like something more savory now. Come dance with me.”

“I told His Grace I was sitting out this one.”

Daniel smiles slyly and turns to whisper in my ear. “Dance, or I’m going to have to make a scene.”

“That’s blackmail.”

“Hadn’t noticed,” he said dryly.

I stand up, and let him walk me over to where everyone is dancing. “I’m curious as to what sort of scene you’d make,” I start. “Would you care to divulge that little secret?”

“No dice,” he tells me. “If I start telling you all my secrets, how will I stop?”

“I have three I want to know. And you don’t know half of mine.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Trade for secrets, hmm? You’ve peaked my interest, Lady Madigan.”

“So what would’ve you done?” I ask.

“Something more public and more embarrassing than a scarlet ribbon.” He grins. “Number two?”

“Who is Catherine?”

He grimaces. “You don’t have to answer,” I tell him. “But I won’t judge.”

“Someone from a long time ago,” he says.

“Lover?”

“God no.”

“You’re not going to tell me any more, are you? Fine then, I’ll be just as discreet with my answers.”

“I wouldn’t expect any less of you. And third?”

“What is the beginning of the end?”

He stops smiling. “Do I want to know?” He shakes his head. “How do you even know? Are you psychic?”

“That is more than 3 questions, Lady Madigan. My turn now.”

I braced myself. This would be painful.

The Definition of ‘It’

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After discussing my cancelled abandonment of Reality with Flash, I was tired. Exhausted actually. Being a depressive schizophrenic is hard work.

And then my head threw another bombshell at me.

I woke in Delirium being shaken awake by Daniel. “Argh…Daniel, I’m tired…” I complained.

“Yes, well, unfortunately for you, someone wants to speak to you,” he informed me, pulling me out of bed.

“For gods sakes, haven’t you noticed I’m wearing my nightdress?” I grumbled.

Daniel sighed and shoved me his jacket. I barely pulled it over one arm before he grabbed it and kept pulling me. “Who is so important that he can’t wait to see me in proper clothes?” I asked, somehow managing to get the rest of the jacket on.

“Remember Thommand?” I was dragged out of Daniel’s chambers, and down the long spiral stairs.

“Which one is Thommand?” I hissed.

“Fat man,” he replied. We came to a large door, and Daniel hammered his hand against it before barging in, pulling me behind him.

The fat man, or Thommand, who had my throat slit a month ago, gave as much courtesy as Daniel did. “You,” he pointed to me. He walked up to me and slapped me across the face.

Instantly, I struck my foot at his legs, tripping him over. My foot ached when it came away, and the ground seemed to shake as he fell, but I didn’t care. “How dare you,” I snarled.

“Control her Daniel!” Thommand barked.

“She’s under control,” Daniel replied, making no move to restrain me whatsoever.

I watched him get up. “You have no right to hit me, and the next time you do, I’ll do more than kick you to the ground!” I told him. “Are we clear, Thommand?”

“It’s m’lord to you,” he informed me frostily.

“Then act like one,” I retort. “Now what do you want?”

I heard the words ‘wretch’ and ‘she-cat’ under his breath. “I want to know how you arrived here,” he told me. “How you first came to this world.”

“So do I. But this is just as strange to you as it is to me.”

His hand twitched beside him. “If you’re lying to me-”

“I have nothing to gain by lying.”

“Yes you do,” he insisted. “There are humans here, just like you when you arrived. That would be something to gain.”

I froze. “What?”

“So you didn’t know?” Thommand shook his head. “Caught in the next village. Three of them. One is dead and the other is being brought here.”

“What are their names?” Daniel asked.

“The captive won’t say.”

“You said there were three,” I interrupted. “What happened to the one who wasn’t killed or captured?”

His eyes narrowed. “Gone,” he said shortly. “We’ll find him though. We found Daniel.” He started out the door. “The captive is coming now. Follow me.”

Shaking off Daniel’s hand, he and I strode out behind the fat man, who was surprisingly quick. “So why did you strike me?” I demanded.

“Shock value,” he replied. “I wanted the truth, and fast.”

“I wouldn’t say anything else,” I objected.

Daniel stopped me. “Cat, go back to my chamber, now.”

“Why-”

“Court business,” he said. “This is no place for you.”

At the same time that I was saying “I will not be left behind!”, Thommand had stopped and said “The girl stays.”

“I forbid it.”

“Don’t command me, Daniel.” I returned his angry look. “I am not weak.”

He paused. “You’re not,” he admitted. “Come along then. Knowing our men though, the man’s probably nastily wounded.”

I could see Thommand bristle as we continued walking. “Is he getting treatment?” I asked Daniel.

There was no reply from him at that. I wondered where I could find a nurse in this place, and hopefully one who might be able to help with what I needed.

We arrived in the courtyard to find a crowd gathering. It was the first time I had seen so many of them. And as soon as I came into view, they all turned to me.

My first thought was that I really wished that I was wearing something less inappropriate than a scarlet silk nightdress and Daniel’s jacket.

The second thought was how different from Daniel they were.

I hadn’t really noticed the contrasts between Thommand and Daniel, but I became aware of them once I saw the others.

I had thought that Thommand had a fringe- and I had thought how stupid it looked. But as I looked more closely, I realised that it wasn’t the case. His hair line started from where his brow would be; it wasn’t a fringe at all.

That explained Daniel’s absurdly long hair. These people would probably want their hair to grow pretty long…but I had seen people with ordinary fringes. Not to mention eyebrows. I’d have to ask Daniel about that.

The people in the fanciest dress- by fanciest I mean most ridiculous- all had clear, grey eyes. They were beautiful, I suppose. In a way. But it was too over the top. They were the ones who stared at me the most. No one paid attention to Daniel. They treated him as if he weren’t there, sort of like a bad smell. But they kept giving me looks and whispering as they turned away.

I heard shouting, and people walking by. “Daniel, can we get closer?”

“This is fine, Cat.” Daniel was unnaturally still, as if he were afraid to breathe.

Slowly, I started walking away, dodging the strange people as I tried to get through the entrance of the building. It was no use; even though there were guards pushing everyone back, I still couldn’t see.

Then I spotted a window. It wouldn’t be dignified, but I would never be admired by these strangers, only seen as an animal.

I could reach it, so I lifted myself up onto the ledge. It was one of those windows without glass, so I clung to the edge, praying I didn’t fall back.

I could see everything from where I was. There were two lines of people, surrounding one attraction in the centre. A young man was walking towards a group of people, who stepped aside, leaving one man alone. He had long sandy hair that covered his face, and his arms hang by his side, in shackles.

“Hello Cat Madigan,” a voice suddenly whispered into my ear.

It was him. The man that’s more corpse than living flesh. “Can’t they see you?” I whispered.

“Of course.” I could feel him beside me. “They won’t remember I was here though. I’ll vanish from their memories.”

“What are you?”

“Something weird,” he told me.

I knew that phrase, it’s mine. “Are you like me?”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. But we’re different. Like two members of the same species.”

He chuckled. “We are definitely not the same species.”

“I didn’t mean it in a literal sense.” I look down at my hand. My five letters are glowing again. “This is…what I can do. And you….mess with people’s heads.”

“You are clever,” he said approvingly, and he kissed me on the cheek. He laughed as I grimaced; he’s so cold, it’s like a fish kissing me.

I would not let him get to me. “You messed with Kaya’s head too,” I told him.

“Not like them,” he objected.

“Doesn’t matter, you’re the one who killed her.”

“Ms Madigan,” he whispered. “Instead of accusing me of such trivia, you may want to watch what’s happening before you.”

“What do you mean?” But he was gone.

I glanced down, and looked at the scene. The prisoner was kneeling on the ground, his hair held back by one of the guards behind him. He had no expression, no emotion on his face.

But I knew him.

This person was one of the few things that kept me in Reality.

What was he doing here?

I leapt down from the window, only to be tackled by Daniel. He lifted me and carried me into the shadows, despite my struggling. He held my hands and feet behind my back, ignoring my growling.

When we were away from everything, he put me down. “I’m going back!” I yelled.

“You’re not,” he told me. “Believe it or not, I’m saving your life.”

“Believe it or not, it’s not something I treasure,” I retorted. “His, however-”

“Don’t even think about it. Not now,” he pleaded.

“I’m going.”

It happened in an instant. His arm was wrapped around my neck, a sharp object touching the skin of my temple. “Don’t make me do this,” he growled.

Go ahead, I thought. “This is my friend. I would do the same for you,” I told him.

“And I would respond the same way.”

The needle pierced my head and I started feeling drowsy. “I hate you,” I grumbled, as I faded out.