This is the first draft of Titania, which I wrote for a halloween writing contest entry. I’m leaving it here as an example of how much change a story (can) go through from early to later revisions.
Halloween. Perfect for a summoning. Or ordering bags of your favorite candy from Amazon and hoping your house get’s TP’d (which, this year amounts to an act of charitable giving).
It’s time to get some answers, and maybe start to fix whatever the hell (waves hand in circular motion) “all this is”.
Summoning is pretty simple. Make a circle on the ground (chalk is easiest). Invest it with a drop of blood and a bit of your will. Concentrate really hard on who or what you want to appear there. Say their True Name three times and pull really hard like you’re Luke Skywalker trying to get the light saber out of the ice and then hope to God you have the mental fortitude to maintain concentration to keep the being physically bound within the circle. Bigger the being, stronger the circle needs to be; it’s more art and psychology than science (actually its specifically not science. It’s magic). Whatever you do, don’t break the circle.
“Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell.”
Snap, crackle, pop, and there she is. 6 inches of blazing cold light and fury zipping around like a banshee venting her fury (yeah, being summoned always pisses them off) with pyrotechnics that make Michael Bay look like an amateur. So beautiful… Stay focused! Just because she can’t get to you physically doesn’t mean she isn’t already in your head.
She freezes in mid-air, spinning around to face me, one bare foot pointed to rest delicately on a horizontal snow-flake above the ground. Devilish smile spreading mischievously across her face.
“Good evening Andrew.”
I’d stumbled across this particular pixie some years ago. Kids, don’t try this at home, but you can go fishing for fae and hope that whatever you happen to call doesn’t completely outclass you and eat your brain. I’d realized that there was zero chance Walt Disney was making it all up, and was probably “in the know” like the Brothers Grimm before him. So I picked a being he portrayed as powerful, but also mostly benign, and hoped he wasn’t too far off. I was in no way disappointed.
“Almost got me there Tink.”
“Yes, I nearly did.”
She looks forlorn and pouts. “What do you want?”
“Pixie dust.” I hold up a nearly empty leather bag and give it a little shake to indicate my poverty. Happy thoughts and a little magic dust and you can fly. Tink here is my source.
She rolls her eyes, “Surely that’s not all.”
“Pay up Tink! We have a deal.”
She gives me an unamused deadpan glare and begins to hop, fairy dust showering down in a little ring all around her. “There. Good?”
“Actually, one more thing…”
“As expected…” She smiles the eager feral smile of a cat with a mouse, “what next?”
Gulp. But still, I’ve had enough. “What the hell is going on!?” I yell at her, a little more angrily than I had intended. Actually, I hadn’t intended to yell at all. But seriously! What is going on?
She freezes, looking every bit like a deer caught in headlights.
“I thought so.” I nod, tight lipped and determined.
“Whatever are you talking about?” She says through clenched teeth, barely affecting any of the faux innocence she’s going for.
“Give it up Tink. The world is falling right the hell apart. Global Pandemic, riots going on over 100 days now, choice between a clown and a vegetable for president. What. The. Hell. Is. Going. On.”
Her eyes shift back and forth like a cornered cat, and she licks her lips.
“Strike a new bargain?” I ask.
Her eyes narrow, and she straightens a bit. I’ve got her attention. Faeries can never resist a bargain.
“No. You’re not taking my first-born, don’t even ask.”
“Oh come now Andrew,” she pouts and stomps her foot, every bit the picture of Tinker Bell, “you could at least have let me ask… You don’t have to be rude and take the fun out.”
“Ok, fine, you can ask.”
She grins eagerly, “A fair trade would be your firstb–”
“No. Next offer”
She rolls her eyes and groans.
“Come on, my knees are getting cold on this rough concrete, and its freezing down here. My nose is going to start dripping, and I’m super hungry. In fact, tell you what, give up the goods and I’ll give you an entire pizza.”
She brightens, and I don’t mean figuratively, I mean she literally explodes with yellow light. If there’s one thing faeries seem to love its pizza. Well, pizza and first born children. Then she dims visibly and wilts down to stand on the ground, her arms folded across beneath her chest. “I can’t.”
“You can’t what?”
“I can’t… make… any deals about what’s going on right now with those outside of Winter…”
What? That’s… That’s huge actually. Fae make deals like they breath air. It’s part of what powers them. They also can’t lie. So. Wow, ok this is big. I mean, global events already said it was big, but this is like, actually confirmed to not just be stupid bad luck on a global scale. Wait, going on right now. See, that’s the other thing about Faeries, they can’t lie, but like talking to an introvert if you actually listen to them you can find out all sorts of stuff.
“Say there Tink… Remember the 1918 flu?”
“I might… What are you offering?”
“Pizza. One piece per question answered.”
“Whole pizza, 3 questions.”
“Deal, but ‘remember the 1918 flu’ doesn’t count as one of the questions.”
Something not entirely unlike an invisible vice cranking down on her tightens and she shutters and blinks three times rapidly “Done and bound. Ask your questions three.”
“When was the last event of this magnitude?”
“541 through 1453”
Wait… That’s like 900 years…
“Was that the time span of some sort of Fae war or something?”
“Everything is some sort of Fae war or something Andrew. Final question.”
“Wat! No! I was thinking out loud!”
“And I was answering in kind. Final question.”
Crap. What to ask… I need more info, but I need more info before I even know what to ask…
“Can I just bank my final question for later?”
“No. Answered and done.” A feeling like thunder rumbles through the air and a taste like a mouth full of pennies as she is released from her part of the deal and now the vice clamps down on me. The sudden weight of the deal’s binding is so unexpected that I lose my focus, lose my balance, and accidentally set my hand down over the circle’s chalk line to steady myself –thereby shattering the circle’s power.
She pounces on my hand immediately. “Andrew, Andrew, Andrew….” She casually binds me. “My new pet!” She claps and giggles, dancing from foot to foot and spinning in a circle.
Oh no. Oh. No. nononononono. My scalp tingles and the hair stands up on the back of my neck. The pixie steps forward, walking slowly up my arm, each step leaving little pin-pricks of frost-bite as the little winter fae advances. Her steps accompanied by a transformation in appearance, each one more beautiful and terrible than the last, until she walks out of view and stands by my ear.
“You fool. You simple, wonderful, fool.” She laughs into my ear. Cold radiates from her.
I’m frozen in place. Completely beholden to and trapped by her will… Which makes no sense. She’s just a tiny winter faerie, she shouldn’t really have been able to focus long enough to do any real damage here…
“Who are you?” I ask, eyes narrowing.
“tsk tsk… That charade was fun while it lasted, my pet.” She says, and with a glimmer and a twist the whole world seems to tilt sideways and suddenly I can feel her standing behind me, her hand on my shoulder, maintaining contact, and her binding. There was more to “Tinkerbell” than meets the eye.
“Nice trick, now let’s treat.” I say through gritted teeth.
I’ll spare you the details of how we got there, but half an hour later I had bargained for my life back in exchange for agreeing to help her as a “reagent of winter for the duration of the conflict”. I’d also oh-so-painfully (because nothing is ever easy or free where Winter is involved) pulled the following information out of her, and hold on to your hats because it gets stupid. And weird.
So, I’m sure we all remember when Loki (Norse god of mischief) turned himself into a mare to seduce this epic horse that was helping a dude build a wall for Valhalla in order to win Freya (Norse goddess of love and war’s) hand in marriage and then he (Loki) accidentally got pregnant and got stuck as a horse until he gave birth to an eight legged horse named Slepnier.
Well, it turns out Loki still has a thing for Freya, and is fighting over her with Hoenir (Another Norse god, who thousands of years ago gave away all his intelligence to mankind and is now basically the next thing to brain-dead). They’ve both turned themselves into humans and are running for president (again). Being somewhat “old fashioned” Freya’s apparently just letting them fight it out and taking whoever wins, but wait… There’s more! Odin (Freya’s… um, husband) is missing. And without Odin’s opposition Hel (goddes of the underworld and death) has broken loose across the earth in the form of plagues, riots, and just general global stupidity as a result. Well, come to find out Odin isn’t missing exactly, he’s been seduced by Titania, Queen of Summer herself as part of some sort of crazy retribution against dalliances by Titania’s husband the Summer King Oberon who came crawling back in a jealous rage over Odin, to try and win back Titania’s heart (her plan from the get-go). But where oh where does this little fae fit in? Oh. Oh. Well. Ok. This only barely passes the Bechdel test. Barely.
“I’m so sorry my lady…”
Dark as a thundercloud her face becomes as she shrinks back down to her natural size. “The fool should never have done my sister wrong in this way. I’m torn between simultaneously wanting to destroy him and restore him to her.” A single frosty tear rolls down her cheek, “It tears me apart to see not just her, but them all, this way. It is time something is done. You must help us.”
Ye gods and little fishes! Mab, Queen of Winter herself, is standing before me crying; asking for marital and familial help for two entire pantheons. A what fools these immortals be. #2020 man.
OK. Allow me to introduce myself. Hi, my name is Andrew Valentine. I’m a professional marriage and family therapist. And Wizard. And suddenly 2020 makes a lot more sense.