As if I would break, Prince Charming put me back on the fluffy bed of furry blankets. The feeling of being eaten was long gone once he put the blanket over my legs. He was relatively gentle for a big guy, covered in scars, tattoos, worked hands, and meaty muscles.
His oversized tunic shirt was thin yet thick enough for me to feel well covered. More so than anything, I wore with the vampires. Overall, I was very comfortable in his presence.
“Um, Prince Charming?” He shook his head; he tried to smile. Each time he tried to laugh, a slight curl of his lip would go a millimeter higher. One day I’d like to see him with a full smile. “Thank you for taking care of me,” my voice cracked. It was the first time I felt cared for in a while. Dad would constantly baby me when I was sick, even when I was a grown adult living in his house. “I don’t have a way to repay you. I don’t have money, but I can do chores around your house, I mean, cave. Once I’m better, I can go earn some money working for someone and,….” Prince Charming stood in front of me faster than I could blink. He wasn’t human, he was indeed something else, but I wasn’t sure what.
The dark shadows loomed over his face in the barely lit cave, giving his appearance dark and sinister. It didn’t scare me, though, not the way he was rubbing the top of my hand. He shook his head, patted my hands. “I have to repay you,” I repeated. “You’ve done a lot for me and, in fact, you have done too much. I need…” my eyes darted away from him and down the dark passageway. My heartbeat was violent in my chest. I wasn’t afraid of the dark, just the things that lurked in the darkness. Vampires were quiet, stealthy; they lived in the shadows hunting their prey.
Too many nights, when they came down to pick their favorite blood bag, they would hide. We would all whisper, jokingly placing bets who would get called out first, second and third. It was a sick, twisted joke that I always lost. I always got picked first when the Duke was hungry.
“I need to tell you why I was running. I may have inadvertently put you in danger, and if they come, I can’t let you get hurt. You are too kind for that.” Biting the inside of my lip to keep it from quivering, the blood pooled in the pocket of my cheek. Looking in Prince Charming’s eyes right now would make me crumble, and I couldn’t.
Not once did I cry in front of the vampires; I didn’t show them any weakness. Now that I was rested, away from the horrors, the screams, the monsters of the night, I couldn’t help but bring down my walls. This poor man didn’t need to see that. He didn’t need to see what a pitiful woman I was.
Prince Charming took his index finger, traced my lips, pulling the bottom lip out. My eyes still didn’t meet his, still looking down the passage. His patience was great, and he waited for me to calm the heavy heaves of breathing that I panted. “The Duke is what they call him,” I sighed heavily. “He’s a vampire; the place where I ran from was the Duke’s home. The big mansion that looked like a castle.” Prince Charming got up from the floor, sitting on the bed beside me. He didn’t even need a stool to get in like I would need; it almost made me laugh.
Pulling my hands in his, he squeezed them, giving me enough courage. “I was kidnapped after my Dad died; my mom was a witch, found me shortly after his death, and sent me there to pay off debts.” Prince Charming’s chest thumped. “Master Enoch was in charge of the blood bags and debt repayment. My mother paid him with me. I was to stay at the Duke’s place until I died, basically. The other humans and I stayed in cages. Witches bring them in, same as me.”
I licked my lips, “the Duke liked me most, said I tasted the best, and I didn’t squirm or made a mess. I never fought when they took my blood because I heard it hurt worse from one of the older humans. On day one, I was compliant. When other vampires heard about this, they would pick me specifically, be rough and tear the skin. They never used their venom to make it numb, nor would they seal the wound. Just a cruel game,” I shook my head. Prince Charmings’ hand gripped mine tightly. The thrumming in his chest became louder.
“The last night, there was trouble around his land. Many guards were gone, but the Duke remained in his chambers. I was to be dressed up in his favorite color and be put in his bedroom. Blood bags don’t go into the bedrooms; we were too low for that. One of the girl vampires, Emily, warned me what would happen. He wanted a strong mate, and seeing how I took the pain so well, he said I was perfect. Emily found a dogwood steak, sharpened it for me. I slit his throat when he wasn’t looking, but I wasn’t strong enough to stab his heart, so then I ran. I ran two days until I got to the tree.” My body was stiff with fear, reliving the accounts of that night. Explaining any more detail to him would twist me to pieces.
The pulls of skin, the blood that dripped down my forearms. Their slimy, cold tongues licking parts of my body no one should touch. Luckily it was only on my extremities where they sucked blood from me, but the humiliation, revulsion were there. “They touched me places,” I hiccupped, “while they fed.” Their hands would roam my breast, try to cup between my thighs. I sat so still, not fighting back, that it eventually became a bore to them.
I choked; I couldn’t tell him anymore. He’d think I was dirty.
My heart had fallen into a sullen state of despair. It made me look up at Prince Charming, seeking comfort. Something about him made me feel safe, even the day he found me in that lonely tree. He had been nice to me so far; he may want me to leave after this confession, however. I couldn’t’ blame him, but a small part of me hoped he would give me a bit of reassurance.
Solace was the last thing I found from Prince Charming when I looked up. A fire burned in his eyes, far more frightening than the vampires that came to me while I slept, that forced their fangs into my skin ruthlessly. Mouth set to a grim line; I swore I saw fangs peer over his chapped lips. If my eyes were correct, they were far larger than any vampire fangs.
I couldn’t control the spasming fear in my body. I shook in utter terror for the first time seeing Prince Charming with an emotion I didn’t want to ever see from him. His body was hard as stone; the growl in his chest reverberated within the walls of the cave. His braided hair turned scaly, white smoke began to pour from his nose.
I jumped, pulling my hands away losing the warmth that it brought me. “I’m sorry!” I trembled; my eyes teared up. I didn’t want to make him angry, just be honest. “Just take me outside; I’ll go far away from here; they won’t find you. I won’t tell them where you live.” My voice shook.
Or he could just kill me.
Prince stood up abruptly, not even gathering his supplies like he usually did when he left the cave. The grumbling, growls, and snarls filled the cave. He wasn’t human, I thought again, pulling at my fingers. He could be something completely different than the vampires; the question was, what? A demon?
My tears couldn’t be held back anymore. They built up inside my eyes until they flowed with intense vigor. They didn’t bother to hide behind my lashes; they came down freely. A loud roar came from outside; it shook the cave. Small rocks fell onto the ground, into the bed, and on the table. I didn’t know what he was, but I had to leave. It was clear he didn’t want me here.
Fluffy had trailed after him, slinking like a scared cat but still continued to follow obediently. I hiccuped again, trying to turn around in the bed, getting down like a disobedient child not wanting to go to bed. The shirt pooled around my knees; I tightened the top of the tunic to hide any part of my chest.
I couldn’t take anything with me; he had given me enough. The salve from my wounds, the cloth for my ankle, and even a stomach full of food. Glancing one last time at the cave, I hobbled out as best I could, putting my hand on the damp cave wall.
It wasn’t long before I reached the end. Prince Charming and fluffy wasn’t anywhere to be found. Taking a sharp left, I would continue around the mountain instead of going further up. Who knows when the snow would begin to fall, and with bare feet, a thin sheet of a shirt, I would be in serious trouble.
Hobbling along a non-existent path, my feet tracked over the purple moss. Small glitter flew out from it, which only made me smile despite the loneliness I felt in my heart. It was pretty and thus deserved to be admired. My steps were small, my ankle throbbing with pain. The further I got away, the better. He was obviously mad with me, but at least I told him now instead of days down the road. The vampires wouldn’t think twice to look there now that my scent would fade away.
The jagged rocks became less while I continued to the East; at least, I thought it was the east. I couldn’t go by the sun because there was not one sun but two. One was brighter than the other, and I wasn’t sure which I should follow or if this world followed the same pattern. I sighed in frustration. Anything I had learned while being homeschooled was useless. I was stuck in a world that made no sense. Might as well be Alice trudging through the massive chessboard gawking at all the wildlife.
The forest remained quiet; I hobbled for a good hour until I needed a break. My stomach growled angrily at me, sitting beside a tree. Who was I kidding? I was stuck. I have no friends in this place, vampires hunting for me. Hopefully, they gave up, but I seriously doubt it. They were vengeful creatures, often fighting over which blood bag they wanted to feed off of.
The tinkling of bells rang through the air, causing a disruption to my thoughts. They were panic rings, ringing fast, hard until it stopped altogether. The evening sky was falling fast; soon, I would have to find a place to stay. The ringing continued until I fought myself the urge to ignore it. A raindrop dripped on my nose.
I don’t think my luck could get any worse. I thought until a complete downpour rained down on me. The thin tunic stuck to my body, the bells ringing were louder than ever while I leaned on each tree I could get my hands on. The ringing stopped, little pants of breathing were heard near me, but I couldn’t see anything on the ground. Looking up, a tiny little person hung in a swinging cage. The cage was no larger than a basketball with small arms reaching towards me. The ringing was, in fact, the creature’s voice. The cage held it inside, the bars close together.
“Hang on,” I uttered more to myself. I wasn’t even sure this creature could understand me. The bells rang over and over until I pulled it loose from the hanging branch over my head. The creature jumped up and down in the cage, hitting its head on the top. Wrestling it free was easy to break since it was made of branches and vines. Out crawled out a tiny fairy?
Breathing heavily, he became drenched with water. It was a male, long hair, no doubt with a shirtless chest. Pointed ears, chin, and cheekbones decorated his face. His wings were translucent until they started to wilt because of the rain. They were like insects. The fairy looked up at me with grateful eyes. Taking my hand, I covered its head so it would not become more saturated. The rain would ruin its wings.
“Are you a fairy?” I whispered. The male shook his head. I didn’t know what it was then; I didn’t have a collective list of species in my back pocket to ask. Not like he could tell me either, but he did understand me.
“Do you know a place where we can get dry?” I asked hopefully. Looking at its wings, he sighed, defeated. Nodding his head, he crawled out of the cage and pulled my hand closer. He was going to sit while he pointed where to go.
My hobbling didn’t help him stay seated in my hand. I had lost my only way to stay upright by holding on to trees that go by. He looked at my ankle and shook his head again, pointing to it. “It’s alright, let’s just get to shelter.” The bells rang again not a minute later with his finger pointing up a tree.
It wasn’t just any treehouse; it was an old abandoned one with no roof. How this would protect us, I didn’t know. “That doesn’t look safe. Are you sure?” He pulled my finger again, begging me to climb. My ankle wasn’t going to survive this. In fact, it was going to make it worse. Trusting the flying not-fairy person, I took the long trek on the hammered planks on the tree.
The little person sat on my shoulder while I used my good leg and arms to make up for the lack of a leg I had. Once we reached the top, I was exhausted. Wet, cold, and most likely sick, I crawled on the front ledge of the treehouse. It was the same as I looked at it from below. No roof, the door hung to the side. The only thing we managed to do was get closer to the sky and feel the rain.
Little-not-fairy-man waved me over while walking through the door. He disappeared on the other side. My head perked up in astonishment. The little-not-fairy-man vanished in front of my eyes. I grumbled to myself because this place was getting weirder by the second.
Sticking my hand through the same door, my hand disappeared. Time to be like Alice. Crawling through the doorway with the very little strength I had left, I entered an alternate universe.
It wasn’t the old abandoned treehouse at all; it was a large room filled with light-colored wood floors, beautiful white furs, and wide-open windows. A chandelier hung in the middle of the room, and a large mattress lay on the floor. The bed is covered in beautiful linen, blankets, and furs. My mouth hung open only for the little-not-fairy man to close it while I still laid there on the floor. His bells rung a few times, pointing me to another door.
Hobbling over, it was a bathroom. I sighed, almost cried at the looks of a shower. A shower! Here! I didn’t care where the water came from and how this all worked; I was going to shower!
“Who lives here?” I asked out loud. The little-not-fairy-man had already used the sink to wash his body from the rain. He was as naked as the day he was born with no shame. I yipped, closing my eyes, and blurted out, sorry. He didn’t seem to care, hopping down from the counter. In wild hand movements, he asked to be put up on a table by the bed. Complying, I closed my eyes and felt his little feet stand on my palm. He hopped off my hand once I had risen to the correct height and jumped on the table next to the bed. A tiny little bed lay waiting for someone his size.
“Is this a safe house or something?” I asked again, curious. He shook his head and laid on the fluffy cushion closing his eyes.
Alright then? Don’t mind me, I guess?
Feeling incredibly awkward staring at the not-a-fairy guy, I went to the bathroom again to shower myself off. My bandages were all soiled and dirty. Removing them was disgusting; I wasn’t sure what type of salve Prince Charming had put on, but it stunk terribly. Wincing as the hot water scalded my wounds, I washed quickly, not knowing if whoever lived here would return soon.
The towels here were the softest I have ever felt sewn straight from the clouds. How could a land like this have something this elegant? Wrapping the fluffy white towel around me, I washed the tunic I took from Prince Charming. It would need to dry overnight so I could travel again tomorrow. I couldn’t stay here. This was someone’s home. I felt bad enough as it was staying here tonight, but we really had nowhere to go.
Prince Charming was so angry when I left; I just hoped I warned him in time before the vampires came. They wouldn’t stop just because I ran away. No one ever got away from them, especially their source of food. In the short time I knew Prince Charming, he was nice while it lasted, but it was the right thing to tell him. I couldn’t live a lie and put his own life in danger when I knew a herd of wild demons were after me.
Then again, it looked like Prince Charming was some sort of demon himself. I shivered, recalling the last look in his eyes; I crawled to the floor next to the bed. I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping in someone else’s bed that was not meant for visitors. I did grab a blanket and curled up on the furry rug.
Tomorrow, I will continue to head East to find some work. Maybe be a maid or a tutor to a low-income farm family, if they even had farms. If they even need tutors! I pulled my hair. My situation seemed hopeless.
I wouldn’t give up, however. I made it this far. I survived as a blood bag for six months and ran on little to no energy.
I sighed, snuggling into the blanket a bit more. Hearing the snores of the not-a-fairy-man, I fell into my own deep sleep while listening to the rain pounding the magical roof, only a few hours later hearing the mighty roar of an evil beast.