[Right, so. P sure I’m officially obsessed lmao. Anyways here’s the third and probably final part of the tale of The One With Many Names, also known as My Blatant Self Insert. Hope it doesn’t break canon too much, please enjoy, and sorry for spamming! (also i still have No Idea What I Am Doing ahahahaha.)]
Eventually, as everyone knew ce would be, The One With Many Names was Taken.
Spectator, the junior who watched people and noticed patterns, sharp-eyed behind the shadows of their hoodie, collected their bet. They placed a pittance of their winnings on Many-Names coming back.
It was mostly out of pity.
Your memories are doing The Thing again, and you cannot for the life of you remember the sequence of events that led to place you in the Elsewhere. But you know you are without iron, and your backpack is missing, and you should be terrified. Except They took you Elsewhere early in the morning, when you were stumbling your way to your eight am class, and you are far too tired to really care.
(You still have your dog tag necklace. Putting it on is too deeply ingrained into your morning ritual for you to forget it. This is a small comfort.)
You stare up and around at the Elsewhere despite knowing that you shouldn’t. Your eyes settle on something with too-sharp teeth like needles, shades of blue like ice and ocean, vaguely humanoid in shape but with proportions defying normal physics. You close your eyes and take a shuddering breath. Your eyes hurt. It’s too fuckin’ early for this. You consider the questions you could ask, from the informative (‘why have you taken me’) to the Actually Helpful.
You go for the latter.
“If I tell you a story,” you say slowly, carefully, “will that work as payment for my freedom?”
The fae hisses, and you flinch, wishing that you had your notebook with you, or at least another hour of sleep on your side. “You presume?”
“I, I, I have heard your–the, the stories humans tell of you,” you say, stumbling over your words, “the stories the students tell of you. They say you will free us if we bargain.”
“And you come,” the fae says contemptuously, “and bargain a mere bedtime tale? Stories have power, child, but I have heard so many before. You would have to pay something more than a paltry rendition of a well-worn path to return to your realm.”
“If you don’t want my stories,” you say in return, “then why?”
You blink, and the shades-of-blue creature is upon you, cupping your chin with icicle fingers. “You shift,” it says, “You are not fixed. You have a touch of us in you. Thus, you are ours.”
You squeak, and cower, and cover your eyes. You take deep breaths until the frostbite of the creature’s fingers fades. Then–your fear carrying you beyond terror and out the other side, knowing you are dead or worse than anyways, you speak.
“If you have not taken me for my stories,” you say, and pause, and swallow hard, “th-then y-you, you don’t–” You stop. Collect yourself. Attempt to speak with confidence. “You do not know of my skill. I would not tell you a mere bedtime story. It may follow a similar path as others, true, but…”
The fae tilts what passes for its head at an unnatural angle. You breathe in deep and make your bargain. “A story. A tale. If it pleases you–if it pleases an audience, mayhaps–I am to be released. Sent back to my realm. If not…” You swallow hard, knowing your next words would seal your fate. You are not willing to speak them. You hope the fae will speak for you.
It does not, of course. You close your eyes and damn yourself. “If not, I accept the fae–the touch of You I have inside me.” ‘Do with me what you will’ is not said, but you both know They will if you lose.
“Deal,” the fae says delightedly, “Begin telling.”
“If it pleases an audience,” you repeat. Perhaps a variety of opinions would be what damns you, but relying on the tastes of a single fae…if the story you have in mind displeases it, then you are lost. Better to have a security net of varying opinions.
The fae narrows eyes dark as ocean abyss and hisses. You flinch. “An audience,” you repeat anyways, “I said, if it pleases an audience.”
“You said mayhaps.”
“My stories are my talent,” you say, “if this is the last one I tell, I want it to be remembered.”
Amazingly, this works. You get your audience.
You stand in front of the fraction of a Court, wishing you could write or type the words rather than say them. You are afraid.
But you know your talents. You know your stories, you know your characters, and it is not the first time you have told this tale. If all else fails, you have the phrase ‘but there is always more to the story,’ a gimmick you can pull out to expand and continue if the fae do not like it quite as much.
If you are honest with yourself, you will probably pull out that “gimmick” anyways. You love your stories and characters too much to not expand on them. You close your eyes.
You gather your thoughts. You take a deep breath.
“This,” you begin, “is the story of Phoenix Song.”
It is nearly a year before Many-Names stumbles back into the normal world. Ce comes back somewhat confused and half-glowing, as though some internal light has given cer an aura of confidence. For all that, the glow is entirely human and largely metaphorical. Cer changling leaves as ce moves back into cer dorm, all smiles and laughter. The kind of smiles and laughter that covers deep, deep relief.
People ask how. Ce replies with a grin. “They love a good story, didn’t you know?”
Spectator attempts to get a fuller explanation, because for all their perceptiveness this has still totally blindsided them. Many-Names explains about the world ce’d spent five years in the making.
“I picked the one that I thought would appeal the most to Them,” ce explains. “Well, that and I actually had it figured out to the end.” Ce says maybe ce’ll show you cer old notes. “If they still exist, anyways,” ce adds thoughtfully, “I think I might have given the story to the F–Fair Folk. It’s a worthy trade.”
Many-Names leaves out drawings with cer ice cream and milk now. Sketches, colored with pencils, sharpie-lined, printed digital art in full color and shading. All labeled with names. They are always gone in the morning. Spectator thinks, to their great disbelief, that Many-Names has managed to create a fandom.
This is bad for cer. This is very very bad.
“They aren’t going to let you leave, you know,” they tell cer, “Not if you keep giving them content.”
Many-Names pauses in the middle of a sketch. “Well,” ce says eventually, “there’s always the internet.”
“You’re not getting it,” Spectator decides, and tells cer, “You can’t leave, Many-Names. Can’t go home. Can’t see your mom. Can’t go out and get another job. You’ll have to stay. Become a teacher, or whatever. You have to stop talking to Them.”
Many-Names considers this. “I can’t just cut off,” ce tells them, “That would be rude. I mean, they’ll forget soon enough. Or I’ll get tired of drawing stuff. But as long as we’re both interested, well, they get art, and I get these things.”
“These things,” Spectator repeats. Many-Names flicks a hand at cer windowsill. There is a bright red feather that almost glows, an image of a hammer, a glass crafted phoenix that seems to burn internally, a music box, and a crude, human-like figure.
“It’s like fanart,” ce says in a delighted tone, and Spectator gives up. They’re graduating this year, they don’t have time to pull a delusional freshman out of cer dealings with the Gentry. Ce seems happy, anyways.
And life in Elsewhere University carries on.