feathered hoofs

Soulmate AU

I’ve had this one on the back burner for multiple months now, figured I should go ahead and post it. Inspired by this post about sterek soulmarks.

Mark watching was a common hobby: sit in a public place, watch people walk by, casually check out the emotional health of their soulmates. Hundreds of thousands of books had been written to analyze what the most minescule changes of color might mean on the handprint that everyone wore on their bodies. Stiles mark watched for a slightly different reason than most: he wasn’t interpreting colors, he was looking for other people with weird mark mutations to match his own.

Ever since Stiles was born, he had had a bright yellow paw print stamped on the back of his hand.

As one might expect, Stiles had been subjected to a lot of teasing about his soulmark in school. Stiles didn’t care all that much. He got teased about a lot of things, and he had done his research on soulmarks early on. Just because his was a pawprint didn’t mean his soulmate was a dog, and Stiles certainly wasn’t the only person around with a weird soulmark. The medical community called it a mutation, and they estimated that around 3% of all people had a soulmark shape mutation. They had no official explanation as to why some people had feathers or hoof tracks or bite marks or paw prints or a whole host of other shapes rather than handprints. There were a lot of extra-medical theories out there that said a lot of outlandish things, such as having a paw print meant your soulmate was a werewolf, which was obviously ridiculous, however cool that might be. The theory Stiles bought into was that sometimes your soulmate’s totem animal appeared in your soulmark, rather than an imprint from their physical body.

Stiles had proudly presented this theory to his parents over the dinner table when he was eight, and he hadn’t found a better one since. Dad had put on a skeptical face and said that seemed like a pretty far fetched idea, but Mom had grinned and said she thought it was sweet. Stiles had beamed and stuck his tongue out at Dad.

Stiles had just turned ten when his soulmark started to seriously change colors for the first time. Until then, it had been remarkable in its consistency, as well as for its shape. It had taken brief, irregular detours into pale spring green (delight) or a muddy indigo color (typically sadness), but only for a couple of hours before it returned to its brilliant yellow (freedom, joy, contentment). Now, it flared light pink for hours at a time, almost every day. Stiles looked up the color as soon as it occurred. He was crushed to find it meant affection, romance, and compassion.

It was unusual to start a relationship with someone who wasn’t your soulmate, but it wasn’t taboo. Sometimes things didn’t work out between soulmates. Sometimes it took many years to meet your soulmate. Sometimes your soulmate died. Some people were born without a soulmark at all. Stiles knew his soulmate was older than him, since he’d had his mark since birth, but he’d always assumed it was a small difference, the way it usually was. But if his soulmate was already falling in love? Maybe they’d gotten tired of waiting for Stiles, and made the decision to stop looking for their soulmate.

Stiles’ parents did everything they could to comfort him, but as the weeks wore on, Stiles’ mark was pink more often, and the color was getting brighter - closer to real love.

Then came a week in which Stiles’ mark bounced between pink and sickly yellow-green  (anxiety), until it spent three hours fading to pitch black after school.

He watched his mark make the whole transition, sitting huddled in the corner of his room. His father found him there, staring at his mark (he already knew black was for guilt, depression, fear). He made noises of reassurance, told him most people went through black periods and made it through just fine. In fact, he said, his soulmate had probably just broken up with their significant other, based on his mark’s colors all week. And wasn’t that a good thing, after all?

Stiles wasn’t sure. The black on his hand made him sick to look at.

It took nearly two entire weeks for Stiles’ mark to change again, and then only to the deepest indigo (sorrow). Still, Stiles was relieved. Some marks never changed color again after hitting black. He ran to show his mother when she got home. She’d been at a funeral for a teenage girl who died in a car crash nearly two weeks ago, but she mustered up some enthusiasm for Stiles nevertheless. His dad was more excited when he got home, tossing Stiles into the air and making him shriek with laughter.

Stiles’ mark plunged black every so often, but never for more than a few hours. But it only rarely returned to simple, bright yellow after that. It was vibrant red for a long time, which meant passion, physicality, and competitiveness, and beyond that all of the reds were recovery colors. They were a less healthy type than blue colors at this point, the books told Stiles, but at least it was something. At least it wasn’t black.

After another couple of weeks, the mark began to tend towards yellow again, but a deeper, richer color than before. Books were in conflict with each other over what this color meant, so Stiles turned to the internet for his first real foray into Google. The latest thought was that deep yellow meant a lack of attachment, a mellow attitude, and/or satisfaction. Stiles guessed his soulmate was probably feeling the first more than the others, especially as the mark began to flirt with bouts of ugly green (recklessness), and the red and yellow started to mix into a dirty, orange-y brown (self-destructive behavior). A whole host of other colors began to flare up periodically, so many that Stiles almost stopped keeping track. Most lasted only minutes, some for a couple of hours, but never for longer than an afternoon. The books and the internet all agreed that was a bad sign (emotional instability, possibly mental illness).

Stiles worried about his soulmate in his free time, but he was starting to gain a measure of popularity at school for more than a weirdly shaped soulmark. Now he was the kid who knew what all the colors meant, and he got a lot of people asking for advice when their marks suddenly changed to bright purple in the middle of class (it meant spiritual awakening). Stiles was starting to hope for something equally ridiculous if only to get rid of the murky, dark colors that covered his hand all the time these days. He’d just about had it with the pitying glances.

It was around this same time that Stiles began to realize his dad had stopped rolling up his sleeves when he came home. His parents liked to sit together on the couch in the evening with their hands over each other’s soulmarks, Mom’s hand over Dad’s forearm, Dad’s resting on Mom’s thigh just above her knee. They still sat that way, but Dad’s sleeve was always covering the mark on his arm. It was beyond rude to ask someone why they were covering their soulmark, but Mom had been acting strange for a long time, now, and Stiles wanted to know what was so bad that it was apparently visible in the color of Dad’s soulmark.

Dad sighed heavily when Stiles blurted out the question the next Saturday, all pretense of cheerfulness falling away. Dad sat him down and explained that Mom was sick. Yes, it was serious. No, it wasn’t cancer, it was frontotemporal dementia. It might make Mom say weird things, or think weird things were happening. He should tell Dad if she started acting strange. His parents both loved him very much, even if Mom’s disease might make it hard for her to show.

Stiles was certain his Dad was holding back, so he did his own research. He quickly learned the most important things. His mom was dying. There was no cure. There was no way to slow the disease down. He knew then why Dad kept his mark covered. It must be losing color as Mom slowly faded away herself. He didn’t see Dad’s soulmark again for years and years after that.

Pink began to appear in Stiles’ mark again, but it was pale and fleeting, never staying more than a few minutes, and always preceded and followed by some of the dirtiest colors in the mark’s repertoire. An abusive relationship, Stiles concluded after a few days of research. He worried, of course, but he had a lot of things to worry about right then, and it soon faded to the background.

Mom declined rapidly after Stiles’ conversation with Dad. It only took three months until Stiles was standing next to Dad at a graveside, snow flurries sticking to his eyelashes. They had spent Christmas in the hospital only a few days ago. Stiles stared down at the brownish mix of swampy colors swirling slowly on the back of his hand, wondered if his soulmate was seeing something similar on their mark.

Adjusting to life without Mom was easier than it could have been (easier than it should have been) for Stiles. She hadn’t really been there for a long time. Dad had a harder time. He had started working more and more as Mom deteriorated, and he didn’t stop now. Stiles spent a lot of time at Scott’s so he wouldn’t be at home alone.

Then came an overcast, dreary day at the end of January. The weak sun had set, and Stiles was waiting for Dad to get home when Stiles’ mark suddenly fuzzed white. Stiles stared at it in horror. Everyone knew what white meant (a drugged state, severe disease, horrific trauma, impending death). White meant something so terrible that it caused the mark to lose focus entirely, every color and no color all at once.

Stiles had no idea what to do. He couldn’t lose his soulmate, too, not so soon after Mom. He stared at that blank wash of white until he heard Dad’s key rattle in the lock. He ran upstairs and skipped dinner; his dad didn’t need another problem right now. He sat in his room and stared at his mark until he couldn’t breathe. He had his first panic attack that night, although he didn’t know that then. He thought he was dying, too, just the next in a long line. He put on a glove once he could breathe again, because he couldn’t handle looking at it any more.

The mark was still white the next morning, so Stiles kept the glove on. He got some weird looks in the hallways, since he had always made a point of keeping his strange soulmark uncovered, but most people left him alone. Even Jackson only said, “finally decided to be ashamed about liking dogs?” which didn’t even count as an insult in Stiles’ book. Scott asked about it, of course, but Stiles said he didn’t want to talk about it, and he left it alone.

Dad asked two days later when he noticed. Stiles said his soulmate was obviously unhealthy, and he didn’t want to think about it, which had actually been the case for a long while before then. Dad just nodded and shut himself in the study with a bottle.

Stiles had two more panic attacks by himself before he finally had one at Scott’s house. Scott told his mother, who told Dad, who started sending Stiles to a therapist. It helped. He showed his therapist his soulmark, and she asked how it had turned white. Stiles told her, and she hummed for a minute and told him there were two likely situations. Since it had turned white all of a sudden, it probably wasn’t disease, and because it had been white for several days, it probably wasn’t drugs. She guessed it was probably a traumatic event in his soulmate’s life, or he had been injured and was comatose. Three days after that first session, a speck of black appeared at the center of the mark and bled outwards for a span of four days until it had covered up the whole mark. Stiles cried with relief when it first appeared; his soulmate wasn’t dying. They had gone through something terrible, but they were still alive. They had recovered from black before, and they could do it again.

He didn’t take the glove off because now it would rouse people’s curiosity again. Black was nearly as bad a white, in most people’s opinion, anyways, and Stiles didn’t want questions or sympathy. Lots of people kept their marks covered for that reason, according to Google. Dad took him to buy a glove specifically to cover soulmarks on a hand when he asked. It was lightweight and fingerless, and it made writing in class a lot easier.

He showed his now black mark to the therapist the next week, then rattled on about every color it had ever been. Her lips pursed when he told her about the first time it went black, and her face became more and more pinched as Stiles listed off every color his mark had flared afterwards, how after a while every color seemed to be overlaid with a sheen of brown (stress, distraction, obsession, holding desperately onto something), but the only thing she said when Stiles finally got to white was, “When you find your soulmate, I hope you’ll think about giving them my information.” She handed him a card. “It sounds like they could use somebody to talk to.” Stiles nodded and shoved the card into his pocket while the therapist redirected the conversation back to Mom.

After a few more weeks, Stiles’ mark faded to a cold gray (distrust, guardedness, self-protection, blocking something out). It made Stiles uncomfortable to look at, so he kept wearing his glove. Through every color change up until then the mark had at least been a warm color, and the icy gray seemed completely unnatural.

His therapist didn’t seem too happy when Stiles showed her his mark’s new color, but she smiled tightly and said she was glad it wasn’t black anymore. Stiles swung his legs as he talked for the rest of the visit and wondered what color the mark on his soulmate was, and what his therapist would think about it.

Stiles turned eleven. His mark changed color slightly, from icy gray to one with a more reddish hue. The meaning of the color was supposedly the same, but Stiles was glad for the switch back to the warm side of the color spectrum. Dad worked just as much as always, and in June it paid off with a promotion from Deputy to Beacon County Sheriff. They had a party for the first time in a long time.

Stiles’ therapist seemed concerned about his soulmate up until his last appointment with her in July, but there wasn’t anything Stiles could do about it. He didn’t like to think about it for exactly that reason. He wished that soulmarks didn’t appear until you had met your soulmate and could actually do something about their emotions.

The mark never varied; it stayed that same gray (trauma response, paranoia, avoidance, self-protective shutdown, and dissociation from emotions, surroundings, loved ones, and experiences) for over a year. Two weeks before Halloween of Stiles’ 6th grade year, it pulsed pastel sunset orange in the late afternoon. Stiles was so startled he fell right out of his desk chair while he tried to rip off his glove to see the new color. It faded back to gray after a few moments, but it spent the whole evening periodically blipping that same shade of pastel sunset. It meant longing, Stiles learned, and he hoped that whatever his soulmate wanted was important enough to shake them out of gray for good.

Apparently it was. Over the next three weeks, Stiles’ mark saturated to a deep, ashy red. The meaning wasn’t pretty (anger, aggression, hatred), but the color itself wasn’t too bad. It faded back to gray sometimes, and some days, some weeks, were black. An ugly, swampy yellow color cropped up sometimes (anxious, controlling, critical), which Stiles suspected had replaced his soulmate’s original, healthy, deep indigo for a response to sadness and disappointment. But his soulmate seemed to have finally stabilized, even if their colors weren’t the best.

Stiles kept on wearing a glove over his mark. The colors seemed very private by then, especially since they still weren’t happy colors. He shouldn’t broadcast his soulmate’s suffering and slow recovery. That was for Stiles alone.

The mark remained constant after that, and it was black less and less. By the time Stiles started high school, it was only black for a few days at the end of January, and it had even started to occasionally flicker towards the pale, warm green of delight. Those episodes lasted only seconds at a time, but Stiles was ecstatic. His soulmate was healing.

By the summer before sophomore year, Stiles’ mark had saturated to a deep, sunset orange (commitment, tenacity, loyalty), only occasionally fading back to gray. It still turned that ugly swampy color sometimes, but the instances of pale green were getting longer. Stiles stopped wearing his glove. He got a few comments and stares, but nothing too negative. The newer kids at school were shocked to find the rumors that Stiles’ soulmark was a pawprint were true, but Stiles was doing pretty well in the social strata these days, so he didn’t get too much trouble over it. Harley raised an eyebrow at the dramatic change in color from their elementary school days, and Scott asked why he stopped wearing the glove. Stiles just said his soulmate had been through a rough time, but he was over it now, so it was fine.

Then came a cold afternoon in early January when the mark seemed to freeze over. Stiles watched in horror as the mark faded to white over the course of a few minutes. He dug out his glove and covered up the gaping blankness on his hand as soon as he could move again. He could feel a panic attack coming on, so he closed his door and huddled in a corner until it passed, leaving him cold and trembling.

He had no idea what to do.

He peaked under the glove to make sure the mark hadn’t changed back while he was panicking. It was still white as bone. Stiles slapped the glove back down, squeezing his eyes shut and concentrating on keeping his breathing even. He sat in his room trying not to lose it until Dad got a call from the station, long after the sun had set.

Half a dead body in the Preserve. That should do nicely for a distraction.

Stiles got up and drove to Scott’s.

Part 2

Cryptid vocabulary/ Vocabulaire des bêtes mythiques

Les noms/nouns

le bec: beak , pl. becs

l´aile (f): wing , pl. ailes

la griffe: claw,  pl. griffes

la serre: bird claw , pl. serres

la pince: pincer (crab claw) , pl. pinces

la mâchoire: jaw/ jaws , pl. mâchoires

les bois/la ramure: antlers

la corne: horn,  pl. cornes

la queue: tail, pl. queues

la plume: feather , pl. plumes

le sabot: hoof (horses/ goats) , pl. sabots

la fourrure: fur

l´écaille (f): scale (snakes/ fish) ,  pl. écailles

le tentacule: tentacle ,  pl. tentacules

la nageoire: fin (fish) , pl. nageoires

l´aileron (m): shark fin , pl. ailerons

l´épine (f):  spike (hedgehog) , pl. épines

le museau: muzzle , pl. museaux

le groin: pig snout ,  pl. groins

la carapace : shell (tortoise shell) , pl. carapaces

la crinière: mane (a lion´s mane) , pl. crinières


Les adjectifs/ adjectives

ailé (m), ailée (f) : winged

cornu (m), cornue (f): horned

poilu (m), poilue (f) : furry, hairy

emplumé/ plumeux (m), plumeuse (f): feathery

écailleux (m), écailleuse (f): scaly


Les verbes/verbs

cracher: to hiss (cat)

siffler: to hiss (snake)

griffer: to scratch

battre: to flap (wings)


The photo is from “The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black” by E. B. Hudspeth (Vocabulary also inspired by it)

Message me if there are errors/ Messagez-moi s´il y a des erreurs

Foxhollow Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Claws and Teeth

           King Nicholas’s bedchamber was much bigger than the room Judith shared with her siblings.

Instead of making a circle it formed a perfect rectangle. Where the walls floor and ceiling of the burrow consisted of dirt, this consisted of gray brick.

At her left was a large four poster bed covered in deep reds, on her right was a large fireplace that already had a roaring inferno lighting up the room. Beside the fireplace was a small and comfy looking couch.

Across from Judith, on the other side of the room, were two large glass doors that led out into a miniature balcony where beyond you could see the fields, forests, and even a few lakes, of Foxhollow.

And in the middle of the room, atop a intricately detailed rug, sat a pile of presents, coronation gifts for the brand new king. And Judy belonged in that pile of objects.

Though she suspected she’d fit in soon enough.

           Still bound she was roughly pushed into the chamber by one of the antelope guards, causing her to trip and fall to her knees next to the gifts. The antelopes shut the door behind them.

Now all Judith had was her terrified, sporadic thoughts to keep her company. And they kept jumping from her home, to her mourning family that she would probably never see again, to the glass case above the fireplace that held an antique looking sword; to the king she had just met.

Nicholas Wilde was younger than she had thought, his russet fur had been well-groomed, the green eyes that had stared at her with confusion then indifference striking. He hadn’t looked like he would want to hurt her…but she shouldn’t let herself relax. It could have been a trick to make her let her guard down so she didn’t try to run when he went for her throat. Judith swallowed past the lump in her throat, her limbs shivering.

           Suddenly the chamber door opened, Judy jolted to attention, her heart hammering, expecting it to be the king.

But no, it was…a sheep?

An ewe, dressed in the blue dress of a castle servant and a bell around her neck, walking into the bedchamber like it was her own. When her bored eyes met Judith’s she halted in her steps, blinking a few times as if it took her a moment to register what she was seeing.

And then she spoke, “Those guards were telling the truth.”

“H-huh?” Judy stammered, wondering what the sheep was doing in the king’s chamber. She wondered if she too was a present to the fox.

“They told me the king had received a bunny for a coronation gift,” the sheep explained walking over, examining Judith. “I just didn’t believe them.”

“I’m afraid it’s true,” she tried to keep her voice from coming out as a terrified moan. “I had to become a gift to the king so my family wouldn’t become homeless.”

“Hm,” the sheep replied in a disinterested tone. She had a feather duster in hoof and was cleaning up the corners of the room, Judy watched her.

“Are you a maid?” she asked the ewe.

“Unfortunately,” the sheep groaned. “You can call me Bellwether.”

The rabbit nodded, “I’m Judith Hopps.”  

           Bellwether didn’t clean for long, eventually placing her feather duster on the floor and walking over to examine the array of gifts. “Well, Judith Hopps, I am afraid your luck has officially run out.”

Her words sent Judith’s ears falling to her shoulders, her eyes widening in fright. If her wrists weren’t bound she would rub them across her arms, she couldn’t help but imagine claws grazing across her flesh.

“What is he going to do with me?” Judith asked in a frightened whisper.

Her terror had Bellwether looking up from a wrapped gift box, giving the bunny a funny look. She shrugged, “I haven’t the faintest idea. But no need to be so horrified, we’re prey. Our luck runs out sooner or later.” She opened a box, despite that it belonged to King Nicholas, and pulled out a tapestry of a fox being crowned. Without further ado Bellwether ripped it in half with a satisfied sneer.

“We’re prey living in a predator world.”

Judith gasped in dismay, couldn’t the sheep be beheaded for destroying the king’s property. “Why did you do that?” she asked, breathless with fright.

“It’s my coping mechanism,” the sheep stated proudly. “It’s how I handle living under the clawed feet of the sharp-teethed.”

“But won’t he found out what you did?” Judith wondered. Or worse, would Nicholas assume his new gift did it?

“Not if I throw it in the fire,” Bellwether replied, doing exactly that. She wiped her hooves together in an accomplished manner, watching the beautifully designed tapestry burn. “He hasn’t looked through his presents. He won’t even know it ever existed.”

           The sheep turned to Judith, apparently finally noticing the rope binding the rabbit. “I imagine he wouldn’t be overly pleased when he finds you unbound.” She walked over and knelt beside the rabbit, starting to untie the ropes around her wrists, “Are you a runner? I won’t stop you, just curious.”
Judith wanted to say yes, that as soon as she was free she would run out of that unlocked door and not stop until she made it back to Bunnyburrow, to the loving arms of her family. But then she imagined King Nicholas hunting his new possession down, dragging her back, maybe even taking a few of her siblings along for the fun of it. And even if the king didn’t, even if he didn’t care if she ran away, she would have to worry about Gideon Grey. If she went home Gideon Grey would throw the Hopps family out into the cold.

           Judith shook her head, she would not be running anywhere.

Bellwether didn’t seem surprised by that, stepping back once Judith’s wrist were free. She turned back to the gifts while the bunny untied her ankles.

Judith stood up, her legs cramped and numb from the long carriage ride there, she looked around the room, despite herself she ended up admiring the room. It really was beautiful, fit for a king. Speaking of…

“When will King Nicholas return?” she asked the sheep who found a box of sweets, she placed them in the bosom of her dress, her wool hiding its rectangular shape.

“I don’t know,” Bellwether replied. “And I really couldn’t care less.” She looked back at Judith, “But you should probably stay in here all the same, until the fox decides what to do with you.”
“You’re leaving?” Judith asked in horror as she watched the sheep head to the door.

“I’m going to eat these sweets then go to bed,” Bellwether replied. She glanced over her shoulder, “I bring the fox his breakfast. I’ll see you in the morning.”

But I could be dead by then, Judith bit her tongue to keep from screaming the words. Watching, silent save for her pounding heart as Bellwether closed the door behind her. Judith was left with her blood-drenched fantasies once again.

.

           The coronation party was over, the guests bidding farewell as they headed to their own homes. Amelia and Maxmilian had gone off to bed but Nicholas was in no hurry to return to his bedchamber. Not when there was a tied up rabbit waiting for him.

           Instead he sat in the kitchen with Finnick, both enjoying mugs of ale while the red fox talked of his dilemma: “What am I suppose to do with a rabbit? Why did that farmer even bother bringing her?”

“He wants sucker up to you just like every other gift giver you’ve met tonight,” Finnick informed before taking a large swig of his drink.

“It’s been years and years since prey were given as coronation gifts,” Nicholas reminded his friend. “I can’t even recall what royalty did with them.”

“Lucky for us both I actually remember what I read,” Finnick replied, “Ready for a history lesson?”

“Wait,” Nick took a long sip of his ale. “Go on then.”

           “Most prey were used as personal helpers,” Finnick began. “They’d clean the royalty’s room; hold up the trail of their dresses and capes so they wouldn’t drag in the dirt, little things like that.”

“But others?” Nicholas inquired.

Finnick bore an uncomfortable expression, “Some were used as…to put it in a light-hearted term: scratching posts.”

Nicholas flinched at the words, “How’s that light-hearted?”

“Fine, some were abused, frequently, by the predators that owned them, for fun. And since they were above the law they didn’t get punished, even when the prey died. Do you remember reading about King Lionheart’s ancestor: Skar?”

Nicholas nodded, that lion had been nothing more than a tyrant and both Kingsland and it’s neighboring Regions had let out a breath of relief when he fell in battle.

“He had a flock of sheep he kept in a cell, whenever he was stressed he let his aggression out on them. He’d run his claws across their faces, scar them, and he didn’t bother to bath them so their blood was stained in their wool.”

Nicholas shuddered in revulsion, “I’m not going to do that to the rabbit.”

“No, you won’t,” Finnick replied. “And of course you won’t do the other thing prey were sometimes used for so there’s no point bringing it up.”

The fennec’s words had Nicholas’s brows narrowing in curiosity, “It can’t be as bad as using a prey as…a scratching post.”

“It isn’t its just…unusual, not something predators do often.”

“Finnick,” Nick grumbled in annoyance, “Don’t make me go to the castle’s library and hunt down a history book. I’ve already done my time in there.”

Finnick snickered, his eyes glinting with dry humor. “Fine, Your Highness. There were times, though rare, that prey became consorts to royalty.”

The words had Nicholas pricking his ears up, “Consorts?”

“Or a mistress…a harem if there was more than one…whatever word you prefer.”

“I don’t prefer any of them!” Nicholas replied, pressing his ears back against his skull and his tail bristling. “I’m not making that rabbit my mistress!”

“It’s not any of my business what you do with her,” Finnick replied, chuckling at his friend’s flustered expression. “I’m just telling you what kings before you have done.” He took another swig of his ale.

Nicholas guzzled an even larger amount.

.

           An hour or so later Nicholas finally found his way back to his chamber, more than a little sloshed. Stepped inside his mind was full of scratching posts and mistresses as he made it to his wardrobe, pulling off his coronation cape and shirt as he did so.

He had thrown his wardrobe open with much fanfare, humming a tune that had played at his party while he decided which of his evening wear he desired.

           “Ex-excuse me?”

The soft voice made Nicholas jump and whirl around; blinking to clear his fuzzy vision to see it was the bunny who had spoken. He had forgotten she was sent here.

She crawled out from under his couch, her lowered ears slightly red as if she was flustered, and her violet eyes big with fear.

“Were you hiding under my couch?” his voice was slightly slurred.

The rabbit shrunk into herself, “I didn’t know what else to do. I’m not sure were I’m supposed to sleep.”

Nicholas snorted rudely, “There’s a couch right there.” He pointed to said object before turning around and pulling out one of his night shirts, he threw it over his head without bothering to take off his breeches.

He moved toward his bed but the bunny’s voice stopped him, it was still quiet, frightened: “Sir?”

He glanced back at her, she still looked like she wanted to hide, but along with the fear in her eyes there was curiosity. “What are you going to do with me?”

Nick’s eyes narrowed at her words, he took a step forward, “What am I going to do with you?”

She flinched when he stepped forward, and it annoyed the fox, incredibly so. “What do you think I’m going to do with you?” he growled the question.

The rabbit just looked at him, her eyes brimming with fright and melancholy and it made Nick’s insides twist with discomfort and anger. He had done nothing to earn this rabbit’s fear…at least not yet.

He smiled his alcohol-addled mind sure to show off his sharp teeth as he did so, he walked over to the rabbit who stepped back as far as she could go, the back of the couch bringing her to a halt.

Nicholas knelt to be at eye level with the rabbit, “I actually asked the same question to a friend of mine. What did a king do when given a prey as a tribute?”

She slammed her eyes shut as Nicholas leaned closer, his breath rustling her whiskers. “I could make you my own little servant. Though as a new king odds are a stress reliever would be more useful.” His eyes narrowed, becoming green slits, “There are two kinds of ways I could do this.” He lifted a claw and traced it along her jaw line, making the rabbit let out a small squeak of fright. “I could sharpen my claws on your bones. I bet that’s what you expect; I bet you think I’m going to eat you.”

The rabbit forced her eyes open to meet his gaze, “A-aren’t you?” she asked softly, breathlessly.

“Maybe,” his claw lifted her chin up and he leaned even closer, his nose bumping against hers. “But I was told prey were sometimes taken as consorts as well.”
The bunny’s eyes bulged and Nicholas could no longer keep up the façade. He pulled away, bursting into drunken laughter. “Too bad for me,” he said between bursts of mirth, “That not only do you smell like dirt you’re also one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen.” He stood up and tripped over to his bed, shaking his head as he continued to chuckle.

           Nicholas threw one of his many pillows to the rabbit, the lacy mound smacking her stunned face. Still grinned Nicholas crawled under his covers, curling into himself. In a matter of seconds his conscious slipped away, leaving behind a rattling, drunken, snore.

.

           The smell of hot food roused Judith, her eyes blinking open and her stomach grumbling.

It was amazing she got any sleep last night, after the fox’s threats, she was only half sure he was only joking. Not wanting to sleep on the cold stone floor she had dared to lie on the bed, resting her head on the pillow the fox had thrown at her.

The rest of the night was spent listening to the snores of the fox and his words running over and over through her brain until finally, exhaustion had her nodding off.

           But now she sat up, the couch was much comfier than the floor she slept in at the burrows, and saw Bellwether walk in, carrying a tray of steaming bread, cheese, and a handful of blueberries, along with a drink that carried the scent of honey.

Bellwether smirked at Judith before walking toward Nicholas’s bed, placing the tray on his bedside table. “Your Highness,” she spoke loudly, “Your breakfast.”

Nicholas had flinched at the sheep’s volume. “I hear you, Bellwether. What’s my morning schedule?”

“Nothing yet, Your Highness,” Bellwether replied.

“Then I’m going to spend the morning sleeping off this hangover,” Nick burrowed further into his pillows.

“As you wish,” Dawn said in an uncaring tone, heading toward the door.

“Bellwether,” Nicholas’s voice halted her. “Take the rabbit with you.”

Judith’s ears popped up in surprise, she looked to the sheep who seemed just as surprised. “And do what with her?” Bellwether asked.

Nicholas lifted his paw and waved it in an uncaring fashion, “Feed her, bath her, put her in a dress with less patches, make her help you with her chores, I don’t care, just get her out of here. I can’t sleep with her fear stinking up my room.”

Judith’s ears flushed but she didn’t hesitate to follow Bellwether out of the room, letting out a sigh of relief when they walked out into the hallway.

           “He’s crazy,” Judith whispered in fright as Bellwether shut the chamber door. She didn’t look surprised by the rabbit’s words as she led her down the hall. “What did he do?”

“He-he threatened to eat me,” Judith moaned in fright, “Or m-make me his mistress!”

Bellwether threw her head back and laughed, “Oh I wouldn’t take those words to heart. Nicholas obviously had a keg or two before going to sleep.”

Judith did recall the smell of ale on his breath, “So…he’s usually kinder?”

“Oh no, he’s still a complete ass. I’m partly convinced his mother had an affair with a mule. But he doesn’t make the habit of ‘eating’ prey if you understand me.”

Judith did and the words made her ears flush red once again.

           “So,” Bellwether changed the subject, “Is there anything specific you want to do?”

“I really need to relieve myself,” Judith admitted, pressing her legs together.

.

           After Judith handled that pressing matter she told the sheep she was also starving, having not even eaten dinner before she was taken from her home. Bellwether informed her she was about to attend breakfast too and led the rabbit to the kitchens.

Judith had to hold back a moan as the scent of doughy bread and steaming vegetables filled her nostrils, though she was less pleased to see that some of the kitchen staff was predators.

Bellwether and Judith got plates that had slices of bread and cabbage soup, Judith unable to help snatching a few baby carrots. They sat at an empty table, away from the other servants enjoying their breakfast. Judith took a few moments to scarf down the bread and carrots before starting a conversation with Bellwether.

“Would it be okay if I helped you with your chores?” she asked the sheep. “I really don’t want to go back to that room.”

Bellwether smirked at her pitiful tone, “I won’t say no to an offer of help, it’ll get my job done quicker. But first we are going to get you bathed and in a dress that fits the castle.”

           “Who’s your friend, Bellwether?” a new friendly voice spoke up.

Judith looked up and nearly jumped out of her seat to see a chubby cheetah standing by their table, smiling widely all his sharp teeth on display.

Bellwether nodded to the cheetah who was adorned in the outfit of a baker, “Clawhauser, this is Judith. She’s the king’s new…guest.”

What an amusing term to use but she supposed until Nicholas decided what to do with her there was no other way to put it besides words like ‘gift’ or ‘tribute’.

“Hello there,” Clawhauser friendly smile grew, “I heard the king got a bunny but I didn’t think you’d be so adorable.”

Judy cringed, never liking that term of endearment from animals that weren’t rabbits. It made her feel more inferior than usual. But if she was being fair she doubted that was the cheetah’s intent.

So she forced a polite smile on her lips, “A pleasure to meet you.”

.

           It took Judith and Bellwether longer than expected to leave the kitchen, after finishing their breakfast Clawhauser, who had announced himself as the castle’s head baker, refused to let them leave. He had to show them his latest sweets, introduce Judith to the other cooks, and made the rabbit promise to come visit him.

By the time she followed the sheep out of the kitchen Judith was pretty positive she had involuntarily made a friend out of a predator.

           Bellwether led the bunny downstairs to the bath area, not wanting to fetch the necessary buckets of hot water to fill one of the servants’ tubs she simply handed Judith a wet rag for her to wash of the dirt caked in her fur. While Judith did that the sheep fetched an old servant’s dress that was purple.

“May as well look nice while slaving away to spoiled predators,” the sheep stated, throwing the dress to Judith who swiped to catch it before it hit the ground. Unlike her other dress this one was in better condition, no patches or dirt stains could be seen. Slipping it over her head she found it draped over her shoulders an inch and it completely covered her feet. She held up the skirts so she wouldn’t flinch as she followed Bellwether to the laundry room.

“We’re fetching the clothes for the castle’s apothecary,” Bellwether told her, picking up a basket and indicating to Judith to grab the one beside it.

Arms full of fresh smelling linen she followed Bellwether up one of the towers of the castle, she had met an apothecary in town but she had heard the Wilde family had a personal one who intended to the royal family, nobles, and their servants.

           The room was full of medicines, the air thick with herbs. Judith swallowed when she saw the apothecary, sitting at a desk and writing furiously. It was a jaguar.

“Good morning, Manchas,” Bellwether greeted politely, placing the basket of laundry by the bed, Judith did the same. “Here is your clothes.”

“Thank you,” the jaguar said distractedly, still scribbling. The two females made their way toward the door when Manchas shot his head up, nose twitching; he turned to look a them. Judith started when she saw that one of his eyes was sealed shut by three nasty look claw marks. His one working eye widened in surprise, “So the rumors were true. King Nicholas was given a rabbit as tribute.”

Judith tried for a polite curtsy, “Pleased to m-meet you, sir. My name is Judith.”

Manchas looked her up and down before turning back to his parchment, “Some mammals will do anything to please royalty.” With that final mutter he went back to work and Bellwether pulled Judith out of the room.

           The rest of the day was spent similar to that, Judith helped Bellwether with her chores whilst being introduced to random servants of the castle, thankfully not all of them were predators. Though she had to admit the prey to leave the biggest impact were the gardeners known as Bucky and Prong. One could hear their fervent arguments from across the castle.

Judith spotted Nicholas only once; they passed an open door that looked like a meeting room, the fox pouring over a large piece of parchment, muttering something to a lynx who wore the clothes of a merchant. A guard spotted her peeping and closed the door with a disgusted snort. Though the rabbit had no qualms with staying away from the fox, even if last night had just been a joke it didn’t ease her fears of living with him. A cruel trickster would be no less likable than a bloodthirsty or lecherous, beast.

           But the sun went behind the trees and with it Judith’s luck.

“Thank you for all your help,” Bellwether told the rabbit as they stopped before the king’s bedchamber. “I will see you tomorrow.”

“Can’t I stay in your room tonight?” Judith begged, not wanting to go back into that dreadful room.

The sheep smirked, “I live in the servants quarters, trust me, it’s crowded enough as it is. You wouldn’t be comfortable.”

Bellwether was wrong; a crowded place was probably the one thing that could ease her nerves as she had slept in cramped rooms since the day she was born. But the sheep kept talking before Judith could say such. “Besides, Nicholas didn’t say you could move to the servants’ quarters. Best to stay here until he decides where to keep you… I like you Judith, but I’m not going to risk the new king’s anger for you.” With those final words she opened the door and urged the rabbit in, closing the door behind her.

           The first thing Judith noticed was that the room was empty, her bones sagged in relief. The second thing she noticed was a new piece of furniture. Curious she stepped toward where it stood by the fireplace, her jaw going slack.

It was a bed fit for a rabbit.

Sorry for only one chapter this time guys, I’ve been on a St. Zoo roll.

SoMa Week Day 4: Dragons

Two prompts in one week, yesssss. I had to try this one. It’s… a very different approach/style than I normally do, but I decided to give it a whirl. Also only briefly edited, so. Hope you enjoy!

(And I have like 60 things to read that I probably won’t realistically get to until the weekend but DARN IT I WILL DO MY BEST and I love all of you for contributing such awesome work, as always!)


In a glade of green ribboned by a snow-cold stream, a runaway dragon met a headstrong kirin.

The dragon’s name was Soul, and he was sulky and proud, hiding a dark pain beneath scales that shone white and eyes that glowed red. His clan looked through him as though his hide were made of crystal, so he took to the skies as a pup and didn’t look back. Still, he was lonely.

The kirin was called Maka, and she was all fawn fur, emerald-edged scale, sharp horn, and sharper wit. Her dam left her very young, and her sire loved her dearly, but could not tame his wandering eye. Their betrayal split a furrow in her heart that she filled by sparring against her foster siblings and learning as much and as often as she could.

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