They were a being with galaxies in their hair and constellations on their cheeks. Their five eyes shone, and not with happiness; they glowed, blazing too bright to look at until they closed their second eyelids. They smiled often, but never with their teeth, and when they spoke with their mouth (a rare occasion) you could swear the inside was less mouth and more void. People called them Tzse; you did too, but in the private recesses of your mind you called them magnificent. You studied them, and they would have studied you if they weren’t so far above it all. You look at them and they look through you.
You were lovestruck.
Being in love with one of the Fair Folk almost always ended terribly, you knew; horror stories are whispered on moonless nights about the girl who had offered her beloved a kiss, and when she pulled back her mouth was gone. A boy who fell in love with a changeling and, upon realizing that that was what they were, went to great and terrible lengths to make sure they would stay. You don’t know how truthful these stories are, but you do know that on nights lit by a full moon, you can still hear the calls of spirits long gone, calling to loves long lost.
This… this would be different. You were positive.
Positive is a dangerous thing to be at Elsewhere. In a place where reality isn’t quite real, you can’t be positive about anything. But you were, and maybe that was your first mistake.
You need to approach them. You need to find a way to do that so you would not be merely acknowledged by them, but get them to be as interested in you as you are with them. You need to ask them for a favor. Not just any favor would do, though. You need something unique, something that would draw attention.
You know what to ask.
Your heart is beating out the rhythm of your anxiety and you hands are fluttering as you approach them. Nobody is hanging around them, as per usual. Usually the only people that approach them are foolish people that study the Forbidden Major, desperate for a little more insight, a little more of an edge in their classes. Most of them disappeared within the day. The unlucky few that didn’t were never the same, with empty eyes and emptier thoughts.
This would be different, you think again.
Tzse looks at you as you approached them, a sudden twist of their head. Their second eyelids are closed, thankfully, but they are still a bit too bright to look directly at. You try to anyway, eyes watering, teeth clenched. This was the first time they’ve looked at you. You need to make a good first impression, or else all of your future interactions would be sour with embarrassment. There will be future interactions.
A beat of silence. You realize they are waiting for you to speak, their bright gaze telling you to take your time, not because they are gracious or kind, but because time means nothing to a being like them. You swallow thickly before speaking up.
“I have come to request a boon,” you say, voice shaking only slightly.
Tzse’s head tilts ever so slightly to the left, their fifth eye’s pupil contracting into a thin line. After another beat of silence, you take that as cue to speak more.
“I have- I have the essence of a creature long dead, trapped inside a tomb made of stone” You take the object out; a fist sized rock, relatively flat and ovular. Inside was the skull of a mouse; it was a fossil. You may not major in archeology, but fossils had always intrigued you. This one in particular was something of a good luck charm for you. “It holds sentimental value and 14 years of memories, and was my protection for the longest time.”
That piques their interest. Their eyes flash a bit brighter for only a moment, and the stardust in their hair flurries a bit. From weeks and weeks of watching them make deals with other students, unmake the existence of some of them, you know their tells, their warning signs, their signals. You are prepared.
Words suddenly appear in your mind, explosive and ancient. It’s not violent, or unwelcome. They had always been there, you think, even though you know they hadn’t. And for what are you asking in return, human-of-flesh-and-bone?
You take a shaky breath.
“I ask for the power to hold the stars.”
Negotiating was tricky. Negotiating is always tricky, but that trickiness is amplified when you are talking to one you have fallen for. You explain terms and conditions, and they respond with pictures and colors and requests. You reach an agreement.
Your stone-of-memories and your tome-of-life. Your fossil and biology textbook. You make sure to clarify that before sealing the deal; tricky wording can and will lead to an unfortunate end when it comes to the Fair Folk. Their expression doesn’t change and they don’t say a word, but you feel a vague sense of affirmation, so you take that as a yes.
You hesitate for a moment; different Gentry have different ways of ending negotiations, and you aren’t entirely sure what this ones way of doing so was. You didn’t have to wait long; they float closer to you and hold out a gloved hand. A color unknown to human sight appears in your mind; give it to them. You hand over the fossil and book with shaking hands, and they hold them gingerly before placing them in an ancient looking leather rucksack. You stand there, waiting patiently (as if you could be doing anything else), for your side of the deal to be completed.
You don’t have to wait long.
They set their bag down softly. You can hear the rattling of skulls and rocks and shuffling of paper inside, and distantly you wonder what they have in there. Your thoughts don’t stay distant for long, however; as they float back to you, you can hear the blood in your veins and the music of your bones. They are right in front of you, and you realize that their body is the history of a galaxy, stars dying and being born, nebulae and black holes and endless impossibilities.
A starry hand is on your shoulder, cold and hot and somehow solid. Your attention is drawn to the eye in the middle of the other four, round and bright and blazing. Their other hand is on the other shoulder, and they’re so tall, a solid foot above you, probably, how did you not notice before-
Their nebulaeic lips are on your forehead, and whispers are planted in your mind. Your nervous system, your blood, your bones and organs and skin; they’re changing. Fire is planted in your lungs and ice in your liver. Your heart stops beating for a moment, and when it starts again the whispers tell you that your veins run silver with mercury and magic. The pain is excruciating, you wonder how this being, how any being could have this power at their disposal. You’re being torn apart, mere humans shouldn’t be exposed to this kind of magic, nobody should be exposed to this kind of magic-
And suddenly, it’s over. They’re gone, like they were never here at all. Maybe they weren’t. Reality is a fickle thing in Elsewhere, after all.
The position of the sun (so, so dim, compared to the stars in Tzse’s eyes) tells you it’s almost time to go inside. Don’t stay out after dark, your roommate advised your first night at Elsewhere. His eyes were hollow and his voice was too, sending a chill down to your soul. You’ve heeded his advice, especially after the first time someone you knew disappeared.
You grab your backpack with your new hands, and head to your dorms with your new legs. Your new mind is keeping you up with your new thoughts as you lay down in your old bed, and your new heart is beating too, too slow. You stay up for hours, sleep not coming as easy as you wished. You wonder if you will ever sleep easily again.
Outside your window, five glowing eyes watch you. Outside your window, five glowing eyes study you. Outside your window, Tzse is floating, and a star on their left shoulder dies.
i was considering waiting until i was Totally Finished to submit this but my plan for this goes on for… a while… so i jst submitted th first part now and hopefully ill get Motivated to quickly continue!! if anything i write goes against canon pleasE tell me because i don’t want to mess up in future parts of this!!