SPEAKING OF MONSTER GIRLS i just rediscovered a thing i started last year and then forgot about
The grand escape from certain doom in a foreign land was going very well until xe fell off a cliff.
To be fair, it was not an obvious cliff. Nor was it a large cliff. It barely even qualified as a cliff. A ledge. A short drop. It was more of a slide than a fall, even. But there was a lot of shrieking, and skirts going in all directions, and legs going in two directions. It was almost as alarming to watch as it was to experience.
Lily Rose of the House of the Fifth Blue Star landed safely in rotting leaves and dirt. It felt a bit anticlimactic. With the amount of fuss xe’d made in falling, xe’d expected at least one broken ankle. Or two sprained ones. Either or. Instead xe was fine, which made all the screaming quite silly in retrospect. Dainty cloven hooves speared through leaves to find solid ground to stand on, rising up on spindly legs. Xe tried to straighten out xyr skirts, but only managed to fix about half of them. There were a lot of skirts. Xe resembled a layer cake made by someone with more enthusiasm than skill.
A layer cake which had then been thrown off a cliff. Which, to be fair: one might, if one was possessed both in close proximity. For curiosity’s sake, if nothing else.
Leaves had tangled in the ribbons wrapped around xyr antlers, and xe huffed as xe tried to fix them. Just because xe was mounting a grand escape from certain doom didn’t mean xe had to look like a ragamuffin while doing it.
All four hands froze at the sound of an ominous hiss. In xyr limited experience, most hissing was ominous. Xe could not recall having ever heard a hiss that boded well. Xe blinked, switching xyr optic sensors into night-mode to better see what lurked in the shadows of the trees.
Xe shrieked again.
Xe then clapped two hands over xyr mouth, because shrieking was both unproductive and rude.
She slid out from beneath the trees, five times more tail than torso and all of it much larger than Rose. She was pale opalescent scales and shimmering golden horns, black eyes and a blood-red mouth. Of her two arms, only one was organic; the other was gold, white light at the seams. Both hands had too many fingers, too many joints, too long, too sharp. Her open mouth revealed glinting fangs as she made more hissing sounds.
Rose squeaked, xyr eyes switching back to a setting less blinding. Then, because xe was at a loss for what to do, xe curtsied. Xe had a vague hope that it would cause enough confusion to buy xem some time. From what, xe did not know.
She scratched her chin, cocking her head to the side. Then she reached into the pocket of her doublet, and offered Rose a small sliver of gold on the tip of one finger.
“Oh!” Rose blinked in surprise. Xe had never seen a Shethi before; xe had not anticipated the size differences. Or the scales. “Yes, I suppose that would help, wouldn’t it?” Xe took careful steps closer, two hands holding xyr skirts up enough that xe wouldn’t step on them. Accepting the gift, xe set it on xyr tongue to press it to the roof of xyr mouth. It hummed, and the two of them waited in awkward silence for the data transfer to complete.
She reached out, and plucked a leaf from Rose’s antlers. Xyr ears twitched reflexively, and xe could feel xyr nose turn purple. She cocked her head to the side again, watching. Rose tried not to stare at her horns.
They were much bigger than xyrs.
Xe sighed in relief when the humming stopped, pulling the chip out of xyr mouth to tuck it into a small pocket. “Is this better?” xe transmitted hopefully.
“Much,” the stranger confirmed. “Why are you in my garden?”
Rose blinked again. Xe looked around them, at the little clearing in the woods. They were surrounded by nothing but dead trees, like a little graveyard amidst the towering red trunks. Everything smelled of rot and mold. Xyr nose twitched.
“This is a garden?” xe asked.
She reached for Rose again, and this time xe recoiled, because her hand was going for xyr bodice. She plucked a small mushroom from where it had been trapped in the laces, and held it up so xe could see. Xe covered xyr nose, as if that would make the blushing less obvious. “Yes,” she said simply.
“Oh.” Xe sagged. “It… was an accident.”
She rolled the fingers of her golden hand thoughfully, the joints all chiming as she did so. “I am Yana,” she said. “And you are?”
Again, Rose curtsied. “Lily Rose of the House of the Fifth Blue Star,” xe introduced.
“Ah.” Her face became distant as she processed this information. “You’re the gift from Koret.” It wasn’t a question. “Why are you here?”
“Diplomacy?” xe suggested.
“Not here,” she said, making a wide gesture with her hands. She pointed to the ground beneath them. “Here. You’re supposed to be at the palace.”
Rose fidgeted. “Can you keep a secret?”
“I can,” she said with an inclination of her head.
“I ran away,” xe said.
Yana scratched her chin again. “Between you and me,” she said, “I don’t think that will be a secret for very long.”
“Well, no,” xe agreed. “The secret is that I’m here.” Rose pointed to the ground beneath them. “I haven’t made it very far, you see, and if I could at least make it a little further it would be less embarrassing.”
“I see.” She steepled her fingers. “Your plan was to live in the woods?”
Xe scuffed her hooves in the dirt. “For a while,” xe said.
“And what were you going to eat?”
“Small rodents and large insects?” xe suggested.
“I see,” she said again, in a manner that did not inspire confidence. “You find this preferable to marriage?”
“Am I supposed to get married?” Rose asked. “I wasn’t sure.”
Yana frowned. “Did no one tell you?”
“I read the treaty,” xe said, “but we had some trouble translating a few things.”
“What did you think you were signing?”
“The point of confusion was,” xe explained, “I was either supposed to marry a King, or be eaten by a dragon.”
Yana shut her eyes, golden fingers draped over her face. “Those are certainly… concepts.” She dropped her hand. “Why did no one ask for clarification?”
“Then we would have to admit we needed clarification,” xe explained. “We didn’t want the Shethi to think we were stupid.”
“I see.” Yana had, Rose realized, been moving her tail while they spoke. It did not quite circle xem, but it came close. Xe stamped an anxious hoof. “So you agreed to come here not knowing if you were meant to be married or eaten?”
“In fairness,” xe said, “there was only a fifty percent chance I would have to marry a King.”