A/N: Dangit. I let this one sit too long in my folders; initially I was sort of proud of it, but now I'm kind of hesitant to let anyone read it. x.x M'sorry.
This is a side-story for my main story, Spontaneity. If you haven't read it, then this story will probably confuse the bejeebus outta you. Just in case, here's a bit of a summary: Edan is the youngest of six princes of a small, backwater country. Damar is his friend, who later becomes his nursemaid/guardian. Edan is crazy. Damar is cute. Edan believes chickens are evil creatures secretly trying to take over the world. Damar .. is a very patient guy. Tada! :3
This story takes place before Spontaneity is set, so it's pre-Shavara, and it is still Edan narrated. Basically, this takes place some time before Damar becomes Edan's guardian (which is about a year before Spontaneity is set). Damar's previous profession is hinted at a bit, but I won't be flat out saying what it is until later in Spontaneity.
Warnings, yeah. There's no real shounen ai in this, so it's sort of … well, whatever you want to call the relationship Damar and Edan have. :) And there is craziness and swearing. And chicken-bashing. So, if that bores you, maybe this isn't your cup o' cocoa.
Basically, just a bit of humor-fluff for the holidays addressing a topic some of you might have been curious about.
I'd like to dedicate this to Mei, Mel-ru, and Hel. Much love and gratitude to you guys for your support and tolerance. I wish I could give you more. -luff-
A l e k t o r o p h o b i a
/ Fear of Chickens /
I hummed happily to myself as I walked down the dirt path, kicking idly at the pebbles underfoot in hopes of striking any squirrels that might be spying on me. I was fairly sure my mother's new dress had wiped out most of the squirrels in a four mile radius, but there might have been one or two left over to seek revenge. You can't be too careful with those type of things.
I was supposed to be heading to my music lessons, but there was no way I was gonna waste my time with that when I had something much better to do.
… although, last time, I did succeed in creating a high-pitched enough note to shatter the windows in the room. I managed to escape the room and shatter four more windows before I was caught. They took my pipe thing away, and now I have a thing with strings. I told them that it didn't matter—I would figure out some way to inflict massive levels of annoyance with this instrument as well.
Anyway, none of that mattered now. I had far more important and exciting business to attend to: Dama was back! I hadn't wanted him to go, but I hadn't wanted to get him in trouble either, so I let him. I was starting to go crazy cooped up with old bitch Hilma, my nursemaid. I've come to the conclusion that she is the Devil's mother-in-law. You can't get much more evil than that.
Speaking of witch .. er, which, she had been far too easy to escape today. There wasn't any challenge to it any more, and it isn't any fun without that. We had been heading over to the music room, and the hag was lecturing me about being disrespectful and .. oh, there was something about platypus, too, but I don't really know what. It all kind of sounded like "… nag bitch nag bitch platypus nag bitch nag …" to me. I don't even know what a platypus is. A kitchen utensil? A new hairstyle? Regardless, she was so absorbed in her nagging and discussion of obscure kitchen implements and/or fashion tips that it was really quite easy to duck into the kitchens while a group of servants passed us by.
Damar says it's so easy for me to escape in crowds because I'm so .. s… sh ... the 's' word. He said that; I threatened to light his straw bed on fire while he slept. The argument was settled. I won.
So, I slipped through the crowded kitchens and out through the back entrance where they throw scraps out to the hogs there. Man, pigs are cool. They're like chubby horses, but way more fun to ride. The whole mud thing is nifty, too, but bitch Hilma didn't think so.
… that was rather the point, actually.
The trees started to thin out finally, and I knew I was getting close to the stables. That, and the place stunk so much you could smell it halfway across the castle grounds. I felt secure now that any vengeful squirrels would be knocked out by the odor and ceased my rock-kicking. I turned a bend in the beaten path, recognized the old fallen tree up ahead, and noted that the stables was just around the next turn. I wondered if Damar brought me back any souvenirs (he usually didn't). I wondered if he had gotten tan or if it had been cold instead and he'd gotten sick. I wondered if he missed me.
Stupid Damar. He was so selfish to go and leave me all alone. Sometimes it made me really angry. Brelen, my second eldest brother and the only who was nice to me, was too busy with Father, Mother, and Gavrin, my eldest brother, with his duties as a viable heir. Funny thing was that Gavrin, the official Crown Prince, wasn't too busy with his duties to do what he does best: be a pompous ass.
I was locked in the closet for half the day before anyone noticed this time. I decided that since Damar wasn't here like he should have been to help me, I would play a prank on him. It was only fair.
By the time I had turned that last corner, I already had a plan in mind. Instead of taking the left path of the fork that led to the stables, I went down the right one. Just where I knew it would be was a row of bushes, and I skipped up to them and grabbed handfuls of the red berries that dotted their branches. The berries weren't especially poisonous, but they did have some bad side effects if one ate them. Namely dizziness, nausea, disorientation, mild fever, and other amusing symptoms to inflict upon bastardly older brothers.
Smirking privately, I smushed them in my hands and then smeared the dark red juices into my shirt, down one arm, over one cheek. Once I was satisfied that I looked sufficiently "bloody," I wiped my hands on the grass and set to messing up my hair and clothes. There was really no point in trying to mess up my hair more than it usually was—but, hey, it was the principle of it.
I didn't have a mirror, but I hoped I looked convincing enough. Damar was going to spazz if I did. The thought made me giggle evilly.
Done with my impromptu costume, I continued up the path. The other path led to the front of the stables, but this one led to the field behind the stables. I thought it best to sneak up on Damar instead of risking other people seeing me like this. Besides, the windows above the sleeping quarters faced the back of the stables.
When I broke out of the woods, I gave a cautious glance around the open field to check for witnesses. The stables stood nearby, unimpressive and shabby, and several little huts were set next to it. This part of the field wasn't used often since the grass was of a coarse variety, but off in the distance I could see the brown blobs of cows. Nearby I saw … well, that was strange. The sheep usually stayed farther back in the field, but a small herd of them was grazing alongside part of the back wall of the stables. Their shepherd must have lost track of them. I watched them suspiciously for a moment, but ultimately concluded that they were harmless. This deduction probably had something to do with the fact that their intelligence level was located somewhere slightly above that of a rock … or one of brothers on a particularly good day.
The important conclusion of my search was that there were no humans present. This assured, I crouched down slightly before setting off at a sprint, my eyes focused on the corner of the stable walls. I ran as fast as I could, almost tripping once or twice on my slightly too large trouser legs (I like them that way), and discovered too late that I hadn't slowed down soon enough. Consequentially, I hit the wall clumsily with a breathless yelp and stumbled backwards, not quite falling on my rear but coming pretty close to it. Recovering, I whipped about, ready to quietly kill and bury anyone who had seen that, but my heated glare only met the dull, oblivious eyes of several sheep. One of them bleated faintly at me.
… I wonder how flammable wool is.
" 'ey Dahm', welcome back! How was your travels?" I perked up, recognizing the young voice as belonging to one of the stable boys I saw around Damar sometimes.
"Fine," a second voice, undeniably Damar's with its tone and lack of street-accent, answered. I turned away from the sheep and looked at the row of windows that stretched along the outside wall of the stables. I focused my ears, following the sound of conversation, and I began to slink towards them, intent on picking out the specific window to the room Damar was in.
"You look beat! Listen, I'll keep the stablemasta out for a bit so's you can rest, but you might wanna be careful 'round him later. Whiles you were gone, a buncha us stable boys caught the rot an' couldn't work, an' the ol' man's been awful cross lately. Wouldn't be wise to flaunt your education 'round him just now, I says."
"Thanks, Olyn. I'll be careful." I was almost positive it was the third window away from me. My eyes locked onto it, creeping along until I stood, crouching slightly just under it. The talking continued, and I waited impatiently for the stable boy to leave.
"No problem. I just changed the straw, too, so's it should be betta now. An' .. um .. Dahm'?" the boy sounded hesitant now and just slightly embarrassed, "Later, d'you think you could, um, maybe .. y'know, tell me what it was like? Out there?"
My fingers curled around the sill of the window as I tried to peer between the cracks of the closed shutters.
"Of course," Damar said, and then I could hear him settling onto his hay bed while the stable boy made his exit. I felt a smirk stretch my lips, anticipating Damar's reaction to my appearance as I used the sill to pull myself up to my tiptoes for a final peek inside. Assured of the blonde's solitude in the room, I raised a hand to knock on the wooden shutters when—
Bark bark! BARK BARK!
My eyes widened and I dropped back to the flats of my feet, turning my head slowly in the direction I had come, the area where the stray sheep had been gathered.
Let me tell you, you have not seen true horror until you have seen a herd of painfully stupid sheep bearing down on you.
Several dozen sheep, each as large as or larger than me, were headed towards me in a stampede, followed by a shaggy dog. My escape rout was cut off from the back and to the right, where the sheep surrounded me, and the stables blocked my left. I didn't take time to formulate a plan—I simply reacted when given the provided information by letting loose a scream and running for my life in the only available direction, forward.
The windows of the stables whipped past me as I sprinted alongside the building, and I could tell by the increasingly loud jumble of bleating that the sheep were gaining on me. I couldn't believe this. My death was supposed to be heroic, dramatic, flattering, and, most importantly, not now. There were far too many pranks left unpulled, too many people left unannoyed, too many valuable objects left undestroyed. Besides, there was no way in hell I was going to meet my end under the hooves of an oversized cotton puff!
I was breathing hard by the time I saw a chance at salvation, just when the sheep were just about to overcome me. The stables broke off abruptly into a line of smaller buildings, each with a door facing towards me, and, again, I didn't stop to think; I just acted.
Giving a mighty war cry, I dove off to the side, shoving open the door to the first building and throwing myself inside in a flurry of limbs and adrenaline. The door slammed shut behind me, propelled by divine intervention … or springs, whatever. I could hear the stampede pass by, and I let loose a low sigh of relief and wiped the sweat from my forehead. Damn, that had been close.
That disaster averted, I was now more concerned with my present surroundings. It was silent and dark, and I sat up cautiously. Where was this? I glanced around, my eyes so accustomed to the bright sun that the small interior was pitch black to my vision. I heard a rustle and a series of odd sounds, causing me to stiffen and look about more desperately. And then I heard it.
My eyes widened painfully and I clutched at stray strands of straw beneath my feet. I was afraid to breathe. There was a shifting sound and a series of irritated coos. I gulped, pressing my palms to the dirty wooden floor to carefully push myself to my feet. It was disorienting in such a dark place, and I was just beginning to realize how small the little building was. I felt my throat constrict, and a bit of panic shot through me. I hated small places, especially dark, foul-smelling small places.
Gritting my teeth and trying to ignore the sounds of fussing from behind me, I groped blindly for the door handle. My stomach sank when I found nothing but the crack that outlined the door. My breath started to quicken, and I forcibly slowed it. All right, so there wasn't a handle. I would just have to break it open. Another cluck sounded and I froze, waiting for anything to happen. When nothing did, I turned back to my task; drawing a deep, calming breath, I positioned myself in front of the door, stepped back, and then slammed my body into it. I hit the door with a hollow thud that echoed through my body and sent an ache into my abused side. I tried again, but the door didn't budge even slightly.
Gods dammit, the gods damn thing was stuck!
Great, just great. I couldn't panic, I just couldn't. … But what if I couldn't get it open and no one found me and I was stuck in here for days and weeks and years and forever and years later some small child would open the coop only to find my shriveled up corpse with my eyes pecked out and the stupid chickens using my hair for a nest and—oh gods!
I suppose it was partially panic and partially carelessness that drove me to do what I did next. Heedless of securing balance beforehand, I gave a desperate cry and threw myself at the door as hard as I could heave my body forward. I hardly had time to realize that fuck that had hurt before gravity took over and I stumbled backwards clumsily in reaction, my feet slipping on the loose straw beneath them. The next thing I knew, my body sliced through the darkness and crashed painfully into a shelf of occupied nests, directly causing the manifestation of hell on earth in the form of feathery and screeching chaos.
"Prince Edanalvo, unbolt this door immediately!"
I made a face at the shrill voice of Bitch Hilma and used my free arm to fling the nearest unbroken object—a candleholder—at the door in answer. "NO! They'll get me!"
"Open the door, you brat!" another voice shouted, and I recognized it as a certain castle guard.
"NEVER!" I screamed back, cradling my left arm, and then added as an afterthought, ".. baldy!"
I could hear the man splutter angrily from the other side of the door, and I could just imagine the other guards holding him back from recklessly throwing himself at the stone barrier in an attempt to strangle me. Really, the man's hair had grown back by now, but he still held a grudge over the incident—I hadn't known hair was quite that flammable, after all.
"You—you—!" came growling from the other side, and I pictured the man's face turning bright red. I smirked to myself.
Ignoring the various other commands issued from outside the room, I settled back into the small, narrow bed. I'd woken up here about ten minutes ago, a bit disorientated and aching all over. The healer had just stepped out, but my nursemaid was more than happy to inform me that my "stupid, insolent, improper" actions had earned me a broken arm.
She continued on in that vein, her frighteningly large chest bouncing up and down as she paced the room, her wrinkled face red, and her voice gaining in octaves with each spoken word. Finally, she broke off with an aggravated screech that sent a flash of memory—feathers and claws and shrieking—through my mind, and I snapped. I'd had a rather full arsenal of medicinal jars at the time, and, despite my handicap of having one arm bound tightly and restricted by a sling, I managed to convince Hilma to kindly get the hell out amid the volleys of flying jars.
Which left me as I was, locked, by my own will, in the sterile-smelling room with who knows how many annoying people bustling on the other side of the door. I wished they would just go away and let me contemplate things in peace.
Experimentally, I tried moving the fingers of my broken arm, frowning slightly. It hurt, but not as much as I would have expected. Maybe it was just sprained instead of broken. Maybe I'd been knocked out longer than I'd thought. I wondered if they had given me drugs—I didn't feel any more insane than normal, though. Perhaps I'm immune.
My clothes were torn from my own ministrations earlier, of course, but they were even more so now after I'd been rescued from Hell. I wondered who had found me and what they had made of the scene at first. I touched at my cheeks, which felt a bit hot, and my hand came away streaked with red. It wasn't from the berries, I knew, because I could feel the sting of a cut when I prodded at it. There were more shallow cuts along my forearms, and I vaguely remembered holding them up to protect my face.
"Prince Edan, please open the door." My head shot up and I stared at the barrier blankly for a moment. There was no mistaking that soft-spoken tone, slightly reprimanding and mostly worried.
"Dama?" I questioned suspiciously.
"Yes, sir," he answered. I frowned more deeply—he knew I hated it when he was so formal. The guards must have fetched him in an attempt to catch me off my guard. Even though it was quiet outside, they must be out there still. "Please let me inside."
There was a pause, and I could just barely hear the sound of argumentative murmurs when I strained my ears. At length, Damar said honestly, "Yes."
Satisfied, I hopped down off the bed, taking some amount of inane pleasure from wrinkling the previously immaculate sheets, and padded towards the door. I stepped lightly, the stone floor feeling like ice beneath my bare feet—I wasn't sure where my shoes had disappeared to—and I carefully set my hand upon the bolt to the door. It was possible that the others would rush in once I'd opened the door, but I trusted Damar. This in mind, I pressed upward until the bolt gave way, moving back a step while the barrier swung inward until the gap was just wide enough for a body to pass through.
A foot cleared the door first, followed quickly by the attached body, and then Damar closed and bolted the door behind him with one hand. He turned to look at me, gripping a flask and a small jar in his other hand, and I didn't even allow him to open his mouth before I pounced. It was rather awkward, considering my injured arm, but I managed to cling to his torso anyway. Damar had always been taller than me, but lately he had been undergoing a growth spurt. His voice had stopped making funny squeaking sounds a little while ago, so I couldn't tease him about being a mouse anymore.
Mmm, Dama-smell …
"Prince Edan," Damar said, obviously wanting my attention, and I pried myself away from his comforting aura and faint scent of hay to peer up at him. A confused expression crossed my face when his free hand reached up to grasp my chin, turning my face from side to side as he gazed down at me with blue eyes that were slightly too moist and far more worried than usual. I felt guilty abruptly—for worrying him, for even thinking of worrying him. I hadn't meant to make him … to make him look at me like this.
After a moment, he seemed satisfied, and he let my face go. His eyebrows relaxed from their pinched position, and he tried to covertly wipe at his eyes. I wanted him to yell at me, to make me forget about that look of his and give me a reason to be angry back, but instead he only set a hand on my shoulder and said quietly, "I'm glad you're all right."
The apology went unspoken, dead on my lips. Damar didn't seem to mind. He cracked a faint, reprimanding smile and nudged me over to sit on the edge of the bed. I obeyed, and he produced a rag from a pocket, dripped water on it from the flask, and started to dab at my scratches. I whined and fussed appropriately, especially when he started to apply stinging ointment to my cuts. Between complaining, I managed to explain what had happened. I wasn't sure if he wanted to know, but I told him anyway.
Finally, I'd finished my horrifying tale, and Damar was carefully wiping his hands on the rag. He had been silent up until now, and I was a bit surprised when he suddenly looked up at me, a slightly amused smile on his face as he said, "You do know that the door opened inward; you had to pull to open it, not push."
I stared at him a long moment. A long, long moment. And then:
"Shut up and help me get this damn wrapping off; my arm is itchy."
It was a week before I could hear the word "chicken" and not break out into a twitching fit. Now I just bristled up and, as Damar put it, braced myself for an attack. Whatever else he said, though, I was not afraid of the damn birds! I'm not afraid of anything; they're just evil. Damar tried to persuade me that this wasn't so for most of the week, but every time he would try I would growl at him, and eventually he gave up. I think he knew that I was almost convinced and decided to let me go the final step of letting the incident go on my own.
My arm was still in a sling when my nursemaid informed me that the plans for the midday meal had been altered slightly. Important envoys had arrived to negotiate a possible alliance with Niall, and they had brought with them several young lords of their kingdom. I was convinced then that whatever country was dealing with us must have been as small and unimportant as my own, otherwise there was no way they would have bothered with such an insignificant little nation like Niall. Unless, of course, the other country's rulers had an overpowering penchant for either wood or squirrels, in which case I sure as hell hoped their country wasn't very powerful.
Mother and Father and their advisors were holding a private banquet with the envoys to discuss a deal; the princes of Niall were relegated the duty of entertaining the young lords. Good gods, we were doomed. Entertain? Well, I knew my brother Leran had mastered the art of launching peas out of his nose, but I was fairly sure that this wasn't the image we wanted to portray of our country.
I discovered that this belief was well founded—at least, it was if the way the prissy "young lords" were holding there noses up at us as if we were flee infested was any indication. It made me want to let loose rabid squirrels in their rooms to see how they would react. We sat around the large dining table in one of the smaller dining halls aside from the main one, and I tried not to squirm as servants passed around us, setting trays out before us. My brothers were seated alongside me in order of their age, meaning I was at the seat farthest from the head seat, where Gavrin, as the Crown Prince, sat. Brelen sat to his right, a faint, pleasant smile on his tan face.
Opposite myself and my five brothers (excluding Gavrin, the sixth), sat the young lords. They were dressed in gaudy arrays of trousers and tunics and cloaks, and they were decked in jewelry that I guessed was probably mostly worthless. They sat with airs of arrogance that were only rivaled by the sheer aura of superiority that my eldest brother exuded. The bastard. He looked down his aristocratic nose, which I swore I would break one day, at us all, managing to look both condescending and regal at once. I didn't understand how girls could coo about him being so "handsome" and "dashing" when he was so obviously a power-hungry, sadistic bastard.
The young lords ranged in age about as much as my brothers and I did, and I took some small bit of pleasure in being taller than one of their group. So what if he was six years old, that wasn't the point.
Someone cleared their throat, and then Gavrin gave a slight nod, acting as though such an action was below his status. When he caught me looking at him, a flash of a cruel smirk appeared on his face, but it was so brief that I wondered if I had imagined it. I stuck my tongue out at him anyway, earning a covert slap to the back of my head when bitch Hilma stepped up to uncover my dishes. The servants the lords had brought along and the other servants of the castle had already done the same to the other plates, and Gavrin lifted his silverware to ceremoniously partake of the first bite.
The hall dissolved into the sounds of quiet eating and even quieter murmurs of conversation, for children our age couldn't be expected to be completely silent as the adults wanted us to be, and I was left .. staring at my plate. My hands, clasping lightly and awkwardly at my silverware, were frozen, and all I could do was stare at the abomination I had been served. The white meat sprinkled with herbs stared up at me innocently.
Chicken, my mind whispered, and my fork dropped from my hand. I couldn't eat this. I couldn't—
"… chicken?" Hearing my thoughts echoed such, my mind suddenly focused on the conversation to my left, held between two of my brothers, Leran and Cralen. I forgot the meat and listened. Leran continued, "Come on, you chicken?" Then he laughed, as if what he had said was funny and particularly witty.
I narrowed my eyes.
"No, it's a stupid idea!" Cralen hissed back quietly.
"Shut up!" Cralen murmured defensively, his hands snaking out to give his older brother a small shove. Leran pushed back, and I wondered if the two idiots would start a brawl right here and now. "Fine," he relented suddenly, "I'll do it."
I tried not to start too badly when Cralen suddenly stood up, knocking over his heavy wooden chair with a loud crash that made all the heads in the hall whip towards him instinctively. Gavrin opened his mouth to say something, his brows drawn down in disapproval, but then he seemed to think better and settled forward to see what his young brother would do.
I felt my eyes widen hugely, so much that it hurt, when Cralen placed his hands on his hips, opened his mouth, and started clucking.
Ohmygods. Cralen started to make pecking motions at the table. I glanced quickly from my brother to his plate of half-eaten chicken, and a shot of adrenaline jolted through me. …The chickens were … they were controlling his mind! I knew it! I knew it!
The gathered people, who had just begun to look amused, looked distinctly shocked when I sprung from my chair and ran out of the hall, screaming at the top of my lungs.
Later, Damar told me he heard that it had been a bet between my brothers to make one look like a fool, but I knew better. My realization of the evil nature of chickens and their mind-controlling plots solidified then.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed. This is just one possibility for Edan's views on chickens. It's not necessarily what happened, so I'd love to hear any other theories anyone has as to why Edan believes chickens are evil. X3
Feedback would be loved. It would make me happy to know that I brought a smile to even one person. Happy holidays.