Author: Chris Cook
Feedback: Please leave feedback on the Bedtime Stories thread on the Kitten Board.
Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are the property of Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy/whoever else has a stake.
Me: In the Magic Kingdom, the people are represented by two separate and not really equally important groups: the town and city guards, who mostly just shove peasants out of the way whenever their boss is going anywhere in his coach, and the Fairytale Bureau of Investigation, who do all the actual work. These are their stories.
Me: Among the city of Perrault's many delicate pennant-topped towers, a two-seater broomstick suddenly popped into existence at high speed, and swerved to miss the nearest building.
Meg: (hehe Perrault)
Me: "It's alright," Willow said, glad that her position in the rear seat meant that Tara couldn't see how white her face had gone. "Mobile teleports are tricky like that."
Me: "Where to?" Tara asked. Willow consulted a small leatherbound book she retrieved from the broomstick's saddlebags.
Me: "Grimoire Positioning System says head north," she replied. "Down by the river."
Me: Tara swerved between a couple more of the omnipresent picturesque towers and put the broomstick into a shallow dive towards the less vertiginous outer suburbs of the city.
Me: "You're pretty good at this," Willow noted. "I always get disoriented on a broomstick."
Meg: (lol Tara's driving stick)
Me: "I like to fly," Tara said with a smile.
Me: With Willow providing directions the pair eventually set down in the back garden of a prosperous-looking townhouse. Tara left the broom idling behind a tree and joined Willow at the door, where she was finishing up a lock-pick charm.
Me: "Fairytale Bureau of Investigation!" the redhead called out as the door swung open. "We're here to help! Anyone home?"
Me: "What is a five-ten-A, anyway?" Tara asked in a whisper.
Me: "Persecuted heroine," Willow said. "There's like a zillion coded fairytale types, don't worry, you don't need to know them off by heart."
Me: "But you do?" Tara asked.
Me: "I, uh, I guess I just like lists of things," Willow shrugged with a slight blush.
Me: They looked up as a door on the upstairs landing opened, revealing a young women whose beautiful face was streaked with tears.
Meg: (haha that's the Aarne Thompson code, isn't it? Love it!)
Me: "It's okay," Willow called up to her. "We're the FBI, we're here to help. Do you have mean step-sisters, by any chance?"
Me: The woman nodded nervously.
Me: "Yup, she's the one," Willow murmured to Tara.
Me: "Her aura's off the scale," Tara replied quietly.
Me: "You can see that without a spell?"
Me: "It's a knack."
Me: "Hey?" Willow asked, walking towards the foot of the stairs. "Is it okay if we come up?" The woman again nodded.
Me: A moment later the three were sitting on the woman's plain bed, with Tara handing her tissues as she sniffled and occasionally blew her nose.
Me: Willow noted without surprise that the room, unlike the opulence of the rest of the house, was sparsely decorated, and contained furniture that mostly looked like it had already passed its use-by date.
Me: "Tell us what's happened," Tara prompted the sniffling blonde. "What's your name?"
Me: "E... Ella," she replied.
Me: "I-I was at the ball, and dancing, and then the clock, and I ran but, the shoe, and then I got back here and I realised, then the neighbours said, they're searching the city, and, and it's all going wrong, and she's not here, and..." She paused to take a breath.
Me: "Slow down," Tara said gently, used to dealing with high-speed jumbled babble from her partner. "Who's 'she'?"
Me: "Your fairy godmother?" Willow asked. Ella looked at her, surprised, and nodded.
Me: "I-I didn't think anyone would believe me if I told them," she said.
Me: "We've dealt with fairy godmothers before," Willow assured her.
Me: "So... you can, um, keep her away?" Ella asked.
Me: "Oh boy," Willow sighed. "I was worried it was a bad one. Yes, we can ward you from her, if that's what you want. Tell us what she did."
Me: "W-well, I... I wanted to go to the ball, and be one of the pretty ladies and everything, but then she just appeared and told me I would go to the ball, and there was this dress, and these really uncomfortable shoes, and I wasn't sure I really wanted to, I mean, my first time out, but the coachmen took me and drove me there and... and then it all started going wrong. More wrong, I mean."
Me: "How?" Tara asked.
Me: "It was like I was just a, a character in a story," Ella said forlornly. "The coachmen took me into the ballroom, and then I saw the prince, and he ignored everyone else and we were dancing and I was saying all these, these courtly romance things, I don't know where it came from, and... It was like there was some script in my head, and I had to go through it."
Me: "You didn't want to dance with the prince?" Willow asked.
Me: "Well... he's good-looking, sure, but I don't even know him. I mean, I'd have liked to chat a bit first, you know? Before the actual dancing and so on. He, um, I think he asked me to marry him, and I kind of... I might've agreed, which I totally shouldn't have done! And then the clock struck twelve, and the coachmen got chased away by a cat and I was suddenly, um, myself again, and I ran away."
Me: "And you lost one of the shoes on the way out?" Willow prompted her.
Me: "Actually I got rid of both of them," Ella said sheepishly. "Have you ever tried to run in four-inch heels made of glass? But one of them landed in a flowerpot and didn't smash, and now they're all saying that the prince has it, and has vowed to marry whichever of his subjects it fits, and they're going to find me and I'll have to marry him, and..."
Me: "You don't have to marry anyone you don't want to," Tara assured her.
Me: Willow, who had assumed an expression of intense mental calculation, looked over at Tara.
Me: "I've got a plan," she said suddenly. "What shoe size are you?"
Me: Several minutes later, Willow and Ella listened from the kitchen as the royal guards tramped into the hall and demanded that all the ladies of the house produce their feet for princely inspection. Ella cringed.
Me: "He's not that bad," she said apologetically, "but he's a prince, I think he's just used to everyone automatically doing whetever he says."
Me: "I know the type from school," Willow nodded.
Me: "I never really wanted any of this," Ella sighed sadly. "I, I guess I imagined it, but it was just a fantasy, you know? Be a gorgeous lady, go to the ball, dance with the prince, love at first sight, all that. I never wanted it to be real. I guess it's kind of my fault, though-"
Me: "No," Willow cut her off. "Good fairy godmothers know the difference between dreams and reality. This isn't your fault."
Me: "Why did she do all this?" Ella wondered.
Me: "We'll find her," Willow promised. "There are ways to track them, we'll find out what she's up to."
Me: Outside there were the confused sounds of the prince discovering that the woman the shoe fit perfectly wasn't in fact the woman he thought it would be.
Me: "Will she be okay?" Ella asked.
Me: "The Bureau's got a lot of clout," Willow nodded. "Not even a prince would make trouble for an agent. Besides, she's not his subject, so his vow doesn't apply."
Me: They listened a moment longer, and Willow smiled in satisfaction as the guards tramped out again, followed by a well-spoken but petulant voice complaining that it was all very inconvenient, and frankly he'd rather just put the whole mess behind him...
Me: "That sounds like it's done the trick," Willow smiled.
Me: "What did?" Ella asked.
Me: "The story's broken," Willow explained. "Fairy godmothers use stories, and tweak them a bit to fit whoever they're casting them on. The good ones do it to help people get what they need, the bad ones do it because it lets than manipulate people. I wouldn't be surprised if she was playing both sides here, planting suggestions in the prince's mind as well. He probably 'just knew' to come right here, instead of checking every house in the city. But if you give the story a big enough whack, it'll break, and the attached spells dissipate with it."
Me: "You weren't kidding about uncomfortable," Tara complained, limping into the kitchen with one glass shoe in her hand. "I nearly twisted my ankle just standing up."
Me: "B-but, it had to fit exactly," Ella protested.
Meg: Tara has magic feet. :O
Me: "Fitting charm," Tara explained. "They were a bit surprised when the shoe changed size a bit as I put it on, but I said they were magic shoes, and everyone seemed to think that made sense."
Me: "Witches can always buy off-the-rack," Willow grinned.
Me: "It's over?" Ella asked hopefully.
Me: "We'll ward you against the godmother, and take a full statement when you're up for it so we can start trying to trace her," Willow said.
Me: "Do you have any idea why she'd have wanted you to marry the prince?" Tara asked. "Not that you're not prince-marrying material, if that's what you wanted, but she doesn't sound like that kind of godmother."
Me: "No, I know what you mean," Ella said. "I... don't know. Unless she wanted to really, really embarrass the royal family. I mean, once he'd made the vow he'd have to marry me, and..."
Me: "And what?" Willow asked. "Do they have some silly rule against marrying commoners?"
Me: "No, no that's not it," Ella shook her head. "Like I said, the whole thing, being a beautiful lady and going to the ball and dancing with the prince, it's just a fantasy."
Me: "How come?"
Me: "Well," Ella said, removing the wig, "for a start, my name's not Ella, it's Edwin, and... well, you get the idea."
Me: ~ The End ~