For decades Chirrd had lived among humans and goblins for curiosity's sake, and to share what he had learned with his clan. He had not anticipated that one thing he learned by its very nature could not be shared.
It was not apparent right at the start, because he was lucky enough to first run into some of his close old friends. All of their joy about the meeting bolstered his confidence.
Once they had reached the village, he was the centre of attention. Even the few elves who at first had not been interested in hearing his stories contracted the curiosity of the rest. Chirrd started into the tale he had, in his head, rehearsed so often on his way home.
It collapsed very quickly, as his audience picked up on incongruencies where the tint of his feelings did not mesh with what he said. Their confusion was mirrored and amplified in his own mind, and mingled with his own embarrassment. He had gotten used to not sharing his soul, and having secrets. The concern for his wellbeing from his closest was swept away in a wave of disappointment and disapproval.
"I'm sorry. It's too much." When he hurried off, nobody followed him immediately. It meant he had some time to wonder just how something that had been as natural as breathing felt obtrusive now, fearing the answer might be that something was wrong with him.
When two of his friends found him, his shame and fear deepened their concern for him. Chirrd could feel their sympathy, and it calmed him, even before the first word was spoken. Evshi drew him out with questions, Ashas listened patiently.
Describing what it had been like to live among soul-blind people, who were obsessed with appearances because that was all they had, brought back the memory of how terrified and lost he had been at first. How could he have forgotten how it felt to share love? He could not ask that, but burst out, "How can I fear my clan? My family? It makes no sense."
"I think you just need time. Take things slow. Being plunged in such an excited crowd right on the first day... As you said, it's too much, all at once," Ashas' said.
It rang true. Chirrd's gatitude brightened their mood.
The cathedral's five-hundredth anniversary had been widely publicised, and drawn even more tourists than usual to town, including Nico. She appreciated visiting new-to-her places in general, and in that particular moment enjoyed the view from a street café to the birthday building. It seemed strangely familiar but slightly off, but then, she had seen other a lot of pictures both of this one and other churches in similar styles.
On one of his walks through the park to take photos, Frank had come across something odd. First he thought he was hallucinating, but even after several attempts, one couple appeared in several photos, event hough he hadn't seen them in the viewfinder of his digital SLR camera. He managed to track them through the review of the last photo taken, growing more and more bewildered.
When they noticed him eventually, he decided to ask them directly. They invited him to a chat over coffee, and he accepted.
The two things he found out before his death were these: Sunlight does not bother vampires all that much, but they really don't show up in mirrors.
The dragonslayer peered around warily. He sat on rough stone, and his spear leaned near the entrance of the cavern, out of reach. He had come across dragons that did not take him seriously before, just to cut right through their contempt, but this one's entirely different tone had triggered instincts too deeply rooted to ignore.
"Don't be silly, boy. There will be no fighting here. Come have a cup of tea and a bit of a chat."
He just couldn't kill anything that sounded exactly like his grandmother, even when the cookies were nearly as hard as the furniture.
Gabriel had had no luck tonight picking up someone for dinner, but since he wasn't particularly hungry yet, he just treated himself to a cappuchino to unwind. It would have been better without one of the few other guests wearing penetrant after shave, but you couldn't have everything.
What he could have, after all, was company. The young woman making a beeline to his table did not look familar, but the feel of her presence told him what she was, and a quirk of her smile tipped him off as to who she was. Not that he knew that many nymphs, anyway. Her current guise was new to him, petite, white-blonde, decidedly elfin.
"Ah, Gabriel. On the prowl, too?"
"Taking a break, actually."
"No luck, either, eh?" She leaned back and sighed.
Gabriel decided she'd laid on the self-depreciation in her tone thickly enough so he didn't have to take offense. Considering that she was probably the least idiotic person who knew him, she deserved a bit of help. "Do you follow the news? I didn't think so. Some guy getting locked up up for raping a 13yearold girl was all over the papers. I'd think the kind of people attracted by your looks are a bit... inhibited just now. Unless you start prowling schoolyards earlier in the day, that is."
After a thoughtful pause and look around, she whispered, "All right, then."
Her her body wavered like a mirage, and flowed into a somewhat bigger shape. Her hair grew from a pixie cut to well over shoulder length, and turned auburn, her clothes changing to match it. None of the other guests took notice. Gabriel envied the ease with which fae could mess with other people's minds, all without biting them first.
When she was finished, he would have estimated her age closer to thirty than thirteen.
"Much better." Particularly the curves.
"You sure it's not just your taste you're pushing here?" she teased. When he only shrugged, she suggested, "Well, if we find no-one else, the two of us could hook up."
Gabriel gave a sort of dismissive chuckle. "Neither of us would get anything out of it."
"Maybe you just don't value fun enough."
"Maybe some people don't have as much time as you do."
He found that he could waste a surprising amount of time on chatting.
He prided himself to be the toughest, most ruthless man in the world, shrugging off torture, ignoring such petty things as morals, and looking forward to breaking Death's neck. When he was brought to justice, with a record-breaking list of charges, and proud of it, finding a punishment that would faze him was problematic. Death was too easy.
The solution was easy, too, once someone thought of it. They chucked him through a one-way worldgate.
Once he realised the alway-cheerful cute animals made of marshmallow did not mind getting ripped to shreds, he knew he had lost.
Brass hid in corners of the workshop while thieves carted off the Master's tools and materials by the trunkload. In broad daylight. Brass had not much mind to do anything but follow instructions, but it thought it odd the Master would not prevent that. It also did not want to be stolen. Where was the Master?
This sorry state of affair continued for days, growing sorrier, since less things were left to hide behind or under. Brass snatched bits of conversation from the air, and eventually caught one that shook he world of the loyal little construct.
They weren't thieves, but heirs.
Brass worked through the implications one by one, because all together they were too big. It realised it would not beable to hide long enough to decide if it should do anything without its Master, so it worked out an idea how to gain time.
One box of metal scraps and half-finished works the heirs carried off held one piece that was more than finished, but still busy with thinking.
After the metahuman emergence of 2012, things did not turn out quite as comicbooky as some people expected. However, there was one guy who managed to pull it off, spandex, cape, secret identity and all.
Of course people were curious, for varying reasons, but the few times people tried to ask about the start of his "career", he refused to answer, refering to the wave of accident-suicides of hopefuls. The trigger for that had been people who had discovered their powers making their "origin stories" public, a good deal of which involved life-threatening experiences - flight first manifested when a parachute wouldn't open, or phasing in an accident that left the car looking like an accordion, you get the idea.
It was a perfectly noble pretext for someone who didn't want to admit to a past of having turned his room into a coccoon, with movies, comics, and games providing escapism that ended up shaping his gift.
Tarci and Reena had been as close as sisters, but things had changed. It had started slow, but once it had been known that Tarci was pregnant, Reena started avoiding her. It was hurtful and confusing, but since wondering did not help, Tarci waited for an opportunity when they were alone, and asked.
"Why won't you talk to me anymore?"
Reena averted her eyes. "I'm sorry, I..." She shook her head. Tarci trembled. She was afraid of them domehow drifting apart entirely, but her old friend reached out and held her hands. "I was afraid of telling you something, of hurting you. That's why I avoided you."
"I'm worried now, so you might as well tell."
Reena sighed deeply. "It is not really my place to - yes, I will tell you, let me finish. It's not my place to tell you what to do with your life, but, your love... Oh, how can I say this. When I look at him, the spindliness, the long, narrow face, the bright eyes, the way he moves quickly when he moves, but not at all when he stand still... He's just so weird. Beautiful, but beautiful like a waterbird, not a man." She must have noticed that it gave Tarci a little sting, and went on, "He's nice enough to talk to, mostly, and I'm sure you know your mind, and I wish both, all of you happiness." With a shrug she ended, "I just don't understand how you could bed an elf."
This conversation was weird indeed. As the awkward pause caused by Tarci's attempt to figure out if she was angry grew too long, Reena muttered, "Not my concern, I said."
Tarci smiled crookedly. "At least we're talking again."