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The Screwup Letters

by Togi Kayako (土宜草子)

Read this piece’s entry on the Shousetsu Bang*Bang wiki.

A letter, rolled up and tied with an uneven twine bow that smells vaguely of meat. The text is scribbled in multiple colours of crayon across the back of several pages of a child’s maths worksheets.

My dearest, most darling Nella,

I hope this soggy crow I found to carry the message hasn’t shaken itself off all over your desk or anything! Mud and rainwater all over your precious books would be just terrible.

No doubt you’ve already heard, but I got exiled to the human world. It’s a funny story, actually! Remember that cute little human guy you pointed out to me at the spring feast? Big brown eyes, legs for days, really good with his tongue? Oh, you wouldn’t know that last part, I guess. What a shame.

Anyway, turns out he was one of Her Majesty’s new pets and someone (not pointing any fingers here, but I have exactly one guess, you awful bitch) let slip the fact it was me who’d been with him last. Should’ve known he was up to no good when he sweet-talked me into getting so drunk, but how was I supposed to guess he’d book it back to the human world the second I passed out? Honestly.

Her Majesty didn’t cut me much slack for not knowing who he belonged to, so I’m stuck out here by some boring little human town until I find her a new pet. Haven’t looked around too much yet, mostly laying low in the boring bit of forest I first popped out of. Obviously I had to go hunt around a bit to find stuff to write to you with, but it’s fine. One old lady maybe caught a glimpse, but besides that I’m sure none of the locals saw me.

Only good part of this whole mess is that Her Majesty was all, ‘We are not interested in anything you’ve laid hands on, Artemisia,’ so at least I don’t have to go hunt down the same one she had before! I’ve got until Midsummer to find one, so I’m going to take the time to find something nice rather than grab the first pretty tidbit I stumble over. Can’t be too far into Her Majesty’s good graces, y’know?

Hope what she said doesn’t sting too much, what with how bad you fancy her (even though you pretend not to). I mean, really, if Her Majesty knew half the ways I’d had my hands on you, she probably wouldn’t even get within spitting distance ever again. Hmm, I hope nobody clues her in to that in the future!

I should be home before long and I’m cooking up some amazing plans to make sure you regret getting me sent away in the first place. Oh, and don’t get so wrapped up in your research that you forget to watch your back while I’m gone, you numpty.

– Arty

The signature takes up nearly a quarter of a page and has been rewritten in enough colours to render it nearly illegible. Three additional pages are attached, each depicting a series of remarkably obscene drawings of two stick figures engaged in various sex acts. The taller figure is drawn in green and always has a broad, fanged smile. The shorter figure is entirely blue other than her eyes, which are pink and heart-shaped.

* * *

An entry on the pages of a plain, leather-bound journal, kept locked inside a thin metal box. The elegant cursive is small and flawless outside of a few small black fingerprint smudges.

22nd May, 20XX

Mrs Lewis over at number three told me she saw someone ‘rather odd’ rummaging in our bins last night. I pressed her for a description as gently as I could — I mean, she’s barely recovered from her last bypass, I didn’t want to worry her. She hemmed and hawed about how it had to be ‘a trick of the light’ (plus the inevitable ‘I didn’t have my glasses on, dear’) but eventually admitted that the person in question had looked to be a pale green.

I went to see for myself this evening and sure enough, someone had been there. All of the bins were rearranged, most of them turned backwards and two with their lids switched. I’m guessing they’re more mischievous than malicious — despite the minor inconveniences, it wasn’t anywhere near this clean around the bins yesterday.

I’m scheduled to do story time at the library tomorrow, thank goodness. It’ll be an easy way to remind the little ones to stay out of the woods and not go giving their names away to any strangers. They’ll all go home to tell their families about it and that should let everyone but the most stubbornly oblivious folk know what’s going on before our new neighbour comes visiting in earnest.

Need to dig out my old box of iron filings and spread them around the Andersons’ house tonight. If I can’t find it, I’ll have to scatter some nails under the nursery window at the very least. Betsy’s a bit old to be a likely target, but you can’t be too careful with these sorts of things.

Should also make sure my garden’s clear and move all the plants closer to the windowsills. I’ll put a little saucer of milk out tonight, in case our visitor is something smaller and homier than I suspect. If not, I’ll start baking bread and singing and staring longingly at the woods tomorrow. Shouldn’t be too hard to make myself the obvious pick and get this whole mess sorted before long.

I’ve a busy week coming up with the extra night of maths tutoring Friday evening and the Community Centre spring cleaning on Saturday. If I’m taking Mrs Lewis to her appointment on Monday, I’ll want to do my shopping on Sunday instead — I’d best get up early or it will be far too crowded.

I do wish these visitors would at least occasionally turn up when nothing else was going on, but I suppose it’s hardly in their nature to be convenient.

The entry is concluded with a small sketch of a star-shaped flower next to an ornate letter F.

* * *

A letter written first in crayon, then in black ink that fades into gray before the words continue in crayon again. The pages are a mix of different sizes and colours and seem to be primarily advertisements that were torn down, as the corners have ragged holes in them.

Hey Nella,

It’s been a few days now, so I’m guessing you’re not gonna write back. Whatever! It’s not like I’m gonna stop harassing you just because I can’t drop by in person. The longer you don’t respond, the more letters I’m gonna have to send, and who knows what kind of messengers I’ll have to use. There are loads of rats here, you know. Big, smelly rats that look like they love chewing on important papers and stuff. Just sayin’.

So in actually relevant news, I’ve been scoping out the place and I think I’ve got a strong pick to bring home to Her Majesty. One of those daydreamy types, y’know? Like her life is boring beyond all belief so you get the feeling she’ll probably do okay with a change of scenery, right? Not like that one two seasons back who wouldn’t stop crying all the time, ugh. Don’t think how fast he made his way back to the human side was an accident!

The one I’ve found is real pretty, at least as far as humans go. Most of them are so similar, I swear, like even you’re more interesting than the average human and let’s face it, looking at you is about as appealing as eating rocks. (No offense to rock-eaters, of course!)

Anyway, this human, she’s a lovely little thing. Like her hair! It’s long, kind of a mouse brown colour, but with these pretty bits of silver mixed in that really catch your eye when she’s out in the sunlight. She’s short but not flimsy looking — like I saw her wearing some tight trousers the other day and her thighs, Nella, stars above. I don’t think I’ve wanted to sink my teeth into something that bad in ages.

Not that I would! She’s for Her Majesty and that’s that. Wish I’d paid a bit more attention to what most of Her Majesty’s pets looked like, but you only really see them at the bigger banquets and I was always hanging out with you. Can’t imagine anyone would be sad with this one, though. Body aside (and good luck not thinking about an arse like that!), everybody seems to get on with her so she must be pretty nice. I like her smile, too.

For now, I’m sneaking around, keeping a close eye on her in one of my most subtle human forms. I hate to look so drab, but after the close call with that old lady my first night I figured better safe than sorry, right?

Have to figure out what sort of people that human likes so I can settle on the right glamour to approach her with. It’s hilariously easy to follow her around — she’s always staring off at nothing in particular. Probably wouldn’t even notice if I walked right in front of her, ha!

I’m leaning toward something womanish at the moment. Definitely caught her checking out a lady standing by one of those dumb two-wheeled vehicles humans like so much. Can’t be too obviously a copy, but I could do one on similar lines. Taller than her, big muscles, hair kinda short and spiky (how do they even keep it like that without magic, anyway?). I want nicer clothes, though, something proper fancy. Suits basically show you’re like… human nobility, right?

If you write back this time, I’ll think about keeping the glamour on when I head home. Remember that thing you told me once about wanting to be tricked and overpowered by a big, strong human? I definitely remember. You blush such a pretty shade of blue when you get all worked up.

Just think about it, hmm? Ask nice and I might even let you clear your desk off before I toss you on it and fuck you stupid.

– Arty

A green, toothy grin is drawn next to the signature along with a hand in the same colour making a rude gesture. There is a single tiny red heart in the bottom corner of the page.

* * *

Another entry on the carefully locked away journal. The handwriting is larger and less uniform than the previous entry, and peppered with numerous inkblots.

29th May, 20XX

Our visitor took the bait — and the milk, actually, so at least I didn’t have to clean it up and deal with the awful smell. She latched on to me so fast I was starting to worry that she was sent here for me in the first place, but I’ve become quite confident that’s not the case. If my foster parents were involved, I’m certain they would have picked someone more subtle.

Seriously, she’s been trailing after me everywhere like a puppy, as if we wouldn’t all notice a stranger in a village this size. I’ve had three separate kids ask me who my new girlfriend was, and one mother offered her sofa up if I needed ‘somewhere to get away from home for a bit’. It was a struggle not to laugh at the poor woman. I know that they’re all technically dangerous, but it’s impossible to be concerned with one like this! I’ll have to do a test or two to make sure she’s not playing dumb, but I don’t know that anyone could put up such a convincing front for days on end.

Credit where credit is due, she picked an excellent guise when she ‘arrived’ in town the other night. I didn’t realize I’d been quite so obvious about watching that motorcycle courier who passes through every week, but it’s flattering to have someone tailor themself so neatly to my interests. I doubt it’s anything close to what she actually looks like — ‘she’ probably doesn’t even consider herself a woman, given the casual disregard for silly concepts like gender on their side of things.

Still, they’re not called the fair folk for nothing, are they? Knowing it’s only a glamour didn’t do a thing to help me when I bumped into six feet of solid muscle poured into a very snug bespoke suit. For Winter’s sake, her hand was big enough to wrap clear around my forearm when she caught me and stopped me from falling over. She smelled like lilacs and damp earth, and all I wanted to do was rip her stupid, obvious leaf-print tie off with my teeth.

If I thought she had any idea who I was, I’d be insulted by her clumsy attempt at playing human. As it is, I have to assume either she’s never been in the human world before or it’s been the better part of a century. She paid for her room at the B&B in gold coins. It’s embarrassing — which I suppose says terrible things about me given that none of it has dulled my interest in the slightest.

I think I’ll go with the polite fiction that it’s been too long since I got laid and do my best to put her out of my mind whenever possible.

A small frowning face with angry, downturned eyebrows sits next to the final line. Below the entry is a hastily drawn version of the same flower and a far simpler F than the previous one. The following page is taken up by a detailed sketch of a broad, thick-fingered hand that seems to be adjusting the knot of a necktie.

* * *

A letter written on a thick stack of tall, narrow sheets from a floral-bordered notepad. Each page alternates between blue and black ink and several have been written on sideways.

Nella, oh my sweet little darling Nella!

I knew a little bribery was all it would take to make you write to me. But using a goose as a messenger, really? We’re not kids anymore, you need to step up your game. (Yes, it bit me. Hope you’re happy, you nasty piece of vaguely person-shaped pond scum.) Also, three sentences isn’t much of a letter, especially when one of them is ‘Please stop writing to me, I’m very busy.’ You did say please, though, so that’s a point in your favour for whenever I get back.

May be a while yet on that front — the human has turned out to be trickier to handle than I expected! Obviously my glamour was perfect and our ‘first’ meeting went exactly as I’d planned. She’s definitely interested. Maybe a little too interested, or maybe humans just move fast these days? She invited me back to her house the very next time I saw her.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but it made me think of you — well, more like the opposite of you. Remember how many seasons you spent pretending you weren’t interested in me? Then the first time I actually talked to you, you were all, ‘I have no idea who you are.’ You can play at being so vicious when you want to, Nella, and then I get my hands on you and you’re so, so sweet for me. I bet the human will be the same.

For Her Majesty, I mean.

Probably should stop calling her ‘the human’ even in my head or it might slip out at a bad time, haha! Her name is Flora, though I think that must be a nickname because it doesn’t seem to do much when I call her that. She seems to like me talking to her despite that! I wish you could have seen her face when I said, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you, Flora,’ and bowed over her hand all perfect like. That lady can blush, let me tell you.

So anyway, went to her house and she had baked cookies so the whole place smelled real good. She stepped out for a minute and I figured she would probably offer me some when she got back, so I ate a couple. (I think they were the nicest cookies I’ve ever had in my life, seriously.) But I was picking up a third one and found a note underneath that said, ‘If you eat these, you owe me a favour.’

Maybe she has trouble with her neighbours pinching her treats? Anyway, hilarious mistake, I know, but I think I played it off just fine. I was all, ‘Haha, looks like I owe you a favour, what would you like me to do?’ and I loomed over her a little (the way you like so much) and I figured she’d ask for a kiss.

She looked like she wanted to go for a kiss, for sure, but instead she asked me to help some old lady clean up her house? I don’t know what my face did, but she laughed at me and said it was either that or I could help the old biddy’s heart heal up faster.

So I broke into the right house that night and slapped some healing charms on her because there is no way I’m going to stand around and scrub a bunch of dishes or whatever. Did the same for her cat too while I was there — human hearts can break from losing a pet, right? Better safe than sorry.

I’m going to see if Flora will come for a walk in the forest with me. Figure I can take her out a few times, all gentlemanly like, get her used to being in the woods alone with me, and then bam! Right into the mushroom ring when she’s off her guard. Hope she won’t be too mad about the whole thing.

…Eh, doesn’t matter. She’s made of stern enough stuff to hold up to whatever Her Majesty wants from her, I’m pretty sure. I’ll be un-exiled and then the two of us can hang out again and that’ll be nice! I’m sure Flora will be fine. Maybe I’ll even see her around or something.

– Arty

P.S. Miss your stupid face.

The signature is on a page all of its own, written again in several colours of crayon. The postscript is in black ink and the tiny letters are wedged into a corner below the loop of the Y.

* * *

Most of the top corner of the journal page is wrinkled and stained a faint tan. The handwriting starts out compact but gets unsteady as the entry continues.

9th June, 20XX

Well, I can be quite sure that the oh-so-charming ‘you can call me Arty’ wasn’t sent by my foster parents! If she was working for them, she would have been trying to give me a taste of what I was missing rather than awkwardly shooting down every advance I made. And then kept making, for some stupid reason. Earth below, maybe it really has been too long.

She keeps taking me on longer and longer walks into the forest. I scoped the area out around dawn the other day and found the ring she’s angling us toward. I assume she’s going to try to drag me in at the summer solstice or just before, because bringing home a human as a gift for Midsummer tends to go over well with the higher-ups. That gives me not quite two weeks to find a way to deal with her, which shouldn’t be too difficult. If she has to take someone back, well, I can think of a few people I know who would enjoy a chance for something of an unorthodox holiday.

Frankly, I have no idea how Arty has survived life in court. I’ve followed her out into the woods when she sneaks off to write letters home, so she’s not too observant. She also has zero tact, less than most humans. Maybe Summer doesn’t have a stick jammed quite so far up its collective arse as Winter does? If I didn’t think it would cause all sorts of problems, I’d be half tempted to let her take me over and see for myself.

I suspect it’s the whisky talking, but I really am tempted. I could tell everyone I was taking a holiday. If I went of my own volition, bargained for safe passage back with whomever she’s meant to be taking me to… No, this is a terrible idea. I left for a reason — many reasons, and good ones at that. But I do miss it some days. Everything on this side starts to feel so predictable after a while.

And it’s not like it would be the first time I played at being a Good Human Pet. Ah, that was such a reliable way to tweak my parents’ noses for a while. It was more fun when whoever ‘captured’ me was in on the game, of course, but I’m sure I could still play the wide-eyed innocent if I needed to. Oh no, gorgeous person with goat legs and leaves for hair, please don’t chase me into the woods and ravish me!

Damn it, I tipped over my drink while I was laughing. At least it should dry quickly, given the alcohol content.

I think Arty would spook if I laid everything out plainly for her and agreed to go along. She’s so jumpy! I swear, I spend three seconds checking her out and if she notices, suddenly she must go look at something twelve paces away. It’s fine that she’s not interested, of course, but it would be nice for the ego if she was a bit less obvious about it.

She is rather sweet when she thinks no one’s looking. After I won a favour from her (by hiding a note under some cookies — I can’t believe that worked!), she healed Mrs Lewis and Snowball both. All of the plants in my house are suddenly the picture of health and I haven’t needed to water them in at least a week. I’m pretty sure she’s the one that fixed the playground swings as well, though I suppose that could have been some of the parents.

I wish she’d let me do anything in return. Since the cookies, she won’t take any food I’ve made, even if I make it clear it doesn’t come with any strings attached. I’ve taken to ‘accidentally’ leaving things outside the house, but really, it’s such a bother to make a full plate of food look like something I forgot or am throwing away. I just want to feed her a hot meal for once and kiss her senseless after.

Maybe it’s for the best that I spilled that drink. Time for bed before I ramble on too much longer.

The entry ends only a few lines into a new page with a perfunctory F below it. The rest of the space is taken up by a drawing of a stand of evergreen trees with icicles hanging off the branches. Two figures standing arm in arm are silhouetted against a moon hanging low in the sky.

* * *

A letter written in vivid green ink on thick stationary. The pages have an elegant gilded border with a motif of vines twining around each corner.

Nella,

This will hopefully be my last letter before I get back. Everything’s going well here. Flora’s fine with me leading her off into the middle of the forest — she seems to enjoy it, even. Was touch and go there for a bit, trying to balance making sure she knew I was interested with keeping my hands to myself. Well, keeping her hands off of me, actually. Humans definitely move fast these days!

They’re wasteful like you wouldn’t believe, too. I would’ve said Flora was a thrifty type, but I keep finding almost full plates of food out on her bins. Yeah, I’m eating human trash, laugh it up all you want. Could probably steal something nicer, but I don’t feel like it want to risk getting caught this close to Midsummer.

Wait, what if Flora’s sick and that’s why she’s not eating her meals? I’d better toss a bit of healing at her when I see her next, just in case. Wouldn’t be good to bring a broken gift back to Her Majesty, obviously. I know she’ll be perfect as long as she’s in good health.

Look, do me a favour and don’t show this to anyone, would you? Yes, I’ll owe you a small something back. I have to talk about this or I’m gonna lose my mind, Nella, I swear.

Flora’s so perfect I almost don’t want to give her away. She keeps trying to feed me even though I have to turn her down every time — I can’t chance her getting more favours out of me. We’ve been talking a lot when we go out into the woods and she lets me ramble on about any stupid thing that catches my fancy. I told her that I was kinda homesick but that writing to someone back home helped with that a bit.

The next day, she gave me this fancy paper (so yeah, I didn’t get it for you on purpose or anything) and I tried to turn her down a couple of times. She finally grabbed my arm, slapped the paper in my hand, and said, ‘There are no obligations and if you don’t accept this I will be deeply offended.’ Her eyes are a nice brown normally, but I swear they had this ice-blue tinge to them when she was staring me down.

Haven’t been that intimidated since the time I tracked mud over that ritual circle you’d been working on for half a season and you nearly killed me. I’m glad you didn’t! Honestly, I remember the rest of that season kinda fondly? Not the scrubbing the floor bit, obviously, but the rest of my time on my knees wasn’t half bad. You’re kinda hot when you’re looming over me like that. One of those tricks of the light or whatever.

I think you and Flora would get along great.

She’d probably freak out if she saw me without the glamour, right? That’s just what humans do! But I keep thinking about it all the time — what if she didn’t, what if she liked me more with green skin and my ‘big, dumb horns’ (as you always say)? And we could hold hands and go running together, through the mushroom ring and out into the real forest. You’d be waiting there for us. If she could handle seeing me I’m sure she’d survive seeing you too.

Anyway, I should wrap this up and go grab Flora before I bore you to tears or whatever. I can basically hear you rolling your eyes from here and going, ‘You can’t be serious, Artemisia,’ in that ultra-snooty voice. (I’m not even sure Her Majesty says my name meaner than you do.) I know it’s stupid and I’ll probably get over her in a few seasons, but—

The crossbar of the final T is drawn out across the page in a long, sharp line. After a few blank lines, the letter continues in a tidy cursive, written in black ink.

To Whom It May Concern,

You may address me as Flora. I wish to negotiate safe passage to and from your Court to discuss the actions of one Artemisia, who is currently under my control. While I am a ward of the Winter Court, I intend no hostilities. My only concern is the well-being of myself and my human neighbours.

I await your reply.

The letter is signed with an incredibly ornate F, the leftmost serif of which curls up into a snowflake design. Several loops of silver thread hang past the edge of the pages, trapped underneath a wax seal in pale blue which bears a similar design to the signature.

* * *

A journal entry written entirely in an unsteady hand, with quite a few letters large enough to escape the lines they are on. There are many spots of smeared ink and the words were written so hard that their imprint is visible on the following page.

14th June, 20XX

Okay. This is fine, or at least this is going to be fine. Probably. I do rather have someone who still looks like an insanely attractive woman locked in my bedroom but I am not thinking about that.

I can’t believe she wrote down her name! It’s not the whole thing (she does appear to have some sense of self-preservation!) but it’s enough for me to keep her in my power for a good while. Oh, the look on her face when I read it and then immediately snapped it at her to make her stop writing. I had forgotten how good it feels to have that kind of power. Her glamour slipped for a moment — her eyes are a beautiful pale gold, like hay in the sunshine.

Before anything else, I should give her my word that I won’t use her name beyond what’s necessary to keep her with me until I’m safely back again — I don’t want her to fret herself to pieces about what I might do. I hope I have spare blankets enough to make up the couch for myself. With any luck, her friend will write back soon and then I can go barter Artemisia’s return for a good hundred years or so of peace and prosperity for the area.

Right, one shot for my nerves and then I’ll go talk to her.

There are two blank lines before the writing resumes again in a hasty scribble that borders on illegible.

That was a mistake! I’m not sure if I should drink a great deal more or become a teetotaler for the time being. I doubt either option will help.

Turns out I was intended as a gift for Her Majesty of Summer and Artemisia was under strict instructions to keep her their hands to themself. They told me all this and then slid to their knees and said, ‘But since you have my name and all, there’s not much I could do if you told me to touch you.” They removed their glamour and I got halfway to wrapping a hand around one of their horns before I came to my senses. I yanked my hand away, stammered out something to the effect that I wouldn’t use their name against them and… ran for it.

I caught their eye before I closed the door and they looked so disappointed. I can’t I mean, if they want me to use their name like that, maybe, but I need to discuss that with them when I’ve taken the time to think clearly. No chance of that happening right now! They’re even taller in their actual form, pale green like lichen, and so beautiful nothing so mundane as a woman or a man.

Maybe I should go clarify matters. I had mistakenly assumed they were uninterested in me before today and they might reasonably come to the conclusion that I was put off by seeing them without the human-shaped glamour now. If I tell them a bit about growing up in Winter, I’m sure they’ll understand that’s not the case and then we can both get a good night’s sleep before we jump into anything rash.

A very rushed F is scribbled below the text. A faint duplicate is mirrored on the previous page, presumably from the journal being shut with too much haste.

* * *

A brief message jotted sideways across the back of a receipt in plain black ink. One corner has been nibbled off.

Nella,

Sorry about the rat, but it was the only thing I could coax close enough to the window and Flora said I couldn’t leave the room. Dunno what she wrote you but please don’t send out any rescue parties or anything right away and definitely DO NOT tell Her Majesty! I’m fine and will be a lot better than fine if I can work things out with Flora.

Like write back or whatever, but stall for time a bit, maybe? She’s definitely interested but she’s got some weird human hangups (or weird Winter hangups, who even knows). Just… try to buy me a few days? I promise if I get anywhere, I will tell you everything, no details spared. If it’s even half as good as I hope it will be, maybe you and I can try out our own version once I’m back.

Yes, I’m saying you can boss me around a little. And I’ll even stay the night after if you really want! Seriously, whatever will get you to let me have a chance at this, it’s on the table.

– Arty

A fanged, crying face is drawn at the end of the text. The signature is wedged sideways next to it, with the R and Y notably smaller than the other letters as they reach the edge of the paper.

* * *

An entry much like the earlier ones, tidily written in black ink. Its place in the journal is bookmarked by a brief message on translucent blue paper, written in tiny silver-white letters that are almost precise enough to pass as printing.

16th June, 20XX

I’ve received a thankfully quick response from the ‘Nella’ that Artemisia was writing to. She (and this time it is ‘she’) gave me almost no useful information about herself, of course, but told me she would take my request to someone who had the authority to allow me safe travel to and from the Summer Court. I made sure to drop hints that I was thinking about taking a holiday when I went into town earlier, so there shouldn’t be any difficulties if I have to leave on short notice.

The real issue is Artemisia, who apparently prefers ‘Arty’. I’m not sure of their relationship to Nella — close, I assume, given Arty’s use of their full first name, but I was worried that the two of them might also be somewhat antagonistic. Nella said her next letter might be a few days and all but outright told me to take advantage of them in the meantime. Her exact words were, ‘I am certain you will find Artemisia as cooperative a captive as you might wish for.’

Then I read the letter to Arty and they were beaming by the time I finished. They assured me that Nella was right and they would be ‘the cooperativest’ for however long they were under my power. Someone that tall (and with such an impressive set of fangs!) shouldn’t be able to just… flutter their eyelashes at me and look so very harmless. Except they are rather harmless, at the moment.

I decided to use their name to make them tell me what they wanted. It wasn’t a difficult choice (perhaps a sign that I haven’t shaken off my upbringing as much as I hoped?) but to my relief, they didn’t seem to mind. Quite the opposite. The way they shivered all over when I gave them the order — darkest night, that was almost my breaking point.

It would have been so easy to layer on command after command, not for the sake of making them do anything but to make them feel my control over them. It’s been so long since I’ve used someone’s name on them, or had mine used on me. The rush of it is heady beyond what I can ever hope to capture in words. ‘More binding than chains, more powerful than blades’ was the phrasing I learned as a child.

I may yet get a chance to find a better description, as it turns out what Arty wants most is the very thing I was trying not to thoughtlessly start doing. They told me, in great detail, and I was speechless for so long that they started babbling about how I didn’t have to or they could put the glamour back first if I wanted. I cut them off with their name, of course.

They looked like I’d given them the best gift of their life. There was some pouting when I told them to write a list of things they did and didn’t like, but I think they’ll warm to the idea when I make them read all the likes to me out loud. On their knees in front of me, I think. What a lovely mental image.

I’m going to give them my first name. With some careful wording, it’ll be child’s play to place restrictions on how they can use it for now, and it will stop them from actually being defenseless against me. I’ve had enough of unwilling power games to last me several lifetimes.

Eventually, they’ll break free of my power or we’ll part ways. If they’re still interested in the future, well, I’ll know there’s someone holding my name right on the other side of that mushroom ring. I do so like to walk in the woods and I’m not always careful of where I set my feet. Who knows what might happen?

A small doodle of a round, grinning face sits beside the final line of text. The F below is signed with a flourish and a small heart.

* * *

A letter on the gilt-edged stationery, written primarily in green ink with quite a few margin notes in black. The marginalia is in a different hand than the main body of the text. Almost a third of the first page is taken up by the salutation, which is written in multiple colours of crayon and peppered all over with hearts.

NELLA!!!

Whatever you wrote to Flora was perfect, obviously, because you are flawless and beautiful and amazing and stars above, you are the best. I owe you a debt, plain and simple! Anything you want — we’ll talk about it when I get home.

For now, I promised you details and I’m gonna give ’em to you! Flora’s asleep (and snoring, she’s so cute!), but once she’s awake I’ll ask her to make sure I didn’t leave anything out because things got real fuzzy in the middle for me. She said she wanted to write to you anyway, so I’ll leave plenty of room for her to add stuff in. You two are going to get on so great, seriously. [I had intended to write a separate letter, but Arty was quite insistent that this would be ‘way easier’.]

Okay, Flora, just… don’t read this next bit, would you? Pretty please? I swear it’s nothing bad.

She gave me her first name, Nella! With about a thousand limits on how I could use it first but still, she’s Winter and they’re usually like the most stuffy, paranoid, awful bores about their names. She said she wanted to be sure I was with her of my own free will and I almost died, Nella, she’s so romantic. And I can’t control her with it, but I can say it all I want and she sure seems to like that a lot! Especially when I’m begging.

You can start reading again, Flora!

Before we even got started, she made me write down a big list of stuff I wanted to do and didn’t want to do. Boring, right? She asked for the not fun list first and read that to herself, but then she made me get on my knees and say everything on the good list out loud. I couldn’t just rattle it all off, either! She kept asking questions, like, ‘Do you prefer being pulled by the horns or by the hair?’ [Their initial answer was to scoff and tell me it didn’t matter. The honest answer was horns, which I found very convenient to know as the afternoon progressed.]

Every time I hesitated for so much as a heartbeat she jumped in with my name all, ‘Tell me now, Artemisia,’ and of course I had to babble everything out for her. She had me stand up halfway through the list and she started taking my clothes off. I tried to get her to let me just magic away the lot, but no, she had to undo every single blighted button all by herself no matter how long it took. Human clothes have way too many buttons! [Modern human clothes don’t have nearly so many.]

Flora didn’t take off the pretty dress she had on, either. So I’m standing there in nothing more than a bit of sunlight across my arse, feeling very naked, and she starts strolling around me all casual-like and tells me to keep reading. She’s got these tall, black boots — not the wobbly, delicate type you usually see on human women but good, sturdy things with a nice thunk to them as she walks. I’m still taller but it didn’t feel like it when she was circling me like I was some tiny rabbit all twitchy-nosed with fear.

So I’m talking away and she starts touching me a little as she goes around. A very little, at first, like one little finger over my hip or down my back but even that was enough that I messed up whatever I was saying every time. She made me start over again until I could get what I’d written out in one go, no matter how many tries it took.

I think the worst one took like ten? She’d pressed herself right up against my side and I couldn’t even think — all those soft curves and the slide of her dress against my skin and the way she dragged her hands over my chest but skipped right past my nipples every time. Almost managed a whole sentence and then she pinched one so hard I couldn’t even manage a whole word. [The phrase they were struggling so hard with was ‘I like being slapped and spanked.’]

The further down the list I got, the more handsy she got. I felt like I was getting dizzy, trying to focus on the words while she was looping around me and touching me absolutely everywhere. She wasn’t too nice about it, either — even meaner than you, I think, or maybe she could hit all my weak spots since I’d laid them all out for her like a banquet. [A fair number of things on Arty’s list prompted them to mention you. If you’re interested in seeing the whole thing, I’m sure we could negotiate something beneficial to us both.]

You’d think she couldn’t do much with those blunt teeth and nails, but it turns out a bit of persistence works wonders. She had to stretch up on her tip toes to reach, but she got her teeth into my shoulder and dug them in like she meant it. It’s still tender and there’s a huge mess of bruises on that side. [Arty makes the sweetest little whimpers when I reach over and press a finger to the marks. Perhaps we can give her a matched set in the future?]

When I finally finished reading everything, she grabbed one of my horns and gave me the nastiest smile I’ve ever seen pointed my way (no offense meant for once, I swear it). I expected her to smack me or kiss me, but she cupped my cheek all gentle and looked at me for so long I started to wonder if she was rooting around in my head somehow.

Don’t know if she was or if she’d just been listening real well, but she gave me a quick, perfect little slap across the face, and then she made me beg for every single one after that. ‘Ask for it, Artemisia,’ she’d say, and then she’d hit me as soon as I got even half a word out, and then she’d use my name again before I even managed to turn my head back.

Didn’t take much of that before my face stung on both sides and the only sound I could manage was this sad sort of whine. She dragged her nails down my cheeks nice and slow and it hurt, oh Nella, it hurt like the most beautiful thing you can imagine. [Arty has neglected to mention that they started crying at this point. Their tears were such a lovely jewel green, and so sweet on my tongue.]

I almost lost my mind when she stepped away. Turned out it was so she could go sit on her bed, lift up her skirt, and show me that she didn’t have a stitch on underneath it. Didn’t take any ordering to get me on my knees for a sight like that! Had to rearrange my horns a bit to make things work, but I got my head between those incredible thighs. She braced one of her boots against my thigh and tucked her other leg over my shoulder to keep me nice and close — right on the spot she bit, of course.

Thought of you as soon as I got my mouth on her. She runs a lot warmer, but it seems like she gets soaked from pushing me around the same as you do. Was half worried I was going to drown down there, but what a way to go! You’ve got to try her once we’re back, Nella. She made the prettiest noises when I started fucking her with my tongue and I know it would be even better with the two of us taking turns.

Maybe with some backup I could actually get her to lose control, because she did not get less bossy even when I pulled out all my best tricks. I swear she barely even gave me a chance to breathe before I got her off once. Got a few seconds’ rest while she let me get a couple fingers in her and showed me the angle she wanted, but then she snagged my horns and pulled my face right back down. [I’m not easily overwhelmed, but if the two of you want to make the attempt, I welcome you to try.]

I could barely hear her over all the noise I was making with my tongue and fingers, but I could feel it every time she said my name. Finally got to hear her yell it when she clamped her thighs tight against my face and that was nearly enough to finish me off all by itself. Took her a good minute or two to stop shaking and push me away and by then I was slick with her clear down my chin.

She sat up, smoothed her dress back down, and looked practically as good as new, somehow. I thought she was going to call it a night, but no, she nudged one of those gorgeous boots of hers right between my legs with that mean, beautiful smile on her face. Told me to put my hands behind my back and show her exactly how much I liked the boots.

I had to take it kinda slow — hard to balance like that, let me tell you! — and she watched me the whole time like she was trying to memorize every little roll of my hips. Talked to me, too. All the good filthy stuff, what a mess I was making and how nice I looked rubbing off on her shoe and all that. Bit of sweetness as well, but I doubt you wanna hear any of that. [All I told Arty was that they were gorgeous and they were being good for me. Apparently that was enough to almost bring them to tears again.]

In the spirit of honestly, it didn’t take me all that long even with as slow as I was going. Felt amazing, but I made a proper mess of her boot and my thighs and a good bit of the floor. [I made them lick the boot clean, and somehow they wound up going a good deal higher than my shoe. How do you manage to get anything done when they’re around?]

Anyway, Flora’s starting to wake up. I’m gonna end it here so I can hand this over to her. Not sure what to do about bringing someone back for Her Majesty, but I’ve got a couple days so I can probably rummage something up even if it’s not ideal. Certainly can’t hand Flora over — and wow, good thing I didn’t manage to do that in the first place, can you imagine? [I assure you that I know how to play at being appropriately reverent in the face of royalty… or anyone else who might enjoy it, for that matter.]

– Arty

The signature is in the ordinary green ink and takes up only two lines, though it is underlined several times in blue crayon. After another empty line, the letter continues in black cursive.

Provided there are no difficulties on your end, Arty and I will return on Midsummer, hopefully with a guest along. I have a few acquaintances who I think would be quite content to spend a season or two with Her Majesty of Summer (with appropriate oaths of no harm, safe passage, etc.). If you have any insight into Her Majesty’s preferences, I would be grateful for the information.

My hope is to stay for most of a season myself, if that’s amenable to both you and Arty. Everything they’ve told me about you suggests we have a number of compatible interests, no small amount of which we could inflict on them — and perhaps me as well.

I eagerly anticipate our meeting.

A simple F with no additions ends the letter. On the back of the final page is a rough sketch of an angular face with horns curving up on each side. Their eyes are peacefully closed and a sharp fang pokes out from one corner of their smiling mouth.

* * *

A brief message jotted on a bright blue sticky note in hurried black cursive.

Mrs Lewis –

I’m going on holiday after all! Don’t fret about the house, I have someone taking care of it. Joanie said she’d be happy to help you if you need anything.

See you again in a few months!

– F

The bottom corner of the note is taken up with a smiley face and someone has written ‘Hi, Snowball!’ across the back in green crayon.
 

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6 thoughts on “The Screwup Letters

  1. This story was so fun! I love how the relationships unfolded, particularly how Flora’s goals changed throughout and how Arty was strung along in the best way possible. And the sequel in Faerie should be quite a heated tri-partnership. This was a joy to read – thanks for posting!

  2. What a cute little story with a kinky little twist! Loved seeing the dual perspectives and the sort of back-and-forth “will they or won’t they?” between the two protagonists – all building up to the big climax, in more ways than one. Thoroughly enjoyed this <3

  3. I am extremely tickled to see that someone took a shot at The Screwtape Letters, you have no idea. The pacing on this was excellent (it really ticked along but never felt like it was going too fast for its own good), it was nice and clear telling whose writing from whose, the sex was plenty explicit without ever needing to say what on earth Arty has going on downstairs, and the back-and-forth weaving between the various letters was a great way to get multiple viewpoints on a situation (especially in terms of Arty being a little bad at human things). I’m also a sucker for Fair Folk being hazardous and/or horrible, so this was plenty fun; as soon as a character wearily spoke of leaving out milk and scattering iron filings I was 100% on board!

  4. Interesting characters. I wonder what will happen to the human that they will much more competently capture this time.

  5. This was delightful, in both content and form! I particularly liked how the signatures changed with mood and circumstance.

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