Summary: After being infected with Wolbachia pipientis, the real-life bacteria that causes insects to reproduce asexually, Fergus Whimsifinado soon finds himself a single father struggling to provide for 500+ genetically-identical offspring he never really wanted in the first place. Suddenly becoming the first member of a brand new species means complex politics to deal with, a Pixie World to build, a shipping company and a therapy business to manage, and a budding interspecies war to survive. All on top of raising children.
A/N - Fair warning: This isn't really your average FOP 'fic. As you have probably noticed, this fanfic is very long. It contains a lot of in-depth worldbuilding, much of which is based on real world science and ridiculously anthropomorphized insect behaviors. The rest of the worldbuilding is just needlessly complicated because that's my writing style and I must challenge myself to have fun. This story may be dark, uncomfortable, or just really bizarre at times, though I am confident in my T rating instead of M.
This is a fanfic about the Head Pixie becoming infected with the real-world bacteria Wolbachia pipientis that restructures the reproductive system of its host insect, resulting in that insect reproducing asexually and raising an army of identical clone offspring. Yes, H.P. will be pregnant during this fanfic. Multiple times, in fact. Like a lot. Other insect behaviors are also fair game.
If this doesn't work for you, then this isn't your kind of fanfic. Know your limits and proceed with care.
Additionally, this story runs parallel to my Anti-Cosmo backstory fanfic, Frayed Knots. You don't have to read Knots in order to understand Origin (though it may supplement the worldbuilding). I'll note in the headings or in notes at the bottom when a chapter crosses over with Knots. Now, let's check out these mad, wicked mixies!
ACT 1 - SPOILED
The Fairy Whose Crown Wouldn't Fit
Winter of the Fallen Mountain - Spring of the Creeping Grapevine
On a daily basis, it still baffles me to remember how many people don't know that squids keep libraries. A hodge-podge of wrinkled papers, clay tablets, engraved glass globes, strips of bark, pieces of battle-scarred weaponry, and stolen plates of armor all tossed into enormous bins and sorted by color is still a library. Tapping my cracked fingernails to my teeth as I sit here with fourteen blank notebooks stacked dull and gray in front of me, just studying the shelves and cabinets that line my own labyrinth of a filing room - my personal library of sorts - I see no wrong in admitting that I did its memory justice. Considering what that place did for me, if not the rest of Pixiekind, I'd better have.
There are beings in our world who are classified beneath the umbrella of Fairies, such as the brownies and the cherubs and the elves, and out among the stars in that library of the Yugopotamians, I and one who was perhaps the dearest friend I ever had once pored together over the texts that outlined the origins of the fairies, of the gnomes, of the selkies, so on and on.
Ever since those patient days of studying, it has been my intention to return there alongside him and lay a copy of my text in the messy bin beside the others of its kind. For then, in the universe's most expansive library, Pixies finally will become a true race of their own. Because once upon a time, neither terribly long ago nor terribly far from where I now sit eking out our history, with Sanderson and Longwood squabbling over scattered papers behind me, our kind once fell among the Fairy classification too.
Along with my desire to bring our origin story there upon its completion, it is my wish that such a record be preserved for those who come after us, even when we are no longer here. The past of our species, like its uncertain future, must be preserved. It's a simple matter and lacks a question mark, and should it really be true that our fate was sealed the very moment it began, I should like for somebody - regardless of their species - to stumble upon my writings and preserve record of how it was that Pixies as a whole came to be born, how it was that Pixies as a whole came to thrive, and how it was that Pixies as a whole almost certainly will come to die.
Therefore, my intent is to write honestly, without shame, disguising no details in any attempt at dodging my own (happily very few) weaknesses or painting myself in any particular light, and I shall often lean on magic to pull from my memories as I go along. I will be careful not to damage and muddle the threads, lest even I forget the true origin of the pixies in the process. I expect this text to pass through the hands of each of my descendants at least once in their studies. In doing so, I ask that no notes be taken by hand as one should go along turning pages, but merely be scribed in thought. Our history is not a thing to study as a schoolbook, but to live and ponder and carry with us in our cores. And thus I, the first and potentially last Head Pixie, return to early days of memory, and we begin.
He who would become the first of the pixies was born into a world where the air carried the intertwined scents of cinnamon and orange, and the milk tasted just the same. Even on that first day he bit as he nursed, in the way only we and the brownies and the Anti-Fairies do. His father bore him in winter while he was still taking business classes at the Fairy Academy up in the town of Prudoc. His mother allegedly carried him through the campus library every day as she wandered about, not caring who saw her holding the awkward, vaguely hexagonal child against her uncovered breasts. Her name was Solara. He was Ambrosine.
I attended Spellementary School with the other nymphs from my forty-fifth July onward, because that's what was expected of me, and I remained in one of its small rooms with dirt floors and scarred walls for the usual six hundred years. On a particularly pivotal day of my childhood in the Year of the Creeping Grapevine, I found myself in the class of a scarlet-haired fairy whose first name I never learned, and whom shall be referred to hereafter as Mr. Thimble.
It was the beginnings of a long century that would be spent poring over every species of magical being the known universe had produced, from the Angels to the Yugopotamians. Why they do not teach such things from the beginning of the alphabet downwards has even now not been explained to me. Instead, we picked our way through the aluxo'ob, the ishigaq, the nixes, the swan maidens (or 'swanee' as they were just beginning to be called), and several additional species that I cared little for. So on the fateful day in question, I had skipped two-thirds of the way through my stack of clay tablets. That's where the fairies were.
Mr. Thimble broke off his lecture and did not speak for a time, only hovered at my shoulder and read the words I traced my finger along. After a minute, I realized everyone had paused to stare. I looked up.
He crossed his arms. "Whimsifinado. There is one will o' the wisp damsel in this room. Identify her."
I removed my thumb from my mouth and pointed to she who sat directly on my right. "That's Magalee Dustfinger."
"How do you know she is a will o' the wisp?"
"She has a floating crown and lepidoptera wings. They're blue and black, so she probably comes from the Earthside East." It was as clever a guess as any. All will o' the wisps seemed to come from the Earthside East.
"If everyone except for you and Magalee were to leave this classroom, and I returned a few moments later and found you lying on the floor unable to move while she sat at her desk looking perfectly fine, what would I likely assume had happened?"
"Erm, she… she gave me a Kiss of Frost?"
"Correct; I'm glad you were paying enough attention to gather that. How does the Kiss of Frost work?"
I stuck one finger to the roof of my mouth. "Well, so it's not s'posed to work very well when they're as little as Magalee, but will o' the wisps have little fleshy pouches where they keep the chemicals that can paralyze anyone who gets their spit in their mouth. For a little while. Just if they want to. And only in late winter to early summer. My dad says that's because they're in season, and he told me what that means but he also says I'm not supposed to talk about it at school until I'm older. But the will o' the wisp damsels are immune to the chemicals because of some kind of goop that covers the insides of their throats, so it wouldn't work if two damsels tried to spit in each other's mouths or something."
"And why would Magalee want to give you a Kiss of Frost?"
Glancing sideways at the pink-faced will o' the wisp, I said, "She might want to kiss me if she didn't like seeing me talk to other damsels. Or if she's just mean, which she kind of is sometimes, so I wouldn't put it past her."
"Do you know what the surefire antidote for the Kiss of Frost is?"
"Is it time and patience?"
"It is not. Should you very much like to receive a Kiss of Frost?"
"Then be grateful for the free movement of your limbs, turn to Section 11, and follow along with the rest of the class."
I pretended to do so, but in reality didn't flip away from the fairy tablet. After a few minutes, Mr. Thimble noticed and flew back to turn to the proper chapter himself. I plopped my chin between my hands. "Why do I have to learn about will o' the wisps? There's only one will o' the wisp in the whole class." I looked about, then corrected myself. "There are only two will o' the wisps in the whole class. But Tobie doesn't really count because he's just a drake. I'm a full-blooded fairy, my parents are full-blooded fairies, I'm going to wed a full-blooded fairy, my babies are going to be full-blooded fairies, and I only want to learn about fairies."
"What? That's… You actually think… Oh, I see. Ah. Well." Mr. Thimble floated to the front of the classroom and patted the top of his desk. "Come over here please, Fergus."
Seeing no reason not to obey, I did. Mr. Thimble placed his hands on each of my shoulders and, rotating me until I faced forward, said, "Halen, how do you know Fergus is a fairy?"
"Er…" The leprechaun squirmed in his seat. "He has a… sort of… crown?"
My eyes flashed up to the gold ring that hovered above my head like it were bound there by an invisible cord. Six spikes glinted around its rim, just as they ought to on every healthy fairy crown. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that my crown had four and a half spikes. Admittedly I was a premature nymph; Ambrosine had said once that the calcium hadn't finished forming properly inside him, so one crown point had been snapped at the base since the day I was born. The other midway. Three of the remaining four had thick splinters running through them, made more obvious in the right angle of the light, and the entire piece was soft and flexible to the touch, even though it was technically supposed to be made of iron drawn from the blood.
"Magalee has a crown too," Mr. Thimble pointed out. "At a mere glance, how can we tell that Fergus and Magalee belong to different species? Winola?"
"Magalee's wings are lep- lep- er, either moth or butterfly wings. Like Fergus said."
"Very good. Would you come up here too?"
She did, albeit hesitatingly. Mr. Thimble turned us both around so our backs were to the class and said, "What do we see about Winola and Fergus's wings?"
I kept my eyes fixed on the chalkboard as Mr. Thimble gave an unseen figure permission to speak.
"Ooh, ooh! So, Winola's wings buzz really, really fast. Really."
"That is true. And, if she stilled them" - Mr. Thimble pushed Winola's head down until her feet touched the floor, and she allowed her wings to droop in response - "we could see that she has not one pair, but two sets of wings that can swivel independently from one another. This is what allows fairies to be the swiftest and most agile fliers among the Seelie Court, or all of us Fairykind who are not Anti-Fairies. Now, as for Fergus…"
"He flaps kind of weird and slow," Tobie said, and someone else giggled. One to talk, I thought, seeing as I'd never once witnessed Tobie's simple pale wings get him or that rumpled brown mop of unbrushed hair off the ground. For the longest time, we'd all been convinced he was a tomte- a Fairy simply born without the ability to truly channel magic. Well. Glancing back on those early days, it ought to have been obvious to us that he wasn't (what with him being a will o' the wisp drake), or his kind would have killed him off long before he'd even earned his name. If you're a drake who can't use magic, you'll only have one opportunity in your whole life to breed, and to put it gently, unless you like your skin tearing apart and exploding into ribbons for good, it won't end well on your side. In wisp culture, that kind of thing will get you sentenced to food storage early on. And not so you can take inventory.
"If I were to spread Fergus's wings, like so, then you all would see that he, just as Winola, has two pairs of wings on his back. And, while it's faint, he also has a hint of golden brown running along the costa that neither Winola nor I nor any other fairy in this room possess. Perhaps some of you aluxo'ob might catch that while his forewings are of the appropriate length for his age, his hindwings are unusually stunted- much more so than even the eastern elves, with their apis or 'honey bee' genetics."
I counted the sticks of chalk that rested in the silver tray beneath the board. There were still nine.
"Can anybody name one thing that fairies are capable of doing that no other species can? Go ahead, Jamey."
"Fairies can fly backwards?"
"I can fly backwards," I protested, starting to turn around. "My dad taught me how and so I'm probably a whole lot better at it than you are. You're just a sylph with a dumb pointy hat."
Mr. Thimble took my chin and turned my face back towards him. I shot Jamey a frustrated look regardless. She pulled the brim of her star-coated cap over her eyes.
"Fergus, would you please demonstrate your ability to fly backwards?"
When he let me go, I kicked off with my feet and churned my wings to continue the elegant momentum. I made it near the end of the room before I was forced to stop, recenter my balance, and flap in a more natural manner so I might float.
"That was sloppy even considering your age, but for the purposes of this discussion, it's an acceptable demonstration. Winola?"
It took only four seconds for it to become apparent that I had been shown up. Not only did she pass me without slowing, but she planted her feet above the rack of coats behind me, flipped forward, and flew back to the chalkboard. Mr. Thimble called me to the front again before I could take my seat. Winola's face was red when she peeked in my direction.
"The difference," Mr. Thimble went on, "is how each one attempted to complete this task. Winola acted as a normal fairy would: by sweeping her wings up and then angling them backward when they came down. Fergus had a different approach. You likely have noticed, children, as I have, that he always makes circular motions with his wings."
There were murmurs of agreement that made me intertwine my fingers and rub those on the left with those on the right. In all five hundred and sixteen years of my life, I had never until that point been told before that I made circles, nor realized that other fairies did not. Focusing my attention upon Winola, I attempted to change my pattern to match hers. The concept remained out of my grasp.
"Winola was able to achieve such agility because each of her wings, even in their young form, is capable of angling itself individually, as her wings connect directly to her muscles. Fergus, if we were to remove his shirt, would reveal to us that his wings did not quite form the same attachment during birth."
"Take off your shirt, Fergus," called Magalee.
My cheeks burned- probably enough that my pale freckles shone like grains of salt against a sea of pink. "You wish, wisp. Not while you're in season."
"Yeah, what she said," Tobie added, finally shifting his attention away from his bare toes. Mr. Thimble turned to me, one thin eyebrow raised.
"It is your call to make if you should wish to share, Fergus. I will not pressure you one way or another."
I looked down at my shoes and shook my head.
"Very well. You may sit. Thank you."
As I made my way up the aisle, still keeping my gaze downcast, sudden clucking noises slammed against my eardrums. I jolted my head up. Magalee, and Tobie beyond her, made flapping motions with their arms like urvogel hatchlings as they continued their clucking.
I turned my back to them, gripping the edge of my desk almost as deeply as my teeth gripped my upper lip. Mr. Thimble urged a second time for me to sit down, but instead of doing so, I lifted my head again.
"Mr. Thimble, I would very much like to show the class how my wings attach."
"You may if you wish, but do it because you want to. Not because Magalee and Tobie - both of whom will be missing recess today for this - are attempting to push you into it."
Magalee stopped, with Tobie's reaction a bit delayed. "I want to," I insisted, skimming back to join Mr. Thimble by his desk. Because my trembling fingers had some difficulty with the clasps on my shiny black uniform and the buttons on my white shirt beneath, he helped me undo them and slide my wings back through their holes. Facing the chalkboard, I hugged my own chubby chest.
Mr. Thimble ran a finger from the apex of one wing down to the knob. "You perhaps cannot see it from where you all sit (Would any of you like to come up? Gather around, then) that Fergus's wings enter his back in a slightly different position than fairy wings do. I can slip my entire hand between the space here, while it wouldn't have fit between Winola's. Fergus's muscles appear to pull on his actual body to flap his wings, rather than pulling on the wings themselves; this rough patch you see on his back right here expands and constricts with every beat. This body system is called an 'indirect muscular' design, and appears in the first generation of any crossbreed who has only one fairy parent, of course with the exception of a barbegazi crossbreed or one who has a cherub mother or father, as their feathers carry the ultimate dominant gene."
"This means that your wings cannot pivot independently, doesn't it, Fergus?"
"I- I haven't noticed, Mr. Thimble, but-"
"Give it a try."
I made an attempt to rotate my right wing upwards while the left one remained pointed towards the floor. Both sets swished up, then down, up and down together again.
"So if he can't, that means he's not a real fairy?" Halen asked.
"As evidenced by the design of his wings, no. Somewhere therein lies the answer to the question that has eluded us thus far." Mr. Thimble handed my shirt back by one sleeve. "What precisely is Fergus? His father bears the anax or 'dragonfly' wings and small, six-pointed golden crown that legalize him as a full-blooded fairy, but no one seems able to prove the race of his mother. We can confirm by a simple examination of his back, however, that Fergus is the product of a crossed relationship like many of you in here are. Who among you can remind us which parent is responsible for passing on which of the three great traits? Karcher? Karcher, do you know?"
"The nymph gets the species of his father, the crown of his mother, and then, um, well." The elf made a gesture at my face, avoiding eye contact. "Crossbreed wings. I mean, if the parents aren't the same race. Then you get the indirect structure like he has. Sorry."
"No, there's nothing to apologize for. You're exactly correct. If Fergus were to someday mate with a fairy who actually is a real fairy, then her wing genes would dominate over his and produce a fairy nymph that society recognizes as a full-blood, not as a cross, based on the structure of its back. Perhaps when he sheds these nymphhood wings for his adult pairs, then we shall see if our Fergus better resembles the rest of us full-blooded fairies here. With less of that curious, sickly brown stripe along his costa, perhaps. You may return to your seats now, thank you."
As the others scattered around me, I didn't move, even though my shirt still dangled over my forearm. "I'm a real fairy. Just as both my parents are."
His gray eyes slid along my face. "You are an illegitimate child with parentage that cannot be confirmed. Please sit so we can move on with our original discussion. Will o' the wisps are only one small part of your curriculum, and I have a schedule that must be kept to."
"I'm still a full-blooded fairy. My dad probably has a bunch of legal papers somewhere that even say so. You have no right to tell me I'm not."
"Go to your seat, Fergus."
"But I am a-"
He slammed his palm down on his desk just beside my ear. "If you cannot manipulate your wings independently, then by definition you are not a fairy. That is written fact. You are merely a crossbreed, perhaps the offspring of a brownie for your awkward square wingtips and the dirty color threading through the veins, and that is the most you can possibly-"
"My dad's not a brownie-kisser!" I shouted, slapping my hand against the desk as well. "See? See my crown? Maybe- maybe it's a little soft when you touch it, and it's kind of a little broken on top because I was sick as a nymph, but it's got six whole points if you look really closely and it's not a soft brownie hat and I like it just fine since it's all mine and especially because it proves I'm a real fairy like you!"
Mr. Thimble stared down his pointed nose at me without blinking. "I stand by the policy we went over the first day of class, and I don't want to hear anyone called a 'brownie-kisser' in my classroom. You have my apologies if I offended you; I was merely speculating possibilities. I forget that you are children and sensitive to such matters. You will know when I'm declaring a real, true statement because I'll cite my tablets as references, as I did when discussing the apexs of your wings. Now sit down."
I bit sharply on my thumbnail as I turned my back.
"Good. Yes, put your shirt on. Fold your wings to squeeze them through the… I see you know how. Well done. Class, please return your attention to strip thirty-nine. We're now going to learn what a lone drake might want to keep on hand to perhaps avoid the attention of a will o' the wisp damsel should he stumble across her territory, especially down on Earth. Tobie, under Epipole v. Fairy World, I'm required to send you out of the room for this. Principal Kindall should be out there in another moment to wait with you."
Quietly as my fingertips could slide over stone, I crept back to the tablet on fairies. Unfortunately, the statement was engraved right there near the top: Fairies share their six-pointed crowns with multiple races, but differ greatly in wing design. Fairies remain the only species with the ability to manipulate each of the four wings independently, owing to the unique direct connection of wing to muscle through their backs.
"Whimsifinado! Since you are clearly more interested in the nature of fairies than in what the rest of the class is learning, explain why even full-blooded anax-winged fairies can sometimes find themselves unable to outmaneuver a will o' the wisp in season."
After our excruciatingly pointless lesson on the nature of will o' the wisps had concluded, we were released for morning recess. Tobie was sentenced to return his blocks and drawing styluses to Principal Kindall and join Magalee in the classroom. As he and I squeezed past one another in the doorway, I felt a soft pat on my shoulder. Turning, I was met with Magalee herself, her gaze downcast.
"Did I hurt your feelings when I teased you to take off your shirt?"
"You did, but I accept your apology. Please don't offend me again."
"Sorry. You have a lot of freckles on your arms and the back of your neck and I like looking at them."
My skin itched. "You could see those from where you sat? They're as pale as wraiths. Even I can hardly find them."
"Well, I can. And I think they're neat. You don't meet lots of drakes who've got freckles. Mama says they're rare like genies, or something, and every freckle's worth a bonus point." Then she slipped me her apple juice box, the thin white straw already stabbed into place. "You can have that."
"I don't need it."
"But I'm sorry."
I caved at the soft look in her deep brown eyes, her own red freckles sprinkled over her nose. "Thanks," I said, and took a sip. "I'm sorry you're stuck inside today kind of because of me."
"It's fine. I can play with Tobie."
"Did you think the will o' the wisp lesson was as dull as I did?"
"I thought the part about the flowers was interesting."
"Yeah, well, I fell asleep. Okay, I'm going to go away now."
"Have fun," she said, beginning to close the door. I turned to float down the hallway where the rest of my classmates had gone, but before I made it more than a dozen and some flaps, my fingers went numb around the juice box. It splattered to the packed dirt and scattered straw. For a moment I swayed, blinking, and then my wings began to stiffen near their bases. A few seconds later, I was sprawled on my stomach across the ground.
Magalee chuckled somewhere behind me and came out to retrieve her juice box. She took a sip in front of me, her foot squishing my hand. "See, that's the Kiss of Frost."
"How did you-?"
"I snuck a little spit in the bottom of that straw before I put it in my juice. See you after recess, Fergus." As those words rang in my ears, I had just enough strength remaining to turn my head as she shut the door and went to join Tobie at Mr. Thimble's chalkboard for a lecture on teasing.
I lay with my cheek pressed into the dirt floor for all of recess hour, with a small puddle of Magalee's apple juice seeping into the lower part of my shirt. After about thirty minutes, I found I could twitch my wings (not independently, apparently), and fifteen more after that I could even move my arms. By the time the class was beginning to filter back from outside, I was on my knees and rubbing my fists against my eyelids. "There you are, Fergus," said Halen once, but that was all.
My wings were still too limp to fly with, but I had enough control over my hands by the time I stumbled back into the classroom to swipe Magalee's tablets from her desk so they exploded into shards. Then we both had to stay in for the fifteen-minute recess we were scheduled to have that afternoon. I made sure never to sit beside her during lunch forever after.
Before the first bell rang the following morning, I was perched on one of the playground swings with my arms folded. When Mr. Thimble finally showed up ten minutes before class to unlock the door, I whirred over and said, "I talked to my dad after school yesterday. He says my mother was a fairy."
"Do you have written proof of that?"
My eyebrows brushed together. I let my arms fall as I bobbed into the building after him. "He said."
Mr. Thimble would not accept that as a valid answer. So when I returned home that afternoon, I flew straight to Ambrosine's room and shoved aside the curtain. He was sorting and shelling acorns, occasionally combing leaves from his crisp black hair, and spared me a glance as I came in.
"Another rough day for your little shoulders, I presume?"
Using one of said little shoulders to flip the ends of the curtain behind me, I huffed, "Mr. Thimble still claims I'm not a fairy because I can't move my wings separately."
"Hm. He's wrong. I'm a fairy, your mother was a fairy, and you're a fairy. If he insists otherwise, then he's a big fat smoof. Just ignore him."
I placed my hands on the table. "Can't you talk to him?"
Ambrosine paused over his acorns. "Would it make you feel better if I did?"
I nodded. Fumbling for his wand, Ambrosine took my hand, and we poofed straight back up to Spellementary. Mr. Thimble was just locking the door to his classroom. His jaw tightened when he saw me with my father.
"Thimble." Ambrosine tugged me a step forward. "What's this about you telling my son he's a crossbreed?"
"He is one. As we discussed in class just the other day, Fergus does not bear fairy wings, but rather the structure found only in those crossed with the non-cherub and non-barbegazi races." He took hold of one of my wings and flared it. "At first examination his 'soft flight wings' resemble those of cockchafers beneath the shell, so I'd think his mother a qalupalik, but obviously that's impossible given that he can fly in silence. While they somewhat match the wings of the eastern elf, elves always take their wings from their fathers. The majority of wisp drakes have brown wings, and in speculative theory there might be some potential for the genetics to manifest in the faded orange color of his costas, especially as he has the small, six-point crown that not too many races do. However," he continued as he reached to take up another of my wings, "the shape is entirely wrong. I specifically studied Fairykind biology back at the Academy. If your son were half-wisp, his apexes would end in triangular points. Instead, you can see for yourself that his wings are sharply and undeniably rectangular all along the jugal fold and up towards the apex. This is likely why he finds making sharp turns so difficult even with his fairy parentage."
"Blah, blah, blah. That means, it's really too bad that it sometimes takes me an entire second longer than other people to turn around when I'm flying." I made the attempt to yank back my wings, and failed. "If fairies are so good at turning, why don't you turn around and go back to your Academy so you can update your manners to this century?"
My sass earned me a smack on the back of the head courtesy of my father. "Fergus was simply born square. His parentage had nothing to do with it."
Mr. Thimble only shrugged. "Well. Then what's your explanation? If you're offering it up, I certainly don't mind listening."
Ambrosine straightened his shoulders. "I believe his doctor referred to his case once as him having a genetic mutation. I may not have been the one to specifically study Fairykind biology back at the Academy, but I do know my basic history, and genetic mutations are how the first will o' the wisps and the brownies originated as a subspecies. They happen, and aren't necessarily uncommon. The fact that the universe randomly shuffled him one doesn't make him less of a full-blooded fairy."
"I think you misunderstand."
Fingers tightening around my costas, "Why his wings are as they are is a question that I have been struggling to answer ever since I first met Fergus. He doesn't have beetle elytra over them. He lacks the antennae he'd have if he were half-imp. Even forgoing the crown connection, he doesn't look at all like a habetrot, nor have their sewing talent or pointed, star-tipped hat. He'd be incapable of keeping his crown afloat if there was very much duende blood in his veins. He doesn't have the white bat wings or oversized feet of a barbegazi, or the hooves and fluff of a satyr. He's too bright to be half-kobold, too peaceful to share any redcap genes, too flesh-colored to be part wraith, too bland to be one of the huldufólk, too pretty to be half-goblin (although he's about as stingy as one come snack-time), he wasn't born with swanee feathers, has proven before that he would drown without wearing a cohuleen druith unlike one of the finfolk or a selkie or a nix, and he's much too short for his mother to be a sylph."
Given the discussion we were having, I decided not to take any of that as a compliment.
"And between you and me, he's not quite" - Mr. Thimble double-tapped his temple to indicate 'smart' - "enough to be half-alux."
"I scored a hundred percent on my preliminary mathematics test last week!"
Mr. Thimble mussed my dark hair. "You did indeed, and I remember how proud you were when Wilf finally deciphered all your messy handwriting."
"If you're picking on a child to feel better about yourself, then you ought to feel really smoofing incredi-"
"Fergus. Language, for King Nuada's sake. And give your tongue a chance to untangle itself and rest, or you'll start stuttering like a duende. Your teacher is explaining to us why he's the smartest one here."
"Polite correction, Whimsifinado: I'm laying down the facts to correct without belittling." And he kept going. "Ishigaq don't have hindwings and are all half- or fully blind anyway. Púca are an equal impossibility seeing as he's, well, not green. Finfolk can only produce finfolk offspring even when they breed across races. If you're anything like you were in our Academy days, Ambrosine, then I highly doubt you ever would have mated with a far darrig, given how they're always as bald as the imps are."
"If we've eliminated this many possibilities, then I might even dare to guess that our Fergus was mothered by a brownie." Mr. Thimble still hadn't released my wing, and I'd given up my irritated attempts to peel it from his grasp. "Though it would not explain the crown, brownies are octagons before they shed their exoskeletons in instar. If I am remembering correctly, then according to the records the school possesses, Fergus was hexagonal as a nymph; that was attributed to this genetic mutation of his, apparently. A brownie octagon and fairy sphere resulting in a perfectly neutral hexagon appears to make more sense than any other combination. In any case, there remains the possibility that his mother was a crossbreed herself who wore a fairy crown, and he's a fourth-blood. He's possibly even very slightly part will o' the wisp with brownie parentage, or something along those lines. This is all I can say on the matter."
Now Ambrosine's wings dropped. "Are you actually instating that I'm a brownie-kisser now?"
Mr. Thimble looked him up and down, red brows raised. My young mind at last drank in what he saw when he looked upon my father: Ambrosine was a small, round-faced drake with cropped, wavy hair the precise shade of Yugopotamian ink at midnight. It was fond of curling about the backs of his ears, so he always let them stay there during his summer trim, along with the thin swirl of a cowlick that arced upwards like a tail in the rear. His cornflower-blue eyes were wide and deep, and I often thought they needed something between them to draw attention away, lest one lose themselves in the pools entirely. Still dressed in the usual unwrinkled, wine-colored vest he wore with his white shirt to Wish Fixers every day, he certainly appeared as though he belonged in the office and ought to stay there. A gray stylus lay tucked behind his narrow ear. A second stuck out from his pocket. Very crisp and clean, though neither particularly handsome nor dripping with too much magic. Yes, Ambrosine fit the eggheaded, desperate-for-a-damsel stereotype down to the stubby round nose that matched my own. His wings weren't even notched near the pterostigmata like a married drake's. After a few seconds, his face pinkened as he realized it all himself. He grabbed his tie in one fist and repositioned it.
"I'm not bright enough to avoid falling prey to cross-race culture shock and not interested in familiarizing myself with such things, so I have this rule I made for myself when I was six hundred twenty: I don't mate outside my species. His mother is a fairy, and you can take my word for it. That's proof enough."
"I don't claim to know what she is," insisted Mr. Thimble, still gripping my wing in his fat hand. "I simply state that he could in no way ever be considered a legal full-blood, and he'll want to be aware of this when he's older and ready to face all papers from the legal department without your supervision."
Ambrosine might have snapped his ipewood wand in half, but I caught his hand before he could complete the movement, as was always my unspoken duty. He drew air in through his nose. "I know his mother. She is away roaming Earth now, but should she ever choose to return to Fairy World, you will see for yourself that she is a full-blooded fairy too."
Mr. Thimble pursed his lips and rose another hair from the ground. I tightened my grip on both the front and back of Ambrosine's leg. "Whimsifinado, I consider you my equal and I deeply respect you, but simple science disproves the entire possibility. You must be mistaken."
"Don't imply I don't know how to identify my damsels, Thimble. I've charmed more with my singing voice than you could ever hope to with your precious 'science'."
Ignoring him, Mr. Thimble finally released the costa of my wing. "I teach what is written on the tablets I have been instructed to study and distribute. I am honest and impartial. Your son does not fit the description of fairies I was given. Therefore, though he may fall into the class of Fairy by his nature of being born a member of the Seelie Court, he is not a fairy, a member of the individual species. I do not make assumptions as to what he may be, only what he isn't based on the precedents set forth by the Tuatha Dé Danann at the Great Dawn of our existence, may the Lost Ancients return from their underground prison."
"May the Lost Ancients return," I murmured, touching the flat of my thumb to my chest.
Ambrosine tilted his head. "Well, you're super annoying and I don't like you at all. Come on, Fergus. Let's poof back down to Fairy World and get you a popsicle."
My flavor was grape, but I didn't eat it. After I'd changed from the pressed black uniform that fit my body too tightly and into my favorite thick gray sweater, we sat on our bench along the outskirts of the Fairy Hills golf course, with his fingertips barely brushing my right shoulder. I simply stared at the popsicle until all my vision was filled with purple. "Are you sure my mother was a fairy?"
"Mostly sure." Ambrosine's eyes softened into a distant sort of misty world as he sucked a little more on his ice cream spoon. "Then again, I did have several cherry sodas most of those nights, extra sugar sprinkled in… Solara had thick nightly curls that could fall all the way down her back to her waist, and every time she leaned to one side, they twirled about like dancing tongues of indigo fire, dabbed with occasional blots of white that rippled like shooting stars. I used to make wishes on them. She would perch on the end of my coffee table, her wings still glistening in rainbows from the bathwater, then rake all that hair together in one great waterfall and brush her fingers through it as she watched me watch her from where I lay on my stomach across the couch, my hands beneath my chin. She must have had imp blood somewhere in her near lineage, because her wings would sing whenever she rustled them."
I almost could have said it along with him. His fingers left their draped position above my shoulder and traced a thoughtful circle around my right ear.
"I'd once fancied myself a damsel killer, but she knew how to play my own strings better than I did. Solara is the one who makes you forget to be careful. She'd flirt with her own grandnymphs if the opportunity presented itself, but actually capturing her interest enough for the chance to hold her against your neck and caress that hair, well… Any drake who could do that had won himself a more alluring prize than a will o' the wisp who let him call the shots. Winning her took honest, deliberate work. Sacrifice of losing out on other damsels. Readjusting your entire being and way of life- actually making some attempt to clean the house, for example, on the days she'd promised she'd stop in. And when she didn't, it only made you pine for her all the more."
"She can't have been that pretty."
"No, she shouldn't have been… And yet, I ran myself ragged for my chance at her. Decade upon decade upon decade. Centuries of dedication culminated into one warm, soft night that made every moment of wing-wrenching agony worth it. Or most of them, anyway. A fair amount… Some of it. Well. It was what it was, I suppose. She did, after considerable begging, grant me the honor of braiding her hair while she ate my cereal, and that was my favorite part." He rubbed my own black hair, shiny enough (though doubtlessly lacking the full luster she'd had), into a sort of tuft at the front. "Three months later, we had a beautiful little drake who might just win his own Solara someday. She stayed a few weeks to nurse you, but it simply wasn't in her nature. The game was over and you, adorable as you were, were loud and needy enough to ruin all our fun. She claimed she felt like a prisoner. Then she pleaded with me to let her go, so I did because that was the spell she had me under. And that's why Gidget suckled you until you were weaned."
As I chewed on the end of my wooden stick, I kicked my feet. "What was she like?"
"I just told you."
"Oh… So, if Solara really is a fairy, why do you think my wings are different than the other fairies'?"
Ambrosine cracked open one eyelid. "You have a popsicle. I had ice cream in a bowl, before I polished it off. There are many flavors and many styles of such frozen treats, but they all fall beneath the division of 'ice cream' when it comes down to it. There are nuances in everything. Mr. Thimble and his science focus on their precious norms and averages so much, they tend to forget those who dot the fringes. Fergus, it's not your wings that get under their skin, and it's not even the square-like structure of your face. Do you want to hear the real reason why the others pick on you?"
Without lifting his head, Ambrosine pushed up my dark bangs and ran his thumb over the skin above my eyes. "Have they taught you children yet why you have all these pale freckles on your face and up and down your arms and legs?"
"I always thought I got them from Solara."
"No, you didn't get them until after your instar period when you shed your awkward exoskeleton. In our world of Fairykind, there are kabouters, there are drones, and there are gynes. Well. Things are softer and less blunt nowadays in the world of education, but when I went to school, we were told that having this many freckles makes a drake a 'gyne', just like the gynes in the insect colonies down on Earth. Your spots will get darker a few millennia before you come into age of majority at two hundred thousand, stay that way for a long while, and then when you really mature and the color starts fading from your hair, they'll turn lighter again."
"That's jacked. Why?"
"Kissy-kissy reasons. I'll explain it more when we're not out here in public, if you can't puzzle it out for yourself. It's not genetic- it's environmental. It can't even be passed down to your offspring. No one knows why it happens yet. Gynes just crop up sometimes like poof." He ruffled my hair. "Simple-wimple way, Fergus, you were born to be a good strong leaderish type, and even though being a gyne means you're more likely than not to attempt to blatantly disregard or overthrow the authority figures in your life, I accept that and I care about you anyway. Call it destiny or whatever gives you warm fuzzies at night."
"No, you made that up because you know I hate my spots."
"All right, we'll see if you still think that when lazy Thimble finally gets over the magical species deal he's got going on and teaches you important stuff like this. The other kids can recognize your gyne-ship in your freckles and they can taste it in the scent of your magic. It's a sign of dominance, not to mention some serious attractiveness with most of the damsels, you lucky rex, and it bothers them. And I could tell it really bothers that teacher of yours, but that's no surprise. He doesn't like your sassy tongue."
Shrugging the freckle conversation off, I said, "Okay, but logic gap: You've told me before that Solara went to the Academy with you, right? So if she was really as pretty as you say she was, why doesn't Mr. Thimble remember that she's a fairy?"
Ambrosine groaned and leaned his neck over the back of the bench. "Because, she didn't like to be told she was beautiful. It became an empty compliment while she was still in her youth. She always kept that rippling galaxy of hair tucked up in her scarf. Only few were allowed to be privy to it. To decide to pursue Solara, you either did so based purely on her nature without understanding until that one weak-winged, throat-strangling moment of rapture the true gem you had in your presence, or be in the know. Fortunately, I was in the know."
I flung out my hands, spraying dots of purple. "But if she is a fairy, Mr. Thimble shouldn't be telling everyone that I'm not! He said so himself that he doesn't know. Why can't everyone assume that we know what we're talking about? Why doesn't he have to find proof that he's right? Just because he has a book of science tablets that were written before I was born? They're like, even older than you are!"
"Fergus. His tongue is a load of smoof in itself. Let it go."
"Can't I prove it somehow?"
He considered that for a moment, switching his spoon from one side of his mouth to the other with his tongue. "No."
"Nobody keeps records of births and marriages and things. That's why we have surnames. They're our history. That's enough."
I straightened against the floating wooden bench for the first time. "But I don't carry Solara's surname. I don't even know what it was."
"Hmm. That's a good question. I think it was was… Chipixie, Taipixio, Pixishell. Pixie-something. Are you going to finish your popsicle? It's dripping."
A/N: Text to Life - The distinction between gyne (one syllable, pronounced 'guh-eye-n', almost rhymes with 'time') and worker insect is determined in early life, though not at birth (it's not biological). Gynes are raised to be the next queen of the colony (if they can win the fight with the reigning queen). They are identified not by other senses like smell, but by sight, actually! Gyne insects have spots on their faces.
*** UPDATE: I would like to clarify something. A Fairy religion known as Daoism is mentioned in this 'fic. It is named after the Daoine Sìth, who are nature spirits described in Scottish folklore. Followers of this religion believe Fairy and Anti-Fairy counterparts will become a single being in the afterlife. This is known as the Daoine form. H.P. is Daoist; Anti-Cosmo is not.
These beliefs have NO connection to Taoism / Daoism as we know them in our world, and I should have chosen a different name for this religion to avoid confusion. I humbly apologize.
Also, much of the worldbuilding in this story is influenced by the folklore of several cultures (Celtic folklore especially). Creative liberties have been taken. This 'fic does not intend to portray its worldbuilding as 100% accurate to its inspiration. Everything is intended to be fictional, and if I accidentally portrayed something offensively, please kindly reach out and make me aware.