I do not own the rights to the Hollow Kingdom.
This is my submission for the Hallow Hill Lodge August Writing Challenge, and is sort of a prequel to my other stories, Ever, and After. They're not necessary to read to understand, but you should still check them out if you haven't already.
It wasn't fair. Today was suppose to be her day, not her sister's. Except, that wasn't the way things ended up. Aggie looked down at the plate in front of and used her spoon to mold the mash potatoes in one big hill, before stabbing them to bits with the fork in her left hand. It did little to make her feel any better.
"Don't play with your food," scolded her cousin, Bernard, who had stopped whatever he was talking about. Not that anybody really cared anyway. As a psychologist he had been droning on about some patient of his with agoraphobia, gerontophobia, technophobia, or some kind of phobia. Aggie had really stopped listening to him after drinking her second glass of wine. She wasn't quite sure what the number was now. Four perhaps?
Charlie, his brother, clapped him on the back loudly. "Come on, nobody really cares about that kind of stuff. This is a wedding after all, it's time to celebrate!" He paused, looking at Aggie, who had returned to stabbing her mash potatoes with her fork, with a fury. She was pretending they were Tom's face.
"Somebody has passive agressive tendencies," muttered Bernard under his breath.
Charlie just glared at him. "Well of course she does, and who can blame her? Her bloke went and married her own sister. She has every right to be mad. Speaking of which," he pulled a bag out of his pocket and handed it to her, out of Bernard's disproving sight. "Something to help take the edge off," he whispered.
Aggie had an idea of what it was, and had only experimented with drugs a bit in college. Just enough to realize the headache the next day was not worth it. But tonight... tonight she was willing to deal with the headache.
Twenty-four hours ago, things were quite different. She had been happily engaged, and was just a day away from getting married. Except at the wedding rehearsal, things had turned from happily, into a disaster.
The rehearsal was outside, in a tree circle. There were chairs for the guests to sit, and an arch for where the ceremony was to take place the following day. Aggie had dyed her hair bright red for the event, to show her love for Tom, her groom. The priest had just reached the part about objections, when to her surprise, a voice spoke out to her left. It was her sister, her maid of honor dressed in a bright red taffeta dress, who had shouted, "I object" out of the blue.
All heads turned toward her as she continued. "Tom can't marry Aggie, because... because I love him."
Aggie turned back to Tom, trying to figure out what was going on, except he had already left her right side to embrace her sister. His response was, "I'm so glad you said something, because the truth is, I love you too." Then, to Aggie's horror, they kissed.
After pulling back, her traitor of a sister then said, "Oh Tom, since all the family is here, why don't we get married, tomorrow? I'm so sorry Aggie, but if I didn't say something now, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life."
"As would I," added Tom.
"We never meant for this to happen, but it just did," confessed Sally, shaking her blond ringlets on her head, "With you off finishing school, and us planning the wedding, we just, connected. Can you forgive me?"
All the attention was on Aggie, holding their breath for her reply. Of course she couldn't forgive her sister. How could she forgive her for ruining her day? But starring into her bright blue eyes, and pretty face, and with her mother glaring behind her, showing where she stood on the matter, Aggie didn't have a chance. Not unless she wanted to come off as a heartless bitch. So Aggie, being the better person, finally replied, "Of course."
Her sister, grateful for the forgiveness, ran over to hug her. At this point, their mother spoke up, "It's a good thing Aggie that you're so big and tall. Otherwise I don't know how we would have managed to find another dress in time."
Her dress? Wasn't it enough that she was having to give her groom, her wedding, her future over to her sister, but now her dress as well? Aggie had even been the one who suggested the Reserve in the first place instead of the traditional church, which her sister had balked at. But here she was now, gushing over how beautiful everything was, and it had truly been her idea in the first place. It was enough to make a person sick. Enough to make Aggie pondered the merits of getting sick on her sister.
That night, Aggie had left her bridemaids, mother, and sister after surrendering her wedding dress. Watching her mother perform the alterations, while the others giggled on with suggestions, was too much to bear. There were acting as if it had always been Sally's wedding. The only hint of it being Aggie's was the comment from one airhead cousin, "Well I guess we don't have to worry about the something borrowed part," she said with a giggle. The others agreed.
As she slipped out silently of the room, her mother caught a glimpse of her. Grabbing her by the arm, out in the hallway she murmured out of the others earshot, "Now Agnes, I know this is hard for you. But let's face it, Sally and Tom make a much better match than you did. He's moving up in the world and needs a wife befitting of his station. Perhaps if you acted a bit more... acceptable, things would have been different."
Aggie nodded her head, fighting back the tears. Acceptable. Presentable. Normal. All words that she had heard over the years, but Tom never seemed to mind. In fact, he said they amused him greatly. Aggie broke out of her mother's embrace and continued down the hallway. "Things always happen for a reason," called her mother from behind. Aggie couldn't imagine a reason for this.
She had just reached her room, when she stopped. Instead she went passed her room, and knocked on the next door. Tom opened it and sighed once he saw who it was.
Not paying attention she asked quietly, "I need to know why."
"Why her and not me."
Tom swore under his breath, and opened the door to his room. As she entered, he saw that a bottle of gin opened on a small table with two chairs. Running his fingers through his hair, he motioned for Aggie to take a seat as he did. She refused, and continued to stand.
"Bloody hell," he began, taking a swig of the gin. "Look Aggie, I never meant for this to happen. But it did. I loved being with you, but Sally isn't as eccentric as you are, and at the end of a hard day's work, that's what I want."
So that was it. He wanted somebody traditional. Acceptable. Presentable. Normal. He wanted a wife who would wear pearls and dresses, bidding his every whim. He wanted a wife who cooked and cleaned all day, while tending the many children. He wanted a wife who would have a nice, warm, meal waiting for him when he returned home at night along with his slippers.
And Sally of course was the perfect choice. She had spent her whole life dreaming of being a housewife, which is what he wanted. She was pretty, polite, could cook without burning the food or house down for that matter, knew how to sew, do laundry, all the things that Aggie either couldn't do, didn't know how to do, or never bothered learning. Aggie had been a fun adventure, but Tom was now ready to grow up and find himself a real wife.
"I thought you liked my eccentricities," Aggie whispered quietly, with a lump in her throat.
"I did, but after a while, they got old. I thought that they were just a phase you were going through, that you would outgrow someday."
Not bothering to hear another word, Aggie fled from the room, with tears escaping her eyes. A phase. That's what he had said, it's what her family had said. The dyeing of the hair, political views, taste in music, spending hours gazing up at the clouds while not paying attention to the sunburn developing on her face, the hippie clothes, love of sports, general awkwardness, they had always said was a phase.
She had first started the hair dyeing when she was started college as a freshman. She was rather tall for being a girl, and was a bit big boned. Not the little thin thing her sister was. Aggie had thick, dark brown hair and was not a beauty by any means. She was somewhat shy, and insecure when she started at the university, so as a means of distraction, she had her hair dyed a bright green, her favorite color. Sure enough it became a conversation starter, and was a great way to meet people and overcome her shyness. It soon became her thing, what she was know for among her friends. She would dye it orange for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, pink for Valentine's day. When holidays weren't close at hand, she would it whatever color she felt like, blue, purple, or three colors at once. It was her way of rebelling, of showing independence, and just being free.
As for the others, it was true she could sometimes be rather absented-minded, but Tom never minded. Till now. He was becoming a great lawyer and had political ambition, and he needed a wife that would look pretty on his arm, be an asset to him, not one with crazy hair, that couldn't make up her mind of what her major was.
And here she was, a day later, sitting at the reject table. She was sat here, in the corner and out of sight for fear that she would make a scene. Her hippie cousin with the long hair who did drugs at her left, his brother who nobody wanted to listen ramble on about his patients on his right, and her old grandmother who had dementia sitting across from her.
Gazing down, at the once again full glass of wine, she took another swig and made up her mind. Screw them. Screw them all. She was not going to let them put her in a corner so she wouldn't make a scene. She wasn't going act all docile and alright with what had happened. She was angry. She was angry and she was going to do something about it.
She got up, and threw her napkin on the table with a determined look on her face. Charlie, taking notice of the look on Aggie's face said with a grin, "Give 'em hell Aggie."
She strode over slowly, to where the wedding cake was, on the center of the dance floor. Without a second thought she picked up top tier, taking notice of the blond bride on top. Sally had this planned then. Well fine, that would make what Aggie was about to do all the better.
Carrying the cake in her arms, she walked over to where her sister and new husband were greeting Tom's mother, that Aggie knew for a fact that her sister wasn't fond of, but still had a grin on face. It was then Sally noticed Aggie, along with what she was carrying. "What are you doing?" she asked in horror.
"What am I doing?" said Aggie, with a slight slur, "What are you doing? I thought you said you didn't envy me Mildred as a mother-in-law, calling her an old harpy."
Mildred, the old harpy, turned a shade of purple that matched the shade of wine Aggie had been drinking earlier, with Sally's face following. "I think you must be mistaken dear sister," she said through gritted teeth. "Obviously somebody has been drinking too much wine."
She started to make a shooing motion, but Aggie wasn't having any of it. "I'm not mistaken. I'm not mistaken in the fact that my sister is a loud-mouth, back-stabbing, boyfriend-stealing bitch." It was then that Aggie noticed that the rest of the room had gone quiet, taking notice of what was going on. Her own mother was hissing at her, telling her to stop. But Aggie wasn't going to stop, she was just getting started.
Her sister gasped in horror, as the top tier of the wedding cake was smashed on her face and dress. Tom was just as speechless. But Aggie still wasn't done. Off to the side, one of the servers had paused to watch the scene unfold, still carrying a replacement aujus for the buffet. Aggie took the chaffing dish out of his arms, and then poured it slowly over both Tom and Sally. She took note of the state of Sally's dress. Now Sally would consider the dress just as ruined as Aggie did when Sally put it on.
Satisfied with her work, she placed the dish back into the waiter's arms. "Now I'm done." And with those words, Aggie walked out of the ballroom, oblivious to all the stunned looks on the faces of those she had left behind. There was even an extra spring in her step.
Once she was outside she just started walking. Walking away from her family, from Tom, and all her problems. She felt absolutely giddy as she twirled under the night sky. It was probably the alcohol making her feel all giggly, but Aggie paid no attention. Instead she just plopped on the ground in her ugly pink dress that clashed terribly with her bright red hair. On her right was the huge lake, and on her left was the tree circle where her sister had gotten married earlier. Next to her was the bag that Charlie had given her eariler. In it was a joint along with a lighter.
She figured, what the hell, and lit it. Unfortunately, when it came to smoking, she was still a bit of an amateur, so she immediately began to choke upon inhaling the smoke. Gasping for air quickly put an end to that little experiment, and so Aggie was left lying on her back while looking up at the dark sky above her. Her head was starting to feel a little woozy due to the alcohol in her system, but Aggie didn't notice. What she noticed was her heart beating rapidly, she could hear it in her head.
She crawled over to the lake to get a look at herself. Her bright hair had escaped the bobby pins, sticking out in weird angles, making her look as if she had escaped a mental institution. Her dress stained with dirt, mud, and even some cake and aujus did nothing to dispel the illusion. She hated the dress the most. It was from her cousin Emma, and was a hideous pink that didn't go with her hair at all. In a fit of rage, she tore it off and stomped on it into the ground, kicking the shoes that matched off to be more comfortable. Even with the dress and the shoes gone, she was still wearing a light, silk, slip with pantyhose. Not completely comfortable, but better than before. At least they were her own.
At that moment it hit her, what she had just done. She had just dumped cake and aujus on her sister, and Tom. In front of all their family and friends. Instead of sucking it up like a big girl, she had acted just like they feared. It had felt incredible, empowering even, but she had just proved them right. She was a freak. Eccentric. Embarrassing. Not normal. Not presentable. Aggie then started sobbing as it sunk it. She would forever be known as crazy aunt Aggie, sitting at the reject table.
It was then the tears started spilling again. Unlike her sister, she had never been that much of a pretty crier. Looking into her reflection, she noticed that there was a new shape behind her, a giant human who looked to be covered in owl feathers.
Marak Owlfeathers never planned to marry that night. He was still in the mourning period for his father, Marak Boartusk, doing proper duties before searching for a bride. Sometimes even the best laid plans go astray, however.
He had been inspecting the border of his lands, when he head for the Truce Circle. Humans earlier that day had held a wedding, and Marak was checking on whether or not they had cleaned up their mess. If not, some goblin revenge was in order. On his way he couldn't help but think it was a pity that he still had to wait for a bride. So many young women, they surely wouldn't miss just one. The only consolation was that the event was just as worthless for the elf king, whose father may be aging, but hadn't quite died yet. Marak had odds that it would happen within six months, while Paris, his advisor had it about a year.
Upon reaching the Truce Circle, he came across a sight that gave him pause. A woman, by the lake. Since the area had become a Reserve, goblins and elves gradually became accustomed to humans in the lands, and merely kept a close eye on them. It was why Marak slowly backed up instead of approaching the girl. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that his reflection had appeared in the lake which she had noticed.
She turned around, and Marak could see that she had been crying. It was then that he noticed the rumpled dress discarded next to her, and the fact that she was wearing undergarments. Not having experience with any human females other than his mother, who hardly cried, Marak wanted to get out of there fast. Fate was not on his side.
The girl, looked up at him, and asked something Marak never expected, "Do you think I'm pretty?"
He blinked his yellow eyes at her. Out of all the questions he had thought would come out of her mouth, that was not one of them.
"Um..." he began, unsure of what to say. He took in her wild hair, the red surely wasn't a natural color, and puffy eyes. He tried not to look below the head. His mother had always drummed that into him, to be a gentleman, and proper. With her appearance, he supposed that she wasn't pretty by elf standards, but they were always finicky creatures anyway. But by goblin standards, she was beautiful.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" she repeated.
He finally answered her with, "Yes."
"You're just saying that to make me feel better. Tom doesn't think I'm pretty. He thinks I'm ugly, and eccentric and not normal," she said sniffing trying to hold back the tears.
Not sure what to do, Marak sat down next to her, and brought out a handkerchief he had in pocket. "Blow," he instructed her, holding it up to her nose. She did as she was told, looking back up at him, doe brown eyes, into his giant yellow eyes.
Finished, she looked at her hands in her lap. "They all think I'm a freak," she said quietly.
"They?" he inquired.
"My family. Tom who was suppose to be my fiance but married my sister instead tonight. Maybe they're right, maybe there is something wrong with me."
"No," stated Marak firmly. "They're the wrong ones. Everybody comes in different shapes, sizes, colors, packages, and if they can't appreciate the variety then they're the wrong ones."
For the first time that night, the girl smiled back up at him. It was not pretty like an elf's, but was warm, and welcoming, like her eyes. "You're sweet," she said, and for the second time that night she surprised him. By kissing him.
Up to that point, Marak had never been so close to a human. Let alone a young female, who had been crying on his shoulder a couple seconds ago. And here she was, kissing him of all things. The surprising thing was, he liked it.
She parted from him, and looked back at him in surprise. "For being a figment of my imagination, you sure feel real."
Real? It was then he realized that his lips tasted of alcohol, apparently she had been drinking. It certainly explained why she hadn't run away in terror like most human females do once they lay eyes upon a goblin. She was drunk and thought he was just part of it. Come to think of it, her words had been a bit slurred together too.
"Did you get revenge?"
"Revenge?" she responded slowly, unsure of whether or not she heard him right.
"Revenge is a goblin's best friend. Did you get it on your fiance and sister?"
She giggled, caught on the 'best friend' line. She had always thought diamonds were a goblin's best friend. Or was that a girl's? She was too drunk to care. "Does smashing the cake on the bride and dumping aujus on them both, and then walking out after informing her mother-in-law that my sister thinks she's a harpy count as revenge?"
The image made Marak smiled. "I suppose."
"Well then yes, I got revenge."
Marak smiled. If she hadn't he would have done so himself, but he was proud it was her, standing up for herself. He rose to his feet, and pulled her up with him, wobbling slightly. The alcohol was having more of an affect now. He then made up his mind. That night he was taking his bride. His advisers and the other goblins would be surprised that he was breaking tradition, but as he scooped her up into his arms, he couldn't help but think, it would be the first of many traditions she'd break.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked with a laugh.
"A place where you'll fit right in with your eccentricities. A place where they'll be loved."
That night, Aggie would get the wedding she had felt she was cheated out of. The only difference was the groom, location, dress, and the fact that she wouldn't remember it at all the next day. But none of that would matter to Aggie. What would matter would be the fact that for the first time in her life, she felt accepted and like truly she belonged.
The next day, Aggie's family realized she was missing. They found her dress, and shoes next to the lake, but nothing else. Even after dredging the lake, there still was no sign of her. Eventually the family gave up, thinking she had wandered off somewhere, or had left the family completely after the scene she had caused the night before.
As for Sally and Tom, they lived happily ever after until fifteen years and four kids later into their marriage, Sally discovered that Tom was having an affair with his secretary. Then she divorced him and took him for everything he was worth, ruining his image and political ambition in the process.
She couldn't help but wonder if Aggie had ever gotten married, and had a happy one, unlike Sally's. As the years had passed, Sally did have some guilt about how she slighted her when she married Tom. Then of course, it came out that Tom hadn't just had one affair over the years, but several, almost as if karma was coming back to get her. However, she would have been pleased to learn, that Aggie was far happier with her husband than she had ever been before in her life, and had no regrets about not marrying Tom.
Hope you enjoyed it. It's finished for now, but have a couple more ideas for one-shot chapters.
I would like to add, that this takes place during 196o's. We all know it as the time of hippies, drugs, Vietnam, social unrest etc... but just as much as there were those wanting to change and acting liberally, there were still those clinging to the old ways, and those who were caught in between, like Aggie. Aggie is unsure of herself, and has never quite fit in, which leads to some insecurities. But then Marak comes along, and takes her to the goblins who love her, and over time develops into the confident woman you see in After and Ever. I just wanted to show that she wasn't always like that.
I also figured Aggie needed a husband who was calm and collected. Originally Marak was going to be a sloth, but upon research I found sloths live in South America and couldn't justify a reason for them getting into the goblin gene pool. An owl is something that I haven't seen before in fanfiction, some have the yellow eyes I mentioned Aggie loving, and aren't known for being as viscous as some other birds.
Finally, I went back to find the year, and saw that I had written Edith being kidnapped before Aggie, which clashes with Marak's comment about the elves. I have gone back and changed the years to show Aggie was taken first. Other than that, Chapter 2 in After is the same.
On a random side note, the hair dyeing thing was actually based on somebody I know from college who did such a thing for the same reasons as Aggie. So if she's out there reading this, thanks for the inspiration!
So read, enjoy, and review!