A/N: This is a story trade with mochabelle33.

~ Cookie VanDeKamp ~

"Mother," said Grassina, taking my hand and walking up to the queen, "this is Haywood, the boy I told you about."

"Hmm… so, you're Haywood, huh?" she grunted, eyeing me in a way that made me fidgety.

I nodded. Being around Queen Olivene made me nervous.

"Not much of a talker, is he? Eh, best kind of man, anyway."

"Mother!" she exclaimed.

"Well, if he can talk, why won't he say anything?" Olivene demanded. She looked at me. "Talk to me, boy."

"Sorry," I said, forcing the words out of my mouth. "I, um… I'm not used to being around royalty."

"You seem to have been around my daughter a lot."

"Yes, well, I was her friend before I knew she was a princess, and she doesn't act much like one, so that doesn't really count."

"Grassina, may I have a word with your suitor alone?" she asked.

"I can't stop you," Grassina sighed.

Olivene dragged me away and into the shed by the scruff of my neck.

"Listen here, peasant boy," she said, "my daughter may think she's in love with you, but you are not marrying her!"

"But I love her!" I protested. "Please, Your Highness, give me a chance! I'll be the best husband Grassina could ever have—"

But she was already reciting a spell.

Change this little wizard boy

into an otter with fur of brown.

He doesn't deserve to be human,

he doesn't deserve the crown.

A gossamer hair of mother of Pearl,

the husk of an old bean,

a feather from an old horse,

and the breath of a dragon green—

find these objects four,

and you will undergo another transformation

to turn you back into a man—

flowers will fall in celebration.

I felt a tingling feeling in my feet.

"Oh no," I said. "No, no, no, no, NO!"

"What's going on in there?" Grassina's voice called.

"Nothing!" Olivene replied.

The spell's effects were already halfway complete. I was beginning to feel woozy. The world blurred, and then…

The feeling stopped. When I looked down at myself, I almost fainted.

She'd changed me into an otter!

Olivene recited a quick spell and next thing I knew, I'd been banished to the swamp.

OoOoO

I was doomed. I had no idea what to do, how to swim, how to eat, or where to go. I had never seen an otter before, and they weren't magical creatures, so they hadn't been in the book Mother'd given me.

"'Ey, kid, whassa matta?" a voice with a weird accent called. "Ya look kinda blue."

I turned my head, and there was another otter. He seemed okay, so I answered.

"I am blue," I said.

"I thought ya looked blue. Why so blue?"

"Can we stop saying blue?"

"Sure."

"Anyway, I got magicked into an otter, I have no idea what to do, and now I'm doomed to die a lonely, Grassina-less, otter-y death!" I ranted.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, back up, kid!" the other otter said. "Magicked? Grassina-less?"

"I used to be a human," I explained, "until about ten minutes ago. I was going to marry a girl named Grassina, but her mother didn't like me, so she turned me into an otter."

"That's rough, kid," he said, nodding as though he talked to human-turned-otters every day. "I can't help ya with marrying that girl," he continued, pronouncing it "goil", "but I can help ya live."

"Really?"

"Yeah, follow me, kid."

I did so, and he said, "The name's Birch, by the way. I assume your name isn't 'kid'."

"No, it's not. It's Haywood."

"Haywood, eh? You were born a human."

Before I could ask what he meant, he said, "And here we are— my humble abode."

It was humble indeed, but I liked it. A little bed made of straw, a pile of fish nearby, and a small stream feet away.

"Just make yaself a li'l bed, like this one," said Birch, "and gather up all the fish you can. Do that, stay away from anything bigger than you, and you'll be fine."

"How do I get fish?" I asked. I was getting a bit hungry.

"Simple. Just swim very quietly towards one, and when you're close enough…" He jumped forward and bit the air in front of me, startling me. "Ha-ha, ya nab it!"

He made it sound so easy, that I got in the water with no worries. But it wasn't easy at all. My swimming was clumsy and attracted the attention of all the animals around. However, there was one fish washed up on a rock, flopping and trying to get back into the water. Unable to resist an easy target, I clamed it with my jaws and carried it back over.

"Um… you'll get better," said Birch. "Now, you go ahead and eat that, then make your bed and start your pile. Frogs and even birds will do in a pinch. In fact, I consider frogs a delicacy. But they can be too froggy at times."

"You are weird, Birch," I sighed.

"And the same to you."

I began gathering straw, and thought about my dear, sweet Grassina.

I'll find you, Grassina, I thought. Someday…