A/N: Originally written for a contest on deviantART two years ago (I won second place, by the way). This was written in a pretty short amount of time, and before Emet had a lot of screen time in the official comic, so it's not as great as it could be, but still, I'm pretty happy with it.
(The Illustrious Crackpot)
If there was one thing Emet lacked, it was self-restraint.
Really, it was amazing that she could even be where she was right then, in Warrior University, with her knotted strawberry-blonde bush of hair crammed haphazardly into a steel cap, biting down absurdly hard on her lip to keep from speaking aloud and revealing her womanhood with a suspiciously high-pitched voice (though Finn's voice had to be at least an octave higher than her own and no one ever really questioned his "manliness"). It had taken every ounce of willpower for her to remain so invisible, so inconspicuous for those past three weeks, but even so she hadn't been able to keep herself from twitching her hands, grinding her teeth, and occasionally just running to the outhouse and screamingto relieve herself of all the stress and anger she was bottling up.
(Well, admittedly the latter had become more of a recreational activity than a stress reliever, ever since the rumor had started that the outhouse was haunted by banshees. Not only did the terrified response to this concept entertain Emet immensely, but it also kept a large percentage of her classmates away from the outhouse, making it smell muchbetter than it had before.)
Still, as Emet settled into her seat for the last class of the day, she felt as though she'd been getting much better at controlling herself. Only once in the past day had she felt at all like kicking an annoying classmate in the shins, and that made only the fifteenth time that week, a new personal record. She smiled to herself. After all, self-control was a vital part of her plan if she wanted to stay unnoticed and unrevealed for the next four years of school and move on to her ultimate career goal of gladiator by day and fashion designer by night. Take that, anti-feminist society! She was going to be successful and do what she loved too!
"-telling you, I think you're overreacting."
"WHAT? HOW DARE YOU! I AM NOT OVERREACTING!"
Emet rolled her eyes. Here come Finn and Harv, late and loud as usual.She felt a little sorry for Harv, watching him stumble clumsily into the room, schoolbooks and weapons spilling out of his arms, clearly disoriented from having had to jog all the way from the skirmish arena with Finn screeching like a siren in his ears. Emet instinctively averted her gaze before the blonde leech could make eye contact with her, but he was far too outraged with Harv to pay attention to anyone else.
"IS THIS THE FACE OF SOMEONE WHO IS OVERREACTING, HARV?" he was shrieking, even as his violet eyes had dilated to the size of dust motes. "IS IT?"
"Okay, fine, I was wrong," Harv sighed tiredly, stooping to gather up his materials before the teacher could arrive. Finn just stood rigidly beside him, legs planted firmly apart, fists on hips, breathing raggedly through clenched teeth. "But really, it's not like he's going to be lurking around every corner just waiting for you to show up."
At the mention of the possibility, Finn's shoulders jerked, and his eyes snapped towards the empty doorframe. Then his entire body whipped around as he frantically scanned the rest of the classroom (Emet ducking her head again) in a desperate bid to make sure that whatever "he" Harv had referred to was not, in fact, lurking and waiting. "O-okay, well maybe not EVERY corner!" conceded Finn with a slightly hysterical tinge to his voice. "But still-"
Immediately Emet jumped in her seat as the impossibly loud bellow echoed off of the armor of the boys in the classroom, making the entire room vibrate distressingly. Harv and Finn dove for the empty chairs behind her, books and weapons left scattered on the floor in their wake. The mastodon-sized teacher merely kicked them out of his way as he stormed into the room, snorting and glaring in all directions.
"ALL RIGHT!" he roared again as he stopped at his desk, physically picked up his chair and smashed it against the wall (to teach at Warrior U, you had to be a fan of gratuitous violence) before whirling viciously to face the chalkboard. "TODAY YOU SPINELESS CLUMPS OF EYEBALL JELLY ARE GOING TO LEARN THE TECHNICAL SCIENCES BEHIND THE CRAFT OF SWORDFIGHTING!"
He began to scrawl something in chalk, fiercely and angrily, practically carving the letters into the surface of the board. Emet quickly took out a pen and paper and started jotting down notes, ducking her head each time the beefy elbow of the boy to her left swooshedinto her personal bubble.
"AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THIS DIAGRAM, ONE END OF THE COMMON SWORD, ALSO KNOWN AS A 'SWORD', IS POINTY. THE OTHER, HOWEVER, IS NOT."
She was focused. Really she was. So focused that she barely even registered Mister Awkward's elbow as it whistled through the air overhead.
She wouldn't even have heardFinn if his idea of a whisper hadn't been so damn loud.
"But still!" he hissed at a volume that most other people reserved for shouting across the room. "It's like he'severywhere now! Even outside my own house! Mother never sees him, of course, but he's there!"
Emet bit her lip, her note-writing becoming more slow and deliberate as she tried to tune Finn out and concentrate exclusively on the classwork. Don't fantasize about kicking him in the shins, she thought, even though that command immediately made her visualize it. Dammit! That's SIXTEEN!
"THE OBJECT OF SWORDFIGHTING," the teacher rumbled on, oblivious, "IS TO GET THE POINTY END OF YOUR SWORD IN YOUR OPPONENT BEFORE THEY CAN PUT THE POINTY END OF THEIR SWORD IN YOU."
Squeezing her eyes shut, Emet tried her hardest to block out the surrounding noises, but it was too late. Her concentration had been broken.
She fantasized about kicking Finn in the shins a second time, then cursed again under her breath.
"I mean," the blonde went on scathingly, completely unaware of the existence of life beyond his own ego, "he even ambushed me in the palace!The PALACE, Harv!"
Thankfully Harv's mumbled response was much quieter, but still, Emet just couldn't tune it out. "In the palace?" He sounded surprised, and maybe a little skeptical. "I mean, I know Hevvin's got some kinda magic, but I don't see how he could get into the palacewithout someone noticing."
"SOMETIMES YOU GET LUCKY AND YOUR OPPONENT WILL FORGET WHICH END OF THE SWORD IS THE POINTY END, AND ACCIDENTALLY STAB HIMSELF." Accidentally stab himself, Emet repeated mentally, scribbling it down as intensely as she could muster. She was not going to get involved with whatever stupid drama Finn had found himself in thistime. She was just going to ignore him, and pay attention to what the teacher had to say, and get her diploma, and go on to an excellent career as a warrior man-slash-woman seamstress.
"Harv, he really knows how to dress!" Not listening not listening not listening... "Looking like a noble is all about coordinating your wardrobe and dressing up in really fancy, exotic clothing." Ooh, they're talking about clothes-no, no, NO, I'm NOT listening, I'm NOT listening, I AM NOT LISTENING.
"And let's face it, Harv, you can't get much more exotic than an entire outfit made of unicorn fur."
"UNFORTUNATELY, ONLY THIRTY PERCENT OF OPPONENTS WILL MAKE THAT MISTAKE, AS OPPOSED TO THE EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT BEFORE THE KING BANNED UNDERAGED GLADIATING."
Emet didn't hear him.
She didn't even feel the broken shards of quill pen in her fist, even as she clenched it so tightly that the sharp edges drew blood.
...She was going to stay under control, she reminded herself. She couldn't flip out, do anything stu-
-anything stupid, she had to get her head back in the game and get back to taking notes so she-
-so she could just...just...just...
AN ENTIRE OUTFIT MADE OUT OF UNICORN FUR.
If there was one thing Emet lacked, it was self-restraint. Especially when such restraint came in the face of her insane passion for rare and unusual fabrics.
Without a second thought, she leaped fully onto her desk, let out a primal scream, and dove headlong out the window.
It wasn't until she was well over a mile from the university and deep into the heart of town that Emet slowed down long enough to realize that she had no idea what she was doing.
B-but she couldn't help it! The second Finn had mentioned an outfit of unicorn fur, she'd totally lost it. And now, with that ridiculously abrupt exit from class, Emet was probably done with Warrior U for good-there was no wayshe'd be able to get out of that mess without being punished, and being punished meant getting noticed, and getting noticed meant that someone was bound to realize that she wasn't a guy, and then she'd be in real trouble. Like, gallows-type trouble.
Furious, Emet kicked the side of a nearby fruit stand. It promptly collapsed, forcing her to quickly scurry into the crowd of midday marketgoers to avoid getting caught. She began grinding her teeth together, feeling pure rage welling up inside her.
That stupid Finn had probably been lying, too. There weren't any more unicorns left. She'd heard that they'd all died of a natural disaster a few years before, or something like that, not to mention that they'd been impossible to catch and skin back when they'd been more numerous. Nobody had a single scrap of unicorn-fur cloth, much less a full outfitof it.
A sudden burst of despair quickened her pace as she started heading for home, racing to get out of the public view before anyone could see the tears already welling up in her eyes. How had she been so dumb? After three weeks of such hard work, she'd just thrown away her future for an empty rumor, for fantastic hearsay. Just those two little words, "unicorn fur", and suddenly everything was-
Emet was immediately thrown backwards by the collision, slamming into the ground with a hard "OOF!" just as the person she'd run into did the same, bouncing against the pavement. Within moments her anguish had given way to intense fury and she lunged to her feet, shouting raspily. "HEY, STUPID!WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING!"
The man, groaning nasally, had already pushed himself up by his elbows and was groggily blinking his bizarre pink eyes. Emet's lip twitched, annoyed that he hadn't yet appeased her bad mood with an apology. But as he just continued moaning, she gave up waiting for one and simply whirled on her heel to stomp away.
She hadn't gone two steps when her arm was seized in a viselike grip and she found herself being forcibly spun around to face her assailant. It was the same man-How in the world did he move so fast?-now glaring at her so harshly that Emet's heart sped up with fear.
"You watch it!" he snapped, his voice oddly high and thin for someone of his build. Emet's eyes widened, and her breathing became more ragged. She'd never seen anyone with such pure white skin-it looked inhuman combined with his vibrant magenta hair and eyes. And that thing on his forehead she hoped desperately was just a very weird hat, but it looked far too pointy and menacing for that. "'Cus lemme tell you somethin', NO ONE messes with Hevvin Angelbright!" He shook her violently. "NO ONE!"
Emet choked a little, and her mouth flew open to offer a terrified apology-but then the events of the past half-hour came flooding back and she felt herself once again filling with anger. After all, she was a girl, and she was having a bad day, and damn it all if she wasn't going to take all of that out on this crazy punk regardlessof his color scheme or pointy hat.
"Mess with THIS!" she yelled, punching him hard across the jaw. As he staggered, she grabbed him roughly by the collar of his jacket, yanking him down to her eye level so she could scream at him properly. "And ANOTHER thing-"
But even shenever really figured out what that "other thing" was.
Because just then her bare fingers finally noticed the impossibly soft silkiness of the fabric clenched in her fists.
And at the same time, her mind matched up the name she had just heard with the name she had heard in class so long ago.
And suddenly it all clicked.
"But gosh," Harv was saying, wide-eyed and oblivious as usual, "I wonder what made poor Emet act so strange!"
He and Finn were walking home from Warrior U, following the dirt path that led into town. Since Emet's dramatic departure from the classroom, the teacher had been too busy reporting the "unfortunate escape" to the headmaster, so he hadn't had the opportunity to make his students stay for detention as he usually did.
"I mean," Harv went on, to Finn's irritation, "it's not like Emet to start screaming and run out the window! Really, what could've causedit?"
"Pssssssh." Finn rolled his eyes and snorted. "It's just that time of monthagain."
Harv's expression remained blank. "What does the time of the month have to do with it? Is Emet worried about the harvest or something? Or-wait, is it a full moon, because I totally understand being worried about werewolves, youknowwhat those have been doing to the local livestock..."
Finn raised an eyebrow-Seriously? that eyebrow was demanding, SERIOUSLY? Though admittedly it did boost his ego to have yet another chance to prove himself more knowledgeable than Harv in the "ways of the world". "It's the lady time," he clarified snootily, waving his hand in a vague circle to accentuate his point. "You know, when girls get up their womanly dander and start eating weird foods, complaining about their weight and randomly screaming and throwing themselves out of windows."
As they continued walking, Harv fell deep into thought. After a while, he looked back up.
"But wait-what does that have to do with Emet? He's a guy."
This actually made Finn stop short in the middle of the road, staring at Harv with a mixture of disbelief and revulsion. Harv, also having slowed to a halt, just blinked confusedly back.
After a moment, Finn sighed, placing both hands on Harv's shoulders to prepare him for one of those awful truths of life. "Harv," he began softly, sensitively, "Harv, you sickeningly ignorant nanny-goat of a peasant...Emet is agirl. She's just pretendingto be a guy so she can go to warrior school."
Harv's first expression was of great offense at the ridiculously unnecessary insult Finn had incorporated into that proclamation-but then his face relaxed, and his mouth actually stretched into a smile. Pretty soon he was laughing out loud.
"You almost got me," he chuckled, calmly pushing Finn's hands away, blissfully ignorant of the stunned look on his friend's face. Harv resumed his walk down the road, shaking his head as he went on laughing to himself. "Emet being a girl. That's RIDICULOUS! He's one of the most manly guys I've ever met!"
Finn's jaw dropped, and he had to jog to catch up with Harv. "I'm serious!" he insisted. "She's a girl in disguise! She's the daughter of the Tailor Guildmaster-believe me, I know!"
"Ver-y funny." Though he was done laughing, Harv still had an amused grin on his face. "Honestly, Finn-do you really think a girl would actually WANT to be in warrior school? Girls belong at home, raising families and taking care of the house, not swinging around a lance and fighting people for money! And even if a girl got into Warrior U, I'm pretty sure someone would notice."
Outraged, Finn just sputtered incoherently, but at length he simply had to give up, crossing his arms tightly in irritation. He didn't even bother to point out that the staff at the school was even less observant than Harv.
"B-but, now that you mention it..." Finn's ears pricked up immediately at the halting, embarrassed tone, and when he whirled to look at Harv he noticed with fury that not only had the boy's grin become a much more shy one, but Harv was actually blushing up to the ears. "W-well, I guess Emet is kinda...c-cuteenough to be a girl..."
Harv staggered backwards-Finn's voice had gone up at least two octaves.
"You-you think Emet's cute?" he blustered, blonde locks bristling and face bright red with anger. "Cute enough to be a GIRL? SO WHAT YOU'RE SAYING IS YOU THINK EMET'S CUTER THAN ME?"
"WHAT? N-no!" Harv suddenly began to panic, his own face so red it looked like it was about to burst into flames. "No, no, I-I mean-I-I-I shouldn't even be thinking about this!" Hyperventilating, he grabbed the sides of his head and tried to shake some sense into himself. "I'M A GOOD CHRISTIAN! I SHOULDN'T THINK LIKE THAT ABOUT ANY MAN, ESPECIALLY NOT A FRIEND!"
"THIS ISN'T ABOUT THAT!" screeched Finn, waving his hands around crazily. "YOU SERIOUSLY COMPARED EMET TO ME AND FOUND HER CUTER? LOOK AT ME, HARV! I'M ADORABLE!"
This was one of the biggest problems of being around Finn-once you got him really worked up (which didn't take much), you yourself would start to get really worked up too. "But at least Emet is nicer!" Harv shouted back, his face still full of color. At this point in the argument, the possible sinfulness of his thoughts was nowhere near as important as defending Emet's honor in the face of Finn's narcissism. "You're always tearing other people down to make yourself look better, but Emet doesn't care about anything like that! Even if he's kind of-I dunno, standoffish-he's really nice, and never has a bad word to say about ANYONE!" ("That's because she doesn't TALK!" Finn interjected, but Harv was too wrapped up in his speech to notice.) "And whenever we have to spar in class, he always holds back, only ever doing defensive moves, because he's so caring that he really doesn't want to hurt anyone!" ("SHE'S TRYING TO PROTECT HERSELF FROM YOU HUGE TESTOSTERONE-HAPPY APES, YOU MORON!") "He just...he just really cares about life, and is just so sensitiveto other people's feelings. Honestly, Finn, I'll bet you that if it came down to it, Emet wouldn't even harm a-"
He was about to say "fly", but that word never came. At that very moment, as they stood just a short ways from the outskirts of town, a white-and-pink blur came shooting up the road at them, barreling in an awkward but extremely fast-paced zigzag pattern from what looked like the marketplace. Before either Harv or Finn could react, the blur was level with them-it was Hevvin, shapeshifting almost faster than the eye could see, bucking and heaving and morphing from unicorn to rhinoceros to ocelot to human to Questing Beast to who-could-even-see-what-else. His high-pitched, whinnying shrieks of fright and wide bulging eyes showed that the changes were probably more instinctual than deliberate, a sort of self-preservation counterattack against the tiny, helmeted warrior perched doggedly on the creature's ever-changing back, the straps of its satchel jerking constrictively in an almost bridle-like stranglehold around Hevvin's throat, screaming viciously "DIE, BEAST, DIE!"
And then they were gone.
Wide-eyed and gaping, the recent argument completely forgotten, Harv nudged Finn with his elbow. "Finn," he began in a hushed voice, once again displaying his innate talent for pointing out the obvious, "that was Hevvin and Emet!"
Finn nodded slowly, jaw hanging open like a trapdoor. "Uh-huh," he confirmed dully, but then the sudden realization spasmed him into a fit of terror. "Wait-HEVVIN? HARV! HARV, Y'GOTTA HIDE ME!"
He immediately dove behind the tan-skinned boy, clutching at Harv's shoulders while his knees knocked together in panic. The contact brought Harv out of his own stupor, and with a gasp he shoved Finn off and drew his sword. "No, Finn-we have to savehim!"
Bereft of his human shield, Finn instead leaped behind a rock, crouching down and cowering. "WHAT? WHY? WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU SAVE THAT UNICORN?"
"Hevvin?" And then Harv displayed his other trademark talent, a complete and utter misunderstanding of everything going on around him. "We have to save Emet! If he's tangled up with Hevvin, no wonder he was acting weird in class-who knowswhat Hevvin's been doing to him!"
Cautiously peering out over the rim of his rock, Finn glared at Harv. "Whaddaya mean, what Hevvin's doing to Emet?Didn't you even see who was WINNING that fight?"
Harv wasn't listening, instead intently scanning the horizon for any sign of the white-and-pink blur. When that failed, he bent to the ground and began inspecting the grass for tracks. At length, he stood with a satisfied nod and brandished his sword. "Looks like they're headed towards Hevvin's lair-come on!" Not even waiting to see if Finn would follow, Harv started jogging off briskly towards the nearby forest, armor clanking as he went. "DON'T WORRY, EMET! WE'RE COMING!"
Flabbergasted, Finn remained behind his rock, staring at Harv's back as his friend receded further and further into the distance. "HARV!" he snapped angrily, hoping that would make the boy turn back, but he was too far out of earshot to hear.
When it became apparent that Harv wasn't returning, Finn crossed his arms irritably, growling to himself. "Well...fine! I don't need him. Who needs him, the big old oafish-"
Suddenly a rabbit poked its head over the rim of the rock.
"HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARV!" he wailed, sprinting as fast as he could towards the forest, tripping over himself all the way. "WAIT FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
A sports commentator might have announced that it was due to pure cunning and a killer strategy. A psychiatrist might have remarked that it was a strong instinctive realization to make up for his current inability for any coherent rational thought.
However, it was really just dumb luck that Hevvin had been in the shape of a miniature grizzly bear when he bolted through the entrance to his hollow-tree lair, making him just tall enough that Emet, still perched precariously on his spine, smashed right into the top of the doorway and tumbled straight off his back, landing with a hard WHUMPon the forest floor.
Normally such a blow would have knocked her completely unconscious, but she'd been so overrun with adrenaline that her eyes snapped back open after only a few seconds. However, her vision was hazy and her skull hurt likehell, her entire forehead throbbing agonizingly against the inner lining of her steel cap. She struggled to her knees, desperately fighting the pain, but by the time her eyes refocused it was too late. Hevvin, back in unicorn form, had all four hooves planted firmly on the wooden floor just inside the tree and was furiously whipping his head from side to side, whinnying shrilly, so that within moments he had disentangled the constricting straps and had tossed Emet's satchel fully off of his back and against the wall.
Emet blinked hard, trying to will her eyes to focus faster, but when she opened them again Hevvin had already shifted back into human form. It would've been a comical sight, a tall young ivory-skinned man splayed on all fours with his rear in the air, except for the pure murderous rage in his eyes.
"YOU JERK!" he shrieked, arm and leg muscles tensing visibly. Emet immediately sped up her efforts to get back onto her feet. "YOU COULDA' KILLEDME!"
"You're a bright one," she muttered sarcastically before she could stop herself-but frankly it was a good thing she'd said it, because not only had Hevvin not heard her, the pure act of making such a bold utterance had returned her to her normal self-confidence. She could totallytake this moron. After all, she'd almost had him already-but still, she wasn't feeling so great after smashing into the entrance overhang, so it wouldn't hurt to try diplomacy. Plus, if nothing else, it would be an easy way to stall for time.
"Listen, you," she began a little louder, finally having regained her footing, even though she had to lean against the inner wall of the tree to do so. She pointed swaggeringly at him with her free hand to make sure he couldn't possibly misunderstand. "Threatening my life, manhandling me and giving me a concussionare definitely all good reasons for me to want to kill you. But, quite frankly, all I want from you is your pelt. Hand it over, and we're done-I'll leave you alone, and you'll never have to deal with me again."
She kind of left out the part where she planned to return with a posse of well-trained magical beast hunters so she could take him captive and regularly shave off his fur to have a neverending supply of unicorn cloth for the rest of the foreseeable future, but no one had ever said that Emet was an honestgirl.
Most of the fury left Hevvin's expression, and he cocked his head to the side in confusion. "...'Pelt'? What's that?"
"Well, since you're in human form now"-it hadn't taken Emet too long to realize that the unicorn's changes in appearance were fully physical, as opposed to some kind of elaborate illusion-"then it's your clothes."
The pale boy furrowed his brow, and Emet could practically see the steam gushing out of his ears as his seldom-used brain started working overtime. "Waiiiiiiiiit...you want me to be nekkid?"
Emet pursed her lips and tried very very very hard not to think about that. Though of course, the act of thinking about not thinking about it immediately filled her head with all kindsof unpleasant images. "Not really," she growled through gritted teeth, unable to control the bright red blush already sweeping its way across her face. "Unless that's the only way I get your fur."
Hevvin thought about this a while longer, then he broke into a toothy grin-only within an instant it was the face of a pony as he shifted back to unicorn form. "Nihihihihihi!" he whinnied triumphantly, giddily prancing about in a circle. The puny human had said it wanted him nekkid, and now he was, and he didn't have to give it his clothes after all! So proudof himself he was for outwitting that stupid silly human!
...Emet was notamused.
However, she also realized that this was a perfect opportunity. Obviously Hevvin only ever had enough space in his head for one thought at a time, and now that this single thought was devoted entirely to congratulating himself on his stunning brilliance with a prancing little jig, he had completely forgotten about her existence. As such, unless he actually decided to look in her direction again, he was totally defenseless against her.
Slowly, everso slowly, Emet drew a slim dagger from the inner lining of her boot.
It was pure chance that she'd had it in there-last week after some of her peers had used their extra credit homework in Stalking And Ambushing 101 as an opportunity to start attacking her in the hallways, she'd started designing different articles of clothing that weapons could be concealed in so she'd be able to defend herself from such attempts in the future. She hadn't even realized she'd still had that boot on until just a moment before, but she didn't have time to ruminate on this incredible stroke of luck-every fiber of her being had to be devoted to pure, unbroken silence as she began, more slowly than even she would have thought possible, to creep up on the prancing unicorn. She couldn't make any sudden movements, or make any noise at all, without attracting his attention. She was notgoing to get another chance.
The handle of the dagger felt icy and hard against her sweaty palms, and she fumbled to keep a sturdy grip on it as she inched forwards, holding her breath so tightly that her cheeks were puffing out. She was so close, and he was still facing the back wall of the den, shaking his head about in unbridled ecstasy. For a moment his wildly-swinging tail brushed against her face, and Emet almost sneezed, but she kept it in. There. This was it-his exposed neck. She'd have to stab there to keep the torso fur intact. She'd read somewhere that unicorns could be killed by breaking their horns, which would be better because then she'd have the whole carcass unspoiled by wounds, but she also wanted to be absolutely sure to kill him and didn't want to take a chance on some wild rumor that might not even work. No matter what, slashing the throat alwaysdid the trick.
Okay...any moment now, Emet thought to herself as she quaveringly moved the blade towards the nape of Hevvin's neck. He had moved on to drumming his front hooves against the ground by now, so his neck was finally still and a perfectly clear target. She could do this. If she had enough self-control to sneak up on a magical beast, she should certainly have enough self-control to kill one.
Another bead of sweat trickled down her forehead, and her vision swam a little. Even now...after all she'd gone through...this was still a living creature. Sure, she'd almost succeeded in strangling him before, but she'd been so wrapped up in the heat of the moment that she hadn't even really realized what she'd been doing. Plus, stabbing him meant there'd be blood. Ewwwwww.
Remember what's at stake here, Emet. You can't go back to warrior school, remember? So your only chance at a good career is to become the most famous fashion designer in the whole world-and to do THAT, you need to make an outfit of UNICORN FUR.. Don't mess this up, dummy.
Emet closed her eyes for a moment, quietly expelling the breath she'd been holding. When she opened them again, her expression was steely. No more fooling around. It had to be done.
And besides, no one but no onewas allowed to call her a jerk.
Wrapping both fists around the handle of the dagger, she hoisted it high above her head and actually managed to block out the resultant deluge of unpleasant thoughts as she plunged the keen blade down into-
"DON'T WORRY, EMET! I'LL SAVE YOU!"
To be sure, Harv cut a dashingly heroic figure, framed in the entranceway with sword outstretched and ridiculously intense backlighting-but as Hevvin whirled about in alarm and Emet shrieked "DAMMIT, HARV!" while her weapon whistled through empty air, nobody really took a chance to appreciate that.
"NIIIIIII?" demanded Hevvin furiously as he finally noticed how close Emet was to him, and how incredibly sharp and menacing that object was that she'd just dropped with a clatter against the ground. The puny human had been trying to TRICK him? But only HE was allowed to trick IT! Anything else was just plain UNFAIR!
"IT'S OKAY!" called out Harv gratuitously as he rushed into the den, roughly grabbing Emet and forcing her behind him. "JUST RUN, WHILE I-Ooof!"
Harv suddenly pitched forward, nearly falling flat on his face before he regained his balance and turned to face Emet with a look of astonishment. Emet had just punched him in the back of the head? And HARD, too-but he had just come to Emet's rescue!
"YOU IDIOT!" Emet screamed, face crimson with fury as she kicked him hard in the back of the knee. This time Harv jerked backwards, but with an awkward stumble managed to keep from falling down. "YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!"
"What?" Now Harv was a little offended. "I'm savingyou! How is that ruining-"
She moved to strike him again, but this time he was able to block her, holding on to both of her wrists with his left hand while still keeping a grip on his sword with his right. Emet continued to struggle, wrenching desperately against his hold, but only got him to let go for a split second, after which Harv immediately caught her waist in the crook of his left elbow and pinned her against his side where she couldn't do any more harm. (It was a good thing for Harv that Emet still had her hair tucked up under her helmet and light armor over her torso, so Harv had no reason to suspect that she was anything other than a guy; if he'd known that this was a girlhe was holding so close, he would've had a heart attack.)
"Look," he began sternly, despite Emet's vicious squirming, "I don't know what you think is going on here, but we're getting outof here if I have to drag you kicking and-"
Yet again, Harv was cut off mid-sentence, this time by an incredibly loud and powerful THWUNK. In the .00054693 seconds it took for Harv's neck to turn so he could face the source of the noise, these are the thoughts that went through his head:
1. "That was loud."
2. "That was close."
3. "I wonder what that was."
4. "I really wish Emet would stop hitting me." (She was keeping this up as best she could despite her restricted movements.)
5. "So wait, the noise was coming from over there..."
6. "...Am I wearing clean underwear today?"
The last thought was not as disjointed or misplaced as one might imagine, as that thought occurred just as Harv caught sight of the source of the loud and powerful THWUNK, and even a warrior of his strong stock could come mighty close to soiling himself when confronted with a vision like that.
The entire room was filled, from floor to ceiling, with Hevvin-an enormous, looming, furious unicorn, the nape of his neck crushed uncomfortably against the roof and his shadow plunging the entire room into near-blackness. His horn was long as a witch's broom but twice as thick, and certainly ten times as pointy. In fact, if one had the stomach to look that closely, the horn was the only thick part about him-the enormity of his new form had stretched his skin so thin it was nearly translucent, and all his bones and muscles and organs were visibly compressed against its inner surface, leaving the majority of his interior empty save for air, like a balloon. It was brilliant, really, literallyinflatinghimself so he could occupy a greater space than his scanty mass could have possibly expanded to, and with the creepy view inside his body for added scariness; but once again, on Hevvin's part it was just dumb luck and animal instinct.
"NYEEEEEERG!" he shrieked, slamming his gargantuan head against the wall for another resounding THWUNK. The instant before it connected, one could see his skull become suddenly opaque as extra mass rushed in from across his body to cushion it, so the impact wouldn't puncture his delicately-stretched shell. "NII HII HII HII HIIIIIIIIIRG!"
"SEE?" Emet screamed furiously at Harv, who stood stock-still with jaw dropped. "THAT'S WHY YOU SHOULD'VE LET ME KILLIT!"
Nostrils flaring, Hevvin hoisted his right forefoot, the sole of the translucent pink hoof solidifying in a spiderweb pattern as the unicorn prepared it for a heavy collision. The projectile had nearly whistled down to Harv's skull before he snapped out of his stupor and dove to the side, tossing Emet into a safe corner of the den as the gigantic hoof slammed down on the ground right where he had just been standing. Deep fissures crackled out from the point of impact as the entire tree shook violently.
"RUN, EMET!" shouted Harv, too panicked to even notice if she was doing so. He brandished his sword, though it could do him little good against an enemy this size. He couldn't understand it-Hevvin was never thisdangerous. But then again...wait, had sweet little harmless Emet said that he'd been trying to KILL the unicorn?
No time to worry about that, as loose wood chips rained from the ceiling, jostled by Hevvin's strained fidgeting to ready his other forehoof for a fresh blow. The pink already solidifying on its sole, Harv danced skittishly from side to side, careful not to stay in one place too long for fear of becoming a clear target. Despite the firm two-handed grip on his weapon and the invaluable swordfighting lessons he had gotten just an hour and a half before, the boy chewed his lip nervously. Even in the face of the intense peril of his situation, (here's where Hevvin's hoof smashed into the ground just to Harv's right), he didn't want to harmthe creature. He had livestock at home and fancied himself an animal lover, no matter how dangerous the animal. (Hevvin snorted with rage, suddenly thrusting his head down in an attempt to stab Harv with his horn, which Harv also narrowly avoided by blocking the edge of it with his blade.) If Emet had escaped, Harv reasoned, his job was done, and instead of trying to hurt Hevvin, he should turn his efforts towards enabling his own escape. He didn't even stop to think that the unicorn might be enraged to the point of attacking the village, in which case dozens of lives could be lost due to his inaction-but again, it was that kind of naïve idealism that made Harv a hero.
Suddenly Harv noticed that, while he'd been busy figuring out his plan of action, Hevvin's horn had apparently become firmly wedged in the oaken floor, forcing the unicorn to tug furiously in an attempt to pull it out, half-transparent muscles visibly rippling from the strain. It would've been absurdly simple for the unicorn to shift into a much smaller form and remove his horn with ease, but as has been observed, Hevvin was not a particularly intelligent creature.
However, this didprovide Harv with a perfect opportunity, which he immediately took advantage of, first tip-toeing backwards so as not to spook the unicorn, then finally turning for a full-out jog as he approached the entranceway and prepared to return to the outside world-
"HARV!" shrieked Finn, who came sprinting in out of nowhere, hair frazzled and eyes wide with distress, "HARV, THEY'RE EVERYWHERE, AND THEY'RE ALL OUT TO GET M-"
Of course, as dictated by Murphy's Law (which was widely understood even in Medieval times), Finn's mad dash towards salvation happened to be on the exact same path as Harv's race towards freedom, and the two ran smack into each other. Even though he was much lighter than Harv, Finn's speed had been so much greater that his push won out, and the entangled pair went somersaulting violently back into the bowels of the tree. In so doing, they smashed into the side of Hevvin's enormous head-on pure instinct, a large portion of his mass was relocated to that area to bear the brunt of the blow, so he was prevented from any serious injury, but the impact did jar his horn loose from the ground. However, when this occured the unicorn had been in mid-tug, so with his horn suddenly freed, the force of his yank sent him staggering backwards, completely off-balance, four gigantic legs stumbling awkwardly to regain some stable footing. After a moment Hevvin got all but one planted securely, and this last he brought down hard with a triumphant THUD-
-right onto the sharply decorated hilt of Emet's forgotten dagger.
A look of sudden shock and horror spread across the unicorn's translucent face, and Finn and Harv watched with astonishment as a gaping holeblew out of the bottom of the afflicted hoof, air whooshing straight out with a squeaky whistle. The effect was instantaneous, flinging Hevvin in spirals around the interior of the tree just as rapidly as he deflated, mimicking those abruptly-popped balloons that wouldn't be invented for centuries to come. He ricocheted against the walls, becoming smaller and more opaque with each passing second, until with a final wheeze the limp unicorn (back at his normal size) came to a crashing halt on the ground at the far end of the room and didn't move.
Cautiously, not even daring to draw breath, Harv staggered to his feet, dragging Finn up by the armpits. Both continued staring at the motionless body, eyes the size of dinner plates, mouths agape.
After a full minute had passed, Finn finally found the courage to move and raised his arm, pointing quaveringly in the unicorn's general direction. "Buh...big," he whimpered, voice weak with shock. "Big, and...and...and see-through?"
Harv nodded almost imperceptibly, still staring. But soon he regained his focus and suddenly began glancing all around the room, visually searching every corner. "He's not here," he murmured to himself, then snapped his gaze back towards Finn. "When you were outside, did you see Emet run out? I want to make sure he's okay and everyth-"
Finn wasn't listening, still staring transfixed. By now the tremors had spread to the rest of his body. "Big," he repeated. "See-through. G-giant horn...Ohhhhhhhhhhhh."
His knees gave way, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and only Harv's fast reflexes allowed him to catch Finn as the boy completely fainted.
It was almost nightfall by the time Hevvin regained consciousness, blinking groggily and whining a little. He felthorrible, aching all over with the strain of having stretched his skin and innards as far as he had, not to mention that disconcerting sensation of being filled with air and then having all that air whiz right back out of you. He tried to struggle upright and failed, collapsing back onto his side with a spasm. It was all those humans' fault, like always. Stupid humans. He'd get 'em back someday. He'd get 'em all back. They'd see how dumb it was for them to ever mess with Hevvin Angelbright, king of the...the...well, something awesome and vengeful.
The unicorn was suddenly interrupted in his dark musings by the presence of a smell, a really good smell. Despite the screaming pain it caused, he snapped his head up, sniffing intensely. Nope, there was no doubt about it-there was a smell, and it was delicious.
He tried to get to his feet again, and this time he succeeded, blocking out the ache and discomfort as he trotted expectantly toward the entranceway, turning his head every now and again to follow the trail of the smell. Soon enough he had tracked it down to a little pond in the surrounding forest. More precisely, a little island in the middle of the little pond, a little island that was stacked high with tantalizingly sweet sugar cubes.
Licking his lips, Hevvin started to traipse placidly towards the island, but once his hooves touched water, he stopped and recoiled. A complex series of events occured inside his tiny little brain that allowed him to remember that he had tried to cross this pond many many many times before, and that every single time-every time, mind you-he had subsequently gotten soaking wet. (It was only about forty feet or so to the little island, but the water was much deeper than it looked.) And he remembered that every time he got soaking wet-to repeat, every time-his fur would stink horrendously for some hours afterwards. He knew that if his fur was that stinky, he would feel too sick to eat even those most scrumptious sugar cubes. But...but then how would he be able to getto them and eat them without his fur getting wet?
It took a ridiculous amount of effort on the part of his brain, but suddenly Hevvin had an idea. With a whinny of glee he morphed into his human form, frantically stripping off his clothes even before his new feet touched the ground. Totally stark naked, the boy dashed into the water, running along the bottom until it got so deep that he was forced to start swimming, propelling himself furiously towards the source of that oh-so-seductive odor.
The moment he left the shore, Emet sprang out of the nearby bushes, snatched up the pile of clothes and bolted off into the darkness, laughing maniacally.
Oh, what to do, what to do, what to do! The girl just kept pacing up and down the length of her study, glancing every so often at the beautifully elegant unicorn-fur outfit draped over the mannequin by her desk. It was so gorgeous on its own, she almost hated to alter it, even though she'd spent all night dreaming up different things to do with it. Would it take well to dyes, she wondered? It would look stunning in mauve, or maybe puce. Should she turn it into a dress? An elegant ballgown, draped with strung pearls? Or would it do better as a robe, or even a lavish tunic? The possibilities were endless, but she had so little to work with, it was so hard to just choose one!
For the fifth time that morning she stopped in front of it, running her hands across the fluffy jacket. It was so soft, so impossibly soft, she wondered how unicorns could possibly stand not rubbing up against it every moment of their waking lives. It could be a cloak, perhaps? Maybe she could turn part of it into a hat. But it didn't matter, so long as she hadit!
Emet quivered with excitement, impulsively seizing the edges of the jacket and burying her face in the wonderful silkiness, rubbing it across her skin with a sigh of ecstasy. She'd done it. She'd done it. The world was HERS. She would be famous beyond all belief, the most celebrated seamstress in all of Europe, in all Creation! But even that concept paled in comparison with the idea of possessing, not just possessing but wearing, this fantastic material in whatever form it took.
Which somade up for seeing Hevvin naked.
After a moment surprisingly free from any unpleasant flashbacks, inspiration took her, and she lifted her face from the fabric. A suit of armor. Well, not a real one, but an outfit in the shape of one, that would fit her and her alone. It would have no practical application as a means of defense, but rather as a bold fashion statement-the knight of fashion, that's what she would be! A symbol of feminism with an element of masculinity! It was PERFECT!
Pushing the mannequin from her, she dashed to the other end of the room, where stood a cabinet filled with dressmaking materials. Yanking open a drawer, she pulled out a pair of scissors, then rushing back to her prized fabric with incredible fervor. Just a few snips, she told herself as she quaveringly took hold of the edge of a sleeve, bringing up the scissors with her other hand-just slit it open so it can all be rearranged, then carefully cut up and sewn into place-
The scissors snipped. However, the fabric did not.
A mere instant before the blades would have cut through the sleeve, the jacket began disintegrating, slowly at first but rapidly picking up speed, crumbling into dust that vanished entirely upon contact with the floor. Emet reeled back in horror, but the same thing was happening to the other clothing, first the gloves and then the shirt and pants and boots. In less than thirty seconds there was nothing left except the mannequin.
"Wh...what?" Emet stammered, unable to believe it. Seized with a passionate fervor, she flung the scissors aside (embedding the sharp points deeply into the wall) and frantically dove beneath her desk, shoved mannequins to the ground, even knocked over the cabinet with a spectacular crash as if expecting the wondrous fabric to suddenly reappear elsewhere in the room. It just wasn't possible-wasn't right. Her dreams couldn't just dissolve into thin air like that!
But, as she realized even before she'd reduced the entire study to a shambles, it was no use. The fur was gone.
In truth, the only reason it had lasted so long was because, while spending the night looking for his lost clothes, Hevvin had maintained his human form, thus subconsciously maintaining the clothing form of his detached fur. Once daybreak approached and he gave up the search in favor of regaining his unicorn form for a nap, he lost mental contact with that part of himself, and the fur, frankly speaking, ceased to exist. But Emet couldn't have known about any of this, nor did she particularly care. She didn't care about anything.
It was all over.
Sitting in a ball on the floor, arms hugging her pulled-up legs, Emet buried her face in her knees and let herself cry. She was so out of practice that she could scarcely coax more than a few tears out of the corners of her eyes, but that did nothing to reduce her anguish.
That fur had been her last chance. Sure, she could keep on down the path of the Tailor's Guild, but that would be menial work at best, nothing rewarding, nothing especially profitable either. Tailors were a dime a dozen, even those with her level of skill. That fur had been her only chance of standing out in that field, of being noticeable, of being special. Of being somebody. It wasn't even about fame or fortune-it was about being loved andneeded. She'd be nothing. She wasnothing.
Her arms clenched tighter as she emitted a wild, choking sob. If only she hadn't been so stupid. If she had just kept herself under control, kept her mouth shut and stayed in her seat, she'd still be in warrior school now and none of this would ever-
Startled, Emet looked up.
It was coming from the wall-the one her desk faced. Someone was throwing rocks at her wall.
Tears forgotten, Emet jumped up angrily, scampering for the window. Whatever damn hooligan was out there, he'd picked the exact wrong day to mess with her, and he'd be lucky if he got away with all his limbsintact-
"HEY, EMET! ARE YOU UP THERE?"
She shoved her head out the window-hole, quickly yanked it back as another rock came rather closer to where she was standing, then cautiously peeped out again.
Standing on the lawn below was Harv, yet another rock in hand, with a somewhat irritated-looking Finn beside him. A few feet back were some of their enormous classmates; she thought she recognized Mister Awkward's elbow, as well as...what were their names...Biff and Mevor?
"What are YOU doing here?" she called down to them skeptically. (Her study was at the top of a tower, and though it wasn't a very tall one as towers go, Harv had to have had a pretty good arm to toss those rocks so high.)
Cupping one hand around his mouth, Harv used the other (still with the rock in it) to point at Finn. "FINN SHOWED US WHERE YOU LIVED!" he shouted a bit too loudly. Finn visibly gritted his teeth and glanced away. "WE THOUGHT...WELL...MAYBE YOU'D LIKE TO WALK TO SCHOOL WITH US!"
Emet was seized with a boiling rage. Those jerks! Those awful, terrible, horrible, heartless JERKS! How dare they mock her like that! They knew VERY WELLthat she'd been kicked out of Warrior U!
"DON'T EVEN START WITH ME, HARV!" she yelled back furiously, voice slightly hoarse from the effort. "YOU SURE AS HELL DON'T WANNA START WITH ME!"
He winced a little-the beefy boys behind him started to shuffle their feet awkwardly, clearly regretting having come here-but he managed to emit a small chuckle. "Well, I'm sure of that!" His voice sounded surprisingly good-natured. "After seeing how well you handled yourself yesterday, I sure wouldn't want to get on yourbad side! Gosh, I could barely keep you pinned!"
Emet blinked, taken off-guard.
"I mean it, I was really impressed! Come on, you've just gottashow off those moves during Practical Skirmishing today-I'll bet you're the toughest boy in class!"
At last Finn could hold it in no more, letting out a wild screech as he pulled at his hair in frustration. "SERIOUSLY, HARV, GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEAD! EMET IS A GIRL!JUST BECAUSE SHE'S WEARING A HELMET TO COVER UP HER HAIR-"
Shocked, Emet's hands immediately flew to her skull-sure enough, her cap was still firmly clamped on, as it had been ever since she'd left school the previous day. During the whole incident with Hevvin, it had seemed smarter to keep it on for protection, and afterwards...well, apparently she'd forgotten to take it off. (Plus, what with all the sweat and dried blood still trapped in there, she was a little frightened to see what her hair looked like underneath.)
But wait...the way Harv was talking...did that mean...
"Really, Finn, you're just being annoying now," Harv admonished sternly, glaring at his friend. "I told you Emet was the one of the manliest guys I knew, and yesterday I got proof! A girl would've just run screaming out of that tree, crying her eyes out, but Emet stood his ground and just kept fighting!" (He left out, or more likely forgot, the fact that Emet had been fighting him rather than Hevvin.) "Just ignore Finn, Emet, he doesn't know what he's talking about. Now, you wanna come with us?"
She shrank back into the room. "But..." she faltered, "but yesterday...swordfighting class, the window...a-and, Iscreamed..."
"THAT?" It was actually one of the beefy boys this time, his voice so deep and thick it took Emet a great effort to understand any of the words he was saying. "Don't worry, we all know that was 'cus you were possessed by the banshee that haunts the outhouse!"
"Yeah!" chimed in Mister Awkward, his voice surprisingly high-pitched and squeaky. He punched his right fist into his open left palm. "An' if the headmaster tries ta' give ya any flakabout it, we'll show 'im what for!"
"Yeah, we will!" chorused the other faceless boys and Harv, backed by random exclamations of "Banshees arescary!" and "Demonic possession is, like, so involuntary!"
Harv grinned widely up at the stunned girl, then after a moment of prolonged silence, he viciously elbowed Finn. "Yeah, yeah, me too," the boy grumbled reluctantly, blowing a strand of blonde hair out of his face.
Emet's mind could barely comprehend it. They...liked her? Or, well, the boy they thoughtshe was?
She leaned a little further out the window.
"H-hold on!" she called, trying her best to mask the fact that her voice was cracking. "I'll...I'll be right down!"
And with that she tumbled back into the room, tearing her cap off to air out her hideously mussed and matted hair before hurriedly changing into a fresh tunic and britches, hastily cleaning the inside of the helmet with a rag before jamming it back onto her head. Moments later she was out the door and nearly thirty feet down the road from the boys, she'd started out so fast.
And as the motley band jogged to school together, Emet successfully hid a smile.
Sure, it would take a lot of extra caution from here on out, even if the teaching staff could be convinced that the previous day's outburst had been banshee-induced. She'd have to stay completely under control, all the time, no exceptions. But Emet knew she could handle it.
And maybe there was more reason to continue at Warrior U besidesthe whole "prizewinning gladiator" thing.
Though she would never let them know that.