This story is actually finished.
It's...four or five chapters, I can't remember. Short, is what I'm saying. Was nearly a long one-shot, until it passed the 10,000 word mark.
But this chapter is going up a few weeks early. I'd intended to hold off until CoS was finished, but oh well.
Note, chapter two won't be posted for at least two weeks (unless you sneaky devils tease it out of me, you sneaky things you...)
Songs this chapter was written to: Skinny Love cover by Birdy; Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri; and I'm Not An Angel by Halestorm.
Wisdom consists in being able to distinguish among dangers and make a choice of the least harmful.
-Machiavelli, The Prince, 1532
Apparently being a virgin in the world of myths and spirits was hazardous to one's health.
Jack scrubbed his bare skin raw with snow, and when that melted he conjured more. No matter how much he rubbed he couldn't seem to remove the horrible feeling of lips on his chest or hands on his waist. He only stopped when one hand came back wet with bloody snow. He stared at the red spotted slush. Pursing his lips, Jack squeezed his hand into a fist, the snow squishing between his fingers, and tossed it aside. He sat heavily next to his folded white shirt and brown cloak on the ground, head in his hands.
This was the ninth time in a third as many years that he'd felt so dirty, and that said something considering he could only remember being around for five. The first spirit he'd ever met had seen fit to try and touch him like this as well. He'd barely gotten out an excited, "Hello there!" before the other—a winter sprite—had had his fingers in Jack's hair, yanking his head back to plant kisses on Jack's neck.
"Get off!" he'd shouted, pushing the other away and bringing a hand up defensively to his neck.
"Oh, is the little virgin shy?" The sprite had smirked, sharp teeth peeking from light blue lips that were a shade darker than the sprite's skin. "How sweet."
Jack'd pointed his staff as threateningly as he'd been able, which wasn't much, considering he'd only been learning for three years, and on his own at that. A blush frosted on his cheeks he'd said, "How do you know that? It's none of your business!"
The sprite had rolled his dark eyes. "I can smell it on you, virgin. Now," the sprite took a step forward, and Jack had stiffened, "how about I help you get rid of it?"
Jack had promptly knocked him away with a gust of wind and taken off, riding the air currents high in the clouds until he was far enough away to begin the scrubbing process that had become routine by now.
Over and over for the next few years Jack had been attacked by a spirit seeking to aid him in 'removing' his virgin scent. The last had been particularly aggressive, one of those fey types that would have just as quickly deflowered him as tricked him into going Underhill for an eternity. The fey had even attempted a glamour on him. Jack may have found himself growing stronger, but he was still pretty new to magic and fighting. He hadn't had much of an opportunity to build up a resistance to any spells, and the glamour had nearly worked.
He'd felt so lightheaded all of a sudden, sweet calm laxing his muscles as a hazy pleasure settled across his senses. He would have been putty in the fey's hands if he hadn't spoken.
"Such pale skin," he'd murmured, grazing his teeth across Jack's chest and fingers dipping into Jack's waistband. His tongue had lapped Jack's nipple, and Jack'd keened. "Such sweet noises, too. Make more of them for me, virgin."
That had knocked Jack out of it, and his staff had seen to it that the fey got knocked quite out of it as well. Really. The only thing that turned him off more than rape was when they referred to him as 'virgin' like it was some sort of lesser title. Like he wasn't a person.
Jack sighed, pulling his knees to his chest and burying his face in them instead. "What's wrong with being a virgin, anyway?" he mumbled.
Jack jumped, spinning in his seated position and scooping his staff up with ease to point at the new addition to the copse of trees he'd taken refuge in. "Who are you?"
A leprechaun held his hands up, messy red hair with bangs braided on either side of his forehead framing his bored hazel eyes. He was short, but not as short as Jack had once believed leprechauns to be. This one might have even been a little tall at around five feet. He looked down his sharply pointed nose at Jack, brow raised condescendingly.
A leather satchel bounced on the leprechaun's hip as he sighed impatiently. "Are you going to do anything, or am I gonna be standin' here all day? I've got work to do!"
"Why did you sneak up on me?" Jack demanded.
The leprechaun scoffed. "Sneak up on you? You're the one hangin' about in front of my home!"
Jack blinked, and looked around, staff lowering slightly. All he saw were trees. "Where?"
The leprechaun, sensing the end of Jack's threat, stalked around him and twisted a seemingly ordinary knot on the tree just behind him. The bark seemed to ripple, and split down the middle, folding into the sides to reveal a hollow inside, and a staircase leading down under the earth. The leprechaun took a step in, then twisted at the waist to look back at Jack.
"Well?" the leprechaun said. "Are ye comin' or not? Or do you want to continue hangin' about where other virgin enthusiasts might catch ya? That blood ain't exactly helpin' you any."
Jack got to his feet and picked up his shirt and cloak, slipping both on before following after with his staff at the ready. The leprechaun rolled his eyes and walked down the stairs. Jack followed, only slightly startled when the bark folded out once more and closed the entrance behind him. They went down for about thirty seconds before the spiral of stairs stopped, leading into a large room that seemed sectioned off according to purpose. In the far right corner, partitioned by an open curtain, was what appeared to be a 'bedroom' with an old mattress and thick, plush pillows and quilts. This area was darker than the rest of the room, the curtains hiding it away from the light of the fire in the pit in the center of the room and the lanterns that hung from the ceiling on hooks. Dozens of plants Jack didn't recognize hung around the rest of the ceiling by thin wires in bundles.
Next to the 'bedroom' was a 'sitting room,' with a large bookshelf stretching across the back wall from one side nearly to the partitioning curtain. Its shelves were filled with books of various sizes and scrolls. Huge pillows, likely meant to be chairs, were strewn about around a low circular table. Other than that, the rest room seemed to be dedicated to a 'kitchen' of sorts. The left and right walls were lined by smooth stone counters all the way down to where the 'bedroom' and 'sitting room' began. The right counter was strewn with empty bottles, inkwells, quills, and heavy journals. The shelves inlaid into the wall above the counters were filled with potions in small stoppered bottles.
If Jack was correct and the right counter was for bottling and storing potions, and perhaps recording them or their recipes if the thick journals were anything to go by, then the left was for making the potions themselves. A few small cauldrons were placed on its top, pestles and mortars dappled between them. The shelving above this counter was filled with what had to have been ingredients, with jars of odd liquids and pastes and bundles of vegetation placed carefully in their spots. A bucket of water and a ladle rested on the floor in front of this counter, and a bag of apples spilled its contents next to it.
Jack took all of this in as the leprechaun set his satchel on the left counter. The leprechaun began removing its contents, a knife, a vial of red liquid, a bundle of roots of some sort, a few gold coins, and—was that hair?
"Where did you get that?" Jack pointed to what he could only guess was a young adult's severed hair, still adorned with the bow it had been tied back with.
"I cut it off a young man," he answered. The leprechaun picked up one of the gold coins, and flipped it between his fingers. "A greedy merchant's son, seekin' to augment his own fortune by coming to the end of my rainbow looking for a pot of gold." The leprechaun snorted, and tossed the coin over his shoulder. "Useless. They only get one coin, and it's not even real gold."
"What is it, then?" Jack watched the coin bounce, then lay quiet and dull in the dirt.
"It's magic, of course. Moment they get it it fades away cause of the spell on it, and it shows 'em what needs to be seen." The leprechaun picked up the hair and waved it. "In return for givin' them a lesson, I take what I need for my potions. All leprechauns do it."
"I knew you were all potion makers, but I didn't think you needed ingredients from humans," Jack said cautiously.
"Only for some, and it's not like we kill them." The leprechaun began putting the items away on the shelves. "Besides, we don't really hurt them. Spot of hair here, bit of blood there; it's nothing too much."
Jack wasn't sure that comforted him at all, but he set aside his misgivings and stepped closer to the leprechaun. "What's your name?"
The leprechaun glanced at him. "Kith." He finished and closed his satchel, setting it aside. "Yours?"
"Jack Frost." Jack followed Kith when he gestured to the low table and pillows. Jack sat cross-legged on a red cushion, and watched Kith sit across with one knee drawn up to his chest, the other stretched out underneath the table.
"You're a virgin." Kith rested his cheek on his knee.
Jack blushed frost. "Yes, I am." He hesitated, then added, "What did you mean when you said being a virgin wasn't a bad thing?"
"You mean you really don't know?" Kith raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Well, that is interesting." Kith drummed his fingers on his calf. "Virgins are rare in our world. The few there are are kept hidden away by a mentor or guardian until they're ready to be courted; usually around forty or fifty years. At that time they give off a scent. The stronger the scent, the more powerful the virgin is—and the more desirable as a result." Kith gave Jack an inscrutable look. "You have the strongest scent I've ever smelled, and the scent only gets stronger as the virgin ages and grows into their abilities."
"You mean the attacks are going to get worse?" Jack clenched his fists on his thighs.
Kith nodded. "How old are you Jack? With a scent like yours, and how naïve you are to this, I'd say your scent must have set in early…and you're a winter spirit, they're notoriously infertile and a spot mean, so it's not surprising you've got no mentor or guardian, like you would if you were of another season or species. I'd say you're what, thirty-five? Forty at youngest? How long have you been gettin' attacked because of your scent?"
"I've been getting attacked for three years," Jack answered. "And I've been around for five years."
Kith stared at him. "Five years old? So your scent set in at what, two years?"
Jack nodded. "Is that very strange?"
"I said forty or fifty was average." Kith's eyes scanned Jack like he was a particularly interesting specimen. "For it to set in that early is unheard of." He laughed, and it sounded amazed and bemused. He shook his head. "And to think it'll only get worse. You must be quite the potent virgin, Jack."
"Why does it even matter?" Frustration lined his words with sharpness. "You say the scent means power, but what does one person's power have to do with the people who attack me? Is it just that the scent is that desirable?"
"It's a bit more complicated than that." Kith tapped his finger on the table. "When a virgin is bedded, the virgin gets a power boost. A boost that their partner shares in. The more powerful the virgin, the bigger the boost. So the stronger the scent, the more powerful the virgin, the bigger the boost, and we have a cycle."
"But you don't seem to be interested in me."
"It's not so much personal power I'm interested in, as it is potion power, and bedding a virgin won't help me with that."
Jack slumped dejectedly. "It's not going to end, is it?"
"Not until you're rid of your virginity, no."
"Is…," Jack looked up at Kith, pained and hopeful, "is there nothing I can do to stop it? I don't want to get attacked all the time, but I don't want to just give my virginity away, either."
A sly smile slowly pulled across Kith's lips. "Well, there might be something."
Jack laid his hands flat on the table, leaning forward with desperation. "What?"
"I can make a potion," Kith explained. "It won't get rid of your virginity or anything like that, but it can mask the scent by covering it with another. "
"Sex." Kith chuckled at Jack's surprised look. "If you take this potion regularly you'll constantly smell like you've recently had sex. Strong enough to be obvious, but weak enough that no one will be able to tell who you supposedly did it with. Only the strongest of noses will be able to detect a little bit of your virgin scent, but even then it'll be so weak they won't know it for what it is."
"I'll do it," Jack said enthusiastically.
"But," Kith cut in, "I will require something in return."
Jack's eyes narrowed, and he stiffened with suspicion. "What?"
"As I said, I am interested in powerful potions. Powerful potions require special ingredients." Kith pointed at Jack. "It just so happens that virgin blood is very good for love potions."
"You want my blood?" Jack felt uncomfortable with the prospect.
"Just a wee bit every now and then." Kith held his forefinger and thumb a short distance apart. "Just enough for my potions. And with how powerful your scent is, I'm sure I can make the strongest love potions and aphrodisiacs on the market."
"Aphrodisiacs?" Jack asked warily.
"They're surprisingly popular with nymphs," Kith said matter-of-factly. He paused a moment. "…and satyrs."
Jack shuddered. He'd had a run in with a satyr once. It hadn't been pleasant.
He took a moment to mull over Kith's offer. He wasn't sure he was okay with his blood being used for potions, but then again…if the potion worked like Kith said, he'd be left alone. He wouldn't have to look over his shoulder constantly, or wake up in the middle of the night wondering if the sound a twig snapping was someone getting ready to attack him. He wouldn't have to scrub away the feeling of unwanted hands until he was bleeding and raw. He wouldn't be so afraid.
Jack gave a heavy sigh, and nodded. "Alright. We're agreed."
Kith smiled, and held out his hand. "You won't regret it, Jack."
They shook hands. Jack grinned uncertainly. "I hope you're right."
He really, really did.
Hope you enjoyed!The next chapter'll be up in two weeks, I'm planning, since the story wasn't supposed to go up this week at all but I gave into urgings. The unicorns are coming, don't worry!