Although Odella couldn’t read the sign posted at the Market Square entry, her father could. “His Royal Majesty, King Aethelbert the Eighth, summons all and sundry to A Royal Fair, Norms and Wyrs, of whatever ilk, to attend a peaceful assemblage to celebrate the signing of the Armistice betwixt the two races signed one year ago on the morrow.”
Her father’s reading was very precise, and no wonder, since the King’s own tutors had taught him, after a Clerk of the King’s Court had discovered his propensity for fine weavings, He continued reading.
“There will be entertainments, including high wizardry, tumbling, mimes, puppetry, major and minor magics, as well as feasting.” He patted his round belly and smiled, then read on. “All are bid to attend under penalty of public flogging.” He scratched his chin at the last, mumbled. “Humph, he never changes...”
As one of the King’s own weavers, he and his four daughters ate well, though Odella, the youngest, could never put on weight.
Her mother had died bearing Odella, and she was always a sickly child, and ever so small for her age.
“But Papa,” she said, tugging on his waistcoat to get his attention. “You told me Mama said we should never trust the Norms.”
Papa nodded and slid his index finger alongside his nose. “And that holds as true today as it did in my childhood, when the Wyr and Norm War started.” He cast his gaze about furtively to see if anyone in the nearby market stalls appeared to be listening to his errant slip of the tongue. He crouched down to speak softly.
“And you, especially, should not trust the Norms, ‘Della. You barely have any WyrFriends as it is.” He clamped his mouth shut, belatedly realizing he’d once again lost control of his fallible tongue.
Odella didn’t mind. She was used to Papa’s ways and loved him dearly anyway for them. Still… “Is that because I’m a...”
“Shh,” Papa scolded her, giving her shoulder a shake. “You should never let anyone know.”
Odella’s eyes filled with tears at Papa’s harsh remonstrance.”Not even my husband someday?”
Papa smiled now. “You’ll decide that for yourself when you come of age, but for now, we keep it a secret, okay?”
Odella nodded, her unusually large, yellow eyes still brimming with tears. Papa hugged her to himself, pulled a kerchief from his waistcoat, and dabbed at the corners of her eyes.
“Hush now girl, and let’s dry those tears. We have something exciting to share with your sisters when we get home. Who know? Perhaps they might find themselves a husband at the fair, eh?”
“And me?” Odella said. “Will I find myself a husband?”
“Hopefully not for a very long time,” Papa said. His face looked worried.
Though it had rained nearly every morning for the past week, the day of the Fair dawned clear and warm.
Odella’s sisters chattered excitedly, dressed themselves in their brightest smock frocks, pinched their cheeks to add blush to their animated faces, and drove Odella’s father and her to distraction.
If Odella hadn’t been so excited by the Fair herself, she might have decided to stay home rather than get caught up in this energy.
Papa loaded up the best of the weavings the King hadn’t commissioned in his cart, hitched up old Horace, their mule, and the whole family rode into the village in style, Horace’s belabored brayings not withstanding.
The revelries had already begun when they arrived.
Papa, because of his high standing with the King, commandeered a market stall for his weavings.
Della’s sisters made their way to the entertainments where some of the local lads pitted themselves against one another in feats of strength, lifting heavy kegs and hurling them. There they admired the shirtless young men.
Odella was left to her own devices and she quickly found the puppet show, where the puppeteers were performing Knights and Dragons. She sat down on a carved wooden log with a boy of about her own age with overlarge yellow eyes like her own.
He smiled at her. “I’m Timmot. What’s your name?”
“Odella. My Papa’s the King’s Weaver. What’s yours?”
“My Papa’s a tinker. We travel a lot.”
“You’re like me, aren’t you?” Odella leaned in close and whispered. “A WyrOwl?”
Timmot nodded. “Yes. Papa says it has to be a secret, because the WyrOwls helped the Wyrs so much the King had to make the Peace. He doesn’t like them at all.”
Suddenly, both children lifted their heads as if listening.
“You feel that?” Timmot said.
This time, it was Odellas’s turn to nod. “Danger. In the direction of the King’s Wood.”
“We should wyr and check it out,” Timmot said.
Odella shook her head. “I’m not supposed to in daylight. The King’s soldiers might see me and report me to the King.”
“This is something bad. I know it. We’ve got to see what it is.”
Odella bit her cheek before nodding. “Okay, but hide first.”
The two children ducked behind a market stall and changed into WyrOwls and launched themselves into the air. If anyone noticed it, none remarked, perhaps believing them to be pigeons.
They circled the market square from above, then widened their search finally agreeing that the danger they felt did, indeed, emanate from the King’s Wood itself. They flew in that direction.
As they landed in one of the taller trees they could already hear the sound of men talking and the nickering of horses. The two of them hoped and flew from branch to branch ever lower until they could make out that the men were soldiers wearing the King’s own colors.
“It’s all a trap,” Odella hooted to her new friend.
He nodded. “We have to warn the WyrFolk.”
A few minutes later, Odella flew right into Papa’s stall and startled his Norm customers by changing right in front of them. “Soldiers in the King’s Wood, Papa. The Fair’s a trap.”
Papa nodded, turned red, and began to shout. “To me, WyrFolk! We are betrayed. To arms!” The Norms scattered. Those that had shops fronting the market square shuttered their windows and secured their doors, not wanting to have any part in the King’s revenge.
For the WyrFolk, the cry of, “To arms!” meant that instead of picking up pitchforks and clubs they changed into WyrWolves, WyrBears, and whatever other forms their creator had gifted them with. For Papa, that meant he turned into an enormous and deadly, hairy Wolf Spider.
Claw and tooth, hoof and poisonous fang were now ready.
When the King rode into the village at the head of his small mounted army, prepared to cut down Norm and Wyr alike in his thirst for revenge he didn’t arrive in surprise, but to confront a massed and fully alerted WyrForce.
Odella watched the King’s expression change from chagrin to angered embarrassment. Then, the King’s General, on a steed beside him, leaned in and whispered something which Norm ears wouldn’t have been able to hear, but WyrEars heard perfectly.
“Make our appearance here out to be a review or a parade your Majesty. We’re here to honor the Peace, by honoring the Norms and Wyrs alike.”
The King turned even redder in anger, but then slumped in his saddle, before nodding. The General nodded back and spoke loudly.
“We now take this time to march before Norm and Wyr to remember and celebrate our fallen. There is nothing to fear.”
It took a few minutes before the Norms gathered their courage and returned to the square to attend the review, and the WyrFolk paid their own homage to their fallen, remaining in WyrForm throughout the sham parade.
Odella thought the whole performance rather splendid.
I've been published a good bit. Most recently here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082PGPGK5. I tend to write weird fiction and some of my story titles reflect that. One such title, "With Possum You Get free Were-Fi" and "Bubba vs. the Werewolf", as well as "I Was A Teenage Were-possum. I've also had a story reviewed here: https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/stupefying-stories-22-emag-review/