By Mistypaw

In the beginning...

The icy winter wind brought a rosy blush to the cheeks of the lone girl wandering the streets. In the city the Christmas lights reflected on the snow to make a world of rainbows. Here, on the outskirts of town there were only the street lights to bathe the cement in a cold yellow gleam. 'Who am I?' the girl wondered. 'What am I doing here?' The world felt vacant, like something was missing, but she didn't know what. The wind felt like it blew through her bones as she turned into an alley for shelter. There were many trash cans, and the back door to a bar. A small, dim light bulb flickered above it, in danger of going out. She sat down under it, trying to ignore the strange feelings inside.

Suddenly; the bar door flew open. A large man staggered out and leaned against the opposite wall. He raised the bottle in his hand to his lips, laughing. When he saw there was nothing left, he threw it against the door. He looked down at the dim glass shards, and noticed the girl sitting next to where they landed. She looked about sixteen, with waist length golden hair and wide, vivid blue-green eyes. She stared up at him, her chin shaking as much from fear as the cold.

"Well, look what we have here?" He sneered as he stumbled closer. "Lookin' for someplace warm?" As he came towards her, she looked wildly from side to side for an escape. Next to her in the trash can there was a rustling noise. He, with his drunken senses, didn't hear it as he stumbled foward. Just before he was upon her, a large cat sprang out of the garbage and onto the man's face. He screamed, and tried to pull it off. It's claws dug into his flesh as it gave a loud audible hiss and yowl. Soon other cats joined in the battle. The girl was staring in wonder at the scene before her.

"Hey! You just gonna stand there and watch until he's free? Come on! Let's get outta here!" The ruff voice came from a small green gremlin, as high as her knees. He wore an orange bowler hat and orange overalls. The fat stogie in his mouth glowed a bright orange on the end, as the smoke floated up and disappeared into starlit twinkles. Shocked, but faced with little choice, she followed. At times she only saw a blurred streak of it running ahead, but he always waited in sight.

They ended up in a forest. She collapsed on the floor, exhausted and panting. The gremlin was leaning against a tree puffing his stogie, which for some reason never ran out. "You'll be okay, but I think I better keep an eye on you."

When she caught her breath she looked at him. "What are you!" She asked. " I thought you were only there because my fear got the better of me." "I'm still here, aren't I?" He took a step forward and offered his hand. "Name's Muddlegump. Yours?" She reached out and touched him, quickly drawing her hand away. "I felt you!" "Well, It makes sense if you can see me, you should be able to touch me." He glanced at her curiously and said, "What, am I the first chimera you've ever seen?" After she nodded her answer, he shook his head. "So what's your name?" "I..." She paused, trying to remember that which lingered just beyond her grasp. "I don't know," she finally, reluctantly admited. "What!" His stoggie hung from his gapping mouth. "I don't know, I don't know!" She paced, grow more upset as she tryed harder to find an answer. "I've been wandering the past few weeks looking for anything; searching my memory for a clue. And now I'm talking to something I made up...must have, or I'm mad." She stared at Muddlegump fiercely. Almost as if her gaze could make sence of him. Muddlegump looked uncomfortable. "Um, I think I better take you to someone who can explain this stuff better. Follow me." Before the girl could protest, he was off in a green blur. Rather than be left alone, she went in the direction he had left in. 'Better to have my maddness than to be alone.' She followed him deeper into the forest. Just when the girl began to wonder if this was a wild goose chase, she saw a tent up ahead.

Ishmeal Askari was just finishing dinner for the night, when out of the corner of his eye he saw a green streak. "Welcome back, Speedy Gonsalez." "Stop calling me that," Muddlegump said. "I found someone I think you should talk to." "Really? And who is so important that you'd trust him to where my camp is?" "Okay, better to say I think she needs talking to." Ishmeal paused his fork halfway to his mouth. "A she, huh? I might actually have something to thank you for." He heard a branch break just outside of the fires range of light. "You may as well come in and warm yourself," he called out. Ishmeal's eyes widened as the girl shyly steped towards the camp. He stood and bowed to her. "My lady, I welcome you to my humble campfire." "Is this who..." she asked Muddlegump. "Yeah, this is who I brought you to see. Ishmeal Askari," Muddlegump ploped down next to the fire. "Call me Ishmeal." He laughed, and the girl noticed smile wrinkles around his eyes. The hand he offered her was smooth and graceful. His tall figure silouetted by the fire. The girl went to the fire, both accepting his invitation, and to get a better look at him. His skin was darkly taned, as if he spent a lot of time outdoors, and his brown hair was loosely touching his shoulders. He wore normal jeans, with a fancy silk shirt. Her eyes strained as the clothes blured, and she shook her head to clear the vision.

"She doesn't know what she is, or anything about it." Muddlegump said. "I was about to be attacked when I saw this... um... he said he was chimera. He led me here. What's going on? Do you know who I am?" "Whoah!" Ishmeal grabbed her and sat her down. "One question at a time. Now, what's your name?" "She ain't got one." Muddlegum quirped. "I do to! I just... don't remember." "Okay, so we help you remember." Ishmeal though for a moment trying to think of a way to help her, and how to convince her to stay. "My only clue is also my greatest fear. It's scary. Like a tugging and tingling all over my insides and they want to come out. It feels sometimes like I'm going to explode with it. At night it's the worst. I see things and almost let it go." She hugged her knees to her chest and let out a shaky breath. "Have you tried giveing in to it?" After receiving a crazed look, he replied, "Maybe it's trying to tell you something. You have to listen and give it a chance." "Okay," she said hesitantly. "I'll give it a try."

That night, as Ishmeal and Muddlegump slept, the girl was awake. She stared into the fire and thought 'If I let go... I may not be able to come back.' She considered this for a minute. 'but where am I going now, anyway?' The coals of the fire glowed a warm orange and a piece of wood sent sparks into the air. She felt the tingling surge up inside her, and instinctivly held onto it. It stuggled, like a person drowning, striving for the surface, for air. When she couldn't take it any longer, with a pounding heart, she let it go. The fire sparks turned into dancing pixies, and they flew up to join the stars, which sang to her from above. The wind whispered through her ears of the woods, magic, and wild things. It called her... "Mistypaw". Suddenly, the world seemed much larger. Cats came from the forest and sniffed and licked her. "Welcome sister." They said.

The next morning she woke. The sun's light came through the trees in gentle beams in which dust fairies played. She looked over at Ishmeal. His normal clothes from the other night were gone, and in their place was a wild disaray of feathers, beads, and strange clothes in all colors. "Ou-yay ook-lay o-say ifferent-day!" she told him. She startled, and paniced. "Hat-way am-hay i-hay aying-say? Hat-way's rong-way ith-way e-may!" "She said you look different." When they both looked at him, Muddlegum said, "The last kid I played imaginary friend for spoke Pig Latin to annoy his parents. Nothing's wrong with ya, you're a pooka. It's normal." "On that note," Ishmeal interrupted, "may I assure you that not only is it normal for your kind, but that you look quite different yourself. Come with me to the lake. You can wash, and see for yourself."

They headed east for a few minutes and then the trees parted. The morning sun glistened over a small, clear lake. She bent down to wash, and caught her reflection. There were cat ears on her head. "Nya!" Startled, she lost her balance and fell on her behind. She quickly stood, rubbing her backside, and found that most of the pain came from an orange tail. She looked in the water again. The reflection was still the same. She reached down to see if there was anything under the water, and noticed that her hand had a light sheen of fur. Feeling for the ears, she heard Ishmeal come up behind her. He chuckled at her antics of discovery. "So kitten, do you have a name?" he asked with humor. The dream from the night before flooded back into her memory. " Es-yay, I-hay emebe-ray ow-nay. I-hay am-hay istypaw-may. is-hay his-tay i-hay he-tay ats-cay elped-hay e-may efore-bay?" Ishmeal shook his head in exasperation. "We're going to have to do something about this. Most pookas speak in lies and exaggeration, but in English." He yelled for Muddlegump, and he was almost instantly there. "Could you please tell me what she is saying?" Ishmeal asked him. After repeating what she said before, Muddlegump told him, "Her name is Mistypaw, and yes, that is why all those cats helped you out before." He turned back to Ishmael. "You want me to give you a quick lesson in Pig Latin?" Awhile later, Ishmael said, "Alright, try talking to me, but go slow." "Is this good?" Mistypaw asked. "Much better," he said with a relived sigh. "Now last night, before you were speaking tongues, you asked about chimeras..." "Oh, it's okay now." she interrupted. "I remember. My dream filled my head up with lots of things. All about magic, and different fairies, and Arcadia. That we can't go their, but why?"

And so Ishmael taught Mistypaw all of the fairy lore he knew. They traveled together, and became very close friends. He showed her how to live as he did, never staying in one place too long. They slept in freeholds, claiming their right from the Escheat, and toured the renaissance faires as a trick preforming and storytelling group. It made them a meager living, but they didn't need much to get by. Sometimes on holidays she would wonder who she was before she became a fairy, but didn't let it bother her too much.

Somewhere else, a family was very bothered by it. It was a mouth ago their daughter, Kessa, disapeared in the night. She was always happy, and never showed any signs of distress or trouble. The Mulren Family asked all her friends, but no one had a clue to where she went, or why. Then last night, one of the local police called while on vacation, saying he saw her. Mr. Mulren quickly bought an airplane ticket, and told his family the news. Kessa had been seen at the Pleasure Faire in California. That next morning, with hope and tears in their eyes, they said goodbye, as he left to find Kessa.

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