Author and artist Thea van Diepen is crowdfunding her second book of the White Changeling series. I’m hoping you’ll find her work as delightful as I do and support her efforts. After all, a unicorn’s life (or at least its sanity) is on the line.
I’m a big fan of her web comics and you may recall that I blogged about receiving a book from the future when UPS delivered the first book of the series last year. Her writing and art is whimsical, lyrical and thoroughly delightful.
Which is why I couldn’t just do a normal author interview with her. Instead I took a whimsical character of my own named Izzie and caused space-time to warp so she would run into the protagonists of Thea’s book while she was on a walk in the woods.
I hope you enjoy the story, get a taste for Thea’s world of magic, fairies, mad unicorns and fantasy adventure, and decide to support her Kickstarter campaign for “Like Mist Over The Eyes“.
In Which Izzie Meets Nadin and Adren of “Like Mist Over the Eyes” (Not An Author Interview, Not an Excerpt)
The forest changed today.
Everything was normal at first. I said hello and the trees began telling me their stories. They complained about the summer heat, the way cicadas made them itch, the disrespect of the woodpeckers. Then the scene rippled around me, like a stone had been thrown into reality. When the wave passed, it was different. The air tasted like toasted marshmallows, not redwoods and dust. And the ground, it was darker. Richer. The trees were silent.
And then there was him. He. Someone. He looked like the guy from Slumdog Millionaire. What was he doing in my woods? I didn’t expect him, so the words jumbled on my tongue. “Oh, hi. Who are–um, are you alone?”
“Well, you’re here. So, no?”
Oh. Yes. That. “No, I mean…” I stared and he glanced from side to side, like a confused child. A series of images flashed through my mind, almost too fast to catch. A gathering of people. A party? He was being held still. Something had fallen to the floor, and they wouldn’t let him pick it up. His voice interrupted the vision.
“Are you… might you be… oh, wow, this is weird. Are you human?”
I started to laugh, then stopped.
I didn’t want him to feel bad. I’ve had that thought before, more times than I could count: sometimes people just… didn’t seem human. I get that.
“Oh. Okay.” He paused. “Because your skin is… different. Um. Yeah.”
I looked at my arms, bare to the shoulders in my tank top, then looked at his face and the hands at the end of his long sleeves. Those awkward hands, like flighty birds, fluttering and not lighting anywhere. Brown, smooth skin. Normal enough. I held out my hands, stepping closer for a better look.
“What’s different about it?”
Well, I wasn’t as brown as he was, but I actually did have my summer tan. What would he think if he’d seen me in winter? “You don’t have white people where you’re from? Where are you from, anyway?”
Who in California hasn’t ever seen a white person before?
“You mean where I was born, or where I…”
I waited for a few breaths, but he didn’t finish the sentence and wouldn’t look directly at me. An image flashed into my head again, and before I realized I was speaking, it was out: “Why don’t you tell me about the place where you dropped your Saints’ Day candy on the floor?”
His mouth pulled sideways like a goat at the fair chewing its hay and his nose scrunched up so that his eyes were a glittering line between the tops of his cheeks and the heavy eyebrows. His adam’s apple bobbed a few times before something finally came out. What else had he tried to say before the one word fought its way to the front of the line?
Another thought spilled out, and I wondered at it even as I said it. “The unicorn is white. Doesn’t it count?”
Flummoxed. It’s a beautiful word, but I’d rarely seen someone in real life actually flummoxed. This was what it looked like. I could see the whites around his dark, dark eyes. Fascinating.
I was so focused on the boy that I must have missed the approach of the girl, because it seemed she just appeared out of nowhere. She stalked towards the boy, sparing me only a glance but obviously knowing who he was. And, hello people, she had white skin. Just like me. This guy was nuts.
“Nadin, what’s going on?”
“What, you don’t know?” Nadin turned back to me. “Do you know what’s going on?”
I snorted. Ruby always told me it wasn’t ladylike to snort, but I did it anyway. “It looks to me like you’re hiking in the woods with a white girl and pretending you’ve never seen a white girl before. Is this the sort of pickup lines they use where you come from?”
The girl scowled, looking me up and down. “Why would he have seen another white girl before?”
At the same time, Nadin said, “Pickup line?”
They seemed so sincerely confounded. And he had been flummoxed. I was picking up the strangest vibes from them, and the forest still smelled like marshmallows.
“Who are you?” The girl crossed her arms.
“Izzie. I want to know about this white girl issue he has. How could you have gotten here without passing a million white girls along the way?”
“You’re obviously delusional. I’m the only person with white skin anyone we know has ever met before. Except you.”
I’m not the delusional one. They are. Just like the unicorn. I didn’t know where that thought came from, but as usual, it was out of my mouth before I could stop it. “You’re as crazy as the unicorn.”
“All right, you need to explain what’s going on right now. How do you know about the unicorn? Are you an illusion?” She strode toward me with alarming speed. “Did the fairies do this?”
Nadin shook his head. “She’s not an illusion.”
The girl threw her hands into the air, shouting, “Well, what else could be going on?”
“Silver scars on alabaster fur, a song to soothe its mad, mad heart…” I hummed a bit of the tune in my head, twirling away from the girl, my feet taking me on a little dance path around the two. The sun felt good on my bare arms, filtered through the foreign trees.
The girl sucked in a sharp breath at my song, and I smiled. Unicorns, fairies, a forest that wasn’t my own. Yet even with these odd ones my strange gifts hit their mark. I didn’t have to understand it to enjoy it.
“Can we start over?” I asked. “My name is Isabel. You can call me Izzie.” I looked at the girl and decided not to try and shake her hand. She looked like she could bite my head off. “You called him Nadin. What’s your name?”
“My name is none of your-”
Nadin piped in, “Her name’s Adren.”
“What? She seems nice!”
Adren watched me finish my dance, her eyes narrowed, muttering, “Nice has nothing to do with it.”
Yay. I had made new friends in the woods. Not my woods, but new friends are fun. Even ones who looked ready to hit me over the introduction process. I smiled at Nadin. “So… What about the fairies? Are you friends with the fairies?”
The two looked at each other uncomfortably.
Nadin spoke. “That’s… debatable.”
“Oh! Let me show you…” I shrugged off my backpack and fished around inside, hoping my new friends wouldn’t disappear before I could find my sketchbook. “I drew some fairies last week…”
Adren and Nadin peered at my drawing, Adren hanging back as if reluctant to come within arm’s reach.
“Why does it have wings?” Nadin asked.
“How else could it fly?” I paused, thinking. “I suppose it could use fairy dust…”
Adren glared at me.
Nadin looked from me to the drawing. “I’m so confused.”
“Fairies don’t fly,” Adren stated flatly. “Where in the name of all the saints did you get that idea? Fairy glamour is one thing, but this…” She gestured dismissively, clearly flabbergasted.
Flummoxed and flabbergasted in the same day. Wait until I told Seth about this.
“And why is that flower so big?” Nadin asked. “Or is it the fairy that’s small?”
“Peter Pan, you know? Tinker Bell?” Tinker Bell wasn’t ringing any bells, so I sang them the song. “When you wish upon a star…” I trailed off at the mildly terrified look on their faces. Closing my sketchbook and shoving it inside my backpack, I sought for something to calm them. “So… your fairies don’t grant wishes?”
Adren snorted. “Definitely not.”
“And they don’t have wings?”
“Oh, of course they do. And I’m the king of Breim.”
So they have sarcasm in Adren’s world, even if they don’t have white girls.
“Don’t be mean,” Nadin said.
Adren did not look apologetic.
They seemed very serious about this whole fairy thing. Maybe it would help if they talked about it. “So what are they like? You sound like you know a lot about them.”
Adren, shrugged, one eyebrow raised. “I grew up with some.”
“And we just left one of their mounds,” Nadin said, and then added quickly, “Uh. Not the one of the fairies Adren grew up with. Different ones. Really nasty ones.”
“That’s your opinion,” Adren retorted.
“I’m sorry, remind me again how we just got out of there?”
Nadin gulped, and lifted his hands, taking a step back.
I savored the awkward silence. It’s not every day that I’m the observer and not the one being stared at. I kept staring, especially at Adren. She turned her glare from Nadin to me, and I flinched. Just a little.
“They’re fairies,” Adren finally replied. “Don’t get on their bad side.”
Nadin muttered, “Or their good side.”
Adren rolled her eyes. “Ignore him. Now. How do you know about the unicorn? Are you a magical creature, or a human?”
That tickled me, given the things that had happened in my life. “Yes, um…” This is where it gets hard to explain. Sometimes a human is more than human. Hm. “Yes, well. I know about the unicorn the same way I know about the man with the sword that you keep seeing.”
Adren stopped with her mouth half open to say something. Nadin went as still as a rabbit who suddenly sees a hawk’s shadow.
“How could you possibly know about that?” Adren demanded. If she glares at me any harder, it’s gonna leave a burn mark.
“Wait, why are we confirming this?”
“I think it’s pretty obvious that we know what she’s talking about, Nadin. But she still hasn’t answered either of my questions.”
Questions? I was still thinking about fairies not having wings. What were the questions again? Before I could ask, my phone vibrated in my jeans pocket and the theme from Sailor Moon blared through the woods. Time for dinner. I pulled the phone out and silenced it.
My two new friends were staring at me like they’d never heard the Sailor Moon theme before. I suppose it’s possible someone in the world hasn’t. I held up the phone. “Sorry. Dinner time. I gotta run.”
So many questions unanswered, but if I wasn’t back by six o’clock, Ruby would find a way to make me pay for it. I spun away and ran back through the woods, trusting they would transform back into my woods so I could find my way home.
I wondered what kind of world had mad unicorns, fairies without wings, and people who’d never seen another white girl besides Adren.
* * *
In a forest in Ider (but not a forest in Ider – where was that sweet smell coming from, anyways?) Adren and Nadin watched the girl vanish.
“I’m good for pretending that never happened if you are,” said Nadin.
“So long as she’s harmless.”
The true forest shivered back into being.