Her Beauty Within was originally published by Still Moments Publishing. When they were absorbed into another company, I received my rights back with no strings attached. I then had it published by the now defunct Breathless Press. Getting it out there for publishing again is just not an option. It’s a short and sweet story that two great editors helped me make better–A. J. Nuest and Leona Bushman.
So, I present to you–in four parts during my NaNo blitz–the story for free.
Adele preened in the mirror. Curly, golden locks hung about her shoulders, and her gossamer wings glimmered in the sunlight streaming through the window. She snapped her fingers, sighing. A smaller female fae, who only reached to her shoulders, held out a small comb shining with precious stones. Adele curled her lips into a sneer and plucked the comb out of the little fae’s hands before dismissing her with a wave.
Whereas Adele stood tall and elegant with clothes of golden lamé, the lesser fae wore drab brown. No wings adorned her back, and her skin didn’t sparkle like the diamonds on the comb. She bowed to Adele and backed out of the room.
Coming from a privileged family—a princess of one of the upper families—Adele dealt with a lot of the lesser sprites.
Twirling a finger in her silky hair, she snorted. Why her kind tolerated the sprites was beyond her imagination. Their ugly, small, wingless bodies repulsed her. Still, she supposed they served a purpose. Who else would do the lowly tasks of sweeping the dust and cobwebs or preparing the meals in the hot kitchen? Certainly not one as pretty as she. Adele drew in a sharp breath at the thought of what the oven flames would do to her gorgeous hair and perfect skin. Not to mention the toll on her lovely, iridescent wings.
With a flutter and a sprinkling of glitter, Adele flew into the air and out the top hole of her room. No good came from spending so much time in front of the mirror if the other pixies couldn’t look upon her unmatched beauty.
The gnarled oak tree her kind lived in grew next to a flowing river, and the branches intertwined to form a safe haven for all. The wingless fae had hollowed out portions of the bark for garden beds to feed the clan. She wrinkled her nose as she hovered over the workers. A sly smile crossed her lips and her wings buzzed faster. Balancing her dainty toes on the edge of a moisture-laden leaf, she giggled before pushing down on the natural reservoir.
The water cascaded down onto the workers below, and they cried out in shock. So early in the morning, the shower temperature would be chilly.
Her ringing laughter bounced off the foliage.
She turned at the terse mention of her name. Elder Honeysuckle floated nearby, a look of scorn painted on her face.
“Let them be.” Honeysuckle fluttered her fingers to the workers, and Adele rolled her eyes.
“Ugh. They’re just dumb servants, and besides, they smell. A bath would do them good.” Adele inspected her fingernails, unimpressed by the old crone’s warning.
“Someday, young lady, you will understand the value of all life to Mother Oak.”
“So long as they stay out of my way and do what they’re here for, I couldn’t care less.” Huffing, Adele flew past Honeysuckle. How dare she admonish a pixie of my status?
To Adele, it didn’t matter that Honeysuckle sat on the Council of Eight. The elder did not carry the power of a royal.
Curving her body into the flowering vines near the top of the tree, Adele greeted a few of her close friends. They would spend the day comparing various trinkets or the latest silky flower petals, to make outfits the other female pixies would envy.
“Brynne! Ilana! Karissa!” She blew air-kisses to them all. Giggles erupted from the group as they settled on the tangled flora. Adele kept herself the center of attention by sitting on a higher vine than the others.
“Did you see Brant today, Adele?” Brynne blushed and covered her cheeks.
Ilana swept her long, burgundy locks aside. “He’s wearing a courting sash.”
“I think he’s going to pick you, Adele.” Karissa clapped her hands, widening her sparkling green eyes.
Brynne gasped. “But we don’t pick our mates. Mother Oak does.”
Adele snickered at Byrnne before she spread her wings and thick, sparkling fairy dust fell from their gossamer veins. She’d had her eye on Brant ever since she entered the age for mating and wanted to make sure he only had eyes for her. How could he not? From her long legs to her elegant, iridescent wings, no other female pixie came close to her perfection. All she had to do was place herself in his path and let him accidently bump into her. That would mark the blessing of Mother Oak and Brant would take her hand. No one was going to stand in her way when it came to Brant.
“The Lor is tomorrow.” Ilana wove her arm around a vine and swung out into the air, her burgundy tresses flowing behind her. “We find our mates and our happily ever after.”
“I need a new dress.” Adele fingered one of the bell-shaped, blue flowers growing between the bark. “One made of the richest rose petals and downy feathers.” She tapped her lip, forming the minutiae in her head.
“But you just had one made for the Lor.” Brynne fluttered her wings, pink dust coating the vines around her.
“It’s not good enough. Not for tomorrow.” Adele stood tall above her friends. “I want a new one and you’re going to fetch me what I need.”
With a blur of wings, her friends flitted around the small grove, searching for the materials to make Adele’s new attire. Denying a princess one simple pleasure wouldn’t do well for their social status, and something of this finery couldn’t be left to chance with the wingless ones. She would stitch the garment herself or direct her friends, and then swoop in to claim Brant.
* * *
With a twirl in the full-length mirror, Adele admired her latest creation. Sure Brynne had found the little jewel dews and Ilana did most of the sewing, but the dress was still her idea. That was the only thing that mattered.
She pitied her friends. With all the time they devoted to her dress, they had none left to properly prepare for the Lor. Not that they had a wing and a prayer of getting Brant. He was made for her.
During the Lor, females and males of mating age paraded along the main avenue in their best finery. The tradition dictated that one found true love by accident. Nothing in their long life was planned, and only Mother Oak chose the path to their soul mate. The heart never lied.
Adele smoothed her hand over the velvety petals of the richest pink rose. Brant wouldn’t be able to say “No.” Surely he would lose his wits upon the sight of her. By evening, she would reach the upper levels and gaze upon the millions of sparkling lights on a twilight canvas, sharing an intimate dance with her betrothed.
She flew to the smooth bark streets through the main thoroughfare of the colony. Lightly touching down, she flared her wings for show and strutted with the grace of a ballerina. A mating call meant for only one male—Brant. Several other pixies strolled the same path, none in finery such as hers. She smiled slyly when a few of the females cast their eyes down, no doubt seeing the inadequacy of their dress.
Her heart skipped a beat when Brant walked her way. Her back straight, she continued and kept him within eyesight.
Something hard knocked into her and she tumbled to the ground. Toppling in the most unbecoming way for a princess, Adele yelped when her bottom hit the street, and her precious new dress tore along the side. Her mouth gaped at the sight of a wingless male draped across her legs. Her skin crawled at the contact.
“Get off me, you idiot,” she screeched, jostling the man. She searched the crowd for Brant, and her lip quivered when he intertwined his arm with that of another female. And not just any female—Ilana. He’d stumbled into her because of the stupid wingless doofus sprawled across her legs.
“You!” Adele pointed at the sprite as he gathered his parcels and stood.
“I’m terribly sorry, Princess. Forgive me.” He bowed low.
“I will not. Everything is ruined because of you.” She clenched her fists. “I banish you to the lower levels, and I hope the fish find you tasty.”
His face paled, and he dropped his packages a second time. “Please, you do not mean that.”
“Oh, I do.” She jutted her chin. “Leave now before I call the brutes to toss you off.”
Without another word, the wingless male sank into the bark and disappeared. The stunned expressions of other residents in the main thoroughfare bore into Adele. She stood and spun in a slow circle, meeting each horrified stare. What did they care for the lesser echelon of their society? The peasant had ruined the Lor, and her chance with Brant. No other male suited her status.
“What are you all looking at?” She took off into the sky, climbing high until she exhausted her wings. Slumping into a leaf, she sobbed. “It’s not fair.”
Adele jumped, almost falling off her perch. Honeysuckle hovered over her.
The Elder arched her eyebrow. “What do you know about fair? Have you ever worked a day in your life or even lifted a finger to help anyone but yourself?”
Adele pouted. “I’m a princess. I’m supposed to get what I want.”
“You’re a spoiled brat.”
“How dare you speak to me like that?” Adele stomped her feet on the leaf and furiously beat her wings. “You’re nothing but an old hag sitting on a council that doesn’t have any real power.”
“Is that what you believe? How little you know, child.” The tips of Honeysuckle’s wings glowed eerie black. “I would pity you if I thought you deserving. As it stands, I shall not allow you to continue on the path you’ve chosen.”
A ball, crackling with white energy, formed in Honeysuckle’s hand, and she threw it at Adele. The princess squealed and tried to fly away. The orb caught her foot and zipped up her leg, coating her skin from head to toe in hot lightning strikes. Her wings vanished and her porcelain skin darkened a shade. The brilliant sheen in her hair dulled to a dirty blonde.
“You, Adele, need to learn the true meaning of beauty, and until you do, you shall remain in this form. I banish you to the lower levels, to live out your days with those you cast out yourself.”
“No!” Adele screamed, fear warbling her voice.
The bark grasped her legs and sucked her down into the wood. Within the life’s blood of Mother Oak, she flowed. She grasped for purchase, but her fingers melded with the fabric of the tree. With a wet, sucking noise, the sap expelled her onto the grass at the bottom of Mother Oak.