Every year for my birthday, my parents threw a large party. They invited all races and our new court wizard, Gladstone, magically increased the size of our ballroom to hold everyone. Our last court wizard, Lethan, had been banished but no one would tell me why.
I groaned. "Ruffles," I grumbled to myself. "I hate ruffles."
Would you like my help?
I looked over my shoulder. Icefire was sleeping on my bed while I changed into my black suit. I had a blue undershirt and the damn white ruffled collar.
"How can you help?" I asked.
She flew over clumsily and hovered in front of my chest. She let out her claws and soon the ruffles were at my feet in shreds. I laughed as she flew onto my shoulder.
"Thank you very much, Icefire," I said. "Now I look normal."
She tilted her head to the side and looked at me through the mirror.
You are normal, are you not?
I sighed. "No, Icefire, I'm not. I am the only one of my kind."
Much like me?
"Yes," I whispered.
The door opened and my mother walked in. She sighed.
"Really?" she asked, looking at the shredded fabric on the floor.
I smiled innocently while Icefire purred. My mother shook her head but took my arm and led me downstairs.
"What will Icefire be eating?" she asked and I looked to the dragon.
Meat and fruits, grandmother.
My mother's eyes widened when I repeated the message.
"Did she call me grandmother?"
"Well, I am her father."
She stopped a servant. "Can you have a platter of meats and fruits set at my son's place."
"Y-Yes your highness," the girl breathed, staring at Icefire with wide eyes.
"You didn't warn the servants?" I asked and she laughed, tugging at her hair.
"I was too excited!"
Music started to play and we walked in. Everyone applauded and we waved. It soon turned to whispering, though, when they saw the dragon perched on my shoulder. I sat down and food was placed in front of me.
Why do they stare?
"Because you are a blue pocket dragon," I said as she walked down my arm and onto the table.
"Fascinating," Elder Donne said. "A blue dragon."
The plate was put in front of Icefire and she started to eat with gusto.
"Slow down there," I said. "Don't make yourself sick."
She slowed down a bit and I looked around. All the races were sitting clustered at their tables. We tried to get them to mingle more during the meal but they were too uncomfortable. During the dancing, though, they always loosened up a little more.
When she finished her food, Icefire went to drink water from the small goblet provided. She dunked her head in it and the whole thing fell over, startling her. I laughed a little and caught her before she could fall off.
"Try lapping it up," I said, pouring some of my water into the goblet.
"Yes. Use your tongue instead of trying to gulp," I clarified.
She tilted her head in doubt. If you say so, she said, her voice uncertain. She did as I said. Oh! You are right! This is much easier!
I chuckled just as Elder Donne made an aggravated noise.
"Why couldn't that damn demon have grabbed Lethan with my left arm?"
Icefire and I looked over. He was struggling to eat his soup left-handed. Even though it had been so long, he never really got used to it.
What happened to his right arm, Father?
"Icefire is asking about your arm," I said. "Are you comfortable talking about it?"
"Certainly," he said. "Do I look at her?" I nodded and he smiled kindly at the dragon. "Before Jacob was born, a demon possessed my body. He tried to harm our old court wizard. In order to spare my life, Lillian shot an arrow through my arm instead of taking my life."
Icefire tilted her head to the side.
"I really am sorry about that," my mother sighed but Elder Donne smiled.
"I am grateful," he reminded her. "If he had managed to kill Lethan, our world would have been destroyed."
What is a demon, Father?
I tried to think of the appropriate explanation while she climbed up my arm and settled on my shoulder.
"A demon is a being from another world. People summon them to cause strife on our world."
She made a small growling noise. That sounds like an awful thing to do.
I sighed and ran my finger down her spine.
"It is, Icefire. Many who are possessed, like Elder Donne, do not survive."
Why would they do such a thing?
Before I could answer, Gladstone stood up. Everyone did the same except for us. He clapped his hands twice and the tables and chairs disappeared. A group of musicians came in and seated themselves at a raised area to begin playing. I sighed.
"You need to stay with my mother, Icefire," I said.
"I'll explain it to her," my mother said when she saw my face.
I was trying to think of a way to answer Icefire's question and still fulfill my duty. Icefire flew, still a little clumsy, to my mother's shoulder as I walked down to mingle.
Each year was the same thing. I would go out to dance with the expectation of finding a potential woman. I had inherited my father's strong gift of being able to sense a supernatural being's emotions and the women all sent off the same aura: Disgust. They were repulsed by my merged races but they never said anything. They coveted my throne too much to do so.
For nearly an hour I danced with women who put on heavy acts. I played along, not wanting to appear rude. I was soon getting weary but decided to dance with one more woman before going to the table.
My eyes searched the room until they landed on a young woman standing by the wall. She was obviously trying to avoid attention. She wore a red gown with red heels. It was clear she was a werewolf but I had never seen a clan with her markings. Her hair was brown with white streaks and her eyes midnight blue. I was intrigued and made my way through the crowd.
Women tried to get my attention but the young werewolf had realized I was headed for her. I sensed the panic as she looked for a way out. I got to her before she could, though.
"Would you honor me with a dance?" I asked, holding out my hand.
"Okay," she sighed. "I'll probably step on your toes, though."
I laughed a little. "Good because I will most likely do the same thing."
She gave me a hesitant smile as the musicians took up a rather lively tune. She kept her gaze fixed at my chest. I could sense her fear and I wondered why I scared her. As far as I knew, all rumors about me where positive.
"Is this your first time at one of my birthday parties?" I asked.
"Yes," she whispered. "I've been... ill for the others."
I smiled. "Well, I'm certainly glad you were not for this one."
Her eyes met mine briefly before looking back at my chest. I was shocked to not feel the repulsion I normally felt. Under the fear, I also sensed the same curiosity I had for her. Her eyes flickered to the table where my mother was talking to Icefire.
"Is that a blue pocket dragon?" she breathed.
"Yes," I answered. "Are you familiar with pocket dragons?" She didn't answer. "What clan are you from? I have not seen-"
"Thank you for the dance, Prince Jacob," she said suddenly and stopped moving.
I frowned as she disappeared into the crowd. Well. That was a first.
I ignored the other women as I made my way back to the table. When I sat down, Icefire fluttered to my shoulder.
She was lovely, Father. Why did she leave?
"I have no idea, Icefire," I mumbled. "That's never happened before." I turned to Elder Donne. "I thought it was a mark of respect to ask a werewolf about their clan."
He arched a brow. "It is. Why?"
"I asked a werewolf about her clan and she practically ran away," I said.
"Hmm. Perhaps she doesn't have a clan," he said.
"Is that possible?"
"Yes," he nodded. "It's rare, but possible. We'll discuss it later."
"Okay," I said and went back to watching the guests.
The young female werewolf had disappeared.