The wicker skiff bobbed in the water as the kids piled on board. Oboe shoved her brothers and sisters, worried she’d be left behind again. “Wait for me!!”
She wasn’t the youngest. In the Spring she would turn eight, which was practically a grown-up. The problem was she was the littlest and the easiest to forget. She elbowed her way through the packed group, squeezing through armpits and climbing over laps to try and find a spot to sit.
“Hurry up!” Her father said. His name was Bansuri. He had big curly horns and a scruffy beard, both of which Oboe liked pulling on. Sometimes he shouted her name when he got mad, which made her happy. “We’re going to be late for the tournament!”
Oboe was excited. There was a small group today of only a dozen other kids. Most were half-brothers and sisters, some full-blooded, and a few twice removed cousins. Fauns were better than most other kinds of fairies because they knew how to share their children. Everybody got more moms and dads that way. They traded kids with all their lovers, taking turns, and sometimes yelling about whose job it was to watch which kids. Oboe liked Bansuri best, though, since he was her birth-father.
The last stragglers hopped onto the boat. Father pushed off the dock with his punting pole. Oboe scrambled to grab the empty seat nearest to her dad, only for her brother Fife to steal it.
“That’s my spot!” She said, trying to pulled him off it.
Fife planted himself firm and leered. He was a year younger than Oboe but he was already bigger because he was cheating. He wore a yellow mantle like Oboe. It was a short shawl hanging off his shoulders. His had a different family crest, though, because they didn’t have the same mother.
“I got here first,” he said. “Find someplace else!”
Oboe glanced back to see every other seat was taken. “There’s nowhere else! You have to move!”
He leaned back, a smile on his big dumb face. “Nope. Can’t make me!”
Oboe let out a war cry and summoned all her strength to destroy her brother. She jumped on him, yanking his horn nubs, and wrenching him into a headlock. He bit her, but she didn’t care. There was no way she was standing the whole way to the palace.
Father yanked her aside by the scruff of her neck. “You will stop this at once!” He put her down and straightened her mantle so mom’s crest, an embroidered acorn with a keyhole, was displayed the way he liked. “You’re to see your grandmother today. I’ll throw you overboard before I let you shame the family in front of her. Do you understand?”
Oboe stomped her hoof, rocking the boat. “I don’t want to stand!”
“Hey,” said Fife. “You shapeshift, right? That’s all you can do. How about you turn into a fat slimy bug and fly your way across the lake!”
“No!” It was true Oboe could turn into almost any kind of gross bug she wanted, but that didn’t mean she wanted to get left behind. Everyone else had a seat, so why couldn’t she have hers? It wasn’t fair. “I’m not gonna be a bug, Fife! Get out of my spot!!”
Fife laughed at her. “Crybaby Oboe has to stand the whole way! What a stupid loser!”
“Stop making fun of me!” Oboe grabbed her brother by the chin and shrank him into a slug. He fell onto the floor of the skiff with a wet plop.
One of the cousins gasped. “Uncle Bansuri! Oboe turned her brother into a mollusk!”
“No I didn’t!” Oboe said, lunging over the aisle to turn her cousin into a toad. All around her from every direction, her brothers and sisters began pointing their fingers.
“Umm! Oboe’s getting in trouble!” They laughed. Oboe screamed and went berserk, turning everyone within reach into rats and beetles.
She froze mid-step, too scared to turn around. Father grabbed her by the shoulder. She realized she’d made the biggest mistake of her whole life.