The wood ax scraped across the ground, bumping over rocks and tree roots as Oboe dragged it through the woods. She looked over her shoulder, and scampered faster to get away.
“Get back here!” The human said, chasing her. “I need that!”
As soon as she got enough distance to be out of sight, she tossed the ax into the middle of a clearing and clambered up a tree to wait. The hard part was finding the humans. She’d never been outside the Fairy Circle before, so she got lost in the Whirlwood. Some foxes were nice enough to point her in the direction of a human farming manor. It was weird. They lived in ugly brown boxes, there was almost no magic in the air, and everyone had a sort of savory smell. It was like manure, sawdust and garlic. The scent made Oboe feel hungry in a way that had nothing to do with food.
This human smelled the ripest. Almost grownup, but not all the way. She found him chopping wood on the edge of the village. He got real mad and chased her when she took the ax. He was big but slow. She watched from her hiding spot and waited for him to catch up.
He lumbered onto the scene, bewildered to find she’d left the ax behind. He scratched his head and bent down to grab it. Oboe tensed and pounced, grabbing him by the shoulder.
“What?!” The human spun, trying to reach behind his back. “Let go of me!”
Oboe felt her magic well up like a cup running over with water. She let it spill and the spell poured out over him.
“Gaaahhh!!” His body jerked and she held on as he thrashed. Fur sprouted all over his body. He fell onto his hands, his fingers shrinking away into claws. His face grew longer with stuttering jolts, and his mouth filled with pointed teeth. He slumped when the transformation was complete.
Oboe hopped off his back and gaped at what she had done. The human was a wolf now. This was amazing. She’d never changed into anything so big, let alone transformed someone else. Using her magic like this felt amazing. It made her feel bigger and stronger, like there was more room inside her for magic. The Whirlwood filled her up again with more than she ever held before.
The human stirred, tripping over clothes that hung loose. He raised a paw and shot quick frightened looks at his new tail and body. He tried to stand and found himself stuck on all fours.
“What did you do to me?!”
Oboe beamed with pride. “I turned you into a wolf!”
His jaw hung open. “Why would you do that?!”
“I needed Fates, so I took yours,” Oboe said. “Now I’m strong, so I’m going to go win the Tournament and grandmother is going to be my best friend.”
He snarled, snapping his teeth at her.
“Change me back right now!”
Oboe was startled by how upset he was. “What’s wrong with being a wolf?”
“I can’t go to school if I’m a wolf! My dad is going to kill me!”
“Oh.” Oboe pursed her lips. “Well, anyway, I gotta go. Bye!”
She changed into a blue bird and took off. She was sure he could figure it out. She needed these Fates more than him, after all. She flew back the way she came, but realized the human was right behind her.
“Stop!” He shouted. “Change me back!!”
“Leave me alone!” Oboe said and flapped her wings harder. He was so much faster as a wolf. She tried to remember the way she came, feeling for bends in the valley’s magic. There had to be a gate to the Fairy Circle nearby.
There. She saw it. She looped around an old stone pillar, and zipped straight for her exit. She passed between two ancient oaks into a deeper fold of the Whirl. The world changed, the sky turned green, and she found herself in the streets of the Outer Circle.
The wolf came crashing in after her. Some grownup fairies saw him and screamed.
“A feral got in!” A nymph said. “Someone grab it!”
The wolf looked confused. The grownups tried to surround him but he rushed past them. Oboe wished he would give up already. He leapt to catch her in his teeth and missed. She was too quick. She flapped her wings and rose high out of reach. Every part of her felt swift and powerful. There was nothing he could do to stop her.
Oboe soared over the streets and across the docks. The wolf stopped at the edge of the lake, unable to follow. She laughed at him and set her eyes on the island in the middle of the Circle’s lake. Grandmother’s palace stood like a towering cluster of quartz. The towers shimmered in the sun and the gardens sprawled in bloom. It was all waiting for her. All Oboe had to do was win the tournament with her amazing new powers and the Inner Circle would be her new home.