Back to Contests
TitleThe Smitten Swan
UserSapphira
RankingRunner-Up
Post Date (Visible)September 2021
Content

Once upon a time, there was a pretty young swan. She had
sleek, roseate plumage and a perfect swan physique - all
shapely elegance and haughty grace. She spent her days primping
and preening, and skimming the waters of Lusternia with blithe
joy, not a care or concern in the world. Until one day, the
waters rose quite suddenly; storms churned the sky and rain
fell in ceaseless sheets, and the tranquil rivers and streams
started to froth and burble with violent energy.

Alarmed, the pretty little bird flapped and flailed, carried
rudely along on the swirling currents. She kicked and she skated,
doing her best to keep afloat, unsure where the rapids pushed
her and praying only for a solid shore. After much undignified
tumbling and dunking, she found herself being swept down the
street - or what had once been a street and was now a river -
of a city. And there, at last finding her way to solid ground,
she met a cat.

This cat eyed her with a peculiar mixture of curiosity and
disdain as she ruffled her plumage, drips of water flying every
which way from her outspread wings. He was black and dignified,
merely staring as she got herself tidied up, his slender tail
giving a betraying lazy flick. "You're a long way from home,
pretty bird," he said, giving her an unblinking stare. "This
is Magnagora."

She gazed around in wonder at the towering buildings and
elegant architecture, and was only slightly startled when a
scream of pain echoed from a distance and was quickly silenced.
"Magnagora," she echoed, returning her curiosity to the proud
feline, who was now giving a nearby puddle a filthy stare.
Unbeknownst to both, this was the beginning of a new and unlikely
friendship. He showed her around the city, deftly avoiding the
flooded streets and ducking out of the way of the endless stream
of rain, and taught her about the peoples who lived there, and
why it was the greatest nation in the basin.

He was cunning and polite, and well respected, she noticed as
she followed along. And so very clever! He taught her of history
and politics, of religion and philosophy, and while she did her
utmost to take in all his lectures, she too often found herself
admiring the low purr of his voice, or the sharpness of his wit,
and was then lost in her own imagination where an esteemed,
lithe black cat fell madly in love with a pretty, roseate swan.

He, however, seemed oblivious to her growing infatuation,
despite always being ready to meet her, day after day. He seemed
to not notice her compliments, or her warmth, or lingering stares.
"How does one make a Magnagoran cat their very own?" She wondered
one day as the rains abated, and they sat atop the d'Murani tower,
admiring the sunset, which he taught her was painted by the
Enchantress. And it was this question that had her set out on a
quest, to find the answer and make this cat fall in love with her.

First she made her way back to Nil - she'd learned of the
Five Demon Lords and Lady - and ask them for advice. "Oh my
pretty pretty!" Crooned Queen Nifilhema, "Why, you must woo him
with ingenious tortures and ecstatic agonies, with sharp beauties
rendered in blood and flesh." Certain she knew more than a
simple swan, she followed her advice, bringing him a
delightfully flayed fish arrayed in an artistically gory way,
with little bones splayed in the shape of a heart. He admired
her creativity with some praise, though when she offered to
employ similar strategies on himself, his response was a curt,
"No." Dissatisfied, she sought further advice.

"You must tell him to comply or CRUSH HIM!" Raged the Duke
of Damnation, hand clenched in a fist that had the swan keep
a wary distance. She pondered his advice briefly, but wisely
decided she was not likely to win the cat's favour this way.
"You do not ask or beseech, you take what is yours," mused
the Supreme Master Luciphage from his throne, though the swan
wasn't sure how much he had paid attention to her question.
Terrified of the very hungry one and the stench from his pit,
she avoided him entirely, and though she heard a sinister whisper
in the shadows, she could not find the Weaver, Baalphegar.

Despite her doubts, she met the cat the next day as usual, and
mustered her courage. "Cat," she said boldly, holding her head
high. "I think you should be mine." The cat gave her another of
his mysterious stares, revealing nothing of his thoughts. "Is
that so?" he mused at last, and thus the topic was dismissed
and a new lecture on benefits of Necromancy begun.

"This is getting me nowhere!" thought the poor little swan
frustratedly. She was sure the cat liked her company - he
always seemed happy to spend the day with her - and that he was
not completely indifferent to her, but he certainly did not seem
to show it. Undeterred from her affections, she continued her
search for advice, finding her way to the Mountains of Madness.
There she had an epiphany - cats despair of water almost as much
as Geomancers do! And so she made the cat a cloak from some of
her own glossy plumes, to shelter him from any future floods or
downpours. The cat seemed pleased with the gift, even if he fussed
a little at the aesthetic, gratefully donning the garment and
admiring the handiwork. Still, he did not reveal a whit of tender
emotion.

Deciding that perhaps Magnagorans were not the best to give
romantic advice, the swan spread her net wider. She spoke to a
Supernal who gushed about love and compassion and put the bird
in serious fear of being squished in a hug. An aloof lucidian
spoke of logic and paperwork and arrangements rather than love,
while a hiccupping dracnari slipped her a flask of something
terribly potent with promises of rousing her love's desires with
only a few sips.

Desperate to have him, as each day he only ever grew in her
esteem, the swan tried every suggestion. Spilling epithets of
romance and cooing like the Supernal only earned her a discomfited
look and a curt, "Please stop," from the cat. Outlining the logic
of their union merely earned her comments on the greatness of
Magnagoran unions and marriages between those of good breeding -
hardly encouraging. The potion from the dracnari proved entertaining,
if not successful, with the cat swaying in a less than dignified
manner after a sip and refusing to try any more. Failure after
failure. Still, day after day, the cat awaited her company and
spent many an hour with her.

The swan looked further afield. A man named Hethklyff told
her the only way to prove her undying devotion was to commit
suicide, though he phrased it somewhat differently. The swan
was highly sceptical and despite seeing that somehow his
addlepated wife actually fell for the trick, she didn't think
the cat would be swayed by such silly dramatics. So, deciding to
skip that advice, the cygnet moved on. A timid young woman named
Yurial told her to take the route of secrecy, and to pen the
words of her heart in a letter and have it slipped discreetly
into his hand, that he may know the depths of her feelings and
fight for her hand. Intrigued by this notion, the swan set about
writing a missive.

"Surely he will be so moved by my words he proposes on the
spot!" Declared the feathered female, hiding the revealing text by
folding it and shoving it at Marla, the postal worker. Couriered
by express bat, the letter found its way to the cat, though when
the swan met him the very next day, he spoke not a word, merely
offered a typically pleasant greeting, and lead her to the day's
new adventures.

"He has to know by now, maybe he really does not share my
feelings!" The swan, despondent, didn't visit the city the next
day. Instead, she wandered listlessly, swimming this way and that
upon the calmer tides, not paying attention to where the currents
lead her, until she found a rocky promontory. There she sat,
lamenting to herself of her unrequited love with the proud,
enigmatic feline. "But he is my very dear friend! He must feel
the same, he must! He should be mine!"

The water nearby stirred, and tumbling curls of turquoise
drifted upon the surface as a beautiful creature arose from the
depths. "I know a way to bind your love to you, delightful little
swan," drawled the nereid. "Some men are so fickle! Such a silly
cat, don't worry, I will show you how." Overwhelmed with relief,
the swan eagerly listened as the fae spoke, piscine tail lazily
swishing in the tranquil waters, drinking in every last word.

The next day, the blush cygnet was waiting for the cat,
who seemed happy to see her return after her unusual absence.
"I have a surprise for you," she said cheerfully. "Sit down and
let me show you." Clearly curious, the cat settled upon their
favourite bench, overlooking the city from the d'Murani gardens,
but made no other comment.

Drawing a breath, the swan began to sing, just as the nereid
had taught her. Sweet and gentle, if not quite as entrancing as
the fae, still the swan's voice held true, weaving a bewitching
melody that filled the air. Pouring her heart into the tune, the
little swan sang with great expression and longing, of her desire
and affection. Perturbed to discover no vines grew to ensnare the
cat as promised, still she continued, seeing the object of her
adoration was enraptured by the song. When she was done, colour
began to stain the sky and she held her breath, asking at last,
"well?"

The cat tilted his head, considering, then slowly stalked
towards her. Lifting one sharp-clawed paw, he gently touched
her cheek. "I had no idea you felt that way, my beautiful,
dear swan. Will you be mine?" Taking every ounce of self-control
she possesed to not roll her eyes or retort on his complete,
unbelievable obliviousness or ask what the fiery pits of Nil he
thought she'd been doing all these weeks, instead the swan
smiled radiantly.

"Always and always."

The End.