Unfortunately, somehow, the way the text was posted stripped out the special characters, like quotation marks. So I am posting it again here, for your amusement and edification. Free Toby past the cut-tag!
I have always known that girly footwear was the enemy. Stiletto heels, ankle-straps, snazzy boots, and decorative rhinestones may work perfectly well for other people—people with marginally more in the way of straight-up physical coordination, for example—but they’ve never been anything but trouble for me. Give me a pair of running shoes and some athletic socks any day. They may not be fashion forward, but they’re a lot less likely to get me killed.
Knowing all this, you’d think I might have the sense not to put on a pair of enchanted dancing slippers. And if you thought that, you would be wrong.
“This is not. Working!” I huffed, trying to take deep enough breaths to both let me keep talking and keep me from toppling over. It didn’t help that I wasn’t exactly dressed for dancing. Jeans, a cotton T-shirt, and my ever-present leather jacket are great for the sort of situations I usually run up against, where someone or something tries to kill me, and I try not to get killed. After dancing in them for the better part of four hours, they were starting to chafe.
May managed to duck out of the way before my dancing feet caught her in the head—again—and sat back on her haunches as she looked at me reproachfully. “I could use the shoehorn if you’d just keep still for like, thirty seconds,” she said.
“If I could keep still for thirty seconds, I wouldn’t need you to use the shoehorn!” The dancing slippers decided that this would be the perfect time to send me into a series of pirouettes. I was starting to feel distinctly queasy. “Think of something else!”
“We’ve tried shoehorns, pulling really hard, and that big mud puddle in the dog park, which probably wasn’t entirely mud,” said May. “What do you want me to do? Drop a house on you?” She perked up. “Actually, that would probably work.”
“Anything that involves flying masonry is off the menu!” The pirouettes ended. I had time for a flare of relief before the slippers started me waltzing around the parking lot. “Just do something! Call the Luidaeg! Tell her I’ve got a bad case of the magic shoes!”
“Why did you put those things on, anyway? I mean, hello, bad idea, party of October.”
“I don’t know!” They’d been sitting on the doorstep when I opened the front door. Something about them was so shiny and appealing that they were on my feet almost before I realized what my hands were doing. I had just enough time to realize that this meant “attraction spell” before the dancing started, and I stopped focusing on anything more complicated than finding a way to take off the thrice-damned shoes. “I don’t even know where they came from!”
“A shoemaker?” suggested May. She paused before amending, “An evil shoemaker?”
“Your grasp of the obvious never fails to delight and enthrall me,” said a dry voice from the shadows behind her. I twisted around to try to see the speaker, my lower body continuing to waltz without concern for the fact that I was now making myself seriously dizzy. Tybalt caught my eyes and smiled thinly. “While I recognize the need to get more exercise, little fish, perhaps you could have undertaken a less rigorous program. Perhaps one that was less likely to be fatal.”
“Tybalt!” I considered asking him what he was doing here, but decided I didn’t really need to after catching a glimpse of May’s half-guilty, half-relieved expression. She’d probably called him, or sent the cats to call him, when she went out to look for a shoehorn. I settled instead for demanding, “Get me out of these crazy shoes!”
“While I’m flattered that you would beg me so ardently to remove articles of your clothing, I’m afraid it’s not that simple.” Tybalt took five long steps forward and slid himself smoothly into my waltz, his hands catching mine as he pulled me against him. My steps didn’t even falter as the shoes altered their tempo, granting him the lead. Great. Enchanted, malicious shoes with fixed ideas about gender roles. “There are several flavors of dancing slipper which could be responsible for your current predicament. Tell me, have you offended any Tylwyth Teg recently?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“Then, given that you don’t have eleven sisters and have not yet danced your way into a garden filled with diamond-leaved elm trees, you’re unlikely to have dusk-to-dawn slippers on.” Tybalt swept us through a long turn. “Pity. Those can be removed in the traditional manner.”
Half the time, “the traditional manner” is death. The other time, it’s making out. “Try again.”
“Have you committed any major acts of blasphemy?”
“No, and I know this story—‘The Red Shoes,’ right? Well, these slippers aren’t red, and you’re not chopping off my feet. Attempting will get you kicked in the head.”
Tybalt clucked his tongue. “I see that dancing for hours without end puts you into a charming state of mind. I do believe you have some Scottish slippers on.”
I looked at him blankly.
“You truly do need to read the classics, October. The tale of Katie Crackernuts and her bold rescue of her beloved prince? No?” Tybalt sighed. “I despair for the state of Faerie, I truly do. Regardless, here.” He freed his right hand from mine and dipped it into his pocket, coming up with a strip of what looked like turkey jerky. “This should stop the dancing.”
“Jerky stops dancing?”
“The flesh of an enchanted songbird will quiet the slippers.” The light glinted green off Tybalt’s cat-slit eyes as we continued to dance, and he continued to hold the jerky out to me. “Once that’s been done, we can determine who sent them to you.”
“Vegetarians just dance forever, huh?”
“No,” he said calmly. “Vegetarians just dance until they die.”
I took the jerky.
Eating enchanted animals from undisclosed sources isn’t usually something I enjoy, but I was ready to stop dancing, and I was ready to track down my evil shoemaker. Footwear was my enemy. Whoever sent me the footwear?
I was ready to be theirs.