He took me home.
I must have fallen asleep, in the end. My eyes had felt heavy, and I’d close them for a second, just one peaceful second, before I’d open them. I must have tried it one too many times, because when I opened my eyes, I wasn’t in my room anymore.
I was surrounded by the sea, on a little wooden boat, the lantern in my hand as the roar of the ocean harmonised with the creaking of the wood. The shore was fading into the night and ahead of me was nothing but a starless sky. The air was fresh and cool against my face, and I was too tired to fight back.
There was beautiful music up ahead. Distant and dreamy, and he was across from me, with a bright smile, pulling and pushing the oars.
“You always hated the door.” His voice was soft again. I stared up at the hat, watching it extend endlessly, wondering why he had always taken me to the corridor when he had the power to take me here. “When I used to come and fetch you, the boat was the only way.” Used to? What did he mean? “You don’t remember. Do you?”
“Remember what?” I couldn’t be sure, but he looked hurt by my words, like he had when I had stolen the lantern.
“Running away.” He sighed, but gave me a reassuring smile. I could see land before us, as it came into view, I had a strange feeling that I’d seen it before, but I couldn’t recall where. “You used to drive your mother and I mad.”
“What are you talking about?” Another weary sigh, like we had been having the same conversation for years. We had reached the shore.
“You run away and get lost in that world.” The boat gently swayed as he dropped the oars. I looked around and it all felt familiar, but I couldn’t remember why. “Then I bring you home.” There were palm trees lining the beach, the faraway music was soft, like a lullaby.
“Home?” It sounded strange to say it, but part of me understood, instantly.
“You don’t belong to that world, little fawn.” The sky was aflame, and the sand bubbled underneath my shoes as I stepped off the boat, but the warmth was no longer overwhelming. There were people just like him. Wide smiles, long claws and dark, shining eyes. Their cheers were deafening. They surrounded me, hugging me, kissing me. There were tears in their eyes, and I felt tears forming in my own. It felt like I was supposed to be there.
“The Princess has returned!” He announced. Joy rang out, his laughter echoed with the crowd joining him. “The Princess of Hell has returned!”
I felt the familiar burning on my hands as he took them, but this time, I dared to look down, and our hands were the same. The scratches were gone, the scars from his fiery touch had disappeared. Long claws, slender fingertips. I turned back to the calm waters and saw my eyes, dark and endless. I looked just like them. An endless crown atop my dark tresses. All the scratches were gone.
“Welcome home, my little fawn.”