Note: This story is a sequel to Elves vs Elves: A Christmas Miracle. Read this first or risk confusion.
At the age of a hundred and sixty, Princess Sciatica wasn’t technically a teenager. She was, however, the elven equivalent. She sat in the passenger seat of her father’s car, scowling out the window as her father, Sertraline King of the High Elves, drove along the winding road that would take them back to the elvish realm. The elvish realm was in the heart of Yosemite National Park, hidden by magic from the eyes of mortal men. They were on their way back from the San Jose Police Department. Three hours of driving and neither had said a word. Sciatica felt Sertraline glance over in her direction once or twice. She knew why he came to get her himself, instead of sending someone. It was because he couldn’t bear the scandal. If anyone in the elven world found out what she had done…
She smirked devilishly.
She wished elvish cars were a little bigger. They looked sort of like smart cars. They were powered by the same renewable energy source that powered all elvish technology. Each one had only two seats, so when a group of elves wanted to go someplace, they’d drive in slow, regal processions.
“It isn’t true,” the king said at last. “What that police officer said.”
Sciatica’s smirk broadened. For the first time in her life, she was being her true self and he couldn’t stand it.
“It is,” she admitted.
She looked toward him. He was staring vacantly at the road ahead. His eyes broadened at her confession.
“I don’t believe it,” he replied.
“Believe it, Dad,” she said.
“Call me ‘Father’,” Sertrailine replied.
Sciatica rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say, Dad.”
His lips tightened. “Given everything, I can believe you were in possession of…” he trailed off. It seemed he couldn’t bring himself to say it. “But I cannot believe you were selling. You wouldn’t do that, not to me.”
“Maybe I am not who you think I am,” Sciatica replied.
Her whole life she had been his perfect princess—sweet, creative, and pretty. She had always looked upon him with unconditional admiration. Now, at the elvish equivalent of sixteen, she was determined to prove to the world that she was not just some accessory to her father. She was her own person, with her own passions and needs and dreams.
She had run away three weeks ago. She knew it would take her father a while to notice she was gone, because it was late November and he was usually brooding about the upcoming Christmas season.
The king forbade her from associating with non-elves, so she immediately went to the human world. She cut her long golden locks into a pixie and dyed it pink. Then she decided to update her wardrobe. Her father always insisted she dress like it was the thirteenth century instead of the twenty-first. She needed to fix that. She wanted something edgy, something that would show a little skin.
She got herself a t-shirt and capris. At first, she felt a little uncomfortable walking around in public with her ankles and arms exposed like that, but when she thought of how scandalized her father would be, she fully embraced the feeling.
She thought about getting a tattoo, but was a bit squeamish around needles. Her hair and clothing were rebellious enough anyway.
She ran short on cash a few days in, and so in desperation she took up a new trade. A trade that was a crime in the State of California.
“You are not an urchin,” Sertraline retorted. “No daughter of mine would ever sell…” He breathed deeply, “disposable plastic straws.”
“Hey, people are desperate for them, you know how fast those paper ones dissolve? I was doing pretty well for myself, before the cops ruined everything.”
Her father was trying desperately to keep his composure. He was like a pot about to boil over. She just needed to poke him a little more and he would totally lose it.
But then she noticed twinkling lights up ahead—red and green and gold and blue sparkling between the dark tree trunks. She knew they had reached the elven realm.
Sertraline mumbled something about how it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet. Ever since the king visited the North Pole the previous year, his subjects had been eager to celebrate Christmas and had covered their woodland city in colorful lights.
Sciatica noticed her father becoming anxious as they approached the palace. Glancing this way and that, he parked the car in a secluded grove and tossed her his cloak. “Put this on and go at once to the Western tower.”
She rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say, Pops.”
Sertraline stared out over the woodland city pondering the gravity of the situation. Every few hundred years, he developed another crease in his forehead. His daughter’s behavior was creating a new one.
How could he possibly cover this scandal? It would be at least twenty years before her hair would return to normal. He was trying to decide if he could keep her out of sight that long or if he should just make her wear a wimple.
“Well? Is she alright?”
It was the voice of the last person Sertraline wanted to see. The only other person who knew about his predicament. Actually, it was the person who told him his daughter was missing in the first place—the fairy, Alika.
“What has become of my daughter?” Sertraline sighed. “Has she been corrupted by some evil magic?”
“If by evil magic, you mean hormones, yes.” Alika replied. “So… she’s alright?”
“Far from it,” Sertraline explained. “She’s been perverted by the darkness of mortal hearts.”
“But… she wasn’t, you know, attacked while running around the human world selling illegal goods?”
“No,” Sertraline clarified.
“Ah good,” Alika replied. “Glad to hear it.”
Then she turned as if she was about to leave.
“Now that your daughter is safe, I really don’t see any reason to stay.”
“She’s hardly safe!” the king complained. “She’s under some sort of evil spell.”
“Well, I hope you find some way to help her,” Alika replied. She normally would have added something like “I’ll be thinking of you” or “I’ll be praying for you” but since she was in California she responded in the customary fashion: “I’ll be sending you positive vibes.”
She took two steps toward the door.
“You are going to leave my daughter cursed?”
Alika turned back to him with a broad grin. “Why, Your Majesty, are you asking for my help?”
Sertraline’s mouth tightened. The corner of his lip twitched slightly.
“With all that magic of yours you must be able to do something about her hair.”
“I could restore it to normal in the blink of an eye,” Alika answered.
“No,” Alika replied. “Honestly, I kind of like it. It’s a good look on her.”
“You want my help? I’ll tell you what I would do in your place,” Alika smirked. “She’s trying to find herself. It’s totally normal for someone her age.”
“Can’t she do that without destroying herself, the planet, and our reputation?”
“You mean your reputation?”
Sertraline’s lips tightened further, so that his mouth became nothing more than a horizontal line.
“Well, we can mitigate the damage,” Alika suggested.
“She’s feeling suffocated. The more rules you subject her to the harder she rebels. Why don’t you make a deal with her?”
Sertraline paled, which was impressive for someone already paper white.
“You’ll give her freedom if she follows certain rules.”
“No,” Sertraline answered.
“If the outside world is as awful as you suggest, let her see for herself. Without the appeal of rebellion, she will realize you are right, won’t she?”
Sertraline sighed and staring vacantly over the wood, said: “I wish her mother was here.”
Alika looked confused. “Where is she?”
“She has crossed the ocean and returned to her forefathers.”
“So she’s in the UK visiting her folks?”
Alika raised an eyebrow. “And they don’t have phones in the UK or…what?”
“I’ll call her,” Sertraline grumbled.
Sciatica sat at the round table in Sertraline’s council chamber rocking back and forth on the rear legs of her chair. She was dressed in what her father would consider proper evilish attire—a dress eight hundred years out of date. The one nice thing about these medieval dresses was that they often had long flowing sleeves where she could hide her phone. And she needed something to entertain her when the inevitable lecture became unbearably dull.
Sitting there with her medieval dress and pink pixie cut, staring at her phone under the table, she looked like she was killing time between sessions at ComicCon.
She heard her father’s footsteps in the hall, shoved her phone up her sleeve and crossed her arms over her chest. When he entered, she greeted him with a scowl.
He scowled back.
“Morning, Dad,” she said.
He opened his mouth to speak but she interrupted.
“I already know what you’re going to say, so how ‘bout I go first.” She had been rehearsing this in her head all night. “I’m not a child anymore. I am my own person, with my own thoughts and dreams and passions. You don’t own me, and I intend to live my life as I see fit.”
“Do as you please,” her father replied.
“Nothing you can do will stop me—wait, what?”
“Do as you please,” Sertraline repeated.
The princess raised a sceptical eyebrow. What was the catch?
“I spoke to your mother,” the king explained. “She seems to think I am being too hard on you. I wish to make a treaty.”
“Go on,” she pressed.
“You may explore the human world if you wish. My only request is that you return home by eight every evening.”
“Midnight,” Sciatica demanded.
“Eight,” Sertraline insisted.
“It’s four hours to anywhere from here!” the princess complained.
“You’re lucky I am letting you leave here at all,” Sertraline replied.
“How about ten,” Sciatica suggested
“Nine thirty,” Sertraline continued.
Sciatica rolled her eyes. She wondered what, if anything, he would do to hold her to it.
“Fine,” she agreed.
“When you witness the hardships of the human world, you’ll come to appreciate the wisdom of your elders.”
“Don’t think so, Pops,” Sciatica replied, shoving herself back from the table. “I’ve already seen the human world and it isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s better than here.”
“A facade,” he replied. “You’ll see.”
“I won’t!” she argued.
“You certainly will.”
“I will not!”
“You most assuredly will!”
She stormed through the door, then added one more: “WON’T” for good measure.
The moment the princess left the room, Sertraline’s eyes filled with panic. He might have swooned if Alika hadn’t materialized behind him.
He didn’t even bother to greet her.
“You’ll keep your end of the bargain?” he pleaded.
“If you keep yours,” she replied. “No more pointless wars.”
“None of my wars are pointless,” Sertraline argued.
“All of your wars are pointless,” Alika replied. “And the minute you start another one, I am getting your daughter a motorcycle.”
Sertraline took several slow, calming breaths.
“I won’t let her out of my sight,” Alika affirmed.
“Make sure she doesn’t get lost and don’t let her do anything illegal, and don’t let her drink cola, it’s toxic.”
“It’s not,” Alika answered. “Well, not in small doses…”
She left the king desperately trying to suppress his panic.
As Sciatica drove off, she cranked up the radio and rolled down the windows. She grinned when she heard the song. It was The Christmas Shoes. She loathed The Christmas Shoes, but so did her father.
She looped around the palace a few times with the windows down and the volume on full blast to ensure the sappy tune reached him, then sped off. She was free! Free to be whoever she wanted! She didn’t know who she wanted to be, but she knew she didn’t want to be her father, or anything remotely like him.
Thus began Sciatica’s reign of terror.
During the week that followed she did all kinds of things she knew her father would find offensive. She rented an old SUV and removed the catalytic convertor. It was noisy and smelly. She hated everything about it, but knew her father would too.
She ate all kinds of human food—fried food and fatty food, and sugary food. Food that came in disposable packaging. After living her whole life on kale and elven wafers it made her feel sick. She found it deeply unpalatable, but also knew her father would lose his mind if he saw her eating it. She was her own person not some accessory to him. She got a six pack of Coca-Cola and threw away the rings without cutting them.
When she returned home that evening, she told her father she had attached one of the plastic rings to a sea lion’s snout. She had actually considered it, but when she saw how large and moody sea lions were up close, she lost her nerve.
She was always freezing because she dressed in clothes that left her arms and legs exposed. If she had been paying attention, she might have noticed that most of the humans in the city were wearing sweaters and long pants because it was late November.
Every night she had another horror story for her father. Though her father always maintained his composure in her presence, the moment she left him he would have to breathe into a biodegradable paper bag to calm himself.
Then one evening, the princess returned home early and met her father for supper in the great hall. One the rare occasions they dined together, they sat on either end of a table the length of a tennis court. Somehow, perhaps by elvin magic, they were able to hold a coherent conversation without raising their voices.
“You’re home early,” Sertraline observed.
“Is that a problem?” The princess asked sweetly.
“What? I can’t enjoy dinner with my dear father?”
Sertraline narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
“I met someone today,” she said. “I think I love him.”
Sertraline choked on a piece of organic rampion. Sciatica broke into a devilish grin. Her eyes sparkled deviously.
“My worst fear has been realized,” the king exclaimed. “He isn’t human, is he?”
Sciatica looked appalled. “I would never stoop so low!”
The king looked slightly relieved.
“He’s a goblin,” she continued. “His name is Gorp.”
Now Sciatica didn’t like Gorp at all but she knew her father wouldn’t either. And thus, she had agreed to one lunch date with him. It was a miserable date. He was rude to the servers, put his elbows on the table, and used his salad fork for the entree. But her father’s reaction made it worth it. He went completely ridged in his chair.
“Have I taught you nothing?” he snapped.
The princess relished it. He was finally reacting.
“Elves only court elves,” the king asserted. “Every elf who has done otherwise has died of grief.”
“I am pretty sure you’re exaggerating,” she remarked.
“I am not,” the king replied. “And if you see him again, you will be confined to the palace for the next fifty years of your life.”
The smugness left the princesses at once.
“Oh Father,” she sighed, in an unusually girlish voice. “Of course you are right! Alas, being in the outer world has so filled my heart with wickedness and corruption that I was unable to see it.”
The king calmed slightly. Maybe Alika was right? It seemed like the princess was finally coming around.
“Please forgive me, Father. I swear to you I will not see Gorp again.”
“See that you don’t,” the king replied.
“And if I do find love again, it will be with an elf of noble occupation… maybe an artist or, or, a poet!”
Sertraline’s frown disappeared which was the closest he ever came to a smile.
“I knew you’d see reason,” he answered.
Sciatica did not return early the next evening.
It was nine forty-one when she arrived. The king was standing on his balcony, staring out over the elven realm, pondering the nature of evil and the corruption of mortal hearts, when he suddenly heard the voice of Brenda Lee blasting from somewhere in the distance. The awful sound grew closer, and with it came the whooshing, growling, sound of a gasoline powered vehicle.
Then the car burst into sight. It was a canary yellow SUV, with the windows rolled down and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree blasting on full volume. The car stopped right under his balcony. Sciatica stepped out, but neglected to turn off the engine.
She was wearing the ugliest sweater the king had ever seen. It was scarlet and baggy with a Christmas tree cutout sewn onto the front. It clashed with her pink hair in an atrocious way that made the king nauseous. Lest she be too modest, she was also wearing a knee length skirt that exposed most of her knees.
She took a swig from a plastic cup, crushed it in her hand and threw it over her shoulder onto the ground.
“HEY DAD!” she called, waving up to him. “Want to meet my new boyfriend? I think you’d like him, he’s an elvish poet!”
She beckoned to someone in the car and out hopped Myrrhy the Christmas elf. He scurried to collect the crushed cup. “You dropped this!” he called, then noticing the king, waved. “Oh hi, King!”
Sertraline would have swooned, except that men don’t swoon. He collapsed with a weary sigh. Sciatica’s smug expression faded. At once she turned off the engine and raced up the stairs to her father’s room.
Sciatica stood by her father’s bedside. He was lying with his eyes closed, his hands folded on his chest, and his golden locks flowing over either side of his silken pillow. He almost looked like he had been laid out for a wake, but he wasn’t dead—at least, not yet.
As the princess looked down at him she sobbed into her phone.
“He’s not being dramatic, Mom!” she choked. “The doctor said he’s dying of grief.”
She paused for a moment, listening to her mother’s reply.
“No Mom! He’s not going to ‘get over it’! This is all my fault, Mom. I killed Dad… Oh, now I’m being dramatic?”
Sciatica hung up. She tried to thrust her phone into her pocket but her skirt did not have pockets. Frustrated, she slammed it down on the table.
“How’s your father?” came a voice.
Sciatica turned to see Alika standing behind her. She knew Alika as an associate of her father’s. (He didn’t have any friends.)
“Oh fine,” she lied. Then burst into tears. “No, he isn’t. He’s dying and it’s all my fault!”
“What, you shoot him or something?” Alika asked.
“I broke his heart. I didn’t mean to, I just—I wanted to prove that I am my own person not just some accessory to him!”
“No,” Alika replied, shaking her head.
“What do you mean, ‘no’?” Sciatica snapped.
“If you really are your own person, why can’t you make a single decision without considering your father’s wishes?”
“What are you talking about? I haven’t done a thing my father would approve of in weeks!”
“That’s just it.” Alika clarified. “You carefully consider his wishes and do exactly the opposite. Your singular purpose is defying him. He is the center of your world.”
Sciatica’s cheeks turned scarlet with rage. Alika was making sense and she hated it. She opened her mouth to answer, then closed it. Then she scowled and turned away from Alika hugging herself with her arms.
“Do you like Christmas music?” Alika asked.
“Not really,” the princess grumbled. “The instrumental ones are okay I guess.”
Alika looked her up and down. “Do you like that outfit?”
The princess pressed her lips together so tightly that her mouth became nothing more than a horizontal line.
“No,” she mumbled.
“You know something? You are just like your father,” Alika observed.
“I am not,” Sciatica retorted.
“Really? Because there is one thing you both care about more than anything else in the world.”
“Your own image.”
Sciatica looked like she was about to boil over. She opened her mouth then closed it again, then she fell down into a chair with her head in her hands and sobbing asked: “Alika, is my father going to die?”
“No,” she answered dryly. “No, your mom’s right. He’s just being dramatic, like you. That’s another thing you have in common. Now you really should change, because I agree with you, that outfit’s an abomination.”
The next day, Sciatica’s mother returned home. The princess saw her car pulling up from her father’s balcony and ran out to greet her.
Queen Meloxicam was a woman who radiated class. She was wearing a knee length black overcoat and a cream colored turtleneck. The jingle-bell earrings she wore indicated she did not share her husband’s hatred of all things Christmas.
“Oh mom!” the princess cried. “I’m so glad your back—”
“I love your hair!” her mother interrupted.
“Mom, that’s not important right now! Dad’s—”
“Is your father still in a grief coma?” she asked.
The queen rolled her eyes. “I hate it when he gets like this,” she grumbled. She grabbed a reusable water bottle out of the car and marched into the palace.
The princess followed her and when they arrived at the door to her father’s bedroom, her mother asked her to wait outside. Sciatica listened through the door. She heard a splash, then what she guessed based on the tone, were stern reprimands from her mother.
Then to her immense relief, she heard the low dejected voice of her father. They went back and forth a few times. Her mother’s tone becoming increasingly agitated and her father responding in low irritated grumbles.
A few moments later the door opened.
“Your father wants to talk to you,” she said cheerily, before marching off down the hall.
The princess tore into the room. Her father was wiping water off his face with one hand and reading off a piece of scrap paper with the other.
“Dad!” she cried. “You’re alive! I’m so sorry. I was wrong to litter and sell straws and pump CO2 into the atmosphere, I—”
Sertraline held up a slender hand to stop her.
“You were wrong to do all of those things,” he answered. “But I…”
He squinted at the scrap paper he was holding. And what he said next was a true Christmas miracle because he had never said it before and would likely never say it again: “I was also wrong. Instead of shielding you from the world, I should have taught you how to live in it.”
He flipped the paper around to see if he had missed anything.
As he did so the sound of carolers floated up from somewhere in the wood below.
“I loath carols,” Sertraline grumbled.
“Me too, Dad,” Sciatica replied and with these words the princess spoke as her authentic self.