“Claws at Hand” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.
Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!
Meet Brigid Collins!
Brigid likes cats, frappuccinos, and writing. She’s working on the fourth book in her fantasy series Songbird River Chronicles, which blends technology and magic, and is co-editing an upcoming issue of the Fiction River anthology with her father and fellow author, Ron Collins.
“Claws at Hand”
After the fairy king grants him the feline body he’s always longed for, Tobi upholds his end of the bargain by serving as messenger between the fairy court and the powerful wizard Baba Yaga in “Claws at Hand.” But there’s one thing that could make Tobi lose his hard-earned cathood…
Unlike most cats, Tobi hadn’t had the benefit of being born a cat. For the longest time, he’d been mistaken for a human, and it had caused him no end of stress and depression until, finally, he’d risked a visit to the fairies. He’d been willing to pay any price to inhabit the proper body. They’d given it to him—well, almost: he’d wanted to be a gray tabby, and here he was, a tabby of the orange variety, but it hardly seemed worth fussing about—and in return, he agreed to serve as a messenger between the fairy court and the powerful wizard Baba Yaga.
But the fairy king had warned Tobi the spell could be broken.
“Beware, should you ever win the hand of a prince. If that event comes to pass, your true form you will assume, and we shall be unable to reverse it.”
Tobi returned to washing his paw with a vigor that left his toes raw. Prince Ivan had the power to destroy everything Tobi loved about his life, and the idiot boy didn’t even know it. He couldn’t take a hint, either, given how often he still attempted to pet Tobi despite the ribbons Tobi would make of his hand.
Tobi didn’t want those royal hands anywhere near him, thank you very much. He knew the fairies’ penchant for taking things literally.
—from “Claws at Hand” by Brigid Collins
“Claws at Hand” is the sequel to your novella “Thorn and Thimble,” which appeared in Beauty and wickedness. Tobi was a side character in the novella. What made you to write a story from his point of view?
Even though Tobi’s role in “Thorn and Thimble” was minor, his total cat attitude came across straight away. I was asked to write a story about a heroic cat for another collection, and Tobi immediately sprang to mind as the cat to write about. I wanted to explore more about what sort of cat would act as a servant to the version of Baba Yaga I have in “Thorn and Thimble.”
Why did you decide to use the mythology of Baba Yaga in this story, as well as your novella?
In truth, it was actually the mythology of Koschei the Deathless that I wanted to use, and Baba Yaga’s is tied up in his. I also liked the idea of having a female mentor figure for my female protagonist, so I thought I’d have some fun making Baba Yaga my own thing.
The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world?
Certainly! But maybe not in the same ways. For example, I don’t believe we should be afraid to explore the unknown, but we should undertake the exploration with caution and remember that we never know what may be lurking out there…
Is there a fairy tale that you really enjoy, or which has stuck with you? If so, which one—and what do you find compelling about this particular story?
I like loads of fairy tales, so it’s hard to pick just one. I think I love the sense of foreboding that weaves throughout all these stories, as well as the theme of tricks and wordplay and the idea that you always have to watch what you say. That’s one lesson I definitely think still applies today!
You’ve taken up the guitar! How’s it going?
I’m having fun! Music has always played a role in my life, from piano lessons in grade school to choir in high school. It often crops up in my stories, too, usually as a form of magic. It’s nice to have a fun, creative outlet that I can work on just for myself. I’m not going to be shredding any face-melting solos anytime soon, but that’s okay!
You’re working on the fourth and final book in your series Songbird River Chronicles. What do you plan to work on once that series is complete?
That’s a secret! Which is code for “who knows?” I’ve got a number of ideas and projects I’d like to work on, so it depends on what strikes me when the time comes. I have got another series in the works, about a kingdom of clockwork people and pirates who fly through the skies…
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?
At the moment, besides working on book four of my series, I’m clearing a few short story projects off my to-do list. Today I’m hoping to finish a story for the next Valdemar anthology, which Mercedes Lackey puts out every year. I always enjoy the opportunity to play for a little while in another writer’s world, since it puts some interesting constraints on what I can do. After that, I shall have to force myself to come up with a story featuring a dragon. Oh, woe is me!
Brigid Collins is a fantasy and science fiction writer living in Michigan. Her short stories have appeared in Fiction River, The Uncollected Anthology Volume 13: Mystical Melodies, and the Chronicle Worlds: Feyland anthology. Books 1 through 3 of her fantasy series, Songbird River Chronicles, are available in print and electronic versions on Amazon.