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  • Writer's pictureConstance Roberts

Read "Lost" Chapter One

My Peter Pan gender-swap retelling drops in just a couple of days! You can pre-order now, but to tide you over until then, read the first chapter of Lost right here! Find out what Pandora and The Lost Girls are up to before you can download the book!

Chapter One

There was nothing Pandora loved more than running across the wet sand in her bare feet. Except for, maybe, being chased by angry pirates. Her laughter soared over the darkening shore as she and the other Lost Girls fled into the jungle, careful not to drop their stolen feast.

“Enjoy your last meal, Pan!” she heard one of women of the female crew screech.

“We’ll skin you alive for this!” called another.

“Why? So you can wear it for yourself, you old hag?” Pandora yelled back at them before she and her comrades slipped through a rabbit tunnel that none of the Pirate Queen’s crew had any hope of following through.

Pan had no fear of retribution. The Pirate Queen’s crew hadn’t found any of the Lost Girls’ carefully selected hideouts in over a hundred years. Pan and her friends could continue to poach from them for the rest of their days as long as they moved camp every time the moon cycled.

“It’s almost getting too easy,” Sprout said.

The tight tunnel was already wafting with the scents of honey roasted pig and spiced apples. With game getting scarcer and the crops drying up on the island, it had been ages since Pan had eaten meat. Her belly roared with anticipation.

“They shouldn’t have been so easily distracted,” she said, thinking about the way the greasy chunks of pig would slide down her throat. “When will they learn?”

A giggle echoed through the dark, dirt walls. “Did you see the way they all jumped when they heard the fake ship’s bell?” Sprout said. “Like they were going to get their hides whipped if Queen Minerva docked and they weren’t all there to stand at attention.”

Thistle groaned. “The Pirate Queen’s not going to like this. Her crew is just as hungry as we are. I bet when she hears of this she’ll find us and set fire to us while we sleep.”

“And probably eat us,” Briar chimed in.

“You all worry too much,” said Pan. “Minerva hasn’t stepped off that ship in a century. She isn’t going to break a sweat over a silly pig.”

“Still,” Thistle said. “We shouldn’t light a fire tonight, since camp is so close to shore and we already have a cooked meal.”

Fauna shivered and whined, “I’m always cold when we don’t light a fire.”

“Then you can sleep next to me,” Flora, her twin said. “I’ll share my blanket.”

“I don’t want to sleep next to you. You smell like boar’s breath.”

“Say that again, and I’ll make you smell like something worse!”

“Like what, your asshole?”

Fauna groaned after receiving a hard kick from her sister. “You’re lucky we’re in this tunnel, Flora, or I’d punch you in your smelly mouth!”

Pandora stopped crawling once they came to the opening. Sprout knelt behind her and together they waited for the other’s to stop fighting. “I’ll bet the queen’ll have loads of food once she comes back from the mainland.”

“And we’ll steal that, too.” Pan grinned.

Outside the tunnel, the waning moon had risen over the grove of ruins the Lost Girls had called home for the summer season. Hidden behind the grotto, the once towering stronghold now lay in crumbles beneath overgrown vines and a layer of moss. What was left of the stone walls kept the girls cool in the day and was home to dancing shadow displays at night. The hideout was Pandora’s favorite. She loved drifting off to sleep on the soft moss while listening to the songs of the squabble monkeys.

Some nights, at witching hour, the sparkling chimes of a lone fairy would wake her and she’d sneak off to collect the magic dust that sprinkled off their wings. She’d save the pinches of magic in a secret pouch she kept on her belt and use it only in dire cases of need.

Pan adjusted the sac of food on her shoulder and began the short decent down the cliff to the hideout. Just as her foot reached down for a supporting rock, something thudded into her side, causing her to lose her grip and fall backward to the ground. She landed with thud on top of the stolen meat.

When she opened her eyes, the stars stared down at her. Sprout and Thistle called to her from the grotto’s opening. A streak of sparkling light blazed across her vision.

She cursed and sat up in annoyance. “Tinkerbeau!”

The streak of light stilled to a soft glow in front of her, taking the form of a tiny man, panting as he pushed his blond hair out of his gleaming green eyes.

“For the umteenth time, watch where you’re going,” Pan said as she stood and brushed the dirt off her garment made of palm leaves and fox tails. “You knocked me over and nearly ruined our hard earned feast.”

Tinkerbeau seemed to pay her no mind, bobbing up and down in urgency. To almost everyone else, the fairy’s voice sounded like the ding of a bell, but Pan had been spent enough decades with the fairy to be able to understand Faerian with ease.

“What is it?” She asked, her tone on the edge of worry. “You’ve been flying. Flying far.” She observed the pallor to his complexion, fading from using too much of his pixie dust. “Where have you been?”

Tinkerbeau dinged as he twirled in a circle and pointed to the portal in the sky on the western shore of Neverland.

Pan glanced in the direction of the swirling vortex of stars. “You’ve been to the human realm? Didn’t I tell you to keep watch with the other girls?”

The fairy nodded. He tugged on Pan’s wild red hair, frivolously trying to pull her in the direction of the portal.

“You want me to go back there with you?”

Tinkerbeau released her and nodded again, causing a bit of magic dust to spill out of his hair.

“Now?” She whined. “I’m starving. Can’t it wait until morning?”

The fairy’s face burned red as he tugged on her again. Pan swatted him away as the other Lost Girls came down safely from the rocks.

“Is the food okay?” Fauna snatched the sack from Pan. She tore open it and and inspected the meat. Taking out a chunk of roasted pig in her fist, she popped the meat into her mouth.

“Not too bad,” the Lost Girl assessed. “Just a bit squished from your fat ass but it’ll be alright.”

“Give me that!” Pan ripped the sack from Fauna’s hand. “You know the rules. If you’re so hungry, hurry up and get to the others so we can all eat.”

Fauna’s tongue stuck out of a pout directed at Pan, but the Lost Girl resigned, linking arms with her sister and marching into the jungle brush.

Before Tinkerbeau could try to distract her from her meal again, Pan followed the other Lost Girls through the thick grove to their seasonal hideout. The best anyone could guess was that the two and a half corner walls and antechamber were once an apothecary of some kind. A cast iron cauldron still stood in the middle of the chamber, and shards of pottery and glass vials guarded the entrance. Anyone wishing to cross over the crumbling threshold, had to be careful not to step on the trap. That, and Pan’s nocturnal fairy companion, was their only means of defense against predators in the night.

The other Lost Girls had been waiting for Pan, greedily eyeing the grease stained sack slung over her back. Briar, Pokeweed, and others had stayed behind to guard the camp, and had swept the floor and cleared the table in hopes there would be a meal brought back to place on it. Without a word, Pan slammed the sack down on the table and cut the cloth sides with her dagger, spilling the meat onto the table in thick, juicy chunks. Briar and the other Lost Girls’ gasped as Thistle added fresh rolls and a jug of wine to the feast.

The Lost Girls did not wait to dig in. They ravenously shoved meat in their mouths and licked the juice from their fingers. Within minutes, everyone’s faces were covered in grease and breadcrumbs. Just as Pan was reaching for a leg, a chilling male voice froze her in her place.

“Pandora, Chieftain of the Lost Girls…”

She turned to find a long haired centaur looming behind her, arms crossed over his broad, hairless chest. “You have been summoned by the Counsel. You must come with me.”

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