So this happened this morning.
Winter is coming… and with it, NaNoWriMo.
I’m apologize for the overused pop culture reference. I’m tired, and can’t think of anything better.
This year I’m going to try and write tome 2 of the Glimmerlands. Given that I’m quite far from having finished the first rewriting of tome 1, the results with probably be laughable, but I’m sick of my own snail’s pace, so I’m trying to speed things up a bit. Hopefully it’ll inspire me to stop dithering over Wingroots.
I have no name for tome 2, as yet. Suggestions welcome, though I’ll probably just end up choosing a combination of fairy-ish words like with the first one.
This is what I’ve been getting up to in lessons.
In my defense, I’m very good at taking notes. I didn’t miss anything in order to draw this. Also, it was necessary for medical reasons.
Arwyn was lost. She hadn’t left the castle, but three moons of living there weren’t nearly enough to memorise the endless tunnels, halls and chambers that riddled the hill. It wasn’t so much the rooms themselves, than the ways in which they sometimes disappeared, reappearing elsewhere, or led to someplace completely different. There were certain patterns to their wandering; however, each place had a different pattern, and Arwyn hadn’t figured all of them out yet.
Usually, finding her way around was a question of willpower. The will of the castle could be overpowered with glamour, just like a living being, as long as one remained alert. Arwyn, however, had come to the Glimmerlands with a dangerous tendency to let her mind wander, which would have made her excellent prey to certain rare species of man-eating fairies, had she truly been human. As it was, it meant that Orren had spent much of their first moon home fetching her back from secret courtyards and hidden wine cellars with fast-waning patience.
Since then, she had learned to glamour her way back from wherever she found herself, although Orren would have been alarmed if he’d known how often she still had to do it. Lack of incentive had a lot to do with it: secretly, Arwyn liked getting lost.
Today she found herself wandering down a tunnel so long that she couldn’t see either end of it. She walked down it for a little while longer, but it didn’t lead anywhere interesting so eventually she put her hands on the earthen wall and asked the castle to take her back. The trick was to try to sound like a brownie, as they were the guardians of hearth and home, and homes obeyed them. She’d met some of the castle brownies, but they didn’t talk much. They were always occupied with some task, and got irritated if you kept them from it.
“Hello Castle,” she said, making her voice a little deeper and more gravelly than usual. “Take me back to the moonlit courtyard please? I’d much appreciate it.” She stroked the wall, and it hardened into a wooden door. “Many thanks,” she said, opening it.
The circular moonlit courtyard was Arwyn’s favourite place in the castle so far. It was usually empty and always brightly lit, even on moonless nights, by floating spidersilk lanterns that drifted here and there like so many brightly-coloured ghosts. The courtyard also held a series of odd wood-root statues that in turn held small mirrors, probably sneaked in from Cat’s Court by an inventive ancestor. These placed in such a way that, depending on what phase of the moon it was, the light they reflected cast shadowy images on the walls. Orren had told her there were stories behind the images, but these had been lost in time, when writing had been banned and before tellers began to learn the lesser histories.
The statues rose from gaps in the mosaic that covered the ground, the image of which shifted according to the mood in the castle. Today it depicted a tall yellow beauty surrounded by bowing subjects, all lined up to with gifts: Arwyn had accidentally introduced her to the notion of birthdays, and Yorwen had decided to overlook the fact that it was a human tradition and adopt it as yet another excuse to have a party. Today, she had decided, was her own birthday, and every one of her Borderland subjects had to give her a present. Gifts had indeed been arriving since moonrise, and piles of them now littered the entrance hall. Orren had managed to persuade her to have them displayed in store rooms, where she could open them later, and was now occupied giving orders to the team of servants charged with carting them away.
This suited Arwyn. Her brother had barely left her alone of late, and she was getting tired of his company – and that of Echo. It was good to be alone again.
Movement nearby caught her eye. She turned as though to walk away from it, then spun when she saw it again – to find Tarendal facing her.
“Ah,” he said, a little ruefully. “I didn’t expect to find you here, my lady.”
“Nor I you,” she said. “But it surprises me more that you tried to sneak out without greeting me. Are we not supposed to be lovers?” She smiled at the surprise on his face.
“Not that I’d refuse should you choose me to be your lover, lady,” said the elf, licking his lips, “but I fear I might get you into trouble, should you be found with me, ah, right now.”
She frowned as she noticed how his glamour flickered, leading her eyes away from… where?
“What’s that in your pocket?”
For a second she doubted that she’d seen anything in his pocket, but then his glamour dropped altogether.
Arwyn stared at one of the first unglamoured fairies she’d ever seen, and wondered what she was about to hear. Fairies dropped glamour on the rare occasions when they took oaths, for though they couldn’t lie, it was traditional to show one’s true self as proof of honesty in such times. Nervous under her gaze, Tarendal glanced around before pulling her to a bench in the shadow of a statue.
“Please forgive me for even thinking of hiding this from you, my Lady, but I didn’t know how you… how I should…” He stopped. Without glamour, his long, thin fairy traits were exaggerated, and yet his awkwardness made him look almost human. He took a deep breath.
“I know I said I couldn’t find anything about the identity of the girl you used to be,” he began, “but what you said about her reminded me of a – no more than a rumour, really – about a child who had been found in the woods one day and adopted into a certain household. What struck me was that when I went in on a routine mission for artefacts to sell, I asked around, and the humans of the village all seemed to have forgotten about it. They did mention a young lady who had disappeared into the woods quite recently… that would be you.
“One of the humans was particularly talkative, and she showed me where the girl had lived. I went back in the night to see if I could find out anything else, and while I was searching I came across a woman… and this woman could see me for what I was. She didn’t seem alarmed. On the contrary, she looked like she’d been waiting for me, and before I could speak, she said ‘I know you’re not the one who took her. I know…'” he stopped, troubled. “I… can’t remember all of it. She made it clear that she knew where you were, and who had taken you, and she asked me to give you this.”
He opened his hand.
Arwyn clapped her hands over her mouth. She reached out her hand to touch the silver object, making sure it was real, then withdrew.
“There is glamour on this.”
“It is not mine,” said Tarendal. “That’s what I found curious. I could feel a fixed glamour on it – an unbreakable one, if you will, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were magicked, too. But the oddest thing was that I also felt glamour on the woman who gave it to me, and yet there wasn’t another fairy in sight.”
On Mother? Arwyn thought. Somebody was lending her their glamour, the way Orren had lent Arwyn his? Who? And why?
She picked up the locket and opened it. In one side was a cracked mirror, in the other, a watch. Leah had often let her play with it as a child. She remembered playing in the forest with Kieran and John, and…
The names surprised her, coming so readily into her mind after three moons of them slipping through her fingers like water. If only the rest would come as easily… there had been something special about this locket, she remembered. The watch never worked, but it had been an essential part of their games.
Questions spun in her mind. She picked one at random.
“Can humans use glamour?”
“No,” said Tarendal. “But they can lie without consequence, which is a much better power, if you ask me. Glamour can be sensed, whereas lies cannot.”
“My father… her father, he always knew when I was lying.”
“But he is a wordsmith, is he not?” Arwyn looked at him, surprised. “The woman who showed me where your foster family lived mentioned it. A man who writes lies and sells them for a living must surely be an expert on the matter.”
Arwyn nodded slowly. It was fairy logic, certainly, but she had learned that fairy logic was far more often applicable in Cat’s Court than its inhabitants would think – the grown-up ones, at least.
The memory of a dream fluttered through her consciousness. She strained to maintain her glamour over the blush that warmed her cheeks, then felt oddly guilty for maintaining it before Tarendal’s pure honesty. She hesitated, but had to know.
“Tarendal, did you meet a dark-haired boy called John? He was a chandler’s son. We were… friends.”
Tarendal shook his head. “I spoke to several people, but most of them were of higher rank than a chandler would be, or else house slaves.”
“Servants,” she corrected him.
“What’s the difference?” he asked.
“Servants are paid. They can leave for better employment if they wish to.”
“So they are allowed to choose their masters.” Tarendal seemed to consider this, then shrugged in the face of what appeared to him to be a purely human distinction.
Another question pushed its way to the front of her mind.
“The person who showed you the house… what did she look like?”
“Quite fairy-ish, actually, for a human,” he said. “Long, silver hair, pale, delicately pointed features. If you don’t mind my saying so, Lady Arwyn, you look more human sometimes with glamour than she did without it.”
Arwyn frowned, and Tarendal’s smile wavered. “Sorry,” he added, “I didn’t think you’d take that badly, since you grew up there and all…”
“Oh! I’m not offended.” And she laughed, because after three moons of trying to fit into fairy society, she still clung to her own humanity. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I know who you’re talking about. She was called Lucy, am I right?”
“Miss Farrel was the name I addressed her with.”
“We didn’t get on very well, so I’m not in the least surprised that she would gossip about me. What does surprise me is… Tarendal, when you are in Cat’s Court, who do you pretend to be?”
Tarendal grinned. “A historian,” he said proudly. Then he added, “Or an explorer, or an auctioneer, depending on where I am. But in Edgewood, I’m a historian.”
“How can you be a historian without knowing how to read?”
Terror flooded his face for an instant before reflex kicked in and he glamoured it over. “Lady Arwyn, such topics are taboo,” he murmured.
“Sorry,” she said, even as she wondered if he had indeed taught himself to read. Tarendal was fascinated with all things human; that was part of what had drawn her to him in the first place. Another part was his refreshing disregard for fairy rules. It wouldn’t be surprising, she realized, if he could read.
She looked at the silver locket in her hands again. “How does it work?” she wondered.
“It looks to me like a finding or scrying device,” Tarendal said, visibly glad to change the subject. “They’re quite common in the Seelie Court, as true magic is permitted there. This one is unusual in that it has both magic and glamour on it, though I can’t tell what the glamour is supposed to be for…” He bent over her hands, peering at the locket. His hair tickled them and she wondered if he’d done it on purpose.
He straightened. “It doesn’t seem dangerous. I recommend experimenting with it.”
“How?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Tap it, shake it, throw it at things. Speak to it. Ask it questions. Try to glamour it as something else and see what happens. Sleep with it under your pillow… but glamour your room first, and lock your door.” He chuckled. “Don’t show it to Orren, whatever you do. I hesitated to give it to you in case it put you in danger somehow, and I came here to think alone, but I’m glad you found me. You asked me to help you, and you are not a child to be coddled. I can only trust your judgement in this.”
Something about him in that moment sent a rush of nostalgia for Cat’s Court through her, and suddenly she wished she could return there, if only for a day, to embrace the people who had once been her family. And John. Loneliness filled her chest.
“Arwyn? You seem upset.”
Tarendal touched her face, and she leaned into his hand. “I miss them,” she whispered. “I understand that my whole human identity was a lie from start to finish, but the bonds I shared with those people… they were real, Tarendal. I loved them. I loved Edgewood. I didn’t know it, but I loved being Darcy Sullivan.”
Tarendal pulled her into his arms, and she let her glamour drop the way he had before. Oh, but it felt good to cry real tears! She buried her face in his shoulder and tried to sob quietly as he stroked her back and murmured reassurances, like a father to his child.
After a while she pulled back and wiped her eyes, then looked up at him, smiling ruefully. He looked troubled.
“Arwyn,” he said. “Did you love being Darcy Sullivan more than you love being Arwyn of the Border?”
Yes, she thought. Of course she did. But she couldn’t say that aloud in her mother’s house. Not after the trouble and grief both Yorwen and Orren had gone through after her disappearance. Not now that she was back home, and everything was alright again.
“I’ll be fine,” she said instead. “I just need to get used to it. It’s harder than I thought.”
He smiled back at her then. “That’s alright, then,” he said, just the way John would have, and she wondered if he’d managed to lie to her after all.