I’m trying to be more seemly, dress and act more like “a lady of the Sidhe,” as Galaddan and my father are always saying. So I grabbed one of the white ladies at the sithen, and she helped me pick out a dress made by the seamstresses there. The colour was good, but the strap was difficult to adjust, so I just pulled my hair over it. Nevertheless, when I went to look for Aoibheann at Ardan, she complimented me but then said I didn’t have to dress up just to visit her.
So I told her I was trying to be more “seemly,” which seemed as good a word as any for, “dress like they think a grownup Sidhe ought to dress,” and she looked worried about me somehow. I do remember the days when I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a dress, full stop, much less a gown like the one I picked out at the sithen. But I hope I’ll never go so far as to put myself in all that gossamer crap like Renata, or Aislyn. And I still can’t imagine baring my belly button for the world. It just doesn’t seem right for me. Sometimes I miss jeans. But the last time I wore a pair of jeans in the sithen, Renata got all up in my grill. The Prince said he scolded her for it, but I know he likes it better when I dress like this. So I dress like this. And Nathaniel likes it better when he can see my skin, see my body, see my legs. So I dress like that. Some days, though, I would give anything to be back in a pub in Cambridge with a bunch of annoying undergraduates, in a slouchy jumper, jeans, and a pair of Docs.
But enough whinging from me. We decided to go for a walk; I suggested up to the stones, because it was at least away from Unseelie territory. And then Aoibheann asked about Galaddan and I told her I’d sent an apology note, so I hoped all was clear on that front.
Aoibheann voiced her hope that maybe Gwythyr had forgotten about us. I stayed silent, because I don’t really think someone like Gwythyr forgets anything, ever. He just has eternity to get around to exacting revenge.
Just at the bottom of the hill, we ran into Galyanna. She was out with Kuro, who as much as I’d like to treat him like a puppy dog is not actually a puppy dog. He is kind of big and scary. When Aoibheann greeted her, my suspicions that it had been her that night I helped the kids get to the village were answered.
Galyanna said we might have more children at the village soon, though these would be older. And of course I told her I’d help, though why there isn’t an easier way to travel than the Shadowroads is a mystery to me.
It looked like Aoibheann and Galyanna had spent some time together as well, because Galyanna too seemed concerned about Aoibheann’s absences. And I think she nearly admitted something! She started to say, “My king took me to a–” and then she stopped, probably because I was there. So, fine. I know she was with King Alec, then. I would give anything to have his advice even just for a moment now, and she can’t even tell me she’s seen him. That makes me feel angry, and bitter, and even a little jealous of Aoibh. But I guess I’m always a little jealous of Aoibh.
We made some little talk about how things were going in the village; she said the passage would be easier this time, so that’s good. Anything is better than explaining to like 30 little kids that you’re going to sing them a song, and they can only sing it with you when you get to the village.
We spoke about Vedis’ condition, but only briefly; Galyanna seemed cagey about that, and I guess I would be too, in her position. Certainly nobody from the sithen would reveal details about the king’s condition to just anybody.
Galyanna was leading us up the slope. She said something vague about my needing a warning before going to the demon island, but didn’t say about what. She told Aoibheann that Vedis had made her something, and then she led us to a big rock.
As it turned out, the rock is a portal to the demon island. Galyanna warned me that as a fae, I would not be as powerful as I was in Faerie, but that I would be in no danger. I didn’t feel any danger before, except for my anxiety about Valene being so hurt and the anticipation of the task ahead, but I guess she was right to warn me: the circumstances were different, and I was not so task focused as I was then.
Portal trips are always disorienting, but I remembered where I was well enough; the place looked mostly the same.
Aoibheann seemed to be more at home there than I was: I guess she’s spent more time up there lately. When we arrived, Galyanna took off her hood, but the mask still stayed in place on her face. That mask fascinates me for some reason; I want to know who she is underneath it, and I can’t stop myself from being curious: that’s just the way I am, I guess. She has very dark hair: I know that much now. She said the portal was always open, then made a little joke about our not bringing an army of ravens up there. I’d never do that, but she doesn’t know me all that well, so I guess it’s in her best interest to be cautious.
It was so cute to see all the children playing with Kuro. Maybe I’ll make friends with him sometime.
And of course I blurted something out: I thought Aoibheann was going to hit me when I asked Galyanna why she always wore a mask.
Her response was, “Why do you never wear one?” I didn’t have a good answer to that; then she asked why she needed any other identity than that of shadow to her master. She asked if her task was not more important than her identity: anyone, she said, might be ‘Galyanna’.
It seems that Galyanna was somehow created by her master, Vedis. I wondered if there had been other Galyannas before, given what she was saying. But it was heady: to me, my identity is tied with my face, for better or worse. And I have admitted many times that being a member of the so-called “Shining Throng” brings with it a pressure not just to always be beautiful, but to always be the most beautiful. It takes a lot of time and effort, and I worry that I am becoming less beautiful every day, even as I attempt to become more beautiful. I could understand the concept only in the abstract, being freed from one’s identity, I admitted. I remembered the Winter Ball, back in Jasper Cove (why do we never have balls?), where I wore a mask. Then, Aoibheann had to go– she suddenly remembered she’d forgot something, and she was suddenly gone, back through the portal, leaving me alone with Galyanna.
Galyanna and I talked a little more about identity, and I tried to put myself at ease, even though I couldn’t feel the sithen from where we were. Galyanna explained that we were miles above the surface of Faerie: I didn’t ask how such a floating island was constructed; the ground seemed solid enough under my feet, and I figured the explanation would be too complicated.
We talked about that for a bit, the feeling tied to a place, a face, things. Galyanna wondered how it was that I didn’t free myself from these things. Identity itself seems to be a wavery concept. I told her that my family were convinced there were enemies everywhere. Galyanna asked me why I stifled myself with the sithen. She said she understood the joy of having a sanctuary, but spoke bitterly of the way the fae treated her family like a cancer.
I was suddenly anxious, though I don’t think I showed it. She thinks we are in power. I don’t feel that we are in power: it feels like we are always running from something, worried about something. I told her that. And I told her sometimes I did feel stifled … and then I just felt strongly that it was time to go. I said, before I left, that I wanted to meet this Vedis.
There’s so much to reflect on here, so much about identity and who we identify with. My father, despite his comeraderie with them all in a time of war, might say Galyanna was somehow trying to put doubt in my mind about my Oath, about my life in the sithen. It didn’t feel like that: it just felt like an honest discussion. He might say of course they’d make it feel like that. Perhaps I will talk to Lady Siansa about it.
Speaking of Lady Siansa, I am beginning to do more scrying. More on that later.