I’d forgotten how young I must have looked when I first started this journey. How short my legs were. How completely unremarkable I was in every way. The shopkeepers must have laughed, seeing me buy gowns an jewellery as if I were someone special. “Someone’s daughter,” I heard more than once. “Spoiled little rich girl,” I heard in my head.
As I made my way through the suspended village, I noticed clouds up ahead. When I approached what I realised was the last suspension, they parted to reveal a massive airship, the kind you read about in steampunk novels. Or the kind I used to read about in steampunk novels, anyway, back before everything went…. well. Before everything that happened.
I explored every part of the airship. It too was part of the Faire and lined with shops from one end to another.
But I loved the little village as well, and I was so happy when I found this view portal where I could look back upon it.
What fun I had, sneaking in to places and pretending I was a steampunk explorer. In an old body, I felt childlike enough that I could pretend with no trouble. I was a spy, an explorer, the captain’s daughter stowed away, sneaking about and discovering every little bit of her father’s realm. I found a telescope and became a navigator and another kind of spy as I looked down on all the people below, whose focus seemed to be the shops and not this beautiful place that held them.
Eventually, I found the cockpit, though I was tentative. What if I caused some damage? I couldn’t bear to touch any of the controls, though I did play with the optics a bit. I hope I didn’t damage anything for the real airship captain, and I can’t think what made me just sneak into everything like that. Was I more adventurous, before my life changed? Or has the influx of real adventure into my life simply made me more mindful of consequence? Either way, I think the old Gwyn would have been unable to resist pushing just one little button. But I didn’t.
This realisation seemed to spark something in me, and I just got angry. Then I remembered my first brush with my own mortality in Jasper Cove: the night the Huntsman touched me and I fell into some limbo-like place where I ran with the Hunt, but only in my dreams. How angry I was when I had to trade my hair to a witch in order to wake up.
I was so fragile then, so defensive and angry. I remember trying to scare Wrennie with stories of what had happened to me. Of course, what was happening all around me was so much bigger then I knew. But all that anger made me retreat into myself, and when I finally realised what was going on, the realm of Jasper Cove was collapsing and I was sojourned in Castle Shithole with the rest of the refugees. As if echoing my remembrances, the Faire road wound into a dark forest, and I found myself lost. Lost like I was the day that Valene, before I even knew who she was, touched me and brought my hair back, because she was healing me from my encounter with Captain FuckBeak, and she couldn’t bear to see me so sad over my hair. She said I should always be beautiful.
But I was still lost. I guess that’s why it was so comforting to feel my hair below my shoulders again, feel something light on my skin as I turned a corner to find myself in a sheep meadow, able to look back on where I’d been before, the airship, the whimsical village. I was, literally, out of the woods!
And into what it seemed might have been a mediaeval monastery, if it hadn’t been also part of the Faire. I laughed when I saw the stairway that led to — well, I couldn’t see what it led to, so I climbed it and found only a locked gate. What a disappointment! No heaven for you, Gwyneth!
The sunset in this place was fantastic, and I suppose the sunrises must have been too, though I wasn’t there for very long. I felt unbelievably weary so I made my way back to the sheep meadow and fell asleep.
It was mid-day when I woke up again, to the now familiar sight of other parts of the massive Faire in the distance. Something told me I didn’t want to go back into the monastery; I’m not sure what or why. I felt more myself than I had in hours, though; the sleep must have done me good.
Then, I found myself in an elfin city– again, still part of the massive Faire. This was some kind of a dream, right?
There were beautiful sculptures and gardens, and the architecture just blew me away.
I had such fun! Running around in a pink dress I’ve not worn since we were all living in the Underhill. I had a sharp memory of Rachel and nearly cried.
Everything was so quiet, despite the crowds. It was like everyone just knew it was a special place. I wonder if Roanofa is like that. I wonder if I’ll ever get to see it. Everything was so lovely, but all I could think of was my life in the sithen with Father, and how I missed them all, and all the things I want to say to Lady Siansa when I find her.
And there was a Faery Court, too, at the Faire. It was massive, full of amazing plants and flowers: one day I will have a house that looks like one of these. One day I will have great trumpet mushrooms outside my front door. One day.
And such a castle! Watching the sun set over this castle, I felt so small. There were such wonders inside. I had a crown commissioned. I think the artisan thought I might have been some kind of a con artist: he bit my gold and looked at me funny. “It’s not for me,” I said. “Well, not this me.” He laughed then and said I’d have my crown by the end of the faire.
There were other dark woods, of course. I got lost a dozen times trooping through the realms of the Faire. But every step was worth it. I slept at inns, once in a tree, wherever I could find space: the place was teeming with people for all the time I visited it.
I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere during that journey, I started to feel more alive. More awake. It was as if the journey itself was awakening me: maybe it was. I couldn’t believe I’d had a crown commissioned. Was I really a fae queen? And then one morning I awoke and thought, yes. Yes, I am a fae queen. I can do this now. Oddly, that was the same morning the note came through the inn door (and I don’t know how the artisan found me) saying my crown was ready.
I knew what I had to do.
(to be continued)