OOC note: I’ve been neglecting this blog– life and work have been eating me alive! But I need to finish this story in order to get on to other posts. Regular blogging will resume as soon as I have a couple of minutes to rub together!
When the note got passed under my door that morning, telling me the crown I’d ordered was ready, I knew what I had to do. All this time I’d been wandering through the Faire, feeling lost, out of place, not the right person, indeed, experiencing things as the person I’d been not so long ago, and that morning, I just knew. To start on a new chapter in my life, I’d need to end all the old ones.
So I went back to the beautiful Faerie Court.
I flew up to the tree icon— it was large enough, I thought, you could hold a dance party on this if you had the right people. They’d have to be people you knew pretty well. I’d picked out one of those dresses Father used to love to see me in: the ones that fell like nightgowns to my ankles and marked me as a very well-behaved princess. Poor Father, wanting me to be a well-behaved princess!
And then, well…
It seemed to take forever, though I know it must have been only a few seconds. I also know as I read that sentence that it’s a cliché and my writing instructors would be rolling their eyes at me. But time really did seem to slow down, or my thoughts went faster. Things compressed and expanded, and every little breath of wind seemed to buoy me up and slow my progress. I know that’s not true: I know it must have been fast. People were watching: I know they thought they were witnessing a suicide.
And they were, in a way.
Just before I hit the water, I realised I didn’t know how deep it was. I could be falling into a puddle, about to break all my bones at once. Maybe it was a suicide.
But then the water was deep, and cold, and what a shock it was, the cold, the fantastical sensation of losing my clothes and the garland separating from my hair, so cold it felt like my skin was burning away from my body.
Then, time really did slow down. I heard shouts, from above the water, as if from a very distant place, muffled by the water above me. Then, I think I passed out, or I must have, because I dreamed I walked into the artisan shop and received the item I’d had made. I dreamed I walked into the shop as a confident Queen, not as a timid child, but the artisan recognised me. Money changed hands, and the forge warmed me. The artisan thanked me for my custom, winked, and said, “It’s time you be getting back now, Your Majesty. I’m sure your people are waiting to see you.”
And you know– I knew he was right. “I think they can wait one more night,” I said.
Then, I rose from the water. The raccoon constables were busy filling out reports as people milled about. A diver stretched into the water. Vaguely, I realised they must have been looking for me, for Gwyneth. “Did you find her?” asked a breathless woman who saw me coming up out of the water.
“I did,” I replied. “Don’t worry: she’s fine.”
A constable overheard me and came scuttling over to find out what I knew. “Where is she?” He asked. “We had reports of a girl jumping off the tree.” He shook his head. “Happens every year, you know. They get here, can’t afford everything they want, or realise they’ll have to leave Faerie when the Faire is over. They can’t bear it, one thing or the other, and so they jump.”
“It was me,” I said. “I was the girl who jumped into the water.”
The constable cocked a brow. The woman’s eyes widened in disbelief. “But that girl, she was short and wearing a pink nightie,” said the woman. “You are a Queen, and you don’t look as if you’ve been in freezing water for half an hour.”
“Half an hour?” I asked. “Really?” I looked the constable in the eye. “I swear to you that it was me who jumped off the tree,” I assured him. “You won’t find a body, because there isn’t one.”
He looked me up and down, nodded his furry head twice. “Boys!” he cried, “False alarm! Not a suicide! I’ve got the girl right here!”
There was a little kerfuffle while they got everyone together and dismissed the divers. The constable took my statement, then winked at me as he tore it up. “This happens more often than you’d think, as well. You have to keep an open mind at the Fantasy Faire.”
And that was that. I spent the rest of the day wandering the Faerie Court, picking up this or that, buying a few things but not many. And nobody thought I was somebody’s daughter any more.
That night, I didn’t go back to the Inn. I slept under the stars, in view of the moonlit castle, under the possibly watchful eye of a wyvern. Trumpet mushrooms are gorgeous for sleeping in: I must put a few in my bower when I get back home. Home.
I thought of home the moment I awoke, and suddenly I was there. Ardan watched the grove like a sentinel, and I could hear the fish playing in the river just upstream from where I landed.
For the first time in a long time, I didn’t long to be uncomplicated Gwyneth Evans with the active fantasy life and the awkward love life. I thought about furniture, and furs, and making the official residence as comfortable as it could be. And Bran was next to me with a cup of tea the moment I entered, and Clutie asked me if I’d had a good shopping trip. Later, I had a picnic lunch with Nathaniel in the meadow, and later still, I went to Janus and asked him how he felt about gardens. As it turns out, he is in favour of gardens, so we made one, that night. And a beautiful garden it is. My garden.
Soon, I’d discover that we’d made other things as well, but there is so much time now, to tell stories. All the time there ever was.