Episode 5 Chapter 1

The wicker skiff bobbed in the water as the kids piled on board. Oboe shoved her brothers and sisters, worried she’d be left behind again. “Wait for me!!”

She wasn’t the youngest. In the Spring she would turn eight, which was practically a grown-up. The problem was she was the littlest and the easiest to forget. She elbowed her way through the packed group, squeezing through armpits and climbing over laps to try and find a spot to sit.

“Hurry up!” Her father said. His name was Bansuri. He had big curly horns and a scruffy beard, both of which Oboe liked pulling on. Sometimes he shouted her name when he got mad, which made her happy. “We’re going to be late for the tournament!”

Oboe was excited. There was a small group today of only a dozen other kids. Most were half-brothers and sisters, some full-blooded, and a few twice removed cousins. Fauns were better than most other kinds of fairies because they knew how to share their children. Everybody got more moms and dads that way. They traded kids with all their lovers, taking turns, and sometimes yelling about whose job it was to watch which kids. Oboe liked Bansuri best, though, since he was her birth-father.

The last stragglers hopped onto the boat. Father pushed off the dock with his punting pole. Oboe scrambled to grab the empty seat nearest to her dad, only for her brother Fife to steal it.

“That’s my spot!” She said, trying to pulled him off it.

Fife planted himself firm and leered. He was a year younger than Oboe but he was already bigger because he was cheating. He wore a yellow mantle like Oboe. It was a short shawl hanging off his shoulders. His had a different family crest, though, because they didn’t have the same mother.

“I got here first,” he said. “Find someplace else!”

Oboe glanced back to see every other seat was taken. “There’s nowhere else! You have to move!”

He leaned back, a smile on his big dumb face. “Nope. Can’t make me!”

Oboe let out a war cry and summoned all her strength to destroy her brother. She jumped on him, yanking his horn nubs, and wrenching him into a headlock. He bit her, but she didn’t care. There was no way she was standing the whole way to the palace.

Father yanked her aside by the scruff of her neck. “You will stop this at once!” He put her down and straightened her mantle so mom’s crest, an embroidered acorn with a keyhole, was displayed the way he liked. “You’re to see your grandmother today. I’ll throw you overboard before I let you shame the family in front of her. Do you understand?”

Oboe stomped her hoof, rocking the boat. “I don’t want to stand!”

“Hey,” said Fife. “You shapeshift, right? That’s all you can do. How about you turn into a fat slimy bug and fly your way across the lake!”

“No!” It was true Oboe could turn into almost any kind of gross bug she wanted, but that didn’t mean she wanted to get left behind. Everyone else had a seat, so why couldn’t she have hers? It wasn’t fair. “I’m not gonna be a bug, Fife! Get out of my spot!!”

Fife laughed at her. “Crybaby Oboe has to stand the whole way! What a stupid loser!”

“Stop making fun of me!” Oboe grabbed her brother by the chin and shrank him into a slug. He fell onto the floor of the skiff with a wet plop.

One of the cousins gasped. “Uncle Bansuri! Oboe turned her brother into a mollusk!”

“No I didn’t!” Oboe said, lunging over the aisle to turn her cousin into a toad. All around her from every direction, her brothers and sisters began pointing their fingers.

“Umm! Oboe’s getting in trouble!” They laughed. Oboe screamed and went berserk, turning everyone within reach into rats and beetles.


She froze mid-step, too scared to turn around. Father grabbed her by the shoulder. She realized she’d made the biggest mistake of her whole life.


Episode 5 Chapter 2

Bansuri dumped Oboe onto the grassy shore and stepped out after her. She’d never seen him so angry.

“You know you aren’t allowed to use your magic on others! You know we’re going to the Tournament of Titles! What is wrong with you!? Are you trying to get me in trouble?!”

“But they were being mean!”

“I don’t care!” Father said, yanking her by the arm. “Change them back this instant!”

She scowled. Her brothers and sisters climbed out of the boat and waited for their enchantments to be undone. They looked better as rats and slugs and bugs.

“Oboe! Are you listening to me?!”

She growled in frustration and marched forward. She pulled away the spells on each of her siblings, like pulling a blanket off someone in bed. They popped back to normal, one after another

 “All of them,” Her father said, pointing at the remaining slug.

“No.” Oboe glared. “He should stay like that. I hate him!” Bansuri wrenched her closer by the horn nub. “Ow! Hey! Okay! Fine!”

With a tap, Fife turned back into a faun. He was just as smug as before. Oboe wanted to throw him in the lake but she was already in trouble.

Bansuri jumped back onto the skiff and gathered up every child’s mantle before pulling the enchantment out of the boat. It crumbled back into a mess of leaves floating on the water. All the mantles had different colors and patterns so everyone knew who your mother was and who your father was. Bansuri looked back over the herd of offspring and wrinkled his nose.

“Does everyone remember what their mantle looks like?”

A quarter of the children nodded, the rest shook their heads. Bansuri sighed.

“Your mothers are going to kill me.” He tossed the laundry at the kids to let them figure it out.

As soon as Fife pulled his mantle back on father grabbed him and Oboe by the hand and led them aside.

A tangled wall of thorns and vines stood around the island shore. Oboe could hear cheers and shouts and music all coming from the other side. Jugglers and clowns and musicians came from all over to perform. Today there would be parades and games and she would get to meet her grandmother and see all the strongest fey in the Whirlwood compete in the Tournament of Titles.

 Father conjured a chain of magic and snapped it around Oboe’s ankle. She looked up in shock.

“I won’t have my children embarrass me. Not today of all days.” Bansuri pulled another length of thread off the spool hooked to his belt. Whipping it in the air, it snapped its shape into a copper chain. Fife was laughing, until father locked a chain on his foot too.

“What?! Hey!”

“You will both stay here,” father said, anchoring both chains to a sturdy oak. “I will come for you once the tournament is over.”

“No! No, no, no!!” Oboe pulled at her chain but could not get her hoof free. “I can’t miss the tournament! I’m supposed to meet my grandmother! You can’t!”

Father shook his head. “You should’ve thought of that before you misbehaved. Maybe next year you’ll have matured enough to come.”

Fife scowled. “Why am I being punished? This is her fault!”

He bent over them with a scary face. “You provoked her, and she allowed herself to be provoked. I expect more from my children. Let this be a lesson to you both.” He marched off, calling the others. “Let’s go, my darlings! There’s many wonders for well-behaved children to see today!”

Oboe started to cry. Father led her brothers and sisters through the gates of the Inner Circle, leaving her behind.


Episode 5 Chapter 3

Oboe dug her hooves in the dirt, grunting and screaming, trying to pull her chain free from the tree until she wore herself out. It was no use. Her life was over. She flopped down in the shadow of the thorn wall and bawled her eyes out.

“Hey.” Fife nudged her. She looked to see him glancing in every direction. “You think they’re gone?”

Oboe let out a fresh wail. “Of course they’re gone! They went inside, and they’re gonna eat ghastberry tarts, and ride the griffins, and see the tournament, and everyone will get to meet my grandmother but me!!”

“Good.” Fife said. He grabbed hold of his chain, and it withered back into thread.

Oboe gasped. Fife snapped the thread off his ankle and smirked.

“Dad always forgets I have conjuration magic, just like him. It’s easy to undo his spells.”

“He’s going to be mad if you run off!” Oboe said.

Fife coiled the rest of the thread around his finger. “He doesn’t have to know. I’ll come back and make the chain again.” He stared up at the wall. “I just need to figure out how to get inside when dad took my ticket.”

Oboe tugged at her own chain. “I want to go too! Take me with you!”

He scoffed. “Why should I? You turned me into a slug!”

“I’m sorry! I got mad! Please don’t leave me here all by myself!!”

His face softened, just a little. “Well, I don’t want a useless crybaby following me around all day.”

“I’m not useless!” Oboe said, wiping the tears off her face.

“Oh yeah? Prove it. I bet you can’t even escape without my help!”

Oboe clenched her fists. “I’ll show you! Just watch!” She shut her eyes and concentrated every drop of magic she had on transforming into the biggest, scariest monster she could. A bear, or maybe a bull. Something so strong she could rip the chain straight off.

She opened her eyes, and realized she had turned into a little blue bird.

“I guess that works,” Fife said. Her little bird feet slipped out of the shackles with no problem. “Good job.”

“Don’t make fun of me!” Oboe said, flapping her wings. “I wanted to be something big and scary!”

“Oh.” Fife shrugged. “Your magic is just useless then. Makes sense. No one’s allowed to do transformation enchantments. How are you supposed to get Fates and get strong?”

 Oboe wished he would shut up. She didn’t want to be reminded that she’d be a weak little runt forever. “I’m not useless!! Why are you being mean to me?!”

He stepped back, startled. “Hey. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. Your magic’s not useless. It’s just… bad. Evil. Y’know? Not your fault.” He unwound the string from his finger, eyes on the wall again. “And I just thought of something useful you can do.” He offered her the end of the thread. “Can you fly this to the top of the wall?”

She glared at him.

“What?” he said. “I need to sneak inside. Do you want me to come with you or not?”

Oboe reluctantly took the thread in her beak. She took to the air and perched on the tip of the wall of thorn briars, the thread dangling off the edge. Fife grabbed hold of the loose end and it changed into a sturdy rope for him to climb. Together they dropped down into the Inner Circle Gardens and were surprised to find all the tents and booths empty, and everyone gone.

“Oh no!” Oboe said. “The tournament is starting without us!!”

“C’mon!” Fife broke into a sprint. “We need to get good seats!”


Episode 5 Chapter 4

Oboe ran as fast as she could to keep up with her brother. They sped past the beautiful celadon homes of the Titled, through the gardens of hanging amaranth, and up the marble walkways into the palace. It was hard to keep moving. The Inner Circle was prettier than Oboe ever imagined. She wanted so bad to explore, but there was no way she was going miss the Tournament of Titles.

The stadium seats were packed with all kinds of funny looking creatures. Every fairy in the valley must’ve come, and some from other circles too.

“Hurry up!” Fife shouted. “We’re never going to find seats if you keep gawking!”

Oboe spotted a place to sit across the aisle. She waded into the bleachers, climbing over laps and shoulders to get to a row that only had an old sylph sitting there. He was a weird bug guy, with four arms, four eyes, and big grumpy frown.

“Hi!” Oboe said. “Can me and my brother sit here?”

He rolled his eyes. “None of my business.”

Oboe plopped down next to him, kicking her legs. “My name’s Oboe! Who are you?”

“Thistle,” he said. He cradled his head in his palm, staring at the arena with disinterest. Fife caught up to them, out of breath.

“Has the round started yet?”

Thistle grunted. “Not even. It’s all speeches and posturing right now. Not that it matters. Whole tournament is a bunch of unicorn shit, if you ask me. Conceited blowhards showing off and fighting so other bigger blowhards can say who deserves to look down on everybody else.” He spat. “Don’t know why I bother coming anymore.”

Fife wasn’t listening. He leaned over the seats to watch the show. “Oboe! Look!” He pointed at the field. “There’s your grandmother!”

Oboe stood on her seat to see better. She gasped. It really was her, just like the pictures. She was as tall as house, with silky gray fur, and the biggest antlers she’d ever seen. Her fine, golden mantle shimmered. She was beautiful and strong and the whole stadium roared with applause to see her.

“She’s gonna judge the contestants and decide who gets to be Titled,” Fife said, as if Oboe didn’t know anything.

“I hope she likes me,” Oboe said. Fife laughed at her.

“Why would the Fair Lady want anything to do with you?” He said. “You’re a useless little crybaby with bad magic!”

“You’re just jealous!” Oboe said, scrunching her snout. “She’s going to love me and we’re going to be best friends. You’ll see.”

“Yeah right!” Fife said. “Dad says she’s got so many kids she can’t even count them all! Why would you matter?”

Oboe folded her arms but didn’t say anything. What if he was right? Mom told her charming grandmother was the most important thing, but Oboe couldn’t even turn into anything cool.

“Oh! They’re starting!” Fife said. He prodded her in the shoulder. “Sis, you see that pooka down there?”

She glared at him, wishing his head would explode. “Yeah?”

“I’ve heard about her. You should root for her! She’s a shape shifter like you.”

Oboe watched. The pooka didn’t seem like much. Just a little black rabbit thing person. She jumped out of the way of the lightning bolts the much cooler nymph was throwing. She was probably going to die any second now. But she didn’t. She was too fast. Oboe stared as the pooka weaved closer and closer between lightning cracks, and then with a pop the pooka turned into a great big elephant. She lashed the stupid nymph with her trunk and knocked her to the ground. She took her big elephant feet and stomped and stomped until there wasn’t anything left.

 Oboe jumped out of her seat and cheered. The crowds whooped and hollered in excitement.

“Did you see that?! That was so cool!!” Oboe said. “I wish I was born with that much magic!”

“Ha!” Thistle scoffed at her. “You think any of these blustering hotshots was born this strong? Hardly. They got like that by gathering Fates. Same as anyone else.”

Oboe turned to the old sylph. “But she’s a shape shifter! We’re not supposed to enchant humans.”

“Like anyone in the Fairy Court cares about the law,” Thistle said. “They’re all liars and sneaks. They don’t care who they hurt if it gets them a power boost. That’s what it takes to get noticed in this dung heap.”

Was that how it was?

Grandmother crossed the arena to give the pooka a new golden mantle. The whole stadium, the whole Whirlwood Circle, stood to applaud the victory. From now on, that Pooka would live in the Inner Circle alongside grandmother and the Titled fey. Everyone loved her. Oboe looked on, imagining herself standing there, and realized what she needed to do.


Episode 5 Chapter 5

The wood ax scraped across the ground, bumping over rocks and tree roots as Oboe dragged it through the woods. She looked over her shoulder, and scampered faster to get away.

“Get back here!” The human said, chasing her. “I need that!”

As soon as she got enough distance to be out of sight, she tossed the ax into the middle of a clearing and clambered up a tree to wait. The hard part was finding the humans. She’d never been outside the Fairy Circle before, so she got lost in the Whirlwood. Some foxes were nice enough to point her in the direction of a human farming manor. It was weird. They lived in ugly brown boxes, there was almost no magic in the air, and everyone had a sort of savory smell. It was like manure, sawdust and garlic. The scent made Oboe feel hungry in a way that had nothing to do with food.

This human smelled the ripest. Almost grownup, but not all the way. She found him chopping wood on the edge of the village. He got real mad and chased her when she took the ax. He was big but slow. She watched from her hiding spot and waited for him to catch up.

He lumbered onto the scene, bewildered to find she’d left the ax behind. He scratched his head and bent down to grab it. Oboe tensed and pounced, grabbing him by the shoulder.

 “What?!” The human spun, trying to reach behind his back. “Let go of me!”

Oboe felt her magic well up like a cup running over with water. She let it spill and the spell poured out over him.

“Gaaahhh!!” His body jerked and she held on as he thrashed. Fur sprouted all over his body. He fell onto his hands, his fingers shrinking away into claws. His face grew longer with stuttering jolts, and his mouth filled with pointed teeth. He slumped when the transformation was complete.

Oboe hopped off his back and gaped at what she had done. The human was a wolf now. This was amazing. She’d never changed into anything so big, let alone transformed someone else. Using her magic like this felt amazing. It made her feel bigger and stronger, like there was more room inside her for magic. The Whirlwood filled her up again with more than she ever held before.

The human stirred, tripping over clothes that hung loose. He raised a paw and shot quick frightened looks at his new tail and body. He tried to stand and found himself stuck on all fours.

“What did you do to me?!”

Oboe beamed with pride. “I turned you into a wolf!”

His jaw hung open. “Why would you do that?!”

“I needed Fates, so I took yours,” Oboe said. “Now I’m strong, so I’m going to go win the Tournament and grandmother is going to be my best friend.”

He snarled, snapping his teeth at her.

“Change me back right now!”

Oboe was startled by how upset he was. “What’s wrong with being a wolf?”

“I can’t go to school if I’m a wolf! My dad is going to kill me!”

“Oh.” Oboe pursed her lips. “Well, anyway, I gotta go. Bye!”

She changed into a blue bird and took off. She was sure he could figure it out. She needed these Fates more than him, after all. She flew back the way she came, but realized the human was right behind her.

“Stop!” He shouted. “Change me back!!”

“Leave me alone!” Oboe said and flapped her wings harder. He was so much faster as a wolf. She tried to remember the way she came, feeling for bends in the valley’s magic. There had to be a gate to the Fairy Circle nearby.

There. She saw it. She looped around an old stone pillar, and zipped straight for her exit. She passed between two ancient oaks into a deeper fold of the Whirl. The world changed, the sky turned green, and she found herself in the streets of the Outer Circle.

The wolf came crashing in after her. Some grownup fairies saw him and screamed.

“A feral got in!” A nymph said. “Someone grab it!”

The wolf looked confused. The grownups tried to surround him but he rushed past them. Oboe wished he would give up already. He leapt to catch her in his teeth and missed. She was too quick. She flapped her wings and rose high out of reach. Every part of her felt swift and powerful. There was nothing he could do to stop her.

Oboe soared over the streets and across the docks. The wolf stopped at the edge of the lake, unable to follow. She laughed at him and set her eyes on the island in the middle of the Circle’s lake. Grandmother’s palace stood like a towering cluster of quartz. The towers shimmered in the sun and the gardens sprawled in bloom. It was all waiting for her. All Oboe had to do was win the tournament with her amazing new powers and the Inner Circle would be her new home.


Episode 5 Chapter 6

Oboe collected her mantle and hurried back to the arena. Underneath the stadium there was a winding staircase that led to the Challenger’s Paddock. She raced to open the door but was blocked by a spear.

“Hey!” Oboe said.

A fury scowled at her. Oboe used to be scared of furies. They were these angry sort of thin bird creatures, with hands on their wings, mean eyes, and long legs with claws on the end. This one had a fancy acorn crest on his armor, which meant he was a member of the spriggan. The spriggan were grandmother’s soldiers. Lots of furies liked to join the spriggan.

“Get lost, kid,” he said. “No lookey-loos. Aspirants only.”

“Let me in!” Oboe tried to slide past and got shoved back. “I gotta win the Tournament!”

He gave her a quizzical look. “How old are you?”

“Eight!” Well, almost eight. Practically eight. She felt more like nine on the inside right now, so it ought to average out.

He clicked his beak. “Yeah, no.” He grabbed her by the waist, hauled her up the stairs, and threw her back outside. “Go home! Live and bloom. Then come back and I’ll let you die proper.”

Oboe gave him the biggest frown her tiny face could manage. The door slammed and Oboe heard a lock click. That wasn’t going to stop her. She ran through the gardens, snooping for another way inside.

Rummaging through a rose bush, she found a barred window. She crept through as a bug but realized after that her mantle was too bulky to pull through the gap in the bar. There was no way she could leave it behind. Her mantle was her name. It would be a waste to win the tournament if no one knew who she was.

 She climbed back out. The copper bars were tough and cold to the touch. She grabbed one and pulled, concentrating as much as she could on being strong. The metal groaned as she grunted and pulled until it bent and snapped. Oboe smiled at the busted rod in her hand, amazed by how strong she was now.


Oboe jumped. She spun to see a sopping wet wolf.

“You thought you could get away?!” He snapped his jaws at her and moved closer.

Oboe grabbed her mantle and shrank into a rat. She slipped through the grate, but the wolf caught the cloth in her teeth before she could get way.

“Get back here!” The wolf said, his mouth full.

Oboe changed back and pulled on her mantle. “Let go!!”

The mantle ripped as she yanked it free. The wolf scrambled to squeeze through the bars to get her but he was too big.

“Change me back!” He said. “Right now!”

“Leave me alone!” Oboe said. She frowned at the tear on her mantle. Mother would be angry. She slipped it on back over her head. It would have to do for now.

“Do you know what you’ve done to me?! You’ve ruined my life!”

Oboe felt a shiver of guilt. She wondered for a moment if she ought to change the human back, but shook away the thought. Giving back the Fates would make her weak again. It meant being the runt no one took seriously. Would grandmother even care about her if she was weak? Would anyone?

If the human didn’t like being enchanted then he should’ve been more careful. This was the magic she was born with and it was only fair that she should get to use it. The human wasn’t her problem.

“Sorry,” she said. “I gotta go.”


She ran down the corridor and found the Challenger’s Paddock. It was a little waiting area packed with every sort of fairy creature. There were antlers, and claws, and porcupine spines all over. Some were shaggy and big, some had bark for skin, and others had silken manes. Oboe shoved her way through, attracting stares along the way. She crawled under a unicorn to reach the door leading to the tournament ring.

“Um, excuse me?” A river nymph stepped in front of her. He had frumpy robes and a clip board. “You can’t go out there. It isn’t your round. They’re still cleaning up from the last one.”

“When is it my turn?” Oboe said.

“Let me check.” The nymph leafed through his notes. “That’s odd. I don’t see your mantle listed. Did you forget to register?”

Oboe growled. Everyone was getting in her way. “Check again.” The moment the nymph looked at his papers again, Oboe ran past him out onto the field.

Oboe’s sprint slowed to a halt as she took in the stadium. Standing inside the ring was different than watching from above. The arena seats surrounded her like walls with thousands of eyes staring down at her. The spectators rumbled with confusion at the sight of her. Oboe felt weird and scared and worried all at once. There was a spriggan on the far end of the arena dragging away a faun. The faun was bleeding.

“There’s a child on the field!” Someone shouted. “Someone grab her!”

A pair of leshy rushed towards Oboe like burly trees. They stopped dead in their tracks when the heard a scream.

Something was happening in the stadium seats. Fairies were yelling and climbing over one another to get away. A wolf burst through the crowd and charged down the arena steps. It leapt into the ring.

“I’ll kill you!” He shouted, barreling towards Oboe.

Oboe panicked. Everything was going wrong. She tried to run and almost tripped.

There was a bang and a flash of light. The roar of the crowd was cut silent. The wolf froze in his tracks. Every creature in the stadium stood still and every breath was held. Oboe felt the air hang heavy. Her ears were ringing. She turned, and saw grandmother rising from her box seat, her hand held up.


Episode 5 Chapter 7

She drew closer, as if gliding down the steps and across the ground. Oboe’s fur stood on end. Grandmother’s aura washed over her like hot sunlight. The wolf tensed, claws scraping the ground, eyes wide. He understood enough not to run.

Grandmother moved like a river: flowing and shaping the land where she went. She was like the biggest of trees: Rooted, immovable, and ancient. Her antlers were a sharpened crown of bone. Her white-silver fur was without flaw. She looked down, her face unreadable. Her gaze fixed them in place.

“It would seem,” she said, “that there is unrest in my garden.” She tilted her head toward the wolf. “Young human. Do not be afraid. Tell me why you are here.”

The wolf stared, terrified. “This… I…” He fumbled to get the words out. “I’m… Russel! Russel Redford! From North Manor! Olan’s boy! I was out chopping wood when this fairy came!” He glared at Oboe. “She changed me into a wolf!”

Grandmother curled her slender fingers. “I see.”

“She ran, so I chased after!” Russel bared his teeth. “She doesn’t care what happens to me! It isn’t right! My father is the Alderman, you know! If you all don’t turn me back, I’ll tell him, and he’ll tell the king! Then you’ll be in trouble!”

Raising her brow, grandmother looked at Oboe. “Little blossom, let me see your mantle.” She clicked her tongue at the crest. “As I feared, you are one of mine. Clear as the day, for all the Circle to see. What’ve you to say for yourself?”

Oboe backed away. Her heart fluttered and hammered. She scanned the stadium seats, looking for her father. All she found was Fife watching her with big scared eyes.

“I… don’t know,” Oboe said. “He’s making it up! I didn’t do anything!”

Grandmother’s eyes opened, sharp as razors. “Do not presume to lie to me, child. Magic speaks. You did this. You have gone wicked. You have been caught. The law says that I am to give you to the humans, and there is no doubt that they will squeeze the life out of you.”

“No!!” Oboe covered her face. “No! You can’t!” She fell on her knees at grandmother’s feet. “I don’t want to die! I’m your granddaughter! Please! I don’t—” She choked. Her mind raced with all the awful things the humans might do to hurt her. Tears poured out of her eyes. “I just wanted you to like me! Please! I’m sorry!!”

The elder faun narrowed her eyes. “Russel Redford. Does anyone know that you are here?”

“What?” The wolf blinked at her.

“No. You said you chased right after.” She took a step closer, studying his face. “Were there any witnesses?”

“Y-yes! Yeah of course! So you’d better change me back, or else!”

She grabbed him by the head, smiling.

“Good. No one knows. Then this is between us.”

Russel struggled, his body convulsing. He wasn’t strong enough to pull himself free. His body twisted, changing, until it took the shape of a man again. Grandmother released him and he dropped naked onto the ground. He looked up. There was a fading light on his forehead.

 “I have given you your body back,” Grandmother said. “And I have placed you under a geas. Be warned, human, because if you speak to any creature of what has happened to you today then you will grow sick and die. Now go in peace, live, and never return.”

With a wave of her hand, furies dove into the arena and seized Russel. “Wait!” He said, but they dragged him away before he could finish whatever he meant to say. With that done, Grandmother turned her attention to her granddaughter.

“What is your name, little one?”

“Oboe.” She wiped her face, feeling relief. “Oboe Woodwind.”

“Oboe Woodwind!” Grandmother said the name so loud the whole stadium could hear. “Today you have shamed yourself, your family, and the Circle. You have turned wicked and put our friendship with Laien at risk. I have spent a great deal of Fates to hide your crime. Do you regret what you have done?”

There were hundreds of eyes on her. Oboe felt hot and sick. She wanted to run, but her body wouldn’t listen. She stared at her grandmother, trembling. “I’m sorry!” she said. “I made a mistake!”

“Then swear to me now, on your life. Never again use your magic on another. Never again bring dishonor on the fairies of the Whirlwood. Never again bring a human into our home.”

Oboe couldn’t breathe. “I… I promise! I won’t be wicked! Not ever again! I’m sorry! On my life! I promise!”

“Then I will not kill you. But there will still be a cost.” She reached down and tore Oboe’s mantle off her shoulders. “No longer are you worthy of the Woodwind name. I strip you of it! Let all here bear witness!” She opened her arms toward the crowd. “This fairy has no name! She is no fey, but a curse! There is no place in the Circle for this one! May she only know scorn and suffering!”

Oboe covered herself. Furies appeared and wrenched her hands away.

“But… I’m your granddaughter!!”

“No longer.” She ripped the mantle and let the tatters fall. “You are banished from this Circle. Return and I will butcher you myself.”

The spriggan guards pulled Oboe away. She fought, kicking her legs. “No!! Please! I live here!!” She shrieked as they bound her in chains. “Dad! Fife! Anyone!! Help me! I don’t want to go!!””

Her eyes met Fife’s. He was watching from the stadium seats. She called for help as loud as she could. He covered his eyes and turned away.


Episode 5 Chapter 8

“Let go!” Oboe banged her hands against the fury’s leather armor. A troop of spriggan, all furies, hauled her out onto the palace veranda. “I want my dad! Let me see my dad! Stop!!”

The furies spread their wings and Oboe was pulled into the air. The Circle shrank away as they soared out of the folded space of the Circle. The sky rippled and turned blue. Oboe’s home disappeared.

She fell, crashing through the trees of the Whirlwood and landing with a sharp thud on the ground. Groaning and aching all over, she sat up. The spriggan watched her from the trees like vultures.

“Nameless,” one said. “Your life has been spared. See that we do not take it from you.”

They took flight, ascending in tight formation. They dove back into the sky as if it were a rippling pool and vanished.

She was alone. Oboe glanced around the quiet meadow and wondered what to do. Would she ever see her family again? She peered into the unknown depths of the Whirlwood and felt scared. How would she live out here by herself? Where was she supposed to go?

It hit her, really hit her, just how bad she messed up. Her life was over. She curled up on the ground, wishing to die, wishing the furies had killed her instead. She slumped against the ground to cry and lost track of time. Autumn leaves drifted as the day faded and the air grew colder.

“There you are.”

A satchel of apples spilled onto the forest floor. Oboe looked up and one was shoved into her hands.

“Here,” Thistle said. He was the old sylph from the stadium. “You’re probably starving.”

“Huh?” Oboe turned the apple in her hand. The bright red fruit reminded her how hungry she was.

He sneered. “You going to stare or are you going to eat? I didn’t carry all this for fun. Had enough trouble finding you.”

Oboe wiped her eyes and took a crisp bite. The taste was sharp and sweet and was the first good thing to happen all day.

“Saw what happened to you.” Thistle sat down beside her. “Can’t believe you were that stupid. Broke the law and made a big show of it. Thought you were dim when I met you, but didn’t think you were that big a moron.”

Oboe buried her face in her apple. “I’m sorry.”

“Keep your sorry,” He said. “Doesn’t matter how stupid you were. You’re a kid. Not like you know any better. Can’t say the same for those overgrown weeds running the Circle. They’re the real idiots. I don’t care what you did. They know better than to do this to a child. Whatever.”

Oboe felt sick again. She bit another hunk of apple and forced it down. “I messed up. I don’t know what to do.”

Thistle stared up through the trees at the rising moon. It was faint, but growing brighter in the late afternoon sky.

“Not much you can do. Can’t change what’s done. Can’t fix something like this, believe me.” He kneaded the side of his head. “I’ll tell you what can do, though.”


“Keep going,” He said. “You screwed up. Fine. Great. What counts is you’re smart enough to admit it was wrong. Do better. Don’t hurt other creatures. Be decent, and get on with your life.”

Oboe sank her teeth into the apple and then swallowed. She nodded. It made sense. She didn’t have to be wicked. She thought about the promise she made grandmother. It was a good promise. She would never use her magic on anyone else. She would be good from now on. She would keep her promise.


Episode 5 Chapter 9

Oboe broke her promise.

After years and years of trying her hardest to be good, she did it again. She enchanted a human. The magic slipped out. She lost control. She changed Percy into a hawk and grew stronger doing it, just like before. It didn’t matter that she changed him back. It didn’t matter that the prince and Theo forgave her. Sooner or later the whole kingdom would know. She broke her promise.

The other fairies were right. She deserved to be shunned and thrown away. She was wicked. There was no use denying it. The realization crushed her, but it wasn’t kind enough to kill her.

Oboe stared at the threshold. It was a bend in space between the trees that led to the Circle. It was where she was born and where her family lived. It was where she belonged. For most of her live she yearned to go back, to cross over, but she knew the cost was too great.

Today she was ready to pay the price. She stepped through.

The sight of the green sky was too much. She wanted to cry but her eyes were already too sore and red from weeping. The orchards of the Outer Circle stretched ahead of her. Fauns, laborers with juice-stained mantles, were hard at work collecting the late-summer harvest. The one nearest gasped when she saw Oboe. She dropped her basket and apples spilled across the ground.

“What’re you doing?!” Her mane was tied back. Her violet eyes darted toward the other workers. “You can’t be here!”

Oboe said nothing. Seeing other fauns made her feel naked. The feeing never went away no matter how hard she ignored it.

“Nameless!” The farmer called to the others in disgust. “There’s a nameless here!”

The others froze, watching with anger and caution. One of the taller ones marched up.

“You don’t belong here!” He said. “Get out or I’ll call the spriggan!”

Oboe wished the humans had killed her. It would’ve been better than coming here and seeing the way these fauns looked at her. It would’ve been easier than facing grandmother again after breaking her promise. Oboe was scared. She wanted to run away but she knew running away would be worse. Running meant living with the guilt. It meant knowing all the things others whispered about her were true.

“Call the spriggan,” Oboe said. “I’ll wait.”

The farmers shot confused looks at one another. When it was clear she wasn’t going to leave, they rushed to send word. A magic flare was fired into the air, whistling like a firework.

It was only a matter of time now. Oboe went to the well to wait, and admired the wooded village that was once her home. It was hard to look at the cute little homes with their gardens and mailboxes and not wonder how different life could’ve been.

It would’ve been kinder if grandmother had killed her at the tournament of titles. It was hard to live as a nameless. Sometimes the shunning was more than she could bear. Thistle was her friend, at least, but she knew deep down that he was only her friend out of pity. Even so, she was grateful. He was all she had. Until Theo came along, anyway. She smiled. Theo was good and sweet. He’d done everything he could to fix the mess she’d made. But there was no way for him to fix this when Oboe was the problem.

The furies came. A whole troop swooped to surround her, with polished leather armor bearing the symbol of an acorn with a keyhole on it. They unsheathed knives from the holsters strapped to their legs, poised to attack.

“Nameless are forbidden in the Circle! Why have you come?”

Oboe held her hands out in surrender. “I want to see the Fair Lady!” She said. “I wish to face judgment!”


Episode 5 Chapter 10

“It’s not fair,” the werewolf said. “I know we’ve got our own customs, and they’re fine, but what you have is different and I like it. Is that so wrong? I just want to have the experience!”

“Deputy, are you listening?”

Theodore snapped his attention back to the werewolf couple. He was distracted, staring at the small toy knight on his desk again. He coughed and reshuffled the papers on his disheveled desk. Work piled up while his mind was elsewhere.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” He said, embarrassed.

The werewolves glanced at one another. The male was named Barghest and Theodore was familiar with him. He was a large black shaggy breed with big red eyes. His mate was smaller, with sleek gray fur and a long narrow snout. Theodore spent most of the meeting skirting around the fact that he’d forgotten her name. Barghest had spent the last ten minutes struggling to articulate the reason why the two of them had come.

“Erm, so as I was saying…” Barghest’s face went blank. He turned to his mate. “What was I saying again?”

“The short version, then. You humans have nice weddings. Singing, fancy clothes, chapels—”

“Sweet cakes!” Barghest said.

She sighed. “Yes, my love. With crème frosting, yes. I know.” She folded her clawed hands in her lap. “They’re beautiful ceremonies. We ghasts have our own, of course. Barghest and I had had our shadows joined by candlelight years ago. But this oaf has wanted a human wedding ever since he heard about them.”

Barghest looked hurt. “I thought you wanted it too!”

“I think it’s a lovely ritual, if a bit silly,” she said. “This is your idea, but I know how happy it would make you.” She rested a hand on him. “That’s why we should do it.”

“Awww, Lola!”

There was her name. Relieved, Theodore resolved not to forget it this time. He picked through the mess on his desk to find a clean piece of paper and something to write with.

“Do you have visas?”

Lola grimaced. “He does. His haunting territory is near the North gate. But mine is all the way up the trade road, so they won’t give me one. No working need, they said.”

Theodore started a list of things needed to make this happen. “You’ll need a short-term pass cleared for the ceremony. I can get that for you, but it will be a challenge to pick out a venue or rehearse if you can’t come and go as you need. Then there’s catering, musicians, florists…” Theodore scratched his stubble, frowning. “Most will refuse to work for ghasts. This is going to be tricky.”

Barghest tugged at his chin hairs. “Maybe we can’t do this. It’s too hard, and we haven’t got much money.”

“Shut up!” Lola shoved him. “I don’t want to hear talk like that. You’re worth it. Now Deputy, I know this is a lot of work, but can you help us? Can you make this work?”

Theodore mentally ran through the logistics of planning a wedding alongside the backlog of other cases, and felt a pang of guilt. “I’m sorry.” He sighed. “It will be a long time before I can even try. I’ve fallen very behind since I lost my partner.”

Barghest jumped out of his chair. “Oh! I’m so sorry! Oh my devil. I can’t imagine losing my mate.” He pulled Theodore into a crushing hug. “You must be so sad! And here we are telling you to help us.”

“No, no. You misunderstand,” Theodore said, flustered. He wiggled free and straightened his shirt. “It’s a professional relationship. She’s my assistant.”

Lola looked around at the state of the room office and opened her mouth like she’d solved a puzzle. “You miss her.”

“I’m just worried,” He said with a huff. “She left very suddenly and I’ve heard nothing in days.”

“Then why are you here?” Barghest said. “If you’re concerned then you ought to go make sure she’s okay!”

Did Oboe want to be found? She was so upset when she flew off. Theodore thought she needed space. He hoped she would come back once she had time to cool off, but that hadn’t happened. Now he was staring at his desk and arranging the pencils to work off fresh worry. “I want to look for her, but I have a lot of work to do.”

Lola reached over and flicked a pencil away. “You’re no good to us like this. Go find her.”

Barghest nodded. “We can wait. If your friend is missing, you should check on her!”

They were right. There was no denying his work performance was unacceptable. It was irresponsible of him not to resolve this sooner. He stood up.

“You’re right. Thank you. I promise I’ll look into your wedding as soon as I have the opportunity.” He pinned his badge to his chest, pocketed his travel stationary kit, and fixed his tie.

“Go on!” Barghest said. “Get out there!”

Theodore slipped the toy knight into his chest pocket, and stepped out his front door into the Whirlwood. Oboe was out there somewhere. Now it was a matter of finding her.