Episode 6 Chapter 1

Oboe Woodwind paced the confines of her new bedroom, ready to have a breakdown. In less than an hour she would be seeing her family again after fifteen nameless years. What would she say? What would they say? She had wanted this moment to come for so long and now it was happening and her heart was pounding and she was terrified and what if she did something wrong and what if they didn’t like her?

She threw open the wardrobe and laid out all the different silk mantles she had been given. There was a mustard colored one, a canary yellow, a gentle saffron, and one in a sandy lemon. Which one was she supposed to wear? How angry would her family be if she showed up wearing the wrong one? She didn’t want to get kicked out of the Circle again after just one day.

Hopping up and down, Oboe Woodwind put them all on at the same time. It was so weird having family clothes again. She spun in front of the mirror and tugged at their seams. Oboe Woodwind could not believe that any of this was real and was so excited that she screamed into a cushion.

Before she realized what happened, the grandfather clock chimed and Oboe Woodwind was running late. She burst out the front door of her new apartment and stumbled into the street. Sprinting the whole way against the setting sun, she did her best not to collide with any of other fairies and almost managed it.

After numerous apologies, getting lost, and having to double back the direction she came, Oboe found her way to the Mag Mell Tavern. Grandmother had reserved the placed for Oboe’s family to meet to celebrate her return. There was a warm glow in the windows, the smell of roasting fish and apples, and she could hear the sound of conversation and laughter.

Her hand hovered over the doorknob. They were right there on the other side. She couldn’t open the door. This was a mistake. There was no way they could want her, not after all this time. They wouldn’t even remember her.

Before she could run away, the door opened and the noise of merrymaking washed over her. A lanky faun stepped out, fumbling to fill a smoking pipe. Oboe recognized him. His horns were curled now, and he’d grown a scruffy narrow beard, but it was him. He looked up.

“Is that…” Tobacco slipped through Fife’s fingers. “Yes! It really is you!”

Oboe held up a shaky hand. “H-hi.”

“Mother’s mercy,” he said. “You probably don’t remember me. I’m your brother Fife.” His voice was so deep now. “I thought I saw you in the city! All of dad’s kids have got a nose like ours. I would’ve said hello but… Well, y’know.” His smile turned awkward. “Anyway! You’re back now! This is unprecedented! Hurry, we need to get you inside.”

The urge to run got stronger. “I don’t know.”

“Don’t be shy!” He pulled her inside by the arm, where a whole host of fauns filled two levels of the tavern, all drinking, feasting and chatting. “Everyone!” He had to shout to be heard. “The guest of honor is here!”

The whole building erupted into cheers and crowded closer. Before Oboe had any idea what was going on, she was assaulted by greetings and reintroductions. Her sisters Ocarina, Clare and Melodica were here, and also her brothers Pommer, Piccolo and Caval.

“Darling,” Clare said. “Why are you wearing four different mantles?”

“Oh, um.” Oboe blushed. Before she could explain, a goblet of apple wine was thrust into her hand by big Uncle Alto.

“Drink up!” He insisted.

Oboe did not feel worthy. “I shouldn’t!”

“I bought a whole cask for the occasion, you’re having some!”

Before she had a chance to argue, a whole gaggle of kids pushed their way through the crowd, roughhousing and screaming. They gathered around her and started climbing all over her and tugged at her fur. One of the girls marched up to Oboe with a sneer and stared her down.

“You’re not Oboe!” She said. “I’m Oboe! You can’t be Oboe too!!”

“Sweetling, be nice to your aunt!” Fife said. “This is a special day for her.”


“You have kids?” Oboe was in shock. “You named one after me??”

 “I’m not named after anyone!” The other Oboe shrieked. “I will destroy you!!”

Fife chased his daughter off to scold her, and the other children followed to watch. Other relatives rushed to fill the void. Oboe did her best keep up as she was briefed on more than a decade of life and gossip. Sleepy eyed Ocarina worked as a fisherman. She had no kids because she’d married a gnome of all things. Her cousin Sipsi was one of the Spriggan captains who guarded the court. Caval was like Fife, and worked as an envoy, only Caval went to neighboring fairy circles to maintain relations. Piccolo was a concubine for a high ranking countess, and spent all his time raising children for his mistress. Alto had a problem with gambling, but he made so much money doing enchanting work for the sylph guild that it hadn’t caught up with him yet. Great aunt Zurna had her horns ripped out by a—

“Wait,” Clare said. “Has she talked to her dad yet?”

Without delay, Oboe was led to the fireplace where an old buck with graying hair was seated.

Oboe covered her mouth. “Dad?”

Bansuri took great effort to lift himself onto shaky legs, and hobble closer on his cane. Somehow, he seemed so much older than grandmother. He pressed a hand to Oboe’s cheek.

“It’s true.” His eyes watered. “They’re all here. All my children are here. I never thought I would live to see it. This is a miracle.”

Her father pulled her into a soft embrace. She held him tight and hoped he would never let go.


Episode 6 Chapter 2

The gathering lasted well into the night. It went by all too fast, a blur of stories, wine, and laughter. One by one the tavern emptied, to put children to bed or to wake up for work, until finally Oboe found herself sitting among the spent candles and dirty dishes. A dull head pain replaced her cider buzz. The tavern keeper, a nymph, let her know he had a lot of cleaning to do and it was time for her to go home.

Oboe stepped out into the street, with still some time before dawn. The celebration had worn her thin. A sharp crescent moon watched her as she tried to remember the way back to her bed.

“I trust you were pleased with your belated reunion?”

A raven was staring at her, perched on a cobblestone wall. It spoke with grandmother’s voice.

“Do not look so alarmed, my dear,” it said. “I am only a whisper of your grandmother here to visit.”

“A whisper?” Oboe furrowed her brow. “You mean you’re a messenger?”

She chuckled. “Oh no, child. I speak for myself. I am a fraction of my own magic.”

“You can do that?”

“Perhaps in time, you will grow enough that you may do the same. For now, I have a task for you.”

Oboe felt a sinking sensation. “What sort of task?”

The Whisper preened herself. “The Ranger Deputy took something of mine while he was here. A broken long sword, stained with curses. It must be returned here, or there will be consequences.”

“Theo wouldn’t steal! He’s a good human!”

Grandmother’s eyes lit up. They were a blade carving a tear through Oboe’s mind, filling her ears with a painful ringing. “Do not presume to correct me, daughter. I am your queen!”

Oboe fell back, tipping a garbage bin over with a bang. She curled her legs, afraid. The raven loomed over her with shining eyes.

“The human stole from me,” Grandmother said. “He was more resourceful than I gave him credit. Yet, there is opportunity in this misstep. My wayward child has a chance to prove her worth to me. You will retrieve the sword without raising suspicion.”

Oboe got on her hooves, shaking. “H-he must have had a good reason to take it.”

“No doubt,” She said, lighting onto the rooftops. “You hesitate, child. After I have been so very generous with you. Was it a mistake to trust you? To grace you with my favor? Perhaps you preferred life without a name? Is that the case?”

Oboe’s fur stood on end. She wrapped her arms around her mantles. “You can’t! Please! I want to stay!”

 “What I have given I can take away. I have others who can do this for me without argument. Prove your use to me, and I will keep you. Fail me, and you will wish that I had granted you the death you begged for.”

The Fair Lady spread her wings and vanished into the night. Oboe stood alone as the first hints of dawn crept into the sky what to do. What was she going to do?


Episode 6 Chapter 3

“Where’s Oboe?!” Thistle banged his tiny arms on the kitchen table. “You said she’d be here!”

Theodore frowned at the fresh ink smudge on the report he was writing. The first thing he’d done after returning home was send a messenger bird to Thistle to let him know Oboe was okay. Before sunrise, the sylph had stormed the office, demanding to see her.

“All I said was she’s safe,” Theodore said. “We should give her time to process everything. It’s been a very traumatic week. She’ll come back when she’s ready.”

Thistle climbed onto the table. “If I find out you’re lying to me I’ll make you dream nothing but nightmares the rest of your life!”

Theodore folded his letter into an envelope and sealed it. “She’s fine. Trust me. Just be patient. You can go home, I’ll tell her to visit you.”

“But there’s a chance she’s coming?” Thistle said.

“It’s possible.”

Grumbling, the old bug sat on a stack of books and waited. As grouchy as Thistle was, Theodore was grateful for the distraction. His mind was restless, swimming with thoughts about what he’d seen in the Circle. He was anxious to see Oboe again, but needed to trust her promise to come back. On top of that, there was the matter of the item he brought back with him.

“Thistle… Do you know anything about magic swords?”

He let out a snort. “Don’t insult me, human. Any sylph with half an education has studied alteration magic.” He grimaced. “Even if we can’t all make a living at it.”

Theodore went to the broom closet and retrieved his father’s broken sword. He set it down on the table in front of Thistle. “Can you tell me anything about this?”

It was like the air was sucked from the room. Thistle stared at the blade, all eyes stuck open. There was no smart remark, just a fearful silence.

“Are you okay?” Theodore said.

“This spell…” Thistle said. “It’s wrong. Dangerous.” His antennae twitched. “Hungry.”

Theodore hoped for more information than that. “Is it unsafe for you to examine?”

The sylph sneered at him. “I know what I’m doing! Just give me a moment.”

He hesitated, but reached out. He pulled away the moment he touched it, gasping, scrambling away and falling off the table onto the floor. “Get rid of it!” He said “Destroy it! Melt it down! It’s bane! Fey bane!!”

“What?” Theodore said.

“It’s a weapon to kill fairies, to tear our magic out! Why are you just standing there?! Cover it up!!”

Unsure of what to do, Theodore searched for something to cover the sword with. He found some canvas cloth in the cellar and wrapped it around the sword with rope. Only after this was done did Thistle work up the courage to get near it again.

 “Why do you have this? Where did it come from?”

“I found it in the Fairy Circle while looking for Oboe,” Theodore said.

“What?? Are you joking?! What was it doing there?”

 “…It was stabbed through the chest of a nymph,” Theodore said, wondering how dangerous this information was. “He said he was trapped like that for years.”

Thistle looked horrified. “That doesn’t make sense. A scratch from this thing should be fatal. Poisonous. Just being near it hurts. There has to be other spells on it too.”

“You aren’t sure?” Theodore said.

“Oh, I’m SORRY!” Thistle curled his upper lip. “Was that not helpful enough? How about you stick your hand in some boiling water and tell me what temperature it is! I’m not touching that thing again!”

Theodore weighed the sword in his hand, staring at his family’s crest on the pommel. “Could a fairy use this against another?”

Thistle folded his arms. “Not likely. The user would get weaker every moment they held onto it. Bad for a serious fight. No. I’d wager it was made for a human to use, and that’s a political scandal waiting to happen. Your old kings swore magic like this would never be woven again. Not that the word of a human is worth much. Still, you’d have to be a real sicko to use this thing on someone.”

The sword felt heavy. Theodore tightened his fist around it, growing angry. What was his father thinking, bringing this into the Fairy Circle? Was he trying to start a war? “I need to get to the bottom of this,” Theodore said. The University would be able to tell him more. They had the equipment to dissect the spell properly.

“Good,” Thistle said. “I hope you put the creep in their place.”

Theodore would’ve liked nothing more, but it was too late. Lance was long dead. The whole kingdom remembered the man as a hero, but this sword was proof of something Theodore knew all along. His father was a killer. Lance had broken the treaties and used illegal magic to harm a nymph but no one knew. It was an insult to an alliance as old as Laien itself. Theodore needed to do something. There needed to be some semblance of justice. It fell on him to find the truth.


Episode 6 Chapter 4

Oboe wasn’t used to wearing clothes. Any time she transformed she got snagged or tripped over her mantle. When she was ready to go to the Ranger Deputy office, she turned into a blue bird and got trapped underneath it. She was so used to shape shifting whenever she liked that it was weird to have to wrestle with a bunch of fabric.

She decided the only solution was to be a bigger bird, even if she loved being a songbird. She changed into a hawk and carried her mantle the whole way. It was hard to fly that way, but she scolded herself for thinking that. Having the mantle meant she finally had a family again. She ought to be grateful and proud. When she landed, she turned back into a faun and stuffed it back over her head.

Hand on the doorknob, she stopped. Grandmother wanted her sword back from Theo but it had to be kept a secret. Oboe didn’t like secrets. Secrets led to hurt feelings, and Theo was her friend, but if she didn’t do this grandmother would throw her away again and she’d never see her family again and her family was so wonderful, how had she gone so long without seeing them when being alone was the worst and she was scared about what she was even going to do when maybe Theo would—

The door opened, yanking Oboe inward by the hand.

“Oh!” Theo was standing on the other side, surprised. “There you are! I wasn’t sure you were coming today. I was just about to leave. Come inside! Thistle has been waiting all morning to see you.”

She blinked. “He has?”

“I told him you were fine, but he’s convinced I’m playing a mean trick.” Theo led her into the office. “She’s here!”

Thistle buzzed into the room from the kitchen and almost knocked a chair over.

“You’re alive!” He said, gaping. His eyes fixed on her mantle, and narrowed. “…Wait. Why are you wearing that? HOW are you wearing that?!”

Oboe’s ears were hot with embarrassment. “Um.”

He pointed at her. “Did you steal it? Tell me what’s going on!”

“Calm down.” Theo stepped between them. “There’s no need to shout. It’s good news! Oboe’s family accepted her back.”

Thistle made a face, the same face he made the time Oboe broke a whole shelf of bottles and tried to fib about it afterwards. “Is that so?”

“Y-yes,” she said. “Grandmother gave me my name back.”

He stared through her. “I see.”

Theo sighed. “Honestly. After all that anxiety, you could at least be happy to see her safe.” He shrugged, and turned to Oboe. “How are you holding up? This is a big change for you. There’s no need to rush back to work if you’re still adjusting.”

“No! I’m fine!” Oboe said, panicked. There was no way grandmother would wait. “Let me help! I want to help! What are you working on today?”

“Well, if you’re sure, then I have some errands to run in the city today,” Theo said. “It would be nice to have you along with me.”

“…What sort of errands?” If he was gone, maybe it would be better to stay behind.

Theo brought something from the other room, bundled up in cloth. Oboe felt her fur bristle as he brought it close. “You remember this, right?” He opened it to show her. A broken sword, just like Bassoon said. Something about it smelled wrong. Like rotting meat, but clean like stinging soap. It frightened her. If she had seen it before, she hadn’t noticed. There was too much going on then.

“I found it in the Circle. Thistle says it has an illegal spell on it. I made an appointment at the University to have it looked at.”

Would grandmother be mad if he did that? “Why? If it’s bad, you should get rid of it. I can get rid of it for you!”

Theo’s face went grim. “It’s not that simple. A nymph was stabbed through the chest with it. He was trapped, suffering like that for years.” He adjusted his glasses. “The thing is, I already know who this sword belonged to.”

“You do?” Oboe said, fidgeting.

He showed her the grabby end of the sword. There was a little thundercloud on it. “My father.”

“Your dad, huh?” Thistle said. “Must’ve been a real piece of work.”

Oboe was confused. “What? Your father? Why would he do that?”

“I don’t know.” Theo covered the sword up again. “I know my father took it with him before he died. No one knows what happened to him, but it bothers me knowing he did something this awful to a fairy.” He looked down. “I have to find out why. People should know the truth about what he did.”

“That, uh, that sounds really boring!” Oboe said. She felt bad, but she needed to get the sword away from him, but that would be impossible if he was doing a whole big adventure mystery about it. “We should do something else!”

A laugh crept into Theo’s glum face. “I suppose you’re right. It’s going to be a lot of researching dusty records and talking to academics.” He smiled. “Okay, how about this. I already made my appointments, but I can do the rest some other day. Let’s get my boring stuff out of the way, and then we go do something fun. My treat.”

Oboe was shocked. He was eager to spend time with her. This was so different from before. “I… I don’t know.” She looked at the sword. Why was Theo making this so hard? How long was grandmother going to wait?

“Come on,” Theo said. “There’s all sorts of fun things to do in the city! Did you know that the university library has more than twenty-thousand books? Or, oh! They opened a new stationary store in the plaza. I’ll let you pick. Anything you want.”

It was weird to see him so excited. “…Wouldn’t you rather just stay here, and like, go help squirrels all day?”

He shook his head. “All that can wait. You have your name back. That’s a big deal. I think that calls for a celebration.”

Oboe felt her heart melt a little. “That’s… so sweet.” She swallowed. “Okay. I’ll go with you.”

“Then its decided.” Theo slung the bundle over his shoulder and opened the door. “Let’s go.”

Before Oboe could join him, Thistle jumped off his perch and grabbed Oboe by the hand.

“We need to talk.”

Theo looked back, concerned. “Is something wrong?”

“This is fairy business!” Thistle ran up and slammed the door in Theo’s face. “Stay out of it!”


Episode 6 Chapter 5

Thistle led Oboe by the wrist into the kitchen.

“Explain to me what’s going on,” Thistle said. “No fibs. No jokes. Why are you wearing that thing?” He tugged at her mantle. “Did you steal it? They’ll kill you for wearing a family name!”

“Thistle, please.” She pulled her mantle free from his grip. “What Theo said is true! Grandmother gave me my name back!”

“No.” His face squeezed like a fist. “That’s not how the Circle works, and that’s not how the Fair Lady works. The truth, child! Tell me what’s actually going on!”

Oboe glanced at the door, wondering what was safe to say. “Grandmother said she was impressed with me. She likes how I got a job here, and that whole transforming the prince thing too. Did I tell you about that? I figured she’d be mad, but she wasn’t! Anyway, she was so proud that she said I could have my name back if I did her favors.”

Thistle’s mouth flexed to enunciate each word. “What… sort… of favors?”

“Little stuff! Normal stuff!” Oboe forced a smile. “Like, I give Theo ideas on what to do! Or, like, I help some fairies get visas who wouldn’t normally be allowed. Maybe she wants me to steal that sword? I don’t know! Normal grandma stuff!”

Thistle’s antennae twitched. “There it is. I see now.” He heaved a sigh. “Can you bend down for a moment?”

Nervous, Oboe squatted. Thistle looked her in the eye.

“You need to get rid of that mantle.” His tone was calm. It was strange for Thistle. “You need to cut all ties to the Circle. Forget any of this happened.”

“What?” Oboe said. “I can’t do that! I just got to see my family! I can’t lose them again!”

“That family abandoned you,” Thistle said.

“They didn’t have a choice!” Oboe said, angry. “They’re still my family! The only one I got!”

“Do you think the Fair Lady cares about you? This is Circle politics! She’s just using you!”

Oboe stood back up. “Maybe I want to be used! Did you think of that?!” She took a deep, heated breath. “I live every day knowing I’m worthless. I know I don’t matter! I’m sick of it! I want to belong. I want my family. I want to be useful! Grandmother doesn’t have to love me, she just needs to give me what I want.”

Thistle began to shake. “You don’t need her. Don’t make my mistakes. Get out before she makes you do something you regret the rest of your life.” His voice dropped to a hush. “She’s wicked!”

“All of us are wicked.” Oboe said.

“Not you!” Thistle shouted. “I know you! You aren’t like that! I forbid you to have anything to do with her!”

Oboe hopped into a wide stance. “Don’t tell me what to do! You’re not my family! You don’t even LIKE me! You just put up with me before because you felt sorry for me! Well, I don’t need your pity! Grandmother says I should take what I want, and what I want is my family!”

The old sylph made a noise, somewhere between a choke and a grunt. He tried to say something, but wrestled with it until he snapped. “Fine!” He said. “If you want to be a stupid idiot, that’s your life!”

“That’s right! And if you don’t like it, you can stay out of it!”

A stone silence fell between them. They glared at one another, anger cooling to resentment. Thistle looked at the door.

“Are you going to tell him about all this?” Thistle said.

Oboe stopped. She reached into her muddy feelings. “…He doesn’t have to know.” She said. It would be better that way. “Why? Are you going to tell on me?”

He looked away. “I guess not.”

Oboe marched out of the room and to the front door. She wasn’t going to be ashamed anymore. She didn’t like lying to Theo, but if that’s what it took then that is what she was going to do. She held her head high, and pushed her fear aside. She pulled the door and walked outside.


Episode 6 Chapter 6

“You want monsters to defile the Mother’s sanctuary?!”

Theo sighed. This was the third cathedral he had brought them to, and this human in funny white robes was even angrier than the first two. Oboe was glad she didn’t have to wait outside this time, though. Human temples were interesting, with all their colored glass, domed ceilings, bells, and the big round table. It wasn’t as nice as the ones in the Fairy Circle, but it was still pretty.

 “They aren’t monsters,” Theo said. “They’re citizens of Laien, same as us. Plenty of ghasts worship the Mother of Magic. Barghest and Lola are a sweet couple, and they just want a blessed wedding like you perform all the time. As the Ranger Deputy, I vouch for them.”

Oboe knew there was nothing she could do to help. Bickering humans didn’t like hearing the opinions of fairies. She stepped back to get out of the way, and watched the argument.

“I’m sorry. I have a responsibility to my parish. Even if you trust these creatures, I cannot risk a ghast placing a hex on this sacred place. Find someplace else.”

“I told you they’re harmless!” Theo said. “Please listen to me!”

The human priest held his hand up. “I’ve made my decision. Now if you’ve any respect for the Mother, you’ll take your fairy and leave this place.”

Theo stormed out the cathedral doors. Oboe tried to keep up, her hands wrapped tight around the canvas bag containing the sword. She could feel it pulling at her magic, tearing. It left her feeling tired, even sick.

“Wait!” She was already out of breath. Theo stopped, and she sat on the steps of the temple. “What’re you going to do now?”

Theo covered his face. “I don’t know. That was the last chapel that was willing to see me today.” He pulled out his notes and crossed something off the list. “There has to be a chapel somewhere in the capital that will host the wedding.” He shook his head. “I don’t think I’m going to make any progress on this today.”

Oboe stood up. “Where are we going next?”

Theo’s smile came back. “Where would you like to go?” He stuck his notes back in his pocket. “You still haven’t told how you want us to celebrate.”

She looked down the hill, overlooking the sprawl of shopping arcades and garden parks. A week ago, she would’ve been excited to explore. Now all she wanted was to bring this awful sword home so she could spend time with her brothers and sisters.

“Don’t worry about me,” She said. “You should get your errands done.”

“We have plenty of time,” Theodore said. “Don’t be like that.”

She stomped her hoof. “I said don’t worry about it!” Why were humans always so stubborn? “You have a job to do—“

Her throat seized, and she doubled over in a coughing fit. She slumped against the stairs, feeling faint. Theo bent down, looking concerned.

“You should let me carry the sword,” he said. “It’s making you sick.”

“No!!” Oboe said, stifling a groan. She got back onto wobbling hooves. “I can handle it! It’s fine!”

Theo steadied her. “It’s not fine. Thistle said that thing is poison for fairies. I can hold it without any side effect. You don’t need to do this.”

Oboe didn’t want to let it out of her hands. What if it disappeared? Grandmother would take her name away again. Oboe would rather die than go back to that life.

“Stop it! Let me do my job!” She said, surprised by the anger in her own voice. “I’m your assistant, right? That means I need to help you! I’m carrying the sword!!”

Theo frowned. He looked hurt, and it made Oboe feel guilty. “Okay,” he said, backing off. “But don’t be afraid to let me help. Being my assistant doesn’t mean you should suffer.”

Why did he have to be so nice all the time? Humans were always so awful and mean. It wasn’t fair that she had to keep secrets from the only good one. She clutched the sword tight to her chest. “Can we just get back to work? We’re wasting time.” She wanted this trip to be over with.

Theo checked his pocket watch. “Well. It’s a bit early for the appointment, but I suppose we can go ahead and get the sword analyzed. Maybe it’d be for the best. I think it’s affecting your mood.”

“Yeah,” she said, staring at her knees. “Probably.”

The trolley rolled into the station as they arrived. Oboe wondered how long the visit to the university would take, and when she would get to go home.


Episode 6 Chapter 7

Cogs twitched as Enchantment Studies Adjunct Kirkwin Millstone placed the sword inside the machine. The lenses convulsed before he had a chance to run a current through the apparatus.

“Peculiar,” Kirkwin said. “It must be carrying a very dense thaumaturgical charge.”

Oboe leaned inside the contraption to watch as mirrors rotated into place. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“He means the sword is overfilled with magic,” Theodore said. “Some of it is bleeding off.” He helped Kirkwin attach the heavy fuel canister to the scrying spectrometer. The device lit up like a starry night. Kirkwin shuttered the laboratory windows and dimmed the lantern. The sword’s reflection in the mirrors was bright, rippling with color.

Kirkwin fiddled with levers. “I don’t know if I can read this spell aura. It’s too complex. Let me apply a filter.” One of the mirrors shifted. The sword’s reflection turned a deep black, a silhouette cut through the world. It stood out against the dark as if it were beyond black. A void. Oboe covered her eyes.

“This is the bottom,” Kirkwin said. “It’s a vorpal enchantment. A death curse!” He rubbed his eyes, and laughed. “I never imagined I’d see one in person. They’re next to impossible to make. You need dragon’s blood and worse to make it work.”

Theodore found it hard to tear his eyes away from it. If anyone was capable of getting ahold of dragon’s blood, it was his father. “What does it do, exactly?”

“Well, it’s not well studied, but the leading theory is it neutralizes the thaum vibrations inside a body. Harmless to any human that isn’t actively casting a spell, but the smallest cut from this thing would be a death sentence for a creature born of magic. I could write a whole doctorate thesis on this if it weren’t outlawed!”

“It hurts!” Oboe said. “Make it stop! Turn it off!”

“Let’s change the filters.” Kirkwin adjusted the dials, and the reflection shifted to a noise of random colors. “Better?”

Oboe nodded.

“This part I don’t understand,” Kirkwin said. “On top of the vorpal spell is just… gibberish. Layers and layers of just nonsense aura hues clumped together.” He scribbled down notes. “It’s like a thousand-page book of scrambled letters and numbers. It doesn’t make any sense. The death curse can’t work when it’s buried under all this garbage.”

“Why would anyone do this?” Theodore said.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Kirkwin said. “It’s too much magic to be an accident, but it’s not stable either. It’s all leaking off where the tip is broken.”

A few more clicks and switch pulls, and the machine hummed down to silence. Oboe rushed to throw the windows open and let the light in again. “Can we go home now?” She said.

Theodore ignored her. “I found the sword stabbed through a fairy,” he said. “How would this combination of spells affect them?”

“Found?” Kirkwin blinked. “They were impaled with it? For how long?”

“Years,” Theodore said.

Kirkwin dropped his quill, shaken. “No. That… The junk magic would stop the vorpal spell from working fully, but not completely. It would account for how they could survive, but every moment would be torture. Just killing the victim would be far more humane.”

Theodore had never imagined his father was so cruel. It made his blood boil. “I need you to write a formal report detailing what you found. People need to know Lance Grayweather did this.”

“Is that wise, Deputy?” Kirkwin said. “This is troubling, to say the least, but the Hero Champion is a national icon. A hero! This will sour the people’s memory of your father.”

Theodore narrowed his eyes. “There’s no excuse for this. Being a hero means he should be accountable for his actions! I can’t just ignore this.”

Oboe covered the sword in canvas again. “Theo, I don’t like this. He’s your dad! Maybe he just made a mistake. You should forgive him.”

Theodore shook his head. “Have you been listening? This weapon is monstrous! My father probably didn’t even care how that nymph suffered.” He marched up to the window and looked out toward the Bureaucracy Dome, the Laien flag billowing in the wind on its tip. “It’s not right that we celebrate a man like that. We need to tell the governor about this.”


Episode 6 Chapter 8

Oboe’s legs shook as she pushed herself to climb the stairs to the big dome. She leaned against the rail, out of breath.

“Wait,” she said. “Theo!”

Theo looked back, already at the entrance. He hurried back down with a worried look.

“You look terrible,” He said. She wished he would shut up. “I knew I should’ve carried the sword.”

“I’m fine!” Oboe said, wincing. “Just give me a couple minutes, okay?”

Theo took the sword from her hands. She didn’t have the strength to resist. Relief washed over her the moment it left her grasp.

“You should rest,” he said. It made her mad how nice he was being. “I’ll report what we found. You just wait out here until you feel better, okay?”

She made a grab for the sword but he pulled away. “No!” She slumped across the steps. “I want to help!”

“I’ll be right back!” He called from the top, and disappeared inside.

Oboe rested her cheek on the cold concrete and contemplated how she hated this particular set of stairs more than anything else in the universe. Humans stepped around her until she mustered the energy to roll off to the side and sit up.

She was bad at this. Theo was going to give the sword away to some big important human and then grandmother was going to be furious. What was she supposed to do? She tried telling Theo the sword was boring, but Theo was too bent out of shape about his dad to listen.

Oboe’s felt a chill. She looked up. A raven was watching, perched high on a lamp post across the street with eyes fixed square on her. It pointed its beak towards an alleyway.

Legs aching, Oboe raced down the stairs like a drum roll and stepped into the dark, empty alley.

“You let him take the sword,” grandmother said, looming from a windowsill.

A second Whisper joined them, lighting on a high wall, identical to the first. “You are wasting time.”

Another landed behind Oboe, blocking the way out. “I have been so generous with you, child. Do you mean to insult me by playing games?”

They were all around. It scared Oboe how they all spoke with the same voice. How many were there? How was it even possible for there to be more than one?

“I’m sorry!” Oboe said. “I’m trying! I don’t know what to do!”

The Whispers shook their wings. “You are a fairy! You are cunning. You are deceit. Unless you are worthless, you are born with all you need.”

“Okay, but—“ Oboe wrinkled her forehead. “…That sword is important to Theo. Taking it away would be mean! We should wait until he’s done with it. That way everyone can be happy.”

The three Whispers exchanged baffled glances before snapping their attention back to Oboe.

“Was it a mistake to trust you with a task so important?” said the first.

“Did I err to see some mote of worth in you?” said the second.

“Mistakes can be fixed,” said the third. “I gave you this chance thinking you could serve a use. If that is not so, then you have no use of your name.”

“No!” Oboe wheeled around. “You can’t! I just got it back! I don’t want to be nameless again!”

“Then show me you are worth keeping,” Grandmother said. “Prove to me you are worth something. Bring me the sword! Or else I will send someone who can.”

“I can do it!” Oboe said. “Just give me more time!”

“Yes.” A shiver ran down Oboe’s spine as a beak brushed past her cheek. One of Whispers had crept up behind her ear without her noticing. “He trusts you. I can see it. You need only act the part.”

The other two took to the air, leaving only one Whisper digging talons into her shoulder.

“You cannot afford to disappoint me.”


Episode 6 Chapter 9

Theodore planted his father’s sword on the desk of Governor Farbend and slammed the laboratory analysis down beside it.

“Read this,” he said.

Gregory Farbend shot him a skeptical look. He flipped through the report. “This is a lot of big words for an old man, Grayweather. I have things to do today. Do you want to just tell me why you’re bringing a weapon into my office again?”

Theodore leaned over the desk. “I found this sword in the Fairy Circle. It has a spell on it, an illegal fey killing spell. It was brought there by an assassin.” He took the sword, hilt up, and pointed his family crest at the Governor. “My father.”

The pages fell limp in Mr. Farbend’s hand. “What? Is this some sort of joke?”

“No.” Theodore smiled despite himself. “I discovered it in a deep, forgotten fold of the Fairy Court. It was plunged through the body of a helpless nymph. He was still alive, tortured by the magic in this sword. The Hero Champion was responsible.”

The governor’s mustache bristled. “That…” He searched through the report, as if looking for some other answer. “Ridiculous. Lance would not do that! Not without good reason.” He looked up. “Where is this nymph now?”

Theodore’s smile vanished. “He’s… dead. When I removed the sword, he perished.” He clenched the sword tighter. “The spell killed him.”

“Good,” Farbend said. “That simplifies things.”


“This could’ve started a revolt.” The governor sat back. “If there’s no witness, we can carry on.”

“Carry on?!” Theodore said. “This proves the Hero Champion was a criminal! You want us to act like nothing happened?!”

He sighed. “The people remember Lance. He drove back the Korvelian military and brought an end to the North Manor raids. He stopped the Black Candle riots.” The Governor chopped a hand through the air. “He talked a dragon down from attacking our villages! He is a national icon! I knew him. He was a good man.” Farbend glared, his eyes electric. “Whatever possessed him to do this, I know it was for the good of everyone in Laien.”

“No!” Theodore’s fingers curled stiff like hooks. “You can’t keep doing this! Laws have been broken! He killed a creature! The facts are here, right in front of you! We need to hold people accountable! You can’t just ignore the law!”

The governor stood up, his girth a wall. “The law exists to serve the people, not the other way around. What good would it do anyone if we brought this to light? There would be a scandal. The people would lose a hero, a man who inspired countless people. Our alliance with the Whirlwood Fairy Circle would be tested. An alliance, need I remind you, which grants us the privilege to harvest magic from the Fount.” Farbend shook his head. “You would have us risk that. For what? To punish a man who’s already dead? Are you mad?”

“Look at the report!” Theodore pointed. “Look at what he did!”

“There is no need.” Mr. Farbend dropped the report into desk drawer and locked it shut. He corrected his posture. “The crown trusts the Hero Champion to make decisions that are beyond the letter of the law. Whatever Lance’s intentions were, it’s been six years since he died. He left us safe and prosperous. Any crime he committed had no consequence for us.”

“What about the fairies?” Theodore said. “Do they not matter? We’re sworn to protect them and we’ve wronged them!”

“There has been no complaint,” he said. “Either the Fair Lady does not know this happened, or, more likely, she was wise enough not to let this destroy a partnership that has lasted generations. It is better we do not push our luck.”

Theodore couldn’t stand the calm in the old man’s face. “You’re saying we should ignore this injustice.”

“I’m saying our priority is to insure peace and happiness for everyone. Dragging this secret into the light can only cause strife. Is that what you want?”


“Good.” The governor took the sword and shoved it back into Theodore’s hands. “Then get rid of this thing. Stop investigating. I can’t risk you pulling the dragon’s teeth on this one. There’s too much we stand to lose. Do you understand that?”

Theodor’s grip on the sword slackened. There was truth in what Mr. Farbend was saying. There was no telling what kind of damage this investigation could cause. Theodore looked down.

“Leave the weapon with my secretary,” Mr. Farbend said. “I’ll have her take it to Agent Records, where we’ll be sure it won’t cause any more trouble, alright?”

Theodore nodded, his neck feeling like it was ready to lock in place. “Yes, sir.”

He turned away and reached for the door, pausing when he saw the ring on his finger. It felt tight. The laws were made for a reason. What good were they if they could be thrown away out of convenience? Was it right to take advantage of the Fair Lady’s prudence if it meant her people were wronged? How many times before had creatures suffered because the law had not been held? How many of those creatures had become Red Caps?

Theodore let the door swing shut behind him. He marched past the secretary’s desk without looking back. The governor was not going to do anything. It was a mistake to come here, to think it would be any different than before. He made a sharp turn down the hall, sword in hand, his stride gaining speed. There was no way sealing the truth away in a vault was the right thing to do. Nothing would change. All the same problems would go on and on forever.

He crossed Oboe in the stairwell, who must’ve decided to catch up to him.

“Theo!” She said, startled. “What’s going on?”

“We’re leaving!” Theodore said, storming down past her.


Episode 6 Chapter 10

“Is that him?”

Oboe stopped in front of that awful statue. The king had erected the tacky, overblown bronze figure of Theodore’s father right in the center of Park Square. The Hero Champion was thrusting a sword to the heavens with a pompous scowl, standing atop a marble fountain. When Theodore still worked in the city, he made a point to take the long way to the Bureaucracy Dome to avoid looking at it.

“He looks a lot like you,” Oboe said. “Well, if you had muscles and were made out of metal.”

Theodore sighed. The pointy nose was probably what gave it away. “Yes. That is Lance Grayweather. Hero Champion of all Laien, and beloved murderer. He’s the man we’re investigating.”

“But he’s your dad too, right?” Oboe said. “He looks nice.”

There was no accounting for taste. “It doesn’t matter what he looks like. He was rotten on the inside.” Theodore folded his arms. “No one can shut up about how amazing he was. I wish they all knew the truth.”

Oboe’s ears flicked wild, her eyes tense. “Theo, he’s your father. He’s family. I know you hate him. Why do you have to make everyone else hate him too?”

“Why?” Theodore wanted to laugh. “Do you understand what he did to that nymph? The man was a monster!”

“…Maybe he had a good reason,” Oboe said.

“No!” Theodore said. “You can’t justify cruelty like that! I always knew he was a killer, but this… I can’t believe he wanted to make me like him.”

Oboe sat on the edge of the fountain. “He tried to make you a knight. You make a good one. Is that so bad?”

“Yes! I…” Theodore stopped. He was getting too heated. He tried his best to calm down. There was no reason to shout at his friend. He exhaled. “…You don’t understand. When I was a child, my father never left me alone. Every day he forced me to learn how to fight and to kill. He tried to make me into something I wasn’t. I hated it.”

She clutched the sword a bit tighter. “Well, at least he spent time with you! You should be happy. He must’ve cared a lot.”

Theodore scoffed. “The only thing Lance cared about was his legacy. That’s the only reason I mattered to him. He was awful! Before I could read, he was dragging me off to dangerous places! He killed creatures right in front of me! I’m sick of everyone celebrating him!” He thrust a finger at the statue. “People should remember the truth, not this farce!”

Oboe hopped onto her hooves with new energy. “Even if he did bad things, he’s still your family! If he spent time with you and trained you, I think that means he loved you. He saw something special in you. Having someone like that sounds wonderful. Why do you want people to hate him? It sounds like you’re the one who’s being awful.”

“This isn’t about me!” He said. “If Lance was a criminal, there needs to be consequences.”

Her lips tightened. “But it’s okay that we tried to help Percy?”

Theodore felt like he’d had the wind knocked out of him. Oboe watched him, waiting for a response he struggled to find.

“This is different,” he said. “Doesn’t it bother you that he was killing creatures? What if he had gone after a member of your family? How would that make you feel?”

Oboe slouched and Theodore gained some ground. He went on. “The Fairy Circle has been a loyal ally to the kingdom. If my father had a reason for what he did, I don’t see it. If my family wronged your people, I owe it to you to find out and set things right.”

“I didn’t ask you to fix this!” Oboe said. “It doesn’t matter anymore! Your boss told you to stop! But you won’t!! You’re not even trying to think about why your dad did it! Making everyone hate your dad isn’t going to make anything better. You just want to be mad!”

Her anger startled him. He lowered his eyes, searching his feelings. “I just…” He didn’t know how to finish that sentence. He fell back into a park bench, and buried his face in his palms. A shudder rolled through him and he wet his palms with tears. “…Maybe you’re right.” He looked up. “I don’t know. Oboe, I feel like my father crossed a line. Maybe I’m being stupid, but I feel like what he did goes beyond my problems with him. A betrayal of basic decency.” He took a deep breath. “Oboe, you’re outside my head. Am I really in the wrong here? I need you to help me look at this right.”

Oboe hesitated. Something was changing in her expression. Her scowl softened into something uncertain. She tightened her grip on the sword bag. Her eyes hardened.

“This is more about you than him. You need to stop. Let it go.”

“But…” No. She was right. Once again Oboe was thinking clearly while he was letting his emotions cloud his judgement. He needed to trust her. He exhaled. “Okay.”

She stepped back, glancing off. “I’m going to get rid of this,” she fixed her grip on the sword. “It’s making you upset.”

He wanted to argue, to get back up and shout about his father’s crimes. He pushed those thoughts aside. It was misplaced anger and it was time to get over it. “Alright.”

Like that, the argument was over. Oboe gave him a nod and walked away with the sword, leaving Theodore with a painful knot of feelings to untangle.