Oboe was confused by what happened and how. After days in dungeons, after admitting to all her wrongdoing, she was let go like nothing happened.
The humans were always so stuck on their rules and rituals. They spent hours yelling at her, questioning her, making her fill out paperwork. But then Percy decided everything was okay and that was enough for all the other humans to stop.
Oboe was let go. Theo was let go. The crowd wandered off. The knights walked away, taking Percy home to the castle. It didn’t feel real. No one cared that everything was wrong.
“I can’t believe we survived that,” Theo said.
Oboe agreed, but said nothing. She did not feel like talking. Theo presented their papers to the gate guards and once again they were home in Whirlwood.
Theo tried again to break the silence. “Are you okay?”
Oboe just kept walking.
He looked uncomfortable. He searched for something else to say. “You’ve gotten bigger. Taller. Your horns have grown. It’s because you enchanted the prince? It made you more powerful?”
“Yeah,” she admitted. The shame hurt like an open wound.
“You reversed the enchantment,” he said. “…Doesn’t that mean you lost the Fates you gained from him?”
She twisted her fingers together. Theo was smart about a lot of things but dumb about how fairies worked. “His life has changed. That’s what fairy magic wants. He chose a Fate. Undoing the spell doesn’t matter now. He changed in a way that’s deeper than magic.”
“I see. I guess this turned out good for you then.”
Oboe stopped. It took Theo a moment to notice.
“Theo…”Oboe said. “You made Percy come back. Why’d you do that?”
Theodore turned to look back at her. He seemed to struggle to answer. “There’s… Well, there’s a lot of reasons.” He looked down. “…A big one is that I didn’t want you to die.”
She stomped her hoof. “That shouldn’t matter! I did something wicked! It doesn’t matter what the prince said. You can’t treat me any different than the other fairies! It’s not right!”
He grimaced. “You’re not just any other fairy, Oboe! You’re my friend!”
Oboe felt the old pain well up inside her and fill her whole body. She clutched her face and choked back tears. “I don’t deserve to be your friend! I don’t deserve to be anyone’s friend! I’m awful! I’m wicked!”
“Stop it! That’s not true!” Theo shouted.
“How do you know I didn’t seek you out because I wanted to enchant you? How can you know I won’t do it the future?”
“Because I know you.” Theo said. “I trust you!”
He reached out to comfort her. She pulled away.
“Maybe you shouldn’t! I’m supposed to control myself but I didn’t! I enchanted a human! And…” She pulled at her mane. “It felt good. I felt wonderful! That means I’m wicked! Evil!”
“You’re being ridiculous!” Theo said, trying to keep up as she retreated from him. “Everything’s fixed now. You need to calm down!”
“I’m not ridiculous!!” she said. “Nothing is fixed! Percy has to go back to being miserable and I wasn’t punished! Everything is wrong!” She threw a rock at him and missed.
Theo backed off, alarmed. Oboe’s breathing was heavy, deliberate. She felt dirty, like a billion baths would never clean her. She’d broken her promise to grandmother and lost her chance to make up for it.
If the humans wouldn’t punish her, she would have to go home.
“Theo. I can’t be your assistant anymore.”
“What?” He blinked. “Why?”
Oboe turned into a bird and, before Theo could stop her, she flew away.