Episode 5 Chapter 12

Theodore followed Thistle. He flew through the cave into a honeycomb chamber. The walls and floor were covered with a soft, moldering wax here. It was less cluttered, perhaps because the room saw more traffic. There was a bare mattress on the floor and a workbench jumbled with tools. Shelves were crammed to overflowing with corked bottles of ingredients. The air was spicy from the scent of hanging herbs: mustard, saffron, frankincense, and a sour tinge of rot.

“How long has Oboe been gone?” Thistle’s tone was accusatory.

“About four days,” Theodore said.

He cringed. “Devil damn you, human! You should have told me the moment it happened! They’ve probably already killed her!” He chewed his finger-pincers, hovering. “No. I can’t think like that. There’s still hope. They might still be torturing her.”

Theodore did a double take. “Torture?!” He grabbed Thistle out of the air. “What’s going on?! Why do the fairies want to hurt Oboe!?”

Thistle shoved Theodore out of his face. “It’s like this: when Oboe was just a kid, she transformed a human. That ticked the Fair Lady off. Said she’d kill Oboe if she ever did it again.”

Theodore stared a moment before setting Thistle down on a work bench. “That’s why she’s nameless.”

“Oh, did you figure that part out?” Thistle grimaced. “She was worried you would.”

“What does being a nameless mean?” Theodore said. “I understand she’s an outcast, but isn’t her name Oboe?”

“It means they took her family name, nitwit.” Thistle rolled all four of his eyes. “She used to be part of the Woodwind family. I don’t know about humans, but with fairies having your name taken is a big deal. Any creature that gives a damn about the Fairy Circle, and that’s near everybody, is going to shun you. Oboe was just a kid when it happened to her. She’s had a complex about it ever since.”

Looking back, that explained a lot. Theodore never understood how someone so friendly could also be so lonely. “Why would the fairies punish a child so severely? That’s… monstrous.”

“Hey! Watch it!” Thistle jabbed him in the stomach. “I don’t go to your house and tell humans how corrupt their government is!” He paused. “But to answer your question, the Whirlwood Circle is run by monsters and hypocrites.”

Theodore rubbed at his headache. “What do I need to do to help Oboe?”

The old sylph wrung his hands, thinking. “Okay. Here’s the plan.”


Thistle hesitated. “You’re going to go to the Circle, and then you’re going to tell them to let Oboe go.”

“That’s it?” Theodore said, unconvinced. “Just, let her go?”

Thistle threw his arms in the air. “I don’t know! You’re the Ranger Deputy, aren’t you? The treaties say they have to listen to you! Do you have a better idea?”

Theodore had to admit he did not. “Alright,” He said. “I’ll try. How do I find the Fairy Circle? Is it in the Whirlwood?”

“You don’t know?!” Thistle buried his face in all four of his hands. “Yes, it’s in the valley!! Obviously! How do you not know? Why did they hire you?”

It was something Theodore wondered himself most days. “I’ve lived here for months, but I’ve never even seen the Fairy Circle.”

Thistle growled. “Of course you haven’t seen it. It’s in folded space. You can’t get there unless you know how to find it.”

“Folded space?” Theodore said. “What are you talking about?”

The sylph’s face froze in contempt. He scuttled off the table and tore through kitchen drawers, throwing the contents aside, until he found a pencil and paper.

“Short version.” He placed the parchment on the table. “This is the valley.” He drew a circle. “This is the fairy circle. You following me so far, genius?”

Theodore nodded, trying to stay patient. “Yes.”

Thistle folded the paper into a crane.

“There. Do you still see the circle?”

“No? I don’t.”

“There. That’s why you haven’t seen the Circle. The magic has the space all folded up.” He straightened the crane back into parchment and began scribbling on it. “Keeps humans and other unwanteds out. You can only see the seams if you’re magic. Since you’re a worthless human, I’m going to have to give you step by step instructions.” He shoved a numbered list into Theodore’s hand. “Do exactly what this says or it won’t work.”

“Wait,” Theodore said. “Aren’t you coming with me?”

Thistle grimaced. “I can’t go back to the Circle.” His face softened. “They don’t take kindly to anyone who’s sheltered a nameless. You’ll be safer if you go alone.”

Theodore placed the note in his pocket. He was starting to understand why Thistle was Oboe’s best friend. “Thank you.”

“Wait, before you go!” Thistle buzzed off, digging through rubbish piles. He pulled out a spool of thread and hurried back. “Hold this.”

Theodore held the spool while Thistle took the loose end. He snipped a length off the end with his pincers. The thread on the spool turned golden.

“There. I’ve enchanted it,” Thistle said. “If you get lost, and you’re going to get lost, pull on your end of the string. I’ve got the other end, so it’ll show you how to get here no matter where you are.” He pulled on his pincers. “Be careful while you’re there. Don’t trust anyone. Circle Fairies are the worst.”

“Understood,” Theodore said.

“And…” Thistle’s expression grew heavy. “Listen, if Oboe’s still alive, if the Fair Lady doesn’t listen to you, just grab her and run. I don’t care what you have to do.” He looked away. “If you get there, and she’s already dead, don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear it.” He closed his eyes. “I’m old. I won’t be able to take it.”

Theodore was taken aback. “Thistle…”

His eyes snapped open and like that he was angry again. “What are you still doing here, idiot? Get out of here! Go and find Oboe!”

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