Oboe sobbed into her bedding until she ran out of tears. Why did Theo have to find her? He had looked so worried when she threw him out. She didn’t deserve a friend like him. She was a monster, rotten and wicked. Breaking her promise to grandmother proved it. She lost control of her magic and needed to be punished. She was worse than Silas. She was worse than the grossest, most evil, slime covered slug.
Her misery stiffened into anger. Why hadn’t grandmother killed her yet? It had been days and days, but nothing had happened. Serving sylphs came with trays of sweet cakes, grapes, and sliced mango from across the sea. A cleaning pooka fluffed the pillows and changed the sheets. Not a single executioner had come by to say hello and it was starting to make Oboe mad. How long was she supposed to wait?
She pushed herself off the cushion and kicked the door open. “Oh no!! Looks like I’m escaping! I hope nobody stops me!!”
The fury squatting outside her room didn’t care. He glanced at Oboe, then went back to staring off into space.
“Hey!!” Oboe said. “Are you going to do something or not?!”
The spriggan shrugged. “My job is to keep this room safe. Do whatever you want.”
Oboe grabbed her mane and screamed with her mouth shut. She stomped down the stairs and began bursting into random doorways, startling maids and Titled fairies, until she found grandmother.
“Why are you torturing me?!” Oboe said. “Just kill me already!!”
Bassoon turned toward Oboe. She was standing in a warm solarium, surrounded by wide windows looking out into the bright green sky. Next to grandmother was a startled human in a funny looking uniform.
“There you are,” grandmother said. “I was wondering when you would come.”
“What is this?” The human said. He had a bushy black mustache and a sword on his hip. “You say we are secret, and others are barging in upon us!”
“Um.” Oboe wasn’t sure what she had walked in on.
Bassoon waved her hand. “This is nothing for you to worry about, Crantor. It is only one of my daughters. Pardon us, would you?”
“Your daughter says such things?” He shook his head. “I am never understanding this country. Yes, as you say. We will speak later.” He pounded his chest with a fist and marched from the room.
The door clicked shut and Oboe was alone with her grandmother. The elder faun stepped closer. She towered over Oboe, seeming somehow even taller than on that day at the Tournament of Titles. Oboe felt shaky standing in front of the Fair Lady after so many years, but she couldn’t let herself be scared. It was time to face reality. Puffing out her chest, she looked her grandmother in the eye.
“I was weak,” she said. “I promised you I would never use my magic on a human, but it happened again. You gave me a second chance, and I blew it. I’m wicked.” Oboe got down on her knees. “Please don’t make me wait any longer. I’m ready to die.”
There was a heavy silence, broken by a weary groan from grandmother.
“Do you think it noble to lie down and die?” Her voice harsher than before. “Pathetic. Get on your hooves, you’re making me sick.”
“…Huh?” Oboe said.
“If I had wanted you dead, you’d be dead. I have lived long enough to know better than to squander talent or opportunity.” She helped Oboe to stand. “You, my child, are worth keeping alive.”
“What are you talking about?” Oboe said.
Grandmother drifted toward one of the many windows and opened it. “I’ve been watching you.” She reached out. A raven appeared and lighted on her wrist. “I must admit that I am impressed.”
She turned. Grandmother and the raven both watched her, their heads tilted at the same angle.
“I stripped you of your name and banished you from the circle. Worse than that, I forbid you to work your magic on pain of death.” She stroked the raven’s head with a finger. “Most in your place choose to kill themselves. You did not.” She drew closer. “Here you are, stunted but grown. A weed thriving. Alive! No, more than that. You made yourself the right hand of the Ranger Deputy. You enchanted the crowned prince and got away with it. You stole my prize out from under me, and I could nothing but watch.”
“What prize?” Oboe shook her head. “I didn’t steal anything!”
Grandmother opened her hand. The raven crawled into her palm, melding into the flesh, joining her body and shrinking away into nothing. She curled her fingers.
“Oh, but you did. I had been working for months to secret Prince Perceval away. Right on the cusp of my victory, you snatched his fates for yourself. You enchanted him, but not only that, he pardoned you for the crime!” She savored a chuckle. “Bravo, my daughter. Bravo.”
Oboe stepped back, her jaw slack. “What?” Were her ears broken? “You were trying to enchant Percy? That’s… No. You’re joking. That can’t be true.”
Bassoon smirked. “And Why not?”
“You aren’t wicked! You’re the Fair Lady! You’re the most important fey creature in Laien! You made me nameless because I hurt a human!!”
“It’s charming you think that,” grandmother said. “But no. I took your name from you because you got caught.”
Oboe stared, dumbstruck. It was a perfect day outside, but her world was crumbling.
Bassoon went on. “Your ‘crime’ was that you failed to cover your tracks. You were sloppy. If your prey had gotten away, knights would have come snooping. You put the Woodwind name at risk and embarrassed us in front of the entire Circle. The magic it took to clean up your mess cost me years of life. That is why you were punished.”
Oboe clenched her teeth. “That’s not right! I broke the law! I hurt somebody! That’s why you should be mad! You’re the Fair Lady!! You’re supposed to punish the wicked!”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret, my child.” Grandmother closed the window. “All fairies are wicked. Every last one of us.”