Oboe barged through the entrance of Thistle’s cave, crashing and stumbling through and over his piles of collectibles in a rush.
“Thistle!! Are you home?!” An entire heap of pots and pans clattered onto the cave floor. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to do that. Where are you?! Thistle, please! Hello?! Thistle!!”
Flailing her way past the living area, Oboe found him. He stood knee deep in his work pool, shaping dreams, his back to her.
“There you are!” Oboe said. “Didn’t you hear me?”
“Yeah.” He didn’t look at her. “I heard you.”
“You didn’t answer!”
His little fingers bent in slow but familiar patterns. A delicate dream bubble bloomed out of the shifting raw magic. It balanced on the tip of his pincer. “Should I?” He waded out of the pool, and placed the dream with the others in an old milk crate. “Don’t recall you listening to me. Not sure why I should return the favor.”
Oboe sniffled. “I’m sorry! I just don’t know what to do!”
“Oh yeah?” Thistle turned just enough to peek over his shoulder. “Did you figure it out?”
“I…” She held her breath. “Grandmother stabbed someone through the chest and I’m scared and I knew she was wicked but the magic on that sword is torture and now that leshy has to live in so much pain and I can’t tell Theo because he might do something to Grandmother and grandmother might do something to him and I don’t want to tell Theo I gave away the sword but I don’t like lying to Theo but I have to lie or else I can’t be with my family and I’m supposed to be wicked but I’m not really good at it and I feel so bad I don’t know what to do help me!!”
Thistle faced her. A grimace, with four narrowed eyes. “Yeah. Sounds like the Circle.” He flicked his one good antennae. “So, what are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know!!” Oboe pulled at her mane. “What should I do?”
He shrugged with all four arms. “That’s none of my business. I tried telling you what I thought, but you didn’t want to hear it.” He pointed. “You’re grownup now. You get to make whatever stupid mistakes you want. You don’t need my permission.”
Oboe didn’t feel like a grownup. She felt smaller and more helpless than ever before. “Grandmother is doing things that scare me. Bad things. And she’s making me do things I don’t like.”
Thistle climbed into an old wooden chair with a groan. “Then why do them?”
She scowled. “I get to be with my family again!”
“Yeah? So what?” He leaned over a junked cuckoo clock, tinkering with the guts. “Way I remember it, they didn’t lift a finger when you lost your name. That fell on me.” He got in there, elbow deep replacing cogs and forcing gears together. “Not going to pretend I did a good job raising you. You had shit luck to get stuck with a roach like me. Surprised you turned out as good as you did.”
Oboe hung her head. “I’m not good. I’m evil.” She pressed a hand to her chest. “I enchanted that human when I was a kid. I did it again with the Percy.” Her throat tightened. “And it felt so good both times! I’m wicked! Grandmother saw that. She said that’s just how I am. That I should embrace it.”
Thistle let out a bitter laugh. “Bassoon is a real piece of work. Living for centuries must screw with your head.” He popped across the workshop to grab a spare counterweight. “Let me tell you something about the Fair Lady, kid. She expects the worst in everyone. You could tell her you’d kill all your friends for a favor, and she’d believe it. Wouldn’t even bat an eye. That’s how she sees this world. Doesn’t mean she’s right.”
“But what if she is right?” Oboe said.
Thistle shook his head. “If she was, do you think you’d be asking that question? Do you think Bassoon even stops to wonder whether she’s right anymore? Do you think she cares?”
Oboe stared at him. She tried to imagine grandmother admitting she was wrong, but couldn’t. “…No. She doesn’t.”
Thistle started to wind the clock. “Oboe. Tell me why you came to see me.”
Why? She wished he would stop talking in riddles. “I don’t know!!” She tried to think about it. “Grandmother is doing awful things, but my family won’t do anything about it! I’m scared, but I know you aren’t! You don’t care what the Circle thinks! I want to know the right thing to do!”
“What do you think I’m going to tell you?”
Oboe stomped. “That I shouldn’t be part of this!! That grandmother is wrong and stupid and I don’t have to be like her!”
The clock sprang to life with a chime, and launched its unsecured wooden cuckoo across the room.
“You already knew what I was going to say,” Thistle said. “Not sure why you bothered coming. You don’t need me. I bet you already know what you need to do. Stop wasting time and go do it.”
Oboe wiped the tears from her eyes. Thistle was wrong. She needed him. This is what she needed to hear. She pulled him into a big hug.
“Thank you!” She said.
“Let go of me!” Thistle fought, but not too hard. “Get out of here! I have work to do!”