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?