Oboe wasn’t used to wearing clothes. Any time she transformed she got snagged or tripped over her mantle. When she was ready to go to the Ranger Deputy office, she turned into a blue bird and got trapped underneath it. She was so used to shape shifting whenever she liked that it was weird to have to wrestle with a bunch of fabric.
She decided the only solution was to be a bigger bird, even if she loved being a songbird. She changed into a hawk and carried her mantle the whole way. It was hard to fly that way, but she scolded herself for thinking that. Having the mantle meant she finally had a family again. She ought to be grateful and proud. When she landed, she turned back into a faun and stuffed it back over her head.
Hand on the doorknob, she stopped. Grandmother wanted her sword back from Theo but it had to be kept a secret. Oboe didn’t like secrets. Secrets led to hurt feelings, and Theo was her friend, but if she didn’t do this grandmother would throw her away again and she’d never see her family again and her family was so wonderful, how had she gone so long without seeing them when being alone was the worst and she was scared about what she was even going to do when maybe Theo would—
The door opened, yanking Oboe inward by the hand.
“Oh!” Theo was standing on the other side, surprised. “There you are! I wasn’t sure you were coming today. I was just about to leave. Come inside! Thistle has been waiting all morning to see you.”
She blinked. “He has?”
“I told him you were fine, but he’s convinced I’m playing a mean trick.” Theo led her into the office. “She’s here!”
Thistle buzzed into the room from the kitchen and almost knocked a chair over.
“You’re alive!” He said, gaping. His eyes fixed on her mantle, and narrowed. “…Wait. Why are you wearing that? HOW are you wearing that?!”
Oboe’s ears were hot with embarrassment. “Um.”
He pointed at her. “Did you steal it? Tell me what’s going on!”
“Calm down.” Theo stepped between them. “There’s no need to shout. It’s good news! Oboe’s family accepted her back.”
Thistle made a face, the same face he made the time Oboe broke a whole shelf of bottles and tried to fib about it afterwards. “Is that so?”
“Y-yes,” she said. “Grandmother gave me my name back.”
He stared through her. “I see.”
Theo sighed. “Honestly. After all that anxiety, you could at least be happy to see her safe.” He shrugged, and turned to Oboe. “How are you holding up? This is a big change for you. There’s no need to rush back to work if you’re still adjusting.”
“No! I’m fine!” Oboe said, panicked. There was no way grandmother would wait. “Let me help! I want to help! What are you working on today?”
“Well, if you’re sure, then I have some errands to run in the city today,” Theo said. “It would be nice to have you along with me.”
“…What sort of errands?” If he was gone, maybe it would be better to stay behind.
Theo brought something from the other room, bundled up in cloth. Oboe felt her fur bristle as he brought it close. “You remember this, right?” He opened it to show her. A broken sword, just like Bassoon said. Something about it smelled wrong. Like rotting meat, but clean like stinging soap. It frightened her. If she had seen it before, she hadn’t noticed. There was too much going on then.
“I found it in the Circle. Thistle says it has an illegal spell on it. I made an appointment at the University to have it looked at.”
Would grandmother be mad if he did that? “Why? If it’s bad, you should get rid of it. I can get rid of it for you!”
Theo’s face went grim. “It’s not that simple. A nymph was stabbed through the chest with it. He was trapped, suffering like that for years.” He adjusted his glasses. “The thing is, I already know who this sword belonged to.”
“You do?” Oboe said, fidgeting.
He showed her the grabby end of the sword. There was a little thundercloud on it. “My father.”
“Your dad, huh?” Thistle said. “Must’ve been a real piece of work.”
Oboe was confused. “What? Your father? Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know.” Theo covered the sword up again. “I know my father took it with him before he died. No one knows what happened to him, but it bothers me knowing he did something this awful to a fairy.” He looked down. “I have to find out why. People should know the truth about what he did.”
“That, uh, that sounds really boring!” Oboe said. She felt bad, but she needed to get the sword away from him, but that would be impossible if he was doing a whole big adventure mystery about it. “We should do something else!”
A laugh crept into Theo’s glum face. “I suppose you’re right. It’s going to be a lot of researching dusty records and talking to academics.” He smiled. “Okay, how about this. I already made my appointments, but I can do the rest some other day. Let’s get my boring stuff out of the way, and then we go do something fun. My treat.”
Oboe was shocked. He was eager to spend time with her. This was so different from before. “I… I don’t know.” She looked at the sword. Why was Theo making this so hard? How long was grandmother going to wait?
“Come on,” Theo said. “There’s all sorts of fun things to do in the city! Did you know that the university library has more than twenty-thousand books? Or, oh! They opened a new stationary store in the plaza. I’ll let you pick. Anything you want.”
It was weird to see him so excited. “…Wouldn’t you rather just stay here, and like, go help squirrels all day?”
He shook his head. “All that can wait. You have your name back. That’s a big deal. I think that calls for a celebration.”
Oboe felt her heart melt a little. “That’s… so sweet.” She swallowed. “Okay. I’ll go with you.”
“Then its decided.” Theo slung the bundle over his shoulder and opened the door. “Let’s go.”
Before Oboe could join him, Thistle jumped off his perch and grabbed Oboe by the hand.
“We need to talk.”
Theo looked back, concerned. “Is something wrong?”
“This is fairy business!” Thistle ran up and slammed the door in Theo’s face. “Stay out of it!”