A line of spriggan stood guard at the palace gate, barring Oboe’s way with blades and claws. She lingered, staring up at Grandmother’s fortress with its walls of mirrors and maze of halls. A fantasy played out in her mind of flying up to the solarium and bursting through the window to beat sense into the Titled. They were all so stupid, listening to the wicked things Beira said but doing nothing. She hated them. She hated the Circle and everyone in it.
Trampling through the gardens, she kicked an arbor archway entwined with ivy blooms and sent it crashing to the ground. The delicate, beautiful woodwork shattered to splinters. The blossoms were dashed, now just a spray of petals left to wilt.
Oboe scowled at what she’d done. Even if she fought her way back into the palace, what then? She could punch every single Titled in their big dumb face, but would that fix anything? As angry as she was, she was angriest at herself. Theo was counting on her, but she blew it. She trod on the petals and wiped her eyes as she looked for somewhere to sulk.
Water lapped at the stony shore of the island. Oboe sat, and watched the lake wash back and forth over the rocks. There was a long walk back to the inn at the trade road, and Oboe was dreading it. What was she supposed to tell Theo?
She wasn’t alone. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted someone. Feather, in her white hood, padded across the muddy bank and found Oboe.
“May I sit?” She said.
“Do what you want,” Oboe said. “Shouldn’t you be at the council?”
Feather sagged onto the rock beside her with a quiet grunt. Water rinsed over her bare feet. She looked tired. The endless arguing must have taken a toll on her.
“We adjourned not long after you were removed,” she said. “Beira grew loud after that success. It scared the others, so they agreed to leave the matter for another day.” She wrung her hands. “If there is any good news in this, it is that the Highest are not yet ready to give in to such hate.”
“Don’t worry,” Oboe said. “They will.”
She got up. Grabbing a big and heavy stone, she hurled it as far as she could throw it into the lake. The splash sent water pattering in all directions until the lake was still again, and Oboe turned to look at Feather.
“They’re all wicked,” she said. “I hope the humans show them what they deserve.”
Feather watched her a moment before standing. She pried a small, flat stone out from the dirt with her fingers. She skipped it across the lake, and it nearly reached the far shore before sinking below the surface.
“I don’t believe that,” the Gardner said. “I don’t think you do either. You’re upset, and with good reason. These are dire times. Now, more than ever, we need to hold out hope that the Mother has a purpose for all of this.”
Oboe scrunched her brow. If the Mother of Magic had meant for there to be a purpose for all of this, if she had meant for things to happen this way, then out of everyone She was the cruelest of all. Maybe that was the truth behind all of this. Oboe had never been allowed in the sanctuary and had never learned to pray. Growing up out in the Whirlwood, there was only one thing she had ever asked from the Mother. Crying herself to sleep each night, she begged for friends that never came.
Except one did come. In spite of everything that happened, Theo was waiting for her at the inn. He was the brightest ray of light in her short, dark life.
“I’m leaving,” Oboe said. She was done. Oboe shaped herself into a blue bird and, before Feather could say anything else, flew to see him again.