Episode 7 Chapter 15

The last ounce of bravery drained out of Oboe the moment she saw the inn. It sat on the Northern trade road, an old stonework mansion just outside the valley. It sighed warm, sweet wood smoke into a sunset sky, and bustled with the faint noise of weary travelers. Theo would be waiting for her inside, and that scared her. How was she supposed to explain to him what had happened and what she wanted? What was he going to think?

She marched up to the door. If she couldn’t tell Theo, she couldn’t tell anyone. She stepped into the glow of the tavern floor of the inn. Human merchants from across the continent supped on stew, laughed and talked. The conversation tapered to a tense whisper when they noticed a fairy enter. The minstrel, dressed in motely, missed a few notes on her violin. Oboe didn’t care. She brushed past them and up the stairs. There was only one human that mattered.

“Theo?” She knocked at the door to his room, but there was no answer. The door was unlocked. Inside the room was empty, but there was a table set for two. Peeking under the covered dishes, she found a still-hot zucchini and pepper quiche paired with a salad of carrots, spinach, red onions, turnip strings and thin sliced apple drizzled in vinaigrette. The little toy knight sat in the middle like a centerpiece.


She looked up. Theo had come in while she was gawking at the food. He was wearing a stained and borrowed apron over his padded training armor, and held a steaming casserole dish with too-big oven mitts.

“You’re back early.” He blushed like she’d caught him doing something wrong. “I was hoping to surprise you.”

Oboe was surprised. “What is all of this?”

He set the casserole down. “I talked the innkeepers into letting me use their kitchen,” he said. “I wanted to do something to thank you.” His smile was nervous. “Going back to the council was the last thing you wanted, but you did it anyway. I thought making you a nice meal was the least I could do.”

The guilt hit her all at once, like a punch to the gut. She covered the quiche dish and tried not to cry.

He took off his oven mitts. “What’s wrong?”

“Everything!” She said, wiping her face with her forearm. “No. Not everything. Not this. Not you. Everything else.”

Concerned, he moved closer. “Tell me.” He took her hand, and noticed the bandages were missing. “Were you shape shifting again? I know I asked you to earlier, but Thistle told us you had to keep the wrappings on so your hands can heal.”

She wrenched her hand away. “Don’t worry about that!” She said. “Theo! I screwed up! Okay?!” The word came blurting out, but there was no stopping even if what came next scared her. “I got mad and they threw me out! I ruined it, and I can’t go back, and Beira is a Red Cap and she wants all the Titled to turn on the humans and I think they’ll do it and I don’t know what to do!!” 

Theo was still. The words sank in. He sat down on the edge of his bed, eyes down, thinking, unknowable thoughts stewing inside him.

“We’ll think of something,” he said, his voice shaky. “There has to be something we can do to get through to the council.”

“No,” Oboe said, certain. “There isn’t.” Her anger sparked, and she grasped onto it needing something to keep from falling into despair. “Beira told the council she wants to be Devil King. Not Fair Lady. Devil King. They don’t care, and they’ll sooner listen to her than they’ll listen to us! They’re all wicked!”

Theo stared, helpless. “…Then what should we do?”

She stepped toward him. The idea had been brewing inside her, growing bitter and caustic with every disaster and mistake, fermenting until it became seductive, intoxicating, and so absolute that it was the only choice left in her mind.

“We should leave,” Oboe said.

“What?” He did not understand.

She took a fearful breath. “There’s no point in staying. …We can’t save the Circle. It’s not worth saving. There’s nothing there but hurt, and lies, and hate.” She bared the darkness in her heart. “…I don’t care what happens to them, and I don’t think you should either. Grandmother tried to kill you, and the Titled didn’t lift a finger. And the humans aren’t much better! After everything you did for the Whirlwood, the humans took away your title! They make you sneak around to do the right thing! They hate fairies and fairies hate them! It’s all poison and I’m sick of it!!”

He stood up. She locked eyes with him and tightened her fingers around the front of his shirt and apron.

“We don’t have to put up with this,” she said. Peering into his bright green eyes, Oboe felt like she never wanted anything more in her life. “We should go somewhere, anywhere else. I don’t care. As long as it’s far away and I’m with you, I don’t think I need anything else.” Her eyes darted, imagination running wild, her fingers tightened. “We can start a new life and live however we want. We can find a university for you to study at! I’ll help you!”

His worried expression did not fade the way she hoped. “Oboe,” he started, and the answer she knew was coming came. “I can’t. I can’t just run away. Not again.” He shook his head. “There’s a lot of innocent creatures in the Circle and in the Valley. If there’s even the slightest chance I can do something, if I can stop a war or at least make things better, I have a responsibility to try!”

Oboe shut her eyes, stifling a pained laugh. Why had she even asked? Theo was too good to do anything less than everything. She opened her eyes again. He was perfect, and none of them deserved him. Not the Circle, not the Whirlwood, not Laien, and not her. That didn’t change the fact she needed him.

Her lips found his. It felt like a blinding light had erupted out of the dark, warm and overwhelming. A shiver ran through her. She kissed him, feeling a depth of wholeness she never knew. And then it was over. They parted, and Oboe was left in the cold reality she started from. In horror, she realized what she had done.

Theo’s lips moved without speaking. He was stunned. Oboe felt his heart pounding through his padded shirt. Was he frightened, or was he feeling something else? She let go of him.

“Theo,” she said, knowing there was no going back. “I want to be with you, but I can’t stay here. Please.”

“I… can’t.” His face was an unreadable mix of emotion. “Oboe, I can’t leave. I’m sorry.”

The tears ran free. She knew from the start this is how it would go, and she let it happen anyway. Turning, she rushed and fumbled with the door to escape.

“Oboe?” He said. “Oboe don’t go! Wait!”

She couldn’t bear it. She charged down the stairs and ran shoving her way through the tavern and frightening the humans. Sprinting into the evening air, she got away before Theo could follow.

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