I had been relieved and ecstatic that I had such friends that would go to such lengths for me, but the very concept of my therapist, the one I could trust the most with my innermost feelings and thoughts, filled me with disgust bordering on nausea. He had been using those thoughts and feelings for months to not only set me up for my own kidnapping and use as blackmail but also to identify and gain insight into well over a dozen other spooky small-timers that I knew. I never told Dr. Scott about the spooky side, but since he had already known, and I hadn’t known that he had known, he managed to glean enough from what I told him to help him identify potentials, then the rest of his crew scouted out those potentials and did potentially horrible things. Hell, just mentioning my favorite bar was Atwaters probably got a dozen or so people killed.
I had tried not to think of all the people I had recommended him to, with all the troubled thoughts and feelings that come from dealing in a monster-infested magicky world being poured into his lap that he in turn poured into Amber‘s lap. I can almost forgive Dr. Scott for doing what he did, seeing as he was mind-whammied by one of DFW’s best mind whammiers. Almost.
But Conor sat me down, with Midori sitting quietly but supportively and Claret retreating to her room so she could avoid the emotional ickyness of ‘serious talking’, and he told me that I couldn’t dwell on the past, as recent and horrifying as it may have been. I hadn’t intentionally done any wrong, or tried to subvert anyone myself; I had been trying to help my own bruised psyche thru therapy, a noble goal, and to assist others on the same path by recommending a shrink that didn’t cost a fortune to see on a regular basis, a compassionate act if ever there was one. I had even thought I was doing Dr. Scott a favor by sending him some more patients to help pay for his struggling Oak Lawn practice.
Well, I had been doing him a favor but not the one I thought I had.
Even Pallas went to see him, so in the end I guess I had made Dr. Scott suffer a little for his deception, not that it had helped my mood any.
I had to get up off my well-yoga’ed a$$ and do some good out in the world, Conor had told me. I had all but dropped out of semi-pro music gigs, been lax in my studies at UTD enough to threaten my scholarship (even though I can ace all the tests almost without studying, showing up and doing the daily homeworks tend to be important as well), and I hadn’t gone out with the girls in weeks.
Claret and Midori had taken to not “visibly” arguing in front of me when I occasionally come out from under my rock to get some food or take a shower, instead whispering in French to each other and being overly cheerful when addressing me. Not sure which one I hated most. Of course, Claret being overly cheerful translated to her making snarky with semi-light hearted jabs at my appearance and demeanor, which would provoke a slight rebuke from Midori that then would cause them to start arguing again, at which point they would realize I was still in the room and abruptly and overly-cheerfully change the subject.
Conor had been right, of course. I had to get off my duff to do something to combat this malaise and ennui, both fatal to geeky girls. So I had. Conor gave an appropriately inspiring ’let’s go catch some bad guy’s’ speech with Midori providing the appropriate feminine conversational harmonies. My spirit’s appropriately lifted, I suited up (aka showered, cause I needed it) and away we went! First stop, to the demesne of The Duke of Summer! Actually there were a few little stops in between, but The Duke’s was the First Major Stop.
Then the bastard left me there.
Oh it had been an innocent enough mistake. Well not really mistake, more like an ‘unfortunate unavoidable occurence’. He met with the Duke, with me at his side as companion. We won’t discuss the heart-swoons that generated at the time.
Kenna, the Duke’s daughter, had stricken up a conversation with me about my background and magic. The ‘peculiarities inherent in a Blind Sonomancer Musician’, she said. Almost my entire concept of self summed up in three words. Weird.
I had tried to play it off as discreetly as I could but I’ve never been good at small talk outside of a music venue or comic shop. Kenna began asking questions, displaying a curiosity and quite frankly ignorance of my world that was both startling and refreshing. I, after my years of living with a Malk, asked for an arrangement, in an effort for one to not be indebted to the other should an unfortunate word choice or topic choice cause a swaying in the proverbial fairy scales. She had agreed hastily, impatient for answers to her questions, and on the Duke’s and Lord Dallas’s leave we retreated to Kenna’s private foyer.
What I had forgotten at the time was to add a time limit to our arrangement, an extremely deadly mistake when dealing with Fae, especially Noble Fae. But more on that later.
We asked each other questions for a while, hers being focused on my day to day dealings with a world I couldn’t see, like how I coordinated outfits or cooked food while mine consisted of visual descriptions of things around me that I could sense but obviously had no idea what they looked like. Summer is well known for it’s beauty in terms of interior decorating, so while my questions seemed trivial to her, they were very ‘illuminating’ to me, and vice versa. To help illustrate one of my questions about some nearby birds, she took my hand and led me to an aviary. The stink was intense but not entirely unpleasant, like it belonged and that that was good. At one point she pulled out a particularly exotic parrot of some kind, and in describing its brilliant plumage, said “Isn’t she lovely?”
Well you can’t leave a musician an opening like that and then let it get away, so I casually sing-songed “Isn’t she wonderful?” You would thought I dropped a million dollars on Kenna by the way she reacted, almost squeeing like, well, me I guess.
“Oh please, Ms. Goodchilde, you must sing it to completion, you must!” She regained her composure quickly, asking more formally if I, guest, would treat her, host, to a song for her hospitality. That’s when I realized I was stuck. You start playing tit-for-tat with a Fae, you’re gonna lose somehow, even if it’s in someway that may only be evident much further down the road. I knew guest rights thru Conor, Lord Dallas, would buffer that somewhat, but I had no idea how much. And where was he? It’s had to have been hours now at this point.
So I sang the whole song, mind racing the whole time on how to spin this to get out and ‘get bad guys’, etc. etc.
The guitar that Kenna let me use for the song was amazing but unfamilar in shape, being overly round, and I wondered at its origins. Kenna told me she herself had crafted it, a project she had received from her father to ‘keep her pre-occupied’ and ‘out-of trouble’.
In return for her answer, Kenna wondered as to the origin of the song I had just played, so I told her about Stevie Wonder, also a blind musician, and how he wrote to celebrate the birth of his daughter Aisha.
At the mention of another blind musician, Kenna asked about the frequency and prevalence of blindness in mortal music, making a vague reference to mortality’s basic blindness to ‘obvious states of the natural world’ (what we call the supernatural). I explained that there wasn’t a correlation that I was aware of, but if I discovered one I would gladly let her know.
As I plucked at the strings a little while we talked, I started to sense a strange warm energy within them, very faint but very pleasant. I asked, as it was my turn, what it was that I sensed about the guitar I held, and Kenna answered, with no less pride that a new mother, that it contained a small sliver of essence of Summer Music; enough to enhance the performance of it’s use but not enough to be intoxicating or maddening to mortal or lesser fairy folk.
That’s when I saw my way out.
Kenna asked, her turn, if I liked it. I replied with full honesty that I did so indeed. I paused for a moment, to think about my next phrasing.
“I would like to offer a trade, your majesty, girl to girl and musician to musical craftsman.”
She beamed. I could tell because I literally felt sunlight on my skin for a moment, coming from her direction.
“Speak your trade, mortal musician, and we shall see what we may offer in turn,” she replied in a warm regality.
“I would offer a song to you, one of my favorites, enhanced by my own magics, if in return I may play it upon the guitar I hold in my hands.” I tried to keep my tone as formal but as warm as she had, not only for survival sake in your standard fey dealings but also to hide my own excitement in getting to use this instrument again. This thing had the smoothness and richness of sound of a Gibson Les Paul on super-soldier serum with the intuitive ease of play as an gul ram air guitar at a KISS or Queen concert. She had said it wasn’t addictive, so fey truth being what it is, it wasn’t, but it was wicked compelling to use none-the-less.
“A most satisfactory exchange,” she returned, “if for one slight expounding of detail.” She touched my hand again, and I knew by a vague gut-turning sensation that we had moved without moving into a room not filled by birds as we had been previously. “This is my music room,” she explained, again with royal ‘humble pride’, and it would please me to record such a given song as that I might share amongst my court, as it pleases me and mine subjects."
“So long as such a recording has zero negative consequence and causes no damage or reduction of ability, as I define each, upon my person or abilities whatsoever.” I hoped I worded that right, being off the cuff as it was.
She laughed at that. “Guest, you do me disservice by suggesting I would in anyway damage or compromise the talents or essence of one who was welcomed into my father’s court.” Her voice took on a harsher tone, still formal, but definitely cutting. I may have winced. “Such an addendum is unnecessary, and in payment for this small slight, I request that once this song be played, that you play another, of my choosing.”
Now I was good and f***ed. So much for my way out. She could ask me to play a song I didn’t know, requiring me to stay long enough to learn it, and the song could be one of those that I had heard of fairies writing, the ones that could conceivably take a decade to play all the way through. I might show up in time to help Conor, but I might show up an old woman in the process. Or turn old and grey as soon as I left the Duke’s domain. Well, no way to go but in, I guess. I bowed my head, fearing to speak lest I dig myself a deeper hole, and played.
I figured if I was gonna go, I was gonna go with a five-star performance, and my way at that. I played Kashmir, by Led Zepplin, but as a vaguely dub-step version that I had heard from an Edgar Froese cover. I listen to Claret’s music streamer in her room from inside a Circle when I feel the appropriate jonesing for the new stuff.
My Sonomancy added the extra non-guitar accompaniment as well as the equivalent of a delay, effect pedal, a loop pedal, and a Hot Hand effect. As I played, I let myself go in the music. I realized something too, in that first few measures and in the back of my mind. I hadn’t really played anything since being kidnapped by the Loser’s Club. I hadn’t let myself open up to the music like I always had, letting it move within me, to move me rather than me moving strings and local air pressures as I played.
I let myself go, and I let myself loose in my Music, allowing my mind and magic to flow together and into the song as I only let it do on very rare, specifically prepared occasions when I could mitigate potential damage and hexing issues. Combined with a Summer Song-laced Master Crafted guitar, I was playing at All-Star level at least. Melody and Harmonies came alive in my hands, and the notes danced around us like, well, fairies. The song lasted for about ten minutes, the last couple of which I freestyled, exploring the Summer-infused guitar as well as the excellent acoustics in what I was convinced was a music room on par at least with the Dallas Opera House.
At the songs conclusion, I heard a gentle clapping nearby. “Brava, mortal, most splendid indeed, and well worth the use of my craft.” A smile was in her voice, not the sqeeling fan-girl kind but again the regal warmth I was becoming fearfully accustomed to. She came closer as she spoke, soft shoes scuffing lightly on the wooden floor beneath us. “I almost fear your contribution to our arrangement outweighs my own. I would seek to remedy this: speak a small boon, and I will grant it.”
“Uhhh, well, if it pleases your majesty” (always start with that line, its like saying ‘No offense’ in Texas after insulting someone), “The next song I play, for my set of three, be one of both our choosings, as our musical knowledges perhaps are not as synergistic” (wth Erica) “as they potentially could be due to our standard differential” (omg Erica stop talking) "uhh different cultures are uhh, different…as it pleases you. (great job, moron)
She was quiet for a moment, and I really hoped that I hadn’t re-offended her or stepped out of bounds again.
“Agreed, Ms. Goodchilde. What would you propose as the third and final song?”
“Well, I wrote a song last year,” I stammered, “that I wrote for my friend Belle and that I got to play for her which was great-”
Soft hands clutched my strum hand, two to my one, delicately but with vigor. “Doust thou speak of the song performed at The Accorded Neutral Ground for the celebration of birth for the Freyja-blessed last Autumn?!”
“Mortal we are in agreement! Verily I had intended that very song as thy third task! My Father attended said gathering, and while I was forbidden to attend due to the presence of Winter, he waxed eloquently of the performance of Noble Lord Dallas and thyself in your tribute of honor! Thus began my interest in thee!!!” Ok, Now she was squeeling like a teenage fangirl. She bounced a little as well, rocking me forward on the balls of my feet a little.
“Well, yay?!” I said in delight and not a small amount of shock. I’m really not used to having fans, even though I play around town four or five times a month. A couple people have asked if I had a website or a CD or something. I should probably look into that. “Uhh, well, I’ll tell ya what, if you want, we can up the ante a bit.”
“Speak! Speak of this ‘ante’ that must be measured higher.” Her voice was regaining a little of it’s regality but lost not a drop of it’s enthusiasm. And from the phrasing, I’m not sure she gets out much.
“Well, a question first.” The shaking of my hand came from, I have no doubt, Kenna nodding her head with her whole body. “When was the last time you were in the mortal world?”
Her enthusiasm waned immediately, voice retreating into an almost Marvin-the-Robot depressed monotone after a significant sigh. “I hath not seen a mortal summer within my Father’s Realm, nor any mortal realm since my first bloom.”
“First bloom?” I had to ask. Summer flower references are not my forte.
“My transition from girl to woman, by the blossoming of Life’s Red Flower.” She didn’t place any special emphasis in her words, and she didn’t have to. I may be pretty thick about certain things, but considering I learned the majority of my knowledge of “woman-ness” from an old woman who refused to speak in anything but 1950’s hyperbole about the subject, that metaphor came thru crystal clear. Sooo… wow, that means she’s been stuck inside her Dad’s house since she was a preteen, and she’s not far from my age now, from what I hear. That’s gotta suck. My stubborn ire rising and quelling my earlier fears about getting trapped in Faery NeverNever forever, I decided to fix the suckage.
Kenna continued as I sorted thru my thoughts. “My Father fears that, now a woman in blood, I would become a more tempting target for Winter’s ire than I had been previously. I lack for no want here, but a gilded cage is-”
“-still a cage. Got it. Well,” I mused, striking a casual pose and pulling out my best formal yet conspiratorial tone, “Princess Kenna of Summer, I shall play for thee what has been agreed upon as my third and final task, and as a boon to thee, I shall play at the very height of my ability, including that which nary but three before thee hath heard: the full length and breadth of what my Mother called, ‘my third Talent’.”
Kenna cooed and clapped her hands excitedly as she hurried back to her seat only to abruptly stop halfway. “But, Ms Goodchilde, we have traded questions and boons at length at this point, what would you seek in return?”
I shook my finger and motioned for her to sit. “Nay, Princess, regard the boon I give in it’s entirety, then we may discuss it’s reciprocated equal.” Man, that English Lit class is really paying off, with all the thee’s and thou’s and stuff getting thrown around.
So I played ’Belle’s Song’. I had named it ’Belle’s Song’ cause, obviously, it was for Belle on her birthday, and cause Home Sweet Home sounded too contrived. I used the Summer Guitar, again with permission from Kenna, and played the song I had sung in front of a jam-packed Atwater’s crowd that had evidently contained the Duke of Summer at the time. I sang it at the height of my ability, just like I had promised Kenna, combining my Sonomancy and Summer-enhanced guitar like I had for Kashmir.
But one top of that, I added my Voice, an aspect to my Magic and really, to me, that had prompted the term ‘thrice blessed’ from my Mother. It was, according to her, a separate but equal Talent to my music and my magic, yet intertwined with both. In later years she would say that scoldingly, marveling how I hadn’t ripped that part of my Talent out too with my Song of Blinding Hubris. I hadn’t really let it out after that, except when Hobbes had been lying near death in my closet at Auntie Em’s six years ago. Only my Mother, Father, and Hobbes had ever really seen that part of me. Sure, I had let it come out a couple times since then, in spurts, like for Midori after she was devastated by the Jade Vampire mind whammie, or when I sang a bunch of Trees to sleep in a Louisiana Bayou a couple months later, or when I pulled all the iron nails out of partially constructed house to throw at Lord Montfort, aka My little Pony B!tch. But I hadn’t, not since that fateful day at the lake, sung like this.
I’m not sure what exactly happened while I was singing, too focused was I on what I was doing and enjoying a song (a well-written song if I do say so myself) I had written for a friend whom I loved dearly, and meant every word. That Golden warmth welled in my voice and lapped over into my song, and I swear I thought I could see it, flowing in front of me in tune to my melody. The Music took on a euphoric quality, wrapping me in welcoming warmth as much physical as it was emotional.
It was like when you hear your favorite song for the first time and it fills a place inside you that you didn’t really know was empty, or the way just the right song at just the right time can quell the sorrow of a broken heart or a raging soul. I found myself, as the song reached it’s final verse, singing not to Belle, as I had intended, but to my own Mother, and my Home that I had lost years ago to a fire I had not seen but would see in my dreams for the rest of my life. I wept as the song waned, touched by something that I had crafted but like all Good Art had become something else, something unintended but equally as Beautiful. I’ve never sung like that before, and even if I never sing like that again, I think I will die happy, regardless of when and how it happens.
I stopped playing. A moment passed as that earlier warmth receded, and I turned slightly to side to compose myself and wipe my eyes. A rush of summer wind hit me like a miniature tornado but cushier, somehow, and I realized in not a small amount of astonishment that it was Kenna, her arms wrapped around me in a firm and full embrace. Wow, her hugs literally feel like Summer. Ah, gotta love the fey sometimes. She wept quietly into my shoulder for more than a few moments, and I did my best to steady her and return the embrace around the awkwardness of still holding the guitar. At length, she composed herself and held me by both shoulders at arms’s length.
"Mortal, Ms. Erica Good Childe of Golden Song, you hath bestowed upon me a most wonderful boon. So deeply do I feel the touch of thy music that I will go forthwith to my Mother by her Tree and reconcile our argument of old, restoring our bonds of Mother and Daughter and reconciling our twain-ed Home at last. Thank you."
Wow. Huh. Yeah, I got nothing on that one. Even hours later as I journal this into my notebook, yep still nothing. I did NOT see that coming.
Kenna continued as I stood in moderate awe and shock. “Name thy boon, dearheart, and I shall fulfill it lest I cease breathing Summer air for a year and a day!” she said vehemently, displaying a passion I hadn’t really placed until just now.
She… was a geek! A crafts geek, A music geek, and an Archery geek from our earlier Q&A, but a geek nonetheless. And she had just made an Oath, capital O Oath. I had to consider this one carefully if I wanted to get out of this in one piece. Having a Fae owe you is almost as bad as you owing them, and the bigger the more potential for Death and/or other unpleasantness.
“Uhhh…” This was all I had for about half a minute as she waxed about song and what she would say to her mother when they reunited. Not only was she a geek, she was a talky geek. Finally she rounded back to me and in full seriousness readdressed me.
“Speak mortal, I would know thy price. Thy words cling to my feet like falcon’s wings beckoning towards my Mother the Duchess.”
“Um, I would ask uhh two favors, both of time and obligation.”
“Speak you these two.”
“Uhh well, first, I would ask that I be returned safely and expediently to Lord Dallas’s side to fulfill my role as companion in his current quest, in regards to elapsed mortal time-”
“Done!” Kenna interrupted giving me an unintentional impertinent shake to match her tone. “Nay it hath been only…” She paused for a moment, and I could feel just the barest of magical probes extend from hands where they held my shoulders. And now she smelled like peaches. Great.
“My apologies, mortal,” she continued, her voice distant and mildly apologetic, “It seems in my haste to sequester my interest to our mutual privacy I have denied thee to thy Lord.”
“Uh he’s not my-”
“I shall see to it that you are returned to him forthwith. Mortal time is so bothersome, quite disagreeable!” She huffed irritably. “He will understand, I’m sure. Why, surely Father still entertains him as Guest! Name thy final boon and we will be off!”
“fffphph uhh, well,” I cleared my throat, had to get this one right. “I would ask that once a fortnight, for a year and a day, that you visit me at Atwaters and listen to my gig, uh music, for at least an hour. Please.”
She studied me for a moment, and I’m pretty sure she smiled considering it felt like I was in a low powered tanning bed from the heat radiating from her head region. (I went once with Midori about two years ago, and burnt like a overdone potato chip.)
“Done! And if I may raiseth the ante, as it is said, that you play my birthday party as you did for the Freyja-Blessed Belle. In return, I will visit thee once a week at the Atwaters, and tip thee appropriately as a mortal to thy profession. Are we agreed?”
Oh. Kay. Alrighty, here goes nothing. “Deal.” We shook hands to seal the bargain (God help me) and then re-embraced vigorously to re-seal the deal, which I’m not convinced was entirely necessary but Kenna kinda kept hugging me, so… yeah…
In as much effort and time as it took her to draw a breath, I felt that vague gut-wrenching feeling again and we were outside of the Duke’s palatial mortal residence. Oh thank God. A nearby gruff voice addressed me, causing me to jump more than a little.
“Madam? How may I be of service?” Aha, the butler, whathisname.
“Has Lord Dallas departed from our home, Reginald?”
“Indeed he has, m’lady, several hours hence. He left a note for his companion that he instructed to be given to her as soon as m’lady had…” He fumbled for a word momentarily, and I get the feeling he was going for ‘released her’. “…as m’lady had finished entertaining her guest.”
Smoothly spoken, Reggie.
“So,” I mumbled, not really taking it in, “He left me here? By myself?”
“Aye, Ms. Goodchilde, with a note.” He handed to me, thought about it for a second, then asked if he might read it aloud for me. I nodded, and he proceeded.
He read the Note.
I’m so sorry about all of this. It seems I cannot get to you and some things have come up that cannot wait. Find us when you can. I’m so sorry.
Conor, you Bastard.
Ok not a bastard, but I was determined to track him down and discover exactly how easily he had come to the conclusion of leaving me behind.
At that point the Butler informed me, and Kenna, that Lord Dallas had been ‘extremely put out’, hinting at Lord Dallas ‘expressing his extreme displeasure’ over the incident. In the end, Conor had received Lord Invictus as substitute until such time as I returned.
That made me feel better, really.
I know Conor well enough at this point to know what exactly what constitutes ‘Extreme Displeasure’, especially if the Duke handed him The Lord of Ants as recompense. Which really says something for how important either Conor made me out to be as companion or how powerful/talented the Duke perceives me. Maybe both?
Anyway, they called Roxie and she put me in a big comfy car and I eventually got back to Conor after some other adventures. Sadly, dear journal, the previous contents of Roxie’s car (poor Jamie) and my other adventures will have to wait for another day and some stronger coffee.
Goodnight, and for the record, Thank you Jesus for getting me out there alive, in one piece, and with a musical semi-patron to boot. I might be able to start paying off those student loans now, or at least paying back Claret and Midori for covering my rent last month. Either way, yay being alive!