Princess Tenre looked over at the Fairy King with concern, then leaned down and asked, quietly, “Ininnedo? (Esteemed Father?)”
He didn’t respond to her. Instead, he stood and walked slowly down the grass slope toward me, while I stood and wondered what the heck I was supposed to do. None of my protocol training covered this situation.
He had spoken a word in an incredibly ancient language, one I shouldn’t be able to understand. One I never spoke in this lifetime, or many preceding ones. But I knew it. And although I was trying hard to deny it, I definitely knew what it meant.
A shocking realization was hitting me as he walked toward me. I knew this person’s name, even though nobody had told me.
It was a name that any English Lit major would recognize instantly.
As he reached me, I realized what an imposing man this was. He was no basketball player, but he gazed down on little me from several inches higher than either Ged or Owen, and his shoulders were broader than Rod’s.
He placed his palm against my cheek, staring down at me with intense eyes, and whispered again, this time in Fairy.
Several parts of me were retorting, Who’s your mother?! I’m fifteen years old! but something within me wanted to check, to confirm…
I asked, “Oberon?”
I didn’t pronounce it like either an American– OHber-on, or a Brit – AHba-run. What I said was, o-BEH-rown.
The name Senhion gave her son.
Then I wrinkled my brow and shook my head. “No… Your Majesty…”
My voice seemed to snap him out of the trance he was in. His brow wrinkled slightly.
“How is this possible?” he asked.
I shook my head again. Wetting my very dry lips, I stated, “Your Majesty, I am your granddaughter Tiana. I am not… the person you said.”
He frowned, as if he wanted to refute what I just said, then pursed his lips, furrowed his brows, nodded and removed his hand from my cheek. Turning back toward the rest, he declared, “My family and their attendants, join me in my private chambers. The rest of you… may retire for today.”
One of the male fairies nearby began, “Your Majesty…”
“That will be all, Lord Chancellor,” he interrupted, firmly.
After a moment’s hesitation, the man nodded and bowed.
Quite a few people tossed brief glances my way and whispered to each other as they either strolled away in groups or grew wings and flew off. A small assortment stayed behind, including the four still on the mound.
Serera was hesitating as well. The King noticed her and nodded. “Come with us, Lady Serera. You are Tiana’s escort for now.”
The fairy captain nodded with a smile and followed.
He turned and led us around the mound and the elm trees. On the other side, after a short further stretch of the moonglow grass lawn, the other royals and their escorts were disappearing into a thick woods made up of various varieties, both normal and subterranean.
As we walked, the King kept me separate from the others. I noticed magic similar to Mother’s [Realm of Silence] surrounding us.
He was acting more normally now, but he commented to me, “Very few people remember my name in this world. It has been several millenia since the last time anyone addressed me as Oberon.”
A chill ran down my spine as he confirmed it. I mean, for Tiana’s entire life, this man had simply been ‘The Fairy King”. No one called him by a personal name. It had only been a week since my mother told me that he was her father, but even she only called him ‘Fairy King’. I only knew the name Oberon from two sources.
Stories from Earth, especially Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream…
… and Senhion’s memories.
She never spoke that name during the dream. It came from the fraction of her knowledge that had remained with me once I came back to the present.
But the Fairy King had just confirmed that Oberon was his name. Was it confirmation of the dream, or just confirmation of Huade’s weird talent for turning Earthly fictions into fact?
“Are you going to ask how I know it?” I wondered.
“The most logical answer would be that Deharè told you,” he allowed, “but I don’t know if she even knows my name. Since birth, she has always addressed me as ‘Lagan‘.”
I was surprised at Mother. That seemed awfully cold. She was calling her own father the Fairy equivalent of ‘Your Majesty’. Of course, she wouldn’t necessarily have called him by his given name in any case. But Mother, at least call him ‘Father’!
The woods became a lot less day-lit. The canopy was thick enough that I wasn’t sure if there was anything other than cavern ceiling above it, and it was all subterranean varieties now. Strange phosphorescent webs were draped between the trees, away from the path. I shuddered when I realized they were glowspider webs…
I hadn’t responded in any way, and he remained silent for a distance, until he commented, “The explanation that my senses are telling me to believe, is not entirely wrong, is it?”
Another chill. Carefully, I answered, “If it’s the reason you spoke before, then I am not certain how to answer. The facts say you are my esteemed grandfather.”
His brows tightened. “My granddaughter was named Tiana, but Deharè has already told me about what happened to Tiana.”
I lowered my head a little. I didn’t know how to respond.
“You, the soul that the Celestials sent us to replace her… you have lived on Huade before, haven’t you? They’ve returned you to us.”
He really knew everything, didn’t he? The HR manager called herself a ‘Celestial Being’. Even if he learned about Tiana’s death from Mother, I never used that term while telling her about them…
Come to think of it, I don’t think the term exists in Fairy. He had just used a word from that ancient language, which I had heard with the meaning ‘Celestials’.
“I don’t know what to believe, Your Majesty. I know your name from a vision, but before I was shown that vision, I never had memories of any life before this life and the previous one. Until last night, I believed the previous life had been my first.”
He gave me a level gaze, then asked, “You were shown a vision by whom?”
I lowered my head again and admitted, “By someone claiming to be… your father. After I stabbed Lady Mára, he visited me and told me to spare her.”
A blink of surprise. Then, with a smile, he stated, “My father has a name, does he not?”
I understood why he asked. None of the information about the Fairy King that I had heard included the fact that he was a demigod. If his father really matched the dream, it would further substantiate it as reality. Especially if Mother didn’t know about her grandfather.
Feeling like I was admitting to insanity, I nodded and answered.
“He called himself Oranos.”
When Oberon simply nodded and said no more, it spoke more than I wanted to hear about yesterday’s ‘dream’.
He wasn’t disputing the suggestion that his father was a god.
During the walk, I had assumed we would reach either a building or gazebo hidden in the woods, or perhaps a cavern wall, with a passage leading to the King’s ‘chambers’. But the path opened up instead into a forest clearing, with a pool, boulders covered in cushions of moss, carefully arranged logs and other natural furnishings.
The private chambers of the Fairy King contained nothing resembling walls or furniture. In retrospect, it should not have been a surprise.
There was a gazebo of sorts, though. Several trees had grown in such a way as to cast their boughs over a spot that was clearly meant for the King, providing a tight roof to ward against the rain that probably condensed regularly from the dense Water mana in the cavern air.
“If you wish to sit with your feet in the water, there are excellent spots beside the pool,” he told me. “There are also seats under the surface. Otherwise, please join me in the pavilion.”
Six fairies had already gathered there, but they all remained standing, waiting on the King. Others were choosing spots outside the ‘pavilion’. The six included Gelon, Manlon, Tenre and the mystery fairy who had been on the royal dais the previous night. The additional fairy who had been with her on the mound was also now in attendance, so I guessed she was another princess. The sixth was a another girl almost identical to her, but with a less complex raiment.
I answered, “This isn’t a good dress for it, Your Majesty. But I enjoyed a bath in my suite before coming out, so I will be fine.”
Once we arrived, he indicated a spot for me, then took his seat in the highest seat, a flat-topped granite boulder. My place was almost directly in front of him. I was practically sitting at his feet. I had to look up at him since it was lower, but everyone else was doing the same.
Except Serera. She perched on a tree limb outside the pavilion.
As he contemplated me, I wondered if I should speak to him as a granddaughter or a royal emissary. I had a reason for my visit, after all.
But Tenre solved my problem for me. “Esteemed Father, Lady Serera reports that Tiana-innan came here with the purpose of delivering a message. Shall we hear it now?”
He pursed his lips, then nodded. “Very well. Your Highness, what is your message?”
I had been pondering my next words since the moment I took flight in Copen. I needed to make sure to put it in the right order. So I began with the most important part.
“Your Majesty, I bring warning of a plot to manipulate you into attacking my King, with my plea that you not fall prey to it. I suspect the leader of this plot is the Duke of Parna, Lady Feraen’s employer. I believe the intention is to use you to remove my King. Parna seems to believe he can also drive my mother out of Pendor and take it for himself.”
He nodded, showing no surprise. Well, I had said enough to other fairies that he had probably heard that much by now, already.
But I proceeded to give him the details. I left out the ‘secret magics’, but I told him about my maltreatment in Copen, about the attempt to move me into a prison that Parna directly controlled, and about what Parna told me to my face. I also told him about what Parna had ordered Feraen to do, attacking me in stealth with a vampire-killing weapon, and the claims he had falsified about me to justify her actions.
The faces of all remained grave as they listened, and nobody interrupted me.
My grandfather turned to Lady Serera. “This is the assault that you reported?”
“It is, indeed, Your Majesty,” she responded. “My wind spirits spotted Lady Feraen lurking in stealth, so I had been observing from the beginning. Had I been closer, I would have stopped it. It was a clear case of unprovoked assault.”
She never told me that she saw the fight from the start. Maybe she kept the fact secret until she could reveal it after the two of us testified before the King.
Which reminded me to wonder why I was here without Feraen. I thought the plan was to bring us here together to settle our dispute?
My grandfather turned to Tenre. “I suppose we should see your prisoner, then.”
The ‘Lady of the Valley’ looked to the side, toward a tangled thicket near where Serera was perched. At some silent command, in the same fashion as Möemnen’s vines, the limbs drew away, parting like curtains.
They revealed the nude figure of Lady Mára, sitting in seiza with her wrists and ankles firmly bound by vines.