10 April, 2018 by katelaity
‘Good heavens!’ We were not at all prepared for that. Chambers had not cautioned us this journey would be so perilous. Indeed the man himself looked quite pale with surprise. Seven years! It turns out the fairylands are rather like Brighton. Nice for an afternoon but the thought of spending seven years there was quite horrifying.
Tansy of course was master of the situation. Bowing low, he said, ‘We are grateful for your guidance, my liege. We hope to return some day to visit these green and pleasant lands.’
Speak for yourself, I thought but wisely kept the opinion to myself.
The king had to have his say as well, so he strode over with some officials who looked pained to be dragged from their feasting and carousing. Monarchs appear to be incapable of doing anything quite alone. I am uncertain whether it springs from the need to have an audience or the fear of being vulnerable before the hoi polloi.
At least the king had become altogether more agreeable than when we had first met him. I suppose when we first met him he was slumbering yet. It was rather unfortunate that we woke him in the orchard so unintentionally—and I certainly did not enjoy the mad dash through the forest to escape his men. Nor can I say much enjoyed the confusing events in the draughty castle with the queen.
Fairy was not at all a nice place when you really thought about it. It was full of extremely dangerous folk who took umbrage at the most innocent things. I would be glad to see the back of it.
‘I am grateful for your support of my beloved consort,’ the king said with aplomb, his rather large moustaches emphasising each syllable just slightly. I rather suspect his ‘tache grew this afternoon for I do not recall him having one earlier in our adventures. ‘I wish you to know that should you return to this land, you will be hailed as friends of the realm and offered the pleasure of our company once more.’
Kings rather thought a lot of the charms of their own company on the whole. A failing of the general category of monarchs, I suppose. They get accustomed to no one gainsaying their sometimes ludicrous opinions and thereby assume everyone is hanging on their every word—rather than fearing hanging in a more literal sense if they displease the royal.
Not our own queen of course: she’s every inch what a monarch ought to be. Even pirates honour her, or so I had heard. But these monarchs in strange lands had strange habits, I must say. Damme capricious at times!
With many bowings and scrapings and such fol-de-rol, we finally made our way out of the castle and away from the delicious aroma of the feast and the lure of the wines. My stomach rebelled at this removal, making plain its displeasure by a most alarming rumble that was audible to all in our quiet party.
‘I beg your pardon,’ I said to the lady Judith with a little nod of my head that would have to do as we were walking swiftly.
Tansy looked all around us and would no doubt have strolled amiably along—or risked the seven years, I fear!—trying to take in all the details that he could. He showed me later in his memorandum book that he had tried to record as much of the flora and fauna as possible. ‘The better to make a comprehensive study of the differences between our land and the fairy lands,’ he said. It was a kind of madness with him, like the wretched wager. He had even written down the calls of the birds, though the only one I can recall was one that went, ‘Poo-tee-weet?’
So it goes.
The lady Judith stopped at a stream. I can only guess it was the same one from which we had come. Nothing looked familiar. ‘Do be safe. Thank you kindly for your efforts to aide me.’ Her shining face looked sad and beautiful.
‘Can you not come back with us?’ Chambers said, his heart very much in the words.
She shook her head. ‘It has been so long. I shall know no one and the world will be too different. Perhaps you can deliver this for me…if there is anyone to deliver it to.’ The lady put a small letter into his hands, folded up but not sealed. ‘I had no wax to seal it, I’m afraid. They do not use it here.’
We did not wish to draw out our goodbyes, so turned and made our way along the river, each lost in our thoughts. When we came to a point where the river ran into a cavern, we ducked low and waded into the black liquid. The darkness lasted much longer than I remembered and the swirling waters tugged at our legs. All at once we were in the open again but it took us a moment to realise it for it was dark, the sky pocked with little stars.
‘We are back!’ Chambers said with delight.
‘But how much time has passed?’ Tansy asked in a quiet voice. Answer had we none.