Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 12:23 PM
Someday, Elaine might forgive Niabheara for the hair.
But after getting a comb tangled in it, and after a few scary moments when she was nearly in tears contemplating having to cut Elaine's hair to free the comb, she decided to leave it alone until Elaine herself could help her with it. The girl drifted about the deck, feeling rather like a free-range dandelion puff, in search of the princess. "Your, um, Highness?"
Considering the body the princess occupied, 'highness' was a very accurate description.
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 12:26 PM
The man turned around, and his eyes lit up. "Countess!" she exclaimed. "I love your hair! It looks like a fuzzy baby chick!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 05:44 PM
Niabheara had actually thought the end result was more akin to the first ball of yarn she had ever tried to card and spin for herself, but she gave a slight, awkward smile just the same and touched her breastbone for the much-taller man. "You're kind, Your Highness, but I feel ashamed to have made such a mess of borrowed hair. I thought we might speak, Lady, but I'm sorry--" And she held out her wrist with the iron chain. "Best we vouchsafe for both of us."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 05:50 PM
"Oh!" The big man very, very gingerly touched the chain. "Ouchie!" he exclaimed as he shook his hand out. "I never will get used to that! There!" she said triumphantly, sucking on the tip of her finger. "What did you want to talk about? I was hoping you could teach me Court manners! I want to learn everything there is to know about table settings!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 05:59 PM
Niabheara burst out in a bright, honest laugh. "I'm afraid not e'en I know table settings. I know who's meant to sit where and in what order the wine is poured, but someone else does the actual setting."
This was very . . . unnerving, given the intimidating bulk of the man. Niabheara supposed this was meant to be part of the humour. She made a small, private vow that if she ever learned that anyone aboard this ship gave the real Moor any grief for this escapade, they would have her to answer. "I had more hoped that we might speak about your lady mother," she said in a quieter tone. "This matter has grown very serious, Highness, and I fear that your involvement might make it more so. I wondered what the Puck might have told you about what's been happening."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 06:06 PM
The Moor blinked. "I know that my mother is a wicked, wicked woman who eats poultry?" he answered. "Which I must forgive, for so many are weak to the delicious taste of feathered flesh, but still, she abandoned me to die! And I hear that she has nothing but disdain for my Uncle Puck. But the situation now? I know only what I have learned on this ship...that you go to war against her, and that she is still a vicious child-killer. Does she always kill babies?" she asked. "Do you suppose she eats babies in addition to chickens?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 06:17 PM
"I would not put it past her," Niabheara said, and meant it. "I . . . I have feared, though, that this is much more grave than your Puck has led you to believe, Highness. Your lady mother is a warrior as well as queen. It is possible that she herself may lead an army against us. I am expected to do the same. As would you be, were you to take title. My Queensman and I have spoken of you, lady. I am concerned that should you take your place as Queen, you might leave yourself open to those who would manipulate your power to their own ends." She blinked up, feeling rather hopeless. "You go to a country where you are not known and about which you know nothing. I don't know if we have anything near enough time to teach you all that you need to know. It might take years. I've done nothing but, from the time I was a child until now, and e'en I know nothing but the very most basic of protocols."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 06:27 PM
"Oh, it can't be that hard," Pepita answered soothingly, and she patted Niabheara on the arm. "I can just get all my friends to peck her eyes out, dear. You really..." she looked worried then. "Do you think they won't like me? Besides, I can just have you help me with everything, can't I? You're willing to do that, aren't you?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 06:33 PM
"Highness, I have my own lands to attend," she said, as calmly as she could. "I can't forsake them. I've done so for too long as it stands."
She gave the girl . . . Moor . . . chicken . . . whatever . . . a surprisingly soft look. "These are ruthless people, lady," she said. "Who may love your throne better than they love you."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 06:36 PM
"Really?" Pepita asked. "Is my throne that pretty? I don't even like chairs!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 06:38 PM
Niabheara looked amazed. "What on earth has the Puck been telling you?!"
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 06:43 PM
"That I'm a very lovely little hen and someday I'll be a very lovely queen?" Pepita answered. "He told me about how nice all the ponies are. And about how when you're Queen, you get to have all the alfalfa you want. And how when I turn back into a real girl, I'll look very lovely in pink. Oh, he's told me so many things, I couldn't even know where to start!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 08:25 PM
Niabheara looked quite as if she was about to go find Tucker or Hartley and beg a drink off one of them. "But he's not mentioned that the local sport is killing off your rivals or holding their children ransom?"
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 08:28 PM
"No," Pepita answered. "I didn't know that was a sport! Gracious! Do they give out ribbons for it? No wonder we need to depose Titania. That's just awful. How on earth does she get away with it? How has she gotten away with it?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 08:41 PM
"Because people are afraid of her," she said. "Because whene'er someone stands up to her, or seems as if they might object to her, she does something terrible to them. The place we're going to now . . . " Niabheara sucked on her bottom lip and cast her gaze seaward. "She sent forth a plague that wiped out much of the city, as well as the Duchess of Oireachteigh. And no one e'en knows what the Duchess did to offend Titania. But there are people who would kill for that sort of power. And others who would kill to keep the wrong people from attaining it."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 08:46 PM
The Moor nodded, wide-eyed, but then shivered. "I suppose it is necessary. Oh! It is so sad..." she said, and a tear came to her eye. "I always hoped that my mother had...lost me by accident, or...secretly wanted me back...but...do you want me to hold her wings while you break her neck?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 08:59 PM
Awkwardly, almost in terror that Pepita would really start crying--a full gusher--Niabheara reached out and patted the princess's burly arm. Her own hand seemed ridiculously little, like a child's hand. "There are going to be a lot of unpleasant things that will have to be done," she said quietly. "But I promise you, they are not the sort of things that will be done when all is made right again."
Her brows arched upward in politel curiosity. "Er. Wings?"
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 09:06 PM
"Oh! Arms. I mean arms; I'm sorry, I still get confused about that. Wings without feathers are arms," She looked pleased with herself. "When you break her neck. I'll hold her arms down," she offered again. "I don't know if I can break her neck myself; she's my own mother."
She sighed. "I understand these kinds of things. The family I lived with ate a lot of eggs. But they had to, to survive."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 09:19 PM
"Ideally, there will be no breaking of necks." Niabheara rubbed her own neck in empathy, grimacing. "Ideally, she could surrender herself. But I somehow doubt she will do. And I suppose that we two will be kept off the field as much as possible, whate'er the case. We are both too untried to make much a difference in a fight."
Niabheara took a deep breath and tried to muster up some sympathy. "I'm sorry. I'm afraid you're going to be a good deal . . . disappointed, in days to come. It's not quite a peaceful place, is Erin."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 09:23 PM
Pepita tilted her head at the girl. "Silly," she clucked. "It's just like a hen coop with more than one rooster. Sometimes one of them gets pecked to death. It's not that strange to me."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 09:38 PM
Amazingly, the idea brought Niabheara some relief. "Yes," she said gratefully. "Or a bee hive with two queens. It's just . . . I don't know what I should be telling you, or what you might already know." She let go her grip on her bottom lip, then went on. "I . . . I know the Puck has been kind to you . . . "
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 09:41 PM
"Oh, very," Pepita agreed, head bobbing. "But you don't like him, I take it? Everyone keeps saying he must be lying, or tricking me, and I don't understand why he would be so kind to me for so long...and so unkind to everyone else! He's taken care of me for my entire life. I only know that he loves his master and hates my mother."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 09:53 PM
"His master," Niabheara said, a little dryly, "is hardly a paragon of virtue himself. The Puck is . . . it's not known for its self-restraint, Highness. I fear he might be setting you up for something horrid."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 09:57 PM
"But he wouldn't to that!" Pepita objected-- bellowed, in her big body. "I know, I know you think you know him, but...you don't, you don't. He'd never hurt me. Why would he save me and raise me as own, and bring me all the way back here if...he says I'm to be Queen! I believe he means it, Countess. I'm sorry you don't, but he's the only one I know here. The only one I trust. And why would he tell me to trust you and your father if...if he...it would be easier for him to say you were wicked people, if he didn't want me to have any other allies."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 10:02 PM
"I know it," Niabheara said with a great deal of restraint. There was something in being shouted at, even unintentionally, that made her want to shout back. "I don't understand it myself. I would speak to it--him," she corrected quickly. "But to honest . . . I'm frightened of him. There has not been one time I've been near him that he has not sought to do me harm. If . . . if he would agree to speak to me, would you come with me?"
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 10:06 PM
"Why, of course I would," Pepita answered. "I...I simply don't understand. You're both so very nice; I think it must be some kind of horrible mistake or misunderstanding; we'll clear it up easily."
She flashed Niabheara a wide smile. "I promise. He wouldn't...he's never been anything but gentle with me."
"I miss him," she said, sighing.
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 10:25 PM
By now Niabheara was visibly pained, pressing her hands together in discomfort. "I will trust your word on this, Your Highness. I'm sorry." The girl felt physically nauseated at the idea. "I'm sure it's lonely for you. And it's confusing with everyone being in the wrong shapes all the time; I fear you'll have to learn everyone o'er again if we're set right." She gritted her teeth. "When."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 10:31 PM
"Oh, we must be set right, though!" Pepita answered. "Surely! I can't be Queen if I'm a man. And you can't be Countess. And that poor man who has to be a chicken; our diet is very boring."
She gave the other girl a warm smile. "I'm not afraid. This is my destiny! I know I can be a good queen."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 10:38 PM
Niabheara gave the Moor a slightly more fragile smile in return. "It takes ages to be a Queen, Your Highness," she said softly. "It's not something that comes o'er one all at once like a mantle. I would ne'er have survived so long e'en as countess without my council. That's the most important thing: good council makes for good rulers. I shall have to introduce you to all the ones I know, that I know to be trustworthy." Unfortunately, she thought, that number was small and ever-decreasing, thanks to Titania.
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 10:46 PM
"I don't know how to thank you for everything you've offered me, Countess," Pepita said softly. "You...you have no reason to be this kind. Especially when I come here out of nowhere, knowing no one, and you...you who've worked so hard for this, who've been a victim of my mother's cruelty...you've worked to wear the crown, and you so freely return it to me."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 10:53 PM
Niabheara swallowed around the suddenly tight knot in her throat. "Your Highness. I did not work to wear the crown, only to stop Titania from destroying me--and after me, whate'er else she set herself against. I would have just as soon stayed home, and safe. I am frightened for you, I'll admit, because you are untried, and I'm afraid to so much as offer you my support because it would be such a poor offering."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 10:57 PM
"But it is more than I have now," Pepita pointed out gratefully. "You are my benefactor, my guide, my teacher, and I hope, my friend."
She caught up Niabheara's little brown hand and held it close to her massive chest. "My very first friend. I will see to it that you shall have whatever you wish when I am queen. If all you want is to be home and safe, then home and safe you shall be. If you want something more, I will do whatever is in my power to see it to you."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 11:07 PM
Niabheara felt her cheeks go irrationally warm. Or perhaps not so irrationally: even under the present circumstances, Umar's chest was still Umar's chest. "We do the best we can, Your Highness. I only hope your Puck holds some answers. We can plot strategy all day, but we have no certainties."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 11:10 PM
The chicken-girl-man frowned, lowering Niabheara's hand slowly. "I do not know where my Uncle Puck has gone, is the only trouble," she apologized. "Wherever I look, no matter how loudly I call him. I fear he may have come to some kind of harm. Or else he is frightened that Titania will find me before it is time."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 11:30 PM
"I somehow doubt he's come to harm," Niabheara said with completely sincerity. "If I were he, I would be hiding too. People are furious o'er the body-switching." She rubbed her hand down her own arm and--inexplicably--shivered.
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 11:32 PM
"Well, I'll ask him to turn us back," Pepita assured Niabheara. "But I am certain he had a very good reason for doing what he's done. He always does, even if it doesn't always make sense at first. Are you...it's very confusing, people-bodies!" she informed Niabheara. "There's so many parts. Wiggly parts!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 11:38 PM
Niabheara grimaced before she could stop herself. "Aye, so there are." She squeezed her fists tight. "This is not the first time the Puck's done such a thing. It was nearly a running joke between myself and his honour the Queensman, what seemings we might wake in on any given morn."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 14 2008, 11:45 PM
"I don't think my Uncle Puck likes the Queensman," Pepita admitted. "He says he's not to be trusted. But he seems very nice. I suppose my Uncle was doing it to have a bit of fun; he wouldn't mean to hurt a fly, I'm sure, but if he doesn't like him very well..." She shook her head. "I shall have a talk with him, and set this right. After all, we are all just like family now. We will have to put aside our differences and behave like family toward each other."
She gave Niabheara a beneficient smile. "I always wanted a family. A real family, with a mother and father and a puppy. Not a chicken family. They could always-- the chickens, that is-- they could always tell I was different from the rest of them. They knew. And I tried so hard to fit in, and they were kind, but I was always an outsider. I am going to work awfully hard to fit in here, among my own people, where I finally belong!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 14 2008, 11:54 PM
Frustration aside, the princess's enthusiasm was rather hard to deny. "I wish I could say you had a more pleasant family to come home to, Your Highness. But we are cousins, are we not? And there's my lady sister, though she's no direct kin to you. And the Duke, whom you shall see, I hope." She nearly hesitated about the Duke. "He was in mourning, the last time I met him, and not truly well. But he would be our . . . your mother's . . . brother-in-law? And my great-uncle through the Nialls."
The girl looked embarrassed. She rubbed the back of her neck and murmured, "His honour my Queensman is a very kind man, Highness."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 12:01 AM
"I should hope so, since you are roosting together!" the princess answered, clasping her hands together. "I am dreaming of the day that my own handsome prince carries me off on his tall, white horse! I expect he will have to pass a trial or kill a dragon before we can be wed, but oh, my, it has been one of my deepest dreams, to meet my one true love. You are so lucky, even if your Queensman does not have the brightest plumage. I hope you both have many, many chicks! And I will get to be an Auntie to them. Oh, thank you, thank you so, so much for sharing your family with me so kindly. I will do my best to deserve them. Perhaps I can do something to cheer up the poor Duke."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 12:12 AM
Niabheara burst out laughing again, more softly this time. "Your Highness, you will be Queen. I doubt you'll have to wait for anyone--more like sorting through the offerings to decide which one pleases you most."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 12:16 AM
Now, Pepita looked awestruck. "But that's not how it works!" she exclaimed. "Didn't you--" she sighed, clasping a hand to her cheek. "Didn't you meet him and just know? Weren't you drawn together like a moth to a flame, incapable of stopping the fate of finding your one true love forever and ever? I must at least have a ball, so our eyes can meet across a crowded room!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 12:27 AM
By the time the princess was done speaking, Niabheara was actively willing herself to shrink. "Not quite all that, Highness. He, er, courted me for several months before I e'en took him seriously." She couldn't resist a small, instructive note: "It was very hard for me to tell if a man loved me for myself or was in love with what power I possessed. Or else that he simply wanted to share my bed."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 12:29 AM
"Why would he want to share your bed if he didn't love you?" Pepita asked, confused. "Wouldn't it be awfully cramped?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 12:36 AM
And Niabheara's jaw dropped. "Oh dear." She glanced from side to side; there was absolutely no one about to save her from this conversation, was there? "That isn't . . . that isn't quite what I meant, Your Highness. Um. Mating. Roosting, if you will."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 12:42 AM
"Ohh," Pepita answered, bobbing her head in understanding. "So you've been...but why aren't you nesting?" She asked, looking concerned. "Haven't you got any eggs?"
She clucked sympathetically. "That's going to be awful. Do Tuatha men get into cockfights too?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 12:49 AM
"Yes," Niabheara said with an amazingly straight face. "Yes, they most certainly do. But, er, mating does not quite work that way with Tuatha," she explained. "We don't have eg--children, babies--every time. It's a very, er, complex issue, Your Highness, and one that should definitely go on the list of things that need to be discussed."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 12:57 AM
Pepita nodded, wide-eyed and fascinated. "I hope you get plenty of chicks soon, then!" she told the girl warmly. "I know-- I never saw a human egg. And they don't seem quite big enough around to keep their eggs very warm. That explains it!"
She seemed truly amazed at the prospect. "I have so much to learn! I-- I don't seem stupid, do I? I'm terribly afraid I'll seem so dull and ill-informed, and I-- I don't think I'm the brightest girl in the world, but I'm not an idiot."
She looked confidingly at Niabheara. "Sometimes I'm afraid I seem like one next to you, just because you know so much, and I know so little."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 01:03 AM
Niabheara actually felt a tiny bit ashamed of herself. "You're rather like a child, Your Highness," she said softly. "You haven't been in the world enough to know much of it. I'm only twenty, and I have been in the world, and I still know little enough to feel foolish most of the time. All the other nobles are so much older, so much more accomplished; they know everything already, so much so that I feel stupid when I need to ask a question or if I forget a rule."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 01:11 AM
The big Moor looked bashfully down at Niabheara. "I'm going to seem so out of place, aren't I?" she asked quietly. "Twenty! I'm your age ten times over, and I don't feel like it at all. I feel like you're my bigger sister or what have you, not as if I'm the older of us. How am I ever going to get the people to respect me, if I...I'm so far behind!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 01:28 AM
And Niabheara felt, if possible, even more guilty. "It is a lot to learn. And there will be some who will try to take advantage when they realise you don't know the ways. There may be a time when we all of us might have to deceive people, for your own safety, until you learn enough to convince people of your place."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 01:37 AM
"I don't know if..." Pepita bit her lip. "It's all very frightening to me, having to deceive people, and...I've never lied about anything in my life! Chickens don't have to lie. They just lay. I don't know where to start!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 01:47 AM
"I don't like lying, either." Niabheara bowed her head. "This is not the way things should be, my lady. I can't e'en bring myself to say that it's all just, since they would be willing to lie to me--to either of us--an it suited them. It still isn't."
Timidly, she touched the back of the large man's arm. "I make it sound dreadful," she said in a more encouraging tone. "But there are good people. More good than bad, I trust, save that some of the good people must learn not to be afraid of what will happen to them if they come forward. I would not ask anyone to fight for me if I didn't believe that; I would leave them all to rot with each other."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 08:24 AM
The older girl-- or chicken, or whatever, sighed longingly. "I only hope you-- we--- will be able yo return to peace when it is over. You said you had very few. Allies, I mean. Will it be enough? How many are there? Who? I will...I can start to gather my own aid, but I should know who else is on our side, what they do, why they fight with us."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 01:18 PM
"Part of my own forces wait in Oireachteigh, where we go now," Niabheara replied. "I meant them only as a temporary relief to protect the city after the plague, and to keep Titania from putting her own soldiers into it, only now they . . . people assume I have taken the city? Though from what I understand, there is no trouble yet. When His Grace the Duke is ready to resume command, I will give it back to his control. The rest of my forces were in Tir-Nan-Og, holding Leabharcham under siege with my lady Dorelai to supervise. The last orders I gave her were to fall back to Beal-Feirste if need be, so they may be there. The acting lord of that place is also an ally; he is . . . " Lugh's arrows, what was Gearoid to her now?
"A close friend of Cnoch-na-Niall's," she finished. "The Bard's College of Tir-Nan-Og, too, may be with us, as Her Majesty has caused them offense. We also hope to plead our case with Fiona, the Unseelie Queen. Only please, keep your silence there." She already felt uncomfortable enough discussing this with a woman who might easily go and confess every scrape of strategy to the Puck--but then again, she reasoned with regret, the Puck very likely already knew. "So you see that part of the trouble here is that they are not only few, but scattered."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 01:28 PM
"Oh?" Asked Pepita, cocking her head to one side. "Why? Who are the Unseelie? Why wouldn't we talk about them? Would Titania get to them first?"
She sighed, then tried to repeat. "You have soldiers in Ork-tee and Tir Nan Og with...Lady Dorelly. And then the lord of Bell-first. And the bards and Fiona. Um. It occurs to me I should probably know who our enemies are. I don't even know who we're fighting! Who has the bigger flock?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 01:42 PM
A split-second's control was all that kept Niabheara's jaw from dropping again. "The Unseelie are . . . they're of our own people, but they rebelled, many year ago, and retreated to the islands north of your mother's lands. It used to be that they were a danger, but there have been no open attacks since the old Unseelie king died. Their lady Queen Fiona rarely sends word, but from what I do know of her, she mostly wishes to be left to run her affairs. She's about your age, mayhaps a little younger, is Fiona. I think . . . I think perhaps many of the other nobles, the ones older than I, still remember the days when the Unseelie Court were a danger."
Niabheara frowned. "Titania's forces themselves are vast. By law she can call upon any noble who has sworn her loyalty and order them to fight on her behalf, but there are some that are soothly loyal and would volunteer for her, orders or none. We think she may have already done so on her own island of Tir-Nan-Og."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 01:52 PM
Pepita was quiet for a long time. "Do you know how the law works, exactly? The one you just said, about the Queen ordering people to fight? What would happen if it were a Royal Princess and not the Queen herself? Are there many who would be reluctant to take up the Queen's side, or who would fight with a challenger if they were given an opportunity?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 02:16 PM
"I fear she would supersede you, Highness." Niabheara sounded worried. "But aye, that's just what we were counting on--that enough people would fall behind me if they thought I could protect them from Titania. But if there were enough support for a rightful heir, not just myself . . . half the trouble is that I didn't wish anyone to think that I was advancing on the throne out of spite, or to take power. It might be that more people would wish to join me if they knew I myself had nothing to gain from it."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 02:30 PM
"That just doesn't seem fair, does it?" Pepita asked. "I thought laws were meant to protect people. Not to force them to do things they don't want. Like fences and wing-clipping. We may not like them, but they're to keep the foxes from eating us. If the foxes somehow were inside the fence, they wouldn't keep insisting on using the fence. That would be silly. Making people fight bad people for their Queen is good, but if the bad person is the Queen, the law doesn't work anymore."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 02:39 PM
"Trouble is that the laws did work. Do work. Titania seems to believe that because she makes the laws, she doesn't have to live by them." Niabheara sighed. "Which leaves other people to break the laws directly in order to make her abide by them." An idea struck her. "It's as if a fox agreed to protect the flock from hawks, but not from other foxes."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 02:53 PM
(our train is stopped. I would be annoyed except for the part where wherever we are is fucking gorgeous.)
Pepita frowned. "Which is also silly. Any farmer knows that no matter what a fox says, eventually it is going to get hungry. It's the nature of the fox. Is that what Titania is like?" she asked. "Does she act like a fox and try to make you think she is sweet and cuddly and domesticated until you've given her a saucer of milk, and then she steals your chicks?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 03:19 PM
"Very much like that." Niabheara sighed. "And I think e'en the flock knows it's only a matter of time before she turns on one of them, but none want to be the first to say it lest they be singled out."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 03:26 PM
"So you were the first to say it, and now they are all pecking you to death," Pepita surmised. "It's not fair. Isn't there some way to show proof that she's a fox? Featheres and blood in her mouth? Surely if you had some kind of undeniable proof, there would be more people who couldn't in good conscience go along with her. I know I can stand as some proof, but it would be easy for her to lie and say I was kidnapped."
She sighed. "I wish I had more time! I could do a lot more good if I knew how to act like a proper Tuatha."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 03:33 PM
((I am going to have to run for about an hour.
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 03:41 PM
((got it. talk to you then.))
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 04:57 PM
((Sorry. Summoned abruptly to hospital.))
"I don't see how she can deny that Tristan was murdered under her keeping," Niabheara fumed. "I saw his body! Half-a-dozen other people did as well! I don't think she can manage to say that he somehow managed to cut his own throat. And she's not dared blame me for it, which is half what I expected of her."
She gave the princess a speculative look. "We suspect as well that at the heart of this is some argument between herself and her king. We suspect so many things, but she keeps her silence."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 05:35 PM
"But if she's arguing with my dear stepfather," the chicken-girl-man said, "why on earth would that have anything to do with you? I think giving an entire city the plague is a very, very silly way to sort out a quarrel with your mate. Especially since he wasn't even in the city!"
She tsked. "And slitting throats is what the Jews do to their chickens," she said with a frown.
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 05:45 PM
Niabheara blinked. Perhaps it was a problem in translation but she could have sworn the princess just said something about chicken-juice. "The Puck has told you about Auberon as well, hasn't he?" she said, a little glumly.
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 05:49 PM
Pepita nodded obediently. "He did; he told me what a kindly man he is and how terribly his wife abuses him. He said tha..."
She trailed off. She was starting to get a better picture of how this whole thing worked.
"You don't like him, either, do you?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 05:59 PM
Niabheara winced and nodded. "You're going to think I'm just a disagreeable person, aren't you?"
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 06:02 PM
"You don't behave disagreeably! You've been nothing but kind to me," Pepita assured the other girl. "I think you're very nice and you must have your reasons. Why don't you like him?" she asked. "Is it because he gets irritable when people hang things from his antlers?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 06:09 PM
Niabheara clapped her hands over her mouth with a very un-countess-like snort. "Oh, I wish someone would hang something on his antlers. It's more . . . " She put down her hands and sighed, nearly pleading with her eyes. "Suffice it to say that we were friends for a very long time, and then he proved himself false. It's still very hard for me not to miss his company, but I can't . . . he's not safe to be near anymore."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 06:13 PM
"Uncle Puck told me that it sends him into a rage, only Uncle finds it too hilarious to stop," Pepita said soberly. "He likes to dangle hats from Auberon's head."
She sobered then, looking sad. "Is he a chick-killer too?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 06:22 PM
"In a way," Niabheara said, very quietly. "I wish we were home! I can't help but think that this would be so much easier there--and it should be. We can clear aside some of this speculation and find out what's happening. We can speak to people."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 06:24 PM
Pepita clapped. "I so look forward to meeting everyone!" she exclaimed. "It seems like-- I have this whole life I know nothing of, and finally-- finally, I'm going to see it for myself! You'll-- you'll introduce me to all your friends? I am so sorry I'm coming at such a time of strife; it would be lovely to have a tea party."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 06:27 PM
Niabheara gave the princess a soft, slightly sad smile. "We'll be near about to Midsummer's. I told my Queensman that I think people would stop e'en a war at the height of battle for Midsummer's. I hope it's true. It would be a good omen."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 06:31 PM
"So there will be a party?" Pepita asked delightedly. "Oh, I hope I'm a real girl by then! I've never gotten to wear a gown! And have my hair done up! And...oh, oh, I'll get to wear jewels, too, and dance, won't I?"
Her eyes were positively sparkling. "It will be the most exciting day of my life!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 06:38 PM
Niabheara laughed again, a more open one. "Aye, yes. And I shall do up your hair." She touched her own frizzy puff. "I'm much better with long hair than with short. I hope I'm in my proper shaping by then, as well. They might not e'en let either of us into the city otherwise."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 06:42 PM
"Whyever not?" asked Pepita. Then she smiled. "When I am in my true form, I have hair the color of buttery gold that falls to my knees in soft, shining waves like cornsilk," she told the other girl deamily. "I would be honored if you would do my hair for me. I would offer to do yours, but I fear I would make a terrible mess of it. I'm very good at preening feathers, though!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 06:55 PM
"Tallfolk," she said, and smiled. "Marcello will have to deal with having his ears glammed again, I fear, but I'll sneak him on the hill regardless and . . . you have, um, yellow hair in your true seeming?" Her smile faltered a bit. Half of this was because her mind had just presented her with the image of the Moor sprouting gold-blonde ringlets to the knee.
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 07:04 PM
"They don't allow tallfolk?" Pepita asked, her eyes going wide. "But I-- I'm tall!" she exclaimed worriedly. "In my real form. I'm a hand taller than you are right now! And yes, I've got long, soft, buttery curls the same color as sunshine, and eyes like sapphires and lips like the petals of a deep, dark rosebud."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 07:17 PM
Niabheara began to feel a wee bit woozy. "Er. Save that most of the Tuatha are small and dark? But some of us do have blue eyes," she assured, as if this were a saving grace. "My sister Morgana's eyes are . . . well, nearly blue."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 07:21 PM
"Well, Uncle Puck called in some favors, you see," Pepita explained. "When I was born. He said all proper princesses get fairy gifts from their fairy godmothers, so I don't know what I looked like when I started out, but when all my fairy godmothers were done with me, I had skin like a new peach, and perfect, tiny feet, and hands as soft as gossamer, and a voice like a harp and a laugh like birdsong and I am as light on my feet as a gazelle. And I have breasts as round and plump as ripe melons, but I didn't get those 'til later!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 07:29 PM
Niabheara's face lit up. "Oh! You had one of those christenings! Oh, nobody's had one of those in such a long, long time . . . not that there's something wrong with it," she said in a hurry. Now she deeply, deeply suspected the Puck had more to do with this than simply kidnapping.
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 07:36 PM
Suddenly, the giant black man looked worried. "The way you said that...is there something wrong with it?" Pepita asked, twirling at an invisible lock of hair. "I--oh, my. I just thought that's what princesses always had!"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 07:39 PM
"Maybe?" Niabheara said helplessly. "There hasn't been any princesses, not in e'er so long. There's only been a Queen. I don't know anything about princesses."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 07:43 PM
"Well, Mother must have been a princess once upon a time, mustn't she?" Pepita asked. "She can't have been a Queen forever! Or can she have? Do you know, I don't know anything about my mother apart from the fact that she ordered me taken from her and murdered?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 07:48 PM
Niabheara dug back through the infinitesimal knowledge she had of Titania. "She was a princess, and her mother was a wonderful queen. Queen Leabharcham the Prophetess. She loved poetry, and music, and stories. She went all across the Erins calling upon all the musicians she could find, in every little town, and she taught them all how to write so that they could write down all the stories they knew, and then she paid all her best scribes to copy them out and send them to her nobles. Almost everyone still has their copy; they're treasures now. Ours is a huge copper-coloured one that I can't e'en lift, with a latch that looks like a little sleeved hand."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 07:50 PM
"Oh, oh my," Pepita breathed, eyes alight with delight. "And that's my grandmama? My, I would have liked to have known someone like that. Whatever happened to her? Titania didn't murder her, too, did she?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 07:58 PM
"No!" Niabheara said, alarmed. "She was very old and subject to fits, and I suppose she just died." The girl frowned slightly.
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 08:00 PM
"But if she was such a nice, kind lady, how did she end up with such a terrible daughter?" Pepita asked. "Something must have...something must have made my mother the way she is, mustn't it? She couldn't just...hatch evil, could she?"
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 09:27 PM
"I don't know," Niabheara said, and frankly, she preferred not to think about it. It eased her conscience to imagine that Titania had been born terrible. "But think: you're her daughter, and you're nothing at all as she is. I'm nothing at all like my father, either. Sometimes people go bad because it suits them, I suppose."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 09:33 PM
"Well, I wasn't raised by my mother," Pepita pointed out. "Maybe if I had been, I would be evil, too."
She bit her lip, worrying at it with her teeth, before-- "Ouch! I keep forgetting my mouth isn't hard anymore," she said, rubbing at her lip.
"I wish I could learn more about her," she said, with a sigh. "About my mother. And my family."
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 09:44 PM
"I wish I had something better to say about her," Niabheara said with regret. "You come from very noble stock. Don't judge them all from the one that went bad."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 09:48 PM
Pepita gave the girl a shy smile, and held both of her hands out to her. "Thank you," she said softly. "You're too kind. And so must you, since we share most of our ancestry. We-why, the number of times our near relations bred, we very well have as much in common as sisters!" she said delightedly.
Posted by: Elaine Romain Jul 15 2008, 10:00 PM
Niabheara squeezed the princess's hands. Well, three fingers on each hand. Close enough. "And you have so much still to learn," she said, almost mournfully. "It will be easier in the Erins. You can see how other people behave, and I can take you aside and explain things to you as they come along."
Posted by: Umar ibn Rafat Jul 15 2008, 10:07 PM
The very, very big princess smiled brilliantly and bowed her head. "You are," she said in a soft rumble. "The very, very best friend I have ever had. I hope we can always be friends like this."
She squeezed back, before she remembered her strength. "Sorry! Still getting the hang of fingers!"
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