I’ve told this story all wrong. There are things I really ought to have said about growing up in Faerie. I left them out of the story, mostly because I am a coward. I don’t even like to let myself think about them. But maybe knowing a few relevant details about my past will make more sense of why I’m the way I am. How fear seeped into my marrow. How I learned to pretend it away.
So here are three things I should have told you about myself before, but didn’t:
- When I was nine, one of Madoc’s guards bit off the very top of the ring finger on my left hand. We were outside, and when I screamed, he pushed me hard enough that my head smacked into a wooden post in the stables. Then he made me stand there while he chewed the piece he’d bitten off. He told me exactly how much he hated mortals. I bled so much—you wouldn’t think that much blood could come out of a finger. When it was over, he explained that I better keep what happened secret, because if I didn’t, he’d eat the rest of me. So, obviously, I didn’t tell anyone. Until now, when I am telling you.
- When I was eleven, I was spotted hiding under the banquet table at one of the revels by a particularly bored member of the Gentry. He dragged me out by one foot, kicking and squirming. I don’t think he knew who I was—at least, I tell myself he didn’t. But he compelled me to drink, and so I drank; the grass-green faerie wine slipping down my throat like nectar. He danced me around the hill. It was fun at first, the kind of terrifying fun that makes you screech to be put
down half the time and feel dizzy and sick the rest. But when the fun wore off and I still couldn’t stop, it was just terrifying. It turned out that my fear was equally amusing to him, though. Princess Elowyn found me at the end of the revel, puking and crying. She didn’t ask me a single thing about how I got that way, she just handed me over to Oriana like I was a misplaced jacket. We never told Madoc about it. What would have been the point? Everyone who saw me probably thought I was having a grand old time.
- When I was fourteen and Oak was four, he glamoured me. He didn’t mean to—well, at least he didn’t really understand why he shouldn’t. I wasn’t wearing any protective charms because I’d just come out of a bath. Oak didn’t want to go to bed. He told me to play dolls with him, so we played. He commanded me to chase him, so we played chase through the halls. Then he figured out he could make me slap myself, which was very funny. Tatterfell came upon us hours later, took a good look at my reddened cheeks and the tears in my eyes, and then ran for Oriana. For weeks, a giggling Oak tried to glamour me into getting him sweets or lifting him above my head or spitting at the dinner table. Even though it never worked, even though I wore a strand of rowan berries everywhere after that, it was all I could do for months not to strike him to the floor. Oriana has never forgiven me for that restraint—she believes my not revenging myself on him then means I plan to revenge myself in the future.
Here’s why I don’t like these stories: They highlight that I am vulnerable. No matter how careful I am, eventually I’ll make another misstep. I am weak. I am fragile. I am mortal.
I hate that most of all.
Even if, by some miracle, I could be better than them, I will never be one of them.