Act 1: Chapter 6, Part 2

Posted on August 13, 2017

In Which a Tea Party is Discussed

Ryan. First Day of School. Hang Time.

Megan chuckled, shame and nervousness wrapped in the sound. “Yeah, I guess I have,” she said, color touching her cheeks. She looked at her sandwich, then back up at them. “Well, what have you guys been up to, then? You said you’ve been visited by members of the Gentry’s1 Courts? For real?”

“For real,” Angie replied, then she equivocated, “I mean, it was some summer pixies and a rat-headed kobold, so it’s not, like, that amazing. No actual Gentry.” Ryan couldn’t help his nose wrinkling at the mention the pixies as Angie finished. “That is, we saw the kobold during the autumn, so we assume it was a rat-headed kobold and thus an Autumn vassal, but still.”

“That’s still amazing!” Megan said. “What happened?”

“With which one?!” Angie said, laughter burbling up out of her as she did so. “They weren’t all together. Oh, and I met this storm owl recently, and I’ve got a salamander tail, but those aren’t Court connected.”

Megan’s eyes were bugging out a little. “What now? Wouldn’t a salamander tail be made of fire?”

“Kinda. It sort of crystallizes,” Angie said, “But if you hold your thumb just right, you can put it on a big candle and it’ll start to burn again, and it burns the candle wax at, like, halfish the rate of a normal flame. Really useful if you’re using a nice scented candle. And you can grab it back off and it crystallizes again.”

“Maybe you can,” Megan said, pursing her lips. “I’m not going to try.”

“Hmm. Fair point,” Angie replied, blinking. “I hadn’t really considered that.”

Ryan blinked in surprise and peered at his girlfriend. “Wait, what, really?” he said. “You don’t see me grabbing that guy. Or feeding my nail clippings and hairbrush leavings to it.”

“Good way to get rid of potential mystic links2,” Angie said. “And it’ll help the little guy grow.”

“I thought we were talking about a tail,” Megan said, her tone and countenance equally baffled.

“Because people are so likely to be targeting you with hostile magic after digging your nails out of the trash. You don’t think that being able to use a salamander tail as a candle flame is unique to you?” Ryan asked.

“My mom showed me that it was possible,” Angie said, in her pointing-out-the-obvious voice. “So not exactly unique.”

“Unique to you McMillans then,” Ryan said, trying not to let it come out sounding snide, with mixed success. At least, he certainly could have sounded snider, so Angie’s eyes only flashed a little.

“Maybe don’t need to be too high and mighty, Ryan,” Megan said, her eyes flashing a little too. “I don’t hear about you talking to birds and grabbing salamander tails; it’s easy to think that you’d figure out sorcery right away if you had it, but--.”

Ryan couldn’t stop laughter from bursting out of him at that. Angie laughed too, a half second after he started, her giggle melodic as the birds she talked to, and hearing her laugh made Ryan laugh harder, and soon they were draped over each other, no control over their laughter.

“Guys,” Megan said unhappily after an indistinct number of moments. “People are starting to stare.”

Ryan caught control of himself, and he looked up at Megan, tears blurring his vision. “I apologize, Megan,” he managed to sort of wheeze. “That was so rude of us. No, you certainly don’t hear about that, do you?” Came out suspiciously insincere sounding, but what can you do?

“Well now I feel like you aren’t telling me something,” Megan said, her eyes narrowed and her expression flat.

“Of course,” Angie said between chuckles. “Ryan doesn’t tell anyone about anything.” Ryan wrinkled his nose at her as she continued: “We were dating I think six days before, uh, um, context clues in what I was saying to Evan... when I was over the next Saturday, so six days, finally informed him of the fact. Evan. Of the fact that we were dating. That sentence got away from me.” Megan giggled.

Angie shook her head, presumably at herself, and continued. “Ryan sure hadn’t mentioned it. But also the fact that we’d gone out for dinner without him on my fifteenth birthday, which was on a Monday, apparently didn’t clue him in.”

While Ryan muttered, “I’d figured it was obvious,” Megan leaned in, clutching the remains of her vada pav under her chin, and said, “Oh my spirits, tell me about that! How thrilling!” The sandwich popped out of its wrapper up into the air, but Megan snatched it back out of the air as it dropped, getting one hand all vada pavy.

“If it’s all the same I’d rather not,” Angie said, giggling at Megan’s unintentional physical comedy routine. “It was a nice time for us, that’s all. You were asking about spirits and stuff?”

“Aw,” Megan said, looking at her slightly squished sandwich with an air of disappointment. “Sure, I guess that’s cool too.” She turned her attention back to Angie. “How did you end up with a salamander’s tail, then? And what was that about getting it to grow?”

“A salamander appeared in my enchantment kiln back in April, a little after my birthday,” Angie said. “They do that sometimes. Just appear in fires, especially when magic is being done nearby.”

“Which is right after you guys started dating,” Megan cut in.

“Yes,” Angie said with equanimity. “So I tried to catch it and it dropped its tail, like salamanders do, and I ended up with a crystallized tail and no salamander. I should have just addressed it politely.” She paused. “And the tail will grow into another salamander if it’s fed enough. In the meantime I’ve fashioned this little clip that I can attach to it and wear it in my hair when I’m not using it as a candle flame.”

“O-kay,” Megan said, sounding less than impressed by the idea. “You wear a tail in your hair.”

“It looks less like a tail than like crystallized fire,” Ryan said. “It’s quite becoming.”

Angie smiled at him. “Thank you, Snow.”

“Snow?” Megan asked, delight in her tone.

“He doesn’t like Snowball,” Angie said before Ryan could interject, “And I tried Icicle for a little while, but it’s not a very good pet name. It kind of sounds like an insult, like I’m calling him frigid.”

Ryan made a face. “Let’s keep talking about spirits, huh?”

“Okay, sorry,” Megan said. “Okay, tell me about the other things!”

“Just all of them?” Angie said with another little chirping laugh. “Not a tall order or anything. Well, I guess chronologically, we ran into the pixies last summer, between eighth and ninth. I was looking for sticks and branches that would be good candidates for making wands out of in Bridal Trails3 for my mom; I’d dragged the boys along with me to keep me company.

“We’d been almost all the way around the dumb park,” Angie continued, somehow conveying annoyance with her gestures with her free hand as much as with her tone, “Without spotting any likely candidates, and my mom wanted at least five of the dang things. I was starting to be afraid we’d have to get deeper into the park, which I didn’t want to do, and I said so out loud.”

Angie made a zooming, flying motion with her hand and flew it above Ryan’s head. He only flinched a little. “And this pixie,” Angie continued, “Just flew out of nowhere and landed on Evan’s head. Just takes a seat and starts kicking his feet, like a little kid on too-tall a seat. Only he’s kicking his feet right between Evan’s eyebrows, which Evan doesn’t, you know, love.”

“I’d imagine not,” Megan said, her expression and tone solemn and untouched by sarcasm, her eyes focused elsewhere, picturing what Angie was describing. That had always been Ryan’s favorite thing about Megan. Always true and sincere. Almost, anyway.

“And he just goes, ‘Whyyyy?’ at me,” Angie said. “So I told him that we were looking for wand candidates, and he calls a couple friends of his and within like ten minutes we had twenty-five good ones that they’d collected just from the immediately surrounding area.”

“And then, in payment,” Ryan said, able to talk more freely now that he was done with his ramen, “We had to spend four hours of my life that I’ll never get back having a tea party, not with the pixies, but with the pixie’s human-sized, hyper-realistically carved, unpainted wooden marionettes. Which they expected us to converse with, even though they were hovering right there four feet above the marionettes, puppeteering them while failing to manage any semblance of actual ventriloquism.” He shook his head. “Never experienced anything that was both that creepy and that annoying at the same time.

“Well,” Angie said, an apologetic expression gracing her visage. “There was that. But we didn’t have to find the wands ourselves. Better than working for it?”

“We definitely worked for it,” Ryan replied. “I would argue we worked much harder than if we’d just searched.”

“Maybe you did,” Angie said. “I kinda had fun. It was weird, no doubt, but it could have been worse.”

“Yes, it sure could have!” Ryan said, feeling agitated. “That’s a truth fact!”

“Oh shush,” Angie said. She leaned toward Megan across the table, reached out and faux-elegantly touched her on the wrist. “Ryan doesn’t like it when I deal with the fae,” she said, in an exaggeratedly confidential tone.

“That’s because it’s crazy dangerous,” Ryan said, aiming for darkly. “You’re lucky you haven’t ended up a fae-bound slave, or that that tea party didn’t last for four-hundred years.”

“It was just a few pixies. I can tell the difference between a pixie and elves or the Gentry, you baby,” Angie replied.

Megan had a strange look on her face, wonder and apprehension warring across her sweet features. “That sounds like it was amazing, despite Ryan’s grouching, but he’s not wrong, Angie. That’s why we have faerie tales, to warn us about the Fair Folk.”

“Well, also to make Disney billions of dollars,” Ryan said, “And in the process give everyone in Fredonia unrealistic expectations for love and romance.”

“Yes, and that I suppose, but that’s not really what we were talking about,” Megan said, giving Ryan an exasperated look. To Angie she continued, “Well, I’m kind of jealous. You…” she trailed off, reading something in Angie’s face. “What about the kobold then? I somehow doubt it was as fun as a pixie tea party.”

  • 1. The Gentry is the Fredonian term for the nobles of the courts of the lands of Faerie, a mystical otherworld (one of many known otherworlds) home to a wide variety of spirits collectively known as the Fae. Other terms for these most powerful of Fae are the archfae, the sidhe, the Fair Folk, the aos si, and the Good Neighbors (though they are that only in comparison to the Beasts). The Courts are named for and linked to the four seasons, waxing in mystical power during their season and waning during its opposite. The Fae are most common in Europe, but they seem to be found wherever people of Europic descent have migrated or traveled. It is an open question among modern daimonologists (those who study spirits) whether fae-like spirits outside of Europe are in fact tribes of Fae who live in Faerie as well, and deal with other cultures in ways appropriate to those cultures; or if the spirits of other regions are distinct types of spirits, from different otherworlds, with different social structures than the Fae, and relations to the Fae appearing in their lands akin to the relations between between human nations; or even if spirits simply manifest differently depending on the culture and beliefs of those they appear to. Those who deal with spirits have reported stories containing evidence in favor of all of those explanations over the years, as contradictory as that might seem. There is a growing body of evidence that the spiritual ecosystem of the Fredonian continents has changed substantially since they were first discovered by the peoples of Europe.
  • 2. A term of art in magical fields of study; it is much easier to impose a magical effect on a subject from a distance if one has an integral piece of the subject to use as part of the casting (which is to say, something that used to be part of the subject, such as a piece of brick out of a structure’s wall, or a person’s blood, hair, or nail clippings).
  • 3. A large nearby park.