Tis with heavy heart we shed our skin,
Living a lie in a world that is not ours.
Tis with heavy heart we don the sheepskin,
Living a lie in a world that is not ours.
When we are called to judgment for our sins
We shall have no other tale to spin.
We lived a lie in a world that was not ours.
“I have a proposition for you.” I plop down in the chair in front of Dagda’s desk. His wariness is immediate and with good reason. Usually when I barge in like this, it means I’m bringing news that a disaster of momentous proportions is about to hit the Fairy realm. Again. And it’s usually my fault it’s happening. But that’s not the case today. It does bother me a little I need the disclaimer ‘today’ on that sentence.
“Do tell,” he says dryly, sitting back in his desk chair and trying not to look worried, or intrigued.
“Since I am a Princess in two realms and everyone wants me to act like it, I thought of a way for the passages between this realm and the Human realm to be reopened.”
Dagda’s eyes narrow. “The passages between the two realms that you closed forever?” he drawls.
I’m going to ignore the insinuation that I lied to him. Mostly because I did. Changing the direction of the conversation away from that little time bomb, I continue, “In the Human realm, there are almost two hundred different countries.”
Interrupting me, he asks, “Is this to be a Cowan geography lesson?”
I give him a sour look before continuing. “Anyway, Humans need to apply for a visa to go to a different country and not everyone who applies gets one. There might be suspicion that they don’t plan to leave once in the country, they’re drug dealers, they have certain felonies on their record, etc.”
Dagda blinks at me as if he’s waiting for me to say something earthshattering. When I don’t, he says, “Xandra, other than searching for you, I have not spent time in the Cowan realm for about three hundred of its years. Therefore, I have no idea what a drug dealer or a felony or a record is. Nor do I understand why a person may not freely move from one country to another if all are supposed to be considered equal.” There’s a touch of sarcasm in his voice now. He loves to point out uncomfortable, and often hypocritical, details about my home realm.
I think about his question. I could go on forever about why people can and can’t move around freely, good reasons and bad ones. First, my curiosity makes me ask, “You don’t have drug dealers here?”
“Are you speaking of apothecaries?”
Wow, that’s an ancient term. “We call them pharmacists now but no, that’s not what I mean. You don’t have people who make illegal drugs and try to sell them without getting caught?”
“Why would medications be illegal?” he asks, stupefied. “Are there now laws prohibiting the curing of disease and injury in that realm? The last I knew, the Cowans were entering a period of rebirth and the practicing of medicine was becoming an honored profession.”
Three hundred years ago, I think people in some areas may have still practiced bloodletting, but I won’t bring that up. Wanting to defend my home realm and my doctor dad, I say, “Modern medicine is phenomenal. Doctors can transplant hearts and other organs from one patient to another, and there are medications for curing most things. Not the biggies like cancer and diabetes, but they’re working on it.”
Nonplussed, Dagda asks, “Why would I want someone else’s heart in my body?”
We are getting so far away from the reason I came here, I can’t even see it on the horizon. “Because your heart is, for lack of a better word, broken somehow.”
“Then why would I not have it healed by a skilled practitioner of medical sciences?”
Would it be wrong to reach across the desk and try to slap him out of being so annoying? “Can we get back to why I came here?”
Dagda crosses his arms over his chest. “Yes, that would be nice.”
Maybe I could make a magical hand to slap him. Twice. I sigh. No, I can’t. Slapping him would not be beneficial to either this conversation or our relationship in general, so I need to stop considering it before I start drawing magic in preparation. “I want Fairies to be able to apply for visas to go to the Human realm if they want.”
If his eyebrows go any higher, he’ll be able to dust the ceiling with them. His words are measured and even, though. “You want Fairies to go to the Cowan realm.”
I nod. “Yes,” then add, “Well, not all of them.”
Arms still crossed tightly over his chest, he says, “I suppose it is you who will mete out these ‘visas’?”
I shake my head. There is no way I want that responsibility. I don’t know most of the Fairies and might just as easily send a psychopath through as a good Fairy. “No.”
It seems like his muscles would get tired keeping his eyebrows aloft for so long. Mine ache in sympathy. “No? Do you have someone else in mind?” ‘I know it’s not me’ is clearly implied in his words.
I shrug in attempted nonchalance. “I thought you’d be too busy to deal with those kinds of details. It seems more like something a… a High Chancellor would be in charge of.” Meaning Isla.
He harrumphs. I’ve never heard someone harrumph before. I try not to laugh at the sound. “How considerate of you to be so worried about my time.”
I roll my eyes. “Fine, the truth is I don’t exactly trust you to be objective.”
He narrows his eyes at me again but he decides not to respond. He knows I have good reason not to trust him when it comes to Humans. “Why have you changed your mind on this subject?”
I came prepared for this question. “Because I don’t believe all Fairies hate Humans. Considering how many Fairies have Cowan blood, that must be true. It would be a nice vacation spot for whoever wants to experience the Cowan realm as it is now.” That sounded so much better when I practiced it in my head. It wasn’t as lame. Okay, that’s a lie, it sounded lame in my head, too. I just prefer not to tell him the exact truth.
Dagda’s brows plummet from the ceiling and so far down his face they could pass as a mustache now. “You know, you’re going to get wrinkle lines if you keep your eyebrows like that,” I tell him.
He smiles wryly. “You are full of concern for my wellbeing today.”
Exasperated, I say, “Can you blame me for suggesting Isla instead of you? She never had a ‘kill all the Cowans you can’ vendetta.”
Dagda clears his throat and sits forward with his hands clasped on the desk. “Tell me why you really want this.”
Am I that transparent? Yes. I purse my lips, debating what to say. Finally, I just go with the truth. “I have to go back and make sure my grandfather isn’t being controlled by evil Witches again and I want to bring some Fairies with me.”
His eyebrows drop farther. They’re low enough to be a beard now. “You mean Alita.” It’s an accusation, not a question.
I feel my cheeks redden a little. “Not just Alita.”
Dagda is far from pleased. “You want to take from me the one Fairy who can warn me if dark magic is being used against me? After everything that has happened lately?”
When he puts it like that, I feel a tiny bit guilty. Not guilty enough to change my mind, though. “The only one to use dark magic against you recently was Tana and she’s not evil anymore.” At least, it seems she’s not. There’s always the possibility for relapse, but Isla could stop her if she did.
Tana has been struggling the last few weeks. I’ve been told the desire to do dark magic is like an addiction once you get as involved in it as she was, so she’s basically in rehab right now. I have done a couple of dark spells, but I don’t feel a hunger to do more. Maybe it’s my Angel blood that saves me from getting addicted.
Even though she’s doing better, Tana hasn’t wanted to see Dagda yet. She can barely stand to be in the same room with me, let alone see the husband who betrayed her to create me. But she’s trying. That’s all we can ask of her. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself when I enter a room and she leaves a minute later with tears in her eyes.
Dagda winces at the sound of Tana’s name. “How is she doing?” he asks.
I shrug. I have no desire to get involved in their complicated relationship so I deliberately misunderstand his question. “Her hair is growing back. No more oozing sores on her head and she looks younger now.”
Exasperated, he says, “I mean her emotional health. I am not concerned with her physical appearance.” Yet there is relief in his voice hearing that she is starting to look less like an old crone and more like her old self.
Getting up from his desk, Dagda walks to the corner of the room and pours a glass of scotch. He brings it back to the desk and sits down again. Huh. Usually when I’m driving him crazy like this he downs it in one gulp. I admire his self-control today.
Once he’s settled again, Dagda steers the conversation back to Fairies and the Cowan realm. “Who else do you expect to bring?”
His eyes narrow. “Are you serious about opening the passages or are you only saying that so you may bring your friends with you?”
Truth be told, I am terrified at the thought of opening the passages between this realm and my home realm. There are a lot of Fairies who hate Humans. And Witches. But I want to believe they are the minority, that most of the Fairies mean them no harm. If I’m going to live among the Fairies the rest of my life, I need to believe they are good at heart. “I’m willing to put my faith in the Fairies.” I spoil the noble statement by adding, “Maybe they’ll like me better then.”
A small, satisfied smile touches Dagda’s lips. “You are taking your status as Princess to heart.” Not exactly what I meant, but sure, let’s go with that.
Steepling his fingers, he considers me long and hard. Finally, he says, “I do not believe the general population is ready for the realms to be opened at this time. Too many ill feelings have been fostered over the years.” How self-aware of him. He puts a hand up before I can say anything. “I know the fault of that lies heavily on me. I do, however, believe having Alita with you is wise, despite my desire to keep her close. Kegan will also serve as a good backup in case things go awry.”
Awry? Maybe I’ll bring back a current thesaurus from my realm. “So, yes to them and no to the visa idea?” I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I relieved or irritated that he’s shooting down my idea? My emotions are always a mess when I’m around my biological father.
“For the time being, yes,” Dagda says. “However, I would like to pursue the idea with Isla and several high ranking members of Fairy society. Perhaps a suitable system could be put in place over time. I would also like you to discuss this with the Witches. The matter should be considered by both sides.”
I’m not so sure about that. Modern Witches have been taught to hate Fairies even though they’ve never met any. I was planning to keep the Witches in the dark about the whole idea. Let the Fairies slide in under their radar and what the Witches don’t know won’t hurt them. But Dagda’s right. It would be better to open a line of communication. If the Witches found out about the Fairies and declared war, a lot of Humans could get hurt.
Standing up, I say, “I need to get home. There’s still a lot to do for Alita and Kegan’s hand-fasting.”
Turning to walk to the door, Dagda stops me by saying my name. I turn back to him. “Thank you for coming to me with this idea. It shows a great deal of maturity on your part that you did not simply do as you pleased and consequences be damned.”
Did I just get insulted or praised? “You know, backhanded compliments are not really compliments.”
Dagda chuckles. “I will see you at the hand-fasting.”
Giving him a sour look, I open the door and leave. His continued chuckling is not very mature at all.