Clara regretted going to see her father.
For one thing, she’d been abed for a fortnight after going there. She didn’t know what kind of drugs she’d taken, willingly or unwillingly, but they’d messed her up for a long time. She had terrible nightmares every night, and sometimes hallucinated vines climbing up her bed, or heard mad laughter from somewhere in the house. She was told that Albert was getting worse, that his slow death from consumption was at last coming to a close. She was also told that Duke Janson had been injured badly in a duel, and Duke Mephisto, too, had been sick for a long time. Clara didn’t care about either of them, she only cared about the fact that she’d gone to her father’s house once – once – and instantly been bedridden for weeks. What kind of monster would do that to their own daughter? What was he?
When Clara had been sick for weeks and weeks, she heard them talking about sending her off to a madhouse. She shuddered and begged them to let her stay, insisted that she was quite sane. Just sick, that was all. They gave her more opium to help her sleep and told her not to worry about any of it. They told her it would all be just fine.
Ernest came in often during the day, but even he seemed to doubt Clara’s sanity. She had to plead with him to believe her, and though he took her side quickly, there was still the fact that she had had to convince her beloved husband that she wasn’t crazy. Clara cursed her father and his strange drugs, and whoever else he associated with.
At some point, maybe in early November, when Clara was watching it get colder outside with every passing minute, a servant came into her room and handed her a calling card.
King Edmond Oberon
Lord of faeries and fanciful things
Clara almost ripped the card in half. She never, ever, wanted to see the man’s face ever again. Still, maybe if she let him in this once she would be able to get answers about what drug had put her in such a state? She sighed and said, “he’s welcome.”
The servant rushed off and came back a few minutes later with Oberon.
Clara opened her mouth and took a breath to denounce him viciously and permanently, but before she could Oberon handed her another calling card.
Queen Helen Titania
Lady of faeries and fanciful things
“Who?” Clara asked.
“Is she welcome?” asked Oberon.
“Fine. Whatever. I’d like to have a word with you, however, on your own. Drugging me? What was that? What did you intend to do? What did you do with Sarah? She’s still missing, and I don’t know how much longer they’ll be able to cover it up. What’s wrong with you? What’s your problem? Why do you do things like this, huh? I’d like to-”
The door opened, a second person came in, and Clara’s heart just about stopped. She knew that face, and that body. She knew it perfectly, in fact.
That was her mother. Here. Standing next to Oberon and hanging on his arm.
“Wh- what?” Clara stammered. “What’s-”
Oberon and her mother sat down on opposite sides of the bed.
“There’s a lot you don’t know, Clara,” her mother said. “Just, in general. But, today, we’re going to talk about something specific.”
“Namely the fact that you know pretty much nothing about your childhood,” said Oberon.
“I know plenty about my childhood,” Clara said angrily.
“Oh? Tell me the name of your best friend and of your nursemaid.”
“Their names-” Clara was horrified to realize that she didn’t know those names. “It’s just been too long.”
“Alright, then, where were you raised?”
“I- in Scotland.”
“Tell me the exact name of the place. Was it a castle? An abbey? A manor?”
Clara was mortified to realize that she didn’t know these details, and that whenever she tried to reach for the answers, she found them running away from her. “I don’t know.”
“No?” Her mother smiled. “There’s a reason. Do you know what happened in 1816?”
“The year without a summer. That’s when my favorite book was written.”
“Good. Do you know why there was no summer?”
Oberon crossed his arms and glared at Clara’s mother. “Hmm, I wonder, was there a volcano, Titania?”
Titania? Clara’s mind went immediately to Shakespeare at the mention of that name. She began to feel uneasy, as she thought about the bickering couple, the enchanted garden, and the fact that they were talking about extreme natural events as if they’d influenced them. She almost laughed at the silly notion of this Oberon and Titania being the Oberon and Titania. It was just a coincidence that her father’s name was the same as the faerie king’s, or it was a fake name and he’d chosen it on purpose. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was fiction.
“Yes, Oberon, there was a volcano. I wonder why there were so many storms?”
“Oh, and I wonder why-”
“Get to the point,” Clara said. She wasn’t having this foolishness today, or any time soon.
“Right,” Titania said. “Well, I’m unsure how to break this to you softly, but you’re the reason that happened. I’m sure you’ve figured out that I am your ‘mother’ by now, and he is obviously your ‘father,’ and the reason there was no summer was because we were fighting. Over you.”
“We’re the king and queen of faerie,” said Oberon. “That’s the how of it.”
Clara would normally have laughed at them, but she lived with Duke Janson, who had a dukedom in Hell itself. If demons existed, why not faeries? “A- alright. But, I wasn’t born in 1816.”
“Quite right, you were born in 1806.”
She couldn’t help but laugh at this. “That would make me over fifty years old.”
“Time flows more slowly in Faerie,” Oberon said. “By the reckoning of the place you were raised, you’re only in your twenties, but by this world’s, you’re in your fifties. Reality, thankfully, chooses to go with our side of things.”
“You mean I was raised in Faerie?”
“You were raised in what’s so close to the mortal realm it’s more Scotland than Faerie.”
“Then my parents are the king and queen of Faerie?” Clara felt like she was in some sugar-coated fairy tale.
Titania laughed. “My dear, no. You’re a changeling who was meant to replace the son we lost in the 1740s. A faerie-human hybrid by our work, not by nature. Unfortunately, this adoption didn’t work out quite as we hoped, which is why he left. It was to deal with his mother dear, who we’ve just had to get rid of again, which is why we didn’t come earlier.”
“So what you mean is you stole me from my real parents, and adopted me because your son died?”
“Yes,” Oberon said.
“Am I even British?”
“Not at all, you were born on Nantucket Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, to Quaker parents whose family had lived there since the place was settled.”
Clara huddled down in bed. Her entire identity was being ripped apart. “Then… that story about you being… so terrible…”
Titania glared at Oberon. “Not entirely fabricated, my dear. Those exact events never happened, but it was based heavily on reality.”
“I feel like a horrible person for telling everyone that,” Clara said. She really did, and she felt like she was going to have to go back and tell every person she’d ever met that everything they knew about her was false.
“You had no idea you spoke untruth,” Titania said.
“Then, you’re not actually such a terrible person? Well, that doesn’t matter, because you still drugged me.”
Oberon looked confused. “No I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did. And if you didn’t, you drugged the others.”
“The others picked up those cups willingly, and ate the fruit when they were already aware of the effect the wine was having on them, and gave me their names of their own free will. I did not force anyone to do anything they did not consent to.”
“People can’t consent when under faerie charms.”
“Actually, I didn’t do anything that would have required consent, and the charm broke instantly when Mrs Holland was transported to our realm.”
“Did it?” Clara was pleasantly surprised.
“Then, how come I’ve been so ill, and hallucinating?”
Oberon laughed. “How can you be sure that those things aren’t real?”
That realization was like being slapped in the face. “Oh.”
Titania stood, and Oberon did the same. “I hope that you will come visit us. There’s much more to talk about.”
Clara held up a finger to stop them. “Wait, one more question.”
“Go,” Titania said.
“What if I want to meet my real parents?”
“Well, a trip to Nantucket isn’t so hard when you’re a faerie. You rest now, Clara, and mull over what we’ve told you. This is a fairly stable time, so you’d better enjoy it.”
As you may have noticed, the chapters for Johann and Deirdre now have header images of the characters. They’re also on display on the new art page. The rest of the images will be coming out either this Saturday or the next one.
Thank you for reading!