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What you say, madam, to a fae

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It's George who asks for a changeling child to take with them. If it had been Thomas, Celia likely would have giggled and ignored him, but somehow George has convinced Leila that he can be serious, sometimes. So, when they fly the fairy nest nest that time, after an uninterrupted century or so in Fairyland in which they and their first wives remember once more that they really could only get on as friendly acquaintances, Thomas of Tolloller and George of Mountararat step out into the world of mortals with a fledgling babe in tow.

 

It's little Psyche who picks their names. Usually they go with some of their many middle names, because enough centuries and furlongs pass between each of their mortal excursions that nobody notices. However, it is nice to have a change. At the tender age of one, Psyche is already reading human literature (Thomas in particular is offended by this ability, whilst George is mainly confused), and she chooses names for her friends from the poetry she reads to the woodland creatures around them. George decides that ‘Florian’ sounds like a more intellectual name than ‘George’, and that he is going to attempt to live up to it this time. At this news Thomas balks, and says that ‘Cyril’ sounds like the kind of man that runs away from intelligence and into the arms of an attractive man. Or perhaps an attractive woman, for a change.

Psyche sleeps once they accept her names and whilst she dreams, the two older fairies hide their wings within their corsets, kiss each other's cheeks and part company to enter mortal society once more.

 

The Prince Hilarion is perhaps the most adorable child Thomas - Cyril - has ever seen. Thomas hasn't bothered being a child for the last few times that he has come down to earth, because it is usually an irritating swathe of time in which the rest of society ignores you. Also, you are expected to learn things. But this time, he decides that Hilarion is worth it. Thomas sings a little song to himself, puffs out his cheeks and once he enters Queen Hildebrande's court, the whole selection of courtiers is under the distinct impression that he is a child who has every right to be there. If no-one can quite remember where that right originated from, that is not the sort of memory lapse that can be delicately admitted to, and thus Cyril's place in the Crown Prince's life is secure.

 

As always, George walks back into Thomas' life after only a few years of being apart. Psyche is somehow the same age, but then begins to grow as a mortal child would. Cyril decides not to question this, but Florian with his new fad for knowledge is irritated that he cannot understand it. This is why Cyril hasn't tried to learn anything - if you understand extremely little about the world to begin with, nothing can upset you with its inexplicity. Florian grumbles, but now that Hilarion has adopted him as a friend too, he can't grumble for long. Hilarion is just too charming.

When it appears that Psyche doesn't remember Cyril, neither of them quite know how to feel.

 

When Hilarion is about twelve years old, and Cyril and Florian have appeared to grow to the same age (whilst Psyche, for some indeterminate reason, grows as a human child would - or at least Florian thinks that's how childhood works, but it has been a while), Cyril has a panicked realisation. He has begun to learn things. Florian laughs at him and says that that's what comes of being best friends with a spoiled prince. This gives Cyril pause, as he wouldn't call forced education spoiling in any way, but looking past the terror he experiences when he sees Queen Hildebrande, he supposes that she is indeed spoiling her only child rotten. Cyril and Florian are simply reaping the rewards of standing next to him. And, distressingly, the education is helping them understand courtly life here. It's all very confusing, but it does seem like Cyril is more intelligent than the Earl Tolloller ever was. But that still isn't very intelligent.

 

When Psyche has reached what she claims to be fourteen years of age, she crosses the water to go to finishing school or something equally preposterous for a fairy. Of course, she tells Florian that her real reasoning is to get to know the mysterious Ida, Hilarion's bride. Florian grins at her, and wishes her the best of luck in scandalising Gama's court. She curtsies demurely, winks at him, and walks up the boarding ramp like she was born at sea. Maybe she was: changeling lore, for all that Florian has attempted to understand, is apparently beyond his brain's capability. He has gained some amount of grey matter in the centuries since he left the House of Lords, but clearly not enough.

 

Florian learns the social mores of Hildebrande's court and rises through the ranks to be considered highly among the courtiers. Cyril does the same, but more by accident. He mainly does as promised and owns the hearts of most every girl at court, won by various nefarious methods, but he still hasn't actually found himself attracted to any of them. They're pretty, he isn't blind, but there isn't the spark, like...well. Florian is still there, in all his splendour, and it will probably take a lot to distract him from that. Anyway, however he has done so, he has charmed his way into the hearts of many ladies, including, bizarrely, the Queen. Florian balks when Her Majesty publicly asks Cyril to be her advisor, Hilarion squeaks with glee and Cyril has to resist the urge to flirt with his Queen. That would not end well. As Florian points out afterwards, it would probably end with someone's head rolling on the floor, and not in an intimate way. Hilarion looks extremely confused, so Cyril pats him on the head and wonders when he stopped being the most oblivious person in the room. Through centuries of exposure to Florian, perhaps.

 

Then comes Princess Ida's twenty-first birthday, and everything goes to hell in a spectacular fashion.

 

~

 

Hilarion falls even more in love with Ida the instat he lies eyes on her, and neither Florian nor Cyril thought that that was possible. Psyche is there and Cyril is… confused. Melissa is there and Florian isn’t confused at all, but has certainly taken an arrow to the knee. Blanche is there and as a collective they seem to decide that this is probably a bad thing. And then, of course, Cyril gets drunk, because you can take the Lord out of the House, but you cannot take the House and it’s rampant alcoholism out of the Lord. Cyril gets drunk and Florian watches helplessly as he assaults Florian’s sister. Cyril himself should have realised just how bad a state he was in when, jumping into Psyche’s arms, she feels the wings straining at his back and drops him in surprise. She really had forgotten, but at that precise moment, with that amount of liquor in his system, it didn’t seem important. And then, of course, because it is Cyril, and underneath it all Cyril is still Tolloller, Leader of the House of Peers and all-round idiot, he goes and says Hilarion’s name.

 

~

 

Hildebrande storms the castle, Ida agrees to be Hilarion's bride and the Lady Blanche claims leadership of the University, and so everyone should be happy. They are not. The women of Adamant will not study under her tyranny, and so Psyche, little changeling Psyche, leads them out into the world to begin anew. Hilarion looks fit to attack anyone who comes anywhere near his Princess, and hasn't looked at his mother once since she tried to celebrate their victory. Ida's whole world has been crushed senselessly by unnecessary violence, and Florian and Cyril watch her clinging to her husband and wonder how on earth or in air this all went so horribly wrong. Melissa buries her face in Florian's chest, and they join Hilarion and Ida to begin the walk back to Hildebrande's ships, leaving the marauding Queen and her army behind them. Cyril dithers, panics, resolves himself, and sprints after Psyche. He did this - he has to put it right.

 

~

 

The tavern is dark, dreary and dreadfully dirty, and Cyril feels supremely uncomfortable. He may know more drinking songs than the average courtly gentlemen, but he doesn’t tend to go to these sorts of venues solo. In fact, he hasn’t really been anywhere for at least a decade without either Hilarion, Florian or any number of girls as decoration. He looks at the glass in his hand, considers downing it in one, but then remembers why he is here. If he is feeling uncomfortable, that will be nothing to the emotions of the academic women who are at present staying in the rooms above the bar. He takes the glass, sweeps dramatically over to a quiet table with far more exaggeratedly drunken movements than he actually needs. He is extremely experienced at being drunk: he can act the part. Then, he waits.

 

Psyche comes down the stairs and walks straight over to his table. Fairy magic, as always.

Cyril braces himself, but the blow never comes.

"My aunts warned me about you." She says. “I should have known.”

“They...did?” He replies. “When did you meet your aunts?”

As soon as she left the court of Queen Hildebrande, it turns out. Many of the fairies had come to visit her, but she had decided to stay in the human realm with Ida, the better to find a mortal spouse and avoid death. Her aunts had impressed upon her, she assured Cyril, that a marriage did not have to mean anything to follow the letter of the law, but to her that seems unfair to mortal men. And mortal women. Her aunts had also regaled her with heavily ornamented tales of his and George's - Florian's, as she still calls him her brother - various adventures. Apparently, he has been cast as a womaniser.

“Which is preposterous, because until I saw you this morning, I had never been attracted to a woman in all my exceedingly long life.” As soon as he says the words, he realises that he has made a grave error. Yet again. Ah, well, he really has used up his quota of common sense in the last few hours.

Psyche pulls away from him. She looks anywhere but at him, and when she eventually speaks it is to change the subject completely.

"Why are you here?"

"To help."

"With what?"

Ah. She's got him there. "Whatever you are doing?"

Psyche rolls her eyes and sighs dramatically. "Of course." And then she walks away. Typical.

 

Cyril grumbles, leaves the glass on the table and follows her. She acts like she can't hear him behind her, so he grabs at her hand. She yanks it away and whips around with arms up in front her of body. Cyril instantly backs away. D--n this . He ruined the original situation exactly like this and now he's just going to do it again? Of course, as Psyche said, he is an imbecile.

Psyche slowly lowers her guard and they manage to have a sensible conversation. Cyril books a room for the night, walks up the stairs after Psyche and then they both panic when they reach the top. So much has happened since they left their beds this morning, in different countries and in entirely different mindsets. Now they're here, together, and neither of them have any idea what to do with that information. So, Cyril waves, bows, backs away and then decides to curtsy, crashes into a wall and runs before anything worse happens. Psyche stands staring after him until Chloe comes looking for her. Chloe raises her eyebrows. Psyche raises her eyebrows back, Chloe jerks her head towards the room that Cyril just be sleeping in, and Psyche glares at her. Chloe puts her hands up in surrender and Psyche sniffs and flounces past her into their shared room. Chloe and Ada lock eyes behind Psyche's back, and groan.

 

~

 

"We need somewhere to learn. We cannot learn in this environment."

"Nowhere will let us learn, that is the entire difficulty."

"Adamant would let us learn."

"....not with the Lady Blanche in charge."

"There is no possibility?"

"No. Only inevitability."

 

"I am not even sure if I could learn in our possible-Adamant without a probable-Ida."

"We must."

 

"We must get Ida back across the water, mustn't we?"

"Cyril - we cannot."

"Yes, but we must."

 

"I know we have dreamed in our masterwork of a plan to rescue Ida from the dread Hildebrande - be quiet, Cyril, or I shall shut your mouth for you - but should we not also consider Melissa?"

"Sacha- really?"

"Well, she was one of us."

"I don't believe I have ever heard you to say anything to that effect before."

"So you won't help her because you didn't think I liked her? Is that it?"

"I think that more to the point is she went of her own free will - and with a man."

"Flozzer is hardly-"

"Be quiet, Cyril."

"Well, if we're storming Castle Hildebrande we certainly cannot approach by sea. They would see us from miles away...

 

"Do you think we can actually do any of this? At all?"

"I don't know, Cyril. At all."

 

~

 

They have been travelling between inns of varying reputation for the best part of a month, full of plans and no way to execute them, when Cyril hears it. His eyes burst open to a sound that no one around him can hear and for a moment he just revels in the song. Then, he slams some coin down on the counter and leaps over the tables in his way to reach the stairs in this particular tavern. He takes them two at a time (he’s short, he can’t manage any more than that without causing alarm) and bursts into the ladies’ room without knocking. There is much shrieking and pulling up of bedsheets, but he ignores it as he looks for Psyche.

Of course, he doesn’t need to look for long. “Cyril, you dare intrude upon our sanctuary when this is all we have left in the world, and even that cannot be-”

“He’s calling for us, Psyche!”

She is quiet instantly. She cocks her head to one side, gasps and turns around to scrabble through a mess of luggage on a nearby bed. Cyril doesn’t wait. He sprints through the bedroom, not even pausing to wink at anyone, and throws open the window shutters to climb outside and up. He hears actual screaming then, and smirks. They really thought that his leers were the worst of him? No, the worst of him is that he is a complete idiot with no impulse control. Well, Florian is his impulse control, but he isn’t here.

 

Psyche joins him on the roof not long after.

“Did your aunts teach you this part?”

Psyche bites her lip. “I was not particularly in the mood for practical demonstration at that age.”

Cyril raises an eyebrow but manages to restrain himself from further comment. “Then I will take us.” He holds out his hand. “Come, I don’t bite.”

Psyche looks at his arm like it is a snake. “Are you sure?”

“Not unless you ask me to.” Now he’s leering. There’s only so much a man can resist, but he ignores any response she makes to grab her hand and concentrate on the song they both hear. “Call us and we’ll come…”

 

~

 

“...to thee.”

If Cyril had had a chance to look around he would have seen that they had appeared in a wooded glade next to the stone of a familiar castle wall, but as it was Psyche slapped him the instant that they were transported. She steps away from him, and proceeds to ignore his existence. Cyril gingerly feels his face, and yes, she still slaps very hard.

“So. This is Castle Adamant.” She says.

“I should sher- cer tainly hope sho.” Cyril slurs. Psyche has the grace to look at least slightly guilty, and Cyril immediately brightens up. His cheek will be fine, if she cares about him. Oh dear, he thinks, that was horrendously mushy. He thanks God that Florian wasn’t there to see it.

“Cyril, where is he?”

“I...don’t know. He can’t have sung us here by accident.”

Psyche laughs. “Are you so certain? This is my brother - this is Florian. He sings to himself whilst making the tea and if ever anything needs explaining, you’d best hope that an orchestra is around to accompany an aria. He hardly stops singing.”

“Well.” Cyril bites his lip. “Even if that is the case, this is the best opportunity we’re probably going to have. We’re here, Hildebrande has no idea, and that,” he points upwards to a spark of light in the blank stone, “is Florian’s rooms, unless I am much mistaken. Hilarion and Ida should be just along the corridor.”

“Do you think that we could rescue - do you think that all four of them want to leave?”

Cyril stares at the ground. “I never want to see that expression on Hilarion’s face again.” He says. “I have no idea what the others will think, but we are getting Hilarion and our Princess out of this glorified prison whatever happens.”

Psyche looks up at the far distant light. "Well, we will certainly need to think on our wings."

"Indeed." He shrugs off his jacket, and starts unbuttoning his waistcoat. "If we don't want to lose all of our modesty in this unassuming glade, we will have to just let our wings do the work." He flings his waistcoat at Psyche and flexes. Psyche groans and squeezes her eyes shut, and so she misses Cyril's wings bursting dramatically through his shirt. He flaps his wings and as always, the feel of wind beneath them is a relief.

"My corset will be a lost cause, I'm sure, but it is a worthy sacrifice to ensure our friends' safety."

Psyche delicately passes him back his waistcoat and winces at the state of his shirt. Cyril ignores her, cinches his waistcoat in and puts it in so that his wings are still free to move.

Psyche sighs. She closes her eyes and starts to sing. "We can ride on lovers' sighs." By the time she has finished the phrase, her wings are outside her blouse and jacket, with her clothes none the worse for wear.

"I...should have thought of that." Hell"s teeth. He's been away from Fairyland and fairy magic for too long, and this is the result. "That was the only corset I had left!"

"I'm sure you can find time to procure one from somewhere within the castle." She offers him her hand, this time. "We should go."

"One minute." Cyril closes his eyes like Psyche had. "Clothe ourselves in lovers' fears." There is a strange tearing sound and when he feels underneath his waistcoat, the back of his shirt has been restored. "Sadly, that didn't help the corset. I suppose I shall have to find one inside."

He takes her hand, tries to ignore the fluttering of his heart at her touch, and together they fly, up in the sky.

 

Cyril taps on the window. He doesn't want to alarm anyone, but he can't really think of any other way. His wings are folded against his back, and he's standing on the windowsill. He doesn't know who will come to the window, and he doesn't want to show off his entire hand so early in the game. Psyche waits to the side of the window, out of sight as her wings thrum with the effort of keeping her in the air.

He taps again, and it appears that whoever is inside was waiting for another sound from them, as the curtains are immediately drawn back. Melissa appears behind them, brandishing a book.

The only reason Cyril doesn't put his head in his hands is because he would fall. Instead, he settles for waving his arm awkwardly, from where it is trapped close to his chest. Melissa stands frozen - hopefully in shock rather than fear - and Cyril has to mouth ‘help’ through the glass before she actually moves to open the window. He tumbles through onto the stone floor and leaps back to his feet again to hold his arm out to Psyche. She enters the room much more gracefully, and by the time her feet touch down, the only hint of fairyhood on either of them is an unusual glimmer down their spines.

Melissa finally drops the book to fling her arms around Psyche, who grips her back so tightly that Cyril starts to think he might have to rescue Melissa from her immortal strength. Finally Melissa steps away, only to embrace Cyril. He tries not to let the panic show on his face, and awkwardly pats her on the back.

"I feared that I would never see either of you again!" She blurts out, once she has let go of Cyril.

"We would never let that happen." Psyche says, taking Melissa's hand. Over the young woman's head, she looks at Cyril and sees her own concern mirrored in his features. "Why did you ever think that? Would not have come to visit us?"

"Well..." She trails off, looking at the floor. "I do not think her Majesty would have been very happy with us if we did."

"Who, Ida?" Cyril asks incredulously.

"No!" She says. That, at least, makes her look up. "The Queen."

Cyril's heart plummets into his stomach. She really had gone and done it. Florian wasn't hers to control, and Melissa certainly not.

"We hoped that you would accompany us," Psyche says, "but we had assumed that you would be free to leave."

Melissa steps away from them to look out of the open window. "You came for the Princess, I know."

Psyche and Cyril glance at each other and grimace.

"The more the merrier, say I!" Cyril's forced cheer falls rather horribly flat.

"Melissa-" Psyche says, "by this time tomorrow, all six of us will be firmly on our own soil once more. We will be free of this place."

She turns back to face them with bright eyes. "You really mean that?"

Cyril rolls his eyes. "Of course we do. Now, where is your teapot, and where is your husband?"

 

~

 

The door opens and everyone freezes. Florian enters the room, blinks furiously and slowly puts the documents he is holding down on a small table close to the door.

"Cyril?"

Cyril grins from behind his teacup . "Nice of you to join us, Flozzer."

Florian walks towards him, and his ridiculous legs mean it takes him all of two steps. Cyril waves his cup in Psyche’s direction, who fortunately takes it, but Florian doesn’t actually punch him. Instead, he hugs him tightly, and Cyril agrees wholeheartedly with the sentiment.

When he lets Cyril go, he grabs his hand and grips it tightly. “How on earth are you here?” He asks.

“Well, you sang to us.”

“I did?” He glances at his wife, who takes the opportunity to hug the side of him that Cyril isn’t currently occupying. He loops his arm around her shoulder absent-mindedly. “Well, as I suppose you can see, it wasn’t on purpose.” Cyril winces and Psyche bites her lip. “But a better accident, I could not have dreamed of.”

Psyche sighs and hands Cyril back his tea. “I told you. I do know my own brother.”

“I’ve been with him much longer than you have, dear.” Cyril remarks before he realises it. Florian pinches his palm, but at this point Cyril has stopped caring. Melissa will know soon enough exactly what they are, at any rate.

“Oh, but we can reminisce later!” Melissa says. She draws away from Florian and Cyril and rushes over to the desk (Cyril can’t believe he still has that desk, he hasn’t seen it for… at least a decade). “Shouldn’t we be escaping?”

Florian glances quickly between Psyche and Cyril. “You’re getting Ida and Hilarion as well?”

“Of course, you buffoon.”

“Melissa has been telling us about how strict Queen Hildebrande has become.” Psyche says. “It seems that the sooner we can leave, the better.”

Florian nods decisively. “Quite.”

 

Minutes later, Psyche and Cyril wait at the door, having finished their tea, and Florian and Melissa appear with more hardy clothes and filled pockets.

“Is this everything?”

Florian looks at Melissa, who stands on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “It is all we can afford to take, and we will make do.” She says.

Cyril and Psyche nod together, Cyril opens the door and they creep out. There haven't been many times in Cyril's life that being a dainty little fairy has been useful, but this certainly is one of them. They trip through silent corridors, sticking to the deadening carpets covering stone floors. Melissa almost looks like she's enjoying herself, but Florian more than makes up for her lack of concern. They pass a corridor leading off to the right and no amount of tripping could hide them as a guard approaches down the corridor towards them. Psyche, taking up the rear, shoves Cyril into Florian to make them keep going. Cyril raises his eyebrows at her, but gets them out of sight.

She turns to face the corridor, holds out her hand and sings, "Doom appalling."

There's a thump and Cyril, Florian and Melissa turn around quickly enough to see Psyche wincing.

Cyril creeps back towards the corner and carefully looks around it. He raises his eyebrows. "Had you ever used that particular phrase before?"

"No." Psyche whispers, not looking at him.

Florian and Melissa poke their heads around the corner just above Cyril, and Melissa gasps.

"Is she dead?" She asks, gripping Cyril's shoulder rather too hard for his liking.

Cyril slips out from under them and gingerly tiptoes over to kneel by the supine guard. "No." Thank heaven. "Simply out cold."

He hears an over-dramatic sigh of relief from behind him, but then again, there were three very worried people. Honestly, they are fae (and a fae's wife), they should be made of sterner stuff. He gets to his feet and shrugs at them.

"Onwards?"

Psyche nods hastily, and Cyril doesn't wait for the others. He knows the way to Hilarion's rooms probably better than the back of his hand.

 

"Should thou be in doubt or danger..." The phrase use is tenuous, but fortunately it works and the door handle turns under Cyril's palm. He opens the door and steps through to find a knife held at his neck. He stops immediately, sees Hilarion behind whoever this is, and eventually forces his eyes to focus on his peripheral vision outside of the help of his glasses. Fuzzy features corroborated by a good guess lend themselves to the realisation that it is Ida threatening him thus. Of course. After a tense few seconds, the knife is removed and Ida steps hastily away.

"Your highness." Cyril says. He meant to say more, but by that point his arms are full of Hilarion and his mouth is muffled in pink cardigan. He, at least, is still adorably predictable.

"Cyril!"

"Hilarion!"

"You're here!"

Cyril worms his way out of his friend's arms to curtsy to Ida. "I am indeed." He says to the both of them. Ida looks slightly less terrified, although very definitely confused. "May we come in?"

"We?" Ida repeats.

"Yes, please don't keep us out here in suspense." Florian says from behind him.

"And, rather more pressingly, in plain view of the guards." Psyche adds.

Hilarion drags Cyril in to allow room for the others. Ida's whole face lights up when she sees Psyche, and she pulls her into an embrace. Melissa stands awkwardly to the side until Psyche uses her spare arm to shut the door and snag Melissa to her side. Hilarion looks on, and Cyril thinks he might explode if he gets any happier.

"Why are you here?" Ida asks.

Psyche frowns. "To rescue you, of course. We're getting you and Hilarion, and Melissa and Cyril, and we're going home."

"To Adamant?" She whispers hopefully.

Cyril grimaces. "Not yet. But with you to inspire us, Adamant will be back in our hands."

"Oh." Ida turns to Cyril and bows. Cyril cringes and looks at Hilarion, who is no hope at all. "Thank you for your confidence."

Cyril gapes like a fish and is generally useless. Florian sighs and takes over. "You were the one that gave them that confidence, Ida. We need to leave quickly - there was a..." he pauses and looks at Psyche "...an incident with a guard. They'll know something is wrong soon. We must only take what fits in our pockets."

Hilarion nods. "Then I will line my pockets with gold so that we may still have all that we need."

Cyril finally recovers. "A month in sensible company has done you good. You would never have said that before."

"And you would never have said it at all." Hilarion says absent-mindedly, but he pats Cyril's shoulder as he speaks, so Cyril is only mildly outraged. Ida smiles at them, and turns to join Hilarion in packing. Psyche and Florian are outright giggling, and Melissa looks horrified. Cyril flounces over to a chair and drapes himself over it dramatically. Melissa will just have to get used to his antics, because he doesn't plan on changing. Well. Not unless Psyche asked him to. Or Florian, obviously.



Ida has everything that she owns in the world, because she didn't get the luxury of luggage when forced out of her home. Hilarion pockets are indeed bulging, and Cyril just hopes it doesn't weigh him down too much. Hilarion looks around his rooms, his for all twenty-two years of his life, and then he takes his wife's hand and leads the way out of the castle.

~


In all honesty, they get further than Cyril ever thought they would. They have reached the harbour and Florian is readying the sails of the smallest boat by the time that Hildebrande and her army have them surrounded, with arrows and pistols aimed at them from all sides.
Hildebrande approaches with the guard that Psyche knocked out at her side.

"Cyril. Florian. We thought better of you." Neither of them respond. "I think you would agree that the abduction of our son would be regarded as the highest treason."

Cyril winces. Hilarion drew himself up to his full height. "I would regard the imprisoning of my own heart the height of treason against myself. If my Queen can commit that against me, I could no longer count myself as her subject."

Hildebrande's eyes widen and she reaches behind her. Cyril isn't there as he always was to hand her a calming cup of tea, and he can't bring himself to care. When nothing appears in her hand, her expression darkens. She stalks towards Hilarion, who actually raises his fists in some approximation of a fighting stance, but Cyril gets there first. He slides in front of his Prince, and the difference between him and Hildebrande is stunning.

The warrior queen stands tall, in her full dress uniform with an army bristling with weapons behind her. The penniless noble in front of her is short, with his shirt sleeves rolled up over his skinny arms, and he has nothing.

Except his voice.

 

"Go away, madam,

I must say, madam,

You display, madam,

Shocking taste."

Hildebrande sneers at him, and indicates imperiously at her guard. The guard flings her arm forward and Hildebrande’s army charge to arrest the five traitors. They don’t get very far.

"It is rude, madam,

To intrude, madam,

With your brood, madam,

Brazen faced."

Cyril holds the army back with his song and his wings are out at full stretch. Hildebrande is shocked for mere seconds, and then she is even angrier. She cries ‘fire’ and the soldiers not trapped in Cyril’s music let their weapons fly. Cyril smirks.

"You will pay, madam,

For what you say, madam,

To a fae, madam,

I am one."

Arrows and bullets freeze in mid-air before retracing their flights back into the army. None of them find a mark, but that had never been Cyril’s intention. Florian and Psyche step out to flank him. Cyril takes Psyche’s hand on one side and Florian on the other, and Florian holds Melissa’s hand behind him. The three fae sing to bring the army to its knees.

"You're aware, madam,

What you dare, madam,

So take care, madam,

And be gone!

All around them, Hildebrande’s soldiers are forced to the floor. None of them move, but Cyril has been in control of this power long enough to know that none of them are dead. Hildebrande alone stays standing, and Cyril reaches out and with his last note, forces her to her knees. The general pause after the end of the chorus leaves the music ringing in their ears, but for a moment, all is silent and still.

Behind Cyril, Florian is the first to move. He crouches down and relieves the unconscious head guard of her sword. He turns to Ida and bows, offering the sword to her. She hesitates, but takes it. She walks forward, and Cyril steps aside.

Ida approaches Hildebrande and holds the point of the sword to her throat.

“There is no war between us, Queen Hildebrande.” She says. “If you never again interfere in the lives of your son and your daughter ,” she pauses, taking deep breaths, “then there never will be war. Do you understand us?”

Hildebrande glares at her, but makes no response.

Ida frowns, and pushes on the sword just enough to break the skin. “Are we understood?” She repeats icily.

“Yes.” Hildebrande spits at her.

Ida nods, steps back, and drops the sword. She backs away quickly, looking anywhere but Hildebrande, and falls into Hilarion’s arms. He hugs her tightly, and walks them away from his mother. Florian kicks the blade away from them, and they all turn their back on the Queen. Cyril stays alert for any movement, but Hildebrande is, at last, subdued.

 

~

 

Florian runs the sail ropes through his hands and catches the breeze sung up by Psyche. Melissa sits by the tiller, but when her services aren’t required she rushes to Florian and strokes his wings; whether this is to soothe Florian or herself isn’t clear. Cyril alternates his time between irritating Florian and flirting with Psyche, two actions which, to the untrained eye, seem very similar. From the bow Ida stares out at the horizon, hair flying out behind her and a smile on her face. Her hands on the rail give another slant to the story, but Hilarion will never tell of her white-knuckled grip unless she asks him to. He will take any number of crushed fingers for his wife’s freedom.

Suddenly, Cyril stops in the middle of a sentence, and swears.

“I forget to get another thrice-D---ed corset!”