I know I could have ignored the exhaustion if I wanted to, heck, I could ignore it if I just let go of this world we came back to. Just let go of this mortal world and slip away from its rules and order, back to where I was.. back to what I was. It was my brother who brought me back. Reminded me of everything. Between the reassurance and bravado I felt fear and terrible promise. He’d nearly been killed by that thing and if then…
It’s early in the morning according to the clocks, whatever authority they have here in a hospital waiting room lit up like mid-summer’s night at the north pole. Stella must have moved because I’m momentarily awake – she and Zai are talking about something with some other guys.. I don’t know. Seeing my brother stable and already hitting on his nurse brought me back again. I will sleep – it’s what the humans do.
I still feel tired when we’re kicked out at the ass crack of dawn. That’s good – I’d be worried right now if I felt fine and ready to go. Right outside, waiting for us are an elk and a Yeti – knights, well, one of them at least. There’s apparently some terminology to learn. They’re sorry that we got into that mess with the pirates and that Royal was nearly killed. Stella and Zai may have made some kind of pact with them for our security. But first things first – food, and coffee, which I apparently have a strong desire for now. Mother usually gave me coffee scorched and acrid, and every so often, perfect, so I’d know exactly what I didn’t deserve. Coffee’s an acquired taste, though, and the dive diner we went to got it just right for me – acidic, notes of ash, served just hot enough to make you sip it and burn your tongue.
They’re both courtiers of Summer. All about protection and fighting. Apparently the Freehold is aware of us and was trying to protect us at a distance, and the near-abduction of Zai and near-death of Royal wounded their pride. We talk. Joining the Freehold and becoming part of the scene here is an option, but for now they want control over our contact with other changelings. I’m not keen on the oversight, but their desire to not have us dragged off back to Arcadia appeals. We get room & board, plus security until the new year in exchange for some favor within our abilities. New Year’s Day is ‘auspicious’ – if we want to join, that’ll be the day. We’ve got some time to mull it over and meet the nice ‘people’ we’re allowed to meet.
The Summer guys wanted to make sure we knew to deal with our ‘fetches’ – those things that took our place in this world. They’re mostly of the opinion that we need to dispatch ours as soon as we can, but not everyone seems to feel that way. Sam seems seriously worried about his fetch, which apparently may be leading some sort of an army now. We wake up to find cards with the current locations of our fetches on them – well, most of us do. Royal gets one but I don’t. I guess I should be happy to not have a lethal copy of myself running around. I should be glad that Royal’s fetch doesn’t have a brother to back him up, but I’m not. It feels like a parting shot from Mother and it cuts deeper than anything has in a long, long time. I don’t deserve a fetch. I’m not worth one. It’s her way of punishing me, of reinforcing how unworthy I am, and driving a wedge between me and her lover.
Right then and there I should have told Royal how I felt, but I didn’t – her snare had me and I pulled away. He went off to meet the nurse he was interested in and I.. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I wanted to go confront it – find out for sure that there was really only one, and then, I don’t know, kill it. Or have it kill me. Or go back There altogether and give up on returning to this world. I was so fucking angry. Right where she wanted me.
Stella was there though, and she listened. I have so little room for anyone but my brother, but she was there too and listened to me vent my rage. She helped me come back from the edge. Whatever we do with the fetch we’ll do it together, and I will stand by my brother as he stands by me.