(c) Nin Harris 2009 —
Ipede Dwinkum looked at his hat. It was a rather battered old thing, but Waterlily had gifted it to him. You do not throw away a faerie gift. You were permitted or sometimes, even encouraged, to forget it, but you do not throw it away. Not that Ipede would, or could. It was one of the things that connected him to her, even if he could never see her or hear her. He could breathe in the scent of her sometimes, know when she was near him by the quality of the air. He knew it the same way he knew when there were pixies around, ruffling his hair, or trying to pinch his bared, dwarven fore-arms. He placed the dark brown hat reverently on his head of tousled ginger and brown, age having softened and darkened its hue, somewhat. Flexing his body, he settled into a relaxed, fighter’s position and tried to push his way into Nemus Animae. This was the same fight he had with the same barriers for more than a decade, mayhap, even a human century. The same force of pressure kept him out. He had never accepted the geas laid upon him by the Faerie Lord, for daring to love, and even more, for trying to wed a member of the fae nobility. He had never accepted the kind of punishment doled upon him for daring to attempt to rise above his station. He lived with it. He lived with being denied the second sight, but he never accepted that it was for an eternity. The good part of the geas was that any form of tactile contact, good or bad, was buffered by it. He could sense, but he could not be directly harmed. In that sense, the Faerie Lord had protected him. In that sense, alone.
Through the birch trees Ipede’s eyes reacquainted itself with a path, lined with flowering shrubs, leading into the heart of the Grove. He knew there were other things to see and experience there; he had been through it more than once. That was how he had met Waterlily, blundering through the forest like the excited mad young wood-dwarf that he was. Mad Ipede, they called him in those days. Mad, even before he had lost his sanity and became the thing the children of the city-state whispered about, as much as they whispered about Jezemiah Irlinus. Mad enough to fall in love with a green faerie lady with star-glistened wings and a glissando on her lips when he made her hum, with a curve to her spine as he made her purr, verdant notes, as lush and as secret as the faerie woods themselves.
Perhaps she was half-mad too, the beloved Waterlily, she of the pastel skin of milk and smooth mosspond green. Perhaps an eldritch insanity was the heat behind her agate eyes, mad enough to accept his rough-as-bark skin into her silken embrace. And thus, he entered the woods and the liquid pastures of the fae dreams, where all things merge into one thing. And thus, he learned to hunger for magic. The sweet perfume of her skin and the musk of fae revelries led him to his profession as a Perfumer, scavenging for ducts and other unseemly things needed to create unguents of potency. His obsession with magic turned him into a Faerie Alchemist. And more. Perhaps too much more. Perhaps he hungered for more than Waterlily’s embrace the night he decided they should be betrothed.
Ipede pushes against the barrier that obstructs him from Nemus Animae, and finds something that causes him to stop. This attempt to access the woods has become, almost a ritual for him. He never expects to win through. But tonight, something seems to have changed. A brief weakness in the pattern that keeps him out. A slight…oversight perhaps? Ipede sets his hat on the ground, followed by the tweed jacket that the Caretaker gifted him with, last Solstice.