I was never a patient person.
To be honest, very few of us were. My brother liked to say that it was strange that impatience should be one of the defining characteristics of an immortal race, but he never developed the idea very far. He wasn't patient enough. I didn't care either way, and when he started talking like that, I simply shrugged. To me, having all the years till the end of forever stretching before me simply meant that there would be time to fix the mistakes I had made, or to perfect something that I didn't know how to do just yet. Patience was more suited towards those who had to finish their work in the century or less they had before death claimed them.
Which only made it stranger.
I stared like a rabbit hypnotized by a snake's gaze, although with none of the fear of such a creature. My foot tapped the ground ever so slightly, and I found myself swaying almost imperceptibly as memories centuries old were dredged up from the recesses of my mind, memories of fiercely wild dances under the stars and moonlight accompanied by music such as this. Forcing myself to remain still, for I itched to recreate those long-ago dances in the late afternoon light, I shoved the music to the back of my mind and watched the fiddler instead.
Humans, as a general rule, were quite boring to watch. Something about them made them seem blurry, as though they were seen from a great distance; a smudge of reddish brown for hair, a pale blob of a face, a twiggy suggestion of limbs and a strange lump of a torso was all I had seen of the last human to pass through this part of the forest. Yet the fiddler—
A lovely face; small with simple lines, and softer than any faerie's yet nowhere near the blob that other human faces resembled. A little shadow following a lock of pale brown hair down his forehead and over his bright brown eyes. I only saw them on occasion, for he closed them when he played, but when they opened to make certain of a cord, I admired the clear, almost faceted way his iris was split into tiny shards of rich brown and soft gold and near-black. A smile quirked his lips, lips that seemed as though they might very well kiss the violin tucked under his chin.
I smiled wanly when I realized I had conquered the urge to dance only to find myself confronted with the whimsical desire to touch his hair and see how it differed from my own, if the softening of a fae body was more than just appearance. Whimsical and more than a little foolish. I stamped it down harshly just as he stopped playing.
He glanced skywards, noting the setting sun and the quickly darkening sky and shook his head. I could almost read his thoughts on his face— No time for another song. Disappointed, I nearly turned to leave when he brought his violin to his chin and began to play a song that rang in my bones and all but dragged me to the fiddler. This was more than a memory of that dance; it was the very tune that another had played. On a flute, I remembered, not a violin, but it was close enough. More than close enough.
My brown-eyed fiddler walked through the forest, a pack of firewood on his back, bow flashing across the strings of the violin in a tune that the fae had danced to on moonlit nights long ago. There was something deeper, subtler to it than when it had been played on a flute, and I wondered if perhaps the song had been written for the violin in the first place. Out of the corners of my eyes, I saw others of my court following him, sharp eyes fixed on the violin.
He didn't know what the song was. That much was obvious, especially when he changed it to a version that had only been played twelve times every year, the night before the fae ran the Wild Hunt. No human would play that, not when they were certain that they were the prey we dreamed of. Even in the earliest times, it had been one of the few patient fae who had played this song.
By the time we reached his home, night had fallen. I didn't know if he realized that and worried about what might come after him in the forest after dark, but his pace only increased long after I had seen the gleam of a lantern inside a window. In any case, he needn't have worried; nothing in the forest was foolish enough to attack the fae, and before now, none but the fae had played the Hunt-song in this forest. He couldn't have been safer if a thousand men with iron blades had been with him.
And that was before one took we fae into consideration.
At the sight of the village, a cluster of thirty or forty similar houses, those who had joined me after my fiddler had begun to play faded back into the forest. Still I followed him, for I couldn't feel any iron in the village. Iron was quite new, and there was nothing else to threaten me.
The Hunt-song ended, and the fiddler knocked on the door of a house, where he was quickly admitted for fear of the creatures that walked the night. I frowned and walked over to the house, hoping to hear him play another song, but there was nothing more, just a hurried conversation and a name: Tam. My fiddler, my Tam.
Finally convinced that there would be no more fiddling coming, I turned to leave and heard a soft song that was quickly cut of by a sharp voice. Not my fiddler's voice. It was indistinct, like any other human's, and I knew that it couldn't be his. His… sister? Lover? Mother?
In any case, the song hadn't been his. It was played on a flute.
I considered that as I returned to the court, where one of the few patient fae would be playing the Hunt-song for us. We would run the Wild Hunt tomorrow night, when the moon failed to light the sky and the world belonged wholly to the fae once more. Perhaps it was Tam's. How much finer his music would sound on our instruments. No matter how skilled his fingers, there was still something slightly human in his songs, for nothing could change the human build of the violin and flute.
I smiled to myself. It was a fine idea. The trees closed over my head, hiding the night sky from my sight, and I began to run as only the fae can run. I had a violin to find.
The night would have been described by a bard as deathly quiet, although that wasn't true. Softly muttering birds shifted in their sleep, small mammals crept about on the forest floor and the trees whispered in the gentle wind. The larger creatures, though, both the hunters and hunted, were wary tonight. None wanted to be the target of a Wild Hunt.
There was no way to describe a Wild Hunt, and I had given up after trying to describe it to my sister centuries ago, I being the older sibling. There was intoxicating sense of power flowing through my veins, a giddy certainty that anything could be done and a feeling to connectedness with the wildness that surrounded me. It was what made us so impatient, I'd thought long ago. The urge to run as far and fast as possible, the sheer desire for the thrill of the chase and the craving for the knowledge that it was speed and instinct and nothing so tame as logic and planning that made us so dangerous. It was what made us fae.
Fae and fierce and wild, a human minstrel had once said of us. My brother had said that it was redundant. What else would we be? Fae and calm and tame?
I leaned against the large stone that my Queen sometimes used as a throne as I attempted to get the skirt to sit properly. It was centuries old, and of human make, for no faerie was patient enough to work a loom and build the clothing. A relic from the long-ago time when we'd human minstrels playing for our dances and humans had left offerings out that we might leave them alone when we ran our Wild Hunts, patched and repaired countless times. My brother nodding knowingly at me when he saw me, and I scowled at him. Faeries out to seduce a human wore their clothing for one reason. Glamour was a simple magic that even the least patient faerie could manage to learn, but it had a few weaknesses. Tactile illusions were incredibly difficult, and even something as simple as the wind blowing in one direction and clothing wafting in the other was enough for a perceptive human to break the glamour. So the clothing. I would find my fiddler, my Tam, and I would bring him back to the court to play for us.
The skirt finally straightened into a shape that wouldn't twist around my legs as I ran and reinforced with a touch of magic, only a step above glamour, I tucked the copper and bronze patterned flute into my belt. I had been unable to find a violin, although I was certain that I would be able to find one in time for the next Wild Hunt. In the mean time, well, Tam's skills with his flute were hardly equal to his talent with his human violin. He was in far more need of a fae flute.
A horn blew at one end of the clearing, and I felt my blood pounding through my veins. It was blown again, and a large cluster of faeries broke off to follow after the sound, starting at an easy lope, although by the end of the night they would have reached a pace to rival the wind itself. Impatient with waiting and finally released when my Queen led her own group out into the night, I began to run.
Wind in my short hair, feet pounding down on the earth, lightening-quick reflexes letting me land on the most precarious of perches for half a second before I moved on to the next, I didn't fight the urge to laugh. The Wild Hunt made every bit of impatience that made me hurl my current project away in despair worthwhile, every heartbeat of frustration a passing observation rather than the defining characteristic of my life. I whooped with delight as I hurled myself across a river that even the fleet footed deer of my home had trouble with, a jump that I wouldn't have been able to make if it weren't for the Hunt. I paused when my feet hit the ground once more, my nostrils flaring as I looked around me. Blood. I could smell blood. And then I was running once more, mouth watering slightly as I recalled the tang of fresh blood.
Stronger and stronger, the smell finally led me to the source, a broken-winged partridge that flailed feebly in my grip when I picked it up. Smiling, I snapped the bird's neck with a brisk twist and then began licking my bloody fingers like a child with a bit of salt. With two quick yanks, I pulled the wings from the partridge, uninterested in the feathers or the sparse bits of meat that hid between the bones and gristle and focused my attention on the body. The short bronze knife that I carried flashed in the dim light, and I winced and grabbed for a bit of breast meat that had slid between my fingers. Slippery with blood and fat, I peeled off the latter, savouring the former as I chewed the slightly stringy meat. Birds had drier meat than other animals, and I suddenly wished that I had joined one of the other Hunts. But I had a fiddler to find. I continued at a slightly slower pace, determined not to drop a single morsel of my snack.
When I reached the border of the forest, I realized I had a problem: I couldn't remember which house Tam lived in. They all looked almost exactly the same as the one I remembered, and there was no one to lead me to his home. None of them wanted to attract the attention of the Wild Hunt.
Pacing around the edge of the forest, certain that it had been one of the nearer homes that the fiddler had walked into, I continued to cut small pieces of meat off to munch. The urge to run made me itch, and my speed increased. Back and forward. This house? I approached one that seemed a likely match and rested my hands, long fingered even for a faerie, against the wall, only to recoil. There was iron in that home. I snarled at it and hurled the partridge's lungs at the building, only to regret it. Lungs were always a bloody and enjoyable treat. At least I hadn't done something ridiculously foolish, such as throwing the liver or heart.
As I muttered, annoyed with myself, I passed several other homes, none of them with iron in them, but none of them with a fiddler's music coming from them. Fifty homes, I thought. Forty-nine, actually, as he wasn't in the home with the iron in it. Still…
I paused and sniffed the air. Under the strong scent of blood that came from my snack was a softer, sweeter smell. I licked my lips: Honey. A brief search of front doors and windowsills rewarded me with a large bowl filled with milk and honey. None of the fae, not even the most patient of craftsmen or musicians, were patient enough to raise cattle or goats, and beekeeping was too painful an experience to be worthwhile. I tucked the partridge under my arm, lifted the bowl and bent my head to drink—
I dipped my head down close enough that my nose almost touched the milk and studied it with eyes given strength by the power of the Wild Hunt, and didn't bother fighting back the growl that rose up in my throat when the smell of blood overpowered the more savoury scents of milk and honey. Oh, yes, I dearly enjoyed the taste of blood, but even the fierce impatience that the Wild Hunt brought out in me was enough to silence the caution that had been instilled in me from centuries of stories of humans binding unwary fae. All it took was an accepted blood offering, and the faerie didn't even have to be aware of the choice she was making.
"What do you want?" I demanded.
No answer. I placed my partridge on the ground, put the bowl of honey and milk and blood next to it and shoved my fingers into the cracks in the shutters, reaching for the glitter of eyes I'd seen seconds before. I'd nearly bent the wood enough that I could fit my entire hand in through the hole when a timid voice said, "You aren't welcome in here. Stay out."
I snarled, but retreated. I wouldn't have been able to enter uninvited in any case. "What's in the bowl?" I asked instead.
"Milk. Honey." It was a high voice, probably a child's. "Chicken's blood. Father told me that the fae like milk and honey, and I thought you might like the blood too."
I said nothing.
"There's a bit of mine, too," the child finally admitted.
I frowned. "I can't drink it, then. Get me a new bowl."
"I'm not allowed to open the door at night!"
"Then promise me you won't bind me."
A silence, then, "Fine. May the Wild Hunt take me if I lie."
I grinned sharply, for the words sounded ridiculous coming from a child, and picked the bowl up once more, gulping down the rich mixture. The milk had cream in it too, judging from the heavy flavour, and the sweetness of the honey balanced the tang of blood. I wiped my mouth on my sleeve once I was done, and then, in a sudden burst of inspiration, picked up the partridge. "Want some?"
"Not allowed to eat faerie food. Father told me—"
"Your loss. I quite like partridge." I cut off another piece, slightly disappointed by how fast the blood had cooled, and chewed it thoughtfully. "Can you do me a favour?"
"Not allowed to do things for the fae."
I sighed, popped another piece of meat into my mouth. Winced, spat it out once more. Gristle. "How old are you?"
"Ten. What about you?"
"I can't remember."
Laughter. "Can I show you something?"
"Are you going to open the window?"
"Not allowed to open the window for faeries. I know. It was worth a try. Fine, what is it?"
There was the sound of footsteps and then a long silence, in which I finished the better part of the partridge. Just as I was wondering if it would be worth starting on the liver, the footsteps approached the window once more, and I heard the child clamber up onto something, perhaps a table.
"I play it whenever father comes home," the child announced proudly. "But it's really old." A quiet tune started up, a song that had been written by one of the more patient fae, and I stared through the cracks in the shutter at the human behind them. The child – a boy? – was as clearly defined as Tam had been, and then I knew.
"You played the flute yesterday," I said when the maybe-a-boy had finished. "Just after sundown, when your father came back."
"You heard that?" he asked, sounding embarrassed. "Why were you here?"
I shrugged, remembered that he couldn't see me all that well, and told him, "I liked your father's violin. Play me something else?"
He complied, and I enjoyed the partridge's heart, all but smothered with blood and dense enough that I had to wrench my head back to tear off bites, as I considered my options. Tam wouldn't want the flute, then. I had no reason to wait here to convince the child to awaken his father. But I also didn't want to go back to the court with the flute, for that would suggest that I had messed up. So, when Tam's son finished his second song, I said, "I liked the milk." I'd enjoyed the heart, too.
"I can't give you more. I'm not allowed—"
"To open the door for faeries. I know. But you might decide I owe you something, so I'm going to leave you a present." I removed the flute from my belt and placed it in the bowl on the ground. "And you can always leave me more milk, if you like. Just without your blood."
"Thank you," Tam's son murmured. I didn't reply. The impatience of the Wild Hunt, dulled by the honeyed milk, blood and music, surged through my veins once more, and I took off into the night. There would be other chances to catch my fiddler.
Two weeks later, I was more than ready to scream my frustration to anyone listening. Tam refused to go to the border of the forest, always walking away from where I might have been able to snatch him up and take him back to the court. I'd even found the violin, although now, knowing what he had told his child about doing anything with faeries, I wondered if he'd take it. Still, his son hadn't said that he wasn't allowed to take presents from us, so perhaps I still stood a chance.
I paced the edge of the forest, absently summoning a glamour to hide me from the humans who, feeling safe in the bright afternoon light, hurried down to the river that flowed into the forest to gather water for their gardens and fields. Resting a hand on a large maple tree, I let my fingers explore the weathered ridges of its bark as I watched Tam's door, the impatience of two weeks earlier surging through me. I knew he was there. Why wouldn't he come out?
As I looked from humans to river to Tam's door, I smiled. The magic of patience wasn't the only kind that belonged to the fae, after all. To the west were those who had once been the seakin, though there name had changed over the centuries to selkie, and further south were those who changed form with their clothing. All those, to some extent, depended on patience, yet, because they were fae magics, they also depended on impatience. I took a few steps back into the forest, the warm summer air dancing over my bare arms in the faint breeze. A hunt lasting a few seconds ended with my discovery of a long, forked branch of a maple tree. I settled my hands between two boles, savouring the rough texture of the bark for a heartbeat before raising it above my head.
"Come, Tam," I said simply. The wind had slowed slightly, and a spear of sunlight shot through a gap in the leaves and branches to touch the end of the maple branch. Chilled from the night before, the earth under my feet was a pleasant counterbalance to the warmth of the day. I waited.
The door opened, and out walked my fiddler. My gaze followed him admiringly as he joined those going to the river, his neatly defined face a wonderful contrast to the pale blobs that were his fellows, something about his voice making it more distinct and coherent than the babblings of the others. After filling the two buckets he had brought with him, he looked around, lovely brown and gold eyes searching the edge of the forest warily. Still, he didn't notice me, and so he began to wade downstream, peering at the flowers that grew along the banks as though he had a specific kind in mind.
Approaching stealthily, I followed him behind a bend in the river without his noticing, even when I made the transition from land to water with a slight splash. The glamour, I knew, was a great help with this. Though I was barefoot, I had been so for most of my life, and so when I stepped on a few sharp pebbles my only reaction was to wince slightly, not to bawl like a child – or a human. The riverbed was mostly sandy, though, and such instances were rare. The maple staff helped, too, for by prodding the ground with it I could gauge my footing, and it kept me from slipping and getting the violin, which I carried in my other hand, wet.
When we were well past the bend and deep into the forest I began to move more swiftly, soon catching up to him. "Tam," I called, tucking the staff under my right arm as tapping his shoulder with my left hand.
He whirled around and I smiled at being able to see the shards of colour that made up his irises up close. "What do you want?"
"I have a gift for you. Here." I thrust the violin at him and resisted the urge to scowl at him when he hesitated to accept it. He reached for it, fingers wide and ready to embrace the neck of the violin, where they paused like a leaf quivering in the wind, finally taking it cautiously. I smiled again, sharply, and before he could react, took the water flask from my belt and tilted it into his mouth. Tam gasped, spluttered, but, as all creatures will, swallowed a bit of the water.
"What do you want?" my fiddler asked again, voice now dazed and uncertain.
"You're going to get the violin wet," I complained good-naturedly, "and I went through a great deal of trouble to find it for you. Hold it up."
He obeyed, of course. He hadn't been foolish in telling his son not to accept food or drink from a faerie, although it had been that which had reminded me of the trick which had caught him: Those who partake of fae food or drink are bound to the fae as surely as though they'd been placed under a binding by the most patient faerie.
"You can pick a song to play," I added. That was greeted with a warm smile, the same smile he'd worn the first place that I'd seen him fiddling, which suggested he was about to kiss his violin. After making a few experimental strokes, he began a merry traveling tune, and we walked back to the faerie court.
That night, the night of the full moon, we ran the Queen's Hunt, the ride which is to the Wild Hunt as the moon is to the sun: Ever-changing where the Wild Hunt is constant, softer where the Wild Hunt is harsh and yet, in the end, very much the same. All but the humans know of the difference between the twain, for where the animals are quiet and hidden in the Wild Hunt, they line the faerie roads to watch the Queen run for the luck and health of the forest on the night of the full moon. Yet humans are wary then, too, and very few will brave the night in the hopes of seeing the Queen.
For me, it was a lucky night, for I stood third in the procession. We stood for the Three: The Night, the Stone and the Moon. The faerie Queen was first, dressed in the Night's colours, for the Night had come first, and her dark hair was invisible against the faerie clothing even when the moonlight struck it. Her consort, of course, wore the brown of the Stone, for while we'd been made of the Night, we'd been created on the Stone. And I? The white, which traditionally belonged to either the highest-ranking of those who guested with the Queen or one of her children. But Tam refused to run, choosing instead to stay behind with one of the patient fae, who could never run as well as we could. So I would run in his place, as the Moon, which we fae had been the first to see.
And then we started at a slow, easy lope, running the faerie roads that crisscrossed the forests, plants growing richest and fastest at those points where three or four roads intersected. We didn't care about the plants in our way, didn't care about the stones beneath our bare feet or the animals that watched us with large yellow or brown eyes. We were fae, wild even when we ran for the luck and health of the forest and fierce at every turn. Why should we care?
A fallen tree blocked the road; we jumped, uncaring, elegant as a deer, quick as a fox, never ceasing for so much as an instant. To the southern edge of our forest, a steep cliff; we ran along the fragile edge, laughing at the danger that waited for us in the sharp rocks below. The river that Tam had waded through widened; we ran along it, through the water, feet dancing nimbly between water plants and fish. Nothing mattered but the sheer exhilaration of the run; the wind in our hair, the earth and stone and water beneath our feet, the faintest hints of strain beginning to warm our muscles, the blood pounding through our veins in a harsh chant: Run, run, run.
Then, an interruption, not animal or plant or stone, but that strangest of strange, like and not like: Human. She stood before my Queen, and though she was as indistinct as any human, her shrill, furious voice left little guess as to her emotional state.
"You did it!" she howled as conclusion. "You stole my Tam away!"
She lunged for my Queen, and instinctively, I jumped between them, knocking her onto her back with a snarled, "Don't touch her."
Surprisingly, she only flinched back for a heartbeat before glaring up at me. "Why would he stay with you unless you used magic? Why would you want him, except to chase him on a Hunt?"
I exchanged a glance with my Queen, and she nodded, once. "To fiddle for us, of course. And he stays with us because we can dance far better than any human," I added, half-lying glibly. I fought back the urge to smile when a half frustrated, half desperate sound escaped the human, and added, "We could teach you to dance, if you want him back that badly."
"Really?" Shock and delight, leavened by suspicion.
I smiled. "Of course. Why don't you dance now?"
Looking to my side, I saw a slow smile begin to spread across my Queen's face as she watched the human take a few tentative steps. It had taken me far longer to work a similar spell on Tam, but on this night, the night of the Wild Hunt, it was the magic of impatience that was strongest. The magic of the fae.
As she danced, at first slowly and cautiously, then with increasing speed, we encircled her, the need to run held off for the moment by a fierce sense of vindictiveness. The human had threatened a faerie, would have threatened the Queen. And now we would have entertainment and revenge in one.
She was dancing fairly quickly now, perspiration already gathering on her forehead, and I shouted, "Faster!"
"Faster!" Not just me, now, but many of the other fae, leaning in to watch with a morbid fascination as she jerked and leapt and twirled, a terrified, terrifying expression on her face.
"Faster!" It was almost a cheer now.
Then, strangely, her face began to age, her brow wrinkling, her cheeks sagging, her hair beginning to go grey. We simply laughed and shouted, "Faster! Faster, human! You've yet to surpass the faeries!"
She'd aged into her late middle age; hair grey and white, eyes somewhat short-sighted, limbs faltering even as the magic of impatience made her dance on. We didn't care. Revenge was revenge, and there were always other humans. It wasn't as though her death would be the loss of anything important.
"Faster!" we cried.
The rest of the faeries ignored the voice, for it was neither their neighbour's nor the Queens. But I turned, for I recognized it, and stared, startled, at the boy who stood behind me. A lovely face; built of simple lines, sharper than any human's yet softer than a faerie's. Dark brown hair, one curl reaching around his earlobe as though to hug it. Two large green eyes, the irises made up of shards of leaf and moss and sea greens.
"Stop," the boy said again, and, again, no one but I listened. He frowned, and brought a flute decorated in bronze and copper to his lips and blew a stanza of a song older than I.
A cry of "Faster!" died on the lips of the fae as they turned to stare at Tam's son, startled.
"Stop," he said. We looked at each other, and I noticed the amusement in my fellows' eyes. Still, they didn't know that it wasn't a human flute, but of fae make.
"No," one faerie replied simply. "She would have struck our Queen."
Green eyes stared at the faerie, and he began to play once more, his eyes never leaving the faerie. It started slow and soft, yet it awoke an itch deep in my bones, one that cried for me to dance. I resisted, but barely, and the faerie who Tam's son watched was unable to disobey. As he danced, Tam's son looked from faerie to faerie and brought them into the spell and, no matter how firm their resolve, none were able to resist for more than a handful of heartbeats.
"Stop it," my Queen said crossly. He ignored her and turned to fix the consort with his gaze, the song now sharp and sweet and wild. If it had not been for the compulsion flowing beneath the notes, I would have danced willingly, but as he had yet to bring me into the spell, I watched, wary. "Stop it!" she repeated.
"You'll release her?" Tam's son asked. His mother had collapsed onto the ground, yet the spell could be recovered at any moment.
He smiled, waved the flute in what could only be interpreted as a threat.
"You can't outwait me, human. You're mortal."
"I have enough patience to last me until the end of forever."
"Perhaps." The Queen looked around her court. "What do you want?"
"I want my father back."
I stepped between the boy and my Queen, defensive. "He ate faerie food. You know the rules about that."
"Then you owe me for that, don't you?"
"I gave you a flute."
"And I gave you the milk. I want a promise. You'll let my family alone, from now till the end of forever, and you'll swear it by the Three."
"No." That being my Queen.
"You will. Or I'll dance you all till the end of forever."
"Then a compromise. We'll not spell any of your kin who've played the flute without them being aware of what will happen because of it."
"And you'll swear by the Night and Stone and Moon?"
"I will," she said, annoyance sharpening her voice. "Now get out of my forest, or I'll chase you for my Hunt."
The boy, suddenly nowhere near as threatening as moments before, bent to help raised his much older mother to her feet and left, playing a few notes of his first song as a farewell.
I leaned against a tree, the maple staff lying over my legs, perhaps two decades after Tam's son had confronted the entire faerie court for his mother's life. I studied the wood with my fingers, pleased with the patterns I'd made over the years by peeling off some pieces of bark, leaving others, burning and polishing and working preservation spells whenever I was bored. Still, my focus was not on the wood, but a doorway.
Tam had long since left the court, passing through the other courts as he learned new songs and taught the more patient fae how to fiddle, though none managed to achieve his skill, I was proud to announce at any opportunity. He was, perhaps, about as close to being fae as any human had ever been, wild and sharp, yet with a strange patience. I no longer worried about what might happen to him – this past moon, I'd watched the young girl who lived in the building constantly. Such a lovely singing voice.
Just as I thought of her, she came wandering out of the house, singing softly, and I smiled, raising the staff upwards, reaching for the magic of impatience. But before I could so much as whisper her name, a lean man, his face sharper and better defined than any human's, green irises clearly faceted into the various shades of green, came to stand next to his daughter. Looking up, his eyes met mine, and, without saying a word, he pulled a bronze and copper-patterned flute from his belt and passed it to his daughter. Delighted, she blew a few experimental notes. He met my scowl with a smile, though it held a note of warning.
"I have enough patience to last me until the end of forever."
I muttered a curse picked up from one of Tam's bawdier songs and stood. Somewhat annoyed, for all that I pretended nonchalance, I sent a spell of impatience over my shoulder as I returned to the court, my heartbeat already accelerating at the thought of the Wild Hunt that night. Petty, perhaps, but now the girl would never be as good with the flute as her father, or as her grandfather might have been.
Only then, avenged and amused, did I let my thoughts turn fully to the Wild Hunt, to ignore Tam's descendants for another generation.