10.4 Never Good Choices

by Matt P.

The man called Tennyson stood in a wooded land beneath the sprawling, starry sky and thought about the choices that he made. He stood on a low hill on a summer night, and the air smelled of jasmine and hyacinth and a thousand other flowers. It tickled at his nose even as it danced on his skin and set his cloak to fluttering. It was beautiful, and he hadn’t come back for a very long time.

He would have said he didn’t know why, but he did. It wasn’t because of the danger, although it was admittedly a little dangerous. It wasn’t because he didn’t love it, because he did—the lands of Faerie called to anyone who had been born to them.

It was because of Oberon. He scowled at the thought, and walked down in to the fragrant woods. Lightning bugs wove their way lazily around the trees, illuminating the twilit night with their soft glow. It was because Oberon couldn’t enter the lands that none of his followers came here at all.

The lands of Faerie were so vast that his followers could have come to little pockets of it with no danger, but to do so would have made him rage with jealousy. Tennyson understood, but at the same time…could the King of all Sidhe not grant the me who had traveled with him for so long some comfort?

Finally, Tennyson came to a glen in the forest, where a broad pool of water as wide and long as a hot tub sparkled with impossibly deep sapphire waters. His sister was waiting by the pool, her feet kicking inside it as she waited. “Hello, Ciarán.” She greeted, her voice warm and rich and filled with the sunshine of her love. She turned, and gave him a smile as she gestured to a dry stone next to the pool. “Do you want to join me?”

He moved over, unbelting his sword belt and setting it aside. “Of course, Dymphna.” He said with a matching smile as he sat down on the stone with crossed legs. He considered his sister for a moment, and as always he was struck by the disparity between them. He was dark haired and pale skinned, and she had auburn hair cascading over skin with a light golden tan. She looked like a sunbeam captured where it stood, and moved like a deer in flight when she ran through the woods of their birth.

“What troubles you, brother?” She asked after a moment, leaning back on to her elbows to consider him.

“I worry about the things my Lord chooses to do.” The man called Tennyson, but was born Ciarán, said seriously. The words had a weight to them as if they said they had been offered unwillingly, or even grudgingly. It drew a startled laugh from Dymphna, who shook her head.

“I remember, when all of this began, that you grew very angry at me for offering much of the same. You told me that I did not know what I said, and that it is not for the sworn to question the motives of their lords.” In another circumstance or with another tone her voice could have flayed him like a knife, but that wasn’t her way. Oh she had her wit and her tongue was not ever without barb, but he knew at heart she would never purposefully hurt him. Although the truth could scourge all on its own, and he deserved to hear it.

“I am sorry.” He said sincerely. “I was young, and impetuous.” He offered with a wry smile, drawing another laugh from her. “And…things seemed simpler then, before we started making these choices.” He sighed.

“The killings?” She asked quietly, and sighed herself when he confirmed it by nodding. “They’re…not pleasant. But then the wars weren’t pleasant either—you saw the honor, and the duty that you had to your King. I got to see what it looked like when your armies met, when Mab was still the Lady of Ravens and Titania the Daughter of Summer.”

“Were there never good choices?” Tennyson asked curiously, as he looked out over the beauty of the lake. They had a house not too far from here, that he hadn’t seen in too many years. Their mother had lived there, ad had died there—far from her home or the place of her birth.

“Do you think there ever are in war?” His sister asked, her voice soft but armor piercing. He laid back to look at the stars, and lose himself in the sidereal depths.

“No, probably not.” He answered after what could have been a very long few minutes or a very short half century or too. The stars continued to swirl overhead. “Why are there no planets in the sky here?” He asked curiously. She shrugged, and he laughed.

“Because there do not need to be?” She offered with a smile, and a second shrug. “What do you think you will do?” She asked.

Now it was his turn to shrug, as he undid his cloak and let it fall off of him. He lay on it, and stared at a universe that had once seemed so full of possibilities. Now he wondered what it would feel like if he wrapped himself in it like he used to. Did he still have possibilities, or had he traded them all? “I don’t know.”

“If you didn’t know, why did you come here?” She asked, in a tone that anyone else might have used to say ‘bullshit’. It wasn’t hurtful, but it wasn’t letting him away from his choices either—Dymphna had always been the best for that. He didn’t know if it was because they were the closest of all his siblings, or if it was the reason they were closest.

“I don’t know.” He answered again, with a laugh. “He ordered me to attend to what I need to, but…he crossed a line tonight. So I don’t know what I’ll do.” He rolled over to look at her. “I reckon I’m damned either way.”

She leaned in to lay a gentle kiss on his brow, before she leaned all the way back to consider the depths of the skies as well. “For what it’s worth, dear brother—I know that you will do the right thing, in the end.” She told him sincerely. “You take a while to get there, but you do come to the right thing and do it.”

As they watched the celestial dance above them, he prayed that she was right.