Author: Selena Taiki
The next couple of days passed quickly for Tara as Giles instructed her in theory behind the use and manipulation of the Tradition, aka magic, and began tutoring her on its history within the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Tara found the diaries of Godmother Elena which Giles had given her to study from very interesting; and not only because Elena had once been destined to fulfill the same Tale that Tara herself was rescued from. Elena had also risen to be once of the most respected godmothers in all the history of the five-hundred kingdoms, making a career of not only very skillfully manipulating the Tradition but actually breaking it to forge new Traditions (and it took a very grand story indeed to make a new Traditional Tale). Her courage and skill, as well as her accomplishments, were inspirational to Tara. Rather than be a passive guide, Godmother Elena had acted to ensure that none of the more tragic Traditional paths ever came to pass in the Kingdoms under her care.
Using the pad of her finger Tara traced the flowing script of the auburn ink that depicted a conversation Elena had had with her own instructor, Godmother Bella, on the thick ocher page of the journal. "...It was only after I had transferred Rosalie's magic to myself that Madame Bella told me why Rosalie had been so desperate to give up her power. It seemed the Tradition was attempting to make her unborn child a Ladderlock. Which is, of course, why Madame Bella had warned Rosalie to come directly to her if she developed any unusual cravings. In the Ladderlock's Tale the mother of a Ladderlocks would be overcome with a craving for some out of season food to the point where she could eat that, and only that. Naturally the only place her husband could find the food in question would be in the garden of a Black Witch or Evil Sorceress, who had been lured in by the building Tradition for that exact purpose. He would be caught attempting to steal it and be forced to pledge his unborn child to the Witch. After the girl's birth the Witch would take her, lock her in a tower, and forbid her to cut her hair. Afterward the ending varies; some girls do live Happily Ever After with their Quester but others go mad from being locked in a small room for sixteen years. Madame knew of one who hung herself with her own hair. Also, there are the numerous Questers that fail and are killed by the Witch or fall onto briars surrounding the castle. Not the sort of future any mother would want for her daughter.
And all this after the Tradition had attempted to make Rosalie herself a Fair Rosalinda! Now there is a case where the Tradition takes a truly tragic turn; a young girl seduced by her King and then murdered by the Queen when Her Majesty finds out about it. The magic in that tale only enters after the poor girl's death, when the instrument made by a wandering minstrel from the reeds over her unmarked watery grave is played for the King. And, of course, that instrument has but one song: 'the Queen hath murdered me.' Ladderlocks is not quite as tragic as all that, but still a tale best prevented. With the magic drained, Rosalie and her family should be able to live a normal life.
What was most surprising out of all of this was the anger I felt at the Tradition, this faceless, formless thing which pushes and pulls people about with no regard for what they want or need. True, it's all well and good when the tale does have a happy ending; and quite often the Tradition is a great benefit to the 500 Kingdoms, working to keep a Kingdom happy, even down to making the weather always pleasant, but only if it suits the tale! Perhaps seeing this anger in my face Madame Bella said the most peculiar thing: 'Yes,' she said. 'I had hoped you would feel that, I hoped when I took you as my apprentice, that you would be cut from the same cloth as me. Some Godmothers are only willing to assist in the makings of happy ending. I am of a different mind.' To which I vowed then and will write here: There will be no Fair Rosalindas in my Kingdoms. All Madame Bella said to this was 'Good.' but then, what more needs to be said?"
Looking up from the journal, Tara stared at the dappled sunlight in fluttering oak leaves outside her window. "There will be no Fair Rosalindas in my kingdoms either," she said softly as she shut the book.
Tara's skin prickled as if there was a faint tingle of energy in the air as she spoke. A knock on the door interrupted her musings. "Yes?" She called, rubbing her arms. "P-please come in."
Giles opened the door gently and stepped inside her room. He was dressed far more practically than he had been the night they'd met, looking more ordinary and less like a Godfather. "Good afternoon Tara, how are your studies going?" he inquired politely.
"W-well, thank you," Tara replied, blushing nervously. "It's all quite f-fascinating."
Giles smiled. "You have been making excellent progress. I believe you are ready to begin actually using what you have learned. However the ability to perceive magic, and it will be much easier to use your magic if you can do so, is not an ability humans can gain on their own; although Sorcerers and Sorceresses are born with this talent. So, if you would care to accompany me, I believe its time I introduced you to the local Fairy King and Queen."
Tara swallowed nervously; from her reading she knew that the Fairies had final say on who was fit to be an apprentice Godparent and who was not. Originally all the Godparents were actually Fairies but now it was rare to encounter a Fairy Godparent who was one of the Greater Fae.
"You think I'm r-ready for that?" she questioned, brush her hair back behind her ear.
Giles leaned against the door frame, the chain of his gold pocket watch clinking slightly with his movement. "My dear," he said seriously. "You are one of the most worthy apprentices I have seen in quite some time. The only thing you lack is faith in yourself."
Blood rose in Tara's cheeks and she dropped her head, causing her hair to fall forward in a honey curtain about her face. She couldn't deny that she felt uneasy in her new role as a Fairy Godparent apprentice. Despite Mister Giles' assurances it was difficult to believe that the Fairy King and Queen would find her acceptable when there was likely to be far more suitable candidates.
"Tara," Giles said gently. "You have nothing to fear. Please, trust me."
Tara took a deep breath, nodding her head reluctantly in acceptance. She carefully placed the journal she had been perusing on the carved oak desk and rose to her feet. Unconsciously she smoothed her skirt before bringing both hands to rest in a protective clasp over her stomach. "O-o-okay, I'm ready."
Giles smiled and gallantly offered her his arm in a show of support. She took his elbow gratefully, hoping she didn't embarrass herself too badly by fainting. Xander and Anya where standing by the front door; Xander trying to look as if he wasn't waiting for them and Anya staring pointedly.
"We wanted to wish you well," Anya said before Xander could say anything. "Not that you will need it."
"Y-you're not coming?" Tara asked, surprised. She had thought that Xander and Anya would want to see the other Fairies.
"We're not the same sort of Fae as they are," Xander explained. "We've been hanging around humans too much and never really had much magic to begin with. What would take you or I years of study and involved spells they can do with a touch."
"Speak for yourself, I'm a Satyr," Anya sniffed. "I used to cause havoc and ruin with the best of them before I met you." Tara made a mental note to look up Satyr's in her books. It wasn't that she didn't like or trust Anya, quite the opposite in fact, but it might help her to understand the unpredictable Fairy better.
"Thank you both," Giles said. "But I'm afraid we must be off."
"We'll mind the shop, no worries," Anya said. "We are very reliable."
Tara lagged slightly behind Giles as he led them out of the yard and down what looked like a deer path. The light lessened immediately when they stepped under the ancient, tall trees. As they went farther it seemed to grow brighter but the leafy cover overhead didn't lessen any. Tara glanced around, perplexed, and was surprised to notice that the moss seemed to be glowing. She bent to get a closer look and saw that not only was the moss emanating a dim lime-green light, but little tiny balls of yellow light hovered among the frills. A whispering rustle moved through the trees sounding like very slowly spoken words. She concentrated, trying to make out what they were saying.
"Tara!" Giles exclaimed, having turned back to see that his apprentice was no longer behind him. "Do try to keep up; you really mustn't let them distract you like that, it only encourages them."
Tara straightened, blushing brightly, and resolutely ignored her surrounds which grew increasingly more fantastical as they continued. It may have been her imagination, but she thought she heard the wood sigh in something like disappointment.
Giles stopped as they entered a circle of stones. Tara tried to distract herself, unwilling to be misled again, but soon she didn't have to worry about staring at the Fae's forest for the Fairies themselves started to appear. She wasn't sure when they arrived; at first she didn't even notice them but they grew clearer as their forms taking shape slowly as if they where growing out of nature rather than walking through it. Some of them looked nearly human except for their somewhat elongated features, although a few of these had used magic to attached delicate butterfly like wings to their backs in mockery of some of the more ludicrous tales. Others, however, were so fantastical that even the tales would have blushed to describe them; long reptilian or horse like bodies merged with human features. There was even a small group of creatures that looked like Anya. The only male in the group seemed to notice Tara's gaze upon him and winked.
Slightly apart from all of these stood the most perfect woman Tara had ever seen, so beautiful that she was almost painful to look at. Beside her stood an equally gorgeous man, although he was so slender and delicate that Tara was hesitant to call him hansom. These two could only be the Fairy King and Queen.
Giles bowed formally and the regal pair inclined their heads.
"Godfather Rupert Giles," the queen acknowledged, her rich voice as soothing and refreshing as spring rain.
"Your Majesties. Allow me to present my apprentice, Tara Maclay." Tara sunk carefully into a curtsy.
"Have you instructed her on her tasks?" the Queen questioned, this time her voice carried the hint of rumbling thunder.
"No, Majesty, I left that to you, as is Tradition."
The Queen smiled, and Tara felt the weight of her gaze as the Queen's attention shifted to from Mister Giles to her. Suddenly the world shifted and Tara saw the images of black dragons and evil witches, of smoking ruins and death, of a baby crying, and then an oddly tantalizing glance of red hair, all flashing by too quickly for her to do more than get a glimpse. And behind it all was the force of the Tradition, moving and manipulating, restoring and destroying without check. I won't let it! Tara thought. I won't let it push me or anyone else around anymore! Just as suddenly, the images stopped and Tara found herself back Fae glade.
"She'll do," the Fairy Queen said, her voice radiating both amusement and approval. "She'll do very nicely indeed."
She stepped forward and handed Tara a multicolored berry that felt both hot and cold, heavy and light. Looking at Giles for approval, Tara slowly put the berry in her mouth and chewed. A peculiar wash of flavors spread over her tongue and down her throat as she swallowed. Before she had time to wonder what would happen next, sound swelled out of the quiet forest. Riding over this deep melody was the trill of flutes and deep brass of hunting horns. And over shadowing them all was the thunderous sound of a storm and an ocean which emanated ethereally from the Queen and King. Tara cried out and clapped her hands over her ears. She took one deep breath than another as her body adjusted to what it was hearing. When the sounds were still loud, but no longer deafening, Tara slowly lowered her hands. She meet Giles' concerned gaze and nodded assurance that she was alright.
The Queen stepped back and the noise of the new melodies rose as the Fae prepared to depart.
Gracefully the King raised his hand, palm out, and the other Fae stilled, the sound dropping noticeably. He stepped forward and stared at Tara. His lips curled upwards in a secretive smile and the King of the Fairies raised a hand, touching one finger lightly to her forehead. Tara blinked, her mouth going dry, as he bowed before stepping back to catch the Queen's hand. The pair of them vanished in a crescendo of crashing water. In the blink of an eye the other Fae followed, leaving Tara dumb at the sound of their exit. She turned to Giles. "W-what just h-h-happened?" She asked, bewildered.
"I'll admit that was a somewhat unusual meeting," he said mildly. "I'd say you impressed them. Oh, I had no doubt they'd accept you, but for you to gain the King's blessing as well as the Queen's... well, lets just say its quite an accomplishment, few can claim the same." Giles smiled fondly at her. "So, Apprentice, judging from your reaction I presume that you are now perceiving magic as if it were music?"
Tara nodded. "Is that unusual?" She questioned as they started to head back for the cottage. "Godmother Elena wrote about s-seeing magic."
"It not common, but it's not uncommon either. I, myself, hear magic but some magicians even smell or taste it. The truth is it doesn't matter how you perceive magic as long as you can. And remember Tara," Giles said firmly. "Whatever you see, you can use... or fight as the case may be."
"Is there a way to maybe, um," Tara blushed faintly. "T-tone it down a little? They were, um, kinda l-l-loud."
"As your body adjusts to this new perception its sensitivity will lessen. However, metal discipline will allow you to gain more control, letting you selectively lessen to the magic around you. I suggest you practice this on your own by focusing on the different melodies of things around the house. Personally I find the lute like song of the dishes to be quite soothing, although be careful if you decide to focus on them; the magic swords are in the next room, bloody raucous things. However, you've done more than enough for now, perhaps you would enjoy going into town with Anya tomorrow while she 'acquires' things?"
Tara slowly considered the idea as they emerged from the forest into Xander's neat little garden. She had only been into town once, with Giles when he had needed to deliver medicinal potions in his guise as the local warlock (Along with her godmothering lessons, Giles had began instructing Tara on the basics of witchcraft, noting that godparents often disguised themselves as lesser magic users in order to escape notice. On the whole Tara found these lesson's easier as they simply involved using the natural magic of plants and such rather than imposing upon the Tradition directly.) and the town people had treated Tara with a curious mix of wary respect and friendliness. "I th-think I'd like that," Tara said decisively as they traversed the strings of yarn which separated the rows of peas, barely beginning to sprout.
"Excellent, I- Ah, Anya! Just the person I was hoping to see," Giles broke off as Anya left the house with Xander in tow. She ignored him and stared at Tara.
"Wowzer!" Xander exclaimed, also staring. "Woo and Hoo Tara, way to go!"
Anya nodded sagely. "Getting the King's blessing as well as the Queen's, very well done."
Tara started in surprise. "You can t-tell?"
Anya snorted. "Of course we can tell! You're lit up like a solstice tree. Anyone who can sense anything about magic could see that!"
"Oh," Tara said faintly, biting her lip. She wasn't sure she liked the fact that she had just become a magical beacon.
"Don't worry," Giles reassured. "It will fade by morning until only very close scrutiny would reveal the Fairies' marks. And now, if the excitement is over, I think dinner is in order."
Xander slid up to Tara as walked towards the cottage. "I bet you he'd have said 'Good lord!' and started polishing his glasses if he hadn't been there to see you gifted," the Brownie whispered conspiratorially.