When the Fairelands disappear, where do they go? Surely, as is commonly said at the terminus of every Faire, they fade away into the very Mists that spawned them. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
But then, when the Fairelands fade, where do the Mists go? Do they too fade into a more elementary matter? Or do they pack their bags, take an all-expenses paid vacation to Hawaii, and sip Mai Tais by the beach?
As one recently missing Fairelander is about to discover, it’s neither—but also perhaps a bit of both.
The curtains rise on Relay Weekend. A familiar domed palace erupts from beside the track, and from the star portal between the palace’s two wings emerges a purple form.
Hello! Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes? I thought I was going to miss the end of the Faire. We got separated somewhere back in Queensgarden, and then something incredible happened, and I got carried away talking and writing…
Huh? The Faire ended a month ago?! Hah, you must be pulling my leg!
Wait, no, that’s the rabbit. Down, girl.
But what are you talking about? We’re standing right in the middle of Zodiac. There are the fountains, the stone bridges, and the blue balls of which Alia is so fond. And there’s the giant chess set with thrones on either side—
Chess set? No, that definitely wasn’t there before. And where are the ships?
It’s Relay Weekend, you say? That can’t be. I wasn’t there for that long. I didn’t even hear the Great Bongs of Doom.
Oh, I think I need to sit down. Join me, won’t you?
It doesn’t make any sense. One minute, I’m there, bidding them farewell in the gazebo and crossing back toward the square when the bang of fireworks lifts my head to the skies. The next, I look back down, and everyone’s gone, completely vanished without even a footprint in the grass. I circle around several times, peering behind bushes and into the shops, and I’m just about to pull out my Scroll of Teleportation. But then I hear someone talking in the distance, so I run towards the voice. Suddenly, there’s this fantastic burst of light, like a supernova. Everything goes white. I’m blind for a moment. And then I see you.
Well, when I say it out loud, it sounds kind of crazy, but I swear that’s what happened.
Hm? Who are “they”?
Oh. I’m getting you all mixed up, aren’t I? Your expression says it all. (Or has your face just always been like that? In which case, no offense.)
I suppose I should start from the beginning.
If you recall, I was searching for Scheherazade. About an hour past midnight, she suddenly appeared before us at the Drifts of Anamnesis, just as I was pondering the meaning of “anamnesis” and how Scheherazade could’ve even learned one thousand and one tales in a lifetime. When she ran off into Queensgarden, we gave chase, but the garden was so thick with foliage that it would take a week to properly search it all, so I proposed we take just one pass through.
That was when I lost you. I was looking at my map of the Faire, and when I looked up, you had vanished. Don’t get me wrong; I would’ve searched for you under normal circumstances. But let’s admit it, we Fairelanders are a clever, resourceful people. I knew you’d find a way out. Admittedly, I was also running out of time.
Anyway, I started slashing my katana through the garden like an intrepid explorer slashes their machete through a jungle. Only, y’know, Gidgette Adagio and the Bard Queen had carefully planted and landscaped the garden, and I wasn’t about to ruin that for anyone, so I guess you could say it was more like temporarily derendering my way through?
By the time I
hacked and clawed right-clicked and tabbed my way through Queensgarden, dawn had begun to break. To my great sadness, I’d seen neither hide nor hair of Scheherazade. I was tempted to make another pass through, but there the gates of Zodiac stood like a finish line of a marathon: There’s no running back once you reach it.
With my head hung, I crossed through the square, dodging clusters of last-minute shoppers and photographers. Alas, another year without an answer. I felt like a colossal failure. I had just found a nice patch of grass to bury my head in when I caught wind of a strange smell.
Sandalwood with a hint of something ancient that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It smelled like an attic—but alive.
And then I saw a bolt of blue silk waving in the breeze.
She walked right past me, slowly and deliberately, not once looking back. For a minute, I thought I was just seeing things, like a thirsty traveler sees an oasis in the desert. No one seemed to notice her, either. She headed toward a gazebo on the outermost shores of Zodiac, where the boats drift into the horizon before magically reappearing through the star portal underneath the palace.
What did I have to lose, really?
I gathered up my scrolls and quietly followed her, making sure to keep a respectful distance. Now that we were so close, I could feel the age and knowledge of the world radiating off of her. You’d think it would feel burdensome or at least solemn, like standing in the wake of a religious leader, but it wasn’t. I felt the tension release from my shoulders.
She stopped right in front of the gazebo. As I stood just a few paces behind, I realized what—or rather, who—it was she smelled like: the Bard Queen.
I opened my mouth to say her name. And that was when I saw them.
All three of them, perched on cushions inside the gazebo: Vedika, holding her staff; Kratz, surprisingly not naked; and Adair, smiling inquisitively.
“We’ve been waiting for you, Fairelander,” said Adair.
Fat, warm tears bloomed in my eyes. If this was a hallucination, it was certainly a convincing one.
A hand patted my shoulder.
I turned to see Scheherazade walking into the horizon, her face nearly blocked out by the sweet early morning sun.
“You’re not just imagining things,” she said. Her voice was as warm and rich as black tea with honey. “They have been with you, always, just as I have always been with all of you. You never had to search for me.”
“All those who came before me live on in my stories,” continued Scheherazade. “I live on forever in your stories, in your memories. And so shall you live on in the stories and memories of those after you. We are one continuous being who sits on the throne of time. Even if our kind should perish, we shall live on in the soil, which will remember our memories for us. Never forget that you will never be forgotten.”
There were so many things I wanted to say and ask. I glanced down at my feet to gather my thoughts. But when I looked up again, she was gone, returned to the sun that always shone down on us, even when we couldn’t see it for the clouds.
“Thank you,” I finally managed.
Someone cleared their throat.
“Come now, Fairelander,” enjoined Vedika. “Sit down. We have much to tell.”
This book tells all their tales. Well, the gist of them, anyway. Before they left, we traded addresses. I don’t know how inter-dimensional mail delivery will work, but if the Mists that bring our worlds together every April exist, I’m sure anything is possible.
Say, you don’t suppose that’s what the Mists are made of, do you? Memories, I mean? Sometimes we forget things because we’re busy doing something else. And you can focus on a thought for only so long before your mind drifts to another. Yet, all the while, the memories are still there, waiting to be recalled, like an off-duty army.
When you finally do get around to remembering them, they’re not exactly the same as the last time, because nothing ever is. Maybe the color of something changes, or some detail gets clearer while another gets fuzzy. Sometimes, entirely new things will appear, like this giant chessboard.
So, I guess this place both is and isn’t Zodiac. It’s Zodiac remembered.
Or maybe not. Now I’m just rambling! Only Alia would know. I’m getting sleepy. All that inter-dimensional travel and whatnot. But there’s one more thing I want to say before I drift off.
Adair mentioned something about a nineteenth Faireland at Relay Weekend, which I guess is actually now? “Silvasomnia,” she called it. If I have my etymology right, that’s “sleepy forest” or “forest sleep”?
Mm, that sounds right…
Maybe I should check it out…before I…
Sweet dreams, Fairelander. And to all a good night.
The Fairelander wears the following accessories from Her Highness’ Treasures Gacha, which can be played at Silvasomnia this weekend only:
- The Looking Glass‘s Lunafae Headdress
- Aisling Sinclair‘s Queensgarden~Friendship, Love & Memories Pins
For complete outfit credits, see Nadjanator’s blog.