“What is your purpose here?”
“I play, your majesty. I played when the Tower of Babylon fell and Alexander the Great passed away. I sang to the music of Rome’s burning.” Xe smiled sweetly. “Would you like a song, your majesty?”
“A song? No, I shan’t accept a song from you, however beautiful it might be.” The king says, wary and cautious of the child that sits in his court.
She’s a strange young girl, fond of word play and in no way does she resemble the young girls of the kingdom he reigns over, nor any other he’s ever visited. She’s clad in flowers and vines and a brightly coloured dress with jagged edges, as if it were giant leaves sewn together yet, if one were to touch them, the king is sure that he would cut himself. Silver hair, short and curly, adorns her head and her golden eyes search the room, memorising each face and carefully watching the shadows. The girl wears a broad grin – impish and unsettling in the way that she looks at him.
“Oh?” She asks, disappointment giving way to her malevolent curiosity, “And why is that?”
The child cocks her head to the side with a dangerous twinkle to her eyes. King William’s heart stutters for a moment, skipping a beat in fear – he thinks the child has fangs.
“Well,” He says, choosing his words carefully after a moment of thought, “You’ve yet to give me your name.”
Her eyes light up, “My name?” She cheers, “I do like names, I am called…” The child trails off, her eyes narrow as she looks at him, pulling apart his calculated words, “Ah, very clever, I’m impressed,” she tells the king, knowingly tapping her nose, “No, I shan’t give you my name just like you shan’t accept my song. However, you may call me by this: Cirrus.”
William sighs, she almost fell for his trick, even so, the two both withhold their names and neither has power over the other. With all his dealings with the fair folk – which have been few and far between – he’s never tricked even one and has fallen for most himself. If you repay favour though, they let you go; he has always made certain to repay the favour.
“And when do you leave, Miss Cirrus?” He asks, ensuring that his words make no request of her, he wants no favours to repay. The Fair Folk are in no way fair and he wants no more half truths, especially not from one so old as this.
“Any time I like, I should suppose, though you’re much more interesting to me than Arthur. I think I should like to stay longer.” The child tells him, her voice light and carefree.
“More interesting than Arthur? How so?” King William wonders aloud to her.
“He always fell for my tricks,” She cackles viciously, “He got boring so fast. In fact, he fell faster than Rome and we whisked him away leaving just his sword in the stone. Oh, those did make for such good songs.” Cirrus sighs wistfully.
“I should think they would.” King William agrees, for the songs of the fae always are beautiful, but listening gives them power over you and that is something he does not want.
“I’d like a song now, I think.” Cirrus tells him, pausing to think of a tune before she starts to sing.
The King does not give her a chance to sing, “Then I shall do you a favour and sing you a song.” He sees her eyes widen, realising that she is caught, finally, in one of his tricks with no chance to protest, for he has already started to sing.
“I shall not be whisked away,
Until it comes upon the day,
When I have turned old and grey,
Oh, fear’d lady of the fae,
I have no favours to repay,
So do not sing a song to me,
For within your words I easy see,
Many, many dangers loom,
No words of yours may be my doom,
Oh fear’d lady of the fae,
I have no favours to repay,
And yet I’m neither old nor grey,
So sadly lady of the fae,
It seems that you must go away,
And with that your favour is repaid,”
He sings to her an enchanting tune in a lilting voice that she cannot bear not to listen to though it traps her and binds her with the power of a favour.
“Are the Fair Folk not welcome in your kingdom, Edgar?” She questions, using his false name despite the fact it gives her no more power over him than she’s ever had.
William shakes his head, “The Fair Folk deal in tricks and half-truths. I like to keep my kingdom’s people safe,” He grins at her, secure with the knowledge of his one-time victory.
“Then I must go, dear Edgar, I am bound to repay the favour I owe you.” She states, sadness and disappointment clear in the way she speaks.
He watches her stand, hair and skin shimmering like the moon on water, and walk away from his throne towards the great doors of the courtroom. She turns to him with one last glance, steps into the shadows and disappears.
William slumps, relieved, in his throne. It is neither the first nor the last he shall see of Cirrus, who tells him a different name every time they meet, for he never tells her that she cannot come back.