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Jun 24, 2021 6:07 PM
Catherine goes to fairyland and meets some Feanorians
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Catherine has rarely been allowed outside for the past twelve years, and has even more rarely been allowed to visit any truly natural place. She is only allowed today because the Emperor is visiting another court, and is much too busy with whatever diplomatic matters he came here for to notice or object when she attaches herself to a party of about half a dozen women gathering nuts and wildflowers in the forest. They trade histories and gossip as they walk, the line between the two not always clear. Ingolfr toddles along the path contentedly with a stick he's found. Ragna sleeps in her arms.

It's a beautiful day. She doesn't know how long it will be before she's allowed to do something like this again, but she thanks God for being allowed it today.

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At first it does not seem that there's anything different about this patch of forest. The trees are tall and healthy and wild and the flowers are springy and dewy and colorful and the grass is unbent like nothing has walked there.

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(There is a faerie in the forest but he is not paying them any notice; they have been there the last thousand times he's been here, after all. They are features of the landscape. There's a song about them, written when they were ten paces farther away, not because there's anything about them particularly worthy of memorializing in song but because there are a lot of songs.)

 

He is here because in a few days there will be a bird here. The next few beats of its wings will take it into the right segment of the woods, and those wingbeats will take the better part of a week, and then for a few seconds it will flutter across this section of forest at an ordinary pace and he will kill it, if he can. No one else could. 

The humans are more distant than the bird, and not on a trajectory to pass through this bit of forest at all. Which is too bad; reportedly, humans can talk, and that means that unlike birds you do not have to kill them to keep them.

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None of the humans notice anything out of the ordinary at all.

Ingolfr decides to leave the path and wander a ways into the woods. One of the other women calls to him, but he ignores them, and nobody else happens to be inclined to chase him down. Catherine follows him.

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If they are looking very closely they might notice a bird in the sky ahead of them suddenly vanish.

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They're not looking all that closely. Ingolfr continues on his present course.

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And suddenly there is a person there in the forest in front of Ingolfr, or at least part of a person; you can see a head and a chest and hands and if you squint very carefully at the place between those where the rest of him must be, there's clearly something there, even if it's hard to look at. He is plucking feathers off a dead bird. He looks very delighted. 

"I thought you wouldn't come this way," he tells Ingolfr. "I haven't told anyone that you changed your course, though I expect that some people have guessed because I never wanted to learn the language of the humans before. - you do talk, right?"

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Ingolfr frowns up at him. He is pretty sure that there wasn't a person here before, and also that that is not precisely what people are supposed to look like.

He sucks his thumb and does not say anything.

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"Maybe you are not a human," he says thoughtfully. "Maybe you are a ...larval human, and turn into a human in ten thousand years? I don't know whether to expect you'd be faster at it if I kept you here. Birds can sing before they leave their nest, though, there's no sense in walking before you can talk if you're a talking sort of thing in the first place. But I don't know very much about humans. 

Would you like something to eat? I have a bird."

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He tilts his head and blinks curiously at the bird.

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The bird is dead and now featherless. He is deliberately and expertly turning it into little oily chunks of meat.

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Ingolfr watches him silently for a while. At some point he turns around to see whether his mother is still a step behind him. He frowns at the fairy again when he realizes his mother isn't moving.

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"I didn't do it. That wouldn't be fair, would it, you haven't done anything to me." He eats a bit of the bird, offers some. "She'll be here, though, she's only a step off, and she's not really still, just very slow. And she might go faster when she notices you're not where she expected you to be. I'm not sure about that. I don't know what it looks like to slow people when someone catches up, but they can't see us, so I think it stands to reason, doesn't it?"

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Ingolfr nods. He regards the bit of bird with some suspicion.

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"If you eat it then you can stay, see, instead of turning into a statue again. If you're a human. If you are a larval human I don't actually know if it'll work. 

It's very tasty. I knew a thousand years of it, and waited for a week."

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He considers this and then holds out his hand for some.

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Little bit of bird! He leans forward (the pattern of where he has skin changes) and watches closely.

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He chews it thoughtfully and then makes a face. He spits out little bits of chewed-up meat onto his clothes.

"Tasteses wrong," Ingolfr informs him, still making a face.

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"You are a talking human! Well if you don't like it then I suppose you can pretend you're busy whenever there's a feast and that's only a little bit rude and rude to Maitimo, who won't so much mind, will he? I thought humans ate meat."

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"I eat meat."

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"Do you?" He leans back and more of him vanishes into the folds of whatever he is wearing. 

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"Our meat tasteses different."

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"I wonder if that's because it's slow or some other reason."

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He shrugs. He starts trying to wipe his mouth off with his hands.

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He watches with fascination. The rest of the bird disappears away somewhere.

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He is not actually able to get himself satisfactorily clean. Usually his mommy cleans him up, but his mommy is being very slow right now. He looks over to see if she's moved.

 

"Mommy?" he calls, a little tremulously.

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