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Jun 24, 2021 5:06 PM
Catherine goes to fairyland and meets some Feanorians
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Nod. "Okay. See you - soon for me." 

And they can do this.

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Slowing down is very boring. It takes about a month, subjectively. It has to happen in total darkness. 

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Can she, like, eat? Talk to her kids during it?

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Yep! Eating and talking are both fine. So are most other activities that are possible in the dark.

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Well, lucky she's a poet, then. Still boring, but it could be worse.

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The night ends. The fairies who were continuously rearranging the magic throughout the night are not visible at all. No other fairies are visible either.

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She calls to her children and leads them down the road to her parents' farm, which stands exactly where it stood twelve years ago. She knocks on the door. It takes her parents a moment to recognize her, given everything that's changed, but only a moment. In the next one, they're hugging her and yelling to everyone else in the house that their daughter has returned.

They want to hear everything. She gives them a version that implies circumstances about a third as dramatic as what actually happened, and assumes they can chalk any remaining excess of drama up to her overactive imagination. She tells them her husband will be along in a week or so, and also they shouldn't tell him any of their names when he gets here because it's, like, a cultural thing, it's very important to him.

They have a single small spare room for her and all of her children, but they have enough food (at least once they've alerted their neighbors that their long-lost daughter has returned), and they're very insistent about sharing it. They put her and her children to work almost immediately, but that's all right, really, gives her something useful to do. Hopefully they can build a new house for themselves before winter.

And so she waits.

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He spends the night and the next day in the English fairy court. It's all right. Different stories, different songs, perfectly likable people who want ordinary sorts of payment like sex and service and stories and gossip from the continent and help patrolling their territory and advice about humans. His advice about humans is that they like it when you're nice to them, and that if they have babies then they need to eat something other than flower nectar.

They speculate on the fate of the human king but no gossip on that topic reaches them, and no one from this court seems inclined to go and check it out.


He goes home late the following day, once they're even. His younger brother has returned from his journeys, and is full of ideas about how to run a court which no one else finds half as interesting as he does. He has a side project of quantifying the costs of most things to put together in a book for training children from, and their father is excited about that. Now that they're not trying to get the debt manageable as quickly as possible they don't settle it with violence. It's not wise to do that internal to a court, if you can come up with anything better; most forms of service make a court stronger, rather than weaker, and those are better. 

He runs a lot of patrols. 

He asks his father how it's going. It's not, not yet.

Rumor places the king of Scandinavia in Sweden, in France, in Denmark; none of the rumors seem credible but one of them could easily be right anyway. 

He's been vaguely trying to avoid having sex that isn't ordered, for Catherine, but eventually this starts to feel important in a way he doesn't like, and he sleeps poorly and has odd dreams in which he imagines arguing with her, and it's not in their wedding vows which are the things she said was important. He picks up a boy. They don't see each other often but at least sometimes when he's having sex it involves things he likes. He misses her. 

His father's son wants to slow down to try a new magic; he does the tedious work, all night, of moving crystals around to let him do it. 

A court near theirs has a human. People go over to see her. They say she's thin and sad and trembly and won't survive the day. He doesn't go to see her. 

He gets bored of the boy and picks up a girl and is rude to someone in their court who has started trying to retell Catherine's stories. He's not half as good at it. 

He builds an expansion of the court underground. There'll be a shaped hall for music, and next to it dungeons, and on the other side of that a garden for fields of a hallucinogenic mushroom that can grow to a quite useful size in a day or two.

For Penelope it was twenty years and by the end of the fifth he is willing to acknowledge that that's awfully impressive.

 

He arrives at Catherine's house seven days later.

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She's watching the road. She's watched the road every morning, because there have only been seven of them and that doesn't seem like nearly enough not to go to the effort of seeing him the moment he arrives. She runs out to meet him. She - doesn't actually have a script for what you say to your husband when you saw him a week ago and for him it's been twenty years, but hopefully that's okay?

She hasn't thought of words by the time she reaches him, so she hugs him instead.

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That's okay. That's so very okay. 

"Missed you so much."

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She can just keep hugging him very tight, then.

"I'm here, love. I'm here."

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"Everything's all right? Your family'll feed us?"

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"Yes. Yes, everything's fine, it's all going to work out. We'll need to build a new house, this one's meant for half as many people as it's holding, but we can do that, we've done it before."

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"All right. That's - good then. And they're all right with me? What did you say about me?"

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"You're a foreigner who rescued me from slavery in Scandinavia and then married me and brought me home, which is, you know, not false. They will overlook several eccentricities under the circumstances. Mostly ecstatic that their daughter is safe."

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"And they know about the names -"

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"Yes, they know about the names. It is using up a lot of your eccentricity points but you get to have a lot, so."

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"I still don't speak a word of English, is that going to eat up the rest?"

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"No, foreigners who rescue slaves from Norway and then take them all the way to England despite not speaking the language get more consideration on account of it, not less. The being foreign uses up some of it and the not being able to help with harvest uses up a little more and the bizarre lack of religious affiliation will probably land you somewhere around the break-even point when they figure it out."

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"I haven't got anything against your god it's just that you're mine and I don't want to give you up to anyone else even if they're nice."

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Hug. "Well, if your father succeeds, you won't have to. Not ever."

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Yes good. 

"Could probably get people to clear out of the house for a little bit - if you want - "

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"That sounds good." 

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It's only been a week and she's told them they've been separated (though not how long, obviously), and even her family is willing to let her prioritize a little happiness under the circumstances. She gets people out easily enough. And then they can be inside and alone and not have anybody bother them for at least the next few hours.

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