In her presence, one never is told to do things.  One does what one is expected to do. One fulfills their purpose. One handles contingencies.  One answers questions unasked.  One kneels and one waits for the subtle signals.  The sculptor was better at this than the storm.

“He is well.”


“He is rarely beset.”

Silence. That meant it was my turn to speak as my sister sliced words too thin.

“The bird that broke the nets sends magic to seek his enemies. Of these, only the shadow of battles past has engaged.”

My sister bestirs herself to speak once more. “Small hunters and entropic diversions. We have suspicions.”

“The forgotten gods,” I pick up, “have not forgotten him, but the war of witcheries is not fully woven.”

A signal. Silence, then words.  We listen.

“He is lonely.”  My sister’s words. So finely cut to describe the experience.

Another song is sung.

“We cannot believe so,” I said. I could feel my sister’s discomfort, but the silver caller held a silver collar more than once.

One word becomes two.  We assent in silence, because there is little else one can do.

I look at my sister as we are removed from the presence.

“Tommelise?” she asks.

“The barleycorn girls and the blodeuwedds are not for him.  Eilonwy?”

“He would not breathe the breath of life for another until the thorn is pulled from the scaled paw.”

“Best an houri.”

“Never could,” I laughed.

“He has influenced you.” Disapproval.

“He has strengthened us.”

“He suspects?”

I shake my head in a human motion. “He theorizes. He predicts. He promotes. He rarely commits.”

“Sooth to soothe.”

I rest a hand on her arm. “We are not Pucks, nor Jacks, nor Thomases.  We are Idris Gawr.”

“Heimdall’s Grigori,” she laughed.

“Dokkaebi Archons.”

“Urshu Djinn.”

I inclined my head to her, showing that she had won. “They are not wise women, the witches.” I suggested. I removed my hand from her arm.

“The healer saw too little of the thorn embedded in him,” she scoffed.

“We need to give him room to breathe,” I counseled. “Room to move.”

“He will only injure himself within the cage, however soft the walls we give him.” She looked at me. “And he will see the walls.”

“I do not think of him as dense,” I argued.

“As dense as a neutron star.”

“But far brighter,” I argued.  She bowed her head to me. We were even.

The conversation was invigorating, like that of laughter, but it drew us no closer to the completion of our conundrum.

“Love-in-idleness?” she suggested.

“The risk of love made sport is not for him.” I sighed, another human trait, but an apt one. “But we can cast the net.”

“And draw in closer the interest,” she agreed.

“Weave the web of witchery?” I asked, testing.

“Why skimp on the familiar?” she played with the words.

I inclined my head. “We must be specific, and yet flexible.”

“I will not call silver if I can get gold.”

“Ambition,” I accused her.

“I prefer platinum,” she tossed her head. “And emeralds.  But he needs the warmth of the earth, and the touch of the sun.”

“You shape the snare, and I will empower it.”

“Of course,” she said.  “And we will give him…privacy.”

“Illusion,” I said.

“Of course,” she repeated.

“He’ll look for his own trouble.”

“That is why he amuses us, brother.” She touched my arm briefly. I saw the sign her fingers made.

“Our oath is to guard.”

“Our duty is to watch,” she said, and she looked away.

“We will be free one day,” I told her.  “We will find the doorway home.”

“Or he will open it for us.”

We looked at each other and then away, and said nothing.  We knew the stakes.