In which Ghost gains a personal objective and enters the Fey Lands.
Early morning sunlight was dancing in the upper foliage as Ghost woke with a warm feeling of being at home. Fey magics seemed to ripple over her like a gentle stream from the north, soothing her nerves. The roots of a handsome old oak cradled her back and everything seemed peaceful and right. In a few moments things would wake up enough she could wander about, tending to the forest beauty, and then as they woke up all the way they might join her in a frolic.
Lazily looking about herself to start planning her morning jaunt, Ghost saw her shadow blade sitting in the dirt beside her. The sense of peace vanished. “The symbol of your freedom!” exulted one part of her mind. “The weapon you murdered with!” countered another. Both of these were displaced by a third which asked “Did you really kill a beaver?”
She had killed two beavers in cold blood. Why had she done that? Yes, trees hate beavers, but in the way that picnickers hate rain: a “not to me” kind of hate, not a “better off extinct” kind of hate. And yes, she had been hungry, but if that was it why kill both beavers and utterly wreak their lodge? It had not been a subsistence hunt.
It seemed quite clear to Ghost what had caused her killing rage. It must be the shadow blade the goblin had given her. In all fairness, she did consider another cause briefly, but dismissed it out of hand and gave it no further thought. That untenable alternative was that perhaps a ghost lost more than nourishment when separated from its body, that perhaps restraint and morals came from the now-gone wood. But to think anything positive of her sire was impossible for Ghost, so she fixed on the blade as the only possible cause.
Before Ghost had resorted to the Unseely for her release she had consulted with many of the Seely sages, and their counsel had all pointed to one great Elfin ruler as the person most likely to be able to help her. Said queen had dismissed her case out of hand, but perhaps she would be more agreeable to countering the evil of her blade. It was worth a try.
The reader might be wondering, at this juncture, how it is that Ghost had made her way to the queen when still forced to sleep in her tree every night, and if she could do it in a day journey then why it was taking her multiple days to simply reach the fey realms now. The answer is that any tree strong enough to sire a dryad is also strong enough to touch the fey lands directly and all Ghost had had to do was exit her tree on the fey side that morning. It was only the loss of the tree, and hence of that bridge, that had necessitated her long walk through the mortal realm.
And long walk it was. Her new objective in mind, Ghost set out directly, determined to reach the queen with a minimum of delay. As she went she was careful to keep the tingle in her arm and to eat as much fruit as she could on the way. Thus she arrived, tired but only passingly hungry, at the Fey crossing shortly before dusk. This timing was only partly due to the distance involved: borders into the Fey are more easily attained during border times, such as the border between day and night. Thus it was the exact moment that the sun touched the horizon that Ghost touched the Fey realm and two minutes eight seconds later both Ghost and sun had completed their crossing.
Ghost smiled as she was immersed in the Fey lands. Here every tree was alive, every wind the breath of some being, every bit of moss and dirt artistically arranged. When she had come before the beauty had always seemed to mock her, the offspring of so foul an oak. Now it seemed to welcome her as a child of beauty herself.
Not even the tingle in Ghost’s arm and her knowledge of her own misdeeds could dispel the effect of such beauty. Encouraged, Ghost ceased repressing the blade to see its impact here. It too looked more natural, even beautiful, in this setting, but also more… dark. Without the blade the woods had seemed a place of wonder; with it they seemed recast as a place of elegant menace, a fitting setting for the shining hero to fight a buggane. Ghost quickly repressed the blade again and pressed on to her goal.