Medowin awoke from strange slumbers to find herself wrapped gently in soft linens, her limbs warm, her head confused with dreams. Nine Trees sat on the edge of the bed, dozing, and she reached for him, and he turned and smiled to her, pulling her into his arms and stroking her hair.
She roused herself and dressed, feeling refreshed and stronger from the struggle to pull herself out from under the weight of her latest realizations.
She called for Laila, and when the pie-woman came in, smudged with flour, it was then that Medowin realized she’d been returned to Laila’s home, some distance in the east. “My things–” she began, looking alarmed, for her harp had been in the rooms of the inn, as had many books and scrolls.
“If you please, mistress,” Laila gently interrupted. “I went and got them, while Nine Trees bore you back here.” She looked slightly nervous as she went on, however, and her speech began to come faster, as one anxious in telling a tale, “I’m afraid I had to use three of your shining pennies to fix the lock on the inn’s door that I broke in retrieving them, but I’ve replaced them with my own,” she explains. “Not nearly as shining, but I’ve scrubbed them a bit, and they do look newer, I like to think, and–”
“Hush, please, dear child,” Medowin whispered, staring at Laila, looking pained.
“Forgive me,” Laila mumbled, looking down at her hands, her face blushing furiously.
“No, no, it is only that you needn’t fear me,” Medowin murmured. “I am not some great sorceress come to devour you, I–”
“Aren’t you?” Laila said, lifting her eyes to the music-woman. “Aren’t you, surely? I thought I saw the greatest of wonders, a gold sovereign in my hands, the lot of my wares sellin out before evening time, and I met a kind, funny man, and then he tells me my whole life and all I know’s got to change, because you know a song that holds a part for me,” the woman says, sounding strained. “My life was simple, and you’ve come to take it all away.”
“Well aren’t you the selfish one,” Medowin snapped. “I’m terribly sorry to inconvenience you, but without you, the song isn’t whole, and that will take away from everyone’s life, simple or not,” she answered sharply. “You may resent that I have come to change things, but I don’t believe that resentment will change what I must do, one way or another.”
“Hadn’t expected it to,” Laila said dully, standing up and dropping a quick curtsy. “By your leave.” And with that, the woman ducked out, shutting the door behind her quite roughly.
Nine Trees, who had not left the room but watched the whole exchange with some measure of trepidation, finally took a breath. “If you are weary, Medowin, rest again,” he murmured. “She’ll come ’round.”
“And you’re now the far-seer, my Nine Trees?” she sighed, laying back in her pillows, troubled. “You’re so sure of this?”
With the stubborn persistence that had been the trait of the boy she’d taken from his mother so long ago, Nine Trees stood, tucking his guardian in, and said, “I shall make sure of it.”
He was gone, shutting the door more quietly, and Medowin curled herself into the blankets, a satisfied smile playing over her ageless features as she said to herself, “And I have made sure of that.”
Medowin was no goddess made to affix her own patterns to the world, but had been created to observe and record. It is the way of some, however, that when they see something beautiful for so long, their hearts become hardened to its freedom, and they desire it for their own. For now, Medowin settled herself to rest, certain that Nine Trees would hold Laila to her purpose, and since Laila herself would be ultimately tied to Medowin, Nine Trees would be unable to leave her by chance or error.
Part One — Part Two — Part Three — Part Four — Part Five — Part Six — Part Seven — Part Eight — Part Nine — Part Ten — Part Eleven