Petals of the Rose
Porsche's First Lesson
At the restaurant, they talked about where they had been and what had happened since they were separated. Pollock went into some detail about the fact that she’d been living in Portland for about three years. They all got a chill, and especially Porsche, when they realized that she’d only been gone for six months and Pollock had been there, waiting for her, longer than that. It didn’t make sense, but they decided not to question the mysteries of faerie logic too closely.
Over a long meal, Pollock also explained the basic nature of changeling culture in Portland. Four great courts existed, and each was named for and sworn to one of the seasons. The Spring Court, the Emerald Court, the Court of the Antler, lived to enjoy their new lives and take full advantage of their new conditions. The Summer Court, the Crimson Court, the Iron Spear existed to fight back against the lords of the fae, the True Fae, so that no more humans would be taken and enslaved. The Autumn Court, the Ashen Court, the Lead Mirror focused on the mystical arts, and studied fear so that they could turn their fears into power to cause fear in others. The Winter Court, the Onyx Court, the Silent Arrow learned to hide, to keep secrets, and to understand the nature of loss and sorrow.
In this city, these great courts had hundreds of members. Portland had become something of a Mecca to the Lost, with the character of the city being subtly altered to be a bit more like its peculiar and otherworldly inhabitants. Four changelings ruled, each from one of the four courts, and took their turns as their seasons came and went. The entire community of the fae was referred to as the Port of Roses, and the seat of royalty as the Rose Throne. Something about the feudal structure had always appealed to the fae, and continued to do so.
Porsche marveled at the description of the fantastical hedge as a resource for fae kind. A parallel faerie realm that bordered the mortal world all over, close by, but rarely accessible. It was a place of winding labyrinthine passages and roads, and strange and terrible creatures. She remembered her flight through the thorns and tight hedgerows of that awful place. Although she was deeply concerned about the safety of a place like that, Polly and Shade described magical goblin fruit that mend wounds and useful trods in town for getting around without having to wait on a bus schedule. Pollock’s hair showed a contemplative indigo.
The discussion turned to the matter of faerie appearance, and Shade launched into an exposition of the nature of the fae, based on conversations he’d had with other changelings, some books lent to him which spoke on the matter, and his own observations. Humans, in brief, did not see the magic that twisted the fae and made the world a more beautiful and terrifying place. A massive protective spell called the Mask ensured that humankind took no notice at all of the fae living all among them, or other creatures touched by the magic of the Wyrd. And in Portland, there were nearly a thousand changelings.
By the time she was able to speak again, Pollock’s hair was an irritable rose. Porsche was having trouble understanding what Shade was talking about. “Honey, it’s simple. Look at me.”
Porsche took in Polly’s appearance. Her color-shifting hair and eyes, her skin of artist’s canvas, her pointed elfin ears. She said, “okay,” expectantly. Suddenly, it seemed that she had been wrong about all of those things. Pollock’s hair was merely the bottle-tinted red you could get anywhere. Her eyes were a pretty green, but normal. Her skin was pale and smooth, and she had cute ears and earrings, but nothing was out of the ordinary about them.
Porsche was agog. “What am I seeing? What did you do?”
“I’m hiding, using the Mask. I took all of my powers and all of my glamour and used it to strengthen that Mask so you can only see me like humans see me. When they look at us, this is what they see.”
“Only you, Shade, and other Lost can see me for what I am. The world doesn’t know we exist.” As she spoke, her features relaxed into her usual fantastical appearance. “What we really look like is called our Mien.”
“Well who decides what this Mask thing looks like?”
“No one does. It is what it is. Just as the Mien is what it is.”
“But I don’t turn funny colors when I’m happy or sad.”
“No, but you do look like ice. And you must look enough like you used to that your mom still recognizes you.”
“But I’m still me. That other girl is the one that doesn’t look like me. She’s just a cheap knock-off.”
“That’s as may be.” Polly explained that she was living with her boyfriend, a DJ named Jerry. She formally invited Porsche and Shade to come stay with her at his place, at least for a few days while they figured something else out.