Chapter Seven: Ill Met By Moonlight
Oberon: Ill Met by moonlight proud Titania?
Titania: What jealous Oberon? Fairies skip hence- for I have foresworn his bed and company
~ William Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream Act II. Scene 1
John Bates remembered hearing stories of soldiers on the battlefields feeling their spirits leave their bodies after they were shot. He probably felt it himself when the shrapnel got his leg, but was too much in pain and shock to remember. He felt that way right now, as though he were no longer in control of his body. He was watching himself follow the ghost of his first wife up the stairs through the Abbey.
Vera still hadn't said anything. For that Bates was grateful, but he still felt compelled to follow. The apparition moved slowly up the stairs as the way got narrower and narrower heading towards an upper story window. "Vera, what are you doing here," he said. "I will not let you hurt anyone in this house!"
But Vera did not speak though she gave a sneer that was certainly her typical expression in life. Bates approached the window as the specter stood in front of it as if waiting for her human follower to catch up. Just as Bates approached, the ghost laughed a wicked laugh and faded through the window. Bates limped towards the window as it opened of its own accord. Bates glanced out the window through the Abbey roof. The apparition of Vera Bates floated right in front of the window as it beckoned him. "Go ahead John," she seemed to say in his mind, her voice certainly uncannily like that of Vera's. "You are useless to them, especially to the second Mrs. Bates as you were to me. I intend to bring her to an early grave!" The ghost laughed again sending chills down the valet's spine.
"Not while I live," Bates swore. He leaned out of the window holding his cane outwards. Suddenly, the cane slipped from his hand and tumbled out of the window. Bates attempted to reach for it, but it beat against the side of the roof before it skipped along the outer walls and fell to the ground below. The ghost of Vera once again laughed at her former husband's ineptitude. Bates cursed his own deformity, his first marriage which had caused so much pain, and most of all himself. He glared at the ghost and inched his knee up towards the window, full aware that the consequences could be disastrous for a fully able bodied person but downright suicidal for a man like him. Still he could never let anyone in the house, especially Anna, fall prey to this woman dead or alive. His livery pocket banged against the side of the window and out of the corner of his eye, Bates saw something stick out. It was the tip to the dagger that he found on the floor earlier.
Bates curiously stepped back out from the window and pulled the dagger out from his pocket. Vera looked stunned and somewhat frightened as he held onto it. The look was enough to give Bates an idea. He aimed the dagger towards her. "Are you afraid, of something like this then," he taunted. The apparition stayed where it was not laughing and not moving. Its image seemed almost to be fading.
Bates aimed it again and again the spirit faded. "This isn't real, you're not real," Bates swore. "Anna can't be hurt by something that doesn't exist!" He aimed it again as the spirit moved closer as if to frighten the valet one last time. Bates made a forward slashing motion as though he were stabbing the being in the heart. Even though the dagger went through the body, the ghost gave a shriek and vanished into the night. Bates relaxed for a moment leaning his head against the window in relief, before he closed the window and limped downstairs by leaning against the walls and stairwells for support.
Bates panted but reached the hallway near Cora's bedroom. He caught his breath and overheard water running from inside the room. He straightened up and knocked on the door. Rather than waiting for the Countess to bid him to enter, Bates opened the door. "Forgive my impertinence my lady, but there is something the matter-"The words died on Bates' throat as he saw Cora lying in her bed in the same state as her husband. He reached over to tap the Countess on the shoulder, but knew the gesture was useless. "What the hell is going on here?" he said desperately. He heard the water running in the bathroom again and ran towards it. "Is someone in there?" he asked.
"Go away," a sorrowful and mournful voice called. Bates' ears perked up, "O'Brien?" he asked. But the being behind the door didn't respond. The valet didn't understand it, but he didn't like the sounds of what was going on for one minute. He knew despondency when he heard it. He also didn't like the look of what was pouring underneath the door to the carpeting. It was bright red and he didn't have to look closely to see that it was blood!
He pounded on the door. "O'Brien," he commanded. "Open up!" But the lady's maid did not listen. Bates used all of the strength that he could and forced his body on to the door managing to force it open. Instead of the lady's maid lying in the bathtub in a pool of her blood, she was huddled in a corner as blood poured out of the sink and tub. Bates was terrified as he ran closer. "O'Brien what's going on?" he yelled. He tried to force her up by the shoulder, but she resisted.
"It doesn't matter, nothing matters," the Irish woman said. "Let me be. " She smiled bitterly. "It's funny at this. The time of my punishment it would be you of all people to find me. I suppose that's one last bit of irony from the Lord Himself."
"O'Brien," Bates said his voice growing gentler. "I don't know what you are on about. But, this isn't real."
"Oh it is too real," O'Brien objected. "This blood is on my hands. It has been for some time and now everyone knows including you."
Bates shook his head and took out the dagger once more. "No, look dammit, look!" the maid looked up not interested as Bates aimed the dagger at the sink. No sooner than he did then the faucets turned off and the blood swirled down the drain. The valet then attempted the same movement with the bathtub and was relieved that the blood disappeared just as quickly. He then tapped the bathroom floor as the blood vanished into thin air. "You see none of it is real."
"How did you know?" O'Brien asked.
"I have been having a chat with who I thought was the former Mrs. Bates and the same thing happened," Bates said dryly. "Now come on, I need your help."
"What for?" the maid asked partly suspicious and partly still sorrowful.
"To find some sense in this madness," Bates said frustrated. "Both his Lordship and Her Ladyship are asleep and we can't wake them up. We have been seeing ghosts and sinks full of blood. Now I have no bloody idea what is going on but I have a feeling that you know more than I do and I need your help to find out!"
"I can't help you," O'Brien slumped. "I can't help anyone. It doesn't matter whether the blood was real or not. The guilt certainly is."
"O'Brien," Bates said kindly as he lowered himself down next to the maid. "I am sure that there is nothing that you have done that deserves this."
"Oh are you sure?" O'Brien asked. "What if I were to tell you that I have committed murder then? I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised." She ignored Bates' sarcastic, but teasing smirk but continued. "That I am responsible for the death of Her Ladyship's unborn baby all those years ago!"
Bates shook his head. "O'Brien I'm sure it was an accident."
"You know me," the maid said. "You know what Thomas and I have schemed against you and you still doubt my sin?" She couldn't believe it.
"Well I've never been an admirer of you or Thomas," Bates admitted. "But I know how devoted you are to the Countess and I wouldn't think that you would have done anything deliberately to harm her."
"That's just it, I did," the maid replied. She was glad to see that the valet did not look shocked or furious. Instead he stayed passive. "I thought-well the reasons are not important any longer, but I put a bar of soap on the floor because I knew that she would trip. I didn't know the outcome but I wanted her to need me and now I-" She stopped not wanting to give into her emotions especially in front of Bates but she could not continue.
Bates was silent for a minute. When he spoke again his voice was quiet and non-judgmental. "O'Brien, I will not insult your intelligence by telling you how to feel about this but it seems that no punishment is greater than the one you have inflicted upon yourself. There are many chapters in our lives that we wish that we could erase with just a word if we could. But, right now that is not what's important. What is important is what is here and now and that we have to help those that we are closest to. The people in this house are what matters not the things that we have done. " O'Brien looked closely at the valet as if seeing him for the first time. "Besides I could use someone with a tongue as sharp as yours to see through this mess."
The maid smirked as Bates helped her stand with one hand. "I suppose I should thank you or some such for what you said."
"And I suppose that I should accept it," Bates said smiling. "Don't worry. If you like when this is over we can go back to our old ways."
O'Brien nodded in a half-smile. " I have much to tell you. Most of it is pretty unbelievable."
"After tonight, I am willing to believe anything," Bates said as they left the washroom and entered the hallway.
For the first time, O'Brien noticed Bates' odd limp. "Bates, I noticed where's your cane?"
"Oh, it fell out the window while I was trying to encounter the ghost," Bates remarked sheepishly.
"You could have stopped to look for it or get another," O'Brien mused. "You could have stopped to catch a breather but you didn't. You-"She left the thought unsaid.
"I suppose I wasn't thinking too clearly," Bates shrugged nonchalantly.
O'Brien nodded touched but not willing to show it. "Yes, I suppose I should thank you for it then." She said as they walked a little further. O'Brien's eyes focused on another bedroom down the hallway. "Why is the door to the nursery open?"
"Perhaps, Lady Sybil is in there," Bates suggested. The two servants rushed hurriedly towards the nursery to see Bobby asleep but no sign of his mother.
"Very careless of her to leave the door open like that," O'Brien observed.
Bates nodded and motioned forward. "Even more careless since she left her bedroom open as well." The two headed for the bedroom to see Tom Branson fast asleep fully clothed but no sign of his wife. "You think she disappeared too as Lady Edith and Thomas did last night?"
O'Brien was about to answer when they heard a scream coming from another room. "That sounds like Lady Mary!" O'Brien gasped.
"Let's go," Bates commanded.
O'Brien held onto him for a minute. "You do that and I will look for Lady Sybil!" Bates nodded and was about to offer her the dagger. "No you keep it for now," the maid said. "I'll find something useful in the kitchen."
It took a second for Bates to catch his breath when he heard the scream again. Not wanting to think more about the exertion, he run as fast as he could with his limp towards the eldest Crawley sister.
Mary struggled underneath Pamuk. The more she struggled, the weaker she felt as though the man were sucking the very life from her. She wasn't by any means excited, but she instead felt drained. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the door burst open and Bates appearing holding a dagger in his hand.
Pamuk looked up with anger and annoyance. "Excuse me," Bates said wryly. "Would you mind terribly letting her go?" When the man wouldn't respond, Bates continued. "No? Pity." He forced the dagger into the other man. Just like the apparitions before him, the spirit of Kemal Pamuk disappeared into the night.
Mary lay on the floor stunned until Bates helped her stand. "Thank you, Bates," Mary managed to say before she lost control and began to sob.
Bates held the young woman by the shoulder in comfort. "Now now, it's over, my lady. We have a lot to talk about." Mary nodded as she followed the valet out the door to her room.
Sybil continued to follow the strange beings through the kitchen to the servants' entrance. Each time she wanted to stop, she could hear the cries of her son. "Don't worry Bobby, Mama will not let anything happen to you," she soothed as she followed the creatures.
A few of them disappeared in the doorway through the shadows. One stood behind , a bundle in his hands. Even though the bundle was in the shadows just like the being that held it, the movement and cry gave no doubt as to what or rather whom it was. It was about to follow the others and disappear into the doorway with Sybil following close behind when someone ran into the kitchen. Both Sybil and the creature looked up to see O'Brien appear, iron skillet in hand. Without a word, O'Brien thrust the skillet on top of the creature's head, or rather through it. With an ear piercing shriek that caused Sybil to cover her ears, it disappeared with the bundle in hand.
Sybil turned to the maid, her body practically shaking with passionate rage. "What did you do that for? That thing has my baby!" She opened the door, but O'Brien forced it shut again and grabbed the young woman by the arm.
"No it hasn't," O'Brien objected. "Your son is fast asleep upstairs as is everyone else, my lady." Sybil looked at the maid in wordless skepticism. "If you don't believe me, go upstairs and see for yourself."
"I intend to, O'Brien," Sybil replied curtly as she left the kitchen with the lady's maid close behind.
True to O'Brien's word, Bobby was fast asleep in his crib. Sybil looked over her son pleased to see him so soothed, calm, and unaware of his mother's fears. "Better look him over my lady," O'Brien suggested. "It still could be a changeling."
"Do you think that I wouldn't know my own son," Sybil admonished but she looked anyway. "See by his elbow, here is his small birthmark." She sighed with relief. O'Brien sighed too. "It's him alright." She looked him over one more time then turned to the maid. "Now what is happening?"
"I'd better explain it then, my lady," O'Brien replied. The two left the nursery to see Mary and Bates in the hallway. "Looks like this will be a long conversation, then."
"Indeed, what were those things?" Mary asked.
"They weren't nothing more than illusions meant to confuse and frighten us," O'Brien replied.
"I have news for them, it worked," Bates observed.
"If they weren't real, then they seem to be nothing more than a distraction," Sybil suggested.
O'Brien nodded. "Aye, probably meant to divert us from their real purpose."
"Which is?" Mary asked, but all four shared the same thought at once. Mary spoke for them all. "Edith and Thomas." The sisters ran to Edith's bedroom as the servants ran upstairs towards Thomas'. Mary and Sybil looked inside Edith's bedroom. The door was wide open as the sisters looked inside and saw or rather didn't see what they expected to find: The room was empty and Edith was gone.
"Where did she go?" Sybil asked. Mary shook her head rushing through the room to see if she could find any evidence. When none could be found, she and Sybil left. They glanced towards the stairs as O'Brien and Bates came down. Without speaking, they knew that they made the same discovery: Thomas' room was also empty.
Bates, Mary, and O'Brien sat inside the sitting room filling one another in about their adventures that night as Sybil arrived with a walking stick in hand. She handed it to Bates. "It was all I could find," she said apologetically. "It is one of Papa's old walking sticks. I'm afraid we won't be able to find your cane until tomorrow morning."
Bates nodded thanks. "It will do, my lady." He said as he accepted it.
"Alright," Mary said. "You wanted to talk, O'Brien, let's talk. What were those things that we encountered? Why is everyone else in the house asleep and not us? What does it have to do with Edith and Thomas? What happened to them last night and where are they now? Remember, we need to know the truth."
"Well as we saw those things that we encountered just now were nothing more than illusions," O'Brien began. "I imagine everyone else in the house is under a spell besides us and as for Thomas and Lady Edith, they were taken."
"Taken, by whom?" Sybil asked.
O'Brien winced and hesitated realizing how ignorant this was going to sound. "The Good Neighbors."
"What?" Mary asked confused.
Bates translated. "The Fair Folk," upon O'Brien's surprised stare, the valet shrugged. "I guessed that first night when Thomas was talking about hearing music that no one else could. I've heard the stories too from my mum, but I didn't want to believe it could really happen not even to myself. That is, until now when those illusions disappeared. It was the iron that did the trick wasn't it?"
O'Brien nodded. "Yeah, that's right," she said bemused that she had a ready ally and above all that ally would be John Bates.
The sisters looked on, Sybil with an eager ready to believe expression. However Mary scoffed. "The Fair Folk, you mean as in fairies," she said. "What utter nonsense!" She was about to get up and leave when Sybil lowered her down.
"Any more nonsense than people who had been dead coming back to life to haunt us, creatures coming in and out of the shadows, or sinks and bathtubs pouring blood?" Sybil inquired. Mary shrugged having no ready answer as she sat down. "Either they were taken by the fairies or this house is haunted and waited until now to let us know. Considering what has happened, I think I'll go with the former." Upon Mary's wordless confirmation, Sybil knew that she agreed. The youngest Crawley sister looked to the servants confused. "I don't understand. I thought fairies did good things, like granting wishes."
"So you've been told through books and art," O'Brien scoffed. "In reality they are powerful creatures, tricksters, shape shifters. They can be unpredictable, even dangerous."
"But what would 'they' want with Edith and Thomas?" Mary asked not quite willing to believe but still intrigued and willing to put her disbelief on the shelf temporarily if it meant saving her sister.
"They used to abduct humans, children mostly, but sometimes young men and women that they have taken a fancy to. Possibly to continue their species, or for their own pleasures, or who knows why," O'Brien replied.
"But why would they be interested and how would they even know them," Mary asked.
O'Brien said. "It's possible that they may have taken a shine to them when they entered the house."
"When would they have entered the house?" Sybil inquired. "Someone would have noticed that."
"Actually they can't enter unless they have been invited inside by the master of the house is that right?," Bates answered. He turned to O'Brien who nodded in confirmation. "Though I suppose there are ways to get around that, in the event of renters and land owners."
"Surely Papa wouldn't have invited them," Sybil replied.
"Unless he didn't know that they were fairies," Mary observed. "Those visitors right, Miranda and her servant." O'Brien nodded. "I knew there was something odd about them."
"Who are you talking about?" Sybil asked.
Mary sighed remembering. "Oh that's right that was the day before you came here. Well the other night, there were these two people a woman who called herself Miranda, Lady of Greenwood and her servant um-"She tried to recall the name.
"Ariel," O'Brien supplied.
Mary nodded in confirmation. "That's right. I recall Anna mentioning how humorous their names were."
"Like the characters in The Tempest," Sybil asked incredulously.
"They said that they were named for them," Bates said then added quickly. "If you believe that."
"You don't suppose that they were-"Sybil asked aloud.
Mary scoffed again. "What characters from a play by William Shakespeare? I am willing to believe however reluctantly that a hundred fairies may have kidnapped our sister but to believe that a fictional character entered our house that's just too incredible for me."
"And their names," Sybil asked.
"A coincidence, I am sure," Mary trying to sound more certain than she felt. "Miranda is a common enough name and as for Ariel well they could have even been capitalizing on those names."
"Based on what we know now you are willing to believe that," Sybil asked. "It makes sense in a way. Recall in the play, Ariel and Miranda's father Prospero created illusions such as storms and harpies to fight their enemies. It seems they are trying to do the same here."
Mary shrugged once again finding no answers but she turned to O'Brien. "Is that why you wanted that flower so badly, was it to break some sort of enchantment?"
The lady's maid shrugged. "I was hoping that if I destroyed any gifts that were given to Edith and Thomas, then maybe their curse would have been lifted."
"We see how successful that attempt was," Bates said dryly.
"I didn't see you offering any suggestions, beyond agreeing to Storthes," O'Brien bickered.
"Enough," Mary commanded before Bates could counter with another remark. "This pointless argument will get us nowhere. Tell us O'Brien."
"I could see that didn't work." She said bitterly glaring at Bates. "I know for sure that Thomas only received a lock of hair because he was mooning over it like a lovesick calf the day before. I'm sure it was given to him by that Ariel. Are you certain that you gave me everything that Lady Edith received from them?"
Mary shrugged. "Everything that I could find that was out of the ordinary. Ask Sybil, I even checked the room just now to see if there was anything else but that's all there was. The flower, the little box, and the poem or was it a spell, I'm not even sure now. I suppose that Ariel is after Edith as well? Maybe that's who she was meeting the other day."
"What did the spell say? "Sybil asked curiously.
"'Stand and face me my love and scatter the grace in your eyes'," Mary recited. "I had never heard it before but Edith kept reciting it the other day. I won't forget it now."
"Oh that's not a spell. That is a poem," Sybil answered. Her brows knitted in confusion. "Funny I know where I've heard it before but I don't understand why Edith would know it."
"How do you know it?" Mary asked.
"Well two friends of Tom's, Maud and Olivia, are rather fond of poetry and they often recite such poems back and forth to each other," Sybil said. "In fact that very one is written by Sappho."
"Who's Sappho?" Mary asked.
"Let's see if I recall," Sybil tried to remember. "She was a poet who lived in Ancient Greece an island called what was it-oh yes, Lesbos. She taught a school for young women rather enviable I would say for the time and she wrote romantic poems dealing with her affairs with- oh Dear Lord that makes sense now-especially in the context of Thomas being with her-"
"-What are you talking about?" Mary asked.
"-Well that's why Sappho is a particular favorite of Maud and Olivia's," Sybil said. "She had affairs with men, but mostly she wrote frankly about her affairs with women. In fact Maud and Olivia are female lovers. That could mean that-"
"-Edith is with another woman," Mary finished the thought for her. "That explains so much. Why she wouldn't tell us the admirer's name. Now that I think about it she never referred to the gender either. It was always 'my admirer' or 'we,' never 'he' or obviously 'she.' Its Lady Miranda isn't it? Miranda kidnapped our sister and Ariel kidnapped Thomas." She stood up. "We have to save them, but how?"
"We could use all the iron that we have," Bates suggested. "Cold iron is the strongest defense against fairies."
"That would only hold them at bay," O'Brien said. "We have to break the enchantment."
"How do we do that?" Sybil asked.
"Well first off we must separate them from Lady Edith and Thomas. Make sure that they could never see them again. Then we have to bar them from ever entering Downton or interfering with Lady Edith or Thomas again."
"Well Papa invited them inside," Mary said. "Can't he just un-invite him and tell them that they are no longer welcome?"
"That is one possibility," O'Brien said. "The other is we have to trap them and have them swear to it. Fairies may be powerful but they are honor bound to hold true to a geas or a boon once it is sworn. "
"That sounds like no easy task," Mary answered. "How can we do that?"
"They would probably have to be bound in iron themselves," O'Brien answered. "And swear to it while held captive."
"There are some chains in the shed," Bates recalled. "We could probably rig them up to trap them."
"That's it," Mary answered. "We should do that then." Bates and O'Brien nodded eagerly.
Sybil raised her hand. "I'm all for rescuing Edith and Thomas but haven't we forgotten one thing. We don't know where they are or where Miranda and Ariel are."
Bates put his hand to his chin. "No, but I have an idea where they can be found." The four stood together.
"Alright," Mary said taking the de facto lead in the situation. "If this must work, then we have to work together with each other. We have to share any information and for the time being ignore our distinctions and our differences-" She glanced over at O'Brien and Bates as if daring them to disagree "-Nothing is too sacred or too private that cannot be discussed or shared among us and we have to unite as one if we want to save Edith and Thomas. Agreed?"
"Agreed," Sybil, O'Brien, and Bates swore at once.
"Alright then, what are we waiting for? Let's go," Mary asked as the four left the sitting room.
The dancers entered Faerie as they did the night before, a circle moving in perfect harmony and rhythm. Puck looked up from his conversation with The Weird Sisters. Caliban stood nearby listening but looking upwards at the new arrivals. "Oh looks like the Wicked Sister and the Beanstalk came back," Puck said. "I would have bet even coin that they wouldn't." He motioned to Miranda and Edith dancing next to each other laughing. Miranda seized a moment to steal a kiss. Ariel and Thomas were also dancing as Ariel improvised a sultry move towards his human lover then fell into his arms as Thomas twirled him around and kissed him.
"They were certain to return," Phoebe replied.
"After all we have seen that they would," Luna answered.
"Still humans certainly are known for their duplicity and unreliability," Selene argued. "I would not dismiss that fate couldn't be postponed even cheated at times." She nodded towards Puck as if agreeing with him.
"It is not fate that draws them to our lands," Phoebe answered. "Look closer." The two couples danced closer to each other and smiled private smiles as if they were the only beings in the world. "It is love."
"As long as they do not bring harm to Miranda and Ariel then I am all for them," Caliban said somberly.
Puck looked towards the gargoyle with an impish and mischievous grin on his face. "Shouldn't you be more worried about it being the other way around?"
"You seem distracted," Thomas observed as Ariel turned away. "I hope that I didn't fail to excite you." He offered an impish grin, which Ariel returned.
"No, I am fine," Ariel replied. "It's just- oh nothing really." He looked upwards and took Thomas' hand. "I see an old friend, I must say hello." He took Thomas' hand as they approached two men, one younger and one older. "Aisling, hello."
Aisling looked up and smiled at Ariel and Thomas. Aisling was a younger man with fair golden hair dressed in a green uniform almost like a Medieval era noble. He took the hand of his companion, an elderly wizened man with a beard down to his knees. The elderly man glanced at the wonders with a look of sadness and delight in his clear blue eyes. He too was dressed finely in a blue robe. The old man's hands shook as his companion held onto him with all of the care and gentility of a nurse to her patient. He nodded politely at Ariel and Thomas. "Ariel, hello."
"This is Thomas," Ariel pointed at his friend introducing him to the other man.
Aisling nodded. "Ah yes, the human." As Thomas looked closer, he could see something different in Aisling that wasn't present in any fairy that he had seen so far, a weariness and hardness in his eyes, not of unkindness more of a burden that only he knew about and no one else could share. "How is he?"Ariel asked indicating the elderly man.
Aisling sighed. "He has his good days and bad, blessedly there are more good days for now."
Ariel nodded. "Just hope it lasts."
"Who are they?" the elderly man asked in a brusque Scottish accent. "Are they Neddie and Jock?"
Aisling turned to the other man. "No, you remember Neddie and Jock were your boyhood friends and they are long gone. You remember Ariel, my friend," he said.
"Am I in Ercildoune," the man asked his voice sounding like a small frightened boy. "I want my Mam! Is she coming to sing to me?"
"No," Aisling replied as he held the man's hands. "You remember what I told you about your Mam, she is not in this world anymore. But I will sing you to sleep if you like. You like when I sing don't you?"He held the older man's hand tightly and he seemed soothed.
Thomas winced at the painful sight as Ariel led him away. When they were far from earshot, into a hallway, Ariel asked. "Tell me what you saw in them."
Thomas shrugged. "The geezer looks like he's going to snuff it any minute," Thomas whispered. "But he's being looked after by his-grandson?" Thomas guessed. "He's taking care of him so his last years won't be too hard." Thomas said. He had witnessed devotion like that on the front and though he would never admit it, it touched him maybe because he never knew anyone who would do that for him. "I didn't know your lot could age."
"We can't, well not that fast," Ariel humored him. "The 'geezer' as you so eloquently described him is human. In fact, he shared your name Thomas but we call him The Rhymer. He fell in love with a Fairy Prince, Aisling, the other man. However, when others repeated the tale, they preferred to change the object of his affections to a Fairy Queen to make the tale more 'accessible' to listeners," Ariel and Thomas smiled bitterly.
"They stayed together for seven years in our world. However, The Rhymer eventually returned to yours. He became a favored poet, storyteller, and had the ability to see beyond. However, he longed to return to this world to be with his Aisling. No human person, especially no human woman could satisfy him, he could not find comfort in his fellow man. When he was at the point of death, Aisling, returned for him and he lived among us. He practically is one of our own. They have had a long life together, even children-don't ask how-they do. However we could extend The Rhymer's life, we could only prolong it for so long. He is probably over 600 years old by your estimate, and he moves and carries himself as though he wears every bit of those years. Aisling has to watch every day as his lover grows further and further away from him and all he can do is soothe and care for him as though he were but a child. If you think it's hard for humans to watch a slow painful death of a loved one. Imagine how it must be for us! Those who have very little concept of death, who have to live forever the eternal agony of an immortality without the one we love, and have to watch them go through this suffering with a long-life that should have ended while we never grow old, barely changing, always living with the agony of loss and regret."
Ariel turned away from Thomas, so he couldn't see any of the tears that formed in his eyes. Thomas took the fairy's hand in his and didn't embrace him, didn't kiss him, but he had a feeling that Ariel knew that the touch of his hand was enough. Suddenly, Ariel turned back to face the human, his tears gone and he smiled as though those feelings were long gone. "Well no matter," he said. "It's an agony that very few have to share and is long in coming." He held out his hand as he led his lover into another dance.
Thomas shook his head at how fast Ariel's mood changed. But he guessed maybe that's how he was, sad one minute, and excitable the next. Ever eager to see the rest of this amazing world and spend time once again with this enchanting creature, Thomas joined him in the dance.
Miranda and Edith also observed the devotion between Aisling and The Rhymer. "It will be hard on him no doubt," Miranda sighed indicating the Fairy Prince as he watched his lover eat his food with eyes only for him that spoke of loyalty and compassion."But woe on any who see the ceremony. Have you ever seen a fairy funeral?"
"Did you forget that up until a couple of days ago I have never seen a fairy?" Edith reminded her companion.
Miranda snickered. "I suppose that I have," she said. "Fairy funerals are rare, but they do happen. It's often how we pay respect to our human companions. Those who live among us, intermarry with us, or just share our world. But not many humans get to see a funeral. One of your poets, William Blake did and it changed him as all our encounters with humankind do. His poems were originally full of light and innocence, but after the funeral he had darker thoughts and wrote poems based on experiences with death and anger. A fairy funeral is the worst thing that can be experienced, by the humans who observe and the fairies that are a part of it." Her lip quivered and her eyes filled. Something told Edith that Miranda was speaking less from an abstract thought than from personal experience.
"Were you in a fairy funeral?" Edith asked.
Miranda nodded. "In fact I was in that very one observed by Mr. Blake. It was the funeral of my father, Prospero."
Edith was stunned. She had long gotten used to the fact that the Miranda and Ariel that she spoke to were immortalized in the play, The Tempest, but it was strange to hear of her referring to her father in a context beyond the play. "So your father was human then? I just thought that with things as they are-"
Miranda nodded and spoke. "He was a human sorcerer as well as Duke of Milan; my mother was-well is- a Fairy Lady and powerful in her own right. You know the story of course, my uncle usurped my father, sent us adrift on an island where we lived for 12 years, encountered sailors and returned blah blah." Edith nodded. "Well what you don't know is that the island was less deserted than the play would have you believe. In fact Papa hid with my mother's people so I spent most of my upbringing amongst the Fair Folk learning their ways, sometimes forgetting even now my half-human origins."
Edith remembered the conversation that the two had in the library about Shakespeare's inaccuracies. "You returned to the island didn't you afterwards?" She guessed. "There wasn't anything for you in Milan."
"When my father's once closest allies, The Viscontis turned against him to curry favor with the Pope and accuse him of sorcery, needless to say Milan was no longer home to him," Miranda said sarcastically. "We traveled to England where he spent some time serving Queen Elizabeth under the name John Dee. In fact that was how Mr. Shakespeare heard of our story, but once again, he was betrayed and exiled. He wanted so much to use his abilities to help others and each time in his long life he had been betrayed and cast aside by those he thought he could trust, centuries of despair. Naturally we returned to the people who accepted us without question."
"And Ferdinand broke with you," Edith guessed knowing full well that pain. "He married another woman."
"What brave new world that has such people in't," Miranda said sarcastically. "What foolish words from a foolish girl especially one who in the cruel light of day was only given the offer to be his concubine." She pointed at Edith. "I suppose we have more in common than we realize. Always the second best to others."
"Hopefully not to everyone," Edith muttered.
"Well not everyone," Miranda said giving her a kiss as they continued to dance.
There was a certain feeling in the air as the music stopped and the dancers stood motionless. Thomas and Edith glanced towards each other. They didn't know what it was, but they both knew something was about to happen. A large clap of thunder resounded through the Faerie Palace and a bright warm light resounded throughout the grounds. It was blinding, but it didn't hurt to look at it. A line of finely dressed fairies emerged from the light walking through towards the crowd nodding as the crowd goers greeted them with a cheer that sounded like the tolling of bells.
"What's happening here?" Thomas asked.
"Don't you know a fairy royal procession when you see it?" Edith chided playfully.
"No, and neither do you," Thomas returned. Edith smirked but the two humans continued to observe with their fairy companions.
The Procession fairies continued to walk. To Edith and Thomas, they seemed to resemble characters that they knew only in folklore or literature; King Arthur, Queen Guenivere, Lancelot, the knights of the Round Table, Lady Godiva ("This sight is lost upon me," Thomas observed cheeky at the nude woman on a horse. "But not you apparently," he said to Edith as who stared fascinated), Robin Hood and his Merry Men, Jack Frost, The Snow Queen and her sisters who represented the seasons (They both noted that the Autumn Gypsy in particular looked harried as she slung a bottle of booze but since this was her season they supposed it was to be expected), a large man in red and green fur and a very merry face ("Wonderful, now I have to take back telling Sybil that he wasn't real when we were little," Edith observed as the man laughed in a cheery and familiar demeanor. "And Daisy," Thomas replied with a snicker ), and many others.
The procession stopped for a moment and there was silence in the air. Suddenly, four female fairies dressed in fine gowns and four male fairies dressed in armor stepped forward and stopped. They stood in a straight line facing each other as soldiers in a military line. In the center of their parallel lines two beings appeared; They were both tall beings and quite beautiful. The woman had long curly blond hair that trailed to her waist and wore a blue gown and a garland of flowers in her hair. The man had black hair and wore red robes and a crown of branches in his hair. Once again the crowd gave that strange cheer as the Royal Couple walked through the crowd, nodding at their followers.
"Well met by moonlight Beloved Titania," the king observed the crowd.
"Aye gentle Oberon," Titania replied. "Fairies skip hence. For my husband and I only wish to enjoy thy revels."
Oberon agreed. "As music is the food of love, play on." The music and dancing continued as Oberon and Titania walked and greeted many members. They approached Ariel and Miranda in delight. "Miranda, Ariel." He grasped Ariel's hand eagerly and embraced him. Titania also presented him with a kiss as he hugged her. Miranda hugged the royal couple like a child to her favorite godparents.
Edith and Thomas exchanged surprised glances at the familiarity between them and Faerie King and Queen. "I guess they are higher up than we thought," Thomas whispered to Edith who nodded fascinated.
"Oberon and Titania, Our Lord and Lady," Miranda said. "I thought that you were only coming for the Final Revel on Samhain."
"We had a change in plans," Titania said. "And we just had to meet these mortals that we heard so much about."
They approached Thomas and Edith. "Welcome to our world, Edith Crawley and Thomas Barrow," Oberon said.
Edith curtsied and Thomas bowed a solemn low bow. "Your majesties," Edith said slowly.
The room was filled with laughter from the crowd. Oberon and Titania exchanged amused glances as did Miranda and Ariel. Both the humans withdrew very embarrassed as though they were caught doing something humiliating in front of Royalty. They looked downward and humbled not initiating any physical contact.
"At ease," Titania said as she held up the young woman by the shoulders. "There is no need for so much formality. We are not like your English King and Queen." She shook both their hands warmly and kissed the humans on the cheek.
"Though some courtesy couldn't hurt," Oberon glared at some of his courtiers, particularly at Puck who gave a "who me?" expression of feigned innocence. He too greeted Edith and Thomas but not with a frosty demeanor. Instead with a warm grasp of the shoulders. "And have you enjoyed your visits here?" Oberon asked.
Thomas and Edith glanced at each other and smiled. "Yes your – I mean my Lord-uh Oberon," Thomas replied still feeling odd to speak to a king like a close companion rather than a low servant.
"It's beautiful," Edith replied. "I love every part of it."
"I have a feeling some parts more than others," Titania said motioning to Miranda who offered a mischievous grin. Edith blushed. "Do not worry we condone any sort of love no matter the sex and of course between ours and human kind."
"Sometimes such love is strongly encouraged especially in times such as now when such links bring strength to both people," Oberon answered. "I hope that you enjoy many more days amongst our kind."
"I think I will, my lord," Thomas said and looked towards Edith who also nodded.
Titania leaned closer to Miranda. "Actually there is another reason that we have arrived. It is more for you, Miranda." Miranda looked to her friends confused. "We have a surprise for you." She motioned the fairy woman forward as a tall woman with short white hair wearing a long black velvet gown holding a crystal staff appeared.
Miranda's expression changed to that almost of a small child. She ran excitedly. "Mother!" She greeted her mother with a warm embrace which she returned. Oberon and Titania smiled looking on until Titania motioned her husband away so they could give the family some privacy.
"Welcome my child," Prospera greeted. Ariel also ran up to the woman with a hug. "And gentle Ariel. Are you both well?"
"Better than we have been in a long while my lady," Ariel said.
"I am guessing the reasons why are standing before me," she said as she approached Thomas and Edith who shyly hung back. "So these are the mortals. Are you treating my daughter by blood and my son by heart well?" She gave them a stern reproachful look that reminded Edith uncannily of her father's expression towards Matthew and Tom.
"Indeed," Edith replied. "I have never felt such strong affection as I have towards your daughter."
"And I feel the same for your son," Thomas answered shyly feeling as though he were in the presence of the Dowager Countess.
Prospera gave a thin-lipped smile but nodded in approval. "Yes I can see that and may that affection sustain between this brace of lovers during your long stay in our world."
Edith's and Thomas' expression dropped. "What?" Edith asked.
"Well seeing as how you opted to remain in our world, I can only hope that your love will be eternal and long bound though I know how such passions fade over time," Prospera explained.
"What was that part again," Thomas asked, his face darkening. Prospera looked surprised and annoyed as though Thomas were a slow study. "About remaining in your world?"
Prospera glanced at Miranda and Ariel who both looked sheepish and embarrassed. "You did not tell them?" She asked.
"Not yet," Ariel answered and winced. "We were waiting for the right time."
"Mother please I bid you not to interfere with this," Miranda countered sharply.
But Prospera did not heed her daughter's counsel. "Surely, you were aware of the fact that you were going to live and dwell among us in our lands."
Edith looked shocked but did not speak. Thomas however did have a mouthful to say and glared at Ariel who did not meet his gaze. "No we were not aware of the fact."
"Well be grateful that now we have given you the choice to do so," Prospera said dryly. "For it used to be that we did not."
"Yeah I'm really grateful for that," Thomas said sarcastically.
"How long were you expecting us to remain here?" Edith asked.
Prospera glared at Miranda and Ariel as though they were in big trouble. Miranda sighed. "Forever."
"Forever?" Edith gasped.
"Well not really forever," Ariel amended. "You may one day return to your world." Thomas and Edith sighed with relief. "It may seem the same on the surface, but not deeply. It may be years or centuries later but you will be unable to fit in with others. You may wish to live among them, work among them, even dally among them but to them you will always be an outsider, odd. You will not find satisfaction and pleasure among humans even if you take a dozen human lovers because you have a higher perception than they do. But ultimately, when the time comes you will dwell in our lands to the end of your days."
"Aging as you remain forever young," Thomas said. "That's why you showed me them two over there." He motioned towards Aisling and The Rhymer seated in a serious conversation, their heads touching. "You were showing me our future if we agree to it."
"We wanted to make sure that you recognized all of the risks before you made your final decision for once it is made it cannot be unmade," Ariel said.
"So we will grow old and die," Edith answered.
"In the passage of time, we cannot alter that," Miranda replied. "But you will be granted a much longer life span than many of your kind."
"Will we be able to see Downton, even visit them," Edith asked.
Miranda and Ariel glanced at each other and Edith knew their answer before they gave it. "No," Miranda replied. "Not as you know it now. To them you will be dead. To see them would only bring confusion to them and heartache to yourself."
Edith sank down onto a nearby chair. Thomas only stood silent and immobile. Ariel approached him wanting to touch or hold onto him, but Thomas pulled away resisting. "What if we don't agree to it?" Thomas asked.
Ariel and Miranda glanced at each other as if daring one another to reveal the news. Miranda spoke. "You will be returned but you will remain as you were, ill, insane. Before you left, they were discussing sending you to a retreat and an asylum to be treated. That will be a certainty where you will dwell among the insane and even if you do recover enough to leave, you will remain strangers to the people around you. You will always long for the world here."
"You would never be able to return to the life you once knew because it will never satisfy you," Ariel said. "In fact you will be victims of those worst parts of your personalities, slaves to your own apathy, depression, anger, paranoia. That's why we prefer to take mortals rather than return them to their world. It is better to live among us in peace and security, rather than return them to a life of misery and loneliness."
"Seems like the better option would have been to never have met you at all," Thomas observed. He held on to Ariel's hand, but then withdrew it.
"When do we have to decide?" Edith asked.
"Tonight," Miranda replied.
Thomas and Edith looked stunned. "Tonight but why?"
Miranda rolled her eyes. "Well we would have preferred to wait until Samhain, two nights time, but your persistent family and fellow servants rather jumped the gun on us and will have you sent away tomorrow morning. We would be unable to reach you then. So to make things easier on us all, it must be made tonight."
"They would do that," Edith asked her eyes filling with tears. "Lock us away rather than accept all this."
"So what say you?" Prospera asked "Now that you know?"
Edith stammered and blushed, "Well I-"
"Yes," Thomas said quickly. The others turned towards toward Thomas; Prospera and Miranda's faces remained impassive, Ariel's in barely contained joy, and Edith's in confusion.
"Thomas," Edith said approaching her friend as if to warn him. "Are you sure?"
"I said yes and I bloody well meant it," Thomas replied. "I don't have any ties over there, no family anymore at least one that gives a damn. What do I have to go back for? A life of 'Yes my lord,' 'very good my lord,' three bags full? At most I would only be a valet, and maybe if I'm really lucky and get older than Carson, a butler. Besides I don't fancy being locked away in an asylum or in prison, for what I know to be right."
"But Thomas this is a very big decision," Edith reminded him. "Think about what they said."
Thomas shrugged. "I can think of worse punishments than spending a long lifetime with someone who cares for me. I'm sure you can too. I know what's waiting for me if I go back but I don't know what's waiting for me if I stay here and I'm actually looking forward to it."
"So you are certain," Ariel said his eyes filling with happy tears.
"I have never been more certain in all my days," Thomas replied. Ariel responded by leaping excitedly into Thomas' arms and kissing his face. Thomas laughed and returned the hug. "Alright," he said pretending to be annoyed but actually happier than he was letting on.
Miranda and Prospera smiled at the other two's antics. Prospera then turned to Edith. "Well that is one decision made, what say you Edith Crawley?"
Edith glanced at the two male lovers as they kissed. She then looked at Miranda, her eyes filled with such love. She touched Edith's hand warmly. "I wish that I could be as certain as that," she answered. "But you are asking me to change my whole life in the space of a few hours and unlike Thomas I do have a lot to go back for." She began to cry. "I don't get on with them all the time, but they are my family. What would I do without them?"
"You would find your own way," Miranda answered. " And I shall be there to help you."
"I'm not ready yet," Edith said looking downward not wanting to meet her lover's face.
"You are still afraid," Miranda said holding her hand.
"Not of what I was before," Edith objected. "Not afraid of us, but just afraid of what's out there."
"That's why you'll have me to face it with you," the fairy woman said. She smoothed Edith's hair in the familiar gesture that comforted the woman but she still retained her defensive posture. Miranda leaned forward and whispered. "You will never be second best to me." Edith responded by kissing the other woman's lips as their foreheads touched.
"Can I at least explain it to them and have the chance to say a proper good-bye first," Edith asked. "I wouldn't even have to tell them about all of this. Just close the chapter in a real way."
Mother and daughter looked towards each other in disagreement. Prospera was firm and constant as she shook her head. However, her daughter was just as willful and non-verbally glared at her mother almost staring her down. Miranda then turned to her lover. "Well perhaps we will see what can be done upon that score."
"Well," Prospera suggested. "It does not become official until you eat from our fruit and sip from our cup and we traditionally do that during the final dance of the night. You still have several hours and I won't say that we couldn't let you postpone your decision until Samhain. I am just letting you know that it will be a lot harder to make."
Edith was silent still wrapped in her own concerns as Miranda took her hand. "Come on, maybe a dance will soothe your worries and make your thoughts clearer." Edith followed as Miranda whispered to her mother, "Let's pray that it does."
Bates and O'Brien tightened the chains around the trees making final adjustments as they waited nervously though neither would admit it. "They're tight enough to hold an elephant," Bates observed.
"We're holding beings that are a lot more powerful than that," O'Brien reminded him as they made one final adjustment. They then turned towards the two Crawley sisters as they appeared, ropes and iron padlocks in hand.
"Here are the ropes," Sybil said. "But I don't understand why they are needed if Miranda and Ariel are only vulnerable to iron."
"They aren't for them," O'Brien said. "We don't know what state that Lady Edith or Thomas will be in when they get out. They may need to be restrained."
"I don't like the idea of tying up our sister," Sybil objected.
"You don't have to," Mary said. "But if it will keep her from harming herself or us then we must do this." She turned to Bates. "How do you know this is where they will be?"
Bates shrugged. "It's where I found Lady Edith this morning," he replied. "I remembered my mum saying something about being aware of crossroads because they were places in between. Since this is between the Earl of Grantham's lands and the forest, it seemed likely."
"I hope you're right," O'Brien said. She then stuck out her hand for the dagger and made the sign of the cross over the empty space around the chain. She whispered the names of "Lady Edith Crawley, come forward" and "Thomas Barrow, come forward" three times. There was a silence in the air as the four waited.
When there was no response for several minutes, Bates glanced up and down. "Is something supposed to happen?" he asked dryly.
"I don't know," O'Brien said. "Let me try it again." She said. Once again nothing happened.
"Try again," Sybil suggested.
O'Brien tried again but once again there was no reaction. "Again," Sybil said forcefully.
"It's not going to work, my lady," O'Brien objected.
"Any other brilliant ideas?" Bates asked.
"Well do you?" she bristled at the valet.
"I don't know it seemed destroying their gifts didn't help and this certainly didn't," Bates replied.
"What would yours be, prayers and hope?" O'Brien said sharply. "At least this is doing something about it."
"Doing something mad. I'm beginning to wonder if any of this is true," Mary said. "And not some manufactured hallucination."
"Oh and I would like to see the person who is capable of doing that," O'Brien replied forgetting for a moment her deference "He might be the smartest most magical human being is. My lady, forgive me but that is a ridiculous suggestion."
"No more ridiculous than standing outside after midnight waiting for fairies to appear," Bates said.
"O'Brien, Bates you two are running perilously close to the edge and if you don't wish me to tell Mama and Papa-"Mary ordered.
"Yes you go ahead and wake them up," O'Brien argued. "I would like to see you try. Not even the great Lady Mary Crawley, future Countess of Grantham can do that!"
Mary, Bates, and O'Brien continued to argue so they didn't notice O'Brien dropping the iron dagger and Sybil picking it up. She moved closer to the forest's edge and approached the trees that held the iron chains. She thought of Edith, always quiet, serious, just wanting to be heard and loved and Thomas, sardonic, scheming, always wanting what others had and took for granted. It wasn't fair that they could be taken from the people who cared about them. She raised her arm and called "Edith!" and stabbed the tree with the dagger once.
At the Faeries Dance, Edith was turning around as she felt pain overpower her. She screamed and fell to the ground. The dancers and other fairies stopped their revels and turned to Miranda and Edith. "Sweetling, what's the matter?" she asked as Thomas and Ariel approached with concerned looks on their faces.
"I don't know," she said. "I just felt odd like I was being pulled."
A spark of blue light appeared between the trees and the sound of a woman's scream broke Bates, O'Brien, and Mary from their argument. Mary ran to her sister. "What happened, Sybil?"
Sybil shook her head. "I don't know. I just hit the side of this tree."
"Well, do it again then," O'Brien suggested.
Sybil nodded aiming the dagger once more. This time she called "Thomas," as she pierced the tree.
Miranda helped Edith to stand on shaky legs as another scream filled the Faerie Hall, this one coming from Thomas. He grabbed his forehead and sank to the ground. "Thomas," Ariel screamed holding onto him.
Once again between the trees, the four mortals saw a larger spark of blue light and another scream this time a male one. "My God, I think it's working," Mary gasped. She nodded at Sybil to do it once more. "This time call both of their names," she suggested.
"How many times?" Sybil asked .
"As many times as it takes," Mary said. Sybil agreed.
In the Faerie Hall, Edith and Thomas both screamed and fell to the floor. "Something is pulling me," Thomas said, his face turning pale as he felt it again. "Oww!"
"Make it stop," Edith begged her lover. "It's burning me!"
"Hold onto them," Miranda said. "We have to hold on. Don't let go, whatever happens." Ariel nodded as the two held their lovers tightly.
As Sybil continued to hit the side of the tree, shapes began to form from between the trees. They weren't yet clear ghostly in appearance but the more Sybil struck the tree, the shapes became solid form and mass becoming bodies. They screamed again as something stood over them.
"What's happening?" Mary screamed.
"I don't know," O'Brien replied. "It looks like they are having trouble getting through."
"Maybe they need help," Bates said. He was about to go forward when Mary and O'Brien pulled him back.
"Don't do that you may be trapped in there too," O'Brien replied.
"Well what else then," the valet asked.
O'Brien stood in silence but then began to say aloud, "Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be they name. Thy kingdom come-"
Mary, Bates, and Sybil joined her in reciting the Lord's Prayer.
Edith and Thomas continued to fade further from the Faerie World as their lovers continued to hold on. "I should have said yes," Edith said weakly her face looking like death. "I want to say yes."
"I know Sweetling," Miranda said as tears filled her eyes.
"Stay with me, Thomas," Ariel begged. "Don't leave me!"
"I'm not going anywhere," Thomas said as he paled his voice growing weaker. "I will be right here." Both the forms vanished as their lovers continued to hold on.
By the time the servants and the Crawley sisters came to the end of the Lord's Prayer, Edith and Thomas appeared on the ground. They were completely nude. They struggled to rise from the ground, their faces weak but also bent with rage. As one they charged from beneath the iron chains and rose to attack their rescuers. "Bind them now," O'Brien commanded. Bates wrestled Thomas to the ground as O'Brien held on to Edith. The two weren't screaming words, just making noises as the sisters tied them in ropes and put padlocks around them. O'Brien let go of Edith who let out one final ear piercing shriek and scream before her body went rigid, limp, and cold. Sybil and Mary removed their hands from their ears and knelt down to their sister. "Is she dead?" Sybil asked.
Mary felt Edith's pulse. "No, she's alive but-" She ran her hands over her face. "No reaction, it's like she doesn't hear us or see us anymore."
"Edith," Sybil called. Edith turned her head away and would not look at either of her sisters.
"Well why would she?" Thomas said sharply. "You have taken her away from her love. Why should any of us speak to the likes of you liars, murderers, thieves! I should kill you all for this! If you let me out, I will."
"Which is why we aren't," Bates said tightening the rope. "And you're welcome by the way."
"We had better get them in the house," Mary said when the air changed and a fierce wind picked up.
Lightening struck and thunder resounded. Suddenly the air was filled with a scream almost like a battle cry. O'Brien looked between the trees as sparks of light appeared. "The chains now!" She commanded. She and Bates each stood on opposite sides of the trees holding on to the chains as a furious Miranda flew out looking like a wailing banshee and Ariel emerged as a harpy from hell. The two charged until they fell among the iron chains. Bates and O'Brien wrapped them up as their forms changed back into their usual selves.
Miranda and Ariel sank to the ground struggling but remained bound by the chains. "Do you think that you could spare us this dignity at least?" Miranda asked.
"Spare you some dignity," Mary sharply replied. "That's rich coming from the likes of you. You took our sister and our footman-"
"-I'm told you can easily replace a footman," Ariel said smartly.
"Silence you," O'Brien commanded as she kicked Ariel. Ariel glared at her. "So I'm a dragon then?" O'Brien asked. "I can show you how dragon-like I can be."
"I also called you a bat," Ariel replied. "Among other things, but I don't see you flying away either."
The only answer was another kick. Ariel glared but this time did not say anything.
"Release us," Miranda commanded. "And we will not harm you which is more than I could say that you have done here."
Mary laughed. "And I suppose that kidnapping them-" She indicated a downcast Edith and a rage filled Thomas. "-Was all in good fun. And what about the illusions that you created? I suppose that was just a Sunday stroll in the park for your people."
"Depends on the park," Ariel quipped this time receiving a kick from both Bates and O'Brien.
"Those illusions were just that," Miranda replied. "They would have not harmed."
"They could have driven us to despair, or suicide, even madness," Mary countered. "You do not call that harmful!"
"Well if you are not strong enough to handle those images, then that's your problem isn't it," Miranda said dryly. This time she received a kick. "Now please I beg you release us. We cannot stay long in this state. Even now our powers are growing weak." Ariel had already leaned forward as if in agony, his face constricted in pain. Miranda tried her best to hold on giving the Lady a look of anger and icy reserve but it was clear from her drooping body that she too was beginning to weaken. "We will do anything you ask, be your slaves." Bates and O'Brien glanced at each other as if tempted.
Sybil shook her head. Somehow it seemed wrong. She saw the green eyes of the fairy woman and the blue eyes of the fairy man turned in despair and weakness. She felt somehow like they had trapped wild deer that should have been free to roam in the forest and not held down and bound by iron. "Release them, Mary," Sybil said.
Mary turned coldly to her sister. "Sybil, what about Edith or Thomas?"
"We can't keep them forever," Sybil said. "We shouldn't have to. It wouldn't be right."
"Please go with those feelings, Sybil," Ariel encouraged as he tried to sit up. "Don't you ever get tired of doing this?" Ariel asked after O'Brien gave him another kick.
"Let's do what O'Brien said and make them swear and then let them go," Sybil said. "Then we will have what we want, all of us."
Mary looked downwards. "Alright, Darling." She said then she turned to the fairies. "Swear that you will remove all spells that you have given us!"
"The illusions are already gone and the sleep spell will end come the morning," Miranda replied.
"And swear that you will never enter Downton Abbey again either physically or by magic," Mary commanded.
Miranda and Ariel exchanged glances. "We swear," they groaned like chastised children.
"And swear that you will remove the hold that you have on Thomas and Edith," Mary ordered.
"We have no magical hold on them," Miranda answered. "Whatever feelings that we have shared are purely natural."
"Alright then, swear that you will sever all ties to them," Mary began. "Swear that you will never see them again or encounter them again either in Downton or anywhere else." This time Miranda and Ariel hesitated. "Swear to it!" Mary shouted.
Miranda looked at Edith but the blond lady only looked downward unaware of what was going on around her. Ariel also glanced at Thomas. He shook his head and glared at the others around him. The two fairies looked at each other in silence and gave one sigh. "I swear," Miranda said. Edith seemed to shift even further downward.
"I swear as well," Ariel added.
Thomas' voice was low and angry. "Damn you," he said to Ariel. Then he looked at the others. "Damn you all!"
"Alright then," Mary said. "Bates, O'Brien we got what we came for. Now set them free."
"My lady-" the maid and valet said at once.
Mary held up one hand. "Just do it." The two servants exchanged glances but then undid the locks and lowered the chains. Miranda and Ariel stood up looking at each of the humans. Completely silent and utterly defeated, they disappeared.
Mary and Sybil waited in the sitting room until O'Brien and Bates came down the stairs. "Edith's asleep," Mary replied. "She still won't speak, but she finally is sleeping."
"We managed to get Thomas to sleep as well finally," O'Brien observed. It was not an easy task since Thomas raged and screamed at them the whole time.
"How did you manage it," Sybil asked.
"A bit of chloroform and a knock upside the head can work wonders," Bates added.
"So what happens now," Sybil asked.
"We still need to get them away from here," O'Brien replied. The other three looked at her. "The Fairies can be slippery devils even in the event of a verbal agreement. They may still find a way out of it."
"They still need to go to those hospitals," Mary answered.
"But in case you haven't missed the last few hours, they are clearly not insane," Sybil argued.
"I don't know what they were before tonight, but they are clearly insane now," Bates said. "Lady Edith doesn't know where she is or even if she is and Thomas is a danger to himself and others."
"The fairies certainly did quite a number on them both," O'Brien said.
"Then tomorrow's plans will not change," Mary said. "In fact I believe that we should remove any doubts."
"And what will stop Miranda and Ariel from coming after them over there," Sybil pointed out.
"We could make sure that their doors and windows are barred with iron," O'Brien said.
Mary nodded. "We could say part of the manifestation of their insanity is a fear of getting kidnapped or some such and they have to have iron bars around their doors at all times."
Sybil shook her head. "I just wish-I wish it didn't have to be this way."
Mary held her youngest sister by the shoulder. "I know, Sybil. But that's the way it is." She said as the four shared ideas of what they would tell the doctors and the other Downton residents in the morning. Then they went upstairs to welcome sleep.
1. The story of Thomas The Rhymer and his Fairy Love is a real folk tale told in Scotland. The fairy was actually female in the story, well as far as I know anyway. :D
2. William Blake's account of seeing a fairy funeral is true according to his writings. The year is unknown (or at least not in anything I have encountered so far), but a safe bet could be between writing Songs of Innocence (1789)and Songs of Experience (1794)
3. Miranda's revelation of Prospero and John Dee (1527-1608 or 1809), the alchemist, astrologer, and Queen Elizabeth I's consultant being one in the same is true in a way. Many historians believe that Dee was the inspiration for the character of Prospero, as well as sharing similarities with Shakespeare himself.
4. Of course Oberon and Titania's opening lines are plays on their opening lines in Midsummer Night's Dream though spoken in a friendlier more loving manner than previously. Oberon's line "As music is the food of love, play on" is a paraphrase from Twelfth Night.
5. This version of Lady Prospera pays tribute to the portrayal by Helen Mirren in the 2010 film version of The Tempest directed by Julie Taymor, though I still referred to the male version as well in my writing. I wanted to refer to both versions of the character and figured Miranda would have come from equally powerful stock on both sides of her family and enjoyed a fiendish delight imagining Mirren's Prospera clashing with Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess (a verbal smack down just waiting to happen). :D And yes Ariel , Miranda, and Caliban are certainly patterned after the interpretations by Ben Whishaw, Felicity Jones, and Djimon Hounsou in the film.