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66
Ada Towerstar


Dear Sam,

One week until the play! It will be a vast relief to have it over and done, and never have to worry with it again. On the other hand, that’s when my stepchildren will be going back…and I don’t want them to!

Lightning has already gone back. She was missing her mate too sorely, she said. She now cares for him, and wishes to return to him. Well, I am very glad she has finally gotten over her cabin-boy and wishes to be happy with her true mate now. But Anemone has grown so attached to her…how will she do without her sister? And how will Lightning fare now that she has soaked up so many landish ways? Can she make her mate fancy her in return? They were not supposed to stay as long as they did. But they could not resist the temptation, and I had grown too fond of them to admonish them to go back.

Today Moonrise confided to me that he fancies his mate now also, and wished to see her and their three children, and so he will go back directly after the play. And yesterday Embergold told me that although she was not very fond of her mate, she felt she should go back, since he was fond of the children and she thought she ought to bring them back to him. She was very sad because she wanted to stay with her mother and me, she said. And so did the little ones. But now she had what was called a conscience, and felt that she ought not rob her young of their sire. I scarcely knew what to say.

Ebbtide is undecided; he would like to stay, but feels he should go back. He has a mate but no young yet.

“She probably doesn’t expect me back now,” he told me. “Maybe she’s found someone else. I’ve met several ladies I could fancy here. But I feel I should go back to her. And what if I go, and find out she does not want me any more?”

Fairwind is having the time of her life, what with the play and all the rest of it. She has taken the Company by storm. Her enthusiasm and passion make her as a breath of fresh air there—yes, just like her name. I remember well when I walked arm-in-arm into the theater with her the first time, and saw Perion’s mouth drop wide open, and his was not the only one. I suppressed a giggle as I saw several males reach up involuntarily to smooth down their hair. As for Selin, he stood transfixed, which is utterly unlike him. I could only grin with pride and delight…at the same time, with worriment, and I knew all the more what it was to be a father. Of course I was far less concerned with the effect she would have on them than with what would become of her. She is not a child, but a parent is a parent no matter what age the offspring!

She has decided to learn to read, in order to better learn her part, and when she announced her intent, her brothers and sisters wished to get in on it also, so that Anemone had quite a little class going! Lightning looked after the little ones while the others took their lessons—Northlight offered his stable-room for the little school, and I had a long table and benches made up for them, and borrowed some school-books and slates from the orphanage. Then Sandrose and Onyx decided they wanted to learn also, so I taught them their letters in the afternoon. What they will do with this knowledge when they go back, I’ve no clue, but if they want to learn, then learn they shall….

As for the twins, they and Raven are so attached to one another, I doubt they will leave either. Raven said she always wanted a sister, especially a twin, it was different from having brothers, she said. Emleth was dismayed, I think, that they were together so much; where would she fit in now, with these three sisters? But the twins have gone all out to assure her that she is more than welcome among them, even giving her a sea-name: Lilydream, which I think banished any misgivings. They’ve given sea-names to the rest of us as well. Lyrien is now “Lovepearl,” and Marilen is “Glasswing Dancebug”—Nightingale thought of “Glasswing” and Gloryfall came up with “Dancebug” (her word for butterfly) and Marílen couldn’t decide between the two names, so she ended up with both. Nightingale wished to call Dínlad “Singlehorn” and Gloryfall proposed “Lickeyes” after the boy expressed his hilarity over the way crabs lick their own eyes while feeding. So now he is “Singlehorn Lickeyes”. It has been reported to me that the little girls giggled over these names for over two hours, well into supper-time!

Guilin is “Bloodsong” and Little Iorhael is “Seabell”…partly for my poem and partly for his exceptionally loud voice. Gloryfall thought of “Dampbottom” but I laughed and said I didn’t think it would go over too well with his mum, whose sense of humor seems to have taken a half-holiday where her infant son is concerned. But the twins did give Tilwen a lovely name also: “Candlemother,” and she likes it very much. Galendur is “Steelmaster,” and when he heard that one, he said he would have expected something softer, like “Melonhead.” I said that sounded good to me, and he said come to think of it, his brothers used to call him that sometimes when he was small. Gandalf is “Greatstaff”--I know he must love that one! Ríannor is “Swanbride,” Lord Elrond is “Eagleheart,” Lady C. is “Harpfairy,” and Lady E. is “Jeweldove.” And Lady G. is “Heavenfire.” How many people do you know who would presume to rename their queen? I’ve a feeling the twins will be much in demand soon as name-givers…although I’ve never heard of anyone making a living as such.

Yes, I have a sea-name also. The twins proposed several, including “Sapphire,” “Ringfather,” “Silverhands”, “Whiteboots”, “Bottleprince,” which made Anemone giggle, and, erm, “Squigglefoot”…which nearly had me to the floor. The twins were almost there with me. They have the most delightful dimples when they smile, and their eyes nearly close up when they laugh, and the sound is as that of fresh water trickling over small stones. Then Raven spoke up, saying she had a name for me too, and she dubbed me “Towerstar.” When I modestly asked if I weren’t a trifle short for a tower, Anemone said, “No, Beloved, for although you are small, you tower above all others, for you give off the light that saves them from all fear and darkness and gives them their own true height.”

Well!

I still like “Squigglefoot,” however.

And Sam, you are “Easthope Sunbrother.” You are quite the hero with my family!

~*~*~

Although Embergold has stated that she is the most beautiful of the sisters, and I should agree since she is the one who resembles her mother, I would venture to say that Fairwind is just as beautiful. And she does have her mother’s eyes.

Not that I would ever have chosen her over her mother. I can imagine no mate but Anemone. She was made for me. Each morning when I waken, I think of her first thing, and wonder how she is faring, and if I make her as happy as she makes me, and fervently pray to be able to do so, whispering Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you over and over. Then I hop out of bed, hearing her steps in the kitchen, her voice talking to her children or sister or grandchildren as she prepares breakfast, and I smile and dress quickly and drift down the hallway, watching through the kitchen doorway until I can get her to turn and look my way, bracing myself for her smile. I watch the play of sunlight through the window on her hair, the way her gown fits about her waist and slips around her legs, the way her feet in their dainty slippers move with the lightness of a dancer, the twinkle in her eyes as someone says something amusing. I feel thankful she does not hurt herself as often in the kitchen as she did when she was first getting accustomed to her mortality. Although I did enjoy making the burns and cuts better, I still hate for her to feel pain however slight. I watch her until she turns to look my way, and then I could weep for joy all over again. And once more ask myself: have I the right to be this happy? And this morning I can say: Why even ask? Her happiness is what you wish above all, and therefore, you should wish it for yourself, and so yes, you have the right.

So have I not the right to be a little in love with my stepdaughters as well?

“I wish my mates could see me now,” Fairwind said as we rode to rehearsal. Northlight was not with us, since we were not rehearsing his scenes until much later in the day, and he had classes. “Especially Greycliff. He used to tell me I was good for naught because I did not give him a child. I and Embergold and some of our cousins once took out a contingent that would have killed all of us, but he gave me no credit because he was away and did not see it. He did not believe me and said I was only trying to make myself look worthy of him, and finally he left me, saying I was barren and therefore was no use as a mate. He was a prince of high degree, and I failed him.”

“That was very wicked of him,” I said horrified. I knew she had been through three mates, but knew little of the details. At the same time, I was reminded that for all her obvious femininity, she is indeed a warrioress. Small wonder she is so enamored of the character of Eowyn, and has learned her lessons in using a sword so adeptly. I had Ríannor to teach her, instead of Galendur, for Tilwen's peace of mind.

But if Greycliff were not impressed by her actual prowess, I doubted he would be any more so by her portrayal of a personage of whom he knew nothing. I didn’t know how to tell her so, however.

“I don’t choose to be barren,” she said. “I want to have young like any other female. But I had two other mates, and I left them when they did not father a child with me, so that they would not leave me. I did not truly want to leave Redsand, for I was fond of him somewhat. But I knew if I did not produce young, he would tire of me and find another, and my sisters and cousins would think me a failure.”

“They think no such thing,” I said. “They all consider you wonderful. They’ve told me so. Your mother brags of you more than any of the others.”

“Does she?” Fairwind turned her violet eyes full on me.

“Yes,” I said truthfully. “She said when she thinks of you, she can feel less badly about Darkfin.”

“Oh!” she said, clasping her pretty hands in her lap. She was wearing a dress that reached the ground, saying that although her mother hated to wear a long gown, she liked it, herself. It made her feel mysterious and fascinating. “Yes, my mother has changed since she met you. She adores us now. It is a strange feeling, to be adored. And it is curious to watch you and Mother adore each other. I wish that for myself, so I shall not go back to Redsand. Since Mother adores you even though you are barren also, perhaps I can make someone adore me, and then we can adopt all the orphans in your Home, and I can be a mother so. And I can defend the Island if need be, and still make everyone proud.”

“I doubt you would want to adopt them all,” I said smiling, reaching over to press her hand. “There are over fifty of them in all. And children may be much more difficult to handle on land than in the sea.”

I sobered, remembering the other day when I came home to see Sandrose and Onyx dancing on the roof of the cottage, and Anemone smiling up at them and encouraging their antics.

“Well, perhaps only a few then,” Fairwind said. “Guilin and Nessima would not be happy for me to take all the little ones from them when they come to mate, I am sure. They will, do you think?”

“I hope so,” I said, thinking of Guilin’s mystery gift. Well, in a week, we shall all know…if he does not end up falling for Fairwind instead.

“I’m extremely fond of young,” Fairwind said in her carelessly guileless way. “I can see now why landfolk adore them. Although sometimes it must be hard. I spoke of Darkfin to Mother once, but it gave her wet eyes, so I do not do so any more. I think she was the fondest of him. He was her first, and she was so proud of him. But I think now it was not her fault that he became bad.”

“It gave her wet eyes, truly?” I was greatly dismayed, my throat tightened, and I wondered why I had not considered Anemone’s feelings about her firstborn before. Well, I had, but not in such depth. The fact that she’d had a life before meeting me often gave me pause, and I did not like to dwell on it. I had told myself if she wished me to know more of it, she would tell me. Perhaps I should have encouraged her to speak more of it; that was my work, after all, wasn’t it? And I had been remiss, and with my own wife, at that.

Fairwind nodded. “And she is so proud of me, she will not get wet eyes about him someday?”

“Well, I wish that could be so,” I said slowly, “but among landfolk, mothers tend to blame themselves when their children go to the bad. Sometimes it is in part their fault, but not always. One makes one’s choices. I do not really know if it were her fault that he chose the Evil One, but I think not. However, I fear she will always get wet eyes about him, and there is naught I can do about it. I’ll always feel it my responsibility to make her happy, and this is one hurt I cannot heal. We will both have to live with it.”

I sighed and sank back in the seat of the cart. Fairwind reached up and brushed back a lock of my hair.

“You have made her very happy, Ada Towerstar,” she said. “She shines when she walks and when she sits. And she says the way you make love to her, it makes her feel as though she is the queen of all things and that nothing else matters…oh, pardon, Ada. I always forget that landfolk get a red face with the subjects of coupling and such.”

I laughed, feeling very red indeed. “Well, I am glad to hear that she feels this, at least,” I said, “although I already knew it. She is not shy of telling me. And obviously, she is not shy of telling others. Although it does give me a red face, the fact that she wishes others to know can only be a good thing.”

“And you made me happy also,” Fairwind assured me. “At least, somewhat happy.”

“Somewhat?” I looked at her with lifted brows.

“Yes,” she nodded earnestly. “I feel less badly now about being barren. Maybe I shall never have a child to be known as Peacock, or anything else, but you have made me feel that I am worthy even so. And that my mother is not disappointed with me. I feel now a part of what all things are, that I am connected. And that if the things I have done to save our people are not known, they are still good things.”

“Of course they are,” I said. “And all this makes you…only somewhat happy?”

“Well, I would be perhaps all the way happy, like Mother, if someone else would adore me,” she said.

I adore you, Fairwind,” I said and realized it was true even as I spoke.

“Do you?” she said sitting straight up in her seat, reaching up to push back her long silvery hair as a sudden puff of breeze blew it forward. I remembered the portrait Findëmaxa had drawn of her peering out from behind a tree. It was one of the artist’s own favorites, and she had made several copies, and done amazing things with them. “You can adore more than one female? I did not know this was possible.”

“Not that way,” I chuckled, pushing back her hair from her face. “I mean as a daughter. The way your mother adores you. Just when I thought it was nearly impossible to be any happier, you and your brothers and sisters came along. At the first I was glad you would not stay long, but I learned you and grew fonder of you day by day, just as I did with Northlight, and now I don’t wish to let you go. I suppose that is how it is when one is going to become a parent yet again. One sometimes doesn’t wish to have more children, yet when they come, one cannot imagine life without them. That is how it is with me. I do not look forward to letting you go...at all.”

“Then I shall not go,” Fairwind declared. “If you would die without me, I shall stay. I did not know that there were some people who could adore me so much they would not wish to live without me. I shall be like Northlight, and be landish, and live here and be an actress in the Company. They all think I am wonderful, except Inzilbêth, but no one cares what she thinks. She’s only an old cat with long claws anyway. That’s what Perion said. I don’t know what that means exactly--Lyrien's cat is very nice, and buzzes when I touch her--but it sounds ungood to be.”

I tried to repress a laugh, not very successfully. “If you wish. Yes, you are wonderful, and will be all the more so if you will try to refrain from speaking harshly of others, even when they deserve it. But you should know the risks of landish life. They can involve great unhappiness as well as joy.”

“Oh, I know this,” she said. “But still…”

“You know it in your head, perhaps,” I said soberly. “But…”

“But that is not like knowing it in the chest,” she said, and I nodded. “Yes, Mother told me so. But she said she would not go back.”

“Then I can only bid you hearty welcome, lovely one,” I said, and I confess I got wet eyes both for happiness and sorrow.



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