I remember the trees. It doesn’t make much sense, even to me. There are so many other things that should logically come first. But I remember the trees.
They were large trees, or at least I thought so at the time. They were a sort of oak that never grew anywhere else, living on magic more than air and sunlight. They had silver bark, and black leaves. They had been there for ages, all growing in a row next to the sea. I remember that the leaves would rustle in the wind. They cast shadows on the ground, a slowly shifting pattern in black and gold as the sun passed through the branches. All it takes is a thought and I can hear the breeze, the leaves, the laughter. I can smell the salt air, the bitter tannins of the oaks. I can taste the bread we used to eat, the smoked fish.
Those oaks are there no more, of course. Time and chance, fire and iron, brought the last of them to an end long ago.
All things must one day reach an end.
Time is an odd thing. Some things blur with the passing years, grow distant and strange until it seems they must be someone else’s memories entirely. Others grow sharp and precise, always fresh and immediate no matter how many ages separate you. Time may be consistent, ticking along in its eternal course, but the perception of time is very different. Time as she is played is a fickle thing, and she does not conform to anyone’s notion of consistency.
The trees, then, are a moment that stands outside of time as she is. That memory stays sharp, despite all the ages which now stand between us. The trees may be long dead, but in my mind they still stand tall and strong.
That thought is, perhaps, more poignant for me than it might be for another.
The fae are often described as constant, and not without reason. It is said, rather commonly, that the fae do not and can not go against their natures. This is not wrong, but neither is it particularly informative. What is meant by “nature,” in this context? The meaning is unclear. To call it the entity’s telos is more specific, but introduces even more ambiguous language and potential for error in translation.
The best term, then, might be definition. In principle, everything can be defined as a set of descriptors, which between them are necessary and sufficient to identify that thing. Something can be said to belong under a label if and only if it meets all of those conditions which are essential to the label’s definition.
This makes it easier to explain how the fae are constant, restricted, inevitable. They cannot go against their respective definitions. The fae are defined as truthful, and thus an individual member of the group cannot tell a lie; to do so would be to go against that aspect of their definition.
Within the broader category of fae, individual subsets have additional, stricter definitions. Ogres are brutish and violent, because that is what it means to be an ogre. Kobolds are secretive, not because they necessarily desire to be, but because it is what they are. The high fae, the Sidhe, are beings of bargain and debt, a fact which colors their perspective on every level.
This the appropriate lens through which to view the fae. And this concept can be extended further, to the highest reaches of the Courts.
Thus, when I issue a command, in my capacity as the Queen of the Unseelie Court? When I order a death, send an army to sure defeat, tempt a good man to sell his soul? I am not being cruel, or vicious, or evil. I’m simply acting in accordance with the definition of the role. I am fulfilling my telos.
I sit on a throne of old, worn black wood, and look out over my Court. I am remote and unapproachable as the northern star, a distant enigma even to my own people. Information comes in and orders go out, always based on cold, ruthless logic. This is what it means to be the ascendant Queen of the Unseelie Court. This is what I am. And outside of that definition, I am as I have always been.
But the problem becomes, then, the paradox of the heap. How many grains of sand can one remove before the heap is a heap no longer? How much can you change before you are no longer you? I think that I exist, that my life stretches back unbroken through the ages, but does it? Or is that person gone, subsumed, leaving nothing behind but Mab, the Mother of Midnight, the Queen-Who-Is of the Unseelie Court of the Sidhe?
I do not, can not, know.
It is the definition, the telos, and the nature of my role to remember, to contemplate. And so I think on this, from time to time, and I am troubled.
And then I remember the trees.
They say that a man is not wholly dead whose name is still spoken, who is remembered by those whose lives he has touched.
If that is true, then the echo of that moment lives on yet. The Mab who was once a woman, who stood at the western edge of the world and looked out over the sea, who walked arm-in-arm with her sister through the trees and spoke of the way things were and the way things should be, who had a vision of a perfect world and followed that vision down a dark and winding road….
So long as there is an Unseelie Court, that vision’s touch will be felt.
In that limited sense, I am immortal.