Читать онлайн "A Midsummer Tempest" автора Андерсон Пол Уильям - RuLit - Страница 56


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May it not fail before the Judgment Day.”

“We thank you too, and most sincerely hope”—Rupert hesitated, shook his head—“though I know not—know not—and cannot know—” Straightening: “It hurts that we must make a severance. But we’re too much of flesh, my bride and I, and too much mortal world and work await. These eyes are blind to color by the moon; these heavy ears hear birdsong but are deaf to thin delirious music of the bat; these fingers are too coarse for harvesting of dewdrops or for weaving spider-silk; these nostrils drink no odor from a stone; these tongues can find no taste in thistledown. So we’ll no longer tread in Faerie’s rings or follow its wild stars beyond the wind. We’ll seek what wonder is in common earth.”

Jennifer seized the queen’s hand. “I think you also always will be there,” the girl said. Titania smiled.

“Take back the serpent sigils that you gave,” Rupert told Oberon. “Someday, maybe, you’ll find a man with strength to keep that flame—”

“Or with less blood than thine,” Jennifer interrupted him. “I’ll see thou’lt never wish for more than me!”

Amusement went mercurial across the kingly pair. Rupert continued doggedly: “Likewise take off the book and staff we bear, old Prospero’s, to keep where seems you best. Greet Ariel from us.”

“And Caliban,” Jennifer murmured. “And… there’s a lad—no cause for jealousy—your Majesties must know whom’tis I mean—If sometime soon, along some twilit land, he might meet one who has a heart to swap… And oh, I know so many more besides—”

“Dear girl, we cannot ward the living earth,” Oberon answered, grave again and softly, “no more than can the rivers, hills, or sky. That loneliness is laid upon thy race.” He and his queen gathered the things of sorcery. “Fare always well.” He raised the staff. “Titania, away!”

They were gone into the radiant winter night After a long while, Rupert took Jennifer’s arm and said “Come, darling, let’s get home before the day.


The taproom of the Old Phoenix.

They were many gathered this evening, to sit before the innkeeper’s fire, enjoy his food and drink and regale him with their tales. Valeria Matuchek leaned against the bar, a pint in her fist, the better to oversee them. A few she recognized, or thought she did—brown-robed monk at whose feet lay a wolf, gorgeously drunk Chinese from long ago whose calligraphic brush was tracing a poem, rangy fellow nearby whose garb was hard to place but who bore a harp, large affable blond man in high boots and gray leather with an iridescent jewel on his wrist, lean pipe-smoking Victorian and his slightly lame companion, wide-eyed freckle-faced boy and Negro man in tatterdemalion farm clothes, coppery-skinned feather-crowned warrior who held a calumet and a green ear of maize—but of the rest she was unsure. Several were not human.

Being impatient to hear everything that could be spoken and translated before they must depart, she finished her turn rather hastily: “Yes, I came back through that universe, and spent a while learning how things worked out. Earlier, I’d gone to history books elsewhere, for background. Evidently this had to be the time-line where the romantic reactionaries do better than any when else. And… this Charles the First was either a wise man from the beginning, or chastened by experience.”

She shrugged. “I’m not sure how much difference it’ll make in the long run. In my history, Prince Rupert—well, he didn’t simply help invent the mezzotint, he became a scientist, a sponsor of explorations, a founder of the Royal Society… I don’t think that in any cosmos he’ll sit smug on his victories. And they’ve got a new world a-borning there too, the real New World, the machine—science itself, which matters more; reason triumphant, which matters most—no stopping it, because along with the bad there’s too much good, hope, challenge, liberation—

“Well.” She drained her tankard and held it out for a refill. “Nothing ever was forever, anyway.

Peace never came natural. The point is, it can sometimes be won for some years, and they can be lived in.

“Enough. I hope you’ve enjoyed my story.”



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