When we last left our friends back in the forest, we had discovered that Jack was some sort of prisoner, who wants to be free of his bonds. Of course, we’re hearing this from Puck, which means we must take it with a grain of salt, but there was something about it that made me want to believe him. This time anyway.
So Jack has gone off to wash Jenny’s clothes, which is both a nice gesture and kind of creepy. Seriously folks, I do not want some sort of fairy creature washing my underwear! Of course, something has to happen to disrupt both his nice, domestic-like chores and his plans to help Jenny – Titania is calling.
“Your Majesty.” The words stuck in his throat, bitter, but her pleasure broke over him in a wave of sweet fragrance. A series of notes rang out in the air, a trill of magic in the music. Light exploded inside his mind and he cried out wordlessly at the shock of pain.
And then he was gone from the forest.
Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a pleasant way to travel. On the other hand, a trill of music, with magic involved? Was Jack hearing “the piper?” Is it Tom? I have questions!
Jack is transported to Titania’s audience chamber, which is lined with mirrors. Because she’s not narcissistic, no, not at all. Jack is a little bit nervous, but knows he can’t show it. Fairies like Titania feed on weakness like rabid wolves. Although I shouldn’t say things like that because she’s IN THE ROOM! Yikes! And because of that, Jack’s will is pretty much swallowed up. He can barely think anything contrary to her wishes, much less speak or act.
There are lots of other fey and servants in the palace, but Jack has eyes for only one of them.
In the mirror, Jack’s eyes picked out another figure. Beyond the queen’s courtiers, alone in a corner and watching everything with flat and passionless eyes, stood her piper. Of course Titania had retrieved him. She always got what she wanted. So now he waited on her. Waited to be called upon, waited to be of service. His silver flute in hand, he gazed at the queen in rapt adoration. And there was no mistaking him.
AAAHHHHH!!!!! IT’S TOM!!!!!!
Okay, it’s not like I didn’t already guess that the piper was Tom, but to have it spelled out is quite satisfying. Poor thing. I wonder if he was punished for running off like he did. In any case, Jack sees how much Tom resembles Jenny, and how much growing up in Fairie has changed him. Jack knows at this point, even if he could bring Tom to Jenny, Tom would not want to go. He’s too enthralled in Titania’s graces.
Speaking of Titania, she is being ignored at the moment, and that just won’t do. She acts all coy and flirtatious, telling Jack how handsome he is, but you know that it’s all a front. Jack is in trouble. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been summoned.
“Why did you bring me here?”
“I want to talk,” she said lightly. Her hand caught his wrist, closing on it like a vise. His pulse thundered beneath her touch. The pressure was both intimate and threatening. “Are you guarding her, Jack? Keeping her safe? Taking her to him?“
Oh crap. She knows about Jenny. Of course she does. She knows everything. But according to Jack, he is doing his duty. He is a Guardian, after all. Titania is trying to do everything she can to seduce him, but then all of a sudden, Jack is nearly doubled over in pain. What the what? We know he’s cursed, but apparently the curse also protects him from Titania, although in a very painful way. That’s not very helpful. One should be in full possession of the faculties when dealing with Titania. She’s not very sympathetic either. She tempts him with his freedom, promising that she can give that to him.
The question is, do I believe that? She is powerful, but powerful enough to undo a curse?
Chains of iron seemed to be crushing his ribs, and Jack realized he had stopped breathing. It wasn’t possible. She couldn’t. He belonged to Oberon. They both knew that.
Ah, that explains it, at least partially. If anyone could hold Titania in check, it would be Oberon. I wonder if they are married in this version? Not that it matters – even when Oberon and Titania are a couple, they are conniving and vicious with each other. Still, Titania is offering Jack his freedom, even though they both know Oberon would never allow it. Jack draws the obvious conclusion – he has something that Titania wants and she is willing to piss off Oberon in order to get it. Wow. She must want it really bad.
Jack faces one of the mirrors and Titania comes up behind him, wrapping her arms around him. He stares into the mirror and stares into her eyes.
They weren’t Titania’s eyes staring back. Mab, dwelling within her like a malignant spider at the center of a web, peered out at him. Not a trace of Titania’s seduction now. Her gimlet gaze made him quake inside as ancient half-remembered nightmares surged to the edge of his mind.
This is not good, not good at all. If you thought Titania was a piece of work, I can guarantee that Mab will be a hundred times worse. Somehow Mab and Titania are the same person, or at least living in the same body. Titania actually seems a bit frightened of Mab, which is not good. I don’t want to know what’s bad enough to scare Titania. Mab says that a “May Queen” has come, that she is “too precious” to kill and that they need her in order to be “young and whole again.” Clearly she is talking about herself, since Titania seems pretty whole already. Will this make Mab become her own, separate creature? This would not be a good thing.
Mab wants to make sure that they get Jenny before Oberon catches wind of her. She shows Jack a casket with a catch that looks like a gold heart with a knife through it.
“You were a hunter, before you were a guardian.”
“To be free, you just have to hunt again, Jack.”
I’m just guessing that the box is supposed to be what he puts Jenny’s heart into. It just seems fitting. Mab is able to take physical form and holds the casket out for Titania to take. Jack remembers that they are not alone, that there is a whole roomful of courtiers and other fey listening in on everything. Titania announces that a mortal girl is in their Realm and whoever can bring her in will be rewarded. Titania, though, really wants Jack to do it. She doesn’t want him to be under Oberon’s thumb, and she definitely doesn’t want Oberon to get Jenny.
Jack really wants to leave, but at the same time, all he wants to do is submit. To stop fighting it and just give in. Poor Jack. I really like him. For one of the fey, he seems a decent guy, and that’s a high compliment. There’s something about that casket though . . .
The casket pulled his attention back. Did he hear a beat from inside, an incessant rhythm, like the pounding of a pulse? It called to him, and he wanted to answer. But if he brought the girl here, what would it still take to win his heart from that box? Her own in return?
Wait, so Jack’s heart is locked in the box? Titania has it? Oh god, that’s terrible!
Titania wants Jenny. Jack asks why she didn’t just summon Jenny like she did him. Well, Titania can’t do that. Jack reminds her, and everyone else listening, that Jenny must come willingly. Those are the rules to whatever this game is that they’re playing. Titania lays it out flat – Jack can make Jenny come willingly, if he’s convincing enough.
And then the last thing I expected happened – the piper pipes up. Titania asks him to tell her all about his sister, which Tom barely remembers after being with the fae for so long. But first, she wants some music. Some how, some way, Tom’s music has become magical. Or maybe it already was. But we do find out that Jack had found Tom back when he first got lost and, since he didn’t know what to do with something this magical, he brought Tom to Titania. It’s Jack’s fault that Tom is there.
All of a sudden, Jack is back in the forest and can hear Jenny laughing. I have a very bad feeling about all this.
One girl. That was all she was. A mortal. Not even one of the fae. And all he had to do was take her where she already wanted to go.
He didn’t have to like it. He just had to do it. A chance of freedom was within his grasp. And she was only one girl.
No, Jack, don’t do it! Don’t give up! This isn’t you! It’s the desperation talking!
Ugh! I worked my way into trusting Jack again, and now he’s about to break my heart!