25    The last map of Fairyland


Thomas deteriorates after London. Using Bess’ gift of a lace map & a magic mirror Catherine finds Sylvie's realm & realises they can save Thomas by taking him home



A beautiful fairy queen welled up from the depths of the mirror & gave a friendly wave.

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Staring at the lace and the mirror, she considered what would happen if she put them together. Laying one on the other, she hesitantly touched the cloth, watching with growing amazement as the mirror underneath glowed in exactly the same way as when Thomas touched it.

Unlike the night before, instead of fading the phosphorescent blue whorls shimmered, pulsing at the edges of her fingertips as if waiting. Pressing the map hard on the mirror’s surface, Catherine was rewarded with a rainbow burst, like an oily smear on a wet road. When she was little, one of her sisters told her those iridescent patches on roads were the remains of fairies mown down by speeding cars. She was upset for weeks.


Beneath her fingers, pictures appeared in the greasy rainbow. It was hard to see what they were with the lace in the way. But removing her hand caused the colours to fade. Laying the lace to one side, she touched its centre, while letting the fingertips of her other hand rest lightly on the mirror’s edge.

Another rainbow of oily colour immediately flooded across the slick black surface, swiftly congealing into Bess’ throne room. The old lady wore her dressing gown and fluffy slippers. Standing over her, like a ghost, was the handsome Bilquis of dream, who waved and vanished, only to reappear seconds later to wave and vanish once more.



Catherine noticed some threads were broken; some tiny images dim. Reaching a dim image, she saw a dead fairy nest where the ghost of a veiled queen kept silent vigil. The ghost did not look or wave, nor did she vanish. She stayed frozen, like a statue guarding a grave, a memento mori; a remembrance of death.

There were lots of dim images. Each a dead nest guarded by a sombre veiled queen. There were more dead nests than Catherine could see. More than she could count, or bear to look at. Mr Grin spoke the truth when he said the fairy world was dying.



Looking closer, she tried to see how many of the pale blue threads were broken. Tracing a finger along one such thread, the image lined with tiny shops and houses, she came to the break, a tiny railway line stretching both ways into the distance.


Back at Tower Hill, a couple of threads were brighter than the rest. Catherine traced one that took her over rolling countryside to Stonehenge. Starting again, she traced it back to a wide estuary and expanse of salt marsh, before coming to a hill.

 



The hill, ringed by standing stones, stood beside a wood that concealed a large handsome house. It was exactly like what Jack described from his dreams. As she stared, a beautiful fairy queen welled up from the depths of the mirror and gave a friendly wave.



        from Chapter 24    The Scrying Game


A fairy queen mourns her ruined nest

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Queen Bess appears in the scrying mirror

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Thomas the Rhymer