Okay. A bit behind, but we can catch up. (While the guest post at geekgirldiva's blog was technically off-story, you might want to read over it, because it sets up a few of the things I'm about to tell you.) This is epically long and rambly, but I think you'll like the pictures enough to forgive me.
So. Since The Littlest Edward had come in the other night to request a fresh stock of sparklepire chow (before fleeing the sight of Serafina's bare calves), I decided it was time to check in on our burgeoning pony ranch. He'd been keeping himself busy scrubbing the grime of age off the My Little Ponies, combing out their vintage tangles, and feeding them Easter grass, of which I was bringing him fresh supplies.
"So!" I said brightly. "How's it going?"
He waved his hand in a broad, glum gesture at the little carry-case stable. "This is my life now."
"Well, once they've settled down for the night, you can scrapbook a little. Or write in your journal!"
"What do I have to write about? April 6th: 'Exercised tiny pastel horses. Fed them. Combed them. Nobody likes me.'"
"Aw, now you know Arwen and Galadriel like you. And it's not your fault that Anna's crazy. I think the ponies have really taken a shine to you."
(As if on cue, Cotton Candy nuzzled his arm.)
"Apparently they've mistaken me for an eight-year-old girl, then. And I deserve it. I can't say they deserve me, though." Was that an extra dash of guilt in his self-loathing--?
"You're not tempted to... drink from them, are you?"
He nodded miserably.
"I thought you only ate plush--?"
"Then why did you ever think I was a danger to Lyra?"
"... Oh. Well--are you?"
"I would never hurt a child," he insisted once again. "But that doesn't mean I couldn't hurt someone older. I mean, I wouldn't. I would try very hard not to, and it's a lot easier now to control myself," he said, waving his hand at the piles of cotton and wool. "But... plush... while delicious... is not the only thing... theoretically... on the menu."
He sucked on his teeth a bit, as if his mouth had begun to water. "I really would rather not talk about it."
Huh. "So... maybe this whole pony thing was not the best idea in the world."
"No, no... I need to practice self-control."
"Can I ask you a question?"
He gave me a wary look, as you do when someone says, basically, Can I ask you a question that you're clearly not going to like or I wouldn't have asked you if I could ask it, so you're probably going to regret saying yes, but I haven't left you any other response? "I suppose?"
"If you bit a pony, would it become a vampony?"
"Did Iorek become a vambear?"
"Well... no, he didn't. Huh."
"I don't think venom affects animals. I don't actually know, of course. I don't really know how it would affect anyone, given that I am the only one of... my kind," he said, and by that I think he meant "action figure," rather than doll. I mean, say what you will about the Faramirs--they have plastic hair, but their clothes are removable. Although, by that standard, Helm's Deep Aragorn might technically be an action figure as well...? "And who wants to be a guinea pig and find out? No one, that's who."
Speaking of the Faramirs, it was time to leave Edward to his equine woes and go check in with Serafina and her reluctant "lover," Faramir Two, who had come up with the bright idea of making a bow for her. I wasn't so sure that arming Serafina was the best idea, but at least it would give them something to do, right? So I suggested they try some of the slimmer myrtle branches by the front door, and if they needed arrows, well, I'd rather them use up the formal toothpicks than leave them around tempting Anna. Speaking of whom, The Shelf was enjoying a period of relative, if precarious, calm (Eowyn was still a bit aggressive on the battlefield, but at least she and Faramir One were still spending time together). Other than The Littlest Edward's existential woe, most everybody had chilled out... except for Anna and Elizabeth.
"What is this, the fucking Ark? We all have to pair up two by two?" griped Anna. I was trying to talk some sense into her--after all, the last time they'd interacted, she'd been the one to blow Elizabeth off--but it wasn't working. "I don't even know that I want her back."
Anna folded her arms and looked away for a moment. "I thought she would understand. I thought she'd say something at that council and she didn't say anything at all. We had a chance to mete out some righteous justice and she didn't say a thing. For all I know, she's on his side. And if you're on his side, you're not on mine."
I decided that this was not a good time to point out that I, in fact, was clearly on The Littlest Edward's side, as were at least a couple other Shelfians, and most of the others were cautiously neutral.
So the next thing I tried was talking to Elizabeth, who had tried to reach out to Anna that time, even though Anna had rebuffed her--but that was in the heat of a very tense moment; I couldn't help but think that a direct appeal in a calmer time might help. So I got out an old bracelet I'd found--the clasp was entirely broken off so I couldn't wear it, but I thought she might like to tuck it into her swash or something, flaunt some booty or whatever. I mean, God knows jewelry shopping makes me feel better. And I'd found a few more beaded necklaces while cleaning out my closet, so clearly it was time to pull out the treasure chest again...
"Do you even remember what you're fighting about?"
"Yes. She was getting her family tradition on and losing her mind."
"Oh. Well... yeah. That was... in fact... what you were fighting about." I cleared my throat. "Also, she's pissed that you won't take her side and help her kill Edward. I mean, not that I want you to."
"I just can't--I don't see it the same way she does, it's so black-and-white for her. He shouldn't have attacked the bear, but things happen, you know? You have to move on at some point, live and let live." She took off her hat and ran her hands through her hair. "I sent a man to his death, and even he got over that!"
"She really is better now, though--I got her to ditch the tinhat, she's leaving Edward alone--in fact, I've got him safely occupied now and out of her sight. Anna saw him out there, even, and I think she's satisfied with his... fate now. He won't be around to make her crazy."
"Yes, but what if--what happens when others come? That Alice person you keep talking about? And I know you'll get him a Bella. I don't even begrudge him that so much as just--you know it makes her crazy!"
"She's not going to get any better on her own."
"I can't be her keeper."
"Well, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying: give her a chance."
She pursed her lips and looked up at me doubtfully.
"Well... I tell you what. Let's have some rum, and you can think about it."
Half an hour later
"We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot...!"
Forty-five minutes later
"Lizzie--NO, we are not going to build a bonfire, put that box down--"
An hour later
"Forget all the rest of it," she sobbed. "She was my best friend, you know?"
An hour and a half later
"... A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR MEEEEE!"
A gleeful shout of "STAY GOLD, PONYBOY!" out in the hall alerted me then to Anna's presence (and also a miniature stampede that I glimpsed through the doorway, followed by a tiny frantic blur. "LEAVE MY PONIES ALONE!"). She swaggered back into the room, very proud of herself--until she caught my eye and straightened up, the picture of innocence. I mean, a very bad picture, but of innocence nonetheless.
I smiled like I hadn't seen anything at all. "Have a sit, Anna! There's plenty of rum."
She saw Elizabeth (who straightened her waistcoat and tried to look less shitfaced for the moment) and went stonefaced--walked up, slammed down a capful of rum, and stalked away.
"RASCALS, SCOUNDRELS, VILLAINS AND KNAVES!" Elizabeth shouted defiantly at Anna's back. I was suddenly glad there was no way for her to drunk-dial anyone.
Mercifully, I cut her off sometime after that and put her to bed in the treasure chest. Man, is she gonna feel that tomorrow--
"Can I have a moment?"
"I'm kind of tied up here--"
"It's important," Galadriel hissed, flashing the alethiometer at me.
"Oh God, what is it now?"
She wanted privacy, so we went all the way into the bathroom and closed the door. "Could we get in the--"
"No, we are not getting in the SHOWER, I'm pretty sure this is secure enough."
"Are you sure--"
"Yes, I'm SURE, now what did it say?"
"I don't know what it was trying to say--"
"What did it POINT TO?"
"Horse, crocodile, sun, moon, owl, griffin, wild man, serpent, bread, hourglass," she snapped. What can I say, tempers were running high. "But it pointed to the hourglass over and over again. Very emphatically, the same sequence: wild man, serpent, bread; hourglass, hourglass."
"Death," she said, paler than usual.
"Or time, or--" I stopped. "Can dolls even die?"
"I don't want to find out."
"Well, look--the last time it was trying to tell you something, it just meant that Serafina..." I didn't say anything for a moment. "You don't think it's trying to tell us that she'll really kill Faramir, do you?"
"I don't know."
"Well, you don't have to worry about that, because I'm not going to let that happen. I'm just not. Maybe I have to take a whole bunch of swords to the face, I don't care." I bit my lip. "What does Lyra think?"
"She doesn't know--she's let me consult it on my own now, and I didn't want her to see this."
"What the hell did you ask it, anyway?"
"I didn't ask it anything! She says sometimes she clears her mind and allows it to tell her anything it thinks is important--"
I nodded--this is something you can also do with rune stones, for example. (What? Gladdy and I have a number of interests in common.) And thinking of runes reminded me: "Maybe it doesn't mean death -death, you know? I mean, the Tarot Death card doesn't mean that, it means change--it could mean a lot of things. I mean, it kept hitting 'mother' when it was talking about Serafina--it didn't mean Lyra's actual mother at all."
"We need to get out the Mirror. We need to get it out now."
"Look, let's not be hasty about this. I don't know that you're in a good frame of mind right now. A clear frame of mind." I checked my wall calendar: "Look, Thursday's a full moon, if you think you can wait that long. Would that help at all, the moonlight? I'll keep an extra-close eye on Faramir and Serafina until then. And you're sure you don't want Lyra to help?"
"I don't want her to know about this."
"Even if she could tell us what it really means?"
"Let's try the Mirror before we resort to that."
So I went to bed that night with a pretty heavy secret on my mind; Elizabeth might wake up with the hangover from hell the next day, but at least, right now, she was snoring away peacefully in her treasure chest.
(More from the Secret Life of Dolls; fan community)