This time, it was easy for Edie to watch Derwen move around the room as she ate her delicious pancakes and fruit. People were giving her a wide berth, even jumping out of her way, as she trailed water across the floor. It was hard to believe that her clothes and hair could have held that much rain, and yet she continued to leave a shining path behind her like a slug.
“Maybe she’s a water faerie like your great-grandmother, Edie,” Corrie said, also watching Derwen.
“I don’t have any urge to go play in the rain,” Edie said. She frowned. “Though I’ve never particularly liked swimming or anything, either. It might just be that I don’t take after her.”
“Well, I’m not asking her about it,” Dawn said. “I really put my foot in my mouth earlier, and I’m not trying again.”
“What, you think I should be the one to put my foot in my mouth?” Corrie said.
Dawn laughed. “I didn’t say anything! I just looked at you!” Edie grinned, though she hadn’t seen it.
“I’ll ask her,” Roe said. “Maybe if I have a vision about her doing something I think is weird, knowing what kind of faerie she is will help explain it.”
“Do you think she even realizes she’s doing something strange?” Annie asked. “You don’t want to embarrass her.”
“She must realize,” Corrie said. “We’ve been asking her about it.”
Derwen had reached the front of the line for the pancakes, and the man serving them wasn’t doling hers out—instead, he was standing there with his spatula held out to the side. Was his mouth moving? Edie couldn’t tell for sure, since everyone was so far away, but she thought an argument might be happening.
She took her gaze away to look at her own plate for a few minutes, and when she looked up again, Derwen was walking back toward them with a plate full of pancakes. She was still dripping, her hair bedraggled, but she no longer seemed to be leaving a river behind her.
“Hi,” she said, a bit more subdued than earlier as she sat down next to Edie. “Your pancakes looked so good I had to get some.”
“Good choice,” Edie said. “They’re particularly fluffy today. Were you arguing with the cafeteria guy?”
Derwen snorted. “He was yelling at me for coming in soaking wet, but there’s no rule against it.”
“Why are you soaking wet?” Roe asked, leaning forward. “I mean, I know, you went out to get some rain. But why get so very wet? Why do you like it so much?”
Edie saw Dawn flinch out of the corner of her eye, but again, Derwen didn’t seem bothered by the question. She chewed a bite of pancake before answering. “It feels good to get really wet with natural rain. It’s like being connected to the earth again.”
“Again?” Corrie said, raising her eyebrows and quickly taking a drink of her coffee.
“Sure. You know, like normal.” Derwen shrugged. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s weird to have human friends I can actually talk to. I guess this isn’t normal for you.”
“It can be nice to connect with nature,” Edie said. “But I think of that as, like, going out and walking in the forest. Or I did, before I came here.” Now she wouldn’t feel that she was connected with nature enough if all she did was walk around the trees and look at them. Not after everything Leila had shown her in the forest.
“You don’t like to dig your hands down into the dirt either?” Derwen asked, looking around.
Everyone shook their heads. Corrie said, “I like to work with dirt if I’m planting or something. But I don’t really get covered in dirt.”
“Well, I think all faeries like to, or need to from time to time,” Derwen said. “We’re all connected to nature.”
“Even Belara?” Edie frowned, remembering—far more clearly than she had before Leila had disappeared in the winter—how Belara had used her poison to harm the trees in the environmental co-op’s orchard, making Leila think Mardalan was doing it.
“As far as I know. That’s why Mardalan burned her body.”
Dawn and Corrie both jerked back, away from the table. Roe stared at Derwen, her eyes wide. “She did?”
Edie didn’t really feel surprised, though she didn’t know why. Annie and Rico seemed similarly unperturbed, though Annie frowned and looked around at the others.
“I didn’t see it,” Derwen said, frowning as well. “But I heard a rumor. She would have had to, to make sure Belara didn’t come back at all. Otherwise she might have restored herself. Or someone could have helped restore her. That’s what Mardalan did after Yedara attacked her.”
“I remember she was so badly injured, I wondered how she could ever recover,” Corrie said. “But I just thought faeries were… well, immortal.”
“We are, I guess.” Derwen hunched her shoulders.
“Don’t talk about it if it bothers you,” Edie said.
Derwen shook her head. “It’s okay. It’s just that sometimes humans seem to think that ‘immortal’ means ‘can’t be killed.’ We live a long time—as long as we want, most of the time—but we can die, and we can be killed. It’s just harder.”
“Obviously you can be killed,” Dawn said with a frown. “But I wonder what this means for Alaineth. Is he really dead if he could be restored?”