“Telegram for you, miss.” Anaya thanks the boy and blinks at the envelope. She'd only recently switched her address from Paternoster Row to the rooms she shared with Mirabelle above their salon. While she still spent a fair amount of time there—the library was particularly inviting--she no longer kept her things there. It had seemed time for a change, and it did make working at the salon more convenient, and it wasn't as though Jenny and Vastra didn't know where to find her. It will be strange when she finally stops working for them, she muses. She'll still be in town, after all. She shrugs and tears open the envelope. She could figure that out when the time came.
“What's that then?” Mirabelle asks, peeking over Anaya's shoulder as her arms wrap around the younger woman's waist.
“An invitation!” Anaya exclaims. “My goodness, to Ireland.” She skims through the rest. “From Edith Somerville.”
“Yes, I remember her from the first suffragist rally we went to,” Mirabelle nods. “And it looks like they want you to bring your employers.” She grins deviously. “We could go on a triple-date!”
“We could,” Anaya admits with a groan. “If you like.”
Mirabelle shrugs. “We've been doing very well of late. We could afford to take a few days to visit the Emerald Isle.”
Anaya nods. “That's settled, then. Shall I go tell the others?”
“I'll come with you,” Mirabelle says cheekily. “After all, if we are going on a date with them, I'd like to get to know them a bit better first.”
When they arrive at Paternoster Row, they are met by Doyle and Strax. “Carbine?” Strax offers them. Mirabelle boggles, and Doyle and Anaya cannot help but share a laugh. “Coffee?” he revises.
“Please,” Anaya says. “Dark and sweet, the way I like it.” she tells him, planting a kiss on Mirabelle's cheek by way of apology. Strax retreats into the manor, retching quietly. “He's really not bad, once you get used him,” she notes. Goodness, she thinks. Will I actually miss Strax?
“Sometimes, my dear, I forget how deep the strangeness in your operation runs,” Mirabelle says with a broad laugh, and follows Anaya and Doyle into the greenhouse, where Jenny and Vastra are sitting, reading the news. She blinks; Vastra isn't wearing her veil, and Jenny, with her hair back in a ponytail and wearing trousers and waistcoat, looks the part of a charming young gentleman. For all of her usual gregariousness, she barely gets through a perfunctory hello.
“I have had some wonderful news!” Doyle announces.
“If it's that New Zealand extended the franchise to women, then we know,” Jenny tells him.
“No, that isn't it,” Doyle admits, “though that will be interesting to follow.”
“That the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed its first piece by a female composer?” Vastra asks, putting down the arts section.
“No, not that either, though that is good to know.”
“That Britain has extended compulsory education to eleven-year-olds as well as the blind and deaf?” Anaya ventures. Nellie had been saying something about this earlier, she recollects, though she wasn't sure if it had passed or not.
“Excellent news, but still not what I had in mind,” Doyle admits. “I've gotten a cable from Yeats, asking me to visit him in Ireland.”
“William Butler Yeats?” Mirabelle asks incredulously. “That is fairly impressive.” She shrugs as the others look to her. “If one is going to run a salon,” she opines, shoulders straight, “then one should keep an eye on emerging talent, and his verse epic, The Wanderings of Oisin, is frankly brilliant.”
“Yes, well, when one is a famous author with an interest in the hereafter, one tends to run in the same circles as some fascinating people,” Doyle replies with a smug smirk, hands at his lapels. Jenny rolls her eyes.
“Speaking of talented Irish writers,” Anaya says, “I received a telegram as well,” and she explains the nature of the invitation.
Vastra gives Jenny an amused look. “Would you care to spend a few days in Ireland, my love?”
“Could be good fun,” Jenny acknowledges with a laugh. “Of course, knowing the two of us, we'll wind up solving every murder on the island.”
Vastra nods, stifling a giggle. “We did rather make a mess of our last attempt at a vacation. Perhaps the third time will be a charm?”
“Maybe the luck of the Irish will rub off on you,” Doyle offers. “Such as it is these days.”
“I'll just pack the swords and make the arrangements, then,” Jenny says, rubbing her hands with satisfaction.
The next day, the train carries them across England to Liverpool, and then by ferry to Dublin. Awaiting them are Edith Somerville and Violet Martin. “Don't worry,” Doyle says cheerily. “I shall be spending most of my time with Yeats.”
“I'll keep that in mind if we want to plan an orgy,” Edith quips.
Violet coughs. “That is to say, you may come and go as you please. We are not morally opposed to the rougher sex, after all.”
“No,” Edith agrees, “I daresay we are not.” Her eyes twinkle as the others groan.
“Come on, you daft old bird,” Violet says, taking Edith by the hand. “Let us show our guests around the city.
“There you are,” Yeats calls. Doyle turns, stands, and offers a friendly hand to the poet. “Sit, sit,” Yeats tells him, taking the adjacent barstool. “Let's get drunk and talk shop, shall we?”
Their conversation meanders through the night like a creek through mountains, peaking, perhaps, when Doyle offers a toast to Irish independence in an English accent. “Well,” Yeats says at last, wiping tears from his eyes in laughter, “there's a rare sight and no mistake. Why, I should scarcely have imagined it to be true if I hadn't heard with my own ears and seen with my own eyes.”
“I know the feeling,” Doyle admits in drunken candor. “I have seen some strange things these past years myself.”
“Mmm?” Yeats begins, intrigued. “More than the usual medical marvels or spiritualist investigations, I take it?”
Doyle turns even pinker, realizing what he has blundered into. “You'd never believe me if I told you,” he stalls. “Probably file it away with the myths you adapt so beautifully.”
“Well, now, it's funny you say that,” Yeats replies, leaning in. “I think there may be more to those old legends than mere fancy.” Doyle looks dazedly at him. “ Twisted and inflated over the centuries, perhaps, but with that essential kernel of truth.” He shrugs. “One hears things, you know. Rumors, mostly, and nothing anyone would swear to in court. But one hears things all the same...”
“I must admit,” Edith says at last, their whirlwind tour of the city complete, “that our purpose in wiring you for a visit was not entirely sociable.”
“You could certainly have fooled me,” Mirabelle offers. “We've had a lovely time so far.” Jenny and Vastra merely nod attentively.
“Some people have vanished lately,” Violet begins. “Mostly young people with some talent, but the only other common thread has been that they were last seen in the forests north of here.”
“A few acquaintances of ours are among the missing,” Edith continues. “But mostly we're just curious; you see, we have a house near the woods, and we want to make sure that everything is safe there.”
“That would make an excellent base for our investigation, madame,” Jenny notes. “And then we could hike out into the woods from there.”
“I think we should make camp overnight at least a few times,” Vastra amends. “Can you tell us anything else?”
“Only that the forest is said to be the home of fairies,” Violet says with a shrugs. “But almost every place in Ireland has a legend attached to it.”
“We have seen the truth in legends too often to dismiss them,” Vastra opines. “We would be happy to take a look.”
“We should bring Doyle along,” Jenny interjects. “Don't want him getting lonely.” It'd certainly make me feel better, Mirabelle thinks. She had been a part of one of their cases before—that was how she had met Anaya—and she had caught glimpses of her lover's life before, but this was really the first time she had been asked to tag along as part of the gang, so to speak. So much for a nice vacation in Ireland.
They catch up with Doyle and Yeats, babbling incoherently about literary forms over whiskey. “They'll sober up on the train,” Violet says knowingly. “Enough to put them to bed, at any rate.” Her prediction proves accurate, and the two writers mutter apologies as they reach Violet and Edith's home. The others simply laugh, and split up for bed.
“I thought there weren't any snakes in Ireland,” Jenny quips as she and Vastra strip off for bed.
“I certainly do not think that Saint Patrick would approve of me,” Vastra agrees, as though either of them care, then sighs. “For my part, I do not approve of tramping around the forest in a dress.”
“I'm going to wear trousers,” Jenny informs her. “Bloody well learned my lesson last time.”
“Apparently we have not learned how to vacation properly,” Vastra replies. “Someday, perhaps, we shall take a trip for pleasure, not business.”
“Nothing saying we can't have a bit of pleasure, madame,” Jenny hints, and crawls into bed beside Vastra with a wicked laugh and a kiss.
“So this is what we do for fun now,” Mirabelle jests. “Track down missing people.”
“I am sorry,” Anaya admits, closing their bedroom door behind them. “I really thought it would be a good time.”
Mirabelle laughs, and kisses her. “I'm with you, aren't it? That will always make it a good time. Besides, it's kind of fun to see what you and your friends do. A little scary sometimes, but fun.”
“I suppose that's life, isn't it?” Anaya reflects. “Fun and scary, and finding the right people to share it with, no matter what you're doing.” She pauses, stepping out of her dress. “I suppose I'll have to give this up eventually. After all, I've got to grow old eventually.”
“And no less beautiful for it,” Mirabelle assures her. “Would you want to go on forever, if you could?” she adds.
“I don't know,” Anaya admits. “I haven't met the Doctor very often, though it sounds like he might come close. I expect it might be very sad, to be constantly traveling, never settling down, so often alone.” She shivers. “Let's get to bed.”
“I am very glad that you could come out to help us,” Edith begins, calling back as she leads the group into the forest. “Though I might wish that Ireland had its own detectives to call upon, instead of relying upon England for assistance.”
“Don't start that up again,” Violet replies with a practiced sigh. “Not in front of the guests. Something nice, like art.”
“Can you separate the two?” Yeats asks. “You have seen how many poems, stories, and songs have been fueled by invasion and oppression, have you not?”
“If that were the case, then women should be exalted as the superior creative race,” Edith points out. Doyle shifts uncomfortably under his pack; though Edith notices, she continues with a wicked grin. “Instead we are forced into hiding, our achievements forgotten or ignored.”
“Returning to your point, Mr. Yeats,” Anaya offers, “you may well be right that oppression leads to increased creative energy. But all the same I think I should prefer fair and equal treatment.”
“Hear, hear,” Violet toasts as the shade of the wood passes across her face. “Speaking of inspiration, look at these trees!” She pretends to shiver. “You can see why there have been so many myths to come out of Ireland.”
“Nellie would love it here,” Jenny remarks quietly to Vastra, who nods as Violet continues.
“Come to think of it,” she adds, “I think it is just as well that we don't have our own team of debunkers and investigators.” She breathes deeply. “I think I had rather live in ignorance than lose that touch of wonder in the universe, and so close to home.”
“And many of those myths of invasion as well,” Yeats observes. “Races of larger-than-life heroes, capable of strange and wondrous deeds, coming in waves and taking over Ireland, sometimes even shaping the land itself with their battles. Now, of course, they are lost to the ages, though some say they still dwell here.”
“Oh?” Vastra asks, trying not to sound too interested. “Tell us more, Mr. Yeats, if you would.” Not every legend is a piece of alien technology run amok, but enough of them are that it pays to pay attention.
Yeats laughs. “I don't want to spoil my latest work, The Wanderings of Oisin, but I suppose I could tease you with a few tidbits. It is based on the saga of an Irish hero, Oisin, who travels across the kingdoms of faeries and mortal men. He lives unaging with a faery princess, visits a race of giants who sleep until the end of all things, and battles a demon for a full century. Finally, he leaves to visit his homeland when he grows homesick. Unfortunately, he ages all at once when he falls from his horse.”
“Goodness,” Jenny cries with a laugh. “What a fanciful story!” She has rather grown accustomed to feigning disbelief.
“I expect your friend Doyle would agree with me—though the magical lands may be difficult to reach, I suspect that the journey is not impossible,” Yeats conjectures with a shrug.
“Those sleeping giants reminded me of Adam,” Jenny murmurs to Vastra.
“Yes, I could see the resemblance,” Vastra replies. “I, of course, was put in mind of my own people, though we hibernated to avoid the end of civilization, rather than welcome it.” Jenny nods; she knows madame doesn't often talk about her kind, even when they are alone together. “And of course we plan to return as well.” Jenny hums agreeably; the Doctor has hinted as much to them, including that there will someday be peace between the human and Silurian races. “I do miss them sometimes,” Vastra continues, “but only for a moment.” Jenny smiles as Vastra squeezes her hand. She glances at their scanner as they reach a fork in the path. “Perhaps we could take the right fork ahead?” Vastra offers.
“Surely you jest, my friend,” Edith tells her. “The path bends to the left, but one tine hardly makes a fork.”
“Look, just here,” Doyle says, pointing to his right. “We may be city folk, but I can certainly tell a trail when it is as clear as that one.”
Mirabelle looks quizzically at Anaya. “What is he talking about? Is he daft?”
“No...” Anaya whispers. “I can see it too.” She remembers something Jenny said to her, something about time-travel and how it affected your brain. She takes a deep breath and turns to look Mirabelle square in the eyes. “Do you trust me?”
“Of course,” Mirabelle replies as Anaya takes her by the hand.
“Then follow me,” Anaya tells her, and leads her along the path. She grins as she hears gasps behind them.
“I would have sworn there wasn't a path there a moment ago,” Violet remarks, astounded.
“I must apologize,” Edith admits. “To the right we go.”
“There is something else strange about this path,” Vastra announces as they file along. “Previously, we were in very early spring—buds just beginning to form. But, you will observe, the trees are now in full bloom.” Jenny nods beside her. They had wondered if there was a temporal field of some variety, perhaps combined with a perception filter, and now they had been proven correct. Very intriguing. Perhaps the missing people had stumbled onto the path, or were preternaturally sensitive in some way. Or, perhaps, Jenny thinks grimly, they were taken over the threshold.
“Truly marvelous,” Mirabelle opines to no-one in particular, glancing back at the budding trees behind them, and the flowers ahead. “I suppose this is all very run-of-the-mill for you?”
“No, this is new,” Anaya reassures her. “It isn't every day that we find ourselves on the road to Tir na Nog,” she notes, naming the realm of Irish faeries. “Spaceships, on the other hand,” she admits as they round the bend, “we do see more of.”
“I suppose we're going to go investigate it, then,” Mirabelle says, with resignation and trepidation.
“I expect so.”
“Despite the fact that it's chock-full of magical aliens?”
“Most likely,” Anaya replies cheerfully.
“And despite the fact that people have been going missing?”
“Because of that fact,” Anaya corrects her.
“Terrific.” Mirabelle grins. Just one more thing to get used to, she supposes. They pause outside the massive ship. Two beats pass, then: “How do we get in?”
“A very good question,” Vastra admits, running a gloved hand along the ship's hull. “It is so smooth, yet springy.”
“We could always cut our way in,” Jenny offers, starting to unlimber her pack to get at the shortsword concealed within.
As if on cue, a panel slides open, revealing a trio of humanoids. “Greetings, people of Earth. Be welcome by the Haldinite race.” There is something strangely familiar about the motion of the door, Doyle thinks, and something off-putting (and, at the same time, something weirdly attractive) about the aliens' not-quite-human anatomy. The three aliens bow, and one of them continues. “Come, we shall take you to our leader.” The three aliens introduce themselves as Mallal, Denvall, and Pria, two males and a female respectively, with Denvall the senior in rank.
“The epiglottis,” Doyle recalls aloud as they follow their hosts through their ship.
“Beg pardon?” Edith asks.
“That's what the door reminded me of,” he explains. “The epiglottis: the flap of skin that keeps you from getting food in your lungs when you swallow. And look; the entire ship appears to be organic in origin.”
“I had heard of such things,” Vastra breathes as the others gape with new awe at their surroundings. “Living organisms capable of spaceflight... but I had never dreamed...”
“Yes, that is the nature of our ship,” Pria remarks cheerfully. The three aliens pause, looking at Vastra as if for the first time, and speak quietly among themselves.
“Are you a spacefarer as well?” Denvall asks. “You do not appear to be of the native species.”
“No, I am not human,” Vastra informs them, “But Earth has always been my species' home, though we do occasionally leave.”
“Interesting,” Mallal notes before the continue through the hallway.
“Greetings! I am Haja, leader of this expedition.” The white-haired woman rises to greet them with a smile, but does not extend her hand. Perhaps it is not customary for their people, Jenny thinks as Haja recites pleasantries. “You will of course be well cared for and well-fed while you are here, which should, of course, be a very long time.” She gestures all around them. “The temporal field sees to that; time passes very slowly for us.” She smiles benignly. “It would not do to let our subjects come to any harm.”
“Now look, I'm unhappy enough with the queen I've got,” Edith begins.
Haja laughs. “You mistake me—the Haldinites have no kings or queens. I was awarded command of this scientific expedition by an elected council. I mean that you will be the subjects of our experiments and observations! You see, most Haldinites are filled with curiosity and a thirst for knowledge, and so we send out expeditions to study new worlds and species. The temporal field allows us to live long enough to truly observe the breadth of human experience.” She claps her hands and the younger female from before appears. “Pria will show you to your habitat.”
Once they are out of Haja's earshot, Vastra and Jenny sidle up to Pria. “Pray, when do we get to leave?”
Pria blushes. “I'm afraid you will not be permitted to leave. We cannot risk you bringing others back to our ship. If nothing else, it would interfere with the experiment. Please,” she continues, tone genuine, “do not try. Denvall, our head of security, does not treat those who try to escape kindly.” Her voice brightens as Jenny and Vastra look at her, aghast. “Will you desire single, double, or triple rooms for your stay?”
“Three double and two single,” Vastra says, resigned. As though she were checking into a posh hotel, she thinks. Instead of a well-furnished cage. At least she could plan her escape with Jenny.
“Of course,” Pria tells her. “This way, please, and then on to the communal living and dining areas.”
Pria leaves them with the other humans—perhaps fifty men, women, and children between the two rooms. “You will have the run of much of the ship,” she explains, “but most humans tend to congregate here.” She bows her head. “Now, I must be off.”
Edith and Violet join their missing acquaintances and fellow townsfolk and Anaya and Mirabelle introduce themselves to some other young people, while Jenny, Vastra, Doyle, and Yeats head for the dining area. “I am a bit hungry,” Yeats admits as they sit.
“Looks a bit like grilled mushrooms,” Jenny observes. “I've eaten worse.” She blinks as she chews a mouthful. “I don't know that I've had better, madame! Try some.”
Vastra looks skeptically at Jenny. “Quite tolerable,” she pronounces, “but hardly divine.”
“Foreign palate, eh?” Yeats inquires. “I hear one does get used to what one has as a child.”
“Yes, that must be it,” she covers gracefully. Slightly addictive? She wonders as she watches the humans around her dig in with relish. Likely attuned to human physiology, she decides, and serves to keep them from wanting to escape. She sighs and eats reluctantly. They will have make their escape soon.
“Hello, I'm Cianna MacAuliffe; you two must be new!”
Anaya and Mirabelle smile, and shake hands with the affable redhead. “What about you?” Anaya asks.
“What year is it now?”
“1893,” Mirabelle tells her.
Cianna nods. “Just about nine hundred years, then. I've only grown a few years worth in that time.” She wrinkles her nose. “Doesn't feel like nine hundred, or three. Somewhere in the middle.” She shakes her head. “The days can blur together if you aren't careful. Pleasant enough, though, if a little boring. There's a poetry contest tonight, so that's something if you're interested.”
“Poetry contest?” Mirabelle inquires, mostly out of professional interest. If she ever gets back to her salon, she thinks...
“Some of the Haldinites recite poetry at each other, and a panel judges their efforts.” She shrugs. “They'll compete and gamble over anything—I suppose it helps break up the monotony.”
Speaking of which, Anaya thinks. “You have two different-colored eyes—it's very striking.”
Cianna half-closes her eyelids and looks down. “One of the Haldinites removed my eyes to experiment on them; I don't think he bothered to check the color on the replacements. Still, as you say, it is a striking effect, and they do have some handy, unusual properties.”
“Sorry, did you say that they just took your eyes?” Anaya asks, flabbergasted.
“Such is the price we pay for long life, good food, and no disease,” Cianna says, but Anaya notices the hitch of uncertainty.
“It might well be a fair trade,” she replies, “but not if you haven't got a say in the matter. Come on, let's tell the others.”
“Do you mind if I come with you?” Cianna asks furtively. “You're planning to get out, aren't you?” Anaya nods cautiously. “I think I've been here long enough,” she says simply, and neither Anaya nor Mirabelle pushes her further on the matter.
“I suppose I should have expected this to be too good to be true,” Vastra observes as they gather around the table and Cianna relates her tale. “For all that I should like to spend more time with you, my love, I will not spend the rest of my days in a cage. Not again. However, the Haldinites' offer of hospitality may prove itself more attractive to some of you; I should not think any less of you for deciding to stay, or for wanting more time to consider.” She looks around the group as each one shakes his or her head in turn.
“Have you got a plan?” Doyle asks hopefully.
Jenny breaks the uncomfortable silence. “Cold iron!” she whispers excitedly. “The fair folk are supposed to be vulnerable to it.” She grins. “Mum used to tell me stories when I was a girl.”
Vastra nods. “A legend which may have a kernel of truth at its core.”
“They don't use very much metal here, do they?” Anaya observes.
Vastra smiles. “At any rate, the Haldinites appear to be scientists first and soldiers second. For all their technology, I expect a sword will work wonders at close range.”
Edith bobs her head. “We've got a few metal tools in with our camping gear, too.”
Violet takes her hand. “Shall we go, then?”
Fifteen minutes later, the little party forms up, with Vastra and Jenny, swords out, at its head, and Yeats, carrying a shovel, bringing up the rear. “Let us move swiftly yet quietly,” Vastra intones, closing her eyes for a brief prayer before setting off.
Their luck holds for several tense moments, until Denvall springs his ambush. Jenny swears as she levels her blade at him. He raises his weapon and pulls the trigger. The gun makes a discomfited sound, but doesn't fire. “Stalemate,” he notes. “There are still more than enough of us to subdue you by weight of numbers, but it would be a bloody mess.”
“Damn right,” Jenny tells him, still angry that she allowed herself to be ambushed so easily. She is still staring at Denvall when his uncanny blend of dark skin and red hair flicker, revealing masses of tentacles in place of hands, and faintly insectoid features.
They cannot help but gasp at the surprising sight, but Denvall merely sighs with annoyance. “Blast this planet and its iron-rich crust.”
“As opposed, I assume, to that of your home planet?” Vastra conjectures.
“Yes, confound it,” Denvall admits. “Something to do with the bio-conductivity—I don't understand it myself. Makes my skin itch, and nothing works properly.”
“Well then, how about I put the nasty sword down, and you let us go?” Jenny offers.
“Unacceptable.” Denvall shakes his head.
“Lucky I don't cut your arm off,” Jenny says through gritted teeth.
“Perhaps you could make a counter-offer,” Anaya pipes up sensibly.
Denvall shakes his head. “The Haldinite people do not negotiate with their lessers.” He gestures to the malfunctioning perception filter at his side. “We could easily mimic your people perfectly; we choose to remain eccentric to your eyes.”
“What if we could prove ourselves your equals?” Mirabelle suggests. Every eye in the corridor flickers over to her despite the tension. “There is a poetry contest tonight, is there not?” she adds gamely.
Denvall and the other Haldinites look reluctant to accept. “Or I could challenge one of you to a duel,” Jenny offers as an alternative, hoping to force the matter quickly as more Haldinites arrive, before they decide to overpower their little knot of fighters. “Getting a bit itchy to cut one of you open, see how you like it.”
“We accept your challenge of poems,” Haja announces. “Our champion against yours.” She and Vastra shake on the agreement, and the standoff fades away.
“I think that had better be you,” Violet whispers to Yeats, “as Dr. Doyle and ourselves are rather more expert in the realm of prose than of verse.”
Yeats nods as Vastra says a prayer of thanks. “I think I know just the poem,” he tells them, and begins to recite it quietly to fix it in his mind. “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree...”
“...While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart's core,” Yeats concludes, and the panel of Haldinites cannot help but cheer. Haja, with a shrug, pronounces them free to go, as well as any other humans who wish to accompany them.
Jenny marvels at the power of a mere dozen lines. “I suppose you could say we bought our freedom for a song,” she observes with a grin. Vastra merely laughs, in too good a mood to chastise Jenny for her awful puns.
“Shall we be going, then?” Vastra asks, surveying the crowd of eager humans forming up around her.
“Please,” Mirabelle says, arm linked with Anaya's. “I don't think I can take this madhouse much longer.” She kisses Anaya on the ear. “Not that it wouldn't have been nice to spend hundreds of years with you, my dear.”
“Agreed,” Anaya replies. “I'm surprised you and Vastra didn't feel the same way.”
“I ran some scans on the temporal field they're using,” Jenny explains. “I would live longer, but madame would outlive me by a far, far greater margin.” She shrugs sadly. “I couldn't do that to her.” She turns to Cianna. “Are you still coming with us, then?”
“Yes, if you'll take me,” she offers hopefully. “I will miss the food—it's ever so much better than boiled cabbage and potatoes.”
“You may find that things have changed somewhat since your time,” Vastra says with a benevolent smile.
“You mean like you and Jenny?” Cianna asks. “Or Anaya and Mirabelle? Or Violet and Edith? Is that allowed now?”
“Sadly, no,” Anaya informs her as Vastra sputters briefly. Cianna shrugs. She's had lovers of both genders during her time on the ship, but if so obvious an observation had caused so much trouble, then she can only imagine the furor that would stem from that revelation. The news can wait.
“Goodbye, then,” Vastra says to the Haldinites, hesitating. “I shall be glad to be shut of your ship; however, you should know that the people of this world have increased their mastery of iron and steel.”
Haja nods. “We had suspected as much from our observations, but we will heed your advice, and, I think, your example. For all that we study them, we forget sometimes what lesser beings are capable of; perhaps we must reevaluate our practices.” Vastra nods; she doubts she could have expected more, and certainly she is in no place to force through reforms.
“I must say this wasn't what we had in mind when we invited you,” Edith observes. “But you must be heartened, Dr. Doyle, to think that there may truly be faeries in the world.”
“You know,” Doyle remarks, “I think I will be just as happy if there aren't any real faeries out there, given the trouble the imitations have given us.”