Ivar Valenko, former crown prince of the Free Worlds of Tadesh, now in permanent exile-asylum on Lanscot, was herding sheep for Grytt when the fairy appeared.
She looked like a small woman, short as a mirri, but of course without the distinctive, limbless spherical environmental suit mirri used when interacting with oxygen-based atmospheres, and without any daughter-buds, so really, there was nothing mirri-like about the fairy at all, except that human women did not, in Ivar's experience, come in that particular size. Here we must note that Ivar was unfamiliar with children of any age, his single experience having been limited to a visit with the Princess of Thorne, when she had shown him a pondful of fish and thus, quite inadvertently, saved him from an assassin's bomb.
But Ivar knew, somehow, and with firm conviction, that this was not a child. He was reasonably certain, as he drew a bit closer, that she was also not a woman, or at least not entirely human. He knew, in a sort of distant, textbook way, that there were no such things as partial humans, but he did not hold to those views with any conviction. He had almost as little experience with women as he did with children, having spent much of his post-adolescence in cryostasis, captive and laboratory experiment of Vernor Moss, former Regent of the Free Worlds of Tadesh. He had, because of Moss's machinations, skipped past much of the maturation process in which one learns, or is taught, what is and is not possible. This fluidity of perception made him especially receptive to new experiences, but also exceptionally ill-suited to most forms of social interaction. Grytt and Messer Rupert were the exceptions, in Messer Rupert's case because he had experience as a tutor and general molder-of-youthful-spirits (he had done rather well with Rory); and in Grytt's because she did not have especially high expectations of people in general.
Grytt did, however, expect Ivar to mind her sheep, which meant keeping them safe. Although Ivar knew (in that same, distant textbookish way) that it was really the dogs, Bobby and Edmund, who were responsible for sheep-safety, he also knew that sheep were not stupid. If there was something dangerous, they could usually tell; it was just what to do about it that sometimes confused them. Ivar shared some sympathy with that.
And so, when he saw the fairy, he looked at them, first: the sheep, and then the dogs. The sheep did not seem to notice the woman at all, which suggested that she was, in fact, real. (Sheep tended to ignore people unless there was food involved). Bobby and Edmund cocked their fluffy black-and-white ears at her, and Bobby even sniffed in her general direction, but no hackles came up, and no growling ensued, so Ivar decided it might be all right to approach.
So he did.
The fairy woman was sitting on a flat rock, the largest and flattest on a slopeful of rocks, almost at the pinnacle of the hill. It happened to be Ivar's favorite sitting-stone as well. He was not sure how to feel about finding someone else on it. (The wonder that there was anyone out here at all had already passed out of his awareness). She was dressed impractically for following sheep around the hills, and entirely in green, which set her at vibrant odds with the late summer grasses.
She wore some kind of dress with a close-fitting bodice that dissolved into a skirt made of strips and panels of cloth overlapping like scales or feathers. Even from her position on the rock, sitting with her legs dangling, the skirt moved restlessly around her legs, as if it had a mind of its own. The hose she wore were also green and embroidered with tiny gold butterflies. Her feet were bare, and possessed of longish, shapely toes that seemed to have an extra joint.
The woman, he realized, was entirely green. Hair, which she wore long and intricately bound up in silver and gold threads. Eyes (except for the white part, and the pupil). And her skin, which was really the telling feature. The color could be paint—he had thought it must be, knowing as he did that human people did not come in green—but now he was certain that green was her natural shade.
She smiled, green lips breaking over teeth small and white as pearls, only sharper.
"Ivar Valenko," she said.
His patronymic was not exactly secret, but it also wasn't meant for, as Messer Rupert put it, general consumption. Ivar was supposed to be dead, and probably would have been, except for Rory; and if it became widely known that he wasn't, Dame Maggie might say he couldn't remain on the farm with Grytt and Rupert anymore. Ivar knew what exile meant (textbook knowing, again). He ranked it just above extended time in cryostasis for desirability.
So he was not at all pleased that this green woman sitting on his favorite rock knew his name.