|Citizen of the White Tower|
A member of the young motley Trouble Ahead, Nellie Whistle is a Wizened Artist who specializes in textiles, particularly in the art of embroidery and weaving. Cheeky, cheerful, and fun-loving, she is happily embracing the Spring Court’s philosophy of not only lusting after life, but shagging it senseless and making breakfast in the morning.
Not much is currently known about Nellie’s pre-Arcadian existence. During the initial psychological interviews, Nellie claimed not to remember anything about her past or identity, but Dr. Glaistig’s notes indicate that she suspects amnesia – Fae-induced or otherwise – is not the culprit.
Hints in Nellie’s own behavior support this theory. For instance, on first being asked who she was after demonstrating a startling familiarity with the Changelings who would eventually make up her motley (made all the more so given they had all just escaped from Arcadia), Nellie replied that she “hadn’t decided yet.” Nellie has also shown a very easy adjustment to life in modern England. Whether this is due to being born and raised recently or just an adaptable temperament is still to be determined.
Most telling, however, is Nellie’s voice. Although she usually speaks with a strong Cockney accent, instances have occurred wherein this accent slips into a clearer, posher manner of speaking with Oxford undertones. Such slips have been caught by others and almost resulted in Nellie not being admitted to the Empire during a run-in with David Picket-Frost. This experience soured the short relationship Nellie had with Picket-Frost, and she made a particular point to needle him by thickening her Cockney when speaking to him until his untimely death.
She was just twelve in 1992. Now, eighteen years later, she is nineteen. Somehow, that doesn't add up. Nellie doesn't remember when or how it happened. Just that, one morning, she woke up in an utterly beautiful hell.
She could not see The Ladies. But she could hear them. Whispering, fluttering, instructing her hands to learn ancient modes of creation. A modern twelve-year-old girl never learns how to weave or sew beyond mending a buttonhole. Nellie did.
She could not see them, but she could feel them. Cool hands caressing her lovingly, twisting her body this way and that as they considered just what to do with her to make her prettier. She could feel their needles and thread piercing her skin, embroidering a maroon skeleton tree onto her back. And, under her screams, Nellie heard them murmur, "So pretty, so pretty."
Nellie knows that The Ladies did not take all of her hair at once. Rather, they slowly harvested it, replacing it with the skein/dreads one at a time. As she wove, Nellie would on occasion – never in a pattern or cycle that she could decipher -- reach into her embroidery basket and pull out fistfuls of her own hair. And she wove it. Under the rustle of the trees outside her forbidden window, she would hear coos of approval. 'Pretty, pretty, pretty.
Nellie knows that little boys should not fly, but did. Nellie is pretty sure she saw ravenous plants snatch them out of the sky. Nellie saw ogres fight serpents. Nellie saw and sewed and wove it all. Nellie has no idea what was real and what wasn’t. Sometimes the images were just so shadowy . . . safer to sew everything in than leave something out.
From early on, Nellie learned that she was never alone. Of course, this was not true. Rather, Nellie never knew if she was alone. Sometimes she would be forced to weave or spin until her fingers bled. Other times, she could spend whole days resting on the sumptuous pile of furs that made up her bed.
As time went on, she discovered, through painful trial and error, that when her bower was completely still – not a breath of air whispering against the tapestries, ruffling the fur, stroking her hair – then she was alone. And in those stolen moments of solitude, Nellie would take her needle and tap away at the back of the great, polished mirror. For it showed out things that simply could not be out her window – nightmare beasts battling little boys flying in the air; fire, wind and water fighting shadows – her window did not, could not contain these. And if it showed things without, Nellie knew there must be a way within. And so she tapped.
Grain by grain, the glass eroded. The first crack caused both joy and terror to shoot through her heart. For what if The Ladies saw it?
If They did, They did not say. And Nellie, quietly, desperately, tapped with her needle.
Eventually, the cracks grew, like ice in a long awaited, desperately needed thaw, fragmenting her visions in the mirror. It was weakening.
And one bright morning, when not a breath stirred, Nellie hurled her distaff at the mirror. Shards of glass screamed and rained down on her, slicing her face, her hands, her arms as she strove to protect herself.
Glass crunched under her feet as Nellie peered through the gigantic hole. Blue-grey mist tendrils curled toward her over the grey-green water. The boat – Penelope Elaine – bobbed, waiting for her. All was still. And then . . .
A breath of air.
The glass shards began to pull themselves off the wooden floor, fitting neatly back into the wooden frame, as though the years of toil had never happened. This could not happen. She would not stay.
Nellie tucked her scissors into her belt and leapt through the rapidly closing mirror. The jagged edges pulled at her face, hair, cloak and skirt, desperate to hold her in The Ladies’ Bower.
Nellie landed in the boat as the mirror closed behind her. Smooth glass once again. Smooth glass behind her. Jagged shards and mist
and water before her.
Nellie began to sail
Blue-grey mist, blue-grey sounds, blue-grey smells. Soft, eerie haze. No sun. No moon. She sailed ghostly through trees of glass, leaves of glass, London Bridge built up with needles and pins. But pins and needles bend and break, and London Bridge is falling, falling, falling down, smashing, crashing, falling down.
My fair Ladies.
Life in the Empire
Although she shares a hollow with her motley, true to her Wizened nature, Nellie has carved out a spot for herself. Through contacts in the Changeling community, she was able to secure a loft in Camden Town which serves as both a work space and home outside the Hedge.
It was through her own talents and audacity that Nellie was able to finagle a rare “probationary apprenticeship” in the Costumes & Soft Props Department of Ealing Studios. As a part of this agreement, Nellie is matriculated at the University of London, where is currently enrolled in two courses: Costume History and Professor Palindrome’s literature class.
In her spare time, Nellie is becoming a regular feature at both mundy clubs and those favored by the Spring Court. It was a For Get where, acting as Gram’s wingman, Nellie may have bitten off more than she can chew by attracting the attentions of King George. Such patronage may prove beneficial, however, as she works to gain entrance into The Spinner’s Guild via her “magnum opus.” And, she admits, Trouble Ahead can use all of the friends in high places that they can make.
Nellie's Magnum Opus
It's going to be good - believe that. Nellie has planned a triptych of embroidered and woven tapestry pieces illustrating her view of mundane and Changeling London.
- A midnight-blue napkin-sized piece of linen with an exact replica in silver and gold thread of the view of London-by-night as seen from the International Space Station.
- A mixed-media piece, roughly the size of a large plasma television, this piece is built of separate sections of embroidered canvas representing the blocks of London and connected via damask silk. Much Court symbology will be hidden in key points throughout.
- The largest piece, about the size of a real door, is planned to be an embroidered and woven tapestry. It will be a street-level scene, starring the other members of Nellie's Motley and an open doorway allowing a glimpse into the Hedge.