Ymeene was born into a family of Goshawks, fierce hunters who didn't appreciate their sister's habit of becoming a human at unpredictable times, her sudden changes in size toppling them out of their nest, and her odd, babbling speech spoiling their hunts. Her father gave her the name Ymeene which in the shrill language of the goshawks means "strange one," and she felt the lonely burden of that strangeness from the time she was old enough to hold up her head.
She is only mentioned in the Tales of the Peculiar. When a turf war erupted between the Goshawks and a band of harriers, she fought bravely, determined to prove she was every bit the goshawk her brothers were. They were outnumbered by the much larger, stronger birds, but even when his children began to die in the skirmishes, Ymeene’s father would not admit defeat. In the end they repelled the harriers, but Ymeene was wounded and all her siblings but one were killed. Wondering what it had all been for, she asked her father why they had not simply run away and found another nest to live in. Her father stated they had to defend the honor of the family and a creature like her wouldn't understand.
She did not join him, having lost her taste for the hunt, and for blood and fighting, too, which for a goshawk was even stranger than turning into a human now and then. She thought she was never meant to be a goshawk and was born into the wrong body. Ymeene wandered for a long time and lingered around human settlements, studying them from the safety of treetops. Because she had stopped hunting, it was hunger that gave her the nerve to finally walk into a village and sneak bites of their food—roasted corn put out for chickens, pies left to cool on windowsills, unwatched pots of soup—and she found she had a taste for it. She learned some human language so that she could talk to them, and discovered that she enjoyed their company even more than their food. She liked the way they laughed, sang and showed one another love. So she chose a village at random and went to live there.
A kindly old man let her stay in his barn, and his wife taught Ymeene to sew so she would have a trade. She hadn’t yet grown accustomed to sleeping in human form, so every night she changed into a goshawk, flew up into the trees, and fell asleep with her head tucked under her wing. A few days after she’d arrived, the village baker saw her turn into a bird. The shocked villagers accused her of witchcraft and chased her away with torches. She went wandering again and found another village to settle in to. This time she was careful not to let anyone see her change into a bird, but the villagers seemed to distrust her regardless. To most people Ymeene had a strange way about her, she had been raised by hawks, after all, and it wasn’t long before she was chased from this new village, too. She grew sad and wondered if there was any place in the world she truly belonged.
One morning, on the verge of despair, she lay watching the sun rise in a forest glade. It was a spectacle of such transcendent beauty that it made her forget her troubles for a moment, and when it was over, she wished desperately to see it once more. In an instant the sky went dark and the dawn broke all over again, and she suddenly realized she had a talent other than her ability to change form: she could make small moments repeat themselves, Loops. She amused herself with this trick for days, repeating the leap of a graceful deer or a fleeting slant of afternoon sun just so she could better appreciate their beauty, and it cheered her up immensely.
Englebert saw her creating temporary loops and asked if she did that. He invited her back to his camp, which was filled with other peculiars like her. She avoid Tombs, having become distrustful of prideful men and instead spent her days with Englebert. She helped him till the camp’s vegetable patch and collect wood for cook fires, and he helped her get to know the other peculiars. They took to her instantly and she came to think of the camp as her second home and the peculiars as her second family. She told them about life as a hawk and amused them with her trick of repeating things—once looping a moment where Tombs tripped over a sleeping dog until the whole village hurt from laughing—and they regaled her with tales of peculiardom’s colorful history. There was, for a while, peace. The peculiars welcomed new arrivals, like they had welcomed Ymeene, and the camp went from fifteen to fifty.
The camp wanted to go to war with the normals, but Ymeene refused after stating that she lost one family to war and wouldn't watch another one throw itself willingly into war. She tried to get Englebert to go away with her, but he refused. She left first thing at dawn, before anyone else woke up. She walked to the edge of the camp and turned into a goshawk, and as she leaped into the air, she wondered if she would ever find another group that would accept her, human or avian.
As she was flying, she saw the normals' fighting force and when she realized the peculiars would be slaughtered, she turned back and told Tombs what she had seen. She realized he knew all along and tried to reason with him. She then went out to warn the others, but it was too late. She saw the other peculiars huddled in their camp and she could've flown to safety as they had urged her to, but she couldn't leave them to die. She embraced her friends, Englebert the longest. The sun came out of the dark clouds and she repeated it again and again realizing her ability to create Loops when the normals' army had not come any closer, their enemies faded and reappeared farther away, hundreds of yards into the distance. She kept creating three-minute loops over and over. Because she had to keep resetting the loop, she couldn't sleep and had to have someone keep her from falling asleep. She hallucinated from exhaustion once that her lost brothers had come to see her.
After resetting the loop, she made another loop inside the first one. The results were instantaneous and bizarre. There was a strange sort of doubling of everything around them—the sun, the cloud, the army in the distance—as if her vision had blurred. The world took a short while to come back into focus, and when it did, it was all a bit older than before. The sun was farther behind the cloud. The army was farther away. And this time it took six minutes, not three, for the sun to come out from behind the cloud. When she looped the loop a second time, it was twelve minutes, then twenty-four and later an hour. She managed to create a loop that lasted for a whole day. After the peculiars stood up for Ymeene and banished the councilmen out of the loop, they looked to Ymeene for leadership and was also called upon for personal disputes, to cast deciding votes about which of the council’s many rules should be retained and which jettisoned, to punish breakers of what rules they kept, and so on.
She couldn't solve their biggest problem: how more than a hundred peculiars could live in such a small space. She seeked guidance and advice from Englebert and realized she had to go in search of more ymbrynes like her. The next day, she gathered all the peculiars and informed them she was going away for a while, but promised she would be back in time to reset the loop. She soared over the frozen forests of Oddfordshire and asked all the birds if they saw any birds that can turn into humans. She searched all day and night, but everywhere she went the answer was no. She returned late that night and reset the loop, then flew out again without a moment's rest. She searched all day and began to get discouraged.
When the sun set, she spied a flock of kestrels with a young woman. The kestrels saw her and took off and it seemed like the young woman disappeared too. She dove down chased them, but they were too afraid of her to stop or slow down. She returned to the loop that night and reset the loop. She ate, flying all day made her hungry, and returned to the kestrels' woods the next morning. This time she did not approach their clearing as a goshawk, but as a human. She asked the kestrels if she could speak to the young woman and the young woman appeared behind a tree. They talked and Miss Kestrel repeated a snowfall. She repeated the snowfall again and they ran to each other, laughing and clasping their hands, shouting and hugging, chattering in a language the other couldn't understand. She was so relieved that she wasn't the only one of her kind and there are others like her. The peculiar society perhaps could be a safer, saner place, no longer ruled by the shortsighted whims of prideful men.
She taught Miss Kestrel taught her everything she knew about creating her loops and soon Miss Kestrel was skilled enough to keep their loop going by herself. This allowed her to embark on long-distance journeys looking for more ymbrynes and found five. When the new arrivals had been trained, and the hard, hungry winter had thawed into spring, they divided the peculiars among them and set out across the land to establish five new, permanent loops. More peculiars sought refuge at the loops as long as they abided by the ymbryne's rules.
The ymbrynes held council twice a year to trade wisdom and collaborate. For many years Ymeene herself oversaw the proceedings, watching with pride as their network of ymbrynes and loops increased, and the number of peculiars they were able to protect grew to many hundreds. She lived to the ripe and happy age of one hundred and fifty-seven. For all those years she and Englebert shared a house (but never a room), for they loved each other in a steady, companionable way. It was the Black Plague that finally took her. When she was gone, all the peculiars she had saved who were still living, and all their children and grandchildren, risked their lives to cross hostile territory and carry her in a grand procession to the forest and, to the best of Englebert’s reckoning, to the very tree in which she had been born, and they buried her there among its roots.
Englebert is a good friend of Ymeene and they first met when she was creating temporary loops. He invited her back to his camp and spend a lot of time together. When the other peculiars wanted to go to war with the normals, Ymeene tried to get him to go away with her, but he refused. When Ymeene was resetting the loop, she nudged her to stay awake. Later on, they shared a house, but never a room and they loved each other in a steady, companionable way. When she died, he and the rest of the peculiars even risked their lives to cross hostile territory in a grand procession of the forest, to his reckoning, and buried her among the roots of the tree where she was born.
Ymeene saw Miss Kestrel while she was searching for another ymbryne and tried to talk to her, but the kestrels fled after seeing her. The next morning, they talked and demonstrated their ability to create loops. They ran to each other, laughing and clasping their hands, shouting and hugging. She taught her everything about creating loops and Miss Kestrel kept the loop going while searching for more ymbrynes like them.