“A cat may look at a king,” said Alice, claiming she read it somewhere. She probably had, or at least, the Rev Dodgson had. I don’t recall the origins of the phrase, but I am sure it predates the good Reverend by a century or two. Presumably then, a vampire may look at a queen, even if he does not understand her. So far, at least, in my dealings with Her Unseelie Majesty, I have not had to be reminded of my place, or admonished for my impertinence. Not that I have ever given her reason to do so. On the contrary, I have always displayed the appropriate amount of respective, without, I hope, being too servile or sycophantic, for that is not in my nature. Rather, it is my nature to treat not only a maidservant as a lady, but also a queen. With Faermorn, for I think it safe to commit her name to paper, safer, certainly, than uttering it aloud, there is much that intrigues me, which may be why I find myself compelled to be bolder than I might otherwise. She is supremely beautiful and sensual to the eye, and most other senses; a sense of closeness and intimacy that you could almost wrap around you like a blanket of great softness and warmth. I do not know how much of that is her and how much is her glamour, but I am sure it is but a tiny part of the influence she could exert, should she choose to, else I would no doubt be lost, worshiping at her feet, dying for even the briefest of glances. Perhaps she tempers her powers for my benefit, and that of my mortal companions. There is something else though, and it is this that intrigues me. There is a sadness about her, a wistfulness, a sense that somehow, part of her wishes things were other than they are. Perhaps, some day, I will find out why.
I had intended to go to the Unseelie side of the river and request an audience via the guards, thinking I would then have to go to the tree on the promontory. As it turned out, I did not need to, as I came across the queen only a few yards over the river. I had precious little warning, other than glimpsing the glow that surrounds her through the trees. Fortunately, I was already in a courtly frame of mind, so was able to make the appropriate greetings. She smiled, her so very warm smile, and bade me rise and tell her what my business was this day. As ever, she seemed alone, but her Ravens were no doubt around and alert. Even though I had no ill intent, I knew full well that any hint of trespass on my part would be swiftly dealt with.
I told her of Aoibheann’s and Maric’s desire to hold a meeting, suggesting the bridge as a possible venue, being the nearest we likely had to neutral territory. I also told her that Maric also wished to discuss the possibility of a non-aggression treaty, in order to avoid any unintended strife. I then said that there was another matter, a personal one, though it was related to the others. She was amenable to both the meeting and the idea of a treaty and asked what the more personal matter was.
I told her of the incident with Giada and the guards, emphasising that her wandering into Unseelie territory was unintentional and innocent. I also told of the subsequent incursion by one of the Seelie to rescue Giada, which was also unintended. I expressed the hope that this would not cause friction between the courts. I told her that much as I desired retribution upon the guards, for I took any act against my friends very seriously, I would abide by her decisions and would not incite any act of aggression on Unseelie lands. She listened, thoughtfully, and agreed that there should be no more reprisals between her court and the court of light. She explained that while Aoibheann, myself and other companions, presumably Gwyn, were protected by her word, others were still fair game. I should no more expect the Unseelie to act against their nature than I would expect s fish not to swim. I sighed, and told her that I understood, even if I had hoped things might be otherwise. I said I would make sure that all the villagers, Giada included, were aware of the conditions of their presence in Unseelie territory until such time as foraging and treaty details were arranged. I also asked, given that she had mentioned people behaving according to their nature, if it would be acceptable behaviour for me to challenge those who had attacked Giada, as it was in my nature to defend my friends and seek redress. That, she said was acceptable, provided I was prepared for the consequences.
We were interrupted by a shriek from the trees closer to the bridge. I recognised Aoibheann’s voice and advised the queen thusly, in the hope that this would cause the ravens to be gentle with her, forgetting that Aoibheann was one of those protected by the queen’s word. We both turned to see Aoibheann running towards us and behind her, Lucis/Umbra standing with her bow ready and an arrow in hand. Almost instinctively, I placed myself between her and the queen, even though there were plenty of ravens in position to intervene if she even so much as pointed the bow. Fortunately, Lucis/Umbra was aware of them and had the sense to stand down, replacing the arrow in her quiver. She remained somewhat aggressive however, claiming to be an emissary and asking if she could leave in peace, or did she need to dampen her claws. If that was a threat, it was a foolish one, and the queen chose to ignore it. I asked whether we were dealing with Lucis or Umbra, explaining over my shoulder that this one had a dual nature.
Aoibheann, meanwhile, reached us and promptly fell in a heap on the ground, just about managing a greeting, and chose to remain where she was, presumably waiting permission to get up. Faermorn gave her permission to rise, turning her attention to Lucis/Umbra, asking if she came in peace. Though her tone was mild, I could feel the brush of her power, meant, I am sure, to dispel any doubts as to the foolishness of any attack.
Umbra, for that is how she introduced herself, put the bow away, saying that she came in peace, addressing the queen with appropriate respect. She then addressed Aoibheann, telling her that she meant her no harm. Turning back to the queen, she explained that she was a stranger in this land and in this shape. She would do no harm to any who had not done harm to her first, even if some held her appearance against her. Since I judged her to be no threat, or at least, none that I could defend against, I stepped out of the way. I explained to the queen that this one, while the darker side of her nature, was rational and not prone to violence. I helped Aoibheann to her feet and told the queen that I suspected Aoibheann had decided she couldn’t wait for the planned meeting. Apparently, I was right, as Aoibheann said she had some matters to discuss, though, from her manner, she was reluctant to do so while Umbra was there.
Her majesty asked why Umbra was there and explained where the boundaries were. Umbra was respectful, saying she would abide by those boundaries. Faermorn explained about the requirement for allegiance, and how the lack of it also meant a lack of protection, suggesting that if she was not prepared to ally to the court, then she was better off staying in the village. Umbra chose to depart, with a comment that we were missing out on a great opportunity, or would be when her true for was able to come to this place. I could not fathom what she might mean by that remark; much less what powers or gifts she could offer a queen of the sidhe. With that, she was gone.
Aoibheann and the queen moved, then, to the bridge. What passed between them, I did not witness as I felt it better to give Aoibheann some privacy. Given what I suspected of her subject matter, i.e. the Huntsman and Llwyd, I thought that she might find it easier to speak of those things if I were not present. Strangely, I trusted Faermorn, for all her Unseelie nature, so I did not think that Aoibheann could come to harm with her. Instead, I returned to the village and there I took my rest.
A bit of Blackmore’s Night seems appropriate