Stolen Child

My navigation, via the mists or the Shadow Roads, is not always reliable. I took myself to Mysthaven again, seeking answers regarding the carrots, among other things. At least, that was my intention, but something drew me elsewhere, to one of the gates in Faerie. And there I found what in the present circumstance counted as a crowd. There was Aoibheann, clutching a carrot to her as one might carry a child, and a creature resembling a unicorn. The latter, I guessed, by her manner of movement, and later, her speech, to be Mika, albeit in an unfamiliar shape. There was another; a man of somewhat disreputable appearance, so I hesitated to give him the accolade of gentleman. Him I did not know, though there was something about him that seemed familiar. He did not seem pleased to be there, nor did he seem pleased to encounter Aoibheann, much less myself. And, if we did not know him, he appeared to know us. He expressed his displeasure in somewhat colourful and exasperated language, addressing me as Lord of the roses and misty villagers, which, while not strictly my title, was at least broadly accurate. He also seemed to be annoyed at the lack of drink in the vicinity. In speaking, he revealed himself to be that feckless black stallion, Anathema wearing his other skin.

Mika bounced around excitedly in a manner more suited to her ferret shape than a unicorn, pawing at Anathema’s cheap suit and chattering about him having no manners and shouting at trees. She also seemed tempted by the idea of a party, though in her case, if this shape was anything like the ferret, I fancied she would be more excited by candy than wine.

Aoibheann, meanwhile, was more excited by the fact that there were so many people in one place, taking that as a possible sign that the land was awakening. The idea that Anathema had been shouting at the trees particularly interested her, and she asked what he had said and if they had replied. I felt sorry for her if he had, given that she herself had been unable to communicate with her children. She was less certain about his description of his current shape as his other skin, imagining that he maybe had killed and skinned somebody for it. He protested this, explaining that he was a shape-shifter, not a skin-walker. I’m not sure that she understood the difference. I do not know why not. It is not as if she has no experience of beings that wear different shapes at times.  Maric and myself for two, although neither of us ever skinned anybody for it. Check that. I have never skinned anybody. I am not so sure I can claim that for Maric.

I could not help but be mildly amused. “Last time I saw you,” I replied to him, “you had more legs and borrowed my son for some,” I hesitated, trying to think of some way of putting it that wouldn’t offend Aoibheann, “interesting times.” He protested that the bargain with Eilian had been fair and square, and that the interesting times had been the price for riding him. I replied that I did not doubt the validity of the bargain; moreover, I thought that my son would have learned a useful life lesson from it. Given that everybody was somewhat focused on the idea of drink, particularly mead, I suggested that there might be some in the tavern. After all, if there was somebody around growing carrots, I said, or at least, carrot-shaped things, then possibly somebody would have stocked the tavern with mead. Mika liked that idea, as did Anathema.

Aoibheann held the carrot closer to her chest, saying that carrots did not usually have fangs. She said that she had intended to help the carrot to find its name, but was now worried that she had stolen it, stolen a child from its parents. The Wyld had affected more than the roses, she offered by way of explanation. There was something unknown, some new danger lurking in my realm. Given my thoughts regarding the Kraken-like disturbances, this was not exactly news to me. I acknowledged this was likely, but I would have to wait and see what it might be, so long as it wasn’t the late and unlamented former king. I eyed her pet carrot, more bemused than anything. I suggested that I would maybe have similar facility with the carrots as I did with the roses. They knew me well enough, and if they were kin to the carrots, then perhaps the carrots would know me in some distant way. It would be worth investigating when I was back at the village. On that thought, I suggested that we return to village in the hope of maybe finding the mead that everybody, save myself, was keen to find.

Or, at least, that was my plan. I parted the veil with the intention of stepping back to the village, leaving them to follow, or make their way there by their own means, but again, my navigation failed me and I found myself back in Awenia. Or, perhaps it was not my error, for as soon as I set foot in my home, I was set upon by Clutie and Bran with various household matters of urgency. None, to my mind were so urgent that they could not have waited for Gwyn to return from wherever, but I have long since learned there is no arguing with them once they get ideas in their heads. By the time it was all sorted to their satisfaction, it was long past the time when it would have been worth returning to the tavern. I shall have to visit Mysthaven soon to see if tge roses, or the carrots, could tell me what is about the land. Or, maybe I would rather not know. I would probably not, but I am Lord of Mysthaven, so I have little choice in that respect, and even if I were not, I still doubt I would have the choice. There is a duty on me, and that has nothing to do with titles. It never has.

Stolen Child

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Ghost Town

I have often written, in these pages, of the fragile and fluid nature of reality. It is something I have experienced many times.  What I thought I knew was reality changed when Katarina almost killed me and brought me back to a new life. Then I discovered that creatures of myth and legend were real. That, in time, took me to a London that was not the one I had known as a young man, a London where it was forever 1891 and where creatures such as I had become roamed freely. Thence, my journeys took me to Jasper Cove, a reality created by that scoundrel and demon, John Dee, known to me as Alec, among other names. And, when Jasper Cove burned, I had to flee, to the Wylds, which until Gwyn took me away, in part anyway, to the 21st century, became my home. Nowhere has the fluid nature of reality been more evident than there. The castle on the hill, ruled by one of my own kind, Cristof, was destroyed by the tree folk, and in its place, came Mysthaven, since the passing of Maric, my realm to rule. It has rebuilt itself several times since I have been there, and is still in the process of rebuilding itself.

I went to see how things fared there a few days past. The castle still seems to be in flux. It may well be that this is down to my relative absence. The castle is bound to me, and I to it, so it is possible that it cannot finish reshaping itself without my presence. And, I suppose it would be nice if I had some choice over the furniture. Ideally, I would build some myself, but, even with the somewhat fluid nature of time between realm-jumps, I doubt I would be able to do so in any sensible time-frame. But that is another matter. Elsewhere, the village seems to be progressing nicely.

It is curious how things develop, though. The villagers, my stewards and my guards seem to have a semi-ghostly existence. There and not there at the same time, perhaps only called into existence from some sort of limbo when I am there. And yet, here in the village gardens, fruit and vegetables are growing. I paused by a bed of carrots that seemed to be growing well, despite the perpetual twilight. Who, I wondered, had planted these and tended them? Did the villagers manifest at other times to tend the garden and other parts of the village? Where did they go in the meanwhile? Did they go into some sort of limbo, a dream time or such like?

 

I was interrupted in my speculations by the arrival of Aoibheann, who drifted in from who knows where. As ever, she spoke somewhat cryptically, saying, by way of greeting, that she believed there was more than one Mysthaven. She joined me by the vegetable bed and squatted, looking at the carrots as if she intended to pick one.

I likewise neglected to make any actual greeting. I commented that she and I had been around long enough to know that the land and the town were as fluid as our imaginations. At least this version, I added, was not built on floating rocks, which I had always thought an affront to Sir Isaac Newton. I don’t know why I said that bit, as it was very unlikely that she would have known who Newton was, much less that he formulated the theory of gravity.

I was right. She did not register any sign of recognition, and at first, just challenged my assertion, asking how I knew what the current incarnation of Mysthaven was built upon. She then went on to wonder if perhaps it was that there was more than one of her, rather than more than one Mysthaven. The thought of more than one Aoibheann was a slightly scary one, but I didn’t say anything.  She speculated that whether there was more than one Mysthaven or more than one of her, the symptoms would be similar.  She told me there were times she came to Mysthaven and there was no sign of life. It was the same in Faerie, she said. Her children, by which I presumed she meant the trees, were sleeping and no winged or legged creature was stirring, save the cŵn, and those she had only heard, not encountered. Perhaps there was some fragmented version of the realm where her children were still awake, she wondered.

This touched all too closely to my own speculations as to the fluid nature of reality. I suggested that it was possible that the residents of the realm were somehow dormant while the land was reshaping itself so that they might be protected from the changes. She and I, having the ability to walk the realms might be less affected by it.

She shook her head and said that she did not consider herself unaffected. She told me that she felt as a ghost, not seeing the people here, and not being seen by them. She had tried recently to move some books and her hands passed through them as though they were not there. She had not eaten in months and it seemed as if waking and dreaming were one and the same. The theory that there might be more than one of her seemed to comfort her somehow. I could not think why, other than perhaps it allowed her to believe that another her was elsewhere, solid and able to interact with her children and others. She bent and tried to pull at one of the carrots with far more concentration than might otherwise be justified by such a simple act, wondering aloud, as I had, who tended them. Perhaps her supposed insubstantial nature made the act harder. “I saw your daughter,” she said, almost as an afterthought.

This surprised me. I reached out with my other senses, seeking Bronwyn for myself, but, as before, she was somehow distant, veiled from me. I could tell she was well enough, but otherwise could not tell where or when she might be, not could I sense her thoughts or send her mine. I told Aoibheann this, saying that it was both curious and vexing, for the anchorage we had created for each other should have been sufficient. I asked Aoibheann how Bronwyn and Mornoth fared.

Aoibheann’s concentration seemed to be all upon the vegetable she was trying to pick. From where I stood, it looked as if she lacked substance enough to grasp it, and yet, after a moment, she did manage to do so and fell backwards, clutching her prize. She told me that she had only seen Bronwyn for a moment before being whisked away to Mysthaven, and all that she could tell was that she had had something important to convey. This, she said seemed to happen to her a lot, that whenever something of importance was happening, she got distracted. She certainly seemed distracted as she was speaking, staring at the carrot as though she were not entirely convinced it was real, and then holding it up to her ears as if she somehow expected it to speak. She held it more as one might a small animal than a root vegetable.

I reached out again, but Bronwyn was no more reachable than before. I let my sense spread out into the land, touching the Wyld, perhaps to reassure myself that it was still there.  The energy was still there, so different, and yet similar to the Wyld in Awenia, as if two strains from the same primal source. And yet, under it there was something more chaotic than normal, as if something vast lurked beneath the surface. I was reminded of Tennyson’s words:

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth:

Not the most comforting of thoughts, I had to say.  I put it to one side and asked if Aoibheann had any substance when she was with Ardan. She said that she was not. Ardan and Awnye also slept, and she had no more awareness of them than I did of Bronwyn. I wondered at that, since she had much more of a facility with the trees than I ever did, so it seemed strange that she should find them dormant. I did mention my feelings regarding the Kraken, but I am not sure if that registered with her, being more of a Norse mythology. She still seemed preoccupied with the carrot, again, treating it as though it were some small creature. I was interrupted by an alarm from my phone, albeit briefly, as it succumbed to the malaise that seems to affect technology here. However, my trusty watch also tinkled its reminder. I made to bid Aoibheann farewell, and she managed to pull her attention away from the carrot to wish me safe travels. Her attention returned to it and I was sure she was talking to it.

I felt a ripple in the atmosphere as I parted the veil to step back to Awenia, which gave me pause, as I had never felt that before. Looking back, I saw Aoibheann laying the carrot down on the ground and offering her thumb to it, and I could have sworn that it looked back at her. I had little time before I continued my journey and stepped back to home, but, there was something familiar in the way they were interacting. As the veil closed behind me, I realised what it was. It reminded me of the Myst Roses and my dealings with them. “Myst Carrots?” I wondered, aloud to myself. The idea made me laugh, but, on reflection, I supposed it was entirely possible. I must return again to Mysthaven and see what else there is to learn. There is already much to trouble me – the distance between me and my daughter, the disturbance in the Wyld and now, possibly sentient carrots? I hope nobody tells Hal’s wife. She might not want to put those in a stew.

Ghost Town

 

Spread Your Wings

faeriequeene

LO I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far vnfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
Whose prayses hauing slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.

Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene

There is a wish that most rational beings, or at least those that have survived into some measure of adulthood, have expressed at some point or other in their lives. It has been expressed in many forms, but the general thrust is “I wish I had known then what I know now.”  It is a natural enough wish, whether it be about your first fumbling forays into the realm of romance or more far-reaching life choices such as marriage, moving to another country or changing career. I have, myself, indulged in such speculation in the past, but now, knowing that reality is a somewhat variable and occasionally fragile concept, I tend not to. Even more so since I gained the use of the Shadow Roads and the Realm-walking, where it would be all too easy to tamper with that reality and give my past self that knowledge. From my reading of Dee’s journal, scoundrel though he was, I know how bad this could be and so take great pains to avoid the possibility. The weakest point of my resolve in this matter is in respect of my mother. That, in many ways, would be the most dangerous area in which I could tamper. Nevertheless, I have of late wished that I had known something of my mother’s heritage while she was still alive. I wish that I had known then of her fae side and what it meant to her. Oddly, it is that most mundane of human endeavours – bureaucracy, that brings it to mind.

Gwyn and I have a meeting soon, with representatives from the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and/or the Consilium Arcanum, to discuss the progress of moving Awenia towards becoming an open fae realm. She has even rented an AirBnB in Seattle, which is apparently some fancy way of borrowing somebody else’s dwelling for a short time. It seems a potentially unsanitary arrangement to me, but I am sure she knows best. I suppose it will afford us more privacy than a hotel.  So far as I see it, my purpose in such things is in the mundane side of things, and, dare I say, the bureaucratic elements.  I do have previous experience of negotiating trade deals, treaties, the Accords between Mysthaven and the Summerlands and such like. That experience, to my mind, is independent of what shape I wear. Gwyn, on the other hand, is quite keen that, for the purposes of these meetings, I should emphasise the fae side of my nature. Which, I suppose, is fair enough (or fairy enough, ha ha), since it is a fae realm that we will be discussing, so, I cannot disagree.

mourning locket with hair engraved

The question is, of course, what is my fae nature? As with almost everything in my life, it is complicated. In part, it comes from being consort and husband to Gwyn, my very own Faerie Queen. All that Wyld energy from our proximity, our love and our love-making cannot fail to affect me. Some comes from that other faerie queen, the late Faermorn, from the Quickening she gave me, from other times we spent together, and from my time in her realms and at the Wellspring of the Wyld. Much came from Isabella, from that chance encounter with her and Alex and me being the unintended recipient of her life-giver energy. But, even before that, there was Mother.  My mother, who I later learned was part-fae, a descendant of the Tuatha de Danann. I did not know it at the time, even though I unknowingly held the clue to it so close to my heart for many years. It was the inscription on the mourning locket I have worn so long. It was there, on the locket, in an inscription in a script I did not know.  It was an aunt from my mother’s side, Aislinn, who gave it to me after the funeral, and I never thought, in my grief, to ask her what the inscription actually said. I copied it to my notebook and occasionally asked people who had some knowledge of languages, but to no avail.

matri1

It was only much later that I learned the reading of it – “Ida Elvine Aubrey iníon Siobhan Ní Cearbhalláin iníon Caoimhe Ní Nuadháin iníon an Rí Tuaithe Dé Danann” or “Ida Elvine Aubrey daughter of Siobhan Ní Cearbhalláin daughter of Caoimhe Ní Nuadháin daughter of the Kings of the Tuatha de Dannan.”

That was my mother’s lineage, and her fae heritage. I did not know it when she was alive, and only learned long after she passed. Now that, if anything, is something I wish I had known while she was alive.  Looking back, there were enough clues, had I had the knowing of it. Her skills with plants and with healing, her love of art and music, her affinity with nature, all pointed to something in her nature. It is no wonder that she loved to go barefoot in the woods and meadows, or encouraged me to commune with the trees. Her free spirit and her disregard for the rules of modesty, in private at least, must have stemmed from that side of her. And, now that I recall it, it seems that I never knew her to tell a lie, even when to do so might have made life easier. That she encouraged me to read Spenser’s The Faerie Queene at such a young age might have been a massive hint, again, had I had the knowing of it. Why she did not tell me, even in her last days, as the consumption took her, I do not know. Perhaps she did not wish to fill me with longing for a place and time I might never be able to reach, or perhaps she feared that the rational side of me, instilled by my father, might reject it or dismiss it as a fanciful notion of hers. I will probably never know, save that she visits my dreams again from the Summerlands, as she did one time. Even if she does not, I suppose that I can be content that she now knows, from that dream, that I at long last had realised that side of me.

idaballardphoto2 copy

Whatever her reasons, and whatever the many and various twists of fate that led me to the discovery of that part of me and the subsequent development of my fae side, I have come to terms with the existence of it. It is a part of me and I am content with that. Actively displaying it, on the other hand, I still find difficult. When the first external manifestations appeared, I had little control over them. I grew used to the ears, and the wings, appearing at inconvenient moments when the Wyld energy was strongest around me. I have since learned to control my appearance, though with nowhere the facility that Gwyn has. The ears I can manage easily enough, but the wings, not so much. And, for whatever reason, it is the wings that Gwyn wishes me to be more comfortable with, and to be more open with wearing them. And so, I put myself to getting used to them. Of course, even that was not as simple as it might have been. When I first earned my wings, so to speak, they were a dark brooding red and feathered. Gwyn did not approve of those at all. I cannot say that I blame her, for they do look more suited to a demon or at best, a fallen angel.

darkfae_001

And so, it was time to try on some other wings. Of course, I am used to Gwyn changing her wings almost as often as she changes her clothes, but I had not considered it in respect of my own wings, nor was I entirely sure of the method of changing them. To be perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure how I manage to manifest the ones I am used to. I just think of them and they are there. Manifesting others is another thing entirely, even if I had some inkling what style of wings I would enjoy. I remember liking the wings that Janus, our lover and the other father of our children, had, the ones that resembled sycamore keys, but somehow that just did not work at all. Gwyn lent a hand and, after a couple of attempts that made me look like some mad scientist had  been experimenting on some unwilling Lepidoptera, we settled on something that we both liked, more like, in appearance, to the Odonata, specifically, a dragonfly. These, I can live with, being far less gaudy, and, to my tastes, anyway, more pleasing and refined. I could probably do without the coruscant effects, but perhaps I will learn to control that with time.

 

nbaw_015

Despite my fears, having the wings does not appear to require me to have a whole new wardrobe, as, unlike my beloved wife for whom it is almost a religion, I am not overly fond of shopping for clothes.  Somehow or other, in a manner I do not understand, which pretty much applies to most things about the fae side of my nature, my clothes adapt to the wings, or perhaps it is the wings that adapt to the clothes. I do not know, and I am disinclined to put this to the test by trying to don or discard a jacket while I am wearing the wings. There are mornings when I have a hard enough time getting my normal limbs into trouser legs and shirt sleeves (and I have to confess, on occasions of extreme inebriation, getting legs into shirt sleeves and vice versa), let alone getting a jacket over diaphanous wings twice the length of my arms.

nbaw_020

I spent the rest of the day wandering around Awenia, getting used to the wearing of the wings. Perhaps, by the time we have our meeting, I will be as comfortable with them as I am in my own shape.

nbaw_012

Spread Your Wings

 

Another Time Another Place

I have, it seems, become accustomed to the company of people who share at least some common experience with me. They are the people who understand what I am, where I am from and where I have been. They are my family – Gwyn, Wren, Bronwen, Drysi and Eilian; my extended family – Dyisi Valene, Aoibheann, and those who are only with me now in spirit – Faermorn and Maric. They all know me and know of my story, or at least those parts I have shared, and I do not need to explain.

And yet, there are times when I must move among those who do not understand, those who do not know. And, to make things worse, there are times when I would not be able to explain. There will be those to whom my story would be inexplicable. How could I explain my story to people for whom the vampire, the fae and other such beings exist only in fiction and lore? How could I explain the where and when of my journeys to those for whom yesterday, today and tomorrow happen only in strict succession, for whom the past is the past and the future comes one day at a time?

Of course, sometimes, it can come down a much simpler thing, such as the question “how old are you?”  Now this is a complicated question at the best of times, even among those who understand. I was born in 1853, by the calendar I once knew. I was embraced in 1885, when I was just shy of my 32nd birthday. There followed six years of travelling in what I foolishly believed to be the real world before I fetched up in the Isle of Legacies, that strange place that resembled, yet did not resemble, the London I knew as a young man. By then, I would have been 38 years of age by the calendar, but, the embrace stopped the process of aging, so was I 38 or 32? Some while later, I found myself in Jasper Cove, which was, so far as I could tell, contemporaneous with the modern day that Gwyn knew, the 21st century, albeit somehow in parallel to, rather than part of that time. By then, perhaps two years had passed, so far as I could tell, so was I 40, 34, or was I 159 years old? Such a simple question, yet so hard to answer.

I had reason to reflect on this question recently. Lacking anything constructive to occupy my time while the Consilium Arcanum’s gears grind slowly through the process of making Awenia an open fae realm, I decided to take to the Shadow Roads and go exploring. The Cait were happy to see me, but sadly there was no sign of their queen, save for the lingering scent of mint. So, after a while, I took my leave of them and, lacking any particular destination, decided to part the veil from the Roads and, trust to chance for my destination.  Well, not entirely to chance. My other ability, to walk the realms, given to me by Alec, my demonic former friend, would normally only take me to places or people I knew, however, I had learned that it could take me to other places where realm-walking was possible. So I reached out with that sense, and let that guide me, to see where it would take me.

It took me to a night club. Of course it did. Whatever the mechanisms are that allow me to travel this way, they must be influenced by experience, and after faerie and medieval castles, much of my experience has been in such places. This did not stop me being slightly exasperated. “A nightclub! Why is it always a nightclub?  All of time and space and I end up in a nightclub,” is more or less what I said once I got my bearings.

I was not expecting an answer, but I got one. An elegant young lady, dressed for some evening occasion, appeared and said that she supposed there were worse places. I could not disagree, and commented that given my navigational skills, this was entirely possible.  Hoping to get some clue as to my whereabouts, I asked if I would regret asking where I was.

She told me that I was in a club, in a mansion called La Chateau De La Rose. Fortunately, she said, there wasn’t an event on, because I wouldn’t have passed the dress code. This was likely true, as I was dressed casually. I promised to wear my tux next time. As to where I was, she then suggested using a smart phone or a GPS unit. That at least gave me some clue as to the when, if not the where. This place must more or less be concurrent with the time I had left. I knew that my phone was apparently a smart one and that it had GPS, however, I had not yet mastered the use of it, despite Wren’s guidance. I pulled it out and fumbled fruitlessly for a few moments before giving up and admitting my lack of expertise with technology.

And then came the question that stumped me. Well, not so much of a question as a statement that raised many questions I was ill-prepared to answer.

“You look pretty young not to know anything about technology!”

I had to admit that she was probably correct in that assumption. Whatever numerical value one might attach to my age, I look to be a man in his 30s, and it would be fair to assume that any man of that age would be familiar with the technology of the present time, which, I had to assume, was roughly commensurate with the time I had left, i.e. early in the 21st century. I prevaricated, saying that as a former night-club manager myself; I would probably not have let myself in dressed this way. She gestured to some armchairs nearby and suggested we sit. She then added a further question, asking where I had come from.

I was still at a loss as to an answer that made sense. Other than the approximate time period, I knew nothing of this place and certainly did not know how they would react to the somewhat paranormal nature of myself and my travels. I opted for a believable half-truth. “Technically, I am about 40,” I told her and explained that I had only recently been introduced to technology. “It’s complicated,” I said, adding that this also applied to the matter of my travels.

She seemed to accept that, taking this to mean that I must have been living in the woods, somewhere off the grid. I had come across this phrase before as referring to people who prefer to live a simpler life, or sometimes wishing not to be noticed by the authorities. In either case, an avoidance of technology was involved. It seemed safe enough to let her continue with this assumption. I agreed that “off the grid” was a good way to put it and said that my daughter had been teaching me about technology. That also seemed a safer option than mentioning I had also learned from a demon that went by the name of Skeleton, and from my fae queen wife.

I decided to change the subject away from possibly risky territory towards something more plausible, like me needing a job, since I had mentioned my own involvement in the night club business. She had used the word “we” in respect of having a dress code, so I asked if she was part of the club management. She was not, but gave me some names – Mitch and Amythe who might be able to help. I recorded this in my trusty notebook, as has been my habit for many years. Then I noticed her expression and thought I would show that I did have some facility with modern technology by getting my phone out and making a similar note on that. Of course, being inexperienced, I managed to set off the music player by mistake, but that turned out to be a fortuitous accident, for it diverted the conversation onto more pleasing matters.

Wren had shown me how to download music onto the phone, so when I accidentally started the player, it started playing the Overture to the Mikado. I managed to stop it after a few bars, but that was enough for my new friend to recognise. She commented on me being caught between two technologies but complimented me on my taste in music and appreciation for the theatre. I told her I was pleasantly surprised to meet a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, saying that too few people appreciated such things these days. I also thought I’d establish my more serious music credentials by singing a few lines of An die Freude. I told her a little about my mother and how she had raised me on fine literature, music and the other arts. She seemed most impressed that I had been raised in a cultured household. She used the word ‘classical’, which I thought quite amusing, as that word might well apply to my Victorian upbringing from her point of view. Of course, I didn’t mention that, but I did say I had practical skills too, learning the craft of building, and especially woodwork, from my father.

I did ask after her background, but I received no answer. She looked to be lost in thought for a while and then departed abruptly without a word. Perhaps some pager or phone message I had not noticed, or some other summons by means unknown. Or, for all I knew, she had suddenly grown bored and decided to leave. Either way, she did not return, and, lacking any other company, I decided I should return home. This place, whatever land it might be, intrigues me, so I shall explore further another day.

Another Time Another Place

Time for Change

I paid a brief visit to Mysthaven today, to see how the reconstruction was progressing. Things seem to be slowly settling down, although the castle still, to me, seems somewhat fluid. Meanwhile, in the town square, smaller details are beginning to appear – braziers and other lanterns to light the area, benches for people to sit.

And there is a notice-board. I had not considered such a thing before, relying on my daily briefings with the stewards and them then disseminating the information to the townsfolk. I still prefer that method, although I can see much benefit in a written version for those who were not present, or for visitors.

There was only one thing on the notice-board. It was an old friend, in the shape of the painted version of Maric’s Laws of Mysthaven, which had previously been affixed to the tavern door. I don’t know how it had survived the reshaping of the town, but somehow it had, and somebody had decided the town notice-board was the place for it. I cannot disagree with that choice, as it would be the logical place for it, now that we had a notice-board. I reached out and touched the paintwork, remembering when I had asked for it to be made. And, I read the laws for the first time in a long while Of course, I know them off by heart, but, I have rarely had cause to think of them, nor have I consciously registered them when going in and out of the tavern.

Reading them again gave me to thinking. Maric, for all that I loved him and love him still, is gone. Mysthaven is mine to guard and protect now. Mine is the law of the land now. Perhaps, it was time to revisit those laws.

LAWS OF MYSTHAVEN

The castle and village and surrounding forest of Mysthaven is guarded at all times by a strong fighting force under my command. I guard what is mine and under my protection by all necessary means.

All are welcome to shelter within Mysthaven, if they abide by the following laws:

Seek no actions hostile to me or those I command or you shall be exiled.

Provide what is needed to me and to those I command upon request or you risk exile.

If you die and do not return to your body by other means, you are then mine to command as I see fit.

Those exiled or unwelcome to Mysthaven shall be turned away at the Gate or else hunted or killed.

Acceptance gains my protection. Refusal shall be exile. My Word is Law.

By Decree of

Lord Maric

I can find little to disagree with there, save for that third clause, concerning the disposition of those who died. That one, I feel, should change, for there I do not hold with Maric’s views. It is not for me to decide the fate of those who are unfortunate enough to die while in my service or under my protection. If circumstances permitted, I would make the offer, but I would never presume to make that choice for them, unless they had expressed some prior preference. That is something I should do some time soon, enquire of the guards and the volunteer force, and my stewards as to their preference in this matter, since they are the ones most likely to die in my service.

I am not so sure about the fourth clause, now I think about it. Those who trespass against Mysthaven should be exiled, but I am not so sure about execution. If they attack, then we will defend, to the death. Hunting and killing, well, that would depend on the crime. Again, this one I will have to consider further.

I should probably add a reference to the Accords between Mysthaven and the Summerlands, since I am responsible for enforcing those as well. Assuming, of course, that Mornoth intends to uphold them too.

I could make these changes, but, while it is time for change, I do not think I can make those changes alone. I should consult with Kustav and my stewards. Ultimately, as Lord of Mysthaven, the decision is mine, and mine alone, but I would rather have some consensus before I make that decision. I shall have to meet with them soon.

Another thought occurs to me in regard to that clause regarding the disposition of the dead. That was Maric’s law and he held great power in respect of the deceased. As a vampire. I now hold that power, even if I do not yet know, fully, the extent of those powers. I have not yet explored that because I lack knowledge. But, and therein lies the rub, I am something different from Maric. I also hold the fae power, the power of the Wyld. Isabella may not have intended that, for she did not even know I was there, but she imbued me with that life-giver energy. T hat was further strengthened by the Quickening I received from Faermorn, and no doubt, has since been reinforced because I am consort to a Faerie Queen. I know what I can do as a vampire, for I have done it to one of the guards. I know I can bring a man back from the brink, into the dark life I know, or knew. What I can do with the powers that Maric had, I do not yet know. Similarly, I do not know what power I have over life and death from the fae side, and there, as with the vampire powers, there are none that I can ask. Worse still, it is not something I can practice, save by killing people and then experimenting, which I cannot countenance.  Perhaps the answers lie in Maric’s library, which I shall no doubt peruse, once the castle has finished reshaping itself. Perhaps there are answers too among the fae texts, if I can gain access to them. There, I hope my daughter can help. Mornoth may object, but I am sure she can be very persuasive. When I find her again, I shall have to ask.

Time for Change

If You Don’t Know Me By Now

According to the Bard, the night before the big battle, Henry V went among his men, disguised in a borrowed cloak to see how they fared and what they were thinking. His reasoning being that they would not know him without the trappings of his rank and would thus give a more honest response. Of course, not everything he heard was to his liking, but such are the perils of going incognito.

It would make sense that most of the men in that army would not know their king by his face, because there were many of then and only a few would have occasion to see him save on the battlefield, when he would be fairly obvious.  One might have thought it would be harder to remain incognito here in Awenia. It is not a huge realm and both Gwyneth and I are not prone to hiding in our castle. Nevertheless, it is, apparently, possible.

Gwyneth and I had arranged to go out for dinner. Partly because we like to spend time together occasionally, as married couples do, and partly because we wanted to see how the eateries in town would deal with visitors in advance of us opening the realm. And so, we arranged to meet and eat.

Unfortunately, I arrived a little late, delayed by official business and by mistakenly going to the wrong restaurant at first. Now, I had expected a fairly informal, intimate dinner, and had dressed appropriately – what I gather is known as smart-casual, so I was somewhat surprised to find her there in full regalia, speaking to the kitchen and wait staff. I took it in my stride, complimented her on her beauty and commented that I felt woefully underdressed next to her.

Now, while I do not lack a sense of humour, I am not overly given to cracking jokes, however, this remark sent the entire restaurant staff into hysterical laughter. My beloved wife seemed equally amused, and even more so by my apparent bemused expression. I am not quite sure why, since bemused seems to have been my default state of mind since she entered my life.

We took our seats and perused the menu. After a few moments, she took pity on me and explained. Apparently, she had also dressed down for the occasion. The waiter who was supposed to be attending our table had somehow failed to recognise her and had been most insistent that this table was reserved for important guests and refused to allow her to sit. He had also told her that she was woefully underdressed for the establishment, which explained the laughter when I had applied the same description to myself. Apparently, he had insisted on standing his ground, continuing to refuse her, and continuing to not recognise her, despite the portrait on the wall, until she changed the glamour to appear in her full regalia.

The poor man was mortified to say the least, and tried begging her pardon. Which, I am sure my darling Gwyneth will grant him, eventually. In the meantime, she decided that he could be better put to work elsewhere and gave him into the tender care of Bran, suggesting that he might serve well as a footman. I cannot blame the man entirely, as he is apparently relatively new to Awenia and may not yet be fully familiar with its inhabitants or its leaders. And I have to give him credit for doing his job, albeit while labouring under a misapprehension. And, he provided some measure of entertainment too, even if I missed most of it.

After that, we had an excellent dinner, and the staff, no doubt wishing to avoid future careers below stairs at the castle, performed their tasks most efficiently. I am tempted to have a quiet word with Bran and suggest that he makes sure that establishments are fully briefed before we go out to dinner again, to avoid repetition of this embarrassment.  On the other hand, that might deprive us of future amusement and the opportunity to hear what the people think. Of course, with the latter, there is the risk that we, like Henry, might hear things not to our liking. I am not sure how I would feel about that, or how Gwyneth would like it either. I guess we’ll just have to see how things go.

If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Seal

 

A Room for Everything

I have limited experience of this modern marvel that is called television. And for what it can deliver, I have to agree that it is a marvel, even if the word itself, a bastard hybrid of Latin and Greek offends me somewhat. I am, it would seem, not the only one to think so. I was quite surprised to discover that C.P. Scott, a journalist and politician from my own time, experienced this marvel, presumably after I left that particular timeline, and commented something along the lines of “Television? The word is half Greek, half Latin. No good can come of it.”

I have to disagree with the latter part, but perhaps he did not live to see all that it could offer in terms of drama, documentaries (these programmes about the natural world are quite stunning) and even comedy, although I lack the cultural context that would enable me to understand much of the latter. Among the offerings that this medium offers seem to be rather a large number of programmes (I believe that is the correct word, although it seems that Americans prefer programs) devoted to the construction, acquisition, remodelling, refurbishment, decoration and furnishing of houses and homes. Father would have perhaps enjoyed the construction programmes; although I think he might have disapproved of the fascination such things seem to hold for people who would not know one face of a brick from the other.

Mother would probably have enjoyed those programmes about decorating and furnishing. This latter was something she often sought my opinion on, when we would sometimes travel to London to browse the stores for such things. I do not know why. Perhaps she enjoyed the company, or perhaps she appreciated my contrasting, if less well informed, opinion.  On music, poetry and literature, I can at least offer an informed opinion, but when it comes to soft furnishings and drapes and other such things, I could only offer an entirely subjective reaction. Perhaps that was all she needed. I was certainly happy enough to indulge her. I can almost hear her voice, commenting on the decisions made in some of these redecorating programmes and decrying their choice of colours or fabrics. Or perhaps she wouldn’t. While she was not a slavish follower of the latest fashions, she was well enough informed about them and understood the reasons for them, so she would probably have adapted well to the modern aesthetic.

One minor aspect of some of these programmes seems to involve the presenters, or possibly the potential buyers of a property, walking through and commenting on the use of the rooms. “This will make a great study” and “this would be ideal for the children’s bedroom” and such like. Now there I am on a firmer footing. Only a short while ago, my darling Gwyn summoned me to solicit my opinions with regard to our new official residence in Awenia, which opinions I was happy to supply, and she was seemingly happy to accept. Of course, we have both been somewhat busy since then, so implementation of those ideas is very much a work in progress. That is not an issue, since our private spaces are already established, and the more “public” areas of the castle are unlikely to be needed for a while.

In the meanwhile, I found myself attending to a similar task at another castle. My old home, the Castle of Mysthaven, is slowly reconstructing itself, albeit in a rather strange manner more reminiscent of a Perpendicular Gothic cathedral than a castle. Nevertheless, my castle is what it will be until such time as I can find a successor to the Lordship of Mysthaven. I took myself across the realms a few days ago, to see how things progressed. I did not encounter Aoibheann or my daughter, but I did meet with my stewards. They, much as Gwyn did recently, solicited my opinion of the allocation of function to the various rooms.

The entrance to the castle is suitably grand and imposing and will serve well as a general reception/waiting area, though obviously, it will need some furniture – bench seats, occasional tables and such like. A raised area, near the window, and at the bottom of the stairs looks like a good place to have informal meetings and discussions. A place for comfortable chairs and low tables, for chats with my stewards and people from the town over a pot of coffee and a few pastries. There was a large, impressive seat there. A magnificent construction of wood and leather, perhaps intended as some kind of throne. If I have to have a throne, I would rather something such as this than a gaudy affair of gilded, carved wood and red velvet. Maybe it will look better once in the proper place, rather than left here, presumably put down for some reason and not subsequently moved.

I was less pleased by the next room, which had a raised area at one side, clearly intended as some sort of dais for a throne, or possibly for an altar. I dismissed the latter out of hand, since I have no intention of taking up any religion for myself, much less imposing such on anybody else. For my personal preference, I would as soon dismiss the former idea out of hand too. I have no desire to sit upon a throne of any sort, much less hold audience from one in such a grand and imposing room. That said, much as the concept repels me, I can see there may be a necessity for such things. The people of Mysthaven are used to my informal ways, but visitors from elsewhere, even Faerie, may need to see the trappings of power and authority. Mornoth probably expects such things, and Bronwyn probably accepts the necessity, although I hope that what she will see is still her father, outside the formalities of court.

A semi-circular area off the throne room would serve well for gatherings and perhaps feasting and a more convivial setting for after the formal business of court. This should be a multipurpose area, and when not otherwise in use, will be a nice place to stand and look out over the town.

On the other side of the reception area, there are a couple of rooms that can be a meeting room, for more business-like meetings, and my office, for I should still have such in this new castle. Here I could receive visitors in a more private setting and sit and discuss matters of state, of trade, of treaties etc without the trappings of court. I could also have smaller formal meals here, which will be a little more cosy and comfortable than the main court room.

Up the stairs, of which there were many, were rooms that would serve well as guest quarters for those of my visitors I could not politely lodge at the tavern, and rooms that will serve well as my private chambers. I do not imagine that I will be spending a great deal of time here as my primary residence is always going to be the castle in Awenia, but, a Lord should have his private chambers, where I can retire from the business of being Lord of Mysthaven, and perhaps where I can receive more intimate guests, should I ever have any.

The vaults themselves do not seem to have changed that much. Maric’s laboratory looks pretty much as I remember it, as do the quarters for the men. I do not know why. Perhaps it is by design, but if that is so, then I might ask the question, as did Blake, “What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” It could be that the presence of the laboratory, and the aura of magic that surrounds it, have somehow protected them from change. Or, perhaps the process of change is not yet complete. For now, it is enough that there is some place familiar to me.

That logical part of my mind that was shaped by Father’s influence tells me that there should be further rooms to explore at the higher levels, especially given the height of the main tower, but I could not find any way to them. Perhaps, that too is a work in progress.

I did not see many others around the town. At the moment, the town seems subdued, quiet, with the townsfolk going about their business quietly scuttling from one place to another in case a building falls on their heads. Given the fluid mature of the realm, this is entirely possible and I can not blame them. They were pleased enough to see me, and some had questions regarding the disposition of the other buildings around the town square, but overall, they seemed as content as could be expected given the changes they are undergoing. My stewards have been doing an excellent job in my absence. Much as I would like to claim credit for that, they were already more than competent before I took the reigns. I would like to think, however, that they have learned something from me. Perhaps they have.

I gave further suggestions regarding the disposition and furnishing of the various rooms of the castle, and regarding the other buildings, but they were only suggestions. The townsfolk and my stewards have been a part of the town a lot longer than I have, and they likely know what is best. I took my leave then, and returned to Awenia and to my wife. There at least, although the castle is still new to me, is home.

A Room for Everything – 10,000 Maniacs