Travel broadens the mind, or so it is said. It is possibly true. I like think my mind is sufficiently broadened and I have travelled. At least I have travelled to northern Europe and the Americas. It was only after I joined the shipping company that old man Haskins opened a sister company to work the Mediterranean and northern Africa, so I never really had cause to visit those parts, much as I would have loved to.
Of course, one might say that having survived over seven years as a creature of myth and spending so much time in the company of other mythical and legendary creatures was sufficiently mind-broadening in itself, but I would still like to have travelled more. Perhaps, some day, I shall, if I ever find a way off this island.
Today, the world came to me, in the form of an Egyptian princess and an Arabian Sultana. And yet, it is perhaps an indication of the surreal nature of my life that these were not the most exotic parts of my day.
The princess came in at lunchtime. I saw her standing outside the tavern, looking nervously in. She was of Mediterranean appearance, and dressed the sort of exotic clothing seen illustrations of places like Turkey and the Middle East. Her command of English was uncertain and she seemed very wary of me at first. It was fortunate that I was wearing my waistcoat with the world map on it. After some confusion and misunderstandings, we were able to use it to determine that she was from Egypt. Her name was Khunsu and she later said she was the daughter of some name I didn’t quite catch, but ended in ..hotep. I’m not up on history, but I am fairly sure that hotep is a name that belongs long in the past. She was most keen to find somebody called Nwst, which I did understand, but after some explanation and a bit of pantomime using a metal bowl as a hat and miming a beard, I reasoned that she wanted to see the king. This turned out to be the case, so I took her up to the castle. The king was sleeping, but the queen seemed kindly disposed to our visitor, so I left her in her care.
The Sultana turned up during the evening shift. Jasmine was her name, from Mecca. Aiobheann had clearly met her before and seemed a little nervous – from deference rather than fear and asked if she wanted fish to eat. Clearly, she had gotten some idea of the lady’s dietary restrictions. Jasmine assured her that there were other things she could eat and we settled on a meal of lamb chops. I did not have much chance to talk with her as she had to leave quite suddenly after her meal. I did gather that she was mostly interested in learning about our western culture and ways. I was struck by an expression she used in Arabic, which more or less meant something along the lines of ‘you do your thing and I’ll do mine’ which seemed a very sensible attitude with regards to clash of cultures.
Aoibheann was back from her unfortunate incident with the belladonna. She was somewhat concerned that others may have fallen victim to her mistake but I assured her that all the tarts had been accounted for and disposed of. In the course of this discussion, I learned that the mysterious Anna twin was also called Anna, which seemed far too coincidental for my liking. She works at the infirmary, as well as doing cooking for the tavern. I explained about the Anna I knew, and this led to some talk of our respective pasts – mine and Aiobheann’s that is – and our respective losses. I told her about Anna and Alexandra and she told me that she had left somebody behind when she took that ferryman’s hand, and had often wondered what might have happened if she had said no. I told her that speculating on what might have been was fruitless, which discussion occupied us for a while.
It was then that the evening got more exotic. Our second customer of the evening came in. Gonthore was his name, we learned later. Nothing unusual in that, except Gonthore was a dragon. This did not bother me at all, being well used to those I knew in London, but Aiobheann seemed most perturbed. From what she said, I gather she has unfortunate experience of dragons where she comes from. This one seemed to want no more than a pint of ale and somewhere to rest. We gave him the former and I suggested the cave and mine-workings for the latter. It seemed to be able to read minds to some extent, which I had not encountered before in dragon-kind. Or maybe it just picked up on Aoibheann’s fear. I tried my best to reassure her that this one seemed to have no ill intent, and at the same time, made it quite clear to the dragon that if it showed any, it would find another, less friendly side to us. He seemed unsurprised by this; perhaps he is used to his kind being feared. He left us shortly after, paying for his drink with what seemed to be quite a large gem of some sort. Guess I’ll have to list that one as “goods in kind” when I do the accounts.