Young Aoibheann never ceases to surprise me. Well, I say young, when I do not really know how old she is, but she seems young to me. Have I grown so old, in this, my other life, that I see others as young, even if they are not so? I would guess that in the future, when I have passed many years unchanged by the ravages of time, I will have reason to feel that others are young. But, let us get back to the matter of Aoibheann. Lacking any reason to sleep, I went to the tavern early in the morning, where I found Aoibheann, sitting in front of the book she intends to be a journal, and some sheets of writing paper. I was pleased to learn that she had overcome the hardest obstacle and actually started writing. She looked tired and admitted it had taken her some hours to do. I reassured her that it would become easier with practice, especially as she was so unused to the pen. Then, she honoured me by asking if I would check it for her. She seemed intent that what went into the book should be correctly done. This was understandable as it was a handsome volume she had there, and she knew her spelling was not the best. And so, she gave me the first entry to read.
I was mightily pleased and impressed with it and told her so. Yes, the spelling was atrocious, but the writing, that was a different matter. Not sophisticated, by any means, but eloquent and honest. She had decided to write an introduction, or ‘introdukshun ‘ as she spelled it, something I do not even remember if I did when I started my journal, and then proceeded to tell the tale she had told me the day before. She told it much more expressively and with more detail and background. If this is the quality of her writing now, then I might have to watch out, as I think there may be a budding author here. I complimented her and then proceeded to give her a list of corrections, explaining some of them as I went – contractions and homophones, for example. She told me that I should add teacher to my list of trades. I told her that I was very grateful I had been fortunate enough to have an education, so was always pleased to pass some of it in. I did mention that Mother would have liked me to have gone into teaching, had I not chosen accountancy as a career. I resolved that I should go by the bookshop and buy her a dictionary next time I see Emanuel.
It was then that we noticed the king standing watching us. He enquired as to what we were doing, but sensing Aoibheann’s embarrassment, I told him it was just some writing and spelling practice. One of the older princesses, Wren, I think her name is, was hiding behind him, playing games, poking him and pretending to not be there. The king played along with a joke about invisible beasts and Aoibheann and I joined in, commenting on missing sweets and cookies. For all my lack of experience, I find it remarkably easy to slip into the role of dealing with children. Maybe I could have been a good father after all. The child insisted on continuing the game, blaming an invisible ghost for the poking, even after her father had caught her. I found my bag of mint imperials was still in my pocket so I gave her one. I hope the next trading mission will include some trading in confectionary, for I should hate to be without them entirely. Alec, as I shall dare call him, in my journal at least, for ‘the king’ is so tedious to repeat, asked after my draft agreement and I said I would have it soon, provided he was happy to accept the valuation in the sterling of my time. He also asked if I would be willing to give some mathematics lessons to the child, in practical terms, and I promised I would soon. It’s about time I did a stock check, so that would be a good example. It would have to be later, though, as I had business elsewhere.
Later, I returned to the tavern, to find their majesties there with the youngest princess, and Gwyn serving behind the bar. Anna was there also, giving Riley her dinner. I walked in part-way through a conversation, where reference was made to the queen eating for two. At last, an explanation for the sickness. Well, she had said she was not ill when I visited the castle before. I congratulated her on the good news. I must confess, I let my chivalric tongue run away with me a little, and was full of fine compliments and praises of her beauty. So much so that Alec insisted I compliment him too; which I did in equally eloquent style. They were much amused by my silver tongue, but I sense Gwyn was irritated by it. We spoke of names for the children – Malachi if it is a boy and Anika Rose if a girl. I suspect Alec wants a boy, as he is apparently insisting on referring to it as Malachi, even before it is born. There was a moment of sadness for me in this conversation, when I was assuring the queen that she would remain beautiful even as her girth increased, mentioning that Alexandra had been beautiful to me, right up to the end. I don’t think anybody noticed, which was a good thing, as I would have hated to explain about her death in that time of celebration. Instead, I bought a round of drinks to help celebrate. Gwyn cheered up a little and had a brandy, although she made reference to me as ‘highness’. I disclaimed that title, claiming only plain ‘mister’ but Alec then weighed in by insisting that once our business deal is confirmed, I would thenceforth be Lord Ballard. Great! Thanks, sire! Nevertheless, we toasted the future prince, or princess, whichever it may come out to be.
The party broke up soon after. The royals headed back to the palace to put the princess to bed, Anna likewise to her dwelling to do the same with Riley. Soon, it was just Gywn and I. She seemed glum and annoyed with me. I apologised for any unintentional offence and asked what was bothering her. It turned out that it had been a frustrating week and she was having difficulty adjusting – dealing with fauns (presumably Jade), that kid that never speaks (presumably Riley), not being able to make ink because the picnic interrupted the search for oak galls, or toffee apples because she could not find where Aoibheann had hidden the apples (out of reach of the children). She also expressed the fear that I might become too hoity-toity to help out at the inn. Also, I think she is having trouble fitting in, feeling a little out of place with all the ‘exotic’ beings here. I explained about the faun and about Riley, sympathised over the ink, told her where the apples were and assured her that I was very unlikely to be come too hoity-toity to work in the tavern as I liked it there. She seemed to settle down a bit and I pulled the special brandy out from my secret stash and poured her some of that instead. I told her a little of my life story and she told me she was from Deptford and the year 2012, which may account for her view of medieval life and a lot of her language. She told me that she likes role-playing games, which seemed to be some kind of interactive collaborative fiction. I told her about my writing, which she seemed interested in, and wanted to ask me about my writing process, but later, when she had less alcohol in her.
Later, a new person came in; whose name we later learned was Cassandra. Her appearance made me think of the India, but it was not so apparent in the way she spoke. Somehow, she seemed to radiate heat. She asked for any clear spirit, so we gave her a glass of vodka. She did not drink it, just set it between her hands and somehow, made it evaporate. Most odd. I know some dragons can take human form, but I do not know what else she might be.
Conversation got a little confusing after that. She asked about how people came to be here and if there were any natives to this land. I must confess I did not know how to answer that, other than that most people I knew had arrived here via the ferryman, but possibly the king & queen founded the place. Somehow, things got very mixed up in my explanations leading to Gwyn insisting that the king get mobile internets and helicopters, whatever those might be, and bring them to the island, and then insisting that she gets to go on the next trade mission so she could write in a face book, again, whatever that might be, to let her friends know where she was. I admitted I did not know how it worked, and that, for all I know, I could only trade with the London of 1891 that I knew. I did come up with the idea that I could perhaps place a message in an advertisement in a newspaper of my day in the hope that one of her friends would be interested in history and read the advertisement 120 years later. Most ingenious, or so I thought. Gwyn was less impressed, telling me that Victorians and Vampires had been a passing craze that was now over – in her time. A matter of a series of books about vampires, she said, that had become very popular for a while. What a fascinating concept that would be. Maybe, somehow, I should arrange for my diaries to be preserved so that I could be part of that craze. Maybe, in some convoluted way, which is entirely possible, given the odd nature of time here, I already am. Now wouldn’t that be amusing?