I came back to the tavern later in the evening to see if there were any late customers and relieve Aoibheann if there were. It was quiet, just Cristof and a large winged creature, very dark of appearance, almost certainly a demon. Cristof seemed somewhat out of it and left soon after, as did Aoibheann.
Lalla came into the tavern, but looked rather wary of the demon. I cannot say I blamed her. She has had enough shocks lately, without dealing with beings she is not used to. Nevertheless, she took a table in the corner and mouthed coffee at me. The demon looked as though it were quite content to stay where it was and lick at the flames from the brazier, so I quickly ran into the kitchen, conquered the espresso machine (how had I been so afraid of it before?) and brought her the coffee.
Bynx came in to buy a bottle of scotch. He seemed fascinated by the demon and said so. At this point, it spoke and asked if they didn’t have demons where he came from. So, I had been right in my assessment. Bynx replied that they didn’t, just the felines and ones with feathers. I asked if this meant birds, but apparently it doesn’t. With a little bit of effort, Bynx revealed some angelic-looking wings. It seems that those of his race who practice magic grow the wings as a side-effect. I sold him the scotch and he left, saying he was going down to the mine-workings to practice his magic. I advised against drinking and flying. If only I had advised against drinking and magic.
Lalla seemed to overcome her fear of the demon, since it was making no overtly aggressive moves, just sitting at the bar, licking the flames. She came and sat at the bar close to me. Perhaps she felt safer there. I asked the demon if it would like some more candles and sold him a box of 12, plus a box of matches. This seemed to please him as he needed to keep warm. I suggested the bake-house, but he was content with the candles. Lalla asked if she could have some candles for down at the temple, but most of the time, she seemed worried by the demon and I got the impression there was an argument going on with Adam.
Then things started to get a little strange. There was a sudden bright light in the sky outside, almost dazzling. My automatic reaction was to start counting, thinking it was lightning and counting to see how far away it was before the thunder came. Strange how I remember Father teaching me that when I was very young and afraid of thunderstorms. The thunder never came though. I checked with Lalla and she had seen the same thing. A few moments later, there was another one, and it occurred to me that Bynx had gone off in that direction to practice his magic spells. We wondered if maybe that was what was causing the lights. Lalla seemed worried and I was too, wondering if alcohol and magic were a good mix.
Lalla and I set off towards the mine-works. I left her at the top of the path, suggesting that it would be bad for both of us to go in, and that she should wait outside ready to dive in the water or come rescue me. She was feeling the cold, so I gave her my jacket. I knocked on the door and called out for Bynx. A few moments later, he replied that he was OK and emerged. Clearly OK means something different in his land, because he appeared to be on fire. Naturally, I backed off a little, but he seemed mostly unperturbed by it. The flames seemed to be burning around him, but not burning his skin or fur. He said he had been practising a fireball spell but it had gone wrong. He had already tried jumping in the water, but that didn’t work on magical fire. Now, I am no expert on magic, not in the least, but I remembered something about it being based around the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. I suggested reversing the spell, or casting an opposite element. This resulted in a very localised snowstorm, but that did not quell the flames. The demon joined us and I asked if he could do anything as he seemed to have an affinity with fire. His response that it was down to the magic caster. I assured him that Bynx would appreciate the help, but he still seemed unable, or unwilling to do anything. I suggested maybe an earth spell might help, but that just ended up with him being encased in a tree, just like Merlin, but I hoped not as fatally. Lalla tried to help, but he managed to reverse that spell anway. No luck on extinguishing the flames though. Then he said something about having tried the wrong sort of water spell. This time he created a small rain shower, which instantly turned to steam, but, it did the job. He seemed pleased with the results and said that he would retire to his cottage for a rest and another drink.
Lalla and I headed back to the tavern where it was warmer. I had tried to keep her behind me during all the excitement, in case anything went wrong, so I could shield her. I was surprised how nice it felt, having her wrap her arms around my waist. I know it has been some while since I felt the touch of a woman, and I know she was just there wanting comfort and protection, but, it still felt good.
Back at the tavern, I made hot chocolate and tried to deal with the aftermath. While she had carried herself well during the excitement, I was somewhat expecting a bit of a reaction afterwards. I did my best to comfort her and advise her on how to protect herself. She accused me of sounding like her father when she went away to college. I think she feels the loss of the things she is used to, shops, the mysterious TV etc. Also, she is not used to fantastical creatures save from seeing them on this TV. Most of all, she wanted somewhere to rest. I came round to the front of the bar and hugged her, trying to offer some comfort. I assured her that I would look out for her as much as I could, and then, I am still not sure why, offered her a place to stay. Following the king’s suggestion, I have been using one of the flats across the gardens. Since I am hardly there, it made sense for her to use it too.
I took her over, showed her round, told her to put her stuff in the wardrobe etc. She relaxed a lot more once we were there, and seemed truly grateful. We hugged a while, and for a moment or two, it seemed like more than just a friendly hug. Or maybe I imagined it. I am somewhat out of practice. Still, I found myself enjoying her presence, her warmth. I just hope she didn’t notice my lack thereof. I will have to tell her some time, as I will Aoibheann, but it’s a matter of finding the right moment. It was getting late, so I told her she could have the bed as I hardly ever used it. I told her I often ended up sleeping outside after falling asleep over my writing, or indoors, on the sofa. She got into bed and was asleep almost instantly. I kicked off my shoes and lay on the sofa, wondering what was going on. Was I doing this out of kindness, or something more? I thought of the values Mother taught me, which reassured me I was doing the right thing. If something more happens, then so be it, but I won’t take advantage of her vulnerability. After that, sleep soon claimed me.