It is said that truth is stranger than fiction. Each day that I remain here in Jasper Cove only serves to strengthen my belief in that saying. Only a few days ago, I was being taught how to cook by a bright orange unicorn. Yesterday morning, I spent part of my evening comforting said unicorn while she mourned her, for want of a better word, late husband.
I had only gone across to the tavern to do my usual morning stock-take and update of the books. Mitternacht came wandering in, so I jokingly asked about the earlier disagreement with Neelam over cosmology, noting the absence of spilled machine oil or magic burns. I am not entirely sure she understood me, being more concerned that she may, or may not have upset Aoibheann by casting some magic in the tavern. I could not answer that definitively, but I did say that I had seen Aoibheann since, and she had not made any reference to unwelcome magic, so I felt it safe to assume that nothing had happened. Either way, Mitternacht seemed inclined to make some amends by giving a coin to Aoibheann, apparently the last coin she had of her homeland. I took it and put it in the cash box, saying I would make sure that Aoibheann got it. It was hard to tell exactly what was going on because Mitternacht’s speech was somewhat disjointed and rambling. I have noticed this in her before and always put it down to her age, but this time was worse, sounding almost frightened and lost before falling silent, not even her usual muttering.
I was concerned that something was wrong; had she eaten something she should not have, or was something else wrong? I could not feel a pulse, not that I would know where to look and she seemed colder than I would have thought was normal. I tried to get her to settle down with a blanket, but she would have none of it, wailing “No No No” and “Why?” in English and something I could not understand in her own language, other than somebody was dead, somebody called Star Chaser. I could not make much of what she said out, but the impression was that Star Chaser had been very dear to her, perhaps whatever passes for a husband among her kind. I was at a loss as to how to provide any comfort, knowing so little about her culture and beliefs. The only words I could think of were what I might have said to a mourning human, about the deceased having gone to meet their maker. Remembering what she had told me about the Artisan, I offered that as a possibility; that maybe Star Chaser was now with the Artisan. That appeared to make some sense to her. She mumbled something about the ashes and water being refired to make a new sculpture, but then started wailing again. I knew not what else I could do, save empathise, so spoke of my own losses; of my mother and my late wife, how I had grieved for them, but had found strength to live on.
I don’t know if that got through to her or if something else happened, for she seemed suddenly to come back to life, her grief forgotten. In fact, the whole episode was forgotten, including, apparently, how she got there. All she could remember was losing her temper and preparing to unleash some aggressive magic, then feeling bad about that because of Aoibheann’s aversion to magic. I assured her again that nothing appeared to have happened, reminding her that she had come here to give a coin to Aoibheann. Then she mentioned something else; that the Huntsman had been there and that she wanted to so something about him. I explained briefly what I knew of the Huntsman and recommended she talk to the king about it. She asked what had passed since she arrived in the tavern. I did not wish to embarrass her, so said only that she had expressed grief over the loss of somebody called Star Chaser. She acknowledged that, and that he had been her husband and then, claiming she had left something cooking, was gone.
The whole episode, combined with my recent encounters with Sophia, left me in a reflective mood. I have long come to terms with my losses; at least, the loss of Mother and Alexandra, and no longer grieve. But then, I found myself reflecting on other losses, those occasioned by distance rather than death, or at least I hope that is so. Neelam’s recent change of appearance, particularly the lack of clothing and the tail, brought a pang for my friends at Fiendish Pleasures, particularly my dearest Valene. In fact, I think I dreamed of her a little; I was back on board the Bold Admiral, and somehow, she had a cat deliver a message. I do not recall exactly. Like many of my dreams, the details vanish on waking. I thought also of Catt, still presumably away in her icy realm, and my dear, dear Helene. I do hope she made it out of London alive and well.
I wandered down to the lookout point again, where I had had my last conversation with Sophia, and found my attention drawn by the creaking of the ship below me at the dock, and the far horizon, barely visible against the night sky, and it called me, far more strongly than I had felt it before. Perhaps it is the silence that seems to have fallen upon this place. Too many nights of late, it seems that I am the only soul on this strange island, with no customers at the tavern, and no signs of activity elsewhere. When I arrived here, I had been on a journey, to find the one that made me; my much missed sire and mistress, Katharina. The boatman had offered me a chance of a new life here, and I took it. Sometimes though, I wonder. Is she out there somewhere, waiting for me to find her? Should I take my leave of this place and continue my search? Or should I stay here and discover what my purpose here is. The long night, silent but for the call of the birds, and the sound of the wind and the sea, offered no answers.