Spring is Sprung

Given how… eclectic and eccentric… everything is in Jasper Cove, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the seasons are too. Spring arrived overnight without a hint of its approach.  Well, aside from the fact that the snow has been gone from the courtyard for a while, while remaining elsewhere on the island.  As I found later in the day, all is green and blossom, which is a blessed relief after the cold grey of the winter.  Snow is very pretty, and snowball fights, sledging and such are fun, but it gets a bit wearing after a while.

I took advantage of the nicer weather to sit outside before the sun got too dangerous, reading.  As is often the case when I read, I was lost to the world, not even noticing when Sophia walked by until she started chatting with Aoibheann.  I got up and joined them and ended up making coffee, after explaining to Aoibheann what Irish meant, in the context of Irish coffee, which Sophia did not want, not at that hour.  That was interesting, because Aoibheann disclaims that nationality, despite the name.  She did not even know the word Ireland either, not seeming to recognise the name, but when I mentioned Dublin, she said “Duiḃlinn is in Èirinn”, the latter, being, if I recall correctly, the Scots Gaelic name for Ireland.  Maybe I’ve been wrong about her all this time.

Sophia wanted to know about grocery shopping, so I asked her what things she wanted, so she said she would get me a list. I made her some toast to go with the coffee, thinking she was probably a little light in the larder, which she was highly delighted with.  She also asked if there had been an earthquake the night before, claiming there had been some rumbling and shaking and stuff rattling off the walls.  I hadn’t heard anything and said so, joking about sleeping the sleep of the dead, which Sophia would have understood even if Aoibheann didn’t.  I told her about various storms that had rattled the walls, and the various explosions and other phenomena resulting from rabbits messing with magic.  Then I suddenly thought of something else – the various rumblings and shakings that usually accompany the arrival of the Huntsman.

That led to some explaining to Sophia about the Huntsman and his various preferences for hunting.  I got a couple of digs in about Natalie, and for once, Aoibheann responded, suggesting that we would find a husband for her soon.  I responded that I doubted anybody was worthy of her beauty or sacrifice and she commented about the difficulty I might have letting her go.  I did try dropping a subtle hint about a simple word might be sufficient, even suggesting that Wren might be able to help, but I don’t think she got it.  Poor Sophia just looked a little baffled.  I shall have to explain about Natalie later.  One thing that Aoibheann did say confused me somewhat – “Oh, but in truth, I find so few kindred spirits, and I am not so certain *I* will quite be myself once Natalie is gone.”  Now that was something I did not know how to interpret.  I am almost certain that Aoibheann holds no feelings in my direction, and I am fairly sure she has no Brigitte-like inclinations towards Natalie.  Perhaps it just means she would miss me.  It is hard to tell with her sometimes.

Sophia left to go for a walk in the woods, and perhaps try her hand at fishing, which she said she had heard was a relaxing hobby.  I took the opportunity to talk with Aoibheann about the state of the tavern, mentioning the dearth of customers and the effect it was having on the tavern’s finances.  I told her that we were managing for the moment, but would not be if I was being paid. She agreed that this was a problem, and then brought up the problem of new arrivals – turning up at the tavern without the means to pay for even a meal, let alone a bed for the night.  I had been more concerned that the regular inhabitants of the island were not visiting the tavern, but she had a point.  Even with my habit of paying for the first drink or meal for new arrivals, and Aoibheann’s habit of accepting all manner of strange coinage for her treasure box, it was still difficult for new arrivals.  I suggested that the main problem was the lack of any exchange mechanism. No matter what riches new arrivals might have, there was no way to transfer that into midari.  I cited the woman, Rose, who had come a few nights before and was frustrated that her gold coins were of no use here.  I commented that it seemed rather odd that the boatman offered people the chance of a new life, and yet the passengers end up here almost penniless.  Aoibheann suggested that this was something that she could do little about, but maybe Lord Ballard could bring it up at court.  That caught me by surprise, since I so rarely use the title, but, I had to admit, she was right.  I said I would attempt to do so, adding that the title had to be useful for something.

She had mentioned, when Sophia left, that she would be pre-occupied in the coming week.  She seemed quite pleased by the prospect, but did not say what.  I suspected it might have something to do with Daimon, but I wasn’t sure.  I tried to draw it out of her, but got nowhere.  I told her to keep believing and maybe something good would happen.

 

Later in the day, Sophia came by, saying she thought she had seen the Huntsman. I hadn’t heard anything, but took my sword and suggested she show me where.  She took me down to the centre of the forest, near the cottages.  We could not see any sign of him, or anyone else, come to that. I thought I saw Alec in the distance at one point, but he did not reappear, so maybe it was something else.  She told me that she had seen the children with a man, possibly with light hair, and that the Huntsman was there watching, but that they did not seem to notice.  I suggested that he might have been using magic to hide himself, and that she had seen him because he hadn’t noticed her.  She said that she had seen him and that he was somewhat intimidating.  I said that was very likely and added that, for the most part, he did not seem particularly interested in harming anybody other than his chosen prey.   I took this as an opportunity to explain to Sophia about Natalie.  I told her about the time I had tried to prevent the Huntsman from getting at Aoibheann, and how she had tried to sacrifice “the beautiful barmaid, Natalie” to save herself. She looked a little puzzled until I explained that I was the aforementioned barmaid. I told her this was why I thought the Huntsman didn’t necessarily bother with people other than his prey, since he had not attempted to harm me, beyond trying to frighten and intimidate me, even though I stood between him and his prey.  She thanked me for the explanation, but had to hurry off, remembering that she had soup on the stove.  I promised to deal with her grocery list once I got back to the village and left her to it while I took the opportunity to further savour the delights of spring in the forest.  I saw some rabbits and some deer, but no white stag and, fortunately, no Huntsman.

 

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