Slugs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

That’s what little boys are made of. Or so the old rhyme would have it. Does a teenager still count as a little boy? I don’t honestly know, but slugs and snails would be much nicer than the things I thought, last night, about one particular teenager. On sober reflection, a long walk in the forest to calm myself, and, it has to be said, a look from Brigitte, I am prepared to, as I understand the modern idiom, cut the kid some slack. I remember all the angst and confusion of being a teenager; and I was only bullied for having long red hair and being well-read. I can not begin to imagine being stuck forever as a teenager. I was lucky in that I had supportive parents, who taught me how to stand up to bullies and such like. I don’t know what kind of parenting, if any, this kid had, or what circumstances that led to his embrace, but from his appearance and demeanour, I suspect that it was not good. For that alone, I am prepared to be forgiving, and maybe even sympathetic towards him. On the other hand, if he even thinks of going near Aoibheann again, that tolerance might evaporate quickly, and I made sure he knew it.

The evening started out quite pleasantly. I was in the tavern, doing what a temporary tavern manager does, when Mitternacht came in. She had clearly been busy, as she could barely stand up under the load of assorted baked goods, including some rather tempting looking cinnamon buns (which tasted great, so far as I was able to take a small nibble of one later). I shall definitely have to save some to tease Wren later. She also had some candy. Mint Imperials they were not, but they certainly did the job. They were certainly strong enough to bring tears to one’s eyes, but I like that in a mint. They were probably strong enough to count as weapon mints, whatever she meant by that.

She also had a mouthful of ribbons with writing on, writing I have come to recognise as equine, even if I can’t read it. They were, she said, talismans to help Aoibheann heal. I am a little ambivalent about the idea of undead magic as a means of healing, but, for Aoibheann, whatever helps. To borrow Mitternacht’s terminology, she is Hiinaa, she is herd. Mitternacht felt sufficiently strongly that she would consider bring Aoibheann back from the dead. However, she did say that it would be not as she was, unless a willing soul could be found to sacrifice in exchange for Aoibheann’s. Otherwise, she would be as a zombie. I did not relish that prospect, and found myself considering the possibility that I would embrace her, to save her from the jaws of death, and said so. Whatever those who write about vampires might say, I feel that I have a soul, so I would think an existence like mine might be preferable to that of a zombie. What Aoibheann might think of that, I do not know.

This rather macabre discussion was cut suddenly short by screams from across the infirmary. I didn’t even stop to think as I recognised the voice as being Aoibheann’s. I grabbed the sword from my back and ran across the courtyard, conscious only of that scream, and of Mitternacht’s presence close behind. In the infirmary, we found an unkempt teenage boy in the process of trying to feed from Aoibheann’s arm. Cold anger swept through me, causing me to bring the sword up to strike before reason kicked in and restrained my arm. That and the fact that said child sprang away immediately, cowering against the wall, clearly terrified, and begging for mercy, was all that saved him. I could feel the cold, clammy tingle of Mitternacht’s magic building up behind me, and could see the glow of her horn in the corner of my eye. I commanded the child to stay where he was and not move, perhaps redundantly, since he was too busy cowering, while I attended to Aoibheann, who had fainted and fallen out of the bed. I hauled her back into the bed and saw the bite wound on her arm was still bleeding. I shielded the child’s view with my body and licked the wound to close it. She had already lost too much blood to the damned hounds, and I wasn’t about to let her lose any more. I could explain to Mitternacht later, if she saw, but did not want anybody else to know. Having attended to Aoibheann, I turned back to deal with her attacker. Fortunately for his sake, Brigitte suddenly appeared and took charge. For all that the anger was still bubbling in me; I restrained myself and deferred to her seniority, letting her take charge. Which she did, of course, as she is so fond of doing. She summoned the boy to her side while I explained what had been going on. She told us that she would deal with the child and suggested we take care of Aoibheann, saying we should try to make sure she didn’t remember. She swept out, as she is wont to do, with the child in tow, telling me she would speak with me later.

Aoibheann started to come round, so we fed her a story that the child had startled her, causing her to fall out of bed and re-open a couple of her wounds. The best lies are the ones that are closest to the truth. Mitternacht had something baked to feed her, which she tried, but wanted water. I got her some, and helped her to drink it, but suddenly, she got aggressive again, just like the other day when I tried to get her back into the bed, shouting at me and asking why I was doing this, did I want some letter of recommendation or some such. I decided discretion was the better part of valour and left her in the tender care of Mitternacht and the nurses while I took myself off to the forest to calm down.

I have a horrible feeling that whatever is going on with Aoibheann is something to do with her ingesting my blood. I need to talk to her when I next see her. I need to talk to her anyway. Seeing her with the child vampire reminded me of how little I know. For all that we have been friends for some time now; she will keep reminding me how much of a neonate I am. Which may be true, but like what seems to be the situation with the child, I didn’t get much of a chance to be educated. I just wish, instead of treating me like a child sometimes, she’d actually tell me stuff, do the things that Katharina should have done; come to that, do what I suspect a Prince should do, and give me that education. Much as I value the fact that I have retained a lot of my humanity, after eight years, I feel I should be less of a novice in this other darker life. Given my progenitor, I am sure there is much more to this existence than I know, much more potential in me than I realise, and it isn’t going to be realised without help.

While writing this, I finally realised what Mitternacht was on about with the candies. I fed off one of the deer while I was in the forest, and took one of her mints to freshen my breath afterwards. It was flavoured with peppermint and spearmint. That was what I had failed to spot. A spear is a weapon, so spearmint equals weapon mint. For a well-read person who considers himself a man of letters, I can be surprisingly dense at times.


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