Talking with young people is wonderfully refreshing. At least, most of the time, it is. It has to be said that conversations with the one known as Luna, a name possibly lacking a final ‘tic’, are rarely rewarding, and thus far, conversation with Riley has been monosyllabic at best. Wren, on the other hand, is always a pleasure. Of course, my opinion might be biased, after her reaction to reading a vignette from Black Friars, which she seemed to like a lot. Plus, sometimes, I find that talking with her helps sort things out in my mind. That might well be the result of explaining my thoughts to an 11 year old, which always makes you think more carefully.

I was in the garden, jotting notes for Black Friars, when Wren came wandering by. Rather than being on patrol, she was more occupied in searching for small rocks – to use with her slingshot, it later turned out – in the garden. I asked her if she was building a small rockery for Ardan, but she didn’t know what I meant, although she had seen Aoibheann with the plant. I told her about the plant being a gift from the Huntsman, but I didn’t know why, and neither did Wren. Then, with that refreshing directness that comes of being her age, she asked why Aoibheann and I were fighting. Of course, I couldn’t explain about the vitae thing, and frankly, could not really think of any reason myself. I think I implicated the general stress that Aoibheann is under, and mentioned the incident a few days ago, with Mitternacht. I explained about the plant and Mitternacht’s herbalism, during which, an idea occurred. Aoibheann had reacted badly to me saying that Mitternacht was a skilled herbalist and realised it was just after Mitternacht had said she was no good with growing plants. That might have been the cause, if Aoibheann hadn’t distinguished between skill using herbs and skill growing them. I shall have to try that when we get round to speaking. It’s amazing how clear things become when you talk to a young person.

Wren showed me her slingshot, so I told her about the one I had as a child, and how it had been confiscated after I broke a window. I mentioned how some of my school acquaintances liked to shoot at animals but how I only used to shoot at cans and bottles, which turns out to be what Wren does most of the time. We joked about Niles being a likely target, and how Isabella had thrown a jug at him one time when I was up there. One curious thing – Wren told me that when she was dressed up as a boy for the fancy-dress party, Niles was much nicer to her. I declined to draw any conclusions from that. Certainly none that I was prepared to discuss with somebody her age. We decided that it would be a good idea for me to offer my business services to Alec, then maybe Niles could be sent on a long overseas mission. That sounded like a good idea, save for the fact that Alec is never at home these days. In the course of this, I learned why the kids call him Alec; she and Ember were adopted by Alec & Isabella when they arrived, and Wren hasn’t gotten around to asking if she can call him dad. She seemed surprised when I told her how formal things were in my day, referring to my parents only as Mother and Father.

Since she asked what I was doing, I told her about the Black Friars project. I showed her the “Cleaning Up After” vignette (although I had to explain what a vignette was), and she liked it a lot. I explained a bit about the scenario and the major characters, which she seemed to enjoy. Again, explaining the plot and the background helped clarify things in my mind – especially about deciding what powers the vampires in my book will have. I hadn’t really thought about that. It was interesting to hear what ideas a young person, from more modern times, had about vampires. She hadn’t thought that perhaps vampires could be good or bad, until I explained about how they were once human, so, to a large extent, their character as vampires would be shaped by how they were before they were turned.

Much as I was enjoying the chat, it wasn’t getting the stocktaking done, and I didn’t want to wear out the attention span of a youngster, so I got along with that and she went on in search of more ammunition.


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