Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
So wrote Robert Browning in his poem about Rabbi Ben Ezra. The subject of old age has been somewhat of a feature of today. I got bored with my apartment, so wandered over to the tavern to sit and work on my writing and to renew my acquaintance with modern music. I’ve also been renewing my acquaintance with Mr Sherlock Holmes, so a tune called Baker Street seemed entirely appropriate. It didn’t appear to have anything to do with Sherlock, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Aoibheann and Wren were in the kitchen, and came out to see what I was doing. Wren made some comment about “old people music”, which, after I remonstrated with her for her cheek, led to a discussion about the curious nature of living in Jasper Cove. On the surface, I am the oldest, at 39 years (I declined to mention that my body is only 32, as I haven’t aged since the embrace), Aoibheann is not yet 21, and Wren is 11. On the other hand, compared to Wren, I am 130 odd years older, and Aoibheann several hundred years older still. Aoibheann could not believe that I was almost 40 and not white-haired and wrinkled. So, there, in another way, Aoibheann is older than I, because, by her standards, she is much more than halfway through her life. I explained that in more modern times, compared to hers, life expectancy increases, with more food being available, better health care, fewer diseases and wars etc. I have no doubt that people in Wren’s time live even longer than those in my time. Wren also contributed the comment that the fae live much longer than we do, and at eighty years old, are barely adult. I wonder who she got that from. Her mother maybe? Isabella is most definitely adult, at least in appearance, but I suppose she could be over 80. While I spent a lot of time with the fae when I was in London, it never occurred to me to ask their ages. Well, most of them were women, and it is just not done to ask a lady her age.
I left them for a while to go to visit with the insect queen. There did not appear to be much change, but then, her body is so different, it is difficult to tell, maybe there was some healing. I tried to initiate contact, but did not get very far. All I could get was what seemed to be more of her dream about being on board ship, the attack, and the escape attempt.
When I returned to the tavern, I found Aoibheann sitting down with Mitternacht, who was having one of her moods. I didn’t get a full explanation, but I gathered it was something to do with Mitternacht’s impending birthday, possibly her 97th, though I wasn’t entirely sure on that. This, it would appear, sparked off a fit of depression – partly about living (in the loosest possible sense) too long, but also, I got the impression that, being undead, she worries about seeing her Hiinaa – Aoibheann and I, grow old and die, while she goes on without us. She kept dropping her hat on the floor and telling us that we should burn it when we die. It seemed of great importance to her, and after a bit of prompting from her about the nature of a lich, I realised that this hat is her amulet, he phylactery, that contains the essence of her life. I resisted the temptation to joke that it would be difficult for me to burn something after I died. Had I been alone with her, without Aoibheann, I would have also pointed out that technically, I am already dead. I assured her that I had no plans to die in the near future, and neither did Aoibheann (despite her own pessimism regarding her lifespan). Aoibheann went along with it, assuring Mitternacht that we weren’t going to leave her any time soon. We also tried to persuade her that there was so much good she was doing; teaching me magic, teaching baking to Wren and the language to Aoibheann. I even got my crystal out and demonstrated that I could do the light trick, which I think surprised Aoibheann a little, but at least, now, she openly knew that I was learning magic.
Eventually, we calmed Mitternacht down and persuaded her to put the hat back on. Then, as she so often does, she fell asleep. I managed to roll her onto a blanket and slide her out of the way of the tavern door to sleep it off. Aoibheann and I spoke briefly about the wrestling match; which reminded me I needed to make a poster, but in the meantime, she wrote a temporary one and stuck it on the pillar. Then, for some reason known only to herself, she went off to wash the windows. I made sure that Mitternacht was comfortable, quickly looked in on the insect queen and then went home.
I found myself in contemplative mood once I got home. I don’t really know how long I will live, or what age I should call myself. I know that I have experienced the lapse of 39 years since I was born, but, if I take Wren, Lalla and Gwyn to be representative of the time that Jasper Cove exists relative to the real-world timeline, then over 160 years have elapsed. Yet, to outside observers, I look the same as I did when I was 32, and, so far as I can tell, will continue to so look in 100 years time. I can empathise with Mitternacht’s fears, as I felt the same back in London. Much as I loved Helene, for example, I was wary of beginning a relationship with her, because she would grow old, and I would not, unless I gave her the same dark gift that Katharina gave me. I wonder if that is why, without realising it, I tend to keep people, even good friends, at a slight distance. Maybe, subconsciously, I am preparing myself for eventual loss. It would make sense of some of the things I have observed with Brigitte, for example. I shall have to ask her some time. I do not know her true age, but I suspect it is greater than mine. I don’t know who else I could ask. I do not know Cris well, and have not seen him in a long while. Justine is not here, and even if she were, her lack of empathy probably excludes her as one to ask about feelings and relationships. Katharina would be the best confidant, but I do not know where or when she is, or even if she is alive. Maybe in my dream reality, I will find her, but I wonder if that dream Nathaniel will remember to ask. Maybe he hasn’t had time to think about that question yet. Who knows?