Some day, I shall have to have a long chat with Alec about the nature of this place, this island out of time. More and more, I find myself curious about the boatman; who he is, what he is, and in particular how and why he chooses those to whom he makes that offer to take his hand. Certainly he seems to have a habit of rescuing children. Perhaps they are all orphans, like Riley and that rather odd child Luna. I am not so sure about Wren and Ember, but since their majesties have adopted them, I presume they don’t have parents otherwise.
Yesterday, two more children were cast upon this shore. Alike in clothing, looks and manner, I judged them to be twins, a boy and a girl, of maybe five years of age. The boy seemed much like any five-year old, but the girl struggled slowly, getting about on crutches. They both seemed a bit wary of strangers, which I would reckon a good thing, but the girl was a little more forthcoming when I addressed them. They seemed to relax somewhat when I invited them into the tavern for something to eat and drink, and then the boy became the more conversational. In fact, he got quite excited when I offered soda (or milk or juice). I got the impression that they didn’t get soda often back home. From later conversation, this was more a case of sensible parenting than poverty or unkindness. The boy got so excited when I told him the range of flavours available that he wanted them all mixed together. I assured him that while this was possible; it would taste horrible and poured them both a glass of grape soda. Their names, he explained, were Kale James Wells-Shirling and Jada Fae Wells-Shirling, which all seemed a bit of a mouthful, so I told them to call me Nathaniel and asked if I could call them Kale & Jada, which seemed acceptable.
When I offered them some food, Kale asked for goldfish crackers, which I thought sounded like an unlikely thing; but Kale explained that they were crackers shaped like goldfish, rather than flavoured like one. I apologised for not having any, then prepared a plate of regular crackers, cheese, ham, apples, celery, and, knowing the preferences of the princesses, a few chocolate cookies. These were very well received and enthusiastically consumed, despite it not being the same as mom’s cooking. I did offer them some of the soup that I knew was still good in the kitchen, but then Jada explained that mommy used to cut the cheese into stars and ham into circles. I promised to remember that for next time, while being amused that cutting food into stars and what were probably meant to be moons sounded like something that somebody who would name their child “Fae” might do.
After they had eaten, I asked if they needed a place to stay. They were a little reluctant at first, wondering who would check for monsters under the bed and read them stories. I promised that I would do both those things, showing that I had a sword that was more than adequate for scaring monsters. Kale seemed most impressed with that, but not as impressed as he was with the bed when we finally got up the stairs, Jada having to take it really slowly, with her crutches. I would have offered to carry her, but I got the feeling she liked to be as independent as she could. That said, I did notice that they were very much a team; Kale tempering his speed to match hers, holding the crutches while she got onto the chairs etc. Clearly they were strongly bonded, as twins often are, despite the normal “booger-face” banter between them. I drew the sword and used it to sweep under the bed, behind the curtains, and in the wardrobe before declaring the room free from monsters. I left them for a few minutes to get ready for bed and then read to them from Morte d’Arthur. Well, it was more a case of looking at that for inspiration, and then telling a tale as I remembered Mother telling me when I was their age. It had the desired effect and soon they were drowsing, so I left them to it.
I must be missing my own son, Arthur. Heaven knows, this place is not short of young people, with the princesses, Riley, and even the obnoxious brat, Luna, but I really took to the twins. They were polite, well-behaved and respectful, yet still managed to be fun. I shall have to make sure they meet Aoibheann, as the island’s child-wrangler, and Anna, as physician, to make sure they are in good health (jada’s problems with her legs aside). I left a note for Aoibheann in the cash box, in case she encountered them in the morning before I did, and headed home, feeling strangely uplifted by the encounter.