Well, that was somewhat of a mixed afternoon and evening. One insect queen, one shirtless guy, one undead unicorn, one demon, one vampire disguised as a demon, one demon turning into a fae, one Aoibheann, possibly turning into a stress-bunny, a demon who doesn’t remember me, a changeling and a dryad. And I thought this place might be getting a bit dull.
Kzzz was in the tavern, trading glowing balls for whatever. I traded a couple of left-over Midari for a couple of the balls, to supplement the lighting in my dwelling. I figured they metal has worth, even if the currency doesn’t. The shirtless guy, last seen being zapped by a strange figure with a magic staff was there. He clearly has something going on with Aoibheann, but what, it is hard to tell. Come to that, almost anything to do with Aoibheann is hard to fathom these days. I only caught the tail end of the conversation. She was complaining that he hadn’t told her something. He told her she would work it out, kissed her on the cheek and walked out. That, it appeared, was the wrong thing to say, because she exploded at him, or rather, at his departing back, yelling all sorts of stuff. Having been on the receiving end of similar explosions, I don’t blame him for leaving. In fact, just in case she decided to turn her ire on me, I decided discretion was the better part of valour, completed my trade with Kzzz and took my lamps back to the hut.
When I returned later, I found the place quite busy, with three demons drinking. Well, at least one was quite clearly a demon, with a skin colour I usually associate with the drow. She turned out to be quite an affable demon by the rather incongruous name of Bunny. She was busy buying drinks for the other two; those being Rachel, who, I suppose is technically a vampire glamoured as a demon, and a rather pretty female, whose name I later learned was Rosie, who could have passed for human, were it not for the tiny horns and the rather more obvious tail. She also had rather pretty wings that I would have otherwise associated with a fae creature. These seemed to be somewhat of a surprise to her and she kept trying to pull them off. Bunny seemed to be encouraging misbehaviour and drunkenness, which didn’t look to take long in Rosie’s case as she soon fell down and was deposited on one of the beds.
Rachel asked if I would be willing to tell Padishar that he did not owe me for the beer. I asked if she had given up on annoying him, but didn’t get an answer. I also asked how the reading was getting along, but apparently, she has given up on salvation. Bunny offered to cover the debt on Rachel’s behalf in gold, coin or other goods. I did ask if she could get me a decent biography of John Dee, but I don’t think she understood that. I told her I would think about it, but so far as Padishar was concerned, the debt was paid. This was deemed to be acceptable and everybody seemed happy.
Even Paash, as I apparently now have to call her. Well, she was happy that people were drinking and, more to the point, paying for the drinks. Well, I was paying for mine and Bunny was paying for the girls. Aoibheann reappeared, seemingly a little calmer, and tried to help behind the bar, but the presence of so many apparent demons was clearly getting to her and she disappeared off, claiming she needed practice. I have no idea what she needed to practice, but it prompted Paash to ask how my practice was getting on. I had to confess that I hadn’t, not since Jasper Cove burned, what with all the excitement of that and getting settled here. She didn’t push the matter.
Rosie fell asleep, Rachel decided she would go for a walk, and Bunny decided she would go to, shrinking herself down so she could ride with Rachel, between her horns. I think it is a measure of how inured I have become to strangeness that I barely thought this worthy of mention.
Then, another demon appeared. A vaguely familiar one. Short, read-haired and heavily armoured, wearing a sword almost as big as she was. I remembered her as Senna, who had been hanging around the tavern in my early days at Jasper Cove. She did not, however, remember me and mentioned that she had similarly not remembered Aoibheann and found this very confusing. I told her that Aoibheann and I had both met her in a place that was detached from time, so it was entirely possible that said meeting was either a long time in her past and she had forgotten, or it hadn’t happened yet. She actually appeared to be quite pleased with that, as it was the first rational explanation she had been offered. I wasn’t entirely sure it was rational, but then, what is, these days?
She ordered dinner and Paash agreed to let her pay for it by sweeping up the bar area in the morning. She then went off to get some rest.
Gwyn turned up – in a rather fetching dress and sandals. It was so unlike her, I had to make the “who are you and what have you done with Gwyn” joke. She blamed it on Aoibheann’s comments about her dressing like a man. Relations there seem to be somewhat frosty too. I told her I rather liked it, but she said she felt self-conscious, preferring to cover up. Then I actually managed to get her to blush, which I had scarcely thought was possible. I told her she didn’t need to be self-conscious as she was a very pretty woman, and joked that maybe she was actually shy behind all that banter. Sure enough, she went bright red and claimed to be a hard-assed academic bitch who would chew the bollocks off anybody who said otherwise. My only answer to that was to say “promises, promises”.
Senna chimed in with some fashion advice. Gwyn took that on board and complimented Senna’s pointy boots, saying anybody with boots like that had to be a friend. I commented that I would have to get some and she said I had better not or she would have to make hipster jokes about me. I had no idea what that might mean and demonstrated the mobility of my hips by doing a bit of a belly-dance I had once learned one drunken night in Rotterdam. She then proceeded to explain what a hipster was. At least, I think she did. I’m not sure I understood much of it. Something about people riding fucking penny-farthings, waxing moustaches, talking bollocks and having something called fucktitude. Whatever that meant, I don’t think she liked them. I assured her that I have never attempted intercourse with a bicycle, had never grown my facial hair and that my testicles had never spoken, so I was forced to conclude that I wasn’t a hipster. That got a laugh out of her, but then she decided she needed another nap. What is it with this place? People are always needing sleep at odd hours, me included.
Finding myself alone in the bar, I decided to take a walk up to the stone. On the way, I met up with the aforementioned Rosie, where the path to the castle and the path to the stones crossed the path from the bridge. We chatted about how nice it was being out in the woods. We spoke about our respective journeys here. We seem to have had similar experiences in hopping from one place to another by means we don’t entirely understand. She came from a place that was some kind of prison, along with her mate, who she described as a planes-walker. I’m not sure I quite understood that, although I do recall reading a similar phrase being used to describe a shaman. She was concerned that he might get too attached to the magical energy here and use it to gain power. We spoke of the magical energy here, because she was still worried about the wings. So far as she is concerned, she is a demon. I suggested that maybe there was some fae blood in her, and the energy here was causing the fae side to manifest. She allowed that was possible, having been raised only by her mother. She departed in search of somewhere to rest up and I departed on my original intention to go to the stone.
I picked up a piece of fallen timber on the way, thinking I could possibly make something of it for Aerodine. I got to the stone and removed my footwear again. Looking at the stone, I wondered if I could copy the carving design onto the piece of wood. It was while I was sitting there, sketching the designs that Aerodine showed up. I am sure I will eventually get used to the way she fades in and out of the landscape, but this time I managed not to jump. She was pleased to see me, even more so when I said I had come to escape the noise of the castle, seeking the peace of this spot. She wanted to know what I was doing with the book.
I showed her what I was doing, sketching the design on the stone. She looked confused by the entry on the facing page, saying that she had some reading, but it did not make sense. I was not surprised, since that was the entry I was cogitating on Dee’s journal, which entry I had ciphered, just in case anybody read it, bearing in mind Greyson’s warning. I told her it was a private project and in code, then flipped back a few pages to show her the entry about our first meeting. She was most flattered that I had thought of her to one of her own. That wording puzzled me a little, but I guessed she was referring to me recording my thoughts on paper, the “of her own” presumably referring to paper being made from wood. She asked if I had thought of the little gift we had shared, the kiss, I assumed, and I had to admit I had not done so yet, but would definitely do so.
That, she regarded as very special. Then she scooped some earth up and from it, conjured a seedling, a tiny tree. She was crafting a very special tree, she told me, for the forest, for everyone. She said that there was talk of war, and the tree was to give confidence to those uninvolved. I did not understand this, and said I had heard no such talk. Her explanation of the tree did not clarify things much, making some comment about the last leaf breaking the bough. The tree, tiny though it was, took the form of two figures embracing. A symbol of peace or reconciliation perhaps? She changed the subject somewhat, asking my age. I had to think about that for a moment, being not entirely sure. I was just shy of 32 when I was embraced, and, by my experience, irrespective of the actual year, I had experienced a little short of eight years since. Thinking to put it in her terms, I told her I had experienced 39 summers, adding that I might yet experience 40 more. That is something, I shall have to correct some time, when I find the right time to admit my nature, and the extended life that will entail. She found that amusing, giggling that I was so young. She asked if I had any treasure in the satchel. I told her it was mostly books, pen and ink, a few odds and sods. Prepared for travel is how she described that, or at least for an overnight. I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but I suppose it would suffice for that.
She said there might be another fight coming. I told her I hoped not, but that I would defend those I cared about, despite abhorring violence. The fight, I suspect might be something to do with those outside the castle, as she said that those I cared about would be safe inside. I commented that not everybody I cared for was inside the castle. Once again, she changed the subject, telling me of a minstrel or bard she had known, who would sit in a tree and play her songs. I apologised for my lack of musical ability, but promised I would tell her a story or read a poem, next time I came. She liked that idea. It was time for me to depart then, so I bade her farewell with a kiss on the back of the hand, and headed back to the less kind environment of the castle.
I wonder why I am so drawn to the fae places, and fae creatures. Obviously, I have a love of the stories I read as a child and even as an adult, about the fae people and fae realms, but it is more than that, something more primal that sings to part of my being. Maybe, like Rosie, I am part-fae somehow. I think it unlikely, for surely my father, or more likely, my mother, would have said something. Wouldn’t they?