I’m an Accountant, not a Tree Surgeon*

I can’t even get sleep right. I’m fairly sure I should be insensible until dusk, or whatever it is that vampires are supposed to do. But then, I seem to do so few of the vampire things correctly. The daylight doesn’t seem to bother me here, any more than it did back in Jasper Cove. Of course, that might be because it isn’t proper sunshine, compared to what I might experience back at home. I don’t know. Churches and crosses don’t seem to bother me and, to some extent, can drink things other than blood and even eat, albeit in tiny portions. Maybe I’m not a proper vampire. Whatever I am, the few hours of sleep I had seem to have done the job, so I shall record what befell after I left Gwyn…

The trail of blossoms, and just the faintest tracery of a vine, led across the courtyard towards the gates. To my surprise they did not lead up to the carved stone that I had thought of as Aerodine’s home, if she has such a thing. Instead, it led in the opposite direction, off the path I knew to the bridge. The trail was hard to follow, especially when it left the path and I found it hard to distinguish the trail of vine from the undergrowth. Eventually I found myself in a very strange spot. Old, worn stones made a paved area of sorts. The stones were carved with ancient-looking symbols that I did not quite recognise, although they looked familiar. They weren’t runes, at least, not ones that I recognised, and they weren’t Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was annoying, because I was sure I had seen symbols like this before, but just couldn’t place them. Nearby, there was a carved door, set into the rock, much like the one up by the Celtic stone, except that one went into a stone too small to contain anything, whereas this one seemed to lead into the hillside itself. I searched the area as best I could, but the trail ended here and I could not find Aerodine. I felt a similar energy here as I did at the stone, somehow slightly different, but definitely what I associated with things fae.

Then I heard her voice, faint, but definitely her, calling my name. I followed the sound and almost tripped over her supine form. She was less human-looking than last time, and almost impossible to spot if you didn’t know she was there. There were wounds here and there on her body. I squatted down and brushed the hair, or possibly leaves, from her face, asking what had happened and what the sluagh had done to her. She managed a slight smile, seeming pleased to see that I was unharmed. It was the spiders that had harmed her she said, telling me she hadn’t wanted to see me harmed and that it was good to see me whole. I explained that the sluagh had made no attack on me. I asked what I could do to help, even managing a slight joke as to whether I should get a doctor, a dendrologist or a carpenter.

That got a smile. She was in pain, she said, which she had not felt for a long while. The pain was in those parts of her that were flesh, especially a serious looking wound on her side. I told her that the wound would heal and the pain would go, but I didn’t know about the wooden parts of her. She took my hand and placed it on the wound, asking me to hold it closed while she tried to heal the rest of her. She could not die, she told me, but had to deal with the pain. I held the wound closed for a few minutes, trying to remember what little of first aid I had learned on board ship. I decided to see if I could bind the wound. I took off my cravat and made that into a bandage pad, but it was too small to tie around her so I took off my belt and used that to bind the dressing against the wound. I also took off my jacket and rolled up to make a pillow, so her head with be more comfortable. She seemed more at ease after that and she asked me to talk to her, to distract her from the pain. I told her that I could relate the events of the last few days, or I could read to her from my fiction. She chose the latter. I checked the book was in my bag with me and I took it out and read to her from the first chapters of Serendipity Island. I was conscious that I had neglected that part of my writing for a while now and also that this was the first time I had let anybody else hear or read it. I opened it up and began to read, remarking how I used to read to Mother. When I got to the end of the chapter, she looked more relaxed. She told me that she liked the story, so I gave her a brief rundown of the setting and the background. She was definitely acting as though she felt better, trying to get into a more comfortable position. She tried to take the dressing off, saying that she had ruined my pretty cloth. I told her to keep it on until she got better. It would wash out or, if not, I had others. I told her to keep it, and the belt and the jacket until she was better.

Thinking of the energies here, I asked if she would prefer to be by the carved stone. The told me it did not matter, for home was wherever there were trees. She also asked how I could feel the energies. That, I could not answer. I did not yet feel able to share my suspicions about my mother, so just explained how I felt alive out here, wondering if it was to do with the magic I was learning. She was a little unsure about that, wondering if the magic, or someone, had enlightened my mind. Whatever it was, she said, I brought life, which was a good start. That had me a little nonplussed, since the magic was taught to me by an undead creature and I was technically undead too. I would have explained that, but felt it wasn’t the time, not while she was trying to heal. She thanked me for coming, for helping her heal, and because she had been scared. She managed to get herself to a seated position without disturbing the bandage and kissed me on the cheek, thanking me again. She tried to give me the jacket back, but again I refused, so she settled down on it, looking tired. She had assured me that she felt as safe here as she did at the stone, and just needed to rest. I kissed her back and assured her I would come and visit again soon. I scanned the area, and sure enough, Royce was lurking in the undergrowth. I bade Aerodine farewell, telling her to get some rest, and set off back to the castle, my one-eyed cat in tow.

 

* In tribute to the person who best owns that phrase, or at least, variations thereon

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