See the Tree, How Big it’s Grown*

There’s a real Gwyn under there somewhere. I shall have to start calling her an onion or something, since she seems so sure that there are many layers under that brash and potty-mouthed exterior.  There are occasional glimpses and I think progress is being made.  Some day, I shall have to tell her that the person she sees as me is just as layered, that the confident, friendly, outgoing man she knows is an act.

In many ways, we are alike; both intellectual, though it isn’t immediately apparent, both, I suspect, victims of bullying in our past, and both of us undervalue ourselves.  And then there are the situations we find ourselves in.  I am struggling to find my identity as a vampire, with very little help from outside, and some of that I am not sure I can trust.  She is likewise struggling to find her identity as a fae, and again, not sure what sources of information she can trust.  And, if my suspicions about my mother are correct, I too do not know to which court she belonged, or to which I would belong, if any.

She came by the tavern and found me, as ever, with my nose in a book.  After the usual greetings, she asked if I knew that Aoibheann was obsessed with a tree. I asked when Aoibheann wasn’t obsessed with something; citing her bird-man friend and sweeping as examples.  I presumed she was talking about Ardan, which she confirmed was what Aoibheann kept calling it.  She wanted to know if it had some sort of inner life or sentience that we could connect to.  I joked, rather unkindly that I sometimes wondered the same about Aoibheann, explaining further about the tree.

“I have no idea,” I said. “All I know is that she as given the seedling by our many-antlered friend, the Huntsman, who told her that it was very important that she nurture it.  Of course, she had no clue about caring for plants, so I told her what little I could remember – my mother was keen on gardening – but I don’t know if she took any notice.  For a while, she was carrying it around like a child might carry its favourite teddy.  I have no idea if it is sentient.” Not unsurprisingly, this news was a bit of a shock to Gwyn, especially given her own experience of the Hunstman, and what she knew of Aoibheann’s adventures with the same.

“You’re not serious, she exclaimed. “She is growing a tree the Huntsman gave her? No wonder she didn’t mention any of this to me. You’d think, after all the other stuff she didn’t tell me about, she’d have more sense.” I shrugged and agreed, adding that I had no idea what things Aoibheann had not spoken of, given that we had barely been speaking to each other of late.  I told her what else I knew about the tree, how the coat-rack, as I called him, had told her it was important and somehow connected to the safety or even existence of Jasper Cove, joking that we knew how well that last turned out. She told me that although she and Aoibheann had made up, there were still some things that weren’t being said.  The subject of the tree had come up because it was the one that Guen, the visiting Unseelie queen that thought Gwyn would be a tasty morsel had been dancing around.

Seeking to lighten the mood a little, I complimented her on the dress she was wearing.  She coloured a little at the compliment and said that Aoibheann had told her that a longer dress would be less revealing. , Despite that, she had decided to let her live. I grinned and told her that I knew there was a kind heart under there. Of course, she couldn’t take that and claimed that under that was a mad woman with edged weapons, but one who didn’t come out very often.

She asked why I had referred to the tree by name and asked if I had ever spoken with it. I shook my head and said I hadn’t seen it since it was a six-inch seedling and only knew its name because Aoibheann had been so insistent that it had a name. I tried to dig a little further and asked what was under the mad woman.  She said there were layers and layers and a “fucked-up maze” under there, which is why I made my comment about onions earlier.  The tree, she told me, is much larger and looked like a silver-birch with fiery golden leaves.

“We shall have to go and look at it some time,” I told her.  She went on to ask about Padishar and whether or not he would feed her to the Guen character. She referred back to his advice that she should choose a side or be fodder for both. I could not answer that.  I told her that I had served two Unseelie queens and neither of them, so far as I knew, had eaten anybody.  This was not to say that other queens wouldn’t.  As to choosing sides, I did not know if it was a matter of nature or nurture – whether you were Seelie on Unseelie by birth, or if you could make a choice.  For myself, I told her, I preferred the latter, as one who valued personal loyalties above political ones.  I also reminded her of what Valene had said, that even if she did choose a side, that didn’t necessarily make her any safer.

I think she took that to heart, saying she needed to go and think, but for the moment, would stick with the people she knew and trusted. I hoped that I was included in that number. I suspect I was, because as she left, she actually squeezed my shoulder in a rare display of personal affection, her “kiss me you posh fuck” moment aside, and told me I had really nice hair. Perhaps I am getting through, slowly, to the real Gwyn. I wish I knew more to be able to help her, but I know the fae around here hardly at all. Perhaps Valene can make me some introductions.


* And many apologies for reminding you of this song


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