One Way or Another*

There have been many times in my life when I have wished I was more decisive, more certain of myself and more certain about things in general. I sometimes envied those people I knew, fellow students and colleagues etc, who were so certain in their political views, their views on social issues, on morals and what should be done about them.  I was never sure. Maybe it’s because I read too much, learn too much and thus can see the merits of both sides in any argument. Or maybe I am just a coward who doesn’t like conflict, so tries not to take sides.  No, that is being unfair to me.  I know that I do take a stand on principles. It’s just that sometimes, it is hard to decide.  I do too much thinking and maybe I have had too much education to be certain about anything much.  I do find it interesting that I have found a certain amount of polarisation when it comes to certainty. There are those at the lower end of the social scale, who often seem to be very certain of things, possibly due to a limited education and lack of knowledge; and there are those at the top end of the social scale who are similarly certain, possibly because of years of breeding telling them that they are right because they are at the top. Cristof seems to fall into that latter category. He doesn’t lack education, but he does seem awfully certain about things, even to the extent of telling Gwyn which fae court she belongs to on the basis of a simple experiment.  For myself, I’m not so sure.

The earlier part of the evening had largely been concerned with food. Sophia was in the tavern, eating as though she hadn’t had food for some while.  She was back to her normal self, smiling when she saw me, calling me Nathaniel and so forth.  I guess that ‘mother’ wasn’t visiting at the time.  She did tell me that she had experienced a very strange dream in which a large crow-like figure had captured her and put her in a cage. I was somewhat worried by that, thinking that maybe she hadn’t been dreaming and had encountered one of the outside denizens while in a ‘Tory’ mood.  Meanwhile, Gwyn was getting somewhat over-excited by a bacon sandwich.  While I was happy she was enjoying herself, I did feel somewhat wistful; remembering the splendid bacon that Father used to get from old Sam Hurst, the local butcher and one of Father’s fellow Masons.  I tried to convey to Sophia that she might have experienced another ‘Tory’ episode, but I didn’t want to have to explain it to the others, so I am not sure she understood.

Aoibheann turned up, looking better than she had of late and helped herself to some bread and butter. I found myself musing on how it was that most of my friends were of the female persuasion.  Since Valik & Greyson, back in London, I could not really name a close male friend. Meanwhile, Gywn and Sophia introduced themselves to each other, which I had neglected to do, forgetting that they had not overlapped in Jasper Cove.

We were interrupted by a wolf, of sorts.  It looked pretty dopey for a wolf.  Sophia was frightened by it and hid behind the bar counter, Gwyn called it a puppy and Aoibheann, surprisingly was quite relaxed. It didn’t appear to be one of the cŵn and it didn’t look like Emanuel’s wolf form, so I pulled a bone out of the joint of meat on the counter and tossed it in the animal’s direction. Sophia still wasn’t happy and asked if she could go search in my hut, because she had lost her ankh necklace and that was the last place she remembered having it. After a quick mental check as to how well I had hidden certain items, I nodded my consent and she left, steering as clear of the wolf as she could.

Gwyn returned to the theme of needing to meet more people, presumably of the fae variety, but was uncertain about going out with various fae creatures trying to eat her.  Aoibheann suggested that it was more likely to be demons wanting to eat her, though she did acknowledge that the sluagh probably would do so.  Gwyn was still concerned with trying to decide which court to choose, so I repeated my offer to go with her to meet some of the fae, preferably on a day when we would find somebody for her to meet and also repeated my opinion that I wasn’t convinced that choosing made much difference. Aoibheann chimed in with the opinion that she should make an informed choice and not just choose for the convenience of protection. The choice, either way, would be hard, and I was sure that both sides would make a persuasive case. Aoibheann articulated it very well.

“I do not know the inner workings of their courts,” she said. “I have never been within a sithen.  But I suppose the Seelie’s must be nearby, somewhere underneath the castle.  The Seelie rulers are Saone the Lifegiver, and King Llwyd.  The Unseelie are ruled by Gwythyr and Faermorn, who I assume are their king and queen, respectively.  But I think Nathaniel has a point. You are fae too, and perhaps it is important for you to learn what that means before deciding on a side.  I feel that tensions between the two courts are high, and I imagine they will both manage to be rather persuasive.  In the end, your choice needs to be based on what you are and what they are, not which one of them is more convincing.” I mentally apologised for underestimating her perceptiveness after that, and told her that it was very well put. Gwyn wanted to know why it was so difficult to get the information, so I thought of an analogy that I hoped would work, or, at least, was still valid in her time period.  I compared the courts to political parties campaigning for your vote, and how they will tell you anything to get you to vote for them.  That rung true, and apparently, is still the case in the 21st century

We were momentarily interrupted by the wolf puking and then disappearing. A few moments later, Cristof appeared, which now gave me pause to wonder about the nature of the wolf. I don’t know if that is an ability that vampires have, shape-shifting. Or maybe I’m just paranoid, realising that I have been suspicious of all sorts of creatures lately.  Aoibheann had been offering to try to rearrange a meeting with Isabella and I was relating how I had been to a sithen, unlike Aoibheann.  Cristof caught that last part of the conversation and expressed surprise, being of the opinion that unwelcome visitors to the sithen tend to return without their heads.  I explained that it had not been here and that I had initially been there as part of an ambassadorial mission in London, long before I came here.  He had clearly been listening to more of the conversation than I first thought because he dismissed Isabella’s knowledge as being insufficient and was equally dismissive of mine and Aoibheann’s.  He told Gwyn that he could answer her questions.

She stuck to the main ones; what were the courts like, could a changeling choose, or were they born to one court or the other etc. She also mentioned that the only Seelie she knew were Isabella and the Huntsman, and that she did not much like the latter. Cristof told her pretty much what I had come to view as the outsider’s view – Seelie are light, summer, nice; Unseelie are dark, winter, not so nice etc.  I could have told her that much from all the books I read when I was younger.  He also confirmed my view that while they cannot lie, they can twist and obscure the truth, or get others to lie for them.  Another interesting thing was him saying that fae were about balance – light and dark, summer and winter etc.

Gwyn found it hard to see anything nice about the Huntsman and wished that she had been able to learn more from Alec and Isabella while she had the chance.  She was also curious as to whether or not she was able to lie.  She did say that she did not like lying.  That jibed well with my view of her, as I had always found her honest, yet quite capable of disguising her feelings behind the banter etc.

Cristof was of the view that the Hunter must balance something.  I told him what little I remembered about the Huntsman being a substitute for one of the powers that had held Jasper Cove together.  That was gratifying, in that this was something he hadn’t known. Curiously, he had not known that Isabella was fae until quite late, and ever more interestingly, was of the opinion that Alec was not fae, but demon. Given my most recent encounter with Greyson, I found that most amusing.

“It was some time before I knew,” I told him. “Isabella wears her glamour well, as does Alec.”  That also amused me, as it was truthful, yet misleading.  Maybe I am fae after all.  Gwyn related how she had only found out about her fae nature when Alec was trying to protect the tavern with iron.  That was enough to convince Cristof that Alec wasn’t fae.  I said nothing on that point.  I was already getting weary of Cristof’s rather bombastic certainty and decided to keep my knowledge for a future day. Then, he decided it was time to prove Gywn’s nature once and for all.  He pulled out his dagger, showed it to her, and promptly stabbed himself through the hand.

I was not impressed, as I had seen him do this once before when demonstrating healing to Kzzz, but Gwyn reacted as anybody might, with a scream, and then grabbing a towel from the bar to do something about the wound.

“That proves it,” he told her, “you are Seelie.  Only a Seelie would react with compassion and try to help, whereas an Unseelie would be excited by the pain.” I disagreed, telling how Katarina had healed my hand when Catt accidentally nearly severed it.  He held up his palm to show that he was already healed.  Gwyn, not unnaturally, went wild, calling him a list of names and obscenities that even impressed me, who was used to her facility with language.  She continued to curse him, even as he explained the healing was because he was a Cainite – a term I had not heard before, but perhaps another name for kindred.  By this time, I had wearied of the discussion, or, at least, Cristof’s certainties, as I was still not convinced, and resolved to talk with Gwyn at a later date, at which point, I took my leave.

I don’t know what else I can do.  Next time I see Valene, I shall try to effect an introduction to the Unseelie. It would help Gwyn, and I think it would be useful to me to be known to the courts. Maybe I can present my ambassadorial credentials, ha ha, and thus get diplomatic immunity from sluagh and such like. Then, all I need to do is achieve the same with the Seelie, but I have no idea how to contact them.  Maybe Isabella knows.

 

* … I’m gonna find ya, I’m gonna get ya, get ya, get ya

 

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