I wonder why it is that I have my panic attacks after stressful situations are over, rather than before or during. I suppose it is better that way. I would not be much use to anybody if I panicked before or during something stressful. I suspect, like many things in my life, it is down to too much thinking. When something happens, I deal with it. I’m straight up there, doing what needs to be done – especially when it comes to defending people I care about. It doesn’t matter how dangerous the situation or what I am facing. Some might describe me as brave, others possibly as stupid. Maybe it is instinct acting before I have time to think about how dangerous something is. Then, afterwards, I have time to think about how badly it could have gone wrong and that’s when the reaction sets in.
Last night, I tackled a fear-eating demon and faced down a frenzied Brujah elder without a problem, and then got the shakes after. Most embarrassing it was. And it had been such a pleasant evening earlier, even if I did get told off by Aoibheann for using profanity – while I was in the company of Gwyn Pottymouth! Yes, I got told off for saying “dammit” in the presence of a woman who uses the copulative adjective like most people use punctuation.
Aoibheann was eating dinner in the tavern, lots of it, which I regarded as a good thing, given her propensity for not looking after herself. All I said was “Dammit, I miss solid food,” before relating how I had told her about an accident causing me to have very restricted diet to explain why I didn’t each much. I had been quite proud of that explanation for being 100% truthful yet, at the same time, a complete misdirection. She stopped eating long enough to tell me to not use profanity while she was eating. I apologised, even if I couldn’t see what a mild swear-word had to do with food. Even more confusingly – Aoibheann, so far as I know, has no religious beliefs. Or, at least, has never, to my knowledge admitted to any. To add insult to injury, Gwyn came in moments later saying “Christ on a pogo stick, I could eat a horse” and Aoibheann said nothing. Of course, given our earlier conversation, it is entirely possible she was too afraid of Gwyn’s reaction to her encounter with the raven to risk any further disfavour.
A pogo-stick, I discovered when I enquired, was like a pair of stilts on springs, only with just one leg. You stand on the footrests, hold the top and bounce around on the spring. I had to laugh at Gywn’s use of the phrase, opining that Christ’s entry to Jerusalem would probably have been more entertaining had he come bouncing in on a spring instead of a donkey.
Aoibheann wanted to know if it was something you could use to run away from somebody, causing me to have visions of a one-legged kangaroo escaping a predator. Gwyn doubted it would be much good for escaping the captain of the ravens, or, as she put it…
“Maybe,” she said. “It depends on whether or not Major FuckBeak was chasing you with his mighty wings of doom. You’d never get away if he were chasing you.” She pressed the back of her hand to her forehead in a dramatic gesture. “Truly, I am in awe of his gruesome power.” I thought that was hilarious, proving yet again there were many reasons why I liked Gwyn so much, in this case, her ability to bounce back from a traumatic experience with humour. Aoibheann was less impressed, complaining that Gywn could have died and that the Raven would kill her if he heard that, suggesting that things might have gone better if Gwyn hadn’t been rude. Gwyn wasn’t having any of that and I fully agreed with her. She suggested that she should make a tabard with “Major Fuckbeak” embroidered on it.
Rachel wandered in, back to her more demonic appearance, and wanted to know what we were talking about. Gwyn explained that she and Aoibheann had encountered the Unseelie Raven, who got his jollies by being a bully and a twat and attacking people. Aoibheann was not convinced and still believed that they might have faired better if Gwyn had held her tongue. I was more phlegmatic about it.
“I rather suspect that it would not have made much difference,” I said.” Bullies like to get a reaction, preferably one of pain or fear. It is true that they don’t like it when you stand up to them, and yes, sometimes it can lead to more pain. The gods know I was beaten up enough times at school, and for a while, even more once I learned to stand up to them, but after a while, they realised they weren’t going to get what they wanted from me and started to leave me alone. Sorry, Aoibheann, but I’m with Gwyn on this.” I looked at Gwyn and winked, “Although, I might have used slightly more…. diplomatic… language.” Rachel, meanwhile, seemed curiously excited by the tale but her reaction was odd. She started trying to wind Gwyn up, as if trying to provoke her into being angry about the incident and offering to help her to get her revenge. Gwyn refused to be provoked.
“Aoibh, I didn’t provoke him,” she said. “I just didn’t grovel to him, which was what he wanted. My current plan is to avoid him for the rest of my life, because I doubt seriously I’d be able to do anything other than spit in his weird face.” She nodded in response to my comment. “Exactly, Nathaniel. As for diplomatic language, fine. Perhaps I should have complimented him before asking him who he was and why the fuck did he want to know what I was doing.” She frowned at Rachel. “He’ll punish himself, Rache. One day somebody bigger and badder will come along, and then he’ll realise what an empty farce his whole life has been. He’ll probably die alone and forgotten, and nobody will sing songs about him. That’s what happens to fuckbeaks.” While I applauded Gwyn’s reaction, I was curious about Aoibheann. She was glaring at Rachel and had taken up one of the sharper knives. Did she know something about what Rachel was doing that I didn’t? She barely spared a glance to serve Sophia, who had just come in and was looking slightly confused as to what was going on. In the absence of my Irish Coffee, she opted for a beer, complaining that she had spent ages searching for her ankh. I complimented Gwyn.
“I knew there were good reasons why I like you Gwyn,” I said. “Maybe next time you should say something along the lines of ‘oh, great and mighty raven, may it please you to go fuck your pretty self.’” I told Sophia I would make a closer search of my cabin next time I was there. Rachel meanwhile, was not to be deflected. It was almost as if she wanted Gwyn to be angry and demanding vengeance. She kept offering and cajoling, saying that she should let Rachel exact revenge, otherwise he would think her weak and attack her again. It struck me as being very strange behaviour, since, so far as I knew, Rachel & Gywn were not particularly friends. Gywn liked my suggestion and asked if I meant that she needed work on her ‘posh fuck language’. She wasn’t going to be provoked by Rachel, telling her that living well is the best revenge. To my surprise, she actually lifted her shirt to show the tiny marks left of her scars – presumably from the Cait’s healing.
Aoibheann surprised me still further by threatening Rachel. Clearly she felt there was something more going on, as she readied the knife for throwing and told Rachel that if she said one more word, she would find out if she could feed off her own pain. Ah! So that was what was going on. I guess Aoibheann has experienced this before. I found myself readying to draw my sword and added my own warning. Sophia, probably wisely, took her beer and stepped out of the line of whatever was going on between Rachel & Aoibheann, coming to stand behind me. Rachel turned her attention to Aoibheann, taunting her, daring her to do it, encouraging her to use her anger, to let it all out. This was not the sort of feeding I had encountered before, but I can see that a demon might feed off pain, fear, anger etc. I made ready to defend my friends if anything kicked off. Gywn tried to calm Aoibheann, suggesting she drop it, and then Cristof came in and gave Rachel a stark warning not to provoke people or there would be unpleasant consequences. The tension in the room was mounting, which apparently alerted our Cait friends since Nualla appeared and jumped on the bar and I became aware of Royce being alert under the table.
Obviously, whatever Rachel was doing worked on Aoibheann because she threw the knife at Rachel. Rachel managed to dodge the knife and leapt up to the bar with the clear intent to attack, and then it all got a bit messy and confusing. Rachel was going for Aoibheann, Nualla was protecting her and Aoibheann seemed to be trying to bite Rachel. I felt a wave of vampiric energy from Cristof as the ground shook, knocking Gwyn to the ground. Maybe that’s another vampire power, making earthquakes. I don’t know, but I did see that it spilled my drink. That was too much for Sophia and Gwyn who wisely beat strategic retreats.
Cristof was yelling at Rachel to stop it. Meanwhile, I ran, vampire speed, across the bar and grabbed Rachel’s tail, trying to pull her away from the fight with Aoibheann. Cristof did something again, and it was as if an invisible hand had grabbed Rachel and thrown her against the wall, taking me with it, as I still had hold of her tail. She tried to kick me in the private parts, but thankfully, she missed. I felt my own powers kicking in, remembering how I had defeated the soldier insect when it was trying to attack Nadya. I don’t know what it is called, but I felt really big and scary somehow, turning my glare on Rachel, much as I had the soldier. She stopped and stared at me as if in awe of me. I still didn’t know what it was I was doing, but I wasn’t complaining. Of course, I might have complained about the sudden shower of water and pottery shards as a well-aimed water jug flew from Aoibheann’s hand straight onto the back of Rachel’s head. Maybe she learned something from Isabella after all.
Suddenly, she wasn’t the worst of my problems. I heard a growl and scream from Cristof. Glancing sideways, I saw him rushing at Rachel, his face contorted in anger like a madman. I must admit I used some profanity as I realised Cristof had frenzied. Without even thinking, I turned the awesome glare thing on him and yelled at him to stop. To my extreme surprise and considerable relief, it actually worked. Little old me, stared down a frenzied Brujah elder. I took a deep breath, out of habit more than anything and sighed with relief. He seemed to have gotten himself under control again and thanked me, saying that he now owed me a boon, whatever that means, albeit a small one, and told me to attend to Aoibheann.
I approached Aoibheann slowly, wary of her reaction to previous attempts to help her. It looked like Nualla was attempting to heal her. Behind me, I heard Cristof telling to prepare for her punishment for disobeying him. I heard him draw his sword, but suddenly, it became all too much for me. I felt the shivers and shakes come on with a vengeance, much like they had after my fight with Jasper Black in London. It was all I could do to stop myself from screaming, but I did run, out of the tavern, barely aware of Aerodine standing outside the door, completely unaware of where Gwyn & Sophia had gone. I just had to get out of there. I don’t even remember anything until I found myself at the carved stone, where I sat for an hour until I felt calm enough to return to the castle. What passed there while I was away, I don’t yet know, as I felt only able to go back to my hut to rest. No doubt I shall find out soon.