Don’t Tell it to the Trees

I suppose I should be used to the many and varied shapes of the fantastical beings I encounter, but I have never encountered somebody with blades for feet before.

I was sitting in the tavern reading, when Aoibheann came in. She seemed mostly recovered from the excitement of the previous evening and was mostly intent on cleaning up the mess. I apologised for having left in a hurry. I wasn’t sure that she would understand my post-event-panic, so just said I didn’t want to be around that much blood.  It was maybe not the best explanation, but simpler.  Of course, now she will be wary every time she cuts herself, so in hindsight, maybe I could have put it better.

Valene came in, sneaking up behind me and snapping my hair-band yet again. At this rate, I’ll be running out and have to wear my hair loose, which is probably what she wants. She was dressed rather unusually, for her, very casual, non-descript clothes. I asked her if it was casual-queen Friday, but all she would say was that she was ‘elsewhere’.   She then surprised Aoibheann by offering to help with the mopping up.  Aoibheann thought this odd, but, knowing Val from her days at Fiendish Pleasures, knew she was well experienced in cleaning up.  I asked if Royce & Nualla had recounted the events of the evening, which they had, then asked if I had really grabbed the tail of a demon and faced down a rampaging vampire.

Valene laughed and asked if I remembered the time she had had to carry a drunken Vedis back to the club. I was confused at first, and then remembered the time I had found her with Vedis, Dr Foxtrotter and Anjolie with rather a lot of empty bottles in Lion Square.  I thought it was bad enough having to carry the latter two back to Foxtrotter’s house, but I can’t imagine Vedis being cooperative – quite apart from being twice Val’s height. We laughed at the shared memory, but were interrupted by a noise from the roof. Aoibheann commented that it hadn’t sounded like a bat and bravely volunteered me to go and investigate.

What I found was some possibly demonic creature. Most of her was very obviously female, with a skin colour that put me in mind of the drow I had known in London, except this one had wings, and her lower legs, articulated more like a quadraped’s, ended in long, curved blades of bone that put me in mind of ice-skates. I am afraid my rather odd sense of humour took over.  I told her that the roof skating rink had been closed for the summer, but we were still open for drinks and snacks. She was a little reluctant at first, concerned for the floor, but I assured her that the majority of the tavern floor was stone and so long as she stayed off the rug, she would be fine.

Meanwhile, I could hear Aoibheann tremulously asking Valene what would happen if she continued to refuse Vedis to the extent that she didn’t like her any more. Valene reassured her that they would remain friends and that while Vedis wanted to corrupt her; she was unlikely to hurt her.

Our winged friend dropped down to ground level and hovered into the tavern. Aoibheann, was, predictably, somewhat alarmed, whereas Valene seemed fascinated, though I could not tell if she was attracted to the womanly parts, or the cat in her wanted to chase the bird. I made brief introductions, making clear that we were not on the menu, offering instead the wide range (ha ha) of meals and drinks available.  Apparently, we were not of interest as food, and neither were any of the tavern’s offerings. She exchanged a few more pleasantries and then flew off, presumably to find something she did want to eat.

I made a joke about the blades being ice-skates. Aoibheann then commented that Alec and Isabella had promised to take her ice-skating once.  I found myself telling her about the rink that was across the road from the hotel where I lived in London, and then telling her a little about Greyson, what he had meant to me back then, what he meant now, and about my encounter on the boat on the way to this place.  She seemed to sympathise, even if I wasn’t sure she quite understood that Greyson and Alec were one and the same. She then confused me with a classical reference, suddenly asking about Pandora’s last gift. I spoke a little about Pandora, confirming that she was referring to hope while wondering where she had come across the story. This was apparently what she meant and she said that she was sure that I would see Greyson again. She then cautioned me about sharing Alec’s secrets, saying that even the trees in this place listen.  Given what passed in the night while I was out in the woods, I could not help but chuckle to myself, knowing of at least one tree who had definitely listened. I agreed with her that I should be cautious, saying she was the only person I could talk to about this (though possibly Isabella might understand too).  She told me that she would do her best to keep my secrets, though could not guarantee it, should somebody coerce her in some way. I promised I would not hold her at fault if that happened.

The mention of trees had apparently reminded her of something, because she started talking about Ardan and asked if I would like to go see him with her some day.  Apparently, I am considered a suitable escort, since she is supposedly not supposed to go outside without one.  She did not want to go right at that point, but I consider it a definite improvement that she was willing to take me. I also wondered why I should have been nominated, given that she had Nualla to guard her. She told me that he had grown considerably since she left the cove, and that he was quite the sight. Personally, I have my doubts, given where she got the tree from, but I have it from other sources that it has grown well.  As to its nature, well that is a whole other story.  A tree that grows that much in a scarce few weeks cannot be entirely natural.

We spoke a little of her reading, which she hasn’t done enough of since we moved to here, as she lost all her books in Jasper Cove. I offered to lend her some of the ones I still had, but she was reluctant, for fear she might lose or destroy those too. I was telling her about Hesiod, going back to the subject of Pandora, when Vedis interrupted us, making some comment about paths crossing, or was I following her.  I assured her that any crossing of paths was entirely coincidental since the days of Fiendish Pleasures. She was surprised, and pleased, that I remembered, saying that many people tried to forget that place.  Aoibheann was her usual nervous self, but stood up for herself somewhat when Vedis wanted vodka, mead and whisky, by insisting that she pay. Vedis claimed that anything she had was worth way more than the drinks were worth. I chipped in on Aoibheann’s side, saying she was only carrying out the wishes of her employer.  Eventually, Vedis relented, plucking what looked like a ruby from her outfit and passing that over, asking if she could start a tab.  I put my accountant hat on and offered to keep track of the tab, even pulling out one of my notebooks and jotting down the amounts.  Vedis left, muttering something about having to distil the spirits before she could use them.  That much excitement seemed too much for Aoibheann, since she left soon after with barely a goodnight.

So, I am now considered an acceptable escort. Valene must be more persuasive than I thought. Much as I doubt the purpose of the tree, it is a good sign that Aoibheann wants to show it to me. I just hope it isn’t some kind of a trap.

 

* The very much lamented Sandy Denny with my favourite version

 

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