I get my name, Nathaniel, from my mother’s side of the family, him being her favourite uncle. I never knew the man as he died when I was very young, but Mother often spoke of him with great affection. He was a great gardener and herbalist, and she learned much of those subjects from him. My middle name, William, was of course my father’s first name. Taking your father’s name as a middle name is a tradition going back at least as far as I had managed to research the family tree. That was as far as the early 18th century and one Benjamin James Ballard (father James), who supposedly ran away to be a pirate. Or so some part of family lore has it. I prefer the other version where he was an aspiring writer who went to the Caribbean to learn about pirates and such like for his writing. I like my name and wear it proudly in honour of my late uncle who meant so much to my mother. That is one reason I don’t hold with being called Nate or Nathan by anybody except very close friends. But, seemingly, those names aren’t enough, and now I have a new one.
I was sitting on one of the benches in the tavern, reading from my collection of Walt Whitman poems when Gwyn came in. She looked somewhat different, with shorter hair that was a rather fetching silver colour. She told me she had been working with Valene on some healing. Somehow, this managed to undo whatever it was that the witch had done to her in exchange from bringing her back after the Huntsman’s attack and now it was growing again. She was a little unsure about the colour though, so I reassured her that I liked it and told her it made her look a little more grown up.
Paash came trotting in at that point, seeming much livelier than of late. I could swear she is aging backwards. Maybe the fae energy out there works on undead unicorns too. She summoned me to the bar, telling me she had something for me and things to ask. First, she wanted me to change the beer barrel, which was simple enough. I am well used to shifting barrels, empty or full, and soon had the new one on the rack. I was about to say that it needed time to settle, but she trotted round and tapped it almost immediately. Oh well, it’s not as if I drink it much, or in the case of the barrel as it stood, eat. She gave me some pay for working in the tavern, which was very kind of her. I didn’t think I had done that much work, just filling in when needed, but she paid me anyway, in a little embroidered coin-purse. She wanted to embroider it properly, so asked what my name meant. That was a rather strange request, but having done the research many years before, I did know the answers. Nathaniel, I told her was a Hebrew name meaning ‘gift from God’, William meant ‘stout protector’ or something like that, and my family name, somewhat more prosaically, came from an old Scot’s word for a bald person. She was not impressed, grumbling something about those not being proper names. She seemed to be cogitating on that, so I left her to it for a moment.
The mangy mutt turned up. I told it to go chase a rabbit or something; but instead, it jumped up, pulled Cris’ proclamation about eating people off the door post and started chewing it to shreds. Gwyn told it off too, telling it that it would be in trouble from its master. Paash then started trying to offer Gwyn a bed, apparently not recognising her until I pointed out that she had also worked at the Lucky Leaf. She declined the offer, saying she had a hut near the castle entrance and then left, saying she needed a walk. I would have gone with her, but Paash hadn’t finished with me yet. My name, she told me, was now Ahhleemuu (I’m guessing on the spelling). When I asked what that meant, she said it meant ‘gift from Artisan’. That was fair enough, I said, being almost exactly the same as Nathaniel aside from the deity concerned. She went off into one of those introspective moods of hers, so I left her too it. There wasn’t much for me to do there anyway, not until the barrel had settled anyway.
So, I have a new name. I’m not quite sure what occasion I will have to use it, but it might come in handy if some fae creature or other magic user starts asking my name in a way that might result in some risk to me. Hi, I’m Ahhleemuu, try using magic on that.