Later that day, I found myself out on the platform again, staring out at the despoiled forest. The anger and frustration caught up with me for a moment and I found myself shedding a tear at the senseless destruction, but also out of fear of even more senseless vengeance.
“Too much death and destruction,” I cried to myself, and then shouted louder, hoping that some in the forest would hear me. “There has been enough death!” I wiped the blood-flecked tear from my cheek and extended my finger, letting it drip to the forest floor far below. Apparently, I was heard, because moments later, I was seized from behind by what turned out to be Aoibheann, telling me desperately that I mustn’t. I was mightily confused for a moment, and then realised that she must have thought me about to jump. I called her a darling for trying to save me, and then hugged her, since she already had her arms around me, kissed her on the top of the head and thanked her, assuring her that I had no intent to harm myself. Of course, she immediately turned bright red and fled up the stairs back to the castle. I turned and chuckled, muttering that maybe she did like me after all. My voice must have reached further than I thought, for a few moments later; Gwyn came puffing up the stairs, saying I could be heard in Valene’s den, and asking what was wrong because I didn’t sound like myself. I drew her closer for a kiss asking if she was trying to stop me from killing myself too. She said that she had been down at Val’s den, playing with the kitties and on her way back, had heard me shouting like a tragic hero. She asked if I had been trying to kill myself. I kissed her again and told her no. Besides, I said, I would have difficulties with that method. With that, I ran to the edge and jumped, letting myself drop a bit before flying up, doing a couple of loops and landing back on the platform beside her.
“Frankly, I’m not sure how I could off myself,” I told her. “The sunlight doesn’t seem to do it. Maybe if I was beheaded or something, but that’s kind of hard to do to yourself. But, don’t worry, I have no such intention. I’m just afraid that the various factions will blame each other, or the castle, for the fire, and that there will be too much fighting, too many deaths. All I want to be able to do is to help stop it.” I hugged her tight, but then remembered that she still needed to breathe and loosened my grip. She assured me she could still breathe and told me that she keeps forgetting that I am a vampire.
“That’s the nicest thing anybody has said to me all day,” I told her and drew her into another kiss. That went on for some time, and when we broke off, she told me that I always made her feel safe. That seemed to me to be particularly ironic, that I, the supreme predator, as one of the Sabbat had once described vampires, should be the one who made somebody feel safe. I asked if that squared with vampire fiction in her day, remembering she had told me there was a lot of that, or were we still the big, bad guys. She told me that there was one series of books, and a television series, called True Blood that was good, showing vampires in various shades of grey. There was another series, though, that were very sloppy romances, about a vampire who was turned when he was 17, and who fell in love with a fellow student. I think she accurately summarised her opinion in just words – “absolute shit”. She assured me she only knew about the books because half of her students were obsessed with them.
“Can’t you get them reading something worthwhile, like Blake?” I asked, remembering her mentioning Blake in respect of teaching before. She assured me that they read Blake, and Shakespeare and various other authors, in class. Twilight, apparently the name of the book series, was what they read on the bus. I was pleased to hear that proper literature was still being taught and then asked after the kitties.
“They’re delightful. I have no idea what they’re trying to tell me, but sometimes I understand them anyway. I wonder if regular people can learn to understand Cait.” I was not sure about that, but felt sure it was possible. I mentioned the spell Isabella had cast once, enabling Madiera and Seven to learn English. That brought on a sigh, mostly because of all the stuff that Isabella had promised to teach her. I told her I didn’t know where she was, but that Aoibheann supposedly knew how to contact her. I told her that Valene was a better bet anyway, because she already spoke Cait. She agreed, saying she had experienced more contact with Valene recently than she had ever done with Isabella. She then looked at her hands, saying they tingled and asked if I thought she might be Sidhe. I told her it was possible, but would make no difference to me. I also suggested that since she had grown up without their influence, it was likely she had escaped the worst of their habits. I kissed her hands, jokingly trying to make the tingling better, but that apparently made them tingle more. She said it gets more intense in the fae places, and seems to have gotten worse since the fire. I wondered if it might just be her body trying to adjust to new, unknown senses. I mentioned again how I didn’t tingle, but did feel more alive in those areas, possibly because there could be fae blood in me through Mother. She got a little more thoughtful, playing with my fingers, which looked huge against her dainty hands.
“I sometimes feel like we’re babes in the wood here, she said. “We’re the pawns on the chessboard. And you know what happens to pawns. What if the wrong person — being — found out that I am, might be, Sidhe? Would that make me a good hostage? If you’re fae as well as being vampire, where does that put you in the political spectrum?” I thought about that for a moment, putting my arm around her and walking over to the corner of the platform, looking out at the forest.
“We are only pawns if we let ourselves be used that way. We are too smart for that. Maybe we are babes, but if we keep our wits about us,” I told her. “As to political spectra, I don’t know. I have no great attachment to my kind. I swore an oath to Brigitte, when she was my prince, and a later one, when she needed a friend, but she is elsewhere now. Maybe I owe Cristof some loyalty since we are of the same clan, but that is rather abstract. At the moment, my sympathies are with the forest, and those that live in it or are part of it, especially to Valene.” I sighed. “I tried to explain to Aoibheann the other week, but I don’t think she understood. My loyalty is to my friends, to the ones I care about. That is something concrete, something solid, something I can see, feel, touch… Political loyalties are abstract, harder to focus on. If it came to a choice between betraying some political entity and betraying a friend, there would be no contest.” I waited, hoping she at least would understand.
“I understand that feeling. I can’t think of betraying you. Or Aoibheann. And I’m becoming very fond of Valene, even if she does scare me a little. Everybody else, I don’t know about. Well, except I’d like nothing better than for Rachel to go back to Hell.” She thought for a moment, and then suggested that Aoibheann maybe didn’t understand because she came from a place where loyalty was only to a liege lord or something. Her thoughts then turned back to herself.
“Do you know, I’m not like this. I don’t do a lot of personal angst… who am I bullshitting. I finished with all that when I was about fifteen, I thought. It’s a little like being a teenager again.” Given we had been kissing and holding hands, I thought maybe she was talking about us.
“Don’t say that,” I said. “I feel bad enough about being the older man without you turning into a teenager. If it’s any consolation, I’m out of practice too. Such relationships as I have had over the past few years have either been long, awkward dances with neither party making a move, or the more straightforward, I’m horny, you’re horny, let’s fuck variety.” She laughed at that, saying it was more about learning about the new her. That made sense, suddenly discovering you are fae might well feel like growing up again. I feel somewhat like that myself, especially when Brigitte and others keep treating my like a baby vampire.
“I like you” she said. “You’re my friend. I also think you’re dead sexy, and I’m glad you’re not rushing me. I feel more on an even footing with you than with anybody else here. Even if you are from a different century, a different world, I understand a little about that world.” She had the advantage of me there. At least she can have read about my era, whereas I only know little glimpses about hers. Before I could say anything, she started claiming extreme hunger, and in lieu of foraging for berries in the woods, she decided she needed to go find something to eat in the tavern. She did say I could join her, but only if I wanted to watch her stuffing her face. And then, she was gone, bounding up the stairs with that amazing energy she sometimes shows. I would have followed, but did not feel inclined towards sitting in the tavern, even with her company. Instead, I sat myself on the edge of the platform and resumed my communion with the distant forest. I like where things are going with Gwyn. I just hope that circumstances will allow us to enjoy that. If war comes to the castle, I don’t know if that will be so.