Holding Out for a Hero

Well, it’s nice to know I am good at something.  According to Gwyn, I am a lovely kisser and good with horses.  I might normally be a little worried about those two concepts in the same sentence but it has been a long time since my life could be remotely described as normal. Anyway, that’s what she told me when I turned up in the tavern the other night.  I didn’t think I had much skill with horses, only what I learned from Joshua and the other carters. I told her about that, relating that those horses were very workaday ones compared to her unicorn self. I decided not to comment on my kissing skills and how I had learned them.  Aoibheann was cleaning glasses behind the bar, so I thanked her again for trying to save my life.  She had clearly forgotten, since she asked me what I was in danger from.  I almost answered that question, but decided it would take too long and I would probably have to explain too much of it.  She was a little surprised when I reminded her, but then said something very strange.

“Well, if you truly wanted to end yourself, Nathaniel, I would not stop you.  If I were cursed as you were…”  She trailed off, as if uncertain what she meant.  I had never thought of myself as cursed, though I suppose I could understand how she might see it that way.

“It was truly wonderful of you to try, Aoibheann, really, and I like you all the better for it.  But worry not; I do not consider myself cursed. I am alive, sort of. I have wonderful people around me, and, for the most part, enjoy my existence, even if it does occasionally involve pesky demons. So, I have no thought to ending my existence.  Even if I did, jumping off the steps would not do it, I am afraid. One aspect of my curse is that I am somewhat harder to kill permanently.” I helped myself to a rum, toasted her and returned to Gwyn’ side on the bench. Gwyn, possibly refreshed by the cider, was coming up with ideas.  I wasn’t sure if they were a plan of action or ideas for a story of some sort.

“We really should stick together, the three of us,” she said. “I think we’d make the best superhero team ever. Nathaniel can think up all the escape plans, I can provide the transport, and Aoibh… Well, every fairy tale has to have a damsel in distress, right?” Aoibheann, rightly, disagreed.

“If anyone thinks up the escape plans, it ought to be me, I have the most experience running away,” she pointed out, seeming slightly offended, but smiling anyway.  “And heroes aren’t supposed to run away, that’s why they get eaten by dragons.”  Gwyn decided to play along suggesting that I make the attack plans and the two of them run away. She also designated me “Nathaniel, Mighty Slayer of Onions”. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, having had very little to do with onions other than counting them, though I had bitten one once to prove it was food to Kzzz. I gave Gwyn a look.

“Onions? Really?”! I asked. “Accounting irregularities maybe, over-pricers of goods maybe – which I suppose could include onions. Besides, what have onions ever done to us?”  I sobered up slightly, one hand on my sword. “I’m not much of a slayer, but I might change my mind in respect of anything that tries to hurt either of you.” Aoibheann was not going to let me get away with it, claiming she was very good at slaying onions, and nobody could save you from the tears.  She warned me not to harm myself protecting her.

“I would very much prefer to not harm myself,” I told her, “but sometimes, it goes with the territory.  That’s just the sort of thing I have to do sometimes.” I turned to Gwyn. “Is that a sort of heroic thing?  I can’t remember. You’ve taught literary stuff more recently than I have.  Which is never.” Gwyn responded, switching into academic mode with ease, explaining about heroic templates and patterns, and then switching back and telling us we were both her heroes. Aoibheann, meanwhile, went on about things I couldn’t protect her from.  I suppose she is right, since most of her travails are of her own doing.  I told her I would still be bound to try, because that was my choice, and then changed the subject by asking if anybody had news about the fire. Aoibheann reluctantly conceded that is was my choice and said she had heard nothing about the fire. She returned to the hero theme.

“I’m really not a hero, Gwyn.  I run, and I’ve already told you, heroes don’t run.  That’s why they die.”

“I want to run,” said Gwyn. “I do. Maybe that’s why. I think heroes come in all flavours, Aoibheann. You make me want to be a better person, and I think that works as a hero.” She shrugged. “As for the stories, I love them whether they are tragedies or not.” She took my hand. “Luckily, we are not in a story, and if we were, I think it’d be a comedy.” That made me laugh.

“She’s right, Aoibheann, you give me something to aspire to, as does Gwyn, so we can all be each other’s heroes.”  I looked at Gwyn “If we are in a story, I want to meet the author, preferably while I am holding something sharp, like a very severe editing pen.” I took her hand and kissed it. “Some things I would not change though.” I groaned inwardly at myself for sounding like a hero from one of the dreadful penny romances Mother would sometimes read for fun. Gwyn predictably blushed and accused me of reading too many hero stories. I blamed it on poetry. Aoibheann, however seemed to be convinced we should not try to outrun our fates.

“Regardless of what controls our fates, Nathaniel, you should not try to change it.  There is a reason why you are a vampire, Gwyn is a unicorn, and why one day I will stop running.” She said this, but did not sound convinced of the latter.  Naturally, of course, I thought of all the discussions I had had with Hillaire over dinner regarding free will and predestination. I accused her of Calvinist bullshit, before realising she wouldn’t have a clue what that was. When she asked, I told her it was a religious doctrine and would tell her about it another time.  Much as I had enjoyed my debates with Hillaire, I somehow doubted I could have a similar quality discussion with Aoibheann.  I told her that I considered myself master of my own fate and then decided I would take my lady for a walk, and that is what we did.

Aaah, Bonnie….

 

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