If I ever get back to that which I once thought of as the real world, I might like to go back to university. I am sure I could do a doctorate in something exotic like inter-species discourse, or whatever the correct word is – species, race, etc might be. After all this time trying to communicate with vampires, fae, demons, were-creatures etc, it would be a fascinating field of study – IF I could convince any university to take me seriously. Of course, my thesis might be slightly hampered by the fact that the person with whom I often have the most difficulty communicating is Aoibheann, who is human as far as we know. To be fair, a lot of that is cultural, given the huge historical and educational gap between us. On the other hand, in terms of difficulty in getting a simple concept across, I think that Rachel has to take the prize. Demon logic is tricky at best, but she has only been a demon for a short while. Before that, she was a vampire, and before that, like me, human. Whichever species of logic applies, none of them seem to be able to grasp the very simple concept that neither Gwyn nor I have the slightest intention of thanking her for ‘saving our lives by sacrificing her own’. I have tried explaining it several times yet she does not seem to get it. It’s simple enough – SHE provoked Gwyn and me into confronting the Raven Captain… SHE provoked the Captain into attacking so she could strike back… The Raven Captain spared us because we were under Val’s protection… It was Val’s Cait who led us to safety… SHE then provoked the Raven into the attack that killed her. I can’t make it any simpler without pounding it into her head with a sledgehammer. Despite that, she is still stuck with the idea that WE are the ones at fault and is allowing that to influence other things that aren’t even related.
I returned from a walk to find Gwyn lurking in the bushes, singing an old folk song that I think was called “Wind and the Rain” or possibly “Two Sisters”, a jolly little number, if sororicide is your thing. She was watching a discussion between Aoibheann, Rachel and Braeden, the Sluagh. I couldn’t quite understand what they were on about. Rachel seemed to have some information she wanted to trade for something, but couldn’t find the right person, despite searching. This was clearly some argument that had been going on for a bit, as even Aoibheann was threatening to hog-tie Rachel and deliver her to the Huntsman if she didn’t cooperate. Rachel remained defiant, telling Aoibheann that if she did that, then she would die, taking the information about the mystery arsonist with her, which would make Aoibheann a conspirator in keeping that identity secret. See what I mean about demon logic? Aoibheann was clearly at the end of her tether, telling Rachel that she would be dead either way and offered to introduce her to the Huntsman, to see if he was interested in her secret. I joined Gwyn in the shrubbery and she whispered to me what was going on i.e. that Rachel knew who started the fire and was forgetting vengeance demon stuff in favour of trying to sell the information.
Braeden seemed to tire of Rachel’s games, claiming that he bored her and suggested that Aoibheann’s idea of throwing her to the Huntsman was an excellent idea. Oddly, Rachel still seemed to think she could bargain, even with the Hunstsman, saying she would tell him, IF he told her what he intended to do with the arsonist. Now I knew she was crazy, trying to bargain with the Huntsman. Aoibheann clearly thought so too, suggesting that being hog-tied might help her bargain. Rachel, sensibly, passed on that idea, reiterating that she had asked to be introduced to Faermorn, or the Huntsman so she could pass on her information, and if Aoibheann wasn’t going to help, she would seek other channels.
That sounded like my cue. I was sure I could arrange a meeting, and, reluctantly, I figured that perhaps I could offer extra incentive, by tempting her with a little bit of Brujah anger. I gave Gwyn a brief whispered explanation of my intentions, warning her to be ready to run if it went wrong and stepped forward, greeting everybody and wishing them a pleasant day. Rachel was not overly pleased to see me. While she conceded it was probably a day, she demanded to know what I wanted, then appeared to make her own conclusion on that and told me outright she wasn’t going to tell me anything, or even consider negotiating. Braeden conceded it was a pleasant day, but seemed distracted. Aoibheann, in the meanwhile seemed to have given up on talking to Rachel and asked Braeden to let the Huntsman know that Rachel… She gave up and looked to me. Well, I had inserted myself into the conversation. I looked from one to the other, weighing up what the Huntsman might make of Rachel.
“I’m not entirely sure the Huntsman would want her, from what little I know of his tastes.” I said, extrapolating from his lack of interest in me, as a not so pure soul. “What’s the problem here?” Rachel continued trying to get information about Faermorn, telling Aoibheann to seek her out if she changed her mind about an introduction. She then made as if she was intending to seek Faermorn herself, but clearly had no idea where, or what she even looked like. Braeden seemed to find this amusing, told her that he hoped she failed, and departed, leaving some of his pet spiders behind. Aoibheann suggested that Rachel seek Faermorn where the mists were thickest. That seemed a bit mean for Aoibheann, pointing Rachel to a place where she might get lost, but maybe she was as fed up as I was.
“You seek the Queen?” I said. “I might be able to arrange something for you there. What business do you wish to bring before her?” Rachel was not convinced, asking how I knew her. Aoibheann wasn’t sure this was a good idea.
“Nathaniel, no!” she said. “She knows the arsonist’s identity, or she claims to at least, She has seen the arsonist face to face, and she has completely forsaken her nature, forgotten her desires for justice and vengeance, and instead become corrupted with greed. All she wishes to see who she can sell the information to for the most money, and we have no way to verify that plans to tell the truth and is not simply conspiring with the arsonist.” She wound down and warned me to proceed with caution. As if I would behave in any other way when dealing with our demon. Rachel was a little surprised by this and started babbling about not having faced the arsonist, something about Padishar not telling her what he would do to said arsonist and such like. She claimed she wasn’t doing it for money; she just wanted to be sure that the perpetrator would be properly punished and that she would get to watch. I grinned, not entirely pleasantly.
“Oh, she does, does she? Well, I am sure Her Majesty would be highly delighted to hear that news. Of course, I cannot speak of what reward Her Majesty may deem this knowledge worth. And what does our demon wish for this knowledge?” Aoibheann, by now, had had enough and suggested that I knock Rachel out, but to let her know first, presumably so she could watch. Rachel claimed again that all she wanted was to be told what would happen to the arsonist. I smiled at Aoibheann.
“Much as that idea appeals, I don’t think that will be necessary.” I turned to Rachel. “Well, that justice might depend on who the perpetrator is, and to which faction he or she belongs. The trees may yet still seek justice, unless they feel their need has been satisfied by the destruction of the castle. Both fae courts might seek justice too. However, I am sure that the justice meted out will be to your satisfaction. And, who knows, I might be able to sweeten the deal a little.” I didn’t mention how just yet. There was no sense in tempting her unless absolutely necessary. Rachel looked at me disbelievingly.
“You? Tell me, Nathaniel, what say do you have? I already told you, I’m not dealing with you, and I don’t understand how you can claim to have the authority you seem to be trying to claim. I wasn’t aware before today that you knew who Queen Faermorn is any more then I do.” Aoibheann chimed in, telling her that I had given my oath to help find the perpetrator. I agreed with her.
“That just shows that you do not know everything. As Aoibheann stated, I am sworn to Her Majesty and that is the task she has given me. So, yes, despite your doubts, I DO have that authority to bring you before her. And, I will do so without prejudice or malice, considering all past dealings between us forgotten.” This did not seem to convince her and she started grumbling about ingratitude, how horrible we had been to her since and now she wasn’t going to help just so I would fail in my oath. Aoibheann growled, saying she was fed up with Rachel talking and never bringing anything of worth. I just grinned again, and not in a nice way.
“Well now, who won’t let things drop? As you wish. It is no loss to me if you bring the information to her yourself. I offered you an introduction and you refused. However, I am duty bound to inform Her Majesty what I now know. I only hope that whoever she sends to find you is as polite as I was planning on being.” I stepped away slightly, intending to terminate negotiations. She could take her chances with the other powers, take her chance finding Faermorn. I was also intrigued by other developments; the sounds of somebody unknown coming through the brush and apparently falling down. Rachel accused me of escalation and said she would refuse to help the Queen unless she got promises that I would not be involved. I shrugged; it made no odds to me, whatever she might think. Gwyn stepped forward now and started to guide Aoibheann away from the argument, while I addressed Rachel’s so-called threats.
“How bravely she talks, a baby demon who would bargain with the Unseelie Queen. You are, of course, free to tell her what you like. I care not one whit. Go, seek Her Majesty, spin your tales as you wish, I care not. Run along now.” I turned away from her. “Aoibheean, why don’t you and Gwyn go back to our recent abode? I shall join you shortly.” I searched the nearby undergrowth until I spotted a crumpled form, partly concealed. I suggested that the girls fetch some water while I recovered our fallen visitor. I was vaguely aware that Rachel had departed towards the castle hill.
Life, it seemed, had not done with surprises. The fallen figure, clad only in torn undergarments, seemed familiar, in appearance and in scent. I rolled her onto her back. It was Helene! My most beloved friend from London, long lost to me since that city went away! She was only semi-conscious, muttering in French. I picked her up in my arms and carried her to the Underhill.
Once back in the cave, I deposited her gently in one of the chairs, fanning her and patting her face. Aoibheann brought me some water and some mead. In fact, she got mead for everybody. I kept calling Helene’s name, saying reassuring things in French to her. This prompted a comment from Gwyn about me knowing everybody in the universe. Helene muttered something about dreaming.
“It seems that way sometimes. I’m beginning to think Dee was right, all these multiverses are connected. This is another of my friends from London. And I have no idea how she got here,” I told Gywn then turned back to Helene. “If you are dreaming, then so am I. I have no idea what twisted notion of the Nexus brought you here, but it is me.” She came to with a start and started bawling, throwing her arms around me and holding on so hard I might have choked, had I needed to breathe, babbling in a mixture of English and French. Gywn and Aoibheann started talking about how people seemed to pop into this reality from various places. Aoibheann mentioned a place called Crossroads, of which I hadn’t heard.
“All these realities are somehow connected, so it makes sense to meet people from one in another. Perhaps nobody you knew in your ‘real life’ has stumbled into this mess of other realities yet.” I turned my attention back to Helene, stroking her hair. “Chut, chut, tu es en sécurité maintenant, c’est moi, c’est moi, tais-toi, ma chèrie.” She mumbled something about thinking she was dead. I assured her this was not the case. “Non, non, je suis celui qui est mort, tu te souviens?” I said, reminding her that I was the dead one. I switched to English. “You seem to me to be alive. You are in a place called Ashmourne and we are currently guests of the Unseelie Queen, so you can relax for the moment.” She gasped that she needed water. I gave her the glass that Aoibheann had provided; assuring her she was in a safe place. I introduced her to Aoibheann and Gwyn, saying that she could trust them. Gwyn ruffled my hair and said she was going to go to sleep. I promised I would join her soon, standing up and kissing her, in case she was perturbed by my obvious affection for Helene. Helene started asking about washing and such like, so I asked Aoibheann if she would show Helene where to wash and such like. By the time I turned back, Helene had fallen asleep. I felt that was probably the best thing for her, and decided to leave her to it. I left her a quick note, telling her where to find me.
Before I left, I wrote a quick note to Her Majesty, detailing what I had heard thus far, and warning her about Rachel’s nature.
Unto Your Most Royal Majesty, Greetings,
If it pleases Your Majesty, I have information pertinent to the fire. A demon (formerly a vampire) by the name of Rachel, one time pet of Padishar, claims she knows the identity of the arsonist. She claims that she wants only to know what justice might be meted out to the perpetrator before revealing his or her identity. I tried to persuade her to let me bring her to Your Majesty, but she refused because of some prior disagreement between us (It was her attempt at vengeance that brought Gwyn and I into contact with Your Raven – and she claims she sacrificed her life to save us), deciding to seek You out herself. If I may be so bold, it might be worth sending some of Your people to retrieve her. I regret that she might try to bargain with You for the information, and that may involve refusing to cooperate if I have any involvement in the matter. I will not be offended if You choose to tell her I am not, for all I care about is doing my duty.
Your obedient servant
I gave this to the servants to deliver to Her Majesty before taking my rest also, asking Aoibheann to watch Helene until she had to sleep, and to fetch me immediately if there was a problem.