It was girl’s night in the sithen. Gwyn, Aoibheann, Rachel and Bella, were all happily consuming mead and talking about manicures, or possibly pedicures. Well, strictly speaking, they were talking about Rachel’s hooves, but I don’t know of there is such a thing as a hooficure. There was another woman there, who left just as I arrived. I was told later that she was a kindred by the name of Gabrielle. I suppose at some point, I should make the effort to meet her. It’s not as if I have a huge amount of kindred company to choose from. I know this because I got a potted summary from Gwyn after I kissed her. This summary also included the news that Aoibheann had tried to kill Braeden the previous evening and had been hiding under the table when she arrived. That, while interested, got saved for later.
The girls were talking about pedicures, as I said. In addition to being inexperienced at being a demon, Rachel is also inexperienced in caring for her hooves. Well, that I cannot blame her for. After many years of dealing with nothing worse than corns, cutting nails and what have you, it must be a bit of a shock to have to deal with horns and hooves. Fortunately, we had Aoibheann to help out. She proved to be surprisingly knowledgeable, or perhaps not so surprising, as she did come from a rural, agricultural background before she arrived in Jasper Cove. She gave Rachel a lot of useful information about keeping hooves in trim. Well, about keeping goats’ hooves in trim. Rachel kept insisting she wasn’t a goat, despite all our assurances that we knew that, but that goats’ hooves were the nearest reference we had. Aoibheann offered to clean Rachel’s hooves up for her, apparently being well used to doing that sort of thing with farm animals.
I was suddenly rather amused, and pulled my pen-knife out from my pocket. It was one of those multiple blade ones, including the infamous blade for getting stones out of horses’ hooves. While I was plenty used to the horses that pulled Father’s carts, they had always been dealt with by the smithy, so I had never even thought I would have cause to use it. With a grin, I handed it over to Aoibheann, showing her how to fold out the various blades, explaining how I had never imagined it would actually get used.
Aoibheann took Rachel’s foot gently and started applying the knife, shaving off overgrown bits, digging out bits where stones had got caught and hoof-rot had started to set in. Rachel was mostly stoic about it, even if she did wince occasionally. Bella provided some manner of distraction by suddenly deciding that Rachel’s tentacles on her back – I forgot to mention those, she was showing tentacles like Vedis’, except not quite so stylish – would be a good fairground ride. She flew up, grabbed hold of the end of one and started swinging back and forth like a child on a farm gate. I think she had consumed a little too much mead. Fortunately, Rachel was too busy being treated and too surprised to react badly.
Bella noticed the affection between Gwyn and me and wanted to know if we were an item. This apparently means us being in a relationship. Gwyn explained that it was derived from the society columns in newspapers. If the writer included a piece about person X walking out with person Y, then that was an item in the column, and by transference, person X and person Y were ‘an item’. I do so love the way language evolves. I was quite relieved that Gwyn was prepared to admit that we were an item.
The discussion then turned to more cosmetic matters, i.e. what colour Rachel’s hooves should be. I was well aware that ladies have a penchant for polishing and colouring their nails, but I had never thought that could be extended to something like hooves. I guess they are made of the same stuff, sort of. Actually, I remembered that the horses that drew our wedding carriage had shiny hooves, so perhaps it wasn’t such a strange idea. There was some debate about this, with Aoibheann not understanding what difference it made and Rachel trying to explain how fashion was important. Bella was most insistent on applying a glamour to Rachel, so the latter decided that she wanted her hooves to be the colour of 6am on an October morning and the colour of imagination. Clearly, Bella’s imagination didn’t run very far, because we ended up with pink. Rachel was not best pleased with this, but then, she never seemed one for ‘pretty’colours. Having accomplished her aim, and perhaps a little befuddled by mead, Bella departed in search of her husband. Somewhere during the course of the conversation, I had learned that he was normal, human sized, but they had somehow sorted the size issue. Some things, I would probably rather not know, but maybe that is normal for girl-talk.
With Bella gone, Gwyn returned to the subject of what had happened with Braeden. After much coaxing, we managed to extract from Aoibheann that he had kissed her again, turning her to stone again. And that is why she had tried to kill him. Gwyn was furious, calling him a bastard, an oath-breaker and many other things. We went over the wording again, the words that had passed between Gwyn and Braeden and it seemed fairly clear to me that he was in breach of his promise. I did my best to calm Gwyn, because it seemed fairly clear that Rachel was enjoying the anger, and for all her promises that she would not use her vengeance influence on any of us, I wasn’t sure I trusted her, or that she actually had control over it. Even in her measured, I’m being polite voice, she was pushing for him to be punished. My view was that we should go to the higher authority. With Braeden being captain of the Sluagh, perhaps there was a Sluagh queen. Aoibheann confirmed this and Gwyn even thought her name was Cypress. Much as any of us would want to hurt him, even between us, I doubted we had the strength.
Sophia came by the cave as we were talking, and did not seem to understand why we were staying there rather than in the village. She was carrying some sort of jar and appeared to have acquired a pet blackbird. We chatted for a while about the village, which did have the temptation of a large library, she told us. She left us soon after and was later followed by Rachel, who also had a preference for a proper bed. I was tempted, but we had other things to discuss still.
Gwyn questioned Aoibheann some more, which was a bit like getting blood out of a stone, if you’ll pardon the somewhat tasteless expression in this case. She was right to do so. Clearly her analytical mind was at work, making as sure as we could be that there were no loopholes before we launched our case. We eventually decided that the best route was to go through Valene. She had some relationship with Braeden and would most likely know how to reach his Queen, or give us appropriate advice as to how to proceed without involving the higher courts. Without other things to distract her, Aoibheann was sinking into one of her blacker moods again, going so far as to tell us to pass a message on to the Huntsman that she gives up. Gwyn gave her a good telling off for that and I repeated that we were the Tenacious Trinity and would not be defeated. Eventually we persuaded her, either that or she just agreed so that we would leave her alone. I think the mead was beginning to take its toll by now, as they had both consumed quite a bit, as had I, but to lesser effect. Gwyn wrote a note to Valene requesting advice on how to report Braeden to his queen and then went off to make sure Aoibheann was actually going to sleep. I promised I would join her once I had sent the message off to Valene. Royce came quickly when I called from the mouth of the cave and was soon despatched with the message. After that, I went back into the sithen, wanting nothing more than to curl up with my Gwyn and forget our troubles for a while.