Si vis pacem, para bellum – If you want peace, prepare for war. So wrote some Roman author whose name I can not recall. Well, the folks round here really must want peace, because they sure as hell spend a lot of time preparing for war.
I was bored, and on my own, so I decided it was about time I explored the top of the hill, where Castle Shithole had once been. There was a small village there now, mostly thatched huts, with lots of trees and rose bushes, and a small mansion house that looks designed to have bats fluttering around the towers and some mad villain inside. Maybe this supposed Lord Maric. It was pretty enough in the village, but gloomy, as though the trees were getting all the light. Now, I’m fine with gloomy. So far as I am concerned, the less daylight the better, but, it did make the place seem, oh, I don’t know, sad. I didn’t see many people there, but I did find Gwyn and Rachel in the tavern. Gwyn was hovering, as in not actually touching the ground. Apparently somebody called Lady Siansa told her to do this as an exercise. The Seelie Courts sounds more like being back at school every day.
There was a certain amount of giggling going on because Gwyn had managed to glamour Rachel’s hooves and most of her lower leg into a particularly fetching shade of pink, even worse, or better, depending on your viewpoint, than the one Bella had managed. Rachel claimed that she wasn’t mad about it, but in such a convoluted way (something about whether she really was not mad, or just saying she wasn’t mad because she had to) that Gwyn and I found ourselves wondering if you needed to be drunk to understand what she said. I suspected this would be true, and took the opportunity to tell her how it was rather hard for me to get drunk by normal means. Rachel chimed in with the advice that I should drink blood mixed with alcohol. Gee, thanks Rachel, and there was me thinking that all the blood wine I drank in London was just a brand name.
That somehow led onto my feeding habits, but at least this time, Rachel managed not to try to lecture me about being a vegetarian. Instead, she warned me about being a disease carrier like a mosquito. Guess the girl can’t help trying to tell me how to be a vampire. I’m trying so hard, for Gwyn’s sake, to be nice, but it is hard sometimes. I had been telling Gwyn about my initial days, stuck on board a ship and relying on finding one or other of my ship-mates insensible with drink, so that I could feed from them. Gwyn wanted to know if I asked permission, so I reminded her of the word insensible, and explained that while some sailors did like the amorous advances of other men, which asking for a bite of the neck might have sounded like, it was not an openly done thing. I did joke that I should have written a new verse for “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor” – “Bite him on the neck and drink his vitae, Bite him on the neck and drink his vitae, Bite him on the neck and drink his vitae, early in the morning.” Even Rachel joined in with that one.
Turning to a more sober subject, I wondered if the tavern had a name and decided that if it didn’t have one, in honour of the late Paash, we should call it the Slanted Cow. We really do need to talk to Aoibheann and decide what we are going to do about a funeral for Paash.
It was then that Gwyn told about the big meeting that was going to take place soon, for all the Seelie. She didn’t know what the meeting was about, but had the feeling they were preparing for war.
I wasn’t exactly impressed with this. “Oh joy… war against what?” I asked. “There’s not enough of this island to have a war. There’s barely enough room for a skirmish. And what would it achieve? Dead people and more damage to the forest. The only people I can see benefiting from that are maybe the Sluagh, and certain demons that seem to have a thing for dead bodies. What a fucking waste!”
“I think the Seelie believe they have been wronged somehow,” Gwyn explained. “I’m working from incomplete knowledge, of course. I only know what the Prince said to me that night and what I’ve heard around the sithen. I don’t know the whole story. But the Queen has invited ‘anyone who has mystical strength to offer’ to come along. And I need gravity.”
I had to laugh at the need for gravity, given she was a foot off the floor at the time. “Well, I have strength, and the mechanism of that is a mystery to me, so I guess that counts.” I raised an eyebrow, looking at the gap under Gwyn’s feet “Gravity? Newton’s your man for that. Hey, maybe Dee was him too. Wouldn’t that be something?” She laughed and took my hand, saying she needed somebody she could trust, who was more experienced in courtly things, asking if I would come with her. She then joked about Dee also possibly being Copernicus and maybe even Jesus Christ.
“I am at your service, my lady,” I told her, then speculated about the suggested incarnations of Dee. “Hmm, old copper knickers? Maybe. Not so sure about Jesus. He already had eternal life, didn’t he? So what the fuck would he want with the Philosopher’s Stone?” I squeezed her hand. “I’ll be there for you, always. And in the meanwhile, I’ll see what I can find out.” She thanked me with a kiss and then wondered if we should invite Aoibheann, who probably didn’t count as having mystical strength. I suggested we ask her anyway, given that she had a thing for the Seelie King.
Rachel asked what they were like, the Seelie royals. Gwyn said that she hadn’t met them yet, but knew that everybody in the sithen practically worshipped Saone, the queen. I mentioned my brief meeting with Llwyd and what little opinion I had formed of him, but reserved judgement until I knew more.
Sadly, it was time for Gwyn to get back to the sithen. Boy, they are keeping her on a short leash. She gave permission for Rachel to sleep at the tavern and I walked her home. At least, I walked her as far as the top of the hill, with me not being permitted to go further. She had to go in now, and have her feet inspected to prove she hadn’t touched the ground. Ah well, that put paid to my idea of delaying her for a couple of hours in Val’s den, because that would almost certainly meant touching the ground. On the other hand, we can both fly, so… That, I thought, might be an idea for another time when she was a little more experienced.
I sat and meditated for a while on the nearby hill, but if my arboreal friend was about, she didn’t make herself known.