I am not good at navigating in the forest. I could swear that the trees move around or something. Well, Aerodine does, so there is no reason that some of the other trees shouldn’t. I was so lost, I actually started talking to them; claiming to be a friend of Aerodine’s and would they please tell me which way the river was. In a way, this was the right thing to do, because Gwyn was somewhere nearby and heard me talking, calling me over. They were near the cromlech I have seen on previous visits. Gwyn and Rachel were there, and so was the Seelie Princess, Aislyn, that we had seen at the sithen. Rachel decided to be helpful and pointed out which direction the river was, so I told her I was only looking for the river so I could work out where the hell I was, but it didn’t matter now because I had found Gwyn, which was much better than whatever it was I had been looking for. I also conceived the idea that making a map would be a good idea, even if I was more used to maps that were mostly water.
I introduced myself to the Princess. “Good evening, Princess Aislyn, if my memory serves me. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance again. I’m Nathaniel.” She smiled and confirmed that I was not mistaken, so I continued, remembering what fae were like. “So, your highness… is that correct for a princess, or may I use Aislyn? Are you newly arrived on these shores, or have I somehow been bumbling around blindly for the past few months and failed to notice you? Because, if the latter is true, then I need to see the eye doctor.” Flattery always seems to work so far, but I kissed Gwyn, just to reassure her, not that she has ever shown any sign of being jealous or possessive when I am nice to other women.
That got me a laugh and a smile. “You can call me Aislyn, as long as we are not in the Seelie courts, then the titles are necessary, however I have only just arrived so you need not fear you are in need of a doctor.” Rachel also introduced herself, but couldn’t help getting in a dig about the welcome she had received, saying it was nice to not have archers pointing arrows at her back. Aislyn and Gwyn tried to explain that it was all about security and safety, the Sidhe having long learned to be suspicious of strangers in the sithen.
I gave Rachel a glare and responded to Aislyn. “Then outside of the necessities of court, which I well understand, I shall use Aislyn. An appropriate name, if I recall correctly, because I think it means vision. I don’t know why I remember that. Maybe it was one of the names my late wife and I were considering for our child.” I squeezed Gwyn’s hand, and then looked back to Aislyn. “If my presence offended, then I apologise and I hope that it will not be long before I am no longer considered a stranger, but a friend to the court. Until that happy day, I shall not intrude, save when invited.”
Aislyn spoke of lore that said that demons and fae came from the same stock, long in the past. She offered to answer any questions we had and to teach. Rachel was a little miffed. She had heard that the enmity between the fae and demons was long-standing and resulted from a way long ago. Given that she was only a recent demon, she felt hurt that she was tainted by that old hatred. She felt that she did not need to be defined by a history she wasn’t part of, claiming her proud Yorkshire heritage. Aislyn spoke of history and learning from it, as did I, and even Aoibheann, who wandered out of the undergrowth and joined us. We were mostly of the opinion that we should know the history, and learn from it, but none of us should be defined by that. I tried to explain to Rachel that I would not hate her for being a demon any more than I would hate her for being a Yorkshire lass. Initially, she took that as implying I was a Lancastrian, until I explained my mostly Kent, West Country, Irish, and as I had recently discovered, Fae roots. Gwyn and I joked about silly enmities like the one between my school and the nearby one, or some sports team in her area, which took some explaining to Aoibheann. Gwyn and I were both keen to learn from Aislyn, Gwyn because of being fae, and I wanted to as well, because of my fae blood, and hoping to learn more. Aislyn was all in favour of this, stating that knowledge is power. Gwyn agreed with her, adding love, beauty, dignity to knowledge. That put me in mind of a poem, Shelley’s Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, and recited one of the verses.
Spirit of BEAUTY, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form,—where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
I think that scored me lots of points with Gwyn, as she leaned back against me, muttering Shelley’s name blissfully. Gwyn complained that all this learning was hard work, but Aislyn countered that it was worth it, to which I was definitely in agreement. Rachel got bored by the talk of learning and disappeared off, claiming she needed some rest. As she was leaving, I noticed that there was a small demi-fae watching us from a nearby tree. I found out her name was Riven when I made brief introductions. She was busy finding nuts to eat.
Then there was a rustle from the undergrowth. A figure emerged from the shadows, a familiar, very feminine shape. It was Isabella! Aoibheann was the first to notice and she dropped a curtsey before blurting out that she needed to talk to her. I welcomed her back, as did Gwyn. Isabella seemed confused by this and asked how long she had been gone. Aoibheann counted on her fingers while I checked my diary, and we independently came to the conclusion that it had been three months. For her, wherever she had been, it had only been three days, so no wonder she was confused by our reaction. I made appropriate introductions to Aislyn, who was suitably respectful, even if Isabella was not her queen.
Aoibheann gave a somewhat hurried explanation about Gwythyr’s offer to us, and to her, and his attempts to lay claim on us, should Isabella refuse to declare allegiance to him. I added to that explanation, giving a little more detail and our suspicions about his motives. I also told her what had become of the castle. She was pleased to hear that Gwyn had joined the Seelie Court, saying that was what she would have recommended. I explained that I was not yet allied to any side, save that my promise to Greyson still stood. Isabella considered the situation and asked if Gwythyr had made any further claims upon us. When I told her we had not heard anything since, she seemed relieved and asked us to not reveal her presence here yet. I offered to show her places she could conceal herself, but she was not forthcoming on that, presumably preferring her own methods. She asked us to protect orselves and said she would find her own way to hide before disappearing once more into the undergrowth.
I was concerned that there were two here who had no loyalty to Isabella, so I asked, addressing Aislyn and Riven, if they would possibly, as a favour, keep this meeting a secret and not speak of it to anybody, asking it for the sake of my friend. Aislyn seemed impassive, but I had an idea about Riven. I felt in my pocket for one of the mint imperials that I still had left and held it out, asking Riven if she had ever had one of these. Apparently, she had not, but was much delighted with the gift, and I felt that I had at least bought her silence. Aislyn I was not so sure about, she said nothing and then suddenly hurried away before I could ask her again to promise.
Riven took the mint and scurried off into a comfortable spot with it. She was very happy eating it, even if it represented a good portion of her own body weight. When she spoke, she sounded a little drunk, or at least, on a sugar high. I have seen this before with the demi-fae, so I was not too worried. I hugged Gwyn and reassured her that I felt certain Isabella knew how to look after herself, and then told her about the snow fairy. She had seen her also, and had been given a snow globe. I explained my suspicions about it being, which made her laugh. We then kissed, which prompted Riven to giggle and give us a rating of eight out of ten for the kiss, adding that she was sure we could do better. Aoibheann had wandered off by now, so I suggested to Gwyn that we make our way to Valene’s den and there see if we could do something about getting a score higher than eight. Since there was nobody there to rate us, other than ourselves, I cannot possibly comment if we achieved that aim, but the evening passed very satisfactorily for us both, and of that, I will speak no more.