I love my friends. I would do anything for them. I think it is fair to say that any future historian who might peruse these pages would say it is one of my defining characteristics. Of course, the downside is that caring for one’s friends also includes worrying about them.
I worry about Sophia. She is around the village somewhere, but only emerges infrequently from wherever she has made herself at home. Half the time, when I see her, I am not sure if it is even her, or if she is having one of her ‘Tory’ moments. Sometimes it is easier to tell, when she starts calling me Mr Ballard; that sounds more like Tory. She was in the tavern last night, and at one point started to call me Mr Ballard, then stopped and corrected herself to saying Nathaniel. Perhaps it was a mistake, or perhaps it was Tory, getting wise to the clues that give her away. Whichever one of her it was, she wasn’t happy. She wasn’t happy about the coffee. When she asked about my health and that of my little girlfriend, she sounded almost bitter, unless that was the coffee. She did speak a little of her past, which I had not known about before. Her father was a rough and tough man, very rough with her mother and her and her sisters. He supposedly worked the docks, which she wasn’t too sure about. I told her about the dockers, stevedores, longshoremen and what have you other names; how some were rough and tough, drinking heavily and beating up on their families, and the others who just wanted to work and make a living. It sounded as though her father was one of the former. She did get away from him eventually, but ended up working the docks in her own way, making sure to stay away from the taverns her father frequented.
That caused me some pain. I know, from what she has told me, what she was before Tory found her, but it is not, to my mind, what she is now. It hurt even more when, a while ago, she sounded almost as though she missed those days. I don’t know what I can do for her. She stayed a while longer, greeting Gwyn civilly enough, despite her slightly bitter comment earlier, but soon drifted off, saying she was going to read. She did come back a couple of times, but just stood in the doorway, as though uncertain about going in, and then vanished into the mist.
Gwyn came in, happy to find me. She remarked that Sophia was like a ghost, so I told her how that was maybe a little close to the truth, explaining briefly about Tory. She was a little confused by it all and commented that she sometimes felt left out because I have so much past that keeps popping up. I could see her point of view – Sophia, Valene, Ket, Astrid, Padishar, Cristof, so many people popping out of holes in the multiverse, whereas none of her past did. I tried to explain that I had stepped off the plane that I used to call the real world long before she had, so it was inevitable that more past would pop up. She told me a few things from her past and I told her she was always able to ask about anything from mine, even if I preferred we look to the future.
Aoibheann turned up, wanting to know how to spell delirious, which I did for her, adding the definition, just to be sure that was the word she wanted. She asked if that included the confused way people speak when they were ill, so I assured her that was the case. She showed me a dress that had turned up by Ardan, where she had been sleeping. She did not know who it was from, but there was a mint leaf tucked in, which made her think it was Valene.
I told her that was Valene’s calling card. She wasn’t sure what to do about it, thinking there was little she could do in return. The only skill she thought that she might offer was spinning, but she did not know what she could spin around here. Gwyn suggested that whatever she did, Valene would like it, because it came from her. I was going to suggest a kiss, thinking back to the dance, but decided that would take too long to explain.
Aoibheann was convinced there was somebody at the door, but when I looked up, all I could see was Astrid coming across the green. She came in, looking as lovely as ever, in a very splendid dress, so, of course, I complimented her as I always do. She had been out for a walk and thought she would come and say hi. We chatted about various things. At one point, I thought I saw Sophia at the door, but when I said hi, I looked up again and she was gone. Astrid and Aoibheann thought I was going mad.
The chat turned to things going on in the sithen – Blaise and others are apparently researching to find ways to deal with the problem of Gwythyr knowing Gwyn’s name. I also learned that he and Gwyn had been experimenting with what she could call him. She referred to him as Dad, but that just didn’t sound right.
Sophia reappeared at the door, and this time, Gwyn and Aoibheann saw her, but again, within moments, she was gone. All the talk of what to do about her problem seemed to deflate Gwyn, so I held her and re-iterated that the Tenacious Trinity was not so easily defeated. I tried to joke about her new nickname being Rash instead of Reckless, but she was too worried to notice.
We were interrupted by Princess Aislyn, who was in search of Gwyn, wondering why she was out of the sithen. She didn’t know that Blaise had given her permission to come to see me because I am not allowed in the sithen. I think Gwyn was a little miffed by the question, as though they didn’t trust her and even asked Astrid if she had come looking for her. Which she hadn’t, but she had been worried.
Aislyn said she needed to speak to Gwyn, and, to my surprise, included me if I wanted to go, as if I would not. We walked out of the tavern, with Aislyn promising she would come back to heal Aoibheann’s hand. We walked out into the village, away from the tavern, to a spot near the row of cottages and some old stonework that I had not noticed before. Aislyn told us, in very stark terms, that the Unseelie King knew Gwyn’s true name, and asked if we knew what this meant. Gwyn was forthright; she understood that he could call out her name and make her dance like a marionette etc. Aislyn nodded and added that it also meant he could summon her, like a demon, only the rules of the game were slightly different. She expressed the hope that Gwyn was just a pawn in whatever game he was playing. I had reservations about that – yes, one could hope that she is unimportant, and therefore not worth bothering with, on the other hand, pawns are easy sacrifices. I said I did not understand his interest in us, save that it had something to do with Isabella. Aislyn asked about Isabella, saying she had met her, and thought she was a lifebringer but not quite and wondered why she could not sense her, as she should be able to for any fae royalty. She did explain about lifebringers, but since she asked that information be kept secret for fear it could be used for ill, I shall not commit that explanation to the written word. It may well be that HUM’s interest in us is really an interest in Isabella.
I wondered aloud if Isabella’s nature could be something to do with the four consorts or powers that had held Jasper Cover together. Sadly, I could not remember much of what was said without looking back at my old diary entries at the time, which I did not have with me. Aislyn said that she needed to weave some spells that would at least protect and shield Gwyn, to make it harder for HUM to find him.
Then it got a little ugly. Aislyn said something about Gwyn’s loyalties being confused, perhaps mistaking Gwyn’s remarks about Isabella, and somewhere in that, pretty much accused her of just having “tossed in” her oath to Saone. That, naturally upset her, as she considered herself loyal to Saone and Blaise, whereas, she had only had passing acquaintance with Isabella. There was somewhat of a row, in which Gywn called Aisyn an “unbelievable cow” and stalked off in the direction of the tavern. She would rather work with Blaise and Saone, who didn’t question her loyalties. Aislyn reminded me again how Gwyn needed protection, and for the first time in the whole conversation, showed real emotion, as opposed to the calm, level way she had been speaking, eerily reminiscent of the late Rachel. I promised I would do what I could and hurried after Gwyn.
Somewhere in the middle of this, Lord Maric turned up. I managed to make a brief introduction to Aislyn, but he seemed somewhat nonplussed by walking into an argument and he quickly made an exit.
I caught up with Gwyn outside the tavern and hugged her. She apologised, but said she couldn’t let Aislyn’s comments go unchallenged. I happened to agree with her, but pointed out that sometimes, the older fae can’t help the way they talk. I told her that there seemed to be some real caring under that fae exterior. We went back to the tavern and briefly explained what had happened. A demi-fae came buzzing in to fetch Aoibheann to get her hand healed by Aislyn, who had perhaps wisely decided not to venture into the tavern for the moment. Gwyn and Astrid started talking about the things they were trying to do and various other things. I don’t remember much after that and must have fallen asleep because when I woke up, it was much later and they had all gone.
I do hope that the sithen, between them can come up with something to protect Gwyn. I don’t know if there is any way I could reason with HUM. I shall have to talk to Valene and see what she knows. Perhaps she could give me some clues. What else can I do? I worry about my friends.