Oh dear, I think I may have frightened poor Ose. Given what I suspect his master to be, that surprised me, so perhaps he does not know. On the plus side, we are starting to make progress with regard to the trading and feeding of the village, and I might even have gotten Aoibheann interested.  Or, at least, found something useful she can do that isn’t cleaning. On another plus side, Sophia is at least talking with me, even if much of what she says doesn’t make sense.

She came into the tavern while I was trying to work out the whole business of the Jasper Cove consorts.  Just when I thought I had it sorted, I realised that there were four consorts, plus the one who checks up on them and substitutes for them.  I was fairly sure I had three of them pegged, but now I am not so sure. Sadly, when I asked, she had no more memory of what Alec said than I had. I then asked her if she had been having any odd dreams.  Well, odder than normal, given what her mother sometimes does to her. She was not present when we met His Unseelie Majesty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t a target. So far though, she hasn’t had the dreams, so maybe she is getting away with it.

She asked me if I knew of an Aristotle de Laurent. It was not a name that meant anything to me other than Aristotle the philosopher, and a vague memory that somebody called Laurent had done translations of Aristotle, but that didn’t seem to have anything to do with what she was asking. She also asked about the Codex of Cain and the Chronicles of the Book of Nod. Now I had heard Cristof speak of being a Cainite, and I had heard a story that Cain, as in Cain and Abel, was the first vampire. I don’t have a Bible to hand, but I vaguely remember something about Cain being marked with the blood of his brother, but I don’t remember him drinking it. The Book of Nod I could not help on, unless it was one of those books left out of the Bible at some synod or other.  Other things she asked about – she had found some paper from another book in some Byron she was reading – the thirteen tribes of kindred, which I guessed were what I had known as clans; Ventrue, which I knew to be one of the clans; something about Antediluvian Brujah, which suggested that my own clan predated Noah’s ark; and Jyhad, which I seemed to remember was some sort of holy war.  None of it made particular sense.  After she had gone, I wondered of the Codex of Cain was some kind of kindred bible, and that maybe all the other stuff came from that.  I really need to go and see Cristof and get me some education. I promised her I would do this and report back.

The other thing she asked about was whether or not I had left her a jar of blood and rotting meat. I was surprised she even thought of asking me, and protested that there was no circumstance I could imagine that would prompt me to do that. I told her about Braeden and Nemaine, being the only ones that I could think of who might regard such things as a gift.

She seemed very much at the end of her tether, so I directed Hal to make her an Irish coffee. We spoke about possible motives her mother might have, I told her about Paasheeluu, or rather, Mitternacht, as that was the name she would have known. She told me she had not yet found her missing ankh, but that the Sabbat trinkets were safe. She did not remember having any more mother episodes, but then, she hadn’t remembered them before, so that was no guide.  I felt bad for her, as she was clearly lost and exhausted, and I had not been around much to help.  I comforted her as best I could, telling her I was living in the village now, so would be around more. I also promised I would do what I could to find out stuff from Cristof without giving her secret away. I also asked Royce so spread the word among the Cait, in case they came across the ankh pendant.

I asked her again about the dreams, telling her what had happened.  I hadn’t realised she had not had any contact with the sidhe, so had to explain what the Seelie and Unseelie were.  So far, she has not had the dreams, but I told her to come see me straight away if they did happen, so we could include her in the protection spells, as and when we work out what they are.  I think it was all a little too much for her to take in; even with topping up the coffee until it was almost pure whiskey.  She asked if it was safe to go outside the village. That I could not tell her, but reasoned that Braeden had not been seen for a while and that it was the wrong time of the month for the Huntsman, so she was probably safe.  With that, she finished her drink and took off in the direction of the stream.

I returned to my contemplations of the cosmology of Jasper Cove. I scribbled out my previous notes and re-drew the concept as a triangle – Guide, Life Creator, Protector, with Centre, in the centre naturally, and the Other, the supervisor or substitute as a circle round the triangle.  I don’t think it made any more sense that way, but it was something. Of course, my contemplations were soon interrupted, this time by Aoibheann, looking miserable and in search of some ink. Apparently, she had broken her bottle while falling down a hill.  I didn’t dare ask, and instead obtained an empty miniature bottle from Hal and poured her out some of my ink.

Ose came in, somewhat grass-stained on his otherwise immaculate suit, while I was doing this, asking after the revised draft letter of accreditation. Clearly, the servant I saw had not passed on my marked up copy.  I made introductions between him and Aoibheann and told him that I was perfectly happy with their revised version. He greeted her pleasantly enough and explained that I was helping the village deal with its food shortages.  She commented to me, rather than to him, asking if I had suggested growing something other than roses. I suggested that we could perhaps rather trade roses for food, but she wasn’t that impressed.  Ose seemed to think that there was not sufficient space to grow enough food for the village, which impressed Aoibheann even less.  She was probably right. Whatever else Aoibheann might be, she came from an agricultural background, so probably knows what she is talking about.  She rather acidly suggested that a pretty small farm was better than no farm and then took her leave of us. Whatever else she may have wanted to speak to me about, she said was less important than feeding a village.  She did suggest, as she left, cutting up any bits of old potato that were sprouting and planting those to grow new potatoes.  I had to chuckle at that, remembering when I had thought her to be from Ireland, and was therefore probably an expert on potatoes.

After she went, I told Ose that for all her blunt manner, Aoibheann was a good person and could probably advise well on farming under difficult conditions.  He pointed out, quite rightly, that this was a long-term solution, as they would not be harvesting anything useful in the short term.  We discussed the various possible crafts and services the village had to offer, and I learned that the village coffers were quite healthy, so we should be able to do some trading in coin until we had services or other goods to trade. I told him that my immediate, short-term plan would be to speak with the main courts about allowing a certain amount of foraging, and perhaps hunting for rabbit, on their respective parts of the island.  I said I would try to see if we could get any goats, as they would be able to fend for themselves on the hillsides and could provide milk as well as meat. I hoped I wasn’t going out too far on a limb with that idea, thinking that maybe Cristof would be able to help there, what with his castle being in the mortal realm.

That was enough to get us started. He told me he had met a dryad named Aerodine, who had told him that the Seelie could likely help, but might not, whereas the Unseelie would ask for too much. I said that I knew Aerodine well, and that her advice was sound, albeit possibly a little pessimistic with regard to the Seelie.  He commented that it was strange for him, meeting all these strange and exotic creatures, lamenting that he was no longer a child who could enjoy it more. I had to laugh at that, explaining how I had thought such creatures to be the realm of fairy tales until a few years ago, and now I knew so many different exotic creatures, and indeed, was one of them.

That seemed to alarm him slightly, so I assured him that he was in no danger from me, but that I thought it important that he knew; if I was to be trading on their behalf.  He still seemed a little uncomfortable, but promised he would get the letters to me as soon as possible. As he left, I suggested he speak to Aoibheann abut the grass stains.  If there is something she knows about other than potatoes, it is cleaning.  With that advice passed on, I returned to puzzling out the cosmos.

The very splendid Cheryl Wheeler – Potato Song




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