It looks as if I did alarm poor Ose. I must remember to apologise to him when I next see him. How do I know this? I know this because Lord Maric asked me about it when we had a little chat earlier.
I went over to the castle in the hope of acquiring my letters of accreditation and also in the hope of arranging a meeting with Maric to put Isabella’s request to him. As it turned out, his Lordship was at home and had even been about to come and find me. Instead, he invited me in to share a drink with him. I replied with that old maritime justification that the sun was very definitely over the yard-arm. He led me to one of the upper floors of the castle while commenting that the found the weather here most interesting and the sun almost tame. He showed me an impressive looking wine-rack and asked what vintage I preferred. I agreed with him about the sun, hoping to elicit some clue as to his nature, saying that even after several months here, I found it hard sometimes to convince myself to step out in it, what with me burning so easily. As to the vintage, I told him I would be guided by him, which appeared to go down well. He smiled and asked if I had a sweet tooth or did I prefer something more bracing. That made me laugh.
“Well, that rather depends on the occasion,” I told him. “My late wife had a sweet tooth, as did my mother, but I inherited my tastes from my father, so I prefer something bracing, flavour you can get your teeth into.” I perused the wine-rack again.””I spent many years trading on behalf of the shipping company I worked for. I had to be quite eclectic at times, procuring robust and plentiful supplies for the crew, who didn’t really care what it tasted like provided it hit their heads like a brick, and more refined, quality drinks for the officers’ wardroom. I much prefer the latter. Were I back in that world, I could procure the very finest in my day.”
As I expected, that provoked an expression of interest. He invited me to sit down while he selected an aged looking bottle, an old and rare Bordeaux, he told me. I nodded my assent, since my attention was drawn to the bookcases, complimenting him on the décor and remarking that I could not wait to get my teeth into the library. He was pleased that I liked it and asked if Ose had spoken to me about me taking up accommodation in the castle to facilitate my studies. He was a collector of books of knowledge, even if he might have to get himself a bigger castle to accommodate them all. Now there is a man with his priorities in the right order. When Alex and I married, one prime factor in our selection of a house to live in was whether or not there would be room for both our book collections.
He uncorked the wine, letting it settle for a few moments, then poured it through a small aerator. For myself, I would have preferred to let it breathe naturally, but this was his house, so I refrained from commenting. He passed the glass with a small measure of wine in it over to me and looked at me expectantly. I somehow got the impression that I was being tested, so it was fortunate that I had plenty of experience of wine-tastings in some of the finest cellars, wineries and bonded warehouses of Europe. Feeling slightly foolish and, it has to be said, out of practice, I gave what seemed to be an acceptable performance. I offered a silent thanks to Dame Fortune for my recent revitalisation and its effects on my taste-buds. It was indeed a very fine wine and I told him so, relating a little of my business experience, trading in those parts of the warehouses opened only to the cognoscenti. His question about accommodation gave me an opportunity to bring the conversation around to Isabellas’s request and I told him that Ose had spoken to me and it was on a related matter that I had come to see him.
He agreed this was fortunate, but there was another matter he was curious about. Apparently, I had given poor Ose a bad case of nerves with some remark about my habits and requirements. He asked if I could clarify.
I apologised and explained that we had been talking about supernatural creatures, and in the interests of openness and honesty, had admitted to being one such. He said that he appreciated my candour, but wished to know which particular creature I was. I explained what I was, a vampire, briefly how I had become one, and also that I was part fae through my mother. He used a term I had not heard before – Nosferatu – commenting that this was the one supernatural creature he had some knowledge of. However, my admission had disturbed him, causing him to wonder if he could trust me.
I understood his caution. I explained that I was very good at appearing human, and could have quite easily concealed my nature quite successfully. The fact that I had readily admitted my nature when I could have easily concealed it should be an indication of my trustworthiness. I added that I had enjoyed a sterling reputation with the most discerning traders all along the European seaboard. I was not one for oaths, I told him, but that my word was my bond.
He looked as though he was going to comment on that, but we were interrupted by Giada appearing at the top of the stairs. She apologised for intruding and looked to be about to head further up the stairs, however, Maric was suddenly more interested in her. He told me that there was further business for us to discuss at an appropriate time, something that would be of great interest to me. He then made introductions to Giada, apparently intent on talking with her. I begged a few more moments of his time to discuss an urgent matter with him, assuring him that my good friend Giada would not mind waiting a few moments. She assented to that and said she would make herself available to his lordship at his convenience. She turned to head up the stairs, just as Gwyn arrived from downstairs, presumably seeking me.
While I still had Maric’s attention, I briefly explained that a high-ranking fae had asked me to arrange a meeting with him. He asked what he should expect when dealing with this lady and how he should comport himself when dealing with the fae. I explained that the lady was queen of the land that Gwyn and I had come from and gave him very brief suggestions on fae protocols etc. Gwyn weighed in with suggestions on how to compliment them and reinforced my advice about not thanking the fae. He thanked us for the advice and invited us to enjoy the hospitality of the castle; however, he had other business to attend to. With that, he was gone, probably in the direction in which Giada had disappeared. Part of me wondered if I should feel a little jealous, but then, Giada and I were a past item, not a present one, and besides, I already had a Gwyn and a Valene.
Gwyn and I decided to accept part of the offered hospitality. At least, in so far as appreciating the rest of the wine. That was all though, after that, we retired to the cottage where things were a little more private.