Old Friends Again

I don’t think I will ever get used to the vagaries of this place – people popping in and out of nowhere, and, I suppose, if I may coin a word, nowhen.  Last night the mists gave me back one of the sweetest friends I have known, my darling Helene. It seems a lifetime ago that she turned up down by the Unseelie sithen, bruised, battered and stained in the ragged remains of her underwear. And then, by morning, she was gone, nowhere to be seen. I would have put it down as a hallucination had not Gwyn and Aoibheann seen her too. Now I know that she stumbled away from the sithen and into the mists and has been lost there since. Except, to her that was only a day ago instead of several weeks. I suppose I should be used to time being a variable quantity in these parts, after all, many of the stories I read as a child mentioned that time runs differently in faerie, but usually to the extent that somebody could spend only a few days there and then find that years had passed in the real world.

I was enjoying a sandwich and a drink by the fire when she walked in, looking much as she had done when I saw her last, apologising for having fallen asleep on me the previous day. I called to Hal to bring water and brandy and whatever food was nearest. She took that gratefully, sinking into the other fireside seat while I explained that time had passed since then. She said I looked well, especially compared to her current state, and how much she had missed me. I told her how the fae energy was agreeing with me and then went over and hugged. I didn’t think to warn her, forgetting that last time we had hugged, I didn’t have a pulse. She was somewhat surprised, understandably, so I had to explain about having received a blast of life energy from a powerful sidhe. I felt it better not to go into details, at least, not until she had better adjusted to this place.

I told her that I had missed her too, telling her briefly about my departure from London and having sent her a letter.  She told me that she had received that and then burst into tears, saying how she was missing London, missing her shop, missing her friends; how she had been a fool for love and had nothing to show but the rags she was wearing, and finally, how she did not miss Razial, because he did not miss her. I vaguely remembered Razial as the man she was seeing in London, but did not pursue the matter for the moment. Instead, I just held her until her tears were spent.  When she was done, she said she wanted a bath. She needed one, although I didn’t say so. I made best I could with the tub upstairs in the tavern and as much hot water as I could raid from the kitchen. It was enough.  More luxury, I suspected, than she had experienced of late. I would have left her to her ablutions, but she bade me stay, not wanting to lose me again.  My mind went back to another time, sitting and talking with her in her bathroom in Whitechapel.  While she was washing, I looked through the tailor’s wares and found a dress that might fit. It was a simple dress such as the villagers wear, but it would be better than the rags she had. I left what I hoped was sufficient coin for the tailor and a note to come see me if it was not.

I gave her a brief introduction to the Wylds, telling her about the major courts and the others. She was especially pleased to hear that Valene was here, and Vedis, like me, doubting that she was that easy to kill. I told her that Valene had changed somewhat and then went through the various others she might remember; Giada, Galyanna, Ket’Lyn and the Muircastles, mentioning that time had passed for the latter and they now had a grown daughter.  She said that she was glad that Astrid had been delivered of a healthy child, saying that she and Astrid had been pregnant at the same time.  I had not known this and asked about her child.  There was a flash of anger and other emotions. The child had been stillborn, she told me, a corrupt beast that was never meant to live or breathe, never meant to be created. She stood up in the bath, twisting off a ring from her finger. I caught a brief glimpse of a blue stone on the ring, but then it vanished in a puff of greasy smoke. I told her I was sorry, but she just said that she was glad of what it had made of her. That which does not kill us makes us stronger, she said. I wish I could remember where that comes from. I gave her a towel and then, when she was dry, helped her into the dress. She told me that Razial had kept her more or less as a slave for his pleasures and had rarely allowed her clothes. I had met him once, she told me, but he was in human form rather than his natural demon shape. Now the comments about her child made sense. I could not imagine that the offspring of a human and a demon would be a viable thing.

We went downstairs where Hal had rustled up some sandwiches for her, and more to drink. She asked me about whether or not she could open a potions shop here, so I said I would talk to Maric about it. I am sure she could find something useful to do here, at least maybe manage a general store of some sort.  After a while, she started to get sleepy and asked about a place to sleep, a bed, preferably somewhere warm and friendly. I suspected that was a subtle hint, but I pretended not to notice. Seeing her again in the flesh, literally, had awoken some of my old feelings for her, but those had never really been sexual, although we had always flirted around the edges or such things. Besides, I had enough complications in my life without adding another.  I directed her to the cottages across the green. I told her I would have taken her there, but I was waiting on a meeting with Maric.

With her usual immaculate timing, Gwyn turned up, just in time to greet Helene as she was leaving. There was enough time for pleasantries and such, but then she headed off. Perhaps that was for the better before I got tempted. Shortly thereafter, we were summoned to the castle for the meeting with Isabella.

It was not a long meeting. Isabella explained that she needed sanctuary, how she needed help, for her and her friends, how there were those that sought her etc. Maric was not overly pleased, but managed to hide it. I think he was a little dazzled by her, to be honest, which was to be expected from one who wasn’t used to fae beauty, and she was giving him the full blast of her charms, albeit without any magic that I could tell. Clearly he had some questions about what he had let himself in for, but he offered the sanctuary anyway. Isabella suggested that since she was tired, they discuss the matter further another day. He agreed readily enough to that and bade his servants make up a bed for her.  He then excused himself, claiming other business and left, telling Gwyn and I to make ourselves at home and enjoy the bottle of port.  And so we did, but took the port with us to the cottage, where we were less likely to be in interrupted.

 

The best of old friends…

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