Some day, I need to break my routine. It occurs to me that so many of my diary entries take place, or start off, in the tavern. Has my life become that predictable? Of course, in many ways, that is a laughable question, when my life might include being brought back to life by an over-energetic fae queen, having a fae king try to steal my soul or being witness to the resurrection of an undead unicorn. Perhaps it is merely that the tavern has become my second home, even when I am not working in it.
So, then, does this entry begin, with me sitting by the fire, updating my diary with the previous night’s adventures, or in this case, previous night’s dreams. When I looked up, there was Valene, standing watching me. I put the diary away and made room for her on my lap, I like to do so anyway, and she looked in need of some affection. I realised too late that I had not yet warned her of my current temporary state. She snuggled against me, and then reared back in surprise as she rested her head on my chest. I don’t think she was expecting the heartbeat.
I explained about taking a hit of life energy from a high-powered sidhe going nova, or the shining woman of light, which is how Valene described it when I told her about what happened, saying she had seen the woman concerned. I mentioned that in addition to the pulse, I was able to eat and drink again. Apparently, that gave her an idea, for she summoned a couple of Cait, said something to them in their tongue and sent them off on some errand. I explained that Royce had caught a blast of the energy too and that he had disappeared off, claiming to feel 100 years younger and determined to enjoy it, possibly with Nualla.
In a short while, the Cait returned bearing a strange looking sandwich. I picked it up and inspected it carefully. It was a circular bun, sliced in two, with many layers in the middle, lettuce and tomato, onion, some kind of pickle, a slice of violently yellow cheese, two rashers of bacon and a patty of what looked and smelled like minced beef. It was, she told me, a bacon-cheeseburger, a sinful foodstuff from the future. My more refined sensibilities rebelled at this mass of grease and starch, yet my baser instincts insisted it would be absolutely delicious. Cutlery did not appear to have been provided, and lacking any other instruction, I grasped it with both hands, squishing the unwieldy tower down to a thickness that I might possibly get my mouth around.
The first bite was everything I dreaded and everything I hoped for. Yes, it was greasy and stodgy, yet at the same time, strangely delicious. I asked her if this was the future of food and she said it wasn’t exactly the future, but a guilty pleasure. I would have enquired more, but my mouth was busy finishing the aforementioned guilty pleasure.
While I was doing so, Ose walked in. I suspect that he was about to say hello, but I think he was rather alarmed by Val’s appearance. I guess the poor guy isn’t really yet used to the wondrous variety of beings in this land. I can’t wait for him to met Braeden. Valene greeted him as a handsome stranger while I finished my last mouthful, before I could make introductions. He recovered quickly, but was still a little nervous, claiming not to have met any Cait before. I realised I had never introduced Royce, when he was with me at out previous meetings. I made the introductions anyway. Val had clearly sensed his nerves, for she started to tease him a little, adding her title as mistress of the shadow roads and then claiming that such formalities were dull, so he could call her Valene. He retreated slightly, desperately trying to not run away and asked about progress on the trade agreements.
I told him I had made preliminary informal arrangements to meet with people, but as yet, had not received the letters of accreditation. I decided that I felt in the mood for teasing as well, so kissed Val and hugged her while telling him this. He had seen me with Gwyn, so had presumably drawn conclusions from that. The other Cait appeared, with a slice of what looked like a cake or tart. Cheesecake, she told me it was called, as she kissed me back. I could not quite fathom the connection with cheese, but it was delicious anyway. Val was quite impressed with my reaction, likening it to something sexual. Ose wanted to know if she had magicked the food out of nowhere, pointing out that the village was desperately short of food and did not know if they could even go foraging in the forest, since there had been no progress negotiating with the rulers of the forest. Well, this was true, but without my letters, I could not do much. Val told him she was the queen of the shadow roads, which led everywhere and everywhen, the place where the dead fae went to wander the after life. That last bit was news to me too, but I didn’t react. I told him that I would be conducting the trade discussions with some urgency once I received the letters and asked if arrangements had been made for Queen Isabella. Meanwhile, Val sent one of the Cait off on another mission.
Ose wanted to know what place Isabella was queen of. I explained about Jasper Cove, but he took the view that she was therefore no longer a queen if the land she had been queen of was no more. I advised him against saying that to her, though part of me would have been amused to see her reaction. The Cait reappeared with what looked like a chicken salad and presented it to him. He looked mildly alarmed, but took the plate anyway, somewhat dubiously. He continued to claim that Isabella could not be a queen, any more than Maric would be a lord if the village ceased to exist, which was likely to happen if food could not be found. I tried to explain that I had not yet had the chance to discuss trade with Valene even, as this was the first time I had seen her since my appointment.
Valene asked him to stop dithering around and do some straight talking – what was it he wanted? He told her that he wanted to discuss trade, to discuss means of getting food from the village. She asked if he had the power to make deals, or should she speak with his master, asking how many people we were talking about. I had to cover my eyes for a moment, realising that Ose was digging himself into a hole and pointed out that there were reasons I had been appointed to carry out the negotiations and also strongly suggested that he regarded Isabella as a queen, whatever the state of her lands. He then dug himself further in by giving a doubtful look at the salad and saying he wasn’t sure he wanted to eat it.
I groaned silently as Val started to hiss at him, her ears back and her teeth showing. He had refused her gift. She told him he had much to learn of the fae, suggesting that the local rulers would devour him whole, or make him into a pet. She then looked at me and suggested I give Ose a few lessons. While I was curious to see how deep a hole Ose could dig for himself, I decided to intervene, sliding an arm around Val to distract her and promising Ose that I would be conducting negotiations as soon as I could. I told him about the briefing document I had delivered to Maric and suggested very strongly that he read it. I also hinted very strongly that it might be an idea to enjoy the salad and mouthed ‘don’t say thank you’ to him. I then tried to distract Val further by suggesting there were things I needed to show her in my cottage, hinting that there were advantages to my currently alive state that I wanted to show her. She seemed to calm down a little, and even more so when Ose apologised for offending her in his inexperience. He went off then, saying I would have my letters later that night, sensibly, taking the salad with him.
True to my word, I did take Val back to the cottage with me, but we did not discuss trade. We did not discuss anything much at all. Instead, since she seemed tired, I took her to my bed, there to do nothing but rest in each others arms, and eventually slept.
- 70lb of ‘meat’, 35 lb of soy protein flakes, 30 lb onions, 30lb pork rind emulsion, 8lb rusk and 8lb of a mysterious purple powder that probably contained the seasonings, preservatives and such like. I had a holiday job in a burger factory once, I know these things.