(A page much marked with erasures and crossed-out passages and blots)
When tragedy strikes, even something as personal as that which struck Aislyn last night, one saddening aspect is that people start to play the blame game. I suppose it is only natural, human nature, though it appears that the fae are just as prone to this. And in the case of Aislyn’s tragedy, it is only natural to blame oneself. God knows, I went through this enough with Alex. Her first pregnancy came just a year after we were married. We were both healthy, and had no reason to suspect there would be any problems, and so Alex continued her life as normal, carrying on with her learning, her charity work, just as she would have done had she not been with child. So, I suppose it was only natural, when she miscarried, to blame herself for not having taken things easier. No matter that it had hardly been a strenuous lifestyle she had led. There were months of self-recrimination and anguish and it took the combined efforts of myself, my mother and her mother to eventually convince her otherwise. Even so, for each of the next three pregnancies, she did take it easy, she did cut back on her activities, and yet, the result was the same. There was no-one to blame, save the fickleness of nature, or if one were so inclined, God. It was only during that time that I learned that my own mother had miscarried twice before bearing me, and once before bearing Gilbert. That, alone, could have been cause for me to blame myself, had I been so inclined, but Mother was quite insistent that I should not. So, I did not apportion blame. I may have cursed our luck, but I did not seek to place blame. Certainly, I did not, could not, and would not blame Alex. She had felt guilt enough, without me adding to her burden. In that, I was like Father, who never blamed Mother for her losses. I learned one evening, in a rare heart-to-heart with him over a few brandies, that my normally stoic father had blamed himself and he too, had to be convinced otherwise by Mother.
Here, in the sithen, it is Aislyn who is blaming herself. Sadly, she is not the only one, for Blaise is blaming her too. In his grief and anger, he struck out and blamed her and now he is gone, gone out of the sithen to nobody knows where. Perhaps that is for the best, for I doubt that anyone here, myself included, wants to be near him right now, for the temptation to break his teeth might be too much.
I woke in Gwyn’s sleeping quarters in the sithen. My sleep had been disturbed again by more dreams of the Unseelie King and of Alex. I came to in a cold sweat, overhearing conversations outside, vaguely aware of Gwyn having just kissed me before going off to see Aislyn. The guard had been saying that the prince was angry and had blamed her for the loss of the child. I could hear the anger in his voice as he spoke, saying how much the princess had wanted the child, and how she was already blaming herself. I do not recall exactly what I said, but clearly I had asked after Aislyn for the guard told me she was not good. He disappeared then, leading Gwyn off to Aislyn’s quarters. I was momentarily confused because I could also hear Aoibheann’s voice asking what was going on. That raised other questions, but for now, there were other concerns.
I followed the others over to the pavilion with the bookcases. Gwyn was there with Aoibheann, telling her that she was going to go in and see to the princess. She told Aoibheann that I was there and that she was going to give her hand to me, so she wouldn’t be on her own. Aoibheann was a little confused, but took my hand sightlessly. I realised that she was under the prince’s curse again, so tried to sign to her, spelling out hello and that I was glad to see her, one letter at a time on the back of her hand. There was another man there, a warrior by his aspect. Gwyn addressed him as Dan, so I had to assume this was the one who had been teaching her survival. I introduced myself while Gwyn went further into the pavilion to talk to Aislyn. I could see there were others in there with her and guessed they were likely healers, which proved to be correct from what Gwyn was saying. I also gathered that not only was Aislyn still blaming herself, but she was also refusing healing and was even shielding herself so that they could not do their work. Galaddan introduced himself to Aoibheann, so I had to explain about the curse. He tried again, and I guess he used some magic to do so, for she answered him and asked about Llwyd’s health. All he could tell her that he was still asleep, which did not please her. We made brief conversation about Gwyn’s training and then I asked if there was anything I could do, explaining how I had gone through this four times with my own wife. I spoke of what we had gone through about self-recrimination, and could not help but mention that I had tried not to be an ass about it, unlike his highness. He said that he could not presume to comment on the choices of those he served and asked what I would have done had my wife deliberately made choices that could harm the child. I was annoyed by the question and pointed out that the two were indivisible, that there was no either or. My wife had lived her life and I would not blame her one bit. Had she deliberately tried to cast the child forth, maybe, by poisoning herself with gin or suchlike, but not otherwise. The princess was hurting and that was all that mattered. After that, I ignored him and he soon departed, claiming business elsewhere, as did Aoibheann.
I could hear Gwyn inside, trying to convince Aislyn that things were not her fault and that she should let the healers do their work. I moved closer to offer moral support. Aislyn was being stubborn, saying that she knew it and Blaise knew it. She was at fault. I wasn’t quite sure what they were talking about but it was something to do with Aislyn being a lifebringer and how she had been working hard to try to help maintain the sithen while the queen was otherwise occupied, presumably with healing Llwyd. Gwyn would not let up; slipping into that plain-speaking mode I love so well, getting a little angry and giving Aislyn a telling off, much as I had done at one point with Alex. I could see that Aislyn was close to tears as Gwyn tried to convince her, asking her what she would have told her to do. Eventually, she seemed to get through and Aislyn started crying as Gwyn hugged her. I could not tell quite what was going on, but the healers moved in closer, so I guessed that Aislyn had dropped her shields.
I could not remain silent any longer, seeing in Aislyn all the agony I had seen in Alex so many times, so many years ago. “Highness,” I said. “It is possible you might not want a man’s opinion right now. But I’ll give one anyway, if you will allow me to be that tiny bit of an ass. I went through this four times with my wife. She blamed herself too. And much like Gwyn did just now, I shouted a bit. I will tell you what I told her, what my mother told her. This too will pass. I know this seems like the whole world has ended, Alex felt the same, but it will pass. You are young, so far as I can tell, you are strong, and you will come through this. And, as much as Blaise is being an ass right now, he will come around. Blame will achieve nothing, so let it go, let the healers do their work, look after yourself for once. And, above all, believe there is a future.” I knelt as I spoke, so that I could speak quietly and yet have her still hear me. Gwyn was still asking Aislyn to help her decide what to do, how should she help the healers. They moved closer to start laying on hands and sending the healing energy, asking Gwyn to just remain where she was, holding Aislyn. They also asked if she could try to get Aislyn to talk, to let out the pain and agony. I weighed in myself, telling Aislyn that it was ok to be upset, ok to be angry, sad, mad etc. If she was angry, and wanted to let it out, she could strike me, I told her, relating how Alex had given me a black eye after her first miscarriage. Somehow, between us, we managed to get her to talk. She spoke of how she had really wanted the child, how she had dropped all the unimportant magic, so she could concentrate on sustaining the sithen, how she had asked Sia to do some of the teaching… she should have known, she said, she was a lifebringer… Eventually, she broke down into sobs.
I looked up as I felt movement nearby and saw Astrid coming in. I was relieved to have another woman, a fae woman who had been through pregnancy herself there. I briefly explained to her what had happened, silently, so as not to upset Aislyn further. Gwyn was trying to convince Aislyn that we don’t always know things and we sometimes get things wrong. She related how she had thought me a homosexual when we first met because I dressed well, among other things. That got a tiny laugh out of Aislyn, letting the crying cease for a moment. Astrid drew closer, offering some candies she had made with nectar and her own energies. The healers agreed with that idea, and eventually, Aislyn was persuaded to take some. They spoke about Blaise, and while not excusing his conduct, found ways to understand it. For now it was a problem that would be dealt with at some other point, for now, she had to concentrate on recovering.
She ate some of the candies, and was persuaded to take some of the other food that one of the healers had brought. Gwyn lapsed into her Dartford voice and threatened to help her go shank the prince. That led to a discussion about language evolving, which prompted me to start reciting from Canterbury Tales. That, the princess liked, saying she was always fond of Chaucer. Soon after, she became sleepy, apparently at the hands of one of the healers who had slipped her something in one of the drinks. Sleep was perhaps the best thing for her now, and so we left her in the care of the healers, to sleep, which in itself would be a healing thing.
I felt strangely calm afterwards. I don’t know if my words helped, but I would like to think they did. I felt somewhat better for having turned my own pain, the pain of my memories, into something positive, into being able to help somebody else. And that, in itself, was a good thing. I realise as I write, that some of that pain, that I had thought gone, had only been hidden away. It was only now, in trying to help another through that pain, that I had managed to let some of my own pains go. Perhaps, even painful memories have their uses, maybe they stay until they can be turned to something good. Maybe that is why we have them. Even something that painful can have a use eventually. I would like to think that was true, and that gives me hope. And who knows, maybe something good will come of Aislyn’s pain, even if she cannot see it now. I would like to think that is true too.