Aoibheann gave me her letter yesterday. I suppose it serves me right for trying to grab a quick drink by the fire. I asked if there was any sensitive information in it, in case I should haave to destroy it if I got intercepted. She had me read it so that I could deliver the message in person if necessary. It was quite short, basically requesting a meeting with herself and Lord Maric, preferably in Mysthaven. There was no particular urgency, but I decided I might as well get it over with. Besides, I still had my own mission to accomplish, which I have been avoiding. She told me not to take any risks, and that my life was more important than the message. That’s always nice to know.
And so, off I set, reflecting on how long it has been since I set foot on the far side of the bridge, not even to visit Valene’s den. I passed Giada on the bridge, so took the chance to apologise for not speaking to her at the ball, much less having a dance with her. I asked if Braeden had been a bother and she assured me that they were quite friendly, which was a relief. I left her there, explaining I had a message to deliver and continued on down the path. I know it has been some time since I ventured into the Unseelie parts of the island, but I was surprised how much I had forgotten. Eventually, I found the entrance to the sithen, where guards directed me to the stairs leading up to the promontory where the tree stood. I had fully expected to have to wait until the Queen could be located and summoned, but, to my surprise, she was already there. I immediately bowed and dropped to my knees, telling her that I came in peace to deliver a message on behalf of the village of Mysthaven.
She favoured me with her usual brilliant smile, as always, surrounded by the almost palpable sense of longing and desire that seems to be part of her nature, or perhaps it is just part of her glamour. Some day, I shall have to ask Lady Siansa if she can teach me how to tell the difference, if that part of me that is fae can be taught. She asked if we could walk together while we talked, and so we descended the stairway to the clearing before the sithen. She asked me what words I would have with her and reminded me of the oath I had given her and wondered if I would honour that pledge. That puzzled me slightly, as I could only think of my oath with regard to discovering the cause of the fire that had so affected the forest some months before.
I told her that I was bringing word from Aoibheann on behalf of Lord Maric, adding that I also had words on behalf of Lord Maric on a separate matter. I gave her the letter, asking her to excuse Aoibheann’s handwriting, and asked if we could speak of my oath once we had dealt with these messages. She read the message then asked several questions. She wanted to know who was speaking for whom and why. She wanted to know what my role in this was, and said that my words suggested that I served this Lord Maric.
I explained how Maric had come to me with the problem of feeding the village and his offer of trading services for food, or for foraging rights in Unseelie lands. I told her that he had appointed me as emissary to the courts because trading had been my profession before I came here, and that was the matter I wished to speak of. As far as the letter was concerned, I told her, I was merely the messenger, having been asked to deliver the message, by hand or verbally. I told her I did not know the matter about which they wished to meet, other than it was related to recent events.
She spoke again of my oath, telling me it was a good thing I had made it conditional, otherwise she might hold me to it and ask me to serve her still. She addressed the matter of foraging first. The villagers could forage, provided that it was agreed in advance, the foragers were escorted by her Ravens, and they were not to come close to the Underhill. She agreed to a meeting, but was reluctant to step into another’s territory without knowing the reason. She would agree to a meeting elsewhere, outside the misty mountain, with her Rook and Ravens. She directed me to take these words back to my master.
This last concerned me a little, but I dealt with the meeting subject first. I told her the reasons for wanting the meeting in the village, so that Aoibheann could be safe from the Huntsman, however, I was sure that any meeting place would be acceptable, since her Ravens and Maric’s men should be able to deal with any trouble.
I then clarified my position with regard to Maric, explaining that he was not my master, save that he had appointed me as trade negotiator, and in that respect, I was sworn only to conduct those negotiations and to keep private any other business he wished me to keep private. I also told her, in the interests of full disclosure, that I was also conducting the same business with the other court, and that there; I was sworn to keep private any sithen business and also to not bring harm to the sithen. I told her that I would make her the same vow; to bring no harm to the Unseelie sithen and to not speak of any business save that related to trade. Then, I explained that I had thought my previous oath related to the matter of the fire, so, if there was something else, then she should tell me.
She stared at me for a long time, until all I could see was her eyes, but then she turned away, looking towards the mountains. She told me I was playing a dangerous game, trying to placate all sides, warning me I could find myself trapped between obligations. She said she would accept my oath, while hoping would not regret my words in the future. She said I could give messages to her Rook, Janus, to arrange the time and place of the meeting. She then told me to travel well and dream safe, which seemed an odd dismissal. Surely I should be travelling safely and dreaming well?
Before I left, I turned back to her and told her that I understood and accepted the dangers. I told her that I was a man of peace, something that was almost as important to me as friendship. “I would hope that it is possible for me to be friends with both courts while maintaining my independence,” I said. “If I were sworn to one court or the other, or to Lord Maric, then I could not fairly deal with any other, for I would be perceived as biased, or worse still, enemy. I do not wish that. It is my wish to be able to be an instrument of peace and understanding if I can. I know I tread a very narrow and risky path, but I believe it to be worthwhile. Is there not value to being a friend rather than a subject?”
She looked at me with what seemed to me to be great sadness saying that if only that could be true. She did not think it was possible in this land, where you gave oath to those who could protect you. There were those who would use me, she told me; and many horrors in the mist that would hunt me. She wished me the best of fortune, but hoped I would gain wisdom in time. To that, I replied that perhaps that was so, but that I liked to think that such things could be achieved, with some work and some luck, and that in that hope, I was willing to try, because I believed the reward was worth the risk. Maybe I would gain wisdom, but in the meantime, I believed the dream to be worth pursuing. She had no further words for me, and so I took my leave of her and returned to the village, my task, for now, completed.
I have cause for thought, now I am back safely in my humble abode. Am I a foolish idealist? Is it crazy to want to change things so that all residents of this island can walk safely in peace, not because they are sworn to one faction or the other, but because the factions have agreed that all should walk safely? Are the courts and other factions so inimical to one another that this cannot ever be the case? I hope that the latter is not the case, and that I am not crazy. Perhaps it is a foolish dream, but it is a worthwhile dream nevertheless.