I have distant memories of my science teacher at school talking about alchemy, as a precursor to the proper science he was then going to teach. I never imagined then that I would one day be in possession of a journal belonging to a famous alchemist. I also never imagined that I might spend an evening in a tavern discussing alchemy and necromancy with a female satyr. But then, I would never have imagined almost anything that has happened to me over the past few years. Well, I might possibly have imagined falling in love with a girl from South London, were I given to romantic speculations, but even there, I probably would not have imagined the bit about her coming from the 20th century. Or perhaps I could have, since, in all probability, I would have experienced that century for myself, albeit in the latter years of my life.
Imagined futures, or possibly pasts, aside, I have to deal with the very real present, whenever, in absolute terms, that might be, and in particular, the attempt upon Princess Aislyn’s life. Several hours in Maric’s library had drained my enthusiasm for the subject of necromancy. Aside from one or two somewhat hysterical rants about the evils of necromancy, most of what I could find was couched in the driest and somewhat sniffy academic tones of persons who wanted no truck with the idea that education should be enjoyable or interesting. I wearied of it after while, and took myself down to the tavern for a break, remaining unconvinced that I was going to learn anything that would help in the search for a would-be murderer.
The tavern was quiet, unoccupied save for Hal, and Dyisi, who looked to have not moved since our chat the previous evening. She was still sitting there, enjoying the warmth of the fire and her pipe. I joked about her having taken up permanent residence and we spoke a while of comfort and home, with me telling her about the number of times I had fallen asleep by the fire instead of heading back to the cottage. I mentioned the spare bed above the tavern and suggested that there was likely a vacant spot in one of the other cottages. Or, I told her, if she preferred the open spaces, there were plenty of spots on the island she could try, and suggested a few places, such as the carved stone or the crystal pool.
I told her a little about my studies, without giving away too much about the reason, telling her how deadly dull most of the tomes I had read were. It turned out that Dyisi was familiar with many forms of magic, including necromancy. She spoke of those who use it to steal health from other to replenish their own, to keep people alive while being tortured, to reanimate corpses and to make living things wither and decay. She did not sound as if she approved of such practices. What she said seemed to be in accord with what I had read so far. I explained that I knew little of magic, save a few minor spells that had been taught me by an undead unicorn mortician. That bit seemed to amuse her somewhat. I suppose that even if she is as ancient as her race, there is a good chance she has never come across one of those before.
I explained that my particular interest was in the means of summoning a hellhound, adding that the intent, in this case, was murder. We spoke about the possible methods of summoning, and what physical evidence there might possibly be that could give us a clue as to the summoner. We spoke also of the motives for murder and I explained my train of thought regarding the as yet inexplicable motive in this particular case. She asked if hellhounds were a feature of this ‘thread’, as she called it, which is as good a term as any. I told her about the Huntsman, making reference to the Wild Hunt, which she might possibly have heard about. We speculated some more on motivations, method and such like, which while we didn’t reach any specific conclusions, did help me get the whole thing better arranged in my own mind.
The discussion somewhat drifted onto the more general subject of knowledge and reading. I was gratified that she seemed impressed with my reasoning, my openness to different possibilities and definitely my affinity for gaining knowledge. I told her about my early years, learning my reading from Arthurian legends and Romantic poets. I told her about my insatiable thirst for reading, and then told her how my life had changed some nine years previously and how I had found it necessary to adjust my perceptions of what was and wasn’t real. That brought up the subject of different possibilities and how each story creates a world, and how there are different strands, or different threads within any story or world. I told her about my fleeting encounter with the possibility of another reality, briefly mentioning the dream about a different me, who continued his voyage to Bremerhaven and received a note from Valene and then learning from Valene that she had indeed sent such a note.
Given that she had likely lived a long time, and perhaps many different realities – she made mention of Wonderland at one point, which would explain the content of the smoke signals, if not the reason – I asked if she had ever encountered John Dee. Since she did not appear to know the name, I told her a little about what I knew of him and mentioned the content I had seen in a journal (without mentioning how I came to acquire it) referring to multiple realities. I joked that, from my point of view, the story of Dee was history, but, if the conversation I had with the Phoenix was to be believed, it might be in the future from the point of view of this particular… I’ll use her word – thread. When I mentioned alchemy and the Philosopher’s Stone, she brightened up, indicating the various strange containers on her belt, telling me that alchemy was a subject she had much knowledge about. I told her that I would make a note of that should I need any information on that subject in the future.
Any further discussion on alchemy was interrupted by the arrival of Gwyn, finally escaping from her duties in the sithen. Dyisi, seeing the obvious affection between us, asked if we needed privacy, as it would not be in the nature of a satyr to get in the way of amorous activities. We laughed and told her it was ok, we had places we could go if we so wished. I told Gwyn what we had been talking about and she again suggested that Paasheeluu would be the person to ask, if only we knew how to reach her. I asked how things were with Aislyn. Life in the sithen, she said, had more or less returned to normal, with Blaise and Aislyn fighting again. For now, she said, even talking about necromancy seemed a brighter subject than sithen politics. I called Hal over to get her a drink, but she said she didn’t need one. She was tired, but wanted to see me before going to bed. I thought that was nice of her, so I finished my drink and offered to walk her home. Dyisi was happy to excuse us, no doubt making certain, possibly accurate, assumptions about our intentions, and so we departed for the sithen. At least we knew we would get some privacy there, with the new arrangements that Blaise had made, and with the extra precautions for Aislyn’s safety, it was likely we would be well out of earshot, so wouldn’t have to listen to the fighting.