No man, or woman, can fight ceaselessly, no matter how strong. Even with my supernatural powers, I have to rest for a while, and so I did. We had men, and the term used very loosely here, enough to hold the gate, allowing each of us to take rest, even if only for a short while. I took some rest in the castle, before going down to the tavern, to see how people were doing and take refreshment before returning to the fray. There I found Horace, also taking a few moments of ease. He told me he had been in the fight elsewhere on the hill. I thought I had heard gunshots in among all the other battle noises, but had been too busy to take much notice. We spoke for a while about the use of shot, and whether iron shot would have been more effective. Wherever he had been battling, it had not just been the sluagh, for he had also encountered the cŵn. I had to salute his bravery, going up against what must have been for him unknown assailants. On the other hand, he implied that his intention was to go up against the Huntsman. I tried to explain that this was potentially a foolish exercise and tried to explain the Huntsman’s purpose.
Maric turned up, just as Lucis did. The latter delivering the message that Aoibheann was safe on the Demon Isle, and would remain there until she was well and it was safe for her to return. Maric acknowledged that with brief thanks, but clearly had other things on his mind, asking for a word with me in private.
I had imagined it had something to do with the defence of the village, and in a way, it was, but what he was about to ask of me was something much harder than I could have imagined.
There are secrets in the castle, he told me, secrets that would be vital to the survival of Mysthaven and its people. He needed somebody to whom he could entrust those secrets in case he should fall. I reminded him once again, that he always had my solemn word, but even as I spoke, I knew that this was not enough any more. I knew, even before he spoke, that he would require the blood oath of me.
I explained that this was a very difficult thing for me, because I had been told that we do not feed from one another, quite apart from my need for independence, in dealing with the various factions on the island. I told him that loyalty was one of the most important things to me, that I would rather die than betray a friend, and that I had amply demonstrated this in fighting at his side, even though I was no warrior. He had all that of me on my word, so what more would be gained from this feeding. That was the question I asked. I had to know if he and I understood the same things of a blood bond or oath before I could step over that line.
What he told me differed from what I had thus far thought to be the case, and from what I had told Aoibheann. It was not something he offered lightly, he told me, or to just anybody. It was not a power he abused, and all who partook of him did so willingly. There was much he could do with the blood, and for me, it would give me more knowledge, as I needed it, a portion of his strength, a means to send messages, and I would be able to determine where he was if we were separated. From me, he would gain surety of my intentions, and the ability to locate me, and determine my general health. While it would enhance my feelings towards him, it would not be obsession or servitude, since he had taken years to perfect the bond and weed out the undesirable effects.
It was not quite what I had expected, and he made no mention of drinking three times. I could see that the matter was a very serious thing for him, and given that the defence of the town was at stake, I could understand why. Nevertheless, it was not a thing I would do lightly either. All the oaths I have taken have been given voluntarily, without any supernatural seal. But then, as I thought about it, I realised that some magic had taken place when I made oaths to the Sidhe queens. I could not decide and I found myself seeking inspiration from Mother, taking her locket from under my shirt and holding it as I asked her guidance. I thought also of Brigitte, and my first oath, to her, that first time in her house in London. I wondered what she might say as I grasped an old handkerchief of hers that somehow still remained in my pocket. Could I do this? There still remained the matter of my other oaths, which I feared could place me in a conflicting situation. Since, he had said that he would gain a surety of my intentions, there seemed no point in hiding, so I told him of my oaths to the Seelie and Unseelie Queens – to not reveal any information I was not permitted to share, and to bring no harm to the sithens – and why I had made those oaths. I told him also of my oath to Valene, and again, why I had taken that. I asked if he could live with those pre-existing conditions, if I took his oath.
He was not best pleased, but did not show any anger. He had no choice but to accept my existing situation. He had lived too long, and lived through too many battles to show me his secrets without that oath; however, he seemed willing to give me time to reflect upon things before giving my final decisions.
It also seemed that there were some things he was willing to share on my existing word. He took me down the stairs and to one side, where there was one of the many bookcases in the castle. He beckoned me closer and indicated a particular book on one of the shelves, and a particular way of moving it. Doing so revealed that the bookcase was actually a concealed door into another part of the castle. Despite the gravity of the situation, I had to giggle, remembering all the stories I had read as a youth in which there were secret doors behind bookcases. He gave me an odd look, so I explained why I was laughing. He seemed to accept that and showed me to the room beyond. Here were stores, weapons, a work desk, some potions and various other things. Here was a place for the villagers to shelter should it become necessary. Some of the potion would help with healing, he told me. I looked around, considering the preparations, and what might need to be done for the village, and I realised I had no choice. I could not let the village fall. If I was willing to die to save my friends, why was I not willing to give up a little of myself?
For the sake of the village, I told him, I would take his oath. He appeared much relieved at that, and smiled for the first time since the assault began. He would need time to prepare, so would continue this on the morrow. In the meanwhile, he told me, I could take my rest here if I chose. I told him that I could not rest any more, not while there was still work to be done. I would rather take a turn at the gate, beheading a few more sluagh. I remembered Father telling me, often, that you should do the job in front of you. I said this to Maric and he deemed it good advice.
With that, I joined the guards at the gate, wading once more into battle. I had much to think about, but for now, there were attackers to be slain. Do the job in front of you, Father had said. I guess I did listen to the old bugger after all.