A Tree by a River

I was a voracious reader as a child, and have been all my life. While Mother did her best to educate me in the matter of literature and poetry, I was also rather fond of less literary fare, including many ‘adventure stories’.  I do not recall, however, many of them featuring characters that start out by saying “I want to go on an adventure” much less “I want to go on a dangerous adventure”. But then, none of those characters were Aoibheann.  Who could be, aside from Aoibheann herself?

It started in the tavern, as all good adventures should. Or at least, it would have done had this been the actual adventure rather than Aoibheann’s announcement of it.  We had the requisite mixed bag of characters – the soldier, the poet and the beautiful maiden, well two of the latter if you counted Helene, who turned up while we were talking, though given her history, perhaps she would be the healer rather than a maiden. We even had about 12 feet of rope.

Yes, rope. I don’t know what adventure books Aoibheann had been reading, but she had clearly gotten the idea that a piece of rope was an essential ingredient of going on an adventure. But I get ahead of myself.

I wandered into the tavern and found Aoibheann there, talking to Orie. She was fidgeting somewhat and clearly had something on her mind that she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to share. She gathered us around her and told us that she had to go on a dangerous adventure and wanted people to go with her, but only if they wanted to, because it was a dangerous adventure. Orie was one of those and I was the other, provided, of course, that I was able to. She reckoned that I might not be able to go, because Maric would likely insist on going, and might have to leave me in charge of the village. And the adventure itself?  She wanted to go and see Ardan, which was possibly dangerous because of the lake and the sluagh and the cŵn.

Helene wandered in at this point, but lurked by the door, possibly thinking that we were discussing serious business. I beckoned her over and gave her a hug. Orie did not seem overly surprised by the idea and volunteered his services quite casually. Recent events, particularly the tea party that I missed, have somewhat raised the bar so far as being surprised at anything Aoibheann does, so I greeted the idea with the raising of one eyebrow. I was more surprised, and touched, that she considered me a suitable companion for such an adventure. I assured her that village affairs were more or less back in order, so I was sure Maric could spare me if she truly wanted to go. It was no crazier an idea than her tea party, I said, asking how that had gone.

She told me that the party had been dreadful, but did not elaborate, preferring to talk about the preparations for the new adventure. It was not going to be for a few days, she said, so she would need to get some things organised. She already had the rope; she told us, indicating the length with her arms and asking if that would be enough. She was also concerned about not being able to swim, though I wasn’t sure how that applied to the proposed expedition. My memories of my visit to the lake were a little blurred, but I was fairly sure that Ardan, being this side of the bridge, was well away from the water’s edge.

Helene wanted to know if we were going camping, so I told her that this was more of an expedition, and that camping wasn’t a good idea at the moment. Both she and Aoibheann seemed somewhat wistful about the idea of going camping, but they also seemed in agreement that it wasn’t a good idea. I told Aoibheann that the rope would not be of much use unless she wanted to tie somebody up, suggesting that a rope twice the length of the tallest structure she needed to climb might be better.

Orie, as I would have expected, took a more practical view of things, particularly from the military standpoint. You could almost see the military mind at work as he assessed the proposed expedition from the point of view of defence and possible attacks – where the strong and weak points were etc. I was broadly in agreement with his assessment, even if I lack his military experience, but I did have to query his suggestion of us taking on a few pavises. I said that it was a nice thought, but might not necessarily be much use as the enemy we might have to deal with – the sluagh and cŵn were not prone to using projectile weapons. I did think briefly of Faermorn’s ravens, and their bows, but dismissed those as unlikely, given we were staying on the Seelie side of the river, and that they doubtless had graver threats on their hands.

We discussed tactics and strategy and what weapons would and would not be useful. While I was happy to defer to Orie’s greater experience of such things, I did find his attitude a little overly aggressive. My preference would have been to go in quietly, avoiding trouble as far as possible. Orie did not seem to be in disagreement with that, but would not give up any of his armament. I had no argument with that, provided we at least tried to appear peaceful. Aoibheann was more worried about telling Maric, and how he would react to her plans. I could not say that I imagined him being pleased with the idea, but would maybe consent if we had a good plan, and a good team. I told her to think about it, tell me her thoughts and I would present the plan to Maric for her. The same went for Orie’s ideas.  I can’t see him liking it, but I think he appreciates how important the tree is to Aoibheann, and who knows, maybe we will learn something useful from it.

On a tree by a river…

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