Part of my waking memory, down in the vault, was the remnants of a mental message from Maric. Something about a lady with red hair who had come looking for me. Her name, so far as I could make out, was Katharina, or something similar. I froze for a moment, contemplating what this could mean. I knew three women with names that sounded like Katharina – my sire, the Unseelie Queen I had served in London, and my beloved Catt, her Captain of Ravens. The queen I could dismiss, as I did not remember her having red hair, but the other two certainly did. The rest of the message said that she had taken herself off and buried herself under the large tree on the green, where guards had been set to watch.
I took myself upstairs and went out to the tree, resting my head against it. I remembered Mother, on our walks, telling me I should greet the trees, and wondered why I had never done so for this one. Perhaps it was familiarity, since I passed it several times every day. I made greeting, and asked if it knew who was buried beneath its roots. Of course, I did not expect any reply, though, give my experiences with Aerodine, perhaps I should have. My scar had been bothering me for a few days, which would suggest something to do with Catt, but who knew what Katharina was capable of? I was not going to get any answers until whoever it was decided to disinter themselves, so I returned to the castle.
I found Helene there, looking somewhat dejected. I asked what was bothering her and she said that she had meet a messenger of one of the courts the previous night who had been spooked by the rose she wore in her hair. She seemed to think that she could not do anything right lately. I reassured her that it could hardly be her fault if somebody took exception to her bloom and asked if she had seen the visitor who had come looking for me. She had, she told me, saying that she was seemingly upset. I asked if she had a German accent and she told me no, saying that she looked vaguely familiar, perhaps somebody from London. Then I gasped, my hand going once again to the scar on my wrist. That narrowed it down to possibly being Catt, but why? I had not seen, nor heard from her since that one cold night back in London when she managed to break through a portal for a short while.
Before I could ask any further questions, one of the servants brought Orie up from the door. He seemed in no better mood than before, though at least he was not shouting. We could not tell him any more than we had the day before, other than that Vedis was well, and elsewhere. I tried to assure him that she was very tough and very good at bouncing back from whatever ailed her, and added that I too held her in high regard. I had known her a lot longer than him, and just because I was remaining calm, did not mean that I did not care.
He wasn’t having any of it. He did not spend all that time fighting on the hilltop for the fun of it and wasn’t going to take our ‘dismissive bullshit’ as an answer. I told him I didn’t doubt his dedication or his hard work, and was sorry if he felt that our answers were dismissive bullshit. We had told him everything we knew, and we could not tell him what we didn’t know. Helene did her best to calm him, but he wasn’t going to be deflected. As far as he was concerned, we were just playing at being fancy dandies in our fine house, and weren’t attending to the safety of the people. He was beginning to annoy me now, but I tried to keep my temper, reminding him that Maric and I had been on the forefront of the fight, and if he didn’t like it…
I stopped. Whatever I was about to say went out of my mind as I heard the guards escorting somebody up the stairs. A figure, so familiar, yet, almost strange to me, radiant in icy cold blue, of skin and hair, just as when I had last seen her – it was Catt!
I rushed to her and embraced her, barely noticing the cold. Even as I hugged her, I could hear slight cracking noises, as you might hear from ice. She was stiff at first, but then relaxed into my embrace, tears flowing and mumbling something about hearing and feeling me. I told her how I had felt her presence so many times, through the scar, but had never dreamed I would see her again. So much had happened since London fell into the Nexus… I recovered my poise somewhat, remembering that I was also a host, and invited her in for warmth, drink, and food if she needed it. I was vaguely aware that Helene had taken Orie away somewhere to try to calm him, but for now, all my attention was on Catt.
I opened a bottle of wine and asked if she wanted anything to eat, apologising that there was probably not a huge choice, since we had recently been under siege. She accepted the wine gratefully and asked about the siege. I was not sure where to begin, so I gave her a short outline of the geo-politics of the land, and the current state of the courts. I also mentioned Vedis and Valene, thinking she would be pleased to hear of names from our joint past, and told her how I came to be steward.
Vedis’ name seemed to mean something to her, but she was not so sure about Valene. Much time had passed and much had happened to her, and she had problems with some of her memories. She asked if Maric was kindred, and then asked about the Raven of the Unseelie Court. She was unsure of her own status now, since Artur and Katarina had sailed into the West.
I told her what I knew, skipping her question about Maric for the moment, giving her a potted history of the events of the last few months, and what had happened to precipitate the current state of the courts. I explained about the madness of the Unseelie King, and the corruption of the Wild Hunt, and about the unknown fate of both the Seelie and Unseelie Queens. Perhaps I divulged more than I would have to any other recent arrival, but, because we had been so close, I felt she should know, especially if she wanted to take service with the Unseelie Court again. I apologised for dumping so much information on her in one go, saying that I felt it necessary because of the general parlous state of affairs here. I told her about my role as emissary and hoped that she could help me with her experience of the Unseelie Court. Although I had served Kat and Artur, and then Winter, I had known only a little knowledge of the fae side of their affairs. She said that she would do what she could, even though she had been relatively inexperienced when she entered Artur & Kat’s service. She had been underground, she told me, for over 100 years, so had some catching up to do, but she would do what she could.
I thanked her and held her hand for a while, just happy to have my friend back with me again. She was slowly returning to her normal colour, the blue fading away as she warmed up, her skin becoming pink again and her hair red. I could see that she was tired, so I escorted her to one of the guest rooms, so that she could rest. Be at ease, I told her, saying that I would make it known to the staff, and to Maric, that she was an honoured guest and should be treated thusly. She clambered wearily into the bed and allowed me to tuck her in. I gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and she was asleep in moments. I waited a while, and then took myself off to instruct the staff and leave a note for Maric.
And so, one of my dearest friends is back from who knows where. Perhaps in the coming days she can tell me more of her past. For now, I am content to know she is here. Perhaps my wrist will stop bothering me for a while.