We all have our treasured possessions. Mine go with me in my pockets, my shoulder bag, in the trunk with my various bits and pieces. Mother’s locket is always around my neck. The few letters I had from Alex, from Katharina, the playbill from Vyktorya’s concert, and sundry other items are always with me. For Aoibheann, it was her box of treasures, as she called it, the one she kept under the counter in the Lucky Leaf. Some items were truly treasures – gems and coins proffered by arrivals in Jasper Cove, not yet familiar with the Midori – but others, much like mine, could be treasures only to her. Such things were precious to her, and she was heartbroken when she thought it lost in the flight from Jasper Cove. But, perhaps nothing is lost forever…
I had returned from my rounds of the village, and settled myself with a cup of tea and yet more books from the library, from which I hoped I could perhaps coax more information on the coming doom, or the characters predicted therein. My research was not to be, as I heard Gwyn calling out, asking about the tea, and suggesting that there be bourbon for Aoibheann. I could also hear Aoibheann, seemingly crying, which would have alarmed me, but Gwyn’s tone had not conveyed any sense of things going wrong.
They came into the hall and Aoibheann immediately sat down on the rug. I could see the tears on her face, but they seemed tears of happiness, and well they might be, as I saw that she held that very box of treasures in her hand. At first, she seemed to not know what to do with it, but then she remembered the key around her neck, opened it up, and began to sift through the treasures therein. Some I could see glinting, silver and gold coins that had once passed across the bar, something that looked like a note from me, and a small volume of Blake poems.
I felt an irrational surge of happiness on her behalf, knowing how sad she had been to lose that box, although I was curious how she had come by it. The happiness was momentarily derailed by Gwyn’s irritation, demanding to know where I had been. I had missed everything, she told me. Alec had been to visit, and there were things we needed to talk about.
I replied mildly, knowing her irritation to normally be short-lived. I had been rather busy, I explained, trying to set up a meeting with Valene to discuss hiding the village in the Shadowroads, since the alternative was hiding in Hell. Plus, I had been researching ways to deal with the Huntsman, putting in place emergency procedures for the village, wondering when I could get to see Faermorn to discuss what, if anything we could do to help save Faerie and such like. I asked which version of Alec she had seen, adding it was probably a good thing I had missed him, since I was rather irritated by our last encounter, and had an overwhelming urge to kick him where it hurts.
She said that I should probably talk to him before kicking him. He had come to give Aoibheann her box and to tell us how he thought things were going to play out in the near future, or possibly far future, it was hard to tell with him. I agreed that I should probably talk to him, to see if his vision of the future was better than the one Vedis predicted, in which the angels, or possibly devils, were coming to get her and anybody else who got in the way. I asked if she was sure it was the real Alec and not the Boatman facsimile.
Aoibheann piped up, still looking happily through her treasured possessions. It was definitely Alec, she said. And while he was still a monster, perhaps everybody else was, and at least he understood her now. He had agreed to remove the Boatman from Arden, which seemed to please her. She agreed with Gwyn that I should really speak with him.
Gwyn did not know what Vedis had said, having never spoken with her. Alec had said that he would keep our souls safe, because he feared that this realm was falling apart, largely because of the Huntsman’s behaviour. That accorded well with my thoughts, given his role in what had happened to Jasper Cove. She reminded me of the noises we had heard at the sithen the previous night, with the cŵn still besieging the place. She feared it would not stand for much longer. Already, most of the Seelie sidhe were becoming one with the tree and she was one of the few left. I felt her pain, as I had heard, perhaps more than she, with my enhanced hearing, the sounds of the beasts at the door. I also felt the pain she had in losing what had become her family. As I looked at her, she told me that Alec was planning on giving her into Isabella’s care, so that she would have something of the goddess about her, able to travel the realms as they did. It would not be wise, he had told her, to go back to her old life. That she agreed with, as there was nothing that could make her go back there now. I could understand, although I knew there were things she missed from that life. I too could not imagine going back to that world, where magic and such was hidden, if indeed, it was present at all.
I explained a bit further about Vedis’ proposal to hide the castle in some part of Hell where we would be safe, in exchange for assistance in her battle against those who would seek to reclaim her. I explained that neither of us relished that prospect, which was why we were hoping we could negotiate with Nemaine for sanctuary in the Shadowroads instead. I told her that she was always a goddess to me and asked how I might summon Alec.
Meanwhile, Aoibheann was deep in thought, looking away from her treasures for a moment. She wondered aloud if she should try to find out what the Huntsman wanted, why he wanted to get into the sithen. She then asked if he could be admitted, if she could get him to be peaceful. Gwyn wasn’t so sure about that, as she could not imagine any reality in which he would be peaceful. She started to say that it wasn’t her decision, but then stopped, realising that she probably was the senior authority in the sithen at the moment, and that it mostly likely was her decision. That, she said, she would have to think about. That triggered a thought in my mind, but for the moment, I could not pin it down. There was some sense to Aoibheann’s suggestion, but for now, I could not place it.
While I could not immediately identify what it was that struck a chord, something did occur to me. There were the rules of hospitality that Aoibheann had mentioned regarding her tea party. Perhaps, if he were invited, perhaps those rules would somehow bind him to non-aggressive behaviour. OK, that hadn’t worked out too well at her party, but that may have been something to do with the Sluagh Queen’s bodyguard. There was a chance, that somewhere in his insanity, we could reach the part of him that was still sane and somehow persuade him, perhaps by oath to behave well.
Aoibheann nodded, adding that she knew that he did not wish to be ruled by the insanity, and that perhaps she could calm him down. As to entrance to the sithen, that was, of course, down to Gwyn, since it was her home. Gwyn said that she would have to think about it, and take some advice from those few fae that remained. A good, hard, and long think, except that she did not have that much time. She left then, to consult what she could, while I returned to my studies, at least for a while, until I met with Kustav and the palace guards to discuss the emergency procedures.