The journal has a number of pages that are scribbled on, crossed out, torn, and what remains is badly stained with soot, blood and who knows what. Here and here, a few phrases and words are visible..
…sounded the alarm at four rings… sluagh at the gate… evacuate the villagers … Faermorn! … call to arms … Shadowroads… Maric! … tally of villagers… Sophia… Galyanna and the mirror… where is Aoibheann… get everybody safe… so many dead… the cait! … Gwyneth… Where are the guards?…
As a recorder of the minutiae of an ordinary life, I think I do an adequate job, although I am aware that I am somewhat stretching the concept of ordinary in my case. As a recorder of tumultuous events, I find myself lacking. Of course, there was no time or leisure to record things during the events of the last few nights, and for all my tired and scribbled notes afterwards, I cannot get my brain to resolve them into a sensible narrative. As if any narrative with demons, vampires, sluagh, fae and a carrion crow can make any sense anyway. Perhaps, in time, I shall return to these notes and at least try to attempt to record these events in more detail.
For now, it will have to suffice that the people of Mysthaven plus assorted guests are ensconced in the bowels of the castle. Most are scared and tired, a few are injured, but most were accounted for, even if I had not yet seen them myself. Helene, for example, is listed as accounted for, but I have not found her yet. Sophia, I have seen, but a few others, Dori, for example, I haven’t. Of the castle guard, I do not yet have a final tally. Maric, I know, through our mental link, was badly injured and is in torpor. That is better than dead, I guess, and some comfort for Aoibheann.
There was too much to do, just looking after people and making sure everybody was safe. Even with all this going on, there were still things I had to do as steward. I also had to take Galyanna to the laboratory so that she could await Vedis at the mirror. Gwyn and I stayed a while with her, to offer comfort and support. In a remarkable show of trust, or perhaps just being too tired to care, Galyanna removed her mask, and we saw, for the first time, the woman underneath. I consider this an honour and privilege, while being slightly bemused that, for all the times we have fought alongside each other, this is the first time I have seen her face.
Gwyn and I retired to Maric’s chambers to talk. We had not had any time together since we returned from the Huntsman’s forest, and I did not know quite what had passed with her in that time. I told her about the Quickening and the visitation from Gwythyr. I even confessed how much I had wanted Faermorn, how she had said that I could partake of her any way I wanted, and how I chose the blood. I told how Gwythyr had tried to bully me and had eventually forced me to feed from him, and begged her to stop me if I ever started behaving like him.
Her tale was grimmer than mine. She too had been visited by Gwythyr. She too had resisted him; she too had tried to give, so that he could not take. But he took her anyway. He took her blood and called her a royal bastard, saying she tasted of Saone. And then he took her. And for all that she tried to think of me, he forced her to see him, after taking on the shapes of her former lovers as well as me, but he couldn’t get them quite right. And so she could still think of the real me. She was my princess still, but a broken one.
No, I told her. Not to me. All the things that had passed, the taking of the castle, the fight with the Unseelie Raven Captain, the business with Rachel, her encounters with the Huntsman… those did not break her and neither would this. “No, you are not broken, not in my eyes, not in my head, not in my heart, and you never will be.” I held her close, knowing only that I loved her more. I then looked at her, noting the change in appearance yet again and asked if she had been promoted.
She told me then of being taken to the sithen, how she had been anointed as the leader of the Seelie, and would one day be Queen. Then, Faermorn called Saone forth from the Mallorn tree, and for a while, they were all bound together until it was time for the Queens to set forth for the Summerlands. I had known this. I had known, even in the chaos that had been the night of the battles, that Faermorn was gone. I had felt it and known it, had already known from the first time I visited with her after the rescue. Even so, the words brought forth a tear. Gwyn continued, saying that she had been broken, in a way that remade her. Gwythyr was gone from this world, she hoped, and she was different now.
I nodded, saying that it was good that he was gone, and perhaps we could take comfort that he had learned nothing, achieved nothing, gained nothing. I would not weep for him. For Llwyd, yes, though I had met him but once. For Saone, yes, for she had been gracious to me, and for Faermorn most of all, because we had been able to be friends, unbound by oaths, as well as for the reconnection to my heritage she had given me. Her I would miss most of all. I agreed that we were all different, I told her. Yes, I was different, Aoibheann was different, and she was different, and this was not a bad thing. Trying to lighten the mood, talking of differences, I asked if she had liked the pointy ears.
Those she had liked very much, and she would have jumped on me, had we not had other business to attend to. We spoke a while of personal things before turning our thoughts to Aoibheann, and wondering how she was. I communed with the castle for a moment, and could tell she was nearby. We got up from the sofa and looked around the rest of the chamber. There was ash on the floor, leading to the bed area, and here and there, blood, that I knew to be Maric’s. We followed the trail past the bed, on which there lay an unstrung bow, possibly the one Aoibheann had been cuddling the previous evening. This seemed likely, as we then found Aoibheann in the chamber behind the bed, curled up on the floor next to the casket that I knew then to be Maric’s resting place. We made her comfortable with a few extra blankets and a pillow before leaving her.
We returned to the sitting room and took a seat. We were both very aware of our own desires, our need for each other, and I could feel the Wyld in me, responding even more to hers. However, we did not feel able to slake our thirsts here, not with Aoibheann sleeping so close by, and our options were limited elsewhere in the castle. I asked if she knew anywhere we could go.
She did suggest that we could go realm-hopping, maybe go see Alec, or a place she had been visiting in Maine in the year 2014. Of course, that would require both of us changing, both in clothing and appearance. Appealing though the idea was, I decided I could not leave the castle, not the way things were. Perhaps nobody would mind if we took a nap here on the sofa. And that is what ended up happening. It had been a long day; surely nobody could fault us for that.