The world is made up of wavy lines. Everything is made up of wavy lines. I have often thought this, especially when I have over-indulged in the special rum, or been hanging around opium bars too long. But now it is official, apparently. Alec said so, so it must be true. On the other hand, when did I start believing everything Alec says?
The man really needs to learn some manners, and maybe a little tact. I was minding my own business in Maric’s chambers, going through some paperwork in the hope of keeping at least a weather eye on the state of things in the castle, when I felt something, something that made the hairs on my neck stand up. I turned and saw a disturbance in the air, a rippling, a shimmering, a heat haze that tugged at the edges of vision. I knew it to be a portal of some sort and readied my sword, in case something unwanted were to come through. Nothing did, so I poked it with the tip of the sword.
Which was, perhaps silly of me, as the portal opened and swallowed me up, depositing me on a green and pleasant bank, by a glittering body of water. And there before me was the instigator of the portal, Alec, looking much less than his glamorous self, being clad like some country gamekeeper. I complained at him about not knocking or sending a note, saying I had been all ready to behead the nearest demon or whatever had come through the portal. And, since I was still a bit irritated, I asked him why he was dressed like a gamekeeper. Since he did not appear to be an immediate threat, I sheathed the sword.
He just gave me that maddening half-smile and asked why he had not crossed my mind more often. He had grown tired of waiting to teach me how to use my new powers. He then looked at my clothing – I had my grey, working clothes on – and snapped his fingers. In a moment, my clothing was gone, and instead I was wearing a shirt of some soft, tartan patterned material, strange in fit and design, but not so dissimilar from clothing I knew as to be unrecognisable. The trousers too, we were a soft, sturdy cotton material, a fabric not unlike the jeans I had seen Gwyn wearing, only in a light tan colour. They were quite unremarkable, really, but I guessed they would pass muster in wherever this place was without arousing undue comment.
I told him that he had crossed my mind often, but what with trying to master blood magic, reuniting a Cait Queen with the Unseelie Queen, being Quickened by said Unseelie Queen, oh, and trying to save an entire village while the angels and demons were battling it out, I had been a little on the busy side of late. However, I had been planning to come and see him soon, to continue my education. I then asked where, and when, I was. Here, he said, was Cranberry Cove, Maine, and it was the year 2014. Gwyn had mentioned the cove, and had mentioned it was her present, so that made sense. He frowned at my mention of angels and demons and asked what was going on that they should be running amok in Ashmourne Wylds as well as how Aoibheann and Gwyn were.
I explained briefly, saying that Vedis had a lot of chickens coming home to roost, which was why the village was hiding in the Shadow Roads, why Gwyn had been anointed as leader of the Seelie and why Aoibheann was in love with Maric and currently cuddled around his coffin, where he was in torpor. He did not seem overly pleased with the latter news, expressing his distrust of Maric, though, perhaps uncharitably, I wondered if he resented Maric’s growing influence over Aoibheann while his own influence was diminishing. That, perhaps, could apply to myself and Gwyn too. He made a comment about needing to visit with Vedis soon and then moved on to the subject of teaching me about my powers. Had I found myself anywhere unusual lately, he asked, other than being in a faerie realm besieged by angels and demons?
I had to laugh at that, mentioning the Huntsman’s forest and Faermorn’s bedchamber as possibly unusual places, though I was fairly sure that I had gotten to the latter by conventional means. I felt I should speak up for Maric, saying that I had been distrustful myself, but now knew him to be a good man, very much like to myself. He was not pleased that I had shared blood, warning me of the consequences, as if I didn’t know those only too well. He cautioned me to be wary of Maric, and watch over Aoibheann – an unnecessary injunction – since he feared that the business with Llwyd and the Huntsman was not over. Again, he returned to the matter of the powers he had given me. He was pleased that I seemed to have more control than he might have expected.
Hah! Control! He might well be pleasantly surprised by that, but then, he doesn’t know about the years of not reacting to bullies at school. He doesn’t know about overcoming my addiction to whoring and drinking in my early days at sea, nor the several years I spent not being found out as a vampire in the closed environment of a merchant ship. I did tell him about having to cope with the infusion of blood magic from Maric, Wyld from Faermorn, and resisting her charms during the Quickening. So, yes, I thought I knew something of control.
He continued his explanation. The magic we were using was fuelled by energy, as with most magic. Energy was the basis of all things and everything was made from it. My soul, my body, the ground we were sitting on, were all forms of energy. I wasn’t entirely sure I bought that, but then, I thought, a piece of wood can turn into energy – heat – if you burn it. Space and time are just a physical concept. This much I remembered from the Dee journal. All matter was made up of tiny molecules, he told me, which were, in turn, made up of smaller atoms, which themselves were made of smaller particles that ultimately break down into an infinite number of wavy lines. The only difference between things was in the way those wavy lines arranged themselves.
So far, so good. I told him that I was aware of atomic theory, and was prepared to accept that future, from my point of view, developments might discover that atoms themselves could be broken into smaller particles. I wasn’t entirely sure about everything being a bunch if squiggly lines, but based on the ideas I had read in Dee’s journal, I was prepared to go along with everything being able to be described in terms of mathematical principles, with the squiggles being a convenient model to work from.
He went on to explain how we could move our bodies by our will, by thinking of a place or person we knew, visualising them, and we would be able to go there. Fair enough, I thought. I had vague memories of learning about translations in maths, so it made sense that I could translate this bunch of wavy lines to somewhere else by changing the values of the origin, or something. And since he had mentioned being able to go back or forward in time, I had to assume that time was just another axis on which we could do these translations. Gods, did I take maths too seriously at school and university? He mentioned being able to visit his own parents, although there were problems associated with that. The other thing was that he needed to keep control, by absorbing where and when he was, so that he could keep himself in any one place or time. I could appreciate that. Given how much my own mind wanders, it would be terribly inconvenient if my body wandered as much.
I told him about the rules that Gwyn and I had been speculating about and the potential problems with travelling elsewhen, especially into my past. I had been formulating my own rules, which I planned on sticking to until I had a better idea of what I was doing. For now, I would confine myself to things like visiting him, Isabella, the kids etc. If I used my powers sparingly, I had less chance of fucking up. He was pleased with that, and also that I was making my own anchors, in the people I liked and places I liked. Those could be the difference between reality and nowhere. He did warn me that I was being mistaken in thinking of time as linear – the now could affect the then, past and future were one and the same.
I told him that I had long given up on time being linear, given that my lover will not be born for another 100 years from my perspective. However, I did try to keep my personal experience as linear as possible. My diary records that. This day, although it takes place in 2014, will be a period I remember, between the day before and the day after, during which I aged 24 hours, even if, in absolute terms, that day is a long time in my future. I told him then that I had to return to the castle, where a bunch of wavy lines were very scared and concerned about their futures, which, despite what he said, were very much futures to them. I think he misunderstood me, since he claimed he would not belittle anybody’s experience, so I had to explain that all I meant was that, from their perspective, the future was tomorrow, so I had to go and help them deal with that. We parted then, with a promise I would come and see them and the kids soon. To my surprise, the return journey was easy. I visualised the room in Maric’s chambers and I was there, blessedly without the dizziness and disorientation that I usually get from portal travel. But, that was magic. This was maths.