The crows are back, many of them, just sitting in the trees and watching. That damned Darkest Crow is behind it, I am sure, and I know that I need to meet with her to discuss our leaving of this place. But where to go, I do not know. I do not know what lies beyond the mysts, what has happened to the land outside the Shadow Roads. I know only what is here in the village, what I have seen of the Summerlands, and what Galyanna and such guards as have been there have told me of the Realms of Hell. Of those alternatives, I think I like the Summerlands the best. I shall have to speak with Janus and Gwyn about that. These people need their land, open spaces, space to breathe and run and grow food. If the island were still there, I would return to that place, but I know nothing of the fate of that land.
The day after our discussion in the Summerlands, I found Aoibheann out in the grounds of the castle, seemingly attempting to scare the crows with a spear. One of the guards wisely took it away from her and gave her a quarterstaff instead. I am not entirely sure that this was a much safer option in Aoibheann’s hands, but then, she could quite probably wreak havoc with a bag of candyfloss, so maybe it didn’t make a difference. She seemed to be intent on protecting the village with it under the misapprehension that I was going to be taking all the guards away on various missions. The guard, showing admirable cunning, distracted her by telling her she was holding it incorrectly. I have not had much experience in the use of a staff yet, but the guard was quite correct. More to the point, it made her pause in her attempts to scare the crows.
Aoibheann greeted me with a slightly manic smile, experimentally waving the staff in the direction of the crows. I suggested that this might take a little while, as there were rather a lot of them and they would most likely just come back. Instead, I turned and addressed the crows, telling them that if their lady wished a meeting, she need only ask.
Aoibheann waved the staff at the crows again and opined that perhaps Nemaine had not responded because my invitations were boring. With typical Aoibheann logic, she suddenly switched to the idea of having a party, something she had mentioned to me a while ago. We should have a party, she said, with dancing, to celebrate Maric’s awakening, or possibly to cheer up the villagers, or maybe both. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant, and the former was somewhat premature. Even after all these years, I have a problem following her train of thought. I ventured that a party was possibly a good idea, though I had my doubts if it was going to be like the one she had held for the Huntsman. I also suggested that inviting the Crow might not be the best idea, in case she wanted more than a piece of cake and a party streamer to take away.
Aoibheann was not to be dissuaded. She would already know, she said, pointing at the crows. Would I rather she turned up unannounced, instead of being our honoured guest and bound by the rules of hospitality? Somehow, I had my doubts about the latter. The Crow would do what she wanted, regardless. But, maybe she had a point. I sighed and assented to the party, asking only that she wait until I had met with the Crow to discuss business matters.
She turned towards the crows, curtsied, and then delivered, in what she most likely fondly imagined was formal language, a very flowery invitation, asking that the crows deliver it to Nemaine. I could not help but smile at her worthy attempt at courtly speech. While her phrasing may have been a little clumsy, she had the essence of it right. I relaxed and told her that I couldn’t have put it better myself, however, perhaps I should make a formal invitation in writing as well. She seemed happy with this and headed into the castle, no doubt to start making party preparations.
I followed her inside as I still had preparations to make regarding Maric, but before that, I wrote a formal note requesting a meeting with Nemaine and inviting her to a party on an as yet unspecified date. I attached the note to a piece of meat from the kitchens and took it out and tossed it to one of the crows. The meat was swallowed in a single gulp and then it flew off with the note in its beak. I can only hope that it got to its destination. That done, I retreated to the lab, ignoring the oppressive presence of the mirror portal, and returned to my research.