I should, by now, be used to the somewhat fractured nature of what I once thought of as reality. And as one who has the ability to step from one reality to another, even if I rarely exercise that gift, I should not be surprised that this fractured reality throws up the occasional surprise. For the most part, in this case, it is a pleasant surprise, but one that somehow does not come without a slight sense of foreboding.
It started out much like any other morning. I got dressed, attached my sword, glared at the mirror and asked it what craziness the world was going to present today, just like every other day. I seem to recall I mentioned exploding trousers and depressed were-badgers among the possibilities. And then I went down for some breakfast.
There were no exploding trousers. There were no depressed were-badgers. There was, however, my favourite Damondred, in the form of young Wren, looking clean enough, but seeming tired and carrying more than a few bruises and grazes. I stifled the expletive-filled question and asked in more polite form what brought her here, addressing her, as usual, as Patrolman. I could not help but scan the room in case we were about to be invaded by a vengeful Alec, despite my faith in Maric’s banishment thereof. There was also an Aoibheann, who seemed pre-occupied with her breakfast.
We hugged hello. She seemed pleased to see me, as I was to see her, but her answer to my question was that it was hard to explain. Of that, I was certain and said that there would be some explaining to be done at some point, but for now, we should probably have breakfast. Aoibheann told me that Wren had turned up the previous night, appearing out of nowhere, and that she didn’t want to return to Esterwell. She asked if I would speak to Maric about letting her stay. I wasn’t entirely sure how he would take it, given the fallout from the last time a Damondred child had visited here, but I said I would ask. We would sort something out, I told them. Breakfast came, and we ate while I told Wren that things had changed since last time she had visited, especially that we had moved the village away from the old hilltop and into Faerie.
Aoibheann then told me to stop listening and moved a little closer to Wren, lowering her voice in a conspiratorial whisper and telling her that she liked Maric. I didn’t think this was entirely the right time for girly gossip, but if it kept Aoibheann happy, I could let it go. I wasn’t sure how interested Wren would be, though, given that talk of relationship stuff wasn’t usually her favourite topic. Perhaps she had grown away from the ‘boys are gross’ stage though, since she merely responded by asking if Maric was her boyfriend. Aoibheann actually admitted that she loved him. Wren was fine with that provided they didn’t kiss where she could see. She did ask, however, with that directness that young people have, what had become of Daimon and Llwyd.
That was a good question, and I wondered if Aoibheann would answer it. To my surprise, she did so. She explained how the Ashmourne that Wren had visited before was changed, and was now back in the Summerlands where it belonged. To do this, the faerie monarchs, including Llwyd as Seelie King had had to sacrifice themselves. That much I knew already. As for Daimon, he had decided to go back, to forget, even before we left Jasper Cove, so that he could be freed of the White Stag. He had done so without saying goodbye. She also said that Alec had known this and not told her, preferring to let her think that it was all her fault, that she had failed Daimon. Now that was interesting news, and explained a lot about the bitterness Aoibheann had been feeling towards Alec.
Wren seemed sympathetic, saying that she hoped this one didn’t disappear like the other two. She also acknowledged Alec’s part, saying that he did that a lot, which made Aoibheann frown. I could understand that. It is one thing to know of another’s faults, but hearing that the child was aware of said faults somehow made it worse.
I tried to lighten the mood by telling Wren, since we were talking about liking people, that Gwyn was now the Faerie Queen and that she and I liked each other a lot. I promised to keep the kissing to a minimum though, which got a grin from her. Aoibheann then decided we had had enough gossip and started talking about Lughnasadh, hoping that Wren could stay for that at least and that Maric would let her stay for good. She still hadn’t had any replies to her letter, she said.
I told her I would bring it up at my morning meeting with the stewards, which I had to go to as soon as breakfast was over. In fact, as I said it, I heard the stewards arriving. I told Wren that as far as I was concerned, she was more than welcome to stay. I told her that she could roam the village, but to not go beyond the borders marked by the roses, warning her that they could bite. I also pointed out where my office was, telling her that she could come and find me any time, if she needed anything. She agreed to that and asked what Lughnasadh was.
I got up to go as Aoibheann started explaining what Lughnasadh was. I was about to go into the office and I remembered something that Aoibheann had written on my construction drawings. I asked her what Sew Kreabh meant. She corrected me, saying it was Sùbh-craoibh and that it meant jam bush – a bush with berries on for making jam. I thanked her for that clarification and disappeared into the office for my morning meeting, wondering what the hell was so important about the jam bushes that she had to add it to the drawings. I went into the meeting in a distinctly pensive frame of mind. Seeing Wren again reminded me how fond I had become of her, but I could not let that cloud my judgement. Much as I would love to have her stay, I had also to think of the possible risk to the village, should the Damondreds learn that she was here.