I AM monarch of all I survey;
My right there is none to dispute;
From the centre all round to the sea
I am lord of the fowl and the brute
O Solitude! where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?
Better dwell in the midst of alarms,
Than reign in this horrible place.
So wrote William Cowper in The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk, in reference to that privateer’s years as a castaway. Of course, we have no idea if Selkirk actually said anything of the sort, but one imagines that he might have had such thoughts; maybe standing on the highest point of his island and looking to the shores. The poem came to mind as I stood outside the castle, looking down at the town of Mysthaven and beyond to the sea. Of course, our situations are not the same. He chose solitude, rather than risk going to sea in an unsafe vessel, whereas I was shipwrecked and cast ashore at what I came to know as Jasper Cove. He proclaims himself monarch, whereas I claim no crown. The opening line is oft misquoted as lord of all he surveys, which title I do hold, twice now, and ‘all he surveys’ is only true from certain viewpoints. From some places, all I can survey is indeed the entirety of Mysthaven, and none disputes my rule there. From other viewpoints, I can see beyond – to the Seelie Lands, where I am merely Husband and Consort to the Queen; to the Unseelie Lands, where I hold no rank or title, save that which is recognised by virtue of my other titles. But here, here on this improbably floating rock, here at least, I am lord of all I survey.
How I shall do this is another matter. I have little experience on which I can draw, and nobody left I can ask. All my life, I have had somebody to look to for guidance. In my youth, there were my parents and teachers. In later working life, my assorted supervisors and the Masters of the various vessels I served upon and, at the last, Gerald Bryson, Master of the Odiham Castle.
Then came the transition to this other life. At the start, there was Katarina, who made me, but I only had her guidance for a few days. Then, for six years, I had nobody, just random strangers during my wandering, until I fetched up in London and met Brigitte, the Prince who became my friend. She taught me the ways of our kind and how to navigate the murky waters of kindred politics. She even gave me my first taste of leadership, during her occasional absences from London.
But, London fell, lost into the mysterious Nexus that had separated that London from the city I had known as a young man. I was cast upon the shore of Jasper Cove. I found Brigitte there, but she had taken almost 200 years to arrive there and the closeness we had known was gone. Neither did I look to her for leadership, for in Jasper Cove, Alec ruled. Alec Damondred, self-styled King of Jasper Cove.
I did not particularly care for his style of leadership, but I grew to respect him and regard him as a friend. Of course, then, I did not who who he really was, or who he had been, much less the monster he would become. I did not know he had been John Dee, Queen Elizabeth’s enigmatic advisor, nor that he had been Grayson Devonshire, that charming young man who almost became my lover. I certainly did not know that he would become the demonic enemy of Mysthaven.
And in the last. Lord Maric, that ancient vampire who had known the intrigues of Rome and more, who had seen more battles, more war, and as I learned in those last few days, more suffering than I could possibly imagine. He gave me a place beside him, entrusted first, his treasury and then the day to day management of the town and command of the guard. From him, I learned more that I could ever have imagined. To lead in his absence, to be at the forefront of battle and to win the trust of the guard and the people. But through all that, I knew he would still be there, to guide, to advise, to teach.
And now, he is gone. The man who had been my master, my friend, even my lover, is no more. I no longer have the option of asking his counsel. That wiser, more experienced head is no longer available. Moreover, there are no others from whom I can seek guidance. I never knew Sa’one, once Queen of the Seelie, though I knew her to be wise, but she is long gone, and I never knew Llwyd. Gwythyr was never going to be my choice for a mentor and now at last, he has gone. And Faermorn, my friend, my mentor, my lover, who called me her warrior poet, is gone. Her very image is reborn as my daughter, or so I theorise, but of wisdom, thus far, there is no sign. And it is her wisdom I miss most of all. Now, they are all gone. Even my dearest Valene, who so often was my comfort and reassurance when I felt lost, spends most of her time in mourning, hidden away from those who loved her.
All are gone, save for Dyisi, who counselled even Maric at times. No doubt she shall return when her mourning has passed. For now, I have only my beloved Gwyneth, wife and Queen, and she is in much the same boat as me. She too finds herself the leader, and she is even younger than me, in human terms, let alone fae terms. She too, like me, has grown. She is no longer the pint-size potty-mouth polymath I once knew, any more than I am the mild mannered “posh fuck” accountant. We have grown, and we will grow, together, to make the world anew. The future is uncertain. We stand on the brink of a new adventure, on the shore of unknown and uncharted seas. But we, a Queen and a Lord, will sail them and conquer them, hand in hand, together.