Morning produced a sense of dislocation and confusion as to where there hell I was until I dragged myself out of the bed and looked out of the window. I had to laugh at myself. There was a time in my life when waking in up in a strange bed was a not uncommon experience. But, I am not that man now. The morning failed to produce a wife of any description. It also failed to produce coffee, or at least, none that I could find in the kitchen. There was nothing to it; I would have to go back to the official residence, for want of any better name for it, where I was fairly sure I remembered seeing some variation on the theme of infernal coffee machine. First, I selected an outfit – more jeans and a jacket of heavy cotton in a colour and style that reminded me of army uniforms.
I went back up to the Atrium, and, sure enough, there was a coffee machine. In some ways, it was more aesthetically pleasing than the one in the Lucky Leaf, being largely constructed in brass. On the other hand, though, it was just as frustrating. After 10 fruitless minutes trying to fathom the damned thing out, I bellowed for help.
Bran appeared a few minutes later. He looked as though he had not slept much and was muttering about levels again. When I asked him to show me how to operate the infernal machine, he sighed and put his bleeping gadget aside. I could see coloured shapes moving on one side of it and was reminded of Riley, back in the days of Jasper Cove and the gadget she liked to play with. I speculated that it was probably one of the Internet things that Gwyn and Wren often spoke of. Bran demonstrated the workings of the machine ably enough, although I did have to turn one valve for him because he had apparently strained his thumb. Possibly in pursuit of the levels that seemed to be his current obsession. I also asked him about currency and he rather reluctantly gave me what looked to amount to $200 in tens and twenties. He assured me this should be sufficient to complete my purchase of the book, and pay for such meals as I felt I needed during the course of the day.
I finished my coffee and returned to the house before heading down towards the dock area again. There was an intriguing vessel tied up against a jetty. I guessed it to be a small yacht, possibly intended for pleasure trips. It looked very modern and sleek compared to similar sized vessels I had encountered in my days with the shipping company, but then, I suppose, that is to be expected over the course of a hundred plus years. Again, I felt the sea calling me, and I stood there, imagining where one might go on such a vessel.
“Top of the morning t’you,” came a voice from behind, disturbing my reverie. The accent was very Irish. “If you’re wanting a cruise, you’ll have to be booking up at the office there.” I turned to see a bearded individual in a short jacket covered in badges. He had brown hair and a beard and a somewhat piercing gaze.
“I’m sorry,” I said, jumping back onto the jetty. “I’m a bit of a sailor myself and got carried away admiring this vessel.”
He looked to be slightly taken aback by my accent. “That’s ok,” he said, “no harm done. You’re English then?”
I nodded. “Guilty as charged. Nathaniel Ballard,” I said, offering my hand. “I’m Gwyneth’s husband.” I gestured back towards the house, which could be seen over the top of the crow’s nest on the other building.
“Ah,” he said, shaking my hand. There was a momentary tingle of Wyld energy there, causing me to wonder if he was fae. Our eyes met for a moment, and there was a hint of recognition as if he had felt it too. “She has mentioned you. Aodhán O’Súileabháin at your service. Or Aidan O’Sullivan, if you prefer the easier way of spelling. General factotum and chief mechanic.” He started walking towards one of the buildings near the yacht. A workshop of some sort, I guessed from the tool cabinets. “What do you do? Gwyneth said you were some sort of Lord of the Manor.”
“Did she now?” I laughed. “Well, sort of, yes. But I’m thinking of retiring to here. Technically, I’m an accountant, albeit one a little out of practice. And I’m a pretty good carpenter and joiner.” I looked at him. “Oh, and did you really say top of the morning just now?”
“All good skills,” he said, laughing. “We could do with a skilled woodworker. Have you done much shipbuilding?” He shuffled a couple of tools around. “Oh, and yes I did. People expect it.”
“I don’t,” I said. “I’ve served with many an Irishman in my sailing days, gotten extremely drunk with them on many occasions, and never once did any of them say top of the morning.”
“You got me,” he said, softening the accent somewhat. “I’ll try to avoid doing it again.”
We chatted about boats and woodwork for a while before I took my leave, agreeing to meet for a drink at some future occasion. I explored the dock area a while longer, before taking myself back up to the top of the grand stairway. I had seen a lighthouse up on a high point and determined to go find that. I followed the paths as far as they took me and then struck out through the woods, past a picnic spot and up onto the promontory. The lighthouse was a pleasant building, and while it appeared to be operational, the living space, so far as I could see through the windows, looked to be abandoned. I made a note to find out why some day.
Heading back through the woods, I encountered some carved standing stones. Whether they were some piece of public art, a memorial of some sort, or were of ritual significance, I couldn’t tell, although there did seem to be a hint of magic of some sort about them. Maybe they were Native American – Gwyn had once gently chided me for using the term Indian – artefacts.
I made my way back to the commercial district and paid for my book. I must get Gwyn to explain modern economics. I have no idea if $10 is a good price for a second-hand book. Given that I noticed that a tall mocha, which, from the aroma, is something related to coffee, was $4.75, so maybe that is good. A book for the price of two cups of coffee?
There is an interesting fountain near the bookshop. Half horse, half fish, which is, if I recall correctly, a hippocampus. From limited observation, it appears to be just a fountain. Mind you, if it comes to life at certain phases of the moon or something, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised.
I found a more conventional fountain in a nearby public garden. Well, I say more conventional… it did have four gargoyle like creatures spitting water into the lower level, but was otherwise conventional fountain-shaped.
The garden also featured a pleasant stone gazebo, which, were it back home in England, one might imagine being occupied by the local brass band. Of course, I don’t know if they have such things in this century, or in this country. I also liked the sculpture of a woman whose body was the trunk of a tree. I was reminded of my old friend and occasional lover, Aerodine, the dryad and found myself wondering what became of her.
Beyond the gardens, I found an intriguing structure. Part of it was old stone, such as one might find in the ruins of a medieval castle back home in England, though I could no imagine that such a structure might exist here, at least, not of that antiquity. But then, I do not know the history of these parts, any of it. Obviously, I don’t know that which occurred since my home time, but I don’t know anything much of what happened before that. I remember reading an article about a place called Mesa Verde in Colorado where there are stone structures comparable to those in medieval Europe, so I suppose it is possible. There is much to learn.
I returned to the house to change, as the day had warmed up considerably since I left. One outfit that Gwyn had left for me consisted of a light sweater and a pair of short trousers that reminded me of the shorts we were required to wear for football practice at school. A part of me rebelled at that memory, for I had had no love of sports at school, much less for the inevitable hacked shins and shoulder charges and trips that the bullies would try to claim were a fair tackle. Nevertheless, I chose to ignore those memories. Mother would have been proud. I still felt a little rebellious going outside so casually dressed, a relic, perhaps of the mores of my time, but my appearance did not excite any comment.
I took lunch at one of the eateries near the bookshop. Many of the dishes were unfamiliar to me, so I opted for a cheeseburger and fries, remembering the treats that Valene would sometimes send her Cait out to get for me, and a refreshing glass of cold cider. What the waiter meant by his comment – “You’re English, right? You’ll be wanting hard cider then”- I do not know. I shall have to ask Gwyn. The cheeseburger and fries resembled the paper-wrapped things that the Cait had obtained for me so long ago about as much as rotgut whisky in a dockside tavern resembles fine single malt. The burger part had recognisable meat, the fries were crisp and chunky and it was served hot. OK, I can hardly blame the Cait for the latter. They had to transport it through the Shadow Roads and nothing retains heat there for very long. This was a delicious meal and very satisfying, aside from one small ingredient, but that will have to wait until I get back to Mysthaven. While Gwyn has told me this is a sanctuary for supernaturals of all sorts, I do not yet know how my kind would be received. That’s one disadvantage of having lived in Mysthaven for so long, my feeding habits have become lazy. That is something else I shall have to relearn.
I decided to head back down to the beach, feeling I was more suitably attired. I rather enjoyed the long wooden walkway that led down to the beach. It reminded me of some of the smaller ports I had docked at over the years, although it lacked the smell of tar and seaweed that I associated with such places. It took a rather twisted path down from the town, which made me wonder how many people had fallen off attempting to negotiate it in an inebriated state. Something, I hasten to add, I never did in my sailing days, excluding that one time in Rotterdam.
The bridge that leads to our house proved interesting from below. Carved stone in a somewhat Celtic style and an entertaining grotesque looking down from its apex. Looking through the arch, it seemed to lead to the end of the promenade area, close to the ship-fashioned building.
The other end of the beach was occupied by a rambling wooden building. Some of it was presumably a residence, but parts looked to be a shop or workshop for surf boards. At least, that is what I guessed these strange items were. I had heard of such things from some of my sailor friends who had visited Hawaii and such like places. I gather the idea is to stand or lie on the board and ride the waves. The waves I could see here did not look particularly energetic but maybe I had come on a calm day. I added it to my list of things to learn more about. It’s going to be a long list, but then, I don’t intend to die for a long time yet, so I hope there will be time.
Of more interest was a large mobile structure to one side of the building. It put me in mind of a vardo, a Romany caravan, but on a much larger scale. What its purpose might be here on a beach, I could not guess.
I wandered further around the beach area for some time until evening set in, when I returned to the part of the beach near the vardo. There was a well-established fire-pit on the beach, with plenty of driftwood for fuel. I had no matches or tinderbox about my person, but then, I hardly need such a thing with my mastery of fire magic. Fortunately, that still seemed to work here, and soon I had a very respectable fire going. This attracted the attention of somebody from the house – none other than my old friend Dyisi, whose establishment this apparently was. I suppose I should not have been surprised to see her. She was not overly surprised to see me either, greeting me somewhat nonchalantly and joining me around the fire. She asked after Gwyn and I said I had not yet seen her since her abdication. I told her a little of my explorations and we chatted of things of little consequence. It occurred to me that this was a rare and precious thing. To sit and converse with a friend, with no matters of import to discuss – no political upheavals, no battles to plan, no rogue fae to confront. A rare and precious thing indeed.
I could have sat there all night, but, alas, for all the peace that I felt here, I still had my duties, so after one last look at the remnants of the sunlight on the water, I took my leave after asking Bran to send word when Gwyn returned. But, I shall return again to this island. I think I like it here.
Green jacket – Hoorenbeek Outfit Mesh 28
Sweater & Shorts – Mahlberg Tailors
Sandals – MB Mesh Addict