My navigation, via the mists or the Shadow Roads, is not always reliable. I took myself to Mysthaven again, seeking answers regarding the carrots, among other things. At least, that was my intention, but something drew me elsewhere, to one of the gates in Faerie. And there I found what in the present circumstance counted as a crowd. There was Aoibheann, clutching a carrot to her as one might carry a child, and a creature resembling a unicorn. The latter, I guessed, by her manner of movement, and later, her speech, to be Mika, albeit in an unfamiliar shape. There was another; a man of somewhat disreputable appearance, so I hesitated to give him the accolade of gentleman. Him I did not know, though there was something about him that seemed familiar. He did not seem pleased to be there, nor did he seem pleased to encounter Aoibheann, much less myself. And, if we did not know him, he appeared to know us. He expressed his displeasure in somewhat colourful and exasperated language, addressing me as Lord of the roses and misty villagers, which, while not strictly my title, was at least broadly accurate. He also seemed to be annoyed at the lack of drink in the vicinity. In speaking, he revealed himself to be that feckless black stallion, Anathema wearing his other skin.
Mika bounced around excitedly in a manner more suited to her ferret shape than a unicorn, pawing at Anathema’s cheap suit and chattering about him having no manners and shouting at trees. She also seemed tempted by the idea of a party, though in her case, if this shape was anything like the ferret, I fancied she would be more excited by candy than wine.
Aoibheann, meanwhile, was more excited by the fact that there were so many people in one place, taking that as a possible sign that the land was awakening. The idea that Anathema had been shouting at the trees particularly interested her, and she asked what he had said and if they had replied. I felt sorry for her if he had, given that she herself had been unable to communicate with her children. She was less certain about his description of his current shape as his other skin, imagining that he maybe had killed and skinned somebody for it. He protested this, explaining that he was a shape-shifter, not a skin-walker. I’m not sure that she understood the difference. I do not know why not. It is not as if she has no experience of beings that wear different shapes at times. Maric and myself for two, although neither of us ever skinned anybody for it. Check that. I have never skinned anybody. I am not so sure I can claim that for Maric.
I could not help but be mildly amused. “Last time I saw you,” I replied to him, “you had more legs and borrowed my son for some,” I hesitated, trying to think of some way of putting it that wouldn’t offend Aoibheann, “interesting times.” He protested that the bargain with Eilian had been fair and square, and that the interesting times had been the price for riding him. I replied that I did not doubt the validity of the bargain; moreover, I thought that my son would have learned a useful life lesson from it. Given that everybody was somewhat focused on the idea of drink, particularly mead, I suggested that there might be some in the tavern. After all, if there was somebody around growing carrots, I said, or at least, carrot-shaped things, then possibly somebody would have stocked the tavern with mead. Mika liked that idea, as did Anathema.
Aoibheann held the carrot closer to her chest, saying that carrots did not usually have fangs. She said that she had intended to help the carrot to find its name, but was now worried that she had stolen it, stolen a child from its parents. The Wyld had affected more than the roses, she offered by way of explanation. There was something unknown, some new danger lurking in my realm. Given my thoughts regarding the Kraken-like disturbances, this was not exactly news to me. I acknowledged this was likely, but I would have to wait and see what it might be, so long as it wasn’t the late and unlamented former king. I eyed her pet carrot, more bemused than anything. I suggested that I would maybe have similar facility with the carrots as I did with the roses. They knew me well enough, and if they were kin to the carrots, then perhaps the carrots would know me in some distant way. It would be worth investigating when I was back at the village. On that thought, I suggested that we return to village in the hope of maybe finding the mead that everybody, save myself, was keen to find.
Or, at least, that was my plan. I parted the veil with the intention of stepping back to the village, leaving them to follow, or make their way there by their own means, but again, my navigation failed me and I found myself back in Awenia. Or, perhaps it was not my error, for as soon as I set foot in my home, I was set upon by Clutie and Bran with various household matters of urgency. None, to my mind were so urgent that they could not have waited for Gwyn to return from wherever, but I have long since learned there is no arguing with them once they get ideas in their heads. By the time it was all sorted to their satisfaction, it was long past the time when it would have been worth returning to the tavern. I shall have to visit Mysthaven soon to see if tge roses, or the carrots, could tell me what is about the land. Or, maybe I would rather not know. I would probably not, but I am Lord of Mysthaven, so I have little choice in that respect, and even if I were not, I still doubt I would have the choice. There is a duty on me, and that has nothing to do with titles. It never has.