We were not a particularly religious family, my original family that is, but we were regular church attendees. Father had a quiet faith, as did my brother, Gilbert, but it was a private one, and they never forced their views on anybody. Mother and I went, mostly because it was the sort of thing families like ours did, and partly for the social aspect. Oh, and the music. Mother would play piano, and we were both in the choir. From the outside, we looked like enthusiastic and active members of the congregation, but, as I said, Mother and I were hardly believers. The vicar, Hilaire Elverson, didn’t seem to mind. He was a friend of the family and was a frequent dinner guest at our house. We would have lively discussions around the dinner table and could get quite philosophical at times, especially if Father opened a second bottle of port. I am pretty certain that, probably on more than one occasion, we debated the nature of evil; what was evil, were some people inherently evil and such like. They were entertaining discussions and I wonder what Hilaire would have made of those discussions had me met me after I was changed, after I became one of the undead.
I was reminded of those discussions the other evening, when Skeleton, one of the few survivors from White Owl Island, came to see me about a little problem she had. I was taking a break from yet another revision of the Accords between Awenia and the mainland and had just opened a bottle of wine, so I welcomed the interruption and the company. I wondered what Hilaire would have made of this; that I willingly took company with demons and that in the case of my dear friend, Galyanna, whose company I miss greatly, trusted would them with my life. I trust Skeleton too, but, as yet, I do not know her as I knew Galyanna.
The servant showed her in and I invited her to join me for wine and some snacks. There was something different about her and I asked if she had changed her hair. Habit, I suppose that question was, given that my dear Gwyn can change her hair multiple times a day. She tried to take a seat, but managed to knock over a vase and some candles. Oh yes, that was the other thing that was different about her – wings and a tail, which I did not recall her having before. She was clearly unused to them, hence her difficulty in keeping them under control. I empathised, knowing full well how hard I had found it to get used to my wings. She apologised for the mess, which the servants were quickly clearing up and said she had already managed to demolish a couple of server towers and break the WiFi nodes. For once, I understood, at least in principle, what she was talking about. I must be getting used to this technology stuff. At least, I thought I was until she started going on about dish receivers and bandwidth distribution and similar jargon. So far as I did understand it, getting technology to work in Faerie is hard.
She had a couple of questions, which she said I might find strange. Somehow I doubted that. My life over the past few years has somewhat raised the bar on strangeness. I commented as such, mentioning becoming a vampire, having once taken lessons from an undead unicorn and somewhere along the line, marrying the faerie queen and living on an island which history insists never existed as evidence of this. Her first question was relatively simple, but, to her, not so simple as she was unfamiliar with how things work here in Faerie. She had accidentally broken a window at one of the cafes, and, knowing only a little of commonly held folklore beliefs about faerie, was worried that this might lead to her being trapped here forever.
I assured her that this was not the case. I told her that I was working with the BSA on the Accords and the various rules that would apply to visitors in respect of various things, although I had not yet considered things like accidental damage. I made a note of that for later. I told her that a lot of those folk tales were misunderstandings of the way things happen here, such as the business about spending one night here and years passing in the mundane world. Besides, I told her, the café was classified as ‘mundane’ so faerie rules did not apply anyway. That seemed a weight off her mind. The servant brought the snacks, which I assured Skeleton were purely mundane and eating them would place no obligation upon her.
Her other question was related to the BSA, in particular, with regard to her father, Maveth, and if they had mentioned anything of him. She had not heard from him since the Change and now she had two conflicting memories of him and was worried that she had lost him in the Cataclysm. I had heard his name mentioned during my visits to the BSA offices in Seattle, but not to any great degree. As I explained to her, I had mostly been dealing with the Fae Liaison officers and didn’t really know the Demon Liaison. I had met him, been introduced over coffee, but hadn’t otherwise had many dealings with him. All I could tell her was what I had discerned when I was discussing those with permanent right of residence in Awenia, her included. There had been some grumblings about her being Maveth’s daughter, as if this was a bad thing, and I had gotten the distinct impression that they had not liked him much. I assured her that I had insisted that her family associations had no relevance to her residency or rights in Awenia.
She took that on board and thought on it a moment. Then came the question that reminded me of those old discussions about the nature of evil. “Am I supposed to be bad now?” she asked me. That, I said, was a question for the philosophers. I asked if she wanted be bad. I took myself as an example, telling her that I was made vampire, but did that mean I had to be a bad person, a monster, an evil predator? I was still me, even if I then needed to drink blood. I told her that one of my best friends, the aforementioned Galyanna, was a demon and personal assassin of a demon queen, another much missed friend, Vedis. She was a demon, but from my point of view, she was not a bad person, and in any perilous situation, I could not ask for a better person to be at my side. I could say the same of her, Skeleton. Whatever caused the Cataclysm, whatever it was that changed the world, but left her, myself, Gwyn and others unchanged, we did not know, but so far as I was concerned, she was still the same person I knew before, whatever the expectations of the changed world might be. No, just because the world had changed, she didn’t have to. She didn’t have to be a bad person, unless that was what she wanted to be. She was no more inherently bad than I was.
She thought about that for a few moments. She agreed that yes, vampires are “supposed” to be bad and yet, she trusted me greatly, as she did Dyisi and Gwyn. She thought some more, reasoning that she could still be herself, even if her background, at least, her background as far as the rest of the world saw it, had changed. She thanked me and joked that she was pleased that at least she didn’t have to burn down a village or anything, just because she was a demon.
I asked her not to do so, as Gwyn had put a lot of effort into building the village as a visitor attraction. I also took the opportunity to point out the risks inherent in the simple act of thanking somebody. What is a mere politeness among humans and others, creates obligation among the fae. I suggested phrases such as “you are most kind” or “it is very much appreciated” instead. This surprised her. She had not known this, nor indeed, did she know much about faerie etiquette. She had Googled, a word I am slowly getting used to, information on that, but had not found much outside of fantasy novels. I told her that was one of the things I was working on for when we open Awenia to visitors. On top of the legal matters in the Accords, I needed to create some visitor’s guides, including one on etiquette. She thought this was a good idea.
We had some wine and moved on to the topic of flying since she was still clearly uncomfortable with the wings. She said she was, as yet, unused to her wings and had not attempted to use them for flying. I had to laugh, remembering my first clumsy attempts and advised not going about 10 feet until she was used to it. She wanted to know more, so I told her of my first very clumsy, and accidental, attempt at flying, when I fell off the clock tower back on the Isle of Legacies. I hadn’t even known I could fly at the time, let alone how. All I remembered was falling, and then not falling as fast. And making a very ungainly landing. I told her of my very tentative attempts to master the art, with a little help from Brigitte. Then there was a different type of flying. As a vampire, it was more like levitation than flying. When Maric taught me to shape-shift into a bat form, then I had to learn a whole new way of flying, learning how to use the wings, to physically fly rather than magically levitating. That was hard, I told her, because it actually required me to operate muscles and differently jointed limbs, and more than a few bruises were earned before I got the hang of it. Stay close to the ground, I advised again, or, if she could swim, stay above water for a softer landing.
She laughed at that, joking that she wasn’t sure how it was going to work and wondering if she might have to try running downhill and flapping as hard as possible. I admitted that might be a possibility. She also wanted to know if there was medical help available should she hurt herself in the process. Now that was a harder question. I told her I had some healing abilities I had learned from Maric. I hoped that this was still the case, given that I have become ever more distant from my vampiric self, however, I am not about to go round injuring people to find out. I also made a note to look into arranging reciprocal arrangements with mainland emergency services. We would have spoken more, but I got interrupted by a call from my colleague at the BSA. I told Skeleton that this would probably take some time, but she was free to help herself to more wine and snacks. She opted to leave, having gotten some answers at least to her questions. She left, looking to be in a lighter mood than when she arrived, so I was glad I had been able to help. Her questions gave me food for thought, though, regarding the whole business of etiquette in Faerie and I resolved to have another conversation with her, to find out what else she doesn’t know, because if she doesn’t know something, then likely others don’t either. The more I know of what people don’t know, the better I can create my guides for Visitors.