That Will Do Nicely

I was privileged as a child. We were a well-to-do family, and I wanted for nothing. However, Father, and Mother always insisted that I understood the value of money. We were fortunate that we didn’t need to live on credit, unlike some families. That said, we did to some extent. In so far as much of what we purchased – groceries, clothing, furniture and such like were purchased on account with the various shops and merchants, which accounts we settled up on a weekly or monthly basis. Father insisted, even though some people we knew did so far less often. That was the way of things. I knew about all this in some detail because once I had learned my sums at school, Mother and Father would let me practice my sums on our finances. Mother, with the domestic bills, and Father, during the school holidays at least, helping him with his books. I spent so much time practicing my sums by working out the florist’s bill, the butcher’s bill and such like, or working out what Father’s business owed the brick-maker, the timber merchants and so forth. It was no wonder I grew up to be an accountant. I wonder if I still could be, if I took the appropriate training.

It seems not much has changed, at least, in the general sense of spending money. People still buy things on credit and pay monthly. Except the books are done on computers, obtaining credit is more complicated and, unlike in my day, rarely includes any personal knowledge of the client. Which would be tricky in my case, given my date of birth. However, somehow, we have achieved it. I exist in this modern world, and I am equipped with assorted small rectangles of plastic that allow me to spend our money, of which we have a more than adequate supply.

It is well, having such means, that I was taught the value of money as a child, else I might get a little reckless in my shopping. In fact, despite our means, I am quite restrained. Unlike my beloved wife and her seemingly insatiable appetite for more things for the wardrobe, I do not regard shopping as an activity it its own right. However, I am not without fault in that respect. I indulge in the acquisition of fine wines and only the very best in spirits. I never could resist a book, even if many I purchase these days only exist in the miniaturised confines of my tablet. Or possibly in the cloud. I’m still not entirely sure on that point. And, recently, I did go a little wild in my quest for refreshing my musical abilities.

After some searching, I decided to visit a merchant of musical instruments, at a store called Grimes. Among many other things, they had quite a selection of things loosely related to the piano. There was an actual grand piano, but I also found myself fascinated by the wonders of modern electronic keyboard instruments. Some, it seems, are intended solely to imitate a piano, albeit in slightly more portable form and with the ability to imitate several different types of piano. Others, while presenting as a piano keyboard, allow you to any number of instruments, real and imagined. Hidden inside the machine, the keyboard merely selects from a range of sounds, a piano, an oboe, a marimba and many other sounds not normally expected of something with keys. One of the ones I played with could even play tunes from non-musical sounds, like a dog barking. And another, you can make sounds that belong to no instrument known to man. It’s all done with numbers, I expect. Wren, and later, Skeleton, have patiently explained to me, several times, that everything in computers is made of numbers. The pictures on my tablet screen and phone screen are made of little dots where each colour is a different number. The music I listen to on it is made of numbers too. So, it makes sense that if music can be numbers, numbers can be music. If you take the numbers that make a Middle C on a piano, and put it in the keyboard, and when you press that key, it turns the numbers back into sound, you have a piano.  And, if you changed some of those numbers, it might not sound like a Middle C, or, it night be a C, but not sound like a piano.  I have probably misunderstood it all anyway, but then, I am still adjusting to all this technology. It’s all very fascinating.

All too fascinating, I fear. I spent a couple of hours playing. The shop assistants indulged me, and my ignorance of the technology and were very happy to help. Especially when they saw the colour of my credit cards. That too, is something that has not changed since my day. Except it would have been the colour of my money back then. I suppose it still is really, with the colour of the card indicating the colour of my money. That always struck me as a strange phrase. Back home in England, banknotes are different colours, whereas here, at least, in the mortal parts, the banknotes are depressingly drab. The colour of your money is… green. Either way, I think I went a little wild with the shopping. I presented my plastic, the clerk said something about that doing nicely, and then giggled. This was, I suspect, some kind of in-joke that wasn’t explained. I gave them details for delivery to a little warehouse we have on the mainland. After that, it will probably have to be magic. I don’t think Awenia is ready for large trucks to come rumbling through the woods just yet. Plus, I’m not entirely sure I know how to open the veil wide enough for something that big anyway. It will take a few days either way.  I might even get them into the house without Gwyn noticing when she gets back from her travels.

Now all I need is somebody to teach me how to work the damn things.  The piano and synthesiser, that is, I think I know how to work the plastic now. So much easier than dealing with an obsequious clerk asking, “Will that be on your account, Mr Ballard.” Next job, a music teacher who can cope with my unconventional lifestyle. Either that, or rent an apartment on the mainland and pretend to be what I once was, an ordinary man with a love for music.





Piano Man

I dreamed of Mother last night.  Mother and music. It has been quiet at the castle lately, as Gwyneth is off on her travels again. One advantage of having Awenia running parallel to the real world and the 21st century as that she can indulge in activities she enjoyed before the Boatman brought her to Jasper Cove, and which have eluded her while we were separated from the mundane world and her native time period. The disadvantage is that she is rarely home, and some nights, I miss her. As I write, she is travelling to some gathering of musical types, a convention of sorts. I might have accompanied her, but the draft proposals for the Accords between Awenia and the mundane world are proceeding, slowly, through various committees at the Bureau for Supernatural Affairs, and I must needs be available for consultation.

Funnily enough, it was music that caused me to dream of Mother. Gwyneth’s servant, Bran, had introduced me to various apps you can install on a tablet that access music online. One such allows you to specify genres and styles that you like and then it makes a play list for you. I would never have imagined being able to get music from the cloud. I am still amazed at what you can do with gatherings of water vapour. That was a joke, by the way, after many patient hours with Skeleton, I have more or less wrapped my mind around the concept of networks and servers and such like things.

In this particular case, I was letting the music app – see, I know the terminology now – play random light classical music at me, while I relaxed with some John Donne and a bottle of rather nice Fitou. Suddenly, among the random tunes was a piano arrangement of the An die Freude, Ode to Joy section from the 4th movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. That got my attention. That had always been one of our favourite pieces of music, and Mother and I had often sung it as part of the choir at church concerts. It was possibly why she chose it as one of the pieces she tried to teach me on the piano. And, it was likely why it was one of the few pieces I could manage without fumbling too much. And, there, tinkling through the headphones, was the very same music, albeit played with far greater ability and assurance than I ever had.

That stayed with me, even though there was much other music, while I finished the bottle, and in the night, it entered my dreams. In my dream, I was once again back in the music room at our house in Chatham, seated at the piano, with Mother standing by my side. Strangely, in the dream, it was the adult me sitting at the piano, rather than callow youth I had been at 12 or 13. Also, Mother was wearing a dress that my memory tells me she did not buy until some years after, perhaps when I was 16. Dreams can be strange that way.

In the dream, I was stumbling through the Ode to Joy section and, frankly, making a bit of a mess of it. Mother stood there, patiently, gently – she never shouted or scolded – correcting me, but I kept stumbling over one section. She leaned over and kissed the top of my head, mussing my hair and patting me on the shoulder. “Sing it, Nathaniel, darling,” she said. “Sing it with me.”  She reached across me and turned the page back to the beginning. She gave me another reassuring pat and then stepped back. I cracked my knuckles, ignoring the slight gasp of annoyance from Mother – she always hated it when I did that, a habit I got from Father, who used to do it before sitting down to some task – and applied myself to the keyboard again, singing the words I knew so well. “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! Sondern laßt uns angenehmere, anstimmen und freudenvollere. Freude! Freude!”  Mother sang softly along with me. “Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium, Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, dein Heiligthum!” She was right, it helped, and I played through to the end with more confidence than I had ever managed before.

“Well done,” she said, calling me by my other name, the one only she and I knew and that she had told me I should never commit to paper. I was a little startled, as she rarely used that name, save for intimate conversations, when we were alone together out in the woods. She leaned over and kissed me again, urging me to stand up. She reached into the shadow behind the bookcase and brought out her violin. “And as your reward, you get to play with this.” She handed it to me and sat in my place at the piano. I stood there, rather stupidly, holding the violin and bow as if I did not know what to do with it. Even within the context of the dream, this seemed strange to me. I had had a very basic, beginner’s violin, which she had given me a few lessons on, but she had almost never let me even touch hers, let alone play it. “Let’s see if you can remember how.”

I brought the violin up to my chin and grasped the bow in the approved manner. I looked at her expectantly.

“How about this?” she said, and started to play. Au Clair de la Lune. I recognised the tune, of course, but for a few moments, could not for the life of me remember how to play. Memory told me that she had never taught me to play it on the violin. The piano, yes, but not the violin. I started to protest, but she waved me into silence. “You know this, Nathaniel, surely you remember.” She swivelled on the piano stool and moved my fingers into the correct position for the first notes. I sawed the bow a couple of times, trying to remember how to play, adjusting my fingers until I produced a satisfactory note. Mother turned back to the keyboard and began to play again. I joined in, and somehow, my hand knew the correct fingering and I played it perfectly. “Again,” Mother cried and started to play again, increasing the tempo. Once again, I played perfectly, despite the increased tempo. We reached the end and she started again, even faster… After that, the dream dissolved into random images and the sound of Father hammering at the door, which turned out to be Bran, waking me in the morning for breakfast.

Even after I awoke, I could still hear Mother’s voice, and I felt a sense of loss for the music I had once had, albeit to a very limited extent. I pulled on a robe and went down to breakfast, deep in thought. There were no messages from the BSA and only a brief message from Gwyneth, saying how much she was enjoying the convention. The thought occurred to me that, work on the Accords aside, I was now a man of leisure. And, I was a man of means. Surely I could afford a piano, and to engage a tutor. Perhaps now I could reach for what Mother had dreamed of, to make music as she had.

“Yes,” came her voice, softly in my ear, again, addressing me by my private name, “yes, my darling son, you should.” I blinked and looked around, but there was nobody there, just the echo of Mother’s voice in my ear. I reached for the tablet and called up the search engine. Surely there was a purveyor of pianos somewhere in Seattle.


Piano Man




Fitcher’s Bird (in her own words)

I have always liked stories. My earliest memories are of Mother reading to me; cuddled together in the armchair by the fire in the parlour, or swaddled in blankets in my bed against the cold as the wind blowing up the Medway rattled the windows. Even after she taught me to read for myself, I still loved to hear her read to me. In later years, when the Consumption confined her to her bed, I returned the favour, reading to her from the newspaper, magazines and books until she drifted into sleep.

I must confess, I do not recall this particular tale from my youth, but I shall have to dig it out and read it. In the meanwhile, enjoy this variation on said tale, as told by my beloved Queen.

Three Twisted Knots

I am not weak. Now I have brought my sisters back, alerted my brothers, and made myself a creature of legend, there remains only the long, long walk that will trap the monster who intends me to be his bride.

Grimm Bros BLOG - 2 See how I glitter.

See how I glitter? He will never know me. Am I clever? Oh, yes; yes, I am clever. I don’t even feel guilty about it, burning this man who wronged me and all his associates and posessions to the ground.

Grimm Bros BLOG - 4 His precious castle

Only a shell of his precious castle will be left. My brothers are thorough.

Grimm Bros BLOG - 3 But I feel beautiful, and strong

But I feel beautiful, and strong, like the bird I am emulating. This bird is a beautiful fantasy, a vengeful warrior, an irresistible decoy. I wonder, when he sees me, will he want the bird, too? Of course, he can lure me no…

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Things That You Know

I would be the first to admit that I have many faults. Not that I necessarily need to as most of them are glaringly obvious. But, some of them are perhaps not immediately apparent to the casual observer. One of those is that I tend to forget that not everybody knows the things I do. For example, I have a habit of assuming that others know poetry as I do, and it takes meeting somebody like Aoibheann, who doesn’t but is willing to learn, to realise that is not always the case.

I found myself in that situation recently, when Skeleton came to ask my advice about the broken window and other matters relating to Faerie. I have been so tied up with my work on the Accords and such like – drawing up agreements and treaties and guidelines – that I forget that not everybody understands the differences between the ways of Faerie and the ways of the mundane world as I do. And even I do not know everything as yet, as I have been discovering during the process of drawing up the Accords. High on my to do list is the creation of a visitors’ guide, and part of that will need to address the things that people don’t know.

Skeleton’s questions, during her recent visit, reminded me that I did not necessarily know all the things that mortals believe about Faerie. And so, I decided it would be useful to discover what others do and don’t know about Faerie. OK, technically, Skeleton is not an ordinary mortal human, being a demon and all that, but in terms of being an outsider, of being somebody unfamiliar with the ways, she might as well be. And so, I invited her to join me for wine and snacks, in the hope that I would learn more of the beliefs and misconceptions that others have. And thus I might be better informed while preparing my Accords and guides. I sent Monsieur Cobweb to ask if she could join me at her convenience.

She found me, as usual, in the library, as if I would be anywhere else. Well, I would be somewhere else, if Bran ever gets round to furnishing the estate office. I can’t complain too much. I like being in the library. She also found me being very low-tech, I believe is the phrase, writing things on my clipboard and notebook with an actual pen. I poured some wine and told her that I needed her help.

Her first thought that it was some technical problem. The gods know I have enough of them and despite her repeated explanations, still look up at the sky when she talks about cloud storage, but that wasn’t what I wanted her help with. I reminded her of the things we had talked about when she last came to see me, specifically the concerns she had about the rules in Faerie. I told her about my assorted negotiations with the Bureau for Supernatural Affairs and the Consilium Arcanum and preparing the Accords. But, I said, what I needed help with was some of the less bureaucratic things, such as my visitors’ guides. I was too close to things, and tended to assume everybody knew the things I did with regard to the rules, the etiquette in Faerie etc. I asked her what she, as somebody less experienced, did not know, and what things she thought she knew – folklore and rumours about Faerie.

She looked a little surprised to be asked and agreed to help, so long as I did not laugh. I assured her that there was no chance of that. I might correct her on misapprehensions, but I would not laugh. This was, for me, an information gathering exercise, and if she had any preconceptions about Faerie, no matter how ridiculous they might seem, then others might think the same, and that was what I wanted to make sure I could address in the visitors’ guide.

The first thing she mentioned was the business about eating, which we had discussed before, and that she had heard something about not taking things in the wilderness. Oh, and she had heard that you had to be careful trading things.

The first was easy to deal with, I told her. Food and drink would be for sale at the various bars and restaurants, so no obligation arose there. There would be times when food and drink might be offered for free, such as receptions and the like, but there, it would be made quite clear that this was without obligation. I made a note of the one about taking stuff, picking wild fruit and such like. That had not occurred to me as a possibility. That would have to be covered on a couple of fronts; the obligation incurred in the taking, plus the possible side-effects of some Faerie fauna. A very good point, that one. I should put that in the visitors’ guide and maybe we should have signs up around the orchard.

Trading was fine, I said, but you would have to bear in mind that there would be differing values. Something precious to a human, or other race, might not be precious to a faerie, and vice-versa. Again, I made notes to cover this. Afterwards, I thought I should have mentioned the whole business with gifts and such like. Hopefully, if we keep the majority of trading via the shops and restaurants etc, things will be easier. The thought occurs to me, as I write, that we need to work out what to do about currency. It would be a lot easier if, so far as businesses in Awenia are concerned, to just use dollars. While gold and silver and other precious metals are a medium of exchange in Faerie, it hardly counts as a currency. Besides, even with all my accountancy training, I have absolutely no idea how you go about creating a currency and working out exchange rates. But, I am distracting myself.

I asked Skeleton what other things she thought she knew about Faerie. She was a little reluctant, in case the things she thought turned out to be offensive. I assured her that I would not take offence, having only been fae for a while, and besides, the whole point of this exercise was to learn what people thought about faerie, correct or incorrect, offensive or not, so that we could avoid potentially embarrassing or troublesome situations.

She listed: Relations with fae creatures, fae magic, reactions to the environment, meeting other races, and etiquette and rank.  I realise now, writing my diary, I didn’t address her questions regarding the environment. I should put something in the visitors’ guide – do not be alarmed by luminous fauna, glittery motes of light etc, these are perfectly normal.  And, now I think of it, I am wondering if we should have some equivalent of a fire-alarm, in case something abnormal happens or turns up, like a horde of sluagh.

Relations with the fae. Well, that was a very fair and valid point, I told her. I explained about the possible risk of obsession/addiction to the point of pining away, and about the fae’s unfortunate habit of sometimes regarding humans as playthings.  That should be a warning in the visitors’ guide – outline the possible dangers and proceed at your own risk, and I should probably put something in the code of conduct for Awenia residents. Other races isn’t really going to be any more of an issue than it is in the mundane world. While I expect the majority of our visitors are going to be human, it is possible others might come, however, how people deal with that isn’t going to be any different. That said, I should probably put in the visitors’ guide and the code of conduct that we won’t tolerate any racial discrimination, racial attacks or similar.

Magic. That one I hadn’t really considered yet, and it will need to be addressed. There may have to be a separate guide for that. But, again, magic exists in the mundane world as well, so shouldn’t be hugely different. I already addressed the most basic magic, that of glamour.

Etiquette and rank. When she mentioned that, I did have to put my notes down and cover my eyes for a moment. That is going to be a whole other can of worms and a potential minefield. Some of that I can cover in the code of conduct, reminding all Awenia residents that our visitors don’t know our ways and to try not to take offence, or advantage, of our visitors’ ignorance. Perhaps the etiquette guide is going to have to be a separate one from the visitors’ guide, though I can cover some of the basics in the latter.

Skeleton commiserated with my thoughts about what a massive task this was going to be, asking if we were sure we wanted to do this. She then went on to ask about whether or not we were going to be family friendly, how we would deal with children, the whole matter of dealing with those who break the rules, and things like hackers and Internet trolls.

Crime and punishment is definitely an area that we will be addressing, mostly in the Accords, with whole sections on jurisdiction, punishment, reciprocal arrangements, and I guess we may have to address things like extradition. The matter of children was something I hadn’t thought to address, so I made a note to look at that later. As to Internet trolls, I wasn’t sure what she meant by this. Apparently, these are not a variety of our rock-based cousins. Instead, it seems there are people who like to cause trouble in online communities, harassing people, posting unjustified bad reviews, trying to get other people’s social media accounts banned by complaining about them etc. Personally, I thought that arsehole would be a perfectly good term for such people. Dealing with them sounds to me like a job for Skeleton, which I shall ask her about at a later date.

She had run out of potential concerns, so I asked her about a few of the ones I knew, to see if she had come across them. First I asked if she knew about the business of not giving your full name. I figured that she should know about that one, because names have power in all magical races, including demons, and I was pretty sure that knowing a demon’s name was necessary in order to summon and have power over them. To my surprise, it is apparently somewhat different with demons, however, in general principles, it is much the same; knowing somebody’s full name gives you power. We joked about our parents using full names. Nathaniel William Ballard in my case, her name in Hebrew in hers, when we were in trouble. Not Skeleton, apparently, but her real name, which she didn’t share. Whenever Mother used William, I knew I was in trouble. I felt reasonably safe admitting to that name. She is trusted friend and besides, there is my other name, that Mother gave me and entreated me to never reveal to others. That is not for others, not even in these pages.

Skeleton didn’t know about the whole business with first-born children either, or about Changelings. I explained that to her, although it was of limited interest, since she had no intention of having children. She hadn’t known that Gwyn was a Changeling. I am undecided as to whether or not that should go in the visitors’ guide. I would put it in the code of conduct for Awenia residents, but, perhaps some things are too ingrained into the faerie nature. Perhaps the visitors’ guide could have something along the lines of “… it is only natural to want to talk about one’s family, especially your children, but sometimes, we fae can take more of an interest than might otherwise be expected, especially with the oldest children. Perhaps it might be better to be a little vague about your children’s ages…” or some such.

She had to go then. Her phone told her something was up at her data centre and she might have to replace a rack of servers. I must be getting more used to this century, since I more or less understood what she meant. It was a productive session already, and no doubt, I will think of more things. Next time I see her, I shall have to ask if she would like to be in charge of dealing with trolls etc.

And now, I think I have spent more than enough of my time on the interminable bureaucracy involved in this whole open faerie realm business, so I shall put my pens and paper and laptops away and address myself to this bottle of wine.






Bad to the Bone

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.

Bad to the Bone



Ships That Pass in the Night

Sometimes it seems that Gwyn and I are ships that pass in the night, we see each other so seldom. Albeit, this involves less shouting, less waving of flags and signal lamps and less of all the other ways sailors say “get out of the fucking way, I’m coming through”. I am, perhaps, exaggerating a bit there, and distorting the truth. In reality, I rarely got involved in such things unless I happened to be on deck having a quiet smoke at the time. Perhaps there are better metaphors, but they escape me at the moment. Suffice to say that I was able to spend time with my beloved recently, something that happens all too rarely.

She spent some time recently showing me round the developments in Awenia. A small cluster of buildings that look to have been transported here from some historic town in Olde England of the Tudor period. It put me in mind of Lacock and Warwick and similar places we used to visit when I was a child and even as a young man. I have always liked that style of building, perhaps because I am so fond of wood as a material. I am not so sure it is how I might have envisaged faerie, from the point of view of an outsider. In truth, I do not know quite what I would have envisaged. I had read many stories of faerie as a child and a youth, but I thought more of the characters than their environment. If pressed, I would have imagined castles with pointed towers and castles, houses made of mushrooms and trees, or maybe architecture in the Perpendicular style, only made of glass and crystal. Such things are entirely possible, given the changeable nature of my home.

That said, there is a sense of magic about a Tudor style setting. I could well imagine elves and goblins sitting around a tavern table, planning an adventure, a twinkly old man selling magic potions. As Gwyn said, this will be a place for the tourists and it will serve very well for that. We walked around what will be the Welcome Centre. A place, as yet uncluttered by posters and brochures and such like things that I have seen in tourist attractions in the modern day. At least, those few I have visited in the mundane world.

Oh yes, brochures and such. There will be a need for those. All the rules and such I am putting into the Accords will be of no use if there are not guides for our visitors. They need to know what they can and can’t do, what they can and can’t eat and such like. We don’t want people being stuck here for seven years because they picked the wrong apple. Writing such things will fall to me. I am content with that. It will be pleasant change from the very dry and tedious language of the Accords. I remarked on this to Gwyn and she said she was very happy that it was down to me to deal with such things while all she had to do was to smile and say “look at my pretty place.” So typical of her to underestimate her worth. I told her that nobody would be looking at the pretty architecture while she was around.

We had to part ways then. I had yet another conference call with the BSA and she had more pretty things that needed to be photographed. And off she sailed, my beautiful faerie queen, and yet, as I told her in parting, still the pint-sized, potty-mouthed polymath I fell in love with. Yes, that girl was still there, albeit taller and more beautiful, telling me in her parting that I might still be the ‘posh fuck’ she married. Yes, we are well suited, despite all that has changed since we first met and of that I am very glad.


Ships That Pass In The Night

Not Quite, but Nearly

I do not, as yet, fully understand the powers I have to walk the realms. The rational man that I once was rebels at the idea that I can cross space and time as easily as I step from one room to another. The rational man that I am now must, perforce, accept that it is possible, since I am able to do so. While I do not know how it works, I know that it does. Perhaps that old charlatan, Crowley, was correct in defining magic as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” Certainly, the act of realm-walking would seem to be an act of will. Whether or not it is entirely in conformity with my will, I do not know. That other proponent of magic, and other things, Dee, known to me as Alec, said only that it was easier to navigate to places or to people known to me, or to which I have some connection. That much I have found to be true, but I have also found that whatever rules govern the process, they are not always directed by my conscious mind. I also suspect that they either have a sense of humour, or are partly deaf. Or, perhaps, they knew better than I what manner of journey I needed.

Thus it was that I found myself in a place called Avilion. I have been re-reading the Arthurian legends lately, so it is likely that Avalon was in my mind when I went aimlessly wandering. Instead, I found Avilion. Not quite Avalon, but nearly. Certainly, it is a land of enchantment that would fit well with the romantic image of the medieval period prevalent in the time I was growing up. With the addition of dragons and faeries and elves and drow and rangers and knights and many other beings.

For all the different beings, some of whom go armed and armoured, much as I do at times, it is a peaceful place. It puts me much more in mind of a community of artists and bards and philosophers. The word commune comes to mind, although I am not sure members of a commune would go around addressing each other as my Lord and my Lady. I am minded, in that respect, more of my early days in Ashmourne Wylds, especially my first visits to the Fae Courts. Well it was, then, that Mother had drilled manners and courtesy into me from an early age and that I could supplement those with the imagined ideals of chivalry and courtly behaviour I had gleaned from my readings of all those stories of knights of old. It was so easy to slip back into that way of speaking when I was so addressed on arrival in this enchanted land of Avilion.

On my first visit, I was shown around some parts by a lady who went by the name of Muse. She showed me a library, which I look forward to exploring more. In my brief visit, I found an old friend, the writings of Catallus, so familiar to me from lessons at school. She also showed me what seems to be the social centre of the land, a large camp fire with logs and seats around, where people gather, much as Dyisi, Wren and I, and others, would gather around the fire-pit in Mysthaven. Except that this was on a larger scale, with many more places to be seated, and, for some reason, a collection of interesting drums of unusual design, playing these being, I gathered, a popular recreation of the people.

It would also seem that this place is where people gather to exchange tales, poems and songs and engage in lively debate. On one visit, I had a most stimulating debate on the ethics of taking tree limbs for staves and other uses. Should a druid, who would consider himself a brother to trees, take a branch for his staff? One person likened it to taking an arm and a leg from a man, whereas I argued it was different for a tree, perhaps analogous to me giving of my hair, nails, and blood even, and provided it was done with respect and permission, then all was well. I was minded of the times I spent with Aerodine, my dryad friend from Ashmourne and her words regarding the trees. The debate swung from there to the differences that distinguish one druid from another and the commonalities that make them all druids and how different commonalities might distinguish them from, say a group of drow. And further, what commonalities there were between those groups that might allow them to coexist. We also debated the relationship between mentor and pupil and what, if anything, a mentor might learn from a pupil. One gentleman found that idea preposterous, whereas I argued that, for example, if the pupil asks a question the mentor had not previously considered and has to find the means to answer, has he not, in a way, learned from the pupil?

That evening was all too short, and I realised how much I missed sitting around and having such discussions. So much more interesting that debating the bureaucratic minutiae of the Accords I am developing with the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs back in Awenia. On other occasions, I have had discussions on squirrels and whether or not drow can climb trees, I met a charming girl of about the same age as my own son, Arthur, who was originally from Devonshire. I have heard poems presented, discussed the nature and permanence, or otherwise of death and the similarities between the fae and magpies, in respect of shiny trinkets. I have no doubt that I will make other visits there.

I have not explored the land as much as I would have liked. No matter how far I roam in my walking of the realms, my personal assistant, Cobweb, seems to have no difficulty in finding me and summoning me back to my duties in Awenia. I suspect he does not much understand the concept of relaxation, much less the things that I find stimulating and enjoyable. However, in between his interruptions, I have managed to find some time to so relax. There is only so much bureaucracy a man can take before needing a break.

Not Quite, But Nearly – Leon Rosselson


Landmark for the Realm of Avilion