Far Beyond the Faire – a Glimpse Behind the Veil

I went shopping today. This is not something I do very often, never have. As a youth, I would sometimes accompany Mother on shopping trips to Chatham or London. For some inexplicable reason, she valued my opinion on clothing, soft furnishings and such like. Plus, I could carry the purchases, which may have been the main reason. Then, as indeed now, the only form of shopping I considered a pleasure in itself was shopping for books. Everything else was necessity. Shopping has been a rare activity for the past few years; shops not being a major feature of Mysthaven. But, today, I went. Initially, it was just for the novelty, but, as it turned out, there was a better reason.

The place I went was called the Fantasy Faire. Gwyn has often spoken of this place, and has often returned with gifts of clothing and other items for me, but I have never been myself. I had to realm-hop to get there, which was easy enough, once Gwyn gave me directions. After that, I was on my own. The directions she gave me took me to a dark wooded grove, which didn’t look overly promising for shopping; however, but it seemed that it was some kind of terminus, with portals to take me to other shopping areas. I have never liked portals as a means of travel, but the only other options seemed to involve a long walk, so through the portal I went, to a place that proclaimed itself to be called The Rose.

The Rose turned out to be a rather attractive place. There were graceful buildings in vibrant pastel shades around a lot of canals, with stone bridges and staircases to get around. It put me in mind of the Canaletto paintings of Venice as much as anything. Inside the buildings were the shops. For a while, I just wandered, making note of things that I might want to purchase. There were few things I considered necessary, but quite a few that would be nice to own. As I was wandering, I paused to read some of the notices, and then I discovered something. I discovered that this place had a higher purpose than pure commerce and the pursuit of profit. This was a charitable concern. The proceeds of these items, this grand sale, were destined to fund research into cancer. I had to admit that I had little personal experience of cancer. The consumption, I know only too well, for it took my mother from me, but cancer is something I have had little experience of, although I have known others who have lost friends and family to it.

And yet… Somehow, it resonated with me, but in some way, outside of me. I paused a while, by one of the bridges to think more on this. What were these other thoughts, which seemed to come from outside of me? I am not a religious man. A church-going man, yes, or at least, I used to be, but that was a matter of social obligation rather than belief in any god. However, it has seemed at times, that there is some other hand, guiding and steering me, and this was one of those times. Perhaps these thoughts did come from outside. And so, for once, I took time to listen…

…..

Hi there. I am Ian, the person that usually hides behind this red-headed, mild-mannered accountant, this warrior poet. I am not a god, by any means, but, I suppose, in the sense of being the creator of Nathaniel, I am possessed of some god-like abilities. At least, from Nathaniel’s point of view.

Why am I here, sticking my head out from behind my warrior poet, breaking this fourth wall?

 I am here because of Cancer. It is something that we know a hell of a lot more about than we did in Nathaniel’s day, but there is so much more that we need to learn, so much more that we need to do so that we can fully understand cancer, master it, and defeat it.

Cancer was not something that touched my life until I was older. I experienced death, of course, in my family, but aside from one fatal fall down some stairs and one heart attack, members of my somewhat extended family died of old age. Cancer did not touch my life until some 16 years ago, when it took one of my dearest friends, Hilary, at the too young age of 37. Like her mother, grandmother and an aunt before her, she fell victim to breast cancer. We fought it, oh how we fought it, by means conventional and unconventional, and for a while, we thought we had beaten it. But, it had metastasised and it was that which killed her. Nothing will fill the hole she left in my life, but I have my memories of her and I am supremely glad to be a part of her daughter’s life still. She also lives on, in a fashion, in some of my other writings, in characters that are partly based upon her.

More recently, I lost one of my oldest friends – my best friend at university, John, who I met in my first year and had remained friends with since. In his case, it was a catastrophic reaction to treatment for lymphoma that took him, but I still ascribe that to the cancer, since he would not otherwise have had to endure that treatment. He left behind a wife, children and grandchildren and another hole that can not be filled. He has not yet found his way into my writings, but I am sure that he will someday.

More recently still, I lost another friend, Joe. Joe was the husband of my dear friend and fellow writer and blogger, Gwen Enchanted, the creative mind behind Nathaniel’s in-world wife, Gwyn.  It was her recent blog entry on why she takes part in this Relay for Life that inspired this entry. Joe was also a victim of lymphoma. Again, he fought hard, but eventually it took away one of the funniest, smartest and kindest men I have known, and made my friend a widow far too young. He too has found his way into my writings, honoured in the name of a bar that will play a part in future stories.

Those people, and others, more distantly connected, including a friend I only ever knew in Second Life, are why I am here, coming out from behind Nathaniel for once. Letting Nathaniel go shopping, and buying things that he probably doesn’t need, and possibly a few things he doesn’t even understand, not being a man of the 21st century – yet – is the least I can do, because that way, I can contribute in some small way towards the fight against Cancer, by helping Relay For Life to raise money for  cancer research. One day we will understand it, master it and defeat it. One day, stories like the three I mentioned above will be a thing of the past. Until then, RFL and other organisations will do their best to bring that day about, and I will do whatever I can to help make that happen. I hope that you will too.

I’ll hand you back to Nathaniel now. Thanks for listening. Go spend money at the Faire, it’s on until May 4th.

…..

I blinked, and blinked again, looking around. I was still here in this place of stone buildings and canals. Yet, somehow, time had passed between blinks of my eyes, and all I had were echoes of another voice, echoes of loss, of sadness, of determination and even optimism and hope. Perhaps the voice belonged to that guiding hand, if such a thing can exist. I don’t know what it might be guiding me to, but there remained an impression that something needs to be done. What, I do not know. I am no scientist and I am no physician, but, I could spend my money wisely, so that those who are scientists and physicians have the funds to do their works. I looked around. There were plenty of shops yet to explore. And this was only one of several portals that remained to try.

 

Wood and Stone

(Dedicated to Moxy, Dyisi and Gwen, who did a bunch of rebuilding after I took the pictures in previous posts. I love you all anyway)

I know the construction industry. Or at least, I used to know the construction industry, as it was practiced in the 19th century. How could I not? My father was a Master Builder, and I make no apologies for the capital letters, because they are entirely appropriate. Many homes in Chatham and the surrounding area, two schools, Fort Luton and several other buildings are testament to that. Or, perhaps were testament to his skill. Without going and visiting the Chatham of the 21st century, I have no way of telling if those buildings are still standing. Unless, of course, I can look them up on this Internet thing. I shall have to persuade Wren to visit and show me how. I’m sure Gwyn could do so too, but it would be a good excuse to see my daughter again.

I find myself thinking of Father because I paid another visit to White Owl Island. It has changed since I last visited couple of weeks ago. Whole buildings have gone and been replaced by others. And yet, the buildings look as though they have always been there, and there is no sign, other than the obvious, that any work had taken place. The roads, such as they are, and the gardens seem undisturbed. I should, perhaps, not be surprised. Building technology advances all the time. Even in Father’s lifetime, the use of cast iron and steel revolutionised architecture, especially in commercial buildings. It would make sense, therefore, that there have been similar advances in the 125 odd years since I left that world. Maybe modern builders roll up with a couple of steamer trunks on the back of the cart and unpack a whole house from them. Gwyn showed me her eye-pad once, a shiny thing no bigger than a slim book, and told me that the libraries of the world could be found in it. With that level of miniaturisation, maybe the same is possible with buildings. It’s a satisfying idea, but, I suspect, unlikely. So far as I could tell, these buildings seemed to be of traditional construction, in wood and brick and stone. I occurs to me that the same could be said of the entire village of Mysthaven and that did appear from nowhere, out of the mists. Is it possible that another such thing occurred? It seems unlikely, but who knows?

There is another possible explanation. It is entirely possible I miscalculated and much more time has passed on the island than I experienced in Mysthaven. This is always a risk living so close to faerie. I am not convinced though. It still looked to be springtime and the shrubs and trees looked much the same as last time. Maybe there is no explanation. Maybe all of this fantastic life has all been an extended hallucination, a fever dream from an exotic malady caught on my travels and at any moment, I could wake up and find Mother mopping my brow. That would be a cruel twist indeed, if all my adventures, the friends I have had, and my loves, were naught but the product of an overheated brain. My only consolation would be if I could recall enough to write a book. Perhaps I should anyway. Wren told me once that books about vampires and such like were popular. Nobody will know it was real. Or was it?

Wood and Stone

Living on an Island

With all this thought of changing my role, I decided it would help if I actually experienced some of Gwyn’s time. I must admit to being somewhat wary of going there. Gwyn once quoted a line from a book she had studied – “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” If I remember correctly, it was in the context of an elderly man reminiscing about his youth, which might be some 60 odd years in his past. My time, from Gwyn’s point of view is twice that distant in her past, and her time is twice that distance in my future. Either way, the words “they do things differently there” apply equally to the future. At least with the past, there are memories, or records to inform you. That is not the case with regard to the future. Yes, to Gwyn, it is her present and recent past, but to me, it is terra incognita, no matter how much she might tell me about it.

Still, it is something I must face some day, and there’s no time like the present. Which phrase, in this context, seems somewhat incongruous. I need to tell her about Bronwyn and Faermorn and Gwythyr anyway. I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good idea on top of dealing with her abdication, but I can not put it off forever. I determined that I would forgo calling her via the mirrors and pay a surprise visit instead. In retrospect, perhaps not the wisest of choices, but I have never claimed to be wise, despite what I might tell my children when I want them to listen to me. Still, I had to go. I selected some clothing she had left for me on some previous visit – a soft leather jacket over denim jeans, which were comfortable enough, if a little cramped around the crotch. I had at least worn these before and soon got used to the discomfort.

I decided to take the route through the Shadow Roads, even though I could just step across the realms to get there. At least through the Roads, I have some semblance of a journey, which softens the shock of the transition somewhat. I never liked taking portals back in London, and those were only short cuts between different parts of London. Stepping across the realms is even worse, when the distance, and the time gap, are both large, and largely unknown. One day, I will get used to it. Plus, going via the Roads, there is at least some warning – the parting of the veil, and the coldness of the air, so I don’t just suddenly materialise in the middle of a room. A small difference, but to me, a form of courtesy. Gwyn knows the way through the Roads well enough, and her staff, if she took any with her, should know the signs too.

The Roads deposited me in the Atrium, as she likes to call it, a small enclosed area where she had planned to receive those with business from Faerie. Whether she will continue to use it as such, I do not know. As yet, I do not know if she intends to cut all ties with the Fae. I find that hard to believe, and surely there are Fae in this time too. Either way, it made sense that I would land here, as this place, at least, I had visited before.

What was new, though, was a small herd of tiny winged unicorns, or possibly alicorns, if I recall correctly. I was a bit nonplussed when I saw them, and memories came flooding back of my first painful lessons in magic from Mitternacht, or Paasheeluu as she preferred to be called. I knelt and greeted them. “Hi, I’m Nathaniel, nice to meet you. Are any of you related to an undead mortician by the name of Paasheeluu?”  Perhaps that was a bit blunt, but it didn’t seem to matter.  They were friendly enough, nosing my hand in case I had something to eat, but displayed no evidence of sapience. They accepted mint imperials readily enough though.

The room adjoining the atrium was set for a feast, but there was no sign of any guests. Nor was there any sign of my wife. I sat at the table and contemplated the suckling pig, who did not seem to be amused by the apple shoved in his mouth, and who could blame him. Somewhere, nearby, I could hear some rather strange bleeping noises and the occasional cry of frustration. “Hello?”  I called out.  There were more bleeps and another cry of frustration and a few moments later, Bran appeared, clutching some small brightly coloured object that appeared to be the source of the beeps. “Damn it, I was almost on level …” He looked up and stopped mid-sentence. “Lord Ballard,” he said, “we were not expecting you.”

I frowned at him. “It’s me, Bran,” I said, gently chiding him. “Nobody else is around, so I think we can dispense with titles. And it was a last minute decision to come. So, where is Her Maj… my wife?”

Bran shrugged. “I think she has gone shopping. For what, or where, I do not know. She went, she came back with a lot of clothing, including some for you, I think, and she went again. I don’t know when she will be back.”  He looked around the room, then back at his bleeping gadget, and then back at me. “You could try waiting down at the house, I suppose. You could try on some of the clothes that she bought, maybe explore the island. It will be something to do while you wait for her.”

I asked how I could get to the house and he directed me to a portal that he assured me would take me there. “Do you need anything else?”

I swiped some food from the feast table and a bottle of wine. “No, this will do, thanks. I’ll let you get on with your… levelling…”  He thanked me and hurried away, his attention focussed once again on the noisy gadget.

The house I had seen very briefly before. It seems to be built on a rocky outcrop looking down over the bay with just a stone bridge linking it to the rest of the island at the same level. In older times, it would have been an ideal location for a castle. With the only access being up a steep rock face, or the bridge, it was easily defendable.

One thing I noticed that I had not seen before, standing near the door, was what I assumed to be some manner of vehicle. It had two wheels arranged in line, like some kind of velocipede and was bright pink. I assumed it must be operated by an infernal combustion engine, since the seating arrangement appeared to preclude any propulsion by foot. Perhaps it is for when she visits the mainland, for it did not seem that anywhere on the island was far enough away that it could not be walked in a reasonably short time.

I could see a statue nearby, a seated figure playing a harp. I could have sworn I had seen this before, perhaps somewhere in her bower. It’s certainly a very moving piece and I know it is important to her, which may be why it is here.

I went inside the house and made my way to the bedroom, where I did indeed find assorted items of clothing. One suit came from a bag labelled Vintage Clothing by somebody called Gabriel. With its high collar and elaborate bow tie, it would not have looked out of place at one of my mother’s social gatherings.

Another suit, also by Gilbert, was likely of a more modern design. I could find no fault with it, save that the necktie was constructed of leather and rather short with a metal ring looped through the end. Perhaps this is what the well-dressed men of the 21st century wear now, even if it did look rather as if some kind of leash could be attached. I was briefly reminded of a strange bar I once went to in Rotterdam where some clients paid good money to be led around on a leash, but I doubt this was what Gwyn had in mind. I tried it out as I wandered around the house, trying to determine the function of some of the rooms. I did not find a library, which distressed me somewhat. Indeed, there was only one bookcase that I could find, which is an extreme oversight. One that I hope she will remedy.

I tried on yet another suit. This one seemed more comfortable and less formal, but still elegant enough for all but the most formal of gatherings. It seemed quite apposite as I wandered into a large room at the side of the house. A room walled with much glass in the manner of an orangery or conservatory. I could imagine Mother really enjoying this space, except she would have had it filled with exotic plants and furniture made of cane. Perhaps this will come

There did not appear to be much else to find in the house. I am sure Gwyn just hasn’t finished furnishing it yet, or perhaps she is waiting for my input. That would be nice. I trust to her judgement, but I prefer wood to wrought iron. I am sure we can find some suitable compromise.

I donned more casual wear in order to explore some of the places I had seen from the bridge. Another pair of jeans and a heavy sweater that felt as though it was designed for the outdoors was my choice. And so I set off to explore. From my vantage point on the outcrop, I could see down to an area that looked as if it served for a docks area as well as recreation, with a wooden-decked promenade and assorted waterside buildings, one of which was rather pleasingly fashioned as an old-style sailing ship.

I made that one my first destination and headed down to the waterside, passing by market stalls offering various goods, including fruit and vegetables and craft pottery. From what Gwyn has told me of the inhabitants, I could not imagine that the permanent residents would be buying a great deal of pottery, but I supposed they must have a lot of visitors. Pretty soon, I found myself on what passed for a crow’s nest on the ship-shaped building. I grinned as I remembered my first days at sea with Haskins Shipping. Though, in that case, I am fairly sure I had been sent to the crow’s nest as some sort of hazing for the new guy.

Back on dry land, so to speak, I ascended the great wooden staircase, avoiding a number of people on velocipedes that were available for hire and had a look round what I guessed was the commercial district. It was an eclectic area – essentials such as a grocers and a bookshop, and yes, I do count a bookshop as an essential – crowded with sweetshops and various eateries. The bookshop could have been an expensive excursion for me, save that I had neglected to bring any money with me. Such American dollars as I might have had in my possession would, no doubt, been an anachronism, as they would have been left over from my honeymoon in 1880. One book did intrigue me enough to ask the assistant to put it by until I could come back with the appropriate money. It was the title that caught my eye – The Once and Future King, which echoed the words that Malory ascribed to Arthur’s tomb –  Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus. On examination, it did appear to be a retelling of the Arthurian stories, and one new to me. It would have to be, as the flyleaf proclaimed it to have been first published in 1958. I will look forward to reading it, as and when I equip myself with modern currency.

Further on, I found another wooden walkway, narrower than the promenade one, and of more rustic construction, leading down to a pleasant looking beach, with some wooden structure, perhaps a house or a tavern, I could not tell from here, at the end. In the gathering dusk, with the light on the water, it was a most beautiful spot indeed. I was tempted to explore further, but it was getting darker, and, in truth, I was a little overwhelmed with it all, and decided to head back to the house.

This was going to be all new to me, and I was ill-prepared, knowing only a little of what had passed in the world since I left it 125 years ago The assistant in the bookshop had loved my accent, and somehow, that was enough to excuse my apparent lack of familiarity with my surroundings  and lack of currency. Perhaps an Englishman abroad is considered somewhat of an eccentricity, even in these times. If that is so, it could be to my advantage until I am better educated in the ways of these times. For now, I can take comfort in the food I swiped from Bran’s table and the scent of my beloved Gwyn in the bed. Who knows, maybe she will return before morning and we can spend some time together.

Living on an Island

For those that need to know these things:

Nathaniel:

Slink Physique Male Mesh Body, Hands, Feet. Labyrinth Shape D Mesh Head & Pale Skin, Ikon Sunrise Eyes (Verdigris),  No.Match No.Hunt hair

Clothing in order of appearance:

A&D Clothing – Ewan jacket, James pants, Seattle shoes

Gabriel Vintage Suit & Shoes

Gabriel Leather Tie Suit & Shoes

Emerald Couture Russell outfit in grey

Native Urban Clean Jeans & Enhanced Boots, Sweet Lass Kenji Sweater (Moss)

 

 

Uneasy Lies The Head…

All stories must come to an end. As an adult, I know this, but it doesn’t make it any easier. As I noted in my last entry, it was something I hated when I was a child, when mother would read to me, or, when I was able to read, when we would read stories together. Mother knew this, and sometimes, if it was not too late of the evening, we would, together, imagine what might have happened next. Did the band of plucky adventurers settled down and raise families, or did they seek out new adventures, new quests, and new journeys? There is no what happened next for Faermorn, of course. She is gone to whatever passes for the hereafter among her kind, along with GwythyrGwynn.  For her, this was definitely the end. And, in the end, it was what she wished. Her story was long and complicated. I knew only those parts that Valene and Aoibheann told me about, and, of course, those parts of the story in which I played my role. It was my honour to be a part of that story, more so that my part bought some light to the story, I hope, but that is all now at an end and I have to say goodbye to all that and to her.

My daughter, Bronwyn’s story, on the other hand, is just beginning. With Faermorn’s passing, she is freed at last from the threat of GwythyrGwynn. She has her own tale to tell. I would hope that Gwyneth and I, as her parents, will have a major role in that, but, if what I read from her thoughts is true, maybe her place is in Faerie and possibly with Lord Mornoth, or should I say, King Mornoth, as his Queen. Only time will tell. With her help,  Faerie will endure and we will still be part of her life.

As for my story, I do not know where that goes next. This place, this world apart from the one I knew, has become increasingly strange to me of late. So many people have come and gone. Sophia, Giada, Dorina, Helene, Horace, all seem to have found their way through the mists to somewhere else. All the fae that I counted as friends are gone. Maric is gone. Valene is only a passing presence in my sleep. My other children, Wren, Drysi & Elian are elsewhere. And now, my wife, Gwyn, has abdicated the Seelie throne and retreated to her own time in the 21st century. A part of me is tempted to join her, and if there were some way of still being able to fulfil my oath to Maric, I would do so, as there is very little, beyond my oath, and the friends I have made among the villagers, to tempt me to stay. It would be good to lay down my burden, as Gwyn has done. For both of us, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. If only I could find a way to do so and still fulfil my oath. I could not lay down my burden without passing it on somehow, as Maric did to me.

My options are limited. Maric’s former queen, Teuta, is no doubt capable, as a leader and a warrior, but she is but a ghost, and I do not believe the village could be ruled by a ghost. I suppose, with much study of Maric’s notes, I could pull off the same trick as Maric did with Vedis, and make a bodily vessel for her, but that is a long shot. Even if I could, would she want that? She might appreciate a purpose, but, perhaps, after all this time, she just wants to pass to the beyond and join her love.

Kustav is a fine military leader who I would want by my side in any battle you could care to name, but I don’t know if he is an administrator. My stewards are capable enough for their individual duties, but, I do not know if they are ready for the burden I bear. Perhaps, between them they could manage, maybe with a leader that the people chose. Is Mysthaven ready for democracy? That, I do not know.

Then there is Aoibheann. As Maric’s widow, she has the status, but I do not know if she has the wherewithal to be a leader. That she is strong, I have no doubt. Her efforts in defeating the thornwyrms is proof enough for me, but a leader? I do not know. Besides, I felt that her home was in the Weald, among the trees. She has not been back to Mysthaven, so far as I know, since Maric passed. Perhaps it is as alien to her as she seemed to me when I saw her last.

As I said, my choices are limited, but I must make one. I must fulfil my duty before I can fulfil my wants, and unlike my daughter, those two do not coincide. But, I will find a way. Assuming I could find some way that I could depart this realm in good conscience, there is still the matter of where to go. Can you transplant a man from the late 19th century to the early 21st century? I do not know. But, when I go, that is where I must go, to join my wife. She is all I have left now. Together we can make it. After all, what’s 125 years between friends?

Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Crown

 

 

A New Dawning

Nathaniel’s nose twitched a few times and his eyes started to stir. “Leave me alone,” he muttered, still half asleep. Something batted at his nose again and he opened his eyes blearily, to be presented with a pair of very green eyes close up, and a paw reaching for the end of his nose. “Gerroff!” he growled and immediately regretted as it gave him a mouthful of soft fur. He reached up and lifted the young Cait off his face, dislodging a few more of the Cait that were snuggled against his arm and shoulder.  “I love you guys, but, a man needs his sleep.”  He lay a while, lulled by the rhythmic sound of dozens of purring Cait, their individual purrs moving in and out of time with each other. He sighed. “Ah well, I should probably be about my business anyway. Come on guys, let me get up.”  He struggled to a more seated position, lifting various Cait out of the way and depositing them in the nearby heap of those who hadn’t managed to find a spot on top of him. He got up and attempted, vainly, to brush some of the fur off. “Wow, if it was possibly to make fabric from your fur, we’d make a fortune,” he said. A few feet away, he could see Bronwyn, still sleeping under her own blanket of furs and Cait. He knelt and kissed her gently on the forehead, careful not to disturb her slumber. “I love you, dear daughter,” he said quietly, and reinforced this, gently, through the link. “You are stronger than you know.”  He stood and bade the Cait look after her before taking his reluctant leave.

Back at the castle, he changed into something less furry and went down to the office for the usual morning meeting with his stewards. As was his habit, he poured tea and coffee for them before sitting down behind his desk. For once, he pushed the papers aside and looked round at the room, favouring each of them with a smile and a nod. “I think it’s time to change the flag,” he said, eventually. “We do still have the green one, right?”  His stewards looked at each other, somewhat puzzled.

“Yes,” said Novak eventually, “It’s in the weapons store. Why?”

“I think we can fly it again, at long last,” said Nathaniel, leaning back and taking a long pull at his own coffee.

“How so?” asked Kustav.

“It is over,” said Nathaniel. “The Sithen Rose is subdued and freed of malign influence, so our roses should be back to normal. The rebel demi-fae queen is no more, and her people are no longer a threat.”  There were various nods of approval. “And,” Nathaniel paused a moment. “The late and unlamented Unseelie King, GwythyrGwnn, is finally gone from us, this time for good. And that madman, Llwyd, his son, is back in the custody of Queen Vedis, where he belongs, and this time, he has no allies to help him escape. We are free, at last!” He beamed at his team.

There was a collective sigh of relief and then a babble of cheers and congratulations and a smatter of applause.

Nathaniel continued. “So, Kustav, you can stand the reservists down for now and take the guards off high alert. Remain vigilant, though, because you never know what’s going to happen in this place.”

Kustav nodded and allowed a soft smile to cross his face, even as his mind started reorganising schedules and watches. “I’ll get on it straight away.”

Nathaniel nodded. “Hal, I think we need a celebration. Maybe we can have a slightly delayed Equinox celebration. Maybe this weekend.”  His face darkens for a moment. “Oh, and talking of the Equinox. It might be advisable for us to avoid Faerie lands for a while. Queen Gwyneth has decided to vacate the throne and hand it over to Lord Mornoth, the Unseelie Seneschal. This could cause some,” he paused for a moment, “instability. I, personally, don’t think he is ready for that level of responsibility… yet. But, I think he will rally, and he may well have strong support, from our daughter, Bronwyn. She is young, but she is strong, and understands duty.”  He smiled as he thought on his child. “So, as I said, there might be a few ripples and repercussions, so mind how you go when dealing with the Fae.”

His stewards nodded, then Kustav spoke up. “And where has Gwyneth gone?”

Nathaniel allowed a wry smile to cross his face. “I suspect she has gone shopping. That seems to be her favourite remedy for stress. I should probably go see how she is, if I can find her.”  He finished his coffee and stood up. “That’s all for now. Oh, somebody get one of the horticultural types to give the roses some extra mulch. It can’t be a bad idea to remind them who the good guys are. Oh, and Novak, ask around, see if any of them would be willing to donate a little blood occasionally. That would help reinforce the idea.”

Novak nodded. “Will do.”

Nathaniel bade them good day and retreated to his chambers. He sat on the bed and opened his sense to the Wyld. He frowned as he felt the disturbances – uncertainty and confusion – as the various factions dealt with the unexpected changes, and somewhere in the middle, a knot of confusion that he suspected was Mornoth, struggling to come to terms with his new status. “This could be bad,” he muttered to himself. Just then, he caught a brief whiff of peaches and roses, the scent of his daughter. He looked down at the outfit he had recently worn, thinking maybe her scent still lingered from where he had held her the previous night. Then it came again and he felt the echo of her thoughts through the link… stirring from her sleep, briefly thinking of her father, talking with the Cait with a new maturity beyond her years, her joy at finally being free.  Then he felt the echo of Mornoth in her thoughts. He smiled, as he felt her sense of duty, as if she knew what needed to be done. Then his smile turned a little wry as he sensed her feelings for the Seneschal.  He sighed. “My daughter, no longer a child,” he murmured. “Be strong, be safe, be loved,” he suggested, as feelings rather than words, through the link, and then closed it off, lest he sense things a father should not.

There was no need anyway; he could feel her presence through the Wyld. For all her young years, she radiated a sense of light and calm and, he allowed himself a little surge of pride, steadfastness and strength of will that she had inherited from him.  The Wyld rippled around him as her light shone in the darkness, dispelling confusion. The struggle that was Mornoth seemed to ebb as the light approached and then the energies began to merge. He dampened his senses somewhat, barely needing them to feel the surge of life renewed. Love and pride in his daughter welled up and he wiped away a happy tear. Spring was finally sprung, and maybe, just maybe, all would be well in Faerie after all. “You will rise, daughter mine, you will rise,”  he said with a proud smile.

He wiped away another happy tear and got up. Spring notwithstanding, there was still much to do.

Nina Simone – It’s a New Dawn

 

 

 

Sail Away

I cannot begin to imagine the magical forces that were occasioned by the passing of Lord Maric. The cycle of the year turned through the vernal equinox and light gained the upper hand over darkness. Gwyneth, my beloved wife and Seelie Queen returned from her seasonal seclusion, bringing the promise of spring and love renewed. And, as we have done before, we enacted the rite. Maric, in his guise of the Winter King, passed the baton to her, in her guise as Summer Queen. The wheel turned, and life was renewed.

But not all life. For this was to be the last time for Maric. For over a thousand years, he had held off the spectre of death, sustained by the power of the blood that flowed in his veins, but this was to be his last battle. Strange that our victory over Gwythyr, the late Unseelie King, was to prove his undoing.  He knew it, of course, as did I when he chose to hand on the Lordship of Mysthaven and mastery of his castle to me, and I suspect he knew that the equinox rite would be his final act.

And so, with the kiss that sealed the rite, that passed power to my Queen, he was gone. My master, my mentor, my lord, sometimes my lover, and most of all, my friend, became one with the earth. Thus passed that most ancient vampire, the Winter King, and with him, the Huntsman – that noble spirit brought low by the corruption and madness of the Seelie King. And in that passing, in that change of the seasons, great changes were wrought on the land – reshaping and renewing the places we knew, both human and faerie.

Now, the village of Mysthaven stands high in the branches of the Mallorn tree, floating islands of rock held fast in the tree’s branches by forces I do not know or understand. And below us, human land, and faerie, girt once again by shining sea. A new land for old.

Whatever the forces that shaped it, there was, I suspect had some sense of humour, or perhaps, one last act of will from Lord Maric for me, his friend.  There are little details for which I can find no other explanation. Down below the castle rock, on a little promontory, there is a small cottage. I believe this is the cottage by the sea that I had long promised Gwyneth as a haven from our respective lives and positions. Not quite, perhaps, the design I had envisaged when first we conceived the idea, but on reflection, it is something I might have conceived of in my wistful longing for my nautical past, resembling as it does a truncated lighthouse. It is octagonal in plan, with a balcony around the upper storey and a central lantern for light. How this came to be, I do not know. Perhaps the forces that shaped the land on Maric’s death passed through my mind and in turn were shaped by it. However it came to be; I shall take it for a gift and strive to make it the place where Gwyn and I can cast off our positions, our ranks, her crown and my coronet (not that I would wear such a thing, even if I knew which style was appropriate to my rank) and just be ourselves – friends, lovers, husband and wife.

There is yet more strange humour to be found in the things that those magical forces have wrought. From my little pier here at the cottage, I look across a small bay enclosed by the promontory, and there, moored serenely at a pier, there is a ship. A ship of sail, rather than the ships of steam I served upon, but nevertheless, not beyond my capability, for I did some of my basic training on such. Unlike the Bold Admiral, this one I could not sail alone. I would have to train a crew. But, to where would I sail it? Perhaps I have it in me to do as Alec did and sail by the dark of moon, to other realms, there to trade gold for food and supplies. In that, I would be on familiar ground, for that is what I used to do aboard the Odiham Castle and the ships that I served on before her. On such a vessel, I could carry far more supplies than I could ever manage pushing a small wagon through the Shadow Roads. Perhaps, again, those magical forces read my mind and fashioned this vessel for that very purpose. I do not know, but I cannot think of any other reason for it to be here, or what other purpose it might have.

The sight of it, however, also casts me in a melancholy mood, recalling the days immediately before I left that Isle of Legacies that was London. Then, as now, the world was changing, except that one was being sucked further into the unreachable depths of the Nexus. Then, as now, many of the friends I knew and loved, were gone, my dearest Valene then, and again now. And then, I found myself on the deck of the ship that was my home – the Bold Admiral – looking out to sea and finding it calling to me, calling me to sail away. To where, I do not know. To find Valene? Well, I don’t doubt I could find her if I walked the Roads long enough, and I would rather that she found me, when she is ready. To find Wren? That, I am sure I could do, but I suspect this vessel would cause considerable comment wherever she has gone, as I am sure she has returned to the time she knew well, with its nets for catching inters, and its TV and moving pictures. No, for her, I would step across the realms as Alec taught me. Giada, perhaps? Except she knows her way here to the Wylds, and would return here if she so desired. Or just to explore? Perhaps, but I know not what I might find, or where or when I might find myself? Even if I did, would it satisfy that vague longing? I do not know. And for all that the sea calls to me, so does this place. This is my home now. I have a wife here, to love, and the last of my children, Bronwyn, to take care of. And I have duty too. I swore an oath. I swore that I would uphold the legacy that Maric left me and defend my people and the town of Mysthaven. And while it stands, I must stand with it. And should I ever be in the position to hand on that duty, well, the sea will still be there. One day, perhaps, I will sail away, but that day is not today.

Sail Away

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Child is Gone

When I was younger, Mother would sometimes talk of the things she wanted to do in the future, when Gilbert and I were finally out of her hair. All the things she could do with the time currently occupied by her maternal obligations. Personally, I found it difficult to imagine what more she could do, given her music, her gardening, her reading, not to mention her political and charitable and social activities outside the home. Such talks were doubly tinged with unexpressed sadness. There was always the spectre of her illness hovering over any thoughts of the future – wondering how much time she would have then. Also, even at that age, I sensed that for all that she wanted her boys to have their own lives; she dreaded the thought of the empty nest.

And now, I think I have some inkling of how she felt. My own son, Arthur, regards Gilbert and Sarah as his parents, and I am just his Uncle Nate (Nathaniel being too much of a mouthful for him). The truth, we decided, was something we would save until he attained his majority. When, or indeed, if, that will ever pass, I can not know. Some four years of my experience have passed since I was able to write to them, which would mean he would be about ten years old now, assuming that where he is, time passes in the normal fashion, no matter what my personal experience of it might be. I wonder if they grow concerned, thinking me lost at sea, or disappeared in America somehow. Either way, I never had much time to grow attached to Arthur, and, my own circumstances notwithstanding, I must assume that he thrives.

Here, in this strange place that has become my home, I have new children. Three were born of my flesh, at least in part. Mine and Janus’ and Gwyneth’s. Such are the vagaries of things here that they were born seemingly young adults, in body, if not in wisdom. Thus, I did not share their childhood, for they had none, and already, they make their own way in the world. Eilian, impetuous youth that he seemed, is gone away to be tutored by Blaise, who stands in stead of his grandfather. Drysi with all the attitude of a rebellious teenager lives her own life now, and rarely visits with us. And Bronwyn flits hither and thither like a butterfly, but harder to catch than a shaft of moonlight. Now that Gwythyr is gone, perhaps it is safe for her to be around me and I can spend more time getting to know her.

Lastly, but by no means least, is Wren. She I did at least get to see grow, if only for a short period of her life. She was Alec’s and Isabel’s daughter, but not, as I learned, by blood, and Dauphine to his kingdom. But she cared not for that, and cared less for the fripperies of being a princess. She much preferred marching around the town square, patrolling as though she were the palace guard. As one who had often fantasised about being an Arthurian knight, I acknowledged that and went along with it, addressing her as Patrolman Wren, saluting her as I night any other soldier and such like. I think that was where we started to bond, as I was the only one who took her seriously. I missed her when Jasper Cove burned and the bridge took her elsewhere, and so I was delighted when circumstances, unfortunate though I later learned they were, brought her to Ashmourne Wylds.

Here we really became closer, whether it was talking about books and music, or teasing her about maths lessons. I persuaded the castle guard to allow her to train with them, and they accepted her as one of their own. I gave her the rank of adjutant at my side. Over time, we grew closer, until she trusted me enough to tell of the circumstances that caused her to flee here. Similarly, I was able to be there for her as she dealt with the realisation that she too was fae-blooded, and through the traumas of dealing with the magic that she knew not how to control. I came to love her as the daughter I had never had, and was delighted beyond measure when she allowed me to adopt her as my own.

And now, she is gone from here and from me. Of late, I had not had much time to see her, with all the problems in the castle and elsewhere, and had assumed that she had made herself comfortable in that little book-lined cottage that she had adopted in the faerie bower. But, it was not so. Today, I came home to a letter from her, explaining that she had gone away and why.

She has not been feeling herself, she said. Even when working with the animals, which I know she so loved to do, she did not feel right. She spoke with Dyisi, who took her somewhere else, to somewhere with no wars, somewhere that was not scary for a barely teenage girl, somewhere she might make friends of her own age, somewhere she didn’t have to be in court, or be anything other than herself. It was just meant to be a holiday until she felt better, but now, she wanted to stay, she did not know for how long.

She apologised for not talking to me first. She knew she had to go, and she knew that I was perhaps the only person who might have been able to persuade her to stay. She said that she missed me, and asked me to not be mad with her. Perhaps, she said, we could write, or maybe I could even come to visit.

I am not so proud that I cannot admit that I shed a tear when I read her words, which, at first, felt like a blow to the stomach. I had failed my beloved daughter. However, on reflection, I see that she is right. I cannot blame her, and I should not blame myself. This is no place for a teenager. We’ve had to deal with plague-bearing witches, fae wars, the predations of Gwythyr and far too much death. Those particular battles may be over, but I cannot promise that there will not be more.  I cannot protect her from all that might occur here.

Also, aside from me, she has no family any more.  Alex and Isabella betrayed and abandoned her. She and Ember were separated long before she arrived here. Hadley chose her own means of escape, becoming in short order, a demon, and now an adult and a mother. And others even remotely her age – Riley from Jasper Cove, Jada and Kale… all are gone or never even arrived here. And of those she was close to, other than family, only a few are around. I have not seen Galyanna, who had her own reasons for caring for Wren, in months. Even Aoibheann has become strange to us, in the sense of absent, rather than her innate strangeness, and even that has become more marked of late, such that it seems I scarcely know her.

No, I cannot blame her. And, much as I might wish to, I cannot blame Dyisi for taking her away. Better she went in the company of somebody experienced in stepping across realms than strike out on her own, with her imperfect mastery of such things. And, much as I am upset that Dyisi did not consult with me, I understand that she did so for Wren, lest I would, as she put it in her letter, “be the only one who would have made her not want to go.” Dyisi is far older and wiser than I ever will be, and I am sure that she would not take her any place that she would be at risk of harm.

That said; there is a hole in my life, and in my heart, that is unlikely to be filled. If my memories, and my diary, serve me accurately, it is some three and a half years since I first addressed Wren as patrolman. Since when, she has become as dear to me as anyone. She could not be dearer to me if she was my own flesh and blood, and I am going to miss her terribly. Even being saluted by Milos and Vasily as I left the castle to come here to my cottage by the sea brought a tear to my eye, thinking of the customary greeting between Wren and me. For now, I shall content myself with the trust that, wherever she is, she is well and happy. And, that wherever she is, she well knows how much I loved her and will continue to love her. There will be letters, I am sure, and visits, but for now, I shall take solace in the familiar sounds of the sea. And I shall raise a glass – “Be well, my darling daughter. Be safe, be happy, and be everything you can possibly want to be.”

The Child is Gone

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