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

 

 

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

 

Stolen Child

My navigation, via the mists or the Shadow Roads, is not always reliable. I took myself to Mysthaven again, seeking answers regarding the carrots, among other things. At least, that was my intention, but something drew me elsewhere, to one of the gates in Faerie. And there I found what in the present circumstance counted as a crowd. There was Aoibheann, clutching a carrot to her as one might carry a child, and a creature resembling a unicorn. The latter, I guessed, by her manner of movement, and later, her speech, to be Mika, albeit in an unfamiliar shape. There was another; a man of somewhat disreputable appearance, so I hesitated to give him the accolade of gentleman. Him I did not know, though there was something about him that seemed familiar. He did not seem pleased to be there, nor did he seem pleased to encounter Aoibheann, much less myself. And, if we did not know him, he appeared to know us. He expressed his displeasure in somewhat colourful and exasperated language, addressing me as Lord of the roses and misty villagers, which, while not strictly my title, was at least broadly accurate. He also seemed to be annoyed at the lack of drink in the vicinity. In speaking, he revealed himself to be that feckless black stallion, Anathema wearing his other skin.

Mika bounced around excitedly in a manner more suited to her ferret shape than a unicorn, pawing at Anathema’s cheap suit and chattering about him having no manners and shouting at trees. She also seemed tempted by the idea of a party, though in her case, if this shape was anything like the ferret, I fancied she would be more excited by candy than wine.

Aoibheann, meanwhile, was more excited by the fact that there were so many people in one place, taking that as a possible sign that the land was awakening. The idea that Anathema had been shouting at the trees particularly interested her, and she asked what he had said and if they had replied. I felt sorry for her if he had, given that she herself had been unable to communicate with her children. She was less certain about his description of his current shape as his other skin, imagining that he maybe had killed and skinned somebody for it. He protested this, explaining that he was a shape-shifter, not a skin-walker. I’m not sure that she understood the difference. I do not know why not. It is not as if she has no experience of beings that wear different shapes at times.  Maric and myself for two, although neither of us ever skinned anybody for it. Check that. I have never skinned anybody. I am not so sure I can claim that for Maric.

I could not help but be mildly amused. “Last time I saw you,” I replied to him, “you had more legs and borrowed my son for some,” I hesitated, trying to think of some way of putting it that wouldn’t offend Aoibheann, “interesting times.” He protested that the bargain with Eilian had been fair and square, and that the interesting times had been the price for riding him. I replied that I did not doubt the validity of the bargain; moreover, I thought that my son would have learned a useful life lesson from it. Given that everybody was somewhat focused on the idea of drink, particularly mead, I suggested that there might be some in the tavern. After all, if there was somebody around growing carrots, I said, or at least, carrot-shaped things, then possibly somebody would have stocked the tavern with mead. Mika liked that idea, as did Anathema.

Aoibheann held the carrot closer to her chest, saying that carrots did not usually have fangs. She said that she had intended to help the carrot to find its name, but was now worried that she had stolen it, stolen a child from its parents. The Wyld had affected more than the roses, she offered by way of explanation. There was something unknown, some new danger lurking in my realm. Given my thoughts regarding the Kraken-like disturbances, this was not exactly news to me. I acknowledged this was likely, but I would have to wait and see what it might be, so long as it wasn’t the late and unlamented former king. I eyed her pet carrot, more bemused than anything. I suggested that I would maybe have similar facility with the carrots as I did with the roses. They knew me well enough, and if they were kin to the carrots, then perhaps the carrots would know me in some distant way. It would be worth investigating when I was back at the village. On that thought, I suggested that we return to village in the hope of maybe finding the mead that everybody, save myself, was keen to find.

Or, at least, that was my plan. I parted the veil with the intention of stepping back to the village, leaving them to follow, or make their way there by their own means, but again, my navigation failed me and I found myself back in Awenia. Or, perhaps it was not my error, for as soon as I set foot in my home, I was set upon by Clutie and Bran with various household matters of urgency. None, to my mind were so urgent that they could not have waited for Gwyn to return from wherever, but I have long since learned there is no arguing with them once they get ideas in their heads. By the time it was all sorted to their satisfaction, it was long past the time when it would have been worth returning to the tavern. I shall have to visit Mysthaven soon to see if tge roses, or the carrots, could tell me what is about the land. Or, maybe I would rather not know. I would probably not, but I am Lord of Mysthaven, so I have little choice in that respect, and even if I were not, I still doubt I would have the choice. There is a duty on me, and that has nothing to do with titles. It never has.

Stolen Child

 

 

 

 

Ghost Town

I have often written, in these pages, of the fragile and fluid nature of reality. It is something I have experienced many times.  What I thought I knew was reality changed when Katarina almost killed me and brought me back to a new life. Then I discovered that creatures of myth and legend were real. That, in time, took me to a London that was not the one I had known as a young man, a London where it was forever 1891 and where creatures such as I had become roamed freely. Thence, my journeys took me to Jasper Cove, a reality created by that scoundrel and demon, John Dee, known to me as Alec, among other names. And, when Jasper Cove burned, I had to flee, to the Wylds, which until Gwyn took me away, in part anyway, to the 21st century, became my home. Nowhere has the fluid nature of reality been more evident than there. The castle on the hill, ruled by one of my own kind, Cristof, was destroyed by the tree folk, and in its place, came Mysthaven, since the passing of Maric, my realm to rule. It has rebuilt itself several times since I have been there, and is still in the process of rebuilding itself.

I went to see how things fared there a few days past. The castle still seems to be in flux. It may well be that this is down to my relative absence. The castle is bound to me, and I to it, so it is possible that it cannot finish reshaping itself without my presence. And, I suppose it would be nice if I had some choice over the furniture. Ideally, I would build some myself, but, even with the somewhat fluid nature of time between realm-jumps, I doubt I would be able to do so in any sensible time-frame. But that is another matter. Elsewhere, the village seems to be progressing nicely.

It is curious how things develop, though. The villagers, my stewards and my guards seem to have a semi-ghostly existence. There and not there at the same time, perhaps only called into existence from some sort of limbo when I am there. And yet, here in the village gardens, fruit and vegetables are growing. I paused by a bed of carrots that seemed to be growing well, despite the perpetual twilight. Who, I wondered, had planted these and tended them? Did the villagers manifest at other times to tend the garden and other parts of the village? Where did they go in the meanwhile? Did they go into some sort of limbo, a dream time or such like?

 

I was interrupted in my speculations by the arrival of Aoibheann, who drifted in from who knows where. As ever, she spoke somewhat cryptically, saying, by way of greeting, that she believed there was more than one Mysthaven. She joined me by the vegetable bed and squatted, looking at the carrots as if she intended to pick one.

I likewise neglected to make any actual greeting. I commented that she and I had been around long enough to know that the land and the town were as fluid as our imaginations. At least this version, I added, was not built on floating rocks, which I had always thought an affront to Sir Isaac Newton. I don’t know why I said that bit, as it was very unlikely that she would have known who Newton was, much less that he formulated the theory of gravity.

I was right. She did not register any sign of recognition, and at first, just challenged my assertion, asking how I knew what the current incarnation of Mysthaven was built upon. She then went on to wonder if perhaps it was that there was more than one of her, rather than more than one Mysthaven. The thought of more than one Aoibheann was a slightly scary one, but I didn’t say anything.  She speculated that whether there was more than one Mysthaven or more than one of her, the symptoms would be similar.  She told me there were times she came to Mysthaven and there was no sign of life. It was the same in Faerie, she said. Her children, by which I presumed she meant the trees, were sleeping and no winged or legged creature was stirring, save the cŵn, and those she had only heard, not encountered. Perhaps there was some fragmented version of the realm where her children were still awake, she wondered.

This touched all too closely to my own speculations as to the fluid nature of reality. I suggested that it was possible that the residents of the realm were somehow dormant while the land was reshaping itself so that they might be protected from the changes. She and I, having the ability to walk the realms might be less affected by it.

She shook her head and said that she did not consider herself unaffected. She told me that she felt as a ghost, not seeing the people here, and not being seen by them. She had tried recently to move some books and her hands passed through them as though they were not there. She had not eaten in months and it seemed as if waking and dreaming were one and the same. The theory that there might be more than one of her seemed to comfort her somehow. I could not think why, other than perhaps it allowed her to believe that another her was elsewhere, solid and able to interact with her children and others. She bent and tried to pull at one of the carrots with far more concentration than might otherwise be justified by such a simple act, wondering aloud, as I had, who tended them. Perhaps her supposed insubstantial nature made the act harder. “I saw your daughter,” she said, almost as an afterthought.

This surprised me. I reached out with my other senses, seeking Bronwyn for myself, but, as before, she was somehow distant, veiled from me. I could tell she was well enough, but otherwise could not tell where or when she might be, not could I sense her thoughts or send her mine. I told Aoibheann this, saying that it was both curious and vexing, for the anchorage we had created for each other should have been sufficient. I asked Aoibheann how Bronwyn and Mornoth fared.

Aoibheann’s concentration seemed to be all upon the vegetable she was trying to pick. From where I stood, it looked as if she lacked substance enough to grasp it, and yet, after a moment, she did manage to do so and fell backwards, clutching her prize. She told me that she had only seen Bronwyn for a moment before being whisked away to Mysthaven, and all that she could tell was that she had had something important to convey. This, she said seemed to happen to her a lot, that whenever something of importance was happening, she got distracted. She certainly seemed distracted as she was speaking, staring at the carrot as though she were not entirely convinced it was real, and then holding it up to her ears as if she somehow expected it to speak. She held it more as one might a small animal than a root vegetable.

I reached out again, but Bronwyn was no more reachable than before. I let my sense spread out into the land, touching the Wyld, perhaps to reassure myself that it was still there.  The energy was still there, so different, and yet similar to the Wyld in Awenia, as if two strains from the same primal source. And yet, under it there was something more chaotic than normal, as if something vast lurked beneath the surface. I was reminded of Tennyson’s words:

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth:

Not the most comforting of thoughts, I had to say.  I put it to one side and asked if Aoibheann had any substance when she was with Ardan. She said that she was not. Ardan and Awnye also slept, and she had no more awareness of them than I did of Bronwyn. I wondered at that, since she had much more of a facility with the trees than I ever did, so it seemed strange that she should find them dormant. I did mention my feelings regarding the Kraken, but I am not sure if that registered with her, being more of a Norse mythology. She still seemed preoccupied with the carrot, again, treating it as though it were some small creature. I was interrupted by an alarm from my phone, albeit briefly, as it succumbed to the malaise that seems to affect technology here. However, my trusty watch also tinkled its reminder. I made to bid Aoibheann farewell, and she managed to pull her attention away from the carrot to wish me safe travels. Her attention returned to it and I was sure she was talking to it.

I felt a ripple in the atmosphere as I parted the veil to step back to Awenia, which gave me pause, as I had never felt that before. Looking back, I saw Aoibheann laying the carrot down on the ground and offering her thumb to it, and I could have sworn that it looked back at her. I had little time before I continued my journey and stepped back to home, but, there was something familiar in the way they were interacting. As the veil closed behind me, I realised what it was. It reminded me of the Myst Roses and my dealings with them. “Myst Carrots?” I wondered, aloud to myself. The idea made me laugh, but, on reflection, I supposed it was entirely possible. I must return again to Mysthaven and see what else there is to learn. There is already much to trouble me – the distance between me and my daughter, the disturbance in the Wyld and now, possibly sentient carrots? I hope nobody tells Hal’s wife. She might not want to put those in a stew.

Ghost Town

 

Another Time Another Place

I have, it seems, become accustomed to the company of people who share at least some common experience with me. They are the people who understand what I am, where I am from and where I have been. They are my family – Gwyn, Wren, Bronwen, Drysi and Eilian; my extended family – Dyisi Valene, Aoibheann, and those who are only with me now in spirit – Faermorn and Maric. They all know me and know of my story, or at least those parts I have shared, and I do not need to explain.

And yet, there are times when I must move among those who do not understand, those who do not know. And, to make things worse, there are times when I would not be able to explain. There will be those to whom my story would be inexplicable. How could I explain my story to people for whom the vampire, the fae and other such beings exist only in fiction and lore? How could I explain the where and when of my journeys to those for whom yesterday, today and tomorrow happen only in strict succession, for whom the past is the past and the future comes one day at a time?

Of course, sometimes, it can come down a much simpler thing, such as the question “how old are you?”  Now this is a complicated question at the best of times, even among those who understand. I was born in 1853, by the calendar I once knew. I was embraced in 1885, when I was just shy of my 32nd birthday. There followed six years of travelling in what I foolishly believed to be the real world before I fetched up in the Isle of Legacies, that strange place that resembled, yet did not resemble, the London I knew as a young man. By then, I would have been 38 years of age by the calendar, but, the embrace stopped the process of aging, so was I 38 or 32? Some while later, I found myself in Jasper Cove, which was, so far as I could tell, contemporaneous with the modern day that Gwyn knew, the 21st century, albeit somehow in parallel to, rather than part of that time. By then, perhaps two years had passed, so far as I could tell, so was I 40, 34, or was I 159 years old? Such a simple question, yet so hard to answer.

I had reason to reflect on this question recently. Lacking anything constructive to occupy my time while the Consilium Arcanum’s gears grind slowly through the process of making Awenia an open fae realm, I decided to take to the Shadow Roads and go exploring. The Cait were happy to see me, but sadly there was no sign of their queen, save for the lingering scent of mint. So, after a while, I took my leave of them and, lacking any particular destination, decided to part the veil from the Roads and, trust to chance for my destination.  Well, not entirely to chance. My other ability, to walk the realms, given to me by Alec, my demonic former friend, would normally only take me to places or people I knew, however, I had learned that it could take me to other places where realm-walking was possible. So I reached out with that sense, and let that guide me, to see where it would take me.

It took me to a night club. Of course it did. Whatever the mechanisms are that allow me to travel this way, they must be influenced by experience, and after faerie and medieval castles, much of my experience has been in such places. This did not stop me being slightly exasperated. “A nightclub! Why is it always a nightclub?  All of time and space and I end up in a nightclub,” is more or less what I said once I got my bearings.

I was not expecting an answer, but I got one. An elegant young lady, dressed for some evening occasion, appeared and said that she supposed there were worse places. I could not disagree, and commented that given my navigational skills, this was entirely possible.  Hoping to get some clue as to my whereabouts, I asked if I would regret asking where I was.

She told me that I was in a club, in a mansion called La Chateau De La Rose. Fortunately, she said, there wasn’t an event on, because I wouldn’t have passed the dress code. This was likely true, as I was dressed casually. I promised to wear my tux next time. As to where I was, she then suggested using a smart phone or a GPS unit. That at least gave me some clue as to the when, if not the where. This place must more or less be concurrent with the time I had left. I knew that my phone was apparently a smart one and that it had GPS, however, I had not yet mastered the use of it, despite Wren’s guidance. I pulled it out and fumbled fruitlessly for a few moments before giving up and admitting my lack of expertise with technology.

And then came the question that stumped me. Well, not so much of a question as a statement that raised many questions I was ill-prepared to answer.

“You look pretty young not to know anything about technology!”

I had to admit that she was probably correct in that assumption. Whatever numerical value one might attach to my age, I look to be a man in his 30s, and it would be fair to assume that any man of that age would be familiar with the technology of the present time, which, I had to assume, was roughly commensurate with the time I had left, i.e. early in the 21st century. I prevaricated, saying that as a former night-club manager myself; I would probably not have let myself in dressed this way. She gestured to some armchairs nearby and suggested we sit. She then added a further question, asking where I had come from.

I was still at a loss as to an answer that made sense. Other than the approximate time period, I knew nothing of this place and certainly did not know how they would react to the somewhat paranormal nature of myself and my travels. I opted for a believable half-truth. “Technically, I am about 40,” I told her and explained that I had only recently been introduced to technology. “It’s complicated,” I said, adding that this also applied to the matter of my travels.

She seemed to accept that, taking this to mean that I must have been living in the woods, somewhere off the grid. I had come across this phrase before as referring to people who prefer to live a simpler life, or sometimes wishing not to be noticed by the authorities. In either case, an avoidance of technology was involved. It seemed safe enough to let her continue with this assumption. I agreed that “off the grid” was a good way to put it and said that my daughter had been teaching me about technology. That also seemed a safer option than mentioning I had also learned from a demon that went by the name of Skeleton, and from my fae queen wife.

I decided to change the subject away from possibly risky territory towards something more plausible, like me needing a job, since I had mentioned my own involvement in the night club business. She had used the word “we” in respect of having a dress code, so I asked if she was part of the club management. She was not, but gave me some names – Mitch and Amythe who might be able to help. I recorded this in my trusty notebook, as has been my habit for many years. Then I noticed her expression and thought I would show that I did have some facility with modern technology by getting my phone out and making a similar note on that. Of course, being inexperienced, I managed to set off the music player by mistake, but that turned out to be a fortuitous accident, for it diverted the conversation onto more pleasing matters.

Wren had shown me how to download music onto the phone, so when I accidentally started the player, it started playing the Overture to the Mikado. I managed to stop it after a few bars, but that was enough for my new friend to recognise. She commented on me being caught between two technologies but complimented me on my taste in music and appreciation for the theatre. I told her I was pleasantly surprised to meet a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, saying that too few people appreciated such things these days. I also thought I’d establish my more serious music credentials by singing a few lines of An die Freude. I told her a little about my mother and how she had raised me on fine literature, music and the other arts. She seemed most impressed that I had been raised in a cultured household. She used the word ‘classical’, which I thought quite amusing, as that word might well apply to my Victorian upbringing from her point of view. Of course, I didn’t mention that, but I did say I had practical skills too, learning the craft of building, and especially woodwork, from my father.

I did ask after her background, but I received no answer. She looked to be lost in thought for a while and then departed abruptly without a word. Perhaps some pager or phone message I had not noticed, or some other summons by means unknown. Or, for all I knew, she had suddenly grown bored and decided to leave. Either way, she did not return, and, lacking any other company, I decided I should return home. This place, whatever land it might be, intrigues me, so I shall explore further another day.

Another Time Another Place

Into the Mist

I mentioned, in my last journal entry, a hankering to go travelling. I would have thought that I would have tired of it by now. I have travelled for most of my adult life.  There were all my years with the Haskins shipping company aboard the Carisbrooke Castle, Raglan Castle and Odiham Castle. Then there were my journeys in search of Katarina; journeys that came to naught, but did lead me, by and by, to London. There I sought atonement for a mistake I made in Richmond, Virginia with the lovely Vyktorya, only to find that she fared well enough and had found a home among the Sabbat. It was only years later, in Jasper Cove and later, Ashmourne Wylds, that I learned of her grisly fate from her adopted daughter, Sophia, also now lost to me through the vagaries of the fractured realities we both walked. And there  are other journeys – from London to Jasper Cove to Ashmourne Wylds to Mysthaven and finally to White Owl Island, which my memory still insists existed, and Awenia, which I now regard as home.

I have another home, of course, back in Mysthaven. That home I have neglected for too long, being too caught up in the affairs of the island and Awenia. And so, shortly before Yule, I took a journey there to see how things fared at my old home. In keeping with the theme of recent journal entries, I found that much there had changed, as once again, the realm has reshaped itself. Gone at least, are the floating lumps of rock, upon which much of the castle and village of Mysthaven rested. I am not sorry to see those gone, for they offended my sensibilities as a rational man. I have come to believe much that I would not normally have believed, but floating rocks was a hard one to accept. Of course, I did not dare give voice to such belief in case the rocks heard me and forgot how, which would have been somewhat of a disaster for all concerned.

No, this reshaped realm seems, thus far anyway, to be very much rooted in terra firma, so I can cross villagers falling off of the edge from my list of things to worry about. The mists remain, but the world seems darker than I remember. Most of the buildings have changed and there is more stone and ironwork than I remember. In some ways, with the stone and iron and the gloom, it reminded me of when I first arrived on the Isle of Legacies. Most of all, the castle had changed. It loomed much larger and in a very different style to that which it had been, seeming in places to resemble a cathedral as much as anything. Given that Maric had shaped the castle from the bones of his sire and tormentor, it made sense that the castle should be malleable and changeable, even if it had not changed when the landscape reformed itself before. The process of change was clearly ongoing, as everything still seemed to be in a state of flux and I was reminded of times I had been to the construction sites with my father when buildings were as yet unfinished.

I did not get much opportunity to explore, for my attention was distracted by a familiar shape, or so I thought – a distinctly feline shape dressed largely in black. My heart skipped a beat for a moment, but when I got a closer look, it was not that other queen of my life, Valene. Whoever it was, I did not get a chance to discover for she slipped away into the shadows before I could speak. And then, there was another familiar shape, if a little wilder and more fae in appearance than I remembered. Aoibheann, Mother of Trees was there. I smiled and greeted my long-lost friend, saying it had been far too long.

This seemed to confuse her for a moment as she started to say that she had only just spoken to me before changing her mind and wishing me a good evening. This is perhaps not surprising; as it was likely time had passed differently here, or for her, than it had for me. Her next question confounded me somewhat, asking if I had ever found that violin. For a moment I could only think of Wren’s violin that I had long ago promised to restore for her after it had gotten wet on her travels. I was wrong; it was Maric’s violin to which she referred. She said that she understood that the castle and the village were mine, and that she did not contest that, or that I could guard it better, especially in her current state, but that she would like something of his, even if she feared that she might destroy even that. She paused a moment, seemingly choking slightly on her words and asked if I could hear the howls.

I had to profess that I had not, but then, I had been back in the realm but a few minutes and had not fully adjusted. I reached out with my other senses, but could sense nothing, at least, not in that brief moment. I did not know what she feared, but afterwards wondered if it was the cŵn that she had heard. Since I could sense nothing at the time, I addressed her other concerns. The castle and the village were mine only in the sense that Maric had appointed me guardian and protector, but that did not make them my property. I assured her that anything within the castle, or without, she may have, save that I preferred to keep the library intact if I could, and so would reserve judgement on any books she might desire. Mention of Maric brought back that sense of loss and sadness that he was gone from us. I had loved him too, I told her. Perhaps not in the same way, but nevertheless, I had loved him. I promised that as and when the castle had finished rebuilding itself, I would take account of the castle and its contents and anything she wished, including the violin if I found it, he could have with my blessing.

There was more on her mind, as is often the case with her. She composed herself before continuing. She had awoken something, she told me, but she did not know what. She loved him too, loved him still, but was concerned for the realm. Her heart grew wylder and she feared what might come of that. Everything slumbered, she said – the realm, and the mallorn trees, Ardan and Awnye. Something was wrong. Perhaps it was her doing or perhaps it was the King and Queen’s, she did not know. All she did know was that she was dangerous and it was a danger that the people of Mysthaven deserved a reprieve from.

I sighed inwardly. I had heard such talk from her before, but I could not tell for certain if this was yet more drama of the sort that always surrounds her, or that something was going on. Since I know longer know exactly what Aoibheann is, I could not say for certain that she was not a danger. She may be. Not through malevolence or intent, but perhaps through impetuousness or something implicit in her nature that might bring danger from others. I reached out my senses again, touching the castle. There was trouble there, I could tell, but from that brief touch I could not tell what that might be, whether it be the pangs of the reshaping or some other cause. Mention of the King and Queen gave me cause to reach out further, to my beloved daughter, Bronwyn. This troubled me somewhat, for, while I could sense her, I could not tell where she was, nor could I communicate. I did not sense any immediate danger, but it troubled me nevertheless.

My watch reminded me that, back in Awenia, it was time for dinner, and I had promised Gwyn that I would return to eat with her. I told Aoibheann that I would reach out to the King and Queen and see how things fared with them, and that I should also reach out to Queen Teuta, since she was so tightly bound with the castle. I bade her well, then, and left her, to return to my other home, and to my wife. I only spoke of it briefly with Gwyn, since she has more or less cut herself off completely from that former life and has no further interest in Mysthaven. That is easier for her, since she was able to pass on her duties and responsibilities to Mornoth and Bronwyn. I did not have that luxury, and will not until such time as I can pass on my burden, if ever. After that, I spoke no more of it, and gave my attention to the business of organising our new home. Indeed, I gave it no further thought until the celebrations were over. Some time soon, I must return and see what passes there now. It is still, in part, my home, and I miss my daughter.

Eivør – Í Tokuni