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.