I was the shy one at school, even with the extensive coaching in social skills from my mother. Being a ‘carrot-top’, to quote one of the kinder nicknames, was not a good start, and having advanced reading skills and a complete lack or interest in the more boisterous of outdoor activities didn’t exactly help. And so, I was hardly the most gregarious of boys, and even into adulthood, was always less than outgoing in social situations. I even trained as an accountant, in part, because numbers were easier to deal with than people. How then, did this shy, retiring accountant become a diplomat? How did I become emissary to the Royal Courts of the High Sidhe, other fae groups, and even a bunch of hematophagous roses?
Oh yes, the roses. As I wrote in a previous entry, the roses want to go home, back to Faerie. They aren’t the only ones. Everybody thinks it is a good idea – even the Fae Queen.
I was summoned by a will-o’-the-wisp, or, at least, one of the demi-fae creatures that appear as a tiny ball of light. For all that I am consort to the Fae Queen, I know very little of the taxonomy of the lesser fae beings. I should remedy that some day. Anyway, this one summoned me to the presence of Her Majesty. Not that I needed much persuasion, as it had been some time since I had been able to spend any time with Gwyn. Alas, this was to be more of a business meeting, although we did manage some personal time later.
The ‘wisp took me to one of the pretty pools that Gwyn has around her private royal residence, which seems to be separate from the ‘official’ royal residence. I guess that must be a bit like having a real birthday and an official one. I’ve never been entirely clear on this, but it makes sense, I guess. A queen presumably has to have somewhere to receive visitors, and somewhere she can be herself. For this meeting, however, we seemed to be in the private one, even though we – Aoibheann was there too – were there on official business. I suppose, since we were friends long before we became official representatives, that’s fair.
Gwyn told us that she had been talking to Aoibheann about the roses around the village shortly after Nemaine pulled her stunt on poor Tomas, and how she had sensed an excitement in them, and sensed their fae nature. Aoibheann echoed that, saying that Maric had told her that the roses would sing to him.
That was my cue. This was, after all, one of the things that I had been planning on discussing on behalf of Maric, but I had been waylaid by getting lost in the mists and dealing with dhampyrs. I told her how I had communed with the roses and how they had seemed very keen on the idea of moving to Faerie, plus, my impression that they had the means and power to do so, and take the village with them. I agreed that we could not live under Nemaine’s shadow much longer and that our options were limited. I doubted anybody wanted to shelter with the Sisterhood of the Void, which just left the Faerie realm, which seemed to be the most popular option.
So, I said, switching into formal mode, would Their Majesties be amenable to opening discussions on the matter of relocating the village of Mysthaven to some small corner of the Faerie realms, where we could live and thrive in peace? I naturally assumed that she could speak for both, at this stage anyway.
Gwyn had clearly been expecting this; indeed, it was the reason she had called us here, to have this very discussion. She was sure that that Janus would be amenable, knowing her fondness for the people of Mysthaven, and how she had protected them, led them to sanctuary etc before. She did, however, have some reservations, or warnings rather. These concerned the relations between mortals and the fae, and in particular, the effect that the land, and the fae, could have on mortals. She warned about the ‘sport’ that the fae could possibly make with mortals, emphasising in particular that the season was on the wane, and that those more inclined to the darker months of the year might have different ideas as to what constitutes ‘sport’. It was clearly a question that had been on Aoibheann’s mind, since she asked what we could do if trespasses occurred, and what we should do when the darker fae became more active in the winter.
I was less concerned. As I pointed out, we would not be in a significantly different situation than we were when the village sat atop the hill between the Seelie and Unseelie lands. The same problems existed then, when villagers strayed too far from the hill. This was why I had made arrangements with Saone and Faermorn to have an approved list of foragers, who were allowed to go into those lands in search of food etc, and why those foragers had been trained in the possible pitfalls of dealing with the fae. I saw no problem in extending that training. Thinking on my feet, I proposed that we could establish some designated borders. We could then negotiate and establish standards of behaviour – what would be expected of mortals in fae lands and what would be expected of fae visiting the village. Further, we could establish means of dealing with cases where those standards were breached and determining appropriate remedy and punishment – on both sides. I also had a thought of some buffer zones or social gatherings, places where humans and fae could get used to each other. My emphasis was on education, making sure that those who ventured into the others’ lands did so with full knowledge of the possible consequences.
I had to also admit that we could only do so much. If somebody from the village, despite all the warnings and training, decided to go cavorting with one of the fae, partaking of faerie mead etc, then there wasn’t a lot we could do about it. Human, and fae, natures being what they were, there were always going to be those who would ignore the warnings and engage in foolish and risky behaviour. I did not mention Tomas, and his unfortunate demise in the Shadow Roads, but that was very much in my mind.
Gwyn thanked me for my ‘cool-headed’ approach, and agreed that this was the best way to proceed. She especially liked the idea of the buffer zones. She said that she would do her best to educate her people about the difference between sport and malicious trickery, and particularly, that consent should be obtained. She also offered to assist in the education of the villagers. She thought for a moment and seemed to come to some conclusions. She would, she said, speak to Janus that evening, and if he was amenable to the plan, and she was sure he would be, she would begin the preparations to move the village. Given that we had suffered one death already, she was keen to move as soon as possible, before the villagers got too frustrated by their confinement. Also, she quicker we moved, the more time we would have to get used to our new situation before the darker days started setting in. She would, of course, make sure that everybody understood that the villagers were the guests and friends of the Court, and that harmful actions would have consequences. She asked if I could provide a census of the village, so that she had some idea of numbers etc.
Aoibheann, bless her, was less than convinced, and I cannot say that I blame her. She thought that I was too trusting, and while she said that she trusted Gwyn, she was less sure that we could trust that fae would have respect for the laws when the punishment for breaches would be administered by the fae, especially when their actions were not criminal in their realm. Could we be sure that, say, a particularly pleasant fae would be punished appropriately, or would I suitably punish somebody on our side if they were somebody I was fond of. She mentioned the problem about the fae regarding anybody who wasn’t sworn to one or other court was fair game. She also reminded us that we had survived the sluagh, that we had survived the Shadow Roads, so the protection of the courts would have to be effective, because we were not incapable of protecting ourselves.
Her points were good, and I agreed with her, as did Gwyn, that we were not easy prey. I said that I hadn’t wanted to get into details at this point, but said that I imagined some sort of judging panel or tribunal, made up of representatives from each side – Maric or myself, plus a couple of selected villagers, with Gwyn or Janus, plus a couple of non-royal fae, said panel between them overseeing all problems and ensuring that appropriate remedies were applied. Such things would take a little time, but for now, we had to proceed on the basis of mutual trust, else we would get nowhere. I told Gwyn that I needed to update my census to account for Tomas’ recent demise, and add in those former residents from Vedis’ island. Having mentioned them, I suddenly thought to ask after Horace.
That got a bit of a reaction from Gwyn. She had forgotten about Horace. She said that he had somehow managed to get transported to another realm, the one she sometimes went to, and had forgotten about offering to help him return here. She had mentioned this realm before, and that it was more in her original era of the 21st century, but I had thus far not been there with her. Given that said place was in my future, I was more reluctant to travel there, for fear of creating paradox. She acknowledged Aoibheann’s concerns and said that she would do her best to avoid problems. After that, she said she had much work to do, and would need to work with the other fae. We were welcome to remain here by the pool if we wished, and specifically asked me to remain and spend the night with her later, as she would be weary and need comfort.
Aoibheann decided she would go and spend the time with Ardan. I had no objection to staying, and told Gwyn I had brought a bottle of wine. Then I suddenly realised that she was not drinking any more, because of the pregnancy, and apologised for not having brought goat’s milk or grape juice. Her reaction to that was quite odd. She gasped and then said that there was something else she needed to tell me later. I was to remind her in the morning and then she would show me the power and wonder of the Summerlands. It was not a bad thing, she said, but I might find it odd. I was intrigued, especially when she said she would be happy to share the bottle with me later, but she would say no more of it. She kissed me and then departed. There was much magic to be wrought, or at least, prepared.
When she returned much much later, she was indeed weary and in need of comfort. She would not speak further of her efforts and I did not press her. What she needed was my arms around her and I would not deny her that.
Good Year for the Roses