Amulet

((Catchup post – original RP 3 Nov 2014))

My chambers seem to be becoming the social centre of the castle. The other night, it was Dyisi and then Dorina and Hadley. Tonight, it was Maric and Aoibheann, returned from a meeting with Janus. And later, briefly, Dorina again, though she and I did not get a chance to speak.

Maric came seeking my advice concerning an amulet that Janus had fashioned for Aoibheann. He wanted an independent view of its function, from the point of view of my fae senses. They came to my room, and for some inexplicable reason, Aoibheann decided she didn’t want to sit with us, opting instead to climb on the canopy of my bed. Fortunately, I had made sure that the woodwork was substantial for very heavy curtains and figured it could easily bear Aoibheann’s slight frame.

The amulet in question was shaped like an oak-leaf and hung easily around her neck. She sat fingering it in a manner that suggested she wasn’t too happy about wearing it. At Maric’s unspoken suggestion, I reached out with my fae sense, tasting and scenting, for want of better words to describe the senses, trying to discern its function and purpose. A protection, it seemed, and more specifically, a protection against fae influences. That surprised me a little, but then, given that we were trying to help Aoibheann deal with her passenger, who was fae-born, perhaps it shouldn’t have. I probed further and smiled to myself as I determined that it was mostly a protection against being elf-struck. I wasn’t quite sure how that would work against her Huntsman, but it struck me as being an appropriate protection nevertheless. I told them this, but kept quiet about the other thing I had detected; that it could be used to locate her. Given how skittish she is about the fae, and especially Janus, I figured that might spook her into taking it off. I told Maric the latter privately by a thought.

Outwardly, he seemed pleased with the amulet’s function and wondered if he could get one too, while privately agreeing with me that the locating aspect was an aspect best kept from her. Aoibheann, of course, said that he could have her amulet. Somewhat inexplicably, she offered it by hanging upside down by her knees from the top of the bed canopy, leaving her face and the amulet around his eye-level. I refrained from commenting, although inwardly, I was mildly amused, wondering how mortified she would be if she realised just how much of herself she was revealing, belly and legs. Strangely, it did not touch me, Aoibheann being like a sister to me, but I could sense that it moved Maric, although he tried not to show it. He seemed to regard her antics fondly and allowed a brief kiss before tempting her down from the canopy with the offer of chocolate mead.

Aoibheann protested that we hadn’t worked out how to make that yet. Maric agreed, but said that in the meanwhile, he had worked out a recipe with the cook to blend mead, cream and hot chocolate. I gave them a moment of privacy as he carried her from the bed to the couch and instructed the servants to bring said drinks.

We sat and talked a while of our immediate problem, of how to deal with that part of the Huntsman that dwelled within Aoibheann. Perhaps, we wondered, we could simply try to talk to him, reason with him maybe persuade him to leave her. The question then was who he would listen to. There were limited people who had previous experience: myself, Hadley, Aoibheann herself. We all knew him of old, before even we came to Ashmourne. Aoibheann also suggested the White Stag, as hosted by Daimon, but we had not seen him in some considerable time.

We reached no real conclusion and soon, perhaps influenced by the mead, Aoibheann began to nod off. Maric asked me if I would escort her to her chambers as he needed to talk with somebody – who turned out to be Dorina since she knocked on my door just as I was about to leave with Aoibheann. I don’t know what business she had with Maric, other than him helping her, as I had been doing, with controlling her more bestial half. I decided not to ask and took Aoibheann to her rooms. When I returned, Maric and Dorina had gone elsewhere, which was fine by me, as I felt the need for some sleep also. I took a few moments to rearrange the bed’s canopy, disarrayed somewhat by Aoibheann’s gymnastic antics, but after that, I remembered nothing.

 

Amulet

 

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The Faerie Gift

((catchup post – original RP 29 Oct 14))

I would have thought, by now, that I would have become used to dealing with the fae, and in particular, the traps and pitfalls regarding gifts and gratitude. And yes, I still slip up. And now, for my sins, I appear to have a fae servant. Or possibly Maric does. Or possibly even the village. It’s somewhat hard to tell at the moment.

Her name is Adiya. She presented herself at the gates, wishing to speak with Maric, but since he was unavailable, the guards brought her to me.  Her manner was strange, for a fae, which is saying something. She was deferential, almost subservient. She even knelt to deliver her greeting. She told me that her mistress, who was a minor noble of the Summer Court, had heard of the troubles plaguing our people and wished to offer a token so that my Lord might be open to discussing these issues with her mistress.

I tried to get her to take a seat, but she would not, responding as though she was not allowed to sit on furniture. I told her that I was authorised to speak on all matters on behalf of Lord Maric and asked her name and her mistress’ name. She could not say more unless the gift was accepted. I was curious, because, for all that I spend time with Gwyn; I haven’t really met many of her court. I was wary of the offer of a gift, knowing only too well the traps and pitfalls and obligations involved. I even said as such and phrased my answer in the conditional, noting that if the discussions requested were the full extent of the obligations then I felt sure that we could see our way to accepting the gift.

Unfortunately, the conditional was not conditional enough, and she took my periphrasis as acceptance. Her mistress would be delighted that we had accepted her gift, nevertheless, while she accepted I was authorised to speak on behalf of Maric, she could only speak with him. She then took a step back, knelt, and announced that she, Adiya, was the gift, and then just sat there, utterly subservient at my feet.

I swore; for some reason the Russian word for shit came to mind. Come to think of it, the only words I know in Russian are swear words, thanks to Dimitri, one of the deck hands on the Odiham Castle. Part of me wondered if this was some kind of prank, perpetrated by somebody who knew my aversion to subservience. I bade her stand up and asked her to divulge the name of her mistress, and if she could not speak directly of the business she wished with Maric, could she at least give me the nature of the business so that I might be able to properly brief and advise him.

She stood, albeit reluctantly and said that her mistress had not given her leave to speak her name to me, but she would if I so commanded. The matter that concerned her mistress was the darkness that had awakened and walked about the land, a darkness that even the Royals feared. She sought Lord Maric’s assistance to combat it. She seemed to think that my relationship with the Queen would have given me a special insight into these problems.

I don’t know about my relationship with Gwyn, but I knew of various problems, so I related what I knew of the shadow of the former summer king, the remnants of the winter king, the problems with the huntsmen and the problem with the stolen limb of Ardan. I asked if I had left anything out, but she laughed and said I seemed well apprised of the situation. She would not say further what her mistress’s concerns were until she had been given leave to do so as this was merely an introduction to open discussions.

We were interrupted by the arrival of my beloved Gwyneth, who had evidently charmed her way past the guards. Normally I would have remonstrated with her about that, but it had been such a long time since I had seen her that I didn’t really care. I kissed her and told her how much I had missed her and had feared the season was keeping her from me. She admitted that the season was making it harder for her to leave her bower, but she had needed to see me.

I introduced Adiya, who immediately became even more subservient, which I hadn’t thought possible, but then, she was in the presence of her queen. Gwyneth didn’t seem to know her, but, in true queenly fashion, didn’t let it show, greeting her warmly and, like me, tried to encourage her to get off her knees. This she did reluctantly, and was clearly keen to leave us alone. I wasn’t going to get anything more useful from her anyway, and had my own reasons for wanting to be alone with Gwyn, so I dismissed her. What passed after that is not for anybody’s eyes but my own.

 

Signed, sealed, delivered

The Accords are finally agreed. And, as soon as I make a fresh, final copy, they will be signed and sealed.  Something else was sealed too. Something that Gwyn once thought erroneously of me, when she first knew me, but now, is no longer erroneous. What began with confused feelings concerning a young economics student in London came to fruition in the arms of the Unseelie King. I am now a lover of men as well as women. Such a thing would have seemed unthinkable, illegal, even, in my old life, before I became what I am. Yet, for all that the society that I grew up in would have me think otherwise, I feel no shame in setting that thought down. If future generations ever read this diary, perhaps they will wonder that this is was even an issue. I know from what Gwyn has told me that such a thing is considered acceptable and normal in her time. So, I shall not worry about it in this time, whenever this is.

Maric contacted me though our link, as I was waking, and asked if I might set up a meeting with Their Majesties, Gwyneth and Janus, to discuss the accords and get them sorted out. I updated him quickly, on Aoibheann’s request to deliver a letter to Their Majesties, on the ‘curing’of Gwrgi, the bad dreams people had been having in the aftermath of Vedis’ passing and such like. He told me that he could sense the Huntsman on Aoibheann, somehow. Not the one who had visited us recently, but the old one, the one with the obsession about his little lost rabbit. He was hoping to persuade Aoibheann to go along with him to meet with Janus to see if there was anything that could be done about that. He was also concerned about the reappearance of Llwyd and the possible effect that might have on power in the faerie realms. This was why he wanted to get the accords sorted.

Some time later, I took myself to Ardan, where a demi-fae advised me that Janus would meet with us there. Gwyneth, it seems, is in repose for the winter season. That, I found distressing, but, I have to accept that this is a consequence of her nature, much as I miss her presence, and more. I advised Maric of this meeting and sat to wait. Maric told me that he had spoken with Aoibheann and that he could sense the presence of the Huntsman in her. He would be there shortly. He seemed worried that I was in over my head, being alone with the King, but I assured him I was not in fear. I was consort to the Queen, and he was lover to my lover, so I was no further in over my head than I ever was.

Janus appeared from the tree, greeting me formally, but with some familiarity, as he played with a lock of my hair. The heat and sensuality that surrounds him seemed stronger than ever, and almost distracted me from my formal reasons for being there.

I took a moment to regain my resolve and greeted him in turn, stating my business. I took the opportunity to apprise him of the suggested amendment that Maric had made, concerning the tribunal. Janus took offence at first, saying it was rude to start the discussions without the other party. I explained that the amendment had come up as a result of Maric reading the draft, and I would have told Their Majesties sooner, but, things had been somewhat busy of late. He stepped closer, saying that I tasted of the Wyld, of lust, of hunger, his face very close to mine. I explained about the incident with Gwrgi and Valene, and how I had found myself at the Heart of the Wyld, and how that had filled me. I tasted of blood, and Wyld, Almost fae, but not quite. I was more akin to him than Valene, he said, yet the Queen of the Cait had claimed me. She would just have to share; he told me, before pulling me closer still, and kissing me, hard, but swiftly. Once again, felt the pull of him, the power, the desire, his as well as my own. I did not resist him. I told him that this had always been the case. Valene knew this, Gwyneth knew it and I knew it. All knew that we would have to share.

He stepped back a pace and turned, formal once more, as he greeted Maric, who had just arrived. He had clearly seen the kiss, but made no mention of it, choosing instead to greet the King formally, as I would have expected of him. After suitable greetings and compliments, he got on with business and asked if the terms of the Accords were acceptable.

Janus looked at me again; his intent clear in his eyes, then dragged his attention away to Maric. He spoke of one who had been causing trouble, running around, meddling, almost killing several of his people, and coercing a creature that would likely eat him. That aside, he stated that the Accords seemed fair to him and his Queen. He could not swear that all the fae courts would follow the agreements, since they could stubborn, but he would do his best to keep them in check, if we would do the same with ours.

I suspected that he spoke of Horace. I said that I regretted Horace’s actions as much as anybody, and said that I had given orders that he be detained, should be venture again into the town. I said that I suspected his actions were occasioned by his feeling of loss regarding the late queen, which I said might explain, if not excuse, his actions. Maric agreed, though he did state that Horace was not formally attached to Mysthaven, since he claimed to serve Faermorn now.

The mention of Faermorn got a strong reaction from Janus, an understandable one, given their previous situation. Leaves fell from the trees and burst into flame, and the hovering demi fae disappeared with frightened squeaks.  Faermorn was worthy of grief, he said, but she would not have wanted, nor approved of, Horace’s actions.

Maric pressed the point regarding the Accords, wanting that matter resolved so that we then had a basis for dealing with any transgressions. He also raised the matter of Aoibheann, fearing that what afflicted her was fae in nature, and thus wished Janus’ better knowledge on such things. Before he did so, he wished to know that the courts bore no ill will towards her. Janus said there was none such. The Huntsman had not taken Aoibheann, for she had broken no oaths, and other matters he was prepared to let lie. We spoke a little of Llwyd, and the new Huntsman, and I speculated if that was what was happening to Aoibheann. That it was Llwyd bothering her. Maric was not so sure. He very much feared that the old Huntsman had found a new host in her. He left us then, saying he would return with Aoibheann when she felt able to visit. I could tell that he was having difficulty controlling his urges, his desires for the fae energies, so it was best he went. Janus sent an escort party of demi-fae to see him safely home.

I spoke more with Janus, saying I would make a final version of the Accords for signing and sealing. I asked if there were other courts that might want to be party to them, other than the Cait. He said that there were only the demi-fae, the goblins and the sluagh, all of whom were much diminished and had merged themselves into the Unseelie Court, thus, his agreement spoke for all.

With Maric gone, and the demi-fae busy elsewhere, Janus had no more time for business and neither did I. There was no more denial and it was time to acknowledge and act upon the things we both felt. If it was real desire, or just the skin-hunger, I could not tell, nor did I care.  All that mattered was my hand on him, and his hands on mine, his lips and mine, and more besides. Nothing else mattered.

Signed, sealed, delivered

Wolf with the Red Roses

Home is where the heart is, so the proverb tells us. And it would seem, therefore, that Aoibheann’s heart lives in a tree, specifically, Ardan. Of course, that is no surprise, but it is the first time that she has explicitly said so.

I had been doing my usual rounds of the village when I ran into Dorina by her hut. She was complaining about her variable luck with growing her herbs. I didn’t have much help to offer, but I mentioned such things as I remembered learning from Mother. Helene turned up then, so I suggested they talk, although Helene protested that she was better at finding wild herbs than she was growing them. Curiously, the conversation took place partly in French. Well, curiously for Dorina anyway, for I had not known that she spoke the language. Helene and I, on the other hand, have conversed many times in that tongue.

Before we could get very far on the matter of growing herbs, I felt a disturbance in the roses about the same time as I heard the guards calling to one another from the direction of the entrance. Within moments, one of them came up and reported that a large cŵn was approaching the village in a hostile manner, and that it was possibly the one that Aoibheann had asked us not to attack. I sent him to fetch Kustav or Davor. I also asked him to send for Aoibheann. I wasn’t entirely sure why. Possibly, I hoped that maybe she could explain what we were supposed to do with a ravening cŵn if we weren’t supposed to hurt it.

I headed over towards the village entrance, drawing my sword, just in case. I was vaguely aware that Helene and Dorina had decided to follow me, and as I glanced back, Dorina had armed herself with a rock, and Helene had grabbed a stout broom. I could only hope that they had the sense to stay well back if things got ugly.

Davor caught up with me as we got towards the edge of the village, drawing his own sword once he saw I had mine to hand. I briefly explained that Aoibheann’s favourite cŵn was possibly approaching. It then occurred that while he and the cŵn were different creatures, there might be some commonality, enough maybe that they could communicate. He grudgingly agreed it was possible, though it hadn’t helped when they attacked the hill before. The beast’s roars had clearly disturbed Maric, as his thoughts came to me through our mental link, asking what was wrong. I updated him and he said he would come down too.

The beast appeared, slavering and howling, standing upright, and from its stance, ready for a fight. I felt Davor shift into the wolf-man shape, which approximated closely to the form the cŵn had taken. The rest of the guards and I formed a half-circle, swords ready, but held down, non-threatening. The beast howled at us, and then looked at the sheep that were nervously clustered nearby. I was wondering if we should risk defending the sheep, or maybe let it have one in the hope that would satisfy it, when Aoibheann came charging in out of nowhere, screaming “No!” Whether that was meant for us to stop us attacking the beast, or if she hoped to dissuade him from our sheep, I didn’t know. Davor also issued some sort of challenge; at least, I assumed that was the intention of his howl at the beast.

It seemed nonplussed by Aoibheann charging at him, and swung its arm, not to strike, but to grab, scooping her up and tucking her under said arm, holding her almost possessively. It then reacted to Davor’s challenge with a roar of his own that fair rattled our eardrums. Davor answered him in growls, possibly warning him to not harm her, but the beast’s stance seemed more protective than aggressive, at least to her. I warned the lads to keep their swords down and addressed Aoibheann, who seemed to be trying to growl at it herself. I asked if this was her friend, and if she was in any danger. She had asked us not to harm the cŵn, I said, but if he tried anything, we might not have a choice. She didn’t answer, save by trying to roar at us. The cŵn, however, did answer, surprising us all by speaking English in a somewhat cultured voice. “She is mine,” he said, “not yours. I will keep her safe.”

Davor had started to growl something, but switched to English, telling the cŵn that Aoibheann was already safe with us here. For some reason, this earned him a whack on the back from Helene’s broomstick and a command to hush. Perhaps she thought he was being too aggressive. I quickly advised Maric that the beast spoke English before following up Davor’s comment, insisting that Aoibheann belonged to nobody but herself, and as Davor had said, she was already safe, as she had all of us to protect her. I also asked her what she wanted; pointing out that Maric was concerned for her. What she wanted I didn’t get to hear because she just shouted at me for not listening and not, despite my expressed preference, wanting to solve things with words rather than swords. I would have pointed out that my first duty was to the village and therefore, having my sword ready when a ravening beast comes charging up the path was a perfectly reasonable response, but somehow I don’t think she would have listened.

Davor, meanwhile, reacted to Helene’s attack with a swift wag of his tail, which knocked her off her feet. I am sure he meant no harm, but it earned him what sounded like a reproof from Maric, who had just turned up. Maric then responded to the beast as I had, saying that Aoibheann was perfectly safe here and asking if they could talk about it. The beast settled down a bit, so I motioned the guards to stand down somewhat. Maric said that this was Aoibheann’s home, so why would he want to take her away from it?

I stepped back, letting Maric take charge of the situation. I noticed that Davor apologised to Helene, after shifting back to human shape, and even offered to buy her a drink when they were both less stressed. That seemed to nonplus her and she grudgingly agreed that maybe he could, after this problem was dealt with.

The beast, meanwhile, was telling Maric that the Little Rabbit was his home, that the forest was his home and they should be at home in the forest. He then asked Aoibheann, where was his home, where was her home?

What her answer was, I did not hear directly, for Maric asked me to take the others away, and have the servants prepare a room for our guest, should he choose to stay. I later learned that the question was asked of her again, by both of them, where was her home? Her answer? Ardan. I guess we should not be surprised. This was probably not the answer that either the cŵn or Maric expected, but it makes sense to me.

Thinking about it later on, it occurred to me that the cŵn might be the one that Valene had been trying to rescue, what was his name, Gwrgi. He had been an elf, if I recall correctly, before being captured by the Huntsman and turned into a cŵn. Something else occurs to me, something that I feel I should be concerned about, but I have no idea what to do about it. The cŵn said that the Little Rabbit was his home. This was a curious echo of the Huntsman’s last statement, his last wish; that Aoibheann was to be his home. Could this be because the cŵn was once part of the Huntsman’s pack and therefore, the Huntsman’s home was his home? Or was he heir to the role of the Huntsman? Could it be that with the Huntsman gone, that function devolves to his cŵn? So many questions, and I do not know how to ask them, much less answer them.

 Wolf with the Red Roses

 

Going Home

Time passes when there is much to do. Sometimes, it passes so quickly, I have barely enough time for my journal. Such as has been the last couple of weeks. Their Majesties, perhaps assisted by the roses, worked their magic, and we are gone from the Shadow Roads, and safely ensconced in one corner of the Summerlands, not too far from Ardan, but not too close either. I barely had time to warn Maric so that he could gather the villagers to safety in the cellars while the move took place.

The move was not without its problems. Maric’s laboratory was too firmly anchored to the hell-gate, and so part of the vaults did not make the move at the time. We lost Maric to the hell realms for a while as a result of this. Some time was spent in the Hell realms and much occurred there with Vedis and others. At least he managed to feed, possibly by drinking Vedis’ ‘bathwater’. I am not yet entirely clear what passed down there.

Aoibheann was lost for a while too. Apparently, the shade of Padishar decided she should spend time in the vaults too. Maric could not reach her through the link, especially while he was unconscious in the hell realms. I had to learn some location magic, using my blood and some of her hair from a hairbrush. Initially, I tried making a compass, but that was too coarse a tool, so then I tried making a scrying bowl, which directed me to the vaults.

All was resolved eventually, although the entrance to the vaults is now outside, through a secret door in the side of the castle by the orchards.

Oh yes, the orchards. Their Majesties, the roses, or the powers that control magic, whatever, seem to have a sense of humour, as the village is somewhat changed during the move. We now have an orchard behind the castle.

We made some more changes ourselves, now that we have room. Never have I felt more like my father than during the last few weeks. He would be so proud, and probably not a little amazed. I drew up plans and drawings, marshalled the guards and the villagers, and we built. Boy, did we build. More cottages for the villagers, a bigger tavern with plenty of rooms for guests, the town hall, a practice area for the guards, proper workshops for the smith and other artisans. We have room for pigs and sheep and chickens and gardens. One could scarce recognise the village now, but it is good. Even the Islanders seem to have settled in.

There have been less pleasant things. At Maric’s request, I took those that had passed away from the cold store and with Royce’s assistance, took them to the Shadow Roads and left them for Nemaine. Perhaps that will close matters between us. I said a farewell to them in my own way and left a note for Nemaine, to remind her, even if she doesn’t care, that these were people, with names, with families and friends. Perhaps it will mean something to her, but I doubt it. It meant something to me. These were my colleagues, brothers in arms and friends. They deserved better than to be a last meal. My hope is, wherever they are, they can take some satisfaction that this last sacrifice was of benefit to their lord, and the people they had sworn to protect.

There is still much to do, and I have yet to draw up a draft agreement between us and the fae as to expectations of behaviour and such like. Perhaps having such an agreement will ease Aoibheann’s fears concerning the fae, and their fears concerning us. I do not know how much power a piece of paper will have, but given the fae’s feelings about oath-breaking, perhaps it will have some sway.

For now, I can relax somewhat, trusting, for now, that we are free from Nemaine and her demands, and be happy that the villagers have space to live, thrive and survive. Pending the accords between us and the fae, I have instructed my deputy stewards to brief the villagers regarding relations with the fae, and asked that only those who were previously registered foragers should go beyond the perimeter of the village. It is still summer, so the darker fae are less active, but I would rather play safe than be sorry.

 Going Home

Good Year for the Roses

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

A Ghost Returns

A Ghost Returns

As if things were not bad enough, with the spirit of Vedis occupying the walls of the laboratory, we now have another visitor – the ghost of the one known as Padishar – vampire, demon, and now, apparently, a ghost. Nothing is ever simple in this land.

I had been down in the vaults, dealing with Dorina. The guards had summoned me after she had apparently been muttering about blood and asking about her dagger. This was the one she had been holding when Vasily and Mirko arrested her, which they had brought to me for safe-keeping. I went down to see how she was and to assure her that the dagger was quite safe. I had things to discuss with her, but we were interrupted by the arrival of Aoibheann with one of the other guards, Vasily, claiming she was lost. Some day, I shall have to work out how she is getting past the candle sconce. She can’t be borrowing Kustav every time she gets down here. Vasily had found her in the corridors and brought her to me to see what she wanted. She promptly demonstrated her ability to jump to entirely the wrong conclusion from a standing start, wailing that I couldn’t lock somebody up just for getting lost.

It took me a moment to work out what she meant. Admittedly, I was standing by a cell, and I did have somebody locked in it, but even with my long experience of Aoibheann logic, it took a moment to see things from her point of view. I assured her that this was not going to happen; else I would be having to lock myself up a lot of the time, and asked what she wanted.

She stuck with her being lost story, claiming she wanted to see Maric. When she asked about Dorina, I told here that Dorina was in custody for her own safety. Her response left me baffled, even for Aoibheann – asking if Jesus wanted to kill all the vampires. I have no idea where she got that from. I don’t know of anybody in the village who is particularly religious, or would have filled her head with such ideas.

I didn’t get a chance to follow the question up because Dorina had started to ask me something, but before I could answer, her eyes started to change, and her hair started to go white. I could see she was struggling with the beast, and that the beast was winning. I called up my powers and tried to reach the Dorina side of her nature, to command her to stay with us. I partly got her attention, but the other side was still winning, and she started talking in Gaelic, Irish presumably. I did try to persuade Aoibheann to leave us, but she would not. Apparently, it seems that there is enough similarity between the Irish and the Scots for them to understand each other, because Aoibheann started talking back to her. What she was saying, I didn’t know, but it was getting Dorina’s attention.

Maric turned up at this point, making brief greeting to us before turning attention to Dorina, greeting her in her own tongue and asking if she had some other name. I knew this because he was translating for me on the fly, rather than me suddenly developing a knack for languages

Aoibheann started speaking as well, but the only bit I understood was something about her being Scottish, at least, I think that was what Albannach meant. Dorina, meanwhile, reacted to Maric, but seemed confused, calling him Lorcan and asking how he could have forgotten, before sinking into a helpless silence. Her eyes and hair were almost completely gone to the beast, but she was still trying, tears being forced out. I silently advised Maric about Lorcan being Dorina’s father and how he used to help her control the beast. He thanked me for that and asked for my suggestions as to how to help control her. I said that I had previously offered my blood, and that since she seemed to trust me, she might still accept my offer.

He agreed that this was probably the best option, so I asked if he could translate for me, thinking the words at him, and him telling me how to say that in old Irish. Just then, there was a feeling of disturbance in the castle sense. Maric seemed to be receiving a message from somewhere, since he bade us hurry and be on our guard because a dark ghost had entered the castle.

He continued to translate for me, as I spoke to Dorina. I was most likely mangling the pronunciation horribly, but she seemed to understand. Meanwhile, I was aware of the guards forming up, preparing to deal with this new problem, no doubt under Maric’s direction. I spoke to Dorina gently, reminding her who I was, and offering to let her feed, in order to help control her beast. She seemed to understand, as she withdrew her attention from Maric and took my offered wrist, saying, from what Maric translated for me, that she would feed. She bit, quite hard, but fortunately, I was ready to harden my skin if necessary. She drank, long and deep, and I could feel the hunger of her beast, and while I could not yet touch her mind, I could at least feel the rational side, that which I knew as Dorina, returning, slowly. She opened her eyes, looked at what she was doing and looked shocked, asking, with expletives, what she had done.

Maric told her that she had been weakened by her condition and that how I had helped her recover, saying that we would still look for a longer-term solution. He was clearly distracted, presumably by some other mental conversation he was having with those of the guards who were dealing with the ghost. I told Dorina that the beast had gained control and that I had sated it, for now, by letting it feed from me. I explained that my blood may possibly help her with the control, but we would have to work together on it later. At Aoibheann’s prompting, I lent her a hanky to clean up her face and sent Tihomir, the guard who had been on duty when it all started, to take her to one of the cottages and make sure she had everything she needed to get cleaned up etc.

Meanwhile, Maric had warned Aoibheann to be on her guard, because of the ghost. He said that it was supposedly a minion of Vedis’ and was probably safe, but to be wary just in case. When I enquired mentally, he told me that it was apparently somebody called Padishar. That did surprise me, and so I quickly told him what I knew of that worthy, both what I knew from personal experience and what I had learned from the story Valene told Aoibheann and I that evening some while ago. He seemed pleased with that information, thinking it may well help him in any dealings he had with said ghost. He bade me keep Aoibheann and Dorina safe while he went to speak to Padishar and left us. Aoibheann was a little reluctant to go at first, claiming that Maric had said it was probably safe, but I pointed out that it was a minion of Vedis, so maybe we didn’t want to be around, just in case. That much, she was happy to agree with, and so we left for the more comfortable parts of the castle.

Dorina went off to the cottage she had been using to clean up. I advised the guards to keep an eye on her just in case. Aoibheann disappeared off to do her own thing, and I busied myself in the library. I have a dhampyr to care for, and I have no idea how.

A Ghost Returns