HitS 1760402 Wherever You Will Go

Perhaps I should have stayed. I had not been back in Mysthaven long, scarcely enough time to change into more appropriate clothing and make a start on my paperwork when word came via a wisp that Gwyn had returned from her shopping, or wherever she had been. This time, I thought I had better make sure, in case she was planning on disappearing again, and called her via the mirror.

She did not appear overly delighted to see me, but then, perhaps I caught her at a bad time, which, given the circumstances was quite likely. Nevertheless, she agreed that we should talk and I told her that I would be right over. I changed back into some modern clothes and, since she was expecting me, decided to realm-hop there to save time.

I did not know quite what sort of mood to expect, given she had been a little short in our brief exchange via the mirror, but I figured that a loving hug was probably the best greeting. She accepted that readily enough and rested her head against my chest before saying that she guessed I had heard the news.

I averred that I possibly had, but that it rather depended on what news, and that whatever it was, I probably had more.

“There’s always more,” she said, drily. The news she assumed that I knew was that she had vacated the throne. Or, as she put it, that she wouldn’t be back handling that drama clusterfuck any time soon, or indeed, ever. She detached herself from my embrace and began pacing. For all the difference she had made in the Wylds, she might just as well stop fucking about with all the lords and ladies and get on with enjoying her life. I was free to divorce her and carry on ruling Mysthaven and dealing with the Gwynns, she told me.

I laughed and told her I wasn’t planning on divorcing her any time soon and joked that it would be tricky to find any lawyer qualified to handle the case even if I did. I told her that I had heard of her stepping down – how I had felt the disturbance in the Wyld and after getting a rather confused report from a wisp, had gotten a better one from Dyisi. I would have come sooner to talk with her about it, but said I had been somewhat distracted saving Bronwyn.

We summoned Bran, distracting him again; it seemed, from his gadget. A Nintendo, Gwyn called it. He brought us some wine and then returned to whatever it was he had been doing. Bronwyn seemed to need a lot of saving; she commented and wondered if she had others to do that for her now.

I took a glass of the wine and leaned against the table. I told her about the battle with the Sithen Rose and the Thornwyrms and the end of Desirie. I then spoke of Bronwyn and how Faermorn’s spirit had been occupying her. Gwyn said she had noticed, but didn’t really want to look into it in great detail, which probably made her a bad mother. I went on to explain how I had spoken with Faermorn and how we had conceived the plan to rid ourselves of Gwythyr forever. I told how Dyisi had tempted Gwythyr, in Llwyd’s body, to the Shadowroads, where he would be at his weakest. I told her how Dyisi had attacked with her soul-gathering sword and I had attacked with my blood magic and how Faermorn’s spirit had left Bronwyn, drawn Gwythyr’s spirit out of Llwyd, and joined with him in passing on to wherever. I also told her how, right at the last; Vedis had claimed what was left – Llwyd, for whatever imprisonment she had planned for him. Gwythyr and Faermorn were gone, and Bronwyn was safe at last.

Gwyn seemed sceptical and then said that while she acknowledged what I had done in defeating the foes back there, she no longer cared. She was sick of being the focus of drama and conflict, which is why she had dumped her duties onto Mornoth. She had found a place here, she said, where there was at least, the semblance of peace. I was welcome to stay with her, and she very much wanted me to do so, but, she would not stop me going back to the Wylds and doing whatever was needed there. She would come back if I needed somebody to dance with, but she would not otherwise get involved. She looked at me and apologised for sounding so combative.

I told her again that I was not disappointed. She was the person I loved, throne or no throne. I invoked the Bard’s words – uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – and I did not blame her for laying down hers. Now that Bronwyn was safe, and I emphasised that I was certain it was truly over, I was trying to work out how I could lay down mine, how I could fulfil my promise to Maric and still leave Mysthaven behind me. She acknowledged that this, at least was something to celebrate. I went on to tell her how Bronwyn had slept like a log after the battle, but, on waking, had felt that Mornoth needed her and she had gone to him. And she was probably just what the Wylds, and Mornoth needed. Our daughter had a fine heritage behind her and I was sure she would do well.

Gwyn shrugged, perhaps agreeing and then gestured at the table, asking if I was expecting dinner. I told her I had found it laid for a feast when I arrived and had not been able to extract an explanation from Bran. I certainly hadn’t invited anybody and very few people knew I was here. Even if they did, only Bronwyn and Wren would be able to reach me. And Valene, should she want to.

Gwyn, for her part, said that maybe Dyisi might want to have words. Apparently, Clutie was blaming her for the abdication. Since we were on the subject of family, she told me she had written to her mother. I assumed she meant Sia, her biological mother. I told her I had no problem with that. We needed all the family we could get. I had none any more from my earthly life, save that it was possible that I had descendents out there in the 21st century, and I could hardly go seeking them out.

I took her by the hands again and told her I didn’t care about castles or thrones or crowns or lordships, only her and our family, biological and chosen. Wherever she went, that is where I would go. If that meant living here and commuting to Mysthaven until such time as I could pass on the Lordship to somebody more fitting, then that’s what I would do.  And, maybe, some day, we would be able to live a life where we could get up in the morning knowing that the biggest decisions we’d have to deal with would be what to wear.

We did make one decision then. That nobody else was turning up for dinner so we might as well eat, and so we did, and, for the first time in a long while, spent an evening, and night, together as husband and wife. No titles, no headgear, just Nate and Gwyn together. May there be many more such evenings.

Wherever You Will Go

 

 

 

 

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O Captain, My Captain

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

There is a scar around my wrist; a thin line, almost like a seam, as if my hand had once been severed from my wrist, and this is indeed what happened. It was done my by friend, Catt, who I loved dearly, so many years ago in London. She, like me, had been kindred, but became fae – in her case by means of a great rite performed by Artur and Katia, who held the Unseelie Throne there. She became Captain of the Ravens for Katia and wished to recruit me to the ranks of the Ravens, to help protect her queen. A blood vow was required, but when Catt went to cut my palm, she slipped and almost completely severed my hand. Fortunately, Katia was able to heal me, save for that small thin scar.

I think of Catt often when I look at the scar. Even all these years later, I still miss her. And when I think of her, I think of Whitman’s poem – O Captain, my Captain – because that was how I would jokingly address her.  It had no more significance than that. I was not mourning her death, though I do mourn her absence. So far as I know, she lives still, in some far, unknown place. I am sure I would know if something had happened, as my scar tingles occasionally, as it did not long before I left London, when I was briefly able to meet and embrace her through a short-lived portal. Ice-cold she was, like my beloved Valene, but still alive. Perhaps, some day, I shall see her again.

Now, this poem comes to mind again, in fuller meaning. For, like Whitman, I mourn for a leader I have lost.

Equinox came, in a quiet fanfare of blossom, warmer winds and birdsong. We gathered, as ever, at the base of Ardan, there to enact and witness the turning of the seasons and the handing of the throne from the Winter King to the Summer Queen. Both courts were there, along with Helene, Dyisi and Aoibheann. I was among the last to arrive. As I had hoped and expected, this was the occasion for the return of my life and my love, Gwyneth. I gave her formal greeting, both as Steward of Mysthaven and her Consort, with the deference due a Queen, and then a more personal greeting as a husband would to a wife he had not seen in many months. She returned that kiss equally, whispering that there were many tales she had to tell. As I had for her, I replied, unable to suppress a brief flicker of pain at the memory of some of those tales.

Further greetings were made. Aoibheann somewhat bizarrely suggested that Maric should dance with Dyisi, since the Queen was pre-occupied. I said we had a right to be, having been separated for so long, but, yes, there were duties to be done. Personal matters could wait. I unwrapped Gwyn from my arms and offered her hand to the Winter King. “Majesties, please, let the wheel turn.”

He bestowed a fond kiss on Aoibheann, suggesting she should dance for the trees, for Ardan and Awnye, and a bestowed another on Dyisi before stepping forward to take Gwyneth’s hand.

“All I have ever done, all I have ever risked, was for love,” he said. “And for duty. I have defied the very Gods, of the natural order itself, to become what I am. Something never meant to be. All so that I could follow my heart where it led… and to atone for my failings. To protect enough lives that perhaps it would balance out the ones I have taken so copiously, so recklessly. And the ones I failed to protect. All to love and to be loved once more…Though in truth I deserve neither. It was all a gamble, a wayward dream, a grasp for redemption. A new life to erase the old, striving to the light that I can never truly hold.” He drew Gwyn towards him before continuing. “But I realize now, I will not succeed. The heart knows the irony…that your kiss at the Equinox brought my doom. The Land, the Gods, call to me too strongly for me to escape their pull for much longer. Once my power is given, I will fall.” He paused, looking deep into her eyes. “I know this will take the burden of my presence from you. But I must lay another upon you in its place. You are so young yet to be Queen. But your time to truly shine has come, perhaps too soon. I wish for you to be the most powerful dazzling Queen you can be when Spring awakens. I wish for you to rule all of Summerlands, completely and fearlessly. I wish you to compel even those who hate you to kneel to you in the name of peace for all time to come. These things I wish for you, my Summer Queen, once my power is yours….Welcome Spring, and Winter be no more, for this season, with this kiss.”

Dyisi stood back, wrapping her arms around herself, and I could tell she was holding herself in check, knowing this change was inevitable, and yet, for all her control, she pulsed with contained emotions. Aoibheann was less contained, crying out in anger and pain, asking what she should wish for, that the gods would deny her. Her voice cracked and she just about managed to say “so be it,” before falling silent.

Gwyneth took his hands, and told him that he had fully deserved all the love and power he had been given, and all the power he had taken, for duty’s sake. I stepped back, for this final act was between them, saying only that I did not regard this as adieu, so much as au revoir, assuring him that we would stand and protect this realm.

They drew together, embraced and made the kiss that would seal the compact, mark the changing of the season, and so much, much more. The power of the Wyld broke upon us like a sudden flood, flowing into the Summer Queen and the land, shaking it and changing it, surrounding it, and us. Through that power, and the closeness of the bonds that we all had, we all felt the momentous nature of what was becoming, what this change meant to Maric, the Winter King.

To join the Gods was to Love them.

To know Love like this was to let go of the hearth warm comfort of normal love. This was an emotion that destroyed all barriers, shattered all safety, swept away all thoughts of basic existence entirely.

To know such Love was to know utter terror, seamless bliss, mindless fear, blinding joy, all facets of the same irresistible convergence beyond the bounds of mere corporeal forms.

To be broken open upon the anvil of Creation, to gladly scream one’s life away in a raging explosion of stardust, reseeding the universe with new life.

 To embrace the Gods was to face annihilation.

 And to enjoy every exhilarating terrifying agonizing orgasmic second of it.

 Before being remade into the purest expression of one’s dying irrational passionate heart….

His form shredded and blew away, becoming one with the wind and the leaves, as insubstantial as the mist dispersed by the morning sun, until there was nothing left but the wind and the rain.

Lord Maric of Mysthaven, Huntsman and Winter King, my mentor and friend, was no more.

Around me, I could feel the others responding. Dyisi throbbed and glowed with her barely contained emotions, speaking some farewell or bless in her native tongue that I had not the wits to translate. Helene collapsed to her knees with a heartfelt sigh. Aoibheann cried out in a voice heavy with tear that she would “fucking dance” and vanished, gone no doubt to a place where she could mourn. Only Gwyneth stood proud and alone. Whatever her feelings, she had to complete the rite. She spoke the words to welcome the Spring, as bluebells sprouted where she stood, and the very air wept a fine mist of rain.

“Farewell, my friend,” I said, and bowing my head, recited the words that I had spoken at my mother’s funeral, and over the graves of the Cait, so long ago when Valene first took me there. The words of Christina Rosetti:

“Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.”

There seemed little left to say or do. Each of us, I thought, would need to celebrate or mourn in our own way. I took Gwyneth’s hand and said as such, and she agreed. Together, we took our own way to her bower, there to renew our love and mark the changes of the season on our own way.

Around us, the power of that passing echoed throughout the very fabric of the land, changing and shaping it in ways we could not begin to imagine. Maric, my master, my mentor, my friend, was gone and a new era was begun.

 

 

Things I Remember

Much has occurred since I last laid pen to paper in my journal. Perhaps some day, I can write of those things in more detail, from memory and hastily scribbled notes. Such as I write here, are just the highlights, if such a word is applicable to some less than pleasant turns of events. No doubt I shall remember others once I have finished this entry. Others, I will perhaps leave to others to remember.

Another realm collided with ours, leading to battles with witches and others. This in turn stirred up the goblins and demi-fae, leading to a battle in which I had to take up my sword, and my magical abilities to defeat the foes. Blood magic is surprisingly effective against a cloud of demi-fae, as, it seems, was a threat to make kebabs out of any of them I caught trespassing in the future against those I consider mine. The queen of the demi-fae, responsible for so much of the tragedy was spared, only for the sake of the child she carried. At least, until the child she carried was born.

Maric, by virtue of his merging with the Huntsman seized the Unseelie Throne. This was not well received in the Unseelie Court, but none could make a better claim, and none dared stand against him. It fell to me to write the proclamation, which was duly signed by the senior members of the court. Having established his position, Maric made his relationship with Aoibheann official, and again, it fell to me to write the official proclamation.

This, in turn, led me to examine my relationship with Gwyn. While I had thought that we were happy in our relationship, an “open relationship” as I understand the modern terminology, it became clear that Gwyn wanted more, and, upon reflection, so did I.  At first I was reluctant, given that my official status of Consort was contentious enough among the Seelie Court, and I did not want to fan the political fires more by formalising that further with marriage.  For all that I still regard myself as a humble accountant, I am more than that, a representative of a sovereign power, and she is Queen of the Seelie. Among such people, marriage is much more than a declaration of love. After some debate, we decided to go ahead anyway. Selfish of us, perhaps, but something we both desired and longed for, and that, to us was worth more than the complaints that might come from the courts. The courts all attended, and the service was conducted by Valene, who returned briefly from her exile to bless us and join us. Our respective positions mean that we still have to maintain separate households, but, we spend as much time together as we can, and her chambers in the Seelie bower are as much home to me now as my chambers in the castle.

The long gestation of our children, in the care of Ardan, finally came to an end, and our children were born. Such is the strangeness of things in faerie; that they were born adult, at least, physically. In appearance, they could pass for 20 or so. Mentally, they could pass for young adults, but they have a lot to learn. In no particular order, they are – Eilian, an impetuous young man, Drysi, very much the rebellious teenager and then, Bronwyn.  The latter is the most enigmatic of all – as ethereal as moonlight on sparkling stream and the very image, in appearance and even in scent, of my beloved Faermorn. Perhaps, this is what Faermorn strived for at last. When last I joined with her in the Beyond of the Summerlands, that was what she desired most, to be once again, the woman she had been. That was what Horace had been striving to achieve for her, with his hunting for artefacts, and what I had sought to help with, in a much more personal way. And now, perhaps this is the result – reborn in the form of my own daughter. How strange life is – the woman who was one my mentor, and my lover, is now my daughter, and I must needs put aside what we were, and be the mentor and protector to her.

The infection of the castle continued until it was necessary to evacuate the staff and most of the villagers to a camp in the Seelie lands. That fragment of Gwythyr’s sword spread its influence until it was able to summon forth Gwythyr himself. At first, he was trapped in the castle vaults, but his influence spread, sending out his thorned creepers. He captured and tortured and killed several of our villagers and we were powerless to stop him. We contrived a plan, thinking that the scent of Bronwyn, so alike to his beloved late queen, could lure him out, away from the source of his power, and into the Shadow Roads, where we reasoned he would be at his weakest. Said plan was thrown into some disarray, when Aoibheann, impetuous girl that she is, confronted him herself. Foolish though this was, it achieved our desired aim, allowing Maric and I to follow him to the Shadow Roads. Maric engaged him while the Cait and I managed to drag Mika, who had gone with Aoibheann,  to safety through a portal I opened. Aoibheann was too tangled up in his thorns to get her clear. Then he noticed me and tried to attack through the blood bond he had created. He failed. But, that was enough. I gave vent to the anger that had been building up and attacked. I don’t know what quite I did, only that I combined my mastery of fire and the blood magic that Maric had taught me with the intention of boiling the blood in his brain. It is not my nature to strike in anger, much less to use magic when angry, but perhaps this time, it helped.  All I know is that I felt the power burning out of me and he fell, motionless, to the ground. And like a sticking plaster ripped off, the hold he had on me was gone. That cold spot inside was no more, like an ache or bruise that has been there so long, it has been forgotten. I took no chances. I opened a portal and called the demi-fae to take Aoibheann back to the Seelie bower and attend to her. Once she was safely away, I did the same to get Maric safely away into Kustav’s custody. Then, I took my sword and removed Gwythyr’s head and, with the aid of the Cait, opened a portal to that fiery place I had once known in the tunnels of London, and booted the head through. The rest, I left for Nemaine, though I somehow doubt even her depraved tastes could stomach that vile creature. Then I retired to Valene’s chambers, to comfort myself with at least her scent, if not her presence and wept for all those that Gwythyr had harmed.

Other things passed, and perhaps some day I shall write of them more. More recent things, I shall address in other entries. But for now, these are the things I remember.

The Collectors – Things I Remember

 

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.

 

Ducks on a Pond

I find myself worrying about Wren and Hadley again, or more particularly, the influence of Vedis and the things she may be telling them about magic.

I found them all by the duck-pond. They were there with Vedis, or at least, the temporary vessel for Vedis, feeding worms to the ducks. Galyanna was there too, stoically putting up with being used as a leaning post by Vedis. Gwyn made a brief appearance, sounding somewhat more sensible than last time I had seen her, but she had to go back to deal with fae stuff after a few minutes.

We spoke about feeding the ducks and I told them how the other kids used to take bread to the park to feed the ducks when I was young, but my mother had told me that it was bad for them. Wren agreed, especially if the bread was mouldy. I accepted a couple of worms from the tin Vedis was using and threw them to the younger duck. I joked about feeding the ducks so they might better feed us later, quickly adding, for the sake of the young ones, that I meant the eggs. Wren was not fooled though, suggesting that eating the ducks would be better. I said that both were possibilities, so long as we made sure we had enough eggs to make more ducks.

They seemed to have been talking about magic and the various ‘flavours’ of it, as Vedis put it. She was offering to work out what flavour Hadley used, but this seemed to involve tasting her blood, which I wasn’t sure was a good idea. I would be very wary of giving any of my blood to a demon. Much as I like and trust Vedis, for the most part, she is still a demon, and I do not fully understand, or even know, her motivations. Strange that I do not have such reservations with Galyanna, but then, her role, her function is much clearer and better defined, and in the sense of loyal protector/soldier, we are much alike.

We discussed magic, and the various “flavours” of it. I restated my opinion that they all had the same basic underlying principles. Wren asked about good magic and bad magic, so I opined that magic was just magic – it was what you used it for that made it good or bad. Vedis said that Galyanna had the power of corruption, which Wren thought sounded like a bad thing until I pointed out that Galyanna was a skilled healer, which could be thought of as using corruption in reverse. I explained what I had done when helping Hadley – I had reversed the technique I had learned for projecting energy. Vedis at least was agreed that it was what you did with magic, and also that learning to control it was the best thing, rather than trying to deny it. She offered to help, but did think that maybe Gwyn would be better, being more closely attuned to fae magic.

I reminded both Wren and Hadley that we were due to do some practice soon, making a mental note to have a word with them about the caution that should be exercised in dealing with demons.

It was getting towards dinner time, so I suggested that we retire to the castle and feed ourselves rather than staying to feed the ducks. We didn’t want them to get too lazy when it came to food.

By the time we got to dinner, conversation had turned to dinosaurs and whether or not all demons started out as angels. One snippet I did pick up was that Wren knew that Alec had once been John Dee, which is something else I should talk to her about some day. Helene came up too, wanting to deliver a note to Maric, so I invited her to join us for dinner. She mentioned that one of the guards had been bringing her flowers. I said that she had probably made an impression, with her broom and advised her to be patient. As I understood it, Davor had not had a relationship of late.

The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough over dinner until it was time for the younger ones to go to bed. I then retired to my room with the treatise on thaumaturgy, on the grounds that if it didn’t teach me anything, it might at least bore me to sleep.

Ducks on a Pond – Incredible String Band

 

Sailor Dance

I love Gwyn completely, but sometimes, I miss the precocious PhD with the potty mouth who called me a posh fuck. No more so than when she gets into full faerie queen mode combined with the, how can I put it, madness of the change of the seasons. Or, as she might have put it once, batshit crazy.

I was taking afternoon tea over a rather dull treatise on thaumaturgy when Maric contacted me through the mental link. Queen Gwyneth had come to visit and was asking questions of Wren and Hadley. He was rather hoping that we could get round to discussing some matters about the children, and the accords. I asked if I should come down, but he said he was trying to persuade her to come to the castle for discussions. I alerted the staff to prepare for visitors, get some wine and mead ready and such like, and waited. I was keen to get the various formalities sorted out, to work out a solution to the problem regarding the children, and, it had to be said, to spend some time with my love, for we had not had much of that of late.

I waited a while, but there was no sign of anybody appearing. I contacted Maric and he said that Gwyn was behaving a little strangely, and could I come out and see.

I got there to find Maric and the girls talking to Gwyn, with Orie standing nearby. The girls looked a little confused, as did Maric. He was being stoic and patient, but I could sense the underlying hunger for the Wyld surrounding Gwyn. He was telling her that the children were his responsibility and wished to know their majesties’ intent, if any, with regard to the children.

I walked up to Gwyn and, just as I had a few days ago with Valene, greeted her formally as Queen before greeting her as a lover, drawing her close enough for a kiss. She whispered something that I shall not repeat here in my ear and gave her attention to the others. She seemed, for want of a better word, a little manic. She chastised Orie for refusing the Faerie Queen’s assistance, saying not many people survived that, but fortunately, she was kind and benevolent.

As for Hadley, it was not her concern, unless we were going to give the child to the fae, at which point, she broke into song, singing about dull mortal parents being made of snakes and soot, or something like that. She giggled rather a lot and started singing to me, this time about us stealing a human babe, raising it as a sailor on my old merchant ship, which she seemed to think was the Cutty Sark, or possibly she meant the witch from the Burns’ poem, for she then sang that Tam O’Shanter never had a chance.

Before I could formulate a response to all that nonsense, albeit beautifully sung nonsense, she grabbed me and kissed me and told me that lips were very nice. I was somewhat bemused by all this eccentric behaviour. I had experienced her somewhat giddy ways when in Faerie before, but this was some stage on from that. Orie meanwhile muttered that he had turned her down, but that Faermorn had brought him back. He then called his horse, mounted it and made to leave.

I summoned up my own Wyld, forming it into calm solidity, a rock, an anchor, hoping I could project some of that calm into her, call her rational side, and willed it into the kiss I gave her. I agreed that lips were indeed wonderful things. As for the children, they had a life here and we had no need to steal any because we would soon have babes of our own to raise, and if any of those wanted to be a sailor, why then I would teach them.

I could sense Maric nearby, projecting his own style of calm and control. He picked what he could from Gwyn’s speech, happy that she had no designs on the child and assured her that she would be well raised here in Mysthaven. That was about all that was sensible in the speech, at least for him.

Orie got up on his horse and Gwyn made some snide remarks about only a Goddess being good enough for him, warning that they could be even more capricious than Queens, adding an even snider comment about Faermorn not getting any in the Summerlands. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, hurriedly squelching any thoughts of my last encounter with Faermorn. Gwyn then fixed Hadley with a gaze and asked her who her parents were.

Hadley looked pale, pinned by Gwyn’s gaze, but gave what was possibly the best possible answer. None, she said, that knew she was alive. I later learned that Wren had given the same answer.

That seemed to satisfy Gwyn, but she switched back into manic mode again. Somewhere in among the laughing and giggles, she assured Maric that she would never spirit a child away from his safe-keeping, or keep one running away of her own free will. There was also something about it being fun to be whimsical, especially when there was nothing special to do. It was either that, or play tricks upon the mortals or dance around in perfect beauty. Behold the turning of the year, she said, bursting into giggles and saying that she hoped she would manage it more gracefully next year. There were more giggles, some incomprehensible stuff about the Huntsman and her having a PhD in literature. Aoibheann turned up, looking a little confused by it all, but Gwyn told her not to worry, and that she had fixed things.

I felt it was possibly best if I persuaded her to go back to Faerie, and perhaps come another day when she was more rational, and said as much silently to Maric. I seized upon her comment about fun and dancing. I took her by the hand and the waist and started to waltz. There were plenty of fun things to do, I told her, including many that were best enjoyed in private. Perhaps, I suggested, we could dance away to her boudoir.

That was a dance she would never tire of, she said. She apologised to Maric and said that maybe she would make more sense another day, but for now, she had a date with a sailor. With that, she flew into the air, calling back to me, “don’t make me carry you.” I made my apologies quickly and hurried off down the path until I was out of sight before taking to the air myself, deciding to forgo the bat form in this case. As I flew, Maric told me that Janus had arrived and he would be speaking on these matters with him, hopefully in a more rational manner. I reminded him of the various suggestions I had if the matter of punishment for Aoibheann arose and said we would talk again in the morning.

I caught up with Gwyn quickly enough, and we were soon safely in her private residence. And there we did dance and other things I shall not write of here.

I await Janus’ intentions, if any, with regard to the children, but I have less concern for those as he has no conflict. I rest a little easier that Gwyn has found a way to ease her conscience with regard to the children, and perhaps now, she can look upon them without feeling any conflict.

 Sailor – Dancing

 

The Wild Hunt Again

I suppose it would be a bit much to expect a celebration here to go off without a hitch, or attracting unexpected visitors. There are always going to be problems, but sometimes, it seems history insists on repeating itself. Old problems present themselves again. Or perhaps they are new ones. It’s getting hard to tell.

The Huntsman is back. Or, perhaps I should say, A Huntsman. This is a question that has yet to be resolved. On the plus side, his arrival did at least distract us from the other old/new problem; Aoibheann’s fabled cooking skills when it comes to tarts.

It started out as a pleasant afternoon of socialising. Not many of the villagers came forward for the match-making, but I was sure that there would be some pairing up later. Aoibheann had been running around like mad, no doubt driving the servants crazy, but, by the time the party started, we had food, tables and everything we needed, including a large selection of tarts that Aoibheann had apparently made for the pie-eating contest.

We had a good turn-out. Dorina & Helene were there. I noticed that Davor was being most attentive to Helene, perhaps trying to make up for the incident with the tail. Dorina had a present for Aoibheann, which looked to be a very nice dress. Vedis was there in a dress that Aoibheann seemed to regard as incomplete. If only she had seen some of Vedis’ outfits back in the day. I wonder what she would have made of them. Wren joined us, seeming very interested in the tarts. I recalled that she was fond of cakes and pastries. There was even a surprise visit from Dyisi, who I thought had vanished entirely. She was her usual enigmatic self, claiming she kept in touch with events while she was away. Even more pleasantly, Gwyn made an appearance, which pleased me greatly, as we had not had much time together of late.

I would have joined her immediately, but I had concerns about the pie-eating contest, or rather, the tart-eating contest. Aoibheann had made the tarts, and despite her assertion that they were raspberry, they didn’t look quite the right colour. Maric clearly noticed my concern and communicated as such through the mental link. I explained about Aoibheann’s previous adventures with making tarts and he suggested that he could guide me through using the blood-magic to determine if they were safe. Meanwhile, Vedis was approaching and seemed to be organising some of the ladies to be judges of the contest. I just had to contend with Wren, who looked far too eager to get started. But then, she always did have a great love of baked goods.

I dipped a couple of fingers in the tart filling while nobody was looking and tasted it, applying my fae senses and the blood sense that Maric was teaching me through the link. I wasn’t sure at first, so tried again with the second finger. It was not good. If it wasn’t belladonna, it was something very much like it, a fae relative thereof perhaps. Whatever it was, it was not safe to eat. I told Maric this, suggesting that maybe we needed some sort of distraction, like the dancing or some other games to distract the guests from eating the tarts while we got them out of the way.

We got it!

A howling arose somewhere outside the village. I felt it as much as heard it, as did Maric, and his anger and protectiveness flared through the link. He practically hissed the word cŵn through the link and told me to rally the men, as if that instruction were needed.

The guards were already taking up defensive positions as I directed Vedis to protect Wren and Davor to take care of the ladies. I ran out onto the clearing to confront the threat. It was the biggest cŵn I had seen, a huge beast that went upright on its hind legs. Behind him was a pack of regular cŵn, howling and slavering. I had not seen the like since the Huntsman’s assault on the hill. Mindful of Aoibheann’s sensitivities, I did not draw my weapon, instead, challenging it to state who it was and what business it had here. Behind me, Maric made sure that Aoibheann and Dorina were safe before joining me. He stated his name and position and likewise asked the beast what it wanted.

It snarled and roared at us, its massive claws coming up, and I almost drew my sword. However, it did not attack. The claws went to its own jaw, seemingly grabbing it and pulling it away, stretching its mouth and pulling it back, as though trying to peel its own hide from itself. A more familiar, and more alarming shape emerged, shrugging the fur back as though it were a cloak. The face black as ebony, the antlers standing proud, the eyes red and ominous. “Is it not Lughnasadh,” it asked, “I am the guest of honour.” It was the Huntsman.

At least, that was the aspect it showed. Yet, somehow, it was different. The antlers were different, the shape was different, the shades of its skin were different, and yet, it was still the Huntsman. I felt Gwyneth step up beside me, taking my hand, and I did not need to look to see that she had assumed her full regal glory and presence. She greeted him formally and with social pleasantries, but said that she could not welcome him as this was not her land. She likewise introduced himself and asked his business, pointing out that she had thought his time later in the year.

I felt the Wyld within me connecting with Gwyn’s and welcomed that connection. I had felt Maric’s hunger earlier, when she had arrived, so drew her aside slightly, to give him more space and reduce the distraction. I looked around and saw that the guards were doing their jobs, taking up defensive positions in accordance with the emergency procedures we had devised. I signalled to a couple of them to start herding the villagers inside, or, if they could, to the castle. Now that Maric had arrived, I let him deal with the visitor, as my primary duty was to the villagers now. Glancing around, I could see that all was well, so stood prepared, pending further developments. I felt a brief thought from Maric, a mild irritation that what to him was a fae matter, had intruded on his territory.

He greeted the Huntsman and told him that he was welcome to join us, provided he offered no threat or harm to the village or its people. Then, came another howling, a different one, that we both recognised as the cŵn we thought might be Gwrgi, lurking on the edge of the village. That raised another complication, which Maric acknowledged, pointing out that the other was not his to control and suggested that whatever business there was should be conducted quickly, and taken out of the village. The other cŵn, he said was not his to control, he told the Huntsman, warning him not fight here in the village.

The Huntsman addressed Gwyn, saying that he sought knowledge of what had happened to the Mallorn Tree, and demanded angrily to know why he had not been summoned. He reigned in the anger and told Maric that he did not care about the castle or its inhabitants, and depending on what answers he got, would not harm anyone. He had not harmed anybody so far, and that, he offered, was a sign of his benevolent nature.

Maric acknowledged that and said he would take the Huntsman’s word, saying that he would hold them to it. He knew as well as I did, by now, the importance of a fae’s word. But before he could get into any further discussions, or before Gwyn could answer the Huntsman’s questions, Gwrgi came barrelling in at high speed, all anger and rage, intent upon our visitor until the pack fell upon him. Gwrgi was in the centre of the pack, which was now a mass of snapping claws and lunging paws and an almost unbelievable cacophony of howls and snarls. The fight roiled around in grey savagery, sending all our livestock skittering towards us in fear. The guards formed up into a defensive ring, ready to protect the village, but fortunately, the fight tumbled away, out of the village and into the fae lands. The Huntsman turned, remarking that he would have to deal with the ‘stray’ first and strode off, any discussions with us forgotten.

Maric and I silently agreed that this was no longer our fight, provided it stayed outside the village. It was not for us to intervene between the cŵn and the Huntsman. We could only hope that Aoibheann had not seen who was involved in the fight; else we might have had to restrain her to stop her running off after them. Maric quietly directed everybody to retreat to the castle, leaving the guards on high alert. He had to carry Aoibheann, who had fallen down, possibly in a faint, but it turned out later that she had consumed some of the berries that she had put in the tarts.

It was a more sober evening after that. Dyisi left during the confrontation and clearly the return of the Huntsman had been too much for Vedis, who retreated to the cellars. The rest of us took food and drink and passed the evening quietly, and a little nervously, jumping at any sound from outside, but we were fortunate that neither beast returned to bother us.

On the plus side, at least nobody had to eat the tarts.

Wild Hunt