Bad to the Bone

We were not a particularly religious family, my original family that is, but we were regular church attendees. Father had a quiet faith, as did my brother, Gilbert, but it was a private one, and they never forced their views on anybody. Mother and I went, mostly because it was the sort of thing families like ours did, and partly for the social aspect. Oh, and the music. Mother would play piano, and we were both in the choir. From the outside, we looked like enthusiastic and active members of the congregation, but, as I said, Mother and I were hardly believers. The vicar, Hilaire Elverson, didn’t seem to mind. He was a friend of the family and was a frequent dinner guest at our house.  We would have lively discussions around the dinner table and could get quite philosophical at times, especially if Father opened a second bottle of port. I am pretty certain that, probably on more than one occasion, we debated the nature of evil; what was evil, were some people inherently evil and such like. They were entertaining discussions and I wonder what Hilaire would have made of those discussions had me met me after I was changed, after I became one of the undead.

I was reminded of those discussions the other evening, when Skeleton, one of the few survivors from White Owl Island, came to see me about a little problem she had. I was taking a break from yet another revision of the Accords between Awenia and the mainland and had just opened a bottle of wine, so I welcomed the interruption and the company. I wondered what Hilaire would have made of this; that I willingly took company with demons and that in the case of my dear friend, Galyanna, whose company I miss greatly, trusted would them with my life. I trust Skeleton too, but, as yet, I do not know her as I knew Galyanna.

The servant showed her in and I invited her to join me for wine and some snacks. There was something different about her and I asked if she had changed her hair. Habit, I suppose that question was, given that my dear Gwyn can change her hair multiple times a day. She tried to take a seat, but managed to knock over a vase and some candles. Oh yes, that was the other thing that was different about her – wings and a tail, which I did not recall her having before. She was clearly unused to them, hence her difficulty in keeping them under control. I empathised, knowing full well how hard I had found it to get used to my wings. She apologised for the mess, which the servants were quickly clearing up and said she had already managed to demolish a couple of server towers and break the WiFi nodes. For once, I understood, at least in principle, what she was talking about. I must be getting used to this technology stuff. At least, I thought I was until she started going on about dish receivers and bandwidth distribution and similar jargon. So far as I did understand it, getting technology to work in Faerie is hard.

She had a couple of questions, which she said I might find strange. Somehow I doubted that. My life over the past few years has somewhat raised the bar on strangeness. I commented as such, mentioning becoming a vampire, having once taken lessons from an undead unicorn and somewhere along the line, marrying the faerie queen and living on an island which history insists never existed as evidence of this. Her first question was relatively simple, but, to her, not so simple as she was unfamiliar with how things work here in Faerie. She had accidentally broken a window at one of the cafes, and, knowing only a little of commonly held folklore beliefs about faerie, was worried that this might lead to her being trapped here forever.

I assured her that this was not the case. I told her that I was working with the BSA on the Accords and the various rules that would apply to visitors in respect of various things, although I had not yet considered things like accidental damage. I made a note of that for later. I told her that a lot of those folk tales were misunderstandings of the way things happen here, such as the business about spending one night here and years passing in the mundane world. Besides, I told her, the café was classified as ‘mundane’ so faerie rules did not apply anyway.  That seemed a weight off her mind. The servant brought the snacks, which I assured Skeleton were purely mundane and eating them would place no obligation upon her.

Her other question was related to the BSA, in particular, with regard to her father, Maveth, and if they had mentioned anything of him. She had not heard from him since the Change and now she had two conflicting memories of him and was worried that she had lost him in the Cataclysm. I had heard his name mentioned during my visits to the BSA offices in Seattle, but not to any great degree. As I explained to her, I had mostly been dealing with the Fae Liaison officers and didn’t really know the Demon Liaison. I had met him, been introduced over coffee, but hadn’t otherwise had many dealings with him.  All I could tell her was what I had discerned when I was discussing those with permanent right of residence in Awenia, her included. There had been some grumblings about her being Maveth’s daughter, as if this was a bad thing, and I had gotten the distinct impression that they had not liked him much. I assured her that I had insisted that her family associations had no relevance to her residency or rights in Awenia.

She took that on board and thought on it a moment. Then came the question that reminded me of those old discussions about the nature of evil. “Am I supposed to be bad now?” she asked me. That, I said, was a question for the philosophers. I asked if she wanted be bad. I took myself as an example, telling her that I was made vampire, but did that mean I had to be a bad person, a monster, an evil predator? I was still me, even if I then needed to drink blood. I told her that one of my best friends, the aforementioned Galyanna, was a demon and personal assassin of a demon queen, another much missed friend, Vedis. She was a demon, but from my point of view, she was not a bad person, and in any perilous situation, I could not ask for a better person to be at my side. I could say the same of her, Skeleton. Whatever caused the Cataclysm, whatever it was that changed the world, but left her, myself, Gwyn and others unchanged, we did not know, but so far as I was concerned, she was still the same person I knew before, whatever the expectations of the changed world might be. No, just because the world had changed, she didn’t have to. She didn’t have to be a bad person, unless that was what she wanted to be. She was no more inherently bad than I was.

She thought about that for a few moments. She agreed that yes, vampires are “supposed” to be bad and yet, she trusted me greatly, as she did Dyisi and Gwyn. She thought some more, reasoning that she could still be herself, even if her background, at least, her background as far as the rest of the world saw it, had changed. She thanked me and joked that she was pleased that at least she didn’t have to burn down a village or anything, just because she was a demon.

I asked her not to do so, as Gwyn had put a lot of effort into building the village as a visitor attraction. I also took the opportunity to point out the risks inherent in the simple act of thanking somebody. What is a mere politeness among humans and others, creates obligation among the fae. I suggested phrases such as “you are most kind” or “it is very much appreciated” instead. This surprised her. She had not known this, nor indeed, did she know much about faerie etiquette. She had Googled, a word I am slowly getting used to, information on that, but had not found much outside of fantasy novels. I told her that was one of the things I was working on for when we open Awenia to visitors. On top of the legal matters in the Accords, I needed to create some visitor’s guides, including one on etiquette. She thought this was a good idea.

We had some wine and moved on to the topic of flying since she was still clearly uncomfortable with the wings. She said she was, as yet, unused to her wings and had not attempted to use them for flying. I had to laugh, remembering my first clumsy attempts and advised not going about 10 feet until she was used to it. She wanted to know more, so I told her of my first very clumsy, and accidental, attempt at flying, when I fell off the clock tower back on the Isle of Legacies. I hadn’t even known I could fly at the time, let alone how.  All I remembered was falling, and then not falling as fast. And making a very ungainly landing. I told her of my very tentative attempts to master the art, with a little help from Brigitte. Then there was a different type of flying. As a vampire, it was more like levitation than flying. When Maric taught me to shape-shift into a bat form, then I had to learn a whole new way of flying, learning how to use the wings, to physically fly rather than magically levitating. That was hard, I told her, because it actually required me to operate muscles and differently jointed limbs, and more than a few bruises were earned before I got the hang of it. Stay close to the ground, I advised again, or, if she could swim, stay above water for a softer landing.

She laughed at that, joking that she wasn’t sure how it was going to work and wondering if she might have to try running downhill and flapping as hard as possible. I admitted that might be a possibility. She also wanted to know if there was medical help available should she hurt herself in the process. Now that was a harder question. I told her I had some healing abilities I had learned from Maric. I hoped that this was still the case, given that I have become ever more distant from my vampiric self, however, I am not about to go round injuring people to find out. I also made a note to look into arranging reciprocal arrangements with mainland emergency services.  We would have spoken more, but I got interrupted by a call from my colleague at the BSA. I told Skeleton that this would probably take some time, but she was free to help herself to more wine and snacks.  She opted to leave, having gotten some answers at least to her questions. She left, looking to be in a lighter mood than when she arrived, so I was glad I had been able to help. Her questions gave me food for thought, though, regarding the whole business of etiquette in Faerie and I resolved to have another conversation with her, to find out what else she doesn’t know, because if she doesn’t know something, then likely others don’t either. The more I know of what people don’t know, the better I can create my guides for Visitors.

Bad to the Bone

 

 

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Not Quite, but Nearly

I do not, as yet, fully understand the powers I have to walk the realms. The rational man that I once was rebels at the idea that I can cross space and time as easily as I step from one room to another. The rational man that I am now must, perforce, accept that it is possible, since I am able to do so. While I do not know how it works, I know that it does. Perhaps that old charlatan, Crowley, was correct in defining magic as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” Certainly, the act of realm-walking would seem to be an act of will. Whether or not it is entirely in conformity with my will, I do not know. That other proponent of magic, and other things, Dee, known to me as Alec, said only that it was easier to navigate to places or to people known to me, or to which I have some connection. That much I have found to be true, but I have also found that whatever rules govern the process, they are not always directed by my conscious mind. I also suspect that they either have a sense of humour, or are partly deaf. Or, perhaps, they knew better than I what manner of journey I needed.

Thus it was that I found myself in a place called Avilion. I have been re-reading the Arthurian legends lately, so it is likely that Avalon was in my mind when I went aimlessly wandering. Instead, I found Avilion. Not quite Avalon, but nearly. Certainly, it is a land of enchantment that would fit well with the romantic image of the medieval period prevalent in the time I was growing up. With the addition of dragons and faeries and elves and drow and rangers and knights and many other beings.

For all the different beings, some of whom go armed and armoured, much as I do at times, it is a peaceful place. It puts me much more in mind of a community of artists and bards and philosophers. The word commune comes to mind, although I am not sure members of a commune would go around addressing each other as my Lord and my Lady. I am minded, in that respect, more of my early days in Ashmourne Wylds, especially my first visits to the Fae Courts. Well it was, then, that Mother had drilled manners and courtesy into me from an early age and that I could supplement those with the imagined ideals of chivalry and courtly behaviour I had gleaned from my readings of all those stories of knights of old. It was so easy to slip back into that way of speaking when I was so addressed on arrival in this enchanted land of Avilion.

On my first visit, I was shown around some parts by a lady who went by the name of Muse. She showed me a library, which I look forward to exploring more. In my brief visit, I found an old friend, the writings of Catallus, so familiar to me from lessons at school. She also showed me what seems to be the social centre of the land, a large camp fire with logs and seats around, where people gather, much as Dyisi, Wren and I, and others, would gather around the fire-pit in Mysthaven. Except that this was on a larger scale, with many more places to be seated, and, for some reason, a collection of interesting drums of unusual design, playing these being, I gathered, a popular recreation of the people.

It would also seem that this place is where people gather to exchange tales, poems and songs and engage in lively debate. On one visit, I had a most stimulating debate on the ethics of taking tree limbs for staves and other uses. Should a druid, who would consider himself a brother to trees, take a branch for his staff? One person likened it to taking an arm and a leg from a man, whereas I argued it was different for a tree, perhaps analogous to me giving of my hair, nails, and blood even, and provided it was done with respect and permission, then all was well. I was minded of the times I spent with Aerodine, my dryad friend from Ashmourne and her words regarding the trees. The debate swung from there to the differences that distinguish one druid from another and the commonalities that make them all druids and how different commonalities might distinguish them from, say a group of drow. And further, what commonalities there were between those groups that might allow them to coexist. We also debated the relationship between mentor and pupil and what, if anything, a mentor might learn from a pupil. One gentleman found that idea preposterous, whereas I argued that, for example, if the pupil asks a question the mentor had not previously considered and has to find the means to answer, has he not, in a way, learned from the pupil?

That evening was all too short, and I realised how much I missed sitting around and having such discussions. So much more interesting that debating the bureaucratic minutiae of the Accords I am developing with the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs back in Awenia. On other occasions, I have had discussions on squirrels and whether or not drow can climb trees, I met a charming girl of about the same age as my own son, Arthur, who was originally from Devonshire. I have heard poems presented, discussed the nature and permanence, or otherwise of death and the similarities between the fae and magpies, in respect of shiny trinkets. I have no doubt that I will make other visits there.

I have not explored the land as much as I would have liked. No matter how far I roam in my walking of the realms, my personal assistant, Cobweb, seems to have no difficulty in finding me and summoning me back to my duties in Awenia. I suspect he does not much understand the concept of relaxation, much less the things that I find stimulating and enjoyable. However, in between his interruptions, I have managed to find some time to so relax. There is only so much bureaucracy a man can take before needing a break.

Not Quite, But Nearly – Leon Rosselson

 

Landmark for the Realm of Avilion

 

The Fuchsia’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

Mounsieur Cobweb, good mounsieur, get you your
weapons in your hand, and kill me a red-hipped
humble-bee on the top of a thistle; and, good
mounsieur, bring me the honey-bag. Do not fret
yourself too much in the action, mounsieur; and,
good mounsieur, have a care the honey-bag break not;
I would be loath to have you overflown with a
honey-bag, signior.

Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare

My first proper journal was given to me by my mother as one of the gifts for my 11th birthday. I suspect that this was because I had frequently been taken to task for filling my school books with thoughts that had little to do with my lessons and she thought it better that I had a better place to record such thoughts.  I have kept one ever since, through all my years at school, university, my career with Haskins Shipping, and even through the strange and surreal twists and turns that have been my life since that fateful day in Katharina’s dwelling in Bremerhaven. Sometimes, I have been very assiduous, recording something every day, other times, less so.

Of late, I have been less than assiduous, which is strange, since I seem to have far more leisure time than I am used to. Perhaps it is the enforced leisure that is to blame, for little of note has happened that would warrant recording.

But, that is not strictly true. My darling wife, Gwyneth, has been busy travelling. She was engaged as a creative consultant for a part of the Fantasy Faire, an event I have noted previously in my journal, creating a story – a quest, even – for a place called Astrid’s Nemeton at the Faire. In some ways, I envy her that task, but then, she is the creative one, whereas I am the rank amateur when it comes to writing. That said; she did call upon me to proof-read and comment upon her writings, which task I took to with relish. I may lack her background and training in creative writing, but when it comes to attention to detail, you can’t beat an accountant. The story she had created appealed to me, being in the nature of a quest. Such things were a major part of my early reading, in particular, the quests of the various Knights of the Round Table. I understand that the quest was much enjoyed by those who attended the Faire, so I am happy for Gwyneth, and happy that I played some small part in that.

For my part, I have done some travelling. I have taken myself a few times to that place called Paradoxia that I have recorded herein before, but found little happening. Perhaps something will happen there soon, and perhaps I will find some entertainment there, but that remains to be seen.

In the meanwhile, I have kept myself occupied. I have spent time learning how this marvel of technology known as the Internet works. I have reluctantly accepted that Cloud Storage has nothing to do with water vapour, despite the aesthetic appeal of that idea. And, I have learned that following links (see, I have learned some of the nomenclature) on some sites (more nomenclature) can result in many hours evaporating without even noticing.

But, technology has not occupied all of my time. I have also spent time getting used to the fae side of my nature. I have to confess, I will never be entirely comfortable with the wings, although I have learned to turn them on and off at will. Other aspects I am finding harder. I do not yet have Gwyneth’s facility with the glamour. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps it is a woman thing. Mother was nowhere near as extreme as some of her “fashionable” friends, but she would still change dresses and hairstyles far more often than Father, Gilbert and I ever would. That said; one of my university friends was somewhat of a dandy. If I had been like him, then maybe I might use the glamour more. But for now, I prefer the old-fashioned method of fiddling with buttons and stuff.

And then, there was Cobweb.

Yes, Cobweb. As in one of the fairies that attended Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream. I do not know if this one would be capable of killing a red-hipped humble-bee, though, given that he isn’t that much bigger than a bee.  I’m not going to argue. That was the name he gave, so I have to accept that as being the truth.

At least, I assume that this Cobweb is male. Bottom addressed his companion as such, though the name itself offers no clue. I never really know with the demi-fae, which this Cobweb seems to be. It is hard to tell, since he looks like an oversized moth with a child’s face. And, a moth, I might add, that seems to have not so much collided with a neon light, as swallowed one whole, being a very bright and alarming shade of pink.

Sorry, fuchsia, not pink. Apparently, that is important to him.

I had been thinking about the forthcoming opening of Awenia to non-fae visitors, in particular wondering if I need to draft something akin to the Accords I created for Mysthaven, as a means of protection for us and our visitors. I was dictating notes into a memo recorder app on my phone (technology is a wonderful thing) when I heard the hum of wings, and caught a bright flash of colour just off to one side. Now there are many things that have bright colours, and even glow, in Awenia, but I was not near any of those areas. I turned, and there he was, hovering near my shoulder, shining pinkly with an expression halfway between hopeful helpfulness and a slightly terrified rictus. I dropped the phone into my pocket, but forgot to turn off the recorder, so I was able, later, to transcribe the conversation.

“Hello,” I said, “Does Gwyn want me for something?”

“Gw..?”  He bobbed up and down uncertainly, apparently unable to finish the syllable

“Her Majesty,” I said, “also known as Gwyn, or Gwyneth.”  He bobbed up and down again. “It’s her name.”

“Gw…  No, no, I could not. Her Majesty is…” He twirled around, turning a somersault in nervous excitement.

“Her Majesty is elsewhere, I assume. Do you have a message from her?”

He shook his head. “No, sire, I have no message. But I could convey one for you if that is your wish.”

I shrugged. “I have no message to convey at the moment, but, I shall bear you in mind, should I wish to do so, though these days, I usually use this thing.”  I showed him the phone and dropped it back into my pocket.  He shied away from it, turning more somersaults. “So, you are not from Her Majesty?”

“No sire, no.” He fluttered a little closer and executed something akin to a bow. “I am here for you, sire, at your service.”

“At my service?” I asked. “I have no need of any service at present, but thank you for the offer. You may go.”

He bobbed, looking horrified. “No, no, sire, no, I cannot. I am at your service.”

“Are you now? Any please stop calling me sire. My name is Nathaniel.”

“Nath…” He tried hard, but could not bring himself to say it. “No, no, I cannot. Please do not make me… Sire.”

I shrugged. “Very well, as you wish. And what shall I call you?”

“Cobweb, sire, my name is Cobweb. And I am at your service.”  He bobbed another bow.

“Of course you are. And tell me, Cobweb, good mounsieur, are you going to get you your
weapons in your hand, and kill me a red-hipped humble-bee on the top of a thistle?”

He bobbed and twirled, looking confused. “Sire? Is that what you wish me to do, sire?”

“Never mind,” I said. “They probably don’t have Shakespeare where you come from.”

“I do not know this Shakespeare, sire, but, if it is your wish, I shall endeavour to know more for next time.”  The helpful expression was back.

I shrugged. Knowing Shakespeare probably wasn’t going to be an essential part of his function, whatever that might be, but I am always happy to pass on my love of the Bard. “If you feel so inclined, you can do so. I am pretty sure there are copies in the library.”

He bobbed closer, glowing even more brightly. “I shall look, sire.”

I stepped a pace back, as the glow was somewhat intense. “You’re very pink,” I said, “and bright. Could you turn it down a little?”

“Fuchsia, sire, I prefer fuchsia, not pink. And this is who I am sire. I am sorry, but I do not know how to change myself.

“Fuchsia? Mother used to grow fuchsias in the garden. I suppose they were that sort of colour. OK, if that’s what you want to be, then who am I to argue?”

“You may argue if you wish, sire. You are the master, so you may do whatever you wish. I am merely at your service. But my colour is still fuchsia.”

“A very bright fuchsia. Excuse me a moment.” I found a pair of sunglasses in my pocket and put them on in the hope of being less dazzled.

He fluttered a little closer, seemingly puzzled by my new eyewear. “Why do you have dark glass over your eyes?”

“As I said, you’re a bit bright, dazzling even. These make you less dazzling.”

He fluttered away again. “As my master wishes.”

“Master?”

“Yes, sire. You are husband and consort to Her Majesty. It is only fitting that you have a personal servant. And that is I.”  He bobbed another bow.

“Personal servant?” I sighed inwardly. While I grew up in a household that included a housekeeper and a maid, I was never really comfortable with the idea, and It had taken me a while to get used to my staff at Mysthaven. But, this seemed something different. Then it occurred to me. “Ah, I see. So you’re my Clutie?”

“Clutie?”  He bobbed and twirled and his voice seemed to go up a register as he said her name.

“Yes, Clutie. Servant to Her Majesty,” I said, gesturing in the general direction of the castle. “You must know her.

“Mistress Clutie, yes, I know her,” he said, adding in a softer voice. “Not as much as I would like to.”

“What was that?”

Cobweb looked down at the ground and muttered. “Not as much as I would like to.”

“You like Clutie? I mean, really like her?” I emphasised the word like.

Cobweb bobbed and twirled. “Yes. She’s so pretty and funny and clever and … pretty and…” He turned even pinker, which I would not have thought possible. “But, she would not be interested in the likes of me.”

“How do you know?” I asked. “Have you tried asking her?”

Cobweb’s bobbing and twirling got even more frantic. “I could not, sire, she is Her Majesty’s and she is too pretty for the likes of me, and I would not know how…”

I shrugged. “Well, you don’t know until you try. Not that I am the best person to be giving advice on courting. I don’t exactly have a stellar record in that respect.”

Cobweb looked puzzled. “You are husband to Her Majesty. Did you not court her? Or was it for political reasons?” He said, whispering the word political.

I laughed at that point, thinking of the day that my relationship with Gwyn became more than casual (Five years ago, come July 4th, as I found out later, checking back through old journals.) “I didn’t exactly court her, although a dispute with one of the Royal Courts was involved, which I suppose makes it sort of political. But, no, I didn’t court her. I just kissed her. To be fair, we did think we were about to die.”

“Master?”

I held up a hand. “If you’re not going to address me by name, I think I prefer sire to master.”

“As you wish, sire.” He looked expectantly at me. “You were about to die?”

“What? Oh yes.” I chuckled, replaying the events of that day in my head. “Gwyn and I were just friends, and, at the time, I don’t think she even knew she was fae, let alone high sidhe and I did not know I was of the blood either. Anyway, a demon of our acquaintance used her powers to provoke us into a fight with the Raven to the Unseelie Crown by forcing me to defend Gwyn’s honour. So, there we were, facing the Raven, with the demon taunting him, facing almost certain death… so, I thought, what the hell, and kissed her.”

Cobweb bobbed and twirled, his eyes growing big. “And did you die?”

I glared at him, composing some sarcastic response to that before thinking that, technically, from my own personal experience, death wasn’t necessary a terminal experience, so it was a valid question. “No,” I replied. “I made no aggressive moves and opted for diplomacy instead, formally requesting an audience with the Unseelie Queen to resolve the issue, so there was no need for violence of any sort. Also, we were under the protection of the Queen of the Cait Sidhe, which helped. The demon was not so fortunate.”

“Oh my,” said Cobweb, turning little circles in wonder. “And did you resolve it?”

I nodded. “Yes, it was resolved, and the Unseelie Queen and I became good friends, Gwyn and I became an item, and some while later, she became Seelie Queen, I became Lord of Mysthaven, we had three children with the pro-tem Unseelie King…” I paused and took pity on this poor creature, desperately trying to take it all in and understand.  “… It’s complicated.”

“Yes, master…  sorry, sire. It would seem so.”

“But, as I said, I never really courted Gwyn. So, I can’t really advise you on how to proceed with Clutie.”

“I could not, sire, proceed. I could not even talk to her.”  He bobbed uncertainly.

“Well, you are going to have to at some point,” I said.

“How so?”

“Well, Gwyn and I live together in the same castle, at least, occasionally, when we aren’t on our travels. So, you aren’t going to be able to avoid Clutie for ever.”

“Oh,” he said, blushing again. “I had not thought of that. What ever shall I do?”

“Just be yourself,” I said. “Be kind, be helpful, and listen, and see what happens.”

He looked uncertain. “If you say so, sire.” He fluttered upwards, drawing himself up to his full height. “And I shall be the best me that I can.”

“That’s the spirit.”

“Is there anything I can do for you now, sire?”

“A bacon sandwich would be nice. I am sure Bran can show you how.”

“At once, sire, at once.”  He bobbed another little bow and then sped off. A pink, sorry, fuchsia streak against the gathering dusk.

So, I have my own personal demi-fae servant. I will have to train him in my ways, especially in the matter of not being as persistent as Clutie. And, possibly, mentor him in the matter of acting on his crush on Clutie. How the hell did my life get so weird that I find myself brokering a romance between two demi-fae? As I said to Cobweb at the time. “It’s complicated.”

The Fuchsia’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stolen Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stolen Child

 

 

 

 

Ghost Town

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghost Town

 

Spread Your Wings

faeriequeene

LO I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far vnfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
Whose prayses hauing slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.

Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene

There is a wish that most rational beings, or at least those that have survived into some measure of adulthood, have expressed at some point or other in their lives. It has been expressed in many forms, but the general thrust is “I wish I had known then what I know now.”  It is a natural enough wish, whether it be about your first fumbling forays into the realm of romance or more far-reaching life choices such as marriage, moving to another country or changing career. I have, myself, indulged in such speculation in the past, but now, knowing that reality is a somewhat variable and occasionally fragile concept, I tend not to. Even more so since I gained the use of the Shadow Roads and the Realm-walking, where it would be all too easy to tamper with that reality and give my past self that knowledge. From my reading of Dee’s journal, scoundrel though he was, I know how bad this could be and so take great pains to avoid the possibility. The weakest point of my resolve in this matter is in respect of my mother. That, in many ways, would be the most dangerous area in which I could tamper. Nevertheless, I have of late wished that I had known something of my mother’s heritage while she was still alive. I wish that I had known then of her fae side and what it meant to her. Oddly, it is that most mundane of human endeavours – bureaucracy, that brings it to mind.

Gwyn and I have a meeting soon, with representatives from the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and/or the Consilium Arcanum, to discuss the progress of moving Awenia towards becoming an open fae realm. She has even rented an AirBnB in Seattle, which is apparently some fancy way of borrowing somebody else’s dwelling for a short time. It seems a potentially unsanitary arrangement to me, but I am sure she knows best. I suppose it will afford us more privacy than a hotel.  So far as I see it, my purpose in such things is in the mundane side of things, and, dare I say, the bureaucratic elements.  I do have previous experience of negotiating trade deals, treaties, the Accords between Mysthaven and the Summerlands and such like. That experience, to my mind, is independent of what shape I wear. Gwyn, on the other hand, is quite keen that, for the purposes of these meetings, I should emphasise the fae side of my nature. Which, I suppose, is fair enough (or fairy enough, ha ha), since it is a fae realm that we will be discussing, so, I cannot disagree.

mourning locket with hair engraved

The question is, of course, what is my fae nature? As with almost everything in my life, it is complicated. In part, it comes from being consort and husband to Gwyn, my very own Faerie Queen. All that Wyld energy from our proximity, our love and our love-making cannot fail to affect me. Some comes from that other faerie queen, the late Faermorn, from the Quickening she gave me, from other times we spent together, and from my time in her realms and at the Wellspring of the Wyld. Much came from Isabella, from that chance encounter with her and Alex and me being the unintended recipient of her life-giver energy. But, even before that, there was Mother.  My mother, who I later learned was part-fae, a descendant of the Tuatha de Danann. I did not know it at the time, even though I unknowingly held the clue to it so close to my heart for many years. It was the inscription on the mourning locket I have worn so long. It was there, on the locket, in an inscription in a script I did not know.  It was an aunt from my mother’s side, Aislinn, who gave it to me after the funeral, and I never thought, in my grief, to ask her what the inscription actually said. I copied it to my notebook and occasionally asked people who had some knowledge of languages, but to no avail.

matri1

It was only much later that I learned the reading of it – “Ida Elvine Aubrey iníon Siobhan Ní Cearbhalláin iníon Caoimhe Ní Nuadháin iníon an Rí Tuaithe Dé Danann” or “Ida Elvine Aubrey daughter of Siobhan Ní Cearbhalláin daughter of Caoimhe Ní Nuadháin daughter of the Kings of the Tuatha de Dannan.”

That was my mother’s lineage, and her fae heritage. I did not know it when she was alive, and only learned long after she passed. Now that, if anything, is something I wish I had known while she was alive.  Looking back, there were enough clues, had I had the knowing of it. Her skills with plants and with healing, her love of art and music, her affinity with nature, all pointed to something in her nature. It is no wonder that she loved to go barefoot in the woods and meadows, or encouraged me to commune with the trees. Her free spirit and her disregard for the rules of modesty, in private at least, must have stemmed from that side of her. And, now that I recall it, it seems that I never knew her to tell a lie, even when to do so might have made life easier. That she encouraged me to read Spenser’s The Faerie Queene at such a young age might have been a massive hint, again, had I had the knowing of it. Why she did not tell me, even in her last days, as the consumption took her, I do not know. Perhaps she did not wish to fill me with longing for a place and time I might never be able to reach, or perhaps she feared that the rational side of me, instilled by my father, might reject it or dismiss it as a fanciful notion of hers. I will probably never know, save that she visits my dreams again from the Summerlands, as she did one time. Even if she does not, I suppose that I can be content that she now knows, from that dream, that I at long last had realised that side of me.

idaballardphoto2 copy

Whatever her reasons, and whatever the many and various twists of fate that led me to the discovery of that part of me and the subsequent development of my fae side, I have come to terms with the existence of it. It is a part of me and I am content with that. Actively displaying it, on the other hand, I still find difficult. When the first external manifestations appeared, I had little control over them. I grew used to the ears, and the wings, appearing at inconvenient moments when the Wyld energy was strongest around me. I have since learned to control my appearance, though with nowhere the facility that Gwyn has. The ears I can manage easily enough, but the wings, not so much. And, for whatever reason, it is the wings that Gwyn wishes me to be more comfortable with, and to be more open with wearing them. And so, I put myself to getting used to them. Of course, even that was not as simple as it might have been. When I first earned my wings, so to speak, they were a dark brooding red and feathered. Gwyn did not approve of those at all. I cannot say that I blame her, for they do look more suited to a demon or at best, a fallen angel.

darkfae_001

And so, it was time to try on some other wings. Of course, I am used to Gwyn changing her wings almost as often as she changes her clothes, but I had not considered it in respect of my own wings, nor was I entirely sure of the method of changing them. To be perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure how I manage to manifest the ones I am used to. I just think of them and they are there. Manifesting others is another thing entirely, even if I had some inkling what style of wings I would enjoy. I remember liking the wings that Janus, our lover and the other father of our children, had, the ones that resembled sycamore keys, but somehow that just did not work at all. Gwyn lent a hand and, after a couple of attempts that made me look like some mad scientist had  been experimenting on some unwilling Lepidoptera, we settled on something that we both liked, more like, in appearance, to the Odonata, specifically, a dragonfly. These, I can live with, being far less gaudy, and, to my tastes, anyway, more pleasing and refined. I could probably do without the coruscant effects, but perhaps I will learn to control that with time.

 

nbaw_015

Despite my fears, having the wings does not appear to require me to have a whole new wardrobe, as, unlike my beloved wife for whom it is almost a religion, I am not overly fond of shopping for clothes.  Somehow or other, in a manner I do not understand, which pretty much applies to most things about the fae side of my nature, my clothes adapt to the wings, or perhaps it is the wings that adapt to the clothes. I do not know, and I am disinclined to put this to the test by trying to don or discard a jacket while I am wearing the wings. There are mornings when I have a hard enough time getting my normal limbs into trouser legs and shirt sleeves (and I have to confess, on occasions of extreme inebriation, getting legs into shirt sleeves and vice versa), let alone getting a jacket over diaphanous wings twice the length of my arms.

nbaw_020

I spent the rest of the day wandering around Awenia, getting used to the wearing of the wings. Perhaps, by the time we have our meeting, I will be as comfortable with them as I am in my own shape.

nbaw_012

Spread Your Wings

 

Another Time Another Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Time Another Place