Living on an Island Pt 2

Morning produced a sense of dislocation and confusion as to where there hell I was until I dragged myself out of the bed and looked out of the window. I had to laugh at myself. There was a time in my life when waking in up in a strange bed was a not uncommon experience. But, I am not that man now. The morning failed to produce a wife of any description. It also failed to produce coffee, or at least, none that I could find in the kitchen. There was nothing to it; I would have to go back to the official residence, for want of any better name for it, where I was fairly sure I remembered seeing some variation on the theme of infernal coffee machine. First, I selected an outfit – more jeans and a jacket of heavy cotton in a colour and style that reminded me of army uniforms.

I went back up to the Atrium, and, sure enough, there was a coffee machine. In some ways, it was more aesthetically pleasing than the one in the Lucky Leaf, being largely constructed in brass. On the other hand, though, it was just as frustrating. After 10 fruitless minutes trying to fathom the damned thing out, I bellowed for help.

Bran appeared a few minutes later. He looked as though he had not slept much and was muttering about levels again. When I asked him to show me how to operate the infernal machine, he sighed and put his bleeping gadget aside. I could see coloured shapes moving on one side of it and was reminded of Riley, back in the days of Jasper Cove and the gadget she liked to play with. I speculated that it was probably one of the Internet things that Gwyn and Wren often spoke of. Bran demonstrated the workings of the machine ably enough, although I did have to turn one valve for him because he had apparently strained his thumb. Possibly in pursuit of the levels that seemed to be his current obsession.  I also asked him about currency and he rather reluctantly gave me what looked to amount to $200 in tens and twenties. He assured me this should be sufficient to complete my purchase of the book, and pay for such meals as I felt I needed during the course of the day.

I finished my coffee and returned to the house before heading down towards the dock area again. There was an intriguing vessel tied up against a jetty. I guessed it to be a small yacht, possibly intended for pleasure trips. It looked very modern and sleek compared to similar sized vessels I had encountered in my days with the shipping company, but then, I suppose, that is to be expected over the course of a hundred plus years. Again, I felt the sea calling me, and I stood there, imagining where one might go on such a vessel.

“Top of the morning t’you,” came a voice from behind, disturbing my reverie. The accent was very Irish. “If you’re wanting a cruise, you’ll have to be booking up at the office there.” I turned to see a bearded individual in a short jacket covered in badges. He had brown hair and a beard and a somewhat piercing gaze.

“I’m sorry,” I said, jumping back onto the jetty. “I’m a bit of a sailor myself and got carried away admiring this vessel.”

He looked to be slightly taken aback by my accent. “That’s ok,” he said, “no harm done. You’re English then?”

I nodded. “Guilty as charged. Nathaniel Ballard,” I said, offering my hand. “I’m Gwyneth’s husband.”  I gestured back towards the house, which could be seen over the top of the crow’s nest on the other building.

“Ah,” he said, shaking my hand. There was a momentary tingle of Wyld energy there, causing me to wonder if he was fae. Our eyes met for a moment, and there was a hint of recognition as if he had felt it too. “She has mentioned you. Aodhán O’Súileabháin at your service. Or Aidan O’Sullivan, if you prefer the easier way of spelling. General factotum and chief mechanic.”  He started walking towards one of the buildings near the yacht. A workshop of some sort, I guessed from the tool cabinets. “What do you do? Gwyneth said you were some sort of Lord of the Manor.”

“Did she now?” I laughed. “Well, sort of, yes. But I’m thinking of retiring to here. Technically, I’m an accountant, albeit one a little out of practice. And I’m a pretty good carpenter and joiner.” I looked at him. “Oh, and did you really say top of the morning just now?”

“All good skills,” he said, laughing. “We could do with a skilled woodworker. Have you done much shipbuilding?” He shuffled a couple of tools around. “Oh, and yes I did. People expect it.”

“I don’t,” I said. “I’ve served with many an Irishman in my sailing days, gotten extremely drunk with them on many occasions, and never once did any of them say top of the morning.”

“You got me,” he said, softening the accent somewhat. “I’ll try to avoid doing it again.”

We chatted about boats and woodwork for a while before I took my leave, agreeing to meet for a drink at some future occasion.  I explored the dock area a while longer, before taking myself back up to the top of the grand stairway. I had seen a lighthouse up on a high point and determined to go find that. I followed the paths as far as they took me and then struck out through the woods, past a picnic spot and up onto the promontory. The lighthouse was a pleasant building, and while it appeared to be operational, the living space, so far as I could see through the windows, looked to be abandoned. I made a note to find out why some day.

Heading back through the woods, I encountered some carved standing stones. Whether they were some piece of public art, a memorial of some sort, or were of ritual significance, I couldn’t tell, although there did seem to be a hint of magic of some sort about them. Maybe they were Native American – Gwyn had once gently chided me for using the term Indian – artefacts.

I made my way back to the commercial district and paid for my book. I must get Gwyn to explain modern economics. I have no idea if $10 is a good price for a second-hand book. Given that I noticed that a tall mocha, which, from the aroma, is something related to coffee, was $4.75, so maybe that is good. A book for the price of two cups of coffee?

There is an interesting fountain near the bookshop. Half horse, half fish, which is, if I recall correctly, a hippocampus. From limited observation, it appears to be just a fountain. Mind you, if it comes to life at certain phases of the moon or something, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised.

I found a more conventional fountain in a nearby public garden. Well, I say more conventional… it did have four gargoyle like creatures spitting water into the lower level, but was otherwise conventional fountain-shaped.

The garden also featured a pleasant stone gazebo, which, were it back home in England, one might imagine being occupied by the local brass band. Of course, I don’t know if they have such things in this century, or in this country. I also liked the sculpture of a woman whose body was the trunk of a tree. I was reminded of my old friend and occasional lover, Aerodine, the dryad and found myself wondering what became of her.

Beyond the gardens, I found an intriguing structure. Part of it was old stone, such as one might find in the ruins of a medieval castle back home in England, though I could no imagine that such a structure might exist here, at least, not of that antiquity. But then, I do not know the history of these parts, any of it. Obviously, I don’t know that which occurred since my home time, but I don’t know anything much of what happened before that. I remember reading an article about a place called Mesa Verde in Colorado where there are stone structures comparable to those in medieval Europe, so I suppose it is possible. There is much to learn.

I returned to the house to change, as the day had warmed up considerably since I left. One outfit that Gwyn had left for me consisted of a light sweater and a pair of short trousers that reminded me of the shorts we were required to wear for football practice at school. A part of me rebelled at that memory, for I had had no love of sports at school, much less for the inevitable hacked shins and shoulder charges and trips that the bullies would try to claim were a fair tackle. Nevertheless, I chose to ignore those memories. Mother would have been proud. I still felt a little rebellious going outside so casually dressed, a relic, perhaps of the mores of my time, but my appearance did not excite any comment.

I took lunch at one of the eateries near the bookshop. Many of the dishes were unfamiliar to me, so I opted for a cheeseburger and fries, remembering the treats that Valene would sometimes send her Cait out to get for me, and a refreshing glass of cold cider. What the waiter meant by his comment – “You’re English, right? You’ll be wanting hard cider then”- I do not know. I shall have to ask Gwyn.  The cheeseburger and fries resembled the paper-wrapped things that the Cait had obtained for me so long ago about as much as rotgut whisky in a dockside tavern resembles fine single malt. The burger part had recognisable meat, the fries were crisp and chunky and it was served hot. OK, I can hardly blame the Cait for the latter. They had to transport it through the Shadow Roads and nothing retains heat there for very long. This was a delicious meal and very satisfying, aside from one small ingredient, but that will have to wait until I get back to Mysthaven. While Gwyn has told me this is a sanctuary for supernaturals of all sorts, I do not yet know how my kind would be received. That’s one disadvantage of having lived in Mysthaven for so long, my feeding habits have become lazy. That is something else I shall have to relearn.

I decided to head back down to the beach, feeling I was more suitably attired. I rather enjoyed the long wooden walkway that led down to the beach. It reminded me of some of the smaller ports I had docked at over the years, although it lacked the smell of tar and seaweed that I associated with such places. It took a rather twisted path down from the town, which made me wonder how many people had fallen off attempting to negotiate it in an inebriated state. Something, I hasten to add, I never did in my sailing days, excluding that one time in Rotterdam.

The bridge that leads to our house proved interesting from below. Carved stone in a somewhat Celtic style and an entertaining grotesque looking down from its apex. Looking through the arch, it seemed to lead to the end of the promenade area, close to the ship-fashioned building.

The other end of the beach was occupied by a rambling wooden building. Some of it was presumably a residence, but parts looked to be a shop or workshop for surf boards. At least, that is what I guessed these strange items were. I had heard of such things from some of my sailor friends who had visited Hawaii and such like places. I gather the idea is to stand or lie on the board and ride the waves. The waves I could see here did not look particularly energetic but maybe I had come on a calm day. I added it to my list of things to learn more about. It’s going to be a long list, but then, I don’t intend to die for a long time yet, so I hope there will be time.

Of more interest was a large mobile structure to one side of the building. It put me in mind of a vardo, a Romany caravan, but on a much larger scale. What its purpose might be here on a beach, I could not guess.

I wandered further around the beach area for some time until evening set in, when I returned to the part of the beach near the vardo. There was a well-established fire-pit on the beach, with plenty of driftwood for fuel. I had no matches or tinderbox about my person, but then, I hardly need such a thing with my mastery of fire magic. Fortunately, that still seemed to work here, and soon I had a very respectable fire going. This attracted the attention of somebody from the house – none other than my old friend Dyisi, whose establishment this apparently was. I suppose I should not have been surprised to see her. She was not overly surprised to see me either, greeting me somewhat nonchalantly and joining me around the fire. She asked after Gwyn and I said I had not yet seen her since her abdication. I told her a little of my explorations and we chatted of things of little consequence. It occurred to me that this was a rare and precious thing. To sit and converse with a friend, with no matters of import to discuss – no political upheavals, no battles to plan, no rogue fae to confront. A rare and precious thing indeed.

I could have sat there all night, but, alas, for all the peace that I felt here, I still had my duties, so after one last look at the remnants of the sunlight on the water, I took my leave after asking Bran to send word when Gwyn returned. But, I shall return again to this island. I think I like it here.

 

Living on the Island – Julia Pietrucha

Green jacket – Hoorenbeek Outfit Mesh 28

Sweater & Shorts – Mahlberg Tailors

Sandals – MB Mesh Addict

 

 

 

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Living on an Island

With all this thought of changing my role, I decided it would help if I actually experienced some of Gwyn’s time. I must admit to being somewhat wary of going there. Gwyn once quoted a line from a book she had studied – “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” If I remember correctly, it was in the context of an elderly man reminiscing about his youth, which might be some 60 odd years in his past. My time, from Gwyn’s point of view is twice that distant in her past, and her time is twice that distance in my future. Either way, the words “they do things differently there” apply equally to the future. At least with the past, there are memories, or records to inform you. That is not the case with regard to the future. Yes, to Gwyn, it is her present and recent past, but to me, it is terra incognita, no matter how much she might tell me about it.

Still, it is something I must face some day, and there’s no time like the present. Which phrase, in this context, seems somewhat incongruous. I need to tell her about Bronwyn and Faermorn and Gwythyr anyway. I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good idea on top of dealing with her abdication, but I can not put it off forever. I determined that I would forgo calling her via the mirrors and pay a surprise visit instead. In retrospect, perhaps not the wisest of choices, but I have never claimed to be wise, despite what I might tell my children when I want them to listen to me. Still, I had to go. I selected some clothing she had left for me on some previous visit – a soft leather jacket over denim jeans, which were comfortable enough, if a little cramped around the crotch. I had at least worn these before and soon got used to the discomfort.

I decided to take the route through the Shadow Roads, even though I could just step across the realms to get there. At least through the Roads, I have some semblance of a journey, which softens the shock of the transition somewhat. I never liked taking portals back in London, and those were only short cuts between different parts of London. Stepping across the realms is even worse, when the distance, and the time gap, are both large, and largely unknown. One day, I will get used to it. Plus, going via the Roads, there is at least some warning – the parting of the veil, and the coldness of the air, so I don’t just suddenly materialise in the middle of a room. A small difference, but to me, a form of courtesy. Gwyn knows the way through the Roads well enough, and her staff, if she took any with her, should know the signs too.

The Roads deposited me in the Atrium, as she likes to call it, a small enclosed area where she had planned to receive those with business from Faerie. Whether she will continue to use it as such, I do not know. As yet, I do not know if she intends to cut all ties with the Fae. I find that hard to believe, and surely there are Fae in this time too. Either way, it made sense that I would land here, as this place, at least, I had visited before.

What was new, though, was a small herd of tiny winged unicorns, or possibly alicorns, if I recall correctly. I was a bit nonplussed when I saw them, and memories came flooding back of my first painful lessons in magic from Mitternacht, or Paasheeluu as she preferred to be called. I knelt and greeted them. “Hi, I’m Nathaniel, nice to meet you. Are any of you related to an undead mortician by the name of Paasheeluu?”  Perhaps that was a bit blunt, but it didn’t seem to matter.  They were friendly enough, nosing my hand in case I had something to eat, but displayed no evidence of sapience. They accepted mint imperials readily enough though.

The room adjoining the atrium was set for a feast, but there was no sign of any guests. Nor was there any sign of my wife. I sat at the table and contemplated the suckling pig, who did not seem to be amused by the apple shoved in his mouth, and who could blame him. Somewhere, nearby, I could hear some rather strange bleeping noises and the occasional cry of frustration. “Hello?”  I called out.  There were more bleeps and another cry of frustration and a few moments later, Bran appeared, clutching some small brightly coloured object that appeared to be the source of the beeps. “Damn it, I was almost on level …” He looked up and stopped mid-sentence. “Lord Ballard,” he said, “we were not expecting you.”

I frowned at him. “It’s me, Bran,” I said, gently chiding him. “Nobody else is around, so I think we can dispense with titles. And it was a last minute decision to come. So, where is Her Maj… my wife?”

Bran shrugged. “I think she has gone shopping. For what, or where, I do not know. She went, she came back with a lot of clothing, including some for you, I think, and she went again. I don’t know when she will be back.”  He looked around the room, then back at his bleeping gadget, and then back at me. “You could try waiting down at the house, I suppose. You could try on some of the clothes that she bought, maybe explore the island. It will be something to do while you wait for her.”

I asked how I could get to the house and he directed me to a portal that he assured me would take me there. “Do you need anything else?”

I swiped some food from the feast table and a bottle of wine. “No, this will do, thanks. I’ll let you get on with your… levelling…”  He thanked me and hurried away, his attention focussed once again on the noisy gadget.

The house I had seen very briefly before. It seems to be built on a rocky outcrop looking down over the bay with just a stone bridge linking it to the rest of the island at the same level. In older times, it would have been an ideal location for a castle. With the only access being up a steep rock face, or the bridge, it was easily defendable.

One thing I noticed that I had not seen before, standing near the door, was what I assumed to be some manner of vehicle. It had two wheels arranged in line, like some kind of velocipede and was bright pink. I assumed it must be operated by an infernal combustion engine, since the seating arrangement appeared to preclude any propulsion by foot. Perhaps it is for when she visits the mainland, for it did not seem that anywhere on the island was far enough away that it could not be walked in a reasonably short time.

I could see a statue nearby, a seated figure playing a harp. I could have sworn I had seen this before, perhaps somewhere in her bower. It’s certainly a very moving piece and I know it is important to her, which may be why it is here.

I went inside the house and made my way to the bedroom, where I did indeed find assorted items of clothing. One suit came from a bag labelled Vintage Clothing by somebody called Gabriel. With its high collar and elaborate bow tie, it would not have looked out of place at one of my mother’s social gatherings.

Another suit, also by Gilbert, was likely of a more modern design. I could find no fault with it, save that the necktie was constructed of leather and rather short with a metal ring looped through the end. Perhaps this is what the well-dressed men of the 21st century wear now, even if it did look rather as if some kind of leash could be attached. I was briefly reminded of a strange bar I once went to in Rotterdam where some clients paid good money to be led around on a leash, but I doubt this was what Gwyn had in mind. I tried it out as I wandered around the house, trying to determine the function of some of the rooms. I did not find a library, which distressed me somewhat. Indeed, there was only one bookcase that I could find, which is an extreme oversight. One that I hope she will remedy.

I tried on yet another suit. This one seemed more comfortable and less formal, but still elegant enough for all but the most formal of gatherings. It seemed quite apposite as I wandered into a large room at the side of the house. A room walled with much glass in the manner of an orangery or conservatory. I could imagine Mother really enjoying this space, except she would have had it filled with exotic plants and furniture made of cane. Perhaps this will come

There did not appear to be much else to find in the house. I am sure Gwyn just hasn’t finished furnishing it yet, or perhaps she is waiting for my input. That would be nice. I trust to her judgement, but I prefer wood to wrought iron. I am sure we can find some suitable compromise.

I donned more casual wear in order to explore some of the places I had seen from the bridge. Another pair of jeans and a heavy sweater that felt as though it was designed for the outdoors was my choice. And so I set off to explore. From my vantage point on the outcrop, I could see down to an area that looked as if it served for a docks area as well as recreation, with a wooden-decked promenade and assorted waterside buildings, one of which was rather pleasingly fashioned as an old-style sailing ship.

I made that one my first destination and headed down to the waterside, passing by market stalls offering various goods, including fruit and vegetables and craft pottery. From what Gwyn has told me of the inhabitants, I could not imagine that the permanent residents would be buying a great deal of pottery, but I supposed they must have a lot of visitors. Pretty soon, I found myself on what passed for a crow’s nest on the ship-shaped building. I grinned as I remembered my first days at sea with Haskins Shipping. Though, in that case, I am fairly sure I had been sent to the crow’s nest as some sort of hazing for the new guy.

Back on dry land, so to speak, I ascended the great wooden staircase, avoiding a number of people on velocipedes that were available for hire and had a look round what I guessed was the commercial district. It was an eclectic area – essentials such as a grocers and a bookshop, and yes, I do count a bookshop as an essential – crowded with sweetshops and various eateries. The bookshop could have been an expensive excursion for me, save that I had neglected to bring any money with me. Such American dollars as I might have had in my possession would, no doubt, been an anachronism, as they would have been left over from my honeymoon in 1880. One book did intrigue me enough to ask the assistant to put it by until I could come back with the appropriate money. It was the title that caught my eye – The Once and Future King, which echoed the words that Malory ascribed to Arthur’s tomb –  Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus. On examination, it did appear to be a retelling of the Arthurian stories, and one new to me. It would have to be, as the flyleaf proclaimed it to have been first published in 1958. I will look forward to reading it, as and when I equip myself with modern currency.

Further on, I found another wooden walkway, narrower than the promenade one, and of more rustic construction, leading down to a pleasant looking beach, with some wooden structure, perhaps a house or a tavern, I could not tell from here, at the end. In the gathering dusk, with the light on the water, it was a most beautiful spot indeed. I was tempted to explore further, but it was getting darker, and, in truth, I was a little overwhelmed with it all, and decided to head back to the house.

This was going to be all new to me, and I was ill-prepared, knowing only a little of what had passed in the world since I left it 125 years ago The assistant in the bookshop had loved my accent, and somehow, that was enough to excuse my apparent lack of familiarity with my surroundings  and lack of currency. Perhaps an Englishman abroad is considered somewhat of an eccentricity, even in these times. If that is so, it could be to my advantage until I am better educated in the ways of these times. For now, I can take comfort in the food I swiped from Bran’s table and the scent of my beloved Gwyn in the bed. Who knows, maybe she will return before morning and we can spend some time together.

Living on an Island

For those that need to know these things:

Nathaniel:

Slink Physique Male Mesh Body, Hands, Feet. Labyrinth Shape D Mesh Head & Pale Skin, Ikon Sunrise Eyes (Verdigris),  No.Match No.Hunt hair

Clothing in order of appearance:

A&D Clothing – Ewan jacket, James pants, Seattle shoes

Gabriel Vintage Suit & Shoes

Gabriel Leather Tie Suit & Shoes

Emerald Couture Russell outfit in grey

Native Urban Clean Jeans & Enhanced Boots, Sweet Lass Kenji Sweater (Moss)