Lucky Leaf Tavern
Gwyn slips downstairs, possibly on her way out somewhere. But then there’s someone at the bar. So, it’s like that. “Get you anything?” Duty calls.
Tilver smiles “Ah, sure, milady.” he smiles, giving a small bow “And what would you recomend?” he asks, looking her over as she takes her place behind the bar
Gwyn shrugs. “Depends on your fancy. Ale, beer, weird pressed apple juice, proper cider, wine. Not sure what’s on for dinner; I, er, just returned from a short holiday.”
Tilver nods “Ah, arrived in town recently myself, been trying to ply my trade, but sadly I seem to keep odd hours, rarely meet enough people… but, think a proper cider would be delightful…” he says, looking in his coinpurse “Hmmm though could have picked out more from the bank, … ” he says, thinking back to the local currency “3 Midari cover it?”
“Sure thing.” Gwyn takes a glass from beneath the counter, steps up on a stool, and pulls a pint of cider. “This is a good, tart one. I hope you’ll like it. And yes, three Midari is the price.” She avoids eye contact. “It’s weird when you first come here. I had some trouble fitting in, myself.” Not that she fits in all that well now, mind. “What sort of trade would that be?” she wonders. “We like to keep a record here, so we can recommend folks to patrons.”
Tilver nods “Ah, I’m a masseuse, actually, also a bit of a magician.” he smiles “And a record… certainly could help gain some customers indeed.” he smiles, pulling out the three coin, sliding it over to her across the counter
“Thanks.” Gwyn puts the coin in the coin box. “You should talk to the bath house lady, though I’ve not seen her in a little while. I think Aoibh knows her; I’ll ask around for you. Personally, I think there are plenty of people here who could do with a nice, long massage. Just my opinion of course, and opinions don’t really count.” Don’t say ‘horseshoes’, don’t say ‘horseshoes’… “unless you’re more important than I am.” Win! “We do have another, er, equine type who frequents the tavern, though she’s rather more orange than you.” Gwyn wipes the counter down as she talks, still not really making eye contact.
Tilver nods slightly, listening to the information “Hm… will have to check out that, if she would prefer me working for her or not, because I usually do prefer freelance… though the bathouse does sound like a good place to do so, could give a percentage perhaps…” he smiles, and taps his hand to the counter “And, yes, Manners, please, I am Tilver, Tilver DeShay, would need a name to ask around for would you not?” he asks, giving a playful little neigh. “And.. another equine type? Interesting.” he says, looking down at her “And, you think many could use a nice long massage, you got back from a vacation… but could you?”
Nathaniel ambles slowly into the bar, then breaks into a broad grin. “You’re awake!”
Gwyn “Tilver. Good to meet you,” Gwyn says smoothly. “I’m Gwyn. I help out at the tavern. And no; I don’t need a massage; I’m not overly interested in being touched just now.” She startles at the familiar voice. “Nathaniel. Hello.” Wan smile. “Yeah; I woke up last night sometime, I think.”
Ofeelia walks in quietly and bows “greetings”
Nathaniel smiles broadly and gives Gwyn a big hug. “Thank all the deities for that. I was running out of things to read to you”
Tilver nods, tilting his head “Ah, understandable…” he says, listening to the “just woke up” comment and shrugs “But, the offer stands for if you do wish for one.” he smiles, and nods to the newcomers “And, greetings to you both.”
Nathaniel smiles at Ofeelia,”Hello again.” He turns to the stranger, “Greetings, sir. Welcome to the Lucky Leaf”
Ofeelia blushes “Greetings Natalie”
Gwyn stiffens and shudders. “Yeah. Glad to see you, too.” OK, that’s enough hugging.
Nathaniel looks momentarily puzzled, then gives Ofeelia a mock glare, “Now, don’t you start,” he laughs. He looks back at Gwyn, “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened, to put you in that state?”
Tilver nods “Lucky Leaf, hm, think it’s the first time I’ve heard the name of the tavern inn…” he shrugs, looking between them, before taking a sip of his cider
“What state?” Gwyn asks. “Nice hat.”
Nathaniel looks confused for a moment. “Being unconscious for several days, muttering about running, being completely oblivious to the delights of Mallory and Coleridge, among others?”
Tilver perks an ear at that, but says nothing, still drinking his cider. His tail swishes behind him as he watches, curious to hear about this… state and such
“Oh, that state.” Gwyn starts stacking glasses for the evening. “I don’t actually remember being unconscious. Was I really talking about running? And Coleridge, seriously? I need to introduce you to Mr T S Eliot.”
Nathaniel shrugs. “It was all I had on me, that and Mallory. I came by the infirmary a few nights ago, to see how Marida and Seven were getting along. I found you there, out cold, occasionally shivering and muttering ‘Run, run’. Nobody seemed to know what was up. I’ve been there every evening since, reading to you. I heard somewhere that reading to people sometimes helped them recover from a coma.” He pauses to pour a glass of rum, “And who is this Mr Eliot?”
Tilver smirks lightly “Heh, well now, if you’re unconcious, can’t really complain about the books he reads you, now can you?” he asks playfully, looking to Nathan “And very kind of you regardless of her reading preferences, I would say…”
Nathaniel bows modestly
Gwyn smiles. “You really did that? That’s really sweet of you. Come to think of it, you probably know of Walt Whitman, I guess. Eliot was born sometime near the end of the 19th century, wrote some dazzling shit. Total Tory fucktard of course, but then lots of them were. He was born in Missouri but moved to England and affected an accent.” She shakes her head. “Surely you had better things to do than read to me, but really, that’s so sweet. You’re sweet.”
Nathaniel smiles, “You’re a friend, that’s the sort of thing you do for friends. I used to read to my mother all the time when she was ill. And, had I been wearing a different jacket, you probably would have been treated to Mr Whitman instead. O Captain is one of my favourites”
Tilver smirks playfully, before finishing his glass of cider, and setting it down, before thinking “Wait, so you have a book in each jacket, and only picked the jackets with the two authors’ works, or did you only wear the two jackets each visit?” he asks, curious about that now
Gwyn smiles, only a little slyly. “I thought you might like him. I’ll see if there’s any Eliot in the bookstore; it might be right up your street.” She stretches. “It was a little strange, the whole thing. OK, it was a lot strange. I think I’m starting to learn about this place.” She bites her lip. “It’s dangerous.”
Nathaniel laughs, looking towards Tilver, “The Mallory and Coleridge happened to be in the pockets of the jacket I was wearing at the time. I had been carrying the Whitman around in a different jacket pocket, but managed to rip the seam, so that jacket was being repaired.” He looks back to Gwyn. “Only occasionally. I did have a close encounter with a rather large demon wearing way too many antlers the other night.”
Gwyn stares at Nathaniel open-mouthed. She reaches up to steady herself on the bar. Breathe, Gwyn. “You did? He didn’t get anybody, did he?”
Gwyn steps up onto the stool and begins ferociously wiping down the bar.
Tilver thinks, looking over his coat “Perhaps you should purchase a satchel of some sort… your jacket doesn’t seem the best for books… perhaps that’s why it broke the seam” he smiles “And, hrm, yes, that is certainly an iffy encounter.. well, you’re obviously ok, but yes, if others are alright, that would be good to know.”
Nathaniel shakes his head. “Fortunately no. He was more interested in Aoibheann than me, despite her efforts to convince him I was the beautiful barmaid, Natalie. I guess I faced him down, because he left without harming anybody.”
Gwyn shudders. “If he’s who I think he is, he’s a very scary …. Well, he’s very scary. I — how long was I out, anyway?”
Tilver thinks “Believe he said several days… and… beautiful barmaid?” he asks “Was she banking on the demon being unfamailar with humans, or just blind?”
“Now, you be kind, Tilver. Nathaniel is perfectly attractive. He is very well liked, and he has lots of friends.” Gwyn tsks.
Nathaniel nods vigorously, “Oh yes, very scary. If I may borrow vernacular from your time, I almost shat myself. But, I couldn’t let him get to Aoibheann, so I stood in his way anyway.”
Gwyn laughs sharply. “Could have used you the other night, whatever night it was,” she says. “Nobody was standing between me and him then.”
Tilver nods “Well, not saying he isn’t handsome, more, not the beautiful barmaid type. I’ve been called a handsome stallion, but calling me a pretty mare is another thing…” he smiles “And, hm.. yes, sadly, as brave as he is, can’t be everywhere it seems, but that does happen.” he nods, stroking his chin
Nathaniel looks grave, “Then I am sorry I was not there, for I would have. Mother always said I had a white knight complex.” He turns to Tilver, “I have no explanation for Aoibheann’s actions other than that she was clearly terrified and possibly not thinking straight.” He shrugs, “But, before that happened, I did have a rather peculiar conversation with her, and some of the things she said… it was almost as though she has… I don’t know… It’s almost as if she thinks I am a woman in disguise.”
Gwyn bites her lip. “Let’s just say it was a rough trip. I don’t think it could have been avoided, even though there were other people there when it apparently happened.” She pauses. “Aoibh thinks you’re a woman? That’s weird. That girl is seriously rustic.”
Tilver thinks “Well, I can think of a direct way to clear the issue up, though not the most… proper.” he whinnies playfully “But, if you both will excuse me.. I do need to take care of a few things..” he says, giving a small bow
“Come back soon, Tilver,” Gwyn says. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”
Tilver nods “Likewise, likewise.” he says, giving a small bow, before walking off
Gwyn hands Nathaniel a glass. “Hit me.”
Nathaniel looks at his fist momentarily confused, then laughs and pours her a rum. “I really don’t know what is up with her lately. I keep feeling I have somehow offended her or something, but I can’t think of anything I’ve done since the comments about Damion, for which I already apologised weeks ago.”
Gwyn shrugs. “Maybe she needs some time to adjust; who knows.” She crosses to a table. “Come on; there’s nobody here. If you want, I’ll tell you what happened.”
Nathaniel picks up the bottle and follows her. “Why not?”
Nathaniel pours two moderate measures. “So, do tell your tale.”
“It was that night when it was so cold.” Gwyn fiddles with the glass. “Everybody was over at the infirmary because of those two little kids, the ones with the tails. I was here tidying up and stuff. And there was this godawful howling noise, so I walked over there to ask what the fuck that was.” She pauses to take a sip. “And Aoibh hands me a sack full of coin and tells me to pay Anna and stay to help with the kids.” She rolls her eyes. “And you know I was all over that. So I paid Anna and I stuck around and offered to help. She was so busy with the kids, she didn’t even notice me. And so I left.” She takes a deep drink. “I got a bit turned around, and I ended up at the castle. And that’s where he was, the Hunter, and a Hound, too. Arguing with the king about something. Vedis was there.”
Nathaniel freezes for a moment, “The hunter?
“Yeah. That’s what he’s called. The hunter. Llwyd. The wild hunt. Like a story, right there in the castle. Antlers for days.” Gwyn shudders. “So not long after I got there, he got snitty and stalked out. The king yelled at me not to look into his eyes, and so I didn’t.”
“But he brushed me as he passed. Just one touch, Nathaniel, and I was somewhere else, all of a sudden.”
Nathaniel almost seems to tremble for a moment. “Shit! Shit! Shit! I, I…. I faced down the Wild Hunt??? Holy fuck!! And you got touched by him???” He takes a very large gulp, then seems to compose himself. “The wild hunt, holy crap!”
“Yeah.” Gwyn downs the rest of the glass and passes it back to Nathaniel. “I don’t know where I was. I don’t know if I was really there, or just there in my mind, or what. But everything was black and white, except the hounds’ ears. They were red. And his eyes. Red. Like that horse that was just here.” She shudders. “The pack never seemed to notice me. He never seemed to notice me. But I moved when they moved, ran when they ran, hunted what they hunted, whatever that was.” She shakes her head. “It felt like it would never, could never, end. Like it was the rest of my existence.”
Nathaniel fills her glass still looking a little dazed. “Well, your body was here, in the infirmary, but thank whatever spirits, deities, you made it back! Whatever version of the Wild Hunt myths you read, none of them are good news.”
“Sometimes we got to rest. But it never seemed to be for very long.” She nods. “Yeah. I wouldn’t have been able to get out, without help. Somebody, a woman I think, came and brought me back.” Gwyn takes a grateful sip. “But there was a price, of course.” She tugs at her shorn hair.
Nathaniel looks at her and nods. “Ah, I was wondering what was different about you. Do you know who it was?”
Gwyn shakes her head. “No idea, and she made me promise not to ever reveal her identity that I don’t know, anyway. She said there would be consequences.” She sighs. “I don’t suppose anybody in town cuts hair?”
Nathaniel laughs, “I have not had my hair cut since I left school. I used to get bullied about my hair colour at school, so refusing to cut it was my little act of defiance. You would have to ask one of the ladies about that.” He looks at her with a smiles. “But, in a way, I think the short hair looks good on you.”
“I’d just like to neaten it up a bit,” Gwyn admits. “She said it won’t grow out, because she cut it with a spirit knife.” Gwyn sighs. “It’s not a game, is it? This place. It’s not just something I made up. I might not ever get home, so I need to treat this place as if it’s real. Because it is real.” She takes another drink, and whispers, “It was almost nice, not having to worry about anything, just running, just breathing the wind, knowing the Hunter was there behind us all. Is that awful?”
Nathaniel tops up her glass, shaking his head. “Not at all. Sometimes, a sense of certainty, of having a defined place and not having to think about anything else can be very… liberating. My first job with the shipping company, after my college training, was very simple, very defined. I had my bits to do and then went home. After the months of learning, worrying about exams etc, it was quite a relief.” He pauses to take a sip. “But, you are right. Whatever this place is, it is not a game. And, all we can do is make the best of it, and try not to get eaten by mythology.”
“What the fuck is Alec thinking, anyway, letting a monster like that roam free here?” Gwyn taps a fingernail on the table. “I just keep trying to figure out why. Why I’m here. Why this happened. What happened back home. Why me, why this, why that, why, why, why. I sound like a three year old.”
Aoibheann wanders into the tavern. Looking like she hasn’t slept in 3 days, because, well, she really hasn’t. She seems to process the scene slowly, first realizing that Nathaniel was drinking wine with a woman, then that the woman wasn’t Lalla, and finally recognized her as Gwyn, the frown still remaining on her face, as she walked over, and very inappropriatly, just reached for the woman’s hair as if to see if it was really that short now.
Nathaniel looks up and gives Aoibheann a bemused smile. “Good afternoon.”
Gwyn squeaks and jumps, barely managing not to spill her drink. “Who the fuck… Aoibh!” Her eyes narrow. “Who did you rent my room to?”
Aoibheann “Sorry,” she apologized, looking down at the ground. “I just.. your hair… And no one– I mean–” Realizing Gwyn had probably noticed that Aoibh had touched all of her things, she confessed. “That was me. Sorry.”
“Jesus fucking Christ. Seriously? I was stuck in my pyjamas! Yeah. It was the price for coming back. Don’t worry — why were you sleeping in my room, though?”
Aoibheann “The price?” she repeated, worrying anyway, but answering Gwyn’s question before asking one of her own, “And… I’m– I wanted to be alone.” And the one room she figured no one would walk in on her in was in the room of someone who was supposed to be comatose. “I’m sorry,” she emphasized, “But, Gwyn, who cut your hair?” Aoibh sounded almost afraid to learn the answer.
“The lady, the woman, the one who brought me back,” Gwyn replies. “She said there had to be payment. So she hacked off my hair.” Gwyn bites her lip. “I really liked my hair. But it’s better,” she says, almost as if trying to convince herself. “It’s better to be back here, than out there with them.”
Aoibheann blinked a few times, as if maybe it was hard for her to stay awake, but she was very interested in this woman, apparently even more interested than in what ‘out there with them’ meant. “Was it Fiona?” she asked, obviously not sounding very fond of this Fiona.
“Who?” Gwyn takes a drink. “Sit. Nathaniel’s been feeding me rum. Want some?” She shakes her head. “The woman didn’t give me a name, said I must never tell anybody who she was or there would be some kind of consequences, I don’t know if she meant for her or for me.” She shrugs. “I never saw her face. She says my hair won’t grow back.”
Nathaniel smiles, “Yes, do sit. You look about ready to fall down as it is. I can get you a gin if you prefer.”
Aoibheann sat, her eyes going wide with alarm at that lat bit, and she ran her hands through her own hair. It had grown since she had gotten here, hadn’t it? “I’m fine,” she said, waving away the offer of drink, “But did she look–” It seemed to take her a moment to figure out how to phrase her next words. “Like me? But more beautiful and, with long, richer hair?”
“She had a hood,” Gwyn says. “I didn’t see her face. She came and called me by name, and she said I had to decide and I had to pay, and someone had contracted her services. She didn’t say who.” Gwyn twigs to what Aoibh is saying. “Fiona is … your sister?”
Nathaniel now looks slightly puzzled. “A sister?”
Aoibheann “No,” she answered, seeming very guarded for how tired she was. “She… It’s complicated. She’s from my village– well, she wasn’t, but, she found me in the forest one day… And…” She trailed off, not knowing how to really her the point across without saying things she couldn’t.
Gwyn eyes Aoibh. “And? Aoibh, I’ve been running with the Wild Hunt for days. I can handle whatever it is. I think I’ve passed the initiation rite or whatever.”
Aoibheann bit her lower lip, figuring Gwyn had a point, and knowing the woman would get very angry if Aoibh didn’t tell her, but well, she wasn’t willing to risk finding out if it was physically possible for her to tell her. Then her eyes lit up, as she thought of something. “One second,” she promised, going over to get her pen and a piece of parchment, her writing even worse than usual, since she was tired, and she seemed to insist upon not looking where she was writing, creating several smudged words. Still avoiding looking at it, she carried it over to the table and placed it in front of Gwyn, and then promptly turned her back. Sure, the words might have been a little petty, especially at the end, but well, she never could tell anyone this before, so she just wanted Gwyn to know.
Gwyn folds the piece of paper. “I believe you,” is all she says. “So. Do you know anybody who cuts hair in Jasper Cove?”
Nathaniel glances at the paper with mild curiosity, but is mostly watching Aoibheann.
Aoibheann “No,” she answered, “Not unless Fiona’s here, but, I think she would have visited me by now if she were.” Noticing Nathaniel watching her, she guiltily looks down.
Gwyn sighs. “I guess I’ll look like a waif for a while longer, then.” She sighs. “I’m scared now, you know. And I want to have some words with the king.”
Nathaniel nods and extends a hand towards Gwyn, “I’m sure we are all scared, and I will also be having words with the king. But, we aren’t going to let a mythological being disrupt our lives.”
“Wait.” Gwyn stares. “You mean weird Fiona who you’re scared of and can’t talk about is also a hairdresser?” She shakes her head. “I’m confused.” No surprise there, and not really a strange state of affairs, either.
“Except,” and Gwyn turns to Nathaniel. “He isn’t mythological. He is real. I followed him for days. He was everything to me. What kind of king lets his subjects be exposed to that?” Never mind that Gwyn tromped up to the castle and put herself in harm’s way.
Nathaniel shrugs, “Until a couple of years ago, I thought that dragons, elves, faeries, werewolves and such like were mythological too. Now, I stand behind a bar and serve drinks to them.
“But they could still be just pretending to be, that’s what I thought.” Gwyn’s reality is weird like that. “And then. Yeah.” Gwyn takes another drink.
Aoibheann “A hair dresser?” Aoibh repeated, seeming very confused, before she realized that Gwyn must’ve been talking about someone who cut hair at the person’s request, which they didn’t really have back then. “Oh, no, but she was the woman who…” Aoibh didn’t finish that sentence and just reached for her hair.
Nathaniel shrugs,”Who knows? Either way, I don’t intend to let the wild hunt put me off. Even if he isn’t interested in the beautiful Natalie…”
“Who cut your hair.” Gwyn finishes Aoibh’s sentence, then looks at Nathaniel. “You would make a beautiful woman, you know.” She might be a wee bit tipsy.
Wren Sophia McLoughlin clomped in from the cold, looking around the tavern as she chewed on her bottom lip. She didn’t see Ember anywhere and sighed slightly before spotting the group gathered around the table. She gave them a small wave and a smile.
Nathaniel bows modestly, “I thank you, but I assure you I am male, despite the hair, the excessive politeness and lack of swordmanship”
Aoibheann turned towards Wren, offering her a very tired smile. The innkeeper had apparently forgotten how to sleep again, but the conversation was helping her stay alert. “Good afternoon, Wren,” she greeted, half mumbling, and holding back some snickering in response to the other conversation, “Anything I can do for you?”
Gwyn grins. “And I know all the boys just love you.” She spares a glance to the little kid. “Hey! You were there when tall, horned, and creepy was visiting — do you know how I got to the infirmary?”
Nathaniel laughs, “I don’t know about all the boys. There was one, an economics student, back when I lived in London, who seemed to have a crush on me.”
Gwyn smiles indulgently at Nathaniel. “Don’t worry; there’ll be more. Pour us another?”
Nathaniel laughs and pours another drink. “He was a very smart guy, and very pretty, in his way, but my preferences are definitely for the ladies. Despite the rumours you might hear about sailors”
Wren Sophia McLoughlin shrugged at the innkeeper, “I was just looking for Ember. Have you seen her?” She looked up at Gwyn’s question and scuffled into the tavern a bit farther. “You went to the infirmary?” She hadn’t been able to see much from her position behind the cracked door. The girl shifted from foot to foot, “Maybe my parents brought you?” Her eyes then widened, “Did he touch you? Alec said you can’t let him do that, or you will get cold.”
Aoibheann almost nodded off, then jerked as she woke back up, seeming to need several seconds to realize that they were talking about the huntsman, and hoped her tired brain would remember not to let him touch her. “Huh? Ember?” Her eyelids drooped down, then reopened, “No, I haven’t. What does crush mean when you use it like that again?”
Gwyn pats Nathaniel’s hand. “It’s OK. I know a lot of guys like you. Sometimes it can take years to come to terms with it all– what?” She turns toward Wren. “Cold isn’t the half of it, trust me. He brushed me on the way out, and I was out for days, and I had to pay with my hair to get back.” Her eyes narrow. “Does he visit a lot?”
Nathaniel looks puzzled, “Come to terms with what?”
Gwyn pushes her glass further toward Nathaniel while trying to think of a polite way to say gay as Christmas that he might understand. “Some people hide it their whole lives. Poor things.”
Wren Sophia McLoughlin ‘s eyes widened, “You had to pay with your hair? Why would you have to do that?” She then shrugged her shoulders slightly, “I dunno! I ain’t seen him before that night. I think he’s sick or something.” She shrugged again, not so sure of the details.
“To get back,” Gwyn replies mildly. “And yes, it’s cold there. And you run and run and run.” She shudders at the memory. “The lady who brought me back, she made me pay with my hair.”
Nathaniel frowns as he pours another measure. “Hide what?” he pauses for a moment. “Oh! You think, because of that conversation we had the other week, that I am, what do you call it in your time, gay?” He laughs out loud. “Well, you wouldn’t be the first to think that.”
Aoibheann seems to be trying very hard to stay awake, but she’s been doing it after days of trying to sleep and fail, and her head slowly sinks on top of the table, surrounded by her headscarf, as she takes a little nap, occasionally snoring lightly.
Wren Sophia McLoughlin continued to look at her confused, “Get back? Get back from where?” She then heard what Nathaniel said, giving him a strange look, not sure what to say. She then snorted loudly, seeing Aoibh’s head lay upon the table..
“From running with the Wild Hunt,” Gwyn says. “I was in some weird black and white world, where I was part of a pack that ran with him, with the Hunter.” She looks at Nathaniel, takes the glass, and drinks. “Oh, honey,” she says. “It really isn’t a river in Egypt.”
Nathaniel looks even more puzzled, “What has the Nile got to do with it?”
Gwyn collapses into giggles. “Oh, never mind.”
Wren Sophia McLoughlin scratched the back of her neck confused, “The Wild Hunt? Huh?” She blinked at her perplexed and then just shrugged.
Nathaniel looks over his shoulder. “Oh, hello, Tilver, wasn’t it? Do you need a drink?”
“Nathaniel– we have a customer. I don’t think I can stand up to serve him.” She takes another long swallow. “And that’s a very good thing.” She looks at the little kid. “Do you really want to know?”
Nathaniel “And how about you, Patrolman Wren? Some cider for you?”
Tilver strolls into the tavern, and looks over the group, resting an arm on the counter, watching them “And, ah, didn’t stop by the bank, so just water for me at the moment.” he smiles, tapping his fingers on the countertop lightly. “And yes, it is Tilver.”
Nathaniel smiles, “Don’t worry about it. It is my habit to buy newcomers a drink, so what will you have?”
Wren Sophia McLoughlin looked over at the newcomer and gave them a small smile before turning back to Gwyn and nodding quickly, eyes full of curiosity, “What is it?” She then grinned over at Nathaniel and said a cheerful, “Yes, please!”
Tilver perks his ears “Oh, is it now.?” he smiles, leaning his arm on the counter “Well, surprise me, with something you think would be delightful.” he smiles holding up his empty hand, then closing it because, a free drink is always lovely, and all I have…” he says, opening it again, this time revealing a foreign coin “Doesn’t work here.”
Nathaniel pours a cider for Wren and a measure of his special reserve rum for Tilver
Gwyn puts down her glass. “Well, the Hunter appears in a lot of cultures, all over the world. But I remember my Welsh granny telling me about him, so I think of him as Welsh. In the winter, between Samhain and the dawning of the New Year, the souls of the dead sometimes wander without knowing where they’re meant to be. The Hunter’s job is to scoop up all the misplaced souls and keep them busy. He takes the souls of the dead, and they become his hunting hounds.” She sips, clears her throat, continues. “No one can resist being called into the pack, and the Hunt is a deadly and invincible force. They never miss their prey, and they hunt to the ends of the earth. Anyone caught up in the path of the Hunt becomes either a hound or is hunted until they can run no farther.”
Wren Sophia McLoughlin listened to what Gwyn was saying very carefully, eyes becoming wide as saucers. If she hadn’t actually seen the two figures, she would have waved it off as a story to scare people. “So, they hunt souls?” She blinked a couple times, “Does the pack kill you? If your hair wasn’t taken….would you have died? But why did the hunt come here?” She gestured around the area in general, stil confused.
Tilver smiles and sips the rum “Mmmmm that is delightful, thank you good sir.” he smiles, giving the glass a little twirl, closing his hand about the coin he had again, and resting it on the counter. “Good stuff indeed, may have to ask for it next time.”
“I don’t know,” Gwyn says. “I don’t know why they’d come here. They hunt souls sometimes; they hunt whatever is in their path. The dogs are also said to be souls. The Hunter himself is the incarnation of Gwyn ap Nudd, according to my granny. But there are also stories of the Brenin Llwyd, the grey king who hunts the mountains of Wales. And,” she continues gently, “I don’t think they kill you exactly. I think they eventually exhaust you, if you’re the prey.” Never mind that she was nearly exhausted herself. “I don’t know. It felt like I would be there forever.” It’s no story to be telling a little kid, but this is the third glass of rum.
Aoibheann awakes with a start, knocking over her chair in the process and crashing towards the ground. Blushing as she realizd what had happened, she simply said, “Excuse me,” as she righted her chair and sat properly, with correct posture and all, looking towards the customer with a concerned look on her face.
Wren Sophia McLoughlin looked around nervously like the hunt would just burst through the doorway, shivering slightly. She was about to open her mouth and ask another question about the hunt when she heard a clattering noise. She nearly jumped out of her skin, staring at Aoibh and staring around before breathing a sigh of relief. She took a deep breath and shook her head quickly, “Is there any way to make the hunt leave? Like run them off or something?”
Gwyn shakes her head. “Not that I’ve ever heard of. Nathaniel? Ever heard of a way to vanquish the Wild Hunt?”
Tilver thinks shrugs “Oh, not heard of it, but there are ways of beating most anything, if one puts their mind to it.” he smiles, giving a small bow “Might I be able to join you at the table, with Nathaniel, of course, as he was sitting with you before I came in?”
Gwyn shrugs. “Of course. We’re not particular.” Well, she’s not particular, not at the moment, anyway. “I expect I’ll be done soon, anyway.” She stares into her cup.
Nathaniel comes out from behind the bar and gestures at the table, “By all means, do sit”
Aoibheann frowned, seeing how frightened Wren seemed to be about the hunt. Sure, Aoibh was terrified too. The huntsman was the reason why she only got 20 minutes of sleep in the past 3 days, but seeing the fear on a child’s face somehow seemed… worse. “What if you hunted the hunt?” she mused, still half asleep, blinking as she seemed to only just now realize that Tilver had asked to sit with them. “Aoibheann Healaighthe,” she introduced herself, “And I fear I missed your entrance, but welcome to the Lucky Leaf Inn and Tavern.”
Wren Sophia McLoughlin stood chewing on her lip, hoping and hoping there was a way to dispel the hunt and that Tilver was correct. She looked up as Aoibh asked a question and nodded along with it, wanting to know if that could work.
Gwyn’s granny would say no. But Gwyn suddenly realises she’s scared a kid with a story of real death and mortality and what lies beyond. “I think there must be.” Her voice is calm; Gwyn is a good actress. “Yes. There must be a way.”
Wren Sophia McLoughlin sighed a little in relief, hoping they were all right. She just nodded very slowly, trying to imagine ways that the hunt could be defeated.
But now, Gwyn downs the rest of the third drink, swallowing visibly as her body tells her she’s had too much. “Do you know what? I’m drunk. And I’m going to take advantage of the fact that I am drunk and go upstairs to bed.” It may be the only way she’ll be able to sleep. And even then, even then. She’ll dream.
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