I spent most of the day in the sithen, studying. After dinner, I got restless and went out for a walk. I think autumn must come earlier to this realm than to England; our summer has seemed very short, and this evening I felt I had to put on a longer skirt to really go anywhere. That said, I’m still barefoot most of the time. I think it’s because I’m having trouble glamouring shoes properly. The boots Cristof’s leathersmith made are still holding up really well, but I can’t exactly wear those with a skirt, or I wouldn’t want to, anyway. The only kinds of shoes I seem to be able to magick are either soft ballet slippers or ridiculous little play boots that don’t seem to have much practical use at all. So I suppose it’s all relative. Anyway, when I reached the hill top, the mist was already down, and I very nearly missed the fact that Nathaniel was up on the crest of the hill, sketching something into a notebook. I asked him what he was doing there, and I think I scared him — he jumped out of his skin!
He said he was thinking of making a map of the realm. I said I thought that was a great idea, and I offered to illustrate it for him. Of course, he’s never seen this journal, so he has no idea I can actually draw. I hope he won’t feel I’ve been keeping secrets when and if I finally show it to him — they’re just doodles, after all, but they pass the time nicely in the sithen and I can work on them when my mind grows weary of reading. Right now I’m reading some histories of the long winter the Seelie Court had to endure some years past, and the stories of our people suffering are sometimes quite wrenching. It’s hard to believe that such a powerful and noble race as the Sidhe have ever had to endure hardship, but I know I am prone to thinking of things from such a human point of view. I must learn to at least frame arguments from the Seelie point of view if I’m ever to understand our cultural and historical points of view.
Note to self: the Queen referred to me as a ‘wyldling’ the other night. I must ask Lady Siansa or Prince Blaise what that meant. Princess Aisling would probably know as well. I need to keep that question in my mind so I can remember to ask it.
I asked Nathaniel if he’d seen Aoibheann, because I haven’t really left the sithen for the last couple of days and wanted to know how she was. He said he hadn’t seen her either, so I got worried and we decided to go down to her tree, Ardan, and see if she was there; Nathaniel said she’d been spending a lot of time with the tree recently.
When we reached the bottom of the hill and the end of the bridge, Aoibh wasn’t there. We both tried talking to the tree, but got no response. Not that I expected one: I can’t shake the belief that it’s ridiculous to try and get responses from trees, even after Castle Shithole was destroyed by a mob of angry trees (apparently). Here again, I am failing to expand my beliefs in line with what’s happening around me. Finally, there was a noise, and an arm that definitely belonged to Aoibheann appeared, hanging down from a tree branch. It was, thank the gods, attached to Aoibheann herself, who was apparently fast asleep in the tree. After some discussion, I finally decided I couldn’t wait any longer.
“I am a cross and selfish girl,” I said. “I have been stuck in the sithen for like, two solid days, and I haven’t had my Aoibheann fix. I need some fatalism! Bring me the doom and gloom, sister!” I eyed the tree. “Surely she’ll wake up if we…” And I picked up an acorn and prepared to throw it up into the tree, with a mind to waking Aoibheann forcibly. I was worried she hadn’t had anything to eat and might need some caretaking. Nathaniel kissed me, right then. I was already turning to throw the acorn into the tree — I said something about playing netball in primary school. I think — or I thought at the time, anyway — he said he loved me. But I was too focused on throwing to pay attention just then, and when I asked him later what he’d said, he didn’t say that again.
And that’s when we encountered the Phoenix. He(?) was magnificent, and I couldn’t stop looking at him. He communicated with us via some kind of mind speech, a lot of which sounded like complete gibberish, and Nathaniel apparently knew him; they’d met back in Jasper Cove.
All this happened just as I was throwing the acorn into the tree, including Nathaniel saying the creature’s name, at least twice, but I’ve forgotten it now.
I really did play a lot of netball in primary school, but I was never as good at throwing as I was just then, because I hit Aoibheann square in the nose with that acorn. She woke up and was very cross, but I was feeling so good about the throw I just didn’t mention that I’d actually thrown an acorn at her to wake her up. She’ll probably not find out, anyway.
Nathaniel had to go at that point: he had something to take care of, so he asked me to make sure Aoibheann got something to eat and went off back over the bridge into Unseelie territory.
I apologised to the phoenix because I had to take care of Aoibheann, then went to the other side of the tree to talk with her.
As it turned out she (unsurprisingly) hadn’t eaten, had no idea how long it had been since we’d seen one another, and responded vaguely to all questions I asked her. I finally convinced her to walk up to the former Castle Shithole with me so we could get her something to eat at the inn. Yes, the Unseelie sithen was much closer and would not have involved walking up a really steep hill, but I cannot go there and I could not be confident she’d eat if I didn’t supervise her. Then I remembered something from Harry Potter, of all places: Phoenixes (is that the right plural?) have the power to heal with their tears. I turned and asked the phoenix if that was true, and if he could heal, and if he would heal Aoibheann. He spouted some mumbo jumbo about keeping things in balance, but I kept at him and he decided it was OK.
We walked forward, and he began to glow. Then he began to actually burn. I thought they only did that when they were about to die and be reborn, but he seemed right as rain (no pun intended) under all those flames. Aoibheann handed me her bag and stepped forward, and that fire wrapped around her, but it didn’t burn. It reminded me of the magical fire Prince Blaise showed me that morning in the sithen. It was over quickly, and the phoenix looked none the worse for wear. Aoibheann, on the other hand, looked demonstrably better, and I stopped worrying about her so much. Even though she still looked as if she were behind on her sleep. Still, I felt good about it all.
“And now do you want to go get some food?” I asked. “Or do you want to go take a nap? Or should we dance? Or maybe go kick some Huntsman arse?”
The phoenix piped up: Huntsman, wolves, bad.. but not bed. Ancient one, hunter, you not ancient, don’t fight ancient one, not good, bad things happen.
For fuck’s sake, I was making a joke! Aoibheann didn’t think it was funny, either. “Gwyn, you must– absolutely must not encounter the Huntsman before Braeden takes you to him. And, the phoenix is right, but– Braeden…. He will scream. We will dance later, Gwyn.” Then, she just wandered round the back side of the tree, presumably to think up cool ways to torture the sluagh.
So, fine. I said farewell to Aoibheann, gave the phoenix a curtsey and told him what a marvel he was once again, and I started to head back to the sithen.
As I left, the phoenix said, All is as it is, what will be, will be.
I couldn’t get that out of my head, so I made up a little tune for it and sang it all the way back to the sithen.
All is as it is; what will be, will be….all is as it is; what will be will be….