Awakening

The winter, apparently, was long.

The winter, apparently, was long.

The winter, apparently, was long.

And, it seems, I slept. I remember the demifae coming to me with food, nuts, berries, sometimes meat.

And I remember Janus coming to me, again and again, throughout the winter, drawing upon my strength, the sleeping queen, the dormant spring, lying there like the water beneath the frozen land, waiting for the touch that burned and froze and burned again.

And then, something stirred.

And then, something stirred.

And then, something stirred. I heard voices, familiar and comforting voices, and when I turned in my sleep, it seemed I could remember the rich rush of water, the coming thaw, the gloriousness of my feet against green grass.

As lovely as my long dream was, I could hear it was time to wake. How they tease you when you’re sleeping, the memories of the land, your own memories, the minds of the fae dreaming and awake. Being a Queen means being inside all of them and letting them all have their sovereignty, and if that, just this once, meant sleeping through winter, well then: I slept through winter.

Both voices, so familiar, one grown and one growing.

Both voices, so familiar, one grown and one growing.

Both voices, so familiar, one grown and one growing. Nathaniel and Wren, come to wake me like a fairytale princess.

Well.

Nathaniel, come to wake me like a fairytale princess, Wren, come to ask a million questions and explain the intricacies of life as a fae teenager. Bless her, she’s got wings now, and the land is working its magic in her blood as surely as it did in mine.

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But something happened of course. Something happened when Nathaniel kissed me.

But something happened, of course. Something happened when Nathaniel kissed me. To be fair, something always happens when Nathaniel kisses me, ever since that night when I was drunk and kissed him because I was angry he hadn’t kissed me yet and something about his skin.

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The Wylds have done their work on Nathaniel as well.

The Wylds have done their work on him as well, and the man who kissed me drew away from me a different man and reminded me of the goddess inside me who grants me the breath to walk in her footsteps.

I would have been afraid once of a man with horns and wings like a bird. I would have been afraid once of a man whose teeth can sink into flesh like a hot wire through butter. Maybe it’s only because I didn’t know what he was, but rather who he was, when I came to love him. Maybe that’s the only reason things didn’t turn out even more sadly for us all.

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Yes, of course they gave me the news.

Yes, of course they gave me the news. News of this or that ascent and descent, the comings and goings of Huntsmen and the terrifying yet strangely exhilarating news of King Gwythyr in the wind.

It seems my dream of winter is over. It seems my crown of rain and candles were never seen except in my dream. It seems I danced with ravens only in the shadow roads, and my only dance partner was My King, and I never knew I slept except in the certainty of that dream of dancing toward winter. My plan, my life as a Winter Queen, well. I made it a month into autumn and not even to Samhain, and dream a dream of love in that other life, love I would never dream possible if I knew that were the only world.

You ask, “My Queen, what may I bring you?”

You ask, “My Queen, what may I bring you?” And I say, “Bring me rain. Bring me snowdrops. Bring me primroses springing beneath my feet. Bring me an early sunrise. Bring me the promise of birds courting in the trees, rabbits fucking in the sparse wood, bears waking and thinking of fucking in the deep wood, deer keeping themselves under control until the last few moments of spring bleed into the wet, hot, rutting summer. Bring me ice water from the mountain above the Residence: Bring me the thaw. Bring me the melt. Bring me mud time and bud time and every little strawberry blossom that heralds every asparagus spear.”

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And then you ask, “But what of the Winter Queen you might have been?”

And then you ask, “But what of the Winter Queen you might have been?” And now I will quote a book that you never have read and are unlikely to read, a book about a lion, and I will tell you that, “Nobody is ever allowed to know what might have been.”

You want to see me in my kingdom? You want to see me in a crown, in jewellery, in a dress that makes mortals tremble? Why should I make mortals tremble? Mortals tremble of their own accord. And when they see me, some of them realise why they tremble.

But here: I will indulge you. Now there are buildings behind me, mountains.

But here: I will indulge you. Now there are buildings behind me. Now I wear roses and gold. Now you can see what my feet have wrought even in the hazy morning of my first day, my first day awake, my first day back.

Did I tell you it was a long winter? Oh, yes, long. And now I am awake. Awake and in my Nathaniel’s arms, awake and giggling again with Wrennie, awake and hearing more of Aoibheann’s adventures (they are never-ending), awake and wondering once again if Dyisi is a genius or a rustic or a little of both, awake and wishing more than anything for a week between seasons so that I could rest and remember Gwyneth Evans and read a contemporary fantasy and laugh about how fairies could never survive in London. And a week to go there as a fairy.

And who will question me if I wear birds in my hair?

And who will question me if I wear birds in my hair?

And who will question me if I wear birds in my hair? No one. Who will question me if the air bends around me and crowns me with light? No one. Yes, I think a week in London, undercover as Gwyneth Evans, would do me a world of good. Someone needs to tread on my foot on purpose and then tell me to go fuck myself, someone who won’t be marked for death later by some Sidhe who wandered upon us and guards me still. Or so they say: I have not yet seen Wulf.

Fade away, dream, fade away.

Fade away, dream, fade away.

Fade away, dream, fade away. I shall watch you, but only far enough to know you’re fading. Any farther and you might not come back again, or so says my Welsh granny. My false Welsh granny.

Perhaps that should be a week in Aberystwyth. Twenty years ago. And maybe that’s how it all started, anyway.

So many things to think about. My mother, lost before she was found. I must find her again. And my children. I do not think I can hold off their births much longer: it may be that sleeping through the winter was in some way my desire to do just that.

My Valene. My Nathaniel. My Janus. My Aoibheann. And that creature in the castle who calls himself now a king.

Rise, sun, rise.

Come, summer, come.

Existential Blues

My dad made me listen to this song when I was a kid. I think it was by some America comedian. It didn’t make any sense, and neither does Jasper Cove.

Here are ten questions I don’t know the answers to:

  1. Why do we not have internet but we do have an espresso machine?
  2. Why don’t I ever bring my sketch book out in public here? Drawing from memory sucks, but I did a sketch of Nathaniel this morning.
  3. What is the deal with all these little kids? I would think I made this whole fucked up fantasy up, but there are so many little kids, everywhere. I would never dream up so many little kids. And all of them are girls. WTF.
  4. Who invented this abomination they call cider? Cider has alcohol in it, damn it; lots and lots of alcohol. It tastes like fruit and it gets you seriously pissed. 
  5. WTF is up with Nathaniel? He’s got lovely ginger hair, but he’s so fucking polite. If he didn’t swear up and down he’d had a wife who passed away, I’d put him on the ‘never been snogged’ list, honestly.
  6. Why is the only thing here that mirrors reality the lack of available men? See above point, plus Emanuel, who seems almost normal, is clearly shagging Anna, and Creepy Bird Druid Man I would not want following me around anyway, and Alec is (duh!) the king who is all kinds of happily married, or I should hope so with the number of kids those two have running around. Cristoff is like my funny uncle, and Bound– well, let’s just say he’s not on the list of potential Jasper Cove Flings for various reasons. 
  7. There are no gays here. WTF. At home, everybody I know is gay. Or looks gay. Or acts gay. Or would kind of like to be gay. This is possibly because my gaydar got skewed for life when I spent that summer working for Apple Retail. 
  8. Where are the kitty cats? In the absence of a potential Jasper Cove Fling, I could at least go for a kitty cat. 
  9. When do I get to meet this amazing talking dragon? Aoibh told me we actually have a real dragon who comes in to the pub. I’d like to see that. I would say she’s fucking with me, but I don’t think Aoibh knows how to fuck with people. We have to fix her sense of irony. Did they have senses of humour in the 1300s that didn’t involve poop jokes?
  10. It is really good that I finally started this journal. Now if I have questions like, ‘Am I dead, back home,’ or ‘Am I in a coma’, or ‘Did I just get some seriously good drugs in hospital and I’ll be back in a few weeks’, I have somewhere to put them down instead of blurting them out to whoever will listen to me. 

Top Ten Reasons I Probably Am Not Dead.

  1. I don’t feel dead. 
  2. No white light.
  3. No life flashing before my eyes.
  4. Nathaniel said Alec said the boatman was not Charron.
  5. No cats. There would be cats in the afterlife.
  6. In the afterlife, I would be in a tracksuit, and slippers, not dealing with the same five LARP outfits I took to Shining Lands. I’m getting seriously fucking sick of them. And wtf, no denim.
  7. I would not itch so much in the afterlife, because duh, I’d have no nerves. Seriously, I must be allergic to something around here, because damn. Itching.
  8. I still have to sleep. What’s up with that?
  9. I am running out of eyeliner. In the REAL afterlife, there would be an endless supply.
  10. There would be sushi. Lots and lots of sushi.

Right, so much for existential blues; on to bad art. Here is the sketch I did of Nathaniel earlier. I don’t think I got it quite right. 

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People I have met so far in Jasper Cove

In no particular order.

  • Aoibheann — well, she gets an order, because she’s the first person I met here. She puts me up at her tavern, the Lucky Leaf, in exchange for my working at the pub. It is a pretty good exchange, I think. All I do is serve drinks and food and sweep the floors occasionally. It gives me something to do. Aoibheann is from sometime in the 14th century, from a world where dragons attack people. She has a self-esteem problem.
  • Nathaniel — Well posh, even though he says he’s not, my coworker at the Lucky Leaf. He is meant to do accounts but mostly tends bar and philosophises. He is from the Victorian era, which may account for his thinking he is not posh when in fact he is very posh. His father owned some shipping and construction business. He says there are werewolves in London where he comes from, and he believes in dragons and all sorts of other things.
  • Alec — Alec is the King. Yes, there is a king. I think he is some kind of magician as well. He always seems happy. He overpaid me for dinner once when I served him at the tavern. He and the queen have a bunch of little kids and another one on the way.
  • Isabella — Isabella is the Queen. She is pregnant. She drinks a lot of milk.
  • Anna — Runs the infirmary and also cooks for the pub. Everybody has this idea that Aoibh can’t cook. I don’t know what that is all about: she makes great chips.
  • Cristoff — A patron who visits the tavern. He keeps schnapps of his own behind the bar, but nobody seems to mind. He fills it all up with cherry flavoured syrup, which is well weird. But he has seen all the right films, and he dresses like a mobster. I like him because he is funny and he gets my jokes.
  • Daimon — Creepy birdman who’s stalking Aoibh. She seems to be falling for it, but I don’t like him. He feels dangerous to me.
  • Bound — Guy in chains who insists he was cursed by some Goddess of Death or other. By in chains, I mean they are coming out of his skin and shit.
  • Emanuel — Runs the bookstore. Comes from some bizarre timeline in which Steve Jobs is still alive and some android operating system has taken over technology. Yeah, right.
  • Various little kids — I can’t keep them all straight. One of them at least knows what an iPhone is, so she might be from around the same time as me. One of them doesn’t talk to anybody and is generally creepy. Anna seems to be the only person who can talk to her. Another one has an imaginary mum and seems a bit disturbed in general. The king and queen’s kids, of course, are well-adjusted and normal-acting. I guess it’s always better to be born in the right place.

Here is a sketch of the Lucky Leaf.

The keeping of journals

I have never been very good at keeping a journal, even though every writing teacher I’ve ever had says it’s important. But my life has taken a weird turn recently. Inspired by a friend of mine who keeps a journal and encourages other people to do it too, I’ll try this, and we’ll see how it turns out.

Disclaimers aside, here’s how I came to be stuck in my current predicament.

Kevin, Emma, Fen, Richard, and I were on our way home from the Shining Lands Bordertown event. It’s the last big LARP event of the summer, so we stayed later than we should and had to dump everything into Fen’s mpv (well, Fen’s dad’s mpv) to get off site in time. We were all still in LARPgarb when we got in the car — five people are safe to go to KFC in motorway services dressed like half-elves, right?

The event was in the middle of nowhere, Lincolnshire (seriously, I think that’s it’s real name), so we had to go down a million little roads to join the A1 at Peterborough, and then Richard said it would be easier to get back to Greenwich if we went through Cambridge, so we headed for the M11. We were talking about a couple of props we’d got at the LARP. Richard got a new knife, and I got great leather boots. I had my leg up in the air trying to prove that my boots were more badass than Richard’s knife. And that’s when this huge lorry barrelled into us on the merge.

The car was upside down. I hit my head when I fell. Kevin was in the front seat. There was blood everywhere. I was in between Emma and Richard. I don’t know about Fen, but Kevin was really hurt, if that was his blood. Emma and Richard were freaking out. I don’t know why they were freaking out. Richard kept telling me not to move, and I was like, we have got to get out of this car because it will blow up, and Emma said that only happened in films. Fen and Kevin were really quiet. I stopped looking up there. Richard got the door open and Emma tried to hold me in the car! I told her to fuck herself; I was getting out, and I followed Richard out. When I stood up, I got dizzy and lightheaded all of a sudden, and I realised there was blood all over my favourite Elf-Clan bracers. Richard had knifed me when the lorry hit us. I turned to him to tell him what a douche he was; I was laughing, but he just kept staring and saying he was sorry. Then I guess I passed out.

I remember some noises, lots of engines, sirens, people talking. It changed from hot to cold. I told someone I had a headache but thought I was fine. They said I wasn’t fine and to lie still or I’d be less fine. So I lay still.

When I woke up, I was on the bank of a river. I had my backpack on me. There were lots of plants and bird noises; definitely not Cambridge. Next to me was a little pier, so I got up and walked down the pier to see what I could see. There wasn’t much: just rushes and river stuff. There seemed to be a settlement on the other side: I thought maybe I could find some help there. That’s when the ferryman turned up. He offered to take me across the river so I could find a place to stay. He told me if I came back across, I’d lose my memories. I looked at that little settlement, and it just seemed so peaceful and unlike anywhere else I’d ever been. I let him help me into the boat– he insisted on a handshake– and he hummed a little song as he ferried me across. When I asked him what I owed him on the other side, he just smiled and said he’d collect his payment on the return trip. That made my stomach fall.

There was a dock for ships on the other side, but nobody was there. So I took the path and climbed up into the town.

The town is amazing, a little walled town just like you’d find in a book. That’s when I woke up and realised I was probably dreaming, or in the hospital, or something.

I went into the tavern, because there’s always somebody in the tavern in a fantasy novel, and I met Aoibheann. She was talking to a freaky person dressed up like a demon with a tail and horns and everything. Definitely some peculiar fantasies going on in my head. I told her I’d just arrived, and predictably after some basic negotiations, she offered me a place to stay in exchange for helping out at the pub.

These memories are already starting to fade; that’s why I had to write all this down. I think this is my mental way of cheating the ferryman: if I have it all written down, it can’t be forgotten.

Here is what I look like in my LARP clothes: