Evander sat across from me at the round dining table that stood near the wall of windows. The table and its four chairs were made of something similar to oak, and stained a pale honeyed shade of brown. The hazy daylight streamed in through the thin curtains, keeping the light gentle. It crossed my mind that I still hadn’t been outside in this realm; I wondered what it would be like. Then again, I had it in my mind that I might just go back home and not deal with their problems.
“Milady, I can see that tension has over taken you,” Evander said, his voice gentle. “How might I help ease your mind?”
I sighed; was I even breathing properly? My eyes stayed on the windows, gazing outside. “Can we start with nobody assuming that I’m going to do what Jean-Marc and Brom said they need me to do?”
Evander seemed to tense up at that. It was slight, but for somebody who was usually reserved and gentle, I could tell the difference. “I can understand where a sentiment like that comes from, milady,” he said to me. “Far be it from me to speak for the others, but I hope that it is comforting enough when I say that I do not make such assumptions about whether you will help us.”
“But you’re still hoping, right?” I replied.
“I suppose I would be lying if I said that I was not,” he admitted. “Does such hopefulness bother you?”
I shook my head. “I guess it shouldn’t. But I have to tell you, Evander, every time I come here, I end up telling myself it was all just a dream. I don’t know if it was last night or this morning as I was waking up, but the same thing went through my mind. I tried convincing myself that I’d gone to bed at midnight last night. I told myself that I was waking up in my own bed. But when I looked around…” I shook my head. “Do you know what it’s like to think you’re waking up from a dream only to see that it wasn’t a dream?”
Evander stayed quiet, seeming to understand that it was a rhetorical question. He did look empathetic, though.
“This place… It’s not a dream. It has a name. It has people and history and…” I made myself take a breath; I had to keep my cool. “It’s like being in a different time, but it’s so much more than that. There are elves and fairies and all sorts of other magical creatures, for goodness’ sake!”
“And fauns,” he added with a smile that I could actually call playful.
I nodded and returned his smile with a half one of my own. “I’ve read stories where stuff like this happens, Evander. I’ve watched movies where the characters get transported to other worlds, magical realms, different times, places full of danger that need help. I like stories like that, but then I asked myself why, and I have to say, it’s because I’m entertained. I liked the adventure, the themes, the visuals, but none of those reasons are because I want it to happen to me.” I was really carrying on on, but I didn’t care; I needed to get this off my chest. “I like movies and books and games with adventures and creatures of all kinds. My friends and I experience that adventure vicariously through the characters we see and play and read about.”
Evander took his time thinking about what I’d said before he replied. I didn’t mind; I appreciated it, actually. I felt like he was truly thinking about the meaning behind my words, making sure he understood. “This adventure with us, then, is entirely unexpected by you, milady?” he eventually asked me.
I nodded. “You’re right about that.”
“But…” he went on, “is it something that you would have wanted to completely avoid?”
I turned to face him more squarely, meeting his soft gray eyes. “I was right to trust the that you would actually listen to me, and that you would ask the right questions,” I said, trying to sound grateful. Then I sighed and got up to pull the curtains aside. The sky outside was overcast, the landscape still shrouded in a thin mist; perhaps it would clear up later.
“I don’t know if it’s something I wanted to avoid,” I told Evander when I sat back down, “because I never thought this could happen at all. I know some people read books, watch movies, or play games and wish they could be in that world, but I’m not sure that I ever really wished that. For example, if I’m playing a game where I have to fight a bunch of monsters, I don’t really think it’s a place I’d want to live in. I know Earth is not without its dangers, considering things like bears and sharks and snakes.” I felt myself starting to get just a little off topic, and tried to refocus.” Looks at it like this: if I really wanted to live in a worlds where I had to go on adventures like that, I would have better prepared myself. I would have gotten better at hiking and camping and riding in carriages instead of cars– and I’d probably have taken up more martial arts or weapons practice.”
Evander was still listening intently, still open, so I went on talking.
“But if I completely hated the idea of adventures, wouldn’t I have quit watching those movies, reading those books, and playing those games? I don’t know,” I sighed. “They were all fiction, no matter how much I enjoyed them, no matter how much I like the idea of dragons and elves and everything else. I mean, even though I’ve study the culture that my heritage represents, it’s not like I completely believe in everything in Celtic folklore. It’s called mythology for a reason, right? A myth is fiction… It’s just a story.”
Evander nodded in understanding. “There are myths, milady, and there are legends. Truth be told, there are many, many other types of stories. I’m not sure, however, whether I can play the role of authority on which ones are true and which ones are works of the imagination.”
“At least you understand me,” I replied. “They talked about social sciences last night, and that makes a really good point. But countries– the kingdoms of my world have long and complicated histories. Borders have changed, for many reasons really, and stories get handed down from one generation to the next, sometimes only by word-of-mouth, and sometimes written down. Either way, they tend to change when they’re very old. There’s a point where historical events are no better than legends. Historical figures become culture heroes, and it’s hard to draw the line between the feats that they actually accomplished, and fictional glorification. Of course, we want to believe; we want to take pride and be inspired,” I told him, “but we’re just regular people, and no matter how inspired we are, we don’t think we have to actually commit those feats ourselves.”
“My dear lady,” Evander said, “may I say first that I can tell that you have a powerful mind? The things the you know… Your thoughts go in many directions at once. Before I worry you that it might be a bad thing, please allow me to remind you that you have thought of all that in a very short time.”
“Yeah…” I said, gazing out the windows. If it weren’t so hazy, I’d have been tempted to ask that we eat out on the balcony. “Yeah, I guess I did.”
“I know that Brom and the others have been working to help keep Tierney Ríocht thrive for ages,” he added, “but you have every reason to feel overwhelmed, milady.”
I looked over at Evander. I wanted to hear everything from him. He was kind, he listened, he was compassionate. It was almost tempting to want to help him outright– but I still had so many questions. “Evander… how did Ashleen react when she wound up here? How did she feel about being asked to do things in order to save this world?”
He thought a moment, then said, “That was my father’s time, milady, so I cannot be certain. Still, I have heard that your family’s motherland– Ireland– is home to the Aos sí. They are the faerie folk, are they not? The Sidhe?”
“Oh, wow,” I breathed. “You actually have a point there. Ashleen would have believed in them regardless of how much Christianity was present in her area. Coming here would have been much less of a stretch.”
He nodded, offering a comforting smile. “Beliefs in the Sidhe have persisted for ages, have they not?”
“Y– yeah, I think they have, actually. I mean, most cultures still have individuals who believe in the old gods and folklore. You…” I paused to think for a few moments. “The other musicians that you’ve met– the ones from Earth– how did they react?”
“Well now, I’d have to think back…” Evander said. “Lord Caelan was served by my father before I took over his role. By then, he seemed to have embraced being here and helping us. After him was Lord Owen, whose villa is in the elvan forest; he seemed excited by everything he encountered. He was such an eager man…” He had a wistful smile on his face, like he was remembering something warm and happy.”
“What about Morrigan?” I wanted to know.
“Ah, my dear lady,” Evander said, smiling wider, “that is where things get even more interesting.”
Thinking of the Sidhe got me thinking of a lovely band called Ceredwen. Their lengua canta is Welsh, which I hope you like listening to as much as I do.