Druce had just pulled his toasted seed and dried berry bread out of the oven when his friend Morcant came through the door carrying a basket.
“What do you got in there?”
“Smoked salmon, a bottle of squid ink, and dried salted kelp chips.”
“I see you’ve made your famous berry bread. That will win over the hearts of the coldest stone.”
“We can only hope. I’m paring it with a jar of honeycomb, and a jug of my best mead.”
Druce wrapped up the bread and took a look at his friend. Morcant wore a soft seal skin over his shoulders. His tunic was sleeveless showing off his muscular arms. Today Morcant’s black hair was worn down around his shoulders framing his handsome face. Druce never wondered why all of the women in their village and the surrounding area sought Morcant out even if it was just to look.
The seal skin was that of Morcant’s sister who’d died in the past summer season. She and Morcant were Selkies. On land they were human, and in the sea they were seals. They guarded their seal skins with their lives, for if anyone stole their skin they would be trapped as humans, and in bondage forever.
Morcant’s brother-in-law never took his wife’s skin, but celebrated the fact that as a Selkie she had come to him of her own free will. Her love was free, and her husband was devoted to her. They had that rare true love that so many seek but never find.
One day while they were out fishing, his sister still in her human form, they were overcome by a great shark and dragged to the bottom of the sea as dinner. Morcant, as customary for Selkies now wore his sister’s skin to stay close to her spirit and to have her love with him always.
Druce looked into his mirror and brushed his sun streaked brownish blonde waves with his fingers. He was smaller than Morcant, and not quite as handsome, but the ladies still liked him too. And of course he liked them more than they could imagine.
“So, Druce,” said Morcant, “when exactly did this Wizard guy come into town?”
“Last week, under the darkness of the night.”
“What’s he like?”
“Personally? I don’t know. I hear he was sleeping with his sister. Nymue told me that. She also said he used to stalk her, asking her about her magic and getting all sappy and trying to sound mystical about it. One day she showed him a sword she was going to give to the next king and he said I’ll show you my magic sword. She kicked him out and told him she’d put a bad enchantment on him if he ever hit on her again. And I mean bad, you know, guy bad, like his sword won’t work for a year or two. Like a blade of grass.”
“Sounds like a creeper.”
“A real mess if you ask me. Anyway, that was a while back so maybe he’s changed. Gotta give a guy some doubt that he has grown up since his misplaced youth chasing ladies in lakes and all of that shit.”
“OK so I don’t get it Druce. You’re the Worlock around here. What’s the difference between you and some Wizard dude, except that you’re better looking and are better with women.”
Druce laughed. “As a Warlock, I can, how can I put this so it won’t sound weird. As you know I can harness and control spirits, demons, and other’s who aren’t human. I can’t make them work for me. I also control their evil so that they can’t harm people. I take their energy and do good with it. I can also do other magic and tricks through my own will. I deal with both sides of the world, that of the dead and that of the living. That of the physical and that of the spirits.”
“And what about Wizards?”
“Wizards learn their craft. They are gifted in the ways of magic, but their magic comes mostly from the use of potions, and the channeling of their magic through a staff, or wand. They can scare spirits and demons but they can’t control them. And Wizards are giving Warlocks a bad rap. I hear that in other parts my kind are being hunted down and burned to death. They think we’re minions of Satan.”
“That’s bull shit. Then why the fuck are we going to greet this guy and bring him gifts. He sounds like a freak to me.”
“Because he is working for the King.”
“The Kings is an idiot. He is obsessed with some old cup, and everyone knows his wife is sleeping with his best friend.”
“Hey, I didn’t put him into office. Blame that on Nyume. The Lady of The Lake should have minded her own business and …”
There was a scream and in through the door came a whirl of gray, which stopped and materialized into a woman. She smiled showing lovely white teeth, but her eyes were black and crazy. No harm. Just their friend Milen, who was also a Banshee.
“Milen,” said Druce, as he blew her a kiss. “Thanks for coming. I have fresh venison stew in the pot there over the fire. I put the eyes in there for you.”
She grinned and put a long fingered hand into the boiling stew and plucked out an eye, the popped it into her mouth.
“Hey, Milen, we should be gone just a few hours,” said Druce. “I’m so glad you could watch the baby for me.”
“Ohhhhhh of course,” she said as she went over to a baby unicorn who was curled up asleep in its tiny bed made of soft sea grasses and dried fragrant flowers.
“Alright then, we’ve better get going, if we’re going to go,” said Druce, and they packed up their gifts and went to meet their new neighbor.
The new Wizard had chosen and old Roman camp on a hill as his new home. The buildings were already there and in fairly good shape. It was also about a five day journey from there to where the King lived. Or at least the king the Wizard worked for.
The two friends arrived at the home of the Wizard and were greeted by a tall man with a brown beard flecked with gray. His eyes shone blue like spring wildflowers, flecked with gold.
The Wizard welcomed them in and introduced himself as Merlin, the Wizard. There was something sort of sad about him, like someone who had a lot of friends, but nobody he was really close to. Druce wondered if Merlin could pick up on emotions and sadness like a Warlock could. Or like a woman could.
Merlin thanked them for the gifts and asked them to come sit. He led them to a room where the walls were covered with tapestries and the chairs with lush textiles and furs.
“The seal skin you wear is beautiful. The finest I’ve ever seen,” said Merlin to Morcant.
“This is my sister’s skin. She passed six moons back. I wear this skin in her honor.”
There was a pause in the conversation and a bit of weirdness.”
“Morcant is a Selkie,” said Druce.
Merlin looked surprised. He was surprised. He’d never met a Selkie before. It seemd, as they talked, that there were a lot of things Merlin had never done.
Still they visited and had polite small talk. Druce and Morcant of the village and the surrounding peoples, and those who were not people. There was also a lot they didn’t tell him. When the sun began to set Druce and Morcant bid their host goodbye.
They started the walk home in silence but then Morcant spoke.
“Merlin was nice. Not much of a bro, if you know what I mean, but nice. But dude, he has more demons than you’ll ever have.”
Druce gave a sad smile, “At least I can control my demons. Fuck, they aren’t even my demons. Merlin needs more sunshine, and he needs to divorce himself from his dysfunctional family and friends. I always tell everyone that it isn’t demons that are bugging them, it is their toxic friends and family members that are getting them down. He needs to let go.”
“True,” said Morcant. “Are you going to tell him about the unicorn?”
“Hell no,” said Druce. “I’m not telling him where the dragons are either.”
As they passed a cottage on the edge of a field of grain a woman stepped out and greeted them. “Morcant, will you stay the night with me? I could use your love, and I’ll have plenty to give back.”
“Go,” said Druce. He knew Morcant had been seeing the Widow Cath for few months. Her elderly husband had died leaving her a large farm to manage, a task she did better than most men. Morcant had always been fond of her, but now it was becoming a bit more than fond.
At home Druce found the Banshee Milen sleeping with the tiny unicorn baby in her lap. She’d taken on a physical form, that of a woman of a certain age who had a well earned beauty earned from a life well lived, at least before she had been betrayed and murdered by her husband. He put a blanket woven of the softest flax over them.
He poured a glass of beer and pulled a stool outside in his garden, out under the stars. He could hear the waves of the ocean. Maybe later he’d go down to the beach and see what spirits were among the sea shells and boats tonight.
But now he sat and thought of the sad Wizard. Then he thought of the women he knew and how it would be nice to have one of them in his bed that night, skin against skin, and a special kind of magic that came when two people came together in desire of both the body and the soul.
Then he thought about how dragons had become so endangered due to the trade of dragon bones by Wizards for their wealthy clients. Everyone with half a brain knew that dragon bones powder did nothing to make one’s manhood larger.
Then he thought of women again.
Milen the Banshee came out with a stool and sat next to him. He told her about his visit to Merlin. She said it was sad when one was so full of power and so lost. Then she said she was glad her husband had been hanged after she’d died. She always mentioned that. Druce didn’t blame her. She hadn’t planned on being a Banshee.
Then she put her hand on Druce’s. “Darlin, I’ll be in human for for another hour or two. Let’s go inside and take advantage of that.”
And like any good Warlock who knew what was good for him Druce kissed her and took her inside.