Something my friend Seamus said long ago crossed my mind the other day. It was in the twentieth century, soon after we met. We were discussing the specifics of some matter of importance or other when Seamus held up his hand and said, “Hold on now, Danko. I don’t like to get bogged down in the details of things. Otherwise we’ll be debating this forever!”
We both smiled, the knowing smiles of two men who travel through time and fully grasp the concept of ‘forever,’ at least as much as any human can.
“I’m a ‘big picture’ kind of guy,” Seamus concluded. I smiled.
It’s true, he is. I try to be that way too. Sometimes I don’t have to try.
This came to mind in an earlier century at my Winterfell home the other morning, after I’d finished the day’s correspondence and other business, rushing through it a bit to allow enough time for an excursion around the Realm.
I hurried out my front door, my Secretary (He insists on capitalization) following close behind. Just a few steps into the yard, I stopped suddenly. Dutifully, he did too.
“Were these trees here yesterday, Mr. Afterthought?” There was a brief silence.
“Is this another trick question, Ambassador?” he asked with hesitation. “Or perhaps rhetorical and I’m not required to answer…he said hopefully?” He smiled.
“Uh, no. I just don’t recall trees right here at my front door,” I replied. Mr. Afterthought looked down at his shoes. “Or do I?” I asked myself aloud as I looked at the golden leaves. “They’re very nice, sort of a natural pathway to my door. And with the last days of the fall colors, a very beautiful welcome for visitors.”
“Yes, sir,” said Mr. Afterthought.
I leaned toward him and said quietly, as if someone might be listening, “Were they always here?”
Mr. Afterthought looked up from his shoes. “Always, sir?”
“Of course I mean, in my time here – not ‘always’ as in, ‘since the beginning of time!'”
“Of course, sir.”
“Well, were they?”
He quietly cleared his throat. “The trees were a gift from the Princess,” he said. “They have been here for some time now but not ‘always,'” he said, putting extra emphasis on the final word of his sentence.
“Oh,” I nodded as I looked up at the trees, still full of fall at this late date. “From the Princess, you say?”
“Yes, sir. At the end of summer, a team of worker elves came up from Rosehaven and installed them to Her Royal Highness’ specifications.”
I looked at the trees. “I’ve been away from home far too long, Mr. Afterthought.”
“You have something to add, Mr. A?”
“Nothing, sir. Just that…” he paused and looked away, apparently debating whether to proceed.
“Go on, man, out with it!”
“Sir, you have been in residence on several occasions since the trees…err, have been in residence. Sir.” He smiled, a small but polite and dutiful smile.
I rarely experience the feeling of embarrassment but this was bordering on one of those times. It probably doesn’t look very good that a writer – a person who relies on his powers of observation – wasn’t sure if he’d noticed new (and very tall!) trees leading to his own front door.
“Well,” I welled, “It’s true, I have been here several times this autumn…” I stammered, “but…I haven’t stayed long.” I sounded somewhat defensive, even to me. “…and although I do pop in and out frequently when I’m here, it’s rare that I actually use the front door,” I said, rather definitively, possibly too much so.
“Yes, sir.” Mr. Afterthought looked at his shoes once more.
I took a step closer to him. “Was that actual agreement, Mr. A, or was that ‘Yes, sir” simply a perfunctory response, as you would give to virtually anything I might say?” I inquired.
“The latter, sir.”
“I see,” I said.
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
I suppressed the desire to sneer at him.
“Well then, I must be off. I’m out to tour Winterfell and see what else is new around here. Make a note that I should send the Princess a personal thank you for these trees.”
“Yes, sir.” Mr. Afterthought pulled his notepad and pencil from the inside pocket of his coat and recorded my request. He looked up at me. “Will there be anything more, Ambassador?”
“Not at this time, Mr. A.” I adjusted my coat collar as I turned and said, “I shan’t be gone long, a few hours is all.”
I stopped and turned. “Shan’t, Mr. A.”
“Shan’t, sir.” He nodded. Although this moment did seem sneer-appropriate, I took a pass once again.
I turned to follow the path through the trees, then stopped and turned. “Oh, and Mr. Afterthought, hire someone to rake up these leaves and remove them before the first snow.”
“It has already been arranged, sir.
“Very good then. Cheers, Mr. A.”
“Enjoy your explorations, sir.”
Yes, Mr. A, I thought as I ventured off, I shall most definitely do that, indeed. And even though I’m a big picture kind of guy, like Seamus, I think perhaps this time as I tour the Realm of the Roses, I will stop here and there to smell the individual rose, rather than all the roses.
Ambassador Danko Whitfield and Mr. Bob Afterthought
“Sir, does your cat fly?” my assistant, Mr. Afterthought, called from the outer office.
In a rather matter-of-fact tone, I might add.
“Come again, Mr. A?”
Oh yes, I had heard him clearly but really, is there any other appropriate response?
“I say, does your cat fly sir? As far as you know?” he elaborated.
“No, Mr. A. Not as far as I know.” I went on, “In fact, I will venture to be unequivocal on this point.” I cleared my throat. “My cat does not fly.”
“Odd,” said Mr. Afterthought.
I waited for more but all I heard was the shuffling of paper.
“Was there something else, Mr. A?”
I mean, spit it out man, let’s have it. If you are saying it is odd that my cat does not fly, well, it just seems to me that a much more substantial elaboration is called for here.
“Well sir, your neighbor has sent a messenger with an unusual complaint. Regarding your cat, sir.”
“Yes?” I rose from my desk and walked into the outer office.
“It seems the cat…” he searched for the right word, “…appears…in her chess club every so many minutes. At all hours sir.”
“Yes sir. As if he’d flown in.”
“Yes sir.” He handed me the note.
“Does he play chess, sir?”
“Your cat,” he said.
“Uhh, no. I think I can be rather unequivocal about that one too.”
“It’s good to hear sir.”
I finished reading the note. “Cancel my afternoon, Mr. A.” I grabbed my coat and prepared to go out into the snow of Winterfell.
“But Ambassador, all you have is a pickup by the dry cleaner,” Mr. Afterthought said as he looked at my calendar.
“Well, cancel that then. No, don’t cancel that. Uhm…well, do whatever it is you do when I’m not here. OK?”
“I will have to go and investigate this matter straight away, at the pub.”
“How convenient sir.”
Ulysses The Cat has been living in Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum for quite some time now. He makes himself scarce when customers are in but when things are quiet, he’ll roam around as if a deputy on patrol.
But a couple nights ago, about an hour before last call, Ulysses wandered in from wherever he goes and roamed about the bar and the adjoining sitting room. He stayed clear of patrons looking to pet him but otherwise ignored the diners and drinkers.
After closing, I was watching Ulysses make his rounds as I enjoyed one last round of my own. I lost sight of him a few times but I was half-reading the paper and tending to my tobacco and liquor and not paying that much attention.
Now as I worked my way across the snowy streets of Winterfell, I began trying to remember fully those “lost sight of” moments There must be some explanation other than a flying cat.
Iggy was working the bar when I arrived.
“Hey boss,” he said as I took a seat, “Lunch?”
“Yes, starting with a pint,” I said.
“You got it.”
I gave him a look.
“Sorry. I meant — Straight away sir.”
I smiled. Iggy is new, an apprentice time traveller from the 21st century who is visiting Winterfell and Caledon and studying here for the summer. Yes, it’s January…well, it’s summer in his hometime. His sponsor with the Time Travellers Guild is a friend of Uncle Manuel back in Dankoville. Iggy arrived with a letter of introduction from my uncle. He’s picking up some spending money, tending bar at the pub.
“Have you seen Ulysses?” I asked.
“Yes sir. He was running around here just a moment ago.” We both looked around for the cat, who was nowhere in sight.
“You haven’t noticed anything different about him, have you Iggy?”
“I don’t think so, boss.”
I told him about the complaint from the chess club.
“There were a couple of times yesterday when it did seem like he was here one minute and gone the next,” Iggy said. “And maybe the other way around as well. It was busy here though, I didn’t have time to really notice. Did seem like he sort of vanished.”
Hmmm. A disappearing flying cat.
It was quiet in the pub, the weather had seen to that. More snow. It was still a quarter to noon, the lunch crowd hadn’t come in quite yet and while they might not add up to a crowd on a day like this, there would still be a few.
In the middle of my brisket sandwich (it’s our lunch special on Tuesdays), accompanied by a delightfully dill pickle and some chips, I saw Ulysses out of the corner of my eye, sniffing at the red ball of yarn I’d left for him in the sitting room.
I watched him play and then wander around the pub. When he came near I said hello but he paid me no mind and trotted past. I broke off a tiny bit of brisket and held it near the floor. After a moment of watching me, Ulysses approached and took the brisket.
When he finished eating, he resumed his rounds. A few minutes later, I saw him run behind the bar and I got up and walked around it to offer him more brisket. But he wasn’t there.
I continued looking. Iggy looked too. No cat. A couple of minutes passed. I returned to my seat.
And there was Ulysses, over in the corner by the bookcase. How did he get by us without notice?
The only thing I could do was order another pint and monitor that cat. A few regulars and a few others had braved the weather and were now enjoying lunch. Iggy was handling the small group alone and seemed to be keeping up.
I watched Ulysses go from one corner of the pub to another and points in between, stopping here and there to stare or wash or scratch, looking every bit like a normal cat.
At one point he seemed to disappear. I don’t mean that literally. I simply lost track of him. He’d gone behind the bar and not come out, as before. I went behind the bar to look and again, no cat. I returned to my seat. Hmmm.
A few minutes later I noticed Ulysses in the corner by the bookcase.
I had not seen him fly nor had I seen him disappear. But something was definitely going on. Mr. Afterthought had been right, this was odd. Very odd.
“He must have some hiding place,” Iggy said as he returned from taking an order.
I finished my pint and Iggy came to clear my plate.
“Leave that,” I said. There was a small piece of brisket remaining. I cut it down further and took a piece. I walked around behind the bar as Iggy went about his work.
I stood there and watched Ulysses’ every move. I did not take my eyes off him.
After staring at the fireplace in the sitting room for a few minutes, Ulysses came back into the front room and started for the area behind the bar. I watched him approach me. I knelt down to offer him the brisket. I reached out. He saw the brisket in my hand and watched to see what I would do. When it was clear to him I was not about to move, he came toward me to take the brisket.
But before he could, he disappeared.
I do mean that literally this time. He was there one moment but not the next. Iggy saw it too. We looked at each other. “Quickly,” I said and ran out the front door. “Charles,” Iggy said to the busboy as he tossed him his bar cloth, “you have the conn.”
Around the corner and down the street I ran with Iggy trailing behind, to the Queen Alice Chess Club.
The door was open and I ran right in and stopped. No one was in presently. Then Iggy came running in and nearly crashed into me and did succeed in knocking over a vase of flowers – which fortunately he caught before it hit the floor.
We looked at each other and grinned, sheepishly. The silliness of the moment caught us both and we laughed. Two grown men – one with a handful of brisket – running through the streets in the snow, no topcoats, and running full speed into a chess club, of all places, chasing after a disappearing flying cat.
Well, here we were. Now what? Our laughter died and we both stood there, neither knowing what our next move should be. (A little chess club humor ;))
“Do you play, boss?” Iggy motioned to a chessboard in the middle of the room.
“Not really,” I said, “my brother Hudson is the chess master in the family. My father was quite fond of chess, more so in his younger days…”
As I waxed on about the history of chess in the Whitfield family, Iggy took a seat and started playing a match by himself. We were both caught by surprise when Ulysses trotted in from the next room. He appeared a bit surprised as well.
Iggy and I exchanged glances but did not move. I felt something soggy in my hand and then remembered the brisket. Slowly, I knelt.
“Here ya go, boy.” I said quietly and reached out.
Ulysses sat and looked at me, then Iggy, then my hand. He came to me and took the brisket and ate it immediately. He looked at me, asking if there was more. “All gone,” I said as I reached to pet him.
Ulysses rubbed his head against my hand, then turned and looked at Iggy again as if asking if he had any brisket. He walked back toward the next room. But he never made it. Poof.
Iggy jumped up from the chessboard, ready to run back to the pub.
“I’m going to wait here,” I said, “you’d better go back and see how Charles is doing. And keep a watch for Ulysses.”
About ten minutes went by, give or take. And then Ulysses went by. And then he was gone again.
I sat down at the chessboard and resumed Iggy’s match. I should have asked him to send Charles over with a pint of stout. I lit a cigar and waited for Ulysses to reappear.
A few minutes later, there he was, sniffing at a plant in the corner. A minute later, he was gone again.
This was one of those times that I wished I carried a timepiece. It might be helpful to determine whether Ulysses was making his appearances at the chess club at regular intervals. It might also help to know exactly how long he spends in the chess club on each visit and whether that interval coincides with the amount of time he is gone from the pub. Or does he have additional stops on his route?
And, even though both Iggy and I have seen Ulysses vanish right before our eyes, we must still eliminate any possible means the cat could use to cover the territory between the pub and the chess club. We can’t just assume he goes from pub to club in a snap. That may well be the case but still…we must prove it or at least disprove other methods.
I began thinking about how to answer these questions. One person could be stationed at the pub with a timepiece and another at the chess club with same. Another could be stationed halfway down the street to see if Ulysess passes through on the way between the two. A fourth should be stationed in the tunnels below the street. Until I saw Ulysses vanish before me, I would have guessed the only recently-discovered Winterfell tunnels might come into play here. Now, I don’t think so but still, we must eliminate that possibility. A fifth person must be assigned to watch the skies…just in case we have a flying cat on our hands. A disappearing flying cat.
A team of five people would be needed and I, of course, would oversee this entire operation, stationed…at the bar. Well, it is conveniently located. (Mr. Afterthought was right again!) That makes six people – and the appropriate timing devices and photographic equipment – to record the comings and goings of a cat.
As an explorer who has led expeditions into unknown places and times, the idea of six people tracking the movement of a cat – and the associated cost of such an endeavor – did seem to border on the ridiculous. In fact, it may have pushed beyond that border.
Still, what choice do I have? My cat is entering the chess club on a regular basis without so much as applying for membership. If I am going to put a stop to it – and I must for the sake of my neighbor – then I have to find out first, exactly what is causing this phenomenon.
I can just hear them now at the Time Travellers Guild when I tell them my cat can disappear into thin air.
At least I can still say I haven’t seen him fly. Yet.
Towers, tunnels…it seems if there is some structural phenomenon that can’t be fully explained, somehow I always end up being the one who investigates it. But, I guess when it says “Explorer” on your business card, that kind of thing is an occupational hazard.
When I got into the exploring business, I knew I’d be dealing with the “unknown” but I thought of that in terms of place – unknown territory, a new land, what have you. I never really thought I’d come in contact with “the unexplained” or “inexplicable.”
But that was before I settled in Winterfell.
Recently I was telling you about when my friend Seamus Gumbo visited me in Winterfell. He discovered a trap door in the floor of Storytellers Pub. Right next to the bar by the back door. Somehow I never noticed it before. He climbed in and came back up with a story of a labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath Winterfell. Amazing. Something to explore! And right under my feet…well, under my pub.
But at the time, I was physically unable to investigate these tunnels. I had good reason to be in such condition…I’d been drinking all afternoon. With Seamus. He was in no condition to investigate further himself. We decided to explore these tunnels the next day.
I slept in. Apparently Seamus had too because at three o’clock in the afternoon, I still hadn’t heard from him. Finally, I sent a messenger.
At about 5:30, Seamus walked in to the pub. He was moving slowly.
“I was supposed to meet you for something?” he mumbled as he sat down next to me at the bar and motioned to the bartender for a cup of coffee.
“We are going to investigate the tunnels,” I reminded him.
“Tunnels,” he looked at me, clearly trying to recall the previous day’s events through the haze of the morning after. Or the late afternoon/early evening after.
“Yeah. Don’t you remember? The hole in the floor? Trap door? Tunnels…every direction?”
“I remember a ladder,” he said as he accepted the fresh coffee.
“Yes…” I jogged Seamus’ memory and went over my plan to explore the tunnels.
“You’re the explorer, right?” Seamus asked. “Do you really need me? I have sort of a headache.”
I laughed and patted him on the back. “Take the rest of the day off, old-timer. I’ll let you know what I find.”
He just nodded and sipped his coffee.
Ulysses The Cat was pawing at the trap door as I pulled on my overcoat to head into the underground of Winterfell. I lit my lantern and opened the trap door and the cat scurried away. “Take it slow, Shay,” I said, smiling as I started down the ladder. “Yeah,” I heard him reply.
At the bottom of the ladder, I was in a tunnel that led immediately to a staircase. Down the stair was an intersection of tunnels. To my left and right were more staircases, back up to ground level, I assumed. Straight ahead there was another intersection and beyond that a three-way stop. I followed each direction until coming to an end or another intersection, upon which I would walk back the way I came so as not to get lost. It was dark but the lantern I carried was not actually necessary, there was just enough light to see without it.
I continued to follow the tunnels in this manner and found that they went on and on. In the process, I came across doors to empty rooms. What was this place? A dungeon? Secret storage spot? Was this built for escape or some military advantage? Why have I, as Ambassador, never heard Lady Twilight or Admiral Beaumont speak of these tunnels?
Or do they not know? Maybe I should alert them both immediately!
But how could somebody build this extensive tunnel system without being observed?
When I started following the staircases up to ground level to see where they led…I was astonished to find they took me right to the middle of the street. They were not hidden at all! If you were to walk down the street in Laudanum or Absinthe that day – the right sections of the right streets – you would see trap doors that you could open and follow down to the tunnels. But they weren’t there two days earlier!
I returned to Storytellers Pub to make some notes. Later, I went down into the tunnel again and placed a marker at the bottom of the staircase leading to the pub. (Just in case some night I’m coming back through the tunnels after a couple rounds at the Wolf & Raven in Absinthe. Well, it’s easy to get lost down there.)
Lady Twilight is in semi-retirement these days, so I take most matters to Princess Selena. I had to bring this to her.
By the time I met with the Princess the following day, Winterfell was abuzz with talk of the sudden appearance of underground tunnels. On the way to Rosehaven, I tried to avoid people so they wouldn’t ask me questions I could not answer. A couple of people called to me, “Good morning, Ambassador!…” and I could tell they wanted to chat but I just waved and walked on.
At the Castle, I waited for Princess Selena to arrive. She is not a big fan of mornings.
When we met, I reported my findings to the Princess, leaving out the part about Seamus, the trap door, Ulysses the Cat and the six ales, one stout and stray whiskey or two.
When I was done, the Princess had a strange smile on her face. “I had a dream about tunnels,” she said.
“It was sooo vivid.”
“I see,” I said. I wondered what this dream had to do with the actual tunnels under Winterfell.
“That was three nights ago. In the morning, when I woke, I went out…and there they were.” She smiled.
“Yes.” She continued smiling.
The Princess laughed. “I haven’t told Mum yet. Would you like to tell her?”
“You’re trying to make me laugh, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” she said. We both laughed.
“No, if this is connected to your dream, I would most definitely not like to be the one to tell the Seneschelf,” I said, “…unless, of course, you want me to.”
“Oh no, I wouldn’t really ask you. I’m going to tell her, of course. Just waiting for the right moment.”
“Well, people are definitely talking about it in the southern towns,” I said.
“Yes, I’m sure. I guess now is the right moment.” She smiled and stood. I thanked the Princess for her time and wished her good luck.
And then left as quickly as I could before she could have second thoughts about who should tell her Mother.
On my way back to Laudanum, I decided rather than do my usual and take the ferry to cross the canal, I would use the tunnels instead.
It took longer as I was careful not to get lost. And I did stop a couple of times to open doors and look inside empty rooms.
The thought then occurred to me that walking through these tunnels that were the apparent result of a dream, was like walking through the mind of the Princess.
That was a bit too weird.
I immediately stopped exploring and headed straight for the staircase that led up to the Storytellers Pub and ordered an ale. And a stray whiskey.
One last thing… If you should find yourself wandering about the tunnels of Winterfell and should become lost…or simply thirsty, keep a watch for my marker – a large ‘S’ – and follow that staircase up to Storytellers Pub.
Visit Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum, Second Life and see if you can locate the trap door to The Tunnels. 🙂
I have been given the honor of having my likeness displayed among some of Winterfell’s notables in the upstairs gallery of the Wolf & Raven Tavern, a fine dining and drinking establishment in Winterfell Absinthe (SL), under the ownership of His Grace, the Duke of Wolfsbane.
I thank the Duke for including me in this fine exhibit (and for keeping my favorite cigars in stock).
“…and the time traveller says, ‘I don’t have the foggiest. I just got here myself!'”
“HA! HA!” We were doubled over with laughter. And we were only on the third round.
It had started as a sleepy Thursday afternoon at Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum. Dark Moon, the day bartender (most of us call him Bert), was on holiday and I was watching after things for a couple of hours in between the lunch rush and the 5 p.m. business crowd. I was nursing a black IPA and leafing through the sport section of the Winterfell Mourning Crier when the door opened and in walked a tall man with flowing white hair and beard, dressed in a green suit. I knew in a moment it wasn’t St. Nick. Nor St. Patrick either.
It was Seamus Gumbo.
Sourcerer, Time Wizard, hippie, former merchant seaman, one-time head shop owner and my old friend and business partner. I’d received a couple of letters but he hadn’t visited Winterfell in more than two years, since “the Duke Ages” – Seamus’ joking reference to my time as the Duke of Evergreen.
“Line ’em up, barman,” he hollered in my general direction. “Whiskey! Your best! Three glasses. Straight, no chaser.” His fingers played an imaginary piano and he hummed – or grunted – a syncopated melody.
It was the worst Thelonious Monk impression I had ever heard. Though I can’t say I have heard many.
“Don’t worry about the bill,” he announced, “I’m a close friend of the owner of this establishment.” He sat himself down at the bar with mischief in his eyes and a smile of satisfaction on his face. He seemed quite pleased with his entrance.
“I’ll need to see some ID, sir,” I deadpanned.
“ID?!!” He responded as if highly insulted. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a business card and offered it to me.
“Seamus Gumbo,” I read aloud, “Time Wizard.”
I sniffed. “Yeah, time wizards, time travellers, time lords – we get all kinds in here.”
“C’mon, Danko! The card’s embossed!” He was impressed with his own business card.
I was impressed with the card too but not with the cardholder. “Finally spent the extra ten bucks to raise the lettering, eh? You cheap bastard!” I slipped the card into my pocket as Seamus began to laugh.
“That’s why I can’t pay for my drinks!” He slapped his hand on the bar as the laughter grew. My smile became a laugh as well and I came around from behind the bar to give him a big hug.
“How’ve you been, old-timer?” I said loudly. “Where have you been? Whatcha been up to? What brings you to Winterfell after all this time? How come you didn’t warn me you were coming, so I could have arranged to be out of town?”
“Let me answer that last question first,” he started. “No, wait. Let me answer the second one first. No, I’ll answer the third one, second. Wait. Can you say them again?” he continued to mock me, “In alphabetical order this time?” Laughter.
And this was before I starting pouring. We were just getting started!
It was only the two of us but the pub had come alive on this hazy afternoon as Seamus recounted his travels over the past couple of years over a couple of rounds of ale and a cheese platter and I responded in kind. Then came the cigars and more ale and more stories and more laughter.
Not long after Seamus arrived, Ulysses The Cat had wandered in from his favorite sleeping spot on the window seat in the pub’s sitting room. I knew he’d remember Seamus’ voice and would join us sooner or later. I put a couple of treats down for him and he walked right over to devour them. Then he sat and stared at Seamus for a bit. Next time I noticed Ulysses, he was scratching at the floor near the end of the bar, by the back door. Ever since I brought him from home to live in the pub, he has been fascinated with that area of the floor. You know how some cats are when they find an imperfection in something? They have to chew it or scratch it? They’ll work at it like they’re obsessed…for awhile. Then they go do something else. Later, they’re back at it. Obsessed once more. That’s how Ulysses had been. The floor does need some work around that door. Whoever put the tile in, made a mess of it. It’s driving that cat crazy.
As Ulysses scratched away at the floor, Seamus and I laughed and ate and drank and talked and talked and puffed and drank and laughed some more. It was a full afternoon of story-swapping – with a little impromptu sing-a-long thrown in now and then – at Storytellers Pub. What a great time we were having, catching up. So good to see Seamus again.
“My friend Sage ever stop in?” he asked me at one point.
“Yes. Sage Wright. Right?”
“He was passing through Winterfell…quite some months back. Last summer, I guess. I wasn’t much help to him, had nowhere to put him up. Not like the old days,” I smiled. “I helped him find lodging. He wasn’t here long. A couple days.”
Seamus nodded. “You’ve seen him more recently than I have,” he said.
“Funny you should mention him,” I went on, “I just met his niece not a week ago in Ireland. 21st century.
“Laura?” said Seamus but quickly corrected himself, “Laurel!”
“Yes,” I confirmed.
“How’s she doing? She’s a nurse, I think,” Seamus said.
“She mentioned something about that,” I said. “She seems nice. Cute. Funny too. Took me a moment to catch on that she was putting me on a bit,” I laughed. “She remembers you, hanging out with her uncle. Oh, and I met Jamie too. By chance, in a pub there in Ravenbaille. She was working the bar. I didn’t put it together that she was Sage’s daughter until later.”
“You’re not the only one,” muttered Seamus as he looked away for a moment.
“Huh?” I was surprised at his response.
“Never mind,” he said, waving his hand, “go on, continue.” He sipped his beer and looked down at the bar.
“uhhhh…Jamie came over to Dankoville last fall. I’m doing business with her boss and she came over for that.”
“How are things in your little town?” asked Seamus, changing the subject.
I filled him in on the goings-on in Dankoville and out at Whitfield Farms. And I told him how my family members were doing, especially those he knew, including Annie.
“Your sister…is the sweetest person I have ever met,” said Seamus. He took a puff of his cigar and watched the smoke lift toward the ceiling. “Why, if I was 25 years younger, I —”
“You still wouldn’t be good enough for her,” I interjected.
“Says you!” Seamus came back.
“That’s right!” I said adamantly.
Another burst of laughter. Then Seamus’ laughter started to turn into a cough. Or maybe it was the cigar smoke. I reached for a glass to get him some water. He put his cigar down in the ash tray. Almost. He missed. The cigar rolled slowly along the bar…on the other end from me. The cough ceased and Seamus rose from his seat to follow the cigar. He reached over as far as he could stretch just as the cigar reached the edge of the bar and grabbed for it —-
An expensive cigar lay on the floor of the pub. Ulysses came over to sniff it.
“Thief! That’s my cigar! Get your great big paws off it!” Seamus hollered in jest at my cat, who apparently did not take the joke. Ulysses scampered away.
Seamus moved a bar stool and got down on his knees to reach under the bar rail for the cigar.
Ulysses came back over, cautiously. He resumed scratching at the floor.
“I think your cat has found something,” Seamus said as he crawled toward Ulysses. The cat backed away.
“Your cigar?” I inquired with a teasing tone.
“No. A secret.”
I turned in his direction.
“What?” I asked him.
“How long did you say you’ve owned this pub?” Seamus asked from his hands and knees as he ran his fingers along the floor where Ulysses had been scratching.
“Over a year now. 15 months I guess,” I replied as I placed his glass of water on the end of the bar and looked over at where Seamus now lay on his stomach.
“Did you ever suspect termites?” he asked.
Was he joking now or what?
“Okay Sea, what’s going on?” I walked out from behind the bar as he rose to his knees and leaned forward, placing his hands on the floor.
He looked up at me. “There’s a hole in your floor, Publican,” he said with a sly smile. He carefully pushed his fingers into a couple of cracks in the floor.
(I had been meaning to have this floor fixed, I assure any patrons of Storytellers Pub who may be reading this. It was just a decorating question that was yet to be decided – of whether to simply redo that one area or the entire floor. I assure you, the structural integrity of the pub is sound and no customer has been placed in any danger at any time. Aside from the usual Winterfell danger – witches, dark elves, the occasional vampire, The Mist – for which the management of the Storytellers Pub are not responsible. Please address any further inquiries to my attorneys, Dewey, Cheatham & Howe aka Moe, Larry & Curly.)
Seamus lifted one tile that at closer inspection seemed a bit out of place. “It’s a door!” Seamus said in surprise. I was also surprised but I can’t reprint here what I said there.
We looked down into this dark hole in the floor of my pub.
“Bring a candle,” Seamus said.
“There’s some water,” he said as he leaned into the hole with the candle I had fetched.
He put his hand in. “It’s pretty cold.”
He put his face just above the water and stared as he held the candle by his head. “There’s a ladder just a couple feet down. It looks pretty deep. I can’t see the bottom,” he added. He placed the candleholder on the floor and lowered himself into the opening.
Ulysses leaped onto the bookcase against the back wall to watch the show.
I peered into the hole. Waiting.
“How long can he hold his breath?” I thought with visions of Lloyd Bridges starring in Sea Hunt floating through my head (for those of you with knowledge of the 1960s).
After a few minutes, the waters parted and Seamus arose.
“Well?” I welled him.
“This water is only two feet deep. Then you are under it. Completely. Clear of it,” Seamus said as he climbed out of the hole. He walked to the bar and grabbed his ale and took a long sip.
“What? How? How is that even possible?”
He looked at me.
“Damn it, Danko, I’m a Time Wizard, not a plumber,” Seamus said in his best DeForest Kelley (which was much better than his Thelonious Monk).
He was wet but not as wet as if he’d been swimming with Lloyd Bridges.
He sipped his brew. I poured a whiskey.
“At the bottom of the ladder, there is a stair. I followed it down another level to a series of tunnels,” he said.
“In all directions,” Seamus said as he reached over the bar for a napkin to wipe his brow. “I didn’t go far, I could see there were many turns. Didn’t want to get lost down there.”
He took another sip of beer and returned to the trap door. He propped it open and handed me the candle. I placed it on the bar and came back around to stare with Seamus into the hole.
We just stood there. Speechless. Staring at the hole in my floor.
A series of tunnels. Under Winterfell. Wow!
This was quite a surprise. It was incredible really.
It was My Spot.
That’s where I always stand! Most of the time, I don’t like to sit at the bar. I like to stand. If I’m there for the evening, I will sit of course. But if I’m just there for one or two rounds, to keep an eye on things and confer with the bartender, I stand right there! Every night I’ve gone in to town since we opened more than a year ago!
And all this time I had no idea that I was standing over a secret passageway. To a series of more secret passageways.
Now what do I do? Should I tell people about this?
“Best to keep it quiet until you investigate further,” said Seamus as he read my mind while re-lighting his cigar.
We were both speechless again. And, after six rounds of ale, not in any condition to climb into a deep, dark hole in the ground that leads to who knows where, who knows when.
There was only one thing to do.
Pour another round.
Stout this time.
And, after six rounds of ale and one of stout – not to mention the stray whiskey or two, we were – surprisingly – not in any better condition to climb into a deep, dark hole in the ground to who knows where, who knows…what……was I saying?
“I’m taking one more look,” Seamus opened the trap door again and stood at the opening, swaying in the wind. Wait, we were indoors. Probably wasn’t the wind. Probably was the ales. Or the stout maybe. Damn stout.
Ulysses The Cat left the room and returned to his window seat. He had seen enough.
Seamus opined that the tunnels would probably still be there tomorrow. I agreed. He also agreed. There was nothing else to say at that point, as gentlemen, we just had to agree to agree.
On his way out, Seamus dropped some cash into the donation box. “That’s for your staff, for the trouble they’ll have to go through tonight, trying to set things straight after your shift!” he said. And out he went.
I walked back over to that trap door, opened it again. Just to look.
“Been there, right under my feet all this time,” I thought, shaking my head.
“Hard to believe.”
Visit Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum, Second Life
There’s always one tree that turns first. A harbinger of things to come.
In the worlds I have lived in, I have always been fortunate to live in places where the foliage puts on a show of color for the fall season. I always enjoy this and, indeed, look forward to it. By no means do I ever wish to rush the summer weather but when the nights calmed down in late August to a pleasant coolness, it crossed my mind a couple of times to wonder which tree in my new neighborhood would be the first to go autumnal.
I am living on the coast of Winterfell Absinthe now. My little cabin from the north woods of Winterfell was packed up last month and moved down here to a most lovely spot on the water, isolated from the town itself. From here I can look east between the islands of Undertow and Wolfsbane and view open ocean.
Of course, I can think back to an earlier time… Was it just a year ago that looking east from this same spot would not bring a view of open water but high ground instead? Yes, my old homestead was there, Winterfell Evergreen. I do miss it from time to time. Heck, who wouldn’t miss living in a castle? But I knew it was unlikely to be forever and I certainly enjoyed my time there. I also miss earlier homes here in Winterfell and elsewhere too. Of course. But I have no regrets at all about change. New places, new experiences are always welcome.
My friend, Quin Oddenfen, saw his home destroyed in a manner that changed his life. He quickly tried to restore or re-find it. But as his efforts took time and were met with unforeseen consequences, his attitude about making a home changed. He once wrote about the danger of attaching oneself to a place called “home.” I felt sadness for him at that time. I still do, even though I realize he has adjusted to it all. While I have had to move at times when it wasn’t my choice, I’ve never really had a home taken out from under me with no recourse whatsoever. There has always been some place to go and – not “start again” as Quin at one time hoped to do but simply – “resume,” pick up where one had left off, settle in to new surroundings and see what tomorrow would bring.
Of course, for quite some time now, I have had Winterfell as my home in these worlds and times. When changes have come to Winterfell that have affected me, I have happily picked up from one spot and moved to another, still in love with the whole of it. So there is no pain or regret or sadness in looking out the window of my little cabin and seeing the spot where my castle used to be. In fact, other than on the day I moved in here, I had not thought about it until this morning when I opened the front door, watched the sun rising through the purple fog and stepped outside to see if any of the trees had started to turn.
There was only one that had. A tall birch tree on my property has gone to a beautiful mix of orange and yellow. It is the first tree of the season to turn in my immediate area. It is my first new season in this new spot. There are other “firsts” for me right now in this and other worlds as well. They should fill my tomorrows quite nicely.
I was enjoying a quiet evening in my office in Winterfell Laudanum, spamming my groups with a notice about Wednesday night’s dance at Storytellers Pub and chatting via the local messenger service with the Duke of Wolfsbane.
As I stood there in front of my second floor desk, puffing away on my cigar, I happened to look up and see before me a vampire who had not had the courtesy to knock.
He morphed from one being into another into another, accompanied by a very colorful light display.
I continued to enjoy my cigar as the following conversation ensued…
[17:53] vampire: hello sir
[17:53] Danko Whitfield: Hello
[17:53] Danko Whitfield: What can you do for me?
[17:53] vampire: is this ur home?
[17:53] Danko Whitfield: it is my office
[17:54] vampire: wat do u do here
[17:54] Danko Whitfield: i am the Ambassador for this nation, Winterfell
[17:55] vampire: i see and how long was u doing this
[17:55] Danko Whitfield: hmmm
[17:55] Danko Whitfield: over two years
[17:55] vampire: gooood
[17:56] Danko Whitfield: very impressive morphing, sir
[17:56] vampire: u will give me ur blood
[17:56] Fangs [Thirst::Bloodlines] 4.1: godofdeath1123 Resident would like to give you a Vampire bite. This will register you with The Thirst::Bloodlines system, and you’ll get a FREE pair of bite marks. Say Yes to accept!
[17:56] Danko Whitfield: i don’t see that happening
[17:56] vampire: i wasnt asking
[17:57] vampire: tell me how much do u care for ur well being
[17:57] vampire: /
[17:57] vampire: ?
I banned him from the parcel and it took effect right there.
Pretty good timing on my part, don’t you think?
Editor’s note: In accordance with Second Life guidelines, the vampire’s actual name was not used in this article. Nor were any animals harmed.
DJ Poppy celebrates the recording artists and songwriters born in the month of August and the songs that made them famous…and a few other famous types born during August and the songs they are connected with. From Tony Bennett to Robert Plant…Whitney Houston to Buck Owens…Madonna to Francis Scott Key!
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 6:30p SLT…..90-minutes of music & dancing!
Dress: casual, formal, modern, period – it’s up to you!
Host: Danko Whitfield, Winterfell Ambassador and Owner of Storytellers Pub
Storytellers Pub is located at 6 – 7 Siddal Street, Winterfell Laudanum, Second Life
At my Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum on Second Life we will celebrate and dance to the music on Friday, June 28 at 2p SLT to an eclectic mix of hits from DJ Patty Poppy. The event is called ’70s Night. Apparently it is not a 19th century event. Details here…
In February, I opened a new pub in Winterfell (Second Life) and more recently, I expanded it. It’s called the Storytellers Pub. Winterfell is a land of story, don’t you know. Time to hold an event. Need a theme. Let’s see, end of April, what could we celebrate? Oh, the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth is this week. That fits nicely. Consider this your invitation…