Ghost gets a job.
Ghost stayed up most of the night talking to Lazarus. Goldilocks never showed much interest in her and Axe was polite, though no more, but Lazarus had a gift for inspiring confidences. If he had wanted to he probably could have exacted information from Ghost on the strength of the hospitality he had given her, for in the Fey lands a gift received is a debt owed. But such was his character that he could often get people to want to give him what he wanted. It has been said by some that this respectful exchange was what the first Seely had in mind when they made a word a bond in their lands, but most think this feature predates the Seely themselves. One way or the other, Lazarus wanted information and Ghost provided it willingly.
It was as she was describing her encounter with the beavers that Ghost realized she was sharing more than she had intended to share. She considered stopping her tale, but Lazarus accepted her experiences with an attentive intelligence that made her feel as though she were not just sharing but actually giving him her troubles, as if she were somehow free from them once he had listened. Here was a mind equipped to handle the confusion of her recent life. If he would take them, she would give him all her worries.
After several hours more intent questioning, Lazarus leaned back in his chair and stared thoughtfully at the coals of the long-expired fire. Ghost was starting to grow uncomfortable with the silence when Lazarus spoke.
“Yours is a peculiar case,” he said. “I don’t know its equal, I truly don’t. Your principle complaint is not one I am prepared to handle.”
Ghost wasn’t sure exactly what to make of this, so she echoed “prepared to handle?” in a questioning tone of voice.
“Oh yes, sorry, I didn’t explain that, did I. This is what Axe, Goldilocks and I do. We take on the cases of people who are disappointed in appealing to Autumn Glow for help and see if we can’t sort out their problems for them.” He paused for a moment. “Mostly just mortals from the borderlands who got themselves into some stinker or the other because they were uncareful with their words. Not bad work, really.”
“Oh,” said Ghost. There didn’t seem much else to say.
“So, like I said, we aren’t equipped to fix your goblin problem. You got yourself into that one good and solid.”
Ghost was aware Lazarus intended to keep speaking, but chose to interrupt anyway. “Not just a goblin,” she said, “the whole Unseely Court!”
“I suppose it is possible,” said Lazarus thoughtfully, “but I really doubt it. The group you describe seeing sounds more like a dark moot than the sort of thing even one of the more powerful Unseely would attend. And I expect all they did was back the spell that made your blade, a service the goblin payed from for in some way.” He paused again, then added more dubiously “It is quite the blade, though…” he left the thought unfinished. Ghost was certain he’d be thinking it over all night.
“Anyway,” he continued, “goblin or court, I’m not in a position to fix it. But I think I can help with some of your other problems. Food, shelter, that sort of thing. Maybe even give you something to do all day now that frolicking in the woodland doesn’t seem to sate you.”
Ghost pondered this incomplete offer. Any reliable source of food and shelter would mean an ongoing debt she was hesitant to take on. Being warm and full at the moment, she did not remember how much she would have done for warmth and food just a few hours earlier.
“What would I need to do for this food and shelter?” she asked.
“A dryad can go places Axe, Goldilocks and I cannot. We none of us fit the image of the fey. Mostly we’d want you to talk to people for us: carry messages, listen in at parties, be a good face for us when a good face is needed. Probably only an hour or two a day on average.”
It sounded good on the face of it. “And if I decide to end my working for you?”
“I’m not proposing servitude,” replied Lazarus, “just employment. As long as you help me, I’ll feed and shelter you. I do ask you let me know in advance if you want to leave, though, so that I’m not always wondering if you’ve decided to vanish.”
“What if the goblin calls me away?”
“That’s a higher obligation, of course. We none of us can control that. Let me know if you can and come back when you can. But if it’s just the goblin, as I suspect, he’ll have a bit of trouble asking you to do anything while you are in here.”
It seemed like a good arrangement, as fair and safe as she was likely to get, so Ghost said “I accept your proposition.” She then added something that had been troubling her more and more over the past hour. “Do you have an outhouse?”