Over the next week I began to be aware that Bill was coming up with various excuses to accompany me to the Library. He would need to look something up, or want to examine some papers, or just claim he had some spare time and sit in the corner of my office reading. I knew what he was up to of course and at the end of the week I closed my laptop and looked over at him sitting quietly in the corner with a book.
“You must have other things to do Bill?” I said. “You really can't spend all your time here just in case Arawn shows up!”
As he looked up at me a lock of his thick, chocolate brown hair fell into his eyes and he brushed it back impatiently.
“I'll spend as much time here as proves to be necessary” he answered firmly.
“Don't you trust me?” I enquired mildly.
He smiled warmly at me. “I trust you implicitly my darling. I just don't trust him!”
He put down the book and came over to me, sliding his arm around my waist and pulling me closer to place a gentle kiss on my lips. I returned it with enthusiasm and felt his body melt against me.
Lost as I was in his kiss I almost didn't hear the slight cough behind me, but I felt Bill's arms tighten around me and realised that I hadn't imagined the tiny sound. I sighed and turned round expecting to see one of my assistant Librarians come to ask some question about filing or cataloguing.
I was wrong.
The face of the God of Death was naturally stern but a slight smile lightened his expression as he watched us.
“Please forgive me!” he said quietly. “I didn't mean to interrupt........”
I tried to take a step towards him but Bill didn't let go of me.
“Bill!” I whispered. “It's okay.....”
Arawn held out his hands in a gesture of appeasement. “Please do not fear that I will attempt to harm her” he said. “On the contrary, I have come to offer my apologies for my behaviour towards you both.”
Bill looked down at me for a moment and then released me. However, he wasn't prepared to accept the situation quite to easily and he made a point of placing himself between me and Arawn. He seemed relaxed but it was the stillness of a great cat, eyes always watchful behind the calm surface.
For a moment they each had that hackles raised, ears back look that two dogs give each other before deciding whether or not to fight. Then Bill gave a slight nod and pulled out a chair.
“Won't you sit down?” he asked politely.
I sat on the edge of the desk and Bill pulled his chair over and sat down. Arawn lowered himself slowly into the office chair and watched us for a moment, gathering his thoughts.
“I was angry” he said, simply. “For hundreds of years I was trapped in that circle, becoming angrier and more frustrated as time went on. The cavern was sealed and no-one even knew that it was there.....I had truly begun to think that I would never be freed. The only thing that kept me sane.....” he gave a slight smile “.......well relatively sane at least, was the knowledge that the creature who had trapped me was also now immortal. I spent my time plotting my revenge and then, when I was finally released, to find that he was already gone......I think perhaps I did lose my mind for a while.”
He looked up at me thoughtfully.
“I don't believe that anyone has ever spoken to me as you did. Or if they have, it was so long ago that I have forgotten it. You shamed me my dear, I should like to convey my apologies to your people for all the harm I have caused and if there is anything that I can do to make restitution, please be assured that I shall willingly do it.”
I thought of the terrible scene of carnage we had witnessed at Matilda's house, the dismembered body of her human lover, the blood, the terror in the eyes of the little child who had seen one of his hounds in the woods. But I knew there was no point in bringing this up now. It was done and we all had to live with it.
“We will pass on your apologies to the High Council” I told him.
After all, he was a God. There was very little else we could do. At least no more would die and he did seem to appreciate the wrong he had done and had offered to try to atone for it.
I reached over the desk and opened the top drawer. Inside was a plastic folder containing a manuscript. I slid it out of the plastic cover and looked down at it. It was ragged and stained, the writing faded and the parchment worn with age. It looked completely innocent, harmless, and yet this was what had caused all the pain and suffering of the recent weeks, not to mention Arawn's long imprisonment.
I handed it to him. He took it and examined it with obvious astonishment.
“This?” he asked, looking up at me. “This is what he used to summon me and to trap me in the circle?”
“Well......that, plus the hideous murder and mutilation of some poor unknown man” I said. “I understand that was done simply to get your attention. And it wasn't the first time either, I'm told he'd killed a couple of others before getting the incantation right.”
Arawn had the grace to look a little embarrassed at this. “Things were.......different then” he muttered.
“Things are certainly different now!” I said. “You'll have a lot of catching up to do.”
He looked back at me and raised an eyebrow. “Oh things certainly are different!” he said. “I have met several of my fellow immortals over the last few days and your name has been mentioned frequently.”
I sat back on the edge of the desk and thought about this. I wasn't entirely sure that I liked the implications.
Bill certainly didn't.
“Who has spoken to you about my wife?” he asked, his blue eyes hard and sharp. “And what have they told you?”
Arawn raised a hand. “Oh they were nothing but complimentary! I was informed that she had been very helpful to several immortals. They hold her in high regard I can assure you. In fact I was.......threatened.”
I blinked. “Whatever do you mean? Threatened by who?”
“The Lordfather Odin for one” he answered. “He told me that you were under his protection and that I was to treat you with the greatest respect, together with your husband.”
He nodded at Bill.
“Then there was the Egyptian, The Crocodile. He assured me that if I harmed you in any was he would tear out my heart and eat it!”
I giggled. “Sobek? Oh I'm sure he didn't mean it.”
Arawn eyed me soberly. “Oh I can assure you he was quite serious my dear!”
“Oh!” I said in a small voice. I hadn't realised that I was quite so popular.
To cover my confusion I got up and fetched a small silver dish from a cupboard behind my desk and held it out to him. He understood my meaning and dropped the manuscript onto it. I placed the dish on my desk and rummaged in a drawer looking for matches.
“Allow me my dear” he said and held out his hand over the manuscript.
As we watched the parchment began to blacken and curl at the edges and a trace of smoke rose from the dish. It burned with a strange, unearthly light and, within a few seconds, there was nothing left of it but ashes.
The God stared at it in silence for a while and then lifted his head to look at me.
“Thank you my dear. I understand that I can trust you to deal with any further copies that you may come across in your researches?” He looked around and through the door of my office out into the Library with interest.
“Of course” I answered.
He stood up and bowed to me then, turning to him, bowed to Bill as well.
“I am in your debt” he said.
Then, as we watched, he simply faded away........