It was late when the traveler decided to stop and rest awhile on her journey. The trip thus far, while arduous had been relatively uneventful. She saw a light shining not far ahead and could hear the sound of raucous music blaring out into the night as if it was dancing its way, skipping across the wind swept road. I’ll stop there, she thought. She soon saw a sign swinging in the breeze, CROSSROADS INN. Interesting name she thought, chuckling to herself. As she approached the door a couple obviously on their way to better things, swept out into the night, seemingly oblivious to her. I’m glad someone’s having a good time, she laughed to herself. She moved into the inn, it was if she had walked into another time and place. A huge fireplace was along one wall, filling the room with warmth and light, long wooden tables were in the center of the room, so that one ate and drank as a communal family. There were a couple of smaller tables with short benches with tall backs affording the occupants that sat there some semblance of privacy from the others. At the other end of the room was a long bar with stools, with a staircase leading to rooms upstairs if one wanted to rent a room for the night. The traveler walked to the bar, looking around as she did so. There was a band on a corner stage near the fire. Not a big one, just small 5 piece, but they definitely could play. She continued onto the bar, sitting on a stool at the end. The huge bartender with an immaculate white apron around his waist came forward. “What can I help you with Miss”?, he asked. “I’d like a room for the night”,she replied. “I can do that”, he smiled. “Would you care for something to eat and drink”?”My wife makes a fine stew”. The traveler pushed her cloak back from her head and sighed…last time she’d drank strange things, was printed indelibly on her memory. The barkeep waited patiently as if he knew her dilemma. She smiled, “that would be nice”, she said. Her stomach thanked her by growling its delight at the thought of warm food at last. She turned to give the band a better listen, not recognizing any of the music they were playing but it had a haunting melody and a lively beat. There were some dancing, and as one turned, she thought she recognized him. Wait! she thought. Where the hell is this place and why are Ghede dancing? She looked back trying to see if she could get a better look, when the man turned smiling at her, grinning cheekily as if he understood her confusion. She turned back to the bar, and the bartender placed a big earthenware bowl of stew before her with freshly made bread and butter. The smell was almost orgasmic for she hadn’t eaten for some time on this journey, so she smiled her thanks and began to eat. She was so engrossed in her meal that she didn’t see him sit down next to her. “Pardon me Madame, is this seat taken?”, he asked She looked up at the familiar voice in surprise and shook her head no. “The perhaps you will permit me to join you”, he said. Still too surprised to speak, the traveler just nodded. The Baron sat down. “So how have you been Cher”? he asked. The traveler shrugs, “I’m fine”. He frowned. “I know that is the stock answer to the rank and file, because you refuse to let others know your truth, but that is a bullshit game with me and we won’t play it, d’accord”? The traveler is still in a state of shock somewhat, so she merely nods. “Now, once more..”,says Baron ,softening his tone, “how have you been?”. Softly, the traveler begins to tell of her recent days, of disturbing dreams, the lending of protection, elves with questions, doubts about what she is doing and why. The Baron never interrupts, just listens although he already knows the truths that have been written. When she is finished, he takes her hand, turning it over. The sigil is still there, emanating its own energy, like a night light to guide her on her way. “What does this tell you?”, he asked her. “It tells me that I still have work to do, that even when I doubt, I still have to put my foot in front of the other and walk this path”, she said simply. “I have doubts..its as if some lion is hunting, no…stalking me..waiting for me to fail”. “Doubt is often painful when its removed”, says Baron,”it removes the facade that we have built up”. “I’m not in a habit of making myself into something I am not..I hate fake shit”, says the traveler with a vehemence that startles her. She looks up at the Baron with pale face, eyes wide. “I mean no disrespect,” she says,”I have no idea where that even came from”. Baron laughs loudly. “Cher, you amuse me. The emotions you keep bottled inside often overflow, whether its protecting those you love, those who piss you off or even when you deride yourself”. “I am not offended by you. We are friends, sommes nous pas?”. She nods, then asks”so why are we meeting here”? The Baron smiled at her. “I did not want to intrude when you went to sanctuary last, so I waited until you set out on your journey, and decided to wait until you were ready to rest a bit and we could sit and talk. The traveler shivers a little thinking what the hell is coming next. The Baron seeing the small frisson offers a bit of warmth. “Barkeep!”, he says..”Two of my usual for us”, he smiles. The barkeeper sets two glasses in front of them. Dark rum, so spicy that one can smell the scent from where she sat even before picking it up to drink. The Baron picks up her glass and hands it to her, then picks up his own. He raises it in salute, “A votre sante “, he said. The traveler raised hers as well,”À la votre”. The Baron drains his glass, slamming it back down onto the bar, and sits looking at her. Not to piss him off, the traveler does the same, causing her eyes to water and she chokes as the rum burns its way down. The Baron laughs. “You’ll get used to it. Two more Barkeep”. “Oh, hey…wait, I”, begins the traveler. Too late. Two more drinks sit on the bar. Again the glasses are raised and salutations spoken, and the drinks are drained, glasses slammed down. This continues for several more rounds. Finally the traveler tells the Baron, “I am way beyond my limit, something I dislike for various reasons, and at the risk of offense, I cannot drink another one”. He smiles and agrees. “Now, tell me…why are you trying to run so hard from those who seek you out”? “I’m drunk and you want to be serious?”, she laughs. “I’ve often found that alcohol often loosens inhibitions to the truth”, he grins mischievously. She laughs. “Okay then…I run away because it’s a habit. If I don’t stand out then I am left alone. I write to please myself, or tell myself I do, anything I say to others…well, some listen, others don’t”. Baron looks deep into her eyes. “Cher, those with knowledge have responsibility to speak whether others listen or not, d’accord?”She nods, “I’ve always felt so”. He continues. “It’s human to doubt one’s self, your abilities, especially with a history that does not have much affirmation in it”. “but you would not be who you are today, knowing what you know, who you know, if you were not more than capable at doing this work”. “I feel that what I know would fit on the head of a pin”, she laughingly tells him. The Baron throws back his head and laughs loudly. “Cher, what you know would fill tomes, and yet there would be still much to learn”. She leans her head on her hand , propping up on the bar. The spiced rum is having its effect. “So…now that you’ve heard what I’ve been up to, what am I doing next?” she asks Baron. He laughs, “Now you know that would not be fair if I were to tell you everything”. She jerks upright. “Fair! ya’ll have some crazy ass views on that. Is it fair to let my ass hang out in the wind for anyone and everything to take pot shots at it? Is it fair to feel as if everything I do is scrutinized by others and dissected to see where I’m wrong? Is it fair to be expected to share what I know with some who do not reciprocate? And finally is it fair to expect me to just accept this shit without question?” DEAD SILENCE. At the realization that she, in her drunken state has just yelled at one who could do so much damage, causes her to put her hand over her mouth wishing for all the world it was duct tape to keep it from opening yet again, and causing all the blood to run from her face. “I……I…..I am sorry”, she begins stammeringly. The Baron takes her hand in his once more, tracing the sigil with his finger, lingering on the crossroads pictured there. “Cher,”he begins softly,”I know things have been difficult, and that you aren’t used to the drinks tonight, so I will excuse the tone, but will address the concerns, because as I said, truth does come out”. He lifts his head, and the band goes back to playing, others continue their conversations. “Life is not fair, nor is what we ask of you exactly fair, but your destiny, your path…that is why you are here. There will always be people looking for you to fail, seeking a way to see if what you are about is truth. The work will always attract those who would deter it, but you have ample protections, and back up to rely on. Those who are chosen have plenty to do, and no it’s not always fair, but it is what it is.”While the Baron has been speaking, he has continually drawn and redrawn the sigil, always lingering on the crossroads, the traveler looks at him. “I’m sorry I yelled, and its not that I don’t appreciate the opportunity to further things, but sometimes it an be damn tiring”Baron, still holding her hand, smiles”I agree Cher, it can be damn tiresome”. “But it can also be damn rewarding, oui?” She smiles and agrees. “I do get to meet the most interesting folks, I’ll admit”, she laughs. Baron smiles. “I am going to stick closer for a bit, Cher, I think you can use some guidance and some help from one without judgement”. “Oh Jebus”, she thinks to herself, “this has the earmarks of an all out witchfuck”. Saying nothing, she just nods. The Baron comes to his feet, “Let me help you upstairs, you need to rest”, he says. So they move toward the staircase where a room awaits the traveler. “Thank you for your kindness and understand when I wasn’t quite so polite”, says the traveler. “It will not be the last time there will be outbursts, Cher, nor minor disagreements. I am not someone that you have to walk on eggshells with. A child of ghede knows this. It is your human, polite company side that tells you to keep worrying and apologizing”, he laughs. She laughs with him. “I guess so”. The traveler yawns, suddenly feeling extremely tired. “Here is your room, cher, sleep well and we will speak again soon”. Baron kisses her gently on the forehead, opens the door and propels her into the room. Bonne nuit”. And with that the door closed. The traveler falls upon the huge bed that is the softest feather mattress she has ever experienced. “This is like sleeping on a cloud”, she thinks to herself drowsily. Smiling, she drifts off to sleep, secure in the knowledge that this are as they should be even if she has no idea what that is exactly.