Tea is a strange thing.

Oh, I find it delightful, do not mis-hear; yet the process and propriety involved amuse me highly. So many cultural standards! So many rigorous requirements – all for drinking hot water made brown with leaves! Tea has amused me ever since I was first introduced to it, so many centuries ago.

I recall those days! It brings to mind erstwhile cities,  with briny atmospheres not too different from this quaint little cafe’s own. True, there were no combustible engines rat-a-tat-tatting up the air, but the sounds – the culture clashes, the language tangles, the shrill noises of children and the distant sharp ones of construction – still ring true.

Ha; ring. I have inadvertently punned.

Paris is a beautiful city, in spite of her flaws. I have known many like her, glorying in their decay, filthy and decadent and utterly alive. I may not make my home in such places, but I value them. I will be content as long as there is a Paris to visit, a Milan to see, a Singapore to explore.

Thank you. I would appreciate more tea.

I find it rather amusing that we have met today by accident. I wait here for another: a child of mine, somewhat distant, many generations down the line from me. He is so far removed, in fact, that sunlight hurts him; nevertheless, he insisted on a daytime call, perhaps to prove something to himself. And to me.

He wishes to create a child of his own, you see, and that does not happen without my permission.

Ah, my friend, do not look at me so! You were there before. You know as well as I why I do this, why I hold these reins so tightly. You know the sorrow and sundering born of my original choice not to control such things, to let “nature” take its course and simply create like unto like – as if our methods of reproduction could fall under nature’s umbrella!

We will never take that road again. I have wept over too many ashes of my own slain kin; no. There will be no Nightchild made who does not first pass my muster.

But you think this is a lie, do you not? I see; you know of her, then. It is true. There is one branch of my family that does as it wishes without my permission. Perhaps we –

Pardon me. This young man is my child, sixteen times removed. Devereux! It is good to see you again. This is my friend, Puck. Do have a seat! Allow me to pour you some tea.

Ah; ah. I feared this would happen.

I am sorry you had to witness this little drama. His tears were real, as was his anger; but so was his relief. But perhaps you could not see that part?

Devereux was once in love, though he is no longer. Nevertheless, he feels bound to that young woman, to whom he has made promises he had no business making. Regardless of all that, had she been worthy, I still would have let him turn her.

Yes, their relationship would have been changed irrevocably, and he would be forever tied to one he made but does not love – at least, not as he once did. But that would have been his choice. And love in family is a choice.

She was not worthy, though.

A pretty thing, as so many humans are pretty things, but that did not qualify her. A greedy thing, as so many humans are greedy things, but that did not disqualify her. No, my friend, the Wind told me all: while she has flaws as any, and no more weaknesses than you or I, what lacks is not a matter of commission. It is omission.

She does not have resolve.

That young woman has never kept her oar in the water when the waves grew wild. She has never stayed out the storm, or shared shelter with those who did. When confronted with danger, she has run. Always.

Had she even stayed once, I might have considered… but in all her thirty-eight years, she never has.

The answer is no. To become a Nightchild is to take a long and thorny path, and she lacks the willpower to survive it.

Devereux will heal in time. Indeed, he is already relieved; he can now break his promise to her without bringing shame on himself, for I – the great father of all children of the night – have forbidden it.

You may laugh. It is quite dramatic, is it not? I fear my penchant for such has lent a certain… campiness to my family’s bearing. Well, it is what it is, and I shall not apologize for it. One must see humor in the things oneself does, beyond any amusement one may garner from anyone else’s quirks.

What was that?

Ah. Yes, it is true, he could go to her to request a turning. But to do so would be rebellion against all we stand for, and all we know. To do so would be utter betrayal. Devereux, fortunately, is not a traitor. He will obey me.

She eschews the standards I hold for making children. She does it on purpose, creating so to bring me grief. Those she chooses almost never survive; they go mad, or are mad already. Those she chooses must often be put down like rabid things. At her hands, she forces filicide at mine, and she does it from spite.

I am surprised you even know she exists, to be honest. She does not bother with public relations as I do.

No, I will not tell you why she does this. No, I will not tell you why I allow it. It is time to change the topic.

I will have a drop more tea, and so shall you. These leaves, at least, have proven their worth, eh? Stuck it out in hot water, until all was flavored nicely.

Yes, that is a terrible metaphor. No, I am hardly ashamed. You smiled, too; I saw it.

I have enjoyed our meeting, and I hope to see you again. Time grows short; the Wind has told me. Have you sought out your relatives of late? Do. Perhaps they have things to tell you, now that we are a hand’s span away from the end of this world. Perhaps there could be forgiveness.

Perhaps I should seek her out, as well, and perhaps we could find peace between us, too.

So I allow myself to pretend. To accept a wound that cannot be healed is to harden; and I dare not harden. I dare not.

My dear friend, Puck, until next time: farewell.