Puck had met plenty of ghosts in his day. Some of them had even been dead at the time. During his long, boring travels after Oberon sent them all away, he ran into restless spirits as often as he ran into other Children pretending to be restless spirits. Ghosts were no big deal. Some of them needed help to find their rest. Some of them needed tweaking because they were such dull fuddy duddies. Most ignored him, trapped in patterns their feet set long before even he had been born. Puck wasn't frightened of ghosts. Owen was the type not to believe in them in the first place unless and until it was necessary.
When he came across the weeping spirit in the library, one dark and blustery evening, the two halves of himself took one long look and chose to ignore her. Puck didn't see any reason to deal with yet another annoying resident of the castle, and Owen didn't see any point in acknowledging someone on the astral plane.
An hour later, Goliath joined him in the library, searching for a book. He gave Owen a polite nod, and walked right through the specter along his way. They had all settled into what passed for an easy alliance. The clan still viewed Xanatos with some distrust, and himself with concern. A creature of magic who had tormented them for fun, now trapped without his tricks? How long until he wormed his way out of the punishment and went back to his old ways?
What they didn't understand was how easy he'd found it to find new ways to be himself.
"Goliath? I believe you'll discover the book you're looking for on the fourth shelf."
"Thank you." Once again he walked through the weeping ghost without so much as a blink. Fascinating.
He kept his discovery to himself. Ghosts couldn't harm the residents of the castle, not without significantly more power than this poor spirit had. Should she turn out to be a threat to Alexander, his own powers would come back into play.
Alexander was the one who eventually revealed her existence to the rest of his family. "Why is the library girl sad?" he asked over dinner. Owen always sat with the family to eat these days, and paused with a spoon halfway to his mouth. The question caught his attention, but he didn't chime in yet.
"What library girl?" asked his father.
The boy looked at David. His eyes were wild, always a bit more touched with magic than a normal child's should be. Owen was partly pleased, given how well their magic lessons had been going, and partly worried at how very well the magic lessons had gone. He'd expected the grandson of the Queen to be precocious, but he hadn't realized how powerful the child would be.
"The girl in the library cries all the time." He made a sad face. Then he was distracted by the characters on his sippy cup and poked at the bear's tummy with one finger.
Owen said, "We have a small haunting in the library. Nothing to worry about."
Fox blinked in surprise. "We have a ghost?"
David asked, "Is this someone we know?" He'd been concerned when Goliath and Elisa had related the story of their visit to Scotland, and meeting the unquiet spirits still lingering there, and not only because the last time he'd dabbled in necromancy, they'd wound up with Coldstone and company.
"No. She is not familiar to me from any of our previous encounters, nor does she match the description of anyone I've found in the histories."
"Goliath and the others don't recognize her?"
"They don't appear to be capable of seeing her. I can, and Alexander can." He noticed the expression on Fox's face, and knew she'd be making a visit to the library after dinner. Her own powers had atrophied almost to uselessness, but she did try. She sat in on lessons when she could. Her son could set all the toys in his room to dance around, while she could barely lift a single doll. She kept at it, though. Her tenacity was one of the things he admired about her.
Sure enough, once the food was finished, with compliments to Broadway for his latest masterpiece, Owen noted Fox heading in the direction of the library. He felt David's eyes on him, and he turned back. David never wasted time on jealousy about the gifts the rest of his family possessed. He preferred to make use of them instead.
"What odds do you give her?"
Owen thought about her current progress. "Fifty percent. Thirty percent if she fails to focus."
Alexander said, "Can I go play with Lex now?"
"Inside," said his father. "It's too chilly tonight for you to play on the roof."
"Okay." The boy wandered off in search of his friend, and David's fond gaze followed him. Then he turned to Owen. "Shall we?"
They followed in the direction where Fox had gone, without hurry. There had been fewer and fewer opportunities lately for the two of them to work together alone as they had in the old days. The castle hummed with life. Work hours were split between time up here and time down dealing with the Board, and although Owen remained David's right hand, they both knew his most important work was with Alexander. The two of them had once lived here in this rambling old castle alone together, devising schemes that tickled the Puck in him. This was a different life, even if it looked much the same on the surface, and he missed some trappings of the old even as he enjoyed the amusements and pleasures of the new.
Fox's voice drifted into the hallway from the library. "I'm sorry about whatever happened to you."
Owen couldn't stop his tight smirk. For a woman with her background, education, and experience, Fox was often, as the human resources memos reminded him, 'bad with people.' It was, he admitted, another reason he liked her.
He'd known Fox since she'd lived at home with her parents, driving them to distraction with her impulsive, headstrong nature, while providing no end of entertainment for a bored Puck to observe from behind Owen's bland spectacles. When her mother had noticed young Janine's infatuation with David, she'd broken her own chosen role to ask Owen to keep an eye on them both, and to accept David's offer to leave Renard and join him. She needn't have persuaded him. Owen had already decided he would follow these two manipulative, conniving, scheming, fantastic humans anywhere they wanted to go. Even so, he hadn't expected how deeply it would affect him when, upon presenting his own terms for the bargain, David had chosen a lifetime with staid, solid Owen over a gift from his mercurial half. It seemed the manipulative, conniving, scheming, fantastic humans liked him, too.
"What do you think?" David asked in a low voice, peering into the library. Fox sat on a chair, lounging with comfortable grace as she watched their new houseguest.
"That depends. What do you see?"
David glanced into the room again, then shrugged. The ghost girl turned and looked at him, her tears momentarily paused. He stared unseeing. Interesting.
Owen stepped into the library, and David fell in behind him. Fox took in the ghost's new interest with confusion. "I tried talking to her. What's she doing?"
Her eyes tracked David as he moved through the room to come stand next to Fox. David's eyes swept the space, not seeing their guest at all. Meanwhile, the ghost seemed oblivious to Owen and Fox, as though she was unaware of them. Owen approached her, and noticed how she ignored him as thoroughly as he had first ignored her, although in this case, he doubted it was purposeful. He waved a hand in front of her face.
"She can't see us." He turned, following her gaze to David's face. "But she can see you. And you can't see her at all."
Fox said, "At least she stopped crying. David, ask her what she wants."
He looked to where Owen stood. "Hello. My name is David Xanatos. You're in my house." He accepted the mildly offended expressions from Fox and Owen. "Our house."
The girl shook her head, and now that he was this close and finally paying attention, she was no more than a girl, perhaps fifteen years old. "This is my home," she said, in a thick language Owen hadn't heard in centuries. The shift she wore could have been from any time. She could have lived in the castle during its days of finery, or in a hovel on the spot where it was to be built, or in the ruins during the long, dark time when it stood abandoned.
"She says this is her home," he said, realizing David couldn't hear her, and Fox wouldn't know the language.
"What's your name?"
"Hello, Seonag," Owen said, knowing she wouldn't hear.
"That's a lovely name," said David. "Why are you so sad, Seonag?"
Fox said, "She can understand him, but I don't know what she's saying at all."
"I think she might have connected to him," said Owen. "I haven't worked out how."
"Other than that he's the one who legally owns the castle?"
Owen considered this. Could it be as simple as that? Trust Fox to see through a problem.
Seonag said, "I miss my mum and da. I woke up here, and I can't find them, and I can't leave to go look for them."
Owen said, "She's looking for her parents, but she's physically bound to the castle." He considered. "Tell her we have an idea. I'll fetch Alexander." He hurried out of the library and towards the room where Lexington and and Alexander played video games together on nights when it was too cold for a human child to be outside. He could hear them laughing as he reached the door. Gargoyles, ghosts, and a little fairy boy. The castle was never dull.
"Excuse me," he said. "I need to borrow Alexander for a lesson. We won't be long."
Lexington gave him a worried look, but patted the boy on his head. "Okay. I'll pause your game, Alex. Don't worry."
"Okay." He took Owen's hand and was led amenably back to the library. "Hi, library lady!" he said when he saw his parents with Seonag.
"I need you to give Alexander ownership of the castle. It can be temporary, but you have to make an official announcement."
David looked a bit confused. Owen waited. David had to trust him, and he did. "Alexander, I bequeath ownership of Castle Wyvern to you."
Seonag turned her head, suddenly aware of the little boy. She squeaked in surprise. "Where did you come from?"
"I was playing 'Rumble VI' with Lex."
Fox said, "She can see and hear him. Because he owns the castle now." And Alexander could understand her. Fascinating.
David nodded, and gave them both a look of pleased pride. "All right. Now what?"
"Alexander," Owen said, but it was Puck's voice that came out as he shifted into his magical form. "Remember those binding spells we worked on? This is the other way around." He felt the magic fill him, and with a gesture, encouraged the same in the boy. Light filled his eyes.
Puck said, "Repeat after me: Your prison unbind, to family find."
Alexander repeated the phrase, and magic spilled from his little hands to surround the girl. She stood, flickering with power, staring at her own hands.
"Tell her she may go."
"You can go," said Alex, and he yawned.
"Thank you," said Seonag, and she vanished from view.
Puck felt the magic dissipate from him as Alexander's spell ended. His form shifted back to the one he wore here. Out of habit, he adjusted his glasses. "Excellent. You can go back to playing now."
"Okay." Alexander stopped to hug his mother, then wandered back towards the gaming room.
"You banished her?" Fox asked.
"No, we released her. She may still linger here if she chooses, but I believe she's already traveled on." He nodded to David. "You should think about retaking ownership of the castle before Alexander's bedtime. I don't relish explaining the property transfer to the Board."
He smirked. "I'll just explain we did it to free a trapped ghost."
Owen smirked back. "To be honest, that's one of the less outlandish stories you've told them." With the ghost gone and the child under the care of his favorite gargoyle, the mood between the three of them relaxed into a playfulness the other residents of the castle hadn't caught onto yet.
"The Banshee was not my fault," said David.
Fox stood and stretched. "She was kind of your fault, dear." She kissed David's cheek. Then she kissed Owen's cheek. "But he's right. She was more your fault."
"Having known her longer than either of you, I maintain she has always been her own fault." That drew amusement to both sets of lips, which pleased the Puck in him and gave Owen a warm feeling he'd grown accustomed to these last several months. The three of them had moved past the few remaining barriers they'd set between themselves, and in the process, found a magic older even than his tricks and games. His Queen might be quite put out when she eventually discovered her faithful servant now shared his bed with her daughter and son-in-law, but recalling the expression in her eyes when she'd first sent him to them all those years ago, he thought Titania would not perhaps be entirely surprised.
It was hours until Alex's bedtime, work had nothing pressing on their time tonight, and the ghost couldn't see them even if she remained near. A last bit of sorcery always lingered in his fingertips after a lesson. He spent it shutting the library's heavy door, and giving them privacy.
"You're going to teach me that someday, right?" Fox asked, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"I'm sure we can arrange a lesson very soon."