Author Topic: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh  (Read 1376 times)

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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2017, 04:20:59 PM »
With only Spector noticeably absent, the remaining friends stepped over the entranceway to the Cittie of Yorke pub. While linguists and history graduates everywhere would roll their eyes at anyone who attempted to pronounce it as anything other than the City of York, the revellers were happy to take in the venue’s obvious history. It was arguably one of the oldest drinking establishments in the country, and the owners were doing their best to make sure everyone stepping foot over the threshold would know that.

It looked like a drinking hall, with nods to both Edwardian and Victorian styles in the furniture and décor. Above the long bar were gargantuan barrels, surely empty, or they would have crushed the fine selection of spirits on the bar back. Rows of hand pull met modern draughts, and the classic look was also warm and well insulated.

Opposite the bar was a wall split into a number of booths, a table in each, and room for four to sit comfortably, or up to eight, if they knew each other well enough. Large stone shapes, almost pyramids sat in the spaces between, each with a roaring fire burning merrily, and walking through the bar, sitting at tables, or hidden in booths, were the clientele.

For this time of an evening, it was no surprise to anyone, that city dwellers having just finished work were the most prevalent of patrons, but since they had the gift of Kenning, the new arrivals spotted trolls amongst the number, and a few others too. Alsandair wasn’t too sure if they were trying to fit in by wearing suits, or if they were actually employed by one of the nearby law firms or financial institutions.

He knew that everyone had to make a living, and realised that there was still far more he didn’t know about the Fae than what he and his friends actually knew. A few Sluagh were talking amongst themselves too, taking up a table in an end booth, and keeping their whispered susurrations to themselves.

Not being too sure on the etiquette of their situation, Yanni suggested they take in a few pints here, to watch how the other Kith respond to them, getting a feel for the social dynamics before making too overt a move. Nobody complained about that, and Alsandair was happy to get the first round in, the brewery being one of the few in London to charge less than a fiver a pint. Well, there was always a Wetherspoons, but the young lad had taste.

After half an hour or so, chatting away to themselves, they’d all noticed that they’d been getting looks from the other kith in attendance. Nothing aggressive or threatening, but beyond mild curiosity, that was for sure. Could the Lady Effra have underestimated just how much of a novelty they were? Most of them were nearing the bottom of their pints – Alsandair having spent five minutes wistfully considering starting on the spirits – and Frederick’s tea would either be empty or cold, when a young man approached the table.

He was a good-looking fellow, with clipped brown hair, shaved almost to nothing on the back and sides, some well managed stubble, and the easy-going smile of someone who makes a living based in some way on his charms. Oh, and goat legs, a tail, and horns, but Alsandair doubted most of the Cittie’s patrons would have noticed that detail. Trevor was his name, and that alone make the Clurichaun’s eyebrows know as he passed out his business card to anyone who’d take one, “I’m Trevor, and word’s gotten out about you lot!”

His Cockney accent seemed almost put on, as if he was used to keeping it up for tourists who’d engaged his services, but it was easy to see that he knew how to make friends, “Thought there’d be a few more of you, to be fair. What I heard, there was a couple more of you, back in the day. You all made it through, did you?”

“Not all of us could be out tonight, and not all of us are so sociable, or accustomed to talking about things like this in so public a setting”, replied Yanni, tipping his glass to the cabbie, and smiling.

“Yeah, well, the Yorke’s our kind of place. As long as you keep your voice down though, don’t advertise it. I mean, any of you figure it out when you drank in here these past few years?” he asked, smile widening even more.

“What”, asked Alsandair, “you mean, we’d have a drink in here, being near enough surrounded by Fae” he whispered that last word, “and none of you said anything”?

“’Course not! We knew you’d find your ways to places like this, just like all the dreamers do, but it’s not our job to give you the wake-up call. Don’t know whose job that’d be, to be fair, but someone did it, didn’t they?”

“Hang on there” Alsandair continued, “I’d’ve drank anywhere, I’m a drunk. That surely would be a coincidence, but are you saying the rest of us would have been in here?”

“Oh yeah! Seen all of you at some point or another, in this place or something like it.” He turned to Yanni and Jake now, “I’ve been in your Manor a couple of times, shared a pint or two with a couple of Sidhe, or at least them that’d lower ‘emselves to share their time with me.

“I mean, we weren’t keeping an eye on you, stalking you or anythin’ like that, but certain places always call to our type, and even when you don’t know who you are, you still feel the call.”

Yanni stroked his beard thoughtfully, “Well Trevor, it looks like we’ve a lot more to learn. If you’ve got the time, and don’t mind me standing you a round or two, could you help fill us in?”

The cabbie was more than happy to oblige, and as the second round was under way, the name Zach was dropped with some weight into the conversation. Trevor spoke in low tones about him, not confirming anyone’s suspicions as to his Kith – Boggan would get you pretty good odds round the table that night – but making sure everyone knew to keep their hands close to their chests should they have any dealing with him.

It took Trevor a while, but after cryptically stating that he was losing favour in the Fae community because of the company he kept – bad company, according to Trevor – he finally let slip that the young lad was getting far too cosy with the Isaacs. That was the rub, right there, and they all had more questions now, but Trevor was looking over his shoulder as he did his best to now give a straight answer.
Eventually, he suggested moving into a booth, taking advantage of any little bit of privacy before discussing things further. He timed it pretty well with the next round, this one on Jake, but Alsandair offered to lend a hand carrying. On his way to the bar, he made his excuse to use the facilities, already being a couple of pints ahead of them, and on route, had a quick word with Frederick.

If the Sluagh had gotten anything interesting from eavesdropping on his Kin, he was just as tight lipped about it as they were being. When Alsandair mentioned that Isaacs though, his creepy ears pricked right up, and he looked thirstily at the booth being occupied by his friends. “Don’t know how much a taxi driver will know”, said Alsandair, “but it’s gotta be more than we do”.

“Hmmm, hard to imagine it being any less, that’s for absolutely certain”. He looked down at his empty tea cup, “I don’t suppose you or someone else could furnish me with a replacement? I would hate to look out of place while discussing the magic police and the no doubt thrilling crimes they solve.” He stood before Alsandair could nod, and slinked over to the booth, insinuating himself in a corner, possibly without Trevor even noticing the extra body.

For the next hour, they all conversed, asking questions, getting what answers that Trevor could provide, and although the devil is in the details, it mostly came down to a few pertinent facts. The Isaacs were indeed the magical arm of the Metropolitan police, the Sorcerers of Scotland Yard, if you will. They had been far more impressive a couple of generations ago, but these days could be counted without needing a second hand.

One was an older gent who everyone called Nightingale. Whether or not it was his real name seemed to be up for debate, especially as his apprentice was known as Sparrow. There was a third too, a woman who was knew to the game, but her and Sparrow had both been at the party the evening before. Alsandair was quick to remind everyone of the African looking chap in the clearly undercover terrible suit, but couldn’t remember a girl of any distinction.

“She’s done herself an injury, from what we’ve all heard. Some magic gone awry and took half her face with it. She’d have been in a mask last night. The Isaacs haven’t figured out how to heal with the tricks yet, but the young lad sure knows how to hurt with it. Little sod can rip the roof of a building and pull the walls in on any poor fucker inside. Loves blowing stuff up, loves it”, confirmed Trevor.

He also let them know that the building they operated out of was known locally – and in the right circles – as The Folly, and it was also another collective noun for the folks that made it their base of operation. Carrying on with the bird theme, he made sure they knew that any police referring to a “falcon” incident were talking about the kind of thing that the Folly was set up to investigate.

Erasmus bandied around the idea that this was something that should be dealt with, seeing any mortal interference in the workings of Fae as something threatening, but Trevor was quick to placate him, “They tend to leave us be, as long as we don’t cause too much bother. Hell, even if we do, they tend to do their bit in brushing it under the carpet. Don’t kill anyone, don’t steal any babies, and keep your activities of their radar, and you’ll get no hassle from ‘em”.

It seemed that everyone would be happier going about their lives thinking that mundane world of science and reason was all there was to reality. Even around the table, Frederick nodded solemnly at the suggestion, wishing he could live a life that had questions that were easier to answer.

“Glad you lads are out on the town tonight, meeting folk and reminding people who you are, but don’t leave it too long before presenting yourself to the parks.” All this got him for his time was a row of furrowed brows, so he wet his lips with another sip, and continued, “Hyde Park for sure, and Windsor Park too, sooner rather than later.”

Alsandair wasn’t sure why they’d want to spend an evening in a cold park, and asked the cabbie what he was talking about. As soon as the word “Seelie” was out of his lips, everyone was waiting for it to be followed with “Unseellie”, and knew – almost felt like they’d always known – that the two parks were home to the two courts, in that order. Trevor was also happy to let the Irishman know that a visit tonight would be a bad idea, and sobering up would be a damned fine plan.

Any other fine details were lost to a night of continued drinking, but before the topic could be changed, Trevor’s mobile beeped in his pocket, and he glanced down to at the glowing screen with a smile, “Well lads, I’ve gotta earn some money. You’ve got my card, give me a bell if you need to get somewhere”, and with that he drained his third pint and clambered over Erasmus to leave the booth, heading towards a delightfully good looking Sidhe. Well, he had said some of them would be happy to give him the time of day, and the smile they shared was far more affectionate than between a customer and her driver.

Since they were all near the end of their drinks, it was decided that they should move on, so with a few last swallows and a barely stifled belch, they made their way into the cool of the evening. Trevor had told them to steer clear of the Irish pub, the Tipperary, as it was nothing more than a glorified tourist spot these days, and he was sure Alsandair would find a reason to get into a fight. He was right, thought the Clurichaun, relieved to have an excuse to keep away from any false Blarney that night.
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #16 on: November 27, 2017, 04:21:13 PM »

Stepping into the night, still weighing up the cabby’s advice about also avoiding the Cheshire Cheese as a dreary tourist trap, Spector wandered over, looking a bit out of breath, like he’d rushed there, but slowed down for the last few yards. With a quick nod, he fell into step with them as they started walking, realising that the Cheshire wasn’t far, and it would give the Pooka a chance to get something off his mind.

He’d spent his time after leaving the Carp doing some research, after refitting himself with a new computer and having an idea about what to look in to. He’d started with basic key word searches, and ended up following a trail of breadcrumbs that had led him to the Folly, the same one that been discussed over beers not too long ago. They’d been looking into the same problem that the friends had, and Spector was sure of it. Far too many of the same search phrases to be a coincidence, and since they were tasked with such issues, it seemed like Lady Effra had tasked them a Falcon situation before they’d even known what one was.

Erasmus butted in at this point, unusually for him, as he preferred to keep his council until he was sure of something, “I know where the Folly is, if you think we need to pay them a visit.” Although it was a simple piece of information, followed up with a sensible suggestion, there was something in his tone of voice that filled his words with silent menace. No one was quick to reply, but Yanni – who had stepped easily into a leadership role, his noble birth surely a factor – shook his head.

“Not just yet. They’re still searching, and since we know where the kid is, we have an advantage. I’m sure Spector can keep an eye on their traffic and let us know if they give any digital clues about their activities, but until then, we’re best leaving them to it. Follow Trevor’s advice, and keep out of their way.”

Spector looked ready to push the point, but Erasmus had remembered something from their conversation with the Satyr, and spoke up again, letting the technophile know that it was the magic of the Isaacs that had fried his computers. That was enough to give the Pooka pause, and he spent what was left of the journey, silently working out ways to lessen the risk to his hardware.

Not that it took them long, and within a few minutes they were staring at the low door of the Olde Cheshire Cheese. It looked like it had been made for Frederick and Alsandair, so small was the entranceway, but it wasn’t the size of the doorway that slowed them. The last step leading into the pub was an iron grate.

Although there were surely plenty of reasons for a public house to have such a grate, the cold iron gave them all pause. Alsandair was suddenly nervous, licking his lips and hoping that there wasn’t a corresponding horseshoe above the lintel. The lack of one barely eased his nerves though, but Jake wasn’t about to head in regardless, “Nah, fuck it. That kind of thing, in a pub that old, it’s just fucking impolite. Could be that the people in charge don’t know why it would bother anyone, but leaving it there for no good reason is good enough for me to want to drink elsewhere.”

They all nodded in agreement, Alsandair doing so quickly and with fervour, before they carried on through the streets. They weren’t far from the next stop on their journey though, and as they ducked down a side street, the sight that greeted them was far more hospitable.

For the heavy drinker, it was lovely to see a sign forbidding football strips to be worn inside, but more than that, it was clear that this place was practically swimming in Glamour. The beautiful coloured wood that made up the outer wall was flitting between two states, either carved and worked, or flowing like a tree, rising to the stars, but still part of the building. Figures moved around the courtyard, dancing to an unheard rhythm, but one that Alsandair found himself tapping his foot along to. He caught Jake’s eye and smiled, but it seemed like this show was just for him.

The story was for everyone though, and it was one that drifted through the night like warm toffee and whiskey, Harun’s amazing voice bringing it to life, even if it seemed a surprise to him when he first opened his mouth. A royal wedding, between Henry and Catherine Parr, and it was surely the revellers that Alsandair was watching dance.

When they made it inside, a drink was already waiting for them, and the Troll behind the bar thanked them for the tale, and offered them free, or in payment for something already given. There was food too, and although the place was small, it didn’t feel full of anything but warmth and light. For Alsandair, there was music too, even though he was sure no one else could hear it. He didn’t want to step on the toes of his storytelling friend, but the beat had him humming, and as the ladies danced, arm in arm with their fellows, he could feel words bubbling up.

He was sure they weren’t what would have been played that night so long ago, but the music he was feeling seemed universal, and a folk song bubbled out of his lips, with Jake soon joining in, smiling, unsure what had gotten his friend so willing to perform. It was a simple song, and one that meant little to the Irishman, but he found it hard to not feel something as the last notes vanished not just from the bar, but from his head. Any other night, in any other place, he would have been mortified to have sung like that, with no accompaniment or even a willing audience, but he just felt right to have sung.

Although this was certainly the most welcoming place they’d visited all evening, it was far the bustling crowd that they had come out to spend time with. As relaxed as they were, sure that this is what a Freehold would feel like, and very much keen to have one of their own, there was work to be done if they wanted to earn it. Jake was on the ball though, and after ordering some food to soak up what was already more than just a few drinks, he got chatting with Connor, the aforementioned barman.

With no hint of wanting us out the door, he was happy to suggest alternatives, seeming to know what the friends were about that night. He all but confirmed that he had met them all before at some point, and that he was happy to see them rekindling an old friendship. He also knew that they were a hot topic at the moment, what with so many dreamers waking up together, and all of them being old and storied friends. The stories though, would have to wait.

“If you’re looking for a party, young Chelsea and her sister have something brewing tonight. A private affair, and all the way over in Kensington, but if you want to make a splash tonight, it’s probably the place to be.” Thinking a moment longer, he continued, “The Jerusalem isn’t far though. Should be starting to get busy this time of night, and although it’s not exclusive, you’ll struggle to find anyone there that would balk at seeing you in your Fae mien.”

Jake brought the suggestions to the table, and no one was quick to jump on the idea of a house party with another river of London. Alsandair was sure it would be fun, but they were already getting a little too entwined with that particular family, and from what they’d heard, the brothers and sisters were far from close friends. No, a big club, with a bunch of friendly faces was what was needed that night. They’d been out for a few hours already, been working most of that time, finding out what they could to help Lady Effra, but cutting loose, and having fun while they worked, was a very appealing idea.

Finishing their drinks and food, they thanked Connor for his hospitality, and promised that they’d return before leaving. The night was certainly colder, and if they didn’t have the lights of the city surrounding them, the stars would have looked beautiful. The chill air was enough to hurry them on though, even Frederick and Erasmus, who had almost left early to pursue another line of investigation with the Quiet Folk.

It was fairly obvious when they were getting close to their penultimate stop of the night though. The streets were filled with drinkers and their friends, spilling out of doorways that led to pubs. Well, rooms that served beer mainly. Most of the watering holes in this part of the city were too small for more clientele than could crowd around the bar waiting to get served.

Everyone else was under the sky, talking and laughing, drinking and fighting. Alsandair could feel his knuckles itch as he watched two drunken teens get pulled apart by their friends, and wondered if they be friends again when the sun came up. Maybe even before that.

The Jerusalem was ahead though, and looking at the crowds gathering, it was clear that staying in a group would do them no favours. Too many people, too many packs, too many Kith. Alsandair got them one last round in, knowing he’d not have to buy many more if his easy smile had anything to do with it. Staggering through the crowd with a tray full of cheap beer in plastic cups, he found his friends, and divvied out the beer. He’d even bought one for Frederick, who was polite enough to take it, even if he planned to empty it down a drain as soon as he was able.

He was scanning the crowd as he drank, and almost in unison, they decided the best thing was to split up. Some of them were still on the hunt for information – Frederick did his best to play the part of a down on his luck older brother, looking for his young sibling who had gotten lost, and wasn’t quite normal – but Alsandair had other ideas. He wasn’t the only one, he was sure, especially watching Jake saunter into the crowd, but his plan was to just make friends.

He still wasn’t sure what questions he could ask to get the right answers, but he knew he could at least get people to the point that, come the next day, they’d be more likely to offer what assistance they could. SO, he drank, and laughed, and sang, and drank. He was everybody’s best friend, the epitome of the charming Irish rogue, all heavy accent and provincial slang. He was teaching people dirty songs, and making up the most unlikely cocktails he could imagine, knowing that someone out there would try it, and give him a taste.

At some point in the night, he started hearing rumours of an Eshu that had been propositioning any women who’d listen about having their babies, and all he could do was hope that it wasn’t Harun. On more than one occasion, he crossed paths with Yanni, whose swagger was distinctive, even through a crowd. Jake was doing everything than Alsandair was trying, but with his intensity pushed up to eleven. They passed on occasion, sharing a line from the back of a vinyl wallet, or trying to up each other’s stories of debauchery and good times.

Knowing he was outmatched, Alsandair left him to his attentive audience, and was soon wrapped in the arms of a delightful Satyr named Calliope. She had a lovely curve to her, not too skinny at all, and a face that looked even more beautiful when she laughed, and she was easy to get a chuckle out of.

In between kissing, and hands straying to places best left to your imagination, she invited him to the upcoming Nazarene, just like Zach had, and then back to her digs at Camden Lock, which Zach never did. Well, he had nowhere else to sleep, not that he told her that, so was happy to take her up on her offer of jumping on the last train heading in that direction.

When he found himself standing atop the barrier of a bridge, looking down at train tracks, his hand held tight as Calliope laughed and started counting backwards, the sound of a carriage approaching them, he realised he should have asked her exactly what she meant about “jumping on the last train”…
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2017, 04:20:49 PM »
He’d been on bigger pub crawls had young Alsandair. He’d been on longer ones, and more exciting ones. He’d come away from them bleeding and bruised, woke up sticky in dubious company, and been on more than a couple he couldn’t recall to this day. If he had to use one word to sum up this latest foray into drinking as an endurance sport, he’d have to go with “enlightening”.

He’d woken up in worse places too. It wasn’t the most serene way to be woken up, but if the Lady Calliope was going to be so vigorous in her morning activities, he certainly wasn’t going to complain, instead opting to enjoy the ride, and repaying her the favour.

With that out of the way, his head still pounding, he managed to get in the shower while there was still some hot water, but was politely and firmly shown the door before nine AM. Not the earliest he’d done his walk of shame, and he was sure he had plans anyway. It wasn’t necessarily a negative end to an evening of pleasure either.

Calliope certainly wanted him out the door, but she made no secret of her intent to revisit their liaison, and made sure her number was saved in his mobile, chuckling to herself as she watched him hit the keys repeatedly to bring up even the first letter of her name. A quick but far from chaste kiss at the boundary, and he was on the prowl for coffee.

Looking around, he was only half sure where he was, but it was certainly a nice area, by London standards. Semi private gardens, the occasional Jag parked up outside a large semi, and a coffee place on the corner. It was one of the Change Please carts that helped London’s homeless get a leg out of the gutter, and by the Gods the coffee was superb.

As he ordered a black Americano with too much coffee, he mused about how many other homeless in London were like him. The markets – Nazarenes, really – and finding Frederick was also used to sleeping rough, gave him food for thought. If he was unaccustomed to a real home, preferring to move when the whim took him, no doubt there were plenty more like him. What with the coffee being so damned good too, could it be the entire enterprise was glamoured?

He shook his head as he patted his pockets for change, it was a nice idea, but one that romantic fantasy writers would spew out, trying to make out that being homeless was more than a terrible life built on terrible mistakes that would likely end quickly and unpleasantly. In his few short years on the street, he’d seen plenty of folks die of the cold, of drugs, of booze. He did OK, and it made sense now, how he’d been doing so well, but he was damned if he was going to see the lifestyle that had claimed so many lives, far too early, romanticized by involving Faeries.

He was trying to remember the name of a young girl who’d passed only weeks after he’d arrived in London. She was from Devon, if her accent was anything to go off, never spoke much, apart from when she was looking for business. There were always plenty of Johns looking to pay for a willing girl her age. She’d been found, beaten and raped, stripped naked and left in the doorway of a women’s shelter. He couldn’t remember her name. Barely remembered what she looked like.

All while he was sat, warm enough in his layers of clothes, with one of the finest coffees on the planet, sitting in a semi private garden with plans to go and hang out with a river later. Didn’t seem fair. Probably because it wasn’t, he thought as a striding fellow in a damned fine suit caught his eye.

“Someone had a good night then”, the man said in a fine clipped voice, “and since you’re far from home, one would assume you didn’t sleep alone last night, you vagabond”!

“Right on the money”, Alsandair replied, recognising his friend Yanni, and tipping him a nod. “What are you doing up so gods damned early”?

“The same thing you are? Bloody hell, how much did you drink last night? I saw you and Jake going at it hell for leather when I’d had enough, but I thought you’d be able to take it! We’ve got a meeting this morning. Lambeth palace with Lady Effra and her Beau, maybe even the child. It’s what we were supposed to be working on last night?”

That last bit was certainly a question, but Alsandair had little to show for his time wining – cheap lager – and dining – there were pork scratchings, he thought – the Kith of London. “No one was talking to me about it. They knew who the Rivers were, but not what, from what they were telling me anyway. As to the wee fella, my faculties were impeded, and I couldn’t rightly ask questions without giving away more than was needed.”

“Too drunk to string a sentence together.”. He frowned at the short young man, but only for a second, “No, no, I wasn’t expecting anything else from you. I trust you made friends though, people who might be able to offer help and advise down the road?”

“Aye”, he smiled back, “Might need to actually get a pocket book for phone numbers, this piece fo shite only has room for ninety-nine, and I damned near filled it last night. Not sure how helpful they’ll be, or if they’ll remember me, but making friends is what I do.
“You paying for the cab then big man”?

Yanni smiled still and nodded, raising an umbrella to flag one down as soon as they made it to a main road, and Alsandair finished his coffee and threw the empty cup into a bin, climbing up after the Sidhe, and pretending he didn’t notice the wrinkle on his friend’s nose at the clear smell of sex and cheap beer emanating from his every pore.

Before long, the cab pulled up, and true to his word, Yanni unfolded a couple of notes and paid the driver while Alsandair jumped out, trying his best to smooth down his crumpled clothing. He’d looked worse – smelled worse too – but not when meeting such esteemed company.

The place was as bohemian as it gets. Half of it a museum to farming that middle-class kids would be dragged around twice monthly to prove that the organic greens that got delivered by Ocado were better than Chanice at the local comprehensive was given by her mum. The rest of it was an up-market café, with more gluten free vegan options than were strictly necessary, at least the Alsandair’s mind.

Sitting on one of the balconies were Harun and Frederick, sipping from artisanal coffee cups, and looking down on Lady Effra who was sat doting on a young child. As they moved further into the building, they could both feel the glamour of the place. For half a second, Alsandair was concerned it was all flowing from the young boy, but instead it was assailing them from all directions. This place was one of the most Fae friendly places he’d been in, ever since he knew such locations existed.

They spotted Oberon too, and angled over to talk to him, as the line of his brows indicated that being close to his Lady was not advisable. Erasmus was also sheparded over, so they could talk, with Spector and Jake conspicuous in their absence. Looking over Oberon’s shoulder, Alsandair was struggling to take his eyes off the boy. For all the gold at the end of any given rainbow, he couldn’t have eloquently put it better, but the child wasn’t right.

The conversation that followed washed mostly over him, a result of the hangover no doubt, but if asked, he’d claim that whatever it was that was pretending to be a child had taken all his attention, through magical means most foul.

Oberon was certainly worried. The easy demeanour of their last meeting had vanished, along with the free crate of premium lager, Alsandair couldn’t help but notice. Just like the Clurichaun, like all the Fae really, he was looking over his shoulder, eyes fixed on his Lady, and the way she fawned over the child. “It’s gotten worse.

“It’s not just attention she’s paying it now, it’s like the thing is absorbing what makes her the Lady I knew before. This thing is either some kind of dark magic spell, or it’s made of dark magic, and using it to control her. Yesterday she was concerned about what it could be, and how best to look after it. Today? All she can do is devote herself to it”.

None of them could help notice that Oberon would not call it a child, “he”, or give it a name. Whatever magical influence it exerted, it was focused squarely on Effra. As he stared, Erasmus tried to explain what it could be, with Spector’s help, who had reappeared after watching the creature from a distance.

They were sure it was something that wasn’t Fae or human, but a construct, something Chimerical. A doll, from what Alsandair could gather, but Spector’s words made him shiver, even inside the warm café, “Imagine a porcelain doll, one that looks like it’s from Germany maybe, some kind of Hitler doll, I don’t know. It’s a baby doll though, underneath. What it’s underneath is harder to describe. To me, it looks like each month, maybe a few at a time, is a wrap of almost clear plastic film.

“As time passed by for us, more sheets are wrapped around it, making it look older to most people. To me though, it looks like someone is trying to suffocate a doll with a fake version of time.”

“Jesus”, whispered Alsandair, “this thing isn’t doing that to itself then? Somethin’ else, someone else, is in control”?

“I’d say so”, cut in Yanni, face hard and stern, “And I’d say that whomever is working the strings on… whatever the fuck that thing is, must have a reason. It’s taking up so much of Effra’s time and attention, I wonder what else she’d supposed to be paying attention to. I wonder what’s getting ignored, and who would profit from that.”

Oberon thought for a moment, but had nothing to offer. Although not targeted by the doll and its master, he was similarly distracted as a second-hand effect. Yanni turned to Spector, “I think this is where you come in. Get online, find out what’s going on the water basin around her river, check into her investments if possible, find out who else might be gaining something from her distracted state.”

As he nodded, almost turning in his eagerness to leave, Alsandair interrupted, pulling the Pooka up short, “You know, I’ve been hearing, and I bet you have too, that the sisters of the river may be family, but certainly aren’t what you’d call fast friends. Don’t know about you, but if another river is causing this, I wouldn’t want to be involved. Or to be the one to tell Effra, if I’m honest”.

This gave them all pause for thought, but before a revelation could be reached, the door near them opened and Jake appeared. Usually not cause for alarm, but at some point since they’d last seen him, he changed his outfit, and was clearly wearing a deep pink blouse with long collar tips. It hugged him a lot tighter, and a lot less flattering than it must have done for its previous occupier, and it was hard to focus on much else.

They filled him in on everything, and he took it in good humour, adding in the suggestion that of the thing was aging quickly, perhaps its dying was the point. As eyebrows raised, he continued, “Lady Effra clearly loves the damned thing, and can you imagine the depth of her grief when it pops its clogs? You think she’d get over it easy? Might also mean that until we can figure anything out, just destroying it won’t be an option”.
Oberon agreed to this whole heartedly, worried for the toll it would take on the River. As he was shaking his head, the thing seemed to realise it was the subject of a very dark conversation, and proceeded to throw a level seven tantrum. Impressive for a kid that looked that old, but Effra was quick to sooth the troubled waters, and was soon stalking to the exit with “child” in tow.

As she closed on the group, she showed no signs of recognising most of them, and only a passing nod even to Oberon. The family, such as it was, was quick to leave, and without needing to say much, it was agreed that Harun and Frederick would follow along to keep an eye on them. There was no doubt to their minds that the whole bunch could have walked a pace or two behind, and Effra wouldn’t have paid them any mind, but it wouldn’t have looked good to the general populace.

That being said, there was work to do before they could decide on a course of action, and the Nazarene wasn’t for a good few hours yet. They had all decided that turning up would be in their interests. For some, the chance to delve deeper into Fae Lore, magic, and technology was too tempting. For others, it was just another adventure, and they all saw the benefit of getting to know more of the Kith.

There was also a chance that the fringes of the Demi Monde would be in attendance, and getting a closer eye cast on the Isaacs was certainly going to be beneficial. Yanni made the plans for everyone to meet up, but let them know he was going to pay a visit to the Seelie Court in Hyde Park.

Looking down at himself, then over to the Irishman, Jake smiled, “I think our first impression would be best saved until it wasn’t, well, this”, he indicated the clothing and general dishevelment of the two of them. “Think I’ll head back to the Carp, have a shower, get some food and fresh clothes, meet you there”.

“I need to get changed too fellas, and my pockets are worryingly empty, so I need to get some work done. I’ll meet you there too.” Added Alsandair. Spector was happy to spend his time online, researching what he could about Effra and her interests, and Erasmus always had a project on the back burner to keep him busy, so they nodded, smiled, and went their separate ways.
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2017, 04:21:05 PM »

For Alsandair, making money was certainly easier than used to be. What used to take fast fingers and an easy-going swagger, he could now do with just a touch of glamour. In shops where he was known, it was no effort to convince the counter jockeys that he was paying with a twenty instead of a fiver. He could drop twenty-three pence in mixed coins on the counter and convince them it was a tenner in change, and they’d happily give him a bit folding for his trouble.

He’d have felt guilty, but his concerns were changing, and for years he’d known that him getting a roof over his bed, a warm drink, or – and this was always a bigger concern – a drink, was more important than his stomach turning with anxiety. A drink. He’d thought of it now, and he couldn’t shake the idea.

More then a few off licenses knew him, and he picked one where the old lady who ran it was often rude to him and other rough sleepers. He had a few pence in pocket change left after getting the rest changed while buying food and some more batteries, so he strode up like he owned the place, and asked for a bottle of Jamesons. “No, not the half bottle, the full one.” She smirked at him, but pulled it down none the less, about to ask him if he needed a bag before he interrupted her, “And the hip flask. The silver plated one from the window. Had my eye on that for a while now Mrs. Sharples.”

She frowned, but did as she was told, ringing it up, charging him an extra five pence for the bag, and looking in amazement as he pulled out a crisp fifty spot to pay her. He was concentrating hard on this, and made sure she didn’t even think to run it under the blue light to check its authenticity. He knew he could fool her, but he was still working out what he could convince machines to do.

With a thin and bitter smile on her face, she gave him his bag, and a palm full of change, refused to wish him a good day and stared at the back of his head until he was out the door. Alsandair couldn’t help but smiling, and the buzz of pulling that off killed his need for a drink until he got to the squat. Standing in the bright sun, he declaimed up towards the open window, “Monica, my sweetheart, my beloved, I know that since we last danced, you have been turned into a bitter old shrew, with a face made of stoats, but my love for you goes beyond that! Monica, can I kiss your stoat?!”

The window was thrown open, “Oh Alsandair, the stoats have all died, to be replaced by naught but withering scorn for all the sons of the Emerald Isle! Get your copper topped head on up here and I might be willing to suck you off for a pack of chocolate biscuits!”

He laughed, loving the fact that she was in a good mood, and quickly hopped up the discarded furniture that he used for stairs until he could reach her window frame to pull himself inside. A merry afternoon was spent with his oldest friend, and he was happy to offer her a drink from his new flask, even if she was sure to turn it down. He hadn’t thought to bring and biscuits with him, and even if he had, she could have had them all regardless.

People who knew them all thought they were fuck buddies at the very least, but the two of them had been friends from the start, and Alsandair knew that neither of them wanted to ruin that. Of course, what a man “knows” about a woman he’s close to, is not always the truth of the matter, but Monica was happy enough to carry on as they were, knowing she owed him more than a romantic – or physical – tryst could ever repay.

While fun was had in an East London squat, a knight of the Fae was making introductions at court. He was in the finest his Fae mien could show, and knew his way around courtly intrigues. He wasn’t sure if that was how he avoided being brought into service of the Seelie court, or if they honestly had no use for him at the time, but since his ego was matched only by the admiration women – and a lot of men – felt towards his handsome visage, he was happy to believe the former.

The court was happy to leave him be at the Carp’s Tongue in fact, seeing it as a potential space for them to extend their influence, if the group were able to pool their resources and turn into something more than a mere drinking house. Yanni was happy to go along with this, only worrying slightly about letting a certain dark and unsettling child now that they may have to show allegiance to the Summer court.

Not that he was sure of anyone’s alliance, but he knew more than most, and was happy to make an educated guess. In amongst the bowing and scraping, and the unnecessarily florid denouncements, actual news was forthcoming, “We have many agents in the city, not just folk of the Court, but people who work for its aims. The Lady Calliope is one such, and you would do well to trust her. We here, as we do in all such things, that she has already made contact with one of your, motley. The Clurichaun in fact. She hasn’t made her affiliation known to him yet, and we’d appreciate your discretion in this, until we know more.”

All Yanni could do was nod and bow, as he so often did in such meetings, also finding out that Ephadrille [apologies for spelling, my handwriting sucks] had “collected” Harun on the same night. Apart from wishing he could find out more than his friend’s sexual conquests, he was happy there. Since his Chrysalis, he had felt familiar bonds of friendship that he hadn’t known he had missed, but this was something else. This felt like home. He was still smiling inwardly at the thought when the tone of the Court changed, “There is, something dangerous prowling the City. We don’t know enough yet to speak with authority, but we do know that the Isaacs are involved.
“They used what power was available to them to move this person from a seat of power, so at present, and only in this regard, they are on the same side of us. Enemy of my enemy might be overstating our regard to the Folly, thinking so little of them as we do, but the saying seems appropriate here. Keep an ear to the ground Sir Yanni, and be about your business”.

With a few more stiff bows, he made his way back from the throne, a practiced hand at walking backwards and not tripping on his weapon, until he was clear. Standing, he looked about himself, knowing that he owed his friends the truth, but not sure if the cost to him was worth it…

Harun and Frederick were dedicated to their task, and also quite happy to do it in the easiest way possible. They had followed from a distance through London until they had been led to Effra’s home. A large pile in a well to do area, they simply ignored the fact that there might be people around, certain that the Autumn folk would just ignore them, and went and sat in Effra’s garden.

From there, they reinforced their opinion that whatever it was that was trying to look like a child was the creepiest thing they’d seen all week, and chatted about old times, telling stories of old countries and older heroes until it was time for them to head to the Nazarene…

Bathed in the light of an LCD monitor, fingers clicking away as they dug deeper into the dark web, Spector found himself soon bored of his task. Bank details and corporate shares took him mere minutes to access and save for later, and as for the water basin, there was even less to capture his interest.

Gentrification didn’t matter to him in the slightest, so finding out that the area around the river had been doing well for itself recently was the height of tedium. His delightfully fluffy ears did prick up when he realised that the MI5 building was close enough by to be of interest, but without good reason to go poking around in there, he just made a mental note of it. One day though, he’d find a backdoor, and walk around that place like he owned it…

Camdem wasn’t the most picturesque of locales, but of an evening, they all found themselves staring up at four floors of warehouse space, six large windows across. What little information they had worked out was shared, but no solid plan was yet presenting itself. In and amongst the gossip of courts and bars, they had found out that thankfully, the Rivers were on unusually good terms, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t some resentment simmering away below.

A names of a couple of younger sisters had surfaced once or twice, and with a party in Kensington on the horizon involving at least Chelsea, there was something there worth nibbling on. A more detailed look into the doll that had been used in the enchantment had confirmed its German origin, Dresden to be specific. Apart from some Nazi overtones though, that didn’t open up any additional fields of enquiry.

They were more concerned with the warehouse, the closer they got to it. It was glamoured in some way, or covered in a more human spell at least. From a distance, it seemed to be nothing more sinister than a sound dampening effect, to stop mundane folk from paying attention to the Demi Monde, but any magic was worth paying attention to. Those that had them were quick to disable their mobile phones before getting any closer.

Once at the door, with password exchanged like a torrid spy movie, they were only allowed in after giving up any weapons on the door. Spector had with him a deadly looking twist bladed stabbing knife, the kind of thing that got keyboard survivalists all wet, and handed it over in exchange for a chit.

Alsandair was unwrapping the fine silver chains that encircled his fists, making sure that the troll on the door would be held personally responsible if anything were to happen to them. The troll, being a troll, took the threat in good humour, placed the chains carefully in a box, and gave up another numbered chit.

Yanni was less willing to hand over his weapon. Something about being a Knight no doubt, but the silver spear seemed to mean more to him than gaining access to the Nazarene. It was touch and go, with Alsandair doing his best to convince the Sidhe that getting in was too important. Eventually he relented, but with a sour face and a much more believable threat to the door troll.

Once inside, the senses were almost overwhelmed, with flashing sparkling lights, and more variety of Kith than any of them could remember seeing outside of a dark ages forest fight between a nation spirit and itself.
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2017, 03:43:26 PM »
It didn’t take long for the Motley to spread out among the Nazarene. Yanni had practically ran up a flight of stairs, in his hurry to find something could help their cause. His wish to please no doubt a hangover from his service as a knight of the Seelie Court, and in the back of his mind he knew that succeeding in helping a member of the River royal court would only bolster his standing among the nobility.

Erasmus was also swiftly away, but this was even easier to figure out. The luddites that Harun and Alsandair were, were still amazed at some of the sparkling and mysterious devices on display, so for a Knocker, it must have been heaven. Not just the objects themselves, but the chance to rummage, to ask questions, to try demonstrations and find which bits are missing and could be replaced.

Alsandair hadn’t even noticed the stairs leading down towards the cellar before he saw Erasmus disappear down them, a friendly wave of the hand a promise to catch up later being the best they got. There wasn’t much that Alsandair knew about that was on display here, but he found himself having a pleasant time, walking the stalls, and chatting with the proprietors. Almost all were friendly, and before he knew it, he’d lost track of time and most of his friends.

Harun and Frederick were by that nose deep in a variety of antique books and pamphlets, haggling or just sighing in rapturous pleasure at each new discovery. Spector looked the most out of place, with nothing even close to the technology level he preferred, an occasional wind up device grabbing his attention for a few seconds before it quickly evaporated in the stifling environment. Jake seemed as happy as Alsandair to just enjoy the time in the market, making friends and eyeing trinkets.

The Satyr was also enjoying the unusual flesh on display, and although it seemed like none was for sale, he was doing his best to barter like any gentleman would for a potential loan of the goods, if not an outright purchase. The Clurichaun was happy to leave him to it though, as he’d spotted something that gave him an unmistakable pang of nostalgia.

It was strange to feel that way for something still less than a week in his past, but seeing an intricately woven flower of coloured glass and fine wire reminded him of a very cold tent, beautiful in its stillness. He was leaning forward, finger tips tracing the sharp looking petals when his stomach lurched, like the passenger in a car going over a small bridge unexpectedly.

Looking up, his vision spun, and all without touching a drop for hours. Blinking furiously, he tried to settle sight on something dependable, but the colours were washed out, greying, and he thought of the road they had travelled down on their way to the Dreaming. It wasn’t the same though, the colours were muting, turning grey for sure, but still there, and slipping back into recognisable shapes already.

He was still in a market, but the dull metal and red brick stonework had changed. Earthy sandstone surrounded him, with baulks of warm coloured timber, the roof a curved stone arch rather than corrugated steel. Looking at his hand, he still held a small ornamental flower, but this one much simpler, the glass looking rougher and more distorted. He blinked again, and again, hoping he’d be wrong, and this was just some Fae magic caused by a glass rose, but that was wishful thinking.

Eyes flicking across the throng of shoppers, he took in togas and simple trews, tunics and robes, not hoodies and sweat pants. The skin colours were just as much a mix as he’d always expected in London, but their features seemed wrong.

He thought about a story some drunk had told him once, about old fashioned faces. The idea that some looks went out of fashion, and they had nothing to do with clothes. Certain faces were everywhere once upon a time, in the golden age of American cinema maybe, but these days no one had that look. Everyone around him looked like they were out of place, out of time maybe. Thankfully, it didn’t take him long to pick out Frederick; there was a certain timeless quality about the lad, and his threadbare clothes stood out even here. Maybe he was attracting attention though, head on a swivel, searching every face for something, because one of them held his gaze a lot longer than was comfortable.

There was recognition though, and for a moment, Alsandair knew this man, and just as quickly totally forgot where from. In this strange place – strange time? He was becoming more and more sure of it – he was happy to hone in on anything that might give him answers though, so started his way towards to hooded figure. Even with his face in shadows, Alsandair realised he was blonde, and had a beard to match, and his face had an understandably worried look as the short red head advanced.

“Hey there pal”, he began, “This is goin’ to sound messed up, but I think I know you. Do ya know me”?

If he’d have been paying more attention, or maybe not, he was far from the sharpest knife in the drawer, Alsandair might have noticed he wasn’t speaking any tongue he recognised, but when the response came in the same language, and he understood it, he just went with it. “Aye, I know you, you fool”, his eyes flickered around the crowd, “My father is in trouble, and he is expecting your help. All you help. Where the hells are the rest of you”?

“Ah, not too sure, and who’s your Da now”? All this response got him was an even more confused look, so he quickly carried on before making it any worse, “I’ve seen one of my buddies over there, let me go and grab him, he’s plenty clever for this”, and with that, he turned and was away through the crowd, closing on Frederick, who in the intervening time had found Harun. “Hey there wee fellow, quick question, but it’s not just me that’s seeing all this… different shite, is it”?

Frederick scowled up at the Irishman, “No Al, we appear to have been messed with in a temporal manner once more. I can assure you, it’s not just you”. Alsandair looked relieved by this, which just frustrated Frederick even more, as if not being crazy was fundamentally far superior to have been whisked through time to what he was all but certain – based on clothing and the structure they were in – was Roman Britain. Londinium, if he had to guess.

He hated guessing though, so was scouring the crowd and the locale for any more information, but the drunkard in front of him would not cease his blathering, “There’s a fella over there I recognise. Will, I know him, but I’ve not a clue where from, and he knows me! Knows us in fact, asked after us, some kind of mission helping his Da, but I don’t know who that is either. He wants to talk to us, all of us, and well, you’re the brains, so I figured…”

“Yes, yes, send the child to talk to a stranger. During a time period when homosexual paedophilia wasn’t exactly frown on. Oh look, he’s wearing a hood and hiding his face, obviously a man to be trusted…”

Grumbling under his breath, he walked across the market, with Harun tailing along behind. Alsandair just let them go, eyes scanning the crowd again, until he laid eyes on Spector and Jake, both of whom were looking a little put out by their new surroundings. He rushed over, quickly filling them in, and pointing out the small group conversing in the shadows. His mind was working quicker than usual, so it only took him thirty seconds to realise that not only was there no cellar in this market, so no way to go after Erasmus, and it had far fewer upper levels than he expected, so no way to access the floor that Yanni had wandered off to.

Hoping that Yanni wasn’t trapped on a rooftop, or – even worse – Erasmus wasn’t currently choking to death under six foot of dirt, he hurried back to his friends, catching the tail end of the conversation. “…he expects the old compact to be honoured, and he’ll be hanged without your help”!

“Is this his father?” asked Alsandair, and with a sudden flash of recognition, he knew the man in front of him, “Walbrook! So his Da’s Father Thames then”!

The group turned to look at him, before Walbrook continued, sounding exasperated and confused by the whole exchange, “We can’t talk here, There’s a temple nearby though. Out that door”, he pointed, then withdrew his arm, clearly concerned he’d drawn attention to himself, “turn your back to the river, then take the right turn in half a mile, follow the road and I’ll be waiting inside”.

With that, he was stalking away, pulling his hooded cloak even tighter as he left the market. “No Alsandair, his father isn’t a river, at least not here and now he isn’t”, said Jake, “He’s a druid, and has some blood ritual sacrifice he needs to carry out to save London, which he can’t do, what being held prisoner before the Romans are going to hang him”.

“I trust there’s no need to tell you we’re in Roman Britain?” Frederick asked, voice dripping with scorn, but all Alsandair could do was take in his surroundings once more as the penny finally dropped, “Word is that Druids all over Britannia are being rounded up by the Auxiliaries for execution. The man we know as Thames is the head Druid, at least according to his doting son, and as such will be killed quickly. And he expects us to help. Seemed pretty damned sure we’d have no choice in the matter actually.”

“What”, asked Alsandair, “Like some oath bond or something, like last time, with the Lady of the Lake”?

Harun spoke up, “When we joined the bond last time, I felt something. Something magical, and although there does seem to be more Glamour here than our own time, I feel no specific magic on us, so no.”

“We’re still going to help though, right?” asked Alsandair, “I mean, we’re not gonna let him die, just because we don’t remember promising to help him. They’re gonna hang him!” The last words were a hissed whisper, the Irishman suddenly angry that no one else seemed to be willing to step up and help without offer of a reward or a better reason than saving a man’s life. He wished that Yanni was here, he was used to having people follow his instructions, and Alsandair was sure his Knightly code or some such, would be enough that he’d have to help.

“Of course we are”, said Harun, “we just need to know more. We have a bit of time, lets carry on shopping like good Roman citizens, then meet Walbrook at the temple, see where we go from there.”

They split up again, worried about the attention they must have already drawn, both with Walbrook’s exit, and Alsandair loosing his temper. To calm down, he returned to stall he had first appeared in front of, and picked up the flower again. He hadn’t gone to Nazarene to purchase anything, and he’d not even known he’d be visiting a Roman market, so had no plans there at all. He wanted the flower though, and for a second, he wandered if he would even be able to buy it.

It wasn’t that he had no money, he could feel the reassuring weight of a money pouch hanging off his belt inside his trews, but he had no idea if this was something he would have done when he was here the first time. Maybe this was that time, but his thought form from the present had taken over? Maybe everything was predestined, and he was always going to have bought a trinket? No, he could feel something telling him he shouldn’t. Was it destiny trying to keep a train on a certain track, or his own sense of self preservation trying to stop him doing something that would have unforeseen consequences?

To hell with it. He was in charge of his life, and he wanted the decorative flower. He didn’t even think to haggle, probably paid over the odds, but sensing it as a small victory at all, he handed over a couple of heavy coins and pinned it through his jerkin.

By the time he was done, everyone else was making their way towards the exit, Harun taking the lead. He couldn’t see that anyone else had made a purchase, so they were either more certain than him that it was the wrong thing to do, or better at hiding their mistakes. Nothing he could do about it now, so he just dropped in step behind Spector and followed the hard dirt roads until they arrived at the Temple, seeing Walbrook, still hooded, waiting for them.

He seemed as confused about their lack of knowledge of the situation as they were about finding themselves there with no clue why they were potentially risking their life for a Druid. He did his best to explain the situation though, even offering the assistance of his brothers who were available and lending blades to anyone who needed one.

All this still wasn’t enough to placate everyone about their place in the endeavour, but concerns of causality breaking lack of action were enough to propel them towards making a plan. The location the High Druid was kept would be guarded by a few auxiliary troops, but they wouldn’t be expecting too much trouble. He was kept in a locked cell inside a locked garrison, unarmed with troops keeping watch.

Both Spector and Frederick were sure that they could get in easy, but Harun had more help to offer. While the Pooka was able to clamber up and over almost any surface, the Eshu was in possession of a relic that allowed him to leap like a flea, and could easily have allowed Frederick to jump over the wall. Seeming to not trust the treasure, although he certainly showed a good deal of faith in Harun, he turned down the offer, and promised that he could find his own way in.

An early plan to start a riot was quickly shot down. There would simply not be enough people around during a night time prison break, and doing it during the day would rick too much. Alsandair still itched for a fight though, and suggested starting one as a distraction. “they’re fighting men in there, and when a wee lad like me, red hair and no taller than a lamb comes up demanding a fight, they won’t be able to resist!”

“I think they could you know”, put in Spector, smiling a little at his friend’s overconfidence.

“Oh no, brother. My folk have a gift for this, and once I lay eyes on someone, I know how to get them all riled up. Send Jake in with me to make bets, get money involved and they’ll be even happier to open up, as I can’t imagine an auxiliary makes that much money!” He turned to Harun then, clasping a hand to his shoulder, “and my man here knows how to tell a tale and get the crowd wound up. Have him around, egging on the soldiers first, then any townsfolk who show an interest, and we’ll have a full on distraction.”

Some dubious eyes cast around the space at this, but with few other solid plans in place, and Alsandair’s unshakable faith in himself apparently rubbing off, Jake agreed, a smile on his face, and they thanked Walbrook. “Make sure you and your brothers are close behind, just in case this goes wrong”, finished Frederick, his doubting eyes rarely leaving the red-haired brawler.
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2017, 03:43:56 PM »
After a long walk, through a night lit only by stars and the moon, they site of their great prison break loomed ahead. Except it wasn’t really looming, and looked more like a stable with lofty aspirations. Still, the entrance was barred and bolted, the walls were high enough, and the windows – such as the they were – would give none of them a chance to squeeze in.

It looked like it had been built up against the city wall of Londinium for extra security though, with the entrance on the shorter walls, which had walkways around them, guarded by at least two soldiers that Alsandair could see. Still, Spector was sure the larger wall would offer no more than a token resistance, and before more planning could take place, he was already halfway up and disappearing into the dark shadow cast by the wall.

“Looks like it’s up to us then”, smiled Alsandair. “I’ll be playing a bit drunk, make ‘em think it’ll be easy, but not so drunk they’ll feel bad beating a drunk.” Turning to Jake, he continued, “You can play as drunk as you like, but be a mouthy sod, get any of ‘em that pay attention riled up, try and get their biggest fella, it’ll make it more interesting to watch.”

Twisting round to face Harun, he said, “You can keep out of the main bit of agro, but try and get some bets going if you can, either the other soldiers or any fellas that come out to watch, we want them paying as much attention to what I’m doing as possible.” Harun nodded, and wandered away slightly to blend into the surroundings, while Frederick took to his own shadows, waiting for his moment.

With everything lined up, the two drunks staggered into the small pool of light in front of the entrance, “Hey there, ya Romans ya bastards!” shouted out Alsandair with seeming good humour. “My man here’s got a bet with me, and I need your help. He says that a man of the isles like me is no match for one of you legion lot!”

Harun couldn’t help but wince at this, not knowing if it was Alsandair’s ignorance that was showing itself with his choice of words, or him just playing the part of a half blind from cheap booze braggart. They weren’t of the legion, that was perfectly clear, and looking at their skin tones, one of them was darker than Harun, so it was fairly likely he couldn’t claim Roman ancestry. It seemed to be working though, as the two men on the wall walked closer, starting to shout for the two below to fuck off, but at least they had grabbed some attention.

Alsandair already knew he had them, it just depended who wanted to prove they had the biggest dick more. He was happy to call either of them out, but the bigger the better, so he focused and drew him down. “What the hells would be in it for me, if I was to come down there and kick the shit out of you, other than the cost of cleaning your blood from my sandals”, the bigger shouted after thinking a moment.

“I like the confidence big fella”, retorted Alsandair, “I’ll tell you what, I’ve got some money staked on this already, but I’ll match your wager too!” He pulled his purse out, remembering to take his time and look a bit ham fisted as he drew the cord open. “I’ve got, two, three, how about five denarius for you, if you win of course.” After a pause, he decided to go all in, how about ten, big man, ten for you if you win, but ten for me if I give you a hiding!”

That seemed to do the trick, and the two of them started the walk around and down to the gates, the bigger of the two unbuckling his shield and leaving his short sword inside the gateway. As they started to open the bolts holding the gate shut, they laughed and joked, planning how they’d spend their money, even thinking about taking another bet, since Harun was playing his part well. It was perfect timing for Spector, and with the only other guard nearby tending to a pony, he silently dropped to the ground and made his way inside what he hoped was a cell block.

Luck was with the Pooka that night, and after checking only two cells, he could tell the bearded, robed fellow inside had a very druidic look about him, and set to opening the lock with what tools he had on him. He was sure it would be easier than the kind of lock he was used to, certainly simpler. The thing was heavier though, and any attempt to use a fine pick would simply result in broken picks.

As he struggled away, Alsandair was slipping out of his jerkin, and he imagined a look of perturbation on the face of his opponent, as his well-built torso and muscled arms were put on show. Vain? Certainly, but after a year on the streets, he still looked like the rugby player he was at school, and he wasn’t going to be shy about it. He was still smiling, getting into a fighting stance when the auxiliary swung a punch.

Thankfully, he was expecting to start the fight defensively, to see what tricks the big man had up his sleeve, so it was little effort to twist himself out of the way and let the punch swing wide. Jake was also trying to size someone up, hoping to distract the other guard with his masculine charms, but as the fight started, he was clueless if his target was even interested in men. There’d been more than a few very fun nights – and weekends – that had started the same, so he wasn’t going to let that stop him.

His target was still paying all attention to the fight though, so Frederick picked his moment, and while sticking to the shadows, he slipped past the small distraction and found his own way to the cells. Going hurriedly, not knowing how long Alsandair was going to last against the big African, he spotted some moving shadows, and moved up behind Spector. There wasn’t much he could do to help, picking locks being a solo activity, but he knew a little of the process, and was happy to provide whispered moral support as the mechanism started to shift behind the lock plate.

Back outside, a small mob of knife wielding druids was watching from the shadows, silently waiting for their time to strike, but keeping hidden until needed. For Alsandair, time had taken on that strange quality it always did during a fight. Watching one was very different from being in one, the latter taking no time at all. When you’re involved though, it was like treacle.

Every movement, even small subtle shifts of balance had to be thought out, and you spent just as much time watching your opponent do the same. Since the first flash of fist, he thought the auxiliary had wanted the fight over quickly, but with each movement, he could see more. The guard didn’t expect this to have lasted longer than a quick jab, followed by a kicking of a prone drunkard. His eyebrows were creased, and his lips slightly parted as his breath started to come heavy.

For Alsandair, it was simply a case of waiting. With his left hand out, ready to push aside any other quick jab, he stalked around, always moving left, meaning the big man, who had struck with his right hand first, would either need to follow, or have to use his off hand. It was no effort to see that he knew how to fight, but his eyes were locked on Alsandair’s, and he wasn’t paying enough attention to anything else the shorter man was doing.

What the Clurichaun didn’t know, was that Harun had taken his job as a distraction very seriously indeed, and was using his own gifts to turn the shadows into a living story, one played out over Alsandair’s shoulder, with the auxiliary seeing his defeat played out by moving darkness and flashes of fire light.

By this time, Jake had gotten a measure of his target, and with a hand running down the guard’s back, finger tips tracing his spine, the Satyr felt a shiver and stepped closer, enough for his breath to tickle his target’s ear and cause the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up. With a wolfish grin that betrayed his sheep-like legs, Jake leaned in even closer, his hand sliding down further, finding a tense knot of flesh and muscle above the thighs of the auxiliary to grab hold of and hold tight to.

Inside, the click of the lock opening had both of the rescuers on edge, but the only person who seemed to notice, was the bearded old man within. He stumbled to the door, weak from lack of nourishment and no medical care for the beating he had taken while being apprehended. The two of them weren’t exactly built for dragging him out lifeless. Spector was tall, but his slim build wouldn’t help, and Frederick was the shortest of them by far.

Still, they had gotten so far, and working together, looking even more like a couple of friends helping a drunkard home than Jake and Alsandair, when those two had been actively trying to pull off that charade. Knowing there were more guards around, they moved as quickly as possible, but they still missed what could very well be the end of the fight.

With a couple more lunges, mainly to see the reach of each than anything else, the auxiliary over-reached, and although he was good enough to not lose balance, it was too good an opportunity for Alsandair to pass up. He planted his left foot hard in the dirt, twisting from the waist to the shoulders, using all his upper body strength, plus his well-muscled arms, and then even driving onto his toes to use his legs too, and rammed his left fist as hard as he could into the African’s Jaw.

Being wrong footed, he had no chance to move out of the way, barely managing to even turn his cheek to let the blow glance off him. Instead it struck true, and with a slapping sound, he was lolling down to his knees, eyes flashing, glares of white impeding his vision as his balance left him. Alsandair stepped back, knowing the fight was won, but unwilling to deliver a final blow when the poor chap was so out of it. Smiling, he looked about himself, seeing Jake, with his hand running up he other guard’s thigh, under the leather armour of his kilt.

That distraction had certainly worked then, but the shout of alarm from inside the fort was more of a worry. His eyes searching the shadow, he saw the two rescuers all but dragging a worn down old man out the gate and into more shadow, a third guard, sword drawn, on their heels. “Shit”, he whispered under his breath, hearing sandals beating the dirt, knowing the Rivers – or druids, or whatever – were on their way to help as Jake had hold of his Paramore’s head and was deftly tonguing his mouth.

Not much time for anything else then, he thought, saying a whispered sorry before liftin his right fist in front of the downed man, making him look up, before swinging his left fist again into his jaw, sending him sprawling, and knocking a couple of more teeth lose. He lay there, blood pooling from his open mouth, but seemed alive. The last guard on the scene was already looking like he would be lucky to finish the night in the same state, as the Druids surrounded him, and did their best Brutus impressions, stabbing the poor sod as quickly and deeply as possible.

He was obviously up for a fight though, and didn’t go down easy. All the noise was finally enough for the second auxiliary to extricate himself from Jake’s embrace, but all he could do was look on, slack jawed, no doubt wondering just how much trouble he was in. With no time to reassure him, Alsandair nipped quickly around him, grabbing the purse hanging off his belt on the way, thinking he’d won the money fair and square, and then they were all moving away from the lights of the fort, along the wall and through the first opening they came to.

All the Irishman could do was follow along, with the sons helping the father, the pace was good, and he was concerned that in the darkness it wouldn’t take much to trip him up, but they made it to safety, panting and pale faced.

The ritual was soon to be performed, but not until the following sunset, which gave the Druids the time they needed to heal the wounds of their father, and set about the full preparations. The interlopers just took the time to sleep, to gather thoughts, and in Frederick’s case, to worry about the nature of causality and his place in the time stream.

Come sundown the next day, they were taken to a clearing on the river, and Alsandair thought something was familiar about the place, but without a skyline of buildings to give him a proper reckoning of his location, he just shrugged it off. All the druids took up places on the river bank, standing first to intone their actions with blessings, to show deference to the river, to the spirit of the place, and the lords of the land that ruled Albion. Lowering themselves to their knees, they drew long curved blades.

Although they were clearly designed for farm work, they were made more ornate, and as the past of the sun was dipping red over the horizon, the light flashed on the razor edges, joining the red of their blood as – in unison – they pulled the edges quickly across their throats. Alsandair looked around, aghast, realising – finally – what the blood sacrifice was all about. Had his friends known?

Their faces were stunned, but none of the looked as horrified as he was. Without a further sound, they fell forwards, heads and chests under the sluggish but unstoppable water of the Thames, as their blood was carried on the current. He realised he was choking back tears. He didn’t know these people, not like this at least, and he knew that what he had helped bring about was always going to have happened, but the sudden nature of it still shook him.

He tried to turn and walk away, but a nausea was overcoming him, and he had to blink his eyes, trying to bring the world back into focus. The colours were swirling, changing, getting brighter, more vivid, taking on a sense of hyper-reality as he put his hand out, finding a solid surface to take his weight. As the blood rushed from ear to ear, feeling like it was ready to gush out of his eyes, he heard a voice, in English, south London accent jarring him back to the real world, “you alright there mate?”
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2018, 02:51:45 PM »
“You’ve been standing there for damned near five minutes pal. I know somma your lot get up to some silliness, but that seemed odd even for… Well, one of you,” The cockney accent had dragged Alsandair back to the world, or at least back to the world he was more familiar with. As he blinked, the stall keeper tailed off, looking considered. Maybe more for what might happen to his stock around a member of the Demimonde, than the short flame haired young man holding a glass flower, but who can say.

“I’m alright”, he managed to get out, reaching with his empty hand to steady himself against a concrete pillar. His voice was hoarse, mouth dry, and he swallowed a few times before he felt sure he could speak clearly again. “Five minutes you say?”, a nod from the Londoner, “Just standing there. Jesus. My throats dry. You point me to a bar?”

With an upwards flick of his chin, the stall keeper indicated an upper area, accessible by some wrought iron stairs. Looking up, Alsandair’s eyes met those of the always imposing Oberon. Not only was the big man imposing, he was also expressive, and with his eyebrows and a subtle nod, he managed to get across concern and a desire to talk. The Clurichaun glanced around, seeing his friends, and decided it would be best if they were all together for this.

One bit of business first though, he thought, patting his left collar bone, and feeling nothing there. He’d been around a bit now, and most places he’s either been wearing a glass flower or had been searching for one. The Gods knew if it meant anything, but he was superstitious, even for Fae, and didn’t want to risk ignoring some fairly obvious signs. “How much for this?” he asked, the glass flower he had been admiring, still in his hand, warm to the touch now.

Looking at his cheap clothes, the stall keeper thought for a moment before asking for twenty. It was probably worth a little more, but he would rather get the sale than not. There was something about the crowd today, something about the feel in the air, and he wanted an excuse to pack up and get out early. And twenty quid was twenty quid…

Alsandair paid with a few crumpled five-pound notes, too concerned with recent events to do anything other than pay the correct amount and stalk away, fixing the flower into the lace hole of his hoody. He’d need to find a nice pin for it later, he thought, spotting Jake and motioning him over. He couldn’t help but notice that the Satyr looked as equally confused, so asked, “You alright there big man?”

“Yeah. Think so. Just got back from another trip. Or memory, you know what I mean? You and the rest were there too. Did it happen to you, or was I standing there like a prick by myself?”

“Aye, it weren’t just you. I was standing around for five minutes, not even thinking to blink by all accounts. Anyway, your man Oberon is upstairs, and he looks like he’s in a talkative mood. Not sure where everyone else is, but if you see ‘em, send ‘em on up will ya?”, and with that he was off, having caught sight of Harun.

With zero surprise, he saw the dark-skinned fellow was at a book shop. No doubt the young lad who wasn’t so young would be doing likewise, but there was no sign of him yet. Harun was just completing a purchase, but the Irishman couldn’t see what was bought, as it was slipped into a plain brown paper bag as he approached.

With a hand on his shoulder, reminded again of just how wiry and tall he was, Alsandair smiled and started to steer him away. “Something tells me that you just spent an awkward five minutes staring at nothin’, and you felt like buying a book might at least cover it”. Harun’s eyebrows came together in the middle at this, “You weren’t the only one, and Oberon wants a chat. Hopefully about the weather. You see anyone else, tell him we’re having a drink upstairs.”

Before Harun could say any more, Alsandair had wandered off, taking a long walk around the market, but he didn’t see any of the rest of his friends before he had made his way to the stairs. His throat was still dry, but this had less to do with not swallowing, and more to do with his almost constant thirst for something intoxicating. He briefly considered another lap, but he could a few familiar voices snaking down the staircase, so decided to partake of some booze and hope for the best.

When he stepped onto the first floor, he could see everyone else had arrived, and Lady Effra was herself just taking a seat next to Oberon, who was pouring her a tall glass of sparkling wine. Bottles of expensive looking import lager were arrayed around a table that would have looked more at home in a pub beer garden. A few extra chairs had been pulled to the ends to make room for everyone, and Alsandair lowered himself into a pale green wingback, frayed around the edges and smelling of cigar smoke. He took a bottle in hand, quickly stripping the cap with a bottle opener on his keyring and nodded it towards Oberon with a questioning look.

The dark-skinned soldier sighed but with a smile, and said, “Offered freely with no expectation of reciprocation or expectation of debt. You lot picked up that old school Fae trick pretty damned quickly.” Alsandair took a long swig, swallowing three times before lowering the bottle and breathing in, satisfied beyond words. “Do you know how long you were all standing around like statues?” A few nods, but no one spoke, “Five minutes, standing around gathering dust. You mind if I ask what was going on?”

Frederick was the first to speak, his high voice doing nothing to remove the obvious strength of personality, and all the menace that went along with it, “A question for a question seems fair. If a Fae found themselves reliving their past, have they actually travelled back in time, or simply remembering it? Either way, would it be possible for some such creatures to change the events of the past, thus affecting the present, or to them, the future?”

Oberon’s lips pursed in thought before he spoke, “First off, that was considerable more than one question, but in the asking, I feel you’ve answered mine for free. A fair exchange then. From what we know, and I’d say one of Yanni’s lot would be better equipped to answer these kind of questions, all that happens is reliving the event. You never left here, not for the whole five minutes I was watching.

“That’s not to say you couldn’t try. If you remember what’s happening to you in the present, as much as we understand it, then you’re reliving your past with extra memories, but any attempt you make to change something, could very well be what you did first time around anyway, just with different reasons. You can’t change the past,”

“Actually”, interrupted Yanni, “It’s not unheard of. Thankfully though, the Sidhe have a different relationship with time than most of the other Changelings. If something was to go amiss, someone would notice in the intervening time, and make sure that events were put back how they were supposed to.”

“I swear”, whispered Alsandair, quiet enough that only Jake, sat to his left could have heard anything, “If anyone starts going on about “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey”, I’m gonna need way more to drink.”

“That was about as useful an answer one could have expected”, replied Frederick, mouth tight and humourless, “One can only hope that non-Fae have better answers. Have any books been written on the subject? In fact, while we’re on the subject, I have developed an interest in the Roman period. Are there any accounts of the time that pertain to Fae goings on? I have read the Histories – of course – but something concerning our own people would hopefully be enlightening. Provided it wasn’t written by a Changeling of course.”

“For that kind of thing, you’d want to read up on Druids”, answered Oberon. “A lot of folks think it’s all romantic nonsense, but it mostly comes down to unreliable people telling the stories. The kind of folks that spent time with Druids, were quite often high. Makes for great stories, but also ones with large narrative holes and a distinct lack of sources.” He rubbed his chin, “as for books on causality and altering it, I think they’d exist, but you’d want to talk to someone more scientist than soldier for answers.”

“Of course, I simply cannot believe I would waste your precious time with such nonsense”, another world-weary sigh hurried from the Fredericks lungs and out of his nose, “However, we came to this market for a reason. I appreciate the need to make friends and be seen, about the scene as it were”, a slight smirk at this word play, danced across his lips before they swiftly straightened again, “but we have questions to ask, and hopefully some people at this market can answer them. Good day Oberon, and to your delightful, and surprisingly quiet, companion.”

He was on feet a second later, unopened bottle tantalisingly close to Alsandair fingers. With slightly more grace, the others also rose, Alsandair reaching over to grab the bottle, condensation still running down it’s side, as Erasmus’s head suddenly snapped round, brows creased as he stared south, seemingly trying to see through the wall.

Moments later, they all felt it, and heard it, a sound that should have made brick dust start to rain onto the table, but only seemed to pound on the ears of the Demimonde. Following on from it was an alien feeling, a sensation made of razor blades and wolves. A wet smell, soaked fur and hot breathe, disarmingly close, on the neck, or the small of the back. So damned sharp too, like opening a wound you won’t even feel until the blood wells to the surface, and another, and another, over and over, small slices and the sound of blades sliding across stone. The sound of a growl, deep and far down the throat, threatening to rise with every moment, saliva on fangs that are just about to clamp down on a forearm, or a neck.
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #22 on: February 06, 2018, 05:38:08 PM »
It slammed into Alsandair and he expected to be torn apart by inches, skin opened slowly and swallowed quickly, dragged apart before he could even raise a fist. Instead, he found himself tumbling to the ground.

Looking around, he was out in the open, trees on each side of the path he found himself on. His clothes managed to look both unfamiliar but expected. He was wearing the same smock and trewes he had worn when they had last relived a memory. Roman again? He put his hand to his collar and found the glass flower. His fingers closed around it, but he still wasn’t ready to accept what had happened.

His eyes rose, expecting – hoping – to see contrails in the sky, for this to be some silly game of dress up. Nothing up there but a slowly drifting cloud though. No Glamour either, or at least, so little he couldn’t even get a whiff of it. “Sodding! Fuck!”, he heard to his left, and turned to see Frederick on his hands and knees, seemingly shouting his frustrations into the very earth.

It was hard to hold it against him though, and Alsandair came close to cursing too. He took a second to collect himself though and made sure everyone was there. Swivelling his head, it became clear that Yanni was absent. He knew the Sidhe were all good with time, seeing it a different light and all that, and it would make sense that he wouldn’t be affected the same way the rest were, but for the love of God, it would be damned easier if he was there when they went through it!

There was no else missing though, thankfully. Jake was offering his hand to Frederick, helping lift him to his feet, scowl still firmly fixed to his young face. Once everyone was stood, there was the traditional checking for wallets, with Spector still managing to look both shocked and dismayed to not find a five-grand laptop in his pack.

Harun still had his books, Frederick his stuffed bear, Erasmus his tools, and as Jake smiled to himself, he was happy to find his stash. Not the small baggies of powder he was expecting, but a small cloth bag with what were unmistakably pieces of shredded fungus wrapped up inside.

With his finger pointing at his lapel, Alsandair spoke, “I bought this last time we were in London, Londinium, Roman times. Feck. You know what I mean.

“Clothes look the same too, and the rest of you are all dressed as I remember. Guessing that means we’re not too long after when our last visit happened.”

Harun was taking in the trees and other flora, “It’s spring. Late spring maybe, but without stars and knowing exactly where we are in Albion, I can’t tell you much more than that.”

“Better than I could do”, smiled Erasmus, “I was just about comfortable describing our current predicament as being ‘outside’, but I wanted to express it as a measure of something, not a constant. Is there such a thing as too much ‘outside’, or is it simply a binary state? You’re ‘outside’, or you’re not. This feels like a godawful amount of ‘outside’ to me.”

As he spoke, Frederick was looking past him, and something approaching a smile flashed across his features, “I don’t know about all of that, but I think I can safely say I recognise the posh bastard driving the cart over there.”

They all turned at that, and even at a distance, Alsandair thought he could recognise something about the driver of the cart; a chiselled jaw, a prominent – but handsome – nose, dark hair and a complexion he could at that moment, only think of as ‘swarthy’, not being entirely sure where the word had come from. Regardless, he was happy to see his friend. Relieved too. Yanni had become the de facto leader of the group, in Alsandair’s mind at least.

There was a couple of others in the cart, and as it closed the distance, Harun’s smile spread. An older gentleman, and what he assumed was a daughter – grand-daughter maybe? – wearing silk clothes that put him in mind of some rather entrancing dancers from his travels.

The old man was not only very old – at least seventy, and probably not far from an octogenarian – but it looked as if he had lived his life with every fibre of his being. His skin, although naturally dark, also looked like leather left for too long in the sun after washing up on a beach. His fingers were gnarled, heavy knuckles looking ravaged with arthritis. His long beard was almost completely white, with matching eyebrows, bushy enough that he could almost have combed them into his hair.

His robes, although poor looking, were well worn, and hung off his slender frame, one bony knee sticking out into the morning sun. The young lady was even more remarkable, but there was far less of her to describe. Almost every inch of her, from toes to fingers, was covered in loose silk garments. Alsandair wasn’t sure entirely how to describe the outfit without sounding like a racist who just thought ‘belly-dancer’ when he saw an attractive Arabian woman in silk. So he just kept his mouth shut.

“I thought we’d find you on this road”, said Yanni, “we have something that requires our attention, our presence even.”
“Dare I ask?”, put in Frederick, scowling up at him.

“The gentleman in the back there is Joseph. Of Arimathea” He paused, looking around the group, smile non-too subtle as he waited for the penny to drop.

“Oh, fuck off”, was the immediate response from Alsandair, who was frankly offended that Yanni thought he would fall for such an obvious prank.

“I fear my story has longer legs than I”, said the man called Joseph, “but I have the feeling that this young man has reason to dislike me. Tell me my son, what could I have done to you, a man, I have but only recently met on the road?”

Alsandair ignored him and turned to Yanni, “Really big man, this is Joseph, husband of Mary? The not quite father of the lord as he is on earth? What the feck’s he doing riding a crappy cart in the south of England?”

“It is indeed Al. And what he’s doing – in the best cart that my money could buy, I’ll have you know – is heading to place, where he will meet a person, and history will be wrought. History, with a little bit of myth. Before you ask why I’m driving, that’s to do with all of us.
“Our job, is see him to his journey’s end.”

“I don’t suppose you’d care to furnish us with some details Yanni?”, asked Frederick.

“That’s for us to discover, as we join in on the journey”.

“Of. Course”, Frederick replied through unmistakable gritted teeth.

“Come on now fellows, it’s a good few days until our destination, we’ve got time to talk on the way. Oh, and Al, there’s some wine back there, but it’s for everyone mind.”

With that, he flicked his wrist and the leather straps clipped the muscled neck of the horses pulling the cart, and it started to move slowly on. Harun was quick to grab hold and pulled himself up, along with Frederick – who sat glumly to himself – and Erasmus. Spector, seemingly at home in the woods, even without a smartphone, was soon up a tree, jumping from branch to branch, back and forth across the path, shouting out interesting sights and making sure nothing would surprise them.

Alsandair and Jake walked alongside the cart. It was big enough for them both, but without discussion, they seemed ill at ease with Joseph, and decided to keep each other company. For Alsandair, it was the memory of growing up in Ireland. He’d not been old enough to remember much of the Troubles – well, of course he was, but his mind was still dealing with that disconnect – but he’d heard stories.
As with so many things, it wasn’t just down to Catholics and Protestants, just like it wasn’t just down to Loyalists and Republicans. Sometimes, most of the time in fact, it was violent fucks looking for an excuse to hurt people. The problem was when the excuse they found was one they could use as a rallying cry. Patriotism and God. Practically the same thing when he was growing up. On a trip into Dublin once, an Englishman had found himself in the wrong pub and was soon getting grilled about his faith.

He loudly proclaimed his disbelief in the almighty, probably thinking he’d found a loophole, but the only response he’d gotten was a long pause followed by, “Aye, but are you a Catholic or a Protestant atheist?”

Too many good folks had died for Alsandair to think of Him as a loving God. He believed though, oh how he believed. He knew God was real, and he hated Him.

Jake seemed equally ill at ease with the adopted father of God riding a few feet away, but he hadn’t been raised with a God in the house. Since he was old enough to think about it, he’d known there was no God. These days, with all they were seeing, remembering, and experiencing, he was less sure that there weren’t a few characters who might be very much like God knocking around, and he was struggling to see how that would fit in with his understanding of the world.

Harun meanwhile, was in fine form. He was enjoying the chance to converse with people from his neck of the woods, and as the day passed and became days, he was enthralling them, both with his shadow play stories. The others in the party were happy to share a smile though, as he was mostly just telling them what life was like in the 21st century but being a very flashy showman about it all.
The young lady, who was introduced as Habibi Lal, did her bit of entertaining too, and it was a sight to behold. With a flick of her hips, she had every man entranced, and with her waist moving like a snake over sand, she was able to tell stories without saying a word.

She evoked smoky rooms, silks hanging from domed ceilings, sunsets glowing red, and the promises of Djinn. When she was done, even Frederick, usually stoic in the face of temptation and even a hint of debauchery, was slack jawed and breathing heavily. On the other end of that spectrum, Jake was clearly engorged, and slowly stroking himself.

Other stories were told as the days progressed, Harun clearly trying to impress Habibi, putting himself into the story of a young and roguish adventurer, striking away from home, making his own way and finding friendship and romance on the road. Jake and Alsandair were happy to play music and sing whatever songs came to mind, with Jake able to join in Alsandair’s lilting voice in old Irish Gaelic, teaching the true born son of Eire what the words actually meant. So far in his life, all he’d managed was how to order a drink.

One morning, the awoke to mists, and Yanni told them all they were close. By mid-afternoon, the ground was less even, the path weaving a strange course through heavy trees, wet boggy ground to either side. “The isles of Avalon”, he breathed, taking it all in.

By this point, everyone was happier in the wagon, the stronger of the men only jumping out when a wheel got stuck in the mud to push it free. It seemed like hours later when the road gave away it couldn’t even be thought of as a path, “We need a ferryman”, said Yanni. “We’re almost at journey’s end, but we can go no further without help.”

With everyone on foot, the horses were tethered and they all pushed on until a figure loomed up ahead out of the mists. Getting closer, he wasn’t quite so big as he had seemed, the damp air and strange light playing tricks on the eyes. He was still tall though, with a heavy ashen staff that was even taller. His robes reminded Alsandair of every cartoon version of Merlin that he’d ever seen.

“My name, is Cedric”, he intoned, deep voice running around the clearing before returning almost as loud, “Who comes to this place, seeking passage?”

Yanni stepped forward, Joseph at his side and made the introductions, but Cedric seemed even less impressed that Jake and Alsandair had been. “This man, this prophet, comes to destroy our ways. He will bring about the end of our ways of worship. With fire and rod, his acolytes will convert all to belief in one and only one God. This is not our way, and I cannot allow his passage.”

On the journey, talk of Joseph’s ‘son’ was often brought up. Joseph talked of him warmly, happy to concede he wasn’t the boy’s father, but that he was indeed the son of God. He spoke of his warmth, but also his temper. He clearly loved the boy, and in the cool evenings, with drink and song, it was easy to forget what the coming of Christianity would mean for those unwilling to convert.

Here and now though, it suddenly crashed into focus. “This is why we are here”, Yanni interjected, “to see Joseph to his journey’s end. He cannot cross without our help.”

“He’s fucked then”, said Jake, leaning against a tree with a wry smile on his face. As Yanni looked around, no one was willing to stand up for Joseph. They had all felt the lack of Glamour from this time, remembered how keen the Romans had been to end the story of the Albion Druids in blood and public executions.

“I mean no harm to you, or to your people”, said Joseph, but he was quickly interrupted.

“You bring the way of one God, and that is too many, if it is your God”.

Alsandair looked at his feet, jaw clenched, knowing that this was how he felt. He stepped forward, looked Joseph and the eye, steeled himself, and spoke, “We have all enjoyed Harun’s tales as we travelled these last few days, but we know them to be true. We know of a world many years from here. We also know of the blood that has been shed in the name of cults started in the desert. Not everyone who believes is a bad person, just as not everyone who kills in your son’s name is a believer, but we have seen countless dead in his name.”

“My son is a good man”, replied Joseph, “and like you say, those people have evil in their hearts, something He cannot abide.”

“And yet”, continued Alsandair, feeling Jake’s bristling anger behind him, “they will kill, over and over, and people will forgive them. They will burn children and mothers and be applauded. They will stand, red to the elbows with innocent blood, and your son’s acolytes will heap praise on them. You must know this, and know why Cedric must stop you”

He was about to carry on, could feel his voice growing louder, but then he saw Yanni. Yanni was in charge here, more so even then Joseph, more so than Cedric. He had told them all what they were here to do, and the Sidhe knew how to repair time, to keep everything on track. All the things that Alsandair had used to try and stop Joseph had to come true, otherwise, how would he know them?

He turned to the bearded Druid, “All this must come to pass. All this must happen, and it cannot happen while you stand in his way.” Behind him, Jake stiffened, turned his eyes to Alsandair, who refused to turn. He couldn’t turn, he wouldn’t be able to carry on if he faltered.

“You must let him pass, but you must let his world come easy. Rail against him and his Son, keep the old ways alive, even if it’s only in dreams, and when the world wakes up, you will return.” His voice was cracking, his eyes burned as he begged his body to stay strong, to not let a tear slip out.

“Very well”, said Cedric, “you may take your place in this land, and I will take you there”.

Just like that, his mind was turned, and they strode together, shaking hands, like they were old neighbours, men who had known and loathed each other for years, but were eventually left with no one else so had become friends. Yanni paid for the ferry with silver, and they all got aboard, Jake staring at Alsandair with disgust, but not saying a word.

Through the fog, more islands appeared until they arrived at a large dome of land, trees at the top, and they all disembarked. Still fuming with himself, Alsandair stalked to the other side of the island, sat down on wet ground, his back to a tree trunk, and cried silently, fists balled up, desperate for someone to hit.

The two old men continued as though they were friends, and eventually the mood softened, drinks were brought forth, and the conversations got louder. Jake patted his pockets, finding the mushrooms, and smiled as he swallowed a strip with wine. After a few moments, he walked across the island, seeing the Irishman sat alone, so deep in his own pity, it was above his ears. “Have a bit of this you daft cunt”, he said, and pushed a couple of torn pieces of mushroom into his hand, “and there’s still wine if you want to get shit faced, just don’t do it alone”.

It was all the invitation he needed, and he followed the Satyr back the group, not even noticing that Frederick was in the woodland as the mushrooms started to hit.

The Druid could tell from the way they were walking and talking that they were on another path that night, and he helped them travel it safely, pointing out the zodiac signs as they appeared in the water rather than the sky. Joseph had produced a simple wooden cup that he filled from a leather skin and offered it around the group. Had they been sober, Jake and Alsandair may have responded differently, but high as they were, they refused to drink from the simple carpenter’s cup, and were the only ones to do so.

The next morning, with sore heads and dry mouths, he offered them all a real gift. It was something small, made from wood, worked by hand with love and care. Alsandair couldn’t see what each person was given, but when looked down to his open palm, he saw a simple wooden ring, carved to look like a vine wrapped around a tree. He knew this ring. He knew where it was, back with his most precious possessions, with his treasure. It had always been there.

His brow furrowed as he wondered what this could mean as something like a train crashed into his chest. The breath was thrust from him, and he was sure his ribs would give way as he closed his eyes and waited for the end. Instead, he heard voices, London voices.
He opened his eyes again, looking up at the roof of the market, and a concerned face looking down at him.
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2018, 11:45:14 AM »
“You all right there, Irishman?” Looking up, Alsandair was relieved to recognise Oberon, beer bottle in hand, staring down at him.

“Again”. He asked? The big man nodded and offered his free arm, which Alsandair grasped in turn and was lifted from the floor with alarming ease. With a pat on the back, the freshly opened bottle was put into his hand. “That one seemed like it was forced to me, caused by something else, something big, sharp, hairy, and smelly. Did you hear anything yourself?”

A heavy nod was his immediate answer, “It looks like you all got hit pretty hard by that one, you might want to take those seats again. The youngster will have to wait a moment more to be about his business, at least until the ringing in your ears stops”. Alsandair was perfectly positioned to see Oberon’s face light up in a wicked grin when referring to Frederick as a “youngster” – even though he kept his voice perfectly even – and Frederick’s face to curl into an evil snarl as he sat down huffily onto the bench.

Erasmus was stood by the balcony, either using the rail to steady himself, or to keep an eye on how the rest of the market dwellers had reacted to whatever the hell it was that had affected them. “Looks like it’s early closing today”, he said, indicating with a gnarled thumb over his shoulder as he approached the table, “is that normal, or tied into what sent us on another of increasingly frequent jaunts”?

“I’m not sure why on earth you lot were as affected as you were by that, but I’d guess that Peter and his colleagues have been playing around south of the river. If I was to make an educated guess, I’d say that was a demon trap that someone just activated.” Oberon took a deep swig of his own bottle, doing his best to keep half an eye on the gathering around him as a questioning look passed across all their faces.

“Any second now”, said Frederick, the contempt clear in his voice, “Mister Oberon is going to honour us with some vital piece of information regarding what on earth a ‘demon trap’ is, and will do his heroic best to not come across as highly smug for knowing something that we don’t. How about we speed that up, so that we may indeed, be about, our business.”

“I didn’t mean to keep you waiting Freddy, but I’d hate to talk to you like a child, and would rather give you time to show knowledge of such a thing, before wasting all our time by explaining things you might already know about.” If it were possible, the air between the two of them seemed to waver with heat caused by their hatred.

Spector was sat on a bench between them, eyes flickering back and forth. “So, south of the river then”, he put in, clearly trying to defuse the situation, “so what’s south of the river then? Well, there’s MI5, and I think Effra hails from down there. Do you think this could be connected to anything we’re investigating?”

 His interruption appeared to do the job, as Oberon turned to face to Pooka, “South London is a large place Spector. From the shock waves, it felt at least a couple of miles away, and somewhere high up. Top of a tower block maybe.”

“No real way to know where it happened”, said Harun, not even a hint of impatience in his calm and silken tones, “but perhaps it would be beneficial if we were to know what had happened. With our memories coming back to us in such an interesting fashion, we will no doubt soon come across them, but until then, what exactly is a demon trap?”

“I’ll tell you what I know, but if I’m honest, this shit is something the humans came up with. You all smelt the wet dog, heard the snarl in its throat, and felt cold sharp steel, a razor, fresh from the strop. That kind of thing has a name the Issacs gave it, vestigate, or something. Means that if you know what you’re looking for, you can detect the type of magic, maybe even get clues as to who cast it.

“Demon traps are old inventions, a lot of people will tell you it was the vikings that came up with the idea, but they could have learnt it from an earlier source, and there’s no real way to look into it. What we do know is that there’s no nice way of making one.

“You need to have a creature at the point of death to imbue one with power. The more effective you want the trap, the more violent the death. Vikings used wolves.” He took a long swallow from his bottle at this point, licking his lips before carrying on, his voice steady though shallow, “They’d not use little ones, or older creatures, but big, terrifying brutes, and they’d chain them up, and torture them slowly, killing them by inches. They’d die in a pool of red snow, still snarling to the last, blood and saliva dripping over sharp fangs when the spell was cast.

“When they got the spirit trapped, they’d just find somewhere to hide it near their settlements and long halls, and whenever anything supernatural stepped on it, snap. Bang. No more creature of the night.”

Even Frederick seemed to struggle to take this revelation in his stride. The pause that followed it was a lot longer than could be considered comfortable, but the Sluagh was the first to break it, “If one of our kind was to step on it, we’d be destroyed? Smoking boots left, or something equally ridiculous?”

Oberon took another sip before putting his bottle down with a shake of his head, “In your current form, it’s not likely. You’d certainly die, the Fae bit of you, and it would be painful. Like getting ripped from this plain of existence by a pack of rabid wolves. The body you wear, what you show to the mortals though, that would probably remain. Probably. Human magic is less than one hundred percent predictable.”

“From what I can gather”, put in Erasmus, “based on my own research, the Issacs use science, hence the nickname. Science, surely can be relied upon”?

“These are the same species of people who use science to put thermonuclear reactors on fault lines. They’re humans, and as much as they try to quantify the forces they seek to control, they lack a baser understanding of the nature of the universe. Maybe one day though…” mused Oberon, slightly wistfully.

“Thanks for the skinny”, said Spector, “But I’ve got somewhere I need to be, and it looks like the market is really packing up. If anyone needs me, I’ve got a meeting at The Intrepid Fox.” He stood with a nod of thanks towards Oberon, as Harun spoke.

“Sorry, slipped my mind, but who are you meeting?”

“Reynard. Might some info on the rivers, but asking around, he seems to be a name that keeps cropping up with regard to missing children, so I thought I’d best introduce myself.”

“Wait a second”, asked Yanni, a smile of disbelief on his handsome face, “You’re meeting a man – or Fae – called Reynard, at a pub called the fox? If his last name is anything even remotely close to ‘Vulpine’, I think we might need to get the pun police involved. Do I need clarification that he’s a Pooka?”

Everyone around the table was smiling at this, but Oberon was looking a little strained, while Alsandair like he was struggling to see the joke. His head spun suddenly though, and he stood quickly, knees jostling the table and making the near empty beer bottles dance. “Watch yourself!”, exclaimed Jake, grabbing his bottle before it toppled.

Alsandair was already up, and heading down the stairs, seeing a billow of silk and a beringed hand closing a door ahead of him. He’d heard the bells though, even if no one else had. He’d smelled something familiar too, and the combination of jewellery and scent had him convinced it was Habibi Lal. He pulled up short of the door, fingers almost on the handle.

He wasn’t even sure why he’d ran after her. Maybe the shock of seeing a memory brought to life in a market in London? Maybe just seeing her again. He couldn’t deny that she was a fine-looking woman, but she seemed otherworldly. Like she was more woman than he had any right to be in the same room as. He turned around to see Oberon looking down on him with an amused smirk.

“You know the lady Lal? If the rumours are to be believed, she’ll be at a gathering of the Demi monde this evening, one that your friends have been asking about. If you’re so desperate to spend time with her, be patient my friend”. With a friendly pat on Alsandair’s shoulder, he turned and strode through the emptying hall.

The lack of shoppers and rapidly thinning throng of traders made it easy to spot a couple of said friends, even being as short as he was. Yanni and Jake were stood at a stall not too far away, the Formica table top covered with jars of potions and vials of powders.

Yanni was stood, arms crossed, disapproving gaze locked on Jake’s back. The Satyr was staring longingly at the various oils and unguents. The old lady working the stall looked like so many caricatures of a wizened old witch, face so deeply wrinkled, it was like a three-dimensional map of Scottish Highlands. Unlike the tall imposing figure from fantasy literature though, she was short and almost round. Her dark hair was turning grey and cascaded down her rotund frame.

If anything, she was regarding Jake with even more hunger than he was showing towards her wares. “We’ve got whatever you need young man, good for whatever ails you.”

“Well”, he smiled up at her, “I might not be looking for something to clear my mind. Maybe quite the opposite. Something to open my mind to the universe, to make me feel the dedication of a serial killer, the libido of a werewolf on heat, and the tenderness to match.”

She raised an eyebrow and held his gaze, and when she spoke, there was no softness of the little old lady she was pretending to be, “that’s a hell of a shopping list. I think I might have something for you, but this kind of thing isn’t for everyone, and you must know it won’t come cheap.”

“This isn’t my first trip on the merry-go-round ma’am. If you can deliver, then just name your price.”

“I like a man who knows what he wants, but I prefer one who knows to do what he’s told. I can give you all you want and more, and I just need a couple of insignificant things. Would you be willing to part with a lock of goat hair”?

“For a high as good as you say? Snip away my good woman”. He lowered his head down, and with quick efficient movements, she slipped a pair of long scissors from a hidden pocket, plucked a few strands of hair clear of his unkempt beard, and clipped them free, pocketing them away almost faster than the eye could follow.

“One more thing, then everything you desire will be yours; tell me your name.”

At this, Yanni’s eyes snapped back to the conversation, and as he was closing on the exchange, Alsandair visibly paled. Since he’d awoken to his life as a Fae, he had been as careful as he could. He had known from the first instant of the rules that govern gifts, of the secrecy to do with a true name, of how favours asked for must be obeyed if accompanied with respect and an offering. These weren’t memories as he would usually think of them, they were part of who he was. He knew that for Jake to give up his true name, along with a piece of himself was hazardous in the extreme.

Even if he had known this old woman, trusted her to keep hold of the offering but never abuse it, the risk would have been extreme. Yet here he was, staring at her with a look of serious contemplation on his face, lips curled at the ends in a hungry smile. “Think on this one friend, and think hard”, Yanni said, every ounce of his authority he could muster.

“I can quit any time I want to Yanni. For a high like this, a bit of beard hair and my name isn’t asking too much.”

“Do you have any fuckin’ clue what you’re giving up there big man?”, Alsandair asked. “There’s things you can do when you have someone’s name, and things you can do when you’ve got hair of someone. When you give them both up, you’re opening yourself up to all manner of unpleasantness.” The old woman was staring at the Irishman, but he held her gaze, “and there’s nothing you can offer me that’d be worth the price darlin’. I can get my high from any number of reputable vendors in this fine city”.

With that, he pulled his new hip flask free, unscrewed and flipped the lid open, taking a deep pull of Jameson’s. He had hoped that Jake was sensible enough to listen, instead he leaned close to the old lady, and Alsandair was just about able to hear him whisper his first name. He didn’t hear anything else, but his heart lifted a little.

Alsandair was the name he had used for many a year, but it wasn’t his true name. If someone wanted power over him, they’d need more than that and his family’s surname, and with any luck, Jake was clever enough to keep his true name a secret.

She seemed satisfied though, and from another hidden pocket produced a small crystal vial with a white powder inside. Even with the glare of the fluorescent lighting inside the market hall, it looked to everyone like the powder was glowing slightly, but each of them could see a different shade to it. For Alsandair, it was a light green, it was a deep red for Yanni, but Jake saw only pure whiteness.
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #24 on: February 17, 2018, 03:51:18 PM »
Yanni and Alsandair were at quickly at Jake’s side, “Not sure that was the best decision you’ve made my friend”, admonished the Sidhe, whereas the Clurichaun was still hopeful no real damage could be done if Jake had indeed kept his real name a secret.

It never occurred to him that the nature of the transaction would require nothing but a true name to be given, but his happiness was enough to cloud not only his limited reason, but also his attentiveness. As they strolled towards another stall whose owner was packing up a selection of wooden dolls, none of them had noticed that the old woman had slipped a business card into the hands of Frederick. He palmed it with obvious experience, and it vanished into an inner pocket with no one any the wiser.

As the group closed on the dollmaker, Alsandair had to double take on what he thought he was seeing. By now, he should have been used to experiencing things beyond what could be considered normal, but sometimes things still put him off his stride. From a distance, the wares on display looked like finely crafted wooden dolls, sitting at their rest, dressed in clothing that gave them a distinct, ‘The Hills are Alive…’ kind of vibe. The only issue was that they weren’t sitting still.

They looked so very much like real children, that they even seemed bored with being made to sit still for so long. They were twitching, fidgeting, and Alsandair did not feel comfortable as he looked at them. He found himself bending down as he approached, snapping his fingers in front of the face of a highly Aryan looking boy doll. Rather than flinch away, it slowly turned its head around until it could see the dollmaker, and raised an eyebrow, looking like this had been the twentieth time it had happened today, and sharing a glance of resignation with its boss.

The boss in this case seemed as unwilling as the potions vendor to split from narrative convention and was doing a surprisingly good job of looking just like Rumpelstiltskin. “My name’s Hubert”, he introduced himself, “and who might you fine gentlemen be?”

Before anyone could speak, Jake had already introduced himself. On any other day, Alsandair wouldn’t have flinched about giving a name up, but after one less than strictly kosher encounter, he was feeling apprehensive, and Jake just handing his name out willy-nilly wasn’t helping.

Thankfully, Frederick was at hand, and his no-nonsense approach was perfectly suited here, “Tell me about your wares, Hubert.”

“Of course, good sir, of course”, his obsequious attitude was perfect, and barely looked rehearsed at all, “only the finest wood, with ancient rituals and bindings to make your very own poppet, that will last longer than even your friends, the Fair Folk might be on this planet.”

“This isn’t a sale opportunity Hubert, so if you could refrain from flowery conjecture, I would greatly appreciate it. Tell me about these rituals and bindings, and you’ll still make some coin.”

A smirk had spread across the dollmaker’s face at this, and he stood up straight when being addressed with such directness and managed to stand taller than Alsandair. “No need to be so curt young sir, I’m a happy to discuss my trade with anyone interested. Even happier if my time is paid for.

“The spells involved are simple enough, but only work on living wood. All you need to do is keep the spirit of the tree in there, and when it’s reshaped – that’s the real hard part, the bit that only artists like myself can manage – the wood spirit animates the doll. I think they quite enjoy having limbs that can do more with than just wave at the wind.”

“Hmmm”, breathed Frederick, “A truly noble art form. Are you aware of the doll that currently resides in the household of Lady Effra?”

“I am, I am. I’ve seen it not too long since, but there’s been some after market modifications that I can’t say I’m a fan of.”

“Indeed. You said your work will last for a very long life time. From what we have seen, this particular doll has already aged significantly. Tell us who purchased this one from you.” Frederick stared up at the doll maker for a few seconds before realising his error, “please.”

“Not sure if that’s any of your business young sir”, the dollmaker replied, before Yanni stepped that little bit closer.

“He did say please. Would you prefer it if I was the one asking? I’m not so polite.”

With eyes moving so quick in their sockets it looked like they were seeking a way out, he started wringing his hands together, “Of course good sir, happy to help the fair folk, happy as a lamb. If you could just, you know, keep my name out of the rest of your investigation? I’m small time, and the last thing I need is the court of the Rivers paying my operation any interest at all.

“It was a woman who bought that doll. She was a looker too, but with a sharp face, striking. Mid-thirties, if I was to guess, but someone looking at your friend here”, he indicated Frederick, whose scowl was only worsening as Hubert rambled on, “might guess at him being only nine, so best not to read too much into that.

“She had an accent as well. Not some sexy one like French or Italian though. More eastern European, maybe even Russian, but I couldn’t be sure.”

“Thank you”, replied Frederick, his tone so cold you could have preserved meat with it, “anything else, before we head on to carry out further, investigations?”

Hubert couldn’t mistake his tone for anything other than a threat, and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he thought quickly. “I did a bit of looking into her myself, now that you bring it up. I heard she’s been working with someone else. Not a nice chap from what I’ve heard.”
“I’d always rather deal with the organ grinder than the monkey Hubert”, said Frederick, “Tell us about him.”

“I wish I could good sir, but there’s really nothing to tell. I’d guess he was doing the same kind of thing the Issacs get up to, but even that’d be a guess. I cannot tell you even a single thing about the way he looks though.”

“Really? ‘Cannot’. I think you mean will not. Does he pose a greater risk to you wherever he is, than we do while standing…”

“Easy there Fredrick”, interrupted Yanni, “We’re just asking question, and Hubert here has more than earned the tenner he’s getting. Of course, if wants to make that twenty, he might have something else to tell us”

“Honestly sir, if I could I would, there’s simply nothing I have to tell you.”

Yanni nodded and pulled a crisp note from his wallet and handed it over, while Frederick continued to stare daggers. “I’d advise you all to be careful in this one. What I do is hard to undo. You can’t just decide you don’t like one of the dolls being the way it is after the tree’s spirit makes its home. Whoever did this is a force to be reckoned with. Like I said, keep my name out of it, I’d be best pleased.”

With that, he turned his back, and went about packing his wares away while the dolls stared at the gathering, unblinking.

“There’s hardly a soul left in here”, said Alsandair, “think it might be time to scrub up and get ready for a party!”

“Another fine example of evening where the only goal is to get inebriated and spend time being visible. Two things that I literally live for”, replied Frederick, sarcasm dripping from his words.

“There’s still one last thing before we head off”, said Yanni, “I think I’ve just seen Zack up in the bar. He knows damned near everyone and is friendly enough with the Issacs that he might have heard something about their friends and enemies.” He led them back up the stairs to see Zack helping pack away the packaged food, most of it unsold.

“Hey there Zack, you got time to sit and chat a while?”

“For my favourite publican? I’ve got all the time in the world. Al, big man, want to do a friend a favour and take over? Just pack up anything left for me. The demon trap’s got everyone spooked, and the quicker they put some distance between themselves and the splash zone, the happier they’ll be.”

Alsandair smiled, patting Zack’s back as ducked under the counter to lend a hand. He did his best to follow the conversation, but he could see what was left of a case of very nice lager and had to make sure no one was spying him out as he slipped a couple into his pack while working.

His ears pricked up when he heard an unfamiliar phrase though; Night Witch. He lifted his head over the counter to pay more attention, and even heard the woman’s name: Varvara Sidorovna. She was indeed a Russian, and an old one too. At least as old as the one that Zack called the Nightingale. He may look like a well maintained fifty-year-old, but the stories were that he’d be a front-line mage during the second world war, and since that’s when the legend of the Night Witches started, it made sense.

From a distance, Alsandair could tell that Zack wasn’t happy to be giving up all this information. There’d been rumours for a while about how close he was getting to the Issacs, and how much of the Demi monde he was exposing to them. The Rivers were right to be keeping an eye on him, but who knew what their motivations were.

Eventually, it became clear there was nothing else to be gained from pushing the lanky Londoner, and everything was stowed away anyway. They had a gathering to get to, and it was the other side of London, in a far nicer district.

If they set off fairly sharpish, they’d have time to freshen up, then tube it across London, and no doubt arrive unfashionably early. Erasmus was far from enthused about the idea, Much happier to return to his workshop and continue his experimentations. Frederick looked like he was seriously considering tagging along with the Knocker, much happier surrounded by the trappings of science.

In the end though, they decided that finding out about the matter at hand was more important, and that hopefully Frederick could get more answers about himself and the very nature of the Fae and their place in the Demi monde. The only one of the group not to be in attendance was Spector. He’d spent a fair amount of time already today talking about his meeting with Reynard and didn’t want to miss the chance to talk to him about any other children that might be missing in London. The last they saw of him, he had leapt onto a balcony, pulled himself up, then sprang across a gap between buildings and was away.

“I swear, he just does it because he can”, said Frederick, “he has enough money to spend on gadgets and gizmos, that he could surely afford a cab, or even an Oyster card, and get around much quicker and easier.”

“Not everyone’s so happy to have their feet firmly planted on the ground, Frederick”, replied Alsandair, smiling happily to himself. “Mind you, if any of the door staff at this wee gathering are of the human persuasion, you might have some bother getting in. I just don’t think a fake I.D. is going to cover it.”

“Agreed”, he said, looking down at his clothes and general shabbiness. “Still, one of the few benefits of this whole ‘magical creature from beyond time an reality’ thing, is the ability to stop people seeing me as nothing but a helpless child”. He had maintained a steely glare at Alsandair as he said this, his meaning clear. Alsandair just smiled back though, seeing nothing wrong with looking after his friend, even if he was a powerful and dedicated Fae.
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Re: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh
« Reply #25 on: February 17, 2018, 03:51:31 PM »

The journey there should have been uneventful, but following the instructions led them to an unused platform, and down onto the rails. There was some apprehension, but considering it was a party hosted by a couple of the Rivers, if they’d found themselves ankle deep in sewage, they wouldn’t have been too surprised.

Ahead of them was light, and for a second, a brief panic as they considered approaching trains. No squeal of tortured rails though, just some light-hearted laughter and frivolity. A few steps up and they were on another platform, this one well lit, but obviously not in regular use. The lighting was provided by the kind of temporary fixtures one would see on a building site at night, with generators whirring away to keep the power flowing.

After a few minutes, a train approached, slowing to allow them and a dozen others to board. Yanni and Jake both knew the city well, but when asked by a curious Irishman, all they could do is shrug, offering guesses that were swiftly proved wrong as they went past stations in use, without even slowing down. “I couldn’t even tell you which line we’re on, the stations don’t make sense. If we were to head straight up and hit the streets, I’d only be fifty/fifty on where we’d poke our heads up”, said Jake, straining to see things through the dirty windows.

After twenty more minutes of this, occasionally slowing, some sharp turns, and zero trolley service, they pulled up at another clearly abandoned station. As they all disembarked, the sounds of old fashioned music drifted along the platform. The station itself looked like it hadn’t been used in decades, but the music was anachronistic. The heavy strings and accordion were soon mingled with a thrumming bass note, and the beat dropped into some kind of hard-core mashup that made the eyeballs swell with pressure.

Alsandair smiled at them all, clearly in his element, but was taken aback when his gaze lingered on Frederick for more than a passing moment. Gone was the wastrel he called a friend, and what looked like every warning poster of a kiddie-fiddler brought to life was looking back at him. “Jesus”, he whispered, “it looks like him and Reynard would be bosom buddies with him dressed like that.”

Yanni must have overheard, and replied, “yeah, but only really small bosoms. I mean, like pancake flat mate.”

They both smiled to each other as a heavy on the door gave them a once over, but didn’t ask for an invite, identification, or even to look in their bags. Either he knew what he was looking for, or there was an assumption that anyone who got this far, was supposed to be here. His job was just to look imposing, and he did it with vigour.

Once inside, it was clear this was an invite only affair. Even those who looked like common or garden humans weren’t in the slightest bit fazed by the variety of individuals in attendance. Alsandair could see trolls, boggons, Sidhe, Pixies, and countless others he wasn’t even sure he had the right name for.

No one was surprised when he made a beeline to the bar, ordering a round of drinks which managed to get added to a complete stranger’s tab, and sent back to the group. As he sipped his Red-Stripe, he started chatting with the barman who looked in charge. He was a friendly type, and once he got over the blatant Nazi and Nationalist tattoos that covered most of his exposed skin, him and Alsandair became quite friendly. Friendly enough at least that the Irishman could stow his pack behind the bar all night and help himself to a couple more cans while he was at it.

Loaded with fizzy beer, he took in the crowd and just caught sight of Jake disappearing into the gents. Yanni was on his way to the VIP area, and Alsandair could see at least two Rivers he recognised up there, along with some quite obviously important Sidhe of the Seelie court. Harun was working the room, and if he had to guess, Alsandair assumed he was following up on the rumours that Habibi Lal would be performing tonight.

There was no sign of Frederick or Erasmus, but party animals they were not. Instead of wasting effort hunting them down, he spotted Calliope, and made his way through the crowd on the dance floor to say hi and was soon enjoying her company so much he almost didn’t notice Jake had re-joined the throng.

Once you noticed something like that though, you couldn’t ignore it. He was stripped to the waist for one, and his Fae mien was on full and proud display. So full and proud in fact, that as the light caught him, Alsandair could see that he wasn’t actually wearing fluffy shorts. Thankfully, the lights dropped before any more of Jake started moving in time with the music.

With the house lights off, a single spotlight illuminated a unmoving but still somehow sensual figure on the stage. The sounds of traditional Indian music began to fill the space, like a breathing entity, pulsing and pushing everyone in time with the fluid musical rhythm. It was a time signature that Alsandair couldn’t place, but it didn’t stop him moving with it. The entire room seemed to be moving with him, and it was only after a dozen seconds that he realised Habibi was moving too.

It was slow, but every movement was perfectly timed. She was like a liquid snake, like zero-G fluid suspended by vibrations. A second later, the world erupted, and Alsandair suspected that he would open his eyes onto another time, but instead the world reappeared, the music had mingled in a crash of bass and synth, and it had electrified the building. Habibi was moving quicker now, but no less sensual for that.

Her movements seemed to bring about a change in rhythm, rather than dancing to it, and the crowd writhed along with her. It was the most sensual moment of Alsandair’s life, bar none, and in the back of his mind he couldn’t help but feel sorry for whomever was near Jake right now.

The music rose and fell, the tribal beats mingled with electro-swing, and not a beat was missed, but plenty were dropped. It felt like it had lasted for hours, he was so exhausted keeping up with the momentum of it, but when the lights fell away again, he knew it had ended far too soon. Calliope’s arms were draped over his shoulders, her head on his chest, not caring that his shirt was sticking to it, muscle definition obvious as his chest heaved, dragging in as much oxygen as he could.

A hand trailed down from his shoulder as she looked him in the eye, a wicked smile on her face as the fingers found his waistline, a nimble thumb popped the top button open as she kissed him. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed was Jake, surrounded by trolls. Why does it look like he’s licking them, was his last thought on the matter?

With the house lights back on, and music flowing from the DJ booth, the trolls were indeed surrounding Jake. They were laughing at his antics, but in a friendly way, calling him their little ‘Tanngrisnir’ and plying him with drinks.

Frederick was in the shadows, sipping from a virgin Cuba Libre, nothing but contempt in his eyes as semi naked flesh gyrated in front of him. He longed for the night to be over already, and after seeing Habibi on stage, he was sure the best plan would be to leave early. The Clurichaun and Satyr were clearly busy, he had lost sight of Erasmus, and Yanni was still in the VIP area, so no one would miss him if he slipped away quietly.

He had been impressed with the ease at which Yanni had strode through the crowd of hangers on when approaching the roped off area. True, he could have made his own way in just as easily, but not being noticed was his speciality. Assured self confidence at that level was a sure way to get yourself perished, but the Sidhe looked good while doing it. Digging his mobile out, he began composing a message informing them of his exit, smirking as he made out Reynard dancing away with a young lady.

All that jumping around, and Spector’s quarry was here all along. He also appeared to be dancing with a girl far too young for him, who bore a striking resemblance to a face on a missing persons report. Another lost soul, he thought, as he replaced the phone and snuck towards the doors.

Yanni had calmed down now, as his mobile thrummed in his pocket. Although he was still breathing heavily, he knew he had been more controlled than most. Looking around, a lot of the Sidhe in attendance were still ruffling their metaphorical feathers up to get attention. He knew he had been doing something similar, but with a woman like Habibi Lal on the stage, it was to be expected.

His brow furrowed a little when he read the message, but he wasn’t too surprised that Frederick had left early. This wasn’t exactly his scene, and that’s without Yanni knowing that the homeless Sluagh had his own reasons to avoid a certain dancer.

Still, he was here for a reason, and after brushing past Uncle bailiff with no more than a word from Chelsea, he was in front of the most important of people. His courtly training took over, and he went into autopilot at that point, going through the motions, showing deference and courtesy to those of better breeding than himself. He may have been a touch more old-fashioned that some of them were expecting, but after an invitation to attend a particular Saville Row tailor, he knew he had impressed.

He wasn’t one to push his luck though, so bowed deeply and returned to the dance floor, wondering why on earth a bunch of trolls in heavy metal battle vests were letting Jake slap them with his cock.

He also sees Alsandair, red faced with the uniquely captivating Ms. Lal at his back, long bejewelled fingers hanging over his shoulders, whispering into his ear. “My friend, it has been too long, but I see from your response that you recognise me now?”

“I do now, aye”, he responded, still out of breath, with Calliope having only just buttoned him back up less than a minute ago before seeking out libations, “but if you’d have asked me a week ago…”

“Do not worry, little Clurichaun, all shall become clear and return to you. What is the last thing you remember of me?”

“I met your father”, he said, “Joseph, or was he your uncle? He said he was father to someone, but it sounded like a load of shite to me.”

“Hmmm, I remember that meeting. Do you remember where we ended up?”

“Hanging out with a druid. Again. I swear”, he continued, mind suddenly jogged, “if there were a few of those folks around right now, they’d be pissed about what I found out about today!”

She was already away though, leaving him swimming in a sea of exotic scents, and was soon all that Jake could think about. He had been happy with the hills and mountains he’s made friends with. They loved dancing with him! They had such stories to tell, such songs to sing! The grey one was fucking gorgeous too and loved it when they got to feel his cock on their rocky features. He’d never gotten hard over geography before, but it felt so good!

Then there was a Goddess, she glowed, inner and outer light, from within and silhouetted from behind. The lights made her many limbs look electric, and he wanted nothing more but to bury his face in her chest and spend a lifetime gently lapping the sweat that flowed there. It would taste of ambrosia he knew, and great gin. He could live off it. Forever.

He hadn’t even noticed that she’d moved on saying barely a word; he was lost in her, lost in the heavens that exploded in her eyes and from the waterfall that ran from between her legs. The trolls laughed on, stroking their goat boy and pouring spirits into his mouth as he hungrily swallowed, not caring for the pills that had been dissolving in the bottle.

She had her sights set on Yanni, and he wasn’t complaining at all when they met on the dancefloor, exchanging a couple of cheek kisses that should have been chaste, but were decidedly not. Before they could exchange more than rudimentary pleasantries though, Harun was at his shoulder, speaking loud enough to be heard over the music, “I don’t suppose you can do anything to control the Satyr could you”, he asks?

Yanni looks over to see nothing had really changed for Jake, but in an effort to avoid future issues made his way across and could be overheard asking, “you’ve got your cock out, haven’t you”, before the lights started to drop again. Harun stared for a second longer than was strictly appropriate into Habibi’s eyes before smiling, a little awkwardly and making his way to the stage. She smiled at his retreating frame, slender yet powerful, as he strode onto the stage, taking up an instrument and strumming it once, silencing the crowd in a heartbeat.

A spotlight lands on him, making him glow yellow, like a desert at sundown. Other Eshu appear behind him on stage, a variety of string instruments already in hand. The swell of music drags Alsandair back to the world, his head swimming from pleasure and drink, as the floor fills once more with dancers.

He knew what to expect, to certain degree; Harun could use his music to transport you, to create worlds for you to visit, and as he felt the first sting of sand blown onto his face, he closed his eyes and let himself be taken away once more from this trivial impersonation of the real.
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The last notes of string music echoed around the large space, Harun was on centre stage, one hand gripping the neck of his instrument, the other held high, like a rock god, lit from below and behind. He was bigger than life, and the crowd erupted as the rest of the band played their final chord.

The stage lights spun out to cover the crowd, and they bounced up and down in unison, the DJ brought up his own music, a frenetic bit of Grime that matched the speed of the crowd’s jumping. Harun dropped his instrument for the roadies to clear away and leapt from the stage, landing near Alsandair who ran up to take him in a bear hug, arms around his slim waist, and lifted him easily a f couple of feet off the floor.

“Good on ya, big man”, he shouted, still struggling to be heard over the crowd and the music, “I didn’t know you had a band!”

Harun, just smiled, sweat dripping from his face, ecstatic still from the high of his performance. “I need a drink Irishman, and I’m buying!”

“Well let me show you that way to the bar then”, Alsandair replied, finding Yanni on the way and ushering him over. “You seen how Jake’s doing recently?”

“Last I saw”, said Yanni, “he was still flirting with some trolls. They seemed into it though, so long as they’re all happy, I’d say leave him be. Whatever the crone gave him, it’s doing its job. Still don’t know if it was worth what he paid for it, and I wouldn’t want to be him in the morning, but he’s having a laugh.”

“Here’s to us then”, said Alsandair, handing each of the shot of something unknown he’d found unattended on the bar top.

“Cheers!”, the said in unison, swallowing hard, “but it is my round”, said Harun, leaning over and ordering a pint each from the tattooed barman. After the heavy activity of the last two acts, and the fun had between them, they were happy to hold their position at the bar and finish their drinks in each other’s company, chatting away about very little.

It was only when the lights dimmed that they realised another band was coming on stage. They turned to lean against the bar, watching what looked like a viking re-enactment group take the stage. An excellent re-enactment group to be fair, they’d put a lot of effort into their costumes, and looked damned convincing. Alsandair knew his bands, but he’d never heard of these guys.

If it wasn’t for the logo on their bass drum, he wouldn’t even know they were called Heilung. As they started up, he had feelings of Negura Bunget, but these guys got hard, and the crowd were loving it. It wasn’t just the music though.

The last time he’d had a feeling like this had been when they were back in the dreaming, watching a mighty battle, traveling Albion with mystical figures. The band were clearly of the Demi monde, and probably Changelings themselves. Their music was creating more glamour than Habibi or Harun had managed together, but Alsandair didn’t think they were even close to their peak performance level yet.

As he watched, his feet itching to dance, a large ivory horn was brought onto the stage, at least two feet long, ornately carved and heavy looking. The band didn’t even pause their playing, the horn clearly part of the act. It was mounted on a stand and one of the band members approached, putting his lips to it, and blew.

They couldn’t even hear anything at first, but Jake – high as a kite as he was – could see the magic flowing from the instrument. He raised his hands to run them through the waves of power, like putting your hand out of the window of a moving car and playing with the air resistance. Alsandair heard the notes coming in deep as he felt the magic pushing against his chest. Blinking quickly, he tried to turn to his friends, but the note was getting deeper if possible.

It rattled his ribcage, made his spine vibrate, and his skull felt like it was swelling. There was no way to know how it was happening, and why he was feeling it, but he knew this was about to bring about another trip down memory lane. All could do was hope he’d have company again. He smiled.

After the crash back to the past last time, this was a lot more enjoyable. His head fell backwards, and looking up, he could see the waves of magic working under the ceiling. Was it random? He was seeing patterns, seeing tendrils as if the magic was searching for something, reaching out, hunting.

Elsewhere in London, on a train, child in old clothes, seemingly asleep, gripped a teddy bear close as he felt something rise in his chest. Running across a roof, leaping to grab a fire escape gate, a lithe young man stumbles and loses his grip, crashing into metal and rolling down stairs. In a basement workshop, dials on archaic machinery start to turn, lights turn on, glowing too brightly as a man in overalls furrows his brow.

Another blink, and the ceiling was gone, the magic was still there though, still rolling under the clouds. Turning his head again, looking left to right, Alsandair could see Yanni and Harun, and even Jake nearby. Jake was looking a little spacey, but nowhere near as high as he had been at the party.

Harun, Jake, and Alsandair were all stood in a stone circle on a hill, Yanni was outside of it, but striding over to them, wearing a suit of shining armour, his long spear in hand. As he strode over, they had a chance to take in their surroundings. Below them, not far from the base of the hill that standing stones marked, was a large camp, with an unmistakable military bearing to it.

The sound of several grindstones at full speed, the clank and rattle of hammer on armour, the bellowing of commands to underlings, and the drunken singing of those doing their best to either prepare for an upcoming battle, or ignore it, drifted up in a swelling hubbub.

Towards the horizon, a dozen or so miles distant was another camp. Like the one below it was alive with campfires, and although they were too far away to make out details, the occasional flash of light and the large command looking tents told them that this too was an encampment preparing for battle.

Alsandair put his hand to chest, feeling around for something, and was relieved when his hand touched on cold glass. “My friends, I thought I had lost you when we took the hill”, said Yanni, his armour still managing to shine like liquid platinum, even with only flickering fire light to reflect off it.

“Well Yanni, it seems once again that you have turned up not only better dressed than us”, Alsandair was looking down at his rough but well-made outfit as Harun spoke, pretty happy with it in fact, “but we are once again not entirely sure where we are. Or when for that matter.”

“It’s happened again? Fret not! There’s no sign of Spector or Freddy, but I don’t imagine they’re far away. I suppose I’d be best to catch you up quickly though. We’re about to enter into battle. On this hill and around it are the forces of Mordred. On the other is Arthur and his army.”

There was a hint of a sneer in Yanni’s voice when he spoke the King’s name, but Harun wasn’t sure if there wasn’t a similar dislike for Mordred. “So, we fight for the Nephew?”, asked Harun, “I know this story. Although some would have it we are on the winning side, there’s few who would say it is the ‘right’ side.”

“Jesus, spoilers”, smiled Alsandair, “I’m not up on my history, or mythology, or whatever the fuck you call what’s happening here. Wanna fill a wee chap in?”

“Arthur is fighting for the new ways”, said Yanni, “and although he had has used the magic of Merlin to attain his position, he is turning from our ways, away from the druids and the Fair Folk. Mordred may not be the nicest of men, and he sits high in the Unseelie court, but if we have any chance to fight back the Banality of this time, it is by his side.”

“That’s that decided then”, spoke Jake, “We did enough to fuck with the druids when we took the father of Jesus to hang out in their holy place.” A pause followed, just long enough for dark looks in the Clurichaun’s direction. “Unseelie or not, if Mordred is fighting for the Fae, then we really should fight with him.”

“Agreed”, said Harun, as Alsandair nodded, “But one would assume the rest of our motley is still around, so perhaps we should seek them out. Frederick, for all his maturity, still bares the countenance of a child, and this is far from a safe place for him.”
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The young man himself was at that very moment in a conversation with Erasmus. He’d awoken to find himself in the back of a wagon, covered with coarse, damp blankets. He wasn’t sure what sound had roused him, but after many years in dark and dangerous places, he knew beyond all reasonable doubt that martial activities were gearing up. He could hear steel on stone, be it a spinning a wheel or the whisper of a whetstone, but it was unmistakable, and made his mouth dry.

With ease, he had stalked the camp for a few moments, listening in to find out the basics of what the hell he had found himself involved in this time. A battle. An important one, no doubt, as he was here, and it seemed unlikely he’d be on another jaunt through his memories if none of this mattered.

A fight was a fight though, and although he still had a blade – never without one, thanks to his fine fluffy friend – he felt the need to prepare somewhat. Not that he had any intention of charging in, seeking death, glory, or both. He was going to be sneaking around though, maybe even escaping before dawn, and if any sentries tried to stop him, he wanted to be able to kill them nice and easy.

After a few minutes, he had located a smith’s tent, and making sure there was as few people as possible within, he ducked under the canvas, and glanced around. The short, bulky frame, topped with the weather worn face of Erasmus was certainly a surprise. So much so, he forgot he was supposed to be hiding, and let out a loud sigh.

The Knocker met his gaze and smiled down at him, “Freddy, my boy, I thought I’d be going alone on this one! Have you seen anything of the rest of our Motley?”

“Just you, but you seem to have made yourself at home with almost worrying haste”, he answered, suspiciously looking around at the weapons and armour on display.

“Ah, well, I woke up not far from here, and just made myself useful. I think they’re short on professionals, whoever ‘they’ are.”

“Warriors, ready to fight a battle. From what I hear, you’ve set yourself up on the side of what most people would think of as the baddie. I find myself not really caring too greatly though, and I am only here to steal a blade, so I can get the hell out of here.”

“No need for theft, have a look around, take what you will. Not that it’s mine to give, but the people who’ve been in so far have made no motion to pay, so I’ve assumed this is a company tent. That, and they all expected me to be here. Another sign, I suppose that I have been here all along, and this is just me remembering it, rather than any notion of travelling through time to experience things.”

“Causality is known for being a decidedly unfunny beast, and until I see concrete signs that we were are able to make choices, or all of our actions are predetermined, I will refuse to accept any notion of a half-truth.”

To Erasmus, it seemed as if the Sluagh’s face had darkened as he spoke, like the candles had dimmed, or he had stepped into shadow. He realised that he was hoping for his friend to step forward, back into the light. Whatever shadow had descended on Frederick though, looked like it was there to stay.

He was relieved when the door to his tent was flapped open, and a few large figures stepped in from the gloom. The lanterns caught their faces, and his smile spread, recognising most of his Motley. “Fellows! I had hoped you’d be here too. Are you all still reeling from being somewhere far distant?”

“Yanni was already here to meet us, the big fella has a knack for arriving before us and knowing far more about what’s actually going on”, said Alsandair, who had acquired a wine skin on the trip down the hill. He slurped another noisy mouthful, smiling and sighing happily to himself.

“The ways of the Sidhe are mysterious and enigmatic. Much like myself”, he replied, his smile bringing even more light into the tent. “I had hoped to find you still here, and I suppose the two of you are having another jaunt?” They both nodded, Frederick’s face staying grim throughout. “There’s a fight coming, and if any of you are wanting to take part, I thought you’d be better doing so armed. Anything they find, anything they need, is there’s to take into battle.

“It appears that Jake and Alsandair have decided that joining in Mordred’s cause to be the correct action, but Harun may still decide to stay in an observing role. Although you have all already lived through this event, at least, as far as you are aware, you have no memory of it, and the side you take is at your whim.” He then told them all the story of Arthur and Mordred, with elements taking from Morte D’Arthur, and other romantic fiction, but assured them all that the stories were mere exciting fabrications of the real events, and not to be trusted.

As minutes stretched to hours, and an empty wine skin was discarded at the Irishman’s feet, a loud and ringing horn was blown twice in quick succession. “You know the stories now, or as much as I can tell you, will you join?”

The Motley shared glances, each almost sure of the part they would play, but none of them keen to offer up a suggestion that might put them at odds with their friends. With few exceptions, they were all of the Seelie court while residing in London, so siding with an ancestral foe was a hard choice. They had also been instrumental in several events that had pitted the old ways against the new, and scores surely needed settling.

Before any of them could speak, another horn blast ripped through the night. This was a different noise, a lot harsher and abrasive, seeming to open burning wounds in their very essence. This was the call of the Wild Hunt. This was war and battle for the sake of shedding blood. It was the chase, and the dragging down of a worthy prey. It was red and it was black, it flowed and it soared.

Alsandair felt it in his core, but the drive in him to fight was no higher than usual. The same could not be said for Frederick and Yanni. Frederick looked like had grown somewhat, but not in a manner of one attaining adolescence. His limbs had extended, fingers thinning and growing, along with the nails. The hair on his head was thicker, more lank and greasy looking, covering his face, but his eyes seemed to glow – if it were possible – with coal black light, like a starless void reflected in cold jet.

Yanni too had changed, his armour still shone, his face was still so handsome as to make the heart ache to look upon it for too long. It was a hard face now though, with cruel eyes, an evil smirk, and eyes that you could drown in. Oh, how happy you would be to drown there, and how much it would make the Sidhe laugh. His laugh, like broken glass falling down a metal shoot, was still enchanting to hear.

It seemed that they needed no further debate, and were up and away, following the sound of war, carried along with the scream of the horn. “I’m not fucking letting him alone into a battle”, said Alsandair, looking towards Frederick, and standing up, making sure the silver chain – heavier now than he was sued to – was wrapped tightly around his fist. “I’ve got to make up a little for past sins too, so I’m going after them. How about you?” He was asking the whole Motley, but his eyes were mainly on Jake.

“I can’t imagine either of us would do much more to protect or him, or win a battle, than Yanni could do, but you’re right. I’m not sitting this out, and there’s at least something I can do.” He pulled a strap from round his shoulder until a fine stringed instrument was in his hands, and he stuck a high, beautiful chord. “I think I’ve got a fighting song in me, even if the fight itself isn’t nothing to me.”

With that, he started to play a rousing song, and with dancing fingers he brought them all along for the ride. Erasmus had ran back into his tent, but with no more than a few bars played, the canvas erupted as a wheeled contrivance burst into the night, and made its way to the front, Erasmus somehow in control of it.

Even Harun followed the mob to the battle lines, and it was indeed a mob. All manner of Fae creatures, both Fair Folk and Chimerical creatures were all moving as one, but without the order of a military unit. Instead, they jostled each other, some of them pushing hard to be the first to engage the enemy. To Alsandair it seemed like those who had been taken up by the call of the Wild Hunt were the most eager to charge in.

Jake’s playing pushed them on even harder, and soon, they were near the front, only a few mounted troops ahead. He wasn’t sure how it had happened, but Alsandair was wearing a shield. He was gripping it in his left fist, his right hand tightening straps. Had he stolen it? Knocked another warrior to the ground and wrestled it from them? No one was complaining, and he couldn’t remember ever being so keen for a fight, so he just smiled to himself and breathed deeply.

Looking down to his waist, he was shocked to see a pack of dogs moving around them, each more wolf than domesticated hound, but with enough of the Fae in them to be neither or both. They moved like water, running around the warriors like they were stones in a river as they enclosed the lead horses, each ridden by an armoured knight.

In the distance, he could see the opposing army, a force they appeared to outnumber at least ten to one, and with the magic of the Fair Folk on their side, there was no other outcome than a crushing victory that he could fathom. Then, the magic started, and the air wavered. There was too much going on, too many cantrips and spells, too much art, with too much power. He couldn’t even conceive of it, so kept his eyes on the approaching army, and punched his chained fist onto the shield rim in time to a drum beat he couldn’t see, but feel.

And then, the forces met.

He had no recollection of it happening, but Frederick was riding the war machine with Erasmus, both holding on for dear life, but with so much life in them, they had it to spare. Yanni was leaping over the pack of hounds, higher than he should be able to, spear point flashing with a fury that matched his face. Harun had given in to the call of the Hunt and his already dark skin was now a pure black, only the sharp whiteness of exposed teeth and the red of his eyes showing in the void.

He couldn’t keep track of his friends any more, he was a front-rank fighter, on foot, without even a sword. Opposing knights were charging into the dog pack and through the horses of Mordred’s army. The point of a lance was bearing down on him, and throwing his shield up did nothing but knock its aim off slightly.

He roared in pain as the point slashed down his ribs. For all it hurt – and it fucking hurt – he was lucky. Had the shield not been set and the blow not skidded slightly off its surface, the point would surely have slipped into his collar, inside his ribs and torn a lung apart.
No time for that though, Jake was hit, Harun was bleeding, the war machine was red already, and some big bastard horse was trying to ride him down. With his left arm strapped to a shield, he had to turn on the balls of his feet and lift his stance, pushing his balance off as he felt warm blood already running down the leg of his trews. Still, he was Irish, and he was still standing, so he swung a heavy fist with every bit of strength he could muster.

The blow landed heavy on the horse’s jaw, but its head was already swaying away as it moved quickly past his. Did it stumble a little, make its rider hang on grimly before being pulled down by a bear in the second rank? Alsandair would certainly tell people that when he told the story later. The last thing he remembered though was smiling grimly before a spike of pain drove him to his knees, then his hands, then his chest.

He lay there, on a field below a hill, and felt himself drown on the blood flooding his lungs.
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Captain Shortworth

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A light slap from the beringed hand of a beautiful and exotic dancer would usually be a fine way to re-enter the world of the living. Since Alsandair was sure he was dead though, he thought that Habibi Lal would forgive his panicked shriek and desperate attempt to crawl away from her. The only result was that he fell, quite comically, off the threadbare couch he had been dragged onto, and she seemed happy enough to smile down at him.

He slapped a hand to his chest, but couldn’t feel a wound, fresh or otherwise. A voice in the back of his head, very much like his dad’s, called him a fucking idiot for not realising that was it was centuries back and many bodies ago, when he was run through on a battlefield. It didn’t stop him pulling his t-shirt up though, checking for anything, seeing not even a scar, and scrabbling to his feet, trying to turn his head fully round to look at his back.

As he calmed down, he watched Chelsea and Kensington being hurried away by the dancer. What friends of his were at the party before the terrible horn were still in sight, coming to their feet and checking for wounds of their own. Apart from Jake. Jake was licking his hands clean. He looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself too, thought Alsandair, as he finally snapped back to the present.
“That’s a new one! I feckin’ died!”

“Aye friend, you were the first to fall, but none survived that battle. Not Arthur, not Mordred, not a soul who took up arms lived on”, Yanni was stretching himself, the hem of his tight shirt lifting to expose a toned stomach that got a raised eyebrow of admiration from the Irishman. “You fought well though. There’s not many who can say they stood a mounted a charge without a sword, punching a horse as they fell.” He smiled at his friend, noting where his eyes laid, and how they darted around as soon as they lifted to his own.

As the crowd stopped its milling and returned to a more raucous footing, Harun was staring at Jake, “anyone else notice that he’s still dancing?” Alsandair looked over, and indeed, Jake was on his feet, gyrating in time to something, but there was no music playing. His head whipped around to the stage and saw not a soul on it.

Most of the band’s equipment still seemed to be up there, but the and members had gone. “They’ve taken the horn with them”, said Harun, placing a comforting hand on Jake’s shoulder, guiding him to take a seat, and putting a glass of clear liquid in his hand before helping him lift it to his mouth.

“My horn, is what they’ve taken”, came Habibi’s voice. “That damned horn was stolen from me by the Wild Hunt, and it looks like they’ve enlisted some band to use it for nefarious purposes!”

“Was that what sent us back this time”, asked Yanni?

“It’s probably what sent you back every time, but never in this proximity.”

“Nah, that can’t be right”, put in Alsandair, “last time it was some Demon trap or other. Thing blew the top of a building apart, and dragged us to the past using wolves made of straight razors!”

A long pause followed this, as Habibi stared at him, before Yanni spoke up, “He’s quite drunk, but not wrong. Maybe just a little exuberant in his choice of words. The demon trap going off did affect us, and the Vestigia felt very much like he described. We’ve led to understand that’s down to the creation of the things, by torturing wolves.”

“No, he thinks he’s right, you all do. Thinking you’re right, does not make something so though.” She pursed her lips and with one hand on her waist continued, “I’ve been looking for my… for Ganesha’s Tooth for some time now. The Wild hunt must be bold indeed to bring it here, so close to me, and use it in full view of the Rivers. At least it gives me some bloody idea what they’re doing with it though.

“I understand that you’ve been having, shall we call them flashbacks, since we have no better word?”

“I bet Yanni’s got a better word for them”, answered Alsandair, “But aye, we’ve been reliving memories. All kinds of stuff. That last one was a fuck off battle between King Arthur and Mordred, if you believe it!”

“Hmmm, and you met me on the road with Jacob. Where else have you been?”

“We spent some time with Nimue”, put in Harun, “helped escort her back to her lake.”

“The lady. The Lady? Of the bloody lake? What else have you lot been up to?”

“We helped free the druid who would become the God of the Thames. Helped him complete his ritual that did the job too”, continued Yanni.

“Shit”, whispered Habibi, “is there anywhere important you don’t know about?” She asked, continuing before any of them could answer, “It seems like your little Motley has managed to be in a whole bunch of very interesting places through the years. From what I’ve been hearing about you, you’ve only just emerged from your chrysalis too?

“People have been talking, you’ve been doing the rounds, asking the kind of questions you’d only need to ask if you remembered bugger all.” She paused, looking down, brow furrowed as she thought, speaking more to herself than anyone else now, “Could it be you all went under to protect what you know? Who would know that though? How would they know to get you all together?”

“Look, this is all very interesting, but do you have any answers?” She looked up sharply at Harun, seemingly shocked that they were all still around.

“I need that horn back, and it looks like you have an interest in getting it out of the hands of the Wild Hunt. Remembering things is good, but the way you’re being forced into it might have side effects. Find that band, find the Hunt, bring me my horn back. I shall make it worth your while.”

“Looks like we’re getting the band together then”, smiled Alsandair, who had been enraptured with Habibi as she spoke, “but first, we’ve got to figure out what the Fae equivalent of a black coffee is for Jake there. Silly fucker took some magic high, and won’t stop licking things!”

She sighed, watching the Satyr sitting down, and trying to clean himself like a dog would, “that I can help with now. You might want to have a word with him though, as I won’t always be around.” She walked over to him, and bent down, gently tipping his head back while opening a small knot on one of her bangles. Jake smiled up at her, tongue still half out, like a cat, interrupted in licking itself. She shushed him, stroking his hair as a fine silvery powder spilled from her jewellery into his mouth.

He rocked a couple of times, shook his head, and looked at them all with surprisingly clear eyes, “That was a trip! I went back in time!”
Yanni shook his head as he explained what was going on, while Harun thanked Habibi sincerely. Alsandair powered up his ancient mobile, and sent out a text to Frederick, Spector, and Erasmus, telling them that they’d be heading back to the pub, and had some news to share.

Before they were ready to leave though, Yanni spotted Spector making his way into the club, looking like he’d gone five rounds with a bus stop.  “Jesus, wee man, you look like you’ve fallen down a flight of stairs”, exclaimed Alsandair.

He opened his bag to pull out a can of lager, and held it out for the Pookah as Yanni asked, “did you actually fall down some stairs? Wouldn’t have thought it, the way you’re jumping all over London, I didn’t take you for someone who’d have an accident. Alsandair? Yeah, I can see him taking a tumble”.

The Irishman laughed in good humour as the Pookah took a deep drink, “I was making my way back to my digs, taking the scenic route, as you know I like to do, and then I ended up just outside of a battle encampment. I kept out the way of most of it, until I saw you lot, but you were pretty heavily in the thick of it.

“Anyway, one thing leads to another in these situations, and the world righted itself again, as I find myself in a crumpled ball at the bottom of a steel fire escape. Looks like my timing was off, and I was dragged back into a memory while in the middle of a jump”. He finished his drink with a bitter look on his face, “so yes Al, I fell down some fucking stairs.”

The Irishman tried to hide his amusement with a grimace, but they were soon all laughing, and before long even the Pookah was joining in, the beer having done its job admirably. As Yanni filled him in on the events of the evening, both evenings, really, Jake and Alsandair compared notes on the music industry. They had to try and find the band, but Al hadn’t heard of them before tonight. He knew a music promoter though, and Jake, being a musician himself had a few friends in the now.

While Jake started texting around, Alsandair sent a message to CeCe, asking if she knew of any upcoming gigs for Hielung, saying how much he’d loved their latest show. The response was quick and excited, in the form of a call. She’d heard of the band, but had never seen them. She let him know, as he would pass on to the others, that they were notorious for only playing open air gigs, and usually in the middle of nowhere, right around the corner from the arse end of anything.

The fact that they’d played an underground show, let alone one inside a building was unheard of! Alsandair was repeating his desire to find out more about upcoming gigs when the location did it for his mobile signal and the call ended abruptly. After telling people this, Jake confirmed the same, and had no news of any further UK gigs at present.

He'd tried to find out any information from Chelsea and Kensington too, since they’d booked the show, but the two young and haughty rivers had nothing to offer than rage and demands that the band be delivered to them for the vengeance of London’s waterways. With the mood shifting with that of the Rivers, it was soon obvious that the party was over, and any follow up acts were unlikely to hit the stage.

With nothing else to be gleaned from staying there, they decided to head back to the Carpe, but Spector had to go to the hospital to have his injuries looked at. Alsandair had given him a once over, but knew that a couple of bones would be better getting at least a splint.

After a quick taxi ride, they were back at the club, and Jake was just hanging up from one his music contacts. Heilung were indeed a band that stayed clear of cities, and the reasons weren’t just a gimmick. Jake’s friend knew of the Fae, and was certain that the band members were all some kind of fair folk.

They changed up members fairly regularly and joining was seen as a big deal. Once in, you were part of a family, and the Hunt always came first. They were all German, and acted like some kind of cult, or so the stories went, the band members all living like an ancient Teutonic tribe, rather than a contemporary metal band.

All this confirmed what they expected, but sadly didn’t provide any additional information about how they could find them. Jake looked like he could be a member of the band, if he wasn’t so well groomed, but since casting calls appeared to be a secret event too, there was no way for that to play out either.

When they stepped into the back room of the Carpe, the decidedly noticeable figure of Oberon could be seen at the bar. Although he always cut an impressive figure, he was currently decked out in the officer’s uniform of a Peninsular war soldier, all deep red and bright buttons, white straps and badges of rank.

“Damn”, said Alsandair, as he strode towards the soldier, “There was a time I could walk into any given pub and be one of the best looking bastards in there. I think those days are behind me though”, he put his hand out to be shook, and Oberon grabbed him warmly and firmly around the wrists, giving it two quick pumps, smiling, but with a grim countenance.

“We’re on a war footing my friend, and one dresses appropriately at such times”, replied Oberon, raising his head and taking in the bar. Under his gaze, the patrons started to rise from their seats, leaving behind drinks, some almost forgetting their bags and coats. Within forty seconds, the room was empty of, except for the Demi Monde.

They took the table closest to the hearth and Jake brought over some heavy bottomed tumblers and an unopened bottle of aged navy rum. He poured a healthy measure for them all, and spent the next half an hour filling in Oberon on the what the Motley had uncovered.
He spoke of the wooden dolls, and the trapped spirits of the trees that kept them alive. That led him to the Night Witch, and all they knew of her and her kind. From there, he drifted into their latest excursions through time, and how it come about; about a band and a horn, and how the Wild Hunt seemed to very interested in the places they were remembering.

When the bottle was near empty, Oberon thanked them all for what they had uncovered so far, but encouraged them to continue, “and if the Hunt have this much interest in you, you need to lock down a freehold. You need protection, you need a safe haven.” He looked around the bar appraisingly, and this place is more suitable than you know.”

Thanking them each in turn, his several large drinks having had no obvious effect on his sobriety, he wished them a good night, and a safe journey, no matter where it takes them.

Yanni suggested that the best thing to do next was to visit the Unseelie court. As a Sidhe, he was to be expected, and if they could shed some light on the Wild Hunt, it would be worth more than just a sow of respect. Alsandair agreed, but had other business first.

His trove was in London, and although his body had been here the entire time, it felt like he had spent weeks away, and it was making him itchy behind his eyes. He told them he’d be back, and left, enjoying the sunrise as he walked the streets.

The squat wasn’t exactly close, but he was really looking forward to the walk, so grabbed a coffee, got more change back than he paid for it, and window shopped as he walked. Eventually, he was outside of Mon’s place, but there was no sign of life. He did enjoy pissing off her flat mates, but he didn’t want to wake her if she was still asleep. It was no effort to shin up a drainpipe and flip the latch, dropping himself in silently.

Mon was alone in her bed, covers tangled around her legs, mouth open and shaved head in need of another go over with some clippers. He knew what he was looking for though. He hadn’t known what he was looking for until he knew though.

It was in an empty gem case for the Timmy Mallet single he’d seen when he was a kid. He had no idea what had happened to the cassette though, as something small and wooden was rattling inside. He popped the case open and the ring fell into his waiting palm. He slid it onto his ring finger, not even slightly surprised that it fit perfectly. Felt perfect too.

What else was hiding in his little trove?
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