Author Topic: A Londoner's guide to being homeless and Fae, by Alsandair Ó Conghalaigh  (Read 127 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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