Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Case Number Four: The Atheist Fox

Previously on: The Fitcher Files
After an evening of not drinking, Sam is “picked up” by an attractive woman in a leather coat. The chance of making a night of it is ruined when a massive blonde man attacks her. She runs away while Sam defends her, just to find out the man is a werewolf.
Cali becomes more hostile and Sam realises that he needs to be slightly nicer after a talking to by Officer Masterson. So he makes a card and the staus becomes quo once again to the happiness of all involved.
Still worried about the girl, Sam and his dog Cliché track her down to a field where they are attacked by the were. The girl “Tulip” saves them but is distracted and then gutted. Luckily it turns out she was a werecat all along and can get over little things like disembowelling.
Just when it looks like it is the end for our hero, Cali turns up and kills the werewolf.
Wild guessing is made at the reason for the whole case but as the major players are now all dead, it’s all conjecture.
Sam tries to help Tulip knowing he can’t. But she leaves because as we all know True Art is all about the angst.
A completely shattered Sam returns to his apartment to find yet another attractive woman waiting for him.
She is Lady Cassandra of the House of Sibylline. She is an elf. She is representing him in court. She is trouble.

She smiled a smug little smile.
“Oh so you’ve heard of me.”
Quick history lesson. The Sibylline were a group of oracles and seers in Ancient Greece. They wrote down their visions and these were consulted at times of difficulties. Of course most of them were destroyed by angry tyrants who didn’t like being told their kingdom was going to tumble into the sea- but such are tyrants. Anyway, it turns out that elves being…well, elves had their slender fingers in these pies and were members of the Sibylline and were changing the kingdom of man from the inside.
What I am trying to say is that the fact that one of the Ladies was representing me in a court of law was wonderfully terrifying.
I was most likely going to win but at what cost?

“Yes. I know who you are.” I rubbed at my eyes. “But must I do this now? I’ve just come from having ten hells kicked out of me which is adding to a week where I have pushed myself past my limit at least half a dozen times, been shot at, set on fire, drowned, over-dosed and generally battered. So excuse me if I’m not in the mood to have an elf tell me how me winning the case will stop the return of Hitler or something.”
I pushed the fridge door closed and turned to look at her. She hadn’t made an effort to get up from my table. So I decided to just leave and hope for the best.
“So, Lady Sibylline, I wish you a very good night.”
She let out a small sigh and clucked her tongue.
“You’re upset.”
I let out an expressive snort.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” She asked gesturing around the kitchen. “I know there are some biscuits around here.”
I realised that screaming ‘THEY’RE MY BISCUTS’ really wasn’t going to help me. So I simply shook my head and walked towards my warm bed.
Yet she was following me. I stopped outside my bathroom and leant against the wall. Tilting my head as far as I could without it feeling as if it was falling off, I crossed my arms and glared at her.
“I have put my luggage in your room” she said.
There was a small ringing in my ears. I shook my head hoping it would stop.
“I require my possessions if I am to defend you.”
“You don’t just mean representing me in court do you?”
That warm smile again. As if to say “Who’s a smart mortal? Who’s a-? You are! You’re such a smart-!”
I looked up at the clock. It was nearly three in the morning. Better wrap this up and then have a nice coma.
“Listen. I had a protection spell on me which they nicely removed after I got the message. Meaning that they don’t seem too worried about me turning up in one piece. The fact someone somewhere has hired a Seer to defend me-”
“I wasn’t hired.”
“Oh. That’s making me feel so much better. Oh, thank you Seer.”
“I’m not calling you that.”
“I don’t want to.”
“I really don’t think that matters. You have been chosen to be protected by the Elvish court. You should be honoured. We do not defend any ordinary child killer.”
I moved quickly so our noses were almost touching
“I did not kill her.” I snarled.
“That’s the idea, Mr Fitcher” the seer said and patted me on the back.
Grunting, I walked into my room. There was a large trunk blocking my cupboard as well as a number of silky bags. I ignored them as I threw my coat in what I hoped was a coat hanger direction and just crawled on top of my bed. Within seconds I was asleep.

Now if I may give some advice. If you’ve just come out of a battle with an enraged werewolf, for goodness sake change clothes before crashing onto your bed. If you don’t you WILL get stuck to the sheets in a mixture of blood, mud and viscous liquids.
It was to this knowledge that I awoke and swiftly realised that I could not move or get my head unstuck from the pillow.
In addition I was aware at some point someone had entered my room and covered me in some form of blanket. It was soft and warm. Most likely filthy by now but it was better then nothing.
I really should have been getting up but I was warm and as safe as one ever is in a blood-soaked bed. So as common sense screamed at me to at least put on some clean pyjamas or something, I yawned and went back to sleep.

When I awoke once more, it was to the muggy headache you get when your body says “It’s daytime. Why are you asleep? There is no sleeping during the day! You will be punished for this insolence.”
So it was that grudgingly I got up after wiggling and rolling around for a minute. Sluggishly I walked to the bathroom and into a shower.
The experience was a mixture of rapture at being clean once again and smarting burns as the warm water seemed to find all the new bruises and crushed organs. That said it was nothing I wasn’t used to already so I just went with it and enjoyed the warmth.
It just made me glad I wasn’t powerful enough to short out electronics, which would have forced me to have cold showers.
Stepping out I examined myself in the mirror of the medicine cabinet. Yes, that was still me. A me who had been hit a few times with a rope and then dragged over a few rocks but still a me-ish me. I was just glad to still have the full number of eyes, toes, fingers and genitals. I opened the cabinet and began to bandage myself. It wasn’t so bad. My shoulder was a lovely colour thanks to Ace trying to rip it out of its socket. A twisted ankle from slipping on the grass. Burnt hands from misuse of rod and fire. Various bruises and scrapes from continuously having to fall over, jump or punch. All that and a small cut from the pentacle. Stupid Wicians.

Dressings done, it was time to dress. After popping some painkillers, I pulled a shirt and jeans on. Before I left I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I blinked a few times. This wasn’t my shirt.
It was a black shirt with a “Merlin” on it. You know long white hair, long flowing robes and pointy hat. Anyway this Merlin had some strange creature sticking out from his hair. Beneath this was a slogan saying:
Someone had given me a joke T-shirt and somehow it got into my wardrobe.
Intrigue. This was a case. One that would require the best of my-
No screw that. I went to have breakfast.


“Good morning Mr Copperfield” my uninvited houseguest said around a mouth full of Coco Pops. This time around she was sitting with her back to the door, her loose red hair reaching down to her waist. The room was once again unnaturally warm.
I walked to the table to a seat next to her facing the window. She had put a bowl and spoon ready for me thus winning a point in my books- which she promptly lost when I saw she had helped herself to a pair of my flannel pyjamas.
I sat down and poured myself a bowl of cornflakes and cold milk.
We sat crunching for a while. I was able to look out the window while she seemed engrossed in sheets of paper. The windows were steaming up with the heat of a man and what appeared to be a heat-generating elf. Maybe it was going to snow? That would be nice. Oh white Christmas and all that. I ate another spoonful and finished the bowl. I was hungry though. Maybe I could make some toast? I got up.
“I’m making toast.” I said.
“I’ll have the marmalade” she replied without looking up from the papers.
I walked over to the counter and popped two pieces of bread into the toaster. Then I turned to the fridge.
“Second shelf” she said the moment my hand touched the door.
I had a quick image of her walking around the flat looking in every cupboard, deciding what she wanted and then taking it. Then she got into the fridge and started sticking her fingers in jars to taste. She was like a racoon.
I shook my head and took the marmalade, jam and butter out and put them on the table.
She had finished her cereal and was now looking at a different piece of paper.
I popped the toast up and then back down. Wincing slightly, I leant against the counter.
“What are you reading?” I asked.
“Your mail.” She looked up, her face expressionless. Testing.
The image was back but now she was dressed in black and white stripes, small black mask and had a big bag labelled SWAG- as well as a racoon tail. It was an…interesting combination.
“And that is why you called me Copperfield?” I popped the toast out into a toast rack and put it on the table.
There was a moment of quiet broken by scraping and crunching. I noticed she had found plastic cutlery. Guess she was being careful with the whole “iron equals pain” thing.

“I suppose” my guest said around a mouthful of marmalade toast “as an elf I’m supposed to berate you for wasting paper on such frivolous things as” she paused to read the leaflet “coupons for Chinese Takeaway.”
I finished my mouthful first.
“But you’re not?”
A shake of her head.
“No I’m not. And I’m taking this coupon.” She slipped it into a pocket.
Oh no. There goes my free soup with every main course.
She finished her toast and begin to suck her long fingers clean. I quickly went back to looking out of the window. I saw a small smirk from the side of my vision.
She sighed the sigh of one of who has been forced to work with one below them in status.
“No, spending time with humans has corrupted me. All said I get to enjoy such things as running water and soft beds.”
I turned back as I heard a clatter. My guest had taken it upon herself to clear the table.
“And boots.” She said as she got to her feet. “It’s nice to be able to buy boots without having to wait for a deer to die of old age or loneliness.”
She put the bowls and plates in the sink and switched the water on for ten seconds. This seemed to count as clean as she then started to dry them.
As she dried she hummed to herself. It appeared to be some form of jig. It was beautiful. That was it. I was leaving.
Getting to my feet, I began to head to the door.
“You just leaving?” my guest called, mock hurt in her voice. “No kiss goodbye? After I made you breakfast. For shame Mr Copperfield. For shame. I could have sworn you were a gentleman.”
She was smirking again. It was still attractive which I guess was the point.
I stopped and took a few deep breaths. I was really too tired for this.
“Look Cassandra.”
“Casey.” She began to pour water into the kettle. The seemingly effortless grace this woman was trying to portray was rankling.
I needed to sit down. So I sat on the arm of my sofa. It had a pile of blankets and sheets neatly folded on top. At least the mystery of where my guest slept was resolved. Next week: Where on Earth is Lord Lucan?
Distracted, I gently rubbed my hands. Yep, still blistered. As much as I wanted to scream and throw the woman to the curb that would ensure a Guilty charge as well as the wrath of the Elvish court. So I calmed down and spoke in the calmest way I could.
“I’m not used to strange woman turning up uninvited in my protected home, reading my post and wearing my pyjamas. That’s all.”

There was a soft thumping as my guest sat down on the sofa behind me. She leant back and shuffled to get cosy.
“Look it’s quite simple. I’m protecting you and I am a guest. Under the rules of etiquette, you offer me full run of your house and all things inside. Be it your food, your clothes or your women.”
“I don’t have women.” Well to be fair I seemed to have nothing but women but they weren’t mine to give away.
“Would you consider picking some up when you get more cereal?”
I glanced over my shoulder.
She then smiled again. This time it didn’t seem so conniving, so perfect. ‘No’ said my mind ‘it’s still as put on as ever. You’ve just fallen for it.’

She leant back further in her seat and stretched her long legs out so she could examine her feet. Need I tell you they were dainty?
“I’m sorry you weren’t told I was coming.”
“Why should anything about this be easy?”
There was a pause. Everyone thinking his or her own thing. I broke the silence. Someone had to. At least I could try and find out what she knew about me.

“I had thought I was going to be charged for having my dog so I did some stupid things. Almost lost a friend.” I thought back over the last week. “Actually I’ve done a lot of stupid things” I looked down at my blistered hands “and now I’m paying for them.”
I rubbed my face and breathed in the smell of antiseptic and my own flesh. What a lovely smell. How it made me want to have more breakfast. Nope, not at all noxious.
“If it helps at all I really didn’t kill that girl.” Another pause. “Well not actively. The demon choose to kill her violently rather then let go. Should have thought about that. Too late now.”
I got to my feet and leant against the wall. I was feeling restless. I wanted to be somewhere else then stuck in my kitchen/sitting room with an attractive woman from an ancient prophetic clan. Hell bring back the wolves. At least I knew what to do with them. Damn, this was becoming more like a romantic comedy with a minute. Just had to have the crazy fat friend blunder in wearing a traffic cone and we’d be set.
When he failed to appear I continued.
“You know I would like to say every time I close my eyes I see her. That I feel a deep hatred of myself for allowing it to happen. But no. I just don’t. I regret she died and I regret I couldn’t save her. But I do not believe it was my fault.”
I laughed at my own self-involvement.
“Yeah, I’m a bad person. It’s likely it will mean the death of me. Who knows they may change tradition and not nail me into a coffin and throw me in the ocean?”

I moved back to the sofa and sat down away from Casey, head lowered. What a wonderful way to start a morning. Breakfast and a quick rehash of your failures.
“How old are you?” she asked me quietly.
I had to think. How sad is that?
“Twenty four.”
“Young.” Once again the tone was neutral. A statement.
“Compared to you or in general.” I was bracing for a whole “You humans are but fireflies compared to us elves, the great tortoise of the magical world” spiel. As you have probably already guessed, elves and me haven’t had the best relationship. Maybe it’s my need to ask “If humans go mad with loneliness if allowed to live for too long how are you managing to live for thousand of years?” The answer by the by is being double jointed.
Maybe she was aware of this when she simply shrugged and said “Both.”
Still I was unsure whether that was a good thing or not. I just wanted to go back to bed. Heal up before getting killed in a week.
“You were of the Einheriar though. Thought you’d have a better-” Casey stopped and began to dig a hole in the armrest with a finely polished fingernail. Clearly she had missed out nail polish on her list of “Things that make corruption easier”.
“Not a very good one. Got kicked out.”
“I didn’t think they did that. Yet here you sit.”
I wasn’t sure if I was being mocked. Most likely but that doesn’t matter when one is on a pity party.
“They don’t normally. I’m the one exception though. The Fallen One. The Fitcher.”
She stopped digging in so I took that as a wish for me to continue. (This is not a good way to work though kids. Make sure you have at least written consent first!)
“If you have someone’s name you have a power over them. So when we signed up we were given a new name. Well they took mine away when they kicked me out and named me Fitcher after the Fallen Wizard.”
“The Fallen?”
As much as I would have liked to bring up the whole story of the Fitcher Bird I really didn’t want to be getting that chummy yet.
“Oh. It’s basically Bluebeard but it involves eggs and women being dressed up like birds. It wasn’t a high point in our history.”
“You should tell me sometime.”
“If I don’t get killed I promise I’ll tell the story.” Win Win. The best of all the situations.

Casey got to her feet and stretched letting out strange clicking noises as she worked the various crooks out of her body. Of course you’d be sore if you were as old as her. How old I didn’t know but then again all elves claim to remember when your town was “naught but forest for our hunts and you lived in caves and huddled together in fear at our might.” She walked over to the kettle and poured the water into a mug. Pulling a small bag of herbs out of her pocket she dropped it into the mug. After shaking the mug, she took a sip and let out a delighted moan. This done she turned back to me.
“Do you have a shower?”
As if she hadn’t already sniffed all the shampoo bottles.
“First door on the right.”
She walked over to the table and handed me the post.
“Your mother says hello and are you coming home for Christmas?”
She turned out of the door calling over her shoulder. “I’ll help myself to towels.”
With that she was gone leaving me holding the letter looking at the familiar handwriting.

My mother? Christmas? I should have written to her and told her that I might get myself killed. She’d worry though and ask me if I wanted to move back in for a while. I smiled at the thought at my mum fighting off the forces of the Ein.
I was a bit of an anomaly in the family as I was one of the first to have any form of power. Well enough to be counted as a mage. My mother was of an old Irish family. It just turned out it’s the sort of old that was great for saying “Me ancestor fought alongside wit’ Finn Mc’Cul” but not “Oh you’re HIS great great great great great great grandson. Please come be taught how to teleport.”
My mother might be considered if not a Shrub at least a bush. I remember as a child, I fell down some stairs and cut my head open. My father was entertaining some dignitaries and I ran in, blood pouring down my face. Me mam picked me up in one sweep and took me into the kitchen. She washed me down, told me to be a big boy then touched my forehead. Like that the wound healed up. She sat down quickly and told me not to tell my father.
I wasn’t sure if my mother was a wizard or Jesus. What a fun complex to have.
My father really didn’t like the whole magic thing. I had been brought up as a good little Christian. Prayers before bed and grace before every meal. Grow up to be like my uncle and join the clergy. But I forgot all that when I found I can make things move with my mind and a dramatic pose. So I showed some friends that I was a Jedi. Next thing I knew I was before the headmaster and the chaplain wondering why no one seemed impressed by my powers. They seemed more worried about the possibility that I was going to throw up pea soup.
They started the whole “thou shall not suffer a witch to live”. Then I was a smart alec and said “No that was bad magic. The Israelites had their own magicians. It was just a bad translation which the Witchhunters twisted to their own uses to kill innocent women.”
And that was how I got expelled from my school.
I was housebound and was baptised at least three times over the year. The last time was when I was seventeen. As I hit the water I set myself on fire and started screaming “Satan is my master.” Well that was me out on my ear. I bummed around for a few months living on the money my mother had slipped into my hands before the security dragged me out of my home.

My father hasn’t talked to me for three years since I turned up on the front steps of my home. I had been crying and a portion of my left forearm had been burnt off with hot metal to destroy my mark of the Ein. I tried to tell him that the woman I loved was dead and it was my fault. I tried to tell him that I had been forced to let her die by my commanding officer and I had lost my temper. That the officer instead of letting me die had ruined me by letting me live and thus making me an outcast. The Fitcher.
My father didn’t say anything then closed the door on me.
Two years later I was being dangled upside down by an angry Greek mob boss promising to take care of his precious daughter.
And now a year later here I was. Still cut and bleeding and wanting my mother.

I found some rough paper and began to think of a letter.
Dear Mother.
It was nice to receive your letter of the 10th. I am keeping well. I was sorry I was unable to see you at the swimming pool as work at the magazine remains hectic and we need to prepare for the New Year.

Stop lying, I told myself. Explain there is no such magazine as Kraken. Tell her you will die. That this is the last time you will see her.
I will probably be unable to return for Christmas due to these commitments.
I had to say something.
I am sorry to say that I have got myself into some trouble.
No. She’d would want to help. I mentally started a new letter.
I have met a nice girl. Her name is Casey. She is a lawyer, red headed, has pointy ears, is dickty-squat years old, has strange beliefs on things such as property and she enjoys Chinese food.
Now I was being silly. Well since I was being stupid.
Dear Mum
Thought I would catch you up.
I’m a Private Detective. I have a three-headed dog and my work-partner has to wear dark glasses so she doesn’t kill me with her eyes.
I am at present recovering from beating a werewolf and the fact I ruined a young woman’s life by getting her killed. But don’t worry. It turns out she was a werecat all along. Now she has to deal with this huge life change all because I got involved.
Talking of guilt, my lack of skill got a small girl killed by a demon. Now the Ein- you do remember the Apotopaic Einheriar Clan don’t you? The one I had to join after I got in the fight and put a guy in a coma when I Forced into the wall? The one who kicked me out when I tried to kill Blackthorne? Anyway, they are most likely going to kill me for it.
So you might want to return the gifts you got me.
Sorry about all this
Hugs and kisses
Your son

With a sigh I threw it into the mental bin. As best I could I scrawled a quick note.

Cannot come back home due to work.
Will talk to you as soon as I can.

I paused. I had to be the bigger man.
Love to father.
I found and addressed the envelope. Getting up from the table I went to get my coat so I could post my letter.

Upon entering my room, I grabbed my coat and upon turning was confronted by a completely naked elf.
“Hi” she said brightly.
“Huh” I said. Because what does one say?
With a big smile (she never seemed to stop smiling or smirking. It had gone from annoying to scary) she held up two shirts. At least she was getting her own things out…I mean clothes. Her own clothes.
“Which is better?” she asked. Testing me. The good old “Look. I’m completely naked and unnaturally attractive. What do you do Bucko?” test. What larks.
I looked. “The green” I said and then left as fast as I could.

“So let me get this straight. You have the woman you work with, the sister of the girl who’s temping with you who happens to be a police officer, an American whose life you’ve ruined and now you have a mysterious beauty who appears to take pleasure in sending mixed messages?”
“In a nutshell.”
“You need more tea.”
Oh, and there is you- BadgerLookingTeaShopGirl. With your strange striped hair and small teeth. You give me caffeine and scones. Come away with me. On our wedding night we shall lie together and we shall whisper our true names in each other’s ears. You shall be BadgerLookingWife. We’ll grow old far away from the mess of town living and we shall have badger/polecat hybrid babies.
“Thank you.”
BLTSG or BeeElTeeEsGee for short got up from my table and went back behind the counter. I don’t know why I told her about me. She just had that face. Of course I cut out the whole supernatural side of it. That sort of thing was prone to make me sound more insane then normal.
I just sat there looking around the Tea Shop. There was an old lady who appeared to be trying not to look at the strange becoated man with his various bandages and bruised face while still eavesdropping. Just so she could tell her friends “You’ll never guess what I heard. That young man has woman trouble. Yes, I thought he was gay too!” Stupid old woman.
I have anger issues.

“Here you go sir.”
BLTSG put the teapot on the table and sat down again. After pouring herself a cup and adding sugar she began talking.
“You got anything planned for Christm- I mean the holidays?”
I shook my head.
“Quiet time. Not a big holiday person.” My father told me that everyday was a holiday since I was a child and if I wasn’t going to go to church I can stay in my room. My mother swears that he does love me really; he’s just got a strange way of showing it.
BLTSG took a noisy slurp of her tea. I would have thought she’d be sick of it working around the stuff.
“Now that’s sad. I love the holidays. Me and my girlfriend are going to visit her family in California.”
I resisted the temptation to ask if she looked like any form of animal. I thought beaver but then my common decency smacked my head into the table a few times shouting “RESPECT WOMEN AND THEIR CHOICES, YOU BASTARD!”
So I just smiled and said, “I hope it’s nice weather.”
My decency held my body up and whispered “Good boy. Now you be your charming self or I’ll be back” before letting me drop.
I have issues, period.

So we talked for a while. Nothing of any importance. Just talk. Our family. Christmas memories. The time she thought she heard Santa but it was just a snowshift.
It was nice. It was grounding. It took me away from myself a few minutes.

“So this is the infamous Tea Shop.”
We turned to see the entrance of the Oracle turned bodyguard Miss Cassandra Sibylline. She seemed to have found a warm coat and boots with her hair hidden by a bobble hat. When she shook the frost off, it jingled. This was either another test or maybe just bad taste.
Now in the shop, she took off her coat to reveal a woolly jumper. No reindeer, thank goodness.
She hung her coat over and then slipped into the chair between me and BLTSG. Settled she gently punched me in the shoulder.
“You ran away from me. Not getting the whole guest thing are you, Mr Fitcher. ”
I glared but she seemed immune. I was really getting tired of her.
“Fitcher?” BLTSG said raising an eyebrow.
My super secretive plan of just never learning names ruined I stuck my hand out.
“Sam Fitcher.”
She took it.
“Beaujolais?” Casey interjected.
Slightly put out, Bea murmured “Beatrice.”
I prefer Badger.

“He’s told me a lot about you.” Casey said.
Bea was giving me a interested look. I had to be going. I looked at my wrist.
“Would you look at that! I don’t have a watch. Come on Casey, let’s get a watch.”
We stood up.
“You have a good holiday.” I said as I put a handful of change down.
“Will do.” Bea nodded.
“Nice to meet you.” Casey called as I half pushed her out the door.

“She seemed nice.” Casey said.
She kept up with me as we walked away from the shop.
“Can. Can we stop for a moment?” she asked, stumbling slightly.
I ignored her as she kept in perfect stride with me as I hurried down the street. Stupid long legged elves.

With the speed granted by long legs we soon reached the building that held Fitcher Investigations above what we were told a defunct travel agents. When it came to the Mendozas you just nodded and ignored the cars pulling up late at night.
“So this is your workplace?” I gave the elf a fleeting glance. Her teeth were chattering and she appeared to be hopping. Granted I hadn’t given her time to put the coat back on but it wasn’t that cold. Then again I AM a manly man who laughs in the face of the cold. That and it was nicely numbing for my various wounds.
She finally looked annoyed.
“I live in a forest” she snapped.
“No winter in the woods?” I asked.
“Let’s just go inside.” I noticed that she was no longer producing little trails of heat vapour like she had on the way across. She seemed to be losing the power that had heated my flat. Interesting.
The temptation to lock the door was high. Let her freeze then see if she’d answer my questions. So I stood in the doorway.
Casey walked into me.
“Come on. Open the door.”
I kept my hand wrapped around the keys in my pocket.
“How did you get into my flat.”
She put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a little shove. I brushed her hand off.
“I want answers for once. How did you get into my flat?”
She looked around, the hopping quicker now.
“Look it’s really cold. I can’t manage the cold.”
“Stop whining.” I snapped surprising myself. “How did-“
Casey cut me off “I told your landlady I was your girlfriend and I was picking up a box I left. She opened the door then invented me in.” She tried to push past me. “Now please let me in.”
“Why is the Court protecting me?”
I pushed her back and she almost slipped. Her eyes were beginning to water.
“Why are you being so mean?”
I had to laugh. It was a cruel laugh. I was sickened yet didn’t stop. I needed answers and it seems I wasn’t worried how I was getting them.
“Mean. Did you just pout and call me mean? Santa Maria, you’re not fifteen.”

Like something snapped I watched her change. Gone was the hurt little girl. She rose to her full height and now I saw the beautiful fury of an elf who has been wronged. It’s the way of the Elves, beautiful and generous to her followers but do not suffer her wrath. For she can live forever without effort and if you’re unlucky so can you.
I just had to push didn’t I? As I braced myself, I thought of the rousing speech of Fredrick the Great to his troops as they fled from battle “You damned bastards, do you want to live forever?"

The street was completely silent. Slowly she smiled. This didn’t seem forced or put on. It wasn’t trying to make her trust her or want her body. No, she was telling me that she could kill me in thousands of different ways.
Her voice was quiet and low. She spoke slowly. No need to rush.
“Oh you think you’re so smart bullying the defenceless girl don’t you? Makes you feel like a man knowing I’m suffering. You think the only way you can get me to talk is if you show off and let me freeze.” She looked straight into my eyes. I tried my best to not look away. “Well you don’t impress me Marwood. ”
“What the hell did you call me?” I said slowly.
The smile grew bigger.
“Oh dear. You don’t like that name do you?” She was pacing slowly around the road. I could hear the frost slowly melt. She was slowly spending her power to scare me. It was working. I wanted to jump on her, to stop her. She was wrong yet more real then me. I took a breath. I couldn’t think like that. We still hadn’t broken eye contact.
She continued, her voice never growing louder. “You don’t like the fact that I know that little secret of yours. The man who had his name removed and was named Fallen. The man whose existence was wiped from history. But not from the Sibylline. We know every little thing about you Mr Fitcher or Mr Copperfield or whatever you want. We know the things you will do. The things you want. Do you know what you want Samuel? You don’t want to be left in the dark, you want to think that you are a man more sinned against then sinning. Yet you are standing in the way, perfectly willing to allow me to freeze to death then allow the world continue in a way that displeases you.”
“I am going to die.” I replied. I knew it was weak but it was true. It occurred to me I had pretty much admitted she was going to lose.
She stopped pacing. “So is everyone.”
I shook my head. She couldn’t have it both ways.
“You’re immortal.”
I blinked and then she was suddenly in front of me. We could kiss with little effort. But I needed my lips so I just looked away.
“How old do you think I am?” she whispered.
A steel fist in a velvet glove. I really don’t know when to just put my tails between my legs and grovel. I was probably learning more about myself in the last week then in the last twenty years.
“I don’t care.” I mumbled, looking to the road.
Her hand was frozen. I felt like my skin was peeling at the point where she grabbed my face and forced me to look her in the eyes.
She still spoke quietly but now it was a snarl.
“I’m forty. The baby of the Clan. I should be studying. I shouldn’t have seen the outside of the temple yet. But the Oracle says I need to be here. That you must not die yet. And if I have to break your legs and tie you up in a box I promise you I will.”
Her part done, her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she collapsed.
Quick as I could I pulled my coat off and wrapped it around her body. Grabbing the keys from my pocket I unlocked the front door.
She was too light, I thought as I picked her up in my arms.
“Well” my Common Decency whispered “was it worth it?” I, not for the first time, ignored my conscious and walked into the office.

“What Sam. What are you going to say? That the ends have justified the means? You needed to do it for the betterment of mankind? What?”
I was sitting in my office, the seating made into a knocked together bed. Casey was wrapped up in the blankets Cali had brought from her room. She was too still. Too cold. That commentary that ran through my life, those pithy little comments, had stopped. My mind was empty. I just sat there holding one frozen hand. Her skin was paler then usual. At least she was breathing.
“Talk to me Sam.”
My eyes were heavy but I looked up. Cali was sitting on my desk looking down on me like some judgemental bird. Just waiting to rip my kidneys out. I couldn’t look at her.
“I wanted” I had to swallow. My voice was hoarse. “All I did was not let her in. It’s not like I withheld insulin from her. I didn’t know.” Fifteen minutes tops in a chill and this had happened. She had been wearing a jumper. The commentary flickered into life to say “You have a habit of killing young woman don’t you?” before dying again. No, not dying. Don’t think of dying.
“You’re upset aren’t you?”
My eyes flicked up as I bared my teeth in a snarl. Cali shook her judgemental head.
“You really don’t know anything about elves do you?”
No because they are a race that thrives on not communicating. No, because I gave up on Lord of the Rings because they wouldn’t stop singing. No because I would not have thought my “protector” would be carried off by a December chill.
Cali let out a long breath and said one of the strangest things she had ever said to me.
“She’s hibernating.”
I blinked. I blinked again. I lifted Casey’s hand up. Then down. Then I shook it all around. I let it go and watched it hit her stomach. Then I blinked again. Finally getting my head around it, I turned back to Cali.
“Like a bear?” I said slowly.
“Yes Sam. Your friend is a bear.”
I looked back down at the unconscious woman. I suppose it’s like the fact that birds and insects shouldn’t really fly. It had no real explanation, you just accept the existence of these impossibilities as they smacked into your windows.
But a race shut down by cold? Uncontrollably forced to sleep? Granted she had blasted me with a round of “Look upon my wonders and despair” but still!
“She gets cold and her brain shuts down.”
“Pretty much.” Cali was taking the tone one does when explaining that the cows weren’t small, they were really far away.
“We’re more like wood nymphs but close enough” said the pile of blankets.
I leapt to my feet and pushed the blankets away. Her face was still pale but it had gained colour. She was smiling. This time I didn’t care. I smiled back. It was a wonderful neverending circle of smiles.
She coughed and then continued.
“Back when we guarded the trees, we slept when they did. Guess my body clock kicked in. At least you humans don’t have to worry about silver or sunlight.”
“We humans have a severe allergy to gravity.” Cali said.
Casey coughed once again.
“Can I have some coffee please?”
“Sure.” I said, getting to my feet only to be stopped by Casey’s hand on my wrist.
“I need to talk to you.”
Cali nodded and tactfully retreated. I sat back down.

We stayed in silence for a while.
“I am really sorry.”
Casey let out a small ‘hmm’ . She rolled on her side and I could see the force of Nature was back.
I leapt up knowing I needed to get out of the room. I began to shout to Cali as I reached for the chair to throw at the elf.
Like a snake, Casey sprang from her bed and smacked me hard in the face with the palm of her hand.
I felt the pain of the blow as my vision exploded in lights and then into darkness. I felt vertigo and my ears rang. My mouth felt like I had been eating wet grass . I smelt smoke. And that wasn’t ringing from the blow. That was bells being rung in short bursts.
But it was still dark.
All of sudden I felt a hand on the back of my coat and I was being dragged to my feet.
I was swung around as I got a moving look off dark sky and grass. Then a face appeared in my swirling vision. Still blurred I guessed male, brown hair, dark eyes. He was panting slightly and was tilting my head around, checking for something.

“I guess you’re going for a William the Conquer ‘I take this land’ motif. That or you’re just useless.” the man said amused with a Scottish accent.
Oh merciful heavens, no.
Shaking my head, everything swam back. His nose wasn’t broken and he was less scared but I knew this man.
“Blackthorne?” I croaked.
He flashed a smile and patted my cheek. “You remember me. You’ve got that and you’re fine. ”
With one last check over, he strode off, leaving me stunned.
I was aware of the bustle of people unpacking and moving things. Blackthorne was yelling at some box carriers. I turned to look at what had made me take a mud bath. My mount looked back at me curious.
Clearly I had fallen off a dragon. Of course. Yawning, it lay on it’s belly. Its giant yellow eye was as big as my head and yet I could tell it was checking me over. Maybe it was going to try for a nibble.

“I know it’s a nice dragon but you can spend as much time as you like making moon eyes at it after we’re done here.”
I almost screamed. She had managed to sneak up on me. But she always had that power.
“Yeah.” I felt her body next to mine.
Arnica. Jen. Young, innocent, doomed Jen. I didn’t want to look at her. I was starting to see what this was. Casey was right. I would be sorry.
“You look sad.”
I didn’t look up from the dragon as I spoke what I was thinking.
“I know our love is a doomed one.”
“Yes, but I’m sure the stablemaster will allow you time to cuddle up. If you ask nicely.” She glanced around quickly and then gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. She had to stand on tiptoes being nearly six inches shorter than me.
And like that, she was back to a professional, checking the tack of the dragon and stroking it’s nose. The creature purred under her hands and I remember that I had always thought she had one of the best commands of animals of anyone I knew.
Jen appeared to notice me watching her.
“The sooner I finish this, the sooner the two of you can plan your honeymoon.” She flicked a cloth at me. I smiled despite myself. She stuck her tounge out at me.
What I had thought was proved as I began walking with the crowd.
In the dawn light, I could a small town on a hill with a massive old ruined castle in the middle.
Ruritania. I was on the Ruritania mission.
Within twenty four hours, I will have try to kill my commanding officer. And Jen would be dead.
Oh boy.

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