Song for Old Lovers*

It is always good to find old friends again. The peculiarities of the Nexus and the strange interconnectedness that it makes between all these realities have a habit of bringing old faces back from wherever. Two such came today, who were very welcome, but their arrival was a little embarrassing. Timing is everything, and today, the metronome was set to awkward. When you are out for a pleasant walk with your current young lady, you don’t really want to run into an old lover and somebody else with whom you had once had sexual dalliances.

Gwyn and I had decided we did not want to hang around the tavern, partly from a desire for a change and partly because the Rachel demon has a habit of turning up when not wanted. I liberated a bottle of wine and a couple of goblets from the tavern and we set out down the stairs, intending to park ourselves on the river bank for a while, most likely, somewhere near Val’s den in the case we needed to make a hurried exit to somewhere safe. Our plan, however, was slightly delayed.

As we reached the bottom of the steps, preparing to turn towards the bridge, I heard voices coming up the path; one male, one female, bickering in the way that only couples or siblings do. The female voice sounded strangely familiar, as did the figure when they came into view.  My jaw dropped, and I must have looked somewhat of a fool, standing there with my mouth open.  It was Giada, my friend, my one-time lover, my closest confidant back in the days before her brother stole her memory. I had not seen her since she disappeared from London shortly before it fell.  She did not seem overly surprised to see me, greeting me with a casual hello and saying I looked well. Before I could answer, there was another greeting, this time from the wearisome Rachel who emerged from the undergrowth.  She seemed to have already met Giada, but not her companion, who introduced himself as William Easton. Given that we had company, I was perhaps less than gracious in returning Rachel’s enquiry as to my health, causing her to start grumbling about having sacrificed herself to save us. I commented to Giada and William to ignore her, because she was irritated at being dead.  William replied that he had been dead for a long time, so he was used to it.  I guess that answers one question. He then returned to the matter which appeared to have been the subject of the bickering we had heard earlier, namely the need to find civilisation, since neither of them fared well in woodland. Before I could say anything, Gwyn jumped in with a predictably caustic comment about civilisation.

“You’re in the wrong fairyland if you’re looking for civilisation. This place is about as far from civilisation as you can get,” she said. “But, you know. If you find any, do let us know.” I chuckled and made introductions, then went on to explain how the area outside the castle was ruled by various fae factions, whereas the castle was ruled by an elder Brujah, adding that the only other kindred, other than me was a Ravnos. That did not appear to be to William’s taste at all, grumbling about what sort of place she had brought him to, so much so that Giada had to chide him about his prejudices. She then offered her hand to shake Gwyn’s and told her that any friend of mine was a friend of hers.  Gwyn shook Giada’s hand and reminded me of our mission.

“Pleased to meet you,” she replied. “We were just on our way to have a picnic. Or whatever it is when you bring wine and no sandwiches.”  I hadn’t even thought of that and apologised for forgetting that not everybody has my diet and offered to go back up to the castle to get something. I then pointed out to William that I, too, was a Brujah and hoped that this would not be a problem.  He grunted something and decided that the tavern was the place to be, and left, muttering about Giada joining him if she wished.  She apologised for his behaviour, explaining that he was hungry, and could be a complete ass when he was hungry, adding that not all Ventrue were asses, just him.  Well, that answered my next question. I advised her that the castle servants and guards were well aware of their master’s requirements and were usually cooperative in respect of feeding. Gwyn, with her usual subtlety, asked if they were related.  Giada replied that he was her husband, with a fairly significant pause either side of the word, adding that that was a story for another time.  I was intensely curious now, but, given the circumstances, did not want to enquire too deeply, not until I had the chance to explain to Gwyn about my former relationship with Giada. Instead, I offered my congratulations or commiserations, whichever were appropriate. I said we should catch up later, but for now, I had promised Gwyn a picnic.  She thanked me and, gathering her skirts, made her way up the castle path. Rachel, meanwhile, grumbling about lack of gratitude, and possibly, lack of attention, muttered something about the castle being civilised to have a tavern, but not an art gallery, and promptly stalked off back up the hill.

I took Gwyn’s hand and we started on down the track. Life, however, was not done with surprises or embarrassing circumstances, as another familiar figure stepped onto the path and greeted us. Grey-skinned, yet possessed of a fine figure. A face I had not seen since my days of hanging around Fiendish Pleasures.  For once, my memory did not fail me and I recalled the name.

“Ketl’Lyn!” I exclaimed. “Boy, the Nexus is really fucking about with me today.” I turned to Gwyn and explained that she was another refugee from the London I had known. Gwyn seemed somewhat bemused, grumbling, albeit light-heartedly, that she felt like a poor relation, not knowing anybody. Ket’Lyn explained that she had been to various other places before arriving here and then assured Gwyn that it was like that for her too, sometimes.  Then, she very helpfully added that I had only known her from work, but hoped that she was memorable for all that. It is perhaps fortunate that I can only blush if I really try hard, for I am sure I would have at that moment. Memories came flooding back of times I had spent with Ket’Lyn at Fiendish, including the very drunken night with Astrid and Ilyana, pretending to be pirates, when I had fallen asleep while being orally pleasured by Ket’Lyn. I did cough a bit in embarrassment and managed to turn it into a laugh. “How could I forget one of Fiendish Pleasures’ most charming hostesses?” I said, hoping that would satisfy her enquiry without giving too much away to Gwyn.  I really must explain that to her later, but now was not the time. Thinking of old friends, I told Ket’Lyn that both Vedis and Valene were here, thinking of people she would almost certainly know.  She told me she had seen Valene, but had not yet encountered Vedis, but knew she was around.  She then wished us a good picnic and headed up towards the castle.

Sometimes, I don’t give Gwyn enough credit, for she saw through my indirection, commenting that Fiendish Pleasures sounded like the name for a brothel.  I assured her that it was a higher-class establishment than that, but essentially, yes, adding that I mostly went there for the drinks and company, which was true, since I rarely made use of those services.  She did not seem overly concerned by this, but then, she does know of my past, so it shouldn’t be too much of a shock to her.

We took our leisure on the river bank near Valene’s den, just in case anything untoward occurred. It was a pleasant evening, chatting about nothing important, just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. We watched the little boat that is moored in the river near there, speculating as to its use, its adventures, and how far we might get if we decided to use it to escape this island.  The wine was soon gone, and mindful of the parlous nature of the outdoors, we returned to the castle.

* The incomparable  Jacques Brel…

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