Dance with the Devil

It is said that a good judge of a man is the quality of his enemies. If so, then I am very impressed with Madam Vedis, having discovered the identity of the gentleman in red that I observed while she and Maric were setting up the portal. On the other hand, given the identity of said gentleman, we could be in BIG trouble.

I was sitting in the main hall, revising my emergency procedures in light of Orie’s little outburst, and adding an ‘all-clear’ signal to indicate the end of any emergency. Maric sent me a mental message that Gwyn had disappeared from his view with Isabella. I was about to reply in a like fashion that I knew about this, but he was just coming down the stairs, so I reverted to more normal speech to tell him. I wasn’t able to explain further because we had a visitor, Madam Vedis. They were talking about their accidental visitor, and she referred to him as the Morning Star. It took me a couple of seconds to work it out, and then I realised that she did mean THE Morning Star, Lucifer, Old Nick himself! It was a good thing I wasn’t drinking at that moment; else I might have sputtered wine all over the place. I was impressed, not to say, aghast. I complimented Vedis on the quality of her enemies. So far as I could make out from what she was saying, he normally doesn’t get involved in the day to day affairs, so was her problem rather than ours. I think it is safe to say that I am quite relieved about that. Angels were bad enough, but going up against Old Nick? I think that is one fight I would rather sit out. She did say that Orie had managed to get himself noticed, though. I don’t know what he did or said, but the Morning Star wants his lips and vocal cords. After his stunt with the emergency bell, I would probably have helped, but he is one of our own. Fortunately, Vedis was sure it wouldn’t come to that.

Galyanna arrived and was admitted. She reported that Patch had completed his tasks, and then settled down into her usual posture of guarding and waiting. Maric clearly wanted to clarify a few matters regarding the accidental visitor and the security of the portal, but Vedis did not want to discuss it out in the open. Maric invited her into the private library behind the bookcase. I could tell he was worried about the various negotiations he had to deal with, so I mentally reminded him that he had once told me about out-manoeuvring the Roman Prelates. I think it cheered him somewhat as he made a joke about them being conniving bastards. Now all he had to deal with was the demons and the fae. With that, they retreated to the library.

As he was going, I sensed a disturbance below. I wasn’t sure if it was from Maric, or whether I was picking up the strange senses that the house seems to have. I mentally asked him if I should see to it and he agreed. He later told me that I should start to be able to sense what is going on in the castle. Galyanna had clearly noticed something too, as we both headed to the stairs. I barely realised that my senses seemed enhanced as I scanned the area. What it turned out to be was our recent fae visitor, Fate, who seemed to have snuck through the doors behind Galyanna and had been hiding at the bottom of the stairs. I greeted her and asked if she wanted anything. She pretended surprise, saying she had just been following the masked one and asked if this was my house.

Galyanna clearly assessed the situation as non-dangerous, patting me on the shoulder and saying I could probably handle this one. I patted her hand, or at least, the outside of her gauntlet and said I thought I could too, saying that Fate was another refugee from the London we had both known.

Galyanna returned to her waiting stance at the bottom of the stairs to the upper floors and settled down, almost motionless. I invited Fate to come and sit at the table, explaining that I lived in the castle sometimes, but it belonged to Lord Maric. I poured her some wine, asking if there was anything she wanted, and did she still require an introduction to the courts. She didn’t really respond to my first question, but did ask if there was an Unseelie Court in the land. Galyanna, despite her statue impersonation in the corner, responded, saying that there was, but there were battle-zones and other dangers involved in getting there, unless you were escorted. I nodded and said that there was indeed an Unseelie Court, as well as the Seelie Court, Cait Court and Sluagh Court. I told her about Faermorn and said that I could probably arrange an introduction in the near future.

Fate looked at the table and misinterpreted the plates there as indicating she had interrupted dinner. She made her apologies and started to leave. She was happy for me to point her at the Court, but did not think herself worthy of being introduced to the queen. That would be above her station. Before I could explain that she wasn’t interrupting and that she was unlikely to be considered too lowly, we were ourselves interrupted by the arrival of a rather excitable Gwyn, clearly in a hurry to tell me about something. I introduced her as a senior representative of the Seelie Court and asked her opinion on whether Faermorn would consider Fate beneath her. Gwyn was too excited to answer properly, but she generally didn’t think it would be a problem. She then thrust a rather strangely designed paper bag in my direction, telling me she had brought me a present. Fate took this as an excuse to make her way out, saying she was interrupting after all.

Gwyn was bouncing up and down like an excited child, talking about having been somewhere with Isabella and having found an artisan. She kept urging me to open the bag. It was an odd-looking bag, most unlike the sort of bags I would have been given when I used to go shopping. Something about me suggested that it came from a different time to the one I was used to. Inside was a rather lovely leather strap, fashioned into a cuff to be worn on the wrist, held together by some delightful fastenings fashioned in the shape of anchors. Given our recent discussion on the matter of anchors, I thought it a very thoughtful and lovely gift. I was dressed rather formally, for once, so, while I could wear it, it was somewhat hidden by the cuffs of my jacket. I thanked her and kissed her, promising I would wear clothes with smaller sleeves so the cuff could be properly seen.

Gwyn started to tell me that she had been on an adventure with Isabella, but then noticed Galyanna sitting by the stairs and wanted to know what was going on. Galyanna seemed somewhat amused and asked if the anchors were a reference to my past as a sailor. I hadn’t even thought of that, so I said yes, but there was a more personal meaning too. I explained to Gwyn that Maric and Vedis were in a meeting and Galyanna was doing her usual guard duty. Clearly, Gwyn had much more to tell me, so I made my excuses and took her off to the cottage, leaving Galyanna to do her duty. For all that I still did not know what was under that mask; I had fought beside her several times now, and trusted her. Besides, the castle guards were around, so nothing was likely to happen.

Gwyn told me later that she had been to see Isabella, had agreed to be anchored to her, much as I would have been anchored to Alec, had he not chosen to offer me my own anchor. She didn’t say if this had involved any blood exchange, which I was sure she would have mentioned, but it did seem to have something to do with the gem she now wore at her throat, one similar to the ones I had seen Alec and Isabella wearing. They had been to New York, and there was where she had found the anchor cuffs for me. I was sure that there was more, but, despite her excitement, she was tired, as was I, and so we retired to bed.

 

 And a salute to one of the late, greatest – Cozy Powell – Dance with the Devil

 

 

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