FANDOM


By Adrian Simmons



I.

6/21/97

Banishment sucks. The city of Plano stands like a vast passive yin of Banality juxtapositioned to the raging yang of Glamour that is deep elum, the heart of Dallas night life. Indeed the grumps say that only the most foolish of changelings dare to risk their spirits within Plano�s cookie-cutter white bread, pasty thighed, TGI Friday�s sproutn� borders. And we? We are those fools! King Greyhawk in his supreme executive wisdom has allowed us the honor of searching, no spelunking this dark cave of Banality for any bright source of Glamour. Thus ends my first journal entry and our first day.

J.D. Sallinger- pooka

PS. I got to use the words Juxtapositioned and spelunking..+20 points!

"By Wotan One-Eye!! What the hell is he doing in there?" Borran boomed, his voice easily breaching the thin walls that separated the hotel rooms. Crepusca was jolted from her reading of their 10-hour old logbook at the sound of the bellow.

There was a harsh pounding on the bathroom door in the neighboring room as the troll tried again to gain access to the shower. "Get out of there goat-boy! My god, you�re going to use up all the hot water for the whole damn hotel!!"

Control freak. She thought

Crepusca drew her towel tighter around herself and made a quick entry into the journal.

6/22/97

A tip: Unless you�re there for carnal rutting never share a hotel room with a satyr. If fate dictates otherwise get up before they do.....scratch that, nobody 'gets up' before a satyr so the best you can hope for is to wake up before they do.

The pounding switched to the door that separated the two rooms. "Crepusca! Jay! Are you up yet?" The troll whispered like a belt sander through the door.

She flipped through her chimeric cards. Being a sluagh she found it was next to impossible to try to talk in most situations and her cards were one of the best investments of Glamour she had ever made. It wasn�t her idea originally, of course, she got it from Kit-Kat in HUDSON HAWK. She held the deck of black cards for a few moments thinking of what she would like it to say. She flipped the top card over. YES? it said in fancy gold cursive. She walked to the door and slipped the card under.

After a moment Borran continued. "Can I use your shower? Wonyovon won�t get out of ours."

She had moved right next to the door and opened it quickly and quietly pressing her face almost into the troll's chest. He jumped back at her sudden appearance.

"Surely you may. After Jay." She whispered pleased at the shock value her sudden presence and scanty towel clothing had provided.

Borran grunted his thanks and wandered back into his room to collect whatever hygienic materials a troll on the road thought necessary. Crepusca gave his room a quick look. Like the one she shared with the pooka it was smallish, with two beds and had the recently-re-decorated-hotel-room-look of blue walls and maroon trim. Unlike their room the troll�s chamber was immaculate. Both beds made so tight you could bounce a quarter off of them, as a matter of fact it looked like it hadn�t even been occupied.

I�ll have to leave a bigger mess for our Boggun. She decided. Catching sight of the diminutive Kithain as she rolled up her sleeping bag.

Crepusca drifted back into her room, avoiding eye conntact with the boggan since she knew that might lead to conversation. She did take care to un-tuck the sheets on her bed as she went. After a moment of consideration she worked her way under the bed. It was nice and cool and dark. She removed her towel and began the contortionist nightmare of putting on today�s clothes. She didn�t really have to do it this way, of course, there was the closet, or she could even close the door if she wanted privacy. No, this was more of an appearance related thing. Plano was a bad, bad place for changelings and everyone would be at his or her best (worst) aspects of their Kith to cope with the Banality that encroached upon their fae demeanors.

She heard a massive tread as Borran moved into her room.

"Crepusca?" There was an edge of nervousness in his voice.

Damn. Left my cards out....

She snaked an unnaturally long arm out from her hiding place and tossed her damp towel in the general direction of the voice. There was a mumbled apology (or maybe a curse- Borran easily did both) and he sat his massive bulk down on Jay�s bed.

At last her favorite leather vest settled to her frame finishing today's outfit and she wormed her way back into the open, careful to scatter dust bunnies out onto the too-clean floor.

Borran was shaking his head slowly, glaring occasionally back into his room. Waves of impatience pouring out from his meaty frame. This early in the day he was unadorned by the quilted leather and metal stud armor he usually wore. He wasn't nearly as broad as most of his Kith, more of the tall kind of troll, ungainly -like he was going through some kind of faerie puberty. He scratched his chin under his sparse beard as he waited.

She snapped up her cards from her bed.

SLEEP WELL?

"Humph! Who can sleep? He was up all night watching some sort of Midnight Exxtacy channel or some such crap. As if that bookbag full of smut wasn�t enough for him."

She thought about her response.

MASTURBATION = GLAMOUR??

That got a rumbling chuckle.

Abruptly the shower in her room quite followed by an impatient scratching at the bathroom door, which she politely opened. A soaking wet shorthaired tabby strutted out, stood at Borran�s feet and shook itself dry before slipping into the closet.

"Thank the Dreaming!" The troll muttered and taking his supplies and moving into the shower.

Crepusca sat down at the tiny fake-antiquish type table and plopped the log down. They had decided to take it in turns to keep the record, it provided a nice reference on their changeling beings, at least that was the assumption. It would also provide a record of their stay here, at least until they gave in to the overpowering Banality of this dead land. No Kithain had ever come out of banishment from Plano without succumbing to the Mists, and as optimistic as they were it seemed unlikely that they would be the first.

"Who the hell used up all the hot water?" Jay asked as he emerged from the closet looking every bit a male prostitute in his tight fitting shirt and hip-hugging bell-bottoms. He ran his hand through his still wet Euro-trash haircut, smoothed the tufts that came off his feline ears, and absentmindedly balled up a few stray hairs before popping them into his mouth.

Freak. She thought.

"Oh, by the way you left this in the bathroom." Jay added, his too-green eyes shining as he handed her a two foot long chimeric strand of inky, greasy hair. "Ewwwww."

An earth toned-blur came between them.

"Oh Goody!" Marthamish cooed, snatching at the follicle. "Two more of these and I�ll complete my Crepusca-hair charm bracelet!"

The boggan carefully stuffed the strand into a small box which disappeared into her voluminous handbag.

Neat-Freak. The sluagh thought

Crepusca didn�t like the idea of a boggan making anything out of any piece of her. She had heard that boggans made such things as gifts, or as means of driving their curses home to those who crossed them. The sluagh was not really worried, she had never gotten on Marthamish�s bad side and, in fact, wasn�t sure the wilder even HAD a bad side.

Probably something she picked up on Martha Stewart. She decided, suppressing a shudder.

The boggan began to pick up the room humming tunelessly to herself as she did so, Jay stretched out and made as if to fell asleep on his bed, Wonyovon was probably roughing up the suspect in the shower and Borran began a new round of swearing as the icy water hit his body. Crepusca, for her part, got to the business of keeping the log up to date.

Day two of our banishment to Plano. Already I�m sure that no Glamour could exist here. Ever. It isn�t just banal, it is funky butt-loving banal. Sort of like Pat Boon built his own city. If I didn�t have my Alice Cooper tapes to listen too every fifteen minutes to survive I�d kick this whole Kithain thing over.

The whole place seems so new. Not in a good way either. Not like a new school say, where the halls and classrooms wait to be filled with the dreams and shouts of children, a place like that is built with the idea of change and growth somewhere in mind. Not so in Plano. This was all built to stay. Taxes have something to do with it, it was too boring to really listen too but I think the property tax causes all of the houses to be built up and only have these token yards. I thought Marthamisch was going to cry when she saw what passed for a garden here. The grumps say that Plano became a place for the �beautiful� people during the mid eighties. They also say that a small group of sidhe who supposedly lived here hid their freehold when the Autumn People came. For a twist King Greyhawk has given us the honor of finding this supposed freehold. Actually, that is not the whole truth, chancellor Anaston dolled out the punishment and his majesty threw in the freehold search as a last minute idea. Clever man, the King. For my own part I chalk the idea of lost freeholds here as some kind of Kithain urban legend.

What wasn�t a legend was that no changeling in the last 20 years had come from Plano, at least none had gone through their Chrysalis here. Nobody had ever heard a dream dance emanating from within its borders either. Nor was it legend that the city of Plano Texas had the highest youth suicide rate in all of Concordia. Speculation ran rampant about a connection between the two facts. It hadn�t taken long for King Greyhawk and his courtiers to realize the potential in the mystery and danger of this place either and to discover that a Kithain who was trapped in Plano had the Dreaming pulled out of him within a matter of days. It was a bad, bad place.

She closed the log and dropped it into her handbag, there would be plenty of time for writing... with any luck one of them might even remember what they were writing about.

6/22/97, Lunch

We started off with a little cruise around the old downtown area hoping that it might have something to offer in the way of Glamour but instead it just gave us a glimpse of what will surely be our doom. How many antique shops can one city support? Of course they were all so well picked through that there wasn't enough dross there to fill a thimble. As to our 'objectives' Wonyovon and I get the honor of the gloomier business while the others get to look for any evidence of the sidhe.

This place is worse than I thought it would be. It looks like EVERYTHING was built at around the same time. Like the houses would look just fine as cancerous extensions of the various malls.

I�ll put down what I think while I can still remember it: I can see why Plano has the highest teen -suicide rate in the entire US. Conformity is god here and his high priest is appearance.


"Did you put the part about there not being any good restaurants here too?" Marhamisch said, breaking the sluagh's chain of thought.

Don�t start. Don�t even start. The oathmates would probably walk over hot coals for one another but to get them to agree on a place to eat took a special meeting of the Dream Parliament.

"I mean you can go to Chili�s, like in any other town, or Don Pablo�s, like any other town, or any of the national food chains that they have like in any other town."

"Look, I thought we-" Crepusca started

"Thank God for Hooters! Bind me with that national chain anytime!" Wonyovon broke in. Opening his arms to embrace the interior of the establishment. He rocked back and forth on his haunches his angular face turning quickly to catch a glimpse of some pretty young thing. He was dressed in typical satyr fashion, which was to say shirtless and shoeless with what appeared to be some kind of biker shorts hugging his goat-legs. His mortal seeming was a bit better, a light anorak-like thing over his wry frame while his legs stuck out of a pair of baggy jean shorts.

The oathmates glared at the satyr. Hooters was not the island of Glamour and creativity he had led them to believe. Maybe his satyr nature enabled him to harvest something from the ambient sexual tension that flooded the place but to the rest of the oathmates it was just another facade of an original idea with crude signs along the wall and half-assed titillation mixed in among the big-screens and beer adds.

"Great elephants!" Borran exclaimed. "That guy�s bringing his kids in here."

Crepusca made a quick entry.

Note: In Plano Hooters is a family establishment. My god, we are in hell.

It got worse as the lunchtime crowd grew. Kids, girlfriends, wives even were brought in. Plano, it appeared, was so banal as to render even bad taste palatable.

Midway through their joyless meal of �wings�, nachos, and oysters Crepusca casually stood. She tried very hard not to draw attention to herself.

"Are you going to the bathroom? Hold on I�ll go with you." Mathamisa said, reaching for her hand- made purse she hauled everywhere.

NO! The card was thrust angrily in the boggan�s face.

"My goodness! Sorry. I�ll, uh I guess I�ll just wait..okay..breath."

"Damn right you will you, you strange little creature! Can�t go to the bathroom by yourself!" Crepusca nearly shouted as she slunk away, sounding like she was trying to politely clear her throat. Why Marthamisch seemed to think that bodily functions were an occasion for some sort of female bonding she could never understand.

A sign indicated the rooms "dedicated to Dear John."

Fuck you.

Inside the stall she opened her velvet handbag. Crepusca kept all manner of things in her velvet bag, mostly other smaller velvet bags. And inside those bags? All types of things could be found. She found one that was black and marked with a red hourglass design. She opened it carefully, surrounded her fingers with a bit of Glamour, just enough so that mamma wouldn�t bite her and began to fish around for an egg sack. She found one that would do very well. Round and almost bursting at the seams. She popped it into her mouth urging a bit of Glamour into it.

Yeah, nice predictable place here Mortals. She thought.

Already Plano was having an effect on her, she needed an outlet for her unSeelie nature. It annoyed her that to most of the miserable mortals she had seen here this was as exciting as their lives got.

She waited until the bathroom was empty and made her way out of the stall and over to the hand-dryer. Checking again to make sure she wasn�t seen she spat the rapidly growing egg sack into her palm and with the skill of her kind slid her hand deep inside the machine, cackling to herself as she did so. She placed it right in front of the heating coils, just like she had been taught.

Patience. Patience like the spiders. Won�t be long now. Won�t be long.

Back outside she found Wonyovon making an ass of himself as he came on to one of the jiggley waitresses.

"- but really, I respect you for your mind too." he hammed.

"Aww, you�re so sweet." the girl replied, with about as much sincerity as a semi-proffessional undertaker.

"No, its true! You are the girl for me. Come with me to the Casba!"

"Aww, you�re so sweet." The girl replied.

Crepusca sat down calmly and gently yet firmly kicked the satyr above the hoof. The waitress, being well trained in such maneuvers took instant advantage of the distraction and turned quickly to somebody, anybody else to ask if they needed their drink filled.

"Enough nonsense." Borran grated. "What next?"

CHURCHES? She tossed the card onto the center of the table, snatching up one of the last remaining oysters she popped it into her mouth and gummed it a bit before swallowing.

"Amen to that sister!" Jay said. "Those are places of outstanding Glamour."

OLD

She flipped the card at his face. The newer churches all seemed to be molded after one of three basic designs and they were everywhere too. Just another little stage for the rich of Plano to show off their taste in clothes, new mates, and upstanding children.

"She has a point, I suppose." Borran said, mulling the idea over.

"Ah yes. Old churches with their repressed congregations and filthy, filthy little secrets." Wonyovon added eyes shamelessly lustful.

"But they�re so DUSTY." Marhamis said.

Like your brain?

"What about the police reports? Surely Wonyovon and Crepusca don�t need a lot of time to find out why all these suicides are taking place, and when they took place, and all that sort of technical stuff." the pooka chimed in.

"Jay has a point." the satyr said. "It will take some time to track down what we want to know." His face grew surprisingly solemn for a moment, "If we really want to know it."

"I�m against splitting up. We can�t afford to spread out too thin. Too few changelings have returned from this place that we should take unnecessary risks-" Borran started.

A scream to wake up the dead erupted from the ladies room. Followed by another, not quite as loud. A girl ran out sobbing and a few moments later an older woman stumbled out her face ashen and aghast. Her hands were so thick with black widows that it looked like she was wearing gloves.

Here it comes! Crepusca sponged off the fear, shock, and revulsion that erupted from the staff and patrons of the restaurant. Fifteen square yards of flesh simultaneously crawled and she could almost feel every inch of it.

"Bathroom is all yours." She whispered to Marthamisch, her own bizarre needs fulfilled.

The boggan looked at her disapprovingly and motioned for the nearest waitress.

"Check please."


6/22/97

Wonyovon and I set about our investigations of the abundant suicides this afternoon. I am still against the splitting up of our company, didn�t these people see ALIEN? Borran, Jay, and Marhamisch will continue to look for any evidence of sidhe. At least in this they took my advice and will start off in the few old churches around town. Maybe there�s hope for them yet.

I take that back. Borran was very unhappy with my actions at lunch today. BFD.

She looked out the car window. Almost there she thought closing the log.

If Crepusca had felt any remorse over her methods of sport she felt justified the moment they walked into the Plano Police Department. Policemen, she had learned, were the grunts of society, brutishly enforcing the status quo. It was good that she had what little fun she could before she got to close to them. Any imagination or drive they had tended to stem from sadism toward minorities or overall abuses of power. She had heard that some kith (mainly trolls) could reap Glamour from a cop or detective doing his job. She doubted any such individuals existed here. Her and her satyr companion were not just in a banal area, but very probably in the company of the Autumn People.

Once inside the hive of glass and concrete the receptionist glowered at them as only a large unhappy woman can. "Can I help you?" she grated eyeing them suspiciously.

"Yes ma�am." Wonyovon replied. "We�re doing a report on the teen suicide epidemic in Plano and were wondering if we could talk to someone knowledgeable in the subject."

Oh, hit a nerve! She thought as the woman's glower increased.

"Well that sort of thing is actually in the department of human services." she answered curtly.

"I�m afraid that I�ve already talked to the DHS" Wonyovon lied "and they have a few records of the more typical troubled/depressed type cases. We�re looking for why the fairly normal and happy kids are offing themselves. Seems like everyone should be just overjoyed at living here."

Her bureaucratic dodge having failed the chunky woman made a show of thinking. "Officer Taylor has been involved in some of those cases."

An uncomfortable silence followed.

"And, uh, would Officer Taylor be in today?" Wonyovon prodded.

"Young man, I don�t know what your expecting to find but if you want to dig up other people�s dirty laundry then go to the DHS. They�re the ones who make all the housecalls to those types of people."

Crepusca ignored the exchange and looked around the room. Even the dregs of Plano wore Tommy Hilfiger. Her unSeelie nature bristled at the thought of being held back by a fat mortal on a minor power trip. She glanced at Wonyovon, who was straining to maintain his friendly nature.

Dopey. Why don�t you just blank her mind or something? It was at times like this that she almost regretted her lifelong choice of study in the Soothsay Arts. She knew just a hint of affecting memories and perceptions, and not much about how to do it for mortals anyway. Maybe she could distract her with thoughts of food or something if she was willing to sit and listen to the fat toad�s life story first.

Wonyovon was much better at such things, he could make people he didn't even know think he was somebody they had never even met. Maybe he'd get mad enough to do it. Of course, getting off a successful cantrip in this place would be quite a feat. She amused herself by cracking her long knuckles one by one, enjoying the sound of their deep popping. From there she pulled on her wrists until they too popped. She then turned an ear back to the exchange.

"-listen love chunks, can you just page the man? That is your JOB isn�t it? Answering phones and paging people?" very little friendliness was left in his voice.

"Such a rude young man!" she snapped.

Another uncomfortable silence followed.

"If you want to see me waste my time fine!" the receptionist finally said, snatching up the phone.

"Detective Taylor, we�ve got two people out here who want to talk to you about suicide cases and I�ve tried to tell them that they should go to DHS but they still want to see you and-uh...oh...well...ye..yes..."

"He�s in office 135." the woman grunted. Somehow putting a �he doesn�t know what the hell he�s talking about.� inflection in her voice. The two changelings stumped down the hall. Crepusca tossed a chimeric card back toward the receptionist.

I�LL BLOW YOU A KISS ON

THE WAY OUT, BITCH.

Officer Taylor was a big man and a cop but helpful enough. They talked briefly with him about the situation here in Plano, hearing in his voice the undertow of someone saddled to solve a problem he had no control over and who had to be satisfied with keeping records on it. Eventually he showed them to those records, they were entombed in a massive gray file cabinet. Collecting some of the files they made their way to a small meeting room where they were allowed to research at their leisure.

6/22/97 Taking a break

Taking a break from reading about depression, death, and degeneracy. Lots of dirty little family secrets here. Abuse, incest, brutishness. So far nothing sticks out as anything other than weakling mortal children shortening their already finite existence. Of course we could tell a little more if we had diaries or notebooks or something. There are a good number of accusational suicide notes, usually accusing themselves of not being able to meet to the expectations of their parents, teachers, friends, and other enemies.

Of course we�d go faster if Wonyovon didn�t stop every five minutes to look through a well-thumbed Danish Pocket Pal full o� porn. I wonder if that sort of thing is illegal here?

Actually he�s doing a pretty good hob. It is grim business after all. She thought finishing her entry.

Indeed when the satyr wasn�t looking at filthy pictures of Scandinavian junkies (or so they looked to her) he was pouring over files and records with a shocking efficiency. One might even call it a passion.

"You know this won�t really do any good."she said closing the log.

"What?"

Dammit. She tossed out a card. THIS WON�T DO ANY GOOD.

He considered, pulling at his goatee as he thought. "Yeah...I didn�t want to mention it but...even if we could tell if any of these poor saps were fae we don�t have any sort of baseline do we? I guess we�d end up having to do the same thing in other cities to be sure...unless maybe the King has someone who can use a little magic...."

I THINK THE KING AND ANASTON

AND THE COURT WOULD LOVE

TO SEE US DOING THIS SORT OF THING

FOR A LONG TIME.

She gave him a toothless grin (not having any other really).

"Well.." he looked around for Borran in spite of himself but they were alone in the tiny meeting/break room, "this whole thing is really just a big waste of time."

DANGEROUS TOO....

Wonyovon chewed his lip. You know what I mean goat. Play along.

"This is a bad place for our kind..." he started.

NOT ONLY OUR KIND BUT THE SIDHE AS WELL.

JUST US COMMONERS. NO SIDHE AMONG OUR

OATHMATES. THEY WOULD HAVE NEVER DONE

THIS TO ONE THEIR OWN KITH.

It was an exaggeration, and she knew it, but as always with House Gwydion, the Sidhe rule the rest, and Gwydion rules the Sidhe. Between Greyhawk and Anaston the court was rapidly become a sidhe-only club.

She motioned for him to lean near. "This is no accident. King Greyhawk has long commoners in low regard, and chancellor Anaston is always there to ensure that the unruly among us get swift punishment. This isn�t a banishment or a quest, it's more of an execution. Anaston's hoping to drive us into Banality. No one has ever come back from here without falling into the Mists. A convenient thing for him no?"

They talked about it in low tones. Greyhawk was of house Gwydion and the disregard they had of non-sidhe was well known. Chancellor Anaston took it a step further than disregard and into the realm of all-but-open dislike. The trolls of the royal guard served him (and thus the King) as muscle, plain and simple.

It was a big mess, as the sidhe made of most things. Greyhawk was untouchable as far as the Dream Parliament was concerned, his shining record of keeping on speaking terms with the Nunnehi gave him a unique bargaining position. It was too bad he couldn't extend such courtesies and diplomacies to his western Kithain cousins, and in his own freehold it was apparent what he really thought of the commoners.

Borran had been a little too free with his criticism of his lord�s lack of honor, for such he regarded it in the stubborn way of trolls. Greyhawk's peace had a price, there were still war-parties roaming out from their hidden lairs, mostly in Oklahoma, and mostly against commoners. It did not sit well with him and his voice had gotten the better part of his judgement. When the whole mess had first surfaced it looked like he might be sent to the south to serve as a thane in Duke Topaz' forces, but that was before Anaston had stepped in. Always one to uphold the perceived honor of sidhe and Gwydion he went straight for the throat, straight for the sentence of banishment. Borran had learned the hard way that one must be careful what one says about Kings- especially your own.

Of course, as oathmates, they had been unwilling to let him trump off into danger alone and had anted up their own fae memories to accompany him. It had seemed like a good idea at the time...

WHO DO YOU THINK WILL GO FIRST? Being a sluagh meant you could ask the hard questions.


"It is hard to tell. Borran blames himself for all of this but the flame of his duty may hold him a while yet. This place is so clean that Marthamisch may well suffer the most."

For all her annoying habits Crepusca found the boggan to be worthwhile company and she had no desire to see her slip into Banality. Slip on a rotten banana peel maybe, but not lose her fairie self. A large police officer lumbered in to use the sink to rinse out one of the dozens of coffee pots that surely riseded in the station and they turned their attention back to the troubles of others and resumed their delving into the files.


6/22/97

Dennys. We are having tonight�s repast at a Denny�s. For any who doubt the Banality of this accursed place that should tell you how it is. This is as close to a place of uniqueness we can find. Of course the recent shotgun massacre at a Denny�s in Florida has got everyone a little nervous. Even the crystel-meth long haul truckers look like they can�t wait to get out of here.

Today we have had zero success. Wonyovon and I found lots of unpleasantness but no clear cut sign of any changeling suicides. Borran, Jay, and the boggan found little better in the few old churches and antique shops they found. Some of the churches have a little character, maybe even a little Glamour of their own. We may have to spend time there as the week continues.

Out of the frying pan into the fire.

The resteraunt wasn�t part of the hotel, but it did have the same kind of internal decor- blue on maroon with ferns and ivy placed in predictable and none-threatening locations. The companions tried their best to overcome their banal surroundings.

"Okay Borran, here she comes! Remember not to laugh!" Jay whispered, his tail making a quick appearance as he shook it back and forth in his excitement.

A middle-aged woman drifted to their table as Crepusca passed the log to Marthamisch, signaling her turn to be scribe for the next day. "Ya�ll know what you want yet?" the waitress asked, sounding almost sincere.

Borran folded his menu and passed it to her, his face set as if in stone. "Bring me the Moons Over My Hammy." Jay snickered and Marthamisc twittered quietly.

"Um..I�ll take the Moons Over My (snicker) Ham (ha!) Hammy (snicker)." Jay ordered.

"Two moons, next?"

"I�d like the Ranch Burger." Marthamisch said.

"I�ll take the deluxe nachos." The satyr ordered.

"Right, and you miss?"

"A chocolate shake please."

"Beg pardon?" the waitress said, cocking her head.

Oh� for the love of god! "A CHOCOLATE SHAKE!!! PLEASE!!" the sluagh tried again screaming almost to talking level.

Always the health conscious one Marthamisch jumped in. "Is that all you�re having?"

"Perhaps its a sluagh diet, a shake for lunch, for dinner a shake, and around midnight you split open somebody�s head and feast on the squishy goo inside!" Jay chimed.

ACTUALLY WE JUST EAT KITTENS.

BUT IN A PINCH A CAT WILL SUFFICE. Crepusca jabbed the card across the table into his face.

"Right, okay." The waitress said, ignoring her customers bizarre antics. "So that�s two moons, a ranch burger, nachos deluxe, and a shake. Anything else?"

Heads nodded around the table until the oathmates eyed Crepusca who motioned the waitress away with an impatient gesture.

As they waited an odd silence fell on the oathmates. Finally Marthamisch ventured into the verbal void.

"This is about that feast last Carnival isn�t it?" She said apologetically.

Well duh. "Don�t worry about it." Crepusca replied.

"We don�t worry. Heck an all liquid diet probably has lots and lots and lots of the nutritional value that you need on a dangerous quest." Jay said, laughing in spite of himself.

"Jay!" Borran snapped, smoothing his tone he continued. "Crepusca you don�t have to do this. We�re your friends and" his voice dropped to a menacing grate "and those sidhe are a long way off."

trolls, always too little to late...

IT ISN�T A PROBLEM. She carded in response.

"We all have to be understanding about, uh, aspects of our Kithain identities." Marthamisch continued in that too-understanding tone of hers.

"Yeah. What�s a little sluagh spit compared to THIS!" Exclaimed Jay to the aghast group before coughing up a monster hairball out on the table.

The company was shocked into silence.

"Ugh. Bleh! See? Everybody is completely sympathetic to our idiosyncrasies." The pooka continued wrapping the hairy mess daintily in a napkin.

I wonder if Marthamisch has a charm bracelet made of those? Crepusca thought before she could stop herself.

There were many reasons that the sluagh preferred solitude. One of them was the fact that although their mortal bodies had teeth their fae bodies did not. This led to unbelievable awkwardness when eating solid food, whether real or chimerical, cumulating in a tendency for the one seeming or the other to drool. She had made the mistake of having one drink too many and wandering away from the traditional sluagh jello treats at the last Carnival celebration. Borran had seen what was happening but not before the sidhe childlings (and even a few of the more malicious wilders) had started their staring, pointing and taunting. The other sluagh had dutifully come to her defense but it was only a facade, in spite of what others may think the sluagh had their own slippery dignity and she had let it drop if only for a few moments.

It was an evil memory, mocked by her �betters� and glowered and whispered at by her �equals�. It was a mistake she had no desire to make a second time.

They were looking at her expectantly with their oh-so saintly eyes. Especially Marthamisch. She had a face that was built for saintly looks; roundish with a pointy little chin, framed by her not quite shoulder length hair. A face, like the diminutive body that always threatened to gain a lot of weight real quick one day. Her extraneous bushy eyebrows were raised in that condescending way she had. And the clothes! God how she tired of Marthamisch's nonstop barrage of hand-made clothing! How many shades of browns and tans could one person wear by all the gods? And always the waiting for some way to be oh-so concerned, and oh-please-cry-on-my-shoulder! Bah! She would have none of it, she was sluagh, a knower of unpleasant things and confronter of unpleasant truths. She reached into her small purse and pulled out a set of real index cards and a pen.

There was an unpleasant silence at the table, perhaps they thought her too angry to use her chimerical cards.

"What are you doing Crepusca?" Wonyovon finally asked.

"Oh, you�ll see. You�ll see." she whispered to their straining ears. She worked quickly to get the conversation off of her.

One card for each, my friends, a little reminder of what could befall the unwary in this god-awful place. The sluagh know their names and their families old jobs and addresses, oh I know.

Five cards done she hesitated... then on the sixth carefully scripted:

Crepusca

Brenda Jo Elliot

Occupation: Veterinary Lab Tech. @ Grace Hills Pet Hospital (Dr. Parks, 214-246-8834)

Your address is 312 Rosewood Lane

Apt 1025

Dallas, TX Phone # 214-241-6814

Mother: Zelma Louis Elliot

  1. 145 County road 284

Woodward County

Woodward Oklahoma.

Phone: 918-218-4542

Brother: Robert Cecil Elliot

Phone: 405-364-3408 (Ardmore Oklahoma)

The pen rolled the letters and numbers out in her best on-the-fly calligraphy. She dwelt for a moment on the irony that a place she had long escaped from might be the only safe haven she had if the Mists overtook her.

Folding her card quickly she tucked it into her purse, pushing the memories of her mortal life with it. To each of her companions she gave a similar card. Surprise and anger, blended in measure registered on each of their faces.

"What is this?" Borran demanded.

COME COME. OR WOULD YOU RATHER RISK

WANDERING WITHOUT A HINT OF HOME OR

SAFETY WHEN THE MISTS COME FOR YOU?

It was true and they all knew it, even Borran fell into a gloomy silence as he realized that inevitably someone would slip. It would be an unpleasant situation, they could probably pull one back with shared Glamour. What of the next? Or the next?

AT LEAST THIS WAY THOSE THAT

ARE LOST HAVE A WAY TO GET

BACK HOME, A WAY FOR ANY

WHO REMAIN TO FIND THEM.

Like so many other things in a Changeling�s life the Mists were unpredictable, sometimes they merely took the fae memory but often they extended their grasp further and those unfortunate Kithain might forget parts of their mortal lives as well. It could be a shock, to find oneself in a strange place with no clear memory of why one is there. Eventually the mind would make something plausible up, some nice banal excuse.

After a moment Borran added. "Only one of us has to come out to succeed. Only one has to get back to the King and our... sentence will be served. His duty is clear, the Escheat is clear. If one can stand then Greyhawk must make an attempt to retrieve the others." His voice did not have the confidence he hoped to convey.

It was not a good thing to be on the bad side of a King, no little baron or duke but the big �K�. Ordinarily the Escheat entitled a Kithain to some assistance from her fellows in recovering their lost identity, but the oathmates had been denied that luxury. Such was the doom they had been served, anyone offering them aid did so against the wishes of chancellor Anaston and the King, and risked not only their day-to-day political wrath but any magical repercussions they might wish to thrown in as well.

It was the magical repercussions that held them to their task... breaking one of Anaston's geasa almost always resulted in something very, very bad happening to the violator, and with the King's blessing the Chancellor had really dropped the hammer on them. Death was hanging over their heads here- chimerical death at least. Wonderfully clever their King's man was- they were most likely damned if they stayed and definitely damned if they left.

Their food arrived and they ate in silence.

6/23/97 7:30am

Well, the hotel staff should learn a thing or two about how to really clean a room. Since it is our port in the storm I�ve taken great care to keep it in ship-shape condition. Borran and Crepusca got into an argument last night after dinner. She said she wanted to go �walking around� Borran jumped all over her about the dangers of traveling alone.

Today�s plan is the same, two teams Borran, Jay, and I will be searching the parks today for anything of interest, Jay even suggested we might go to a landfill of all places! Parks, old houses, and the old railroad station that�s our agenda. After that I have no idea where to look. From my firsthand experience of Plano I doubt if there is any hidden freehold of the sidhe here. I don�t think there is ANYTHING fae here at all.

Crepusca and Wonyovon will working be on the �suicide solution� as the she likes to call it. Dreadful business that. Dreadful.

Crepusca gave us all little cards that have information on our mortal lives in case we slip into our mortal seemings and nobody�s around to help. I�m glad none of us are 100s of years old or anything. Borran gave me and Wonyovon his extra truck keys, Wonyovon is supposed to make extra copies of his car keys to distribute to us too. It may come in handy, it may not.

Marthamisch (boggan) Chronicler for Today.

It was day two and already Crepusca was fingering phone booths. It was, she knew, a futile search, but after two nights she could feel her hold on her fae identity eroding. Suddenly futility seemed a lot more appealing than the alternative.

She glanced around the Plano police station keeping an eye out for Officer Maxwell. She had felt it in her marrow as he passed by, a prickly sensation on the nape of her neck and the sudden unpleasant feeling of deja vu. He was an autumn person, they were in a very touchy situation. They kept to themsevles in their little room all morning, finally fatigue and biology demanded they take a break.

Wonyovon was in the men�s room and Crepusca finally found herself alone with a row of public phones. One by one she checked them, to a mortal it appeared a strange young woman looking for spare change while in fact her long sluagh finger was sliding deep inside the machine searching for an unlikely clue. All she could reach proved fruitless.

I�m going to have to find some time to myself. She thought. The buddy system was a good idea but to do what she wanted she needed time and solitude.

Perhaps I can blame it on my kith. She thought, knowing it was not too far from the truth. sluagh enjoyed their solitude, indeed she could play it up if it came to that.

Her search over she hung around listening to the hushed conversations around her. It had been a long morning, pouring through thick files of useless bric-a-brac trying to find solutions to a problem that didn�t really exist.

One more reading spree, one more break like this, then lunch... She leaned against the wall and rested her eyes for a moment. She opened them in time to notice officer Maxwell leverage his sizable bulk out of his chair and wander through the cubicles, she tracked his movements and offhandedly distanced herself as far from him as possible, trying not to draw attention to herself.

With a start she noticed that he went into the men�s room.

Oh no! NO!

She took a step forward and stopped.

Wait. Yes, patience. Wait, Wonyovon may realize his peril, satyrs are quick that way.

A minute passed followed slowly and uncomfortably its fellows, and like a column of refugees the minutes marched passed the slowest stragglers taking the last spaces.

Her mind revolved around what would happen, what could happen. The Autumn People were no joking matter to her kind, but this was an autumn person amok in his own element. A dangerous foe for her satyr companion.

If he forgets then what? What if I can�t get him back? He�s got the keys..he could leave me here..or ask questions of the cops....which would lead them back to me!

The vision of the Wonyovon stumbling in a daze in the police department swarmed her mind. They would ask him what was wrong, the fat old bag at the reception counter would point her out, with relish no doubt. They�d have questions, they�d close on her, Maxwell or one of the others. It would be back to that miserable farm...

Leave him!

Her feet moved spurred by the thought and driven by the adrenaline, striving toward the great double glass doors. She was justified in her actions. One had to get away to tell the rest.

Abandonment, the word stuck in her thoughts. The sluagh had their own slippery pride and words (and nightmares) for those who let it falter. She stopped and collected herself. She didn't have a car, and she had no place to really go. Breathing deeply she paced before the doors. This was not something Borran or even Marthamisch would do. Would Alice Cooper leave his companions behind?

Well, yes actually. At least he had been abandoned in a drunken haze by his band members in New York City. She doubted Wonyovon would be lucky enough to pay for a pimp's cab fare, be mistaken for a transsexual prostitute, then get a blowjob and a free cab back to his hotel out of the deal.

�Be patient, like the spiders.� Buggsy, her old mentor had told her. �Weave, watch, and wait and above all be patient!� she could remember his words in a raspy whisper. She let her memories of her childling days build a careful barrier between herself and the disbelief that in the span of a few minutes had become so threatening.

The spiders under the house, their shapes and scuttlings. She had spent hours, days maybe under the foundation learning about the spiders, about what they saw through the cracks in the floorboards, about where the dead puppies go....

The bathroom door opened and Wonyovon came out, still a satyr, but utterly bewildered looking.

Spiders either go after what�s in their web or flee from it one or the other. She walked quickly to Wonyovon, his eyes met her with no trace of recognition. She stood right in front of him, all but catching him by the arm to stop him. He stood unsteadily on his feet as she reached deep inside herself to the very heart of her fae self, like stiff clay she worked a piece of her Glamour loose and forced it down her arms and through her long fingers.

The risk was great, if Maxwell came out when she tried this it would be for naught and they might both be lost. Wonyovon looked like he might push past her before the Glamour burst from her fingers in a brilliant chimeric flash. The flash caught his attention before she pushed her hand against his arm.

That's a good sign at least, he's not too far-gone.

A look of recognition shone in his eyes. "Come quick!" she hissed nearly dragging him out. Whatever else he knew he remembered enough to follow without question.

6/23/97 -7:43pm

Nothing. The Parks here are so clean that they almost approach sterile. It is like some sort of sickness. There they lay symmetric, manicured, with all the modern safety oriented playground equipment and it is all empty. Unused, the few children that are there are listless, whiling away the time comparing designer clothes like they learned from their parents, waiting to get back to their Super Nintendos. Two older parks had nothing more to offer. A little less planned, but so tightly mowed and weeded, like a painting someone has tried to alter but can�t quite cover the original picture.

Houses were no better, the older houses in Plano are large but still not what we�d hoped to find. The owners resentment of the newer buildings pours from them. The railroad station was a bit better, graffiti from Plano�s wanna-be gangs, a few empty heroin capsules and some beer bottles from teenage booze fests. I never thought I�d see such a mess and think it a sign of creativity.

We�ve had two close encounters so far. Wonyovon got caught by one of the Autumn people and all-but forgot himself (so says our sluagh). He�s very upset about it. Poor dear, satyrs have so much trouble admitting that they can have weakness. I got accosted by one of the AP myself this afternoon. A real-estate agent. Came up to me at one of the old houses and without so much as a by-your-leave started his spiel.

Wonyovon and Crepusca have decided that their research is over and concluded unsuccessfully. They tried to get a look at some of the actual artifacts from the suicide scenes but the cops wouldn�t let them and they felt their welcome had been worn out. After the situation with Wonyovon they abandoned the area.

Borran has decided that we must stay together as much as possible and interact with the denizens of Plano as little as possible. To this end Crepusca and I have been dispatched to the grocery store to buy food stocks for four days.

Marthamisch (boggan)

"I think that Borran might have slipped a little today." the boggan said, not being able to contain herself any longer.

"Really?" Crepusca whispered stopping the cart by an immaculate open cooler of apples.

"Oh it was so scary! Whoa, breath." Marthamisch said, putting her hand on her chest.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Between the car and the fruit isle she had heard two accounts of the boggan�s encounter with the Autumn people and was more than willing to change the subject.

Marthamisch�s fingers deftly searched through the apples and oranges as she talked.

"Well it was lunchtime and we had decided that we�d get something to go and take it to the next park for a picnic. Jay and Borran were bandying back and forth between fast food, which is banal but fast, and grabbing a bunch of fruit and stuff from the store. Well Jay isn�t overly fond of fruits and vegetables and he was giving Borran a hard time about it and I mentioned, as a joke only, that we could go to a Zio�s that we were driving past. It was only a joke! You know how horridly FAKE those places are don�t you?"

"Yes, I�ve often-"

"Anyway so I said �Look a Zio�s! Why I�ll bet they moved all of those bricks from a small Italian villa just for us! Let�s eat there!� you know just to break the tension and Borran lit off like a Roman candle!"

"Did he rea-"

"�Damn those places!� he roared, roared mind you, you know how he does. In a car even! Well, a truck, but the effect was devastating. "Hell I ought to bash through all those fake plaster bricks and facade columns!� he went on."

"You�re not even listening to me are you?" Not that that was such a difficult thing.

"I�d smash their tables and their gas-fired oven and the bricks and the walls and those bottles full of fake shit and all the plastic crap!� Jay had this scared look in his eyes and Borran was shaking the steering wheel so hard I though he was gonna break it off! �Whoa, easy big fella, breathe!� I said but he didn�t even slow down, �Then I�d smash their damn fool heads!� he went on."

"You are a wonder Marthamisch, haven�t even turned around to see if I�m moving my lips have you?" the sluagh whispered while she considered pinching the boggan to get her attention. She knew she wouldn�t do it, her companions antics provided an amusing diversion to what was, in fact, a fairly frightening tale.

"� They would see strength and power like none in their bland little dreams! I need some damn air!� he went on and then, then he smashed through his driver�s side window with his elbow!" The boggan bagged the apples and oranges she had selected. Turning quick to keep Crepusca at her back as she loaded them onto the cart.

"I didn�t put it in the log of course." she continued haltingly . "After all if-f-f none of us make that�s all anybody will ever hav-ve to go on isn�t it? No use pointing out moments of weakness-s in ea- each other is it-t, oathmates t-til the end isn�t it"

Marthamisch�s head dropped and her shoulder�s started shaking ever so slightly.

Uh oh. Crepusca thought, emotional expression being a difficult thing for the sluagh. Still, she supposed, a troll on the rant would be a terrible thing, especially when it was driving.

"By the Dusty Hallways I was scared." The boggan whispered, more to the apples than Crepusca, her voice having steadied a bit. "He was so angry, I thought he might do those things he talked about. I was afraid he�d drive right into the place, like another Denny�s massacre. Then I thought he was being taken by the Mists. What if he couldn�t remember us? We�d be stuck or if he tried to drive out of the city and we couldn�t get out? Or he crashed or got violent. Jay actually hissed at him."

The boggan looked at their small provisions then turned her head up, her eyes stinging red and her lip trembling. She was far, far away within herself that no amount of spit and polish could get them out of this situation.

What do I do? Pat on the shoulder? Tussle her hair? Hugs? WHAT?!! Crepusca hesitated, reached out an arm and held back still unsure how to express her sympathy. Finally she pinched the boggan hard on the back of the arm.

"Ow! Oh, oh but I�m carrying on like a frightened childling!" Marthamisch said, bustling around the cart, trying to recover from her fear. "And so much yet to buy! Where has our list gotten off to?"

TRAIL MIX FOR THE TROLL AND LOTS OF RANCH

STYLE BEANS. FOR ME I�LL NEED PROCESSED MEAT

AND PUDDING. LOTS OF PUDDING.

A brief smile crossed the boggan�s face.

The pair waited patiently at the check out line, Marthamisch read a copy of the National Inquirer until a sudden insistent elbow poked her in the ribs.

"We�ve got one who can see us." Crepusca whispered nodding toward a young boy in the next lane starring wide-eyed at the pair of Kithain, his grip on his mother�s hand all but forgotten. The woman was chattering away inanely on a cellular phone, loud enough to let everyone know she had one and yes, she was so important that she had to use it while shopping.

"Wow! That�s a sight for sore eyes. Maybe there is hope yet for these folks." The boggan said, her mood improving greatly.

"Perhaps so." Crepusca answered, pleased with herself for pointing him out.

Marthamisch pulled on her brushy eyebrows and Crepusca made a show of pulling her fingers back to touch the backs of her hand as the boy gawked at their antics.

"Evan! Don�t stare !" The mother snapped suddenly, not breaking her conversational stride. She gave the two changelings a reproachful look for encouraging her son and then did her best to ignore them.

The lines moved on and a wall of tabloids, candy, batteries, and other highly likely �last minute� items separated them from their sport. As they paid for their goods Crepusca saw the boy peer out from behind the far end of the cash register restraining wall. She looked at the boy standing amazed and then turned her gaze to his mother, juggling the phone, her check card and her purse. She took a few cautious steps forward.

"Hello Evan, do you like my tattoo?" she did her best to loom over him as she pointed out the tattoo in the crux of her left elbow.

"It�s a sun, see?" she said, outlining the stylized sol symbol with her long fingers. "You know what the best part is Evan? The best part is if I do this-" she straightened her arm, pulling down on the wrist until her elbow slipped out of joint and folded back on itself. "-it turns into a comet!" she smiled toothlessly at him as he gaped at her backwards arm.

�Mommmm!!"

II.

6/23/97 10:30pm

Borran is still something of a country boy at heart. We got back and he went to his truck and got out his camping stove and proceeded to make something he said was �like Indian tacos only with pita bread since we can�t fry any of our own.�

Quote of the day (thanks to Jay) �Baby you need an Indian taco and I�ve got the food stamps to make it happen!�

2cnd place (Crepusca) �I�m so bored I might as well be watching Jefferson in Paris.�

Crepusca wanted to go out and �enjoy the night air� by herself but Borran wouldn�t have it. Solitude�s too risky on this trip. They went back and forth for quite a while before Crepusca finally consented to stay.


Marthamisch (boggan)

III.

Crepusca�s fantasy about the pooka went like this: Jay would hop up on her, in cat form of course, as he was wont to do. He�d curl up in a ball in the hollow of her hip as he often did and then proceed to purr. Sometimes he could purr so hard she could feel it all the way through her body, a pulsating rhythm of contentment. That was the sort of purr he�d do. She would reach down and stroke his fur and scratch him behind the ears. This would go on for long minutes in the pitch blackness of their room, then finally he�d change. Slowly growing bigger and heavier, gradually spreading out to lie on top of her. Somehow he still had his long cat whiskers and he would feel out her face with them before kissing her, first her cheek , then her mouth, then her neck. Somehow he would know that she didn�t want to do all of the sexual acrobatics sluagh are rumored to do, oh no, in her fantasy he did all the work. Even her hands, he�d know all about how to treat her hands.

She dragged herself from her slumber and found that at least part of her scenario was true. Jay was in cat form and was standing on her belly. Instead of a purr he was letting out long yowels that grated on her sensitive hearing. Groggily she turned to the clock.

"Four fifty five? Great elephants!" she muttered. "What do you want?" she asked as she let her eyes accustom themselves to the dark.

Jay leapt from the bed and tore back and forth across the floor in a claws out run stopping by the door to emit another pathetic wail.

The oathmates had learned to respect Jay�s superior senses while in animal form after the near-ambush by the Houston Ogre and his redcap underlings. Dragging herself out of the nice bed she had invested so much time and energy into warming up she crossed to the door. She had no idea what could be out there that held his attention so.

Someone in danger? A spy sent by the King? Aid from one of his rivals? Not a dauntin surely?

"Jay has great instincts, if he says I should let him out I believe him." she said over his yowling, playing fast �n loose with a quote from Naked Lunch.

She opened the door cautiously, ready for whatever might lie beyond. Jay slipped out and padded into the pre-dawn light.

"...or maybe just secret feline stuff?" she muttered. Secret feline stuff was Jay's explanation for his often-inexplicable behavior.

"While the cat�s away the sluagh can play!" she said suddenly, looking out the door. Now was her chance to conduct her search. She slipped into her clothes and wrote Jay a quick note:

JAY- GOTTA RUN. SECRET SLOUGH STUFF. BACK BY 6:00AM. DON�T TELL BORRAN.

She left the note on the floor just inside the door (which she left ever so-slightly propped open for her keyless pooka friend) and set out.

Crepuscular. A rare and wonderful word meaning active at dawn and dusk. Buggsy first used the term when they were sneaking around by old man Sojan�s barn listening to the owls there. She liked owls, she liked their crepuscular habits so much she had picked it for her new fae name. She moved through the early morning of Plano enjoying the unobtrusive light and the feeling that the world stood between sleeping and waking and Banality was banished to whatever uninteresting place from whence it had come.

Maybe it goes to the same place the Family Circus comes from. She thought happily.

She didn�t need a car to make her rounds. Common places, that was where you looked. Bus stops, stadiums, museums, lone truck stops on long stretches of road, the one all-night diner in town, the best and worst hotels. She had long had her list of potential places to search and now had the opportunity to do so.

She quickly went about her secret sluagh business and only as she returned in the almost too bright dawn and noticed that her door was still slightly ajar and the note was untouched did she feel a gnawing fear.

6/24/97

We lost Jay to the Mists early this morning. He was in cat form when it must have happened. I don't know how or why he changed. Who can tell with pooka? Crepusca let him out of the hotel and didn�t bother to think anything of it until she woke up later and he hadn�t returned. What the hell does she think it's called the buddy system for anyway? We�ve spent all morning searching for him. The toll has been high. Banality seems to have become almost a malignant foe, doubling its assault on us during our searching. And the Autumn People, it seems like you can�t spit without hitting one. Crepusca and Wonyovon have pressured me to call Anaston, King Greyhawk even, and call this whole thing off. We just can�t do that, a failed quest will make us outcasts and any help they might give us for searching for Jay will be lackluster at best.

Our greatest fear is that as a cat he may not be able to read can�t read or to remember..we don�t know what he may be feeling or thinking. He�s slipped into the Mists not a confused mortal but a frightened animal vulnerable to cars, dogs, anything.

Crepusca is real torn up about it and blames herself. She�s tried twice now to scry him out, ordinarily she can get some clue but not here not in Plano. I didn�t let her use all her Glamour up in more wasted attempts, you can�t see into Plano from the outside and it seems you can�t scry from within either. . Damn this place, damn the King, damn Anaston, and damn me for a fool for even trying to be honorable with him.

Borran

At 7:40 PM an unfamiliar car and truck pulled into the 1st Baptist Church of Plano�s parking lot. From atop the steeple a crow watched as four very un-normal looking people engaged in a quite debate.

Crepusca looked around as she rubbed her sore elbow. Crow over and above my left shoulder. Bad omen. She thought noting the great black bird, a finishing touch to the one church she�d heard of in Plano that hadn�t been built on the same design plan as all the others. Actually she didn�t care what the place looked like, the object of their business was on the inside.

"Come on Borran you know the deal." Wonyovon said quietly.

She could see the troll through the softball size hole in the door window. He looked sad and tired and stared straight ahead avoiding the satyr�s eyes. His answer was equally quiet.

"I�m not stopping you."

"But you�re not going with us are you? Are you going to call the King then? And call off this foolishness before something really regrettable happens?"

"I�m no beggar." the troll rumbled.

"Not even for Jay? He could DIE Borran! His blood would be on our hands!"

"I will not beg!!" Borran hissed, his old fire burning in his eyes for a moment while he bristled at the satyr.

"Then we stay and search ourselves. We won�t do much good if we loose ourselves will we? Borran we have to do this! To find Jay, to finish our sentence, we need Glamour!"

"I won�t do this!"

Back and forth. Have we not already heard this before?

Borran stared ahead and Wonyovon turned away in disgust, Marthamisch looked away sadly.

My turn.

This whole thing was her idea, Jay had told her about this place and about its minister. She moved to take the satyr�s spot by the door and in her quietest voice, almost intimately whispered.

"Do you have the card I made for you, cowboy?"

His face remained ahead but his eyes registered the hit.

Oh yes the sluagh knows, the sluagh sees!

"Come friend troll you make a poor actor. We�ve seen you check your reflection and look down to check that you sill bore your armor when you thought none were looking." She held up a hand to stop his indignant outburst.

"It is a difficult enemy we face, one we must face together and with all the tools we can."

"I�ll be all right." he said.

"I think not. Come. Be with your friends inside and out of the cold." He glared ahead unanswering.

So be it. Time for the big guns.

"Of course, one might want to make a fine show of it, struggling and fighting and rallying everybody, then when nobody�s looking give in and slip away. Forget one�s troubles, ones friends, ones responsibilities, ones..... failures."

He spun to look at her with cold blue slits for eyes. "Shut your filthy mouth you!" he rasped in rage.

Score!

"Back home to daddy�s ranch. A tearful reunion the long as lost son returns! No shame of defeat just happy hugs and back to work!" She peeled back her lips into an idiot smile to add to the mockery.

�Tell �em how the cow eats the cabbage� her mom used to say, and oh how a sluagh can say it.

She heard his big beefy hand fall upon the door latch and readied herself for either his explosive anger or (hopefully) his meek acceptance of the truth.

He glared at her in open mouth anger for a few moments then shook his head. "I don�t Ravage. I never have and I never will." he said calmly and finally.

Damn the stiff necks of trolls! "We need you! This whole thing is you�re fucking fault! Don�t dare to get squeamish now!" she hissed losing her carefully built composure. He merely shook his head.

"Fool!" she spat.

"Thief." he muttered.

"Coward!!"

"Weakling."

His calm filled her with the foulest of feelings and she prepared to spit on him for real when Wonyovon pulled her from the window.

"Forget him! We�ve got to hurry the service starts in a few minutes."

She flipped Borran off and began stumping toward the church Wonyovon and Marthamisch in tow.

"Guys I....." the boggan stammered as they crossed the parking lot. "Borran�s right, I, I can�t go through with this."

Wonyovon whispered something to the boggan.

Same old shit.

It was a beautiful thing, her sword. Spun from her dreams it had the appearance of some multi-jointed insect leg pulled straight, the blade decreasing in width in segments. Chelecerae she had named it and it was black, shiny, and dangerous as she ripped it from its sheath. She only knew one fencing technique and she put all her speed and fury into a sudden lunge at the surprised boggan (to get the little Seelie fools attention she told herself) .

Marthamish leapt back, snatching her triangular chimeric morte off her belt and managing a wild parry to the sluagh's second thrust.

Lifted that weapon right out of STAR TREK didn�t you? Crepusca thought, being old enough to remember the CLOUDMINER episode.

"What are you doing!?" the boggan demanded, her free hand groping in her bag for the mean set of pruning shears she carried.

Crepusca slipped a hand into her vest pocket and pulled out her brass knuckles- one of the classic weapons of the sluagh. One chimeric weapon, one real, the standard for Kithain duels these days.

"I�m gonna end you right here!" the sluagh shouted, backing it up with another savage stab aimed this time at the boggan�s feet.

"Snake a drain bitch!" the boggan yelled jumping back and jabbing at Crepusca�s sword hand with the shears. Being an item of the mundane world the shears passed through the chimeric blade of Crepusca�s sword and nearly caught her. The sluagh moved in with the brass knuckles, driving her arm to a freakish length as the boggan again tried to dodge back. The punch landed in her midsection and sank in. The boggan dropped her shears and sank to the ground. As she struggled to inhale the sluagh pressed Chilecerae to her neck, ignoring the stabbing pain along her punching arm.

"It's better this way at least we�ll know where you are. Borran can occupy himself herding your scatterbrained Seelie ass to someplace safe! This blade is mercy and will save you from wandering helpless like our pooka." she whispered, knowing that the boggan would strain to hear, maybe not hear at all. She didn�t care. The blade pressed harder.

The boggan sobbed and gulped air.

She�s buying time. Crepusca thought For what? Borran to intervene? A friendly mortal? The satyr?" she could see Wonyovon, his face was concerned but he had his hands up in a non-threatening gesture, waiting. He was unSeelie like the sluagh and she felt he would only step in if she really made good on her threat. Borran she couldn�t see, he might be coming at her from behind or have that bow of his, or even his shotgun for all she knew. She shot a quick glance back at Borran, still in his truck, still looking away. Unaware of the brawl? Ashamed of it?

"Good-bye Martham-" she started.

"No! No!" the boggan cried, flinging her morte away "I�ll go! I�ll go! I�ll do it! I don�t want to forget!" she said.

The sluagh held her place for a few moments (just for effect) then stepped back, replacing her brass knuckles back into her vest but keeping her rapier out in a show of authority. She reached to help the boggan to her feet.

But Marthamisch had more weapons than just crude shears or half-joking chimeric knives. She too watched, and listened, and liked to find out secrets.

"Time runs short for you dearest." She hissed opening her hand to reveal a snarl of hair that Crepusca instantly recognized as her own. Like old cobwebs the strands clustered together-no longer thick and black but frail and gray.

She Knows! The sluagh thought, cursing herself for underestimating the boggan�s fundamental nosiness.

Crepusca wasn't sure if it was some kind of curse of Marthamisch�s or just the wretched power of Plano that brought the creaking so quickly to her joints The pains had started after her stunt with the child, they were dull and far away but like a cancer they had spread out from her hands going from joint to joint. She could feel it all over now.

�Changelings are an odd lot!� Buggsy had told her. �Some have a knack for not aging, some use Glamour, cantrips or rituals to do it. sidhe are the worst but even commoners fear the march of time!� Yes cantrips, Glamour, rites. Some of column a, some of column b.

She wasn�t one of the lucky ones who kept time at bay with a shrug, but she was sluagh and the sluagh...knew things, knew how to get in and around things. It wasn�t so hard a rite, not like she had to kill babies or anything. Nor was she some ancient hag.

Twenty seven, give or take. No, not ancient but well into grump years and she wasn�t ready for that. It was a decision she had started to regret over the past day, she had more at stake than losing her fae self. Before the cold winds of Banality got to her time would have its reckoning. She could feel it starting already, it had started the moment she realized what had really happened to Jay she felt so...stiff. Her left arm ached from its extension in the recent fight. It hurt a lot in fact, as did her feet, (those needle thin shoes- so foolish now!)

"You pluck at the wrong stings Marthamisch." she menaced.

"I�ve made great pains to protect myself from scrying, you may wish your end had come from the sword before my wrath is done with you." she lied, hoping that if this accelerating date with time was the boggan�s doing she could intimidate her into calling back her curse.

"Oh please." Marthamisch countered, "Like it was so hard. Bloom County books, The fabulous Thunderbirds, thin ties Andre Norton books and vans.. nobodies that Retro! You don�t need magic to see the obvious."

"That does explain all those Talking Heads tapes too." Wonyoven thought out loud as he mulled over the fact that his boon companion was, in fact, a child of the �80s.

No use in denying it. Crepusca thought bitterly. "Well it is also obvious what we have to do." She snapped, bringing her younger companions back to the larger problems at hand. "Unless you�ve deduced some other way to refill our barren cups of Glamour?"

She waved her chimeric sword about before sliding it into the sheath. "Well I don�t know about you two kids but I�ve got somewhere I�ve got to be." She turned and walked unhurriedly toward her original goal.

The satyr and the boggan stood for a moment.

"Firesteeds can run a thousand leagues in a day." Wonyovon quoted from Krull, a movie he and Crepusca couldn't get enough of. He thumped his hooves into the soft earth and followed, a few seconds later Marthamisch went too.

IV.

Reverend Payne was a rare man in these times, and being in Plano he was truly a diamond in the rough. No motivational style music for Rev. Payne, no easy paths to salvation either. It was the word of the Lord he spoke to his small congregation, no not spoke, smote would be a better word. His sermons fell like hammers upon the souls of his listeners (those few who could take the demands of his message) shaping them against the temptations of darkness, entreating them to take the hard roads of life and thus become alive in the spirit of God.

He didn�t alter tonight�s sermon for his three guests, who had caused him to get behind schedule with their questions and hand-shaking. No softer or harder message for them, like everyone else they could accept the truth or turn away from it.

Unfortunately it was not one of his better nights. As a matter of fact it was one of his worst, actually his worst ever. The words that once fought one another to be yelled out began to hide in the dark corners of his mind, he stammered and faltered and fumbled. First his words, then his passion, then he even felt his faith start to hide from him. It was a long torturous hour and he could read disappointment in the faces of his congregation.

The new people at least liked it. The unshaven man gave generously to the church and the shorter woman seemed moved to tears.

"Great sermon. I�d heard you had a talent but never would have believed.." the taller woman said to him, just above a whisper.

"Oh...thank you, I uh, seem to...I mean, I�ve..I�ve done better." he finally managed.

"Well, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." she whispered.

"I usually do better." he muttered wishing he could just go to his chambers and rest.

She whispered something he couldn�t quite catch before pumping his hand and leaving the church. Her touch wrung the last of the Glamour from him and the ravaging was complete.

V.



6/24/97

After a brief rest we continued our searching. No luck, no success, no hints, no calls from our eshu. We have hopes that maybe his better cat instincts will see him through until we can get out of here. Maybe his pooka friends will find him.

Borran

"I�m going to the bathroom. Can we violate the buddy system long enough for a good bowel movement?"

"Don�t get smart." the troll snapped.

"Wouldn�t that be a switch?" the sluagh muttered crossing from Borran�s room to the one she had shared with Jay. She closed the bathroom door, stretched her now rejuvenated body for a bit, and gazed at herself in the mirror.

Her mortal seeming was stunningly ordinary, a face in the crowd, an everywoman. Kinky mid-shoulder hair pulled back from a slightly freckled and thoroughly non-descript face. A nose that was not so small or so large, sort of roundish beneath eyes brown and uninteresting. Those eyes were flanked by cheekbones not really defined enough to hold ones' eye and an androgynous pair of lips completed the picture.

She was not quite what would be called skinny, but she was on the thin side (mostly due to her odd diet) and with recent events she looked shockingly lacking in nourishment and sleep. Almost enough that someone might look at her twice.

Not that she particularly disliked the way she looked, not at all. It was a good thing to be able to blend in. She knew many a sidhe who would trade their magnetism for a day of anonymity.

Her fae seeming, on the other hand, was something to behold. Taller, gaunter, her arms stretched out before her too long and thin. The muscles in those arms were odd too, at times being grossly defined and other times nearly absent from sight. She ran her twiggy fingers through her hair, watching it move and shine. It was again long and black, and apt to tangle.

Her body had a disquieting curvaceousness to it; somehow amid the elbows and knuckles there was plenty of evidence as to her gender. And the face.... a disk of sickly yellow white, with eyes a bit too small and rimmed in red, a nose that made only a cursory appearance above a set of lips that were at once thick and sunken back slightly. It was a face she had grown exceptionally fond of, she liked to imagine that Tolkien�s Sauron would have a face like that. Recent events had her haggard to a point of near repulsiveness. In all her appearance was quite an eyeful, even for her.

You look nearly as bad as you feel. She thought about the day, counting off the events by pulling a long finger all the way back until they touched the wrist.

One. I let my own arrogance and pride blind me to the danger to my friends.

Two. I watched one of my only flesh and blood friends succumb to Banality and wander out at the risk of his mortal life.

Three. I systematically alienated my troll and nearly undid my boggan. Oh I may like to tell myself I was only trying to scare her but if she hadn�t moved back I would have ended her.

Four. I talked my companions into helping me Ravage a priest in front of his whole congregation, hell maybe his whole family. I can�t even remember if the Baptist ministers can marry. I�ve tried to forget all about those sexist bastards.

"And what do you have to show for it? This fine day�s work?" she asked the fun-house reject reflection infront of her,. "What are these treasures that you traded so much for?"

She pulled them out, the minor of the two first. She had assigned it to a tiny wicker box and as she opened it the wolf spider, big and hairy and spooky, jumped out onto the imitation marble counter. She had found it nesting behind one of the payphones in her early morning search. The moment she saw it she knew that it was the source of unmitigated fear for somebody. A child or maybe some adult arachnophobe or something. It wasn�t much, she had taken it more for the novelty than the hope that with a little work it could terrify mortals, adults, even Kithain. With a little luck she could make it into a living piece of dross.

But that was minor. Treasure number two was a strip of tape found deep within the Denny�s parking lot pay phone where no mortal without a crowbar and a screwdriver could have ever found it. Its message was:

271-8619

HT 9p

A phone number, and high tea at 9:00 PM. There were Kithain in Plano, one at least. One sluagh.

She felt a bit like the dog who chased a car and caught it. What was she to do now? She had wanted to call the number, and she had several chances during the day but she had always held back. This was no sluagh she had ever heard of and for one of her kith that was a hell of a feat. He or she might be able to help find Jay, thus easing her aching conscious -or perhaps not. The number served as an open invitation to other sluagh, but had no idea how this one might take to her plight, or her companions.

Pride and caution vied for attention as she considered that one of her kind managed to survive in this wasteland. Ordinarily she would have just asked Jay and trusted on his great instincts but lacking his council she would have to rely on her own. She copied the number into her little book o� bad poetry.

She would wait.

VI

Between waking and sleeping Brenda Jo suddenly became aware of several distressing things. Her mind flooded with almost panic, I'm late! The animals haven't been fed or medicated, Dr. Parks will have my hide!.

Yanking on the thread of her fear her subconscious dredged up more, He'll know I lied about the x-ray technician certification! It set off a chain reaction of worst-case scenarios. She hadn't even gotten through highschool and thus she should have never taken any of the biology and zoology and veterinary surgical aid classes. It was all null and void! Oh sweet Lord! She was also getting paid three times what she should be worth, coming in late and leaving early nearly every damn day!

There were a hundred flaws with her plans, her set-up. If any of her paper trail were to be picked up, she wouldn't work in this field again.

Not to mention all the spells that could fail, all the bunks she had skimped on. Her half-ass excuse for a weeks absence would fly like a lead balloon without her glamour to back it up!

That part of her that was Crepusca the sluagh, leapt and held on to the idea of magic and spells and bunks. She woke fully.

Her hand reached into the near-dark of the room and she as she felt the familiar coolness of her chimeric sword she felt relief wash over her. She pulled the blade free, quite so as not to disturb the even breathing of her companions. She ran her thumb along the blade and was never so happy to feel pain and the welling of her fae blood.

"By the pricking of my thumb, something banal this way comes." She whispered mirthlessly.

6/25/97

We've spent the morning in a half-hearted search for Jay. No luck. Worse than that Wonyovon has fallen into a bleak funk and has been snapping at everyone especially Borran. Good. Fuck the King, fuck the Seelie, fuck Borran and while I'm at it fuck the buddy system too.

Crepusca glared through the open doors that connected the their rooms, the troll had ordered it so- nobody out of line of sight. For a sluagh so much company was a difficult thing to take and the strain from it (and everything else) was starting to show.

I really should scratch out that last line. She thought, after all nobody else had launched written assaults on their companions and they should, at least, make the show of companionship in what may well be their last hours.

Nah, hell with 'em.

She put pen to paper to tell what she really thought of the King and his sidhe ass kissers when the phone in Borran's room burst to life. She quickly signed her entry, noting that she was taking over for Wonyovon and jumped up making her way over as Borran picked up.

"Yes?" he rumbled.

The room was suddenly so enshrouded by anxious silence that her sluagh hearing could almost make out the words coming though the line. She could recognize the mellow tones of an eshu, a woman.

He's all right. Up a tree somewhere, in the Dallas pound or maybe even peeing on the King's precious lilacs.

Borran listened to whatever short message the eshu had.

"Yes, I see." His voice was harsh, like sandpaper on same. He turned his back to his companions.

"You'll get paid when we get back." His voice cracked in a very unmanly way and her chest tightened at the sound. It felt like ice-water had been poured into her lap. She could hear the eshu talking through the reciever.

"We WILL come back!!" the troll roared suddenly slamming his fist into the wall so hard that the framed pieces of crap that passed as hotel artwork flew from the wall.

"Whoa breathe!" Marthamisch whispered her face openly showing her distress.

"Borran." Wonyovon said, daring to approach the raging troll. "Borran!" he repeated. The troll shoved the phone to the satyr and sat heavily on the edge of the bed burying his face in his hands.

For a few moments Crepusca felt that the whole scene was unreal- staged somehow to test the limits of her reputedly cold sluagh heart. For throbs of her pulse it appeared that it was simply another grisly little secret she'd unearthed, that the boggan wasn't already crying from dread and worry, that the troll who now lay back across the bed with only the ugly black square of his mouth visible under his hands wasn't making the horrid spastic moan, and that the satyr wasn't really saying:

"She found Jay, he, he's- she thinks he was hit by a car in his cat shape and changed back after, when, when he died."

The sluagh sank her mortal teeth into her lip as her carefully composure crumbled. Seeing and sharing her distress Marthamisch gripped her in a sobbing hug as Wonyovon hung up the phone and Borran continued to moan woefully.

"Let go of me! Let go!" Crepusca beseeched as she tried to wrest herself free. Free to get to a closet or under a bed or to lock herself alone in the bathroom free to get anywhere out of sight and earshot.

She had pulled away from the boggan and was making ready to make her escape when a sudden change in the timbre of Borran's mournful sobs drew her up short. All eyes turned to the troll as his form began to change. His horns and braided beard faded and receded into his head, his armor melted away soon to reveal only his mortal seeming. Before their eyes he began to fade away from them.

After an instant's hesitation the satyr hung up quickly and rushed to the two women. "Go!" he barked as she shoved them through the door into the adjoining room. Stunned by the new shock they steeped back as Wonyovon closed both doors, locking the door facing him.

Crepusca seized the opportunity it afforded to find some dark place to slink away to with her pain. Wonyovon's hand gripped her arm pulling her back hard unwilling to let his companions out of sight for fear of more disaster.

Sluagh have their own slippery dignity and she had let it fall once before and in front of her two remaining oathmates she let it fall again and began to weep uncontrollably, small and powerless in the shadow of grief, loss, and guilt.

The underfolk make no sound above a whisper, or so the other Kithain mistakenly believe. She began to make noises as she cried, not the gasps, moans or hiccups of mortals and other Kithain but the queer uncontrollably noises of her kind. Untutored and horrible sounds like the keening of a beaten deaf man. Sounds that she would have wanted to keep below a whisper came out loud and strong. It hurt her throat to make them and added pain and shame to her list of misery.

At first her companions tried to soothe her before finally drawing back, perhaps in fear perhaps in revulsion as the grotesque sounds doubled and tripled in frequency until the sluagh found herself alone on the bed with her face buried in her soon spit-soaked pillow.

6/25/97

Jay is dead, hit by a car in his cat form. I guess we had convinced ourselves that not finding him somehow meant he was all right. It has made everything that much worse. We also lost Borran to the Mists when he heard the news. We had to leave him, not having any dross or Glamour left to share and not knowing what he might do when the Mists overtook him. I listened at the door. He slept mostly, then he rummaged around and swore a lot. He finally got into his truck and drove off. We're attempting to hole up here for the remaining two days. We don't really have a lot of hope.

Plano is like a time-warp of Banality, to put it in Commander Savek's terms 'hours seem like days.' We all know that year to year, month to month, and sometimes day to day it can be a battle with the deadening force of the what mortals call the rational world, a battle most of the Kithain are fated to loose. We can handle that, but as best we can figure it Plano compounds Banality somehow.. we don't have days, we have hours, now we don't even know if we have hours, maybe just minutes.

With our company and Kith seemings to remind us of just what we are we have at least one tool. Wonyovon's flute playing helps too. If I weren�t so depressed it would be pretty arousing.

Crepusca

"Your turn Crepusca." The satyr prompted.

"Hold on.". Her voice had been reduced to a shadow of its already flimsy self. She quickly signed her last entry of this dark day and passed the book to Marthamisch. She then thought about her answer for a moment.

I GUESS THE FIRST THING

I NOTICED WAS THE CRICKETS

THEY STARTED TO SOUND LIKE

A SYMPHONY.


I WOULD LIE IN MY BED OR ON

THE PORCH AND I COULD SEE

THEM IN THEIR LITTLE BLACK

SUITS WITH THEIR INSTRUMENTS.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

The satyr grinned as he considered. "Well, me and some of my friends were out drinking at Wister lake and the cops came along. We were all underage so Scotty and Davie bailed, too drunk to realize that I wasn't with them. It didn't really bother me being out at the lake all alone. I was in a weird sort of mood anyway. I must have walked around for hours until I found just the right spot and then I sat and just looked at he water. At first it was just a lake with a few stars reflected in it, but then I thought about what it would be like to be the first man to discover such a place. Well as soon as I thought that all the streetlights and all the car noises just stopped. It got all kinds of still and I could hear animals start to move around in the darkness. All kinds of them, rustling and calling."

"I could imagine that lake as anything I wanted, the moat of a castle, the port a great city, a bit of green and water in a space station and it seemed to become what I imagined. I didn't sleep at all that night and in the morning finally made my way home."

The unseelie pair looked over to the boggan.

"Wow. My first taste of the Dreaming was during our mid-high canned food drive. I was like, thirteen or fourteen, and we were handing out sacks of canned goods and I went over to this old house. �Nobody lives there so don�t bother.� all my friends said but I�d seen people, you know- the ragged sorts, coming in and out ever since my family had first moved to Charleston. Anyway, I ran up to the house with a big sack of stuff and knocked on the door. I was just about to leave when it opened up and for a second or two I could see the eshu who opened the door. I mean in his kith seeming! I could see lights and hear music and singing and caught just a glimpse of strange and wonderful things." The boggan made an expression of slack jawed surprise.

"The eshu smiled and took the sack and then everything was normal again. Later after my Chrsalis I spent a lot of time at that motley, still go back when I get the chance."

Having fulfilled her truth the boggan spun the bottle. It pointed roughly at Wonyovon. "Crepusca" he asked quickly, "is it really true that the sluagh know who John Doe #2 is?"

"Yes." She said, straining to be heard. Silence descended on the three companions since she thought it wiser not to mention that a group of Oklahoma sluagh had to break most of Mr. Doe�s longer bones to get him back into the Murrah building before the demolition. It was a subject the underfolk wished to have in strictest secrecy.

My turn let me see....

They had already discussed a myriad of topics but always they returned to issues of Kith and the dreaming. It brought them comfort to here such things spoken of.

MARTHAMISCH. DON�T YOU BOGGANS

EVER WANT TO TELL SOMEBODY TO


�TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN DAMN SELVES.�?

"Oh, oh why of course! Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and he�ll eat forever, as they say. Really the best work a boggan can do is to help somebody to learn how to get along on their own."

The boggan thought of her own question for a moment. "Okay, open question. How do you get along with or around your parents?" She pointed at the satyr indicating he should answer first.

"I don�t." he said simply trying not to show any trace of remorse or regret. "Dreaming or family, I couldn�t have both. I just up and walked away one day. Not the brightest move since if I ever go back they�d have me in therapy before you could say BANALITY INC." He shook his head as he spoke, maybe disappointed in himself, maybe disappointed at his family.

"And you?" the boggan prompted Crepusca.

"The same." she whispered, motioning that her friends should come nearer. "Once I got a little carried away and slipped off for a week. Buggsy wasn�t around to "arrange" things with mom, and I didn�t know how so I just left. I was maybe 13 at the time. I got back from my skulking and mom flew into a panic, swore she�d never let me out of her sight again. I went away for good about a week later."

After a moment or two of questioning looks from her companions she added. "I wasn�t all by myself of course. Buggsy would drop me off for a month or so at a motley or the home of a sluagh. I�d usually enroll in school, the mortals love paperwork, love the idea that with paper and signatures everything is in order, it was easy."

Not as easy was fighting the desire to check up on her mother and brother. Nature DID dictate that there be a bond and the temptation to write or visit was unbearably strong at times. Fortunately she could summon up her childhood memories of Hee-Haw and Real People and the familial longing went away. The boggan, as always, had a different take on matters.

"Wow you two are cold. I could never leave my family, of course I couldn�t live with them either. To them I�m just too busy with school, with my service fraternity. I see them on the major holidays, gives me a chance to say hi and play with my cousins. I miss some of the Kithain celebrations but its worth it, I think."

She spun the bottle, fate choose Crepusca this time.

WONYOVON, WAS THAT LITTLE PORNO SLUT

SAVANNAH A SATYR?

"Not that I�m aware of, why?"

JUST HEARSAY. I�VE HEARD SHE

WAS A SATYR WILDER ABOUT TO

GO TO A GRUMP. SHE OFFED HERSELF

INSTEAD.

"Oh really? Well I�ve heard that the sluagh make a number of sex vids themselves. Any truth to that?"

"�Specialty� videos mostly. To be sold to high powered CEO�s or Government folk whom we blackmail later. My turn." She moved quickly before the satyr could ask anything more personal.

"Open question." she whispered "What was the most frightening moment you�ve ever had, notwithstanding the present?"

"Oh easy!" Wonyovon responded. "The time Vice Principal Landers caught me with his daughter! Hoofs don�t fail me now!" He made a motion like he was running wildly.

Marthamisch grew solemn. "Once my service fraternity went to Louisiana, back during the flood of �94. We were in a group about half mortals and half boggans, anyway we were helping this tiny town to clean up and rebuild and all that and on the way back to Washertown to pick up more supplies we ran into, well, I guess it was a gang or something. There were about six of them, they had their car across the road like it had slid or something, anyway we stopped to see if we could help, we're boggans that�s what we do, you know. Anyway, we stopped and they came out of the car and the tall grass by the road. They had guns and pipes and bats. Oh it was horrible! They were screaming and shouting and ordering us to get down and then to get back up and give them our money, our car, our stuff. I was scared to death they were gonna start shooting or raping or something horrible like that. I couldn�t think to try a cantrip or anything, it was a really helpless feeling. I guess the worst part was that these weren�t redcaps, we weren�t in Honduras or something, these were Americans in America. I think they went off to find a smaller group to terrorize or maybe one of the other boggans put it into their heads to leave us alone. We didn�t talk about it for days after it happened."

She sat in morbid silence for a few moments before brightening and turning to Crepusca. "Top that, if you can."

"I had a run-in with a Nunnehi when I was a childling." She had their undivided attention, most run-ins with the Nunnehi were fatal.

"They�re all over Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Me and Buggsy were sniffing around Bill Bear Claw- the chief of the Cherokee nation at the time. He was as dirty as they come, corrupt even for the Indians. Anyway, there we were skulking around tribal headquarters one night looking for some really choice dirt on him when we heard this motorcycle pull up. Buggsy got real spooked and shot off two or three cantrips, I don�t know what they were but he cast them and we got hid and it got really, really quiet. After what seemed like hours we ran back to the car. No sooner had we started it than the bright light of the cycle hit us. We took off nearly blind from the light straight at him and he just disappeared, the Nunnihi, the bike and all.

We were out of there as fast as we could go, but we knew it wasn�t over. We came up over a hill and WHAM! he was right behind us again. He got right up on our bumper and Buggsy slammed on the brakes. He just disappeared again. We drove like hell to Tulsa trying to get to the old Crate Center motley. The Nunnehi would show up behind us every few minutes, or sometimes beside us, and once he even came at us from in front. That was the forty five minutes of my life."

She paused as she took a drink of water. "I knew he�d kill us if he caught us, and I mean like dead dead. Even worse my Kith say that the Nunnihi have ways of cursing the fae spirit.. horrible ways.

Borran would have seconded her opinions, there was still bad blood between the old and new world kithains. There were Nunnehi who would just as soon kill a fae as look at one. Greyhawk's truce or no the people of the summer lands still had a mean streak in them and the rising body count in Little Dixie wasn't just a cause of bored white-trash and paranoid dope growers.

She didn't want to get her companions to thinking about such things, as it would inevitably lead back to Borran and their current situation. Quickly she reached out a long hand and spun the bottle.

"Ah, me again." Marthamisch said thoughtfully. "Now, I can�t do this, but I�ve heard some kith can remember past lives. Do either of you ever have any such memories?"

Crepusca thought. "I sometimes get feelings, not scenes or visions but feelings just shy of memories."

Most of them are not very pleasant either.

The satyr rocked on his haunches and grinned widely before sticking out his hands to grasp imaginary controls. "Here�s the World War One Flying ace zooming through the air over no-man�s land." He shrugged and shook his head, not losing the grin "I don�t recall much else, although I�m pretty sure I had the honor of being shot down by baron Richtoven himself!"

The boggan gave him an amazed look "Woa, breath.. uh congratulations I guess." she said not exactly sure what to think. She spun the bottle and smiled as it came back yet again to her.

"Crepusca." she began "We hear a lot about the sluagh, and we hear a lot of talk about you in particular, being the latest sluagh to come to court and all. Hearsay aside what is the real story? Why are you hear and why did you join up with our oatchcircle?"

Crepusca shifted uncomfortably as she considered her answer.

"I�ve always had pen-pals, ever since before my Chrysalis. When I left my family I made sure to keep in touch with all my old letter-mates. We, the sluagh, are very kind toward one another, that much is very true. I�ve been a guest of almost every sluagh in the tri-state area at one time or another. Now, in spite of all my traveling I�ve kept touch with those mortals through the years." A shadow passed over her face as she took a sip of water. "They have not returned the favor. They�ve gone away or gotten married or whatever, or just don�t care enough to keep up with the addresses. I write and one by one they have ceased to write back."

Crepusca hoped her waspy whisper hid the blatant anger in her voice. Not to answer a letter, why, among the sluagh it just wasn�t done. "I�ve tried to make new pen pals but they just chatter about e-mail e-mail, e-mail!" She turned and spat, adding quickly "The sluagh do not e-mail, especially to one another.. it is.. unseemly. So I finally decided to go out and get myself some flesh and blood companions." she let the statement hang.

"Why us?" Wonyovon asked, shattering her hope that they would not probe further. She squirmed a bit as she sought the answer, finally settling on:

AS HAS BEEN SAID MANY SPEAK ABOUT ME

YOU AND BORRAN AND MARTHAMISCH AND


JAY (MAY HIS RETURN BE SWIFT) TALK TO ME.

She leaned foreword seizing the moment of silence to move the subject off of herself. "Wonyovon particularly bad break-ups?"

As he answered she considered herself and her association with the oathcircle. Did I really tell them the truth? Yes and no. The truth yes, the whole truth no. Someday perhaps.

Indeed she had edited out a great deal from her friends, most of it about the social dynamics of the sluagh. The TRUTH was that she had come very close to wearing out her welcome among members of her kith. She had grown to feel that the sluagh too talked about her, shook their weary heads in disappointment over her and whispered about her like she had failed to live up to their expectations. She would have none of that thank you very much indeed! The TRUTH was the underfolk wondered about her motives at the court as much as anyone else. Let them wait for her letters, wait to be the first to hear of her tales and of her findings among the topsiders. It would buy her back her reputation and her welcome. The TRUTH was the need for status was the kissing cousin of her loneliness and together they had pulled her into the embrace of these, her friends. Her comrades after so much time.

They talked late into the night, the desire to keep in touch with all things of the Dreaming and the grim realization that what was spoken might easily be forgotten the next day loosed their tongues. Crepusca learned a great deal about the boggans and their dealings with service organizations, the peace corps and other good works. In fact she even learned that some boggans travel to such far away disasters that they earn the companionship and the envy of the eshu.

For herself she let slip that indeed the sluagh had a long finger involved in almost every contest, lotto, and sweepstakes that there was. And that if they looked for it they might just find a soda bottle marked with bright blue chimeric ink and make a quick buck, lucky winners in the on-going cola wars. She also hinted that just as the junk mail says, sluagh are often already winners (although she omitted the complex system of payback and the courtesies that went with it).

Of satyrs she learned little, other than that they were slaves to their passions, which she already knew.

Exhaustion finally softened the loss of her two friends and she grew tired, leaving her oathmates talking about the dynamics of court as she crawled into bed.

VII.

On a cold hill that she had to climb from the south she found an old mail sack in the moonlight. She found it and quickly crawled inside. No catalogs or coupons profaned these unopened messages, only the most pure correspondence was to be found. Her spidery fingers eagerly opened envelope after envelope, taking a voyeur�s delight in the tales, loves, and confessions that the ancient (or sometimes futuristic) letters contained. The dream, which she often had contained a slight twist this time. She began to notice that some of the paper was ever so slightly damp,. Not worth noting at first but it soon grew so bad that the ink on the letters ran to unreadable. She held a sodden envelope to her nose and sniffed.

Whiskey.

Damn satrys to bright dreamless nights! she thought as she bolted awake, the faintest smell of whisky picked up by her sensitive nose as the sound of a sudden struggle burst upon her ears.

"Snivilly little slut!" Wonyovon yelled over Marthamisch�s sudden yelp. "Stupid frigid BITCH!"

There was a sobbing cry and the tearing of fabric. "Be still you LITTLE CUNT!" the satyr�s scream thundered off the walls.

Crepusca heard the thump of fist on flesh and as her eyes rapidly adjusted to the darkened room she saw Wonyovon�s arm pump blow after blow on the boggan cutting off her cries. The sight of the sudden violence charged her with an athlete�s dose of adrenaline and she slipped out of the bed towards the fray throwing the blanket over the form of the satyr and then trying to push him back with all her might.

Confusion reigned for a few moments as the three struggled in the dark. Marthamisch broke away and Wonyovon staggered but would not go down. In fact it was the sluagh who fell back, caught off balance by Wonyovon�s flailing arms, she managed to catch herself against the bed with one long arm.

Marthamisch found the light and suddenly the room became to bright for Crepusca to bear. Her dazzled eyes locked shut blotting out the images of Marthamisch�s bruised face and Wonyovon�s writhing form- now free from the blanket and looking madly about. She raised her arms and slunk down to protect her head from a blow that never came. With an unintelligible yowl Wonyovon moved again to the boggan.

Crepusca could hear the sound of a renewed struggle and the cries of both victim and tormentor. Her mind struggled for what to do. Cantrip? Fists? Swords? Flee for help? She forced her eyes open and her callous sluagh soul riveted to a foul scene. Her two remaining otathmates struggled atop their dead companions bed. Wonyovon stood on the floor shirtless with every muscle tight and straining as he held the boggan by her hair. His arm pulling her back while his free hand flailed at her as she struggled to escape. Marthamisch had been stripped naked from the waist up and her soft body was bruised by blows, her breasts flopping as she tried to get away from her attacker. Across her face fear panic, blood and spit flowed freely.

A childling memory suddenly leapt to the fore of her mind, Buggsy and the one redcap he could tolerate laughing outside a trailer home. The scent of grilling and the memory of her holding a huge mass of potato salad and their host bragging �-may be a marine, hell may even be a fuckin troll I don�t care! A good kick in the coccyx arr! Break their tailbone and the fight just drains right out!"

Her foot moved before she had even fully grasped the memory slamming into the middle of the satyr�s hindquarters.. He let out a grunt and Marthamisch twisted free. With blurring speed Wonyovon sank a cloven hoof into Crepusca�s chest knocking her down into a jumble of too-long arms and legs.

Wonyovon stumbled around losing his footing, he almost seemed to sink for a moment before fixing his bleary eyes on her and running at her in a head down charge. She pulled herself under the bed her body disjointing as she fled. She felt the bed shudder as his head smacked into the frame. He fell on his face and for a moment seemed to lay still but then began groping wildly for her. She slithered further from his grasp.

Her sword! It lay propped against the wall on the other side of the bed! She twisted to reach it just as Wonyovon leapt upon the mattress. She checked her grab and lay still. She could hear the satyr�s ragged breathing, her own breath crunching in her ears, and the boggan�s wretched sobs.

He�s waiting for something. Standing on the bed and waiting...

She made a feint for her sword, almost touching it then yanking back her arm back. The bedsprings moaned as Wonyovon made his move, his hooves smashed down where her arm had been with bone breaking force. On an impulse she grabbed his leg above the ankle, wrapping both her freakishly long hands around before pulling as hard as she could.

Things happened all at once- with a cry the satyr finally went down as Marthamisch ran over screaming unintelligibly and struck him with what appeared to be one of the chairs from the tiny writing desk. Crepusca held on as Wonyovon began to kick savagely at her with his free leg. He jerked and kicked, popping her shoulder out of joint but still she held on. Under the duel assault his mood shifted from rage to panic and he kicked the bedframe in his desperation to reach her until finally a lucky blow dragged his hoof over her fingers loosing her grip. She clutched her wounded hand as he dragged himself up, forced his way past the boggan and fled from the room. A few long seconds later his car roared to life and with a squeal of tires it slipped off into the night.

Minutes passed while she waited for her thunderous breathing to subside. She could hear the Marthamisch moving across the room. The boggan seemed to climb on top of the other bed and after a moment began to jump up and down on it.

"Mother said don�t jump on the bed. Mother said don�t jump on the bed. Mother said don�t jump on the bed." She choked out.

Crepusca could feel the sudden burst of power from Marthamisch as whatever cantrip she crafted kicked in.

The sluagh pulled herself out from her hiding place, popped her shoulder back into joint, and snatched up her chimeric sword, holding it gingerly in her wounded hand. She crossed over and deadbolted the door then steeled herself and turned to face her one remaining companion.

Marthamisch, though still bruised, fared far better than she had a few terror-filled moments ago. Her clothing was still torn and the left side of her face still housed a horrid purple-black bruise that encircled her eye and her lips were still swollen. At least the look of panic no longer animated her damaged features in its place a rough stoutness laced with profound sadness had taken root. Her torso still told the story of fondling turned rough, turned brutal, turned to blows. The two women looked at each other in silence for a moment before the boggan finally spoke.

"What�s that noise you�re making? Are you all right?"

The sluagh became aware that her breathing wasn�t just thundering in her own ears but was, in fact, a loud wheezing rasp accompanied by a sharp pain.

"No, my chest hurts. A lot." she managed to say, and as she thought on it the pain seemed to double.

"Come here.. I�ll see what I can do." Marthamisch wearily picked up the discarded blanket and wrapped it about herself before turning to the sluagh.

Crepusca did not like the idea of being in debt to a boggan, especially one she had to spend so much time with but she was hurt and she knew it. "Do you have enough Glamour?" she asked stepping closer.

"No, but don�t worry. I�ve been saving some dross for a rainy day." she said pulling off her hemp bracelet and unraveling it.

One of those little South American Urchins she sponsors made that for her. Crepusca thought watching the boggan unravel the piece of dross and hum tunelessly to herself before placing her palm against the sluagh�s chest.

It was like a cortisone shot: the pain spiked in intensity for a second before it began to fade away, not entirely gone but at least the sharp edge had been taken off.

"Ordinarily I could do better but you know how this place is... We'll just have to be thankful for what we get." Marthamisch added apologetically.

"Right. It's better, but I still hurt further in, from your Neneh Cherry comment." Crepusca said taking a deep jaggedly painful breath

"Oh my god.. I.." the boggan started.

"That was joke, just a little humor." Crepusca said. "I don't have anything I can do for your.. but I do know a bit about bruises and injuries, I�ll go get some ice and we can make a cold pack."

They moved quickly and quietly, Crepusca scuttling out to get ice and the Marthamisch dug into her backpack and found her remaining set of clothes.

VIII.

The two remaining companions paced about the room each absorbed in her own thoughts. They moved in silence each in her own tasks as they worked off their adrenaline. Marthamisch held the ice-pack to her face with one hand and picked up the ruins of the room with the other while Crepusca began to pick through Wonyovon�s duffel bag.

It was only when she noticed Crepusca rooting through her own backpack that Marthamisch began to keep her good eye trained on the sluagh.

She was talking to herself, or at least making the lip motions like she was, and soon she had all of Wonyovon�s possession�s scattered around her save a few items she had placed neatly on the small round table. From the bowels of her pack the sluagh had produced a small antique incense bowl of unadorned brass. She pulled a number of other small unidentifiable things out from her bag and began to set to work.

She laid one of the satyr�s well thumbed through issues of Club Magazine in the middle of the table and placed the bowl on top of it. She then lit a small stick of Cedar incense which she placed in the bowl she then tossed in a few hairs from the satyr�s comb, arranged some of his other possessions just so around the table, and finally got a glass of water. The sluagh sat back down and waited for the incense to burn away.

"What are you doing?" Marthamisch asked cautiously, recognizing full well Crepusca's preparations for some kind of soothsaying.

BAD THINGS The sluagh carded back.

"Shouldn�t you be saving your Glamour for something a little more, you know, constructive?"

"What are you saying?" Crepusca whispered indignantly. "Have you looked in the mirror lately little boggan? He turned on us, on you." She had been caught off-guard before but now she had a clear plan and an idea and an inspiration for revenge.

"Well whatever your planning to do won�t help any." The boggan countered in a surprisingly firm voice.

"You clean up your way, I�ll clean up mine."

"Two wrongs won�t make a right."

HERE, LET ME PUT IT IN BOLD PRINT FOR YOU

HE TRIED TO RAPE YOU!

SO DON�T GIVE ME THAT LOOK LIKE

A COW STARING AT A NEW FENCE!

The boggan looked at the chimeric card for a few moments before crumpling it up and tossing it in the wastebasket.

"He�s no worse than Jay." Marthamisch said calmly. "Its his nature, the frailty of his Kith.. they turn like that sometimes."

YOUR WEAKNESS WILL BE YOUR UNDOING.

"I can�t believe you�re doing this! Three are better than two. We�ve only got two days left, together we have a chance, but if you do this, if you bring your curses home we�ll all be lost. For that matter I don't even know if you can do it, you certainly didn't have any success with Jay now did you? You want to waste your last bit of Glamour in an impotent attempt at revenge?"

Crepusca sat in sullen silence.

"I've saved back a little dross too. " she said finally holding up the mouthguard.

A little small-town scandal, a star quarterback as gay as the day was long. �suck that guard like you suck dicks?� it was a cruel taunts of once-teammates she could feel reverberating from the dross every time she touched it. A fittingly unpleasant piece of dross to fuel an unpleasant cantrip to avenge an unpleasant wrong.

"Look we�re stuck in this together, he can�t help himself, it�s not really his fault, it�s just his nature, my nature is to help people. He needs help, more than when those redcaps outside of Houston caught him. He needs compassion and a safe haven."

Marthamisch had moved closer to hear what the sluagh would say and as she spoke Crepusca's nose caught a very faint scent.

SAY THAT AGAIN. She moved her chair closer to the boggan.

"He needs help, he needs us and a safe haven." Marthamisch repeated, hopeful that her words had reached whatever compassion and understanding the sluagh might have.

Crepusca ignored the words, it was the nature of the boggans to be seduced by the needs of others. But the words were accompanied by something else entirely. Jay would have known sooner but Crepusca had been confused by the lingering smell from the satyr but now she knew, now she could tell. Whisky, hanging off Marthamisch�s words like the guilt that must be hanging on her heart.

She stood and leaned closer reaching out a long hand to Marthamisch�s bruised eye, carefully touching the swollen flesh. She felt a wave of purest bile well up inside her as the image of Marthamisch as a helpless victim was replaced all to easily by the picture of her screwing up her courage with a few drinks. One quick fling before the big curtain. Having to get drunk to come on to a satyr? Such idiocy! To actively encourage one of the goats to take alcohol when so many clouds hung over him? Foolishness! Stupidity! And to think that she could hide the truth, that she could let Wonyovon limp away into the night carrying all the blame.

Words would score Marthamisch deeper than fists or chimeric swords, and words, quite little truthful words were the tools of the sluagh. She held the boggan�s face in her hands feeling like a great black spider that had a moth trapped in its web, helpless against the bite that would snuff out it�s life.

"Call a cab." she choked, relaxing her hands and stifling her words and accusations, her guesses and testimony. She had watched her companions fall victim to the weaker aspects of their natures and was determined not to follow the same path.

"Oh thank the dreaming! But where-"

"Here, take this." Crepusca said, tossing the mouthguard to her guilty companion.

"Use it on yourself if you want. I�d advise it." Crepusca snapped, snatching up a phonebook in her good hand.


X.

"Keep the motor running! I�ll be back!" Crepusca shouted.

"The lady says again please?" their stereotypical middle-eastern cabby asked.

Take that damn towel off your head and you could hear a lot better, asshole. she thought darkly.

"Just wait here for her." Marthamisch said from the backseat.

Seeing that Sabu understood their simple desire she turned away knowing that the sooner she got about this work the sooner she�d be finished with it.

The Brass Rail Club: Plano's only 'gentleman's club' squatted in front of her. The neon lights, purple and red and yellow all bled together bathing the parking lot in a glow that was for all its efforts, colorless. She made her way through the big solid door and was immediately confronted by a big solid bouncer.

"I.D?" he demanded giving her a cold look.

If you only knew how much trouble I went through to keep my age a secret.

"Here." she said pulling out her driver�s license (the one with her real age on it). He glared at it for a moment, then at her then casually stamped her hand and moved his bulk aside.

The place was worse than she had imagined, like a giant loser-shake with sharp chunks of crappy music sprinkled on top. Smoke hung thick in the beery air and stung her sensitive eyes as she watched the graveyard shift dregs (both patrons and dancers) going about their wretched affairs. It was a bigger place than she�d imagined with a large U-shaped stage facing the front door, she gave a cursory glance at the pool tables in the back and then the bar before looking into the small crowd seated about the stage.

Wonyovon�s satyr seeming shined out like a spotlight at the far corner of the stage, his table was already crowded with empty shot glasses. He had used some kind of cantrip to wrap himself in illusionary clothing. She made her way over to him.

"Tip the DJ?" a hard faced bare-breasted woman asked shoving a pitcher of grubby dollar bills under her nose. Crepusca shook her head and slipped around her.

I�d rather lick Keith Richard�s feet than encourage this sort of music. she thought, trying to shut the accursed chords of The boys are back in town from her mind.

She could feel their eyes on her, patrons, dancers, bouncers, everybody checking out the lone woman in the titty bar. Lonely? Lesbian? Looking for her man? Applying for a job? She could feel their filthy thoughts and questions probe about her as she walked. Wonyovon had his bleary eyes glued to the gyrations of one of the younger women on the stage and either didn�t notice or pretended not to notice her as she pulled up a chair beside him.

"Holly shit. Look at what the cat dragged in." He looked from the dancer to her then back .

"You don�t look so good yourse-" she started.

"Can�t hear you."

She dragged a chair close to him, then considered whether it would be safe to get so near before sitting down and leaning towards him.

"You don�t look so good." she repeated. Pointing to the big blue knot that had formed on his head.

"Yeah, you think that�s bad you should see my foot." He lifted one leg slowly and she could see that his hoof was cracked open.

THAT HAD TO HURT. Bedframe 2, satyr 0.

"Oh it did a little bit, I suppose but," he downed a shot of something brown "ahhh sweet liquor eases the pain."

She thought about telling him that Marthamisch would heal his wounds but she didn�t know what he might do if she brought the boggan up. She really wanted to believe that he felt remorse for what had happened, but over the last day so much had changed in her friends that she just didn�t know. She would have trusted him with her life until an hour ago, before all those stories she had heard about satrys had come to life in a darkened room. The last thing she needed now was another violent mood swing.

Best to play it safe.

WHY DON�T YOU COME BACK

TO THE HOTEL?

WE CAN GET SOME ICE FROM THE

MACHINE AND MAYBE GET THE

SWELLING DOWN.

He shook his head slowly then motioned for a waitress to bring another drink. He turned back to her and said glumly, "No, no. I don�t think ice can help much now." He made a show of checking among his empty glass. The sluagh waited for him to look back up knowing she couldn�t shout over the next blaring howl of music.

A waitress who was a little too chubby for her sports bra and miniskirt carried over a tray of hard liquor shots to the table. "One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer." She said placing the drinks under Wonyovon�s nose. "You�re friend want something?" she asked giving Crepusca a quick look.

"No, his friend-" she started

"Yes, yeah, uh.." he cut in, easily out-voicing her. "Vodka isn�t it? That�s what you drink in mother Russia right? Maybe its the bad borsch that makes you smell so bad eh?" He turned to the waitress "Bring my friend one vodka shot and a black Russian."

Crepusca didn�t give him the satisfaction of objecting, she waited until the waitress left and pulled out a card.

DON�T DRINK TOO MUCH

YOU�LL MISS THE NEXT SHOW.

He took and held the chimeric card for a few seconds. "Huh, shows what you know." he waved to the stripper leaving the stage.

He produced a wrinkled five dollar bill and held it up with a grin. For a moment he looked like his old self, but his grin was cold and cruel. The stripper wiggled a bit then moved to stand beside them before thrusting out a hip and pulling the g-string off her thigh. Wonyovon slipped the bill under the band and got a quick fluidless kiss for his trouble. Before the dancer could go he whispered something to her and handed her another bill.

As the pairs of eyes darted her way Crepusca could feel the blood rush to her face. The stripper strutted over to her and smiled broadly (yet un-genuinely) at her. She then held the latest bill between her breasts as she leaned forward. The smell of her cheap perfume stung the sluagh's sensitive nose and as the woman got uncomfortably close it even threatened to sting her eyes.

"You like it honey?" the dancer drawled as Crepusca glanced around, as she expected every eye was locked on her, she glared at the satyr who leered on looking at her face, then at the strippers ass. She gave a cold look to the stripper who seemed to enjoy being the source of her discomfort. For long minutes she kept her eyes off the woman and her antics until the little display ended with an ass-up gyration. The dancer placed the bill in her waistband and gave Crepusca a lewd wink.

"See ya sugar." she cooed and strutted away to a smattering of applause.

"God you�ve gotta love a place like this!" Wonyovon yelled, opening his arms to encompass the dive.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

(THAT�S SARCASM)

"Heh, not a problem." He said looking back to his beer.

"WE NEED TO GO WONYOVON." she shouted at a break in the music, dropping her fae mien for a moment to get her voice above the crowd.

He jolted at the sound of her voice, then dropped back into his haze. "Go? That�s the whole idea. I�m going out of the dreaming! By all the gods I'll come back into the dull world the same way I was born into it."

He hoisted his beer "Drooling and lookin� for tits!" He took a big swig then licked his lips.

She could see why Marthamisch had compared him to a terrified animal. Regardless of his words his eyes were far away, like a beast hidden in some hole waiting to die. A part of her wanted to just leave him here, now was not the time for her to be Mrs.-tower-of strength-and-please-lean-on-me. Still though, he was unSeelie, like herself, and she had already spent Glamour retrieving him once, and when he had his goatee braided he was awful cute...

You know what you have to do, cowgirl. She thought resolutely.

I THINK, MY FRIEND, THAT YOU WOULD

BE DISAPPOINTED BY THE GIRLS HERE

THEY MAY HAVE TITS AND ASS BUT THEY ARE

BUT POOR MORTALS AFTER ALL.

NOT REALLY THAT BIG A DEAL COMPARED TO

WHAT YOU ARE USED TO.

She leaned in close, dangerously close if he were to get violent again. "I can do things with you, for you, like you�ve never dreamed." She ran her lips lightly over his cheek, "That�s what satrys always wonder about the sluagh don�t they? Don�t worry, I know, I like it that you think about it. To know you wonder.. it turns me on. Let me teach you what we can do together." she ran her lips over his neck and kissed his earlobe, then drew it into her mouth and using a bit of her Glamour let him feel the smooth, soft flesh her chimeric gums as she bit down on it.

He was still as stone, making no attempt to either pull her near or push her away. Her heartbeats hammered out long seconds causing her chest to ache dully.

Please be thinking about soft orifices.. she thought fearing how much he could hurt her before the bouncers got to him.

"I can suck your cock like that, you would like it like that wouldn't you, to fuck my mouth? " she laid her hand on his "It gets me wet just thinking about it, would you like to feel?" she added. She stood up, intent on leading him out.

He easily twisted his hand free and regarded her with an odd look, the rest of his face as devoid and passionless as his eyes. He shook he head either in disgust of her or himself and gulped down the rest of his beer, then his scotch, and most of the bourbon, spilling the rest on himself in his sudden alcoholic binge.

He leaned over like he might vomit then lifted his bleary gaze back to her. Crepusca watched him as he slipped into the Mists, as his fae self dissolved back into the damaged mortal shell that housed it. She didn�t know whether to feel hurt, insulted, or relieved that he had spurned all her advances.

In the midst of harsh smells and toneless music and conflicting feelings her heart hardened. She scooped up the vodka and raised a mirthless toast to the drunken stranger that now sat in front of her. "Dosvedanya." she said, the extent of her command of the Russian language.

It meant good bye.

She drained her glass keeping her face as empty as her heart then turned and made her way through the crowd of onlookers keeping her eyes locked straight ahead.

She walked out into the freakish yellow night to find that the only people in the lot were a group of frat-boys laughing too loud and touching each other a little too much as they gunned up their courage to enter the club.

This shouldn�t surprise me as much as it does.

She double checked the lot, not for a taxi or her boggan, they were definitely gone, but for the payphone. Before panic could get a solid grip on her she slipped into the booth and pulled out her little book o� bad poetry. God I'm all alone. I'll be next! No money! No car! No hope! Her hands shook as she dialed the number. The phone rang twice.

Come on! Come on!!!

A third time.

"Yes, yes? Hello?" a voce that might have been dry leaves rustling in the wind answered groggily.

"Hello, I uh.." she floundered relief and anxiety yanking hard to get her attention.

"Huh? Hello? What what?" annoyance sounded clearly through the quite tones.

"The sun has burned my eyes and I can�t find my way." she said, discarding the usual opening courtesies and getting to the core of the matter. There was a long pause.

"Where are you?"

IX.

It wasn�t a balefire exactly, more like a bale lantern, some ancient tin relic from bygone mining days in an unknown country. Still she basked in its glow letting herself slip into sweet oblivion of all else.

"I hope this will be agreeable to you my darling guest. I have taken a liking to coffee in my solitude and had much searching to do before I could find this." Donvetski said, handing her a mug of mulberry tea before settling down in his easy chair with his java.

"You�re too kind." her lips and mouth worked slowly, forming the words with care. Everywhere her eyes fell there were secrets exposed, the passions and perversions of Plano lay about in the orchestrated clutter of sluagh interior decorating style.

"Perhaps I am a rude guest? I�ve talked to you so little." she said thinking that the words should be more eloquent but not really disappointed in them.

"Nonsense darling wilder, you�ve been through great strife. I�m blessed to offer refreshment and shelter to one such as yourself."

She gave him a big toothless smile and turned back to the tiny baleflame. She starred at it for long luxurious minutes trying to imprint the changing yellow, green and blue flame into her mind, her only motion being to bring the steaming tea to her lips.

The tea (old and far from full flavored), the vodka, the distance of fear, and the comfort of her fellow kith added to the overwhelming presence of the small energy of the dreaming. It was like soaking in a hot tub on a cold winter�s night

and shameless masturbation,

and a belly full of food,

and a letter from an old friend all mixed

into one.

Like a giant box of

rum truffles and

chocolate covered macadamia nuts she could eat without

gaining weight.

Like a big box of Cap'n Crunch she could

devour without mangling her gums. And when

she closed her eyes she could almost hear Wang

Chung�s Dance Hall Days playing on a really good

sound system while behind her eyelids

the faces of her oathmates waited

soft and smiling, even their

mortal seemings were strong

and noble.

Time passed

at just the right speed.

She opened her eyes to a charcoal pencil drawing of a girl with an ax buried in her gut. "Wow. Is that really an Edward Gorey original?" she asked mesmerized by its disquieting air.

"Da. Yes." her host answered, pride plainly showing in his voice.

"Incredible. Do you paint yourself?" Gorey was, of course, a favorite of the sluagh, but it seemed inappropriate to take the conversation far from her host.

"No no. Just collector of fine things. And you? Do you have any artistic talents?"

She blushed a little. "Oh, I�ve been know to scribble a little bit of poetry now and then. Would you like to see some of it?" she rooted through her handbag and found her little book. He flipped through it reading quietly while she soaked up Glamour like some kind of humanoid gilla monster.

"This is, the words are, how do you say..... striking?"

"Yeah.." she sighed. "Someday I hope to be as bad as H.P. Lovecraft."

"It is quite a goal." he said with some awe in his raspy voice.

She felt a comforting long-fingered hand on her shoulder. "I�ve made a pallet for you right in the light." Donvetski said, his long lovely horse face creased with knowledge, concern and style. She looked at the neat arrangement of hand-made blankets and tastefully embroidered pillows and smiled contentedly.

She read from ME, ALICE- the Autobiography of Alice Cooper before going to sleep. She read where her hero (and an on-again-off-again sluagh kinain hero of the Accordance War)had returned home to Phoenix, dreams of success and fame replaced by visions of failure and despair. Of how he hoped his girlfriend would die in a car accident on her way back from getting an abortion and hating himself for it. Of being to broke to keep himself in an alcholic stupor, and about his mother give him whiskey in sympathy to stave off his pain. Of course he came out of it alright, a few lucky breaks and some bad publicity (all his publicity was bad in his early days) and suddenly he was swimming in gigs and money. Truly a Cinderella story, which was just the sort of story she was in the mood for.


X.



So Plano is Hell, I'm sure of it.

Like Banality itself Plano is seductive, in a creepy sort of way. And it's at its most seductive after you've been stuck here for a while and grow forgetful of all the bums and junkies of Deep Elum.

To the mortals Plano is the ANSWER. It's got RULES that prevent that sort of thing. I guess they may have to sell a chunk of their souls and some hard-won constitutional rights to get in, but in their benighted quest for security and prestige it seems worth it.

The RULES? Keep your garage door closed. Don't wash your car in the driveway or on the street. Get approval for the color you want to paint your house. Don't grow- or cut- that tree. Keep the lawn tidy. Don't park on the street. Move along. Don't question, ignorance is knowledge. You Are Being Watched. Perhaps You Would Prefer That In Beige?

But the worst thing about Plano-- the thing that leaves a cold, writhing knot in the pit of your belly- is that you slowly realize, driving the wide, easy-access streets, that there are people that BELONG here. People who SHOULD live in Plano. People who have bent over backwards to get in, people cooking the books just to get in. Sometimes, I think, from what Wonyovon and Crepusca say, they even kill their children, in a way, to get in.

They are not a small minority either, their numbers grow, they build house after house, identical as they can get away with to house all the newcomers.

This is the first sudden storm of the long winter. As for me, I'm going snowblind, just like the rest of them.

-Marthamish

It wasn't a story Crepusca would have picked to start her day with but she read it twice more. She had no idea how the boggan could have found the time to write so much so fast. Marthamisch, she guessed, must have felt herself slipping early on, maybe that's why she had been so insistent on getting Wonyovon back. Maybe she just wanted to see the faces of the fae one last time.

She had been aware enough at least to slip the journal into Crepusca's backpack. Crepusca had found it and had thought to make one last entry only to find that the boggan had beat her to it.

She closed the book and replaced it in her pack.

XI.


"You�re sure you don�t mind?" A lady always asks three times.

"Not at all, make all the calls you need. My home is yours. Search for your friends, it will only add to the tale. Besides my darling you must be here as soon as I get home, you have such news to tell."

I�ve got to learn how to speak with a Russian accent. she thought, mesmerized by the robust timbre of his slight voice.

He was not stooped look some sluagh Grumps but he had a sort of odd tilt in the way he stood and he had folks of skin about the elbows on his long arms. Hs face was long to, and his schok of inky black hair stuck up thick and course adding to his horse-like appearance. He smiled at her as he prepared to go and she forced herself to see his mortal seeming, a medium sized man with a long old-man�s face and tired eyes dressing in faded blue overalls, a man who could have been a janitor at any high school anywhere- not just in Plano. He walked out quickly putting on his Yoko Ono type old-man sunglasses as he opened the door and made his way down the driveway.

He looks a lot like William S. Boroughs. she thought before going about her business.

Crepusca drifted back into the house glad to be alone again. There were nuances, of course, a part of her wanted to root through all of her hosts possessions looking for clues as to where he came from, how he made his way in this dreaming forsaken place. That would be breach of courtesy however, and in all her time spent with her kith she had never let courtesy fall behind. She may wear out her welcome but even the best of guests can get tiresome after a time. Instead she seated herself by the phone, found her address book and began dialing.

"Borran?"

"Who? You got the wrong number lefty." a voice not quite like the troll she once knew boomed irritably.

Damn! So much for the hope he might come out of it early on his own.

"I�m sorry I�ve got the wrong-"

"Huh? Yo Clyde, I can�t hear you!"

Shit! Fuck!

"I�ve got the wrong number!!!" she screamed and a got a hang-up on the other end.

Not great news but at least he�s back home and fairly safe.

Wonyovon, she discovered, was in jail for public intoxication and actual physical control (which meant that a cop had to wrestle him to the ground). But at least he got a free trip to the emergency room for his foot.

In spite of the fact that she had only seen her less than twelve hours ago Marthamisch was much harder to track. The rude gentleman at the Taxi service was less than enthusiastic about answering her inquiries about where the 'short chunky chick' had gotten off too. She'd had some sort of 'fit' and started screaming and crying and shit. Ahmer had taken her to the woman's shelter.

The VERY rude and paranoid operator at the woman�s shelter was downright unwilling to give any information whatsoever. The boggan, she figured, was either still at the shelter traumatized and confused or else she was making her way back to her North Dallas apartment.

Crepusca called the number of the apartment throughout the day but received no answers. Marthamisch�s situation was a little different from her other two living oathmates. Both Borran and Wonyovon had come into their Chrysalis in thier wilder years, but Marthamisch (like herself) had awoken to the dreaming during her childer years. This presented a problem: the nature of Banality and the Mists played savage tricks on fae memories. Although you could never be certain about how such things worked the general rule was that the longer you have been an awakened Kithain the more likely your mind would edit out those early, first fae memories and work its way forward. It was a snowball effect, the longer you were fae and the longer you were taken by the Mists the more of your chimeric memory was erased, distorted, or altered by the subconcious. It was some sort of psychological safety valve, or so she had heard, that protected the mind from the pressure of two radically clashing sets of memories. Some Kithain theorized that bedlam worked just the opposite way, slowly destroying memories of the �normal� world. The sooner Marthamisch was brought back to the dreaming the better.

The morning she filled with calling and finding her comrades and in the afternoon she began to investigate her benefactor�s home. It was a simple two room house in one of Plano�s few lower-income areas. It had a small basement and a false bottom in the coal bin (it was that old) that linked to a secret room nearly as large as the entire upper floor that housed the small balefire and the various curious a sluagh's lifetime could procure.

She looked about cautiously, leaving enough of a trail to prove to her host that she was politely curious but not outright nosy (by sluagh standards, of course). There were innumerable cast off items scattered about, some neatly placed in ornate curio cabinets, others simply lying where they would. Many of the things had Glamour stored within them. As a matter of fact there was a small fortune in dross here, the crown jewel of the horde being the Edward Gorey original. There were a few chimeric items a swell, an odd knife or bit of armor, half a book on the great loves of Lady Duranall of the Kingdom of Apples, and in a large ornate cage an equally large chimeric rat.

The room was designed around two objects, the balefire being one, and a display. The display was composed of pictures of a dozen years of high school yearbook clippings. There were other things with the pictures, small handwritten notes, newspaper and magazine articles about the pictured individual and the great things they had done.

She nosed about some more, made a few more calls and bathed in the glow of the balefire while she flipped through the journal, and then her host's collection of other people�s diaries. She had a source of Glamour, the company of her own kind, and lots of soft food in the refrigerator. She hoped it would be an easy two days.

XII.

Donvetski returned at a quarter after 7:00pm. They continued the conversation from the early morning, she re-told the story of her oath-circle's trials and tribulations and went into a little greater detail about how they ended up on King Alston�s bad side. As they ate a dinner of applesauce and some kind of goulash she began to notice that the conversation centered mostly around her.

"And how did you ever end up in a wasteland like this?" she finally all but blurted.

"Oh ending up had little to do with it, my friend. Some sort of, eh Obi Wan Kenobi you think me, no? The great master in self-imposed exile perhaps? No, no. It is not the case. It is not that I have come here but that I�ve not ever left here. Understand?"

"You mean you grew u p here, or did you just happen to be here when you went through your Chrysalis?"

"Da. I was working in the oil fields, young man, and came into what I was. I tired of the oil work- always you move! I get job at school as janitor, close to books and young people." He surged to his feet and hoped about on one foot, one long hand waving free.

"Young people keep you young!" he laughed. In spite of herself she cracked a grin at his antics. THAT is so disturbing looking!

"So you�ve been here ever since?"

"Da. I�ve seen the return of the sidhe." His long face grimaced, "and the war of accordance, all before you were born eh? I stayed apart from it all. Must keep the halls clean, must always watch the children, help them when I can."

He caught her slight light of comprehension in her eyes and smiled broadly. "You�ve seen them no? My work?"

"The display? The pictures you mean? Yes."

"Yes, yes! My work, my, how do you say? Resume? Da, my resume, my real work." His smile filled the silence. "You must understand." he said waving a finger at her. "They are not so aware as we, we of the Kithain see the world as it is eh? Quite a perspective we have is it not?"

"Of course, of course." she agreed readily.

"Oh yes, and sometimes a word of encouragement, words of guidance and bits of old world advice can change their lives hmmm? Turn them from child to man! Give them hope, maybe direction to take?" He walked his long hand across the edge of the table and smiled at her again. "Doctors, lawyers, people just happy to be who they are, all thank the old janitor for it!"

"Wow." she said, not exactly sure where to take the conversation now. "Do you reap Glamour from it?" she asked, knowing full well that in her own selfishness she would.

He nodded vigorously. "yes, when they see what they wish to do it is much Glamour, they study, and the work at it, it makes more Glamour. Ingenious no?"

"Da." She answered and they laughed softly together.

Buggsy had claimed to know every sluagh in the three states of matter (his term for Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico) but she had never heard him mention anyone in Plano, much less anyone like Donvetski. Her mentor may have let her down.. but then again Buggsy liked to move about and Donvetski was obviously the kind who liked to stick to one place.

"So you�ve not left Plano in all that time?" She asked, directing the conversation back to him.

"Oh no, no I do get out once in a great while, see many places. Dallas, Lose Angeles, Seattle, many big cities."

"Why here then? Why scrape by and fight a losing battle against the horrid Banality of this place?"

"Scrape by? My pretty do I look like one who scrapes by?" he said standing to full height.

Indeed he did not, his kith seeming was so strong it easily overshadowed his mortal body. He was clothed in a black and red chimeric smoking jacket, like the attire of one of Poe�s mad idle rich. Bits of chimeric jewelry gleamed from around his wrists, neck and ankles, this was all in addition to what she had already seen of his abode.

"No, you don�t look to be scrapping by at all. You seem to be doing very well." Guess if you�re the only horse at the trough you don�t go thirsty.

"Donvetski is VERY good at what he does."

"So what is the problem with the kids here? They keep offing themselves, keeps Plano in the papers all the time."

His long face grew thoughtful. "Oh yes, I�ve seen the great winter settle here like few other places." he said sadly. "The children, they feel their dreams, and they feel the Banality, some feel it too much I fear. Many don�t ask the janitor for advice many don�t take it. They give in to the pressures of everybody but themselves." He sighed deeply, "Where there is no courage there can be little help- even from the Kithain."

She could agree with that, the notes she read at the police department were filled with self pitying crap about being forced or cornered or what have you, it hadn�t taken much of that for her to loose what little sympathy she had for the poor losers.

They talked, the two sluagh, longer into the evening, and into the crepuscular hours. They talked about this and that, about money; she found out he blackmailed one of the school superintendents which she thought was the coolest thing in the world (having a high powered pederast under her heel was one of her life-goals). She talked about her life and the lives of her friends. She danced around the various other sluagh she knew area and watched carefully for any sign of recognition. She got none.

The second night she again slept on the floor in front of the balefire and considered trying to update the company log but eventually opted not to do so. Her host seemed to like his solitude and she knew he wouldn�t appreciate the inquires and possible unwanted guests that such a thing would undoubtedly bring.

She read about Alice Cooper nearly asphyxiating himself and his band by slashing open a giant balloon full of carbon dioxide.

She slept and dreamed of envelopes, and of returning home from the hell-hole of Plano a virtual hero, of returning her remaining friends to their fae selves, of turning Anaston beat red with shame and impotent rage at her success where so many others had failed. To top it all off she dreamed her tiny mailbox was overflowing with guilty money!!

Saturday morning arrived and she felt the dreaming flow strong enough within her to venture about so she and Donvetski made a trip to the hotel to pick up her stuff and everyone else�s stuff for that matter. The landlord was less than happy they had skipped off without a word but a at least Borran�s credit card had been good so he had kept their gear for an extra day.

She and Donvetski spent some time together, some time apart, and with a lot of help from the cartoon network the day passed slowly as the anticipation of getting back home grew in her.

"Hello?"

"Borran?" Donvetski asked.

"What? Speak up sparky!"

"Yes, um, to whom am I speaking?"

"Who wants to know?" The ex-troll demanded. Donvetski quickly hung up.

If this goes on much longer he may get one of those dreadful caller id things.. she thought.

"Well, it would be too much hope that he would come out of it so soon." she said aloud. "And I guess they are still technically banished so nobody�s going to be too likely to go out of their way to help them...." she glanced at her official Boba Fett watch, "Four more hours until midnight.... curses!"

"I am sorry that you cannot yet help your friends."

"Thank you, and thank you for calling for me. I worry he may get hostile if he begins to recognize my voice."

He smiled, the big horse teeth of his mortal seeming mixing wildly with the big-gummed visage of his kith identity. "Is no problem. So you will be leaving as soon as possible then?" there was open regret in his voice.

"Yes, I�m sorry, I must go you understand. I�d love to stay otherwise." she lied. Actually she would rather gum down a box of Cap�n Crunch sans milk if it would get her out of this place any earlier. Outside of Donvetski�s oasis of Glamour the city of Plano was still a frightful place, it had killed one of her companions and sent three more fumbling back to their mortal lives. It had damn near ended her as well.

"But after we get everything taken care of I can bring the others here and they can thank you properly themselves-" she continued quickly.

Uh oh, doesn�t like that idea. she though watching his face.

"-or maybe just me. Or we could just exchange addresses and we could write letters to each other." She smiled at his less-than-enthusiastic face.

"You must think me a dull old sluagh in a dull and banal town, no?"

"No! No! Of course not, I just-" his raised palm cut her off.

"Do for me please a small thing, come with me and let me show you secrets I know."

Uh oh, sexual innuendo! She had worried that some form of repayment might be expected for his life saving kindness but she felt that exchanges of body fluids were beyond the bounds of good taste.

"I... uh .." she stammered, trying to decide if she would go through with it if it came down to it.

"Come please, let me show you the secrets of Plano." he gestured around, "Of them- the mortals here."

"Oh mortals, Oh yeah. Okay." she answered, relieved.

Right, a night on the town and then back to big D and shove King Alston�s banishment right up his ass.

XIII.

The rat had been uncaged and sat on Donvetski�s shoulder as he drove through the rapidly darkening streets of one of the non-gated affluent areas. The chimera spoke to him a language she couldn�t understand. Russian? French maybe? It whispered in his ear and he would nod and laugh and reach back and stroke the beast's fur.

"Ivagor helps me greatly." he said at last.

"He knows what homes have what security?" she asked, hazarding a guess at the rat�s function.

"Da. Most homes have alarms, most people do not use!" he laughed.

She laughed too. In spite of herself she felt excited about the nights excursions.. The sluagh had a weakness for digging up other peoples dirty laundry and the thought of some serious rooting with an old hand like Donvetski filled her with anticipation.

"Yes, now Ivagor tells me and I mark in the book." he held up a small chimeric book then handed it to her. "Many places yes?"

"Oh yes, Jeez you must have hundreds of entries!" she answered looking with amazement at page after page of addresses, alarm status�s and other information. Obviously rooting was a big part of how he kept himself occupied.

"Write please." he said handing her a chimeric pen.

"Certainly." she replied.

She scribbled three more addressees and the status of their locks/alarms or whatever guards and wards they had.

They pulled into a housing edition and made their way down the false cobblestone streets and migrant-worker trimmed lawns parking finally in a tasteful cul-de-sac. They got out and walked boldly toward their target. Their fae seemings were like soot smudges on the too-perfect sidewalk, dark stains that eased along, up to no good. Chimerically they were decked out, all the dark clothes and intricate finery, she had her slim rapier, he had his shortsword- a way of warning others of their kind that they were on the prowl and not to be trifled with. Not that they had any fear of running into others of their kith, but there are certain traditions one just does not break with.

To mortal eyes there were camouflaged like locals- he in a butt-ugly jumpsuit and she in a matching set of burgundy warm-ups. The Nike swoosh was prominently displayed on both outfits and thus disguised they walked without fear of anyone noting anything amiss about them.

The house loomed up in the dusk and Donvetski calmly hocked up a shockingly large luggie- fueling his cantrip and the door clicked open. Once inside they indulged their curiosity shamelessly, their gloved hands searching through cabinets and wardrobes, flipping through diaries and checkbooks, seeking tacky little pamphlets in daddy�s bottom drawer. They got a good haul of secrets, the Missus had a lovely little gambling habit and dear, dear, little Kari liked to keep most of her Barbie dolls in an old shoebox completely nude.

Their appetites whetted by their initial success they hit other houses rustling through the discarded boxes of peoples lives. All manner of things turned up (as they often did under the close scrutiny of the sluagh): extravagant phone sex bills, underwear with all the crotches torn out, freakish new age religions, drugs, booze, Swiss bank accounts, misery, pain, guilt, and sin!!

"Boy the rich sure know how to live." Crepusca said holding up a glossy photograph of two men and women in what she could only assume was some kind of bible-based pornography scene. It was her one lone souvenir from the evening and she knew it would be missed. The owner would probably tear his home apart trying to find it, it gave her an excuse for a cruel chuckle.

They had driven around the neighborhood of the last mark of the evening three times already and began their fourth pass.

"Somebody�s in this one." she said cautiously. The lights were on (but then they almost always were) but she could see movement behind the windows on the second floor.

"Yes, this is a good thing. We get to watch!"

Peeping. Some said that the sluagh had always kept the intrusive and oft-dangerous pastime alive from time immemorial, others said they started doing it in the late 60's and had stolen the idea almost straight from the book Logan's Run. She was too young to really know, she DID know that as technology got better and smaller really good sluagh peepers had started carrying around tiny cameras and camcorders and it sounded an awful lot like William Nolan's youth/drug/sex driven vision of the future. This, she thought, was very cool!!

"Oh. Saving the best for last eh?" she said nodding her approval but feeling her stomach tense at the thought of it. Rooting and peeping were two very different sports, mainly because with peeping you could get your head blown off if you weren�t careful. She had only been peeping six times before, and all of those were the kind where you slip in while nobodies there, let your mark (or marks) come wandering back in, watch whatever happens, then slip out again after everybody�s gone. Donvetski seemed to like to go for higher stakes....

They pulled up and walked toward the house, interior lights on, exterior lights off, garage wide open. She hesitated, it would be stupid to get tossed in jail or shot now.... but still it would be the icing on the cake to solidify her fame among the underfolk. Not as good as Imal Weissman's pictures from Aushwitz but impressive enough for the '90s.

They walked right past the vintage �68 corvette and right into the house. No alarms, no dogs, and nobody standing in the tiny entry room. It was an oppulant place, in an early 90�s sort of way, both impressive and condescending at the same time. They moved quietly into the laundry room while Ivagor slunk down the hall.

Her heart raced while they waited, she could hear movement upstairs, thumping kind of, and a voice sometimes raised in anger other times low and muttering. After a time the rat came back and by whatever method of communication it and Donvetski had he seemed to indicate that it was safe to proceed.

They skulked through the kitchen rolling their eyes at the mass-produced-hand-made-looking-crappy-Indian-southwestern decor and moved through the breakfast nook and the dining room and finally found themselves at the base of the living room stairs. Here they halted while the chimera again scouted ahead, his beady rodent eyes gleaming as he hopped up the stairs.

Crepusca strained her sluagh hearing. Upstairs she could hear one person at least, pacing about. She figured the person must be alone since he was talking out loud in that sentence fragment way that people speak when they think no one else is listening. His tone was angry, accusational. She tapped her partner-in prowling on the shoulder pointed up the stairs and shrugged. "What�s the story?" she whispered, her voice fading inches from her lips.

"Oh this one has been coming for a long while." he said by way of explanation.

"What�s he doing up there?"

"Cannot say exactly, could be almost anything."

Well, I guess it would take a lot of the excitement out of it if we did know.....

Their heads snapped up as the rat bolted down the steps.

"Quickly! Hide!!" For a grump he moved with shocking suddenness and made himself one with the interior of a large Oriental urn while she slipped deep behind the large leather couch.

She could hear their quarry descending the steps, the dull thump of his footsteps replaced by a faster pace as he made his way across the living room, the breakfast nook and the kitchen and out into the garage. She heard Donvetski squirm out of his hiding place, she followed his lead and crawled out from the couch.

"Come, come! Hurry! Now is our chance!" he said, as he pulled his leg out of the urn. The pair slipped up the stairs quickly and quietly, once at the top they followed the rat past the master bedroom, the guest room and to the room of the master�s child.

"It is this place. Here!" Donvetski whispered quickly as she slid into the room.

Ah the scent of young men. she thought, trying to convince herself that she wasn't as worried as she really was. She inhaled and gave a grin as the peculiar odor that exudes from the nesting area of adolescent males wafted up her nostrils. Something else was there too, paint by the scent.

She took in the room at a glance, it was a study of contrasts. CD players, a Sony Playstation and other rich-boy toys and furnishings were mixed with the latest discarded street-style clothing that lay scattered about the room while struggling grunge/alternative band posters adorned the walls. The dominant feature of the room was a large easel with a blank page upon it and small bottles of paint littering the sculpted late 80�s style carpet around its feet. In spite of its blankness there was a strong radiance of Glamour coming from it. Crepusca almost halted to investigate but her sense of caution prevailed and she slipped under the bed with Donvetski.

"What�s up here?" She whispered.

"Glamour. Free for the taking eh? Here in Plano no! Watch and wait!"

She heard the mark coming back up the stairs his muttering now an open shouting.

"-cares what the fuck they think? Not fuckin� me! Not fuckin� me! Make the debate team my fucking ass!"

Baby�s learned a new word.

Her nose caught new scents. Baby�s been into the Jack Daniel�s too. There was also the smell of dust and rust, and old paint smell.

He started his whole rant again, like people who talk to themselves often do. He put something down on the bed and two cans of white wall paint and the Jack Daniel�s on the floor as well. The two sluagh drew away as the boy took a screwdriver to the top of one of the paint cans. It would be so easy for him to drop it or just to look under the bed! Her muscles tensed in case she had to sprint away. Peeping was dangerous and for the sluagh without the ability to clound perceptions or alter memories it was doubly so. Like the receiptionist at the police station she kicked herself for not having learned how to influence people beyond those she knew well.

At last he finally popped the top off the can, spilling it on his hand, his feet, and the carpet in the process.

"Fuck it!" he grunted tipping the can over onto its side. As it disgorged its contents she could here what sounded like they boy attacking the canvas with the screwdriver and maybe even his hands.

Don�t get into the paint, Don�t touch the paint. she thought watching the expanding pool, the image of her leaving tracks all over the house filled her mind. As a matter of fact a lot of unbidden thoughts were in her head. This whole situation was too goofy to be safe. This was no ordinary peep, no first time pot party or hasty affair, this was weird, freaky, and frankly she didn�t like it.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a presence. Not one she could detect with her five senses but her fae self knew there was Glamour afoot. Flowing from the angst-artist as he poured anger and alienation onto the canvass. In the blink of an eye the air fairly crackled with the stuff. Donvetski�s tiny balefire seemed almost insignificant next to what was pouring from their unknowing host.

Oh what ravaging this would be! Or reverie even! If I only had a few minutes contact... Although she could sense the energy in the room she wasn�t connected to it, she was neither the inspiration or in support of it. The Glamour fell like rain around her parched area of earth. There was an edge to that Glamour as well, a harshness that burned the back of her nose. She regarded it as a property of the source and method of the young man�s work.

She felt Donvetski's hand wrap around her arm and as he touched her she felt the energy that filled the room flow into her. She felt all loose and liquidy as it coursed through her. Whatever trick Donvetski had she liked it.

Time played tricks with them as they held their breath between strokes of their unseen artist�s brush (or his fingers or whatever he was using), each touch sending out another wave of energy. He had held his tongue for a long time, passion having replaced anger, but eventually he started talking again. It was the same old story she had heard somewhere before; about the curse of being different and unable to live up to the expectations and goals set by friends, teachers, parents and other enemies and the savage unwillingness to be stamped in their miserable mold. The words she had seen before but not heard. Not heard them spoken with the same conviction, the same desperate intensity, the same cold single-mindedness as she heard now.

There was another noise he was making too, one that almost slipped by even her refined hearing, the driest rustle, like the sound of a spider walking through dust. Fascinated she listened to this new sound selectively blocking out all others. It grew pulsing and vibrant and changed from a series of sounds to a long continuos keening. From here it rose to an almost deafening wail, the only sound to fill her mind was the tormented shriek.

She turned to look at Donvetski and found his eyes were half shut and tears streamed down his cheeks, his long face was screwed into a smile of purest ecstasy. His eyes opened to tiny slits and she could see within them a depth of desperation and madness and utter arrogance that sent a warning shudder down her spine.

Do something you idiot! her better instincts roared at her amid the noise and confusion.

She began to scramble toward the boy when the rat leapt at her face, his mouth stretching open from the floor to the bed and filled with row upon row of needle-like teeth. Around her arm she felt Donvetski re-establish his grip, painfully strong now.

All other thoughts fled from her as she heard the dull metallic click of the hammer as it was pulled into position.

There was a pause.

"Be a fucking man for once." She heard the youth grate.

His Chrysalis, rage, and life ended in a muffled blast. Something traveled from him to Donvetski and from Donvetski to her. The tainted Glamour became a flood of bitterness that ripped through her like a gale through a cobweb, snapping the strands of reality and perception in its wake. She had time to wonder if it was bedlam or damnation she would face when that last thread broke before she swooned and slithered into near oblivion. From that oblivion a part of her rose to face the gale.

For a few moments she was a shattered mirror, she held down screaming confederate soldiers as they had their mangled arms and legs hacked off,

and she danced with wealthy men in powdered wigs knowing they feared her because she knew what they did to their slaves at night,

and she skulked through the hold of a ship and made bets with herself about which of the Irish would make it to the new world and which would die of dysentary,

and she listened from behind a wardrobe as Ivan the Terrible beat and raped one of his maids

and she roamed the Urals with gypsies and had dozens of mortal and fae lovers,

and she pressed her naked body against the hot stones aware only that a fire roared on the other side and a merciless Russian winter lashed at her from behind.

And she was aware of the dull need to get out of the house without leaving any trace.

XIV.

It was an awfully quite drive.

The brief glimpse of her full fae soul had subsided as quickly as it had come leaving only that part of itself called Crepusca and the banal shelter once known as Brenda Jo Elliot to do all the stony silent work that goes with getting out of a crime scene without leaving a record of your presence. With an effort she convinced herself that the car was not a grand carriage drawn by blood red horses who shot sparks from the pavement, it was a 1992 Accord. Nice, paid for, but not grand.

"You knew didn�t you?" she finally accused.

"No. Suspect many things, but who can be sure eh?"

Suspect my ass.

"You knew he was planning it, you knew he was fae." she tried to whisper it like the accusation of a guilty conscience and stopped just short of saying he had planned the whole thing.

"No, no!" the grump countered "It is, is hard to tell these things, they are difficult to predict. The, uh, how do you say? The note, the letter?"

"The suicide note?" she prompted.

"Da, the suicide note is all I want, it has much Glamour, do you not agree?"

She had looked through a stack of those notes and letters while at the police station and it had never occurred to her to wonder why such a critical document would be so devoid of Glamour, of passion. Hadn�t even crossed her mind at the time.

"Oh, no doubt about that." she replied. No doubt at all. My nipples are still hard from it.

"Da, much Glamour. More than enough for one... enough even for two."

She looked out the window and up into the night sky. It was a lovely dull orange color with fiery blue stars sprinkled about it, the constellations Scorpio and Draco seemed to be fighting, or maybe they were doing the tango.

"Why Donvetski you sly dog are you inviting me here to stay?" she let sarcasm drift into her voice

"Da. Yes, I would like very much for you to stay here with me. There are many more things to show to you and so many other secrets to tell."

She glanced at the clock: 11:30pm. Stall.

"I don�t know.. it�s a banal, wounded place... but I suppose we�d e the most important people in it."

"No no! There is so much more than this and this place." He said as he stopped at a light, there was a desperate edge in his frail voice.

She looked over at him. He was something to behold, shadow upon shadow flooded from him, his hair stood up on end and his eyes were the same blood red as the horses she couldn�t quite get out of her mind�s eye. Those eyes had seen scenes like tonight�s how many times? He radiated a powerful presence, the sort of informal menace that stuck in your memory like a web you couldn�t entirely pull from your skin. He was the kind who would make a sidhe lord glance over his shoulder in dread. He was also returning her gaze with a disturbing intensity.

"Light�s blue, you can go now." she said with a nonchalance she did not feel.

They continued their roaming, the silence grew uncomfortable. "More than this eh? Like what?" she asked, feigning interest. Hoping it was feigned, hoping that some foul part of her psyche didn't like the idea of playing death-goddess to a bunch of banal weaklings.

It was like hitting a magic button, he started talking, or maybe preaching she couldn�t tell he was so excited. He did like to travel and he liked to leave trails of suicides in his wake, no small number of them fairly famous or at least high profile.

The tirade went on for a full ten minutes. She tried to keep her mind on the fact that soon it would be midnight and she could get back to her apartment and get started with the business of reviving her companions. On her face she wore the quiet, attentive, and interested mask she had made so much use of in grade school.

"So, it is what I have to offer, my power, my city,.. my love. Will you be my Queen here beautiful Crepusca?"

"Queen? Awww you�re so sweet." she bluffed absently as her better instincts began to tingle and she made a sudden spatial realization.

We�re almost out of Plano! Her mind clicked it all together, he would take her out of Plano and violate the geasa and her fae memory would be driven out from her and she would be dazed, confused, and at his mercy- a trait he seemed to lack.

She opened her mouth to agree to his proposal, anything to buy her more time, but then she stopped. She could feel it deep in her bones, she knew it wouldn�t matter what she said his actions would most likely remain the same. He was testing her waters and she felt that either way he would have her in a position of helplessness and reliance upon him. The thought revolted her.

"Stop the car." she hissed.

He drove through the area where Plano and the outskirts of Dallas merged, the hill in front of them, or the next would be the border. He had a look of true regret on his face.

Age and treachery will never beat youth, strength, and treachery! She made a fake to his crotch with one hand and grabbed the wheel with the other. They bounded one way, then another as they wrestled over the controls. The tires whined and then screamed like horses. The crest of the hill in front of them was bathed in the sickly green light of an oncoming vehicle. A horn bellowed like a challenging bull and then darkness loomed in front of them, the darkness took the shape of a tree shielding its head behind long branchy fingers. With a crumpling thump metal and wood mated and they were flung forward into the gentle yet firm grip of their safety belts.

Crepusca was stunned for a moment and regained her senses only to find she was trying to spoon hug the gear shift column. She sat up quickly and painfully wanting only to get as far away from Donvetski as she could. He was slumped in all his blackness against the wheel, rattled but alive and awake.

She undid her belt slipped out of the car and leaned against the tree. No sign remained of the other car, no dent, no insurance hassle, no reason to stop.

The wreck had re-awakened the pain in her chest and she had a throb in her side from her near-intimate contact with the parking brake. The scrabble of tiny claws on bark came to her sensitive ears and she pulled herself away from the tree just as Donvetski�s rat made a lunge for her neck with his mouth-full of too many teeth.

Out in the open she had room to use her sword and she tore Chelicerae from the sheath as the chimera leapt from the tree at her. She stumbled back as it landed on her leg and fought to find a hold. She batted it down with her free hand then brought her foot down on its hindquarters. It spun its head at an impossible angle and clamped onto her ankle. She gritted her gums and nailed the dream-stuff vermin to the ground. It expired to the deep dreaming with a most satisfying squeal.

The squeal was answered by the thump of a closing car door. She looked up to find Donvetski trying to bore holes through her with his eyes. He walked around the car drawing his shortsword. A brilliant blue light topped the hill and she turned her sensitive eyes away as a car roared past- horn blaring and tires squealing as it dodged the edge of their ruined accord. Her head rang from the noise and her eyes had bright pink spots dancing in front of them, from amid the light and the spots she saw a dark blur slip towards her and her swordpoint came up to meet it.

Donvetski halted out of her reach, he was shouting at her. Between his frail voice and her ringing ears she couldn�t catch the words, but one doesn�t spend a lot of time with the sluagh without learning to read lips.

"- carry on so if he had been mortal?"

"I�ll throw the I-ching on it when I get home." she said lunging at him, hoping that if she undid him the answer to that question would be unequivocally 'no'. His sword flashed up to deflect the blow and the battle was truly joined.

The sluagh will tell you they do not fight among themselves, but this is untrue, they go about their duels in the quiet hidden places of the earth, in the forgotten corners of old cities. Not like the sidhe with their swords crossed in righteous anger, or the trolls who battle for its own sake, or even the firm jawed �time to clean the barn� expression of the boggans. The sluagh are motivated not by honor, duty or passion but the anger of trust misplaced and the fury of friendship betrayed.

The blows rained one from the other, Crepusca keeping ever out of the grump�s reach and he always a hair�s breadth from impailment. Then, as sword duels often are- it was over. Somehow Donvetski had slipped inside the reach of her rapier and sized her sword arm at the wrist and quick as thinking his short sword found its way into her side, satiating itself in her chimeric innards.

-almost.

Her thumb thrust desperately into the crook of his elbow and saved her from becoming just another queasy statistic. Donvetski yanked his blade sideways, slicing the not-fatal wound wider, and redoubled his stabbing effort. She kept her grip on his arm and struggled to bring her own blade to bear, angling it down and making a weak stab into the swirling black rags that hid the murderer�s legs. He shook her arm savagely nearly wresting her shoulder from the socket and finally flinging her sword into the darkness. She counter twisted, not enough to free her self but enough to get Donvetski�s hand close to her face. She bit into his wrist hard, letting her mortal seeming do the dirty work and trying to crack the big joints open like so many malted milk balls.

He yanked his hand away and tried again to drive his sword through her, and both of her hands clamped onto his to push back the blade. He pounded his free hand into her face once, then twice- tired old man punches that served only to enrage her. Youth and strength would have its day, damn the Mists, damn the Escheat, damn them all!

As he drew back for another punch another car crested the, roaring out of Plano, he winced in the sudden blue light and she yanked his arm out straight with one hand and pressed mercilessly behind his elbow with the other. It straightened with a pop and then as she pushed his wrist down and elbow up the joint crackled and folded back upon itself as only a sluagh's could. It hurt, she could see it in his long face.

That�s for me.

He swung a third punch, merely grazing his soft knuckles against her shoulder. She kicked brutally at his legs, not caring as shin smacked shin.

That�s for the others.

She pulled him with all her might and spun him into the howling blue dragon that coursed toward them.

And that�s for Kurt Cobain!

Noise and light ruled the world until the twin blue suns turned from her and ran themselves into the back of the accord, the sound turned from rubber squealing to metal crunching to wood moaning.

The wilder stood for a moment unsure if her senses would recover from the audio-visual assault they had been subjected to. When the spots drifted from her vision she looked at the automotive carnage that now lay in front of her. What was once a shiny new jeep convertible was now pressed up against the back of the Accord... it almost looked it was trying to eat it. The jeep had two people in it, the passenger had apparently tried to push her face through the windshield and she sat very, very still. The driver, a young wild-eyed teen was talking to his passenger. Shouting actually, in a voice slurred by alcohol, he looked about wildly, from the jeep to his mangled girlfriend, to Crepusca to something on the other side of the road. After a few panicked moments he did what most drunk drivers do after an accident- he fled the scene on foot.

Crepusca crossed the road giving the girl in the jeep a quick look. She�ll be all right, daddy will buy her a new face. she thought, not dwelling on the shallow likelihood she wasn�t outright dead.

Donvetski lay not far from the wreckage looking like he didn�t have a solid bone left in his body. Her fairy sight could still see his sluagh features. She stood over him and watched as his fae soul gradually lost its grip on life. She felt even less than when they had made their getaway from the suicide scene. That disturbed her somewhat, to feel so little at a crucial moment like this.

She found her way back to the girl in the jeep. She pushed her back from with windsheild with a sick crunch of wet broken glass. Her feelings did stir inside her as she looked at the wrecked face.

"You know, Alice Cooper didn�t kill any chickens." she said for reasons she didn�t understand. "Feathers were very helpful and a cheap prop. He would break open a pillow on stage and it looked big and explosive, a nice visual trick. Mike Bruce would spray the feathers onto the audience with a fire extinguisher."

She reached out and smoothed some matted hair out of the girl�s face. "Anyway, in a concert at Toronto somebody in the audience handed him a chicken, he having grown up in a trailer in Detroit didn�t know a whole lot about chickens and he thought it could fly. He planned to tear open the pillow and then toss the chicken up and it would fly up out of the stadium." The girl slumped over, she pushed her back upright.

"Really, he did. So he tosses this chicken out over the rock-n-roll crazed crowd and it plummets into the audience. Somebody gripped a wing and another person got a leg and suddenly the kids were pulling it apart! I think those kids might have been redcaps, it sounds like the kind of public display they go in for. Maybe the whole thing was some elaborate bunk for a mighty cantrip... the Accordance War was in full swing at the time. Cooper was kinain, so the legends say, but I don�t think he was into killing chickens."

She usually told the story better, funnier. But this time it just sounded dull and flat.

She stood for a while then looked up at the black sky and absentmindedly found Scorpio. The time for instinctive action was over and she knew cold reason was now called for. She gave a last sorrowful look at the broke old man and did what most non-redcaps do after violating the most important rule of the Escheat. She snatched her few meager belongings out of the car and fled on foot.


XV.

Of all Borran�s brats the sluagh had been his least favorite. Even the damn pooka was preferable to that smelly little hick wench.

King Greyhawk sighed softly to himself. This Plano thing had gotten way out of hand. It was, he supposed, too much to hope for that chancellor Anaston could keep tossing their detractors and political foes into that pit of Banality without some kind of backlash. Already he had lost enough face from the unfortunate death of the pooka but now one of Borran�s litter-mates had somehow returned from that despised and feared area.

So much for the idea she would wander back to Oklahoma where she came from. He thought, giving his court a sweeping glance. His court, it flooded him with a fierce pride. All the colors and elegance, all the intrigues, all the foes and allies, his to set into motion, and the green and gold of house Gwydion dominating the hall. He let his eyes settle on Anaston for a moment, the chancellor stood opposite the King's own troll bodyguard and if he felt any discomfort under his lord's eyes he didn't show it. Greyhawk scratched his chimeric Chinese dragon behind the ears before giving a nod to his nervous door man.

"You�re Majesty! Crepusca the sluagh bids me to say she has fulfilled the terms of her banishment to the Dead Land and asks for an audience with your grace!" The sidhe childling�s voice was nervous and his bearing bellied the relief he felt as he spoke. He would have to get a more stern doorman, maybe a troll- an obedient troll. The announcement was merely a formality, every Kithain in Dallas knew that this Crepusca creature was back and what she had come for. He nodded ascent, wishing there was a way to make this a closed door meeting and steeling himself for what was surely to be an unpleasant encounter.

She walked into the audience hall, it had suddenly gotten so quiet that her steps echoed off the great vaulted ceiling.

By the dreaming! She�s black and white! Indeed she was, utterly devoid of color she was like a character out of some old Black and White movie. There was one exception, a golden centipede embroidered on her vest shined out from amidst the shades of coffee stain that made up the rest of her ensemble. She was in some sort of early 19th century mourning clothes, even down to the painfully thin boots that only a sluagh could wedge into. Those boots clicked right up to the second step of his throne dais. His troll bodyguard and his queen and Anaston all bristled at the breach of respect, he lifted a slender hand to still them before anybody could do anything rash.

The sluagh pulled back her veil, her ash-gray face showing her obvious disdain for him and Anaston before a thin lipped smile spread over her face.

"Greetings from the hinterlands, your Highness." she whispered, although Anaston had laid the Geasa she addressed King Greyhawk, utterly ignoring the chancellor.

She gave a curt little bow. "Can you hear or would you like to have me move closer?"

Impossible! Unthinkable! To be on the same level as a King! Anaston almost stepped foreword to stop an impending breach of decorum.

"Crepusca, my court welcomes you back home, our hearts rejoice and we bow to the tenacity of the underfolk." Greyhawk's voice, strong and sure, resonated through the hall and he even inclined his head in a gracious bow, as did his queen. A ripple of admiration for his grace and humility went through the crowd.

"Good boy." she whispered, "Our part of the bargain is done, our unjust penance served." She removed the journal from here purse and tossed it at his feet. "Now be so noble as to fulfill your end."

Actually she had gone beyond her end of the bargain, staying in Plano an extra day and night. Just out of spite probably, the underfolk were bad about holding grudges but lacking the spine to do anything about them�

"The word of a King is not given lightly, it shall be done at greatest expedience!" He motioned to Anaston who immediately turned and gathered four of the royal knights. Anaston's voice, smooth and crisp even under the baleful gaze of the sluagh gave orders quick and precise that they should find her companions and bring them back into the dreaming.

Nods of approval and acceptance went through the crowd. A good King and true to his word! None could deny it. Almost none... there were always people looking for ANY excuse.

Crepusca smiled her thin lipped smile, her eyes narrowing on him then his queen and then his dragon. The chimera, being more ungracious than the royal pair coiled back and let out a hiss. Again she looked at him, he clicked his tongue gently and the dragon settled back down. She produced a small deck of cards and vaguely he remembered her little parlor trick.

THE UNDERFOLK DO NOT

GIVE THEIR FRIENDSHIP LIGHTLY.

ONE OF MY FRIENDS IS DEAD

DUE TO YOUR MAJESTIES FOOLISHNESS.

She flipped the card over to reveal a full-color illustration of a cat being run over by a great gray car. His own birth date was on the license plate and he could make out Anaston's always-perfect hair on the driver.

WILL YOUR MAJESTY BE SHEDDING ANY

MORE KITHAIN BLOOD IN YOUR PIT?

He felt his jaw harden and his temper rise. Nobody not on the dais could see what she had said, but they all knew what it must be about, knew that she would confront him on the issue. His eyes locked on hers and held them, without looking he could sense in the crowd a number of his detractors nodding grimly, their eyes shining. Anaston stood by, unreadable but waiting for any hint or clue.

She held his gaze, long enough at least that his instincts told him to address the court.

"Few losses of the Dreaming are felt as deeply as the passing of the gentle pooka and the tragedy that has befallen Jay Adrenal is a wound that may take much time to heal." It was rhetoric pure and simple, still though, his advocates nodded at his words and his detractors inclined their heads to the wisdom of what he spoke. The Mists were one thing, death was another, not that it surprised him that of all the little fools he had sent to Plano Jay would be the first to perish. The pooka were weak, frivolous and frail after all. Fleeing into the ignorant world of their animal side was both cowardly and not altogether unexpected.

POOKA TODAY, WHAT TOMORROW?

PERHAPS YOUR HIGHNESS WILL RAISE HIS SIGHTS

TO UNRULY CHILDINGS? START SMALL AND

WORK YOUR WAY UP? MAYBE EVEN A SIDHE?

His voice was a cold whisper, "You accuse to much, sluagh."

She trembled slightly before his anger. He was a King, a grump of the sidhe and if he choose he could have her a-quiver in fear, or bawling in shame, such was his power- especially here in his own palace. There wasn't enough of the green and gold of Gwydion for that, for now he had to maintain appearances.

"You sh-should consult your advisors your Majesty." she continued in a whisper. He let his face show his displeasure, such a look had quite Borran�s angry outburst.

But Crepusca was not Borran, had sworn no oaths to his kingdom, and had not come through Banality and death to be denied her say. She averted her eyes from him and slowly pulled out another card.

BE WARNED: STRIKE AT ME IN WORD

OR DEED AND YOU SMITE A HERO.


Damn! Damn! Damn!!!! Already they composed songs of her success, he could feel it in his marrow, and all too easily could he picture the songs that his foes would write of him if he were to abuse this wretch in any way. As a hero she was a problem, as some sort of commoner martyr she was a disaster. His wise and handsome face revealed none of the internal struggles that he waged.

Finally he spoke. "Plano has proven to be much more dangerous to our kind than was believed, it makes your deeds the greater and the courage of your company above question."

She simply glared at his feet.

But yet he did have questions. He let silence reign for just the right amount of time. " Courage indeed for your to stay yet another day within the boundaries of that place." He looked about thoughtfully as if trying to remember something.

"Three deaths I believe, so the stories told by the press say, and that poor, poor girl in the car! Any other Kith would have fled as soon as they could...." he let it hang and heads nodded vigorously. The reputation of the sluagh was already tarnished enough, a few glib words and he would let that reputation make an end of this troublesome wench. Hero indeed!

"Oh yes, my kind often spends time in the company of death. There were... things I had to attend to." She reached into her great handbag and withdrew a small bronze urn and gave it a shake, it rattled audibly.

"They burn the bodies of dead beasts, after they remove them from the roads," She whispered. "It would not have been proper to leave his remains in such a place. My sluagh upbringing demands I find a proper resting place for him."

A few of the pooka at court gasped as they realized what the contents of the urn were in fact the remains of their departed Kith.

Not really a lie, but surely not the whole truth, that much he could tell. The underfolk had.. beliefs about the dead that didn't flow well with the rest of Kithain society. Now was not the time for accusation, however. He nodded his solemn approval, let the reputation of her kith smear her notoriety.

"An admirable cause. Please go about it as you and your companions' see fit. And feel free to stay here at my palace until your are fully recuperated and await the return of your friends." Such courtesy! Such a lord!

At this she smiled her little smile and shook her head. There was a silence, long enough to be almost uncomfortable. Silence he knew was the realm of the underfolk.

"May the Dreaming never abandon you, brave Crepusca." A slight motion of his hand indicated that this audience was over. She gave him a stiff and disrespectful nod, spun on her tiny heels and made her way out of the hall. She paused to say something to Anaston, or at least say something at him, her frail voice unable to breach the distance. She then clicked out on her odd shoes.

Four he had sent away, one was dead, three given to Banality, and one comes back likely in bedlam. The royal curiosity was roused.

Later the short journal would be read then re-read. Already he had Anaston organize spies to follow her, to find out who she talked to, who she made her political bed with.

The reports filtered in: She spread Jay Ardenell�s ashes over the lilacs in the royal garden. She talked to no one on her way back to her apartment. She stopped by the veterinary clinic where she worked. She took a bus back to Plano.

The spies would follow her no further.

A week later all of the lilacs were dead.

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