Wolf Penned In
This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.
Theme for this section: "Got My Mind Set on You" by George Harrison
Bill was enjoying his Omelet W/ham when he saw Plucky and Judy enter the little diner he where he was having a late Saturday morning breakfast.
"And so it begins..." said Plucky, ominously, as he slid into the booth opposite Bill.
"What?" said Bill, looking up from his meal.
"Oh, nothing important happened late yesterday, right after you left," said the duck Pooka. "No important dignitaries arrived."
"He means the High Queen Dowager arrived with a small entourage just after dusk," said Judy.
"Ah," said Bill.
"Supposedly, the continuing disagreement and distrust between the engaged parties is such that all will be here before Noon."
"Wow," said Bill.
"Yeah, that surprised me, too," said Judy. "It seems Faerilyth, the High King's sister and his protégée have done some serious reconciling the past few months. The other two are trusting her to quietly bring the High King back to himself while they stay home and keep things running to reduce suspicion."
"Might work," said Bill, warily.
"If it doesn't, we better be ready for a world of trouble," said Judy, sourly. "Anyway, the Duke - our Duke - wants us to be at his place by three, to help with security."
"If there's one thing I hate," said Bill, solemnly, "it's in security."
The waitress arrived, took the newcomers' orders, and left.
"Eat up," said Bill, with a sigh, as he pushed his empty plate away and reached for the last swallow of his juice. "Looks like we're going to have a busy day."
"Not more for you," said Plucky. "You're driving."
They were silent for a few moments as each thought private thoughts.
"The High Queen...," said Judy, suddenly. She caught herself. "Uh, Dowager, I mean... she's really torn up. But she's also determined. I mean really determined."
"Yeah," said Bill, slowly. "If something like that happened to Debbie, I'm sure I would be calm and collected."
Another long silence. Bill, absent anything else to do and not quite full, began nibbling on crackers. He looked up as Judy sighed.
"After - What is it, three years? - of hints and hopes and disappointment, to finally learn he's not only alive but may be returned to her..." Judy stopped and shook her head. Her pale, red-accented face was fixed in an emotionless state, but there was deep sadness in her voice. "I can't imagine what she's feeling right now, but given the dedication she's shown to him I just hope she doesn't have another disappointment."
"Love is useless for this sort of thing," said Bill, quietly. "No motivation, no reward."
"Awww, that's so sweet," said the Knocker, with the only honest, gentle smile they could remember from her.
"Eeewww, too much romance around here," said Plucky, leaning back so the waitress could serve them. "Things are plumb sticky with it."
The woman gave him an odd look, scowled and left.
* * *
Theme for this section: "politics of dancing" by Re-Flex
Bill, as was the norm for the group he hung with since coming to Columbus, provided transportation for the usual suspects. They were also supposed to retrieve Mark Gambolle, since he was using his expertise in music to help with the program that night. However, when Theodora entered the Fairlaine she seemed oddly subdued. Once they were parked at the rear of the Gambolle property, to spirit Mark away hopefully unnoticed, she asked them to wait a moment.
"I... have a confession to make," said Theodora, shifting uneasily, the goat hairs on her legs rustling oddly against the front of the rear seat. "Duke Loethenlau was sent here by Queen Maab to check on Duke Wotchermacalt. And the other two Wilders and me from his court were part of that. I... did tell him about the High King. But only after I knew Duke Wotchermacalt was going to. I feel guilty about..."
"It's all right," said Leo, calmly. "Checking on those who wield authority in your name is expected. I'm certain His Grace would not consider this a violation of a confidence. Besides, he did inform Queen Maab and Duke Loethenlau."
"You think we didn't know there was something odd about you being here?" said Judy, grinning and giving her a hug. "We didn't know for sure what it was, but this doesn't surprise me. Like my brother said, Changelings have to live with this sort of pretense."
"News to me," said Plucky, nodding sagely.
"For once, he tells the truth," said Bill, smirking. "Now, let's go kidnap our recalcitrant Satyr musician."
"Thank you," said Theodora, looking much less worried. "This means a lot to me, guys. I hate this sort of stuff, but when your liege asks..."
"We know, we know..." said Plucky, rolling his eyes.
* * *
Theme for this section: "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" by the Bee Gees
Her Grace, the Duchess, was making a point of tending to the High Queen Dowager's needs. Not so much the physical ones - her staff and Faerilyth's were far more qualified to see to those - as her emotional ones. Just now, she was giving the younger woman a sisterly hug.
"It hurts me so much to see him like this," said Faerilyth, the ache in her voice causing the Dutchess' own throat to constrict painfully. "I don't know if taking me to see him at a distance, through a window, last night was a blessing or a curse."
"I know," said the Dutchess, speaking barely above a whisper. "I can imagine how I would feel were my own husband in such a situation. But the Duke, my husband, does know what he is doing. The pain you feel now, waiting, is far less than what you would feel if we rushed things and he were lost to us. The plan to restore the High King moves apace; you must be patient."
Faerilyth took Ilsthene's hand and squeezed it in both of hers.
"I thank you. Even if we fail to recover his fae self, you have shown me that he still lives. Given me hope and some measure of both joy and peace, after these long years."
There were no more words for some time after that.
Meanwhile, however, the usual suspects were heading for the Court of Glass with a very sad passenger.
"It's just... we did all these fun things together, and she doesn't remember any of them," said Mark, sobbing. "She barely remembers me!"
"That is the core tragedy inherent in a Changeling's life," said Leo, softly. "The Mists blur all memory, even that of we Changelings. At once, it protects us and hurts us."
"So just enchant her again, if she means that much to you," said Judy, less sympathetically.
"I didn't enchant her the first time," said Mark. "Plucky did."
"Well, that explains it," said Bill, most of his attention on weaving through traffic.
"I seriously doubt that could have made things any worse," said Theodora, giving Mark a Satyr-to-Satyr hug. "Though suddenly seeing that duck for what he really is..."
"Well, enchanting her will bring back at least some of the memories obscured by the Mists," said Leo, trying to keep the group mood in tune with Mark's sadness. "I'll help you practice, later."
"Better make that ‘tomorrow,'" said Judy. "We are all going to be busy tonight."
* * *
Theme for this section: Randy Newman's fanfare theme from The Natural
"Get in your positions!" hissed His Grace, actually pushing Bill along.
The situation started tense and grew more so with each passing moment, in large part because those participating in the operation must needs act as if they weren't unusually tense. Bill wasn't in any of the acts, but was instead placed in control of a group of young Pookas charged with what the Duke referred to as "auxiliary security." Anyone meaning mischief would know of the normal security measures, but not Bill's gang. And who better to spot mischief in the making than Pookas? While people might have trouble taking what a Pooka said as the literal truth, they were among the most trusted of the kinain when it came to doing their duty. If only their interpretation of "duty" weren't so flexible...
The Arts Center auditorium was packed. Not only were there more people in attendance than usual, there were more types of people. And even some things which might not be considered people by all. More, the average importance of the people attending was also higher than usual. While Queen Maab had decided - like Morewen and Lenore - to not attend to avoid drawing too much attention, Duke Loethenlau was definitely there. As was the vampire Prince of the city, Lord Exsanguine, along with two of his retinue, as well as David Ardry, himself.
At the Duke's request, Lord Exsanguine delayed his arrival until shortly before the program began. This reduced the chance of someone who wasn't already in the know recognizing David, and also the chance that they might do something about such a recognition. Given everything else which was happening, having three vampires present turned out to be only a minor concern. Lady Fang was also present, sitting in the row behind Exsanguine. The Duke had specifically asked her to keep an eye on the vampires. The Prince thought she was there to help protect him. Only she knew her true purpose.
Faerilyth's arrival at the Court was still known only to the Duke's staff and a few others. She was currently in a private dressing room, with the Duchess, valiantly fighting the urge to simply run out and throw herself at David.
Adding to the strain was the rising level of Glamour flooding the hall. It was normal for this to be produced by such activities, but tonight the level started abnormally high and rose with each act, sometimes sharply. Participants - whether kithain or kinain or merely enchanted humans - were doing their best for the cause, and the results of their efforts fed the work of those coming after. Even those not in on the scheme, even those not Changeling, even those technically not even alive, could feel that something was happening, something which promised a truly mythic climax. Spontaneous magic was becoming a real concern, and what effect that might have on the lost King David was unknown.
However, most likely due to the reaction to this rise of Glamour on the part of some members of the crowd and those outside the actual hall, on the fringes of the effect, Banality was also fighting back. Like a living thing, sensing a threat and preparing to act against same, the Changelings (and some of the others) could feel reality stirring, gathering itself, preparing to restore mundanity, no matter the cost. Though the effect was not serious inside the auditorium yet, Bill could sense it, like a thick, choking cloud, hovering outside.
Then, oddly, though the next act wasn't scheduled to start for a few minutes, yet, the curtain started up.
"What the Hell..." said Bill, stopping dead in his tracks to look towards the stage, as some bit of oddness - and even for a Changeling event, this was odd - caught his eye.
The curtain rose, but what he saw was not what was supposed to be there. On the stage was a rock show, complete with lights, instruments, sound gear and a chimerical band. At least, Bill hoped they were chimeras... They looked disturbingly like Muppets. Real ones. As he stared, a strange figure jumped out onto the stage from the wings, strode to the mike stand, and seized the mike. The same stranger many of them had seen a few days before, fleeing from Hellhounds. He was now dressed like Captain Marvel, Junior. He smiled and turned to the bestial drummer.
"Hit it!" the stranger shouted, with a dramatic gesture.
Music - raucous, guitar-heavy rock - began playing, and the stranger grinned even more broadly. He began dancing, not as if trying to perform but as if he couldn't help himself, gangly limbs jerking with an odd sort of grace. The Banality in the area drained away as if someone had pulled a stopper.
"So you're a little bit older and a lot less bolder than you used to be.
So you used to shake 'em down but now you stop and think about your dignity.
So now sweet sixteen instead of thirty-one.
You get to feelin' weary when the workday is done.
Well, all you got to do is get up, give me your kicks!
Come back baby, rock and roll never forgets!"
All other activity in the auditorium came to a complete stop, as people of various types froze in fascinated wonder and confusion. The stranger finished his set and, covered in perspiration and breathless, bowed to a near standing ovation. The curtain dropped... and rose again almost immediately, with the next act on the program in place, the participants seemingly oblivious to what had just happened.
Back stage, His Grace was carefully watching the effect this unscheduled performance was having, on the High King especially, but on everyone. And for the first time in hours, he smiled.
"Please consider this compensation for endangering bystanders when I unwittingly brought those monsters into your Freehold," said a murmured voice from behind him.
"Really, there's no need to pretend this was some sort of penance," said the Duke, quietly, not even turning to look. He knew there would be no-one there. "You had more fun than we did..."
He kept the acts coming, with the High Queen in reserve for the finale; or sooner, if he felt the moment right. He could see David struggling, in a dazed sort of way, looking as if he were desperately trying to remember something. Finally, His Grace decided that the time was right; anything more would either trigger the High King's Dream Dance uncontrollably or send him screaming. He gave Faerilyth her cue. As the curtain rose she was revealed on the stage, in a beautiful gown which had been one of her husband's favorites. She smiled at the crowd, but avoided looking at the lost High King. Then the music began, and she sang. The piece had been written for the wedding ball of the High King and High Queen, but to this had been added lyrics crafted by the most skilled poet in the Kingdom of Glass, especially for this event.
The High Queen sang of love lost, and love mourned... and love found again. Color in the room became more vivid, and things seemed to flit around those inside it, on the edge of vision. Strange chimeras swarmed the entire volume of the hall, a group of them forming rank behind Faerilyth to sing backup, though none dared move to block anyone's view of Faerilyth. Glamour swelled, surging, holding for a moment, and surging again. Even those long used to it felt dizzy, disoriented. In the back of the room, David Ardry rose to his feet, and staggered, looking entranced, towards the stage.
The last verse of the song was an invitation for her lost love to return to her, and Faerilyth held the final note, letting it fade to silence, as she lifted her arms out to David. The High King cried out, clutching his head. Chaos filled the room as the Dream Dance threatened reality itself. Then it stopped.
"I remember," said David, in a hoarse whisper barely audible in the silence. He lowered his hands. Those close enough could see that his ears once again had the delicate points which marked his Sidhe self, and that golden tears streamed down his face. "I remember!"
He leapt onto the stage and embraced his wife, both of them weeping joyously. And the Duke frantically motioned for the curtain to be lowered.
The massive upwelling of Glamour left everyone dazed, even the vampire Prince and his henchmen. Some recovered more quickly than others, fortunately. Acting under previous orders, the Duke's security personnel escorted the Prince and his assistants out of the hall, with promises of explanations later. The shock of the High King's return had left the Prince so dazed he didn't even protest. Backstage, The High King and High Queen Dowager were still embraced, and no-one dared to interrupt them. Finally, though, they began to again notice the world around them. And a certain person, in particular, who approached and knelt, holding out a sheathed sword laid across his forearms.
"Your Majesty," said Seif, presenting Caliburn on a velvet cloth. He was grinning like a child on Christmas morning.
That sword was probably the only thing which could have separated David from his wife just then. Solemnly, he stepped forward took the sword and unsheathed it, and lifted the great blade into the air. And Caliburn sang. It sang with Glamour, announcing that it was once again back in the hand it had chosen. And it sang with Order, announcing that once more the world had a chance for healing.
This document is Copyright 2010 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Those wishing to post or reprint this story may contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org