Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 10: Breakfast on the Grill

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a half-fae living among mortals, has taken reporter Cassandra True home after the two of them were attacked by werewolves. The terror of the attack lingered and Strephon found himself entering Cassandra's dreams to help her defeat her fears.

Sunlight streaming through the window woke Strephon. He squinted at the new day and fidgeted in his wheelchair. He felt stiff. Had he been sitting there all night? Cassandra lay in the bed next to his chair, sleeping blissfully with her hand in his.

He jerked his hand away as if he were touching a viper. It all came back to him now. He entered her dreams in order to protect her from the lingering psychic effects of the wolf attack Once there he had become enmeshed in the dream and then he...

He blushed to think what he had done.

Cassandra stirred and stretched and gave a pleasant little moan, much as Mrs. Hudson his cat did when she awoke from a nap. She blinked at Strephon, then sat up. "Omigod. What time is it?"

Lacking a clock, Strephon merely stated the obvious. "It's morning."

"Hell! I've got to get to work!" She scrambled out of bed.

"On a Sunday?"

"I need to phone in my story!"

Strephon backed his wheelchair to give her room. "There's a telephone extension in my bedroom," he said. "It's the room just across the hall. Why don't you call in and I'll fix breakfast for you." He turned to leave the room.

"Strephon?" He paused and looked back at her. "Were you sitting up with me all night?"

"I... wanted to keep an eye on you. In case you needed anything," he hastily added. "You seemed to be having some disturbing dreams."

"Yes... yes, I did," Cassandra said, a strange thoughtful look coming into her eyes. "Strange dreams and very vivid." Strephon turned quickly away before she could see him blush.

He took the lift down to the ground floor and busied himself about the kitchen making breakfast. He was just in the process of dividing the kippers and the omelet when Cassandra came down the stairs.

"I really need to be getting to the office. Um, that smells good."

"There's butter and jam if you like," Strephon said motioning to the toast on the table. Cassandra wrestled between her conscience and her appetite for a moment, then decided to join him.

"This is quite good," Cassandra said between mouthfuls.

"Thank you. When one cooks for oneself long enough, one develops a few specialties."
She gazed at him thoughtfully for a while. Uncomfortable with the silence, Strephon added, "I trust you slept well."

"Oh yes. Quite well. I just had some peculiar dreams."

Strephon silently cursed himself. He had hoped she might forget that. To her, the experience was only a dream, but to the Fae, dreams and reality were one. He had been there and helped shape that reality; and within her dream he had taken advantage of her. That was unforgivable.

He realized with some discomfort that she was still staring at him. "Do you mind a personal question?" she asked. "About your... your you-know. Are you, uh, paralyzed from the waist down or is it just your legs?"

"It is chiefly the legs. There is a certain amount of muscular degeneration, but I am not exactly paralyzed. The rest of me is just fine." Now she blushed, and Strephon cursed himself again as he realized what she must be thinking of.

Strephon was spared another uncomfortable silence by a knock at the door. He excused himself and went to answer it.

"Good morning. Pardon me for intruding, but are you Mister Strephon MacKenzie?"


The man pulled a flat wallet from his coat pocket displaying a badge. "I'm Detective Isaac Masey with the police department. I'd like to ask you a few questions. May I come in?"

A knot of panic tightened in Strephon's gut. The man bore the unmistakable aura of wolf!

He let the detective in. This would be about last night's incident. Was he a member of the wolf pack that attacked them? Don't panic, he told himself; They can smell fear. He briefly considered casting a faerie glamour to make him go away, but at that moment Cassandra came into the parlor, munching on a piece of toast and jam. No, he didn't want to be wielding fae magic in front of her. Damnation, why did things have to be so complicated?

"Last night witnesses saw a pack of wild dogs or wolves attacking a woman and a man in a wheelchair near the Tortuga Bay restaurant a few blocks away from here."

"Ah. Yes, the man in the wheelchair was I. Miss True and I were just leaving the restaurant when we were attacked."

"And you did not report this to the police?"

"Well, since we escaped our adventure with little hurt, I saw little point in it. A cabdriver came and frightened the dogs away. I thought it best to get Miss True someplace safe after her fright."

"I see." The detective consulted his notes. "I have here that you fought the... dogs off yourself." He looked up with a skeptical eye. "Did you?"

"He did!" Cassandra piped in. Curse that woman! "He beat them off with his canes!"

"Your cane? Not a knife or some sort of bladed weapon?"

"Why do you ask?"

The detective showed him a photograph. Strephon recognized it as the werewolf he had killed. "This woman was found dead not too far from the scene. Have you ever seen her before?"


"You're certain about that?"

"We were attacked by dogs, detective, not nudists. I think I should have remembered seeing someone like this." Fortunately, deception and deceit were part of his fae heritage and he was beginning to warm to the role.

The questioning continued for some minutes until the detective finally seemed satisfied. As he left, Strephon called out to him rather peevishly, "I really think the police ought to do something about these packs of wild dogs roaming the city! They're a public menace!"

The detective's patience snapped. "Well then you should have called the police in the first place!" Strephon watched with satisfaction as the detective left. When in doubt, try rudeness.

When he was gone, Cassandra turned to him and said, "Why didn't you tell me all that happened? I missed half the good stuff! Now I'm going to have to rewrite my story!" She checked her watch. "Omigosh. I've got to get going!" She munched down her piece of now cold toast and dashed for the door.

Before she left she turned once more to Strephon. "Oh, and about tomorrow. What time should I be ready for dinner?"

Strephon's jaw sagged. He had completely forgotten.

NEXT:  What a Swell Party This Is

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 9: What Dreams May Come

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a half-fae living among mortals, has brought reporter Cassandra True to his home after an attack by werewolves of the Reaver pack. Grandma Simms, a Jamaican wise woman of Strephon's acquaintence, has warned him that the attack may leave a shadow upon her spirit and bids him to look after her.

Strephon saw Grandma Simms to the steps, thanked her again and bid her good night. Then he returned to Cassandra's room.

"I really do need to write this story," she complained. "My editor will kill me if I don't!"

"Well, I could fetch some stationary and a pen..."

"Don't you have a computer or something I could use?"

Strephon furrowed his brow and managed to look even more Victorian than usual. "I believe I have a typewriter someplace. The ribbon may even still be good. Unfortunately it's downstairs and I shan't be able to bring it to you. Perhaps in the morning..."

"Oh, never mind. Give me a pen and paper, then."

"Certainly." Before he left, though, he brought a tray with a cup of tea to her bed, which she accepted. By the time Strephon returned with the paper and pen, the tea which Grandma Simms had brewed did it's work. Cassandra was fast asleep.

Strephon took his lift down to the ground floor; locked the doors and put out the lights. On his way back to his own bedroom, he paused to look in on Cassandra. She slept fitfully, turning and moaning and the light from the hallway glittered on the sweat of her brow. Had she developed an infection from her claw wound? Or was this the Shadow Grandma Simms spoke of?

He wheeled himself up to her side. He felt a bit uncomfortable entering a woman's bedroom, but he reminded himself that he had a responsibility to see to her well-being. She looked feverish and Strephon could sense the darkness of her dreams. He hesitated. The Fae regarded the dreams of mortals as palaces for their own amusement. Although Strephon also possessed the power to enter dreams, he could not help but regard such dallying as a liberty. Yet he remembered Grandma Simms' words: You watch over her, Mister Strephon! Keep her safe!

He took the girl's hand in his own. He closed his eyes and reached out into the Dreamworld, the twilight world that lay between the Mortal Lands and the Unseen Realm. He felt his mortal body seem to dissolve and his spirit rise.

When he opened his eyes he was in a dream. He floated, his toes barely touching the floor of a long corridor; no need for wheelchairs or clumsy crutches in a realm where imagination and reality were interchangable.

He saw Cassandra enter the corridor. To his shock, Strephon saw that she was naked, holding a couple file folders strategically in front of her torso. Strephon shook his head. Of course. Finding oneself naked was a common enough dream; he shouldn't be surprised. Cassandra hurried past him without paying him notice, which was fine with him.

She franticly tried door after door, fumbling with the doorknobs while trying to juggle armloads of papers which seemed to multiply. None of them would admit her entry. and she was becoming more and more frustrated. Strephon bit his lip. Should he interfere?

Then one of the doors opened for her and she almost fell over on her face. Strephon followed her into a conference room; no doubt the one at her own paper. Seated around the table were about a half dozen men in suits and ties; men with wolf heads. Strephon took in his breath sharply.

Ms True! Where's that story? one of the wolves, probably her editor, barked.

I have it right here! Cassandra dropped her bundle of papers on the table and began sifting through them.

Haven't you forgotten something else?

Cassandra looked down at her nakedness and began to stammer with embarrassment. Strephon felt his own cheeks burn for her.

The the editorial wolf threw an object onto the table in front of her. A leather collar, inlaid with silver.

Strephon gasped. The wolves had changed now; they had become dark shadows with glowing blue eyes. Cassandra only stared at the collar as if hypnotized. She picked it up and slowly drew it to her own neck.

Strephon could wait no longer. He grasped Cassandra by the arm. She started as she saw him for the first time. He drew her close to him. You don't have to do this, he said. Cassandra gaped at him and the collar dropped from her fingers. You don't have to do anything you don't want to.

The wolves snarled and lunged at them. Strephon had expected this. In an instant, he had a sword, willed into existance, in his hand. He pulled Cassandra behind him and held the beasts at bay.

Unfortunately, the wolves were creations of Cassandra's fear and would keep coming as long as she was frightened. It was time to take drastic action. Turning his back on the wolves, he threw himself on Cassandra, cradling her in his arms. He tasted her fear, sharp and acrid, and tried to smother in with his own soothing calm. As he did so, he took control of her dream and changed it.

Now they were seated at a bar near a sandy beach. The warm tropical sun shone down upon them and a fragrant sea breeze came in from the ocean. The pleasant ruckus of a steel drum band tinkled in the background. Cassandra now wore a bathing suit and held an rum and coke. She looked at her new surroundings, only slightly bewildered, then said Strephon, where's your chair?

This is a dream, he explained, It isn't real. Everything here is out of your mind; it can't hurt you. Well, everything except the parts he had made up himself. Her swimsuit looked familiar. Strephon suddenly realized that he had put her in one of the swimsuits Lilith had worn in the virtual reality game. Then he realized that he himself was wearing the same black Speedos. Now why had he done that?

Cassandra rubbed her arm. My arm, it hurts. Strephon saw that the wound on her arm was red and angry. The scratches seemed to writhe as he looked at them like a live thing. Clearly the source of the trouble,

Impulsively he took her arm and kissed it. At the touch of his lips, a portion of the scratches faded and disappeared. He kissed her again, and again until her arm was clean and smooth and the shadow gone. He raised his head and looked into eyes as surprised as his own. He knew that she had banished the evil herself, that his kisses only gave her a metaphor with which to shape the dream. But where had the kiss come from? From his impulse, or from her desire? Strephon abandoned that line of thought; one could not analyze a dream from within, one could only improvise.

Already, he had lost control. They were no longer at the bar; they were walking along the beach. Cassandra's subconscious was steering the dream again. He sensed that the crisis had passed and he could probably leave her safely now, but how to extract himself from the dream? Wet sand squished between his toes and the waves washed over his feet. How long had it been?

Cassandra ran her fingers through her hair and laughed. She began to run throught the surf and Strephon ran after her. In her dream he could taste her emotion as if he were swimming in it; her fear of the wolves, her relief at losing the scar, her joy and pleasure, her...

He'd done his deed, exorcised the darkness. He needed to get out of this. But it was too late; the dream had passed out of his hands and he was too firmly enmeshed in its reality to regain control. He was trapped in the dream, and something else.

It had been three quarter centuries since Strephon had known the company of a woman. Since his beloved Phylis died, he had put away such desires with his memories. Until today. Until Lilith set about to stimulate those passions. Strephon thought he had them under control, but all through dinner with Cassandra they had simmered just under the surface, Now they burst out anew and the rational part of his mind struggled to put it back.

Before it could, he caught up with Cassandra. He grabbed her around the waist, and giggling and laughing they tumbled into the surf. Warm, salty water surged over them and receded. Cassandra lay on the sand, her bathing suit partially undone, gazing up at Strephon, who knelt over her. For a breathless eternity they drank each other's presence. Part of his mind said Phylis, the other part said This is a dream; you don't have to do anything you don't want to....

He lowered himself upon her and kissed her.

NEXT:  Breakfast on the Grill

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 8: Bedside Manner

Detective Isaac Masey examined the body. He'd seen dead bodies before, of course; he'd been investigating wolf killings for weeks now. In fact, this one looked in better shape than many; a naked woman with multiple stab wounds, found in an alley dumpster. There was a difference this time, though. This one was a wolf.

He could smell it. Her body reeked of wolfitude -- if that was a word. Just like...

He forced his mind off that line of thinking and concentrated on the case. "No identification, obviously," he said to the constable who had found the body.

"None whatsoever," the constable replied. "Except that funny collar."

Masey leaned closer to examine it. "There are markings on it..." He started and jerked back, his nostrils flaring. Silver!

The constable seemed not to notice his reaction. "Yes, some sort of heathen scrawls. Could be one of them satanist cults. Lord knows there are enough of them in this town."

You have no idea, Masey thought to himself. He furrowed his brow. That collar reminded him of what Lucinda had told him about that rival wolf pack; the one that had abducted her. The one that dared to... Isaac involuntarily felt his hackles rise in anger and forced himself to calm down. Look at this objectively. This is just another case.

He couldn't. He kept coming back to the same nagging question.

Could Lucinda have done this?

He would have to ask her some questions.
* * * * *

Cassandra moaned as she came to consciousness. "What happened? Where am I?"

"You lie quiet!" a stern voice with a Jamaican accent commanded. "You be in no condition to be jumping around!"

The pain in Cassandra's head when she tried to sit up convinced her that the woman was correct. She lay back down on the pillow. She blinked. She was in a bedroom somewhere, with old-fashioned wallpaper and a musty antique smell to it. A small black woman with her hair in a turban and festooned with multiple rings and beaded necklaces stood over her and placed her hand on Cassandra's brow. Behind the woman, Cassandra could see Strephon watching with concern. "Where are the wolves?"

"The wolves are gone. Don't you worry about them," the black woman said sharply.

"You don't understand! I need to write down the story! Get it to my editor! This is important!"

"Quiet!" the woman gave Cassandra a gentle but stinging slap on the forehead with her fingers. "Only one thing is important! That you rest and get better!" She turned to Strephon. "And you, Mister Strephon! You should know better! Didn't Tobias tell you the Big Dogs were out?"

Strephon bowed his head contritely. "Yes he did. I was unforgivably reckless. I apologize."

"Hmmph. Apologize to her!"

Tobias had helped Strephon bring Cassandra to his house and carried her upstairs to his guest bedroom. Grandma Simms had arrived shortly afterwards, whether at her grandson's summons or her own intuition Strephon didn't know. Tobias had then gone to take care of the wolf Strephon had killed. Strephon preferred not to know how Tobias managed that, but trusted his expertise and Grandma Simms' influence to ensure that the body was disposed of discreetly and effectively.

Strephon sighed. He sincerely disliked skirting the law like this, but saw no palatable alternative. Living as an immortal in a mortal world posed several problems, the chief of which was remaining beneath the notice of civil authority. He might easily persuade the courts that he had killed the woman in self-defense, but that would lead to other questions; questions which he could not easily answer. "Oh, what a tangled web we weave."

"What are you talking about webs? I'm talking about the girl!" Grandma Simms snapped. She took him aside and said in a more confidential tone, "The breath of the Wolf is on her. I don't like the look of those scratches. She doesn't have the Curse, but the Taint has touched her."

"She won't become a wolf herself, will she?"

"Prob'ly not. But it's left a shadow on her soul. Maybe she shake it off. She's young. She's strong. But sometimes, the Shadow can grow... make her easy prey for the Dark Things." Grandma Simms shook one of her many-ringed fingers at Strephon sternly. "You watch over her, Mister Strephon; keep her safe!"

Strephon gulped solemnly. "I will."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 7: Who Let the Dogs Out?

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a half-fae dwelling among mortals, has made the acquaintance of Cassandra True, a reporter for the Daily Oracle. He has taken her to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

Dinner went surprisingly well. Strephon hadn't been out for a social evening in the company of a woman since his Phylis died decades -- no, nearly a century ago. He had forgotten how pleasant it could be. To his surprise he found himself inviting Cassandra over to his house and was pleased when she accepted.

"Are you sure it's safe to be out on the streets at night?" Cassandra asked looking down the street. A fog was beginning to rise up from the direction of the river.

"Certainly. This is actually not such a bad neighborhood." There were street gangs, to be sure, but they all knew he was under the protection of powerful friends and left him alone. Vampires and werewolves as a rule did not hunt in this neighborhood, because Grandma Simms had protected it with powerful charms.

Just to prove himself a liar, his skin began to crawl as he sensed magic, dark and primal, nearby. He saw a canine shadow loping through the fog, parallelling their path; then another. Werewolves? What the devil were they doing here? With a chill, he remembered Tobias' warning about the Big Dogs.

"Would you mind pushing me for a bit?" Strephon asked. Puzzled, Cassandra did as he asked. "I want you to remain very calm and keep moving," he said in a frighteningly conversational tone. "Whatever you do, do not run."

"What is it?" Cassandra eyed the shadows nervously. "Oh hell. Are those wolves? Those are wolves!"

Strephon reached behind him. He kept a pair of canes stowed in the back of his wheelchair, which he could use to hobble for short distances at need. He often used them for getting around in his house. They had other uses. He took one of the canes and gave its handle a half-twist and a six inch steel blade emerged from its tip. "Have you any items of self defense on your person?"

Cassandra tried to keep the fear out of her voice and speak as calmly as he was. "I have pepper spray in my purse."

"Now's the time to use it."

The wolves attacked; three of them, coming from three different directions. They were lean, scruffy beasts with glowing blue eyes. Strephon swung his sword cane at one, drawing blood and a startled yip from the leader. Obviously it thought a woman and a man in a wheelchair were easy prey. Another leaped onto Cassandra, knocking her down and biting the sleeve of her coat. That one got a face full of the pepper spray. It yelped and retreated to a safe distance. A third wolf lunged at Strephon, bowling his wheelchair over on its side. He whacked at the wolf viciously with his sword, keeping it at bay.

Suddenly, a bright light shone in Strephon's face and a loud automobile horn sounded. A taxicab came roaring through the fog, squealing to a halt right next to Strephon and sending the wolves running. Tobias leaped out of the cab, brandishing a tyre iron. "Here now! Shoo! Go home!" he shouted.

The wolves did not care for the change in the odds. They melted into the fog; all except one.

Tobias ran to Strephon's side. "Are you all right? Gran had a premonition you were in trouble. I came as quick as I could!"

"See to the girl." Strephon pulled himself by his hands over to where Cassandra lay. The sleeve of her coat had been torn off and four long scratches marred her arm. He felt her jaw for her pulse.

"It doesn't look like she was bit," Tobias said.

"No, but she took a bad crack on the back of her head. And she was badly scratched." Strephon looked up at him. "Bring her to my house. I'll look after her."

Tobias nodded. Then his eyes widened. "Look!"

A naked woman lay where one of the wolves was; the one Strephon had killed. Tobias kneeled over her and frowned. "What's this?" The woman wore a leather collar, inlaid with silvery runes. Her neck was red and angry where the silver had seared her flesh.

Strephon pulled himself over to examine the body. "Fae runes," he said. "That explains how they could pass your Grandmama's wards. But what kind of werewolf would voluntarily wear silver?"

"The Reavers," Tobias said. "What did I tell you? The Big Dogs are running out of their kennels."

Strephon frowned. He'd thought the war between the wolf packs would not involve him. Perhaps he was wrong.

NEXT:  Bedside Manner

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 6: Table for Two

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a half-fae dwelling in Redemption, has been visiting with Melchior Aesermann, a powerful Faerie Lord who has created computer games that combine virtual reality with fae illusion. Melchior wishes Strephon to join him, but Strephon is cautious, suspicious of Melchior's true intentions.

Lilith escorted Strephon back to the ground floor. To his immense relief, she did not flirt with him on the way down. The reporter was still arguing with the receptionist. She pounced on Lilith as she approached.

"I'm Cassandra True of the Daily Oracle; I have an appointment with Mister Aesermann..."

"I'm so sorry," Lilith purred, "but Mister Aesermann is not seeing anyone else this afternoon. I'm sure you can make an appointment for another time."


Lilith ignored her and turned to the receptionist. "Please call a taxi for Mister MacKenzie." Then she smiled professionally to Strephon and gave him a business card. "It was a pleasure to have you, Mister MacKenzie. Feel free to call any time."

The reporter glared at Lilith as she wriggled her way back to the lift. Strephon fidgeted guiltily. He couldn't help feel responsible for the lass losing her scoop. And he was not looking forward to encountering Lilith again at the party. Then inspiration struck.

"Pardon me, Miss... True is it?"


"I hope you don't think me impertinent, but may I ask if you are doing anything Monday night?"


"Monday night. Mister Aesermann has invited me to a dinner party and I hoped you would do me the honor of accompanying me."

The reporter regarded him with a cold, suspicious look. "Let me get this straight. You want me to go to on a date with you to some party that Mister Too-Busy-To-Talk-With-Reporters is throwing, is that what you're saying?"

Strephon was taken aback. "Ah... well, yes, that is, I couldn't help but overhear that you wished to speak with him and I thought..."

"If you need an escort, I'm sure you can hire one. I don't need a pity date, especially not from a..."

"..From a cripple?" Strephon concluded, becoming angry in turn.

"I didn't say that! Listen. It would be a violation of my journalistic ethics for me to just rent myself out for a story like some cheap tart."


"...Not unless you bought me a really expensive dinner first."

Strephon blinked at her, uncomprehending.

"I've been waiting here all afternoon and I'm starving. So do you want a date, or don't you?"

He shook his head. He had just gotten what he wanted; why did he feel like he had just lost the first round? "Well, Miss True, have you ever been to Little Kingston?"

* * * * *

Tobias dropped them off at Tortuga Bay, a small bistro run by one of his uncles. It was in a nicer section of Little Kingston, the part the tourists usually visited, and it was a colorful place providing a touch of the Caribbean to the usually grey and foggy streets of Redemption. The restaurant was only a few blocks from Strephon's house and they knew him there.

"I hope you don't mind a table," Strephon said as the maitre'd wheeled him to a place in the non-smoking section. "I have difficulty with booths."

Cassandra sat down opposite him. "I beg your pardon for not helping you with your seat," Strephon added.

"You don't have to do that, you know."

"Do what?"

"Remind me that you're disabled. You keep apologizing and making these self-deprecating comments about your wheelchair and your lack of mobility as if you were afraid I'd forget."

"Ah." Strephon paused, unsure how to respond. "Well, then... I apologize for apologizing."

Cassandra chucked at that. After they had placed their order and their waiter brought them their drinks she asked, "So how did it happen? Were you in some kind of accident?" She glanced at the chair.

Strephon had expected this question. "Oh, nothing like that. I had a severe case of polio as a child. It left me crippled."

"Polio?" The reporter frowned. "I didn't think that even existed anymore. They've had the vaccine for ages."

Strephon silently cursed himself. That particular taradiddle had served him well for a long time; it never occurred to him that it might be outdated. "I was never immunized. I guess I fell through the cracks. You know bureaucracy." He quickly changed the subject. "Why don't you tell me a bit about yourself, Miss True."

"Cassandra. If we're going to be eating at the same table we should be on a first name basis."

"Very good. And you may call me Strephon."

"Anyway. I'm a reporter for the Daily Oracle. Ever read it?"

"I usually read the Morning Star, I'm afraid. The Oracle, that's the one with the, er..."

"The girls with the big hooters? Yes that's the one."

"Not the word I was thinking of," Strephon said diplomatically.

"My job is writing captions for the Page 3 Girls. Welcome to the glamorous world of journalism."

"Now who's being self-deprecating?"

"Touché. Someday I'm going to have my own column, though. I'm going to call it True Stories. Maybe even get a shot at the Star"

"Well. Until then, I'll have to pay more attention to the captions."

She arched an eyebrow at him, but he managed to maintain an expression of angelic innocence.

They enjoyed their meal and after a while Cassandra asked "So what's your connection with Melchior Aesermann?"

"Family connections. My mother is friends with his aunt and suggested he might have a position for me in his company. Pure nepotism, I'm afraid."

Cassandra took another draw on her rum and coke. "Hell, if you've got the pull I suppose you might as well use it. That guy has an aunt? Scary."

Strephon thought of his own aunts, including the Queen of the Fae.  "You have no idea."

NEXT:  Who Let the Dogs Out?