Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 31: Friendlee Conversation

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 semi-immortal half-fae living among humans, has been charged with investigating Melchior, a fae noble posing as a computer game manufacturer. His investigations have involved him with Cassandra True, a reporter for the Daily Oracle, and to Strephon's discomfort, the two are becoming closer than he would like...

Strephon could not prove that Devon had been snitching his biscuits, but someone certainly had; his cupboard was empty. Fortunately, the Friendlee-Mart on Fitch Street was only a few blocks away and so he wouldn't need to call a cab. Which was just as well. Strephon did not want to be carried or ferried or helped. He wished to do something himself.

Most of all he wanted to get out of the house.

A half a block from his house the slate grey sky dissolved into a light drizzle. The rain on his face felt rather pleasant and he told himself he didn't need to go back for an umbrella. By the time he reached the shelter of the Friendlee-Mart he was cursing his own stubbornness and happy to escape the downpour.

He picked up a package of biscuits, a bottle of milk, some eggs and a couple other items and wheeled over to the checkout. Grandma Simms sat behind the cash register, reading a copy of The Daily Oracle. A row of stuffed toads sat on the counter in front of her; each one adorned with a colorful bandana and representing, if local legend was true, a gang leader who had annoyed her.

"Good day, Mister Strephon," the Jamaican greeted him. "And how be you today?"

"Just fine, Grandmama."

"And what of Miss True? How is she doing?"

"I couldn't say."

Grandma Simms raised a skeptical eyebrow and turned the page of her newspaper. "You had dinner with her just last night," she observed.

Strephon frowned. "Have you been spying on me?"

"I'm looking after you. Some folks are too stubborn to look after themselves. I hope you been treating that Miss True right like I told you to. It's about time you had another woman in your life."

"With you looking after me, what other woman do I need?"

Mrs. Simms snorted. "Don't talk foolishness. She's a nice girl; better than an old fool like you deserves, so take care of her."

Just then the door to the shop opened and Cassandra walked in. She shook the rain from her dripping umbrella and folded it up.

"Why look! We been just talking about you!"

"Hullo, Grandma Simms! Oh, hello, Strephon!" Cassandra waived cheerily.

"What are you doing here?" Strephon asked.

"Ooo, I just happened to be in the neighborhood. Well, actually I came to see you."

Strephon glanced at Grandma Simms, but she quickly retreated behind her newspaper and an extremely satisfied smile.

"I wanted to tell you," Cassandra continued. "I had my interview with Simon Knox this morning! He wants to hire me!"

"Oh." A chill struck Strephon. He still hadn't figured out how Knox fit in with Melchior's plans, but he knew the two were allied. Why would a man like Knox take a personal interest in a fledgling reporter like Cassandra? Strephon could think of only one reason: her connection with him.

"Have you accepted?"

Cassandra grinned. "All but. I said I'd think about it. But when I get back to the Oracle, I'm going to tell Cyril Potts where he can stick his Page Three bimbos. Isn't this wonderful, Strephon?"

Strephon squirmed uncomfortably. "Um... Cassandra..."

"Yes?" She regarded him with large, expectant eyes. Why did she have to make things so damned difficult?

"Don't do it."


"Don't take the job."

Cassandra blinked. "I don't understand! I thought you wanted me to escape Page Three!"

"I do! It's just that... well, I don't think Mr. Knox's intentions are honorable."

She laughed. "Sometimes I think you really are from another century. This isn't the Victorian Age, you know."

"I am reminded of that every day."

She placed her hands on the armrests of his chair and leaned over him. "Strephon, don't tell me you're jealous!"

"I am not jealous!" Strephon took a deep breath. "Cassandra, listen to me. I don't want you to work for Simon Knox."

"And why not?"

Strephon glowered at her. He couldn't exactly tell her that Knox was some kind of sorcerer in league with a sinister faerie and that she was putting herself in danger. "I... don't think The Morning Star is right for you."

"Are you saying The Oracle is all I'm good for?"

"I didn't say that!"

"Well, Mister Knox seems to think I'll do just fine!"

"Mister Knox is just hiring you to get at me!"

Strephon hadn't intended to say that, but it just blurted out. Cassandra gaped at him for a moment. "Strephon MacKenzie," she said in an icy tone. "That is the most egocentric thing I've ever heard!"


"Of course my writing ability couldn't have anything to do with it!"

"Cassandra, If you'll just listen..."

"You self-centered, chauvinist jerk! You just don't like the idea of a woman having a successful career, that's it!"

"That is not it! I'm only thinking of what's best for you!"

"Oh yeah? Well don't do me any favors! I can handle my own career myself!" She grabbed the carton of eggs off the counter and broke it over Strephon's head. Then she stormed out of the shop and into the rain.

Grandma Simms looked over her newspaper critically. "That was not what I had in mind."

NEXT:  Psychology 101

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