Friday, January 30, 2015

Dark Redemption chapter 61: Strolling Through the Park

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 has been tasked by the Faerie Queen with the mission of investigating a renegade faerie lord named Melchior who has established himself in the city. He has learned that a local werewolf pack has taken to wearing faerie enchantments, and suspects that Melchior might have a hand in this as well  To find out for sure, he wishes to find the source of these enchantments.

It had been many years – decades, really – since Strephon had visited Wildmere Forest.  Despite the name, Wildmere was one of the more domesticated of the heavily-wooded patches of parkland, designated as “forests” by centuries of tradition, within the Redemption city limits.  During the 1800s an attempt had been made to tame these forests and prune them into properly-manicured parks, with pedestrian walkways, gardens, lawns, and even a few pieces of tasteful statuary.  Of these, Wildmere was the most successful.  Strephon remembered walking here with Phyllis in happier days, back when she was alive, and when he walked places.

He had not been there since the city had established a weekly Artisan’s Market held in Wildmere every Saturday afternoon.  It seemed peculiar to see the familiar park bustling with vendor’s tables under coloured awnings crowded on either side of the two main walkways making an “X” through the middle of the forest.  The light drizzle of the previous night was only just tapering off and the mid-morning sun finally piercing through the clouds, yet already a scattering of customers was drifting from table to table.

Here a thin gentleman in spectacles was selling blown glass barometers fashioned in the shape of swans; across from him a woman was adjusting her racks of tie-dyed scarves to keep them out of the drops still falling from the trees; beyond them was another woman selling jewelry made from bottle caps and a small, gnomish woman with masks of Herne the Hunter – or was is supposed to be Cenunnos? -- carved from grotesque pieces of wood.  Strephon chatted with each vendor, and expressed a polite interest in their wares.

“Yummy-yummy dog treats!”  a tall blonde lady with a terrier under one arm said, rattling a cup of homemade biscuits in Strephon’s direction. 

“I do not have a dog,” Strephon said apologetically.  “I have a cat, but I don’t think she’d care for dog biscuits.”

“They’re yummy!” the lady insisted.  Strephon decided he didn’t want to know how she was so certain of this.

The woman with the masks seemed to be watching Strephon with an intensity he found disquieting.  Or perhaps it was the masks.  They made him think of the Wild Hunt, something he had never in his lifetime seen, but of which the faeries spoke in hushed and fearful tones.  Strephon propelled his wheelchair past that vendor.  He could speak with her later.

The next vendor was a plump, friendly woman with a pixieish smile and startlingly blue hair who had a table of chainmaille jewelry.  “Feel free to try anything on,” she said.  “I have men’s jewelry as well as women’s..”

“Thank you.”  He gave a rack of earrings a quarter turn with his finger.  Despite the woman’s assurances, he saw nothing that really suited him, but he found himself wondering how some of the pieces might look on Cassandra.  Now what brought her to mind?

“I believe there used to be a woman here selling jewelry.  Belladonna Morrigan?”  He tried to sound casual.

The blue-haired woman pursed her lips in thought.  “I haven’t seen her this week.  She’s usually on the west side of the park by the hawthorn bushes.”

“I understand she’s out of town,” Strephon said; which was not a lie.  Morrigan had been dragged off to the Faerie Realms by the fae she had held captive; that was certainly ‘Out of Town.’  “I wondered if you might know anything about the work she did.”

The woman gave a slight shrug of her head.  “She worked mostly with silver.  It’s expensive, and I don’t think she sold a lot.  I do a little work in sterling, but mostly I use aluminum jump rings.  They don’t tarnish, and they’re non-allergenic.  Oh, and she decorated her pieces with distinctive runes.”  She frowned.  “Not Celtic runes that I know of.  I think she claimed they were elvish or Atlantean or something like that.”

“Or faerie?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Do you know who bought her jewelry?”

She shrugged again.  “I don’t think she had a lot of customers.  A lot of lookers; not a lot of takers.  As I said, she was expensive.  I’d guess that most of her customers were tourists from out of town with lots of money.”

That was pretty much what all the other vendors he had spoken to said.  But he thanked her, and bought a black and silver bracelet for Devon.  “That particular weave is called ‘Rhino Snorting Drano,” the vendor told him. 

"Devon will be delighted."

And on further thought, he also bought a pair of green Swarovski Crystal earrings for Cassandra.  A foolish thought, he told himself.  He didn’t even know if he would see her again.

Coming to the intersection of the sidewalks, he turned down the west path.

And there stood Cassandra.

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