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 commissioned by the Queen of the Faerie to investigate fae activity in the city. In the course of his investigations, he has become involved with a reporter named Cassandra True, from whom he has been attempting to hide his unnatural background. She, however, has guessed his secret and Strephon has decided to finally tell her his story.
“I know that you continued on as a barrister and a successful one too; and eventually you became a judge,” Cassandra said.
“I was more successful at the bar than Gilbert ever was; that was one small revenge,” Strephon mused. “Some friends thought I should stand for the House of Commons.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I never really had an interest in politics. And… I suppose you’ll laugh, but Gilbert’s character in the opera that he named after me went into Parliament and I had no desire to emulate him. Phyllis and I were very happy together for a long time.”
“Well, she was mortal. She grew old, as mortals do. I did not; at least my upper extremities didn’t. But I assumed the illusion of age, partially for the benefit of the outside world, but mostly so that we could grow old together. Of course, the fact that my legs actually did become old and arthritic added verisimilitude to the charade.”
“That’s another thing which puzzled me. Is it true that like the character in the opera you’re a fairy from your waist up…”
“But your legs are mortal?”
“But genetics doesn’t work that way. I mean, a child of mixed-race parents isn’t black on one side and white on the other; he’s … well … all mixed together. Why should you be half-and-half?”
Strephon shrugged. “I am afraid I have never really studied the biological sciences. I couldn’t say. I suspect it has something to do with the nature of faerie magic, but I’m afraid that’s not a terribly satisfying answer.”
“Ah. But then… what about…” she turned red. “Never mind. It’s none of my business.”
“What about in-between? People often wonder about that. Let me just say that there is no clean line of demarcation between my mortal and immortal parts and the border regions, if I may call them that, partake of the natures of both.”
Cassandra pursed her lips, as if chewing that over in her mind before deciding she was better off not thinking about it. “So… what happened after your wife died?”
“That was a difficult time for me. We had been expecting it to come eventually; we knew it must; but still, it happened so quickly. She suffered a heart attack while working in her garden. I had warned her frequently not to over-exert herself, but it gave her such joy to putter around tending the azaleas.”
Strephon stopped. His tongue seemed to have turned to lead. The words did not want to come out. “If I could have gotten to her more quickly… I could have done something… cast an enchantment… given her more time. But I was in the house when it happened. I felt her cry of distress. My mortal legs couldn’t carry me quickly enough. By the time I got to her side, it was too late. Too late.”
He shook his head. Damn foolish to be crying over something that happened nearly a century ago. He wiped the tear from his eye. “I beg your pardon,” he said.
Cassandra let him compose himself. “I’m very sorry,” she said quietly. She raised her hand and tentatively reached out towards his. For a moment he thought she was going to pat his hand, and it occurred to him that this might not be an unpleasant thing; but she evidently thought better and withdrew it. “What then?”
Strephon sighed. “I retreated to the Faerie Realm for a time. Mother thought it would be best. And it was pleasant enough for a while. But I did not really belong there. So I came home. I fabricated a plausible death abroad and assumed the identity of a long-lost son raised in Canada, who walked with a limp due to a childhood bout with polio. Which came in handy when the War broke out, I must admit. But I found I didn’t really belong in the mortal world either. I had never really appreciated how much Phyllis had been my link to the world around me. My friends were all old or dead; I kept to myself because it was simply easier that way. Fewer inconvenient explanations. What few friends I have are mostly contacts in the City’s supernatural community, like Grandmama Simms, or one or two others.
“And that is how I have lived for over seventy years now: staying mostly at home, only rarely venturing out into the world around me, and occasionally fabricating a new identity when it seems prudent to do so.”
He felt a gentle touch. This time Cassandra did rest her hand on his. He hadn’t wanted any sympathy, but somehow, receiving it did make him feel better. He clasped her hand in his. It occurred to him that he hadn’t poured out his heart like this in a long, long time: not to Mother, certainly not to Devon.
“Then… what brought to to Aeser Technologies?”
The question abruptly brought him back to the present. “Ah, that. Well. I received a commission from the Queen of the Faeries.”
“The fairies have a queen?”
“Indeed, they do,” Strephon said solemnly. “Mister Melchior Aesermann is actually a Faerie Lord, posing as mortal, much as I am. But for more sinister purposes, I believe. The Queen requested that I investigate Lord Melchior and divine his intentions.”
He expected to see skeptical bemusement on her face, but Cassandra seemed to take the revelation that a prominent tech entrepreneur was really a magical sprite in stride. She nodded her head. “That actually makes sense. It fits with what Byron Sanders told me. He was the programmer who worked for Aesermann.”
“And what have you learned about him?” Cassandra asked.
Strephon grimaced. “Very little, I’m afraid. Devon keeps complaining about it. He says I keep getting distracted by my ‘social life.’”
“Oh.” Cassandra blushed again. “Sorry about that.”