Saturday, February 14, 2015

Dark Redemption chapter 63: Strephon's Story

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 has confronted him with it.

One would think  Strephon thought, that in a heavily-wooded park it would be easy to find a secluded spot where one might have a quiet conversation.; but these spots, unfortunately, were not readily accessible to one in a wheelchair; particularly since either side of the walkway was packed with vendors selling beaded purses, glass barometers , hand-crafted dulcimers and particularly ugly carvings of Cernunnos.  The most convenient spot he could find was around behind a bluish fiberglass portable loo of loathsome design that the City had placed near the footpath for the convenience of the market-goers.

Even this was a little more public than Strephon liked, but he recalled the glamour of privacy Lilith had cast at Melchior’s party the week before.  It seemed an easy enough effect to duplicate, and so it was.  With a little concentration, the sounds of the park and the market became muted.

The sudden silence startled Cassandra, and she looked around her as if to see where all the noises went.

“I thought you might enjoy some ‘Fairy Magic’,” Strephon said.  “Would you like to see my wings, too?”

“You… really have wings?”

“I can if I wish.

Cassandra wrinkled her nose but did not accept the offer.  “So… how did Gilbert and Sullivan come to write an opera about you?”

“They did not.”  Strephon said that a bit more hotly than he intended.  He paused to compose himself.  “I was born in a wood near Lower Piltching.  My father was a highly respectable clergyman who was a bit more susceptible in his youth than he liked to admit; and my mother, as Mister Gilbert put it, was ‘an influential fairy.’  I understand that this sort of thing was not all that uncommon at one time, but it’s a rather rare occurrence these days; I don’t think it’s happened since the time of the Venerable Bede.  Father, despite his injudicious fling -- or perhaps to make up for it – had rather strict views of propriety and insisted that I be raised as a Good Christian in a mortal home.  And so I was, although Mother maintained contact with me as best as she was able, visiting occasionally and sending me presents from the Faerie Realm on the appropriate holidays.

“I grew to manhood, and fell in love with a girl named Phyllis; not a shepherdess, by the by, but the daughter of a highly respectable manufacturer of buttons.  At the time, I was studying to enter the clergy myself, but had few prospects for a secure future.  In addition, I hadn’t yet told Phyllis about the peculiarities on my Mother’s side of the family, and my half-fae physiology was beginning to prove troublesome.

“One day, Mother visited me in my rooms at the Seminary, and the Rector happened to come in on us.  My mother is immortal, remember; and the Rector would not accept my explanations of why I seemed to be entertaining a beautiful young woman in my room.  I was summarily expelled.

“I went to a public house to drown my sorrows and found myself unburdening myself to another fellow.  He was quite sympathetic, and I daresay I told him more than I should have.  He suggested I try entering the Bar.  He said that my personality and natural talents would serve me well in the Law and that no one cared particularly if a Barrister entertained young ladies in their chambers.”  Strephon paused thoughtfully.  “It proved good advice.  I suppose I do owe him for that.”

“The fellow was Gilbert, I suppose?”

“It was.  I found out some time later when I came across a comic poem written by him in the magazine Fun titled ‘The Fairy Curate’.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, because the character in the poem bore little resemblance to me.  It ends with the curate becoming a Mormon or a Methodist or some other such thing; I forget which.

“Then a few years later, I got wind that Gilbert was doing an operetta about faeries.  I think Devon found out about it and let me know.  It was based on ‘The Fairy Curate’, but included my name, and Phyllis’s name and some other things as well. I like to think of myself as an even-tempered man, but Gilbert’s little fantasy was bordering on defamation.  So I threatened to sue.”

Strephon sighed.  “Phyllis thought I was being silly about the whole thing.  Perhaps I was.  But we were married by that time and I was finally getting established as a barrister.  But it wasn’t just my own reputation I was concerned about, nor even that of my wife.  He used my Mother’s name in the operetta too, do you see?  She was mentioned frequently.  It was named after her.  Faeries are magic, and in magic, names are power.  I did not wish my Mother’s name to become a common thing.  It’s… it’s hard to explain.  I suppose to a mortal I doesn’t make much sense.”

“No, no,”  Cassandra said.  “It was important to you.”

“I met with Gilbert.  And with Sullivan, and D’Oyly-Carte, their business partner.  Gilbert was an obstinate man, but I could be as stubborn as he.  In the end, Mrs. D’Oyly-Carte, their partner’s wife – a quite prudent and sagacious woman – arranged a compromise.  The name of the character and of the operetta was changed.”

“Then… your mother’s name isn’t Iolanthe?”

“It is not.”

“What is it, then?  If you don’t mind my asking.”

Strephon frowned a bit.

“Well,” Cassandra continued, “in case you should ever want to bring me ‘round to meet her.  It would be embarrassing not to know what to call her.”  She blushed.  “It could happen.”

“Oh.”  Strephon realized she had just said something extremely significant, but it caught him so off-guard that he had to stop and think a moment for the full ramifications of it to unfold.  She was right.  It could happen.  He could visualize it happening.  He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.  He found it a little frightening.  “I see.”

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