Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dark Redemption chapter 67: Three's a Charm

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 finally admitted his supernatural heritage to his uncomfortably close acquaintance Cassandra True, (mainly because she’s guessed much of it already).  But Cassandra has more pressing concerns:  her roommate, Cecilie, has fallen under the spell of a vampire.  She has taken Cecilie to Mrs. Simms, a sorceress in the local Jamaican community and a friend of Strephon’s.  As Strephon questions her, his cousin Devon arrives.

“Please tell me this has something to do with your investigation,” Devon said, peering over Strephon’s shoulder to get a better look at Cecilie’s décolletage.

Strephon gave a snort and pretended to be taking Cecilie’s pulse.  “This young lady is under the thrall of a vampire and at Miss True’s request I am endeavoring to help.  I would appreciate your assistance.”  Cecile seemed not to notice him taking her wrist; her attention seemed completely riveted by Devon’s arrival.  How odd, Strephon thought.  Just a moment before it had been fixed on him.

“So the answer is no.”

Strephon felt himself losing patience.  “Lord Melchior has dealings with vampires.  The Lady Kurayami is a business associate of his.  And this young woman fell in with the vampires at Madame Kurayami’s club.  So the answer to your question is yes, this does have something to do with my investigation.”

Devon seemed about to retort with something sarcastic, but must have thought better of it.  “Very well.  How can I help?”

“Something seems odd about her aura.  What do you make of it?”

Devon gave a cautious glance over at Mrs. Simms, who glared at him with matriarchal disapproval, and then at Cassandra, who merely looked at him expectantly.  He stepped back and slowly walked around Cecilie, peering at her over his sunglasses.  Cecilie blushed and straightend, obviously enjoying the attention.  She pursed her lips in a coquettish smile.  She was flirting with him, Strephon thought.  And Devon was flirting back, the cad!  And after all the comments Devon had made about his own romantic entanglements. 
“May we… speak freely?” Devon said at last.

Strephon divined his meaning.  “Everyone here knows what we are.”

“Ah.  Good.  Well, the influence of the vampire is obvious.  Her aura shows signs of her being drained.  Psychic anemia, one might call it.  But there’s something else as well.  You haven’t been tupping her too, have you, Strephon?”

Strephon slammed his hands down against the armrests of his wheelchair.  “Good God, Devon!  I will thank you to remember that there are ladies present!  If you must descend to obscenity, kindly refrain from doing so in the language of Shakespeare!”

He couldn’t be sure, but he suspected that behind his sunglasses, his cousin was rolling his eyes.  C'est mieux comme ca?”


Bon d'accord, mais tu n'as pas répondu a ma question.”

Strephon gathered his temper, and replied in French.  Je n'ai définitivement pas été intime avec Mademoiselle Draper. Ni avec Mademoiselle True, Madame Simms, Camilla Parker-Bowles, ou autre femme que tes intérés lubriques puissent suggérer!”

He would have gone on, but an impatient scowl from Mrs. Simms checked him.  Cecilie was obviously confused by this sudden torrent of a foreign language, but Cassandra frowned.  Evidently she remembered more of her schoolgirl French and had followed the gist of the exchange.

Devon gave an infuriatingly Gallic shrug.  “Comme tu veux. Mais l'aura de cette jeune dame a des fortes traces de magie féerique. C'est surprenant que tu ne l'as pas remarqué.”

“Faerie magic?”  Strephon furrowed his brow and looked at Cecily again.  Devon was right, damn his eyes.  How could he have missed that.  “I supposed she couldn’t have picked it up indirectly, from shaking my hand, say, or touching my wheelchair…?”  He doubted this was the case, but he had to ask.

“Regarde pour toi-même. C'est en elle: l'essence de féerie est dans son sang.”   Cecilie started at that.  Had she understood Devon?  “C'est comme si elle avait eu une grandmère fée,”  Devon continued.  Ca ne serait pas la première fois.”

“That’s quite enough,” Strephon grumped.  “Your are tiresome enough in English.  In French you’re tiresome and pretentious.”

“Did he say… essence…?” Cecilie said.

Strephon and his cousin looked at her sharply, and she shrunk a bit in her chair.  “It’s just that… well…”

“Out with it, child,” Grandma Simms said.  “It’s about time someone said something sensible here.”

Devon pulled a chair up in front of Cecilie and sat down.  He placed his sunglasses in his coat pocket and took her hands in his.  “You must tell us,” he said, gazing into her eyes with a semblance of earnestness.  “We’re here to help you.”

Strephon expected her to protest, and for a moment she seemed to tense.  “Essence is what Philippe called it; the stuff he gave me.”

“I knew it!” Cassnadra muttered under her breath.

“It’s not a drug,” Cecilie insisted.  “Ms Kurayami doesn’t permit them at her club.  Philippe explained it to me.  It’s an enhancer.”

Strephon glanced over at Cassandra, who pursed her lips as if holding back an injudicious comment.  Devon gave Cecilie’s hand a squeeze.  “Tell us more about this… Essence.  It’s important that we know.”

Cecilie hesitated.  “Philippe said I wasn’t to tell anyone about it.  But…”  Her gaze was transfixed by Devon’s and Strephon could sense her resistance melting.  “It’s like this nectar, the color of lavender and it comes in these tiny little vials; and it tastes like thrills and fireworks and every flower you can think of..  It makes everything more… more…”  she trailed off in a vague state of blissful abstraction.

“More magical?” Devon suggested.

Cecilie’s eyes brightened.  “That’s it!  More magical!  You understand!”

Strephon fidgeted in his wheelchair, but Cecilie, ignoring him, continued.  “Each night after we left the club, we’d go to his place and he’d give me some of the Essence and then we’d f---“  Cecilie caught Strephon’s eye and checked herself.  “We’d make love.  And after that… he’d bite me,” she finished in a quieter tone.

“I see.”

Strephon leaned closer to Devon and in a low voice said, “Well, this explains a lot:.  She was flirting with me earlier and I don’t think she even realized she was doing it.  You are right; she’s clearly been exposed to faerie magic and is reacting to its presence.  She’s come to associate it with… well, with…”


Devon put it more bluntly than Strephon liked, but decided to waive the point.  “As you said.”

“Quite interesting, don’t you think?” Devon added casting a speculative glance back at Cecilie.

“Don’t tell me you intend to take advantage of that girl!”

“Of course not.  I intend to take advantage of the situation.  Listen, we both agree that the girl’s present paramour is unhealthy for her.  What’s wrong with showing her, as the poet says, that there are lots of good fish in the sea?”

“Are you French?” Cecilie interrupted.  “You’re really sexy when you talk French.”

Devon favored her with a seductive smile and squeezed her hand.  “I can be anything you want me to be, ma chère.”

For someone who was always going on about Strephon’s social life, Devon seemed to be enjoying himself much more than was seemly.  “If I might speak with you privately,” Strephon said crossly.  “And Miss True?”

The cramped break room offered little scope for privacy, but Devon cast a simple glamour on Cecilie, rendering her blissfully oblivious to their conversation.

“So what is this ‘Essence’ stuff anyway?”  Cassandra asked.

“A distillation of faerie magic, unless I miss my guess; which the vampires are using as a drug.” Strephon replied.

Devon disagreed.  “Except that vampires are allergic to faerie magic.  They are unlife, and the raw magic of faerie is anathema to them.  Like sunlight.  That’s why vampires don’t drink the blood of fae.”

“Is that so?  I didn’t know that.”

“Really, what do they teach in your English schools, Strephon?”

“Only trivial things like Virgil and Magna Carta.  May we get back to the point?”

“Cecilie didn’t say that Philippe took the Essence himself,” Cassandra reminded them, “just that he gave it to her.  Maybe it’s safe for vampires when it’s been ingested by a human and metabolized in her blood.  Does that make sense?”

“That could be,” Devon mused.  “I don’t know that anybody’s ever made the experiment.”

“We have Miss Draper’s testimony that someone has..”

“So is Melchior supplying Kurayami with this Essence?”

“Kurayami says she doesn’t allow drugs in her club,” Cassandra said, “and Cecilie says the same.”

“I’m not sure if Melchior is involved with this at all,” Strephon admitted.

“There seems to be quite a bit of faerie magic going about these days.  Melchior is selling faerie computer games to mortals, and someone is selling faerie drugs to vampires.  There must be some connection.”

“That’s not all,” Strephon reminded him.  “One of the werewolf packs have been wearing collars inscribed with faerie runes.  I suppose, though, that could be a coincidence.”

Devon turned grave.  “They don’t teach you enough in English schools.  Twice may be a coincidence, but three times is always a charm.”