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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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Quantum Musings

by
Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
Hold The Anchovies

by
Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

by
Harris Tobias
Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

by
Gordon Rowlinson

A Midsummer Night’s Daydream

by

John Henson Webb



Being the continuing further adventures of Calico Jack Rackham

 

Takes my hand and leads me to the holy isle

And the fairy rings and the circles of stone

Forever and again

Deliverance – The Mission

 

Even during late daylight hours of summer the Arcana held its usual mix of dark-attired youth and beauty. These ephemeral creatures ebbed and flowed between the multi-level dance floors and the bar, shrouded by the nightclub's policy of keeping the lighting minimal. The patrons all considered themselves strangers in their everyday world, but would've been astounded (and in some instances terrified) by the true strangers who walked among them. An encounter going on behind the door marked ‘Slugs & Snails’ being a case in point.

In most instances Rackham would've smiled to see a waist-high, healthily-pink cherub, especially one apparently wearing an off-white, badly-tied nappy. But this angry-faced incarnation was currently thumping him on the kneecaps with a sawn-off shotgun.  In a falsetto voice the semi-naked Celestial ordered Rackham into the hessian sack that lay crumpled at its feet. The cherub wasn’t as frightening as some of the angels Rackham had met, its feathered wings were a great deal smaller to be sure, but a shotgun’s a shotgun and, as usual, Rackham wasn’t feeling particularly brave.

 

            A deconsecrated church on Wardour Street, the Arcana comprised a main dance floor occupying the nave, a slightly smaller dance floor and DJ’s riser in the chancel. The north transept provided the bar space and toilets had been installed in the south transept (labeled Slugs & Snails and Sugar & Spice just to confuse the newcomers); north and south aisles were clustered with tables of varying design and age; chairs likewise. Speaker stacks scattered around both dance floors cause minor tremors in the old brickwork and had, over the years, removed numerous slates from the pitched roof. It was said the owner lived up in the belltower; a gaunt, pale-faced individual rarely seen in daylight and always accompanied by a red-eyed dog the size of a small pony. The substantial crypts now housed the nightclub’s beer cellar and various whispered rumors spoke of home-brewed spirits, including a potent absinthe which still contained flecks of the wormwood from which it was distilled. Potato vodka and not-so-slow gin regularly laid out imbibers and scorched the patina from formica-topped tables. That the police didn’t raid the place on a nightly basis was a frequent topic of conversation, but never within the confines of the old church itself…

 

            Into the Blue crashed and thundered about the room, The Mission managing to sound both loud and anguished.

Laughing canyons and everglades

Candle flames and razorblades

Dancing through the poppy fields

Hand in hand we cascade

            Occupying his usual seat, Mammon chugged Caffreys and swallowed dry-roasted nuts by the bagful. His over-developed shoulders bopped to the rhythm, his booted feet stamped in time. Despite the placid grin that lay across his features people invariably gave him a wide berth. Not a surprise really. An Infernal angel, Mammon exuded an air of menace regardless of his best efforts to be inconspicuous. Had he sported horns and a forked tail no one would’ve been too surprised, but his current attire of black leather jacket (studs and Motörhead patch naturally), faded Deep Purple t-shirt, scruffy denims and motorcycle boots masked the fact that he did indeed possess some unusual attributes – batwings, hooves, a tendency toward introspection under the influence of a full moon.

            One of Mammon’s usual drinking buddies was currently climbing into a surprisingly spacious sack; the other was having an altercation at the bar.

            Another Infernal angel, Iblis was, for all intents and purposes, a rather confrontational young woman temporarily dressed in a skin-tight, black leather catsuit and floor-length black leather duster (the latter piece of attire actually her disguised, folded-down wings). The object of her ire was a pumpkin-headed scarecrow sipping a pint of Guinness.

            “You know as well as I do færies ain’t supposed to visit human realms! ‘Specially not a crowded nightclub!’

            Pumpkinhead made a vague gesture with a hand comprised of twig fingers and a turnip wrist. ‘Has anyone actually noticed me?’

            ‘Well, no, but that isn’t the point!’ Iblis had begun to wonder whether the clientele would even notice if she unfurled her wings or went berserk with a pitchfork…

            ‘Get used to it sister. Oberon has already said that all fæy will shortly be accorded the same privileges as other non-humans. I’m just getting in early.’ Pumpkinhead returned attention to his pint.

            Less sure of herself than before, Iblis threw a question. ‘What makes Oberon so sure about that?’

            The carved smile on the pumpkin face elongated. ‘He’s got a plan…’

            It wasn’t until Iblis sat down heavily and gave an ‘I’ve got a problem’ huff that Mammon paid her any attention, and then it was only to notice she’d forgotten to get in the next round. His eyebrows rose when she explained about her encounter, but he was still more concerned that his current pint was down to the dregs.

            Iblis scanned their vicinity and asked ‘Where’s Rackham?’

            ‘Still in the bog!’

            A frown creased Iblis’ otherwise flawless pale skin (though her dark make-up was currently undergoing a slow revision from black to a deep, deep red, reflecting her negative mood). ‘He’s been in the toilet nearly twenty minutes? Even Rackham’s bladder ain’t that big.’

            With a dawning sense of dread (well annoyance more than dread, Infernal angels usually caused all the dreading) Iblis pushed her way through the blissfully unaware dancers and into the men’s toilet. Rackham wasn’t in there; just a sparkling ring of færydust on the tiled floor. Which, according to Iblis’ admittedly limited knowledge of the ‘little people’, was a sure sign of a fæy portal.

            She stomped her way back over to Mammon, who was checking his pockets for enough change to buy another Caffreys.

            ‘We need to see Nanael’. Iblis glanced over at the bar and then pointed at the Pumpkinhead. ‘And bring that!’

 

            Ample; the word had taken up residence in Rackham’s forebrain and wouldn’t be ousted. Ample. He glanced once again at Titania. Yup, ample, that’d be right. He sneezed loudly and rubbed at his watering eyes – damn færydust…

            Seated upon a pile of garishly-coloured blankets and pillows, beneath the boughs of an ancient oak, Rackham took another sip of mead and watched Titania jiggle. She’d only shifted position to pick up the drumstick of a roasted pheasant, but that movement induced others which amplified across the expanse of bare flesh spilling from her tightly-laced bodice. Peacock feathers protruded from behind her bare shoulders, waving gently as she raised the roasted fowl to her plump, already grease-covered, brightly-painted lips. She tore through the flesh with pearly-white teeth then, with a bad attempt at a coy smile, proffered the mutilated drumstick to Rackham. He declined politely, eyes roving his surroundings for a way out.

            The circular grove of oak trees grew together in their lower trunks, forming a buttress at least twice Rackham’s height. He could see no obvious handholds. But then the multitude of small winged beings seated upon or flitting above the oaken wall meant there would be no unobserved exit should he attempt the climb. And that damned cherub was sitting on a low branch, still clutching the sawn-off. Somewhere beyond the grove Rackham could hear Oberon addressing the massed ranks of the inaugural Union of the Woods rally.

 

            'Brothers and Sisters! Too long have we languished in the twilight. Too long have we...'

            A small pink hand shot up.

            'The floor recognises Brother Peas-blossom!'

            'I noticed we're called the Union of the Woods...'

            'Or Woodland Union!'

            '… does that mean water sprites are excluded? Only under Article 2.2.4, subsection 3.5, it clearly states that no fæy will be barred from membership all the while they're considered of good standing...'

            'I was wondering that too,' said a voice from elsewhere in the crowd, 'But I didn't like to make a fuss. Some of my best friends are nymphs.'

            Oberon raised both hands above his head, his naturally exuberant demeanor crackling with goodwill, bonhomie and the merest touch of exasperation. They’d been at it three hours and hadn’t progressed past his opening remarks. The King of the Færies was beginning to realize that his faithful followers weren’t the sharpest tools in the box. Some were definitely tending toward blunt and rusty…

            ‘Can we please take it as read that all fæy, regardless of gender, elemental leaning, colour, size, number of limbs, wings, horns or eyes’ (the spider-sprites would have smiled in appreciation had their mouthparts allowed such articulation) ‘and degree of magical ability, are considered post facto members of the Union unless they wish to opt out..’

            ‘Or are barred due to lack of good standing!’ interjected Peas-blossom.

            ‘Yes, good standing…’

            ‘But what about the Umbellifer sprites? They’re floral, they don’t have legs!’

 

            The late summer sun had begun to sink behind the Victorian buildings clustered near the British Museum, drawing pastel shades from those old bricks not blackened by years of pollution and neglect. Iblis climbed out of the black cab and thrust a ten pound note at the driver. His inquisitive gaze was deflected by a second tenner and he failed to see Mammon drag a protesting scarecrow from the vehicle, up a short flight of worn steps and into a bookshop, the name Esoterika painted in dark Gothic lettering above the very dusty windows.

            As was her wont, Nanael, celestial angel and owner of the bookshop, sat at the rear of the long room in a worn but comfy, wing-back chair, reading in the wan light of a single offertory candle. A halo of white-hair glowed in the candlelight, but her face remained in shadow. She kept to her seat as Mammon clumped along the narrow aisle from the front of the shop, only rising as Iblis closed the door behind her. The doorbell failed to ring, suffering, as it still did, from near-terminal verdigris.

            Mammon, who’d not met Nanael previously, was confronted by a woman of indeterminate age, pale piercing eyes and unexpectedly friendly smile. She clasped a book to her chest, head tilted to one side, watching as Iblis negotiated her way past the second infernal angel and his protesting burden.

            ‘Kidnapping færies! Why am I not surprised?’ She clucked her tongue. ‘Is this the beginnings of a new hobby, or just a one-off?’

            Iblis’ grin was short-lived. ‘Actually, I think it’s Rackham who’s been kidnapped.’

 

            ‘…gender, elemental leaning, colouration, physical size, aural dimension, number and placement of limbs, wings, horns or eyes, magical ability (or not), of whatever realm, are considered post facto members of the Union unless they wish to opt out..’

 

            With the faintest clinking of finest bone china, Arioch appeared from the Esoterika’s small back room carrying a tray of tea and biscuits. ‘Thought I heard company.’ Hell’s ex-enforcer wore a serene expression as he handed around cups and enquired about sugar – the change of career suited his temperament, he’d never been truly happy as Lucifer’s strongarm – pottering about in Nanael’s bookshop kept a contented grin plastered across his lugubrious face.

            Pumpkinhead accepted a cup of Darjeeling and a Rich Tea biscuit. His active defiance had subsided to a vague sulk, having belatedly realised he wasn’t in any immediate, physical danger.

            Noting that Mammon’s sausage-like fingers were too big for the cup, Arioch excused himself and then reappeared with more tea, this time decanted in a soup bowl. Though he’d have preferred a pint, Mammon accepted the tea graciously.

            Nanael allowed the silence to last through her first cup. As she accepted a refill from Arioch, she delicately cleared her throat. Taking the hint, Iblis swallowed a mouthful of biscuit, rinsed her mouth with a sip of her own tea.

            ‘I think the færies have snatched Rackham. I swear that guy could cause a riot in a nunnery…’

            ‘To what end would the fæy want Rackham?’

            ‘Turnipbrain’, a twitch of a thumb to indicate Pumpkinhead, ‘said Oberon had an idea about getting’ parity with celestials. Maybe he thinks Rackham’s a bargaining piece.’

            Nanael wrinkled her nose in thought. ‘Well, he did feature prominently in one of Michael’s more hare-brained schemes. That could give Oberon a distorted view of Rackham’s worth.’

            ‘Yeah, and I have…kind-of…grown fond of him. I’d hate to see anything bad happen.’

            Nanael was surprised by the honest emotion in Iblis’ voice. ‘You’d better go get him then.’

            Iblis and Mammon shared a startled but hopeful look. ‘And how do we manage that?’ Iblis kept her tone light, but even Mammon could sense the need in her question, ‘You can’t reach fairyland without an invite!’

            Rising from her chair, Nanael stepped across to a shelf and took down a 1710 printing of the Tractatus Middoth. ‘Well, if Nachmanides wasn’t just whistling a shanty, you need to get lost in the woods.’

 

            ‘…and placement of limbs (jointed or tentacular), wings (diaphanous, membranous or feathered), horns or eyes…’

 

            Nanael replaced the handset on the old Bakelite telephone which stood, pride of place, on her small shop counter.

            ‘Melchisedec checked a file and, if details are correct, Oberon has set up a fæy union and is pushing for equal treatment with the angelic hosts.’ She tutted, ‘Also, a number of Cherubs have gone freelance and are acting as muscle for Oberon.’

            Broad forehead creased in a frown, Mammon tried to picture the knee-high angels as anything other than a bad joke. Muscle? The pink bags of celestial flesh were all flab, no muscle-tone involved…

 

            Having identified a copse of ash and willow, situated not far from the boating lake in Regent’s Park, as the closest expanse of woodland suitable for their needs, the two Infernals gathered themselves to depart. Conscious that they might require backup, Iblis approached Arioch.

            It was hard to believe (though angels took a lot on faith – even though they were the embodiment of the concept) that the smiley-faced individual standing before her had ever been Hell’s grim enforcer; a raw power of chaos; the darkest Infernal of all. But Arioch had finally risen above his allotted station, shrugging-off the grey woolen greatcoat that housed myriad implements of death and destruction, to find himself at peace within the stacks of books and the good graces of Nanael. When Iblis asked, Arioch reluctantly shook his head; though he owed his sister angel a great debt for sure, violence was no longer his calling – the most destructive item he now handled was an upright vacuum cleaner.

            As Iblis was about to turn away Arioch ducked into the toilet under the stairs and quickly returned to present her with his old coat. Realising it wouldn’t suit her slender figure (nor her normal choice in fashion), Arioch handed the garment to Mammon.

            ‘I know it doesn’t look like much, but it’ll provide you with whatever you need’.

            Mammon unceremoniously dropped his leather jacket to the floor and shrugged on the coat. An expression of joy passed across his broad features and he immediately extracted a can of Caffreys from an inside pocket. Iblis shook her head and led the way out of the bookshop.

            As the two angels tromped along Great Russell Street, the British Museum a dark hulk behind its stone and iron wall, Iblis was startled by a loud crunching sound. She glanced at her companion, who strolled beside her mindlessly eating peanuts. At her stern look Mammon quickly produced a bag of salt ‘n’ vinegar crisps from another pocket. Mollified by the gift, Iblis munched as she walked.

 

            Half-an-hour later the pair were standing in a dark patch of trees. Iblis’ attire had now morphed into an outfit of leather bodice, rubber mini-skirt and thigh-length leather boots. Her wings, now back to their true shape, twitched behind her shoulders. Mammon, settled deep within the greatcoat, decided to forgo another bag of nuts and tried to pay attention when Iblis spoke.

            ‘OK. According to Nanael’s note, it’s widdershins seven times around a willow…’ She glanced at the numerous silhouettes that surrounded them. ‘What’s a willow look like?’

            Mammon decided another Caffreys was called for.

 

            Trying to follow Oberon’s opening address, Peas-Blossom and Cobweb shared a copy of the ‘Handbook of the Rules, Regulations and Procedures of the Union of the Woods, Dells, Swamps, Lakes, Rivers, Mountains and Air’. Their first problem lay with the pages of the book itself which, tied directly to Oberon’s magic, kept growing in number every time Oberon uttered an amendment. It was currently taking both to hold it up. Other fæy had already dropped theirs to the ground, but Peas-Blossom was following the words with a green-tinged finger and hadn’t noticed. Their second problem lay with Puck, who, seated on a nearby toadstool, was picking his long, aquiline nose and flicking the excavated contents at the pair of them. Cobweb, small and delicate even by fæy standards, was just about to complain, when Titania’s voice reached out from the grove and snared Puck’s attention. Ever at the beck-and-call of his King and Queen, the sprite lifted on gossamer wings to heed her summons.

 

            Within the oak ring, Rackham and Titania had been joined by Mab, Queen of the Darker Woods. The women were arguing over the state of Titania and Oberon’s relationship, ever a rocking boat, and whether Mab had a chance.

            As Titania slapped Mab once again, Rackham found it politic to move as far across the glade as he could, dragging a couple of pillows for comfort. Puck alighted on a convenient toadstool… actually the toadstools appeared whenever Puck alighted upon the woodland floor – he could create impressive fairy rings just by strolling in a circle… and smiled at his Queen.

            ‘Merrie met my bountiful Lady! What would thy ask of thy faithful servant?’

            Titania dodged a blow from Mab’s wide, open palm. ‘Stow the fancy banter and drop this bitch!’ A second blow reached its target and Titania sat down with a ground-shaking thump. Mab, no less substantial than her foe, launched herself at the recumbent Titania and laid about the other’s head with a pheasant drumstick.

            Expelling a heavy sigh, Puck lifted into the air once more and hovered above the fighting fairy women. Being armed with only a harp, he dropped on to Mab’s bare shoulders and smacked her in the ear with the instrument. Mab’s continuing curses were accompanied by discordant fæy music as Puck kept up a fusillade of blows.

            Mab grabbed handfuls of Titania’s oiled and perfumed ringlets and used them to bang her rivals head on an oak root.

            ‘Y’can’t go makin’ cow-eyes at a mortal an’ still be Oberon’s one true love!’

            ‘That’s doe-eyes you filthy, wanton strumpet!’ Titania punched Mab in the chins, ‘An’ I’ll ‘ave who I like!’

            Having reduced his beautiful harp to kindling and wisps of spider silk, Puck retreated to yet another toadstool to contemplate servitude and the deeper recesses of his nasal cavity.

 

            Oberon’s voice had lost a great deal of its bonhomie, ‘…realm means animal, mineral or bloody vegetable – which just about covers you lot! Unless ‘idiocy’s’ a realm…’

            Mustardseed tutted at the profanity, but was quickly shushed by Peas-Blossom, finger pressed to page. Cobweb was, by this time, on all fours and acting as podium, to support Peas-Blossom’s now epic tome.

 

            As the sound of mighty slaps and piercing shrieks reverberated from the enclosed glade, Puck could be seen sitting on a branch sharing a flagon of best dandelion wine with several cherubs. Only the shortest of the group, still clutching the sawn-off, kept a wary eye on their human captive.

            For his part, Rackham, having retrieved some food and wine for himself, was now comfortably drunk as he lay sprawled atop of a large pile of pilfered cushions, spectating on the monumental combat occurring between the two Queens. Titania was currently on top of Mab, slapping the latter with a half-leg of suckling pig. Rackham seriously doubted that Mab would ever get the grease stains out of her spider-silk dress…

 

            A short distance out from the large clearing occupied by the rally, two dark figures stealthily approached. Still unsure how to handle the coming confrontation, Iblis found herself dressed in a combination of bondage and riot gear, somewhat psychedelic make-up and wings half-furled. The butt of a 9mm Jericho pistol protruded from a shoulder holster, both stolen from a less-than-reputable arms dealer she’d once dated.

            Mammon was armed with another can of Caffrey’s. Eyeing her companion and listening to the massed voices a few trees over, Iblis held up a hand and called a halt.

            ‘Not sure how we’re supposed to front-up a whole færy horde; just being the two of us! Maybe you ought to tool up.’

            Slurping down the dregs of the ale, Mammon discarded the can and set about concentrating really hard (Arioch would’ve recognized the expression on his face – similar to that of a constipated bull elephant really hoping this wasn’t another false alarm…). Putting a meaty hand into the folds of the greatcoat he extracted an impressive piece of hand-held artillery, molded in bright yellow and blue plastic. Iblis stared at the weapon in growing panic. Black-fingernailed hand held out she demanded the capacious magazine.

            ‘Foam darts, the damn thing fires foam darts!’

            Not looking all that perturbed Mammon replaced the magazine; given his size he was reasonably confident of taking on a bunch of færies, though he wasn’t so sure when it came to the King and Queen and all that magic they were supposed to wield.

            Figuring that bluster and threats might carry the day, Iblis stormed forward, trying desperately to project more confidence than she felt.

 

            Oberon was sitting on the ground, elbows on knees, racked with sobs. Several appendages were waving above the crowd, ostensibly to ask whether this activity was part of the pledge of allegiance which, according to the agenda, should have followed the King’s opening remarks.

 

            Clutching an empty wine jug, Rackham was chewing on an apple, feeling relatively happy and reasonably at peace. Having lost interest in his surroundings, he’d failed to notice that, due to Titania’s inattention, the glade he’d been trapped in had reverted to its usual form of a circle of separate trees; all the buttresses had faded away, sinking silently back into the flower-covered earth.

            It was the familiar sound of Iblis threatening someone that caught his attention.

 

            ‘Hands in the air and no one gets fragged!’ Iblis went for volume, backed-up by her black, bat-like wings at full spread. She just hoped it was impressive enough to put the frighteners on the assembled creatures; her usual approach was much quieter, threats whispered in the ear, lips and eyes a smoldering red, sharp white teeth. A frontal assault was a little outside her comfort zone.

            She had, indeed, cowed the audience, but that only lasted until Rackham barreled into her, threw his arms around her neck, planted a wet, inebriated kiss on her bright red lips before slumping to the ground, hugging her chrome-studded, chain-bedecked combat boots. Her joy at seeing Rackham alive and well robbed Iblis of her menace – she radiated a warm glow that had all the fæy smiling at each other and wondering what all the fuss had been about. All those assembled, except Oberon.

 

            Like the other fæy Oberon’s initial reaction to Iblis’ loud arrival had been one of shock and awe. He was already well on the way to despair, so an injection of adrenaline had rapidly gathered his addled senses. Back on his feet he stood, hands on hips, and stared straight at the two infernal angels. The grand plan was in danger of unraveling; he needed to act quickly. A snap of his fingers summoned the cherub horde, wings clattering, shotguns clutched tight in chubby, pink fingers.

            ‘So, my dark sister, to what do we owe the pleasure?’

            Bolstered by Mammon’s presence at her shoulder, Iblis stepped past Rackham’s slumped form to face the King of the Færies. ‘I’d like my friend back. Do it quickly and no one has to get hurt!’ Iblis snapped her fingers, just as loud and sharp a sound as Oberon had managed. Instead of cherubs, Mammon stepped forward, swinging the blue and yellow weapon to cover the assembled lesser celestials. It went in Iblis’ favour that Oberon had no idea about guns.

            ‘Well, OK, let’s not get hung up on the promise of sudden violence.’ Oberon’s voice once again achieved its light, friendly tone; he raised both hands in a placatory gesture. The Cherubs stood shoulder-to-shoulder, shotguns raised, eyes fixed on Mammon.

            Warm blues fading into deep red then black, Iblis reasserted herself, hands on hips, wings furled – trying to ignore the human once again clinging to and drooling on her boots.

‘I just want my friend back. Nothin’ else. You and your Stormtroopers {she heard Mammon snigger} can go back to ruling the Woods and being weird’. She twitched back her wings to show the pistol holstered under her armpit. ‘No one needs to get hurt.’ Her voice had regained the depth that promised punishment eternal for any who transgressed.

Oberon glanced down at Rackham’s slumped form and was no longer quite sure how this had ever been a good idea. But, somehow, he needed to save face before the assemble færy host. He smiled at Iblis.

Oberon’s smile was so wide, Iblis thought his head would split. She draped her fingers across the butt of the Jericho. The Host took a collective breath.

            The King of the Færies once again stepped into orator mode and, encompassing all those assembled with a sweeping gesture, began to speak.

            ‘Humans have the free-run of this glorious world, with all its wonders and excitements! Celestials watch the smallest comings-and-goings from their high castles in the realms above the Earth. Infernals have made their peace with their elevated kin and now wander at will across all the countries of the world and sample the delights each has to offer.’ He faced his Host. ‘But we, the poor creatures of the lesser realms – of the bright woods, dark forests, trickling streams, high mountains, deep oceans and flower-bedecked meadows – what do we have? Nothing!’

            Iblis raised a finger to interject, but was ignored as Oberon swept on.

            ‘Why must we be restricted in such a cruel and callous way? Why are we not accorded the same rights and privileges as the angelic hosts?’ His voice dropped to a murmur. ‘This is my simple request – that we, the lesser hosts of the dark spaces and the light, be given the freedom to roam where we please and not be made to hide from Human sight.’ He fell to his knees and raised his hands. ‘So simple a request. So simple an answer…’

Oberon fell silent. The Host erupted into cheers, whistles and wild clapping. Cobweb finally collapsed under the Book’s weight.

With a flourish, Oberon produced a rolled vellum, held closed by a ribbon of green and a small seal of red wax. ‘On your honour {more sniggering from Mammon}, swear to carry my seven-point plan to either Lucifer or Gabriel and you may leave with your friend.’ He held out the scroll. ‘That is all I ask.’

Though she preferred to stay well away from both the Morning Star and any incarnation of an Archangel, Iblis realized that, in the grand scheme of things (and she’d be involved in many a grand scheme) it wasn’t such a great task to free her friend.

‘OK! On my honour (she stared daggers at Mammon) I’ll see that it gets read. Can’t guarantee the response, though.’ (In the end she asked Nanael to have a copy delivered to both, but that leads into a wholly different narrative…)

            If anything, Oberon’s smile managed to grow wider. Arms flung wide, and to the delight of the assembled Host, he invited Iblis, Mammon and all to a small repast to seal the agreement.

 

            As was the way in the realms of Færy, it turned out to be something of a feast; Puck was run off his feet… During the celebration, while Iblis munched her way through a dozen courses and avoided Oberon’s wandering hands, Peas-Blossom and Cobweb tried sobering Rackham with a pot of strong black acorn coffee. Calling a truce in the face of a common enemy, Mab and Titania spent the whole encounter bitching about Iblis’ taste in clothing and her size.

            Not into feasting, and after several flagons of fæy beer, Mammon found himself facing the massed ranks of shotgun-armed cherubs. They’d been whispering amongst themselves and pointing at Mammon’s plastic firearm. He was beginning to suspect that trouble might be brewing when, with a tinkling and twinkling of dust, they were all armed with variations upon a similar theme – over-sized firearms in dayglo plastic. Thereafter, while Oberon and Iblis ate and discussed Rackham’s penchant for causing trouble, they were constantly disturbed by the sounds of giggling and foam darts hitting soft, pink flesh…

 

            Time passes differently in Færyland, so it was the weekend before Iblis, Rackham and Mammon could extricate themselves from Oberon’s overzealous partying. In contrast, the usual decadence of the Arcana came across as quite restrained. Mind you, the compact kitchen at the rear of the north transept only went in for simple bar snacks; whole suckling pigs, sides of venison, pheasant and quail are a problem when you only have two gas rings and a microwave.

            Wrapped in deepening shades of blue leather, eyes afire, Iblis gyrated on the dancefloor with Rackham, who spiraled haphazardly about, attempting to emulate her carefree movements. At one end of the long bar counter, Mammon, Puck and Pumpkinhead discoursed on the merits of various brands of human beer, while emptying an eye-watering number of pint glasses. Puck proved to be the lightweight of the group and fell off his stool after only six pints - the bar staff were confused by a dense cluster of toadstools when they cleared up the next morning.

            Dressed in her finest peacock-feather ensemble, Titania held court among a coterie of admiring men and women, drawn in by her natural charm and the psychotropic effects of liberally applied færydust.

            Orbiting within the confines of the old church, Oberon handed-out færy union literature to bemused Goths, while Mab smiled beatifically and trailed in his wake.

            Another night’s reverie progressed at the Arcana.

 

Epilogue:

            Up in his tower, Mr Black stroked the werewolf’s soft fur and pondered the coming conclave of the vampire families. With all the attention lavished upon the strange mortal who hung around with the angels, potential exploitation of that situation was something to add to the discussions…

 

© John Henson Webb 2017


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