* Warning: This might be a hell of a post.
There may be a little wordplay in that post title, but it’s obscure/modified enough that y’all likely won’t pin it down. If you do, well, I’ll be ecstatic, but anyway.
This is the first post here in a LONG time. I’ve been on a break from Trifecta and Write at the Merge, the prompt sites I’d started participating in, and I can’t say I’ve felt the urge to go back there yet. However…
As some of you may know, I am a #RoCur junkie. In addition to being the admin over at Writers On Rotation, I’ve curated for @PeopleOfCanada, @RoCurPro2x (twice), and @francotweets, and am in the line-up for @TWkLGBTQ. My second stint as a RoCur Pro and my run at Francotweets were one after the other, and this week has been all about the recovery. That said, some of you may recall that I played a game while shenaniganing (it’s a word, okay?) on the RoCurPros account. Said game involved my asking a question about the Fae, and the first person to answer correctly getting a spot in a book. They got to pick the character’s gender, their rough age range, and one trait, and I did the rest.
Well, I finally got around to putting them all together. That was… something. Let’s look at what we had to work with:
QUESTION ONE: Name the two “Light” or “Dark” Courts the Fae are sometimes divided into.
Answer: Seelie (AKA Light/Summer) and Unseelie (AKA Dark/Winter).
Character: Female, 20s*, knows lots of random trivia and is always using it
QUESTION TWO, PART A: Which faery is most commonly known for her scream? Hint: “Scream like a…” (Also, X-Men!)
Character: Female, early 20s, long hair
QUESTION TWO, PART B: What is a banshee’s scream said to predict?
Answer: An impending death.
Character: A wise, observant, grey-bearded old man.
QUESTION THREE: What is the name of the Celtic festival of the dead that evolved into modern-day Halloween? (Hint: 7 letters!)
Answer: Samhain. (Pronounced sow-een)
Character: Female, 50s, royal.
QUESTION FOUR: What metal is said to harm faeries? (Hint: The really old, heavy skillets are made of this metal!)
Character: Male, 40s, perceptive.
QUESTION FIVE: Selkies are shapeshifting faeries that can take the form of either humans or what aquatic mammal?
Character: Female, adult*, stubborn.
QUESTION SIX: What is the common term for a faerie child that was swapped out for a human one? (Hint: One word, starts with C!)
Character: Female, early 20s, cryptic.
QUESTION SEVEN: What Irish poet, often known by his initials, W.B., was famous for writing about the Fae, particularly “The Stolen Child?”
Answer: William Butler (or W.B.) Yeats.
Winner: None, as all responses came from people who had already won!
* Denotes a spot where a character may not have complied. 😛
… Right! Told you this would be a hell of a post. Now, obviously I couldn’t go into extensive detail on all matters, but I did manage to slap together a scene where everyone is mentioned if not specifically introduced. Comfort yourselves with the notion that this is in the third book of a series. Who knows what could happen?
Now, happy reading. If it seems slapdash, that’s because I cut some stuff out and tweaked the original scene to avoid Big, Fat, Ugly SPOILERS! But the context is a funeral. The rest… well, see what you come up with!
By the time Nora joined them in the office of the abbey, Emily had settled into the window seat, looking down to where some of the abbey’s inhabitants had started up an informal game of soccer—football, here, Brenna reminded herself. Several of the girls and women had kicked off their shoes, heedless of their stockings. Nora gave her cousin a mildly surprised look, glancing pointedly at the chair behind the desk; Emily shrugged, looking more uncomfortable than Brenna could ever recall seeing her. After a moment, Nora sighed and kicked off her own shoes, walking over to lean on the side of the desk.
“I hate funerals. They make outsiders so bloody suspicious.” She yanked her braid loose, ran her fingers through it, and shook her head to loosen it, then set about re-braiding it. “The teacher’s getting a mite too curious; we’ll likely have to let him go soon if he gets much more perceptive. Pity, he’s grand with the young ones. If Honora hadn’t demanded all that pomp and circumstance for herself… I mean, a three day wake? And keening, honestly. That’s a dead tradition if ever there was one.”
“Did a fine job of scaring some of the more uppity family members, though,” Charlie volunteered, grinning. Where her sister was tall and trim, with an athletic build, despite her youth the short-statured Charlie was wildly curvy, seemingly fanciful where Nora was more logical.
Nora’s mouth went up a bit. “There is that. Chloe Reilly’s mother nearly shat herself when we started up.” She flung her head back and let out a mournful cry that made Brenna’s fine hairs stand on end, then grinned. “Did you see her, Charlie?”
“I did.” The redhead wrinkled her nose. “Very much the royal type, that one. I think she was honestly surprised the ‘school’ didn’t go to her when Honora died.” She rolled her eyes dramatically. “As though any one of us owns the place.”
Brenna, standing near Emily, shot the brunette a quizzical look.
“It technically belongs to all of us. Always has, since it was built.” She looked to Nora. “If Robbie Grant is suspicious, how is Father Campbell?”
“Oh,” Nora chuckled, “the same as ever. Less hair, greyer beard, but still sharp as a tack and he knows better than to say anything. I heard Robbie saying to him that we were an odd bunch, there was something we were hiding, that sort of thing, and Father only laughed and said—” She took a breath, then said in a wheezing laugh worthy of the old man Brenna had seen outside, “‘Oh, I’m well aware of that. But some things, Robbie, are better left unknown.’ And he winked and left,” she resumed in her normal voice.
“I’ll miss Father Campbell when he dies,” Charlie remarked absently, her head coming up when her sister and cousin gave her matching reproachful looks. “What? He’s not a young man, and we’ve just come from a funeral. It’s a sound enough progression.”
“You’ve as little shame as Ann does,” Nora sighed fondly.
Charlie grinned. “Was it her who started the game, then?”
Nora nodded; Emily beckoned Brenna over discreetly and pointed out the window at the young woman currently handling the ball, putting a face to the name: tall and lean, with her hair in a tail that reached to her waist. “She wants to dance for a living,” Emily murmured, no doubt for Brenna’s benefit. “She’s a devil on the dance floor and off it. I imagine Maya would have been quick to join a match, and Emma with them.” Pausing and angling her head, Emily tilted her head in Nora’s direction, the younger woman moving closer closer. “I don’t believe I know her.” Another slight, polite pause, then, “That is a girl, yes?”
Brenna and Charlie exchanged looks and eye rolls, both well aware that Emily knew very well whether she did or didn’t know someone. Charlie stepped forward on Emily’s other side and made a sound of understanding. “Funny story, that one. Goes by the name of Shay, and we’re not entirely sure whether it’s he or she.”
“Not everything is a funny story, Charlie,” Nora murmured. At Emily’s quizzical glance, she shrugged. “We’ve been using ‘they’ as a form of address, by request. Makes it sound like the plural constantly, but, well, the abbey did promise to take in all Impartials in need of help, and there’s no family there to speak of—we checked with the Gardai—and there’s no doubt they see Fae. Fights well, too, but by and large doesn’t speak much. Haven’t learned a single thing of value. Couldn’t even give you an age.”
“Unlike Nora,” Charlie intervened, “who is a very fount of information.” She grinned when her sister scowled at her. “Beside her—you remember Dianna?” Emily nodded. “Well, she left ages ago, but came back to visit her sister one day, met this one, and they’ve been fast friends, with the occasional spat of enmity, since. Couldn’t tell you what they discuss, seeing as they clam up the moment you approach them, and the counsellors we brought in always called Dianna nothing but cryptic, but…”
“We all need friends,” Emily said softly, and Brenna saw her hands reach to either side to touch Nora’s and Charlie’s. All three exchanged looks that made Brenna scuff her foot on the ground, feeling like a kid caught in an awkward moment of familial affection—except she’d never had that, not really, and now with both of them—
Don’t. Go. There.
Emily broke the spell. She frowned, eyes going elsewhere: a pair of young women standing near a running vehicle, one looking regretful and glancing toward the soccer match (football here, not soccer), the other with her face set and her mouth moving rapidly, her hands gesturing to the vehicle. “I see Layla Doherty’s sister still wants her to come home.”
“Are they arguing?” Nora leaned over to see, sighing deeply at the sight below. “They are. Angela’s… persistent. I should likely go down there.” She didn’t move, despite saying it. A moment later, sounding relieved, she added, “Oh, good, Emma’s going over,” pointing to a gamine teenager with a swinging bob of black hair who was loping over to them in stocking feet, yanking her pencil skirt’s hem indecently high to get it out of her way.
They all watched in silence as the three took turns speaking individually and over each other until the sister—Angela Doherty—climbed into the back of the vehicle and didn’t look away. The petite Impartial Nora had called Emma reached for the girl left behind and pulled her into a massive hug.
“It happens,” Nora sighed. “Much as I hate it.”
“Families don’t tend to like us,” Charlie offered. Her eyes went to Brenna as she added practically, “We’re the odd ones out for having family that lived so long.” A quick glance to Emily and she added, “Sorry, Emily.”
Emily had flinched at Charlie’s words. “It’s all right. It’s true.”
“So.” Nora had picked up a pen on the desk and begun tapping it, looking over to her cousin. “Can I speak freely in front of her?”
“I’m an Impartial, if that’s what you mean,” Brenna spoke up.
“I thought so. You’ve too many knives on you to be just a paranoid civilian.” She smiled tightly, gaze darting back to Emily, now with an unmistakable question in the look.
“We’re here for the libraries.”
Nora didn’t seem to have been expecting that response, but Charlie laughed. “You and libraries. I should have known.”
There was another girl in the library, also still in funeral attire. A hair clip lay discarded on the windowsill beside her as she curled in the window seat, hair twisted into a tail around her finger, a heavy book in her lap.
“Hullo, Emily. Kelpie hasn’t eaten you yet?”
Nora made a hissing noise of reproach, but the young woman only looked bored, and Emily laughed.
“Not yet,” she said brightly. “And how are you, Mona?”
“Studying,” the girl muttered, obviously disgruntled as she flicked a glance at Nora. “You’d think the supposed headmistress of our supposed school dying would warrant a delay of the fall exams, but nooooooo. I’ve tests out my arse before the exams even start.”
Charlie wandered over, peering at the heavy volume in the girl’s hands and wincing sympathetically. “History always bored me to tears.”
Mona gave her a bland look. “I’m on a break from studying. This is for entertainment.” She tapped the thick book with her finger, then clapped it shut in a whoosh of dust. “It’s the last time I’ll sit them here, just the same. Mister Grant’s written me a letter of recommendation for Oxford, and then I’ll be gone.” She slid deftly from the window seat, shooting a look of mild dislike around the room. “If you’re after Fae who hang about funerals, have a look down this aisle in front of you. The ones with a taste for human flesh are down that way, the ones who prefer to tamper with our women are there, and if you’re looking for Fae who go after children—though that’s basically all of them—you’ll want that aisle there,” she said lightly, pointing.
“What about the stuff people wouldn’t want us to see?” Brenna asked on impulse, narrowing her eyes on the younger woman.
That brought Mona’s eyes to hers for the first time. The girl tilted her head, smiling slyly. “Oh, it’s that sort of thing, is it? Well, that would likelier be in the headmistress’s office. And herself—” A pointed look, combined with eyebrow waggle, in Nora’s direction “—has the key.”
“She’s barely in the ground,” Nora mumbled, looking mildly offended. “Have some respect for the dead, you’ll be among them yourself someday.”
“As Honora so kindly reminded us with her epitaph,” Charlie remarked dryly, holding up her hands, tilting her head back and intoning,
“’Remember me as you pass by,
As you are now so was I,
As I am now someday you will be,
Prepare you now to follow me.’”
Charlie rolled her eyes, returning to her own voice. “Ghastly woman.”
“While I may not quite agree with Charlie’s summary,” Emily started quietly, “I’m afraid I do need that key, Nora.”
“It’s to be like that. Right.” Nora sighed and pulled a long, thin chain free of the collar of her blouse, at the end of which was an iron key that looked too heavy for the chain that bore it. Her eyes met Brenna’s directly as she handed the key over. “Have a care.”
“Why should she?” It was Mona again, leaning against the wall as she stood on one foot, using her free hand to work a shoe back onto her foot. She wasn’t even looking at them, but she had to be aware they were listening. “The Fae haven’t. It’s often said they don’t have a care at all, and that’s what makes them what they are.”
Rather than answer either of them, Brenna took the key, let Charlie and Nora debate with Mona, and obeyed Emily’s murmured suggestion to follow her out of the room.
Funerals just brought the morbid, creepy as hell shit out of everybody, she decided, repressing a shudder when she felt eyes resting between her shoulder blades.