CAST OF PLAYERS:
Jera Morrison……………….Alseyne Aulaudin…………………Sidhe Changeling
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
The SUV slowed to a stop along the side of Sixth Street. They disembarked, Pip taking Alseyne’s hand in his. Wynne stayed close to Claws, and Claws walked close to her in a protective – almost possessive — manner.
Pana, the Malamute, hopped out alongside Casey and rushed forward of the party, sniffing the air.
“It’s right through here,” Pip said to Casey as they entered a dark alley. Her steps slowed a bit; she looked around uncertainly at the unlit passageway.
Pana scouted forward, padding softly. Casey followed, watching her dog’s body language closely. Fully into the alley, she saw a spray of multicolored light painting the pavement. It came from a round stained-glass window resting inside a heavy, ornately carved wooden door.
Casey stroked Pana’s head. “Good girl. Be safe.” The dog circled Casey’s legs, then padded to the end of the alley and sat.
Pip pulled the door open. A burst of raucous laughter and singing and music flowed into the alley along with the sumptuous smells of roasting meats and fresh bread. Entering, they found a large hall with rows of handmade wooden tables with benches on either side. A hearth in which a fire crackled away while chickens spun on a spit over it. The place was torch and candle lit. A tremendous sense of cozy warmth enwrapped the party.
The place was packed. Changelings filled the great hall.
Once they entered and the door closed behind them, Casey was startled by the fact that she could no longer sense Pana. The dog had vanished from her perception.
“It’s a busy night,” Alseyne commented, looking around.
“…How the hell could I have missed the overture…?” A voice sang out over the crowd while a haunting piano played.
“Table,” Wynne gestured and Claws cleared a path to the vacancy she indicated.
Casey followed the others, trying to take everything in while heeding Alsyene’s warning not to stare.
“…I like the scenery,” The song continued, “Even though I have absolutely no Idea at all what is being said…”
Gazing over the crowd, the piano could be seen tucked into the corner. It was a vertical piano and a young man, a Pooka, played and sang.
“…Despite the dialogue
There’s the leading man
The movie star who never faced an audience…”
He was a Salvanel. He was rather scruffy in his mortal seeming, needing a shave and a haircut. And perhaps a bath. He wore a red flannel shirt and blue jeans.
His fae mein had him a bit lankier with a soft reddish-brown pelt covering his neck, with tufts poking from the cuffs of his sleeves. He appeared rather childlike, with large deep eyes, and a wide bright smile.
Beside the tip jar, which was full of bills, was a skull.
Wynne seated herself, patting the spot on the bench beside her. Claws sat.
Alseyne also seated herself, smoothing the light fabric of the coat beneath her. Her eyes kept returning to the singer.
Casey took a seat on the other side of Alseyne from Pip, looking around the tavern in growing pleasure. As alien and unfamiliar as this place was to her, she felt strangely at home here. The comfortable firelit warmth, solid furnishings and good music created a pleasantly soothing atmosphere.
“…Where’s the orchestra?
After all, this is my big night on the town
My introduction to the theatre crowd…”
Pip motioned to one of the serving wenches, calling her over.
“…I assumed that the show would have a song
So I was wrong…”
The wench arrived lowering a platter of cheese and sausages as well as a bowl of hot bread with whipped cinnamon butter.
“Mead for me,” Pip ordered for himself. He looked to the others.
“Your house red,” Wynne requested. “And water for my friend.”
“I’ll have the house red as well,” Alseyne decided, before she turned to look at the singer again.
“Coming right up.”
“Um…iced tea?” It was half-question, half request; Casey wasn’t sure if iced tea was too mundane a drink to be served in a place like this.
“Sweet tea or regular?” The wench asked.
“Regular, please, with lemon.”
She nodded, acknowledging the order.
“…At least I understand
All the innuendo and the irony
And I appreciate…”
“He’s got a nice voice,” Wynne observed.
“He looks familiar,” Pip nodded.
“I was thinking that myself,” Alseyne frowned. “Now where would I know him from? Only Salvanel I recall meeting lately was that idiot child a few days back. The one who started talking to the head of the garou that got killed.” She struggled to recall the name. “Oh yes, T-ray. That was it.” She looked back over at the singer. “I think that’s him.”
Pip and Wynne both nodded.
“But he looks…” Pip frowned, “Different.”
“Strange,” Alseyne commented. “I never would have thought he was charismatic enough to be a singer. He certainly irritated me enough and I wasn’t the only one.”
“He does seem changed,” Wynne observed.
“What do you think it is?” Pip asked, accepting the mead from the wench.
Casey glanced over at the fellow at the piano. She was familiar with the Billy Joel song he was singing, but she’d never seen the fae himself before. There was something about him though. She looked him over, noting the soft fur at his throat and wrists, and his general aura of childlike innocence. She observed the rainbow spark typical of the Changelings she had met thus far — she attributed it to what Alseyne called ‘glamour.’ But this guy…he had an otherworldliness about him. She studied the Salvanel with interest, until she remembered Alseyne’s warning not to stare at anyone and dropped her abashed gaze to the tabletop in front of her.
The other beverages were set down.
Claws sniffed a sausage curiously.
Casey resumed her subtle perusal of the tavern, turning her attention to the fireplace. This was no mundane fire, but a glowing, burning power unlike anything she had ever witnessed.
“…The roles the actors played
The point the author made…”
Turning to Alseyne Casey murmured, “What’s the deal with the fire? It looks incredibly powerful, is it dangerous?”
Alseyne looks over at her and smiled. “No, not at all. The Kithain draw magical power – we call it glamour – from the balefire that is the heart of the fire you see there. The balefire here is actually not very powerful in comparison to one that you would see at a full freehold. For us, the glamour that it gives off is comforting and relaxing – similar to the way you feel about the normal warmth of a fire. We Kithain are doubly warmed by it — both mundanely and magically. Without that magic to sustain us, our Fae souls would wither and perish even though our mortal bodies would survive.”
“Wow,” Casey marveled. “No wonder it’s so busy in here.” She turned to give the balefire a closer look.
The flames were hypnotic. Casey sensed a tune coming from them… It called…
The sounds of the tavern faded from her awareness as the balefire’s seductive melody flowed into her mind. She sat motionless, staring into the flames.
Alseyne’s searching gaze returned to the Pooka, still trying to figure out what was different about him.
“Spirit,” A voice rumbled behind the Sidhe.
A big, burly, bearded man was there smoking a red pipe. He was easily 6’3″, probably 300+ pounds. He is warmly attired in a black turtle neck sweater and dark brown woolen trousers.
“Good evening, milady.” He smiled down at the noble and her companions.
Alseyne inclined her head graciously, “Good evening, sir.” She nodded her head toward T-ray. “I take it you know the boy? I apologize if my remarks offended you but he and I did not get along well, I’m afraid.”
“Tony can be trying at times.” He smiled warmly. “Like a child, he is very much in the moment.”
Alseyne smiled politely. “He seems to be different tonight. Has he been able to come to grips with the loss of his friend?”
He considered his answers for a moment. “Let me say… he has achieved a balance, if you will.”
“Is this his first night playing here?”
“We only just got into town,” he responded. “But Tony tells me that he has played here many times before.”
She held out her hand in greeting. “Alseyne Aulaudin.”
Her hand disappeared in his giant mitt, “Ah yes… the Lady Jasmine. It is a most fine pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am Tim. Tim Sleeps-In-Summer.”
She knew the name. “A pleasure, sir.”
His eyes sparkled, drinking in with great pleasure the Sidhe noble’s aspect.
“Pippin Norfolk,” The Satyr interjected himself between the two, “Nice to meet you.”
“And you, Mr. Norfolk.”
“This is Wynne,” Pip indicated the Sluagh, “And I think you have met Claws.”
“Brother Bear,” Claws nodded respectfully.
“It is good to see you again, Great Khan.” Tim smiled.
“Join us,” Wynne gestured for him to sit.
Casey felt a tickle in her brain and heard a whisper from the hearth…come… come here…
“Yes, please do,” Alseyne said to Tim.
“Excuse me,” Casey mumbled absently, rising from the table and wandering off in the direction of the fireplace. Alseyne had assured her that the fire wasn’t dangerous, and surely the Fae would know.
Casey’s field of vision was filled with the balefire. Its flicker, its flash, its song — speaking to her, calling her…
…come… come to me…
She felt herself gliding to it, very much a moth to the flame…
“Casey!” SNAP! SNAP!
She blinked, her attention pulled from the hearth.
Pip’s hand was before her, snapping. “You okay, kid? You seem… preoccupied?”
Casey stared blankly up at Pip as awareness of her surroundings returned. After a long moment her eyes refocused. “The, um, balefire. It wanted to talk to me. Alseyne said it was okay.” She felt acutely self-conscious at finding herself in conversation with the satyr.
“It wanted to talk to you?” Pip smiled uncomfortably, casting a glance back to the hearth. “We don’t talk to balefires around here.”
But Alseyne said it was friendly, Casey opened her mouth to say, and then it occurred to her that maybe Pip meant they didn’t talk to balefires because even in Fae taverns fires didn’t talk. “Oh.”
He indicated that she should return to the table.
She turned meekly and walked back to rejoin the others.
“This place can have a queer effect on humans,” he explained.
“I’ll remember that,” she said a bit sheepishly, sipping her iced tea and wondering when the big bear-guy had come to the table.
He smiled at her. “Hullo. I’m Tim.” A warmth emanated from him…a sense of home, comfort, and safety.
“Hi, I’m Casey.” She smiled up at him, but most of her focus was on strengthening her mental shields, doing what she could to block any further attempts by anyone to touch her mind uninvited.
It was still there, a siren call.
…come to me…
She cast a longing glance toward the fire.
How bad could it be…?
Get a grip, Casey. This is Austin. You don’t even want to know the answer to that question.
But it sounds so nice…I could just go for a minute…just to see…
It’s safer here. Just sit.
Casey sat. And other than the frequent looks she kept giving the fireplace, she appeared to be back to her old self. She let her gaze wander back to the piano player with his indefinable, otherworldly aura, and noted a distinct ‘intelligence’ attached to the skull resting atop the piano.
Her wondering gaze settled on the skull as she saw the “life” within it, but she could barely even muster surprise at this point. Her familiar world had been utterly replaced by a looking-glass version where none of the old rules applied. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Casey,” she muttered under her breath, “than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”