Solomon takes the pub with him when he leaves. The walls fading around him like smoke. The arrogant lurch of Nelbottom’s spire popping back into existence, sudden as a teenager’s erection. The persistent babble of chatter becoming the soft coo of doves and the distant screech of gulls. Between Leek and Kitty, Margo’s prone figure hugs the shit-pebbled paving stones. Shrunken somehow. Curled in on herself like a foetus. Reduced by whatever pain she endured to a shadow of herself, at least for the moment.
‘Can’t we just pop something under her head?’ Leek asks plaintively. Trying to wriggle out his grasp. He’s had to hold on to her, preventing her from helping her friend. Kitty is as loathe to leave her there as Leek is, but Solomon insisted and he never says anything without reason. Moving her, even so much as touching her, might harm her, or harm the magic resting within her, becoming part of her. If that magic shifted, it might go anywhere, and this world could not easily contain it. Such unchained, unchannelled magicks in its weft might well blow it to pieces.
‘No love. We can’t. Solomon said not to and I’m inclined to agree with him. That was terrible magic he used on her. I’ve rarely seen the like. Angels aren’t supposed to wield it.’
‘It felt a little like the magic you used in the clearing.’ Leek says, suddenly close to anger, her hair beginning to glow and writhe like luminous snakes.
Kitty smiles, stroking her hair back to her shoulders. Placating. ‘True. What I did to break free of my cat form was as close to losing my wings as I’ve ever been. But Solomon gave his away, all but ripped them loose and handed them in, still dripping ichors. Power has always called to him like the ocean does a sailor. He can’t stay away from it.’ Kitty looks down at Margo. ‘That’s why he heard her. She was full of untapped power, brimful of paradoxes. A Pandora’s box of potentiality. Even within the cage of Melisante she was crying out to him like a beacon. He’s been waiting for the right moment to come to her.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Because I bothered to see.’ He looks down at Leek, feeling the weight of his divinity, his wings, as too solemn a burden, as ever. ‘I’m an angel. I see everything. But only if I want to.’
‘Why would you not want to see everything?’ she asks curiously.
‘Why would I want to see anything?’ he replies. ‘So much of it is pure pain.’
On the floor between them, Margo shifts and moans, a long, drawn out sound of blood deep hurt. Kitty knows that feeling. Angels are not born, they are made. Chosen. Their very cells drenched and infused with divinity at an age so young they’re presumed to have forgotten the trauma. But he remembers it with his cells. They cry it out every waking moment, and so it will be with her. Her body will never again be at rest. He’d feel sorry for her, but this is Margo, and instead he directs his pity at the players in the veils. They will regret forcing her to this.
Her eyes blink open. Luminous green in the darkness, they whirl with motes of white light, with motes of kohl black and blood red. So. The darkness she took into herself from the Mother. It awakened that, as well. Perhaps that’s for the best. The Mother is here. Her daughters await beyond the veil. Her matrix stands beside her. They cannot face her darkness again without some darkness of their own. Margo will be their darkness. She looks at him and those colours swirl lazy patterns through her irises. Sea monsters in the deeps.
‘Let’s go get my bitches,’ she murmurs. ‘They need to remember themselves.’
Hidden by a dense thicket of evergreens, Alex stands on the edge of the hills just beyond the border. Through his eyeglass he keeps continual watch on the Sleathe, trying not to allow his fear any precedence upon his thoughts. It’s hard when all he can see is the inky mass swarming the border, teeth and claws flashing like signals in the darkness. Behind him, a little further down the hill, their small band of troops make ready for action. They discussed the possibility of moving around this obstacle, bearing in mind the lack of Sleathe experience handicapping most of their allies, but their own men and these brave allies are in agreement, it cannot be chanced. Great Britannia is in need of them. They must fight their way through, and hope enough of them survive to be of use.
There’s a flash somewhere to his left, bright and fleeting, like an explosion without the sound. He frowns and moves the glass, expecting only to see another merchant’s carriage approaching the border with sunlight arcing off bevelled windows. Instead, there is a woman. No. Two women. And a man. The first woman brushes herself off, turns around and smiles at him. Directly. He can’t be seen on the top of this hill from where they are below, but he didn’t imagine the smile, nor the slow wink dropped over an eye so green he fancies he might even see it without the assistance of magnification and Alex lowers the glass, blinking surprise. Because it can’t be. It’s not possible. He looks again. Sure enough, it is.
He turns and calls in a low voice. ‘Lucian. Come see this.’
Lucian raises a brow. Those piratical brows. How arrogant they seem. He saunters over, his boots whispering through the tall grass. Alex hands him the eyeglass. ‘Look there.’
He directs Lucian’s gaze, catching the small start of surprise in his muscles as he spots the approaching visitors. ‘What the very devil?’ He lowers the glass and shows Alex a bemused, and somewhat panicked, gaze. ‘What in hell is Melisante doing on the continent? She’s a lady!’ He runs a hand over his face, suddenly pale. ‘Oh lord, if her father finds out she’s sneaked over here I’m so dead.’ He throws an arm toward the border forest in a typical, melodramatic gesture. ‘Throw me to the Sleathe, Alex! It’ll be a kindness.’
Alex tries not to laugh. ‘I’m sure there’s an explanation.’
Lucian gapes at him. ‘The only way I could be more horrified by your use of that platitude is if you’d had the gall to include the word reasonable.’
Alex steps too close and grins, feeling Lucian’s heat sinking into his chest. He can almost hear his heartbeat. ‘I’d never use the word reasonable in your presence. I’ve far better words to be using.’
Lucian tilts his head, and those arrogant brows lift in slender arches. ‘And what, pray tell, would they be?’ he asks gently, so much erotic promise in it Alex is all but singed to ashes.
‘Ah, my bitches,’ comes an amused drawl from behind, making them both jump. ‘Flirting as ever, and looking rather dashing whilst you’re about it. I must say the soldier look suits you. We must play dress up more often.’
‘Melisante,’ Lucian snaps, wheeling on her with as much fury as he can muster. ‘What are you doing here? Your father will flay the lot of us.’
Ignoring him, Melisante strolls up to them both and examines their face, looking deep into their eyes. She purses her ruby red lips, somewhat brash for a lady and not her usual colour. ‘I see the situation has been reversed and somewhat improved by it,’ she murmurs, and throws an arm around each of them, hugging hard. ‘In which case I am so sorry for this.’
Lucian’s about to shout at her, furious that she hasn’t listened nor answered, but white light spears through him, taking his words like a sneak thief as it lances from the top of his head down through to his toes. As it goes it severs something within and, from that wound, explodes a personality who is definitely not Lucian. That trapped weight of personality floods through him, sweeping him away like flotsam on the tide. He hears himself cry out once as it happens, as though this false persona, this shadow self has real emotion and is loathe to be gone, to lose his Alex. Then there’s nothing left but Moe.
Moe gasps and looks across at Alex…no…not Alex…Rolf. Beautiful, beautiful Rolf, staring at him with those glorious periwinkle eyes, such uncertainly bubbling in their depths it destroys him. Rolf remembers being Alex, just as Moe remembers being Lucian, and he thinks that, as Moe, he won’t want him. What utter shit. He’s wanted Rolf so badly that it caused him physical pain. It was always Rolf stepping back, giving him room, and now he knows why. He sees it all too clear, written in uncertainty and fear. Rolf loves him. That changes everything. For Rolf at least. Because Moe is pretty certain that love is new territory for Rolf.
He thinks of the nights they’ve spent together as those two souls and finds himself having to restrain a powerful urge to fuck Rolf right here and now. Lucian was something, but Rolf is something else. He’s like Margo, an animal barely disguised as human, exotic and dangerous. Whips of fire uncoil in Moe’s belly, much like the black whips Rolf commands as his weapons. He tries to find air to speak, to reassure Rolf that nothing’s changed, it’s only become more certain, but there isn’t enough air to gather for speech. Instead he steps across Margo and takes Rolf’s face between his palms, kissing him hard and filthy, tongues, teeth and too much promise. It leaves Rolf gasping, laughter burning in those periwinkle eyes.
‘Fuck me,’ he says, ‘but I love you like this. Don’t change. Don’t you goddamned dare!’
‘Not a fucking chance,’ Moe promises.
‘Well that was touching,’ Margo drawls, pushing between them. ‘Despite a distinct lack of touching. But we have a delicate matter of slaughtering to be getting on with.’
Rolf grins at Moe, then at Margo. ‘Exactly who are we slaughtering, my dearest little cunt?’
‘Why, Rolf, my dearest little bum-botherer,’ Margo replies, her little white teeth glinting sharply between ruby lips. ‘Everything that stands in our way.’
© Ren Warom 2012