Brams and Lord Pantego
The delivery ticket just said Pantego, The Cemetery. It wasn't a call from work, it was one of the friends-of-friends in that shadowy world Brams walks the edge of. Paid cash, half in advance, half on completion, for a small hard box that rattles when it's moved. The instructions were not to drop it. The box is alive with glamour under wrappings which have been chosen for their banality - newspaper reporting the expected and unpleasant. Brams was to choose time of day. "Just so long as the box gets delivered and you get a signature."
Brams has his fingers in a few little strange worlds, but this one is his favourite. He has to resist the urge to shake the box, eager for the mystery to be enjoyed. His new scooter - his pride and joy - is used and he chooses just after sunset. The time favours his eyes and ears, and people are still around to be laughed at and enjoyed. Brams pulls up a little outside the overgrown cemetary and tilts his head, looking around its fading prettiness. He sniffs the air, pleased. This is the sort of place people imagine bats to be.
They imagine bats and spooks and little shuffling old men. Shades gibber by a few stones, very thin and pale but still, just, there. Around one particular tomb, exotic plants twine thorns as long and sharp as razors, with flowers scented with promise and fruit as sweet as anything forbidden. There's a gap through the fence just there, leading to an old house which is so ordinary it is almost shapeless to fae eyes. There's a path from the cemetery gate toward the tomb, just about - very faint traces, more guessed at than seen. A hand reaches from the path and tries to snatch the pooka's ankle.
Brams puts the box in one of his black shapeless backpacks which invariably have silver bats, crosses, and little dead flowers pinned to them. Then he eyes the plants on the tomb, his expression instantly longing. One will not hurt! Perhaps _after_ the delivery...although his eyes do keep coming back to them. Brams wriggles his way in through the gap in the fence, just as a hand reaches up "Hoi!" he says down to it "I come on business very official!"
The fruit are sweet and black and full of dreams - to get one is to risk lacerations that might pour lifeblood out onto the dusty soil and feed the plant further. This is the age old bargain of taking fruit from the thorn, though this one is sweeter and more dangerous than most. The hand is blind, a corpse-hand, and as Brams speaks to it, it gets more solid, trying again to snatch at a leg. Another pale shadow manifests further up the path, just a possibility for now.
Brams's attention is far to omuch on those fruit - lacerations are less tempting, but a long stick is useful, and he does have a knife. Then something is grabbing at his ridiculously buckled feet and Brams' eyes widen "Hah!" He says, kicking at it, trying to pull away carefully. He attempts to ignore the other shadow, to pull himself towards the tomb spotted earlier. It seems a better bet for strange deliveries than the mundane house.
At the 'Hah!' spoken to it, the hand gets more solid, the fingers longer and stronger looking, and there's more arm showing, with gray flesh clinging to black bones. There's a laughter from further down the path, toward the house, but nothing to be seen. The other shadow, ignored, fades, but the hand is starting to look dangerous as it tries to improve its tenuous grip.
That is the problem with being solid. Brams wears big boots, and he gives the thing a bit of a stomp "Lie down, lie down!" Brams says, and there is just a possibility that those steelcaps of his will cause a nasty crunching sound. The bat pooka dances away, trying to move towards the house "Messenger!" he calls "Raise a white flag, put away the pistol!"
As Brams crunches the hand, there's a very dangerous sounding squeal of rage. Luckily (?) it's behind him now. The path is there, -just-, like the blue of denim work pants after a hundred years of toil in the dirt. So long as Brams concentrates only on getting to the house, there are no more reaching hands. What there is, is a barrier of... why bother? What's the point? It would be easier to go home, to dream, to go and do something pleasant. There were fruit, so sweet and forbidden. By the entrance. Back the way Brams came.
Brams's attention keeps lingering on those fruit, with their lush ripeness. He actually drools, helpless in his desire, before his attention fixes once more on the house. Brams begins to put one foot in front of the other, muttering "Hege'd laugh. Hege'd laugh..." It is a mantra to maintain his concentration. He grimaces "Hege'd _laugh_..." Fruit! He sighs and his feet move draggingly along the path "Messenger!" he calls again "Special delivery! Extra wonderful Pooka courier!"
The feeling that the fruit would be much more interesting than the house persists, though the mantra is a nice way to keep going. The path is easier to pick out, more blue, the patches of potential-destination closer together. There was laughter at the drool, but it's stopped now. The house is -ordinary-. Very basic windows, almost sketched in, a roof put in to keep the rain out and no more, and a square yard of grass bounded by a gray fence. All very run down, unwanted, because there's no beauty to it at all. There's a small gate, and a mailbox. For some reason, these are facing the cemetery and not the suburban street visible beyond.
Brams wipes his mouth, trying to at least be a little less obviously enraptured. He eyes the house and its dim lines with outright suspicion, and then he examines the mailbox. Perhaps it has a name upon it? Either way, Brams needs a signature, so he pushes the little gate open and slips into the yard, with its gray fence. The lack of beauty is bothering him, his keenly tuned sense of aesthetics finding little to feed on here "Messenger!" Brams mutters "Needs a cup of tea."
The mailbox, if Brams -concentrates-, has a name upon it under all the dirt. Pantego, it says. The gate is hard to push open, but once through...
This ancient ruin is vast, creeping out in all directions as far as the mind can guess, disappearing into shadows and mist. There are dark shades here, and they are -old-, from the beginning of the world. They are also just shadows, barely guessed at. The ruins might be a log house, or a tent, a wagon or a plantation house. It's hard to tell, but what the place is, is a statement that someone lives here and calls it home. The sense of home has almost decayed.
Sitting in a chair/on a skin/on a blanket/on a stone/on a throne is an old man of indeterminate race. Old, but with traces of a terrible beauty in the lines of his skull under thin parchment skin. Elf. Shining one. Dream. -Old-. "Do you bring meat or poison?" he asks.
Reality here is faint, the dreams fragile. The newspapers are tearing into it, the words sharp like tiny knives. The belt buckles, the toe caps, everything steel is pulling the place apart.
Brams stares at the mailbox, and then he looks Very Small and lost in the ruins, his eyes flicking out, dream-sharp to focus on the gragments or hints. "Lord -" Elves are _always_ 'Lord' - "Pantego, I would say that I know, which I do, but I don't, it's a matter of signatures on paper, only -" He fumbles for the paper, looking down at his modern clothing in horror "Ah -" Brams carefully puts the backpack and its silver pins down and then begins to dance around on one foot while he undoes his boots by unzipping down the inner leg to toss them back over the fence " - a thing, by which, you know, you see - dear me, la la la lally, down in the Valley, please excuse my tongue, it's rude -" The belt goes off next as Brams tries suddenly to divest himself of that which eats Dream.
The elf watches, from his small seat amid an old, lost and crumbling barony. He is ancient, trapped and alone, and Brams may be the first face he has seen in a long time, other than the pale shades about, which whisper only faintly. The Sidhe is silent and aloof. His eyes dark shadows. A song rises, a strange melody, then dies in discord. Soon the only dream-eating thing Brams has left is the wrapping on the gift of glamour.
Brams looks up at the unimaginable creature, and then tears off the newspaper too - that might be horribly rude, but something in him does not want the elf to touch it. He balls up the fragments and scrunches them...and them stuffs them in his mouth, which makes his cheeks bug out, as well as his eyes, a little. Wordlessly, Brams offers whatever was inside the newspaper up. And he hiccups, in a papery way.
Lord Pantego gestures Brams forward. Now that they are not being torn apart, the dreams can drift and settle into the faint, faint memory of dark splendor leading the way toward his... throne. The hiccup gets a startled look. The lord's lean, twisted hand reaches out to take the little box of trinkets and dross, and the gray, gray stone with the glowing center. "Someone loves this place or hates it - or both," he notes, flicking one of the trinkets back at Brams as payment. "Go. I'm tired. I don't want to deal with ill-mannered commoners." He settles down to finger his gift and sulk, alone.
Brams swallows - now that is a scratchy mouthful, and it hurts going down a little, so he can stammer "Lord Pantego? I need a signature or they'll have crocodiles eat me." He tentatively proffers the paper, although his eyes light up at the dross "Oh!" Brams says brightly, ears flicking "Melifluous magnificent! Portentious prettiness, do I declare, I do, I do..." His eyes are on the stone, curious, and he adds "My l...Lordly one, just a signature, and if you desire, I'll take missive back, messenger mine, which is me..."
Lord Pantego looks at Brams and takes up a stick to rise to his lordly feet. His body is old and failing, but he gathers his sovereignty about him like a cloak, bolstered by the new gifts. "You demand my name and seal?" he asks. The stone just sits, faintly glowing inside the gray. The newspaper has left a very bad taste in Brams' mouth. "Why shouldn't the crocodiles eat you, peasant." The Lord is clearly insane, and touchy. Very, very touchy. Just like the little tendrils which are trying to wrap themselves delicately about Brams' feet.
Brams stares in awe, and the little trinket, even, is forgotten at his feet, next to this. He hiccups a mouthful of paper, and swallows it, and looks sick, and then he says "Because everyone needs to laugh at a fool sometimes, Lord Pantego, and all Pooka are fools." His words fall over themselves hastily as he waves the paper around as though it were another partner in some crazed dance "I do as I am told, and tell as I am done, and I am quite done over by your lordship's grace and wonderful defences, in their glory and...and are you here all alone?" Not pity, but maybe sympathy is just as deadly, at least coming from the colony creature who adores his lovers and friends.
Lord Pantego laughs, a dusty, dry, mad cackle. He is reaching out for the paper when that question comes, and instead of a reaching hand, there's a stick being held to Brams' throat. "Not alone, never alone. I am not alone!" he says, his eyes blazing silver fire suddenly.
Brams freezes, but he does hold his hands up nervously "Of course not, Lord Pantego," he says, eyes wide "No one is ever alone - I'm not either, see my medallion, 'round my neck?" It is Periheiron's, and Brams has no idea how that works what with Lord Gwalchmai, or even the collar that he _cannot_ remove that still remains there.
The Sidhe takes up the medallion and looks at it. "-Him-," he says, outraged, dropping the crest as though it has burned his hand. "That usurper. -You-. I should cage you here, keep you -here-, little fool, to dance for -my- court. I have power, great power. You should not have come."
Brams's eyes widen "But I'm a messenger," he squeaks "I message! If I missage my message I miss a massa...mis...messr..." The mages he handled better, but the Sidhe is simultaneously terrifying and incrediable, and Brams swallows, before saying, much more softly "I do as I'm lord, sir. Isn't that what commoners...should do?"
"You should be mine, this should all be -mine-," says the aged Sidhe, outraged. Old hurts are rising up around him, fueled by new glamour the Pooka himself has brought with him.
Brams stares for a split second, unable to tear his gaze away. This _is_ beautiful for him, and wonderful, and lovely. But he cries out "It's cold out there, sir, and full of iron everywhere, you don't want it any more, we're all thin little things..." He scurries backwards, still holding the paper above his head, as though to shield himself "I'm sorry, sir!"
Lord Pantego gestures and a nightmare takes the paper with a snatch. The lord meanwhile is clubbing a near nightmare with his stick. He takes the sticky ichor and makes a mark, visible only in dream. Drops the paper so that Brams will have to grovel at his feet to get it, and risk the hissing pains and humiliations. He laughs, a mad cackle, with too much power behind it to be funny. "Little fool. Common thing." Down he sits again and sulks some more, over his box of treasure.
Brams shrieks as the nightmare grabs the paper "My garters!" And then he uneasily watches the paper, before tentatively stepping forward. Brams drops to his knees to crawl forward, his tiny stubby tail twitching as he reaches out for it "Yes, lord," Brams says, caught between pity at the creature and dislike of him "Pwca..." he murmurs under his breath, and he then darts a hand for the paper, fast.
The nightmares swoop to frighten Brams, but he can gain the paper unharmed. "Go. Go, leave me alone," the Sidhe commands, looking up with a more terrible beauty than he had when the courier arrived. "Take that accursed seal out of my -sight-." And, since this his his command, and his domain, however wrecked and crumbled this domain might be, his words have power.
There is still the matter of the undead guardian of the path, beyond the wooden gate and toward the tomb. The one that Brams kicked. And beyond -that-, the so-tempting fruit within the thorns. And beyond that? Pantego, the old city that dies slowly in Arlington's grasp.
Brams snatches the paper up, squeaks "Yes, Lord Pantego!" And then he turns and flees, bouncing and leaping like a mouse on hot desert sand, chased out by the words. His heart is beating in his chest as he skids from the Lord's sight, pausing outside to try and collect his belt buckle, his boots, the jacket with the janglies, and his breath.
If the guardian is given no more thought? It has no weakness to grasp by which to manifest, and so, just now, the path back to the tomb is empty. Still unclear, still patchy, but empty of threat. The plant remains, and the tomb, and the cemetery people are a little afraid of and, presumably beyond that, the city itself. All is very shadowy here - and the house behind him is a -very- ordinary house.
Brams suits himself back up, and glances back at the very ordinary house. A gulping breath, and Brams slips the little trinket into a pocket - delicious dross that he will gloat over for hours - and moves towards the fence and its hole. And he hesitantly looks at the plant as he does so. Such lovely fruit. A sniff could not hurt. So the fruitbat leans in and inhales.
The fruit smells divine, though the thorns are curved to hurt if anyone gets close - by the time Brams is inhaling, he has needle-sharp thorns pressing at his brow and close to his throat. The sweetness is every promise that sweet food ever made to children. The thorns are all the shocked surprise that children ever get as they learn that the world can bite back. And the house? Easily ignored.
Brams makes a little noise, but like most critters, he is persistent. He edges around the bush, examining it, trying to find a way to get at the fruit without paying the price. Brams licks his lips, another whimper coming from him as he tries to find somewhere to slide a hand in. Slow, careful, thieving.
Brams suddenly gets a cunning idea and he slides around to the other side, rolls up his sleeves, wriggles his hands and...he sings "A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket..." His fingers make easing, sliding movements, very close to the thorns as he coaxes the ripest fruit he can spot - the one that smells the most delicious - into his fingers.
The thorn bush guards its treasures well, with curved thorns in all directions and twining vines around the fruit. There is a potential gap, but needle-thin spikes hedge it. And the fruit is called out, the plant writhing as its treasure is stolen - ripe berries, with juice as rich as wine and a heavenly aroma. There it is, in his hand, and no price paid. The plant goes still again and starts once more concentrating on putting out sweet, tempting scent.
Brams squeaks and curls around himself with delight, holding onto the fruit, and breathing over it. In little ecstasies, Brams carefully puts away the paper with its signature, and he holds the fruit up to look at it, pleased. Well pleased. Then? He leans in and takes what must be the most wonderful bite there can possibly be.
It -is-. It's stolen fruit, the sweetest there is, and it calls to Brams' thieving soul, his animal nature, and it tells him of the dreams he can make and be, and it tells him of the essence of ripeness and readiness and the seasons things should have. It tells of ways to be more himself, his true, fae self and calls him closer to the dreaming. He will sleep sweetly tonight.
And where one fruit was all it could be, there are more upon the vine, more closely guarded than before. Smelling delicious.
Brams is so delighted by this that he is utterly overwhelmed. His body twitches, his mind is desirous and happy and fulfilled, and he chatters and licks every last, little piece of his lips. Only when the last, briefest hint of a touch is gone does Brams bring himself to continue on, back out into the world again. He finishes whatever paperwork is required, and he goes home and he lies down, very happy with himself. Current Mood: sleepy