The only vaguely interesting thing that had happened the entire night was Erica stubbed her toe or something coming down to get some water for a migraine… which made perfect sense considering the events at Atwaters. Then in the morning was some cereal… they didn’t have Lucky Charms after all… though there were some amused grins when Conor asked for it. Corn flakes are a classic the world over.
Humorously, Hobbes her Malk had assumed that there might have been some potential funny business. There had been some discussion afterwards. The Malk was an interesting one, the survivor of a clan of them – purged by the Fort Wolf Posse – and at the core of this whole mess. The creature itself seemed distinctly “housecat-like” compared to the razorblades-with-fur that were more representatives of its kin. It had bonded with Erica, and had incorporated some of Erica’s expectations as its seeming. Which was fine… hell, Conor’s True Seeming was nothing like what the rest of the group was used to either, how could he judge?
These thoughts fluttered by as true, deep, sleep approached from beyond the eyelid horizon… only to be driven away by his cell phone ringing. He briefly entertained the notion of smashing the cellphone into the nightstand; but the absurd cost of getting a new one stayed his hand. He reached over to silence it when he looked and saw the flaming red mane of Belle Starr’s face as the caller… probably important then.
A quizzical voice with a slight southern twang was on the other end, “Conor? This is Belle, is that you?”
Conor took a moment to roll his head to the side on the pillow, “Sorry, I said hello. Aye, this is Conor, how are you this fine mornin’ Belle?” His eyes however were still firmly shut.
"I was wondering if you could come to Santiago’s office? I wanted to talk about a few things and check up on Juno."
Conor was quiet for a few moments. He could see true, deep, sleep turning to go with a fond wave farewell. “Normally I’d be happy to enjoy your company Belle, but today it’s a big ask.”
“Anything serious?” Belle sounded concerned.
“Och, you’d have ta phrase it like that. No not particularly, no.” Conor pried open his eyes to look at the time.
Belle laughed, “How about I buy lunch?”
“Free food was in fact the magic password. Can ya give me a ride?”
“Figured I would. See you in 15?”
Conor, “Better make it 30, I need a shower an’ whatnot.” Conor had said thirty in the Gaelic way; the ‘th’ sound was like a cross between a D and a T.
There was an odd pause. “uh… I’m going to guess you said THIRty and not DIRty… I’ll see you AFTER your shower, and I’m giving you a ride in my TRUCK… I swear, you’re incorrigible.” She hung up with a laugh.
“Whataburger all right?” Belle asked as she started up her engine.
Conor grinned, “Aye, I could murder me a burger.”
After they had gotten their food via the nearby Whataburger Drive-Thru Belle drove to a shaded spot under some nearby trees and put the truck into park. Once they were, both started on their burgers…
“Conor. I need information and you’re the only one I think I can get a straight answer from.”
This should be an interesting conversation. Belle had sprung for fried apple pies and vanilla malts, double malt… he should have suspected. “You can ask me anythin’ Belle, ye know that.”
“What’s the deal with Fae?”
Conor was gobsmacked. “Eh, what?”
“I don’t get your kind. What’s the fascination with mortals, with children, everything.”
Conor sat there blinking, mouth full of cheeseburger with grilled onions and mustard. After a few abortive attempts to chew, he was able to do so. Belle waited patiently the entire time.
“That’s a fair question I guess considerin’ recent events. I don’t know… truth be told. I’m not fully Fae myself ye know, but I can speak from personal experience an’ observation if that’ll suit?”
Bell nodded, “I’ll take whatever I can get.”
“Caoirigh agus Faoil, love. Sheep an’ wolves. Mortals are something of a resource with my kind.” Conor thought about how to answer this question.
“First, you see, we don’t really reproduce easily like mortals do. In a century or more you might only have a single Trueborn Fae of Fae parentage. However, a union with mortals always produces a Changeling… and eventually the mortal dies… or gives up to the Fae side. It’s a guaranteed Fae if you take the long view. I myself fight with my Fae side daily… sometimes I think it’s winning.”
Belle said nothing but looked somewhat concerned.
“Then you have basic ego. Because of the first thing I mentioned, having a mortal as part of your court is like a status symbol. Don’t for a minute think it’s accidental that one of the most powerful positions in the hierarchy of the Fae Courts, that of a Knight, goes to mortals. Mortals are potential power, potential increases in yer courts and followers.”
“That makes a sort of strange sense,” Belle remarked, sipping her malt.
“Mortals are also a resource in the sense that, in the Nevernever, ideas and dreams, strong emotions and the like create new things. Creatures of the Nevernever… like fae… seek these new things like any other wealth. Again, having a mortal of strong emotion or imagination leads to power amongst our kind. In the mortal world, the latest Armani suit, Rolex watch, Ferrari car or whatever are status symbols… over there, a pure song sung by a mortal child, a new sculpture, or even an intense emotions or sensations like anger, love, pain or sex… those are what matters… these are the things Fae show off to other fae… Look at what my new court puppet can do.”
Belle was nodding in understanding.
“Then there’s the less pleasant things. As for another of your points. An abducted child, raised in the Fae courts, will eventually take a bride or groom… or in worse courts… be used as a breeding mare or stud. For its entire life, the child will provide everything I mentioned before, and live in a state of endless dream or nightmare… depending on the predilections of her new master.”
Belle was staring at Conor now. “Slavery you mean.”
Conor nodded, “Quite often yes. Though don’t underestimate a Fae’s ability to convince a mortal that the sky is green, and that white is black. Glamour bewilders and confuses, and a child has the easiest of minds to shape.”
Belle sat quietly, food ignored, listening and thinking.
“Last, the far more basic but unspoken truth of it… and even most mortals have forgotten. Some Fae outright eat people. Think of Hansel and Gretel and the Nixies… add goblinkind, ogres, trolls… the list goes on. Some Fae can gain sustenance in no other way, for others it’s like a drug… or maybe a delicacy rather. Our example child mentioned previously serves one last role at the end of her useful mortal life… keeping those powerful yet unmentionable fae happy.”
They sat and finished their meals in silence.
“I don’t think I like the Fae, no offense.” Belle looked at him, her expression unreadable.
Conor nodded, “Aye. Unfortunately, I have no choice in the matter except to fight it… and I do. Why do you think in the long centuries past, mortals fought and hunted the fae with iron and fire? Then came the Christian God, firmly on the side of mortals.”
“So Conor, eventually you, the mortal you, will die or lose the fight? You’ll become fully fae?”
Conor thought for a long time. “Aye I suppose. One day I’ll fully become Sidhe and take up whatever has been laid out for me.”
“What about you and all your girls Conor? Are you doing… whatever… to them?”
"It’s a fair question, one that I’ve long thought about myself. I don’t know. It’s nothing like what the White Court does or anything… but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t part of my nature to do what I do. I suspect I’m of Summer Court ancestry… from my Mother… life, love, sex, and pleasure are a part of it all… so if I were honest, I’d have to answer your question yes. I’m doing… whatever… but I’m not even sure myself what that is."
Belle started her engine, “Conor, is it ok if I just take you home?”
Conor looked at her for a long moment, “That would be fine. Are ye scared of me now?”
“I don’t know. A little bit I suppose. I don’t know what to think.”
“That makes two of us at least.”