June 22. Midsummer is over. And it’s my birthday. Not that I feel much like birthday, mind you. More like just unwinding. Not thinking of anything, not doing anything. Tomorrow I can start thinking about all I have to do to get the apartment repaired.
Get the apartment repaired? Oh, yes. Like my burnt wrists weren’t enough.
At the hospital the next morning they dismissed me with the medical warning that I should go easy on my hands. No working with tools, no typing on a keyboard, no long texts written by hand. Ahem. If only they knew. Memo to self: dictaphone. Just in case another
crazy unworldly fairy lady wants to save me.
Because my apartment is only a little bit further than his shop, Roberto and I shared a taxi. So he had already gotten out when the taxi delivered me home… and I walked right into the next shock. My building, locked off and deserted. Fire-blackened facade. Wet ash. Clear signs of a large fire having been extinguished. Fourth floor. My windows. My apartment. O madre mia. Yolanda and Alejandra!
A curious neighbour from the house next door knew more, or thought he knew more. An apartment had been on fire. Oh really. A pretty weird apartment fire, actually; arson maybe? The fire brigade had evacuated the entire house, without exception, even if only the one apartment had burned out. A clearly visible „Do not enter“ sign hung on the door, plus a telephone number where one could get information.
I was too shocked to go upstairs, especially since the neighbour grabbed my sleeve and insisted that I couldn’t go in there now. So I stumbled down Lincoln Street to Roberto’s Bótanica, where he put a chair under my behind and a drink in my hand. Then I called the fire department.
There had been no casualties, gracias a Dios. However, Yolanda and Alejandra had not been among the people evacuated from the premises. My apartment had been on fire, but it was found empty. I didn’t want to make the next call, didn’t want to worry my parents, but I had to. Mamá hadn’t seen them either, only knew that Yolanda had wanted to come babysit Alejandra, and I’m afraid she must have heard something in my voice. But luckily, she didn’t peg me down on it.
After that, as I was sitting there completely shocked and hardly able to get a straight thought together because everything in my head was spinning like crazy, Roberto rounded up the others (with the exception of Alex, who was still out of action). Totilas told us that he had talked to Sir Anders the night before and of course informed him about the latest events. Which meant that the Fae, when he heard that (and how) we had escaped from Pan’s dungeon and being the loyal knight of his Duke’s that he is, was obliged to bring the escaped prisoner back to his master and above all to inform him of Lady Fire’s treason. It didn’t matter at all that Pan didn’t know anything about our imprisonment nor that all of this had been caused by Ruiz or that we had acted to protect and rescue Marshal Dee. His oath was his oath and his duty was his duty. But at least Sir Anders was allowed to interpret this duty in such a way that he could inform Totilas of what, to his very great regret, he now would have to do, thus giving our vampire friend the chance to get away.
Edward was looking quite exhausted, almost more beat than the night before, but somehow also pretty content. Cat-that-ate-the-canary-content, if you will allow the somewhat worn-out cliché.
Cherie had spent the night, he admitted a little reluctantly. He didn’t reveal much more, just mumbled something about her having been hurt and needing his help.
Ah, yes. Injured White Court + exhausted but cheerful cop + night. Say no more.
Anyway, Edward informed his office about the fire and managed to get the case assigned to him. Now he was officially allowed to enter the crime scene – and even though we were civilians, nobody said anything when he took us with him.
My apartment wasn’t entirely beyond repair, gracias a dios. Actually, the fire had occurred mostly in the hallway and, going out from there, in the living room. In the other rooms, the most damage had been done by the fire brigade. My study in particular looked like there were things to be saved there. Everything is wet, yes, I will have to replace most of my books and I will need a new computer, I’m afraid, but my manuscripts and sketchbooks and everything are at least still there. And it is very likely that the data can be recovered from the hard disk. It shouldn’t even be much of a problem, these days. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.
My first instinct said ‚Ruiz‘. According to the fire brigade, the fire had started after we had escaped him. There definitely had been time enough for the cabrón to grab Yolanda and Alejandra. But how could he have known about them? I certainly hope he isn’t that up on me and my exact family situation.
As I looked around, I found a burn mark on the door post in the shape and size of a child’s hand, and also at a height that would be normal for a child leaning on it. One of Lady Fire’s fire children maybe? Being fae, it couldn’t get over the threshold, so it stayed outside and caused the fire right there at the entrance, which then spread further into the apartment through the hallway? But why? Could it be that one of the fire children had betrayed Lady Fire and was now working with the cabrón?
But that theory did not quite fit, either. They must at least have left the apartment of their own accord, because both Alejandra’s teddy bear and Yolanda’s handbag were missing.
When she set us free, Lady Fire had said something that I hadn’t really processed in my condition. But now it came to us once more, and Roberto in particular was extremely worried. While she had ordered her guards to take us out of the palace and to safety, the lady herself had rushed off saying that this could no longer be tolerated and that she would finally do something about it.
Now Roberto was the one who came up with the disconcerting thought that maybe, without wanting to, I had played directly into Ruiz’s hands when I made myself known to the two fairy guards and thus caused Lady Fire to come free us. Because why else would the cabrón have used two of Lady Fire’s knights of all people to guard us, if not in order to have this very thing happen?
And maybe the lady was actually just now about to do something hasty that Ruiz was just waiting for. Mierda. We had to warn her.
But how? We had no way of reaching her. Except… She had read my new book, she told me. She must have gotten it from somewhere, and only Sheila and Norman have seen the manuscript at this point. So I called Norman and asked him what this deal with Lady Fire knowing the book was all about. She was one of his regular „test readers“, especially of my novels, he explained. Coléra. I had had no idea there was such a thing. But Norman only knew her e-mail address, nothing else.
Some Web searching linked email@example.com to the address of a shop called „Fiery Places“. The owner, a fire artist, also called herself „Lady Fire“ and – no big surprise here – turned out to be the Fae’s contact person in our world who was willing to give a message to the lady (she sent out a small, conjured flame for this purpose). While we waited, we also bought some useful things from Christine – Roberto got a book and I bought a fire protection salve. Just in case the Lady Fire wants to go for another walk with me. But even this salve wouldn’t have helped my wrists, I’m afraid. Ow. Damn it.
After a while, it wasn’t the Lady Fire who appeared, but one of her flame children. It told us that it was currently impossible for its mistress to meet us because she could not interrupt the ritual. Wait – what kind of ritual? Well, the one from my book, the one with which to conjure Titania!
Erm. If this diary were a comic, this would be panel of a speech bubble with three dots in it, above a drawn Cardo whose jaw has dropped.
For a moment I was literally lost for words as all the implications rushed through me. Yolanda! But the ritual didn’t even exist. But Lady Fire had already shown that she was not able not distinguish between fiction and reality. If she believed in it, if she went through with the ritual completely sure that it would work, then perhaps it would begin to exist, and then… Yolanda!
But the fire child reassured me (or tried to. Hah). No, no, the lady was not using my sister as a vessel for Titania, but my daughter. O dios. Even worse!
So I sent the flame child back with an urgent request to Lady Fire to spare Alejandra, because such a procedure could cause irreparable damage to a human being.
O dios. One thing was clear – we had to get to Pan’s palace immediately. But it took far too long to get there for my taste, and I was glad I didn’t have to drive myself. I would have caused an accident for sure. And funnily enough, Roberto’s stupid remark about „Just why do you have to describe your imaginary rituals in such detail?“ didn’t help in the slightest, either.
On the beach, but already in the Nevernever, Edward performed a ritual to summon George – he had obviously remembered the little fae’s true name as well. Of course George wanted something in return… but after he had already gotten the whole movie scene from „Legend“, I wasn’t willing, and in my agitated state perhaps not even able, to give him something bigger than a muffin. It was small enough that it didn’t even hurt for a change. But I’ll feed the little burro raw vegetables and wholemeal biscuits next time if this continues!
George led us through the shadows again, in the same impenetrable darkness and with the same disturbing soundscape as before. We came out in the area of the palace we already knew – and the first thing we noticed was the sound of combat. There was a huge wall of flames behind which Lady Fire’s guards had barricaded themselves and were holding the fort against Ruiz and several of Pan’s followers. Fortunately George had put us behind the barrier, between the fighting and Lady Fire’s door.
No one reacted to our knocking, but that didn’t stop us from entering the room anyway. Which was when it became clear why nobody had told us to enter – Lady Fire was busy. Busy summoning the Summer Queen. Into my sister, mind you, who was standing in the circle with an expression on her face that was equal parts resigned, composed, and horrified. Obviously Yolanda had volunteered to take Alejandra’s place, or Lady Fire had changed her mind at my request. No matter which, it had to stop!
I don’t know how many times the lady had already said the name „Titania“. But obviously no more than twice so far, because the queen of all summer sidhe was not here yet.
I knew it wasn’t a good idea, but I called out to the lady, interrupted her ritual. I just couldn’t and wouldn’t let Titania possess my sister and take over her body. In the novel it may have been exciting plot point, and in the novel it all turned out well for Catherine Sebastian, but this wasn’t a novel, damn it!
Roberto and I tried every possible argument. We didn’t follow the reasoning that Totilas wanted to go into at first, namely that the wouldn’t work because it was only made up anyway, because that probably was something that the fae lady would not have understood at all. So we rather chose reasons that hopefully would seem more logical to her. That such a possession might cause considerable harm to Yolanda. That Queen Titania would probably not be amused at all to simply be called away from whatever she was doing at the moment. And anyway, it was midsummer – in all probability whatever Her Majesty was doing at the moment was quite important for the Summer Court!
But the Lady Fire was not to be convinced. On the contrary, she herself was damn persuasive herself when she said that the possession would not harm Yolanda and that this was the only way to put Pan and Ruiz in their place. And then she looked me in the eye and asked me to trust her. O cólera. Damn women and their soulful doe eyes – even if selfsame doe eyes are burning flames and their owner seared off one’s damn wrists the day before!
Yes, damn it. I trusted her.
But Yolanda… O dios. Yolanda. I would have entered the circle myself, would have let myself be possessed by Titania instead of my sister… but I was very sure she wouldn’t be amused at all to take over a man’s body.
Roberto, on the other hand… Roberto has experience with such takeovers through his Santería magic. And his Santería patron saint, Orisha or whatever they call it, is, if I have understood correctly, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and she has filled him with her spirit from time to time. Which, now that I think about it, is probably also the reason why Roberto has this, um, fairly noticeable female side which he also lets show pretty often.
Anyway, while I was still hesitating, he entered the circle and did something to make himself the more attractive of the two potential targets in it. And he succeeded – the Summer Queen actually took over Roberto instead of Yolanda.
At that very moment the door opened once more, and Pan and his cabrón of a First Knight stormed in. Ruiz had those damned golden guns in his hands and wanted to shoot Titania, but the Summer Duke stopped him. And then the queen spoke a word of command, and everyone immediately, and I mean immediately, was hanging on her lips.
Her Majesty made no secret of her displeasure at being summoned just like that, but she said she would talk to Lady Fire about it separately. When Lady Fire told her the reason for the summoning, Titania explained that she had no desire to make this decision herself. Instead she would put it into the hands of the ‚Knights of Miami’… and pointed at us as she said so. Moreover, it was up to Pan to find a First Knight who was better suited for this high office until the decision was taken – and furthermore it was midsummer and Winter was about to attack. With these words, she disappeared. Was simply gone. And we stood there, dumbstruck.
Wow. So we’re the Knights of Miami now?!?
Ruiz didn’t wait and see how Pan would react, he just took off. Totilas wanted to stop him, but the cabrón still had his guns and disabled Totilas with one of those sunrays.
I must admit I was more than overexcited and nervous. I yelled at Pan that he finally had to act. Only, unfortunately, it was the entirely wrong thing to do because the Summer Duke did not react well to being yelled at at all. It was Edward – of all people! – who convinced Pan that Ruiz had fled like a coward in the face of the Winter attack when his liege lord needed him.
So far so good. The cabrón was no longer the First Knight. But now the Duke needed a new champion. You have three guesses who drew the short straw, Romans and countrymen.
Alex had stayed home to recover after his night at the hospital. Totilas was knocked out. Roberto still had some aftereffects of having been possessed by Titania to get over, and Edward wasn’t at his best after his night with Cherie either. Moreover, their special abilities would not have been compatible with the fairy magic that is automatically transferred upon a First Knight of the Fae. There was no other way. I was the only one left. Mierda.
So I swore Pan the oath which a First Knight must swear to his liege lord, but with the addition that it would only be temporary until we found a successor and I peacefully handed over the office to him. Nevertheless, I was anything but comfortable with the situation. But I was now the First Knight. Mierda.
Pan would have had every right to order me to go and fight in the war against Winter, but luckily he thought it was more important for me to get the sword and mantle, which he had taken with him in his escape, back from the cabrón .
Ruiz had let himself be taken away by the oneirophages, over whom his power still held. George was the only one who hadn’t gone with him, and so he led us – without any compensation, believe it it or not, but this was about the liberation of Mother after all – after the traitor.
We ended up back in the same old garage. But this time, the cabrón didn’t have a defenseless victim to force himself on. Instead, we met a fierce brawl – Marshal Dee had obviously waited for him here and confronted him.
Of course we couldn’t let her fight the bastard alone, so we joined the fight. By making the absolutely self-confident claim that we had already freed the dream eater mother, Totilas confused Ruiz long enough for Edward to try to take the cabrón’s weapons away. He was also able to snatch the gun from him, but unfortunately not the summer sword. Ruiz used it to come at me, and it was all I could do to avoid his attacks. By focusing so closely on me, however, Ruiz made himself vulnerable to Dee, who managed to give the cabrón a well-placed kick to the chin. He fell over like a sack of rice and was immediately out of action. Nevertheless, she would have beaten him even further and perhaps even beaten him to death if Roberto and Edward hadn’t intervened. Especially Roberto was able to her back, because he still seemed very feminine after having been taken over by Titania, and at that moment Marshal Dee was ill-disposed towards men. Which I could understand, but which was also fairly frustrating. Mierda.
Only at that moment, when the fight was over and Ruiz was on the ground, did I realize that my wrists no longer hurt at all. And when I cautiously checked under the dressings, the burns were entirely healed. So there was an advantage of being the First Knight of a Duke of Summer after all. Only the scars were still there. But getting rid of them too would have been too much to expect, I suppose.
Now that Ruiz was out of action, I took the First Knight’s sword and mantle from him, while Totilas removed the key from around his neck. Dee promised us that she was back under control and would watch the cabrón until the ambulance arrived and she could hand him over to the authorities.
In the meantime, George took us to his queen, where Totilas opened the magic lock with Ruiz’s key. The relief of the mother oneirophage was absolutely palpable, no matter how strange she seemed, simply by the way she joyously expanded the very moment she was set free, having a good stretch in her cloud form, as it were. And she really was incredibly strange. For in her stretching, she expanded so much that she also flowed over us, enveloping us in her presence, and that was… Madre mia. Very, very strange and not at all pleasant – but it only lasted a moment, then she constricted once more and disappeared through the cracks in the floor, probably back to the edge of Outside where she actually belonged.
When we returned to Pan’s palace, the battle between Summer and Winter was in full swing. This happened mainly on the beach, where the Storm Children were making good on Tanit’s threat and giving Pan’s army a more than severe lesson. We gave the battle a wide berth (I rather wanted to avoid Pan getting the idea that his new First Knight could take part in the fight now that Ruiz was finished) and returned to the real-world part of the beach.
On the way back, we had thought about who would be suited to become my successor in Pan’s service and had rejected Sir Anders and Marshal Dee for various reasons. But what about the surfer who had lent us his cell phone? We found the guy on the beach, and after a little persuasion he agreed to take on the job. Whew. First hurdle passed.
But we still had a decision to make. We all agreed Lady Fire couldn’t become Miami’s Duchess of Summer. Yes, she had helped us, and yes, we were very grateful to her for freeing us and everything, but she was just too unworldly, too… fae. She’d drag the city into chaos without even realizing. The incredible heatwave that was triggered by her presence in the city alone showed this all too clearly.
So we confirmed Pan in office, to which Lady Fire responded with extreme displeasure and left the city in a huff with her entire entourage. Cólera. I only hope she won’t bear a grudge, but I’m afraid she will. And I promised her a copy of Faerie Storm as soon as it was finished… O madre mia, ayudame. We’ll have to wait and see how I can get it to her, and what the encounter with her will be like then. To put it in cartoon language, ‚gulp‘.
Colin, the surfer, did become my successor, by the way. As fae protocol demanded, he had to defeat me in a duel. We chose ‚weapons‘ as our style, and our bare hands as the weapons. In other words, we played Red Hands, and at some point I managed to hold my hands in place so that Colin could slap them. Then I gave him my sword and mantle, and Colin took the oath, and thus ended the episode entitled ‚Cardo being Pan’s First Knight‘. Pheeeew.
The Fire Children, by the way, had taken care of Alejandra and Yolanda and kept them away from the fighting. When we all were home, Alejandra kept raving about her lovely new friends who could burn and were soooooo nice. I hope I still was able to some caution against fairies in her nonetheless … but she now knows they exist. Or maybe she’ll forget about them again. She’s only four, after all. Yolanda won’t forget
so quickly, though. She was quite traumatized by her sudden and unpleasant encounter with the supernatural. It remains to be seen whether she’ll accept or suppress what happened to her. But my little sister is tough. I’m sure she’ll pull through.
And Dee has left town again, her job being done. But she called before she left. That was nice.
Oh, and there seems to be one good thing at least to have come out of the whole mierda. So much has happened that I have had a few ideas again. It would seem that my writer’s block is over, Romans and countrymen.
July 4. Independence Day. But that’s not why I am writing. I am writing because George has been visiting me in his dreams lately, and that’s kind of cool. He doesn’t eat anything, at least not that I would notice it, but we talk in our dreams, because he can talk there. He is different from the other oneirophages now, being the only one who has a name, and he feels a bit lonely, I think. But I’m glad when he comes to see me. And he’s my friend.
I also asked George if he and his friends could perhaps give some of the material they ate back to Alison and the others. For so far we have not yet been able to help the victims, and if something does not happen soon, not being able to dream any more will kill them, I fear.
Unfortunately, George said they couldn’t spit out again any of what they had eaten. But he gave me an idea. He asked me why, since I was so good at putting stuff into things, I didn’t just put some stuff back into the affected people. Hmmm. Definitely not me alone, but…. hmmmm. I have to talk to the others.
It worked. Gracias a Dios, it worked. I don’t know exactly what kind of ritual Edward pulled off, but we all got involved, and it worked. I wrote a script to rekindle the dreams. Roberto supplied all the materials needed. Alex found the place where it could best take place, and Totilas put the victims in an appropriately relaxed state. And Edward, as I said, brought everything together, he was the one who executed the ritual. Madre mia, am I relieved.
I’ve been assured that the renovation of the apartment will be completed soon. Good. I am getting tired of the construction site.
Dee called. Ruiz has fallen into a coma, she said, and it doesn’t look like he’ll ever come to. I’m not usually a vengeful guy, but, well. Serves him right. Serves him right.
Dee also said she’d be in touch when she got back to town. I’d like that. You bet I would.
(the German version of this post originally appeared here.)