Changed - A Lysander Corvax Tale

By Alexander Corvax All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Drama

Chapter 7

Roughly 6ft tall in height with shortly cut dark brown hair, which was forme dinto a widows peak due to its receding nature just like mine. His dark brown eyes too were eerily simialr to my own as was the more fair skin, and stubble mostly focussed on the chin and cheeks of his. By the will of magic we could have been brothers for how similar are features are though that was where the similarities ended. Where I was lankya nd thin, he was more well built, with muscular legs and more padded arms with what I assumed wa s six pack lurking beneath his formal suite and tie.

Patrick MacDermit my original friend, confidant and ally for my twenty nine eyars of living amongst the Assembly was dressed as formally as one could expect for someone with so much wealth and power. He seemed to almost ooze confidence and he wore look of mild digust or amusement I could not tell as he took in his surroundings. Simply nodding to his bodyguard I assuemd the other man to be as a form of communication he began to walk away from the car to the restaurant soon picking out me form the rest of the customers, many of which were eyeing him out.

They probably assumed he was some form of wealthy businessman or celebrity I would bet, fooled by the outside appearance. And yes on the outside Patrick seemed perfectly candid and civil. However as one great very dead magi once said, ″there lies the greatest importance within ones inner self” and truer words were never spoken by a magi. Even if they earned you nice Assembly organised and sponsored execution for your troubles. For I knew Patrick well enough from our time spent together that on the inside the man was as nasty, and outright vicious as a changeling parent could hope for.

I made me all the more glad his influence had never been overly great over me, his own ideals,values and attitudes never sticking to me as my parents had hoped they might. I always did manage to annoy them that way, one of the things in my life I am still most proud of. These thoughts and more flashed through my enad as the distance between Patrick and I seemd to vanish within but a few moments until he was standing but a few feet from me. Wearing a smile on his face Patrick looked me in the eyes as he addressed me what could be vaguely described with as fondness.

″Lysander, it is good to see you old friend. You have hardly changed at all these past few years. Shows off your finer nature of course, the timelessness of our folk. Shall we be seated, preferably away from these er, mundane folk″, he pleasantly spoke with a genuine smile on his face. Only Patrick could make that sound like most humans were of the most unfortunate beings in creation simply for being mundane. I bit my tongue to stop myself from speaking up on that as I did not want to ruin his obvious good cheer and instead replied about his query.

“Yes we can go inside there is a corner area away from most prying eyes and ears. WE can order first and then discuss business.″ I kept my tone as neutral and bland as I could though I was more jittery then usual, I thought I was able to mostly pull it off. Patrick nodded strethcing out his hand as s sign for me to lead the way. Of course he did not speak to Darren, likely assuming he wa smy bodygaurd as much as the one he had brought along. Darren was certainly physically fit enough to be my bodyguard and large enough to be intimidtaing to most people. Although the man Patrick had with him was over 6ft 7 in height and even broader then Darren in this form so I doubted he was just anybody or even human.

Approaching the restaurants main desk Darren and I ordered two beef burgers and four large fries, two fries for me two for Darren while I received a schnitzel burger. Accompanied by a sweet strawberry cider I was particularly fond of from here. Patrick for his part ordered a salad, herb mix chips and a veggie burger and did not even bother to ask what his guard would like who stood there stock still not ordering anything for himself. After myself Patrick and Darren then taking our seats in the back left hand corner (with the Fomorian standing) away from most of the people and out of sight somewhat I began the conversation again with my usual whit and grace.

“Alright Patrick no bullshit what do you want, why are you here and whyt he hell was an aberrant in my house attacking me?″ See. Tact and grace all the way, that’s me Lysander Corvax always great with conversations and political backstabbing. My query merely amused Patrick who shook his head slightly from what I recall from memory a reaction to exasperation of something I had said or done.

″By the magic Lysander you do cut down to the bone quickly don’t you? I wanted to catch up it has been a few years since we last spoke even if they do not mean much to long lived folk like ourselves. I want to catch you up on all the goings on of the Assembly and the community in the Old World. And for you to confide in me what you have been doing these past few years. Even if you would, how you managed to get here at all? It is considered a mystery as how you elluded the Assembly for as long as you did, slipping through our collective gaze was most unexpected. A similar mystery is why by the magic’s will have you allowed your employee to sit and eat at the same table as us?″

I smiled viciously at him and replied with. ″He is sitting here as he is a valued employee and can be here on hand incase you try any skulduggery of any kind Patrick. And as for what I have been doing here, I have been living! Living my life without any outside pressures and a constant pressure threatening to crush me like back home.″ I was perhaps more aggressive then I should be in this situation, but I have been on edge now for two days and my patience and tolerance was wearing thin.

Patrick looked over Darren briefly with a cool assessing eye before clicking his tongue against his teeth as he always did when under stress or annoyance as I am want to do. I decided to continue and answer his questions, maybe a quid pro quo would work here with him. It had before after all. ‘’As for precisely how I came to be here. Honestly, I bribed a few fae folk who were crossing over from the Alps into Papua New Guinea with a few scrolls and artefacts I had planned on taking back home with me. I had made myself appear to be an independent magus on the run by wearing a gem encrusted ring.’’

Spreading out my hands and tilting my head in emphasis I continued with, ‘’ I did not appear dangerous and so they agreed to take me over. After that it was a matter of communicating with a certain crow spirit I had heard of and then I found my way over here in Australia. What artefacts of magical value I had left to me I was able to haggle for funds which I used to travel and eventually fond residence here in Queensland.’’ I paused for some dramatic effect trying to gauge his reaction through any noticeable ticks or signs. I beheld genuine interest and even, concern from him? Well I’ll be he truly did care in his own way. ‘’The rest is five years gone and I have been using my skills to make tonics for a small profit and continuing my studies when and where I can.’’

This seemed to satisfy him, though he clicked his tongue against his teeth again, perhaps as a form of expressing his disquiet at my way of living or having pawned off so many valuables to get where I was. Regardless this did not stop him from talking to me and start to explain the situation back in the Old World. At least where ‘home’ was concerned. ″Your parents miss you of course. Your father requested that I inform you that they will not shame you for your actions as you do not seem capable of feeling proper shame. Your mother hopes that you are well and have been keeping yourself healthy. And as for others..”

He trailed off as he noticed the empty space on my ring finger and how I scratched idly at it. Cocking an eye brow up he shrugged. “Well other parties have also expressed their interests though that would seem to matter little to you. I do not blame you though Lysander. Neither of us are men who like having chains forced upon us. Regardless of the form they seme to take.” He offered me a knowing smirk at that and I bit down on my tongue, hard this time to stop myself from retorting.

“I appreciate the relayed messages Patrick of course. However I was attacked in my own home not even two days ago and I would like some sort of explanation. The only people in the community who could have sent a hell hound of all things into my house, through layers of wards is the Assembly. So, I ask again. Why. Was. I. Attacked.” The last part came out somewhat raspy and more hten a little visciously but this did not seem to bother Patrick who kept his face pleasantly smiling at me.

″Ohhhh yes that. Well I do apologise on behalf of the Assembly old friend. That was determined to be a necessary test of your abilities however. Hmm one moment I just need to make a slight alterration, no skulduggery just some sound modifications to avoid prying ears.″ And with that Patrick manipulated the magical strands using his hawamancy to create a sort of air bubble trapping sound to around the table itself with a tunnel leading to the Fomorian bodyguard looming barely a foot away.

Patrick was considered blessed for his twin abilities, particularly ones that are usually opposites, earth and air. Air being the rarer to find within the european stock of our folk, traditioanlly hailiong from our Middle Eastern brethren. That’s how air magic acquired the name hawamancy, from the arabic root word for air afterall. Patricks natural skill with it made him an immediate asset to his family and the Assembly.

Just like how I was with my ability, rare across all of our folk with less then fifty known changelings having the ability to harness Aciesmancy with any true skill or natural ability. In part I now imagined as to why my family was so ‘tolerant’ of my differnces and ‘eccentricities’ compared to the loyal and so very bloody upstanding Patrick. Just thinking about that, that injustice made my teeth grind together as Patrick triple checked his bubble was working before returning his attention to me.

″There, now I can speak without any attention from the mundane peoples here. Or any other... potential listeners. You wanted frankness and I will assume you can maintain secrecy with your employee so we can speak openly?″

I nodded confirming this and motioning with my hand for him to continue. If he was placing a damn air bubble up he was serious. Also for future reference remember that Patrick can create air bubbles, that could be incredibly effective for killing me with minimal noise and another factor when confronting him even in crowded urban areas.

″Excellent, excellent. Of course I will be keeping an eye on your employee all the same but yes allow me to explain Lysander. For the last year or so now there have been various issues shall I say with many of the elder members of the assembly. Yù Míngzhì the elder sage has aged Lysander. Far more then he should have. He has become delirious succumbing to dementia and physically wasting away. As have no less than a dozen other elders among the Assemblies ranks. All having lived six centuries or more, now wasting away, aging dying Lysander, their knowledge and power being lost with them.″

That was. Not at all what I expected to hear. Just no. Changelings usually lived up until their seventh century and there have been many examples where this has been surpassed. The sage Yù Míngzhì was born during the early years of the Norse war in the Southern Song dynasty, having lived for roughly eight centuries or so. He was the oldest living Changeling and the most powerful, wealthy and influential individual on the Assembly as well as the de facto leader of the Han Chinese Changelings.

And other elders were now aging rapidly? Huh well I still do not know what to say to that. No wait, yes I do. ″So, let me orate this back to you then. A group of incredibly old members of the Assembly are now aging rapidly, dying and getting hard of hearing. And the Assembly’s reaction to this is to then have an aberrant sent top my home to test my ability to not die. Is that what you are telling me Patrick because if so I truly am trying to see the connection between the two. But, sadly that appears to be rather impossible considering its a load of bollocks″.

Magic crackled around me as I became more agitated despite my attempts at remaining calm. There was only so much shit I was willing to take even from the Assembly. In what universe, did that make any logical sense to react with ‘Oh the elders are dying. I know let us try and kill one of the youngsters and see what happens.’ The f#ckers.

Patrick cringed at my anger and I thought somewhat at my building up magical energies as well. The way in which he was now focussing on my person, had me thinking he now had his Arcasihtō active so he could check how the strands of magic were acting around me. Well two could play at that game. And so I activated my own Arcasihtō to gaze at Patrick out of the corner of my eye in the same manner as he did me. I peered closely at him now directing my focus to how the strands of magic were interwoven with his being as I knew they were also be interwoven with my body. I forced my face to look neutral as I caught something that ahd not been there before. A sort of fault with the strands perhaps or with him? I was not certain but the starnds did not so eaisly flow through him now, it seemed to take more effort and the magic did not seem to want to intermingle with Patrick, not like how it still flowed so freely and happily through myself.

To prevent Patrick from picking up on my findings or giving away a reaction I made it look like I had been intending to use my Arcasihtō to analyse the bodyguard that Patrick had brought with him. What I found there actually gave me pause for a moment and I sucked in a breath. I knew that this being could not so easily have been a human due tot heir size and how Patrick woould have been provided with a formiddable security detail but I had not expected it to be on of those folk. A broad muscular humanoid body covered in thick black hair dominated the room though being glamoured his larger width and height was concealed. A goat’s head with harboured long horns like that of a nubian ibex making the bodyguards height seem closer to ten nine or ten feet.

The single cyclopian eye dominating the bodygaurds forehead was another telling give away tot heir true nature, as well as the curved bones sticking out like mutations on their left arm. Combine that with the misshapen, webbed feet and the smell of the sea being so strong in the room I knew exactly what kind of security had been provided by Patrick’s family. ″That. That’s a Fomorian isn’t it Patrick. How the bloody hell did your family get their hands on one of them. I thought they had all died off in Ireland.″

Looking over his shoulder to take a quick glance, Patrick shook his head before turning his full attention back to me. ″No no Lysander, not all were killed. Many over the last few centuries perished in battles with the Assembly and my family and many others were fed upon. They are more brutish then most folk, but they still have potent magic within their blood that is the truth. Some few saw the value in becoming subservient to the Irish families amongst the Assembly, becoming bodyguards like the one you see before you”, he said with no small degree of pride.

Well that explained that then. I knew from my tutoring back in the day that the Fomorian folk were ancient enemies of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Sidhe, battling for control of Ireland for centuries if not millenia. That of course ended once iron was discovered and the Magi and Changeling of Ireland (Éire in Irish and Airlann in Scots) decided they wanted to end these would be gods and take control of the island for future human generations.

The wars that followed have ultimately led to the current state of things where as far as I am aware there are no fae or any magical folk in Ireland accept those used to feed or serve the Assembly families. That thought saddened me I realised, taking in the unique and powerful figure of the Fomorian. Its kind were once far greater in number and were a deeply rooted part of Celtic mythology and the land itself. But like with the Norse and indeed any god like folk the Changelings could not stand any competition.

One of the key and founding philosophies of the Assembly is that there are no gods at all, just ambitious powerful magical folk. And of course that they and they alone have the foresight, power and aloufness to govern humanity from the sidelines correctly. Which they have been doing for centuries, some more effectively then others I should say.

Now having wondered well of topic enough o be calm again I returned to the original problem which Patrick had so helpfully thrown bodily at my damned feet. ″So the elders are aging. How exactly in the minds of our great leaders does that corellate to attacking me?″

″That was part of a decidedly necessary test Lysander. Others as I have mentioned are facing issues and we wished to see how wide spread the problem is. When we threw our collective nets out we found that most of the younger Chaneglings were unaffected your father then thought to look for you properly and check to see if the same was true.″ He finished there, politely waiting for me to respond to my father having wanted me checked upon. Accept that was not news to me. It was the logical step for my father to have taken after all, and one I am half sure he had gone through before hand anyway.

Changelings sensitivity to magic also allows us to over time form bonds with others of our folk to be able to sense them, even over great distances. Both of my parents had already been reaching out with their feelers seeking me in their own way up to this point and may in fact have been the ones to alert the Assembly to my rough location. With their time and resources they could have done the rest as well. I frowned annoyed by that fact both because it meant that my parents had handled actually getting me to the Assembly, and the implication that it was being in one place that caught me out.,

If I had been a drifter, going place to place I may have avoided detection for a longer period of time. However, being on the move constantly is simply not in my nature. I am a very grounded person who hates travel as much if not more then I hate bad smells and elevators. I just wished that my preferred lifestyle chocie of remaining in one location had not come to take a great big junk out of my backside.

Seeing that I was not going to be baited by him Patrick simply contineud as if he had never paused. He was smooth like that, the bastard. ″Naturally we were able to find you and from all of our observations your magic did not seem to be affected at all as others seem to be. In fact you were making money from it within the community here. However. More let us say, concrete evidence was required. You have been gone for some five years and the higher ups including your family and mine wished to see if you had manitaned any of your previosuly recorded ability and skill.″

″As expected you destroyed the hell hound aberrant and amicably demonstrated that despite your youth you are well on your way to becoming a true member of the Assembly.″ Going agaisnt all of his expectations I neither thanked him nor seemed pleased by his attempt at a compliment. The very fact that to him that was a compliment made me silently grind my teeth together as I waited for him to continue his monologue.

″Due to these current issues we wanted to see, well why you seem to be completely unaffected by the same issues that many of us are facing in using magic and with our aging. If there is something about you, then we could isolate then perhaps discover a way to combat this rather serious threat to our stability.″

Oh it was a threat to stability alright. To their aristorcratic magocracy, which supports high levels of corruption, genocide on non humans, xenophobia, global monopolies and many, many more policies I cannot even begin to describe. But of course as things had ‘always been this way’ then this system being threatened was of course a catastrophe of the highest order.

″And you naturally decided to volunteer to personally follow up on me and check for yourself how affected I am by this ongoing ‘issue’ amongst our folk and test me firsthand?″ poiting this out by following the most logical train of thought in Patricks mind set.

Nodding again in approval in a way that reminded me far to much like my family for comfort Patrick confirmed my suspicions. ″Exactly, the plan is once we have eaten here we can head out and get you tested out old friend and then we can discuss how to proceed from there.″ He clasped both of his hands together in that manner he seems habitually forced to do when being businesslike.

I clicked my tongue against my teeth, my own nasty habit I had picked up from Patrick, really wishing it was not a tell for me and was going to say something rather crude when our food arrived just in time. The waitress after serving our food scratched at her ear, having the sound cut from outside our little air bubble when she poked her head in. Patrick silently cursed at himself for not paying as much attention before politely waving her off, handing out a generous tip to her pleasant surprise as tips were not apart of Australian dining culture. Still she accepted the money graciously and Patrick smiled at her as she turned to leave, all the while both Patrick and I appreciating her body from behind.

That gave me a smile that did both the retreating waitress and Patrick’s stubborn insistence of following his own idea of dining customs. I nodded to Darren and we both soon tucked into our food and relief flooded through me. Ah yes, herb covered chips and my favourite schnitzel burger was the best feeling in the world right now. I could forget the trouble sitting not three feet from me focus on the delicious taste rushing in. In between bites of my chips and burger I washed it down with that oh so sweet strawberry cider which was by far my favourite alchoholic beverage.

Patrick was more restrained in eating his food though he still obviously enjoyed it, using his hands as little as possible. Like me Patrick had been bought up into the courtly and conservative upbringing of a changeling aristocratic family, though while mine was Austrian/Danish his was Irish. We had both experienced long formal dinners where matters of import were discussed, alliances made and deals done. These for me could be almost but for the food, ah the food, always managed to make the dinners just that right amount of tolerable for me to remain. Though Patrick enjoyed the politics and the scheming, a good meal and drink was just as welcome for him as it was for me, being one of those much needed joys in life as much for him as for me.

Now and again as he ate, he could be heard humming the tune of The Irish Rover while his Fomorian bodyguard remained stock still the entire time. That was sad to me; one of the greatest joys I found in life was eating and sharing with others, so long as it was not magical in nature. I wondered if the Fomorian ate the same sorts of food we could, or if it had a more specified diet? Who knows, certainly not me as my overall knowledge of Gaelic and Celtic mythology was not as skilled as my studies in other academic fields. Unlike Patrick I had been raised for much of my life of Germanic and Scandinavian mythology, history, philosophy, herbalism, arcanology (study of magic as a whole, as referred to by us human casters).

A shame really, as many of the folk from Gaelic and Celtic mythology had been immigrating on mass to Australia for many years now. I wish I had more knowledge about their ways and customs then I did as many were quite interesting folk to talk to. Maybe the Fomorian would be willing to talk to me later? I smiled to myself no not likely at all you silly git. I went back to the business of enjoying my food and was sorry to find my chips and burger devoured along with my cider bottle empty of its delicious contents.

I decided the wing it and went to the counter to order a second cider for myself and Darren, even ordering a second drink for Patrick. When I got back our table Patrick was eyeing Darren and smiling on the corner of his mouth as if he was in on some hilarious joke or secret. I always hated it when he got that look, made me want to slap him! Slap him right hard in his annoying nasty face and then... I stopped noticing Patrick’s gaze on me, the Fomorian had taken a step towards me and I had my fists clenched hard together so my knuckles had gone white. Darren was silently urging me to calm down with hand gestures until I unclenched my fists. I looked down and saw where my nails had dug into the skin the act already. I thought of Camilla’s breathing exercises and began to breathe in, out, in out.

‘’You really do have no need to be so stressed Xander. If you will allow me once we have our next drinks I would ask that you accompany me out to the beachfront. I would like to try one more test, if you would to make absolutely certain of your status. The Assembly is after perfect reports and results after all. You understand’’. He nodded at me professionally making sure his tone was pitched in such a way as that I understood the gravity of his words. Normally I would miss that but not on him. No he had that drilled into me over the years since we had first met till when I left.

It was part of the man, he was devoted to the cause of the Assembly and the greater Changeling race. He is a man who when driven to act, places vast quantities time, effort and skill into the task to have it completed to the best of his ability. Taking pride in his work and enjoying food and good alcohol as much as I do, we often had a good time feasting and discussing our shared passions of history, culture, folk music and mythology. I only wished things could have taken a different route, that the will of magic had allowed for us to see eye to eye in the matters dearest to my heart.

I bowed my head in a reluctant nod in answer to him, not wishing to talk to him now until I had to. Overall, I think my patience for him, the Assembly, politics as well as anything not inside my very narrow comfort zone, have long since left the building and skipped continents. Funny that, skipping continents was looking very promising right about now, and I was almost to that point where I would use my Dime sphere to head back to the Old World for an episode to confuse the Assembly before popping back. But no, I hate travelling and the risks currently were too high if they were actively looking for me. Problem with being a member of one of the more powerful and infamous Changeling families is that other Changelings know me on sight in the majority of cases. Why could I not have been born a Magi? That would be worlds easier then this bollocks.

When our drinks arrived, I distributed them accordingly and then got to watch as Patrick stole the show and payed for the whole meal with a card I recognised as being essentially a bottomless pit of credit without end. Patrick could buy three beach front houses, a yacht, two cars and meal for twenty and not make a dent in his own personal funds on that card. Those cards are given to all heirs and children of Changeling families in the west once they reach the age of at least thirty five. This is so that they are old enough to know what they want and to have a solid idea of spending like crazy without garnering much attention for doing so. You could buy whatever you liked as a Changeling of the Assembly you just had to be discrete (if at all possible) while doing so. And if not is simply cost money and magic to hush everything up.

That is how it always worked and likely always would work as much as I hate the system it does work. Well it works if you are in the Assembly anyway. I quietly pondered this while Darren and I both drank our ciders and walked with Patrick and his Fomorian to the beachfront for his ‘test’. We walked up and along the beach, going over a concrete pathway on the side through Shrub Turkeys and plant life until we got to the familiar spot of Kirra Point Lookout. Below us was Coolangatta beach and Kirra beach. It was a breathtaking view and fortunately in this time of the year there was not as much foot traffic so there was only one other person here. He was soon scared of with one look from the Fomorian who would have appeared as a tall ripped freight train of a man.

Once we were alone Patrick nodded to the Fomorian who then proceeded to remove two devices from his suit. One was this clockwork like device looking like a compass with a dark blue crystal in its centre. The other appeared to be some sort or orb which the Fomorian soon crushed in its left hand much to my surprise. A light glistening fog soon erupted forth from the shards and surrounded all four of us, blocking our view from the rest of the world by reflecting light back outwards in such a way as to hide our bodies. Darren cringed back cursing as we were cut off from the outside world, to the amusement of our unwanted guests. I however had seen such work before and knew it was harmless when not used to try and contain and kill undesirables.

A bead of sweat appeared on my forehead at the thought. I certainly hope I am not an undesirable after this. The Fomorian strode over and knelt before Patrick offering the strange device to him, still head and shoulders above Patrick due to his sheer size. Gracefully taking hold of the device Patrick beckoned me over to him as I shrugged at Darren and motioned for him to be cautious. He motioned back that he hoped I was not being a bloody idiot. I hoped I was not either.

One foot, then the other. That’s the way to do it Xander just one foot in front of the other. I somehow convinced my terrified form to move to a standing position barely three feet from Patrick and his new toy. Lifting it to his eye line he looked at it and me before muttering some choice Gaelic words I could not follow but noted their sound and tone before the device of its own accord took off from Patricks hands to come to a dead stop inches from my face. I leapt back a foot in shock magic called and pulled around me in defence as Patrick almost keeled over laughing.

‘’Its ... It’s alright Lysander. That device is simply attracted to its intended target and likes ot get as close as it can for an accurate reading for their magic. It is perfectly harmless to your person I assure you.’’ He was still laughing somewhat as he said that and I was right bloody angry at him for it. That thing, whatever it is gave me the willies as it floated towards me until it was yet again inches from my damned face. Nothing for it I guess but to let this all play out. I suddenly felt like the air around me had become much cooler and my own body temperature proceeded to drop until I was shivering and my teeth were chattering loudly in my skull.

As I began to tuck my arms into my arm pits for warmth, teeth chattering away the device seemed to shake and change in colour slightly from a dark brassy copper to a more crimson red. As I watched on in amazement the crystal set into its centre then began to hum and vibrate softly at first then as time ticked by gradually louder until it felt like standing next to a dryer in a small room. I had to turn away as it grew so loud covering my ears and shutting my eyes abruptly as the crystal began to shine like a beacon over me, bathing me in strange dark blue light.

And then, well as suddenly as it had started up it stopped, sound light and all. The colour returned to its brassy copper colour the crystals light went dead and then it floated calmly back to Patricks outstretched hands. He was grinning the dickhead, like a gun enthusiast who just got an automatic shotgun for his birthday. Handing the now very damned freaky I had decided device, to the Fomorian Patrick began humming pleasantly to himself as he passed around on the spot seeming to be in some unfathomably deep thought.

Darren quietly snuck around to me as this occurred the Fomorian keeping its one eye fixed on me as its employer continued to pace around grinning like a wanker to himself. Tapping me on the shoulder Darren proceeded to ask, ‘’So what in the name of all the spirits in creation was that meant to be? Looked like some steam punk compass that got possessed by an evil crystal to me.’’

‘’I do not think you are far off if I am to be honest. I have not seen any magical like that employed by the Assembly before. It could be anything including what Patrick claimed it was. For all I know it knows how much magic I can use and have, as well as what I ate for breakfast yesterday and where I hide my porn stash’’. That last part I probably could not have said to save some little dignity left but hey that thing spooked me alright. You cannot judge me I know you all have your secret porn somewhere.

‘’It’s not much of a secret you hide your porn on your USB or in five layers of folders in your Video Folder.’’ Darren knew this as he had asked to use my porn stash before he had entered a relationship with Camilla. He still used it of course from time to time, mocking with his use of it even though him and Camilla had a very happy and fulfilling relationship. Greedy Scandinavian troll bastard. I gave Darren a lewd gesture and turned about to emit a very unmanly yelp when I found both Patrick and his titanic bodyguard about a foot in front of me.

Clutching my heart as I got my breathing under control I gave Patrick a nasty look before growling ‘’Do you MIND. You nearly gave me cardiac arrest you sneaky shite, you and your damned cyclopic giant.’’ The Fomorian did not seem to care much for the name but I just ignored him for now my full ire directed at the man I was wishing would leap of the cliff any day now to give me some actual lasting peace at last.

Clasping his well manicured hands together on my shoulders Patrick seemed unfazed by my ire at him which was only growing I assure you and began to gush. ‘’I knew you had it in you Lysander. Your magic is well, it is completely unaffected by the same malady as so many members of the Assembly are afflicted with. In fact your magic is flowing more efficiently and easily within and around you then most Changelings I have seen tested. This is exactly what I and your family were hoping for. With this we can take you back and discover how you are immune to this malady and use this situation to boost our collective power and prestige in the Assemblies ranks.’’

I stood there uncomprehending for a moment. Take me back to what exactly, my family and the Assembly? There were more Changelings then just the elders afflicted by some strange magical malady? That certainly made this more serious and why I had no issues believing my parents wished for me to remain unaffected or immune to whatever this problem was. If used right I could be placed into a more advantageous position and continue to increase the Corvax families influence just as my peer and parents seemed to be planning ahead for me.

I really, truly hated it when they and anyone else tried to dictate my life for me. The whole thing made just a wee bit salty and justifiably miffed. I clicked my tongue against my teeth as I collected my thoughts before replying. ‘’Well Patrick I sure am glad you care so much about my well being. Warms my heart to know you and my folks care so damn mu h about me to check on in. However since I don’t have the magic flu or measles for Changelings I am going to have to decline on going with you. I have a nice thing going on here and I am not leaving. ‘’ I allowed the sarcasm to drool freely from my tongue as I spoke at first before changing my tone to as unfeeling, cold and uncompromising as I could. Basically I switched to snobbish Changeling mode.

Same thing I used to scare Bricks and Sticks I hoped would help me out here, at least for a time. Patrick met my gaze with a look so detached from feeling I thought I would get sucked into the black pits of them and fall forever. Suffice to say he is creepy as f#ck and I soon began to sweat down my neck as we continued to hold onto one another’s gaze. Darren and the Fomorian were soon in on the action, sizing one another up and locking gazes. From the corner of my eye I could see the Fomorian grinning somewhat. From what I could gather it was likely having violent thoughts or just as easily enjoying the thought of some kind of challenge to beat down horrifically.

Blinking first I was about to say something when Patrick finally spoke up, still with that rather detached look in his eyes that so often appeared in my memories, and my nightmares. ‘’I will grant that you have some sort of... attachment to this place Lysander. However your parent’s instructions are quite clear on this. I can however give you time to sort out any business here. And you will be able to of course return once matters back with your family and the Assembly are resolved.’’

‘’Do not mistake my intent Lysander. You are my peer and long time compatriot and I am admittedly fond of you; however your childish whims will only be tolerated so far. The current situation is delicate and thus requires a sensible and mature mindset in order for us all too appropriately benefit. Your parents agree with me on this, and as heir of the Corvax family you have responsibilities to them. You are now forty four years old. It is time to grow up my friend.’’

I stood there chewing on that. I was not sure what to say. He was not budging on this at all. And if he wanted to he could probably force me to go with him. For all my abilities to redirect magic, Patrick’s offensive and defensive capabilities were greater than mine. And his strict training from a young age gave him another distinct advantage. Looking to Darren he was still trying to hold the gaze of the Fomorian and outwardly seemed composed if somewhat tense. I wish I could seem so confident, but I felt like I had just gone through a whirlwind and a washing machine.

Finally mustering the ability to speak after a minute or two of silence I responded if a bit clipped. ‘’That sounds, reasonable. I suppose I will need a few days or so to sort of my affairs before we arrange to meet again. I have objects to collect and investment to untangle you see.’’. Please do not ask about my business, pleasssse do not ask more questions about my business I silently pleaded sweat now running down my forehead as well. Smooth Xander, smooth.

Running a hand through his hair to comb it back from the winds tender touch he sniffed and looked down over to the Coolangatta beach. Seeming to like what he saw as a tick appeared on his face, the beginning s of a smile so I thought. ‘’Of course Lysander we never wished to make you lose any of your investments due to this. I am glad that you have been at the very least making something of yourself in this gigantic island of a nation. I will give your five days to sort your affairs out. And I trust you have the sense not to try and jump ship yes? We would not want you running to the axe now would we?’’ A rather terror inducing smile played onto his face as he made that threat, the only threat that mattered to our folk.

He then proceeded to quirk up an eyebrow in question to which I answered with a stiff nod. No, running was perhaps not the wisest idea, not with him. Well that is a bummer but it would seem that I need to regroup with Darren and discuss our next move now that we had all we were likely to get from Patrick. I was in fact just about to say my not so fond farewells to the bastard when I caught sight of two figures walking up to us. It was then that I noticed that the mist summoned by the Fomorian had departed likely during the intense conversation I had just undergone with Patrick. At first I assumed them to be some tourists or locals coming up to have a long look at the spectacular view.

Then they got closer and my assumptions were kicked in the groin then dashed on the pavement as the two people were revealed to be various forms of treacherous or scheming snakes. I bit my tongue as Raphael Dominic of all people looking exhausted, beaten up and somewhat pale briskly made his way up to us eyes fixed on the Fomorian and Darren. The other figure of the feminine variety had dark tanned skin and though she lacked the horns and eyes when not glamoured her facial features otherwise remained the same to identify her as Andrea Redwood.

An ambitious Daemonkin and a treacherous Magi neither of which I was fond of or who had reason to be fond of me. I flicked an accusing glare at Patrick whose face tugged into a forced smile as he greeted the newcomers. “Mr Dominic, Madam Redwood. It is a pleasure to at last make your acquaintance. Patrick MacDermit of the Casters Assembly. I hope that you did not have any trouble arriving here’’? The way he asked them was far from being an honest question. No he seemed to be daring them to imply that they had any trouble at all. Well, at least he was as threatening to them as he was to me.

Raphael seemed to pale even further and nodded hurriedly in a placating manner where as Andrea seemed unperturbed at least on the outside and responded politely. ‘’None whatsoever Lord MacDermit, it is truly an honour to at last meet you. I am as ever eager to do business and set up lasting good relations between our folk in this fresh land of opportunity.’’ She opened her arms out in emphasis indicating to the beach front, the new modern hotels and restaurants lining up on the other side of the road. She was good I would grant her that, even cheerily referring to Patrick by his automatic title of ‘’Lord’’ as a Changeling of the Assembly. Though I truly doubted that her people’s wishes would be granted in this case even with such deference in mind.

There was much animosity between the Assembly and the Daemonkin. Not least due to the Aztec and Incan members who joined in the wake of European expansion into the Americas which had been led by Demonkin like Cortes. Stealing the early gains and the choice territory of the Americas so early on with the Spanish and Portuguese Daemonkin, followed a century later by French and English Daemonkin made them despised as opportunists trying to destabilise the natural hierarchy and balance of the world with the Changelings at the top, followed by Magi, then everyone else.

The Americas apart from the traditionally ‘’Southern’’ or ‘’Confederate’’ States in America being under Daemonkin control and monopoly still vexed the Assembly to no end. We could find consolation in the growing economic super powers of China and India however being ruled by Changeling and the Assembly as well much of the debt owed to China had begun to balance out the scales somewhat in the eyes of the Assembly, although not nearly enough for most tastes. Seemed now the Daemonkin saw many opportunities now in Australia and wished to get a piece of the cake before the Assembly swooped in and took the lot.

For his part Patrick seemed to not care much for the idea anymore then I did of Daemonkin being here in numbers (making me wish I did not have as much in common with him) and simply blinked in form of acknowledgement. He and I then both turned to Raphael as he stood there wiping his pale bruised head with a handkerchief, choosing wisely to avoid my gaze entirely. ‘’Lysander I assume you know Mr Raphael Dominic of the industrial Dominic Magi family. I must apologise for having you test your skills against my friend Lysander here, but I wished to make sure he still kept at his lessons in his absence from us. Cannot have my friend be helpless when he returns to the Assembly or the less tactful of our peers may try to make a meal of him’’.

I knew there was something up that bastard, I raged internally switching between giving Raphael an icy glare to wanting to spit acid at Patrick. I knew there had to be something else up, for a man like Raphael prick to openly want to engage with a Changeling even two on one in a duel. He set me up and thought he was doing me a favour by ‘checking my skills’ or some other similar bollocks that could have had me killed or maimed. ‘’Well that certainly enlightens me on that matter. You set that up? To test my duelling abilities, really did you think oh I dunno I was NOT bloody necessary!’’ I all but screamed at him. I swear if Darren had not grabbed my right arm firmly I would have lunged at him. I would have to thank Darren later for saving me from a grave error in judgement.

‘’Of course, I was truthful in my reasoning plus it would prove your still a threat to be feared my friend. The Corvax family name through your actions will continue to hold weight and significant power in the Assembly for many centuries to come I am sure.’’ Darren winced when Patrick said my last name out loud and I bit my tongue hard enough to draw blood. Raphael now looked so ill he could likely fall over and die any moment and even Andrea seemed at a loss for words, seeing for the first time a semblance of fear in her eyes when she looked at me no longer as cocky as they were the previous night.

Oh now you understand good lady. I wonder how seriously you are taking my earlier statement now. I dipped my head to her granting her the sight of my most wicked and nasty grin I might otherwise have shared with Bricks and Sticks to mess with them.

Turning back to Raphael I said ’’I hope that you realise when the trial against you goes ahead within the Magi community I intend to be there was a plaintiff and witness to your actions. Under the orders, guidance, whatever of Patrick you still attacked me illegally in a duel. Meaning I am fully within my rights to prosecute you. Is that not correct my friend’.’ I hissed emphasising the word friend in mockery to Patrick as he bobbed his head seriously.

‘’Certainly Lysander of course. I did promise him rewards for aiding me and Assembly action against his family if he did not comply with my’’ he paused choosing his next words carefully, ‘’request in challenging you. But should you wish to punish him you may do so as harshly as you see fit. Attacking a Changeling under any circumstances from a lesser being is of course a serious crime. But fear not Mr Dominic, your family will have their shares increased in their companies and your investments will grow twofold if not three with my aid have no fear.’’

Of course he was of the mind he was being reasonable by making sure Raphael’s family was left far wealthier and more financially secure then they had been before as fair compensation and to him keeping his end of their bargain. I felt nauseous again, sick to my stomach at his callousness and ‘’lesser beings’’ statement reminded me why I had to get away in the first place. Keeping his attention now on Andrea he ushered her over to a quieter area of the hill before saying in parting. ‘’I am going to talk to the madam here Lysander. I hope to talk again soon, and remember you have only a few days so do be thorough with your business.’’ Parting with a wave he ordered the Fomorian to stand where he was as he began speaking in secretive whispers to Andrea.

Once Patrick and Andre had moved off Raphael flung himself at my feet making myself and Darren leap backwards, startled by his action. On his knees, tears beginning to form on his panicked and broken face he stuttered and begged. ‘’ P P Please y your Lordship I only did as he asked of me. He threatened to confiscate all of my family’s investments and funds leaving us destitute. He’’ the poor man broke up openly sobbing now in his distress, ‘’he threatened to have my wife arrested and sold if I did not comply and my brother and sister as well. I will stand trial I will I swear. But I beg of you to be lenient on me and allow the trial to go through into the hands of the Magi here n not the Assembly. I had no way of knowing you were a Corvax my lord truly I did not know’’

Shite just, damn I felt like the monster I feared I was becoming, the monster I tried to hide away. This man was no true threat to me and I willingly believed Patrick bribed and threatened him at the same time. It was what he saw as a masterstroke in diplomacy when dealing with ‘’lesser beings’’, including magi it seemed. The greedy shark like look in his eyes that he had when making business deals with me not two nights ago was replaced by a true deep seated fear, of both Patrick and my name. Corvax, it was a name that seemed well bred and suited to drawing terror from many a mouth and awe from others.

He was right to be afraid this ambitious and greedy young man, so easily made to tremble with but a single word, my father and mother would make a game of him. They would drag out his punishment, with skill and magic they would make him scream for an end they would never give to him. I heard once from Patrick that my parents had old enemies still in their dungeons and hidey holes even after decades of torture riddled upon their forms. I believed it to be true though they never showed me on account of my mother finding unsuitable for a growing child’s eyes. She was considerate on that at least if not in anything else. I imagined that she did not want me to be exposed before my time, to the true and ungarnished reality of our existence, our reality.

Looking back to Raphael I knew in my little heart of hearts that mother would have no consideration for him. ‘’Did you mean any of what you said to me that night? Are you willing to do business with me in the long and short term? If so, I will not press any undue charges onto you and let your peers judge you for the duelling incident as they will.’’ I spoke in an inquisitive if slightly aloof tone so that I did not show the trembling whirl wind of emotions going through my body as I looked at him and his fear. Claws biting into my mind as memories and the darkness tried to break through my barriers once more laughing, hissing away. I forced myself to calm and look at him even as I used the rest of my will to slam onto the trap door in my psyche.

Honestly if he knew what my name was I from the start he would never had allowed himself to be bribed and threatened by Patrick regardless of the price. The MacDermits as a family were well known amongst many circles as one of the three dominant Changeling families of Éire. However they went back as members of the Assembly only four generations including Patrick himself as the current heir. Whereas my family stretched back over five though under a different name. My family came into the picture a century before the first war between Carthage and the Roman Republic, gradually known as Corvinii and eventually Corvax by the time the Holy Roman Empire was formed under the Germanic/East Frankish King Otto.

But back to the current situation, no use delving into my families past, at least not now there was business to be had and issues to sort out I reminded myself. Some of the fear left Raphael then, the tears which upon reflection may have been in fact born of strategy then quickly vanishing as he calculated away my offer and what he had spoken to me off not so long ago. In him I saw him begin to regain some self control as my present threat diminished in his eyes and chances of survival and business seemed more certain. If ever a man was driven by business and self preservation it was the man before me it seemed, it made him who he was. I would rather that though then him being afraid of me, no I could not stand that.

A question entered my mind as I considered possibilities. ‘’Were you earnest in your offer of business then despite what Patrick supposedly made you do? Or was that just some form of bluff to try and endear yourself to me?’’. I did wonder at that as at the time it confused the shite out of me why he offered me business then tried to seemingly maim me in a bloody duel.

A firm nod on his end pre-empted his reply. ‘’Yes, yes indeed Lord Corvax. I did mean what I said about that offer as it seemed that having you on side in the long term and being associated with you would be good for my name. I had also heard of your ability to make potent tonics which would also be of use and I could sell for a profit my end.’’ Again he sounded earnest in his reply aided by his body language seeming to relax a great deal more in my presence. Glad he was starting to feel comfortable again as I certainly was not.

‘’Okay. Well good. As it would seem that I need as many allies as I can get my hands on. Look how about I will go to your trial do what I can and I accept your previous business offer with some changes for my own benefit.’’ I checked his face for a reaction but this was a more positive outcome then he had expected, as a look of faint surprise crossed over his features for a few seconds before he forced a more business like look.

I waited for a minute for his reply but he seemed content to let me continue and make my new offer to him before he made any such reply or counter offer. Turning my gaze to Patrick he seemed in deep conversation with Andrea. Good meant he would be less likely to intervene here, giving me at least some angle to work and maybe even a way to assist in my long term plans of not going back to the Assembly. If it meant I had to make an alliance with Raphael Dominic then I would do so readily as this magi clearly wanted to be in my good books now.

‘’I want a favour, any favour that is within your power to grant, to be called on whenever it is that I have need of it. I am paid double what I would normally get for my poultices and other works from you but I can assist in helping you find buyers so you are guaranteed to make a profit. And not directly telling Patrick of this either. I have quite enough shit to worry in his regard for now as it is. Don’t need any more problems from him now or hindrances. ‘’

Graciously standing up and dusting himself off, Raphael stretched his back and took on a far more relaxed and controlled posture his features now having that calculating gleam that had bothered me in the past now a welcome sight as it gave me my answer. ‘’Your offer Lord is duly accepted. I can have a contract drafted up and sent to you some time tonight which you can peruse, sign then have sent back to me by one of my employees. Does this sound agreeable to you?’’ He extended his left hand to me in order to shake on it, eyeing me expectantly now.

Just to be a bit of a dick (being still bitter from the attempted maiming), I spat on my hand before I extended it out. Slowly a now rather pleased smile crept back onto my face as I watched for his reaction. Some mild disgust briefly escaped from him but was quickly squashed. Taking my spit covered hand he shook it for a few seconds, both of us squeezing harder then was necessary before we both withdrew. With a degree of politeness Raphael withdrew a small bottle of hand sanitiser from inside his Jackets inner pocket and proceeded to apply it rigorously.

Seeing Patrick begin to break off with his own conversation, a sudden change in the wind brought with it a new sound to my ears. It was almost hypnotic, with a song like quality to it. Soon words could be discerned and I was able to hear them clearly enough to make goose bumps crop up across my aback ‘’Lysander, won’t you come here please Lysander’’. I swivelled about looking for anyone calling out my name, but all I saw was Darren looking at me puzzled and the Fomorian cocking its head to the right.

‘’Did, did anyone call my name just then Darren?’’ I asked just to make sure that I was not having some kind of break down from the stress of the last day or so. To my increasing distress Darren shook his head baffled at my sudden line of conversation while Raphael continued to scrub his hands more vigorously while he thought I was now distracted.

Moving away from them I listened out, trying to discern the source of the sound as more music like words flowed through me. My pacing took me to the Fomorian’s side that still had its head cocked to the side. I hesitated to ask anything of it but thought I might as well give it a shock regardless of the reaction it might garner. What did I have to lose at this point anyway? ‘’Hey ah, you did not happen to hear some sing song like voice call my name by any chance. Maybe know where its coming from perhaps?’’ I probably did not cover up the desperation in my voice as well I would have liked but the Fomorian did not seem to give a fig.

Instead of laughing at me or ignoring me, it turned its single eye to face me, gaze boring into the back of my head as if it could look through me, at all that I had done and could do. I had not felt so naked and examined before in so many years I took a step or two back in shock, a cold sweat coming along as the cyclopean eye was still fixed on me. And then to continue my surprise it spoke up. ‘’Yes. Something is calling you. I hear it and feel it, something old and of the elements. Seems to be coming from the beach down there.’’ It gestured its head down to Kirra Beach down below where there was no real number of people and a beach cleaning tractor some distance off.

Reluctantly I gazed back into the eye, trying to find any falsehood in it that the voice did not give away. But it seemed remarkably sincere to me, though I should say I was not aware if Fomorian’s were known to be great lairs or not. That was one of the downsides to not researching the many folk native to Éire and the British Isles. I would need to rectify that at some point but on the plus side I knew I was not cracking under stress and going insane. Yay for me, this day was not a complete disaster after all.

Though it begged the question, what the hell was calling to some nature spirit perhaps? I thanked the Fomorian who simply bowed its head in reply with a muttered ‘’Lord’’ along with it. I kept my face nonplus as Patrick strode over with Andrea with a mockingly hurt look about it. ’’Alas Lysander it would seem that I have to depart. Assembly business of course but I do hope to see you soon. Will be good to explore your family’s lands again with you and have a tour. We can even pop over again to Le jardin féerique and see what gets your fancy. They have some... tantalising new specimens I am dying to try out.’’

The leer he gave you showed just how painfully true that statement was. Gulping down hard on a retort I replied, ‘’Yes a shame. Well we will speak again have no fear there Patrick old chap. Hope this business is not too unseemly and that we are all in one piece when we once again cross paths.’’ The subtext being ‘’I hope you are not in one piece so I do not have to go with you kicking and screaming’’.

With a smile he simply clapped me affectionately on my shoulders before spinning about and walking back down the hill with his Fomorian bodyguard and the madam Andrea who turned back to eye me cautiously before trotting off after Patrick. I admit with some shame to paying a little too much attention to her swaying backside but, in all fairness it was a very fine backside with a black office skirt clinging tightly to its firm shape.

A loud snapping of fingers right in my field of vision brought me back to reality. Turning to my left I beheld Darren letting out a ragged breath he had likely been holding in. We stayed like for a time, not speaking simply staring out into the waves. But nothing good lasts forever and Darren had to clear his throat a few times to get his own voice to work. “So, a few things come to mind Xander. First, what the hell are we going to do about that psycho Patrick? Second that man terrified me and his bodyguard was sizing me up and making me seems so small in comparison. I don’t like feeling small and I am not used to it. Third, stop staring at that daemonkin woman like that. She is not good for you I will hazard to bet and she’’ll be as like to eat you as screw you. And fourth, did that guy call you ‘Lord Corvax’ ”?

All fair points and yes I knew Andrea was bad for me and likely to sell me out as Darren put it ‘eat me’. I ushered Darren over and began to make the trek down to the beach where I heard the voice singing out and calling my name. This was a mystery I could at least solve today. Might make me feel better about myself and the current shit show of a situation I had landed in. Knowing he wanted immediate answers and responses to his quadruple series of statements I made to give him as honest an answer to each as I could. I always owed him my honesty and hey I did not think I could come up with feasible lies to tell him anyway.

’’Well mate, to respond to you in numerical order: no idea yet need to talk to some of the others first, yes they are both bloody scary and I nearly pissed myself speaking to them, I know but she has a really nice backside and I am vulnerable to attractive yet dangerous women, and finally he called me that as like most members of the Assembly I have an acknowledged noble or royal rank from the days when most of Europe was dominated by nobility and sovereigns. Of course, ‘Lord’ is my title in English. My official title in Deutsch is ’Sein gnädiger Herr, Der Freiherr Lysander zu Salzburg Corvax’. Though that is by the Assembly’s law of course as under modern Austrian law there is no hereditary noble titles or privilege since 1919.’’

A pointed look from Darren made it clear what he thought of that load of nonsense. Hey, it was not my fault I had an acknowledged title due to my membership of the Corvax family. He and Camilla both knew my true name and that I was a member of the Assembly but I had not informed them of some of the nitty gritty aspects of what that entitles me to, including the... titles I had. Continuing to give him more context to help him untangle that web of words and honorific’s I explained, ’’my father Lothar has the traditional title recognised under Assembly law of Graf, or Earl in English. Count if you were from somewhere else in the Old World, but that is his title. He did not want too high a title which would draw attention to himself so kept the more ‘humble’ mid ranking title of Graf.’’

I was so concentrated on my explanation that I almost slipped down onto my arse as we traversed a sand hill down to the beach. Thankfully Darren was more perceptive then I and grabbed my arm tightly before lifting me up back to my feet. I managed to save some face my making it to the beach without further incidents and listened out for the voice which brought me here in the first place. Fumbling over a sand dune Darren and I could gaze over the horizon and the beach itself with a far clearer view. Using my still present Arcasihtō I followed certain magical threads until I looked right below my nose with a start. There camouflaged into the sand as well as any chameleon could do was a petite sand sprite.

Looking up its golden, glass like eyes bore right through me causing my hands to fidget nervously while I cleared my throat. ‘’Well Darren looks like we stumbled across our little caller. Greetings folk of the sands, what made thou call me?’’ Darren perplexed looked down where my eyes were focussed and snorted in surprise when he saw the sprite. A small thing no longer than 30 cm or so in length with a thin androgynous body with fae like qualities to them. Despite all appearances sprites were not technically fae as they were native to this world like spirits and were bound up in various elements and minerals to live and thrive.

Though the little entity had no obvious expression on its face, the way it spoke and its mimicking of body language made it clear that it was in some way distressed. ‘’This one is Kreelak. Kreelak hath called thou for thine aid. The great metal beast of man which patrols these sands came through not half an hour hence of the suns zenith. Churning and stalking these sands the companion and mate of Kreelak was taken and kept by the beast. ‘’ Focussing its beady golden eyes onto me it implored further, ‘’Please. Thou, thou can help yes? Retrieve the companion and a boon Kreelak will owe thee great caster’’.

Looking to Darren who simply frowned in bemusement I rubbed my hands through by stubble and quickly attempted to list all the factors here. I could indeed help this Kreelak and find its companion, but it would take precious time from trying to deal with Patrick. But, saying that a favour was a favour whoever it was from and in all honesty, I did not have the heart to refuse the little sprite. This ‘metal beast’ was likely a beach cleaning machine converted from a tractor to sweep up the sand of rubbish. Likely the poor sprite in question could be trapped in a huge garbage bag or under the machine they were swept up by it.

Looking down back to Kreelak I gave it my answer. ‘’You have a bargain folk of the sands. I will find this metal beast and retrieve your companion from its claws. I expect the boon to be paid when I need it to be within reason should I return here and have need of thee.’’ My answer obviously pleased Kreelak for it spun thrice on the ground before uttering powerful binding words.

‘’Thrice by thrice I swear, this one Kreelak owes a boon to thee caster. It shall not be gainsaid.’’ Thrice by thrice, three by three. A powerful oath likely the most powerful kind among the magical world. Most great human cultures all seemed to have a fixation with threes. The holy trinity, the Greek Goddess Hecate, the Morrigan and Maeve in Celtic Mythology. Three was an old number and an oath made three times three was binding as eternity to most, even among the Assembly such words were taken with supreme seriousness and respect.

I accepted his most solemn oath and motioned for Darren to follow me down the beach. I quickly told him that we were going to follow the tractors tracks in the sand and then try and use my Arcasihtō to find the sprite without causing too much damage to anyone’s property. That was the plan anyway, and as anyone with even the most rudimentary grasp of history and tactics knows that no plan once meeting reality, survives contact.

It did not take more than ten minutes to find the tractor not stilled near the edge of the beach with large bags having been placed in the foreground, all likely filled with sand and debris picked up from the beach. All in the local council’s efforts to maintain the pristine condition and quality of the beach itself so they can keep racking in tourist money, business and acclaim. Not that I had any problem with that, in most circumstances this was quite acceptable to me, unless of course they happen to pick up a living thing in the process.

Sadly, the sprite would not be easily visible to most mundane folk but nevertheless, even without the favour I would still have needed to rescue to poor entity as my guilt tripping conscience would never have allowed me to forget or forgive myself if I were to leave it to its fate.

My fickle and down – right self - loathing psyche, was a part of my person which I was least proud of and one of the many things none of my friends had been able to assist me in dealing with long term. All my insecurities and days of melancholy were simple quirks or nature amongst my previous crowd of peers, mental health not being taken seriously amongst changelings unless causing direct physical or political harm to the individual and their family. In which case, they had a psychomancer manipulate the magic linked directly to a person’s mind to draw out or ‘cut away’ the mental dysfunction.

Of course, the idea that any part of me being removed was simply unspeakable as what I am is also part of who I am. And as little fondness I have for myself I still wish to be whole as the will of magic made me. Typically, I was so deep in thought I did not hear Darren’s warning and walked right into the tractor, bashing my nose raw on the hard metal. Knocked back into reality clutching my face I unleashed an ocean of saliva and curses so foul even a daemonkin would gasp and call me out on it. Being the good friend that he is Darren at first winced, clutching his own nose in sympathy before soon laughing his chiselled and handsome face of, slapping his thighs to try and control his mirth.

Tears of pain half blocking my eyes, I took a vicious swing at his head only to miss entirely and topple over to the side right next to the tractor. This only made him laugh all the harder, he booming laughter almost shaking the ground with its potency. I cursed him in three separate languages as I struggled to stand, finding myself suddenly gazing into the startled and furious eyes of a Were – Boar.

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