cryptogirl: Angry protagonists (Isaac Mendez)
[personal profile] cryptogirl
Oh, it's just been one thing after another this week what with the house moving stuff, my devotion to the Church of Eurovision and [livejournal.com profile] pjc50 throwing his copy of this at me so that my research looks approximately 100% more intelligent and not like I'm spending my time buying American E numbers and crying into awful documentaries about awful things in other countries. So, yeah. Words. Have some.


Cavan pulled on his coat, disgusted at himself for having to prove his supernatural credentials to such a cretin.

‘As you've kindly demonstrated, I am not human. Do you treat everyone you meet like this?’ he said.

Suddenly, Cavan turned away, looking up at something. Rael turned to see what could have distracted him more than a knife in the chest. The seething storm clouds appeared to be sinking out of the sky down to street level. From beyond the bridge's arch, the clouds were stirring, and heading in their direction. Rael stumbled and started running towards the main square. Today had gone from bad to worse in record time. Only a few hours ago he was looking forward to his usual Saturday night entertainment; now his brother was missing thanks to some pompous, apparently indestructible man. And now even the weather seemed to be out to get him.

‘We're too late. She's here,’ said Cavan, still staring at the sky.

The cloud almost appeared solid yet pliable. It crept along towards the pair, slinking along the pavements, seeming to soak up the grime and moisture from everything as it went. Still the wind increased, knocking the breath from Rael's heaving lungs as he ran. Dust and detritus clogged his vision, gathered on his clothes, whirled everywhere he went. He looked around for someone, anyone, who was also suffering from the cloud's effects. Instead, he was met with puzzled looks from the crowd at the pub. They did not seem to see anything out of the ordinary. He thought for a brief moment he could see a figure standing apart from the crowd, a slender woman in dark clothing, but when he looked back the figure had vanished.

I think he's had one too many, thought a thin bald man, glaring at him disapprovingly.

Rael blinked. He turned to another face in the crowd, a nervous-looking young woman.

Oh god, I hope that taxi comes soon. He looks like he's going to kick off, she thought.

A curious teenage drinker was peering at him now.

Is that a new Fringe act turned up early or something?

Rael scanned the crowd. Their mouths were not moving. He leaned against a nearby bench, catching the eye of a middle-aged woman rummaging in her bag.

Oh great, I spent my bus fare, she thought. What am I supposed to do now?

He shook his head, trying to make sense of the situation. A pretty girl with long brown hair smiled at him.

He's kind of hot. The girl giggled at such a thought.

Nothing was becoming any clearer. He ran a hand over his clammy face. The girl tilted her head, looking concerned.

I wonder if I should call an ambulance.

Rael backed away slowly and found himself bumping into Cavan.

‘What's...happening...to me?’ He clutched at Cavan's arms desperately. Cavan did not look like he was full of confidence or immediate answers, but placed a reassuring arm on Rael's shoulder.

Behind him, the cloud advanced, sucking up what little brightness the street lights cast on the pavement. The noise from the wind was now a deafening roar, and whatever had existed behind it had dissolved out of Rael's vision. As it drew nearer, the cloud seemed to take on a more mirrored quality, but its reflections were not of the people and buildings around it. Instead, Rael could see the twisted, torn visages of strange unearthly beings, spinning and flying in a cavernous vaulted building. It looked like nothing humans could ever have built; lined with colossal statues of strange creatures, its halls radiated an ethereal glow from its pale stone walls. At the far end, two large, elaborately carved thrones sat suspiciously empty. Through the tall windows, he could just make out red curves of rocky paths, and what looked like a vast army marching along it, hundreds of golden weapons gleaming.

‘Rael, watch out!’

Rael heard Cavan's voice shouting as if far away just over the gales, in time for the wall of cloud in front of him to become pale and brittle, and shatter with a resounding crash. The last thing he saw before he passed out was Cavan's concerned face, surrounded by thousands of fragments of some kind of hell.

~

It was hard to tell how long he had been unconscious, but Rael was starting to wish he had not woken up.

Rael rubbed his head and tried to sit up. He was definitely not in Cowgate anymore. As far as he could tell, he was in some kind of mental facility. It was the only way to explain the strange creature in front of him. She was stunningly beautiful: waist-length raven hair in a tight braid, skin paler than Cavan's, slender figure, long skirt just hiding her tail and hooves...

‘He's coming around, thank goodness.’ Cavan's voice. At least a familiar one, if somewhat unwelcome.

‘Oh, that's good. I suppose you'll be wanting a little medal for all those heroics earlier...’ The woman spoke this time, her voice full of disdain.

‘Mor, this is really not the time for your brilliantly scathing wit.’

Wait…tail and hooves?

He shot bolt upright. Cavan wore a benign smile, and Mor was attempting the same and failing.

‘What…is that thing?’ Rael gasped.

Mor pouted.

Thing? Is that how you talk to everyone you meet?’

Rael was still trying to process what he was seeing. He got to his feet unsteadily, his eyes wide.

‘You’re one of those half-horse things…’ he murmured.

‘Not this again. Is that really all you lot have to go on up there?’ She turned to Cavan as if for backup.

‘I think it's fair to say that our new friend is probably not aware of what either of us really are, Mor. We're not exactly commonplace in their culture these days.’

Rael was agape. He moved closer to Mor, still not quite believing his eyes.

‘Yes…you're a centaur!’

He reached out to touch her tail. Instinctively, Mor kicked out, landing a hoof square in Rael's crotch.

‘Don't. Touch. The. Tail!’ she growled as he sank to his knees groaning.

‘I guess we've got the most awkward topic out of the way first,’ said Cavan. ‘Mor is a kelpie and as for me...well, I am a selkie.’

‘And what, exactly, are those?’ said Rael, drawing a ragged breath as he got up.

Mor rolled her eyes, wanting to be surprised by the human’s ignorance.

‘Don’t they teach you any of that ‘myths and legends’ crap at school?’

‘You say that like I actually paid attention at school,’ Rael retorted.

Cavan sat down on the bed and patted it, inviting Rael to sit with him. He cautiously perched on the edge, still perplexed. Cavan sighed, trying to find the best way to drill the facts into Rael’s head. He was proving to be far too stubborn for his own good.

‘Well, there are…horses, that graze near water. And they’re so beautiful that humans like you might want to go up and pet them. Perhaps they let you climb on their back to ride them.’

Cavan felt Mor staring at him, knowing she was going to hate what he said next.

‘But then you find yourself stuck to them, and the horse is running away, galloping into the water and won’t stop. And you can’t get free and you’re dragged under with it. Then, as you start to drown, it gets hungry…’

‘That’s enough! We’re not all murderous monsters and you know it!’ Mor glowered at Cavan.

Rael stuck his hands in his pockets and tried not to look disturbed by the distinctly odd turn the conversation had taken.

‘So, er, what about you then?’

Before Cavan had a chance to say anything, he was cut off by a vengeful Mor.

‘Well, if you ever go for a nice swim at the beach and you meet a man with seaweed in his hair, a sealskin on his back and an over-inflated sense of his own good looks, then you’ve probably met Cavan. And you should run away before he starts hauling you away somewhere to, you know…’

She grinned mischievously, making obscene movements with her hands to emphasise her point, as he pouted and pulled his coat around him.

‘Hmph. At least Selkies get to spend quality time with humans instead of terrifying them.’

If they can stand being around you for more than five minutes with all that cologne you drench yourself in,’ Mor shot back. She could never fathom why Cavan was so irresistible to humans. Nothing about him was remotely appealing.

‘Well, it’s not my fault some people are pickier than others.’

‘By which you mean ‘don’t have their brain in their pants’…’

Cavan looked briefly hurt by her words. He sniffed and turned away from her.

Anyway, the truth is that creatures like us have been around you humans for hundreds of years. You just have to look around you a bit more carefully.’

Rael tried not to look nervous, but what they had said about their murderous instincts chilled him to the bone. There had to be a rational explanation for all this somewhere; at least he hoped so, or he was in big trouble. He fidgeted with the bedclothes, thinking about what had happened in the nightclub; the fight, the strange weather, the odd things he had seen and heard in Cowgate. Then the light of realisation dawned on his face.

The corners of Rael's mouth curled upwards. He started chuckling, softly at first, before descending into peals of laughter. He lay down, clutching his sides, howling in amusement. After what seemed like an eternity, he sat up, still giggling, brushing tears from his eyes.

‘Oh, that was a good one. Yeah, really good. I see what's happening here.’

He looked down at the floor, his coarse hands playing with his hair.

‘I've had too much to drink, or someone slipped me a pill, and this has all been a weird, fucked-up dream in a jail cell. Well, it's been great, but I really need to wake up now.’

Rael stood up and walked to the door.

‘So if you'll all kindly piss off back to La La Land, I have some ladies I have unfinished business with.’

Cavan and Mor exchanged glances, but did not go after him.

‘Should we have warned him?’ asked Cavan.

‘No. He asked for it, really,’ sniffed Mor.

‘Really, we should have gone easier on the poor boy.’ Cavan watched Mor’s face crease into a grin.

‘Why’s that, then? Fancy him, do we?’ she said.

Cavan frowned. Mor knew the fastest ways to wind him up, and she was clearly enjoying a prime opportunity to do so.

‘Contrary to what you might think, my dear, I don’t just dress up to impress arrogant, brash miscreants like him.’ Cavan adjusted his cravat. ‘Besides, I doubt he’s the easily-impressed type.’

Mor craned her neck around the door frame Outside, Rael was busy pinching himself and slapping his face in an attempt to wake up. It did not appear to be working.

‘How’s that whole ‘waking up’ thing working out for you?’ said Mor, watching him processing his surroundings with amusement.

Rael looked out before him; his jaw dropped until he almost tripped and fell into the vast caverns sprawled out as far as the eye could see. Arches of vermilion rock swooped and dove in graceful curves down to lush green carpets of grass. Tangles of tree branches wove in and out of each other making elegant bowers and fences, dotted with pale blossoms. A river wended its glassy way around the perimeter, curling around the verdant lawns, foaming into a waterfall somewhere out of view. Light from the ornate lanterns on the walls sparkled in golden flecks on the water’s surface. Further away, slender spiral staircases spun out of sight into deeper, darker levels of the cave.

Just below, barely visible in the glare of a bright light, Rael could see a series of cages. They were chained together, and each one was occupied. He could just make out a shadowy figure standing outside the cages.

‘SOLAS!’ He shouted, running towards his brother.

Before he could think up a plan, Rael had shot off in the direction of a path downwards. Cavan and Mor raced after him, attempting to dissuade him from approaching the cages.

‘Solas! SOLAS!’ screamed Rael as he stumbled down the spiral.

The light was shining straight into his eyes as he approached the figure.

‘Help me! Please, help me! Get me out of here!’
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