A Cautionary Tale

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A Cautionary Tale

Post  Winter on Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:43 am

I’m Cal, and this is my story.
You probably think you know what I’m going to say. Everyone’s heard the stories; it shouldn’t surprise you that I know what you all think of me. So yes, I’m an idiot. Fine - I screwed up. Are you happy now?
Look - what you hear, it’s not all there is to the tale, okay? I was respected once. People liked me, hard as it may be to believe that now. I had friends... family... well, as much as any of us have family. I had my motley, you know? We were brothers. Even Zoe.
I’m not telling you this to try and shift the blame, I just want to make that clear right off the bat. Everything that happened was my fault. I was proud, arrogant, and young; one of those we can’t really help, but the others, well – I just want you to understand how easy it is to go down that slippery slope. Don’t be a fool.
Don’t be me.

Back in the day, we were strong. We were tough. We thought we had a pretty good bead on the world. We kinda had good reason for that – I mean, for starters, we had Enrique to lead us. You’re probably too young to remember him, but man, he was a badass. Six foot five, built like a ton of bricks, and hit like it too. He wasn’t just strong, though – he was smart. Always had a plan of attack, that was Enrique. Told me once he won his freedom in a game of chess – but then, he told Dale he pounded his Keeper into a pancake, so who really knows?
Anyway, Dale, yeah... he was the sneaky one. You never saw him if he didn’t want you to, y’know? The Winter Court thought he was a sure thing, but he laughed at ‘em when they offered, told them right where to shove it. Always said he loved life too much to live it in the shadows.
Zoe was one scary motherfucker. Seriously – she didn’t look it, not with that cute little smile, but the Fae made her into a tool with one purpose, and she was the best at it. Some’ll break your heart, but Zoe, she’d just break you.
And then there’s me. I don’t mean to brag, but you know the old Sorcerer, lives down Avondale way? I taught him a thing or two back then. He didn’t like me – called me an ‘upstart’, whatever damn fool thing that means – but we had a kind of mutual respect thing going on.

It was the early nineties when it happened, though I’m sure you know that part – hell, the twenty-first of September 1994 is probably burned on everyone’s minds by now. I’d just got online, and I’m telling you, there was some cool shit on the net. I found this bulletin board – like your forums, kid, but more old-school – run by people like us. There was some talk going on about Fae magic, so I was hooked (be fair, though – who wouldn’t be?). We were bringing together resources from all over the world, ancient manuscripts and the like, and in one there was this contract, real old, like hundreds of years. The book named the guy who first struck it as “Merlin” – but I bet you that’s some bullshit right there.
Anyway, this guy’s contract seemed pretty legit, so I ran through some more research on my own. I’m not gonna tell you the details, because honestly, if you want to know them you’re really not getting the point of this story. What you need to know is that, to me, it all checked out. In exchange for some tiny concessions to spirits and the like, you could bind one of the Gentry, holding him maybe indefinitely.

Listen close, ‘cos here’s the first moral of the story, and the most important by a long shot: Don’t fuck with the Gentry. I’m serious. Just don’t ever do it, EVER.

Not that I would have listened had someone told me that; I thought I’d found the way to win. I had dreams of a world free of their horrors, a world where they couldn’t take anyone without being called to account. I invited the others into my dreams, showed them my working, convinced them one by one that this was something we could do.
Now, here’s the funny thing – the order they agreed to help me in, that’s the same order they got taken when it went to shit. First Zoe, hungry for her vengeance; then Enrique, thinking – like I did – that we had a tactical advantage; then last of all Dale, hiding in plain sight, removed from the whole damn thing as best he could be.
We spent months preparing, getting everything in place. We didn’t start with our Keepers, because even then that was obviously an awful idea. We went through the literature and found a small Fae, someone who wouldn’t – as far as we could understand their godforsaken politics – be missed. It was the second day of Winter when we called him through, there atop a tiny nowhere hill. It was raining, I remember, though not much. The look of surprise on his face, suddenly cut off from the source of his power, as he was shoved beneath the Earth to sleep... it was priceless.
Even then, with that victory under our belts, we didn’t tell anyone what we were doing. Their spies are everywhere, you know, so Dale told us not to risk it. We set our eyes on the goal ahead and bound one Fae after another over that Winter, all in total secrecy. We must’ve been up to a round dozen by the time we took our plans to the Court Heads.

Here’s the second moral: You’re not as smart as you think you are. I know you think you’re smarter than me, but you’re not – and you’re sure as hell not smarter than them.

See, they laid a trap for us that Winter. Why do you think such a powerful contract had sat there unused all those centuries?
When the car pulled up to take us to our meeting with the Court Heads, we didn’t even think to look at the driver. There was a regular guy – James or Joe or something like that – who did a lot of driving for the Winter Court back then. Maybe he still does; I don’t know. Anyway, we just assumed it was him. Imagine our surprise when the car went under a bridge and suddenly we were in the Hedge.
We went to ask him what was going on, but it wasn’t Joe. The face that leered back at us – it was that first Fae, the one we’d trapped months earlier. He grinned that big fat grin as the doors flew open and, one by one, the hands of our Keepers dragged us out and into the thorns. The others tried to fight, but even Enrique couldn’t resist – though he tore the inside of the car to shreds trying.
Once I was alone with the Fae, the Lady of the Last Dance hopped in next to me. I’ll never forget her words that day.
“I suppose I should take you back now,” she said to me, “but you’ve done such good work... I think you’ve earned some time off.”

I guess my brothers are still alive, after a fashion. They’ll be somewhere in Arcadia, never to see the light of freedom again. I shouldn’t even be alive after what I did – what I talked them into doing - and I definitely shouldn’t be free, but the Wyrd’s a funny thing. It’s been eighteen years, and kid, I’ve tried to end it – but I can’t.

Don’t fuck with the Gentry. Stay the hell away from them and you just might make it to tomorrow. And if someone close to you breaks that rule, that one cardinal rule?

Run.
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Winter


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