The heat was still sweltering as the lady walked up to the back door of a Dallas night club in the middle of the day. The heat and lack of wind caused a miasma of foul smells – chief amongst them the stink of spilled tap beer. All the colleges were still out, night time was still for debauchery.
The lady herself looked like someone who was once perfectly at home hanging around the night clubs of a major city in her younger days, before marriage, children, a house in the suburbs and the distinguished features that are earned with the passing of years. She was still “smokin’” by any definition of the term, just mellowed with age.
She knocked on the door and waited. With each passing two-minute interval she knocked harder and longer, color rising into her cheeks that nearly matched her red hair.
Sudden the door wrenched open, “GUDAMITWATINHELLYAWUNT
!” The person behind the door was male and also spectacularly adorned with fiery hair. His face was also currently the color of Pepto-Bismol. He was also letting fly with a bit of spittle.
With an audible “Eeep!,” the lady jumped a foot backwards, startled by his sudden appearance – and volume. Of course, as she jumped she let fly with a reflexive slap that was a pretty good blend of right cross as well. It connected with a meaty and resounding THWACK
In the shocked silence that followed, they both stared at each other. Then, like a volcano the man started to tremble.
She quickly spoke up. “I’m here to speak with the Marchioness! I’m affilated with the Scooby Squad!” She then started reaching for her sidearm, concealed in the small of her back.
“You… dare…” The man’s eyes were no longer even remotely human, a baleful red light had begun behind his pupils, which had gone fully cat-slitted.
At this point, the lady had her 9mm levelled directly at his face. It was shaking slightly, only inches from his nose. “Don’t! These are steel jackets! I just wanted to talk! You scared me!”
Surprisingly, the man (now his face was fully red, flushed with blood and fury) stood up – pulling a red winter beanie from his pocket – and started putting it on. With a voice quivering with rage he growled in a thick Scottish drawl, “Then… this… is yer damned… unlucky… day… ye mewling quim.”
A very pale and feminine arm then snaked around his chest, reaching up to gently caress his scraggly cheek. A sultry and very Irish brogue oozed from the shadows to the side of the open door. “Our lady bids thee calm.”
The red male looked aside and then, with a grinding of his teeth that could be heard over the sounds of daytime near Downtown Dallas, he closed his eyes. It was a full 15 seconds before he opened them again… bloodshot but blue. The then walked away, back into the dark of the club.
The brunette that took his place in the doorway would easily rival runway supermodels with her beauty. She wore a solid dark red wine colored pencil skirt and matching vest, with stilletto heeled matching shoes and dark ruddy hose. Her mass of walnut brown hair was perfect – as if she had just come from a salon – framed a pale white face with violet eyes and dark plum lipstick.
“You may set aside your pistol,” the Irish brogue was still very thick. “What message from the … Scoobies?” She seemed to grin as she said the last word. The smile disarmed the gun wielding suburban housewife.
She lowered the weapon and, realizing she was still out in public, put her gun hand in her open purse. She deliberately didn’t holster the weapon. The act gave her time to get control of her voice.
“I … uh … I’m just wanting to talk to the … the Marchioness. Please.”
Still smiling, the purple lady tilted her head to the side “The… MARSH
-un-ess… is very busy. May I take a message, Miss….?”
The redhead soccer mom looked confused, then realized she had said MARCH
-on-ess. Without thinking she forgot her carefully crafted reply and just said “Lorance.” With her Texas twang it sounded like “LOW
-ranse.” She immediately winced, remembering too late that she was going to give a non-answer.
The lady in purple said nothing for a full twenty seconds, seeming to think. Then she bowed her head slightly. "Mrs. Lorance, a pleasure to meet you at last. I am passingly familiar with the exploits of your courageous husband
and his companions, of course. Do please come in."
By habit born of a lifetime in the South where you enter homes quickly to save the cold air from fleeing into the heat… and to be polite, Beth Lorance
had already stepped a foot over the threshold before she stopped. “Wait. Will I uh… be safe… oh dangit what’s the word?!”
“Accorded guest rite?” said the purple clad fae.
"I am Lasareena
of Winter. If you bring no harm, no harm will befall you… though I would suggest holstering your pistol before you fully cross our doorway." She sniggered as she stepped back from the door.
Beth just froze in place, one foot out and one foot in, in a strange sort of hokey pokey stance. She holstered her 9mm and straightened her hair before bringing in her other foot, which allowed the door to finally close. It took her several seconds to adjust to the dim light.
“Welcome Mrs. Lorance. Why are you here?” After a slight pause, “This place could possibly be very unsafe for you.”
Beth looked around the dark entryway of the nightclub, it looked so normal. She wondered, was she really in an Evil Fairy Lair?
Lasareena started laughing, her eyes twinkling as she looked at Beth. Could she read minds? Did she know what she just… oh no, “Did I just say that out loud?”
"Indeed you did. You are delightfully blunt, also you struck Lachlann
full on the face. These acts have endeared you to me somewhat Mrs. Lorance, but twice do I ask, why are you here?"
Something about the Fae’s word choice put Beth back on full alert, she remembered her husband talking about something about three being a very big deal with Fae.
“Uh. Please Miss, really is there anyway I could just tell the… Marchioness…” she said it the way Lasareena had “…myself? Please? Pretty please?”
With a musical laugh, the lady dressed in red wine started to walk away. “Well, since you asked ‘Pretty Please.’ Wait here Mrs. Lorance. I would caution you, do not move from this room without permission.”
A few minutes later she was guided to the bar area, where a lady with radiant white blonde hair sat in a summer dress of sheer black. Beth had no idea what was going on, she had expected something a little more like… Maleficent… less lounge singer.
However, when the lady in black turned to look at her, Beth staggered. The creature behind those impossibly ice blue cat eyes was in no way human. She gracefully motioned for Beth to take a barstool next to her.
When Beth sat down, the Marchioness spoke. “Welcome to my Evil Lair Mrs. Lorance. Your husband’s good name, your curious way of greeting my doorman, and your… Pretty Please… have gained you a few minutes of my time. However, I suggest you get to the point my dear.”
“Uh…” Beth had so many questions, so many other things she wanted to ask about, but she decided that maybe she should take the Evil Fairy Queen’s suggestion as gospel and decided to dispense with all of that.
In a rush, “My-kid-brother-is-married-to-a-two-timing-tramp-and-he’s-too-stupid-to-leave-her-and-I-can’t-stand-seeing-my-brother-like-this-so-I-want-a-love-potion-to-make-her-love-him-again…”
There was a long silence, then the Marchioness laughed melodiously. “You’re precious.” She turned to face her handmaiden awaiting in the shadows off to the side, “You see Lasareena? The classics are the classics because mortals never fundamentally change.”
Beth felt like she needed to say something, but decided maybe to stay silent for a moment longer.
“Why not ask of Summer? Love is more their thing in truth. We deal in a different ‘L’ word when it comes to what boys and girls do to each other.”
“I…” Beth hung her head “… haven’t had any luck finding any of them. Everybody … um … everybody supernatural … seems to know you… though.”
“Flattery most commendably done. However, your husband gets into adventures with a High Lord of their number my dear. Put your problem to Lord Dallas.”
She grabbed a lock of her hair and chewed it for a second, “That would be odd and, my husband he… um… and Lord Dallas is not a wizard… and it just… I wanted to… umm… well? … umm…”
The Marchioness nodded towards her handmaiden, who bowed her head. What the prearranged message was, Beth had no idea, but Lasareena walked away.
“You clearly love your ‘kid brother.’ Tell me his tale of woe.”
Beth then just started talking. About her kid brother and his prom queen wife. She told about their three month romance and elopement. She told about uncomfortable family gatherings where they were clearly infatuated with each other. Then she told about how things started to change, the more frequent girl’s nights, the vanishing money, the lack of intimacy. She told everything she suspected about her brother’s wife and fear that she was sleeping around or looking to divorce him soon.
She concluded with, “So he acts like everything is okay and he’s dealing with it. But it’s not, I’m his big sister… I just know.”
“False face must hide what the false heart doth know.”
“Shakespeare my dear. I shall tell you, it is not a love potion you desire for your brother. You want happiness for him, and True Love is something I cannot provide. Free will is off limits you see?”
“So there’s nothing you can do? Please! He’s my kid brother, please, short of betraying my husband or… or hurting our family or friends, I’d do just about anything for him. Please, you’re like the Dark Fairy from Sleeping Beauty right? You’re the most powerful sorceress there is!”
The Marchioness said nothing for a heartbeat, “I do so love Maleficent’s style, it’s true. That she calls herself the Mistress of all Evil is quite endearing to me. But again, these are cautions to you my dear. You should be avoiding a spell from one such as me, not seeking it.”
“Oh.” Beth was heartbroken. This was not how this meeting was supposed to go. It had all gone so differently in her mind.
“Still… I accept the terms of your bargain. Bring me something of this woman… skin, blood, bone, or similar.”
Beth looked up. “Wha?”
Suddenly Beths voice echoed from the darkness “…short of betraying my husband or… or hurting our family or friends, I’d do just about anything for him….”
Beth realized now too late how stupid she’d been with her words. Her hands started shaking.
“Americans… you rarely consider how free you are with your speech. So Dramatic. So prone to grand gestures and hyperbole.” She sported a predatory grin.
“But don’t worry my precious. I won’t ask for your children or anything… and your soul belongs to another. How bad could it be?” The Marchioness laughed. “Have you something that belongs to that woman?”
Beth reached into her purse and pulled out a ziplock bag with a tangle of blonde hairs within it. She whispered with a nod, “…from a brush in our guest bathroom.”
The Marchioness motioned for Beth to set the bag on the bar. Then she stood up. “You may go.”
A month later, Beth was back. School had restarted and her days were more free, so she found a free afternoon to go back to Dallas.
She was again at the bar, but this time, she was in a deep curtsey – just like her mama had taught her – but that she hadn’t done in a long, long time.
“Marchioness, thank you for whatever you did. My brother’s never been happier.”
“It was a trivial thing my pet. Think nothing of it.”
“Um… may I ask… what did you do?”
The Marchioness laughed. “Why, what Winter does best of course. I made her cold.”
Beth just blinked.
“Your husband’s wife has a problem it seems. She’s always cold. Always. Cold.”
Beth shuddered to imagine what that would be like, though on 101 degree days in Texas, that might be nice.
“In fact, it seems there’s but one thing she’s found that helps her stay warm. There’s only one place where she can find relief… your brother’s touch.”
Beth Lorance’s eyes widened with realization.
“I have no doubt your faithless sister-in-law will stray from her marriage bed for a time… but no other lover’s embrace will heat her body all the way to her ever-frigid toes. In fact, I threw in an extra special way your brother can fill her with warmth … I shouldn’t be surprised if you’ll find yourself an aunt soon once she discovers it herself.”
“Maleficent? Yes, isn’t it just?
O, never say that I was false of heart,
O, do not say that I was untrue,
Though absence seem’d my flame to qualify.
Though absence from you seemed to make my love less warm."
Beth just stood there, blinking.
“Shakespeare my dear, you should read more of the Bard.” The Evil Fairy threw back her head and cackled.
Beth wondered, ‘What have I done?’
All credit to Isaac Asimov for the Azazel story from which this is derived.