Red

 

I know they said it was a man that killed my mother and hurt me but all I see is the wolf. Those glinting eyes and teeth flashing in the light as he lunged. Then blood, everything was blood and pain. I woke up a week later in the hospital with the cops asking me to describe the man who did this. They did not believe me when I told them about the wolf.

I dream about that night; me waiting up for my Mom to get home from work, bounding to the hallway when I heard the key in the lock, watching as my Mother came in with a smile. Watching some looming shadow shove her hard into the hallway, mom falling with a surprised gasp. Then the wolf lunged and the world went red.

Now even at twenty I wake up expecting to have his teeth at my neck. Walking home from work I keep expecting to hear that soft snarl next to my ear, to see his eyes glinting out of the darkness. The dreams haunt me most nights, so I work until I drop into sleep like the dead, too exhausted to dream.

***

“Hey, Red. How about a refill?” one of the regulars calls out, waving an empty mug. I paste a smile on my face and hurry to top off his cup with the high octane brew that the Fae and others seem to enjoy. A few years after my mother’s death the Fae came out of hiding. Now, even ten years later each country was still fighting over how they were to be regulated or represented in the government.

The US had taken a two part response, those that could be considered dangerous such as vampires or werewolves were required to register and wear bracelets that marked them as different from the other Fae. More traditional Fae who were not as likely to go nuts and kill random strangers for the hell of it were allowed to roam as they pleased but still had to register with the government if they moved, they wore plain white bands. Whether or not it was legal for them to marry humans was still being argued in court. Otherwise they were normal citizens, owning property or businesses, shopping at the same stores, living in the same neighborhoods as everyone else. Like humans they too had their extremists who refused to associate with humanity that lived in locked communes what no human was allowed to enter. It was rather ironic that housing communities were now boasting similar arrangements for humans, guaranteed Fae free neighborhoods.

A couple quietly sipping their coffee in the corner wore the black bracelets that marked Vampires. The muscular man in a biker jacket at the bar, tucking into a massive plate of eggs and bacon wore the red bracelet that marked werewolves. The rest wore the white band that simply marked them as some sort of Fae.

The pub was a popular place for Fae since a Fae ran the place. Charlie was some kind of Fae but would not discuss what. Whatever it was, it earned him instant respect from the local Fae and ensured that no Fae on Fae violence ever escalated while the people were in his pub, a word or look was enough to have the miscreants slinking to opposite corners or out the door. Strange considering Charlie was some sort of dwarf, barely four feet tall but with a broad chest and muscular arms. She had seen him moving massive kegs behind the bar with ease.

The pub stood on some natural ley line or demarcation that allowed both light and dark Fae to use it so the clientele was always interesting, even more so on Friday and Saturday nights. The Borderline Pub was only a risky bet for the humans, the Fae were bound to keep the peace by some old law of neutral ground or something.

Charlie gestured her over, “Go home; you look dead on your feet. Ray can take your section.”

“Thanks, Charlie.” She said with a tired smile. She quickly handed off a few last drinks and filled in Ray on the change. Ray was fun, pink bubblegum hair, piercings, and tattoo covered arms, she did not really fit in with the pub but she took no shit from anyone and was a great waitress. The last customer to try and cop a feel while going on about her name had gotten the parting remark of “They call me Ray because I am a fucking ray of sunshine, darling.” and his toes stomped with steel toed boots.

Red trudged to her apartment, thankfully only a few blocks away. She had found it just a few weeks after starting work, all but guaranteed to have been set up by the Fae, but it was too nice to say no to. Her last place had been a hole in the wall that made a closet look spacious. Now she had a small loft apartment with real windows and a skylight for less then she was paying for the closet. The building was mostly artists and dancers who used the large main rooms as practice spaces.

Most days she woke up to classical music and the tap of ballet shoes as her neighbors worked out. Most weekend nights however were thrash rock or jazz as the artists threw parties celebrating their latest showing. She flicked her eyes tiredly across the shadows in her place. Ignoring the light switch she went straight to the bed, shedding clothes that smelled of whiskey and smoke as she moved.

She woke the next morning to vague wisps of dreams fading even as she surveyed the morning light slowly filling her loft apartment. “Green.” she murmured as she stumbled to the bathroom before starting the coffee. “Something was green. Was it trees or water?” she pushed the dream to the back of her mind, it did not matter.

She had errands to run. Charlie gave her extra cash for running errands for him during the day when she was not working the pub. Today was no exception, she booted up her computer as she dressed and made sure she had her emergency supplies. Powdered herbs for warding, silver necklace and bracelets, mace, and a medicine bundle a local witch had gifted her filled the bottom of her bag and pockets along with the normal debris of life, phone, keys, pocket knife, chap stick.

Pulling up her email she printed out the list for the day as she ate half a bagel. It was a long list, she would be biking all around town until late. Hefting her messenger bag she locked up and headed out checking the ward lines and herbs in the window boxes automatically. She had learned long ago, even before her mother died that you did not advertise that you could see magic, it just lead to trouble.

Pulling her bike out from the small storage room downstairs she headed out. It was still early and traffic was light as she coasted down the first hill and started her rounds. First to the markets down by the wharf, then to the magical district to drop messages and pick up packages, then around town to the park to leave messages for the lesser Fae.

The Fae had their own rules about everything and those rules varied depending on which kind of Fae you were dealing with. The differences depended on many things. Were they light or dark? What species were they? Were they rural or city fae? Which district did they belong to?

Take the fae that was her first stop. Meg was some sort of green plant based fae that lived in the apple trees that graced a small square of land. It was amazing the city had not reclaimed the land long ago, but the soft pulsing glow of the wards that whispered across her skin might have ensured that they ignored the area. Meg was a light city fae but Red did not know what exact kind, it was considered rude to ask. She lived in the light district of Ash, the same as Red.

“Morning, Meg.” She said softly, setting down the plum she had packed.

“Charlie wants to talk to you later tonight if you are willing.”

With a soft touch to one of the trees she made her way back to the street where she had left her bike. She had only caught glimpses of the shy fae but according to Charlie, Meg liked her for some reason. She had quipped that she just liked the gifts to which Charlie had snorted and said it was more that she knew to even bring them. She had argued that hospitality was not just a fae concept which had resulted in a four way drunken discussion among the late night customers that had lasted long after she left. A glance back showed the plum missing as she mounted her bike and pushed off with a smile.

Dark and Light Fae rarely mixed. They lived in separate areas and most major towns were divided into light and dark districts, each ruled over by a single ruler. Each city had a handful of places were the fae were able to mingle if they wished, however like the pub. Charlie dealt with both sides but most of her errands were for the light fae. The dark fae were not evil the way most humans tried to portray them. They simply were what they were, like a wolf or fox, they were the predators of the fae. They hunted human and fae alike.

Charlie rarely sent her to speak to the dark fae. While there were laws preventing the unwilling corruption or harming of humans most fae lived for centuries and the laws had only been in effect a handful of years. Old habits die hard. It was better to not tempt fate and live to work another day.

Sara was one of the few dark fae who did use the pub. She was some kind of succubus, body all curves with a voice that turn just about any man into a gibbering idiot around her. Strangely enough she tried to not use her powers on the humans who came to her small cafe. She dressed in sweaters that were several sizes too big and ripped jeans or tights and still got drooled over.

“Morning Red.” She drawled, handing off the mug of tea she had just poured as Meg took a spot at the small bar that wrapped the front of the shop. She quickly made a to go cup of Red’s favorite green tea with cherry blossoms and a squirt of honey. Red slid the packet of letters across the bar and took a happy sip of the drink.

“Thanks, what do I owe you?”

“On the house, bring me one of those books we were talking about last time.”

“Deal. Anything for Charlie?”

“Not today. Are you heading past St. Michael’s?”

“Yeah, need a message dropped?”

“If you don’t mind.” She said pulling out a scrap of paper and jotting a quick note before sealing it with a press of lips and a small flare of red light.

That did not count the Vampire or Werewolf communities, they were outside of the Fae communities rule. Wolves lived in commune like packs or ran solo. One pack leader ruled all were in a certain area. Two packs ruled the were in ___ but there were rumors of a merge that might be happening. The vampires were ruled by local clan leaders who answered to a King or Queen who ruled all the clans.

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