Charlotte pays Freyja Deacon a visit and it changes her world forever.
London – 1841
Freyja Deacon wasn’t hard to find. Any single woman of fortune was immediately the subject of gossip and one who didn’t entertain society was the pinnacle of speculation. Lady Arton knew her address without having to look it up, which seemed a feat for most people.
The address was in a well-to-do area but not a fashionable one. All the houses were built along similar Georgian lines and big enough to accommodate a few servants in the attic but Freyja’s was the only one with an eye carved into the lintel above the front door. Bran’s books called it The Oracle’s eye, the symbol of The Deacon Family. I guessed she wasn’t trying to be subtle.
I did the only thing that could be done when wanting the attention of a powerful magical being who could kill you with a flick of her wrist. I went up to the door and rang the bell.
As I stood on the front step the symbol stared at me as if the house was trying to peer into my soul. I hoped it wasn’t succeeding.
A footman opened the door. ‘Lady Freyja is waiting for you,’ he said.
I opened my mouth to ask how she knew then closed it, she was magic after all.
The house was full of good solid furniture and a tree growing in the entrance hall. Not a little potted thing, an oak tree. At least, I thought it was an oak tree, horticulture was not my strong suit. The trunk would need four or five people to reach round it and the tree stretched up to the mask the ceiling and with deep green leaves. The air was so thick with cinnamon I sneezed.
‘You get used to it,’ the footman said, leading me through corridors that were more like woodland walks.
The stories said that the Fae liked nature but it was easy to forget you were in a house at all, if I could’ve forgotten.
‘Is it Miss Maguire or Mrs O’Conner?’ the footman asked drawing me back from my thoughts.
‘O’Connor,’ I replied without looking at him.
The footman swept aside some hanging ivy then banged on a knotted door. ‘Mrs O’Connor to see you, Milady.’ He held the door for me.
‘I’m deaf, not blind, boy,’ Freyja Deacon said, she was stood with her back to the hearth, eyes luminous and veins of purple light pulsing through her skin. ‘Off you go.’
The footman gave her the look of a man who knew the etiquette and was damn well sticking to it then stepped backwards out of the room and shut the door. It appeared to be a sitting room with armchairs, tables and couches carved from dead wood. When I looked down I expected grass not a burgundy carpet, it was a little disappointing.
The glow left her skin and she gestured for me to take a seat, before pouring two glasses of red wine from a crystal decanter on a table next to one of the couches.
‘The stories aren’t true,’ she said. ‘You can partake of food and drink here without getting stuck in an eternal dance.’ She handed me a glass. ‘Far too exhausting at my age.’
She sat down, knees apart and arms across the back of the couch with her glass dangling from one hand. It might’ve been intimidating if it hadn’t been for the squeak of her leather coat. It was knee-length and double-breasted with epaulets on the collar. A woman who was a soldier, strange.
‘You’re here to find out about your Fae heritage,’ she said.
Surprise passed slowly over her face as if her muscles were struggling to remember it. ‘And yet a mere human couldn’t pass my threshold.’ She nodded towards the window.
I glance at the window.
I looked at it.
I got up and crossed to it.
‘My God,’ I whispered.
‘Your God has no place here, Little Red,’ Freyja said close to my ear.
We were in a wood. No, that was wrong. The house wasn’t in a wood, it was the wood. The trees and plants had grown close and twisted together, laced with creepers and bracken like it had stepped out a fairy tale. On the other side of the window the rest of the woodland was growing like any other woodland; trees with knotted branches, nettles and ferns and leaf litter on the ground, nothing unusual.
‘When you crossed my threshold you stepped between the human world and the supernatural and didn’t flinch.’ She sniffed then sipped her wine. ‘A human would’ve needed a Fae to carry them over, so to speak.’
I walked over to the chair and sat down.
‘Was it Avalon, or Albion, or…’ She sighed. ‘There’s too many names to keep track of.’ She sat down opposite me again.
My lover was a dead man. The woman sat opposite me could read minds. And my friend was two thousand years old. Some sort of parallel world? Just another day, I decided.
I took a deep breath. ‘I’m here because you’re an old supernatural and I hear there’s not many of you, though I keep meeting them.’
‘Aye, we do tend to clump,’ she muttered into her wine glass.
‘I want to kill Richard, but I’m not asking for help.’
She sat up. ‘A little human woman wants to kill The Puppet Master.’ Her pale blue eyes went mockingly wide. ‘Aw, is it for love? Love of The Priest… Who thought Brandon O’Conner could inspire such devotion?’
I sat down opposite her. ‘Don’t you know? Can’t you tell?’
She wrinkled her nose and made an annoyed sound.
‘That’s my offer,’ I said. ‘In exchange for information, I’ll give you silence.’
‘Silence? A rare commodity indeed.’ She peered into the depth of her glass. ‘Though there’s entertainment in knowing what people are thinking rather than saying.’
I kept my expression neutral.
She was silent for a long time and I realised I couldn’t hear ticking. People with big houses had big clocks, but there were none in the sitting room. Even Josef had clocks and he was two thousand years old. Did magic worlds have time? I wasn’t going to ask.
‘For all I know you might be very boring,’ she said.
‘For all I know you might know nothing.’
She rested her elbows on her knees. ‘Brandon and Josef don’t know what you’re planning, do they?’
I said nothing.
She smiled. ‘And how do you know I won’t tell Richard?’
‘He wouldn’t believe it.’
‘Clever girl.’ She chuckled. ‘It shows what children they are. So your trade is; if I talk to you, you’ll talk to me?’
‘It’s the only way I will. I don’t care if I’m human, a changeling, or anything else. You could’ve said nothing but you had to throw out a mysterious line to bait me.’
She sniffed again. ‘Are you sure you’re not a telepath?’
‘I will give you information which may or may not help you defeat Richard,’ she said. ‘In exchange I want information that may or may not help me decide what you are. Like for like. Do we have an accord, Charlotte O’Connor?’
She nodded. ‘I have questions to start.’
I took a swallow of wine to dampen my dry mouth. ‘Alright.’
‘Why are you after Richard if not love?’
Her white eyebrows arched. ‘Interesting. Do you like dogs and horses?
‘Damn,’ she muttered.
I set my drink aside on an end table and got up. ‘You owe me two questions.’
‘What? You can’t go yet.’ She straightened.
‘I can and I am.’
‘Oh, girl, there’s Fae in you to be sure.’ She laughed.
She was still laughing when the footman shut the door on me. I stood on the doorstep looking at the Georgian houses with huge windows and the smoke curling from their chimneys then I turned to look again at Freyja’s house. It didn’t look any different to the others. There was even smoke escaping one of the chimneys.
Bran had said the Deacons kept their word but she lied, of that I was certain. She was trying to trap me in an eternal dance.
Part of Jesse’s Studio’s Fiction Frenzy there will be a new episode of Victorian Mistress everyday from 4th June until 17th June 2017.