It was Friday night at Billy Wang's Wing Emporium and a reggae band was droning in the background. Nate LaCroux, a regular customer, had suggested to Billy that he should bring in a band on the weekends to drum up business and Billy had liked the idea. He booked the first band he could, Pillar if Zion, a reggae quartet from Indy. The reggae didn't really go with the of the Chinese restaurant that Billy owned, but it was a start.
Nate was on a date. Not a real date, a practice date. He had stopped by to see his sister in-law Donna and his niece and nephew. Donna was the sister of his deceased wife , and he thought it might be a good idea to get her blessing before actually asking someone out. The kids overheard, and decided it was a good idea to take Nate on a practice date to hone his skills before the real thing. He didn't have any prospects, and after a dozen years he didn't know where to start.
He had struggled a long time with the decision. His life had changed a lot since the following spring. He kept an innocent man from a date with the executioner and captures his wife's killer, who was presumably suffering under the hand of Uriel, archangel or repentance and judgement. It was a milestone, a chance for Nate to turn the page on that part of his life and actually start living again.
"Sit up straight uncle Nate, good posture makes you look confident." His niece chastised. The twins were fourteen. Quint, the boy was all skateboards and scars, while Allie, the girl was pompoms and bows.
"You don't think I look confident?" Nate asked, flashing a nervous grin.
"Dude, chicks dig a guy that's confident. You've got that string silent thing going on, and scars! Chicks dig scars." His nephew replied, with great sagacity. Nate was taking dating advice from a pair of fourteen year olds. He was screwed.
It was a cool fall evening and the chirping of crickets filled the air. The summer had been long, and the fall warm, but it was finally relenting, and soon the season would begin its relentless march toward winter. Nate had enjoyed the summer, and rode hard throughout the season. It helped him clear his mind, and he was trying to get his life back on track.
"So, do you always eat with your elbows on the table?" Allie asked, condescension dripping from every word. The bitch, who was sitting outside watching the trio closely, chugged in amusement. Nate heard it from their window seat and glared at the dog. She answered him with a doggie smile, he tongue sagging from her maw and her tall wagging innocently. "Keep it up and I'll quit sharing my beer with you." Nate spje through the glass. The dog's tail quit wagging, a d she looked crestfallen.
Nate turned to the twins. "Uh, yeah I guess, why would I want to go out with a woman who cared about where my elbows are?" Allie buried her face in her palms while Quint knuckle bumped his uncle, and have an affirming, "Word dude!" Nate thought that was a good thing, but he wasn't sure.
A long mournful howl filled the night. The crickets quit chirping. The bitch stood. Normally she looked harmless enough, but when she stood, ears back, hackles raised and teeth bared in an snarl her jaws looked like a collection of box cutters. She growled loudly and then returned the howl as if to say, "Here I am, come and get me."
The reggae band quit playing as Maeve, queen of the Winter Court of the Fae, walked into Billy Wang's Wing Emporium.
"Hello Nathan" Maeve spoke, her words dripping with false civility.
"Kids, get behind me." Nate said, as he stood and grasped his staff from the wall it leaned upon. The twins looked at each other in confusion, and hesitated. Maeve sniffed the air deeply, a d smiled, stepping forward. "Now, now Nathan, there is no reason to behave like that, she said, stepping forward and running a long pale finger over Allies cheek.
Maeve looked resplendent in a long white gown. She was carrying her hunting spear, which told Nate that she hadn't come for the chow mien. There was a crowd of twenty or so in the restaurant, and they were gaping at the scene.
Nate drew his SOG seal pup knife from a sheath that was inverted on his belt. He stepped in quickly, and help the knife a hairbreadth from her throat. Maeve had the power of a goddess, but she, and all Faeries, react to cold iron like superman does to kryptonite. "Maeve, Queen of the Fae, I offer you respect, but I warn you, if you ever touch anyone in my family again, I will slit your fucking throat with cold iron!" The very touch of steel to a faerie's skin was painful, a wound made with steel might never heal.
A slit throat surely wouldn't.
Maeve let go a laugh that dripped with contempt. "Put that toy away mageling, before you hurt yourself."
"Walk away Maeve." Nate warned. He knew he had over reacted by threatening the queen. He owed her a favor, but the queen of the Winter Court was unpredictable and she was as likely to kill everyone in the restaurant as she was to sit down and drink a beer. Nate pulled the knife away from her throat slowly.
"What do you want Maeve?"
"Courtesy, to start. I gave you passage through my lands, and yet when I visit yours you attack me." She said, wounded. "I came to give you fair warning. I will be hunting in this plane a few days hence. Do not interfere."
"That depends on what you are hunting." Nate answered. "Or who."
Maeve smiled wickedly. "Who and what we hunt is our own business. I have merely come as a courtesy. Fare thee well wizard." and with that she turned to leave, then paused, looking back at Allie. "And fare the well little mageling. We shall see you soon."
With that Maeve walked out of Billy Wang's. The bitch was straining at her leash, which was tied to a bike rack. Nate had only seen her like this once before, when she met the hell hound the year before. Her teeth were bared into a nasty snarl and foam was building around her mouth.
The great black hound padded up next to Maeve, red eyes glaring at the bitch, looking back at Maeve for permission to attack. The bitch was a 75 pound Doberman, and the hound made her look small. Nate walked out, standing next to the bitch and lowering his staff at the beast.
"Better run along Maeve, or I'm going to neuter your pooch."
Maeve turned away, the dog following at her side. They walked through a doorway of quicksilver, disappearing from view and into her own realm.
Billy Wang's was abuzz with excitement. Pendleton Indiana hadn't seen this much activity in years, and Nate who was a hermit to the townsfolk, had just become a legend. Nate payed his bill and ushered the twins out, and into the old pickup truck that he picked up over the summer. The bitch rode in the bed, her mood improving after the hound disappeared. The kids were quiet at first, and he wanted to get them out of town and off to someplace safe. Allie broke the silence with a question. "Uncle Nate, what's a mageling?" It was going to be a long drive home.
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