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The Rampant Unicorn Pub, Aberystwyth, Principality of Wales, 22 December, 13:09 hrs
“And he gets up and says, ‘I’m alright!'”
“So was he?”
“Well no, he took one step and fell down, dead!”
The men near the door laughed at the joke, a snippet of conversation among the two dozen or so spouted by regulars of the pub. They mixed with an Bowie/Mercury duet that came from the jukebox in the corner. I wanted to hear the set up to the punchline but I had better things to do. Aber had two of the three things I needed to cross into the Otherworld, the National Library and Owen. Took a week of research to find the missing pieces of information. Which left only Owen.
Apple cheek, deep dimpled Owen Jones tended bar at the Unicorn so I went straight there. He nodded at me as if to say ‘I’ll be with you in a moment,’ then stopped, wide eyed.
“We need to talk,” I said. He broke eye contact. He erected an emotionless wall between us. His way of keeping the memories at bay.
Not a chance.
“You owe me,” I said.
The wall crumbled, “I owe you? Okay, fine, talk.”
“Somewhere private, please.”
He pointed upwards then turned to the other fellow at the bar, “Michael, cover me.” Michael frowned. He led the way to a storage room upstairs. “What is this about me owing you?” I led the memories of our time in University flood back to my mind. The shame, the anger the revulsion of what he did to me. His eyes watered, “Fine, I said I was sorry!”
I screamed at him, “Using your little mind tricks to make me fall in love with you is not something that you can just apologize for! That’s rape that is!”
The thick woodwork of the pub plus the noise from the jukebox screened our shouting match from the patrons below.
Again the wall came up, slower this time, “For God’s sake I would never, I did…” the wall around his psyche collapsed as his temper rose,”NOT! DON’T YOU DARE SAY THAT ABOUT ME!”
I held my ground and the impulse to incinerate him where he stood.
“If only… but you didn’t wait, I fancied you, you know. Cute little Owen, the girls would say. Charming, quick with a smile Owen Jones. You two would make a nice couple and all of that rubbish. But no, you got desperate. Had I been somebody else–”
“I am not like that, you hear me. Never! I…”, the nausea he felt enveloped us both. His shoulders slumped, “What do you need?”
“I need you to make me invisible.”
“I don’t make people invisible, not really, it’s just–”
“Spare me the explanations. Can you do it or not?”
“I can, yes…”he leaned against a stack of boxes, “But what for? The Prince has a few psychics at his disposal, why me?”
“I don’t work for the ruddy Prince!” I said. The timber trembled beneath my feet.
“You want to cave my family’s business in?”
“Sorry, but no, I don’t work for the Prince or anyone else, and since you are tending bar at a pub, I bet you don’t either. Am I right?”
“Yeah, I’m not the fighting and murdering type. So what is this all this really about? And don’t bother lying to me, cause I’ll know.”
“Avalon,” I said.
“Ava…are you mad!”
“Yes, I am a crazy woman with a fiery temper. A literal fiery temper.”
“Because it’s time to do what needs to be done.”
His consciousness pushed against mine like the soft fingers of a doctor probing the flesh of a patient. But he knew better than to push too hard.
“Fine, I’ll do it. But neither you or I can open the Veil, no matter how thin it is these days.”
“No, but a necromancer can, and I found one.”