Making an Entrance
~~~Chapter 4: Making an Entrance~~~
Feeling considerably refreshed after her nap, Cordelia was ready to face her new life. First thing to do, of course, was a shower. After all, there was nothing worse then making the ever important second impression rumpled from a two-hour nap. The bathroom was every bit as luxurious, if impersonal, as the rest of the guest suite, but she paid it no mind; she’d fix it soon enough. As soon as she had some funds, she’d add a series of mirrors over the towel rack, maybe a candle or six in several sizes, and of course a radio. After all, what’s a luxury bath without soothing tunes? It wouldn’t be her bath from the apartment back in her LA, but it would do.
For now though, the water was pleasantly hot, the soaps expensive and perfectly scented, and the towels fluffy and clean. She could soak the trauma of portal travel off her skin, the sweat of kill-the-bad-guy out of her hair, and generally steam to her heart’s content.
As far as she was concerned, this beat the ever-living-socks off her first day in Pylea.
Not that she wasn’t feeling a bit maudlin deep down inside, but there was no point dwelling on the brood, when there were people to charm, connections to make, and the possibility of a paying job to pursue. She hadn’t forgotten Doyle’s mention of working for that detective, Jeremy Grey, and while she adored Angel and the rest of the gang, the pay was the pits.
While she was busy in the shower, Dennis had taken it upon himself to sort out her belongings, arranging them as closely as possible to how she’d decorated her old apartment. The clothes were in the armoire and dresser, the photos in frames were on the vanity with her jewelry boxes, the weapons were laid out on the window seat, freshly cleaned, and her shoes were neatly lined up. He’d even gone so far as to fetch out one of his favorite outfits and lay it out on the bed.
For whatever reason, whenever he felt the need to dress her, he always picked the slim charcoal pants and a pale rose shirt with a wide collar. She never asked, but the wistful way he flapped the sleeves at her made her think it reminded him of his lost fiancé. They’d never openly discussed the events that led to Dennis’ residence in her home, but the hints and suggestions of a life before never failed to make Cordelia sad on his behalf.
Humming a bit to herself, she redressed and brushed out her hair. “So, Dennis, do any more recon while I was asleep?”
He grabbed up a pen and began to scribble on the pad of paper she kept on the desk for that very purpose. “They seem nice.”
She sighed. “Yeah. I don’t think the Powers would have sent me to protect jerks, do you?”
He wiggled the pen from side to side like a teeter totter.
“What about our situation? Are we going to continue living here with them? Is there room enough? It seems like there are an awful lot of them here.” She thought she sounded sure and full of confidence, but the way that Dennis gently floated a Kleenex her way clued her in to the fact that her brave front wasn’t fooling everyone. She took the tissue, looked at it for a moment, and ripped it into tiny shreds.
Looking up into the mirror, she whispered. “I will not cry. The great Queen C, or Princess Cordelia, or whatever, does not cry. Not about things she cannot change. You hear that self? You’re stuck. Suck it up and get over it.”
She wasn’t sure that helped all that much, but at least Dennis didn’t offer her another tissue. She just had to hold on until things settled down here, or at least until she could talk through the mirror sometime. It helped to know that the gang was only a magical phone-home away.
When it looked like she wasn’t going to elaborate on her mental space anymore, Dennis picked up the pencil again and added, “Permanent.”
Cordy nodded and fastened a charm bracelet around her wrist covered with various tiny crosses. Just because Nicca said there were no vampires here didn’t mean she wasn’t going to be cautious.
“So who’s likely to help us out? It’s nice to know factions before I get in there wading around.”
The pencil paused a moment before tapping on the desk a moment. Finally, he scribbled out, “Hard to say...”
Cordy nodded slowly, “He could see you, couldn’t he? That Rhys guy? So no recon around him then, eh?”
Sad drooping of the pen.
Cordy contemplated rigging some way to wear the pair of daggers Wesley had given her, but she couldn’t find a way to stuff them into the outfit without wrinkling it. Deciding that fashion was more important than weaponry, at least for now, she left the long daggers and fished a small silver one from her duffle, sliding it into the top of her boot. “Well, this is a new twist, but we’ll work around it. So, it’s about, what, dinner time? Early dinner? Do you think they’d be up for filling us in?”
A cool waif of air as Dennis urged her to the door. She laughed. “Okay, I’m going.”
Cordelia made her way out of the rooms she’d been assigned and wandered down the hallway. The décor was similar to the sitting room and her private quarters in the parts of the ‘cottage’ she could see, but few of the doors were open. A series of obviously antique Japanese etchings lined the hallway depicting cranes picking their way delicately around picturesque lakes floating in mist. The former cheerleader nodded her head in appreciation. “This Maeve person must have made a killing in the movie industry. If this is the guest house, the main mansion must rock.”
She wondered if the closed rooms belonged to the guards, and which, if any were romantically attached to Meredith. Not that she had any intentions, but with that many men floating about, it was hard to believe that none of them were pursuing Meredith. Frost certainly seemed to be interested, but she got weird vibes from the rest of them, the tiny flying guy included.
Now wasn’t he interesting? Not that she had a thing against little people, but she’d never met anyone like Sage before. She found she kinda liked his attitude. And the wings were to die for, if she had to have wings. Though, yellow really wasn’t her color. Yuck.
The door to the sitting room was open at the end of the hall and she cautiously peered around the corner. Resisting the urge to holler out, ‘Yoohoo?’, as it would seriously damage the entrance she wanted to make, she took a deep breath and sauntered into the room.
It was empty.
Annoyed that her suave entrance was thwarted she huffed, “Dennis? So where are they already?”
A ghostly tugging at her elbow directed her to the door through to the kitchen. Sitting around an oval table were Rhys and Nicca with Sage laying negligently on a Peace Lily. When they noticed her, both larger guards stood.
“Princess Cordelia, have a seat. Are you thirsty?” Nicca pulled out a chair for her.
The brunette slid into it with a bright smile. “The princess thing really is unnecessary. Cordelia, or Cordy, is perfect. The other sort of reminds me of tiaras and decapitating my friends.” She sighed and rolled her eyes a bit at the unintended trip down memory lane. “Sure, water would be great. Cold, no ice, lemon if you have it.” Nicca nodded and turned to search out the requested beverage. Rhys sat across from her with a grin.
“You’re looking better. Not that I don’t like the look of a lady wielding a sword, but napping becomes you.”
Cordy let loose a bit of inviting laughter. “Yeah, napping does wonders. Most of my work is nocturnal these days so I nap when I can get it. Angel let me keep a room at the Hyperion.” She dimmed a bit. “I wonder what will happen to it now.”
“I’m sure he’ll keep it open for you.” Rhys lost a fraction of his cocky attitude. “It really is admirable of you to come to Meredith’s aid. She needs all the help she can get.”
“It’s not Meredith per se that the Powers want protected, it’s all of you Fae types. Whatever needs to happen, she’s got to do it, and she can’t do it if she’s dead.” Cordy shrugged. “So what’s so special about Meredith anyway?”
Nicca set the glass of water at Cordy’s elbow taking his own seat. Sage fluttered out of his plant to drift in front of the seer. She held her hand up and he settled onto her palm. In his sharp voice he said, “Sex.”
Her eyebrows shot up and Cordy said, “Excuse me?”
Nicca blushed but Sage went on in a singsong voice, “If Merry gets pregnant she becomes queen of the Unseelie Fey. Her Aunt, Andais, has set up a contest between her son Cel and her niece, Merry, and whichever impregnates or gets pregnant first ends up on the throne.”
Intrigued, Cordy answered, “So what happens to the other one, the not so fertile one?”
Sage drew his tiny hand across his throat and made a harsh ‘shhrrrrkk’ noise.
“Whoa. So, you’re all here to protect her then?”
Now Sage burst out into nasty laughter. “No, that’s the kicker. They’re the breeding pool.”
Cordelia was stunned. She looked to Nicca for confirmation, but he averted his eyes. Rhys cleared his throat and moved his fingers around on the table a bit.
“Yes, Prin—Cordelia, we’re all potential matches, but we also serve to protect Meredith. If she were to say, have an untimely accident, then Cel would win the race by default. That was most likely the reason for the attack today. It’s about time for Cel to be released from his punishment and his supporters are getting nervous.”
At Cordelia’s look of incredulity, Nicca continued the story. “Cel was put to punishment for several reasons, but one of which was trying to kill Merry as soon as he heard the conditions of the contest.” He paused for a moment, unsure of how to continue.
Sage took the opportunity to jump in with undisguised glee. “And what do you know: they’ve left out the best part. Merry’s the only woman they’re allowed to sleep with. They’re all part of the Queen’s Ravens, her guard, and they’re allowed to sleep with the queen or no one, and it’s been that way for, oh, a few thousand years. Except the queen won’t sleep with them.” Sage snickered. He extended his wings and gave a flutter or two, gently caressing Cordelia’s fingertips with his hands. Cordy raised her eyebrows at this, but made no move to stop him.
Obviously on a roll, Sage continued, “So all these poor lost boys have been trapped in a life of servitude to their queen, unable to have release by their own hand much less that of a partner. Such a sad fate,” he purred. “And when Queen Andais announced it was open season on Merry, it caused quite a stir, not only with these Ravens, but also the ones that hated her and tried to have her assassinated.”
The seer held up her unoccupied hand, palm out. “So let me get this straight. You’re all ridiculously old without getting all wrinkly, but you’ve been celibate for like, ever, and now you’re banging your princess with abandon to save her life.” She burst out into mildly cynical laughter. “I’ve been magicked away into a freaking romance novel. This is too much. You’ve all got that Fabio hair gone to hell and there’s wooage at ever turn.”
“Well…” Rhys tried to look serious, but broke out into another infectious grin.
“So what, you draw straws?”
A feminine voice from the doorway sounded amused. “Actually, there’s a schedule.” Merry was dressed sharply in royal blue silk, flanked on either side by Frost and Kitto. Though small of stature, she commanded a presence that Cordy admired; something in the way she held herself reminded Cordelia a bit of Buffy on her less psychotic days.
The brunette smiled wryly in response, still overwhelmed by the situation. “What a life you lead. Fairy princess gets to choose from all these delicious boys.”
Warmth flickered in Merry’s eyes as she joined them at the table, leaving Frost to stand behind her chair. Kitto nodded shyly to Cordy, but said nothing, moving to crawl into a giant sized padded dog kennel. Cordy raised her eyebrow in question but said nothing. There were too many quirks with this bunch to even begin to comment on the weirdness of child-sized man-creatures sitting in dog houses.
“Well, I did have a job till recently. Unfortunately I kept nearly getting killed so my aunt insisted I take a few months off. We’re lucky to have found Maeve.”
Cordy was almost about to ask about that situation, but something about the closed way Merry referred to Maeve made her hold her tongue. Who said she couldn’t learn tact when she needed to?
“It looks like you’ve gotten some rest, Princess, so perhaps you’d like to take a tour of the grounds?” Frost murmurred, and while the offer was warmly given, he seemed reserved. The way his hands held his lady’s shoulders indicated a great deal more was invested in her wellbeing than protector or paterfamilias.
“As I said before, a whole world of yes. And I’d love to see the grounds. I know you weren’t expecting me, so I don’t want to disrupt your schedule too much.”
“Oh, it’s not a problem, really. The boys patrol the grounds regularly, and it looks like you can take care of yourself.”
“You can thank Angel for that one, Wes and Gunn too. Believe me, a few years ago all I was good for was screaming and running. That and breaking lots of nails.” She thought for a second. “Or maybe throwing a shoe.”
“Sounds fascinating,” Nicca said, a small smile curling his lips.
“Well, most of the time it was pretty boring. The rest of the time it was…not. Remind me to tell you about the demon I had erupting out of the back of my head sometime; talk about a headache from hell, literally.” At the looks of shock and disbelief on the faces around her Cordy knew she’d be in for quite a few questions. She smiled wryly and added, “But I’m better now.”
“Er, quite. With stories like that you’ll probably fit in just fine here.” Merry laid her hand on Frost’s forearm. Looking up at him she said, “Do you think Nicca and Rhys can take her on their patrol?”
Frost looked thoughtful, running his grey gaze over Cordy’s form. “She did prove her ability earlier. It’s unlikely there’ll be another attempt so close after the last one. Even Cel’s resources aren’t unlimited, and for all we know, he’s unaware his attempt was unsuccessful.”
“I’m not sure it was Cel. There are other options,” Rhys added darkly.
Merry glared at him as if to communicate this wasn’t the time or place to discuss whatever was on his mind. The ruby haired princess sighed. “I know, Rhys, I know. If you’re interested, Cordelia, then go ahead. It’ll be a good idea for you to know what’s logistically vulnerable anyway.”
Cordy wasn’t sure about what exactly she was here to do. Security work wasn’t really her thing, she was more the work on assignment kind of girl, but it couldn’t hurt.
Meredith continued, “Make sure you’re back in time to see Doyle.”
“Why, what’s he bringing?” Rhys stood to gather up a light coat of pale cashmere from the chair back.
“I believe that Doyle mentioned Jeremy Grey to you before, Cordelia. Merry called him this afternoon and he’s very interested to meet you. He’ll be over for dinner.” Frost pulled Merry’s chair back so she could stand as well.
Cordy perked right up at this. “The guy with the job? Oh, excellent. Cause, job means money, and money means shopping.” A look of horror crossed her face. “You do have shopping here, right?”End Making an Entrance
To Be Continued...