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One Dark Knight :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 1 3
St George's Day Tribute by GladeFaun St George's Day Tribute :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 0 0
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Cocktails with Miss Murder :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 0 0
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The Kid (Cult of the Butterfly 22) :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 1 0
Literature
Coping Strategies (Cult of the Butterfly 21)
Coping Strategies (Cult of the Butterfly 21)
Life is stressful. Anybody who believed otherwise, who thought they could somehow banish it from their existence was kidding themselves. Or living in a bubble. Neither of which were solutions Seb had ever been keen on himself. You get over it. You get on with it. And you find what ways you can to mitigate the effects.
Granted when he’d come up with these life values he hadn’t quite had the current situation in mind, but then if you’d told his pubescent self he’d wind up living in Shensang, plotting the downfall of one of the city’s most infamous criminal figures he’d likely have laughed in your face.
Over the years he’d experimented with all sorts of regimes. Exercise was always a good go to, but sometimes you needed something that would process the emotional fall out. The older you got, it seemed, the more complex this became. The reasons behind your own actions were not always clear, let a
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:icongladefaun:GladeFaun 1 0
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Spread Your Wings (Cult of the Butterfly 20) :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 1 0
Mature content
Inadvisable Liaisons (Cult of the Butterfly 19) :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 1 0
Literature
I want to kiss boys in the graveyard
I want to kiss boys in the graveyard
In the dappled sunlight,
Feel their soft lips on my shoulder
Dream about what we might.
:iconGladeFaun:GladeFaun
:icongladefaun:GladeFaun 1 0
Hoody Fae by GladeFaun Hoody Fae :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 1 0 The 13th Doctor by GladeFaun The 13th Doctor :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 6 0 Fire of Revolution by GladeFaun Fire of Revolution :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 2 0
Literature
Woad Interlude II (Cult of the Butterfly 16)
Woad Interlude II (Cult of the Butterfly 16)
[So, are we all in position?]
Seb lofted the palm of his right hand, revealing the glowing map nestled there. [All present and accounted for.]
Murder took a moment to look over their forces, tweaking the placement of this or that set of troops. Seb waited patiently while she did, the sweeping lines of his Woad avatar’s chest limned in the soft blue glow of the display.
[Everyone happy?] This was directed to the rest of the alliance, scattered through the wooded hills that surrounded the valley below. A deluge of affirmatives fell into alliance chat, ranging from Clave’s monosyllable to Ruph and Jonas’ cat calls.
[Ok, ok – save it for the battlefield people.] Murder nodded to Seb, who snapped the map shut as she switched to PM. [What do you think?]
Seb shrugged. [It’s a trap, undeniably. Question is, are we up to climbing back out again once we’ve jumped in.]
[I think we’re equal to the task.]
He nodd
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:icongladefaun:GladeFaun 1 0
Greetings from Manchester Pride by GladeFaun Greetings from Manchester Pride :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 2 10
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(Straight) Boys (Cult of the Butterfly 17) :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 0 0
Literature
Make Over (Cult of the Butterfly 15)
Make over (Cult of the Butterfly 15)
Come on Seb, you can do this…
He’d been putting off the inevitable for the last week or so. But at the back of his mind some small part of him had already acknowledged the necessity of what was about to happen during the last coven meeting.
Taking a deep breath, he raised a hand to knock on the familiar door before him. The street was quiet, much as you’d expect for this time on a week day. The sun was a radiant disc overhead, the sparse trees that lined this side of the road throwing pools of shadow across the side walk.
The door opened to reveal Maisey’s surprised expression.
“Oh, it’s you.” Confusion flickered across her features, the strong jaw she’d inherited from her mother clenching in brief uncertainty. Seb always forgot how young she actually was.
“Here.” He held out his phone, which was already dialling Raina. “Proof my visit has parental approval.”
Maisey too
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:icongladefaun:GladeFaun 0 0
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Off the Record (Cult of the Butterfly 14) :icongladefaun:GladeFaun 0 0

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Paul
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United Kingdom
Greetings traveller. Welcome to my gallery.

I'm a literary and visual artist (hence the 'varied' above), with a slight lean towards the written word. Been a member on here for some years, but only actively so for the last few. I'm not a regular poster - my work/commute schedule does not lend itself to reliability - but I do try and get on here at least once a fortnight to swing through the forums etc. DeviantART is a community after all :)

For anyone reading this whose interested primarily in my writing (and has an e-reader), you might be well advised to head on over to my Smashwords page here www.smashwords.com/profile/vie… where you can find my work available to download in almost any format you can imagine.

Titles include:

My newest endeavor the 'Cult of the Butterfly', which a friend lovingly coined my 'drag queen witches thing' :D. Chapter one is featured opposite.

'The Star Plague Journals', my four book cyber-fantasy, now complete. You can find a sample chapter from book one 'The Orphans Revolt' here fav.me/d98csqu

'Harlem's Deck', whose first chapter 'Fairground Attraction' (fav.me/d7rie6d) won me a DD from the kind people of the lit community :)

'Filthy Gore' (what it says on the tin - sex and violence, with a paranormal twist). 'Black Orchid' is the most recent addition to this set. It can be found here fav.me/d9f0ya4 and here fav.me/danrgxo

Anyway, thanks for washing in on the serf. Enjoy your look around x
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One Dark Knight...

Thinking about the old man now, it all seemed so unlikely. But then in so many other ways (for those privy to the details) it had been obvious the way things might go.

He was such a private person. Certainly for those initial weeks and months. Even after the old man took him into his confidences, showed him the other side of his life, there was still that distance. Initially he thought it may be because of his age, but time put paid to that idea. The old man kept him at a remove, despite the similarities between them.

Both orphans.

Both loosing their parents to foul play.

Both hungry for revenge.


He was never anything but kind. Even the brutality of their training bouts was calculated to protect.

“The streets are a mean place kid. I need to know you’re watching my back, never mind your own.”

Inevitably (he now realised with a smile), it was this violence that strengthened the bond. A bond that deepened as he became a young man.

That eventually brought them together.


It had been a particularly violent night. Clown faced psychopaths in the rain. Leather and kevlar slicked in blood. He’d taken two, one in the leg and another in the abdomen that blessedly missed anything major. The old man was all bruises like whip marks, at least one rib cracked and a nasty knife wound where someone got lucky.

He’d stitched the stab wound, was knelt before him applying salve to the bruising when their eyes met, those tired grey pools intent in the harsh light of a desk lamp. The Cave was quiet about them, just the lapping of the underground lake and the faint rustle of wings amidst the shadows above.

One callused hand reached out to cup his jaw, tracing the line of emerging stubble, thumb coming to rest of swollen lips. The other hands stilled his ministrations. Reached up to brush sweat drenched hair out of his eyes.

He remembered looking down, unable to meet the intensity of that gaze. Realising his knees were cold where he knelt on the corrugated steel floor.

The hand at his jaw lifted his chin again as the old man leant forward, their lips meeting in a kiss that tasted of iron and salt.

To this day he was still unsure whether it had been sweat or tears he could taste.


They held each other for a time, before his knees finally gave out and he lurched forward cramping.

“Here.”

A hand offered in darkness. Companionship in the night.

They left the Cave for the quiet speculation of the mansion above.


That first time was… awkward, as these things always are. Fumbling, exploratory. Not helped by the injuries they’d both taken earlier in the night. But for all that it was beautiful, innocent in a way that was surprising for two men so soaked in grief and violence.

He remembered waking in the night, the silk sheets in disarray at their waist, one of the old man’s arms draped casually across his chest. He lay there, listening to the soft rasp of his mentor’s snoring, a surreal sense of peace filling his veins briefly with the ice of adrenaline.


In the soft morning light he woke to an empty bed, a few flecks of dried blood and the lingering scent of the old man’s cologne the only hint that he’d been there.

Guilty and confused, he’d returned swiftly to his own suite, padding naked down empty halls. At breakfast he learned that “The Master has been called away on business.” A standard reframe he now knew played whenever the old man was fleeing something.


It would be two weeks before the experience was repeated. And several months before he plucked up the courage to broach the subject with Fred, only to discover the sharp eyed ex-Secret Service man had surmised what was happening from the beginning.

“Credit me with at least a little perspicacity, Master Dick. He may be a little enigmatic...”

“A little…?!”

“Yes, well.” Fred smiled. Proffered a fresh slice of toast. “If there’s one thing our years together have taught me, it’s how to see past that to the man beneath.” Wise eyes regarded him over wire frames. “You’re as bad as each other for denying what you really feel.”


*


Sometimes, lying awake in the depths of night, he’d try to fathom why it had happened. How, even. Various ideas presented themselves. Shared grief, that deep sense of solitude that seemed to ring through both their souls.

It was almost as if the toll of one bell cancelled out the other, leaving an expectant silence that begged to be filled.

Part of him wondered if it had all been a back lash, following what had happened with Selina. But that didn’t somehow feel quite right. And anyway, why him?

He’d eventually been forced to the conclusion that it was a fluke of fate. A possibility born out of the old man’s need and his more liberal upbringing.


*


“You know this is what the Greeks and Romans used to do?”

They were lying in bed, one of the curtains billowing softly across the room in the slight breeze off the gardens. It had been a quiet night, the lull before the storm neither of them had realised at the time was coming.

“Do what?”

“Include sex as part of their mentorship.”

He hoisted himself up on one elbow, eyebrow raised at the unfamiliar light dancing in the old man’s eyes. “This is payment…?!”

The old man chuckled deep in that broad, scar covered chest. “I’m not sure that’s quite how they put it.”

A brief bout of tickling, which the old man always won, his greater size and that apparent ability to turn sensation off that was both his greatest asset and his greatest loss. They came to rest with him on top, breath settling as he gazed down at the young man lying beneath him.

“Alfred is worried I’ll hurt you.”

He gazed up at the old man, those grey eyes sad once again. “He told me to enjoy what I have.”

The smile returned, the distance fleeing the old man’s eyes once again. “Best take his advice then.” As the old man shifted to kneel between his legs, soft lips and tongue tracing a delicious line down his abdomen.

“Yes indeed,” the young man replied, breath catching as he was swallowed whole.


*


On the streets nothing changed. And he found this dichotomy initially jarring. But then he recognised it for what it was: self preservation.

“I am the night,” as the old man was so fond of saying.

Personal feeling had no place in what they did. Justice is cold. So he stole himself to be the same. To expunge any sentiment from his being when he donned the mask.

It became their strength. But it was also to be their undoing.


*


“Not tonight.”

He lifted his arm from the old man’s shoulder. Feeling, suddenly, like an intruder. Those grey eyes found his, flinched away from the hurt. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“You know.” With a groan, he stood, favouring the leg he’d fallen badly on. Limping slowly, he headed for the server bank on the Cave’s far side. “Ask Alfred to bring me some coffee? I need to find out where these guys are getting their funding, so we can shut them down.”

Heart in his throat the young man nodded, the gesture wasted on the retreating back.


That final take down was bad for them both. Worse even than the one that had brought them together. He kept glancing across in the car on the way back to the mansion, catching glimpses of the horror that must haunt his own eyes. It was he who had crossed the line, a line the old man had stepped across years ago. But it had taken crossing it for them to both realise it was something neither of them really wanted.

That final loss of innocence was too much. And so the final nail was driven home.


They made love a final time a few days later. He came home to find rose petals unexpectedly waiting for him in the lobby, leading a trail up through the house to the old man’s room. It was so unexpectedly heartbreaking that all he could do initially was cry, and they both shared salty kisses for an hour before they were able to do more.

They were tender with each other, as they’d not been since that first night. And afterwards they fell asleep in each others arms.


When he woke in the morning he thought the old man had run away again. But then the bedroom door cracked, and the old man walked in, dressed already for the boardroom but with shirt still undone. He’d climbed out of bed, standing to fasten broadcloth into place, adding the tie that he’d given as a gift on the old man’s last birthday.

“Where will you go?”

He’d shrugged, smiling up at those sad grey eyes. “Not sure. I’ll put in for a transfer. I hear Detroit is nice.”

His former mentor nodded. Leant in for one final, chaste kiss. “Take care of yourself, you hear?”

“You too...” he murmured, tears blurring the morning light as he watched the old man walk away.


*
One Dark Knight
One of the things I've most enjoyed about Netflix's Titans show is the portrayal Dick Grayson's relationship with Bruce Wayne. It's been so well handled.

Watching it got me thinking about all the fandom that exists proposing a relationship between the two of them. There's often an element of camp surrounding them. I decided I wanted to try writing something with a slightly more modern sensibility, taking the show's heartfelt, slightly gritty tone as a starting point instead. You'll have to be the judge of how successful I've been.
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So I've been gone for some time. Work became manic, then I got made redundant. Then I went back to studying. There've also been a couple of family emergencies thrown in there, for good measure.

Things are starting to look (and feel) a little more normal again. And I've a few bits I've been working on to preserve my sanity across the last half year that will soon be ready to share. The gallery will open its doors once again soon.

Paul x
St George's Day Tribute
A little something to celebrate our patron Saint. Not quite how he's usually depicted but, y'know, artistic license and all that ;)
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The stainless steel was cool against his fingers.

He smiled, shifting his grip and feeling it rasp against the callouses across the top of his palm. Hands about the cylinder’s top and bottom he proceeded to give it a vigorous shake, poking his tongue out when the woman on the other side of the bar grinned.

“Shut up woman. The only people who look cool doing this are Tom Cruise and William Farn.”

“Really? Farn?”

“It’s the hair.”

She laughed at that.

Giving it a final shimmy he popped it on the bar, giving the top a practised twist to remove it.

“So you were going to tell me about that night...”

“Was I…?” he asked mildly, turning away to hide his apprehension, reaching for the knife that stood in a glass next to the fruit bowl. Plucking a pair of limes and a passion fruit from the pile he set to work, risking a glance at the woman sat opposite. She had her phone in her hand, one lacquered nail poised over the screen.

Neither of them were fooled.

“Where did you want me to start?”

She glanced up, expression carefully neutral. “Some context would be good. At the moment all I know is the why, and what the outcome was, i.e. you, here.” She gestured and he bobbed a small bow. “Set the scene for me. I want to know what it was like...”

He sighed, snagging a couple of daiquiri glasses and dipping them one at a time in the sugar bowl. Slicing the passion fruit, he used a spoon to scoop out its flesh, adding it to the shaker.

“If you don’t want to...”

He met her gaze, giving his head a little shake. “It’s fine.” Swallowed the lump in his throat. “My friends get a hair cut with this, you know.”

She smirked, running fingers through her own red mane. “Like you’d let me near that bird’s nest you call a hair style, Seb Laikee.”

“A fair point.” He found he was smiling, chuckled softly. She always managed to do this, draw him out. It was one of the reasons he’d climbed on the train a year ago. That and the fact he couldn’t stomach another summer of veiled looks and muttering behind hands.

“You realise, Miss Murder, that this calls for silly straws?”

She grinned, putting her phone down on the counter and uncrossing her legs on the bar stool. “And tiny umbrellas...?”

He rolled his eyes theatrically. “If we must.”

She pursed her lips. “One can never under estimate the importance of frippery when there’s emotional heartbreak on the table.”

He bowed again. “Just so.” Reaching for the knife again, he sliced the limes, squeezing them over the concoction. Replacing the top, he proceeded to give the shaker a final whisk before cracking the top once more. Reaching for the strainer, he upended it over first one, then the second glass. Halved strawberries came next, to decorate the rim, then the aforementioned straws and umbrellas. He narrowed his eyes, finger to his lips in thought, before turning to pluck a sprig of cherries from the bowl behind him. Splitting it he hooked them over each of the glasses beneath the umbrellas before adding a tiny plastic monkey to each, tail curled through the loops of the straw.

“Ta dah!”

Murder raised an eyebrow. “Really, primates?”

He shrugged. “Nothing says frippery like a small plastic monkey.”

“If you say so.”

Seb nudged her drink across towards her. Picked up his own to suck thoughtfully on the straw. “Set the scene you say?”

She nodded, sipping her own drink and making an appreciative face. “In your own words.”

He grinned devilishly. “It was a dark, stormy night.”

Murder rolled her eyes, but waved for him to continue when he paused.

“It had just gone midnight...”



It was just gone midnight. The air was still balmy, though there was the hint of a chill from the wind that had been blowing in off the hills all day, rustling the trees and turning their cat Phoebe into a nervous wreck.

All about him the world was still, this being Cope Town. Anything interesting would be happening over on Mason or up at the Leap. No awkward distractions tonight. Tonight he had a mission.

Reaching into his pocket, the young man in the torn jeans pulled out the photo of his lover, dead now these last three months. If he closed his eyes he could still see the sparks from his pyre dancing up into the sky over the congregation’s head, taste the bitter tang of ash on the air.

But he could no longer remember his laugh. Was starting to loose the way his lip curled just so at some gauche remark from one of their friends.

Running fingers through the tangled storm cloud of his hair, he lifted the rumpled picture to his lips, kissing it once before sliding it back into his pocket next to his phone. His sister had caught him with it a few weeks ago and ripped the piss out of him for carrying something so archaic as a printed photograph, not realising as she did it what the picture showed. She hadn’t been grounded over it, but Mom and Dad had really lain into her about it and she still wasn’t speaking to him as a result.

Her loss…

In hindsight he thought his folks had overreacted a little. It was, after all, only a picture. And she was just a kid. Not like she really knew what she was doing. He suspected their shock and awe tactics had been something of a pressure release for the tension which had been boiling between them this last year. His friends had long ago stopped asking if they were going to split up and started asking when.

Personally, he was surprised they hadn’t already done it. There was a guilty little voice at the back of his head that kept suggesting they might be trying to hold things together for his sake, but he refused to listen. He was seventeen for God’s sake. They didn’t need to put their problems on hold for him…

Sighing, he shelved the inner tirade. It was well worn, like an old blanket, a piece of anger he got out whenever he needed something definite to be pissed at. And that wasn’t what this evening was about. This evening was about taking definitive action. About solving his problems in one definitive, final move.

Pulling a bandanna from his back pocket, he looped the fabric about his forehead, the gesture going some way to taming the unruly mass of his hair. Satisfied, he bent to fish out the spray can poking from the rucksack at his feet before stepping out into the empty lot before him. The place had been deserted ever since that new development opened up on the far side of town, seven or eight years ago. The whole focus of the town had shifted further along the river, leaving this section of down town all but deserted. Now it was only the local gangs who came out here. Them and those unfortunates who couldn’t afford the rent anywhere else. Even the cops had lost interest in the place, only stepping in when violence was threatening to spread beyond the district limits, or some idiot managed to get themselves killed.

Not tonight though. Tonight was the big game, which meant all the everyone would be at home glued to their screen, or out in the bars along Mason enjoying the action with mates. He should have the place to himself.

Kneeling, he pulled the breather mask up over his mouth, giving the can a final shake before he set to work. He’d studied the circle and its accompanying runes exhaustively this last few weeks, scrawling them in the margins of his notebooks at college or doodling them in the dirt with a stick during recess. But this would be the first time he’d actually invoked them.

It was heady stuff.

Working his way round, ignoring the soft twang and groan of the chicken wire fences at the lot’s edge, he concentrated on getting every sweep and curve right. The tarmac was still damp from the rain earlier in the evening, street lamps smearing the slick surface with drowning light. Somewhere in the distance a stereo was playing, blaring from someone’s open window into the night. He smirked at the happy pop synths that accompanied lyrics of heartbreak. It was the perfect accompaniment to his work.

Straightening finally, he stepped back to mop his brow, surveying his work. He’d read somewhere that intent was almost as important as aptitude in these things, but he wasn’t taking any chances. If you’re going to go out on one last grand gesture you want to get it right, after all.

Turning, he went back to his bag, rummaging through the contents to retrieve the candles, putting the Tupperware of victuals carefully to one side as he did. This sort of thing usually called for a living offering as well, but as that was going to be him there wasn’t any need to mess around with caged animals. Too much chance of drawing unwanted attention.

The candles went about the perimeter, one with each of the runes to provide a focus for its power. At the compass points went the offerings: placental matter for the northern earth, some ash from the fireplace and his favourite lighter to the south. For the east, a red helium balloon tied to a knife while to the west (his favourite) he gave an uncorked bottle of water, a secret scrawled on a bit of paper rolled up inside. The placental matter had been a bitch to get hold of, and the balloon had also earned him some odd looks until he mumbled something about his sister’s birthday (which was actually due next week).

In the centre went the stainless steel mixing bowl he used for cookie dough, and his favourite knife, for the sacrifice he himself would make.

Finally, the stage was set.

“No turning back now Seb.”

His voice sounded odd in the empty lot.

Pulling off the air filter mask he tossed it on top of his bag, crossing once again to the centre of the circle.

If I were wearing something with sleeves, now would be the time to roll them up.
But he wasn’t, so he satisfied himself with a couple of stretches and a flash of jazz hands that would have earned him looks of derision from the rest of the gang.

Then he knelt, closing his eyes as he concentrated on pulling power into himself. It was an odd sensation. It had been Kendra who’d first likened it to chugging a pint, and the lads had all quickly jumped on the analogy. There was certainly that sense of will applied to suppress natural instincts that were demanding you stop, take a breath. That sense of internal pressure.

Topping off his reserve Seb let the river go, feeling it settle back into the natural ebb and flow of the grid that covered the city. One of the reasons he’d picked this spot over the (many) other empty lots that littered down town was the proximity of a good strong line nearby. Everything he’d read about this ritual suggested it was power hungry, and he didn’t want to get caught short. Experimentation had proven he could take a lot (cue all the jokes), more than most of the others aside possibly from Cuth. But it never hurt to be prepared. Particularly for one’s own swan song.

Reaching for the knife, he closed his left fist round the blade before pulling it sharply free by the hilt with his right, a line of icy pain lancing across his palm. Holding it above the bowl, he squeezed, watching as blood pattered into the bottom, thick and red. In his right hand he retrieved the candle he’d used to light the perimeter, feeling now the tug of potential it represented, its tie to the lights burning round the circles edge. Closing his eyes, he dropped the flame into the bowl, adding fire to life as he murmured the ignition words.

“Aperiam in porta.”

Power was stripped from his mind like velcro parting, the energy rippling outward along the channel lines he’d placed like spokes between the centre and each of the runes lining its edge. He saw it as golden fire dancing down their length, racing round the rim to turn all of the candle flames black.

“Mood lighting. Great.”

Standing, he pulled a lollipop from his back pocket, wrestling with the wrapper briefly before finally freeing the globe of sugar at the stick’s end. The fires had calmed, leaving curtains of shimmering light in their wake, rather like smoke dancing through planes of laser light in a club. He took a moment to admire the effect as he sucked absently at the Chupa Chup. The way it played over the wet tarmac really was quite beautiful.

A twinge of discomfort from his palm brought him back to the task at hand, and he turned back to the bowl at the circle’s centre, which had become the flaming hub to this burning wheel.

Holding his bleeding palm once more over the heatless fire he squeezed out another trickle of vitality, sending his call down through the open gate.

Time in the shallows had taught humanity that whilst things had almost certainly changed in the Pit, many of the titles and functions still appeared to exist. Whether they were in fact carried out by the same individuals was open to debate, as most who had any sort of lasting contact with the Infernal tended to go stark raving mad, thus rendering them unreliable as sources of information. What did seem clear was that one could still conduct the same sort of ritual one might have done a few millennia back, and expect to get a similar sort of response.

Bury an item of value at certain crossroads, and you’d gain an audience with a woman in a little black dress.

Eviscerate various exotic animals and (with the aid of a reference chart, the original of which was rumoured to be in some politician’s private collection) you might accurately interpret the results into real world augurs.

All if you knew the right words to say.

Seb, however, was after neither of these things. No, what he wanted was revenge. An eye for an eye. He was well aware he committed a mortal sin, but he was more than willing to pay if it meant dark justice would come knocking at the door of those who’d taken Nath from him.

Voco te Wrath...” a tear rolled down his cheek, and he swatted at it, irritated with himself  “...Voco te…!”



“Tell me about Nath.”

He sighed, lifting the glass to take a long pull through that ridiculous straw. “What’s there to tell?”

“There must be something, for you to go through with it for him.”

“He had a beautiful penis.”

Murder almost choked on her drink. “I’m sorry…?”

“Well you asked.”

“Yes, but...” she waved away the protest forming on his lips. “Just wasn’t quite what I was expecting.”

“Oh he had other redeeming qualities too.” He leant back against the counter, glass in hand. “There was this lopsided smile he did whenever anyone said something he thought was lame.”

“Sounds like a real charmer.”

“He was, but not in your conventional way.” He shrugged. “We got each other, which I think was the main thing. That and...”

“...he had a gorgeous cock.”

Seb shrugged. “You know how some of them are ugly, right?”

“I can’t say I’ve had as much experience as you...” he raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips “...but I grant you I’ve seen my share of ugly ones in my time.”

“Quite so.” He fingered his straw, eyes going distant. “His was just… not perfect, but pleasing. To the eyes and lips-”

“-Yes I think we get the idea. How did you meet?”

“How do kids at school ever meet?” He sighed. “I think I first saw him in the library, though it might have been the corridor between lessons. We used to cross paths between physics and art. I remember he had pink paint on his cheek.”

“Aw, that’s sweet.”

“Yeah… it was actually watered down red: he’d been working on one of his altar pieces, painting the entrails of a crow.”

“Nice...”

Seb smirked. “You can see why we hit it off?”

She nodded. “So then…?”

“Once I’d found out who he was, it was fairly simple to track down his social circle. Turns out we had friends in common through the dramatics society. The crow was to be part of a set piece, for the up coming winter production.”

“I see.”

“Fortunately for us both, the fall mid-term was approaching, which meant...”

“...party time.”

“Correct.”

Murder lifted her own glass, smiling. “I can see it now. A crowded room, loud music. Your eyes meet over the apple bobbing...”

He pulled a face. “Actually I got punched in the face by his best mate, who thought I was trying it on with his girlfriend. I was only talking to her so I could try and get him involved. But she kept making doe eyes because I was a senior...”

“He was in the year below you?!”

“Hush woman.”

“Cradle snatcher.”

“Oh trust me, he was no babe. Knew exactly what he was doing.”

Murder took a sip from her drink. “Once again, I do not want to know.” He stuck his tongue out. “So, this other lad punches you...”

“Yes, and all hell breaks loose. His girlfriend goes into hysterics. I retreat, not wishing to get a matching set. He was a jock, so he knew what he was doing. Left me with a real shiner for weeks.”

“I bet.”

“Anyway, I did one, left them to sort out the howler. His mates were all holding him back, including Nath, while someone tried to calm his girlfriend down. I headed outside, ready to call it a night. Was still there, smoking, when he found me ten or fifteen minutes later. I looked up and there he was, a couple of plastic glasses of punch on one hand, a tea towel filled with ice in the other.”
Murder chuckled. “Proper white knight.”

“I think he felt guilty, as he later confessed he’d been keeping half an eye on me all evening, waiting for me to make my move.”

“Aw, bless.”

“Yes, well. He’d been about to make a move himself, tired of waiting for me to pluck up the courage apparently.” Seb grinned at her look. “In my defence, his mate’s girlfriend could talk the hind legs off a donkey. It was impossible trying to get a word in.” He grimaced. “Anyway, he’d been about to say something, take matters into his own hands as it were. But he hadn’t spotted how near to blowing his mate was. James, I think his name was. Notoriously short fuse apparently.”

“I’ve known a few like that in my time.”

Seb nodded. It was because of such an individual that Murder shared a house with her mother, and held down two jobs to raise three kids on her own.

“He wasn’t a bad sort,” Seb felt obliged to mention. “Actually came and apologised the following week at school. Got a full man hug and everything out of him.”

“Well...” Murder smiled. “How about the rest of the party. Did you stay?”

“Yes...” he held up a hand “...but nothing happened that night. Though I did get a chaste good night kiss.”

“Oh yes?”

“I wasn’t staying, but it was one of the jock’s houses. And Nath was tight with their girls so he’d been asked to stick around.”

“So Prince Charming escorted you to your coach and waved you on your way?”

Seb shook his head. “Actually I went on to another mate’s and we stayed up for a few more hours getting shit faced and watching porn. But I did spend most of that time thinking about him.”

“I can imagine.”

“God, Murder! Not like that...” he met her gaze, looked away “...okay, maybe a bit like that. There was lots of cock on screen and I was a teenager and pissed. What can I say?”

“Not a lot, I suppose.”

“Well then.”

“You still haven’t told me what he was like.”

He sighed, thinking seriously for a moment. “Physically? Your average skinny queen, though because he hung out with the jocks a lot it was all lean muscle. I remember he had really nice abs.” He felt his vision misting and sniffed. “His hair was dirty blond, and he always had paint stains on his hands. He had a ring through his nose and a bar through one nipple, his left side I think. He was a vest man, like me, though he preferred singlets. And he had the most God-awful taste in footwear I have ever seen.”

“Coming from you, that’s quite a dis.”

“Yes, thank you.” He stuck his tongue out. “He was your average teenage lad. But there was this glint in his eye, when he’d thought of something filthy...” he felt his throat closing before the hot sting of tears hit his eyes.

Murder’s hand was cool on his shoulder, as she leant across the bar.



Light blazed about the circle, the fires burning high again as power poured down the portal’s open throat. Seb clenched his fists, left one slick with blood, lollipop tart against his tongue. It was like standing on the edge of a deep hole, howling wind tugging at his soul as it whipped past to be sucked down into the darkness.

A hole, or a Pit…?

The thought made him smirk, but he banished the smile quickly when he felt something impinge at the edge of his awareness. Slowly, implacably, it began to climb, rising up towards him like some vast kraken uncoiling from the deep. The sensation was bizarre, almost sexual, lodged somewhere deep in his groin. He could feel the pressure building towards a climax that threatened to make his ears pop.

Light flared, the final gulp of departing energy leaving him light headed.

When his eyesight cleared there was a figure stood waiting on the far side of the circle.



“But not who you were expecting?”

Seb shook his head. “I’d say ‘the Lord works in mysterious ways’ but I’m not entirely sure this is in his wheelhouse.”

Murder shook her head. “I suspect not.”



Seb felt wrung out. Four hours under the tattooist’s needle wrung out. His hand shook as he reached up to remove the lollipop from his mouth in the flickering light. The candles were back to normal, complemented by a soft glow from the lines of the circle.

In the subdued light the figure opposite looked dead. Skin like a drowning victim, finger nails off black as it raised a hand to straighten the hat it wore.

Is that a Tricorn…?!?

It raised it’s chin, eyes burning as it regarded him across the space.

“Sebastian Laikee, I presume.”

Seb nodded cautiously, lollipop poised between finger and thumb. “You’re...”

“...not who you were expecting?” The daemon smiled, pursing lips rouged the deep, glittering red of rubies and congealing blood. “Be grateful that I’m not.” It produced a long stem cigarette holder from the folds of its frock coat, lighting it with a practised click of its fingers. Mellow smoke drifted out across the space, old rolling tobacco mixed with something sweet.

“But I...”

The daemon held up a finger for silence, shaking its head ever so slightly. “I can give you what you want Master Laikee, but you do not want what you think.”

Seb sucked thoughtfully on his lollipop, eyeing the infernal as it turned to take in its surroundings.

“I apologise for the décor,” he offered, feeling he should say something.

The daemon glanced over its shoulder. “Trust me, I’ve seen worse.”

Seb nodded thoughtfully. “I can imagine.”

The daemon pointed at the red balloon. “Nice touch.”

“Thanks.”

“Congratulations also on the afterbirth. You know I once had someone use dog food?”

Seb shook his head in disbelief. “You still show up?”

“No. But I did pay a visit to his bathroom mirror the following morning. Guy was in the middle of shaving, cut himself so badly he needed stitches.”

Seb laughed. “Bet his face was a picture.”

“Oh, Turner Prize material.”

Seb shook his head, grinning. Watched as the daemon continued its slow circle.
So, this is weird.

The infernal tugged at its lace cuffs. The shirt was open almost to the navel beneath its coat, displaying a slash of deathly white skin that seemed to glow with an eerie inner light. Its extremities were indistinct as it moved, coat tails smokey in the low light.

“So who are you?”

The daemon paused in its circuit, head cocked. “An interested party. For formality’s sake you may address me as ‘Admiral’.” And it swept a bow, hat in hand to reveal white hair tired back in a neat ponytail with a ribbon.

“Okay, ‘Admiral’, care to explain what exactly makes you an ‘interested’ party?”

The daemon smiled slyly, took a couple of artful puffs on its cigarette. “I am a collector of curiosities shall we say? Of possibilities. And you, my dear boy, represent a particularly beautiful set of branches.”

Seb narrowed his eyes. “What, exactly, are you talking about?”

“How familiar are you with the butterfly effect?”

“Lorenz or Bress?”

The daemon chuckled. “Very good. But we’re referring to weather, not the dubious screenplay.”

“Hey! I love that movie.”

The daemon awarded him a withering look. Its eyes were now little more than smoking pits, the fires banked back. “And there I was beginning to like you.”

Seb shrugged. “We can’t all have taste.”

“Oh, touché!”

“So come on, why am I speaking to you rather than one of the sins...” a tear rolled down his cheek, the fingers of his blood palm squeezing “...was kinda expecting to be dead by now...” his throat closing on the last word.

The daemon’s demeanour became stern. “Dead but not insensate. You
do realise what you were asking for?”

“Yes. And I’d do it again, if I thought it would mean those bastards get what they deserve.” The tears were in full flow now. He sniffed noisily, disgusted with himself for loosing control like this but unable to help it.

“Oh for goodness sake, here.”

Seb looked up to find himself being offered a hanky, plucked from amidst the ruff of the daemon’s sleeve. It was so unexpected he burst out laughing, felt the tension he’d been bottling up melt away.

“Um, thank you.” He blew his nose gustily, then eyed the snot covered square of lace in his hand dubiously.

“Oh please, do keep it. With no obligation owed!” it added, seeing his look distrust.

“I should hope not,” Seb muttered.
It looks like it should be gracing my Grandma’s side table, under some chintzy ornament. Wading it, he blew his nose again, using a clean corner to dab at the corners of his eyes which were gritty after the tears.

The daemon waited until he was finished before continuing. “You sought wrathful revenge, with death an acceptable down payment. I should like to offer you an alternative path to your goal, though I am obliged to warn you it may result in a similar outcome.”

Seb shrugged again. “I was expecting to die today. Dying tomorrow instead is no great shakes to me.”

“It won’t be tomorrow, and there’s no guarantee it
will be the outcome. So if suicide is what you seek I’d recommend you make alternative arrangements.”

Do I seek death? The daemon’s words drew him up short. Because though he was quite prepared to pay that price to get what he wanted, death wasn’t actually what he wanted. After all, what is life without love?

To Hell with it. “Come on then, out with it.”

“You want revenge on those that killed your boyfriend. As it happens I also have a vested interest in seeing them fall.”

Oh oh. Daemonic politics. Two words that should automatically set alarm bells ringing. “Go on.”

“I’d like to offer you the tools to achieve both our ends.”

Seb’s eyes narrowed. “And the price?”

“From me? Simply that you shall not associate my name in any way with your enterprise.”

“From you…?”

The daemon made a face. “There are other interested parties on the stage. I cannot guarantee what, if any, arrangement you may come to with them during the course of this little...” it waved a hand vaguely “...diversion.”

Seb inclined his head. “I see. You mentioned tools...” he raised an eyebrow “...and butterflies?”

Now the daemon smiled again, grin widening like the Cheshire Cat’s. “I did indeed. Allow me to make the introductions...” Raising a fist, the Admiral opened it to reveal a confection of beautiful, sapphire blue.

Seb took a step forward despite himself, firmly ignoring the alarm bells clamouring for attention in his head.
If I were a naval vessel, the guys at the science station would be screaming condition red.

It was unreal, like some origami special effect folded from planes of that eerie blue light. But there was more there as he leant in, much more. His eyes tracing the outline of those perfect wings felt drawn into the fractal confusion at their edge, his attention caught as if in the gravity well of some neutron star. He forced himself to blink, step back, feeling the tug of power against his psyche as the thing shifted on the daemon’s palm, began fussily to clean its proboscis. Faceted eyes regarded him guilelessly, but he could practically feel the chaos lurking behind them.

Storm winds, bound in a crystal cage.

“What is it?” he asked cautiously, attention going back to the daemon, whose whole stance suggested it was extremely unhappy about the thing perched on its hand.

“The spirit of probability and chaos, bound up in a form you can comprehend.” The daemon glanced up, offered a shrug. “You’ve spent the last few centuries building nets to try and contain it.”

“Chaos theory.”

“Quantum mechanics.” The daemon stuck a surprisingly pink tongue out. “Such pretty names for such a pointless venture.”

Seb shrugged. “Science was never really my forte.” He stepped forwards again on a whim, reached out to touch the butterfly’s antennae. They felt like cotton buds beneath his finger tip. The butterfly accepted his attention, turning on the daemon’s palm and settling its wings with a soft susurration.

“This would be my tool?”

Again the daemon pulled a face, shooting a nervous glance at the thing on its palm. “Not quite. What you’ll gain will come via more of a partnership, a symbiosis if we’re to continue with the science analogies.”

“Two become one.”

“If you will. Though you would each maintain a modicum of independence. The important thing from your perspective is that you would be granted access to those aspects of creation that traditionally fall under its influence.”

Seb straightened, stepping back from the heady smell of power coming off the butterfly. That there were things the daemon wasn’t telling him almost went without saying, but he’d never been one of those people who read end user agreements. Who did? “Give me some examples.”

“Examples?”

“What kinds of cool shit will I be able to do.”

The daemon chuckled. Lifting the butterfly to one shoulder, it fussed with its cigarette holder, removing the spent one and flicking it beyond the circle’s boundary. It died in a shower of sparks when it hit the flames tracing its perimeter, but the Admiral didn’t seem to notice, its attention fixed on Seb. “The butterfly channels potential. Its wings fan the winds of fate. With practice you could learn to read which paths to take, which will lead you towards a specific goal...”

“Nath’s killers.”

“Precisely.” The Admiral offered a small smile. “Though I am personally hopeful you will look beyond those who wielded the knife.”

The young witch narrowed his eyes. “You want me to trace the trafficking back to its source?”

“Just so.”

Seb was quiet. He had of course spent quite some time visualising in detail what he might do to those responsible for what had happened to Nath, should he get his hands on them. But a part of him, he realised, hadn’t really expected him to get that far. He’d been prepared to settle for those who actually killed Nath, considered their death a fair price for his own.

Now he was being offered so much more.

To eradicate the slave ring…

It was a noble goal, which instantly made him suspicious, given the source of the offer. Denizens of the Pit were not known for their good deeds. There had to be a reason why it would offer him this opportunity.

“What are you getting out of this, truly?” Seb licked his teeth behind his top lip; the lollipop (forgotten until that moment in his left hand) had left a sticky sweet residue over them. “I would have thought you’d be in favour of the soul trade. Surely some of them end up as coinage for you and your kind.”

The daemon bowed its head. “Its true we take our share. Some willingly...”

Seb nodded acknowledgement at this.

“...but there are rules governing what we do. And, like every group bound within a system we have our traditionalists, and our radicals. Radicals who seek to bend those rules, sometimes to near breaking point.”

Part of Seb wanted to ask who policed those rules. It was a truth that whilst daemons were a well documented reality, their opposite number remained stoically aloof. Instead he took a stab at the daemon’s point. “You’d count yourself amongst the former, I’m assuming?”

The Admiral doffed its Tricorn. “Very good.”

Seb nodded thoughtfully. “There’s been a rise in kidnappings recently. The police won’t point fingers, and the press haven’t put two and two together yet. Would this be your radicals?”

“Give that man another lollipop.”

“So you want my help to stop them from rocking the boat, before things get out of hand.”

The Admiral’s grin was rakish. “I do love a good nautical metaphor.”

Seb popped the lollipop back into his mouth, sucking thoughtfully for a few moments, trying to sort through his feelings. But he felt so wrung out it was nigh on impossible to isolate anything, to bring a sense of objectivity to bear. In the end he decided to do what he’d always done, and trust his gut. He’d been intending to climb on the infernal helter skelter tonight anyway. How could this be any worse?

Turning, he crunched the last of his lollipop into oblivion, biting it off the end of the stick and shoving the soggy thing into his back pocket. “Very well. I’ll do your thing, if you’ll give me the tools to do mine.”

“You agree to track the market back to its current source?”

“And dispatch it, yes. In return I won’t name you to anyone who I end up dealing with on the way.” He eyed the thing perched on the Admiral’s shoulder. “And you’ll bind me to your friend there for the duration of this little venture...” the daemon glanced at the butterfly too “...so I might better acquit my role.”

“You will become partners in crime, so to speak.”

“Hmm. Emphasis I’m sure on the crime.” Seb inhaled deeply, jumping up and down a few times on the spot. Adrenaline had started to sing in his veins, chasing his previous apprehension away now the decision was made. “Very well. I agree.” He met the daemon’s gaze, found radiating a very feline satisfaction once more. “Let’s do this.”

The Admiral licked its lips, inclining its head once. “Let us indeed.” Stepping forwards, it bent to retrieve the knife from the bowl between them, slicing its palm to leave it slick with blood black as deep water at midnight. Seb did the same, wincing as he broke the barely formed scab on his palm. Their hands came together, power flooding in as they did. The daemon jerked him closer, their movements seeming to shift suddenly into slow motion as it leant in for a kiss as inevitable as the chime of a clock. Seb closed his eyes, fancying as he did he saw stars burst into life about them.

Their lips met, the electric charge that had joined their palms leaping from this fresh contact down to his groin. The daemon’s touch was surprisingly warm given its pallor, but then it was, Seb reminded himself, a denizen of Hell.

They parted, the world about them still caught in that underwater slowness, as the daemon plucked the butterfly from its shoulder, offering it to him daintily between thumb and forefinger. He had not, Seb noticed, touched its wings, grasping it instead by the end of its thorax. Some primal part of his mind recognised the danger touching those fractal planes would pose.

“Open up.”

Seb raised an eyebrow, still a little shell shocked from the kiss.

“You’ve got to swallow it,” the Admiral explained.

Seb shrugged.
In for a penny… and he opened his mouth, tongue extended.

There was the briefest sensation of tickling legs, causing him to pull it back in and close his mouth, swallowing almost involuntarily.

Cool liquid silver sliding down his throat…

As the world faded into effervescent static.




“Open your mouth.”

“It’s not still in there!” Seb protested, as Murder leant across the bar, finger brushing his lip playfully.

“Must be in your belly then.”

“I’ll just get a sharp knife so you can check shall I?”

“Ew, Seb!”

“What?! I’m a witch. We cut shit up.”

Murder made a face. “Not on my watch. Not unless you have to.”

He smiled, slurping the last of his drink. “You want another?”

She glanced at the clock over the bar and shook her head. “I really should be getting home. Early start in the morning, and the kids have got that thing tomorrow night.”

“The play. Don’t worry, haven’t forgotten.”

Miss Murder nodded. “Just so.” Standing, she gathered her stuff. Offered him a sad smile. “I, for one, am glad you didn’t get what you wanted that night.”

Fighting down the sudden lump in his throat, Seb forced a smile in response. “For what it’s worth, so am I, now.”

Reaching across the bar, she folded an arm round his neck, face pressed into his shoulder.

“We’ll get through this,” she murmured.

Seb nodded, squeezing her arm. “I know.” The music shifted, happy pop synths tripping out over the PA. He grinned as Murder cast a beseeching look at the heavens.

“Right.” She straightened, dabbing suspiciously at an eye. “Tomorrow night then.”

“Indeed. Safe journey home.”

She lofted a hand from the doorway. “You too sweetheart.”

Picking up a cleaning rag, he gazed round the empty bar, smiling fondly.

*

Copyright Paul Smith 2018.
Cocktails with Miss Murder
Seb explains to his friend what happened when he tried to commit suicide by demon.

=

There are various gaps that need filing before Cult of the Butterfly is ready for collation. This is one of them. I always like writing these two, do hope you enjoy.
Loading...
So I've been gone for some time. Work became manic, then I got made redundant. Then I went back to studying. There've also been a couple of family emergencies thrown in there, for good measure.

Things are starting to look (and feel) a little more normal again. And I've a few bits I've been working on to preserve my sanity across the last half year that will soon be ready to share. The gallery will open its doors once again soon.

Paul x

Journal History

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