“One trembles to think of that mysterious thing in the soul,
which seems to acknowledge no human jurisdiction
but in spite of the individual's own innocent self,
will still dream horrid dreams, and mutter unmentionable thoughts.”
January 15th, 2007
The Streatham Ice Arena was an old ice-skating rink, three quarters of a century old, and it had been the home of the Winter Court ever since it was first built, back in the 1920s. It was a center for ice hockey and ice skating, and every Friday night, throughout the year, Winter held court among the orange tables and slick floors. Technically, if one consulted the records or asked the manager who's mind had been twisted and turned with faerie gold, the Ice Arena was being rented to a particularly fastidious group of ice skaters, who insisted on absolute privacy for their routines. That was the lie that was spread, and it was a lie that had held up for eighty-five years now.
The truth was that every Friday night, a host of changelings and assorted hanger-ons descended on the Ice Arena. During the summer, only the Winter Courtiers could be found, but during the darkest months of the year, much of Changeling society met here at the Ice Arena. All manner of changelings crowded the ice rink. Elven courtiers, some glowing softly, others with skin of night-sky darkness or flame-red hue, laughed gaily or glowered snidely at the efforts of a pair of mortals to dance upon the frozen ice. A butterfly-winged sprite dangled delicately from a light fixture, hanging above the head of a grotesque scale-skinned Beast with jaws full of row upon row of razor-sharp teeth. In one corner, sitting around a bright orange table, an ashen-skinned creature wrapped in a burial shroud held an animated conversation with a near-naked sand-statue, while an arachnid the size of a mastiff messily consumed something still-squirming at its feet.
This was the Carnival Melancholy. The Bazaar of the Bizarre. The Unseelie Court in all of its splendor. With fang and talon, tentacle and wing, they gathered here in all their unholy glory, to relax, to compete, to trade stories and lies and little bits of magic. But though this was a place in which one could lose one's shirt, one's mind, and one's soul to a careless slip of the tongue, J. T. Underwood had come to Streatham for another reason. He was here to find the Winter King.
Now, Todd White was a handsome fox, and he was not hard to find. Young, vigorous, and self-assured, he had taken to the ice, and when Underwood entered the ice arean, the Winter King was out on the rink, gliding along in ice skates. He did not perform for his court. Indeed, to look at him, one might think he scarce noticed them. But he was there, dressed in dark jeans and a black t-shirt with a scythe-wielding reaper imprinted on it, dancing upon the ice in sharp skates. It was a beautiful, ethereal vision, black clothing and pale skin, his ivory fur tinted red by the lights. Blood and night and ice, the Old Winter.
Then the dance faded, and Todd skated easily towards where Underwood was, near the railing, the Winter King's entourage keeping the curious back, to make for as private a conversation as could ever happen at court.
"J. T. Hello. Good to see you here." Todd White held out his hand over the railing, smiling a sharp little grin from his fox-like face. The Winter King was a handsome fox, of that there was no doubt. Pretty as sin wrapped in crystal, Todd had the sort of body that invited one to think the sort of thoughts one really shouldn't. He was a little over average height and broad-shouldered, with the well-muscled look of someone who'd done a great deal of hard work in his life. His face had a distinctly vulpine cast to it, with a sharp, narrowed chin, delicate cheekbones, and large, laughing eyes. He had long hair, white as ivory, with two pale, fox-like ears poking out from beneath his hair, and an ermine tail curling behind him. "Sorry about the short notice."
"Do you know anything about vampires?"