Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 4)

Fire-Juggling
Fire Juggling by Ent-Reps

And we’re back to our regular scheduled story! If you have no idea what I’m talking about… I wanted to write a bit of a longer story, since most of my stories had been around 1000 to max. 2000 words, so I wanted to challenge myself. Which turned into this thing, currently 8435 words and counting! I kept wondering this week why it seemed to take so long, it felt like the scene kept stretching I wondered why. Well, because this week I wrote over 2700 words…. woops… So if you haven’t started reading yet, start here!

This week we’re visiting the magical nightclub called Unveiled and we’ll find out some things about our victim… {dun dun dunnnn} Mostly though, it was an excuse for me to write about fire performing and beautiful music {and I regret nothing!} So enjoy, and make sure to check out the notes below the story a little more in-depth knowledge on what inspired part 4!

 

The club was not a lot to look at from the outside. A concrete cube in the middle of the industrial district with ‘Unveiled’ above the door in a fancy cursive script with gold backlighting. Bolts of sheer fabric hung on both sides next to the entrance. If not for the warm light spilling out of the door and the huge looking guys standing next to it, you might have never known it was a club. And a pricey one at that.

Unveiled was one of those places that claimed to give you a glance of what life had been like beyond the veil. Decadent, exotic foods and sensual shows pulled in crowds of both humans and non-humans every night. The humans coming to see the magic and power of the supernatural, the non-humans coming to see what their ancestors may have lived like or, for those who lived beyond a hundred years, to reminisce on years gone by. I had the feeling that this was nothing like life used to be Beyond the Veil, unless you were nobility of course, but it didn’t seem to matter. Unveiled had a waiting list of two weeks.

Luckily a flash of a badge was enough for the bouncers to wave us through.

“Good evening and welcome to Unveiled, do you have a reservation?” A slim woman with soft pink hair greeted us from behind her hostess podium. The hair was a dead giveaway that she was a Fae of some kind. The floral colour usually meaning pixie. It made sense, having someone who could gauge the emotions of others and influence them if needed right at the entrance. No doubt it stopped a lot of trouble before it even started.

I held my badge up for her to see. I gestured to Violet standing next to me, badge also in hand. “Detectives Bluebell and Harper, SCPD. We need to speak to Pyra.”

The Maitre ‘D looked unruffled as she inspected our badges. “One moment please,” she said when she was satisfied. She touched an elegant looking brooch and turned away, speaking a few words too soft for me to hear. After a moment she turned back. “Pyra is about to take the stage, you will be able to talk to her after her performance. I am to show you a table, the manager will be with you in a moment. If you would follow me.” She gestured us further inside and showed us to a table in the middle of the club.

The interior was warm and inviting. The same sheer fabric that was outside lined the walls, the gold shimmering slightly in the candlelight. At the end of the club sat the stage, the sides lined with lush green climbing vines like curtains. Round tables and chairs of a light wood stood facing the stage, the crystal candleholders filled with moss green candles scattered rainbows on the floor. Water was tinkling somewhere to my right, a fountain in the middle of a nightclub.

A skylight covered most of the ceiling, the night sky shining through it tinged purple. There were constellations I recognized from reading about the Veil in high school. Unveiled apparently had a spelled ceiling that showed the sky on the other side of the Veil. It really as almost like stepping into another world with all its golds and greens and twisted woods. The entire scene was beautiful and now, standing here, I finally understood the appeal.

We sat down at our table and a moment later a waitress, wearing a dress that looked like it was made from real leaves, put down two pink and sparkly drinks.

“Oh we don’t –“ I started.

“It’s just lemonade, Detective. On the house,” A man in a gold suit said as he approached our table.

His smooth, coffee-coloured skin almost seemed to glow against the soft shimmer of the gold fabric. Long, red-blond hair fell over his shoulders, almost to his waist, his pointed ears sticking out of the thick strands. His smile was wide and warm, if a little bit smug. He was gorgeous and he knew it. “Good evening,” he greeted, offering a small bow, “my name is Setahl Dahirae, I am the owner of this establishment. How may I be of assistance?”

We both took out our badges again, holding them up for the Fae to see. Detectives Harper and Bluebell,” I repeated, “we need to speak to one of your performers, Pyra.”

“I see. And what is it that you think Bryni has done?”

“It is part of an ongoing investigation, I can’t comment on that,” I told him.

His smile grew. “You are both homicide detectives, are you not?” He gestured towards where our badges were a moment ago. “Surely I have a right to know if one of my employees committed such a crime?”

I got the feeling he wasn’t really an asshole, not like other hot-shot business owners trying to find out information about an open case. There was a hint of worry in his amber eyes. Whether that was because our suspect was his friend or because it endangered his club I didn’t know. There was something else too, a mischievous twinkle that made me think he was trying to get a rise out of me.

I gave him my sweetest smile. “No, you don’t.”

He clutched at his heart dramatically. “You wound me, my lady! I am only trying to protect my family and my livelihood.”

“I’m sure your livelihood will survive,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“If there is something we feel you should know, we will tell you, mister Dahirae,” Violet assured him, sending a glare my way. “You’re club is beautiful.”

He beamed at her words. “Thank you, thank you. Please, enjoy your stay and know that you are always welcome at Unveiled.” He gestured towards the drinks. “I hope you find them as appealing as this conversation has been. Have a good evening.” With a small bow, he backed away from our table and made his way back over to the bar.

Violet picked up her fizzy drink and took a sip. “It’s delicious.” She said happily.

I was a little more cautious, sniffing it first. It indeed did not smell like alcohol, it smelled fruity and sweet. “It’s pink,” I complained, it just made Violet grin wider.

“It’s not going to bite you. Just try it.”

I took a small sip. It tasted good but holy hydrangea that stuff was sweet.

Violet burst out laughing next to me, no doubt reading my face. “It reminds me of the soup my gran used to make.”

“You ate this stuff for soup?” I asked, incredulous, which just set Violet off again. I was suddenly glad we always ordered in when we ate together, I’m not sure I could stomach Pixie cuisine.

“So,” Violet said innocently when she stopped giggling, “the manager is pretty cute.”

“Last time I checked you only like women.” Maybe if I feigned ignorance, this conversation wouldn’t go where I was afraid it would go.

She nudged my shoulder. “Not for me, for you. He was totally flirting with you.”

Aaaaand here we go.

She gave me a disappointed look. “Did you really have to be so rude?”

“You know you sound like my mother when you say that.”

“Your mother is a wise woman.” She saluted me with her pink sugary monstrosity and took another sip. “You could do a whole lot worse you know.” She looked behind us towards the bar. “A lot worse.”

I rolled my eyes at her. “Not interested. How could a mage make herself smell like a ‘wolf?”

“You’re not subtle.” She scolded.

“I’m not trying to be subtle, now answer the question.”

“With magic?” she asked, looking towards the still empty stage.

I shook my head. “The ‘wolves would have smelled that. It would have to be some other way, like packbonds gone wrong, wearing each other’s clothes, dousing yourself in ‘wolf blood –.”

Violet looked up at that one. I held up my hands. “Just random ideas.” I defended.

“Your random ideas worry me sometimes. Although, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing we’ve seen. Hell, not even the weirdest thing we’ve seen this year.”

I thought of Drayce Andvari’s mummified corpse. His wide open eyes and shock-white hair and tried not to shiver.

The lights dimmed, signalling that the show was about to begin. The evening crowd hushed as a man walked onto the stage. He was wearing a simple dark brown tank top and linen pants, a short fiery red vest stopping just short of his waist. Brown curly hair fell in loose waves to his shoulders, softening his sharp features.

As he sat down on the chair on the left side of the podium, he set an instrument that looked like something between a violin and a cello against his shoulder. First he plucked a few strings and tapped against the wood to set a simple beat, repeating it with a small machine at his feet. Then he set his bow to string. A beautiful and haunting melody started, the sound not something I’d heard from a cello before. I could see this being played around a fire, a pipe with wild dagga flower going from hand to hand. People slowly twirling and dancing in the clearing nearby, caravans standing in a loose circle around them.

A young woman walked slowly onto the stage. Her braided hair started with a deep black at the roots and went from red to a bright orange at the tip, it looked like fire, which was, I assumed, the entire point. She wore a jagged black skirt that reached just below her thigh, leaving her long legs and feet bare. Her short top was decorated with delicate embroidery and beading which shimmered in the candle light. A collection of thin gold and bronze chains wrapped around her like a harness, swaying gently as she moved.

Slowly she spread her arms wide, revealing fans made from metal wire. Without warning the tips burst into flame causing the crowd, me included, to gasp at the sudden flare of brightness. I’d never even seen her lips move.

Mages needed conduits for their magic for it to work. Usually, this was a combination of symbols, herbs and words all dedicated to the same purpose. For a Fire mage to work magic without speaking was, to put it lightly, impressive. It also raised my doubts if Pyra was the woman we were looking for. If she was attuned to her element, this capable with her magic, there was no way that she wouldn’t have just put Koppenhaver on fire if she wanted him dead. Unless of course not using fire at all was an attempt to put us on the wrong track, but I doubted it.

Her body curved and bowed to the music, the fire casting a warm light on her pale skin. The movements were sensual and mesmerizing, set off with a tiny rush of adrenaline every time her fire flared. Her hips and her fire seemed to sway in the same tempo, the ghostly melody of the cello falling and rising with the flames.

Nobody seemed unaffected and for the next half hour we watched as she danced, some sort of fusion between belly dance and ballet, and used her magic to make flames dance with her. Hoops, fans, a staff, all were used and all were set alight without a single word. At the height of the performance, two huge fiery wings spread out behind her, casting her slight frame in a stark silhouette against the golden light.

I’d seen mages perform before, but never had I seen someone use their talents like this before, like art. Pyra seemed to be made of fire, the flames an extension of herself, like the man’s music was an extension of himself. Harmony. No wonder they were one of the most popular acts at Unveiled, it was truly a sight to behold.

As the show drew to a close she spread her arms wide and bowed deep, the crowd, including us, standing up to give them a standing ovation. They stood next to each other for a moment, revelling in the applause before bowing one last time and making their way off stage.

Before we could decide whether to sit back down for a moment or to go to the dressing room immediately the waitress from before stood by our table.

“Detectives, if you would follow me?”

She led us through a series of hallways into a brightly lit room. Racks with clothes lined one wall, mirrors with lights lined the other. Both Bryni and what I now saw had to be her brother were both here, still in their performance outfits. They both looked up as we entered, seeming curious but annoyed that we interrupted their downtime. They looked alike, in the stark lights of the changing room. They had the same cheekbones, the same facial structure, but Bryni’s feminine curves softened the sharpness that seemed to run in this family.

Again, Violet and I pulled out our badges, flipping them open and holding them up. “Detectives Bluebell and Harper, SCPD Violent Crimes and Homicide division. Are you Bryni Hugh?” I asked her as she started pulling on a soft looking silk robe.

“I’m Bryni, this is my brother Fintan. What can we help you with, Detectives?” She seemed apprehensive, but in the way most people react when you have two homicide detectives wanting to ask you some questions.

I really didn’t think this was the pair we were looking for, but maybe they could tell us a little more about our victim. “Does the name Donald Koppenhaver mean anything to either of you?”

The siblings looked at each other, but no sign of recognition crossed their faces. “No.” They answered in unison. “Should it?” Bryni asked.

“You’ve had a run-in with him before,” Violet started as she pulled out a picture, “left him with quite a scar.”

Bryni took the picture from Violet’s hand, her face hardening as she recognized Koppenhaver’s face. “Look, I don’t know what he’s telling you, but the creep totally had it coming.” She waved the picture around in an irritated wave of her arm.

“He came on to you?” I asked.

“Came on to me? Is that what he said?” she let out a humourless laugh, “that asshole fucking assaulted me!”

Fintan took this moment to rip the photo from her hands and study it, letting out a low growl. “It’s true,” he started, “they guy was lucky I wasn’t here that day or I would have ripped his throat out.”

“Well, that’s exactly what happened to him last night,” I said, checking their faces for any kind of reaction. There was shock and a hint of relief, but no guilt and no pride. Emotions that you might expect from people capable of such a vicious murder.

“And you think we had anything to do with it?” Bryni paused for a moment. “Look, I’m not sad he’s no longer out there, the guy was a total douchebag. Three years ago he tried to force himself onto one of the other performers, a Siren named Claire Hidgins. She reported it, three days later he corners her by her car, next thing we know, she drops all charges. I swear, he did something to her. She left the state to be away from that guy. When he tried to do something to me a few weeks later, I fought him off.” There was a hint of pride in her eyes, but mostly she just looked young and vulnerable. “Setahl tossed him to the street and he’s never been back since.”

“Setahl and Claire can confirm this?” I asked, writing Claire’s name down so Kravitz could look into it later. I waited for her nod to continue. “And where were you both last night between midnight and two?”

“Look the guy may have deserved it, but we’re no killers,” Fintan spoke up, “Besides, we were here performing ‘til eleven and after that we stayed to work on our new act. We went home around three o’clock. Setahl stayed to listen, you can ask him.”

We were going to ask him about Koppenhaver anyway, but I didn’t think we needed to check the alibi. The siblings weren’t our killers. From the way Violet was looking at me she didn’t think so either. We just lost our two suspects but if Koppenhaver really was the kind of man Bryni and Fintan believed he was, a whole new pool of suspect just opened up.

So there you have it, part 4 of our monster story! I started watching Grimm recently {still haven’t decided if I like it or not…} and in the first season there is a character who is also a fire juggler. I absolutely loved the way she moved and the idea of a supernatural creature with an affinity to fire to be a performer like this. Thus Pyra was born.

I was listening to one of my favourite artists, Adam Hurst while writing part 3 of this story. While listening I thought, this would be perfect to do a slow belly dance/fire fan performance to. It just fit too well. I already knew I needed Fintan to be there, so congrats Finny, you get a cello! If you’re not familiar with Adam’s music I do suggest you check it out, he’s amazing. I reckoned the numbers Fintan played would be Ritual as his first song {since this is also the first song I ever heard of him, and instantly fell in love with the haunting melody}, and Hidden Door for Pyra’s first dance. I love it!

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