Silver Earth – Books And Blood
Rupert Giles agrees to spend a week with Jago and Del’ Pridwyn. As he gets to know the rest of the family he becomes increasingly concerned with their interest in magic.
The house was long and low, tucked away in a scraggy piece of woodland around a hairpin bend on a dirt track. The hallway was carpeted in burnt orange, a relic from the 1970s. The walls were magnolia, the gloss-painted woodwork, yellow and pitted. On the wall, a pair of antlers, originally mounted as a sporting trophy had been pressed into service as a coat rack. There was a smell of damp and bleach, as if the occupants were fighting a losing battle against the mould and mildew. Jago led Giles into the kitchen. It was fitted with post-war utility cupboards, sky blue, chipped Formica tops, and bowed chrome handles. “’Tis good of you to stay the week,” Jago unhooked the holdall from his shoulder. “Cup of tea?”
“Please,” Giles surveyed the kitchen. Despite its dilapidated state it was immaculately tidy and perfectly clean. “Jago,” he asked, “When did you start demon hunting?”
The look on the Jago’s face told Giles that it was an intrusive question. “It’s a family thing, eldest son to eldest son, sacred bloodlines that kind’a stuff.” He handed Giles a mug, blue and white banded with a chipped rim.
“So, is Del’ your cousin?” Giles sampled the tea and winced when he tasted that Jago had added at least a quarter of a cupful of sugar.
“Kind’a,” Jago turned his chair and sat astride it, facing Giles across the table. “She looked after us when Mum got herself killed.” He looked down at his reflection in the mug of tea. “We lost our Dad six months ago. Five of them went down with that trawler, freak weather conditions, according to the inquest, if you can believe that.”
“I’m sorry,” Giles offered.
“Shit happens,” Jago replied, “and it makes the roses grow.”
“That’s an interesting perspective,” Giles complimented. “Would you say that Del’ knows a lot about demonology?”
Jago ceased upon the chance to change the subject. “Well, yegh,” said Jago. “A damned sight more than they soft ‘eads at the Watchers' Council, I can tell you that fer nothing.”
“Flattered, I’m sure,” Giles was mildly insulted.
“Listen, I didn’t mean… you know about the Watchers? Well I be bug- Del’ ‘ates them, they’ve really dissed her in the past. If they knew ‘alf the stuff she’s got in her library they would be ‘round ‘ere quicker than a damn.”
“Did you say that she had a library?” Giles looked up, his interest rekindled. Jago registered his glee at the prospect of a few hours’ reading.
“Well… yes, I’m sure Del’ won’t mind. Finish your tea and I’ll show you,” Jago downed his own mug in a few gulps. Forget about the tea, Giles thought as he jumped to his feet. “What are ‘e so keen about?” Jago asked as he led the way. “’Tis only a roomful of old books.”
Giles swept the dust off the book with his cotton-gloved hands. Its English title was ‘The Book of Leinster’, a record of the stories and intrigues of ancient Ireland. The table at which he sat was neatly piled with such books, their leather covers softened with age, pages fraying and gold-leafed lettering flaking. Jago brought him a heavy oak box that had been studded with protective ironwork. He placed it in front of Giles. “Open it,” Jago encouraged. “It’s the only remaining copy in the world.”
Like a child unwrapping a long-anticipated Christmas present, Giles lifted the lid. He unfolded the acid-free tissue paper and removed the silicone sachets. He gasped at what was inside. The cover was gold plate, the parchments that it contained were written in the most beautiful script he had ever seen, the illuminated capitals still bright after the passing millennia, although the language was unfamiliar to him. “Jago is this...”
“It’s ‘The Annals of the Children of Danuna’,” a loud voice from the doorway confirmed Giles’ suspicions. It was ‘Renza, Jago’s older sister. She was dressed in grey overalls, her trouser legs tucked into her work boots. From her stance Giles could tell that she was very angry indeed. “Jago, what the bloody ‘ell are you doing letting ‘im in ‘ere like this?” She did not wait for him to reply. “These texts,” she swept her hand in the direction of the table, “contain the darkest kind of magic, dimension shattering stuff, and the Annals…” she paused, restraining herself. “It’s just lucky for you that Delayna never translated them.”
“Could err, Delayna translate them?” Giles asked. Her scowl told him that he should not have asked that question. “Miss Pridwyn, ‘Renza, I’m sorry if I have intruded but the information contained in these books is very important to our work.”
She stormed towards him. Giles moved to put the book back in its box, but decided against it, since he deduced that she would not hit him if he were holding such an important document. She stopped an arms length away from him and raised her hands.
“‘Renza stop it,” a new voice to his left caused ‘Renza to cease. Giles turned to thank his saviour and nearly choked on his own breath. It was Del’, her blue eyes now blood red, her skin deathly white, black feathers sprouted from her head like an unholy halo. Her fingernails had become claw-like, her teeth were black fangs that caused her to lisp slightly.
Del’s attention was fixed on ‘Renza. “I wasn’t going to ‘urt ‘im,” ‘Renza offered by way of explanation. “I was only going to wipe his memory. Come on Delayna be reasonable ‘ere.”
“’Tis no way to treat a guest in our house,” Delayna rebuked her as she approached with measured steps; “and I told you not to call me Delayna when we’ve got company.”
“Is Del’, is Delayna a demon?” Giles whispered to Jago.
“Don’t ask what you don’t want to know,” Jago advised Giles. “We do things a little bit differently in this part of the world.”
Delayna had pronounced judgement on ‘Renza by grounding her for a fortnight. Delayna, Jago, ‘Renza and Giles sat around the library table. Delayna had reverted to her usual appearance, except for the black feathers hidden amongst her long hair. “I suppose you want to know what that was all about?” said Delayna as she ran her fingers through her tresses. “Have a feel,” she offered him her upturned wrist. “I’m not a vampire, I’m warm blooded,” Giles placed two fingers on her wrist. The fast but steady rhythm of a beating heart and her soft breath against his face put his worst fears to rest.
“But you are not part of this world.” Giles insisted. Delayna withdrew her wrist and sadly shook her head, resigned to the fact that she would forever be the subject of such pronouncements.
“Whatever else I am, I am flesh and blood,” Delayna said, rebuking him gently.
“So were that Mogskenn monster,” ‘Renza decided to inject some poison into the proceedings. The others scowled at her. “What? You said yourself that she’s not a part of this world,” her last comment was addressed at Giles. The silent staring continued. “Listen people,” she tried to justify herself, “I didn’t ask to be born, and if it weren’t for Ms fangs and feathers ‘ere”.
“‘Renza!” Jago banged his fist on the table. “Hold yer’ peace fer I lam it to ‘e one.”
“You good-fur-nothin’-gate-pos-chield’,” ‘Renza was on her feet, grabbing Jago by his shirt, pulling him out of his chair.”
“’Ush up the both of you!” Delayna clapped a firm hand on each shoulder. “You want me to get nasty or are the two of you gonna go up to your rooms right now?” She shoved the both of them in the direction of the door. The brother and sister exchanged a few more verbal snipes and barbs before Delayna threatened to bang their heads together.
Delayna flopped down into her chair, resting her head on her hands. She sighed, “I’m sorry you had to see that,” she apologised to Giles.
“That’s family life,” he reassured with a wry smile.
“Do you have any children, I mean, if that’s not too personal a question?” she rested her elbow on the arm of the chair, cupping one cheek and watching Giles’ reaction.
“Not of my own - but I was a Watcher to a Slayer for many years,” he leaned forward, smiling at the memories. “But after she died and got brought back…”
“You were assigned to the Summer’s girl?” Delayna was surprised.
“Why aren’t you… err, watching her now?”
“Because,” he paused, aware that Delayna was listening intently. “It was time to let go,” he concluded.
“But you had to give her one ‘ell of a shove, right?” Delayna embroidered her words with a thread of mischief. Giles returned her smile with a knowing nod. “Have you ever read an original version of ‘The Book of Ballymote’?” Giles shook his head. Delayna went over to a merchant’s chest, unlocked one of the drawers and handed him a stack of dog-eared paper. “It is written in the Ogham script,” Delayna reminded him.
Giles’ face dropped. “Can you translate it?” he enquired.
Delayna tutted as she sat down beside him. “I am a little rusty on my pronunciation of fourteenth century Gallic,” she admitted.
“Well then,” said Giles briskly. “Maybe it’s time you practised.”
It was late evening when Delayna showed Giles to his guest room in the attic. She had apologised for its poor state of decoration, but he had assured her that he found the faded floral wallpaper quaint rather than scrappy and that the furniture was of historical interest, rather than fit for the dump. Giles sat on the low bed and flipped open his mobile phone. The crystal-cut voice of Catherine Travers, research assistant at the Watchers' archives in London greeted him. She asked him how he was enjoying his stay in the West Country and other pleasantries before detailing the real purpose of her call. “Giles, about that name you gave us, ‘Pridwyn’; firstly, we are having problems with the translation, but it is probably Brythonic in origin.” Giles nodded and made a noise that could be taken for an acknowledgement or an agreement. “Secondly, I have found a few references to a Pridwyn family on microfiche,” she continued “just local newspaper cuttings from the hatches, matches and dispatches section, nothing of interest”.
“Yes, thank you for going to so much trouble,” said Giles. “Catherine, have you ever heard of a demon, goddess or monster called Delayna?”
“Delayna?” Catherine echoed. She paused for a moment. “No, never,” she denied. “Giles, is this connected with your original question?”
“Not at all,” he reassured. “I saw the name in a tourist guide book and wondered where I had heard it before. Thanks for your help.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Catherine terminated the call. For a few moments Giles sat on the bed, wondering about what it all meant and what he should do next. Still deep in contemplation, he went over to the attic window and looked out across the bleak but beautiful landscape. He could just make out the form of Delayna amongst the evening shadows. She was walking away from the house, her backpack slung over her shoulders. She stopped for a moment, getting her bearings and then carried on walking.
“Morning,” Jago greeted Giles with a tray of tea and toast. Jago was dressed in his school’s uniform, or rather Jago’s interpretation of his school’s uniform. It was true that he had to wear a black jumper or blazer, but that did not extend to include a hooded skater top dubbed with the symbol for anarchy. “Sleep well?”
“Yes thank you,” Giles shifted himself into a sitting position and took the tray on to his lap. “Where was Del’ going last night?”
“You mean Delayna?” Jago replied, taking his own mug of tea off the tray. “Just doing an extra sweep of the area. It’s coming up to Samhain, and the Otherworld is getting restless.”
“I beg your pardon?” Giles rubbed his eyes as if he were still dreaming. “You mean Halloween? In my experience the vampires and ghosts treat it as a kind of bank holiday weekend.”
“Damn it Giles,” Jago chuckled. “The reason why the yellow-eyed-fangies and floaty-see-throughs go to ground during that week is cause they are scared witless,” Jago perched cross-legged on Giles’ bed. He pointed to the bubbles in his mug of tea. “You see, dimensions are like those bubbles, self contained spheres of something floating along in something else.” Jago blew softly, causing two of the larger bubbles to meet in the centre of the mug. “Sometimes, in certain places, those dimensions move close enough to touch,” he blew again, and the bubbles moved apart. “And then they separate again - until next year.”
“Yes, yes, I’m familiar with that idea,” Giles said, waving a piece of toast about. “You said the yellow-eyed-whatevers are scared of something. Are they scared of Delayna?”
Jago sniggered. “Eat your toast,” he patted Giles on the shoulder.
“Are you not going to school today?” Giles said as he chanced upon ‘‘Melza in the library. She was reading, curled up in an armchair as if she were a kitten.
“I don’t go to school,” said ‘Melza as she looked up and shut the book. He perceived that the subject was also closed.
“That book you’re reading,” Giles sat near her, indicating towards the text. “Where I sometimes work, we kept our copy under lock and key.”
“Is that because there are evil people at the Watchers’ Council?” ‘Melza asked, her face a picture of innocence. Giles did not reply so ‘Melza continued. “Delayna wants me to know all about the Otherworld, what with the mines flooding and the prophesy about the Tutha De Danuna,” ‘Melza rambled, her tone light as if she were talking about something that happened every day. “Of course, if Jago would do as Delayna suggested, it would make things a lot easier for all of us.” She stopped, “Mr Giles, why are you looking at me like that?”
“What, exactly are you talking about?” Giles leaned closer to her.
“I thought you Watchers are supposed to know everything that goes on in the realm of the super-unnatural,” ‘Melza quizzically crinkled her face. “Isn’t that why you were sent to spy on us?”
“I was not sent to spy on you. I came to Cornwall for a holiday,” Giles insisted.
“Then why were you phoning the Council last night? I heard you, your room is right above mine,” ‘Melza said, her tone soft but accusative.
“Does Delayna know about this?”
“She doesn’t. I didn’t tell her because they lied to you.” Uncurling herself, ‘Melza rose from the chair, her book in hand. “I’m going to lock the library door now. Perhaps you would like to visit some of the New Age shops in Camborne or Redruth,” ‘Melza showed him the way out. Giles followed the flowing skirted girl as she took a brass key from somewhere inside her overcoat and locked the library door. “I’ll be in my room if you need me.”
“Evening,” said Delayna as she slouched into the kitchen, closely followed by an injured ‘Renza. “Do you know who this belongs to?” She handed Giles a carrier bag. Inside was a bloodied knife. He went to pick it up. “Don’t,” Delayna lunged forward and grabbed his wrist. “Don’t touch the blood.”
Chastened, Giles continued his examination. Delayna listened as she attended to ‘Renza’s wounds. “It’s certainly antique, the design of the blade indicates that it was used for gutting animals, but it looks too ornate to have been used for that purpose.”
“You’re dammed right about the gutting,” ‘Renza interrupted as she pulled up her t-shirt to reveal a bleeding slash wound on one side of her belly. “It’s okay Giles, it’s only a scratch. Besides Del’ got a good look at the bastard as she was beating him to a pulp.” Delayna grinned at the complement. She placed a sterile pad over the wound to stem the bleeding, causing ‘Renza to wince and utter a string of expletives.
Giles went over to the sink and began to wash his hands. “Get her on the table,” he ordered. “I’ve got a suture kit upstairs.”
“Good,” Delayna agreed. “You take care of ‘Renza, I’m going after the others.”
“I thought there was only one attacker?” Said Giles as he helped ‘Renza onto the table.
“There’s always more,” Delayna snapped. Giles watched in horror as Delayna morphed into her demonic form. Her head sprouted a mass of black feathers, her skin turned white and her blue eyes red. Delayna checked her fangs to make sure that they were good and sharp. “When I’ve finished with them, each one will be in several pieces.”
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