|A Faerie Tale: Philemon's Friends (or How a Boggan Protects Himself)|
“A special treat tonight, ladies and gentlefae,” announced the boggan from on top of the bar, the strength and clarity of his voice belying his diminutive size. “Baucis Brewery is pleased to announce a new beer, a golden pilsner that we’re calling Hypocene. And- as part of its coming out ceremony- everybody in the freehold of Dodona’s Oak tonight gets a glass of our new brew on the house.”
Loud cheering went up from all of the Kithain in the freehold and on cue the waiters who worked there came into the common room bearing trays with foaming crystal mugs. There was more cheering and applause, and the boggan cleared his throat once more. “As always, we will be holding another contest to decide what the art on the label will be when we start bottling and distributing our new beer.” The boggan got down from his stand and started handing out the free beers to all the patrons.
A grump satyr who had already downed most of his drink approached the boggan. “This is great, Phil. I think it might be your best yet.”
“Thanks, Nicos. I trust your judgment, as a connoisseur of the brew.”
“Hypocene, you said, Phil?” called out a troll from the back wall. “The Muses’ well of inspiration has always fascinated me. I’ve always thought that finding it would make for a great quest. Maybe I’ll enter your label contest this time.”
“That would be great, Trevor,” replied the boggan with a grin. “I look forward to seeing it.”
“Hey Phil, how’s this for a slogan? ‘Buy Baucis Brewery, it’s a mythology lesson in every bottle.’” joked a nearby pooka.
“Hey, any excuse to pound some knowledge into your uneducated heads works for me, Jen. Although, for some reason the school board objected to this method when I was working as teacher.” Phil gave a slight shrug to add credence to his joke as he handed out his last two pilsners.
The next few hours brought more mirth and dross-filled beer as the Kithain in the heart of Cincinnati spent a pleasant evening in Dodona’s Oak under the observant and amiable eye of its boggan proprietor. The freehold had an open-door policy for all changelings, Seelie or Unseelie, noble or commoner. Unfortunately, with the recent increases in tensions following the disappearance of the high king, it was rare that a sidhe found his way into the commoner-run freehold. Nevertheless, the warm and friendly atmosphere that it exuded helped the local commoners, at least, to forget the problems with the brewing war, or with their mundane lives.
Once the last few patrons left, Phil released his remaining employees to go home. He had long ago realized that he could get the freehold cleaned up faster by himself than with their help. He had just about finished up when there was a knock on the door. By this time it was quite late and the boggan was not expecting any more customers (or “friends who sometimes chip in for the drinks” as he preferred to call them) so he used a magic mirror over his bar that a Dougal crafter had once given him to see who stood outside his door. Seeing an old friend and fellow boggan, Phil snapped his fingers causing the front door to swing open.
“It’s a nice night,” said the old boggan as entered the hold and removed his well-worn duster and brown fedora, “you really should get out more, Philemon. It would do you some good.”
“Did you come all this way to give me grief, old timer?” Asked Phil, himself on the cusp of grumphood, as he put up the last few glasses behind the bar.
“Naw, I’d heard that you were introducing a new ale tonight and was looking for a good time. I seem to have missed the party though. On my way here, I ran into some poor lost kid. I noticed him at first because of the glamour about him, potent little dreamer unless I miss my guess. Anyway turns out that he was separated from his playmates. I helped him find them and it turns out that the lad’s friends were none other then a group of sidhe childlings. What’s more it turns out that the whole lot of them were lost and couldn’t find their way back to the baronial manor where they were all staying. Of course that’s on the other side of town from here, but I took the time to bring them safely home. Found out a few interesting things while I was at the manor, too, which is why I bothered to come all the way back here, late as it is.”
While the older boggan talked, Phil picked out his friend’s favorite German stein and filled it with what little remained of his new brew. “It must be really something for you to bring your self here at this hour. You must be bursting to tell me your news.” Phil handed Barthelomy the drink and with a cup of tea for himself went over to one of the chaise armchairs by the balefire, the first time that he had really gotten to sit down since the evening began.
Barthelomy picked up the stein and joined his younger kithmate by the balefire. He allowed himself a long sip of the ale and a satisfied sigh before he let lose his torrent of news. “Well, the good Baron Alister of House Liam has been rounding up young dreamers for some time now, claiming that it is a protective measure during these current hostilities.” Philemon merely nodded, that the Baron had been collecting both childlings and their dreamers was old news to anyone who stayed up to date with the local gossip. “But from what I found out tonight, he’s only trying to protect himself.” The grump permit himself another quaff from the pilsner before continuing. “It seems that he plans on using the children as bargaining tokens to ensure that he stays in power no matter which way the wind blows in Concordia. Or at least that’s what his gardener says.” Phil raised a bushy brown eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. “That’s just the potatoes though, the real meat of the matter and why I had to see you tonight concerns a new fellow in the area, a sidhe. Officially he’s of House Eiluned, but there are rumors that he’s really an Ailil. He’s named Dakelan and he’s some sort of baron or count or something. Anyway, he’s got some title, but apparently no freehold of his own. And as Rosie, you know Rosie? That sweet young boggan in Baron Alister’s kitchen?” Phil nodded as he sipped some of his tea. “Anyhow, she says that this Dakelan fellow is looking to claim a freehold of his own, and seeing as how Dodona’s Oak here is held by you, a commoner without any title, he’ll be sure to go after this place.”
Philemon let his friend’s words sink in as he took another sip of tea. His bushy eyebrows knit themselves together as he thought on the matter. After a moment he set down his cup and in an even voice asked, “Does this Dakelan have any forces loyal to him?”
“I think that he has a retainer or two, but otherwise no. But you know how those Ailil are, silver-tongued bastards each and every one, he’ll probably try to drum up some of the locals to support him.”
Philemon picked his cup back up and leaned back into the soft cushions of his chair. “Then I don’t think we’ll have anything to worry about.”
Count Dakelan ap Ailil sat in his guest chambers brooding. He had already spent far too long biding his time in the freehold of this insufferable Liam, who he outranked even in his guise as an Eiluned. Seelie bastard, he thought. It is beyond belief that this weak-willed Baron allows a boggan without any title to freely operate a freehold while nobles such as myself have none. He was finding it difficult to be patient as he waited to hear back from the agent that he had sent into the city. He was loathe not to be taking matters into his own hands, but he needed to create some mayhem and chaos before he could justifiably step into this “Dodona’s Oak” and establish order. Pooka can be good for a spot of chaos, but they are easily distracted and aren’t nearly viscous enough. Besides, Dakelan reminded himself, if one wants real mayhem, nothing beats a corby of redcaps. I’m sure that I made the right choice in bringing that vile little redcap along with me.
Martin Mangle-Mouth absently rubbed his underarm where his secret brand in the shape of the Ailil dragon had been burned last autumn. Given the difficulty that he had had infiltrating this corby of fellow redcaps he was now certain that his master, Count Dakelan, would never have been able to deal with them on his own. They seemed very untrusting of any other kith. Martin perked up to alertness as Kynon, the corby leader, started talking. Apparently Kynon had decided that the neighborhood could use some shaking up and the gang was trying to decide on their evening’s activities. Martin gave a gap-toothed smile, a testament to the battle that had brought him under the control of House Ailil. This was the chance that he had been waiting for. “Hey,” he shouted, earning him the attention of the other redcaps. “If we really want to cause some trouble around here, as well as scoring a mess of food and drinks then I know just the place.” He noticed a few eyebrows rise in curiosity at the newcomer making a suggestion.
“Yeah?” said Kynon, his own eyebrow raised. “What did you have in mind, ugly?”
Martin faltered a little under the gaze of the group of redcaps who he had just gotten to know, but realizing that it was too late to backtrack he pushed forward. “Well I’m sure that you guys know about it, but there is a nice little freehold not too far from here that would make for a fun time. It’s commoner-run so there aren’t any sidhe to worry about. In fact it’s just run by a boggan. We’ll probably still get a bit of action though, there’s bound to be a troll or two hanging around, probably some satyrs. Enough for a fight at least. And the place has its own brewery so we’ll get a shit load of beer out of the deal.” Silence. None of the redcaps said a word, they all just stared at him. “Uh, I uh, think that it’s called Dodona’s Oak. You know it, right?”
A female redcap standing next to Martin cuffed him hard on the side of his head with her spiked bracelet. Kynon walked up to him and placed an iron-shod boot against Martin’s chest. “It’s a good thing that the rest of us aren’t as damned stupid as you. Do you think that the sidhe make a practice of inviting us around for tea and crumpets? We’re not about to cancel our ticket at the only freehold where we have a standing invitation. Do you have any idea how much free food, beer, and ambient glamour that we get at that place? What do you think are the chances that we’d be able to keep that place as a friendly warm fire and hot meal if we trashed it? Besides, Philemon happens to be a friend of mine, helped me out in a rough spot once. He warned me that somebody might be trying to cause some problems for him. You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”
The next day the comatose human form of Martin was found outside of Baron Alister’s freehold without any explanation. Dakelan went directly into his backup plan; a single setback was not going to deter him from his goal. Alister doesn’t fully recognize how fortunate he is to have a contingent of loyal troll soldiers garrisoned here in his freehold. I’d have preferred the organized chaos of the redcaps, but trolls are much easier to control. All one has to do is wave some official looking orders in their big blue faces, the Ailil thought to himself with a smirk. From amongst his personal affects Dakelan took out a blank piece of goblin parchment. With a wave of his hand the blank parchment became a royal proclamation from Queen Mary-Elizabeth of the Kingdom of Grass. With this in hand Dakelan went straight to see the captain of Alister’s troll guard.
Trevor read and reread the parchment given to him by the count. “Well well, Philemon is an informant for the Urban Renewal League and he’s to be arrested. and brought here for questioning?” He looked hard at the sidhe in front of him. “I’d never have guessed.” He stood up and turned away from Dakelan so that he didn’t have to look at the bright and terrible features of the sidhe. The troll paused, giving himself a moment to think. “You know, my lord, under the feudal system I owe allegiance only to Baron Alister ap Liam, who owes his allegiance to Duke Conla ap Fiona, who in turn owes his allegiance to Queen Mary-Elizabeth ni Dougal. Officially, I should only take orders directly from Baron Alister. But I’m sure that you know that. It would be a simple matter for you to take this proclamation to the Baron, who undoubtedly would leap to action, not bothering to wait for a direct order from the Duke. Concordia is in an unofficial state of war after all.”
In a barely controlled hiss Dakelan responded, “If you insist on the proper protocol before bringing this criminal to justice then it will be a simple matter to speak to the baron. If you would be so kind as to return the proclamation? Or if you wish, you may accompany me.”
Trevor straightened up and turned back towards the count. “Under normal circumstances such round-about methods would not be necessary, but when it comes to those who are both my friends and upstanding members of the community, then I must insist on doing things properly. While we’re at it, I’ll go ahead and check in with the queen’s department of justice at Caer Palatine.” Trevor handed Dakelan back the bogus proclamation. “Oh, and when you talk to the baron, you can tell him that if he orders me to follow through with this proclamation then he can find himself a new captain of the guard.”
Count Dakelan blinked. “What? Why?”
“Because Phil is a good man. In fact, most of my men helped him to build his freehold several years ago. I don’t believe for a second that these accusations are true and I owe him too much to upset his life because of some unfounded accusations. My duty to my friends, and to this community, overrides my desire to maintain my position here. I assure you that my second in command and any other who would be likely to take my place will share my sentiments. Shall we go contact Caer Palatine and speak with the baron?”
“That won’t be necessary, captain.” Feeling frustrated, Dakelan tightly grasped his false document and stormed back to his room to give the situation further thought.
The next night saw another pleasant evening at Dodona’s Oak. Kynon’s gang made some snide comments about the do-boys of the sidhe when Trevor showed up with some of his friends. Used to the tensions that often occur in large, mixed groups of changelings, and aided by his ability to quickly deduce such social dynamics, Philemon had no trouble in diverting potential hostilities within the freehold. As they laughed, ate, and drank, the commoners inside the hold discussed the latest bit of gossip.
Apparently, the sidhe who had been guesting with the baron had recently left the area. Rumors of his membership in the Shadow Court- and therefore a threat to the young dreamers in the baron’s freehold- had circulated all around the city. Of course, that was just a rumor, but most of the local Kithain, along with Baron Alister and Duke Conla thought it best to be on the safe side. They did not welcome Count Dakelan back into the area. That night, Kynon, Trevor, Barthelomy, and a good number of other select friends enjoyed a free meal and an evening of free ale.