(The Corrs: In Blue)
I hate it when this happens.
Some people speak wistfully of adventure and magic and new worlds. A faraway look comes into their eyes. They put down their drinks. Then when you ask them why...well, they think it's romantic. Fun. Hell, even exciting.
Shows you what people are like.
I've had enough of all three to last me many lifetimes, and if anything, it's taught me that what I want most in the world is a normal life. Normal, that is, for a normal human. Those that can dream of the occult behind the safety of knowing that it'd never happen to them. Those who can drink and smoke without wondering, idly, whether the First of the Fallen has some new plan to one's disadvantage. Or whether one's evil half is still bent on revenge. What I go through is probably normal for a Constantine who touched magic and never got free.
Why? Because an ancestor of mine, the first one, who wasn't a boy scout to begin with, name of Kon-sten-tyn*, had to go piss off Merlin, and the rest...history. The past. I try to forget it sometimes, and sometimes I even succeed.
The present? Sitting in front of a bar nursing a beer, and attempting to pretend the person...creature next to me doesn't exist.
Not very successful, since he's speaking to me, and sound is a little difficult to erase from the mind. Damn involuntary hearing.
Ignore him. Pretend he doesn't exist. Or something will happen again, something with magic, pain, and probably new, powerful, vicious enemies. I don't have a heart when I'm feeling down, so I ask one of my most-asked questions. Why me?
Something inside my brain, which isn't soaked in beer and clouded with cigarette smoke, is screaming at me to talk to him. It may be suicidal to ignore one of Them. Then again, I already have worse enemies. Nothing he can do can be worse, can it?
Theydon't give social visits. There's something he wants. From me. And there's only one sort of help people ask from a Constantine.
Of course I'm qualified to do it. Done it many times. Doesn't mean I want to repeat the experience.
The counter had been polished, and I can see a distorted reflection of my face in it. Unshaven. Tired. Scruffy. Tattered trenchcoat. Slightly relieved that no one is beating me up, torturing me or asking me questions like 'Where is my heart?'*, which they know better that I won't answer. Heaven and Hell can sod each other so long as the shrapnel doesn't hit me. And I want to keep it that way. So I don't answer, and I drink, slowly but surely. Eventually I'd smoke. Relieves tension. Or something. Can't remember why I started.
What does he want anyway?
Maybe I don't want to know what he wants, outside. But a part of me does. The suicidal part, the curious cat that's gotten murdered and skinned and burned but still gets up and wants more. But yes, deep down I want to know. Especially if there's something in it for me.
Maybe this time it'd be worth it. Yes, so one part of me is an optimist. Kinda surprising, innit?
I finally turned around with the intention of breathing beer into his face and saying something cocky, but he's gone. Like he's never been there in the first place. For a moment I stared at the empty, stained seat, and felt...blank. Neutral. Unfeelingly gray.
Then annoyed and pissed off, though in a vague sort of way. Not really directed at anything, just an unpleasant weight on my mind and a prickling flush in my cheeks.
Somepeople need to learn the meaning of patience.
And I was just about to speak to him, too.
That about sums up my feelings, and that nagging thought that I'd missed out on something is ruining the drinking. Can't get decently drunk when wondering what he wanted. Or what he could have given me. Or what he'd do since I'd ignored him. This Dream King sent someone to hell before, didn't he? Or was it the other one? What happened to the other one, anyway? The first one? Morpheus, wasn't it? Sort of remember meeting him once. Something about a sandbag*.
Don't want to go to hell. Been there already. Don't like the new management, and you still can't get a decent drink there. Or ciggies.
Can't remember which one. Don't think I want to. Don't want to drink anymore, either, which is strange. Maybe he's fiddling with my mind.
Don't want to know. But I get off the seat and pay for the drink and manage to get out of the door without any mishap, which always makes me mildly surprised. Call it pessimism if you will, but being pleasantly surprised more often suits me.
In a huge place, with damn big glass windows, and a sparkling floor polished so bright I have to squint. High ceiling with mad paintings of eye-watering detail. Statues that are so damn well carved it gives you a feeling that you're inadequate in the art department. Somehow that manages to make me feel depressed. Some sort of damn big indoor pool that has no apparent use other than being ornamental.
I turned around, slowly, afraid of what I may see.
No real world.
I reached in my pocket and after some fishing, retrieved the packet of Silk Cut*. Struck a match, carefully. Lighted a cigarette, carefully. Dropped the match, carefully. Put cigarette in the mouth, carefully. Replaced packet in pocket, carefully. Little gestures to keep someone sane. That and I'm taking a certain vicious pleasure in dropping ash all over the damn clean floor.
"I'm in the Dreamin'?" I said, trying to sound nonchalant. Stupid question. Where else can I be? *
"In the heart of it."
And he's standing next to me, just like that. I hate it when people do that. Gives you a bad shock, it does. Could've inhaled my cigarette. What happened to the normal walking-up-to-someone routine?
"What d'ye want?" Clever, clever question, Johnny boy. Brain needs alcohol. Can't think properly. I'm going to regret this.
"I need you to retrieve something for me."
It took some time for me to realize that I spoke that last thought out loud. Well, as good a question as any.
"Because you are a rider of the synchronicity highway*. And if you want to find it, sooner or later you will get it."
Aha. I knew that would come up.
Once I ask the inevitable question I will eventually go and get it. Once I open my mouth and say three words, another adventure. I can smell it going to happen. But I can stop this. Tell him to sod off and go back to the pub. If he lets me out of this place. Where he has absolute power.
I could feel the words twisting in my throat, bubbling up, a sickly rancid taste, or maybe that's just the remnants of this morning's hangover.
It's a decision I probably will regret.
But I picked the cigarette out of my mouth and blew smoke in his direction, a last defiant gesture of a born bastard.
"What is it?"
He smiled. Relieved smile. Not good.
Means that this is difficult to get. Such that he can't get it himself.
Means that he really, really wants this...and now he's asking nicely but he just might end up with threats. Even if he's supposedly the nicer one. Is he? And where did that thought come from?
He began to talk, and by the end of it, I was beginning to wish I had never stepped out of that pub.
Didn't know he could do that.
He didn't explain anyway. Blue colored crystal ring, give a little twist to the shiny pretty blue stone on top, and poof, the world's gone. Extreme seasickness and disorientation, a mad swirl of colors...then this.
Absolute nothing. Or probably absolute darkness, which is a better word since I could feel the floor. A floor. Stone floor. A darkness so deep, probably meant I'm indoors, and to use a stupid phrase, someone forgot to turn on the lights. The air feels stifling, which means this place probably has no windows. Or they're closed.
Didn't he give me something? A few things?
Yes, I remember something that can help with this darkness. Hopefully.
Groping frantically in pockets again, just as someone – or something in front of me hissed something that sounded like "Rivvil!" in the same tone that people use to describe a particularly ugly and disgusting species of worm.
Is he referring to me?
A scuffle of boot against floor. Soft sound of a cloak and cloth on cloth. Someone's coming. Very close.
Where is that...
My fingers closed on the torch and pulled it out. Plastic cover and strap at the side don't feel clammy or dead any more, they feel more like what relief would tangibly be like...reassuring in the time of need.
Where is the soddin' switch?
One of them new-fangled things. How to turn on a torch with no damn switch...aha, twist the top bit. Never been one for gadgets.
A flood of light, and I had to blink. In a large room, looks like a hall or some sort of gym. Has the obligatory carvings on the walls which most medieval-looking chambers have. Most of the furniture are stone, not badly done, and most of the rest are weapons on racks. Old weapons, the sort you see in films trying to recreate medieval times, swords and halberds and such...though these looked used. For actual fighting.
A curse and a startled yell in front of me, and I saw some person throwing up his hands to shield his eyes from the light. Wearing...clothing that has been out of fashion for centuries, including chain mail and a cloak. And a whip on his belt.
And holding two very sharp looking swords. From what I could see he didn't look too happy about someone shining light into his eyes. So I aimed the torch at him, full in the eyes, and he flinched a bit more. What he's saying now doesn't sound like a welcoming speech.
"Ooh, shite." Man killed by homicidal elf in Another World. What a headline.
Any way out? Yes, several archways. One to a smaller bedroom, one to what looks like a balcony over a dead drop, but with this sort of lighting I couldn't tell, and one to a corridor outside. Doesn't take very much to figure out which way to go. In case he's hostile I tried to sidle over to get between him and the door to the corridor.
He recovered from his shock quickly, and was shaking his head reflexively, but his swords went down and his arms tensed. He does know how to use those things.
Black skin as dark as the deepest night...and white hair as white as...but this isn't a poetry session.
Wait, pointed ears?
Pointed ears plus outdated clothes plus damn handsome features equals elf. He was too short to be Sidhe – I'm taller than him, and I'm no basketball player. And elves aren't very forgiving. Quite a few don't really like humans either.
This didn't look like Faerie.
Faerie has more lights, for one thing. And flowers, and trees, and multi-colored things, and scents, and magic...
He was saying something. "Vel'uss phuul dos? Vel'bol phuul dos ghil whol?"
"D'ye speak English?" I said hopefully.
His brow wrinkled. "Vel'bol?"
"The Queen's bloody English." I repeated maniacally. Somewhere there has got to be lights. And that thing the Dream King wants. Maybe even in that order. What did he say about the ring again? Ah yes. "This should send you to the closest person to the object who can help you."
He didn't look very helpful.
I kept the light on his face, but he knew the place well – he didn't need his eyes, or whatever he used to see in darkness, to get around. And it looked like I'd used up all my curiosity value, because he's approaching, cautiously.
Couldn't understand his lingo. And even if I were to bugger off...maybe there's more like him out there.
The Dream King gave me some things that may help. He didn't explain their use very precisely, damn him. Hands in pockets, trying to find the gear before he cut me into ribbons with those swords. Tiny bits of gear, all of them.
Fingers found something. Small cubic box, knobby to the touch, which meant it was carved. Little protrusion from the side, and I nudged it accidentally while fumbling in my pockets. It lets out a sound like a tinkle, someone pressing on a piano key.
Only one tinkle.
Magic. He said magic. In English. Queen's English.
It didn't take an Einstein to figure out what happened. I hastily palmed the box from my pocket. There's a small blank label on it, and a handle at the side, the protrusion. After a few false starts trying to wind it in the wrong direction, I wound it up, feeling absolutely childish.
The elf didn't look too happy about this. Probably thought it's some sort of amazingly powerful and potent magic. I wish.
He sheathed a sword and grabbed the whip from his belt with his free hand, but I'd finished winding the thing as far as it can go, and I let it play. A short, unmusical clank, then the label blurred a little, and rather soft, slightly tinny music began to play, the sort you find in not-very-good music boxes. I squinted at it in the light – Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.
"Can you understand me?" I tried.
The elf blinked, and lowered the whip. Doesn't look the least bit less threatening, though. However, for once, something worked the way it should, at the right time, too. I'm mildly surprised. "Yes."
"Right. Was wonderin' if ya could be a help."
He glared at me. The Constantine charm wasn't working. Not that it usually does, of course.
"What do you want, human?" he said coldly. His hand tightened on the whip. Not good. Time to talk fast.
"Have you seen an onyx artifact? May be carved. May not be carved. It changes. Linked to the Dreaming. Marks one of the direct pathways to it." Holding the torch and the music box in one hand, I take a puff on the cigarette with the other.
He doesn't like it. Wrinkled his nose at the smoke, then the whip cracked. Next thing I knew, I wasn't holding the cigarette any longer. It made a dim red glow next to his boot, and he frowned down at it, then stepped on it.
"Why ya berk..." Self preservation prevents me from insulting him further. That and the fact that his whip goes into a ready position again.
That and he was talking. "Your tongue could be next, human."
"Yeah? And I bloody well know I'm human, elf. Don't have t' tell me." The major part of my brain isn't listening to the self-preservation section.
"Would you like a demonstration?"
Oh, not good. "Maybe later." I said, hoping he wouldn't blow. "Now, as to that artifact..."
"Human," the elf continues coldly, squinting painfully in the light. "You portal here without permission. You shine light in my eyes, you insult me, and you have the audacity to ask me for help and expect me to give it to you?"
"Yeah? What 'bout it? And I did mention 'bout the 'human' bit. Ain't you listenin', you wanker?" I kept the torch on him, and hoped the batteries wouldn't give. "Christ. With that metal shirt on you, I doubt you can move enough t' help me anyway. How many fingernails you break each mornin' puttin' it on?"
He stared at me. "I could kill you."
"No ye can't." I should know this. Due, of course, to several rather unexpected circumstances. Once due to selling my soul to two lords of hell and the First of the Fallen without either of them knowing that the others had it, so to prevent themselves from having to go to war over my soul, they had to heal me of that lung cancer. The First of the Fallen being of course, the first 'demon' in hell. Not exactly a demon, come to think of it. They say he was in hell to welcome Lucifer Morningstar when he fell out of favor. Hell of a bugger to piss off. Maybe it was flipping the Finger at him after he healed me that did it, maybe it's just that I'm out of his reach when I'm alive and kicking.
Bad thought. If I'm dead, then I go to the First. If I remember now, he killed the other two. Bugger. Don't need to tell the elf this.
He frowned at me, probably wondering if I were speaking the truth or not. Start a little summoning spell, just in case he decides I'm a blustering berk and calls my bluff.
The elf cocks his head, and suddenly everything's darker than before. The torch doesn't seem to be having any effect...and I couldn't see my hands. At all. Shite, the bugger must have pulled a spell on me...
Hard, jarring pain to my skull, and I seem to be bogged down by the darkness, swirling downwards, downwards...
Something tight on my wrists, cold and metal. I've had enough experience to identify it as chains without even looking. Sitting on my arse on the stone floor, hands chained above me to what feels like a bar. Something tastes like dry cloth in my mouth, none too clean either. Gagged. Bugger. Headache, which is not unexpected when a stupid berk hits you on the head.
I looked up, and not unexpectedly, everything's still dark. Elf must have figured out how to turn off the torch.
Soft sound of boots tapping on the stone floor, then someone – probably the elf – kicked me in the leg with the pointed end of his boot. So loving, these people.
The tinny music was still playing, though higher up in the darkness. Sounds like a different tune now, but you'd never know with these 'classical' things.
The elf prodded me again pointedly.
"Mmph?" I'm gagged, damnit, can't answer you!
I thought of kicking the wanker back, but decided that if he tried to poke me with a sword the next time, I wouldn't have any defense. Not really sure now if I can't die. Not really sure if I can cast a spell gagged tightly.
Some sort of light grows into existence some distance above my feet, a greenish-purplish light, spherical, which isn't too bright to see by.  Could see part of the elf, though. Up to his arms.
He was holding the music box and the torch, and turning the knife over and over, running a finger along the blade. That ugly knife which was used in the first murder on earth, has some power. Useful in certain circumstances.
Matches, wallet and the packet of Silk Cut at his feet, apparently dismissed as useless. Along with the soft black leather collar supposed to help in returning me to the Dreaming after this, and the notebook with luridly colored pages with the attached ballpoint pen, supposedly for communication purposes. Which, of course, the Dream King forgot to explain how to use it. He was a little distracted.
The elf picked up the notebook, and turned to the first page. "Is this the artifact you speak of?" He shows you the picture. Several pictures, actually – mostly rather good carvings of animals.
The elf draws one sword, metal gleaming dully in the mage light, rasping against the metal rim of the scabbards, and he pointed it at my throat. "One spell, and you die."
Then he flicks the sword edge up, and the gag's cut cleanly without even nicking my cheek.
"Very social. This how you treat guests?" Can't help but say something.
The elf glares at me. "Uninvited guests." He corrected, then prodded me with his boot. "Talk."
"I am talking, you bloody wanker..." Can't continue. Tip of the sword's gently pressing against my throat.
Ah, no insults allowed.
The elf finally removed the sword and poked me again with his foot. I began to feel like a rag doll.
"S'what the artifact could look like," I said hurriedly. The elf's beginning to lose patience.
He turns another page, then flips through the notebook, which is apparently blank after that first page, then he speaks again. "Your name?"
No point in lying. Or rather, sharp, metal point. The sword tip hovered around in front of my eyes menacingly. "John Constantine."
The elf looked surprised and somewhat stunned. Then he slowly walked in a half circle about me, staring.
"Yeah?" I challenged him. Didn't think the name Constantine would be known in this world, but what the hell.
"You are a Constantine?" No, that's not the way he said it, more like 'Con'staen'tyn'.
"Yeah. Ain't me fault."
The box clanks once, then is silent.
"...dos phuul rivvil. Iblith." The elf swore, and wound up the box again. More tinny music. He repeated. "You are human."
"Ain't me fault either." I said, then decided to give him a bit more information. Feeling generous today. "All the Constantines are. Usually. S' a demon somewhere, but that was me fault."
"Perhaps we do not speak of the same." The elf said slowly, hopefully.
Maybe the name is actually giving me an edge now. "If you mean a Constantine bein' someone whom, once touched by magic, tends ta die violently and go to hell, yeah, I'm one. Or a Constantine bein' someone who tends ta piss off a lot of people and act like a gen'ral wanker, and also under some sort of family curse..."
The elf stared, then slowly, unbelievably, began to laugh, softly at first, then deeper and richer, then with a bit of bubbling madness in it. Touch of hysteria in it. I tell you, elves are damn fragile Up There.
"What's so funny?" First time someone's laughing at this, and hey, give a guy a break. I'm not used to this reaction.
"We do speak of the same," the elf said somberly, calming down abruptly. "My name is Zaknafein Do'Urden. Once Zaknafein Con'staen'tyn."
Great. The Dream King sent me to a deranged distant relative who is an elf. Or maybe this is a parallel dimension. Or another world. Who knows. This had better not be the 'me' here, that's all. Or I may be bloody jealous.
"Nice t' meet you." I muttered automatically. "Didn't know we had elves in the bloodline."
"Or humans." The elf retorted. The sword wavered over my chest. "What do you want this...artifact for?"
"Someone asked me ta get it." I shrugged. Actually, this could explain why the synchronicity highway did not work just now. Maybe other Constantines are immune to it. "You gonna help or what?"
"Why in Lloth's name should I help you?" the elf inquired. Playing with the knife again. Flip, flip, flip, as if he's having a flippin' great time prying information out of me. He's acting like a Constantine, though...a total bastard.
"Don't know. You want a favor?" Gambling again. But there's a hunger in his eyes, teasing and writhing under the rigid mask on his face. He wants something, very badly, more than the Dream King wants this artifact. But he's afraid to ask, afraid that I'd kill his hopes if I can't do it.
Actually, I don't like offering favors. Except in an extreme case, like now. I'd rather get them to owe me one first.
Bugger if I know what it is.
"And what favor can a human give?" he said obliquely. Flip, flip, flip. Flip, flip, flip. I have to stop looking at the damn knife, it's hypnotic. And I need a smoke. Nicotine withdrawal is kicking in hard, and wearing hobnailed boots, too. And a drink. Preferably together.
"Exorcism. Maybe retrieving somethin'. Maybe a ticket outa here when I'm going too. Maybe a little light summonin'..." He interrupted by prodding me with his boot again.
"Where can you take me from here?" he asked, trying to sound uninterested, but not really succeeding very well. Now he's flipping the damn knife from one hand to the other. I'm hoping he'd cut off one of his fingers.
"The Dreamin'." I don't know where he wants to go, hence I can't lie to him. "From there you can go to many other places." Not a lie, really. Just that the 'going to many other places' bit would also require you to have quite a bit of power. But no use telling him that.
"And what is this 'Dreaming'?"
"Realm of the Dream King. Decent place." As compared to hell.
The elf – Zaknafein - looked around absently, as if deliberating. "How do I know if I can trust you?"
"Sure ya can." I keep promises. Some of them. See what I think of him later. But loosing a Constantine in the Dreaming may pay back the Dream King for this. We drag along our own kind of havoc.
"Then I will help you," Zaknafein shrugged. "I have contacts by which I may find where this artifact of yours is, if it is in the city. The first problem is where to hide you. If any other drow find you here, they will kill you."
"Lovely people." I assumed 'drow' referred to his own term for elves. Hopefully I moved my hands, which were getting cramped, but the tinkling of chain on bar did not seem to attract his attention. Shows you about priorities.
He was, actually, staring thoughtfully at the doorway to the corridor, or at something around there. Placing the box and torch on the ground, he then covered the distance from here to the corridor with unbelievable speed and lack of sound, fading out of lighted view from the mage light.
When he returned he was holding something small and struggling. Closer, and I realized it was a smaller elf. A kid elf, wearing a tunic, slippers, and not much else. Looks 'round seven, eight years old. Zaknafein had one gloved hand clamped over the kid's mouth. The knife gleamed in his hand, dully, like a demon's claws.
"Hey, what're you..."
"Shut up, human." Zaknafein said coldly, then held the poor kid up by the front of his tunic, dangling him a long way off the ground. "Spying on us, have you?"
"No, Master Zaknafein." The kid kept his eyes down on the ground, as if from habit. Probably scared out of his wits.
"Listen, ya shite piece of..."
"Shut up." Zaknafein snapped. "Page prince. Can you keep your mouth shut about this?"
"Yes sir." The kid said quickly, seeing that Zaknafein did not seem to be about to punish him.
"Be sure that you do." And he dropped the kid, just like that. I winced as he hit the ground with a pained yelp, but he scrambled back to his feet quickly.
The kid gave me a curious look, and I saw he had very odd-colored eyes. Lavender, wide and fascinated. "Round eared...human." he said in wonder.
"Yeah, luv, last I checked." I replied, not really knowing what else to say.
"Page prince," Zaknafein said ominously, getting the whip from his belt. The kid didn't leave, for a moment, a look of defiance crossed his small face. Has pluck, but no brains. Zaknafein's bigger than he is.
"But Master Zaknafein..." he began. His eyes defiantly met the older elf's, then quickly looked away.
And for a moment, Zaknafein smiled, a proud smile, which just as quickly faded away.
Mad, I tell you, these elves. Soddin' bonkers, the lot of 'em.
Wisely, however, the kid left, though he looked back hopefully a few times.
"Yours?" I asked curiously.
Zaknafein shrugged, a none-of-your-business shrug than an I-don't-know one. "I believe I know of a place where you can hide."
I was going to say something about this, but if he wants to get the thing for me, fine by me. Less work. Hopefully I rattled the chains again, feeling like a bleedin' ghost in one of them old movies.
"Then again, sneaking you out of here may attract attention." Zaknafein muttered under his breath. "Malice is sure to ask how I came about a human."
By the sound of it, he's afraid of this 'Malice'. Probably not good. Zaknafein doesn't look like the sort who's afraid of much.
"Human," he began, prodding me with his boot to get my attention, as if he already doesn't have it, "Is it too much to ask for you to keep silent for a few hours?"
Of all the...
"You got beer here?" I asked hopefully.
Zaknafein blinked, then frowned. "Not here. In the city, yes. But too much trouble to go and get. And I'd not waste my wine on the likes of you."
He interrupted. Rude bugger. "Shut up, human. I am trying to think."
"You? Think? I'd..."
He interrupted this time with a harder nudge with his foot, which promised to turn into a kick, so I shut up. I like my ribs as they are, thank you, not black and blue.
"May have to hide you in the page prince's room," he said finally. "Last place they will look."
"Yeah. Whatever. Unchain me now, you bugger." Sounds like a quote. Maybe it is. Maybe the actual phrase should be 'Unhand me', but I seriously need a smoke. And a drink. Before I start talking like Delirium.
Zaknafein shrugged, and fiddled with the chains, catching them before they slid off the bar, then wound them softly around the bars. I stood up, rubbing my wrists and stretching my arms, then retrieved wallet, matches, cigarettes and collar. Put in pockets, pointedly, but the bugger doesn't get the hint. Instead, he's staring at the notebook.
Finally he looks up, and the music box clanks, silent. He grumbles, but doesn't wind it up again. Instead he grabbed my sleeve, delicately, as if it was something horrifically filthy, and tugged.
Fine, fine. I followed as quietly as I could. From his manner, this is serious, and for once I'd like to trust that on a Constantine. Besides, I want to get out of this in one piece.
The walk through the corridors was frightening. Tension. Suspense. Zaknafein had to dim down the mage lights as low as possible, so as not to attract attention, I think. Every turn I expected to see some representative of whatever freaked this Zaknafein so much. Got the feeling humans aren't really welcome here, either.
I don't walk very well in really dim light, and if glares had some physical weight behind them, I'd be singed by the number of times Zaknafein shot me a scathing glance when I stumbled over something. He doesn't like humans much either.
Everything is stone, metal, or some weird mixture of both. Totally without imagination, these elves. Even those madly intricate carvings get boring after you see the twentieth set of them, or maybe I can't appreciate Art. Frankly I don't understand how people can get some sort of fulfillment by painting or sculpturing something so abstract it looks like the doodles of a retarded three-year-old. Then I don't understand those people who go up to a Picasso and say 'My god, this is worth the few million dollars on its price tag'. Picasso still doesn't make sense to me.
Zaknafein finally shoved me into a small, cramped room. Everything about it was either worn or painfully plain or both. He looked down at the music box and the torch in his hands, then gave them ungraciously to me. He hesitated over the knife, then shrugged and stuck it in his belt, and shut the door firmly behind me. The mage light hesitated, then winked out.
Good dog. Stay. Pant, pant, pant.
I sat down on the bed, and played with the torch, switching it on and off. The music box would probably make too much sound, so I put it in a pocket.
On and off. On and off. I may be losing my mind. So I light a calming cigarette, and promptly manage to burn my fingers. Cursing under my breath, I dropped the match and stamped it out, then puffed out the cigarette. Much better. Now I can think.
Should I have trusted this Zaknafein? He looked like he knew what to do, though. Or maybe that's the general impression he gives everyone. Well, giving him a chance. Though he took the knife, so if he died there'd be a slight setback.
If he didn't get it, how was I to know?
Will give him some time, then.
If he did get it...well. I suppose I'd have to take him to the Dreaming after all. Other Constantines make bad enemies. We have a vindictive streak in us. I should know. *
Don't think he'd betray me. He seriously wants out of here. Don't really know why, don't really want to know. And I don't think he knows how to use the stone, or carving, or whatever, in any way. Safe there. He needs my help, I need his. Fair. I think. Need a drink.
Stare at the floor and think.
Stare at the wall and think.
Getting a headache already.
The small room's getting a little stifling. Smoky. Should I open the door? But I got the feeling that Zaknafein did not want me to open the door.
Hell with him. It's either that or snuff out the cigarette.
Fumbling with the doorknob – then the door creaks open unwillingly. Aah. Much better.
I found myself staring at a female elf. Much bigger than me. She looked as shocked as I was to see her, and she was squinting at the light of the torch, even though it wasn't aimed at her.
She coughed, choking on the smoke, and at her belt I saw a whip, though this time with six snake-heads instead of a length of leather. They turned their heads to me, and hissed menacingly. They look rather poisonous. And vicious. And well...snakes....
"Rivvil!" she snarled, stepped back, and snapped the whip from her belt. Oops. One thing to do. Toss the cigarette at the snakes. One bites at it, shrieks in pain when the sad thing gets the hot end, and more bite at the cigarette. Stupid creatures. While she's trying to disentangle the disgusting whip I run. After flipping her the Finger, of course.
I have a turn of speed when there's someone trying to kill me, but I managed to get lost. What do you expect? I only have one torch, and no map. At least it doesn't look like it's giving out on me yet.
Finally I stopped, rather out of breath, and leaned against the wall, and gasped for air. Pathetic. Now where am I?
Something tugs at my trousers tentatively, and I pointed the torch down. With a squeak, the kid I saw earlier in the day backed off, shielding his eyes. Oops. Pointed the torch away. The kid tugged at my trousers again, and beckoned.
Well, I didn't have much to lose, so I followed.
More and more corridors, following the kid. Seems like we're going down, down staircases and a few ramps. Then to a wide corridor lined with the occasional door, smelling musty, like storerooms.
Ah, smart kid.
He's pointing towards one that smells of old leather, so I took a step toward it.
"Gaer!" Someone yelled behind me. Doesn't take much to figure out what's wrong. I shoved the kid into the room, hissed at him fiercely to stay put, then started running. Hopefully he has the sense not to try and interfere further.
There has got to be a way out of here...running down the corridor, out of breath again and wishing I were somewhere else.
Luck's out. Ran into yet another one of those big females, though this one my height, not too bad looking at that...then she raises another snake-headed whip. Before I can turn and run, she's charging forward, and the snakes lunge for me.
I can guess what's going to happen.
Shite, this is going to hurt.
Can't get away. Poison, snake poison, surges through my blood, potent, and pain like nearly nothing I've felt before, cold and hot and dull and sharp, screaming through me, sharp fangs tearing into my flesh, skidding over bone and muscle. I must be screaming too, but I can't hear my voice any longer. Blacking out, dots across my vision, and I welcome it this time. Can't even move.
I curled up into a ball and gradually, finally, soothing empty darkness took me, away from the pain and mad elves with snake whips.
Woke up horizontally. Hands and feet chained again. Shirt's wide open. Cold stone under me, which smells faintly of old dried blood. Been in this position before too – I'm on an altar, the sacrificial sort. Wonderful.
Opened my eyes, and I'm staring at a ceiling. Got cracks in it. Since that's not helpful I tried to turn my head here and there to see what's going on.
Four females now. The big one, the one that got me, and two unfamiliar ones, though the big one and another of the unfamiliar ones are wearing richer clothing. I can see by the light of carved braziers that are burning with a dull orange-red flame.
They're staring at me. The big one looks terminally homicidal. She's still furious, and probably a long, long time ago several screws went loose and fell out of the Restraint Against Hurting Others section of her brain. Maybe all of them. She looks like a rabid Doberman, black skin and all. Almost makes me laugh.
The one that got me looks slightly like Zaknafein, come to think of it. Maybe his daughter or sister or something. Can't really tell, with elves. Could even be his mother for all I know. Don't care. My entire body's still spasming occasionally with pain because of her. I'm mildly surprised I didn't die.
The third one with less ornate robes doesn't look all that less dangerous, though she's subordinate, a little. Maybe the youngest.
The last one's the worst. She's got a face full of easy cruelty, and also is amazingly beautiful. What's this with chicks and evil, I want to know? Anyway, she's holding some sort of knife with a hilt resembling a spider, legs pointing towards the tip of the blade. Disgusting. I know what she's going to do with it, too.
She looks speculative, and slightly puzzled, as if having given orders not to kill me. Or maybe orders to sacrifice me. I'd probably find out.
"Rivvil," she said slowly, in a sultry voice, but edged with contempt, "Xun dos zhaun vel'bol..."
"Hey luv," I interrupted. This is probably suicidal, but since I seem to be about to die anyway..."Pleased ta see you too. Don't think you gonna understand me either, yeah?"
By the looks on their faces, no, they don't.
Communication breakdown. They don't seem to have emptied my pockets, however. Strange. Maybe thought I was too filthy or something. Maybe the position of Human: Inferior Species has some use here after all.
The big one snarled something at my lip. I smirked at her. If they wanted to kill me, they would have already.
I'm right. The pretty one hisses at her, and she falls silent. Then she turns back to me, and using the knife, traces my cheek bone.
I try not to flinch. The blade of the knife is strangely hot, not cold like what I'd think metal is like. It's not really painful either, more...pleasant, in a way.
Then she abruptly takes away the blade, and holds the hilt with both hands, raising the knife over my exposed chest.
Shite. Can't...move...not enough time to cast a spell...
She yells something, of which I can only catch the word elamshin, shouted in a voice precariously near the edge of insane passion. Elves. Mad. All of them. And where in shite is Zaknafein when you need him?
The braziers flared, and I could feel the extreme heat on my skin. Worse. Here comes a demon. By the sharp exclamations of the females, they didn't expect this to happen. At least the pretty one's lowered that disgusting knife.
If I know the demon's name...
Not so much luck. Another incredibly beautiful female suddenly stands opposite the pretty elf beside me. And there's something seriously wrong with her already, I can see. She has an overpowering aura, not as bad as the First of the Fallen, but about on par with high ranking demons. Never seen her in my life. She doesn't look like a succubus either.
For one, she's an elf. Or looks like one. Two, I've never seen a succubus who'd wear jewelry of snakes, heavy, long necklaces, bracelets, and nothing else. Big spider, one of those hairy ones, sitting in the middle of her forehead, like some sort of headband. It's got a purple jewel embedded on its abdomen, but it doesn't look the worse for it.
"And who might ye be then, luv?" Maybe she'd be stupid enough to tell me.
The other females are bowing and scraping, though. Nearly funny to watch. Don't know why they're doing it. This female seems hard of hearing, so I repeat my question. The pretty one seems outraged that I've asserted my right as a sentient being to voice an opinion – she snarls. The newcomer waves her silent.
"I am a goddess, human," she speaks in English. Amused. "Your little binding spells cannot hold me."
"Wanna bet?" Maybe they will. I'm preparing one, just in case.
She chuckled, but it was a sound that made the hairs on my arm stand to attention. Evil, malicious, malevolent. She can give the First of the Fallen lessons in the Evil Hair Raising laugh. He can give her lessons in the Evil Maniacal Eventually You'd get Sore Throat laugh. But I'm being petty here. Hell, so?
"The First of the Fallen will pay a high price for you, John Constantine."
I knew that would come out. Just knew it. Shite. Some people are so predictable. Especially if they're demonic.
"What makes ya think he won't kill you an' take me anyway, luv?" I challenged. Trying to stir up a little dissent, here.
Self assured, she was going to say something evil and cunning or the like, but was interrupted when the knife suddenly seemed to appear, as it were, in her throat. Buried to the hilt. Thrown from behind the females. Her eyes widened, bulging, then she clawed ineffectually at the knife and collapsed from view.
The four females either shrieked or watched in horror, then a sword was stuck through the big one's chest, again from behind. She fell, to show Zaknafein, who was already moving.
Nearly never been so happy to see anyone in my life.
The pretty one snarled and rushed him. Stupid move. Zaknafein avoided the dagger stab, and with a blurring slash amputated her whip neatly, then stabbed her through the throat and then viciously through the heart. Blood spurted onto his armor and face, and he had a look of nearly unholy relish on his face as he cut down the smaller female, easily.
Then he turned to the one who looked like him, and they stared at each other for a moment.
She made the mistake of reaching for her whip. Immediately his arm shot forward and twisted sideways, cutting open her throat. He stared as she collapsed, sighed, then flicked the blood callously off his blades.
"Wow." I said, blinking. That was fast.
He managed to get the chains off, and I sat up on the altar and looked down at where the goddess had been.
And was hard put not to upchuck my last meal.
As I held my mouth and attempted to breath deeply and easily, Zaknafein peered over my shoulder, smelling of blood, that familiar, coppery sharp scent.
He blinked, then ran outside.
The goddess was still and unmoving. Probably her spirit's gone, or something like that. Too much to hope that the knife can kill her. But from her wound, thousands and thousands of tiny spiders were crawling out, instead of blood, a small moving, undulating carpet.
Zaknafein returned holding two burning torches, and dumped them on the mass of spiders. Misjudged him. Of course, for the spiders, instant barbecue. What a stench. He managed to grab the knife, shook off spiders clinging to it, then put it back in his belt before dragging me off the altar and towards the door.
Occupied in buttoning up my shirt, I nearly ran into the kid at the doorway, who was staring at the bloody mess in the room with wide-eyed astonishment.
Zaknafein frowned at the kid, shrugged, then from a pouch on his belt took out an onyx figurine, which he handed to me. It was carved into the shape of a panther.
"You got it." I said unnecessarily.
He nodded curtly.
"How do you work this thing..." I muttered.
Zaknafein sighed. "Rivvil. Guenhwyvar. Viz Guenhwyvar. Xas?"
"Yeah?" I frowned. Out comes the music box, crank on the handle. Label reads Mozart's The Magic Flute. Hmm.
"Say 'Guenhwyvar', you stupid human. This had better work, because I had to swallow my pride and pay Jarlaxle for the information, sneak into Sorcere, find and kill two mages and acquired a few more scars for it. Not to mention actually getting out of the Academy was more annoying than trying to get in."
Come to think of it, he's favoring his right leg. Didn't see it just now when he was butchering the females.
"How was I s'pposed to know?" I replied irritably. Feeling idiotic, I repeated, "Guenhwyvar." Why don't they put a few more vowels in that name?
A black mist curled out from the figurine, and abruptly coalesced around floor level into a huge black panther.
I took a step back.
The kid took a step forward.
The panther peered at me and cocked its head curiously.
"Er..." I stared at Zaknafein helplessly. "That's all?" Nothing else happened. At least the cat wasn't attacking. Looked friendly. The kid was patting it now, tentatively.
"You called it out, you give it orders." Zaknafein said unhelpfully.
Hmm. Collar. I have a collar that may fit the cat. Maybe that'd work. Hopefully. Zaknafein doesn't look too pleased that nothing else is happening.
Black collar, fiddle madly and awkwardly until I get it around the panther's neck. Now it doesn't look happy.
"Where did it come from?" The kid asked, happily stroking its fur. The panther doesn't seem to mind that.
"Don't know." I thought a little. Aha, brain wave. "Panther, d'ye come from another dimension?"
The panther nodded.
Wow, smart cat.
"The Dreamin'?" I said hopefully.
"Can you go back when you want?"
"Can you take passengers?"
Movement like a shrug. Hmm.
"Zaknafein, gimme back the notebook." I snatched it from him, ignored his irritated sniff, and then turned to a fresh page, hoping there was instructions I'd missed.
The fresh page had lines on it now, as if for writing on. So I did, feeling right stupid about it: How to get to the Dreaming?
There was a pause, then rather copperplate handwriting appeared below it, neat and steady. Hold the panther's collar.
I showed it to Zaknafein, who raised an eyebrow. He didn't understand the language. So I put the notebook back in my pocket, knelt down, and held the cat's collar. It peered at me again.
Could nearly hear it thinking: Mad human.
"Hold its collar." I told Zaknafein. So he did. The kid did, too, mimicking us, a cheery smile on his face. I remembered another smile like his, once. But it's painful even to think of it. Kid wants to come along, fine.
Steps are approaching, several of them. We've got company if this doesn't work. Zaknafein, of course, with so little faith, is holding on to the hilt of a sword with his free hand, and looking down the corridor warily.
"Dinin has fetched friends," he muttered.
Don't know who Dinin is.
Don't like the sound of 'friends'. Have to hurry up.
"Cat, return to the Dreaming." I told the panther. Hope this works.
It cocked its head, then shrugged.
Footsteps are louder now, closer.
This had better work.
We finally reappeared in some sort of place with lots of grass, trees, and a night sky. I attempted to get my stomach back in alignment with the rest of my body by lying down and gasping.
"This is the Surface," Zaknafein said accusingly.
"No it ain't. The Dreamin'." I told him, feeling peeved at being contradicted. Whatever the 'surface' is.
Zaknafein stood up and looked around, slowly. Then he nodded grudgingly. "You may be right." He glanced down at me. "Wimp," he added, with a wicked grin.
"Up yours," I retorted.
The kid looked positively delighted at the new change of landscape, and he was looking around with happy interest. Finally I stood up. Time to find the Dream King.
Reached in my pocket for the notebook, and frowned. All the stuff he'd given me is gone. Even the collar on the cat. Odd. Then why can I understand Zaknafein? Maybe it's something about the Dreaming.
Damn. Think we have to walk.
"Hey cat. Know how to get to the Heart of the Dreamin'?" I asked the panther.
"Great. Lead." I waved the figurine hopefully in front of it.
It yawned, showing sharp, white teeth, then apparently came to a decision and began to lope off. We followed.
Long, long walk.
Tried calling for the Dream King occasionally. No answer.
Stupid indifferent bugger.
Finally got to the castle. The huge hippogriff, griffin and the Pegasus at the entrance let us in, at least. Though they sniffed at Zaknafein, and frowned on my cigarette.
Dropping ash all over the floor...
Walking down one of the halls, feeling lost again. The kid's excited, and wants to look at everything, but Zaknafein keeps him close. The panther looks totally unconcerned about everything.
Then Dream appears at my side again. Just like that. This time I nearly drop my cigarette. Zaknafein lets out an exclamation of surprise, and his hands go to his swords.
The Dream King bowed courteously to Zaknafein, then the kid, then the green star-like eyes rest on me, and he held out his hand. I gave him the onyx figurine, and he put it into one of his pockets.
"Thank you." He said gravely. "You have made an enemy of the Goddess Lloth...the one your friend knifed in the neck."
"Yeah. Whatever. The gift?" I asked. I'd pass over the word 'friend' for now. Oh, the goddess? Yet another enemy then. I knew this would happen. Pity she didn't die, though. But I can handle it.
Dream put his hand on my shoulder, the long, white, slender fingers gripping it with surprising strength. "John Constantine. As Ruler of this realm I grant you free passage in its entirety, and the ability to pass physically from the true world to the world of Dreams. When you are in this realm you will be protected by my power."
I nodded. One more sanctuary to add to my list.
"And your friends?" He asked, letting go and looking at Zaknafein.
"Let them stay here. I promised." I said.
The Dream King nodded. He is the nice one, after all. "Zaknafein and Drizzt Con'staen'tyn, for your aid in the matter, I also grant you free passage in the Dreaming."
Zaknafein shrugged, but he looked satisfied. During the long walk here, he looked as though he was enjoying himself. The kid smiled widely.
"Be seein' ya, then." I told Zaknafein.
He raised an eyebrow. "I hope not." He said dryly. "Rebel hearts do not get along."
"Up yours," I replied. Flipped him the Finger. As good as a wave, any time.
Now, as to invoking that thing...back to the pub...
Not bad, no special effects, no dizzy swirl of color, non-color, or those dramatic stuff you get when you travel between realms sometimes.
I'm back in the doorway of the pub I had walked out of, and I wandered back to my seat at the bar. Called for a beer. Puffed on the cigarette. Content. Now to drown my contentment in alcohol.
Something nudging my trouser...I looked down idly, and nearly dropped my cigarette again. Fumbled it. This time, managed to burn the back of my hand.
The panther sat idly on the ground, and cocked its great head up at me at my yelp of pain, curiosity and amusement in its large green eyes at my shock.
"Whoa. Go away, ya stupid cat." Probably not a good thing to say to something with a bigger mouth than me...
It yawned, and licked a paw. Then it put its heavy head on my lap.
My, what big teeth you have.
And my leg's beginning to cramp.
But people are walking past the panther as if it wasn't there.
Is it here in the first place?
Tentatively I reached down and patted its head. It's there all right. It purred happily at the attention. I shook it off.
"Go away." I bent down and hissed at it.
It reared up and licked my face with a big, wet, rough tongue.
I rubbed my face on my sleeve absently. Big panther. Not a housecat. Admittedly, good if I get into more trouble. And face it, deep down I'm a sucker for charity cases. Especially if they happen to have sharper and longer fingernails than I do.
"Thought you liked the kid." I told it over my beer. The barkeeper shoots a glance at me, decides I'm more loony than usual, and returns to polishing the glasses.
It made that move that looked like a shrug again.
I shook my head and returned to nursing my beer. Ignore it. A drink here and then, a smoke, that's reality for you when it's normal. Maybe one day I'd take a break from it and return to the Dreaming for a bit. Annoy Zaknafein a little. Play with the kid. Take life one day at a time.
Bit of advice to you? Don't mess with magic, other worlds, or them. Believe me, it's not worth it at all, no matter what your sad brain is telling you.
For me, the synchronicity highway's reached a carpark again.
 Kon-sten-tyn – one of John Constantine's ancestors, who was a King and a bad one. Obsessed with eternal life, as Kings tend to be, for some reason. After some convoluted happenings managed to seriously annoy Merlin, who apparently cursed the family line after that. Or maybe it was Harry Constantine, another ancestor, who annoyed the 'Ribbon Queen', causing any of the line who touched magic to be cursed...
 Heart – Constantine orchestrated the fall of the Archangel Gabriel, probably deep down due to the sheer fact that he could pull it off. Needless to say he also somehow got hold of the Archangel's heart. Angels can live without their hearts, apparently, but they need it for something. Gabriel wants his heart back and wants revenge on Constantine. The current location of the heart is unknown, meaning that in all likeliness Constantine has misplaced it.
 Sandbag – Crossover with The Sandman. I think it's a book called Preludes and Nocturnes.
 Silk Cut – John's trademark brand of cigarettes. Smoking heavily (he's a chain smoker) twice gave him advanced lung cancer. He got healed both times, once unwillingly by the Lords of Hell and the First of the Fallen, secondly by Ellie, a succubus whose continued life depends on John Constantine's good health (it's a long story).
 The Dreaming – Realm of Dream, one of the Endless. In it he has absolute power. It falls apart when he disappears, which happened once when a group of people attempted to capture Death to get eternal life, but botched it and caught Dream instead.
 Synchronicity highway – This sort of gives John (most of the time) what he wants if he really, really wants it. For example, he doesn't need a passport to fly first class in a plane, trains go faster for him, and he can get suites in hotels without paying (usually). Sometimes this is called the freeway. Or just synchronicity.
 Zak casting mage lights – Ok, so this wasn't talked of in the book, but making a light in most stories is just about one of the easiest spells, and Drizzt talked about learning cantrips in Sorcere. And that coin they wear amplifies innate magical power. So what's such a spell to the great Zaknafein? :p
 Other Constantines – Thomas Constantine, John's father, and the other John Constantine whom represented the bad bits in him which he sent to hell, both tried in some ways to hurt John before. Things happen. Other John Constantine? Well, he had to go to hell, and he didn't want to, so he worked a lot of magic, pulled out all of himself which was evil, and sent it as a replacement instead.
 Another kid with a smile – John is referring to Astra, the Newcastle incident. Astra was sexually abused by her father, and somehow ended up summoning a demon. John went to exorcise it with a team of friends, but misnamed the demon, hence getting most of his team killed, and consigning Astra to hell. Eventually he did free her soul, though.
 The Nice One – The first Dream, before his suicide or death or whatever, was also known as Morpheus, and he was the Not so Nice one who once sent his girlfriend Nala to hell because she rejected him. The current Dream is Daniel, his successor, and a 'nicer' one. He has green eyes.
John Constantine raised the tin of Guinness at the last word on the screen, and took a noisy swig. The author winced.
"I'd like you to know that although wine taken from the keeper, in small quantities, is unnoticeable, taking whole tins of beer from the 'fridge is." She said tartly. "And no, you can't use your magic on my parents. It's ew."
"Yeah, luv," Constantine smiled, "Mind if I smoke?"
"Yes." The author said firmly.
"Righto." Constantine reached into his pocket. Cigarette packet, matches.
Constantine lit a cigarette and puffed on it. The author choked, sighed deeply, then ineffectually attempted to snatch it out of his fingers. Being taller than the author, Constantine managed to keep it out of her reach.
Finally she turned to the highly amused Zaknafein perched on the table next to the mouse pad. "Aren't you going to help me?"
"Fat lot of use you are," she muttered, and glanced at the other side of the computer. A huge black panther was curled up over all the papers, books, stationery and miscellaneous items, purring as Constantine petted it.
She poked it until it moved, then yanked out her Biology textbook and turned the pages. Finally she reached the chapter she wanted and shoved the book into Constantine's lap.
He looked. "Smokin': Why do people smoke? Why does the...ah. Heard this all before, luv."
The author reached over and turned the page: Smoking-related Diseases.
"Got 'em already," Constantine smiled, and puffed away. The author coughed, glared at him, then nudged Zaknafein, who woke up and peered down at her. She pointed at Constantine, who pulled up a stool and sat down. He shrugged.
She sighed and gave it up as a bad job. "Right. We need a few comments 'bout the story. Zaknafein, wake up, c'mon."
"Why give me the panther?" Constantine asked, taking pity on the author. Guenhwyvar turned around lazily and licked him wetly. "Aagh!"
"You need a bath," the author told him.
"So I stink of panther saliva instead?" Constantine wiped his face on his sleeve. The author pushed a box of tissues into his hands. He peered at it uncomprehendingly, then put it on Guenhwyvar. "Aagh! Stop that, ya dumb cat. I'm running outa sleeve."
"Smells better than smoke," the author retorted, and snickered. "Use the tissues, for goodness' sake. Anyway, I took pity on you. Sorry, Constantine, but you're not really known for winning physical fights."
"I knows that. What're you doin' here without the kid?" Constantine asked, fending off Guenhwyvar. It batted him with a paw, playfully, and nearly knocked him off his stool. "Git! Dumb cat."
"Different Zaknafein," The author explained. "This one gets drunk more often."
Zaknafein glared. "I do not."
"Yes you do," she replied absently.
"Kids," Constantine muttered. "Right. 'Nother question. Why me?"
"Because she happened to hear of Hellblazer from a friend," Zaknafein said. "Violent, bloody comic. Has a few, too. And after that...this."
"Also, I had to write a little on Dream." The author said, "He's the best documented – an entire series to himself – but also the one I know the least about. I had to give him a peripheral involvement in the story...so I needed another Outside character. Guess who was lucky."
"Comics on me?" Constantine asked curiously.
The author picked out a few issues from her bookshelves, and handed them to him. He flipped through the pages, and she looked at the pages.
"That's you being bitten by a vampire," she said helpfully.
Constantine grinned. "I know. Went through it. Amazin' likeness. Your story don't sound like me tho'." He pointed at the screen.
"Due to the lack of four letter 'f' words?" The author asked sweetly.
"S'right. And why can't you say 'fu..." Constantine was cut off by the author, who had been expecting this, stuffing a large wad of tissue into his mouth. "Mmph..."
"Because that is one word that seriously annoys me," the author replied primly.
Constantine spat out the tissue and drew on his cigarette, then glanced at the tin. "Looks like I need a refill."
"Last one," the author warned.
"Sure, luv." Constantine wandered out of the door, none too steady.
Zaknafein began to follow, but the author grabbed his belt. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Keep a watch on him," Zaknafein said innocently.
"Yeah, right." The author muttered. She pressed 'save', then got out of her chair.
"Eh?" Zaknafein blinked.
"We'd both go," she said meaningfully. "Guen?"
The panther uncurled, stretched, and leaped off the table, then headed out lazily, shaking itself.
"Oh, you don't need to take the trouble." Zaknafein said glibly. "I can go myself."
"I'd think that your idea of 'watching' Constantine involves a short rendezvous with wine." The author retorted. "Or the food in the 'fridge. So, you coming?" She followed the panther.
Zaknafein sighed. "Damn you."
"I heard that," The author's voice trailed in from outside.