Me: Okay, so here I go again writing pointless stories about minor characters that no one will read let alone review, but I had a really nice idea and so wanted to write it down. Again, the urge to write this spawned from feeling sorry for Dragon and Anastasia. (God knows why when they barely have speaking parts, I know it confuses me too. I think it's because as minor characters I as a writer can shape them more, whereas the main characters' personalities and histories are already made out, carving out a good original story for them is more difficult.) So this is how they meet again in their future lives. This has absolutely nothing to do with anything else I've written, it's a completely separate fic to Resurrected.
This is the story of Oliver Pendragon (pronounced "pen-druh-gun', like you say "pentagon") a young teacher at the House of Night with the world on his shoulders, and Anastasie, a troubled fledgling with a heart of gold and the world against her. Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
BACKGROUND (Otherwise the symbolism doesn't make much sense.)
"Scarborough Fair" is a very famous English song dating back to the Middle Ages, during which the seaside town of Scarborough was host to a huge 45-day trading event, starting on 15th August. Merchants came to it from all areas of England, Norway, Denmark, the Baltic states and the Byzantine Empire. Scarborough Fair originated from a charter granted by King Henry III of England on 22 January 1253. The fair finally ended in 1788, but the folk song "Scarborough Fair" survives well into today, originally being sung by bards travelling from town to town. The song consists of a man and a woman singing to each other, giving to each other a series of impossible tasks to complete, if they do so, then they will take each other back. The refrain "Parsley sage rosemary and thyme", though nonsensical to modern listeners, is fraught with symbolism.
Parsley, used to this day as a digestive aid, was said to take away bitterness, and medieval doctors took this in a spiritual sense as well.
Sage has been known to symbolize strength for thousands of years.
Rosemary represents faithfulness, love and remembrance.
Thyme symbolizes courage, and at the time this song was written, knights would often wear images of thyme on their shields when they went to combat.
Each stage of this story starts with a verse of "Scarborough Fair". See if you can see the relevance of impossible tasks in the chapters.
If you haven't heard it, go onto YouTube and search for "Scarborough Fair" by Hayley Westenra, it is by far the most beautiful version.
So, enjoy people!
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there,
He once was a true love of mine.
23rd June 2156
Let me tell you how these things start.
I checked my watched again.
The Madingley Road Park and Ride was horrendously busy, people passed in front of me in blurs, their laughs and smiles penetrating my ears. Mostly proud parents, grandparents, ridiculously distant relatives and jealous yet grinning friends appearing from the coach doors dressed as per a wedding or Royal Ascot. I sighed, the dry-cleaning bag containing my gown, hood and mortar board in my hand now starting to weigh down and cut into my palm. Some people stopped and looked at me as they passed, noting the sapphire blue markings on my face, children particularly, pointing and smiling, asking me if I had drawn them on with felt tip pen. Sometimes I wish I had.
It was busy, maybe I had missed them. No, I knew from plentiful experience that 'missing' my family was not something that was physically possible. Normally you would hear them before you could see them, in the past, it had sometimes been the perfect cue for jumping behind the next biggest object that would hide you, or for bracing yourself as several young children threw themselves at you and suffocated you. Given the general amount of asphyxiation in my family, it was surprising we weren't all choking with asthma. No, you didn't miss my siblings.
I was the eldest of nine children. Yes, you heard me correctly, nine. Apparently I had been a difficult child. Well, a difficult baby. My mother, who, when I was finally potty-trained was just about ready to throttle me, had declared there and then: Never again. And then, when I was thirteen, having given up on the thought of a little brother or sister, my mother got pregnant again. At the time I thought it was a little incidental. Now as I look back on it I think it was a little accidental. Sure enough, in nine months time I had a baby brother. Sure enough, in seven years time, I had six brothers and two sisters. At the time I couldn't bring myself to think about the reason for this mass production, and I still can't quite fathom it. Occasionally my father would give me a despairing look from across the dinner table, his eyes wide and wondering what on Earth he had got himself into. All I could do was shrug smugly. It had been his own doing.
A bunch like that certainly wouldn't have been anonymous, especially not at Madingley. James, the next oldest after me of course, was twelve, Chris was ten. Charlie nine, twins Daniel and Eric were seven, Alex was six, and yet another set of twins, Eleanor and Francesca were five. Nope, definitely unmissable. Not in Cambridge, where the youngest of the little kids was at least eighteen, most older. Nine fifty-eight. They were always late, but now this was getting ridiculous. I should be putting my gown on now.
Six long years had paid off. I wasn't a boffin, before you say it, or extremely dull. At least I hoped I wasn't. I worked bloody hard for that place, and yet every holiday when I went home again, to Scarborough that is, I spent most of my time trying to prove that I wasn't a snob with a rich dad. My father was a local GP, but when you split his salary between all eleven of us it doesn't stretch very far. My mother used to be a social worker, but clearly after the baby boom she didn't have the time, only just squeezing enough in for one particularly moody mare that my mother seemed to think she would one day get a decent foal out of. No one else in my family had ever been to Cambridge or Oxford, I knew my father wouldn't miss this for the world. Not even this modernised one we all walked in. He had wanted me to pursue a career in Medicine like him, it was only the sleepless nights, endless stress and high suicide rate that put me off, and so I had elected History as a less hazardous degree, with intercollated French.
I stared once again down Madingley Road, just barely seeing the tall building that was the Veterinary Medicine clinical site, peeping out from behind the trees. Cambridge was one of those places that never ever changed. You could walk down the street and it would be like walking down the same road in 2156, 2056, 1956, 1856, and every century before that. Just like Scarborough. The centre modern and heaving with the young, and then you went down some roads and there you were in a top hat and tails again. The House of Night in Scarborough seems to hold it back somewhat, people seem happy to keep everything traditional. I knew the vamps were. I liked the vampyres there, I had four happy years there, and I liked tradition, but sometimes the world had to move on.
I noticed that the coaches dropping people off here to board the P&R, the ones I was waiting for, had stopped coming. The round parking bays completely empty. Finally losing my patience, I slapped my hands on my knees and heaved myself off the bench I had been occupying, before walking through the doors towards the desk.
"Steve..." I began. Steve looked up. He knew all of the uni students by name, face, voice, footsteps, you name it.
"Yeah mate?" he said, looking very briefly back down at his computer screen. Again, more formal greetings were reserved for non-students, people who didn't crash in here every weekday morning demanding coffee.
"There any traffic news? My travelling circus is later than I can afford."
"No news of a travelling circus I'm afraid, but the motorway's shut so their chances of getting here before the ceremony are skinnier than Charlene's..."
"Charlene." I finished for him before he dug himself into an even bigger hole. Charlene, his on-off, anorexic, Liverpudlian girlfriend, who was, on the off chance, a med-student. "Mate, you've not gotta go there."
I grinned. "Well she's got needles and everything."
From his face, I could tell Steve probably knew. "Scalpels actually mate. I'm sure as Hell not doing tequilas again. And you'd better push off and all, I'll send your folks in the right direction, circus and all."
I thanked him and paced out of the building, snatching a ticket from the machine as I went, and perched myself back on that bench and waited.
I went on to that ceremony, mortar board and gown and all. It was all very civilised, the ceremony in the Senate House, entirely conducted in Latin. All I can remember thinking now was how Senate House would not open its doors for them once the ceremony had begun. I was fairly sure I was going to see them immediately outside the doors when I walked out into the fresh June air. I wouldn't even mind if Fran and Ells rugby-tackled me to the floor with hugs and called me Ollie, even when I had made it more than perfectly clear since the age of eleven that my name was Oliver, and nothing else. Still nothing. I bloody hate the was more clapping, cameras flashing in your face, an official photo, and while I was happy, I did rather feel like a horse at a polo match. I sighed and got a grip. It was traffic, not exactly a rare thing there, they would get here sometime. Meanwhile, I made myself busy chatting with my Peterhouse friends and their families, those that had seen me before if I could find them of course, being a vampyre didn't put me in the greatest of standings with some of them. The first comment was 'oh you're a vampyre', the next was always 'but you're so young to have graduated already'. And I always answered flatly. My vampyre-physiology was already catching up with me, making me appear twenty at most, as opposed to my twenty-six. I still got ID-ed when we went out into clubs and bars, much to the amusement of my friends. The fact that I was, shall we put it, lacking in stature, being a pathetic five foot five, had never aided that cause.
My phone vibrated in my pocket. I excused myself and ducked around the nearest corner so that the Fellows didn't see me, and looked at the screen. It was my mother's mobile. Sighing, I held the phone to my ear. Even the phone call was late.
I bloody hated the M1, and all the lorry drivers on it.
Let me tell you how these things start.
They start with me being bloody annoyed.
Hera, formerly dozing on my desk, jumped out of her skin like someone had mentioned the word 'vet', and shot out of the window as I slammed the door shut behind me. Clearly, she wasn't too keen for my company, and I could understand exactly why. I had only just unpacked and things were already going wrong.
Today's meeting had not gone at all as planned. If it was indeed possible for it to go well at all. It had taken quite a bit of effort to take myself there and a bloody strong gin and tonic before I could get my tongue around the words.
Never again. I'll never forget the way he looked at me. Like I was an incompetent child. I didn't know how old he was, I had barely been here long enough to know where the downstairs loos were, but he had a very English old-boy air to him, even though he looked not a day over thirty, if you closed your eyes and listened, you would hear a cantankerous, almost rude man of seventy. Normally he had a reassured look about him, a confident and cocky attitude, a raised eyebrow and a creased forehead, a hearty laugh and a suitably politically-incorrect retaliation on the tip of his tongue. He would slam his gin and tonic on the table, slap his hands on his knees and grumble about my calling him here yet again. And he did exactly that, when he knew his entire life was in peril. It surprised me, at the time I admit I wrestled with the desire to smack him around the face as hard as I could and scream at him to say something, a plausible come-back an excuse. What a fool he was. Normally the seat he was in was reserved for fledglings in trouble. Then he downed the drink.
"I don't know what you've got a bee in your bonnet about Yianna." He had grumbled into his glass, "I thought you were an intelligent woman."
"Not half as intelligent as you were when you got yourself into this." I said, standing, my fingers clasping the rim of the desk, watching him fiercely as he pulled a face as if the gin was bad.
He leant back in his chair and looked me like I was a piece of talking dirt. "What are you, above common decency?"
"Above ignorance, actually." I fumed, smoke could have been billowing from my ears, "What the Hell is wrong with you?"
"Bloody nothing!" he said, "What's wrong with you?"
"Don't you see how serious this is?"
"Quite frankly no." He said bluntly, refusing to look me in the eye.
"If you worked in a human school you'd have been struck off quicker than you can say 'child protection'!"
He swallowed another mouthful of drink. "I thought that was the point of working in a House of Night."
I sighed. "I understand why you're sour."
He held his hands out wide, his mouth wide. "Then why am I sitting here?"
"You know what it looks like." I lowered my voice, "How could you be so stupid?"
"How dare you accuse me of something like that!" he hissed.
"Others have. That is the point!"
"Is this what we get for trying to help kids these days? If we're not treating them like rocks then we're sexually abusing them! That girl needs someone, someone on this pathetic staff to hold her hand and pass her a tissue, and all anyone can do is pretend they can't see her!"
"Yes, but writing to her, hugging her?" I spat, "She's not your daughter!"
His voice was low and laced with poison. "Some people do need that from time to time Yianna, even if you don't."
"This has nothing to do with me."
"This has everything to do with you!" he shouted, his fists balled and his knuckles white, "You're willing to take the word of Serena Jacobs and Declan White over mine for Nyx's sake!"
My temper was flaring fast. "Don't you have any idea of the legal implications if this gets out?"
"Don't you mean the fine for police time-wasting?"
"If this is all so very innocent then show me the letters." I said, holding out my palm, even though I didn't expect him to have them on him.
He couldn't believe his ears. "No!" he yelled.
I rolled my eyes. "Oh well that says it all then doesn't it?"
He snorted. "Not even half!"
I calmed my voice for double effect and folded my arms. "Alright." I said, my skin boiling, "So if they can't clear your name why won't you show me?"
"Because I shouldn't have to!"
"You fool!" I hissed, "This could be the end of your career!"
I could see he was using most of his effort to stop his lip from shaking in anger, grinding his jaw and fighting the urge to capsize my desk. "Fine." He said, uncrossing his arms and getting up from his chair, "So be it."
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Handing in my resignation!" he said, as he left the room at a rate of knots, slamming the door so hard everything in the room jumped. "Effective immediately!"
The memory resounded ruthlessly in my head. I needed an aspirin. What was I going to do? Place an ad for a replacement I suppose. This sort of thing happened so rarely, and I don't believe him capable of that, I don't, but couldn't he see my hands were tied? The twenty-second century had been merciless on our traditional disregard for the rules, just when a little disregard was needed. I sat back in my chair.
Nyx, what have I permitted to happen?
Let me tell you how these things start.
My mother believed that since, according to the Bible, vampyres were not amongst the creatures created by God on the sixth day of Creation, they simply did not exist. Or, as she said, vampyres did not exist in Heaven, and anything that does not exist in Heaven alongside Him did not exist in the mind of any good Christian. Her reaction when I was Marked was minimal. No anger, no hatred, no disgust. I was simply gone. Vanished into nothingness. I ceased to exist. Watching her in that small time between seeing the Tracker and leaving for the House of Night was like watching someone mourn the death of a distant relative. It was even less than that, because you could not mourn the soul of something that did not exist. It was, according to the Elders, preferable to accept that the drinking of blood simply did not happen, drunk by creatures that did not exist, rather than accept that what they considered to be the worst of sins – the ingestion of blood, and even worse, deriving bodily pleasure from doing so - happened every day.
At the House of Night, all the way up north in Scarborough, when I arrived, and saw a castle in ruins, I thought I had gone mad at last. It was ruined though, and had been so for years, it was common knowledge it had been bombed in World War II. Was there a spell on it like there was on Hogwarts or something? The tracker informed me that it was no such thing and that the House of Night was situated in the old dungeons of the castle, cut in the rock below the ruins. Vampyres in dungeons. Not stereotypical at all really.
I thought I would be happy here, I honestly did. The lack of anyone harassing me felt so good I could have cried tears of joy, I didn't even care about not mixing with people, no one was trying to hurt me. Never again. In fact the concept of big groups of friends was alien to me, I simply wasn't used to it, and so I didn't even try. Or rather I didn't feel I ought to be trying. Why should I when I was so happy by myself? I was so blissfully happy, so stupidly happy. Until I became the weird girl who sits on her own. I wasn't dressed any differently to the other girls here. Jeans, t-shirt, trainers, sometimes a long cardigan over the top if it was cold, which, in Scarborough, it usually was. I didn't look any different to them. I couldn't – never even dared go near them. They made me shiver, how they looked at me. Like I was a horrible five year-old with braids.
One of my favourite books is called "My Sister's Keeper", by Jodi Picoult. Let me tell you why it's my favourite. Julia, the lawyer's childhood sweetheart, who once found herself in a similar predicament as me said wisely: "If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them". That quote, albeit a depressing one, made that book my favourite. It struck a very silent, and, as a result, unseen truth.
I just didn't understand their lives. They would go out drinking, be it blood or wine, most nights, wearing eye-wateringly tight clothes and lots of make-up. The guys loved them. I couldn't understand. How was crawling around in the gutter intoxicated a good thing to do? How was bitching about people something I wanted to do? Why did they all fall into social groups, the chavs, the emos, the sex-crazed, the fashionistas. I didn't fall into any of those groups. So when it came to break-time I would be sitting on my own again, wishing I was invisible.
Back when I came here aged fifteen, I had aspirations, I was much stronger. I hated those girls. And those boys as well. I decided that I wasn't going to be friends with someone for the Hell of having friends, fake ones at that, who I wouldn't really like. It wouldn't be right for me and all I'd ever be was an actress. How I so regretted that now I was someone's verbal punchbag. As I went, someone threw a piece of rubbish at me, and I heard laughter from behind me as I ignored it.
"Hey Nasty, that's a good lick, where you going?"
'Nasty' was what they called me now. How they'd got from 'Anastasie' to 'Nasty' was anyone's guess. Again, I ignored, I knew who it was anyway, Nathan, a nasty little chav, and he wasn't worth the moonlight he stood under.
"Hey!" came the voice from behind again. Now I could hear footsteps running up behind me and I began to feel sick. A hand grabbed my shoulder and stopped me in my tracks, and pulled me around to face its owner. My back hit the wall and I think I stopped breathing.
"I'll tell you what else is a good lick Nasty."
He was laughing and jeering at me from under his baseball cap, trying to manhandle me. I pushed against the hand on my shoulder, before raising my foot and kicking as hard as I could where the Sun don't shine. He howled and bent over double, swearing loudly.
"You fucking bitch!" he screamed, reaching out for me as I ran. I could barely feel my legs anymore, and the rest of me was shaking. Oh Christ I was going to be sick...
I darted into the nearest loos I could find, throwing he door open and staggering to the floor in the closest cubicle as my stomach lurched violently, scraping my knees and throwing up into the toilet, my long blonde hair falling over my shoulders. As I tried to scrape it back out of the path of the vomit, I heard whispers in the background, of other girls who had been reapplying their lip-gloss and doing their hair. Finally the sick stopped coming, leaving me empty and shaking, pins and needles travelling up my legs. I leant against the side of the cubicle, and cried.