We are introduced to Merrick Moore, a well-spoken but aimless musician who stumbles into a party of unusual strangers on Halloween and attempts to navigate power plays that he doesn’t understand. Luckily he’s aided by [and magnetically attracted to] the lovely Aisling, and the dapper Cullen.
And he brought beer, that counts for something.
This was a lot of fun to record, though I’m sorry for the occasional stumble or mumble! I used a teleprompter for the first time and I will need a little more practice to find that sweet spot of speed/line breaks before I feel more comfortable. I also find that my voice gets tired faster than it used to, so I start out strong but by the end I’m just pooped. Whoop!
If there are questions about characters, you can peek at The Fae Directory – you can also reaffirm spelling/pronunciations there.
The soundtrack is available here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7rZZSpAFAvtSaNXZM2aIDS?si=f36c3e1441b54a3c
Expand to read transcript
Music: Dead Can Dance [Mesmerism]
Merrick took a deep breath before stalking boldly into the Halloween party. He had heard a lot about the people who lived in the big Victorian house on the outskirts of town; their parties carried the sort of legends that were fueled completely by rumor. No one he actually knew had been to one of them, but his friends all had stories, handed down until the teller couldn’t positively identify the protagonist of the tale.
Well, he would be the first of his friends to make it in, and he intended to make it count. He’d managed to beg a ride to the edge of town and hiked his way to the place on dark back roads with barely enough room for two cars, much less a pedestrian. He figured that he had earned his chance to see what happened in the big house, by virtue of making it there without getting squashed by a SUV.
No one really seemed to notice that he didn’t belong with anyone there. He had decided to wear an outfit that could go many places without too much comment: black BDUs tucked into freshly polished combat boots, topped off with an untucked white button-up shirt. A loosely tied black tie with skeletons dancing across it added an irreverent air that matched his spiky black hair perfectly. He looked every bit the musician that he aspired to be, without overstating it, as he’d carefully planned.
Merrick scanned around quickly to get his wits about him and headed for the likely place where the kitchen would be. He had brought two six-packs of the best beer he could afford, a rich porter from a local micro brewery that he had discovered one night while in a bar in Fells Point. He had fallen in love with the taste and bought it whenever he could find it and afford it.
The way he saw it, he was crashing the party – the least he could do was to bring the beer he loved as a peace offering. Maybe the occupants of the house would notice his superior taste and tolerate him. Or maybe they would just kick him out and keep his beer. It was a difficult call at this point, really.
The people he’d seen so far were all rather… eccentric looking. They all seemed to be much more attractive than any one house full of people had a right to be, although none of them could be said to have a traditional beauty about them. From what Merrick had seen so far, they tended to be dramatic in dress, although that could have been attributed to the holiday, of course.
He found the kitchen and decided to take a beer for himself and anonymously stash the rest in the fridge. He should find someone to introduce himself to, he supposed, although he wasn’t sure how he would answer the inevitable questions about why he was at the party in the first place. In fact, he wasn’t really sure what had drawn him here. A sense of adventure, perhaps, mixed with an insatiable curiosity.
The refrigerator was full of strange food: odd fruit, weirdly lumpy packages with mysterious contents, and many dark bottles of liquid, corked and sealed with wax. There was a variety of beers on the top shelf, and he added the porters to that collection. Closing the door to the fridge, he was surprised by a small figure standing on the other side and took a step back with a gasp. The girl also shared his shock for a moment, before bursting into laughter.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost! Never fear, stranger, I won’t spirit you away…yet.”
She opened her eyes wide and smiled innocently. Merrick gave in and started laughing, too. She looked at him carefully and said, “You’re new here. Did you find us on your own?”
Merrick admitted, “I have been hearing the legends about the parties here for ages and decided that I would like to see them firsthand. I apologize if I overstepped my bounds, but I came a long way to be here tonight. I felt like I was drawn here.” Why did he just say that? Damn, it was as if his tongue had a mind of its own!
“We like honest people here. We also have no call to argue with a call to join us; in fact, your tenacity honors us. And you brought beverages as well, yes?” Merrick nodded, mutely.
She smiled and said, “Good! You even follow the ancient formula of party crashing. Well, we didn’t call it party crashing back then, but it will do for now.”
She paused to give Merrick a glowing smile and winked at him. He was utterly enraptured at this point, he had never met a woman that had managed to captivate him so quickly. He could listen to her speak all night and never grow tired, he decided.
“You have to understand a few things before you enter the fray, as they say. Please let me be your guide, as you’ve made a favorable impression on me and I feel that I should get you through the evening unscathed. Do you agree?”
Merrick nodded, intrigued.
“Nay, nay, you must say aloud what you intend,” she declared.
Merrick blinked at that, but complied, “I gladly accept you as guide.”
She beamed at his wording and exclaimed, “Perfect! You did that quite well. Choose your words that carefully when dealing with us, and you will go far. Now, the next question: will you tell me your name? And be careful, here, when you are asked for it tonight from other than myself because names hold power. Never reveal all until you are sure, do you understand? I will give you mine first, as a token of good faith, but know this – there is a secret to the name that you carry; you should never give it away until you are sure. Give your common name, or a nickname, when you are asked, and then only if you wish. Names given are gifts.”
She caught his gaze and held it, peering into his eyes until he thought he might have to either kiss her or run screaming. She broke the tension finally with a sweet smile, and said happily,” I can see that this night will yield many surprises! I am Aisling, and I’m quite glad that I found you in our kitchen tonight.”
Merrick felt, quite suddenly, as if he had been given a great honor. What was going on here, under the surface? He felt lost in the night’s events, yet at the same time, this was exactly where he’d wanted to be. What could he do but go along with everything?
“Aisling. That’s a lovely name. I’m Merrick, and I’m very pleased to meet you.” He felt that to be an inadequate response, but Aisling beamed at his answer.
“Your name isn’t very common, either. We are of a kind, then! This is pleasing.” She practically bubbled over with excitement, then suddenly cocked her head to the side and looked a bit alarmed.
“Someone’s coming, and you don’t have all the information you need to make it through this evening safely. Come over here, quickly!” She grabbed his arm and pushed him onto a stool in the darkest corner of the kitchen, positioning herself between him and the wall.
“No matter what, keep your face hidden. Do you understand? If someone speaks to us, let me answer. Pretend to be engrossed in my presence, no matter what.”
She slipped his arms around her and pressed herself against him. “Hide your face in my hair,” she whispered, as the kitchen door opened behind her.
His head was spinning, dizzy from being so close to her so suddenly, her scent, her presence – and the suspense of the moment just added to the feeling until he could barely stand it. Her fingers were gently stroking the back of his neck, rather absently yet soothingly; he could feel her nervousness. Why was she so attuned? What were these people like, anyway?
There was some rustling and a low laugh from the figures who had entered. Merrick could only see the curve of Aisling’s neck and her voluminous, curly hair, which under other circumstances would be more than enough. He realized that her hair was an unusual mix of deep, sparkling black and strands of delicate lavender. How did she manage that?
He must have made a sound, because Aisling tensed slightly, and one of the others in the room laughed again and said, “Oh, look. Aisling caught herself a plaything! Will you share, or are you greedy today, Aisling?”
Merrick winced at the condescending tone in the remarkably mellifluous voice. How could such a lovely voice become so bitter?
A second, more masculine voice chimed in. “I don’t think I recognize it, Edana. Of course, I can barely see it. Him, Aisling? Did you find a boy? What a pleasant surprise!”
The other one sounded like he was teasing Aisling. He seemed rather more likeable. “We should leave her to her fun, Edana. I’m sure she will introduce us later, when they are… less involved.” He laughed, lightly.
Merrick had the impression that he was trying to help Aisling, that there was some underlying tension that he was trying to defuse. Edana seemed to want to start trouble.
Aisling turned slightly, cradling his head and keeping him hidden in her hair, and replied in an even tone, “I am rather occupied, ‘tis true. Edana, does the party grow dull enough to drive you to the kitchen for entertainment?”
Edana’s answer dripped with ice, “Ah, those fools. They never tire of the same entertainments, you know. But rumor had it that some dark bird soared boldly through our threshold, and that waked my curiosity. Imagine when I find it roosting here in the shadows with you.”
There was a rustling of fabric, and then a thin and cold hand had his chin, trying to wrench him from Aisling’s protection. Merrick’s heart jumped at the touch and started pounding. His impulse was to run away as fast as he could. Aisling laughed merrily and stepped away, though the look she shot to Merrick was full of warning.
“What you force, you do not command,” she told Edana, a poisonous smile on her lips.
“Audentes fortuna juvat,” Edana replied with a sneer, and Merrick’s brain suddenly unlocked, and he knew what to say next. Bless those “useless” Latin classes!
“Lady,” he addressed Edana, “as you advise, fortune might smile upon my boldness, and this crow does speak for himself, if you will.”
She looked taken aback at his words but recovered with an ingratiating smile. “Ah, the dark bird has a tongue, and some wits, as well! What other surprises might this night hold, fledgling? And what say you to your presence here, uninvited and unknown?”
Merrick gave her his most engaging grin and answered, “Your gatherings are legendary, and I could not help but see one myself! I came through a small bit of adversity to get here, but I managed to bring a small peace offering of beverages. Aisling was kind enough to extend her welcome to me, and here I stand now, quite honored to be in your presence.”
He had a sudden urge to bow, and did so, instinctively knowing that would impress.
Edana seemed rather taken aback, a look that seemed alien on lovely features that did not reveal her bitter personality. She took a moment to smooth the folds of her burgundy silken gown, and to toss back her shining black hair, before she turned to her tall, handsome companion and said, “What think you, Cullen? Shall we accept or exile this brazen one?”
Cullen laughed derisively at her and said, “It is not ours to decide, Edana, and you know it. He took matters into his own hands when he entered the door, and he made his amends with a gift and a well-spoken explanation. Aisling has befriended him, and there is naught for us to nay or yea at this juncture. Do not overreach.”
He weathered Edana’s evil glare with a guffaw and an eye roll as she pushed past him in a huff. “Do not think you have exempted yourself from my scrutiny, Raven,” she threw to Merrick as a parting shot before huffing out the door.
A palpable chill seemed to lift, heightened by Cullen’s imminent collapsing with laughter, which he managed to stave off by falling into Aisling. The shocked look that had not left her face the entire time Merrick had engaged the enemy, so to speak, finally faded into relief.
“That was an experience I most certainly do not want to repeat again!” she gasped. She reached for Merrick’s hand, and held it tightly. “You handled yourself much more eloquently than I would ever have hoped. You are amazing!” Merrick’s heart leaped in his chest at her declaration. When had he ever been smitten so quickly?
She gave him a smile as sweet as honey before turning back to Cullen gratefully. “And you! Thank you for intervening; I know that is against your normal stance.”
Cullen said, with a rueful look, “I have of late grown tired of those games, and I would distance myself from such as she if I could.” He turned to Merrick and gave him a slight bow. “Well played, Sir. I am Cullen, pleased to be of service. Well met, and though you are welcome in our poison court, tread carefully.”
Merrick considered his words and nodded slowly. “I appreciate your advice and assistance. I’m Merrick. I have to say I never dreamed that my little adventure of the evening would go this route, but I’m pleased to meet you on the journey.”
Cullen threw back his blonde head and laughed at that. “Ah, Aisling, you found a keeper! Lucky girl. And you just found him today?”
She laughed, “Here in the kitchen! He brought us beer. GOOD beer.”
“Marks for him, then.” Cullen straightened himself out, adjusting the cuffs on his white ruffled shirt.
Merrick realized at that moment that Cullen was dressed as quite the dandy, with a red velvet frock coat to go with the ruffled shirt, and neat black pants tucked into pointed boots. His blonde hair was even pulled back into a tidy ponytail with a black ribbon. It made Merrick feel severely underdressed for the party. Even Aisling was wearing a silky black dress that looked made from some historic pattern, all ancient lines and flattering fit.
“Aisling, love, you should take him out to the party now. I think you’ve established for him from what cloth we’re cut, if you gather my meaning,” Cullen said, giving Merrick a measuring look. “If he can keep on his toes with Edana, he’ll handle the others admirably.”
Aisling replied, “This is probably true, but I’d like to have a few more minutes with him first before entering that mess, if Merrick is amiable, of course.”
She looked to Merrick, who smiled and replied, “Of course.”
“See you out there, then,” Cullen gestured widely at the rest of the house and slipped back into the party.
Aisling looked down at the floor and muttered, “Well, I certainly screwed that up. My apologies, although you took all in stride. Forgive me?”
She looked up into his eyes beseechingly and laid her hands gently on his arms. She looked terribly fragile and sad, and the only answer he could see was to kiss her. Her eyelids fluttered shut as she rose up a bit on her toes to meet him. Their lips met, and his world seemed to shrink to tunnel vision for a moment; a heady feeling, like being drunk, or on a vertigo-inducing carnival ride, took over him.
He was practically reeling when she finally broke away and slid her arms around him in a gentle embrace. “I think that’s more than enough for now, don’t you? We cannot have you intoxicated so soon in the evening.”
Merrick gasped in a breath, trying to catch his balance. “What… what just happened? That was… amazing. Wow.”
Aisling gave him a mysterious little grin. “I have my secrets, to be revealed in time. I have to admit, that was an unexpected sweetness.” She reached up and touched his face briefly, and said, “Now I need to impart to you this bit of importance – what you experienced with Edana, that is the rule rather than the exception. There are a few of us here who are of good heart, but some are ruled by the bitter hand of ennui and impatience. They like to play games. Words matter here, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, so mark what you say.
“Promise nothing that you cannot deliver and give as little as you can. Weigh everything you utter as carefully as you can, so that you say exactly what you mean. Shades of meaning can get you into much trouble with some of us. Trust your instincts; you seem to possess good sense about how to act around us. We are as quick to bless as to curse, so if you impress, you will do well. I will try to give you signs of who to trust, and who to mistrust, but stand by your instincts. And remember – I am there with you.”
She stopped and gave him a look of amusement. “Is this the sort of adventure you were expecting?”
“Um… not quite. But I must admit, I don’t think I could have dreamed up this scenario, so I’m rather pleased. Especially as I’ve managed to find you by coming here.” He smiled, suddenly shy, and squeezed her hand lightly.
She laughed delightedly and said, “Then let us go conquer the party, m’dear!”
If you’d prefer to watch this on Spotify, you can do so here:
Or you can listen to it without seeing my goofy face here: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/insleepyouknow