11.3 The Reverend’s Cabin

by Matt P.

Reverend Morrison’s cabin was about thirty minutes outside of town, in to some of the small hills in the surrounding farm country. Until he’d moved here, Walter wouldn’t have assumed there were any hilly places in Kansas—it had the reputation for being scientifically flatter than a pancake, after all. But as it approached the borders with other states—Missouri and Oklahoma at least—it did pick up hills and other interesting features. He had been pleasantly surprised to learn that when he came to the state for the first time, for College on the Army’s dime.

Now they were driving in to some of those low hills, away from the city and tucked in to a cute little hollow. It was almost pretty, in the golden light of the later afternoon sun getting ready to start setting. Along the way Gavin Neill was hardly alone in the fact that he kept giving glances to Morgan and Tania inside the van that they were all in; but he was alone in the fact that he decided to ask some questions along the way.

“Can I ask you a question without incurring an obligation?” He asked when they were about halfway in to the trip. Walter, in the front seat of the van, rolled his eyes a little bit. Morgan laughed, apparently in genuine amusement.

“Your gran did teach you well,” Morgan offered appreciatively. “I will make you this offer: You may ask whatever you like, but I am under no obligation to answer. If I answer I will do so honestly, unless I am under an obligation not to give that information away; and if so I will tell you that I cannot answer. I will also tell you if I am offended by something, rather than killing you outright for impertinence. Acceptable?” She raised an eyebrow, and met the man’s gaze. He nodded. “Very well, ask away.”

Neill was a younger man than Walter would have expected for someone in Ashland’s team, although he supposed he had been a young man the first time he’d had the dubious pleasure of working with her. He’d been a Lieutenant, and Neill was a Captain, so maybe he was just slightly boyish in his face. His eyes were certainly hard enough as he steeled himself for the first question. “Do you really take and replace babies?”

Morgan smirked. “Not nearly as often as we’re accused. Children change, and their parents blame Faeries. Children have mental health issues or disabilities, and their parents blame Faeries.”

“Sometimes young women like to go out late and get laid, and their parents say their good girl has been replaced with a changeling,” Tania piped up from where she sat. “As opposed to, you know, just needing a good fuck.”

“Charmingly put,” Morgan responded, “But not inaccurate either. Yes, sometimes we did. But it’s not legal in either Court any more, both because we find it personally repellent and because it gets pretty tricky to keep going once you all developed DNA testing and the like.”

Walter snorted. “Practical minded of you. It would be pretty rough to have someone send away for a DNA kit and instead of results the CDC shows up at their door.”

Gavin nodded, as if they made perfect sense in his world; Walter somewhat resented that, as revelations from Morgan tended to make his world make less sense than it had before. “What are the roles of the Courts of Faerie?” He asked.

“A good question,” Morgan allowed, “Because it also gets you the answer to the question ‘Was Gran right about the Courts?’ without having to work for it. I can’t go in to all the detail, both for time and because some of the inner workings are for us and us alone,” Morgan warned. “But the Courts exist to oversee the changing of the seasons. We are a part of nature, and our power waxing and waning is both a part of and is part of the drive behind the changing of the seasons.”

\Now it was Ashland’s turn to snort. “Come on, really? I’m coming around to the idea that there are county coroners who secretly have the power to tear me limb from limb, but you’re basically claiming credit for axial tilt and rotation.”

Tania shrugged artlessly, dismissing the naturalistic or scientific concerns. “Call it whatever you wish, but the Courts resonate with the seasons. Our power derives from Summer, and Winter, and we transition with them. And if we tried to stop that, to violate the natural order, it would be disastrous for your world as well as ours.” Most other people in the van wouldn’t detect the little quiver in her voice, Walter knew, but he did and he knew Morgan would as well.

That disruption had been exactly what Oberon, father to the two Queens, had wanted to do; to seize power from both of them and keep it for himself, to give himself the power to end his banishment and take what he saw as his rightful place in Faerie. That it would have caused untold destruction in both their world and the mortal world didn’t seem to bother him much, at least not that Walter had seen.

Neill apparently didn’t have much else to comment, as he went silent—apparently he had been looking for some general confirmations rather than getting in to the specifics. Which made sense, Walter supposed—you couldn’t really consider the specifics until you’d come to terms with the general.

“We’re here,” Leah announced, as they pulled around to stop a curve out of sight from the house but close enough to run to. “Plan is simple. Arm up, we go to the house, and see what’s there. If it’s bad we have backup behind us, and we can retreat; if we find Morrison we secure her and either get off site, or…you know, sit and talk.” She shrugged; that part was simultaneously the easiest to explain and the least likely to happen—at least to the cynics among them.

They pulled themselves out of the van, and spent several minutes checking their weapons and body armor—those that had them. They had opted for pistols instead of rifles, relying on Border PD’s preference for higher powered rounds instead of taking the time to get M4s from the armory. Only Ashland was using something smaller than a .45, keeping to her familiar Makarov.

When everyone was ready Walter nodded, and they fell in formation and began jogging around the bend. No one spoke, and they moved as quietly as possible, but someone with supernatural hearing would likely know they were coming no matter what they did. Probably heard the van anyway, he considered as they came around the bend.

To find a petite woman with pale, almost white hair waiting for them underneath a large umbrella. “Good evening, Marshal. I’ve been hoping you would figure things out and come speak to me,” she offered, with a slight smile that showed a hint of fang.