The Viper-Tongue of Autumn

Porsche needed a break from the bear. Not that he was a bad guy, if a bear could be called a guy, but she needed some human-ish contact at this party. The hob had given her a fright, and Sherman the bear left her a little unsettled. So she walked out into the garden to seek the other changeling who’d arrived here. Porsche noticed that her compatriots had trailed along behind her. She didn’t mind being the center of attention for a while. In fact, she liked the idea.

She had heard Dese- Deseden- Demesne- whatever her name was call the woman Sister Scorn, and it made her think of a nun in a habit, but she found as she approached that the scrawny changeling was more like a fae Cinderella, pre-godmother, than a bride of Christ. Her simple dress was dirty, her apron stained, and the three-quarter length sleeves and head scarf just made her look like she was moments away from a difficult cleaning job.

The woman looked panicky for a moment as she realized that Porsche was coming to talk to her. She looked side to side, perhaps seeking some way to forestall or avoid the conversation, but then she took a deep breath and steeled herself to talk to a stranger.

“Hi!”

“Hello—slut!” Her eyes widened and she blanched.

Porsche wondered about the outburst, but remembered what their hostess had said and went on, “This is my friend, Polly Two-Tone.” The boys had remained further back, so she didn’t try to introduce them.

“That’s not my last name. Don’t make up names.” Polly’s hair rapidly cycled through shades of red and purple before coming back to the turquoise of her flapper dress.

“Its… nice to meet you.” Sister Scorn looked like she expected something else from herself, and then smiled when no further utterances escaped her.

“Do you come to parties like this often?”

“I’ve never been invited to anything so nice.” She waited again, and though her lip quivered, she remained passive. “So, who are the—assholes!—accompanying you?”

Pollock gave the introductions again, “the big one is Rajah and the little one is Shade.”

“I’m so happy to be invited to this—horrible It’s lovely here.”

Polly may have been able to ignore the outbursts, but Porsche was actively entertained by them. She smiled broadly. “So, what do you do when you aren’t attending lovely tea parties?”

Meekly, the wizened woman counted on her fingers. “Heckle comedians. Um, scare people on the bus. Clean things.”

Polly asked, “How long have you been living in the Rose City?”

“Twenty—miserable! horrible!—years.” Rajah was chuckling loudly over each shout, but if anything, it just made Sister Scorn wilt even more.

“Do you mind if I ask some questions about the Autumn Court? I’m curious about some things.”

“I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the Ashen Court.” She nodded, getting through the entire sentence without any other interjections.

“I remember that Autumn territory shrunk since Vancouver stopped being part of the Freehold. How do you feel about that? Did it cause any problems finding a place to live?” As she asked, Sister Scorn paled visibly and her shoulders dropped. Porsche sensed an impending diatribe, and she was right.

Scorn’s demeanor changed, her white eyes gaining a malevolent squint and her fingers flexing like claws as she launched a verbal assault. “Those douche nozzles! Oh! Pigfuckers! They stole our homes, our land! I just want to gut them and pull out their entrails and!—It’s been really terrible, about half our lands were taken, so we’ve been trying to make do—Oh god! It’s impossible with shit-brained idiots mismanaging everything!—They try really hard, but it’s been a struggle to make room for everyone in the Court. If the city hadn’t opened up and allowed the Courts to mingle more I don’t know what we’d do—Assbelch!”

Porsche couldn’t believe that Pollock weathered that without any outward signs of emotion. Her hair stayed evenly turquoise. If Porsche herself had such obvious outward characteristics, she knew she’d be five shades of pink from a combination of amusement and embarrassment. Her friend replied evenly, “I joined the Spring Court when I came to Portland, and its home is traditionally clear across the city. I had no idea how hard it was to find places for an influx of displaced changelings.”

“So many of us are also gone. In the dark days, when so many were taken, or ran—it gives me shit fits!”

“I understand.”

Porsche’s curiosity was piqued. “I have a question. I apologize if it’s super-personal. Is it a speech issue, or a thought process thing, or..?” Her fiends tried to shush her, but it was too late, the question had been asked. It wasn’t her fault, the wizened was the one with the outbursts, she was just making it a topic of conversation instead of ignoring it.

After a moment of thought, Sister Scorn said, “Eat a dick, whore!—It’s just a little bit of who I am. It’s so hard to say, with going to Faerie and all, when it started. I’m really sorry about it.”

“Honestly, I heard much worse things in high school.”

Scorn’s reply was cut off by Dese-whatever’s return to the ice garden.

The Viper-Tongue of Autumn

Petals of the Rose Malkom Malkom