Petals of the Rose
The Rise of Autumn
Shade was helping Rajah choose clothing out of an entire room full of bags of random articles when Pollock arrived to take them all downtown to Court. Rajah had settled on a warm puffed jacket and some jeans that were only slightly too large for him. They cut a small hole in the back just under the line of the belt for his tail to slip through.
Porsche had, of course, previously taken all of her favorite clothing from her home, and had found several other items she liked, and even been shopping with Polly twice in the intervening weeks. But for the occasion, she again wore her cheerleading outfit. Shade had noticed that she seemed to wear it whenever there was someone she wanted to impress.
Pollock walked up in a smart pantsuit with low heels and her signature color-shifting jacket with its color turned up. No matter how often her style changed, and it changed constantly, she always kept the same jacket. Shade had noticed that she tended to go with eclectic fashions. Skinny jeans and a sacky sleeveless weater were more interesting to her than the conservative fashions Shade himself enjoyed.
Which is why he was again wearing a dress shirt and slacks, with loafers. It matched his academian image and suited his memories of how he dressed before… well before everything that had happened. He tried not to think about it.
Lacking a car, they used a fifteen passenger van to caravan the sheltered changelings downtown. The driver was one of the Hospitallers, a man with wild black hair that dripped constantly who carried a gun. He talked of joining their ranks during the dark days when the Port of Roses was at war with itself and the hedge ran wild with malicious hobs and even Keepers come to steal their lost toys back to Arcadia. When he parked, he pulled a coin on a string out of his pocket and fed it into the meter several times. Shade thought it must have been a magical token, because he was able to pull it out again to feed it in, until the meter was capped for time.
As a group, they then walked several blocks up to a narrow alley and into a shadowed alcove. Down a set of stairs, through some storage rooms with dusty boxes that remained untouched, they came out into a corridor that went on long enough that it must have traveled under a street to a different city block entirely. Behind yet another door this finally came out into the home of the Rose Thrones.
Deep beneath one of the angular buildings of Portland’s downtown, there stood a space. Perhaps it was once a parking structure, or maybe a storage room. At some point it had been walled off, forgotten, lost. A perfect place for the Lost to gather. The Bowl was a large square room with concrete columns regularly spaced, and dingy pipes and vents running all along overhead. The center of the room had been dug into or shaped somehow, creating a recessed square central area with concentric stairs on all sides, giving the place its name.
All around stood the throngs of changelings that composed the courts of Portland. Roughly grouped by the court they were sworn to, they milled about, conversed, gambled in far corners, competed to show the most interesting magical trick, gossiped, whispered, argued, and sang songs together. Well over a hundred of them occupied the area.
Shade remembered the first time Polly had brought him here, he’d been shocked to learn that there were many hundreds of the Lost in Portland, with several hundred in each court. The number boggled the mind. In fact, it made him worry just how many people had been taken worldwide. But then he had heard that its size and the accepting nature of the human populace had made this city something of a Mecca for changelings, and many had come from other cities in order to live lives free from persecution for their strange quirks and faerie logic.
While Pollock pointed out notable figures and the arrangement of things to the others, he excused himself and went to seek out members of his own Winter court to check in with.
After depositing Rajah with the Summer Court, with which he had expressed an affinity, Pollock linked arms with Porsche and took her over to the Spring Court’s area. It was like a party, with changelings playing music and dancing together, making out on the steps, telling jokes, catching up with friends, and in general being festive.
She’d passed by some of the groupings around the edges of the room without saying anything. It wouldn’t do to introduce Porsche to the seedy underbelly of Lost culture too soon. Likewise, she ignored the mystical gatherings of Autumn changelings and the armored ranks of the Summer warriors and courtiers.
Shade had followed along behind for a while, and she noticed he was simply gone after they had wound their way through the Winter members in their blacks and whites, all presenting such solidarity and normality that even though this was a pink-haired punk and that was a suited business man, each seemed a typical, unremarkable representative of their archetype. If they hadn’t been visibly fae folk, no one would ever have known it.
On the Spring steps, Porsche’s face lit up like sunlight on a fresh snow bank. She didn’t even wait for Pollock to finish introductions, jumping right into the middle of a gaggle of women. When Pollock left her, she was surrounded by wizened and beasts forming an immediate retinue as she entertained them with tales of her life, her Keeper, and how she came to be here.
Pollock had other business to attend to.
Porsche was at home here. They explained to her that the Spring Court thrived on desire. Desire fed the fires of magic and provided them with a reason to enjoy what they were instead of being bitter and sulky like the Winter Court did. After all, it was a desire to be free that helped them escape in the first place.
They introduced her around. A fair woman with a remarkable symmetry about her was called Elladeera, and took her to the cornucopia, where she retrieved a delicious faerie fruit and a cider of some kind. Their horn of plenty seemed to be genuinely magical, for though she saw the changelings gathered around it feasting and frolicking constantly, it never ran out of delights.
This was where she belonged. At the center of attention. This is why she’d made a deal with that horrible faerie empress in the first place. She hadn’t told her friends, but her imprisonment and transformation was the result of a blown deal with the faerie who called herself the Empress, Lady of the Alabaster Palace. She certainly knew better than to listen to anything those lying, cheating assholes said ever again. She wanted to be popular, not get turned into some sort of faerie mockery of a person, with snow for skin and icicles in her hair.
But the Spring Court was right. Now that she was a faerie girl, being fae wasn’t half bad. The raspy-voiced wizened elf to her left was enthralled by her every word, and the babbling group of beasts and elementals she was surrounded by understood her in a way that no one ever had since high school started.