There was always something comforting to Ace about the sound of gravel and grit being crushed underfoot while walking. The alleys of Seattle had been full of such things and the turf of Little Moscow’s numbered streets was no different. The blocks near to the Waypoint were kept much nicer but it was only an ‘as far as the eye can see’ kind of thing. Past the gaze of tourists much of Little Moscow looked like Chicago’s old streets.
Ace kept her hood up as she walked as an easy precaution against anyone looking to make trouble with fae or a pretty girl. She held more or less enough sway in the area to keep herself and others safe but a lot of that came down to making the payments to mafia bosses on time. Though contrary to popular belief it was she who offered the large trouble making men the money to stay out of her business rather than them extorting it from her.
The light changed red on 31st and Lawford but there were only two cars in the intersection. She took the opportunity to pull out a cigarette and light it when a bright light caught the corner of her eye. In a small side street only half a block deep a figure sat huddled over a fire contained within a pit. The figure looked abnormally small for an adult but Ace supposed that could just be because they were hunched over. The Majordomo sighed and pushed her way into the alley, hoping she wouldn’t find some sort of abandoned child.
It was only when Ace had gotten within five feet of the figure did it move. The black pile made a strange groaning noise and turned itself to reveal an old man who, upon second glance, only had one eye. The other was a weeping sore in his face and with her limited medical knowledge Ace guessed the injury must only be a few days old. Or else it was so poorly taken care of that it continued to weep blood and puss.
The Majordomo pulled her hands out of her black trench coat to show she had no intention of harm. The old man just looked at her for a few minutes and and started coughing.
“Mind if I share your fire?” Ace prompted to break the silence. She waited a minute and when he didn’t respond she took out another cigarette and lit it before offering it out to the man. He took it hungrily and scooted aside for her to sit down.
As the cold night wind blew they sat there in an awkward but companionable silence. It was about ten minutes or so before the old man finally spoke up. His voice was so much softer than Ace thought it would be and there was something strangely calming about listening to him.
“You seem to be a well off young person.” He said with a hint of sadness in his voice, “What brings you to this part of the city?”
Ace paused to take a drag of her cigarette before responding “ I live a block down on 32nd”
She was about to tell him where exactly just to keep the conversation friendly but it occurred to her that exposing such things to a stranger probably wasn’t the best idea.
The stranger made a thoughtful noise and then held out his hand suddenly “ My name is Forni Havanson”
The name was said with inflections from its native language and it wasn’t until he had spoken it that she realized he did have the slightest accent. Danish? Maybe Swedish or Norwegian, Ace couldn’t really tell, only that it was Scandinavian in nature.
The Trickster pushed the confusion from her face and smiled, she shook Forni’s hand. “My friends call my Ace.” She said warmly.
“What brings you into my humble abode, Ace?” Havanson asked. He had obviously been waiting to ask the question the entire time and sat with a small smile on his face waiting for her answer. The cigarette in his hand had gone unlit after his first hit, as if perhaps he hadn’t really wanted it.
“I noticed your fire” she said, but that was only half true.
“Hardly a reason to bother an old homeless man don’t you think?” Forni mocked in a joking tone. “Why, can you just imagine if everyone who noticed my little fire came up to stare? I’d have a lot more change then, I’d charge ‘em! “ He laughed and it was a much deeper sound than Ace would have thought possible for the old man. There was a sudden joy that filled his small frame and it seemed for a moment he forget the pain in his weeping eye.
A strong gust of wind blew through the streets and pushed past a group of clouds that were blocking the nearly full moon. Forni’s fire lept and then shrunk in the gale which in turn cast the shadows a new in the small alley.
“I have something I want to burn.” The truth came out softly and Ace wished she hadn’t sounded so weak.
Old man Havanson looked at her with his one good eye and in it Ace saw a lifetime of sorrow and hardship.Oddly though he was smiling and the calm expression of understanding on his face gave her a comfort she didn’t know she needed.
“Well,” Forni said after a long silence “I hope it’s nothing too big.” his last words were delivered with a wink.
Never being able to resist a joke, Ace laughed and removed a folded piece of yellowed paper from her coat pocket. “No, it’s just a letter.”
“Ah!” Havanson exclaimed as if the small bit of kindling somehow explained the entire interaction.
Ace gave him a skeptical look and turned the letter over in her hands to reveal a strange character imprinted in a black wax seal. Forni looked at the letter and smiled,
“A letter to a lover?” he guessed.
“No,” Ace said with a bitter tone “It’s to my father.”
“Ah. . .” Havanson said again but this time the word was filled with pain. There was another moment of silence between them before he continued, “I’m sure he misses you very much.”
A stab of pure anger and loathing passed through Ace, “What do you know about my father.” she snarled out before she could stop herself.
Old man Forni looked hurt but he smiled back at her all the same, “I know that I am a father and that I miss my children very much. They do not speak to me and I’m sure that they have all thrown at least one letter onto the fire. “
Regret and sorrow filled the hole that the rip of anger had left. The Majordomo hung her head and sighed, “I hate my father.”
“Why send him a letter then?” Havansons voice broke between the softly spoken words as he looked to his side with his one good eye.
“Because I needed something from him and I thought that trying to make up everything in our past would help me get it. “ as Ace said the words she saw all the holes in her plan again.
“Aaah.” Forni made noise of understanding.
It was getting colder now so Havanson became busy with piling more blankets and coats onto himself while Ace added more wood to the flames. She noticed it was professionally cut wood and it struck her as strange that a small one-eyed homeless man would have access to such kindling, but there were stranger things in this city.
Forni fumbled in an old backpack for quite sometime before pulling out a bottle of Bicardi Gold and handing it to Ace. She laughed and took the rum, holding it up to salute the old man before taking a swig.
“Why do you hate him?” Forni asked between sips from the bottle. “I ask as a father, maybe you feel the same way as some of my children and I can better understand them by understanding you.”
The Trickster shook her head and gave him a pitying look. “My father killed my mother.”
Havanson’s reaction was much less than Ace would have expected out of a normal person. He simply inhaled deeply and held his breath before letting out a great sigh as looked up into the sky. The old man pulled a cloth out of his pocket and dabbed away the bloody puss leaking from his eye and used the other clean end to catch a tear falling from his other. Ace didn’t say anything, just took the bottle of rum from his hand and took another shot.
“He got away with that?” the old man’s voice was rough
“He’s a very powerful man where I come from, the head warden of a prison,” She took a drink “ he got away with it. “
Havanson nodded and gestured to the fire with his hand. “Go on then.”
Ace looked into the flames and found herself feeling much the same as she did throwing Dagon’s engagement ring into the silver fire at Samhain. She kissed the letter on the black wax seal and carefully placed the parchment at the base of the fire and watched as it curled and melted into nothing.
The rum was gone by the time the fire had died and Ace thought that she and Forni must have sat together for at least an hour and a half. The Trickster flipped open one of her burner phones and saw an all too bright 3:17 A.M. staring her in the face. She quickly shut the phone and began to get up but the old man’s hand whipped out from the blankets and held her wrist in a surprisingly strong grip.
Ace frowned at him but Forni simply smiled, “ Let me give you one piece of advice before you go. As a thank you for your company. “
The Majordomo shrugged and figured she could stay a bit longer. Forni let go of her wrist and pulled out the cigarette he had stopped smoking and offered it back to her.
“When and if you go to confront your father make sure that you are there to either reform or sever the bond. Your father has done you a great injustice and you can either forgive him that or chose to remove him from your life. To try and falsely strengthen your relationship is not enough, it will only lead you to more pain.” Havanson spoke firmly and with an authority Ace wouldn’t have expected the man to possess.
“ I want revenge. “ She said sourly.
“That’s valid” Forni replied in a much more casual tone. “Revenge falls under severing the bond. Where I come from it’s a very common method of solving problems.” He exaggerated his accent a bit at the end and winked at Ace to show her that he really did think vengeance murder was fine.
Ace shook her head and reflected on how wise this whole conversation had been on her part. She had gotten rid of the letter which had been the point of coming over to the fire so it wasn’t a complete loss.
“Thank you, Forni.” Ace said as she handed the old man a hundred dollar bill and an ace of spades playing card with a phone number written on it in sharpie. Havanson looked at the items with a wide eye and took both with a huge smile on his face. He nodded, wordlessly happy about the crisp new bill going so far as to hold it up to see if it was real.
“It’s like three in the fuckin’ morning so I can’t do it now but call that number sometime in the next few days and I’ll help you get a shower and an apartment in Little Moscow. In the meantime if you ever need anything head to the Crossroads bar on Dolphin Ave and tell them Ace send you. “ The Trickster smiled and stood up, waving as she walked out of the alleyway.
The streets were empty and Ace could see Bard staring at her from a nearby tree. She whistled for him but he simply croaked unhappily and bobbed up and down in a way than mean ‘no’. The reaction was strange as the white raven wasn’t really afraid of much nor was he lazy. Ace sighed and walked across the street to retrieve her grimalkin manually and make her way home.
“What’s your deal?” Ace asked Bard as she nestled next to him on the tree branch. She flapped her wings again to settle the feathers and tilted her head to look at him.
“I don’t like one-eyed old men who dispense strange wisdom.” Bard muttered in an unapproving tone before stretching his own wings and taking flight towards home.