The first of November was a chilly time of year for a gathering on the terrace, but it was a household tradition, a sort of impromptu celebration of the sun’s rising after another Hallowe’en night. Now and then it was a welcoming party for new family members; now and then it was relief that they’d successfully navigated the visit of a difficult guest. When the weather was truly bad they moved it inside, but Ségolène was pleased that the sky this year was clear and the temperature not excessively low. Environmental adjustments could be done, but were so difficult and ephemeral without walls to contain them that they were scarcely worth it.
It was still November, however. She wrapped a warm woollen shawl over her dress, an impressively comfortable thing of thick jersey knit with three-quarter sleeves and a long full skirt, and started down the stairs. She preferred her familiar conventional clothing for dealing with guests—it made her feel more like she was on solid footing—but she’d succumbed to the temptation of much more modern casual fashions when only her family were present. Cosmo knew her tastes and was happy to oblige.
Neon braced his feet on the nearest chair and leaned back, slumping downwards. Absently, he reached up to check that Banana was still secure, sleeping off his own fruity meal.
This was going to be a long night, but at least Thalia’s sleep mixture meant it was effectively over for Lennox. The whole household used it when wrestling with insomnia, and it was safe and gentle, but for it to work at all, one had to be trying to relax, not up and active, and certainly not emotionally agitated. As long as nothing disturbed him, the investigator could simply sleep from now until sunrise.
No more fear and rage hammering painfully at Neon’s mind.
Neon’s job, now he’d gotten this far, was to make sure that nothing disturbed him.
The door eased quietly open, and Neon opened his eyes.
The acoustics of the great hall, or at least from a position centred on the upper half of the stairs above the landing, were spectacular. Trace wondered whether Richard knew that.
It had been an accidental discovery, after all.
Ophelia’s most recent potion had changed him into a rather petite girl with rainbow-coloured wings for arms; at least she’d warned him to take his t-shirt off as soon as he’d swallowed it. Cosmo had helpfully found him a simple white dress with sleeves wide enough to accommodate that change, though they might not have been before Cosmo’s adjustments.
The wings were strange. Being relatively small felt strange. Long hair, actual if small breasts, and a wider pelvis with a lower centre of gravity felt strange.
But having a crystal-clear soprano voice, that felt different but sounded hypnotically beautiful. He’d been singing to himself while wandering, and had stumbled into this perfect position.
Diana turned around to look for the source of the soft voice, and confirmed that it was Neon—who had just stepped around the corner and was leaning against it, hands tucked into the pockets of her jeans.
“Hi, Neon. Why is there a tentacly thing not nearly as cute as Banana inside a glass ball that doesn’t seem to have any seams?”
“It’s a tiny eldritch horror that Mistress and Maggie and the founders of three other houses stuck in there after it started trying to eat in-between houses. It’s actually big enough to swallow the whole house and everyone in it, which I gather is tiny for an eldritch horror? But the spell keeps it trapped in there. There’s some cross-universe stuff that really makes my brain hurt, and I live with Fifi and in this house.”
No. It wasn’t only Jake he could see.
That was Sally, he recognized the spirit but not the male human shape, showing up at the house with a note already written and the clothes that felt right to change into and no intention of seeing sunrise. The cuffed khaki pants and drab brown sweater over a shirt with a collar, the close-clipped hair, the rough camo-green canvas bag, all combined to suggest that it was not a recent event, maybe not long after World War Two.