Better Than Knitting

Better Than Knitting
by Mischa

Disclaimer; All items contained on these pages are non-profit amateur fiction. The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire and all characters named in those books are the copyright of Storm Constantine and her publishers.No infringement on the copyrights are intended. These stories are for personal enjoyment only and should be reproduced, electronically or otherwise, only for this purpose and never for profit of any sort.

Spoilers: None.
Characters: Pell. Cal. Abrimel. Ashmael. Swift. Rue. Seel. etc.

Better Than Knitting

It was a beautiful day for it, Cal had to admit.

Even though he’d thought Pell mad for suggesting it in the first place, it was now proving to be, well, fun.

“You want to go on a what?” He’d said when first the subject was raised.

“A picnic.” Pell replied impatiently, “You know, food, drink, a picnic basket.”

“I do know what a picnic is, Pell, there’s no need to be facetious.”

“And there’s no need for you to be imprecise with your questions, Cal. Honestly!”

Cal backed down. Pell was pouting. He could deal with the pouting but when the hair started flinging around it was time to reverse course.

So, here they were. On their simple picnic. Him, Pell, Abrimel, Rue, Seel… and about a dozen other assorted friends, dignitaries and hangers-on. Ahhh, Cal thought to himself with a rueful smile, whatever happened to the quiet life?

But it was beautiful. Pell had chosen the place with the care and attention to detail that he put into every aspect of his life.

Cal lay on the banks of a meandering river, his ankles crossed, his head supported on his arms and a red and white checked tablecloth beneath him.

Ashmael and Seel had thrown fishing lines in and were sitting on an outcrop about five feet from where Cal lounged, discussing the finer points of the art of angling at a volume guaranteed to scare any self-respecting fish within a quarter-mile radius back into the reeds.

Behind him and further up the bank was a forest glade with a ruined gazebo in the centre of it. Rue had appropriated it for himself the moment he’d spotted it and hadn’t moved since. He and his cronies seemed to be engaged in a game of cards.

Well, that’s probably what they were doing. Rue had developed a fondness for cards, second only to his fondness for his own reflection in the mirror, ever since Cal had taught him to play whist, one cold and rainy afternoon when he’d had nothing better to do. They were all staring intently at the table, so it must be cards. All around them hovered waiters hefting jugs of wine and the silver salvers that Rue insisted he have, even on a picnic.

Of Swift and Abrimel there was no sign. Over the rise was the ruins of an old human mansion, mostly still intact, and the insatiably curious Swift and the studious Abrimel had disappeared in that direction as soon as lunch was finished.

Seel and Ashmael had finished their discussion. Either that, or they’d realised that they weren’t going to catch anything if they didn’t shut up, and peace reigned supreme once more. Cal closed his eyes and rolled onto his side, his head coming to rest on Pell’s lap. He purred like a contented cat when Pell’s hand came down and began absently playing in his hair. Yep. This was definitely a very good idea. He was glad Pell had pouted.

***

The roof was mostly gone, but the interior was surprisingly intact despite the obvious rain damage. Swift suspected that the vine, which covered most of the windows and lent the interior a strange, green glow, had protected the artifacts within the walls.

He clambered over an upturned sofa, its faded chintz pattern undiscernable after all this time and knelt down to study the tumble of old books by the wall. Maybe some of them could be salvaged.

When Abrimel called out, Swift was thumbing through a volume of encyclopedia.

“What?” He called back. “I didn’t hear you.”

Abrimel’s black head appeared in the doorway. “I said, come in here and look at this.”

“Okay.”

Swift clambered to his feet, wiping his filthy hands down the front of his pants in an impatient swipe. He went back across the sofa and carefully around the gaping hole in the floorboards to join Abrimel in what was once the kitchen.

Abrimel was waiting for him by the sink. “What do you make of that?” He asked, pointing.

He was pointing at a box on the floor. Swift knelt down for a better look. “I dunno.” He said. “What’s it supposed to be?”

Abrimel joined him, eyebrows raised with mock patience. “That’s what I’m asking. I thought you might know?”

Swift shook his head, carefully repositioning the box to get a better look at it. It was a rectangle and made of metal. There was a door and some kind of cord coming out the back. “Beats me.” He said, scratching his head. “I’ve seen pictures of human stuff. I know what a toaster looked like, but this is too big. Too small to be a fridgerator. But, see, this cord here? It must have had some electric function. This is a power cord.”

Abrimel looked at it again. “Hmmm. We must think this through logically. What could something that size and shape be used for?”

“Keeping things inside?” Swift proposed hesitantly.

“Well, yes. That’s obvious. It has a door after all. Can you get it open?”

Swift tried several times before finding a small depression that could be pushed. The door swung open. The inside was made of metal as well and the cavity was filled with shards of thick glass.

“I give up.” Swift said. “Why have a tin box to keep glass inside? Why not just keep your glassware in a cupboard?”

“Maybe they were afraid someone would steal it.” Abrimel offered. “Humans are difficult to understand at the best of times, but I do know that they were a suspicious as well as an avaricious lot.”

Swift shrugged, losing interest now he’d run out of ideas. “I’m going to look around some more.” He told his companion. “You coming?”

Abrimel was still poking at the box, more determined than Swift to uncover its secrets. He shook his head, his fine hair falling across his narrow face and hiding his determined expression. Swift wandered off, a smile on his face as he contemplated Abrimel’s stubborness.

The narrow staircase that led to the upstairs rooms was broken in places, but the remaining boards were good and strong so Swift had no hesitation in venturing up. Even the beds were still there, although the bedding had long since been shredded by enterprising birds and vermin searching for lining for their nests. He peeked in cupboards and drawers, riffling through abandoned piles of clothing and peering at faded pictures, still hanging from their rails.

Downstairs, Abrimel had given up as well. He’d discarded the metal box as a possibility for study and instead was going through the drawers, tinkering with the cutlery and holding up to the light strangely shaped utensils whose purpose he could not fathom.

Swift rejoined him, an artifact clutched in his hand. “What the hell is this, do you think?” He dropped it into Abrimel’s hand when he held it out and together they stared at the thing. “This is… I’ve seen something like this before. I just can’t remember where.” He turned it over and over in his hand as if seeking the answer in the solidity of the object itself. “Where was it?”

“Under one of the beds. I thought it might be a candle, but its not wax.”

“No. It’s plastic or something.” Abrimel said, squeezing it. “Humans sometimes made decorations for their homes out of plastic. Some of their furnishings were plastic too. It might be something like that.”

“Well,” said Swift, reclaiming his find. “it has a hollow base. Maybe it’s some kind of light. You know, the kind they used to put the battery things in.”

He turned it upside down and showed Abrimel the cavity at the bottom. Inside, there were metal prongs and, when he saw them, Abrimel nodded. “Yes. That’s definitely a battery slot. I think you’re right. Must be some kind of light. I know I’ve seen this shape before. Probably in one of the books in the library.”

“Maybe we could show it to someone?” Swift suggested. “Cal might know. Or Pell. Anyone who was human-born.”

Abrimel agreed. “We’ll take it back with us.”

Swift pocketed his find and they resumed their wanderings through the house, but without finding anything nearly as interesting as what they already had.

***

Cal woke to find Pell leaning over him.

“We’re going to have to head back soon. Otherwise it will be dark before we get home.”

“Hmmm.” Cal reached up with a lazy hand and pulled Pell down into his arms.

The sun was still warm, the sound of buzzing from the nearby shrubs was a laconic melody for such a lovely, relaxing day and having Pell in his arms was always relaxing. They shared breath and the colours were as soft and as peaceful as their surroundings. Cal didn’t want to move.

Eventually, he was forced to by the sound of approaching feet. It was Seel and Ashmael, their rods hoisted over their shoulders, a brace of goodsized trout between them. Behind them, Cal could hear Rue issuing orders for packing up and he knew their pleasant day was drawing to a close.

He hoisted himself upright, almost dumping Pell off his lap as he did so. Pell pushed his hair back out of the way, but it didn’t start to fling itself about, so Cal knew Pell wasn’t offended. Bringing one hand up to shade his eyes, he looked about as Seel and Ash dropped down onto the rug beside him.

“Abrimel and Swift not back yet?”

“They’re coming.” Ashmael said, swiping at a fly that had come too close to his catch. “We saw them walking up the other side of the hill.

Swift and Abrimel soon joined Rue in strolling down toward them. When they were all together, Pell said, “This was good, wasn’t it? We should do this again.”

Rue snorted, “Count me out. Nature is all very well, at a distance. This is not a sufficient distance for me. It’s so boring, just sitting around watching the flies fly.”

But Cal could see that he didn’t really mean it. He was just saying it to tease. Pell could apparently see it too, because his response was in similar tones,

“Next time, you can bring your knitting if you like.” He smiled.

Rue favoured him with a sour look and opened his mouth for a riposte, but Abrimel cut him off.

“That old house up there is full of stuff. You should have come up there with us.”

Rue looked down his nose at him. “Me?” he said. “Digging around in mucky old ruins? Now that’s boring!” He smiled suddenly, transforming his whole face. “Besides, I have a reputation to uphold, you know. The one that says I must be indolent, sarcastic and knitting, all at the same time.” He shot a sideways look at Pell as he said this. Pell laughed, everyone joining in.

“We found a few things.” Swift put in. “A tin box with a glass door and a power cord. In the kitchen. It had broken glass inside and we couldn’t work out what it was for.” He shrugged.

“Was the glass door black, by any chance?” Cal asked. Swift nodded.

“Microwave.” Cal said. “An oven. For cooking.”

“Cooking?!” Abrimel said, sounding surprised. “But there were no elements….”

“It used micro… Oh, never mind. I’ll explain it to you later.” Cal told him.

“And we found a light, too.” Swift suddenly remembered the object in his pocket. “It’s a funny shape. But it has battery connections and it was under a bed, so we figured it was for light. You know, at night.”

He pulled it out and a quick silence fell. Then Cal began to laugh, followed closely by Ashmael and Seel.

Pell looked at it in shocked silence. Tears began to run down Cal’s face and he couldn’t seem to get any words out, although he was trying hard.

“Well,” said Pell after a moment, his voice pregnant with dry humour. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of those.”

Cal exploded afresh, rolling onto his side, his knees drawn up as he hugged his aching sides. Ashmael drew in a gulping breath and wiped away his tears to say,

“Really, Pell? And where was it the last time you saw it?”

Pell’s face cracked, “Between my legs, I believe.”

“Oh. Awwww. God!” Cal was beside himself. The expressions on the faces of the young ones was priceless as they stared at each other in utter confusion. He took pity on them and fought his way back up to a sitting position, trying hard to keep the laughter at bay.

“Gentlemen,” he pronounced. “This is indeed a remarkable find. It has been many, many years since any Wraeththu, true-born or no, has seen a thing such as this. And especially such a…large example.”

Seel almost rolled down the bank into the river at this ceremonious-sounding announcement. It was only Ashmael’s leg coming across that saved him.

“Allright. That’s it!” Swift exploded, waving his find around in a threatening manner.”If one of you doesn’t tell me what this is in the next thirty seconds….”

“It’s a vibrator.” Ashmael told him.

“A what?”

Ash leaned close to his ear and told him.

“Oh.”

Rue told Abrimel.

“Ewww.”

Swift handed it to Rue.

“Here. You better take it. Put it in the picnic basket.”

“Whatever for?” Rue wanted to know, handling the immense thing gingerly.

Swift shrugged. “I dunno. Might be better than knitting?”

The End

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