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His Faded Idol

1.

She had to attend the Grand Matriarch's funeral, that was clear. Traveling halfway around the world was not something her elders could do without great inconvenience, and she was the oldest and best educated of the members of the family who could travel. But when she had asked to whom her mother and aunts were sending her, she had not expected a man's name. She had, in fact, laughed, suspecting a joke from her Aunt Csilla.

Yet here she was, disembarking from her train in this strange city overlooked by a shining ball and spike on a hilltop, and looking around for a man who could be her cousin Zoltan.

"You must be Erzsebet Farkas," a sleek, well-dressed man about her mother's age said, in English, having appeared beside her in a manner she had not noticed in her distraction.

"I am," she said in the same language. She looked down her long patrician nose at him, despite both being much of a height. "Are you then Zoltan Farkas?"

He bowed. "I have that privilege." He wore a charcoal grey suit with nearly invisible pinstripes and a burgundy tie that had a regular dark pattern on it, but too small for her to see in the inconsistent light of the train platform. Fleur-de-lis or some such, she was sure.

She returned the bow. "I present my mother Rozsa's compliments," Erzsebet said in the family's particular dialect of Hungarian, "and the message that she commends me unto your care and guidance until such time as I depart this home of yours."

Zoltan's easy smile never failed, but it did freeze, just a bit, as she began the little ritual greeting. His eyebrows flicked upwards once and he said, in the same tongue, "I accept Rozsa's charge, and you shall be as a daughter to me until such time as you depart this home of mine."

Erzsebet bowed again. Sometimes she tired of bowing so much to her elders. "And I shall obey and respect you as if you were my mother," she said.

"That will be difficult for you," he said, in English again, "will it not? That is all right, we are casual folk here." He bent and took up her suitcases easily. "Ah, you have packed to dress properly for the old girl's funeral, haven't you? I look forward to seeing what you've brought."

She retained her carryon and followed him down the train platform. "You speak very well," she said politely, meaning, of course, their native language. "How long have you been away from home?"

"Oh, a hundred years, more or less," he said, descending the stairs with vigor. "Not always here, you know. I came here first during the Great War, but have gone and come and gone and come and gone and come again since then."

"Mother said that you had abandoned the family several times," Erzsebet said, following at the more decorous pace demanded by her Parisian high heels. "But that you had always come back. You are nearly a family proverb."

He laughed with a blast of cynicism so intense his emotional vibrations nearly rocked her back onto the steps. "I am not much given to family feeling, no," he said, still chuckling. "Oh, my dear, you are the soul of tactlessness."

She pressed her lips together and was silent for a while, unwilling to be a source of further unpleasant hilarity. Still, she couldn't quite stop an exclamation of dismay when she saw the contrivance that was to be her chariot in Wonder City.

"I introduce you to the Divine Sarah," Zoltan said, opening the back door to lift her bags inside. The exterior of the ancient Volkswagen bus was adorned with brilliant Mucha-themed psychedelic murals. "She has been with me for nigh upon forty years now. I shall only give her up when I can no longer beg, borrow, bribe, or steal parts for her."

He opened the passenger door for Erzsebet, and she saw the inside was not much better than the outside: seats upholstered in crimson and gold, with garnet shag carpeting on floor, walls, and ceiling. Reluctantly, she stepped in and settled herself in the surprisingly comfortable captain's chair. Another moment of fumbling and she was strapped in securely -- she was not sure what sort of driver her cousin might be.

Zoltan sprang into the driver's seat and threw the Divine Sarah onto the road with an energy that made her glad of her precautions. "Have you ever been to America before?" he asked, flashing her a smile.

"No, never," she said, watching the bright shopfronts flicker past as he guided his ancient beast of a vehicle down one street, then another. She was certain that she could not find her way back to the train station afoot. Or even from the air, since she had not got a good impression of the layout of the station.

"Where were you educated?" he said, stopping short at a traffic light.

"I spent two years at Cambridge," she said, and carefully relaxed the grip of both her hands on the armrests. "Then finished my degree in Budapest."

"In what?" He accelerated sharply when the light turned green.

"Business management, of course," she said, finding it more and more difficult to concentrate as they moved through the city. "What is wrong with this place?" She put her hand to her forehead, as if that could decrease the strange emotional white noise that was clogging her mind.

"Ah, sorry," he said, glancing at her and frowning. "There is a great deal of psychic activity here, being the center of the paranormal culture in this country. Additionally, there are many devices set around the city that enhance or inhibit the activity. I forget that it can be quite overwhelming to newcomers of our kind."

"I will persevere," she said, trying to even out her tone. "But how do you live here?"

"It will be better at my house," Zoltan said, turning past high walls emblazoned with a glowing corporate logo that Erzsebet recognized as belonging to the Gold Stars. "We are in town, but not near the districts where there are so many superheroes and supervillains."

"Wonder City is a very strange place," she said, looking out at humans who seemed to be perfectly normal, and yet bore the lurking menace of possibly being paranormals who could bend the laws of physics. "Do you know why the Grand Matriarch took up her residence here?"

A smile flickered over his handsome, fine-boned face. "Her younger sister Kathalin took a fancy to it, I believe," he said. "Kathalin argued long and hard with her sisters. They say she had the Sight, you know, and that she foresaw all this." He waved all around them with both hands, which made her clutch the armrests again. "In the end, they brought the Household here not long before President Wilson established his Gold Star Battalion. And the rest, as they say, is history."

"Mother said you knew the Grand Matriarch well," Erzsebet said. "Were you part of their Household?" She, like he, used the family term rather than the English word, for the English word did not convey nearly as much depth of meaning.

"Moi?" he said, startled into a laugh. "Oh, no, never. Klotild knew I was not the type for that. She was amused by my 'funny little ways'. I was not husband or lover or even adoptive son; I was the court jester."

"Oh," she said, and again, "Oh!" as she suddenly understood some of her aunts' hints about him and his odd power in this city.

"Yes," he said, reading her with an accuracy that made her skin crawl, "I was one of the few people she listened to because I mix with the paranormals. I lived with superheroes, loved supervillains, and danced with the undead. I was an outsider and an insider at the same time. She gave me great leeway, and I could speak for her in certain situations." The light of the dashboard made his features stark for a moment as they passed out of the streetlights for a time. "It will be strange without her."

Erzsebet considered his words in silence, her fingers fidgeting with the seam of the armrest.

He turned the Divine Sarah down a residential street, and she saw the sign, "Marigold Lane," in the headlights. They then turned into a driveway, and she saw the sprawling Victorian mansion and carriage house with many windows ablaze with light.

"Do you have your own Household, then?" she said, trying not to let out too much of her own horror at this possibility.

"I am but a man," Zoltan said, smiling at her beatifically. "How could I try to set up a Household without a family of women? No, I live alone, and I rent rooms to humans. If I sometimes have more regular donors than others, I prefer to call them 'boyfriends'."

"You are..." Erzsebet paused, groping for the right word.

"Gay as a window treatment," Zoltan said amiably. "So now you know. I will tell you some other things as well." He slotted the Divine Sarah into her garage expertly, put her into park, and turned her off, leaving them sitting in darkness together. "No one who lives in my house is to be a donor. On some of them, your teeth would break. On others, I would break you. They are all paranormal and off limits."

"All right," she said slowly. She had expected that she would have to pursue other avenues for feeding; she never expected her donors to be delivered to her doorstep.

"This one will be less expected," he said, and she heard his smile. "You will treat any and all comers with as much respect as you are capable of offering me, at least. This includes undead."

Her eyes went wide. "You bring vermin into your home?" she exclaimed.

His teeth snapped together and all the amiability she'd been reading from him shut off like a lamp. "Those 'vermin' are my friends. In some cases, they have been more steadfast allies than the family ever has been for me. And they are useful camouflage, since the humans assume I am one of them, and I have failed to disabuse them of this notion."

"You pretend to be vermin as well?" she said, imagining that she could not ever be more outraged in her life.

"Very few humans know much about our kind," he said, and she felt his gaze, honed by many more decades than her own, piercing the darkness to watch her. "True, our existence is registered with the government, but we are only vampires to them. There is no distinction between kinds. We feed on human blood, we fly, we have psychic abilities -- the government does not care if our hearts beat or not."

"Why did my mother send me to you?" Erzsebet said, clutching her head.

"Because she knows I can and will protect you," he said gently. "She knows that this place is dangerous as well as strange, and that you can learn things, if you will. Come, let me show you to your rooms."

She was even more offended when she saw, in better light, that the close pattern on his tie consisted of tiny bats.

---

Author's Note:

This Interlude rather got away from me, and thus became a miniseries. I will post one episode per week, and I'll post one full Madame Destiny reading per week for the next 3 weeks. After that, it may just be one Interlude ep per week until complete (looking like May now), but we'll see!

I hope you enjoy our little side story with Zoltan and his family. :)









Date: 2012-03-12 07:22 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
Yea for more Wonder City! I love how each post reveals another bit of the world.

Thanks for writing!

Date: 2012-03-13 04:22 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thank you! I hope I keep the world interesting with little surprises.

Date: 2012-03-12 07:42 pm (UTC)
akycha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] akycha
Oh I have so been looking forward to you posting this!

Date: 2012-03-12 09:08 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
ME TOO. I love him so.

Date: 2012-03-12 09:07 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
ZOLTAN

AND HIS TIE <333

Date: 2012-03-13 04:22 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
THE TIE.

Date: 2012-03-13 04:09 am (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
Oooh, this sounds like it's gonna be good.

Date: 2012-03-13 04:22 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
I hope so! Thanks!

Date: 2012-05-10 03:11 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Eeeh! More insight into Zoltan and his kind! I'm so excited for this!

Divine Sarah

Date: 2013-02-27 06:29 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
He should buy, store and preserve as many parts for her as he can find and afford now.

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