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Fairground Conspiracy (Cult of the Butterfly 8)

By Paul Smith.



Fairground Conspiracy (Cult of the Butterfly 8)

Paul Smith

Copyright 2017 Paul Smith

Smashwords Edition.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people, places or events is purely coincidental, and bears no malicious intent.

ISBN: 9781370115631

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'Fairground attraction...'


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The Boardwalk was Devan’s favourite part of the city, particularly at sunset. The system of wood walkways it referred to stretched along the landward side of the city’s main beach, as well as reaching out long arms over the surf. In the tradition of seaside towns through eternity these supported a confusion of amusements, from modern VR booths to the old fashioned carousel that was one of Shensang’s heritage sites. Allegedly the golden gallopers had crossed the light years from earth in the hold of one of the original colony ships. Local legend had it that one of the horses had in fact been mounted on the ship’s prow (within a protective bubble), rather like a tiny Spirit of Ecstasy.

Debate was (of course) rife over exactly which horse had stood pride of place. There had been a real problem at one point with people trying to take samples for analysis in an attempt to settle things once and for all. The city council had responded by taking the unusual step of having the church sanctify the ride. Many had scoffed (he and his school mates included), but the move had done the trick. Rumours and sightings of actual Heavenly intervention were so rare these days they fell firmly within the category of urban legend. But in a world where demons were a definite reality, nobody wanted to run the risk of pissing off the good guys. You never knew when you might be in a position where having your prayers answered was a matter of life or death.

He watched as the sunlight caught Seb in profile again, flashing off the lenses of his shades as he turned to grin back at Devan. He’d chosen a blue horse, unsurprisingly, leaving Devan to mount the gold and red one behind him. Now he sat astride his mount, one arm raised to the departing sun, leaning out with a whoop to the amusement of the various kids present. Devan shook his head, grinning at the Dad stood a few mounts back with his daughter. The guy grinned, rolling his eyes in sympathy. Sebastian must have caught the exchange because he stuck his tongue out, waving to the kid, who stared back with huge, uncertain eyes.

Finally the ride wound down, and they clambered off, Devan grinning with the rush despite himself.

It really is the simple things sometimes, he decided.

Seb was already skipping towards the edge of the promenade, planting both hands on the railings as the sun finally kissed the horizon.

Thank you,” he offered, as Devan came up to lean next to him, “that was fun.”

Devan smiled, accepting his peck on the cheek. “Any time.” He gestured towards the nearest pier, with it’s old fashioned Ferris wheel. “Shall we?”

Why not.”

They set off up the boardwalk, Seb chatting about the idiots he’d had to deal with at uni that afternoon. Devan still had trouble getting his head around the idea of the young witch studying, given what was going on, but then he supposed everybody needed a dose of normality in their lives. And working in one of the Glades’ bars didn’t really count, though child minding might.

I still can’t get over the fact she trusts you to look after them.”

Seb glanced at him, suddenly (and unexpectedly) self conscious. “Well, it’s not like they really need me there, Maisey’s practically an adult now.” He smiled ruefully. “To be honest, I feel sometimes like it’s more a case of I’m there to give me something to live up to. Raina can be a bit like that.”

Devan nodded. “So I gather.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love taking care of them. And I try to do the best I can at it. Just I do feel sometimes like it’s a challenge I’ve been set, on one of those daytime gameshows you know? ‘Can this centennial cope with the responsibility of childcare? Watch and find out as he tackles An Evening with the Kids...’”

Devan laughed. “That’d be an amazing show!” He squeezed Seb’s hand. “I bet you do an amazing job. It certainly sounds like she trusts you.”

Seb shrugged. “You can ask her yourself when you guys meet. Though I’m still not sure when that’s going to happen, given the interlocking nightmare that is everyone’s schedules.”

Ah the wonders of modern life. Ce la vie.

Quite so.” Seb’s eyes lit up. “Ooh! Can we go in there?!”

Devan glanced across at the offending arcade, surveying the rows of machines. “Let me guess, Spirit Ninjas?”

It’s a classic!”

And you, of course, will want to play Pei Bo?”

Obviously.” Seb assumed the stance, miming throwing a couple of ninja stars as Devan mounted the steps. “You do realise,” Devan offered, turning at the top, “that I was ranked as Kuriko in the northern high school challenges.”

Ancient history now, surely.”

Hey! Less of the cheek young man!” He cuffed Seb playfully as he came to stand at the arcade’s entrance.

You’re just posturing because you know I could take you in a wizard’s duel.”

I’m sorry, a what?”

You know, like in the kid’s cartoon?” Seb raised an eyebrow at Devan’s blank look. “Sly and Sylveste? The Hunt for Demon’s Run? Seriously...?!”

You forget I actually have a life.”

Hey! I only watch them because they’re Kaid’s favourites. Honest...”

I believe you, thousands wouldn’t.” Devan winked at Seb’s dubious expression, which earned a grudging smile. “So, knowing what you know, still want to go head to head with Aleiko High’s finest?”

Bring it on old man, bring it on.”

After the arcade they took a ride on the Ferris, snogging across the first apex. Devan forcibly restrained himself, smiling apologetically as the wheel carried them down through the lower end of the swing.

They leant against each other’s shoulders as the sun finally disappeared below the horizon, sending the world into neon-lit twilight.

Sebastian brought them ice creams and they went down to the beach to eat them by the lights of the fairground.

You know sometimes this bit feels like the conspiracy,” he offered, round a mouthful of Mr Whippy.

Devan raised an eyebrow, using his flake to scoop up a stray dollop that was threatening escape. “How so?” He placed it into his mouth, shivering through the resultant brain freeze.

Seb was silent for sometime, tongue busy sculpting the pale pinnacle atop his cone. “I don’t know. Just...” Seb shrugged, smiled uncertainly “...it all seems a bit fragile, in the face of everything else.”

Devan nodded thoughtfully, taking his time. Sebastian was not the sort to appreciate glib answers. The young witch liked to know you’d put thought into your answers. “If there’s one thing my terribly advanced years have taught me…” he grinned as the younger man stuck a cream covered tongue out (does he know what a provocative image that makes? Actually probably yes...) “...it’s that one should not overthink these things.”

I suppose.”

On which subject...” Devan popped the last of his cone into his mouth, licking his fingers as he stood to brush down his trousers. The gesture worked to draw Sebastian’s attention appropriately. “Shall we adjourn?”

Seb grinned, levering himself to his feet. “I can finish this on the way.” And he took a suggestive pass at the spire.

Devan exhaled gustily, making a great show of placing his hands in his pockets. “I suppose I must endure...”

Seb laughed as they climbed the beach, mounting the boardwalk once more. “Oh! I haven’t finished the flake yet.”

The small strangled sound this prompted left Seb in stitches. So much so he almost dropped the rest of his ice cream on the boards. “Then I guess we’d better hope the trains aren’t delayed.”

Several hours later they lay in companionable silence on Devan’s bed, the curtains partially open to let in the moonlight and a slight breeze. Seb was smoking, an affection after sex that Devan found strangely endearing in an old fashioned sort of way. They had the nets up over the windows, to keep the bug life at bay, this more practical approach necessary with Mitch home.

So, are you ready for tomorrow night’s little face off?”

Seb nodded, glancing across the pillow at him. “I’m actually looking forward to it.”


Hmm, been a while since I got my hands dirty in a turf war.”

Devan raised an eyebrow. “You’ve done this sort of thing before?”

Only on a small scale: my town had a couple of competing sects, we used to hash it out in the woods on the outskirts. Nothing serious you understand, just kids mucking about. Only a few of us could use, so it was pretty low key. Didn’t want the Kya coming down on us.”

Quite.” Devan absorbed this new information quietly. “Well, tomorrow will definitely offer that. Just hope they take the hint and things don’t get out of hand.”

Don’t worry, I can take care of myself.”

A fact I’m well aware of, Devan thought quietly. But we don’t want to tip our hand too soon...

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