The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 19


"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time, 
were nothing but to waste night, day, and time"
Hamlet, Act ii, Sc.2

Phoebe sat at work that afternoon, staring at her computer screen and feeling that the world was a very hard place to exist and stay true to being Phoebe. It was easy to love Cole and her son and her sisters and Leo and her niece and nephew and feel the beauty of magic. However to see more than she should and try and still serve her calling with Elders who had less understanding of magic than she had, was ..not.

Phoebe's whole day was already lousy. After the arguments with Rodik over breakfast, she had gone to work feeling guilty as hell leaving the children because they were both so clearly upset by the atmosphere in the house. She had the radio show to do that morning and it had gone badly.

 She had given good solid textbook advice without her usual quirkiness and bounce, and when some-one had asked a question that would normally have got little homily about her home life and her husband, she had carefully avoided saying anything about Cole, to the point that the next listener, a regular had asked pointedly if everything was all right in paradise. Phoebe had said of course it was but her voice had shook and even the announcer opposite her had looked perplexed.

Elise had naturally hit the roof. And Phoebe who had just distressed herself even further by looking at her credit card bill, and seeing the damage done to it by Rodik's visit, could only sit and swallow Elise's blunt comments and keep repeating "There's nothing wrong with my marriage."

She had returned from Elise's office to find Paige waiting for her saying that they had to return home for a quick conference with not-Casper. They slipped out of the office and it was an unhappy Phoebe who learned that the Elders were so not trusting her that they were willing to risk her life as bait.

"What is it'" she screamed "Is there something about this face that say liar liar, don't believe this person."

"You do not make it easy" said not-Casper bluntly.

"I don't understand your problem" said Rodik.

"Shut the fuck up " said Piper and Paige.

"We are not using our sister as bait" said Piper in a don't mess with me tone.

"You betcha " said Paige.

"I am not leaving until Willem is vanquished " said Rodik " and his powers are returned to Good."

"Oh in that case " said Phoebe " I guess I'm bait."

Piper lifted he hands and froze the scene. "Okay " she said to Paige and Phoebe "What have we got here. This Willem thinks he can get Cole's powers if he gets him to use them to protect Phoebe, unlikely as it seems.

"Well that transmergence power of Willem's works on demon's who are emotionally involved ,and if Cole thinks Phoebe is in danger he will be" Paige said.

"And" continued Piper "the Power that Willem thinks he can use to steal Cole's powers is the way to vanquish him."

"And Cole knows how it works " said Paige.

"Only he does not remember." said Phoebe.

"And the minor problem if using Phoebe as bait gets her killed, particularly if its Rodik's fault, we may all get to find out more about what Cole's powers are than we really want to know." Piper grimanced.

Phoebe sighed "Getting Willem is witch's business. Cole and I, we agreed, he knows he has to stay out of witch's business. We work on what we know, that the Belthezor they are talking about is gone, that if I'm around Willem may be tempted to show his hand, especially if he gets frustrated, because Belthezor doesn't show."

"What if he really can get Cole's powers?" said Paige.

"Then Cole is the innocent and you know what Rodik said about the role of the innocent." Piper said.

"Shut up and be protected" Paige answered.

"You want to tell Cole that " giggled Phoebe.

"I would love too" said Piper enjoying the prospect.

"How do we make him accept it" Paige asked.

"I'll  talk to Francesca " said Phoebe sighing.

Piper unfroze the scene, saying they had discussed it amongst themselves as Charmed Ones and they agreed that Phoebe was coming out to tempt Willem. But Piper insisted, they need to understand that they were out to get Willem, protect the witches and they were not taking unnecessary risks for themselves or any-one else.

"Rodik wants to take risks that is up to him "Piper said. "If it's a choice of a witch or a retriever, find another retriever. He is not worth the loss of one witch. He wants to get himself killed good riddance I say. We are not out to save Rodik " she said "We are out to get Willem."

"Sounds reasonable to me" replied not-Casper slyly.

Rodik spluttered. "Do you know how important I am?"

"I thought I just explained I do "Piper smirked at him while Phoebe and Paige giggled.

After Phoebe returned to her office she sat staring at her computer screen. She had been calling Francesca all afternoon and getting more frustrated, not entirely sure Francesca could hear her and feeling less and less a powerful witch.

She got herself a coffee, did not fail to notice a few smirks from some of Elise's minions and jumped when she saw went into her office and saw Francesca, primly dressed in her matronly slacks and neat jacket and chignon, very school marm sitting in her office,."

"You rang dear" she asked with a prim school marm smile.

Phoebe nodded nervously.

"And the problem is dear" Francesca asked a little amused at Phoebe's nerves.

"I tried to kill Rodik last night "Phoebe confessed "He threatened my children, threatened Melinda and even Patsy and he thinks Patsy's mortal."

"I don't suppose you succeeded?" Francesca asked not overly concerned.

"Leo stopped me " Phoebe said unhappily.

"Leo ought to have more sense " Francesca said. "Why is this a problem you need me for?"

Phoebe swallowed and told her all about her problems with Willem and his belief in Cole's existence and no-one believing her. "What do you think?" she asked.

"I think perhaps it would be better for the realm I you did not get yourself killed." Francesca said.

"I'll  try not to" Phoebe promised" Why is it that no-one ever says "Gee Phoebe don't get yourself killed because we want you around,"  she asked suddenly.

"I think Cole saying that ought to be sufficient for any-one " said Francesca said school marm. "I take it you want me to impress on him that he does not interfere." she asked with a very small sigh."

"Yes" said Phoebe "Its such a problem for you isn't it. Cole loving me." She demanded suddenly, the bitterness catching up with her.

"Sometimes" said Francesca with a slight smile "Other times dear I find it quite ..endearing."

"Oh" said Phoebe stopped for a second. And then she added bitterly "But you really will be glad when I am gone " hitting out because she was hurting. "Then you can have Cole to yourself to boss about . Just like you did before we got back together."

"Phoebe " said Francesca severely "You know that's not true."

"I know you him" said Phoebe using the mess of the last few days to work herself to near hysteria " and .."

" I regard Cole as friend :" Francesca said quietly "As well as charge, and as you ask me. I do love my friends."

"You just want to be with him" Phoebe hissed reaching hysteria "I see you sharing jokes and looks and .. moments and …excluding me. I know you don't have to visit Cole anywhere as much as you do. I hear Proctor, you don't visit him like you do Cole. Well sorry I love him too, he's mine and he doesn't love you like he does me."

"I should hope not " said Francesca and then to Phoebe's horror a muscle in Francesca's cheek trembled, betraying a vulnerability that Phoebe would never have dreamed she had "I don't think he loves me dear" Francesca answered quietly "I think he offers me a respect and courtesy that I am very grateful to receive. Even if I annoy the hell out of him" she smiled without it reaching her eyes.

"Don't be ridiculous " Phoebe pushed" You know perfectly well he adores you, thinks you're one of the most beautiful people he knows." And she held Francesca's eyes and then found herself forced to look away as Francesca shut them for a second.

"I didn't know that " said Francesca in her school marm voice. "Although I will tell you honestly, that I am flattered and beholden that he would thinks so. I have a great fondness for him. I find he has a kindness and humour and an ability to remain true to himself that I .. admire. I respect him for what he faced with humour and dignity, ..mostly " Francesca said and she for a second half turned away and then turned back to face Phoebe "But that does not make me your rival for his affection. It simply means that I love him dearly and there have been very few in the long years that I have felt such an affection for. Which I suppose does make him special to me."

Phoebe found herself with tears falling down her face, tears from anger, hurt and..guilt. She sniffed and Francesca with only a ghost of a hurt smile pulled a wad of tissues from the box on Phoebe's desk and gave them to her.

"Phoebe I'm not taking anything from you " she said gently "Don't you think dear", she said, "The ability to love is not a limiting, it is only obsession that does that. You love a man, respect him, admire his gentleness" Francesca said her eyes seeing centuries away and Phoebe wondered if Francesca was talking about her own husband "You see something worthy in him, and instead of just him, there are children and suddenly there is a life where you love and are loved.. you just start loving a man and you find that there is so much more because you love him."

Phoebe hiding behind the tissues, watched Francesca's dark eyes mist slightly and then the school marm expression return.

"Cole loves you " Francesca said firmly "If you say he loves me I would not argue. You know him well and because in learning to love you, he has learned to love your family, your children so I will accept  that ability extends to friends. It is a great gift you have given him Phoebe. Do you wish it back?"

"He shares things with you he can't or won't share with me" Phoebe said suffocating in jealousy.

"I am sorry " said Francesca "It was never my intention to hurt you. Phoebe I considered you my friend " said Francesca. "Not just Cole's beloved and I do not take the loss of a friend with any comfort . My friends mean a great deal to me.

"So if I asked you," Phoebe said bitterly " you would stop being Cole's friend."

"No " said Francesca her jaw twitching with a hard held in emotion " I would stop him being my friend."

"I see" said Phoebe.

"I hope so " said Francesca " you have asked me to impress on him the need to keep his nose out of your business. Do you still want me to?"

"Yes " said Phoebe with a sniff.

"I will go and do that" said Francesca " Goodbye Phoebe " she added very school marm as she left.

Phoebe sniffed then put her arms on her desk leant on them and cried.

About ten minutes later as she was still sniffing into tissues, Ella from the library came into the office carrying some photos she said she would find for Phoebe.

"Are you okay?" she asked Phoebe curiously.

"Really shitty day " said Phoebe wiping her eyes. "I ..I think I just hurt a friend very badly. I can be such a bitch. " and she waited for Ella to deny it. Ella just stood there.

Phoebe's day did not get any better. She returned home to monumental family problem and a miffed husband on a number of issues.

As she same in the front door, parking in the street because Cole and Piper's cars were already in the drive, she saw Rodik was sitting on the seat under the stairs staring into space which she assumed was his version of meditation.

"Evil Whore " he told her.

"Bastard " she said as she went upstairs. Cole was lying on their bed staring at the ceiling. She sat on the edge of the bed and leant over to kiss him. "Hi baby" she said.

He was unresponsive.

"What's wrong? " she asked nervously.

"I thought we could talk about anything " he said bitterly.

"What " she said " Francesca?."

"Couldn't you have just said 'Cole this is witch's business' " he demanded.

"You'd have got pissy " she said.

"You think I'm not pissy because you got Francesca to order me not to protect you " he snarled.

"I thought you might get pissy and still do it if I asked you," Phoebe explained trying to catch his hand which he pulled away.

"I'm not as scared of Mrs Rinaldi as you think " he muttered.

"Where's Patsy? " Phoebe asked feeling Francesca was a very dangerous subject. She had a feeling Cole would not approve of the afternoon's conversation.

"Up stairs with Melinda, in the attic with Leo and Piper." Cole said tightly." Melinda won't let him go."

"Why are they in the attic" Phoebe asked apprehensively.

"Farthest place away from Rodik " said Cole.

"What happened ?" Phoebe asked.

"Ask Piper " Cole muttered staring at the ceiling again.

Phoebe went up to the attic where Piper was flicking through the Book of Shadows and Leo was on the floor playing with Pasty and Melinda.

"What happened today? " Phoebe demanded picking up a decidedly unhappy atmosphere.

Leo and Piper exchanged glances.

"I told Rodik I would kill him " Leo said.

"So did I" confessed Piper.

"Oh " said Phoebe " that happens all the time. Why worry?."

"Melinda tried to " said Piper.

"Oh " said Phoebe.

"I told him I was going to kill him when he upset Melinda saying I was a bad mother, so then he told her I was also a bad witch and she knew what happened to bad witches."

"You shouldn't have stopped me killing him " said Phoebe angrily.

"So Melinda says 'won't let you hurt mommy' and lifted her hand and pulled out a lightening power."

"Oh " said Phoebe " she has been pulling new powers up."

"You stopped her " asked Phoebe hoping.

Pipe shook her head " Cole was coming downstairs and saw Melinda raise the lightning so he shimmered and caught her. I froze Rodik. Don't know what he saw when I unfroze. All he knew was Cole was holding Melinda and she was screaming.

"Well if it a choice between Cole being exposed and Melinda " Phoebe said gulping " Kids come first."

"That's what Cole said." Piper replied.

"Rodik went moaning to Angela" Leo said " We just said Melinda listened when Piper yelled but I am not to sure what Angela believed." Leo met Piper's concerned expression "I was to busy threatening Rodik "Leo winced " Told him if he hurt my daughter I would do worse than kill him" Leo explained to Phoebe "I told him I would turn him over to the warlocks and I'd laugh while they blasted him to hell."

"Did you mean it ?"Phoebe asked.

"Yes" said Leo "That's my daughter he's screwing with."

Paige, on being told the story when she came home, was in favour of turning Rodik over to the warlocks without waiting. At supper Rodik thee quarters eating a meal that he said was inedible because it was cooked in a microwave, tried to complain that Melinda was under the influence of evil. Piper lifted her hands as if she was going to blow him up and he decided he needed to meditate.

"I vote we just kill him " said Paige.

"Me too " said Leo.

"Three " said Cole.

"Unanimous " said Piper and Phoebe.

When Cole and Phoebe were alone that night he watched her get undressed. "Get that damned warlock " he said " then we can get rid of that shit."

"You still pissed at me " she said.

"Yes " he said "But then you piss people off. They get over it."

"What if they don't? Phoebe asked.

"I guess you ought to make an effort to unpiss them" he said.

"How" Phoebe asked little girl ."

"You can try being you" he said smiling at her. 'best of you is pretty good. Worst of you really pisses them off. Except me" he added as she eyed him balefully.

Phoebe as she fell asleep could not help thinking guiltily that while sex and 'I love you' worked when she had pissed Cole off, it was going to take a great deal more to make up for bitterly hurting Francesca.


Phoebe woke up to find the spirit winds spinning and when they stopped she was in a very large old fashioned garden surrounded by people wearing clothes and wigs of the eighteenth century and it took her a second or two to realise it was not Phoebe sitting in the garden but Francesca and it took quite a few seconds more  to realise where Francesca was and what she was doing there.

Francesca/Phoebe glanced around her. She was sitting at a table under quite  a large elm tree. All around her the tables were discretely placed under trees and men and women were sitting talking with rather exquisite tea pot seats and china cups. She was wearing a dark green fine wool dress over a white chemise the lace arranged around the neck to make it respectable and her hair pilled into a somewhat fussy chignon. She saw the women wearing long dresses with trains, mostly showing some white lace and to much neck and wide skirts. The men were in long coats and tight pants, Phoebe noticed the tight pants, and much to her surprise so did Francesca. Some men and women were walking in the garden, parading finery very much like mannequins at a fashion show and some men seated a circular amphitheatre divided into booths were sharing something stronger than tea judging from their behaviour or wandering up and without any compulsion ogling any reasonably young and even not so young woman walking along the garden paths.

Francesca/Phoebe suddenly knew where she was, Vauxhall gardens on a fine May day in 1738. Vauxhall tea gardens in London, across the Thames river, fashionable meeting place where unlike the scandalous coffee houses even a respectable woman could publicly drink the fashionable and expensive tea and watch the promenades of ladies gentlemen, merchants and their families and others of less respectable repute, and enjoy the air. And Francesca/Phoebe knew that she had come to meet a very beautiful demon guardian.

A number of the men coming by and seeing her sitting with the hood of her cloak back and alone when woman were not supposed to be alone turned to try their attention and Francesca/Phoebe on one level was wryly amused at their shock when at closer inspection they found a middle aged, clearly respectable woman sitting by herself. On another level Phoebe could feel that deep well of loneliness that was as much a part of Francesca's soul as her humour and her competence, threatening to bubble up and overwhelm her, and was horrified of the level of it. Francesca/Phoebe hastily choked it back because for just a short while, on a sunny May afternoon in the beautiful Vauxhall tea gardens the loneliness would not be part of her. She would laugh and gossip and share friendship.

A waiter brought her a tray with a tea set and a very hot pot of tea. Francesca/Phoebe inwardly cursed him and his kind. It had cost her an extra shilling to make sure the service was prompt. She felt that the practice at Vauxhall Gardens of paying extra money for service that was already paid for boded no good for the future.

The waiter eyed her oddly and the second cup.

"My friend is coming" Francesca/Phoebe told him firmly and he shook his head in total disbelief and a small amount of compassion and then he looked up and all but dropped the tray and Francesca/Phoebe observed the heads of almost all the men in sight turning towards the garden path and the expressions of some of the women sneering and/or envious.

She did not have to look to know that her friend Hilma was approaching. Francesca had many times thought that beautiful was an inadequate word to describe Hilma, but could not find another. Hilma was tall, very tall over six foot, and she seemed to walk with a stride like a gazelle, it was graceful and insolent and it made her body sway with a promise that left men wild. Her figure was voluptuous, small waist and graceful hips and firm and pert breasts, mostly revealed in the tight bodiced dark crimson dress which was making every man she passed stop and forget himself and any woman accompanying him, which really made Phoebe and to her surprise Francesca, appreciate the tight pants.

The wide petticoat and fashionable train of Hilma' s dress swept along emphasising her swaying hips. Her face was dark, dark for a country where fairness was admired but it was perfect with high exotic cheekbones, flawless skin and large flashing bright almost black eyes, promising much and, long teasing lashes and full red lips that promised even more. Hilma walked toward Francesca with a slow satisfied insolence. She was beautiful and she knew it and she lived it and enjoyed every glance, every sneer and every lustful in drawn breath.

Francesca observed her mildly and a touch severely. She raised her eyes as the demon guardian Hilma, one time concubine of the old Source, defender of the New World, warrior swordswoman and temptress made her way to the table. Hilma not quite ignoring those around her, came around the table to catch Francesca by her shoulder's and touch cheeks.

" Beloved Francesca" 'she smiled, a little girl, innocent and breathtakingly sexual voice and genuinely meant the greeting.

"You do know you are being watched "Francesca told Hilma as she sat down. "And you are late."

"Of course I know " answered Hilma with satisfaction in her whispered little girl voice. "Are you going to give me good advice about how modest and respectable women should behave in London?"

"No ..dearest Hilma" said Francesca dryly " I know better than to waste my breath and my advice.

Hilma laughed and at least two men in the surrounding gardens dropped precious and expensive cups of tea. "I was late because I had to interfere with some woman, witch in the new world, Virginia putting demon destruction spells on this some villages, some place called Beal's Levels near the Pontiac river. Difficult to imagine why it would be a problem. There is very little of importance there. But I was called."

"Those demon destruction spells last forever" Francesca nodded "Cursedly hard to break, and very indiscriminate. Do you know I once heard the reason the north of Africa is desert is that a witch put a demon destruction spell on it and now nothing can be settled there because almost everything has some form of demonic influence.

Hilma laughed, the little girl laugh that made three men opposite openly stare. "If it requires evil to make those villages flourish, better we do not know. I sometimes wonder what the small things I protect are meant to be in the great plan. Better I don't know. I may not like what I am protecting," she mused.

"If it has pants on it I'm sure you will " Francesca told Hilma with small smile.

"Francesca beloved Francesca " said Hilma unperturbed " that was not sweet."

Francesca laughed and then saw Hilma's expression change "What's wrong dearest " she asked quietly.

"I..I understand my calling less and less " Hilma said suddenly serious "I know this is no time for business today" she half smiled, her beautiful eyes bright " but my calling. I have guarded the New World and guarded it well and less and less I have the answers. It is almost as if .. as if I separate from it. The light that lead me to it, leads me somewhere else " she said angrily, sadly ."That damned light has been my curse" she added..

"I thought it had been your salvation" said Francesca quietly.

"Madam whitelighter, madam whitelighter so staid and prim. But I know better ." teased Hilma.

"I am prim " said Francesca " It is my nature."

"Whitelighter and liar too" giggled Hilma suddenly switching moods which left many who did not know her well, startled and confused. Francesca/Phoebe wondered why she knew this "You madam whitelighter Francesca beloved are far . far more adventurous than I."

"I do not think so " said Francesca still prim.

"Who was it madam whitelighter when we met at the coffee house in Paris, the den of inequity and floors never trodden on by respectable women, who turned on those who would ..encourage us to depart and showed those erring souls the wisdom of women."

"Who was it who left with two of the better looking ones and was off her madam whitelighter's senses for two days " retorted Francesca.

"Who was it argued those men into the ground and turned their arguments inside out and around about." said Hilma. "and them."

"It is ridiculous for them to think the possession of one small appendage makes them smarter and wiser than women and some day they will learn," conceded Francesca.

"It is ridiculous to think that the possession of such an appendage does not make them far more interesting and entertaining than women" replied Hilma.

"Which is why you have no women friends" sighed Francesca.

"But I have a woman friend beloved Francesca'" said Hilma with a bright smile and several more pieces of china were dropped at close by tables. "And she meets me every week, no matter how much she pretends to be outraged by my choices of places to meet. In fact " whispered Hilma in her little girl voice "she wishes  that she could be me and be wicked and a little demonic even once and she gossips with me, and she worries about me."

"I do not wish to be wicked or demonic." said Francesca.

"Madam whitelighter you are a liar " said Hilma bright eyed. "And you should come to the New World with me."

"I find the New World…lacking." answered Francesca.

"Learn to enjoy its,..rawness the soul of it life of it." Hilma told her.

"The lust of it" said Francesca smarmily.

"Demons are barred to me and the mortals, the men  I find here are ..old and .. lacking vigour "Hilma mused. "The new world .. so the men can be a little crude… and lack culture." She sighed " Dammit it Francesca they're alive there."

"Only barely when you finish with them" Francesca commented.

"Pussy cat " smiled Hilma blowing her a kiss. " I was meant for demons" Hilma said " I have needs."

" Demons are off limits to you "Francesca told her concerned.

"Yes Madam whitelighter and all I have to do is remember the old Source and I understand this wisdom. In fact I think I have only been tempted once by a demon since the light entered my soul." Hilma confided.

"Once" said Francesca in mock disbelief.

"Once" sighed Hilma licking her lips bright and shiny at the memory. The waiter came back and asked if they wanted more tea and to Francesca's disgust all Hilma had to do was lick a her lips and he returned immediately."

"I had to pay to get that service " Francesca said disgusted.

"That is because you are far to moral to tease with something you have no intention of a paying " said Hilma. "The demon was gorgeous Francesca. Remember the witches who came from the future to save that stupid witch Melinda who made a martyr of herself in Salem."

"I remember " said Francesca. "I wondered what you did there."

"With that gorgeous demon, sadly nothing. All I had to do was make sure he failed to kill the witches. I wonder why they were so important. I only had to was made sure the slip knots around their waist did not fail when they hung 'em and I made that mortal Micah into a hero before he died " said Hilma "Although as I recall he was quite heroic before that."

"Is there any man who has crossed your path who has not fallen to you? " Francesca asked.

"Not many " replied Hilma with satisfaction "That demon. I wonder why it was so important to the Great Plan he failed.

"I suppose the time will come when we find out " answered Francesca as Francesca/Phoebe gasped in outrage.

"He was pretty " mused Hilma "And even if he did have terrible dress sense he had beautiful blue eyes. Do you know Francesca I think that demon had a truly beautiful body unde those stupid frills. Almost a man."

And for a second an outraged Phoebe nearly surfaced.

"You're not jealous are you " asked Hilma surprised at the expression on Francesca/Phoebe's face.

"Of what " said Francesca almost in the school marm voice Phoebe recognised "You and your toys. .. I prefer my toys a little gentler."

"I think you need to play with a few more toys before you can say that for certain" said Hilma completely unintimidated.

Francesca smiled "I think I'll  live on my memories" she said.

Hilma shook her head " Francesca, Francesca, my sweet Francesca you have to have some memories before you can live off them.

Francesca rather snippily said "I was.. have been married, happily and had a family that dearly loved me.

Hilma was not about to concede. Phoebe felt this was not a new discussion. "That my sweet Francesca" 'whispered Hilma breathily "was just duty. After you did everything you did for them, loving you dearly was the least they could do." She suddenly reached forward and caught Francesca's hands "Promise me something."

"Promise you what " asked Francesca suspiciously.

"Promise:" Hilma said her eyebright.

"I promise " said Francisca giving in.

"By the end of the century " Hilma told her with wicked smile, "promise me you will do something so wicked, so self-centred, so selfish, so exhilarating, so demonic you can live off the memories for a thousand years,.

"Hilma " said Francesca.

"You promised me" insisted Hilma."

"I promise" said Francesca conceding.

Hilma finished her cup of tea, "I drink this ..stuff but it is insipid " she said mock glaring at the cup. "I prefer coffee".

"You prefer the coffee houses and the men who inhabit them" Francesca sighed.

"If you want me stay out of coffee houses maybe I should turn my attention to my" And Hilma turned her beautiful nose up " to my brother guardians. Arturo do you think " she asked Francesca. "No" Hilma conceded. He would constantly compare me to his sainted Marie –Jeanne."

"He loves her " Francesca said.

"You my beloved Francesca are a romantic, only a woman who knew very few men would be a romantic" Hilma declared "If the beloved Marie-Jeanne had lived to be a crabby old woman of eighty he would have been glad to see her go."

"So the fairy tale they lived happily ever after" Francesca asked.

"Was written by a man " said Hilma wickedly "Who loves unconditionally for 50 years and desires no other beyond it all. None I know and I have known many."

Phoebe jumped while Francesca laughed. "I know dearest." she said.

"Perhaps I could seduce Durand " mused Hilma and Francesca visibly shuddered "Perhaps not" decided Hilma "or little monk Therold, could he? I wonder," she pondered.

"Friend Proctor is beyond you" Francesca asked mischievously.

"Fiend Proctor " said Hilma with a wince " Fiend Proctor exists all dark and satanic to remind me of the joy of the mortals. Francesca, Francesca did you see his face last week when you told him his views were clouded and tainted by his demonic life?" And then Hilma laughed " And he pulls his face together and says 'We are all the sum of our existence and heirs of our experience'. Do you think he says such things to sound wise because he has no wisdom or because he does not understand the meaning of the word pompous."

"I must defer to the wisdom of my .. br …sister " said Francesca laughing and mimicking Friend Proctor. "

"Poor Fiend Proctor " laughed Hilma "And the pleasure of your company, has he ever experienced pleasure in that dark, dark world of his."

"Poor Proctor" Francesca. "I agree."

"I do not see how he can live in the darkness" said Hilma passionately " the light calls me Francesca " she said frantically switching moods " It calls me as it called when I did not want to listen. I cannot find it now in the new world " she said close to tears. "There was a man chasing witches, vile fool, had no sense of honour and no sense of .. decency. He was not of the times I know. Could not even fight me, used a gun, a rifle from a hundred yards" Hilma said " I used my sword and flung his dirty unclean bullets back at him. It took half his ear off. I cannot find the light in the realm, not even  in the New World any more." Hilma whispered.

"You will" Francesca told her, more in hope than truth.

Hilma caught Francesca's hand again. "I am not like the other guardians. In me it was a craving in my soul to find the light, for Arturo it's peace and Therold it is wisdom and for Durand.. lord knows what he craves. I have no desire to know. "

Francesca smiled with understanding.

"Nor do I want to know what Proctor desired but for me it was the light. I am incomplete without it. Francesca there was a while not so long ago when I felt complete and..serene. The light had filled my soul. The light of the New World. And now it has gone past me and I feel drawn somewhere..else."

"There is a great change coming" said Francesca" The balance feels precarious."

"I cannot change " said Hilma" I am not of these times I fear. That is a penance almost beyond bearing, to be alone and not of your time. I crave the light Francesca and it calls me away. You remember how much I ..hesitated about crossing."

"I remember " said Francesca catching Hilma's hands smiling now at the memory.

"Beloved Francesca " said Hilma " I have done well despite my hesitation. I have answered my call. I have been true."

"I know  dearest " said Francesca gently.

"It is no small thing I have done " said Hilma.

"I know dearest " said Francesca.

Hilma pulled away and then catching  a man of somewhat dubious respectability but decidedly masculine appearance eying her from a distance she licked her lips and smiled suddenly in control " And did you find the answer to out French puzzle."

"Yes " said Francesca accepting it the conversation was changed. "Apparently the queen finally.. silly woman, finally realised that he wanted to call the last daughter Louise Marie not after him but after the mistress Louise Julie.

"Silly woman" sighed Hilma happy.

"Its better than that " Francesca told her. "Having had his wife refuse to allow him into her bed until he got rid of the mistress he apparently decided the wife was of more use."

"For how long " snorted Hilma.

"Oh it gets better " said Francesca "He is already looking for a new mistress."

"There's enough about who would whore for him " said Hilma primly as if she wouldn't.

"He's found one " said Francesca.

"Who?" demanded Hilma interested.

"Louise Julie' s sister ." Francesca said with something very close to a grin.

"No" said Hilma " she's a child.

"20" said Francesca " and they have already picked some effeminate duke for the girl, to marry her into the king's circle."

"The French have much to learn about infidelity " said the Source's one time concubine, Hilma the demon guardian.

"Yes " agreed Francesca. "But the girl is not inexperienced so no harm done.

Francesca looked up  and pulled a face" I have to go" she said as she heard her call. "Goodbye dearest" she smiled.

"Good bye beloved Francesca" Hilma said taking her hands "And ..thank you. It is good to have a friend."

"It is good" said Francesca swallowing "Next week. Danyon's " she sighed conceding to Hilma's taste and choosing an hotel in France."

"That is little better than a brothel where the men ogle you like meat " Hilma told her " the Paris Opera."

"The men ogle you at he Opera " sighed Francesca.

"Yes " Hilma agreed her eyes fired with sexual lights "But at the opera I can ogle them back."

Francesca laughed. She stood up to go wrapping a cloak around her against the cold and a little against the loneliness she felt leaving a friend.

She looked at the beautiful Hilma, already ogling the men who could barely wait for her to be alone.

"Be well Hilma beloved " said Francesca.

"I am " said Hilma "Is at not strange. Beloved Francesca" and her eyes flashed dark and beautiful.