The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 20


"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 woke up and jumped, she glanced around overwhelmed by a deep sense of loss and soul crippling loneliness and it took her seconds to realise she was lying in her bed with her husband and lover and best friend beside he and her son making soft wufflng noises as he slept and her sisters and brother in law and niece and nephew, were close by. She, Phoebe Halliwell sometimes Turner had a life and a family. And she knew how lucky she was and safe and not alone.

And then she was drawn away, back into the spinning winds.

She came out of the spin and she was sitting on a chair on the patio of Arturo's house, only the chairs were not the ones she was used to and Arturo was sitting on the edge of one wearing clothes of the early 18th century, his hair long and loose and a jacket but no cravat and he leaned forward and his face was in agony.

And Phoebe knew what Francesca knew. That the tea at Vauxhall Gardens was the last time she would see Hilma because two days later Hilma had passed on to the greater magic. Whatever debt Hilma owed had been paid. The light which called her called her to a realm away from the ones Francesca knew. Hilma was no longer of the times and she passed onto a place where she belonged.

"When I saw the demon Janko ,when I realised Francesca " said Arturo  " that he may just cross, I knew one of us had to go, one of us may go. I hoped Francesca. Its long." He said bitterly. "I want it so badly. My soul is..I crave it." He looked into Phoebe/Francesca's severe ugly face saying " Aren't you going to offer me soft words of support."

"No " Francesca/Phoebe found herself saying "There is nothing I can say that will ease your pain. Your time has not yet come. Your calling is not complete " she said "And Hilma's is ..was" and her voice is shook slightly.' And that is the truth of it. Arturo."

"Just at the moment " Arturo said bitterly "I hate Hilma . She passed on and I am here."

"She has paid her debt, answered her calling " Francesca/Phoebe said severely "You have not and Arturo I suspect the more you crave it and resent it, the longer it may be." She softened a little " And " she added " I think you are being …unrealistic. I do not see in this Janko a calling that will replace yours."

"That is little comfort " said Arturo relaxing a little." I feel I will be here …forever."

Arturo and Francesca/Phoebe looked up as the sound of shimmer and both Therold and Proctor  appeared and Francesca/Phoebe felt the balance shake at the presence of thee guardians together even in the safety of a magic nexus hidden in a time fold. She was somewhat relieved that Durand had decided his presence was unnecessary.

Proctor coming out o the shimmer looked at Francesca as for a second the muscles on her mouth trembled and she said" I feel Hilma will be gone forever."

Arturo nodded remembering "I am sorry " he said.

Francesca sucked her lips "We have business Arturo " she said and purposely moved across the room to greet the other guardians.

They were somewhat subdued as was always the case when one of their number passed on and those left behind contemplated their own fates and calling and reasons behind their crossing, when they had to look for the fire of their own making.

"So " said Arturo finding himself in his calling " it is the demon Janko, a zoltar, who looks to cross from the realm of darkness."

"One wonders what the need is that a demon who crosses is a ..bounty hunter" said Therold in his fussy little voice, sniffing at the port Arturo offered him. Therold accepted the port Francesca knew, only because Arturo had no skill to make tea. He had confided several years ago that it made him sad that even a guardian such as Arturo could be so lacking.

"Do you know why he chose to cross?" Proctor asked.

Francesca/Phoebe noticed Proctor had been standing quietly until then. Proctor was in his habitual black, long coat and clothes more or less of the time. Only his long stringy black hair was different to the Proctor Phoebe had seen in her own time. Francesca wondered why he was not being sarcastic and satanic. Proctor had been no close friend to Hilma and her flirty ways. Sometimes she made him laugh with a particularly sharp and cutting remark, or a curiously accurate one which usually left its victim floundering. For the most part he regarded her with a sardonic detachment.

"I will miss Hilma " he said suddenly.

"Why?" said Francesca almost bitterly.

"She brought the light with her " said Proctor slowly and then said no more.

Therold fussily moved his glass "This will not I believe be an attribute of Janko.

Proctor nodded "I believe him to be sly one. I have observed him to be ..clever" he added because the crossing of a new guardian often foreshadowed a great calling or shifting of the power in the realms.

"So I am once again a woman alone? " said Francesca/Phoebe only it was Phoebe who asked.

The monk like Therold looked at her curiously .Phoebe wondered fearfully if  he suspected Francesca was under some form of possession. He sucked his lips and narrowed his eyes and Phoebe speculated how this meek fussy creature could carry the power and awe that she associated with guardians.

"This is a question I have never heard you ask before Francesca" Therold said in his high irritating voice. "But if you ask me I would say that the nature of female demon existing by seduction, guile and sex means survival is far to hard and consuming a task for them to question an existence outside evil. Hilma was the exception." And to Phoebe's surprise she detected some regret. "I will miss Hilma " Therold said suddenly " I will miss her passion and her ..kindness and her quixotic turns. I will miss the life and commotion that followed her."

"It is not our role to mourn the passing of a one of our brethren." Arturo told them in a flat dull voice that did not hide his bitterness or his envy. "We are to rejoice that out sister has passed to a calling that will satisfy her soul, has paid all debt and found her desires "

Francesca/Phoebe found herself swallowing and for a second glanced at the guardians, Therold pondering the loss and the future, Arturo bitter angry and hurt and she knew it would be some time before he rose above the disappointment and Procter showing a smile which in any other being she would have interpreted as sympathy.

"If you feel the call to service has been made" she said as all three guardians nodded " I go to find Janko and assist him as I can. " she said "If what you tell me is true Arturo," she said, as Arturo smiled wryly "Janko is in a very dark place" said Francesca " he needs guidance."

Proctor put his arm out an stopped her orbing. "Be careful Francesca" he said "Janko has not committed himself and he was never known as a respecter of sages and guides. I observed him more than once ….disrespectful of whitelighters."

"That is my habit " she said quietly. "To be careful ".

"That is good" said Proctor with a satanic smile that made her wonder if he knew she was not quite telling the truth. And she swallowed as she thought of Hilma.

Francesca/Phoebe came out of the orb in the dim grey light which Phoebe would have recognised even if she was not experiencing what was going on in Francesca's head. The grey nothingness of the rim, a place of no magic no life neither good nor bad, just a place to be away from realms, neither warm nor cold, neither light nor dark.

Francesca sat on the nothingness on a rock- like structure and slowly drifted into her memories of the demon guardian Hilma. Hilma had not come to her calling easily. Hilma had been one of the most beautiful of the demon clans that Good called Boadicea demons because they could not understand the real name. Female demons of great beauty, sexuality, sirens and warriors many having powers involving the use of magic swords and other weapons.

Hilma had been a concubine of the Source, nearly 200 years in existence, she had used her sexuality, her beauty and her brains to rise in the demon hierarchy because few male creatures were immune to her. And true to her demon heritage it had not satisfied her. She craved what she called the light and feared the fires of the lower level, and something in her half human restless nature made her contemptuous of the duplicity of the demon world.

Hilma had not sought a calling so much as craved the light away from the dark world of demons. When the Source was defeated, resisting, fighting it all the way she crossed because there was no where else for her to go if she could not serve the new source no matter how he lusted after her. At the time another demon called Kemper had also made an effort to cross and Arturo had been certain his intensity would carry him through the fire of his own making.

However Kemper had given into the temptation to go back and fight the new incumbent of the throne of Evil. In the ensuring battle the new Source had lost half his face and Arturo had with great regret vanquished Kemper. And Hilma, fearful of fire and resisting the calling as hard as she could had walked through a fire of her own making, to resentfully accepted her calling.

Francesca could not have said their friendship was one of immediate response to each other. At that time Francesca had been greatly regretting her own choices. She had in fact married and lived a mortal life for many years, leaving her calling behind, even though Arturo had constantly kept in contact and asked her to return.

Francesca had only agreed because of the sad realisation, that the natural order of mortality decreed she must walk away from a dearly loved family. On her return she had been asked by the Powers that Be of the greater Good magic, those that understood the balance in the Great Plan and the role of Guardians, to take her place as great one of their calling. She did her duty as she had done since her mortal life, and all the time the well of loneliness and isolation were her constant companions. Neither her humour nor her search to know about things nor the time she spent drawing faces to connect with those around her eased the burden of magic in those years.

Francesca did not like demon guardians, except for Arturo whom she loved. Their darkness depressed her. She and Arturo had walked a long path, they had suffered and shared and supported each other, but Arturo's friendship was of a meeting of souls and much as she cared he was not a friend of the heart.

Nor was Hilma at first.

Hilma worshipped beauty or had as a demon, it was both her power and her pleasure and perhaps her great fear of fire was a reflection of her fear of loss of her beauty. In her resistance to her calling she had not appreciated or understood many of the incarnations of beauty in the realms above. She had loved the glorious colours of sunset and even the night stars, but words, poetry, kind deeds and courage had been for many years beyond her understanding.

Her first confrontation with Francesca had been cruel. In her anger words such as ugly crone, bitter warped undesirable had been used  viciously so even Arturo had questioned the legitimacy of Hilma's calling. Francesca had been hurt, so hurt that she relegated the demon guardian Hilma, to the place she put Durand, duty and responsibility and nothing else.

And it had continued, in mortal years a long time, nearly twenty. However in dealing with Hilma, unlike other guardians, neither order, logic, advice or encouragement had helped. Hilma had needed to walk her own path and all Francesca could do was let her talk until she found that path. In the long hours as Francesca listened to Hilma talk about her fears and doubts and pain, Francesca must have revealed more of herself than she intended.

The first sign that Hilma had any doubts about her initial reaction to Francesca  was when Hilma worshiper of beauty bitterly told Francesca she envied her.

"Why?" Francesca asked severely.

"Because you have a beautiful soul an I only have a beautiful face and body," Hilma replied sadly.

And 200 years later Francesca sitting on a rock in the rim mourning Hilma' s passing could come out of her reverie long enough to dispute the claim.

And then the time came when Francesca was careless. Later she thought about it and perhaps decided that the careless was not altogether accidental. Darklighters and other such minions were rarely of concern to Francesca. She had her own magic and the wisdom and knowledge but at that time she was careless, in the loneliness, perhaps even a small wish to pass on and away and she had in simply crossing a square in Paris not noticed a darklighter who had trailed her. Francesca had seen the arrow coming at her and almost accepted her fate when it had been splintered by a great demonic sword thrusting in front of it and she had looked up to find the darklighter quivering, disappear in a burst of dark light .

The demon Guardian Hilma had leaned on the sword and said "That Madam whitelighter was careless and if I may say so totally lacking in wisdom."

Francesca could think of no response '

"And very lucky today my tastes ran to French pastry." the Guardian Hilma said glancing over her shoulder to the startled man dressed in a uniform of the king's guard.

Francesca had thanked Hilma a little tightly.

The beautiful demon had smiled "And so you should madam whitelighter . If you wish to be my friend you must have a care. I require at least my friends do not make me mourn them."

Francesca mourning Hilma in the rim found the tears flowing and as Phoebe cried with her, could smile at the memory.

Francesca and Hilma had long years, hard years together. It was the time of Renaissance and the emergence of the new worlds and the great darkness of the witch trials and burning. Hilma had accepted her calling to ensure the balance and perceived the evil and demonic plan, the instigation of the new source, to burn and destroy witches as a direct assault on that balance.

Hilma who had suffered much at the hands of Sources and other demons because they lacked respect for females, because they had a perception females were weaker and this justified evil's abuse of them,  had been offended by the plan of the new Source to brutalise a female enemy and chose to interfere, regardless of all maxims about being outside the fight.

Arturo had expressed his disapproval but he was no more immune to Hilma' s doe eyed sensuality than any other male creature and as many before, he was powerless to stop her having her own way. Therold had pursed his lips at the interference but somehow although the spirit winds had shuddered nothing was lost. Guardians had agreed a consequence of the new Source's quest for power and need to impose himself on evil, could be the extinction of witches . Hilma's calling was to reduce those consequences,.

Hilma could not stop the burnings without directly imposing herself on the side of good but without her intervention two hundred years later, Francesca wondered if witches would have just been another magic legend.

The new Source had understood how to corrupt and seduce mortals into evil through hysteria, fear, ignorance and prejudice. It was Hilma who persuaded the fairy craftsman to make their realm maps which allowed witches to hide. It was Hilma who disrupted trials and manipulated stupid tests mortals claimed were the proof of witchery. And as a last resort when the fate of certain witches was written, it was Hilma so fearful of fire who braved the flames so if she could not rewrite what was written, could not save their lives, she ended the their suffering. She made certain they did not die by the flames.

And two hundred years later that time had come to an end and so had the calling of a beautiful demon who understood the ways of evil toward women. Hilma had gone to find the light she craved, envied by her brethren guardians and mourned by her friend Francesca.

It was Phoebe sharing Francesca's mourning and loneliness who was aware first that Francesca was not alone. Francesca/Phoebe looked up top see the demon guardian Proctor sitting on a rock.

"I want to be alone Proctor " she told him severely.

"No Francesca" he said satanically "I do not believe this is what you want, regardless of what must happen because of the call of duty."

He looked at her tear wet face and Proctor with a certain amount of amusement held a dark handkerchief to Francesca "Your secret is safe" he said.

"What secret?" demanded Francesca, wiping way the tears.

"That you cried " he answered just a touch demonically.

"Hilma was my friend " Francesca insisted primly, "And it would be a sad friendship if no tears were shed for its loss."

"As always I bow to your wisdom" Proctor said and there was no mockery in the small inclination of his head. "It is no small thing that a demon passing from this realm is mourned " he commented.

"You say this despite Arturo's belief that mourning is inappropriate "Francesca asked almost to sharply.

"For Arturo that is so " said Proctor "He watched one of our brethren pass to .. a greater …. destiny. I could not help but observe your friendship. You have lost a friend, and that I have seen is not something to be shrugged off."

"And you don not envy Hilma her passing too" asked Francesca.

"I do not " said Proctor with an intensity that could only be the truth. "And I understand your grief " he added.

"We just talked" Francesca explained, suddenly to Phoebe's surprise, very uncomfortable.

"Oh and what did you talk about " Proctor asked almost conversationally.

"The last time " said Francesca a little embarrassed, leaving Phoebe more surprised "French Louis's latest mistress."

"An amusing scandal " agreed Proctor.

"You knew. Why didn't you tell me/ " Francesca asked indignant.

"You didn't ask me, so I had no cause, had no reason to assume you had an interest" said Proctor almost demonically.

"Well I.. we did " Francesca said swallowing down tears..

"So that is what you did " Proctor asked " when not fighting demons and mortals and protecting witches from extinction. You gossiped."

"We exchanged opinions" Francesca said primly.

"From my observations " said Proctor "Hilma did not need to indulge in discussion of the affairs of others. She had enough of her own."

"I know "Francesca said. "She told me of them."

"I would guess, she barely told you half of the things I observed " answered Proctor the sneer in place but his eyes softened.

"What things/ " asked Francesca distracted by curiosity and for a time, sitting on a rock in the rim both Phoebe and Francesca were amused, shocked and titillated as Proctor demon guardian sat opposite and recounted some of his observations of the deeds and affairs of the beautiful demon guardian Hilma one time concubine of the vanquished Source.

Quite some time later Francesca stood up "I must be gone " she said "And on impulse that Phoebe was certain Francesca did not understand and would not have done if Phoebe had not been present to share the moment, Francesca reached over to touch Proctor's hand. "Thank you : " she said.

He looked at the hand on his "It was my please " said Proctor and then somewhat slyly he micked Hilma "And Francesca beloved" he said "Your secret is safe with me ."

"What secret? " she asked prissily.

"I will tell no-one you cried." he said satanically.

"Good" said Francesca she started to orb and came back " Why did you cross Proctor " Francesca asked. "Tell me the truth " she demanded.

Proctor stopped an took a deep breath and for a second Francesca/Phoebe thought he was going to break the bond and the faith and deny her but finally he answered "I tasted honey " he said" and it was sweet and it was good" he hesitated " and then he added " and now my soul craves it."

"I do not understand " Francesca/Phoebe said severely.

"Then I am twice blessed " replied Proctor " because I have told you the truth and my secret is still safe."

"I have to go to Janko " Francesca told Proctor awkwardly, almost as if Phoebe realised, she did not want to go.

"Duty and calling must be answered " said Proctor the smile not quite satanic.

"I" said Francesca "I enjoyed our conversation.

"The pleasure was mine " answered Proctor,.

Francesca started to orb and as she did Phoebe became aware of the spinning of the spirit winds and that that the deep well of loneliness in Francesca's soul was no longer in danger of possessing her. Still there but it was under control. Francesca could face a future alone. Perhaps.

Phoebe felt the spirit winds stop swirling and she was lying in her bed, her husband and lover beside her, his arm thrown across her.

"What's the matter?" Cole asked sleepily as her movement half woke him

"I hate the idea of some-one I love being lonely" Phoebe said.

"Not thrilled about it either " Cole muttered grumpily."

"Go to sleep baby " she whispered snuggling against him."

"So kind of you to let me "Cole muttered sarcastically as he did what he was told.