The city was full of old man pubs just like this one. The Castle Vault, Tennant’s, the Wee Man Bar, and countless others – some of which were on heritage lists. If Glasgow liked anything, it liked a good old man’s pub.
Aonghas was sitting at the sticky bar of the Piper’s Rest, a very special kind of old man’s pub. Some of the old men here were positively ancient…not that you could read their age in the lines of their lineless faces.
Aonghas was young…or at least, he looked that way. Old man pubs didn’t discriminate on the basis of age. The booze was cheap, and people kept to themselves until it was time for a cigarette. By the late evening so many fights would have broken out and so many new friendships created (forgotten by the following morning) that they didn’t care what age you were, so long as your money was multi-coloured and occasionally stained red.
Aonghas, like Dylan, was what the people of Glasgow tended to refer to as a ned. Some people thought this term came from non educated delinquent but in fact it had been around since the dawn of time and its true meaning was lost to history. Neds in this time period tended to speak in a nasal whine, wear tracksuits, drink Buckfast, and shave their heads. They were the Glasgow poor, inhabiting council estates and other areas, almost in a defiant way, holding tight to their fame and status as the dangerous types of the city. They were frequently the despair of Glasgow, but had indeed existed since Glasgow began, as Aonghas knew all too well.
The Dear Green Place.
Aonghas smiled as he drank his pint, though he had a few bottles of Buckfast in his satchel. Funny old world, he thought, it’d been years since he’d taken the satchel on a quest of any kind, but it always stored provisions he’d never actually purchased or picked up anywhere. It used to be a loaf of bread, some wine, some hard cheese…now it was Buckfast bottles, Irn Bru, and (somehow) a fish and chips dinner or a curry, depending upon his mood.
His shining, dragonfly-veined wings slowly unfolded. No one in the pub even gave him a second look, as he shook the rain from them. They were beautiful, heartbreaking, and completely incongruous on him.
He was one of the Fey. He once had glorious long shining brown hair and was clothed in green raiment, seducing young maidens in secluded bowers. They would one day bear his half-Fey children, more beautiful than any human could have imagined.
These days, things had changed. There were no forests anymore, and everything had turned to broken concrete. Now, it was Sauchiehall Saturday night and going out on the pull, often finding the lowest common denominator at the club – but Aonghas no longer cared.
He had given up.
As Scotland had changed, so the Fey had changed with it. He thought of the powerful and terrifying Fair Folk, child-stealers and rulers of time, now working as temps or finding themselves, like him, neds and other types of modern and distasteful creature. He even knew one who had become a drag queen – it paid well, and the Fey were preternaturally beautiful.
As he lifted his glass to take another pull, musing on the unfairness of it all, he found something stuck to the bottom of his glass. He made a sound of disgust – ned or not, the Fey dislike a messy house, and pubs were no different. He then saw that it was a piece of paper, with Aonghas written on it in the ancient language of the Fey. He stared at his own name, glowing with the light golden sheen of the early autumn forests, when there had been forests in Caledonia, through the yellow of the beer. Slowly, he peeled the paper from the bottom of his cup and unfolded it. There was one word written there:
He stared at the word. This couldn't be happening now.
WHAT HAPPENED IN DUBLIN
The streetlights were dim and the pub in Temple Bar was serving up its last round. Aonghas enjoyed the company of the Irish, and the way they surrounded a newcomer and bought him all the alcohol he could possibly desire (and probably more).
In the warm wine glow of the saloon, Aonghas was laughing without a care in the world. He was unbelievably happy and hadn’t felt such a weight off his chest in centuries. He didn’t often take vacations from his guarding place in Glasgow, but what harm could it do? It was only for an evening. His new companions were brilliant, intellectual young gentlemen – or so they had seemed through the whiskey haze.
He felt the cold of the handcuffs before they had trapped him – iron, burning his fair wrists red. True binding for the Fey, who could usually get out of anything. Aonghas groaned. The Dublin Fae Police! The Glasgow branch he had to deal with was bad enough.
“A bit out of your jurisdiction, aren’t you, Aonghas Mór?” snarled the cop in his ear.
“What about you? Gone off chasing lonely travellers?” Aonghas replied to the dullahan who had him tied. Its horrific visage grinned out at him from under the creature's arm; the dullahan were headless horsemen who used human spines for whips. Aonghas was surprised, as generally only Seelie Court faeries were allowed on the UK/Ireland forces. Perhaps this one was reformed. But only just, he discovered, as he was thrown to the ground.
“There a problem here, officer?” asked one of his drinking companions, who smiled with a gold tooth. Aonghas groaned. His night was about to get worse. Leprechauns were the macho type and they didn’t really hold with pretty Fey men, neds or no.
And then the strangest thing happened. The leprechauns attacked the dullahan, forcing him down on the floor. Aonghas gaped at them, so shocking was this show of support. Had he known he was drinking with leprechauns he’d have run a mile. The police could put him in jail for 1,000 years – the average punishment for going AWOL. Leprechauns could have – and indeed once had – tortured him for a time-without-time, as they could bend eternity into a Möbius strip and do as they pleased. Pots of gold were just a side interest, like humans had bank accounts.
One of the leprechauns sitting on top of the police officer looked at him.
“Remember this, Aonghas,” he said, “and what our boss has done for you tonight.”
Aonghas looked around the pub.
“Sebastian,” said the leprechaun, “he isn't fool enough to show his face. He will remind you of this, when he needs you. Be quick to come when you are called. Now get out of here! Before more of them come!”
He hadn't needed to be told twice.
In the Piper's Rest, the bartender came around to see if his Fey customer wanted anything else. He knew about the Fey, of course, being one himself. He found nothing but a half-drunk pint and that Aonghas had, once again, paid with Fey gold. He grunted and lifted the sheaf of leaves, then put them on a journalist’s spike along with all the others.
The bartender had been around awhile, but he had always lived in hope that one day, Aonghas would finally settle his tab.