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Chapter 3: Holmes



Years passed. The púca learnt to pass as a man; as Doctor Watson, assistant to Sherlock Holmes. The mortal form I had taken flourished on a diet of Mrs Hudson’s cooking. Holmes fed the fae in me on honey of the bee, milk of the cow, and (now and again) the blood of the wicked.

We hunted murderers and thieves, slavers and blackmailers through the streets of London. I captured the stories of our hunts in written form and published them, so that Sherlock Holmes’ name might be known and remembered. So that our prey might fear us.

Once we followed a rumour of a great hound stalking men upon the moor. Holmes was more disappointed than I when we discovered it was mere human malice masquerading as the supernatural. He questioned me unendingly about my origins, but I had not the words to speak of it. My memories of the Underhill, of what I had once been, faded as surely as snow in the spring.

As Holmes aged, I took care to match him, allowing my form to grey, and slow, and stoop, like over-ripe fruit left to rot on the vine. In time we retired to Sussex. Holmes kept hives of bees and corresponded with the constabulary of London via letters, solving their most difficult cases with brilliant logic and a full tithe of insults.

One day, he did not rise from his bed for our usual morning tea and ramble. When I looked in upon him, Holmes was bundled in his blankets. His face was flushed with fever; his breathing was ragged and laboured. This illness had inconvenienced many in the local village. I had tended to a few of the very young and the aged who required my medical expertise. I had not considered that I might carry the malady home with me.

“My dear Watson,” Holmes greeted me before pausing for breath. “No … I should say, rather, my dear púca.” I flinched at this, my name taken back. “I do believe I have come to the end of our adventures,” he continued.

I shook my head in denial, stooping by his bedside to take hold of Holmes’ wrist. It was a habit I had acquired in my years as a physician, an acceptable touch, comforting to my patients if not medically necessary. I could hear Holmes’ pulse clearly enough, limping and phlegmatic in his chest. The room held the sickly-sweet stench of mortality.

“If I may ask,” he said, and then was interrupted by a vicious cough that made his heart race and brought a froth of blood to his lips. I wiped his lips with my handkerchief, and he nodded his thanks. “Might I see you in your original shape?” he requested.

I could refuse him nothing. I’d first met Holmes in form of a hound, and so I stripped out of my layers of clothing and let myself slip into that shape. The shift was slow and strange and painful after so many years as a man.

He turned his head to examine me. “I had forgotten the gold of your eyes,” he said finally. He took a breath and let it out. Holmes’ next words had the cadence of a prepared speech. “Over the years, you have proven yourself an invaluable assistant and a dear friend. You have more than repaid your debt to me, púca, and I hereby release you.”

Had I been in human form, I might have laughed. A debt might hold a púca for a moon, an oath for a season. I stayed with Sherlock Holmes because he was the best and brightest star in the mortal sky. I had chosen him. He was mine; I was his.

“Go on, then,” Holmes said. I edged closer to the bed to scent his breath. He feebly pushed my head aside. “Leave, damn you,” he said in a voice raw from the cough. “You are free!”

Setting aside mortal restraint with my mortal form, I leapt onto the bed and curled up beside him.

He startled, the movement setting off another violent coughing spree. When it was over, he whispered, “Loyal to the end. I should have realised. Perhaps …” He trailed off.

I nudged my head under his hand. Holmes began to pet me, his hand running through my pelt, over and over. He did not speak again. There we stayed through the day and much of the night, as Holmes fought for each breath. I wished I could battle by his side once more; sink my fangs into Death before it could take him from me.

When his breath and heart were gone to silence, I let out a great howl. It echoed from hills and homes. There was no one to howl with me. I escaped across the downs into the forest, far from anything that might remind me of him.

The world of men lost all savour once Sherlock Holmes left it, and me, behind. Now that my eyes had been opened, I could not help but see the grief that stalked each mortal from the moment of their birth until their inevitable end. I believed that to care for one of them was an error I would never fall prey to again.

I was wrong.

Chapter 4

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
noirrosaleen
Sep. 26th, 2012 06:13 am (UTC)
*is curled up under the blankets awaiting the rest of the story*
keerawa
Sep. 26th, 2012 08:58 am (UTC)
*offers a nice cuppa*
As the púca said, when one story ends, another begins. It'll be brighter tomorrow!
tripleransom
Aug. 1st, 2014 07:27 pm (UTC)
Aiee! Now you've made me cry.
keerawa
Aug. 1st, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry! (Well, perhaps a little bit sorry.) But Holmes does deserve to be mourned!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )