Now, where would such and odd shopping list be filled? The obvious answer would be West Edmonton Mall, but I've already written a story at the Really Big Mall, and I do so hate to repeat myself. Inspiration came from Real Life once again, the annual appearance of the year's biggest Craft Show. All right everyone, warm up your credit cards, because it's time for some power shopping...
"Don't you pretend you're surprised. After everything we've been through, how could you not recognise my voice?" Even without the use of the Talent she had learned, her voice still cracked like a whip.
"I think I should remind you that you called me. What do you want, witch?"
The hissing intake of breath was clearly audible over the line and Methos wondered uncomfortably whether she could do anything to him at a distance. "There's a big Christmas Craft sale annually in Edmonton; you're coming with me this year."
"Gods and Demons! You've thought of some horrible punishments before, but forcing a man to go to a craft sale? That's just cruel!" He found himself sweating just thinking about it.
"Very funny, I'm just returning an old favour. I was your personal slave for years, now it's your turn to be a packhorse. If you're still nervous, we won't be alone. I've convinced Amanda to come, and she's bringing her walking credit card—"
"Oh, I'm sure MacLeod would be thrilled to hear himself being described in such noble tones. Give me one reason why I should."
"How about your head, on a platter, if you don't?" There was something in her voice that made him quite certain she'd do it.
He licked his lips, took a deep breath, and caved. "All right, I'll do it. But only because MacLeod will be there."
"You can use whatever excuse you want, just be there, tomorrow. At the Butterdome, on University campus; show starts at noon." She hung up as abruptly as she had called, leaving him to mouth a silent "Butterdome?" of sheer disbelief into the empty phone line.
He quickly dialled the number of the only person he knew in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He somewhat regretted the invention of call display when she answered the line with a brisk "Look Adam, Methos, whatever; I'm working on those Chronicles, but I've got paying projects too…"
"Wait, Deb— I mean Felicia— it's not about that. Where's the nearest holy ground site to the University of Alberta campus?"
There was a palpable hesitation on the line; "Oh...kay. St. Joseph's College is directly on campus, it's probably at least partly consecrated, and the U of A hospital has a chapel somewhere. What have you gotten into this time?"
"I got... a phone call. Someone invited me to go to the Butterdome Craft Sale, whatever that is. Okay, actually it was Cassandra, and she didn't invite me, she demanded that I go."
The author laughed; "I was the one who told Cass and 'Manda about the show. I never thought that you'd get dragged into it. Just think of this as an opportunity to rebuild burnt bridges."
"Are you going to be there?" he asked hopefully.
"No thanks, I've really gotten out of crafts for now.
Maybe in a few centuries I'll get bored and handicrafts will become interesting
again. You're on your own Old Man."
§ § §
Deb had generously provided one final bit of advice, the simple fact that no one parked on campus unless absolutely necessary. This was how the mixed doubles ended up on an LRT train. Methos and Cassandra would sit neither side by side nor face to face; and so they sulked on opposite ends of the car. Mac and Amanda each agreed to watch one of the elders, in case hostilities broke out. All in all, a stagecoach ride over rough roads before the invention of shock absorbers would have been more pleasant.
The Butterdome was unmistakable, squatting there like a giant half-melted block of yellow butter; earning its permanent nickname. Once known as the Universiade Pavilion, it had been built in 1983 for the World University Games, but now even the campus guidebooks used the more colourful name. The large building was used for sports, for indoor track and field; was lined with desks for final exams, and even had its own artificial rock climbing wall. And once a year, for the last 10 years, it was transformed into a Christmas Wonderland.
Looking down at it all from the top of the stairs, MacLeod was reminded of the old market fairs, but even two or three villages gathered together for trade couldn't have matched this. It was huge: Methos groaned loudly while Amanda’s eyes gleamed. As they joined the line to get in, Methos griped about the $5 fee; "You're trying to tell me that I'm paying money for the privilege of spending more money?" Any further complaints were cut off by a concerted effort to avoid the coat check; "No really," they all took turns saying to the polite but relentless check girls, "that's not necessary. Thanks."
The experience from ground level was overwhelming: the scent of hot cider drifted enticingly from a booth that sold authentic mulling spices; children gathered around tables of hand-carved wooden toys; amplified carols rained down enforced cheer from above. It took all their concentration for the group just to keep together through the displays of wreathes, ornaments, toys and gadgets. All four stopped dead at the sight of strange rainbow-coloured objects. It looked as if someone had skinned some poor sprite and kept the feet, toes and all, as a bizarre trophy. Methos spoke up first; "What in the name of history is that?" Amanda shivered, fighting back memories of the sixties; "They're toe-socks."
"Toe-socks?" asked several voices at once, though Methos seemed the most disgusted by the thought. Cassandra spotted the weakness and pounced on it. Grabbing up a pair, she thrust the rainbow thing at him; "Oh, they're definitely you, don't you think?" Methos cringed, "I wouldn't wear those on a bet!"
Cassandra merely smiled, "But why not, Master? There's an entire web-site out there dedicated to the glory of your toes; why shouldn't each one be lovingly protected?" He sighed deeply; she had to bring that up, didn't she? "I knew I never should have showed you how to use the ‘Net!"
"Don't make it sound so generous; you were working a Help Desk for spare cash. If I had known it was you, I would have hung up."
MacLeod broke in swiftly before it came to blows. "Will you two do your bickering somewhere else?" insisted his hissed whisper; "You sound like an old married couple." Two pairs of eyes, wide with shock, moved in unison; twin voices spoke in perfect harmony, "You take that back!"
Cassandra turned abruptly aside, making a show of purchasing the socks. The Gods only knew who'd end up getting them. The group moved off to other tables, leaving a palpable chill in the air. The two elders now walked several feet apart; but despite the crowds, no one dared step between them.
For the sake of their collective sanity, the group drifted apart, agreeing to meet if they couldn't find each other (as if that could happen). Cassandra gravitated towards a candle maker, getting into a long conversation with the woman behind the table. Amanda drifted between clothing and jewellery, until she remembered she should be looking for gifts for other people.
Methos was almost sure he had escaped when a Buzz caught him in a crowd too dense to dodge; Cassandra shoved a bag full of scented candles at him; "Here, do something useful." Backing away with a barely suppressed glare, he nearly ran into a shelf of terra cotta pottery. The work was good quality, in a simple, practical style. In some ways it reminded him of the loot the Horsemen "acquired". Looking at a shallow bowl brought uninvited thoughts of Cassandra's old village. She'd like something like this. She'd really like something like this. This might even get me out of the proverbial doghouse. He was struck with a nauseous feeling of being pushed from the inside; the bowl fell from nerveless fingers. The potter appeared instantly, with an almost sincere look of sympathy; "I wouldn't do this if I didn't have to but, you break it, you bought it." He heard a burst of laughter and caught sight of Cassandra. Witch!
Duncan wandered hither and yon, picked up some teas, a couple packs of the mulling spices, a few more things for his kitchen. For Amanda he found a lovely necklace, hopefully before she had seen it herself. Some beautifully hand bound journals put him in mind of a certain young author, but he hesitated. He soon found himself in front of a rack of stuffed animals. He asked the young woman if she had anything unique. As they talked about his friend being Canadian, with a quirky sense of humour, she smiled and pulled out a moose. Well, it wasn't exactly a moose; it was a cute plush version of a hunting trophy. The temptation was too much; he quickly handed over the money before anyone could see him.
The afterglow of a shopper's high kept Cassandra almost pleasant, as the two ladies displayed their prizes across their laps. Duncan could only sit and hope that they had all been legitimately purchased. She waited until Mac wasn't looking before showing the little terra cotta figure of a samurai. It was the perfect gift for the man who has everything, and she was so impressed by meeting the craftsman himself that she had actually paid for it. Not that he'd believe her it if she told him.
Mac waited until they were in private before he brought out his find. The reaction was not quite what he expected, a trio of sour faces. "What? I thought it was great. She likes cute, it'll appeal to her sense of humour, and it's Canadian."
They all exchanged looks, amazed that he hadn't realised it on his own. One of them had to mention it. Methos spoke up hesitantly, "Duncan, are you sure that's a good idea?" MacLeod blinked innocently, without a clue; Methos tried to get his point across. "You're giving this woman a head for Christmas. She's an Immortal. Think about it."
Duncan’s expression turned thoughtful and he was silent
for quite a while. All he could say was "Oh dear."
An interesting little footnote to this tale didn't come until Christmas.
Amid all the other gifts at my boyfriend's apartment was one tiny packet
labelled "To Felicia from Mac." I made several jokes about how Mac could
have got into the apartment, and who dared allow him to leave again (a
girl can dream, can't she?). All joking aside, I was intensely curious.
I waited as long as I could, but when finally opened it was Mulling Spices,
packaged in of all things, a tartan bag. I've been told that a couple of
my friends were at the local farmer's market when they saw the little bags
on a table. Someone asked, "Do you think that's what Duncan bought at the
Butterdome sale?" and the rest was history. All I can say is, do these
people know me or what?