There are a couple of notes at the end, if you're interested...
If there's one thing my long life has taught me, its that everyone makes mistakes. Gods, men, Third Folk - they all fuck up, now and then, do the wrong thing for all the right reasons. The only difference is the scale of the consequences...
The morning I made my first mistake in years - more years than you can possibly imagine, believe me - I'd gone out to procure some things I needed, a Journey that did not take me far from Home, nor expose me, I thought, overly much to risk. Well, there was the chance of being run over by a bus, I supposed, and the local Youth had something of a reputation, but, when all's said and done, buying eggs, bread and some broccoli is not what you'd call a Significant Quest. Well, not in Homerton, anyway. They have shops. People take money from you, give you what you need. Or what you ask for, anyway.
It was on the way back from this less than Perilous expedition, though, that I made the error, and one that was to complicate my life immeasurably, whatever the chivalry of my motives may have contributed to my standing in the Higher World. Even despite the fact that my intervening thus in the affairs of Mortal Men might not be judged favourably by many of my Calling. In any case, I found a young damsel in distress, a mere waif, as scrawny and unkempt as most of her kind, experiencing unwanted attentions from a group of young men - I suppose you'd have to call them men though in my day they'd have been lucky to feed the pigs ... in either sense of the term. Whatever, these undernourished and uncultured oafs were pressing an unwelcome troth, without a doubt, on the poor child in question, and doing it where I had to pass. So I trusted to my staff, as so often of yore, bested the lot of them with the merest application of my Power, and watched them run off when, of course, I should have turned them into frogs. Ah, my friend, of late I find that even I am deficient in my Observation of Tradition...
No matter. I found that the young lady, so recently rescued from so dark a fate, had now swooned quite away and appeared to be entirely unconscious ... and quite exposed, much of her clothing having been removed by her erstwhile assailants. I did not think it fair to simply leave here there, nor appropriate to leave a Task incomplete. So I lifted her to my shoulder - she was, indeed, only the slightest of burdens - and took her with me to my Sanctuary, where, I thought, I could at the least prepare a healing draft, perhaps find her some vestments to cover her modesty while she returned to hearth and home, my Eternal Standing, no doubt, enhanced by her quiet gratitude and that of her loving parents.
It was even as I placed the draft I'd decocted to her gently quivering lips that I began to think that things might not go entirely as I had envisaged. Which is to say, I had not expected the merest hint of the odour of my herbs to cause her to awaken instantly, sitting up and throwing my chalice to the floor as she did so.
Nor had I expected her, somehow, young and maidenly as she appeared, to be quite so vocal, quite so demonstrative in her speech.
"Fuck me," she said, really rather loudly, "What the fuck ... peppermint fucking tea! What the fuck... Who the fuck are you? Where am I? And what the fuck has happened to my clothes, you dirty old bastard?"
I was taken aback, my friend, taken aback to an extent that I could not even summon a simple silence charm, nor yet a Spell of Remembering, so I had to explain. Verbally. Truly, these are degenerate times, when one such as I must explain to a mere chit of a girl.
"You were being attacked," I said. "I - err - saw off your attackers, but you had fainted, so I brought you back here, prepared you a healing draft, which you..."
I looked at my favoured chalice, now lying smashed on the floor, its former contents making a bit of a mess on the bare lino. She looked at me with a certain comprehension in her eyes.
"Cor, yeah," she said, "It was those Bishopston wankers, in the stairwell - and you beat them off with your walking stick! Fuck, but that was pretty fucking good, for an old guy like you. Sorry I broke your mug, by the way."
I sighed, wondering whether it was worth disabusing her of these misconceptions, or whether, indeed, it was only my Pride that tempted me to do so. While I pondered, she raised herself from the couch I had so carefully laid her upon and, with a muttered curse at the state of her clothing, began to take an interest in her surroundings.
"Fuck me," she said, "but this is one weird dive you have here, old man. Why have you drawn all that shit on the walls? And why all these fucking weird candles? Had you 'leccy cut off, 'ave you?"
I moved quickly to remove a Sceptre of Power from her - it is not wise for for the uninitiated to handle such objects - and wondered again how much she should be Enlightened.
"All is not as it seems, my dear," I began, reasonably enough, but got no further. With the Impetuosity of Youth, I supposed, she began to pace my rooms and I, necessarily, followed: Anxious for her safety, given her Innocence, her Ignorance of that with which she was dealing.
When she entered my private Chamber, however, things began to get a little involved.
"Fuck me, man," she said with a sort of choked giggle, "you fuckin' sleep here? With all these skins on the bed, all those whatever the fuck on the walls?" She waved vaguely at my wolf skin covers, the brocades and tapestries but she didn't wait for a reply.
"You into weird sex, then, old man? Strange stuff with strange people?" She sat on the bed, toying with a Blood Dagger I had left there, looking at me expectantly. I noticed that a nipple was poking through a rip in her T-shirt, that her minuscule skirt had ridden well above her thighs. She rolled onto her back, taunting me.
"So, who do you get weird with, eh? You into men or women, old man? Or boys or girls?", she leered, "Or maybe dogs, given your choice in bedding. I'd have thought that my dog would be well into this..."
I stared at her in horror and disgust. Such words from such young lips. Ah, but if she knew just how strange some of the Women who I had known intimately had been, how exotic the venues of many of those Couplings. My Composure snapped, Resolve evaporated.
"I care not for your Dog, nor for your Conversation," I said, haughtily, "for I am Democene, Mage of the Seventh Degree, and, in this world, I am the Law."
She looked at me with a blank expression.
"Yeah, right," she replied, slowly and with rather more care - and fewer expletives - than anything she'd vouchsafed to say before. "Only, I couldn't help noticing that there's this council tax bill on the table through there - a final demand, by the way - and that that had your name down as Desmond Magnusson. So maybe you're not so much a wizard as a whacko, eh, old man?"
Insolence! I reached for my hat - a wizard without his hat, his staff, is only half a mage - and she recoiled in distinct horror. This was an improvement, I felt, and perhaps a sign that she was not quite as insensitive as her callow impudence had suggested. But, un-Trained as she was, she really didn't know when to keep her peace, the usefulness of Appropriate Silence.