Bus Stop

If you’re lost try the index page for this story.

We left the Hob Camp and walked back to the bus stop.

“Why are they called the Hob Mafia?” Said Mycroft. “Is this some human thing I don’t get? I looked up Mafia and I don’t see the link.”

“They’re probably trying to be scary. The Hob are dangerous, or at least they used to be, but we humans have lost our fear of them. We used to know that the Fae should be avoided. Mothers used to be scared of Goblins stealing their babies. Miners feared the Kobolds that they thought caused underground explosions. People thought that abscesses were caused by being elfshot. There’s a reason that ‘away with the faeries’ is a synonym for madness. I suspect the Hob mafia want to inspire fear in someone.” I said.

“What I want to know is why they suddenly decided that stealing babies was wrong.” Said Chris.

“Do you mean why they didn’t know before?” I said.

“No. I mean the one thing that they always told us about the Fae is that Seelie or Unseelie they follow different rules and have no concept of good and evil as we know it.” Said Chris.

“Oh.” I said. “I see what you mean.”

At that point the bus arrived. It was a double decker and Chris, being the skinny youngish geek he is, loped up the stairs to the top deck. I don’t do stairs if I can possibly avoid it and I couldn’t have got up those steps without chemical help. I can do regular height steps but any higher and my knees give out. Which saved me from uncomfortable questions for a bit.

Chris was right. The one thing the department has always said about the Fae is that that they are devious and unpredictable and don’t even understand most human rules. So why had the Hob suddenly started following them. If the Runt could be trusted, and the Hob usually aren’t very good at lying, then this change precipitated the rebellion. And that rebellion affected all the European Hob of both courts at roughly the same time. At least as far as we’ve been able to work out.

I found myself asking a different question. Which is nearly always the best way to deal with a question that you can’t answer. Why do humans have a concept of right and wrong? Where do our ideas of good and evil spring from? I know some people would say religion and some would say that the concept evolved to hold societies together but neither of them seemed like satisfying answers. And fuck logic. When it comes to the supernatural you need to look for the most powerful narrative.

Of course there are humans with no real instinctive understanding of good and evil. We call them psychopaths and the difference between them and everyone else is that they don’t experience empathy. So perhaps empathy is the root of our sense of right and wrong. Which just gave me a different way of framing the question. Why didn’t the Fae have empathy and why did the Hob suddenly start feeling it?

At this point you’re expecting me to do the metaphorical equivalent of smoking a pipe and staring at the ceiling for hours till shouting out “Watson I have it and I’ve been a damned fool.” Or something similar. Not going to happen. Actually the best way to deal with this sort of intractable problem is to try to avoid thinking about it. You should try it. The more you prod at an idea the more it wriggles away from you. If you pretend to ignore it and stare out of the window of the bus and begin mentally composing blog posts then the silly bugger will jump up and down shouting look at me.


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