Everyone, Nelia had decided, had to have one relative they dreaded visiting, especially during the holidays.
In a family as wide, varied, and spread-out as Nelia’s, she wasn’t surprised that she had more than one – two uncles and an aunt, to be specific – that she really wanted nothing to do with. And she wasn’t surprised that Fate dictated she see all of them at least fourteen times a year.
The Friday before Christmas was, traditionally, what her mother called Visiting the Aunty Aunts time. The “Aunty Aunts” were four of her father’s aunts who lived together, along with two husbands and three ailing Chihuahuas, in a giant farmhouse that had once belonged to their parents. Rumor had it that Aunt Edna and Aunt Elspeth had never left the house and its surrounding property at all, not once in their ninety-or-so years of life.
They must, Nelia had decided, get the yarn trucked in. Every year, for every niece and nephew they had, Edna and Elspeth knit sweaters and mittens of thick, itchy wool in thick, complex patterns. The sweaters could stop a bullet or a hailstorm, if you could stand to put them on (they poked through up to three layers of under-shirt, and who could stand wearing three undershirts under a sweater a half-inch thick on its own?), and were the warmest pieces of clothing Nelia had ever owned. Only shrinking them “accidentally” in the wash got rid of them, and family tradition demanded they all Must Be Worn at least once a year around the Aunties.
She wriggled into last year’s baby-blue version, the cables making elaborate wave designs up the torso and seeming, in what had to be an accident, to wrap around and frame her small breasts. “Ready, Mom,” she sighed resignedly. “Keep the AC on in the car?”
“Of course, honey.” Mom was wearing her own pastel-pink version, hers covered in tiny flowers; Nelia’s brother Cam was wearing one in butter-yellow with train tracks on it and just as squirmy.
“Dearies.” Edna and Ethel greeted them with gentle hugs and tissue-paper cheek kisses. “You always look so warm and snugglie in our sweaters. It makes me sad,” Edna added, “that we didn’t knit this year.”
“Didn’t knit?” Cam, Nelia thought, looked almost disappointed. What was wrong with him?
“No, no, honey. We’re getting too old for all that knitting, so we saved it for the babies this year. Besides, if we’re supposed to be fairy godparents, we should, once in your lives, give you something you’ll use.”
“Fairy…” The look on Mom’s face stopped Nelia dead. Mom wasn’t amused, or hopeful, or worried about senility. She was horrified. “Aunt Edna,” Nelia tried carefully. “What do you mean?”
“She means,” Aunt Elspeth picked up, “that someone has to look after you kids, and the sweaters only do so much. So this year, well, we tatted up something different. This is for you, Dorotea.” She handed Nelia’s mother a small box. “With this, you will always know where your children are, and if they are all right.”
Let her be kidding. Let her be kidding. The last thing Nelia wanted was for her mother to know where she was all the time.
Aunt Edna picked up where Elspeth had left off. “For you, Cambrian,” she handed him another small box. “A place to store and order all your plans, so that you don’t forget them.”
Her little brother clutched the box to his chest with a wicked grin. “Thanks, Aunts Elspeth-Edna!” Nelia began to wonder what he was up to, that he needed something like that.
“And for you, Cornelia.” Elspeth handed over a third box. “That you always know when people wish you ill.”
Looking at the small box with a nervous and sinking heart (and the sudden feeling that Cam was plotting against her), Nelia suddenly wished for another sweater.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/201685.html. You can comment here or there.
For wyld_dandelyon‘ prompt. This is set in the Addergoole ‘verse, whose landing page is here on DW & here on LJ, in year 9. Sylvia the Otter-girl is the character in the icon, by @Inventrix, shown here:
Third week of year 9 of the Addergoole school.
“You’re going to need this.”
Gar had no idea where the girl had come from; he’d been walking down a back hallway when she’d stepped out of nowhere in front of him.
He knew her from a couple of his classes, a slender, quiet girl with whiskers and paws that reminded him of an otter. Sylvia. She was pretty, but in a room full of aggressive beauties, she’d always faded into the background.
Garfunkel knew the feeling. He was, to quote his ex-girlfriend, “just a guy.” Just a guy, now, who seemed to shoot off crags of red stone when he got upset, like a particularly rocky porcupine version of the Hulk. Just a guy who, he was told, was very good at some odd magical words that made his tongue tingle.
And who, at the moment, was being faced with an otter-girl with some sort of necklace, no, collar, some sort of collar in her paw.
He shook his head, backing up slowly, holding up his own why-did-he-have-paws. “No, no thank you,” he said hurriedly. “I’ve seen all the collars around since, whatdy’acallit, Hell Night. I’ve seen everyone all hangdog and upset. I don’t need to join their ranks.”
“This is different,” she insisted. “It’s still a collar, but it’s different.”
“And why should I believe you?”
“Because I don’t lie, and I promise you I’m not lying to you. You are going to need what this collar gives you. I have a very strong feeling about that.”
“I have a very strong feeling about not becoming a brain-washed zombie,” he answered dryly.
“You won’t.” Sounding hurried and a bit irate, she added, “just put it on. It doesn’t mean anything without the words.”
“The words?” Her stare was rather unnerving; despite himself, Gar found himself taking the collar-thing from her and putting it around his neck.
“’With this ring…’ that sort of thing, the words your hang-dog friends said,” she hedged, and then, in his mind…
I Belong to You. The Fourth Law of Keeps states that one Ellehemaei –
Ellehemaei, the people of Ellehem, of the land that is not Earth. The fae, the Fair Folk, the Departed Gods. You.
The answers flooded into his mind as the questions appeared, images and explanations, a tone in the mental voice that sounded like the otter-girl. When he opened his eyes, finally, there was one phrase on his lips. His mind full of what it meant, he still couldn’t help but say it.
“I Belong to you, Sylvia.”
“Yes,” she smiled, looking pleased. “You do.”
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/201427.html. You can comment here or there.
Good Monday morning!
The linkback stories are here on DW & here on LJ. The poll was a bit inconclusive, so there’s a bit of anything. If you link to the Giraffe Call, please leave a comment there so I can add your 50 words/Link.
The Donation Ticker is $20 from the next incentive level!
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/200831.html. You can comment here or there.
The title is from the lyrics of this song, “He Can’t Even Bait a Hook.”
“What’s this?” Ahava stared at the contraption Constance was holding out.
“It’s a fishing pole. That’s a body of water with fish in it. Apply one to the other.”
“We’re teaching you to fish. This is part of my gift to you.”
“You stupid girl, that’s a figure of speech.”
She didn’t even wince. “And why shouldn’t it be a reality, too? You’ve never been good with either plant or animal Workings, Ahava. Without people to keep you fed, how will you eat?”
“I…” He stared at his former slave. He’d freed her as he graduated, and, in his mind, she’d always remained the same scared, easily-cowed crying girl he’d left behind. Looking at her now, he realized she’d grown up. Looking a the fishing pole she was holding out for him, he realized, a little shamefacedly, that he hadn’t.
“How do I even use this thing?” he asked angrily. Anger had always made her give in before.
“You put the worm on the hook, like so;” she picked up a second pole and demonstrated the disgusting-looking maneuver, “then you find a place where it looks like there are fish, and – back up, I haven’t done this in a few years -“
Prudently, Ahava backed up. Maybe if she couldn’t do it anymore, he wouldn’t have to, either?
“-and like this, you flick it out and let out some slack as you go, using this lever. See?”
“Wouldn’t it be easier,” he grumbled, as he reached for one of the nasty worms, “to teach me how to hunt? More practical, too.”
She leveled a cold gaze on him. “I don’t trust you with a weapon, Ahava. I promised to give you what you deserved and needed. I didn’t promise to make it easy.”
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/200557.html. You can comment here or there.
Woo! I got quite a few prompts already for this giraffe call, and $75 in tips! We’re just $20 from the writing-to-ALL-the-prompts incentive level!
I’ve already gotten new prompters AND new donors, so there will be a setting piece, as well.
The Linkback polls were tied at 1 each in 6 answers, so I went with the two-in-the-same-setting. That can be found here! Remember to leave a comment if you’ve linked back.
Stories so far run the gamut from strange to silly to dark, and I think tomorrow’s will continue much the same. I’ll be playing carpenter during the day, but expect another round tomorrow after dark, EST.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/200422.html. You can comment here or there.
“Have you see the tschotske of Aunt Zenobia’s? I left it by the sink.”
Grandma Ardella’s kitchen was, as it always was on Christmas morning, bursting to the seams with cousins, aunts and Aunt, daughters and granddaughters and the rare uncomfortable daughter-in-law, everyone with a purpose while all but the very brave of the men huddled in the living room, pretending to discuss sports. In the kitchen, Ardella herself presided, or tried to, although her sisters, as always, made that difficult, and her granddaughters were old enough to be both helping and far too controlling.
“That funny gold thing with the rabbit?” Fallon looked guilty. “That was a Zenobia thing? I thought it was part of the cake treats.”
“Oh, bloody hell.” Ardella frowned. “Well, pass me the mix and I’ll strain it out. It’s not the sort of thing you want getting in the batter for too long. It might leak.”
“Leak?” squeaked a daughter-in-law, what-was-her-name. Jane, maybe. “Was it a poison ring?”
“Nothing like that,” Aunt Rosaria laughed, bustling the girl out of the kitchen. “Help me find the jarred cranberries, Jenny, that’s a good girl.”
“Jaenelle,” she corrected weakly, but she’d be Jenny by the time the night was over.
“How bad of a leak?” Fallon asked cautiously, once Jane-Jenny-whatever was out of the room. “Are we talking the sort of thing like happened the year we let Aunt Asta make the cake?”
“Well, that certainly was an interesting year,” Ardella admitted. “And it could be. I hadn’t figured out what it did yet, and Evangaline is…” Is far too young, she didn’t say, although it was a close thing. “…has her hands full, with inheriting the House and everything.”
“It’s just,” Fallon continued unhappily, “I already baked the muffins, and they’re out on the tray.”
“The tray in the living room?” Ardella frowned. Once the menfolk got the cakes…
“Ow!” Her grandson’s shout echoed through the house. “Damnit,” and the boy knew better, even Hadelai didn’t raise her children that badly, “my… ooooh.”
Ardella put her face in her hands. This was going to be a long Christmas.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/199978.html. You can comment here or there.
He hadn’t been easy to find.
Constance had a feeling Ahava wanted it that way. If she had been him (which, clearly, she was not), if there were three people she would want not finding her after school, it would be herself, Quintin, and Luhanna, and not just because they were a sharp and effective crew.
But she had made him a promise – three promises, because Constance always did things in threes – and she was going to keep it, despite the world ending, despite what he had done to her (and to their daughter, and to the girl that came after her, and to her friends), despite the complete waste of space he could be. Despite that, or because of it, or superseding it.
Between the three of them, three years out of school, they had resources that, she thought, Ahava probably hadn’t planned on. Not that Ahava really planned on much – not yet. It might be that he would, when they were done with him. They called on every friend and every owed favor, every family member they could find, sent out feelers to every network they knew, bribed those they could and blackmailed those they couldn’t bribe. It took another three years, but Constance had nearly expected that.
They found in him the ruins of Vegas, in Aphrodite’s temple, stoned to the gills, giggling, a blond girl face-down in his crotch and a redheaded slave-boy oiling his shoulders. His Mask was down, his blue skin and green hair showing, his eyes luminescent. He wore nothing except a piece of beefcake armour, probably something he’d made himself.
“The hunters are coming,” Constance greeted him.
“They won’t get in here,” he yawned, not yet realizing who she was, who they were. “They never do. The guards stop them.”
“And when the guards are gone?” Quintin asked. “Then what will you do?”
“Find more guards? I don’t know, this is Aphrodite’s temple. Let her deal with it.”
“Aphrodite has been dead for three years, Ahava,” Luhanna murmured. “Her temple is in ruins, all but this little nook. Your slaves keep it for you, but your slaves are human. Eventually, they’ll get bored, or the food will run out.”
It was, Constance noted, Luhanna’s voice that got his attention. Somewhere in the back of her mind, that bothered her. She put that aside for later, as her former Keeper looked up at them.
“Connie? Lu? Quint? What are you guys doing here?” She was pleased to note that fear, at least, got through his haze.
“We came to bring you a present.” She spoke now, because this was her quest.
“A present?” He pushed the slaves away and stared at her, a little needle of comprehension sinking into him. “Con… Con, that bullshit promise you made?”
“That bullshit promise I made,” she agreed. “You have twenty-five minutes to pack up anything you can carry, and anyone who wants to come with you. You’re leaving with us.”
“Where?” He didn’t, she note, argue that he was coming. He’d never been stupid, at least.
She smiled grimly. “Out into the real world.” Or what was left of it.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/199839.html. You can comment here or there.
The class of 2014 was having problems. Cadfan woke in the morning to find his bed shredded, and it seemed every time he gestured, he shot knives from his hands, cutting up everything around him.
Aesara’s gift of being able to see everything that might happen, everything that could have happened, meant that even walking down the hall was nearly impossible, as she saw every path everyone might take. She had locked herself in her room because there, at least, the paths seemed to mostly lead to her dying quietly.
Chang didn’t mind things that much at first, until it turned out that having no friction really made, well, everything harder. Walking down the hall was nearly as impossible for him as it was for Aesara, and holding things required special concentration.
Merial might have been said to have it the worst, but nobody got a chance to ask her. Gills are not a fun power to have on dry land.
And in the middle of this walked Kyme, smoothly but not without friction, sharply but only of temper, with no more ability to see than any human, no more ability to breathe water than any mammal, no more beauty than any pretty girl, no more intelligence than any good student, no more strength than any athlete. In short, in walked Kyme, who was blessedly normal, who was blessedly quiet, and with her walked a small null zone, where, for a few moments, everyone else could have peace as well.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/199530.html. You can comment here or there.
“Thanks, Eva. I’ll talk to her.”
“You should, Hadelai,” Aunt Evangaline answered, more gently than she normally did. “Of course, you know she’s listening now.
“No, she’s a good girl, she’d never….”
“You did when you were her age. So did I.”
Beryl’s mother had been acting strangely since her Aunt Asta died and Aunt Evangaline took over the Aunt House and all the associated… things, and it seemed Aunt Eva had noticed, too. Beryl knew why, of course – she had the markers, assuming Chalcie or Amy got around to having children (or, she supposed, Stone) – but she wasn’t the only one who did. Mom – Hadelai, Hadie – and Eva had another sister and another brother. There were plenty of cousins to go around.
Still, Mom was all of a sudden very interested in any boy Beryl happened to talk to or about, and very curious about her dating prospects, very worried when she acted at all “strange” or, god forbid, “fey.” It was beginning to get a little annoying, so Beryl had had a quiet word with Aunt Eva, who had had a few less quiet but more subtle words with Mom, and now, it seemed, Mom was going to have a few words with her. She made sure she wasn’t anywhere near the phone – damnit, Aunt Eva – and very engrossed in her homework – Chemistry homework, because Mom, for some reason, didn’t think Chem was fey – and waited for Mom to come have that word.
When she did – thirty minutes later, long enough that Beryl was beginning to wonder if she’d gotten cold feet – it wasn’t the conversation she was expecting. Instead, Mom came with a small charm bracelet in hand.
“My grandmother, Diandre, gave this to me,” she said, with no preamble, as she sat down next to Beryl on the bed. “And I’ve kept it. I thought I would pass it on to a granddaughter – Grandma Diandre got it from her grandmother, after all, and I’m not sure how many generations it’s been in the family before that, but I know it’s quite a few – but I think I should give it to you. If you want to… if you want to give it to a daughter, or a niece, in your turn, that’s your choice.”
She turned the bracelet over in her hands, clearly unwilling to hand it over quite yet. “This is the thing. This isn’t a monkey’s paw, it’s not a magic lantern. But it has power, Beryl, and I worry about that power. I worry about it in your hands, but I have to admit,” she sighed, “I worry about it, right now, more in mine.”
“This one, this is the one I’m worried about.” She showed Beryl the garnet heart, crowned with gold. “This one can bring love or ruin it. And Beryl, I very much want you to find love.”
As if it pained her, she passed the bracelet over. “Please, honey, please be careful.”
Cradling the small relic, Beryl nodded and gulped. Love. Bring love or ruin it. “I will, Mom. I promise.”
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/199338.html. You can comment here or there.