Archive | June 27, 2016

A Difficult Case – a story beginning of ThingsUnspoken

Written to an anonymous prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“This is going to be a difficult case.”

Viola Candroon frowned at the case file. Her secretary’s tidy handwriting filled three pages, detailing every piece of the puzzle laid before them. For the most part, the text was devoid of expression. Maxwell was a very solid investigator in his own right and tended to keep the interviewer out of the interview, as the saying went.

“I dare say ‘difficult’ isn’t going to be the half of it, ma’am,” Maxwell offered. “If you’ll see…”

“I see, yes.” In the middle of page three, Maxwell had circled and underlined The Lord and Lady Hatsfordshire. “This is… this is going to take a delicate touch.” The residents of Hatsfordshires Manor were very set in their ways, and their ways did not involve the techniques Miss Candroon and her agency employed. “Who’s the client?”

“Ah. That would be their butler. He was quite uncomfortable with the whole matter — but then again, he’s been working for them for two months and has already taken to spending every free moment in town, with his elderly mother and even more elderly aunt.”

Viola cringed. “So he knows.”

“He is, shall we say, newly converted to seeing things as they are. He did not believe the rumors — until his first full moon working for the Hatsfordshires. But the evidence he brought forth.”

“I see it, yes.” Viola glared at the paperwork. “So the rumors are true.”

“True, and more so. If you’ll see note three on page two…”

Viola read it again. “You’d think they’d thank us for burning the place. It would get rid of all the evidence.”

“Nevertheless, our dossiers on these two suggest that there will be no thanking involved. Shall you go about things in the direct manner, or would you prefer to investigate first?”

“I do believe I’ll make a cursory investigation. At least then, when we go to set the fire, we’ll know best where to lay the accelerant.”

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Reunion Problems – a story for my Summer 2016 Giraffe Call

Written to rix_Scaedu‘s prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

It was nearly dawn when they finally got to bed. Gabi was exhausted, and she was certain that her wife was, too. Still, they were both flopped across the blankets, awake, staring at the ceiling.

“It’s an infestation,” Alex finally said.

“It’s my family,” Gabi countered, without much heat behind the protest. “You agreed to this?” It was more an apology than it was a defense.

“I know you said your family was big, but when we said ‘family reunion…’” Somewhere outside, a drunken hoot punctuated her remarks. “Well…” She coughed. “I was imagining the dead ones would stay home.”

“Oh…. Oh!” Gabi put both of her hands over her face. “They… yeah. I didn’t think you were talking about, um, about them.” Some things were best left unnamed. “I didn’t expect them to show up, either. If I had, I would have warned you.”

“But now we’ve invited them in. And… “ Alex lifted one hand up and flopped it back to the bed in a gesture that seemed to take in the whole week-long mess. “They won’t go home. How does your family put up with it?”

“Mostly by moving. You might have noticed all the RVs and campers? We move a lot. And… sorry. Generally we’re more careful about the whole invite thing. I guess I’ve just been away too long.” Gabi turned towards Alex. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t think they’d come all this way.”

“So… you move, hunh?”

Gabi sat up and looked at Alex. “We move a lot, yeah.”

“Remember when you teased me about the van?”

“I’ll never tease you about a vehicle again.”

“So how fast can you pack?”

Gabi thought about the bloodsuckers currently living in her basement, and the nasty bite-mark she’d been hiding from her wife; thought about her dead relatives doing the same to her sweet Alex. She counted her belongings quickly. “Twenty minutes. Thirty-five and have no regrets at all.”

“And, tell me… what does fire do to these things?”

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A Chance

Written to [personal profile] chanter_greenie‘s prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

It was not technically a prison. Even if it had been, Aodh did not think he’d mind. He had sunlight and fresh air, a stone house that did not catch fire, and copies of as many books as he wanted to read. He had teachers working with him patiently on his still-unreliable fire powers, and, more importantly, people helping him create Workings that protected his own body from the results of his flames.

He didn’t think he could leave, but Aodh did not mind all that much. He remembered too well what happened when his power got out of control.

Still, when Luke came walking up the lane, Aodh found himself tensing. He resisted the urge to run and hide; there was nowhere he could hide from Luke; there was nowhere he could really hide from anyone, if they really wanted to see him.

Luke was accompanied by three younger-looking men. As they came closer, Aodh saw that one of them was tall, over eight feet. One of them had gills and a green tint to his complexion. The third had a tail, tucked around into his front pocket. All three were carrying large bags and wearing plain black clothing.

“Hey, Aodh. These three would like to talk to you for a few minutes.” Luke stepped back. He wasn’t scowling; he’d been scowling for months. But he wasn’t smiling, either.

The one with the tail stepped forward and offered a seven-fingered hand to shake. “Hey, Aodh, I’m Conrad. I hear you can get pretty hot.”

Aodh shook the hand, a little surprised. Most people didn’t want to talk to him. “I can, uh. Yeah.” He winced. He could melt steel when he focused, but sometimes that meant his control of his protective Workings failed him. “Yeah.”

“We’ve got some monsters we need to kill, and it seems like extreme heat is a big weakness. Think you could help us?” His smile was self-disparaging, but Aodh noted he held himself much like Luke did, and he had a series of scars below his chin, running down under his shirt.

Aodh swallowed. “Is this the, uh.” He didn’t have a TV. Televisions didn’t survive around him. “The… war?”

“Yeah.” Conrad’s smile slipped away. “It is, and we could use all the help we could get.”

Aodh looked down at the ground for a minute. “I could help? Really help?”

“Man,” Conrad admitted, “you might be our only hope.”

It was going to hurt, a lot. But nothing would ever hurt as much as those first few months. “I’ll do it.”

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Hot Enough To… a story of Reiassan for my Summer Giraffe Call

Written to [personal profile] itsamellama‘s prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

Set in the same world as Edally Academy but centuries earlier. The Bitrani live far in the south; the Calenyena live in the North.

“Rietanneh, it’s not really that hot down here. It’s really not.”

Lukia hurried after her friend. She hadn’t been sure about inviting Rietanneh home for the holiday with her. After all, there was more than mountains between Lannamer and Tugia, as the saying went. The Calenyena were heathens, often barbaric, wild and unmannered, and the Bitrani, Lukia’s people, hadn’t really forgiven them for the way the war had been won, all those centuries ago. But the Lannamer girl didn’t really have family, not that would come get her, at least, and after all, the Three said “call those kin who would be to you as an extension of yourself.”

Her blood-kin had been uncertain, but they had given in when Lukia had quoted to them from the books of the Three Gods. Now… Now Lukia watched her friend nervously. She was wearing Bitrani national clothes as if she had been born in them, far more comfortably than Lukia had adjusted to Calenyen clothing, but she was climbing up onto a rock outcropping with the tray of cookies they’d been working on, a wild grin on her face.

“It’s hotter than that, Lukia. It’s hotter than the inside of a fireplace here. And right here.” She sat down on a wide black rock, then stood up quickly. “Right here it’s even hotter than that.” Rietanneh set the sheet of cookies down on the rock. “I’d say maybe fifteen minutes, and we’ll have sweets.”

“But there’s the stove…”

“It says in the book of Tienebrah that the gift of fire was not to be taken lightly, no? Here is Tienebrah’s light.” Rietanneh grinned widely at Lukia’s expression. “I read the Books when I knew I was going to have a Bitrani roommate. And I’ve always wondered how hot it really got down here…”

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The Deck, the Fire, the Art – a story of the Aunt Family for my summer Giraffe Call

Written to kelkyag‘s prompt(s) here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

Okay, this story references or is after several stories, so here goes:

This is where the divination deck originally showed up – 1st story in the whole series.
This story and then this one introduce Adam.

Wild Card comes immediately before the one below.

This is the Finish-It Bingo referencing Wild Card.

Kathleen remembered.

She did not, often, these days. In her more cognizant moments, she thought she might prefer it that way. There was so much to remember, after all, and, like holding a lighter and forgetting what you meant to set the flame to, a half of a memory could be dangerous.

Tonight she remembered. Her niece — her sister’s granddaughter, and that sort of thing was what you never forgot, because the family lines tied everything together — had turned over an ancient card in a game that was supposed to be innocent, and everything had come flashing back.

Adam, her cousin Adam, and the other one… what was his name? She remembered the wounded look in his eyes, the way he held himself as if expecting a fight. She couldn’t remember the name he had worn. But he and Adam had sat under the tutelage of aunts and grandmothers, just like — and yet completely different from — the way Kathleen and Ruan, and, much later, Rosaria, had all done.

She remembered Adam and the other one telling a story. Their eyes, she seemed to recall now, were on Ruan. There was fire in their voices, and their fingers moved across the page, brush and pencil telling as much of a story as the words.

“And he looked so fun,” Adam admitted, while the other one sketched. “He looked like a clown, or some sort of joker. Not the make-up, just the smile. I saw… I saw her looking at him.” He faltered, and picked up the paint brush.

The other one cleared his throat and let Adam take over the drawing. No, not a drawing, a card. They had been making a divination deck under Elenora’s guidance, and they’d grabbed one of the blanks to make their story. “It wasn’t that she looked at him. There’s lots of looking, at a carnival like that. She went to him.” He swallowed. Kathleen remembered the look of calculated risk in his expression. He needed to tell something. He just wasn’t sure it was a good idea. “And I saw it, all the times it had come before.”

Lightning flashed, and Kathleen was back in the present, staring at her niece. Her niece, the Aunt. She cleared her throat. “We’re going to be seeing him again,” she whispered. “I hope we’re ready this time.”

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Damage Control

Written to [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith‘s prompt(s) here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“Come on.”

“I didn’t mean to…” Krešimir winced ruefully at the hallway. It was sopping wet, but only because Mirembe had summoned up a storm. Under the water, it was charred, the panelling falling off the walls where it wasn’t just gone. “I really didn’t.”

“Come on.” Luke’s hand was firm on Krešo’s shoulder and he had started to walk away. Krešo didn’t really have a lot of choice except to follow the gym teacher-slash-security officer — or lose his shoulder, which didn’t seem like a lot of fun.

He trotted along, although he couldn’t help but look back at the wreckage he’d made every few moments. “I’ll help fix it. I can pay for the damages, maybe? Get a job at the Store? I didn’t mean to make a mess, that’s all. I just…”

“Akatil will fix it.” Luke pulled Krešo down into a hallway he’d never seen before, tucked between the Director’s office and the dining hall. It was dark down here, cramped-feeling. Krešo swallowed nervously.

“I, um. I can really help?”

“Look, kid.” Luke pushed a door open that hadn’t been there a moment ago. Sunlight streamed inside. “It’s a fire power. Being sorry for it is like being sorry that you’re breathing. It’s self-defeating and ridiculous.”

“So… you’re not mad?”

“I’m angry. I’m not mad at you. Come on.” His hand seemed gentler now as he steered Krešo out into a wide meadow. “You need to get control of your powers.”

“I know, I know! I keep trying, but then every time someone spooks me…” He stopped. Luke was smiling. He was the scariest thing Krešo had seen — either in or out of school — and he was smiling. “…What?”

“I saw what happened when she ‘spooked’ you. I’d say she deserved it, wouldn’t you?”

Krešo swallowed. “I mean… Professor Pelletier….”

“Professor Pelletier didn’t see the whole thing. I did. It’s fine to… ha… let off steam when someone is being an ass. You’ve just got to learn to do it intentionally. Here.” He gestured at a stretch of grass with a couple scraggly-looking trees. “Let loose.”

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Fire after Fire – a story for my Summer Giraffe Call

Written to sauergeek‘s prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“How long do you think it originally took mankind to discover fire?”

“Shut up, Danijel.”

“Because I’m thinking you’re looking at running longer than primitive men living in a cave.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, Danijel, we are living in a cave. Besides, the whole ‘cave man’ thing was a myth. Made for pretty cartoons, that’s all.”

“You know, considering a forest fire sent us this way…”

“Technically, it wasn’t the forest fire.” Matija looked up from her patient work with flint and steel — or what she had in lieu of that, which was hopefully-flint and a nail. “It was the botched suppression fire. Who let those idiots anywhere near an active blaze, I don’t know.” She leaned down and blew carefully on the tinder. “And if you don’t blow it out again, I’ve got something like a fire. It won’t do very well as a signal, unless it brings an overzealous volunteer fire-fighter down on us…”

“But it’ll cook s’mores.” Danijel sat down, watching the fire carefully. “And, I suppose, boil water.” At Matija’s raised eyebrow, he squirmed. “What? We were heading on a hike. I brought supplies. Besides… you never know when you’re going to get rained on and stuck in camp for a week.”

The look Matija gave him clearly indicated what she thought of that. “You were hoping we’d be out for a couple days.”

“Well, not quite… yeah.” Danijel looked down at his backpack. “It’s a very nice fire?”

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If the Blind Will See – a story of Things Unspoken for my Summer Giraffe Call

Written to [personal profile] alatefeline‘s prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“Oh, look, Matilda, isn’t that lovely?”

Allan didn’t hate tourists, not the way his sister did, but he found many of them a little too blind to be believable.

Like these two. The routine they were watching was… well, it probably was lovely. Allan and five women, all of them native to this small coastal island, were swinging weighted strings in a carefully-choreographed routine that meant sometimes a weight swung fractions of a an inch from his face. The art had been old long before his people had stolen it from a much more ancient people, and even then it had been more than a show of skill. But from the look on the women’s faces, they saw nothing but a pretty show.

On the side of the stage, Allene stomped three times. Allan stepped forward on cue. He bowed his head and caught the oldest woman’s eye: Bold, brazen, shameless. He winked.

Allan knew they had magic on the mainland. He’d heard that they pretended not to, that they explained it away with explanations so thin a child could discredit them. But they had the magic there; they had the demons there. And they saw… lovely dancing.

They tourists thought he was lovely, too. That was half the reason he danced this routine, although it was traditionally a woman’s dance. The lady tourists tipped very nicely to see him topless. The male tourists tipped because their pride was piqued.

Allene stomped again. From the sidelines, their uncle Edward swung in one more string. The tourists gasped. Allene’s poi lit on fire; she did a loud shuffle step, and they all did their own shuffle-step just so.

In a moment, all the strings were lit. As the sun went down, Allan caught the tourist’s eye again. He say her eyebrows lift as they completed the blessing, Allan’s fire tracing the ritual lines in the air.

He didn’t hate them, no matter what his sister said. For Allan, the challenge was getting them to admit that they were not truly blind.

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