Archive | October 5, 2016

Ladies’ Bingo: Tragedy – Aunt Pearl

Written for my [community profile] ladiesbingo card riffing off of The Strength. See also Deborah’s Tag..

Short Summary: Aunts in the Family hold the magic, channel it, and generally direct the family – although the older women (grannies and mothers) often hold as much secular power, if not more. Aunts are childless, unmarried…

…except sometimes, it seems, when they’re not.

Pearl was worried. She was more than worried, she was terrified. More than just terrified, she was living in fear of her grannies and sisters, a fear that no normal woman would have grounds to understand, much less feel.

She’d kept it a secret as long as she could, and that had been months longer than she’d thought she’d be able to. She’d used every charm she thought safe and some she wasn’t sure about; she’d used every deceit and a few fashion tricks from her friends not in the family. Those friends knew – and if the grannies found out that, Pearl was doubly and triply doomed. She’d gone out of the family for help.

Now she was going out of the family to escape. She’d packed up everything she thought she could get away with. Half of it she’d mailed ahead – some to a distant cousin, back in New York; some to her friend Ilene, in Missouri, where she was going; some to her grannies’ gran, living in peace in a house nobody bothered without an express invitation, just three miles away but might as well be on the moon.

What she hadn’t mailed, she had with her now, on the platform at the train station. She’d left a note, warded so that it didn’t reveal itself too soon. She’d mailed her niece Cora another letter, this one more explicit. She’d… she’d… she’d… She took a deep breath. She’d done everything she could, and there was nothing left but to get on the train and go far, far away.

“Did you think we wouldn’t feel the shift in the power, you ridiculous girl?”

The voice snuck up behind her like a snake. Pearl held as still as possible, knowing that wouldn’t help, knowing she couldn’t help but do it. She said nothing. There was nothing to say against that voice.
“If you don’t turn to speak to me, your death on this platform is going to be a mysterious tragedy. Did you think you held all the power? Did you think you had all the knowledge?

Pearl gulped quietly and did not turn around. She did not answer. Her aunt Irma had always been particularly disdainful of her, but, then again, Irma was disdainful of everyone. It was just that Pearl had been chosen by the power, and that gave her an edge Irma did not usually consider.

“This is your last chance, Pearl Maria O’Conner. If you do not turn to face me, then nothing will be able to help you. Nothing.”

“Nothing’s been able to help me for seven months now, Aunt Irma.” It was unwise, but she couldn’t help herself. The words just slipped out of her mouth. “Not you, not Aunt Ida, not even great-gran.”
“Don’t you mention her name. Don’t you dare.” Irma was getting angry. Pearl kept her feet planted exactly where they were. “You know what a pregnant Aunt does to the family.”

“Actually,” Pearl was surprised at how level her voice was. “No, I don’t. Do you?”

Irma huffed. “Don’t be difficult, child. Recalcitrant. You know as well as I do that you can’t have a pregnant Aunt. It’s not done, it hasn’t been done, and it shan’t be done.”

“The thing is…” Pearl pulled herself to her full height and eyed her elderly aunt. On some level, she quailed at her own chutzpah. But this was not the time for timidity. “…nobody knows why not. I’ve read all of the journals. I’ve visited some of the other Aunts, and read their books. I’ve look into the archives and asked the family ghosts and spirits. Nobody knows.”

“Because we do not allow it to happen.”

“So you’ve said, but the question is, again, why?

“Just because you’ve gotten yourself into a difficult position is no need to start shaking the tree, Pearl Maria. Now, will you come peacefully?”

“And if I don’t?” She had thought she could run from them. She realized now that she was going to have to be a little more firm than that.

“If you don’t, then we will take you. The child will go, the power will be severed, and you will be institutionalized for your own good. A mad child who believes her family stole her baby and her magic? The doctors will be tripping over themselves to try new treatments on you.” Irma’s smile was unkind.

“The thing is…” Pearl tok a step backwards. The train was nearly here. “I wasn’t sure what I would do, if you came for me. I wasn’t sure what you would do, either.”

Irma sneered. “Always the slow one. I never thought you were a good choice for Aunt.”

“I like to see the best in my family,” Pearl countered. “Are the others here?”

“Sondra. Laverne. The rest didn’t have the stomach for it.”

“Funny. I didn’t think I would, either.” Pearl raised her hand. “Those rituals, Aunt Irma? To cut someone off from the power? They require an Aunt. And… at their core, that’s all they require.”

Irma laughed. “Is that a threat, girl? You need to work on them, if so.”

“No. That’s why I’m not afraid of the family right now. This, this is a threat.” Pearl sighed. She knew she had Aunts in her bloodline who were dark, Aunts who would not have flinched at this. That wasn’t her. But she could do this. She could do it, for her baby. The train was nearly here.

“Well? Threaten away. I don’t have all day.”

“It’s a tragedy, don’t you think, a woman in the prime of her life — or a bit past it, i suppose, but let’s be generous — falling so ill, when she’d just come to see her niece off? A stroke, I think. So sad.” She heard the train stop behind her and stepped backwards onto the boarding plank. She twisted the magic and muttered to herself.

“There was quite a bit to read in the family archives.”

Aunt Irma shuddered and sat down abruptly. Pearl handed the conductor her ticket and her luggage, and did not watch.

The magic will be yours soon, her letter had said. Burn this letter when you’re done, and say nothing of it in the journals. I’m going to lose myself, and then I will loose the power. Remember always: the connections are between you and the family, and you and the power. To sever either is a horror and a tragedy.

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A Worldbuilding Digression: Limiting your Scope

After a brief conversation with Rion the other day, I thought I’d talk about limiting scale.

The thing about worldbuilding in a fantasy or sci-fi world is that your space if effectively limitless. On a fantasy world, you might only have one planet, but you also have the possibility of other planes (or underground worlds, or sky-worlds, and so on).

Sometimes, that’s a bit much, and you want to keep your characters in one place and/or just focus on a small area of world-building.

Starting with Sci-Fi, ways to limit your scope include:

  • Write something set on Future Earth/Future Other Planet without FTL travel or with really expensive FTL travel, so that people are mostly stuck on one place.
  • Write a bubble city/something stuck under a dome (or a sky city, belt city: a self-contained metropolis, at least)
  • Start with a claustrophobic setting: set in a quarantine, or stuck in a locked-down megacity (think Dr. Who, the episode in the flying cars in the perpetual gridlock)

For a fantasy setting:
  • Set the story on an island nation. Maybe a very small island.
  • Your nation is isolated from the rest of the world, if not by water, then by mountains or desserts or a very very tall wall, or possibly by walls and regulation.
  • The portals are cut off. You can only access other worlds (or other cities, or maybe even other blocks) by two portals that open sporadically and otherwise just lead into the bathroom.

The smaller you dial things down – a bunker! A single room! A closet! – the less you have to flesh out about the world outside.

Of course, your characters still live in the world outside, unless they’ve spent their whole lives in this closet (and, even if they have, someone has fed them, someone has spoken to them, we assume. They’ve interacted with something in the world). That means you will have to determine some things: for instance, how their names work, why they are in a closet, etc.

(If you want to write feral children, more power to you, but from my research, this would be an immense challenge, and outside the scope of this particular article.)

But, by pulling the scope in, you’re buying yourself some time – if your character has never seen the next city over, then the most you have to do is give secondhand descriptions of it.

(Come to think of it, Inner Circle and Addergoole both have a lot of limiting-of-scope going on: In Inner Circle/Jumping Rings, you generally move slowly through the rings of your city, if at all, and most people never travel to another city. The government and the walls limit the first, and the monsters and raiders of the waste limit the second. And in Addergoole, you have people ignorant of the “world as it really is,” stuck in an underground bunker with only a few other examples of their species.)

Of course, if you don’t want to limit scope, you’re free to make your world as big as you want to.

For my YA Para-Drama, I haven’t yet decided to narrow the scope, but I’m starting with an insular nation that does not talk much about its neighbors, preferring swords to plowshares. And I have a young student, at a training camp/school, which limits her ability to move around a bit.

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Flying by the seat of his pants…

okay, so I have listened to too much Hamilton over the last few months, and I woke up with this line in my head:

    I’m a girl in a world in which
    My only job is to marry rich
    My father has no sons so I’m the one
    Who has to social climb for one
    Satisfied (

Historically, this is untrue, but it got me thinking, what about a situation where it was?

And, uh, being me, slavery ended up involved. (Have I ever told you about like the first time I can remember slavery being involved in a fictional world of mine?)

“Take the knee,” she urged.

In another world, in another place, she might have said Join the priesthood and be my confessor, and then we can be together. He may have given her the same face as he did in this one: dubious skepticism.
“Marry me,” he countered. “Be my bride, and we’ll change the world together.”

“Take the knee,” she repeated. “My father’s in negotiations with Prandor Cathel. He’s under no impression that this is a love match, and he won’t bedruge me a, ah, a companion.”

“A bedroom partner, you mean.” HIs voice was harsh now. “A slave. I could tell you stories of the number of men tricked into service and sold over the Misty Sea under just such a suggestion.”

“By liars and cheats, sneaks and thieves. Do you take me as such?” Her eyebrows rose. “Take the knee, and be with me.”

“Marry me, and be with me in truth, in perpetuity—”

“You’d have me be your chattel, then.”

“You’d have me be yours!” He softened, slightly, at the offended look on her face. “Besides, Cathel might accept you having a… companion, but I can’t see him being the sort that would pay out his own hard-earned money for such. If I take the knee and you can’t afford me…”

“What do you think me for? I have my own money.” Unlike you, she did not say nor need to. “Gifts, investments, a little side work I did over the years, all quite legitimate. I could afford you twice over.”

“Then…” no, even his slightly-dented pride could not allow him to say Then we could live on your money until I find income. “You do love me, don’t you?”

“I do.” She, seeing what he couldn’t say writ more clearly than if he’d said it, softened in turn. “You know this world won’t allow me to marry you.”

“Renounce your family?” He did not mean it, couldn’t mean it, but he asked anyway.

“I cannot.” reluctance and rue tinged her words, and this time, she had no more hope than he did, but she asked anyway: “Take the knee? Change the world anyway, just change it from comfort.”

“I… cannot.” Should you have asked them, later, whose heart had been breaking more that moment, they each would have said the other — and each would have been lying. “Goodbye.”

“Should you change your mind…” She was the woman, and thought weaker, so in this, she had to be stronger. “You need only contact me.”

“Thank you.” Because he was allowed the luxury of some weakness, he didn’t say We both know I won’t. “Be well, in your new marriage.”

“Be well, changing the world.”

They both turned. They both walked away. But it would be a lie to say that they did not look back…
…A lie they both grew proficient at telling, over the years.

Nice going, Angelica, he was right
You will never be satisfied

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I’m doing another Bingo, perhaps

<td width=20% bgcolor=" #cce6ff
” style=’border: 1px solid #900; vertical-align:middle’>Enemies
Regine & Cya

From the Family Library
Jason’s Roses
Alternative Professions
Cousin Artemisia
Rosaria, Cady, Lily
Relative values: Families
Aud and Zizny Back Fence
A Murder to Solve Early Morning
Summer Solstice
Everything Changes Jealousy
A Battle / Fight / Confrontation Teenagers
Beryl and Chalcedony.
Wild Card
Wild Card
Deborah’s backstory
Sensory Deprivation
Close Crop/Zoom Wabi / Sabi It will be a Terrible Scandal
Grannies/Aunt misdeeds
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
Electromagnetic Waves
Virginity / Sexual Inexperience All the Dead Characters are Living Together Alpha / Beta / Omega Mutation / Transformation
Outsider POV

This is [community profile] ladiesbingo, which means each prompt should involve the relationship between women.

Now taking prompts! I’ll mark the squares above as they are prompted, and your prompt has a better chance of being written if it is in line with previous prompts (so I can make a bingo, you see).

Any setting of mine and any fandom I can write comfortably is up for grabs. Not sure about the fandom? Feel free to ask!

Edited to add: The prompt explanation post

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