A collection of tootfic which was originally published on Mastodon. Volume II begins the story of the Factory Settlement
Even before the Dust came, they had protection runes on the old factory.
Then, it was because the cops & some factions looked poorly on unlicensed spell-work.
Early-Dust, they painted protection over every inch of it: Red lines for a spell of clean air. Potions poured on brick to make it impervious. Orange lines of warmth, comfort.
Inside, they added blankets and cots, cleaned & repaired windows, swept out years of grime.
Outside, CJ repeated the runes for safety & murmured ancient words-making the hideout a refuge for all.
That done, gas masks & gloves on, they moved towards the neighborhoods. Potions poured on roads to clean groundwater, runes of protection sprayed on intersections, spells of let us breathe cast down the yellow lines.
A cop stopped CJ. She panicked—’til he handed her fresh spraypaint & took up guard. “Protect,” he offered. “And serve.”
They made sure the police station was within their blue line, the spell that said life.
And still they worked outwards.
When the Dust started to fall, when it showed what it could do, when it first transformed someone and then transformed some/thing/, CJ closed her eyes and remembered.
She’d been two when the tear gas flew. Her mother hadn’t meant to bring her to a protest; the protest had come to their neighborhood and CJ had run out to join the shouting people. Their shouts seemed to make sense. Their complaints seemed fair.
Her mother’d had just minutes, pushing aside protesters and working with a giant poster marker on the faded pavement and sidewalk. CJ had watched the runes form. Edol, she’d said, over and over again, because that was her favorite rune, the one her mother had painted on her bedroom door as a work of art. Edol.
She was much older when she learned that one meant Shield. But the ones she remembered more now, the ones her mother had carefully taught her during a particularly bad flu season, Omil and Paru, those meant “breathe” and they meant “free.” Together, together they cleaned the air.
CJ pulled out her own poster markers and began writing, her eyes open but the memory still clear in her mind. Shield. Protect. Clean Air. The place she and her parents had lived – first that block and then the whole neighborhood – had never suffered from either tear gas nor the flu nor smog. Clean air.
“Edol,” she whispered. Breathe Free, her runes, writ large on every surface, shouted.
They had cleansed the courtyard of Dust with potions of clean-water and spells of breathe-safe and stay-calm and root-form, but damage had been done before they got there. The trees sometimes moved on their own, and creatures slunk through the bushes and decorative plantings.
They’d cleared out the most malicious things, but a former lawyer now haunted the biggest tree as a dryad. ryad and some of the creatures that slipped here and there had once been more mundane things — rats and squirrels, pigeons and frogs.
CJ sat in the middle, legs crossed, and listened. It would take a while, it always did, but if she was still and calm and rooted —
She smiled, almost too excited and almost too bouncy, but still, the gremlins clambered out of their burrow. Five of them; the littlest came over to sniff her while the biggest headed for the nearest telephone pole.
She fed them scraps of her sandwich and watched as three more emerged. The gremlins might be a nuisance creature — there went the power again! — but she still loved them.
The city wasn’t empty, even still, but some places definitely seemed it.
The others had helped with clearing away the rubble, the pavement, and the trash, but now Joy was alone on a lot that had once held a tailor’s shop.
She’d started seedlings in March; now that the snow was finally gone and the sun seemed to have finally come back, Joy wanted to return the favor and bring life back to their land.
She was safe here. They’d cleared all the unfriendly strange-beasts out of the area; there was a mostly-friendly goblin watching her from a perch on the nearest surviving building. She was safe here.
Joy dug a tiny hold, poured in a dose of a potion Paz’d made her for this, and set in a tomato seedling. She patted the dirt around the seedling, poured a second potion over it, and slid a collar made from half a soda bottle around it.
Over and over, until the lot sparkled with potion and was dotted with green.
The goblin sitting on the nearby building smiled broadly in approval
The potions lab was the most well-ventilated room in their compound, and still, most days it smelled faintly unpleasant or slightly weird. Mona still went in there – to make sure Paz ate, to fish out a cat who wasn’t helping or a child doing the same, to ask if Paz needed anything or put in a request for a specific potion.
Today, the lab smelled like – like –
Mona breathed in deeply, no matter how unwise it might be here. “Cinnamon,” she murmured. “Ginger. Nutmeg.”
Paz swirled a dark, thick fluid in a beaker.
“Pumpkin Spice hot cocoa. Bonus: it keeps you warm for up to 12 hours. Second bonus: bats and black cats love you.”
Mona peered into the beaker. “Happy Halloween, Paz.”
“Just wait ’till you see what I’m planning for Thanksgiving.”
There was a woman painting tiny letters on the road.
The past weeks had been insane: spores from the sky, people, animals, even plants acting weird. Sen, who had been hoping there was still something left at the store, was hurrying, a wet bandanna tied over her face. She stopped dead anyway.
The woman was masked, goggled, gloved, painting. They weren’t Roman letters. Sen didn’t know what they were.
The woman held up a finger. Chanting softly – not English – the woman stood, stretched, stepped over the line of letters, stopped.
Behind her, a flickering wall – the color of the paint, a shiny blue – rose upwards.
“That’ll help the air.” She bowed. “I’m CJ. What’re you doing this far west?”
Going for food, Sen didn’t say. CJ had eyes that, improbably, matched the paint.
“I-Falling in love.”
With the mask, Sen couldn’t tell the woman’s expression, but her eyes squished up like a smile.
“Magic does that. Come on, I’ll get you someplace safe… and maybe show you a bit more.”