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The Bellamy, Chapter 22

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The ghost of Yvette Alina Knight-West moved quickly towards Veronika, her appearance shifting in flickers as she closed the few meters that had seemed like such a distance just a heartbeat or two ago.  Her proper dress spun outward into tatters, her face stretched out and her mouth elongated. Her teeth were long, sharp, and black and so were her fingers.  Black ichor dripped from her mouth and hands. 

“You cannot pass,” the creature hissed.  Veronika, unwillingly and unintentionally, took a step backwards. She had – she had salt in her pocket.  She dropped her hand down surreptitiously.  She wouldn’t use it unless she had to; Amanana talked about this spectre like it was a friend of the family – of the institution – and salt could loosen spectres’ long-term hold on coherency.  “You did not come bringing gifts.”  The voice was no longer remotely human-sounding.

Gifts.  Gifts.  The thing swiped at Veronika.  She dodged backwards, but the long claws caught her shoulder, rending her shirt and leaving a creeping cold numbness behind.  Gifts.  

“A moment, here, it’s my first day!” Veronika protested.  That just made the thing hiss more.  It grabbed a box of paperclips from the nearest file cabinet and flung it in her direction. 

She snapped up a hand to catch it – or tried to.  Her right arm wasn’t obeying her commands, no, her hand was and her lower arm was but her shoulder and upper arm were frozen solid. 

The paper clips hit her on the chest and scattered over the floor before vanishing. 

“Being new is no excuse!”  The thing’s scream ripped at Veronika’s ears.  The next time it opened its mouth, she could barely hear it.   “The only good thing about you being new is that you are unlikely to bore me for eternity once I have ended you.  The new ones never do.”

“Wait!  Wait, I beg your pardon? I have full intention to stick around after my death, thank you very much!  What sort of archivist – oh, no!”  She dropped to the floor as the thing threw a glass paperweight at her head.  It smashed into the window behind her, leaving the sound of tinkling glass everywhere. “Hey!  You don’t really listen, do you?  Weren’t you paying attention, Lady Knight-West?”

Oh, dear, that wasn’t a good lead-in when she didn’t know what was coming next.  So… So what did she have? Gifts.  Gifts

“Excuse me? How dare you, you miserable little whelp of a new fish, say I don’t pay attention?”

What, indeed?

The ghost kept the old records, right, old information about old places – she dodged a hissing jump from the creature and managed to not get hit this time, but tripped over a box on the floor.  “What makes you think I wouldn’t bring gifts?  I mean, you keep the most important records, don’t you?  So you need birth and deaths for your files, yes?”

The ghost stopped.  Slowly, Miss Knight-West straightened up, spectral hands smoothing down her dress’s tatters until hands and dress were back in place.  “Birth and deaths records, mmm?”

“Yes. Now, I have one birth that was not recorded in the local papers or with the local file office, because of family tradition. We – they – the family, that is, believe in waiting a year and a day before filing any changes. Which of course can be maddening to records-keepers, and sometimes means that the family members are listed with the wrong dates of birth, death, marriage, or other such things…”

The ghost was leaning forward. “Those things are fascinating. The traditions, the reasons behind them, and the misdating, although that can lead to all sorts of filing errors…”

“The most interesting ones are when someone is filed twice.  For instance, this family had an infant born in the hospital, because the mother was having trouble with the birth.  But since the family almost always had children born at home, they didn’t realize that the hospital filed a birth certificate.  So they, of course, a year and a day later, filed all the pertinent information – and it wasn’t until this person was twenty and going away to university that they learned that they existed twice in the government databases.”  Veronika smiled.  “This, of course, can be handy if one wants to do something with a different name for some reason, of course, but that’s… not so helpful to archivists.”

“No, it wouldn’t be, but I have found some very interesting examples of people with three or four files in the records here, because either of misunderstandings – their name was listed two different ways – or intentional deceit as you were describing, or something like that twice-filed issue.  IT can be quite the challenge,  making sure that you don’t, for instance, put two Joan Smythe files together unless they truly are the same Joan Smythe.”

Veronika let her smile grow.  She didn’t turn to look at Amanana; she wasn’t entirely sure that the woman hadn’t set her up for this, and she wasn’t sure how she was going to handle that, darn it, she liked Amanana. 

“Oh, exactly.  And if one person filing assumes that Joan Smythe Windham Price has a middle name of Smythe and another assumes Smythe, Windham, and Price are all surnames, if one files the whole thing with a hyphen in one place and another files it in another place, well then, you do end up with a bit of a mess.  It’s quite a challenge.  So.”  Veronika closed her eyes.  “The child was born on August 28th of this year.  A girl child, to all appearances, she was named Magdalena Gardenia Bellamy.  Her parents were-“

She caught herself, and this time, she looked at Amanana.  The woman raised her eyebrows and stepped back four steps.  “Speak softly there and I will not hear.”

“Her biological parents were,” Veronika continued, “Veronika Hope Bellamy and Victor Claude Waterford-Teanth.  She will be filed as the child of Susanna Patience Bellamy Love and her husband, Bradford Giles Rupert Bellamy, with the correct birthday. Victor Waterford-Teanth – with a hyphen between the two last names – is a junior archivist at the Fillion and has been for the past five years. His mother is a senior archivist at the same institution.”

The ghost had been writing this all down very quickly.  Now she turned the card so Veronika could read the information.  “I see.”  The ghost looked Veronika up and down.  “This is a very good gift indeed.  I would say this is worth free passage for – for the child’s first year.  Very well done, Veronika Hope Bellamy.  Perhaps you’ll be a good archivist indeed.”

She turned to Amanana.  “And you.  And you, your gift – your gift has been paid for some time, hasn’t it?  But it’s still polite to bring a token.” 

There was a bit of darkness shading the spectre again.  Veronika very politely took a step back. Her left arm still wasn’t listening to her, still felt alternately cold and numb.  She did not want to risk that again. She took one more step back as the ghost reached out an arm with blackened fingers.

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Purchase Negotiation 47: Real

First: Purchased: Negotiation

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Normal life did not, Leander was pretty sure, include a girlfriend quite like Sylviane.  It probably did not involve magic lessons three times a week with that girlfriend and her father, who happened to be his owner.  It probably also did not involve not being able to leave your girlfriend’s side, although in the last few months, that had gotten to feel pretty normal.  Sometimes, he and Sylviane would move to opposite sides of that 40-foot tether, often in separate rooms in the house, reading or watching tv or just (as Sylvie liked to say), getting some space.  Other times they couldn’t get enough of each other. 

This week, they were attempting to study for finals, although this was being interrupted by Melody, who seemed intent on getting all of Leander’s measurements again, as well as measuring Sylviane twice.  “There’s a charity event coming up in a week.  Mr. MacDiarmed expects you both to be there, to be properly attired, and to make a good showing.”

“He also expects – ow! that’s a pin! – me to make a ‘good showing’ on my finals, which I can’t do when you’re putting me full of pins.  Other girls go shopping for their dresses.” Continue reading

Saving the Cult (if not the World), Chapter Twenty-Nine

Saving the Cult (If not the World) "It's time." Manfield Lee knew he was good at sounding authoritative even when he didn't know what he was talking about - he'd turned a fortune into a megafortune doing just that, after all, not to mention running the Organization - but right now, he DID know what he was talking about. After all, it was just a date, wasn't it? And if the date turned out to be wrong, well, then he knew exactly what to blame it on, and that blame would fall on the scholars and the psychics, not on him. The other thing Manfield Lee knew how to do was to place the blame in very specific ways that were not him.

Mrs. Thompson cleared her throat.  “Now, mind control aside, I’m beginning to wonder a number of things about the leaders of our organization – not offense, young men, considering who your families are -” She nodded at Dylan and Ethan. 

“None taken,” Dylan muttered.  “You’re probably right.”

“Besides,” Ethan put in cheerfully, “Lina here saved our asses.  Lives.  Sorry.  Twice, maybe three times already.  So loyalty…”  He shrugged eloquently. 

“Loyalty is, uh, with the person – people – who value us,” Dylan filled in very softly.  “I think I hear my dad ahead, though, so maybe we talk about loyalty some time when it won’t get me disowned?”  Continue reading

A Matter of State

Malina & Matters of State

This comes after the current story as of today in Malina & the Border Banners, assume it’s a side story.

This was prompted in my Bisexual Visibility Day prompt call.

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“There are things you will need to consider as the Queen of this place.”

The sand-cat paced on the desk, lecturing the girl, who had been named Malina Serafina Anastazja Dominika Naveed Jeleń nic Cecília O Alexandre, but who we will call Malina for the purposes of this story. “There are many things about which you will need to learn,” the cat continued. 

“The borders.”  Malina nodded slowly.  “Yes.  And war.  And the magic, right? I don’t know anything about the magic yet.  And – and the – how these worlds are connected and -“

She felt like she was just beginning her studies again, like everything was strange and nothing made sense and she was running just to try to keep up. 

“No, important things.”  The cat huffed.  “Well, other important things.”

“Other important things?  Cat, if I have to worry about one more thing, I might just walk back into the desert and hug a cactus.”

“Not a cactus.”  The cat jumped up onto her shoulder in one leap.  “Not a cactus, no.  You will be Ruler here.  You will need a Consort.  Or several.  You will need a lineage, and you will need to share the weight of the crown and the scepter and all they mean.”

“Consorts. Consorts.  You want me to think about consorts?”

“I don’t want you to think about them in the specific yet, no.  I want you to consider, for a moment – let us call it as a break between everything else that you are worried about – things that you would be interested in, things that a consort ought to show.  For instance, a smooth, shiny coat of fur, an upright tail, ears that aren’t too bitten by fights, a good run-“

Malina laughed.  “I think the ears are the least – well, all right, I have seen a few people who’ve lost a little bit of ear in a fight, people who stand on two legs like me, that is.  So you want me to write down what I think Royal Consorts ought to be like.”  She paused, halfway to picking up her pen.  “You said more than one.  One ought to be able to help me with an heir, of course – but do they all need to be male?”

“I can’t see why.”  The cat sat down on the desk and stared at her.  “I can’t see any reason why you can’t think about everything that would please you.  You are – or will be – queen, after all.”

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Long Game – a fic for Thimbleful Thursday

“That investment is a long shot, you know.”  The broker frowned across the table at Freida.  “It won’t pay out for decades, maybe even longer.  Now if you want something that’ll give you some money to play with-”

“Decades is fine.”  Frieda knew what the broker was seeing – a young woman, maybe in her early twenties, who was going to get bored with this whole thing too quickly and demand greater returns in the short term.

She also knew everything he wasn’t seeing.

“Well, how about we split the difference? You put half into something like this, the other half into, say-”

“If you’re not willing to make the investments I’m interested in, I can find another brokerage firm.  I don’t need money next week.  I want this money to be growing for my posterity.”

She snipped the words off shortly.  She never was good at acting the age her face said she might be.  Then again, she never was good at patience, either – in anything except this.

Except her money.

“Well, if you’re sure.  I just have this contract-”

She smiled.

She could stand having the conversation once every hundred years, could stand the ten or twenty years of tight money for each  century.

She could handle the long game for the payouts that were coming.

 


Written to August 26th’s Thimbleful Thursday prompt and 217 words long.

Malina and the Border Banners, Chapter 19 (A Story for B)

Began here.
Landing page here.

“Wait. Wait.”  Malina stared at the cat.  “Wait, some people think that Dominika – the one I’m named after, my ancestor- that she came from another world?”

“Well, many people did.  Right up until the Final Treaty was ratified.”

“Right up until – Wait.  People thought that, or – or people came from another world?” She was trying to remain calm.  She was mostly managing not to shout. “People were coming from another world?” Continue reading

Three and a Half Oaks

Based on a prompt found here.

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Between the blink of an eye, in a heartbeat, in a breath, in things that stopped mattering, the world stopped – or at least we did.

People froze. I froze. Animals froze. Insects froze, I think. 

It was – when I thought about it clinically, it was fascinating.  My body didn’t hunger, didn’t ache, didn’t have any needs.  My eyes didn’t dry out.  I’d been sitting in the park.  The others in the park seemed the same – stuck in a single moment.  They didn’t fall over, even if in mid-jog.  The squirrel hung in mid-climb.  The ducks stopped in mid-nibble. 

Nothing moved.  Nothing but plants.  Nothing died, nothing rotted, nothing breathed, nothing but plants.  Continue reading

The Bellamy, Chapter 21

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The Fillion wasn’t as old as the Bellamy, or as big (assuming one could in any way actually gauge the size of a place like the Bellamy, which Veronika was beginning to believe that one – at least when one was her – could not), but it had its share of new-construction oddities, doors which led to tiny triangular closets which happened to have siding on one wall, because at one point that had been the outside, stairways which led nowhere and were used as, again, a closet, this one room in the basement which had once been a parlor on the first floor and now was used for the junior archivists’ break room – finding it two days in a row was one of the tests of actually being an archivist. 

It also had a couple ghosts, of course – any place that collected artifacts would end up with at least one eventually. 

Standing in the passageway with its ancient file cabinets and its dusty ghost, Veronika wasn’t sure if the whole scene made her feel more at home – she’d definitely made a place for herself when she was at the Fillion, after all – or even more outclassed.  Continue reading

Saving the Cult (if not the World), Chapter Twenty-Eight

Saving the Cult (If not the World) "It's time." Manfield Lee knew he was good at sounding authoritative even when he didn't know what he was talking about - he'd turned a fortune into a megafortune doing just that, after all, not to mention running the Organization - but right now, he DID know what he was talking about. After all, it was just a date, wasn't it? And if the date turned out to be wrong, well, then he knew exactly what to blame it on, and that blame would fall on the scholars and the psychics, not on him. The other thing Manfield Lee knew how to do was to place the blame in very specific ways that were not him.

I just want to, you know—

Save the world?

“Um.”  Lina cleared her throat.  “Something like that, yeah, I guess.  I mean, the city?”  She shrugged.  Someone grabbed her shoulder; she pressed them away with a shield and turned to glance.  “Mrs. Thomson?”  She was staring at her English Lit teacher from junior year.  “I didn’t know you were part of the Organization.”

“Catalina, you need to go to the training session.  You’re such a good student; why are you doing this?”  

Not her.  This was straight out of one of her weirder nightmares.  Lina was going to scream.  She was going to start throwing things. 

She didn’t have the time or luxury to do that.  Continue reading

Malina and the Border Banners, Chapter 18 (A Story for B)

Began here.
Landing page here.

In a castle that shouldn’t be, in a place that wasn’t, a girl named after too many things ran her hands over the carvings in the sandstone and tried to read them. 

She could tell they meant something, but what they meant – that was beyond her.  Wait. 

“Wait.”

She ran her fingers over it again.  “It’s – Oh, I can almost read it,” she murmured.  “I can almost feel the weave in it.  The – oh.”  She pulled her fingers away.  “It’s like reading a language that is close to one you know, but is just different enough to be obnoxious.” Continue reading