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The Bellamy Manor Archival Library and Museum is one of the foremost in the nation, nay, in the world.  Its collections host an amazing depth and breadth of information, of historical artifacts, of documentation of life in thousands of different sorts. 

It also is rumored to be haunted – as all good archives are – to hold secrets – again, as all must – and to hide many more rooms in its historical halls than its exterior would suggest.  It’s rumored to have anything you might want, if only you know what to look for.

Darker rumors suggest that it eats new hires.

The Story

Veronika Bellamy (possibly no relation, possibly some) has been working for years to get to the Bellamy, and now she has her chance.  If she can make it through her first day, if she doesn’t spook or run away in anger or possibly just… vanish…., she will be in her dream job.

But first, she needs to get through that first day.

The Bellamy, Chapter 24

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It seemed as if everyone in the room was holding their breath – Veronika, who would have to breathe eventually, Lady Knight-West, whose need to breathe had left her some time ago, and Amanana, whose breathing requirements Veronika was not all that certain about. Continue reading

The Bellamy, Chapter 23

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“Oh, Yvette!”  Amanana’s laugh was musical, sweet, and seemed somehow almost fragrant.  It lit up the hallway.    The spectre dropped her arm, confusion evident on her face. “Oh, Yvette, did you think I’d forgotten you?  Honestly, to think either of us had forgotten you is just rude, when you’d not given us a chance to show you what we’d brought.  And for that little show you gave poor Veronika – Yvette, we’re trying to get her to stay, you know, not to run off in disgust. ”

“We’re trying to get them to stay now, on their first day?” The ghost of Lady Yvette Alina Knight-West raised her eyebrows at Amanana. “I was under the impression that the first day was their gauntlet, their proving ground. They can prove nothing if we soft-pedal everything.”

“You know,” Veronika interrupted, “I’ve had jobs that give you hard first days. I’ve never had one before that tried to kill you multiple times on the first day. If this is meant to be a proving ground, one would think it was intended to give an exaggerated impression of a normal day here at the Bellamy, yes?” A little too late, she realized she was speaking to someone who had been killed by the job.

Lady Knight-West didn’t seem to mind, though. She nodded as if Veronika was making perfect sense, which was not all that reassuring.

“Yes, it’s meant to see if you can handle a tough day here. Because we’d much rather know that sooner rather than when we’ve gotten attached to you, you see, and you to us.”

“So a tough day here can involve multiple murder attempts.”

“That would be a very tough day, I’ll admit.” Lady Knight-West peered at her. “Are you saying you don’t wish to work somewhere that has a risk to it?”

“I’m saying-” She caught her voice rising and lowered it mindfully. “I’m saying that I want to know if there’s a chance that the job might try to kill me more than once on any given day. Archiving is a difficult science, I understand, and if I were on acquisitions…”

She thought about Field Team A and shook her head.

the very well-preserved bodies of the original Field Team A!

“If I were on acquisitions, on a field team, I would be anticipating constant danger. But here, in the building – inasmuch as I can comprehend here in the building for this place – well, I must say that it is beginning to grow vexing. Perhaps even upsetting.”

Amanana’s melodic giggle should have irritated her. Instead, it relaxed her, bleeding off some of the head of steam she’d been building off.

“Oh, you are such a good fit here, Veronika! I am so pleased by you. Yes, indeed. It should be upsetting! Nobody is saying it should not – are we, Yvette?”

Lady Knight-West opened her mouth and then, perhaps wisely, closed it again.

Amanana continued blithely. “There are things that should be changed. Some of us have gotten too used to them, I’ll admit, and thus we are somewhat blind to them. Some of us simply have tried too many times. But part of the reason we – well, I – want you to stay so badly – I can’t speak for the others, you see, at least not without at least trying to talk to them – is because if you are good and you are angry, or at least, mmm, vexed, then perhaps you will have the fire to change things.”

Veronika swallowed another surge of irritation. She looked at Amanana and considered her words carefully. “You want me to change things. Because you…?”

“Because we all have reasons that we do not try anymore, I’m afraid.” Amanana’s smile was sad and a little strange.  “And that is all I can tell you on that.”

“I can tell you something else.”  Lady Knight-West cut in abruptly, moving closer to Veronika in a way that reminded her that the lady was not human anymore.  “Not much, either, but watch what you sign.  Read it twice, preferably thrice, and preferably widdershins.”

Both women – horned and ghostly – stared intently at Veronika.  Slowly, she nodded.  How did one read something widdershins?

She supposed she was going to have to find out, and preferably sooner rather than later.

“Thank you both.”

“And as for my token-” Amanana spoke as if they’d been having a much lighter conversation.  “Yvette, I wanted to tell you of a death.  A sad one, yes, but one to be recorded.”  She looked intently at Veronika, meaningfully.

For a heartbeat, Veronika held her breath, somehow convinced that the death to be recorded was her own.

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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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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

The Bellamy, Chapter 20

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They sat there, gazes locked, the trainee archivist and the – well, and the woman with horns who had been here quite a while, as awkward a descriptor as that was.

The moment held for a heartbeat, another, another.  Then Amanana chuckled and the mood broke, and Veronika allowed herself to look away.

“I believe – I believe of everyone who has come through here, perhaps you do actually see.  Very good.”  Amanana took an item from the case behind her, wrapped it up in a handkerchief, and slipped the package in a little box. She signed the outside of the box with her loopy signature.  “There.  That’s your item from here handled, and now let’s get you to the skeleton room.  I do believe that one is required on the first day.  Even coming from the Fillion as you do, they like to know that new people can handle the basics, like skeletons.”

At this point, Veronika couldn’t do anything but laugh a little helplessly. “The basics, yes.”  She considered matters. “Yes, those really would be some of the basics, wouldn’t they? Archaeology, paleontology – and those are only the ones that obviously hinge on skeletons, much less – oh dear.”  She put a hand to her mouth.  “I have really got to consider my habit of speaking before I think a little bit more, before it gets me in trouble.” Continue reading

The Bellamy, Chapter 19

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Amanana patted Veronika’s shoulder.  “It’ll be fine.  I’m not going to let you get hurt on my watch.  If One and Two were concerned about you, I can’t very well do less than that, now can I?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted.  Her eyes were on the woman’s horns.  I would know if you were demonic, she’d said“I don’t know all that much about you,” she admitted slowly.  She was feeling something – she didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t feel nice.  “But so far.” She paused, letting herself feel everything that her intuition was telling her. “So far,” she began again.  “I think that you wouldn’t let me get hurt. You’ve decided that you like me, or if not like, that you think I’m worth keeping around, and thus, you won’t let damage come to me.”

Amanana looked her up and down slowly.  It took a moment for the serious expression to leave her face, morphing slowly back into a smile.  “You’re quite a clever one.  Now, let’s see that list.  I do imagine that Miriam has made it too long again – she does that, you know, to scare off the slackers – and it’s time to shorten it a bit.”

Veronika passed her the list.  “Just like that?” Continue reading

The Bellamy, Chapter 18

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In another world, Veronika might have been a little surprised that she was having tea with a gorgeous woman with horns curling out of her skull.  In this life, and especially today, she was rather impatiently waiting for said woman to answer her. 

 Why was she doing this?  What was this test all about?

Was it really trying to kill her?

“The answer is at least three fold: If you cannot handle small things, like, say, the skeleton room, you cannot work here, because those things are an everyday fact of life in this place.  If you cannot, if not get along with, at least manage to not get in a screaming fight with, most of the members of the staff already here, then you cannot work here, because we all have to work together.  If you cannot accept that this place has supernatural elements, well, then you just do not belong here, and we would likely have given you a strong recommendation to a more mundane location.  And.”  She was clearly stalling.  This time the little sandwich she picked up was a clearly-chewy one and she took her time with it.  Continue reading

The Bellamy, Chapter 17

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Veronika considered being offended, or, at least, she thought about considering it, but there was something about the way Amanana laughed that said she meant no harm. 

“Oh, oh, that is delightful,” she said, just when, despite her feelings, Veronika was about to actually consider getting offended.  “That is such a beautiful way to put it.  I believe I am going to write that down, if you don’t mind?  If you ‘re okay with being quoted as saying that?”

The residual irritation faded.  “I’m glad you liked it.” Veronika was smiling again.  “Go ahead and quote me, if you’d like.  I imagine I can’t be the only one to feel that way.”

“Well.” Amanana’s expression went to something slightly more serious. “Well, it’s been a while since I’ve spoken to someone new.  I mean, ues, on occasion, there are new people still.  But most of them don’t make it all that far anymore.  You know, I’ve heard some of them don’t even make it past the front desk training?” Continue reading

The Bellamy, Chapter 16

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It’s never really taken anyone forever.  The woman across the table smiled around a nibble of pocket quiche. 

“You know,” Veronika mused.  The sandwiches looked delicious; they even smelled delicious.  “None of this was anywhere in the job description. And the first half of the day -”  She frowned. “It wasn’t, was it?”

“Well, it depends on how you look at it.  It depends on some other things, as well.” Amanana put two sandwiches on her plate and gestured to the platter, then to Veronika’s plate.  “How much do you want to know?”

Veronika picked two that looked the best.  “I want to say everything, but I suppose the question needs to be what’s the danger in knowing too much?” Continue reading