Funerary Rites 30: Adjustments


Ezer cleared his throat. “How likely is this to interfere with our business?”

“I think,” Senga admitted quietly, “that it’s already doing so.  I think that whatever happened with that job the other day, it was probably family-related – my family.  I mean, unless you or Allayne have come up with enemies lately that you haven’t told me about.”

“What about Chitter?”  Erramun looked between the two of them, ignoring the staff for the moment.

Ezer snorted. “She just makes online enemies.  They’d hack the house – one of them made the icemaker spew ice all over the kitchen once – but they don’t generally sink to attempted murder.  They think it’s messy and sort of below them, I think.”

“Murder?”  Candavish leaned forward.  “You’re not speaking of Mirabella.” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 29: Service


It took them another fifteen minutes to calm Chitter down that time, during which the tea and coffee – and Chitter’s soda – arrived. The maid bringing the drinks made things either better or much worse by looking Chitter in the eye and apologizing for being late. “I had to feed the moat creature, you see.”

“Moat creature! Moat Creature! Wait…”

Five minutes later, Senga had managed to convince Chitter that there was no invisible moat and no moat creature. Five minutes after that, with Candavish’s amused help, they’d managed to calm her down.

“Honestly. You could have just told me that you were kidding,” she huffed.

“I believe I did. Twelve minutes ago. Although-” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 28: Catching Up


It took half an hour to get everyone settled down.  When Senga managed to get Candavish and Erramun to stop sizing each other up, got Allayne to stop fussing over the staff’s uniforms, which, it appeared, had a fashion of their own, got Ezer to stop whining and acting like his head was going to explode, and got Chitter to stop looking for trap doors from which the staff could have arrived – all of this while trying to ignore her own pounding heart and the confused twist in her chest – she sat down with a thump in the Casual Lounge.

“I…  Okay. Candavish, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Collier, please come sit with us.  Could, ah, someone get me some coffee? Coffee, everyone?”

Her crew were looking at her like she’d grown a second head.  “Okay, Allayne will have black tea with a hint of mint, if we have it.  Ezer drinks his coffee with enough cream and sugar to bring it to beige caramel.  I drink mine black with one ice cube. Chitter likes soda; if you don’t have that, she’ll have water.  Erramun?”

He looked surprised she was asking his opinion. “Black tea,” he managed.

“Black tea.  Thank you.”

One of the younger maids – younger than her! – scurried off. Continue reading

Funerary Rites 27: Company


It would have been nice to sit there with Erramun for a while — perhaps forever, and certainly at least for a few minutes.  Senga knew she was feeling a little raw about the whole mess and she imagined that Erramun was not feeling particularly better.  The way he kept on reaching up to touch his neck, the way that he would look sidelong at her as if expecting something — what, she hadn’t figured out yet.  Orders? Complaints? — the way he’d reacted when she’d shown him his room…

She couldn’t afford to baby him any more than she could afford to be afraid of him.  But still… She waited until he had dropped his hand again and then brushed her fingertips over the marks around his neck.  “I think it goes well with you. It looks like you looked the first time I met you—” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 26: Owned


Erramun shifted on his knees but didn’t stand.  He didn’t look at her, didn’t move to touch the ink.  He seemed to be staring off into space.

Senga walked around behind him and brushed a feather-light touch over his shoulders.  

He twitched and leaned forward, away from her touch.  She moved her hands and moved back around in front of him.

His hands had come to clasp behind his back.  His eyes looked blank. Senga frowned. “Errmun?”

“Yes, mistress?”  His voice was rough and very quiet.  He looked like he was holding himself forcibly still.

“Senga,” she corrected.  “Erramun, what’s wrong?”

“Everything is fine… mistress.”  His shoulders were tight. She wanted to touch him again, but it seemed like it was hurting him. Continue reading

Funerary Rites 25: Marked


Senga showed Ezer the back staircase for his side of the rooms, made certain Allayne was doing something reasonable and not fighting with anyone, and then, after a couple deep breaths, headed back to what had been her grandmother’s suite with Erramun.

After a brief reconnaissance, Senga opened up the room next to her newly-redecorated bedroom.  “It’s not the biggest room, but I think it will hold your things and anything else you want to bring here.”  She gestured in. “All yours.”

She was not expecting Erramun to freeze, nor the very slow movement he made towards the room after searching her face for – for something she couldn’t quite guess at.  After a moment, he growled quietly. “Three exits.”

“Two.  And the windows.  That door is a closet…. no, three,” she corrected.  “The closet has a stairway up to the attics.”

“Four exits.”   He moved slowly into the room, as if trying to keep an eye on her, and opened the windows.  They opened – it made a little noise of protest, but her family had always been pretty good at Preserve Workings – as all the second-floor windows did, more than wide enough for his wide shoulders and lanky body.

He left the window open and went to the door on the far side of the room.  It opened into, as she had said, a closet. He found the stairway and left that door open as well.  Then he paced to the door to the hallway, opened that, and left it open. Continue reading

Funerary Rites 24: Arrangements


When they left the master suite – Erramun had redecorated the bedroom into shades black and blue that made it feel much more like a space Senga lived in and had somehow made it smell fresh and aired-out and not at all musty – they found Chitter and Ezer arguing over the other wing of the upstairs.

“Senga!” Ezer called.  “Tell Chitter that I need this space to coordinate the three of you on your ridiculous death-defying missions!”

“Senga,” Chitter whined, “tell Ezer that I need all this space for my computers!”

“Guys…”  Senga looked between them.  “There’s literally two wings of residential space, not counting the servants’ quarters in the back.  There is literally room for each of you to have a floor of a wing to yourself. Why do you need this space?”

“The view” they answered as one.  Then Ezer added, a little sulkily, “Allayne got the wing below yours.  And that’s the next nicest.” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 23: Home


Erramun stepped through the door, looked back at her, and looked back into the room.  “There is nothing particularly troubling, unless you count the decorating.” He wrinkled his nose.  “That, on the other hand, is fairly disturbing.”

Senga stepped in, grateful for the small humour.  “I don’t think my Grandmother did anything but renew the Preserve Working on things that her grandmother had chosen.  As far as I know, it’s not tied in to any legacy or anything…”

Her grandmother’s grandmother had preferred pink floral chintz and an everything-matches set-up that made the room look something like the inside of a pepto bismal bottle.  But everything was still intact: the bed with its pink chintz canopy and excessive decorative pillows, even with the hollow where her grandmother’s dogs had slept at the foot of the bed; the Queen Anne furnishings that had been painted just as pink as everything else, the wide windows with their matching curtains, valances, fringed… things…. Continue reading

Funerary Rites Twenty-Two: Baggage

First: Funeral
Previous: Home


Senga looked around.  The place was not as bad as she’d expected.  It was dusty, but the broken furniture had been moved.  The grand ballroom stood open and bare of furniture, one of the two wide staircases blocked off.  There were no bloodstains, no place on the wall where – where – her grandmother’s portrait was gone, which was not surprising, but one of her mother had replaced it, which was far more startling.  She had never seen her mother looking so formal, so comfortably formal, even when the ballroom had been open with the giant parties her parents had thrown.

She turned in a slow circle.  She remembered the way that corner had seemed so small, so cozy and hidden, even if you could see right into it from the front door.  She’d sat there when there were parties, long past her bedtime.  And over there, they’d laid out vast spreads of food, back when this house had bragged a staff second to none.  

Behind her, the rest of her crew had opened the grand front double doors but were waiting.  She understood. “Enter Monmartin Manor, and make it yours.  As Crew, this house is every bit as much your home as it is mine.  As family, you can hold this home with me.”

Chitter gasped softly.  Allayne  squeezed Senga’s hand.  “You know you didn’t have to go that far.” Continue reading

Funerary Rites Twenty-One: Home

First: Funeral
Previous: Family


“Well,” Chitter commented dryly, “that was entertaining.  And entirely unexpected.  Senga, do you have any nice family?”

“No,” Erramun answered for her.  “Mirabella eliminated all the members of Senga’s family that might be considered nice.  Except Senga, who she chose to leave alive and actually protected.”

“Well, Senga’s not nice, she’s ruthless, sweet, and staring at me like I mean murder.  Why’d her aunt leave her alive?”

“Mirabella always has her reasons but she almost never shares them.  Shared.”  Erramun frowned.  “Someone killed her.  I want to know who.”

“I do, too.  And not just because they beat me to it.” Senga frowned.  “I don’t know, but I feel like Eaven is too obsessed with this place.  I feel like everyone is too obsessed with this place.”

“Well, move in, make it your own.  That’s the first step.”  Erramun gave her a gentle push.

“Hey, Bound guy, let the lady move on her own.” Chitter glared at him.  “You’re not supposed to be pushy, you’re supposed to be pushed.”

“And you are supposed to be moving in and being a supportive crew member,” he retorted.  “So support.  The sooner the threshold recognizes her, the safer we will all be – and that includes you, little programmer.”

Senga took a step forward while they argued, and then another.  Home.  She got her feet moving and managed to push herself through the half-open gate and beyond it, down the long, wide driveway.

“Aren’t we bringing the moving van?” Ezer asked behind her.

“In a moment.”  Erramun followed her slowly down the driveway.

The grand front garden had gone to weeds and thorns.  Well, it had always been more than  a little thorny.  The circled drive between the two flanking wings was cracked.  She muttered a Repair Working at the worst of the cracks and watched it seal up under her feet.  The doors were closed, at least, and the shutters on all the windows latched.

“Clean up later?” Erramun suggested.  “Let’s get in the front door and remind the house that it’s yours.”  He rested a hand on her shoulder.  “We’re right here.”

Allayne took the cue, as she was so good at.  “We’re right here with you.”  She put her hand in Senga’s left.  “Come on.  Do you know what parties we could throw here?  How much fun we could have here?  Ooh, and I bet we could set up-  but that’s for later, come on.”

“I want to have a whole room for my computers,” Chitter – well, chittered.  There was a reason that was her name.  “A whole wing.”

“Hey,” Ezer scolded, “save some for the rest of us, eh?  It’s a big place and all, but -”

“But there are two residential wings.”  Senga started walking. “Not counting the servants’ wing.  “And there are two and a half floors each on each of those wings.  Chitter can have a floor of a wing.  We can all have a floor of a wing.  And then when we’re settled, we can decide what to do about the rest.”

Her hand was on the doorknob.  She held her breath.  She half-expected the house to reject her, the threshold to bar her entrance.

Erramun had gotten in, and by the rules of the fae, he was her.  “I’m home,” she murmured softly.  She opened the door and stepped very carefully inside.


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