Tag Archive | character: beryl

2 Turtle… Worlds

Happy holidays once again to all of my lovely readers!

🎁

2 Turtle… Worlds

“All right, we’re going to try a new game.”

The gathering was what would be considered by many of the more traditional of their family to be unusual, possibly, given the people they were talking a out, considered forbidden or just wrong by at least a couple.

Despite her pleasure at thumbing her nose at her more difficult relatives, that wasn’t why Eva was hosting this party.

“I found this in an old diary we were digitizing. Well, credit where credit is due, mostly Beryl found it.”  She nodded at her niece.  

Beryl, as was her nature, blushed and looked away.  “I just said they didn’t say much about parties. Sure Aunt Zenobia was kind of anti-social, but not all the Aunts were like that.”  She gestured a little at Eva and the other Aunts in the room – there were three other who were Aunts of their own file branches, piles of nieces, a couple nephews, some cousins, and an Uncle – although not her own; Karen’s husband was somehow sharing the mantle of Aunt-ness with her – and, in addition, her Great-Aunt Rosaria. In short, she’d invited almost everyone who was 16 or older, who she had a contact for, who had the strength of the family power – with the exception of a couple older, more difficult relatives who would have hated the whole idea of the party at all or simply stressed everybody else out so much that it wouldn’t be fun at all.

Indeed, she caught some of her younger relatives glancing at Great-Aunt Rosaria uncertainly. Rosaria simply sat in the corner with her knitting, smiling at everybody.  Eva wanted to reassure the kids, but she was pretty sure she couldn’t say anything that would do more than half an hour of drinking in the same room as the woman might do instead. 

“So it goes like this.  You start with something like: On the first day of Christmas, I looked and I did see…”

She heard a few groans, including one from Deborah, the weirdest Aunt of the family who Eva had either encountered or read of. 

“Bear with me here.  So the tricks are: your verse needs to match the scan of the song at least a little.  It can be a little fudged, but the more fudged it is, the better your story ought to be.”

She waited: a beat, beat….

“Story?”

She smiled at Storm for feeding her the line. 

“A story!  So, if I say I saw a partridge sitting in the orchard… well, but we’re in the New world, so let’s say I saw a Quail sitting in the orchard, then there needs to be a story – did it have newspaper in its beak that was from something a cousin did?  Was it building its nest upside down? It doesn’t need to be true but it does need to be believable.

“The second trick…” She grinned now.  If this went even remotely well, it was going to be fun.  “Is that you have to remember everyone else’s line too.  If you botch it too badly, you have to tell two stories – one for the one you botched and one for your own line.”  She paused. “Are we good?”

“Sounds like we shouldn’t have started drinking first,” Bellamy complained, although not too intently, because Eva was letting them drink.  “Does that mean Aunt Deborah is going to win?”  She gestured at Deborah, who was at the moment heavily pregnant (another weird Aunt, all things considered). 

Deborah was accompanied by two of her relatives, who were there, as they said, “just in case anything goes wrong.”

Eva hadn’t decided if they were meant to be nursemaids, bodyguards, to pick up the Family Power in case Deborah’s baby suddenly made her drop it, or some combination of the three. In an uncharacteristic move for an Aunt (or any member of their family), she decided it was currently none of her business, either.

“I don’t know,” Chalcedony demurred, “I might win instead.”

The air was heavy for a moment, as they all noted that Chalce hadn’t drank a drop of her celebratory champagne. 

“Chalce!” Beryl stared at her sister.  “Mom and Dad are going to kill you. I might want to, too!”

“As if.”  Chalcedony rolled her eyes.  “What are they going to say? That I shouldn’t do what they did?”

FJayden, Eva was pretty sure, would do exactly that, but she let the two go. 

“Mom was in college.  You’re in high school,” Beryl countered.

“I’m also 18; he’s nineteen.  No,” she cut off her sister. “I’m not going to tell you who.  You can scry it if you want to find out. Sorry, the game, Aunt Eva?”

Eva had to admire her niece for the timing – to give her a way to tell the people she needed to tell – well, some of who she needed to tell; Barrow was right; she was going to need to tell her parents – and then change the subject immediately to avoid too much fuss.

“All right, I’ll get us started.  On the first day of Christmas-“ she did her best to hit the notes clean and clear.  She would never be a professional singer, but she wouldn’t shame the choir. “-I looked and I did see, an omen-bird staring from the tree.”   She waited while they all stared expectantly at her, and then she pointed out the window, where in the ancient oak tree that looked over the house, single Magpie was indeed watching them. 

The groaning and complaining was just enough to tell her that people were into the idea and not enough for her to come up with another story.  “Okay, Next?”

She watched Beryl looking around to see if anyone else was going to come up with someone.  When nobody else did, she started on in her own high, careful voice.

“On the second day of Christmas I looked and I did see: two World Turtles and an omen bird staring from a tree.”

She paused for a second, and when no one said anything she started her story.

“No shit, there I was…” Beryl glanced around to see if any of the “adults” were going to yell at her for her language, but since they’d all used worse, nobody said a thing.  “So.” She cleared her throat. “I was up on the roof of the school, with Jayden, Brett Cohen, and Michael Smith. ”  

This time, she didn’t bother to wait at all, although Chalcedony did hiss Michael Smith!  while aiming a funny look at Beryl. 

“I was up on the rooftop,” she continued –

“-Sleigh bells ring,” put in Bellamy, because Bellamy sometimes was like that, apparently more so after a glass of wine. 

“No sleigh bells; Melanie Bell doesn’t like the roof.  There I was when I noticed a particular piece of graffiti.  Now, since not many people go up on the roof -“

“- losers and hoodlums,” her brother filled in in a grumble. 

“And me.”

“…and you.”

“And me. Since not many people go up on the roof, sure, graffiti isn’t all that uncommon. But this wasn’t just any graffiti,” Beryl continued, as if she hadn’t been interrupted. 

Eva filed the names away to see if she could get information out of her relatives later.  Deborah’s life might be none of her business, but Beryl’s was another matter entirely.”

“This,” Beryl went on, “this was artwork.  And it was more than a piece of artwork, it was…” she changed the inflection of her voice, putting power into it in an impressive imitation of one of their more intense grannies.  “This was Artwork.

“So, of course I asked, because that’s rule number one, and maybe rule number two, too: if you see the unusual ask about the unusual.  I thought maybe Jayden… but it was actually Michael who told me.”

“It wasn’t me,” Stone told her, ignoring the rest of the room.  “Even if I was that good I don’t go up on the roof with those people.”

“I know.  That’s what makes it even weirder, I think.  She gestured at Stone. “Because it wasn’t you. It wasn’t him.. I mean Jayden.”

“Jayden,”  Storm scoffed.

Beryl wisely continued as if she hadn’t heard him.  

“It’s the janitor. The janitor at our school, creepy Ted -“

“You shouldn’t call him that,” one of her cousins protested. 

“- creepy Ted, the janitor at our school. He does Art and he did Art of a world turtle. And it gets weirder.”

“It had better get weirder,” Storm cut in. “Right now you only have one turtle world.”

” You know, Storm, cousin, ” Beryl smiled sweetly, “you’re going to have your turn, too. So, as I was saying got weirder.

“There I was, again, sitting in advanced drawing next to Cindy Lou Howell, and she was drawing the same thing.  Not just any turtle with the world on its back – sure, it’s a famous shape, there’s that whole thing with Terry Pratchett and Discworld – she was drawing the same weird continents, the same shape of the flippers, of the head – the exact same thing that was up on the roof. 

“Okay, sure, maybe she stole the idea, except this is Cindy Lou Howell.  Probably going to be valedictorian. Never missed a day of school in her life except that one time she got chicken pox.  She’s never gotten caught breaking so much as the smallest rule. Doesn’t even take a study hall.  She’s 100 per cent Perfect Student.  So I’m thinking…

“I’m thinking maybe it came to her in a dream?  I mean, all of the reading we’ve been doing-” she gestured vaguely upwards,  as if towards Eva’s attic, where there were stacks and stacks of old journals that they had been digitizing slowly, painfully slowly “- Sometimes, they say that when you get, well, not too many, of course, but a lot of the family or really, any people with powers, in one spot, you end up with a sort of aura of weirdness around us.  So I’m thinking that maybe people are having dreams, the way they were in Aunt Ida’s journals.

“Which of course leads me to the question… why are people dreaming about world turtles?  Because I don’t think it’s just because I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett.”

🎁

Jayden: https://www.patreon.com/posts/great-nanowrimo-31873126 

It took me 30 random clicks to get a Fae Apoc Icon… Patreon Posts

More of a vignette than a true story, a bit involving two pure-bred Ellehemaei some time not too long before The War. Verena has appeared recently in “…There is a Military Group in the Area. …”

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“I’m sorry, Tancred, but our family is depleted and this was the deal we could make.”

Tancred‘s mother didn’t look all that sorry. If anything, she looked pleased.

That was like her, though. She’d solved two problems with one stone.

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Originally posted during the run of Addergoole: The Original Series, so sometime between 2009 & 2012.

It rained at Martin’s funeral; Meckil made sure of it.

She wasn’t allowed at the funeral; ancient ancestral promises banned her from hallowed ground across the continent. So she stood outside, under the branches of the linden tree that had Named her, dressed in mourning as befit a widow, heedless of the scandal, and watched, working the Words of the rainfall into Martin’s eulogy.
Read On!


After Beryl and one Specific Boy, which is after B is for Beryl and her Boys.
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“I know,” Jake admitted, “a cemetery isn’t really the ordinary sort of place to take a girl on a date. But I figured, you’re not an ordinary sort of girl, and, really, I’m not really all that normal myself, so why would we go on an ordinary date?

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Inordinary Date – a Patreon Story

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“I know,” Jake admitted, “a cemetery isn’t really the ordinary sort of place to take a girl on a date. But I figured, you’re not an ordinary sort of girl, and, really, I’m not really all that normal myself, so why would we go on an ordinary date?  Besides,” he added, with amused candor, “there’s nothing good at the movie theatre, my friends can be a pain and they tend to eat at the diner nights like this, and if I’m going to go for moonlight and stars, the park’s more likely to have kids smoking weed and the cops like to check out the playground.”

Beryl grinned at him and made sure he saw it.  “That sounds like very good logic.  What would you have done, though, if I was the sort to get creeped out by cemeteries?”

“Apologize profusely for misjudging you and take you out for ice cream?  And then maybe down to the creek.  It’s pretty this time of year, too.” Continue reading

Love Meme: Beryl and Stone

The meme is here: Give me the names of two characters and I will tell you why character A loves character B.

Here is [personal profile] kelkyag‘s third prompt. Beryl and Stone are from the Aunt Family.

Beryl knew how most girls at school were with their big brothers.

In her opinion, much of that was because their big brothers were big jerks, but she had noticed that was the way family dynamics seemed to flow, outside of the Family.

(She made an informal study of such things, because she didn’t really want to marry a cousin, should she end up marrying someone, and so she didn’t want to be lost the way her father said he’d been, way back when.)

But Stone wasn’t like that. Stone helped her with her homework, and, once, showed her how to cast a charm so her worst bully tripped over his feet every time he got close. And they talked about spellwork together, and she showed him secret tarot spreads and tricks with the tea leaves.

She told him Maddy Spinner was no good for him, too, but she was pretty sure any sister would’ve done that.

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Even a Locked Chest Must be Unlocked – a story continuation for “Finish It” Bingo.

After A Locked Chest is Locked for a Reason, a story of the Aunt Family. To the Finish It! Bingo.

If it weren’t for the angry cat sitting on top of the chest — currently in the form of a juvenile marmalade tom — the chest would not have stood out in the Aunt’s attic. This corner of the attic, furthest from windows, chimneys, and the two entrances, was stacked to the roof with such chests, leather-clad and metal-bound, each of them locked and the keys all hung on a ring downstairs. Aunt Eva had been cataloguing and numbering them, one giant chest of diaries at a time.

Beryl studied Radar. She’d started thinking of him as her cat, foolish as she knew that was. He was an Aunt cat, and she was not the aunt.

“Can I move the chest?” she offered. “By the handles, I mean. Or on a cart?”

Radar bristled again, and then settled down, grooming every bit of his fur straight, all without answering at all.

Beryl knew from experience that fur-smoothing could take hours if not the entire day, depending on exactly how ruffled Rader felt, so she headed to the far corner of the attic for a cart.

The Aunt-house attic was something to behold, even after Eva had been sorting through it for the last few months. There were boxes in here labelled in years that began with 18—, their contents not so much detailed as broadly described. “Vases, from church picnic,” one read. “Caution: May be cursed,” read another box. Beryl avoided that one; anything an Aunt thought deserved a caution was not something she wanted to mess with casually.

“This chest isn’t labelled ‘danger’,” she pointed out to the still-grooming Radar, as she dragged the cart over to the chest. She’d grabbed a pair of silk gloves from the open box by the near stairway, and pulled those up to her elbows while she waited for an answer.

None appeared forthcoming. Radar was working on a tricky bit by his tail and didn’t even glance at her.

Beryl touched the handle of the chest; nothing changed in neither chest nor cat. “How do you know, then? g’Aunt Sarah’s been gone for, um, a while.”

Once again, Radar ignored her. Beryl picked up the chest carefully, both because you never knew how the trap-charms might be lain and because Radar was not moving from his perch, and moved it onto the hand-cart. “This is going to be a bumpy ride,” she warned him. “Um.. Hold on?”

Getting the chest to the stairs was the easy part, and Radar rode along, giving off the air that he meant to never speak again, just an ordinary cat, look, another bit of fur loose. The bumpy part came when Beryl carefully let the hand-cart down the stairs; Radar slid towards the back, shifted position without looking at Beryl, and kept grooming himself. He did the same thing as they went down the back stairs into the kitchen, where he leapt off onto the table.

Aunt Eva looked up. “Beryl, honey, I told you to bring those down a handful at a time, not a handcart at a time.”

“I know, Aunt Eva, but Radar, here, is bound and determined that nobody except you should handle these diaries. He nearly took some flesh off.”

“I barely tapped you,” Radar answered primly. “Evangeline, these books are not for childish consumption.”

“Who are you calling a child?” Beryl glared at him, no longer feeling like indulging his little tantrum. “Besides, you said only Aunt Eva should touch them!”

Radar groomed his face for a moment. “Nobody should read them. But, since the diaries of each Aunt should be read by the new Aunt, Eva must.” He looked out the window. “Bad things happen when the diaries are not read. They exist for a purpose.”

“I know that, Radar.” Eva gestured at the piles of diaries that they’d been cataloguing for months. “That’s why I asked Beryl to go get Aunt Sarah’s books.”

Radar’s tail swished angrily. “Beryl should not read these.”

“All right, all right. I tell you what. I’ll start on these while Beryl finishes up on Aunt Asta’s stuff. But if I decide she can read it, Radar, then she’ll read it.” She picked up the cat, who seemed to be getting larger the more uncomfortable he got, and held him up until she was looking him in the face. “Do you understand?”

Radar tried to stare her down, the more fool he. Finally he glanced away, as if looking out the window. “You won’t. But you’re the Aunt.” Suddenly, he was twisting and squirming. “Put me down, woman. I’m not some kitten you can manhandle like a toy!”

Eva was laughing as she set him down but when her eyes met Beryl’s, she’d gone solemn again. “You heard the cat. You get working on Asta’s early journals, and I’ll see what’s so exciting about Aunt Sarah’s stuff. All right?”

Beryl wasn’t going to win this argument. “All right, Aunt Evangeline.” She drew her aunt’s full name out like some sort of formal title, as if Aunt Eva wouldn’t have known she was sulking without some obvious cue like that.

As was probably completely fair, Eva ignored her to turn her focus on the chest. Beryl, a little embarrassed by her sulking, tried to focus on Aunt Asta’s journals, but she kept peeking up at Eva’s progress.

Aunt Asta as a young woman — pre-Aunthood by quite a while, and should Beryl be keeping a journal, too? Eva was deep in concentration over the chest, a crystal floating over the lock and one more held over each front corner. If the chest was booby-trapped, now was not the time to ask her about — well, anything.

She had gone to fight in the war! Well, to “support the war effort,” but the women of their family were fighters rather than supporters. The family had been against it. Of course. Beryl made a face at the pages and the grannies-who-had-come-before. Even Chalce was having trouble with that. Family stayed close, until it was time to split. Never mind that Berkeley had the program she wanted and wanted her in return.

Aunt Eva had the chest open, the crystals put away. You never knew when a nosy neighbor might stop by. But she hadn’t moved from her seat on the floor; she was holding the old book carefully, squinting at the handwriting.

“Aunt Boo’s journal has a cantrip for reading better,” Beryl offered. “Journal three, the blue one… what?” Eva had glanced up at her, not quite meeting her eyes. “You’re blushing.” Aunts didn’t blush! …did they?

Eva cleared her throat. She looked away, took a sip of tea, and cleared her throat again. Even old Aunt Sarah’s books couldn’t have been that dusty. There were cantrips and embedded charms for that, easy ones.

“Ah. Well… it appears…” She looked around the room, so Beryl looked as well. Radar was nowhere to be seen, and no grannies or cousins had snuck in. They were alone in the kitchen.

Eva took another sip of her tea. “It appears that Aunt Sarah has a very active life. And she was, um, quite detailed in her descriptions.” She glanced down at the page, her blush darkening. “I wonder how Radar knew.”

“I was there when Asta opened them.” Radar strolled in, tail high and looked as if he’d never had his little freak-out. “And Elenora. So you see?”

Beryl held her breath. She didn’t even know if she wanted to read Aunt Sarah’s dirty diaries, but complaining that she was old enough to would just prove that she wasn’t.

Eva glanced down at the diary and sipped her tea again. “I do see,” she agreed slowly. She looked up at Beryl and winked. “Annd… once she’s done properly cataloguing Asta’s journals… Beryl should read them as well. There are preconceptions about Aunts that I think it’s best she lose early on.

Radar’s tail fluffed up and his back started to arch. He shook himself, although his tail stayed puffed out like a chimney brush. “As… you… say,” he grated out.

It probably wasn’t kind to laugh at him, but Beryl’s hand was still stinging from where he’d smacked her.

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Turn Left Story Two: That Damn Cat

From the Turn Left meme here: http://aldersprig.livejournal.com/1005760.html; off of this story: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/260041.html in the Beryl/Damn Cat sequence, an AU.

They had gotten the cats distributed, gotten everything sorted out, all but one angry Siamese cat. The big old tom had clawed, bitten, and, when the vet had mentioned fixing, he drawn blood on four different people.

“Some cats,” the vet mentioned, “you just have to put down. You can’t leave him wandering, not knowing what he might have…”

She went quiet, because the cat had gone completely still. He wasn’t looking at the vet; he was looking at Beryl. His eyes, she noticed, were blue.

“I think…” she said slowly “…as long as you don’t try to castrate him, he’ll behave just fine now.”

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The Cat’s Paw, a story continuation of the Aunt Family

I asked for Non-Addergoole Prompts here; this is to [profile] kiarrith‘s request for More Cat.

Aunt Family has a landing page here.

This comes after Family Secrets & Cat Secrets, which itself is after Cats & Grannies. and Cat’s in the Attic.


Beryl had the book now.

Radar found himself pacing, which was not common Radar behaviour, and possibly (he was no longer really certain) not really cat behaviour either. The family needed a strong, knowledgeable witch – Aunt, whatever – again. Eva did not want to be steered, which was good. But it meant that Radar was going to have to work sideways around things.

Radar was not good at working sideways, and he wasn’t really certain if it was the best idea. But, while he had been instilled with certain values, he had not been given precognizance, which he felt showed a lack of foresight on his creators’ parts. So he had to guess.

Guessing meant he’d put the most important book in the family’s history in the hands of a teenager – not even definitely the next Aunt, no matter what the family thought, although she was definitely already a witch – and hoped that she wouldn’t spill her soda on it or, possibly worse, spill the beans to all and sundry.

Beryl was proving good at keeping secrets so far. If he’d had fingers to cross, Radar would have crossed them.

Instead, he paced, while nearby, Beryl sat with the book, a laptop, a family dictionary, and a notebook open, taking precise notes on everything she read.

Finally, content that she was far too engrossed to notice him, Radar hopped up on the dresser and slid her cursed necklace over his own neck.

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Warm Visions and Warm Family, a ficlet of the Aunt Family

I asked for Non-Addergoole Prompts here; this is to [personal profile] kelkyag‘s prompt.

The Aunt Family has a landing page here.

The day before Thanksgiving was, by family tradition, a day spent at the Aunt’s house, cleaning, prepping food, and getting everything ready for the feast the next day.

It was two things notably: It was a day where the family chose to ignore all gender distinctions, and work as if everyone was one, and it was a day in which the Aunt of the family was expected to sit back and not do any heavy lifting, metaphorically, metaphysically, or literally.

Eva was, thus, hiding out in her kitchen, with Beryl and Stone, who were ostensibly sorting the cocoas to help Beatrix & Janelle make cookies. But, since they were sorting cocoa – and since Everyone Knew either Beryl was going to be the next Aunt, or they were going to have to throw everything on its head and let Stone be an Uncle, they were making cocoa, and talking to their Aunt Eva about scrying.

“So, there’s a whole bunch of things going on.” Eva swirled her cocoa and finished the last of the milk, leaving a long ring of grit at the bottom. “The first is simply focusing the Sight in a convenient medium – the cocoa. The second is the feelings you’ve got about doing something. So.” She focused on the swirl, and smiled as she saw a cozy family scene around the big fireplace in her living room. “Cocoa tends to tell you warm, happy things. See?”

She passed the mug to the brother-and-sister team, and watched their faces light up as each of them sent their Sight into the grit. This was going to be a generation to watch, indeed.

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Family Secrets and Cat Secrets, continuation of the Aunt Family for the Giraffe Call

This is wispfox‘s commissioned continuation of Cats & Grannies. and Cat’s in the Attic.

Radar appeared to approve of the center box of the nine – although, perhaps out of consideration to Aunt Bea, he wasn’t talking. Beryl, armed with the gloves the cat had suggested and a scarf tied over her nose and mouth, moved everything with the care usually taken by museum archivists.

(She wondered, very briefly, what a historian or archaeologist would make of the family archives, such as they were. Had anyone in the family ever studied archeology?)

“Aunt Bea…” Her voice was muffled by the scarf, but Aunt Bea’s hearing was still sharp. “Do we have any historians in the family?”

“Oh, the family doesn’t tend to go that way.”

“Aah.” Beryl noted the tone, and wondered what Aunt or pushy Granny had inculcated that idea into the family. “I think it might be fun to do a study of all this, that’s all.”

“Well, but who could you show it to?”

“Aunt-” She hefted the box out of its spot and set it, carefully, on a clear patch of attic floor “-Evangeline. Or maybe one of the cadet branches – hey, how come they’re the cad… never mind. Thanks for letting me take this, Aunt Bea.” That was Dangerous Territory. People Beryl’s age weren’t supposed to worry about Dangerous Territory.

“Don’t worry too much about the politics, honey. It’ll sort itself out, it always does. And be careful with what’s in those boxes – I mean, tell Eva to be careful.” Was that a wink, or just a trick of the light?

~

Beryl had earned the privilege of a locked door with her fourteenth birthday, and was very grateful for it as she and Radar sat down with the box. Not that she thought her mother would exactly object, but her mother would talk to her sisters, and her cousins, and they’d talk to their mothers, and their aunts, and so on, and soon Beryl would find herself buried in Grannies again.

She turned up the music nobody else in the house liked – just loud enough to be audible if one stopped to listen, not loud enough to get her yelled at by anyone else – triple-checked the lock, and made sure The Necklace was wrapped in silk and locked in a stone box. “All right, Radar.” She popped the lid and stared inside. “What am I looking for?”

“It’s going to be a journal.” Radar jumped into the box, growing smaller as he did in a show of power he almost never exhibited. The kitten-size fit much better among the paperwork. “If I recall, it was bound in leather – brown and green – and wrapped in ribbon.”

“There’s so much stuff here.” She lifted out a folder labelled Family Photographs, 1910. The handwriting was a long, spidery script she’d seen more than a few times before. “And what’s dangerous about photos?”

“In your family? Everything.” The cat pushed aside a yellowed book of sheet music; Beryl had never heard of the composer, but she could smell the magic still coming off of it like dust. “Here it is. Careful, girl, it’s old.”

Old didn’t begin to cover it. Beryl stared at the cover of the book, with its flaking gold-embossed name. “Is that…”

It had to be. The family, for reasons of clarity, did not repeat names. But she had to ask again, anyway. “Is that…”

“The secrets have been lost for a long time indeed, child. Take it.” Radar pushed the book towards her. “You’re going to need it.”

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Cat’s In the… Attic, a continuation of the Aunt Family for the Giraffe Call (@anke)

This is [personal profile] anke‘s commissioned continuation of Cats & Grannies.

“Oh, hello, dear. And you brought a… a cat. Oh, you brought That Cat.” Aunt Beatrix was attempting to sound friendly. Mostly she sounded that she was terrified and stressed.

Beryl smiled as nicely as she could manage. She’d wanted to bring Chalce or Stone along, or, better yet, Mom, but Chalce had been busy, Radar was getting weird about Stone, and Mom sometimes forgot she wasn’t a Grandmother yet, so she might not endorse Beryl learning verboten information.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Beatrix. But Radar gets up to trouble if I leave him alone, and I heard that you might have some family records in your attic.”

“Aah, Evangaline finally noticed things were missing, did the girl? Come in, I suppose, as long as your cat there doesn’t get up to any trouble.”

“You hear that, Radar?” Beryl stared at the cat for a moment. “No trouble. You be nice to Aunt Beatrix.”

“Oh, no, not you, too, sweetie.” Beatrix tch’d. “Well, come in. The papers are up in the attic, like you said. They’re all boxed up. Carron and Katherine boxed everything up, before… Before.”

Before before? Beryl would have to ask Radar or Mom when she was alone. “Thank you, Aunt Beatrix. How have the cats… been?”

“Well, with That One out of the way, they’ve been… better. They’re still Family cats, and why I ended up with them this time around, I really don’t know. But they like the park you built them.”

“The park? Ah, the cat run.” That had been quite a bit of work, half of it Beryl and half of it Stone. “I’m glad they like it.”

“It does keep them quiet. Well, come on, you and That Cat. The attic is this way. Although I’ve managed to keep the cats out of there, up ‘till now.”

“Ha.”

The noise was stifled, a little snort of dry amusement, but Beatrix still heard it. She stared at Radar for a moment, then shook her head as if clearing it. “I never should have – well, that’s for another time. Come on, girl. ‘twere well it were done quickly.”

“Coming.” Aunt Bea was… different. Clearer-headed, and yet somehow she sounded even more insane. Well, she was family, after all.

Aunt Bea’s house was almost as old as Aunt Evangaline’s. The family liked to hold on to property. The family liked to hold on to everything, to be fair. The stairs were tight and narrow, old wooden stairs covered with at least three archival layers of carpeting. (Beryl and Chalce had vacuumed and washed those carpets, back before Thanksgiving. The stained floral pattern of the bottom layer still haunted her.) But Aunt Bea hopped up them as quickly as Beryl did. Age – age, in the family, seemed like it had more to do with getting stronger than with getting frail.

“I moved these boxes up here when Asta – when she had her little spell, although I figure you probably don’t remember that. It just seemed like some things ought to stay safe. And then That Cat moved in, and I forgot right about the papers, you know? Everything got a little fuzzy, if you’ll pardon me saying so.”

A little fuzzy would explain a lot. Beryl shot Radar a glare; he endeavored to look completely innocent, going so far as to start grooming himself.

“I, ah, I can understand that. Is that,” Beryl gambled a bit, “the spot in the guest room at Aunt Eva’s That We Don’t Talk About Period?” The spot was black with char, and the rug did not like to stay over it.

Aunt Beatrix snorted out a laugh. “That’s not your Aunt Eva. Is that your mother, then, Hadelai?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You were, I think, just a small baby, although that might have been your sister, one of your sisters. We never did figure out what happened, but we think it has something to do with Asta being a weak vessel.”

Beryl had already learned the trick with the grannies: keep listening & you learn a lot more than if you ask questions. She made a noise that she’d learned sounded like she agreed – she’d picked it up from Aunt Rosaria – while making a mental note to ask Radar about weak vessels when they were alone.

“And well, she decided that the family had, I suppose, too much power, as if such a thing was possible, and she started… trying to eliminate it. But you know as well as I do, child, that power does not like to be threatened.”

The same could be said for the family. “No, it doesn’t.”

“Well, it was quite a mess, and I’m rather surprised the backlash didn’t kill Asta.”

“That… that sounds like quite a mess.” And quite a backlash, if it had left a spot so tainted that no rug would cover it.

“Well, Asta was always a bit daft. I told Rosaria and Margaret, I did, that – well, here are the boxes.” Aunt Beatrix looked a bit guilty as she gave Beryl a little push. “And don’t worry your head about that stuff about Asta. She’s gone now, and can’t do any harm to anyone, not even herself.”

“Thank you, Aunt Beatrix.” Aunt Bea might be a little silly, but she was still a Grannie, and there was no going around her once she’d decided Beryl didn’t need to know something. “Are they safe to move, or should I look over them here and-” at the last minute Beryl remembered that she was supposed to be getting these boxes for Aunt Eva – “take notes for Aunt Evangaline?”

“Oh, they should be inert by now. And if not, I trust that you’re a clever girl. Just be careful of dust. They’ve been sitting here quite a while, and they were sitting there even longer.”

“Thanks, Aunt Bea.” Beryl studied the pile of boxes – three deep, three tall, three wide. The one in the center would probably be the proper one, if family tradition held. “I think I’ll move them a bit at a time, if you don’t mind the intrusion?”

“Oh, I don’t mind at all, dear, don’t mind at all. But I wouldn’t mind some of Hadelai’s lemon bars, either.”

Beryl smiled. “Thanks again.” Looked like she was reading old papers and making lemon bars this weekend. Having a normal dating life had never really been in her cards, she supposed. “I’ll get started right away.”


Next: Family Secrets & Cat Secrets

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