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Back From Talen Hall

Written to Thnidu’s commissioned continuation of Down to Talen Hall


Do not go by the TalenHall
Where ruined Talen’s Holdings Lie

My sisters dance by Talen Hall
Where ruined Talen’s Holdings lie.
My aunts and cousins, once in thrall,
Sing taunting songs to pale moonlight. 

They were not my sisters, and yet they were.

My sister stood off to the side, an iron firepoker in her hand.  She’d grown while I was gone, and grown again in the time I’d been back.  She was a woman.

I’d been a woman, once.  To the touch of the fae lords and the beings under the hill, I had grown seven years and seven more, seven children and seven grooms.

Seven brides for Seven Brothers, Alicia liked to joke, but only if everyone was on a merry-go-round, playing musical brides.

Alicia’d had a habit of getting her metaphors mixed.  Now, she didn’t say anything at all, just stood at Talen’s Hall and stared.

Seven years and seven again I’d been there – and Alicia, who had gone down at the same time as I had – but my body was exactly as it had been when I’d left.  No sign of the babies.  No sign of two years, or five, or fourteen.  No sign I’d been gone at all.

No sign of my seven brothers, not even of the one I’d loved.  No sign of the rings he’d slipped on my fingers.

Kara stood to the side, grown hard and adult while I lingered in the moonlit lands.  Her iron poker was a guard against those who’d taken us, and against us, all forty-nine of us, who might want to go back.

“You cannot have the ones you took
They are not yours to claim”

That’s what they say she sang.  Some days I want to ask her on whose authority?

“This is our world and not your book.
Give back their pride and shame.”

And I wonder, more than anything, if she knew what she was giving me back.  My Pride.  My Shame: Then their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked.  All of that returned to me.

My children and my loves, gone sealed away in iron.

Do not go by the Talen Hill
Where Jana’s Kara holds the steel. 


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Untangling Knots, a continuation of Stranded World for @Anke

This is a continuation of Tangles and Knots commissioned by [personal profile] anke.

It is part of my Stranded World series.

There was a knot sitting on the skein of reality, a heavy knot with complex weaving that spoke of intentional tying and tangling. Winter walked away from the camp of trailers and RV’s, walked to the small town’s corner store, and passed his suit jacket to the old man sitting at the picnic table there.

“That’s a nice coat.”

“Custom tailored. But I don’t need it where I’m going. I need something less obvious.”

The old man’s bleary eyes turned sharp for a moment. “Son, you’re going to have to change more than the coat for that.”

Winter undid his tie and added it to the sportcoat, then pulled the elastic out of his ponytail. He unbuttoned the first two buttons of his shirt and untucked it, so that it hung sloppily over his belt, then ran his hands through his hair until it was no longer tidy.

The old man nodded slowly. “It’s a start, at least.”

Winter nodded. “And a jacket?”

“You wanna borrow mine?”

“Consider the suit coat collateral.”

The old man nodded slowly, and slid out of the old denim-and-flannel, with its even older veteran patches and the three bike sigils. “You run into someone from the old gang…”

“I understand. I won’t claim those false pretenses.” Winter coughed. “That is, I ain’t gonna pretend to be something I’m not.”

The man squinted. “You do that better than you ought. And with your white hair, might ought to be older than you look.”

“Younger, usually. But I thank you. I should be back within the hour.”

Thus armed, Winter bought a 40-oz bottle of beer and tucked it, wrapped in its paper bag, loosely into a pocket. He scuffed his perfect shoes in the mud and carefully removed, as Spring would say, the poker from his ass.

He shuffled into the edge of the trailer camp, his head down and his shoulders hunched. The lines of the strands were twisted here, the rope-work turning into a complicated macramé pattern.

“Hey! What are you doing about here?” Not the Tattered-coat one, at least, probably not. This was a woman, with dishwater-hair and a jaw that spoke of poor dental work, blue jeans and three flannel shirts.

Winter raised his head slowly to her. “Looking for…” He blinked, blearily. There were panhandlers on the street, on the way to his office, back in the clean city where he lived (so far from Autumn’s raucous world). He imitated the oldest of those on a bad day. “Looking for… someone.”

“Well, you ain’t gonna find them around here. Get on with you. Go.”

Winter shuffled forward, took a messy swig from his bottle, and moved closer. “Looking,” he insisted. The strands knotted and twisted around her.

“And they. Ain’t. Here.” She reached out towards Winter.

He grabbed as if reaching for her hand, “missed,” and stroked his hand through her strands. The knots were tight, but he was the one who smoothed chaos lines straight. “Looking for you. Looking for Tattercoats.”

She froze at the name, then shuddered as he found and untied a knot. “Tattercoats isn’t…. isn’t…” She slumped to the ground.

Winter caught her on the way down and set her, carefully, on the stairs. “My apologies.” He had the scent now, though, in the knot he’d unhooked from her agency. “Sleep calmly.”

Winter himself was… not calm. He grabbed the strand he’d untied from the woman, and pulled.

He would be meeting this Tattercoats. Very soon.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/697268.html. You can comment here or there.

Unwelcome Guests, Part the Third

To [personal profile] rix_scaedu‘s commissioned continuation of Unwelcome Guests & Unwelcome Guests, Part II

(I should pay a little more attention to my list; this was for longfic)

Baram and his family are part of the “Baram’s House Elves” sub-series of the Addergoole ‘verse, which can be found here; Baram is also a background character in Addergoole.

“Girls.” Baram nodded at Via and Aly the second he heard the “basement” door shut.

“On it already, boss. Jaelie’s down with the kids and Aloysius. And Aly’s been waking up the rest of the defenses. Now she can swap with Jae and Jae can get the trees ready.”

“Good.” Baram paced out onto the front walk. There wasn’t much to pretend to do here, but he could still pace.

Behind him, the girls moved. This was not their first attack, not by far. They knew what they were doing.

The walls shifted. They weren’t awake, whatever Viatrix had said, but they were ready, braced, and stronger than they normally were.

“Precious cargo tucked in.” Jaelie touched Baram’s shoulder. “Aloysius has rear guard.”

“Good.” Baram didn’t have to like the useless thing to admit he could come in handy. “Trees?”

“They’re good trees, aren’t they?” She stroked the trunk of one of the front-gate flanking plants. “My favorite trees.”

Baram suppressed a shudder. Hawthorn trees weren’t supposed to be that big, and they were not suppose to /purr./ “Good trees,” he agreed. “Almost here.” The dust was rising on the horizon. “Inside.”


“Inside. Might not be a fight, best to find out.”

She sighed. “Inside, yes, boss.” She slipped out of sight just as the motorcycles roared into view.

Baram did his best to look casual. There was a bolt that needed fixing on the gate, anyway.

There were six of them, four males, two females; four warriors, two bitches, if Baram was reading them right, but they didn’t split along gender lines. They were wearing leather, which might mean they were young – or might mean they were pragmatic. Baram had met Aelfgar and his soldiers; Baram sometimes remembered, in dreams, flashes of being a soldier.

Take nothing for granted. They could even, he supposed, be just wandering through. Since the world had started ending, they had definitely seen odder things.

“Afternoon.” He nodded at them, doing his best to seem normal-and-human. Normal-and-human was not an easy setting for him, but these were people riding large motorcycles and hung with weapons. Their bar was a little lower than people in suits in glassy offices.

“We’re looking for a pair.” The leader – probably female, hard to tell, didn’t matter much in this case anyway – snarled it out without even bothering with the pretense. “One male, one female, skinny. They came this way.”

Baram shook his head. “Haven’t seen anyone like that.”

The leader narrowed her eyes and glanced, briefly, at the man Baram had tagged as her bitch. He paled, closed his eyes, and murmured incoherently.

“They’re near. I promise it, I swear it.”

“You lie.” It wasn’t clear whether the woman was talking to the man or to Baram. It didn’t matter; she was drawing a weapon. “You. Tell me again. One man, one woman.”

Baram shook his head. “Bad idea. Ride away now.”

“You, you are not going to tell me what to do.” She dismounted, and took steps towards the front gate. “Tell me. One man, one woman. And I might let you live.”

“Last chance.” He still hadn’t drawn steel. He didn’t need to. “Ride away. Now.”

“You fucking deaf or just stupid? Give us our prey and we’ll let you live.”

Baram found himself roaring, just as the trees by the gate found they could reach the woman. “This. This is a Safe. House.”

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/681233.html. You can comment here or there.

Unwelcome Guests, Part the Second

To [personal profile] rix_scaedu‘s commissioned A continuation of Unwelcome Guests.

(I should pay a little more attention to my list; this was for longfic)

Baram and his family are part of the “Baram’s House Elves” sub-series of the Addergoole ‘verse, which can be found here; Baram is also a background character in Addergoole.

Delaney snaked her way in front of Ardell, grinning, all sweetness-and-light and innocence. Baram didn’t budge, and he didn’t miss the three weapons she was carrying openly. Spear, sword, gun.

“We heard you were running a safe house, Baram. We heard you had some Addergoole girls working for you. We heard you had weapons, had food.”

Ardell slunk to the side of Delaney. No smile, more weapons. He often pretended, but he wasn’t pretending to be sweet, at least. “We heard you were living the sweet life here, surrounded by pretty things. Like the girl who answered the door. And we figured we’d pay an old friend a visit.”

Baram looked at the two of them. He glanced over his shoulder – very briefly – at Alkyone. He looked back at people who had been, if not his friends, his allies.

The next words came easily to him. “Who are you?”

They shared a look. A look, and then Delaney’s shoulders shifted, and Ardell took a step backwards. “We’d heard…” Ardell frowned. He looked actually bothered. “We’d heard you forgot things.”

“Did you really forget us?” Delaney did a believable pout. “After everything we went through together?”

Ardell picked up on the cue. “Yeah, man, all that time together in school, we were like crew. We were solid friends. And you forgot all of that?”

How much of it did they mean? Baram shrugged. “Forgot most things. Jaelie remembers for me.”

“This is Jaelie?” Delaney waved her fingers. “Hi. We’re old friends of Baram’s, like we said.”

“No.” Alkyone’s voice was hard. “I’m Alkyone. Jaelie is elsewhere.”

“Elsewhere.” Delaney sneered the word out. “Aren’t you cute? And I bet you think you’re smart, too. Move over, chica. We’re here to visit our old friend, Baram.”

“Alkyone is a new friend.” Baram spoke slowly, the way he could remember talking, sometimes, when he was having a bad day, “one of those episodes,” Jaelie called them. “Alkyone lives here.”

“Well, of course she does.” Ardell took Delaney by the shoulders and pushed her out of the way – carefully, Baram noted; there was no violence in the way they handled each other. “And you do, too, right, buddy? Remember how we said we’d always open our doors to each other?”

“Don’t remember you.” He remembered the conversation Ardell was talking about. Ardell and Del, Ib and Rozen and Baram. Baram remembered saying nothing, shaking no hands, just sitting back with someone pretty curled on his lap and watching them talk.

Baram wondered how much of the rest of his Addergoole experience he remembered differently, like the spider-girl and her horrified memories of him. But this was different; this was lies.

“Of course you remember us.” Ardell’s voice was getting sharp. “Of course you’re going to let us in. Baram, come on, think of all the things I’ve done for you. How much fun you had with my Kept over the years. How much fun you could have with my Kept now.”

“You have Kept?” That was a different matter.

“Boss. Trouble on the horizon.” Viatrix came up on Baram’s other side. “Looks like bad trouble, too. The alarms caught seven.”

The alarms had been the girls’ idea and mostly their implementation; Baram’s house wasn’t the only group of people still living here, but they were the most combat-ready and, in other ways, the most vulnerable. Kids made you weak, but in weird and strong ways.

“First alarms?” The first alarms were four miles out. Plenty of time.


That was harder; the second were two miles out.

A glance back at their unwelcome guests showed Ardel’s shoulder’s tense and Delaney trying to press herself as close to the threshold as possible. “Come on, Baram, you’ve got to let us in. For old time’s sake. For when we were friends.”

“Boss. They’re trouble.” Alkyone’s voice held warning. “And they’re bringing trouble here.”

Del’s voice shifted to nasty again. “And do you think they’ll care if you have actually helped us? No, they will take you down one way or the other.”

“You brought enemies to our door?” Baram didn’t need to look to know that Via and Alkyone were now holding their weapons. Via’s voice told him everything he needed. “You brought hunters here, to our safe haven?”

“It’s not yours, bitch.” Ardel had lost the last semblance of courtesy and niceness. “It’s our friend’s. Baram’s.”

“I think you’re under a misapprehension-” Alkyone began, but Baram had had enough of the back-and-forth, especially with potential hunters on the way.

“Their house, my house, our house. Not yours. Get in back. Basement doors by apple tree.” Baram pointed. “Stay there if you want to live.”

“So you remember us, buddy?” Ardel’s smile was back as fast as it had left.

“No.” Best to keep up the lie. “Get in basement. Fast.”

The door by the apple tree didn’t lead to the house basement, but the hidey hole there was safe, protected by Baram’s threshold…

…and a bit of a trap. Another thing Ardel and Delaney didn’t need to know until they were in there.

Luckily, nobody expected that sort of thing of Baram. They moved – fast.

On the horizon, Baram was beginning to be able to make out an oncoming enemy.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/675139.html. You can comment here or there.

Had to be Done

This is [personal profile] rix_scaedu‘s commissioned continuation to What was Right, which was a continuation of Bowen’s Summer, Continued, which was a continuation of July Linkback Story. It takes place between Years 5 & 6 of the Addergoole School

…Bowen knocked anyway. Some things, you really didn’t have any choice about.

Knocked, and then, when she opened the door, knelt on one knee. “Kailani cy’Regine, I owe you a debt of honor.” The words were awkward, but they were right. “I owe you deeply, for the good you did me. I humbly request that you tell me what I can do to repay this.”

He really didn’t expect her to start crying.

Crying girls were not something Bowen had a lot of experience with. From the looks of the rest of his cy’ree, neither did they.

He bowed again, a little lower, and then looked up at her. “What…?”

“Kai, honey, what’s wrong?” Conrad appeared behind Kailani in the doorway of their cottage. “…Oh.” His cold expression took in all four of the cy’Fridmar on the porch. “It’s summer time, guys, don’t you have a hobby?”

“No, no, it’s okay.” Kailani patted Conrad’s arm a few times. Bowen noticed the flummoxed look on Conrad’s face before he noticed that the guy was still wearing a collar. “They’re not doing anything wrong.”

“Kai. You’re crying. You don’t cry.”

“He said… he said…”

“I said thank you.” Crying girl. Okay. Bowen could deal with this, really. “Well, I said that I owed her, but ‘thank you’ was part of that.”

“Took you long enough.” Conrad’s glare was not being at all mitigated.

“Conrad.” Kai patted his arm again. “It’s okay.”

“You weren’t expecting anything, were you?” Phelen had slurked up behind Bowen while he watched this so-awkward interchange.

Kai shook her head. “No. Everyone…” She glanced at Conrad and fell silent.

Phelen filled in the blanks. “Addergoole is full of takers. You broke the script, and that made many people angry.”

Kailani nodded. Conrad’s frown slowly faded. “She played with the big dogs.”

“We know.” Rozen’s rumble of a voice was almost a laugh. “We were there.”

Bowen watched Kailani look over his head at Rozen and Baram. “I remember.” There was something in her voice, and then it was gone when she looked at Bowen. “You look… you look good.” She somehow made that a question.

Conrad looked back at Bowen, sharply now. “You do. Happy, and you’ve got your color back.”

Bowen shrugged. “Lots of time outside. Nice to see the sun.” He didn’t realize he was smiling until he felt the way “sun” tasted on his lips.

Kailani smiled, too. “It is. It’s hard to go back inside at the end of the day.” She tilted her face upwards for a moment, eyes closed.

When the moment had stretched from reasonable to a little-too-long, Conrad coughed. Kai looked back at Bowen. “What brings you to Addergoole in the middle of the summer, then?”

“Uh.” He glanced back at his cy’ree. “Rozen brought me.”

“Oh. Oh?”

“I brought him to say thank you. Then we’re going to take a road trip.” Rozen was speaking a little more slowly, Bowen noticed, and enunciating carefully. Kai wasn’t stupid – she was supposed to be the smartest person in their Cohort.

“Oh.” Right now, she looked like she needed smaller words. “Well, have fun.”

Phelen laughed. “Yeah.” Yeah? “Yes, Kailani, it was that big of a deal. You faced down Agatha to get Bowen out of a bad situation.”

“He repaid the favor.”

“He repaid the favor, but not the bravery.” Phelen bowed. “Now he’s repaying it all.”

“That.” Bowen nodded. “You did a bigger thing than I did.”

Kailani made an expression that was probably a smile. “Somebody had to.”

“And you did it.”

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/564874.html. You can comment here or there.

K for kleptēs, a continuation of the Giraffe Call (@rix_scaedu)

For Rix_Scaedu‘s commissioned continuation of K for Stolen Karma.

Kyrie was in a panic. A true, honest-to-goodness freak-out panic. He pulled against the ropes, even though they were cutting into his wrists, tugged and yanked and just gave in to the hysteria. He shouted at the woman, incoherent nonsense that really boiled down to “let me go, let me go, I’ll do anything, just let me go.”

She stopped his screams with a kiss that left him almost choking on her tongue. “If you are not quiet, I will make you be quiet.”

It took a moment for that to get through the panic, and then Kyrie shut his mouth and nodded. When she seemed unlikely to rip any part of him out (She had claws. And when she had kissed him, her teeth had been far too sharp), he swallowed, and tried words. “You stole me?”

“I did.” She rested her hand possessively on his stomach, the tips of her claws just beginning to pierce his skin. Kyrie fought to hold still. “As I said, Karma is a bitch.”

“So… when I steal things.” He swallowed, and tried again. “If I stole things, I would sell them. Fence them, I guess.”

“There are people I know who move stolen goods – and stolen people. I could, indeed, fence you.”

Kyrie had gone still, and not just because of the claws breaking his skin. “You don’t sound like that’s what you want to do.” Please, don’t let it be what she wanted to do.

“No. You’re correct. But I’m not sure you wouldn’t prefer being fenced.”

Kyrie swallowed. This was not going well. “I’m sure we can work out some sort of deal…” When in doubt, bargain. “Did I steal something from you in the past? Something you want back?”

“Honey, if you’d manage to steal from me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. You’d be trying to negotiate with worms, if anything.”

He couldn’t help but shudder, driving her claws deeper into his stomach. He’d had marks get angry before, but that was nothing like this. They’d yell, they’d swear, they’d threaten to call the police. Nobody had ever told him, cold-blooded and entirely serious, that he could be dead.

Then again, he’d never been stupid enough to steal from a Kin before, as far as he knew.

She was watching him, licking her lips. He had to say something. He had to keep her talking. If she was talking, she wasn’t eating him. “What are you going to do with me?” That, he considered, might not have been the best choice of conversational topics. On the other hand, it was near and dear to his heart – and the intestines her claws were getting closer to.

“You’re a very good thief, are you not? And, from what I’ve heard, an even better blackmailer.”

“I do those things.” No use in denying it.

“It’s a rush for you? Like the kill?” Her tongue kept darting out, brushing against her lips.

“You could call it that.” He shrugged, barely a twitch of his shoulders – he couldn’t do much else, but he wanted her thinking of anything but the blood on his stomach. “I think of it like base jumping, or any other extreme sport. It is a rush, yeah.”

“Very good.” She leaned down until her lips brushed against his throat. “Then, little thief, you are going to work for me now. And I’ve got the adrenaline rush of a lifetime for you.”

Watching her, feeling her sharp teeth against his throat, Kyrie was pretty sure he’d have preferred being fenced.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/530235.html. You can comment here or there.

I for the Interloper, a continuation for the April Giraffe Call (@Rix_Scaedu)

For Rix_Scaedu‘s commissioned continuation of I for the Individual.

The hardest part of negotiating with the elves, Irene soon realized, would be keeping a straight face.

They were so young. Not as individuals (ha), but as a unit, as a culture. They had, it seemed, no memory at all, no records at all, of the time before the Disaster. Nothing but road signs, which they had taken as icons of their new world.

Irene’s people, the Arista, were not so young, nor was she herself so young, that the time before had faded. They had records, and, more than records, they had stories.

The elves had none of that. They had no oral history, no written word at all.

(Not quite accurate, she later learned. Many of them had developed their own alphabets, often working off of the shapes on signs. But their reach for complete individuality made any organized… well, anything… difficult if not impossible.)

“Haven’t you encountered outsiders before?”

“Our beliefs forbid it.” Iancu had ended up being the unfortunate spokes-elf for the group; it was his job to take to each individual the proposals that Irene put forth and attempt to reach some consensus. Today, Irene had felt bad for him and, instead of trying to move forward on the treaty, she was instead asking him questions. Those, she thought, he could handle without a committee.

“But your beliefs didn’t stop me from walking into your grove. They wouldn’t have stopped the Arista from making war on your forest.”

“Our beliefs forbid strangers.” Iancu got that peculiar shoulder-shrug that Irene was beginning to recognize as cognitive dissonance.

It took Irene a moment to process this. “You beliefs forbid strangers.” She thought, perhaps, that repeating it might make it make more sense. It only made it odder. “How do you… what do you do?

Iancu seemed to understand her question, which was good, because Irene wasn’t entirely certain that she did. “There are caveats in our beliefs. An individual may choose to step outside of the rules and beliefs – because the individual is more than any of those things, of course-“

“Of course.”

“-and, in doing so, deal with situations which our current rules don’t handle. Normally, we find a new icon to deal with this situation.”

“So… how did you end up talking to me?”

“I was the one who met your eyes, and thus I had to put aside my belief that you did not exist, could not exist, and speak to you.”

“And the others?”

“We are working on a new icon, to handle the situation so that we can speak to…” Iancu’s hands twitched. “To people who should not exist. We should have it done, soon.”

Irene thought about all of the things that the elves had attempted to work on in tandem. “I believe that, as an outsider who does not exist, I may be able to provide a solution. Do you have supplies on which I could paint an icon?”

Iancu hesitated. Irene did not blame the poor elf; she had, after all, come her declaring war. “You could provide us an icon?”

“I could.”

“I will provide you paint. And a painting surface.”

When Irene left the grove, several weeks later, the elves were still discussing the icon she had made them: Three concentric circles, alternating red and white. In the center of the smallest circle, a tree.

Irene had a feeling the elves would prove very easy to negotiate with, in the future. It was just going to be keeping a straight face that tripped her up.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/527456.html. You can comment here or there.

Waking Early

This is @Inventrix’s commissioned continuation words from the March Giraffe Call.

Addergoole East is the school run by Dean Kailani Storm; it opens in some form before the 2011 apocalypse and is a full-fledged school for fae and humans within a decade of that.

This story takes place at least a generation after that. So: 2011+10+20 (Yr 17+10+20) = 2041, Year 47 of the Addergoole School, Year 20 of Addergoole East.

Kiba woke with the sunrise, un-surprised to find her roommate already up and gone. Serenity was a work-study student; her parents hadn’t had the money to pay tuition (so very few people did anymore), so she did odd jobs around the place to cover the cost of her education.

So did Kiba, of course, although she was a legacy student. “It’ll keep you honest.” Her mother was a big proponent of keeping Kiba honest. As if, without constant supervision, Kiba was going to turn into a lying, cheating, philandering wanderer of some sort.

Of course, to hear her mother tell it, that’s what her father had been, so maybe there was some merit to the concern.

She dressed quickly – there was frost on the trees outside, and, although the school was well-insulated, it wasn’t all that warm, not when the fire had died down – and hurried downstairs for breakfast.

The dining hall was nearly empty, this early in the morning – most students would either come down in an hour, when the main breakfast was served, or had already eaten earlier, like Serenity. But Kiba liked it now, quiet, with the warmth of porridge to fill her up and the slow happy caffeine of a mug of tea for a bit of extra perk.

Her first class wasn’t until eight, but her Mentor was waiting for her out in the orchard. “You’re early.” It was clear Kavan Pensus approved. “Let’s go through the first seven Kata while we wait to see if the sleepyheads show up.”

“Yes, Professor.” Kiba bowed low, smiled, and began the exercises. There had been nothing like this back home, even with her parents having come out of Addergoole First. Of course, home had been a lot of trying to stay alive and trying to hold on to a culture that had been gone before Kiba had been born.

Professor Pensus had his own set of kata; the Seven were a set of stretches that slid seamlessly into calisthenics and from there into attack poses.

As she stepped into the calisthenics, Pensus, down on the floor in a split, began quizzing her. “How have you been sleeping?”

“My rest,” she caught her breath, and remembered to speak evenly, “has been pleasant. Serenity isn’t – is not having nightmares any more. She is sleeping more evenly, as well.”

“And Kaspar?”

“Professor.” She finished her last jumping jack and paused long enough to practice her disappointed-gaze at her Mentor. “Such things are private.”

“And I am your Mentor.”

“Yes, but you are not my lover nor my Keeper.” She fell into the next set of poses before she could be corrected.

“These things are true. And yet can I not be concerned about your life?”

“You can, of course, be concerned and curious. But it still remains my right to have a private life, so long as I do not give that right to another.”

“And you do not plan to give that right to Kaspar?”

“Am I late?” Jethro hurried into the courtyard and dropped into the first Kata.

“You are on time. What have I told you about being on time?” The professor was clearly enjoying this. Kiba hid her smile in another pose.

“Yes, Professor, I mean, no, Professor, I mean…” Jethro, who was never good at the mornings anyway, was saved by the rest of their cy’ree appearing.

“How do you get there so early?” Jethro and Clove shared most of Kiba’s classes, so they walked together from their morning training session most days. “I mean, there’s never a morning when you’re not there.”

“Come on, Jethro.” Clove clucked in amusement. “What does the professor tell you? Use the information you’re given.”

“The information I have is that Kiba shows up early every morning for training with Professor Pensus. I assume that she’s not a ridiculous kiss-up, because I’ve never seen her kissing up to other teachers. See, more observed information. And she doesn’t have morning chores.”

“But her roommate does.”

Kiba looked between the two of them, amused. “Excellent deduction, Clove. Actually, I’m just used to getting up early, and never got into the habit of sleeping in that some people get into when they come to school.”

“Farm family?” Jethro hazarded it a little more cautiously. Kiba wondered if he was afraid of offending her.

“Farm family.” Kiba nodded. They didn’t need to know the nitty-gritty stuff, at least not yet. “And, besides, I really like the morning session.”

“So maybe you are a kiss-up.” Jethro’s arm came around Kiba’s shoulder in a way that was somewhere between friendly and familiar. “Let’s see how you feel after the afternoon session.”

Kiba didn’t move his arm. She found she liked its warmth. “We’ll see.” Glancing over at his expression, and catching Clove’s in the process, she thought maybe there were quite a few things they’d be seeing.

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The Strength, a continuation of the Aunt Family for the March Giraffe Call (@rix_Scaedu)

This is [personal profile] rix_scaedu‘s commissioned continuation of:
Intimately Involved (LJ) and
Precedent (LJ)

“Oh?” The other women turned as one towards Hessa. Hessa, in her own turn, had shaded towards a sickly pale green color.

Deborah found both of her hands going over her stomach protectively. “What is it, Hessa?”

“I think I found something out. I think I found another time it happened.” She smoothed the pages with both hands. “I think it happened to great-great-great-Aunt Pearl.”

“Great-great-great…” Deborah counted on her fingers. “That was the one who… vanished, isn’t it? Her diaries went missing with her.”

“I don’t think she vanished, Debs. I think someone vanished her. I think the Grandmothers vanished her.”

“The Grandmothers?” Deborah found herself looking back and forth between her cousin and sisters. “You mean her contemporaries?”

“Oh, relax, Debs. We’re not going to vanish you. We’re your friends, you know. This isn’t like the cousins over in Johnsonville.”

Deborah swallowed, hard, and found herself grabbing and clinging to the hand that Linda offered. “So you don’t mean Aunt Pearl’s sisters and cousins, anyway.” She looked up at Hessa, to find that both Hessa and Danielle had reached their hands out, too. She clasped them both with her free hand, and Linda put her free hand on top of that hand-pile.

“I think it was Pearl’s mother’s sisters, and their mothers and aunts. I think there’s something about the family that works badly if there’s a pregnant woman in the Aunt house, and I think they do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“I think that nothing like that is going to happen to our Debs.” Danielle was firm. “We’re not going to let the grannies get in the way, and we are going to come up with a solution.”

Deborah found her sister’s confidence reassuring to hear, even if she didn’t share it. She might be the Aunt, but there was tremendous power held in the women of the family, especially the Grannies, as the younger generation called the older (but only when they weren’t listening). It did not have to be magic to be strong; the Grannies had the power of family behind them.

She wasn’t the only one not entirely reassured. “We still don’t know-” Linda began.

This time it was Danielle who found it. “I think I found something important.”

Linda, always the youngest, and thus used to being talked over, shut her mouth with a snap. They all turned to look at Danielle, who was holding up a hand-bound book, the covers looking suspiciously like home-tanned rawhide.

“Listen to this. ‘It is not that the power of the family’s Auntie rests in the womb, as some have speculated. Nor does it, as others had complained, rest in the mother’s milk.‘” She looked up at her sisters and cousin.

“Well.” Deborah didn’t want to get her hopes up. “That sounds like a good start?”

“Did anyone really think all the power sat in your belly?” Hessa was grumbling. Of course it was Hessa that grumbled.

“Clearly you haven’t heard the men of the family talk. Or, worse, some of the far-cousins who haven’t a spark of spark but still think that maybe they will be the next Auntie, or start their own line, because they have an empty womb.” Linda was getting grumbly as well. They needed refreshments.

Of course, they needed answers more.

“Keep reading, Danielle.” Deborah stood, noting as she did that she wouldn’t be able to hide her little problem much longer. Standing was beginning to get tricky, and the Grannies would definitely notice that.

“‘The power of the Aunties, indeed, of all our family, lies deeper still. After all, there have been men who have carried the power – not many, of course, and of course they cannot be trusted with it, but they do carry it, and they have no womb and no milk.‘”

Deborah set the tea kettle on the stove, and measured out the loose leaves into four cups that had been her great-great Aunt’s. “Interesting that they acknowledge the Uncles. The Grannies certainly don’t.”

“The Grannies don’t ever acknowledge anything that might mean change.” Linda, who had married a tall, handsome black doctor, might have been a little more aware of this than most of them.

“They’re supposed to be the anchor, like the cousins are supposed to be the sail.” Deborah had read that in another Auntie’s journal. “So that the boat of the family moves, but very slowly, and without tipping over.”

“Seems like that would just break the boat.” Hessa had her own opinions on matters. She always had.

“I think the assumption is that it’s just a really sturdy boat.” She pulled out bread and meats and cheese, and began throwing together a lunch tray. “Danielle?”

“‘The power of our family has always been twofold. First, in the family itself, root and stock, branch and bough. Second, in the thing that is sometimes called the Spark and sometimes referred to simply as the Legacy. The family has been carrying this spark as far back as any records I can find.‘” Danielle looked up. “Debs, what happened to the old records?”

“We hold on to them. When the family splits, like it did with Aunt Arvis, we make copies of some and just split up others. So, for instance, we have a hand-made copy of Aunt Fortune’s diaries, but we don’t have her Aunt’s diaries at all anymore.”

“It seems like we ought to digitalize it.” Linda frowned. “Or is that against the Auntie creed?”

Deborah clasped her hands over her belly. “I don’t believe I’m one to stand on tradition. Dani, is there more?”

Danielle frowned at the page. “‘The thing,‘” she read, “‘that one must always remember about this spark, the reason that, like cloistered monks and nuns, the holder of our power is always virgin, always female, always childless, is that it is only in our control because of concentration. The moment that concentration fails, we run the risk of doom.'”

“Oh.” Deborah curled around herself, unwilling, for the moment, to pretend to be strong. “Oh.”

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