The Weavers’ Guild House was in Bolton Street, a block over from Christ Church Cathedral, which meant another walk, uphill and through several cross streets until they reached the east-facing brick building. The Guild House wasn’t a stand-alone building but an attachment to a house that had a workshop attached to its other side. The workshop had the legend “Joshua Weaverson, Master Weaver” over the main door, while the sign over the Guild House door read, “Weavers’ Guild, 1850”. Briony, flanked by Mr Niwa and Mr Tanaka, went to the unmarked door of the dwelling in the middle and used the doorknocker to rap loudly.
There was an audible call of “Coming, coming, wait a minute,” from inside the house, then a few minutes later as the door opened. “Now, who’s here at this time of night?” The speaker was a middle-aged man with grey hair who was wearing a dressing gown, tightly girded against the night. The dressing gown and its matching slippers were woollen in shades of red, rust and yellow, and held multiple protections against blows and stabbings in the patterns worked into them. He recognised Briony and smiled, “Miss Peters! Your cousin, Alf, said you might come by. He’s sleeping in the guest room after riding down to fetch the doctor for your uncle. But who are these gentlemen, and what do you have there?”
“Master Weaverson,” Briony bobbed her head politely, “these gentlemen are also trying to recover stolen property from our thief, property that we believe he put in here,” she indicated the box she was holding with her chin, “along with the patterns his thugs stole from my family. The problems are that we all want someone we trust to go through the contents of the box to make sure that we get all of our own things back, without any tricks or sleight of hand,” Maser Weaverson nodded in acknowledgement and then Briony added, “and the box appears to be a stolen master weaver’s pattern box.”
“We’d better take this into the Guild House then.” The master weaver stepped out onto the veranda and pulled the door closed behind him. “This way please, everyone. There’s more room for this sort of thing in the Guild House, plus that’s where the records of stolen or missing pattern boxes are.” He looked sharply at Briony at that point, but she kept her eyes downwards on the box.
Master Weaverson unlocked the big double doors, and revealed a small foyer gently illuminated by the light shed from a narrow loom-width of wall hanging. It was more than enough light for him to usher everyone in, close the doors behind them, and then open the large meeting chamber beyond. This room had a pair of the glowing wall hangings but Master Weaverson lit the partly used, yellowish candles in the four candlesticks on the big meeting table to greatly brighten the room. Then he went over to the sideboard that sat against one wall, took a folded cloth out of one of the drawers, and then laid the cloth out on the table.
After that he spoke again, “Now we can all see what we’re doing, and I’ve taken precautions to protect the contents of the box from unexpected damage, do you think you can let me see what we’re dealing with, Miss Peters?”
“Yes, sir.” Briony carefully put the box down on top of the cloth. As she did so, she couldn’t help but notice that there was a cleanliness Utility woven into the square of fabric.
“What do you think?” That was Sir Charles to the Master.
“Oh, it’s definitely a Master’s pattern box,” said Master Weaverson. “Do you have any idea whose?”
“I believe the marks to be those of my grandmother’s grandmother, Master Weaver Enari Midson,” answered Briony. “I wish to register the claim of my grandmother and her cousins to any patterns of Master Midson’s still remaining in this box.”
Uncle Lovess had brought two trunks for Kalbae to carry her possessions away from the farm in, and Kalbae didn’t expect to fill even one of them. She didn’t have that many clothes, just the new dress, the old good dress that Uncle Tomkin had found embarrassing at Midsummer, her set of summer work clothes, her two sets of winter work clothes, various underpinnings, a nightdress, a winter night robe that had been made from a blanket left behind when Great-aunt Betra had died and was now a bit too short, and the heavy winter work coat that Aunt Glythera had made her last winter after Kalbae had spent two days and nights helping the reeve find a lost party of clergy. Plus socks, one pair of shoes to go with the dresses, a pair of boots, and a pair of pattens. Given that Kalbae was planning to travel in the better set of winter work clothes, the boots and the winter coat, that left considerable space in the first trunk without even opening the second.
Then Uncle Tomkin started bringing in her tools for her to pack as well. Kalbae hadn’t even thought that she might take them with her because they belonged to the farm, but Uncle Tomkin said seriously, “Well, if you were leaving here to get married then these would be part of our contribution to your new household. If we’re sending you off to another new life, then we should make some contribution.”
“But you looked after me, and these are so expensive,” protested Kalbae, looking at the steel blades. “How will you replace them?”
“We can afford it,” answered Uncle Tomkin with a smile. “Did you think I’d made no thought or provision to you girls’ futures? Besides,” he was serious again, “I understand you’re going off to be some sort of wizard-mage. These tools are who you are, and you might need to keep that in mind.”
Uncle Lovess, who’d been regarding Kalbae’s assembled possessions with something that could have been disapproval turned and said, “Trainees usually spend their first few years finding their centre and working out who they are. From what your Uncle Tomkin has been saying, it seems to me that you’re likely to have done much of that work already, and that is important to deciding what sort of magic you’ll concentrate on. Wizard-mage,” he added apologetically with a glance at Uncle Tomkin, “is only one of the options. We’ll go into the subject more thoroughly when we return to my home. After we’ve been to Northcote.”
Kalbae looked at him and asked, carefully because she didn’t know her father’s brother well yet, “Why are we going to Northcote, sir?
“My supplier of Deadman Redcaps is in Northcote,” replied Uncle Lovess. “It’s time to renew my stocks – it’s a useful component.”
Kalbae asked curiously, “And you use it dried, or pickled, or something?
“Not precisely,” answered Uncle Loveless cautiously. “Why do you ask?”
“If it’s the red and white spotted pink toadstool with orange gills that I’m thinking of,” replied Kalbae practically, “then the person in Northcote won’t have their fresh supply yet this year. They don’t come up until the third day of the winter rains on the place where they grow.” Her uncle just looked at her, dumbfounded, so Kalbae added, “And the rains haven’t started yet this year.”
Uncle Lovess was quiet just long enough for Kalbae to worry that she’d made a mistake, then her uncle laughed. Between chuckles he said, “Oh, my dear, I can see you are going to be a treasure and formidable in your own right someday. Did you know that I’m so used to getting them this week of the year that I’d forgotten that about them? I’m sure that right now the price is five times their weight in gold instead the usual equal weight.” Uncle Tomkin’s eyebrows rose at the casual mention of gold. “Perhaps we should stop in Millward for a few days on the way, and order some of your learning materials? It sounds as if the delay will pay for itself, thanks to what you’ve learned here.” Over her head, Kalbae’s uncles nodded at each other - both pleased that things seemed likely to work out well.
Pharial had been summoned to the holy presence. Even for an angel of his rank and time in the Third Swordlord’s service it was a great privilege, a rare event for individuals among the Phalanxes of angels that served his holy master. Even more surprisingly, when he rose from his obeisance he found that he was almost alone with the god: the Choirmaster was absent and none of the Flight Generals were present. Clean, sparkling light filled the sanctum, and the Third Swordlord himself, Heraclaid by sacred name, stood on the other side of a large map table from both the entrance and Pharial. The only other angel present was one of much his own age who was also currently assigned to the care, guidance and support of their god’s paladins. Elekiel had brown wings that were permanently mottled from the effects of a vardbeast’s breath weapon that he’d survived during a battle of the Death War.
“I have summoned you here,” said Heraclaid in a quiet voice that Pharial felt throughout his being, “because my human servant, Sempleticus Lorax, has died in unusual circumstances.”
“I did not know him,” admitted Pharial humbly.
“I didn’t expect that you would, because he was on Elekiel’s roster,” Heraclaid answered quietly. He turned to the other angel, “Were you able to glean anything from his soul, Elekiel? From my point of view he was suddenly dead, and that’s all I have.”
“I don’t think he even saw me,” replied Elekiel carefully, “and neither did the priestess of Hasnor he was travelling with. From what I could tell, they could see and hear each other perfectly, but I and the angels of Hasnor who were there, four of them, couldn’t get a flicker of acknowledgement out of either of them. If I didn’t know it shouldn’t be possible, I’d say they were almost dissociated.”
“I know it happened in a temple of Hasnor, and that’s why I don’t know what happened,” admitted Heraclaid. “Pharial, Ordestia Prima is on your roster and she’s been praying to me about this. She’s there, she’s seen the bodies, and she and some religious of Hasnor’s seem to have found how the killer got in to the temple. Go there, talk to her, and find out what happened. If Hasnor decides not to let you enter his temple, then we will have to rely on her observations.”
“We have not, hitherto, been close, she and I,” admitted Pharial. “She has not required personal guidance or intervention from me – her mortal preceptors have been sufficient for her.”
“Ordestia Prima is a steady and steadfast soul,” agreed Heraclaid. “I should not like her to feel unappreciated or overlooked because she does not require as much cultivation as some of her fellows.”
Pharial bowed, chastened, and replied, “My lord, I will do my best to cultivate her acquaintance during our time together on this assignment.”
“Good,” said Heraclaid. “I’m glad we were able to cover this subject – I would not like to lose my little armoured lily because she became exhausted by a heart broken through unrequited love.”
The angel looked up, startled. “Unrequited love, my lord?”
“My paladins come to me from love, Pharial, and you are part of my response to that love. If you spend all your attention on others because she ‘doesn’t need you’, how will she know that her love is reciprocated? After all, she cannot hear me as I hear her.” The god smiled for a moment, then went on grimly, “I have already sent a messenger to Hasnor, asking his permission for you to enter the temple where Sempleticus died. Elekiel, I need you to return to the Hall of Judgement; see if you can make contact with his soul and find out what happened. Off with you both now, I have implications to consider.”
The two angels bowed and left their divine master considering a map of shifting and phasing elements that was too complex for an angel to understand.
It was pointed out to me that I had missed zero_pixel_count's prompt of "Brightly coloured cushions" for the February prompt request. Here is my correction of that error in 738 words. This is a new world and new characters.
Zistiva was nesting, there was no other word for it. She’d bought a little house, one the right size for her, a mate and a small number of puggles. Of course, not being a bgwi her children wouldn’t actually be puggles but the bgwii used that word for any child of any species being reared in their society and territory. Zistivia herself had been called a puggle as a child, and had begged her mother to braid her hair so it at least resembled the texture of her friends’ long reddy-brown head quills and underlying hair. These days she’d learnt to accept that she didn’t look anything like one of the long beaked bgwii and let her black hair float in light, feathery curls around her head.
It remained though that she’d learned at an early age how to signal like a bgwi, and the little house was a signal, but she wasn’t really sure who she was signalling to. She could take a male bgwi as her mate and then they could adopt a puggle or two who’d been orphaned or whose parents had surrendered them. She could take a male human as her mate, if she could find one as humans were rare in the Transvar, and bear her own live young. Alternatively, she could take a member of a third species, neither bgwi nor human, as her mate and they could adopt while negotiating all the cultural and biological issues. It was easier, for now, to just to work on her nest and see who paid attention.
The little house was repainted, inside and out, and Zistiva had put in the basic furniture it needed. Now she was getting the extras, the things that wouldn’t just show that she would be a prudent mate and mother, but a desirable and nurturing one too. The things that would make the surfaces soft and warm, to help the den and social areas be cosy and snuggly. Mainly throw rugs, quilted seat drapes, and lots and lots of cushions.
Zistiva was in the furnishings market, going through the stalls for the umpteenth time looking for things that she liked, when she saw the cushion. It was oversized but not overfilled so you would be able to smoosh down into it, and the cover was quartered in different blue fabrics: nubbly brocade; shaved velvet; rough silk; and textured linen. Zistiva loved it on sight and reached out a hand to claim it, but as she took hold of it, another hand grabbed it from the other side of the table. Another human hand.
Zistiva turned her gaze upwards so she could get a good look at the owner. He was looking straight back at her. Unlike her he had dark skin. His black hair was longer than hers and it had strands of shiny, dark blue beads hanging through it. His clothes were the same dark blue as the beads, and Zistiva thought that they looked like orhync-style clothes made for a human. That he looked good in them and at ease suggested that he was a familiar with the bird race as Zistiva was with the bgwi.
“I’m sorry,” said the man in a beautiful, deep voice, “But I need this – it’s the only one that’s this colour. Perhaps you could have another one?”
“It’s the only one with the right combination of textures, size and stuffing,” answered Zistiva. “I need it for my common room. Why do you need it?”
“I’m building a display bower,” he said apologetically. “All the decorations need to be blue.”
“I’m sure your harem will appreciate it,” said Zistiva without letting go of the cushion.
“I don’t actually have a harem yet.” He might have been blushing. “This is supposed to help me meet potential members. Are you sure your mate will like this cushion as much as you do?” He didn’t let go of the cushion either.
“I don’t have a mate yet either….” Her voice trailed off and they just looked at each other for a moment. “We could each pay half and then go somewhere quieter and less open to discuss…custody. There’s a little place near here that makes infusions and has an excellent seed cake.”
"That sounds like a very good idea,” he agreed. “My name is Rahnu, and you are?”
“Zistiva.” She smiled.
He smiled back. “It’s a nice name. I could be happy to get used to it.”
If I missed a prompt you gave me in February, please tell me about it. Likewise any extensions I might have mixed.
Because I have The Day Job, other things that need/want to be posted, and etcetera, there is a limit of one prompt to be written per prompter this month.
This month’s prompt request is themeless so within the rules below give me a character, a phrase or a setting so I can write you 300 to 500 piece of fiction.
Signal boosting will get you a 200 to 250 word extension to the piece of your choice. Please tell me about it so I know. thank you.
Certain levels of patron over on Patreon will get a 250 to 500 word update on a piece of their choice.
You may throw some money at me for an extension through the Paypal button below.
There are some rules.
• Please don't ask for main story Nai as your prompt - more Nai writing will happen each weekend;
• One prompt per prompter; and
• No erotica (I need to be in the mood) and no fanfic (I would mangle your favourite characters to no satisfactory result.)
Thank you for your participation and let’s go have some fun with this.
“Tobia,” the headmaster looked up at the schoolgirl standing in front of his desk. Her school blazer sported a wolf’s head and the grey pleated skirt brushed the top of knees. She looked like an ordinary fourteen, almost fifteen, year old school girl from an expensive private school. Someone had decided that her dark brown hair should be pulled tightly into an unflattering wreath around her head, and her expression was pale and tight. “As you’ve been told, you’ll be staying with us for most of the summer holidays this year. Your father intends to collect you for a few weeks just prior to school resuming but you’ll be with us until mid-January.”
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“So class, when Queen Anne died, her only surviving son took the throne as Charles III. What was he known as before that?” Mr O’Toole surveyed his first year history class and its raised hands. “Clara?”
The dark skinned Princeps student replied, “Prince George, Duke of Cornwall, because he was never invested as Prince of Wales.”
“Very good. And why wouldn’t this young man of twenty two have taken the throne as King George. Anyone?”
More hands went up and Mr O’Toole selected a fair haired boy from Savernake, “Simon?”
“George sounded like the Hanoverian Elector and they weren’t getting on,” offered Simon.
“Very good, yes,” beamed Mr O’Toole. “Under the provisions of the Bill of Rights of 1689, George, the Elector of Hanover, was heir to Charles III’s throne unless he had children of his own. There was also the general feeling that elements of the Hanoverian court had been overly interested in Prince George’s health, and not in a good way, from the time of death of his older brother, Prince William, in 1700. People liked the House of Stuart and most of them wanted a foreigner on the throne only slightly less than they wanted a Catholic. George was most definitely a British prince and that was what people wanted. He was born in 1692, came to the throne in 1714 and when he died in 1772 at the age of eighty, he had out lasted his mother’s younger brother, James, who might have been considered to have had the better claim to the throne and seen the claims of James’ sons dwindle into irrelevance”. Clara’s hand went up. “Yes Clara?”
“Sir, if people didn’t want a Catholic on the throne, then why did Charles III marry a Catholic princess?”
“Ah yes, the Infanta Francisca Josefa Maria Xaviera of Portugal. Seven years younger than Charles, they were married when she was eighteen in 1717. Queen Francis was something of a compromise candidate. She wasn’t from a pro-Hanoverian faction, and at that time the British considered anywhere in Germany to be pro-Hanoverian, whether they were or not. She wasn’t too close a relative through his Danish connections. She wasn’t French, who had problematic ties to the sons of the deposed James II. She was Catholic, but her family were prepared to agree to her children being raised as Protestants, and she was the niece of Charles II’s widowed queen, Catherine of Braganza.” Mr O’Toole’s mouth twitched into a wry smile. “It also helped that her mother’s family had a reputation for female fertility because Charles III needed an heir.”
Later, between classes, Tobia Fenwick was bailed up by her older sister, Cherie. “Hello, scruff.” Since Tobia had started at the Sir Francis Walsingham Tradecraft School, and found herself in Wolf Pack, that had been her sister’s favoured form of greeting for her. Cherie’s Savernake boyfriend, Johnathon Thoroughgood, hovered nearby. “So, the family says we have to lay off you, scruff, despite what you did to Mum and Dad.”
“Do they?” Tobia was non-committal.
“It doesn’t make what you did right,” Cherie told her, “just because they’re letting you get away with it.”
“Cherie, if you’ve been told to let it go, then perhaps you should do just that. You’re neither the boss of me nor responsible for me, so what’s the problem? I mean, if you’re still upset with me about it, then just don’t talk to me.”
“Someone has to keep you in line!”
“Again, not your job,” retorted Tobia. “So, who’s been pushing your buttons to make you think it ought to be?” She glanced over at Jonathon.
“You weren’t just disrespectful to Mum and Dad, you were disrespectful to teachers-,” began Cherie.
“It’s not disrespectful to do my best against them in a game they chose to play,” interrupted Tobia. “Besides, the likes of Mr Monk are perfectly capable of getting their own back.”
“Except you’re not being punished,” retorted Cherie.
“You’re missing my point,” protested Tobia. “Besides, Mr Monk is good at what he does – would you even know if he was getting back at me?”
“Well put,” said a dry, adult male voice. “I’m glad someone in the student body has confidence in my abilities. Mr Thoroughgood, you and I will have a chat in my office at four thirty this afternoon and all three of you will get to class now.” Mr Monk smiled his coldest smile, “I would not like any of you to be tardy.”
Tobia’s class after History was Basic Spy Craft with Mrs Morrison. A lot of her classmates would rather be in Mr Ramsett’s class where they were doing basic surveillance but Tobia was rather enjoying the frankly crafty aspects of what Mrs Morrison was teaching them. There was a lot of making things from what you had on hand involved, something that Wolf Pack students found useful in their Annex. Recent repairs notwithstanding, it still leaked water and wind in disconcerting ways and places.
There were lots of places you could use spy craft skills in Wolf Annex. It was, for instance, amazing how useful it could be to make things creak or not creak, or to make a room light proof so that no-one could see that it was in use. Being able to make your own pigments for paints and inks was useful too, because that way no-one else knew exactly what you had or to look for signs that you were using it. These things were useful because there were always certain members of the school’s recognised Houses liked taking bullying beyond the parameter generally regarded as ‘just good fun.’ If they got you and you were lucky, it was something matron could fix; if you were luckier, they couldn’t find you; and if you were really lucky you were there in a year or block of years when Wolf Pack worked together.
A year when the cubs didn’t hide in their dens hoping to be missed, but laid traps and snares for their hunters.
A changed pattern of squeaky steps in a staircase needing repair. Some extra warning marks that were there, if you knew to look.
Screams in the night after the crashing and banging. Then silence, unless you were close enough, but no-one was.
In the morning Tarrick Blaque, the oldest student in Wolf Annex and the spokesperson in lieu of resident prefects or house master, admitted, “Yes, Headmaster, we all heard a scream in the night, but when we checked and everyone was accounted for and fine, we assumed it came from outside. After all, no other student had any reason to be in Wolf Annex at that time of night.”
The Headmaster looked at him hard and said, “Blaque, you do realise that Akkerley and Lymebrough are in a critical condition and may not survive?”
Tarrick Blaque looked him straight in the eye and replied, “I know that Annabel Lane, Deb Houseman, and Giles Watt all disappeared from their beds in Wolf Annex in the last two years, and that no-one in authority even blinked an eye. I care as much about Akkerley and Lymebrough as you and the rest of the staff cared about Lane, Houseman and Watt.”
“My grandparents should be here by now,” said Parthi to her roommate Maide. “I sent them the money for a taxi so they wouldn’t try to save money and get lost. I even sent them three times what the fare from the airport to here should be so they could pay even if the taxi did the via Laniskiff con.”
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I would also suggest that this story should be rated Parental Guidance Recommended for adult concepts.
“Purple is the magistrates’ colour,” said Ordestia Prima. “It’s the colour of imperium, the power over life or death. Where is it you come from again?”
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Yannic had built his wife a gazebo in a flower garden. After he’d explained to her why he wanted to give her a present, and some further negotiation, Rensa had agreed both that it would be desirable for her to have a private space to invite guests to that wasn’t part of their shared quarters, and that she liked the gardens. There were various other advantages to the scheme as well, but Yannic had gotten his reward when Rensa had been so happy that her pregnancy support group friends had come to visit that she’d burbled quietly for days. He took that to mean that either she’d been worried that her friends wouldn’t visit her home, or that she asked and they’d made excuses.
Yannic wasn’t quite sure why Kollec had been involved in that first visit, but now he seemed to gravitate into the general area whenever Rensa’s baby friends visited. Being Kollec, he was always carrying a clipboard or a data pad, but there was a betting pool running on his intentions. Yannic was splitting his money between complete obliviousness on his friend’s part, and a certain redhead.
The gazebo was both sheltered and in the open air, so Rensa spent a lot of time there with her baby even when she didn’t have outside visitors. She and Mirren would sit in the pleasantly mottled shade and watch their babies lying on their rugs and playing. Gathoc was a chubby little blond boy who mouthed everything, especially his favourite orange and grey splotched lizard huggy, while Tyreba was a mottle-haired, dapple-skinned wriggle-pot who’d already discovered that rolling over could get her to new and interesting things. Rensa was sure that Tyreba watched Gathoc to find out what she was supposed to do next. Yannic was personally convinced that his tiny daughter was beginning to try to talk to him, even if everyone else said she was far too young. Rensa simply smiled and said that he should encourage her, because how else was she going to learn to have a conversation?
All in all, things were going well. Rensa’s nightmares had retreated with therapy, friends, and no-one trying to take her baby away from her. Yannic saw no reason to mention to his wife either the several petitions he had received from groups who had thought that they were better placed to raise the tiny princess than her parents, or the steps he had taken to tell those groups to mind their own business. One particularly vocal woman had found herself transferred to a new administration hub in the subarctic/polar transition zone, and the Emperor’s Office had received no more suggestions that she should take over the care of the Imperial daughter.
Yannic almost wasn’t there when the head of the program trying to find other descendants of the, well, gods wasn’t the right word despite the temples, who’d been part of the colony’s founding population called upon his wife. The colonial support and development specialists had been loaded up with beneficial genetic variations to help make the colony successful. Entire sets of genetic advantages that some of Yannic and Rensa’s particularly short-sighted and self-entitled ancestors had done their best to wipe out. Having committed his own errors by helping kill off the former Imperial family before finding out that this was a bad idea, Yannic was sponsoring a program to find any other descendants of the colony’s first leaders because, frankly, the colony could do with all the advantages they could get. He was present at the meeting because he’d wandered out to the gazebo, an anxious secretary in tow, to get away from his desk for a while. Besides, time with his daughter was always a good thing.
Thus he, Mirren, Rensa, the babies, and the anxious Ballen were present when Director Pollgroc, who answered to Head of the Health Secretariat, arrived with his little entourage and a small escort from palace security. The security people waited at the garden gate while the Director and his companions, a younger man and woman, walked up the path to the gazebo. The younger man was carrying a baby. When they reached the top of the steps Rensa, who’d risen to meet them, said, “Please, won’t you all come in and sit down? It’s Director Pollgroc, isn’t it?”
Pollgroc appeared distressed. “I apologise for this intrusion, Your Majesties, but an ethical matter has arisen that had to be brought to Her Majesty’s attention.”
“Oh?” Rensa looked at him blankly.
“Your Majesty donated a sample for genetic comparison,” began Pollgroc.
“But I stole some and used your mitochondria for our pregnancy,” interrupted the younger man sheepishly. “My wife has a mitochondrial disease and we didn’t want our child to inherit it too.” Rensa continued to look at him blankly and he added even more sheepishly, “It was a breach of trust, and I have to apologise, and if you are offended and don’t forgive me it could be really messy….” He trailed off into silence.
“You only had to ask,” answered Rensa kindly. “I mean, everyone from your program has been telling me how wonderful my mitochondria are – every time I meet any of you that’s the first thing they say to me. Yes, you have my permission in retrospect to trial my mitochondria and see if they’re up to the task. Did the treatment work?” She looked at each of the adults and then expectantly at the baby bundle.
“Oh, yes,” confirmed the baby’s father.
“Then you want permission to do it again so you can have more healthy children?” Rensa looked at the two parents and added, “Please all of you sit down. Especially you,” she added to the baby’s mother. “I shouldn’t keep you standing around like this if you’re not well and looking after a new baby.”
All three sat down, the younger man still holding the baby in his arms and the woman leaning gratefully against the chair back.
After a glance from the Director the younger man took a deep breath and replied, “Thank you, Cerron and I would like very much to have more children, Your Majesty. The other thing we really came to see you about is that when our daughter, Glennen here, was born we discovered that your colouration distribution must be tied to your mitochondria somehow.”
“How? Oh!” Rensa sat up straighter, and asked eagerly, “Can I see her?”
Glennen’s father stood and walked over to the Empress to carefully put the baby in her arms. Rensa unwrapped the sleeping infant just enough to see the serious sleeping expression and her arms. The tiny, creamy skinned face had fine alternating gold and olive horizontal lines marching down the nose, more fine olive lines around each eye, and a flash of gold along each cheekbone.
“She’s very beautiful,” said Rensa quietly. “I assume you’re not asking me to be co-mother, so that would make her my demi-niece, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, yes, it would,” agreed Director Pollgroc with relief.
“Excellent,” said Rensa as she carefully handed the baby back to her nervous father. “It will be good for Tyreba and her future siblings to have cousins from both sides of their family. Just as it will be good for Glennen and her siblings to know that other people look like them.” She looked around brightly and added, “We should set up visits, shouldn’t we? Do you have a mothers’ group you go to, Cerron?”
Secondly, I will stop taking prompts for the February Prompt Request when I wake up on 24 February my time, so that will be sometime on 23 February for most of you. That will give me time to finish the writing before March starts. If you haven't yet prompted me this month, now would be the time to do it.
Henry and Michael took a bus back to Henry’s parents’ house. Henry didn’t live there anymore, but he’d arranged to come and show them his inheritance from Great-Great-Uncle William over lunch. Michael was another beneficiary of the will who’d just had an intense confrontation with his childhood guardian, and Henry thought he needed some moral support. Together they got on the bus, each carrying a milk crate of things, and found seats together. Michael had to take off the long object slung over his back and hold it beside him.
“You’re sure your parents won’t mind me just turning up?” Michael sounded worried. “I mean, it’s not like any of you know me or anything.”
“You don’t know us either,” pointed out Henry. “But knowing my family, they’re going to want to know what you might know about Great-Great-Uncle William, seeing that it seems he was a major supervillain back in his day. Also, I want to see my mother’s face when she finds out that his ‘junk’ was work trophies. She and some of the aunts have been wanting to declutter his house for years.”
“I somehow think they’re not going to get to,” said Michael. “If the Masked Shadow took even half those things off heroes, villains, or universal antagonists, it’s going to need a professional curator with some sort of specialist disposal team.”
“Oh, my,” said Henry. “Do you think he had any of the Silver Blade’s equipment? He was part of that takedown, or so the movies say.”
“I don’t know if the movies are true,” replied Michael. “I mean look at what they do to Braveheat and Christobel every single time, but I’ve got his swordstaff right here. It’s beginning to wake up.”
The two of them looked at each other. “It is, is it?” Henry looked around and was relieved that no-one was sitting near them. “What’s it like?”
“Confused. Wondering what it’s doing on a bus. Telling me to stay away from the armour and the shield if I value my sanity.” He smiled. “It claims that it and the ring are safe to associate with. And it still wants to know what it’s doing on a bus.”
Henry suggested, “Tell it you’re going to my parents’ place for lunch?”
Michael was quiet for a moment and then replied, “It thinks that’s a good idea. It says I should have normalising relationships – I think that means I should have friends who expect me to act like a normal person and not some Chosen One. It seems to think that the Silver Blade was encouraged to be rather precious.”
“Well, there’s probably money in telling the story from the swordstaff’s point of view,” offered Henry. “It would have the advantage of not having to invent the point of view character; and here‘s our stop.”
Once they were off the bus, it took Henry and Michael only a few minutes to reach Henry’s childhood home.
The house itself was a Federation-style bungalow set on a corner block with a lichen-spotted roof, a verandah running full length along both frontages, and leadlight panels in both the doors and windows. The back garden was separated from the front by sun-tolerant azaleas planted on both sides of the house. As Henry opened the garden gate and stepped up onto the path, Michael said, “That’s odd.”
“What's odd?” Henry looked back at him as he asked the question.
“The swordstaff says that the ring is already here.”