The Night Air: Weather Rules

It’s the morning of the last day of 2015, and I have such strange feelings for this year.  That’s because a lot of good happened, and a lot of bad hurt it as well.  I finally came out completely as myself and spent nearly the whole year that way, while at the same time I was ripped up by emotions that nearly tore me apart.  In other words, a lot of highs and a lot of lows.

The short and long of it:  I’m glad 2015 is finally getting out of the way, and that 2016 is a much better year for me.  There are a lot of things I’d like to do, and crawling out of depression whole is one of them.

One interesting things I read last night:  two years ago yesterday saw the beginning of the scene where Erywin was introduced as the instructor of Formulistic Magic, and a certain Franky Smith outta Canada asked the Stupid Question of the Day that she was expecting:  “Can you cook meth?”  Of course she can, and she began giving him a rather varied history of all the way it can be done, telling him at one point that she needed great methods because she wasn’t about to “shake and bake” like one might do “where you live in the arse-end of Deer Bollocks, Canada”.  I remember I had to do a lot of research on that scene, because there are so many different way of cooking meth, and I needed to make it look like Erywin knew how to cook.  At least we know she isn’t afraid to call someone “bitch”.

But what about the end of this year’s writing, Cassie?  Well, the current novel stands just short of two hundred sixteen thousand words.  I was actually about one hundred thousand words further along in the other book after this much time, or so I believe:  I’d have to go back and do some figuring to see if that’s true.  I know I had one NaNo under my belt, and I wrote seventy thousand words in that sprint, so that puts me ahead about fifty thousand right there.

As it is on the downward slide with the book, and if things go well I could finish this up right around the time I started.  Which would be good.

It would also mean I'd be past this part in the novel.

It would also mean I’d be past this part in the novel.

Let’s see how the meeting goes–or should I say, finishes up?

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

The Chief of Security stood facing the students with her hands behind her back. “As you’ll both be within one hundred kilometers of the school, there’s no need to give either of you active tracking: we’ll know you’re the only ones in the air tonight. We’ll have the comms open the whole way save for when you’re resting—” She nodded in Kerry’s direction. “As usual, you’ll have access to the private channel, but you won’t be able to open it directly: you can only respond once we open the line.

“Tonight’s weather won’t be the worst you could experience, but it’s not going to be fun. Screen temps will be around minus three, but there’s a steady wind out of the northwest at sixteen kilometers an hour, and that’s gonna send the wind chill down to minus ten. Since flying anywhere near one hundred kph is gonna keep the wind chill around minus fifteen, keep in mind it’s gonna be steady all night.

“Because of the weather I want you—” Isis pointed at Kerry. “—to keep a close eye on her. You may be used to flying around in this sort of cold, but she isn’t, and things can start going sideways when you least expect. Something else to keep in mind: you’re going to be flying with overcast skies most of the night, so you’re going to get a lot of light reflection from the ground, and that will make observation from the distances you’ve normally flew problematic.”

Vicky stepped in and took over. “I want you to stay within three meters of Annie all night tonight. Keep yourself slight back, but we won’t say much if you get up along side. Just don’t get forward of her position, or look as if you’re trying to lead.”

Kerry nodded. “Sure. I know the rules.”

“I know you do. And I know you won’t do anything to compromise Annie’s flight.” Vicky addressed her other students. “You know the drill: we, along with Kerry, will monitor your vitals. If any of us see you starting to falter, you get on the back of Kerry’s broom and you both come home. And if you should feel that something isn’t right, you tell us, get on the back of Kerry’s broom—”

“And we come home.” Annie smiled as she nodded twice. “I understand, I do.”

“No need to drive that point home, then.” Vicky smiled at co-presenter, then back at her students. “Okay, Isis and I are going up to the Flight Desk. You can finish dressed and head outside. Once you’re both ready, Annie, you give us a head’s up and we’ll get stated.” She waved the holographic map away. “Our call sign is the same: your’s is Salem Night Solo.”

Annie nodded as she stood. “Understood.” She began gathering up her winter gear. “We should be ready in five minutes.”

“Sounds good. See you on the flight line.” Vicky tapped Isis on the arm.

“Have a good flight tonight.” Isis followed Vicky out of the room, leaving the door open.

Kerry slipped on his leather comm helmet and fastened it in place. “Nervous?”

“Not any more than usual.” Annie put on her comm helmet and rolled her balaclava over the top. “Are you’re going to be nervous flying close to me?”

He shook his head as he shrugged on his coat. “We’ve done it before—and I’ve done it with others at night.” Kerry half-zipped the heavy coat. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Good.” Annie moved up to Kerry and kissed him on the lips for a few seconds. “Then let’s do well tonight, my love, so you can get more of those when we return.”

He returned the kiss and slipped into a hug. “You certainly know how to give someone the incentive to do their job right.”

 

That Annie:  finding time to kiss when she should be getting ready.  Then again, she may as well get those lips warmed up now, because it’s likely they won’t be warm for some time after this moment.

The kids handle this like it’s no big thing–just gear up and get going.  And that’s exactly what they’re going to do, because they both do like to fly, and Annie loves her flying the most when she’s with her soul mate.

And in a few minutes they’re going to be alone under the night skies of Gloucester, Salem, and Boston.  If there were ever a time to feel as if you are the only ones in the universe, it’s coming up.

The Night Air: The Briefing

First off before getting to the good stuff–I have a new coffee grinder.  It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, and now I have one that you hand crank, and after about fifteen minutes of cranking while waiting to eat, I have enough ground coffee to give me something to look forward to on New Years Day.  This is going to work well with my Chemex coffeemaker, which I picked up the other night after wanting for a long time as well.  After I use it I’ll let you know how it comes out, as the coffee made in a Chemex is supposed to be among the best you can drink.

Maybe Annie will need some of that after what’s awaiting her in just few thousand or so words . . .

Seven hundred words right on the nose, and it’s all talk-talk, but as with all briefings it’s all about letting her know where she’s going and what she’s doing.  Vicky’s running this show with Isis at her side, and since they have a map out for Annie to see–one that you’ve already seen–it’s time to tell her what she’s doing.

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

“Tonight is all about navigation using visual and interment flight rules, and being able to do so in less than optimal conditions. Flying at night is a good time for this, because as much as you think you know the landscape from all the times you’ve been out during the day, when it’s dark everything looks different.

“This is better than flying in bad weather, though. Given our location next to the Atlantic Ocean, it’s easy to find the line where the land ends and the sea begins, and that prevents you from possibly flying out over water, getting tired, and crashing into the ocean. In bad weather—fog, mist, rain with a low cloud ceiling—it’s possible to get disoriented and become lost. While the sky will be overcast tonight, you’ll have a clear view of the ground. If you get completely disoriented, you’ll know where you can land and where you can’t.” A faint smile grew across Vicky’s face. “Just make sure you land inside the lights, or close to them. Stay away from the dark.”

Vicky turned to the map between Isis and her. “You’re going to do a lot of flying tonight. You’re going to cover over one hundred kilometers—perhaps close to one hundred twenty-five depending on the route you take. You’ll fly out of her directly to Grant Circle in Gloucester. From their you’ll head west—” She began pointing out locations on the holographic display. “—to Gregory Island—which you know by now isn’t really an island—then to Wenham Town Hall and, beyond that, the intersection of Valley Road and Wenham Road. At each of these points you will stop long enough to take a picture of your location, just as you did during your first solo flight.

 

That part about flying at night and the lights making it easy not to get disoriented–that’s happened a lot to pilots, particularly the ones in small, private aircraft.  Throw in fog or mist and an inability not to know how to read your instruments, and before you know it you’re a statistic.  At least in Annie’s case she can stop, look around, and figure out if there’s ground or water below before something bad happens.

The first part of her trip happens right outside the school walls, sort of.  The two circles–or roundabouts, as we call them here in the States–are close to each other.  The first one, Grant Circle, is on the left, and that’s the one she’ll fly over on the way out.  The other, Blackburn Circle, is on the right, and that’s what she’ll pass over on her way back to the school.  It’s also the one they passed on their first night at school, as the train from Gloucester to Rockport travels right past–though it’s hard to see through all the trees.

Circles, roads, trains--now we get some flying up in this as well.

Circles, roads, trains–now we get some flying up in this as well.

And after these places?

 

“From the intersection you’ll head to the Halstead Danvers apartment complex—” She saw Kerry’s smile even though he was doing his best to keep it hidden. “—though there are some in this room who like to call that location Arkham Asylum. After you reach Danvers you’ll proceed southward toward Boston. Your next landmark is here—” She indicated a point far to the southwest of Salem.

“The Northern Expressway/Salem Street Interchange in Medford. From here you’re going to run into a lot of points of interest, but it’s all city over flight after this point. You’ll overfly the Porter Square Shopping Center before heading to University Strip.” Vicky lightly tapped the display. “Harvard Law School, Cambridge Public Library, and the Barker Engineering Library at MIT.” She turned to Annie. “Any questions?”

Annie beamed. “None, Vicky.”

 

This is probably Kerry’s favorite spot near the school, as evident by the smile on his face.  Halstead Danvers sits on the site of what was Danvers State Mental Hospital, aka Danvers Asylum, and as I’ve pointed out before, that complex was the inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft’s Arkham Asylum, and later into modern times, Arkham Asylum from the Batman Universe.  Here’s what it looked like back in the day:

If you squint you can almost hear the screaming.

If you squint you can almost hear the screaming.

And now it’s almost all gone saved for some of the central building.  Now you can live on the grounds and raise your kids and never mind the fact that people died in screaming agony right where you’re cooking up some quick chicken fettuccine.

One could say you'd have to be crazy to live here . . .

One could say you’d have to be crazy to live here . . .

The other half of that is for when Annie head down into the Boston–or do you say “Baas-TAN”?–and meanders over by the colleges there.  Before researching this flight over a year ago I had no idea that Harvard, Cambridge, and MIT were pretty much right next to each other.  Now I know, and by extension, you do as well.  But, no kidding:  here is University Strip:

You can almost smell the money on this picture.

You can almost smell the money on this picture.

Of course MIT is kept away from the blue bloods at Harvard and Cambridge, only because science probably makes the law and business grad light headed.

Now, let’s move on:

 

“All right, then. After MIT you’ll head to Fenway Park: at this point you’ll be the farthest from the school, and your farthest south. There you’ll rest up for a bit before reaching the rest of your objective on your way back to the school. Once you leave the park you’ll head for Boston North Station and Tobin Memorial Bridge before heading on to the Wonderland MBTA Station. The reason we’re having you fly by Tobin Bridge is so you stay clear of Logan International. Tonight the wind is out of the northwest, and that means flights will depart on runway 33 Left, so by keeping you over by US 1 you’ll avoid the jets.

“From Wonderland you’ll fly northward to Marblehead and the Naugus Head and Cloutman Point. After that you will head for the Manchester MBTA Station, and you have the option of either following the shoreline to Manchester, or you can head directly across Salem Sound. The distance isn’t that great—it’s less than ten kilometers—but again, it’s up to you. This is really the only option portion of the flight.

“After that it’s a short hop back: Manchester to Blackburn Circle in Gloucester and then turn to the north and head for the Flight School.” Vicky raised her hands. “And that’s it: you’re home and the flight is over. We’ll have warming blankets and hot drinks for you at the hospital, and after you’re feeling better you can head back to your tower for the night; we’ll do the debriefing tomorrow morning.” Vicky rocked back on her heels. “That’s all I have for now. Isis?”

 

Fenway is pretty much right across the river from MIT.  The other points Vicky mentions are well to the northeast of the park, with the Wonderland station being north of Logan International.  And, yes:  the runway in question is 33 Left, because you can use Google Maps to go right down on the airport and look at the runway markings, which they are required to have by law.

No runway markings here, just the route out of the city.

No runway markings here, just the route out of the city.

And then from Wonderland it just a forty kilometer/twenty-five mile run up the coast and over the sound back to the school.  Like Vicky said, just over a hundred kilometers, or sixty-two miles, though it’s likely going to be longer, right?

Since it looks as if Isis has something to say, assuming I don’t get wasted at dinner tonight, you’ll find out what it is on the penultimate day of the year.  Just think:  last year at this time my kids were kicking ass and . . . well, getting beat up, too.

Funny how that works out.

The Special Allowances

I have this strange, sinking suspicion that I’m going to need to run out and buy a new lamp tonight, because this morning my bulb blew out and now my three-way lamp is acting like a one-way, which is never a good thing.  Sure, why not finish out the new year having to stumble around trying to find stuff in the dark?  It’s not like this place is that big that I can’t find what I’m looking for in the pitch blackness of night.

But night is where we are at right now, and speaking of that, you saw a few hundred words of lead-in of something, and I think we all have some knowledge of the approaching event . . .

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie had known about the upcoming flight for two weeks, and her discussions the Friday before with Isis was to go over the specifics for this flight. Normally Annie would have made another, longer solo flight in broad daylight before doing a night solo flight, but both Vicky and Isis felt that given how well she did on her first flight, and how well she did when she flew with Isis, that Annie should skip the second day flight and move directly to the night flight.

In the end Isis left the decision to move ahead to the night solo flight to Annie. She immediately chose to proceed directly to the night flight as she felt she there wasn’t much of a challenge in another day flight. Annie felt that if she were as good as Isis indicated, then it was time to ignore the current learning scale and move up one more level . . .

Vicky and Isis finally entered the Ready Room, closing and locking the main door behind them, as well as making certain the locker room doors were sealed as well. She’d already made Kerry aware that this meeting was considered immensely private, and she had warned him the weekend before that they were not to discuss the matter with other students at all. As Isis told Annie, if anyone asked about her next solo flight, all either of them were to say was upcoming.

The women made their way to the front of the room, and while Isis took her place next to the center podium, Vicky turned the lighting down by half and activated the holographic map. Only once everything to was to her liking did she take the podium and address the other girl in the room. “How you feeling, Annie?”

“I feel good, Vicky.” She ran her the fingers of her left hand lightly over the fur collar of her coat’s hood. “I’m eager to start.”

 

Whenever you ask Annie if she wants to try something that she’s not perhaps ready to do, you may as well throw a whole lotta meat into the bear pit and ask them not to eat.  Annie’s natural state f learning is to push things right to the wall, and since she’s done nothing but that since coming into Salem, it only makes sense that if you want to move her on to a more difficult event, she’s gonna run at that with extreme passion.

It seems, however, like there’s something big going on, and Vicky gets to that part right away:

 

“I’ll bet you are.” Vicky was smiling as she turned to Isis. “We’ll see if your enthusiasm remains high after you hear what awaits you outside the walls tonight.

“First off, allow me to address the need for secrecy on this flight. Tonight it’s going going to be you two—” She pointed at both students. “—and that makes you the first B Levels to go outside the school walls unescorted at night since 1973. Annie, we trust you will do what’s expected of you tonight, and with Kerry now approved for solo night flights, we saw no reason to have either Isis or myself tag along. You guys will do fine on your own.

“However, while the headmistress is aware you’ll be out on your own, she was a bit apprehensive that if others knew about tonight’s flight, they might—” Vicky hesitated, as if she were unsure of her next words.

Kerry found them for her. “She’s afraid the other students are gonna say you’re playing favorites with us again.”

Vicky nodded. “Pretty much. I know you’ve had some issues doing minion duty in other classes, and I wanted to avoid more of that.”

“I’m not worried about the jealousy of other students—” Annie didn’t bother blocking the contempt from her tone. “—but I can see why you wouldn’t want us to talk about this. Some would think we were bragging about the test.”

“Exactly.” Vicky smiled as she relaxed. “I knew you’d understand.” She looked to Isis for a second, then turned back to Annie. “Ready to begin?”

Annie made herself comfortable. “I am.” She knew Kerry wouldn’t answer: as with the last solo preflight briefing sat quietly, prepared to speak only if he was spoken to directly.

“Let’s get started then.” Vicky half-turned and moved the holographic map between Isis and her. As she turned away from the display well over a dozen and a half points appeared over the area between the school and the city of Boston. “There’s a lot to cover this evening, both figuratively and literally.

 

Right away the kids learn they’re being treated . . . differently again.  No B Levels outside the walls at night, unescorted, since 1973?  That’s like, um, forty years!  And these two are being let outside the walls because they can be trusted–I mean, it’s not like they don’t have hiding places on school property, so why worry about them being alone beyond the walls?

So flying out of the school and down to Boston–

Just like this, only no plane wing and probably no bird, either.

Just like this, only no plane wing.

The list of points was published yesterday, along with the map.  Now all Vicky and Isis have to do is tie the two together and tell the kids . . .

Resting Darkness

This is the point in the show where I’m supposed to say, “Oh, you know, I did such and such and–”  And then you say, “Hummm, that’s interesting, Cassie.”  Because that’s how this game is played.  If it were a game, that is.  Which it isn’t.

The truth is I made it through the weekend having a modicum of fun, and now it’s all over until Thursday, when I get to do it all again.  Though I imagine there will be more drinking come Thursday night, because last day of the year and all that.  Or maybe not.  You can never tell with me.  While I don’t drink like I used to, it still pops up now and then.

Last year at this time I was setting up for the big battle on the Link Bridge in Kansas City, starting with this post, Disquietude Park, and going through to the end of the year.  My kids were kicking ass and–well, they didn’t get any names, that’s for sure, mostly because they were injured and slipping into unconsciousness.  The funny think is, right now in the current novel, it’s the middle of February, only ten months later in terms novel time, so the real time and fictional time are nearly the same.

Nope, right now they’re getting ready for something else, and just like last year, I got things all mapped out.  So to speak.

Once more you see the writer hard at working making work for themselves.

Once more you see the writer hard at working making work for her own crazy self.

What the hell does all this mean?  Here’s a little taste:

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Most Thursday evenings after dinner Annie usually found herself in the library reading a book Kerry and she had permission to study, or in their lab going over transformation spells Kerry learned over the last few classes, or out at the Witch House going over sorcery spells Annie learned over the last couple of weeks. When they weren’t studying or working on spells, they were usually spending some relaxation time in one of the various locations where they hung out with their friends.

And when they found they wanted to relax completely alone, there were always moments to share in the former storage room in the tunnels near the Aerodrome that Annie had discovered back in mid-December. Kerry had christened the location with a special name, and that was the phrase either of them used when they wanted to be alone, when either of them wanted to visit “our Private Universe.”

While Annie was with Kerry, at the moment they were in none of the locations one might find them. Tonight they were in the Ready Room of the Flight School, attired in their cold weather pants, boots, and long sleeved fleece tops, seated in the front row and waiting for Vicky and Isis enter the room and begin the evening’s activities—

A solo flight was ahead, Annie’s second. She knew the why of this moment: Kerry and she were now here to discover the where of her journey.

 

Solo flight!  And when you take all that stuff I showed you in the previous image and put it on a map, it sort of looks like this:

I never go anywhere without a map.  You should know that by now.

I never go anywhere without a map. You should know that by now.

Truly, this should take me the rest of the year to write.

And then some, yeah?

The Book of the Dead

It’s a wonder what two and a half hours will give you.  If you’re me, seventeen hundred and forty-eight words, because that’s what I’ve written this morning for the first scene of Chapter Twenty-Four.  Here I am, down at the local coffee shop, and I’ve been rocking out on ABBA (stop laughing) and pounding out the words.  The scene is not only finished, but after a week of writing it’s a few hundred words shorter than the last chapter.  Really, this is not only the most I’ve written in one sitting, but this is the longest scene I’ve done in some time.

My numbers don't lie.

My numbers don’t lie.

What I’ve done is finish up Helena’s Death March, only in her case she does know about death and being dead–and, as we’re slowly learning, being in the Land of the Dead.  And with her mention of the Veil, we start getting into the final part of this discussion of the deceased–

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Once again Kerry was confronted with a term he’d never heard. “What’s that? Is it like the Curtain?”

“Yes and no. Yes, it’s a demarcation boundary, but no, it’s nothing like the Curtain.” Helena’s tone darken. “The Veil is the edge of our known universe. Once you’re through that you’re out into the space where all the universes reside.”

“The Multiverses.” Kerry was familiar with this concept since it was a popular one in science fiction. “So there are multiple universes?”

“Yes, billions. From what I understand we’ve reached some of them through astral passages that pierce the Veils, but there’s almost no information on those explorations.” The right corner of his mouth turned upward in a half-smile. “As you can imagine.

“But it’s not the universe that are important—it’s the space between. That’s where all the pure magical energy resides, and that’s the one place an astral form can exist without fear of Dissipation. In science, or science fiction, terms, it’s super space; in our experience, it’s where all the dead go for as long as they like.” She spoke in hushed tones. “It’s what we call the Void.

“Everyone who’s ever lived, Normal and Aware, eventually end up in the Void. They haven’t a choice: without the energy there to sustain their astral form, they’ll Dissipate and become background energy. Here you’ll find no heaven or hell: those don’t exist—at least not the way they’ve been discussed by Normals.” Helena stopped acting as if she was involving Kerry in a conspiracy and began speaking in a normal tone. “See, the Void is nothing but magical energy, and since the Aware still know how to bend that energy to their will, they can and do. Over there on the other side of the Veil, you don’t have to worry about running into gods—you pretty much are one.

“It’s said that once you’ve figured out how to pull energy into your form, you can reenter any universe, or even create one of your own. Spend enough time dead, and you can come back and wander around in the physical realm, even. Some Foundation scholars who study these things believe that all the myths pertaining to the various pantheons are actually re-tellings of encounters with the Aware who’ve returned from beyond the Veil and began passing themselves off as deities. It’s entirely possible.”

 

There you go:  when you die, you go to the Void, and there you get to hang with everyone who’s ever lived.  Just imagine that party if you can.  And here is the upshot of being a witch:  you can do things in the Void that all the regular folk can’t.  That pretty much makes you a god, and with that comes the speculation that all the gods and goddesses of mythology were Aware who came back to this universe and decided to set up shop.  And if you don’t like this universe–hey, there’s billions from which to choose!  It remains to be seen if Kerry starts telling Annie, “If someone asks you if you’re a god . . .”

Kerry has a question, and it’s a good question–

 

Though Kerry had never believed in things like deities, Helena’s explanation began opening his mind to how various mythologies may have came about. “How do we know this? Did these, um, things eventually tell us?”

Helena sank into her chair turning grim once again. “If one knows what they’re doing, they can reincarnate—”

He leaned towards Helena’s desk. “Reincarnation’s real?”

“It’s real, but from what I understand it’s difficult as hell. Also, it’s a bit of a crap shoot, because you’ll likely return as a Normal, and once you’ve lived as a witch, it’s rare that you’re gonna want to go through another life being unable to do magic. And apparently, the only ones who can remember the full experience—” She shrugged. “They’re the ones who returned Aware.”

“This is all . . .” Kerry slowly closed his eyes. “There are people who lived here who moved into the space between the Multiverses and created their own universes.”

“Pretty much. There’s some speculation that Dante may have actually somehow entered the three realms he wrote about in The Divine Comedy. It’s entirely possible that someone who knew him found a way to show him the worlds he wrote about.” Helena gazed off to one corner of her office. “Some people think the stories we have of angels and demons come from sightings of Aware who’ve returned. Though when it comes to demons—” She wiggled her eyebrows. “Those are real.”

Kerry’s eyes grew wide. “Are you kidding?”

“Nope. Why do you think we teach Daemonology to some people?” For the first time Helena chuckled. “That’s a discussion better left for another time.”

 

I’ve been asked now and then if there is such a thing as reincarnation in my world, and there’s your answer:  yes, it does.  And angels and demons may be nothing more than dead Aware who’ve come back to do things here, but no one really knows–but demons are real?  Yep.  When will you learn more about that?  When the kids hit their D Levels.  Sorry.  Sure I am.

Now that we know what’s beyond the Veil, it remains to be seen . . .

 

“I agree.” Though it was starting to feel a bit morbid, Kerry wanted to return to the original discussion. “Did you go beyond the Veil?”

A silence fell over the room as Helena changed up her train of thought. “I headed towards the Veil. I felt it getting close. I even expected to find my Portal—” She smiled again, heading off the expected question. “It’s an opening through the Veil, and you’re supposed to recognize it right away as it was something important to you while alive. I did a lot looking for it: I thought about the way I died and all the stuff I did as a Guardian; I thought about my family; I thought a hell of a lot about Erywin. I did all that—but I never found my Portal. Just before I felt it was gonna pop up—” She slapped her hand upon the desk. “I was in a bed with four witches standing watch over my body.

“Found out later they’d worked on me at the hospital for about twenty minutes trying to resuscitate me, and when it became apparent that wasn’t going to work, they sent me to a Resurrection Center, which is a place where there are witches who are really good at bringing people back to life—and if they can’t do it, they get the Necromancers after you.”

Kerry didn’t like the sound of that last. “Necromancers?”

“Witches who not only can walk into Astral Realm, but who know how to pierce the Veil and physically enter the Void so they can find your form and haul it back to the real wold.” For a moment Helena appeared uncomfortable. “Those assholes are scary. Not only can they walk the Void, but they know how to manipulate dead bodies in this world and make them do their bidding.” She shook her head. “Led a team in charge of bringing in a rogue Necro once. When we finally ran her down the crazy bitch threw a couple of dozen zombies at us—total Walking Dead shit.” She managed a light chuckle. “Good thing Annie and you are seasoned zombie hunters.”

Kerry found the concept of being sent out to kill real zombies fairly interesting. “That could be kinda cool in a way.”

“Until you have to do it and you realize they’re trying to kill you for real.”

 

In the last novel Coraline hinted at Resurrection Centers and Necromancers, and while I gave you a little bit of a fill-in on them, Helena confirms this and lets Kerry know that Necromancers can raise the dead, but during one operation she had dozens of zombies tossed at her.  Kerry seems to find the idea of going out zombie hunting kinda fun, though he’s never had to deal with a few dozen shambling his way.  Like Helena says, he could quickly change his tune when he figures out they’re trying to turn him into Walker Chow–

"Better work on your sword skills, you little ginger shit.  We're coming for you and your girlfriend!"

“Better work on your katana skills, you little ginger shit. One day we’re coming for you and your girlfriend!”

Now that he has all this background out of the way, there’s just the aftermath of Helena’s death to cover.

 

He quickly got back on subject. “So how long were you dead?”

“Forty-two minutes.” The chuckle returned. “I know what you’re thinking, no need to comment. There’s something you need to know, though: what I went through that second time, it’s not something they do for everyone. The Foundation wanted me back because they’d just lost a hell of a lot of people in an attack, and they needed to know everything I went through in the lead-up to the meeting. I was the only one from the WTC attack they did this for: everyone else—” She slowly waved her head in the air as if she were slicing it in two. “They stayed dead. And if I hadn’t been in charge of security, I would have as well.”

He let that information sink in for a few seconds. “I understand.” He let out a long, slow breath before speaking again. “When you die and you go over, are you like how you are now?”

“You mean, do you look the same there are you do here?”

“Yeah?”

“Yes, sure. Your aura is a representation of the physical you, so how you look here, you’ll look there.” She tapped her thigh. “Over there I still had my legs; I’m sure I will if I die again.” She slowly moved forward, leaning against her desk. “Kerry, what’s really on your mind?”

 

Yeah, Kerry:  what’s really on your mind?  Helena’s knows by now there’s some crazy spookiness happening here, and she’s hoping to get to the bottom of it.  With the Ginger Hair Boy, that’s easier said than done.

 

He was unresponsive for a bit as he seemed to stare off into space. He snapped back to reality with a quick shake of his head. “Like you said, I’ve come close to dying a few times, but until last month I never really thought about what would happen. I figured you’d know.” Kerry finally turned his gaze upon the sorceress. “I hope this didn’t bother you.”

“Not at all.” She set her right index finger under her lower lip as a slight smile formed. “Hey, us Sentinels gotta look after each other, yeah?”

He did a quick double take. “Sentinels?”

“It’s what we—the Guardians—were almost called at one point. It’s kind of an unofficial nick among us.

He stared off to his left. “Am I really a Guardian?”

“You can knock that shit off—” Helena rested her weight against her desk as she continued in a low, comforting tone. “You know you are.”

 

Yeah, knock it off, Kerry.  Helena wouldn’t be telling you this shit if you weren’t part of the family.

 

He chuckled as he began nodding quickly. “I kinda figured that, but it’s nice to hear.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

Kerry got up and looked around as if he was unsure what to do next. “I guess I should head over to the Areodrome; maybe Isis and Annie wanna go flying.”

“Perhaps.” Helena came from behind her desk as Kerry zipped up his coat. “Kerry, you can come and see me any time you like—” She stood next to him, trying not to come off as intimidating. “ But if you ever want to speak with Erywin, you can always see her, too.” She turned a warm smile upon the boy. “She’d like speaking with you.”

Kerry smiled back. “I like speaking with her, too.”

She patted him on the shoulder. “You should find some time for her then.”

“I will.” He glanced downward for just a second. “I’ll see you tonight, I guess.”

“I’m sure we’ll run into each other at the Madness.”

He turned and headed for the door. “Thanks for the time, Professor.”

She crossed her arm. “Helena.”

“Helena.” He smiled for the first time since showing. “Thanks. See you later.” He spun around and header out of the office.

Helena waved the door shut and stood where she was for many seconds, considering the now-completed conversation. There were many things she knew she should do with what she’d heard, and what she suspected, but given there was possibly something else to factor into what had just transpired, she decided that notifying people on the West Coast wasn’t required—nor was there a need to speak to the third member of their little Salem Guardian family.

There was, however, a growing feeling that her brunch with Erywin was going to focus on a certain student . . .

 

Just like Kerry you now know what awaits the Aware when they go to the Great Beyond.  But this also raises a hell of a lot of other questions.  Like, what are ghosts?  Are spirits nothing more than returned Aware?  And what the hell is The Phoenix?  Is she also a returned Aware?  Would she kill you for asking?

It might take some time, but there is an answer for everything.  And, in time, I may even tell them.

Peeking Behind the Curtain

Here’s Cassie once more, having survived another Christmas alone.  It was a day filled with lots of napping, walking a mile down to the local art house to see The Danish Girl, then taking a slow, peaceful stroll back home in a light rain, enjoying the experience.  I capped the night off by watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special, getting a good cry in at the end before heading off to bed.

Notice there’s little mention of writing.  That’s because there wasn’t any:  after getting in my five hundred plus in the morning, I decided naps and visual entertainment were more important, and that’s what I did.

Along with the whole lady walking in the rain thing, which I wholly enjoyed.

Along with the whole lady walking in the rain thing, which I wholly enjoyed.

But this morning, I’m eight hundred and seventy-five words into the scene, and I’m certain I’ll do more this afternoon and tonight because I’m getting into the groove on what’s happening.  Helena’s opening up on what happened to her after everyone died during The Foundation meeting at the WTC.  We now know that she was also among the dead, but obviously Helena’s also some kind of Marvel superhero, because she didn’t stay dead, otherwise she’s never be able to tell Kerry about all these different things.

And while she’s getting into the whole “This is what happened to me the second time I died”, she gives Kerry a little lesson on what she knows of the structure of the universe.

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Helena cleared her throat. “Our universe consists of two parts: there’s the Physical Realm, which is where everything we see and feel exists, and there’s the Astral Realm, which is like an onion skin over everything within the Physical Realm. It’s from there that we draw out energies to do magic, so needless to say without it we wouldn’t have witches in this world.

“Naturally these realms don’t overlap, and the membrane that separates them is called the Curtain. When we talk about ‘Pulling back the Curtain’, we’re talking about looking into the Astral Realm. When you use Aura Sensing or Aura Reading, you’re seeing the part of us that sits on the Curtain, and therefore exists in both realms. When you use Astral Sight or Astral Protection, you’re seeing beyond the Curtain into that realm, though—” She gave a slight smirk. “It’s only once you start using Astral Walking, where you leave this realm and move physically into the other that you see the Astral Realm the way it really appears.”

Kerry was astonished by all that Helena was saying. Annie and he had yet to delve into everything pertaining to astral magic. “Deanna teaches all the astral stuff, doesn’t she?”

“Adric and I teach some as well, but Deanna’s really the Queen of the Realm. She’s the only one here who’s able to walk into the Astral Realm—that’s something neither Adric or I know.” She slightly shook her head. “Nor is it something that I want. There are things in the Astral Realm that react badly to people from the Physical Realm.”

 

We know Annie and Kerry are learning Aura Reading, because that was mentioned a long while back.  Once they get that down they’ll know if people are telling them the truth or if they’re BSing them, and can even work that little bit of magic on their parents.  While Annie’s folks can hide the true nature of their auras from their Darling Little Sorceress, Kerry’s parents won’t be as lucky, and there’ll come a time where Mama and Papa Malibey ain’t gonna be able to bullshit their son any longer, which probably won’t go well for them.

While some may have suspected that Deanna was good when it came to things like seeing auras, Helena conforms, for the first time, that she’s really the one who knows her way around the Astral Realm.  And while I usually don’t do this, here’s a big River Song-sized spoiler:  it won’t be long before we see Deanna take a stroll through the Curtain.  Since Helena just Chekhov’s gunned the whole “Deanna’s the only one here who can walk into the Astral Realm”, it wouldn’t do not to show her doing just that.  I’m sure you’ll see it coming when it does come.

Kerry decides to drag the convo back onto the original track, which was . . .

 

Kerry was able to quickly infer various points from this conversation. “But you’ve seen what the Astral Realm really looks like.”

There was a half-smile on her face as she kept her gaze locked on Kerry’s. “Yeah.”

“Because you were there after you died.”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“Your aura is really nothing more than a byproduct of the electrochemical activity within your physical form—with magical energy from the Astral Realm making the auras of the Aware more brilliant than those of Normals. Your aura stays anchored to your physical form, constantly renewing because of the activity in your brain and body. If you know what you’re doing you can make your aura invisible to others, or make it look like your a Normal, but while you’re alive it stays with you at all times, save when you’re doing Astral Projection.

“But when it comes to dying . . . You can’t destroy energy, and that included the energy found in your aura. When you die your aura no longer remains connected to your physical form, so it falls completely into the Astral Realm. It still looks like you because it’s an aspect of your physical form, but there’s more.” Helena leaned forward and lowered her voice slightly. “Since your brain is little more than a big electrochemical processor, when your aura pops up in the Astral Realm after you die, it brings with it all that you were when you were alive: your thoughts, your memories, and your skills, even the magical ones. It’s you, totally uncoupled from whom you were when you were alive.”

She shrugged. “I’m sure some would way it’s your soul, but it’s really a lot more than that. It’s a different form of energy now, and it’s self-aware. You know you’re dead, but you can feel, your senses work, and all of your emotions are still there. You’re sort of alive, but not—it’s a completely different state of existence.

 

There you go:  there is life after death, though it’s not life as we know it.  You’re pretty much a big ball of Wibbly Wobbly Astral Wastral . . . stuff.  Only this ball of stuff can think and remember and pretty much do all the stuff you did when you had a physical form.  As Helena says some people might think of this as a soul, but it’s more than that–especially if you’re a witch, as you’ll eventually discover.

So what is it like being an uncoupled astral entity?  Well . . .

 

“When I say I woke up on the other side of the Curtain, that’s exactly what it’s like You open your eyes and for a moment you wonder what’s going on, and then you recognize all the brightness and it hits you that you’re dead. When you’re an astral being you see the realm as it really is: all bright pastels and neon, like you’re standing in the middle of New York or Honk Kong in the middle of the night, and it’s turned into a gigantic Holi festival cranked up by a thousand. It’s an incredible feeling—and once that’s so sad at the same time, because you know where you are, why you are there, and that you’re not going back to whatever you had before.

“I was unable to move for a few moments. I knew everything I’d had, everything I’d been, was gone, and there was nothing to do but move forward and face was coming next. You can’t stay in the Astral Realm for long, not at first: only a few people know how to renew their astral form at that point, and if you stay too long there, you’ll Dissipate—” She held up her hand before Kerry could ask the obvious. “Your form will lose cohesion and come apart, at which point you’re simply energy on the astral winds becoming part of the overall universe. No, if you want to stay as you are, you need to leave the realm behind and move into the space between the Multiverses. And to do that, you need to go beyond The Veil . . .”

 

The Veil?  What is this shit, Mistress of All Things Dark?  You’ll find out–just as soon as I write that part.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come with a lot of naps first.

And Another Death to Go

Finally getting going after all this time; it’s been a slow morning of getting up, eating, writing, napping, doing something else, napping, and so on.  This Christmas Day has been a dragging day, and I feel I was lucky to get written what was written.  But I did write, even though I was told I should take a break.  But five hundred and thirty-nine words when I’m half-asleep and I’ve no coffee–that’s a pretty good deal as far as I’m concerned.

"I've written a little bit here, so . . . just a quick nap and I'm ready to go again.  I think.  Zzzzzzz."

“I’ve written a little bit here, so . . . just a quick nap and I’m ready to go again. I think. Zzzzzzz.”

What do we have here today?  Well, Helena starts getting into her Worst Day Ever, which is the day she happened to be in the north tower of the World Trade Center when it was attacked.  Some of this we already know, and what she mentions here was partially covered last year at this time, when Helena was thinking about something she did when she was about to do that same thing again . . .

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Helena leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds, remembering as she gathered her thoughts. “I wasn’t real happy with the meeting location: I wanted something more secure, but I was overridden left and right. Given that, I made the best of the situation and made sure everyone had a safe jaunt local set up, just in case we needed to clear out in a hurry—” She chuckled quietly. “Which we did.

“We were only a couple of floors below where the tower was hit. Everything went to hell fast: ceiling exploded, hellfire rained down, all that. I got a warning only seconds before—” She shook her head. “That part’s all screwed up—just know that I was warned to get out, and the warning shook me enough that I lost seconds doing my job right.

“Anyway, the plane hit and people started dying fast. I grabbed two women and jaunted out, but not before we were struck by a part from the plane. The woman on my right died right away: she was cut in half at the hips and everything inside cascaded out. The woman on my left lived because we jaunted before the part got to her. Me?” Helena looked down and frowned. “I wasn’t quite as lucky. I lost both legs about mid-thigh just as we were jaunting—”

Kerry couldn’t keep the surprise and shock off his face and out of his voice. “You’re— Really? I didn’t know.”

“Yeah. Magic and prosthetics keep me walking, and no one who doesn’t know can’t tell, but it’s not like having the real thing. Now you know why I always wear my skirts a little long: even though the legs look natural, you can see the interface lines were they join with body. I’m a little self-conscious about that, as you can imagine.”

“Does Annie know about this?” Kerry couldn’t imagine that Helena hasn’t already discussed this with her.

“She does: we talked about this a few months back.”

Kerry nodded. “Okay. What happened after the attack?”

 

Now is the first time Kerry learns of Helena’s maiming, and we learn that Annie has this similar conversation months before–probably on Tuesday night when Kerry was busy learning how to turn rats into cups, which Jessica totally doesn’t do.  Though she has changed into a cat before–a really big cat . . .

And this sets up something that Kerry’s never heard before–

 

“Yeah, that . . . My safe jaunt point was just off Washington Square Park. There we were: one alive, one dead, one dying. The uninjured woman paused just long enough to fire off a message that we were coming in for medical attention, and she jaunted us—the dead woman included—to out hospital in London.” She grimaced as she shook her head. “It didn’t do any good: I died about a minute after we arrived.

“This time I didn’t die like the first time. The first time I was like going to sleep and not dreaming. This time, though . . .” For the first time the grimness vanished and a faint smile drew across Helena’s face. “I woke up on the other side of The Curtain.”

“The Curtain?” This was a term Kerry had never heard before now. “What’s that?”

“I know I shouldn’t get into the cosmology of the universe; that’s something that you start to dove in your D and E Levels. But—” Helena shrugged. “Without telling you how everything works, you’ll never understand what I’m saying. Besides, you’re an advanced student when it comes to magic, so why not learn this now?”

 

The Cosmology of the Universe.  Kerry’s about to get a lesson in the way everything works, and that’s going to move into a lesson in life and death, because if you’ve been keeping track, Helena mentioned something about waking up somewhere that probably wasn’t her bed.

Given food and coffee, I’ll probably show you where real soon . . .

One Death Down

Happy Christmas Eve, or as the old people used to call it, Mōdraniht, which was a night where women were honored and perhaps even had a celebration or two to thank those around them for the consideration they had to push all those little love goblins out of their bellies and into the air.  Of course The Church banned it, because it was some old pagan hoohaw that they simply could not abide by, so we hear stories now about how a sacrifice or two were made at night to appease the Matres and Matronae, who were protective female deities.

So if you’re looking to have kids, say something nice to the Matres and Matronae, and who knows what will happen next.  Yeah?

Slowly this long scene is starting to take place, and trust me, it is a long scene.  But given that I’m averaging about five hundred words a night, it’s taking it’s time getting out.

Four days, two thousand words, you do the math.

Four days, two thousand words, you do the math.

There were no reasons for writing only six hundred and forty words beyond being tired as all hell and fighting to stay awake after I got home from having dinner.  It really was a whole lot of that, and even after I woke up it took a lot of effort to get out of the chair and want to sit and do something.

But I did get up and pen–can you say “pen” if you’re writing into a computer?–Helena’s first real brush, not with death, but with dying.  And it’s a good one.

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

She rubbed her hands. “Right: death. You wanted to know, so here you are. I’ve died twice. The first time happened back in June ‘96. I was part of a six-member group on an operation down around Cartagena, looking into rumors that the Deconstructors were using the same rail line as the Mina el Cerrejón to move goods from the north flanks of the Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta to Puerto Bolivar and back. We figured the transports were taking place near the main plant outside Albania, but we weren’t going to find out unless we did a little snooping around.

“I wasn’t in charge of the group; I wasn’t even the second in command. I was just one of the grunts put there to back up the women running the show. She wasn’t that bad, but this was the second major field op she’s commanded, and she acted at times like she had no bloody idea what to do when we were out and about. Needless to say, I wasn’t getting warm feelings in the pit of my stomach when we started venturing out into the wilds of Columbia.

 

The area Helena is talking about is here:

I love that Goggle Maps can take you anywhere!

I love that Goggle Maps can take you anywhere!

Mina el Cerrejón are those gray areas in the lower left of the picture, around Albania, Hatonuevo, and Papayal.  Those areas are huge open pit coal mines, operating in northeastern Columbia, right on the border with Valenzuela and far away from where most people live.  And the straight road that goes north all the way to the ocean?  That parallels a private rail line that is used to ship the coal to a huge port at Puerto Bolivar, which happens to be one of the largest ports in all of South America.

I actually researched this while writing.  I knew I was going to have her “hit the shite” somewhere in Columbia, and while they started in Cartagena, the ended up getting tagged about half way between that city and the view above.

And she remembers most everything–

 

“Day three, and we’re roaming about south of Río Ancho, and all day I’ve got the feeling we’re gonna hit the shite hard. I’m telling the leader what I think, but she’s telling me to piss off, ‘cause she feels everything is status quo. After the third warning I decide to go at the problem sideways and start hitting up the second-in-command, but just as about to tell her what I think—bam! Her head explodes, there’s blood all over me. She’s down, fifteen seconds later another member goes down, and it’s on.

“You know how this sort of thing goes, ‘cause you been in a fight like this. Spells are flying everywhere, and it’s us or them. Deconstructors are everywhere, and I take out three in about a minute.

I’m setting up to take out a forth, and suddenly there’s the bright flash . . .” Helena’s demeanor turned wistful as she sat back. “Next thing you know I’ve got lights in my eyes and people looking over me. Found out later that we managed to zap all the bad guys, but one other person got smashed in the process—and some bastard got in behind me and hit me hard enough to get their spell through my shields even though it killed them in the process. He hit me hard with an Electrify, which is why I saw the flash.

“The two survivors scoops up me and the last person killed, and jaunted us off to the regional HQ in Valencia, Venezuela, and got us right into the hospital. They were able to revive the other woman right away, but me?” She shook her head. “I was dead for six minutes, not that I knew. For me I just went from flash to flash: as far as I was concerned no time at all passed.”

Helena swiveled her chair back and forth a couple of time. “That was the first time; really, not that big of a thing. Second time I died . . .” She pressed her face against her fist. “That was a lot different.”

 

Really?  How different?

 

Just the way Helena’s mood changed up told Kerry that there was definitely a great deal more to this next story. “How so? What were you doing?”

“I was in charge of security for a large meeting of various Foundation supervisors.” She drew in a slow breath as she stared at the surface of her desk. “Things went—bad.”

Kerry kept his tone as soft as possible. “Did Deconstructors attack you?”

“You could say that—” She looked up. “The meeting was in the north tower of the World Trade Center.” Her snort was almost impossible to hear. “You need a date?”

He shook his head. “No.”

 

Of course Kerry doesn’t need a date, because he instinctively knows where this is going, and so do the readers, because it was just about a year ago–26 December, 2014, actually–that I wrote about how Helena was maimed during the attacks on the WTC.  And now, it seems, we’re going to discover that something a lot worse happened to her as well, because she’s here to talk about how she died–

And in talking about death, we’re going to learn a whole lot more.

Death End Kids

I discovered that yesterday was my seventh anniversary with Word Press, that this blog has been registered with them for that long.  Sure, I’ve only been writing on it for almost five, but still–back when blogging was a big deal, here I was.  Always nice to know.

The evening was a nightmare, however.  It was hard to crank out the close to six hundred words I did eventually write, because I was coughing up a storm.  The cold is still lingering, though it seems to have lessened this morning, but last night I couldn’t go five minutes without coughing.  It was like there was fluid in my chest, only it wouldn’t come out.  Got so bad at one point I started gagging, and that’s never fun.

However . . . I did seem to get a good night’s sleep, so that helps.  But writing was miserable.

This was almost totally me, except I wasn't laying in bed, and she's not hacking up a lung.

This was almost totally me, except I wasn’t laying in bed, and she’s not hacking up a lung.

And I was emotional as hell, too.  I cried a lot during the afternoon at work, and once home I was watching Pacific Rim (yes, I know, I’ve seen it enough, right?) and every time Mako Mori came n I started crying.  Every.  Damn.  Time.  Even when she does her total Anime Girl “For My Family!” attack, which is probably my favorite scene, I was crying.  I couldn’t win last night, I’m telling you.

Cold to the left of me, feelings to the right, here I am, getting my ass kicked by both.

Cold to the left of me, feelings to the right, here I am, getting my ass kicked by both.

But!  I did get the conversation between Kerry and Helena going, and it’s starting to turn interesting . . .

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

“I can understand that.” She shut off her monitor and pushed it aside. “It’s a common feeling for those who’ve entered the Guardian fold: we deal in dead and it’s natural that we want to know how we are affect by death.” She cocked her head to the left. “Am I correct?”

“Kinda . . .” Kerry continued looking down and away from the sorcery instructor. “I just didn’t know if I should ask. I was, you know—” He shrugged.

Given that Helena was well versed in the various fears reported by the one closest to him, she found him easy to read. “You were worried I might think less of you.”

He nodded. “Yes.”

“I don’t, and there’s a reason: as well as being intelligent, you’re also curious as hell about everything. People like that—people like us—” Helena pointed back and forth across her desk. “—we want answers to everything. And we keep looking until we get them.”

“I was worried that you might think—” Kerry finally raised his head and began looking directly at Helena. “—that I was scared or something.”

She moved to calm him. “I know you’re not scared, Kerry. You faced death three times before you were twelve, and you came back for more.” Helena chuckled while shaking her head. “I’m not the only one who thinks that. You know I get all my information second hand . . .”

Kerry smirked as he squirmed in his chair. “I sort of figured that.” His left brow shot upward. “She tells you stuff like I’m not afraid of death?”

“Not exactly in those terms, but . . .” It was Helena’s turn to smirk. “You know if she thought you weren’t cut out to do Guardian work, she’d have told you before telling me.”

 

If there’s one thing we know about Annie, it’s that she’s honest.  And if she ever thought Kerry wasn’t cutting it, she’d let him know.  She probably wouldn’t be all nice about it, too.  It would probably be like, “You need to stop this,” and they’d move on from there.  Because of their agreement to teach others–because Guarding training ideas, yo–Kerry has to be the same way with Annie, and you can bet she’s probably told him a few times, “You need to be tougher with me.”  Yes, Annie would tell him that if a fear of death was getting in the way of him being a good Dark Witch, he should get the hell out of the business.  And he would, because if he screws up, the person that might end up dying due to his screw up could be Annie, and he’d never forgive himself for that.

 

He didn’t require Helena to elaborate: when it came to her training him in the ways of sorcery, when he didn’t meet her standards Annie was quick to tell him what he was doing wrong, just as he did with her regarding transformation magic. And just as he did when he reported Annie’s progress to Jessica, Annie was required to report his progress to Helena, and he knew ahead of time if she was going to pass along something that was critical of his performance. As she was always quick to point out, a failure to do something correctly while in the field could mean never getting another chance to do it right.

For the first time since walking into the room Kerry felt at ease. “I’m glad you don’t think I’m here because I’m scared of, you know . . .” He spent a moment staring off to his left before looking at Helena to say the last word of his statement. “Dying.”

“Speaking of that—” Helena wanted to get the conversation away from Kerry’s insecurities and back on the path they’d begun originally. “You wanted to know about my dying, yeah?”

“Well, you don’t have to.” He was back to being embarrassed by his reason for coming. “It can’t be something that you feel comfortable discussing.”

“I don’t talk about this with everyone—but I don’t mind talking about this with certain people.” She set a smile on her face so that he couldn’t guess at her current thoughts. I’m not about to tell him that I had this same conversation with Annie months ago

 

Now, then, two things.  One, Helena has talked about dying before, and that someone was Annie.  Not a bit surprised there:  she probably asked.  Why?  Because Annie is also curious.  And two, Annie never told Kerry about this conversation.  Not surprising there, either:  you can imagine there are plenty of conversations Annie has with Helena that ever get back to Kerry.  He knows those two have Girl’s Talk, and he doesn’t ask about the conversations.  Now he’s having one of his own.

I guess we’re going to find out how Helena died . . .

Beyond Because

First off, Happy Solstice, first day of winter, shortest day of the year.  Around here that happened about twenty minutes before midnight, or twenty-three forty-two, as my kids would say.  But winter is here, so we’re ready for all that comes with that–

Any moment the winter wonderland I've promised every year should pop up.

Any moment the winter wonderland I’ve promised every year should pop up.

However, it’s raining like hell outside right now, and will throughout the morning.  Because it’s 44 F/7 C outside right now, and it’ll get up to about 60 F/15 C by midday.  I blame my witches.  They’re probably behind this.

Speaking of those little rascals, they didn’t get a lot of page time last night, but there were good reasons.  First, I had to work, then came home and took a very short nap before heading out to get my nose re-pierced.  After that happened I ran over to buy my weekly food supply, and then stopped off at Panera to finally get dinner.  By the time I returned home it was inching towards eight-thirty, and I was tired and dealing with a brain full of mush.

I did have time to snap a couple of pictures, however.  Um, yay?

I did have time to snap a couple of pictures, however. Um, yay?

What eventually happened was I managed to rip off three hundred and forty words before deciding I wasn’t really going to get much most than that down, because my fingers weren’t working real well, and most of the time I was back spacing to fix something I messed up.  That happened, right?  Sure does.

What did come out is a section where Kerry and Helena begin their dialog, and we discover why he’s there . . .

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Helena motioned him forward. “Certainly.” She waved the door closed the when Kerry was about half-way to her desk. “What’s up?”

“Oh, you know.” He looked down again, shaking his head. “I just thought . . .”

She didn’t have to play Twenty Questions with this boy: Helena saw there was something on his mind. “Come here and sit down.” She waited for him to unzip and hang up his coat and sit before going on. “You want something to drink? I’ve got water, but I can order something from the kitchen.”

“Naw, I’m good.” He looked around the office like he was there for the first time. “I think this is the first time we’ve ever been alone.”

“You’re right.” Helena sat in her chair and smiled back at the boy sitting across from her. “Normally it’s your significant other sitting in your seat.”

“That’s sort of why I’m here without her—”

Helena leaned forward against her desk. “What’s bothering you?”

“I—” He shrugged. “I don’t know, just feels like there’s some strange stuff going on in my life of late.” He sighed, seeming to fold in upon himself for a few seconds before sitting up straight. “Last month, when we did puppeteering for the first time, you did the big snap on us—”

“I remember that.”

“When I was over I asked if that’s what dying’s like—”

“I remember that, too.” Helena nodded slowly. “I told you it wasn’t.”

“You said it was a lot easier.”

Helena sat back in her chair and folded her arms across her torso. “I remember saying that, yeah.”

Kerry inverted his gaze as he asked his next question. “You know that for a fact?”

Helena said nothing for almost fifteen seconds. She was fully aware of what Kerry wanted to know, and she was also aware of what he ultimately interested in hearing. “I do.” She relaxed, trying to put him at ease. “You want to know if I’ve died before, don’t you?”

Kerry waited nearly five seconds before giving his simply reply. “Yes.”

 

Let’s talk about death, shall we?  That’s exactly what’s going to happen, and once they start, you’re going to learn a few things about this world that you may not have expected . . .

Slipping On the Beyond

Coldageddon marches on, though last night it seems as if my level of exhaustion was greater than what I needed to cough out of my lungs, because I was asleep after about ten minutes and I didn’t wake up until about an hour ago.  I’m really hoping to cough all this crap out of my lungs today and sort of dry like real quick, because one night of good sleep every three or four days is already old.

Even thought I finished Chapter Twenty-Three with a near eight hundred word burst yesterday morning, I sat down for a little last night an put in another five hundred thirty to get Chapter Twenty-Four going.  It was a good way to get what it probably going to be one of the strangest chapters I’ve ever written for any of these books, and that’s saying something.  Why do I say that?  Because I do.  You gotta trust me on this one.

This chapter starts out with kindly Professor Lovecraft, and we get a bit of an insight into how she starts her mornings at the Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning:

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Helena liked getting into her Witch House office early so she could get out early. She’d gotten into that habit during the days when she was running Guardian operations around the world and she needed to deal with business from the higher ups before getting into her day-to-day stuff. During the times she taught while still on active field duty getting up early and checking emails became more fundamental, as most of the people with whom she dealt operated out of Europe, giving them a five or six hour start on their day.

Though her actual field operative time was likely coming to an end, that didn’t mean the Guardians couldn’t find things for her to do. These days she was often called upon to consult on operations, to review upcoming operations, and to simply give opinions. These days she was reviewed ops from around the world, though most of what she saw originated in Amsterdam and San Francisco.

She came in early, usually before seven. She reviewed her email, read reports and offered assessments. Some of the names on the operation reports she recognized as they were Guardians she knew well, having performed in past operations with them and even developing a friendship with some over time. But there were more names that vanished from her sight, and Helena took this to mean those people had either moved up into office or teaching positions, or they were no longer in the physical plane of existence. Given what Helena knew of the operations those people had taken, the fact that she didn’t see their names any longer didn’t surprise her in the least.

No matter how much email she received there were two names that were important. She filtered her incoming mail so that any mention of those names in the header, body, or even in attachments, were moved to a special folder. There wasn’t any need to check that folder every morning, for alerts popped up on her mobile every time an email hit that folder. Those alerts were infrequent this year, and save for the flurry of emails that happened around the start of puppet training, had been quiet for most of the last month.

Helena hoped it stayed that way—just as she’d been promised at the start of the school year.

 

Just in case you were wondering, Helena does have  a special “A an K” folder set up for email inbound from the Guardians.  Yes, they are interested in these two, because if Helena has a special folder set up with scanning filters that look for their names, then she must get enough that she doesn’t want theirs to get lost in the rest of the weekly emails.  Imagine she if got owls.  “You, drop that one into that pile, you bloody bird.”  No, Helena would be zappin’ birds left and right:  she couldn’t put up with that craziness.

And then something happens that has never happened before:  she gets a visitor.  Oh, but you say, she gets visitors all the time.  Well, just look:

 

She was in the process of leaving the office and heading off to Mórrígan Coven tower for an early brunch with Erywin where there was a knock. She looked up and found the owner of one of the names that sent email into her special folder standing in her door frame—only it wasn’t the one she’d normally expect.

“Well, now.” She glanced up for just a moment, then looked down again to hide the grin on her face. “You’re not in morning flight class.”

“No, I’m not.” Kerry unzipped his heavy winter coat and stuffed his winter hat in one of the pockets. “Isis and Annie are going over some things relating to her solo flight next week, and they told me it wasn’t necessary for me to stick around.”

“So you came here.”

For a second he appeared embarrassed. “Yeah.” He quickly regained his composure. “Do you have a few minutes?”

 

Now we have Kerry coming to see Helena, and she’ll make an observation at the start of the next scene that I’m sure a few of you are now making.  Really, though:  it’s not what you’re thinking.  But this is a good start to what’s coming . . .

Which, as promised, seems to involve a lot of flying.

Which, as promised, seems to involve a lot of flying.

This Matter of Mimicking

This morning has been good, although it would be much better if this cold would be gone with the wind and leave me along, because I damn sure need a good night’s sleep, and I’m tired of heading off to bed and coughing up a lung for twenty minutes as I try to relax.  It’s a total pain in the ass, let me tell you.

But that’s neither here or there.  At the moment there is writing as done at the coffee shop down the road from my apartment . . .

Not that far from the capitol, a place I pass twice a day when I'm working.

Not that far from the capital, a place I pass twice a day when I’m working.

Enjoying myself–

I was told my smile looks real.

I was told my smile looks real.

But pink smiles ain’t gonna cut it if I don’t have something to keep you interested, right?  We left off with Jessica figuring out that Erywin is doing a write up on Kerry, and while one might assume that it’s because Kerry’s doing a little gender changing in private, it’s really a far simpler matter–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

“Why do you say that?” Though she’d told Coraline and Deanna that she suspected Jessica would figure out the student in question, she kept her face straight, not giving away anything.

Thought the Formulas instructor was good at hiding her thoughts, she was nothing compared to an expert at transformation magic when it came to keeping their feelings invisible. “All of the students in that class have already attempted those spells—with the exception of two, and one of them informed me that she’ll feel more comfortable being taught this lesson by ‘someone else’.” Jessica finally showed a faint smile. “Really, Kerry’s the only student you’re investigating. It might be someone else, but I’d guess not.”

Erywin considered saying nothing, then reconsidered for several reasons. As a coven leader Jessica was responsible for a fifth of the students, and in her weekly dealings with her witches she found it necessary to keep secrets. Perhaps they weren’t always devastating secrets, but students felt Jessica would keep them once they were told.

There was also a persistent rumor Erywin had heard for years, that during her years as a runway model Jessica had supplied information to the Protectors, particularly during her travels through Japan and Korea. Every time Jessica was ask about this rumor, the reply was the same: either no, or that she’d already answered the question and her answer remained the same. Even Helena, with her friends in the Guardians, could find out if this rumor were true or false, though Helena didn’t find this all that unusual, as the Protectors and Guardians were notorious about keeping their own contacts and spies to themselves.

It was entirely possible that Jessica was telling the truth about not spying for the Protectors, and every no uttered without elaboration was the truth. It was also possible that she had done something for them, and continued to hold onto the idea that whatever the job it remained between her and her handlers. Either way, Jessica knew how to keep things to herself—and, as Erywin saw it, if the Mistress of Transformation were the one who’d first noticed these things with Kerry, or any other student, she’d have come to her with her suspicions and said nothing to anyone else.
Erywin still needed to confirm that she had nothing to fear. “I trust you won’t say anything?”

“You know I won’t.” Jessica set her unwavering gaze upon the fellow coven leader. “We both know how to keep secrets—though I think you’re are far deeper than mine.”

Erywin wasn’t about to get into a discussion of which of her secrets were deeper than Jessica’s. She suspected that the transformation instructor was referring to last school year’s Kansas City operation undertaken for The Guardians. “Now’s not the time to get into that.”

Jessica gave the comment a single, quick nod. “Agreed. Getting back to the original question—anything in particular you’d like me to watch?”

Jessica does the process of elimination, and if there hasn’t been an issue with her older, already known students, then the subject of Erywin’s scrutiny must be one of the two new students–one of whom has indicated they want someone other than Jessica to teach them how to do gender changes.  One might wonder why Annie is saying she only wants Kerry teaching her this spell, but we won’t try to figure that one out, not now.

Now we get into the questions, and for the first time we learn about Kerry’s gift:

 

“Have you noticed anything?” Erywin figured the day before that if Jessica did figure out the name of the student, she may as well ask her about any in-class issues.

“Nothing at all. Kerry’s been the model student, just like in every class.”

“How’s his Mimicking coming along?”

“As expected. I have to teach him the basics of personal transformation first, then show him how to apply that to Mimicking.”

Erywin didn’t know a lot about transformation magic—it wasn’t one of her stronger subjects as a student—so Jessica’s last statement came off as a bit confusing. “I don’t get it. I thought being a Mimic meant he could just duplicate another person.”

“In time, yes.” Given that most witches didn’t actually understand the finer points of transformation magic, Jessica enjoyed educating people. “A Mimic interfaces their aura with the aura of the person they want to copy, and once those changes are applied to their aura, they can pull them down, so to speak, and apply them to their physical form.” She shrugged. “That’s it in simplified form.”

If that was the simplified explanation, Erywin knew it was actually far more complicated. “Why go through the aura?”

“Because our auras are a astral representation of our physical forms. A Mimic can reverse that, and make their physical form mirror their astral one.”

“So why teach Kerry everything else about transformation magic?”

“Because he still has to know the how of changing himself and others. It’s all about taking the template in your aura and applying it correct.” A grin slowly formed. “A great Mimic will eventually be able to take parts of another person and apply them wherever they feel on themselves once they have total command of the gift.”

For the first time since she’d hear that Kerry was a Mimic did she get what was involved with his gift. “I understand now. Thank you.”

Jessica gave an approving nod. “You’re welcome.”

 

Magic ain’t that easy, even when it looks easy.  There’s a lot more to mimicking that just “copying” another person or their parts, though we’ve seen that Kerry could do hair with easy at least a year ago, and he could even do the hair change to others–just ask Annie and Erywin.  Still, it sounds as if one must know how to transform correctly before one can put all the parts together the right way.

This leave Erywin to ask one last thing . . .

 

“I don’t want to keep you from lunch.” Erywin stood but didn’t immediately head for the door. “Would you be interested in help with this where necessary?”

Jessica leaned forward against her desk. “Helping you with due diligence?”

“Sure. I mean, our last trans student was also pretty good with transformation magic, and you were the one who brought him to my attention—” Erywin shifted her weight to her right leg. “I’m not saying there’s a correlation, but something could pop up in class next month, and you’ll be right there.”

“Of course.” Jessica stood and came around her desk. “I’ll be happy to help.”

“Good. I’ll want access to the videos of the gender change class before they go out on the public server.”

“You’ll have that.”

Erywin started to turn for the door and caught herself to ask one last set of questions. “Has Kerry done a full mimic of anyone?”

Jessica’s response was a tiny head shake. “No, not yet. The week before we do the gender flips I’m going to have him mimic one of the boys—”

“Then do one of the girls the following class?”

“I’ll have him try change on his own before he does a mimic, but . . . yes. One of the girls the follow week.”

“Thank you. I’ll keep in touch. And enjoy your lunch.” Erywin left the office and exited Ceridwen Coven tower. Rather than use her teleporter to head for her own office in Mórrígan Coven tower, she chose to walk the inside of the Pentagram Walls back. It would give her time to think, to plan out how she was going to analyze the information, how she wanted to make certain of everything before she took the step of speaking with Kerry alone—

His life has already changed a couple of times in the last year and a half, and all for the better. Erywin stepped out of the wall and under the enormous arch of Founder’s Gate. I want to be absolutely certain before I speak with him that we’re looking at another change that’s good for him.

 

At the end we learn that Jessica help with the last trans student at the school, she’ll make certain Erywin has access to all her video before the school sees it, and that she wants to be damn sure she has all her T’s crossed and I’s dotted before she decides to call Kerry in for another “talk”–especially because she’ll probably want to speak with Kerry alone, and won’t that set well with the Chestnut Girl.  You betcha!

The most important thing here, however, is that Chapter Twenty-Three is finished.  Yep, it was a short one–

Another one bites the dust, so to speak.

Another one bites the dust, so to speak.

The next two chapters are almost all flying, divided between Annie and Kerry.  Annie is up first, however, and she’s about to do something that no other B Level has even done . . .

It’s gonna be great.