A Trial of Judgment: The Final Reckoning  

We have come to the final moments, the last part of what ended up being a long scene, longer than I’d anticipated, or maybe not.  Sometimes I think these are gonna run longer or shorter and I’m always surprised.  But, no, I’m always a little surprised.

I did pass another milestone last night:  one hundred ten thousand words written.  And since I ended up with a little over twelve hundred words last night, I went one more and made it one hundred and eleven thousand.  It’s another nice point, and the next up are one hundred twenty thousand (of course), and one hundred twenty-five thousand, or an eighth of a million, if you’re fractionally inclined.  At the rate I’m zipping along I should reach one hundred and fifty thousand in about forty days, or some time around the end of September.

Here is it, nice and pretty, not hand drawn like Annie zapping someone.

Here is it, nice and pretty, not hand drawn like Annie zapping someone.

The match is over, so what happens next?  Well, things happen . . . and stuff.  Like–

 

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

“And stop.” Professor Chai raised her arms over her head as she issued the command. “Annie, please return to your starting position—” As Annie touched down, dissipated her magic, and walked back to where she’d begun the trial, the professor turned to Nurse Bianca, who had come over from the hospital and was now giving Rikkard a quick checkup. “Is he good?” Bianca nodded before patting the boy on the shoulder. “Good—” Ramona headed for the center of the mat and motioned for her two combatants to join her. “Please come.”

Annie walked slowly to the center of the mat and stopped about a meter from Rikkard, who seemed just a bit unsteady on his feet: she expected that was the reason Nurse Bianca a step behind him. The left few spells left her a bit winded, but that was passing quickly, and in another minute no one would know she’d just participated in her first judgment trial.

Ramona held out her hands to both combatants. “Please face each other—” They both adjusted their stances so they were face-to-face. “—and bow.” Both students executed a short bow, and for the first time since they’d met a slight smile appeared on Rikkard’s face. “I want to congratulate you both for the honor you showed each other, and the fact that there no penalties were registered against either of you.” She folded her hands across her torso. “Well done.”

Rikkard extended his right hand towards Annie. “Good match. And congratulations.”

Even though she wasn’t yet declared the winner, Annie was as aware of the outcome as the boy across from her. “Thank you.” She shook his hand. “And a good match from you as well.”

He exhaled slowly. “You should consider going out for your coven’s combat team.”

She shook her head. “I only fight when it’s necessary.”

His smile grew wider. “Probably best for the rest of us.”

“Rikkard, you may leave. You fought a good battle: thank you for your participation.” Ramona gave him a slight nod right before Bianca placed her hands on his shoulders and jaunted away. She then turned to the girl on her right. “Annie, you are the victor of this trial, and the moment has come to pass judgment. Do you which to continue?”

There wasn’t any need to ask Annie twice. “Yes, Professor.”

 

Rikkard is a good sport about getting his ass handed to him, and his remark about it probably being best Annie isn’t in a combat club is telling, because it would seem that most of the people he faces don’t have the same skills Annie has.  Probably because they aren’t little sorceresses who can handle their Morte spells . . .

It’s also sort of telling that he gets jaunted off to the hospital right away for a check-up, because Annie juiced his ass probably harder than Lovecraft zapped Kerry back when their first started.  Helena, however, was using “invisible” charges, which is to say she was using Kerry’s electrical field, the one generated by his body.  Annie’s not quite there, but she’s close to doing that.  She just needs a, um, “partner” for testing.

Now it’s judgment time, and Lisa has to pay the piper–and Annie isn’t playing a cute, dancy pop song right now–

 

Ramona turned her gaze upon the gathered students. “Lisa, please come forward.” The girl stepped away from a small group of students and slowly approached. “Come to the center of the mat and face Annie.” The professor waited until both girls were standing before her, facing each other. While Annie appeared calm and relaxed, Lisa seemed understandably pensive. “Lisa, your champion has lost this trial, and in accordance with trial protocol, you are required to face Annie’s judgment.” She turned to victor. “Annie, you have twenty-four hours to issue your judgment against Lisa—”

“I won’t need that much time, Professor.” Annie stared down the smoldering Lisa. “I’m prepared to pass judgment now.”

“You may proceed.”

“Thank you.” Annie’s eyes narrowed as she spoke the words she’d considered all through the afternoon’s Advanced Formulistic Magic. “Lisa, from now and until you leave this school for good, you will not speak ill of me, you will not make disparaging remarks, you will no longer make up lies about me in any public area where I could overhear you speaking.” She closed the distance between them by half, feeling Lisa’s anger burn into her. “What you said this morning was horrid and disgusting, and I will not stand for your crap any longer. I can’t control what you say about me in private, but should I ever hear you speak of me as you did today—or learn that you are the source of any nasty, perverted rumors—I will call you out again, and you will fight me without benefit of a champion.”

 

Now, it may seem like Annie should be making Lisa swab floors with her tongue, but keep in mind, if she went out of her way to lay something crazy on Lisa, Ramona would likely tell her, “No, do it again,” and Annie would need to regroup.  As it is, she just laid a gag order on Lisa to stop talking shit about her, and if she blows it, Annie’s gonna haul her back up to the manor and zap the shit out of her–which is not what Lisa wants to hear–

 

The mask of anger finally fell from Lisa’s face, and she grew panicky for the first time. She turned to Ramona. “She can’t do that.”

“Yes, she can.” Ramona spoke clear and slow. “It’s a common request from a victor that if the vanquished violates a judgment, they must enter another trial themselves.” Her head tilted slightly to the right. “As knowledgeable as you appear about judgment trials, I would have believed you’d know about that stipulation.” She turned back to Annie. “Do you have anything further to add, Annie?”

“No, Professor.” She tilted her head back just enough that it appeared she was looking down her nose at Lisa. “That is all.”

“Understood.” Ramona walked backwards a few steps and addressed every student in the room. “As Mistress of Judgments for the School of Salem I declare Annie’s judgment to be fair and evenhanded. Lisa—” She ignored the furious glare focused upon her. “—if you feel this judgment is unduly severe, you have forty-eight hours to appeal my decision, at which time I’ll bring the matter up before the Ruling Council. I should remind you that I have never had a decision overturned—” A slight upturn appeared at the left corner of Ramona’s mouth. “—though there’s always a first time.

“And with that . . .” Ramona spread her arms wide. “This Judgment Trial is over, and our business is concluded. It is now seventeen forty-six; leave now and you’ll make dinner by eighteen. Thank you for coming.” She bowed, turn, and walked off the mat and out of the room.

 

What Ramona did was, in her own way, let Lisa know she’s aware she gamed the system and lost, and if she wants to bitch about the outcome, fine, go do so, but you’re gonna lose.  Professor Chai doesn’t talk smack, but she is a firm believer in karma, and she’s knows the Karma Express pulled into the station and pretty much ran Lisa’s ass down.  Lisa’s not a Moriarty-like mastermind of intrigue:  she’s just a mean girl who thinks being a bitchy witch is cool.

She just picked the wrong person to screw with.

And someone close to Annie knows the same:

 

Annie didn’t wait to see if Lisa any something to say: she turned her back on the girl and walked towards Kerry, who had moved away from the crowd and was waiting for her just beyond the mat. “Did I disappoint?”

He shook his head. “Not in the least.” He waited until Annie had slipped on her flats before giving her a hug. “You were incredible. How do you feel?”

“Good. A little tired after that lightning shot, but—” She kissed him on the lips. “—I’m fine now.”

“So I see.” He kissed her back, holding it for several seconds. “I thought you might be tired because you’re so . . . calm. You should be really excited after that win.”

“Hum.” She shot him a impish grin. “That is not my style.”

“Oh, come on: just this once. Here—” Kerry slipped his arms around Annie’s thighs and lifted her into the air. “I’ll help you celebrate.”

Annie laughed, because she’d never had Kerry touch her this way, not with dozens of people standing around. But she liked the feeling of excitement that immediately filled her as she was hoisted into the air, and she realized he was right: she had every reason in the world to get excited, to celebrate a victory that she figured few in the room thought she’d achieve.

With Kerry holding her tight Annie leaned back and threw her arms into the air. She started laughing as she turned her gaze towards the ceiling, because not only did it feel wonderful to have emerged victorious, in that instant she realized on other thing: just like Helena, she’d given herself a reputation.

No one was going to make light of, or underestimate her, ever again.

 

Though you can probably imagine that some fool will, because now they know how Annie fights–at least in this environment–and they’ll try to match her moves and attack, because everyone wants to take out the fastest gun, right?  We’ve already shown that making Annie mad isn’t a good thing, and if you keep doing it–

You do it at your own risk.

A Samhain Coming

Welcome to Act Two!  Yes, it’s true:  I started last night.  Not in a big way, but the ball is rolling.

Before I start I should tell you I went out last night and had dinner to celebrate one year of hormone replacement therapy, and enjoyed a beverage at the same time.

As you can see, it's not a Frappuccino.

As you can see, it’s not a Frappuccino.

That’s a year down and a year to go, but I only need see my doctor three more times before she’s finished with me.  In fact, I’ll see her the Monday after I return from my little side trip to Indiana next week, then not again until January, and then not again until next July.  After that I’m considered a “graduate” of Transition University, I believe, and all that remains from that point on is surgery.

Let’s talk about the story, however.

It’s Samhain, as I mention in the novel.  Actually, it’s the Samhain celebration, because the real Samhain isn’t for a few days.  We already know there’s a costume dance in the evening, an bonfires down in the meadow, but the biggest event going on that day is the racing.  It’s one of the few times when all five covens get a chance to run wild in the streets and go at each other as much as possible.

As I’d mentioned, there was a bit of set up work I needed to finished, and that involved getting the Cernunnos Race team finished, and laying out how the competition would work out.  That took a few hundred words and a bit of brain power, but I got it finished.

Can't tell your covens without a scorecard.

Can’t tell your covens without a scorecard.

What I have here is my binder on the left, the scene next to that on the right, my racing grid layout to the right of the scene, and on the very right my notes on the scene.  You see both the A and B Teams, and if they seem a little boy heavy, you’re not wrong:  in this world Cernunnos is the one coven that fields more boys than girls.  Must be that horned god thing going on .

You can see the gird I’ve laid out, with five heats total.  Most of the time the teams are running in head-to-head heats, until you get to Heat 4, and then they throw three teams on the course at once and let them race it out.  The Blackbirds of Mórrígan are the current leaders in the coven standing, so they sit out the first heat and then race one-on-one against another coven, finally getting the last race of the day.

The idea with setting up an example was to ensure that every coven got three races:  that way points aren’t all over the place, and a coven can’t say that they were screwed.  It is true that the teams who’ll get the best point advantage are the top two:  the three who race in Heat 4 have to fight harder to get a similar allocation–more teams, same number of positions for points–so they get screwed just a little.

And the scoring system used for normal racing is the same as the one used by Formula One during the years 1991 to 2002:

1st: 10
2nd: 6
3rd: 4
4th: 3
5th: 2
6th: 1

The only actual change in the scoring is during Heat 4–or whenever there are more than two covens on the course–and that’s when they use the Formula One scoring system used from 2003 to 2009:

1st: 10
2nd: 8
3rd: 6
4th: 5
5th: 4
6th: 3
7th: 2
8th: 1

There you go:  my racing setup.  It’s all set, just like the novel–

To do and not to do:  that is the question.

To do and not to do: that is the question.

That said, I look at Chapter Ten and realized I need to add two more scenes . . .

Enter Samhain

You know the hardest part of doing today’s post?  Trying to find pictures of witches that are, you know, sexy, or taken from movies where the witches are, you know, sexy.  And not named Hermione.  It’s a pain, I tell you.

Like this. Annie could kick the asses of all these poseurs now.

Annie could kick the asses of all these poseurs right now.

One of the interesting things about writing up a scene at a Samhain dance is figuring just how crazy you can get.  You’ve got your normal witches, you have people with “super powers”–haven’t seen many of them, but there are a few, like Isis, who can fly without invoking magic to do so–you’re got a fair number of great sorceresses . . . and then you have the transformation experts who are making the costumes and changing the bodies.  If you’re a master transformationest, like Jessica, you’ll find yourself pretty busy for the few days leading up to the dance.  At Salem, when you say you want a makeover, you’re liable to come out the other end a whole new person.

And it’s not just the dance, but a busy day all around . . .

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Growing up Annie had heard many stories about Salem’s Samhain celebrations. She heard about how all the students participated in a fall cleaning of their rooms, which involved dusting, sweeping, and changing of their bed sheets, which was something usually left to housekeeping. As much of the dirt and dust was bagged, and the students were required to take the small bags and leave them outside the coven tower entrances, where they were collected and sent off to be consumed in the two huge bonfires in Selena’s Meadow.

Breakfast and lunch were turned into a brunch starting at seven-thirty and lasting until ten-thirty. This was due to the Samhain Races, which started at noon and usually went on for three hours. Unlike other race days, all coven teams paired off to race each other for five lap heats on the Blue Line. Since there were five covens, most of the races were elimination heats that continued until the two teams that had won the most heats finished with a ten lap race alternating between the Green and Blue Lines. Not only was it a huge day for compiling team points, but many pilots saw their individual point standing change for the better—or worse.

The Samhain Feast began at sixteen sharp and went on until seventeen-thirty. After that the students hurried back to their towers and prepared their costumes for the Samhain Dance, which many saw as a glorified Halloween dance, but as the tradition had been in place since the nineteen-thirties—when the dance was then known as the “Guiser’s Celebration”—it was felt there was little need to change things now.

 

No trick or treating here; it’s all serious business, and probably a lot of quick healing at the hospital when someone crashes and burns, which tends to happen when you’re racing Class 1, 2, and 3 PAVs and a racin’ deal goes bad.

Though I managed almost seven hundred an fifty words I didn’t get into the dance proper.  That’ll start happening tonight.  I did get as far as this:

 

They stepped into the room and were greeted by Head Chef Agnes Piña, who’d transformed herself into a beautiful silver android. She turned to the assembled crowd and made the announcement that Kerry had emailed into the staff earlier in the evening. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Annie Kirilova and her escort, Kerry Malibey.” She nodded at Kerry. “Mr. Malibey, I need you to surrender your weapon.”

Annie watched Kerry undo the heavy belt around his waist and hand it over with the authentic looking pistol still in the holster. “I’ll need a receipt for that.”

 

Kerry with a pistol:  that’s a dangerous situation.  At least he checked it at the door . . .

No matter how crazy you think you can get things, a lot will be left to the imagination.  I’ll do my best to channel the madness, but the real focus is on my two main characters, and a few interlopers here and there.

There’s a lot more magic going on here than meets the eye.

The Untempered Dance

Blessed Beltane to everyone, near and far.  It’s the traditional first day of summer, and it’s a time to build some Maypoles, set out your flowers and may bushes, then build some bonfires and dance your heart out.  It’s a time of joyous celebration, and one that we should get back to–but we don’t, ’cause those commies had to go and ruin it for everyone.  Thanks, Lenin!

At my fictional Salem school, today is a big deal.  Coven Blodeuwedd is responsible for setting up the celebrations–better The Flower Girl than Cernunnos, because Beltane is also tied to fertility, and the last thing you want to do is send half your student population home to the folks in a family way because The Horned God kicked out the jams.  Don’t worry:  Cernunnos does the Ostara Festival, and they keep the kids busy singing and dancing then.

Beltane at Salem has its own traditions.  First, there are no classes:  it’s casual lay about day for everyone.  Despite being metric to all hell, the Flight of the Mile High Club takes place right after breakfast.  What’s that, you say?  It’s the day a few brave A Level, first-time for flying students, hop on their Class 1 PAVs and fly them a mile, 5,280 feet or 1,610 meters, into the air.  It’s described a bit like getting on your mountain bike and riding to the top of a mile high peak–only your mountain bike hasn’t any wheels, and there isn’t any mountain under you.  The only thing keeping you in the sky is a thin sliver of enchanted technology and a whole lotta willpower.  Think about sitting on a bicycle with nothing between you and The Big Splat but emptiness–and then think about doing that when you’re twelve.

Yeah, it’s like that.  Either you stay home because that image is too much, or you become a leaf on the wind.

Funny, I left the splating part out of my outline.

Funny, I forgot the splatting part in my outline.

Then, after it gets dark, about half the instructors head out to Selena’s Meadow where awaits the mother of all bonfires.  They bring about fifty, sixty students with them, all there by invitation only.  They say a few words about how great the school year has been, how there’s only a month left and they’re going to miss everyone, they bless all those who reside within the hallowed walls of the school–then light that sucker up with a few well-placed fireballs.

It’s at this point that people are encouraged to dance, have fun, and let their feelings hang on their sleeves.  It’s also where the optional part of the show kicks in:  anyone wanting to dance “skyclade” is encouraged to disrobe and get right down to their nothings.  This is why it’s invitation only for the students, because you need to have a not-easily blown mind to know you’re not only gonna be dancing around naked with a few of your fellow classmates, but you’re liable to find the instructor you’re having class with the next day cavorting around in her birthday plumage.  Don’t worry:  only about two-thirds of the instructors and staff attending get down to their altogethers, so some students may be spared some momentary embarrassment.

It’s actually in this year, March 2014, that in my fictional universe Professor Erywin Sladen tells Kerry the story of her B Levels, her “Year of Hell” as she dubbed it.  It was the year she came out as the first openly gay student at Salem.  It was the year she got her ass beat in the girl’s bathroom for her troubles.  It was the year she was shoved back inside the fishbowl by a huge portion of the student body, because it was 1979/1980 and shunning was the order of the day.  It was the year that everyone was afraid they were gonna get lesbian cooties from her.  (Sure, it wasn’t like the school hadn’t seen lesbians before–like three hundred years before–but times get strange, you know?)

It was also the year she met her “pretty girl”, her ta mokoed Kiwi, Helena.  It was the year she finally made a mate, and then a bestie, and at Beltaine a skyclade Helena convinced Erywin to cast aside her prudish Protestant upbringing and join her to dance under the stars, and Erywin did that.  She dance first for the first time, she actually made friends–who finally realized she wasn’t some perv and that she wasn’t there to seduce them, and who was, all in all, a pretty damn good witch.

It was also at that bonfire she cried, because someone told her they loved her, the person remained the center of her life and who still taught along side her as she tells Kerry this story with misting eyes.

It’s a time to change, to bring in newness.  It’s a time to find direction and focus.  It’s time to cleanse yourself of the staleness of winter.

It’s time to get out and dance–

With wild abandon.

Golden Week

The weekend is over, the week begins anew.  And this is a very particular week for me, because there is so much going on . . .

First off, today is the Second Anniversary of this blog.  Yes, it is true, I created my first point on 13 April, 2011, but that didn’t really count.  Two years ago today I scribbled some nonsense, and I was . . . well, sort of creeping along, because I had no idea what the hell I should do with this space.  You want to know something?  I’m still not sure.  But I keep coming back because it keeps getting funnier every time I’m here!  Not to mention, you’re talkin’ to a . . .

Sorry.  I must have mispronounced a star’s name three times.

Then we have 1 May, and that’s a time of celebration.  It’s May Day, it’s International Workers Day–something we in the U. S. used to celebrate until we got pissed off at the Commies and said we were taking our holiday and going home–and it’s Beltane.  Anyway you look at it, it’s the traditional start of summer, and time to enjoy the coming warmness.  It’s also the start of Golden Week in Japan, which is suppose to be the one week when people get time off from their jobs–about they only time they get a holiday, actually.  Golden Week is also the period where Japan sees its greatest number of suicides, and they put additional people on hotlines to handle the surge, so to speak.  Why does this happen?  Is it because the down time gives workers reason to reflect on their lives, and realize how their jobs turn it into a huge crap sack of nothingness?  Probably one of the reasons they don’t do something like that here . . .

And then we get to the end of the week, and it’s 3 May, and we all know what that means?  Yeah, Iron Man 3 opens.  I, for one, do so want to see Pepper Potts in the suit; just something about a woman in powered armor brings out the nasty in me.  Though I probably won’t see it right away, ’cause . . . aliens.

The mini-meltdown is over.  Saturday happened, I sulked, I recovered.  I finished up Her Demonic Majesty yesterday, compiled it, and sent it off for a look-see.  I’m hopeful that I don’t get a lot of, “This totally sucks,” and if I do, screw it:  it’s my novel.  I’ll publish it anyway.  I want it correct, but if they don’t care for it, so be it.  It’s ready:  I just don’t need typos to mess me up.

And I wrote an article.  One about mecha, one that involved me having to put out the math skills.  It was actually sort of fun to do, and I hope it is enjoyed.  It’s always a crap shoot when you send out something like that, but it’s just another way to keep the writing going–

Which reminds me:  I have nothing to do tonight.  Nothing.  It’s sort of sit and think time, I guess.

Or I can sit and do . . .

What a choice for Golden Week.