Talk of the Town: All the Investment

Well, that was an interesting night.  I got my back fixed but I did not get a Unicorn Frappuccino because the Camp Hill Starbucks are run by asses and didn’t have enough ingredients stocked.  So no magical comments for you guys, and if you don’t have one ready for me tonight when I return, you are gonna be toast here tomorrow.

This after all the running around I did last night, I returned home about fifteen minutes before a bus captain webinar I logged into for this Saturday’s trip to D.C. for the March For Science.  Yes, I’ll be in Washington doing the captain of the bus thing again, but this weekend won’t be a big as the last time I was down about that way.  The last number I saw was an estimated 100,000 showing, which is still pretty respectable.  Hey, I’ll be making my voice heard–and I’m not getting paid.  Trust me.

One thing I did manage was to lay out Chapter Twelve.  And if I’m even luckier I’ll start the next scene.  If I do I’ll show you the scene titles so you can have a laugh…

Speaking of laughs–that’s something Helena isn’t doing.  And as we end the scene Ramona is more or less with the head sorceress:

 

 

 

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Helena was about to say something when Ramona interrupted. “Did you notice Isis playing around with her tablet throughout the test?”

“As a matter fact, I did.” Helena removed her arm from the back of the chair and folded her hands together in her lap as she leaned forward. “You think she was streaming the test?”

“The only reasons she would’ve kept checking her tablet is one, she wanted to make certain her firewall in place and no one was hacking the signal; two, she’d want to make certain the bit rate didn’t fall too low.” Helena glanced up at a point on the wall above Ramona’s head. “And three, she would’ve also been watching the Marionette streams.”

There wasn’t anything in Ramona’s logic that Helena saw as incorrect. Given the large number of Spy Eyes in the room, she’d already accepted the possibility that San Francisco wasn’t just recording but live streaming as well. And given the way the homunculus acted—particularly during the third phase—it wasn’t difficult to believe there were puppet operators working the other end.

“All that makes sense.” Helena leaned sideways against the arm of her chair and sighed. “When that test started it was a little after five in San Francisco; that means they were getting people in place at four this morning.” She shook her head. “That’s a hell of a lot of preparation for a four minute test.”

 

Yeah, when your zombies are working together to take out one person, you can bet there are live people on the other end pulling those puppet strings.  What Helena says is also true:  a lot of prep work when into this test, and it seems as if San Francisco was, pardon the pun, pulling a lot of strings.  This is not normal procedure and it leaves both women wondering what it all means…

 

Ramona nodded. “That’s what I thought. That’s also why I thought this wasn’t approved by Gabriel: I don’t think he’d of had the audacity to invite people out that early in the morning to view this test live.” She, too, leaned against the arm of her chair. “You think you can find out who was involved in setting up this test?”

Helena shrugged. “Doubt it. While I’ve done my fair share of work for SOP, I’m in a completely different division. That means that some of the inner manifestations to go along with an SOP test are kept hidden from me.”

“You have any contacts who might be able to looking to those inner workings?”

“I have a few, but…” Helena rubbed her hands together as she considered the matter. “While those contacts don’t mind helping me out in a pinch with something they also see is bullshit, they’ll likely balk when I start asking them organizational questions—particularly who is doing and what at a continental headquarters.”

While Ramona knew nothing of the internal workings of the Guardians, she could see members of a super-secretive organization being just a secretive when it came to revealing their table of organization. “I guess we’ll find out who’s running things there eventually.”

Helena smirked. “Eventually.”

“So what do you think this means for those two?”

Helena pressed a fingertip against her right cheek as she contemplated this new reality. “It means someone has taken a rather exuberant interest in our couple.”

Ramona was quick to notice the deep frown crossing Helena’s face. “What’s wrong?”

The sorceress gave a deep sigh. “I’m somewhat torn.”

“By?”

She stared off into a corner of the room so that she didn’t have to look across the desk. “I don’t know if I should be excited, pleased, or terrified at that prospect.”

 

You know, when Helena is worried, everyone should worry.  You should worry more when she doesn’t know how she should feel, though, ’cause that’s always bad.  The take away here is the Guardians are upping their game on my kids and since we know they’re getting a mission, you can expect said missions won’t be anything like Kansas City.

And yes:  you will find out what’s going on behind the scene and those questions will be answered in this novel.  Act Two:  don’t miss it.

With that done, it’s time to move on to one of the moments that my kids get to share together…

Talk of the Town: Not Who You Think

It took a few weeks, but I reached another milestone last night: I finished Part Three in the novel.  It didn’t take a lot–just a little over eight hundred words–but that was enough with the scene the bed, finish the chapter, and set the part aside.

All those First Drafts looking nice and pretty.

This means it’s time to move on to Part Four, which means I’m into the last part of Act One. It also means I’m into the first of the chapters, Chapter Twelve, that need to be laid out now.  Chapter Eleven was the last chapter in the book which I plotted out, and now it’s necessary to move on ahead and start laying out scenes.  Tonight I’m likely going to do that for Chapters Twelve and Thirteen and perhaps lay down a few scenes for the remaining three chapters of Part Four.

Yeah, I got some work ahead of me. But it’s not like I don’t know what’s coming…

Speaking of that–not knowing what’s coming, that is–let’s move a little further along in our conversation between Ramona and Helena and see what they make of the Great Musical Zombie Killing:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

“How do you think I felt when Isis braced me last night?” Ramona leaned forward in her chair. “And then this morning she tells me additional things, like it’s a Do or Die test and there’s going to be music played. I didn’t understand that at all.”

Helena snorted. “And what was with the music? Who the hell picked that song?”

“I assume someone in San Francisco. I mean, if anyone wants to know what sort of music Kerry likes, all they need to do is go out to his YouTube account and take a look at his playlists. It’s all public, so it’s not like anyone would need to go out there snooping about in secret.”

Helena rubbed her eyes as she considered Ramona’s remarks. “It’s goddamn stupid, if you ask me. I’ve never seen a test conducted that way.” She tilted her head back and let herself go slightly limp. “Gabriel must’ve been tripping bear balls when he put this test together.”

Ramona stared across her desk at Helena for about five seconds before she shook her head. “That test was not authorized by Mr. Gabriel.”

 

First, we now know that Kerry has a bunch of public playlist on a YouTube account–which makes him sound just like a certain author we all know.  Well, it is cheaper than paying for Pandora or Spotify, though one day Kerry likely will start doing that.  (As to whether or not Annie has Pandora and/or Spotify, I think we already know the answer to that question.)  Second, this is the first time we’ve also heard Helena use an expression like “tripping bear balls”, which is an unusual thing for her to say, but not completely out of the question.  It also makes me wonder if she is somehow related to Cheryl Tunt…

Lastly, though, we see that Helena is just too close to the problem and can’t see something that Ramona picks out immediately: that a person she’s had dealings with in the past concerning Guardian affairs didn’t do something she thinks he did.  And Ramona’s reasoning?

 

Helena sat up long enough to recross her legs and throw her left arm over the back of her chair. “What do you mean?”

“I mean it doesn’t seem like his style.” She tapped her index finger against the tip of her nose several times as she thought. “I’ve only had to deal with the gentleman a couple of times, but everything I’ve seen leads me to believe that he would never authorize a test like the one we had this morning. His style is classical, while the one we saw today—” She gave a quick shrug. “Totally modern pop.” Ramona lay her right hand on her desk and tapped it for a few moments. “Did you recognize any of the names on the emails you received?”

That was an easy question to answer as there was only one name on Helena’s email. “I recognized the name on my email right away: I’ve been dealing with her for six years.”

“There’s been three or four people I’ve had to deal with in the last six years and only one of their names popped up among the three I saw on the email they sent me regarding additional requirements for the test.” Ramona gave her head another shake and tapped her fingers on the desk once more. “Between that and the conduct of today’s test, I don’t think I’m entirely off base when I say I’m not sure the old guard is still in place in San Francisco.”

Though Helena wasn’t ready to agree with all of Ramona’s assessment, her comments concerning Mr. Gabriel and how it seemed unlikely he would’ve authorized the test they witnessed today did ring true. Though Helena didn’t work directly for SOP—she was actually a member of Field Operations Division, or FOD, which some wags in the Guardians said was the acronym for “Forced on Operation and Died”—she had plenty of opportunities to cross from one department to another, and had had more or less a cordial relationship with Gabriel for little more than a decade.

This meant she knew something of the way he conducted himself, as well as the way he conducted business as the director of San Francisco SOP, and Ramona was right: there was no way he would’ve authorized today’s test. His idea of a test would’ve been far more traditional—possibly more homunculus on the test area at once as well as a shorter time period in which to achieve goals. But he would’ve never set this up as a Do or Die operation, nor would he have allowed music to be played—at least not the music they heard today.

Helena was about to say something when Ramona interrupted. “Did you notice Isis playing around with her tablet throughout the test?”

 

Once you establish yourself as having a particular style, it’s easy to notice when that style changes.  With most of these witches, style change doesn’t come about easily, so something drastic occurs one can assume that someone new is calling the shots.  That’s what Ramona noticed right away, probably because while she’s had dealings with the Guardians, they’ve been limited.  This would make any change in procedures stand out rather dramatically.

And for the first time we find out which section of the Guardians Helena works for: Field Operations Division.  She stated before that she’s done work for SOP, but they are not the boss of her–at least not directly.  Because of her injuries we know FOD doesn’t put Helen out in the field as much as in the past, and when she does go out it’s usually in a supervisory capacity.  Which may or may not be all right with Helena, but there’s little she can do to buck her bosses at this point.  Besides, like it or not she’s collecting a paycheck from both the school and the Guardians, so why complain?  And, being at the school as she is, she’s usually the first to see new talent. Like, you know, a couple of kids who arrived at Salem two years ago–

With these questions out of the way close again quickly on the end of this conversation…

Talk of the Town: What Was That BS?

Yesterday was not what I would call a good day.  Though, in a way, it was a good day–perhaps it was really not that good of a night.  I had a lot to do during the day, and believe it or not, I got it done. Even I was surprised.  But then I started thinking about something… And that set off the triggers, and for a significant part of the evening I was nothing but a slimy, blubbering mess.

Also, I discovered I need to buy a corkscrew.  Bummer.

What this means is that I’m no longer had of the curve.  The end of this excerpt is about twelve hundred words ahead of where I’m at right now in the story, so unless I get my butt into writing, pretty soon I’m going to hit one of those points where I’m going to be writing just get the excerpt out.  And I don’t want that ’cause that’s even more stressful.

Ah, how did I ever get in a situation?

Now the test is over the recriminations began.  Well, maybe not so much recriminations as a postmortem as to what “that test” was about.  And just as it was at the beginning of this chapter with the first scene, this scene returns the same players, with Annie and Kerry mentioned but not seen.  And it doesn’t take long to get right into the discussion:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

It wasn’t long after half past sixteen that Ramona received word that the instructors who spent the afternoon in Boston had returned that she heard the clacking of heavy boot heels in the hallway outside her door. She opened it some forty-five minutes earlier, for she had anticipated a visitor—
And now that visitor was here.

Helena stopped in the open doorway and let out alongside. “Well.” She stepped inside the office and waved the door closed behind her, waiting until it latched before continuing.

“To paraphrase Kerry, what was that bullshit we saw this morning?”

“Quite the spectacle, wasn’t it? I was just going over the video from the test.” Ramona looked down as she chuckled in a low voice. “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen either of them flustered after a test—or ever, for that matter.”

The right corner of Helena’s mouth curved upward in the smirk. “I think they were caught up in the moment. I know I’ve trained them not to act that way, at least during a stressful situation.”

“They were finished with the test, so I think I can allow them a little slack.”

 

My kids have expressed frustration in the past, but it’s almost always been in the private sector: they rarely shown that frustration publicly.  In the last book Annie get frustrated with Kerry, who was getting frustrated learning Exsanguination, and both experienced some frustration both with family and, um, “frustration”, if you know what I mean.  The closest there’s been a public frustration moment was the first night at Advanced Spells when Annie had trouble doing levitation and we discovered that while she always wanted to be a bad ass sorceress, she hadn’t always kept up on the real simple spells.

But to get so frustrated in the aftermath of a devilishly hard test that you turn and start screaming at your instructor?  Yeah, the kids need to work on that.  Oh, and about what Annie said–

 

Silently Helena admitted that she agreed with Ramona; publicly she’d say nothing. “While we were out I wanted to ask Annie what she said while we were out, but I was afraid she take it the wrong way.”

“She said ‘Who put this fucking test together?’.” This time Ramona’s chuckle was much louder. “I had Sabrina translate the comment.”

Helena raised an eyebrow as a smile slowly formed on her face. “That girl is getting quite a mouth on her.”

“Can’t imagine where she getting that from.”

“Yeah, and you can fuck right off with that shit.” Helena crossed her arms as she looked away for a moment. “Though her question about the test remains valid.”

“I’m wondering about that same thing as well.” Ramona motioned Helena to a chair. “Not only was I surprised by the orders I received, but discovering that Isis had additional orders that she didn’t past either of us wasn’t something I expected.” She shook her head. “It’s not often I have to work with the Guardians, but they’re usually straightforward in their dealings—and when they are being sneaky, you can usually tell.”

The matter of having three different people involved in today’s test, and not seeing information passed from one person to the next, had bothered Helena through most of the afternoon. She had to agree with Ramona’s assessment: it wasn’t unusual for the Guardians to be sneaky, but one could usually tell when that was happening. “I don’t know what the hell this was. I mean, why it wasn’t such a big deal to add on six additional homunculus and then not have you tell me?” She sat back and crossed her legs. “I don’t get it.”

 

First off, we get Annie dropping a F Bomb once more, and this time in Bulgarian.  Being that this is the third novel, she gets one more opportunity to say that particular word again–which means Kerry has a three F Bomb limit as well.  Hey, Patrick O’Brian did something similar, and that means I can as well.  And as far as Ramona’s question about where Annie may be picking that up–yeah, we know Helena’s a good influence for that as well.

Speaking of frustration we start seeing it both with Ramona and Helena.  Neither of them can understand where the Guardians are coming from, particularly Helena, who knows how they operate.  And tomorrow will get into their frustration a little bit more…

The Kali Test: The End

Yesterday was a good writing day.  I wrote almost twelve hundred words in the morning, came home and wrote eleven hundred word TV recap, then ended up writing another two hundred and sixty words later in the evening to include something I meant to include in the morning, but didn’t.  Add all that up, and I wrote close to twenty-four hundred words, something I haven’t done in quite some time.

That doesn’t mean I’m back in the groove: it simply means yesterday was a good rating day.  The trick to all this is doing something like that nearly every day, and not just on a Sunday in April.  Most times I’ll be lucky to get five hundred words a day.  But I have to say, yesterday felt good.

Since I’m on the way to ending Chapter Eleven, here’s the end of the test scene.  And you knew this was coming; why wouldn’t you?  But based upon what you’ve seen so far, this ending is a little unusual–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Covered in blood and winded, they were both catching their breath when fifteen seconds later music stopped and silence fell upon the test surface.

Ramona waited until she was absolutely certain that Annie and Kerry were the only creatures moving on the other side of the safety enchantment before casting it away.

She waited a few seconds for her students to gather their bearings before speaking. “The test is concluded. Based upon the final results—”

Kerry turned toward Ramona and Helena and screamed at them, raising his arms and hands in the air. “What was that bullshit?”

Annie stepped around the bodies on the floor as she wiped blood from her face and eyes. She, too, was not happy, and the moment she was alongside Kerry she also yelled out her frustration. “Koĭ postavi tozi shiban test zaedno?”

Ramona quickly raised the safety enchantment, putting a barrier of silence between her angry students and the rest of the people in the hall. She turned to Helena and shrugged. “Apparently they have some questions.”

“They’re not the only ones.” Helena turned to her left as she sensed Isis walking away. “Where are you going?”

 

The kids usually stick by their mantra of “A good sorceress keeps their head about them while everything is going to hell around them.”  But nothing is going to hell around them anymore: that’s already happened, things to them.  And these kids get just as frustrated and confused as adults, who often vent her frustration once a momentous task has completed.  Plus, when you add in the fact that both these kids are raging hormone factories, it’s easy to understand why they lost their cool and started screaming.  At their instructor.  In front of a room full of people, including the Head Sorceress.

Fortunately, Ramona is fairly even-tempered and she understands that emotions run high at times, particularly when you’ve been in a difficult match.  Also, it’s likely fair to say that the kids aren’t known to start screaming and swearing at the same time while in the Advanced Self Defense class–and you know Annie swore, because Kerry is already mentioned that usually when she’s upset and says something in Bulgarian, it’s likely she’s cursing.  You’ll find out in the following scene what she said.

So it’s probably a good idea to let the kids simmer down, or at least get rid of witnesses–

 

She held her tablet at her side as she addressed the Head Sorceress. “I’m finished with my side of this test, so there’s no need for me to stick around.” She tapped something on her tablet screen then looked up at Ramona. “My people will be by in the afternoon to collect the Spy Eyes. Shouldn’t take too long to get them out of here.”

Ramona nodded in acknowledgment. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Cool. See you ladies later.” Isis juanted off.

With the Chief of Security gone Ramona now turned to the students who’d observed the test, with a few appearing to have not handled the bloody spectacle well. “This test is concluded. For those while visitors, you are free to leave. For those of you remaining for class, I will need about twenty minutes to clear the testing surface so that we may start. Feel free to mill about outside: I will call you when ready.”

Students filed out of the Manor and it was empty save for the two instructors and the two testes standing on the other side of the safety enchantment. Ramona took a deep breath. “I think we can continue our dialogue.”

Helena nodded toward the two students. “By all means, let’s.”

 

Testing is done, so Isis isn’t needed anymore.  Or at least she seems to think so.  This will get brought up in the next scene as well.  Hell, a lot of things get brought up in the next scene…

Since Ramona and Helena are pretty easy-going in most situations, they’ve given Annie and Kerry time to cool off.  That time is over: now it’s time to talk.

 

The Self Defense instructor removed the safety enchantment and addressed her students. “Have you had time to calm yourselves?”

They answered simultaneously. “Yes, Professor.”

Ramona approached and stopped two meters from them. “According to the rules of this engagement, you have successfully completed this test. Will see to it that the results are passed along to the appropriate authorities.” She gave them both a quick smile. “Go clean up and change, and once you have you’re both free to leave.”

Annie looked the most surprised of the two. “We don’t need to return for class?”

A soft chuckle escaped Ramona’s lips. “I think you’ve both proven that there isn’t any need for you to work on forms or spar today.”

“That’s for sure.” Helena moved up closer to Ramona, though she knew better than to stand next to her at this point. “Erywin, I, and a few others are heading into Boston about eleven to have lunch and do a little shopping. Why don’t you come out to the Instructors Residence when you done cleaning up? You can relax a bit before we leave.”

Both seemed happy to hear this news. Kerry reached out and gave Annie’s hand a squeeze before responding. “Thank you, Professor.”

Annie smiled as she returned to squeeze. “Yes, thank you, Helena.”

“All right, then.” Ramona straightened slightly. “Face me.” Annie and Kerry turned to face their instructor and bowed as she did. When they straighten Ramona wave them away. “Go on: go clean up.”

The instructors watched Annie and Kerry make their way through the carnage they left behind only to stop just past the last of the bodies so that they could share a short kiss. When they finished they both cast a glance back before heading off to the locker rooms and vanishing.

Helena rubbed her eyes as she chuckled. “Love among the zombies.”

Ramona only partially turned to head to look at the sorceress. “Didn’t you ever do that after test?”

“We didn’t have homunculus as nice as the ones you make.” She turned towards Ramona. “When I get back from Boston this afternoon, you and I are going to have a little discussion about what just happened here.”

Ramona crossed arms and gave her friend an unconcerned look. “Believe me, Helena; I want to talk about this.”

 

There you have it: the kids get to kill a bunch of zombies in front of the third of the student body, they then got this work their instructor, and then they were released from class for the rest of the day so they can go hang out in Boston with other instructors.  All in all, not a bad day–or, I should say, a bad four minutes, as that’s all it really took for them to establish themselves as the Bad Ass Zombie Killers of Salem.  And given what was seen, and the rumors that will come out of what was seen, one has to assume that anyone who calls these two out now is simply looking for a beating.

That doesn’t mean that neither of them won’t get called out–

And now that the fighting is done, it’s time for the instructors to ask a few questions…

The Kali Test: Required Rules

Good morning, everyone, and Happy Cosmonauts Day!  Yes, today’s the day that humans–particularly Yuri Gagarin–and space shuttle Columbia first went into space.  But in a certain history that I’ve created, this is also the day–a chilly, wet day–in 2013 that Annie Kiralova took her final solo flight.  And right about now she was waking up and getting ready to head down to the Flight School for breakfast of steak and eggs.

What a lucky girl.

Yesterday you may have noticed that I re-blog post.  That post was to commemorate that two years earlier I had started Book Three of my series, B For Bewitching.  Which means it seems like it was a good time to finish the current seen I’m excerpting now and move on to the next.

And right here it is.

It turned out to be almost five thousand words long, which makes it one of the longest scenes of written a bit.  But that’s because there’s all sorts of stuff going on inside and that takes time to get out.  And it also puts me five hundred words closer to the end of Part Three.  Which is good because the next part of the novel gets really interesting…

So, we’ve seen some of the pretest shenanigans, but they’re done–so let’s move on to the next part: the rules. You know there have to be rules.

And there are:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Walking past the half-dozen cabinets at the far end of the Manor’s floor, Annie and Kerry made their way towards Ramona. Both were dressed in the loose top and pants worn by all students in the Self Defense classes, Annie’s hair was tied back in a pony tail, and as usual both were barefoot. The biggest difference in the outfits these two wore was the color: most of the time the uniforms were white, but Annie’s and Kerry’s were black. Helena was aware that Ramona only ordered this change if she was certain and upcoming test was going to get bloody.

Both students came to a halt facing Ramona and bowed. Ramona returned the bow, then turned and faced the rest of the students, addressing all in English. “If I may have your attention, please?” The talking subsided and vanished as every student did as instructed. “I thank you all for coming out to the Manor on this early Sunday morning. As such, I would like to remind you all that you are invited guest, and as such I expect you to show a modicum of decorum for the event we are about to witness.

“What will happen in the next few minutes is an officially sanction Foundation test. It has not been requested by the school, but rather by an outside agency associated with The Foundation—”

Helena instantly noticed the glances exchanged between a few of the students and took this to mean that the rumor she had heard through the last school year about Annie and Kerry being somehow affiliated with the Guardians was considered by some students to be a bit more than a rumor. Now was not the time to give the matter any concern, so she returned her attention to Ramona’s introduction—

“—and as such they have stipulated guidelines under which they wish this test conducted.” Ramona pointed to the six cabinets at the opposite end of the Manor’s large training area. “Each of those cabinets contains a homunculus. Annie and Kerry are required to combat six homunculi in each phase of the test.”

 

Helena shouldn’t seem that surprised that kids are passing knowing looks when they hear of a “Foundation outside agency”, because most of the kids have put two and two together and figured out that Annie and Kerry are likely doing some sneaking and peeking–and who the hell knows what else?–with Helena and her merry gang of Guardians.  Maybe she isn’t surprised.  Maybe she knows that these kids know more than they’re letting on, but she doesn’t care.  As she’s said before, a bad ass rep is a good thing to have, and having a bunch of people come out to watch you kill fake zombies improves that rep even more.

Now for the actual rules:

 

She turned to her two students who were now eyeing her hard. “There are eighteen homunculi which you are required to defend against in three separate phases. In the first phase you may only take Mano Mano actions along with any spells you are capable of crafting. In the second phase—” She pointed to the small weapons racks against the walls on her left and right. “You are permitted to use these weapons along with the live hand and magic. In the third and last phase you maybe continue to use Mano Mano and magic, though the only weapons you may use are those which you craft out of mystical or dark energy.

“The first phase begins when the homunculi at the far end step across the white line.” She clapped her hands twice and the cabinets opened, revealing the homunculi inside. As everyone had seen before they shambled out slowly before stopping at the edge of the far white line. “As soon as they cross the line six more will appear and wait their turn to engage. Each phase will only begin when all of the homunculi of the prior phase have been dispatched.

“This is also a timed test. It will last for minutes, though the test itself should take up approximately three and a half minutes of that time. All three phases of the test must be completed before the music ends—”

For the first time since greeting their professor Kerry spoke. “Music? We’re getting music?”

Ramona nodded. “Yes. Our instructions were to play a particular song during the test that lasts just short of four minutes.” She gave him a stern look as a way of warning him not to speak out of turn again. “Do you require further elaboration?”

Kerry shook his head. “No, Professor.”

 

First off, some clarification.  The term Mano Mano is an expression used in Kali that means “hand-to-hand”.  And that is exactly what they do in the first phase: they fight only with their hands and with magic.  The second expression, used in phase two, is “live hand”.  This indicates that in some instances you have a weapon in one hand and your other hand is empty. It is the empty hand which is your live hand, and that means you can use that against her opponent along with your weapon.  Kali was actually developed as a weapon-based martial arts and the hand movements used reflect the same movements used for weapons.  This means it is heavily based upon muscle memory in terms of how one faces their opponent and disables them.

Now we see some additional shenanigans as well. Helena put in a cook order for twelve homunculi: instead, there are eighteen, which means Ramona received a different order when she sent off her acknowledgment to the Guardians.  And while Annie and Kerry are out fighting, they get to listen to music!  Some of you may remember that a few months back I said I was focusing on a scene where a particular song was played as the scene played out.  Guess what?  Here’s that scene.

And now for the last of the rules:

 

Ramona nodded once to show she understood, then continued. “As defined in the instructions, this is considered a ‘Do or Die’ test.” Out of the corner of her eyes she saw Helena’s head whip about at the mention of the test condition, but Ramona paid no attention. “A safety enchantment will go up at the red line, making it impossible to step out of the testing area as a way of ending the test.

“Therefore, the conditions for the completion of the test are simple. If one of both of you are subdued by the homunculi before time has expired, you fail. If you have not dispatched all homunculi before time has expired, you fail. If, however, you destroy all eighteen homunculi before time has expired, you pass. There are no other situations that will allow a pass.” Ramona scrutinized both her students. “You understand the conditions as explained?”

Annie responded with a curt nod. “Yes, Professor.”

Kerry looked down for a moment before meeting Ramona’s gaze. “Yes, Professor.”

“Excellent.” Ramona pointed to the rectangular outlines on the floor a few meters from where they stood. “Please take your positions.” She turned to face the now over fifty students who were waiting for the next few minutes unfold. “The test will begin momentarily.”

 

Do or Die.  No, doesn’t sound a bit overly dramatic at all.  Nor does it sound all that grave–

Yeah, who are we kidding?  Someone in the Guardians decided they were going to make this test fairly difficult, and the only way my kids are going to beat this test is if they beat–or as Ramona says, destroy–their eighteen undead opponents.  Yes, it sounds like the guardians are piling a ton of crap onto my kids, but believe me, there is a method to their madness.

And tomorrow you’re going to get see that madness played out.  For tomorrow begins Phase One…

The Kali Test: Surprise Setup

Last night was another thousand word session,  my first back-to-back writings in about a month, and I nearly brought this scene to an end.  Almost, but not quite.  I’ll probably finish it up tonight.

But we start The Kali Test, as I call it, right here and now.  Although I warn you, it’s probably going to be Wednesday before you see the kids kicking ass.  Which means tomorrow are the rules and today–today is the setup…

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

The moment Helena entered Gwydion Manor she noticed something was different—specifically, instead of there being the half dozen or so students who normally took Advanced Self Defense class on Sunday morning, about forty students were standing around looking as if waiting for something to happen. Though she didn’t often come out to watch a self-defense class, she knew the only time these sort of crowds appeared in the Manor was when a judgment trial was about to take place.

And she knew for a fact that nothing that was about to happen in the next fifteen to twenty minutes had anything to do with the judgment trial.

Helena spotted Ramona off to one side of the testing area speaking with a student. She spotted someone else: Isis was here, standing about six meters away an examining something on her tablet display. It wasn’t normal for her to be here as it wasn’t necessary for her to be present during this or any test. Unless, of course, she was here to check out something that was needed for the test, like equipment she may have installed—

The moment she saw Ramona heading in her direction Helena raised her head to gain her attention. The martial arts instructor headed for her directly and greeted her with a slight smile. “Glad to see you made it.”

“Wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” Helena stepped closer to to her fellow instructor and turned so her back was towards the majority of the milling students. “What the hell is going on? Why are all these students here?”

“Oh, this.” Ramona looked around and switched to Esperanto to answer the question. “You can thank Isis for this. Apparently she sent out an email before breakfast inviting students to the Manor to watch a training exercise.” Her left eyebrow raised slowly as she turned her gaze in the direction of the Chief of Security. “It certainly wasn’t my idea.”

Helena was surprised to hear this, as it was unusual, if not out of the ordinary, for Isis to interject herself in daily classwork. The Chief of Security never became involved with the instructor’s classes unless there is a security concern that needed addressing—and even then she herself rarely became involved. Unless…

She pointed in the tall woman’s direction. “What’s she checking on her tablet?”

 

So what better way to kick this test off than to make it a public spectacle, yeah?  It seems like a hit as well, since about a third of the student body has shown to watch Annie and Kerry beat up on the newly created undead, which means no pressure at all.

There’s also something else going on here–

 

Ramona nodded toward the test area. “Look out there; what you see?”

Helena tried to follow Isis’ gaze and immediately notice what was drawing her attention. “Damn, there’s a lot of Spy Eyes in the room.”

“Two dozen.” Ramona crossed her arms as she glanced over at Helena. “I was told last night after the Midnight Madness that one of Isis’ people going to be out here installing them for the test.”

Helena turned back toward Ramona, not caring if any students saw her speaking. “Why the hell would she be out here installing all these Spy Eyes?” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “What the hell’s going on?”

“Additional instructions.” Even though she was speaking in Esperanto Ramona kept her voice low so that the conversation didn’t travel beyond the two women. “When I sent off that acknowledgment the other day, I received additional instructions in return.”

“On?”

“I’m not permitted to tell you until after this test.”

Helena felt her jaw tighten. “What is this shite?”

Ramona held up a hand. “Not only did I get instructions, but Isis received them as well; I only found out about them last night after the Midnight Madness when she and I were walking back to the Instructors Residence.” She held up her tablet. “This morning she gives me additional instructions on how this test is to be conducted: I’ve had about fifteen minutes to review them.” She lowered the tablet to her side and returned to speaking English. “It’s all that damn compartmentalization: they don’t want one group aware of what the others doing, all the way down the line.”

It was impossible for Helena to argue, for she was certain Ramona was correct. She knew the Guardians were far more secretive than any of their other contemporaries in The Foundation, but this sometimes led to the same sort of secrecy taking hold in each of the individual headquarters. And when it came to the Special Operations and Procedures Division, better known as SOP, they were known for sometimes taking secrecy to a new level.

But what bothered Helena the most wasn’t that Ramona and Isis were given separate duties after they were told of the test, it was that someone in San Francisco had decided that it wasn’t necessary for Helena to know about these changes.

She was about to ask Ramona another question when self-defense instructor nodded at something behind Helena. “Here they come.”

 

Spy Eyes are magical little floating cameras that can be thrown up to monitor just about anything–like, say, a flight by A Levels to nearly two miles above sea level.  Here, two dozen are being used to keep track of the test, and that’s…  well, it’s a lot.  Someone doesn’t want to miss a beat.

And now we get an idea of why Ramona probably said, “That’s interesting.”  Someone high up out in San Fran didn’t want Helena to know about changes in the test.  And Isis did the same to Ramona.  That damn compartmentalization the spooks love so much is being used like mad here, and pretty much all the players are feeling the effect.

Now Annie and Kerry are here, so listen up:  the rules are gonna get laid down…

All That the Guardians Want

Well, we are here again getting ready to delve into my kid’s lives.  Although this is one of those scenes where neither of them are actually here, they’re just spoke about like the stars they are.

This is the last part of the first scene where the big Kali test is set up.  We’ve heard what is needed and realize what is at stake.  However, that doesn’t mean our Self Defense and Weapons instructor is happy–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

She leaned back in the chair, interlaced her fingers, and gave her arms and shoulders to stretch. “You do realize that this is the week I start cooking up all the homunculi for next Friday’s class?”

Helena appeared slightly amused. “The Great Zombie Killing lesson, am I right?”

“The one and the same.”

“While I understand that you need to cook up a few for all the new students to try and kill, one, it’s not as many as we need to cook up for Sunday and, two, the Guardians give zero shits.” Helena chuckled. “What the Guardians want, the Guardians get.”

Ramona snorted. “Which is what they always get.”

“Absolutely.”

“All right, then.” Ramona knew that any protesting from here on out was nothing more than bitching and it wouldn’t change the outcome of the request. “I suppose I could turn up the time enchantments a bit so we can get these dozen done in the next twenty-four hours. I really hate to do that—”

“Because why? You’re afraid of wearing out the APs faster?” Helena was aware that the majority of the homunculi creation was performed by Salem’s housekeeping staff, which meant it was all being handled by one of the schools APs. “They’re not going to notice if you crank up the enchantment to twenty times over normal; to them it makes no difference.” She sat back in her chair and began forming her fingers on her thighs. “What’s up your arse this afternoon? You usually don’t react like this when I put in a request.”

Ramona fidgeted in her seat delete before answering. “It feels like San Francisco’s up to something again and you know I don’t work well with all this secretive bullshit.”

 

Yesterday reader and blog follower renxkyoko told me that she thought the Guardians were being a bit unfair with Annie and Kerry.  Well, here we have Ramona feeling as if San Francisco–the HQ who have ordered and will oversee this test–are kinda being sneaky shits about something.  Wow, spooks being, you know, spooky.  That’s like unheard of, you know?

Helena knows how to handle this:

 

Helena’s tone softened: she didn’t want to give Ramona the idea that she was upset with her. “I get tired with it as well, but I tend not to let it bother me as I’m used to their crap.” She leaned forward slightly as she smiled. “Not the first time it’s happened, certainly won’t be the last.”

That’s certainly true.” Ramona tapped her tablet. “I’ll start work on this right away; I should have the first of the homunculi cooking before dinner.”

“Excellent.” Helena rose from her chair and began backing away from Ramona’s desk. “By the way, that request has an acknowledgment notification. Make sure you respond to let San Francisco know that you’ve received a request and you understand.”

Ramona flashed her best bitch face before scoffing loudly. “I have done this before, Helena.”

Helena realized her faux pas immediately. “I apologize; wasn’t necessary for me to say that.”

Ramona nodded once. “Apology accepted.” She smiled the show there were no hard feelings. “I’ll take care of this. See you at dinner.”

Once the sorceress was gone and the door to her office closed, Ramona sat back in her chair and sighed. She wasn’t upset with Helena, though it did same as if during the past week all the instructors were slightly on edge. She felt it had something to do with the A Levels, who appeared to be a little slower than normal when it came to learning to craft even the simplest spells. Ramona didn’t notice much in her Beginning Self Defense class, but every night at dinner there was always one instructor who was somewhat frustrated with the progress of their new students.

She wouldn’t let it concerned her. We’ve started out the year with slow students before and in the end we’ve managed to train them up properly. She tapped on her tablet bring up to request so that she could acknowledge its receipt. I’m certain this year won’t be any different than the others. Ramona checked the box indicating she’d received cooking request and sent it off to San Francisco.

She was in the process of bringing up something else on her tablet when there was a ding notifying that she’d received an email. Her face scrunched up as she saw it was an acknowledgment to her acknowledgment. “What the hell?” She opened the message and quickly scan the contents, Ramona’s confusion changing to amazement as she read. The moment she finished Ramona sat up and slowly ran a finger along her right cheek bone. “Well, that’s certainly interesting…”

 

Annnnnnnnnnnnd, it looks like the spooks are being spooky.  What does this mean for the test?

You’ll start finding out tomorrow.

Rules and Ridiculous Regulations

Well, there’s some good news to go along with this post.  I’ve written almost 1100 words this morning, and in doing so made it almost two-thirds of the way through Annie’s and Kerry’s Kali test.  And let me tell you, it is a bloody mess.  Given that they’re being tested and a somewhat public situation, anyone who decides to call either of these kids out after this has either got to be really good at what they do, or a complete idiot–or maybe a little of both.  Honestly, I can’t wait until I get to this point in the story so you can see my kids unleash hell.

It’s going to be glorious.

Once more, however, I’m sort of making up for the fact that I haven’t written in the last two days. Both Friday and Saturday night I was out listening to live music at the coffee shop down the street.  It was kind of a nice break, but at the same time there was something I should’ve written and I won’t be able to get to it until tonight.  That’s on me and I should know better.  But sometimes you need to just step back and recharge, and that’s what I’ve been doing of late.

Okay, maybe I unwound too much yesterday…

 

I still had fun hanging out, however.

I can’t quite get to that fight yet because I’m still in the process of setting up the rules.  We know Ramona is one of those helping set up the rules; but who is it who’s come to visit her?  Well, who do you think?

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Ramona looked up and found Helena Lovecraft standing in her doorway, a tablet in her left hand. It was rare Helena carried her tablet with her and it usually indicated she wanted to conduct some important business with you. “No, not at all.” She waved the sorceress inside and waved the door shut. “What’s on your mind?”

Helena sat and made herself comfortable. “Got a request from my friends in San Francisco.” She placed the tablet on remote his desk and pushed it towards her. “It’s a cook order.”

A “cook order” was Guardian slang for the creation of homunculi, as they needed to be created in molds, prepared from materials they gave them a human-like appearance and feeling. She tapped Helena’s tablet to hers, transferring the document to her machine, then performed a quick scan. Her eyebrows shot up as she looked up. “They want a dozen by tomorrow night? What for?”

Helena retrieved her tablet. “Scroll a little further down; you’ll see the Guardians want to conduct a self-defense test during the Sunday class. The email indicates they want them to go up against a dozen homunculi.” She shut the tablet off and set it aside, leaving it floating in the air next to her. “It shouldn’t be that big of a deal.”

 

Never let it be said that the instructors at Salem didn’t have their own little territories marked out, and when someone from outside their territory decides to come in and start rearranging things a bit, people get testy.  Ramona is well aware that Helena is only passing along what the Guardians are asking, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it.

And this goes double when someone else tries to put her at ease–

 

Ramona snorted. “Allow me to be the judge of what is and isn’t a ‘big deal’ around here.” She sat back in her large, plush chair. “And why do they want to conduct this test during my class? I could easily hold it Sunday afternoon.”

“Except they don’t want it Sunday afternoon, they wanted Sunday morning.” Helena shrugged. “Who the hell knows why San Francisco asks for these things? When they want something, we deliver.” She slowly crossed her legs and rested her hands against her knee. “Remember, it was the same way when we set up the puppeteering rigs. They told us they wanted to test them, but they leaked out the details little by little, so that we were still scrambling around right up until a few hours before Annie and Kerry showed up.”

Ramona couldn’t fault Helena’s logic. While not a member of the Guardians herself, as the person in charge of helping develop the fighting skills of students at Salem, she was often asked to evaluate students and, as in the case with teaching Annie and Kerry how to Marionette, she sometimes work directly with them to carry out their instructions.

But that didn’t mean she liked having to cater to every whim that came out of the Guardian’s North American headquarters in San Francisco. She felt that often they were too secretive for their own good and there were times when it seems as if the secrecy involved keeping members on their end from understanding the purpose of a test.

 

The interesting thing to take away from this exchange is that Ramona doesn’t seem all that surprised by all this BS Helena is pushing her way.  We know she knows Annie and Kerry are doing things for the Guardians because she was involved in the puppeteer tests and there wasn’t any way Helena could spin that off as anything but.  If anything, if seems she’s been called upon to do their bidding once in a while, because if you’re gonna get kids ready for the battles ahead, who better to do so than the Mistress of Ass Kicking?

Now we know the Guardians can be an annoying group of shits.  How annoying?

I think you’re about to find out.

Ground Rules For the Darkness

Here I am, once again, doing the blogging thing after a Saturday of political fun and going to the movies.  The political stuff was interesting, though there was one dude who decided that all our talk of women’s abortion rights was leaving him feeling a bit “excluded”, which I took to mean he didn’t want to hear about it.  In the movie going stuff involved to meeting a friend for a quick dinner at a Japanese noodle restaurant and then watching Hidden Features at an old theater next door.

A shot from where we sat in the balcony. Be Jelly.

Once again there wasn’t any writing last night, but I’ve made up for that by doing almost six hundred words this morning and will likely do more tonight, bringing the day to thousand word total.  Oh, and if started on the new scene which deals with the time spells Wednesday is going to teach in her Advanced Spells class.

See? Not lying.

In the meantime were back in the Witch House with Isis and Annie having a quaint conversation while Helena looks on.  And the discussion has to do with the spell Blend With Shadows, which Annie wants to learn…

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

Isis tipped her right index finger toward the girl. “Right you are on both accounts. Helena approached me last week and asked if I’d help out: she figured in three weeks time I can give you enough of the fundamentals that you’d likely be able to perform the spell on your own without difficulty.” She took a moment to adjust her stylish red glasses and brushed a strand of hair from her face. “The only condition I gave Helena  is I’d like to be out here by twenty forty-five at the latest so I can get back to the residence and spend some time with Wednesday.”

“I don’t have an issue there.” She cast a satisfied glance in Helena’s direction. “I feel three weeks of instruction should be enough time. Is that what you feel as well?”

Helena nodded. “Given how quickly you picked up Shadow Ribbons I don’t see you having an issue with this.” She scratched her forehead just above her left eyebrow. “Of course, it’s entirely up to you as to how comfortable you are with the pace of Isis’ instruction.”

“It shouldn’t be an issue.” Isis shook her head. “Since we’ve worked together before Annie is familiar with how I teach.”

“And since I didn’t have a problem last year, I don’t imagine I’ll have another this year.” Annie smiled broadly as she turned to Helena. “Are you going to observe, or are you going to try to learn the spell as well?”

“Observe only.” Helena hooked her thumbs in the belt loops of her black jeans. “Though I’m adapt with the other spells in the Shadow Disciplines, this Blend with Shadows shit is, quite frankly, spooky as fuck, and that makes it something with which I’d rather not deal.”

Annie was somewhat shocked to hear Helena say she found a certain spell somewhat “spooky”. She was aware the head sorceress knew nearly every Morte spell as well as a dozen other spells that one could use to kill another person, so it was a bit disconcerting to hear her admit there was a spell that made her uncomfortable. “But it doesn’t bother you to be here while we’re practicing, does it?”

“Oh, hell no.” Helena gave her head a quick shake. “I don’t mind watching; I just don’t want to walk in the shadows like you two.” She gave Isis a wave of her hand as she headed toward the table. “She’s all yours. Have fun.”

“Oh, we will.” Isis turned Annie with a mischievous sparkle in her eye. “First off: tell me what you know about Blend with Shadows.”

 

You have to find it interesting that there is a spell that Helena finds “spooky as fuck”.  This is a woman who can kill without a moment’s hesitation, but she’s slightly creeped out by the fact that someone at the school can actually become one with the shadows and move among them without being detected.  Which makes you wonder: if and when Annie learns the spell–and the odds are more “when” than “if”–how Helena’s going to act around her since Annie will be able to do the same shadow blending.  Does this mean there will be times when Annie hides in a shadow at the Witch House so she can sneak up on Helena and yell “Boo!”  Won’t that be a lot of fun?

Then again, I know it Annie’s going to wear as her costume for the Samhain dance, so maybe being able to walk in the shadows will fit perfectly with her character.

Which means right now you’re probably wondering what she’s going wear…

Catching Up on the Magical Small Talk

So last night I was a snowflake–

That’s right:  when I went to my Planned Parenthood dinner I went as a Snowflake Supporter, so I can say that besides being a card carrying member of the ACLU, I’m also a snowflake.  Boom.  Suck it, haters.

The funny thing last night was running into people who are doing some of the same political stuff I’m doing, and even one person who worked with me on the Clinton campaign.  We’re all over the place.  Obviously I’m in good company.

Now, something interesting before getting into the story.  An article was posted on Avclub about rules that writers follow, and after reading the article I realize I violated Elmore Leonard’s rule about never starting a novel where you talk about the weather–I did that twice.  But in the article someone suggested that all novels could be improved if the second line of the book was, “And then the murders began.”

So, just to show you how improved my work is by following this rule, here are the first and second lines of my last three novels:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, 2015, by Cassidy Frazee)

 

The mountains were bright under the morning sun, though the light had yet reached many of the surrounding valley floors. Within the hour every valley in and around Pamporovo, Bulgaria, would bathe in sunshine, but for now most were enveloped in quiet shadows.

And then the murders began.

 

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

“ . . . Half the summer gone, and another half to go, and I miss you more every day. I can’t wait until the travel packages come, cause that means I’ll only have to wait another two week before I see you again. And then I can be happy once more.

“And then the murders began…

 

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

What bothered Annie Kirilova the most this morning was the weather. She had hoped for a bright sunshine, but what she received instead was light rain and low cloud cover. The rain also left the temperatures hovering in the low teens Celsius, which kept her out of shorts and forced her into leggings to wear with her long, flowing top and black ballet flats.

And then the murders began.

 

As you can see, all three books are drastically improved!  So much so I may leave them that way.  Though…  probably not.  I don’t think Annie wants to read about murders in the Malibey household.  Also, any of your writers out there reading this:  do the same in the comments with your books and I’ll post them.

What she does want, however, is some quality time in the Witch House with the Head Sorceress and the Chief of Security–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Annie opened her hand and the baston vanished. “With the testing I’ve encountered this evening I had to wonder if you were going to attack me after I left myself defenseless.”

Isis chuckled. “You, defenseless? Please.” She shook her head. “No way in hell is that true. I know better than that.”

Annie’s right eyebrow arched upward. “The why did you just say you didn’t know I could create a weapon so quickly?”

Isis and Helena exchanged looks for about three seconds before Isis sighed and nodded her head slowly. “I should know better than open my mouth.”

Helena finally stepped away from the table and slowly approached. “I thought you were supposed to be good at keeping secrets?” Helena moved alongside Isis and looked at Annie. “How are you feeling tonight?”

“Are you asking to make conversation?” The right corner of Annie’s mouth curled upward into a grin. “Or is this another test?”

“I’m asking as a friend.” Helena turned toward Isis. “God, what a suspicious little bitch.”

Isis crossed her arms. “Can’t imagine where she would have learned that from.”

“You can piss right off, too.” Helena’s expression softened as a slight smile came to her face when she turned back towards Annie. “No more tests like what you’ve already went through. From this point we get on to serious business. But I would like to know if you’re feeling well.”

 

You can probably imagine that Isis was going to do something to Annie and then tried to blow it off when she was caught before she had a chance.  You know Isis knows just how good Annie is when it cones to sorcery, ’cause it’s her job to know.  Not only is Annie good, but after all the shit she went through to make it up to that room, she figures that anything about to come her way is a test.  Yes, she is a suspicious little bitch. ’cause that’s how her instructor made her.

But there is a soft side to Helena as well…

 

Though Annie was aware that to the school’s general population considered Helena to be an unapproachable bitch with a hair-trigger temper, the two years she had spent in her presence taught her that the head sorceress could be a warm and affable person in the right situations. She has to come across as mean when were in class, for just like here, everything that happens in the classrooms below are part of the test. “I feel great. Though I have to admit I felt a bit of trepidation when I learned I was reporting to the first floor.”

“I wanted to make certain we weren’t bothered by any pain in the arse students.” Helena gazed off to her right for a moment as she spoke. “They don’t normally come out here this time of night, but it would be our luck that tonight was the night someone decided to come out here and look for book they suddenly want to read in the main library.”

“Why not meet in the lower levels then?”

“It was time for a change of venue.” Helena cocked a thumb at the woman to her left. “Besides, I didn’t want her to think we spend all our time under the ground like a bunch of moles.”

By now Annie at figured out why Isis was here, so rather than ask she address the security chief directly. “You’re going to teach me Blend with Shadows, aren’t you?”

Now it was Isis’ turn to grin. “You’re quick on that assumption.”

Annie shrugged. “Not so much, actually. It’s my understanding you’re one of the only people at school, or the only person, who knows the Blend with Shadow spell, and since I’ve expressed an interest in learning the spell, it makes sense that Helena has asked you to come and teach me.” She crossed her arms as she shifted her weight to her left leg. “After all, that’s exactly the same thing you did with me last year once it was discovered I possessed the Flight Gift.”

 

So there we are:  Isis is probably going to instruct Annie in the Blend with Shadow, which means if Annie learns this spell and masters it, she’ll become just a little more dangerous.  Good thing Isis is aware of that–

I wonder when she’ll get her Licence to Kill?

Here There Be Shadows

As I mentioned to one of my fans I’m a busy girl.  Oh, and now a member of the ACLU.  Yes, I went to a mixer presented by them last night and paid my dues when I got home.  So I’ll have my card by the end of April and head towards my birthday as a first-time member.  Yay me!  And tonight I’m hanging with people from Planned Parenthood, so the struggle continues.

The novel continues, albeit a bit slower, because The Resistance is important at the moment.  But I’m getting there five hundred or so words at a time, so keep watching this space ’cause my kids are coming.

And speaking of that, one of them has moved into a spooky place…

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

the ground floor was gloomy the first floor of the Witch House was bathed almost entirely in darkness. The light sources here were few and emitted only the dimmest light and Annie half expected to step into the T intersection a few meters ahead and find the hallway lined with lit torches. But she didn’t need torches, for down the hall, second door on the right, a faint light came from inside a room. It was possible this was another test, but in reality she believed Helena was waiting for her there.

As Annie suspected Helena stood in the middle of the semi dark room. There was a small light source in the far left-hand corner offering the only illumination. Helen stood alongside a circular table maybe two and a half meters across round which were placed three chairs. The head sorceress smiled as her pupil into the room. “I see you made it past the enchantment.”

“I required some direction from Sabrina.” Annie looked about the room as she allowed her eyes to adjust. “Your message didn’t indicate what we are going to cover tonight. Are we going to do something with Shadow Disciplines?” Since becoming proficient with Shadow Ribbons by the middle of her A Levels, Annie had been eager to learn the other two spells in this discipline, Shadow Net and Shadow Cage.

Helena picked up a bottle of water from the table and slowly unscrewed the top. “In a way, yes.”

Annie gave her a puzzled look. “What does that mean?”

The sorceress spent about five seconds taking a drink; when she was finished she screwed the top back on the bottle and set it down. “As a Guardian, shouldn’t you always be aware of your surroundings?”

“I checked the room when I entered.” Annie was instantly on her guard. “You are the only one here.”

Helena leaned against the table. “Are you certain?”

 

Annie’s eager to get on with those Shadow Disciplines, because maybe she wants to use them to keep Kerry from leaving the house when she wants him home?  Naw, Annie is a bad ass and wants all the skills that go with that title.  Which is why she’s with Helena.

However…  When you walk into a dark room where the only person is Helena and she asks if you are sure she’s the only one there, you better have your backup plan ready:

 

“I’m—” Almost immediately Annie knew she was being tested and that there was someone else in the room. With only seconds to figure out the threat she quickly analyzed her surroundings once more and tried to figure out where the threat lay. There’s only one light source and the room is full of shadows, that Helena says were not doing Shadow Disciplines—no, she said were doing the spells in a way. Which means it’s something that isn’t specifically a Shadow Discipline. And that means

She quickly crafted ball lightning in her right hand and molded into a magical baston as she wheeled to her right. Annie moved her left hand into a striking position as she pointed her baston at the shadow to her right rear—the one that now seemed to be moving towards her. “Stop, Isis. I know it’s you.”

The motion within the shadow stopped and a portion of it protruded, quickly becoming human sized. A moment later the darkness peeled back revealing Isis Mossman, the school’s Director of Security, standing two meters away, dressed in a tee shirt, jeans, sneakers. “You’re pretty quick with that weapon.” She brushed away some imaginary dust from her top as she looked over at a grinning Helena. “You didn’t tell me she could form one of those things that quickly.”

Helena shrugged. “You’re Director of Security; I figured you’d know.”

“I do now.” She turned to Annie, who still held the magical baston. “You can put that away. It’s not like I’m going to hurt you.”

 

There likely aren’t many people who can surprise Isis at the school, but one has to wonder what she would have done if she’d been able to sneak up on Annie?  Probably just put a magical knife to her neck and threaten to cut her throat–which may have provoked a response Isis might not have wanted.  Maybe one day we’ll find out.

Right now, though, it looks like Annie is about to learn how to walk into some shadows…

Join the Club: The Final Piece

It’s snowing today and there was the possibility I would have to go into work late, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  There doesn’t appear to be any news about office delays, while at the same time there doesn’t appear to be a lot of cars on the highway.  I guess this means I’m going into work and I’ll just roll the dice on whether or not there will be anybody in the office, since I can’t seem to find any good news.

I did my get-together with my political woman’s group last night and were still in the process of figuring out what is going to do.  We don’t have to meet again for another three weeks, which is good for me: do give me a chance to rest up and looked at my other options for what I need to do in the political fight.  There’s plenty to do and plenty of action go around: in fact, I’m actually going to a political action group this Saturday before heading off to the Harrisburg LGBT Center for a viewing of the National Geographic episode on gender.  I’m such a busy girl…

But not so busy that I couldn’t write last night.  It wasn’t nearly 1000 words this time, but more like closer to five hundred and fifty.  The inspiration simply wasn’t flowing and I had a difficult conversation to write.  I will say this much, however: in the scene I was working on last night Annie does something that she’s never done before, and it may be a bit of a surprise.  But you’ll probably have to wait about a week and a half to find out what that is, because right now she’s sixty-three hundred words ahead of you.

After this excerpt is printed, of course.

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Ramona smiled as she looked at Helena. “Do you think she’s going to be angry?”

“I don’t believe so.” Helena turned to Annie. “We spoke to her last night about this and she didn’t voice any reservations about you coming over to our side. The other thing she said, though, was she’ll miss not having a real sorceress inside the Rotunda.”

Annie cocked her head to one side. “If I’m hunting down Deconstructors outside the Pentagram, then that means there won’t be any inside the Rotunda.” She glanced between the two instructors. “Isn’t that so?”

Ramona set up and leaned against the arm of her chair. “It is. And we think if it should come to needing to get rid of Deconstructors inside the walls, you’re going to be a great addition to our team.” A slight smile formed on her face. “I take it you’re going to accept?”

“I do.”

“Be careful with that phrase.” Helena laughed. “There’s another person to whom you are supposed to say that.”

A deep blush filled Annie’s cheeks. “I mean, I accept your invitation. I want to be part of the Rapid Response team.”

“Good.” Ramona thrice slapped the surface of her desk. “I’ll set you up with a schedule of when you can meet the others on the team and let you know when we’ll get together for our infrequent training sessions. As we’ve already indicated, most of the members are either on the fight team or are sorceresses in good standing, so the only times we really need to get together is when we need to see how we work as a team.”

“And given what I know about you—” Helena arched an eyebrow. “I know you’re capable of working well in the team environment.”

Annie was somewhat surprised to hear Helena say this as she knew the Head Sorceress was alluding to the Kansas City field operation. Even though she didn’t give any detail, saying this in front of Ramona more or less confirmed the rumor that Annie was doing Guardian work. “All I can say is I’ll do my best.” She sat back in her chair and sighed.  “Won’t Kerry be surprised when he gets out of class.”

This time Helena smiled at Ramona. “I don’t believe he’ll be too surprised.”

Before Annie could ask what the sorceress meant Ramona spoke. “Before he left on his class mission Vicky asked Kerry if he would join Air Assault. We got the answer just before you arrived: he accepted.”

“And—” Helena leaned a bit toward Annie. “Vicky let him know that you were being summoned here to be asked to join Rapid Response, and apparently he felt that you were going to accept the invitation.”

Annie’s eyebrows arched upward as she nodded slowly. “My love knows me all too well.” She looked at Ramona. “He was sent on a class mission? Do you know where?”

Ramona scratched her neck. “Vicky said something about New York…”

 

Coraline’s gonna miss Annie, but she also knows that if Annie’s outside killing Deconstructor she’s making her Triage Team safe and there isn’t a possibility she’ll killed a patient because she was angry.  And Coraline’s going to show Annie a bit more in the area of first aid and maybe even healing, so it’s an even bigger win-win.

At the same time we discover that Vicky has asked Kerry to become part of Air Assault, because he is a good example of Death From Above.  You can almost see him zipping in on some poor bastard and lighting them up for a trip Beyond the Veil.  And smiling all the while he’s doing it.

And now he’s in New York.  City?  State?  Where?

Glad you asked…