The End of the Recriminations

In the last three days–well, two nights and two mornings, actually–I’ve written just short of four thousand words for this first scene of Chapter Thirty-Nine.  And let me tell you, it was hard.  Every moment of writing was difficult.  I only managed a little over three hundred words last night, one because I was tied, and two before it was just hard pulling up the strength I needed to get those words down.

There were a lot of emotions on my end about writing this scene.  I may not seem like it, but it’s a hard thing to point out that even though you’ve created this nice, seemingly perfect society which is trying to make the world a better place for everyone, it’s disconcerting to know that your society is still littered with shitbirds pushing their own agendas.  But The Foundation ain’t Utopia, and the Guardians deal with problems not only in this world, but . . . well, in time you’ll find out.  If I ever get to those novels.

So, yes:  this scene and the last chapter show there’s just a bit of cynicism circulating about the halls of power that run this world.  Everything is flawed, because even super-powerful world-controlling witches are, deep down, nothing but people.

But they do want to help you.  Really.

It’s just that Maddie did something bad.  And in doing so she pissed off the wrong sorceress.  Oopsie!

 

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

Maddie took a step back from the angry sorceress, unsure of what the woman would do next. “I’m sorry, Helena, but I had my reasons—”

“I give zero shits about your reasons.” Despite knowing that she shouldn’t get angry, Helena felt her anger starting to slip loose from where she kept it hidden. “Kerry saved your life, you ungrateful bitch—”

Maddie’s temper came on strong in that moment. “That was an accident.”

It doesn’t matter. He saved you.” Helena regained control and returned to her smoldering, cool demeanor. “You’d be dead right now were it not for him. And you repay that by being a spy. By telling the Guardians—”

“What they needed to know.” Maddie spit the words at Helena. “Both of them, they’re the sort of students the Guardians are looking for, and you know it’s the truth.” She slashed her arm downward in a dismissive manner. “If you were doing your job—”

“I am doing my job: I’m the Head Sorceress of Salem.” Helena’s face twisted into a near snarl. “I train students, not spy on them. That’s what I do.” She jabbed a finger in Maddie’s direction. “It’s what you should do, too.”

 

Yeah, you gotta admit, that’s a pretty crappy thing to do–have your life saved by some scared kid and then continue to justify your actions because what he did was an accident.  Maybe she included that in her rat

 

“Someone in San Francisco evidently doesn’t think that’s true.” Maddie smirked. “Maybe they wanted a different point of view from someone who’s suffered because of the Deconstructors.”

Helena paused for about five seconds in the wake of Maddie’s declaration of loss. When she spoke, her response came in a low, tight tone. “David blew himself up taking out four maniacs in powered armor. That was your husband’s choice, and he did it to save the school, save the students, and save you. It hurt that you lost him, I get it . . .”

 

In the prequel novel to this, you meet David, Maddie’s husband, who is also an instructor at the school.  You learn they were coven and level mates, and they married after completing their Life Experience Travels.  David encountered an instructor working for the Deconstructors and three students getting ready to start their powered armor that they’d built in class–now you know a little of what goes on down in the super science areas–and were going to tear up the school when David decided the only way to take them out was to blow up a suit of bio-armor he was working on and take out the bad guys.  Unfortunately for him, he was wearing said bio-armor, and died along with the bad guys.

So, yeah, Maddie is still hurting from that, and she doesn’t want to see anyone else go through that pain.  The problem with that explanation is that you have to give it to someone to someone who can’t imagine what you’ve gone through and hope they sympathize.

Who does she tell, though?  Helena.

Bad move . . .

 

Her voice tightened as she once more drew to within half a arm’s length of the coven leader. “But you justifying you actions because of loss isn’t going to work. ‘Cause The Scouring didn’t just end here, it kept going for about two years after that shit parade started on these grounds. You wanna talk loss, Maddie? You wanna talk about Tower One, hum? You wanna talk about what I lost? I lost coven and levelmates; I lost colleagues; I lost friendsI lost my fucking legs.” She grabbed the lapel of Maddie’s jacket and yanked the woman towards her. “Do not ever justify your shitty actions on the death of your husband, because even with all I’ve lost, I’ve never went running to the Guardians and told them confidential things about our students because I thought it just might help The Foundation Cause. I will protect these students; I will never sell them out.”

Harsh reality is Helena has tried her best to protect people, and even when it seems like she’s playing people, there’s keeping certain students in mind.  She let Annie into the Black Vault because she wanted to know what she was trying to learn.  And by knowing that, she has a good idea of what she’s showing Kerry.  One might question her letting Annie do that last, but there’s a reason for that, too, and she’ll let on more about that in time.  That seems to be a theme with me:  in time.  Everything gets resolved eventually.  It’s just I’m the only one who knows when.

Helena throws out a final warning to Maddie–one of which is along the lines of, “If I catch you doing this again I’m coming to your house and we’ll . . . talk,” and she jaunts off to The Pentagram with Erywin.  as they’re walking in there’s this conversation:

 

They teleported to a point near Founder’s Tree and began walking, hand-in-hand up to Founder’s Gate. Erywin said nothing right away, but as they passed through the huge, vaulted archway, she found she couldn’t maintain her silence any longer. “Are you going to say anything to the other coven leaders or Mathilde?”

“No. It’s not my place to go to Mathilde and tell her what I found. If Maddie wants to resign that’s up to her, but I’m not going to pressure her to do so.” Helena sighed. “What she did was shitty, but that doesn’t mean she’s a terrible instructor.”

“But do you think she’ll stop sending things to the Guardians?”

“Yes.” She turned to her right and nodded. “She knows I’m watching her now, and knows if I catch her passing along anything again, I’ll come after her.”

Erywin didn’t really want to know the answer to the next question, but she had to ask. “And do what?”

Helena didn’t blink as she answered. “Kill her.”

“At her farm?”

“Yes.”

Erywin squeezed her companion’s hand. “You would really do that, love?”

Helena cast a sideways glance back. “Honey . . .” Her face broke into a smile. “You know me better than to ask that.”

 

Hey, Helena’s smiling!  Now you know what makes her happy:  the idea of coming after you and putting you down.  And while people may question why Helena wouldn’t try and get Maddie kicked out–Helena’s still a Guardian, and just like all her brethren, she’s playing angles.  And who’s to say Helena won’t use this leverage on Maddie later to get something she wants?  Well, I’m the one to say that, that’s who.  Really, it’s a bitch getting burned in this sort of business, because then you sort of become a chum line for other sharks to feed upon.  Maybe Maddie won’t resign, but all the while she remains at school she’s gotta wonder if today is the day she looked up from her desk and discovers Helena standing in the doorway with a big smile on her face . . .

Nope.  Not something I’d want.

"Why is Helena having me look up all this Sailor Moon porn?  Maybe death would be better . . ."

“Why is Helena having me look up all this Sailor Moon porn? Maybe death would be better . . .”

Sometime today I start in on the Mile High Club scene, and the return of a certain wingmate that I know some people would like to see die as well.  Where is that scene going?

Into Thin Air.  Really.

The Pavilion Proclamation

Well, so much for writing short scenes.  I know I mentioned at some point that I wasn’t certain if scenes were going to be big from here on out, but as of this morning I’ve added a little over fourteen hundred words to the scene I started yesterday, and I only stopped because I need to get this post out, return home, and get ready to head south into Maryland to see someone about makeup.  Yeah, this girl has her priorities.

But it’s been fun writing, even if I didn’t finish the scene, because I got to set up a confrontation–one that, so far, hasn’t involved magic flying about.  Though if there were, it would be an even shorter battle than the one Erywin, Annie, and Kerry had–pretty much along the lines of a “Bored now!” flip of the hand and done.

When we last left off the bonfires were burning, Beltane was starting, and it appears there are some pissed off witches wanting answers . . .

 

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

Wednesday was confronted a few moments latter by the two women she expected to meet first: Jessica Kishna and Madeline Palmescoff, the leaders of Ceridwen and Boldeuwedd Covens. Maddie was particularly incensed by what she’d just witnessed. “What the hell was that?”

“That?” Wednesday chuckled. “That was two students lighting our bonfires—and probably being congratulated by Holoč right now for bringing more honor to Cernunnos.”

Jessica looked over her shoulder and found the Cernunnos coven leader speaking with this students, then turned back to the small Spellmistress. “I thought Morgado was a lock for tonight.”

“The same with Shamsi—” Maddie shook her head. “She was certain she would light.”

“If there’s one thing your student should remember, ladies—” Erywin walked up behind her fellow coven leaders, with Deana close behind. “—It’s that no one should sit back and assume they’re a lock for anything around here.” She, too, glanced over her shoulder to witness the happiness Holoč was expressing, then turned back. “Particularly when it comes to those two.”

 

Erywin:  being a downer since just about always.  Though she is right:  these meddlesome A Levels can be a pain it the butt when it come to magic for other kids, ’cause they just seem to . . . get it.

Which brings up the matter of how they did get it:

 

“I’m impressed by the skill they showed this evening.” Deanna pulled her jacket around her, feeling the chill creeping in from the ocean. She addressed Wednesday. “Do you know how long they’ve worked on that spell?”

Wednesday nodded slowly, though she seemed almost embarrassed to say. “Since this last weekend.”

Holoč had joined the group just in time to hear this latest news, and he was rendered nearly as dumbfounded as the other four women. “That’s what they say.”

“You mean the weekend before?” From her own experience of having them in transformation class, Jessica knew they were outstanding witches, but this revelation was nothing short of mind boggling. “You don’t normally teach that spell until near the end of their B Levels, and it usually takes until the middle of their C Levels to control it as they did tonight.”

Maddie nodded. “You must have taught it to them weeks ago in Advanced Spells—”

“I did no such thing, Maddie. I didn’t show them the Fireball spell at all.” She grinned. “They picked it up on their own.”

 

And, it turns out, they started on a Friday afternoon–down in Spell Cell #2, where they did things that got them into Advanced Spells, then off to the Firing Range–a place you haven’t seen yet, but the name says it all–on Saturday to work on range and accuracy, and on Sunday morning Wednesday certified them as legit.  This brings out another comment from a coven leader:

 

“Sunday we went back to the Firing Range, I set up a test, and they passed it with flying colors.” Wednesday made the tablet she’d been carrying in her hand up to that point vanish to whatever hammerspace she’d originally kept it stored. “And, as they were they only A Levels I personally certified on that spell, it fell to them to light the fires.”

Maddie scoffed. “Leave it to the Wonder Twins to steal the other student’s thunder.”

“I wasn’t aware it was considering stealing someone else’s thunder if you were damn good at spell crafting.” Helena strolled up to the group and looked around. “I though it meant they were damn good at what they did, and that was what we pushed on these kids every day.” She gave Maddie a lop-sided grin. “Or are you just pissed that someone from your coven didn’t get the chance to bask in the glory of Rhiannon Fettle’s memory?”

Maddie bristled at the mention of her coven’s and school’s founder, and the implication that she was upset about one of her own coven members not being selected to light the fires. “That’s not what I meant, Helena—”

“It’s okay, Maddie.” She grinned. “I’m just screwing with you.”

Erywin tapped Helena’s arm. “Which you do so well.” She turned to Maddie. “I need to speak with you; non-coven business.”

 

Now, to say that none of the coven leaders never get upset with gifted students in other covens would be a bit of a lie because, while there aren’t any Coven Cups or anything like that, the coven leaders do love those bragging rights that come from having the best of the best in their towers.  And getting to light the Beltane bonfires is one of those rights, because the pictures of the students who did the lighting gets put up in the Great Hall and in the respective student towers.  In a way it’s kind of a big deal, and Cernunnos bagged all the honors this night.

But what does Erywin want to speak about with Maddie?  Well . . .

 

The walk to the small pavilion was made in silence; once under the cover Erywin threw up a blocking spell to keep out the light breeze and chilly air. “There, much better.”

“I agree.” Maddie stuffed her hands into the pockets of her jacket. “What’s on your mind?”

“On hers? Not a great deal.” Helena stepped out of the shadow pocket she made for herself after januting away from where they’d spoken last. “Me, however—I’ve a few things I need to say.”

If there was one thing that Maddie didn’t enjoy, it was any discussion held with the Head Sorceress. She’d always considered Helena a spooky and somewhat gruesome individual, and surprising someone by stepping out of a next of shadows to start a conversation didn’t set her mind to ease.

However, as it was apparent she wasn’t going to just walk away from this talk easily, so she felt it was better to let Helena have her say and move on. “Well, then, what is it you want to say?”

Helena didn’t waste time getting to the point. “You’re to stop sending information to the Guardians. No more. As of right now.”

Maddie turned her head slightly to the right. “What? What are you saying?”

“You’re sending information to the Guardians about the students.” She took a step towards the coven leader. “You sent Gabriel information on Annie and Kerry.”

“I don’t know—”

Helena moved until she was only centimeters from Maddie. “You need to stop bullshitting me right this instance before I lose my temper and do something that will require an extended convalescence on your part.” She squinted at Maddie in the darkness. “I don’t make accusations unless I know what I’m talking about—and I know what I’m talking about.”

 

There you have it:  Helena is calling out the Guardian mole.  And when she tells you that you best stop lying to her or she’s going to put you in hospital, she’s doing that only as a professional courtesy to another instructor, because you can bet there are a lot of people who never got that same courtesy.  And if she’d zap a student hard enough on the first day of class to put them in the hospital because she was trying to get a reaction, imaging what she’d do when she’s pissed off?

And pissed off she is . . .

 

Helena backed away and began speaking without giving Maddie an opportunity to respond. “Gabriel visited at Imbolc, wanting information on Annie and Kerry. I got him alone and he came right out and admitted he was getting information fed to him from someone inside the school. Now, I know a little about setting up moles . . .” She pointed to Erywin. “I had her feeding information to me right before The Scouring because there were a few of us in the Guardians who suspected something wasn’t right, both inside our organization and here at the school. And we were right: in the aftermath of what happened here, we managed to find seven Deconstructors inside the Guardians.

“But she was feeling me information about the administration and instructors, and once things we back to normal here, she stopped.” Helena turned on Maddie. “You, on the other hand, decided to spy on students. You decided to spy on children.”

For the first time Maddie appeared uncomfortable. “Helena, I—”

“You gave the Guardians confidential information on children. You told them things about Annie and Kerry that should have remained inside these walls.”

 

Helena runs it all down in that she doesn’t think any of the top admins would stooge out info because they’re too used to keeping secrets, and when it comes to Coven Leaders, Erywin is out because of Helena, Holoč is too much of a daddy to his coven kids, and really likes Annie and Kerry, Jessica is concerned about making the school a good place and wouldn’t talk about the students, and Deanna’s a Seer and you learn that Guardians really don’t like Seers.

Which leaves . . .

 

“Which brings us to you—” She stopped pacing and focused on Maddie. “Fought and injured in The Scouring, and hates Deconstructors with a passion because of what happened to her husband . . .” Helena shook her head as Maddie cast her gaze downward. “You make it too easy.”

“Still means nothing.” Maddie looked up and hardened her face. “Everything you’ve said is conjecture and speculation. Not a single bit of hard evidence—”

Helena smiled at Maddie. “Wonder Twins.”

Maddie’s head shook as if she’d been slapped. “What?”

“You’ve been using that expression since about a week or so after the Day of the Dead Attack. And you only use it when you’re referring to them in an amusing or, like tonight, condescending manner.” Helena began moving towards Maddie slowly. “Funny thing is, I’ve been out in San Francisco a bit the last few months, and one or two people use the same phrase when speaking about them.” She stopped about half an arm’s length from the coven leader. “First rule of being a good confidential informant: never give away your tells, ‘cause someone on the other end will pick up on them eventually and run them back to you.”

 

Maybe Helena’s just pulling that last one out of her ass–or maybe she’s falling back on years of experience having her own CIs in the field, and knows a thing or two about what keeps you save and what screws you up.

And it appears Maddie just fell into the later category . . .

 

Maddie quickly looked away for a moment, then turned back to Helena with a worried look across her face. “I—”

“You informed on eleven and twelve year old witches.” Helena’s jaw clenched as she hissed out her words. “You got those kids dragged out on an operation, Maddie. You put them on the line; you put them in danger.” Helena slammed a knuckle into Maddie’s chest. “You could have gotten them killed.” She jabbed Maddie once more. “And trust me, dear, if one of both of those kids had died, I’d be taking a significant chuck out of your arse right now.” She thrust a finger in Erywin’s direction. “Erywin was on that same line, and if she’d have gotten killed, this conversation would have ended five minutes ago.” Helena twisted her head to one side as she went nose-to-nose with Maddie. “Have I made it clear that I’m not happy with your shite, or is there a need for further elaboration?”

 

Getting Helena angry with a couple of these going in the background is never a good idea.

Getting Helena angry with a couple of these going in the background is never a good idea.

Is there a need for further elaboration?  Well, I’m not finished with the scene, so the answer there is yes.  But names have been called, and my Mistress of All Things Dark won’t let up until she’s satisfied that she’s gotten her way.

Or else.

There’s not much more to write on this–yeah, I’ve said that before–and then it’s on to Annie and Kerry doing the Mile High Club–

Get your minds out of the gutter.  Mine is a different kind of club.