Divining the Divine: Diversions Among the Devine

It’s now Wednesday and I have tonight and two more nights to get everything together for the big march on Saturday.  The cold that has been coming on for the last few days is still sort of lingering, but I think I’m holding it off successfully.  I may end up marching on Saturday with a bit of discomfort and maybe even a stuffy nose, but I will be in DC.

The plan now is to pick up some trail mix and a few power bars so I have something to eat, and possibly a water bottle.  I still have to print out my passenger manifest, which I intend to do on Friday.  I’m considering taking a cab to the rendezvous point, or possibly even bring over if there’s anyone out on the road at six in the morning.  And then finalize my attire on Friday night, because I’m going to need to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to get ready on Saturday as our buses are leaving Harrisburg at six.

Soon, so much to do.  Chances are good I’ll get it done.

Today is also a big excerpt.  Were down near the end of Deanna’s scene for the first day of class, and given what is about to be mentioned it would be ridiculous to split it up into parts.  We know it started out with someone making a smart ass comment, but what you don’t realize is that Deanna is ready for such comments–and she has a bit of history when it comes to “burning” a witch over them…

 

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

 

Several students rolled their eyes while a few more groaned. The two students who knew her the best, however, were less circumspect in hiding their displeasure, and didn’t care if their outburst saw them getting into trouble.

Annie half turned and glared out of the corner of her eyes as she literally spit the words in Franky’s direction. “Proklet nevezh fanatik.”

While Kerry wasn’t certain of what Annie had said, he wanted to make sure there was no mistaking his comment. “Way to out yourself as an asshat, Franky.”

“That’s enough, you two.” Deanna didn’t want to show favoritism to Annie and Kerry in class, and couldn’t allow their outbursts to go unchecked. “Come see me as soon as class is over.” She then turned her attention to Franky. “By ‘Your people’, I assume you mean people from the Middle East, or Muslims, or both. Would that be a correct assumption?”

Franky shrugged as if the subject had already bored him. “Yeah, whatever.”

This wasn’t the first time Deanna had been asked this particular question and knew it wouldn’t be the last, so as she’d done in the past, the seer moved to make quick business of Franky. “You are right away: there are certain elements of the faith in which I was brought up that would say because I can do magic and I am involved in divination, I am well on the way to my eternal downfall. However—” She levitated her tablet to her and pulled up some information from the school database. “You were raised a Protestant, weren’t you?” She read something on display. “Anglican Church of Canada, am I correct?”

He was suddenly looking a bit uncomfortable. “How do you know that?”

“Because The Foundation compiled a great deal of information about you before you even came to school—and since they know, I now know.” Deanna gave a mysterious smile. “Is it true?”

 

The Foundation knows everything about you, Franky!  Doesn’t everyone at Salem realize this by now?  Kerry knows he’s been followed since a young age, and it goes without saying that The Foundation has probably been aware of Annie’s doings since she was a toddler.  There’s also a fair amount of certainty that they have monitored everyone who has ever walked through Founder’s Gate for several years before they were outed as witches.  Which means they know what sort of church you went to, Franky, and they would know if he was some sort of crazy religious person at this point.  What they would do with him if he was a crazy religious person is open to interpretation, and in certain it’s something that has happened at least once or twice in the past.

And speaking of religion… Well, get ready for some lessons on what to do if you ever encounter a witch.  Which everyone at the school does on a daily basis.

 

Once more Franky shrugged. “Yeah, it’s true. So?”

“Then you must remember some of your scripture teachings—or didn’t you study the Old Testament?” She didn’t wait for her student to answer the question. “Leviticus 20:27 is very clear on the subject: ‘A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.’ Now, while I’m not a necromancer, I am most certainly what one would consider a medium. Would you like to go outside, gather some stones, and lead the rest of the class in putting me to death?”

She allowed a few moments for Frank his discomfort to grow before continuing. “The verse that is most definitive on what to do with witches is Exodus 22:18: ‘You shall not permit a sorceress to live.’ Look about the room.” She held her arms wide. “Ten of your levelmates have moved on to Professor Lovecraft’s C Level Sorcery class, so you need to put about a third of the class to death.” Deanna moved towards Annie and Kerry and stopped just a couple of meters from them. “You might consider putting the two sorceresses in your level who are the most experienced with Morte spells to death first, as I’m certain they would take exception to your plan to kill their fellow sorceresses.”

Annie let out a short, harsh laugh before looking up at Deanna. “He could try killing me.”

Kerry half turned towards the now squirming boy. “’Try’ being the operative word.”

Deanna gave a short chuckle. “Maybe that’s something you need to try outside of this class.” She stepped away from the couple. “You should speak to Vicky about the things she learned about witchcraft while practicing Judaism as a child. Did you know the Talmud believes that most Jewish women used to practice witchcraft regularly? As far as it was concerned we couldn’t help ourselves; it comes naturally. And any gathering of women was considered suspicious; Pesahim 111a says that if two women are sitting at a crossroads facing each other, they are most certainly engaged in witchcraft.

“There is even a bit of an interesting connection between the Apocrypha and the Quran: it’s where humans learned witchcraft. The Apocrypha says that women learned it from angels, or Nefilim, as they were called, and the end for those women was spelled out in the Testament of Reuben, 5:5-6, in particular this passage: ‘For every woman who carries out these schemes will suffer eternal punishment, for it was thus that they led astray with their witchcraft the Nefilim before the flood.’ Not a very nice way to go, don’t you think?

“The Holy Quran looks at the origin of witchcraft a little differently: it said that sorceresses were taught witchcraft by jinn. And to do so pretty much damns you, as a portion of sura 2, ayah 102 states: ‘But the Children of Israel certainly knew that whoever purchased the magic would not have in the Hereafter any share. And wretched is that for which they sold themselves, if they only knew.’ To put it another way, we never realized that we were damning ourselves when we learn magic.”

Deanna ran her right hand casually through her hair, brushing it back from her ear and exposing a dangling gold earring. “I don’t know about you, Franky, but I was born with my gifts: I didn’t learn them from a jinn. But in case you were wondering, I have met a jinn and they are not the sort of creatures you want to learn magic from—and I don’t believe the one I met would have taught me had I asked. Since I was born with these talents, since I was actually starting to have visions before I knew what they were, I don’t see how they could be viewed as something horrible. It’s like saying I’m a terrible person because my eyes are a different color than yours, and because of that difference I need to be put to death. That’s ridiculous.”

 

Deanna has her quotes down, and not just from Christianity but from two major religions as well.  And believe it or not–though you know what I’m about to tell you is true, so the chances are you will believe it–those few paragraphs above pertaining to the preaching found in four different text took me about three hours of hunting down and research to make certain I got them right.  And not only did I need to determine the right, but I had to figure out how to fit them into the context of the story.  There was also the matter of deciding which translation to use, ’cause trust me, all this stuff has at least four or five different translations available, and each translation says something a little different.

I was surprised to discover the Talmud believed that nearly every woman was a witch.  It’s just something we do, I guess.  And while I knew about the Quran’s version of magic being learned from jinn–who were in league with demons, by the way–I did not know that the Apocrypha believed we had learned it from angels.  It all gets rather complicated after a while, but the core concept is the same: if you’re a witch, you’re bad.  And we know what folks back then loved to do to bad people–

 

She began to turn away and stopped halfway through. “By the way—” She gazed at Franky indirectly. “That quote from Exodus is usually translated these days to mean one should not let a witch live and not just sorceresses. Unless I’m mistaken, Franky, you’re a witch, and that means there are a certain number of your people who practice your faith that might be just as likely to kill you as those who practice my faith would kill me.” A smile gradually formed upon her face. “And unlike your scriptures, there’s nothing in the Holy Quran about killing witches.”

Deanna finished turning it and walked towards the large group of pillows in the middle front of the classroom. “I don’t mind having conversation on faith and how it relates to our unique positions in life, but anyone wishing to try and have that sort of conversation in this class is doing nothing more than wasting time: the classes and mine.” She stopped just short of the pillow pile and faced Franky, and for the first time there was the barest hint of anger in her eyes. “Don’t do this again, Franky, or you will find one of your proficiencies taking a hit for the day.”

She covered the last couple of meters to her seat of pillows and sat, folding her legs in the lotus position. “Now, who’s up to learning on how to see the future?” She gave her right hand a slight twist and the light level in the windowless room dropped by about a quarter. Using the same hand she snapped her fingers and a book appeared floating mere centimeters above them, and she levitated it towards her. “Get out your books: we have a lot to cover this year.”

 

There you go: you go to Deanna’s class, they get a history lesson concerning how different religions view dealing with everyone in her class.  It goes without saying that over the centuries anyone defined as a witch tended to get an express ticket to the afterlife, because like Exodus says, don’t let those witches live.  Which is one of the other reasons why The Foundation is one the great links to keep their existence, and the existence of their people, hidden from the Normals.  They hide in plain sight and have learned how, over the last two hundred years, to use their abilities to cover up their existence, as well as the existence of other entities like themselves.  And they’ve obviously gotten good at it, because if they can hide something the size of the School of Salem from the people living just on the other sides of the main wall, they can hide themselves from the rest of the world.

And this means they can go about teaching their kids in relative peace without fear of reprisal from the Normals.

"Sorry, you people without magical ability, but the witch killings have been put on hold--FOREVER."

“Sorry you people without magical ability, but here the witch killings have been put on hold–FOREVER.”

And now that we know where Deanna is taking her class, we have one last class to visit–

Wouldn’t you know it deals with those sorceresses we can’t suffer to live?

Divining the Divine: Seeing Where We’re Going

Always leave with the good news first, so that’s exactly what I’ll do.  Chapter Eight is done, finished, finito, fin.  It’s been a bit of a struggle to get through it, and the last scene has seen me either writing twelve hundred words in a couple of hours or three hundred words in a couple of hours; there’s been little in between.

And there was something about that last scene–

If I stare at these numbers maybe they'll tell me...

If I stare at these numbers maybe they’ll tell me…

Oh yeah: the last scene is the longest in the novel, and it’s nearly twice the length of the next longest scene in this chapter.  Why is that?  Because I had to do something they didn’t want to do, and it took me a while to do it.  Which is to say, something sort of bad happens in that last scene and I really had to work my way through it.  I hated when I have to do that.

That means Chapter Nine is gonna start tonight.  The chapter title is Freaky Friday, but you can rest assure you there’s nobody swapping going on here.  What is happening is it’s the first Friday of the first week of school, and that means we’ll get a peek at what’s going on at the start of Advanced Flight Two, will see the beginning of the first Midnight Madness of the year, Kerry will get a chance to find out how someone else’s coming out went over the last summer, and Annie is going to be asked an extremely important question.

Sounds dreadfully important, doesn’t it?  Only time will tell.

And speaking of time–we were speaking about time, weren’t we?  Or was it just some strange woman talking about the future?  Because yesterday we left Deanna beginning her monologue about what to expect in her class, Introduction to Divination.  And maybe now is a good time to see what she has to say–

 

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

 

She straightened and clasped her hands in front of her once more. “Sounds dreadfully dramatic, doesn’t it? Well, in a way it is a bit dramatic. I mean, you’re seeing your future—or are you? You can also be seeing someone else’s future—but is that true as well? The future is a nebulous thing and it’s affected by the actions you take today. So is always a possibility that what you’re seeing may not be true—and yet, at the same time, it could very well be true. And that’s because—” Deanna pointed at the ginger haired boy at the front of the class. “Kerry, what is time?”

He glanced down at the floor for a moment as he tried, and failed, to keep from smiling too broadly. “It’s a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff.”

Deanna chuckled. “I somehow knew you’d have the answer.” She faced the rest of the class. “While that’s a rather simplified and somewhat entertaining description, it’s also extremely true: it is impossible to define time in absolute terms. Even when you see the future in a vision there’s always the possibility that it won’t be the actual future, but rather a possible future that may come about due to, or in despite, your actions.

“This class is meant to address all the different matters concerning divination. You learn about the different ways you can channel your Sight, how you can trigger a vision, how to interpret one, and most of all, what you should and shouldn’t do if you have a vision. Because we don’t know the future, we can’t say what actions will either make it happen, or prevent that from happening. And that is likely going to be the hardest lessons I will teach you this year, for we have a natural curiosity about the future.”

 

This last paragraph is one thing that Deanna keeps harping on constantly: even though you had a vision of the future, you’re not certain what steps need to be taken to get to that point.  And when that occurs, it becomes almost impossible to determine what one should do to reach the point they’ve seen in their vision.  Like with Annie and Kerry: they’ve had a vision of them getting married–well, technically, not getting married, but the aftermath of getting married–and it seen themselves flying in to what they now figure is Paris and then going to a hotel for the evening.  Those are all pretty simple visions, but what isn’t simple is how do they get to those points?  No one really knows, and given that marriage is at least five years away at the soonest, there’s no way in hell they could ever predict that their next action is going to bring about that vision coming true.

It’s never as simple as, “Don’t go out on dangerous missions,” because come the day after you turned on a dangerous mission you can find yourself being run over by a car–and that will probably put the wedding vision on hold, possibly permanently.  The future is a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff, and there’s no way in hell you gonna navigate around it unless you know how to navigate.  And that’s what this class is going to teach the kids.  Or at least Deanna will try to do her best to teach the kids, because as we all know some kids are unteachable.

Maybe one of them even shows up and this next set of paragraphs…

 

Though she didn’t walk about the room, Deanna shifted her weight from one leg to another as she spoke. “Every witch has the capacity for Sight, but just like with crafting magic, Sight comes differently to all of us. For some it never develops, or will develop to the point we may have only one or two meaningful visions throughout your entire life. For others it develops to the point where they can only have a meaningful vision with an enormous amount of triggering—and even then their visions are limited and often ill-defined. And there are some who can only have visions under certain conditions which involve either helpful triggers or dreams.” Though she didn’t look directly at them, her eyes shifted toward Annie and Kerry. “I’ve already encountered a few students who’ve fallen into this last category.

“There are only a few of you who’ll make it to the point where you become what is known as an Active Seer, a person to whom visions come without any prodding and tend to take over your life for a few seconds when you least expect it. I can’t say for certain if there’s anyone in this room who could be considered an Active Seer because they are rare: extremely rare. Maybe one of you is like that, but I doubt if I’d be more than that in this room.

“Not only will we learn about divination, but I will attempt to trigger you all to get you to experience a vision. Some of these triggers will use runes, some will use deep trances, and some will require the use of—” Deanna pointed to a point between two of the doors. “Ouija boards. Yes, while a Ouija board cannot be used to summon a demon, it can be used to trigger a vision, something that Professor Lewiston and I joke about quite often.”

Deanna stopped moving about and glanced around the room. “Does anyone have any questions?” Two seconds later a hand shot up Deanna didn’t need to check her attendance because she knew the owner of this hand. “Yes, Franky?”

Franky Smith cleared his throat. “Does it ever bother you that because you’re a witch your people want to kill you?”

 

It’s nice to know that in my world a Ouija board will not summon a demon, but it can cause you to have a vision of the future.  And now that I pointed that out, you know there’ll be at least one scene where a Ouija board is used to bring about a vision.  So what does one use to someone a demon?  That will be answered in a later book, you can rest assured.

And now this last comment with Franky being a smart ass, which is something that Franky does rather well.  But you have to realize that this isn’t the first time that Deanna’s been asked about “your people” wanting to do her harm because she is a witch–

She’s so good at dealing with the subject that I just had to write about it…

Getting Your Art On: From Casual to Work

This is the first excerpt that shows the first day of class for my C Levels.  I’ve stated elsewhere that it only took a hundred thousand words to get to this point, and it’s a truism as the hundred thousand word mark was passed while writing this excerpt.  Also, this excerpt comes from the shortest scene in Chapter Eight, which ended up exactly sixty-nine words short of three thousand.

And since we are finally into classes, now would be a good time to actually see the schedule that Annie and Kerry are going to carry through 2013 and 2014.  Here is their class schedule:

Because you know I have it.

Because you know I have it.

This excerpt takes place in the very first class on the very first day of C Levels: Introduction to Art.  You know this is one of the classes that Annie and Kerry are taking because it’s in bold, and any class that isn’t in bold are the classes but the other C Levels are taking.  I don’t have it marked but the Monday afternoon class for Annie and Kerry is study hall or additional elective period for everyone else.

A few things to point out here: Individual Cross Training is the personal sessions that Annie and Kerry use last year to cross train each other, with Annie showing Kerry sorcery and Kerry showing Annie transformation magic.  Now it’s been formalized as the time they need to use to get together.  Also, Annie’s time with Helena learning Advanced Sorcery has become formalized as well.  It should also be noted that since there cross training class actually takes place the day before their learning what they should be cross training, it’s a given that they are probably showing each of these magical moves before they get to that time.

Thursday is a bit of a wild card day for them.  Normally they would have the entire day off, because neither are taking regular Formulistic Magic or regular Spell Casting.  Instead, they’re getting shanghaied by Helena to do minion work in A and B Level Sorcery.  This isn’t going to be an every week thing, which means they will get some downtime on Thursdays.  Or maybe they won’t, because Thursday morning is also A Level Transformation Magic as well as B Level Spell Casting, so there is a distinct possibility that if they are slinging dark magic on Thursday mornings with Helena, they could be doing minion work for either Jessica or Wednesday.

Lastly we have the Friday afternoon class: Special Astral Training.  This is the class that Deanna told Annie she was going to teach, and this once again takes up some free time the kids could spend together.  Annie at least gets Friday mornings to relax while Kerry is off in Advanced Flight Two, and both kids are pretty much guaranteed to have their Tuesday mornings free, though that is also the same time Wednesday teaches Basic Spell Casting to the A Levels, so they could find themselves getting roped in the minion work there.

In short, the only free time may have guaranteed are Saturdays and Sunday afternoons, and once racing season starts in October, Kerry can pretty much kiss is free time goodbye as far as Saturday afternoon is concerned.  This is about as wicked a schedule as anyone at Salem has ever undertaken, and you can bet the kids are going to be watched closely for signs of burnout.

Today’s the first day in art class, and even though we’ve encountered Professor Matthias Ellison in the last two novels, we haven’t actually seen him at work.  Well, that’s all about to change–sorta.  Because first I need to get a few rumors of the way…

 

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

 

The twenty-four students who made the C Level of the Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning began wandering into Studio #1, on the north side of the first floor of the History and Arts Building, at least ten minutes before eight. The majority of the students were unsure what would happen in this class: the synopsis in their travel packages stated they would develop their “artistic talent”, but said little else.

Upper level students told a different story: the C Levels would learn to sketch and paint, and they would learn various methods for doing both. They also had wildly varying opinions on Professor Ellison. Some said he was far too laid back to the class and didn’t really seem to care if you learned to draw or paint well. Others said that he could be a pain in the ass and would often badger selected students to improve their work or get out of his class. Two E Levels from Mórrígan related a story that was known to many in the school: that the year before he become so frustrated with one of the then C Levels attempt at painting that he pushed the student back from her canvas and Fireballed it into ashes.

After dinner Kerry and Annie asked Penny, Alex, and Jario if that particular story was true and all three not only confirm that it was, but gave the name and coven of the student: Maritza Iglesias from Blodeuwedd. Alex stated that after the incident Maritza was so distraught by the incident that Professor Ellison needed to have someone come out from the hospital and take her back to the Great Hall so she could “rest”. Penny said it was the damnedest thing she had ever seen and as soon as Maritza left the room Professor Ellison acted as if nothing had happened.

After hearing all the stories Annie and Kerry found it difficult to believe that this was the same person that they had not only known for two years, but who seemed to always treat them with the utmost respect as well as showing a great deal of interest in their work. There were a few incidences in the past where, while preparing for Ostara, Professor Ellison would come into where they were working and critique their work, and each time this occurred he always gave positive reinforcement.

Though as Kerry indicated, having him come in and see what they were working on for a presentation at the Ostara Festival was far different than being in the classroom where the professor had to evaluate them based upon the school’s established seven proficiencies, and it could be that the Professor Ellison they knew as a mentor was far different than the Professor Ellison they were about to meet as an instructor.

 

It’s not unusual for these stories to circulate.  After all, the only exposure Annie and Kerry have ever had to Professor Ellison has been during their time preparing for Ostara, and it would make sense that the last thing the art and music instructor wants to come across as is and out-of-control prima donna.  He wants kids relaxed and confident, and he can’t do that if he’s raging out and throwing fireballs.  At least I can say the words I ever had an instructor do in any class I took was throw chalk around the room when he couldn’t get his point across.  Though I do seem to remember one teacher tossing all of his books into the trash and stocking out the room for five minutes–

 

Studio #1 was a bit like the room used for class in the Transformation Center: it was a large open area filled with work cubicles, though the cubicles themselves were more areas his dimensions were taped off on the floor and within those dimensions set a large table, a comfortable swivel chair, and a low supply cabinet.

Annie was familiar with this layout, as it was very similar to the private studios she had used in this building and in the Auditorium while working on her paintings and drawings for Ostara. She also noticed as they entered the room that there was a placard with the names on the top of each desk, and that Kerry and she shared adjoining workspaces.

The students were still settling into their workspaces when Professor Ellison entered the room from another entrance in the back. He was dressed in khakis and tennis shoes and topped off the ensemble with a light blue polo shirt, giving some credence to descriptions of him as being “laid back”. He carried a tablet with him—something that all instructors of Salem did—but rather than hold it or place it on his desk in the corner of the room, he levitated it and wrapped in enchantment around it which kept it just off to his right at all times, so that no matter where he moved the tablet was in the same spot in relation to him.

It was only after watching him for a few seconds that Annie realized she had never seen Professor Ellison craft magic—and based upon the look on Kerry face, it was obvious he’d never seen the professor craft, either.

 

The laid-back art instructor:  they even act that way at witch schools.  And why didn’t they have art at Hogwarts?  Hell, they didn’t even have math, which makes you wonder how the hell any of them could balance their checkbooks.  Then again they didn’t write checks and all their money was gold, so how the hell did they go into a chips shop and get lunch?  Or get groceries?  Ah, that’s fiction:  my kids are in the real world.

Tomorrow we get the professor’s opening statements to the class–and as you might imaging, he’s quite passionate about his field…

A Glimpse of the Coming Year: All Dressed Up

Let’s get the personal business of the way first.  The stuff I need for my weekend Women’s March on Washington–which occurs in a little less than two weeks–has begun arriving.  Tonight I get my portable phone charger; tomorrow I get my wall socks; and I’m waiting for my thermal underwear and mukluk insoles to ship out.  Yesterday, however, I received my first item:

I have the Pussy Hat!

I have the Pussy Hat!

Yes, the Pussy Hat is here and while it’s a little big it’s still wearable.  One shipment I’m worried about is the thermal undergarments: they’re coming from Land’s End and I haven’t received notification that they’ve shipped.  I’m hoping that all ships this week, and the one shipment I can do without are the new insoles for my mukluks, because all have wool socks as of tomorrow.

And the totally ironic thing is the weather for 21 January in DC is expected to be somewhere between 50 and 55 F/10 to 13 C.  If we get those terms I may not even need the thermal undergarments.  But it’s always nice to have them just in case.

Now, let’s finish up but I was in the middle of yesterday.

There’s about a thousand words left in this last seen, which just happened to be the first of Chapter Eight.  Last night they ran off another eight hundred and fifty words, and I figure I might have another fifteen hundred to two thousand words to write to finish off this current scene and the chapter, at which point I can move into Chapter Nine, which finishes off Week One and it’s the kids to the Midnight Madness.

Things are zipping right along.

So, let’s finish up with the meeting in the Witch House and see how Helena and Erywin are dealing with Kerry’s particular situation…

 

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

 

Helena moved her chair closer to her desk so she could lean her arms against the top. “No one is thinking any less of you, Kerry, and no one in this room believes they can’t count upon you. As you indicated, your main concern is whatever group you’re working with—but you need to watch your own arse as well.”

A concerned look came over Erywin’s face. “If you’re feeling a little bit of trepidation about any, you and I can always speak. I mean, I do have a little bit of an understanding of what it’s like dealing with what might seem unusual emotions.”

Annie leaned so she was a bit closer to Kerry and could speak softly. “Something to consider, my love. And it couldn’t hurt to discuss these things with another person.”

He gave a slight nod. “Maybe later.”

Helena yawned for a few seconds. “Oh, sorry: didn’t get much sleep last night. Anyway, I have given you notification that you are in an on-call status with the Guardians as of this moment. Congratulations.” She threw up her hands in mock cheer. “You’re now like hundreds of other Sentinels wondering if you called out on a field operation any time soon.”

 

It seems as if this is about the third or fourth attempt to get Kerry to “talk things out”.  There’s a bit of a conundrum here with the boy, because for all of his life he’s been conditioned not to talk about his feelings, simply because his parents don’t want to hear about them.  Now he’s starting to find himself wading into some shit and he’s hesitant to put his feelings on display.  Sure, he might talk to Annie, but she’s not a trained counselor.  Getting him to open up to adults who really do want to help him is going to be something of an ongoing battle.

And with Helena’s last statement Annie hear something that may or may not be good for her–

 

Hearing the phrase “on-call status” made Annie wonder about their actual standing with The Foundation intelligence division. “Does this mean we’re—?”

“Actual Guardians?” A faint smile crossed Helena’s lips. “That was the last thing is gonna bring up during this meeting. You’ve both been moved to Provisional status, which is to say you’re old enough to go out on field operations, but you’re not old enough to be sworn in as actual operatives.”

“Why not?”

“Because you have to be considered emancipated before the Guardians will allow you to take the oath. One of the reasons you are allowed a Right of Refusal is because you haven’t reached the Age of Emancipation, but once you hit that then you can have the Guardians Oath administered and become full-time Sentinels.” Helena chuckled as she scratched her arm. “Of course, once you are full time that means that you can’t turn down any missions unless you have a damn good reason. Taking that oath means you get all those nice Guardian benefits without being able to walk away from the shit missions when you feel like it’s necessary”

“I didn’t expect it to be perfect.” Annie gave a slight shrug. “One has to take the bad with the good.”

Helena raised one eyebrow. “What do you expect the good to be in the Guardians?”

Annie had her answer ready. “To be able to protect The Foundation and its people, and by extension Normals who know nothing of our existence but benefit from our largess.”

Helena turned to Kerry. “What about you, Ginger Boy? What does serving the Guardians mean to you?”

Kerry had an answer ready as well. “By protecting the interests of The Foundation we keep the rest of the world safe. We’re not protecting a single country; we’re basically protecting people the world from the bad guys who would like to turn the lives of Normals to… shit.”

It was evident from Helena’s reaction that she hadn’t expected these responses. She turned to Erywin. “I really expected something a little more boilerplate.”

“You should know better.” Erywin chuckled. “You dealing with two highly motivated teens here.”

“Obviously.” Helena swiveled her chair back towards the two across the desk. “All right, is all I have to say. If it becomes necessary to have another meeting like this in the future, I’ll send you both a secure email with nothing more than the time: you’ll know where were going to meet.”

Both Annie and Kerry nodded with her replying. “Always here.”

 

At times it’s interesting to watch the reaction of adults around Annie and Kerry.  We know they’re bright and articulate, but they’re also quite perceptive.  Helena asked a gotcha question and then admits that she expected the kids to give a far more boilerplate answer than what they actually gave.  In short, she had low expectations for what they were going to say–which is something she shouldn’t have done.  But as Kerry might say, everything is a test, so perhaps Helena was actually testing the kids.  Perhaps?  We don’t know–well I do, but you don’t.

And with that it’s time to close down this meeting:

 

“Correct. Okay, you two, that’s enough for now.” Helena stood as did Erywin. “Kerry, as soon as I hear something back from San Francisco I’ll let you know. For that will likely send you a secure, encrypted document. And if you get one of those—”

Kerry gave a slight nod as he stood. “Read, delete, and clear deleted messages.”

“Sounds as if you been doing this spook business for a while.”

“I know how to take precautions.”

“Good.” Helena waved both kids toward the door. “Go on now. I understand a couple of instructors are taking some kids into Salem for lunch and an afternoon of shopping and relaxation. If you get back to the Great Hall by ten, I’m certain Erywin and I will be more than happy to let you accompany us.”

Annie waved back. “See you both at ten.”

Rather then head back up to the ground floor of the Witch House, Annie and Kerry decided to take the tunnel back to Memory’s End and emerge above ground there. They felt that is no one would be in the comments—at least not in this area school—they would be able to speak freely.

Annie felt she needed to reassure Kerry. “I hope you don’t think that we don’t believe you could do a field operation as a girl.”

He shook his head. “I don’t. Anyway, it was my suggestion I don’t go out like that right away because I’m not sure I can handle—you know—” Kerry tilted his head to the right as if to indicate something. “Like Erywin said, all the hormones and stuff.”

Annie gave Kerry’s hand a squeeze. “It will take some time you to filter through all the feelings. As Erywin said we’ve had time to learn, whereas you’re going to be instantly immersed. But I want you to know I’ll be there to help you in any way I can, though it may not be much.” She gave their arm a playful swing. “I won’t abandon you.”

Kerry leaned into Annie and rested his head against hers. “I know you wouldn’t. You’re the last person who would ever abandoned me.”

As Annie kissed his head only one thought remained in her mind: I’ll always be with you—until death do us part.

 

Annie seems to enjoy the idea that the boy by her side will be with her until the day one of them dies.  If one didn’t know any better, one might say Annie almost saw the relationship as something of a fairy tale–and given that some fairy tales were gruesome and bloody as hell, perhaps she’s not wrong.  The only question remains there is will they live happily ever after?  Like I’ve said before, I know when, where, and how they die, which means I know how they lived.  I know their happiness, I know their sadness, and I know some of their regrets.

In other words, they’re going to have lives like a lot of us.

Only we don’t get to have real magic in ours…

A Glimpse of the Coming Year: Not Ready to Come Out Alone

Last night my Dragon was being naughty, doing things it shouldn’t do like using one word when I for sure said another, but when I swore it was able to replicate that perfectly.  Regardless, I wrote 1,234 words last night as I put the kids in their first minion class of the year and allowing Annie to remark on the new A Level from Ireland who has been making eyes at Kerry because–well, she’s a Ginger, he’s a Ginger, wouldn’t they like to make some Gingers, too?

It also gives Annie an opportunity to make a snarky remark about Kerry’s mom, which is more proof that Annie won’t be the perfect daughter-in-law Mama Malibey hopes for.

Last time we found out that the Guardians were not only thinking of sending the kids out on missions with others but that they were considering sending him out after that little change thing happened.  Well, Kerry has some thoughts on that…

 

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

 

Kerry clamped his right hand over his mouth, something he did when he was thinking quickly. “Can I say something?”

Helena gave a slight shrug. “Go ahead.”

“I don’t mind going on a field operation with other girls. I mean, by now—” He held up his hands to indicate the other people in the room. “Doing stuff with other girls is pretty much second nature to me. But I gotta do a field operation without Annie, I’d rather not do it as Girl Me. I probably won’t have had a lot of time to get use to being that way and I’m probably gonna feel a little self-conscious. Not to mention, doing all new stuff in a new body…” Kerry shook his head. “I’d spend a lot of my time feeling like I’m about to screw up. And that won’t be fair to everyone else on the team.”

Helena was about to offer a retort when Erywin spoke first. “I agree with Kerry.”

“What?” Helena swiveled her chair to the left. “Why would you say that?”

 

Since Kerry got an earfull about that witch’s brew called The Estrogens it’s likely he’s been giving some thought to how he’s gonna feel once the tap is wide open–and figures it might not handle things all too well.  After two years of hanging around girls who deal with hormonal issues on a daily basis it’s pretty much even money he thinks he might not be able to handle Deconstructors and hormones at the same time.

"I'm supposed to help bring you in--why is my BRA SO IRRITATING?  I'LL KILL YOU ALL!!!"

“I’m supposed to help you bring them in so I’ll stay in the back and watch…  Why is my bra SO IRRITATING? I’LL KILL THEM ALL!!!”

Yeah, might not be a good idea to have her out in the field.

And Erywin agrees.  Why?  Well–

 

“Because it’s true.” Erywin’s right eyebrow shot upward he saw the disbelieving gaze Helena was turning her way. “Do you want to hear, or would you like to disregard my opinion even though you asked me here as a counselor and advisor?”

Helena knew better then to argue with her longtime partner. “Please, let’s hear it.”

Erywin glanced toward Kerry. “We don’t know when his transition is going to occur, only that it’s going to occur sometime within the next six months. Even if it would happen tomorrow how many opportunities is he going to have to get used dealing with all the things that girls at his age will need to deal with? Maybe one or two times a month?” She brought a mischievous gaze to bear upon Helena. “Do you recall how moody you used to get when you were thirteen years old?”

“Slightly.” The right corner of Helena’s face screwed up in a frown. “I don’t remember being that bad.”

“That’s because one, you started going through puberty when you were about nine years old so you had a few years to adjust, and two, you’re full of shit.” Erywin chuckled. “You know goddamn well what you used to be like when you were a C Level, and it wasn’t always pleasant.

“One of the things Kerry’s going to have to learn to deal with are the new emotional and mental responses that come with being a teenage girl, and it’s not something he’s going to pick up in one or two turns through the new body. It could take months for him to get reasonably acclimated—” Erywin gripped both armrest as she settled back into her chair.  “Considering it takes some girls years to get acclimated within that timeline is not entirely out of the question.

“I’ve heard you say on many occasions that you often have to think of your duty to the group before you think of your duty to yourself.” Erywin twirled a finger around in her hair and stared at Kerry. “He knows if he goes out as a girl and she is not fully prepared for the internal onslaught she is going to deal with on top of whatever other shit she’s dealing with externally, that could put everyone in danger. And we don’t want that.”

 

Erywin is about the only person at school who can call Helena on her bullshit and not get death glares in the aftermath of the exchange.  And if there is anyone who knows exactly what a hormonal thirteen year old Helena was like, it was an equally hormonal fourteen year old Erywin, and she knows the girl was a tattooed hell-beast at times.  You can bet these two were a real party at times.

But Erywin is right:  Kerry might not be ready to mix estradiol and death spells right away and it might be best to keep Girl Me, as he says, out of the field for a while.  Even Helena begins to see the light:

 

Hum.” Helena scratched the bridge of her nose as she considered Erywin’s statements. “How about this: we put through the recommendation, based upon what you just told me, that Kerry not be allowed to go out to the group mission as a girl for a period of one year after his first transition? That way, if they do want him for a group mission, he goes as a boy.”

Erywin gave the matter some consideration. “That would work.” She suddenly remembered something else. “If nothing else Kerry could always invoke a Right of Refusal if they try to force him into switching genders for a mission.”

Kerry began laughing. “Yeah, what are they going to do? How would they make me change if I didn’t want to?”

Helena slowly turned and regarded the boy carefully. “They have ways.” She slid back up right in her chair and stretched. “I’m also going to include in the assessment that the

Guardians have to specify which gender they wish Kerry to present when informing him of a mission. That way—” She held out her arms and shrugged. “It makes giving a Right of Refusal easier.”

Erywin nodded. “Agreed.”

“I like that, too.” Only a moment passed before Kerry appeared slightly dejected. “Though it kinda sounds like I’m getting a lot of special treatment.”

Annie saw the glances Helena and Erywin exchange and felt it best to say something. “Kerry’s medical exam yesterday showed his estrogens count is higher than normal. It could affect his moods.” She gripped his hand. “I’m sorry, my love, but they need to know everything.”

He looked up rather sheepishly. “I’ll try not to let that happen too much; I don’t want people to think they can’t count on me.”

 

Now things are straight, or at least gonna get there, and Kerry can move one thing off his “I gotta worry about this” plate.  As I said before, Kerry’s got people looking out for me and he’s actually looking out for people he hasn’t met yet.  It’s a good think the Guardians have their eyes on Annie and him, because the other divisions in The Foundation would probably like them as well.

And how does this all end?  You find out tomorrow.

A Glimpse of the Coming Year: the Guardian Way

Yesterday was now only a lazy sort of day, but it was the kind where I had to get things done both in real life and on the page.  And that takes time, right?

First, I got the nails and brows down, just as I indicate in yesterday’s video.  It was a nice, relaxing time, and I always look forward to the time I spend getting pampered.

And this time I didn't even get wine.

And this time I didn’t even get wine.

So what did I go with?  A lovely dark purple called I’ll Take a Manhattan, which is a play on a Leonard Cohen song.

I have not, however, taken Berlin yet.

I have not, however, taken Berlin yet.

And the brows are, as the kids say today, “on fleek”, which actually means your brows are perfect.

Though I look like I'm learing in this photo.

Though I look like I’m leering in this photo.

Last night I finished Deanna’s scene and was about to start the last scene of Chapter Eight when I realized that some of that scene had to do with the new A Levels, and while I know where those kids are from and what covens they’re in, I didn’t have names for them.  You know what that means, right?

I had to name them.  All of them.

That means I spent a good two hours looking up names for kids from all over the world.  But I achieved my goal, so let me introduce you to the 2013 A Levels of Salem–

We'll start at the top of the Pentagram.

We’ll start at the top of the Pentagram.

Åsgårdsreia gets kids from everywhere but Europe, as Vanuatu is considered part of Oceania.  They also get of the two kids from China, though Macau is considered a bit of a cheat as it was held as part of Portugal for nearly five hundred years.  Still, it’s been returned to the PRC and is administered by them, so China.

Now let's move to the bottom-right.

Now let’s move to the bottom-right.

What’s interesting about Blodeuwedd is that all but two of their A Levels come from island nations, and they don’t have a student from South America.  As for the girl from Ireland, do you think she’s a ginger?  Do you think Kerry’s mom will be excited to hear this news?

Now to the left bottom.

Now to the left bottom.

Ceridwen had the best gender equality, with the boy and girls being nearly equal.  All their kids come from relatively small countries an they have none from Oceania.  I wonder if by the end of the first week at school Ragnhild is pining for the fjords?

Let's jump over to the middle right now.

Let’s jump over to the middle right now.

Though usually last in the lists, I’m doing Mórrígan now because I can.  Just like Ceridwen they have no kids from Oceania, but they get the other student from China, one who comes from Shanghai.  I promised I’d someday mention why getting students from China is a big deal and I promise that will happen–just not yet.  Mórrígan also tied Åsgårdsreia for the most A Levels, though their girl-to-boy ratio is only 2 to 1 while Åsgårdsreia’s is 3.5 to 1; Blodeuwedd had the greatest gender disparity with girls over boys 7 to 1.

And last but not least--

And last but not least–

Once more Cernunnos got the fewest A Levels and they didn’t get one student from the Americas this time.   They did pick up two Muslims–Yaman from Syria and Rajani from India–and Hayley Turner from Pink Lake, Western Australia–where you can find the real Pink Lake–has the most boring name of any of the A Levels.  Maybe today I’ll give all the new kids towns so we know where they are from exactly.  Because that’s how I roll.

Now, how about an excerpt?

I said a couple of days back that this Guardian edict may come with a twist and it doesn’t take us long to find out what they want…

 

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

 

“So January to April?” Annie leaned forward in his seat, excited by this news. “I’m assuming they wouldn’t have us go out in May.”

Helena nodded. “Quite right. If they’re considering you for a field op, it will likely happen in the middle of winter or early spring. Also, given that these orders are coming directly from San Francisco, it leads me to believe that whatever it is they’ll have you doing will take place in North America. However, there’s a bit of a catch.” Once more she paused to ensure both kids were listening. “It is also highly likely you will not be going out together on the same mission.”

A puzzled look formed on Kerry’s face. “Wait, what? They’re going to put us on separate missions?”

Helena nodded. “It seems likely. Now wait—” She held up a hand as both teenagers began to protest. “While they were highly satisfied by how well you worked together in Kansas City, it’s standard procedure to break up a team at some point and see how they work with other people. The Guardians are nothing if not a team organization, and there’s only a few of us who get to work with the same team time and again, or even were alone.” She tilted her head to one side. “If you can’t work well with other operatives, your value as an operative is going to diminish. And I really wouldn’t want to see that happen with either of you.”

 

The Guardians are a group and as we’ve heard from Helena they usually work in groups.  That means you’re not always going out on your own, you’re part of the gang, and that means you have to know how to work with the gang.  It also means you likely won’t be working with the same people all the time, because it seems the Guardians like to match up skill sets and it goes without saying that Annie and Kerry are developing different skill sets.

If you can’t play well with others then it’s likely you’ll not become a good operative, and the Guardians are eager to check out these two ASAP.

Annie wasn’t happy with this news but she saw how it was a good omen for them. She reached out and touched Kerry’s left hand. “I look at it this way, my love: if they didn’t think we were any good, they probably wouldn’t want us working with another team yet.”

“Annie’s absolutely correct.” Helena punched up something else on her display. “When I say they were pleased with how well you did in Kansas City, I mean they were extremely pleased with how you handled yourselves. If they thought you still needed work they’d probably assign you to another Level 1 field op.”

Kerry didn’t bother asking what a Level 1 field operation was: he knew their Kansas City mission was just that. “So what would we go on? A Level 2 op?”

“Nope.” Helena shook her head. “A Level 2 is just more of what you were already on, only they tend to be a bit longer and you have to handle more duties. No, my guess is they’ll move you up to a Level 3, which is a minimum of a five person group.”

Annie seemed pleased. “That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“It’s not. And any Level 3 either of you would get assigned to probably be people with fewer than a half-dozen of those missions to the record. In other words, relatively new operatives like you.” Helena shrugged. “Of course, I can’t guarantee that will happen.”

He wasn’t sure, but Kerry thought he picked up something in Helena’s voice when she made her last statement. “Is there something you can guarantee?”

Helena hesitated before giving her reply. “There’s nothing I’ve seen in the report, nor is there anything I heard unofficially, but I believe that one of the reasons the Guardians are waiting until 2014 to send you on a field operation is because the waiting for Kerry to undergo his transition.”

Both kids shot hurried glances at each other before Kerry turned to Erywin. “How does she know?”

 

Now we know what a Level 1, 2, and 3 field ops are, and Annie’s Girl’s Weekend Out is likely going to be a Level 3 field op.  I’ve got this all worked out and know all the things like location of operation and objectives.  When Kerry’s comes it’ll likely be the same, but–what is this?  Helena knows about Kerry’s secret?  How did that happen, as Kerry asks?  The answer is easy–

 

“She knows because I had to tell her.” Erywin sat up so she would appear more attentive. “Helen is your Guardian contact here, and since the Guardians were told about your Gift, she would’ve learned of it eventually.”

Helena locked her hands across her tummy and tapped her thumbs together. “If it’s any consolation, Erywin told me the night you discovered you had this gift and you sort of—finalized the process that night.” Her hands slid down to her thighs as she sat forward in her chair. “Remember, I’m particularly good at keeping secrets, so I wasn’t going to tell anyone else. As it was, the Guardians contacted me in July and briefed me on your gift: I never gave any indication I already knew.”

After a few moments Kerry gave a couple of quick nods. “I suppose that’s true; it’s not like you would’ve told anyone else. Sorry for overreacting.”

Helena returned the nod. “No need to apologize.”

Worried that Kerry might not ask the question, Annie gave it a voice. “Why would the Guardian want Kerry to participate in a group field operation as a girl?”

“I’m not sure about that. The Guardians are like every other organization in The Foundation: they’re seventy-five to eighty percent female. Since the chances are good of you being on an all-girl team, Annie, I can see the Guardians wanting to do the same thing with Kerry. And since it’s possible that by the beginning of 2014 they’ll know if his Gift is controllable, maybe they want to see how he’s going to relate to the other team members as just another one of the girls.”

 

This is some rabbit hole shit right here.  Coraline informed The Foundation about Kerry’s Gift going active and it looks like they told the Guardians because, well, Annie and Kerry has done things for them as well as continuing training during their B Levels.  Erywin knew to tell Helena because, yeah, she’s the Guardian contact at the school, but she didn’t let the Guardians know that she knew, even when she was between hospital visits during July, 2013, and the Guardians sat her down for a briefing where she never let on that she already knew.  Talk about secrets within secrets.

The really big deal here is that the Guardians called Helena to a meeting to give her a briefing on one of her students and probably Annie as well, since she’s being monitors at the same time.  Are we still wondering if Annie and Kerry are officially part of Team Guardian?  ‘Cause this makes it sound like they are within the fold save for not knowing the secret handshake–

Now it seems like the Guardians want to push the envelope a bit and see if Kerry is just “one of the girls” when out on a mission.  However, he has a few things to say on the matter…