Thought I'd snippet something else this Friday for a change of pace. Remember this story? This is about midway between this post and this post.
I'm trading off writing this story along with the Sabri story, to keep my interest and the word count going.
First draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks!
Quick synopsis. Anabelle Sturgis is the Special Examiner to the King. She's also a Fire Witch. She's named the fire elemental who keeps her company Flicker. She is investigating the murder of a family member of one of the Fifty (the nobility in this world), a Water Witch who has drowned--an impossibility that puzzles Anabelle. Her estranged brother, Christopher, comes to see her. Mary is the housekeeper, btw.
“Christopher,” Anabelle said, surprise and wariness in her voice. “To what do I owe this unexpected honor?”
Christopher turned, still holding his hat and walking cane. Anabelle was forcibly struck with how much her brother resembled their father. And he looked highly uncomfortable, too, as well he might. He’d sworn never to step foot in her house.
Mog, her butler, still stood, politely holding out his hand for Christopher’s hat and cane. Christopher gave them up with a muttered apology.
“I’ve come to speak with you on an important matter, Anabelle,” Christopher said. He paused and waited, as if expecting her to know what he meant.
Anabelle raised an eyebrow. “Must it be said in the hall, or can we retire to the sitting room?”
Christopher flushed. She could see he didn’t like to be reminded of the niceties. The task usually fell to him to remind everyone else of the proper method to do things.
Anabelle opened the sitting room door and led the way inside. The dimness of evening had fallen, and Mary had already lit one of the lamps. Anabelle paused to light another by touching the wick. Flicker used a bit more enthusiasm than the elemental usually showed for such a mundane task, and the lamp flared brightly. She turned to see the look of disapproval on her brother’s face.
“What? After all these years, and the King’s favor, I still must hide what I do?” Flicker danced on the end of her finger with impatient moves.
Christopher made a negating gesture. “Can you at least do something with—that? I find it difficult to concentrate while watching it burn anywhere on you.”
Anabelle gave him a level stare for a moment before going to the fireplace and thrusting her hand among the piled wood. With a hiss of satisfaction, Flicker jumped from her hand to the wood and burned with snaps and crackles of joy.
She sat down in her favorite chair before the fireplace and waved impatiently for Christopher to take the one opposite.
“What is it you want, Christopher? And you can dispense with the social chit-chat. We both know you didn’t come here to ask how well I’m getting along.”
Christopher frowned, but said, “Very well. I’ve come to ask you to leave Gorham alone. Failing an understanding on the matter, I’m prepared to bring the matter before the Council of the Fifty.”
Anabelle opened her eyes wide. “That’s having it straight out with no bark on it,” she said in admiration. “I’m proud of you, Christopher.”
He shook his head. “You may think this is a laughing matter, but I can assure you the Council will not. Eli Gorham is an influential and well-respected Patriarch.”
Anabelle’s lips quirked. “You forgot well-connected.”
He glared. “Your levity is misplaced, Anabelle! Questioning him like a criminal about his daughter’s murder is unacceptable.”
Anabelle’s humor fled. Her eyes darkened. “What about his daughter, Christopher? What about Minna Gorham’s murder? Is that unacceptable, too?”
His gaze wavered, and dropped before hers.
“When did we grow so far apart?” she said, musing. “When Mother was still alive--”
An unfortunate thought. Christopher jumped to his feet, fury in his face. Flicker launched from the fireplace and burned a line on the floor straight to her chair with the speed of a striking snake. Anabelle quickly leaned down and let Flicker jump onto her hand.
Christopher moved back, distrustfully eyeing the elemental. “Will you show some sense and leave Gorham in peace?”
“I will find out who killed her, Christopher, no matter who I must question, and no matter who I make uncomfortable. That is my job—this is what the King appointed me to do.”
His face closed. “I’m sorry to find you so resolute. I have delivered my warning and will say no more on the matter.”
“Your threat, you mean.”
His lips tightened. “I bid you good day, Anabelle. No, don’t bother getting up, I’ll see myself out.”
When Christopher had left, Anabelle sat, sunk in memories and regrets until Flicker gave an inquisitive hum. She stirred and sighed, then eyed the scorch line on the rug that stretched from the fireplace to the chair.
“You, my little friend, are death on the budget,” she murmured. “How am I going to tell Mary we need to buy a new rug?”