Thursday, January 31, 2008

Friday Snippet, February 1, 2008

This post follows directly on the last one. Made a couple of name changes. I've already used the name "Frank" for the coroner. So, Frank Sturgis becomes Patrick. John has also become Jonathon--it seems to fit him better.

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 Please do not quote or repost anywhere.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. She, her ex-husband Jonathon, and Jonathon's brother, Patrick, are attempting to interview Eli Gorham, a Patriarch and father of the murdered Water Witch.

What could only be the head butler hurried toward them—at least, he hurried as much as his dignity would permit.

“Sheriff Sturgis,” the butler said. “We were not expecting your visit.”

“I’m sorry, this isn’t a social call,” Jonathon said. “I have with me Deputy Patrick Sturgis, who will be interviewing the staff, and Special Examiner Anabelle Sturgis.”

And when the butler looked from on to the other, Jonathon added, “It’s a long story. We’re here to see Eli Gorham.”

The butler’s face smoothed of expression, and she could almost hear the refusal trembling on the tip of his tongue. Anabelle moved forward, managing to step on Jonathon’s foot as she did so.

“If His Lordship’s at home, please convey my card and ask if he is available for an interview.”

She handed the butler her card. He examined it, then gave her a respectful nod. “Right away, madam. If you will wait in the drawing room…?”

He led them into a room so formal, so cold, that every piece within it seemed on display, like a museum.

Once the butler left, she turned to Jonathon. “If you want answers, let me do the talking, Jonathon.”

“What did I say?” Jonathon asked, bewildered.

“Jonathon, you’re my brother and I love you dearly, but you can’t talk to the Fifty,” Patrick said. “You’d better let Anabelle deal with Eli Gorham.”

“I didn’t hear her complaining about my communication skills when we lived in the same house,” Jonathon muttered.

She really looked at Jonathon for the first time since she’d spotted him outside. His dark hair still waved back from his forehead in that familiar widow’s peak, and his face looked tired, as if he’d been putting in late nights.

“You’re thinner,” Anabelle said critically.

Jonathon threw up his hands. “How about, ‘it’s nice to see you, Jonathon?’ Or even, ‘how have you been, Jonathon?’ Instead, my eating habits are up for discussion.”

Anabelle looked at Patrick. He shrugged, a little smile tugging at his lips. She sighed. “Cranky as ever, I see. Patrick, you owe me.”

“All I did was introduce you,” Patrick said. “Don’t put me between the two of you.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Friday Snippet, January 25, 2008

I thought I'd go back and post some of the scene from when the drowned Water Witch was found. It closely follows this post.

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.

“Do you have any idea who she is, Chief Porter?”

“I do not, Special Examiner. I thought you might.”

Anabelle grimaced where he couldn’t see. He thought the woman was one of the Fifty. So did she, for that matter. Despite the mud and pallor, she could see the well-cared-for nails, the remnants of an expensive haircut. The woman had come from money. Anabelle gave her head a small shake. Once, she would have known all the Fifty by sight, but the younger set – she’d lost touch.

“Chief Porter, it’s best if you and your man step out of range,” she said in a voice with all emotion leached from it.

“What are you going to do?” Porter asked.

Anabelle gave a sharp smile. “Why, question our only witnesses, of course.”

A glance at Porter’s face revealed a great deal. Distaste and speculation warred for prominence. She sighed.

“The woman is, or was, one of the Fifty. It’s best we find out who she is before we have a Patriarch questioning why we failed to note our dead body was his wife, or daughter, wouldn’t you agree?”

Porter blanched at the thought of being questioned by a Patriarch. He quickly turned and motioned to Collins. Both moved off about a hundred paces. Anabelle felt no surprise. The very idea of facing the head of one of the Fify Families of Aponia had been known to turn even the brave pale.

Anabelle opened her bag that sat nearby and extracted a curious device, resembling a circular bowl with a long horn attached. The horn appeared to loop back upon itself. She set the device at her feet, then withdrew a piece of ordinary hardwood. She shook her sleeve, and a bright flame jumped onto her hand and danced inquiringly.

“Flicker, I must ask you to make yourself scarce,” she said in a soft voice. “They will not talk to me if they know you are still here.”

She placed the end of the hardwood on her palm, and Flicker consented by leaping to the end of the piece of wood. She thrust the other end into the ground well away from the water’s edge, satisfied. Flicker would be occupied with the hardwood for hours.

Anabelle picked up the device. She hesitated before wading into the edge of the lake. The cold water in her half boots and the soaked hem of her walking skirt against her legs gave her the shivers. Water and Fire did not mix well.

As soon as she submerged the device into the water, the water elementals surrounded her, eagerly jumping and splashing and bubbling, but avoided touching her. The sheer number of them amazed her. Elementals squirmed and jostled for space. Obviously, she would have no problem coaxing one to speak to her.

An elemental slid into the bowl part of the device. Anabelle immediately lifted the device out of the water.

“Air is life, Water is spirit, Earth is flesh, and Fire is soul,” she said formally.

Both she and the water elemental waited patiently. Anabelle ignored her discomfort as she stood in the chilly lake water. Presently, a troubling in the air rewarded them. The air elemental indicated its willingness to act as intermediary by puffing into her face and entering the horn on the device. The air elemental whistled shrilly through the horn. Anabelle had expected this, so she did not flinch or drop the device.

“Fire Maiden.”

The thin, shrill sound that emerged from the horn brought a glint to her eyes.

“I am here, Water Spirit,” she replied. “What would you say to me?”

“You will restore the balance?”

“I am here to find justice for the Water Maiden,” she said, cautious. Elementals found the concept of justice difficult to grasp—their notions of right and wrong were not human notions.

“The Water Maiden walks distant shores,” the water elemental said. “You must help us.”

She drew a breath. “What must I do?”

“Air and Water and Earth are disturbed. Fire Maiden, the balance must be restored.”

“How?” she asked.

“Find the river of leaping and the water of silence.”

Done with the conversation, the air elemental exited the device with a hissing shriek, leaving the water elemental mute. Not surprised at the air elemental’s capriciousness, Anabelle gently dipped the device beneath the water’s surface and allowed the water elemental to leave. The water elementals rapidly circled her until the current they generated nearly pulled her off balance. As quickly as they began, they fled into the middle of the lake, leaving her alone.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Friday Snippet, January 18, 2008

And Friday is here again. Continuing with the story about Special Examiner Anabelle Sturgis. This scene (not the whole scene) follows directly from this post.

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. She goes to question Eli Gorham, the victim's father and one of the Fifty.

Gorham Manor, an impressive size, sat against the background of the Lake of Sorrows like a jewel in a fine setting. Anabelle stopped the gig for a moment and took it all in. Her father had been Eli Gorham’s peer—but even he hadn’t owned such magnificence. She supposed her brother Christopher owned Davilar Manor now since Albert Davilar’s death, but she hadn’t been back home since her mother had passed a number of years ago.

Anabelle slapped the reins. She could see a carriage drawn up before the front portico, and two men stood, watching her arrive. Anabelle recognized both of them, and she muttered a word certainly not learned in society’s prim and proper halls. How could she have forgotten this was his jurisdiction?

John Sturgis stepped forward as she pulled her horse to a stop.

“Is it necessary for you to be here when I am?” she said, disgruntled.

He gave her a mocking smile. “Is that any way to greet your husband, Mrs. Sturgis?”

Anabelle gave a sound suspiciously like a sniff, but allowed him to help her from the gig. She watched a couple of Gorham’s stablehands take charge of both vehicles, then turned to extend her hand to the other man.

“Hello, Frank. Nice to see you again,” she said.

Frank Sturgis took her hand and kissed it, a gleam of amusement in his eyes. “Now that had to hurt,” he murmured an aside to John.

“I’m cut to the quick,” John said in a gleeful voice.

“Both of you aren’t fit for polite society, you know that?” Anabelle said.

“We already know we ain’t polite society, love. That’s why Christopher doesn’t talk to you anymore,” John said.

“Thank you so much for reminding me how obnoxious you can be,” Anabelle said sweetly.

He gave an elaborate flourish, and she preceded them into the side hallway.

Bad place! Bad fire!

Anabelle stopped dead in her tracks, astonishment raising her eyebrows.

“What is it, Anabelle?” John asked.

“Flicker doesn’t like this place,” she said in a low voice.

John’s eyebrows raised, too. He knew as well as she that Flicker rarely articulated anything. Fire elementals were rather simple. They burned and consumed, and not much existed for them outside that. Flicker noticing anything about Gorham Manor beyond how many things it could burn concerned her.

"Faces, people," Frank muttered to both of them. "Time for the show."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Friday Snippet, January 11, 2007

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?”

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Friday Snippet, January 3, 2008

I suppose it was inevitable that I'd make the New Year's resolution to write more. I'd like to get 500 words a day--it's a doable goal for me. So how have I done so far? In the first three days of January, I've written 500 words of fiction. I like to think that number will steadily rise until I get my goal every day. We'll see.

This short snippet follows right from last Friday's.

First draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks!

Sabri shivered, and hugged herself to stay warm.

A vision of huddling on a street in a city, her arms wrapped around herself for warmth, a cold wind cutting through her as if her layers of clothing weren’t there-

Sabri shook her head. She went swiftly into the house. No one lingered in the foyer, or sat in the main sitting room. She took the stairs to the second floor. After a couple of abortive tries at closed doors, she found the library.

Floor to ceiling shelves on three walls met her gaze. The fourth wall contained tall windows, curtained in a heavy velvet that reduced daylight to dim shadow. Sabri tried to draw back the curtains at one of the windows, but she couldn’t get the heavy stuff to pull back or stay parted. Large oil lamps were strategically placed on desks and tables in the room, but the thought of lighting one of them daunted her. Finally, she compromised by peering at the books in the dimness and bringing likely ones to the window for a better look.

She found books on the art of husbandry, the weaving of cloth, and the poetry of some woman whose name she did not recognize. Her fifth book choice turned out to be the closest thing to a dictionary. A Brief Description of Common Words and Their Meaning by Theodore Cline. Sabri eagerly flipped through the pages until she came to the words that began with the letter v.

Vagabond-- the historical term for the host of a second soul. Controversy has arisen over whether the second person actually exists. Some medical experts consider the confusion and lack of familiarity with their surroundings displayed by these persons to be a complicated mental disorder rather than the presence of a second person. Vagabonds tell fantastic stories of places and people and things that do not exist, and never have existed. Religious significance has often been attached to the Vagabond.

Sabri searched the book for more information, but the book did not go into further detail on the subject. She looked at more books but found only hints of the Vagabond’s existence.

She closed the books and stared at the covers in frustration. Why didn’t they say more about Vagabonds? Was the subject not important? She could scarcely believe that. The impact on the families of Vagabonds, and on the Vagabonds themselves, had to be staggering.

A different method of finding facts, one that seemed to draw the information from the very air, flashed through her mind, but she dismissed the unhelpful thought with impatience.

Sabri replaced the books and left the library. As she turned, she heard someone hiss, “Leave, you spawn of Satan!”