Saturday Yardening

Saturday, May 28th, 2016 12:58 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Is mostly being done by a crew of tree guys, who are making fantastic progress.  Our part is just occasionally walking around to supervise and give further input. 

EDIT: The tree guys are done and gone.  They finished both items on our required list, everything on the urgent list, and one on the would-be-nice list.  For the price originally quoted to do the two required items.  \o/  Also they were very insightful about interpreting things I would want.  I love working with people who realize that I understand their profession quite well, just lack the body and equipment for doing the actual work.  So now all the limbs are away from the house and driveway, and a lot of brush has got cleared away so there is more sunlight.  Also I have another mulch pile approximately the size of a car.  :D

Attract Mode (Short Story)

Saturday, May 28th, 2016 12:00 pm
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin

This story is a little different than the others I’m sharing this month, as it’s written in hypertext. I created it using Twine, a construction kit that is popular for creating interactive stories as well as simple text-based games and quizzes. “Attract Mode” was very much an experiment, even more so than most of the things I do. It didn’t receive much attention when I released it in February, but it still ranks among my favorite of my story creations.

Click here to read it. And if you like it, support me on Patreon so I’ll be able to make more like it.

If you don’t have the cash to help, you can help by spreading awareness and joining my thunderclap, which will broadcast the link to these stories in a tweet-length message on the social media platform(s) of your choice on May 31st, two hours after the last story goes live.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

Poem: "Veranderings"

Friday, May 27th, 2016 08:03 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the January 2016 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] shiori_makiba and [personal profile] dreamwriters. It also fills the "day at the beach" square in my 1-3-15 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Cassandra thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Read more... )

Edally Academy Chapter 31B: Teamwork

Friday, May 27th, 2016 06:51 pm
aldersprig: (Tairiekie)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Enrie barely managed not to stiffen or pull away as Saydrie pulled her into a hug and suggested intimate things at her while he held her cuddled against him.  He smelled interesting, she noticed, like a soap she only remembered encountering deep in the south.

She cleared her throat.  “The..."

Read on:
http://www.edallyacademy.com/2016/05/27/31bteamwork/
aldersprig: (CyaSmile)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Acquiring Students
When my tablet runs out of battery...
The Crew Continues

Doomsday Academy, a little over a decade before Cya Keeps Leo.




"So what do we do about cy'rees?" The four of them were flopped in the fourth-year students' dorm all on Aron's bed. He, in turn, was studying the long tail Kerr had recently grown.

"Do?" Astarte peeked up at him through a fringe of hair. "We pick them, right?"

"But we're not all going to pick the same one, are we? I mean, we could... 'cause if we don't, they're going to split us up." One hand went protectively over Astarte and the other over Kerr, leaving Sunny to snuggle into his arm on her own.

"Well..." Sunny mused... "it's a small school. It's not like they can actually separate us."

Sometimes, There Are Dolphins (Short Story)

Friday, May 27th, 2016 12:00 pm
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin

This is the most recently published (though not the most recently written) story I’ve selected to highlight this month. Like a lot of the things I wrote in 2015, it has a deeply personal connection for me. The place described in this story is a real place I have been to many times, though only as an adult. Like the character in the story, I’ve stood there on the shore with my mother, waiting for dolphins who show up, sometimes. In fact, I was standing amidst the sand and shells, essentially trying to figure out how to summon dolphins with my mind (as one does) when this story came to me.

I’m posting this along with the other short stories that have gone up this month to let you the interested reader see what I have to offer as an interesting author. If you like what you read and would like to see more like it, please join me on Patreon.

Oh, and it could probably go without saying, but I’ve had people attribute sillier elements of my fiction to my actual life, so let’s make it explicit: apart from the location and the pasttime of dolphin-watching, nothing about this story is autobiographical.


Sometimes, There Are Dolphins

By Alexandra Erin


Honeymoon Island, off the gulf coast of Florida, was connected to the mainland city of Dunedin by a causeway. It was a state park, open every day from eight a.m. until sunset. The beaches of Honeymoon Island were laid with shells as other beaches are covered in sand, with a fresh batch deposited daily by the gulf water tides.

The water as seen from the shore presented a shimmering spectrum of ocean hues, from sun-dappled silver to sparkling emerald to deep azure and many incomprehensible blends in between. The near-constant wind blowing in off the gulf keeps the clouds moving at a brisk pace, ensuring that even the most overcast days often present an interesting sight when the sun begins to dip below the distant waters at the curve of the world.

None of this had made much of an impression on Clara. She’d enjoyed the first afternoon at the beach well enough, and had had enough fun splashing around in the surf and collecting shells that she hadn’t minded staying to stare at the horizon with her mother.

“Sometimes, there are dolphins,” her mother had said excitedly. “They skim right along the shore, swimming in a pod. They trace the causeway and follow the outline of the island. Sometimes they jump and show off, or swim back and forth. They don’t always come, of course, but when they do, it’s usually it right before sunset.”

There hadn’t been any dolphins, though, that night or any of the five that followed. Each night, her mother had repeated the words “sometimes, there are dolphins,” at least once, with a little less fervor. Clara had gone from resenting her mother for dragging her out each night to feeling sorry for her.

This was the last night of their vacation, and now Clara was excited even though her mother wasn’t.

It was all because of the book.

She’d found it in the crawlspace over the garage of Grandpa’s old rundown little retirement cabin days ago, but it had taken her some time to learn how to read it. She’d never seen a book like it before, one not printed with orderly uniform letters but written by hand, many hands. Some of the letters were loopy and sprawling, some were spider-leg thin, but they all crowded against one another on pages that seemed like they should have been roomy enough to accommodate anyone.

Looking at the writing had given Clara a headache at first, as well as an odd, fluttery feeling in the pit of her stomach. Curiosity had brought her back to the book, though.

That, and boredom.

Florida was supposed to be fun, but this wasn’t anywhere close to the right part of Florida, as far as she could tell. There was no Disney World here. There wasn’t even a Universal Studios. There was a Busch Gardens, but her mother had said she wouldn’t like it, even though the best description she had mustered of it was “like a zoo with rollercoasters,” and Clara couldn’t imagine anyone not liking that.

“Maybe next time,” her mother had said, though this was supposed to be the final trip, when Grandpa’s affairs were all wrapped up so the funny old house could be sold off.

Clara didn’t know what her grandfather’s affairs had been. She’d asked a few grown-ups what an affair was, but the answers had been amused and evasive.

So while her mother had spent most of her time meeting with people in suits and going through boxes in what she called the study, Clara’s attention had kept drifting back to the book. In time she’d learned how to look at it without wincing, and then how to read it.

It helped when she realized that the parts written in red pen were newer and made more sense than the rest. In fact, they helped her make sense of the others. She learned to think of it as a teacher correcting a badly written essay, suggesting better words, easier words.

At some point, she had started to think of the teacher as her grandfather and imagined that he was giving her some kind of guidance, knowing how much she hated to feel confused. The day she saw some of the papers in his study marked with the same red ink in the same handwriting, she had realized she was right. That was when she decided to keep the book for herself. It would be her inheritance, the last gift from her long-absent grandfather. It would make up for all the missed birthdays and Christmases.

She couldn’t tell her mother, of course. For some reason, her mother hadn’t wanted Clara to know much about him. Probably she was still mad about all her own birthdays and things that he’d missed.

Clara had already somehow known she couldn’t tell her mother about the book, but it felt good to have a reason that she could use to explain to herself why this must be so.

But even though she would keep the book for herself, she wouldn’t be selfish about it.

When she’d found the ritual, she’d known that her grandfather had a gift for his daughter, too. He’d spent so much time marking it out, translating the instructions into simple terms and even drawing clear diagrams. All the words were sounded out in bright red ink. It couldn’t be simpler.

The sea-king’s summoning spell, the note beside the illegible title had read. That was exactly what they needed. If the lazy old dolphins wouldn’t come out and play for Clara or her mother, she was sure they wouldn’t ignore a summons from the sea-king himself, whoever he might be.

She hadn’t fully believed that it would work, of course, when she’d tried it. It had just been something to do. She was a bit old to believe in fairy tales, after all. Not all the way.

But she’d…felt something, something rising up from deep inside and beneath her. She’d seen the candles gutter green and then sputter out. She might have imagined what she’d thought she’d felt, but she knew that candles didn’t look like that when they just blew out.

And the book…the book had slammed shut and spun around in the center of the circle, just like it was riding on mama’s old record player.

The spell had worked.

It had worked!

And so this night, it was Clara’s turn to scan the horizon as intently as her mother had the nights before.

The dolphins were coming, she knew. They were coming. They’d heard the sea-king’s summons and they would be coming. Her mother’s guidebook didn’t say if the dolphins would come from the left or the right…from the south or the north…so she tried to keep watch in both directions.

“Well, it’s a nice enough night for our last night here,” Clara’s mother was saying. She laid a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Better enjoy the view while it lasts. Look, the sun’s dipping into some haze. Do you think it’ll be swallowed up before we get a proper sunset?”

“I don’t know, I’m watching for dolphins.”

“Clara…I know I said there might be dolphins,” her mother said. “But, honestly, it’s best not to set your heart on it. Sometimes, there are dolphins, but it isn’t something anyone can predict or control.”

“Maybe,” Clara said. She almost decided to tell her mother about the spell then and there, but she thought it would be better if she just let her be surprised.

The dolphins would come by sunset. She’d had that idea fixed in her head when she did the spell, and if she’d only been guessing about how the magic would work, she still had gotten the distinct impression that the message had been received and answered in the affirmative: sunset.

“Just don’t get so fixated on looking for one thing that you miss everything else, okay?” her mother said. “My father…your grandfather…did that, he did that his whole life. He ignored everything else, everyone else, while he went off and searched for…I don’t even know what. I’ve been looking through his files for a week now and I still don’t know what he hoped to find. I just know that he died alone, half-crazed and full of regret. He missed so much of my life, Clara. He missed his own wife’s last years. He missed so much…”

“Jeez, I’m just looking for dolphins, Mom!” Clara said, whirling around and pulling away from the hand on her shoulder. “Will you give it a rest? I’m not going to miss my whole life because I spent one night looking for the stupid dolphins that you wanted to see in the first place!”

“Sorry!” her mother said. “I’m sorry, I…that was probably projecting. This is the first time I’ve been back here since papa’s funeral, and the longest I’ve been here since I was a little girl, and I’ve just…I’ve been feeling and thinking things that I left buried for so long. I shouldn’t have pushed all that off onto you, Clara. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry, Mom,” Clara said. “I didn’t mean to get so mad. I just…I knew you wanted to see dolphins, so I wanted to bring them to you.”

“Oh, honey, you can’t bring someone dolphins,” her mother said, with what sounded like a surprisingly nervous laugh. “They’re wild and free creatures, almost like people themselves. Honey, that’s what makes seeing them so special, you see? They don’t operate on a schedule or come when you call them. You can’t control nature. Believe me, your grandfather wasted his life learning that lesson, if he ever did learn it in the end.”

“Well, I don’t know if he wasted it,” Clara said, as she became dimly aware of a commotion among the other late-lingering beachgoers. “But…”

“What on earth?” her mother said, looking at a point behind her, somewhere out over the water. “What…”

Clara turned to look out to sea. Almost straight out from her, at a point on the horizon and moving on a path perpendicular to the nearest stretch of shore to her, something was moving…several things were moving, racing along the shining silver waters, leaping out of the water as they ran along.

“Dolphins?” Clara said excitedly. Behind the frantically frolicking figures, the sun was sinking into the sea.

“Those aren’t dolphins,” her mother said, then corrected herself. “Those aren’t just dolphins.”

And they weren’t.

There were dolphins, yes, but fish of every size and description raced along beside and ahead of them.

“Are they feeding?” Clara guessed.

“Nah, dolphins don’t hunt like that,” a young woman staring out at the onrushing spectacle said. “They try to surround a school of fish and trap them against the surface of the water, they don’t chase them down like lions hunting gazelles. And look, they’re not trying to catch the fish…they’re breaking ahead of them.”

“What are they doing?” someone else asked. “I thought they were supposed to follow the shore.”

“They’re wild animals, they’re not supposed to do anything,” Clara said. “Right, Mom?”

She looked up at her mother for support, but her budding sense of satisfaction was nipped when she saw the look of pure horror on her face.

“Are they racing?” a man guessed. “Or being chased? Why are they trying to get away from the fish? Don’t dolphins eat fish? I’ve never heard of a fish eating a dolphin.”

“I don’t think it’s the fish that they’re trying to get away from,” the young man said. “What’s that saying? If you and your friend are being chased by a bear, you don’t have to outrun the bear…”

The nearest dolphins weren’t so far from the shore now, and they showed absolutely no sign of slowing or stopping. Clara hardly noticed. Her attention, like everyone else’s, was not on the dolphins but on the rising swell far behind them, behind the stragglers and the leaping schools of fish.

The sun set.

He rose.

Ia!


Enjoy the story? Show your appreciation and help me produce more like it by supporting me on Patreon.

If you don’t have the cash to help, you can help by spreading awareness and joining my thunderclap, which will broadcast the link to these stories in a tweet-length message on the social media platform(s) of your choice on May 31st, two hours after the last story goes live.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

June Patreon Theme Poll

Friday, May 27th, 2016 11:52 am
aldersprig: (Aldersprig Leaves Raining)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Hey, all, it's time to pick the June Patreon Theme!

Each month, y'all pick a theme, and from there I write several stories posted to my Patreon (One is always free-for-everyone).

Want to check out my Patreon? Look here.
For just $1, you can read all the Patreon stories; for $5/month, you can prompt in the prompt calls! (for $7/month you get a private story!)

Don't have Dreamwidth? Please feel free to vote in the comments.

Poll #17499 June Patreon Theme Poll!!
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5


What should the June 2016 Patreon Theme Be?

View Answers

Inner Circle (Setting)
1 (20.0%)

The Planners (Setting)
1 (20.0%)

Reissan (Setting)
3 (60.0%)

Gender & Sex (motif)
0 (0.0%)

Survival (motif)
1 (20.0%)

Weather and the Outdoors (motif)
1 (20.0%)

Hurt/Comfort (motif)
2 (40.0%)

Rebirth (motif)
1 (20.0%)

Demifiction (type) (non-fiction in fictional settings)
1 (20.0%)

More Please (type) (continuations of extant pieces)
2 (40.0%)



For setting information, check out here.

This poll will close on 6/1/2016 at 6:01 p.m. Eastern time (or so).

The Crew Continues, a ficlet of Doomsday Academy

Friday, May 27th, 2016 09:35 am
aldersprig: (CyaSmile)
[personal profile] aldersprig
After/part of When my tablet runs out of battery..., which is after Acquiring Students

Doomsday Academy, a little over a decade before Cya Keeps Leo.


Kerr was not talkative. He communicated when Miss Ascha pushed him in class. He told the cook what he wanted, at lunch. With Aron and Sunny, he preferred gestures and a minimum of words.

When he brought Astarte over to Aron and Sunny, the day she arrived - the first day of their second year of school and her first year - he did so without words. He took her hand and gave a tug; she followed. He tugged again, and she walked with him, her white-pale hand in his dark one, until he tugged her one more time to pull her in front of him, presenting her very clearly to Sunny and Aron.

Aron understood. "Hi," he said, if for no other reason than to prove that one of them actually talked. "We're a crew, or we will be when we're old enough. Want to join?"

She was as small as they had been a year ago, her eyes wide. But she smiled. "You're funny," she told Kerr. "I like that." She tilted her head at Aron, looked down at her hand, still firmly held in Kerr's, and giggled. "I think I already did."

When my tablet runs out of battery...

Friday, May 27th, 2016 08:24 am
aldersprig: (BookGlasses)
[personal profile] aldersprig
...I write long-hand.


This comes after Acquiring Students and is the beginning of a series of character-establishing notes/stories/ficlets.

Click to enbiggen.

Read more... )
aldersprig: (Aldersprig Leaves Raining)
[personal profile] aldersprig
After Uncle, a story of fae apoc. To the Finish It! Bingo.

They’d named the creature — the fae, the sentient being Bruce was now Keeping — they’d named the thing Bjorn, or, at least, Bruce’s niece Kikyo had offered the name and it had stuck.

Bruce couldn’t get another name out of the thing, but, then, he hadn’t been able to get much at all in the way of language out of — out of him, out of Bjorn.

That made it harder to remember that the creature, that this Kept Bruce had now, that it was sentient, human-ancestried just as Bruce and his kids were. The fur everywhere didn’t help, either.
Read more... )
Like it?
Buy the
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some tea

Poem: "TMIwork"

Friday, May 27th, 2016 03:17 am
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was inspired by a conversation with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer about how tiresome it is when the supposed good guys fight in front of the bad guys, and how differently that would go in Terramagne. It also fills the "marriage" square in my 1-4-16 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by LJ user Ng_moonmoth. This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: Graphic marital conflict is the whole point of the poem.

Read more... )

Thursday's Yardening

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 04:19 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Today we went out to shovel wet ash from the firepit in the ritual meadow.  I got about half a wheelbarrow full before wearing out, and managed to clear a shovel or two distance from the nodestone. 

*gasp, pant, wheeze*  *goflopnow*

Second round: shoveled another ring around the firepit, moved another half-wheelbarrow of wet ash.

Third round: shoveled to the edge of the firepit, moved about two-thirds wheelbarrow of wet ash.
aldersprig: (Wood)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Chapter One: Trouble at the Stamen
Chapter 2: The Stamen End


Chapter 3: The Slippery Stamen-End

Billow wasn’t screaming, or whining, or even whimpering. She was holding very still, slowly sliding towards the center of the stamen-bottom. Nimbus felt something tighten in her chest, but she didn’t have time for panic. She dropped to the ground, splaying her feet out and seeking some purchase, and reached for Billow.

She couldn’t quite reach, and if she moved any further forward she was going to end up on the wrong end of the slope.



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Interested? Check out The Expectant Wood and pledge today!

#ThimblefulThursday: Kangaroo Court

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 01:42 pm
aldersprig: a close up of an alder leaf (Leaf)
[personal profile] aldersprig
Thimbleful 1.png

They'd grabbed a couple barrels and a door to make a "bench"; they'd hung a curtain, or at least a ratty blanket, over the room to make a "private" courtroom, and they'd pulled in five people to witness, Carter Westcott to serve as judge, and Ardell Aspen to serve as prosecutor.

There was no defense. I wanted to say something about that; I was one of the witnesses, because I hadn't moved away from the curtain quickly enough - me and four others who'd been loitering around, wondering what they were going to do with Barton after - well, after. But considering the mood of our little community of stragglers, I stayed quiet. I've regretted that for years. I didn't want to end up there, where Barton was... but still.

The prosecutor read off charges. Barton could hardly say he wasn't guilty - I mean, they'd gagged him, but that didn't matter when he'd grown feet three times normal size and big furry ears - but they made some pretense that it was a court and not a murder.

If I'd only gotten to him before they'd found him, maybe I could have helped in. Instead, I stood witness to his "conviction" in the most half-assed trial I'd ever seen.

And his would not be the last I'd witness, either.



This is written to today's Thimbleful Thursday prompt

An Internal Matter (Short Story)

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 12:00 pm
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin

For those just tuning in: for every day that remains in May, I’m posting one example of my work to this blog in order to help garner attention for my Patreon, so that I can start earning enough money to actually live on instead of slowly and forever circling the drain.

My best known work (not counting that Tumblr post where I wrote the words to the song from Aladdin underneath a picture of Batman and Superman, which has been translated into multiple languages and adapted into multiple mediums) is Tales of MU, a sprawling serial story set in a university in a world that is meant to be something like a typical “medieval fantasy” world if it were allowed to chronologically progress to something approximating the modern age.

While the main story of MU focuses on the life and times of one Mackenzie Blaise, a budding queer college student learning to love herself and several other people, from time to time I write “Other Tales”, side stories and spin-offs and prequels and midquels. Some of them relate to the main story. Some flesh out the setting and the world. Some of these work well enough as stand-alone fantasy stories that the setting is more or less incidental.

I recently separated my Tales of MU activities into its own Patreon, to make it easier to market both it and everything else I write. Nevertheless, when I sat down to pick out nine short stories of mine that stand out as being representative of the best of what I do, there were a few of the MU tales of the standalone variety that insisted on coming forth and being recognized. This is one of them.

At the time I first published it, readers compared it to both Isaac Asimov and Terry Pratchett. I’ll let you decide for yourself how apt either comparison is.


An Internal Matter

By Alexandra Erin


“Sorry sir, but we are currently closed for renovations,” the short, stocky doorman said. His uniform was trimmed with festive holiday garlands. Snow was on the ground and the whole of the high street was decked out with gold tinsel and red ribbons.

“I’m an investigator with the Imperial Bureau of Finding,” Mike Gregory said, holding up his credentials.

“Sorry sir, but we are currently closed for renovations,” the sentinel repeated. Gregory rolled his eyes and knocked on the door, then peered through the little glass panes set into it. He thought he saw some movement in the dim hallway. He held his badge up, hoping it would be recognized.

“Hello, little girl!” the doorman called cheerfully. “Blessed season to you!”

“Bess’d season!” a girl of about three or four called back.

The investigator rolled his eyes again, though he had to fight to keep from smiling. He had to fight even harder when he glanced to the side and saw that the golem had pulled a tiny gift box out of his coat and was offering it to the tyke. The kid was visibly torn, obviously terrified by the bearded figure looming over her but also tempted by the present.

“Tell the nice man ‘thank you’,” her mother said, snatching the box away and handing it to her kid. She looked more frightened of the automaton than her kid was.

The door opened as the doorman was giving more packages to a pair of children. A silver-bearded dwarf, bald as a boiled egg and wearing a pair of pince-nez spectacles, peered up at Gregory.

“Are you from the constabulary?” he asked.

“Investigator Mike Gregory, IBF,” Gregory said, showing his badge.

“Forgive me for saying, but you’re awfully tall for an imp,” the dwarf said, chuckling.

“I haven’t actually heard that one before,” Gregory said. “You going to let me in?”

“Are you here about… the robbery?” the dwarf asked, whispering the last word and looking at the doorman and the latest child, both a good five feet away, as if he thought they were in on it.

“No, I’m here to buy a boat,” Gregory said.

“And I haven’t heard that one before,” the dwarf said. “I’m sorry, this whole thing has me out of sorts. Do come in, Mr. Gregory.”

He pulled the door open further and stepped back so the detective could enter.

“You closed the store but you’re still doing your giveaway?” Gregory asked.

“In all honesty, I didn’t give it any thought when I closed the shop… and since I didn’t say to notgive the gifts, of course it goes ahead and does it. All the same, it’s a very popular promotion,” he said. “The people around here have come to expect it. They bring their children into the city to see the window displays and get a little gift from Clan Sternbauer… it’s terrible that we were robbed, but why should I compound that by stealing away that bit of joy?”

“You’re all heart, Mr….”

“Gebhard,” he said.

“Son of…?”

“Just Gebhard,” the dwarf said. “Master Jeweler, fifth rank, of Clan Sternbauer. I’m sorry for my manner at the door… we aren’t used to dealing with outside authorities. Ordinarily, when items go missing, Clan Sternbauer treats it as a purely internal matter, but given the sheer scope of the transgression…”

“Mr. Gebhard, the Bureau is here to help, not to steal your secrets,” Gregory said. “Also, failure to report a crime can itself be a crime.”

“Well, naturally, which is why we conduct a thorough internal investigation to see if a crime has been committed,” Gebhard said, wringing his hands as he led Gregory through the second set of doors, past a duplicate of the uniformed figure outside, and into the shop. The interior of CS&C didn’t look like a place that had been robbed of millions of silver in merchandise. Everything was bright, shiny, and clean. There were no signs of violence, no visible damage, and plenty of extremely valuable-looking goodies hanging out in plain sight. “In this case, the evidence is unmistakable. A dwarven dozen items, all gone. I don’t know what it is about this time of year. I understand it’s supposed to be a festive season, but we get more trouble at Khersentide… did you know that last year, somebody cleft our Sam in twain with a greatsword?”

“Murder?” Gregory said. “I didn’t hear about that… if you kept something like that ‘an internal matter’…”

“Murder? Well, some of us might have felt it was like a murder, but in point of fact it was an act of vandalism. Sam is our faithful doorman, you see… we took it a little hard, as he’s one of the most visible symbols of our company. We sell little animated plushes on our weavesite, you know, and in the stores during the holidays.”

“I do remember hearing about that now,” Gregory said.

“The perpetrator was never found, unfortunately,” Gebhard said. “It was such a random, senseless thing…”

“Right,” the detective said. “Do you have a list of what’s missing?”

“Yes, right over here,” Gebhard said. He went through a gate back onto the raised platform behind the counter… this let him look the imperial agent in the eye as he spoke, Gregory noticed. Gebhard picked up a piece of parchment and held it out.

Gregory scanned it.

“Platinum… platinum… platinum… what the hell is palladium?”

“For most purposes, it might be thought of as platinum, but more so,” Gebhard said.

“So, what do these things have in common?”

“Well, they’re all quite small, and very valuable,” the dwarf said. “Though, they hardly rank among the most valuable objects in our collection. Certainly none of them are unique. None of them came out of a vault or a higher security area, though we say ‘higher security’ for a reason. Our default precautions are nothing to sneeze at.”

“What are they?” Gregory asked.

“Well, to begin with, do you see this glass?” the dwarf asked, tapping the top of the counter.

“Yes.”

“No, you don’t. What you see is metal that has been rendered ninety-nine percent invisible.”

“What kind of metal?”

“That’s a trade secret, but suffice it to say, the frame it’s in would give way long before a thief managed to so much as scratch it. As you can see, that hasn’t happened.”

“And if somebody were that determined?” the detective asked.

“Our first countermeasures kick in on the third violent blow,” Gebhard said. “They would be enough to render most thieves insensate. In any event, any contact with the cases or the merchandise after the shop has been locked down would sound an alarm in our living quarters below.”

“You mean, you live on the premises?”

“Yes. Well, I mean beneath them, of course.”

“How many people are in residence here, exactly?”

“Myself, and seven apprentices.”

“I’m going to need to talk to your apprentices,” Gregory said.

“They’re all waiting downstairs,” he said. “They know the shop is closed, but they don’t know why. But, Mr. Gregory, I can assure you they had nothing to do with it… once we’ve closed the shop for the day, the passage is closed. It can only be opened in an emergency, which requires the cooperation of three staff members and results in a silent alert to all of us.”

“Who would be able to disable that, apart from yourself?”

“Nobody, including myself,” Gebhard said. “And I check those wards and seals every day before opening. I double-checked them when I discovered the shortages.”

“So, nobody used the trapdoor,” Gregory said. “I assume the security on the external doors is even higher?”

“As high as the law allows,” Gebhard said. “That’s one reason we have double doors, actually… those laws allow much more persuasive protections on the inner set than they do on the ones that anybody could stumble against.”

“One reason?”

“I’m sure you could see the advantages during daytime operations,” Gebhard said. “Jewelry frequently leaves the protection of the cases in the normal course of the working day. If somebody does a runner, we have the ability to trap them in the hallway and subdue them through the vertical target access slots.”

“The what?”

“We used to call them ‘glory holes’, but apparently that term’s picked up another meaning in the past century,” Gebhard said. “We also have surveillance balls recessed in the ceiling above the entryway. They record all activity in front of the store and in the hallway. My review of last night’s impressions revealed nothing, though you’re welcome to check it yourself.”

“Thanks, we will,” Gregory said. “Mr. Gebhard, not to be indelicate, but you do realize that with this level of security, any robbery is pretty much going to have to be an inside job?”

“Well, of course I know that,” the dwarf sputtered. “That’s why we usually try to handle things ourselves… but that’s usually somebody being imprudent during the day, when money and jewelry are out in the open and changing hands. I can’t see how one of my apprentices could be involved in this.”

“Okay, let’s leave that alone for the moment,” Gregory said. “We know the doors weren’t forced, and neither were the jewelry cases. Teleportation? Phasing? Dimensional gate?”

“All quite impossible,” Gebhard said. “And anybody who tried would get a nasty surprise.”

“What sort of surprise?”

“I’m afraid I can’t reveal that,” Gebhard said. “You have to understand, I’m hardly comfortable discussing our security precautions even to the extent that I’ve done so far.”

“Do you think the Imperium is going to rob your store?”

“Under the present government? No,” Gebhard said. “Clan Sternbauer has a wonderful relationship with the Imperial Republic… in fact, I personally fought alongside Magisterion I. Which brings me to my point: human governments tend to change at an alarming pace. We’ll play along with the current regime, but we don’t expect it to last forever.”

“Mr. Gebhard, when our office received the report, we wanted to get a whole team of investigators down here,” he said. “Forensic enchanters, diviners, the whole works… but we had to go through the dwarven embassy, and they said the most we could send was a single agent, with no magical sensitivity. What I’m trying to say here is that we’re bending over backwards to respect your privacy here… and that isn’t a great position to catch crooks from.”

“I’m sorry, but my hands are tied,” Gebhard said. “I did anticipate this need on your part, and have sent word to my superiors, but I cannot give any more specific information about our magical protections until I receive that word.”

“What if I come back with an imperial decree ordering your compliance?”

“Then I will compose a brief note to my grandchildren and ask to borrow your sword for a moment,” Gebhard said. “It will be messy, but poison is somewhat unreliable when ingested by my kind.”

“Are you for real?”

“Completely. Mr. Gregory, I will not get my clan in ‘hot water’ with the Imperium by breaking its laws, but neither will I dishonor the laws of my own people,” Gebhard said. “For both of our conveniences, I suggest you wait until I hear from headquarters. In the meantime, perhaps we should see what you can come up with based on the information available? Because I can assure you, if you did know the scope of our protections, you would agree that it’s not possible for an item to have been removed from the premises by means such as teleportation or extradimensional transit.”

“No? What about the Khersentide presents?” Gregory asked. “I didn’t see any bulges in Sam’s coat.”

“Ah. That. Hmm… well, you’ve hit on the one exception,” Gebhard said. “Yes, for our gift giveaway, we attach an extradimensional storage pouch to the inside of his jacket. Patrons… and employees… are stopped in the hallway if they’re carrying similar devices, but the spell screens for Sam’s sack specially.”

“So where is he, at night?” Gregory asked. “Sam the Doorman. Does he stand there all night, does he join you in the basement, does he go home to Samantha and their little Samlings?”

“Oh, no, he comes inside with his brother when we close. They straighten up after we go downstairs… wipe the display cases down, clean whatever jewelry’s been recently handled, and so on. It really is an ingenious system. We used to have one dwarf stay behind and do the cleaning, but there was too much temptation and distrust.”

“That means Sam can touch the display cases without setting off any wards?”

“Well, yes, I suppose ‘he’ can,” Gebhard said slowly. “I didn’t think of that, of course… as much as we have a tendency to imbue him with a personality, he is, after all, only a golem.”

“So, what exactly stops Sammy from slipping a few items in his extradimensional pouch?”

“Are you serious, Mr. Gregory? Sam is mindless… he follows orders and that’s all he does.”

“What if somebody ordered him to?” Gregory asked. “Would he do it then?”

“That isn’t among the orders he recognizes,” Gebhard said. “Our ‘Sams’ are made to exacting specifications. All of our stores use two models: the outdoor one, which is both more durable and more versatile, and the indoor one. Neither model recognizes the Master Jeweler or his apprentices as their owner and master, but instead are given a specific and precise set of instructions by their maker. These instructions include a directive to follow certain sets of orders when given by a Clan Sternbauer & Company employee, and stealing from the company most certainly does not fall within those parameters.”

“Who is that maker?”

“Each location has one golem maker who is engaged… quite literally, as they are under a geas of secrecy about our specs… to produce Sams,” Gebhard said.

“And yours?”

“That would be… well, that would be among the information I’ve requested permission to release,” Gebhard said.

“Really?” Gregory asked. “It hardly seems like it would be a breach of secrecy, if the golem maker’s not able to talk about the Sams’ construction or directives, anyway… in fact, it almost sounded like you were about to tell me.”

“Yes, well, I was, but then I thought better of it,” Gebhard said. “It’s really not the sort of thing I can discuss without permission.”

“Are you sure?” Gregory asked.

“Quite sure.”

“Well, think hard about that,” Gregory said. “And maybe talk to your people about expediting your request, because I can get an imperial decree in a matter of hours and I’d hate to see you punching your ticket over something as small as this.”

“I hardly think it’s important for you to talk to our golem maker, Mr. Gregory,” Gebhard said. “We will be happy to investigate this facet of the matter ourselves, internally…”

“You realize that if you make an act of retribution against an Imperial citizen, on Imperial soil, that’s not only a crime but possibly an act of war, Mr. Gebhard?”

“Sir, I have no idea what you’re insinuating,” Gebhard said. “Why don’t you come back this afternoon? I’m sure I’ll have the go-ahead to give you all the information you need by then… I can have my apprentice notify the bureau the instant it comes in.”

“Yeah, sure,” Gregory said. “But remember what I said: an act of war.”

“I’ll take that under advisement.”

“Take this under advisement, too… there’s an old human saying: nobody kills a kid at Khersentide and gets away with it.”

“I definitely haven’t heard that one.”

A message for Mike Gregory arrived at the Bureau headquarters at one minute past noon. It contained the name and address of a golem maker and a note that the clan chiefs had agreed with the investigator that this information was not crucial to withhold. Gregory headed to the enchanter’s home workshop with sirens blazing, but he was too late to prevent the golem maker’s death via sixteen crossbow bolts to the back.

Many campaign contributions later, this death was ruled a suicide.

The fourteen stolen pieces of jewelry were never officially recovered. They certainly weren’t found on the golem maker’s body, and if they had turned up back at the store from which they had been stolen there would have been some awkward questions. But as Gebhard had noted, none of the pieces were unique, and items identical to them were certainly available at the other CS&C locations up and down the eastern seaboard.

The unfortunate golem maker’s six-year-old son… who, in what can only officially be described as a freakish coincidence, had been the first person to receive a gift box from Sam the morning of the robbery… happened to be in his father’s workshop at the time of his death, but thankfully he was sound asleep… very sound asleep. He was physically unharmed, and given to the care of his mother.

Early the following year, the firm of Clan Sternbauer & Company bought the exclusive services of a single golem maker and moved production of their trademarked “Sam The Doorman” golems under him.


Tales of MU resumes updates on June 1st. If you wish to support Tales of MU, you can pledge an amount per chapter/posting on its dedicated Patreon. Otherwise, if you support me as an author, any MUniverse stories such as this one that can stand on their own will also be cross-posted to my author Patreon.

If you don’t have the cash to help, you can help by spreading awareness and joining my thunderclap, which will broadcast the link to these stories in a tweet-length message on the social media platform(s) of your choice on May 31st, two hours after the last story goes live.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

aldersprig: (Buffy)
[personal profile] aldersprig


Part I: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1096503.html
Part II: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1100922.html
Part III: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1104619.html#cutid1
Part IV: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1108537.html


“Who knew that vampires could be so stupid? I mean, obviously, vampires are often stupid, but is it me, or was that beyond the stupid? And then the look on that girl’s face, like you had just performed some sort of arcane act of killage…”

“Well, technically, she…”

“Clearly,” Giles cleared his throat, “I cannot allow you to go out unsupervised in a strange city.”
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