Monday, December 10, 2012


Hiatus in Textus

[Trans. "A gape in the text." No, that doesn't mean the text is shocked. It's just a notation historiographers use to indicate a lacuna, usually where text has been inadvertently lost or destroyed.]

I'm taking a short break from Celeste to work on formatting a pair of books for Kindle. The first—Otherwise, and Otherwise—is a science fiction, fantasy, horror short fiction collection and will include some of the stories I've shared here on my blog. I'll let everyone know when it's available on Amazon. I promise it will be reasonably priced.

The second book is my urban fantasy novel, Boys Will Be Girls. Despite heavy reliance on magical elements, this novel is a serious examination of the flow of power across gender lines.

The bad news (for a few folks) is that I probably won't be submitting my next part of Celeste until at least January. I say "probably" because sometimes I have flashes of insight that just won't be denied. If that happens, I'll go ahead and post.

The good news—for all you budding authors out there (*cough* Ariel *cough*)—this is your chance to slip in your own Celeste chapter. Despite the work I'm doing on my ebooks, I will post any acceptable entry to Celeste that anyone out there wants to send to me either as a blog comment or as an MS Word doc (or docx) or OpenOffice document file.

Yes, you read that right. I said "acceptable." So, you're probably asking yourself, Who the hell is he to decide whether my writing is acceptable? The answer, of course, is I'm the blog owner and half-copyright owner of Celeste. (Yes, Crystal also has to find it acceptable.) Don't worry. We're pretty easy-going editors as Celeste goes. I'll correct any spelling or grammatical errors and return galleys before asking Crystal's approval on any piece submitted. Sadly, the only payment you'll receive will be that warm sense of accomplishment you get when someone quotes your work online.

Who knows? Maybe you'll be the author who makes this into a masterpiece? Anyway, it's fun. Give it a shot. Fill this gap I'm leaving.

I dare you.

I double dare you.

I'll be watching.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Celeste (part seven)

Hmm. Interesting. I threw Crystal a curve, and she curved it back my way. Okay, I left enough opening to allow it. I'm not going to fight it, though. She's pushed more players into Celeste's court. I'll leave it at that. Following my next response, however, I'm going to challene Crystal to throw the curve. More information next time.

For now, here's part seven, from Crystal.


The tempo of the carriage’s rhythmic embrace suddenly halted, jolting her awake. She let the wool blanket fall from her shoulders as she rubbed her eyes. She reached out and moved the shade to glance out the window and was pleased to see the sun shining. She stared at the snow and ice and a smile escaped her lips as she saw them sparkling under the sun’s rays. I wonder if the St. Paul Winter Carnival has started. It might be nice to see it if we’re here that long.

The carriage shifted to the side and her body slid as well, ending her musing. Obviously, the driver was getting down from his seat which meant they were at their destination. She started folding the wool blanket when the driver knocked on the door and gently opened it.

Maybe it was the ray of sun shining that hit him, or just his overall appearance, but she actually noticed him. No one notices their cab driver, but she noticed him. He was very handsome with dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and extremely tall, nearly 6’3” she’d estimate. He wore a sack coat, club collar, and brushed-cotton trousers—all clean, patch free and recently pressed. Stylish, impressive
The driver cleared his throat, and she blushed. She realized he had caught her staring at him. 

“Miss Celestnue we have arrived,” he said.

“Excuse me, what did you call me, sir?” she asked as she lay the folded wool blanket across the seat next to her.  His eyes followed her actions, and the folded blanket won her a beautiful smile, as he placed the step on the ground for her.

“Thank you, ma’am, and I called you Miss Celestnue,” he replied. “Some of us have been waiting for your arrival for days now, especially the owner of this establishment.”

Celeste paused, her hand on the carriage frame, “I’m sorry but do I know you?”

“No, milady, you do not.  My name is Gaheris.”

He reached out and took her hand to help her down. 

Celeste shook her head and closed her eyes for a moment. Celestnue? She thought as she stepped down from the carriage.

Once firmly on the ground, she pulled her senses together and centered herself. “Let’s start over Gaheris, it was Gaheris right?  My name is Celeste, not Celestnue,” she stated firmly.

He leaned close to her and whispered. “No ma’am, you were Celeste. You cannot be that here. However, when you came through the portal into this dimension you became Celestnue.”

“I what? This dimension?” she whispered back.

“Why yes, you are no longer following the timeline of your dimension,” he replied nodding.

“How can this be? How do you know this?” Celeste asked.

“I do not know how it can be, ma’am. It is what Gwyar says, and she is never wrong about these things.”

Different dimension.  Different time line.  All right.  Processing. 

“So, you are Gaheris—as in Sir Gaheris?” she asked.

“Oh no, ma’am. No sir to my title.  It’s a family tradition to use such names.”

“Hummm, I can understand that, but who is Gwyar?” she continued, trying to record everything she heard on the mental blackboard in her head.

“I have said enough, you need to speak with Gwyar,” he replied. “I’ve may have said too much already.”

“I don’t understand.”

Gaheris smiled but said nothing as he helped her further onto the sidewalk.

She glanced around the street and found that no one was traveling the sidewalks on either side. How odd.
The storefront to which she had been delivered was old but well cared for. The windows were clean and the entry was clear of snow and ice. The sign above the door read Candles and Herbs.
Celeste turned back to face Gaheris. “What do I owe you?”

Gaheris lifted her hand gently to his lips and bit her finger. Celeste jerked it back yelping in pain. Viper-quick, he pulled her hand back to his mouth and sucked on the wound.

She yanked her hand back and, as a reflex, wrapped her other hand around the injured spot. She paused. It no longer hurt. Celeste looked down at her finger. It no longer bled. There were no holes or scars or any sign that she had ever been bitten. Did I imagine that?

“Excuse me, Celestnue,” Gaheris said. “I shall wait here until you return. Your fare is paid in full.”

“Um, thank you, Gaheris. I think,” she replied and stared deeply into his blue eyes. Nothing of what she’d just experienced showed in his baby blues. Perhaps I really did imagine it. 

The mare whinnied.  Celeste looked upon the horse, and again, its eyes flashed red. She knew she was not imagining all this.
As Celeste watched the mare, the air around the horse blurred. When Celeste could once again see clearly, a large mongrel dog stood where the mare had been.  The harnesses lay on the ground around it.

“Ruuuw,” barked the dog.

“Really Ragnell?  Are you sure?” Gaheris asked. 

“Ruuuw,” replied the dog.

“Excuse me Celestnue, but it would appear that Ragnell is going in with you,” Gaheris said as if this was the most common thing in the world. “Perhaps we should all go inside.”


“My apologies, ma’am,” he replied petting the dog that was now at his side. “Celestnue, this is Ragnell. Ragnell, Celestnue.”

“Ruuuw,” said the dog.

Celeste stood, shaken for a moment, not certain whether the dog had actually responded to Gaheris’s introduction. Am I supposed to believe this creature is sentient? Why am I so disturbed by this—this strangeness? I’m a witch from the Twenty-Fourth Century, travelling with my ex-husband who inadvertently turned himself into a cat. So, the nightmare turns herself into a dog. Gaheris put his hand on her elbow and guided her into the shop.
“We have to get you in out of the weather,” Gaheris said, “it’s about time for the wind to pick up. We don’t want you freezing to death.”

Celeste stopped just inside the doorway frozen. Her eyes glazed over and she began to pace back and forth in the small area at the front of the store. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I’m here on a mission. Must keep the task in mind. Gawain and Jacob are relying on me. Her pacing was cut short by an elderly lady, who stepped in front of her and loudly snapped her fingers in front of Celeste’s eyes.

Celeste,” she said firmly.

What!” Celeste shouted.

The old lady continued in a much softer voice, “Now, dearie, we don’t have time for this. You have to pull yourself together. You really should be taking your elixir, you know. We have a lot to discuss and not a lot of time. Now, stop this nonsense and come with me.”

“I—I—I’m sorry,” Celeste said, shaking her head and staring at the floor. “I left my elixir at home. And who are you?” Celeste frowned. "And how the hell do you know about my elixir?"

“Oh my, how rude of me, dear. My name is Gwyar, but you know me as Gee-Gee,” she said.

“Gee-Gee. The only Gee-Gee I know was Gawain’s mother,” Celeste said.

Celeste stared at Gwyar and Gwyar stared back at her. Gwyar folded her hands in front of her and watched as Celeste’s mind caught up with reality. Time seemed to slow as she stared into Celeste’s eyes and waited. Just as the old woman knew they would, Celeste’s eye lit up.

“You are Gee-Gee. You’re Gawain’s mother,” she said, “but, Gawain’s mother died fifty years ago.”
Gwyar continued to stare silently at Celeste. “Wait a minute. Her body was never recovered.  You didn’t die when that boat exploded. You somehow survived. What the hell happened? Better yet, what the hell is going on?”

“I don’t know what they said happened to me in your dimension, dearie—our dimension, I should say. I was somehow shifted here to where Gawain’s missing brother was stuck,” she said pointing at Gaheris. “Actually this is where we’re all stuck.”

“Gawain’s brother. Harris?” Celeste asked twisting a strand of her long red hair.

“Yes.” Gaheris replied.

“But you’ve been missing for, well since before Gee-Gee and Dad married,” Celeste blurted out.

“Quite,” Gwyar replied.

“So who or what is Ragnell?” Celeste asked.

“Ragnell is Gawain’s betrothed from the 23rd century, or at least she was before she changed,” Gwyar said.


“Dear, I have a lot of information to share with everyone, but we are all in danger. You,” she said pointing at Celeste, “have a long, dangerous journey ahead of you, and time is not your friend. You are the key. You are the only witch I knew that studied the witches of old, even those during the days of disbelief. You know their rituals. You are the key to saving Gawain, which is ironic since you are also the one trying to destroy him.”


“Not now, dear,” Gwyar said. “We have to get moving. I have already packed the supplies you’ll need.”

Celeste stomped her foot, “Wait a minute.  How the hell do you know what I need?” Celeste shouted.

“Calm down, dear” said the old woman. “Perhaps you didn’t know, but precognition is one of my skills. I know what you need. And the first thing you need now is to drink this.” Gwyar handed Celeste a small vile. 

Celeste glared at Gwyar for a moment but reached up and took the vile.  Her hands shook as she uncorked and smelled it. She grimaced and tilted it up, swallowing it down in one gulp. “Well, that surely is my elixir. Nothing else could smell that vile and yet taste good.”

Gwyar took the vile and sat it on the counter then reached out and took both of Celeste’s hands.  “I know you’re scared and overwhelmed. This is a lot to take in, but you will be okay. Do you hear me? You can do this. You’ll be okay.”

“Yes. I can handle this. I’ll be fine. I’m just not comfortable with anyone else being in control.  I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.”

“Think nothing of it dear,” Gwyar said, letting go of Celeste’s hands. “Now, you need to look over this.” Gwyar handed Celeste a large, filled-to bulging cotton sack. 

Celeste opened it. It reeked, but she took inventory anyway: candles—green, blue, red, three white, two silver, two gold, and a tiny suspended candle holder with four prongs. There were also several herbs and oils—Mugwort, jasmine, sandalwood, parsley, dried mushrooms, cannabis, nutmeg oil, Saint John’s wort oil, and a few others she didn’t recognize.
“Mother of all, Gwyar, what are you preparing us for anyway?” Celeste asked.

“Here is the other bag,” Gwyar replied handing her another sack, “look inside it also so you have the full inventory imprinted in your memory.”

She took the other bag and looked inside it.  She found a small wooden box, which she opened. It was full of elixirs. The bag also contained ruby-colored slippers with teeth marks on them, a pocket watch with a heart imprinted on the front, a small green silk pouch with three beans inside, and another small pouch, this one black in color with a plain band ring inside it. There was some kind of inscription on the inside it. 
“What the—?”

“The future dear.  All I will say now is that a lot of the items we thought were fairy tale devices, are real relics, just not as we knew them. Also, a lot of stories we thought were myths are—or have become—history. I think Ninue is behind it. Now let’s go, time is ticking,” she said as she headed for the door.  “Ragnell, you are going to have to shift again dear, I’m sorry,”

The mutt, who had been sitting quietly in the corner, whined but got up and headed to the heavy wooden door where Gaheris stood waiting.

“But I have more questions about you and Gaheris and Ragnell,” Celeste protested.  “I mean, Gaheris bit me, I think. And how can Ragnell polymorph? And well—everything. and why can't I be Celeste?”

“To the carriage, dear. We must get safely to the carriage.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

Celeste (part six)

Sorry I took so long this time. Got busy with other things. Too bad no one else has stepped up and offered an addition to the story.

Anyway, I decided it was time to shake things up. So, here's a little definition and—because everything seemed to be going so smoothly—a monkey-wrench.


Reorganizing Celeste’s racing thoughts gave her few of the answers she sought. Celeste, Gawain, Jacob, and many others, legally classified as witches and warlocks in the Twenty-Fourth Century had been an impossibility until the Twenty-Second Century. That’s when the physicists at Lawrence-Livermore labs had restructured their tokamak field and accidentally unlocked what many considered the Age of Magic.

Of course, there had always been magical folk of a sort: telepaths, telekinetics, clairvoyants, psychics, but centuries of testing had found them impossible to pin down. The clairvoyant who could clearly see the location of a kidnapped child one minute, couldn’t find her own car keys the next. The telekinetic who could make furniture fly around at home couldn’t roll a pencil across a table while being videotaped. Some believed psionic abilities were simply masked by stress or duress. Others believed the abilities required the right stressors to activate them.

Most scientists just felt it was a load of hooey.

No matter how you classified them, they weren’t the witches and magicians of fantasy lore. No one had ever been able to turn anyone into a newt, conjure an entire suit of clothes from thin air, travel on broomstick, travel in time, or actually read minds on a whim. Prior to the Age of Magic, the world’s magic had been more like an occasional minor case of psionic hiccups.

Then came the Merlin. A small black device that—due to a coating of platinum oxide—vaguely resembled the Maltese Falcon. Before the first startup, however, the Merlin had been seven such birdlike-appendages attached to a set of three-meter long radial arms attached to a four-meter-diameter magnetic bottle enclosure that contained fusion reactions. Ostensibly a magnetic-field generator containing a self-sustaining fusion reaction, the Merlin’s initial startup changed the world. The fields started up, the radial-arms lit up. The indicator lights, “eyes” on each of the seven falcon-like structures, went from red to green. The fusion chamber was working, drawing in hydrogen from the seven radial arms.

And then everything disappeared. Everything but one of the seven birdlike things. The remaining bird-thing, eventually nicknamed The Merlin, floated, detached, mid-air at the edge of a room that had contained the rest of the tokamak. Three physicists and six graduate students had also disappeared, never to be seen again in this dimension. The remaining two physicists spent the rest of their lives trying to contact their missing colleagues. Their best guess was that, somehow, the other men and women, along with the rest of the tokamak behind the Merlin, had disappeared into one or more other dimensions.

Three major effects of the Merlin incident were identified in the following decade. The speed of light decreased by .09 percent. Planck’s Constant increased by approximately .1 percent. Earth’s gravity decreased by a whopping l percent (from 9.780327 meters per second-squared to 9.682524 meters per second-squared). The scientific community was slow to accept other changes that were being noticed around the world.

On his deathbed, the last surviving physicist of the Merlin incident sat up in his bed. “Dear God! They’re still alive. Three of them are still alive. They’re aging much slower than we.”

His daughter stood and moved to his side, dabbing sweat from his brow with a kerchief. “Who’s still alive, Dad?”

“We are,” said a woman’s voice. She shimmered into view. The daughter screamed. Two nurses and a physician came running. Everyone could clearly see the young woman. “Please, someone record this. I’m on a limited time budget. We had to speed up my image in order for you to understand us. We’ve been trying to contact you for couple of years, but in your dimension, that appears to have been several decades.”

As the nurses and doctors present captured on personal recorders—later played extensively on the Internet—she went on to describe changes they had classified in her dimension, changes that were likely to be true in every connected dimension. She strongly recommended nationwide psionic testing and careful regulation of the newly initiated abilities they would find.

Celeste knew the Ninue was herself in another life. Thanks to Gawain, she knew Ninue had similar powers. Clearly, like herself, Jacob, and Gawain, Ninue’s connection to the Merlin extended across time. Once an individual had been subjected to the multidimensional breach, the resulting bond was unbreakable. Experimentation with the Merlin extension in her own dimension suggested that even the destruction of the Merlin couldn’t close the rift. Those affected maintained their powers even when the Merlin was shutdown and—most remarkably—even if they traveled back in time to a when that didn’t have a Merlin. Once a witch, always a witch, it seemed.

Why, then, did Ninue steal one of the Merlin extensions? Why transport it back in time? Celeste felt certain the answer had something to do with why he had chosen the name Ninue.  

Celeste, slogging through the increasingly muddy snow of the mid-afternoon melt, saw a landau drawn by a black mare in the near distance. She sighed a relief, but had no idea how to hail a cab in 1907 Minneapolis. Rather than shouting “Taxi!” she elected to speed her stride and wave.

As she approached, the driver, a tall gaunt man in black greatcloak and top hat, turned to face her. There was a strange, silvery gleam to his eyes, and his smile was toothy—fanged, one might say. He grinned, looking more ferocious than cheerful, and tipped his hat, “Taxicab, Mum?”

Celeste stopped for a second. Why couldn’t he be some pleasant little fat man? She sighed—smiled—and climbed aboard the landau. “Thank you, yes. Could you take me to a good candle shop?”

“Of course, Mum. The best. Only the best.” He cracked his whip. The mare, turned, flashing angry red eyes at the driver, and then lurched forward.

Did I see that right? Red eyes? Celeste shook her head. I need to get some sleep. Celeste leaned back against the plush leather cushion of the rear bench. Such a comfortable bench. Gradually, between the soft embrace of the cushion, the soft swaying of the landau, and the rhythmic clop of hooves on ice and cobbles, Celeste fell into a deep, warm sleep.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Celeste (part five)

And we're back. Here's Crystal's latest addition.

Two reminders about Celeste:

1) This is an exercise. The principal point is practice with dialogic characters. Even if you're working alone, realistic characters create a dialogue with the author, forcing the story to shift and move in unexpected directions. Crystal and I haven't had much opportunity to discuss or revise these sections. A bit of revision could work wonders, and maybe one or both of us will want to take up the final product and try to pull it together into a cohesive work.

2) The fact that this is an exercise doesn't mean we're exempt from critique. We're already critiquing one another behind the scenes. We'd love to hear from anyone else who has additional critical comments. And, yes, this mean that anyone who joins in the fun also has to be willing to accept criticism.

As for the near future: it's almost Thanksgiving, folks, and I'm the family cook, so I'll be offline tonight and most (if not all) of tomorrow. That means I'll not be working on a response to this section until at least Friday.


Jacob came away from the fire, no longer chilled from the winter’s snow. He climbed into Celeste’s lap hoping to be lavished with tender strokes of affection. That was not what he got. What he got was Celeste sitting entirely still, slouching in her chair, unaware of his presence.

Jacob not one to be easily disappointed, stretched across her lap, content to share her bodies heat.  Both cat and woman went unusually quiet.  Gawain sat across from them and watched intently, chewing on his bottom lip and tapping his foot.  He was waiting for some kind of action, word, scream, anything but silence. 
Celeste jumped up from her chair and dump Jacob to the floor with a shrieking meow.
He righted himself on his feet and rushed out from under her shuffling feet.  :What the hell, woman?: he screamed mentally out loud as he fell to the floor.

Celeste frantically paced the room back and forth.  She zipped back and forth raising her hands and swinging them around.  Occasionally Gawain and Jacob heard a word or two escape her lips.  “What the …?” followed by more pacing, “…not right”, silence, more pacing, “….off my rocker…” pacing, silence, pause, pacing, “…tortured my brother”, pause, silence, pacing, “…Ninue…the Merlin…”

The boys watched this and took it all in as a normal day at the office.

“Wonder how long she will be like this, this time?” Gawain asked Jacob who sat under a large table dutifully cleaning himself.

:Who knows: he remarked, :longest I’ve seen this go on for was 23 and a half hours, of course that was when she found out I was a cat.  It could be a while, I’m guessing it’s a bit of a shock.:

“When she was younger, she shut out the entire world when she got like this. Has she mellowed any over the past hundred years?” he asked.

:Nope, completely oblivious. It’s her coping mechanism when things make no sense. Perhaps that’s what brought about Ninue, she finally just flipped her rocker with all the stress or perhaps…more likely, her personality split. That rings truer.:

“How did you live with it for so many years?” Gawain asked.
:Because,: a mental sigh rang through the room, :Because I love her dearly.  That, and she loves me.  However, it is her unusual condition that aided me in becoming a cat.  Word of advice my friend, don’t work magic and utter a curse at your wife in the same breath, it can have dire consequences.  All I said was, “I’d rather be a mangy cat than married to you, you shrew” and, well here I am.  It seems the universe has a keen sense of irony.:

“But you said earlier that she divorced you.”
:Oh, yes, she did. She had to in order to handle our affairs. I gave her everything in the divorce, because, well to be blunt, what does a cat need for possessions and money? I am much better off letting her pamper me out of guilt.: he chuckled, a strange sound from a cat. :And, besides, I am still too proud to let people know what I did to myself.  Most people think I ran off to the 23rd century and that I’m basking on some beach in France with a bikini model.  So, obviously, I’m hoping in time I can remove this…mess, and we can remarry and move on from there. Of course this new situation may delay that plan for a while.:

“As for Lestie’s condition, don’t they have medications that she can take to alleviate this type of behavior?” Gawain asked. “I mean, it’s really none of my business, but I love her, and when she gets like this it worries me.”

:Oh, they do have medications that can stop this behavior, however she did not wish to take it and I would never ask her to.  To overcome her “disposition” the only medications available to her would leave her drooling in the corner and unable to do more than take care of day to day needs.  The brilliant mind we see light up and sparkle behind those beautiful blue eyes would dull and the lights would go out.  I’d rather deal with her infrequent “bouts”, than lose the woman I love.:

“Oh,” Gawain replied.
Both men watched Celeste pace back and forth. “You know it’s actually relaxing to watch her, it’s like watching a tennis match.”

:You know, you’re right,: Jacob agreed.

The two males watched her pace some more, but it was boring. It was Gawain that broke the uncomfortable silence.  “So Jacob, if it’s not too personal, what’s it like being a cat?” With that said, the two men talked for a couple hours.

Celeste continued to pace back and forth, back and forth, and then, as quickly as she began, she ceased, plopping her butt back down in the chair, with an exasperated “Fuck!”

Jacob sat up on his haunches and looked at her.  :Welcome back dear, any amazing breakthroughs?:

“No—yes—maybe. At least I have the whole thing centered in my mind, and I can think clearly again. Thanks for your patience,” she replied.

:No problem dear.:

“How long was I out of commission?” she asked.

:About five hours,: Jacob told her.

“Oh, so not too badly all things considered. Okay, moving on, Gawain, I need to know how and when you first noticed you were being trailed—when, where and how. After we discuss that, I’d like to take the time to discuss Balrog with Jacob. Mythical monsters were always his field of knowledge, I’m lucky to even know what Balrog is. I’ve decided that I’m going to try and move us to another time period, further away from Northumbria, A.D. 656.”

“Won’t she know where you’ll take me?  She is you after all.”

“She doesn’t know me any better than I know her.  Why the hell did I take over the name of Ninue and take the Merlin?  Hell, I’m going to have to spend a day researching the Merlin again.  But, whatever, I need to take us someplace, and sometime that would neither be a place I’d choose or a place I’d avoid.  Those are the most likely places for me to look, I would imagine I’m not thinking as clearly on this as I, Ninue, would like.”

:Where then?: Jacob asked.

“I’m thinking 1973.  Not the most pleasant time, with Vietnam mostly over but still a mess, women’s rights moving forward, civil rights moving forward.  It’s a time of stress, but not of historical significance to me really.  Besides, the drugs are good and the sex doesn’t have commitments—sorry, hon,” she said looking at Jacob, “but I’m still a woman with physical needs.”
:I understand, just as you do when I go out for a few days monthly in the warm weather.  Nature is nature.: Jacob replied.
“I also think you should leave your comm-screen in this time period Gawain.  That could be one of the easiest ways for her to track you down.  I will give you Jacob’s.  I have it somewhere here in my purse,” she said as she dug around through the bottomless contents.  “Oh here it is.  I’m sorry, hon, but I think you should also leave your father’s ring and watch. Those are things I know you would never willingly part with, and those are also traceable.”


“Sorry Gawain, no buts. She’ll use that as her secondary way of following you. Everyone knows that you wouldn’t willingly part with your heirlooms, and I’m sorry to ask you to do so. But we need time. Forcing her to look harder for you buys us that time.”

Gawain bowed his head and sighed, “You are right, I know you are right, but there has to be some way for these to be returned.”

“Go to the bank and put them in a safety deposit box or they may be called a paymaster’s strongbox in this time, I don’t remember.  Tell them this is an inheritance for your great-grandchild who will provide proper verification them at the time.  Pay them for 100 years and when this is over go back and get it.”

“Now stop whining about incidentals,” she continued, “we have things to do. Jacob, you and Gawain take care of his items and discuss this Balrog. I will collect the items I need to do this spell the old fashioned way, with candles, ritual and a crystal.  It’s much harder to trace us that way since it leaves a huge amount of magical residue. I should be back by mid-morning.”  Celeste headed for the door, pausing for a moment to look at her comm-bracelet. “Good, it’s not too early, it’s after 0800.” With that said, she disappeared out the door.

They heard the door open and then heard footsteps back, “I nearly forgot, when I return we shall discuss what you remember of Ninue tracking you down. I need that information to ponder in the back of my mind while I work on other things, but not now, I need to be moving.  Cheerio. She turned on her heels and left. This time they heard the door shut.

“Needs to be moving?”  Gawain said, “Well, she seems to have come to some ideas in her all her manic pacing—that was not moving,” Gawain said shaking his head.

:So it would seem: Jacob agreed as he stood up and stretched, arching his back. :I just hope she remembers what it’s like to be a woman from this century and what the current currency is or the day could get very interesting, since I’m sure she did not remember to look at the address of where we are.:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Celeste (part four)

And we're back.

So, here's my second response. The ball's in your court, Crystal.


Seeing her brother’s bared torso, Celeste’s eyes dilated. Her hand went to her mouth, and she gasped.

Jacob, peeking out of the bundled shawl, thought :Jesus, Gawain. What happened to you?:

Gawain’s smile disappeared. His eyebrows drew heavy curtains of shadow over his eyes. “Damn it, Celeste,” Gawain’s dropped his left  hand to cover his crotch. “This is no time for sibling rivalry.” He raised his right hand, snapped his fingers, and the light level surrounding around Celeste dimmed.

Celeste blinked until her eyes recovered from their brief bout of snow blindness. They were in a well-appointed drawing room, a fully-stoked fireplace blazing merrily away. Heavy, blood-red curtains blocked out the sunshine, and a handful of gaslamps added feeble light to the fire. Jacob was still under her arm, but her brother had disappeared.

“Gawain?” Celested looked around. Two doors led into the room. One was open and led to a sunlit room.

Gawain stepped from the sunlit room, tying the belt of a silk dressing gown at his waist. “You know, sister, there are those who would question the deep-seated psychological issues of a woman who finds excuses to strip her younger brother naked—with her husband looking on, no less.”

Celeste frowned down at Jacob, who promptly leapt from the shawl and strutted over to the fire. :Hadn’t you heard, Gawain? She divorced me.:

Celeste dropped the empty shawl and turned on Gawain. “Don’t start trying to be funny, Gawain, or to distract me. I saw those scars. I’ve never seen anything like that. What the hell happened to you, Sweety?”

:From muck-sucking, walleyed guttersnipe to Sweety in under five minutes. Not bad.: Jacob sat before the fire, licking his paw.

“Can it, Jacob. Gawain, what the hell is going on? You called us here, but then dragged us back into the Twentieth Century. Now I find that your torso is covered with scars that look like you’ve been streaked with napalm.”

Gawain shrugged. “I didn’t drag you here, and the scars are from Balrog’s whip.”

Celeste backed up, finding an easy chair with the backs of her knees, and sat down slowly. “Balrog? 

Gawain, what the hell are you talking about? Balrog is a fiction. There’s no such thing.”

Gawain shivered. “No. There isn’t. Unless Ninue wants there to be. She’s incredibly powerful, Celeste.”

:Ninue? Merlin’s mythic girlfriend? If he’s a myth, shouldn’t she be one, too?:

Gawain coughed out a syllable that might have been a scrap of laughter. “O, she’s real enough, Jacob. She’s the one dragging us back in time—dragging me, actually. You guys just got stuck in the vortex. I managed to hold onto our comm-screens, for all the good they do back here. She’s trying to drag me back to England, as well, but it’s been easier to fight the traction through volumetric dimensions than through time. This—1907—is the best I could do. I know you’d rather be back up in the Twenty-First Century or maybe back home in the Twenty-Fourth.”

Celeste rubbed her temples with the thumb and middle finger of her right hand. “Hecate’s loins, Gawain. Who is this woman? What does she want with you? Why have you been tortured?”

Gawain frowned, looked at the floor. “She’s a rogue. One of ours, of course. She’s very old, very angry. She plans to remake to world using her magic. She’s living in a heavily-shielded cave in Northumbria, and she has the Merlin. She plans to activate it in A.D. 656 and bring magic to Anglo-Saxon England.”

Celeste gasped. “That’s insane. Bringing magic to a pre-Cartesian society will push scientific progress back thousands of years and inhabit the wild spaces with all manner of inhuman monsters. Why would anyone want to do that?”

“I gather from what little she said that she doesn’t think too highly of our version of progress. She’s had a rough time. She lost everyone she cared about in World War III.”

Jacob growled. :You’re talking nonsense, Gawain. There’s never been a WWIII.:

Gawain shrugged. “Not in our timeline. You should see the radiation burns on that woman. Yeek. She wants me back. She knows I went forward to the Center. She may have guessed that I had her fingerprint on my comm-screen, I don’t know if she realized I had some of her DNA. Hell, she may even think I’d already figured out who she is. I’m honestly kind of surprised I didn’t—even with the scars and the years and her messed-up throat. I should have known her.”

Jacob purred. :How’d you manage the DNA?:

Gawain grinned. “She kissed me. She was taunting me, but I bit her lip. Managed to keep a scrap of her skin wedged in my teeth until I could get my hand free.”

Celeste smirked, crossed her arms. “Okay, little brother, so you figured her out. Who is she, Sherlock?”

Gawain glanced down at his comm-screen, touched a few points. “Okay, it should be on your screen, now. This is the old woman who’s trying to destroy the world.”

Celeste looked down at the screen. “This isn’t funny, Gawain.”

Gawain shook his head, frowning. “No. It’s not. It’s not a joke.”

Celeste dropped her hands, fell back against the chair, and paled. “This Ninue—she’s me.”