Southern Discomfort

A place in the world

Laylah put a brilliant pink blossom into the vase at the base of her favorite statue, the one depicting Raphael, the shining one who heals. Her father had rescued it from a tiny church that had been demolished. “Thank you for watching over me. Thank you for guiding me. Thank you for your beneficence.” She recited the prayer automatically as she knelt before the collection of statues and icons.

“I do wish that stupid boy hadn’t lost that chunk of concrete. I really wanted to know what caused the explosion at the church.” She frowned, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “Sorry, right. You know what you’re doing. Mysterious ways, got it.” She paused, head tilted as she listened. “What about Mister Collier? What do you mean?” Another pause. “Fine. Patience.” She took a small, smooth stone from her pocket and laid it in front of Briathos. “Please help him in his cause.”

Laylah sighed deeply and sat in quiet thought for some time. “Okay, well, thanks for listening. And thanks for helping me find people who understand.” Her face tinged with pink as she put one last token on the altar, a dollar coin she’d carried since the rally at the church. “Anael, I humbly ask you accept this gift. Please guide me since I have no idea what I’m doing.” Her blush deepened. “He was really …. um. Nice.”

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Letter to family

Cousin,

Thank you for your help last week (and don’t worry your secret is safe with me). I couldn’t have done it without you. Think about it this way, you saved everyone in the Red Ribbon from being blown up by an evil pie. You’re a hero! Do you think saying “oh by the way I saved the club, it’s no big thing”, would increase your chances of getting laid? If so good for you!
But more importantly you saved a young man from breaking the first law (which he didn’t even know about, I can’t wait for Mr. Collier to get back to me about that, I’m not very good at explaining about the laws).
Speaking of Simon he is such a great apprentice. Sometimes I have to pinch myself, I HAVE AN APPRENTICE!!! I bet you didn’t think that’d ever happen. Anyway, he’s making excellent progress. The other day he made the most amazing oatmeal raisin cookies, it was like you were wrapped in a warm blanket, surrounded by your friends and family. (Please don’t tell him I said that, I don’t want it to go to his head). But honestly I think they were even better than that hot chocolate I made last winter from a memory of the last Christmas we all had together? Do you remember that?
Anyway stop by anytime I think I promised you 2 months of free coffee. You’ve more than earned it.
With Love,
Rae

P.S.
I wish that you could use email, would make staying in touch SO much easier. It’s times like these that I’m happy about not being a full-fledged wizard. The internet is the best!

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June 18th Evening News
WMMP-TV. Charleston

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Strange happenings at the local WMGL 107.3 ‘The Magic’ 5th Annual Battle of the Bands tonight. What appears to be a flash mob gone wrong during the performance of the band, Morturi. The mob seemingly comprised of band fanatics dressed up as Civil War Zombies and shambled their way toward the stage. Nearby attendees of the concert understandably panicked and fled the chaos out into the streets. If not for the quick thinking of officers on hand things might have gotten dangerous. However, there was one casualty in all this, all the TV cameras that were covering the event either were damaged or malfunctioned. A reporter at the scene did however do a quick artist rendering of what the flash mob looked like.
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Local Historians confirm that there were documents in the archives that mention that the Centennial Park may have been an unmarked grave site during the war between the states.
And now…for the Weather.

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Life's Not Fair

The smell of cilantro and lime still hung in the kitchen, and a stack of Vilma’s textbooks leaned precariously on the corner of the table. Her younger cousin was taking her finals this week and would be graduating next Sunday- the first in the family. The top book on the stack threatened to topple as she shut and locked the door behind her, and she straightened it with a small smile. Pre-Calculus. Once she’d thought that would be her life too- studying, finals, graduations, maybe even college one day.

But life’s not fair.

Por Dios she was hungry. She opened the fridge, removing the milk automatically to pour some out for Xarina, searching for something to take the edge off the Hunger. Nothing really did, of course, she’d have to be very careful these next few days. She would have been in trouble anyway if that payaso Price hadn’t cut his hand, but seeing that bright red blood, smelling its tang…

She was disgusted by her appetites, by the monster she had become. By what her father had made her. She pulled out the grape jelly, then went to the cupboard for the bread and peanut butter and started angrily assembling sandwiches.

It had been two years, but the betrayal of her fath- no, she decided. He didn’t get that name anymore. It had been two years since she had confronted Rutledge, hoping in her naivete for his blessing, for him to recognize her as his own. For wealth, for citizenship, for a chance at something beyond following the harvest and slowly withering under the heat of the sun.

What she’d got was much worse. This hunger. These changes. The constant battle to stay human. She chewed discontentedly on one of the sandwiches as she opened up a can of tuna for Xarina, moving quietly so as to not wake up any of her family asleep in the other rooms.

And now la migra was after her. Zombies and sea monsters were almost an afterthought- the police had her scent. Her estupidez, trying to be a hero, trying to help people, now it was going to get her family in trouble. She should have just avoided the cop- crushing his phone and fighting those things in front of him just made her more of a target.

She was going to have to watch herself. If not for her sake, for Xarina’s. And Vilma’s. For the family that depended on her to make rent so the little ones could go to school. For her mother, her mother who had fought so hard to make it back to the States so Rosario could have a future.

There was a bump in the pocket of her shorts as she sat down. Reminded, she pulled out the fold of soggy bills that Xarina had made running beer. They’d taken an unnoticed dive in the bay when they’d been looking for the mago, but it looked as if they were all still there.

The wizard. She owed him her life. And now he needed help. “A ver que podemos hacer.” she mumbled to herself around a mouthful of peanut butter. Let’s see what we can do.

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Writing Lessons
Xarina Learns

Mr. Novac says that to better learn English I should write. He says I speak good but to read and write is more good. He tells me to write down my words and what I see and he will read.
It is hard. I can speak many words but to make them is hard. He said I should learn to make the words for my friends and for places. I will need to know.

Xarina de Selva
Eugene Novak
Beau Hatcher
Rosario Orellana
Laylah Camael
Andrew Collier

Brazil
Charleston, SC
Stars & Scones
The Red Ribbon

I worry when I leave Rosario. She fights inside. In Brazil my friends would be calm when I was there. She is strong but she is a cub. She knows this Charleston. It is not the same jungle. Everywhere there are eyes. It is strange. I must learn to survive. I cannot yet go home.

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Evening Tea

Radagast’s joints creaked and popped as he lowered himself into his small Victorian wingback chair and beckoned a cup and teabag to his hand from the pantry with a subtle gesture, conjuring hot water into the cup with a single word of elemental power. “Nicholas, do stop fussing,” the old wizard said sharply. “You’re going to be nursing quite the hangover tomorrow anyway, what with all that horse-piss lager you swilled at the concert. Don’t make it worse on yourself. I’ll fix my own warming drink; you should go to bed.”

The younger man sighed heavily, scratching his mutton chops and rubbing his eyes as he dug through a first aid kit looking for some ibuprofen. “You’re the boss, boss. What the hell was going on there tonight, though? I’ve heard you talk about zombies before, but I always figured it was exaggeration.”

“Nothing to exaggerate, Nicholas. They’re very real, and their presence here in Charleston is a troubling development indeed. Creating a walking dead is a clear violation of the Fifth Law of Magic, you see, and possibly the Third and Fourth, although there’s considerable debate about that amongst the Council’s legal scholars. No wizard dabbles in necromancy lightly—to animate the bodies of the fallen is a grave transgression against our traditions.”

“The nutjob who thinks she can talk to angels, that Laylah chick… she said she thought the singer, Agatha-whatshername, was using magic on people when she played. Doesn’t that break a Council law too?” Nick asked.

“By strictest interpretation, yes, if indeed she is a mortal and is using magic to produce the effect. But there are a number of less sinister explanations for that phenomenon. The transfixation effect could be attributable to any number of supernatural causes—she could be fey-blooded, for example, or unknowingly possessed by a muse spirit, or even a demon or angel. The most likely explanation is that she is a wild talent—a budding young wizard whose powers were never identified, and who has not received proper guidance in the use of the Art. She ought to be investigated further, and put in contact with someone who can help her control her abilities. Unfortunately, the White Council won’t see it that way. If they get wind of what happened at the concert, they will brand the young woman a sorcerer, hunt her down, and kill her. It may be for the best that Mr. Collier wasn’t present to see her perform. As a Warden, he’d be obligated to report the incident to the Council.”

“Aren’t you obligated to do that, too?”

“The Council made it plain that they no longer need my assistance in conducting their business. The fortune I have amassed over the centuries is my own, and although they gave me this house, they have only to ask for repayment and I’ll gladly provide it. No, Nicholas, I owe the Council nothing at this point—and I’ll not bloody my hands just to keep myself in their good graces. If this singer is an unidentified practitioner, I’ll do my best to help her so long as she harms no one else.”

Nick popped three pills into his mouth and gulped a glass of water to chase them down his throat, then flopped into a recliner in the colonial living room. “Hey boss, one of your books I was looking at awhile back mentioned that rhythmic music could be used to keep walking dead running, like a battery or an electrical current. Is that what was happening here tonight with that band Moturi and their Danse Macabre cover? What if the Moturi guys and Agatha are in this together somehow? She lulls the audience into a daze, and the zombies can feed more easily on the people she jinxed.”

“Your supposition is not without merit, Nicholas. Yet I find it difficult to believe that the girl and those ruffians are working together. She seems unaware of having done anything but play her lute and sing for the crowd, and I’m inclined to believe her. Moturi, though… their music was definitely being used as a means of animating the dead. What I can’t deduce is, how did the bodies get there? Were they planted by Moturi or an agent? Or did someone siphon life energy from the concertgoers to power the spell that created the zombies? The advanced stage of decay seems to indicate that these corpses weren’t fresh… unless magic dessicated them instantaneously.”

“That is some creepy stuff, old man. I dunno how well I’m gonna sleep tonight.”

Radagast sipped from his tea cup and puffed on his clay pipe, pondering. “There is another possibility, you know. These musicians might simply be innocent pawns in all this. A third, more powerful practitioner could have been present and using the songs as a thaumaturgical focus for whatever effect they desired to create. That would make more sense to me than the idea of the musicians working together. Occam’s Razor, and all that. But it is a more disturbing explanation. Scarcely a score of barely-sentient zombies sent to attack a mob of hundreds, maybe thousands? Whoever did this ought to have known that their puppets would be put down all too quickly by the mortal authorities. That suggests to me that this wasn’t meant to be a full-scale attack.”

“So what the hell was it, then? A joke? ‘Cuz if so, it wasn’t funny.”

“Perhaps…. That, or a test. A trial run for a future endeavor. The timing of Warden Collier’s departure was all too fortuitous as well. But judging by what we saw at the marina, I’m not so sure the events were related. A terrible coincidence, to be sure, but just a coincidence. I wish we could have done more to help Collier, wherever he is, but my powers are spent for the time being. If indeed the Warden has been drawn into the Nevernever by that serpent, then I shall need all of my strength and mental faculty to determine where he ended up and open an appropriate Way to reach him. I can’t possibly go myself to rescue him—I’m too old for swimming, and my body doesn’t do as well with transfiguration as it did when I was in my 500s or so. The others may need to undertake this mission without me.”

“I’m with you on that, old man. You are definitely getting too old for this shit, if you’ll pardon the cop movie cliche.”

“Much as I hate to agree with that sentiment, Nicholas, you are quite right. So instead, I will get some much-needed rest, and then do what I do best: research. And I suggest you do the same. Come the morrow, I’ll have great need of your help as I begin my work.”

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Just Before Bed
Food for thought

The belt driven fan squeaked angrily over Holbert as he reviewed the emailed documents. His friend had come through, a budding financial analysis at a US branch of the deutsche bank, with the papers tracing the church’s financials back to most of their sources.

The email from his distant nephew helped him understand it all; the pastor and some rich friends along with some bigger national venture capitalists that worked the new age faith market had set up the church. Best guess, a mix of genuine interest in people and of course money. And practically a dead end unless some of the local rich types are now in a magic wielding cult.

For now probably best to let someone else look into the mortal angles. If those others were ghouls though they may need dealt with soon.

Speaking of magic, he had run into his old friend during that church bombing. That was both nice and scary. Vitner wasn’t any near the same. At first Holbert thought he was talking in code, but then realized no he had lost his mind with the many years of his life. Would Holbert end up like that, with someone babysitting him too as memories jumbled from age and time made him a dangerous mess too?

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Explosion Rocks Church Dedication
Newspaper Article from the Charleston Post and Courier

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Not one, but two explosions dampened the festival spirit at the dedication of the brand new house of worship for the NuLife Ministries. It was only the actions and quick thinking of the security staff and some attendees of the festivities that there were no fatalities. Among the rescued were office staff of the Ministry and an elderly man who had went in search of the facilities.
Fear caused tempers to flare as a nearby group of protesters were accused of being the culprits. Calmer heads prevailed however, as the Charleston City police stepped in to regain order.
Jimmy Roberts, Faith Leader of the NuLife Ministries has gone on record as saying ’I’m just grateful to he who watches over us, that no one was seriously hurt. And I pledge that all hospital bills for those who were afflicted by this heinous crime will be taken care of by my Ministry’. Pastor Roberts and his wife Sammi stayed at the site all night helping the officers and emergency workers who where there, handing out coffee and sandwiches provided by a local deli.
The FBI has indicated that they will be conducting a thorough investigation into the bombings and ask that if anyone has any information to please call their tip line at: 1-800-555-BOMB

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Eco-Action Website Forum Post

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Lind-Z: Flora 911, 1462 Grant Street, need bodies now!
SimonSez: Just finished Yoga, OMW!
TimA: Right on! Just FYI gotta bail at 3:30, drum circle practice
Lind-Z:Anyone else want to help defend our Mother? C-U there!

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Theatre In the Park
Charleston City Paper Article By Lydia Lochlan

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A little birdie told me that the Holy City Shakespeare Company is pulling one over on it’s theater patrons this year. Rather than the noble yet, staid annual performance of King Lear this season it looks like they are going to be producing a rather lavish production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An impromptu rehearsal was spotted in the Medical University Arboretum in the evening hours. The lights of the gazebo well lit the actors, some already in costume and makeup. My sources say that the woman they’ve picked for Titania is ‘spot on’ and ‘just like a Fairy Queen’.
This reporter can’t wait to see how this distinguished company brings to life one of the most famous plays by the Bard himself!

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