Southern Discomfort

Friendly Correspondence

There was a dangerous sense of calm in the dusty old study of the Vintner residence this chilly autumn evening. Nick had peeked in once or twice to check on the old wizard, and immediately realized that now was not a time to intervene. Chilly silence pervaded the lamp-lit room; once, Nick swore he’d seen a thin layer of rime frost encircling the desk as he’d passed by the doorway, ice crystals glinting on the floor in the dying light of the setting sun.

For half an hour, the elderly man had stared at the letter which had arrived only a few days prior. The handwritten note was from the elder Francis Rutledge. In summary, it announced his promotion to Margrave of the Southeastern American Colonies, and carried a message of “fair warning” that relations between the Red Court and White Council were “strained beyond repair”. Rutledge went on to so generously offer to “ignore your presence here in the Holy City. After all, what problems could a man of your advanced years and senility possibly pose to anyone?” He advised Radagast that if he should choose to become a “nuisance”, it would put Rutledge in an “awkward position”, and that the scions of his House “do hope any future unpleasantness can be avoided.”

Suddenly the layer of frost on the floor evaporated; the temperature of the study rose by nearly thirty degrees, and a burst of unseasonable humidity filled the air. Radagast flicked a hand toward a silver candleabra sitting on his desk, and the wicks of the five white candles it held burst into flame. He reached for a sheet of vellum, drawing his quill and inkwell across his desk with another casual and nigh-imperceptible magical gesture.

As the quill scratched harsh but ornate strokes of calligraphy across the vellum page, plumes of smoke rose from the letters, mingling with the fumes from the candles. I’ll show him unpleasant, thought the old wizard. I shan’t tolerate bullies.


Buen Saludos Cordiales Francis,

How gentlemanly of you to inform me of your recent elevation to Margrave of this lovely region of the Colonies, and in such a humble fashion as handwritten correspondence. I trust that this newfound prosperity suits you and your estate well in Charleston.

I have, indeed, retired from the White Council, revoking all oaths and privileges associated therewith, in hopes of living out my days peacefully and at leisure. You are too kind to permit my doddering presence amidst your ambitious operations in the Southeast. Your warning is well noted; I should never hope to prove myself a nuisance without due cause.

Rest assured that I, too, have had my share of unpleasantness during my centuries of practice as a Wizard, and little desire for more in my final years of life. Indeed, one need only look to the awkward situation in which the Black Court of Eastern Europe was left after Lord Stoker and I finished our work there in the 1800s to know how much I simply detest unpleasantness.

One can only hope that no such unpleasantness will ever be visited upon myself or those whom I hold dear, in this city or any other.

Regards,

Radagast Vintner, D.S.D., C.S. VII

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Shake it off

Matt,

There are so many things that I want to say to you, to somehow try to explain what I did, but in the end you are absolutely right. It’s about trust. Right now I don’t trust myself. I’ve been trying to hold this thing together, and I’m unraveling really fast. I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. And in that moment I took it out on you, and that wasn’t fair. I’m sorry…I just..

Rae crumples up the piece of paper and throws it to the floor, which is already littered with at least a dozen wadded up balls that had missed the wastebasket. She could not find the words to fit, to convey how sorry she was. Matt had every right to be angry with her. For the past few weeks she had been acting without thinking, reacting instead of waiting. She had alienated the people whose help she needed. And she has no one to blame but herself.

Wallowing in self pity seemed to be a recurring theme for her these days. But she knew she had to try something. The thought of Matt not being around,sat like a lead weight in her chest. Who would eat the honey pies? She smoothed out a fresh sheet of paper and started to write.

Matt,

I realize now that there is nothing I can say that will make what I did ok. You were absolutely right. I know that this letter won’t change anything, but I hope that you might be willing to let me try to make it up to you. If I’m completely honest, I miss having you around.

-Rae

She read it over a few times. Short, and to the point. This could work. Everything else she had written was full of excuses, as she was trying to sort through the tangle of emotions that had her knotted up for weeks now. Matt deserved better than her self-pity.

She yawned and looked at the clock. 5am. Had she even slept last night? Well it was too late (or rather early), to do anything about it now. Running her shop was the one responsibility that she could still get right (mostly). As she went downstairs she fished her earbuds out of her apron pocket, and fired up her IPod. However, instead of the Alanis Morsette she had kept on repeat for the past day or so, something much more upbeat was playing.

I stay up too late
Got nothing in my brain
That’s what people say
That’s what people say

She had too much to do, to worry about the music. She started to fire up the espresso machine, when she noticed that she was bobbing in time with the music.

But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright
Cause the players gonna play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate
Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off

By the time she was wiping down the tables, the song was on repeat, and she was singing along.

I never miss a beat
I’m lighting up my feet
And that’s what they don’t see
That’s what they don’t see
I’m dancing on my own
I make the moves as I go
And that’s what they don’t know
That’s what they don’t know

She danced around Simon in the kitchen, snagging a fresh honey pie off of a tray, and packed it into a pastry box, and placed the letter on top of it. She grinned at her assistant, and returned to her prep.

But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop grooving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright

She felt as if she was shedding all the extra emotional weight that had been piling up, and her spirit felt whole again. She couldn’t undo anything, and she was starting to accept that. Now she could move forward, as herself, no doubts, and no excuses. She was smiling so much, that it hurt.

Cause the players gonna play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate
Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake
Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off, Shake it off

She turned off her IPod as she flipped the sign from CLOSED to OPEN. She still did a little dance heading back behind the counter. She smiled at Simon, who was arranging the pastries carefully in the case.

He smiled back at her saying “Good to have you back boss”.

When the first customer walked in the door Rae greeted them with a cheerful “Welcome to the Stars and Scones!” For the first time, in a long time, she truly meant it.

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It's hard to rely on your good intentions

I want to move, but I can’t. I’m watching Matt the bear fling a redcap away from him, blood spraying everywhere. I want to run but I can’t. I can’t look away. I want to run…

“Boss?”

I want to run but I can’t. The smell of blood…

“Boss!”

Rae shook her head, a small vial in one hand, key in the other. She blinked a few times, her apprentices face a few inches from hers.

“Simon…what time is it?”

“5am. On Tuesday.”

“Wait its Tuesday?” She dragged herself to her feet and immediately regretted it, as dizziness overtook her.

“Yup” He grabbed her arm to keep her from falling over. “When was the last time you slept?”

“Saturday. Maybe”.

“Boss, I’m saying this as your friend, you can’t keep doing this to yourself”.

She gently placed the vial into the grey messenger bag sitting next to her. It was nearly halfway full of identical each of them labeled. Fear, despair, flight, confusion. She frowned down at the one in her hand, not sure what to write on it.

“Simon, I need to do this. I’m the one who started all this, I need to help. The most important thing about having powers is to be prepared”.

“I get it, I get it” he held his hands out in front of him in a placating gesture. “It’s just, I’m worried about you. You’ve changed since I met you. I mean a lot” He started lining up muffins in the display case. “And I’m not sure it’s a good thing”.

“Yeah well, I don’t think I’ve done one good thing recently” She sighed as she slung the bag over her shoulder. “I guess we should get ready to open”

She pulled her mp3 player out of her pocket and jammed the headphones in her ears. The display read TOAD THE WET SPROKETT-GOOD INTENTIONS. It had been on repeat for the last few days, and it suited her mood just fine.

It seemed like the customers would be drinking regular coffee today.

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Of Glory Obscured
The trumpet's blast

By the time Laylah returned home, she was exhausted. Being an Emissary of Power really takes it out of a girl. She skipped her usual routine of evening prayers. The angel Gabriel was on her mind, but not in any way that resembled reverence.

She was asleep quickly, her dreams filled with cheering, rose petals flung at her feet, and dancing with a tall handsome trumpet player.

Those delights didn’t last long, however, and soon Laylah’s dreams turned dark and twisted. Images of the dancing at Oberon’s court, the ride on the turtle’s back, the shriek of the serpent as it relinquished its prize. In the background, black-winged shapes clawed at her, pulling at her clothes, her skin. Just when she thought she was safe, back at home in her own bed, strong arms pulled her and she could hear the rattle of buckles on a straight-jacket.

Laylah woke, drenched in sweat, gasping for air. She reached for the thread-bare rabbit that had been her companion for as long as she could remember. “Mr Simigdáli, don’t let them take me again.”

The church was empty and Laylah had to search for the priest so he could hear her confession. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been 10 days since my last confession.”

“Tell me of your sins, my child.” The familiar voice, usually so comforting, sent a chill down Laylah’s spine. He hadn’t been in the parish when her father had been killed. He knew nothing of her incarceration in that place. And this was just crazy talk.

“I had lustful thoughts. I acted with hubris and pride, putting myself over others. I enjoyed the adulation and vanity.” Laylah twisted her rosary between her fingers and awaited her penance.

When she stepped out into the sunlight, she raised her face to the sky and let the warmth chase away her doubts and fears. It would be all right. It had to be. The wizard was counting on it.

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Letter to my Master
[written in Mandarin Chinese]

Dear master,

This city is full of demons and sorcerers. There are internal struggle being waged. My oath is to protect and serve. I know that with firm correctness is no error – but what is the right thing is what? Report will be unbelief and marginalized. Some police know something. They asked me to report, but they give me any guide, there is no knowledge. A little witch seems ready to tell me more. But she warned that the danger will come to my knowledge I have in this regard. Please master, I need your guidance. Correctness is to follow in the ancient emperor’s words. Today, expressly to follow, adhere to the law. However, in this city, at least, there are other emperors – and other laws. How can I do? One thing I know is that I must, at least, in accordance with the spirit of the law – to protect and serve the innocent people.

Last night, dancing party with sorcerers and demons with names from British play writer Shakespear. I go with little witch to protect and see. She make pact with someone to take a girl as ward. Later on she tell me that the sorcerers have laws. She says them at me. They are good laws to protect innocent people. But which laws do I follow?

Your humble servant,
David Wang

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Shit shit shit...what do I do?
The dangers of the Disney Playlist

“_Hakunah Matata what a wonderful phrase_”

Rae sat cross-legged on a stool behind the counter, an urn of freshly brewed coffee in front of her. She griped the key that hung around her neck, head bobbing in time with the music.

“_Hakunah Matata aint’ no passing craze_”

Her eyes slid closed and suddenly she was 6, dancing in front of the television, singing at the top of her lungs. It must have been the 4th time that she had watched the Lion King that week but her Grandmother just laughed at her fondly before heading downstairs to take care of customers.

“It’s our problem free, philosophy! Hakunah Matatta”

She let the memory of childhood joy fill her up, until it spill out, through her fingers, into the key, toward it’s intended destination. Right as the song changed.

“The snow glows white on a mountain night, not a footprint to be seen”

Angry voices, disappointment, frustration, bitterness

“A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen”

She ripped the buds out of her ears. “Why is this on here?” Her voice echoed in the empty shop.

The song had originally inspired feelings of validation, of pride in not only her magic, but also in her business and the community she had created.

She was listening to it before her parent’s last visit. She was determined to let go of any past bitterness toward them, to start fresh.

Don’t be nervous, she had said to herself. They’ll love what I’ve done with the place, they’ll see how my abilities have grown, and they’ll finally accept me. They’ll tell me about what it means to have magic, more about the magical community, and I won’t feel so lost.

The music was still going, and could be heard faintly. “Let it go, let it go, they’ll never see me cry”

The visit had ended in tears, soul crushing disappointment, and the wifi being down for a week.

Rae buried her head in her hands. “Shit…”. Before the visit she felt as if she was treading water, and now she was drowning.

Julien had been by earlier, and tried to explain as best he could the situation. In trying to save Lindsey from becoming the Spring lady, she had claimed her. As far as he knew that had never been done by any wizard who was not a member of the White Council. The political ramifications of that action were still unknown, but he was looking in to it.

“I just wanted to protect my friend” she whispered into the darkness. “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore”.

She poured herself a cup of coffee, her soul yearning from the joy she felt just a few minutes prior. She pulled out her cellphone, and stared at it for a moment, taking a sip. It tasted of uncertainty and fear.

“Let it go,” she whispered before hitting dial. The light of her phone created a blue glow around her as it rang once, twice and then…

“Hi mom. Do you have a minute?".

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The Big Picture
wherein nothing much is revealed

Laylah kicked off her shoes and headed for the refrigerator to down a can of Cheerwine, not even bothering to pour it in a glass. A flicker of light caught her eye and she looked up and saw the angel sun-catcher hanging at the kitchen window. She blew out a stream of air, ruffling the wisps of hair on her forehead. “I know I’m supposed to be patient and wait for the big picture, but I’m really worried about Rosario. She really thinks those oranges will help. And maybe it will, for people like her, who don’t want to, you know. Eat people.”

Laylah shuddered. “But those other vampires? C’mon, giving up people for oranges? Nobody likes oranges that much. Well, maybe Mister Avett. He seems like a man who enjoys fruit. I wonder what he turns into? Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Giving up feeling a pulse beneath your lips, the warm blood trickling down your throat?” Her fingers trailed down her neck. “I know they don’t sparkle!”

Walking to the living room, Laylah picked up a framed picture of her and her father, Hektor, his arm around her gangly, pre-teen shouilders, smiles on both of their faces as they posed in front of an old church. “Poor Rosario. How horrible to have a father like that. I don’t trust him one bit.”

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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

WMMP_Logo.jpg
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.
Civil_War_Zombies.jpg
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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