Edible From The Oven Plus August Doldrums

Dear Gentle Readers,

Summer is in reality sliding toward Autumn but right now, in the last days of July and the first of August, we are in the Dog Days; those long hot and humid days that make you sweat profusely while you stick to anything you touch. There is a strange nebulous unknown in the NW tip of Arkansas: Are we the Mid-West or part of the South. The humidity and non stop days of no rain are Southern but we are so close to Oklahoma and Missouri that we really should be Midwestern. Little Rock has no identity problem because they are Southern but three hours to the West and the people and the weather can’t make up their minds. The tropical storm/depression that came through Texas has dropped some of the temperature to the High 80s and this morning without warning the sky let out and rain blocked our vision across the street for about 15 minutes or more; that and at night there is this alluring and tempting breeze that has been blowing through the thick air of a humid Southern night; these are the only clues to the tempest that just moved up from the warm gulf coast.

To be fair to myself I can cook, over the years I have gotten better and picked up a few hints from the restaurants I have worked at but more than that I love to read cook books. I have a curated, inexpertly as it may be, collection and at times I set aside a few days to read the recipes and the history or travel log that goes with it. A dear rock hound friend of mine NS, who could cook mud and we would ask for seconds, was bragging to me about using a recipe from Ina Garten and it was all I could do not to squeal out “The Barefoot Contessa!!!” and yes, Gentle Readers, NS’s mac and cheese was delectable, gone in about 10 minutes on the pot luck table line. (Sigh, this is what I miss about the old days of rock hounding: having the group meals and sharing of food and some wonderful feelings of having an extended family.) I have read my books on Roman cooking, chocolate cakes, colonial American cooking, and recipes according to Seasons: And yet I really do not cook much. Migraines and apathy hold me back the most. My nearly perfect sister has each day/dinner blocked out and shopped for. Frugality enthusiasts can look at her budget and say “Dang! Live a little why don’t you!” Even when she splurges it is accounted for! I have tried that, I really have, but for some reason my husband and I fail at even the most basic of domestic tenets. Then when we were in NC we started ordering vegetable/fruit boxes from local farms.  We had hoped it would help us eat healthier and we started getting this build up of strange foods in our refrigerator so in a bid not to throw out a goodly portion of our food budget I looked up how exactly to cook eggplant. After the eggplant came neeps and then before we even knew it, we were actually cooking meals at home. One of the few drawbacks to Chicago was no from-the-farm delivery boxes unless you wanted gourmet overpriced produce and or driving for an hour to get it. We recently found this company called Misfits that delivers odd shaped or unsold produce by the box: And suddenly like magic we are cooking again. My mind starts to go through the cooking of grits and pulses when we stand in the Fresh Market, recipes drift around the old grey matter when I realize there is fresh fennel and ginger to use up. Between migraine fugues I am now trying to root a fennel bulb and have planted seeds on our new NE exposure porch. There is this small, happy sigh of accomplishment when I realize that every night has not been takeout. Bellow are three pictures worth bragging on.

One reason to move into the new apartment was the swimming pool, hot jacuzzi tub for the win with fibromyalgia plus a fountain to stick my head under in the pool. I had visions of being a tempestuous mermaid and having the fountain pour streams of sparkling water over my hair, then Covid reared its ugly head and the pool got closed. After months of waiting the pool has reopened and I am laughing in my socks! The rule is the pool is open for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon with no more than 30 people: I have yet to see more than two people down there at one time. I know the property owners have to come up with a plan for all the properties and possibilities but, come on people!!!: close a therapeutic pool for three months so the crowd made of two people can finally swim! On the not so crazy side a friend of a friend of mine makes costumes and does burlesque. As she is a geek goddess, she has geek fabrique scraps and is making masks from them! We are no longer dirt poor so I was able to order masks from my friend and support a well deserving artist. This is another warm fuzzy feeling I enjoy; too much of my youngness was spent poor as dirt and I was unable to monetarily support causes and people I admired. Walmarts around the country are now demanding masks now and I don’t blame them: Covid is not going away anytime soon. When a mediocre proliferation company like Walmart wants masks you know it is bad. I also know people who have gotten this so it does exist and researchers are discovering more strange things that this virus does to the body besides kill you and so far it does not awaken the X-gene so I do not want to catch it.

The apartment complex has serious drainage problems and it is perfectly obvious that the people who designed the complex took very little of the areas drainage pattern into concern when it was built. The weather stability around here is also nil: Weather slowly peeling off of the Rockies, weather gusting down from the MidWest, and weather pushing inexorably up from Texarcana. This week we are being visited by Texarcana and the rain is finally falling with every hurricane and tropical storm that stirs. While this is the Ozark Mountains I would swear that Benton County is a wetlands! Perhaps this qualifies as temporal wetlands? There is a pond on the premises, really a glorified puddle, and whether on top of the pavement or sinking through the permeable soil, it fills up in all its muddy, oozy glory. There are box turtles that sploosh at midnight and some kind of fish that eats the mosquitoes and insects: With every ripple they make our dog tries to get her head more fully under the fence. One night I expect we will be climbing down a ravine to get to the pond to rescue our dog. And rescue the sweet and innocent Sorcha from what you ask? Well.. the toads quite frankly. In Edwardsville, IL the spring peepers were everywhere and sounded off constantly and our Sorcha tried to eat them every chance she got. (Do not let dogs eat raw frogs because diarrhea will ensue.) Here in  the complex the crickets and stray insects are the loudest but the toads are huge and we suspect they take lunch money on occasion. When it comes to the pond we fear the carp will strap on shark fins and team up with the toads to mug our dog if she gets stuck on “the wrong side” of the fence. Ooooooo!! And I must not forget to tell you about Arnie the newest resident here: Arnie the Armadillo!!!! Yep, NW Arkansas has armadillos and our Arnie has MiniArnie. These are the only two creatures that Sorcha has given the side eye but a petite version of an armored prehistoric monster is a pretty good animal to give plenty of space so this may speak well of our Sorcha. Below is the fancy fence around the pond, you can see the haze of humidity. And through the bars are two of about seven box turtles.

Aaaaand the computer ate another particularly brilliant paragraph so I will save the commentary on hoarding, dating, love, and memory loss for another time. On to another topic: I realize that Summer is the height of heat and abundance, of the growth that will sustain an agrarian culture through a harsh winter. I realize that Summer is running across neighborhoods, swimming in pools and ponds, flowers, bees and tall green trees. Summer is watching and planning for eventual harvest and for breaking open watermelon in the field. Summer is a form of peace and the fullness of life but Allas I am just not a Dandelion Wine kind of gall. I once told a somewhat mystic woman my opinion of Summer and she looked at me with a ‘you don’t know??’ kind of face and said “You’re Winter Court.” Not everybody has a ‘side’ or ‘court’ they associate with; a darling work friend once said he could never get enough of the ‘hot, sweaty, and humid Southern Sun’ but was not Fey in the least. He just liked, well, as far as I am concerned, all that yucky stuff. We just passed Lammas Day or Lughnasadh, the first of August, and thus the Harvest Season begins until Autumnal Equinox. I am excited to see the days letting in more of the shadows of gloaming and allowing the dawn to sleep a wee bit more before cresting over the horizon.

Feeling like a finely made doll: Hair from spiders webs and newly made silk, bones formed of creek mud high in the mountains and tears donated from a pure seep hidden by holly and hazel. Blood and heart from drops of lava deep in a cauldron heating geysers and waiting one day to break. Laid carefully in the surf of a forgotten beach to come to life in the salt water; sand and stones blessing a smile and each fragile toe as it forms. Moon light fills the eyes and kisses a soul formed of ferns and moss and pure spring water. A finally made doll drying out in a blistering sun wondering where the soft words and joy of life are; cracking and fading into a bleached dry simulacrum. Praying for rain or the pleasure of dew softened petals but the voice is a desiccated soundless plea.

So let us continue with Mariesha and her search for a missing person. Some folks may recognize certain words and phrases that she uses and that these words are “out of place”; yep, did this on purpose! cont..

     The first stop was smoky and dim but respectable enough to have a dented spittoon by the bar.  There were workers eating greasy sandwiches under a tattered awning outside and drinking down something cloudy out of mugs from a rack inside.  It was a local’s sort of bar so Mareisha paid for some grilled sausages wrapped in day old bread and slathered in a mystery relish.

     “Eh, help a poor burk out can ya’?”asked Mariesha as she took a big bite from her food.

     “What’s it ya’ want?” replied the owner as he scraped the fresh grease into a jar.

     Mariesha swallowed appreciably, for food that was inevitably end-bits they were fresh and spicy. “A couple of nights back about five high class cutters came stumbling out of Ms. Moanings.”

     He grunted slightly but nodded, “That dried up ol’ bitch but her girls are good enough whores.”  He looked Mariesha over again. “They ain’t done those girls bad did they?”

     “Nah, one of  ’em’s missing.”

     “Don’t know nothin’  ’bout that. They didn’t come here. They were goin’ toward Blacks.”

     “You’ve been right helpful, mate,” said the tiefling as she slid over extra coppers for the sandwich. “Keep your change.”

     “Good luck on ya’,” replied the man as he slid the coins into a small metal box.

     At this time of day Blacks was living up to its name; a dreary cinder smudge of a bar along an alley corner but the currently unlit lanterns around the door would have been bright as a beacon in the night.  The Inspector didn’t even try the front corner but went around to the alley door and managed to bang on it with loud jarring thumps, “Oy, delivery!”  Her voice even startled a wretchedly thin cat in some old boxes. “Delivery!!  Ain’t got all day!!”  She began to kick at a vaguely loose board at the bottom.

     The side door was opened by a small mountain of muscle gone mostly to fat.  “You ain’t Jemmy,” said the man glaring down at her.

     “Ya’ think?” stated Mariesha crossing her arms and sticking her foot in front of the wooden planks.

He blinked at the grey light of the alley finally noticing both the wiry tiefling and the stern Elsbeth.  “And where’s my order?”

     “Listen up,” started Mariesha pushing her foot and shoulder against the door as he reached for the inner handle.  “I’ve got questions and jink for answers.”  She rattled the scrap in her pocket like coins.

     “What’s she about?” asked the small mountain at the door, eyeing Elsbeth with confusion.

     “You don’t want to know,” answered Mariesha in a dour voice while looking him straight in the eyes.  Elsbeth stood posture perfect with her hands hidden in the leather muff and gazed past him with icy calm.

     “What questions then?” asked the man at the door, quickly looking back to the tiefling.

     “Five rich boys ’bout four nights back,” started the Inspector.

     “Don’t know nothing.” 

          Mariesha could easily tell he was lying but Elsbeth spoke solemnly for her, “He’s lying.”

     “Not looking good for you,” started Mariesha shaking her head slowly and pulling out a picture, “These five. And we already knew they were here.”

     The man at the door looked hesitatingly at Elsbeth across the alley from him then grabbed at the paper.  He glanced briefly then shoved the paper back to Mariesha’s hand.  “I, ummm, recognize them now,” he stated.

     “What did they do?  And where did they go?”

     “They drank ‘n’ pissed,” was the only slightly belligerent answer.

     “You are not being helpful,” growled Mariesha in a low tone, who in fact was feeling sorry for the alley cat at the moment.

      “After two rounds they said ma beer tasted like horse piss so I throwed ’em out,” replied the man mountain while managing to actually be angry at the affront to his stale beer.  “Jeb at tha door saw ’em go that away,” he finished jerking his thumb back toward the street.

     Mariesha gave him a stern stare and glanced at Elsbeth.  Elsbeth simply turned her head toward Mariesha and gave a serenely noble nod.  “Good enough,” said the tiefling.  The man gave one more skittish look at Elsbeth and slammed the door.

     As Marisha looked down the street at faceless and worn storefronts she knew the inevitable part of the bar crawl; she and her Recorder would have to start going door to door.

to be cont…

Dearest Gentle Readers, in these trying times of conflict and despair I dearly hope you have some strength of heart and guidance in your soul. Let the lightness of Shadows see you through the Night and the sibilant song of the Sun protect you through the Day. May God Bless You and yours,

Be Well

Galaxy Leggings and I Gots Rocks

Greetings Dearest of Gentle Readers,

Here in the Northern Hemisphere the Beltaine fires were bright and clear, if even a single candle on the hearth. Today is the very last day of May and Summer was arriving across this bountiful country in rain, tornadoes, wind and still some snow. The upper mountains and part of the piedmont of NC even got a spattering of snow. Here in NW Arkansas we had rain storms mixed with marble sized pellets of hail. In a moment of objective esoterica I realized that Hail is the rune symbol Hagalaz; Hagalaz is patterns and upwellings of energy  and the subsequent kernel of growth through turmoil and intense personal change. (Yes this is simplified immensely.) Somehow this seems to be a perfect portend for our nation and myself. For our country, that is a simple truth of pain and agony as C-19 ravages through the world and our country state by state plus protesting becoming a necessity and an iniquity at the same time. For myself, my husband and I are getting further along at communicating and talking out ideas, whether born of weary determination with the world or creative surprise. Also, for myself, I discovered a bottle of seriously potent B vitamins and decided to try them even though they didn’t work the first time. GLORY: Slowly but surely they are working and the migraines are abating ever so begrudgingly. I have been able to go even four days in a row without a migraine! Talk about a Hagalaz situation!! Last week I started crying because I was finally able to take a midnight walk with my husband again.

Tomorrow is June and we still have the back door open and a comfortable breeze blowing through. Crickets are sounding off and by morning there should be silver snail tracks across the back porch carpet like strips of fallen tinsel.  For my Birthday we went and collected the chert rocks in the creek by 28th and Walnut. While not the most stimulating pieces, the petrified pieces of shell along with the imprints of the creatures that lived so long ago all crushed and mashed together are like a small still life of long long ago. I highly recommend soaking such porous karst pieces in a solution of white vinegar and two pinches of OxyClean. Let soak for a day or two and swirl or stir the bucket often. Just remember to soak the vinegar back out with clear water for double the amount of days, stirring and swirling like before. I was feeling very confident and effusive because the water had gone down enough for me to walk on the gravel bars.

In the pictures below it is almost like a bone pile for rocks! Very exciting. My strong and stalwart husband had the big bucket that I poured my “chick” bucket into. In the last photo you can see how high the water level had been, it is difficult to remember that this town gets flash flooding and has culverts for a reason but luckily the natural stone deposits into this stream. And, yes, I was in such a positive mood I wore that outfit into public.

 

It has taken me two hours to figure how to get these pictures onto the blog and I am into the very early morning of 2:30AM. Out of the corner of my eye I can see flashing through the bed room window, not like car lights or lightening and I wonder if it could be eyes from some critter that is heralding the next catastrophe for the US or simply some wing dinging of a firefly being ultra bright. A part of me is voting for supernatural critters but since the window is at floor level lightening bugs are a safer bet.

We found a place to live!!! again. LOL  We accidentally ran across an apartment/condominium complex that just ‘felt right’, plus it has a two car garage, South West facing windows, hard wood floors, and a wood burning fireplace. We never thought we would even like anything labeled ‘luxury living’ but it is personable and cozy and has a ginormous dog run. My fervored hope is that the allergies and mustiness stay where we are now and stay out of the new place. I am tired of packing and unpacking cardboard boxes but perhaps for a few more years we can sit nice and happy in our second story castle. Well not exactly a castle but we will have a tiny balcony and I have great hopes of actually turning the garage into a workshop instead of a storage closet for boxes of geodes and spiders.

Spiders and dust with

Dried petals and husks

Of previous hopes and desires.

Shallow pools of water

Not yet stagnant from the rain,

Reflect the sky and listless blue.

But I can not rest

For hope springs eternal

As do fools.

Nancy Holland

And onward to something less grim: Let’s talk worms. During the winter, especially in Chicago, they would freeze dry on the sidewalks and here they die by the droves on the hot pavement. Any way you look at it, dry chuckle, my dog thinks the sidewalks bloom protein snacks. We feed her, we really do; nutritious kibble, Greenies, Charlie Bear treats, and lean table scraps with the occasional lump of cheese but nooooooo; our beloved Sorcha has to hoover up every desiccated piece she can see or perhaps smell, as she eats them in the dark too. Mummified sidewalk worms have even replaced the mulberries that fall here between the old folks home and the church grounds we walk her on. My husband has never known a more food obsessed dog and he was raised with dogs and cats. If anyone ever breaks into our home she will snarl and take them down unless they have some morsel of food on themselves or, say, dead worms then she would probably help them to what little money we have. She was named by me after Tir Na Sorcha and it was apt as can be. This picture is of our beloved worm munching fur ball literally frolicking beside our Summer fire.IMG_0619

And as proof that I am true rock hound, love being barefoot, and will revel in almost an rock situation here are pictures from part of my haul. These are nothing compared to the haul of FOSSILS from Pipsico Falls, VA that my MAGMA club dug along the shores and beaches and cliff sides: To quote a very darling member “The blood and mud of it all” but I am doing what I can with what I got! Any teachers out there that want specimens for a class and or teaching I can get them for you. (I will forever be in the debt of one Mr Boudman who had one week of earth sciences and chemistry to teach and left me with that kernel of awe in my mind and soul.)

Here is the whole haul from my birthday romp. Not at all like my usual trunk load of goodies when I go camping but I am pleased none the less.

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Each rock I picked to show the best of what they all have. Each photo is in twos, front and back, kind of. The big rock on the wooden shelf is from Edwardsville and not the same thing at all. The last five pictures are of the same huge stone that is just loaded with crinoid remains!

Something is just awe inspiring about all the ancient oceans filled with these critters and plants and the millions of thousands of years it took to finally turn the shells and imprints into rock: To just go a ways down the “crick” and pick up pieces of history and time frozen in stone. Some of the pieces were less karst more chert and I can not wait to get to our new home and cut some of the chert for cabs: to reveal the little fossilized treasures inside the stone just waiting to be fashioned and shown!!

About three weeks ago I fell when Sorcha went running after a squirrel. It was a full 10 points swan dive onto my right side, I could have have been Esther Williams if it had been a swimming pool and not cement. My great victory was keeping hold of the leash through it all, which the husband said was rather miraculous: Next time I will let go of the leash. I smell like Eau De Tiger Balm and still can’t raise my right arm over my head without an assortment or pains running down from my shoulder. The hardest part is that mentally I know my pain and other discomforts are valid but I keep feeling as though I do not deserve to complain; I know friends who are in far worse conditions and states of health. The nasty thoughts run through my head: “Suck it up!” “Your a hypochondriac.” “Oh, It can’t be that bad.”…

Being able to write down some of my frustrations and thoughts helps me to find some equilibrium, to remember the world around me and to remember I never want to lose my way again. I know there is a great power and strength out there, I have been a part of it since I was born. My husband is another part of it and I have been able to accidentally find other people who know of it, touch part of it, and or just plain jumped “straight naked” into the esoteric. Throughout history in Europe there has been documentation of religious people who could pray for hours, hear testament from angels, and gain unknown strength through meditative prayer. Then you can go look at modern times and the history books of almost any country and get these stories also. I am not some great religieuse (yep, using fancy French words) but I am trying to take the advise from a couple of very wise folks on social media and the same advice I give out: It is how you handle what is dealt you.

Very rarely do I discuss politics but when you hear Irish WoW v-loggers mention the troubles in America… well this is just not in my mind any more. Please!!! all the peaceful and hard working people trying to be positive and useful and aid others or just keep their heads above water: Keep moving forward. Hate and death has been a stamp of misery across so many places and countries, for two or more generations in America we have been spared this. I can barely handle the chaos seeping out of the very bricks, stones, and pavement of my country even though I am safe and have a loving husband. Violence and hate breeds violence and hate and, Gentle Readers, it will taint the very power I was talking about: Ever been in a building or around people that give you the screaming willies (not the British willie, you Naughty Readers) well this is what decrepit people, ignorance, and cruelty create. A beloved friend LF is on the front lines in her district taking care of people, dearest friend TE leads a group of exercise enthusiasts that have walked as a group for social justice, and a dearest young photographer ZW works tirelessly in the alternative arts. Are we all like employees of the State Department who’s blood is red, white, and blue and who work tirelessly for the safety and benefit of America; Are we like the sincere and honorable police and detectives who choose to put their lives on the line to defend us? Are we all like our dedicated military that willingly take up arms and risk the reality of PTSDs to protect and further America? No we are not: But we all must do what we can. I am forever grateful to all the people in our country and outside that openly helps us as Americans to make the American dream what it could be.

This blog is taking longer to post because I have had a relapse of migraines and simply chickened out to those voices-of-smallness saying “No one wants to read any of this repetetive drivel” and “They are just laughing at you.”  So here is the next installment of Mariesha as she begins the foot work required to solve her case.  (Because I have friends who are police, were police, and are/were military: This is fictional fantasy in a fantasy city with undead and interplaner characters for God’s sake!) cont…

 The landlady looked to be made of cinders and steel like the city around her and was covered in a grey shawl and a grey dress and old grey boots.  As soon as Mariesha and Elsbeth had entered her front sitting room and the front door was closed,  the elderly lady wrinkled her face at them while cleaning her glasses, “What in the Hells are you two about?” she half barked out, putting her glasses back on.  “And don’t tell me one of you wants to watch because that is the dumbest lie I’ll have ever heard from the likes of you.”

It was at times like these that Mariesha was glad to have a small silver sigil that proclaimed her an Inspector, with or without the scarlet cloak.  “It’s real.  Please don’t bite it,” she said as the landlady started to bring it toward her lips.

“Where then is your great big red hood?” asked an increasingly crotchety Ms. Moaning who was turning the medallion over in her fingers.

“How many do you want?” asked Mariesha in a vengefully polite tone.  “Elsbeth, as my Recorder would you please take note that Ms. Moaning has personally requested at least five fully cloaked Inspectors to come and ask her questions.”

 “Done Inspector Greywaves.”  Elsbeth nodded sternly to the tiefling.  “As we are very busy at the stations it will be one Inspector a day, Inspector Greywaves.”

 “Sounds good to me,” Mariesha answered, taking the medallion out of the landlady’s hand.

 It was possible for the elderly Ms. Moaning to turn even more grey at the prospect of five days of Scarlet Cloaks, her boarding girls fleeing in their corsets out back windows, and of being black balled from every safe red-light street.  “Then what do you want with me?  All my boarders are clean decent girls.”

 “I don’t care if they are bow-legged and louse ridden. But the necromancers of these families might,” replied Mariesha while holding up a group picture of all five young men.  She noted Ms. Moaning looking slightly more pale.  “And I will speak to the girls they kept company that night.”

 The girls hadn’t liked being woken up but she sent Elsbeth down to intimidate the land lady into making some coffee and the black brew helped win some sullen thanks.  Once the girls had realized they weren’t being rousted for money or to be lectured by Elsbeth on physical morality they had relaxed even more.  Mariesha was also glad that none of them decided to turn it into a tit contest, preferring some sense of professionalism.  The girls were not used to wealthy or clean clients so the five were at least remembered but pretty soon even the tiefling became glad for the coffee.

Mariesha slowly let out her breath as she looked down the street an hour later.  Elsbeth was calmly stoic beside her as the city clanged and rumbled around them.  

“So what have we learned exactly Inspector?”

“They weren’t too far gone to do the deed and they didn’t die in the saddle,” answered Mariesha, shoving her hands in her pockets.

 “Succinctly put,” replied Elsbeth after a short pause.  She paused again as Mariesha began to walk along then asked, “So where do we go from here?”

Mariesha glanced up at her Recorder and half smirked at the look on her face, “Yes my dear Els it is as you feared; the not quite so glorious bar crawl.”

 “I trust in your perseverance Inspector,” answered Elsbeth staunchly.

 Mariesha gazed down the street and up to the roof tops then straightened her shoulders, “The answer is out there somewhere…” started the Inspector as she stepped over a gutter, “We had best get going.”

I am signing off right now to start re-editing on the current story of Mareisha and possibly try some crochet. We have taken two car loads over today to the new place and I can’t wait to get this move all done with. The pup is snoring next to me and I have high hopes of a decent horror movie tonight on the tv. Let there be rain on the parched Summer grounds and a breeze from the mountains for you.

Be Well

 

Spring Water and Covid-ity

Hello Dearest Readers,

The month of March is almost over and this is an Early Spring already, February was unbelievably warm for a Winter month. Spring in the South is yellow, all pollen from pine trees, watching the wind whip up yellow dust devils down the streets and gutters. Spring in Chicago was the temperature rising over 35 degrees and the sudden appearance of wisps from the cottonwood tree floating along streets like down feathers from cherubs. Spring in the NW of Arkansas is having the storms go around our little plateau so that the thunder sounds like it is growling through the ground; the weather just slowly gets warmer with each drop of rain until you realize the little flowers are peeping in the grass.

The first two pictures are of the Late Winter sky that is practicing to give us Spring weather. The last two are the itty bitty peeping flowers and mosses in the suburban jungle.

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I am a rather sensitive person and often have small little worries or fears pop up of upsetting people, and yet for certain aspects here I am not worried. I realized a few weeks ago that I still have no idea where half my baking supplies are in the cabinets of the kitchen and still have no “den” feeling in the bedroom. And of course my husband and I are both allergic to the house, Benadryl has become our bedtime friend. I have also realized that while we were in Edwardsville I had already taken dozens of pictures and was planning out a garden, not here. So we are hunting for a new rental home and I rather like the search of having all these possible houses show up in my e-mail. We have till July so we are slowly packing up the house. Yep, packing up the house when the world outside is screaming about toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We will simply fill up all the U-Haul and liquor store boxes we already have before worrying about getting more. The garage with my pounds of stones and geodes is going to be the bear to pack and my office will be the next hardest room to wrangle.  Our dream is to be able to have a home built by the wonderful Deltec company but regardless of our fortune we will be changing houses. Deltec allows you to send them your ideas and because that part is still free I sent in my plans. As a little girl I made house plans for fun, starting out with bedrooms and kitchens and graduating upward to putting in hallways and doors, so a goodly part of me is thrilled with the idea of having my grown up plans put into reality.

Showing off my idea. Just add a little historic Gothic and some William Morris to the hinges and knobs and light fixtures. (And add a rock garden landscape on the outside.)

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When I can navigate through the house and use full sentences, my days are lively and lately busier and more interesting. We have The Bins here in Bentonville and every two or three weeks Ian goes with me to dig through them. I just love the search and hunt through strange debris. And somehow just having his company makes everything more fun. Our Bins have some of the best piles of books!! Apparently books worth reading are rare from Bins but even as we pack the house up I manage to bring two or three back with me. I have also found an Erin Knit Wool sweater and a vintage “Ms Maiszel” type coat with a real fur collar. I also won an auction on crochet blankets; and those can be weird because until you inspect them by hand you can’t tell how used they could be. The newest batch were definitely from a crochet stash, one of those folks who like me makes things just waiting to give them away. All but one or two of the blankets were crib sized and with this quarantine going on I hope colorful, well made, baby blankets will be in demand in 9 months. In the strangest turn of luck and perseverance I have made sales on e-Bay. Yep, little ol’ me took the leap and entered items to sell. Now the profits are a pittance but once I can sell 10 items I can open my own Store Front and that is what I am aiming for. I have sold three items already!!! in just three weeks which is a blizzard of activity for me. (wicked, dry humor, snicker-snort-chuckle) But dearest friends PC and KF who also go crazy at thrift stores and curb side sales will know how exciting this is for me.

Friday we were between rain clouds so we went to this overflow creek, not the cement kind prevalent here but the natural kind. I realized how much I miss the soil and ground beneath my feet. At first my mind went “Oh no!!!! I’ll get my feet wet!” then I said to myself “Nancy, did you just get wussy???!!” ( And I know it was me ’cause Ian was talking to the dog.) I wear ugly Vibrams for a reason and they can get wet, and muddy, and all kinds of fun so I merrily traipsed across to the other side: I was super lucky!!! Fossil bearing chert everywhere!!!  Some of the pieces were more fossil imprints all together than they were rock. I feel certain I found coral imprints, shell, crinoid stems, and worm tunnels. I couldn’t take up any big hunks because I was just off the highway but I did find pieces I can try and cab up as well as treasure.  How glorious to feel the wind blow humid air across my skin while having my toes in the water and earth. I have the two buckets soaking in a bit of bleach because the stream has a lot of run off but as soon as I get them soaked and scrubbed a bit I want to show you some close up pictures.

The cement drainage culvert after a week of rain that runs behind the church where we walk the dog, a suburban river. The chert creek that is overflowing its banks. The creek after the water has gone back down (the wind was blowing and I felt like a middle aged fairy princes.)

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5 ‘o’ clock AM  is that apex hour in which the False Dawn has not started yet but you can just feel the gentle tug of Morning’s fingers. Since the late of February the hour before false Dawn has started to bring out the little song birds. These are the soft and fragile looking balls of feathery fluff that come in brown and tan spots and mottled stripes. Now in reality it is 4 in the morning because daylight savings is a farce and it is somehow comforting to know the birds ignore it. (In an aside I feel certain that even a Cynobite or Lord Vermin (Google him) could be voted in as president if they promised to abolish Daylight Savings.) Then there is Night, in late February and parts of March, where it is just warm enough after a day of rain to leave the screen door open: and then I can hear a trilling peep from local frogs. Edwardsvile, IL was somehow pocketed throughout with fountains and ponds that had quaint little armies of frogs but here even with cement culverts and thin mountain creeks scattered like straw the little trilling peepers were unexpected.

Ok, confession time: I play a few video games and phone app games. So I am going to go off on a few quirks that yours truly complains about (which gives the husband a chuckle so can it be so bad?) I play this fashion doll game called Covet where you are given challenges to dress your model with specific items and styles to fit a short five sentence story. Most of the samples shown or expected are Vogue and Haut Couture imitations so some leeway is expected BUT FOR F*CK’S SAKE!!  1) “Style a look to source diamonds in Dubai.” What in the world are some of you thinking???? This is Dubai so why is your paper doll dressed in a crop top, a mini skirt, fish net hose, a fur stole, thigh high boots, and or a see-through evening dress??? What part of Dubai and diamonds do you not get?!!!  2) “Dress for a fun day in the park for a Mother and Son day together.” To quote a beloved pro wrestler, Charles Wright, “Make way for the Hoooooo train!” Why would you wear a bra top and hootchie shorts with your young son? Stilettos in a park with a little boy? Thigh length ruffle skirt?  Are you nuts??? 3) “You are a world renowned dancer of raks sharkie (?) and have been invited to dance for the Berber leader under the desert moon” (Sure lots of ladies do not know what a dancer and a stripper are, so this is really a pet peeve.) Get out the eye bleach!! Neon hair, little school girl outfits, platform pumps, T bars, and or see through dresses. Then some get this idea of doing some sort of semi cyberpunk with eye makeup that looks like flames. God help us all! 4) “Style a gracious look for a beloved commoner about to marry the Prince” (Please reference one Diana or Kate or Meghan) Aaaaaarrrrggg! Bring on every crown, every faux Queen Bess, Venetian renaissance gown with pearls, every scepter, and or mermaid head gear that can be found. What part of “commoner about to marry the Prince are you missing??

I also play a game called Design Home, an actual partner to Covet. You design a house for certain people with different occupations and in different countries/areas. Mostly it is just a matter of taste and what couch style you have in your inventory but once in a while I simply can’t figure people out. 1) “Design a bedroom for a Dutch couple expecting their first baby in Brussels.” Sure, sometimes the rocking horse would be cuter than the purple teddy bear but WHY DID YOU PUT CACTUS AS DECORATIONS ON THE TABLE AND FLOOR?!!! Really people, cactus in a babies room? Or why did they make the whole room in black and grey? Planning on owning stock in Prozac??  2) “Design a rugged living room in the cabin of a family in Alaska” Sure, the cabin looks like a perfect A frame but decorate it in gold filigree and velvet couches?? Marble table tops and crystal chandeliers?? Do you understand the word rustic?!  3) “Design a living room for an active family of five who like gardening.” And?… you guessed it, the whole living room is white furniture with spindly legs and intricate carving. The paintings are either examples of old world still-lives or contain so much pastel pink the Easter Bunny would get nauseous. God knows my own house is 1/3 Norse, 1/3 Gothic, and 2/3 still-in-college but trust me this is monetary and not choice (and yes I know it doesn’t add up.)

As the Covid-19 keeps going there are heroes outside of police, rescue, and medical. Lets hear it for the grocery store cashier who has been given a flimsy piece of plastic in front of his face for protection “Woot!!” Clap for the drive through people who are given gloves and three feet between their window and the car driver!! “Hooray”. Thank you to the liquor store clerk who told us where they put the folded down boxes around the corner outside but still took the time to get within three feet of me to give us some good boxes from inside “Confetti!” Give a huge Vulcan salute to the whole USPS who touch our boxes and mail and have not failed to deliver my e-Bay packages to customers and still sell me stamps with plexiglass that is flimsier than the cashier’s!! “Live long and prosper”. And then there are the Geeks, oh you salt of the earth: Sharing patterns for Renaissance gowns, sharing their art progress no matter how early in the piece it is, selflessly making ear guards for masks on 3D printers like a pro, promoting reasonable fitness when the couch is more comfortable: And my Husband and the Chicago Crew!!! all spending weeks working from home and still finding time to create Role Playing D&D stories for the weekend to run using Discord “Three snaps in a Z formation!” Thanks to the die hard rock hound friends sharing pictures of offices, geode cutting, aloe gardens, house hold mementoes found in garages, and photos of beautiful nature hikes “Total bad ass babes, all of you”.

And now for a good distraction from the real world. Here is a continuation of Marisha in Red Angel’s Rise. She has been given a sudden emergency case away from the mystery of the train stations and the charnel warehouse. Now you can get a feel for a bit more of Cinerarium on the streets. This is a bit more of my voice even though Ian coached me some.  cont….

Ansel Casterwell was a fair haired, politely unassuming young man not much older than Mariesha herself but eminently more important in the schemes of the city; by reading between the lines it became obvious that with a single minded desire someone wanted him found alive. The Casterwells were a family of judges, lawyers, inventors, and artists, all eventually connected to a very powerful undead family by birth and by marriage. And as can happen with the amount of death and undeath flowing through them and their blood, there were also half-wits and sterile cripples. Ansel was referred to by family as healthy, virile, and vital just as often as amiable, even tempered, and sociable. He had an older brother who was muscularly weak, suffering with seizures and spasms, and an older sister who while extremely lovely was said to be rather “simple” and worse of all showed no signs at twenty of entering womanhood.  

Mariesha took a drink of her ale and wondered what it must be like to be loved for your sperm. She then traded her half of the file with Elsbeth, mopped her plate clean with her napkin and chewed thoughtfully, “So, what do you think Els?” 

“I must say Inspector Greywaves, if we question every enemy the Casterwells do have or could have we will never get off of this case.”

 “Yea, I’m readin’ that now.  Gotta say I agree.” Mariesha finished swallowing her napkin and put her ale mug on the edge of the table for a refill. “Although whoever questioned his mates from that night sure did a good job.”

Elsbeth took a sip of her chilled cider, “I think on your next page should be the report from the family necromancer.”

Mariesha read carefully then nodded her head, “Well, I’ll be screwed blue and ta…”  Elsbeth was giving her a cool starchy look across the table. “Er, um, I’ll be Hornswagled,” restarted Mariesha, knowing when to press her unladylike habits and when not to. “They have a top-hat cutter able to search through this city for the boy and all the necromancer can say is the poor sod ain’t dead.”

“Yet,” added Elsbeth while turning a page.

“And there isn’t any ransom note either,” Mariesha pointed out.

Elsbeth’s brow creased slightly, “So, just where could the young man be?”

“Don’t know, but it does mean we’re gonna’ be slogging through some back streets starting with the Star Gazer.”

Elsbeth gave her a firm nod and then carefully drained her drink.

*** ******  **** ****

The information they would get in the upcoming sober bar-crawl was nothing if Mariesha wore her scarlet cloak, plenty of inappropriate offers if Elsbeth wore her normal dresses, and sympathetic offers of grub and ale if Mariesha wore a dress herself because she “needs more meat on her bones to please a man.”  She had actually convinced the department to pay for her Recorder to have a severe work outfit made by telling them it was armor; a stern, grey colored, split skirt and corset-like leather jacket with a leather hand muff. The tiefling herself wore worn pants and a collared shirt with a heavy leather jacket that could accommodate Murder if need be.

The pair were dropped off from an unmarked hansom cab over three blocks away and they walked through the surrounding neighborhood, their sturdy boots going over worn pavement and cobblestones alike. This was definitely a firm lower class neighborhood with pubs, stables, grocers, apartments for let, and the occasional unmarked gaming den.  Through the middle was a grouping of pillons and girders that support two pedestrian bridges and a train trestle: shanty shacks and the remains of an old fountain crowded among them.  

The Star Gazer was an inn and ale house that was found by it’s sign, that of a man on his back looking up at a night sky. Mariesha wasn’t sure whether this was because the inn boasted a rickety top room on a seven story tower or that, for good or for ill, the drink knocked people over and out; standing on the edge of the neighborhood it was just respectable enough to be safe and just seedy enough to be dangerous for a group of five slumming nobles. 

Mariesha was also armed with expert drawings of all five boys, several photos of Ansel, and a hidden purse with generous amounts of copper and silver.  Luckily the bar owner easily remembered the five and was more than willing to talk to what he thought was a wealthy detective with plenty of silver to pass around. The missing nobles had been boisterous, congenial, and inebriated but alive when they had left before midnight heading down the left side of the street singing bawdy songs.

The next question to come up was where the five-some went but that was easily solved when the tavern owner said they kept pinching Bessty the table wench.  She lived in two back rooms made cozy from a small wood stove and patchwork curtains. She was comely enough, Marisha conceded, if you were in your fifties, having sturdy ankles, a rounded bottom with matching bosom, and thick grey curls under a scarf.

“Ol’ Rollo says you been hired to look f’ them boys from four nights back. Care for a cookie?  I make them ma’ self in the kitchen,” she asked as she took down a tin from a small shelf above the stove.

“That would be lovely,“ replied Mariesha as she and Elsbeth pulled up a foot stool and a wooden chair to sit on.

“Then I’ll just put ta’ kettle on to heat some more,” answered Bessty, finally settling back in a padded rocker, obviously enjoying the attention. For a woman that claimed rheumatism and bad eyes there was not much that passed by her: Not only did she remember the five nobles she also gave good descriptions of their clothes and remembered who liked ale and who liked beer. The Inspector and her Recorder also learned that Chersker is back and that means Autumn cattle drives will start soon; Grisole Bandy Hands had coppers to spend so someone is missing their silverware, he being a good second story man, and Caroe Padget had on silk stockings so her engagement to the mill operator was continuing which means that he obviously has a new order of canvass to make. Given enough time Marisha felt that they would be told the whole underside life within five blocks of the Star Gazer.

“And once more about Ansel Casterwell?”  asked Elsbeth trying to get the conversation back on track.

“Ooooh, they were just terrible,” exclaimed Bessty while nibbling on a butter cookie.  “Why those randy lads near to pinched my bum black and blue!”

“Have you complained to the Watch then?” asked Mariesha, already guessing they were the highlight of her week.

“Well,” backtracked a blushing Bessty, “They’re jus’ young and seeing as how one is missing… I wouldn’t want to bother their families none.”

Mariesha nodded in sage understanding and brushed crumbs from her fingers, “I can’t thank you enough for the morning tea Goodie Bessty but we must continue the search.”

“Oh, aye,” she conceded in good humor. “Good luck then.”

The two were let out a side door after thanking her one more time and picked their way through the debris in the ally.

Looking over the street, Mariesha turned to Elsbeth, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking of Els?”

“They were looking for women, Inspector,” replied the Recorder.

“Exactly what I’m thinking. And what about over there?” asked Mariesha as she pointed to a small, neatly painted, red sign across the alley and three doors down.

“An excellent guess,” agreed Elsbeth with a slight smirk.

“Very well my fair Recorder, to “Ms. Moaning’s Boarding House” it is.”

cont….

Once again tonight we are having a “sever thunderstorm” which equates to rolling thunder in the distance with a sharp breeze every 20 minutes and rain pouring for five minutes every half hour, but the purple flowers on the weeds and the wild violets in the fields are loving the weather and the thin traces of yellow pollen will get washed down. So many friends have posted loving and happy Easter pictures of family and baskets that a mood of happy contentment is nestled around our house. May the blessings of Christ and the continual renewal of the Earth bring rest and joy to your life.

Be Well

 

Rambling Ironies and Ouch

Greetings in a New Year,

I wish I could say that this January came in a rush of fresh snow and growing light but the weather has been warm and rather unwintery; windy and gloomy and raining with days just warm enough for a light jacket and nights just cold enough for a sweater and shoes. Thunder storms have been sensational with rumbling and lightening and driving rain but, quite frankly, with a migraine it is all part of a numb background. My Christmas with Family, celebrated in January, was actually lovely and I got to see some of our closer friends. My Sister is a complex person with a husband who is beyond perfect for her and between the two of them I think they cary the weight of half the world on their shoulders. Working for the State Department is a job I would never want and am simply relieved that truly good people are out there in the really real world. She was relaxed and cheery for the Holiday and once again all her gifts were spot on; this is a strange ability she has even though we are not spot on together for more than three days in a row.

The chronic illness thing is raining on my parade, and not in that amazing water-from-the-sky changing everything into glorious-grey sort of way. I will without a doubt sing the praises of medical cannabis over the long term effects of rizatriptans, narcotics, and opioids when dealing with my migraines and fibromyalgia. The down side to medications are the side effects and left over effects while it tries to help you from your illness. I try very hard to remember how much better my health is now that side effects are at a minimum but the truth is I am rather tired of a fluffy head tempered with vague pain for days at a time or nasty pain that leads to holding a bucket over the side of the bed. My time seems to be lost between trying to do something useful between the days of pain. I have a real fear of my husband getting caretaker syndrome again and in a place that is between the Hometown Bread Basket of the Mid West and the Welcoming Warmth of the South I am also stuck with a fear of finding A Tribe. I understand that other people have problems but right now this is my blog and my rant. And I tell myself that perhaps someone else with a chronic pain can not be alone: So I got ya’ huny. No need to feel alone. Other folks are just as muddled and unhappy as you are and to quote a deliciously trite saying “So far your record for getting through bad days is 100% and that’s a good score to have.”

My allergies have me imitating lumberjacks with a train wreck, and the mildew traps we slept in during our holiday visit didn’t help; plus some where at some time a person in Arkansas decided that air intake systems for houses could draw over packed earth crawl spaces: Literally the air is pulled through the air filter, across the crawl space and back into the house: Brilliant. So Ian checked the air vent in the bedroom and the air ducts were cleaned relatively recently but the closure was last adjusted about fifty years ago. We got it closed and covered the ceiling vent with layers of clear packing tape. We then moved the infrared heater in the living room into the bedroom so we have heat; this nifty little box gives out that nice glowing dry warmth and I can pretend that we have a fire place. The outcome so far is less snoring and improvement on the wombat breath: a win-win both ways.

We watch Hoarders, kinda like viewing a garage sale and train wreck all at once. the biggest up side to perversely watching the agony and dirt from other people is I feel so much tidier and I do get the urge to throw things away and donate stuff. Believe it or not I have donated lots of books and furniture, and even pitched out a few rocks. I actually love to give away fossils and rocks to Earth Sciences Teachers because teachers get bubkiss for classrooms and it was a teacher’s private collection that got me interested in rocks and minerals in the first place.  I sometimes wonder what would we watch on tv if not for reality shows like Hoarders and House Wives (which I do not watch): “Ooooo.  Jenny has dust bunnies under that couch! And the toilet paper roll is on backwards!! We have a big job here ahead of us.” “Ted’s sock drawer is unorganized right now AND his tool chest is dirty on the outside. Will we be able to get him to sort the black from the white socks?!!” or “Robyn is shopping in Wallmart for underwear. She is styling that grannie panty with a Steinmart necklace.” “Gracie is just killing it with those deviled eggs.  She is THE highlight of the Church pot luck!!” And of course comes the love folks have for Dr Pimple Popper: “This is the close-up of Sue’s gingivitis: Tarter, tarter, tarter! Now starts the deep gum cleaning!!” “Burt’s toe fungus is intense. We are presenting him with an anti fungal and tee tree oil!” With these for choices I’m kinda glad that there is some dystopia out there.

And so we are going to look for another rental home. It took two weeks to get the gutters cleaned of the plants growing in them, a month to get the leak in the wall to the washing machine fixed, and now the linen closet that abuts the crawl space is WET with the cream colored carpet turning brown. The only upside to this is that we have five months to pack ourselves and we have a realtor that gets us, and the “getting us” is the hardest part. Asking a realtor straight up if they have any de-sanctified churches, houses next to cemeteries, or houses with strange configurations is a practice in dark humor. BUT our realtor here understood us and calls it “quirky”, which is better than stuttering and saying “We don’t have those.” One of the most outrageous, spectacular, artistic, beautiful, and loving Ladies I know used to help her husband with his Realestate practice and they specialized in haunted houses so I can feel justified in my requests. While I have dreams of finding a miniature Adams Family home the reality is hoping for a ranch style with wood floors.

Yours truly and husband broke down and got Disney Plus channel. At this point I can definitely say that The Mandalorian is the perfect send-up to Star Wars and American westerns. Is it cheesy? Yes. Is it for a younger audience? Yes. They do a lovely job of adding a little bit of extra background and personality to the Star Wars universe while giving a smart little “popcorn” story to enjoy. Is this the masterpiece everyone is talking about? Not really but I can guarantee that in years to come heroes will have flame throwers and be armored monks. And yes, the “yodaling” is adorable as all get out.

Righty-o Gentle Readers! It is slipping into March and I am finally able to think clearly without wanting to cry or throw up so let me get this blog post to its end. So here comes the next part of Red Angels Rise: There is a bit of her home with a feel for the city then we get an invitation to peek at a police station of Cinerarium and a fellow Inspector. I promise the mystery of the train stations will continue even as a new adventure is brought in….

   “These sorts of things can happen on occasion.”  Elsbeth said, her face a placid mask. “I’m sure his lordship has a most astute reason for the decision.”

 “Indeed I do.”  Lord Arstair said with more than a trace of irritation in his voice.

Her expression hadn’t changed, but Mariesha could see the glint in Elsbeth’s as she spoke again.  “Are you sure you understand the meaning of astute then, sir?”

For a long second Arstair said nothing, his glare switching between the two women before him.  “Are you sure you understand the meaning of a command?”

“Oh ay, I do know that one.”  Mariesha growled. “If you have a reason, I’d like to know it.  I’d like to know why we’ve been yanked off my case to go chase down some noble sod who’s probably off recoverin’ from a bender?”

The sounds of the Tanbury Patrol Station filled the silence in the room for a moment, a hundred voices trying to shout over one another and only succeeding in making them all indecipherable.  When Mariesha and Elsbeth had arrived that morning, there had been a pile of dead sheep in a cart sitting out front, a trio of ghouls yelling across the duty officer’s desk at an apprentice necromancer, and a tinkerer gesturing madly at a small pile of gears and springs as they tried to reassemble themselves.

All in all a quiet Tuesday morning.

“Sit down.”  Arstair finally said, sighing a little.  When Mariesha simply stared, crossing her arms, the older man scowled.  “Fine… stand there. Listen to me, child, I know what you’re thinking, you may be demon blooded but you have emotions like every other body slogging through this life. This is not what the two of you are assuming.”

It took all the willpower Mariesha could muster not to comment, not to interrupt.  Instead she just stared, fuming.

“I need the boy found, and I need him found now.”  Arstair said, pointedly sliding a sheaf of papers across his desk at the young inspector.  “No bribes getting in the way, no politics, no damned foolery. Just find him.”

“And Inspector Greywaves is thought of as above such things,” Elsbeth announced proudly, smiling.

Arstair smirked.  “No, everyone thinks she’s too crazy to bribe, so they’re less likely to try… and I think she’s above such things.”

Mariesha could feel Elsbeth trying to work up a good head of steam, an indignant rant to remember no doubt, but all the tiefling could do was stifle a laugh.

“Well, I guess every cutter’s gotta’ have some kind of reputation, and there’s worse than that,”  She finally conceded with a shrug, plucking the case file from the oak desk, trying to hide how pleased she was to have Arstair’s approval.  “So who’s takin’ my case til this one’s done? I am getting it back once we get this boy home, right?” 

Her last words were less of a question and more of a warning, something Arstair didn’t seem to miss given his expression.  “Lest we get it solved before then… yes you’ll get the case back. As for who will take it in the mean, I’m putting Deulane on.”

Mariesha glanced up over the top of the papers, then shrugged.  “Fair enough.” Was all she said, though inwardly she was grinning.  If she could have picked someone to fill in for her it was Edmund Deulane.

“One more thing,” Arstair said, turning his gaze fully onto Elsbeth.  “You, Ms. Bailey, are a recorder. You are not some kind of crazed warrior diving into dangerous situations.  When in the field you should avoid danger as much as possible while recording Inspector Greywaves. Is that understood?”

Straightening herself, Elsbeth flashed a disconcerted little frown.  “But Lord Arstair I can assure you I’ve never done anything that was not absolutely necessary in my support of the Inspector,”  she replied in her perfect little docile lady voice, which almost made Mariesha laugh out loud.

“That’s quite contrary to what I’ve heard from the Wardens.  Apparently they feel you are all too eager to dive into the less lady-like aspects of the job.”

Despite her efforts, Elsbeth blushed.  “Well I…”

Arstair shook his head.  “No, don’t even try. Do your job, and nothing more.  I have enough problems with people talking about a woman Inspector.”

Mariesha dropped the papers she’d been skimming over back onto Arstair’s desk and raised an eyebrow.  “And exactly which brain box is tossin’ that about? I can go show them just how ladylike I can be. Just pray they don’t want to spawn any more…”

“Enough!  Just get the boy!”  Arstair bellowed, punctuating his shouts with a slam on the desk hard enough to send a dozen other folders flying.  “By every God left I’d toss you both out onto the street if you weren’t, by some madness, as good as you are!”  

Papers were still settling as Elsbeth stepped out the door into Tanbury’s great entry hall, closely followed by Mariesha.  “I think we made Magister Arstair angry for the rest of the day,” the recorder said as she started through the maze of desks.

Mariesha glanced quickly back over her shoulder, winced once, then shrugged casually, “Well, it’s not like we were doin’ it to the cutter on purpose.”

**

 Deulane sat in the furthest alcove of the great hall, pressed as far back between a pair of towering pillars as his desk would allow in a vain attempt to escape the cacophony of Tanbury.  Every time Mariesha had laid eyes on the man in the station, he had this strained little smile on his face, like just breathing the chaotic air of the place made him uncomfortable.

Actually that was probably pretty much the truth.

“Inspector Greywaves, a pleasure to see you again.”  Deulane said as he climbed to his feet and extended a hand.

“It’s been a few ticks since we talked.”  Mariesha replied with a smile. “How’s it going for ya’?”

There was a slight shrug before Deulane turned toward Elsbeth.  “Fair enough, I should suppose, though often more busy than I’d prefer.”  As the Recorder approached he once again offered his hand. “Ms. Bailey, it is a pleasure as always.”  He finished just before kissing the back of Elsbeth’s gloved hand.

If Mariesha didn’t know better she’d swear a little blush came into Elsbeth’s cheeks.  “Indeed, it is always the utmost pleasure to see you, Inspector Deulane.”

To one side, Mariesha sat on a corner of Deulane’s desk, perhaps the cleanest and most organized surface in the station.  Hells, if given the choice she’d have preferred a surgeon worked her over here than in most of the hospitals. “So Arstair told ya’ yet?”

“Magister Arstair?  Yes, he mentioned I am to continue a case for you, correct?”

Mariesha nodded.  “The train station massacres.  Els and I should have this other case done up pretty and be back on the massacre right fast, but I’m glad Arstair picked you.  Means the trail won’t go cold while some berk sits on his backside.”

Deulane bowed slightly.  “My thanks for the compliment.”  He said returning Mariesha’s smile.  “It’s a fascinating string of events; truth be told I’ve already been reading what I could find on the case.  What more can you tell me?”

Like magic, Elsbeth pulled a small tome from somewhere within the folds of her dress.  “I’ve transcribed all of Inspector Greywaves’ notes for filing with the king’s clerk while here.  If you should like, Inspector, you can have these and I can…”

Holding up a hand, Deulane cut Elsbeth off in mid-sentence.  “No need, Ms. Bailey. I’ll transcribe my own copy and file yours with the clerk by this evening.  What kind of a gentleman would I be to ask so much palaver from a lady?”

“A pretty damned rare one.”  Mariesha chuckled. “You’re the most gentlemanly gentleman I think I’ve ever met.”

Edmund Deulane was one of the last burks she would have ever thought to be a scarlet cloaked inspector.  He was average height and had a nondescript build, always neatly ensconced in a matching grey suit and vest with a contrasting tie.  No matter how lithe he was in body, he still had vestiges of baby fat on his face that adulthood had not done away with. And although he had plenty of it, his hair was always parted on one side and then held in place with a men’s pomade.  Mariesha often held back the desire to shake him and see if anything would come loose.

As stuffy as he seemed to Mariesha, he wasn’t the blue blooded prig that assumed he was better than a near homeless tiefling because of his birth, forgetting the equality of the scarlet cloaks.  Mariesha had inwardly restrained herself on the first meeting, mostly because of having received her first lecture on insulting her fellow inspectors, and had been pleasantly surprised to find him dull.  

His born status also made being an Inspector a step down, yet once in a while there was a fire showing in the back of his eyes and Mariesha had surmised to Elsbeth that something was driving him; and there was, for he certainly didn’t need the money.  The Deulanes were a solid, well-entrenched middle class family. In a hive like Cinerarium there was never a lack of need for morticians, it was the good ones that were harder to find; and the Deulanes were one of the best. They had been a fifth generation family of morticians quietly serving the wealthy poor and the middle class when Edmund’s father had invented at a young age the ghoul proof coffin.  Nothing can beat a determined being with a sledgehammer but they were proof enough against the jagged claws of a hungry ghoul and now the family was vaulted to the top of the Boxers.  

There are two different ranks of mortician available to the common man; those that make pine boxes and those that can only tie their family in sheets and rope.  Winders aren’t bad people but often the bodies are shallowly buried and become food for ghouls and parts for robbers. Most every poor sod in the city aspires to be buried by Boxers and those that can’t even afford a Winder are sad indeed.

It had been a long night over a year ago belonging to an even longer day, while going over the collected remains of case together, when Edmund had opened up ever so slightly.  Edmund’s recorder had been asleep in an oversized cot made just for him while Elsbeth yawned, having just woken up from her short nap, and was pouring them all more precious coffee.  The exam room had still smelled vaguely of ash and blood while the chemical orb lights had floated over-head.

“I remember as a child,” he had started without urging, “Watching over the bodies as they came in to be cleaned and prepared.  I was very proud of my task, of course, sorting and folding their belongings, because Father had told me I was growing up into a clever lad. I would carefully put everything in a basket; sometimes not more than rags other times even a ring or a bowler hat.  And so I got a very good look at them and their final belongings. And at times I knew with a great clarity, seldom bestowed on a child of those years, that their deaths were not just accidents or old age. As my father cleaned under broken and bloody finger nails, he too knew; but once I had seen the scars under his white shirt, received for having tried to press a mysterious death further with constables, and so we said nothing.”

Mariesha had been afraid to breath heavily and break the spell put over them.

“I had always wanted to be a Boxer like my father.  Damned proud of him I am. But the first time a scarlet cloaked Inspector came into the laying-out room and actually asked my father about a recent death, and we knew that something had changed within the justice of our city; Well, then I suddenly knew what I wanted to become.  The realization burned like a new ember from that day forward: I was going to see to the mystery of justice for all the people of Cinerarium.”

Edmund had then methodically stirred some sugar into his cup and taken a long swallow of coffee.  “Well, Inspector Greywaves, let us go over the evidence again, shall we.”

**

     The thick file of the missing railway passengers was now in Edmond Deulanes hands and the thin folder of the missing boy was waiting to be read.  Mariesha shook hands with Edmond solemnly and waited patiently while he gently kissed the back of Elsbeth’s gloved hands in farewell.

“Well, Els, lets go and scan about this poor burk,” said Mariesha as she walked past her own desk.  “There’s great tucker to be had at Blythe’s Pub right now.”

cont….

All my Love and Adoration to my friends and rock hound family: I miss you all dearly so please keep up with your adventures. Dig Crazy and Create Wildly.

Be Well

 

 

 

Crater Adventure and Coming Winter

Dearest Gentle Reader,

Today is the first of December and the weather hear in NW Arkansas has turned cold again. For several weeks before thanksgiving the weather has been surprisingly warm with daytime temperatures in the 70s and mid 60s and nights in the 40s. This sudden warmth had lulled us into a sense of false security plus the insistence from locals about the temperate winters. The stray sleet and snow squall that scattered over us at the middle of October had dropped the leaves from the trees and their dry, crunchy shells skittered over the driveway and lawn. The cold front came the day before Thanksgiving with a constant driving wind. Now, we are familiar with the winds of Chicago that bluster and blow in the Winter; the kind that will go straight to the bone then run away laughing: This wind is a Midwestern wind, a constant wind that will travel across the city for hours before gusting up and shaking the windows of the house. The thunder storm that night made the room almost shake from the sudden clap of thunder and the lightening was so bright and constant we could see to cross the room without turning on the lights. When we finally pried our eyes open that next morning the temperature high was going to be in the 30s where the day before had been in the Low 70s! Quite a change.

It is with great joy that I wish to tell you, the Gentle Reader, about my trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas during October. My husband drove us out on Thursday evening for a quick five hour jaunt across the state. Now,… the driving app showed us two ways to go, one choice took us all the way over to Little Rock then back to Murfreesboro and the other went rather straight up the middle through Mt Ida with only an extra 10 minutes. As we were feeling brazen and rugged at this point we chose to take the middle path with only a few ten minutes extra. Anyone who has driven this mistake before may now start chuckling softly at us. I am forever thankful that my Beloved is an experienced and steady driver: Halloween night was spent driving up and around the Ouchita Mountains along a curvy road that could put tangled fishing line to shame. I was light sensitive at the time and thought that surely the yellow ‘curving road’ signs would be branded to the back of my eyeballs. Our hotel was in the small town of Hope and it was with relief that we drove into the parking lot of the Motel 6. Ever since I was a little girl and I got to listen to the quaint and mellow voiced man tell us that “We’ll leave the light on for you.” I have had a soft spot for Motel 6s. It was the spartan but clean room we expected and as we settled down into the king sized bed I was imagining the rapturous rock hound heaven I was to visit the next day. It was then that our heater began to make sounds similar to a 747 taking off: every twenty minutes. My husband went to the fellow at the desk and found out that the hotel was booked solid so there was no changing rooms: This was OK, I guess, as the person above us was making rhythmic noises that was quite impressive, one of those times you do not know whether to go upstairs and compliment them with a Gatorade or beg them to stop so you can sleep between the jet flights coming out of the heater.

Friday morning was lovely and chill with bright sun light cutting across the sky and with a least three hours of sleep I was excited not to have a migraine. After a quick fast food breakfast we drove the half hour into Murfreesboro and found the park without getting lost. To be honest I had become used to collecting with my Darling-one in out of the way places and almost empty lakeside beaches and had somehow thought that a great volcano field would be similar, besides it was November 1st, Dia de Los Muertos, and not technically the weekend. Apparently old people like us enjoy going out to volcanic mud flats in Arkansas; so much for getting to trammel through untamed wilderness void of civilization while we searched for elusive fragments that had been hurled into the air millions of years ago. Who ever had the idea to turn this land into a state park and charge you to sift their gravel for elusive diamonds was absolutely brilliant and their mothers are proud. The park was staffed with friendly and professional attendants and for an open mud flat the area was well maintained. We had no idea what to expect so our first two hours were spent walking the plow lines up and down and picking what we could find off of the top. Thankfully I had no interest in finding a diamond but was there for the agate, jasper, basalt, quartz, and volcanic tuff. Pretty soon I could hear the echoing “thunk, thunk” as rocks were dropped into our buckets. I relaxed and even enjoyed listening to the field trip of little children yelling in glee as they ran around in the mud with their brightly colored buckets. I managed not to laugh when two different people stopped to ask me questions because “you look like you know what you are doing.” and was pleasantly surprised when I actually knew the answers: My beloved ex-boss AE can now smile knowingly as I tell you that the educator in me was not far from the surface. There also being the geologists and naturalists that I know who take the time to share their academic work and knowledge with little ol’ me: Not to worry my dearest ones, your words have apparently sunk into my head.

About 1 ‘o’ clock I realized I was hungry and the predictable sausage croissant from breakfast was long gone. With the steady draw of people to the park I had expected to drive past a slew of fast food places but a Sonic was the only quick stop. We decided to skip the burger made of something questionable and picked out a local Mexican restaurant. I didn’t have high hopes but am very pleased to say that Telingas was pretty darn good! I recommend them to anyone eating outside of the park. But it is coming upon Winter and the park closes at 4 in the evening so we chose to go back to the Motel in Hope. The new room was squeaky clean and the heater worked without roaring in time with the mini fridge. To tell the truth I crashed to a nap once my head hit the pillow and dinner was The Waffle House because that was what was open late in the night. We also have a sentimental love for The WH because we courted at the one in Cary, NC while my dear future husband worked nights cleaning floors.  Allas the waitress at the  WH was just as good as their diabetic offerings but I at least plowed through my meal.

And Saturday!!!… I had a migraine. Blessedly on the weekend the Motel was very quiet, as their weekly worker-renters from Texas go home for the weekend. I can attest to both the hushed quiet of rural Arkansas and the ninja like qualities of the maids for this motel. Off and on I could hear the muffled “vroom” as they marched up and down the hallway with vacuumes, that blended with the hum of the heater in our room. My Beloved quietly sat and used the day to write on NANOWRIMO and to research for his work. I want to tell the care givers in this world that YOU are the true blessing in life and are God-given. The quiet waiting and selfless care is such a heartfelt blessing. Sure, my husband is a writer and scholarly but the patience to wait the day out with me was completely endearing. If he were the rock hound then he could have left me in the room to recover; I know how to lay quietly without moving, I probably would have insisted that he go, but I must admit that his voice every two or three hours was like a deep, warm salve in my muddled sleep.

By four ‘o’ clock my head was clearing enough to realize I hadn’t eaten all day or morning. As odd as it is, the best bet in Hope, as in Murfreesboro, was a Mexican restaurant. This one was called Dos Loco Gringos and I must admit I was worried about eating at a restaurant called Two Crazy White Guys that was further into the rural landscape of Arkansas than Murfreesboro. I was wrong. The food was excellent and the stream of locals quietly coming in for a Saturday dinner out was well rewarded. Our idea of a wild Saturday night was to go back to the hotel room and talk together with the History Channel playing in the background, which only proved that the men who dig on Oak Island still know nothing about archaeology. Around nine at night I quickly looked over at my husband and said “whats burning?” He did a fast check of the electrical in the room then realized that the redolent burning smell was coming down the hall. Now I do not panic about stuff like this very much but we could see the pall of smoke in the hall  and I had no desire to hear a fire alarm go off while I was in only my underwear. So… while my husband went to tell the front desk about the smoke I pulled on some jeans and a shirt feeling confident of an alarm somewhere going off, but NO.  The video game playing guy at the front desk apparently uttered words about rooms with smoking and showed no great concern. We do not know if this was just someone with the ubiquitous “seeds and stems” or smoking Russian cigarettes but a wet towel under the door solved our problems and I was able to relax again with the husband.

Sunday came far earlier than I would have liked but I decided to buckle up and put on the big girl panties and collect on my last day instead of going immediately home. The weather was sunny with just enough of a cool breeze to warrant starting off with a jacket. This time we went far to the right away from other people and managed to find plow lines that hadn’t been walked through since the last rain. I have dug in as well as gloried in dirt from Chicago, IL to Aurora, NC and from Virginia to Arkansas and never had the pleasure of feeling the dirt from Crater of Diamonds. Somehow the black, sticky mud was also sandy and really does have the most amazing feel: Just imagine an emory board made of silk and that is the feel of the mud. The agates have all been slowly worn and smoothed in this glorious elixir of mud and the closer an agate is to being translucent the more it also feels like silk has been pulled over the stone.  The agates that were found have some amazing swirled patterns and color spikes throughout them! While I have seen pictures of Lake Superior Agates/Lakers and Fairburn Agates I have never found my own; my agates from Lake Michigan rarely had the intense swirling. Crater of Diamonds has these agates all over: I did indeed do a happy dance in the hotel room and several times at the house. The basalt type volcanic rough is also interesting and on some of my larger pieces I am excited to see if they can be cut and polished.  This matt black rock is speckled all over with a pale green type of mineral and I have high hopes of an olivine.

Bellow is the fun chert from Lake Ann that I talked of last post.

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Good premonitions while driving out to Crater of Diamonds: Bright yellow light heralding in a mellow and calm gloaming. The slivered Moon and Evening Star were crisp and bright.BHJ5p%MARhqaQyHICwUYKwmj1gaoEVSkS8cul8DViGYwU59RkwBsQHihS1bIW+pUtw

While we drove out of Murfreesboro toward home the setting sun was an inspiration. The sky was a delicate, almost ephemeral apricot color that transformed around the edges into shades of tangerine and gilded sun light. At times bare whips of night-grey clouds floated in and through the burnished colors.

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And…. my rocks from the Crater!!!! Everything was relatively easy to find, in fact the hardest part was picking out the better pieces. They charge per person so multiple buckets are doable. Note: When spraying the rocks with water to show color better, try and not soak the pillow.  546xkryFRd+FkQMhkzQD0QU87mOoYSRx+mmUtHQfT8QAC8CAi7RBS1KUg2ItX6TSBwXl3NBn6LTieAkm+g4BIhXQYyQn7FURQ7GdNLF5FuVHZg

Right now we have the infra-red heater on in the living room and the house still smells of roasting lamb and coconut fruit cake. Sorcha has turned into a heater hog so we put that little marvel-of-modern-technology on some plastic crates so she can’t lean up against the screen. Last night we hung 5 out of 20 or so paintings and the house just seems to be more hospitable. Most of my shopping is already done for Christmas and all I have left is a few items for my brother in law. He is as thrifty as my sister and not a wasteful person so shopping for him is hard if I do not want to give shirts and ties every year. Contrary to what men say, men ARE hard to shop for: no make-up, soaps, and matching outfits to hunt for! (And yes this is written with some humor to it.)

From what my friends have said and from news snippets, Chicago is snowed in enough to have to wait for snow plows and the fellow that fender dented my car said Michigan just had 9 inches before Thanksgiving. Yep, got fender bended right before Thanksgiving but I must say AAA has come through so far with flying colors. As I delve into all the pictures and stories from friends and pen pals on Face Books I am reminded of the wonderful, weird, and artistic people that I know. I am truly blessed to even be acknowledged by so many of these artistic and magical people. Please, Gentle Readers, even if you do not shop local or Small Business would you please share the advertisements of local and small business that you believe in. We, the little people, need all the help we can get, besides the goodly bump for our ego. I am trying out the selling site Our Village, ourvillage.com, because ever sense Etsy changed their shipping policy I have gotten no hits at all on my shop page. Our Village was recommended to me by a dear friend, Rockshine, who, although we disagree on politics, is a veteran rock hound, NC mountain expert, and lovable darling who also does artistic photography. You can find my shops at bones-of-the-earth.com and at ourvillage.com (just click on ‘find a shop’). I also recommend TinkerWoman Wares for classic jewelry and artistic stationary. For Steampunk and gems and minerals comes:  Bits madhousemindworks out of Florida and she is super! If your loved one has everything then help them reinvent themselves, Terri March is talented and skilled and does not dress people like clones: terrimarch@wardrobewizard.

Now comes the next part of Red Angels Rise. In a spate of truthfulness I admit that part of this upcoming section is a tribute to literature majors and my english professors from college (most notably the ones who did NOT say that Sci Fi and Fantasy were not valid forms of writing.) And of course this is a nod to The Diarist Himself, Samuel Pepys. cont….

On this rainy night her socked feet were cozily propped on the low table in front of her with a cigar in one hand and an old book in another.  The strange, new, iron radiator made comfortable pinging noises instead of a crackling from the fireplace. Mariesha felt surely that the book she was reading was old simply because no one wanted to waste paper by reprinting it. Samuel Smythe was undoubtedly one of the most tedious and pedantic note takers to have ever kept a diary: If she did not have to read “and so the morning comes” one more time she could live a happy life. The reason that Samuel Smythe and his daily log of working as a surveyor had ever been brought to light was two-fold: that his personal attention to detail gave remarkable insight into early history and apparently his attention to detail included his physical exertions with a comely Mrs Smythe. What Mariesha needed was the five years he had spent surveying the Kummerian planes for the railroads. This was her third house that night and earlier she had been starting to despair of any information remarkably useful when she had run across a reference to Samuel Smythe‘s work as a surveyor. Library Five always had the best collection of biographies and journals.

     She turned the page carefully and took a small nibble off of the unlit cigar.  Tobacco always seemed the perfect snack. Mariesha found that cheap, heavy, cigars and cigarettes were perfect on the go, when a couple of bites and a quick satisfying flavor hit the spot but reading mentally exhausting books in over stuffed chairs in warm libraries called for carefully layered flavors and nuances to the cigar.

      Luckily for her he had not married Jemima Cantrell yet within the diary pages; the Inspector didn’t want the distraction as tempting as the newly Mrs Smythe’s dexterity was supposed to be. The lady in question was still the lovely yet single daughter of an engineering tycoon; a Naturalist set upon sketching the wildlife and habitat of the new frontier.  

     Mariesha flipped another page describing the look of the then Miss Cantrell’s dainty lips around her morning coffee cup and stopped. There it was: Just one line and a set of numbers at the end of a paragraph. She had found the first coordinates for the Kummerian Plains, possibly a clue to the present day massacre on the train.

     Two hours before sun rise and she had the front and back of a piece of paper covered in the smallest script she could manage.  The survey numbers were coupled with descriptions of the small hills, the streams crossed, and the quality of dirt moved. She also had a small list of possible archeological connections but feared that these would prove only interesting, not useful. She rubbed her eyes and made the last notation “only liquor”: There had been one exciting entry that spoke of a possible Whisperer sighting.  She well knew the fear those ghost like whisps could engender. Outside the city Mariesha wore a hat or scarf to hide her upswept ears and didn’t smile to show off her teeth; no need to add to the fears of what only went bump in the night. Compared to most any modern city, Cinerarium was rife with magic, with its tightly controlled runes and wracketting factories the city seemed steeped in eldritch power. Several train rails and coaches even circled around it for fear of the Whisperers that ate magic and lives the same.

    Luckily for Samuel and Jemima the whisperer had turned out to be green horn rail-workers fueled by home made alcohol.

****  **** ******

     Mariesha finished washing the night’s dirt from her hands and face and sat exhausted onto her bed.  It was tucked between two great brick and mortar pillars that rose to the darkened ceiling unstopped.  She knew that bed was a generous term but she had made it all herself and was rather proud of that fact.  Several wood pallets atop each other held a number of old mattresses and over sized pillows that were covered by a clean sheet and equally clean and patched quilts.  Long, thin, metal, boxes taken from a demolished railway vault were tucked under the pallets and held her socks and cotton or linen shirts. She would have rather liked to say they held her dainties but unlike Elsbeth she didn’t have small cotton cups held on by ribbons.  She hoped that eventually she would blossom but had to console herself that the rest of her was feminine enough.

     Skylar was rumbling and snorting his cute wolverine noises in his sleep on top his pile and Mariesha smiled hearing him and the city distantly around her.  Her precious mechanized alarm clock had been wound and set to ring in four hours. It sat above her next to a small cup of water, the ledge having been ground into the bricks by an unknown and long forgotten mechanism:  Morning would come soon enough.

To Be continued…

And so I end another post as the night grows long: Our dog Sorcha is curled on the couch almost between me and my husband, who is in his swivel chair by the fireplace. Our dinner was poor man’s food of sausage and spaghetti which reminds me that all good food is poor man’s; just like Low Country Shrimp and Grits or my mama’s Pinto Beans and Rice with Kale on the side.  May your coffee be strong, your tea be steaming, and your cocoa be dark and creamy. As the nights grow colder and darker with the coming sleep that is Winter let us pray to God and the Sophia for the guiding Light and protecting Shadow,

Be Well

 

 

 

Ozark Autumn and Lakeside Rambling

Greetings Gentle Readers,

As it does every year, this Autumnal Equinox came and went with out even a light pause.  The weather began to rain immediately and now, the 14th of October, we have already had our first frost if only for a night.  While I heartedly miss the shores of Lake Michigan and the never ending sands of the Atlantic beaches, the selective cacophony of the weather here in the Ozarks is both pleasing and energizing.  My town of Rogers, which melds seamlessly with Bentonville, is in a kind of depression or bowl in the Ozarks.  We are above and down slope of what are called the Boston Mountains which are above the Ouchita Mountains, the later not strictly considered a a part of the Ozarks. The clouds and the wind move down from Kansas and Missouri, across the Ozark Plateau with little stopping but somehow get confused when they reach our little place in the mountains. The rains here started the day after equinox and the thunder seems to roll and echo across all the asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks. A week or so ago lightening cracked through the night time storm clouds so sharply that I thought for sure a tree or power line must have been struck.  The rain falls for a day at a time and the stream like reservoirs criss crossing this cement hamlet become miniature white water rivers. The towns were originally built up with great gusto during the 80s boom time then folks noticed that all the soil and ground was sliding away or puddling up into stagnant pools. Benton County swallowed their pride, paid out the money, and promptly dug through the new neighborhoods, developments, and strip malls to put in cement reservoirs and run-off channels like they should have to begin with. I have found a strange joy in walking the giant culvert behind a local church and letting Sorcha splash her paws in the streams once the rains lets up.

My husband finally decided to order a velcro attaching screen for our back sliding door and we can now easily hear the crickets and frogs at night. It is a complete joy to sit quietly and feel the fresh cool air on your cheek or hear the early patter of rain drops. There is occasionally an unknown raptor cry across the manicured lawns and the howling yip from a neighbors’ puppy. This past Sunday I was well enough to go out to Lake Anne and walk about the path for a bit. There was a rock jutting out over the water and if it hadn’t been for fancy leggings I would have clambered onto it just to bask in the drowsy sun and touch the rock beneath me. Just getting out and feeling the Autumn warmth on my back, hearing the water falling down the edge, and even the pieces of grey and white chert found were a great balm to my heart and soul. (I had wanted to share the just lovely photos of the Lake Ann water fall and the very exciting color swirls of the chert but uploading photos is a no-can-do right now.)

For most of October, so far, I have been mentally absent due to migraines and fibromyalgia flares, so it is again with shocked delight that I share the beautifully warm weather today. A cool breeze coming off the mountains around us is wafting the warm sunshine through the shadows making the weather a pleasant 63 degrees.  It is also with a certain irony that while in Chicago 63 degrees was shorts weather in March but is sending people rushing for flannel jackets in October in Arkansas. During our Summer here in Arkansas 75 degrees was cold enough for the AC to be set at but today in October the windows are open with a warm 64 degrees. It is also quite the complex conundrum that a moon child like me enjoys the Autumn sun shine so much. When the sun slants downward through the trees with a yellow light, a color that can only be claimed by Autmn, there is such mellow warmth and casuall grace from the sun beams that I simply want to lie down and curl into an hour long nap.

I gave in to an impulse and ordered the cookbook The Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers: Unique Recipes and Stories from the Times of the Crypto-Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. I warn you now; do not read this if you are even kind of hungry. The stories with each recipe and the story of this woman’s journey for her ancestry are just plain wonderful.  One of the best parts is the regional specific dishes that exemplify not only a peoples but the history as well. Ms Milgrom’s enthusiasm is undeniable and her inherent understanding of passed down recipes is beautifully evident.

Just in time for Halloween and All Saints comes the next installment of Red Angel’s Rise. My writing talent is still growing (The No Name Writers Group can attest) so in order for me to practice creating a plot line, my husband put a “monkey wrench” in the story line and asked me write a part of the “mini adventure” by myself. The “monkey wrench” starts once we make our way to the police station but for now the investigation continues after the pause to talk to Billy ‘O’. With my love affair with books I was an instigator of the Library coming up. This part could perhaps be divided into two pieces but I felt it all warranted one piece. cont…

     The rain was a sullen drizzle as Mariesha worked her way down a fire gutter:  A combination of fire escape and rain gutter, unique to the City itself, created in an attempt to conserve resources, it seemed to gurgle words to her while fine spray from leaking holes hit against her face and hands.  At ground level there was a butchers roughly two blocks away that was always good for beef bones with meat still clinging. Given an Inspector’s salary she knew she could afford better fare but being a teifling meant that as long as she stayed away from too much cinders and dirt her diet was healthy.

      The warehouse district was next to the stockyards and many years in the past it had all been at the edge of Cinerarium.  Now they nestled within a middle ring of the City, like a smudged spot of one-story warehouses and open dirt yards. The livestock cars split off from the regular rails and traveled along special tracks to the pins and warehouses; the tracks, so engulfed by bridges, under passes, and towers that the locals called it the Cow Tunnel.

       Her scarlet cloak was drying on its steel hanger by the iron oven; warm, even heat coming from the bed of coals at the bottom.  Mariesha had a spare pair of dry socks on and was finishing feeding Skylar dinner. Skylar was her joy and baby, having saved him as an infant in the wilds of the Kummarian plains.  The problem with adopting a baby wolverine was that no one wanted to rent you a kip and no one wanted to help feed him. Mariesha bit part of the bone off for him and admitted that sweet baby’s breath had been right out from the start too.  

      For a kip to hang your hat in her space was pretty prime as far as she was concerned.  Most of the time the great cavernous warehouse was silent below her, hiding its original purpose in darkened corners and with forgotten cogs.  The wall separating her abode from the warehouse below went up three quarters of the way to the ceiling, offering her the same air circulation as the rest of the warehouse, which at times was warm and slightly cloying and at others requiring her to break the ice on her wash bowl.  There was of course a bathing tub, one of those huge white beauties with claw feet probably removed from a house right after the mourning curtains had been taken down, but a wash bowl was all she had time for during certain cases.

     She wanted to take Skylar with her that night, as she had when he was still a pup but running the rooftops with a full grown wolverine tucked in your jacket was asking to become one with the pavement.  Plus as Mariesha saw it you can buck the system and wear pants in a drawing room but there were some things you didn’t push: Certain rooms could accommodate a girl, her wolverine, and his bone but several she planned to visit that evening just weren’t made to accommodate her and her Skylar.  She buttoned up a canvas jacket and unlocked the door to the warehouse, stale yet slightly chill air came up to meet her. Skylar rubbed up against her several times and against the door then trotted down into the gloomy crates below. He was already putting in a thick coat and that made Mariesha nervous for the coming winter.  Outside she tied a red rag to the main warehouse doors, the signal to any workers that Skylar was ratting and hunting on the main floor, and headed out into the dark.

    All in all an education in Cinerarrium was for the idle and wealthy, a reason that Mareisha was glad her tutor had kept her under his wing after her parents’ sudden death.  She could understand math and geometry, puzzle out a few ancient languages, and play chess and backgammon but most precious was reading the common word. Reading the common tongue opened up one of the strangest glories of the City:  The Great Library of Cinerarium and all her smaller branches. In a building far older and almost as large as the homes of the greatest undead families of the City, the Great Library had archives untouched for centuries and hallways that stayed silent and untrameled for decades.  

     In her first years of scratching between jobs and searching below in the tunnels, she had slowly earned the trust to move from the common room of the Great Library, populated by day laborers and the homeless, up to the Outer Stacks and then toward the Inner Stacks.  Any book that left the library meant that you have had your thumb pricked and then pressed into a glyph on the inside cover. Mariesha had seen the poor burks who were dumb enough to have an overdue book. They wore a dull grey bracelet that radiated arcane magics and were to a man and woman a sullen lot shelving books and magazines silently and ceaselessly until the fine was paid off.  Once allowed into the Inner Stacks she realized that the chances of anyone checking out the book she wanted was almost nil and therefore her need for checking out books had also become almost nil. All she had to do was read as much as she could in her spare time: The great library closed between Midnight and four in the morning.  

     It had been many years ago and three thirty in the morning when the hairs on the back of her neck had stood up and Mariesha had cracked open an eye with a sinking feeling in her stomach.  A dim blue glow had lit the tucked away desk and the three large books with tight scrawl opened around her, luckily the small pool of saliva had soaked into her sleeve. The blue light also lit up the librarian holding it.  The librarian was tall and thin and wearing a strict grey dress. With the glossy mound of white hair piled onto her head she could have been a vision of severe beauty but Mariesha noted that her face was just slightly too drawn and her eyes were far larger and darker than they should be.  The librarian’s hands were soft and long with a uniquely perfect manicure and pointed fingernails; she was holding a piece of paper and a piece of smooth, carved bone on a leather thong. Witty words escaped the teifling as visions of grey bracelets danced before her eyes all for falling asleep in the Inner Stacks.  For his part, Skylar had awoken and moved in front of Mariesha’s chair.

     “Take this,” said the librarian in modulated and hushed tones, holding out the bone pendant and paper.  “It is yours now. Go to this address tomorrow night between after the gloaming and midnight. You will be expected.”

     Mariesha had dazedly taken both proffered objects and remembered to close her mouth.

     “Do you hear me, child?”  There had been a slightly arched tone to the voice.

     “Yes, ma’m.”  Answered Mariesha quickly.  Skylar had yawned.

     “You may let yourself out after shelving the books you have pulled,” had been the librarian’s reply and then she had turned smoothly, walking in a too much of a gliding sort of way with only a slight scraping from her shoes.

     The nighttime stars had been well upon their path when after a day of watching and scrutinizing the corner home of Tomas Raclete, Mariesha had boldly gone up the front steps and knocked on the door.  Her face and hands had been scrubbed, hair combed back, and boots cleaned to as good a shine as they could take. In her normal times she would have gone by the servant’s entrance to do business but for this night Mariesha Greywaves had been determined to enter through the front door.

     The butler had answered her knock and before she could have said her well rehearsed speech he had ushered her inside, “Welcome.  I was told to expect you. Won’t you follow me and I will tell the Master you are here.”

      A part of her had been wondering if she could get to her knives fast enough but she had followed the butler past doorways and hallways and finally into a large shadowed room with stuffed chairs and ceiling tall shelves.

    “Enjoy yourself.  Master will be here shortly.”

     Mariesha’s face had been screwed up in confusion, worry, and awe, “Enjoy doing what?”

     “Reading, I should think,” replied the butler with a straight face, closing the door behind him.

     Three weeks then went bye and she had read treaties on plant life around The Maw, poetry, histories, and the diaries of explorers in the remains of the Underdark.  Then Raclete had appeared one evening and had given her a second address to go to, a second library. Two months later there was a third address given to her.  

      She now had seven houses to use from the mysterious Floating Library not needing to be identified by the bone pass nor did Mariesha see much use for the front door anymore.  She now knew these great old houses; their stone walls, and their gable windows. She knew where the courtyards lay and how the lattice-works hung. And best of all she knew the over upholstered chairs, tall shelves, and carefully selected books.

to be cont….

As Winter comes along, ushered in by Halloween and Dio de los Muertos, I pray that you all are safe in your revelry and safe in your devotion. May the Veil treat you gently and God warm you from the chill,

Be Well

 

Moving Right Along…

Dear Gentle  Readers,

Today is the day we start moving, the packers arrived at 9:15 and are already rolling!! Every move before, I have packed the boxes and this is such a pleasure to have real pros do it for me.  We were given 19 days to find a place to live in Bentonville, Arkansas and to pack our house: my exact thoughts on that are not polite enough to put in writing. Layer after layer of memories being wrapped and boxed is like a reverse time capsule. Luckily the young men are really polite and respectful. I will right now without a doubt tout Guardian Movers: Atlas Van Lines.  As we have a heat wave index rolling through there is still not enough coffee in the world to keep me awake. And All Blessings to Hawthorn Veterinary for giving us a prescription for Prozac for Sorcha, she is still slightly nervous but her paw nibbling has stopped: love my pup dearly but when she comes for an ear scratch and you also get a hand full of slobber-paws… well it is special.

Last year we had the orb weaver Big Momma at our front door and this year she and Wicked Sister are absent. I guess they knew we were moving.  The wet season, as I am calling it, ended right on Summer Solstice and now we are baking here in the Midwest. The areas that flooded are still swampy with water so humidity is amping up to the “Dang it. This is N’Orleans hot!”  The night is finally beginning it’s chorus of frogs while slowly building up the cries of a far off owl and the local kestrel. While we were in Bentonville they had a freak weather system move through with rain and storms (Do they follow me??!) so I am hoping to get in the groove soon with the weather and temperatures there.  Baby frogs are now hopping about Edwardsville and keeping Sorcha’s mouth off of them is a priority.  Last time she caught one I thought “Dang! Well, what is a small raw frog to an eating machine like our “Psycho Potato”. Three days of diarrhea later I found out. The community college campus we walk her on at night is home to a successful catering company and I hope the smells from the tires and a few dropped nibbles here and there are a good compensation for a lack of frogs.  Frankly I will miss the Edwardsville area but not St Louis. As a fond and strangely sentimental goodby to E-ville here are some of the better-moments-pictures: Spring time wild violets at our shed, Sorcha in the violets, the White House where Sorcha liked to romp, a rather peculiar tree on the L&C campus, the L&C courtyard with fountain, cool wild mushrooms in yard, three pictures of the AWESOME library, the Autumn light through the tree in front yard, two pictures of delightful idiosyncrasies, backyard snow and COLD, two pictures from part of an Art Extravaganza on the Library lawn, the Lewis & Clark campus on a perfect night, stray flowering weed along Nickel Plate trail, two pictures of the ‘Goat Head’ tree, the amazing doors to Cahokia Mounds Museum, a Spring rain that drenched us for days.

I know that my posts are often cheerful and poetic but recently I had a very upsetting event. Due to migraines and the move I was unable to make the once a year Rock Hound RoundUp.  I had written two very large paragraphs expressing my anger and grief over missing out on all the rocks and seeing some of the people I love best. I was truly devastated and enumerated lots of anger and paranoid fears. Y’all I even baked over 6 cakes and breads to take! (So far the bundt style Coconut with Mocha glaze and even the GF Eggnog Butterscotch with Rum have been absolute hits at the husbands office.) Then my computer glitched and days worth of contemplation and catharsis went down the drain and into the electronic grave yard. I took this as a sign. With hindsight we can all thank whatever happened to my old computer.

So weeks have passed and I can openly sing the praises of Benton County Arkansas and the Ozarks! While we have been hit with high temperatures because of Summer, the weather is normally calm and cozy.  When there is a rain storm it does Thor proud! I stood in the back yard facing the wind and could feel the gusts and lightening coming down the mountains; the rain was driven so hard the first drops stung my face. At night out little neighborhood is nearly pitch dark even with lamp lights and normally quiet like a stayed and fearless darkness:  The evening that the cicadas and crickets came out was like a continually reverberating wave of noise filling the early night.

Our small town of Rogers is blended into Bentonville and together they have put together an open air amphitheater and a water park along with Gabriella’s Panaderia and a farmers market.  The food choices are everywhere and comes in second to Chicago, except that there is almost no decent Tex-mex and Mediterranean is piddliin’. The college town of Fayeteville is half an hour away and in reality is ‘just down the road’. Lake Ann has fossils off of a major highway and THE crystals of Arkansas are 2-4 hours away. Two mentors and beloved friends are in Branson, Mo and my brother-in-law’s family is two hours away in Joplin. Our neighborhood is filled with SUVs with camping bumper stickers and real mud on the tires.  Every garage seems to be filled with work shops and yard salvage is a rule of thumb. My tortured house plants are finally thriving on the front porch, our dog has discovered indoor cricket hunting, and there is even a mud dauber by the front door.

And now for another installment of Red Angel’s Rise where there is a break in the tension and a new inhabitant of the city is introduced: cont..  *****

It may have been clear that morning but steely clouds had been moving in all evening and the air was now heavy and still.  As tired as she was, Mariesha needed the time it would take to get home to clear her head of the worries of the day. The great simplicity and complexity of Cinerarium was that there was more than one street and thorough-fair travelled; Mariesha swung herself onto the outside of a fire escape, climbing agilely to the rooftop. The rain started with the heavy drops of a squall, the shingles and tar-papers of the roof lines turning dark with rain, lit grey by the setting sun. Orienting herself to several of the spires and towers of the City, the young Inspector began to run across the building tops. She threaded her way in a city block of industry through a forest of chimneys; some of faded brick and some of pitted metal, and leaped across the half walls of separated tenement rooms until the warehouse district came on the horizon.

The rain was finer now but in driving gusts, when she came to a hutch of old barrels and waxed canvas.  Doves cooed, nestled in weathered grey crates and cinder blocks, safe from the storm and chill drops.

“Billy-O, you home, old man?”  Called out Mariesha.

“That you, child… Inspector?”  Answered a gruff voice from within.

“Aye.”

“Then you come in out of this rain, eh.  Pour you a spot of tea.”

“Fair enough,” replied Mariesha as a flap of canvass was pulled aside for her.  Inside was a gnarled old man with wisps of patchy grey hair and a seven-day beard of white.  He was sitting on an old cot piled with patched and brown blankets, beside him a spirit lamp was barely lit with a dented teapot still steaming on top.  Bill-O brushed off a sturdy crate for her and she sat down arranging her dripping scarlet cloak around her to dry.

“Here you go, lass, drink sumpthin’ to keep you warm,” his hands shook as he poured tea into two tin cans.  Mareisha stretched her legs out across the tarpaper and listened to the rain hit the canvass above her.

“So how goes the pigeon brood, Mr Billy-O?”

“Maevis Lavendar is re-feathering her nest… lots of paper bits.”

The young Inspector sipped the hot tea, “Another clutch then?”

 “O’ aye, I ‘spect so.  Pa’ticular she is. Not like Ms. Opal, she‘ll pick jist about anything fer nesting.”

 “And Ricky-Roo?”

 “Sold him, I did.  Fer a pretty penny too,” Billy-O chuckled into his cup, “He’ped me feather ma’ oown nest he did. 

Knee ‘as been ticken’ on me a bit.”

 “But the weather is still holding out for you?” asked Mariesha, remembering how the seasonal storms could grow chill and wet: Cinerarium standing alone in stone and steel to catch the raw winds from the plains. 

“Good enough fer me but as I kin smell sulfa’ and ash in ta’ air.  North East it is.”

“The brood not cotton’en to it?”  Mariesha showed actual concern over this, giving the old man’s sense of smell some credit over the normal smoke and cinders.

“Not a bit ‘o it.” Billy-O shook his head. “But I do ma’ best to comf’it them.”

Mariesha nodded, silently assuring him that she surely thought he did.  They talked until her can was empty of tea: speaking of rheumatism, prevailing breezes, the quality of bread crusts, and the movement of the stars.  

Finally Mariesha’s boot soles were dry and the scarlet cloak had shed most of its water and the old man stretched out his arms yawning, “Well now, I ‘spect a hard worken’ Inspector sich as you has better things to do than talkin’ to an old man lack myself.”

Mariesha set the can down, “Not really, not for you Mr. Billy-O but I do have some books to search through. And Skylar needs dinner.”

“Oh, aye, ye’r bundle o’ joy,” the old man chuckled.

“Aye,” Mariesha agreed.  “Look after yourself old man.  I’ll be back this way soon enough.”

 “Same yerself lassy.  Ol’ Billy-O will be here.”   cont…. *****

 

Gentle readers, as I am still wading through boxes and books, fabric, and of course rocks I send you all my love and thank all who peruse my musings and my story.  May God hold you in the palm of his hand and the Sophia shower you with love,

Be Well

Mulberries, Solstice, and Tir Na Sorcha

Gentle Readers,

Yesterday was Summer Solstice and like some sweaty magic fairy has waved a wand the temperatures have switched to the 90s with 80% humidity.  Weeks ago while it was still in the cool 50s at night we were walking our little blond terror at night.  It was past midnight and the neighborhood was still and quiet with bright star light above when we heard a tell tale yipping a few blocks away. Now, I have heard coyotes while in NC because we lived across from a 24 hour WallMart and they hunted the critters that lived around the dumpsters and am familiar with the barks they make; this was the classic “bark, bark, aaarooooo!!!” and it was answered from around us with quick “yips”. I look at my big burly husband who has our blond death machine on a leash and we start walking for home faster.  Closer to home the coyotes had stopped and we could smell a faint but redolent scent of the white striped pole cat; somewhere a local coyote learned the hard way the difference between a cat and a skunk.

Edwardsville replaced it’s old train tracks with biking/walking trails and the town is criss crossed by them. Normally they are pleasant paths to walk with the hubby and talk out the weeks’ stresses but once in a while they show a peek into something special. Only a few nights ago the darkness whispered as though Spring were saying a final good by:  A fickle breeze gave relief from that mornings rain shower while the sky was graphite and slate from the clouds obscuring the stars. As we walked along part of of a trail and Sorcha sniffed along weeds with us the dark, ragged woods was back lit by the night sky showing the lightless, black fingers of vines and saplings; then right in the middle of the tableau a firefly lights up and is joined by another and they blinked off and on among the trees like small fallen stars.  When we finally turned around to go home the clouds had cleared and the stars were back in the sky.

Now that the sun is light until near the start of Deep Night my Beloved believes in reducing the office stress by taking me for walks on the unlit bike paths soon after he comes home.  This particular day had just enough cloud coverage and just enough wind to beat back the humidity. We talked about our dog, my sister’s trip to China, and the vagaries of his job.  Just five days before Summer Solstice, the sides of the trail are thick and growing, hiding even the nearby road and the drainage culvert. We have walked this part of Nickel Plate for over a year but suddenly we were in an entire tunnel of verdant green:  The evening sun made the leaves look like a hundred shades of green stained glass and filled the path with a subtle glow: The scent at the exact moment was rich with honeysuckle, small wild roses, and green vines mixing with the air and humidity of the path to create an almost touchable yet subtle smell. Ten more steps later and everything was back to an evening walk with the husband.

Our dog was rescued north of Gary Indiana from a puppy mill (as a breeder) and has lived most of her life in Chicago.  She has finally discovered the wonders of mulberry trees but as she would say: The wonderful, glorious, sidewalk ambrosia that just happens to be everywhere I want to be.  Anyone who has met Sorcha knows that there is not a food she has yet to dislike but windfall mulberries are just plain ‘something’ else’. This dogs is earning the nick name Hoover! We even worried enough to double check that dogs can eat mulberries. She is also eating more than one kind of grass now and some low hanging shrubs but the mulberries take it away for an obsession. She is still our romping, shedding, eating, loving, squirrel chasing fur baby so apparently grasses and wind fall mulberry fruit are good to be on her menu.

I simply must share a personal triumph with you, Gentle Readers.  With the encouragement of my house guest/mate I decided to do something for the Summer Solstice. I have small prayers and devotions for most of the four quarters but Summer has eluded me for years and this year I quite frankly was fairly uninspired.  Talking with her I had said that I normally liked to bake… so I tried last night. The first attempt at bread didn’t rise even the width of a sheet of paper.  “Oh. It won’t rise in a metal bowl” says our housemate S. Sooooo, second time around I put it in a glass bowl. And the beer bread rose like a cloud!  I had added a little caraway and some cardamum to the dough so after a close fit onto my baking stone, the dark brown loaf came out moist and tasty!!  Right around midnight I broke off pieces for us and while we blew on it to cool it down I said a small prayer to God.  Not the height of bon fires, festive flowers, and whiskey in the moonlight but wonderfully satisfying for both the soul and ego.  A bonus is the hope that my bread baking slump has ended.

I rarely stump for specific brands but due to the above bread story and my continual love affair with coffee, I am.  Up first is a salute to Alton Brown and the science behind food and baking (aka bread won’t rise in a mettle bowl), all of which I would have been blissfully unaware of without dear S telling me.  Second on my list of glorious kitchen finds is the Bones Coffee Company.  Out and about the town I drink plain black coffee but many times while I am ensconced in my nautilus shell of home I enjoy flavored coffee. Trust me when I say I have tried LOTS of brands and an amazing amount of flavors from Kahlua to Moon Pie. Hands down the best company for consistent and varied flavors at a reasonable price is Bones Coffee, plus the art is rite nifty.  If you want to throw down the big bucks then Harry and David’s ain’t half bad either.

When we adopted Sorcha we were warned that she would always be an “unaffectionate and aloof couch potato” which didn’t faze me because Moshi our first beloved pup was a ‘pretty-pretty Princes’ and would sit in her crate and seemingly view her peasants with casual pleasure. Well, three months in and Sorcha started to become an affection lush who adores Ian even though we were warned she didn’t always like men; two years in and she runs zoomies across the carpet, thinks belly rubs are necessary every day, and expects walks outside to be a pack outing with all three off us together. She now walks happily down sidewalks and over lawns sniffing other dogs’ ‘post it notes’ instead of being hyper vigilent for any possible creature to cross our path. Even though she will pass by some dogs if they are across the street and leashed, our pup still earns the nick name Psycho Potato because she is dog aggressive and has a strong prey-chase drive.  We ALWAYS walk her with a full harness and are ready to turn her around or cross the street when there are other people walking their dogs. Thus comes my complaint: For the Love of God, people, keep your own hyper aggressive fuzzy-snookums on a leash!!!  I do not care if you are standing on your porch and fuzzy-snookums never leaves the yard; you have no control on your beast and no it will not stay in your yard.  Legally it may be your fault but I still do not want to have to wash your dogs’ blood off of mine.  My other complaint is putting your indoor cat out for a nightly potty: WallMart sells cat litter for a reason! Having my dog go berserk at the end of her leash barking and whining because she both wants to play and eat your purring fluff ball (while my husband does his level best to calm her down and get her away from your pet) is NOT the time to open your door and put the second fluff ball outside!! The other problem is not just the fact that my dog is now hyped up like a five year old after Halloween; this neighborhood has a cell tower that hosts a huge cast of red tailed hawks and there is also a pack of coyotes traveling throughout not to mention the local skunk family that had a large litter this Spring.  Your tame-tabby, aka fluff ball, is a snack or a target around here and it is not like this happened overnight.

***Uploaded here are two terribly adorable pictures of our pupper Sorcha: 1) Her asleep on her blue cushion after gnawing on her chew bone and 2) Her back lit in our foyer looking very much like the Tir Na Sorcha she was named for. ****Use your imagination ’cause the pictures won’t take and my patience is thin at this point.

As an update to our ‘savage’ fur baby: Since beloved S returned safe and sound to Chicago, Sorcha has been sleeping and scouting out by her door for two days.  She is just now stopping her mopping and depression over part of our pack leaving.

And now the continuation of Red Angel’s Rise where we can find a small clue to our murder mystery.  As you may have noticed, Mareisha uses a cobbled together Victorian and Steam Punk Slang which Ian has encouraged me to do.  We have at least four documents and booklets for me to research from.  I was also encouraged to add to the City of Cinnerarium and soon we will see more of the flavor and life of this strange city.

…cont…****

Another hour passed as Mariesha went again through the final motions of looking over the station once more:  There was nothing but the scant remains of the gnome and the victims in the lavatories; piles of blood and gore torn to pieces. There was nothing missing, which was odd. When something rips folks apart it is almost always for food, spare parts, or things best left unmentioned. Regardless of the why, there were normally body parts spattered about, but not here.

Taim had promised the report on his scrying would be sent to her office by the next dawn, and Juskoh promised similar with the mundane information. Standing next to the carriage, Mariesha smirked a little. It was still weird to have all these people helping her and promising to come to her with information, without any bribes even.

“I have the information on the stations and the train route itself, though the passenger manifests are still en route.” Elsbeth said as she strode from the station and back into the morning sun. “However I have found two things already from scanning the station records.”

“Well you wouldn’t be grinning like that if you didn’t have something.”

Elsbeth made a little bow. “My lady knows me all too well.”

“Well stop grinning and spill it!”

“This station and all the others attacked were designed by the same architect.”

“Why the Hells has nobody caught sight of this little bit before?”

“Because the official architect was a nobleman, a Duke Cian DeBrae.  The thing is DeBrae didn’t really design it, it was all done by a junior architect named Finneous Stone.  The notes on the original blueprints are all in Stone’s hand, even though he tried to disguise it as DeBrae’s.  Once we’re in the carriage I’ll show you in more detail, mam.”

Mariehsa smiled. “Glad you got an eye for detail.”

Elsbeth groaned as she followed Mariesha into the carriage. 

Inside the carriage Mariesha slid a rolling cover from a window in the roof to let the sunshine light up the inside as Elsbeth sat in her chair and pulled out a small drafting table that unfolded in front of the two of them. The chairs were rounded and comfortably upholstered, the greatest part being the swiveling pivot joint that each sat on so the chairs could turn and swing.  It had taken Mariesha three tinkerers and a blacksmith to get the chairs made correctly and to have a pivot-stopper put on so the ladies were not spun uncontrollably through the streets when the carriage was moving.

“So let’s have a peek at these prints then.” Mareisha had her back to Elsbeth and was clamping a kettle down on the small stove to start tea.

“Already up,” stated Elsbeth while she pulled out her notes and the carriage began to move to investigate the next station.

The blueprints and plans for the four stations began to take shape and form.  Something felt off and sinister to Mariesha. The stations themselves were lovely works of art as well as excellently designed buildings.  It was the support structures and underpinnings that caught her attention.

“Scan this, Els’,” said Mariesha. “While all four buildings are different, the support structures are identical, even if they aren’t all needed on these two stations. There are three ‘layers’ of a pattern forming.”

“Yes… I see it now: The supports, the materials, and then the stained glass. But are you sure about the superfluous nature of the supports, ma’am?”

“Been scraping my skinny ass on the undersides of buildings enough in my life to know something strange when I see it. We can ask an engineer to make sure too.”

“I’ll make note of that. There is sure to be one on staff.”

“For now we need to check with all the connies at the other stations, get their reports, recheck eye-witnesses, and wait to hear back from further down the lines.”

The long shadows began to cool the cobbled pavement and gaslights began to flicker to life in the darker corners of Cinerarium when the reports from the outlying stations eventually arrived: The trains had all departed their last stations with all their passengers and had been intact at the final water stop before the capitol city. What ever happened did so between the last water stops and the invisible line of the city proper.  Outriders had been sent to investigate along the tracks, each one returning to tell Mariesha the same story: Not a thing out of place; no blood, no spilled coal, not a hat or glove in the dirt or even a wrongly bent blade of grass.

 Mariesha sat on the water tank attached to the back of the coach, her elbows resting on her knee, just watching the sun make a russet and lavendar light over the edges of the buildings.  She pulled the scarlet cloak about her for warmth and turned to Elsbeth who stood beside her in quiet contemplation, waiting.

  “Well, Els, someone is kicking this Cage around.”

“A well thought out and dastardly plot, I would say.”

 “Giltine bless the poor bastard who has to tell all those berks their family and kin may have been turned into blood thirsty spirits.”

Elsbeth kept a stern yet blank face, “One can develop a stiff upper lip.”

Mariesha felt her heart ache for Elsbeth yet fill with admiration for her friend as well, “Yea, a cutter sure can.”  Mariesha stood up and stretched. “I have places to go tonight, research and such. Jonas will be waiting for you. Take the carriage home, Elsbeth, and I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Take care of yourself, Mariesha.”

“Aye, I’ll keep my brain-box on my shoulders.  Give my love to your brother.”

Elsbeth climbed inside the carriage and leaned out the door window, “Good night, I will.” And then the carriage was rolling down the street with its bobbing lights at the corners and the clip clop of the horse’s hooves ringing around the abandoned train terminal.**** contd*****

Summer is now here and temperatures are rising along with the humidity: I know the Carolinas are cooking and I am also hoping that Iowa and Missouri dry out soon before mosquitoes cary folks off. The famous Chain of Rocks and camping at the Confluence of the Missouri-Mississippi are still under water and I can only thank God that I collected some rocks when we first arrived here. Naturalists are exploring, studying, and collecting as the wonders of Mother Nature explode for the season. Some of my friends are collecting all the way from Rucks Pit to NAEM and one lucky rock hound/jewelry artist is sending out divinely tempting pictures from Australia.  My beloved Pat is driving on her Summer tour of the South East and the mountains, keeping us up to date on her adventures and sharing pictures of her adorable pupper Gypsy. Darlin’ KAP is rolling out finally crafted wood and stone at almost every Summer gathering; other excelent rock hounds are doing all the ‘mud and blood’ it takes to get the perfect pieces to take home. My Love to You All and may your soul and spirit embrace the wilds of the Earth and the wilds of Man,

Be Well.

 

 

May Ends, June Begins and the Mishigami

Dearest Gentle Readers,

Today is the last day of May and soon our official Summer will start for the Northern hemisphere.  In the past days at home in Edwardsville the daytime sky has had an evenly clouded dome from morning zenith to high noon:  The sun shining as though every beam of light is coming through a frosted pane of glass.  And when night comes upon us all, the distant sky and the very air weaving through the trees looks to be as one.  Only once when the midnight tolled with frogs and crickets did a few stars appear against the dark grey night, breaking the illusion of a snowless globe.

I am writing to you tonight from outside Chicago in Waukegan and it is amazing how the wind off of a glacier-fed lake can lower the ambiant temperature.  There was strong nostalgia as we walked through our old neighborhood and saw all the aging ornate cornices of buildings, the blooming Spring flowers planted in every patch of ground, and could smell the cooking coming from all the local restaurants. We went to an indie comic book expo and it was an absolute joy to see all the colorful and creative people shining bright as they talked up their books and art.  We met up with our friend M and finally met his girlfriend R, so I have proof positive, gentlemen, that the good guy can get the girl and she can be vivacious and lovely too.  The cold Spring rain kept up just enough to dampen the sidewalks and bring up the scent of wet bricks on the breeze. The Mai Fest in Lincoln Square was a milling riot of people from all walks of life and the occasional lederhosen.  It resembled one of those cozy block parties that has suddenly exploded into white tents and hundreds of people with knockwurst and sauerkraut and a few extra dirndl thrown in. Our beloved friends P&T go every year; sharing this with them was special beyond words. Their dog BB is still the loving and perfect puppy who was adorable in her rainbow bow tie, even remembering us enough to bring her new tug toy to us to play with her.

This morning was ideal, soothing warm sunshine with that cool breeze that only comes from Lake Michigan.  Waukegan has a Howard Johnsons which I can not recommend enough: Clean, quiet, and comfortable with a cafe next door worthy of the nostalgia of an original HoJo’s dinner. What joy it was to see that intoxicating swirl of American people around us in the dinner; Greek, Slavic, Oaxacan native, Latino, Polish, Puerto Rican, Russian, and so many more amiable blends that I felt a part of the true melting pot that is this country.  We were only ten minutes away from ‘my’ Illinois Beach State Park so we made a detour for beach rocks. Yes, Gentle Readers, let me eat crow and admit that this is where the rock hound in me delights. I often lament the lack of crystals and rocks in the state of Illinois yet, while this is true in my estimation, the beach never disappoints.  High tide was just starting to slip away from the shore back into the dark peacock green depths of the Mishigami (the not so creative North American Native word for ‘big lake’). Families were just starting to migrate to the rocky sand and picnic tables wearing thin jackets for the children and the quintessential scarf for babushka’s. The morning sun had already beamed down onto the chunks and boulders of dolomite and the two foot wide band of beach stones was warm under the touch.  I could simply not revel enough in the sound of the continuously crashing waves mixing with the seagulls over the water and the song birds in the high grass.  The flood waters in southern Illinois are of course coming from this area and points higher so the flat wet lands surrounding the beach were lush: A myriad of Spring green colors like a vast even prairie covered stretches of land by the shore with only a few young cattails and reeds to disturb the undulating beauty.  It was with a slight squint and imagination that I could see how early Chicago had looked when the Illini and the Mississippi Rivers were the greatest ‘highways’, before it became a concrete City of Commerce and Blues Music. ( The few pictures we took did not do justice to the great expanse of Lake and blue sky so you get a few picks of me and the dolomitic boulders. And, yep, rather very blue Vibrams.) (And another ‘yep’: that is indeed a cotton sweater because this is Chicago with a lake breeze that is still having a nip to it.) Honest to goodness folks, despite the grey and greyer appearance of the beach rocks in the pictures there are actually reds, tans, greens, and yellows on the beach.

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Back home safe and sound the day is pleasantly overcast with the crows, mocking birds, and robins vying for attention and nest building. The oppressive humidity of last week has succumbed to cooler temperatures and once again we have the windows open and the feel of wind through the house.  Just 5-8 more feet and Highway 270 will be closed going into St Louis, as we are down to three bridges and the historic Cahokia is isolated by overflowing water.  I went to visit the famous archeological Mound Builders plus the Museum there a few weeks ago and this East facing valley must have surely been a devoted place to the sacred Seasons as well as part of a hub of transit and commerce when canoes were the mode of transportation. Once the water along the public cliff sides near Cahokia goes down fossils and knaping artifacts should be plentiful. While the museum could be considered quaint compared to the Field Museum and even my beloved NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the staff at the Cahokia Mounds were knowlaegeable and enthusiastic while the exhibit space was also excellent.

So many people that I know in person or as pen palls on Face Book have already started vending at fairs, festivals, and gatherings: They create, pack up, drive, vend, pack back up, and prepare to go again.  And if they are on-line they are making and creating at a rapid pace to replenish stock from the buying spree that is Valentines through Father’s Day and to make into reality new ideas before Autumn arrives. I congratulate All of you for keeping alive the American dream; send you my Love for continuing your dreams. I will continue to try following beside you all with my own hopes. Soon I want to share another ‘step’ of mine with you although perhaps step is not the right word for it.  Since I have been using rivers and streams in the above blog, please allow me the analogy of a new found stream winding it’s way into my river of personal growth; it is not so much a new path as a new tributary to explore and encourage.  During and after every fibro flair and migraine, as per the encouragement from my excellent therapist, husband, and close friends, I must remind myself that I am not back sliding or committing some great personal travesty for halting work but am waiting for the pain to recede enough to think and continue onward. I have a list of friends the length of my arm I would like to commend for keeping Life at their terms despite depression and or chronic pain but to name a few are Gaily, Pat, Bob J, Sam L, Romilly, and Kay:  Keep at it! And remember: We may not always soar with eagles but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.

Now for the next installment of the intrepid Inspector Greywaves in Red Angels’ Rise where she gains insight on the massacre from an unusual source and readers can glean important aspects of Cinerarium itself. This part I took completely on my own and as Ian didn’t really change much about it and even approved of the idea, I am proud of adding more mysterious insight into my character and furthering the mystery itself.               ****** cont’d…

There was not much left to do at the train station but the Inspector wanted one more chance to view the crime scene. The building was eerily silent in the dusty morning light once the last body was removed and the last witness questioned.  For just a moment Mariesha listened to the silence and waited for it to speak. Nothing. There was no telltale whisper of air through a vent fan or faint groaning of bricks grinding under their own weight. Then a rat scurried across the floor.  It was skinny and black, running across the blood spattered tiles and back through an iron grate. She could barely hear it skittering through the drain. Mareisha smiled in the grim irony, their only witness that may have seen something inside just disappeared down the sewers.  

“Not of the ground then of the air, perhaps,” whispered Mareisha to herself as she walked back through the heavy front doors.

Elsbeth went to stand by Mariesha, “Do we go to the next station now, Inspector Greywaves?”

“Not yet,” she answered looking toward the heavily gabled roof and the assorted murders of crows sitting across the tiles and ridgeline.  “I have some feathered friends to talk to first.”

Elsbeth smiled and gave a little demure hop, “Excellent, ma’am, I do rather enjoy watching this part.”

While not the second story artist that she wished she could be, the young Inspector had slithered, climbed, and repelled her way through enough shambling ruins to make the wall of the train station akin to going up stairs.   She crouched upon the roof-gable and called out to the crows, their wings shining stark black back to her. This was not a natural gift of hers like seeing in the dark or her double rows of canine teeth, which she thought were rather attractive; this was a gift from Murder, her animate chain, a gift from her teacher.  While not alive Murder still seemed to murmur and purr against her as she walked toward the crows. A raucous cawing erupted, a brief flight of feathers whirled about and then it quieted, the assembled murders having made a space for her to sit and ask her questions among them.

The teifling hunched down on her heels and wrapped the cloak around her, scarlet like a drop of fresh blood in a field of night black iridescence.

“Greetings.”

“Greetings.”

“Speak.”

“It is 10 minutes and 13 seconds until highest sun.”

“Greetings.”

“10 minutes 11 seconds until highest sun.”

“10 and 10.”

Crow voices called out to her from across the roof.  As a whole they are a time conscious bird, even navigating by the exact second in an exact direction.

“We spoke 13 days 4 hours 15 minutes ago,” said one crow fluttering its wings and moving its feet to speak along with its cawing.

“I too.”

“I too.”

“And were you here when the train pulled in?”  Mariesha looked intently at the crow that had first remembered her.

“It was early.”

“At what time?”  She questioned intently.  The train attendant swore that the 9:00 train had arrived at 9:15.

“9 hours, 14 minutes, 50 seconds. No clouds, clear sky.  Hungry.”

“When has the train arrived before?”

“Train arrived past sun at 9 hours 5 minutes and 55 seconds.  Two passed suns 9 hours 20 minutes and 2 seconds. Three passed…”

“8 and 58 and 16.”

“9 and 30 and 32.”  Crow voices filled over each other in a cacophony of cawing and feather flapping as though the arrival time was a game.

Mareisha redirected the questions back to the main crow before her, “Why were you hungry?”  Crows, she had come to learn, were always thinking of food, so much so that it was not worth mentioning.

“Dead meat!  Rotting meat!  Train was full of rotting meat-bags to eat for days. City feeds us.”  Humans and people in general translated down to living-meat-sack or not-dead-yet-dinner.  Every crow has a different term for those that are not crows but they are all hungry.

“9 hours and 16 minutes and 6 seconds the doors opened.  People run. All doors opened,” the bird offered with wounded pride without any encouraging questions. “Undead. Not-meat. “

“Foul.”

“Rancid.”

“Rancid.” Indignant crow voices rose above even the noise of the city.

“Where did it go?”  Mariesha was insistent.

“Undead sunk.  Flowed and sunk down below.  Sunk into the rivers of the City.”

“Thank you, my friend.  You know where to find me.”

“I will time you at a needed place.  The City will feed us.”

“City feeds.”

“People flesh.”

“Horse flesh”

“Another time.”

Mareisha nodded gravely to the crows then abruptly stood and swirled her scarlet cloak about herself, walking back down the ridge line and emerging out of the alley a few seconds later.

“And what do the crows say to you, inspector Greywaves?”  Asked Elsbeth excitedly with her pen and tablet ready.

“We need to learn to speak Rat, Miss Elsbeth.”

“I’ll write that down Inspector Greywaves.”

“Excellent.”

**** to be cont’d…

Right as the Gloaming started tonight the sky turned brown and luminous with the storm bands beginning to move through. After three hours of the gutters flooding down the sides and porches of the houses the air stilled and the rain slowed to only a few drops falling from tree leaves. Walking Sorcha during this lull was familial and magical at the same time. It is strange how the rain puddles along the sun drenched asphalt, for it got up to 93 today, were warm and yet a few steps more onto concrete that is shaded by trees  and the water was cold; almost surreal walking from warm to cold water on the same path I take almost every night. The bull frogs, spring peepers, and tree frogs were not even the chorus that is used to describe them: They were a continual wave of a cacophony that also echoed back upon itself, drowning out the wind and even distant cars.  And now I sit cozy on my couch with only the sound of my dog snoring and rain once again lashing the windows.

May God bless you and Goddess comfort you; may the Sun and Moon both sing their songs to you; and with your feet on the earthen ground may you know where you are.

Be Well

 

 

 

 

 

Minerva, Fluorite and Spring Air

It is mid April and after sleet and snow three days ago we are now in the low 80s with a warm breeze and soft vapor clouds overhead during the day. Last night was beyond subtle, it soothed and hummed a tune all its own.  The ground and grass were still warm from the long ago set sun and the breeze was just a gentle touch cooler than the air so that it was not as if the breeze was blowing but that the whole of the town and the night was moving against your skin. This was a night to put down some quilts on the grass and to lay naked with your lover under a thin blanket and the moon: A time to caress and drink in not only the touch of your beloved but the whole of the Night itself.  The clouds formed a nimbus around the moon, like a smoke ring from a wooden pipe.  The ring seemed only as wide as my palm but must have encircled the moon by miles up above, a frame for the three quarters of silver light glowing down.  There were no cars or radios, only a few voices on porches, wrapped up in their own world beside their houses. Wind chimes keyed off in the darkness while the door to the empty house kept closing and opening as we walked by.  Once again one of those breathtaking nights of Spring that begs for bare skin beside the breeze and a beloved face lit by moonlight.

So, May 5th rolls around and I can say that, thankfully, the rain stopped yesterday and today. I went to a book sale Saturday and enjoyed myself immensely. Here in my little tucked in corner of Illinois St Andrews’ Episcopal church does four book sales a year, “carrying on an Episcopalian tradition” as the Nice Lady proudly told me. This time they had even invited local authors to have tables upstairs and enticed the public up there with food and a free cookie. Grant you the free cookies had probably been on the plate since yesterday night when they first opened but I really liked talking to the local authors and getting info on their books; MORWA even had an author representing, as was a local historian, and a local biographer. This reminded me so strongly of two writers I know from back home in NC that I wished my friends could have been with me: For excellent history with a side of romance I can only recommend Kathy E. Bundy as a romance and soft adventure writer. Her stories are well told and tastefully LGBTQ friendly.  It was a perfectly cool Spring day for a book sale and by the time my husband kindly dragged me out it had been 2 1/2 hours: only other time I can get lost like that is a rock quarry.

And speaking of quarries… I finally made it down to the Minerva #1!!!  She was a fluorite/fluorspar (same thing) mine in her hey-day and the till pile is a ginormous over grown gravel lot by now. The vast amount of tailings involved reminds me of the old Crabtree Emerald mine in NC if you were to take away the huge boulders from the Crabtree.  I only surface collect as I do not have permits for anything bigger, and quite frankly couldn’t lift anything too heavy out of the car and over a distance anyways. I did well enough for searching in already picked over parts.  Nothing compares to the Ben E. Clement Museum in Kentucky but I did really well for just over an hour of collecting and never even getting into the stream bed. I found some nice examples of fluorite and calcite and the color in the pieces I found were dark purple, lemon rind yellow, and clear.  I also found Sphalerite and had to educate myself on it just a little: The more iron that is in Sphalerite the more it tends toward looking like Galena or silver Pyrite.  My Sphalerite looks more like the brown kind (think low grade garnets) but is a good example of Sphalerite from the Minerva.  One piece is so loaded with miniature Spha. crystals that it looks like a sparkly brown stone!  I also discovered Barytocalcite which looks like crystalized marl, and is mysteriously appealing when you suddenly see a thin vein of purple fluorite running through it and matrix rock. We may be moving (yes, you read this right.  Once again my brilliant hubby has an even better job offer and we are seriously desperate to get into better barometric pressure) and I really want as much as I can get from a historic mine like the Minerva #1.  A levee broke up river so the Chain of Rocks is back under several feet of water and I may not have a chance to get down to the River before we move. (These are the best barytocalcite pictures with grey-blue fluorite. The kitchen has fluorescent lighting.)

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The rest of the rough is going to be stored and labelled.   I want to try and have enough rough to give away at the MAGMA Rockhound RoundUp in July.  One thing I have learned in my many years is to label and date your stuff!!  Even if the box just says “The John Doe Estate” then I have started some sort of provenance for the rock.  So, well, I have lots of plastic ice cream tubs (Blue Bunny No Sugar Added) labelled ‘Lake Michigan’, ‘Illinois Beach State Park’ and now ‘Mississippi River Chert, Edwardsville”. In a spot of dark but truthful humor I have begged my husband to contact my friend Rick if I die suddenly so that Rick can go through the collection.  The complication is that Rick is used to going through estate collections worth thousands; he will have to bring along Rockshine who appreciates near-gravel as much as I do.

For those Gentle Readers that have asked, here is the next installment of Red Angel’s Rise: Not quite Steam Punk, Horror, or Fiction Fantasy, the city and denizens of Cinerarium are unique.  Ian is still instrumental in the feel of the investigation for the story and Mariesha’s questions and instructions are my truly blind guesses as to where to go forward because I have no idea what his full plot/idea really is!

cont…..   ***********

Sargent Juskoh crouched over the shredded body of the gnome they had found upon first entering the station.  “Stubby little legs didn’t help you much did it?” Juskoh said under his breath.

Walking up, Juskoh’s partner, Sargent Sulmahn, shook his head. “There’s nothing. Not a damned thing to be found in the whole station but blood, a few poor bastards cornered and slaughtered back in the lavatories, and this one.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. All the survivors said there was a train full of the cursed things. They had to leave something behind. What say the necromancers?”

“Nothing of use.” Sulmahn growled, watching as one of the coroner’s butcher-boys carried off a sack full of half-orc. “She said there was a tide of undead spirits, then they all simply disappeared. They never left the station, but they sure as all Hells are not here anymore.”

Juskoh climbed to his feet and started for the platform. “So what are we looking at here, Sully? Three stations on the outskirts all attacked the same way. Who’d do this? Undead here?”

“It’s getting attention, I know that much.” Sulmahn said, his voice dropping a bit. “They’re sending an Inspector.”

Abruptly, Juskoh’s complexion turned a few shades lighter as he looked over Sulmahn’s shoulder. “This has indeed garnered some attention.” Both men turned to see the necromancer on site talking with a red-cloaked Royal Inspector.

Mareisha and Elsbeth had arrived in their special coach, a slight wreath of smoke still clinging to the roof like a self made fog. Elsbeth was once again in a fine dress of slate and royal blue with matching gloves and a jaunty hat decorated with satin ribbons. She carried her stylus and small boxed note pad. Mariesha was dressed in her usual fitted pants and plain shirtwaist with sturdy boots. When she didn’t wear the scarlet cloak some people stared at her mode of dress or openly snubbed her but the tiefling really could care less, that she would admit to, as long as she was off duty.

Decades earlier Cinerarium had been all but crippled by corruption within the city guard.  Trade would grind to a halt unless a half dozen bribes were paid. The noble houses and trade syndicates were in all but complete control of the courts, and the criminals were free to roam as long as gold changed hands.

The Emperor, after a series of bloody purges, formed the Inspectors to be an independent investigative force.  Recruited from all walks of life, and answerable only to the crown; the Inspectors were intended to root out enemies of the empire no matter where they hid.  So far dukes, governors, and clergy had all found themselves in the chains of an Inspector as readily as a common man on the street.

“I suddenly have the distinct urge to be elsewhere.” Sulmahn mumbled to his partner as they walked the length of the platform. “She’s never on a normal case…”

Juskoh motioned Sulmahn to silence, both waiting until the Inspector turned to them.   Juskoh broke the silence and plastered a plastic smile across his face, “Inspector Greywaves, what can we do for you, Ma’m?”

Sulmahn and Juskoh: Could be worse burks on a case came to Mariesha’s mind. They were Investigators, a small step above a Sergeant, and used to death and dismemberment but more suited to investigate cases where the murderer was still holding the knife shouting invectives.

Their first words to her ever had been a few chortles before Juskoh had started, “No… seriously, where’s the Inspector?”

Mariesha’s reply had began, “Pike it ya’ smegin’ sod…” and had gotten more foul by the end of the first sentence.

Now no one on the force for more than a month doubted she was an Inspector.

Mariesha saw Elsbeth pull out her stylus. “So gimme’ the chant, gentleman.”

While her Recorder wrote in shorthand everything that was said, Mareisha was listening and looking around them: So trivial but what set her teeth on edge was the utter emptiness of what should have been a bustling train station.

Sulmahn nudged a shredded hip of the gnome with his boot, “Stumpy guy didn’t get very far.”

“And you have a problem with the vertically challenged?” Elsbeth’s voice was icy. Mareisha studiously ignored them.

“No Ma’m.” Truth be told they were intimidated by Mariesha but scared of Elsbeth.

“Hmmm, he was definitely motivated,” started Mareisha. “The smear marks and torn fingertips show he was willing to lose a leg if his arms could pull him out.  Apparently they were also serving some lite tucker on the train.”

“Pardon, Mam?” Sulmahn was listening and nodding to her, trying to make up for accidentally insulting the four foot ten Inspector.

“No teeth marks, same as the bathroom victims. These weren’t meat-hungry dead.”

“Right.”

“Investigator Juskoh, if you have not already, start asking the witnesses if they saw any of the undead particularly avoiding the light.  Stations one, two, and three have the stained glass too, I warrant.”

“Yes they do,” started Juskoh. “I’ll ask the ticket boy first.  He should know where the light falls in here.”

Mareisha nodded to Juscoh as she turned toward Elsbeth, “Do you know the two things this is making me think of Mistress Elsbeth?”

“This is rather peculiar Inspector Greywaves.”

“That it is, Mistress Elsbeth. First sheep or refugees: It’s the descriptions of the dead woman and children; packed into the shadowed trains then rushing off and then taking whatever was not alive and left behind. And this leads to the Second: Why in the Plains would ghosts or corporeal specters take the train? It’s not like they have non corporeal jink for a non corporeal ticket. Why not hail a cab or walk or float…”

“Or fly,” added Elsbeth with a witty smirk.

“Just so,” agreed Mariesha with a grin that turned serious. “Elsbeth, we need to see cartography maps of what came before the train tracks.”

“And the names of the Cities the trains just came from?” added the Recorder.

“Excellent. Plus the passenger and ticket lists. And someone needs to shake down the original blueprints of all eight depots, the history of the architects, and the names of the High Ups who ordered the buildings. Now let’s go question the poor sods who witnessed this.”

“Yes Ma’m.”

                               **

“Nay, Ma’m, I can’t say that my courage held out that long. I did not see what they did to the little man.” Purcell, the attendant out on the platform when the attack began was still visibly shaking. “I wish I could tell you more, Inspector, but by the time the screaming started I was almost out the front doors.”

Mariesha nodded. “It’s understood. Any sane fellow would run from something like that.”

Purcell took a deep breath then sipped the warm port in his hand. “It was just that… the way they come from the cars was like nothing I seen before.”

Inwardly Mariesha smiled; sometimes it just took a little coaxing to get witnesses to remember things. “What was it like?”

Another brief pause, then Purcell nodded more to himself than either Mariesha or Elsbeth. “They all seemed to rush out of the car, like they was all one thing… it was almost like they were a rushing river of blood and faces and teeth. They was like some kind of liquid thing that flooded into the station.”

“So it was like a river then? Was there truly that much liquid in the cars?”  Elsbeth asked from just past Mariesha’s shoulder.

Purcell shook his head. “No ma’am, it weren’t like that, no.  It flowed through the air, like it was all flying or something or crawlin’ through the air like.”

A thought started in the back of Mariesha’s mind. “Did it touch any of the walls? I mean that you saw, did the… the stuff touch anything other than the gnome?”

Perking up, Purcell shook his head. “No mam, not that I seen.”

“Right then, thanks berk. Drink up then head for home.” Purcell nodded as Mariesha turned and started off across the station. “That’s why there’s never anything left of the creatures, or creature, ’cause the damn things never touch anything but their victims.”

Falling in step, Elsbeth nodded. “That would be logical ma’am, but it just seems strange that such a creature exists. Creatures that float in such a manner are normally ethereal are they not? No wings were present to keep it aloft.”

Mariesha nodded. “True enough, but there are some ghosts that do indeed manifest for a short amount of time then disappear back into the ethereal world.” Pausing Mariesha looked around the station. “But such don’t just manifest nowhere and anywhere. They have to be bound to an area by something strong.”

“That is true in most cases ma’m, but there is an exception to that.” The man approaching them wore the robes of the necromancers, though not a senior arcanist. “I am Associate Benson Traim, it’s nice to make your acquaintance, Inspector Greywaves.”

“The same I’m sure.”  Mariesha said, shaking the hand offered. “You talk like a cutter with an idea.”

“Indeed, I have a suspicion.”  Traim said, turning to fall into step next to Mariesha.  “While studying in the south reaches of Tetran I surveyed a tomb of unknown origins.  It was all amazingly informative regarding the ancient burial rights of…”

“Good sir, if perhaps you could continue with the situation at hand?”  Elsbeth said with a warm smile.

Mariesha started.  “I was actually kind of interested in that.”

“Yes ma’am, but time is of the essence with the investigation at hand.”  Elsbeth replied. “Hence my interruption.”

Mariesha smirked. “Fair enough, lets be back to this then.”

For a moment Traim also smirked, then continued.  “Very well, the short of the matter then: I eventually made my way to the capitol and studied with the necromancers there.  They had records from pre-collapse colleges and in one instance there was specific mention of creatures that traveled in such a fashion as has been described here.”

“Then we’re lucky you’re here.” Mariesha knew better than to think it luck: The College had sent him along because they suspected his knowledge related to the station attacks somehow.

“Indeed, it’s lucky for us all.  I came here as soon as word reached the colleges that another attack had transpired and made it in time to sense something extra with my scrying.  Specifically I’ve detected a planar instability throughout the building.” When Mariesha simply raised an eyebrow, Traim continued. “Something here used a type of magic long forgotten that involves weakening the barriers between worlds.”

Elsbeth made a little startled noise, then blushed. “Apologies, I thought since the collapse such things would be nigh apocalyptic.”

“It is. I think the creature that was here was demonic.”

Mariesha rubbed her temple briefly and looked steadily at Traim, “Then that makes you the cutter to go and scry the other stations.”

******** To be continued…

As I lay here in bed with mild insomnia I can hear low peals of thunder in the distance:  Another Spring storm rolling across Kansas and Missouri and into Illinois. The breeze is ever so damp against my skin while the moon was a hazy sliver in the sky tonight, almost golden through the heavy air.  I will pray for the stillness of the shadows through our house, the cementing of purpose and subtle power. I will also pray for the courage to continue growing, not for just the blossoms but thorns as well, defense from the fears and callousness of the world. Love is such a delicate thing, much like fine lace made from steel: Seemingly fragile but fierce when wrapped around you like possessive armor. And most of all, for now, Gentle Readers, let us pray for all the scientists and healers trying to find an end to cancer: I just found out about the passing of a dearest rockhound friend and it would be too much to bear another death to happen.

Until next time may the grace of the Sophia find you as well as the passion of storms.

Be well.