Hello Gentle Readers,
I send you greetings from the land of “not quite cold enough”. The Arctic Vortex tagged us today-Friday and amazingly no migraines to speak of. The sleet has blown off and on all day and into the night but no accumulation on the ground or roadways. The two ricks of wood made lovely miniature forges in our fireplace and we are almost out of wood. The 12 Days of Christmas were simple and loving between migraines and, once again, my husband spoiled me relentlessly. He gave me the exciting cookbook Carpathia: Food From The Heart of Romania and the book Harrow the Ninth, the second book in a wonderfully dystopic world created by Tamsyn Muir. My husband is not the social butterfly that I can be but every year that we could he has made the time and effort to visit Raleigh, NC during the Winter Holidays so that we can attend a party on the first weekend in January: Our dearest friends C and J have a party that is a true block buster of gastronomic proportions and then we visit with L and JM who are long time friends and of course the parents to my God Daughter. This year the SARS-COV-2 virus, or Covid 19, the name more recognized, has cancelled our travels and the party to end all parties. I truly miss seeing in person my dear friends and the long list of Beloveds that I only see once a year at the Chili Party. A friend that is a Should-Have-Been-A-Sister moved to the rural countryside and finally got the farm house and acreage for her horses that she has wanted for too many years; how I would love to see Moonswan over copious cups of coffee. I suppose part of growing up and being an adult is handling correspondence over too great a time and distance.
I am into February today and must say that the seasons and the time is all aflutter around my head. Almost all my time is taken-up with migraines while the few days without them I am either sleeping, trying to recover, or ever so slowly finishing off the list of “Must-Do’s”. We got the green light from hubbies employer to return to Chicago and so more of my attention is being pulled away as we try to figure out packing, and leases. and doctor’s visits etc. I still want a haunted apartment or a house with dimensional shifting in it; really, is that too much to ask, Gentle Reader? I have looked at so many apartments and houses on Zillow or Realtor that I can identify buildings from the picture even when flitting between HotPads and PadMapper, and let me assure you the yellow sandstone buildings start to blur together after a while. Around the middle of February another polar vortex drove all the way down to Texas and we got down into single digits in NW Arkansas. My friends in Chicago shared pictures of snow angels and winter woodland hikes while we waited to see if our leasing office would even salt the sidewalks or the front gates; And that answer is no, in case you wondered. I would take out Sorcha for her morning walk and strangely the whole complex was whisper quiet with snow covering the sidewalks and streets in a silent white blanket. There was somehow an easy and slow day after day of sipping coffee, cooking eggs with bacon, and letting the room heater keep us toasty warm. One day and night we were serenaded by giant sump pump trucks draining the apartments of Q building as the pipes had burst and sprayed several feet of water within. While we were mildly inconvenienced by iced over slush my love and sympathy truly goes out to several of my beloved friends who live in Dallas, Texas; luckily they are used to the seasonal ice storms that tend to wrack the Piedmont of NC. Aaaaand yesterday was in the 70s! We joke that weather anomalies follow me so look out Chicago I’m coming back!
There are certain instances in a 25 plus year marriage that are rather adorably unique: Your spouse admits that you are still the owner of a bodacious tushy; Laughing in bed so badly at 12 midnight because of fart jokes; realizing that you both have a rhythm down while cooking together and the meal is edible; your spouse indulges you while you geek out on history stories from Curiosity stream; while you originally cared nothing for music you can now enjoy his Pandora selections allowing a subtle mood to flow through the home while the wind blows down the chimney and the world seems both distant and harshly bleak; you still feel your heart skip a beat and your tummy flutter when you look over at your beloved asleep in the quilts; having a pure joy of sharing story ideas and falling even more in love with his mind; and the best of all is talking out worries and frustrations so that our love can be enriched because shellacking over problems does not grow a couple together.
I feel quite fortunate to have married a man who is sexy just by breathing. We try to indulge our realistic fantasies, never having been one of those only-in-the-dark-three-shags-and-over type of couples so when we decide to plow the fertile field it is going to happen in the living room or any location we deem handy at the time. Now, our first dog Moshi would kind of look at us as the smoochie noises started and just settle in a corner or go off to her cage to sleep: she could have cared less. The “Glowing One”, Sorcha, is, I swear to you, a full time, card carrying prude. As soon as the kissy noses start and the covers start getting pushed around she is out that door! Every time!! I kid you not, I have even seen her roll her eyes on her way out of the room. Once the afterglow is fading and the strange noises have stopped from our throats, here she comes back into the bedroom laying down on her puppy pillow and giving us this “How is a dog supposed to sleep around here” look. Walking Sorcha is a totally different experience as she is more than willing to go rompies down the sidewalk, across the street, and straight into someones bushes. If a place in the street had food or could have food she is all for prying the gunk from the grooves in the asphalt. In Chicago this was moderately annoying but down here in the Suburban South the people in our gated apartment complex scatter food out as though every raccoon and squirrel within five miles is starving: raisin bread, popcorn, cat food, beef ribs, pork chops, crackers, pizza slices and God only knows what else. I tell you truly, the wildlife is not withering from hunger. The squirrels are Ninja-Acrobats and probably bench press trash cans at night: These little guys have the whole Tree-Top-Highway figured out around here and have even chosen one apartment unit as their roof of choice. It is amazing to see them fling themselves from swinging branches onto a slanted eve and then clamber onto the roof peak. Once, just once mind you, little Rocky was on a branch with a bit too much spring in it and the squirrel drops out of the branches and plummets into some bushes. While the squirrel rebounded and ran up the siding like a champ, our dog Sorcha just witnessed squirrels falling out of the sky like furry bombs of joy. For all of January she could not wait to get around to that tree and have squirrels rain down again. It took a month for her to stop prancing in a circle waiting for the floor show of sky diving squirrels to start.
We are looking for apartments or condos to live in in Chicago and use the Big Four to find something (being Zillow, Realtor, PadMapper, and HotPads) with Walk Score as our triple check. I fully realize that the majority of apartments that we can afford are shot gun style places: One apartment starts to blend into another so differentiating with Walk Score is really important. For every move we have made I have been the main searcher so I am going to impart some wisdom from my many years. If you want to get that apartment rented please include more than four pictures, three of which are of the bathroom tiles; Do NOT use a fish eye lens to make the room look bigger, everyone knows this trick and everyone hates it; Please try and orient the pictures in order of walking through instead of randomly showing fuse boxes and kitchen sinks; Fuchsia and Lime Green paint won’t kill the deal but a completely buff Garden Level will; Chicago is really big so PLEASE tell me about parking whether in a lot, or on the street, or if there is a garage; Trees and grass matter as do roof top patios so show them to me no matter the postage stamp size; and Why, yes, every crooked pantry, built in butler chest, awkward closet, and inset book shelf are points on the good side so show me those over the third picture of the overused granite counter tops. Buildings really do have an aura and a feel to them so the soul of the building is important: Please pray or meditate for us finding a home with a true heart, I’ll even settle for some friendly haunting.
I am giving a BIG SHOU OUT to my MAGMA Club because you can’t keep the best rockhounds down for long. 2020’s big show was cancelled but 2021 is a GO!!!
The best of the best will be there and I give them my heart if I can’t make it. Seriously, if you are within a day or two drive this is worth it. My heart bleeds the Blue Ridge Mountains and these folks are the real deal. Inside and outside rain or shine they are some die hard rock hounds with great exhibits and be prepared to also enjoy listening to some tall tales and long stories. (Once I am in Chicago I will be able to make the drive down!!) (These pictures are from previous shows so I am assuming that masks will be used as a general safety precaution.)
So now we come to more of Red Angel’s Rise. While it is warm today and Spring is teasing at the edges of the weather, in Cinerarium Autumn is starting and our intrepid duo have yet to find their lost nobleman… cont.
**** ****Five more taverns around Spades were questioned as the sun set quietly against the gritty skyline of Cinerarium. At the sixth, the bartender looked up from moving bottles and glared at the Inspector and her Recorder, “I been warned about you askin’ questions. Which is good and fine ’cause I don’t know nothin’. So get.”
Mariesha felt her blood throb through her temple and her sore feet, “No worries they wouldn’t have come into a scurvy, flea ridden…” An inconspicuous kick to the ankle came from Elsbeth.
“Are you insulting ma’ bar?” Asked the man loudly while turning a dark shade of red.
“Not any more,” answered Mariesha with clenched teeth. The tiefling took a deep breath of the stale air and patiently took out the drawing, “I need to know if you have seen these five men.”
“That’s what you’re askin’ about?” The owner asked as he stopped and finally took a look at the picture. “Nope. Not here. And don’t ask me if I’m sure. So please go away. ”
“OK,” answered Mariesha evenly, “Thanks for helping a cutter out.” She didn’t expect an answer and nor did she get one.
Outside the air was growing still and heavy, punctuated by the smell of fresh horse droppings and a slow moving sewer gutter. Another storm would soon be rolling over the bricks and girders of the city, slewing raindrops across the higher bridges first then trickling and rolling onto the lower buildings and warehouses. The unspoken questions lied between Marisha and Elsbeth so that all they had to do was glance at each other and nod in sage disappointment.
The air was growing damper still and Mariesha was determined to cover one more patch of switch back alleys and dingy taverns before the rain came. She was hoping that some aimless drunk would remember the five men but with every shake of the head no matter how congenial or hostile, it was becoming obvious the five friends had not followed a logical path. The streets were getting more crowded as men and women were either getting off work or heading for their local ale shop or pie vendor. The two doggedly followed a worn graffiti painted in white wash saying “Spirits and Wine” and accented with large arrows, something even inebriates could follow. Mariesha silently marveled at how six greyish purple dots arranged in a pyramid could be understood as grapes. The arrows finally led them to a dead end, tight, cull-de-sack and pointed to a burned out husk of a basement. Inspector Greywaves looked over at her Recorder and noticed Elsbeth grit her teeth. The tiefling angrily kicked a piece of brick into the burned out shell and listened to a startled rat scuttle around. Then three men rounded the corner of the alley and as they were obviously local to the area and must know the wine shop was burnt out, she envied the men their ability to piss and not risk hitting their boots. They were hulking and brutish which didn’t bother the Inspector until she heard one of them say, “Yea, that’s the two.”
Both women stopped short and Mariesha automatically moved back to Elsbeth’s side. The third man was just dropping a bottle with the remnants of a wax seal and Mariesha felt her stomach go cold; intuition told her that whatever had been in the now empty clay flask was very bad.
Mariesha felt Murder come alive under her jacket, the wicked barbs smoothly skimming over her shirt until a last link fell into her palm. Six crows alighted onto a roof’s edge as if to cheer their namesake on.
The seeming leader pulled out a heavy leather sap while his second slipped on a pair of matching brass knuckles. The last one who had dropped the bottle was carrying a stripped down housing timber not so cleverly disguised as an oversized cudgel.
“Nothing personal ladies… just business,” started Leader, eyeing up Elsbeth whose hands were still tucked inside her muff. He moved to try and flank the Recorder who took a quick step forward and to the left of Mariesha. Leader chuckled through his nose and seemed to be twitching from foot to foot, ”Oh, like yer gonna’ be able to protect the puny one.”
“Listen up berk,” started Mariesha when she saw them begin to visibly sweat as they spread out across the mouth of the ally, “We ain’t some addle-coved gullies. I’m an Inspector.”
Brass Knuckles sniggered and stepped forward, “We can’t hear you hiding behind the girlie girl ‘Inspector’. Cartiger don’t like strangers asking questions. He wants to give ya’ a message and we wants blood.”
Mariesha didn’t even sigh, “Defend yourself Elsbeth.”
The Recorder gave no answer; there was only a slight ‘schink’ as her wickedly barbed hands came out of the lady’s muff while a simple practiced twist of Mariesha’s wrist sent Murder into a spinning blur by her side.
It was obviously the thought of the leader that a woman would duck and cower or somehow willingly put her jaw out to get hit by the loaded sap he had. The fact that Elsbeth had bladed gloves and was neither cowering nor starting to swoon didn’t seem to register in his mind. He quickly swung wide trying to connect with her jaw and take down the Recorder in one grand punch. Whomever or whatever had taught Elsbeth to fight had taught her well; she just managed to step inside his arching swing and grasp his right arm. Whatever the men had just drunk obviously blocked pain for instead of the usual shriek he only gasped as the blades sunk into the meat of the shoulder and joint: His powerful blow ended in a weak thump across her shoulders. Meanwhile, Mariesha had just sent her animated chain outward toward the man with the oversized cudgel. He too was very fast and managed to lean a step backward as the barbed links came toward him. Two of Murder’s three ends grazed across his shirt and jacket still managing to score the flesh of his chest while the third weighted chain raked across his face, almost taking both eyes before all three ends wraped around the cudgel and with one strong yank from the tiefling ripping it out of his hands.
The leader finally gave a distorted shriek as Elsbeth grabbed the back of his elbow with the blades of her left glove and propelled him forward. He crumpled to the ground when she kicked him in the knee, bleeding freely down his arm and finding himself pinned to the ground by dreaded blades no matter how dainty the initial appearance.
The cudgel fell to the ground as Mariesha choked up onto Murders’ links and turned to face the one with brass knuckles. He rushed at Mariesha bellowing as if half crazed and raised his brass covered fists as though he would punch and bull-rush the smaller tiefling all at once. She quickly wrapped her fist in the barbs of Murder getting a lucky jab in as she side-stepped his lumbering attack. The barbed weights, stylized as the beak of a crow, carved across his cheek and Mariesha brought the left link across his back.
The attacker now cudgel-less was still moaning and gasping, blood welling through his fingers as he clutched at his swelling eye and ripped face.
The tiefling pounced on the one with the brass knuckles and just managed to pull the links of Murder up against his throat. He started to try and struggle her off but the barbs started to come out and there was a choked cough as he realized his neck was in danger of getting torn out.
“What did you do to Ansel Casterwell?” growled out the Inspector just loud enough for all the men to hear.
“Who?” asked Brass Knuckles while trying not to move his neck.
“Cartiger sent us,” choked out Leader, with pain in his voice.
A sigh escaped from Elsbeth then a mangled gasp came from the leader.
“Elsbeth are you still going to torture him?”
“No worries, Inspector Greywaves. I was just fearful for my life but it’s passing,” answered the Recorder succinctly.
“Now,” restarted Mariesha. “I don’t care a flying fuck who sent you. What we want is Ansel Casterwell.”
“But we don’t know nobody…” whined Brass Knuckles before Mariesh choked up on the links and pushed her knee deeper into his back and the open wound.
“We didn’t know you were …demonic,” mumbled Cudgel Less through his hands.
“That doesn’t’ matter,” hissed Elsbeth, choosing not to tell them differently.
“But you were asking questions…” started Leader barely above a croak.
“About the missing Noble,” finished Mariesha.
“Vice asks questions,” squeaked out Brass knuckles as he tried to move.
“And Inspectors are all men,” added Leader quickly.
“Well, my dear Els, sounds like these addlepates thought we were connies for vice.” Mariesha felt a few more drops of rain hit and wanted nothing more than to be rid of these fools and to be soaking the day off in a hot bath. “Now you three go back to your Cartiger and tell him that Inspectors have tits too. Lucky for you three I don’t care to arrest you or snack on your soul.”
“Oohhhh,” moaned Brass Knuckles as though his soul had suddenly become very important to him.
“Now let us be gone before Whisperers show up,” said the Inspector bluntly.
“Wh… Whisperers?” gasped Leader as though suddenly realizing what the three had just ingested.
“Yes. What you drank reeks of magic and is throughout you now. I guess your Cartiger didn’t tell you that part,” started off Elsbeth sounding very sepulcher while a distant peel of thunder punctuated her words. Mariesha stood up carefully, keeping Murder out and ready then she led Elsbeth out of the burnt-out ally only stopping to pick up the empty flask and listen to the scrabbling and moaning of the three assailants.
“Do you really think Whisperers will come after those three, Inspector Greywaves?”
“Not this time, Els but eventually something will happen. Best to sew a few seeds of discord with this Cartiger and buy us some time to find Ansel’s body before Cartiger sends better bully-boys to kill us. Besides,” finished Mariesha “ even the bottle smells foul; peddling this shit has to be evil.” ….cont…
Spring is almost upon us and the sun grows bolder every day. Tonight the darkness has finally sifted from the sky and covered the ground, only a quiet breeze hinting at coming rain. As we are just starting to venture out of our homes with vaccinations and masks let us remember the wisdom of silence in a crowd of boasting and the gift of the hearth to strangers. May the Wheel Turn and the Triune One Bless us All,