Celta Thursday, Heart Secret, long scene
Heart Secret: I don't think I posted this anywhere. A scene (may include bits that made it into the book), between Artemisia and her Fam raccoon, Randa. It's long :) and I haven't revised At All.
She awoke early the next morning, at the sound of dawn songbirds singing outside her window. She wanted to sleep more, lounge in bed after the intense few days...and, all right, pull the covers over her head and forget the deep wound inside her.
But more than lost hope weighed on her emotions. There was murder, and the discovery of the murder weapon, and how her Family was being implicated again.
She had to take the knife to the guards.
Scritch, scritch, scritch. Whoosh. Flop.
Jerking to sit, she followed the sound...and her mouth opened in surprise as she watched a Fam opening swish back and forth in the bedroom door. RandaFamName waddled toward her, and she let out a sigh. She had a Fam, another blessing.
Randa hooked her claws on the long comforter that draped over the elevated bedsponge and climbed up. Greetyou, Famwoman. The raccoon's muzzle lifted and her mouth stretched in a smile, showing little pointy teeth. She hurried over to Artemisia, stopped to sit and clasp her paws together as she stared at Artemisia's body under the covers.
Artemisia patted her lap. "Come on."
Randa ran up the angle of her body and snuffled under Artemisia's chin, leaving a slight wet smear. "Love you, FamWoman!"
"I love you, too."
"Today we make my room and my place and my toys and all my stuff?"
"Residence, have we ever had a raccoon Fam?" Artemisia asked, not quite sure what Randa would need, but petting her Fam was nice, though when she moved her feet, Randa got distracted and attacked her toes. Laughing, she played with the young raccoon. It didn't matter that claws were shredding her old comforter, though she slyly spellshielded her pillows...
A horrible, long crreeeaaakk interrupted them and Randa ran up into **'s arms and they both watched paper stretch, then crack as an old door in the far bedroom wall opened. A door to a room that Artemisia didn't even know was there. But she was the only one inhabiting the third floor and only used three rooms.
And they both sneezed as a cascade of dust rushed into the room. Artemisia hopped from the bed, snapping, "Third level housekeeping spell."
Suction pulled at her hair and her nightshirt, rattled and spun her knick-knacks. Randa cheeped and buried her long nose against Artemisia's neck.
When all the dust vanished and everything gleamed, Artemisia walked across the thick but faded Chinju rug to the dim open hole.
Smells good. I think it will feel good on my pads! Randa said, scrabbling and ripping Artemisia's thin cotton shirt. She'd have to get sturdier sleepwear. She put Randa on her paws and the raccoon shot into the dark room and chittered at her.
It is nice and dark even when your room is light and makes me sleepy, and it has a little window just for me and a wonderful tree branch outside the window and my own tree!
"Wow," Artemisia said, examining the tall and narrow tree dubiously.
"We have never had a raccoon Fam," the Residence finally said. But I have housed cats and I have data from the starship Nuada's Sword about raccoons on ancient Earth. I have also accessed and added to my ResidenceLibrary all information recarding the animals that the Public Library contains.
"Wonderful," Artemisia murmured, stepping into the small room. I was more like a narrow closet than anything.
"Our new Fam will need toys–"
"And indoor climbing trees like cat Fams prefer–"
"And we can move a no-time food storage unit and Fam dispenser into this room, along with a mattress and bedding."
I will mostly sleep with my person, Randa said, then added, though it will be good to have my own bedsponge.
"Raccoons can also use litter boxes."
I will go outside.
"Even when winter comes?"
Yes. The young Fam stopped and sat on her haunches, looked over at Artemisia. This room is perfect!
"Thank you, Residence," Artemisia said.
Thank you, Residence! Randa repeated.
The window opened and Randa sniffed hard. My tree smells good and my room smells good and my FamWoman smells good. I am a lucky coon. She scuttled along the footboards, then as Artemisia watched, she climbed up the door molding, over the door and back down, stopped under the window and stretched her front paws. But the window was high in the wall and the wooden pannelling appeared antique and beautiful. Artemisia swooped down on Randa.
She screamed a little and nipped Artemisia's fingers. With a gasp, Artemisia let go and caged her in a floating anti-grav spell. "Ouch!"
You surprised me. You moved too fast. You pounced.
After a deep breath and the Healing of the small tooth punctured on her fingers, Artemisia said, "All right. I won't do that again."
You must warn me before you pick me up.
"I'll do that. And I'll say 'no,' when I want you to stop doing something. And you will listen to me."
Randa huffed, but said, All right.
The pannelling is beautiful and I don't want you to scratch it or ruin it.
I need to get to my window!
"I'll put a carpeted cat post here for you."
"There is a Fam storage area with cat posts and Fam beds and toys in the attic," said BalmHeal Residence. "I am pleased that you are happy with your room, Randa."
Yes! I am! And I will be a good Fam. I will no longer be a feral coon. I will stay on the estate. There is no reason to go outside the walls. I am home.
Artemisia smiled, and slowly dissolved the spell so she could hold her Fam again, looking into the small eyes, she said, "Yes, you are."
"What's all the noise up here?" Artemisia's mother asked.
"The Residence revealed a new room," Artemisia said.
"How interesting." Artemisia's mother came over and glanced at the space.
"Yes, and it's supposed to be for Randa. We need to furnish it with some of the cat posts–"
"And Fam bedsponges and toys that are in the attic," her mother ended.
"Yes." Artemisia deliberately kept her gaze from the package with the knife.
"I can handle that while you attend to your...duties," Artemisia's mother said. She held out her arms for the small Fam and Randa chirruped in pleasure.
The night was long and exciting exploring the estate, the raccoon said.
"I'm sure," both Artemisia and her mother said at the same time.
"I'll take care of her," Artemisia's mother crooned.
And Artemisia had to take care of a murder weapon. "Thank you." Before she could say anything else, her mother had teleported with Randa from the bedroom and a soft thud sounded overhead.
Suppressing a last sigh, Artemisia dressed in severely cut dark green tunic and trous and picked up the knife packet. She sensed that her sister Tiana had already left for the day and her father had retired to his study to work on another legal monograph.
A good time to sneak off and do a little something before she headed to Primary HealingHall. "I'll see you later, Residence," she said.
"Yes. I am studying the rosters of the FirstFamilies for a good man for you."
Artemisia's mouth dried, then she swallowed. "All those FirstFamilies nobles are extremely powerful, do you think they'd be satisfied here – and being bespelled never to speak of you?"
"All FirstFamilies keep secrets," the Residence said absently.
"Anyone would be honored to live here with us," the Residence said.
Artemisia figured she wouldn't be able to talk the Residence out of his newest plan right now. "I do insist that the man I marry be someone I can love."
"You can love a man who is noble just as much as one who is not," the Residence retorted.
"See you later," Artemisia grumbled.
"I love you, Artemisia," BalmHeal Residence said.
"I love you, too." But it didn't stop her from being exasperated with the Residence. She slipped from the side door to walk to the secondary Healing Pools in the estate. The place had two sets of natural Healing pools and a trio of swimming pools. Near the secondary pools were the chapels – the small round temples, one open-air, and one enclosed, and a small building that Artemisia's mother called a chapel and used for her worship. It was an equal-armed cross with a tiny dome in the center painted yellow on the outside and deep blue and silver on the inside.
About once a year, the whole Family celebrated a ritual with her...but for a long time, Tiana and their father would craft more spiritual and less Lady-and-Lord centric rituals that the whole Family would participate in. Occasionally, they included both the Cross-Folk God and Lady-and-Lord in overlapping rituals.
Theirs was an eclectic household, and the flexibility of spirituality and religion had helped Tiana in her career as she was accustomed to crafting unique and creative rituals. As for Artemisia, she took great comfort in the old rituals of Celta, in the belief of a dual and loving Pair – a Lady and Lord.
Yet when she reached the door of her mother's chapel, she experienced the serenity that permeated this equally sacred place. A spurt of irritation at intolerance kept her from entering until she could marshall her feelings. Hadn't their ancestors left Earth because they were persecuted for their psi power?
Why couldn't people learn from history?
She stood and let the sounds of nature, the sun filtering through the tall trees, soothe her spirit. Then she left the knife packet outside the building, put her hands together, fingers upright and bowed to the door.