The Amethyst Song- Episode Twelve

After leaving Mae at the hotel, Beatrice moved quickly through the streets on Belbarbiton. She was on foot, allowing her to make use of the many alleyways and semi-hidden passages that crisscrossed the city. She was already taking a risk going to see the Crone, but she knew she must, so stealth was imperative.

Finally, she reached her destination. To anyone else, it would appear that nothing was out of the ordinary. The street was lined with tall, glass and steel buildings, all alike except maybe for the choice of colour. But, the building the Beatrice approached had one tiny difference, it was a hologram.  Beatrice stood in front and whistled. Just three short notes, barely audible to anyone who might pass by.

The edifice of the building transformed. In place of the sleek, modern shard of glass, stood a huge building made of brick and stone. It was only three stories tall, but it was wide, and even from the street you could see it was deep. On each level, a ridge ran around the building decorated by statues depicting all kinds of strange creatures. The building was old, it looked like it had been standing in this spot for many centuries, which it had.

Above the door, a sign written in an elaborate cursive script read, Belbarbiton Institute. Beatrice pushed on the door, a great big, heavy, wooden door, and entered into a huge foyer. The floor was tiled in black and light grey marble, and the walls were all panelled with deep, dark, reddish, brown wood. The walls were filled with portraits of stern looking people, mostly women, glaring at the world with violet eyes.

Beatrice approached a directory, listing all the current occupants of the institute. She found what she wanted, and swept past the reception desk toward the lifts. There was a young man at the desk. He was sitting bolt upright and wearing a suit that was two sizes too big for him. His eyes were wide, with what looked like terror. He called out to Beatrice, quietly so she could barely hear him,

“Excuse me. I said excuse me.”

She turned, impatient, “Yes.”

“You can’t just go back there. I need to announce you.”

She looked at him, one eyebrow raised. “That’s alright , I know where I’m going, and trust me the person I’m looking for will definately see me.” She kept walking.

The boy started running after her, the slightly panicked look intensifying. He managed to edge ahead of her, and stood in front of the lift.

“I..” he swallowed, “cannot let you up there.” He quickly looked down avoiding eye contact.

Beatrice sighed, “Very well, off you go and announce me.”

Relieved, the young man ran back to the desk. It was only when he got there that he realised he had forgotten to ask who she was, and who she was seeing. He looked up to ask, only to see the lift doors closing, with Beatrice inside.

She got out at the top floor. The hall was carpeted in thick, lavender carpet. The door at the end of the hall was inlaid with stained glass, in a variety of purples, blues and mauves. A plaque next to the door proclaimed that she has reached the Croan’s Office. She knocked on the door, and waited. She could hear rustling behind the door.

The door opened. A tall, strikingly beautiful, woman, with long, lilac hair stood before her. When the woman saw Beatrice standing in front of her, it seemed like her face blanched of all it’s colour. But, it only lasted a second, then her face lit up like a beacon.

“Bea! Dear friend. Come in, come in.” She ushered her unexpected guest into her office.

“To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” She motioned for Beatrice to sit on the soft leather couch next to the window. ‘How long has it been? Three, Four years?”

“Eighteen.”

“No! It can’t have been that long?” She sat down, in an armchair opposite. “You look well.”

“Yes, well, I’m afraid this isn’t a social visit.”

“Oh! How silly of me, I forgot to get you tea.” She got up and went to her desk, picking up the phone. “Miranda? Please bring in some tea…Yes, for two…Now, please.”

She sat back down.

“Now, where were we, ah yes, you look well.”

“Thank you Melusina. But, as I said, this isn’t a social visit.”

“No?” Melusina looked toward the door. “Where is that tea?”

“Never mind the tea. I need you to come with me.”

“Come with you?”

“Yes. We need to be quick and quiet too. I don’t know if anyone else knows we’re here.”

“We?”

“I’m here with, her.”

After a pause, Melusina nodded, and sighed. “I should have known you were coming. I had honestly lost track of how long it has been. Eighteen years! My my.”

Beatrice stood. “Perhaps we should get going. I’ve left her on her own, and I’m worried.”

There was a knock, and then a young girl came in carrying a tea tray. She placed it on the small table beside Melusina, and left.

“Oh look! The tea’s here. Shall I be Mother?” She started pouring the tea into the two cups.

“We don’t have time for tea. We need to go.”

“Come now Bea! You always were a stick in the mud. Trust me, there is always time for tea. Now sit.”

Beatrice reluctantly resumed her seat. She left her tea untouched.

“So Bea, how have you been? Keeping well?”

“Yes.”

They sat for what seemed to Beatrice, like an eternity. Neither saying anything.

All of a sudden. Melusina stood up.

“Oh my goodness. I’m such a scatterbrain today. I just have to go and see to something. I won’t be long. Drink your tea.”

With that she left.

Frustrated, Beatrice waited. While she waited she looked around the office. It had been a long time since she had been here. She had sat in this very chair, holding a newborn babe in her arms. She, Melusina and a few trusted others had gathered here to make plans, and decide what to do next. It had been Melusina that had suggested Murpodompous as a good place to hide.

Melusina had been a teacher to all the royal children. She was particularly skilled in the ways of the Amethyst arts and had shown countless others with the gift how to harness and control it. This was why she was here, it was only a matter of time before Mae started to come into her power.

Given that both her mother, father and grandmother all had Langstons blood, not to mention that she was the true heir to the throne, her power would be considerable. Also, it was said that while all Langstons possessed some of the Amethyst power, it ran strongest in the royal line, and stronger still on the female line. Mae could potentially be the most powerful queens in centuries, but only if she knew how to control it. At the moment, she was a ticking timebomb.

Melusina came back into the room. Beaming from ear to ear.

“Okay! That’s that taken care of.” She looked at Beatrice. “Why are you still sitting down? We need to get moving. It’s time I saw that girl of yours. Don’t you think. Come on.”

They moved at lightning speed across the city. It was already twilight, and Beatrice realised she had been gone longer than she thought. They got to the hotel, and entered the lobby. Beatrice saw that that dreadful receptionist was gone. The two women climbed the stairs. Beatrice climbing two at a time.

Once they reached the door to their room, she used the knock she had shown Mae earlier. She waited. But there was no response. She tried again. Still nothing. She pressed her ear to the door, trying to see if she could hear anything. Nothing. Maybe the girl was sleeping.

Melusina came behind her and said, “Allow me.” She very quietly hummed a gentle tune, while placing her hand on the door handle. I small click was heard, and then she opened the door. The two women entered, the clearly empty room.

Then the power went out.

 

The Amethyst Song (Episode Eleven)

Mae was growing tired of being told what to do. Especially since apparently she was still being kept in the dark. They were treating her like a child, and at eighteen she felt she was old enough now to be treated as an adult. She didn’t like being patted on the head and told to ‘just stay here’ while the grown ups went and did stuff.

She was still trying to work her way through the idea that everything and everyone in her life was a lie. The biggest blow was her mother. Intellectually, she could understand that perhaps the whole thing had been for her protection, and that it may even have been an act of love. But, emotionally, she was hurt. Her whole life, her mother was the one constant that she relied on to always be there, and to always tell her the truth.

Then there was the other stuff, the part about being a princess, and if she understood it right possibly a queen. She was still struggling to get her head around that. In her mind, princesses wore long flowing gowns and tiaras, drove pretty P.O.N.I.E.S. and were waited on hand and foot by a team of servants. Since her Papa died there were times when it had been a choice between keeping the lights on and having dinner that night. She looked down at her hands, they were calloused from all the time spent sewing. Not that she had ever minded, she had always been happy growing up. But, now she knew that she could have had a different life altogether. She wasn’t sure what any of it meant.

She wasn’t sure how long her mother had been gone, but it felt like hours. Looking out the window, the sky was dusk. She was getting hungry. She was bored too. The TV, it turned out was broken. She had been pacing up and down the room, with nothing to do but think. She decided to explore. She picked up the keys and put them in her pocket. Then she left the room.

Walking up and down each floor, the most remarkable thing about the place, was how unremarkable it was. Each floor had the same faded wallpaper, and the same worn out carpet. Even the pictures on the walls were exactly the same. In fact, if she didn’t know better, and if the ache in her legs from going down all those stairs didn’t remind her, she would have sworn there was only one floor.

When she reached the ground floor, she heard sound coming from the office behind the check-in desk. It was loud, and thumping through the walls. She felt inexplicably drawn towards it. The louder it became the more she wanted to be closer to it. The sound penetrated into her chest, making her heart singing. She had never heard anything like it. Standing at the door to the office she could see a shimmering mauve light coming from inside. It was emanating in waves, only faint but it was there. A feeling of peace and contentment wrapped around her like a hug.

She opened the door. The sound became melodic. The colours in the air intensified, and were swirling around, becoming almost a solid mass. She had never experienced anything like it.  Inside the office, the girl from the front desk was sitting with her back to the door, in a swivel chair, with one foot on the desk, and the other on the floor. She was painting her toenails a bright, fluorescent orange. She was nodding her head to the music.

“What is that?”

The girl jumped, sending the chair toppling over, and sending her crashing to the floor.

“Ow! What the…Fuck… give a girl some like warning would ya!” She got up, brushing dust and other debris off. No permanent damage appeared to have been done.

“Like, what are you like doing back here anyway? Like did your Mum send you like down here or something?”

“No, I…um, Mama went out and, um I was bored, and I heard your music.”

The girl looked toward the stereo, which had changed songs.

“Oh that. Like yeah, not bad are they? The Albino Pythons. One of my favourite bands. I’m going to see them tonight.”

“I never heard anything like it. It’s so wonderful.”

The girl stared at Mae like she was an alien.

“You like never heard that before? It’s like only the most like played song like anywhere. Honestly, I’m like a bit sick of it.”

“Oh well. Umm, my mama and I, we came here from the country. Murpodompous.”

“Murpo..what? Never heard of it.” She had returned to the important task of painting her toenails orange.

Mae decided that she needed to see this band. A voice in her head whispered that her mother didn’t want her to go out. But, the part of her that was still annoyed with her mother shouted it down. She was a big girl. No one would tell her what to do.

“Could I, er… could I come with you?”

The girl looked at her. One eyebrow raised.

“I guess.”

The feeling of relief that came over Mae surprised her. The possibility that this girl she had never met might say no had been a genuine concern to her.

“Oh, thank you. By the way, my name’s Mae.” She stuck out her hand.

The girl shook it. Her bangles clinking together causing a new wave of energy to pass through Mae.

“Amity.” She smiled at Mae with a bemused grin. She then looked Mae up and down.

She took in her plain, light blue denim skirt, that came down past her knees, and the tan coloured, ribbed turtle neck jumper. Then she looked back down at Mae’s sensible brown boots.

She shook her head.

“Damn. There’s like no way I’m letting you out like that.” She tilted her head to one side, thinking.

“Hmm… lets see what we can do.” She looked around the office. She then picked up a pair of scissors and started cutting Mae’s skirt.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

“Relax. I’m just like making it better.” She continued cutting. By the time she was done, the skirt came halfway down her thighs. Stray white cotton threads hung down at random intervals.

“Now like the boots are actually kind of like okay. But the jumper, eww!”

She went across to a filing cabinet. She opened the top draw and took out a number of assorted t-shirts. They were mostly black and red, and in varying degrees of being in need of ironing. She looked through them, occasionally smelling one or two of them. Finally, she seemed to settle on one. A red t-shirt with a black crow on the front. She handed it to Mae.

“Here like put this on.” Mae did as she was asked. Amity was skinnier than Mae, so the shirt was a little tight, but it fit well enough, emphasising her figure.

“Wow! Girl, like not bad. Now come over here and I’ll put some make-up on.”

Not long after the two girls were lined up outside a pub called, The Local Tavern. The board outside proclaimed that the Albino Pythons would be playing but that first the regular house band the Everyday Minstrels would be doing their usual set. The energy coming from the place was making Mae giddy. At one point she almost lost her balance.

“Watch it! Like you haven’t even like had a drink yet. “

“What is this place?”

“I know! Like what a dive. Worse yet, it’s like a franchise. I swear there’s like a Local Tavern  in every town. But, like if we wanna see the like Pythons…

“Who are the Everyday Minstrels?”

“Oh them. They’re like ok I guess. But it’s almost like it’s compulsory that every like Local Tavern  has a band called the something or other Minstrels. They are always there, and only ever play songs that are like so old even my like granny knows the words.”

Once they were inside, Amity dragged Mae toward the back bar. The pub was dark inside, with dark, wooden beams and wooden floors. Giant beer barrels were lined up behind the bar, with taps attached to each of them. Standing behind the bar were two of the most enormous men Mae had ever seen. They were so tall, they had to bend forward to stop from bumping their blonde heads on the ceiling. Their arms were the size of tree trunks and their chests were so wide she wondered how they fit through doors without turning sideways. They were also identical. As she and Amity walked past the bar, the men stopped pulling pints long enough to wave and call out ‘Hello’. Amity waved back and kept going.

“You know them?”

“Hmm, oh yeah. Like I’m kind of in here all the time.”

When they got to the back bar, Amity installed them into a booth at one end. At the other end, people wearing all kinds of strange outfits were standing at a microphone, singing. They were following the words of the song on a small TV screen. The current group were singing loudly and not terribly tunefully, the effect caused Mae to feel nauseous.

She pointed at the group of singers. “Why are they doing that?”

Amity looked, “Yuk! Urgh, like I hate karaoke. Like it would be okay if anyone of them could actually sing.”

“Karaoke?”

“Oh, like I guess they don’t have that at like, Murpo-whatsit either.”

“Murpodompous. And no.”

“It’s just like drunk losers getting up and like torturing everyone as they like destroy otherwise perfectly like reasonable songs.”

“So, anyone can do it?”

“Anybody, like can. Whether they like should. That’s a different story.”

Mae stood up. She knew why she had needed to come here so badly.

“I want a turn.”

“Really? Well, like I guess. You just like go over to that guy over there and he’ll set you up.”

She went over to the guy the Amity had pointed to, she picked a song. The only one on the list she had ever heard before. Once the current group were finished she took her place on the stage. A bright spotlight shone in her eyes, and she could no longer see anyone out in the crowd. She could hear them though. A couple of wolf whistles and men calling out “Nice Tits came from the crowd. She would have been embarrassed except her focus was entirely on the microphone. The music started, she started rocking to the introduction, waiting for the opening lyrics to appear. She opened her mouth, and began to sing.

Then the power went out.

 

The Amethyst Song – Episode Ten

The ride into Belbarbiton had been silent. When Beatrice had found Mae, in a long abandoned, blocked off portion of the old factory, she had tried to get her adoptive daughter to talk to her. She had even tried to provoke a fight to get the girl to yell at her. Anything. But the girl made it clear that she wasn’t interested in talking, and so it was in silence that they had made their preparations to leave.

Hector had let them use his battered old M.U.L.E. It was an early model and had seen better days. But, he assured them that he had maintained it himself and would get them to their destination in one piece. Also, as an all terrain vehicle, it would be able to take them off the main highway, through the back roads, and dirt tracks, just in case road patrols had been set up.

The trip took three days. If they had used the more direct highways, they would have been there in a matter of hours. But Beatrice, cautious as always, was keen to avoid detection. She had even doubled back a couple of times. Finally though, they approached the city.

Belbarbiton was huge. It was the largest city in all of Gildamoor, although not the capital. As they crossed the city limits, and entered the outlying suburbs, Mae broke her sullen silence to gasp in awe, as she saw the towering skyscrapers up ahead. It was late afternoon when they hit the city proper, and the afternoon sunlight reflected off the multitude of glass and steel that made up that city. The towers were built in a variety of colours and hues, with pinks, greens and violets being the most popular. To Mae, the girl whose only memories were of a small fishing village, the view was as spectacular as it was overwhelming. Beatrice couldn’t help but smile to see her daughter’s reaction.

As they passed through the streets of the bustling city, Mae was fascinated by all the different vehicles everywhere. Barely a week ago she saw her first H.O.R.S.E. yet now it seemed that the whole world was moving about in some kind of metallic, motorised contraption. She wondered why Murpodompous had escaped the influence of these fantastical, man-made beasts. She was about to ask, when she saw possibly the most stunning building in the world. It was massive. So tall that when she looked up, the top was obscured by the clouds overhead.  It was wide too, taking up three city blocks, with just a few narrow tunnels cutting through to allow traffic to move through. Above the cars, pedestrian walkways connected the towering monoliths.

The glass edifice was coloured a deep, dark purple. At regular intervals, wide glass doors allowed entry into the giant structure. An emblem displaying the initials HLC was tastefully hung above each door. The enormous picture windows had such wonderful displays, some with mannequins dressed up in the most stunningly modern creations for men, women and those who weren’t so fussy. The array of colours and fabrics had Mae staring in astonishment. Nothing like these had ever been brought into their shop for mending. Then there were other windows with all kinds of bizarre electronic gadgets and gizmos. She could hardly imagine what any of them were for. But the window that caught her attention, and kept it, was a display of various musical instruments. They were all so bright, and shiny she wanted nothing more than to tell her mother to stop the car so she could have a closer look.

Beatrice noticed where Mae attention led. She too was drawn in a similar direction. She would have loved to take her daughter in and show her the wonders. It would have been a good way to breakdown the wall that had formed between them. But, her focus was on finding a safe place for her daughter, while she went and found the person she needed. So she kept driving. Both women looked back wistfully once the enormous building was finally behind them.

Eventually, the M.U.L.E. pulled up outside a hotel. Unlike the sparkling, shining buildings all around, the hotel was dilapidated, and looked like it could fall down at any moment. It was five storeys high. Beside the towering giants surrounding it, the hotel was almost invisible. The entrance had a shabby looking, faded, blue and yellow striped awning, and a flashing neon sign telling the world they had  V CAN YS. Beside the hotel was a driveway, leading to a parking lot behind the hotel. Beatrice drove through and parked in one of the many empty spots. There were only two other vehicles  there. One old D.O.N.K.E.Y parked in the ‘Staff Only’ spot, and a H.O.R.S.E.  in the back corner, although  not as nice as the one they had seen in Murpodompous.

The women got out of the car. Mae followed her mother around to the front, and to the front desk. A bored looking teenage girl was behind the counter. She had bright orange, short spiky hair. A row of silver earrings ran up her left ear, while a bright pink feather hung from her right. She was wearing a black t-shirt with “Go Fuck Yourself” in white, jagged writing across it. Mae wondered how she was able to lift her hand, it was so covered in rings and bracelets.

Mae and Beatrice stood at the desk waiting for the girl to look up from her magazine. They waited a while. Finally, Beatrice cleared her throat and the girl put it down. She glowered at the women who had interrupted her reading.

“What?”

“We need a room,” Beatrice had had enough of sulky teenagers. Her daughter she was prepared to tolerate, but this ‘thing’ was another matter.

“If it isn’t too much trouble.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Umm… do you, like, do you have a whatsit, a reservation thing, like?”

“No, we do not. However, I should…” The girl cut her off.

“S’alright. Just like fill this in.” She reached under the counter and brought out a red plastic clip board. The clip board had a stack of registration forms. They were turning yellow, it was clear they hadn’t been refilled for a long time. Clearly that had not been necessary.

Beatrice filled in the form. Glancing over her shoulder, Mae noticed that she registered them as Naomi and Tammy Benson. In the address section she just wrote, Brogalla. A largish city on the opposite side of the country.

The girl took the form, glanced at it, looked up and said, 

“So which are you Naomi or Tammy? ” The sneer in her voice told them she knew the names weren’t real, but she didn’t really care. Behind her was a series of pigeon holes, with each room number written above. Each pigeon hole had a hook with a key on it.  All except one, room 12.

The girl reached for the key to room 10. The one closest to where she was standing.

Beatrice said, “We would prefer a room on the top floor.” The girl sighed, this was the most work she had had to do in days. She was already deciding whether she would call in sick tomorrow.

“Whatever.” She passed them the key for room 52. “Happy?”

Beatrice felt the level of sarcasm was unnecessary. As she took the key, she asked, “What can you tell me about the guest in room 12?”

“Well they don’t ask annoying questions for starters.”

Beatrice was satisfied. At least she could be reasonably certain this girl wouldn’t divulge their presence to anyone, “Fine. How much?”

“Depends how long you stay for.”

Beatrice reached into the front of her dress, and pulled out a purse. She removed a large roll of notes. She peeled off a couple, and placed it on the counter. “I think this should cover us for the next couple of weeks. Yes?”

The girl behind the counter stood up straight, her eyes wide with amazement and greed. “Umm, sure, like. Umm… stay, like as long as, you like.” She grabbed for the cash. Putting it straight into her back pocket.

“I thought so.” Beatrice nodded satisfied. She looked around, and noticed a CCTV camera behind the desk. She pointed at it. “Does that work?”

The girl looked where she was pointing. “What the camera? Nah! The owner like put it in cause he like figured it would be like a deterrent. But the guy is like so cheap he like won’t even like plug it in.” She indicated the electric plug was out.

Beatrice nodded. She handed the girl another couple of notes. “Let’s make sure it doesn’t suddenly get plugged in, shall we.”

The girl just nodded. Mentally she was already planning the massive blowout she was going to have with the money. She was definitely not coming to work tomorrow.

Beatrice turned toward the stairs, “Come on.” She started heading up. Mae looked over at the lift.

“Can’t we use the lift?”

“Oh, so you’re talking now? No, I think you’ll find the lift hasn’t worked for years.”

“Oh.” Mae returned to her previous sulky demeanour.

Beatrice sighed.

They were on the fifth floor, after climbing all those stairs, the women were exhausted. Their room was at the end of the hall. A window looked out at the building next door. Opposite their room was a door that lead to the roof and the fire escape.

Beatrice opened the door, and the women went in. The room was all brown, tan and orange. The carpet was threadbare and there were unidentifiable stains on the ceiling. In the centre of the room was a double bed that looked as hard as a slab of granite. It was covered in a motley, frayed and faded orange bed spread. Opposite the bed an old television was bolted to the dresser. A door sitting just ajar, revealed the bathroom.

Beatrice looked around.

“I know it’s not much. But it will be safe.” She looked across at Mae, who had gone to sit on the bed.

“Can I trust you to stay here?”

Mae glared at her.

Beatrice sighed. “Fine. Just don’t leave this room until I get back.”

“Is there any point asking where you’re going?”

“I’m going to find a woman who can help us. Help you rather.”

“I guess I should have expected a vague answer. Is there any reason I have to stay here, and can’t come with you?”

“It’s not safe. I’m already taking a risk in going myself.”

“Fine. Then go. I’ll be here. Waiting like a good little girl.”

Beatrice placed the key beside the TV. “I’ll leave this here, but please don’t go out. Don’t let anyone in either. You’ll know it’s me because I’ll knock like this.” She demonstrated knocking three times on the door. “Alright. Goodbye my love. I promise I’ll be back soon.” With that she left.