The Amethyst Song (Episode Thirteen)

High above the city, on the top floor of the HLC building, Alastair took in the view. Belbarbiton really was the most stunning city in the world. He looked on with the satisfaction of knowing that all before him had been created by him. Through his intellect and his gift for innovation he had transformed this place from a sleepy little backwater, to the thriving metropolis it was now.

The first time he came here had been for his education. Just like his brothers, and his mother, they had been given instruction in the ways of the Amethyst Song by the Crone herself. The Crone, in those days had lived up to the name, unlike the current occupant of the chair.

He smiled when he thought of his most recent interview with that woman. He knew that the interfering wench Beatrice would eventually seek aid from the Crone for the girl. When he arrived back after his brief sojourn into the country he made it his business to pay a visit to his alma mater.

When he arrived the woman gave the impression of being displeased to see him. Yet, he recalled days past when he, Melusina, Frederick, Clarissa, and of course that meddlesome bitch used to pal around during their school days. He reminded her of that time, and how back then he had been somewhat of a favourite of hers.  He told her that on occasion, he regretted that he had mostly ignored her. Back then his interest mainly lay with the lovely Clarissa. However, he never stood a chance with her, not beside his brother who was better looking, not to mention the heir to the throne. So, he had admired her from afar.

There was one time though, he told Melusina, when he thought he may win her affection after all. It was during the great freeze of that year. The roads were all but impassable. His brother, had earlier been called away by their father on some matter of state, and was then unable to return. Melusina was buried in her books as always, oblivious to all. Which left he, Clarissa and Beatrice. The last one too, was occupied with something or other. He and Clarissa spent the days together talking, and laughing. It was one of the happiest times of his life. But then his brother returned and he was all but forgotten.

Spending time with Melusina in that office brought it all back. He paced the office, talking about those days while the woman had sat, nervously in her chair. She should be nervous too, he knew that she had been involved with the forces working against him. Working to remove him from power. Working to take his toys away. Most importantly working to keep the girl and the stone hidden from him.

He kept talking. He talked about his frustration of always being second to his brother. His brother who wasn’t as talented, or as clever as he was. Who simply by the luck of being born first was given everything, while he had to settle for the crumbs. Even now, his brother long dead, it seemed he had to make way for some invisible child.

As he approached her desk he noticed a photograph of a young man in a frame. The man looked to be about twenty something. He looked strangely familiar. He picked it up and brought it over to Melusina.

“Who’s this handsome young man? A bit young for you isn’t he?”

Melusina’s face had drained of colour, and her eyes were wide, she whispered, “That’s my son.”

“Your son? I didn’t know you had a…wait how old is he?”

“Twenty-five.”

Alistair tilted his head to one side thinking. A smile spreading across his face.

“The night of the Amethyst Ball…he’s mine?”

Still whispering, “Yes.”

“Well, how about that. Hmm.”

He turned to her staring directly into her eyes. “Tell me where the girl is, or I will find him and gut him like a fish.”

She swallowed, taking a moment to assess the threat. She knew him well enough to know what he was capable of.

“She’s in a small village, Murpodompous. Down on the coast.”

He looked at her intently, gripping her arm tightly, “Hmm… I think you might even be telling the truth. Apparently they haven’t come her yet.”

“Come? Here?”

“Yes, yes.” He let go of her arm, and started pacing again. “I already found your little hideaway. I must say it was pretty good, such an inconsequential little place it almost doesn’t exist. Not good enough though, I still found it, and they’ve been dealt with. But it seems she got away. My guess is they’ll come here. She’s eighteen you know.”

For a brief moment relief passed over her, hearing that the girl got away. “Has it been that long?”

“You know it has. Now, here’s what you’re going to do. When this girl contacts you, you will call me and tell me exactly where she is. If you do that, I MAY just forget I have a son, and that you kept him from me. But,” he leaned back in so their faces were inches from each other, “If I find that she has been warned off, or that you have interfered in anyway to stop me getting what I want, well…”

He straightened up. “Well, it’s been wonderful catching up hasn’t it. So good reminiscing with old friends. We must do this again.” He moved to the door, as he was about to leave he turned and said, “How soon we repeat this is entirely up to you my dear.” Then he left.

Now he was waiting. He didn’t like waiting. Just to be sure that she did the right thing, he had placed one of his junior staffers at the Institute to keep an eye on her. He was a promising young lad, a bit timid perhaps, but there was something to be said for the timid. They were much more amenable to doing as they were told.

It had been a few days though. He was beginning to wonder if he had miscalculated. Some people often turned out to be more brave, and therefore foolish, than he anticipated. It was a huge problem, but it would mean extra work. It was always preferable when the people simply responded to the threat of violence, rather than him having to go to ll the trouble of carrying it out.

He was watching the tiny vehicles below when the phone rang. He answered.

“Yes?”

“She’s here.”

“Here? Where here?”

“Bea is with me now. She’s got her stashed in a hotel, somewhere in the city.”

“You’d better go with her then. Let me know when you have the exact location. And remember, no funny business.”

The phone went silent.

Well, this was turning out beautifully. By the end of this evening he would have what he wanted. His eighteen year search would be over. He poured himself a drink, and sat in his leather armchair, admiring the lights across the city.

He started humming to himself, idly creating patterns in the air.

Then the power went out.

 

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.

The Amethyst Song – Episode Nine

Back in Murpodompous, Alistair had claimed the Mayor’s Manor as his own. He was lounging on the sofa in the sun room, one leg dangling over the back. He was reading through the notes he’d made. These people were proving surprisingly reticent in their willingness to give him what he wanted; which was of course the whereabouts of the girl. Not that it was all bad, the longer they held out, the longer he could play.

Opposite the sofa, the town butcher was tied to a chair. Battered and bruised, Alistair had a certain admiration for the man’s staying power. No matter how much pressure he applied, still the man stayed dumb. But, now the man was passed out, apparently he’d been a little too zealous with that last round.

He’d picked the butcher, not because he thought he was any more knowledgeable than anyone else, in fact he was certain this man probably only knew a little, if anything about what he wanted to know. He was simply the first person he grabbed. Alistair had found in the past that often the family and friends would offer up what they knew, or tell them who did know, in an attempt to save their loved one. So far, no one had come forward, but it was still early.

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in.”

The man with the tattooed face came in.

“Henderson?”

“The Mayor has asked to see you Mi’Lord.”

“I bet he has. Very well. Show him in. Oh, and could you get rid of that too.” He pointed dismissively toward the butcher, who was slumped forward on the chair. Blood pooling on the floor beneath him.

“Yes Mi’Lord.” He went over, and lifted the butcher up and over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

He left the room. From outside the room, the Mayor could be heard to gasp in horror.

“He says you can go in.”

Hesitantly, the Mayor entered the room. Unsure what else to do, he bowed to the Prince Regent.

Alistair looked up. Not moving from his place on the sofa.

“You asked to see me? I hope this means you’ve decided to be co-operative. Not that I haven’t enjoyed myself. You’ve got  a lovely set up here. But, I do have things to do. The realm doesn’t run itself.”

“Umm… Mi’Lord,” the Mayor was ringing his hands. He was still torn as to what to do. He was aware of the girl, and who she really was, and had been a willing participant in protecting her all these years; as had the whole town. But, as Mayor he knew he had a responsibility to the others in the town as well. “Just…umm… ask, and I will of course offer whatever assistance I can.”

Alistair swung around to sit on the edge of the sofa, both feet now placed firmly on the floor. He looked directly at the Mayor, his ice blue eyes penetrating through his skull.

“That’s excellent. Simply tell me where the girl would have gone, and we shall leave your pathetic little town in peace. How does that sound? Your saw what happened to that man; your butcher I believe? Now, I’m sure your a reasonable man. What’s one girl?”

“Umm, yes. Umm… the thing is…umm… Beatrice was always so secretive. She only told people what she thought we need to know. “

“Hmm, yes. She always was a cunning bitch. I always regretted not questioning her right away when we had her all those years ago. I made the mistake of thinking my brother could hold her. It goes to show that even I am susceptible to a certain familial regard for my brothers. Anyway, she must still have said something. You must have had a contingency.”

“Yes, well, umm…I think that she was talking about taking her to Belbarbiton soon. Apparently she needs to consult someone there. I’m not sure. She kind of lost me with that stuff. He he.” He smiled weakly at the Prince. “But, maybe, since she was going there anyway…umm..she..”

Alistair impatiently cut him off. “Yes, yes. I’m not an imbecile. I’ve made the same deduction. Hmm, of course, the girl is coming of age. I should have guessed she go to see the old crone. I’m almost ashamed I didn’t think of that myself. You may go now. Send Henderson in.”

It was an hour before Henderson returned. When he did, Alistair was pacing up and down the room. His face was red, and his eyes were glowing.

Henderson knew from experience that he would need to tread carefully if he was to last the day.

“I was summoned?”

“Aah Henderson. Yes, I summoned you. An hour ago. Explain yourself.”

“Apologies Mi’Lord. It took longer than anticipated to deal with butcher. I seems the man lived alone, and there was no one to take him off my hands.”

“You should have just dumped him there. Someone would have dealt with him eventually.”

“If only I were as wise as you Mi’Lord.” He bowed.

“Yes, yes.” He waved toward his servant. “No matter. I want you to arrange for our departure. It seems  we are going to be travelling to Belbarbiton. I haven’t been since my boyhood. It will be good to see the old place again. I expect us to be gone directly.”

“Yes, Mi’Lord. I shall bring the H.O.R.S.E around to the front immediately.”

Ten minutes later, they were gone. Headed down the main highway towards Belbarbiton.

Alistair sat in the back seat brooding. This whole exercise had been most annoying. He lent forward.

“Henderson.”

“Yes Mi’Lord.”

“I strikes me that those people are traitors to the realm. Keeping the rightful heir hidden like that. I believe an example should be set.”

“Yes, Mi’Lord.”

“Have the Royal Guard take care of it will you.”

“Consider it done Mi’Lord.”

The Amethyst Stone- Episode Eight

Beatrice fell silent.

In the lunchroom, not a sound could be heard. For what seemed an age, no one spoke.

Finally, one of the children, a fourteen year old girl named Winnie, asked, “Does that mean you’re a princess?”

Mae, whose face had lost all its colour, turned to her, “No!” Then she thought for a moment, and turned to Beatrice,and whispered, “Does it?”

Mae looked at the young woman that she had raised, “Yes, my love. But, only if you want to be.”

Hector, who seemed to be in a trace, suddenly became serious, “No, you’re wrong. She isn’t a princess. She should be a queen.”

The room fell back into silence.

Then Mae started laughing. Just a giggle at first. Then a cackle. Finally, she was laughing so hard, tears started falling down her face.

Hilda, quickly stood up. “Okay children. I think we’ve had enough excitement. It’s time you went off to bed.” There were a few groans from the older ones, who were more aware of what was happening, and wanted to see what developed next. But, many of the younger ones were already half dozing.

Hilda, started shepherding her charges toward the door.

Hector stood. “Do you, um, do you need me to show you the sleeping quarters?”

“No no. I’m sure we can find them. You stay right here.” She looked significantly at the two women.

He just nodded. “Thank you”

Once they’d all left the room, Beatrice looked at Mae, “What’s so funny?” She was puzzled and confused, and also a little hurt.

“Funny?” Mae tried to stop, but it only made her laugh more, “What’s funny? You ask.”

She took a deep breath, “It’s just completely ludicrous! Isn’t it! I mean, let me see if I have this right. Neither you nor Papa are my actual parents. I’m an orphan, my parents, who just happen to have been the King and Queen, were killed in some kind of peasants revolt, and you, the faithful servant spirited me away to a tiny fishing village where you basically lied to me my entire life! Did I get that right? I suppose next you’ll tell me that man back there is my uncle come to drag me off to sit on my throne, or to kill me in my sleep.”

Hector mumbled under his breath, “Probably not in your sleep.”

“Hector! You’re not helping! Mae…”

“No.” She wasn’t laughing anymore. “Don’t say anything.”

“But, we…”

“I said. Don’t say anything.” She got up. “I think I need some air. To clear my head.” She moved toward the door. Beatrice got up to go with her. “No mama. I just… I just need to be alone for a bit.”

“I understand love. It’s just… it may not be safe.”

Mae slumped, deflated. “Oh.”

Hector came over and stood next to Beatrice. He gently touched her elbow. “Let her go. Mae, this place is huge, if you want to be alone, there is plenty of space for that without going outside. Go and explore, it might help clear your head. We’ll be here when you’re done. No doubt you’ll have questions.”

“Oh, I have questions. I just, I just need to think about this.” She left the room.

Again, Beatrice went to follow. Hector held her in place. “Leave her. Leave her.”

She turned to him. “I’ve made a mess of this. Haven’t I?” She burst into tears. Hector gently pulled her into him and wrapped his arms around her into a hug. The woman cried into his shoulder, while he silently rubbed her back.

Finally, she stopped. She looked up at him, her eyes still blurry with tears. Her nose and face all red and blotchy. “ Do you think she hates me?”

“Hates you?”

“Yes.”

“If she does she’s an idiot. She just needs time to think and to process the information. To be honest, I thought there would been more yelling. She must have more of her mother in her than I realised. The worst excesses of the Harrington temper seem to have by-passed her. Although, if I remember correctly, Clari tended to be a slow burning anger. When she was annoyed she could make you feel like a naughty school boy with just a look. Much scarier than Fred.” He chuckled to himself.

Beatrice smiled at the memory. “She was definitely the boss that’s for sure. I miss her. I don’t think I realised how much, until I had to tell that story. I’ve spent so long, being watchful and wary, I haven’t had time to think much about that night. I think I’ve been avoiding thinking about it.”

“That’s understandable. Plus, you had a daughter to raise, and a husband. You had a life. It’s been eighteen years. She wouldn’t have expected you to mourn her this whole time.”

“So you think she’ll forgive me for lying to her?”

“Of course she will. Do you think you’re the first parent that lied to their child to protect them? Once she’s had a chance to absorb it all, she’ll be okay. You both will.”

They stood saying nothing for a moment. Then Beatrice looked around, and saw where she was. She pulled herself away. She then started wiping the remaining tears from her face, and smoothing out her skirt.

“I’m so sorry. What you must think of me, breaking down like that! I didn’t mean to blubber all over you.”

“That’s fine. I didn’t mind.”

“It’s so unlike me, and you’ve been so good taking us in and giving us a place to stay. I promise we’ll be out of your hair soon. Once Mae has had a chance to gather herself, we’ll head off.”

“Head off?”

“To Belbarbiton. I told you when we ran into you that’s where we were going.”

“Hmm…yes. You did. I just assumed you had changed your mind.”

“Even if he hadn’t turned up, we probably would have gone there soon anyway. She’s eighteen now; I’ve been sensing for a while now that she is starting to come into her power. She’s  going to need instruction. There aren’t many who are still able. I certainly can’t help.”

“Yes, you’re right. I know you have to go there. I just, don’t you think he knows it too?”

“Most likely. But, I don’t have a choice. But, it’s a large city. It’s easier to hide. We’ll be careful. In a way, it’s probably better that she knows now. It’ll make it easier.”

She looked around the room.

“I can’t stand this. I’m going to find her.” With that she left the room.

Hector sighed, and sat down. It had been a long day.

The Amethyst Stone- Episode Seven

“She was the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen…”

Beatrice continued the story. She looked across at Mae and smiled, it was the first time she had genuinely smiled in a couple of days, continuing all the way to her eyes.

“I had of course seen and heard the commotion outside. By then some of the mob were trying to get in, they had got into the grounds. I could hear bitter battles being waged between the Royal Guard and the people. I could also see from the window, they weren’t always successful, bodies of slain Royal Guard were just as plentiful as those of the intruders. It was obvious that the Guard were losing.

I held the baby close to my chest and turned to her parents. Frederick was a good man, but it was for Clarissa that my heart wept. We had been friends since we were children. I loved her like a sister, and I knew that in all likelihood this would be the last time I would ever see her.

With the child still pressed against me with one arm, with the other I hugged my friend. We both had tears running down our faces. I promised her that I would keep her daughter safe, and love her as though she were my own. I kissed her, then I left.

Once in the corridor, I could hear the sound of the great doors of the entrance hall being battered. Boom, boom, boom! The noise was terrifying. There was so much noise. Gun fire, men, and some women shouting and cursing. Two of the Royal Guard had stationed themselves outside the door. They were each holding their weapons, ready to defend their King and Queen to the death. I reached up and kissed each of them on the cheek, and wished them luck.

I looked down at my charge, despite the cacophony, this most sweet, most perfect angel, slept. I kissed her forehead. Then I ran.

Obviously through the front hall wasn’t going to be an option, so I headed toward the back passage way and the below stairs. Fortunately, being a member of staff I knew all the more discreet entrance and exits.

I ran down the back stairs. I was almost at the bottom when I ran into Prince Gordon. I was so intent on getting out that I hadn’t seen him coming up the other way. I slammed into his broad chest. I saw that he was carrying a large gun in his hand. He was a tall man, and he looked down at me. He looked me full in the face, and intense look about his eyes. He then looked down and saw what I was holding. With grim determination, he gripped my arm and began dragging me back up the stairs.

Once at the top, he dragged me to an empty bedroom, pushing me in before him. I was confused, and terrified. He closed the door behind him. He looked at me with such fury that I had never seen before. His eyes were blazing bright blue.

But, then he stopped and let go of my arm. He shook his head, and looked at me again.

“Beatrice?”

“Yeee…ss.” I squeaked.

He breathed in and out, gradually the fury subsided. His eyes returning to their normal, pale blue.

“Beatrice. What are you doing?” He looked at the bundle in my arms.

“Is that the child?” I nodded. Still nervous.

He came over and looked down at the child. His facial expression softened completely. He even smiled. He reached out with his free hand, the one not clutching his assault rifle, and gently brushed the hair from her forehead.

He then stopped, and took a step back. Becoming serious again.

“Beatrice. What are you doing? And, with her?”

I was about to answer when, he suddenly turned angry again.

“Tell me you’re not with THEM!”

“With them? Who?”

“The mob out there. I’ve already killed more than a few of the palace staff tonight that were in league with them. I just never thought you…”

I’d had enough by then. I was frightened, and nervous, and conscious of wanting to get somewhere safe. So, I got angry, and I slapped him. Hard enough to leave a red mark.

“How dare you! You bloody great oaf! With them! Huh. I was, as it happens, trying to get YOUR NIECE to safety. But, in you come, suffering from a case of extreme testosterone poisoning, and jumping to all kinds of conclusions. Perhaps, you would be more use going to see if you can go and help your brother and sister-in-law.”

One thing I’ve always liked about Gordon, even though he tends to be a bit of a hot-head, he’s really quite easy to calm down. My little outburst seemed to have done the trick.

“Oh thank god! I would have hated having to kill you.”

He smiled at me.

“Stay here!”

“But, I…”

“No, stay here. The palace has been infiltrated. This isn’t a spur of the moment assault. This is a planned attack, they have people on the inside. Stay here, quietly, I will come back and get you out.”

Before I could protest, he was out and locking the door.

I looked all around for a way out. We were in the music room. This had long been a favourite room of mine and Classisa’s. She was an Langston on both sides of her family, and even I had some Langston blood. Music spoke to our souls.

But that day, the room had become a prison.

We were on the fourth floor, so even if I was willing to risk my own life going out the window, with thee baby it wasn’t an option.

My only thought was to try and get the door open. I couldn’t do it with the baby in my arms, so reluctantly I found a place to put her. There was a silk screen in the corner, behind it was a basket containing, dresses, and scarves and all kinds of costumes that we sometimes used when putting on concerts. I gently placed the baby on top of the pile of clothes and pulled the screen around it.

I then went to the fire place and picked up the poker. I then started hacking at the door handle, trying to remove it.  

In between swings, I noticed that it was quiet outside. I had been so intent on getting out I hadn’t realised.

I stopped banging, and put my ear to the door. Nothing.

I raced to the window, and looked out. The gardens were still.

Was it over? So soon? What of Frederick and Clarissa? Had they survived?

I heard the key on the lock, and the door opened. Gordon entered, followed by his brother, Alistair. Both had grim faces. Gordon’s eyes were red rimmed, as though he had been crying. Alistair’s pain somehow didn’t make it’s way to his eyes, which were sparkling. He was patting his brother on the shoulder.

“My good, sweet, younger brother. You always were the emotional one.”

Gordon looked at his brother, “If only I had got there in time.”

“We both did the best we could. When I got there it was already too late. I did manage to take care of the scum with my bare hands though. I have to say that was rather satisfying. The looks on their faces when I walked in! You know I really do think I surprised them. No sign of the baby though, and I looked everywhere. No matter, it will be found. As regent, I am responsible for it’s welfare after all. I wouldn’t want anything unfortunate to happen to it.”

“Err, no! Of course not! Oh that beautiful, girl! An orphan already, and not a day old.”

“Girl? What? Have you seen her? Where?” Alistair’s eyes shone.

“That’s what I was… what I wanted to show you.”

They turned and saw me standing near the door. The fire poker in my hand. Gordon, looked at me and shook his head. He then seemed to notice that the baby was gone, and his face clouded over.

“Where is she Beatrice?”

I looked from one to the other. While I’ve always liked Gordon, his brother however is a different story. I’ve never fully trusted him. On that night, whether as a result of still being on my guard following the events of the day, or something else, but instinct told me not to divulge her whereabouts. Besides as far as I was concerned, I had been instructed by my King to get his daughter to the safety of the village where her mother and I grew up. Nothing that I had heard so far countermanded that instruction. I thought quickly. I dropped to my knees and started crying, Clutching at their pant legs.

“She’s gone!”

“Gone? What do you mean gone?”

“They came. They were brutal, they just grabbed her and pushed me to the ground. Then they ran off with her. Ohhhhh!!”

Then I started crying in earnest. Tears hadn’t been far from the surface all night, so it wasn’t difficult to start, but proved very hard to stop. I was tired.

Gordon gently pulled me up and toward the sofa. He sat me down, and took both my hands in his. He wiped the tears from my face with his hand.

“Shhh. Shhh. It’s alright. We’ll find her.” He pulled me to his shoulder and rubbed my back.

His brother hadn’t moved. He looked at me, his eyes narrowed, and penetrated into my being.

“So, these brutes. They just came in here, pushed you down, took the baby and left.”

I looked at him and nodded.

“And locked you in again?”

I looked at him, no doubt the look of shock on my face. He knew I was lying.

“You also look to be in remarkably good health. Didn’t put up much of a struggle did you?”

I had nothing to say. He had seen through me so easily.

“I think it’s clear what has happened here.”

Gordon had stopped holding me and was backing away.

“She’s been in league with them this whole time.”

He came and stood over me. But, I had immediately relaxed. At least for now, my secret was safe. I took the opportunity. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I knew I had to keep her hidden. I looked up at him, defiantly.

“You’ve got me!”

Gordon stood up. Shock, and hurt, on his face.

“But when I confronted you. You were so adamant! “

“Well I lied.”

Alistair turned to his brother.

“You’ve always been susceptible to a pretty face. I’ve told you before it would get you in trouble.”

He sighed and walked back to the door.

“I am going to get the search party organised. Dear brother, do you think you can manage to secure this wench so she doesn’t get away? We’ll need to question her later. But first, we must find the brat, I mean the child. I am extremely concerned about the child’s welfare, it would not do if something nasty happened to her.”

With that he swept from the room.

As soon as he was gone. I got up, and headed to the screen in the corner, picking the baby up in my arms.

Gordon’s expression had become one of confusion.

“What the hell is going on?”

“I’m taking your niece somewhere safe. I told you that.”

I started heading for the door.

“But, she is safe. They’re all gone.”

I turned and saw him standing there. I walked over and gently touched his face,

“Oh you sweet, good man. You’re such a good brother. But, I wouldn’t trust your brother with a dog I liked much less a new born baby. Fredrick told me to take her away, and that’s what I intend to do. Are you going to stop me?”

He looked at me. Confusion giving way to uncertainty. Then he shook his head.

“Just, where will you go?”

“To somewhere that she will be safe, and loved and protected.”

He nodded. “Okay then. Go, I’ll handle my brother.”

“Thank you.” I reached up and kissed his cheek. Then I ran, this time out of the palace, for good.”

 

The Amethyst Song- Episode Six

The children and adults sat quietly, while Hector continued his story.

“Theodore and Evelynne had a happy marriage. Their union produced three sons. Frederick, Alistair and Gordon.

I’ve already said that Theodore’s rule was a time of great peace and prosperity. It was also a time of healing. The Harringtons were strong rulers, and just. However they did like their battles and the honour and glory that victory over foreign rulers gave them. They were also an acquisitive lot. During the century or so that the Harringtons had been in charge, the country of Gildamoor had grown into the vast land that we are now familiar with. But, it wasn’t without pain or heartache. As new lands were conquered and added the old and new inhabitants had to learn to get along. That is never easy. Minor squabbles and the odd atrocity on all sides made the place especially unhappy.

In addition, for those who cared about such things, the displacement of the Langstons from their place of power caused a pain and a deep depression that came up from the land itself. Nothing was quite what it should be.

But, the marriage of the two families brought an end to that. The strength and power of one, combined with the ancient knowledge and wisdom of the other, under the protection of the restored Amethyst Song spread joy throughout the land. In their sons, the people placed great hope that this golden age would continue.”

Looking around the room, Hector saw dozens of eyes trained on him in rapt attention. His words had had the effect of soothing their fears. He smiled, and continued his tale.

“Continue it did. When Theodore died the country went into mourning, but not for long. Queen Evelynne still remained, and their son, Frederick by then a handsome and intelligent man in his mid-30’s was a favourite with everyone. At his coronation, a glittering affair and was marked by a month long celebration, he was presented with the Amethyst Song. It is said that when it was placed on his chest, it sang; the sweetest, most joyous song anyone has ever heard. The song reverberated throughout the land, echoing from every tree and every stone. His own wife, a distant cousin on the Langston side was a stunningly, beautiful woman of such grace that the people fell in love with her immediately.

His brothers too, had grown into accomplished men. Gordon was a revered general in the Royal Guard, and had shown himself to be a master tactician, living up to his Harrington heritage. But, it was the middle brother, Alistair that had shown himself to be truly gifted.

From the moment he was born, it was clear that Alastair was intelligent. His understanding of complex ideas and concepts was a wonder. As he grew, his natural flare, especially for mathematical and scientific principles, plus an inclination toward creativity meant that he would become one of the most prolific inventors of our time. You would be hard pressed to find a gadget or a gizmo that we use today, that didn’t originate in his superior mind.

He was also blessed with extraordinary charisma and the ability to turn his creations into money making ventures. He established the Harrington-Langston Corporation which quickly became the most profitable and and most influential enterprise in the world.”

He paused for effect. He had always been a gifted storyteller, and he was in his element here. He hadn’t had so much fun in ages.

“It seems however, that despite his brilliance, and despite all his achievements and material wealth, his hunger for power and glory could never be sated.

A year or two following Frederick’s coronation, it was announced that his wife, Clarissa was pregnant. The people rejoiced. At least, for awhile.

Shortly after the announcement, rumours of discontent began to circulate. At first it was only small things. People were complaining about the pavements not being swept enough, or the water in the pipes not being cold enough. But then, it was that taxes were too high and that the roads between the main cities were not maintained properly. Squabbles between neighbours became outright feuds. In cities and towns up and down the land public meetings started being held. The mood of the people was not good. Finally, it began to circulate that the source of the trouble was, King Frederick and his wife. No one is sure where this last came from, but it grew.

Before long, people were marching in the streets. The protests started peacefully, but grew more violent over time.

Then came a night roughly eighteen years ago. The long awaited event had arrived. Frederick and Clarissa’ child was born. A beautiful, raven haired daughter. While the dark hair marked her as a Harrington, everything else about her was pure Langston. Anyone who saw her, knew immediately that she was special, and not just because she would be Queen one day.

However, Frederick and Clarissa’s joy was short lived. Only hours after her birth, a rumbling could be heard outside the palace grounds. Frederick looked out the window of his wife’s birthing suite and saw the palace was surrounded by throngs of angry people, wielding all kinds of weapons. They were waving placards and shouting. They had come for him, and his family.

His immediate thought was for his daughter, if nothing else, she must be protected. He called for the queen’s most trusted maidservant. A good woman who had come with Clarissa when she was married; they had grown up together in a part of the world long associated with the Langston family. When she came, he handed her the tightly wrapped bundle that was his daughter and the amulet. We instructed her to run, to the place she and the Queen called home and to keep them both safe. If all went well, he would come and get them. If not…”

He stopped again. But this time, there was only sadness in his expression. The fun part was over. He turned to Beatrice.

“I think it’s your turn to take over the story.”

She simply nodded, sighed and began.

“She was the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen…”

 

The Amethyst Song- Episode Five

Mae woke first. Seeing that her mother was still sound asleep, she quietly got up and padded out to the lunchroom, in her bare feet. Without any windows, it was difficult to tell how early or late it was. She found Hector at one of the tables, cradling a coffee cup in his hands, staring into space. He didn’t notice that Mae had come in.

She quietly made a coffee for herself, before going to sit opposite the man. The sound of her spoon stirring her cup, caused him to jump with a start.

“Oh! You’re up.”

“Mmm.”

She kept stirring. The man looked at her, but almost seemed to be looking through her. Like he was trying to work something out.

“How much do you know about history?”

“History? What do you mean? Just what they taught us in school.Not much.”

“So, none.” He sighed.

“Okay. I know you must have a lot of questions. Your mother really should have told you already, but since she hasn’t….” he moved in his chair so her was looking at her eye to eye.

“Before we get into… specifics, I think it is important for you to have a quick history lesson.”

Mae was still groggy with sleep, but her annoyance with her mother, and now this man, refusing to tell her what was going on was intensifying.

“Is that really necessary? Can’t you just tell me. You said yourself I have a right to know, if this all concerns me.”

“Oh it concerns you alright. But, a little more patience… you need to know the history of this place, or nothing else will make any sense.”

“Pfffftttt…alright! Tell me.”

She slumped in her chair, her arms folded, prepared to be bored.

“Okay. Once upon a time,”

“Wait. Stop. Really? You’re really going start with ‘Once Upon a Time’?”

“Yes, I am, it’s how all good stories start.”

“Stories? It thought you said this was meant to be history.”

“Calm down. I’m getting there. History is just a story that happens to be true. Now, do you want me to tell it or not?”

“Oh alright. Just… get on with it.”

“Once upon a time, this country was one kingdom, ruled by one King. King Theodore Harrington. While far from perfect, as no man is, as far as kings go, he was one of the best. This country experienced peace and prosperity unlike any time before, or since.

His wife, Queen Evelynne came from one of this land’s oldest families. The Langstons. Her family are said to have ruled this place in one way or another since before time itself. It was only when the Harringtons came along a century or so ago, that they lost their place. When Theodore married Evelynne, many said that finally the rightful rulers were in place again.

All superstition, no doubt, except…for the Amethyst Song. The Amethyst Song is an amulet that has been in the possession of the Langstons since anyone can remember. They say that whoever holds the amulet is the true born ruler of this land. It was lost for a time, no one knows for sure what happened, all that is known is that when they lost it, is when the Harringtons took power. Then mysteriously it resurfaced when Evelynne was born.”

Hector paused and took a sip of his coffee. In the silence, a banging could be heard coming from the back entrance. He was immediately on his feet, and alert.

“Stay here.”

He left the room.

Mae got up. “I wish people would stop telling me what to do.”

She left the room too. She saw Hector moving, slowly and quietly in the shadows toward the entryway. A pistol was in his hands. She hung back, watching to see what he would do, but not wanting to draw attention to herself.

After he had disappeared into the office, she moved next to the door, and stood listening. The banging was louder, and more insistent. There was a pause. Then she heard him gasp, and start unbolting the door. The silence was then filled with the sound of dozens of young voices. Hector was ushering them in.”Come in, come in. What is this all about?”

There was a commotion by the door and then dozens of children came pushing through the door. Some crying, all exhausted. Bringing up the rear was Hilda Ravencour who ran the local school. Hector came behind them motioning them through the door. Mae was pressed with her back to the wall, in the dark shadow, but that didn’t stop him from spotting her. He gave her a look that said he wasn’t surprised, and just shook his head.

“Come on everyone. Now, now. Enough of the tears. You’re all safe now. This way. We’ll see if we can’t put some food in you all. Then maybe you can tell me why you’re all here, and what’s going on.”

“I doubt it.” Mae mumbled under her breath.

It wasn’t long before all the children, plus Hilda, Hector and Mae were in the kitchen. Fortunately there were a several loaves of bread, and tins of tomato soup, so they were all able to be fed. It was clear that they had been walking all night, and most of the day. During the excitement, Beatrice had woken, and come to the kitchen. She was helping the other adults with feeding the children.

While they ate. Hilda filled them in on what had happened in town, after they had fled. As she spoke it was clear that the strain of maintaining calm for the sake of the children was taking its toll. As she spoke, Mae became more subdued. Her mother glanced across at her, a worried and sympathetic expression on her face.

“It’ll be alright, my love. You’ll see.”

Her daughter looked across at her, “This is all because of me. Isn’t it?”

“No love, you mustn’t think that.”

“Stop it!” Mae stood up abruptly, causing her chair to fall to the floor with a crash. “Look at them mama. Look at us. That man came looking for me! Don’t deny it. You need to stop lying to me. I’m a big, girl, whatever it is, I can handle it. But, stop treating me like a child.” Her face had turned red, and her eyes had started to turn silver.

Hector came over and placed a hand gently on her arm.

“You know she’s right Bea. The time for secrets is passed.”

Beatrice just sat, nodding her head defeated. “I know. I know.” She turned to her daughter,a pained expression on her face, “First, though, before we tell you everything, I want you to know I love you, and I always will; and that everything that has happened has been to protect you.”

“Of course mama. I love you too.”

Hector had moved back to his chair, and motioned for Mae to sit beside him.

“Okay then I was just starting to give you a history lesson. I see no reason why all you young folk would benefit from a bit of history. So if everyone will get comfortable, I’ll get started. Once upon a time,”

Mae groaned, while Hector smiled at her, a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and went back to the beginning, “ this country was one kingdom, ruled by one King.”

 

The Amethyst Song- Episode Four

It was the middle of the day, Mae, her mother and their escort reached their destination. They had stuck to the forest, pushing past trees and shrubs. Finally, through the trees a massive building loomed up ahead.

As they got closer, they could make out the giant sign painted on the side proclaiming it to be the home of Bailey’s Baby Bottles. At least it did once upon a time. It had been six years since anyone had thought to freshen it up and it was looking a little worse for wear, now all that was left was B.i…..Bab..Bot…s.

Beneath the sign was a picture of a baby’s smiling face, with cute rosy, chubby cheeks and a toothless grin. Except that was looking a bit shabby too, and only one green eye was completely intact, the other had all but washed away, leaving a weird, slightly surreal, vaguely horrifying image behind.

The building itself was huge. Made from solid, brown concrete, and rusted iron the building dominated its space. Like a colossal, man-made mountain. From the roof, a collection of smoke stacks, pipes and chimneys rose up into the sky. A dark grey metal fence, topped with barbed wire, encircled the whole thing. The gate consisted of a black boom gate with a great big stop sign, beside a small guard house.

The boom gate was down, and the guard house was empty. There was no smoke coming from any of the chimneys and not a sound could be heard. What was once a big, noisy, thriving factory full of people and life, was nothing more than an empty shell.

Hector lead the women towards the old factory.  The younger looked about her new surroundings with curiosity, while the older looked wary. When they got to the guard house, Hector lifted the boom gate with one hand, and gestured with his other for the women to go underneath. Missy, the dog, needed no further instruction and raced ahead towards the back of the building.

Mae was intrigued by their guide’s nonchalant use of strength. The boom gate was clearly quite heavy, but seemed to weigh nothing at all in his hand. She said nothing, however, just storing the information for later. Their whole trek had been like that, with the three of them saying nothing at all. Only Missy had uttered any kind of sound.

They followed Hector to the back of the building, and a heavy, metal door. He rummaged in his pocket, and produced a bunch of keys, one of which he put into the lock and opened the door, with far less effort than seemed necessary. He made a sweeping gesture with his free arm, and bowed from the waist. “Mi ladies.”

The women entered. It was almost completely dark.They could hardly see at all, except for where the open door allowed some light in. Hector came in, closing and bolting the door behind him with and clank. Mae noted that this meant no one could get in, or out, without this man knowing about it. She wondered if perhaps she should have listened to her mother.

Despite the pitch darkness, Hector moved about quite easily, he was clearly at home here. He brushed past Mae, and she heard the metallic squeal off hinges, as he opened some kind of metal box on the wall. She heard him twist knobs, push buttons, and flip switches. Then he pulled a big heavy lever down. With a shudder and a thud, a machine somewhere beneath their feet, came to life, and the whole room became illuminated. After being in darkness, even for such a short time, it took a moment to adjust to the bright light.

It was a small office or some sort. One wall was lined with assorted control panels, and the other with a workbench. There was a door at either end. One being the door they had just used, the other, it could be assumed lead to the rest of the building. The workbench was cluttered with all kinds of objects some familiar like wrenches, screwdrivers, tape dispensers and things, others were not. But, one thing it all had in common, it appeared that none of it had been used in a long time, if at all. It was almost like each item had been carefully placed to create the illusion of a work space. The other thing that it all had in common, was that it was all covered in dust.

On the wall, above the workbench were various charts and clipboards holding assorted paperwork. There was also a poster on the wall telling people that “Idleness was the enemy of productivity.”

Hector, with the dog at his heels, preceded to the second door and moved through it. The women followed . On the other side of the door was a massive, cavernous area. But, where Mae had expected to see the assorted machinery of a baby bottle factory, instead she saw giant printing presses, weapons cases and other strange equipment. Mae turned to her mother to make a face like, “What’s going on?”, but most surprising of all, her mother didn’t seem surprised at all. Just wary, and a bit cross.

Beatrice looked around. “I see you’ve got it all up and running again.”

Hector was still moving across the space ahead of them, he seemed not to hear. But then said, “Hmm… oh yeah. It’s taken ages. I’ve mostly been working alone. Getting the parts and everything has taken the most time. But, I’ve got it just about ready to be operational again.”

“Do you think it wise?”

“Do you think we have a choice?”

“I guess not. It’s just I thought we might have peace a little while longer.”

“You call this peace? I call it regrouping.”

“Hmmm.”

They continued until they had crossed to the other side of the space. Hector opened a door, and they moved into what appeared to be a staff lunchroom. There was a fridge, a stove, an oven, and a microwave. In the middle were tables and chairs. There was a noticeboard with faded rosters pinned to it.

Hector moved to the fridge and opened it. “I’m guessing you two are hungry. I don’t have much but I’m guessing it’ll be better than some stale bread. Am I right?” He looked at Mae, his eyes smiling at her. He was laughing. Despite herself, Mae smiled back, also laughing, even though by now she wasn’t really in a laughing mood. It was clear there was more going on than she knew. It was also clear that her mother had been hiding things from her. It was that, more than the sudden flight from her home, and meeting up with this strange man, that she found the most unsettling.

Before long, the three of them were eating. They were hungry so they eat in silence. Once they had eaten, their other basic needs started to make themselves know. They were tired. Except for the brief sleep in the woods, the women had been on the move for over a day. But, the adrenalin was wearing off, since they appeared to be safe, at least for now, and their physical exertions were starting to make an impact on their tired bodies. But, Mae wanted answers.

“So, now will you tell me what on earth is going on?” Her mother looked at her. Thinking. Deciding.

“Yes, my love. I will tell you. I promise. But, I ask you to wait just a while longer.”

“Why? Why should I wait? This is ridiculous. Just tell me.”

“Bea,” Hector spoke gently, “I think the girl has a right to know.”

“I know. I know she does. It’s just that I know once I do, things will change. I’m not ready for that yet.” She looked at them both, exhaustion and worry written across her face.

Hector sighed. “Oh Bea.” He turned to Mae, “Perhaps indulge your mother a little longer, “

“But, I…”

“No, listen. You and your mother are tired. Once we get into it all, it will be a long conversation. I don’t think either of you are up to it. Get some sleep, and then we’ll talk. I promise.”

As much as she wanted answers, the prospect of sleep was appealing so Mae agreed.

Hector then lead the women to another room, that contained rows and rows of bunk beds. About a dozen of them. The sheets and blankets were a bit stiff from being in place for so long, but they appeared to be clean.

“This is one of the dormitories. Pick whichever one you like.”

Each women lay down on a bed, and despite everything that had happened, and all the thoughts racing through their heads. They promptly fell to sleep.