The Amethyst Song (Episode Twenty)

The stranger stood with his back to him. There was a woman sitting at the computer, and he was resting one hand on her shoulder, while leaning over and point at something on the screen. Even standing as he was, it was clear that he was a big man. Well over six feet and broad-shouldered and wearing fitted black jeans and t-shirt. It would be a brave soul that would mess with him.

Hector, coughed. The stranger looked around. Seeing Hector he grinned. He came over and the two men hugged. Hitting each other on the back as they did so.

“Hector you old bastard! “

“Sir Alex!”

“That’s enough of the Sir thank you, My Prince.”

Hector laughed. “Touche.”

Alex nodded toward the factory. “ You’ve got quite an operation going here.”

“It’s building nicely. Yes. But, we won’t know how well until we’re put to the test.”

“There are rumours that you’re preparing for war.”

“That’s hardly news. Ever since that arse of a brother of mine killed my other brother, we’ve all been at war, one way or another.”

“True. This is different though. This feels, seems more, I don’t know, determined. Like everything before now was just practice for the real thing.”

“You could be right there.”

“What’s changed? Why the sudden ramp up. I haven’t seen you this committed and ready for action since the raid. I had almost thought you had abandoned us, and had decided to see out your days tucked away as a hermit.”

“It’s not so much what has changed? But rather who.”

“Who?”

“She. He found her hideout.”

Alex was temporarily stunned. But he quickly regained his composure.

“So, then we really are headed for a mighty battle.”

“I’m hoping we can avoid that as much as possible.”

“When did you become so naive? You know it’s going to be long, and bloody and brutal. Your brother isn’t just going to give up power because we ask him nicely.”

“I know, I know.”

“I do have one question for you H.”

“Hmm. What’s that?”

“Why the hell didn’t you get me involved before now?” The two men laughed.

“Come I’ll show you around the factory.”

“Lead the way, my liege.” Alex bowed, with a sweeping gesture of his arm. Hector gave his friend a filthy look before leading him on a tour.

The two girls half ran and half skipped through the corridors of the old factory, to one of the back rooms. Only a handful of rooms were used by the gathering rebel army and the refugees from Mae’s home town. The rest was largely empty, and disused. However, here and there, evidence of its former life could be seen. Mae and Amity often came here.

Along the way, Hector’s old dog, Missy had found them and was tagging along for the adventure. Hector often joked that Mae had stolen his dog, the canine rarely far from her side. In fact, Mae was half intrigued to know where she had been. But she couldn’t think about that now. She had to concentrate on find her Mama.

They reached a heavy metal door. It was covered in rust, and difficult to open. It took both of them to get it to budge. Once they got through they were in a small paved area. It was dusk and the diminishing light made the surrounding forest appear like it was alive.

She sat in the middle of the concrete, with her legs crossed, and placed her hands on both her knees. Missy sat next to her while Amity stood back, watching her friend, torn between concern and excitement. Mae wasn’t one hundred percent certain what she was about to do would work. But she had learned enough about her power now to start to understand it, and she felt confident that she knew enough to begin to experiment.

Mae had found that music was more than just sound to her. She was learning that all her senses came to play. She could see music, feel it, taste it and smell it. Her instinct told her that tuning into her different senses was the key to gaining control of her power. Her plan was to use her power to reach out and find her mother. She reasoned that if imagining the light of a candle, and feeling its warmth, could blow up a room, tapping into some other sense would work for this too.

She had decided to focus on smell. Her mother always wore a light, lavender perfume. She concentrated on the memory of the fragrance, and began to sing. She immediately felt safe, warm and loved. She pushed at the memory with her mind, stretching it and making it grow. She could feel it doubling, and tripling in size. Pretty soon it had grown so that she could feel it stretch over the metropolis of Belbarbiton like a blanket. But, it didn’t stop there, it kept growing. Eventually, she felt she had reached a place that felt both strange and familiar all at once. She realised she had reached the Capital, the place she was born.

She started to pay more attention to small details, logic told her she would be here. She felt the impression of a grand, powerful building. The palace. She knew she was close. She made one last push with her mind, lifting her voice to a crescendo. All at once, her mind locked with her mother’s mind. She knew immediately that it was her. The surprise made her lose concentration, and she lost the connection. She opened her eyes to find herself back outside the factory. She was exhausted, but elated. Her first spell had worked. Plus, she now knew her mother was alive. With practice she would be able to make more lasting contact, and maybe even work out how to rescue her.

But right now she needed rest. Not caring where she was at the moment, she lay down and slept. Her two faithful companions, one human and one canine, stood century over her.

Meanwhile, in the nearby forest, two unseen eyes watched.

The Amethyst Song (Episode Nineteen)

Tobin was exhausted. He had just pulled a ten hour shift on the printing presses. They ran day and night now. His job was to collect the finished bundles and carry them to the loading dock, where someone, he didn’t know who, would take them who knew where. He was too tired to care. It had been six months since he and his mother, along with the rest of the town of Murpodompous, had come here seeking refuge. Some refuge, it seemed all they had done since they got here was work. He collapsed on the nearest bunk bed, ready to fall immediately to sleep, or he would have if he weren’t being kept awake by the conversation in the bunk above him.

“You can’t.” Amity whispered.

“Why can’t I?” Mae was lying on her back beside her friend.

Over the past six months the two had become inseparable, often found whispering in corners. Mae had been getting some limited instruction in how to use The Song from Hector, or rather Gordon. The novelty of having real, honest to god family around, instead of the fake, pretend family she had grown up with hadn’t worn off yet. She still couldn’t quite believe it. He was a good teacher, patient and kind. But, she sensed that they were already reaching the limits of what he could show her. He had admitted from the start that while he, like his brothers had inherited the gift, his skills and talent were limited. It was a rather cruel irony that the one person whose powers came close to her own, and who could have shown her how to use them, was also the person who wanted her dead.

“The Boss won’t like it.”

“Since when have YOU worried about what he said?” Mae sat up, looking down at Amity.

“Ok, then, I don’t like it. You could ruin everything.”

“Not if I’m careful.”

Amity gave her a look that told Mae exactly what she thought of that.

“I will! Besides I have to do something. She’s out there. Who knows where, and it’s all my fault. No one seems to care about finding her.”

“That’s not fair! Yow know that everyone is just as worried as you, but if we go blundering ahead, we could bring this whole thing on top of us. More than just your Ma could get killed.”

Mae sighed, “I know. You’re right, but I was such a bitch to her, and now…I just want to get her back. I hate to think what he’s doing to her. Just one little spell, just to check that she is still alive. How can that hurt?”

“Alright. I can see I’m not going to change your mind.” Amity sat up, swung her legs over the edge and jumped to the ground. “Come on! If your going to do it, let’s go.”

Mae smiled. “Coming.” She followed her friend jumping down with a thud. “ I think I know just the place to do it.”

The girls ran out of the dormitory.

Tobin lay on his back, thinking. He wondered what they were talking about. Ever since that strange man came to town, life had certainly become more interesting, even if a little confusing. What surprised him most, was that apparently, Mae the shy girl from the seamstress shop, was somehow important or something. He remembered her, a little, they had been in a few classes together at school. He had always thought she was pretty, but her mother was so protective, and let’s face it a little scary that he, and most of the other people his age mostly left her alone.

He had tried asking his mother about it. But, she had only really given him vague answers. He continued thinking about it until, finally, he drifted off to sleep.

Meanwhile, down in the loading dock a large E.L.E.P.H.A.N.T. was being unloaded. Hector was overseeing the delivery himself. Large metal crates were being stacked on a huge trolley, each stamped with DANGER in red letters on the side.

“Careful with those fellas.” Hector called out to the men moving the boxes around. “ You need to get all of those down to the basement. Come on I’ll show you.”

He lead the way toward a large, industrial lift. Once the doors opened the trolley was wheeled in. Hector turned to the console, he inserted a card, and typed in a code on the keypad. A panel opened with an additional button, saying BASEMENT. He pressed it. The doors closed and the lift began its journey.

When they reached the bottom, the doors opened and the trolleys were wheeled out. He lead them down a wide corridor. The floor of the corridor was covered in white linoleum, and the walls, were covered in white tiles from about half way up to the ceiling. Bright fluorescent lights shone above them making the area seem both incredibly bright, and slightly depressing all at once.

The passed a number of locked, reinforced doors until they reached the end of the corridor. There they found a great, big, solid, steel door. There was a metal plate in the wall beside it. Hector placed his hand on it and hummed. There was a click, and a clank and the massive, thick door swung open.

Hector indicate that the men with the trolley should wheel it in and stack the boxes on shelves that were inside. The men saw that the room was the size of an aircraft hanger, and filled with shelves, many already holding other similar boxes.

He watched silently, and the men fulfilled their instructions. He then followed the men back to the loading dock. He watched as they climbed into the E.L.E.P.H.A.N.T. and drove away. He was closing the roller door when a young girl, Prancine, came running over, clutching a piece of paper.

“Mr. I mean, sir, I mean..”

Hector held out his hand and took the paper. “For me? Thank you Prancine. You can run along now.”

“But, umm, they said you need to come now.”

“Yes. I gathered that. I’m on my way. Not to worry.” He smiled. Although it didn’t reach his eyes. It had been a long while since he had felt much like smiling, for real, in the past six months. The time spent with his niece was one of the few joys he had these days, and even that was overshadowed by worry. Worry for her. Worry for the mission. Worry for Bea. He tried to put on a brave face for everyone, especially Mae, but he knew his brother, and if she was still alive, he hated to think what he might be doing to her.

He looked at the piece of paper in his hand. COME TO THE CONTROL ROOM. URGENT MESSAGE.

He started making his way to the control room. One of their spies must have found out something important, they didn’t make contact otherwise. As he walked, his head filled with speculating about what the message might be, he passed Mae and Amity going the other way.

“Hi girls. Staying out of trouble?”

“Yes, Uncle.”

“Yes, Boss.”

The girls ran past, giggling. Hector shook his head. He was glad that mae had a friend, but he did worry about what they got up to when no one was watching. He sighed, he didn’t have time to worry about that now. He reached the control room, when he entered a stranger stood before him.

The Amethyst Song (Episode Eighteen)

Hector led the two girls through a series of tunnels. The tunnels were all lit by the same strange, purple torches as before. Mae tried to keep a sense of there direction, but lost it fairly soon. She could swear that at times they went in a circle. Occasionally the tunnel passed through the basement of one building or another. Hector was always careful to unlock and re-lock the passage doors as they moved through. They never saw anyone, the basements mainly filled with old boxes and discarded furniture. There was one wine cellar though, and Mae noticed with some bemusement that Hector helped himself to a couple of bottles. When he saw her watching, he winked at her and said, “We might get thirsty later.”

The had been moving for what felt like days, but had in fact only been a couple of hours. Mae turned to Amity, “Do you have any idea where we’re going?”

“Nuh! Fun isn’t it.” Her new friend grinned at her and almost skipped ahead of her.

Finally, the approached a ladder. Hector climbed up, there was a metal wheel above his head, which he turned, and then pushed, opening up an escape hatch in the ceiling.

“Up we go ladies. Almost there.” He was smiling, despite the apparent danger he was enjoying himself. Climbed through the hatch, and helped pull the girls up behind him. Mae came through last, as she got up and brushed herself off, she looked around. They were in the car park at the back of their hotel. Hector’s old M.U.L.E was still where they parked it, and the D.O.N.K.E.Y. , which apparently belonged to Amity was there too. But the H.O.R.S.E. was gone.

“We really took the long way didn’t we.” Mae commented.

Hector chuckled, “When you’re running for your life, it’s the only way to go. Good the M.U.L.E. is here. Do you know if Bea filled it up at all?”

“I don’t think so.” Mae shook her head.

“No problem. Just need to rethink our travel route. Amity my girl… “

“Yes, boss.” She stood in front of him saluting, and at attention.

“Enough of that! Alistair is the one with toadies, not me.”

“Whatever you say boss!” She stayed at attention, but turned to Mae and winked. Hector shook his head, trying not to laugh.

“Girl! I need you to go inside and rustle up some supplies. If I remember there’s an emergency stash in the cleaning closet.”

“There is? Like how come, I didn’t like know?”

“When was the last time anything was cleaned in that place?”

She grinned, “Good point. I’ll be right back.” With that she dashed inside, leaving Mae and Hector alone.

He put his arm around her. “How are you going Missy? Completely confused yet?”

“I think I passed confused a while ago,” she smiled at him. “Is it strange that I’m kind of having fun?”

“Not at all my girl. It’s the adrenaline kicking in. Where going to be doing this kind of thing for a while I think, so you might as well enjoy it.”

“This kind of thing?”

“Running for our lives. I must admit we’ve got a bit rusty. We’ve been in hiding and laying low for so long, I was starting to worry that when the time came we wouldn’t be up to it. Well, I guess we’re about to find out.”

“Who is we?”

“My god! She told you absolutely nothing did she. I knew she didn’t tell you about your identity, or your powers, but to not mention the rebellion! You know how your Papa died though don’t you?”

“Papa? He died in an accident, at the factory where he worked. The one where you took us. Remember?”

“Oh Bea! No. He did not die in an ‘accident’ he died in a raid by the Royal Guard.”

“What! That’s absurd. Something like that would be common knowledge. “

“You would think so wouldn’t you. Apparently your Mama had those townsfolk well organised, and I guess she didn’t let you out much either.”

“Ok. Pretty much since the night you were born…”

“You mean since my REAL parents were killed.”

“Yes, that too, but I prefer to focus on the good stuff, “ he gently stroked her cheek.

“Anyway, since that night, this country has in effect been in a civil war.”

“What happened that night, when those thugs came into the palace, was effectively a palace coup. What was assumed to be an uprising by some disgruntled hot heads, turned out to be an orchestrated plot by Alistair to seize power from your father.”

“But, wasn’t that his brother?”

He looked sadly at her, “Yes.”

Mae looked thoughtful for a moment. “Did he? Did he kill them?” She whispered.

“It wasn’t clear at the time. But yes, I think he did.”

“But,but, what about the other brother… what was his name?”

“Gordon.”

“Yes that’s it. What about him? “

“He was an idiot. Too naive to see what his brother was really like. He stayed with Alistair, commanding the Royal Guard on his behalf.”

“Bastard! Oh, oops, I shouldn’t have said that.” She covered her mouth with her hands.

Hector chuckled and smirked at her, “I think we can let that one slide. I believe I’ve said more or less the same, and worse over the past eighteen years.”

“So, is he still there.”

“Who?”

“Gordon.”

“No. Eventually he saw his brother for the cruel, sadistic creature he was. But not before carrying out some pretty nasty acts in his name. The raising of the town of Helpernside was the worst. Three hundred and fifty men, women and children slaughtered, because their mayor said publicly that the Prince Regent was not the legitimate ruler of Gildamoor, saying that Frederick and Clarissa’s daughter and heir was alive. The whole town needed to be punished, and they were. “

“How awful.”

“It’s more than awful. It’s a fucking atrocity. They should all be castrated the lot of them” His eyes had started to glow bright blue.

“So what happened then?”

Hector took a deep breath, his eyes returning to normal, “He, that is Gordon, it seems finally woke up, and realised that his brother was a monster. Worse than that, that he was helping him be a monster. So he, put down his weapons, changed his name and joined the rebellion that was beginning to mobilise. He helps out where he can.”

He gave her a meaningful look.

“Hector?” He nodded, smiling at her, sadly.

“I’m afraid so. Can you ever forgive me for not protecting you or your parents better?”

Without warning, Mae wrapped her arms around the big man in an enormous hug. After the initial surprise, he hugged her back.

Amity came skipping out of the back door, she had a large canvas bag slung over one shoulder. It was bulging with food and medical supplies.

“Is this it boss?”

Hector let his niece go, and looked over, “I said don’t call me that, and yes.”

“You, girl. You take your D.O.N.K.E.Y. and follow us. We’ll take the M.U.L.E. It won’t hurt to have two vehicles in our inventory. Come on Missy, lets go.”

He and Mae climbed into the M.U.L.E., it took a moment to get started but soon, they were off and on their way through the darkened streets with only their headlights shining for any kind of light; followed closing by Amity in her D.O.N.K.EY. Before long they were out of the city and away.

As they passed the front of the hotel, they didn’t notice the H.O.R.S.E. that had been there earlier, pull out of the shadows on the other side of the building, and follow them, quietly with its headlights off.

 

The Amethyst Song (Episode Seventeen)

Then there was an explosion coming from behind the bar. All eyes turned toward the sound. It seemed strange to see a door there. It was as though no one had ever noticed it before.

Without missing a moment, Alistair leapt forward and ran toward the door, almost ripping it off its hinges as he opened it. When he saw the passageway behind the door he screamed a string of expletives. The blast had shaken the passageway so that the walls had begun to crumble, and didn’t look like they would remain standing much longer. Several of the torches lay on the ground where they had fallen, the ones that remained had burnt out. But it didn’t matter, flames from the secret room were spilling out of the door at the end of the passageway. He knew she was gone.

To have been so close to his goal, and to be denied yet again, Alistair’s frustration had reached a new level he had never before experienced. But with Alistair, his anger was not one that manifested in a short burst of rage and fury. No his was a white hot, slow burning, seething anger, to those who didn’t know him, he would appear quite calm, even jovial, but those close to him knew that the when he got very, very quiet it was probably best to be elsewhere.

He lifted his arm and spoke into his wrist band, a bronze and onyx contraption that was the latest gizmo from HLC.

“Get in here,now!” He hissed. He had barely completed the last word when his faithful manservant appeared at his side. Alistair turned and faced the two women, still tied to their chairs. He smiled, a tight, toothless smile.

“Henderson. We seem to have encountered a minor problem.”

“Yes, m’lord?”

“The girl has slipped through my fingers it seems. But I think we might find a way to get her to come to us.”

“M’lord?”

“Take these two,” he nodded in the direction of the women, “have them sent to the capital. Install them in one of the special guest rooms at the palace.”

“Yes, m’lord. Consider it done.” Henderson began barking orders into his own wristband.

“Oh and Henderson?”

“Yes, m’lord?”

“I think we need to locate my son. I think it’s time we met.”
“It shall be done.”

“That is all. You’re dismissed.”

Melissina’s face had turned grey at the mention of their son. Beatrice noticed her reaction, gradually the realisation of what that meant came to her. She had considered the woman’s behaviour tonight odd, but now she understood. She turned to the woman and smiled a half smile, trying to let the woman know that she empathised with her situation. Melissina nodded and tried to hold back tears.

The next thing armed Guards crashed through the door. Henderson came in behind them. He pointed at the two women, “There you are lads.”

The women were quickly surrounded. When the ropes were cut, they attempted to struggle free, but there were to many, and they were too strong. One of the brutes gave Beatrice a swipe with the back of his hand. The force made her teeth chatter. She wasn’t entirely sure that her jaw wasn’t broken.

The Guards manhandled her out the door, where a prison E.L.E.P.H.A.N.T. was waiting. One of the Guards opened the back door, while the others roughly, shoved them inside. Melissina hit her head on the top edge, leaving a deep cut across her forehead. They were then pushed down on a bench on either side, facing each other, their hands attached to shackles connected to the wall.

Finally, one of the Guards climbed in and sat in a seat behind the driver. He was the biggest of the Guards, with big strong arms and a mean look in his eyes. He faced the back door, and carried a metal club. The women were in no doubt that he would prepared to use it.

The back door was closed, and the sound of the bolt being fastened echoed through their enclosed space with a clank. There was a final thump on the back of the truck. The vehicle lurched back, and then forward causing the women, who despite their shackles were not adequately secured, to be buffeted around in their seats.

Out on the street, Alistair watched the E.L.E.P.H.A.N.T. drive off. A sneer spread across his face. Despite his disappointment at losing the girl, this wasn’t a bad substitute. Henderson stood beside him. Silent. He knew better than to utter a word.

After several moments reflection, Alistair took a deep breath and shook himself. He had things to attend to. Time enough later to enjoy this unexpected pleasure. He turned on his heel and reentered the pub. The spell he had cast earlier hadn’t worn off yet. They were all still under his thrall.

“You lot.” He swept his arm across the room. ‘Go and put that fire out.”
It occurred to him that this was twice now that the girl had left fire in her wake. He couldn’t wait to finally meet her.

The Amethyst Song (Episode Sixteen)

“Hector!” Mae ran forward and hugged the strange man she had met only a few days ago. But, she felt like he was a long lost friend.

“What are you doing here?”

Hector motioned toward an empty chair. “Sit.” He looked toward Amity. “You did good girl.” She beamed at him. He turned back to Mae. “Are you alright? That was quite a show you put on up there.”

“Me? What did I do?”

“The power going out. That was you. You didn’t know?”

“Know what?”

“About the song. You have the power. Didn’t your mother tell you that either?” he paused and looked at her. “Judging by the look on your face, no she didn’t.” He started mumbling under his breath, “Oh Bea.”

He looked around the room, paying particular attention to the door they had just come through.

“Amity. Go stand by the door. Listen and warn us if someone’s coming.”

“Okay boss.” She gave him a mocking salute and grinned. She then went to the door, arms followed and ear to the board.

“Okay Mae. We probably don’t have a lot of time before we need to move; your performance up there will have drawn attention. For all we know the whole goddamn Royal Guard are on there way here.” He took in her startled expression, and placed his hand gently on top of hers. “Don’t worry, it’s nothing we can’t handle. We needed a bit of excitement around here. Heh heh.”

He lent back in his chair. “As I say we don’t have much time, but I think you’ve been kept in the dark long enough. “

Mae’s face started turned resolute, she looked directly at him. “I’m sure I have. Will you finally tell me what the hell is going on.”

“Ok. Do you remember what I told you about the Amethyst Song?”

“Sure. It’s some kind of amulet. Right? A family heirloom belonging to my…my real father.”

“Yes. That’s right. But it’s more than that. The amulet is just a physical embodiment of the great power that is the Amethyst Song. The Song is power, a great energy the connects everything with everything else. Most people have a small amount, but for some that power manifests in the ability to manipulate the world around them.”

“Manipulate the world around them? What like magic?”

“Kind of like magic. But the word magic implies tricks and other such nonsense. The Song isn’t for side shows and carnivals. As I said it is about energy. The energy of life in fact.”

He checked that Mae was following along.

“Anyway as I said most people have it. But for some, the power is so strong that it gives them various…abilities. I know I’m not explaining this very well, there are others who know more about it that can explain it better. As it happens those with Langston blood, are particularly connected and attuned  to the gift.

You remember I told you about your grandparents, Theodore and Evelynne. Well, Evelynne, being a Langston was a particularly gifted practitioner of the Song; and she passed on the gift to her sons. Your father was quite adept with the Song, but your mother, Clarissa who was also a Langston was exceptional. It is a curious aspect of the Amethyst Song that it is particularly strong in the female line.

This is where you come into it.”

Mae was looking at him, wide eyed.

“As the daughter and granddaughter of too remarkably gifted women, you were always destined to have great power. Add in your father, and the fact that you are the heir to the throne, I should imagine that your power will be extraordinary. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were the most  powerful woman for centuries.”

“So, you’re like saying she has like superpowers.” Amity piped up from her sentry post.

“In a manner of speaking, I suppose so.”

“Wow! That’s like really cool. Way to go sister.” Amity nodded in Mae’s direction. For her own part, Mae who was still been getting used to the idea that she was in fact a princess in hiding, found the idea that she had some kind of magical powers to be absurd.

“OK. So I have powers. What does that mean?”

“It means that you are special. But it also means that you are in some danger. There are people, your  uncle for example, who don’t like the idea that someone else is more powerful than they are. You are only just starting to get your power I gather, but from what we just witnessed you’re going to be huge.”

“What you just witnessed? But I didn’t do anything.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really? You think so. Did you sing something?”

“Sing something?”

He turned to Amity, “Did she?”

“Only like karaoke.”

“No wonder the whole place went out. You do not need a microphone or amplification.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You haven’t worked it out yet. I thought you were brighter than that. The power is in music. When you sang you released the power. That’s what made the lights go out. It was a pretty strong blast, my guess is the whole city is probably out. It’s impressive. But it also means that you’re very easy to find right now, for anyone who is attuned to the Song.”

“Will that happen every time I sing something?”

“Every time? No, well eventually not every time. You need training, you’ll learn to control it. But for now, I would avoid singing in the shower if I were you.”

Amity started to stir near the door.

“Boss. I think I hear voices upstairs.”

Hector stood next to her. He closed his eyes and started to quietly hum. After a few minutes, he opened his eyes.

“He’s here. There are others too. It’s a bit muffled, the afterglow from your performance makes it hard to work out who they are. They could be friends, but we’re not taking that risk. It’s time to move.”

“Move? Move where?”

“We’re getting you out of here. Out of the city if we can.”

“But…um..what about Mama?”

“She’ll be fine. She’ll be glad you’re safe. Trust me.”

He turned to the two blonde giants, who had been silent the whole time.

“Claus! Lars! Grab the packs.”

The two men stood, they each had to bend slightly to stop from hitting their head on the ceiling. They went to the corner, and hoisted an enormous pack each, onto their back. Each pack was the size of a compact H.O.R.S.E. but the men carried them as though they weighed nothing.

Hector went to an old filing cabinet. It had a combination lock attached. He entered the combination. After a pause of a few second a clang and a click could be heard. Then the cabinet swung out, revealing a hidden passage. He motioned for everyone to pass through, he came through last, closing the door behind him.

Mae saw that on the wall next to it, there was a metal panel with two sets of hand prints. Hector stood next to it, and motioned for her to come over too.

“Okay. I’m going to need you to use your power for me.”

“What? I don’t think…I don’t know how.”

“It’s fine I’ll show you. Just your hands on the plate like this.” He put his hands against one set of hand prints. Mae did the same. Looking at him expectantly.

“Now, I want you to clear your mind of everything.Close your eyes if it helps.”

She closed her eyes, and concentrated on clearing her mind.

“Now picture a flame. Make it small, like you’ve lit a match.”

She followed his instructions. She could almost feel the heat from the flame in her mind.

“Now, I want you to hum, under your breath, the tune of Happy Birthday.”

The two of them started humming. After a few minutes there was an explosion on the other side of the wall. The wall shook with the intensity of it.

“Good girl. You’re a natural. I knew you would be.”

“What was that?”

“Just a little precaution we had set up just in case we need to leave quickly. It’s a bit of a shame, it was a cool hideout, but never mind. Let’s go.”

With that he turned and lead the group through the tunnel.

 

The Amethyst Song (Episode Fourteen)

Mae stood on the darkened stage, not sure what to do. Except for the stage lights, the space hadn’t been all that well lit in the first place. Now it was pitch dark. Before she knew what was happening a hand grabbed her arm and pulled her. She tried to struggle but the hand had a firm grip and she couldn’t get away. She was dragged through the crowd, which was still milling around the room in a state of confusion. People were asking each other what had just happened, but no one knew.

She was dragged out into the bar where they had first come in. The room wasn’t quite so dark, as the frosted glass in the windows allowed some light in. But, it didn’t help much. If anything it made everything more frightening somehow, shapes of different sizes were everywhere, some human, some not, and the confusion that had been in the back bar, was very much in evidence here.

Whoever the person was, dragged her behind the bar, and through another door. She found herself in a passageway, lit by torches shining some kind of strange violet light. They looked like flames but there was no heat. It took a moment for Mae’s eye to adjust to being able to see again. Finally she was able to see who was pulling her. Her first thought was to wonder how the orange hair didn’t somehow glow in the dark.

Amity turned around. She grinned, “Come on girl!”

“Where are you taking me? Wait. Why are you taking me?”

“Like chill okay. You’re like with friends. We like just couldn’t stay up there.”

They reached the end on the passageway which appeared to be boarded up. The board was covered in graffiti. In the middle of the artwork a man in a top hat stood grinning, while holding a playing card, the five of diamonds. Amity placed the palm of her hand on the middle diamond. There was a slight rumbling sound, and then the board slid open, revealing an extraordinary lit room.

In the middle of the room, was a rickety old kitchen table, and a number of mismatched chairs were all around it. Seated around the table were the two blonde giants from behind the bar, and Hector.

 

Back at the hotel, Beatrice and Melusina surveyed the obviously empty room. Despite the blackout, there was enough light coming from the window to allow them to see. Frantic, Beatrice went into the bathroom, hoping to find her daughter there. But she was gone. Where was she? Had someone taken her? She glanced toward to TV cabinet. Even in her state of near panic she recalled leaving the room keys there. They were gone. Would someone coming to kidnap Mae bother to take the keys with them? She decided that was unlikely. It appeared that whatever happened since, Mae left of her own volition. She was so relieved that she wasn’t even mad that her daughter had disobeyed her. Not very mad anyway.

She turned toward Melusina, who she was surprised to see was even more concerned than she was. She and Melusina had never been all that close. Even back in their days at the Institute, although they had all hung together as a group, Beatrice had always felt like an outsider. Her dear friend Clarissa was her only reason for spending time with them at all, and then later when Frederick realised that they were as close as sisters, he was always kind to her. But Melusina had only ever really just tolerated her. So to see her so upset made her think that she had misjudged the woman for all these years.

Melusina’s face had drained of all it’s colour. She looked around the room.

“She’s not here?” Her voice was slightly panicked.

“Clearly not.” It was strange, seeing this woman’s almost over the top reaction to finding her daughter gone, helped to calm her down. “It looks like she’s gone out.”

“But, but, you said she was here.”

“Yes, I did. I told her to stay here, but she’s a wilful young woman, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised that she’s taken off.”

“But, it’s not safe!”

Beatrice sighed. “I know that, and you know that. I thought she understood that, but I don’t think I’ve handled this very well. She didn’t take it very well when I told her about herself, and about her parents.”

“Well what are we going to do now? We have to find her!”

“We will. We will.”

Beatrice moved to the window. She looked out the city. It was strange seeing the city without all the lights. She looked up, it was clear night, and she could see the stars. She mused that it has probably been a long time since anybody in this place had been able to do that. She lent her face against the glass, her eyes went wide, coming through the glass she could feel power. Only faint but it was there. It was a bit like the smell of gunpowder after it’s gone off. Except this wasn’t a smell, it was more like an overwhelming sense of calm and well being.

She motioned to Melusina. “Come and sand here.”

Sceptical, Melusina stood at the window. “Now what?”

“You need to touch the glass.”

She reached out a hand and put her index finger on the glass. She immediately jumped back shaking her finger like she’d burnt it. “The power!”

“I think we might be able to find her. Don’t you.” Beatrice was already moving to the door.

“Yes. I think so.”

“Of course, that means he can too. So we’d better hurry. Come on.” The two women left the hotel.

 

 

Above the city Alistair was on the phone barking orders.

“Bring the H.O.R.S.E. around now! We’re going to the old city.”

He hung up. He then grabbed a pistol from his desk. Tonight it would be over, and he would finally be able to crown himself king. There would be no dispute. The power would be all his.

He got into the lift, and went down to the basement and to the H.O.R.S.E. waiting for him. Henderson held the door open. He eased into the back seat. He smiled.

Not since his mother died had he felt such power. The feeling of contentment that enveloped him was extraordinary. He almost felt sorry that she had to die. To extinguish such a talent seemed such a waste. But, he would get over it, he was sure.

The H.O.R.S.E. sped through the darkened city. People had begun to spill out of the building, coming out to investigate the cause of the black out. Only a few would ever know the true reason. Alistair directed Henderson where he needed to go. As he got closer, the feeling inside him had become one of pure ecstasy and joy.

Eventually, they pulled up outside The Local Tavern. As soon as he saw it he knew that this was the place. He knew that she must have been drawn here, almost like he was. He got out of the car, Henderson came around and stood beside him.

“M’lord? Do you need me to order reinforcements?”

“That won’t be necessary. I’m going to do this myself, and it’s going to feel good.”

He walked into the bar.

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.