Witch’s Daughter, Installment 10

*Sorry for the long hiatus. Things are still not… normal.  And I don’t mean just getting used to a world without Greebo, which is bad enough, but trying to finish reflooring the house before the snow flies.  Three rooms to go but one is the family room, which is going to be pure hell, just in terms of moving furniture around.

So: *For the previous chapters, please go here. These are posted first draft, as the brain dictates to the fingers which are remarkably stupid. Also there will be inconsistencies because until September or so, the timing on these is wonky, and I’ll forget stuff between posts. Eventually it will be cleaned up and fixed just before page is made secret/taken down and the book is published. At that time I will take lists of typos or volunteers to proof read. For now, it’s written in a hurry, usually an hour before it goes up. And, let me remind you, it’s free – SAH*



Albinia was mortified.

She’d read novels — to be truthful mostly because Mama had forbidden her from reading novels.  In those works, it seemed that whenever a young lady brought home a suitor of higher status or magical rank or fortune, the young lady’s family would conspire to unwittingly embarrass her mortally.

Albinia had read with great amusement a hundred such scenes of the character being mortified by the behavior of her relatives.

Fine, so Lord Michael wasn’t her suitor, but still! He was the son and brother of a duke, and here was Geoffrey behaving as though he’d been reared in a stable… or worse.

She scratched at her nose, as he promised to explain everything and how everything was so complex.  It wasn’t so much that her nose itched, as that she felt something was very wrong, but couldn’t quite figure out what.  Other than the fact that her brother apparently could change shapes and become a swan and that papa might be the werewolf they had smacked on the nose.  She was trying very hard not to think of the implications of this, since papa had never met her. If she understood the timing correctly, he had left — disappeared — around the time mama was approaching her confinement with Albinia.  How terrible to first meet one’s father with such an unfilial action as smacking him on the nose.

Scratching at her nose was what Albinia did when she was confused and trying to gain time.  Usually trying to gain time to think of something not quite a lie to tell mama in order to stop her asking inconvenient questions.

Geoffrey made a big show of being offended by Lord Michael asking perfectly reasonable questions, then crossed his arms on his chest and said,

“Very well. We’re under a geas, you see, when none of us can be human at the same time. So I was trying to say my piece, because I don’t know–” Suddenly his voice shook, which to Al was the scariest thing of all, because she thought Geoff was going to break down and start crying.  “I don’t know if the others might have need of changing at any time.”

More to ward off his possible tears — she knew from when they all lived together how much any of the boys hated crying — than because she was incensed, she said, “What do you mean by that, Geoff? Surely you could leave each other notes and plan your human–”

To her horror this made things worse. Geoff’s lips trembled, and his eyes shone, and he said “W-w-we d-d-d-did f-f-f—”

And Al realized what had been bothering her.  Geoff hadn’t stammered at all through the previous speech, but now it was back, in full bloom. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lord Michael’s horrified expression and wasn’t sure why, but she reverted to what always worked and said, “Geoff! Deep breaths, and speak slowly.”

This brought a wan smile to Geoffrey’s face.  He said “D-d–  Darn it, Al.  I rarely stammer anymore, because I have had years of solitude to p-p-practice, but…”  He took two deep breaths.  “Forgive me, Lord Michael.” Then to Al, “You see, at first we did just as you said.  We had a big board in this house, and w-we used to have a schedule.  And we also left notes and letters to each other.  That’s how father told us that L-Lord Michael should be able to free us from this geas, and also how he told us to wait until he came of age. B-b-b–”  Geoff took a deep breath.  “We couldn’t wait, you see.  You have no idea how terrible it is to spend years and years really alone.  Though I can see the others when in swan form.”

“Swan, not goose,” Lord Michael muttered under his breath, but Al chose to ignore that ornithological observation. She didn’t suppose that sons of dukes spent much time in the poultry house.

Geoff looked at Lord Michael and the wan smile became more pronounced, even if still wan, “Right. Swans. My step mother got the idea from some old tale or other. But seeing each other as swans doesn’t help much, as there’s a limited degree of what you can communicate by body language.  And Papa–  Well, it is best at any rate for any of us not to meet papa when he’s a wolf, since he becomes quite a ferocious beast.” He paused for a moment. “To be fair, even as a human, he used to be ferocious if we interrupted him while he was working, though at least as a human devouring people was not in his range of ideas.”

“I imagine not,” lord Michael said, drily and stepped back till he sat on one of the chairs.

“But as I said, we grew impatient. And we had some idea of how to break the spell. Or at least–” He paused.  “Papa thought it involved taking the path out the back door and meeting the challenges. He just thought the challenges required g-g-g-genius. And he said none of us had it to that degree… So the others–”

Albinia knew her brothers too well not to know what was coming next “They took the path?”

“One by one,” Geoff said.  “Till only I was left.”

She opened her mouth, closed it. There was a cold feeling of dread in her middle.  “And none came back?”

Geoff shook his head.  Now he sat on one of the chairs as well, and his hands were visible trembling. “Till only I am left.”  He looked at Michael.  “And if you won’t help us, I’ll have t-t-t-to go myself.  Only if none of the others could do it–  And papa doesn’t know. I didn’t dare leave him a note telling him what happened.  And, oh, Al, it’s been hell.”

And Al fell into the role she’d had all through childhood, when she — incongruously — tried to look after all the boys, “There, there, Geoff, it will be well.” But she didn’t dare ask Lord Michael to help. They’d already put him to so much trouble.

She looked to the side, where he — under the grime and dust of their adventure — looked very solemn.

Well. Never mind. If he wouldn’t, she’d have to do it. Even if she wasn’t a genius. Not even as much of a genius as the boys.



57 thoughts on “Witch’s Daughter, Installment 10

  1. “She’d read novels — to be truthful mostly because Mama had forbidden her from reading novels…”

    Day One: “Class, we will reading and covering every work in this books EXCEPT ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover as parent groups have decided it is too racy for coverage in a class such as this.”

    One week later: “We will now consider ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ as by now you ALL have certainly read it.”

    1. Except me. If the teacher said not to read it, that would be that.
      Otoh…my father introduced me to Heinlein by giving me his copy of “Starship Troopers,” when I was in junior high. Somewhere around 9th grade I saw him reading, “Glory Road,” and asked if I could have it when he was done. “No,” he said, “you’re not ready.” Ok. But then I discovered my junior high school library had a copy of, “Stranger In A Strange Land,” and checked it out. Presently my dad found me reading it. He didn’t say a word then. He just brought me the copy of, “Glory Road,” and said, “You’re ready.”

      1. Ditto on not reading it– and they would’ve burned any good will I had towards them, on top of it.

        I hate being unprepared, I hate being lied to, and I hate being manipulated. They’d probably be pissed that I hadn’t read it, too.

        1. I suspect I would have been the same/ BUT… given the claimed ‘reason’. I am unsure.
          It was simply, “We will not be reading this’ that would be that. But “We will not be reading this because [of idiot busybodies].” might have changed that.

          1. A busy-body, by definition, must be meddling in topics that are not their concern. A minor’s education is very much the parents’ concern– and ignoring the basic common sense measure of not letting the same folks who can’t manage to effectively teach non-controversial subjects have absolute power over choosing how to teach more complicated subjects is how we got into the cruddy situation we’re in.

            1. Note:
              Yes, some schools do have policies to let you opt out of sections that are “controversial.”

              This tends to get restricted to with parental request when more than one kid does it more than about once a quarter, and completely removed if parental response to a kid asking to be excused from it is “wait, WHAT?” and most of the class is removed.

              Which is where “parent groups” came from.

            2. My folks had no issue with my reading pretty much anything (I still boggle some folks with the story that *grandma* _lent_ me ‘Bimbos of the Death Sun’… until I explain the title, at least). Had NO issue with me watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus (other grandma had issue with it, due to nudity… but NOTHING EVER HAPPENED. Might as well have been statues). The ONLY time there was any concern at all was Ma saying she wasn’t sure that reading Marx was a good idea. And at the age I was then (teens) she was probably right. I hadn’t particularly interested in reading Marx (or Hitler), but the works *were* in the school library. Friend of mine TRIED reading Mein Kampf and gave up after a few chapters, complaining that they were all the same thing, over and over and over and…. and it got tiresome fast. And since he could slog through Tolkein (I am NOT a fan) and enjoy the slog, I figured that told me all I needed to know beyond history.

              1. *Snickers* Oh, my folks were fine with me reading stuff.

                They were less fine with the teachers trying to teach it.

                I’m not sure if that was because they didn’t look forward to the **** storms I’d start from doing what the teacher asked, instead of what they wanted, or because a lot of the stuff creeped them out, too. (there were some teachers where a lot of subjects gave waaaaaaaaaay more insight into their fantasy life than the topic)

              2. Eldest brother was a bit of a reader, while Middle brother decidedly was not. (I recall phonetic flash cards around the house left over as I was starting to read.) In my generation, I was the voracious reader, moreso than my parents, though they read a fair amount. In the ’60s, Reader’s Digest would (might still?) produce condensed books, (abridged versions of popular novels, invariably G rated) and I’d check them out. We had a modest library at home, and I had a bookcase of my own in the bedroom.

                I don’t recall any restrictions on reading material. The village library was a looong block away from the house, short blocks from the elementary and junior high schools, and I was a steady customer. Read most of the SF in the kids’ section, then moved upstairs when my vocabulary was large enough to read the non-YA Heinleins and others of his ilk.

                The James Bond novels were coming out in paperback at a steady pace (this was when the first movies were released, Goldfinger and Dr. No), and I got the backlist and kept up with them. No comment from parents. OTOH, I was willing to try Faulkner (damn, that guy could do a run-on sentence…) along with some less-savory stuff that I figured did not need to be vetted by parents. 🙂

                Freshman year in college, I read (and promptly ignored) a compendium of Nietzsche, largely because I liked Richard Strauss’s tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra. The music was better than the philosophy.

                Read The Hobbit in college, but life didn’t give me the opportunity to read LotR until a bit later. I have some of Christopher Tolkein’s releases of JRR’s backup work. The Silmarillion was enjoyable, though I haven’t reread it in ages. Tolkein’s use of language in the works is a bit off-putting for me.

                1. . No comment from parents

                  The one fight my mom had with anybody consisted of forcing the local library to not restrict me to what I was “able to read.”

                  So I checked out a lot of inappropriate stuff while I was too young for the hooks to sink in– I still can’t stand Stephen King because I checked out…I think it was one of the Dark Tower books, had a gorgeous and evil green dragon on the cover, and it was just incredibly boring in the way that folks are when they think they’re being clever but you don’t share their interests. Didn’t get very far into it.

                  The only book I can remember my mom suggesting I not read was something like “the lies and mistakes of the Bible,” and that wasn’t a “you aren’t allowed to,” it was a “the book is very well designed to use ignorance and incomplete information to change your mind. You really should know a lot more before you try to read it, or it will fool you.”

                  She was very hesitant when I dragged the first Drizzt book home, was just the right age to know very little about D&D except it was associated with some Really Bad Stuff. So she asked to borrow it, discovered it was just like the Thor comics are to Norse mythology except with Tolkien’s mythology, and has been hooked ever since.

    2. “We have…and I believe we’ve made a unanimous decision as a class to pretend D. H. Lawrence never existed.”

      My 11th grade class read Sons and Lovers rather than Lady Chatterley, but the experience produced no new fans of the author.

      1. I keep meaning to get around to reading his thing on American literature, and the books it is based on. Because of the quote about the American soul.

  2. To paraphrase GK Chesterton– the problem with telling a woman about a problem is that she might do something about it!

    1. Well, the trouble with telling a man about a problem is that he thinks you want him to fix it. That’s what we do. “If you don’t want me to fix it, why are you telling me about it?”

        1. Went to school for a while with a gal who described herself as “just one of the guys.”

          Storytime (I *might* have related this before…):

          One day Kelly, and then boyfriend came into the $LAB (not chem. but it hardly matters) and she was having none of his urgings. It got distracting. Eventually *everyone* learned the reason: He was pushing for a threesome, and she Was. NOT. Interested. Now, had he he any wits, he’d have dropped the subject, at least for moment. But, well, all hormones, no neurons. Distracting. Finally, I had an IDEA (you’re ducking and covering, right?) “Kelly. You really should consider his idea. I think it just needs one little condition to make it work for you.” They BOTH stop dead. A hesitant, query from her (as his hopes start to climb… *ominous music goes here*) as to this little condition. “Simple. You choose who the other guy is.” And they trade positions in the argument seemingly before light can move a Planck length.

          A couple minutes later, work resumed.

      1. There’s actually a very interesting difference that I haven’t noticed before– I won’t spoil the story, so I’ll flip to the far side.
        Seen that shirt that says something like “when a man days he’ll do anything for you, he means he’ll fight a dragon, not take out the trash”?

        A specific, one-and-done, definite problem.
        It may show up again later, but it’s not an ongoing maintenance issue.
        In the story, the “problem” is more like taking out the trash– it’s identified as an issue, everybody agrees it needs to be done regularly, but doing it is overwhelmingly going to be without obvious effect in either direction.
        So the woman fixed it.

        It’s a little like the old only-half-joke line about how “I told you once that I love you. If anything changes, I’ll be sure to pass it on.”

        1. Ah.. *he* will deal with a *challenge*… but a chore is dull.

          And life… is really mostly chores.

          Civilization is proper drains, but who holds parades for those who keep the sewers flowing?

          1. “Dull” may be exactly the right word, too– when I was trying to explain the difference to my husband, I used the example– because it’s a pretty universal one, and I’d actually just finished switching out a trash bag– of taking out the trash.

            “Take out the trash” is not a single thing, it’s an ongoing series of events that is never finished. Walk past the trash, look at it and judge if it’s full enough to need to be taken out. If it is, stop what you are doing and take it out. Your reward is… it gets full again.

            Like cooking, or laundry, or such, it just keeps grinding you down. It’s dull.


            This might be related to multi-tasking– women seem to tend to be better at the low-level monitoring of umptysquat different things all at once, while guys are usually better at “do this thing, ignore all red herrings, HUNT IT TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH!!!” type jobs.

            I just tried to imagine using that laser focus technique on taking out the trash. Ouch.

            1. My image is “Hunt down trash even if it’s stuff that the wife wants to keep”.

              IE Search And Destroy. 😈

              1. I have heard of some very ugly results of that stuff…. guy decides that if the wife is going to be demanding he get rid of all his treasures, then he’ll start piling all the stuff that he sees no use for into the donation pile.

                Thankfully, he wasn’t motivated enough to actually take the donations anywhere, so when all the stuff that is “never used” was needed as it was about once every three months, she didn’t have to go and buy it again.

                I’m sure there are SEVERAL guys here who’ve had similar fights in relation to their shops and tools. 😀

            2. I ran into some of this at a Post Office. Working on a sorting belt was a LOUSY job. It. Just. Did. Not End. Only the clock ended it. It just dragged. Working on the dock? Sure, the work overall did not end, BUT.. This truck was emptied. That truck was filled. Progress could be SEEN. (That the utterly useless micromanaging SCHMUCK of a manager *hated* to be outside of climate control made dock work even more appealing… insane heat (90+ F), insane cold (-40 C/F) was better than having to deal with that imbecile). On Sunday (mornings, so Saturday night….) the ‘acting’ dock super didn’t mind me bringing in MY music.. once he realized MY version of ‘classical’ was Warner Bros. cartoons…. One driver even commented, “About time you had some GOOD music.”… You just can’t go wrong with Glenn Miller, really.

  3. If he wouldn’t, she’d have to do it.

    Well, I really doubt he’d “let” her do it alone.

    IE, If he passed on “saving them”, he’d change his mind once she said that she’d do it.

    Of course, he would definitely have a problem if he told her to “stay where it is safe”. 😆

    1. Ha! No kidding! He says that, walks out the door with Al’s brother and they turn around and find her right behind them, fist raised.

      1. “fist raised”?

        Don’t be silly.

        Fist-fighting is unladylike.

        Now, Al ready to cast “interesting” spells is very likely. 😈

  4. So Albina and Lord Michael will go on misunderstanding each other through about 65% of the book?

    1. *married woman voice*

      Yeah, that is a bit high, but making them improbably likely to correctly understand each other will help the plot move along.

    2. I’ve always wondered how much of that misunderstanding is willful in some people. I can’t look upon the heart more than any other mortal, but some of my people-watching makes me raise an eyebrow in that regard.


      1. Not relevant to this story, but from the inside– frequently the misunderstandings are because people really, really want what the actual meaning is, so they’re trying to adjust for their own wishful thinking.

        “So and so is funny, and cute, and brave, and kind, and tough– oh, gads, I am such an idiot interpreting them being a really good person as meaning that they’re INTERESTED in somebody as boring as me! I really should try to help them find somebody worthy of how great they are.”

        1. Huh. I could swear I’ve seen more of ‘you don’t mean what you said, you mean what I wanted you to say’.

          But I’m only guessing, there.


          1. A lot of people are like that, but some of us know that we’re unusually bad at reading others and we know it doesn’t exactly make life easier (for us or them). So we put extra effort into trying to understand what’s really going on in other people’s heads, and… end up being wrong anyway.

              1. And still worse when you got pissed off at someone for not talking straight even though it turned out there was a reason for them not to.

                …Boy, life is fun when you’re naturally blind to social signals, isn’t it?

                1. Does it help any to know that sometimes that’s just folks forgetting that you weren’t alive when whatever it is that they’re avoiding talking about happened? “Normal” is centered around one’s self, after all, kinda has to be. Some of us just step in it more often.

                  For example, Jonestown and koolaid– that was before my parents had even MET, but I’ve had folks forget that I didn’t watch the news when it happened. (And it sure wasn’t in the history books.)

        2. In this case, and it might not come across, is that there was a vast social difference between upper-upper class and middle upper class in the regency.
          Also, honestly? They’re both extremely sheltered kids, who mostly know people from books.
          And Michael is a total nerd bunnny.

          1. I got a loud-and-clear message that her Momma was one of those folks who tries to act like a social group she isn’t in, and is training her daughter in the “all your actions shall be focused on making things easy for me, your mother” direction. So even without knowledge of this style of book, it works.

            1. Oh, yeah. Her mother is a nutbar.
              Michael isn’t so much misinterpreting her, as he’s insecure (given his two brothers and his age, that’s normal) and he doesn’t understand PEOPLE. He likes machines.

              1. Just so we’re clear: designing your characters to make them relatable to us anti-social geeks is cheating. 😛

                  1. Fair enough. Given the family YOU managed to raise I suppose it would be cheating for you to write normal people.

  5. I’m glad you felt up to writing this installment, Sarah. You have a positive gift for writing tales that lend themselves to this format. (Also a positive gift for writing in general, but that’s a different discussion.) I’m sure Greebo approves.

    I admire as much your fierce resilience in the face of all that the universe has thrown at you as I do the books that are growing into a significant author collection on my iPad.

    1. But like Lay’s all-too-thin potato chips, they leave you desperate for more.

      Oh, that’s a FEATURE?

  6. The first book I can recall reading was Huckleberry Finn. My mom was a teacher, and took me with her to get books for her class, and that’s the one I found. 4th grade.

Comments are closed.