Town Notice

Town Notice

Halloween is nearly upon us. As such, the Board would like to remind everyone of our time-honored traditions. As usual, the trick-or-treating hours will begin at exactly 6pm and will end at 9pm. We will also be hosting a pumpkin decorating contest on the Town Common at 7pm. All children from ages 1 to 16 are expected to wear the official costume. This year’s costume is a Ghost. You can purchase the town approved costume at any of our town’s fine retail establishments. Please remember to return home with exactly as many children as you left with. Anyone caught with extra children will lose their parental rights for the year. Those children will be placed in other homes. Don’t leave unwanted children on the Common. We don’t want to have a repeat of last year. If you would like to volunteer to stay late for any children who are not taken, please contact the secretary to the Board. If you would like to keep your current child or children, be sure to keep a firm hold on them throughout the evening. Otherwise, they are considered available for trade. Be sure that all children are wearing their health advisory wristbands so their new parents are made aware of any medical conditions or allergies they may have.

Thank you
The Board

Strangers

Breccan looked up from where he sat sharpening his sword and frowned. He could hear the voices of strangers over the normal sounds of the small village.
“-to march on Londinium.”
He cursed softly and stood, grabbing Octavia by the arm as he went.
“Get inside.” He whispered the words in Latin and she looked at him in surprise. They had largely switched to speaking his language as she’d been making progress on learning it.
“What’s going on?”
“There are strangers here from another clan. If they realize…”
“They’ll kill me.” She said it matter of fact and nodded. “What about my things? If they look inside…”
“I’ll make sure they don’t.”
“Breccan…”
“It will be fine, Octavia. Now please, just stay safe, alright?”
She nodded reluctantly and went into the house.

“Who was that woman?”
Breccan looked up from where he sat. The man speaking to him was a handspan taller than he stood and carried a spear in his hand.
“Woman?”
“The one you just hid. Don’t lie to me, boy, I saw you.”
“I am no boy,” Breccan growled. Then he processed the rest of what was said and sent a silent prayer to his mother. “And the woman you saw is my wife.” The words tumbled out naturally and he hoped and prayed his lie wouldn’t be caught. “She’s got some Roman blood and I didn’t want there to be a misunderstanding.”
No, there certainly weren’t any lies in the last part. Octavia definitely had at least some Roman blood.
The man with the spear scowled, but when Breccan stood and met him look for look, the man backed down. But Breccan’s nerves were still humming. Too close. They had come too close.

Breccan burst into the small house as soon as the strangers were gone.
“Octavia?”
She looked up, concern plain on her features.
“Are they gone?”
“They are.” He closed the distance between them. “Are you alright?”
Octavia nodded silently, trying to hide the fear that had left her shaking while he’d been outside.
“Breccan…I…thank you.”
He smiled slowly and drew her into a quick hug, just assuring himself that she was alright. Much to his surprise, her arms went around his neck and she returned the hug like someone who needed one desperately.

Copper

“What are we looking at?”
The archaeologist frowned and turn to the historian. The historian poured over their notes, a matching frown on their face.
“I’m not sure. It appears to be a copper panel. I see signs of tooling here, but it looks much more advanced than I’d expect to see from pre-iron age people…”
The archaeologist nodded.
“That’s what I was thinking. Do you have any record of…anything like this?”
The historian skimmed the readout on the digital pad and then shook their head.
“We don’t have much information about this region before the Great War. But maybe this is the same structure as the torch we found on the seafloor? It’s certainly close enough. Maybe some sort of sun deity?”
After a long moment, the historian and the archaeologist stood together once more by the large green panel of copper. The archaeologist rested a hand on the copper.
“Did this place have a name before we moved in?”
The historian skimmed the digital pad once more.
“The only one we have left is…New Amsterdam?”

The Shadow Men

She had always known where her family’s money had come from. Even as a child, even when they thought she was too young to truly know what her father’s business was, she had known. She had seen it in the shadows in his eyes, in the way he always made sure to trundle the whole family off to church every Sunday, and in the way he never looked at graveyards. So when Isabella’s father was murdered when she was fifteen years old, she wasn’t too surprised. She missed him, of course, but she wasn’t surprised. When you lived outside the law, you died outside the law. But when her mother and older brother both followed shortly after and in the same gruesome ways, Isabella DiBenedetto began to worry.
With all the money from her accounts in a bag on the passenger’s seat, Bella split town alone. She had only gotten a few miles past the city limits when her phone rang. She hesitated for a moment, then answered.
“Hello?”
“Gattina, I know why you’re leaving, but that won’t make it stop.”
Bella winced and pulled her car over to the side of the road. She wasn’t really surprised that her Great Aunt Maddalena knew she was gone. Everyone in the family knew that she was a Strega. More importantly, everyone knew that they should listen when Great Aunt Maddalena spoke.
“What do I need to do, Zia?”
Bella’s tone was full of respect and resignation, but her hands shook.
“You have to appease the spirits. Keep driving, go to the coast and buy a house. One that isn’t finished mind. Once you’ve done that, let me know.”
“Grazie, Zia. I will. I promise.”
“I know you will, Bella. It’s that, or wait for the Shadow Men to come for you too.”

The Ride

Alan only barely saw the woman standing at the side of the road. The night was dark and she had almost become just another shadow. He pulled over and rolled his window down, smiling at her brightly.
“Hey there. Everything alright?”
She looked at him with tearstained eyes, expression uncertain. Then a tentative smile wavered onto her lips.
“I just need a lift to the next rest stop. My… I got left here.”
Alan nodded slowly and leaned over to open the door.
“Hop in and I’ll get you there.”
She slid onto the passenger’s seat and slammed the door.
“Thanks.” Her voice was soft and she looked down again. “I’m Jessie.”
“Alan.”
And off they drove. She huddled in her seat, rubbing her arms and trying to warm herself. Every so often, Alan would glance over at her. Finally, he looked and she met his eyes steadily.
“You keep doing that.”
He laughed, just a touch of a blush coming to his cheeks.
“Sorry. I just…” He smiled, clearly embarrassed. “This might sound silly, but I thought you might be a ghost.”
Jessie blinked and her eyes went wide. Then she started laughing. He leaned over and turned the heat up then, giving her a smile.
“We should be there in a few minutes.”

A few minutes later, they did pull into the rest stop and Jessie got out of the car.
“Thank you so much.”
She turned to shut the door and thank Alan, only to find that the car was gone. Looking around, she tried to find him again. She thought she would recognize that car anywhere, but it was nowhere to be seen.

Pumpkin Patch Children

With the Autumn season coming upon us once again, it’s a great time to remind everyone to always carve your jack-o-lanterns safely. During this festive time of the year, many families find themselves with sudden and unexpected new members. These pumpkin patch children, while frequently a surprise, are perfectly safe. No reliable method has yet been found for determining whether or not your pumpkin will reveal a pumpkin patch child when carved, but here are some important pieces of information just in case.

First and foremost, be sure to separate your pumpkin patch child from the jack-o-lantern as soon as possible by severing the root that connects them. Be sure to leave an inch or so attached to the child. This will form something similar to a human belly button. Failure to properly separate pumpkin patch children is the leading cause of rot in growing pumpkin patch children.

Remember, of course, that pumpkin patch children are a special breed. They require a diet rich in spice, gourds, caramel, apples, and candy. Without those essential nutrients, they will wilt. They can eat the same diets as most humans, but without the addition of these special foods they won’t grow as hearty.

Do not be afraid of your pumpkin patch children. While they may surround themselves with ghosts, witches, spirits, skeletons, and spiders, do not be alarmed. They take enjoyment from these creatures and feel a camaraderie with them. Raised with love and care, a pumpkin patch child will never do you harm.

Should you encounter a pumpkin patch child who appears to have black eyes, alert the proper authorities immediately by placing an image of the child and exactly three pieces of candy corn in a bowl in the dark of the moon. The child will be reclaimed by the spirits of Halloween and will do no further harm to mortals. The human family that was gifted that pumpkin patch child has already been punished for their transgressions, do not be concerned.

Charles

“Charles! Why is the toaster in the sink?”
Kylie shouted, hands on her hips in the kitchen. Sheepishly, her boyfriend appeared beside her in a puff of smoke.
“It began to smoke. I applied water to the flames.”
She looked again and sighed, rubbing her temples.
“You have to unplug it, love. Or the water’s just going to make it catch on fire anyway.”
Charles frowned slightly, brushed his hair back behind his horns again, and stared at the toaster.
“Will it? How unusual. Is it a factor of the electrical nature of the device?”
Kylie pulled the plug and turned to lean against her boyfriend.
“Some days, you’re damn lucky you’re pretty.”
He wrapped his arms around her with a sigh.
“It’s not like we had electrical systems in Hell, Ky.”

Latin Club

The night janitor sighed and swept up the small pile of ashes and candle stubs. The sound of battle still rung in the hallway. No doubt the professors were dealing with the results of the latest late-night Latin study group meeting. He scooped the little pile into the trash barrel and leaned in the doorway, watching as magical wards went up and fireballs slammed into them. The headmistress stopped beside him, shaking her head.
“This is the fifth demon this week. We’re really going to have to revise the curriculum, I think.”
He chuckled quietly.
“Or at least tell them they’re not allowed to meet on the new moon.”
She laughed in response, not even pausing as she flung a shield up in front of them to deflect a barrage of hellfire.
“I’ll let you know when we have this all cleaned up, alright?”
“Of course, of course. I’ll finish tidying up in here.”

A Spanner in the Gardens – Part 1

Lady Hortensia Addison knit her fingers together and looked at the young woman seated opposite her. The chit had certainly not been her first choice. She had hoped that one of the many male engineers would be willing to take her son on as an apprentice and that perhaps some hard work under one of them would disabuse him of his scientific aspirations. She wanted nothing more than for the boy to return to proper divertissements and to his duty, but still he persisted. And if he was going to do so, there was only one course for it. She looked the girl over again, taking in the ill-fit of her dress, clearly second hand, but she did know how to comport herself in the presence of the nobility. This Dorothea had her gaze down demurely, as was proper. Lady Hortensia took a sip of her tea and then spoke.
“My understanding, Dorothea, is that you are a…mechanic. Now, normally, I would inform you that such is the domain of men and that you should be attempting to make yourself marriageable. However, in this case, I have need to instead offer you employment. My son, the young lord Evandrus, has declared himself for science… and if my son insists on dabbling in this ‘engineering’ then I am going to ensure that he has the best possible assistance and despite your appearance, manners and upbringing that seems to be you.”
It took all the willpower in the young woman not to bristle at the insults. Instead, she nodded.
“Thank you, my Lady. You honor me.”
“Yes…well… You will be paid a suitable wage, given room and board and given use of young lord Evandrus’ laboratory. He will determine your responsibilities, and no doubt you will be spending a great deal of time with him. However, you are to ensure that you maintain a certain level of decorum. You will remember your place at all times. You are nothing more than a servant and he is the lord of this estate. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
“Y-yes, my Lady.”
“Mrs. Burke will show you to your room. You will be quartered near his laboratory so you may attend to it at all hours.”
“Thank you, my Lady.”
It was all Dorothea could do to keep her temper in check as she followed the housekeeper through the estate, towards the back near the kitchens and servants’ quarters.
“Here we are, Missy. It’s simple enough, but I made sure to put in a shelf since no doubt a science lass like yourself as a book or two. Once you’re settled in, you’ll be wanting to meet the young lord. He’ll be in his laboratory at this hour no doubt. That’ll be two more doors down. Between is a privy.”
Mrs. Burke looked the girl up and down.
“Have you any bags, girl?”
“I…was told to leave them.”
“Fine enough, I’ll have one of the maids fetch them up here. You’re not one of them, mind. You answer to the young lord first. I’ll be assigning one of the girls to clean your room and mind your things. You’ve more important things to do. Like seeing to it that the young lord doesn’t blow us all to Kingdom Come.”

The laboratory was surprisingly large and well-lit through a combination of natural light and oil lamps. A young man with short messy red hair and a smattering of freckles across his face stood at one of the workbenches examining the results of his latest experiment. The small vial of fluid glowed dully, casting a bluish illumination across his features. For a moment, Dorothea wasn’t sure if she should interrupt him or just wait until he was done. With a grimace, she recalled what the housekeeper had said and stepped to one side of the door, taking this moment to really look him over. His clothes were well made, which was unsurprising. What was surprising was that these seemed to be older, with some patches and grease stains in evidence. There was a smudge of grease across his cheeks from an earlier project. Now her eyes were drawn around the room to the many workbenches. Certainly, the one he was at bore chemicals and their accouterments, but other such tables showed his interested in mechanics, physiology, botany and even in the fledgling science of electricity. His equipment was costly, with his tools calling her to them like a moth to the flame. There was a soft clink then and she looked back at him. He was staring at her now, a look of mild confusion on his face and his arms crossed over his chest.
“Hello, Miss…?”
He let the words trail off, clearly looking for an explanation as to her presence.
“Oh! I’m Dorothea, M’lord. Your mother hired me as your…” she paused for a moment and he frowned more deeply. “Tutor.”
That got a small smile out of him.
“Published many scientific papers, have you?”
There was humor in his tone, but it was sharp and the barbs in his words stuck in her.
“No more than you have. But unlike you, I’m a trained mechanic.”
He looked her over more carefully then, still looking as though she was some kind of vexing puzzle he couldn’t figure out how to solve. Then he just nodded.
“I suppose that does quite well in explaining why Mother had one of the storage rooms converted into a room. I take it you’ll be staying there?” When she nodded, he carried on. “I should warn you, I keep late nights and not all of my experiments are quiet. I doubt you will be getting much sleep there.”
Then he looked back at his worktop.
“Tell me then, have you any background in chemistry?”

The Beginning

“Octavia!”
The girl sat up out of bed and scrambled for the sword slung in its scabbard hanging from the peg by her bed. Then her father burst into the room.
“Octavia, you have to go. My horse is ready. You need to ride for Londinium.”
“Father, what’s-”
“The barbarians are storming the city. You only have minutes. Take your sword and go. Pray that your mother is watching over you right now. I’ll try to hold them as long as I can.”
“But-”
“Go!”
“Yes, Father.”
Octavia hugged her father tightly and then slung the sword baldric over her shoulder and ran. The blue roan horse her father prized for its endurance even when he was in armor was saddled and ready, with a pack that she knew had to contain her father’s armor strapped to it, and his shield with a cover on it. Both had been presents from her mother and now they were all she would have of either of them. Pulling herself up into the saddle, she turned the horse in place and galloped hard and fast out of the city of Camulodunum.

There were two things the girl knew to be true as she reined her horse up. First, she was most certainly not at Londinium. Second, she had no idea where she was at all. Dismounting, she decided to take this moment to put her father’s armor on just in case she ran into anyone. A Legion would be best, and she could explain what had happened. But if it was barbarians she found, she would need the armor and shield ready to keep herself safe.

Breccan stepped lightly in the woods, tracking a herd of deer. His bow was in his hand though he didn’t yet have an arrow on the string. His straining ears heard the sound of an animal pawing at the grass and he smiled slowly, creeping closer. He was not expecting to find a beautiful horse and a tall girl standing beside it, half in Roman armor with a shield propped up next to her. He dropped behind a bush, watching her warily. Did the Romans have women among their warriors like his people did? He’d thought not, but perhaps he was wrong.

She heard the twig snap and her head shot up, one hand already on the hilt of her gladius. Standing in the brush with a bow in his hand was a young man about her age. She tensed, knowing that if he was a good shot then he could get her from where he stood. She met his eyes and silently prayed to whichever gods might be listening that these weren’t her last moments.