FMK #27: Judge A Book By Its Title

Oct. 17th, 2017 07:40 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Last week's winners were not what I expected! But F goes to The Red Tent and K goes to The Magicians (which is WAY more hated than I had realized! For good reason apparently.)

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

This week's theme: I have no idea what this book is about, I'm pretty sure I only have it for the title.

Poll: Bail, Capote, Carey, Collins, Connors, Corliss, Ericson, Galloway, Gould, Morse, Shann, Shreve, Townsend, Wodehouse )


Oct. 17th, 2017 10:02 am
watersword: Karen Gillan as Amelia Pond in season 5 of Doctor Who (Doctor Who: Amelia Pond)
[personal profile] watersword
1. I went to my mentor's memorial and it was awful in basically every way possible, but I showed up and that is important.
2. I got to see my sister and my best friend.
3. Cat-petting!
4. Asian pears at the CSA.
5. Tea.
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"The Spark" by David Drake, last updated Mon Oct 16 21:14:35 EDT 2017


    “I’m staying here for the view,” Baga said. “And I don’t need a woman to keep me from running out on a mate. You women can get in the boat.”

    I didn’t have time to see how that would play out. I switched on my equipment and stepped toward the other boat just as its hatch started to open.



    The first thing out through the hatch was a dog: stocky, furry, black and tan. It was a chow or a chow mix.

    I’ll admit that my first thought was to take its head off before the warrior was out of the boat to protect it. That would’ve been my safest move, but if I had to kill a dog that way to stay alive, well… I didn’t want to wake up every morning with the guy who’d done that thing.

    I wasn’t going to cut my own arm off to be fair, though. The tall warrior I’d seen with Camm on Marielles stepped through the hatchway, and I went straight for him.

    I knew that Baga hadn’t been able to see outside the boat until he’d opened the hatch, so I was pretty sure that Camm couldn’t either. The warrior was ready for trouble, sure, but he wasn’t expecting it. He sure wasn’t expecting me to come at him before his foot hit the ground outside.

    He got his shield up and took my first cut, but the shower of sparks at the contact meant that circuits in the shield were burning out. He jumped left, getting clear of the hatch and giving whoever was inside a chance to join him.

    I had to ignore the reinforcements for now. This guy was the most dangerous man I’d seen on Marielles. If I didn’t take him out quick, I might as well hand Lady Eloise over to Camm right now.

    I tried to get on his right, but he turned inside me and thrust for my chest. I think my new shield would’ve stopped it, but I reacted the way I’d trained on Guntram’s machine and slid his stroke to the side with my own weapon.

    What Guntram said was true: I could use Buck’s mind to predict the warrior’s movement the same as I had with the machine images. I didn’t think about it, it just happened the way I’d practiced every day for a month.

    Camm came out of the hatch, his shield and weapon live but without a dog of his own. He could use the chow, but it wouldn’t react to him the way it did its own master.

    But the chow’s master was the present problem. Camm wasn’t rushing straight in the way he should have.

    The warrior thrust again, this time at my head. I ducked behind my shield and slashed at his leading leg. His weapon glanced off; mine sheared through the lower edge of his shield and deep into his leg bones.

    The warrior toppled forward. I turned to Camm. I was breathing hard and wondering how good he was. He screamed and ran at me, holding his weapon high. I thrust, bursting his shield and tearing a hole in his chest.

    I faced the hatch. “Come on out!” I shouted. I didn’t know what was inside. The boat’s structure was a black silhouette cut from the view through my weapon. “Come out or I’ll come in for you and you won’t have a chance to give up if I do!”

    Buck was ready to charge in with me, but we’d be taking a chance. I’d have to shut down my shield, and that’d leave me open to anybody waiting inside with a bow. I was about to do it anyway–my blood was up–when Frances walked in front of me and stepped into Camm’s boat.

    After a moment Frances came back. She stood in the doorway and raised her hands straight up in the air. I probably could’ve heard her if she’d shouted, but I read her as the sort of person who didn’t raise her voice except when she was really angry. I’d seen that–heard it–when she was talking to Lady Hellea.

    I shut off my shield and weapon, then kneeled down. Frances walked over close enough that I could see her feet without raising my head. She said, “I opened the pods that were closed. There’s no one in the boat.”

    “Thanks,” I said. I kept filling my lungs and breathing out. In a bit I’d stand up, but I wasn’t ready to do that yet. “That was a crazy risk, though.”

    “Walters said it was just him and Camm in the boat,” Frances said. “And Ajax, his dog. I wasn’t sure the dog was going to let me put a tourniquet on Walters’ leg, but Walters calmed him down and I did before he bled out completely. We should get him to a surgeon. Unless you plan to leave him here.”

    I lurched to my feet and put my weapon and shield away. Boy, I sure hoped the dragon didn’t decide this’d be a good time to come back, because it truly would be–from the dragon’s point of view.

    “We’ll get him to a surgeon,” I said. “On Marielles, I guess, unless you’ve changed your mind?”

    “Eloise hasn’t,” Frances said. “I think this–”

    She gestured in the direction of Camm’s body without taking her eyes off mine.

    “–makes our job easier, mine at least.”

    She cleared her throat and went on, “Master Pal, I was angry when Master Guntram fobbed me off with you instead of a real Champion. I was wrong and I apologize.”

    “Thank you, ma’am,” I said. I was feeling dizzy. I wanted to sit down, but I didn’t want to do that until we were away from here. “And it’s both our job, getting Eloise safe to Marielles. That’s what I signed on for.”

    I looked around. The others were all watching me, except for Walters who seemed to be unconscious. The chow lay down beside Walters, then got up and walked in a circle around him before lying down again.

    “Load up our boat and we’ll leave for Marielles as quick as we can,” I said. “We’ll talk on the way about how we handle things there.”

    “That mean the dog too?” Baga said. “That guy’s dog, I mean?”

    “Yeah, our boat’ll handle the load fine,” I said. I expected more discussion, but everybody just nodded and got on with the job. Even Eloise.

    I walked over to the other boat and put my hand on the hull. “Boat,” I said, “I’ll be back and fix you up. If I can, I mean. Things may get tricky at Marielles, but I figure they’ll work out.”

    The boat said, “Your boat told me that you would. Your boat says that in a hundred thousand years, it never had such a master as you.”

    That made me feel funny, to be honest. I’d been decent to the boat, sure, but no more than I’d been to Buck or my neighbors. If that made me special, then the world was a worse place than it ought to ‘ve been.

    “Well, wish me luck,” I said.

    I also wondered about that “hundred thousand years.” I knew the Ancients were, well, ancient… But a hundred thousand years?

    I went back to the others and helped Baga lift Walters into the boat. Ajax walked along with us stiff-legged and growling, but he curled up beside Walters in the room where we laid him down.



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"Princess Holy Aura" by Ryk Spoor, last updated Mon Oct 16 21:14:35 EDT 2017


    “I can’t believe it’s this cold!” Holly said, shivering even within the thick, puffy blue coat she was wearing. “It was seventy three days ago!”

    “Welcome to New York,” Tierra said with a smirk, shoving the door open ahead of her and holding it to let the others pass. A tall blonde girl zipped in between Holly and Seika, muttering a quick “‘Scuse me!” and then sprinted down the hallway, causing one of the guards to call ineffectually after her, “No running!”

    “What was her rush?” Nikki demanded.

    “Dunno,” Seika said, puzzled. “That was Cordy Ingemar, she’s second on the cheerleading squad. Maybe she’s late for a practice.”

    But if that’s the case she’s going the long way around, Holly thought, but then shrugged. The bell had rung and they didn’t have long to get to homeroom.

    The usual stream of announcements was interrupted by Principal Robinson. “I am sorry to announce that one of our students, Glynnis Van Buren, has passed away due to a fatal accident late last night. We will have a moment of silence to respect her memory.”

    The shock of the announcement itself was enough to enforce the moment of silence; people were still absorbing it by the time the principal’s somewhat gravelly voice spoke again. “The Counselling Office will be open to anyone affected by this event.”

    Holly was sure no one else heard any other announcements; she certainly didn’t. “Who was she? I don’t think I knew her,” she whispered to Seika.

    “Wasn’t she a sophomore?”

    “Yeah,” said Tom Pratt from the next row over. “New on the cheerleading squad.”

    “God, how terrible,” another girl — Dylan, Holly thought. Name I always associate with guys, but hey, things change.

    The whispered conversations were still subdued; mortality had brushed close by. And a lot worse is going to happen to a lot more people if I screw all this up. Large high schools usually lost a person or two across four years; as Steve, Holly could remember one of his classmates not showing up to school and finding out that he’d had an accident with a thresher.

    But it won’t be accidents this year, not once our enemies get moving.

    With an effort she shoved the issue out of her mind. World-saving heroine or not, she still had schoolwork to do, and until the next manifestation, she might as well do as well as she could.

    Now that she was adjusting, she could apply a lot of Steve’s experience. Yes, some of the methods for classroom teaching had drastically changed, but it sure didn’t hurt to have those twenty extra years of knowledge. She still had to do the work, but boy did it go faster.

    That did make her feel a little guilty, looking over at Seika. Holly was staying neck-and-neck with Seika in all the classes, but Seika didn’t have Steve in the back of her head; she was doing it with inherent brilliance and focused determination.

    Eh, it won’t matter. She won’t be competing with me when the real timeline comes around.

    Of course, that would mean that she wouldn’t be Holly’s friend any more, and the thought hurt. That was another feeling to shove away, though. Neither of us will remember it. It won’t matter.

    But somehow, that made this friendship all the more important.

    Mrs. Rizzo greeted them with a pop quiz, plopping sheets of paper facedown on their desks. “Keep them facedown until I finish explaining. I see you trying to peek, Gerald! There are five questions on this sheet. You will choose three and answer them. They are essay questions” — a weak groan rose from the class — “but not long essays. One or two paragraphs should be enough. You will mark the chosen questions by circling the number. If you have time and want to try, you may select one of the other two questions for extra credit; mark that one with a square. And don’t forget to fill in name, grade, and class at the top or I’ll dock you ten points for laziness! You have thirty minutes. Now . . . begin!”

    Biology questions were easy, and Holly finished the selected three in fifteen minutes, picked a fourth, and finished that well before time was up. She put down her pencil at about the same time Seika did.

    “Did you do an extra credit? Which one?” Seika asked as they left the class.

    “Sure, number four. Right after I finished the one about the Coelenterata.”

    “You mean the Cnidaria,” Seika corrected her.

    “Aaaaaugh!” Holly smacked her forehead. “Damn my . . .” — she barely caught herself in time — “my dad’s old-fashioned books! Rizzo hates people getting the names wrong!”

    Seika’s smile was at least somewhat sympathetic. “I know, but what can you do? At least you can afford to lose a few points, right?”

    Holly rolled her eyes. “I guess, but still . . . ugh! What a stupid mistake!”

    The mood around the school was still subdued by the time lunch rolled around, but sitting with their little group lightened things. “Meeting still on for tonight?” Tierra asked.

    “Far as I know. Nikki? Didn’t you say something about having to cut out early?”

    Nikki tossed back her now-violet-dyed hair and shook her head. “My parents were going to go out which would’ve stuck me with Jill and Aaron, but the people they were going with called this morning and said they were sick, so no, I’m good!”

    Caitlin reached out and snagged the pickle spear off of Seika’s plate. “Hey!”

    “Oh hey, what? You never eat your pickles!”

    “You could ask!”

    “Too late, I’m already eating it.” Caitlin made a big show of stuffing the whole spear in her mouth, making all of them break up.

    Of course, right now either Seika or me could blow them away in the eating department. The worst trial school currently presented was that they couldn’t eat as much as they wanted to without making spectacles of themselves. Seika had discovered that the day after her first transformation. She didn’t quite keep up with Holly in the eating department, but she was now eating more than anyone else in her house, easily.

    “Um . . . excuse me?”

    The voice was as completely familiar as it was unexpected, so Holly jumped a little in her seat. Luckily so did the others.

    Richard Dexter Armitage stood there, a few feet away, looking uncertain and nervous. His eyes flicked toward Holly then looked around at the others, then down at his feet.

    “What is it?” Tierra asked. “Who’re you? No, wait . . . you’re in junior year, right?”

    “Yeah. Dex, Dex Armitage. Sorry to bother you, but, um . . .”

    “Well, go on,” Nikki said. Holly was still trying to figure out how to react. His nervousness was making Holly nervous. What’s wrong with me?

    “Well,” — Dex took a deep breath — “I, um, heard you guys talking a couple times and then saw you’d started a new club and it was about Steampunk Adventure, and it’s role-playing and I really like gaming and my old group broke up and I was wondering if I could join yours, but I mean it’s okay if I can’t, because I don’t want to push, you know, and maybe you just wanted it for your own group so maybe this was a bad idea, you know, maybe I should just forget it, sorry, um . . .” The whole huge unfinished sentence exploded out of him like foam from a shaken soda bottle, and the blond-haired skinny form was already partly turning away.

    Caitlin blinked and Nikki giggled — not unkindly, but Dex’s cheeks went visibly pink. Jesus, I’d forgotten how utterly terrible Dex was with people he didn’t know. Once he knows you he’s sometimes too loud and sure of himself, but before?

    Holly held up her hand. “Hey, don’t run off yet, we didn’t even say yes, no, or maybe. Give us a chance before you decide for us, huh?”

    “Oh. Uh, yeah, sorry.” He went even pinker and winced. “Sorry. Sorry, I’m really, you know, bad at this.”

    “Dork,” muttered Tierra, but her tone was more sympathetic than the word would imply.

    “So you’re asking if you could join the game, right?”

    “Right.” Dex straightened the slightest bit, and caught himself before he apologized again.

    “You game already?” Seika asked. “We’re using the Spirit of the Century rules with some mods, you know it?”

    “Oh, yeah, cool system,” Dex said, some animation entering his voice. “Like the character generation, the way it links characters together.”

    Holly could see Seika relax a little. That was the right reaction, Dex; showed you’re ‘one of us,’ and did it by mentioning one of the parts of the system that isn’t about kicking people’s asses.

    “I dunno,” Tierra said. “We’ve got a lot of players already . . .”

    “But you’ve got a couple NPCs you’re always relying on,” Holly pointed out. “If Dex could play someone that’d take their place — ”

    “That’s mostly a support role, though,” Nikki mused. “Don’t know if –”

    “Hey, I’ll try anything,” Dex said, then winced again. “Sorry, didn’t meant to interrupt.”

    “At least you recognized it before I kicked you.”

    “Sor — ”

    “You can’t join if every third word out of your mouth is ‘sorry,’ though,” said Seika emphatically.

    “Sor — ” Dex broke off and then burst out laughing.

    Never noticed he has such a bright smile before. It lights a room.

    “Okay,” Dex said. “I, um, apologize for interrupting your lunch, but does this mean . . .”

    Holly looked around. “Well . . . all in favor of giving Dex a chance?”

    Seika and Nikki’s hands went up immediately; after a moment, the other two joined. Holly raised hers. “It’s unanimous, you can join. Provisional member. We’ll see how it works out. Okay?”

    “Great! I mean, I’ll try really hard.” He ran his fingers distractedly through the long golden hair. “Guess a support role’s a good idea. My . . . old GM, he told me I needed to learn to not be a star all the time. Bet he was right. Usually was.”

    The sadness in his voice made Holly’s gut tighten. Wow, I’m haunting myself while I’m still here, even.

    “Okay, then we’ll see you tonight right after school.”

    “Great! I mean, really! I’ve got my books in my locker, I’ll bring ’em!” Dex practically skipped away, clearly buoyed by relief that he hadn’t completely messed things up.

    “This’ll be okay, right?” Caitlin asked, looking a bit uncertain.

    “Dex? I think he’s fairly harmless,” Tierra said. “Plus they’ve got the guards staying after now for all activities, after the freakshow last month.”

    “We’ll see. If he doesn’t work out, he goes. No problem,” Holly said.

    They had to finish eating a little faster to make up for the conversation, and then there were the afternoon classes. In the middle of English, Holly found herself unable to wait; nature was calling with an urgency she didn’t recall from Steve’s prior life. Dr. Beardsley granted her a grudging pass to go to the bathroom.

    As she put her hand on the handle, Holly became aware of someone speaking inside the bathroom; it would’ve been completely inaudible during a change of classes, and even now it was faint. Whoever it was, they were speaking in very low, urgent tones.

    “. . . that way!” the other girl said. A pause. “I know I did, but the last time was different!” Another pause. “No. Why can’t you fix it?”

    Talking on a cell phone?

    “No,” the voice said, and the girl sounded horrified. “Go away.”

    Holly gripped the door handle again. Somehow she had a feeling she should enter. “Go away”? Is that something you say to someone on a phone?

    “No, I mean it! Go! Don’t come back! I never want to speak to you again!”

    There was a rushing sound of footsteps and Holly barely stepped back in time to avoid the door as it whipped open and Cordy Ingemar ran out. She was already turning to run down the hallway and didn’t even notice Holly standing there, but even from the side Holly could see glittering tracks of tears on her face.

    Cordy also wasn’t carrying a cell phone.

    Holly went inside cautiously, the hair on the nape of her neck stirring, goosebumps rising on her arms. On the counter was a small purse, with a smartphone’s shape visible — a phone sealed inside a zipped inner pocket. Cordy wouldn’t have had nearly enough time to put that there.

    She looked around, tense, listening, watching. All was silent. The broad mirrors reflected the empty stalls.

    There was no one there at all.



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"1636: The Vatican Sanction" by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon, last updated Mon Oct 16 21:14:35 EDT 2017


    Bedmar sighed. “I wish I could take credit for that ploy, my dear Sanchez, but since lying was still a sin when I consulted my breviary this morning, I must give credit where it is due.” He turned to the oldest of the three men who had emerged from the sedan chairs. “May I present, Captain Achille d’Estampes de Valençay, knight of the Sovereign Order of Malta. And in your timeline, Ambassadora, eventually the general of the papal army under Pope Urban.”

    Ruy extended a hand and put a winning smile on his face as he mentally consulted the dossiers that Sharon had reviewed with him. Urban had sent a secure document to Malta half a year ago, informing de Valençay that he had been made a cardinal in pectore: “close to the chest,” and so, undisclosed. Urban had sent out many such notifications, most of them following patterns of loyalty he had observed in both this world and, evidently, the other. There, Achille d’Estampes de Valençay had been given a biretta in 1643. And this was not the only way in which the arrival of the up-timers had been favorable to his fortunes: since the disruption in the original progression of the Thirty Years’ War had prevented the Battle of Castelnaudary from ever being fought, he had not taken the side of Gaston’s ally, Henri II de Montmorency in an attempt to strip Richelieu of his royal influence. Nonetheless, the Grey Eminence, familiar with the up-timer histories had taken the precaution of ensuring that the much-honored Achille be deprived of an appropriate command, resulting in his return to Malta.

    Achille stood at least three inches taller than Ruy’s own medium height, and if the hidalgo had a pantherlike build (well, perhaps only a cheetah now — but still as swift!), de Valençay was decidedly a tiger. His rapier was of the heaviest kind — almost a longsword — and his service as a colonel and even a fleet commander had not leeched any of the taut, lean readiness out of his body. At forty-three, he wore his heavy cuirass and helmet with the indifferent ease of men half his age. Ruy found himself assessing the way this chevalier wore his sword and moved: an old reflex for assessing possible opponents, working out optimal tactics in advance. But this time, there was a faint twinge of jealousy, of being the older rooster meeting a younger one who might be every bit as capable in a fight. Not as polished, probably, but strength and size might offset that difference.

    Ruy almost had to physically shake himself out of the competitive mindset. “Captain, your reputation precedes you, and your most recent ruse adorns it even further.”

    Valençay bowed as they finished shaking hands. “And you, sir, are becoming something of a legend. I welcome the chance to make your acquaintance. Allow me to present my traveling companions, and fellow-protectors of His Eminence Cardinal Bedmar: my brother Léonore and Giovanni Carlo de Medici.”

    Ruy peripherally noticed Sharon stand a bit straighter beside him. And for good reason: Giovanni Carlo de Medici, or Giancarlo, was not merely one of the most able young nobles — and eligible bachelors — in all of Italy, but was the nephew of Bernhard’s wife, Claudia de Medici, although only six years younger than she. And he was fairly sure he knew what his wife was thinking: here is a prime scion of the royal house of Tuscany acting the part of a cardinal’s bodyguard, when he himself might need protecting against assassin’s knives. Borja’s agents had learned that he, too, had been fated to become a cardinal in later years, and for him to be at Urban’s colloquium was akin to volunteering for a death sentence. Léonore was, by comparison, decidedly less tigerish than his older brother, just as his eyes were less piercing and his handshake less viselike.

    Ruy turned back to Bedmar. “You are singularly fortunate in your retinue, Your Eminence.”

    Bedmar nodded, but his face had become grave. He turned to the others, who were almost his peers, and asked them, graciously, if they would be so good as to spread word that the entourage would be moving soon again. The three exchanged knowing looks, proffered bows to Ruy, Sharon, and then Larry, who had not yet come forward, and set about ordering their small group; it responded and moved with the precision of a military unit.

    “I see you are taking no chances in your travels,” Ruy observed with a pointedly flat tone once they had left earshot.

    “Quite true,” Bedmar countered. “Although, in point of fact, we are all helping each other. Achille received a summons from Urban, I am told, and I can well guess its nature. Giancarlo, having had the promise of a biretta in your world, has now attracted the baleful attention of Borja in this one. So just as I am made safer by having three such soldiers with me, I offer a measure of protection to them.”

    Sharon nodded. “Because unless someone after them also has orders to kill you, they can’t take a chance of exceeding their…authority.”

    Bedmar smiled at the euphemism. “And so, here we are, arrived in safety, due in no small measure to your excellent network of aerodromes. In fact, so far, there is only one disconcerting aspect of my reception here.”

    Sharon leaned forward. “Please, tell me.”

    Bedmar smiled. “That my brother in faith has not stepped forward to greet me.” He shot a quick glance over Sharon’s shoulder at Larry Mazzare, who stood, hands folded, ten feet behind her.

    “I did not want to interrupt what was sure to be a reunion of friends,” Mazzare said quietly. And Ruy also detected a hint of caution, and reserve.

    So, apparently, did Bedmar. “You Eminence, when last we met in Venice, circumstances ineluctably made us enemies. Respectful and honorable, yes, but enemies nonetheless.”

    Larry did not change position or posture. “Indeed, Your Eminence. And now?”

    Ruy saw Sharon suppress a start: clearly, Larry had not informed her that this was the tack he intended to take upon Bedmar’s arrival.

    Bedmar folded his hands, studied Larry carefully. “And now,” he repeated, “I find you a changed man, and us in very changed circumstances. We have always been brothers in the Church, Your Eminence; we are now fully peers, as well.” Bedmar smiled. “Indeed, you may have the advantage of me.”

    Larry raised an eyebrow, his tone no less wary. “In what way?”

    Bedmar put out appealing hands; they were large hands, almost comically so, given that he barely stood five foot six in thick-heeled boots. “Surely you see that, by coming here, I am not endearing myself to Philip of Spain, and even less to his minister Olivares. I am the only Spanish cardinal who has not proclaimed for Borja. Now, I am an honored guest in the camp of his mortal enemy. What level of favor do you expect I enjoy in Madrid?”

    Larry nodded. “Reduced, certainly — but not irredeemable. In fact, it may yet prove advisable for at least one of the ‘Spanish cardinals’ to remain unsoiled by support of Borja. That lack of unanimity could become a fig-leaf of legitimacy if Philip eventually wishes to claim that he did not expressly order his cardinals to declare for the homicidal madman currently maintaining a rule of terror in Rome.”

    Bedmar looked down, frowned. “And you presume I am so farsighted?”

    Larry folded his arms. “I don’t know; are you?”

    Sharon almost gasped. “Lar — Cardinal Mazzare!”

    “No,” Bedmar interrupted. “He is right. And it confirms what I have heard of Cardinal-Protector Mazzare. He has risen to his august position not merely by dint of being the senior catholic among you up-timers, but by his shrewdness.” Bedmar stood straight. “Very well. I may not divulge the full details of the political circumstances under which I have traveled here, but let me make this very clear: I come to you — first, foremost, and only — as the cardinal-protector of the Spanish Lowlands, and of Fernando, the king in the Lowlands. And his desires match the mandate of both my conscience and my vows: to safeguard Mother Church, and, if it is possible to do so without compromising her, to put the sectarian strife with the Protestants to an end.” He paused to let his words sink in. “Is that clear enough?”

    Mazzare nodded slowly and stepped forward. “It is, Cardinal Bedmar.” He looked sideways at Sharon. “My regrets, Ambassador, but I am a son of the Church first — even before I am a citizen of the USE and Grantville.”

    Sharon nodded slowly, her eyes calm — but if Ruy was any judge of his wife, she would be taking Larry Mazzare aside at some time in the very near future for a forthright and lively exchange of opinions.

    Bedmar closed the remaining distance to Larry and offered his hand. “I apologize for the liberties I took when we first met in Venice. It is an old military instinct to put a potential adversary on the back foot, to push him in conversations, to test limits and boundaries, all under the guise of diplomatic banter. I did so there. I will not do so here — with you, or anyone. Times have changed. I will not claim that I have as well, but I am reformed in some of my least dignified habits. These days leave no room for pettiness if we are to care take the future well-being of Holy Mother Church and the innocents who might yet die in sectarian strife.”

    Larry offered his hand in return. “We are certainly agreed on that.”

    Bedmar nodded soberly. “I think you shall find that, since you and I last met, we are in agreement on much, much more.” He put his other hand atop theirs and then withdrew towards his entourage. “I suspect it is not part of your protocol to keep vulnerable persons loitering about as easy targets.”

    Of the many things Ruy had ever imagined, or knew, Bedmar to be, “vulnerable” or “an easy target” were not among them. “Yes, let us go.”



the_comfortable_courtesan: image of a fan c. 1810 (Default)
[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

They walked slowly back towards the villa in silence. Lady Bexbury was conversing of novels with a well-looking fellow of middle years, that to Beauf’s astonishment spoke English with a somewhat Cockney accent though he was as bronzed as any Neapolitan. She made introductions and Beauf apprehended that this was Traversini’s dear companion. Should be entire ecstatic, said Lady Bexbury, would you stay to dine the e’en. Although Beauf felt that all he wanted to do was to return to Naples and brood in his room, or if Julius was around, tell him what had passed, he could not refuse.

Sure it was a very fine dinner, especial had they not been expecting any company. When they had finished, and night had fallen, Lady Bexbury offered that the sight of fireflies among the olive trees was most exceeding pretty, why did Flora not take His Lordship to see 'em? Flora bit her lip, then smiled and said, sure 'tis indeed the prettiest thing, let us go view 'em. And somehow, as they walked towards the olive grove, their hands found one another. Over there, said Flora, that quite menacing red glow? 'Tis the burning mountain Vesuvius: here are lesser fires.

She gestured towards the little sparks of light darting among the olive trees. Indeed 'twas a most exquisite pretty sight. He turned towards Flora and saw his own pleasure mirrored on her face. Mayhap it was the romantic setting; mayhap the excellent wine they had drunk had somewhat to do with it; but he put his arms around her and kissed her as no decent man should kiss a respectable young women before they had reached an understanding. And Flora kissed him back as no respectable young woman should kiss a man that had not already spoke to her papa.

At length they drew away from one another. Beauf began stammering an apology: oh, fie, said Flora, you must have apprehended that I too was quite overcome. She looked down at the ground. 'Twas most exceeding pleasant, I liked it quite extremely, should greatly desire to do it again: but, dearest Beauf, 'twould not be right. I hope, said Beauf, I should not take advantage of your kindness - Flora looked up with a bewitching smile and said, sure I have the greatest confidence in your honour. But m – my godmother has conveyed to me certain matters concerning the sexes –

And, said Flora, drawing herself up and looking like a small Valkyrie, I daresay there are those would condemn her for sullying my maiden innocence or some such nonsense, but I find myself in entire agreement with her that 'tis a shocking thing the way young women are kept in ignorance of matters so very material to their lives and happiness. Why, said Beauf, I fancy my stepmother would be in agreement with such arguments. And when one goes ponder over the topic, 'twould at least be prudent were young women given some warning concerning how some men carry on.

Flora gave another of her enchanting smiles and said, but she avers that young women should also be informed about their own natures: and that they should know that they may find that there is a traitor within the citadel that undermines their resistance to a siege. Beauf looked at her and considered upon this – was it a confession? – that she too felt ardours that might lead them into most improper conduct together. Indeed, Flora said more soberly, I come to an apprehension of her meaning. But she says, too, that does not always import for better for worse &C.

We had better, said Flora, be returning to the villa. She sighed. Flora, said Beauf, dearest Flora, at least say that I may speak again, when we are back in Town and not beguiled by romantic surroundings. She sighed again. You may, dearest Beauf: perchance we may find that 'twas entirely a glamour and you may go find one more apt to duchessing than I. I do not think so, he said. In all our travels have seen none that moves me as much as you. Flora made a little noise, almost a sob, and then turned towards the villa.

The coachman was mayhap a little displeased at being routed out from the kitchen and flirtatious conversation with the buxom Giulia, no hag-like sorceress. But he went ready the horses, and Beauf took his leave of Lady Bexbury and Alf, bowed over Flora’s hand. As he mounted to the carriage, and it began to drive away, he glimpsed, through a window, the fleeting sight of Flora kneeling by her godmother’s chair, her head in her lap, Lady Bexbury stroking the golden curls. Beauf thought that he would have welcomed an attack by banditti as a distraction from his troubled thoughts.

There were no untoward happenings on the road back to Naples. At their lodgings, he found Julius alone – he had not expected Bobbie to be in, but Quintus had regular habits. Is a dinner of some medical club or such, said Julius, seeing Beauf look around, that Quintus was invited to. But, dear friend, you look troubled. Oh, Julius, sighed Beauf, going to sit beside him upon the chaise-longue, indeed I am troubled, for Flora – was’t another woman I would say, goes play the coquette, but 'tis not Flora’s way – Julius put an arm around Beauf in the old way.

Beauf rested his head upon Julius’ shoulder, thinking of all the times they had comforted one another. He was blessed in having such a friend. Surely marriage, especially marriage to Flora, whose own dearest friend was Julius’ sister Hannah, would not come between? Julius remarked that he was going to see a very fine garden the morrow, would Beauf care to come? Indeed he had not seen so much of Julius lately, would be most agreeable to spend time in one another’s company. That would be exceeding pleasant, he said, do you desire my company. How not, said Julius, smiling.

All this beauty passing by me.

Oct. 15th, 2017 09:18 pm
hannah: (Travel - fooish_icons)
[personal profile] hannah
It's not that I didn't think there were any photos of me on Facebook so much that - okay, I need to back up a bit. Last week - no, more than that. This is a big thing that only tangentially relates to me, so let me just start off with the biggest piece of news.

My younger brother's going to be on television.

Starting on Wednesday, on Fusion TV at 8 PM, Car vs. America is going live with my younger brother as one of the co-hosts. He's the taller one. This has been in production for months now, with a backstory that reads like a classic British sitcom, what with the website where he works getting sold and bought with the new owners wanting to recruit TV talent from outside the company and then looking within the existing employment pool and a whole roundabout of their TV show pitch working its way to be pitched right back to them almost exactly the same. He's given me behind the scenes stories of fights with producers I don't care to recount and every so often he stumbles back to New York City for a few days before heading back out to Pennsylvania for a story on a 25-year wait on imports or a drive from LA to Seattle following the most amusing route possible.

And this Wednesday, it goes on TV.

Last Tuesday, I saw the first episode. I saw it at the premiere party at the downtown office where he goes on the days he goes into an office. It was a fun half-hour of TV, lots of laughs, and yes, it's basically my younger brother up there. The party was definitely a party, with people hanging around and chatting and having fun with drinks and snacks and toys, and I was the first person there to figure out how to make the RC cars - "analog drones," I joked - go backwards. Someone was going around taking pictures, from informal snaps to serious smiles.

I'm in three of them. Six, seven, and nine, the one in the striped high-low dress. Front and center, even, in seven. In the ninth one I'm way on the upper left corner, but that's me up there. I deactivated my account years ago and didn't know until I found out almost by accident, when I heard my father tell someone else about the dress I wore. So I could've gone on for ages not knowing instead of just being taken by surprise a few days after the fact.

(It's dark rum and pineapple juice on the rocks, if you're wondering, and it wasn't the only reason I was smiling.)

It was a deeply enjoyable party, even if twice someone first gave my older brother a handshake - he's in a few, most clearly in the second-to-last where he's holding up a promotional T-shirt - and then moved to give me a hug. People I'd never met or even heard of, moving in for a hug. I didn't hug back, just stayed standing still, and then put out my hand for a shake. If they'd hugged my brother first, I'd have hugged back, since that would've been a sign of how things were done. But, as they didn't, I myself didn't reciprocate.

Still, even for that happening twice, I had fun. I got a t-shirt and some banana pudding and a couple of drinks, and it turns out, there's new pictures of me on Facebook.

And my younger brother's going to be on TV in a few days. Which is, I gotta say, pretty darn cool of him.

And I think, in that one picture, that's a pretty good smile.

Looking Forward

Oct. 15th, 2017 12:02 pm
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[personal profile] otw_staff posting in [community profile] otw_news
Donors in the last 10 years have allowed the OTW to offer what it does today. Will you help us achieve more over the next 10?

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[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

No doubt Lady Bexbury apprehended something of his reason for the visit: very shortly she said, I daresay you have come see Flora. At present I confide she goes walk in the olive groves – Alone? cried Beauf. La, she is as safe here as she would be at home. There will be none to come trouble her: 'tis most exceeding useful to have a cook in the place that is give out a strega and able to cast heavy curses upon trespassers &C, even is Giulia not so powerful a one as Guiseppina, that was her aunt, used to be.

Beauf blinked: he would have liked to know more of the matter – surely Lady Bexbury did not believe in witchcraft? 'Tis a useful superstition, she said smiling. But away to the olive groves – she waved in their direction. He bowed over his hand and went where she pointed. Sure olive trees were a very picturesque sight – he wondered whether there were artists had painted them – but even more delightful was the sight of Flora Ferraby, in a becoming light gown, a wide-brimmed hat upon her head, carrying a parasol. Why, Beauf! she cried, almost running towards him. Such a pleasure.

Flora dropped her parasol and clasped his hands in hers. Sure 'tis good to see you, she said. And are the others here as well? They remain at Naples, he said, looking down at her: perchance she had neglected one day to carry her parasol or put on her hat, for she was a little browned by the sun: however unfashionable, 'twas exceeding becoming. But, she said, tell me all of what you have been at, for Quintus’ letters only recount such and such an operation he saw, or some anatomical demonstration he attended. We have been here some while.

So, finding her hand remaining in his, he walked with her among the olive trees and told her of their adventures since Venice. But, he said, did she not go about a good deal in Society at Naples? He had been surprized to hear no reports of the bella signorina Ferraby and sighings over her. La, said Flora, we live here most agreeable quiet, sure I became somewhat jaded with the pursuit of pleasure, and sure these Italians are excessive amorous and given to jealousy, 'tis exceeding tiresome when they brangle over whether I go favour one more than another.

But is it not a little dull? Beauf asked. As I collect you have no great interest in painting water-colours, that one might well wish to undertake in such fine scenery did one have the skill. Indeed 'tis not, said Flora. My dear – my godmother is quite the finest company, there is an excellent fine library with a deal of English books in the place, Marcello is entire happy to escort me on excursions to classical antiquities &C – fie, I suppose I should say Signor Traversini, but I catch the habit of informality from Her Ladyship’s old acquaintance of him.

Also, she went on, there is excellent fine conversation of an e’en: Marcello and Alf are quite the greatest friends of Mr MacDonald, in constant correspondence, sure 'tis good serious discourse such as I have been feeling the want of. For from early years I was used to hear Papa and Mama and their company talk of matters in Parliament, and questions of business, and it feels home-like. And oh, have you heard? Papa goes be knighted. Entire well-deserved, said Beauf, my father the Duke holds him in quite the greatest esteem. Oh, 'tis an entire mutual esteem, said Flora.

Beauf looked down at Flora. He had seen more beautiful women, women with all the feminine arts of flirtation, but none of them had affected him as Flora did. Oh Flora, he said, I find myself in an ever-increasing fondness for you, sure I cannot suppose my father would make a deal of a fuss whosoever my choice lighted upon, he is not that kind, but I confide he would welcome a closer union with your family, there could be no objection, indeed I hazard 'twould delight my stepmother. Dear Flora, I should be honoured would you be my wife.

Flora dropped her head and gazed at the ground, and let her hand slip out of his. Oh Beauf, she said after what seemed like an exceeding lengthy silence, sure I am entire aware of the great honour you do me, and indeed I find myself in great liking towards you. But, she said, and then paused again. I know, she began again, that 'tis considered quite the highest achievement of a young lady to attach a fellow of your rank; but – oh, dearest Beauf – 'tis that matter of rank and being a Duchess in due course, gives me pause.

Why, you could not but adorn such a position, cried Beauf. Indeed, replied Flora, I hope that did it come to it I should do all that was proper: but I am in some concern that I should find it most immense tedious. There are duties and responsibilities, and sure I think some of 'em I could contrive to quite well. But I think of all the doing the polite, and making agreeable, and sure I do not attain to have my – godmother’s capacity to smile upon bores and laugh at weak jests, I entire lack her skills of diplomacy.

I see, said Beauf, that I have come about the matter very abrupt – 'twas not thus that I meant to proceed, but it has been on my mind ever since Venice, that I have seen no woman that I like so much as you and that I should desire to be wedlocked with. Flora gave him a wistful little smile and said that sure they were still yet young and perchance 'twas an entire glamour cast by these romantic parts, and mayhap did they go look at one another on a chill foggy day in Town, 'twould be another tale.


Oct. 14th, 2017 08:13 pm
[personal profile] lizziegoneastray posting in [community profile] courseofhonourfics
Sooooo remember when I was talking about that fic that was OOC for Jainan at the end of the story? Well.............. I finished it and posted it anyway XD my friend thinks it's good and I trust her judgment, so here you go: The Ghosts Will Try to Find You Enjoy!

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