Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab



Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Fiction Friday: The Sorcerer's Secretary (Chapter One)


It's Fiction Friday! For those who are taking part, share a snippet on your work and link-up. Please support each other, and if the blogger asks, give them constructive criticism! If you don't have anything to share this time, answer this week's question:


Your main character – what are their defining skills?



To see the upcoming questions for the next few months and find out more about this feature, visit the main About Fiction Friday post.

For the next few weeks, I will be posting a new adult fantasy short series called The Sorcerer's Secretary. Thanks to those who applied for the Cast Call!

I always appreciate constructive feedback - especially regarding typos because I am AWFUL with that!
___________________________________________________________________

Chapter One
A Cat Called Rabbit and Three Dead Dragons

Believe it or not, Mum was attacking my dad with a lightning whip when I visited them at home. The tiny kitchen was charred everywhere, and Dad was doing everything to dodge her while protecting the TV.
       “Hi darling!” he yelled, ducking another flames that burst into the air. “How was work?”
       “Mum! Stop!” I shouted, and she snapped her head to look at me like a snarling beast, her nostrils flared and brown curly hair falling over her face. “What’s he done?”
       “Why don’t you ask him!” she shouted, waving the lightning whip threateningly. The rug in the hallway caught on fire, and both me and Dad both inhaled sharply and began to back away. There was just no reasoning with my Mum when she was angry.
       “Now, love...” Dad said feebly.
       “Mum!” I hissed. “You’re not on TV any more, stop seeking attention. Where did you even get that?” I looked at Dad. “What is going on?”
       Dad muttered, “Apparently, I forgot to lock the hovercar.”
       “Of course you did! Do you see it in the driveway, you moron?” My mother screamed. We were pretty much hiding behind the TV at this point. She suddenly noticed the flaming rug and began to stamp on it, tutting and muttering.
       “Why would I forget? Have I ever forgotten before?” Dad looked confused.
       I turned to Dad sceptically. “Are you sure you locked the car, Dad?”
       Then he glared at me. “Go ahead, insult your poor old Dad.”
       I glared back at him. “You forget to lock the front door sometimes.” I shook my head. “Mum, the fact that your car was stolen doesn’t mean Dad forgot to lock it. To be honest, your hovercar is so old that if someone wanted to steal it, and Nova knows why, it wouldn’t matter if it was locked.”
       I cringed and waited for the snap but Mum had finally run out of energy. She flopped in front of the TV flipped it to Criminal Dragons’ Minds. Dad and I breathed a sigh of relief, and I quickly got on with what I came here for.
       “I came round to tell you both something important.” Deep breath. “I’ve decided to go back to uni.”
       They both stared at me. Really stared.
       “But you’ve already been.” Mum said blankly.
       “I know. That’s why I said ‘back’.” I said pointedly, then winced when she gave me a warning look for my ‘tone’.
       “You can’t afford it.” Dad said flatly.
       I hesitated. I’d been putting off telling them that I’d won the lottery for several weeks. Even what little they had they squandered on household ornaments, new toys for Rabbit (the family cat) and luxury items I wasn’t supposed to know about. It’s not that I want my parents to live in poverty – obviously – but I also didn’t want them to spend it all reliving their glory days.
       “Yes,” Mum said loudly, “You definitely can’t afford it. I won’t have you stripping to pay your way through uni.”
       I frowned. “I don’t understand why that was the first conclusion you jumped to.” I could hear Rabbit in the next room hissing at something. Probably the air. Or his reflection in the mirror.
       “So what, you got the money?” Dad said casually, but I felt the atmosphere change.
       “I may have a bit,” I said with difficulty, but I could already see their eyes go round and glisten, like an anime character that’s just been told they’re cute. I backed away, slowly.
       “How much?” my Mum said, leaping to her feet.
       “Just enough – bye!” I gabbled and made a break for it. I heard my parents scramble after me.
       “Oh, be nice to your old poor parents, love!” Dad called but Mum didn’t bother with the fake niceness - the lightning whip just missed my head, instead hitting the doorframe and set it on fire. I flew down the driveway, screaming that my parents were trying to kill me for my money. And my neighbours glanced over with little interest, then went back to scanning the sky for dragons, or playing on their handheld Basilisk XL, or hailing down a hoverbus from their front garden. They must have thought; ‘Another day at the Willesden residence.’



There are many reasons why you shouldn’t work for, date or insult a sorcerer, but let’s start with the most obvious. Their purpose in life is to prove how agonisingly mundane and insignificant everybody else is. To find a sorcerer that isn’t patronising is like finding a golden unicorn with wings, which actually I did find last summer when I dropped my cough medicine by mistake. How about that! Golden unicorns like red Skittles.
But, I did end up working for a sorcerer. It’s a long story actually...



The choice of whether to take the hoverbus or the turbotrain home is a question of whether you would prefer to puke or pass out. If the stomach-turner is the one you prefer, buy yourself a bus pass. If you’d rather the mind-melter, get a train ticket. I personally value all of my digestive and cognitive functions, so I walk. It takes me two hours, but I don’t mind. It solves my insomnia problem; I’m so exhausted by the time I get home, I flop into bed and fall straight asleep.
       But when I reached my flat after visiting my parents, I saw a car that shouldn’t have been parked outside my flat. However, it was. Parked outside my flat. The car. To clarify, we are still talking about the car. I’m sorry. I’m just tired.
       I looked around, then up at my window to make sure Nana wasn’t watching. Then I ran to the car. “No, no, no, you can’t be here!” I hissed.
       Noah jumped out of the car. “Where the hell have you been?” he snapped, “I’ve had an emergency alert up for four hours. My secretary, the main receptionist, and all three of my PAs are out looking for you.”
       “I’m your secretary, and I left work five hours ago! I said bye when my shift ended! You waved!” I growled back. He rubbed his eyes. He looked a little drained. “I went to my parents’. You’re here bitching at me like I’ve done something wrong.”
       “Well, it doesn’t matter now – we need you back at the lab office now, you can sleep on the way there. We all left a little after you, but I got the alert just before I got home. Get in.” He said firmly and opened the door for me. I made a sound that was halfway between a moan and a cry.
       “It’s not fair! I’m so tired. I pay my taxes; why should I be deprived of one evening where I can watch Desperate Witches and eat Doritos on a bowl of from my tummy?”
       “Oh, grow up.” he said with disgust and slammed the door. As he walked around, I flipped him the finger for being mean and then giggled smugly to myself. But then, out of the corner of my eye, Nana came running. I was amazed. How did she know? Her eyes and ears never missed a trick. seeing as she was a private investigator for the Novapol government, I wasn’t surprised.
       “Oh no. You are not taking her again, she’s just got back from work. Hey!” she yelled, sprinting over in her black leather jacket and jeans. “You’d better not be ignoring me, Mr Tight Arse!”
       I love Nana. She’s fierce, pessimistic,  When I met her, she refused to tell me her name and she still does. I call her Nana because she’s like a ninety-nine year-old trapped in a twenty-nine year old’s body; at heart she’s an old woman who’s lived for so long, she resents everything about life and human nature.
       Noah paused, looked her over and sneered, “Let’s make a deal, Ms Hammer. I’ll let you do your job, and I’ll do mine. Otherwise, things could get very ugly.”
       A cold laugh ripped from Nana’s throat as she approached him and balled her fists. “Let’s dance, skinny. I want to see those pearly whites fall out.”
       I rolled down the window hastily. “Nana, please! I’ll be back in time for dinner, Noah will drive me back. Okay? Promise-promise-promise.”
       She gave him a dark look with her dark, slanted eyes. Finally her pride allowed her to give a strained nod and step back. Noah smirked and got in the car.
       “You shouldn’t attack people who earn twice as much as you do, Ms Hammer.” he called through my window, and kicked the car into full speed as she roared and lunged, but ended up standing in a cloud of green smoke. I tutted and rolled my eyes at them both – my boss and my best friend, scratching at it other like kittens. I think deep down, they liked it. A minute later my phone began to ring.
       “Hello?”
       “Why does he keep calling me Ms Hammer?” Nana said with confusion.
       Oops. I told him her name was Nana Hammer because he kept insisting to know her name. ‘You live with her – how can you not know?’ he said scathingly. So I made something up. Then I forgot to tell her.
       “Er... no idea.” I said promptly and hung up.
       When we reached Novapol International Research Facility and Laboratory, at least ten people waited outside for Noah. That was when, for the first time, the tiredness left me and I was fully awake. Normally, his dogs and underlings waited at the doors of the lift on the third floor, where we work. They’d bark and yip at him when he got out. For them to wait outside the building meant something was very wrong.
       “Mr Franklin!” one woman screamed even before he’d finished getting out of the car. “Where have you been?
       “The Director here and wants to speak to you personally, sir!”
       “We’ve taken some very heavy losses, Noah. The entire dragons facility on the third floor is demolished.” one man said gravely.
       “What message should I take to the Director?”
       “Sir, you’re very late.” stressed the first woman, and glanced at me. “It’s not strictly necessary to have her present. She could have been informed later.”
       He stopped to look her up and down as he did to Nana, but this time he was confused. “I’m sorry, you are my...?”
       “I’m Aranisha, sir. Your accountant.”
       “Oh.” he said, his expression clearing. “So I don’t pay you to give me that sort of information.”
       She blushed fully but got the point loud and clear, and fell silent. She gave me a dirty look like it was somehow my fault. I hurried up behind Noah, and the moment I held my arms out my assistant Oliver dumped a pile of folders into it. I felt secretly proud that Noah had thought I was important enough and busy enough to have my own junior PA.
       “How bad is it?” I demanded.
       Oliver hesitated, his hand brushing his hair and resting on his small black ponytail. He was swaying on his feet with exhaustion. “Let me put it this way. None of us are going to be in a permanent office for quite some time, because everything in your arms is all that’s left of it.”
       I stopped walking. My heart dropped out of my ribcage and I don’t know where it went. “My office is destroyed?” I whispered. I looked up at the impressive white building, then back at him.
Slowly, he nodded. He looked embarrassed, like he didn’t know how or if he should console me. Then he held open the main doors for me, it was a moment before I followed him in. “Three dragons got out, and I heard they were sick or something because they –”
       Noah turned around in the lift, saw how slow I was walking, and caught the doors. “What’s the hold up?” he demanded.
       “My office,” I said stupidly. “It’s –”
       “A pile of ash and somebody else’s problem now.” Noah said bluntly. “We have work to do. Years worth of documentation to retype, rescan, reorder...”
       He suddenly stopped and ran a hand over his face with a deep sigh. I could see then how tired he was too. I wondered how long head been up. I’d worked all through the night, which was why I was so tired. But it was worth it – the project we worked on was about a newly discovered creature, very rare, and I was one of the few entrusted to know about it. The feline creature had bonded with Noah and hummed a steady, gentle melody whenever he walked by. It had awed my entire department so much that we were willing to stay to observe and document it. I’d spent hours typing up the reports of our progress. But those reports had been...
       I closed my eyes with horror. They’d been in my office.
       Noah came back and guided me toward the lift by my shoulders. “I don’t want you to think about that, it’ll drive you mad. We need to take one thing at a time. First, we should see what’s left of the office.”
       We took the lift up, the twelve of us standing uncomfortably close, and when the doors opened on floor three a dark blue smoke gushed in. Coughing, we stumbled out of the lift and stared around in utter amazement.
       I don’t know if you know anything about dragon fire, but I’ve studied them with fascination since I was a little girl. Different sub-species breathe different types of fire, and the types we had at the lab were Sapphire dragons, quite uncommon. They usually live in caves and valleys between mountains. Their fire was a deep rich blue, and as it burned everything nearby to ash it would also leave a sparkling crystalline residue.  So we stared around at our demolished office, now a cavern of glittering blue crystals.
       “Beautiful.” I murmured, and touched the nearest shard with a smile. Noah grunted, unimpressed.
       “Yeah, gorgeous.” he said sarcastically, “But I’d rather have my office back, thanks.”
       The five scientists of our department were already there, acting as a clean-up crew and making delighted squeals at new finds, like little children. They wore bright white and yellow suits and each had a thermometer in their mouth. When they heard us enter, they took their time to amble over like unsteady deer.
       “Hi,” Noah said blankly, “My entire department has been destroyed, including your laboratory. Please tell me why exactly you’re all grinning like idiots...?”
       “Hi!” said one of the older men with glasses and a light stubble. I think his name was Ash or Aston or As... something. “Which one of you is Noah Franklin?”
       All of us were a bit too stunned to speak. We knew the scientists didn’t focus on much beside their work, but it was pretty amazing they didn’t know who made sure they got paid.
       “Which one do you think?” Noah said, weariness now turning into anger. “The one who’s trying to get some fucking answers!”
       I took that as my cue to swiftly step in. “Hi Ash,” I said brightly, hoping to God I got his name right, “If you’ve made an analysis, it’s alright to say in front of us; we all work in this department.”
       That seemed to do the trick; he smiled at me. “It’s not so much of an analysis as it is a....” The man scratched his head, and then impatiently tugged on Noah’s arm and led him further down the huge room, where the glass wall between the office and the lab would have been. In the meanwhile, we all drifted about to make sure there was nothing left to be saved. I went straight to my little box office and stared at the ruin. Oliver trailed behind nervously.
       “How were you even able to save these folders?” I asked.
       “Actually...” Oliver suddenly looked sheepish. “I had them with me in the company restaurant when the dragons started breathing fire everywhere.”
       “You had paperwork out of the office?!” I bellowed, but the way he cringed away was so pitiful that I couldn’t stay mad at him. “Don’t do it again.” I warned him. I caught a glimpse of something encased behind the shining blue crystal in the corner. I went to prize it off, and the smell was so sweet and heavenly, I was very tempted to eat this possibly toxic or poisonous crystal.
       “Ellen.” Oliver muttered. I picked up the object. It seemed to be a small green stone, but it didn’t feel like stone. “Ellen.
       “Hm?” I glanced over as I pocketed it. The other members of the department team were casually breaking off tiny chunks of the crystal and slipping them into their bags and briefcases. I was confused when Oliver showed me the two small chunks under his jacket.
       “Do you know how much this stuff is worth?” he whispered.
       “Probably less, now that everybody has a piece.” I said wryly.
       “Well this is your chance. They’ll probably add it to the lab downstairs for rare items.”
       “Actually,” Noah said, appearing beside us. “It’s likely a large portion of it will be sold to museums to help pay to repair the damage done to this department. That’s why everybody here,” he raised his voice, “- is forbidden to take any. Is that understood?”
       Everybody froze and innocently nodded. I saw hands causally slide into trouser and jacket pockets. Maybe I could give some to my vulture parents and keep them off my back for a while. They seriously needed a holiday. Or maybe I could use it as a savings account. I’ve never really had one. Then – I knew what I wanted it for.
       I quietly broke off a thumb-sized chunk just as the director of the company strode into our department, sunglasses on and brown hair slicked back, seemingly oblivious of the smoke that choked the rest of us. My heart stopped – the Director was looking in my direction. Did I give myself away? Inwardly, I panicked. Noah saw his boss and went over. As they began to talk, he paused to look at the rest of us.
       “Unless you can see anything to be salvaged, I don’t think there’s anything left to be gained today. You can all go.” he said.
       In my tiredness, a very unreasonable fury settled over me, like a cowl of fire. So, he drove me here like a maniac to take a look around? Oliver must’ve seen how angry I was on my face because he silently, tactfully, headed for the lift with everybody else.
       “Wait. Not you, Ellen. Come here.”
       As I walked over, I tried not to make my surprise and discomfort obvious – I really couldn’t tell if the director was a woman or a man. The stern mouth, squarer jaw and block-like physique was very male, if then this male had quite a waist and shapely legs. The androgynous appearance really made me confused and flustered, so I decided to go with ‘she’ to make myself feel better. She removed her sunglasses and gave me a chilling look with glassy grey eyes.
       “This is Miss Willesden!”
       It wasn’t a question, but it felt rude to stay silent so I gave a tired smile. “That’s me. Hello.”
       The director nodded. “I have observed this department once or twice. Noah tells me you have a strong work ethic and take pride in your work for our company.”
       I couldn’t help but feel flattered. Noah was smiling.
       “I’d not have your talents wasted redoing work here, so you will temporarily be moved to the fifth floor. Your junior assistant will take your place in this department until it is running smoothly again.”
       A promotion? I was getting unreasonably excited.
       “Hang on,” Noah said, and I felt a flash of irritation. Be quiet, man! Let me get promoted.
       “She’s being moved? Ellen is the only one who knows this place inside out.”
       Oh. I struggled between a modest and a proud expression.
       “The only one?” she said pointedly.
       “Y-e-s,” he said hotly, as slowly as if he was speaking to a very dumb child. “That’s how our team works. Her co-workers know they can go to Ellen to find something quickly, which saves them valuable time. ”
       “She had an assistant, yes?”
       Noah saw where the trail led but was reluctant to follow. “Yes, but...”
       “Then I must assume that if this assistant is at all competent, his knowledge is almost as good as hers. That will suffice, until this floor is repaired.” Her eyes were suddenly very hard. I cowed under that gaze, and expected Noah to as well, but he just stared coolly back at her.
       “I understand. In that case my question should be – how long until this floor is fully repaired?”
       The director shrugged. “The smoke from the dragons clings to everything in here. It’s safe for us, but if we brought the other creatures back in, they would die in this atmosphere. Your scientists have suggested a solution that would take seven months, but I’d make it nine to be safe.”
       “Nine months?! We’re the most advanced laboratory in this entire nation. Don’t tell me we can’t do better than that.”
       “We can’t.” she said coldly. “Bite, chew, swallow.”
       She turned and made to leave, before another thought entered her head. “Oh! I meant to say, Miss Willesden. You’ll be the secretary of our new in-house sorcerer, and he’ll be with us from next Monday. He’ll be on the eighth floor. Any problems?”
       “N-no,” I stammered, “It’s just weird to start completely from scratch and built up a system again. I’m used to picking up where I left off.”
       Her lips curled into a very patronising smile. “If you’re as good as Noah said you were, that shouldn’t be a problem.” She walked to the lift an called over her shoulder, “Nine o’clock, Monday.”
       We waited until she was gone and we were left with our yabbering scientists to exhale. “What a bitch,” I said bitterly.
       He gave a dark laugh. “Bite, chew, swallow.”
       “What does that even mean?”
       “It can mean ‘shut up and deal with it’, but in this case it means, ‘I hate you.’ ”
       “Is it a ‘she’?” I asked suddenly, then felt embarrassed at calling the director an ‘it’.
       “I have no idea.” He looked at me, is face twisted into something both awkward and sad. “It’s going to be strange not having you to support the team.” he said softly. “I like Olly, but he can be a bit of a dunce.”
       I smiled at him. “He copes with pressure much better than I do. He’ll do fine.” I glanced around, lowering my voice as I said, “What happened to the dragons? What did the scientists find?”
       Noah took out a small green stone identical to the one I found. “First of all, they found this. It isn’t dragon-scale, so they think perhaps another creature was in here but they don’t really know for sure what happened. The strange cat we kept here has escaped. And the dragons... it’s really odd they fell sick just like that. But they were becoming more vicious and there’s no cure that any dragon researcher knows of, so –”
       “They were put down.” I said quietly, a strange sorrow creeping into my heart. We were silent for a moment. Noah tiled his head.
       “I kept meaning to ask... why did you want to know my birthday?”
       “Birthdate,” I said, managing a small grin. “I didn’t tell you? I won the lottery.”
       His surprise made me laugh with even more relish. “How much?”
       “Fifty-thousand coopas.”
       He gave a low whistle. “Bloody Bobby. You’d better be saving a cut of that for me.”
       “Hell no. I also used my parents birthday, Oliver’s birthday and Nana’s birthday, and I’m not giving them any money.”
       He laughed. “Ouch! Cold.”
       “What? You don’t own that number. Don’t try and get a patent for it." I snorted. "Anyway... I wanted it to pay my university fee.”
       It took him a moment to get it. “You’re going back?” He looked more confused than my parents.
       I fiddled with my hands anxiously. “I’ve been a secretary for three years. That’s not putting my Supernatural Species degree to good use.”
       “You’re working in a lab...?” he suggested but I shook my head.
       “You know what will double my income? Learning how to use magic.”
       He was silent for a long time. A long time.
       “Just tell me – yes, that’s a great idea, go for it.” I said hopefully.
       He gave me a sceptical look. “Do you know how many people die each year from using magic?”
       I twisted my mouth in fearful anticipation. “How many?”
       Suddenly he grinned. “None. Go for it, Ell.”
       I laughed, feeling so relieved. I wanted at least one person to support me – no luck with mum, Dad or Nana. “Really? Death rates are that low?”
       “Yes, but only because ten percent of those who apply get in, and ten percent of those who get in graduate.”
       I stared in shock. “So only one percent of everyone who applies... actually becomes a magic-user? Holy Molly.” I glanced over when the lift chimed. Oliver got out and headed our way. “Why does nobody ever use the stairs? It’s only three floors.” I muttered.
       “Hi Ellen. Just wanted to say... your friend’s outside in her car. She told me to come and get you. She has long black hair and she swears a lot.”
       Nana. Noah rolled his eyes but I knew it was time for me to go. I was so tired, I didn’t know how I was still standing up. “We’ll... keep in touch, or something. Nine months isn’t that long when you think about it. And... thanks for saying what I needed to hear.”
       The smile he gave me then was so disarming because I’d usually seen work, work, work, stress, stress, stress. “Anytime.”

___________________________________________________________________



Ashana Lian .
created 11 February 2015

Read On

Chapter Two - A Clever New Best Friend and A DRAGON UP CLOSE!
Chapter Three - Faux Coffee With Graduates and Illegal Dragons Eggs
Chapter Four - An Old Boyfriend and Dragon Murderers
Chapter Five - A Dinner Date and A Month of Horror
Chapter Six - TBA
Chapter Seven - TBA
Chapter Eight - TBA
Chapter Nine - TBA
Chapter Ten - TBA

read something else -

8 comments:

  1. Ah! Brilliant! I can't wait for the next part - I love the dialogue. Nana is a favourite, and so is the scary Director. Bite. Chew. Swallow. XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Woot! *Mr Burns voice* Eeeexcellent. e_e
      Thanks soo much for the support. Chapter Two is aaalmost done. =D

      Delete
  2. Oh gosh, where do I begin? I LOVE Nana, so fiery and funny. I also like how intimidating you made the Director seem. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see more of this, keep at it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you think so! It's interesting how already, Nana and the Director are favourites and yet they had the least 'screen-time' in Chapter 1. Maybe, in the case of this story, less is more!
      (Psst! Your character comes in Chapter 3, gets dialogue in chapter 4. =D Exciiiitiiiing)

      Delete
    2. Oh gosh, thanks! Can't wait to read it, if it's as good as this one then it's sure to be brilliant!

      Delete
  3. YAY! :) I can't wait to read more of this.

    You said you'd be happy for some constructive criticism in terms of typos. My friend always gets me to proof read his stuff, so I tried to keep an eye out for any. I only found a few though:

    'and both me and dad both inhaled' - I guess would be either 'and me and dad both inhaled' or 'and both me and dad inhaled'

    'eat Doritos from a bowl of from my tummy'

    'scratching at it other like kittens.'

    'The Director here and wants to speak to you personally'


    I am really enjoying this story though. I could immediately tell that Nana will be a character that I'll love, she made me laugh. And the director completely creeps me out, haha! :) But I guess that was the point. She'd be my idea of a nightmare boss.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *groaaan* I'd read this every day for the whole week before posting, AND I proofread it FIVE TIMES before I posted!! Argh. >=( Then again, I also corrected some plot issues as I proofread, so I may have made more typos as I 'corrected'.

      THANK YOUUU very much!! When my Karalan novel is finally done, I will crawl to you and beg for your beta-reading talents. Nicely. :3 I'm dancing gleefully that you like it. I had/have some interviews for jobs this week, so I won't have as much time to polish Chapter Two as I did for Chapter One. Still, I hope it's just as engaging. Look out for Chapter Threeeee. c:

      Delete
    2. I'll be stalking your blog a lot so that I make sure I don't miss any!

      I do that all the time, it doesn't matter how many times I proof read something, I will always post a post with at least one mistake, usually way more than that. I think it's because you know what should be there so you kind of see it, even if it's not really there. At least that's the excuse I give myself.

      Delete

Thanks for dropping by! Ashana Lian always replies to comments and if you leave a link, she'll visit your blog or website. Don't be shy!

Popular Posts