And Please Remember to Give Generously (Madeleine)

The vagaries of charity

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A large forest in Central Anaxas, the once-thriving mostly human town of Dorhaven is recovering from a bombing in 2719 at its edge.

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Basil Ambrose Shrikeweed
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:42 pm
Topics: 9
Race: Galdor
: Devious Bureaucrat
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Writer: Runcible Spoon
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Sat Nov 09, 2019 7:23 pm

Vienda - In Stainthorpe Hall
The 13th of Hamis - 19 Minutes past the 13th Hour
S
tainthorpe Hall is a misery, in all things save one. The overdesigned monstrosity has such thick walls that it retains its warmth, even on chilly days. What that bodes for the summer, he cannot say. It might be like a cave, and remain cool. Or like an oven. Probably the latter. He’ll bake along with the rest then, and be about as useless. Can anything be done? He doubts it. Something will have to be done.

Steam rising slowly from another delicate cup of coffee. The girl puts it down on a clear patch of the desk. There are few enough of these. She bobs, still seeming uncertain of her position. “Thank you Daphne.” He wraps his fingers around the cup. Feels the heat coursing through his fingers. Slow at first, then rushing on through the pale celadon cup. He feels the reddening of his skin long before he can see it, feels the urge to snap is hand away. He does not let go. He breathes. Slow and deep. Slow and deep. The heat is still there, so is the pain, pricking like thorns. The desire to let go lessens, falls away. He breaths out again, expelling the pain. Transmuting it. Leaving only focus and a strange calm behind.

He lets go of the cup.

Daphne is still hovering about. She does not normally hover. Usually glides off back to the niche where she makes the coffee. He looks over to her. She is biting her lip and tilting her head down. Why? Her hands are clasped, her knuckles pale. Nervous? What of? “The coffee is a touch bitter today Daphne. You seem a little unfocused. Is everything well with you? You’re not coming down with a cold, perhaps?”

“Mr Shrikeweed, sir, only it’s,” she stops, flushes slightly. “It’s nothing. Nothing.”

“Seems to be a fairly significant nothing. A paradox. I cannot abide a paradox. Say what’s on your mind.”

“Only it’s my brother sir. See, he’s supposed to be getting married tomorrow, but he’s gone and vanished again.”

“Again?” Shrikeweed picks up the coffee cup, cool enough now. Daphne has a brother? Well, why shouldn’t she? Brothers occur. He considers his own. What would he do if Will vanished? Probably thank the heavens and then move on with his life. No, too harsh. Will’s not a bad sort, just not the sort Shrikeweed would choose as a companion. Too romantic, too enamored of the notion of rural idyll. The notion, not the reality. Will would break out in a rash, sneeze himself into next week, and then lament the whole thing for a month. Brothers. Nothing but exasperation.

“Again, yes sir. See, when he gets nervous, like proper nervous.”

“Such as before his own wedding?”

“Oh yes sir, nervous as you please. Stalking about the house, jittery, jumpy, you know. Well, when that happens he usually takes himself off for a day or two. Gets drunk, or smokes himself to a stupor on opium. After that, he’s usually fine for a while. But sometimes we have to go and look for him.”

“I take it you’ll want the rest of the day, and perhaps tomorrow off to extract this brother of yours from whatever low dive he is currently wasting away in?”

“Oh yes sir, please sir.” She looks nervous again, hangs her head. “But, what about your coffee sir, and the Incumbent’s?”

“Go Daphne. Collect your brother. Pour some coffee into him if need be. That should settle both your nerves. I cannot have my coffee wizard off her game. Think of the chaos Daphne. The absolute chaos.”[/b] He smiles at her, trying to look sympathetic. Likely a failure. “Off you go.” He waves her off.

She bobs again. “Thank you Mr Shrikeweed, sir. Thank you.” She flits from the room. Shrikeweed shakes his head. Sips his coffee again, and turns back to the papers.

Dispatch boxes piling up. Ramparts of blue and red leather cases, each full of papers. Diplomatic communiques, position papers on the latest political fads, reports on reports of still other reports. Most of them wrong. Wrong-headed at least. They will all need to be addressed, dissected, synthesized. Some he will quietly kill. Strangling them with red tape. The rest, well, the rest will have to go before the Incumbent.

He opens the next box. Blue. Internal government matters. And pulls out the stack of papers. It will take hours. At least he has time.



word count: 815

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Madeleine Gosselin
Posts: 82
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 3:54 pm
Topics: 9
Race: Galdor
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Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:44 pm

Late Morning, 13 Hamis, 2719
B.A. Shrikeweed's Office, Stainthorpe Hall
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Madeleine glanced up across the carriage, at the man in a dark gray suit, sitting and frowning at the papers on his lap.

“It’s really a very important charity,” Madeleine said into the silence, punctuated by the faint clicking of the horse’s hooves and the slush of the rain outside. She shifted on the bench, her hands in her lap, and swallowed, hard. “The Society to Clothe the Lower Races, I mean. Did you know that many humans might not even have one new outfit per year? Not just per season, but in a whole year. And, of course, without proper clothing one cannot have proper dignity.”

Madeleine had practiced the charity’s slogan in the mirror until she could say it without tripping over the words. Proper clothing. Pro-per. She had said it until the word felt like it had lost all its meaning. Proper clothing and proper dignity. She glanced down at her own uniform, and worriedly tugged the skirt out from under her legs. She had probably already creased it, Madeleine thought, woefully. Was that proper dignity?

“And of course,” Madeleine continued on the edge of a deep breath, “many humans cannot afford proper clothing for different weather, such as a coat to keep the rain out. And without a proper coat – ” here Madeleine’s memory felt as if it was failing her. Bravely, recklessly, she plunged on ahead with her own imaginings, “one might get cold and wet or – um – one’s hair might be ruined. Imagine if you spent a lot of time doing your hair and then it got ruined from being outside in the rain or if you had to sit in class – I mean – in your office, all day, with wet clothing. It would be quite terrible! So, really, proper clothing is – is just – essential, and terribly important, and the SCLR is the only organization doing –”

“Madeleine,” her father said, looking up from his papers.

Madeleine went silent, staring wide-eyed across the carriage.

“I have a headache,” Incumbent Gosselin said, flat gray gaze sweeping over his daughter. He looked back down at his papers, and turned the one he had been reading, frowning lightly at the page beneath.

Madeleine went still, her shoulders slumping. She drew into herself, hands twisting on her lap. “Sorry, father,” she said. She hadn’t said it right, Madeleine thought; she hadn’t said – she had meant to say – if she just tried again, maybe she could make him understand. If she just tried again, then maybe he’d – maybe he’d –

“I meant,” Madeleine’s voice was nearly a whisper. She swallowed, hard, and looked up at him, and tried just a little louder. “I just wanted to thank you for – for bringing me to the Hall.”

Her father did not look up; he turned to the next page in his papers.

Madeleine’s shoulders shrank in more. She turned to the window, and twitched back the curtain, peering outside at the rain, pale gray light streaming into the dark chamber of the carriage.

“Madeleine,” her father said again.

Madeleine flinched, and jerked her hand back from the curtain. She glanced up at him, wondering if – but he was still reading. Madeleine lowered her gaze to the floor, and sat as still and silent as she could manage for the rest of the drive, and did her best to rehearse what she would say to all of the people in Stainthorpe Hall, where her father worked. Surely, Madeleine thought – surely, some of them would care about the Society to Clothe the Lower Races. Surely some of them would be willing to donate.

Once she had actually entered the Hall, she was not so sure. At some point Madeleine had gotten mud on the hem of her Brunnhold uniform skirt, and she had tried to brush it off in a washroom, but she thought that she had only made it more noticeable. Her hair had lain flat when she’d left her family’s house with her father, but it seemed to have fluffed up unpleasantly, and she didn’t know when or why. The main corridors of Stainthorpe seemed to be either rushing busily with people or empty and terrifying, and seemed to vacillate between the two at regular but unpredictable intervals, like some bizarre function that went from peak to trough discontinuously, jumping back and forth.

Madeleine had tried to work up the nerve to enter a few of the offices. Once she’d had her hand hovering over the door to knock, when someone had come bursting out and nearly knocked into her. They hadn’t even apologized, even when Madeleine had said excuse me very loudly in the direction of their back. She had immediately regretted trying, and had gone back into the washroom afterwards, and sat on one of the little stools there, and tried not to cry.

It was her only chance, Madeleine thought miserably; she had only a few days in which to try and get donations for the SCLR before she had to return to Brunnhold for the rest of the term. During the training she'd attended the day before, she had told everyone that she would be able to go ask some of the incumbents for their donations, and she had begged her father until he’d agreed, begged and begged and begged. It was her only chance, and she had to do it. Filled with determination, Madeleine had risen from the little stool, marched out into the hallway, and chosen the first door she saw. She didn’t knock this time, but opened it and went inside, breathing as if she’d just finished dancing a confisalto routine.

A human was hurrying away from one of the doors. She glanced up at Madeleine, and then kept going, towards a coat hanging on the wall.

Madeleine fixed her gaze on the door, and took a deep breath. If someone had left it – if a human had left that room – then, Madeleine reasoned, maybe there was someone inside. Madeleine took a deep breath. It was for charity, she reminded herself; it was very important. The door looked very serious; it was closed, with all sorts of complex locks over the outside.

Madeleine eased closer, and closer again, and then she seized her courage, and opened the door, and stepped inside. There – behind a desk –

Madeleine bowed. “Good morning sir,” she said. She took a deep breath, and let it out all in a long string of sentences, words tripping over one another in their haste to emerge. “My name is Madeleine Gosselin and I’m volunteering on behalf of the Society to Clothe the Lower Races and it is a very important cause because without proper clothing one cannot have proper dignity so I am here today asking for your help with a donation for this very important cause thank you.”

Madeleine stared at him, wide-eyed, for a long moment, and then bowed again.

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word count: 1205
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