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Blood & Bourbon

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Amelie I, Chapter II
The Antique

“It’s easier for people who’ve let you down to continue the pattern than to break it.”
Christina Roberts

Saturday morning, 15 August 2015

GM: For better or for worse, tomorrow eventually comes. Amelie dreams of flickering ghosts, purloined blades, and sinners interred in ornate mausoleums with full funerary honors. After she showers and brushes her teeth, she finds her aunt in the kitchen downstairs. Christina is seated by the island and eating a plate of eggs and toast.

“Good morning. Did you sleep well?”

Amelie: Now that Amelie’s hair is brushed into a much more deliberate style, mostly to one side and mostly controlled, she certainly looks a lot better than she did last night.

“Good morning. I slept good, the bed was almost too soft, I thought it was going to swallow me. How about you, Auntie?” Amelie simply sits with her aunt, wiping blear out her eyes and blinking out the last of those flickering ghosts.

GM: “I slept well, thank you for asking. There’s more eggs still in the pan.” Amelie also finds bread by the toaster. Once she gathers up food and sits back down, Christina adds, “I’m going to be out of the house for most of today. If you want to go anywhere, like your visit to McGehee, feel free to take the other car around.”

Amelie: Food sounds good. When she sits back down and hears her aunt’s next statement, however, she can only chuckle. “That’s an amazing offer. But I can’t drive. Having a walk around the Garden District will be nice.”

GM: Her aunt frowns briefly. “Hm, I suppose we can sign you up for driver’s ed classes at school, if that’s something you’re interested in doing.”

Amelie: Amelie nods. “I’d be interested, for sure. Now that I’m allowed to take them, I’d be happy to.” She pauses for a second, clears her throat, and starts just poking her eggs. “I called my father last night, about my things. It didn’t end well.”

GM: “I’m sorry to hear that. It’s easier for people who’ve let you down to continue the pattern than to break it.”

Amelie: “That’s true. He just threw it out as well, that’s the part that made me so upset.” She sighs and almost angrily pops more egg into her mouth. “I’ll have to make another. Anyway. You’re going to be out today. I’ll keep myself busy, take that walk, unless you wanted me to stay in? I don’t know if you had a key made for me or anything.”

GM: “Rebuilding and moving on is often all we can do,” her aunt nods between a sip of coffee. “So far as today, I’ll leave you fare for the streetcar and other expenses. If you still want to go shopping, today or later, I can see when my assistant is available to also drive you around. And yes, I did have another key made.”

Amelie: Amelie takes a moment and just kind of laughs at herself. This is all so different from what she’s used too, and in more ways than just wiping up bad free-sample microbrewery beer vomit. It’s almost surreal. “I think I’d like to get as much done as I can before school on Monday. Today would be great. But won’t you need your assistant for your work?”

GM: Her aunt takes a bite of toast. “No, not today. It’s the weekend.”

Amelie: “I’ll be sure to return her in good condition then. I’ll do the dishes here, too.” Amelie stands up again, her plate already empty, and goes to wash it. “Would it scare your assistant if I brought her in to see a gunsmith?” It’s not a tease, but her tone is joking.

GM: “That’s thoughtful of you. And she has a fairly level head,” Christina counters with an equally faint touch of amusement.

Amelie: “Oh, I’ve got no interest in the guns. I wanna see how much Louisiana sells their acetylene and permits for, and see if I can’t make some friends. I have a year to set the groundwork for a business.”

GM: “I haven’t a clue there, but I’m sure the internet could tell you.” Her aunt then remarks approvingly, “Good for you though wanting to make some contacts. They’re the lifeblood of any successful business.”

Amelie: “The internet is great. But I don’t have a cellphone anymore. But I’m glad you think so. I need to get in touch with the Mardi Grass costume shops and float artists, performance theaters, and as many old Civil War fanatics as I can. Restoration is good business.”

GM: “You’re sure you didn’t actually come over as a Syrian war refugee?” Christina remarks wryly, shooting off a text on her Solaris. “All right, she can take you out to buy a cellphone as well. You can get by without knowing how to drive, but there’s really no excuse not to have a phone in today’s day and age.”

Amelie: Amelie chuckles, shaking her head. “I had a phone. You just don’t have Telus here in the states. They made me give back the phone when I ended the contract early. As for driving, I can just get rollerskates.”

GM: Her aunt looks as if the concept of ‘giving back’ a phone is foreign to her. “Hmm, that’s not a very equitable deal. We’ll make sure to get you a phone that you actually own.” The mention of rollerskates only elicits a dry look before Christina puts her plate in the sink, rinses it, and remarks, “All right, I’m taking off. My assistant should be here in an hour or so. The extra key is on the dinner table, along with the gate code. Enjoy your day.”

Amelie: Amelie just grins back at her aunt about the rollerblades comment, but decides against stepping in to wash her plate. She instead wishes her a good day and waves goodbye. She then cleans out the pans used to cook breakfast, puts everything away, and goes back up to her room for a moment. It’s going to be an interesting day. Once the hour is up, she’s sitting down at the dining room table, dressed in faded jeans and a white tee shirt almost stereotypically topped with a thin plaid button-up. They’re honestly the best clothes she owns, with no holes and no soot.

GM: The doorbell rings. Amelie answers it and meets a fair-skinned, long-legged and attractive woman with shoulder-length auburn hair who looks in maybe her mid-20s. She’s dressed for the 80-degree-plus weather in a blue and white sundress, closed-toe sandals, and a purse slung over her shoulder.

Kristina1.jpg “Hi! I’m Kristina Winters. You must be Amelie,” she smiles, offering a little wave.

Amelie: New Orleans is off to a good start on the “make you feel manish” side of things so far.

“Amelie Savard. Nice to meet you, Ms. Winters.” Christina Roberts hiring a Kristina Winters, there’s enough joke material there to choke on.

“You look good! I can see I’ll be in good hands as far as advice on appearances. Should we get going, or did you want to sit inside awhile?”

GM: Her aunt’s PA laughs. “You can just call me Kristina. But thanks! Pretty hard to buy any clothes from inside here though, unless you want to do it online.”

Amelie: Amelie just smiles and steps outside, closing and locking the door behind her with the new key.

“More meant to get some water or something, but point taken. Let’s head out, I promise not to take up too much time.”

GM: “Don’t worry about it, your aunt doesn’t need me today.” Kristina heads walks down the house’s steps and over to a silver Prius. Kristina punches some buttons on the keypad to close the house’s gate, gets in on the car’s driver’s side, and takes off once the two have fastened their seatbelts. Tall and proud Southern live oaks interspersed with rows of Colonial-, Victorian, and Greek Revival-style old homes drift past.

“There any particular places you’d like to head, or do you wanna leave that in my hands?”

Amelie: Amelie gets in on the passenger side, looks out the window and enjoys the scenery passing by. It’s still barely real. This part of New Orleans is just so beautiful, and there are so many houses she’s tempted to walk into when the owners are gone just to look around. But memories of the canines and officers patrolling so close act as a good deterrent.

“I dunno if my aunt told you, but I do have one very odd stop to make last. I need to go to a privately owned gun store, to speak with the owners. Plus I need a cellphone. But after that? It’s in your hands completely.”

GM: “Yep, gun store it is,” Kristina nods as the car passes by a garden whose stone fountain is festooned with capering nymphs and dolphins. “There any particular stop you want to make first?”

Amelie: Amelie looks over and cocks an eyebrow at the woman, wondering if her aunt is just that thorough or if Kristina has heard stranger things out of the blue. The scenery is quite a distraction from the question, though, and the teen takes a moment to fawn over the stonework before collecting herself.

“Cellphone has my vote, networking is easier with one I’d imagine. No questions about the gun shop though? Does my aunt send you to look at weapons often?”

GM: “This would be my first time,” Amelie’s driver answers with an amused smile. “If that’s what you wanna do, that’s what you wanna do.”

Amelie: That reply just makes Amelie even more curious, and she can’t help but laugh a little. So tight-lipped.

“If it makes you feel better, it’s for business. I’m not interested in guns. For now, I’ll leave it in your capable hands where to go for this cellphone, and the clothes after.”

GM: “All right! There’s a place not too far off on Magazine Street. We can probably do most of your clothes shopping there too.”

Amelie: “That sounds good to me. Dunno how long we’ll be out though, I don’t need a lot, unless my aunt is planning on taking me to corporate parties or something. In that case, god help us finding a dress.”

GM: “Nah, she’s not much one for those. But okay, Magazine Street it is.”

Amelie: It’s almost a relief to hear her aunt isn’t one for attending every soiree in New Orleans. Amelie doesn’t really know how much she can get away with wearing men’s formal wear before someone shoves her in a dress that shows too much scarring. Though she has to wonder, would showing all that off maybe help her case? No one wants a swordsmith who can’t swing a hammer.

GM: Kristina drives a few minutes, and the greenery-interspersed rows of old houses give way to a stretch of antique shops, art galleries, craft shops, boutiques, coffee houses, and restaurants. Kristina mentions that the street was originally named for a “magazin,” a warehouse that was built in the late 1700s to house products awaiting export. Today, Magazine Street features as historic a range of architecture as the rest of the Garden District, from the large columned Greek Revival style of the mid-19th century to colorful Victorian cottages trimmed in gingerbread millwork.

Amelie: Amelie’s internal struggle comes to an abrupt end when they reach Magazine Street, and she listens attentively to Kristina’s story as she scans each craft and antique store for her interests. “Almost nothing in New Orleans feels real so far. Quebec City is over 100 years older, but it feels nothing like this. So much culture in every piece of… everything. Could we stop in a few of these antique stores later?”

GM: Kristina nods as she parks the car outside a store with “myPhoneMD” marked over the door with a red and white medical cross. “Sure! You never know what items those places are gonna have.”

Compared to the old houses and storied streets the two have passed, MyPhoneMD’s interior feels like it could be anywhere in the United States (or Canada). Kristina says hello to the staff and helps Amelie shop around for a smartphone of her choice. Her aunt’s assistant, personally, is an Apple user.

Amelie: It’s a bit of normalcy at last as Amelie enters the store and starts looking around for what she had before the move. Samsung Note, the bigger kind with the tap pens, and just as akin to a phone and the pocket PDAs of older times. For someone who spent most of her days with hands covered in iron shavings and soot, that kind of phone was a match made in heaven. Once Amelie makes her selection, she saunters back up to Kristina.

“Cheaper than the cutting edge, but function over form though, right? Least I’ll never lose it, le gros baiseur.”

GM: “Oh, your aunt says it’s okay if you want something more expensive,” her driver for the day assures, then frowns a little. “I think I read an article about those exploding in peoples’ pockets…”

Amelie: “That so? Hmm. I’ll take the risk, I like these things. If I get a new scar, I get a new scar, and I can even take part in a grand American rite of passage. Lawsuits.”

GM: “You picked the right aunt to have for that too, she’s got a law degree,” Kristina remarks as she hands over a credit card to the sales associate.

Amelie: “I wonder why she isn’t a lawyer anymore. I asked about her job and it seems she enjoys it well enough, but I gotta wonder.” Amelie thinks it’s a bit of a strange move for her aunt to give her credit card to her assistant, but she steps up to the counter to set up a cellphone plan. She needs a phone number before she leaves this place.

GM: Kristina tucks the card back in her wallet after the sales associate swipes it. “I don’t think being a lawyer was for her. It’s a lot of stress and long hours. Plus, you’d be surprised how many careers a law degree can be used for. Accountants, auditors, bankers, politicians, stockbrokers… I’ve even heard of talent agents and screenwriters who got their starts in law school.”

Amelie: “Laywer in New Orleans, I can see where the stress would come from. Oh well, I’ll have to ask her in person instead of gossiping with her assistant.” There’s something up about her aunt’s work. Even if it’s rude, it’s too tempting not to pry. Slowly.

Amelie is faster, however, in setting up her service, and she has a phone number again in just a few minutes. She also gets a case to protect the thing before they’re done. It’s the first piece of equipment to start towards her end goal, one she’ll set up later. “Next. This part I’ll definitely defer to your judgment more than not.” She grins, motioning with her own phone to Kristina’s Solaris.

GM: Kristina smiles back as the pair exit the store. “Let’s waste no time then. Fleurty Girl’s just up ahead…”

Amelie: Amelie asks if they can stop early when another store catches her eye. She stands at the entrance for a moment, feeling as though she’s getting punked. ‘40s and ’50s styles, ’Betty’ fashion, horribly impractical hats, and over to one quarter of the store? Lingerie. Lovely. As out of her element as the young woman is, she resolves to keep an open mind about all this, clearing her throat as she strides back after Kristina.

“So these are the clothes you wear when you don’t have to worry about freezing to death. Do you go clothes shopping here often?” Amelie motions to the assistants dress.

GM: Trashy Diva looks largely the same as Magazine Street’s other stores from the outside: dark green doors and two swimsuit-clad mannequins in the windows. The interior has a checker-tile floor, further mannequins clad in the knee-length dresses that were ubiquitous in the ’40s, and the usual racks of clothes alongside a jewelry counter.

Kristina shakes her head at Amelie’s query. “I’m not into the whole retro-chic look myself. But it’s got a classy feel.”

Amelie: If anything, the clothes match the architecture. Amelie looks up at the cheap copper chandelier in the middle of much more modern LED lights. Classics ham-fisted back into fashion using modern techniques and styles.

“Classy is good. Just nothing that shows off my back, okay? Nasty scars from before I was Nouvelle Orleans levels of fancy. You mind if I ask you some questions while we look around?”

GM: Kristina smiles at the sales associate as she comes over and tells the woman that they’re just “browsing around.” She nods at Amelie’s next query as the two walk down the racks of clothes. “Nope, ask away.”

Amelie: Amelie barely knows the woman, but the questions have got to be asked. She pulls a black sleeveless top that is pre-tied up daisy duke style a few inches above the belly button, sighs and turns, holding it up to her chest for appraisal from the more fashion-savvy woman.

“What exactly does my aunt do for a living? I’ve never seen anyone self employed with a personal assistant before.”

GM: “Hmm, that says more country girl or party girl to me,” Kristina remarks of the stomach-revealing cut. “If you’re going for a ‘40s look, it’s pretty much all dresses.”

“So far as your aunt, she works in the consulting business. She helps manage money, make introductions between clients and entrepreneurs, navigate legal issues—the law degree helps there—help with networking, that kinda stuff. She does a lot of things for a lot of people. She’s pretty well-connected and has a good sense for knowing what they want.”

Amelie: Expected reactions for Amelie on all fronts but the shirt. She looks down and sighs as she puts it back on the rack and heads for said dresses, panning them from afar as she continues probing.

“She’s well-connected but doesn’t go to social gatherings so much, might mean people come to her. That last part though, that’s something to chew on. Sorry for prying, I’ve a habit of being wary about the people I live with. Makes my life easier sometimes. How about this one?”

Amelie pulls a black dress off the rack, a short-sleeved button-up shirt on the top, the cleavage cutting straight down in a rectangle window, with a belt at the waistline separating into the actual skirt of the dress. “I don’t know. Just how many men might be intimidated if I show off biceps? But going to an all girls school putting out a butch vibe screams, ‘but I’m a cheerleader’.” She hopes Kristina gets the 1999 movie reference.

GM: “It’s corporate parties she isn’t big on, but I’d say she’s pretty social. If you’re nervous, anyways, you might try just talking to your aunt. She’s a pretty cool lady, and being up front about things can’t hurt.”

Amelie: “So far she’s been scarily like my mother. Just more like she’s the smarter sibling. But she’s been really cool so far, yeah. I don’t know many people who’d take in their niece they’ve almost never seen. But still, old habits, eh?”

Amelie doesn’t exactly trust the whole straightforward approach. What could she say? I don’t think your job is what you said it was. Why aren’t I good enough to help? Right.

GM: “Anyways,” Kristina remarks as turns the dress over, “that’s got a more a ‘40s vibe. You’d probably be wearing it outside of school. Your aunt said you’re going to McGehee, but even most of the public schools here have uniforms.”

Amelie: “I’m guessing it’s to avoid gang colors or something? I like this one. I’m going to try it on. Nothing else really catches my eye. How about yours?”

GM: “I’m more modern-chic than retro-chic, like I said. Knock yourself out though, the changing room looks like it’s over there.” Kristina nods in its direction.

Amelie: “Let’s go to a place more your speed after this, then.” It’s a moment in the changing room before she emerges. The dress fits well on her, matching her athletic body type. Her arms and legs pocked with strangely shaped scars, more than a few looking like they’ve originated from something like branding irons.

“Dresses may not be my speed after all. Unless I’m going for the ‘my first house was a toaster oven’ look.”

GM: Kristina cocks her head in appraisal. “I’d say it suits your figure. How much skin you wanna show off’s a personal call, though.”

Amelie: Amelie smooths it out and appraises the feel on her. It’s good. Something nice to make a good impression on someone later down the line. Without another word she vanishes into the changing room and comes back out in jeans and flannel, looking a little more comfortable, the dress draped over her arm.

“Let’s grab this and go to a more modern place. How about you though, Kristina? What brought you to work for my aunt? From what she says you have a level head on your shoulders.”

GM: Kristina buys the dress at the counter, exchanges pleasantries with the sales associate, and carries off the shopping bag as the pair exit the store.

“Well, I grew up in New Orleans and earned a marketing degree in Dallas, but I couldn’t find much work except as a waitress. Employers all wanted experience and all I had was a ton of student debt. I came back to the city and sort of fell in with your aunt. Couldn’t have happened at a better time, as I’d just moved back in with my mom.” She gives a short laugh that’s not quite humorful or humorless. “I guess that’s our generation’s story in a nutshell.”

Amelie: “Seems like she attracts people who feel lucky to be around her. How long ago was it you started working with her?” Amelie leaves the store with her aunt’s assistant and puts her hands on her hips, looking up and down the street. “Next place. I want to get the clothes out the way so I can visit one of these antiques places. See if I can’t find anything actually worth being impressed about.”

GM: “Long enough to have moved out of my mom’s,” Kristina answers with a faint smirk as the pair make the way back to her car. She unlocks the door and sticks the bag in. “About four years though, give or take.”

Amelie: Getting answers out of people like this makes Amelie feel like a mix of the blonde from Mean Girls and a shitty daytime soap detective: rude and ultimately ineffective. But at least it’s starting to feel like a bit more of a conversation. The teen smiles and puts her focus back on Kristina.

“Good chunk of time! I’ll try not to make your job any more difficult. I offered to help already, but… well, her mouth said ‘no thanks’ and her eyes said ‘you couldn’t.’ I have to imagine it’s difficult.”

GM: “I wouldn’t take that too harshly, you just need a degree. Most any good job needs one these days. You know the quip about every barista having a bachelor’s…”

Amelie: “I meant mostly just help organizing. But I can see what you mean. Though I don’t think I’ll be attending a, uh… oh geez, is it called college or university in the states?”

GM: “Both, though if you wanted to earn a bachelor’s, you’d be going to college—that’s a school where you earn an undergrad degree. A university’s a group of schools that offer postgrad degrees, plus at least one college for undergrads. That’s why community colleges aren’t ever called universities, because they only offer AAs.”

Amelie: “Ahhh. Same names with different functions, then. That’s not confusing at all. Colleges in Canada offer mostly vocational training while universities offer more academic studies. Either way, I don’t think I’ll be attending. It’s not part of the career I’m setting up for myself, which is one of the reasons I asked for the gun shop stop. Maybe I’ll change my mind after going to this private school. But so far? I see no harm in making sharp things for the good people of NOLA.”

GM: By this time the pair have since gotten back into Kristina’s silver Prius. Magazine Street’s art galleries, coffee houses, and brunch-eating cafe patrons roll by in the window.

“Oh that’s neat, you want to be a gunsmith after you finish high school?”

Amelie: Amelie watches the buildings change intently, more interested in their make than their contents as she listens to Kristina. That question, though, makes her wonder. “Does my aunt not talk very personally with people? She’s never talked about her sister, my mother?”

GM: Kristina doesn’t break stride as Amelie seemingly jumps between topics. “I’d say I know her pretty well for a boss, but no, she hasn’t talked about her family much.”

Amelie: Thankfully, it’s only a short planned branching off. “I don’t think we have much in the way of it. My mother is—maybe was—a champion epee fencer and artisan, and my father was a master blacksmith in a reenactment village. I want to do both the fencing and the smithing.”

GM: “A chip off both the old blocks then, eh?”

Amelie: “Excuse me? Eh is ‘our’ word,” Amelie jokes, trying to deflect from her parents now. “New Orleans has a lot of history. I should have trouble setting up my own deal here.”

GM: “I cry the forgiveness of your maple gods,” Kristina smirks before continuing, “History might be on your side there. Immigrants in cities like New York pretty much kept to themselves and got famous for their ethnic neighborhoods, but you won’t find any Chinatown or Little Italy in New Orleans. The city just mushed everything together into one big pot of gumbo. So hey, maybe you’ll have a few ingredients to add.”

Amelie: “This place is ancient. I’m sure I’ll find people who want a piece of history for their very own. I know the history, and I have the hands that can re-create and restore it. I like that thought.”

GM: “So you wanna make guns and swords, then? The city used to have a pretty colorful dueling culture from what I know.”

Amelie: “I don’t know about guns. I’d have to look into the permits for that. Plus I just don’t like them. Armor and jewelry too, though. Oscar, the limo driver, he told me about a dueling tree here in New Orleans still standing. It’s an incredibly romantic moment.”

GM: “I guess they could be, two duelists taking to the field over some slight against a fair lady’s honor.” Kristina smiles at the description, as if she’d enjoy the prospect of two men fighting a duel over hers.

Amelie: “I fell in love with the opposite. Dueling meant all that mattered was skill, so a woman could take her own sword and her own pistol. Take her own power, name, and fame. I’m sure history is hiding plenty of women who dueled over a man they both liked.”

GM: “Could be,” Kristina nods. “You said you like making jewelry too? Is there a lot of overlap between that and swords?”

Amelie: “Very much so! Swords are just their blades basically… you sharped a piece of W10 or toolsteel you’ve forged and tempered and that’s your sword. The rest is jewelry, the hand carving of wood, the wrapping of leather, the acid engraving of metal, even the jewel inlays in some. Actual jewelry though, rings need to be forged correctly so they don’t constrict in the cold and kill fingers. Every precious metal has so many rules to follow. Chains are quick, but braided chains are beautiful and so hard to make, three hours, tweezers, and magnification goggles just to make five inches of it. I… sorry, these things get away from me easily.”

Amelie clears her throat and crosses her leg looking out the window. “I would have something to show you, but I lost my collection.”

GM: Kristina takes in Amelie’s description of the technical processes with some interest before remarking, “Oh no, I’m sorry! Hopefully you’ll get to make a new one. You sure sound like you know your way around a forge. I never knew you had to forge rings not to constrict in the cold.”

Amelie: “If I didn’t, I dunno what I’d do with myself. Don’t worry, I’ll make you something nice. How about you, did you always want to go into business?”

GM: “I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, but that didn’t look like it’d really pan out. Marketing’s close enough and pays a lot better.”

Amelie: “I wouldn’t have thought those would be connected at all, but then again I don’t have writing experience. Do you keep up with it? Or does my aunt keep you too busy?”

GM: “I’m more of a reader these days than a writer. People go on a lot about how you should follow the passions you had as a kid… but some things you just end up moving on from,” Kristina answers with a shrug.

Amelie: Amelie sits quietly, thinking on it for a moment. Of course she has backup plans.

“That’s smart. I’ll have to think on that. If anything, it’d look good on a resume to be a, uh… museum curator or something, if I can make and use the things I’m taking care of or studying.”

GM: “My guess is you’d need a degree to work at a museum, but I’m no expert. Weapons experience is definitely an interesting resume item to talk about.”

Amelie: “It’ll require a degree for sure. I don’t see myself having issues with that, though. Of course ‘Plan B’ is ‘Plan B’, I’d rather work with my hands.”

GM: Kristina opens her mouth, then glances up. The subject of her gaze is nestled between a furniture store and a locksmith. Indistinct figurines and metallic shapes peer through dark windows. A wooden sign over the front door bears a single word with no other name:


“That the sort of place you were looking for?” her aunt’s assistant asks.

Amelie: Amelie sees it, leaning into the window to get a better look as she nods. Much as she tries to hide it, she looks like a child about to take a trip into a toy store. “That’s exactly it. Can we drop in for a bit?”

GM: Kristina laughs as she parks the car. “Sure. Antiques aren’t so much my thing, so how about you text me when you’re ready to be picked up?”

Amelie: Amelie’s face flushes when Kristina laughs, realizing she may have shown her excitement a bit too much. But she takes out her phone in any case and exchanges numbers with the savvy woman. “I’ll text you. I might wander a little, but I won’t stray more than a block.”

GM: “Sounds good. Oh, in case there’s anything you wanna get.” Kristina digs through her purse and hands Amelie a blue Bank of Columbia credit card.

Amelie: Amelie awkwardly takes the card, looking at the older woman as though she’s just handed a over a severed head. It’s too generous on top of what he aunt is already doing for her. “I’ll… keep it for emergencies, I guess? Oof.”

GM: Kristina laughs again at Amelie’s flustered response. “Well, I’m gonna ask for it back when we’re done here, but your aunt is paying me back for everything we buy. Heck, I get to rack up more cash back and rewards points this way, so I’m actually making a little money here.”

The amusement on her face fades though as she adds, “But seriously, she said to treat you like an adult. Something about that being ‘the best way to get you used to being one.’ So if there’s anything you wanna get, go ahead and buy it. The card isn’t gonna bite.”

Amelie: Amelie stops and takes in what Kristina says. She looks down at where she’s stored the card and thinks. After taking care of her father for so long, she’s thought it fair on occasion to think she’s already very adult-like. Clearly her aunt sees room for improvement, which is both an encouraging and disheartening thought.

“If I see anything I like, I’ll get it. Maybe try to find something I can refurbish and resell!” she assures the woman, looking much more confident.

GM: “Awesome! Pick you up when you’re done.” Kristina shuts the car door and drives off. The dingy-looking shop awaits Amelie.

Amelie: Finally exiting the car, she hurriedly tucks the card into a pocket and waves goodbye. She heads into the shop as the eager historian in her flares back up.

GM: A sales bell lightly chimes as Amelie pushes open the door. The smell of dust, aged books, and old wood and fills her nostrils. The building’s interior has no windows besides the two by the front door, and the store’s cluttered inventory blots out much of the sunlight like a bayou’s hungry plant life.

Confederate flags. Furniture. Dishes. Typewriters. Cowboy boots. Glasses. An Indian peace pipe. Owl figurines. Books. Jewelry. Silverware. Rosaries. A saxophone. Voodoo dolls. Globes. Sailboats. Portraits. Saints helmets. “Mammy and chef” negro salt shakers. Harmonicas. A bird cage. Domino masks. A Mardi Gras Indian feathered costume. Phonograph records. A riverboat captain’s hat. Paintings. A whip. Taxidermies. A sword. Silver coins. Postage stamps. The dim shop is stacked from floor to ceiling with junk collected from the attics of a dozen eccentric uncles.

Amelie: Amelie understands the reasoning behind the darkness the moment she smells nirvana coming from old paper and wood. Maybe the owners want to avoid fading in the sunlight. Despite the darkness, she doesn’t hesitate before stepping in to browse, then delves into the stacks and looks everything over. Some of it is foreign to her, from the flags and whip to the peace pipe and feathered outfit. It’s a marvel to the young woman that there are Natives this far south. There’s a lot she wants to look over, but the moment the glint of steel from the sword pops into her vision, she lets herself be predictable and makes a beeline for it. She almost hopes no store worker intercepts her before she gets a good look.

GM: The subject of Amelie’s attention is typical of the “Walloon” style that was popular in the mid to late 17th century among military and civilian users alike. Two large side-rings are filled with a plate featuring pierced stars and circles, while a knucklebow with an expanded central section is screwed to the ovoid pommel. The large scrolled crossguard is stamped on either side with faded portraits of men wearing large wigs. The grip is engraved with floral motifs and fleurs-de-lis which Amelie has seen in various places throughout New Orleans and her home alike. The double-edged blade looks a little over 30 inches long with a single 7" fuller.


The sword itself is dark and covered in heavy dents and pitting. Amelie cannot make out even a ghost of her reflection, though that might also be due to the store’s poor light. The overall condition, she pegs, is somewhere between adequate and poor.

Amelie: Amelie pours over the weapon, dissatisfied with the bulb pommel and the dramatic wave the Walloon has on the back of the quillion, the crossguard that protects the hand. However, the condition itself is both a good and a bad thing. Heavy dents and pitting mean one of three things; use, exposure, or forgery. This isn’t something that she can swing around, lest the blade splinter or shatter, but it’s a possible study and resell piece. Moreover, the floral motif has her interested, especially when in conjunction with a fleur-de-lis! Maybe a Dutch or German swordsman had this commissioned while living in New Orleans? It’s what she loves most about history, the mystery to unfold! Amelie takes the blade and looks around for a desk, and a light so that she can properly look the sword over.

“Hello? Excuse me?”

GM: The shop is small and cluttered, but Amelie’s voice seems to almost echo through its dark recesses. There’s even a few cobwebs. The place seems bereft of life.

Except for the man who’s staring at her.

He’s tall, standing perhaps a head over her, but slim and gaunt like a scarecrow. Cobwebs of wrinkles crisscross his apricot-like, black-skinned face. What little hair remains on his nearly-bald pate is thin, wisp-like, and shock-white, like a leftover snowfall that’s been melting for several days. He’s dressed in a faded dark jacket, wine-colored vest, and mustard yellow bowtie.

“I see the young lady has found something she likes,” the old man observes with a near-ghost of a smile. His hoarse voice is barely above a whisper.

“Welcome to my shop. I am Raphael.”

Amelie: Amelie jumps slightly when she sees the man just standing there, giving him a fast “flight or fight” once-over before she relaxes and looks politely embarrassed for being startled. Taking the sword in one hand, she gently places the point of the blade against the top of her shoe, a safety habit, before she takes the few steps to the man and extends her free hand to shake with him. Now that her heart isn’t trying to pull out her chest to face the foe on it’s own, she’s all smiles, back to her giddy curiosity.

“Amelie. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Raphael. And yes, I’ve found something very interesting. If I may… is there a story behind this sword you’re aware of?”

GM: The old man accepts Amelie’s hand with another ghost-like smile. His fingers are long and slim, and Amelie can feel the bones through his wrinkled skin as if it were merely a tight, well-worn glove. His motions are slow, but his grip remains firm.

“Less a story than several related discoveries and recollections.” The ghost on Raphael’s lips grows just a bit more solid. “But it has a past, as all items that pass through my shop do.”

He slowly gestures towards the storefront with a spindly arm.

“Would the young lady care to sit?”

Amelie: Amelie smiles, hoping that he’s right. It has a past, it has to have one after the oddities that she’s sniffed out already. But as far as the shop goes, she can already tell she’s going to like this place, and this man. You can tell a lot about someone from the way they shake hands and when they deign to smile the fullest.

“I’d love to, thank you.” She passes him carefully, watching the blade of the weapon before she steps up to the storefront, not sitting just yet. It’s polite to wait until the host sits first, after all.

GM: Raphael makes his way through the forest of piled junk. Sharp angles and jutting edges lurk everywhere, roots and thorns in the man-made jungle. The old man does not visibly sidestep them so much as he does not even seem to have to: none interrupt his path. Eventually, the pair emerge into a ‘clearing’ by the store’s counter and register. Raphael motions to a pair of Victorian chairs with wide backs and faded red upholstery, then clenches each armrest with his spindly fingers and slowly lowers himself into the seat with a deliberate-looking motion.

Amelie: Amelie doesn’t see it from where she leads, but she has her own nervous journey through things, curving her body to avoid edges, or stifling her breath and turning sideways so as not to knock into anything. It’s a difficult journey, but she watches the man lower himself at the end of it, before she does the same, careful with the chair.

“If you don’t mind my asking, how long have you had this store, Mr. Raphael?”

GM: Filtered beams of sunlight spear through random openings in the thick collection of junk. A few of them lance across the proprietor’s face. So “illuminated” to Amelie’s eyes, or at least made less dark, the man looks even more ancient. His face’s lined crevasses are deep enough to have wrinkles of their own, resembling a desert’s cracked earth more than simply an apricot. The longer she stares, the deeper the lines seem to run and twist.

“For a long time, Ms. Amelie,” comes his whispering reply.

“My mother willed it to me upon her death.”

Amelie: Seeing the old man like this is a bit sobering from the high her find has given her. But she keeps her eyes on his, pushing her mind back to his story as she gently places the sword on her lap, keeping any stress off of it.

“My condolences. That is quite a pedigree for an antiquarian, though, inheritance. This shop must be very precious to you.”

GM: “She has been dead for a very long time, Ms. Amelie,” Raphael replies in a faintly amused tone at the young woman’s condolences.

“You are correct. It is. It will not be long before it passes to another, I think.”

Amelie: Amelie pauses at the man’s words and looks a bit thoughtful for a moment. It sounds to her like he’s almost ready to die, and she finds that rather honorable, for him to know himself so humbly like that. Death is something that has only peeked into her mind these past years. But just peeked. Or is he just ready to rest for his twilight years, maybe? Still, Amelie gives the man a gentle smile.

“Your handshake was still nice and strong you know, Mr. Raphael. Do you plan to pass it on to your kids?”

GM: “I have no children, Ms. Amelie. My shop will pass to a distant cousin of mine, if he should decide to keep it,” the old man answers.

Amelie: “That’s a shame it can’t go to any descendants again. I hope he treats it with a lot of respect.”

GM: “Not all of us are willing or able to bring life into the world,” Raphael murmurs. “That is also my hope, and his choice.”

Amelie: Amelie can only nod. “Some shouldn’t, despite them already having done so.”

It’s a sore spot.

“You have a whole lot of good items here. This sword… it’s like a puzzle. Walloon swords were never popular in any French-speaking nations, and yet… fleur-de-lis.”

GM: “I will admit swords are not my specialty. I was led to believe walloons were developed among either the Germans or Swiss, fell into the hands of the Dutch, and were then obtained by the French. Weapons successful on the battlefield are frequently imitated by opposing armies.”

Amelie: The young woman perks up with a small smile as the talk comes back to weapons. “It’s a good style of sword. Ones like these were made to deal with both rapiers of the gentry and the rigors of actual battle.” Leaning forward, she puts the whole hilt in the light as much as she can, trying to get a bead on exactly where it might have come from.

After a good few minutes looking over every bit of it, Amelie has a good picture of it. “It’s definitely real. And you were right! French. 1600s, the Baroque era, very nice. I have to guess maybe a bit late in the era. I wonder how much use it saw. But it looks like it was for gentry, not military use! Which explains why it may be in New Orleans! French dandy came to the New World with all his great-grandfather’s belongings. Though that’s just a guess. What has me excited, this was a blade for gentry in the time of the Sun King! Louis XIV! If I could somehow track down that bloodline…”

Looking up, the girl finally realizes she’s been rambling and clears her throat. “Sorry. I get carried away easily.”

GM: There’s a series of faint, cough-like sounds from the darkness ahead of Amelie. It takes her a moment to realize that the store’s owner is chuckling softly.

“If the blade holds the young lady’s interest, perhaps it will find a better home in her hands than mine.”

Amelie: Amelie again feels like she’s an easy startle when a thought about not knowing first aid pops into her head, before seeing he’s just having a laugh.

“I think I’ll take it. I was told to buy something if I saw something I liked. How much would you part with for it?”

GM: Raphael quotes a figure. Accounting for the sword’s notable age but poor condition and obscurity, it’s “only” on the lower end of several thousand dollars.

Amelie: The figure doesn’t phase the girl until she remembers she’s not buying a piece for her shop in Biccoline. This isn’t exactly her money.

“That’s reasonable, but just let me clear it real fast, excuse me.”

She turns to the side just a little in her chair and pulls her phone out to text Kristina.

Amelie tucks the phone back into her pocket and sits up with a small smile, attention back on the older man. “Mr. Raphael? Would you be willing to give me a small deal? I could do you a favor or two around the shop, or we can work something out to share profit. Once I find the origins of the sword, the price will jump up. Or if you’re looking for company, I could always come back to inspect the sword in my free time, and you can keep all the profits if it turns out to be a historical item.” With her skills, she’s confident see can find the origin, given time.

GM: “The price is already a modest one, young lady,” Raphael answers in his hoarse whisper. “But I do not think another buyer will be coming along soon, and what is an antique purchase without haggling? I will go $100 lower.”

Amelie: Amelie looks down at the blade, an eager rolling in the pit of her stomach, mixing in with the anxiousness of this not being HER money she’s spending. But if she makes a profit selling it? Well, she can pay her aunt back in full. She nods her head, looking more than a little nervous about it.

“Thank you. I think I’ll take it! Would you still be interested in hearing the story if I find the original owner?”

GM: The old man’s dark eyes glint. “Very much so.”

Amelie: Amelie sits up a bit, all smiles. “I’ll be back, then. Often, if I can help it.”

GM: “The profit margin in selling antiques is low, but only materially,” Raphael states with another hoarse whisper.

Amelie: “I don’t mind breaking even, long as I figure out just where this came from. I’ll start with the metals. Easy to track historic metals. Then to smiths. Then to their buyers.” Amelie stands. “I’d love to chat more, but I might be keeping someone waiting. Hopefully you accept credit cards?”

GM: Raphael deliberately grips each of the chair’s armrests and slowly raises his scarecrow-like frame to a standing position. “I do.”

He takes Amelie’s credit card and fades out of sight behind the counter’s register. There’s a faint, slow scratching sound as perhaps a minute passes. Raphael reemerges with the card and a hand-written receipt.

Amelie: Amelie hates this part. It’s always a tense moment for her to finalize a sale, but she’s sure that she can convince her aunt that this is an investment. After he comes out with the receipt, she checks it real quick before she folds it up and carefully sticks it into her wallet.

“Thank you, Mr. Raphael. I’ll update you as soon as I find something.”

GM: “Good day, young lady. I shall look forward to hearing of your discoveries.” Raphael slowly approaches the door and holds it open for Amelie, spilling sunlight into the dingy shop.

Amelie: Amelie smiles at the man’s manners, giving him the smallest curtsy before she exits. “Have a wonderful day, Mr. Raphael!” Then she’s right back in the sun, squinting as she pulls off her overshirt to drape over the blade of her find, tucking it carefully under the arm holding the handle. She fishes out her phone to texts for a pickup.

GM: Kristina’s Prius pulls up outside the store after several minutes. “Found something you liked?” her aunt’s assistant asks.

Amelie: Amelie simply pulls out the sword to give the woman a quick once-over before she puts it on the floor in the back seat, covers it with the overshirt and shopping bag to keep it from knocking around, and hops into the passenger seat.

“1600s. French. Big mystery to me as to who brought it to New Orleans! Then when the mystery is over, I resell it.”

GM: “Oh wow, nice find,” Kristina remarks as she pulls the car out of its brief parking spot by the curb. “Maybe one of the early French colonists or immigrants. The sword might not have even been that old when they brought it over.”

Amelie: Amelie grins wide, very visibly excited. “What makes it even better is that it was made for gentry! Rich and French! If I can find that family line, imagine them getting this piece of history back! For enough to pay back my aunt, of course.”

GM: Kristina laughs. “I guess that’s between the two of you, but in my experience, people who send you out shopping don’t think of it as a loan.”

Amelie: “I still feel… weird about taking money from her. I earned my money all my life. This wasn’t essential, so I’m going to be paying her back. As for the rest of the day? Gotta finish clothes shopping. I can visit a gun store another time, today has already been an adventure.”

GM: Magazine Street’s shops and eateries roll past the car’s window as Kristina tilts her head.

“I dunno how much this is my business, so tell me to but out if it’s not, but your aunt likes treating people. I think she’d feel weirded out if you offered to pay her back.”

Amelie: “Hmm… it might just be a difference in etiquette. I’ll have a talk with her. As for it being your business, you’re close with my aunt, so I really appreciate the insight. She’s as hard to read as my mother was.”

GM: “Glad to help, then,” Kristina answers. “Now, the next store worth hitting is at…”

Saturday afternoon, 15 August 2015

Amelie: After dropping off the day’s rather exhausting haul in her room, Amelie takes a full catalog of pictures of her antique and carefully puts it under the bed before she rushes back out to meet Kristina. Just a short trip to the city library, and she’ll have everything she needs to start the hunt for the owner.

GM: New Orleans has a number of city libraries. Kristina drops off Amelie at the Garden District’s nearest one, the Milton H. Latter Memorial, a former neo-Italianate mansion converted into a library. The building sits on a low grassy hill surrounded by Southern live oaks that makes it feel removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Kristina tells Amelie that she’s taking off for the day if there’s nothing else. When Amelie is finished at the library, she can either walk back to her aunt’s house (the Garden District is a lovely neighborhood to stroll through) or take the St. Charles streetcar, which Kristina leaves her with fare for.

The building’s interior still resembles the mansion it used to be, replete with a fireplace, fancy drapes and rugs, and old-fashioned brass light fixtures. As a library, it has the typical reading rooms, computers, printers, and wi-fi one might expect to find.

Compared to the other public libraries Amelie has seen, which invariably seem to draw at least several obviously homeless people with nowhere else to spend their time, patrons at the Milton Latter are generally quiet and well-dressed. The one person who does not look as if he belongs, a black man with an electronic ankle monitor he plugs into an outlet, is quietly escorted out of the building by a police officer.

Amelie: Visions of canine units and street patrols walking the borders of the Garden District yesterday come to mind as Amelie watches the vagrant escorted out, only to replace him as the worst-dressed person in the library as she steps in. Atmosphere immediately sets in as she takes in the architecture of the library, her mind’s eye bringing up where all the furniture and finery would have been in the days of its intended use. But after a moment, she focuses, looking to find the librarian’s desk. If there’s one thing all libraries have in common, it’s a librarian dedicated to its upkeep, a tamer of what one could call a hydra.

GM: This hydra’s tamer looks as if the lernaean beast has resisted his domesticating hand. He’s a middle-aged man with a closely-shaved graying beard, hair of the same color, oval-shaped glasses, and wearing a beige blazer over a collared light blue shirt. There’s a large bandage over his forehead whose boundaries extend to the edge of his glasses. The placement makes the two items seem almost connected, as if pulling off his eyewear would rip off the bandage and half his scalp with it.

Amelie finds him sitting behind the service desk’s computer as she approaches. An overweight, nasally-voiced 30-something man wearing socks and sandals clutches a stack of comic books to his chest, thanks the librarian for his help, and waddles off.

Amelie: Amelie pays the man already at the counter no mind, wondering more about the comic books and what they could have to do with the library than anything else. The type of people she’s seen up until now haven’t given this place the sort of air where comics might be kept. Pushing it out of her mind, she approaches the desk and waits a moment for the man to make eye contact.

“Excuse me, I was wondering if you had a moment to help me find something. It’s a bit weird.”

GM: “Someone who works at a library sees ‘weird’ more often than you might think, ma’am,” the librarian answers with a subdued smile. “What are you looking for?”

Amelie: Amelie gives the man a bit of an amused smile at the statement, taking out her phone and sliding a picture of the sword across the desk to him.

“I’m looking for books on the region around France in the mid to late 1600s. I’m trying to identify three things. Mines the French got their steel from, the blacksmiths of note at the time, and the major and minor nobility at the time.”

GM: The librarian strokes his chin. “Famous blacksmiths should be the easiest to research. Mines after that. Major nobility are fairly well-documented, but you’re going to have quite a project if you want to identify all the minor French nobles of the period.”

Amelie: Amelie nods. “That’s the order I’m gunning for. Broad list of blacksmiths, narrow them down by the steel they use, and then cross my fingers those blacksmiths kept a record of their work to nobility. I’ve got a hunch the descendants of this dandy are now in New Orleans.”

GM: “They might’ve kept records, but I don’t know how likely you are to find those posted online,” the librarian considers, then types a few things into his computer. “Let’s see what we have, anyway…”

Amelie: Amelie pulls her phone back to her and starts to tap her fingers around in the memo app, starting a record of her search.“Merci! Oh, and if you have other work, please don’t let me distract you too badly. This is a mystery that will take awhile.”

GM: The bandage-wearing librarian pulls up a few titles on blacksmithing for Amelie and suggests those as a start, as well as that she use one of the library’s computers to do further research. Several hours later, Amelie is confident that she’s exhausted every non-checked out title on blacksmithing that the Milton H. Latimer Memorial Library has available in its modest collection on the subject. Many of the books are concerned with technical knowledge of blacksmithing rather than the craft’s history, and most are fairly recent titles too… the oldest how-to manual she can find is Practical Forging and Art Smithing, published in 1915.

Practical_Forging.jpg Blacksmiths themselves, too, appear to generally be less famous figures than their arms and the bearers of those arms. Most well-known blacksmiths are figures from the 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, the former are often famous for reasons besides the quality of their arms and armor. Thomas Davenport (1802—1851) is remembered for inventing the electric motor and simply happened to also be a blacksmith. John Fritz (1822—1913) is known as the “Father of the U.S. Steel Industry” for inventing the first three-high rolling mill. He also happened to begin his life as a blacksmith. Alexander Hamilton Willard (1777—1865) is notable for being a blacksmith on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Contemporary blacksmiths, in contrast, are famous because it is easier to become famous and because crafting swords (rarely armor) is a more distinctive occupation than it used to be. As industrial technology has progressed beyond its roots in hand-operated forges, modern smiths have become more renowned for the quality (and expense) of their weapons than any technological innovations. The Okinawan swordsmith Kiyochika Kanehama best epitomizes how specialized the market has become: his pieces sell for upwards of $15,000 each and he rarely sells more than one sword a year. Most of the ones he crafts do not satisfy his stringent expectations.

“When I saw my first sword, at a friend’s home in 1974, I was stunned by its power and beauty. I was a college student, studying accounting, but knew instantly I had another calling,” Kanehama explained in an interview. When commenting on his first encounter with a treasured sword, the Okinawan smith also remarked, “When I encountered an old sword which was registered as Japanese National Treasure, I was captured by its beauty and warmth. The elegant curve of the blade fascinated me. I discovered… that Japanese swords are not mere weapons, but they are manifestations of the spirit of Japanese culture.”

Amelie digs deeper for actual historic smiths. The closest she finds are Kunz Lochner (1510—1567), a master armorer from Nuremberg. There’s also Antonio Missaglia, an armorer from 15th century Milan, and Lorenz Helmschmied, a second 15th century armorer who crafted mail suits for the Holy Roman Emperors Frederick III and Maximilian I. Many of the surviving pieces of their work are now on display in museums.

Half an hour before closing time, the librarian announces that fact over the building’s intercom. The announcement is repeated at 4:45, and again at 4:55, at which point patrons are asked to begin returning or checking out their reading materials and packing up their laptops and other personal belongings. It looks to Amelie as if unearthing her sword’s maker is going to be a multi-day project.

Amelie: Amelie keeps bibliographies of the works that interest her, as well as a few pictures of the examples given. None of these things quite match up, and it’s slightly frustrating to have her hard work not give her any immediate results. But she resigns herself to the feelings of anxiety that come with long bouts of work. This library was a great source of starting information, but for the subject at hand it’s outlived its usefulness. Packing up, she rubs her eyes and slides the last book she’d grabbed back in its proper place, before returning to the man at the desk to thank him for his work.

GM: The librarian replies that she’s welcome and to come again if she has any further questions. Amelie files outside with the rest of the patrons. Afternoon feels like it should be waning into evening, but the lazy Dixie sun still hangs fat and sweltering in the humid August sky. A half-hour walk back to her aunt’s house awaits by foot, or a twenty-minute ride by the St. Charles streetcar.

Amelie: Amelie thanks the librarian again and promises to be back sometime as she heads home, resolving to walk and save the streetcar fare for a time she actually needs it. The heat is a mixed bag. She knows this subtle labored feeling from living near an ocean inlet—it’s like trying to breathe in steam. The heat still weighs on her during her walk, and she feels sweat down her back by the time she reaches the gate to her aunt’s house. It’s a climate that will take adjusting to.

And a culture.

Amelie Logs Index


Amelie I: Uneasy Beginnings

Amelie Savard couldn’t be happier to have a sleepover in a haunted house: she’s loved history all her life. It seems like it’ll be a fascinating research project for her school, the so-called “West Point for Southern belles.” But Amelie is an oddball and obvious foreign transplant who sticks out like a sore thumb. There is way things are done at New Orleans’ most prestigious school… and if Amelie can’t fit in, ghosts may not be her only worry.

Date at chapter start
Page Count
Chapter I Aunt Christina • Fresh off the plane from Canada, Amelie touches down in New Orleans to make a new life in the home of her distant aunt, Christina Roberts. Aug. 14, 2015 18 p
Chapter II The Antique Amelie settles in to her new home and makes an auspicious weapons purchase. Aug. 15, 2015 18 p
Chapter III The Debutante West Point Amelie attends her first day at McGehee, the so-called “West Point for Southern belles,” and sets her eye on a purportedly haunted house for a research project. Aug. 17, 2015 31 p
Chapter IV The Sore Thumb Amelie attempts to fit in among her privileged peers. Aug. 17, 2015 23 p
Chapter V Thieves, Cops, and Priests Amelie sets out to explore the Big Easy’s historic attractions and gets a taste of its equally storied corruption. Aug. 21, 2015 25 p
Chapter VI Knife to the Hand Amelie receives a dire prophecy. Aug. 21, 2015 25 p
Chapter VII Haunted Sleepovers Amelie makes plans for an overnight stay in one of New Orleans’ most notorious paranormal hot spots. Aug. 24, 2015 35 p
Chapter VIII Cruel Truths Amelie eavesdrops upon upon more than a few things her aunt doesn’t want her to hear. Aug. 26, 2015 25 p
Chapter IX Rotten Magnolias • Stripped of illusions by her furious aunt, Amelie takes a hard look at the Big Easy’s hidden ugliness. Aug. 28, 2015 19 p
Chapter X Lunch With the Malveauxes • Still determined to get ahead in the city, Amelie attends a privileged lunch. Aug. 28, 2015 19 p
Chapter XI The LaLaurie Mansion • Past and future converge as Amelie braves a night in one of New Orleans’ most infamous haunted houses. Aug. 28, 2015 39 p

Amelie II: Dark New Worlds

It’s not often that Amelie Savard has wondered if she’s dead. Waking up outside her own body has her reevaluating things, though… many things. Thrust into a terrifying hellscape filled with ghosts and monsters, most people would want to find their way home, but Amelie may no longer have a home. There’s been a terrible accident and the police think she’s responsible. Her life may be over even if she can wake up from the coma.

Date at chapter start
Page count
Chapter I Out of Body Experience Amelie awakens from a coma into a nightmare. Unknown 10 p
Chapter II The Underworld Amelie explores new realms beyond her darkest imaginings. Unknown 34 p
Chapter III Yvette’s Revenge Amelie reunites with an old enemy. Unknown 18 p
Chapter IV Police Interrogation Amelie gets in trouble with the law over a falsified crime. Unknown 28 p
Chapter V Left to Rot Amelie endures. Unknown 14 p
Chapter VI Orleans Parish Prison Amelie begins her jail sentence. Unknown 18 p
Chapter VII Breaking Point • Pushed and provoked beyond all endurance, Amelie snaps. Unknown 17 p
Epilogue Needed Swords • A final accounting of what has come to pass Unknown 2 p

Amelie III: Demon’s Due

Prison killed Amelie. Death is rarely the end in New Orleans, though. Now a vampire without a sire, money, clothes, or any idea what the hell happened to her, and presumed dead by everyone she knew, Amelie strikes out on her own in search of answers.

Answers won’t come free, though. They never do. And when Amelie believes she’s haunted by a demon, answers might never come at all.

Date at chapter start
Page count
Chapter I Dark Wanderings • Free from prison, Amelie flees into the night and reckons with her all-too abrupt damnation. Unknown 26 p
Chapter II Blood Price Amelie makes a grisly sacrifice for a new benefactor. Feb. 20, 2016 33 p
Chapter III The Primogen Amelie comes to a second rude awakening in an elder’s care. Feb. 20, 2016 21 p
Chapter IV Lessons in Damnation Amelie tries to learn more about what she is from her watcher. Feb. 20, 2016 19 p
Chapter V The Seneschal Amelie is presented before the prince’s representative. Feb. 20, 2016 25 p
Epilogue Blades Unsheathed • A final accounting of what has come to pass. Feb. 20, 2016 2 p
Amelie I, Chapter I
Aunt Christina

“Bein’ a Catholic don’ mean you can’t be a madame too, not in this city. Maybe you’ll have a lil’ bit more to say to your pries’ behin’ the grill, but tha’ jus’ how things sometime are.”
Oscar LeRoux

Friday night, 14 August 2015, PM

GM: “…we wish you a pleasant stay in New Orleans and we hope to see you again very soon. On behalf of all our crew, thank you for choosing Air Canada Express as your airline this weekend.”

Amelie retrieves her carry-on luggage and rises with the mass of passengers departing the landed plane. More than a few grumble. The flight was noisy and turbulent. The baby in front of her wouldn’t stop crying. The lady behind her kept complaining how much tickets cost. That’s irrelevant to Amelie. For better or worse, she is unlikely to fly back to Toronto under her own money anytime soon.

Her footsteps loudly thump against the jet bridge’s floor as she follows other passengers out of the plane, luggage rolling behind her. Glass windows at the end of the corridor look out over flat runways. Starless night sky stretches over blinking clusters of yellow-white lights like a great void. The planes don’t seem to fly into it so much as get swallowed up by it. Distant engines roar as aircraft take off, then fade into low murmurs as blinking lights disappear into black.

Amelie’s half-translucent, shadow-drenched reflection stares back at her from the windows. Past it, she can dimly make out a dark sign with a pale gold trombone emblazoned over the skeleton of a blue globe.


Amelie: Amelie stares into the dark as she takes in her first bittersweet sight of Nouvelle Orléans. Louis Armstrong even greets her with a song. He’s before her time, but she remembers the jazz musician for a few of his most historic pieces. She can’t help but mutter “pieces” now that the horns and unmistakable deep voice are stuck in her head. She lets the lyrics carry her along and even dances her feet just a little to the temp.

“-magic spells you cast. This is la view en rose.

She lets out a small sigh once her walk down the jet bridge ends and breaks into what she assumes is arrivals. She’s not sure what she’s supposed to do at this point. She chooses to follow the crowd while standing up straight and scanning for any signs. Bad movies and worse books dictate there’s a stranger holding a sign with her name on it.

She only hopes she recognizes her own aunt.

GM: The airport Amelie walks into from Course C looks like a bus terminal in South America. It’s appallingly crowded. Every seat in the airport is occupied by bleary-eyed, impatient-looking, or half-asleep human bodies. Some people sit on the floor. Others merely stand tiredly in place, almost elbow-to-elbow with their fellow passengers. Long lines only half-distinguishable through the crowd wind towards the restrooms. People snap at one another and argue through clenched teeth why they should get to go first. Their motions cause the line to shift like an agitated animal flicking its tail. Most of the adults sullenly wait out the arrival of their flights. A few of the younger children cry. “Mommy, I’m tired…”

Amelie: Amelie almost recoils at the sight. So many people in such a cramped space is unlike anything she’s seen. Just a half hour ago she was thinking on how busy Toronto was compared to Quebec City, and now this. It feels off-base and even a little alien. But she proceeds along quietly. All she needs to do is grab her checked bags and go to the front of the airport, right?

She hopes that’s right. She wants a shower and change of clothes more than anything else right now. The sweatpants and faded Real McKenzies t-shirt is not a flattering look. It’s even less so with her wild black bed-head.

GM: The scene is more orderly but little happier away from the boarding and departure points. Bored-looking customs officials herd lines of people through metal detectors like parts on an assembly line. A detained woman flushes when security rips open her suitcase and sorts through a pile of lingerie before retrieving the underwire bra that set off their scanners. There’s a round of snickers from the otherwise apathetic crowd. Masked and armed black-uniformed police officers watch the proceedings suspiciously. Camo-clad National Guardsmen shoulder their way through the throngs of bodies, occasionally chatting into hand-held radios. No one stops and frisks Amelie as she picks up her remaining luggage from the stainless steel conveyor. A few leashed inspection dogs growl at her presence.

Amelie: The flood of gunmetal, camo, and Kevlar makes the United States seem all the more alien. Her heart drops into her stomach for a split second when she sees a masked man with a gun. It calms after she sees the patches and realizes he’s supposed to be here. She can understand the weapons, but fails to see any reasoning for masks besides intimidation.

She goes through the metal detectors on her best behavior, eyeing the pissy dogs as she gathers her luggage and sets off towards the front of the airport. She looks around for a sign, or for her aunt to sneak up on her. She hopes either happens before she starts suffocating amidst so many human bodies.

GM: The airport becomes a completely different world outside of security. There are still people, but Amelie can make out wide and empty stretches of white linoleum. Leather couches and chaise lounges recline around bookstores, gift shops, and casual dining establishments from international chains like Subway, Chili’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts. There’s a couple more that Amelie hasn’t seen in Canada, including a PJ’s Coffee and West Beignet.

A man with long dreadlocks and a skull-emblazoned t-shirt storms up to a seated customer by the Subway. “The fuck are you doin’ there? Are you seriously the guy who comes to New Orleans to eat at fuckin’ Subway?”

The other man is a portly middle-aged fellow wearing khaki shorts and glasses. He looks up from his sub with an annoyed expression. “If this is Southern hospitality, you’re making a shit case for it.”

“Fuck you! Go back to suburbia!”

“I’m gonna call security.”

FUCK YOU!” the first man yells, spinning away on his heel.

Amelie: It’s a relief to get back out where she can think. Amelie stops to gather herself and take in her surroundings. Subway at least is familiar. Chili’s is known to her only through American media bleeding north. Dunkin’ Donuts is the kind of place that can only struggle next to the Canadian giant that is Tim Hortons.

The rather silly confrontation mars the scenery. Amelie has a hunch that the dreadlocked man has quite a bit of pride, but also a lot of pent-up anger against white people. Just like home.

She lets it go and scans the rest of the airport lobby. She pushes down the itch to walk into the bookstore or sit down with her own book.

GM: As Amelie turns her gaze from the two’s commotion, she can see a figure by the airport’s entrance holding a sign that reads “Savard.” He’s an elderly, slightly stooped African-American man with a short beard that’s streaked through with white. He’s dressed in a plain black suit.

Her aunt is nowhere in sight.

Amelie: Of course. She can only assume this stereotype made flesh is her driver for the evening. The young woman quickly fixes her hair with her fingers, takes a deep breath, and pulls her bags up to the man.

“Sir? I’m Amelie Savard. Are you here for me?”

Her accent is almost nonexistent. Like many Quebecois born to English parents in larger cities, English was a second language learned alongside her native Francais.

GM: The old man grins as he sees Amelie.

“Whoa, Miss Savar’! Welcome t’ the Big Easy.” His voice is worn, deep, and slightly scratchy, like an old vinyl record. “Name’s Oscar, with the Executi’ Charter Limo Service. I’m t’ drive you to your auntie’s.”

He motions to her luggage.

“If you’ll permi’ me?”

Amelie: “It’s a pleasure, Oscar, glad to be here.”

Amelie’s a little bothered that her aunt isn’t here. She waves off the feeling as she remembers how busy the woman must be. She does have to prepare for her niece moving in. And what kind of job does she work that lets her send a limo, anyway?

She looks back at her bags and offers Oscar her smaller carry-on to wheel after them.

“I’ll take one, you take one? I have my pride, after all. Are you parked nearby?”

GM: Oscar laughs as he sticks the ‘Savard’ sign under his elbow. He takes Amelie’s first bag, then holds out another hand to take her second one.

“Haw haw! Naw, please, you’ll be doin’ me a favor lettin’ me carry yours. I say I let a client carry her own bags, ain’ never gonna hear the end of it from the boss-man! Blo’ on my recor’, yessir.”

Amelie: Amelie immediately realizes that being waited on like this will take getting used to. She mutters a small “merde,” under her breath and reluctantly wheels the bigger bag to him around her back.

“You’re a hard worker, thank you, Oscar. Do you only work for my aunt, or are you part of an agency?” She motions for him to lead the way and prepares for the drive. It’s going to be an interesting night.

GM: “Yes ma’am,” Oscar answers as he takes Amelie’s other bag and starts wheeling them out of the building. “I work for the Executi’ Charter Limo Service, like I say. Your auntie gives us a call e’ry now an’ then. She always tip well.”

Amelie: Amelie uses her now free hands to smooth through her thick black hair. She’s glad her aunt doesn’t own a limo and tipped the so-far nice man. She strikes out in front, holds the door open for the driver and follows him out to wherever he’s parked.

“How well do you know New Orleans, Mr. Oscar? I haven’t been here since I was a child. I could use some good insider information.”

GM: Amelie finds that the airport’s sliding front doors open automatically. There are a great many other people with full hands making their way past.

She’s immediately struck by the almost stifling warmth of the humid air. It’s not all like chilly Canada. She can make out an asphalt plane filled with parked cars for as far as her eye can see, even limited as that is on the dark and overcast night. The odd street lamp stares over the vehicles, throwing deep shadows where its illumination does not touch. The low roar of departing and arriving aircraft sounds in the distance.

“Well, I been here since I was a chil’, so guess I the guy t’ axe!” Oscar laughs. “What you wanna know ’bout New Orleans?”

Amelie: It’s been a long day of plane rides, for sure. But it nearly takes Amelie off her feet when the air hits her outside of the air-conditioned building. Humidity was normal where she grew up, out on the ocean of the Saint Laurent, but it was never like this. It takes her a moment to adjust. Heat itself is nothing to her and she can have a jolly time slamming a hammer into yellow glowing steel. The air itself being like this is something. She keeps beside Oscar as they walk and talk.

“Mostly where the good places are. I know from experience there’s a big difference between tourist and local places.”

GM: “Well, Bourbon Stree’, that a touriss place,” Oscar answers over the sound of Amelie’s luggage rolling along the asphalt. “Ain’ no self-respexin’ musician who play there! I do me a lotta drivin’ ‘roun’ the Quarter, an’ there’s things there worth a stop, don’ get me wrong. It’s the upper bit now, they makin’ it like Disneyland. I got a frien’ in Vegas who say the city goin’ that way too.”

The two stop by a parked black limousine. Oscar sets down Amelie’s luggage, reaches into his pocket and clicks a keyfob, then grins at her. “But that ain’ what you axed me, now is it? Good places, tha’ right?”

Amelie: Images of Old Quebec come to mind as Amelie thinks about how played up everything in the district is. ‘The most photographed hotel in the world’ sits right at the center.

But Oscar knows what she means, and she can’t help but smile at both that fact, and the limo. Her nicked-up self of a year ago certainly never thought she’d ever sit in one of these. She still doesn’t feel quite right with it as she opens the back door and tentatively looks inside.

“Your favorites, if anything. To eat, to listen, to shop. I’ll be living here from now on, you know. Got my citizen’s card and everything.”

GM: Oscar laughs as Amelie insists on opening the door herself. “Damn, girl, you gonna drive me outta bidness at this rae!”

The limo’s interior isn’t enormous, but it’s large enough for Amelie to comfortably lie down across the seat if she were inclined. The usual alcoholic beverages in the minibar also seem to be absent, replaced instead with pop (don’t they call it something else in the U.S.?) and flavored fizzy water. It’s still a year before she’s old enough to legally drink.

Amelie: It takes a moment for Amelie to realize what Oscar means, especially since she was only looking. It’s always been her first instinct to ride in the front seat, after all.

“Oh… I’m sorry, Oscar. I’m not exactly high class-bred, this is all more than a little new to me. I hope I didn’t offend you.”

The interior is new to her as well. It’s so posh and exactly like she’s seen in movies, though she makes note of the absent alcohol. Not that she was ever planning on drinking, she’s had quite enough of that garbage.

GM: Oscar laughs again. “Ain’ no thing, Miss Savar’. ‘Specially now that we got you ’way from any more doors to open, ain’ tha righ? Here on, you can jus lay back an enjoy the trip. Is’ a long ride. Half an hour, my way up! No wonner your auntie had me come drive you.”

Amelie: Amelie just sighs and nods a tiny bit. Half an hour. “I just had a big trip in a bad plane, I don’t mind a half-hour ride. It’ll give my nerves time to settle.”

It’s a bit nervewracking to finally meet the relative who’s taking her in, even if they did talk over the phone. Amelie can face down a bear with a toothpick but this is a big debt. She has to prove it’s worth her aunt’s time, lest she be stranded here in America all on her own. She doesn’t have a clue if her aunt’s the kind of person who would do that, not really.

She makes her way close to the front as she crawls into the limo. Oscar is good company for her nerves.

GM: The chauffeur loads in Amelie’s luggage and gets in on the driver’s side of the limo.

“There should be a bag in there, West Beignet’s. Issa a good place for airport food. They don’ make nothin’ but beignets! No, they do jus’ one thing, an’ they do it righ’.”

Amelie: Amelie looks down and around for this bag. Beignets are basically a kind of fritter, but everything from short rib meat to apple can be stuffed in the center. She’s never had any her… her mother hasn’t made.

The excitement drops and she gives up the search almost immediately. She leans back to look out the windows. She isn’t supposed to be eating too many treats anyway, but the sore subject lessens her excitement.

“Where exactly does my aunt live, Oscar? Our talks were a little short while I was up north, she’s quite a busy person.”

GM: “She live in the Garden Dis’ric,” Oscar declares as he starts up the long car’s ignition and begins to pull it out of the lot. Amelie sees a white paper bag resting on the limo’s long seat.

“Is’ real pretty. Magazine Street is’ a calmer Royal Stree’, thas the closes’ I can put it. Still a few touriss, but yknow, they ain’ all bad. They bring in the money, an’ the ones ousside Bourbon Stree’, maybe there hope for. Your auntie’s the one who lives there, though. She can tell you all ‘bou the Garden Dis’ric.”

Amelie: Garden District. Amelie doesn’t try to strain her jet-lagged head and just assumes it’s one of New Orleans’ more upper-class neighborhoods. Not that it’s hard. Much easier images come to mind of squalor and hard times for residents of the other districts.

“I dunno, I’m hard-pressed to have faith in most tourists. But we’ll see how they behave.” Her tone is teasing, of course. “I have a bit of a strange and tricky question for you, then, Oscar. What do you know about the fencing in New Orleans? The city does stand as the American duel capital.”

GM: “Whoa! I don know nothin abou’ fencin, Miss Savar’. There a duelin tree in one of the parks, I guess, the Duelin’ Oak. Where people use to do tha’ in the old days. If there’s any duels goin’ on now, I sho’ ain’ hear of them!”

Amelie: Amelie grins a little bit. The tree is interesting, of course, but that isn’t what she means. But if he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know.

“That’s a shame. I’m looking to join a fencing club now that I’m here. I’m a bit of a history buff. That dueling tree is interesting, though… can you remember which park?”

GM: “Lesse, that’d be at City Park. Bigges’ one in the city. Almos’ think you weren’ in a city when you’re there.” Oscar’s teeth flash in the car’s rear view mirror as he grins. “You like your hissory now, do you?”

Amelie: Amelie nods thoughtfully. This dueling tree is a good place to add to her list. Just how many hundreds of insults have been settled under that tree? Rapiers and sabers flashing, flintlocks bellowing out, sixshooters snapping. If trees can tell stories, Amelie wants to hear them.

“I live history. I grew up working with my father in an historic tourist attraction. It’s where I learned my smithing trade.”

GM: “Whoa! You a smith now, like swords an horseshoes? You pick a good city to be a smith, Miss Savar’. This city love her hissory too.” Oscar smiles distantly and taps the steering wheel. “She really do.”

Amelie: “Swords and horseshoes,” she agrees, smiling. She’s prod of what she is, and itchy to get her idea of building a forge here in New Orleans underway.

“I visited here when I was just a little kid… my aunt gave me a history book on Nouvelle Orleans. I fell in love. I’m actually happy to be back.”

GM: “Well, this city knows how to love, yes she do. She’s got a lot t’ love.” Oscar’s smile seems to dim a bit as his eyes return to the road. Night sky rushes overhead.

“Lovin’ someone ain’ always easy, Miss Savar’. This city knows that too. She’s a lot to love.”

Amelie: Amelie can only nod. Not from experience, but at least from reading.

“Lots of good, I’m sure. But lots of bad underneath, I’m even more sure. This writer I really enjoy once wrote, ‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’ Even if thinking that only makes it harder, I guess.”

Oscar seems a little world-weary to her, but it’s none of her business if he doesn’t want it to be.

“I plan to take it slow. I do still have school, after all.”

GM: “Oh yeah? Hope you don’ go to one of ‘em, whas’ it they’re called, charter schools. Seems like all schools are charters these days. Them charters are shi’.” Oscar’s eyes seem to return from the road as he grins again. “’Scuse my French.”

Amelie: “Your French is excused.” Amelie can’t help but smile as she wonders if her tongue will even work here. Anglo and Creole French aren’t interchangeable, after all.

Charter schools, however, make her hope that at least a good public school is in the cards for her.

“I’m not entirely sure where yet, but hopefully somewhere close. What’s wrong with charter schools?”

GM: “I ain’ a teacher or nothin’, Miss Savar’. Kids an parenss jus’ seem a lot sadder than they use to. They close down the school I wen’ to when I was a lil’ boy, too. Was a good school. Been aroun’ over a hunnerd years.”

Amelie: Oscar seems like he’s perturbed and steering away from the topic. Amelie has a hunch why. She’s coming from foster care and poverty but now in a limo as she goes to live with her wealthy aunt. Maybe it has something to do with there being no alcohol to drink.

“That’s a real shame… old buildings need to be preserved as they are.” She lets that sit for a moment before coming in with a more somber question. “How about a better question. What places in New Orleans should I avoid, Oscar? If I’m living here now, not knowing the laws of beating up muggers, I want to know where isn’t safe.”

GM: “Well, lesse. Central City an’ the Ninth Ward, those the worse’ places f’ a girl like you, I reckon.” Oscar lets out a low sigh. “The Ninth Ward ain’ so bad as they say on TV, an’ use to be nicer too. But the ward jus’ got lef’ to die since Katrina… it still looks like the hurr’cane hit only yesserday, lotta parts.”

“‘Sides those places, well, New Orleans can be a funny city, Miss Savar’. Rough neighborhoods can be righ’ nex by the not-so-rough ones. Can be har’ for a touriss to fin’ they way… Bourbon Stree’ is safe ‘nough, or least has lotta po-lice ’roun it. But Rampar’ an’ Decatur, lot worse can happen than losin’ a wallet.”

“So it really ‘pends where y’at. An’ if you ain’ sure, jus’ axe your auntie, or somebody else who know the place. The Garden Dis’ric is pretty safe, though, if you belong there. Lotta money there.”

Amelie: Amelie makes mental notes as she listens in rapt attention. She’d suspected all of this news, but but now she has names to tack onto a map of avoidance. She has research to do now, as well, about what kind of protection she can carry with her. Every form of self-defense besides your fists is illegal in her country. It’s all great until she hears that very last part.

“Safe if you belong there? What do you mean, Oscar?”

GM: Oscar makes a waving-off motion with his hand. “Oh, don’ worry, you do fo’ sho’ livin’ there with your auntie. Garden Dis’ric’s a safe place f’ you to be.”

Amelie: Oscar waving it off just makes Amelie wonder even more about what he means. She assumes the worst in that maybe the Garden District won’t have many black people. Natives get treated much the same in Canada. Rare is the Metis who isn’t living on the other side of the tracks.

She pushes the thought out of her head and looks up and out the window to do some sightseeing.

“Speaking of the Garden District, how much longer? I’d kill for a shower after all this travel.”

GM: Oscar laughs. “While longer. It an hour’s drive, both ways. You jus’ sit back…”

Friday night, 14 August 2015, PM

GM: The sights roll by.

A long stretch of midnight highway follows the playground. Cars thrum along against the road, their headlights cutting twin spotlights through the dark. The muffled sound of traffic in the big limo is easy to fall asleep to.

Another park comes up near a Best Buy. Oscars mentions the lights are, “Real pretty roun’ Christmas time. They get this dragon wi’ a Santa hat in the water.”

After the second park comes another long stretch of I-10. Rows of cloned suburban houses, bereft of any trace of individuality, fly past. And past. They could be anywhere in Canada or the United States from what Amelie can tell. The trees lining the curbs are tall and venerable-looking.

They turn in at Pontchartrain Expressway, and the houses give way to endless rows of a different sort. Oscar grins again. “Ah, now we close to New Orleans.”

Amelie: Amelie is less than interested in the parks. They just mean kids, after all. An incident involving a helmet rivet and a peckish grabby child left her none too fond of them.

The Christmas lights manage to pull a smile off the girl’s tired face. What really gets her interest, however, is the cultural sculpture. Even in the dark, they’re prolific: stone faces in the ether and figures seemingly frozen in time standing guard over Louisiana’s above-ground cemeteries. They’re stunning.

“This is incredible! Real stone statues, too. Canada is only able to have steel, the winter and snow cracks stone too easily. I’ll have to come back during the day, maybe be a tourist for just a moment, and do a tour or two.”

GM: “Seein’ em from a car window ain’ the same,” Oscar nods. “There lossa cemeteries to go see, you like those. Mos’ famous is St. Lou’s, ‘course, an there thirteen more ’long Canal Street. Metairie here’s one of em. Got the bigges’ tombs an statues of em all. Like that Egyptian peer-mid, which they say there mummies in.” Oscar smiles at that statement.

Amelie: “Mummies in a pyramid, hmm? Well then, I better bring a book of matches in case he breaks out during my tour.” Amelie smiles a bit as she watches the mausoleums go by. “St. Louis’s the most famous. You have any idea which one’s the oldest?”

Old cemeteries, of course, are the more important to her. Sometimes there are hints of what kinds of weapons and armor they have locked away, either from tour guides or through hints left on graves. She hopes it’s the case as well with mausoleums.

GM: “St. Lou’s is the oldess,” Oscar laughs. “But you wanna see others, like I say, lot more. Even this one, Metairie, ‘is pretty old. Davi’ Hennessy, the po-leece chief killed by the Mafia way back when, he buried here.”

The chauffeur glances into one of the limo’s side mirrors. “So’s Josie Arlington, Storyville’s riches’ an’ classies’ madame. See tha’ girl statue knockin’ at the door?”

“She’s a virgin bein’ turned ‘way, cause Josie Arlington wouldn’ let no virgins get deflowered workin’ for her.”

Amelie: That’s good info. It makes near the top of Amelie’s list to become one of her first stops. If only just for the stonework.

“You know a lot of history yourself, Oscar! If it paid better, I’d tell you to become a teacher.”

GM: Oscar laughs. “I do more than jus limo drivin, Miss Savar’. I also drive ‘roun carriages in the Quarter. Cussomers like hearin’ hissory, an’ you pick it up.”

Amelie: Amelie can only smile as she pictures Oscar in a big fancy driver’s outfit carting people around on a horse.

“I’m surprised a madame is buried here, though. Isn’t New Orleans mostly Catholic?”

GM: Oscar’s laugh spreads into a wide grin at Amelie’s question.

“Amen, she is! So’m I. Go to church e’ry Sunday. Bein’ a Catholic don’ mean you can’t be a madame too, not in this city. Maybe you’ll have a lil’ bit more to say to your pries’ behin’ the grill, but tha’ jus’ how things sometime are.”

Amelie: This madame was a rightly buried Catholic and still facilitated the sin of selling your body in life. It’s a confusing thought, but she doesn’t judge. Instead, she changes the subject again.

“Is your carriage ride job a normal history tour? Or one of those late night ghost tours by horse-drawn carriage?”

GM: “Oho, ghos’ tours? I don’ do those, but I know a few folks who do. Or, well, a lotta folks. New Orleans a real spooky city, afta all. There as many spooks as they say, I don know how it got room for the people!”

Amelie: “Probably some old ones, too, I bet. You already talked about that dueling tree. Bet it’s a pretty spook place to be near after dark,” Amelie laughs, siting back again.

If only ghosts really do exist. Talking to one sounds more educational than reading a book droning about how those ghosts thought in life.

GM: “All the dark is spooky, Miss Savar’,” Oscar smiles faintly.

The limousine drives on through it. A light rain begins to patter against the windshield, prompting Oscar to turn on the wipers. Shk-shk-shk they go.

Amelie: Amelie has to agree that the dark is something to be wary of, but after growing up playing in the woods she isn’t scared so much as she is respectful. Dark places hide a lot. Then the rain starts to fall. That at least makes things feel even more relaxing in the soft back of the limo.

GM: It isn’t much longer before the cemetery’s stony expanse recedes into grass and foliage.

“That the Longue Vue Gardens. They don’ have much hissory, used to belong to some rich folks who ‘cided they’d make it a museum. But they sure made it a pretty one. Lotta weddin’s hos’ed there.”

“Now you got me started up playin’ tour guide, you jus gonna have to sit an’ lissen to me all the way,” Oscar teases.

Amelie: Amelie wonders if anything interesting besides architecture is hosted at this museum. “I’m here for the history, I really do appreciate it, Oscar. Do you want one of these fancy waters for your voice?” As much as the young woman likes the sound of it, she isn’t sure if water like this is palatable. Better to test it on the driver.

GM: The driver’s smile seems to fade a bit. “’Scuse me?”

Amelie: Amelie cocks an eyebrow and wonders if he thinks she’s ragging on his voice. “I’ve been making you talk this whole time. You probably have to talk all day during your other job. Do you want one of these waters?”

GM: “No thanks, Miss Savar’. I’m use to talkin,” Oscar answers.

Amelie: Amelie feels a pang of guilt as she gets the impression his opinion of her has lowered. “I’m sorry Oscar, I didn’t mean it like that. I like your voice, it’s calming and classy. I can’t imagine having a job that has me talk so much, and wanted to see if these waters were any good while I was at it. I’m not exactly… socially graceful sometimes. Metal doesn’t really talk.”

GM: Oscar chuckles a bit. “Don’ think nothin by it, Miss Savar’. I won’ be doin’ too much more talkin tonigh anyways. Your auntie’s is comin’ jus up.”

Amelie: Amelie almost sighs in relief when Oscar seems to forgive her. She melts back into the seat and passively watches out the window.

GM: Buildings roll past in the dark. Indistinct houses and their soft lights give way to the brighter ones in convenience stops, low-rise apartment complexes, and office spaces. Rain continues to patter down. The limo eventually reaches a tangled crisscross of looping highways, shadowed to their left by a looming sports stadium and downtown skyscrapers. On the expressway’s right, the high-rises crumble away into darkness and neglect. Indistinct shapes, perhaps Oscar’s ghosts, flicker and cavort through the ruins.

Amelie: Things change a little quicker than she’s used to thinking of as kosher for a city, but the effect is nonetheless dazzling. Even in the moonlight, Amelie is gobsmacked at the sheer size of downtown, only to turn and grow a bit somber looking at the neglect on the other side of the freeway as they drive on.

It’s just as Oscar has said, this city is a lot to love.

GM: Oscar pulls off the expressway into a classically-styled faubourg with tree-lined thoroughfares. Southern live oaks, weeping willows, palm trees, carefully maintained hedges, and expansive lawns fill the neighborhood with green. Attractive rows of Greek Revival and Colonial-style homes, some small enough to be ordinary homes and others large enough to call mansions, are surrounded by ornate cast-iron fences. Classical statues of Greek nymphs and muses lend the district an aura of grace.

This late at night, the neighborhood is quiet and its streets largely deserted. Police cruisers and armed patrols with leashed attack dogs patrol the borders, keeping out jealous ghosts.

Amelie: The duality of New Orleans gives way to spit-polished streets and ancient history. Even just what she can see in the headlights and streetlamps confirms a lot of fantasies she has about this old and cultured city. Seeing the police again worries her, but her focus is quickly recaptured by thoughts of which house she’s going to spend the next year in.

“This is beautiful, Oscar… I’ve never seen a neighborhood like this where people are allowed to live in the buildings.”

GM: “Jus’ you see it durin’ the day. Is’ a pretty neighborhood to do nothin but walk ‘roun in. You can do that f’ hours, jus walk aroun’ an’ look at the ol’ houses.”

The house Oscar pulls up at it isn’t as large as some of the district’s true mansions, which are replete with sprawling grounds, high walls, and armed guards. Still, a cast-iron fence and barred gate provides what is likely enough privacy for most. Oscar stops the limo, gets out, and punches a string of numbers onto a keypad. The iron gate swings open to a white-washed, neoclassical-style home. Several palm trees sway against the light wind and rain.

Amelie: Amelie is gobsmacked again upon seeing where her aunt lives. None of her chats with her parents indicated how wealthy her aunt is. What does she do for a living to be this successful?

She does things right this time and stays where she is until Oscar opens the door, then gets out to walk under the kindly-offered umbrella. “Thank you for the ride, Oscar, you were really good company.”

GM: “S’ my job an’ pleasure. Din’t eat your beignets, so even more pleasure for me!” the chauffeur laughs.

Oscar makes several trips to carry Amelie’s luggage up the steps to the front door. Oscar rings the bell.

Amelie: Oscar’s last-minute joke lightens Amelie’s mood enough to put a slight smile on her face, but the bell’s ring rips her heart in two. One half rises up into her throat while the other drops like iron into her stomach. Petrifying as it is, she keeps a brave face and reminds herself to breathe. She silently prays she makes a good impression despite her bedhead and ratty clothes.

GM: The person who answers the door is a handsome, 40-something woman who wears her age well. She has long brown hair that falls to her upper back and matching eyes. Faint lines around her mouth give her face a slightly sad, or at least contemplative expression. She wears a v-neck green sweater, black slacks, and pair of brown loafers.

“You must be Amelie. My, you’re certainly taller than I remember.”

Amelie: Amelie feels a rush of a lot of different emotions, but she swallows a mighty few. This is awkward and it feels like she’s answering for something she’s done. But as Amelie looks up and scans her aunt’s face, for better or worse, she recognizes a lot of her mother. Strong personality, a fierce intellect, expectant of results, and, yeah—her niece’s jetlagged appearance definitely isn’t winning points.

“Hello, Aunt Christina,” is all she can really manage as she picks up her carry-on and steps into the house’s atrium. Amelie stands tall with her back straight, trying to make a good impression with her proud and correct posture after she sets down her bag.

“Sorry for looking so… ratty for our reunion, Auntie. This is not the kind of first impression I was hoping for.”

Just like her mother once taught her, no excuses. The young woman straightens her band shirt and dark sweatpants, already having tamed her thick black hair much as she could without washing and combing it.

GM: “Don’t worry about it. It’s not as if you’re headed anywhere besides bed at this hour,” Christina waves off as she leans in to give Amelie a hug. She pulls away after a moment to address the chauffeur. “Oscar, thank you for bringing her.”

“S’ my privilege, ma’am,” he replies as Amelie’s aunt retrieves a purse and counts out some bills for him. He tips his hat to the two after accepting them and calls as he leaves, “Get some beignets someplace else now, hear!”

Amelie: Amelie doesn’t expect the hug, but it does a lot for her nerves as she instinctively returns the embrace. “Thank you again, Oscar,” she waves with a fond look as the kind man leaves.

She’s left alone with her aunt again. It’s still awkward. She wonders if her aunt has questions about where her mother got off to, what her father did to her afterwards, or if she’s already gotten reports. From… somewhere.

“It was a little surreal being picked up in a limo. But… thank you. It was a good experience. Oscar told me quite a lot about New Orleans. And I—well, I don’t really know how to fit it into normal conversation, so before I get settled… thank you, Auntie. For taking me in. You didn’t need to, especially when I’m an adult, and I really can’t thank you enough.”

There’s a lot more she wants to say, but knows Amelie knows she’s rambling already. She bites her lip, unable to make proper eye contact.

GM: With her eyes staring towards the floor, Amelie can’t make out her aunt’s expression as she hears the woman reply,

“You’re welcome. You only have a year of high school left to finish, anyways, and I can’t imagine aging out of the foster system would’ve made that easy on your own. But come on, the living room’s a better place for us to talk. You can leave your bags by the stairs.”

Christina closes the front doors and leads Amelie down a picture-lined entry hall into a wider room with floor-to-ceiling windows. They overlook the palm trees and green yard outside. Several couches and leather chairs sit around a central (empty) fireplace and mantle. A few low bookshelves, lamps, and vases fill in the remaining blank space. Amelie’s aunt sits down on one of the chairs and motions at a table. There’s a laid-out spread of bread, cheese, salami, grapes, olives, vegetables with dip, and other non-junk snack foods.

“Airline food isn’t much good, so that’s there if you’re still hungry.”

Amelie: Amelie gives her aunt a small nod and does as she’s told, pulling her carry-on to lean against her luggage as she follows along into the living room. When she sees the spread, she’s surprised to see her aunt went through that kind of effort! It’s a good sign, at least, and one her empty stomach very much appreciates. She takes a mushroom and piece of meat and cheese, glad to finally get something in her stomach as she carefully sits down in another chair.

“This is wonderful, thank you. I didn’t end up eating any airline food. But… yes, I, um—there’s a lot to talk about, I guess. I have to imagine you have questions about your sister and her husband. And about me, as well.”

GM: Christina gives a slight shake of her head. “Your parents, not so much. But so far as yourself, I imagine you’ll know a better place to start than I will.”

Amelie: It’s a little strange hearing that after spending the better part of a year talking about her parents with a slew of people.

“Oh. Well, in that case I don’t really know where to start? I’m… still obsessive over history, just like when I was little. I still have that book you gave me back when, too. I fence and I smith, and I plan to make a career out that.”

Amelie slowly peters out and awkwardly grabs for something else to say about herself. “I speak… English, French, European Spanish, and German.”

GM: “You don’t say on that first language?” her aunt remarks wryly, then smiles. “That’s good you’ve been passionate over something for so long, and I’m glad you enjoyed the book. It sounds like you have your path in life fairly figured out.”

Amelie: Amelie can’t help but give a small smile and fights back a little chuckle. “English isn’t my first language, so I tend to just include it all. But as for my life, it’s a best guess… one I’m planning on achieving.”

She finishes her first little bit of finger food and takes a step out of the chair to snags another couple mushrooms. It’s clear what her favorite is.

GM: “That’s also good,” Christina nods. “You’ve been an adult for several years now, so I think it’ll be better for us both if I treat you less like a ward and more like a roommate. I’ll be around if there’s anything you need help with, of course. For the most part, you can focus on finishing high school and making a start on that fencing and smithing career, getting into college, or whatever else you want to do with your life next.”

Amelie: There it is. Amelie has thought a lot about how the ways this could go over. The current scenario actually measured rather high on her ‘possibilities’ rankings. Her aunt seems just like her mother did, only with her head ripped out of the clouds and her feet firm in her success. Amelie misses the warmth her father once was so happy to provide, but for now, it’s business.

“There is actually something I was hoping you could help me with, yes. My mother was… well, you know your own sister. Very strong, very independent, but sacrificing a lot of… social grace, maybe is the word? If I hope to strive here in New Orleans, I was hoping you could help me in those graces.”

GM: Amelie’s aunt reaches for a celery stick. “If that’s something you want to get better at, then I’d recommend you start by using more natural-sounding language. Something like ‘I want to fit in’ over ‘I hope to strive.’”

Amelie: Amelie clears her throat and clasps her hands together a bit. She’s nervous, of course, and her heart is still threatening to fall out of her nose and ass at the same time.

“I went through today a few too many times in my head, I guess. My parents never really gave me any details about you other than New Orleans and great personal success. So you’ve kind of always been this big intimidating figure for me.”

GM: “‘Great personal success’ is another one of those phrases,” Christina adds, then offers a faint smirk. “But here I am. I won’t bite.”

Amelie: Amelie sighs, her posture falling apart as she rubs the back of her neck with both hands.

“I just don’t want to be embarrassing or anything. I was raised around swearing and hard work. I have—look.”

She grabs the hem of her pants and pulls it up, revealing an old and oddly-shaped scar.

“All over. A-And I don’t know how to dress, Mom never bothered with cosmetics shit—stuff. Stuff… like that.”

Another much deeper sigh slips past and the young woman roughly scratches her head, messing up her thick black hair again.

“Les choses doivent aller bien pour baiser une fois.”

(“Things need to go well for fucking once.”)

GM: Christina cranes her neck to get a better look at the skin Amelie displays. Her expression doesn’t change at what she sees.

“Presenting yourself well is like any other skill. Some people might seem as if they have a born knack for it, but it’s just a matter of learning by example and putting the time in.” She then adds, “And money, I suppose, when it comes to dressing. I have a personal assistant who could show you around there.”

Amelie: Amelie pauses. “You have a personal assistant, on top of Oscar driving people around for you often. What—”

She cuts the rude question short. Here she is talking about wanting to be more socially graceful.

“Putting the time in doesn’t sound like a problem to me, then. What do you mean by ‘show me around there’?”

GM: “I mean go shopping with you,” her aunt elaborates. “I presumed you wanted help. But if you’d rather do it by yourself, that’s fine.”

Amelie: “Oh! No, no, that would be amazing. Bit of a hand would help in something like that.”

Watching her aunt, Amelie knows right away that a shopping trip isn’t really a big blip on her radar, but…

“Of course, I’d pay you back. My grades are good, I can tutor while in school, or help you with your work or anything else you need.”

GM: Christina waves her off. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure your parents didn’t ask you to pay for your clothes or food.”

Amelie: Amelie gives a rather coy smile for someone so jet-lagged. She leans in to grab a few more mushrooms and meat slices.

“You don’t get arms like mine from not earning your keep. I don’t want to be a drain on you, Auntie. Though now that I’ve mentioned it, I’m curious again. Do you mind me asking what you do for a living?”

GM: Her aunt smiles faintly. “The thought is touching, but don’t worry yourself there either. You won’t be. And so far as my livelihood, I work in logistics consulting.”

Amelie: Amelie offers a little smile back. Something is up with this. Her aunt’s job has just turned from a comment piece to a mystery. Especially with that hint of amusement at the mention of Amelie helping with her work. She might be coming here to live in her aunt’s house and finish high school, but she’s still an adult. She hates being told she can’t do something.

She drops the matter and relaxes a little as she pops a mushroom into her mouth and leans back into her chair.

“That sounds like it’s a lot to manage, especially if you have a personal assistant. The offer is always open, though. How about… what else… school. Is the school I’m going to be attending in the area?”

GM: “Perhaps we can talk there after you finish college, if that’s something you want to do. But so far as school, it’s the McGehee School for Girls. Their campus isn’t too many minutes away from here. It’s quite lovely.”

Amelie: Amelie’s smile gets bigger at the mention of college, until the bomb hits. School for girls? She freezes mid-fungal bite. She almost chokes on the mushroom as she jerks up and finally swallows.

“School for girls? Like a private school?”

GM: “Oh, yes, the city’s public school system is terrible,” her aunt remarks. “It’s one of the worst in the country. The public schools were all turned into for-profit charters after Katrina, and they weren’t much good even before. Everyone who can afford it sends their children to private school.”

“McGehee will be a good place for you to finish up your senior year. Class sizes are small, the graduation and college acceptance rates are close to 100%, and a fair number of teachers hold PhDs.”

Amelie: Amelie bites her lip and slumps back into her chair. This is… going to take a lot longer to pay back than a trip to American butt-fucking Apparel.

“That’s… I mean, that’s amazing, I didn’t think. I—how much—is there a pamphlet?”

GM: “They have a website,” her aunt nods. “Don’t worry about the tuition. It was only for two semesters anyway.”

“Students are required to visit the campus before getting accepted into the school. Given your living situation, I was able to talk the admissions office into deferring your visit until you’d arrived in the States. You’ll need to go in either tomorrow or Sunday.”

“The school week starts this Monday, so between that visit and the weekend, you should have some time to settle in to things.”

Amelie: Amelie tosses another salami slice into her mouth. She feels simultaneously humble and dizzy with the sudden action of it all. Worst of all, she can feel some of that blue-collar sarcasm rising up like bile.

“Is the uniform going to get me leered at, or is it not a Catholic school? I’ve never worn a skirt before.”

GM: “It’s not a religiously affiliated school,” Christina confirms. “I’ve seen girls in the uniforms. They’re fairly modest.”

Amelie: Amelie winces a bit as she realizes she let something crude slip out, then nods.

“That’s good. Sorry, I’m just… I never show my legs. I already showed you the scar. That was molten copper for a pommel decoration, and there’s more.”

GM: Her aunt reaches for an olive. “I stopped by the school a fair number of times to arrange things with admissions. The skirts on all of the girls I saw were knee-length. But I’d guess how your legs look is a bigger deal to you than it’s going to be to anyone else.”

Amelie: When a woman has a point. Amelie sighs, nods, rubs her eyes, and leans in to grab some cheese.

“You’re right. I’ll have to look it up tonight and see what I’m in for.”

She’s almost glad her aunt isn’t picking up on the Catholic schoolgirl kink joke, or at least seems to be ignoring it.

“Um… well… I’ve been asking a lot of questions. How about you? Is there anything you wanted to talk to me about?”

GM: Her aunt shakes her head. “You’re the one who’s moved three thousand miles to be here, so I’d say you have the right to ask a lot of questions. I imagine you still have others.”

Amelie: Amelie feels a little naked. Her aunt is good. But there’s one more question she has to force out.

“I have a rather… difficult one. My pieces. Back in Quebec. All the things I made, I don’t—my father lost custody but wasn’t jailed, but one of my swords, I have an… attachment to it. Is it still his?”

GM: “When you were a minor, you had the legal capacity to own property. As your legal guardian, your father acted as your fiduciary for purposes of acquiring, investing, reinvesting, exchanging, selling, and otherwise managing that property. He didn’t legally own it and ceased to have fiduciary powers when you turned eighteen,” her aunt explains.

“Or in plain English, it was always yours. If you want to bring over anything you left at your father’s, feel free.”

Amelie: “I doubt he’ll give it to me. Forged W1 tool steel, short but engraved ricosso, perfectly hand ground fuller, forge beveled and then hollow ground, perfect distal taper, and 5 degree sabering. Grip-slabs hand carved from purpleheart, riveted to the tang. Pommel Cap is hollow-ground. Non-traditional knuckle guard despite the 180 degree mild steel crossguard.”

Amelie almost wakes up from a trance talking about her work, then clears her throat. She’s sold too many weapons.

“It’s worth a grand a half, easily. If he even still has it, after this many years… I dunno if I’ll be getting it back.”

GM: Amelie’s aunt regards her technical description of the sword with a somewhat blank look.

“Well, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do if he can’t or won’t return it. Pursuing legal action against someone in another country is an absurd hassle. But I’ll reimburse him for shipping if you can get him to send it over.”

Amelie: Amelie flushes a little at the blank look. She adjusts in her seat and nods.

“I wasn’t really considering suing him over a kriegmesser. I’ll give him a call next week, I just wanted to see if I had any rights to it. Sorry, I’ve been making these damn things long enough the technicals are nearly lullabies.”

She shifts in her seat to look around the house. She feels small again as soon as she regards its size.

“Would it be okay if I packed up some of this food and went to see my room?”

GM: “Feel free. It’s the former guest room on the second floor.”

Christina rises from her seat and picks up the platter.

“That’s too bad you misplaced the sword. It sounds like it was important to you.”

Amelie: Amelie stands up quickly, but there’s a frown on her face the moment the sword gets mentioned again.

“They didn’t let me take it. No deadly weapons allowed in foster care, couldn’t afford a big enough deposit box, and my mother is… probably in Rio with some mouth breather, and I ran out of time before I could think anything else up.”

The young woman shakes out her legs and stretches tall.

“Thank you, though… it is important, as stupid as it sounds. Can I take that to the kitchen for you?”

GM: “Language,” her aunt says mildly as she passes over the plate. “I’m sorry to hear you weren’t allowed to keep it then. And sure. Put some saran wrap over whatever you don’t take upstairs. If you’re still hungry, there’s more food in the fridge. Feel free to help yourself.”

Amelie: Amelie smiles a tiny bit. “If that’s bad language in New Orleans, Canada would give the locals a heart attack.”

It’s a tease of course as she takes the platter and thanks her aunt, then turns and heads towards where she assumes the kitchen is. She resolves to explore if she’s wrong.

GM: “It’s not what’s said, but when and where,” Christina retorts with a trace of wryness. “Anyways, sleep well. Feel free to explore, or I can give you a tour tomorrow. And welcome to New Orleans.” With that, Amelie’s aunt bids her good night and heads upstairs.

The kitchen has a dark brown hardwood floor and white cupboards and cabinets. An island with a black granite countertop and bowl of fruit sits in the center of the room, surrounded by several identically-colored chairs. Amelie finds saran wrap after rummaging through a few drawers. A random scan of the clear metal refrigerator’s interior reveals leafy green vegetables, more fruits, yogurt, almond milk, takeout boxes, a few precooked meals in glass dishes, and various other food items she might expect to find from an upscale grocery store like Whole Foods.

Amelie: Amelie waves and wishes her aunt a good night. Once it’s quiet, she stops to take inventory on what happened today. Oscar, the trip, Aunt Christina, and how hard she is to read. Maybe being a cool person is just how she works, or maybe she just has a tough shell? Amelie doesn’t know.

She goes about wrapping up what she doesn’t intend to eat and puts the rest on a plate. She washes and dries the big tray and puts it away before she turns to leave. She starts with her plate of food and carry-on bag, hauling them up and into the guest room once she finds it. The day starts to wear on her now that it’s almost over. She hopes to see an attached or at least nearby bathroom.

GM: Amelie finds that her new bedroom on the second floor contains a double-sized bed and two adjacent bedside tables with lamps on them. There’s a desk, dresser, and picture of a ship sailing by a forested coast. She also has an attached bathroom.

A window overlooks the house’s lawn and cast-iron fence. Amelie can make out near and distant lights from the Garden District’s other fine homes. They’re nestled among the greenery like the now-silent cicadas. In their place, raindrops steadily plunk against the roof.

Amelie: It’s a lot more than she’s used too. As Amelie looks around the room she can’t help but visualize what she had before. Her mattress on the floor and the loft walls a pyramid over her head, covered in every inch with posters and magazine cut-outs of everything from beautiful faces to large charts detailing the reactivity of carbon housed in common iron when introduced to borax solution. Now there’s this… big window looking out like an eye over a nice yard.

As much as she misses the familiarity, she knows things can be different here. She already has more than she did in that ratty apartment after Mom vanished. She drops her carry-on onto the bed, puts her food back down, and grabs her luggage back from downstairs. She yanks it onto the bed, then lays out some sleeping clothes before tossing her disgusting life-of-their-own travel clothes into the corner. She hops into the bathroom with her toiletries kit. She thanks whatever gods are listening that she doesn’t have to make good on her promise of stabbing someone for a wash.

It’s a long one, and she hopes her aunt doesn’t need the hot water anytime soon as she scrubs the last 24 hours out of her bones. It’s an odd feeling to walk out of the shower and not immediately regret it. There’s no cold chill or freezing tiles, yet there’s still windows in the room. It’s fucking magic. Amelie is in a shirt and boxers just a moment later, checking the time on her laptop as she unpacks and eats. Maybe there’s enough time to make that call. A day can only get so stressful before it watersheds.

Amelie walks back down to the first floor. Her only option without a cellphone is the house’s landline. She’s brought a pad of paper and a pen for her to write details down on, but the ache in her gut tells her it’s not going to make keeping her emotions down any easier. But calling her father serves a lot more purposes. She’s not spoken to him since she was first put into foster care, and who knows how her absence affected him. But she dials the number, clears her throat and hopes he answers. Her hand remains ready to write.

GM: The phone rings and rings. Amelie is almost convinced that no one is going to pick up before a man’s voice grogs, “Hello?”

Amelie: Amelie is just about to hang up before she gets that familiar grogging answer. It’s hard not to just hang up.

“Salut, Père. Est-ce que je t’ai réveillé?”

(“Hello, Dad. Did I wake you up?”)

GM: “What d’you want?” he grunts in English.

Amelie: Amelie rolls her eyes. Of course this is the reaction she’ll get. Fucking drunk.

“I’m settled in New Orleans. I wanted to know If I pay shipment, will you drop off my Kriegsmesser at a post office? You know, the one I spent 200 hours on?”

GM: “Wha?” the voice over the phone mumbles.

Amelie: “Dad, this is Amelie. Your daughter? The one you haven’t talked to in ages?”

GM: “Th’ hell are you talking abou’, Krigsmess? It’s not Christmas.”

Amelie: “The sword, Dad. The big one, in my old room. Wake up, go splash water on your face.”

GM: “I threw out your stuff. Don’ call again.”

The line hangs up.

Amelie: Amelie just about slams the phone on the floor before she hangs it up. She looks back down at her writing notes and nearly tears the paper with the ballpoint before slamming it down on the counter. She leaves it there by the phone. She stalks away back upstairs. Every fiber of her being screams that he must be lying, but she knows her father well enough. Her masterpiece is gone.

She throws herself into bed instead of fuming about it any longer. This isn’t the first time she’s had to force herself to sleep. It is the first time she’s had to do so in another house than that drunk bastard’s. Tomorrow will be better.

It has to be.