Scene 15: Deviation

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She slowly pulled herself up off the floor of her workshop. She just needed a moment. Or three. She took a deep breath, but it wasn’t helping. She wanted to go downstairs, but didn’t trust herself to remain in control. There was something wrong with the black mage- he’d been seizing. Did she do that? She really really needed to look up information on the human body. And if it was her fault, did that make her a murderer?

Probably not, said a small part of herself. At the very least, she didn’t shove him with the intention of murdering him. And no court in the land would charge her with a crime for doing it. Sure, her method- the modified amulet- was illegal, but it was done in the name of protecting people and defending herself against black mages.

Granted, this was the same bunch that thought it was fine to murder people in alleyways. Though she wasn’t being fair, here. Incompetence was far more common a cause for injustice than malice. The people in charge might not realize that the laws they put into place with good intentions were being used to excuse needless murder.  And her own father had murdered someone in an alley. How did she keep forgetting that? But Amalia’s mind shied away from thinking about it. Besides, that was hardly relevant right now.

And no- the watchguard had said it was the second time this week that someone had been found seizing. So it was unlikely that the black mage’s seizures had anything to do with her. She took a couple more deep breaths, and did a quick once-over of her workshop. There was nothing incriminating out, and all the parts of the amulets were safely stored away in the box. The authorities had no reason to search her things, and would need permission from her mother to search the house, so that was one less problem she had to deal with.

So all she needed was a cover story. How did she explain Mr. Black mage’s aerial dive down the steps?

“M’lady?” Great. They were outside her door again.

“Yes?”

“We need to take your statement.”

She looked up at the ceiling, letting out a breath. This was exactly what she didn’t want. It wasn’t like she could stall them. She’d tried that before with a different set of watchguards and she wasn’t keen on- “Don’t listen to her anymore. I’ll bet you ten to one she set the explosion.”– repeating that experience. Fuck. Fuck, not again. She sucked a breath of air and choked on her own spit.

“M’lady? M’lady, are you alright?”

She wiped her mouth, and stood up straight, leaning experimentally on her ankle. No, she wasn’t stalling. She wrapped her robe tightly around herself, and really this was entirely improper. People weren’t supposed to see each other in their nightclothes, of all things. Irrelevant. She needed to keep control over the situation, while making the watchguards feel like they were in control. Play the part of the haughty noble who’d suffered through a break-in. A totally innocent civilian who trusted the watchguards.

She squared her shoulders and opened the door, brushing past the watchguard. Well, as much as one could brush past someone while limping.

“I’m quite well, thank you.” She walked down the hall and almost stumbled into the other watchguard- the woman who’d said Amalia had shellshock- who was coming out of the storage room.

Oh shit. She still had the boxes set up from her experiment in there, and there was that nasty scorch mark on the floor and the rhasi coin-shaped holes in the wall.

“James, you’ve gotta see this.” the watchguard said. Amalia stood there frozen in the hallway. The watchguards weren’t masters of engimancy, but they had to know some basic magical knowledge to be able to do their jobs.

Amalia leaned on the doorframe of the storage room, watching the two watchguards crowd around the scorch mark.

“M’lady, did you see or hear anything from you room?” asked James the watchguard.

“I- no. I was-” she cleared her throat. “I locked myself in. Tried putting the bookshelf in front of the door, but it was too heavy.” Lies mixed with the truth always seemed more realistic, more believable.

“No noise? Flashes of light under the door?”

“There was a bang.” Well, there was. When the black mage cracked his head on her ceiling. “And the mad woman was shouting and laughing. But neither of them ever reached my room.”

“I see.” The watchguard returned to the scorch mark. “I think black magic was done here, though I’m not sure what the effect was supposed to be.”

What.

“Black magic?” Amalia asked. Her amulet was certainly not black magic. It was engimancy, pure clean and simple.

“Scorch marks like these are fairly common when dealing with black magic, though they’re usually much larger.”

“Huh.” Amalia moved closer, eyeing the scorch mark with renewed interest. Well, that was one piece of information she was filing away for further inspection later on after this was all over. She knew for a fact that her invention was not black magic, but this suggested-

“How much larger, if you don’t mind me asking?” Amalia said.

The watchguard gave her a funny look, and Amalia realized her error. She was displaying too much interest, and they’d start to think-“You’re just some drek trying to trick us! What’s your real name?”

“I meant, because the room might be contaminated.” She choked out, clutching the amulet around her neck. Even if they took out their guns and fired, she was safe. For a few shots, at any rate. And her offensive amulet was in her pocket. It wouldn’t do much, but it’d be enough to create a quick distraction. She was safe.

“I assure you m’lady, the room isn’t contaminated. The power of the spell, whatever it was, is small and the energy was spent.” But the watchguard was still looking at her speculatively. And Lothar was lying limp, skull shattered from the shot at point-blank range. Then the watchguard turned to her, revolver aimed at her, point blank- No. No, come on. You know what’s real and what isn’t. Her knuckles were white around the amulet.

She shut her eyes, breathing out through her nostrils sharply. “Could the power have gone downwards instead of outwards? If a support beam is charred like that, the structural integrity of the building could be compromised.” Internally, she rewarded herself for coming up with that so quickly. It was the sort of question someone would ask, if they thought someone had done black magic in their home.

The watchguard visibly relaxed. “No, that’s not the nature of spells like these. Your house is safe.”

Amalia loosened her grip on the amulet. See? All good.

“You got here very quickly.” she said, changing the subject. “I’m very impressed, especially considering that the security system said you’re five to seven minutes out.”

James and the other watchguard looked at one another, frowning. Amalia paused. That was not the reaction she was expecting.

“It took five minutes?” But that wasn’t possible. Unless- well, the brain did all sorts of things when stressed. For all she knew, it could’ve been five minutes, or even seven. But then, it felt like only seconds. The whole thing took maybe two minutes at most. Or at least, that’s what it felt like to her. The reality of the matter could be a whole other story.

“We were nearby already.”

“Oh.” right. Then she wasn’t going insane. That was always good news. “And my guard? He was on duty monitoring the perimeter.”

James the watchguard stood up, brushing off the knees of his uniform. “A little banged up, but he’ll be alright.”

“Excellent.” she didn’t want to replace her guard, again. It was bad enough the first time. The other watchguard stood and followed James the watchguard out the room.

Neither watchguard even looked at the holes in the wall. Amalia internally sighed in relief. Unobservant. That was good. Well, not for the innocents who needed these watchguards to solve crimes for them, but it was certainly working out in her favor.

She followed them down the steps. At the bottom the third watchguard, a large man, was holding a small handmirror, no doubt recording the layout.

“Check upstairs. There’s a scorch mark- think one of them was tryin to do some damage, didn’t work, whatever it was.” said the female watchguard. The large watchguard nodded, and started up the steps. Amalia pressed herself to the bannister so he could pass. The stairs really weren’t meant for two people to use at the same time. She stepped down, avoiding the body at the bottom of the steps, and crossed her living room, surveying the damage.

The front door was in splinters, debris spread across the living room. The windows facing the street were shattered inwards, glass covering the floor. No bare feet downstairs, then. She grimaced, limping back towards the kitchen to get a vantage point that was less likely to result in bloody feet.

Her favorite squishy chair was overturned, and featuring bulletholes. The coffee table was singed, and there were bulletholes in the wall. Not to mention the two corpses, the female black mage lying in front of the front door and the male black mage lying at the bottom of the stairs. She could see the woman’s tattoos from here.

Amalia pursed her lips. She could sneak upstairs and get a pad of paper, draw them out while the watchguards were- no. No, that was stupid, even for her. And it wasn’t like she could ask the watchguards if they were really some kind of spell. At this distance, it was difficult to make out the individual whorls.

But she’d never heard of anyone painting whorls on themselves. To what purpose? Magic travelled through metal and crystal most easily and ink, blood, and flesh were poor substitutes. Only maybe the weakest of weak spells could be carried through ink without the paper combusting. And that mad woman didn’t seem like someone who did anything subtle.

It might just be decorative. But Amalia was starting to wonder. Black mages did a great number of things that the average person thought was impossible. They turned themselves into animals and did things that required immense amounts of energy. Black magic then, either broke the laws of magic or… maybe the laws only described a small portion of what magic was capable of, because after you keep seeing the so-called laws violated in front of your face so many times, you can’t call them laws anymore.

Amalia bit her lip, feeling increasingly nervous as she stood in her kitchen, watching the two watchguards bent over the body of the male black mage. Evidence suggested that the laws were not actually laws, but theories that only described some of the big picture. Of course, she had no idea what the rest of that big picture looked like, and probably never would. At least, not until she was Head of House di Danti, and was exempt from being compelled.

Fine. It was pointless to think about it now, anyway. She needed a few hours to herself and the library to even start entertaining that line of thought. Besides, there was the answer to another one of her questions right in front of her.

“You mentioned something about the seizures happening before.” Amalia said to the watchguards examining the male black mage’s body. “Did other black mages suffer from his condition?”

“Yes, acute acidosis.” said the female watchguard. “We don’t know what’s causing it.”

“Well,” said James the watchguard, “we do know it’s black magic.”

Acute acidosis? Never heard of that before.

“But this has happened before?”

“Yes. Whenever they’re about to be caught they’ll-” she cut herself off. “We don’t know how they’re doing it.”

“So you’re saying he committed suicide? How do they trigger it?”

“I apologize, but it’s an ongoing investigation.”

“That’s fine. I understand.” Amalia frowned. “Is the suicide part meant to be kept quiet as well?”

“It’s been a tactic used by black mages on and off since the 870’s.” said James the watchguard, dryly. “Bit difficult to keep it a secret.”

The female watchguard scowled at him.

“What?” he said, “she’s a noble.”

“Rules are rules, James.”

James rolled his eyes and turned to Amalia. “Yeah, don’t mention it, will you?”

“I’m hardly going to have my rescuers punished for answering my questions.” Amalia said, lips quirked.

The female watchguard looked between them, sighed, and went back to scribbling in her notebook. “And besides, James, you’re wrong about the dates. It hasn’t been on and off. It’s only very recently that the acidosis spell has been used by black mages on black mages. Before it was just their victims.”

Amalia raised her eyebrows. Now that was interesting. “What sparked the change?”

“We don’t know.” the woman shrugged. And now James was looking uncomfortable. She turned and raised a brow at him.

Amalia was beginning to feel slightly annoyed. The little silent argument, and using her to prove some kind of point was immature. Oh well, their immaturity was working out in her favor.

“But this only changed recently?” Amalia asked. This would be the last question, because otherwise she was pushing it.

“Within the last year.” The female watchguard frowned at her.

“I won’t tell my father I heard it from you, but if I can, I’ll see if I can have him allocate some resources to solving this mystery.”

James smiled. “Thanks. We appreciate it, but really there’s no need.”

“Consider it repayment for saving my life.”

The two watchguards looked at one another again. And Amalia got it. They were together. She hid her smile. That was definitely against regulations. Oh well. That was not nearly as bad as threatening to shoot unarmed civilians, so she supposed she could forgive them.

Amalia limped back towards the kitchen, lowering herself onto one of the chairs by the table. No point in aggravating her ankle more. Her father would be arriving soon and she dreaded that conversation. In spite of the reassurances of the watchguards, there was a chance of structural damage. Twice the house shook from the force of the black mage’s spells. She doubted she would be living here much longer, at least, not until the house was fixed.

Which meant that her father would be insisting she move back to the manor. And Amalia wouldn’t mind it at all if she could move back for a week. She missed her home a lot. But this was supposed to be a step towards independence.

If she went home this soon after she moved out, they’d get into a routine. Her father would deal with driving her to school from the manor every morning, and then it would simply be easier to continue on as they were doing than move everything back to Nottingate House.

If she went home, she wouldn’t go back to living at her townhouse. Which would mean no more library trips and no more unauthorized experiments in her workshop.

And that was unacceptable.

Of course, she could insist that the drive would be too taxing, and ask to stay at Aunt Basileia’s townhouse. Her aunt lived in the city, and while the old bat was always a major pain to live with, she would understand Amalia’s plight and help her.

There was some kind of commotion going on outside. Amalia heard raised voices and shouting. And among the voices, Amalia heard her father’s.

Great. Judge jury and executioner, come to take her home.

He stormed in through the remains of the broken door, sidestepping the dead woman neatly. His face was thunderous with barely held back rage.

“Who did this and why?” His question wasn’t aimed at Amalia, but at the two watchguards.

“We don’t know yet.”

“What do you mean you don’t know yet? Dispatch said you had the bastard and were taking him in for questioning.”

“Acidosis, m’lord.”

He scowled. “Again? And you couldn’t stop him?”

“There was a lot going on.”

“I will be informing your superiors.”

“Father.” Amalia said from her perch in the kitchen. “I was there when it happened. There was little they could’ve done.”

He turned to her, face twisting in a number of emotions. Amalia identified fear and relief being the primary ones.

“I thought I told you to keep the aegis charged.”

“Typically, I do.” She said. It was a feeble defense. This was one of those arguments she knew she was going to lose no matter what she said. She couldn’t explain her real reasons for not charging the aegis. Telling him that she hadn’t charged it because she’d been unable to sleep and therefore less on top of things than usual, and because she needed the storage room to run illegal experiments, was not in the cards.

“Typically? You’ve only been here a week!” Right. So what was the best outcome from this conversation? To get him to stop yelling quickly, because it was frustrating and annoying. And get him to allow her to stay at Aunt Basileia’s.

“It was a busy week.” She said, keeping her tone even.

“Busy we-…” he huffed, “that’s what this is? Almost dying twice is just a busy week?”

“Alright. Maybe I used the wrong word there. Point is, I’m fine. I’m in one piece. The black mages never even reached me.”

“They should’ve never gotten in the house to begin with!”

“Of course not, but the end result is that I’m fine, and the failsafes in the system worked as they should. I’m not exactly sure how the black mages knew the power was low.”

“That isn’t the point. This is your life, Amalia. You keep involving yourself in these situations and putting yourself in danger. You have no responsibility.”

“I- “ I’ve been dealing with a lot. Well, she couldn’t say that. “This is a big change. I needed some time to adjust. I can assure you that I won’t be going to citywide events any longer. And I won’t make these mistakes anymore.”

“No, you won’t be.” Seriously? Damnit. She really shouldn’t have lead with that. Because she knew exactly what was coming out of his mouth next.

“You’re coming home and staying there.”

“No.”

“I am your father. If I say you’re going home, you’re going home!”

“I am also an adult in college. I’m staying at Aunt Basileia’s while the damage to Nottingate House is repaired.”

“An adult? Is this the behavior of an adult? Just because you like playing house on your own doesn’t mean you’re ready-”

“Mother will agree with me.”

There was silence for a moment. Amalia continued. “She wants me to gain maturity. You can’t expect me to make all the right choices straight away. I’m going to make mistakes. But I’ll learn from them. That’s the whole point of this, to allow me to gain some perspective and responsibility. I won’t forget the charging crystals again. And I’ve never ditched my guard or done anything like that, and I always wear my amulet when outside the house. And even you know that the events of the parade, the bombing, had nothing to do with me. Next time something like that happens, I’ll walk away.”

It was, in part, the truth. It was why she took so long to go to mother for help with the journal. She wanted to fix her own mistakes.

Father was looking at her. His jaw was clenched and his lips were pressed together, as if he were holding himself back from making some kind of comment.

“I will be speaking to your mother about this.”

She nodded, and then picked her way around the glass and went towards the staircase. She needed to gather her books for class tomorrow and pack an overnight bag.

“How long do you think it will take to finish repairs?”

Her father frowned, looking around. “A week or so, maybe more.”

Risking another argument, Amalia asked, “how long until I can live here again?”

“Depends on how the conversation with your mother goes.”

Amalia gave him a dirty look. He relented. “Most of the damage looks superficial. A day or two.”

“Good.”

“Does Basileia know you’re staying at her house yet?”

“She’s been calling on me. I doubt she’ll mind the company.”

“It’s highly improper. Your mother will not be pleased.” Meaning that she was going to lose points with her mother, which meant mother would be less likely to side with her in the coming argument. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Knowing mother, she’d just have the new guard check the crystals every night. Amalia couldn’t suggest that herself, because then she’d be accused of being irresponsible. But that was what was going to happen. Father would be appeased because he’d be assured of her safety. And mother would be pleased because she’d avoid dealing with Amalia and Father arguing for the next three weeks.

“Aunt will understand the circumstances were unfortunate.”

He frowned again, and then turned to find the watchguards, who’d disappeared the moment father and daughter started arguing.

Amalia leaned on the bannister, taking the steps slowly. She had an overnight bag under her bed, and she’d have to get dressed in proper robes instead of her nightshirt and bathrobe.

And if she was going to have strangers in her home fixing things, that meant she’d better move the box containing her illegal endeavors somewhere workers wouldn’t look. She wouldn’t be there to oversee them fixing things, so she wouldn’t know if they were in her room or not. Not that they’d know she wasn’t allowed to take apart the amulets, but it was always better to be safe.

Her Aunt’s house was similar to her’s. It was a tall brick house in the northwest quadrant of Port Drebon. It was too far to walk to school, so Amalia would be renting a coach in the morning. It wasn’t that much of a bother, but she would have to wake up earlier.

Aunt Basileia did not greet her at the door, her butler did. The man looked at her with undisguised disdain.

“Good Evening, m’lady. The lady of the house is currently indisposed. I suggest you come back tomorrow, during the day.”

For goodness’ sake. It was only 9PM. “I’m her niece, Amalia. You met me once before, when I was younger. I wouldn’t impose on you so late at night, but there was an incident at my house. May I speak with her?”

The butler frowned. “I will ask. Wait here.”

Three minutes later, Aunt Basileia appeared at the door, frowning. She had her white hair pulled back in an elaborate bun, and was wearing robes she wouldn’t even consider wearing outside of an incredibly formal occasion.

Such was life with Aunt Basileia.

Most outer robes only went down to the thighs, and lately it was becoming common to wear a thin belt at the waist instead of the the thick wrap that older people wore at the waist, over the outer robes. Aunt Basileia’s robes touched the ground, completely covering her pants. And her cloth wrap covered everything from her ribs down to her hips.

Amalia could only imagine what Aunt Basileia was thinking. Amalia’s trousers were almost completely uncovered, and her whole outfit was less formal than what her Aunt considered acceptable. Honestly, she hadn’t thought to bring any of her formal clothes with her. She figured if she needed them, she could pick them up from the manor.

“Good evening, Amalia. What is this incident that brings you here so late?”

“Black mages attacked my house.”

Aunt Basileia’s eyebrows rose a fraction of an inch. “And this resulted in a desperate need to see your living relations?”

“Going to the manor for the night would be inconvenient, and you did say you wanted me to visit.” Amalia grinned.

“So you plan on imposing on me overnight?”

“With your permission.”

“Well you’re hardly giving me a choice, showing up with your luggage.”

Amalia just smiled.

“Come in then. I’ve been meaning to have a chat with you.”

In this case, a chat meant sitting in Aunt Basileia’s stuffy parlor. She remembered all the rules. She didn’t it until Aunt Basileia sat down, and waited to be served her drinks. Then she made sure to wait until Aunt had taken her first sip before taking her’s. Then there was the obligatory compliments on the decor (it was old and dreadful) and the drinks (too bitter for her taste.) Of course, Aunt Basileia wouldn’t want to hear Amalia’s real opinions, and it’d be rude to voice them, besides.

It was an elaborate dance, and Amalia had mastered it by the time she was a teenager. Once the niceties were finished, they got to the real conversation.

“You almost died.”

“Side effect of being attacked- “

“Twice in the last week, no less.”

Amalia sipped her bitter drink. “I’m aware.”

“Well, at least there’s that. Now explain.”

“Which instance?”

“My niece is not this stupid. She does not pick up books of black magic and take them home with her.”

“Ah.” Amalia played with the rim of her cup. “That.”

“Yes, that.” Aunt Basileia echoed.

“It was one of the few instances where I was offered information on something I’m slightly curious about. The information is scarce, and I had very little time to come to a decision. Were either of those variables altered, I likely wouldn’t have taken the journal.”

Aunt Basileia wasn’t the sort of person to have moral quibbles over whether or not Amalia should be curious about black magic. It was a bit of a relief, actually.

“And in those few minutes you didn’t stop to think of the consequences?”

“I thought the evidence hadn’t been catalogued yet.”

“And you didn’t wonder why the box was in your father’s office to begin with?”

“Not until after. Then I realized the danger I was in.”

“Danger?” Aunt Basileia let out a little laugh. “You are a di Danti. Short of finding you actively practicing black magic over the body of dead child, you are safe. Watchguards can be bought off and documents can be buried.”

“Then why are we having this chat?”

“Your father was not meant to have those documents on his desk.”

Amalia froze, cup halfway to her lips. “Then…”

“Your parents, or more specifically, your mother, has been having your father pull documents from the archives. It’d be no matter, they’d be put back and no one would be any wiser, except the evidence in a high-profile case was found missing and a few days later your father shot and killed a watchguard.”

Amalia set down the cup. “What’s going to happen?”

“Your mother still maintains a fair amount of pull, but the di Danti name has been involved in quite a bit of scandal. Or should I say, your father has been involved in quite a deal of scandal. It’s a miracle we’ve managed to maintain this level of power for this long.”

“Scandal? My father?”

“It’s no matter. Your mother will sort this out. She’s quite good at that. But I’d avoid causing trouble between now and then, otherwise his opposition might gain enough sway to pass the vote of no confidence.”

Amalia paled. They were doing what?

“Why did my father need the journal?”

“Politics. She does someone a favor, and they do her favors in return.”

“So someone needed what’s in that journal? But it’s black magic.”

“I fear for the future of our house, if that’s what you think of first.” Aunt Basileia shook her head, her upper lip curled. “But I highly doubt your mother would do something as risky as giving away information on black magic. She’s not stupid. You won’t be questioned on this, and I don’t see why your mother insists on keeping you ignorant of the world.”

“So you’re going to tell me what’s going on?”

“I won’t say who, only that someone in the family was involved with some disreputable sorts at one point in their life, and your mother kept them out of trouble, on the stipulation that the person keep away from those disreputable sort of people. Otherwise associating with them would be detrimental to her own image, you see.”

“So she suppressed information on their indiscretions, and is using father to keep suppressing the information.”

“Yes. And is making sure that they are keeping up their end of the bargain.”

Amalia sipped her drink, thinking. So someone in the family had been involved in what? Drugs? Adultery? Well, it wasn’t Cousin Francis. He was too much a prig to ever get involved with something as lowbrow as drug addiction, and wasn’t married. Same went for Philomena. Was it someone older? Uncle Lawrence always seemed on top of things, so it probably wasn’t him. Uncle Charles was much too quiet. And…honestly, it was hard to imagine any of them doing anything so…

Oh. Philomena’s mother. She’d left years ago and never returned.

“Wait. Why would information- was Lothar Czako involved in drugs?”

It wasn’t hard imagining Philomena’s mother having an affair, but she couldn’t imagine the woman doing it with someone from Old City. She was much too fancy for that. And a drug addiction? Well, probably not. She always had been a little high strung…

“No, not to my knowledge. And again, I fear for the future of our house. You lack most of the information to solve this little puzzle, and you’ll only come to the wrong conclusions.”

“So you won’t tell me any more?”

“No, to do so would be to defy the Head of House di Danti.”

“And my father… the no confidence ruling. How likely is that?”

“Pike and Pennington and their ilk have been trying to pass that for the last seven years. The Nobles and Judges are split down the middle on the issue, but more of them owe your mother or are too reliant on your mother’s contributions to their businesses to do little more than complain into their tea. As it stands, I doubt anything will come of it.”

Amalia frowned. “Then why tell me at all?”

“Because you need to be aware that your actions have unintended consequences.”

“I see. Aunt, may I ask you a question?”

“If you must.”

“I’ve been doing some research lately, and noticed that the population declined greatly between 874 and 877. Also, there has been a steady decrease in students attending University since 874. Do you know why?”

Aunt Basileia placed her tea on the coffee table, and folded her hands in her lap, staring at Amalia intently.

“How did you learn of this?”

“It’s public record.”

“Well, that’s because it’s no great mystery. There was a great amount of political upheaval at the time. People were in hysterics because of the Harkow Tragedy, of course. And then there were these alarmists spreading all sorts of nonsense. They’d tell everyone that the government was seizing power, and that the old ways were disappearing, all sorts of nonsense. Some of them gained followers, and they had a great number of the lower classes fooled- you know how they can be- so they convinced those people to leave for other countries.”

“And the Universities?”

“A lot of the money allocated to education was moved towards defense.”

“It’s that simple?”

“Yes. Are you disappointed? Did you imagine some great conspiracy?”

“Not-”

“You did. And that is because you are still young and just clever enough to trick yourself into thinking you know better. Most of the time the answer is something mundane and simple, but the grand conspiracy makes for a better story.”

“I hardly would mistake life for a story-”

“It is a failing most people share. We want the things surrounding us to fit in a narrative, and we create patterns where there are none.”

“I know that.”

“Then accept the answer and move on.”

Amalia nodded, and they concluded their chat.

But Amalia wasn’t accepting that answer. Because the books wouldn’t be missing from the libraries, and Aunt Basileia wouldn’t have put down her cup if she didn’t need all her focus to spin it in such a way that Amalia would believe that it was something simple and mundane.

But thinking of it now, asking people who’d lived through the events wasn’t a terrible idea. After class tomorrow, she could ask Uncle Lawrence. After all, he owned the press. He probably had copies of old newspapers. They were required to report the truth in newspapers, so Amalia could probably find out exactly what was going on through him.

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