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Into the Fire -1

by StellaThomas


1. CASIA

AN- particularly looking for thoughts on pace!

Mrs Saunders was the type of person that made Casia want to travel second class.

The old woman sat with her lacework in arthritic, ungloved hands and chattered away as she worked. “What brings you to the country my dear?”

“Business,” Casia said shortly, trying to return her gaze to the slim book between her hands.

“Dealing with the family estate?” Mr Saunders had a terrible habit of smacking her lips when she finished a sentence.

“Yes, just checking up on it. What about you?”

“Oh, just visiting.” Mrs Saunders waved her hand and momentarily concentrated fully on her work, which only confirmed Casia’s suspicions. Since her twenty-first birthday had passed two weeks before, she was no longer obliged to bring a chaperone everywhere, which meant her aunt Helena had had to find more creative ways of keeping track of Casia’s activities. If that involved employing Aliepe’s considerable widow and old maid population as spies, it wouldn’t have surprised Casia. It really wouldn’t have.

Mrs Saunders talked largely to herself as Casia closed her book to look out the window. Oh, but she did love first class. The smell of leather rising off the rich dark brown seats, the autumn sunlight from outside caught the gilt on the luggage rack. Everything was so pristine, Casia felt conspicuous, so large and imperfect. She smoothed the burgundy wool of her coat down self-consciously, a movement which only served to draw Mrs Saunders’ attention.

“I must say, that is a simply exquisite coat. I can only assume from the cut that it is new?”

The wide black buttons, the flat lines with no waist, the wide sleeves that left the leather wrists of her gloves exposed. It screamed ‘modern’, a concept of which she was sure Mrs Saunders did not know the meaning.

“Well, it’s very nice, and well-suited to your particular figure. We can’t all be built like your sister!” Mrs Saunders patted her belly and Casia was outraged. She may have been bigger than Flick on the chest and hips but she hoped she still resembled her sister more than this vile old woman.

“Thank you,” was all she said.

It did not quell Mrs Saunders. “Of course, the papers would have us believing Flick is making all the rules up herself…”

There was one thing that Casia wanted to do less than listen to Mrs Saunders talk aimlessly, and that was listen to Mrs Saunders sing Flick’s praises. Casia didn’t understand the ability of these women to talk about her so much- had none of them experienced the pain of having a younger, prettier sister? Instead of listening, she opened her book again. Or rather, Fred’s book. He had complained that she and Flick were rotting their brains by reading too many novels and had lent them books from his family’s collection. Naturally, they were all books about magic. This one, a brief history of magic’s influence on Aliepe’s culture, was as boring as dust. She’d kill Fred next time she saw him. Which, knowing Fred, would probably be later that night. He would want to hear about the sale.

Her mind began to wander to the sale, to her accounts, and she was crunching numbers as they pulled into another country station and pulled off again. A minute later, a commotion erupted in the First Class corridor.

“I won’t have your kind in my compartment! Go on, get out! Get down to third where you belong. The war’s over, you needn’t act like you own the place anymore!”

Casia jumped up and threw her compartment door open. Heads appeared from each of the neighbouring compartments to see the two men arguing. One, the one who was shouting, was an overstuffed bureaucrat, in a bowler hat and a pinstriped suit. The other’s face Casia could not see, but the back of his coat was threadbare.

“Excuse me, sir?” Both turned and Casia hid her shock as the second man did so. He had a third eye. It was milky blind, set into his right cheekbone, but it was enough to Mark him as a magician.

It was to this man that Casia addressed herself. “There is room in our compartment- Mrs Saunders, I’m sure you don’t mind?” She glanced over her shoulder at Mrs Saunders, who clearly loved gossip so much she didn’t care either way, nodded fervently.

Casia beckoned the man with a hand and she heard mutters as people recognised her from her photographs. The magician clearly did too, and approached with caution. “I know who you are,” he said, his voice shaking. “You’re Henry Salamander’s daughter.”

“Then you will know my father never approved of prejudice against magicians. Come. All are welcome with me.”

She resisted giving the suited man a glare, but could practically feel his eyes popping out of his skull as the magician followed her into the compartment.

It made her smile.

“Since you know my name, it would please me to know yours,” Casia said, drawing the rattling compartment door shut behind the man.

“Saracel Boden.” He doffed his cap and Casia reached her hand out. He shook it. There was a tremble in his grasp.

“Casia Salamander,” she asserted. “And this is Mrs Elenora Saunders,” she added. Mrs Saunders did not want to shake hands, only nodding and staring some more with her pale blue eyes. Casia gestured to the bench which Mrs Saunders was sitting on, and then sat opposite Mr Boden. “What caused that trouble?” she asked. “Was he provoked?”

Mr Boden shook his head. “No, miss- of course I could lie if I wanted, but truly all I did was open the compartment door.”

Casia sighed. “I hate to sound like a snob, but he reeked of new money. Definitely made his fortune during the war. Sad, but true. You’d never catch one of the old families acting in such a way. We know too many good people who happen to be magicians.”

“Although some magicians also made their fortunes during the war.” He smiled a thin smile. He was wringing his hands over and over in his lap.

“In the field?”

He shook his head. “Munitions. I started up a company advising factory owners. Magic consultant, I called myself. After the war ended I branched out to other types of industry as well. Doing nicely, if I may say so myself.” His accent was rough, his voice quiet.

“I’m glad you’re doing well for yourself,” Casia said with genuine feeling.

“But I haven’t done any spells!” he said quickly, as if she had accused him. “Not since the laws came in. Your father was doing the right thing. I may not like it, but it was the right thing.”

“If only all magicians saw it that way.” She smiled sadly, and from the corner of her eye saw Mrs Saunders smack her lips in preparation for speaking.

“How long has it been now since your parents were taken, dear?”

“They’ve been dead three years.”

“You believe they are dead?” Mr Boden inquired.

“Mr Boden, my father was a very rich, very powerful, very well connected man. He would have been the perfect material for a kidnapping. But there has been no ransom note, no demands. He also made a lot of people angry and stood in a lot of people’s way. I believe the group known as the Flamedancers abducted and murdered my parents.”

“It doesn’t upset you?” asked Mrs Saunders.

“Of course it did. But it’s been three years. The world has kept on turning. The banks have handed over my portion of the estate to me.”

“That’s why you were in the country today, I assume,” Mr Boden said. Casia nodded, but did not reply, instead looking out the window. The harvest was finished now, the cows all in and there was nothing but empty fields, stretching like a patchwork quilt into nothing.

“When you said you knew a lot of good people who happened to be magicians, I can only assume you were talking about the Rinnermans.”

Casia gave this man in a coat older than her a look of surprise, as did Mrs Saunders.

“I did,” she said. “Alec Rinnerman was a great friend of my father’s, although their friendship isn’t common knowledge, the papers tended to focus on the politics.”

“I know Mr Rinnerman quite well. I would not consider us friends, but I am a member of his party.”

This pleased Casia in an odd way. “Of course, you and I will have radically different views then, but still I am glad. Fred Rinnerman, Alec’s eldest son, is a very dear friend of mine.”

“Just a friend, dear?” Mrs Saunders chimed in.

“Yes,” Casia said in her most curt tone.

“I’ve met Fred a few times,” said Mr Boden. “Seems like a nice lad. Very like his father.”

“Oh yes, he’s Alec but twenty years younger- what was that?”

A thump reached Casia’s ears at the same time it was felt through the leather seat. Mrs Saunders yelped, and Mr Boden jumped up, unlatched the window and stuck his head out as far as he could.

“Someone’s felled a tree on the line!” he yelled over the noise of the engine and air whistling past.

“Why aren’t we stopping?” Casia yelled back, heart in mouth. She too stuck her head out the window- it was too close-they could never stop in time-

Boden looked at her with two sorry brown eyes and one white indifferent one. “It has to be done, Miss,” he said. “I’m sorry.” He shut the brown eyes and directed his hands towards the engine. He glowed as he took the magic out and the train slowed, his old coat and thinning hair floating on the tide of incoming power.

The train ground to a halt just inches from the tree.



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11 Reviews


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Mon Jul 29, 2013 2:30 pm
WritingAngel777 wrote a review...



Hey!

I really enjoyed reading this chapter! At first I was a little critical-it started out kind of slow, and I began to wonder if this was going to turn into a dull, predictable story; but then the word "magician" came into play and I was instantly intrigued!

Then of course, after that everything sped up rapidly, captivating me to the very bone! :)

I have to say I love your characters! You make them easy to picture, and thus believable as real human beings (and magicians). I also love that you gave the magicians a defining mark that they all share. I think that was a very interesting idea.

Next I have to tell you that your setting and plot were undoubtedly well thought out, and I'm honestly look forward to reading more of your work! You have some serious story telling skills, my friend! I'm very fascinated as to what's going to happen next, and I can't wait for some of the mysterious elements of your story to be revealed.

The only thing that kind of confused me was when you said "He glowed as he took the magic out"; I was a little lost as to what exactly that meant. Taking the magic out of what? Maybe, I'm just taking it weirdly. Either way I really enjoyed this piece!

Keep Writing! :)




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Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:23 am
dreamwalkeramrita wrote a review...



Hi! I really enjoyed this chapter!

This kind of reminded me of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (which I loved). The premise was interesting, and I also enjoyed your description of Casia. So many writers succumb to the temptation of making their characters beautiful and perfect in every way. I could definitely relate to her as a character.

I also liked your concept of Marking...this is the first chapter I've read by you, so I guess I don't know the details...but it seems really interesting.

I was slightly confused about how Mrs. Saunders knew everything about Casia...I'm assuming that they knew each other, right? I feel like you should have elucidated that a bit more clearly...

Otherwise, I thought this was amazing. I particularly liked this line: "Boden looked at her with two sorry brown eyes and one white indifferent one." I thought this was kind of metaphorical: Boden had to complete his mission even if he didn't want to; his purpose, the fact that he was a magician (of an opposing faction possibly?), automatically made a part of him 'indifferent'.

I'm looking forward to reading more...Good luck! :)




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Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:24 pm
Cadi wrote a review...



Hey Stella!

First: SHINY! I'm glad it's finally here, because I remember you first mentioning Flick Salamander, and thinking that the Shiny sounded awesome.

Also, I'm loving your first line - it's that kind of implicit description that's just really nice to read, and the kind of thing that grabs you into the story right from the beginning. There probably is a point where you'd be overdoing this kind of line, but for now I say, bring us more of them!

You said you'd like to hear back about pacing in particular. The one place where I feel the pacing of events isn't right is at the very end - everything to do with the felled tree and Boden's hero-moment is a bit too fast for me.

In terms of the rest of it, I think that the pacing of the events that are happening (the meeting of Mr Boden and so on) is okay, but the pace of the conversation is a little disconnect from that. I'm not sure if that makes much sense, but I think another way of saying what I mean is that the characters are incredibly familiar with one another very quickly. It might be part of Casia's character, but she's talking to an apparent stranger about her family tragedy and politics very quickly after meeting him, and it feels a bit strange. It feels a little bit like you wanted to tell us quite a lot about Casia's parents, what happened to them, the effects of the war, and the group called the Flamedancers, and so it's all pushed into this conversation rather earlier than feels natural.

Speaking over overfamiliarity, I'm not quite sure how familiar Casia and Mrs Saunders are. (Oh, quick typo note: Mrs Saunders briefly becomes 'Mr' Saunders near the start.) Do they know each other previous to this train journey? If so, it's not entirely clear; if not, Mrs Saunders' conversation feels a bit weird.

That's pretty much all I have on pacing, and other than that, I have only a couple of minor things to note. First, when Mrs S comments on Casia's coat, she has two lines with a description of the coat in between. It feels like there ought to be something about Casia's reaction here - she's clearly not speaking, so Mrs S continues, but we can't get a picture of what she is doing. And second, when you're talking about Fred's book, Casia thinks she'll "kill Fred" next time she sees him, which, even in a joking manner, seems a little extreme a reaction to being loaned a dull book? I think there might be a better expression of frustration that could go here.

Overall, sounds good! I'm looking forward to reading more about the Salamander girls!

Cadi x




StellaThomas says...


Hey Cadi! Thank you so much! Yeah, you confirmed my suspicions about the pacing- I was worried the conversation was moving too speedily, I'll try and slow that down :) Casia's parents' disappearance is meant to be public knowledge, her father being an eminent politician, but I do see where you're coming from there and it's definitely not a part of her character, she's usually extremely prim and proper! So I'll work on that too!

Thank you so much for your review!

-Stella x



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Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:23 am
niteowl wrote a review...



Hi Stella! I rarely venture into the Novel section, so forgive me if my comments aren't the most helpful. Overall, I thought it was well written and the pacing was excellent. I also thought you struck a good balance between story and exposition. I know enough about this world that I want to continue reading, but I don't feel bogged down with information. In fact, I only have one nit-pick. Toward the end, Casia keeps referring to Alec Rinnerman by his first name. I found this odd as it seems she was raised in a more formal manner and would thus say Mr. Rinneman as she is much younger than him. I'm also curious as to why someone would cut a tree on the line. Sabotage? I suppose I'll have to wait to find out.

Overall, this is excellent and I look forward to updates. Keep writing! :)




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Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:42 am
SethWes wrote a review...



I love it! At first I thought it was some story about a rich lady struggling with politics and managing her affairs, but then you surprised me with the mention of magic. It was timed well enough to grab my attention, but the story was paced well enough that it was an information atttack.

The mention of the aunt also piqued my interest- Who would spend so much time and effort to watch their niece, and what kind of niece needs that much attention? Obviously there is some tension with sister, and you leave enough hanging to make me want to read more.

I of course am wanting to know more about this war, and what made magicians so hated? Obviously their power over normal people, but once again I felt like I wanted to read more about this. I like how the man fears the magician, even though the magician's power is outlawed.

The flow of conversation at the beggining was perfect, with Casia's obvious displeasure in talking but Mrs. Saunders carrying on anyway. Along with this, I must say you created the train for me perfectly. I felt like I was in the scene.

Magic, of course is a difficult subject to write about. I have never been able to do well with it- I always try to think up of overly complex ways for it to happen. You however, took the perfect route. It just happened.

The only mistake I noticed was that the second time Mrs. Saunders spoke, you forgot the s and it was Mr. Saunder.

I'm excited for you to write more. If I saw this on a bookshelf, there is no doubt that I'd pick it up. Keep up the good work!





"Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one's life."
— Kate Chopin, The Awakening