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23rd Dec 2017, 11:00 PM
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Author Notes:
23rd Dec 2017, 11:00 PM

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Still working on the next chapter, but thought I'd leave something a bit more substantial here while we're waiting on it's completion. Here is a brief excerpt from the new Felicia novel, The Night Of The Basquot, detailing her first attempts at 'going public' as a Sorceress-for-hire.

“Are those kumquats?”
“Are those kumquats?”
“No, those aren’t kumquats!” Felicia stared across the small wooden table in disbelief at the madwoman who had sauntered up to her. She was an old tabby, older than most mountains by the looks of her, and with far more erosion to judge by the cragginess of her face. Her facial fur was heavier than most, as if trying to make up for the flesh that had wasted away over the decades. She was so tiny that it appeared as though her loose and baggy clothes were engaged in a leisurely chore of slowly devouring her. One ear was lost, presumably within the mass of hair that sprung from under her kerchief like desperately fleeing prey, and one eye was screwed shut in a permanent squint. “These,” Felicia went on to say, keeping her voice smooth and professional, “are what we call in the trade, ‘Inside-Out Balls’. You break them open, you see, over a plot of land – say, for a small garden? – and it turns the soil over. Much faster than plowing or hoeing.”
The old tabby stared at the small silvery spheres without much interest. “Where are the kumquats?”
“There aren’t any. This is not a produce stand.” Not for the first time that morning, Felicia wondered if, perhaps, the town’s market wasn’t after all the most ideal place to introduce herself and her enterprise to the local townsfolk.
“What, no kumquats?”
“What about rutabagas then?”
Felicia fought off the growing irritation that was now beginning to gnaw at her tail, first by cramming a fist into her mouth, and then by biting hard on it. After a brief and reassuring swell of pain, she removed the fist and said, with sugar icing dripping from each syllable, “I’m dreadfully sorry, madam, but I think you must want one of the other booths. I’m not selling produce here.”
“Well, what are you sellin’?”
“Dreams!” Felicia pounced with her spiel, delighted to find the old lady’s attention drifting into synch with her for however short a passage it proved to be. “Dreams and the Means! Do you have a secret desire? An ambition? A destiny that you’re just dying to attain? Perhaps you just need a little specialized magic, someone to provide the keys required to open the door, to unlock the barriers that prevent you from obtaining all that your heart burns for. All of your hopes and dreams are available, right at hand, ripe for the plucking!” She stopped there and waited for the old lady’s reaction before taking the spiel further.
The old tabby squinted both eyes now as ancient cogs ground soundlessly behind her rheumy eyes. Felicia held a frozen smile that she prayed would be mistaken for politeness. “So you don’t got no kumquats?”
“No,” Felicia said kindly through clenched teeth, “I don’t have any kumquats.”
“But you do magic stuff, like wishes and such?”
“Yes!” Felicia was so absolutely delighted that the old woman was finally able to grasp this simple concept, that she wanted to dance all around her table in celebration.
The old lady thought for a minute. “So, if I was to, like, wish for kumquats, you could do that?”
“No!” shouted Felicia, forgetting all poise as she erupted. “No! No kumquats! I am not selling produce! Aln above, what is it about the word no that is not getting through?” All of the vendors in the surrounding booths paused in the midst of their own transactions and turned to glower disapprovingly at her.
“Well, you don’t need t’ get snippy,” the old woman said defensively. “I just asked a civil question, is all.”
“I think you misunderstand,” Felicia said, struggling desperately to maintain an outward display of patience. “I am selling magic. That is, I am selling my services as a sorceress. I can make your dreams come true. I am a magician for hire. I can do things for you that no else can ever do.”
“You can do that? All that stuff?” The old tabby was dubious.
“Except you got no kumquats?”
Felicia slapped her forehead in frustration, and began a slow count from one hundred down to zero. This was just not being a good day. She had an unexpected visit from a freelance tax assessor (whose credentials she was now determined to investigate at her first free moment) who had dropped by to inspect the tower. Then, she had spent all the early morning before sunrise trying to correct the various anomalies that were cropping up in her tower, little errors in the spell that had expanded the internal space still continued to mix up several of the doorways. She found that the laundry room had been mislaid, and the privy door instead opened onto some mountain road, presumably in the Cat Whisker Range miles away. The basement was a complete disaster as the sump pump wasn’t working as a result of it not having been invented yet and there was a growing ocean of some foul, indefinable ooze rising slowly within. And something was burning in one of the rooms she hadn’t yet named or set a purpose to; she sealed that one with a spell until she could determine what best to do with it. Worse, the house numbers on the front door of the tower kept falling off, and as a result her mail was not getting delivered.
Leaving the tower and its variety of mini-catastrophes behind, she’d hurried into the nearest village by sunrise in order to set up a table (she realized belatedly it should have been a booth, but she was too frazzled to want to magic one up) in the farmer’s market, hoping to make contact with the locals and promote her new business. Thus far, it had been less than a glowing success.
She had managed to get to ten and was about to reach nine when a new voice interjected, “Did you say that you did magic?” She dropped her hand and opened her eyes. A pretty young calico that had been running a fish booth across from Felicia’s table had come over and was now standing beside the ancient shopper.
“Yes,” said Felicia eagerly. “All sorts! Weather manipulation, potions, charms –“
“Do you tell fortunes? Like reading tea leaves?”
The vixen’s hopes began to sink again. Every Magi could read the future, but the ability varied with each practitioner. And it wasn’t one of the better magics, in spite of it being one of the more common favorites. People tended to think the future was predetermined and set in stone, and therefore wanted to know what pitfalls they needed to get around, which was a sensible precaution of itself, but impractical since the future was, in fact, often altered by the very act of observing it beforehand. Knowing what was to come, people would inevitably do something to alter destiny’s course, invariably succeed, and, of course, the previously predicted future would then never occur. This wouldn’t be so bad if the futures predicted were rife with tragedy and horror, but usually it was the good and happy futures that would up being circumvented. In short, there were often a lot of disappointments, which meant there were a lot of disappointed customers, and that meant that fortune telling was not a venture that Felicia particularly wanted to get into. Especially today.
“I’m sorry,” Felicia told the girl, “But I can’t tell the future. Not today, I mean!” she added hastily. After all, she had been touting her magical skills and she didn’t want anyone to think that she was incapable of anything, even fortune telling. “I just didn’t bring my equipment with me. Perhaps another time.”
“Oh, that’s all right!” the girl said cheerily. “I have a tea cup at my booth! You can read the leaves in that! I’ll just get it!” And she ran back before Felicia could protest.
“When do you think you’ll be gettin’ any kumquats in, then?” the old tabby demanded. Felicia was just about decided to offer the old tabby a quick and free sample of her magic for publicity’s sake by teleporting her to faraway Bananaland, when a youngster ran up, followed by a gaggle of three or four more. “You got any sparkly magic?” he asked breathlessly. When Felicia laid out a handful of magic glow sticks, they each grabbed one and ran off, each gleefully yelling “Thanks!” before disappearing into the crowd, a bright yellow afterburn streaking in their collective wakes.
“Hey!” Felicia yelled. She wasn’t quick enough to demand payment, and she now jumped up from her seat and was about to set off in pursuit when the girl returned with a tiny teacup with a dark smudge swirling at the bottom.
“What can you see?” The girl eagerly pushed the cup towards Felicia’s face.
“A broken cup in the very near future!” Felicia snapped.
“Oo!” said the calico. “I don’t like that future at all, I don’t!”
“Is that whatchercallit, somethin’ symbol-like?” The old tabby asked in confusion.
Felicia had enough.
She whispered a curse under her breath. There was a small concussive boom! and everybody gathered around the table fell back about three feet, tails frizzled and clothes whipped about in a tangle by a powerful wind. Felicia loomed menacingly over her table. “Listen to me,” she growled low and purposefully, “I am not giving away free samples. I am not selling kumquats, rutabagas, or any other sort of knobby produce. Nor am I telling fortunes like some cheap street gypsy. I am a Magi for hire! Do you understand? I am a Magi!”
The crowd – for one had gathered after the children had run away with the glowsticks, probably to see if there were any more being given away, all looked at her in confusion, and then in slow comprehension. “You say you’re a Magi?” said one old duffer in the crowd.
“Like a wizard, y’ mean?” piped up another merchant.
“Sorceress, actually,” Felicia replied, turning sidewise so that her obvious feminine profile was evident in order to delineate the difference.
“Well, that just can’t be, can it?” asked a tall Burmese from a stall two booths over, looking a bit confused.
“What do you mean?” Felicia demanded.
“Well, a Magi! They never come here,” the Burmese explained. “Not here. In the Market? They don’t need to. Folks what want them, go to them.”
“Well, I’m just getting started,” Felicia said. “I’m new.”
“Oh, yes?” An elderly cat standing behind the old tabby stared tightly at Felicia as though trying to memorize her features. “Just started in the business, have you? You have your certificates, have you?”
“My what?” Felicia was puzzled.
“Your certificates. Your permits and the like for operating in the Market.” The cat waited expectantly.
“That’s the Market Proctor, that is,” The old tabby said with a hint of barely restrained glee.
“Well, not exactly,” Felicia admitted. In fact, she hadn’t. She’d never worked in the market before and had assumed it was simply a first-come, first-served arrangement, which, in fact, it was, but only for those with authorized certificates. “But I’m sure we can get the matter taken care of.”
“No doubt, no doubt,” the proctor said affably. “You just come along with me to the inn, then, and we’ll get those squared away. The fee isn’t too bad; we have a good rate for Recognized Magi.”
“Yes. You do have your authorizations from the Magi Council, right? The ones they give out when you’ve been Recognized?”
“All wizards got them,” The old tabby said with a smirk, though she didn’t offer how she happened to personally know that fascinating tidbit of a fact.
“Well,” Felicia stammered. “There’s a little thing about that, you see.”
“Got to have your Recognition papers in order to sell magic in the Market,” the proctor said firmly. “Though most Magi usually do their business affairs at home.” And he said that in the most friendliest way he could think of to convey the sincere conviction of that was how all Magi business should be conducted: at home, where it wasn’t likely to interfere with normal productive business in the market.
“What’s the rate for a Magi without Recognition?” Felicia asked.
There was a severely disapproving silence from the entire market.
“I see,” she said. She glowered at everyone, but quickly swallowed her ire to smile as sweetly as she could manage. “Very well. There’s no need for unpleasantries. I’ll just pack off then.” She made a flourish, which was immediately followed by a huge cloud of white smoke. When it cleared, she and her table were gone. The crowd, pleased and disappointed – for it had been a very brief show – dispersed and went about their affairs.
“Just as well,” muttered the old tabby as she toddled away to the remaining non-magical booths. “Can’t say I fancied her kumquats anyway.”

Felicia: The Night Of The Basquot is available at

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