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Deal 925: Not yet time.

In the great deeps where sunlight never reaches a presence stirs, questioning, curious, then grows quiet.

It isn’t time yet.

One day, it will be time, and that will be the last day.

It isn’t time yet.

And yet. It is cold, dark and dull in the deeps where no life stirs to bother the old one.

Well, older one. It isn’t properly “old” yet, it would have to wait a long time to be properly old. Even for the old ones, the passage of time can be a matter of perception.

This one decides that though the day may be yet to come, it can always pop up and look.

So instead of turning back to its inner contemplation, it stirs the deep and begins to rise.

Initially, there is little to see. There is nothing living here to see in any case. The passing giant squid makes a snap decision and, moving rather quickly for its kind, changes course to avoid the space. He also goes to make a report to those who might care to know that what lurks beneath might be rising.

The darkness roils. Anyone watching might be able to catch a glimpse here and there. So far, glimpses won’t drive anyone mad. But that won’t last. One reason is that so far only two giant squid and one sperm whale have seen anything, and the whale became lunch shortly after so had no time to find out if madness would have been preferred.

The potted petunia had no opinion, having long ago exceeded the depth where it could even consider survival.

Before the roiling could properly leave the abyss, it was interrupted.

We mortals can’t comprehend the concerns of the elder gods. But the result is the same as if we assume we do. The presence was reminded that it had a duty to wait until the day arrived, and only then (and never before) was it to rise up to eat the world. That duty did not include just taking a peek at progress.

Either way, it casually captured the petunia as it returned to its depths.

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Deal 924: Atlantean

All beginnings are humble, relatively speaking. We all begin in blood and pain. The trick is to rise above that, and become something noble.

Sometimes, rising is not the only choice.

The birth was at sea, although that was not by any means her intent. She intended to make a quick crossing to return home, to have her child in a familiar place even if it meant explaining everything to her father. That was a fate that she feared only slightly more than she feared a shipwreck or piracy at sea. But she had been taught to face her fears.

She was spared the need to explain things to her father, but only because of the sudden storm that arose out of the deep blue sea, and capsized the ship, and washed her and her newborn child away to a watery fate. The storm was the stuff of legends. It rolled the ship to be sure, but the only passengers lost were the young woman and her child. No one could quite remember her name, and the purser’s records seemed to have been damaged by the water, erasing her from the passenger manifest. The captain decided that asking too many more questions was risking more than he thought reasonable, and merely logged the incident as an unexpected wave and went on.

She awoke to find herself and her child safe, in a comfortable room with a view of a garden. The sunlight played among the plants, glinting here and there and making pleasant patterns as the plants swayed and the fish swam—

Fish. Garden. She was puzzled.

Then she recalled the shipwreck, and then just before that the birth. Just as she wondered where he was, a quiet cry called her attention to him where he was resting comfortably in a crib just in reach.

Reassured, she lay back to enjoy watching the patterns in the garden.

And then she remembered how she had got in trouble in the first place. The evening swims in the warm, clear, blue waters. Falling asleep on the veranda overlooking the beach. Waking to find the impossibly beautiful young man admiring her, and the way he startled and bolted back to the sand. How she welcomed him, taught him to not fear her, and eventually to love her, only to lose him when the weather changed.

She never could quite remember his name, or even if she’d told him hers. Or where, exactly, he was from. His accent was faintly not native, but not identifiable. His skin was too perfect, but with a faint shimmer by moonlight. He never arrived in too many clothes. She was shocked at how little she really knew.

And now, here she was, apparently sunk and yet resting in a pleasant sun room under the sea.

She awoke again, with a start, not remembering falling asleep.

There was someone with her, in the shadows. Night had fallen, and the room was illuminated mostly by a school of phosphorescent fish outside the windows making for a shifting and highly unreliable light. All she could see was a figure of a man.

“You remembered me, and you bore me a son. I made promises that I will keep, even if you don’t remember them. Your place is here with me for as long as you wish it to be.”

She remembered the voice. Her heart leapt. It couldn’t possibly be him, could it?

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Deal 922: White Flower

With a single dose of poison, all my problems could be solved. I’d be out a stepmother, of course, and likely be the prime suspect. But it would set her back substantially, if she survived at all.

I know that sounds more than a little harsh, coming from a Princess of the Realm. But I do have the big picture to think about. My father, the King, is clearly under her spell. He’s neglecting the Kingdom and his duty. She is quietly running things through her trusted lackeys, many of whom arrived with her under the same strangely useful coincidences. In particular, know one can remember for sure that they knew of her or any of her companions before that day when she waltzed into court and captured the King before he had properly completed grieving for my mother.

There is something odd about the whole group of them. So one dose of poison in her cup of tea could solve the whole problem.

But it always comes back to the same problem. I don’t have any poison at hand, nor do I have a way to contact someone who would. The royal exterminator does put down something for the rats from time to time, but she seems like the sort of person who would already be proof against any that common.

Then one morning it hit me. The dreams of poison are really just a metaphor. I don’t really need a poison, what I need is the end itself rather than the means. Any means at all that decapitated her cabal would suffice.

From there, the rest is fairly easily accomplished. I decide that a bomb would be the right approach, especially one I can arrange to be triggered by my Stepmother herself. Her habits are regular enough that it ought to be possible to arrange for a surprise, and my foolish youth spent playing pranks on my guards might just pay off.

With the means selected, and the locations chosen by my adversary, the rest is fairly simple.

I concealed the flour sack in plain sight in the ceiling, after carefully arranging the side seam to just rip away when ready. I rigged a web of hard to see dark and tough thread, arranging it to empty the bag explosively so that as much of the room as possible will fill with the fine dust. I don’t have the time or freedom to test the size of the bag, or the strength of the dispersion I’ve arranged. I need this to work as imagined on the first try, since there certainly won’t be a second chance.

I also arranged for multiple sources of ignition. The chandeliers will likely be lit, since those are managed by the staff. There will also be a candle near where I expect her to sit. Finally, the fireplace will also likely be lit as it is getting cool in the evenings.

All that is needed now is patience, to wait for the time to pass and my plans to conclude in a bang.

I made my way through the servant’s passages to the one just outside the sitting room, then find my way up the concealed ladder to the viewpoint above where I have secreted the end of my string. I gave up on arranging for her to yank her own string, and decided that I should count on the stone walls as sufficient shielding from the expected blast, as long as I dropped away from the peephole after setting things in motion.

Finally, she appeared and I breathed a (quiet) sigh of relief. I had suddenly been concerned that she had changed her habits that night, but my concerns were unfounded. She even settled into exactly the chair I expected, and picked up her current needlepoint project, clearly planning to pass some time while my father enjoyed a little port and a cigar with his chamberlain.

I yanked the string. The flour sack unzipped, and the fine dust spread through the room until it found one of the open flames. I barely remembered in time to pull away and drop down below the peephole before the world became what felt like a tangible wall of sound. Clearly I had managed to mix the dust and air correctly. I stayed clinging to my perch for a few minutes, watching to see who went by below me. Finally, when the coast was clear, I dropped back down to the passage and made my way out through a little-used pantry, then around to the public halls. Clearly the noise was loud enough that all should be converging and my absence would be suspicious.

My plan had been mostly successful.

Sitting on her chair, with the charred needlepoint dropped to the floor was a large and very dead frog, with her crown resting unharmed on the cushion.

Near where I’d last seen her personal maid standing was another very dead frog.

From the hopping noises in the distance, several more of her entourage had revealed their origins when their Queen died, and were attempting escape from startled and no doubt scared palace staff.

Best of all, my father stumbled into the room looking like he had just awakened from a nightmare. When he saw what was on the chair, I heard him mutter something a Princess could never say in public, then smile like I hadn’t seen him smile since my mother died.

It was going to be ok.