207 - Frozen in Time

In one sense, life hasn’t changed for Charlotte Palmer.

Oh, certainly the trappings of her existence are very different. Once a mortal girl, then a ghost, a superhero, a general, and now a Magus. She’s had to acclimate to the ever-changing expectations and social mores of these positions, and it hasn’t been as easy as she’s made it look.

But then again, they’re all very similar. She must appear genteel, elegant, graceful, educated. She must be polite with others, but never simply a doormat over which they can walk. When she was growing up, the proper young lady was to contribute to her community, to permit playfulness but never fall prey to its dangers, and both uphold and represent the virtues to which all people ought to aspire. Now, whether it’s with aliens, demons, or Vyortovians, Charlotte must both give and take at the appropriate moments.

In her free time, she spends time enjoying coffee and company with the Ponies, her other mortal friends, and her teammates. She haunts the graveyards, listening to the lives of the now-departed. She’s even started attending modern public school. There’s still so much to learn about the world, and she constantly feels the weight of her outsider status in this era. It is to her credit that she’s able to so successfully mask it with good manners. Having real friends, in any era, has made bearing the burden so much easier.

In turn, she has earned the respect of her teammates from the Menagerie and many others. When Leo Snow was attempting to temporally unfreeze Doctor Infinity - a time-traveling Pneuma - Charlotte stopped him. She knew what his robot creations meant to him, this one in particular, and she did not ask lightly.

“Just tell me why,” he said.

“She has emotional links with the wounds in the world,” Charlotte had explained. “The Concordance agents have volunteered to help me follow those links, and help me close the wounds I find.”

Leo didn’t look happy, but he went along with it anyway. And so, starting from the time-frozen statue of a hurt girl, Charlotte has been roaming the world and having new experiences.

Today she is in Albania. Today she is facing a deployment of Rook soldiers.

Charlotte is worried that she won’t be able to handle this as delicately as she’d prefer.

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She is currently among the ruins that her phone identifies as “Apollonia”, part of an ancient country called Illyria. In the present, there’s a village called Pojan nearby. To the west, she can barely see the ocean.

The Rook forces are deployed up the hill. They’ve got a few aircraft that don’t need runways - not helicopters, but something else. Charlotte has learned the term “VTOL” - “Vertical Takeoff and Landing” - applies to such craft.

Down the hill, armed men and women from Albania’s law enforcement stand ready. They are being held back by important-looking people who stand close to an official truck. The truck’s crest is an arm grasping a lightning bolt, and labeled “RENEA”. Charlotte’s phone informs her that RENEA is an elite group of military-type police that deal with violent crime and terrorists. Very well.

Of the two groups, the cops will be more likely to listen. They may not be interested in an outsider’s involvement, of course. On the other hand, Rook certainly won’t. Charlotte decides to start with the Albanians.

Charlotte has come to learn a very important thing about the Magus, and the staff that comes with the office. Part of the responsibility of the Magus is to deal with the Keynomes on Earth - and previous Magi have learned to tap, very gently, into the power the Keynomes possess. Charlotte is familiar with the principle. The Keynomes are power, and you don’t make direct demands of power. You make small talk and trade favors. She’s learned further from Leo that the Keynomes have something in common with a synthetic mind.

Thus, although she does not speak Albanian, she can converse with the RENEA forces here through an invocation of this power. She weaves the appropriate spell - simply a very formal request in a language long lost - and trusting in its power, presents herself very obviously to the cops. Guns go up instantly, of course, but one of the older cops waves them down.

Charlotte cannot see her through the helmet and its tinted visor, but she can appraise her anyway. This is an older woman, and Charlotte visualizes iron-gray hair and glaring eyes behind the mask. Time to make introductions.

“My name is Charlotte Palmer. I am the Magus of Earth. I represent only myself. My interest here is in a phenomenon known as a ‘wound in the world’. The wound is a danger to your people and your country. I wish to close it, to avert the danger it poses.”

She smiles her friendliest smile. “I’d like to work with you, of course. How can we cooperate?”

“Call me Kaltrina,” the RENEA woman answers. “Your Albanian is excellent. But you are not the speaker. I watched your lips.”

She’s curious, and slow to trust. Understandable. “You’re correct. I used a spell to translate my English into your language.”

Kaltrina nods, and gestures with a leather-gloved thumb behind her. “Most of the troops here do not speak English. I was trained in Quantico. Speak what you wish, if you speak only to me. I would prefer Albanian.”

Charlotte bows politely. It’s always best to be civil, even in the small things.

The cop then points up the hill. “These people. You know them?”

“They are a secret strike team from an American company called Rook Industries. We have had… dealings.” Charlotte isn’t going to bad-mouth even her enemies.

“They are here for this, uh, ‘wound’?”

“Undoubtedly. They have used similar tactics in the past, to exploit similar wounds.”

Kaltrina nods. None of this seems to be a surprise to her. “You will wait to act while we verify your claims.” She gestures at a subordinate, who slides into the back of the truck. Charlotte supposes there’s an Internet-connected laptop in there, and everything she said is likely to be thoroughly vetted.

There’s still things to do in the meantime. “May I ask why the standoff?” she asks as pleasantly as she can, given the question.

“Rook obtained permits, the usual legalities, for construction. However, they did not say they would be digging here. The ruins are of immense cultural importance to Albania. We are here to protect the ruins from their intrusion. At the same time, we cannot force the issue without risking damage to the ruins.”

Kaltrina hands over a pair of binoculars, and points at a spot in the air. Charlotte levitates her staff to have both hands free, and operates the apparatus, zooming in where indicated. High above, half hidden by clouds, she can see a flying human figure in costume.

“We are here for another reason.” Kaltrina stands next to Charlotte, staring up. “DLS. Duke Luftuar Skifter, sometimes wrongly Americanized as ‘Duke Skifter’.” The first ‘duke’ sounds more like ‘dookah’ to Charlotte’s ears. “You could call him the Fighting Falcon. He is a vigilante. He wishes to fight with Rook as well. We must stop him from damaging the site, if he attacks. He will not listen to us, but he does not engage as long as we are here. So you see, we are at something of a stand-off.”

Charlotte smiles as graciously as she’s ever managed. “I do believe I can be of assistance to y’all, my dear Kaltrina.”

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While the cops “run her plates”, as the saying goes - what idiom would work here, at that? - Charlotte has her own resources in which to search.

Perhaps the biggest and most interesting is the Lindorm Library. Charlotte isn’t even sure what it is, as she’s accessed only a bit of it. But the library in a sense is self-describing - everything known about it is stored within it. It is the vast interior of an inconceivably large dragon, currently and perhaps permanently asleep. The dragon’s innards are maintained by whole civilizations of creatures. The ones maintaining the Library are called “booklins”, mostly humanoid, with enormous eyes, hands, and feet. They inscribe all manner of information onto the interior walls of the dragon’s arteries, and weave capillaries to connect related subjects. Somehow, the information itself nourishes the beast instead of oxygen? Charlotte is deeply uncertain of the mechanics here, even after repeated conversations with them.

The booklins have scrying crystals that record everything that happens around the Magus’ staff. When Charlotte wants privacy, she puts the staff away. But when she’s “on business”, it’s with her, tracking her actions. It’s always been thus, so the actions of prior Magi are also recorded. Charlotte has tactfully declined all the offers of the booklins to tell her about Everard’s adventures, but earlier incarnations have had interesting stories to tell. Months ago, she also conjured for herself a pair of spectacles that will feed anything she looks at or reads into the Library.

Such a resource of information is impressive, but not absolute. Charlotte isn’t sure she’ll find what she wants in here, but she reasons it’s her best bet.

And what does she want? Previous experience with the wounds created by Doctor Infinity indicated that they were sometimes used as obstacles to time travelers, or to damage some key moment in history. So, what was the history of this place? Something that wouldn’t be found on Wikipedia, in all likelihood. So Charlotte puts the question to the booklins. Her key words here are “Apollonia” and “Illyria”.

Dragon blood fills the arteries. The booklins place their own alchemical retrieval concoctions into the bloodstream along the channels in question. It will illuminate all the texts of interest, and they’ll have something - certainly within the next hour, or perhaps a day, or one rotation of the Cerberus Stars? Certainly not longer than that, milady!

Charlotte gives her polite thanks, and turns her thoughts to the Fighting Falcon.

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The Albanian vigilante is floating unassisted, looking down at the Rook forces. If he’s surprised to have a girl materialize next to him, along with a floating table and tea cups, he hides it well. Charlotte smiles inwardly. Perhaps this will go well.

“Hello there. I’m Charlotte Palmer.” Her introduction this time is less formal than with the cops. You tailor your approach to the audience, of course. “I’m an American superhero, now the Magus. I’m here to solve a particular problem, that this situation is complicating. But I’d like to help.”

“I am the Fighting Falcon.” He doesn’t look away from the scene below.

Charlotte studies his costume for what it reveals. Dark brown, with stylized outlines of feathers. A cowl over a simple domino mask. She can see a clean-shaven chin, but callused hands. He’s clearly an adult, maybe in his 30s or early 40s. He isn’t sponsored by anyone with a large budget, like Jason Quill’s recruits. Much of this outfit is handmade. He is independent, and perhaps wants to stay that way.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Falcon. Since things seem to be at a standstill, may I interest you in some refreshment?” She gestures at the table.

The Falcon pauses, clearly weighing how to respond to this offer. Finally, he shrugs. Two people who can fly or float briefly negotiate the socially proper thing to do when confronted by a levitating table - Charlotte opts to sit on air, while Falcon simply lowers his altitude slightly - and Charlotte pours tea.

Only after a few minutes of restorative consumption does she broach the subject again. “I spoke with the police below. They gave me the impression you are likely to attack Rook’s people here. May I ask about that?”

This is the first time the hero has looked directly at her. “First. Do not trust RENEA. The woman down there is Sampistët.” The translation spell does not assist, and Falcon perhaps realizes this and clarifies his meaning. “Before 1991, we had the Communists. You have seen the concrete bunkers everywhere in our country? Monuments to their paranoia, paid for with money which could have fed the hungry.”

Falcon’s lips curl in disgust. “Unit 326 enforced their will. They suppressed riots. They spied on citizens. The chaos of the transition meant more crime. The only people trained in suppressing such chaos were the agents of the Communists. So members of Unit 326 were allowed to continue serving, under other names. Their masters have changed, but not their methods.”

Charlotte listens quietly, taking sips of her tea to cover her mouth’s quirks at the distressing subject matter. A pause presents itself. “So you do not cooperate with them because you distrust them.”

“It is mutual.” The Falcon uses the table as cover from the ground, pointing in a downward direction. “Look across the hill. The glint of glass. You will see it if your eyes are sharp.”

Charlotte opts for magic to make the observation. She sees what he is talking about. There is a man with a sniper rifle, wearing the same colors as the RENEA officer. He is laying flat on the grass, looking through the rifle scope. By adjusting the spell’s point of view, she can follow the line of sight from the scope to the target. Through the lens, she sees the head of the Fighting Falcon.

“The money from Rook is good. The police are not here to stop Rook. They are here for me.”

Charlotte purses her lips. If true, this complicates matters. On the other hand…

“Do you know if the Rook forces are waiting for anything, other than you?”

Falcon shakes his head. “I don’t know. I am confused, though. The people down there are clearly soldiers. But it’s just them. Rook Industries is… industrial? Yes? Where are the builders, the construction vehicles? There are only fighters. Who are they here to fight?”

Now that is an excellent question.

Charlotte smiles again. “If you feel comfortable keeping everyone’s attention on you, I’ll do my best to find out.”

Falcon nods in return. “Thank you. I don’t know why an American hero is here, but any superhero will be a help to me.”

Charlotte isn’t sure she knows how to help just yet. But she’s making progress.

The booklins of the Lindorm Library aren’t a species of librarians. They’re a species where “librarian” is a sacred calling and a noble profession. Theirs is the privilege of hearing stories from other worlds, of heroes and villains and grand adventures. From there, other booklins take up the thread of narrative and weave it into their own lives. Dancers, artists, singers, actors, and other creatives all add their own spin to the stories from the human world. Cooks, veinsmiths, and even arterial plumbers hear these faraway tales as children, and perhaps hum a catchy tune based on the booklins’ interpretations of events as they do their daily work.

Charlotte finds this all very charming, but admits that it does make getting a straight and factual answer out of the booklins difficult at times. They did find something, mentions of the “Illyrian Maw”, along with three legends that talk about it. One is an Orphean rescue, involving father and daughter rather than lovers. Another is a story of creatures emerging from a gaping mouth in the ground, and being fought back by the courageous defenders of the temple here. The third is the tale of how fisherfolk on a great lake simply disappeared, lake and all, leaving a blasted pit where nothing would grow.

All these stories have something in common. They suggest something underground, and talk about consumption or confinement of some kind. Previously, the wounds have all been rooted to the surface of the Earth. But why not underground? Charlotte’s spells are blinded by the presence of the wounds, making this sort of detective work a necessity. But it would explain much. The Rook soldiers, then, aren’t here to guard a site until construction arrives. Construction might already be happening. Subterranean forces might already be here, and the goons on the surface are just guarding the entrance.

If there’s an entrance, and they’re guarding it, it follows that the soldiers are either on it, or near enough to it to react. Charlotte needs to find it. But before that, perhaps she should report back to RENEA, and find out if she’s cleared to act.

Should she share her conclusions? Given what the Falcon told her, and the sniper she saw, does she want to say everything?

Kaltrina is waiting. Without preamble, she speaks as Charlotte approaches. “You are who you say. You will cooperate with us. And we will cooperate with you.”

Charlotte notes the order in which those statements were made, and smiles her best genteel smile. “Why thank you, Kaltrina.” She nods up the hill. “Now, may I ask, do you have a plan at present?”

The woman shakes her helmeted head. “We do not.” There’s a heavy hesitation before the next words come out. “Do you?”

“I believe I do.” Charlotte nods toward the sniper’s distant position. “But it begins with you calling off your man. I need the Fighting Falcon’s assistance. I promise no harm will come to your ruins, or your forces.”

Kaltrina gathers her fellow RENEA members together for a whispered conference. She dispatches a radio message, which Charlotte hears and understands to be a stand-down order. Only then does Kaltrina point to the sky.

“That man. He was not alive during Communism. He was born during the transition. Raised in a new world. He is resentful, and dangerous. If you vouch for him, you also bear the responsibility for his actions.”

Charlotte draws a breath, lets out a long sigh. “I promise you I understand something about rocky transitions, and growing up in new worlds, Kaltrina. I’ll do my best.”

She takes to the air again, and explains her plan to the Fighting Falcon. She’s pretty sure that what convinces him to help isn’t her words, but the lack of a sniper rifle drawing a bead on him. Still, she arranged that too.

A few minutes later, the plan commences. Falcon makes an abrupt dive at the Rook soldiers. Charlotte hasn’t seen his real power yet, and finds it interesting to watch. He can form a green field around himself, like captured lightning shaped like a long airplane wing, and he manipulates this to both fly at high speed and shield himself from attacks. The Rook team deploys in what is obviously a predetermined pattern to handle him. Per the plan, he doesn’t actually strike - he just needs to draw their attention for a few minutes.

Charlotte can’t weave invisibility about herself without risking an interaction with the wound. So she’ll have to do this the old fashioned way. Run up the hill while wearing sensible shoes, duck behind cover, try to spot a way down, and then take it before Rook’s men realize what’s going on.

She sprints, cradling her staff to her, head down. The gunfire is so, so loud. The Mexican-American War lasted from 1846 to 1848. The weapon of that time was a .69-caliber smoothbore flintlock musket. Charlotte had heard one fired, once. It wasn’t this loud, but it was incredibly smoky. She’s heard modern firearms since then, but her memories of guns always come back to that day. Would that she had some smoke to cover herself now!

She crouches behind a reinforced plastic cargo crate and looks around. Where aren’t the soldiers standing? There - a raised section of dirt, with tape around it. She rises and runs.

Two soldiers spot her. “Hey! Contact ground!” one calls. Rifles swivel her way. The Falcon, spotting her jeopardy, descends again with a heavy gust of wind, and the soldiers remember who’s the more obvious threat here.

Charlotte hops down into the tunnel, finding stone steps and a path awaiting her. She knows the soldiers know she’s here. But so does the Falcon. As she runs further down the tunnel, away from the entrance, the Albanian hero comes down hard on the turf. There’s a brief rumble, and Charlotte sees the way back has been blocked.

At least the soldiers can’t follow her. There’s no way to go but forward.

Charlotte starts walking into the darkness, sensible shoes clicking on ancient stone.

Charlotte can see a light ahead. The tunnel twists and turns, the light growing lighter with each turn.

She emerges at the top of a vast cavern, lit by a golden-hued light whose source she can’t discern. The cavern is filled with people, floating unsupported in the air, frozen in moments of action. They are wearing clothes of all eras and purposes, from 20th century soldiers’ uniforms to ancient farmers’ smocks. Unlike the severe tactical garb of the police and Rook forces on the surface, the clothing here is richly detailed, vividly colored, and marked by celestial symbolism. Charlotte has seen similar garb on her way to the site, and infers that these are more examples of Albanian clothing.

She recognizes, immediately and instinctively, that this scene isn’t real or physical. This is a spiritual projection, available to her due to her unique nature. But what is it?

Taking a chance, she steps off the path’s end, into the air of the cavern. As expected, she hangs as motionless as anyone else here. She wills herself to descend, and finds herself doing so. She takes the time to study the individual figures around her.

While there are plenty of civilians, Charlotte notes that they’re always paired with soldiers. The tableau includes plenty of soldiers fighting each other as well. She recognizes Roman uniforms and weapons, but many of the others are a mystery to her. Perhaps a historian could shed light on the specifics.

Once in awhile, she can see the faintest hint of motion. A soldier, turning their head centimeters per minute in recognition of her presence. A shield moving to block an oncoming spear. They are ghosts, not merely images, but they’re trapped in this spiritual spiderweb. Or they’ve been swallowed, by something called the Illyrian Maw.

Charlotte touches down at the bottom of the cavern, tiptoes first, heels a moment later. The one constant she saw was that more recent conflicts were “up top”. Descending into the cavern was like traveling back through the history of war. Here, for example, people dressed like priests were in the midst of being stabbed through the gut by an angry mob of men. Some are already on the ground, while others are kneeling, or propping themselves up with their hands.

As Charlotte approaches, one of the priests turns his bearded head - significantly faster than the others. He seems fully aware, unlike everyone else here. Despite the blood on his robe, and the drops of it staining his lips, he smiles weakly as he looks up. “Magus. I recognize you.”

“We’ve never met,” Charlotte says.

“Not you personally. Your role. I am also a servant of something greater.” The priest coughs weakly. “Hah. We can never be simply ourselves, can we.”

“I suppose not.” Charlotte smiles uncertainly, and kneels down next to the man. “Can you tell me what’s going on here?”

The man looks down at himself, still being impaled by a sword. “Ah. Well, I don’t think you mean this. This is merely the end of my mortal life. Macedonian barbary. I think you mean this.” His eyes flicker upward, indicating the cavern and its tableau.

“Just so, yes.”

The priest coughs again. Drops of blood stain his beard. “My doing. An old power is chained here, hungry. I opened, I suppose, a funnel to feed it. Violence, and the violent - and the victims, unfortunately.”


The priest sighs. “The foolishness of patriotism. The pride of those who feel wise with age. You have seen the lands above? Beautiful. So, so beautiful. The art and architecture we’ve made to honor it. The thriving life we’ve brought into it. This land is a paradise, and its people are a blessing. I wanted…” He coughs again. “I wanted to protect my world. Safeguard it against attack. Give the violent something to fear.”

Charlotte nods. “I’ve known people who took awful steps to protect the country they loved. But it didn’t stop, did it.”

The priest manages half a grin through bloodied lips. “Well I did say our land was a paradise, didn’t I. The desire to hold paradise in your hand, live there yourself, well… it outweighed my most frightening protections. As you can see, people kept coming. Wars kept happening.” He looks upward again. “As you can see, when they came here, they were taken. I did not get the eternal peace I wished for. But Apollonia is safe.”

“I’m from another country. I don’t know enough of your history to judge your success. I will say that there are ruins here, but I also saw a complete and intact monastery. And there are people on the surface who are very keen on keeping those things intact.”

“I see.” The priest’s smile of satisfaction is faint, but it is there. “Well. That is something.”

While the ghost has been talking, Charlotte has been studying the wound in the world. It did originate on the surface, but was somehow metaphysically dragged beneath the surface by the Maw. She can sense its presence, mystically see its definition, permeating the Maw. She can’t get to it without interacting with this force. And she doesn’t have the Concordance Trio or Excalibur on hand to muster the energy for closing. On the other hand…

She returns her attention to the Illyrian priest. “There is a wound in the world, left here by someone else who wanted to protect what they loved. Nevertheless it is a danger. I need to close it. Your Maw has partially consumed it. But the Maw also has enough power to close it. It will mean the end of your defense.”

The priest coughs blood convulsively, and frowns. “I cannot… I cannot permit that. What will protect Apollonia? The temple - the land - don’t they deserve to be kept safe?”

“They do.” Charlotte feels menace. She feels the power of the Maw marshalling around her, perhaps slowly sensing the threat to its existence. She needs to work faster. “As you said, wars kept happening. But I met people on the surface. A hero called the Fighting Falcon. And armed keepers of the peace, from a group that was distrusted but is still doing their duty to your beautiful country. They distrust each other, but they’re cooperating. That’s why I’m able to be here. And they’re both here to stop an outside attacker from hurting your temple. They’re prepared to fight. But they’re trying to use the authority of the law first. Do you understand? They have a peaceful way to protect Apollonia. Please. Trust them, and the other people of Albania.”

The priest casts his eyes upwards, as though looking past the cavern. Perhaps he can, Charlotte muses, but does not know. “These outsiders you’re fighting… I don’t suppose they’re Macedonians?” he asks with a quirky smile and a glance at the man still stabbing him through the gut.

“I don’t believe so,” confesses Charlotte.

“Shame. Still… The temple has defenders, you say? Even after all this time?”

Charlotte nods. “I don’t think it was the Maw that made it so, sir. I think the love you had for your country has been passed down over the generations. I think your dedication must have inspired others, and their offspring.”

The priest nods thoughtfully at that. “I… I had a daughter. When she fell down these caves once, I went to get her. I showed her the hidden temple here, told her stories, taught her everything. Her curiosity was a hunger, I thought I’d better feed it before she came here to dine again and hurt herself. Filled her head with all the tales I had! And she had the gall to marry a miller. Hah!” He wheezes a bit, damps down his energy. “Very well, Magus. I will use the Maw’s name, free its shackles, and in that moment you will have your power.”

“Thank you, sir.” Charlotte feels a great relief. There might be other ways to proceed, but this is the best she can imagine.

The priest raises his voice and shouts a name. Charlotte can feel the Maw pulsating, wriggling, stretching, turning. It’s free. It’s vulnerable. She raises her staff–

The Maw is gone. The wound has been dispelled. The magical manipulation of energies isn’t exhausting, but is demanding, and it takes Charlotte a moment to recognize that she’s in a physical cavern again.

The most ancient temple of Apollonia is here, lit by floodlamps marked with the Rook corporate logo. Scaffolds and catwalks web the structure. Men and women in Rook uniforms occupy them, operating sensors or plugging in power cables or reporting back on their findings.

The negation of the wound sends up a series of alarms on everyone’s console. The people here are too busy to react to Charlotte’s presence. On the other hand, they do hear a series of barked orders: “Halt! All of you! Put down any weapons or tools, and stand at attention! The police are in control!” She recognizes Kaltrina’s voice via a megaphone, and looks up to see RENEA and the Albanian police rappelling down lines.

The Rook scientists surrender, every one of them. Nobody here is a fighter; none of them are being paid enough to start a gunfight with the law. Whether they’ll be out of jail on bail or not isn’t something Charlotte wants to speculate about.

The Albanians recognize Charlotte, and escort her to Kaltrina. The woman nods in greeting.

“Did you have to fight through the soldiers?” asks Charlotte.

“No. The Fighting Falcon retreated from the soldiers once you’d entered the tunnel. He told us about another entrance that he knew about. His family is from this area, it seems. They have stories of the underground ruins.”

Charlotte quirks her mouth. “It would have been much less stressful for me to know about that other entrance, of course.”

Kaltrina nods again. “Between us, I think he wanted an excuse to attack the Rook soldiers.”

Understandable, but still obnoxious. We shall have to have words later.

“What will happen now?” Charlotte asks.

“That is outside of my jurisdiction. With your assistance - and with the Falcon’s - we have resolved the situation with no loss of life. My report shall include everything that happened. I will omit or misrepresent nothing. The politicians may decide what to do with this. Let it be to their shame if they allow Rook to escape retribution after this.”

Charlotte nods. And with Kaltrina now fully occupied with the processing of her prisoners, the Magus goes to find the Falcon.

The hero is on the surface, sitting on a rock when Charlotte approaches.

“Not interested in seeing the underground ruins?” Charlotte asks.

“Not until those occupiers have ceased infesting it.” The Falcon sounds bitter. “I would rather see it as it was meant to be.”

“So. There was another entrance.” Charlotte sits down on the rock next to him, and stares.

The Falcon doesn’t want to meet her gaze. “Well. I remembered after I’d sent you down there,” he says lamely. “Still. I trusted you as a hero to make it through. And you did.”

“Perhaps your memory will as swift as you are, the next time we meet.”

The Albanian hero nods. “I’ll work on that, you have my assurance.” He knows he’s been caught out, and is apologizing the only way pride allows.

Charlotte stands again. “I’ll hold you to that, my good sir. In the meantime, it was a pleasure to work with you.”

“And you.” The Falcon stands in turn, and salutes with a smile.

Charlotte smiles and inclines her head in respect, then steps through space to her next destination.

An ancient curse was lifted. Another wound was sealed. And people are cooperating. Nothing a proper young lady shouldn’t be proud of.

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I took my cues from what I remember about how Charlotte was played, but beyond that I had a few touchstones:

  • I wrote it sort of like a Doctor Who episode, where the smart meddler comes into a strange situation and negotiates it via wits and conversation to earn a happy ending
  • There’s a tendency to write about adventures in “exotic” locations, but not to respect them or their occupants. I picked Albania for its history, and I tried to give the people we met depth, agency, and motivation that included that
  • I wanted a story that integrated a lot of Charlotte’s stuff - being a hero, the Magus, and a ghost

So only Margie (or maybe Dave) can tell me if I told a good Ghost Girl story! Let me know what you think.

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