Light and Lightning

Chatterbox: Inkwell

Light and Lightning

Light and Lightning

Hello! We are Blitsa and Valo. Yes, there are two of us. Yes, we are both CBers. Yes, you may guess us. We would like to share with you something we've written, something in the form factor of a novel but not quite as long. We have finished writing this, so there's no need to worry that we'll run out of parts to post. We would be happy to receive constructive criticism. We intend to post three days a week, but this schedule is liable to change. Without further ado, here is the prologue!

New York Enquirer

Vol. 2 No. 33     New York, Saturday, June 25, 1881

Fire Destroys Elemental Science Lab, Kills Five

This Friday, June 24, a fire started in the building where Light and Lightning heirs had been working on improvements to the city’s electrical grid. Five people died in the fire, including Light heir Alexander Ness, Lightning heir Lior Adelman, and three of their servants. Four more were injured and are currently being treated at the Life hospital.

The cause of the fire is unknown, although authorities believe it to be of magical origin. Representatives from the two Houses are placing their own blame, though.

“Ness must have set the fire,” said Lightning spokesman Michael Adelman. “His powers were generating heat from light. What else could have set the entire house on fire? He must have gotten into a fight with Lior [Adelman] and started the fire, intending to kill Lior, but was unable to escape it himself.”

Light House has contested this accusation, though. “Alexander was a caring, even-tempered man,” said his widow, Della Ness, speaking on behalf of her House. “There was no way he would have wanted to kill Adelman. Besides, if he set the fire, why would he have been unable to escape it? No, it’s clear that, if either of them set the fire, it was Adelman.”

Lightning representatives have pointed out that Adelman’s powers were solely related to magnetism, making it unlikely that he could have set the fire.

Despite pleas from Lightning Councilman Blits Adelman IV and Light Councilman William Solberg, neither the Council of Heirs nor any of the other Houses have chosen to take sides. Instead, they prefer to wait until the police “sort this whole thing out,” according to Council Leader Albert Frisk of Life House. The police, in their turn, say that they are unlikely to come to a conclusion in the near future, given the lack of evidence to be found in the charred remains of the science lab.

The disaster also shut down one of Manhattan’s major electrical substations, dropping dozens of neighborhoods into darkness. Although power was restored within a few hours of the shut-down, many New York residents seem to be distrustful of the electrical grid for the time being, especially with the loss of two of the city’s foremost electrical engineers. Accordingly, Fire House has reported a sharp uptick in the number of residences using their fireplaces.

In response to this information, both representatives grew more heated. “This is all Ness’s fault!” declared Michael Adelman. “If he hadn’t set the fire, not only would Lior still be alive, but our House would continue to prosper. Instead, my brother, one of the leaders of our House, has been killed, and all of Lightning House is suffering.”

Della Ness made a similar statement. “My husband is dead, our House is in peril, and you think to blame it on us? No, if anyone’s at fault here, it’s Adelman.”

This story continues to develop. Be sure to check your trusty New York Enquirer for more information on the source and effects of the fire.

submitted by Blitsa and Valo, New York, 1881
(January 3, 2021 - 5:14 pm)

I love your writing a lot! The amount of detail and the simple fact that it sounds like a newspaper article makes it endearing and makes me want to read more.

submitted by Wreeboo, age Immortal, Nowhere and Everywhere
(January 3, 2021 - 8:03 pm)
submitted by toppity-top, -top, top-top
(January 3, 2021 - 8:03 pm)
submitted by Top!
(January 3, 2021 - 8:36 pm)

I like this! It reminds me of my favorite show, The X-files.

submitted by Lazerbat
(January 4, 2021 - 5:49 am)

@Wreeboo and Lazerbat, thank you very much for your positive comments! However, the newspaper format was just what we used for the prologue. The rest of the story will be told in traditional chapters, split in half for the benefit of the Admins.

Chapter 1: Valo

Valo heard a soft, hesitant knock and turned to the door of his bedroom. “Come in.”

A messy head of brown hair peeked around the door frame. Lucy’s round cheeks were set in a solemn frown.

“Mother says to come downstairs,” she said unhappily. “And it doesn’t sound good.”

Dread settled cold into Valo’s stomach, but he pushed it down and nodded solemnly. “Well, we’d better go, then. You know she doesn’t like to wait.” He rose and took his sister’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. She returned a faint smile.

The house felt dark and vastly empty as Valo’s slippers echoed on the wooden floorboards. Almost reflexively, he held out his free hand and a ball of light bloomed like a flower. It drifted down the stairwell, leading the pair onward.

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Show-off,” she whispered. He raised his eyebrows.

“If you’d like to stumble around in the dark, be my guest.”

“Fine, keep it on, then. But I wouldn’t stumble. I know this house like the back of my hand.” With that, she scampered down the stairs, turning on the halfpace and disappearing from sight.

It was true. Valo had lived in the manor for his entire sixteen years of life, along with his sister, parents, grandparents, and aunt and uncle. He was completely at home here now; every staircase, doorway, and inch of the surrounding property was familiar and safe. So why did he now feel so afraid?

Pushing the thought away, Valo crept carefully down the grand old staircase, illuminated by his conjured light orb. He caught up to Lucy just as they arrived at the bottom.

“So, where did Mother say she wanted us?”

“Drawing room,” Lucy answered, barely pausing to glance in his direction. Together, they followed the hallway to the drawing room.

The instant Valo entered, he knew something was off. His mother was wrapped in a lacy shawl and wearing a formal gown, far too fancy an outfit for early in the morning. Beside her, his father sat stiff and formal, pale blue eyes boring into his own. Valo inclined his head respectfully. Nearby, his grandparents sat too, Grandmother wearing an odd expression he couldn’t decipher. He drew back a little.

“Is this a family meeting? Shall I fetch Uncle Alex and Aunt Della?” Valo asked politely. He knew Uncle Alex had had a scientific meeting late last night at his laboratory, and he probably would have liked to sleep a little longer, but this looked important.

Father opened his mouth, closed it again, and set his jaw. Mother jumped in.

“Della’s in her room. We needn’t disturb her. As for Alexander, well…” She trailed off, gazing helplessly at his father, who opened his mouth once more to speak.

“Children, there’s something I need to tell you,” he began. “Last night… there was a fire at the laboratory. Alexander didn’t survive.”

The world turned slow and silent. Valo thought he heard Lucy draw a sharp breath, but he couldn’t reach out to comfort her. He was trapped in a spiral of confusion. Uncle Alex was always there, always calm and strong. Beyond that, he and Valo were both capable of producing magical lights that emitted heat, so they shared a special connection. He couldn’t be gone. Could he?

“There’s more,” his father continued. “The police think… this fire might have been a magical one.”

Valo’s bewildered mind began putting the pieces together. It could have just been an accident. After all, Uncle Alex and his colleague, Lior Adelman, had been working with light and heat and electricity. But something about the way his father said it…

“You think it was arson?” Valo whispered. His father nodded gravely.

“Murder, more like it.”

“But by whom? Who killed them?”

“Who else?” Father spat. “Adelman, the lying snake. We’ll make him pay for what he’s done to our family.”

“Now, now, dear.” Mother put her hand on Father’s shoulder. “Adelman is dead. Let the past rest where it lies.” She turned to Valo and Lucy, still standing by the door to the drawing room. “You two are welcome to leave now.” It was more of an order than a suggestion, but Valo numbly accepted it, taking Lucy’s hand into his own as they ascended the staircase. They parted ways on the second floor, and he entered his room and sat stiffly on the bed, staring off into space.

Lior Adelman couldn’t have killed his uncle. Apart from being loyal friends, they were both brilliant engineers and members of Houses that had been allies as long as anybody could remember. It was unthinkable that Adelman had set the fire. Their deaths must have been an accident.

He didn’t want to consider the alternative.

For the second time that morning, Valo heard a soft knock at his door. But this time, he didn’t have the energy to shout an answer, so after a moment, Lucy entered hesitantly. She clambered onto his bed and sat still, as if deep in thought. After a while, she spoke.


He forced himself to turn around and look at his little sister. “Yes?”

“What’s arson?”

Valo almost laughed, in spite of the moment. “Arson is when someone sets a building on fire on purpose. It’s a crime.”

“What if you own the building?”

“Then it’s still a crime, because the buildings around it could catch fire.”

“What if you own the whole block?”

Valo gave a hoarse chuckle. “Then you’re probably rich enough to bribe the police not to arrest you.”

“Hm.” After a moment, she spoke again. “Valo?”


“Do you think Adelman committed arson?”

Valo bit his lip thoughtfully. “I don’t know who else could have done it. Probably.”

“But- I mean…” Lucy trailed off, then put her thoughts together. “Uncle Alex could have done it, right? I mean, in theory,” she added hurriedly, seeing Valo’s cold stare.

“No. He wouldn’t have,” he snapped. “And why are you in here, anyway? Go back to your own room.” Lucy gave him a look, eyes full of surprised tears, and raced out the door, slamming it behind her.

Valo sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He shouldn’t have lost his temper, especially not at Lucy. But he was tired, and grieving. Tears threatened to flood his eyes, but he pushed them back, staring at the wall until the rush of emotions dispersed.

submitted by Valo, Light House
(January 5, 2021 - 6:34 pm)

Wow, this is good! 'm already super into this story

I know, right? Although I don't like the way the paint arson as a crime.

Windracer, arson is a crime. 

Says you. 


submitted by Lazerbat
(January 6, 2021 - 11:40 am)

Here's the second half of the first chapter!


Time passed in an immeasurable stream during which Valo did little more than gaze off into the distance, trying not to think of his uncle’s death. At last, he gathered the strength to stand and stretch his limbs, leaving his bedroom and wandering off down the hallway. The next door he came to, he knocked.

A small voice said, “Come in.”

Valo pushed the door open and stepped into Lucy’s room. She was curled into a ball on the bed, holding a smudged sheet of newsprint, cheeks wet with not-quite-dry tears. He sat down next to her, placing his head in his hands.

“Lucy, I-”

She cut him off. “It’s all right.” Lifting up the newsprint, she added, “I got a copy of the newspaper article about the fire. I need a little help reading some of the big words.”

Valo gave a slight grin. They both knew that Lucy could read the article just as well as he could, but the statement was a peace offering, and he graciously accepted it.

When they had finished reading the article, Lucy sat back on her heels, appearing deep in thought. “What does it mean?” she asked, blue eyes full of worry.

Valo sighed. “It means our alliance with Lightning has ended.” Lucy’s eyebrows rose in surprise.

“But for how long? Permanently? It’s just two people in the grand scheme of things, right? They can’t keep this up forever!” she exclaimed. “And they don’t even know what really happened!”

“They have ideas. Everyone does. I mean, who’s more likely to have started the fire — Uncle Alex or Lior Adelman, who we’ve never met?”

Lucy sat up and scooted forward until her feet dangled off the edge of the bed. “Lior Adelman, of course,” she said slowly. “But… he couldn’t have. They were friends. Weren’t they?”

“People do surprising and painful things sometimes,” Valo answered, staring at the ground. “I wouldn’t put it past him.” He felt heated anger rush to his eyes: anger at Adelman, anger at the world, anger at everything and nothing. The unfairness of his uncle’s death flooded his mind in great waves until he could barely hold on to his thoughts.

Abruptly, Valo stood up. “Excuse me,” he muttered to Lucy, who was looking at him with confusion. Eyes burning, he left the room and raced down the stairs to the kitchen, where he took the servant’s door into the back pasture. There, he sat beneath the old chestnut tree, forcing back tears.

Slowly, an old memory beneath the tree began to resurface. He was young then, likely eight or nine, and Uncle Alex was showing him the tree for the first time.

“This one’s my favorite,” he had explained, laying a hand on the gnarled trunk. “It’s positively ancient. Older than you or your sister. Older than me, even, and I’m ancient as well.” He had winked, and Valo had laughed out loud at the joke.

Now, no laughter bubbled up from inside of him.

submitted by Valo, Light House
(January 7, 2021 - 8:27 pm)

It looks like the last few paragraphs were cut off, so I'll post them here again:

Dinner that night was a subdued affair, the seat between Valo and his father standing back from the table and conspicuously empty. His mother and Aunt Della tried to distract the family with a stream of aimless chatter, while Lucy silently picked at her food and Grandmother occasionally felt the need to dab at her eyes with an embroidered handkerchief. Valo felt too preoccupied to eat. His brain spiraled around thoughts of the seven Houses, and what Uncle Alex’s death would mean politically. 

Certainly, the ages-old alliance with Lightning was suspended, if not outright revoked. For Adelman to commit such a crime was clearly in violation of their implicit treaty. But what would President Eaton and Council Leader Frisk do about it? The article had said they were standing back and letting the police deal with it, which seemed reasonable. Would they nevertheless change their stance in the coming days?

Of course, Frisk and Life House were preoccupied, since the population of Life heirs was dwindling, or so he’d heard. A small part of him wondered if, one day, Life would die like the fabled Deception House, which had winked out during the Middle Ages. Regardless, it made sense that the Council Leader would remain neutral; he didn’t want to make his House a target and hasten their extinction.

And what about Fire House? Lately, Valo had heard his parents’ concerned mutterings about the Fire Councilman from New York, Edmund Drake. They had pointed out the ways he slyly angled himself to amass more power and wealth, and added bitterly that they hoped he was elected out of office soon.

Will he use this fire as a scheme to get more power?  Valo thought. It seems like the sort of thing he would do, but how would it help him? 

Father tapped a spoon against his glass, and Valo jumped, turning his head toward him in attention.

“I’d just like to make an announcement. Funeral arrangements have been made for the Sunday after this one,” his father said in a slightly husky voice. Grandmother took this as a cue to dab at her eyes once more, and Valo stared at his plate.

“May I be excused?” he asked quietly. Mother nodded at him and Lucy, so he took her hand and led her up the stairs, where they parted ways into their separate rooms for the night.

submitted by Valo, Light House
(January 12, 2021 - 12:02 pm)

Chapter 2: Blitsa (part one)

Blitsa twitched in the uncomfortable church pew, trying to arrange her legs into a more comfortable position. Alas, the bustle under the back of her dress forced her to sit in a distinctly awkward position, so the twitching wasn’t getting her anywhere.

Her little brother turned, tried to wink, and failed adorably. “Are you okay?” he whispered.

She smiled dutifully. “Yes, I’m fine, Barak. Try to pay attention to the eulogy, okay?”

“What’s a you-gee?”

Her reply was cut off by their mother’s disapproving stare. “Children!” she chided, ignoring the fact that Blitsa was 16 and so could not accurately be called a child.

Blitsa rolled her eyes to the ceiling, then faced the speaker and folded her hands neatly on her lap. She didn’t understand why she had to be at the funeral, anyway. She’d barely even known Lior. Her mother had called him her “third cousin once removed,” a term she considered to be unnecessarily fancy and much less specific than “some random relative she’d met once at most.” 

Of course, she hadn’t protested her father’s proclamation that she had to “support their family” and “grow a feeling of togetherness,” although she thought wryly that the funeral was more likely to grow a feeling of boredom than of togetherness. On that thought, she glanced at her parents to check that they were focused on Cousin Margaret, who had just taken the pulpit and was speaking through tears about her late husband. 

Pushing down a wave of pity, she slipped a copy of the New York Enquirer out of the sleeve of her black gown and tucked it inside her prayer book. Once it was safely hidden away, she scanned the front page. Sure enough, there was an article on the fire, which would hopefully prove to be more informative than her father’s one-sentence announcement.

When she finished the article, she barely remembered to return her gaze to the speaker (now Lior’s brother, Michael). Her mind was racing. From the information in the article, it was clear that Alexander Ness must have been responsible for the fire. She did have a vague recollection of Ness and Cousin Lior having a generally peaceful relationship, but she pushed that thought aside. They must have gotten into an argument, causing Ness to lose his temper and forget their previous relationship. That was what always happened in storybooks, anyway.

She realized that this made it his fault that half her cousins were crying, their alliance with Light was up in the air, and she was forced to sit through hours of boring old sermons. A surge of anger rose within her. She would get him back if it was the last thing she did! (Well, hopefully not the last thing. That would be a bit too much devotion for a man she’d only met once.)

A flash of déjà vu hit her. It couldn’t have been that long ago — only a year, at most — but Blitsa looked back on her younger self with an inner condescending smile. She’d been so young and stupid after only a month of sneaking out at night. There had been an article in the newspaper about a high-ranking man who’d been accused of indecorous behavior toward his niece, a young Water heir who was staying with him. Then, just as now, she’d found herself overwhelmed with anger and wanting to punish him. But her attempts had effected no change, besides her being increasingly drowsy, and she’d been forced to give up.

She wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. This time, she would find proof of Ness’s transgressions so his family could be punished to the full extent of the law. She would be logical, careful, and above all, responsible. She’d start by breaking into the Ness family home.

That is, she’d break into their home once this stupid funeral was over.

“Blitsa, can you stand up so the rest of us can get out?” asked her older brother, Fifth, nudging her gently out of her reverie.

She hurriedly stepped into the aisle, motioning him ahead. “I’m so sorry! I was just thinking about how we can help poor Cousin Margaret and her children.” 

“Aw, it’s just like you to be so considerate!” He placed a patronizing arm around her shoulder. “However, I think our uncle has it under control.”

She nodded dutifully and followed him out the door, mentally pushing her plotting aside. There’d be plenty of time for that later; for now, she had to keep her focus on maintaining a suitably considerate air for the benefit of any relatives who might be watching. 

The crowd of black-clad heirs and scions — all those who were even remotely related to Lior Adelman — formed into an amorphous clump, moving in the direction of the site where he would soon be laid to rest. As she walked, Blitsa found herself next to her cousin Mayim, who looked up and gave a weak smile.

“Hi, Blitsa,” she said, clasping her cousin’s hand. “How have you been?”

“I’ve been all right,” she responded, nodding warmly and improvising what she thought the other might want to hear. “I recently picked up a new needleworking project. How are you doing?”

Mayim shrugged. “It’s hard, you know? I- I hadn’t really ever known Cousin Lior, and now I never will. It’s a shame. He sounded like- like such a nice man.” She dabbed away a tear and paused, clearly forcing herself to think of a different topic. “I spent some time watching little Eleanor yesterday evening, while her mother was busy with the funeral arrangements.”

“Oh? How’s she coping?”

“Not well. I mean, her father just died, everyone around her is stressed, and at the same time, she’s eight, so she’s just starting to manifest her powers— she was walking around with a tiny thundercloud over her head. It was kind of cute, actually.” Mayim smiled in spite of herself.

Blitsa smiled too. “I remember that age. For me, it was shocking everyone I touched for weeks. Of course, most of my family was resistant, but my mom…” She shook her head ruefully. “It must have been really rough for her.”

“Anyway,” Mayim continued, “she was pretty self-occupied, so I worked on my knitting. I’m trying a new pattern; it goes knit one purl one yarn over and then you…”

Blitsa plastered a fake smile on her face as her cousin droned on. Most of the time, Mayim was the closest she had to a friend, not that that was particularly close. However, when she started waxing poetic about knitting or embroidery or whatever the latest appropriate pursuit was, Blitsa really wished she could run off and do something fun. Her brothers were encouraged to help out in the science lab and repair electrical wires and get out in the world. Why couldn’t she?

Luckily, the two girls soon reached the gravesite and split up to stand with their families. Once she was safely out of sight, Blitsa let out a sigh. This was why she would sneak out at night and do something actually useful, unlike all these boring funeral activities and pointless conversations. Even — especially — if no one knew it was her, breaking into the Ness house would be fun and worthwhile. She just had to get through the funeral luncheon.

submitted by Blitsa, Lightning House
(January 9, 2021 - 1:52 pm)

I'm not sure if anyone is actually reading this, but here's the second part of chapter 2!


Blitsa passed the afternoon in her room, nominally embroidering a pillow but actually preparing for the evening. She locked her door, then knelt down and pulled a chest from under her bed. Inside, she had a hodgepodge collection of clothing (pulled from her older brother’s castoffs), lanterns (grabbed from the cellar when no one was watching), and money (rightfully hers). She pulled out several pairs of pants and held them up to her body in turn, selecting a pair that were both untorn and somewhat the right size. Somewhat. Her brother was much taller than her, after all.

Next, she seized a lantern and shook it experimentally. She was running low on oil, she realized, but there wasn’t much she could do about that at the moment. Her family, being noble and connected to the scientists experimenting with electricity, was one of the few that had electric lights throughout their house, so their stockpile of lanterns and oil was running low. 

She shrugged. She’d just have to find more supplies on her next expedition. Not tonight, though; tonight’s excursion was solely focused on finding evidence that Ness was responsible for her cousin’s death. 

She had a bit more time before dinner, so she cast around for something to do. She thought briefly of working on her embroidery, but discarded that thought immediately. She’d get around to it. Eventually. Today, however, she thought she ought to do something more productive. Inwardly groaning, she pulled out the dark cloak she often wore at night and sat down to see about patching up some holes.

After completing a grand total of two tedious patches (which each took far longer than they should have, since she had to rip out her stitches and start over multiple times), she stabbed her needle into the pincushion with far more force than was necessary. 

I don’t care!  she thought angrily. I don’t care if my cloak is ripped. It can’t be important enough for another couple of hours squinting at a patch and poking my finger every three seconds.

Blitsa shoved her sewing things back in their drawer and flopped on her bed, exasperated. (Well, as well as she could flop, what with this monstrous bustle sticking out behind her.) Wasn’t there anything interesting she could do? After several minutes staring at the ceiling, a hopefully good idea came to her. It certainly couldn’t be worse than sitting her doing nothing, anyway. She stood up slowly, smoothed her hair in the mirror above her dresser, and took a deep breath, sliding into caring-older-sister mode. She walked down the hallway and knocked gently on her younger brother’s door. No response.

“Barak?” she called softly. “It’s me, Blitsa.”

Hearing nothing, she eased the door open and peeked in. Sure enough, her brother wasn’t there. He must have been off doing something with Fifth. Something interesting. She groaned and turned around, about to return to her room, when a thought struck her. Barak wasn’t here. But his books — the ones she was going to offer to read to him — were there.

She strode in and grabbed a book off his shelf, not daring to look at it until she made it safely back to her room. She let out a breath. By some miracle, she’d blindly grabbed her favorite: a collection of fairy tales! She settled down to read contentedly, not looking up until her mother called her to dinner some hours later.

After dinner, she pled exhaustion and declined to participate in their family bridge game. She instead crept upstairs, replaced Barak’s book in his room, and began her final preparations for her evening excursion. She struggled out of her dress, set a lantern on her dresser, and pocketed a sufficient amount of money to bribe any servants she might encounter on her way. Then, she settled down for a quick nap, having learned by experience the damaging effects of going all night with no sleep.

She woke promptly at 11:30 and lay there for a moment, listening. As far as she could tell, the whole house was quiet, the only sound her father’s light snores. She nodded in satisfaction and rolled out of bed silently. Then, it was a simple matter to change into her scavenged men’s clothes, grab her supplies, and set out. 

She tiptoed through the hall, down the servant’s staircase, and out the back door. Once outside, she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. It was so nice to be out here, in the fresh air, where no one could tell her what to do, where no one made her wear a stupid frilly dress, and, most of all, where no one expected her to act like a proper noble girl. She jumped in the air a few times, just because she could, then forced herself to focus. She had a house to break into!

submitted by Blitsa, Lightning House
(January 12, 2021 - 10:51 pm)

I am reading this, and your writing is awesome! Both of you! I love your meticulous attention to detail!

submitted by Wreeboo, age Immortal, Nowhere and Everywhere
(January 13, 2021 - 1:48 pm)

Chapter 3: Valo

As Valo had expected, the funeral was a horribly sad affair. So many people had come offering him and his family condolences, but he suspected none of them had actually met his uncle. Certainly, they didn’t know the deep, painful grief he was experiencing. He might have cried, to release the emotion, but it seemed that he couldn’t, so he had just sat there for the whole service, staring into space. He couldn’t remember a more awful or exhausting weekend.

Conjured light orb hovering in front of him, Valo made his way down the dark upstairs hallway one last time to his room. It had been a long two days, with very little sleep, and he needed to go to bed. As his hand was on the doorknob, however, he heard sniffling drifting from down the hall. Lucy.

Pushing aside his tiredness, Valo retraced his steps to her room down the hall. As he reached her door, he urged a little more power into his orb, hoping the light would be comforting, especially to a scion with no powers of her own.

Valo nudged the door open. “Lucy?” he whispered into the darkness. The light drifted forward to illuminate his sister, curled in a ball on her bed, muffling sobs. He crossed the room and sat beside her.

“It’s all right,” Valo whispered, patting her head. Lucy lifted her tear-stained eyes to his face.

“I miss him,” she whimpered. “I can’t believe he’s gone.” The words made Valo feel heavy and sad, but he attempted a smile.

“I know, Lucy,” he answered. “But we have to keep living. We have to honor his memory, but keep going.” This line was taken from the preacher at the funeral, but Lucy gazed up at him, tears dried for the moment.

“That was a good speech,” she whispered, wiping her eyes. Valo gave a chuckle.

“Not that good. The line came from the funeral.”

“Oh.” Lucy considered again. “Well, the man at the funeral gave a good speech, then.”

“He certainly did.” Valo watched his little sister carefully, worried she would break out crying, but she seemed comforted. “Now, go to sleep. You’ve had a long day.”

Without argument, Lucy climbed beneath the covers and tucked them under her chin. “Good night, Valo,” she whispered.

“Good night, Lucy.” He waited a moment, then let his light flicker out. Slowly, he climbed to his feet and found his way to the door, then back to his own room.

He could never have prepared himself for what he saw.

A figure stood in front of an open window, wearing a black cloak with the hood pulled up. His face was hidden from view, but the cloak was torn in many places, revealing scraped knees and hands.

This could not be one of the servants. He had to be an intruder.

Valo’s first reaction was to scream — as loud as he could. But the black-cloaked intruder pointed a finger in his direction, sending a bolt that knocked Valo off his feet and filled his head with stars. In seconds, the figure was pinning him to the ground.

“Be quiet, please!” he — no, she, the voice was that of a young woman — growled.

Suddenly, the sound of footsteps echoed off the walls from the staircase. The intruder stood up abruptly, seeming fearful.

“Hide me,” she whispered. “Hide me somewhere, and don’t tell them, and I swear I won’t harm you, and I’ll tell you why I’m here.” She raised her hands in a gesture of innocence, glancing around in dismay as the sounds grew closer.

Valo’s mind whirled. How could he trust this young woman — barely more than a girl, from her size? What if he covered for her, and as soon as the servants left, she killed him? As a general rule, he wasn’t one to take risks, and the safest thing to do would be to report her. After all, not only had she broken into his house, she had shocked him, undoubtedly with lighting magic!

This girl could be related to the man who killed his uncle!

But curiosity overwhelmed Valo. He sprang to his feet and pulled open the wardrobe door, whispering, “Hide in here.” The girl nodded, and Valo shoved the door closed just as the servants rounded the corner and entered his room.

“Master Valo! Are you all right? We heard a scream,” a maid exclaimed worriedly. Valo waved her unease away with what he hoped looked like an unconcerned gesture.

“Everything’s fine in here. I just, ah, hurt my shoulder. On the door… of the wardrobe,” he explained lamely, scrambling for a good reason.

The maid nodded in understanding. “Is it badly hurt? Shall I take a look at it?” she asked, moving toward him.

“Oh, no no no, no need for that, anyway, thanks for stopping by and good night!” Valo practically shoved the bewildered maid and her two friends out the door, breathing a sigh of relief when he heard their receding footsteps. 

submitted by Valo, Light House
(January 14, 2021 - 10:24 pm)

Second half of the first chapter--

“They’re gone,” he called softly. “You can come out now.” He watched as the wardrobe door was flung open with perhaps more force than necessary and the girl stepped out, shaking off the hood and tucking wisps of dark, curly hair back into her braid.

“Now, what are you doing here?” she prompted. Valo raised his eyebrows and crossed his arms incredulously. This girl had broken into his house, and she had the nerve to ask what he was doing here?

“I live here,” he said acidly, leaning against the door frame. “What are you doing here?”

She picked at a spot on her cargo pants, which clearly didn’t fit her. “Breaking in,” she muttered. “Not that it’s any of your business.”

“It’s my business, all right. Do you expect me to stand aside while you rob us of all our family heirlooms?”

“Robbery isn’t my goal,” she grumbled. “I have a much more consequential goal, and you won’t stop me!”

“Oh, I think I will stop you,” Valo countered. Before he finished speaking, he closed his eyes and sent a blinding light in the intruder’s direction, hoping to deter her.

When he re-opened his eyes, he was disappointed to see that she had stumbled back, unnerved, and was blinking rapidly, but didn’t seem to be deterred.

“An heir, then,” she observed, rubbing her eyes. “And a powerful one. But who are you…?” She studied Valo, squinting, as though he were a puzzle to be unraveled.

Valo drew himself up to what he hoped appeared to be an imposing height. “Valo Ness, heir of the honorable Light House. And I demand you leave at once, or my family will be forced to press charges!”

The girl ignored the last part and continued to inspect him. “Maybe his son, though you’re a little old,” she mused. “Perhaps… a nephew? Did he have a brother?”

“What in the world are you talking about?” Valo asked, bewildered. Her scrutiny was unnerving.

The girl stared at him for another long moment before replying, “Do you know that your relative was a murderer?”

All of a sudden, Valo realized what was going on. He berated himself mentally for being so stupid. This girl had broken in, shocked him with lightning power, and now had made an outright accusation, along with a veiled reference to the fire. She must have been related to Adelman, or at least part of his House. And no wonder. Such a rough, uncouth criminal wasn’t far from being a killer herself. Valo’s eyes sparked with carefully hidden rage.

“Having never met him, I wouldn’t expect you to understand,” he began, slowly, deliberately, “but my uncle was not a murderer. He was honorable and kind. Whereas Adelman — have you even met him? Do you know what he’s capable of?” It was a long shot, but Valo was willing to bet the Lightning House family tree spread so wide two people could be related and never meet. Lightning was only slightly less populous than Light, and there were certainly many people he was related to who might as well have been strangers.

The girl scoffed. “Lior had control of magnetism. Maybe you’re too stupid to know what that means, but he couldn’t possibly have set the fire. Your uncle—” she sneered at the word uncle — “hmm, I seem to recall him being able to produce heat? With his lights? Don’t you find that even a little suspicious?”

“Where’s your proof?” Valo demanded. She flashed him a smirk.

“That’s what I’m here for. Ness lived here, right? So I’m searching his quarters. You wouldn’t happen to be able to point me in that direction?” With a silken grin, the girl raised her hands. A flash of lightning crackled threateningly between her fingertips.

Valo swallowed hard. “You won’t find any proof here,” he declared, trying desperately to keep his voice from shaking. “They cleaned out his things this afternoon. And anyway, he wasn’t the culprit.”

The girl cursed in a very unladylike manner. “You’d better not be lying to me,” she hissed.  The lightning grew a little brighter. Valo shook his head frantically. She looked a combination of disappointed and angry.

“Now leave immediately!” he said, trying to muster an air of command. “You’ve been on the property long enough. And you have no further reason to be here, not that you had any in the first place.”

The girl turned to leave, then whirled around. “Of course. The crime scene,” she muttered. “That’s the perfect place for proof!” She settled her gaze on Valo. “And you’ll come too. I’ll show you who really did it.”


“Half an hour before midnight. I’ll drag you out of bed and through the city streets if necessary. But you’d better come, or pay the price.” Her gaze was intense, frightening. “You know where the laboratory ruins are, right?” It was all he could do to nod assent.

“Good,” she said briefly. “Now get going. And don’t tell a soul about this.” Valo refrained from pointing out that she was the one who needed to “get going” and made his escape. He felt this was a girl he especially needed to avoid unnecessary risks around.

Instinct told him that he couldn’t possibly follow her to the remains of his uncle’s science lab, and in the dead of night, no less. Those were the most dangerous hours, with crooks and murderers and suspicious lowlifes on the prowl. And the ruins themselves possessed their own dangers. What if parts of the building collapsed? What if dangerous chemicals from the lab were still lingering in the air? What if, hidden behind the crumbling walls, this girl turned on him? He couldn’t trust her, after all. How could she expect him to trust her?

Lingering behind the doorframe, he heard several thuds coming from his room, followed by a succession of grunts, but didn’t bother to investigate. The girl would probably leave soon, the same way she came in. How had she gotten in, anyway? Oh, that’s right, through the window. Wasn’t it locked? Never mind, he’d be sure to lock it next time.

What would he do tomorrow night? That girl didn’t look very friendly, and Valo wasn’t sure he wanted to risk her wrath. On the other hand, her plan held plenty of dangers. Not to mention that, while his parents had never explicitly told him not to sneak out at night, he had a strong suspicion that it wasn’t allowed, and with good reason.

However… he would have a chance to prove her wrong about Uncle Alex.

Valo stared at the rustling drapes for a long moment, then made up his mind.

“I’m going to the ruins tomorrow night,” he whispered to the window, as if swearing an oath. “And no one will be able to stop me.” 

submitted by Valo, Light House
(January 16, 2021 - 10:48 pm)

This is great. I love the story and cannot wait for the next chapter! I know a lot of people said this already, but the details are really great and characters developed. (I sound like my teacher, don't I?) Anyway, the story is super interesting. :)

submitted by pangolin, the moon
(January 20, 2021 - 3:11 pm)

Chapter 4: Blitsa (part one)

Blitsa walked back to her house slowly, kicking every pebble she saw. That meeting really had been quite unsatisfactory. The spineless wimp hadn’t looked her in the eye once, while claiming that he was the one with power. She didn’t know why she hadn’t knocked him out and searched anyway. Of course, she’d wanted to thank him for letting her hide, but she could have turned on him afterward.

She shook her head suddenly. No! She knew full well why she hadn’t knocked him out. She, unlike Alexander Ness, was a kind, responsible person. Knocking out his nephew, however annoying he might have been, was not the behavior of a kind, responsible person like her. Besides, she had to admire his loyalty, however much his cowardice overshot it.

Before she knew it, she’d made it back home. She let herself in the back door, glad to see that there were no servants around. She probably would have lashed out at any she saw, and then they’d tell her father, and it would have been a whole big thing. She sighed as she stepped into her room and fell onto her bed.

She could think about it in the morning. For now, she was going to sleep.


The next day passed uneventfully. Her parents were quiet and drawn, which was understandable, but it was all Blitsa could do not to jump up and run to the ruins. She forced herself to stay focused on her sewing. It wouldn’t do her any good if her family suspected something was up and confined her to her room. She could always break out, of course, but it would certainly be harder.

Through some feat of self-control, she made it safely through the day and left home promptly at eleven o’clock. Despite her lack of sleep, she was energized and eager to find the evidence she knew was there. Poor Valo would have to face the truth about his uncle. That is, he would face the truth if he showed up. She didn’t really think he would, but she wasn’t sure what she would do if not. She hated to admit it, but her threat the night before had been a bit thoughtless. What would she do if he’d told her parents about her, and they were there waiting when she tried to force him with her? And why had she obeyed the strange impulse to ask him to come in the first place? She sighed, running a hand through her hair. 

To her surprise, Valo was already waiting at the entrance to the ruins! He stood just outside the former front door, bouncing from foot to foot and hovering a globe of light over his hand. When he saw her piercing, skeptical stare, he shrugged uncomfortably.

“I didn’t want you to go in without me and ignore some evidence that proved Uncle Alex’s innocence.”

“Shush!” she spat. “I don’t care about your reasons for being here, but you ought to talk quietly. People live around here, you know.”

He nodded quickly. Too quickly.

“And I suppose that, knowing that, you walked in quietly, not stomping your feet and stepping on every branch from here to the corner?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

He bit his lip, telling her everything she needed to know.

Blitsa huffed loudly. “Well, there’s nothing we can do about that now. Follow me in. And for God’s sake, watch where you place your feet!”

He rolled his eyes when he thought she wasn’t looking but followed her anyway. 

The sprawling campus stretched off into the distance, like a giant had spread its arms and fallen over dead. Heaps of charred rubble towered around them as they picked their way through the dead silence of the ruins. Every so often, a piece would crunch under their feet with a sound like cracking bones. Blitsa clenched her hands into tight fists and forced herself to breathe deeply. She wasn’t living in a horror novel. She was here for a reason, and she had to focus on that.

“What are we looking for, exactly?” Valo asked, his voice startling loud in the quiet.

Blitsa looked over her shoulder and stared at him, perhaps more angrily than she had intended. “I’m sure you’ll know it when you see it.”

“You just don’t want to tell me anything,” he accused.

She turned around fully and placed a hand on her hip. “That’s not true! I tell you plenty of things.”

“Is that so? Name one thing you’ve told me that I didn’t already know.”

She hesitated, realizing she couldn’t think of any. “I’m sure there were plenty.”

Valo groaned. “I mean, you haven’t even told me your name!”

“Fine!” she replied, rolling her eyes. “My name is Blitsa Adelman. You happy?”

Not waiting for a reply, she turned around and strode deeper into the ruins, leaving Valo with no choice but to follow her, happy or not. The two of them wandered through the ruins for some time in silence. Eventually, Valo turned to Blitsa and took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry to disturb you or anything, but are you sure there’s anything here to find?”

She glared at him. “I don’t know any better than you, okay?” It came out a bit harsher than she had intended. She supposed the lack of sleep was catching up with her. Either that or he was just annoying her more than she had realized. The latter was probably more likely, she thought.

“Yes, but is there any point in continuing to search?” he pressed.

Blitsa turned, crossing her arms. “We’ve barely covered half the ruins. If you really want to discard the chance that the evidence proving your uncle’s innocence is in the remaining half, then sure, go home! But don’t go complaining when I find something substantial and you’re just hiding at home like the spineless wimp you are.”

“I’m not a wimp!” he said, hurt. “And I don’t want to spend any more time with someone who calls me one. I’m going home, whether you like it or not. It’s not like I care what you think.” But the quiver in his voice said otherwise. She shook her head and continued along the path.

submitted by Blitsa, Lightning House
(January 20, 2021 - 2:15 pm)