Family is.. safe at last? [4.17]

ourIceMain.jpg Property law is complicated.. magic doesn't help either.
Especially when there's a monkey in the room playing with a box of spanners for his own amusement.

Okay, that one was a bit specific I'll admit but you get what I mean right?

Events unfold including but not limited to:
A man with dreamy eyes putting on silly sunglasses.
Another spanner is tossed
(obviously)
and Hannah struggles to quite get her head around how drastically a simple plan can go off the rails because of said spanner!


 

The door shut tightly behind the annoyingly slow moving old man and within seconds I’d spun around to fix John with my most demanding glare.

I want answers damn it!

Step one got me registered as a new individual entity in the eyes of the Hub.
A trick that should help muddy the waters and throw off a lot of the dumber, more prone to violence, ex-husbands which may come after me at some point.

Step two was to get me registered as the Matriarch of the Garnier family, taking the title from Gran using John’s not-insubstantial political weight as ‘Maxarimus’ to get it processed instantly instead of waiting the customary five days probation period where the Hub would question the outgoing Matriarch in depth to make sure there were no tricks or coercion being used.

There was no Step three involving the family registrar!

Step three involves the housing associate for Klamath Falls, where we can use my new position and general existence as someone other than ‘Arista’ to claim Mum’s house and its surrounding area as clan grounds!

It’ll give us a LOT of leeway in everything from spell usage in public view to clan laws including the right to defend our property from invasion or people with hostile intent.
The wards are great for that sort of thing, don’t get me wrong, but it takes YEARS of living within them before they consider you ‘relevant’ without having your magic physically carved into the ward stone itself!

As it is the only people our wards protect from ill-intent are most likely going to be Me, Mum, Sarah and the Martials.
It’s not enough, it’s not SAFE for all the family we now have living with us!

I can’t.. I can’t protect them as things stand.
If I have to abuse the laws set down to keep marginalised families from exposing magic to everyone and cage ‘dangerous’ groups like the werewolves into ‘safe’ marked out territories to protect my family then DAMN RIGHT I’m gonna do it!!

..but that has nothing to do with this..
Yeah! What the hell happened to going from Step two to Step three smoothly?!
Damn it John there IS NO Step two-point-five!

Especially one that names ME as your powers damned HEIR!!
What’s the bloody POINT of even having an heir in the first place?!

He’s a MAGE for powers sake!
Five, ten years down the line from the moment he dies he’ll be back again anyway!

“I’m sure you have you’re reasons John.. and I’m sure you’re about to tell me them in great detail before I force them out of you in less pleasant ways..”
He grimaced slightly but didn’t seem overly effected by the growl present in my voice otherwise.
“Why would you need an heir? Why now? Why here?.. and more importantly why ME?!”

He couldn’t quite meet my eyes as he let out a long, almost pained sigh and sunk back into the seat he’d used during out meeting with the family registrar a minute ago.

“Calm down Han, it’s more of a formality than anything else-”
CALM DOWN?! I’m PERFECTLY powers damned CALM John-boy!!
“-I’ve died once already.. I got better, thanks to you obviously, but that doesn’t change the fact that I almost left this world for good.”

He trailed off slightly and twitched his hands in his lap almost thoughtfully for a second before turning his eyes back up to me with determination written all over his face.

“I’m separate from Max to some degree, but he’s always been in my head and as history’s shown it doesn’t take much for him to take over if he wants to.. if I die again..”
The pain in his voice along with the idea of John dying in any way hit me harder than I would have expected at this point, I ended up practically falling into the seat next to his while watching him in surprise just from the fact that he’d actually SAID it..

“I can’t protect you from him Han? There’s only so much I can do but if the worst happens, I’m not going to leave Max ANYTHING that he can use against you in his next incarnation!”
..john?..

“When I die, everything I own.. everything HE owns will pass on to you. He’ll awaken without money, without any relics to use against you, without any property’s to hide in or advantages that he could use against you aside from his mind.. if I could take THAT away from him too I would!”
..John..

“Maxarimus isn’t a nice person Han.. I’m.. I’m not a nice person?.. but if it’s a choice between my inherent nature as his incarnation or you’re safety I’d destroy the world to stop myself in a heartbeat.”
Oh John..

“I hurt you once.. I’ll never let myself be that person again, even if I have to burn every bridge I have to stop it from happening!”
With his passionate speech apparently completed he seemed to practically wilt in on himself under my lost gaze.

It took me a moment to realise that I had tears in my eyes, naturally I brushed them away quickly with a violent sniff but the damage was done.
I let off one more sniff before leaning over and pulling his slumped form into the tightest hug I could.
Oh John.. my stupid John..

He twitched slightly as I tugged at his magic but didn’t resist when I managed to pull that wonderfully warm ‘sheet’ of power infused with his feelings clear enough that I could wrap it tightly around myself.
So much care, so much emotion and worry.. so much love?..

“..stupid John..”
He snorted amusedly despite himself at that, which made my lips twitch up into a shaky smile as well.

Without another word I tucked myself tightly into his chest, letting off a contented sigh and we settled into a heartfelt silence; just enjoying each other’s contact and proximity more than anything else honestly?

..stupid John..

======

“Oh? I’m sorry am I interrupting something?”

We both jolted sharply apart as a new voice entered the room followed by a hesitant body that seemed to have already decided to leave the room just on general principle as it turned around and took a few steps back the way it came.

“No! Wait!.. sorry about that..”
With a jolt I managed to pull away from John’s warm protective blanket of magic and force myself upright properly again.
The new voices owner paused before taking a carefully slow step back into the room with a curious eyebrow raised.

I sniffed to myself forcefully and pushed away from John a bit more to show that he didn’t need to leave at all.

We’ve had our moment, I’ll be damned if I let my stupid emotions and my stupid no-doubt period-influenced tears.. and my stupid JOHN get in the way of our plans for today!
If we stop now then we’ll never get another chance at this damn it!

“Sorry about that, I just had a moment there.. Mr Holister the housing associate I presume?”
I sent the guy a bright smile which felt only a little bit forced to me but seemed to ease any fears he might have had in general somehow.

Mr Holister nodded and smiled back at me awkwardly before straightening his neat suit jacket a little and he started walking over to us.
I couldn’t help but appreciate his looks a little as he moved forward, almost predatory in his steps despite the bashful look on his face.

He’s young, much younger than the old man from before at least.
At a guess I’d put him at about mid-twenties, possibly a little older.. although it’s hard to tell with his smooth skin and handsome face in all honesty?

I can appreciate a good looking man when I see one; it’s one of the benefits of being reluctantly bisexual in nature.
From his chiselled jaw line, along his wide shoulders and down his sleek but obviously muscular body I couldn’t really find a reason not to smile at him slightly as he came closer?

He’s most definitely handsome.. not like JOHN handsome obviously.. John’s on another level, beyond the reach of mortal men in some people’s eyes AND he’s got the advantage of being a mage on top of that, which I have no doubt he’s used to improve his looks in some way or another judging by the amount of appreciative glances he gets when we go out in public.

Hell, John used to get those kinds of looks even back in SCHOOL for powers sake!

In all honesty if he wasn’t such a ‘dork’ back then, hanging out with me and the other ‘geeks’, I’m pretty sure he’d have been prom-king material.
Luckily for our friendship, his obsession with Sarah and the actual existence OF our friendship in general managed to put a stop to THAT potential little hiccup in our lives of course..

Wait.. when did I start thinking about JOHN?!
I was checking out the new ‘Holister’ hottie.. uh.. ‘gentleman’?..

..damn it..

“Pleasure to meet you”
Before my traitorous brain could derail things any further away from our goals, possibly with thoughts of John and this Holister man wrestling topless in a pit of liquid toffee, I stood sharply and stuck out my hand to shake his politely.

He seemed momentarily taken aback by my movements but John just found them amusing because.. well, because he’s JOHN, does his ability to find amusement in stupid things I do really need explaining at this point?!

I didn’t even get a chance to shoot a warning look at John before my train of thought actually derailed again, for rather different reasons this time.
Holister stepped closer to me while I was busy grumbling to myself internally and took my dangling hand delicately in his, before raising it up slightly and planting a kiss on my knuckles..

“The pleasure is all mine I’m sure Ms..?”
My tongue didn’t want to work properly as he fixed me with a curious look from a rather startlingly bright set of deep blue eyes.

How did I not notice how very BLUE his eyes were before?.. so dreamy..

“Enough of that Romeo”
I let out a startled little gasp as John snagged me around the waist, jerking me away from Holister enough that he could slide between us and fix the tall man with a warning look full of anger.

Despite everything I found myself clinging slightly to the back of John’s shirt for a moment just to keep myself stable?
It took a few more seconds for my head to clear enough that I could shake it and start gathering my whit’s again.

What the hell happened there?!

“If anyone is going to use seduction magic through his eyes around here it’s me, got it? I practically wrote the book on those techniques you amateur.”

..John’s going to use seduction magic with hypnotising eyes?..
Urrg! No, stupid question brain, FOCUS Hannah!

Holister flinched back from John as if physically struck by him all of a sudden.
His broad shoulders slumped a little and he offered me an almost pitiable look of regret for some reason.

“I apologise, I hadn’t intended to cause offence or problems.. I.. I’m part incubus on my father’s side, I don’t really have control over the related powers I’m afraid?”

He really did look upset with himself too..
I know what it’s like to have powers you can’t control that cause embarrassing side effects.. that whole ‘diverted ice magic as water magic that made it look like I’d wet myself’ thing comes to mind for example.

John almost seemed to growl under his breath as he shot a cautious look over at me.
With quick, almost jerky movements he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a pair of wide framed orange lensed sunglasses which REALLY shouldn’t have fit in there let alone EXISTED in the first place!

“Han, time to do you’re rune mojo. Think you can enchant these to supress magic on contact somehow?”
Huh?..
Uh.. maybe.. I guess?

Wait! Is THAT how his hypnosis works?!!
Son of a- That’s so bloody SIMPLE!

Take a relatively standard ‘seduction spell’ framework or any kind of mind-controlling spell really that wouldn’t normally work on a mage, add some intent and the right spell pattern with internal magic, then pour it out through the lines most people use to activate mage sight in their eyes!

Damn it, that’s REALLY simple but I’d NEVER be able to use it with my weak eye-lines!

I always thought that his hypnotic stare was some kind of inherent ‘Max’ skill, not something just ANYBODY could bloody learn?!
I didn’t even think about seduction spells, the stupid things only work on normals usually for powers sake!

All those years I wasted time and effort making blood magic powered ‘Midas Bands’ with sympathetic magic to JUST about bring up a defence against him and I could have enchanted some bloody GLASSES instead!
I’m seriously starting to see the reason why John owns so many pairs of the stupid things at this point, who knew some stupid bits of glass with plastic holding them together could be so versatile?!

“I can’t believe THAT’S how you did that crap.. I hate you sometimes..”
John spared enough time to smirk at me as he waved the glasses in my direction while putting in the effort to keep himself stood defensively between me a Holister.
..asshole..

“Less talky, more rune crafty Han”
Asshole!

“Give me those!”
He winced a little as I harshly yanked the stupid sunglasses out of his stupid hand and his stupid.. stupid!

With an almost instinctive growl I marched over to the desk and dropped the glasses onto it so hard they bounced a little in the process.
I may have bitten down with a bit too much force when drawing some blood from my finger too but the faster I get this sorted the faster I can get back to being angry at John for his stupidly simple hypnosis and how many BLOODY times he’s caught me with it over the years!

“Three minutes”

John glanced over to me and nodded thoughtfully before turning back to his busy job of glaring at Holister.
I’ve made real magic suppressors at this point and one of my most used glyphs back when I worked missions was a simple ‘dispel all magic on contact’ one, so this shouldn’t be too hard at least?

The ‘dispel all magic’ rune-set is pretty basic but fiddly to lay out, in practice it works a lot like my suppressors by creating a draw on any magical channels around it and venting everything it can out into the air to dissipate.
There’s no skill or finesse to it like my suppressors though, that’s the key difference, I used to inscribe it on fist sized rocks then toss them at wards, traps and magical constructs like grenades to save time and effort.

They have a tendency to explode if too much magic goes into them but that shouldn’t be a problem in this case considering that, from what I can feel, Holister isn’t a mage.. he’s just got some magical creature heritage that’s kind of bleeding out of him over time.
..maybe I should add a failsafe just in case he meets up with his dad again or something?..

Incubi aren’t demons, just for the record?
They’re a type of fae in the same vein as Centaurs and Murlocs in reality.

Okay.. so maybe they are a bit ‘demon-like’ in the way they sustain themselves on human vitality?
Kind of like vampires, but instead of drinking blood they have to drink.. other.. bodily fluids..

I’ve honestly never had a problem with them before.
They tend to be surprisingly civil and soft-hearted people that keep to themselves from what I’ve heard too.

A lot of them even do some strange ‘bonding’ thing which is kind of like a magical marriage between a half-breed fae and a normal human where they swear to only feed from their chosen mate for the rest of their lives.

Some, like their cousins the succubae, make a somewhat honest living as sex-workers of course.
That way they can get all the ‘human vitality’ they can ingest for free and even get PAID for it, kinda a win-win situation really.. or so the girls I met in Amsterdam a few years ago said at least..

Romance obviously isn’t for everyone and I can appreciate the mentality of going that route, even if the idea of it makes me a bit uneasy despite my objectively worse moral position from working as a magical assassin and all, guess I’m just a small-town boy at heart still?

Well.. small-town girl at this point really but ya know what I mean!

The bonding thing’s a big commitment in all honesty because there IS no ‘divorce’ from it, enforced by old magic at its finest, and no matter what happens the incubus WILL die a few days after their chosen mate, from starvation if nothing else, so I can kind of see why some of them would rather take a looked down upon ‘profession’ to keep themselves fed rather than face bonding with someone when usually their life-spans can go off into the centuries range easily otherwise..

As a whole I’ve got nothing against incubi or their mixed-breed descendants.. I just don’t like having my free will taken away from me because one of them can’t control their apparently unconscious response to feelings of lust towards me!

Hopefully these glasses work out and we can all get back down to business so I can move on with my life.. far, far away from Mr Holister and his FAR too blue eyes!

..speaking of which..
“Done”

I shoved a thumb on each control cluster and pumped them full of magic to set the runes properly before handing them back to John as casually as I could.

Judging by the look of awe on his face, Holister’s not been around many enchanters before?
..we ARE kind of rare I guess..

He’s obviously not been around an annoyed John before either judging by the surprised yelp he let out when John forcefully shoved the silly looking orange-lensed sunglasses onto the poor man’s face with a look in his eye that practically DARED him to even THINK about taking them off again anytime soon!

“Han, hate to do it but we need to make sure they’re working, come give Ol’Blue eyes McLust-demon here a good long look to see if he gets your motor running or not.”

Well SOMEONE’S in a bad mood suddenly!
I take it you’re not a fan of me mooning over other guys now John-boy?

I can’t exactly say that I’M a fan of it either to be honest but there’s no need to get snippy with ME about it!

With a heavy sigh I pushed myself up to my feet again and moved as close as I dared towards Holister.
He cringed visibly as if expecting me to suddenly melt into a puddle at his feet or something.. which on second thought is probably quite an appropriate reaction considering how easily he turned me to warm jelly a few minutes ago just with a glance I suppose?

I scanned him up and down a few times thoughtfully but didn’t feel any kind of overbearing force drawing me in anymore.. don’t get me wrong, he’s still cute with the muscles and the jawline and everything, but there’s none of that ‘wow’ factor that hit me when he looked at me with his-

Much to both my and Holister’s surprise John leaned over, snagging the glasses off of him again in one efficient movement.
Before I could do anything, even just close my eyes, I caught myself looking into those deep blue voids and the world started falling away again.. he’s so dreamy..

Almost as quickly as it came the feeling left again as John shoved the glasses back onto the poor man’s face, effectively blocking my view of those bluest of blue ey-
DAMN IT!

I spun on a heel and glared at John angrily.

“Not. Funny!”
He smirked anyway but perked up an eyebrow which was his way of telling me to get over it and think things through some more before I started yelling at him.

He’s not quite up to ‘twinspeak’ levels but John’s still good at facial expressions when he wants to be apparently?
I stood glaring at him for a moment more before folding my arms forcefully under my currently enhanced chest and stomping back to my chair in a huff.

Okay, so I can see how it was a good way of checking to see if the glasses actually worked..
Okay, so I would probably have done the same thing if the roles were reversed and I was trying to protect John from a succubae’s granddaughter or something..
Okay, so.. so.. BUT HE’S STILL AN ASSHOLE FOR DOING IT!

“Let’s get this over with.. asshole.”
John’s smug little smirk didn’t fade at all.

He knows I don’t really mean it just from the tone of my voice despite my best efforts somehow?
Damn him for knowing me so well!

“John-boy, SIT!”

“Yes, Ma’am”
He quickly slid into the seat next to me while Holister almost reluctantly made his way around to the seat that the old man vacated a while ago.

“Um.. I apologise for all of that and would like to thank you for the gift Ms.. uh.. Ms?”
I opened my mouth to answer him with only a slightly petulant pause slowing me down.
It’s not HIM I’m mad at, so there’s honestly no need for me to be a bitch to him over it all really..

My opinion on matters didn’t actually matter though apparently because before I could get anything out John beat me to it, as he seems to enjoy doing EVER so much lately!

“Duchess Hannah Cooper-Garnier, Daughter of Arista and Regent for the estate of Maxarimus the Second.”
My mouth dropped open slightly.
Holister’s eyes widened in shock and possibly mild horror as he realised just WHO he’d almost accidentally seduced a minute ago.

..everything John just said is true, technically, I guess?..

HE made me the regent for his estate when he named me his heir in his living will..
WE made me an official ‘daughter’ of Arista when we registered me as a new ‘Hannah Cooper’.. and I made myself Matriarch to the Garnier family, a position which I’d honestly be pretty surprised if it DIDN’T come with some kind of official title SOMEWHERE in the world, just from how long the family has been around in general.

He didn’t have to SAY it like that though!
..stupid John..

“My apologise for breaching etiquette Lady Garnier, we don’t get many visits from someone of your standing in Klamath Falls.. I mostly deal with staff housing, foster families for Hub staff and victims of magical accidents in all honestly?”
Holister wouldn’t meet my eyes and he really seems flustered now.
Damn it John!

I can’t say I particularly blame Holister for his reaction but that isn’t helping things much sadly.

From the moment he stepped in the door this whole situation has turned into one long headache but I also can’t blame him for that exact problem in good conscience either, can I?

Given the way I’m dressed, I’d be a hypocrite if I called him out on whatever lusty thoughts he had about me that awoke his latent ‘Incubi’ powers so easily.. looking hot, cute and ‘distracting’ was kinda the POINT of this whole thing from my end after all!
Hell, I spent damn near five minutes at our last store checking myself out in the mirror because I looked so damn good!

“You’re forgiven Mr Holister, you may keep the glasses.. a gift from the Garnier clan as a sign of no ill-will for today’s events. I hope they help you with your apparent problems arising from your heritage?”
It felt awkward talking so formally but I had to say something and there’s a protocol to this sort of thing.

I’ve been around enough Monarchs, pseudo-monarchs and ‘I wish I was but I’m too pathetic to actually be one so I’ll just threaten to kill you unless you treat me like I am one!’ monarchs to NOT know how you’re meant to show gratitude when you’re part of the ‘old’ families.

The king of magical Canada once offered me the hand of his second-cousin’s third-daughter in marriage as gratitude for services rendered at one point, talk about an awkward situation to learn that grunting in surprise ISN’T an appropriate response to a formal ‘gift’ from a magical aristocrat!

I almost regretted having to turn him down on his ‘kind’ offer when I saw her.
Apparently they make them cute in Canada.. who knew?

Luckily it was at about the point when I’d started seriously reconsidering my strict rules against arranged marriages and taking ‘gifts’ from clients, that she opened her mouth and.. by the POWERS, the amount of drivel and mindless complaints that spewed forth from her admittedly pretty lips is still enough to make me shudder to this day!

“I humbly accept your generous gift Lady Garnier. I hope that I can be of some assistance to you in..uh.. our business today?”

..close enough I guess?..
For someone who apparently doesn’t have to deal with magical aristocrats very often he was doing kind of okay there, until the end at least.

“Speaking of that.. maybe we should get on with it? As you can imagine Mr Holister, her Ladyship has many duties and pressing matters to attend to before day’s end..”
Who the HELL do you think you’re calling ‘her ladyship’ in that sarcastic tone of voice John-boy?!
“We’re here today to request the formal confirmation of a new clan compound within the Klamath Falls district border.”

Holister seemed mildly surprised for a moment but to his credit he managed to recollect himself quickly enough that it didn’t become awkward at least.

“I can sort that out for you easily my Lady! I’ll need the origin address, minimum defined boarder you require and number of clan members in residency before I can do the official calculations of course?”
He hesitated for a moment, obviously not sure whether he should be directing his speech to either me or John.

Common courtesy would dictate he speak directly to me but with this apparent ‘Ladyship’ that somehow comes part and parcel with being the Garnier Matriarch, things get a bit more messy.
John’s technically acting as my representative at the moment.

While its fine for a ‘Lady’ to introduce herself if she wishes, most matters of business and money are meant to be relayed from her through a nominated representative.
It’s a stupid, outdated and frankly sexist system but when has THAT ever stopped mages from doing something?!

I guess.. as long as it gets the job done?.. I can let him just-
Reluctantly I kept my mouth shut and gave the subtlest of nods to John.

From the looks of it both he and Holister had been basically waiting for the go-ahead from me sadly.
The idea that I might break thousands of years of protocol and political manoeuvring just for the sake of my pride was apparently never in question to either of them!

I had to hold back an indignant huff at the unfairness of it all but this REALLY isn’t the time to start pointless fights to save my own ego over something so petty.
I’ve got a bigger picture to think about right now.. sadly?..

I watched, trying to give off an air of bored disinterest, as John gave Holister my Mum’s address and the general size of our ward boundary before he surprised me by yet again going off script slightly.

“-the current occupancy within the proposed compound is roughly in the order of two-to-three-hundred family members with upwards of five-to-seven-hundred more possibly joining us in the future excluding extended family and temporary visitors, which I would have to estimate at anything between one-hundred and fourteen-thousand occupants per-day.. depending on the time of year and any special events which may occur of course?”
My Jaw dropped open almost as quickly as Holister’s did!

What the HELL is John THINKING?!
There’s only about eighty people that I know of in the Garnier ‘clan’ right now?
We’re barely even a clan at this point!

It’s only our apparent status as both an old magical family and one of the few relatively sane werewolf packs in the United States that made me even CONSIDER trying to pull this off!

Fourteen-thousand visitors?!
That’s probably more people than even the Bazaar gets in a day normally!

Where the HELL would he even get those numbers fro-..
Oh no.. oh PLEASE don’t do this to me John you complete ASSHOLE?!

“Are those numbers entirely accurate Mr..uh..?”
John just smirked slightly for a moment and I could do little more than watch on in mild horror as he shifted forwards slightly in anticipation.

“If anything Mr Holister I believe that I may have underestimated the numbers for all our sakes.
Along with Lady Garnier’s already impressive personal holdings, her position as Matriarch extends any familial ties she holds to encompass everyone within her immediate family.”
His smirk went up a notch ever so slightly as he leaned back into his seat in smug pride.
“Let us not forget that she is now also the heir apparent and acting regent for the holdings of the GREAT Maxarimus himself, with all the responsibility’s and FAMILY TIES inherent in that position..”

DAMN IT!
I KNEW John couldn’t just DO something as strange as making me his ‘heir’ without a reason behind it!

I bloody KNEW it!

“Lady Garnier herself has seen fit to gift our new compound with a direct link to her personal realm which is currently in the process of being retrofitted for use by as many family members as becomes necessary over time.. naturally..”

Holister paled slightly as the true extent of the situation finally sunk into his head.
I gave up and slid my head into my hands with a pained groan.

His numbers are pretty close to reality after all?

The smug bastard made me his regent.. what’s his is mine now..
I get his houses..
I get his books..
I get his magical gismos.. and I get his FAMILY!

As head of the Garnier ‘clan’, when I officially gain new family the ‘clan’ gains new members.
Blood is blood but when reincarnation is a thing then blood becomes kind of meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Like it or not, the Garnier family just gained more members then I want to even THINK about in the space of a few minutes!
Every child of John throughout the ages, every person who at one time may have been born from some version of ‘Max’ is now considered MINE by law and, once the processing is complete, by MAGIC too!

“..I hate you so much right now..”
He didn’t even have the guts to look at me directly in response.
I can’t blame him really, if we didn’t desperately NEED this ‘clan compound’ thing legally to protect my new family I’d probably say ‘to hell with it all’ and punch him in his smug face just because I can!

“I believe her Ladyship would also like to petition for the right to open a privately owned business district within her clan’s compound?.. with the tax and legal exemptions that would come from such an endeavour included.. naturally..”
Damn it John wipe that smug look off your face and stop making things worse!

I get it okay?
You’ve made your point, you don’t have to add MORE things for us to sort out later just to spite me!!

With a heavy sigh I managed to get myself back under control again.
..the bigger picture, focus on the bigger picture..

He may be being an ass about it and we WILL have words about this later, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not like I’m actually losing anything that I hadn’t already lost in the last few weeks with his little backwards-ass scheme right now.. and the gains are going to be kind of scary in all honesty..

I’m no expert on the topic of course, but clan compounds are calculated on need and viability.

Viability isn’t much of a problem in this case simply because the only mage I know of living near to our house is John.. and considering the whole ‘what’s his is now mine’ thing, that problem sorts itself out nicely.
Where before he started meddling I’d planned to have him confirm that there were no conflicts of interest formally in person, just to speed things up, now it doesn’t matter because I can do whatever the hell I want with his stuff and he’s waived his right to protest about any of it!

Doing it to protect me from the next incarnation of Max when he dies my ASS?!
He just wanted to.. to..

Damn it! I just realised what he’s REALLY doing!

Our house is already a ‘viable’ compound, we have enough family members already living in the Golden Palace of Excess to qualify for compound status and as Matriarch I could formally request it at any time..
Now John’s come along and thrown in every ‘child’ we may have out there in the world that was born from either a past-Max or past-Arista and thrown the whole bloody calculation system out the window in one fell swoop!

With that many mages or potential mages listed under the ‘Garnier’ family name all of a sudden we’re going to go from a minor footnote in the modern political climate to a bloody SUPERPOWER!
Registering a private business district within our still theoretical ‘compound’ only ADDS to that by introducing the idea of traders, shoppers and just generally more PEOPLE into it all as well.

The Golden Palace can handle the influx easily if it really IS a full private dimension, owned exclusively by Arista.. well, owned my ME now I guess.. in the same way that Maven rules over her realm and can ‘rent’ space out of for the Hub’s to use but that’s not the bloody point!

The point is that places like the Bazaar and other neutral magical trading districts are bloody RARE in America!
I have no idea who actually owns the Bazaar now but whoever it is probably sleeps on a bed made of money while basically holding immunity from prosecution for anything they do in the Seattle area at the very least.

OWNING a space with such a high concentration of mages inside it is a scary statement in its own right!
Owning a space with so many mages, who are now all part of one ‘family’, is enough to make most people who care sit up and start sweating in fear.
Owning a space with THAT many mages living inside it and then turning it into potentially the LARGEST new magical shopping district that the WORLD has seen in decades is just.. is just..

GAH! DAMN IT JOHN!!

We wanted to make ‘Hannah Cooper’ a separate person from ‘Arista’ in the eyes of the Hub and now I really doubt THAT’S going to be a hard thing to do!
I’d be surprised if I wasn’t on route to becoming the favorite topic of discussion number one, two, three through fifteen within the halls of the Magical Congress at this point.

For the next few weeks as everyone scrabbles around trying to find out just who the HELL I am and where the HELL I came from, WHAT I am and just what my possible motives could be in making such a wildly ridiculous ‘power play’ out of bloody NOWHERE; I’m going to be the country’s most chased after new chew toy!

It’s.. its.. if you’d suggested we do something as STUPID as this to me even a day ago, I think I honestly would have rolled myself into a little ball and sobbed pitifully until everyone just went a-BLOODY-way?!
I’m going to have a target drawn on my back a mile wide under my, technically new, ‘Hannah Cooper’ persona from now on!

While just the THOUGHT of that really does scare the ever-living crap out of me; it also means something else too.. it means protection?

Protection for my family..
Protection for the ‘clan’..
Protection for the werewolves among us?
Hell, it even means protection for the normals in my life like Mum, Sarah and the Martials!

I wish he’d consulted me or perhaps just TOLD me about his stupid idea beforehand.. but I can’t bring myself to be angry at him for the result, now I’ve had a few moments to process it all at least?

I came here wanting a new identity to help me avoid any problems that might come my way from being ‘Arista’ or just from being the source of the ‘solar flare’ when they finally work out it was me..
I came here wanting to protect my new family both legally AND physically from any kind of attack the Hub might stage against them because of their obvious bias and distrust towards werewolves in general..

Mission bloody successful!
I got EXACTLY that.. damn it..

By turning me into potentially one of THE most politically powerful people to enter the magical arena in however many years you can imagine, he’s managed to both cement my existence in people’s minds and made people very.. VERY scared to test just how powerful I might actually BE in reality.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hub is FLOODED with requests for information about us and our new compound within the hour at this rate.
It’s probably going to keep happening too, at a near constant rate, until people finally get over the shock of my very EXISTANCE as well!

If we DO get some kind of ‘shopping district’ in place then I’m sure people will be turning up at all hours, day and night, just to see if they can find out more about the family and me specifically too.
The most important thing John’s managed by forcing this huge ‘expansion’ on my relatively simple plans at this exact moment though is something I would never have thought to do.

He’s made people SCARED of us.. Scared of ME specifically!

I’m not a faceless representative to a minor, dying line, of toothless werewolves and under-trained mages anymore.
I’m a complete unknown who, in one day, has managed to achieve what many of the petty infighting politicians of the Hub’s aristocracy couldn’t even DREAM of achieving.
I’m a complete unknown with enough ‘family’ members behind me to actually be considered my own private army for powers sake!

I’m a COMPLETE unknown that they have NO control over, no history with.. and nothing to use in gaining either of those key items needed to continue with their usual power-games in my wake either!

I’ve said it before.. I don’t LIKE being feared, but sadly it’s usually the most effective method of getting things done quickly.
When information about my existence filters down through the system I’ll be stuck under a microscope every time I leave our new ‘clan’ compound, which is going to SERIOUSLY suck by the way.. but on the other hand NO-ONE is going to be stupid enough to harm a member of MY family anymore, because they honestly have NO idea how I’d react if nothing else?!

I could be the most calm and accepting of Matriarch’s who lets things go with minor retributions at most for all they know or.. well.. technically I’m now considered a daughter of ‘Arista’ in my own right and have you HEARD of Arista?
That bitch is CRAZY!

Just think what kind of damage her newest daughter could do if PROVOKED?!

‘She even LOOKS like her too!’
‘She’s got chubbier cheeks of course but obviously the apple hasn’t fallen very far from the tree in THIS one, so I think it’s safer for ALL of us if I just let her get on with it and leave the live-landmine prodding to someone ELSE.. someone with MUCH fewer brain-cells then me!’
I can just imagine the almost universal reactions worldwide already sadly..

It’s the perfect bluff honestly.
People are stupid, but individuals aren’t and THAT’S the real problem that every person who wants to mess with MY family from now on will have to face!

Will I punish them as a group of stupid people that they can hide within and slip safely away from in the confusion?.. or will I zero in on that one instigator hiding in the shadows and make an EXAMPLE of them in ways too horrific to describe?!

They don’t know!
They CAN’T know.. and that’s downright terrifying to anyone who’s done this sort of thing long enough.
We’re MAGES for power’s sake, if you’re not smart then you don’t even TRY to get involved with our politics!

We’ve had CENTURIES to hone our skills beyond anything a normal could even imagine when it comes to subterfuge and long-term planning abilities.

If everyone with even half-a-brain decides to sit back and wait for someone else to go first.. and they WILL.. then that means we’re in for a LONG wait before anyone gets even SLIGHTLY curious about the idea of provoking us openly EVER again!

What’s an incarnation or two of ‘waiting’ for someone else to get stupid and let you all see just what kind of person this new upstart ‘Hannah Cooper’ character REALLY is, when you’ve got eternity on your side?

I know John’s smart, despite what I think of him when he annoys me, but this.. this is ‘Max’ levels of manipulation and social engineering skills showing through right here!
..if he wasn’t on my side I think I’d actually be scared of him right about now?..

======

“-can you give me the exact coordinates we would need to place a ward-stone to cover the entire compound at all? I could do the calculations myself naturally but her Ladyship doesn’t pay me to do math so I don’t think I shall bother..”

Huh?.. I think I missed part of the conversation while stewing over John’s annoyingly effective plans..
That’s kind of frustrating, but I guess I can ask him about it later if it’s important, right?

“I can certainly do that for you. As you can see on the map, your proposed compound would stretch out across Upper Klamath Lake. The lake being a publicly recognised feature of the local landscape will limit what kind of wards you could put in place for the sake of the Hub’s secrecy protocols of course..”

Holister leaned closer to his desk and seemed to frown slightly at the big sheet of creased paper, one that I honestly don’t remember being there a minute ago, with more intensity then I would have expected from him at this point?

“..however things such as ill-intent wards, supervision wards and dark creature defence wards are perfectly acceptable still.. it looks like the ward-stone may have to be submerged into the lake itself to cover your full boundaries?..”
His head perked up a little and a smile ghosted across his lips for a second.
“In fact, looking at the map, I think the city might actually offer you a small tithe if you can add some form of ‘fresh water’ or ‘purification’ ward scheme to the stone and help them pass their government mandated clean water targets with flying colors this year?”

John didn’t react outwardly with much more than a light smirk in response to that idea but I could FEEL his magic roll around with amusement and laughter at the very thought of it.
We get to claim land for ourselves AND the normal government of America will PAY us yearly just for adding five-minutes’ worth of extra warding to our, apparently, already planned new set of wards!

John’s always had a problem with authority of most kinds that aren’t HIS and this whole thing just stinks of him being vindictive for the sake of his own amusement!

When did he even have TIME to think of this stuff?
I only told him what I was planning to do in here while we were shopping for powers sake!

It looks like he’s been enjoying himself while I was stalled out processing everything by getting into a back-and-forth conversation with Holister without me there to get in the way as he pushed things as far as humanly possible in ‘our’ favor I guess.
..asshole!..

“What did I miss?”
Holister jumped slightly at the sound of my voice and shot me a slightly confused look in response, much to John’s almost palpable glee.

Before I could come up with a reasonable excuse for my inattention, aside from the obvious truth that I just wasn’t paying attention of course, John decided to toss in his own comment for whatever it was worth.

“Lady Garnier has a touch of the seer about her, I apologise Mr Holister I should have mentioned something when I noticed her losing us a few minutes ago?”
HEY!
“I tend to give her any details she may have missed in an after-meeting of sorts that we’re rather fond of at this point..”

I’m not a Seer damn it!
His mother fixed me!

Holister turned wide awe-filled eyes towards me, which was possibly the only thing that stopped me from verbally going after John at that exact moment for basically telling someone I have mental problems for no good reason!

As the seconds ticked by I began to feel a little awkward under Holister’s curious gaze.
Finally John apparently had enough of watching us and coughed lightly to draw Holister’s attention back to himself instead.

The poor man blushed brightly as he realised that he’d been caught staring so openly at me but he quickly tried to move on so that we wouldn’t all dwell on it, even if he obviously DID know that we wouldn’t be forgetting it in the slightest for some time to come at least.

“I’m sorry.. uh.. if you would like to take a look at this map your Ladyship you’ll see an area marked out surrounding your new home.. I’ve run the calculations and it appears that you’re clan is due far more space then you originally requested.”

My eyes followed his to stare down at the map and I shifted slightly in my chair to get a better angle on i-
..oh..

Oh powers, what have we gotten ourselves into now?!
If I’m reading this map right, and let’s be honest that’s not exactly hard considering it’s just a simple road map, we.. as in the Garnier ‘family’.. now basically own..

Well.. the whole of the ‘Running Y’ Ranch Resort essentially?

The ‘boundary’ line marked out on the map is a slightly lopsided circle of roughly.. I’d say about roughly two-and-a-half miles in total from edge to edge?
It starts just to the side of the highway in front of the resorts open-air ice rink and goes all the way out across the, admittedly rather thin, part of Upper Klamath Lake nearest to our house to such a stupid degree that it actually covers the often ignored ‘Buck Island’ in the middle of our thin section of the great water-bowl!

If I’m reading this right it should actually clip the far-side of the lake too, at its lowest edge, so technically we’re going to own land on BOTH sides of the bloody lake!

“..this can’t be legal?..”
The words left my mouth before I’d quite processed them.

I couldn’t exactly retract them at this point so I settled for blushing and pulling myself tighter into my seat instead.
John snorted to himself and Holister gave me an awkward, almost apologetic, look in response which I guess weren’t the worst reactions I could have gotten for my troubles?

“The land is actually owned by the Hub for the most part, it’s being held in trust for a mage but he hasn’t made himself known to us for over two-hundred years so legally we can re-distribute it while putting aside a sum of money to cover its current value for him instead.”

Oh?.. I honestly did NOT know that was a thing..

We own our house, I know that much but I guess.. I guess to a group of mages, any sale of property to a family that’s initially considered normal IS kinda just temporary really?
If I hadn’t been a mage then the odds are high that the ‘Cooper’ family would eventually have moved somewhere else for any number of reasons as time went on.

I’d assume the Hub would then buy back our house before anyone else could move in and, with some creative accounting, make a profit before putting it back up on the market?

They must make a pretty tidy amount of money just from the Running Y resort if nothing else actually, now that I think about it, if Holister’s right and they really do already ‘own’ it at least?
The place is always busy with holiday-makers and the golf course is apparently pretty popular too..

“There’s a small area of land across the water at Cove Point that isn’t currently part of our portfolio but I’m sure that will be sorted out for you within the day once your claim is processed. You’ll receive the deed’s or writ’s for any property or land involved as soon as possible I assure you your Ladyship.”

This.. this can’t be happening, can it?..

I came here looking to turn our meager little ward boundary into a safe space for my newly expanded family to live in and now.. and.. and now I’m going to end up secretly owning most of the houses within a two mile radius to our house, ALONG with the Resort itself, the woods all around us, the apparently successful golf course AND a massive chunk of lake with a whole bloody ISLAND thrown in for good measure!

“Han?”
John leaned closer to me and put a warm hand on my shoulder.
I tried to stare at him but my eyes didn’t want to focus properly for some reason?
“Hannah?”

Stupid John!
This is all his fault!
I can’t.. I.. can’t..

“Shit, she’s gonna-”

With that last mumbled expletive from John my head flopped forward and the world disappeared into darkness.



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