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Chapter 7: Teenager On Top of the World (Meanwhile)

From the window you could see right the way across the horizon, spotless blue sky stretching brightly over great swathes of field, forest, farmland and dirt. Flowing across the landscape were the cities, huge sprawling masses of urbanisation from Beluvia in the south to Lerrus in the north-east, spilling out over the plain like concrete lakes. On a good day you could even see Antu-wp just over the horizon. Lucy looked out over all this land from her window, and knew that one day she would own it all.  

She hated that thought. It spoiled her ability to enjoy the view.  

It wasn't her fault that they had an excellent vantage and view point in this building. In the millennia gone by it had served the previous occupants well to build the giant stone castle on the top of a mountain with a cliff on three sides and a long, straight uphill road leading up the other. It made it easy to spot marauding flocks of dangerous or just very bored dragons in the distance (the terms 'very bored' and 'dangerous' being somewhat synonymous in this context), and letting them send their own flying infantry to convince them to bugger off somewhere else. Since then it had been knocked down and rebuilt a few times, stormed, de-commissioned and generally re-purposed, gradually taking the emphasis away from cannons and battlements and more towards grace and twiddly bits of ornamentation, grandness taking the edge over toughness as time had moved on. Now, from her window on the fifth floor, Lady Lucia Cheshol Antoinette White could see every inch of the land she was marked down to one day inherit and take authority over, and every time the thought of it made her simply miserable.  

High up in the black stone wall that seemed to pulse in the reflections of the sunlight, a window on the fifth floor closed and the figure retreated from it. The White family residence was built from black stone. It had been constructed long before anyone of the name White, or even of the appropriate species, had lived there, back when someone had decided that it was a good idea to claim some of this land for themselves and bag a large hideaway while they did it. There were many claims as to who - Lucy's favourite was a rich and paranoid vampire, personally. Either way, in her usual role as her parents' missing sense of irony Lucy found herself unable to not notice at every opportunity that yes, the White family residence was in fact black all over. Haha. It had made her snigger the first few times.  

A bell rang in the corner of the room and Lucy nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound. They wanted to see her. Normal people would just use a wonderful device called a mobile phone, she couldn't help thinking as she casually reviewed the selection of cloaks hung up in her wardrobe, but her parents were always sticklers for tradition.  

Oh yes. Weren't they just. Lord and Lady White, Peers of the Eare-Nord counties and technical authorities over seven-point-two-nine-four-eight-three million people, were great standers on tradition. Everything was... how a noble family should be. Grand, stately residence, with no need to update the technology because that would look crass. Proper schooling. Thorough etiquette. Formal events with other nobility followed by tea and piano recitals. How... delightful. How pleasant. Privileged was another word for it. What was the point of being the upper crust, they said, if your lifestyle didn't show it?  

Ever since the Strontite Species Formula, the White household had held about as much power to form laws and enact jurisdiction on the populace as the owner of the local supermarket. But that wasn't the point. They were still lords, so they still clearly had a position to maintain. Clearly.  

Lucy came out of the long, richly-decorated hallway through the double doors into the master staircase, the rush of air from the huge open space causing her black cloak to billow dramatically as she began to run down the stairs in threes. Her hand ran against the banister as she passed the fourth floor and kept going, and for a moment she considered sliding down it instead of running but decided against. That statue at the bottom looked expensive. And, yes, there on the corner of the third floor was Gabriel, her father's manservant waiting with that smile on his face as he gracefully opened the door for her with a bow, having failed to spot her doing something he could report her to her father for. She curtsied to the cyclops as she hurried through, just to show him that she called his bluff. There was a very tense, distinctly unseen war going on between the two, and it was either a credit to or a judgement on the Lord and Lady to not have commented on it. Lucy had been offered the services of a personal maidservant a few years earlier. She had flatly refused.  

That was the thing. She loved her parents. She really did. They meant well for her, and she held no bones against them. But they they lived in a very special way, and every part of it stood at odds with her deepest feelings. She hated the stuffy, formal, don't-sink-to-their-level pretence of the crust, and she hated the thought that it was all lying in wait to claim her someday too. One day, all of this would be hers. Land, title, stately home, evening functions, piano recitals and all. Some days, she just wanted to go out and hang around the city and not care if she embarrassed herself. Or anyone else. No-one Lucy knew would say that she was a girl of low standards, but she could hold her head high enough anyway without having someone to force her chin up. Part of her knew that she couldn't really complain about her life being more extravagant than she could bear when there were people starving on the streets of the capital, but it wasn't the extravagance that she hated. It was the condemnation to it, and the way that it made completely sure you never got to do anything fun. Some people were afraid of being unable climb up out of their situation. Lucy was afraid that she wouldn't be able to climb down out of hers.

She knocked on the hallway door discretely, and when no-one answered from within gave it a gentle push open. There was no-one in the drawing room when she entered, but the door to the balcony was open. The gargoyle she brushed past on the way out looked gloomily up at her, its chin still resting on its hands, and then returned to watching the view from the balcony without a word. She walked past it without even looking. No-one ever bothered with gargoyles. Gargoyles were the ones you stepped around to get to the people you wanted to speak to.

Lord and Lady White were waiting mid-way down the balcony, talking about something that was shushed suddenly as Lucy approached. 'Ah, Lucy,' her father said with a welcoming smile as she produced one of her own and came to a halt before them. Resting his hand on the black handrail of the black balcony, he continued 'Thank you for your patience. We had to let the gentlemen who were here before finish their business before showing them out, but at least they're gone now.'

'It was no problem, Dad,' Lucy said meekly, her hands clasped. 'Who was visiting this time? Was Commander Greys asking for grant money again, or was it another of Morken Anstudilous' elaborate PR tours?'

'Neither, actually. In fact it was nothing of the sort at all. It was a Mr. Amercy from the White Fox Agency.' Lucy's eyebrows went up at this. That was quite a celebrity to be coming up here for their visits.

'He didn't even mention money, actually,' her mother added as she looked out at the view from the balcony, watching the wind brush through the tops of the tress as they trudged towards the nearby river. 'But he said that their construction people are going to be in the area decommissioning some of their local metal-work plants. We thought it'd be wise to tell you that before you let Vincent out for a fly again.'

'Oh, er, yes. Thank you.' That reminded her, she hadn't sent him out today. 'Any industrial stuff coming over from U-Woinhan already disturbs him, I dread to think what all this would add as well.'

Her father sighed, as if thoughtfully. 'Indeed. There seem to be many problems for a small bird like him.' There wasn't even any evidence of disapproval in that sentence anymore. They both appeared to have finally come to terms with the fact that Lucy was keeping her choice of pet, whatever they thought of it. When Lucy had expressed interest in having a pet eight months earlier, her father had been right alongside the idea. Indeed, he had been only too ready to suggest a great hunting beast or a majestic amphibious serpent, or perhaps something elegant and refined like a sparkling ruby lizard. Lucy had said she wanted a bird. Her parents, to their credit, had genuinely wanted her to be happy with this, and her request wasn't still incompatible with grandeur. A young gryphon, or even an imported phoenix chick perhaps, would fly for her all day and reflect the honour and authority of their status, with all appropriate greatness and majestic sheen.

Vincent was a crow. Her parents were unhappy about this for exactly the same reason that Lucy adored him.

'Yes, in many ways it won't be sad to see them go,' Lady White said. 'Goodness knows they've been pumping all kinds of industrial trash into the landscape for many years now, I'd say that getting those off the hillside will do the area much good.'

Lucy frowned. 'Um... If you don't mind me asking, why are they closing down after all this time? It's not as if they could be losing money, after all.'

Lord White opened his mouth. 'I'm afraid confidenialit-'

'Oh, come on Harold,' his wife said with a wave of her hand, 'she has a right to know. Especially since she's been able to see those chimneys from the window for all these years now. The long and short of it, dear,' she continued, turning back to the patiently-waiting Lucy, 'is that he says they're reducing some of their production in things like metalwork so they can make, I think it was, 'Exciting developments in the field of plastic technology'. What that actually means I have no idea, but it's nice for them to have a goal as a company.'

'Oh... ok.' Lucy was suddenly aware that she'd been made privy to the industrial secrets of one of the world's biggest companies, and immediately bowed her head on instinct. 'Um, I mean thank you very much. I'll be sure to watch Vincent carefully.'

A thought occurred to her in that moment, but she didn't even give it the air outside her mouth by speaking it. Obviously these people had a plan. It seemed odd to her that a company like the WFA was cutting back metal production, but what did she know? Yes, there were just as many metal commodities as plastic ones on the market if not more, and considerably more metal went into a car than plastic went into a Constructi block (not that you'd think that when you stood on one in the middle of the night). But they had a plan for that, surely? This Amercy man will have talked about this with her parents when he visited - or perhaps not. She naturally wouldn't understand what they were getting at, even if it seemed a very strange direction for a company to be taking.

'Lucy?' her father's voice rose in her ears. 'Are you alright? You just seem to be stood there.'

'What? Oh, yes... I'm fine. Sorry.' Could it be the... No. That wouldn't even make sense. They didn’t even let people take plastic bags into the magic counties ever since they discovered the material's ability to absorb and retain magic from a concentrated field. A design like that would never work. You just couldn't sell it. What product would you mean make from that, anyway? And if you wanted to do research on the way background magic affected a substance you'd take it to one of the universities in Antu-wp or Tarrowin. It must be something else.

'Well, ok. If you're sure.' Her father took a drink from his cup of red coffee. 'If there's anything you want us to do together this afternoon?...'

'Oh, er... Thank you very much. I'd love to, but I already promised Mia I'd meet her today in U-Woinhan. Is that alright? We could something in the evening if you wanted...'

'Oh, no. Capital idea. I'll have Gabriel take you down in the car.' Her father was already nodding in satisfaction at the idea. 'As always, stay safe.'

'And don't do anything we wouldn't,' her mother added.

Lucy opened her mouth to object at the mention of the manservant, but lost before she started. 'Thank you,' she said instead. 'I'll be back by half six.' When no further comment was forthcoming, she turned and bustled away.

Don't do anything they wouldn't. Sometimes she really thought they didn't know why she went on these visits. She knew, deep down, that she had no right to complain. As Gabriel appeared from behind a door in the way all great serving staff do and beckoned her to the garage, she felt bad for even making the case at all. She was rich. She lived on top of the world. She had almost everything she could want, and she lived like a princess.

All that she wanted among that was the chance to not be one.
Once again, it's been a while. And no Jason? What's that boy even doing? Well, there was going to be Jason in this chapter as well, but then I realised how long it was starting to become with both main sections included. So I split it instead. See, I'm paying attention to these kinds of things now!
This means that the majority of the next chapter is already written, so it (as I promise myself every time) won't be so long to write. I think I've found out what the delay has been all this time, though - I've been making myself write without generating ideas and giving myself a reason to do it first. Getting my ideas onto a page and worked out for real is probably what I like most about writing (otherwise I'd just sit there and daydream all day instead), but with a lot of these chapters recently I've been myself sitting down and going 'Right: Brain, story, now' without knowing what it even is I'm writing. And strangely enough, that made it feel like a chore. I think I've got a better understanding of it now. That should help me write both better and more. And enjoy it more. What else is this all about, after all?

Back to Jason next chapter. I've taken some time to do some world-building lately in my notes, and I'm having a lot of fun including bits of it here and there. Tarrowin ain't done yet. :D

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yellowfire7 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Beluvia south, Lerrus east; I don't need to take notes, do I?  I don't even know how Antu-wp is pronounced!

Is Lucy the Lion King(ess)?

A rich girl who actually likes her parents?  They're doomed.  (As an aside, her language is less formal than her parents, and given what was just explained before... of course it is.)
Man-in-crowd-4 Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2016
Nah, you're fine - I'm just dropping in some world-building to build verisimilitude. A world that only exists in within the plot is a boring fictional world.
I think it was mentioned briefly in Ch. 2, but triple-you is like a sort of slight downwards sliding sound. I'd try and type it, but I know I'll screw up.

I hadn't thought of it that way, but that's actually really funny!

I'm actually really glad someone spotting something subtle like that. What makes you say they're doomed, out of interest?
yellowfire7 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
You should have called it a sort of slight southward sliding sound!

Conservation of detail.  Characters that are introduced and focused on have a purpose in the story.  Seeing as Lucy is our POV character this chapter, they will be important as part of her arc.  However, everything is good!  She likes her parents, they like her, she's unhappy with the destination she is being led towards but there's no real conflict over that.  So what could possibly happen to make her part of the story?  So far, her parents, her crow, and the butler are the only elements we have been introduced to, and we haven't even seen the crow.  The butler doesn't seem likely to cause or be the subject of trouble.  Therefore: something will happen to her parents or their way of life, probably involving the White Fox Agency.  There were entirely too many words spilled about plastic for the WFA and their activities to not be involved.

Of course, it is possible that her dissatisfaction with her apparent destiny will cause something larger, but since all parties are aware of it it's not likely to suddenly become the object of dramatic tension.  Or she could run off and live with a meerkat and warthog and eat bugs.  That might stir up trouble.
Man-in-crowd-4 Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2016
Well, if the WFA weren't important, I wouldn't have given them most of Chapter 4 to themselves. And yes, there are a lot of parallel threads in this story, and some tie to each other sooner and some tie later. Part of the idea of there not being genuine bad blood between her and her parents was simple cliché avoidance - I didn't want her to be 'Ugh I'm so rich but no-one respects me and my parents are jerks', because then she's only one step away from a stroppy Mary Sue who is ungrateful for everything. I don't want that in my story.
So maybe it'll act like a fuel, but not be the pushing point itself. She Just Can't Wait To Be A Main Character.
yellowfire7 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
The relationship on its own has a large space to move around in, whereas parental resentment has far less, in addition to being common, so I think that's good.

I see what you did there
Man-in-crowd-4 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2016
Yeah, exactly. There's a couple of other characters in this story that I realised I could convert into something simpler during these recent edits, but I felt doing so as a) more cliché, b) less organic and c) gave less room to work with in the future.
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