Authors: Mercedes Lackey
This is the first Diana Tregarde story in decades. And in a sense this is the first Diana Tregarde story, period.
It takes place in the early 1970s and it will be hard for anyone younger than thirty to realize what a very different world that was. Computers were the size of buildings. We were still putting men on the moon, but there is more computing power in a common iPhone than there was at all of Cape Kennedy. Watergate was about to happen. Nixon hadn't yet resigned. U.S. soldiers were still fighting and dying in Vietnam. There was no such thing as being “openly gay.” There also was no such thing as HIV.
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Brian Jones were all recently dead of various self-indulgences, but John Lennon was still alive.
The only time you saw windmills was on a farm or in Holland.
Gas was twenty-five cents a gallon, threatening to go up to thirty.
No one had ever heard of, much less seen, a Japanese manga.
Britney Spears wasn't even born. Neither was Leonardo DiCaprio.
Stand-up comedians only performed in nightclubs with bad reputations, or in Las Vegas. No one would consider going out for a night of comedy.
There was no MTV. Anytime there was a rock-themed television program, it was an event. There was barely cable TV. Most people made do with three channels and what was not yet called PBS. When you had cable TV, you had a whole
“Portable” music was via a transistor radio.
No one had ever heard of rap. And if anyone had heard a rap song, they would have considered it a quaint offshoot of beat poetry, which was so, so 1950s.
You bought most of your reading material at the drugstore from revolving racks, or digest-size monthly fiction magazines in a small magazine rack, unless you were really lucky and were in a town big enough to actually have a bookstore.
Research meant going to the library and looking things up in books.
So as you read this, if you find yourself thinking, “Well, why didn't they justâ” the answer is probably, “Because they didn't have it then.”
As apartments went, it wasn't much; a third-floor studio that had as its main attractions the fact that it was within walking distance of Harvard Square and the University, and that it had a fireplace. If you were a witch, a fireplace was a necessity. Some things just couldn't be done over the stove.
Not to mention that some things would be pretty dangerous without a chimney to carry off the smoke.
It worked, she'd seen to that. Hers did, anyway. And she'd had a repairman in to make sure the dampers worked too. No point in sending heat up the chimney when she didn't have a fire going.
She put her back to the simple cast-iron fireplace with its chipped stone hearth and painted wooden mantel and surround and surveyed her tiny sanctuary.
It had no view; in fact, the only window looked right at the brick wall of the building next door. It got next to no
natural light. Both of these reasons were why it was cheapâor cheaper than the apartments that had more “ambience.” No matter how spartan a place was, you were going to pay for a place close to the University.
The floors were wood, but that was only because the place was so old; there were still the remains of gaslight fixtures in the room. Those floors were scarred and the varnish was nearly black. The walls had been painted so many times that the paint was nearly a quarter-inch thick. The current color was sort of cream. The building dated to 1881, a fact Diana knew because the cornerstone had that date carved into it. It was a real apartment building though, not a house carved up into apartments. She was pretty sure that this flat had been occupied steadily by poor Harvard studentsâor possibly poor clerks or poor shop employeesâsince the building was new. There was no “Victorian charm” about this place. It was a plain little painted box.
Diana Tregarde really didn't care that the place had no ambience to speak of. What she cared about was the location and that it came unfurnishedâwhich meant she could move in her own bed and desk and anything else she could squeeze inâand that it was cheap. She had done the math, and an apartment close to Harvard and no car was cheaper than a less expensive apartment farther away plus the cost of owning and running a car.
She had her double inheritance squirreled away, but
that was going to have to last not only through her college years, but probably for at least a few months beyond, until she figured out how she was going to make a living.
No one was going to pay her to be a practicing witch, after all.
At least with her furniture and the things that she couldn't bear to put into storage in place, the apartment almost looked like home.
because Memaw wasn't here, and for a while, no place would be home without Memaw in it, and even after a year that was hard to get used to.
She shook off her melancholy. Memaw hadn't been young when she'd had Di's father, and
hadn't been young when he and her mother had produced Di. Memaw'd been ninety-three, very tired, very worn-out, aching in every joint and needing a walker or a wheelchairâit wasn't easy raising a budding witch and a probable Guardianâand she had been more than ready to go once Di could fend for herself. It wasn't fair to be unhappy because Memaw had gone on to the Summer Country. But it was so hardâ¦. No Memaw to laugh at her mistakes and her jokes, to know exactly what to do when something magical was baffling Diâ
You're just feeling sorry for yourself. Stop it.
She took stock of the place that was certainly going to be her home for the next four years, and probably beyond that. Under the window, the battered old rolltop desk that had been Memaw's held her typewriter, and beside the
typewriter was the neat paper stack of her current project. In the bookcases on either side of the desk were all the books for all her classes this semester at Harvard.
She couldn't help her smug smile. She was a freshman. She wasn't supposed to be living off-campus, she was supposed to be living in a dormitory. The only freshmen who were allowed to live off-campus were those whose homes were in Cambridge, and who, presumably, were “properly supervised” by adult guardians. It might be 1972, but colleges still took
in loco parentis
Well, she was legally an adult with her own means of support (even if it was an inheritance) and no legal guardian, and this apartment was, now, her home. Harvard didn't have rules covering this particular contingency. And after floundering for some time, the University reluctantly gave her off-campus privileges and assigned her to Dudley House, the House for a handful of graduate students and those others who weren't resident in any of the other twelve Houses.
Oh yes, the Houses. Harvard, unlike 99.9 percent of the other colleges and universities in the United States, operated on the English model. After your freshman year, you moved to a House, which had a Junior Common Room and a Senior Common Room and Tutors andâ¦well, it all sounded like a Dorothy L. Sayers novel. But that would have been damned inconvenient for a practicing witch, andâ¦dangerous too, for the people around Di. She didn't dare have a roommate, didn't dare be in a space where people
could just come waltzing in or would be suspicious of a locked door.
This is a bloody inconvenient life, if you ask me,
she thought, not for the first time, and went back to her survey of her domicile to see if anything could be improved. So, desk flanked by bookcases and the radiator under the window, which was the west side. On the north, a kitchenette with a tiny range, sink, and fridge, plus the doors to her bathroom and closet, with Memaw's huge old kitchen cupboard in between. Bed on the east wall flanked by more bookcases, a canopy bed Di had built herself with the help of a carpenter friend of Memaw's when she was fourteen and decided that what she wanted for her birthday was a medieval canopy bed with a bookcase headboard and heavy bedcurtains all around it. Memaw had insisted it be a bolt-together thing “in case you ever need to take it somewhere”; at fourteen she hadn't been able to imagine that contingency, but now she was glad Memaw had insisted. So there it was, looking wildly incongruous in the otherwise spare space. And on the south, the fireplace, with her love seat and two comfortable chairs in front of it, and on either side of it, locked cupboards that held herâ¦supplies. A black-and-white television sat on top of the lower cupboard, her stereo next to it. The latter was going to get more use than the former. Right now the radio in the headboard of the bed was playing; the classical station. Not that Di disliked rock, but she wasn't in the mood.
The ceilings here were very high.
If I can get the wood in here I can probably build a freestanding loft. That would be good for storage anyway.
As it stood, she'd have to go down to the storage units in the basement if she wanted any significant amount of firewood. Her unit was top to bottom with firewood she'd had loaded into the back end of the moving truck. She'd paid for a full load, so by golly, she made sure she got one.
A huge braided rag rug covered most of the floor. The walls had reproductions of Alphonse Mucha posters. The curtains on the window were from her old bedroom; Memaw's house had been an old Victorian too, and the windows of her old bedroom were just as tall. This was as homey as it was going to get.
She lit some cinnamon incense to give the place a scent, then went to the big cupboard to get out some candles. She'd made them herself, made a huge stock of them one year when she got the bug to try candlemaking. The ones for “public use” were all creamy white and bayberry scented. She'd even gathered the bayberries herself. Memaw had been big on doing everything you could for yourself. Especially when it came to your magic supplies.
After placing the candles around the room, she went to the bookcase to give a quick read to the first chapter of one of her course books. At Harvard you were expected to declare a “concentration” and Di had been torn between something practical, likeâoh, lawâand something she actually wanted to study. Maybe if Memaw was still alive,
she'd have been able to face four years of something she really didn't want to doâ
No, probably not. And she knew what Memaw would say. Had said.
“Choose what makes you excited. You can always bag groceries if you have to.”
If she could have, she'd have flung caution to the wind and asked for special studies in magicâ¦
Bad idea, Di. Really bad idea.
So she picked the concentration she thought was closest to that: Folklore and Myth. She was by no means an expert in any other belief system than the more-or-less Celtic version Memaw had taught her, and knowing what critters might come out of you from another mythos was a very good idea. Especially for a Guardian. Too bad there wasn't a chance anyone was ever going to hire a Resident Folkloristâ¦
But the only other thing that appealed, Fiction Writing, wasâ¦not an option either. She rather doubted that her professors would approve of the sort of fiction she wanted to write, and the sort they would want her to write would make her open a vein. Literary Fictionâwell, from all her research, besides being the sort of thing that she loathed reading, let alone writing, Literary Fiction was not the stuff that put food on the table on any kind of regular basis.
Romance writing, however, did. Reading it, historical romance anyway, had been Di's secret guilty pleasure, shared with Memaw who was an avid Georgette Heyer fan, and Memaw had encouraged her in trying her own hand at
it. What was more, Memaw was a good, and picky, critic. Di sometimes wondered if magic wasn't the only thing she'd gotten from her grandmother; many times she had wondered if Memaw herself had cherished the notion of being a writer, but had never gotten the encouragement and excellent critique that she lavished on Di.
She gave a look of longing at the typewriter, but picked up the book instead. Studies first.
It would take a while to get the first book sold, and more time to get to the point where she could make a living at it, and meanwhile, a degree from Harvard was not chopped liver. Once the country got out of that rat-bastard Nixon's recession, which according to
prognostications should be about when she graduated, she ought to be able to find
Substitute teacher; a lot of places only required a sub to have a bachelor's degree and not in teaching. Librarian, maybe.
What the heck. I can always work in an occult bookstore.
She buried herself in the first chapter of her textbook, reading and taking notes. But when she was done and had closed the book, she found herself staring into the dark fireplace, pondering.
Because here was the problem. She was a Guardian. She'd been one since she was sixteen, which, Memaw had said, was about the right age for something like that to happen. Job, commitment, vocation, whatever it wasâ¦no one would ever, ever actually
her to do this. In fact, that was the point. You did this work because it was the
right thing to do, not because you were going to be rewarded in any way.
She was pretty sure that her parents had not been Guardians, though Memaw had never said. In fact, though she had only been three when they died, she was pretty sure they hadn't had so much as a hint of magic about them. They had both died when a train derailed and went into Newark Bay in 1958 in a terrible accident that killed forty-six other people. Ironically, the only reason her mother had been on the train was because she had wanted to go into New York City to shop. And there was no great anti-Guardian conspiracy at work in the deaths of her parents, either, just a terrible accident that had taken one or more of the parents of a lot of kids. Ordinary parents, as ordinary as hers.
Intelligent, without a doubt, and they had to have been good people, given Memaw, but utterly ordinary. Nothing in any of their belongingsâMemaw had faithfully saved anything she thought Di might want to see one dayâgave her any indication that they even suspected Memaw was anything besides a good mother and kind mother-in-law, much less a practicing witch.
Well, men did tend to be oblivious. From all the pictures in the family photo albums, Memaw had been the perfect housewife, even if she had been a single one, what with her husband never coming back from the Normandy invasion. Di could not even begin to imagine how hard it must have been to keep the fact that you were a witch secret
from your husband. It was all very amusing in the movies, but in real life it must have made her inclined to tear her hair out.
The room was getting chilly as well as dark, and in accordance with some time-honored agreement among all landlords, the heat was not due to be turned on for a couple of weeks. Another good reason for the fireplace. Di had anticipated this, and laid the fire earlier; now she used the first spell she had ever learned to ignite both the tinder beneath the logs and the wicks of the candles.
she murmured, and pointed her finger at the fireplace, like a gun. The tinder went up with a
and the logs “took” immediately. So did the candlewicks, and the pleasant bayberry scent joined the cinnamon and wood smoke.
She pulled the crocheted afghan she'd gotten at a church sale over her legs and curled up, staring at the flames and thinking. The afghan was warm and soft, and had been made by someone who loved the feel of the yarn in her fingers as she worked. It had, as they said, “good vibes.”
She couldn't recall a moment from the time she'd entered Memaw's home to stay that she hadn't known that her grandmother could do magic. She remembered Memaw soothing bumps and bruises with a touch and a murmur of words, remembered Memaw lighting candles and the fireplace, and remembered the teddy bear that Memaw had persuaded a house-spirit to “animate” once when Di was
sick. Nothing like singing and dancing, just curling up, cuddling, and crooning. So Memaw must have known that Di had the gift too, and that the best way to teach her was to keep it from being something scary. On the other hand, Di also couldn't remember a time when Memaw hadn't made it very clear that this was something to be kept between the two of them.
“Not everyone can do this, sweetie. Keep it secret so they aren't jealous.”
“The neighbors think we're strange enough, don't say anything about this, okay?”