Author: KittyThomas PM
Legend is reality, but reality is no more than a myth... Kit Kennedy uncovers a shocking truth, and a world of dragons and riders and magic hidden in plain sight. But Earth is under threat from and unseen force, and it seems fate has chosen an unlikely band of heroes for a seemingly impossible quest. Two teenagers and two dragons. All that stands between Earth and destruction.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy - Chapters: 2 - Words: 5,378 - Reviews: 1 - Updated: 01-19-13 - Published: 01-18-13 - id: 3093052
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Skroll and Princely's
In a busy street in Central London stood a tall, old-fashioned Georgian town house, sandwiched between a block of significantly more impressive giant glass buildings. Most of the pedestrians rushed passed it every day without so much as a glance, although the occasional person would glance at it from the coffee shop over the road and admire the traditional architecture.
Next to the steps leading up the front of the double oak doors was a small golden plaque. It read, "Skroll and Princely's, Solicitors, Established 1763". Nobody had ever asked why the wispy logo printed underneath and stamped on all the official documents depicted what appeared to be a dragon holding a quill and a long roll of parchment. They might have taken it to be an inside joke on the nature of the profession, or maybe simply admired its artistry or uniqueness. They doubted any other firms of solicitors chose a dragon for a logo.
As a matter of fact, Mr Skroll had never had a partner called Princely, he simply chose the name because he thought it looked good on a plaque. Neither had the firm exactly been established in 1763, although that was the date they officially went into business, now inhabiting offices all over Great Britain in most major cities. Every other country in the world had some version of Skroll and Princely's now, and although the name differed from port to port, the tiny logo was always exactly the same.
Skroll and Princely's employed a vast number of people. Solicitors, receptionists, office staff, cashiers, paralegals, personal assistants and secretaries.
One of which was Ms Helen Kettle, one of the most highly-paid secretaries in Britain. Ms Kettle worked for a man named Mr Crimlock, who was easily the most bad-tempered person she'd even had to work with. Certain incentives were received for agreeing to work under Mr Crimlock, and all applicants were required to have "a great deal of patience" as well as "thick skin" and "balls of steel." It was generally agreed that Ms Kettle possessed all of these things.
She was a tall woman with a mound of thick, bushy brown hair gathered in a permanent bun. She wore black horn-rimmed glasses that hid her fairly unimpressive small brown eyes, and many people who had known her for years had never seen her out of her office wear. She appeared to have a never-ending supply of fitted blouses and pencil skirts. Ms Kettle had lost count of the number of times someone had mistaken her for a librarian while she was perusing the shelves of the local library.
As she did every morning when she arrived for work at 8:55 on the dot, Ms Kettle swept through the reception, gathered any folders and post in Mr Crimlock's in-tray, and glided towards the staff room to deposit her coat and bag in her locker. Pausing only to greet her fellow colleagues, she headed directly to the kitchen to make Mr Crimlock's morning brew and then headed straight for his office. She didn't bother make one for herself. She liked to reserve it for after her initial confrontation.
She rapped twice on his door with her knuckles and then stepped inside.
"Good morning, Mr Crimlock!" she chirped, sweeping into the office.
Fond as she was on mornings in general, she always made a particular effort to be especially vivacious to Mr Crimlock, because she was well aware that few things annoyed him more than bright souls quite so early in his day.
Mr Crimlock couldn't have been any different from his secretary, in either looks or temperament. He was a thick, well-built man with hunched shoulders and a rather large belly. The top of his head was completely bald, and his remaining wisps of white hair had been oiled neatly towards his fat neck. Whenever he was angry (which was often) it had a tendency to stick up at all angles, giving him the impression of having just struck by a bolt of mild electricity.
While Ms Kettle and an awful lot of hair and faintly olive skin, (a welcome inheritance from her distant Greek ancestors) Mr Crimlock had the pasty, pale skin of a man who spent very little time outdoors and the ruddy cheeks of someone who spent too much time drinking or just being plain angry. Either speculation would have been correct.
When Ms Kettle had first come to work for Mr Crimlock (now nearly ten years ago), she had thought he would be an elderly, lonely man. She knew he had lost his wife not long beforehand. She had been told illness claimed the life of Elaine Crimlock. She had since made up her mind she had died of Terminal Misery. It could not have been easy, being Mr Crimlock's wife. It was not easy being his secretary. Sometimes, the only thing that stopped Ms Kettle from picking up the keyboard and battering him to death with it was the thought of her rather large pay cheque at the end of the month. There were perks to being the longest-serving secretary to the most irritable man at the firm, and any time that Ms Kettle felt she deserved a raise, she merely had to threaten to quit.
There was also the children to consider. She wasn't sure they would appreciate it very much if their mother went to prison. Having said that, there were probably numerous people on this floor alone willing to offer her an alibi, and any justice system in the world would surely be able to see that battering Mr Crimlock to death was clearly in the interests of self-preservation and well within the limits of reasonable force.
As long as she made it look spur-of-the-moment and didn't sink to poisoning his morning coffee. Black. No sweetener. Like his soul...
Then again, Mr Crimlock probably wasn't susceptible to poison. He had a look that could curdle arsenic.
"Give me my coffee, woman! And stop gaping there like an idiot!"
Ms Kettle passed over his mug, willing him to burn his fingers on the base. He didn't. He took a long, steady sip, set it down on his little brass coaster, and shuffled his papers for a good few minutes. Ms Kettle stood patiently by. She had learnt from experience that attempting to hurry him, making remarks about the time, or even just glancing politely at her watch would yield increasingly poor results.
"Well then," said Mr Crimlock finally, setting aside some space on his desk, "what had you got for me, Miss Kettle?"
Mr Crimlock always made a point of calling her miss. His reasoning was that you weren't legally married unless you took your husband's name, and that the title "Ms" was just some made-up word that irrational bra-burning spinsters came up with in the eighties to hide the fact that "no man would ever touch 'em with a ten-foot bargepole."
Ms Kettle had given up explaining to him what she told anyone else rude enough to enquire why she had kept her name- her husband's last name was Fellan, and Helen Fellan didn't quite have a pleasant ring to it. Most of the usual misogynists could understand this logic, but Mr Crimlock was not one of them.
"I'll start with the boring order of businesses, shall I?" she said, not waiting for a reply. She flipped open her notebook. "Mr Smithson called, his wife is dropping the charges, and I've drawn up the bill for the Herbert account, I just need you to sign off on it. I have six letters requiring your signature, and here's your morning mail." She dumped a pile of papers and envelopes onto his desk. "Oh, and your son called again," she added, almost as an afterthought, "he still hopes you'll re-consider his offer."
"Well, you can call him back and tell him to stop badgering me, the money-grabbing, back-stabbing, waste-of-space..."
"He only invited you to dinner, sir."
"Hmmph. You think he wants me for the company? He's after something, mark my words..."
Ms Kettle happened to know Jonathan Crimlock, the eldest of her employer's two sons. Although she didn't know him well (and generally found him to be just as arrogant and miserable as his father) no one could accuse him of being money-grabbing. He had a sizeable income himself and was known to be extremely thrifty. As for "back-stabbing", as far as Ms Kettle knew, the only thing Jonathan had done against his father's wishes was fail to produce the glorious Male Heir, instead fathering three young girls. If Jonathan was after anything, it was probably his father's approval.
As for the other Crimlock son... Ms Kettle heard he was an artist, or gay, or a musician (perhaps all three.) Whatever the case, it was something else "unprofessional", "undesirable". Mr Crimlock liked to threaten Jonathan with disinheritance whenever he annoyed him, just like "that worthless brother" of his.
Ms Kettle did not think herself particularly lucky to have landed the job as Mr Crimlock's secretary. She did, however, count herself extremely lucky that she wasn't related to him.
"Anyway," said Ms Kettle, moving onwards. "I think there are much more pressing matters to hand. Sir, we have a new potential, living right under your nose. I got the file this morning..."
Ms Kettle handed over the last of her document she was carrying. It was a red, paper-thin file, the with the name "K.I.T. Kennedy" stamped neatly across the front in fancy script, followed by a date of birth. She tried to quell her excitement as Mr Crimlock flipped open the file. It had been several years since Redditch had received a new potential, now that the responsibility for training in the area had been passed on to Malvern. But this girl was a local, and at the very least the job of recruiting her fell to Mr Crimlock.
Attached to the inside of the file was the school photograph of a young girl who looked a little older than the school uniform suggested. She was neat and presentable, her straight brown hair clasped away from her face, her bottle-green eyes make-up free. It was quite plain she was going to be very attractive someday soon, but at the moment, she merely smiled shyly at the camera, completely oblivious. She looked like the sort of girl always found at the front of the class, her hand in the air, or else with her nose in a book. Ms Kettle thought she looked very sensible. Mr Crimlock thought she looked like a wimp.
"You got this file... today, you said?" Mr Crimlock's eyes rested firmly on the file.
"Yes, of course."
"Straight from the Isle?"
"Via the HR department, yes."
"I think there must have been a technical error, Ms Kettle. I have already received notification of this individual, and dealt with her accordingly."
Ms Kettle swallowed. "By 'dealt with' you mean..."
"I am sorry to say she did not meet certain... requirements." Mr Crimlock did not sound sorry. In fact, he sounded distinctly pleased. "She failed the initial testing."
"Oh, you can't be serious!"
"On the contrary, I am rarely anything but."
"You do of course realise that the D-test is under review by the Department of Recruitment and is expected to disregarded any day now?"
"The point is, it has not been disregarded yet."
"And you didn't think that it might be an idea to suspend any action against her until such a time as it was? You're unbelievable! We haven't had a new member of the Order in four years."
"I haven't had a new member," Mr Crimlock insisted. "And frankly, I don't see why this is any business of yours."
"Sir, our numbers haven't been the same since the 2nd World War, and they're only getter smaller! Your order is down to what now? Ten people? If you're not careful, they'll disband you altogether! I can't believe you would pass up the chance to recruit another member based on your..."
"Yes? On my what, Miss Kettle?"
"On your outdated views on women as-"
"Pish-posh, woman, those aren't my beliefs alone! Statistics show that-"
"Hang your statistics! This was not your choice make! I've a good mind to report you to-"
Mr Crimlock raised an eyebrow. He knew as well as she did that Ms Kettle would not report him; there was nothing anyone could do about it now. The worst he might get was a slap on the wrists and a reminder to be more cautious in future. It was policy, either way, to administer the D-test immediately and react accordingly. All he needed to do was file a short report, slip it into the file, and send it to the basement for archiving.
"You shouldn't have done that, Sir," Ms Kettle finished, her jaw clenched. "It was inadvisable."
"Well, it's a good job you're not my advisor, isn't it? Now, if you have time to do your actual job-" he handed her a stack of files with a Dictaphone on top. Ms Kettle's knees nearly buckled under the strain, but she held firm. Never let the enemy see your weakness...
There was nothing more she could do but cast him a stony, disapproving look, and then scuttle away to her desk.
A few hours later, Ms Kettle was down in the reception, on her way to the storage room to deposit a number of dead files, the Kennedy one among them. Ms Kettle kept a tidy desk, and she hated having any more files than she had to cluttering her surfaces. All the same, it felt wrong to be removing the Kennedy one. It didn't belong among the closed cases and failed recruits.
She hadn't passed along the corridor before she heard a voice that stopped her in her tracks. It was a boy's voice, teetering on that awkward ledge of adolescence, but familiar to her even though it had been some time since she'd heard it.
"Look, I just want to speak to someone about, er, transportation issues? Maybe someone from the HR department. Greydale, perhaps, or Bagwell? I'm a friend of both families-"
"I am not bothering Mr Greydale or Mrs Bagwell with your requests, young man!" barked the receptionist. "You clearly have no business here! Transportation indeed..."
"If you could just ring them and tell them I'm here- my name's David, David Webb..."
Ms Kettle had known David since he was a baby. She had been friends with his parents, what felt like a lifetime ago. She hadn't seen him for nearly a year.
He was still a little short for his age, with an unfortunate burst of acne and pale, watery eyes, the colour of storm clouds. His black hair was gelled so it stood almost vertically on the top of his head; if this was a new habit, she sincerely hoped he'd grow out of it sooner rather than later. She fought the urge to mention it as she swept into the room and rescued him from the clutches of the irritable receptionist.
"David!" she said warmly, opening her arms to wrap him in an awkward half-hug. "How lovely to see you! You'll be here to see your, er, aunt, I suppose?"
She inwardly sighed a breath of relief. She had been about to say mother. Close call.
David just nodded easily. "Yeah, of course," he said.
"Well, we better not linger here too long. It's all right, Mrs Bishop, I'll take him for here."
Mrs Bishop pursed her lips sourly, and muttered something to herself. Ms Kettle decided to steer David away before she found a reason to keep him, and quickly whisked the boy out of the reception foyer and into the nearest corridor.
"What are you really here for, David?" she asked, the minute they were out of earshot.
David dug his fingers into his pockets and stared down at the carpet. "Nemoss," he said quietly.
Ms Kettle swallowed. "Ah, of course," she said briskly. "I heard about that. I meant to visit, but-"
"It's all right. I'm fine."
"I heard you hurt your arm-"
"It's fine!" David said shortly. "I'm fine. It's just… he wasn't. I mean, I hear he's doing fine, but…"
"They haven't let you see him?"
"No," he shook his head. "I want to see about getting access to see him from somebody else. Since Crimlock's barred me from going to Gimerall from Redditch, I hoped..."
Ms Kettle was overtaken by a strong surge of anger.
"Oh, that... that bastard!" she hissed. "To think that he... he had no right! It wasn't even your fault in the first place and the fact that he dared to punish you for... ooh. I could kill him."
"Careful," said David warningly. "Someone will kill him now, and everyone will think you've done it."
"I'd almost be happy to take the credit," she seethed. "Anyway, I'll let you get on. You know where you're going?"
"I think so."
David turned to go up the stairs, and Ms Kettle focused her attention once more on the dead Kennedy file. She skim-read the first page, name, date of birth, home town, school-
David was halfway up the stairs but Ms Kettle called out, "David," unexpectedly, and he bounded back down in a couple of strides. She shot him a stony look but said nothing.
"Do you... do you know this girl?" she asked, holding up the photograph she'd shown Mr Crimlock. "I think she goes to your school."
"Oh yeah, Kit! I know her. Not well, of course. She's in my maths class. A really good-girl. Never lets me copy her work."
"Good for her," Ms Kettle narrowed her eyes.
"Why've you got her on file?"
"She's a potential."
"No kidding?" the concept seemed to confuse him. "Kit? You sure?"
"Quite sure, thank you."
"Well, she's just a bit... good. You know what potentials are like."
"Oh, don't I just," Ms Kettle rolled her eyes. In a couple of years, her own son would be one, begging to start training. She was not looking forward to that.
"You say potential," David went on. "Does that mean-"
"Well, by the looks of things, Mr Crimlock has already... dealt with her. He says she didn't pass."
"Shame. It would be cool to have another young DR in the group, I hate being the youngest."
"All the same, I can't help but think..." her voice broke off. "Could you just… could you keep an eye on her, please?"
"Well sure," David frowned, "But if Crimlock's already-"
"I know, I know. But still... a few things don't add up. I'm not sure how he can have... I best not talk about it."
"I bet you die now, and all because you kept this secret. I've seen it on TV. It'll happen."
"Thanks, David," Ms Kettle narrowed her gaze. "What I meant is that I better not talk about it with you. Privileged information etc."
"Naturally." David looked very annoyed to be left out of the loop.
"You'll watch her?"
"Sure. Chill. Relax."
Ms Kettle chuckled. "If I'd wanted a relaxing job, I'd have become a politician. But thanks. I'll... I'll have a word with someone about your Gimerall privileges. See what I can do."
"Thanks, Ms Kettle."
She reached out to squeeze his shoulder, but they both knew it was futile. It was no use going against Mr Crimlock, and no one ever interfered with how another leader managed his order unless there were exceptional circumstances. David was just one boy, his punishment wasn't permanent, he would just have to be patient.
She closed the Kennedy file and went off to the storage room. It would probably sit there, undisturbed for many years until it was time to shred. She didn't have the heart to file it herself, and left it in the archiving pile.
It didn't belong there, she was sure. She had one of her cold iron feelings uncurling in the pit of her stomach. Her instincts that were rarely, if ever, wrong.
Something really wasn't right in the world right now, that much was common knowledge. But it just seemed ridiculous to even imagine that this Kit Kennedy should have anything to do with it.