Free Short Story: Leverage

This scene is a short between May and Mabel. It takes place during the novel Mildred’s Resistance. Fans of MR will recognize some elements of this. Even if you haven’t read MR and learned about the sordid history of the Dark Days (which you can do so by grabbing your copy right here), you’ll enjoy this little ditty with May and Mabel.

For a woman touted to be one of the most conniving, cunning witches the Central Network had ever seen, May had little beauty, and less social skills.

Mabel watched her grandmother work at her desk with a feeling of annoyance and sympathy. It must be hard for normal-looking people to get what they wanted.

May looked up from her scroll with a quick flash of her eyes. The fire crackled in the background, sending a plume of ash into the fireplace.

“What do you want?” she snapped.

A large quill moved with rapid speed across a scroll, controlled by an incantation. Grandmother sat hunched over several books, with letters and stubby quills scattered around her. Mabel took the environment in with a shrewd eye. May rarely left anything out. She required pristine cleanliness. Particularly when Mabel was around. May never wanted her to see the papers.

Most of the scrolls were simple correspondences. Some were longer than others. Most of them would be from Council members and other leaders in Evelyn’s little game. Few people, outside of Mabel, knew how much business Evelyn farmed out to May. Evelyn relied on May far too much. No High Priestess should ever rely on one person that much, it gave them entirely too much power.

Just what May wanted.

“I wanted to talk to you about something I found out today,” Mabel said, standing near the door. The gentle brush of her silk skirt rubbed against her thigh.

“I’m busy.”

“I don’t think you can afford to pass this opportunity by.”

The confidence in her tone won her a moment of May’s attention. She narrowed her shrewd eyes on Mabel. There was a glimmer of distrust there. Wasn’t there always? Mabel smiled, amazed at how easy it was to act as if she liked her, and tossed a piece of parchment on the desk.

“I stumbled on a little meeting yesterday with an interesting motive behind it.”

Grandmother unrolled the paper and skimmed the names with her eyes. She looked up at Mabel, then back down.

“The Resistance?”

“Indeed.”

“How did you get into that meeting?”

Mabel laughed. “Because I know people. It’s all about who you know, isn’t it? I believe that’s what you always told me.”

May shot her an ugly look, but Mabel felt a thrill of delight at throwing her own adage back in her face. She only wished it looked like mud, and would splatter in the hideous, wrinkled lines of May’s aging cheeks. When tucked into her own room like this, May didn’t bother with the same transformation work that left her appearing young when she was around Evelyn.

“These are a list of the witches in attendance?” May asked, elevating an eyebrow.

“Just the ones I recognized. They’re meeting again soon, you know. With the right motivation, I could be compelled to attend and report.”

She let the comment sit there, like a leaf on the water, bobbing up and down between them. The clicks and whirs of May’s thoughts buzzed in the background, her brain slowly catching on. Mabel had not only infiltrated the opposition as a known Evelyn supporter, but also provided names of people who were helping to run it. It was a gift far greater than gold. It was one what Evelyn couldn’t win without. Mabel forced her eyes to remain on May and not flicker over to the bookshelf.

This kind of connection was leverage, above all else.

“When?” May asked.

Mabel gave her a sly smile and shook her head. “Oh, I can’t tell you that. Would you take all my power?”

A flash of annoyance crossed May’s face, but then it changed, becoming nigh unreadable, if such a thing were possible.

“What do you want?” May asked.

Mabel sat down and straightened her pretty skirt, making sure the red silks folds fell off her knees and covered her ankles.

“Ah, now we’re talking business. I can’t take these names to Evelyn, you see. If I do, and there is a traitor in the Council that hears I’ve become a self-appointed spy more successful than all of her own spies, then I’ll be exposed and lose my spot in the Resistance. If I’m her only person that got in, that would be a very bad thing indeed.”

May’s veiny hands tightened into fists. Mabel wanted to rejoice. It was lovely when she did something her grandmother could not—or had not yet—accomplished. A sense of pride swelled through her, and then pity. It was wonderful being so fabulous. May would never know the feeling.

“There is no traitor in the Council,” May murmured.

Mabel smiled with a demure deferment that mocked. “Right. Well, I don’t want to lose what power I have. I need you to take those names in for me.”

Grandmother stared at her gleaming eyes, clearly not willing to trust her. She was calculating risks, trying to see angles, trying to figure out if this worked out better or worse for her. Mabel sat with her hands in her lap, patiently waiting for her to come to the right conclusion.

“What’s in it for you if you stay with the Resistance? If I submit the names then Evelyn won’t know it was you.”

“Oh, I want Evelyn to know. I just don’t want the Council to know. There’s a difference.”

May mulled it over.

“What about proof?”

Mabel laughed. “Since when has Evelyn ever required proof? She just wants someone to confirm her ideas so that she can take action.”

The elder Mabel looked the list ever again.

“Some of these people have children at our school. Hazel. June.”

Mabel tried to frown, but couldn’t. “That’s too bad, isn’t it?”

May set the paper down, seeming perplexed. “Very well. I’ll do it.”

Mabel popped up out of the chair. “Much obliged. If you’ll excuse me, I have a school to run.”

Her dress rustled behind her as she left the room without another word. May stayed behind, staring at the unoccupied chair and lost in thought. Mabel left her to it, grinning as she disappeared into the hallway.

Let May get the credit. Mabel couldn’t care less about Evelyn—who had no hope of true success. But there were those on the Council that would survive this regime. Ones who could prove impossible to Mabel’s plans for later, should they know too much.

Witches like Mildred Graeme.

Click here to buy Mildred’s Resistance and dive deeper into May, Mabel, and the sweet, twisting friendship between Evelyn and Mildred.

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