Also featuring:

astor_icon.gif eilean_icon.gif kazimir_icon.gif sharrow_icon.gif

Scene Title Witch
Synopsis Eileen receives a gift.
Date July 29, 2019

Providence, New Jersey: Sunken Factory

Accesible via a seemingly-abandoned tunnel nestled somewhere in the Pine Barrens' darkest tangle is an old, forgotten factory that fell out of use long before the Second American Civil War. It has recently been repurposed by the ragtag militia that calls the woodland adjacent to Providence its home, serving as a base of operations, so far off the beaten path that isn't unlikely to be discovered except by an aerial survey.

The property consists of the tunnel and connecting rail yard, the factory itself, and several smaller satellite buildings, including a makeshift armory, Hector Steel's workshop, stable, and a storehouse for the militia's vehicles, including two helicopters and a fleet of at least six trucks.

Of all the buildings, the factory is the most prominent: a large, sleek cement structure with large glass windows and a long, narrow skybridge that connects its two disparate halves together at the middle. It's difficult to understand — at least at first glance — why it's colloquially referred to as the Sunken Factory by locals, but setting foot inside the factory's eastern half reveals that its lower levels have been flooded by the nearby Oswego River, which isolates the property from the surrounding forest on one side and makes it easily defensible against external threats. The property's western half flanks the cliffside into which the entrance tunnel is built.

Inside the factory, glass windows let in an abundance of light, allowing plant life to flourish in the skybridge during the summer months, and for the factory's inhabitants to navigate its strange corridors without assistance during the day. Night is a very different story; solar panels affixed to the factory's roof power an extensive network of artificial lights that give the interior a warm, otherworldly glow by which to see. Hector Steel's ingenuity has restored running water, fed by a filtration system, to the factory's western side where most of the sleeping quarters are located.

It isn't quite civilization, but it's trying to be.

The wind is still snarled in Eileen's hair when she pushes in her lodging door, her eyes cast toward the floor.

It's not modesty, though modest might describe the style of living across Providence. She had seen him slide something under her door, earlier. The boy. Young man, really. He had looked like his father, partly because he had dark hair and tall, gangly bones. Partly because his path through the militia's compound had been eerily seamless, almost predatory. Through the eyes of a crow, she had watched him pause behind a parked helicopter as day laborers crossed the yard in front of him, proceed casually, dart into her corridor a split second before the old man himself had stepped into view. Sharrow had been talking plans with a supplies guy, and Astor had not seemed interested in what he might overhear.

Instead, Astor had shunted a parcel into her home. It was smaller than his palm. He had been gone as quickly as he had come.

White paper stands out in the gloom. She sees the gift easily, even before her hand reaches the dial to the propane lamp. Sepia light floods her room. Eileen stoops down to pick up the little thing, and it’s heavier than she would have expected, for something that looks like a collapsed version of… an origami chatterbox. You know, those secondary school games that children used to play in, when she was young. Pick a number. Pick a color. Were you born in autumn, winter, spring or summer?

They are also called fortune tellers.

There are no numbers written on this one. She pulls open the folded creases. Something metal inside. When she finally exposes it to light, she's not entirely sure what she's looking at.

Well: it's jewelry, obviously. A brooch of two parts, a sharp pin pushed through the ornament. Amber and silver. Celtic in design. She raises the paper beneath, holding the brooch closer to her lamp. Sees unknowable animals curling sinuously around the borders, stylized and unrecognizable. It is beautiful. Old, she can tell. And distinctly out of character, for a relationship with her dimension-hopping 'son,' which has been characterized in the past entirely by: avoidance. She does not generally attend fancy parties or venues at which antique jewelry would be appropriate. She has certainly never run into Astor at such a place before.

Also: Eileen has seen enough stolen and smuggled goods to suspect she would instantly raise alarm if the wrong person were to find her in possession of this.

When Eileen touches the brooch, it's nearly by accident. She is trying to fold it back up without tarnishing the metal. It slides across the paper flat on her palms. Her finger brushes the needle.

Memory hits her. Black energy surges within her hands, her head.

Scattery Island, 1684 A.D.

"Dia duit1, Eilean."


The hills of Inis Cathaig roll green around her. The color is nothing that Eileen, thirty-years-old as of 2019, has ever seen before; emerald, rich, saturated as a painting. Sheep dot the landscape, like a painting, pastoral — but these people are mariners and priests, mainly. You can feel the salt, this close to the coast, and God is ever-present in their salutations. The man speaking to her wears clothes that would be considered beyond anachronistic in New Jersey, but that is entirely irrelevant. His name is Dónal. Eileen knows this.

Because Eilean knew this.

"Dia is Muire dhuit2," Eilean answers. "Conas atá tú3?" She is riding a horse, a big roan with an easy temper. There aren't many horses, on the small island, but there aren't many of anything here, except perhaps for the blades of grass and the waves on the sea; even the stones of the monastery are few, compared to the sizeable churches and convents across the estuary in Kilrush proper and the lands beyond. But Eilean owns a horse, just as she has her own home property, and more personal items of worth than you might expect for a widow. Including the brooch here, on her shabby grey cloak.

Vanity. No one ever comments.

In contemporary terms, people don't fuck with Eilean Ni Chuilleanain. In 1684, the conduit was neither named nor known as such. Another thousand years earlier, no woman had been allowed to enter Inis Cathaigh; Saint Senan himself had had to bury his sister at low tide to defer to this edict. But time has moves like an estuary.

And in the seventeenth century, Eilean is known to island men like Dónal as a witch.

But she exchanges pleasantries with him, and he is not afraid. He asks her if she has gone to Kilrush for the fair, knowing full well she has not. She prefers her solitude, in a place where she has little to fear from men; an island where men do not know to be afraid of her. He tells her he has caught wrasse, offers to trade for herbs. There is subtext. She asks about his wife's pregnancy, and Dónal relaxes visibly. The last birth had been hard, and he would like her as a midwife. She doesn't mind. Like most islanders, she is good at cooking fish.

"Slán leat4," Dónal says.

As she rides away, she can feel him looking back at her, half-expecting her to take flight, maybe, show an aura. Decloak her horse and reveal a great blue riding bear. Eilean does none of these things.

Providence, New Jersey: Sunken Factory

Eileen drops the brooch.

It doesn’t break, fortunately. The paper cushions its fall.

Scattery Island, 2008 A.D.

This old man isn't Sharrow.

He pokes rubble aside with his cane. Tourism has done well by Ireland, despite civil unrest ongoing, the soft border. On the airplane ride over, Kazimir had detailed aspects of the conflict that Eileen had either forgotten from school or not been taught. These crumbled foundations are not the first ruins that she has seen since coming to Ireland; they had driven past many empty guard posts, hearkening from a recent time when travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic had not been as easy as it is now. Later, he said, he would take her to see the peace walls and war murals in Belfast. Scattery Island wasn't big; it would take a day to search, at most. Profoundly disinterested in exploring abandoned religious sites or the Viking invasions, the two of them had left the tour group behind hours ago, which was technically against regulation with the local tourism board.

All of nineteen-years-old, Eileen was accustomed to irregularity. However, the privilege allowed by Kazimir's vast resources of wealth still felt new.

She rested her arm on the unembellished stone of the window and looked outside. So green! The color of it was nothing like England, not even in the spring, not even after the rain, not even Buckingham's hedges and its exaggerated contrast to the humorless guards in their cherry-red uniforms. Eileen furrowed her brow and looked further out, reached with her thoughts. Wrens burbled at her in friendly language that she could hear inside her head as well as through her ears. They could not remember the last time someone had come to the remains of this particular village. According to the birds, there was no food in this building, but sometimes grass to weave their nests with. It was not really helpful. She offered her praise and her thanks, anyway.


She turned to look back into the shadows, but the sunlight made her momentarily blind. There was a beat's pause, as if he had forgotten he had called for her. (She had no way of knowing he had meant: Eilean.)

"She used to stand there too," he said. "No matter."

Eileen looked back outside. A wren had come down to sit by her hand. It popped a few steps nearer and advised her on grubs.

Providence, New Jersey: Sunken Factory

Eileen says, "Shit." The room doesn't answer. Except for a few sparse furnishings, her clothes on the line, the jewelry toppled on the floor, it is empty. It's been a long time since she had to worry about postcogs and supersenses intruding on her privacy, and despite the post-war paranoia that characterizes Providence and all that it means to escape from, this reverie is entirely her own. She blinks in the dark. Retrieves the jewelry from the floor.

The brooch is unmarked. Undamaged, upon closer examination. She folds the paper over it with her thumbs, more carefully this time. A small bookshelf rests beside her bed. She slides it behind the small mirror, slowly. She should sleep. She won't, for hours. Her mind is too awake; she wonders.

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