Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 20

‘Much Dithering in Little Botheringham’ is an everyday tale of village life and vampires, from Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook.

“Post-menopausal, wise, calm and risk averse?” Ginny digested the news and grinned wryly. “So I qualify on at least one criterion.”
Agnes, who seemed supremely good at the ‘there, there, never mind’ bits of this conversation, offered a smile of fellow feeling. “You are probably better qualified on all counts than I was when I was Made.”
Em laughed. “You were a dreadful old tart. I was horrified.”
“I still am a dreadful old tart at heart. You’ve just got used to me.”
Ginny gazed from one face to the other. “Just how long have you two been friends?”
“A couple of hundred years, give or take a decade or so.”
Deciding to let that one sit and not think about it right now, Ginny asked the other big question that had been nagging at her ever since she’d seen the vicar become a giant rabbit. A wererabbit, Agnes had said.
 “Given that I have to accept that vampires are real, how many other supernatural beings are more than wild fiction?”
Agnes shrugged. “Most of them. There’s obviously weres and rather a lot of nature spirits. Weres and vampires are natural enemies, so we tend to keep out of each other’s way. And nature spirits are shy. Goblins are a problem if they aren’t regulated as they breed like rabbits and they will eat anything they can catch.”
Caught completely unawares Ginny shook her head. “How do you regulate goblins?”
“There used to be an annual goblin cull, but that got stopped in the last century when we discovered their numbers could be controlled by contraception. Now the females get an annual implant.”
Em looked sternly into Ginny’s face. “Which only leaves elves and fairies.”
Ginny clasped her hands together, her mind full of the flower fairy books she’d adored as a child and the majestic elves of Tolkein she had loved in her teens.
Em made a tutting noise with her tongue behind her teeth. “Never trust a fairy. And if you are ever unfortunate enough to meet an elf, keep your hand on your weapon and don’t take your eyes off the double-dealing little bastard.”
Ginny felt deflated. Was nothing as she had believed it to be? But then she realised she was being told all this for her own protection and sat up straighter. 
“What else do I need to know?”
Agnes picked up the ball. “For now? Not much. Em does the interface between the ‘normal’ community and the local supes, and she will introduce you to the various liaison officers when the occasion allows… Otherwise? Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth closed.”
“I think I can manage that bit. Do I get a teacher of any sort?”
“Yes. You get a mentor. Strictly speaking it should be Em. But as she is Queen and has far too much to do already, I’ll be deputising for her.”
Ginny felt a good deal of relief, as she was more than a bit intimidated by the formidably elegant and imposing Em, who raised a finger.
“Before Agnes takes you home and bores you to death with vampire lore I have two things to say. The first is a question. How are you fixed financially?”
Ginny felt herself redden, but realised honesty was the only possible policy. “Truthfully not as well as I had hoped. I can probably just about scrape by until I get my old age pension. If I’m careful.”
Em actually smiled, a kindly sort of a smile. “Sadly, vampires don’t get that pension, but the supernatural scheme is far more generous anyway. It’s kind of like unemployment benefits, but they can’t sanction you. The idea is that if we are given a basic level of support we’ll not be tempted to run riot. You qualify immediately and if you email me your bank details I’ll fill in all the forms for you and get it up and running straight away.”
It all sounded so normal and well organised that Ginny found her underlying anxiety at the strangeness of it all receding. She felt warmed by the thought of financial security, and her relief must have shown in her face because Agnes leaned across and gave her a hug. 
“I live very comfortable on the pension.” Ginny glanced at Em and Agnes laughed a big belly laugh. “No. She doesn’t need a pension –  being filthy rich and all that.”
Em sighed. “Thanks Agnes.”
“Better to get it out in the open. Things only fester in the dark.”
“I suppose so. But the second thing I wanted Ginny to understand is that she is now a Sister of our nest.”
Ginny understood this at some basic level of self. The word ‘nest’ suddenly summoned a powerful sense of belonging and she felt a tear run down her face. “Sisterhood being, if I understand it properly, both a duty and a boon.  You have my word that the concerns of the nest are now my concerns.”
Em inclined her head. “And care for your well-being and happiness is the duty and pleasure of your Sisters.”
Ginny felt as if she had received both a blessing and a task and above all it felt, in her heart of hearts, like coming home.

Part 21 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

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