Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!
Since Book III of The Kalbrandt Institute Archives starts in the last days before Christmas, a preview of the opening chapter makes for a perfect Season’s Greetings card.
It is that time of year again. Since half November, the streets and shops of the village in the valley have been decked with elaborate light crowns, jolly snowmen, shiny presents, and a steadily increasing number of green and red decorations. On the first Advent Sunday, small wooden stalls popped up selling handmade crafts, hot food and glühwein beneath cheap loudspeakers belching a continuous string of tinny carol choirs.
Christmas at its best, Eva concluded after spending the better part of the afternoon strolling across the market.
Maureen opted to disagree. “Blame it on my Catholic upbringing,” she said when they stamped the snow from their boots in the castle’s main entrance. “I’m all for secularisation, but I draw the line at a plastic Baby Jesus rocking in a battery-operated manger.”
Eva sniggered. Christmas decorations were gaudy by default, but that one had been hilariously tasteless. “At least my new mini-tree is just a tree.”
“Still a plastic tree,” Maureen said with a scoff and she peeled herself out of her padded coat. “But I’ll admit those roasted chestnuts tasted good.”
“You seriously never had any before?”
“Never. First time I bothered going to a Christmas market, to be honest. Coffee?”
In the Chapel lounge, Maureen coaxed the coffee machine into pouring two Italian espressos while Eva stacked their coats and bags on a lop-sided chair. As soon as she sat down on the couch beside it, her phone chortled a noise. She dug it up from her pocket to open the message.
“Yesim Guzman,” she said when Maureen handed her a tiny cup of coffee. “Should I have heard of him?”
“Her. Yesim is a lawyer and the Institute’s official figurehead. You know, the one signing the documentation for the government and anyone else who can’t know our real boss is immortal. What does she want?”
“According to this, Cael has left something for me. She wants me to pick up at her office before the end of the day.”
Maureen reclined, smirking over the rim of her cup. “Here we go. New game, new odds. Make it count, Eva.”