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(no subject) [Jan. 18th, 2010|10:50 pm]
Sophie Hatter
Sophie has slept a few hours.

When she wakes up, Howl isn't back.

So she makes lunch, and then, because she's downstairs already and in the kitchen, she makes dinner.

(Conveniently, the kitchen is right by the door.)

There's all kinds of things she can do to keep herself busy. And all sorts of things to think about that aren't the question of where Howl might be, and why he isn't there, and how unfair it is that he's apparently furious at her, and -

Hmmmm, they seem to be out of onion, Sophie thinks, quite firmly. At some point (later) (after Howl is home) she will have to go out and get some more.
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(no subject) [Nov. 21st, 2009|01:06 am]
Sophie Hatter
The lingering backache - going on a week now - is bad enough.

But this is the second night in a row that Sophie's woken up with a sudden urge to run down to the bathroom and lose last night's dinner, and she isn't amused. She scowls at herself in the mirror as she washes her hands. Bags under her eyes, hair hovering in all directions around her head - she feels like almost as much of a hag as she did under the witch's spell.

"You know you haven't got time for this being ill nonsense," she tells her reflection. "Whatever it is, you'd better get rid of-"

Her voice breaks off, as her knees, quite suddenly, give way, and she sinks to a seat on the side of the tub.

Her hands fold tightly over her stomach, fingers interlaced.

It seems she's always destined to be slow at figuring things out.

"Really," she says aloud, her voice quite calm, "you ought to have known yesterday. You ought to have known last week." Her cycle had been off, but it's easy to forget to worry about things like that when you've spent a significant amount of time as a ninety-year-old woman. But that's no excuse. It's especially no excuse for a witch -

- for a witch.

She can't see her reflection anymore from her position, but she's fairly sure that if she could, her face would be white as the clean-scrubbed porcelain sink.

What she'd almost said -

Her healthy heart is thumping furiously away under her ribcage. Somewhere inside her, there's another tiny one just forming - and who knows what a careless word from her could do to it?

Her fingers press harder into her stomach. She'd talked life into Howl, into Calcifer. She's talked life into dozens of things. But a child isn't a suit, or a walking stick. A child has a heart and a mind all its own (and that last, she thinks, with a sudden glimmer of unexpected pride, is likely to go double for any child with this particular parentage) and she wants, with a sudden entirely unexpected passion, to see who this child will turn out to be, all on its own. Without the addition of mysterious allure, or the youth of a spring leaf, or a good heart or wisdom or any of the other hundred attributes that she's accidentally granted in her magical career; she's no fairy godmother. She's -

- she's going to be -

"Listen," she says - not to herself, this time. "No, I mean - don't listen, you understand?" She squeezes her eyes shut and wills very hard, hard as she can, as she'd willed to give Calcifer his thousand years. "You're safe from me, do you hear? It won't work on you. This sort of magic, my sort, it won't work, not after tonight. You're safe."

There's no way to tell if it's working or not. She wants to go up and get Howl, but her legs feel all wobbly, and anyway, how can she move when she doesn't know if it's worked? Far easier to keep sitting on the edge of the bathtub in the middle of the night, surrounded by magical skincare products, and keep talking and working her own kind of magic.
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(no subject) [Aug. 6th, 2007|09:40 pm]
Sophie Hatter
The heat spell wears off a few minutes before Sophie manages to make it back to the oak grove; she starts, and then gives up edging around the perimeter, cutting her way rapidly back through the center of the camp. A bored page throws a pot at her, and she jumps aside before she can think about it, hair standing on end.

She runs the rest of the way to the hut, and she's panting a little when she reaches it. There are a pair of Strangian soldiers smoking cigars and bragging about the assets of their respective girls leaning against the wall. If Sophie were in her own shape, she'd surely be blushing. As it is, she tries not to listen and slinks her way inside, looking for Howl.
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(no subject) [Jul. 26th, 2007|10:18 pm]
Sophie Hatter
[After this:]

Two hours pass. And Howl isn't back.

Then three.

Sophie darns apparently endless pairs of woolly socks without looking at them, her glare fixed on the door.

The clock ticks to midnight; Michael tucks himself into bed, with an anxious look in her direction; Calcifer sizzles down into coals, and Howl still hasn't returned.

As three in the morning rolls around, Sophie looks down and realizes that one sock is now a good three feet long.

"Gah!" she spits, and puts it down, and considers her options. She's not going to go to sleep before Howl gets back. She told him she wouldn't, and she won't - she's far too consumed with worry even to consider it. There is, after all, a war on.

If Howl's not back by the morning, she's already decided hours ago, she's going to see the palace and demand to know what's keeping them. But seeing the King in the morning on no sleep whatsoever doesn't sound like a particularly delightful prospect.

And if Howl's still gone, then certainly they're both still awake . . .

And after all, what right do people have - even royal people - to keep one's betrothed out until positively indecent hours of the night?

So the plan is settled, she tells herself, and before she can remind herself of the further fact that the plan is absolutely mad, she sweeps over to the closet, fetches out the cloak of disguise that turns her into a forbidding-looking red-bearded man, and turns the door to Kingsbury.


Sophie has forgotten one crucial fact: she has no idea how to navigate in Kingsbury.

Somehow, the palace stays tantalizingly just ahead as she wanders through the streets, aiming her most ferocious glare at the occasional drunk exiting from a tavern and hoping that it comes across as fiercely as she hopes from under her fake red eyebrows. There's one good thing, though: by this point, she's far too furious at Howl, the King, Prince Justin, and anyone else who can possibly be blamed for the situation to feel at all frightened about walking through the city on her own.

The sun is well up in the sky by the time she reaches the Palace, too full of adrenaline to feel as exhausted as she probably should. She marches up the steps, throws off the disguise cloak, and announces to the astonished guards, in her most imperious tone, "Witch Hatter to see the King!"

She's half expecting them to deny her entrance, but instead they nod, looking rather startled, and show her immediately in.

'Immediately' still means it takes half an hour to get through the maze of passages and drowsily bowing pages to the audience chambers. When Sophie sees the King, she suspects that he's used the time bought in order to dress - his regal robes look as if they've been put on rather hastily, and his crown is askew on his head - but he rises to his feet as politely as if she'd been expected for weeks. "Always a pleasure, Miss Hatter," he says, clearly doing his best to hide a degree of bemusement.

Sophie has no time or patience for politeness.

"Where," she demands, "is Howl?"

"Wizard Howl?" The King blinks at her, startled. "I - er - well, I assumed he'd have told you -"

"He told me," Sophie snaps, "that he was summoned to talk with you. That was last night. As he didn't come home, I assume he's still here, so - where is he?"

The King hesitates.

Sophie fixes him with her very fiercest glare, and attempts to convey, with her eyes alone, that if he resists she can and will drench him in her very best brand of weedkiller.

"Well," the King says, rather apologetically, "he's in Strangia."

It's a good thing that the Palace is so large, and that its walls are thick - otherwise Sophie's scream of "STRANGIA?" might well compromise all the secrecy of the mission.

A carriage takes her back to the castle at her terse request, and twenty minutes later, Sophie, armed with the red-bearded disguise cloak and a pair of seven-league-boots, is on her way to Strangia.
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Millitimed to Way Back When [May. 22nd, 2007|12:14 am]
Sophie Hatter
Sophie's latest floral experiment is going to turn out lovely one of these days. She's certain of it.

. . . however, today it still looks more like an odd squashed root than anything else, and so she's sitting at a table in the bar, eyeing it rather balefully as she attempts to coax it into better behavior.

"Come along, now - you must be due to bloom soon. You're the last one left, you know; you don't want to keep on being behind."
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(no subject) [Apr. 24th, 2007|12:16 am]
Sophie Hatter
She has to rescue Miss Angorian. It's all her fault; Howl will never, ever forgive her if she doesn't.

Sophie runs for the seven-league boots, grabbing her stick as she goes. She settles them in front of the shop, pushing aside various confused passers-by, and starts zipping, three-and-a-half leagues at a time, into the Waste.

It's horrible and hot and gritty, and by the time Sophie reaches the collecting of chimney pots that makes up the Witch's castle, she's far too exhausted to even consider carrying the boots with her all that way. She trudges on with just her stick. The Witch's page boys show up to give her sulky looks, pointing her through the entranceway.

It vanishes, of course, as soon as she's through. Sophie just shrugs. She'll deal with that on the other side.

Everything next seems to happen very quickly. The Witch is there, looking tall and skinny and very, very tired, with one long pigtail over one bony shoulder. She backs away when Sophie walks up to her and demands Miss Angorian - but then the page boys rise up, melting into sticky orange blobs, and somehow manage to glue Sophie to a chimney-pot pillar. It's worse than green slime, Sophie finds herself thinking; and meanwhile the Witch seems to lose interest entirely. She can't think of anything else to do except keep demanding Miss Angorian.

"We will wait until Howl comes," says the Witch, wearily.

"He's not coming!" Sophie says, hoping very hard that it's true. "He's got more sense. And your curse hasn't all worked anyways."

"It will," says the Witch, with a slight smile. "Now that you have fallen for our deception and come here, Howl will have to be honest for once."

Deception? thinks Sophie, but then she's distracted, because the Witch makes another gesture, and a throne trundles forward with a headless man on it.

Well. There's Prince Justin.

"If I were Fanny," Sophie says, indignantly, "I'd threaten to faint. Put his head back on at once! He looks terrible like that!"

But the Witch doesn't listen; simply rambles on and on about the perfect being, and leftover parts, and how with Howl's head on Prince Justin-Wizard Suliman's conglomerate body he will rule as King and she will rule as Queen. "I have worked very hard for this moment," she announces, "and I am not to be argued with," and then she wanders off.

One thing seems clear, and that is that the Witch is entirely insane.

But Sophie still has her stick, and the orange goo that's holding her to the pillar doesn't seem to like it. She's managed to work her head and shoulders loose from the stringy orange binding when she's distracted from her escape attempts by a sudden dull boom. Everything shakes. Sophie cranes her head around to see; if the castle's going to fall down while she's still inside it, she'd at least like to be aware.

The castle doesn't fall down. But a piece of wall does blow out, with a sound like a thousand crashing tea sets, and light pours through the opening. It hurts Sophie's eyes, but she turns towards it anyways - it must be Howl, mustn't it?

But instead it seems to be, of all things, the scarecrow. The Witch throws herself at it, and they begin to engage in a furious pitched battle.

If Sophie's shoulders were mobile enough, she would shrug in perplexity. As it is, she simply takes advantage of the new distraction to work steadily away at her bonds.
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Sophie's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Pt. 1 [Apr. 16th, 2007|02:00 am]
Sophie Hatter
The next day, Sophie's slowest flower blooms.

It . . . hasn't come out quite like she imagined. It's certainly pink; it looks a little like an orchid, if that orchid had had a very tragic childhood. It has a plump center and its four petals stick out in various unlikely directions.

As she's staring at it in some bemusement, the peanut gallery shows up: "If you were expecting an ultra-violet violet or an infra-red geranium, you got it wrong, Ms. Mad Scientist," says an amused Howl.

"It looks to me like a squashed-baby flower," Michael volunteers, from around the other side.

Howl blinks at him, and then picks the flower out of its pot to see the root. His face goes oddly pale. "I might have guessed - it's a mandrake root. Sophie strikes again. You do have a touch, don't you, Sophie?"

Get with child a mandrake root - oh dear, thinks Sophie fretfully, putting the plant back into its pot. Almost all of the curse come true, now. Still, the last thing left is the wind and the honest mind, and if the Witch is waiting for Howl's mind to go honest, Sophie tells herself, she will be waiting a very long time.

All the same, she feels more than a little guilty, and goes to distract herself by arranging some of the flowers in the shop. She's putting a bunch of lilies in a seven-league boot when she hears a rhythmic, unnerving thumping coming from outside.

She recognizes that sound. It's a stick hitting stone.

Her heart is already starting to thump oddly when she pushes the curtain aside to look out into the square. It's the scarecrow, of course, looking more haunted and disheveled than ever as it hops its way steadily towards the shop. The people in the square scream and run as it passes, but it takes no notice of them.

Her heart speeds up, more and more erratically. She can't seem to move. All she can do, idiotically, is hide her face in her sleeve and whisper, "We're not here. You don't know we're here! You can't find us. Hop away fast!"

The noise slows. The scarecrow must be approaching the shop. "We're not here, we're not here," Sophie mutters. "We're not here! Go away fast!"

And - wonder of wonders - the noise outside starts to speed up, get more distant.

The scarecrow's hopping away. Her words have worked.

Sophie takes a deep breath, feeling shaky with relief. At least she knows that if the scarecrow comes back, she can send it away again. She goes to tell Howl, but he's gone out, Michael says, and Michael shortly goes out too, leaving a still-shaken and rather depressed Sophie alone in the shop with the dog-man.

Everything seems to be coming to a head. First the mandrake root, and then the scarecrow - and just as she's thinking about that, the dog-man snuffles in morosely to check on her and then, putting forth a great effort, turns himself back into a distraught ginger-haired man.

By this point, the transformation hardly phases Sophie. What does disturb her is his subsequent confession: that not only was he the dog in the hedge that she helped on her way to the castle, but he was also the Witch's companion the day that Sophie was turned old. It's as much as he can do to get this out before shrinking back into a dog - a different one, this time, huge and shaggy, but just as dejected-looking as ever.

Sophie stares at him. His face as a man is so - well, lacking in personality - that she had never made the connection between him and the ginger-haired man who was with the Witch. That makes another person that knows she's under a spell, and can't do anything about it.

And she can't seem to do anything about his spell, either. Or about Calcifer's. They're all equally helpless.

She's still absorbing this new grim understanding when the door opens.

Sophie and Calcifer both look up, expecting it to be Howl. It turns out, however, to be Miss Angorian.

Miss Angorian looks just as surprised to see them as they are to see her. "I beg your pardon - I thought Mr. Jenkins might be here," she says, apologetically.

"He's not," Sophie says, barely managing not to snap, and expects her to leave, but instead she comes pleadingly up to Sophie and starts to tell her all about her long-lost fiance Ben Sullivan. Sophie is in no mood to listen. "There's no Mr. Sullivan here," she announces, even as she remembers that Ben Sullivan is the real name of long-lost Wizard Suliman.

"Oh, I know that," Miss Angorian assures her, "but this feels like the right sort of place." She slides around Sophie and begins to remark on the quaintness of the room and the further quaintness of the town outside the window, and to ask about the rooms beyond the stairs and in general poke her nose into all the corners of the castle. She stares at Calcifer, too, but doesn't seem to see him.

Only people who understand Calcifer are really welcome here, Sophie thinks, self-righteously, and feels better about being unfriendly. But by now Miss Angorian has dived around the room again and snatched up Howl's guitar. "Ben had a guitar like this!" she cries. "It could be Ben's!"

Miss Angorian goes on about the guitar, and Sophie resists, with an effort, the urge to roll her eyes, and also the urge to tell her that the skull in the corner is also her darling Ben's. But that, she reminds herself, would be unkind. It's not Miss Angorian's fault. She probably does feel very bad about her fiance . . . even if there seems to be no good reason that she would choose Howl's house as a place in which to reminisce about him.

"May I take this guitar?" Miss Angorian asks, pleadingly, with a sorrowful throb in her voice. "To remind me of Ben."

. . . this is taking kindness a little too far. "No," Sophie says, irritably. "There's no need to be so intense about it. You've no proof it was his." She marches over, intending to take back the guitar, but Miss Angorian clings to it, staring over the top with her large, tragic eyes. There follows an absurd sort of tug-of-war. The guitar makes horribly out-of-tune noises.

This is ridiculous! Sophie thinks, and says, as patiently as she can, "Look. Don't be silly. You've no right to walk into people's castles and take their guitars. I've told you Mr. Sullivan's not here, now go back to Wales. Go on." Shoo! she adds, mentally, and uses the guitar to maneuver Miss Angorian back out the door into the nothingness that leads to Wales.

"You're hard," Miss Angorian tells her, sadly, over the guitar.

"Yes, I am!" Sophie retorts, and slams the door in her face.

"And don't you dare tell Howl she was here!" she adds to Calcifer, unreasonably. "I bet she came to see Howl. The rest was just a pack of lies. Wizard Suliman was settled here, years ago. He probably came to get away from her beastly throbbing voice!"

Calcifer snickers. "I've never seen anyone gotten rid of so fast!"

This does not make Sophie feel better. Instead, it makes her feel guilty and cruel. It's not Miss Angorian's fault if she was caught by the suit; it's Sophie's, really, and all she's done is shout at her.

"Gah!" she mutters, storming around, and feels herself growing grumpier and grumpier and grumpier by the second.

Which is, at least, better than brooding on how she's made a mess of everything yet again.
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(no subject) [Apr. 14th, 2007|11:00 pm]
Sophie Hatter
Percival follows Sophie outside, politely taking the bucket for her, which makes her grunt irritably - she's not that feeble! - and stomp ahead of him.

She pauses to look back once they get outside, taking in both the golden sunset and the vast mansion that is the side of the castle where the garden is. Due to her mood, she notices what she never has before; namely, that the place is ridiculously derelict. "Huh! I think the least Howl could do is make the place look more lived in," she says. "But no, he's too busy gadding off to Wales! - don't just stand there, Percival, pour some stuff in that can and then come along behind me."

Percival meekly obeys, and follows behind her, looking hangdog. Bullying him does not help with any of her anger at all. Sophie stops talking to him for a while, and takes her anger out on the weeds, which calms her down a little - enough to start asking Percival the questions she's been wanting to ever since his revelation earlier that day.

Percival answers as meekly as he obeyed her earlier, telling her that the Witch had wanted to find out about Howl when he came to Sophie's shop, and moreover that the Witch had mistaken Sophie for Lettie, which was why she'd cast the spell on her to begin with. (Percival didn't know why he'd been thinking about Lettie. Lettie, he said, had just been in his head; he couldn't remember where he'd met her, before the Witch.) Then the Witch had turned him into a dog, and he had gone to find Lettie at Mrs. Fairfax's.

All of this is terribly interesting, but not much of a surprise; not, at least, until Percival starts to tell about how Howl had come to court Lettie. "Lettie didn't want him," he says, which relieves Sophie's mind somewhat, "and she asked me to bite him to get rid of him, until Howl suddenly began asking her about you, and -"

Sophie almost loses control of the watering-can. The tips of her shoes start to smoke, and she hastily scuffs them off on the road. "What?"

"He said, 'I know someone called Sophie who looks a little like you,'" Percival says, looking at her gravely. "And Lettie said 'that's my sister', without thinking. And she got terribly worried then, particularly as Howl went on asking about her sister - Lettie said she could have bitten her tongue off." He goes on, in great and humiliating detail, to explain how Howl had told Lettie that Sophie was an old woman; how Lettie had fretted and cried and told Percival how very vulnerable Sophie would be to Howl; how Percival, listening to these descriptions of Sophie's kind-heartedness and vulnerability, had nobly offered to come protect her.

Sophie weed-kills furiously all through this recitation. "Bother Lettie!" she snaps, when he's done. She hopes she sounds very un-kind-hearted. "It's very kind of her, and I love her dearly for it. I've been quite as worried about her. But I do not need a watchdog!"

"Yes you do," says Percival. "Or you did. I arrived far too late."

Too late?

Sophie swings around furiously, spilling weed-killer in front of her; Percival gulps and runs aside to avoid being hit. She doesn't even need to ask what he's implying. She knows perfectly well. But it's not true, it's - it's simply not!

"Curse everyone!" she shouts. "I've done with the lot of you," drops the smoking watering can, and starts marching off towards the gateway in a rage. Too late! It's utter nonsense. She can't stand Howl! He's impossible. "And anyways," she tells herself, "I am an old woman!"

But that doesn't change the fact that something's . . . odd. She has been feeling on edge; she has been making excuses not to see her sisters, or change the status quo, or to leave -

"Oh, confound that gray-and-scarlet suit!" she snaps aloud. "I refuse to believe I was the one that got caught with it!"

Except of course it hadn't been the gray-and-scarlet that Howl was wearing all this time, but the blue-and-silver. And that one has apparently worked just as well.

Far too late.

And she had thought her heart acting queer was all a result of being old. Inside, it seems, she's still as young and - and stupid as ever. Which leads suddenly to a greatly reassuring thought: "Anyways, Howl doesn't like me!"

She's still safe. It isn't as if anyone (except Percival, but bother Percival; he's still half a dog, what does he know?) will ever have to find out just exactly how stupid she (and her stupid heart) have been.

Especially not if she leaves. Leaves now, never comes back, never has to look at Howl and his heartless green eyes again - yes, that's exactly the solution. After that she refuses to think, just keeps walking and walking and -

- she hasn't quite reached the gate when she sees the scarecrow.

Aches and pains or not, she doesn't waste a moment in picking up her skirts and running back, as fast as she can, to where Percival is still standing looking forlorn and abandoned. Sophie grabs him and drags him behind a tree, repeating her mantra: "Go away! Go away fast! You can't find us! Go away fast, twice as fast, three times as fast, ten times as fast, go away!"

And it does.

"What's wrong with it?" asks Percival, looking blankly bemused. "Why don't you want it?"

Sophie just shudders, and starts back towards the house. She can't leave now, not while the scarecrow's out there - and then she looks up, and blinks.

The deserted mansion is now beautiful, clean, and newly painted.

Struck by a sudden furious intuition, heart still clammering from the encounter with the scarecrow, Sophie picks up speed and heads purposefully towards the door. A fluttering from an open window catches her eye, which leads, presumably, into the mansion proper - a clear invitation to go in and explore.

Exactly what Howl wants her to do.

She ignores the window and throws the door open instead, with a crash.
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(no subject) [Apr. 13th, 2007|12:49 am]
Sophie Hatter
It's become routine, now.

Michael and Sophie come in from out back, arms full of flowers; Michael continues through to the shop to work the first hour alone, while Sophie hobbles over to Calcifer.

"I brought you some leaves," she says, cheerfully, dumping a few into the hearth, and then over to the windowsill to pick up the plant she's been working on. "New ones," she adds, over her shoulder. "You might like them."
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(no subject) [Apr. 13th, 2007|12:05 am]
Sophie Hatter
Miss Angorian's visit has not, to put it mildly, left Sophie in a good mood.

And her subsequent, and probably unwise, visit to Milliways has added to this bad mood a bucket full of what used to be innocent ferns and are now ex-daffodils in highly toxic slime.

. . . Michael and the dog-man are both, wisely, avoiding her by this point.

Sophie sits without even her knitting, and mutters dark things about the Welsh, and glares at Calcifer whenever he peeks his head up over the logs.

She knows it's a silly way to behave, and she doesn't care.
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