A story written for this reddit /r/worldbuilding competition, a prequel short to Ludlin and introducing a new character, Sister Alfrieda, who gets a scene or two in the revised version in the works.
‘How do you keep your valuables safe behind closed doors in a world where magic like Knock is common? How do you keep your files secure when hackers can slip past the most stringent firewalls and overload the best daemons? How do you prevent intruders when the average man can teleport as easily as taking a step? Let’s talk about “Locks & Security“.’
Andrew Russell took the key out of his pocket and dropped it onto the desk in front of Sister Alfrieda. “He got into my escritoire. I cannot have him rifling through my papers. If I have to resort to sorcery, then so be it.”
“Your conscience troubles you for a good reason, Andrew,” Alfrieda said, picking up the delicate item. “You believe you failed Robert Ashworth, but I think he needs the respite of an asylum rather than the rigours of a workhouse. It’s a shame Simon seems so unconcerned with your privacy, but these things happen for a reason.”
She held the key to the light. “Sorcery is not forbidden as such. It’s a tool to be used wisely, and most of us avoid using it for frivolous purposes. But the blessing of a talent is meant to be used in service of the divine.”
A flash of light ran down the key shaft, counter to the room’s illumination. “Shall we test it?”
They left the convent and crossed the lane back to the workhouse. In the lodge, Russell’s antique, lacquered writing desk sat in his bedroom. Alfrieda inserted the key in the lock and turned it. She felt the lock click, but when she tried to open the screen, it held fast. When Russell attempted to open it, it sprang open at a single push upwards.
Under lock and key
He rolled the screen back down and locked it, afterwards holding the key lightly in his hand as if he wanted to drop it in the darkest corner of the room. Alfrieda suddenly felt her turban sag and had to rearrange it before it fell out of its elaborate folds. The silver filigree fastener at the back had come undone. Was this some sign that she should not have meddled in this affair?
A pink-and-grey blur was visible at the outer limits of her vision. “I fear you’ll need a new clasp,” Simon Seymour said. “I just happen to have one that I was going to give to a lady friend, but I can always find her another gift. Oh, by the way, your desperation to keep me out of your private papers is understandable, Andrew, but there’s no more need to protect Ashworth’s particulars. He died today at Osbourne after the electric current they were using to treat him was applied too …enthusiastically. I’m so very sorry.”
With that, Seymour turned away, descending the stairs to his own apartments.
Russell dropped the key into his pocket. “He’s wrong,” he said without turning back to the nun. “There’s always a need for the security of information belonging to the vulnerable. With that address I could at least have told his relatives of his whereabouts.”
Alfrieda nodded. She opened out Seymour’s brooch and replaced the old clip with it, which turned out to have broken. Almost immediately, the turban knitted itself tighter around her head – not tight enough to hurt, but tight enough that she understood who exactly was in charge.