Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Sabin the IV

September 16, 2017

Cordell and Edmun were helping Sabin into his armor. This was nothing really new as Sabin had put on armor almost every day since he had turned twelve. Before that, he was often caught trying to wear his father’s armor or his older brother’s armor which was met with amusement and only a tiny bit of annoyance. His father had custom armor made with the family crest put on it and, as he grew, new armor was often given to him on his birthday. It was a comfortable second skin just as a sword was a natural extension of his arm. What was different today was that Lady Elena was trying to talk to Sabin during the process.

“Elena, please,” Sabin said, trying to turn his head to face her which made the rest of his body move which made the job of putting on armor more difficult for the servants. “It is immodest for you to be standing there while I am getting dressed!”

“But Sabin,” Elena protested. “You must speak to me. I have heard that you are going on a journey. Why must I learn of this secondhand, my love?”

“I apologize,” Sabin said. He walked to her, his armor half on and hanging off of his body. He ignored the frustrated sighs of the servants. “I did you a disservice but I have only recently resolved to go on this quest.”

“What quest pulls you from your home and my side?” Elena asked. She pressed her hand to his cheek and he placed his hand on her hand gently.

“It is a quest for you, my love,” He said. “You are the only thing that truly matters.”

“A quest for me?” Elena asked with a quizzical look on her face. “Why, I am right here, my lord. You did not have to travel far to find me.” She smiled sweetly and Sabin knew it was a joke but it was also partly earnest.

Sabin laughed softly. “No, my love. I am journeying for your hand, by which I hope to have the rest of you. Your parents have forbidden our marriage unless I prove myself worthy.”

Elena frowned. “And how will you prove yourself worthy? As if you were not already worthy.”

“Through adventure!” Sabin said with a smile. “Only through great deeds can a man (or a woman) be truly great. I will return with such tales that will spin the heads of your parents on their shoulders. They will beg me to marry you.”

Elena remained frowning. “As attractive as that sounds, could we not merely elope? I desire you as a husband and you cannot do that if you are carried back here a corpse.”

Sabin shook his head, his long brown hair shaking a little as he did. “Have a little more faith than that, Elena,” He said. “Besides, I want to do this the right way. I want your parents and my parents and all of our family to proudly stand by while we exchange our vows. I do not want our bliss to be a point of contention between our families. Moreover, I do not want to drive a wedge between you and your family.”

Elena sighed. Her blue eyes studied Sabin de Lesartesse carefully. Elena Loncroft was of a noble bearing, one of the richest, well-bred, and well-respected families in the area. Her family obviously had its doubts about most who pursued their crown jewel as such a marriage would be immediately advantageous to the suitor and those advantages would only increase after the natural death of Elena’s parents. Sabin was a young man in the prime of his life, a man who eagerly heeded any call to adventure. At a tournament, he had met Elena by chance and the two had talked so long he had nearly missed his turn. He dedicated the subsequent victory to her but in private so as not to put her on the spot. Since then, they had grown fond of each other and that fondness had turned to love.

“There is wisdom in that and it touches my heart,” Elena said. “However, I also surmise that you are eager to go on this adventure.”

“I cannot lie,” Sabin said. “The idea of the wide open world does excite me. My mother used to read me tales of epic adventure. I always hoped that one day I would be the one they wrote stories about. Perhaps, a bard will write a song.”

“My nanny also read me those stories,” Elena said. “Very well, if your heart brings you elsewhere then I cannot keep you here.” She turned away, reaching to wipe away a tear from her cheek.

Sabin wrapped his arms around her from behind and hugged her close. “My heart does draw me away but it will also be what brings me back to you. I swear it.” He smiled and leaned over her shoulder, his hair falling against her hair, blonde mixing with brown. They stayed like that for a moment.

“I am proud of you, my lord, my Sabin,” Elena said. “As much as I hate to see you go, and that hate is considerable, I know that your journey will benefit us. You will come back stronger so you can protect me and, perhaps, our future children.”

“Elena, I would very much like to have children with you,” Sabin said. “As long as they take more after you than me.”

“You are beautiful to me, Sabin,” Elena said. “I would request that you remain beautiful. Make sure the brigands and monsters do not harm your face. I cannot stress this enough.” She smiled brightly at her own joke.

“I will do my best to make that request, each and every battle,” Sabin said. Both of them laughed softly. The sound was a little sad. “Go back to your chambers while I finish getting ready, my love. I will come and say goodbye when I am ready.”

Elena nodded and then turned in his arms and kissed him. Sabin kissed her back, his arm instinctually supporting her lower back as she went on tiptoe. That moment would be burned into Sabin’s memory along with a whole chain of similar memories. She broke the kiss eventually and stroked his cheek before leaving him to put on the rest of his armor.

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Redcross Pt. 10

September 9, 2017

Redcross

Sarah poked her head through the door to the street and saw Reverend Simmons on the roof of the church carefully unloading his rifle at even more beasts that were running in the streets. There were a few others firing from their windows in the night. She watched as a bullet landed on one of the beasts and it slumped to the ground but then it got back up again in a moment. She aimed her own rifle and started to fire but she worried it would not do any good. Still, she managed to land a few hits of her own which at least slowed the things and kept them from attacking anyone.

A single wolf’s howl rang out in the night and then a chorus of howls answered it. A pack of wolves ran into the town and before Sarah could aim, she watched one of the wolves slam into one of the mountain lions. The wolf sank its teeth into the hide of the big cat and there was a spray of blood onto the dirt. Sarah was astonished. Why would a pack of wolves run into town to fight a pack of mountain lions? That was stepping around the odd thought of why a pack of mountain lions would randomly storm a town like Essex.

Sarah raised her hand high and shouted. “Hold your fire! Don’t hit the wolves!” She could almost feel the confusion in the air but the gunfire stopped after a moment. She could feel the Reverend’s gaze all the way from on top of the church. She chose to ignore it at that moment and instead watched the wolves and the mountain lions fight. The fighting was fast and bloody as animals almost moved faster than the human eye at times.

After a few tense minutes, the mountain lions decided to turn tail and run out of town. The wolves gave chase, nipping at their heels. One of the wolves stopped in the middle of the town, a few feet from Sarah and looked at her. Sarah stared back into the eyes of the wolf, stunned. She held her hands up, knowing that accidentally looking it in the eye could be seen as aggressive. She tried to look as innocent as possible, holding her rifle above her head. The wolf cocked its head and then ran to catch up to its pack. Sarah let out her breath and looked around the town.

“Is everybody alright?” Sarah called out.

She could see a lot of the men and women of the town filtering out of their homes. They looked rattled but nobody looked injured. It looked as if the town had been very lucky. She scanned the buildings and saw that the door of the doctor’s house had been torn apart. She jogged over and made her way past the broken pieces of the door. She kept her rifle ready.

“Doctor?” She called out. “Are you alright?” Her heart hammered up against her rib cage and she took two deep breaths to calm herself as she made her way up the stairs. The doctor appeared at the top of the stairs.

“I’m alright,” She said. “The thing had just about gotten through the door when somebody shot it in the back. My guess is I have the Reverend to thank.”

Warren made his way through the door behind Sarah slowly. “Is everything alright?”

“We won’t be needing your services, Mr. Chilton.” The doctor said. Sarah had to smile at that little joke.

“I’m glad of it, ma’am,” Warren replied with a smile. “I don’t really want my skills to be in high demand.”

The doctor descended the stairs now that she knew that things were as safe as they were going to get. She was in her nightgown, her spectacles balanced on her nose. “Are you alright, Sarah? I can see the sheen on your forehead.”

“One of them attacked me outside of my home,” Sarah said. “It broke the back door of my office when I ran. I scared it off.”

“With that famous Redcross marksmanship, I suppose?” Asked Warren.

“Yes,” Sarah said. “But after I shot it, it had the nerve to get back up. It was not natural. I have never seen anything like it.”

“Curious,” The doctor said. “Healing of that magnitude is definitely not natural.”

“Do you not also find it curious that these beasts tried to get into the both the doctor’s office and the sheriff’s office?” Warren asked. “I have long scratches on my door that would seem to prove that these animals had an agenda.”

“What kind of agenda would a pack of mountain lions have?” Sarah asked. “And why would a pack of wolves have an opposite agenda?”

“There is more at work here than is normal, I believe,” Warren said.

“Are you actually considering he supernatural, Mr. Chilton?” Marion asked.

Warren waved the question away with his hand. “Ridiculous. There is still no proof.”

“I don’t know about that, Warren,” Sarah said. “Things are getting really strange around here.”

“And do you recall the wounds on our mystery body?” Marion asked. “I told you that I thought they looked feline in nature. Now we are invaded by wild cats. Is that merely a coincidence.”

Warren was about to say something but Sarah cut him off. “No, it can’t be,” She said. “I believe those animals are the same ones that killed the man. Now, what that means is still up for debate.”

“I agree,” Warren said. “Surely we must gather more evidence before making a conclusion.”

“Of course, I agree as well,” Marion said. “However, even though my hypothesis would have me laughed out of several universities, I still believe that we are dealing with the supernatural.”

“I don’t know whether I want you to be wrong or right, Doctor,” Sarah said with a shiver. “Either way, we better be on our guard from here on out. You should stay with me until we can get your door fixed.”

“You’ll get no argument from me, Sheriff,” Marion said. “I promise to be a good house guest. I know you have your rounds ahead of you, I will meet you back at your home.”

“Goodnight ladies,” Warren said. “And be careful.”

The Symbol

August 26, 2017

Victoria had lived with the symbol all of her life. It was hanging over the front door both inside and out of her childhood home. It was carved into the center of the family dinner table. It was carefully tiled into one of the shower walls. It had been imprinted on the fence posts bordering her ancestral home. At age four it was meticulously tattooed onto her shoulder. It was a very traditional symbol that had been in her family for a long time. Some now confused it for a family crest but it was far more than that. It was a demon ward. It was designed to ward against a very particular demon.

That particular demon would be Solantria and she was a wicked one. Victoria’s ancestor, Leonidas Heathrow, had made a deal with the demon in order to gain the power to save the local town from a dragon. Her many-times-great grandfather had been between a rock and a hard place but he made the sacrifice for the right reasons. When it came time for Solantria to collect, Leo was not available. He had perished after the deed was done but his spirit, his bright and shiny soul had been taken away by the Great Dragon. Feeling cheated, Solantria decided that the family would have to settle their ancestor’s debt. Until the symbol, too many of the family had fallen to the wicked demon.

However, with the advent of the symbol, the demon was kept at bay and the family had flourished. What had started with but one Heathrow had spread to many different kingdoms. Many of them were not even Heathrows anymore but Victoria was. She was proud to be part of the original line. They had taken Leonidas’ sacrifice as a symbol and they worked to gather mystical knowledge to keep the world safe. Some strayed from that specific path but, for the most part, the family loved to be of some service. They left the world better than they had found it. All done while keeping a watchful eye for the demon’s inevitable attempt to return.

For her part, Victoria had become an expert in mystical artifacts. She had collected quite a few after she had grown up and left the family estate. She was currently in residence in Callia, a lovely little apartment scattered with magical items. Some of them Victoria had not yet figured out but that was the fun of it. She tended to crack every puzzle put in front of her eventually and she loved that daily challenge. She was partnered with several magic schools and universities who either sent items to her or summoned her to exam problems. Most every librarian in the world knew her name or would soon learn it. She was happy with that.

She had been examining a ring sent from several towns over when a note had been slid under her door. She walked over and unfolded it, adjusting her spectacles. Her friends wanted to go out for a drink. Victoria looked out of her big window and was surprised that the sun had gone down and the moon was traveling through the sky. Where had the time gone? She could always figure things out the next day. Friends were important. They were just another extension of family which was the most important thing besides your health. Victoria grabbed her coat and slipped it on. Her favorite weapons were almost always tucked inside.

She made her way down the street which was dimly lit by oil lanterns but she felt safe enough in this part of town. Besides, the tavern was not far. The ogre of a bouncer opened the door for her and she thanked him with a smile. She walked into the bar but did not see a single one of her friends. In fact, the place was fairly empty. Victoria frowned and wondered just how late it had gotten. Her stomach grumbled. She moved to sit at the bar and the hawk-nosed bartender smiled at her. She smiled back at him.

“What do you have for dinner tonight, Abram?” She asked.

“Dinner, Ms. Heathrow?” Abram asked with a playful smile and a toss of his blond locks. “It is a little late for dinner. Did you just now come back from the clouds?”

Victoria laughed softly. “Yes. I’m afraid so,” She said. “I really should get better at eating at regular times.”

“Why do what regular folk do when you can be interesting?” Abram asked.

“Interesting is fine but eating is healthy,” Victoria said.

“I can cook up some sausage with some onions and tomato sauce?” Abram asked.

“It sounds great, Abram. I’ll eat whatever you put in front of me,” She said.

“We’ll see,” Abram said with another laugh. He headed just out of sight to fire up the sausages. Victoria could hear as the pan bang against the brick of the stove.

It paid to be a regular. People were happy to give you more than they would give a stranger. Victoria did not have a lot of friends due to her bookish life but she cherished the connections she had made. She smiled to herself as she waited for Abram to get done. Maybe he would chat with her over her dinner and she would tip him generously despite his protests. She liked that whole song and dance.

Victoria barely even noticed the hooded woman sitting next to her, at least not at first. She only noticed her when the woman reached over the bar for a bottle and two glasses. She had grabbed some really good stuff. It was an aged scotch/whiskey blend from the kingdom of Shahl. Very expensive stuff and this woman was just helping herself.

“Hey!” Victoria said. “You can’t just help yourself.”

The hooded woman said nothing but poured two glasses of the classy booze and pushed one of the glasses toward Victoria. Victoria just looked at the glass.

“I think you’re going to need that,” The woman said. “Drink up.”

“Who do you think you are?” Victoria asked indignantly. She wished Abram would come out and chase this rude woman out.

“I think you know exactly who I am, Victoria,” The woman said. She drew back her hood. The woman’s skin was light purple, her hair raven black, her eyes blood red. There was a horn protruding from the left part of her forehead and a broken off nub protruding from the right part. All of this was proper evidence but the woman’s smile was what really spoke volumes. The look in her eyes told Victoria everything she needed to know.

“You!” Victoria yelled.

Bron: Past and Present

August 12, 2017

Bron looked out over the town and took it in. Even this far above, he could see people bustling around. People sat near shop fronts. He saw two children chasing each other near what must have been there home. Bron had slept outside most of his life, the thought of sleeping inside made him nervous. It seemed so easy. Too easy. Bron almost never sought out the easy way to do things. If he did, he would definitely not receive so many injuries from the orcs that should have been proud to have him around. Instead, he raised his chin and dared them to hit again.

A blow landed on the side of his jaw that shocked him from his simple thoughts. It was Lorgar, one of the orcs Bron’s age who was less abusive. Bron found himself growling and reaching for his axe. He had taken the axe on a raid and he had refused to give it up to the rest of the tribe. The tribe took everything but this one thing belonged to Bron and Bron alone. A long shadow came over Bron and Lorgar and they both looked up. It was Korak. He was standing on a rock above them, sparks from his ever-burning staff drifted into Bron’s eyes but Bron did not dare take his eyes off the Warlock.

“Get angry, Bron,” Korak said. “That town is ours. The humans cannot have what they cannot keep from us.”

“Too easy,” Bron said. “There is no challenge down there.”

“If you do not go down to there,” Korak said. “I will burn you to ash. One body part at a time.”

Bron glared but did not doubt that Korak could do just as he promised. Korak had promised himself to a demon, a thing Bron had never seen. The demon’s power was clearly powerful as it had given Korak spells to do great harm. Korak used these spells against the enemies of the tribe but also as punishment against the tribe itself. He was deeply unpopular but feared so the tribe let him lead. As for Bron, he thought it was all too easy. Submitting yourself to some thing instead of your own strength was stupid. It was like how the tribe submitted to the god Grummsh. Too easy, too boring.

Korak gave the order and the raiding party ran down the hills toward the town. Bron ran, his great axe held high. He let his anger at the constant annoyances, the injustices, the stupidity flood his body and he felt the rage flow through his body. He growled and yelled incoherent things and then he was swinging his axe. He clashed with several guards. He felt their spears and swords and arrows pierce his flesh but he did not care.

In the end, nothing would stop him. He was inevitable. He was the oncoming storm and anyone who did not take shelter would be washed away in a sea of blood. These were not the thoughts he had because thought was a limited resource in that state. He saw red and in that red, there were targets, trifles, and allies. How easy it would be for those so-called allies to become targets in the heat of the moment. Not a single one cared about him and yet they pushed him to attack to feed the tribe.

What had the tribe ever done for him besides tolerate his presence? That was the best case scenario. A lot of the time they just abused him. They poked him so much that he could not remember not being angry. The people fleeing in terror around him had been happy a moment ago. One day Bron would be happy when he had dominion over his tribe. They would have to do as he said instead of some Warlock taking the easy way out. It was a clear path. If he became the strongest, he would inevitably be in charge.

* * *

It had seemed such a clear path before his death. Now, Bron did not feel so sure of it. The tribe had turned on him. Although, this was not the correct word. You cannot betray what you never accepted in the first place. Bron idly wondered if his own mother had been killed too. She had only been his mother biologically. There was no bond between them. His original idea was to get stronger and go back there and dominate the tribe, grind it under his heel. Now, it all seemed so pointless.

The Witch had said that there were bigger things out there. It had been too long in coming. He got used to working in that tavern in Neverwinter. Some great challenges drank there and drink made them want to fight. Bron had been happy to oblige. Bron rarely actually got paid. His pay was docked for all sorts of stupid things. He kept damaging the door, either by taking it off its hinges or ‘forgetting’ to open the door before throwing defeated, drunken customers out of the tavern. He also had acquired a taste for the ale that stupid dwarf sold which was taken out of his pay in advance. Also, the dwarf just did not like Bron and the feeling was mutual.

Now Bron had a lot of gold and it meant next to nothing to Bron. He had no armor to buy, no weapons to acquire. He laughed at creature comforts. He could hunt his own food, track down his own water. He had lost a javelin in a cave but he had obtained two more by pulling them from his own flesh after defeating the Bugbears that had thrown them. He wanted nothing but new challenges and following the current party he was paired with brought those challenges. He could even take the abuse from the human girl. It almost felt familiar, like the words of the orcs she detested so much.

Bron did not know what the future held. He lived in the present, not worrying about where the path led. He knew the others respected his power. He knew that they could not help but respect it. They backed him up in combat though he hardly needed it. The human girl even healed Bron despite her hate for him. Bron was starting to think that maybe this party could be his new tribe. They may have mocked him sometimes but they respected what he could do. In that way, it was much better than the past.

But what had the witch planned? Was it this? Did it matter? Probably not. Bron did not believe in fate, in fortune tellers. He would make his own fate. If she pulled at his strings too much, he would pull back.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 10

August 5, 2017

The girls looked around the alleyway and saw that suddenly the whole place was clear of any damage or debris from the brief fight. They walked around as if to make sure and then there was the sound of a siren and all the girls froze. In the chaos, they had not thought about the authorities.

“The police!” Natia said, her voice a little louder than it should have been with her sudden nervousness.

“How were we supposed to get back?” Maya asked.

“Arafina, we need to return now, please,” Margaret said softly. The ground around them started to glow with a soft light. The cops rounded the corner, there were two of them.

“Who are you?” One of the cops asked.

“We’re the Defenders,” Kelsey said. “We’re here to save the world.” She posed heroically for effect.

As soon as the words left her mouth, the girls were suddenly back in the castle courtyard. They adjusted to the sudden change of scenery for a moment. Margaret in particular thought she felt nauseous for a moment but it passed. Arafina walked up to them an expectant look on her face.

“So,” She said. “I gather it went well?”

“The police saw us!” Natia shouted.

“Calm down, Natia,” Kelsey said.

“She has a point,” Lennon said. “What if they recognize us around town?”

“That’s not possible,” Arafina said. “The magic of the transformation charms hides your identities to protect your loved ones.”

Natia waved her hand over her face. “We don’t have masks.”

“And you do not need them, your faces will appear differently to outsiders magically,” Arafina said.

“Well, that’s comforting,” Margaret said. All of the girls nodded and vocalized their agreement.

“I’m finally a superhero,” Natia said. “It’s about time.”

“To answer your earlier question,” Kelsey said. “We demolished all of our targets and we met one of the things pulling the strings of those monsters. It did not give us its name.”

“It looked like a clown, though,” Maya said.

“A clown?” Arafina asked.

“Big nose. Exaggerated features. Goofy.” Lennon said, closing her eyes to picture the thing.

Maya waved her hand and a large hand bag appeared out of thin air. She rummaged through it and pulled out a pencil and a pad of paper and started to sketch. After a few moments, she had a pretty good drawing of what the clown had looked like. She held it up for everyone to see.

“Like this, right?” She asked.

“Exactly!” Kelsey said.

“Oh dear,” Arafina said. “He was at the vanguard of the invasion of my world. If he is showing his face, so to speak, then the true invasion is not too far off.”

“How far off?” Lennon asked. “I mean, I know that there are a lot of variables but how long do you think?”

“I am not sure but no more than one year,” Arafina said. “Of course, they will now want to eliminate you before they make true landfall. You are the cog in their machine.”

“Good,” Kelsey said. “We worked really well together today. We can only get better.”

“Wait,” Margaret said. “Who put you in charge?”

“I must have missed that vote before I officially joined the team,” Maya said. She put her sketch book away.

Kelsey shrugged. “I’m used to it. I am the lacrosse team captain back at school.”

“I’m fine with it,” Maya said with a shrug of her own. “I do say that we should each get a voice on this team.”

“I agree,” Margaret said. “We vote on important things and we should talk to each other.”

“Communication is key,” Lennon said.

“Good because I can’t keep my mouth shut sometimes,” Natia said. Everybody laughed.

“Right,” Kelsey said. “And I’m going to rely on your skills to help me help you. Lennon, you have the fire and the brains. Natia, you’ll bring the noise and the creativity. Margaret, we need your light and your strength. Maya, lend us your shadows and your magic. We’ll learn from each other.” They all nodded at that.

“Speaking of learning,” Lennon said. “We have a lot of studying to do to figure all of this out.”

“True,” Kelsey said. “and speaking of studying, Natia you have to come back to school with us.”

“Wait, what?” Natia asked. “I don’t really want to.”

“You’re our teammate now,” Kelsey said. “We have to look out for each other and it’s best if we stay close.”

Before Natia could object again, Maya spoke up. “No, that’s a good idea. Things are about to get crazy for us. Embracing normal as much as possible will help us, right?”

“I’m glad you said that,” Kelsey said. “You’re coming to school with us too.”

“But, I don’t have anywhere to live,” Maya said.

“You can live here,” Arafina said. “There is plenty of space and I can transport you to school in the morning.” Maya nodded, the witchy, gothic girl suddenly looking even paler than usual.

“What about you, Margaret?” Kelsey asked. “What’s your story?”

“My name is Margaret Washington and go to <> Academy.”

“Ooh, very fancy, Washi,” Natia said. “I guess you’re covered.”

“Wait,” Lennon said. “You’re part of that Washington family?”

“Yes,” Margaret said. “I don’t like making a big deal of it. I love my family and I’m proud of them, though.”

“It’s cool,” Kelsey said. “You seem like a good person to me.”

“I try,” Margaret said with a smile.

Natia yawned. “Is it safe to go home now? I’m tired.”

“Yes,” Arafina said. “Your charms will now protect you from being tracked. They will also transport you back and forth from this castle. You are free to go, of course.”

“And we’ll see each other in the morning,” Kelsey said. “Let’s get some rest, we’ll need it.”

They all focused on their charms and they transformed again. This time it was just a simple flash of light and they were back to their street clothes. Lennon landed in her wheelchair and she looked disappointed for a moment but much happier than she had that morning. The forms of Kelsey, Lennon, and Natia flickered and disappeared. Margaret turned toward Maya with a smile.

“If you need anything, I’ll be happy to help you out,” Margaret said. “I know you’ve had a really rough time of it.”

“Thank you,” Maya said. “I’m OK for now though.”

Margaret nodded and smiled. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow,” Maya said. Margaret’s form flickered and disappeared.

“Now, let’s get you fed and pick you a bedroom,” Arafina said. “Follow me.” Maya followed her into the castle.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 9

July 29, 2017

Curtains

The five teenage girls appeared back in the alleyway they had disappeared from, now in their brand new armor. When they looked at each other, they could all see the same nervous excitement in each other’s eyes. They were supposed to be Earth’s new super heroes but they were new at this and there was no telling what would happen. Kelsey stepped forward first.

“Come on, we have some streets to clean up, girls!” She shouted.

They took off in a run because they could not stand to walk and running felt so good. Each one of them felt much faster and more energetic than they ever had before. Especially Lennon who felt an exhilaration in running much faster than her wheelchair could ever go. At some point, Maya took the lead since she was the only one of them present at the scene of the crime and Kelsey slowed a little to let her have the lead. They skidded to a stop in the alleyway.

“They were right here!” Maya yelled.

They looked around and there was nothing there, not even scorch marks. Of course, there were also no bystanders around either. They were probably startled by the craziness that had ensued earlier, running off to see who would believe them. However, in the very center of this alleyway was a dog-eared copy of a script.

“Look at this,” Lennon said and bent down to pick the script up.

“Did your friend drop it?” Margaret asked.

“Yeah, I mean, we weren’t exactly friends anymore but we used to live next to each other,” Kelsey said. “She got into drama big time after her family moved.”

“I remember seeing her in shows,” Lennon said and shivered. “She looked happy up there.”

“I remember that too, actually,” Natia said. She did not remember as much from the previous year but she did remember any excuse not to go to class and Daffney had been in drama previews during assembly.

“They left it behind deliberately,” Maya said angrily. The other girls nodded.

“There’s something written across this page,” Lennon said and she held up the script so they could all see. The word “CURTAINS” was written in jagged pink letters across the page. Lennon could have sworn the word had not been there when she picked the script up.

“Curtains?” Margaret asked. “What does that mean?”

“It means it’s curtains for you, little girls!” A disembodied voice yelled out.

“What? Who said that?” Natia asked as all of the girls looked around.

“Show yourself!” Kelsey yelled.

On the wall near them, a face started to form on the brick. It was wicked looking, sort of a cruel parody of a clown. It grinned wickedly with far too many teeth and everybody gasped.

“Not yet,” the thing said. “We are not ready to step into your world.”

“Cowards,” Margaret said, her eyes narrowed.

“What did you say!?” The thing yelled, seemingly shocked by the words.

“She’s right,” Maya said. “You are a coward. I know what that’s like but I am done running.”

“We all are!” Natia shouted, slinging her guitar off of her shoulder.

“Well good for you,” the wall thing said sarcastically. “Very well, let’s play!”

Monsters began to form from the brick walls and the blacktop once again. The girls backed off a bit, making space to fight. The things were slow to form. Kelsey started calling out targets and nobody argued.

“Aqua Shot!” Kelsey called out. She focused on her hand and thought of playing softball with Daffney and the other neighborhood kids when she was little. She felt a large amount of water form and she threw it as hard as she could. She watched the water slam into one of the constructs. It tried to stand for a moment, putting its hand first into the water but the impact knocked it back into the wall where the thing shattered on impact. The girls cheered.

“Sonic Rush!” Natia called out. She thought of the thrill of performing and her love of being loud and strummed her guitar hard. Green waves and a rush of sound rocketed out of the guitar and slammed into one of the constructs. It started to panic as its body vibrated, it fell to its knees as it fell apart. Natia strummed on her guitar for good measure.

“Inferno Rocket!” Lennon called out. She raised her hand and pointed her palm at one of the constructs. She focused on all of the weekends she had spent building model rockets in her family’s garage and firing them off with her dad. She poured all of the flames of her anger, her disappointment, and her desire to destroy all of the obstacles in her way into that rocket. She let the thing fly and a burning fireball shot into one of the constructs.

“Shadow Chain!” Maya called out. She closed her eyes and thought of all the dark corners she had hidden in, the darkness she had embraced to survive and she let it out. She felt it form itself into a chain made of solid shadow. She felt that chain snake around her body, floating through the air. She opened her eyes and pointed at one of the constructs and the chain shot out towards it, it wound around the construct and then Maya squeezed her hand and the chain constricted and the thing was crushed into pieces.

“Bright Arrow!” Margaret called out. She remembered all of the archery lessons her parents had bought her since it was such a noble sport. She reached behind her back and pulled an arrow made of light from thin air. In her other hand, a bow made of light formed and she strung the bow, drew it back and there was a bright flash as she let the arrow go. It streamed toward the last construct and pierced right through it. It came out of the other side of the construct and hit the wall, right in the middle of the clown face. It frowned and faded away just as the construct exploded in a shower of sparks.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 8

July 22, 2017

The Team

It was too late, Maya had already invoked the charm and whatever happened would happen. The charm did not glow and no light enveloped Maya but instead, the charm seemed to absorb nearby light and the marks on Maya’s body seemed to get darker. Her shadow under her grew and stretched around her on the ground until it was a perfect square with her in the middle. At that point, the square started to grow off of the ground into a shadow cube around Maya. Maya was worried at this point because Arafina had seemed scared. The girls had rushed the cube but they could not reach in and get her as the shadows actively pushed them away.

Inside the cube, Maya watched as Arafina and the girls faded into darkness. It was so dark inside the cube and soundless but she felt that darkness moving around her, changing her. For so long the darkness had been a tool and an ally but she had worried about the toll it might be taking on her soul. She felt her dirty clothes change and she was eager to see what was happening now that she realized she was not getting ripped apart. As the cube faded away, she stood in a mix between a long black dress and leather armor. The dress part had a slit in it to allow her movement. She looked down and noticed that the runes on her body that she could see had changed.

Kelsie put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you alright?”

Maya looked up from studying her arms, a bewildered look in her eyes. “What happened to me?”

“It looks like you’re one of us, after all,” Lennon said. The other girls vocalized their agreement at once.

“What?” Maya asked. “I thought I corrupted the charm when I took it from your friend.”

“It seems the opposite has happened,” Arafina said. “The charm has become the source of your power and has scrubbed away the darkness in your soul. It seems that somebody who has walked through the darkness and could still think of other people is worthy to be on this team. I was wrong for judging you.”

Maya shook her head and smiled. “I have no grudge,” She said. “I have a clean slate and for the first time in a long time my heart feels lighter.”

Kelsie was the closest so she was the first one to hug Maya. “You couldn’t have saved Daffney,” she added which made Maya tear up. The other girls moved to hug her too at that, Natia being especially enthusiastic about it. Maya was caught off guard but soon found herself hugging back. She had needed this. She had almost forgotten what a hug felt like and she savored such positive human contact. There was a long silence as a breeze blew across the courtyard and Arafina watched her team bond.

As they broke away, Kelsie walked over to Arafina and stroked her head. Arafina forgot herself for a moment and purred and then looked confused. Kelsie quickly withdrew her hand and ran it through her own blue-streaked hair awkwardly.

“Sorry,” Kelsie said. “I just wanted you to be included but I forgot that you’re not really a pet.”

“It’s alright,” Arafina said. “Thank you for the sentiment. It has been an adjustment.” She sighed.

“I can’t imagine it’s been easy,” Lennon said. After all, she knew all about living with limitations and that was not forgotten in five minutes of walking around again.

“It has not,” Arafina said adding a tiny nod. This was obviously a sore subject and everyone could sense that. Arafina spoke up to try to defuse the tension. “At least I still have my spells and I can still open books with my paws. It does take time. It is hard to write with a pen in my teeth…”

“I could help with that,” Lennon said. “I would love to learn this stuff.”

“So would I, actually,” Maya said. “I need to learn about your system of magic and how this charm changed me.”

“We can study together,” Lennon said with a smile. Few of her friends had ever been interested in that.

“We all need to do some studying,” Margaret said. “We’re far too ignorant to tackle the challenge ahead.”

“I hate studying,” Natia said, plucking gently at the strings of her guitar.

“Suck it up, buttercup!” Kelsie said with a smile and Natia sighed but could not help but smile. “

“So, back to our magical powers,” Margaret said. “How do they work?”

“Well, obviously we have some control over a classic element or basic physical force that we can use offensively,” Lennon said.

“Obviously,” Margaret said.

“Yes,” Arafina said. “Lennon has fire, Margaret has light, Kelsie has water, Natia has sound and Maya has Darkness. The use of these powers was meant to be left up to the charm wielder. Use your experiences and visualize your attacks as something you know how to manage. Form the attack with your mind and words and then let loose.”

“Something we can manage like my guitar?” Natia asked.

“Yes,” Arafina said. “I suppose you subconsciously adapted to that mechanic ahead of instruction.”

“Here that?” Natia said with a grin. “I’m advanced! I’ve never been advanced.”

“You still have to study,” Kelsie said.

“Crap!” Natia said and folded her arms. Everybody laughed and after a moment Natia joined in too.

“We should go back down there and test these new powers out on those things that killed your friend, Daffney,” Maya said.

“Wait,” Margaret said. “Should we be going down to confront these things without practicing?”

“Actually, those beings are the weakest of what you might be facing,” Arafina said. “It would be a good test of your powers but it is not without danger.”

“Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty,” Lennon said.

“Let’s watch each others’ backs, Defenders,” Kelsie said. “Right?”

“Right!” They all answered. They were a new to being a team but Daffney had been somebody half the team knew and it was the right thing to do to eliminate the danger if it was still there.

Horror

July 10, 2017

Horror slid the blade out of the last vampire and whipped the blood from it. He slipped the hood back over his head and looked around at his comrades. They were all looking at him and he hated it. He felt his face get hot and he turned away. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he shook it off. The hand returned and he turned and found he was face to face with Mercy. The anger died in his eyes and he took a deep breath. Mercy was the only one around who could possibly understand what he was going through. She had been like a sister to him. For all he knew, they probably were brother and sister.

The two of them had been left as orphans on the doorstep of the village guardhouse. This would have probably led to a normal adoption, perhaps by a member of the local guard or a farmer or something. However, there was a problem. The two were tieflings and their demonic appearance had frightened the villagers. Horns and red-tinged skin were clear signs that somewhere along the line their relatives had consorted with Asmodeus. Horror had heard that a local cleric had even called for the two babies to be drowned in a bucket full of holy water. There had been widespread support for that plan. However, luckily a passing stranger had an alternative plan that saved the lives of Horror and Mercy.

The stranger had been an old knight, sworn to hunt the darker monsters of the world. He whisked the babies away to his stronghold where he spent his time while waiting for quests. He declared that they would be trained by his people to aid in the hunt of monsters. While many would think they qualified as monsters, they would do penance for their bloodline by hunting fellow monsters. Horror had embraced what they called him. He declared himself a horror to monsters and anybody who do evil to man. Mercy pitied the monsters and felt that their death was a mercy. Neither of them was allowed beyond the gates of the compound without a target.

“How soon do we saddle up to return?” Horror asked. Their ‘father’ would be waiting for a report.

“Soon, I think,” Mercy said. She was putting spent arrows back into her quiver to clean and re-fletch later. She was very conscientious that way. Seeing her taking such care compelled Horror to pull a cloth from his pocket and wipe off his sword. There was no need to bring vampire blood all the way home. “You don’t have to be so bitter about it.”

“I am tired of being caged up almost all of the time.” Horror said. “Every time we’re out here, I want to stay.”

“He keeps us for our own safety, Horror,” She said.

“Once upon a time it was for our safety,” Horror said. “I think we can handle ourselves now. We’re not children anymore. By blade and magic, I can defend myself.”

“We have a duty to remove threats from the world,” Mercy said. “We have a duty to end the shadows that hound the citizenry.”

“I can do that out there just as well as in a cage,” he said.

“There is no way they will let you just walk away,” she said. “Be content.”

“I feel like a falcon with a hood,” he said. “Every time I see the light, it is to kill whatever I’m told. We never even get to meet the people we are defending.”

“I don’t think they want to meet us,” she said. “We’re better off where we are.”

“You keep saying we,” he said.

“So do you,” she said. “We have been a ‘we’ since we were babies.”

“Since we are divided on the matter,” he said. “Perhaps it is about time we stopped being a ‘we’ so that we can become an I.”

“Two eyes are better than one,” she said with a smile.

“Don’t be cute,” he said and smiled despite the argument.

“I couldn’t if I tried,” she said.

“That is intolerance talking,” he said. “They can’t all be like that.”

“I would like to think that as well,” she said.

Jacques Ironclad walked into the courtyard at that moment, his great axe across his broad back. He looked like he had seen a thousand battles but maybe it had been more than that. He was a battle-hardened hunter who had been appointed the keeper of Horror and Mercy. He was the falconer to the two deadly falcons. Needless to say, he and Horror did not get along.

“Time to get back in the cart, you two,” he said. “We want to give the all clear to the villagers.”

“We were just cleaning up,” Horror said.

“No backtalk, please,” Jacques said. “Get in the cart.”

“No backtalk, huh?” Horror said. “We just vanquished a whole nest of vampires. The least they could do is thank us before they start to throw rocks.”

“Horror,” Mercy interjected. “Please don’t.”

Jacques did not argue.  Instead, he just swung a fist at Horror but this was merely sidestepped. Jacques used the momentum to quickly follow the right with a charging left. Horror caught that with a smile and raised his own fist to strike but Mercy caught his wrist. The momentary distraction allowed Jacques to rock him with another right to the jaw. When the world stopped shaking, Horror found himself on his hands and feet.

“Stop!” Mercy cried out. “He’ll come along quietly.”

“He had better,” Jacques said and stood by. The two tieflings walked toward the cart and climbed inside. Horror’s eyes burned with anger as Jacques closed and locked the door. Somewhere, a bell rang to signal the villagers that they could come back out.

The cart rattled on, back toward the compound. When it arrived, Jacques yanked open the door, ready to bring the tieflings to their master for praise or discipline. Instead, he found only Mercy who gave a little shrug and pointed to a hole that had been burned into the floor of the cart. Horror was nowhere to be seen.

 

The Story Pt. 4

July 1, 2017

The felt cold against my temple and let out a distinctive click. I had seen enough movies to imagine a bullet entering the chamber, ready to pierce my skull and end any more of my thoughts. Imagination is a hell of a thing. The woman was as still as a statue, confident and used to holding a gun. That meant she was unlikely to give me an opening to escape but she was also not likely to make any fatal mistakes. A true professional. I had never been in trouble before. I did not deal with that kind of professional.

“Freeze!” She ordered. “Don’t move a muscle.”

“I’m frozen,” I said. I was almost afraid to talk.

“On your feet,” She said. “Slowly. And keep your hands visible.”

“Any other instructions?” I asked.

“Watch what you say,” She said. There was a small smirk showing just at the corner of her mouth.

“Can I ask what I did? Or actually what you think I did?” I had a hunch who she might be but the library had been shot up and several cars had been detonated. Who knew what alphabet soup organization could have shown up.

“You know what you did,” She said. “You’re one of them now.” Her voice was calm but her voice was clearly accusatory.

“So, you must be an editor,” I said as gently as possible.

“A derogatory term,” She replied. “But yes, that’s why I need to take you in.”

“I said no,” I looked her in the eye, looking past the gun in her hand. I needed her to believe me. “I turned down Wonderland’s offer. I’m still a free agent. I’m still normal.”

“I don’t believe you,” She said. I let out a defeated breath. “Nobody ever turns down real magic.” There was disgust in her voice.

“It seemed like they were using it irresponsibly,” I said. “If you don’t believe me, please at least tell me your name and rank? I need to know how to address you since I have no choice but to go with you.”

“That’s not how we do things,” She said with a smile. I thought for a moment that she would just execute me but she brought out a pair of handcuffs. They were machine-etched with what looked like Nordic runes and other symbols that I did not recognize. These people probably know exactly what they were dealing with when it came to magic. “If you don’t mind.” She gave a little smile and held the cuffs out. I had a feeling that if those handcuffs went on, I would never see the sun or the moon again. I had no choice. I held my wrists out.

That was when the black horse rode onto the scene. On the horse’s back was a man who looked more like a shadow of a man if it crawled off the ground and escaped its owner. There were no pleasantries, the man was immediately yelling in a voice that sounded like death.

“Die!” Was the simple message and I jumped to get out of the way of his swinging sword as he rode directly toward my captor. She rolled out of the way while I dove face first into the grass. She even kept a firm hold of her gun

The horse circled around and the man jumped down from the horse. He advanced on me with his sword while the horse walked menacingly toward the editor. I watched as the horse started to change into a dragon-like creature, snapping its jaws at its target but not catching her yet.

See You On the Other Side

June 24, 2017

I stood on the threshold of the portal. The surface of it was shiny like a mirror dusted with glitter. I could see strange neon-bright circuitry creeping over the walls next to the portal. Pretty soon, the invading technology would be advanced enough to grow a defense of the portal from that strange circuitry moss. Laser grids, grenade launchers, machine guns, sonic pulse emitters and anything else the stuff could think of. It was only a matter of when not if. We had to hurry.

I touched the communications button under my ear gingerly. I was a little wary of being watched in that hallway. “Marianne,” I said into the implanted microphone. “Timing is crucial. Are you going to get here in time?” There was a three-second pause that lasted an eternity.

“Yeah,” Marianne said as she rounded the corner a few feet away. “Hold your horses. It took a bit longer to get through security. This is getting even crazier than I thought.” She spotted the portal and her eyes went wide. “Much crazier.”

Marianne had been my client for the past month. She was the Chief Operating Officer of DOT Industries when the company started to act strangely. Strange orders started coming in and paperwork was getting fudged. When Marianne started to look into it, she had been reprimanded. When she persisted in investigating, she had been removed from her position with a healthy severance payment. She had used part of that severance to hire me. We had been digging for a month and now we had snuck into one of the buildings belonging to her former employers.

“That’s why you hired me,” I said. “I was right, by the way. We have an invasion in progress or at least that’s what it looks like.”

“So do I owe you twenty bucks?” She asked.

“I’m not really happy about it but yes,” I said. I gestured toward the portal. “Shall we?”

“We’re not going in there are we?” She asked. She had obviously been a tough executive but there was a difference between that and jumping into a strange portal. Adventuring took a different kind of guts and maybe a little stupidity.

“We have to know what is on the other side,” I said. “What did you think we were going to do?”

She pulled out a camera. “Well, take some pictures and get the word out.” She aimed the camera at the portal.

“No flash,” I said. “You might startle the moss.”

“Of course not,” Marianne replied. She snapped the picture and then two more to be safe.

“That thing doesn’t have any scanning technology, does it?” I asked. I was no scientist. I could pretty much tell the portal was stable but beyond that, I was out of my element. I would have loved a little more data.

“No,” She said. “However, it did upload to three different servers and it was sent to a friend of mine.”

I had to admire her drive and attention detail. “Well, if you’re done with the photography, we may never get another chance to see the other side of this thing.”

“How do we know we can get back?” She asked.

“I have a transponder on me that I can activate,” I said. “It will provide coordinates for our own portal. I have friends on standby too.”

“You think that will work?” She asked.

“It hasn’t failed me yet,” I said. “By the way, if that techno-organic moss is what I think it is, we should try and keep electronics close. They might be able to absorb our tech.”

“What about you?” She asked.

“What about me?” I asked, watching her watching me.

“Well, I don’t want to pry,” She said. “But don’t you have a lot of cybernetic parts?” I must have shown surprise on my face because she added. “I do my research before hiring anybody.”

“And you still hired me,” I said softly. Cybernetics and old school surgical corrections had fallen out of favor when genetic recombination and nanotechnology had advanced.

“I don’t judge,” She said. “You’re not less human to me. Just somebody who got broken and repaired the best way they knew how.”

I was surprised by the acceptance. “Um, thank you,” I said. “We really should be going, though. Anything could set off the alarms at any minute.”

“Um, can we breathe on the other side?” She asked.

“If it was dangerous over there, we would have already passed out,” I said.

“Comforting,” She said.

I nodded and drew my pistol from where it was shielded from scans, hidden in a cavity in my right hip. I ran through the portal. It felt like stepping through a curtain of falling mercury except for that right afterward you feel like you are falling. Except, you are still stepping forward in the same moment. It is incredibly disorienting which is probably why portal travel never caught on commercially. After a swirl of light and color, I came out on the other side. I stepped aside so that Marianne would not bump into me when she came through. Then I turned to look at what we had stumbled onto.

The place was absolutely covered in eye-searingly neon circuitry. The stuff had formed itself into structures either for purposes of form or function or both. It was hard to take in but it strikingly beautiful. I heard a soft rippling noise from the left of me. Then Marianne let out a soft and breathy ‘Wow’. I nodded, that was the word for it.


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